BJ McLeod

Photo Gallery: NASCAR’s return makes for a memorable week

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The silence was stark. The separation of teams in the garage area was noticeable. Even drivers were alone as part of the social distancing mandated with NASCAR’s return from a 10-week break because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

But when engines fired, even though it took place in front of empty grandstands at Darlington Raceway, racing was back. The passing. The crashing. Even a middle finger displayed by the sport’s most popular driver toward a two-time champion.

Then followed the conversation between Chase Elliott and Kyle Busch. And what Elliott had to say to the media about the incident and how he had “no regrets” for his salute to Busch at the time.

The winners each had their own stories. Kevin Harvick scored his 50th career Cup victory, winning last Sunday. Denny Hamlin won for the second time this season. Chase Briscoe scored an emotional Xfinity Series win two days after he and his wife found out she had a miscarriage.

As NASCAR heads to Charlotte Motor Speedway for four consecutive nights of racing – starting with Sunday’s Coca-Cola 600 (6 p.m. ET on Fox) – here’s a look back at a week unlike any other for the sport.

Everyone, including drivers, had to pass a health screening before entering the infield. John Hunter Nemechek has his temperature taken at Darlington on May 17. No driver failed the health screening during the week. (Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)

 

Reminders were posted throughout the garage for crew members on the new health regulations. Among the many rules was that everyone at the track had to wear a mask. (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)

 

Tyler Reddick‘s crew pushes his car to inspection while following health guidelines that included wearing a mask. (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)

 

Instead of standing shoulder to shoulder, as they did before the COVID-19 pandemic, crew members stand with space between them during the national anthem before the May 17 Cup race. (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)

 

Leading on the final lap of stage 1 during the May 17 Cup race, Jimmie Johnson made contact with Chris Buescher‘s car and crashed, ending Johnson’s race. (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)

 

With the return of racing, came the return of pit stops. Joey Logano‘s team services his car. (Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)

 

Getty Images photographer Chris Graythen told NBC Sports that this photo is the one that resonated the most to him after a week of shooting the action at Darlington. Graythen said: “To me, that (moment) kind of boiled everything down into one picture because it shows, yeah, it’s good and it’s great, NASCAR is back, we have a winner, Harvick has got his 50th win, this is all very exciting for the industry. But it also has that mask, that starkness, that quietness that shows the time that we’re in.” . (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)

 

For the first time since 1984, the Cup Series raced on a Wednesday night. Ty Dillon‘s sponsor, GEICO, took advantage of the rare event with a special paint scheme. (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)

 

Matt DiBenedetto continues to search for his first NASCAR win, but he showed he’s prepared for that moment with his special mask. (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)

 

Chris Buescher spins during the May 20 Cup race at Darlington Raceway. (Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)

 

Denny Hamlin with his unique mask after winning the May 20 Cup race at Darlington. Said Hamlin of the mask: “I basically had the idea right after Sunday and to get it all done by Wednesday took a feat. We wanted to actually create different types of emotions.” He only needed the smiling version on this night. (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)

 

BJ McLeod displays his unique mask before the May 21 Xfinity Series race at Darlington Raceway. (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)

 

To abide by social distancing guidelines, spotters were spread among the top rows of the empty stands for each event instead of being packed on the spotters stand. (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)

 

After rain postponed the May 19 Xfinity race and delayed it on May 21, the series finally got to run this week. (Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)

 

Chase Briscoe prays after his emotional win in the May 21 Xfinity Series race. The victory came two days after he and his wife found out she had a miscarriage. (Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)

Wednesday’s Cup race at Darlington: Start time, lineup and more

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Let’s go again.

The NASCAR Cup Series looks to race again Wednesday night at Darlington Raceway (weather permitting). The race is scheduled to be the the second of five Cup races in a 14-day period. The stretch began with Sunday’s 400-mile event at Darlington won by Kevin Harvick.

Wednesday’s race is scheduled for 311 miles (500 kilometers).

Here is the info for today’s race.

(All times are Eastern)

START: Guy Fieri will give the command to start engines at 6:14 p.m. The green flag is scheduled to wave for the Toyota 500 at 6:26 p.m.

PRERACE: Garage access health screening begins at 10 a.m. (teams are assigned specific times). Engine prime and final adjustments at 4 p.m. Driver/crew chief meeting is at 4:30 p.m. on NASCAR.com. Drivers report to their cars at 5:50 p.m. The invocation will be given at 6:05 p.m. by car owner Joe Gibbs. The National Anthem will be performed at 6:06 p.m. by Grammy-nominated singer/songwriter Jewel.

DISTANCE: The race is 228 laps (311 miles/500k) around the 1.366-mile oval.

PACE LAP: At the direction of race control, drivers will have the opportunity to run one pace lap down pit road before the green flag for a pit road speed check. If drivers stop in their box for any reason, pull over or slow down, they will start at the rear of the field.

COMPETITION CAUTION: Lap 25

STAGES: Stage 1 ends on Lap 60. Stage 2 ends on Lap 125.

TV/RADIO: FS1 will televise the race. Motor Racing Network will broadcast the race and can also be heard at mrn.com. SiriusXM NASCAR Radio will carry MRN’s broadcast.

FORECAST: The wunderground.com forecast calls for scattered thunderstorms with a high of 65 degrees and 34% chance of rain at the race’s start.

LAST RACE: Kevin Harvick dominated Sunday’s race at Darlington, leading 159 of 293 laps to record his 50th career series win. Alex Bowman finished second. Kurt Busch placed third.

LINEUP (top 20 finishers from Sunday inverted, rest start where finished): Click here for Cup starting lineup

PENALTIES: BJ McLeod will start at the rear of the field and serve a drive through penalty at the start of the race for multiple inspection failures. Corey LaJoie will start from the rear for multiple inspection failures. Erik Jones will start from the rear for unapproved adjustments.

CATCHING UP TO SPEED WITH NBC SPORTS COVERAGE:

Matt Kenseth: Tyler Reddick is “just incredibly talented”

Bump & Run: Who impressed most at Darlington?

NASCAR suspends one crew chief, fines five others for Darlington

Kevin Harvick aware of “responsibility” that comes with 50+ Cup wins

Kevin Harvick to run race-winning car again at Darlington 

Winners and losers from Sunday’s Darlington race

Instead of stripe, Darlington gives two rookies pat on back Sunday

Long: Sunday was a day unlike any other in NASCAR

 

NASCAR reveals competition rule changes for Darlington

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A random draw will play a role in determining the starting lineup for Sunday’s Cup race at Darlington Raceway (3:30 p.m. ET on Fox), NASCAR announced Tuesday.

NASCAR also revealed that the field will be frozen during the Lap 30 competition caution and allowed to pit two separate times.

The starting lineup for Sunday’s Cup race at Darlington will be set by owner points and a random draw. NASCAR has not determined when the draw will take place but it is expected to be before Sunday.

Positions 1-12 will be set by a random draw from charter teams in those positions in owner points.

What that means is that Kevin Harvick, whose team ranks first in car owner points, no longer is guaranteed to start on the pole. His team could team draw the No. 1 spot or as low as the No. 12 spot. Kyle Busch is 12th in car owner points. If his team is lucky, he could end up starting on the pole based on the random draw.

Or Matt Kenseth could end up on the pole in his first Cup race since the end of the 2018 season. Kenseth makes his season debut in the No. 42 car for Chip Ganassi Racing this weekend. That team is seventh in car owner points.

Those in the top 12 in car owner points are (in order from first): Harvick, Joey Logano, Chase Elliott, Alex Bowman, Jimmie Johnson, Ryan Blaney, Kenseth, Aric Almirola, Matt DiBenedetto, Brad Keselowski, Denny Hamlin and Kyle Busch.

Here is how the rest of the starting lineup will be set:

Positions 13-24 will be set by a random draw from charter teams in those positions in owner points.

Those drivers (in order from 13th in car owner points are): Clint Bowyer, Chris Buescher, Martin Truex Jr., Kurt Busch, Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Bubba Wallace, William Byron, Ryan Newman, Austin Dillon, Erik Jones, Cole Custer and Corey LaJoie.

Positions 25-36 will be set by a random draw from charter teams in those positions in owner points.

Those drivers (in order from 25th in car owner points are): Ty Dillon, Tyler Reddick, John Hunter Nemechek, Michael McDowell, Garrett Smithley, Brennan Poole, Reed Sorenson, Christopher Bell, Ryan Preece, Joey Gase, Quin Houff and JJ Yeley.

Positions 37-40 will be for non-chartered teams based in order of owner points. Those drivers are Daniel SuarezTimmy Hill, Josh Bilicki and BJ McLeod.

MORE: Entry list for Darlington

MORE: Storylines –  Where NASCAR Cup Series left off

Pit stalls will be picked in order based on charter team owner points followed by non-chartered team owner points. Harvick’s team will have the first choice of pit stalls since it is first in car owner points.

NASCAR also announced changes to the competition caution for Sunday’s Darlington race. The changes are being made since teams will not have any practice or qualifying before the race. This will give teams extra time to make needed adjustments.

The field will be frozen at the time of the caution on Lap 30.

When pit road is open, only the top 20 cars will be allowed to pit. Each car that pits must beat the pace car off pit road to retain its position.

On the next lap, the other 20 cars will pit. Each car that pits must beat the pace car off pit road to retain its position.

Then, the top 20 cars will be allowed to pit a second time. On the next lap, the other 20 cars will be allowed to pit again.

After the second cycle for each team is completed, the lineup will be set and the race will resume.

Infractions under this modified competition caution structure are:

  • Not beating the pace car off pit road results in loss of lap and restarting at tail of the field.
  • Pitting more than twice or out of sequence results in restarting at the tail of the field.
  • All current pit road rules are in effect.

Garrett Smithley returns to Rick Ware Racing for ‘expanded’ Cup schedule

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Garrett Smithley will return to Rick Ware Racing this year to compete in an “expanded” Cup Series schedule, the team announced Tuesday.

Smithley, who made nine Cup starts for the team last year, will make his season debut this weekend at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

He joins a driver lineup that includes JJ Yeley, Joey Gase, and BJ McLeod.

Smithley has 17 Cup starts since 2018 and 132 Xfinity Series starts since 2015. He spent the last four years as a full-time driver for JD Motorsports in the Xfinity Series.

“The time is now to increase my Cup Series schedule,” Smithley said in a press release. “It’s important to get as much seat time in the Cup Series as NASCAR transitions to the next generation car. Also, the Cup Series offers my marketing partners additional exposure.”

Victory Lane Quick Oil Change and Trophy Tractor will be Smithley’s sponsors.

 

Monday’s Daytona 500: Restart time, weather and more

Photo by Brian Lawdermilk/Getty Images
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DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – Let’s try this again.

After rain postponed Sunday’s race, Cup drivers will get back on track Monday at Daytona International Speedway to complete the Daytona 500. And the forecast looks very good for Monday’s race.

The race was halted after 20 of 180 laps with Ricky Stenhouse Jr. leading.

Here are today’s details:

(All times are Eastern)

RESTART: Command to fire engines at 4:02 p.m. The green flag is scheduled to wave at 4:12 p.m. 

DISTANCE: 180 of the scheduled 200 laps remain to be run on the 2.5-mile speedway.

STAGES: Stage 1 ends on Lap 65. Stage 2 ends on Lap 130.

TV/RADIO: Fox’s broadcast begins at 4 p.m. Motor Racing Network’s broadcast begins at 4 p.m. and also can be heard on mrn.com. SiriusXM NASCAR Radio will carry MRN’s broadcast.

FORECAST: The wunderground.com forecast calls for partly cloudy skies with a high of 73 degrees and a 3% chance of rain when the race resumes.

RUNNING ORDER:

  1. Ricky Stenhouse Jr.
  2. Joey Logano
  3. Aric Almirola
  4. Ryan Newman
  5. Kevin Harvick
  6. Brad Keselowski
  7. William Byron
  8. Jimmie Johnson
  9. Ty Dillon
  10. Timmy Hill
  11. David Ragan
  12. Chris Buescher
  13. Matt DiBenedetto
  14. Chase Elliott
  15. Ross Chastain
  16. Alex Bowman
  17. Kyle Larson
  18. Kurt Busch
  19. Austin Dillon
  20. Cole Custer
  21. Michael McDowell
  22. Tyler Reddick
  23. Ryan Blaney
  24. Bubba Wallace
  25. Reed Sorenson
  26. BJ McLeod
  27. Corey LaJoie
  28. Brendan Gaughan
  29. Ryan Preece
  30. Justin Haley
  31. Martin Truex Jr.
  32. Kyle Busch
  33. Erik Jones
  34. Christopher Bell
  35. Denny Hamlin
  36. Clint Bowyer
  37. John Hunter Nemechek
  38. Quin Houff
  39. Joey Gase
  40. Brennan Poole