Kurt Busch

March 24 in NASCAR History: Buddy Baker breaks 200 mph barrier

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Earlier this year, Ricky Stenhouse Jr. won the pole for the Daytona 500 with a qualifying speed of 194.582 mph.

That’s fast.

But that’s how fast today’s Cup Series cars go on superspeedways with tapered spacers restricting engines.

On this day 50 years ago, Buddy Baker got to go really fast.

On Tuesday, March 24, 1970, Baker strapped into a blue Dodge Daytona during a tire test at Talladega Superspeedway, the largest oval track in NASCAR. During the test, Baker became the first driver to break the 200 mph barrier on a closed circuit.

His fastest lap around the 2.66-mile oval was recorded at 200.447 mph.

“Gosh, it’s the most wonderful feeling I’ve had in a long, long time,” Baker said after the test. “This is something nobody can ever take from you, being the first guy to run 200 mph on a close course circuit. Gosh, I’m just tickled to death.”

Baker said when you’re going 200 mph, the track’s high-banked turns “feels just like it’s flat. Because it takes every bit of the banking to run this speed. ”

Of course, stock cars would only get faster over the ensuing decades.

By 1987, Bill Elliott would establish the qualifying speed records at Daytona (210.364 mph) and Talladega (212.809 mph).

In 1988, following a violent Bobby Allison wreck at Talladega in 1987, NASCAR instituted restrictor plates for races at Daytona and Talladega. They’d be used through the 2019 Daytona 500 before being replaced by tapered spacers.

Other tracks have seen the 200 mph qualifying barrier broken since then, but we’ll likely never see it again at Daytona and Talladega.

UPDATE: According to allpar.com, Larry Rathgeb, the Chrysler engineer who led the test session to reach the 200 mph barrier, died Sunday as a result of the coronavirus.

Also on this date:

1991: Kenny Wallace, the younger brother to Rusty and Mike Wallace, won his first career Xfinity Series race at Volusia County Speedway in Barberville, Florida. The series would make its fourth and final visit to the half-mile track the next year.

2002: Kurt Busch executed a bump-and-run on Jimmy Spencer with 56 laps to go to take the lead in the spring race at Bristol Motor Speedway. Busch led the rest of the way, surviving a restart with 15 laps to go, and scored his first Cup Series win. Busch would win three of the next four Cup races at Bristol.

Winners and losers from virtual Homestead

Photo: Chris Graythen/Getty Images
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WINNERS

Denny HamlinHe passed Dale Earnhardt Jr. on the last lap to win the inaugural eNASCAR Pro Invitational iRacing Series in a rig he estimated cost $40,000 (it includes motion sensors) and drove barefoot (“I like feeling the pedals. With shoes, I just can’t do it.” he said).

Timmy Hill and Garrett SmithleyTwo drivers who often are overlooked on race weekends because they are with underfunded Cup teams. Both are excellent iRacers and showed their ability in Sunday’s race. Hill finished third. Smithley won the pole and finished fifth. Said Smithley: “Wow, that was fun, that was a lot of fun.”

Fans Sunday’s virtual race gave fans something to enjoy for a while on a Sunday afternoon.  

Alex Bowman and his dog Finn — Bowman finished sixth but was the most entertaining driver with his series of tweets during the event about his race and his dog Finn. A sampling:

LOSERS

Active Cup Champions — Many do not have as much experience on iRacing and it showed. Joey Logano had the best finish among the five current Cup champions in the race. He placed 15th. Brad Keselowski was 25th, Kyle Busch was 29th, Jimmie Johnson was 31st and Kurt Busch was 35th. Expect those results to improve.

Waiting Having to wait until the next eNASCAR Pro Invitational iRacing Series race. 

 

 

What drivers said after iRacing race at virtual Homestead

Photo: NASCAR/iRacing
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Denny Hamlin — Winner: “First thing I did, I got out of the rig and I came up and watched the last six laps to kind of see what was going on. I can’t see everything when I’m sitting in the car, but certainly I was intrigued to see the last six laps and see what it looked like on TV. I thought it looked great. My first reaction 10 seconds in to watching it was like, I asked the people around me, I was like, ‘Do you believe this is not real.’ Like it looks so real. That part was really cool. … I wanted the bottom, and he was really, really smart to ‑‑ I mean, he didn’t win, but he was smart to kind of block the bottom there because the bottom lane at Homestead on iRacing just has tremendous more grip than what the lane I was running in, but I knew that the difference in the two lanes was about a tenth and a half to two tenths, and I thought my tires were about three tenths better.  So I thought as long as I got beside him, I was going to be able to complete it, even though he was in the preferred groove.”

Dale Earnhardt Jr. — Finished 2nd: “A lot of fun. Finished second. Got beat by Denny Hamlin, not the first time that he’s beat me on sim racing. The guy is pretty good. … A lot of guys put in a lot of work to get better in just a really short period of time. Denny doesn’t really race a lot but worked really hard this week to be able to be real competitive and it showed. A lot of the other guys did the same thing. … We took tires with 30 laps to and Denny took tires with about 20 laps to go and I think that was certainly a big advantage for him. We were racing really hard up front, too, burning our stuff up. I didn’t expect Denny to get up there and he did. Went to the bottom because if I go to the top he can pass me a whole lot easier. Plus, he wanted to, he could take the whole lane and knock me out of the way and I don’t even finish in the top five.”

Timmy Hill Finished 3rd“It was a really fun race. The top five did an excellent job all day long. I want to say thank you to NASCAR and iRacing for putting on this show. Today was a lot of fun. I did the best I could saving my tires at the end. We finally had our longest run of the day, 20 laps to the end. Didn’t take tires there and got beat. … I hope we get to do something like this again. These guys did a fantastic job with putting this race on. A lot of drivers put in a lot of time practicing.”

Chase Briscoe Finished 4th: “It was fun to get to do some type of racing, especially with the Cup guys and some others that I don’t get to race against a lot. Hopefully, it was a way for the fans to escape from everything that is going on and enjoy some good racing.”

Garrett Smithley Finished 5th: “Wow, that was fun, that was a lot of fun. I hope you guys enjoyed that. Cool deal. Started pole, finished fifth, led some laps. It was a good day. … It was a good day for the sim racing community. Cool to have some fun on these uncertain times but making the best of it. Hopefully we can get to the real racetrack soon.”

Alex Bowman Finished 6th:Heard the top 5 failed tech and I’ve been declared the official winner. I’d like to thank my sponsors, and most importantly my dog for taking over for a few laps.

Ryan Preece Finished 8th: My takeaways from today: iRacing is difficult. Easy to forget you’re on Live Video.”

Ty Majeski Finished 9th: “That was fun! P9 in the iRacing Pro Invitational. Got wrecked a couple of times and lost track position, had fun coming back up through the field!”

Erik Jones — Finished 10th: “Enjoyed myself more than I thought I would … Hope we get to do it again.”

Matt DiBenedetto — Finished 11th: My crew chief, aka myself, made a bad call at the end. I stayed out and then I was kind of a rolling roadblock on the older tires and fell to 11th.”

Landon Cassill — Finished 12th: “We had a good solid race. I got tore up at the beginning and had to use a reset. From that point it was just trying to get some green laps going. I let a lot of aggressive drivers by on restarts that ultimately ended up wrecking themselves.  That last restart with about 15 to go, there was a crash in front of me and I got through it, but I had to slow down enough that it gave like a two-second gap to the cars in front of me. Once I got going again, I just worked on my line, worked on kind of burning the right rear tire a little bit so I could wear the tires evenly and started picking them off very carefully and caught the field on the last lap.”

Parker Kligerman — Finished 13th: “Just stayed out on two tires there. Probably should have pitted with Denny, probably could have raced for the win but we didn’t have any more resets after getting involved in two wrecks there, one at the front and one trying to come up through the pack.”

Joey Logano — Finished 15th: “I don’t play on the reg and I struggled a bit throughout the race, but overall that was fun!”

Clint Bowyer — Finished 16th: “Guys, I let you down. Heck, I let myself down. I let my fans down. I had sponsors in the stands, praying for a good showing, and I end up wrecking our Mobil 1 Ford Mustang and using both redos, as a matter of fact. I think the real takeaway is, obviously, I need a lot more practice. With everything going on in the country right now, I hope the fans were satisfied and I hope they got their minds off of things for a little bit. We will be back. I will be better and, I promise you, if you get on iRacing and get online, you’re gonna see these boys, probably tonight, battling it out again.”

Ryan Truex — Finished 17th: “Not the day I wanted for the boys back at the shop. We will go back home and get to work on the cars and (come) back stronger.”

BOBBY LABONTE — Finished 18th:I didn’t use up all my credits for damage, so that was good. I hope it was awesome to watch. It was a lot of fun to do. We will get better at this, being this the first one. … That was a great way to spend a Sunday afternoon.”

Justin Allgaier — Finished 20th: “Had damage at the end that kept us from finishing higher up, but what a heck of a race and a killer finish!”

Ricky Stenhouse Jr. — Finished 21st: “That was interesting. heck of a race for the win that was cool to see. I definitely needed more than a night of practice for this #ProInvitationalSeries race. Had a lot of fun learning the sim world with @iRacing . We finished 21st with our @kroger chevy by missing all the wrecks.”

Austin Cindric — Finished 22nd: “Last 10 laps was watching the TV more than track! Looked like a great show by the end. Fun to do something new.”

Michael McDowell — Finished 23rd: “That was fun.”

Brad Keselowski — Finished 25th: I had a lot of fun, wrecked a lot. Congrats to Denny Hamlin. Great race for him. Drove to the front and won it, which is pretty cool with new tires. I tried to pit for new tires and be on the same strategy and got wrecked but that’s part of it. Hope you guys enjoyed.”

Austin Dillon — Finished 27th: “I didn’t do very well. We got up to the top 10. … We got some work to do. I’m going to practice this week for the next one. Hopefully this ties us over until we get to the real race track because I’m ready to go really racing. Thank you guys for all following it.”

Kyle Busch — Finished 29th: “We obviously didn’t qualify very good so we were kind of mired in the back. Guys were crashing and wrecking out and we were kind of moving our way up to the front. Restarted, I think 16th one time and was making up some positions and getting closer to the front and felt like we had a pretty good long-run speed that was going there, we were picking a couple of guys off and then a crash happened on the frontstretch … nowhere to go.”

Jimmie Johnson — Finished 31st: “Not a great showing. I’m going to take all the responsibility. I’ve not spent a lot of time in iRacing or really racing at all on sims. So I’m learning my way through that. Lots of things to learn within the race. I didn’t even have a spotter, which seemed to be a problem a couple of times with wrecks, race format, just a lot of race details.”

Anthony Alfredo — Finished 32nd: “I wish we didn’t have so many cautions, and I felt like I got caught up in just about every single one.  We used up both of our fast repairs, you were allowed two, by like 10 laps in. I was super cautious after that and made it all the way to the end and then I pitted with Denny Hamlin there from the top five, so we were on the same strategy and we were coming through the field and we got wrecked going into Turn 1 and I was out of fast repairs so couldn’t do anything.”

Kyle Larson — Finished 33rd: “Well that didn’t really work out. Hope everyone enjoyed watching though!”

William Byron — Finished 34th: “Really hope we continue doing this. I thought it was a lot of fun!

Kurt Busch — Finished 35th: What an experience. … Huge shoutout to David Gravel for letting me borrow his sim. I owe ya bro!”

Denny Hamlin wins iRacing exhibition race at virtual Homestead

Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images
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Denny Hamlin passes Dale Earnhardt Jr. on the final lap of Sunday’s NASCAR Pro Invitational iRacing Series exhibition race on the virtual Homestead-Miami Speedway.

Earnhardt was second in the 100-lap race. Timmy Hill was third. Chase Briscoe placed fourth. Garrett Smithley was fifth.

Hamlin rallied from 14th in the final 20 laps, taking advantage of the top 13 not pitting under caution on Lap 81.

MORE: What drivers had to say after Sunday’s race 

Hamlin pledged to donate $100 for every lap he led and $5,000 if he won the race. Those donations will be earmarked to assist Miami-area residents.

“It’s always fun when you win,” Hamlin said in a teleconference after the race. “Regardless, it was a great event for the racing community and the NASCAR drivers to come together to put 20-some drivers together on such short notice. I think it definitely was a success.”

Said Earnhardt: We took tires with 30 laps to and Denny took tires with about 20 laps to go and I think that was certainly a big advantage for him. We were racing really hard up front, too, burning our stuff up. I didn’t expect Denny to get up there and he did. Went to the bottom because if I go to the top he can pass me a whole lot easier. Plus, he wanted to, he could take the whole lane and knock me out of the way and I don’t even finish in the top five.”

RESULTS

  1. Denny Hamlin
  2. Dale Earnhardt Jr.
  3. Timmy Hill
  4. Chase Briscoe
  5. Garrrett Smithley
  6. Alex Bowman
  7. Bubba Wallace
  8. Ryan Preece
  9. Ty Majeski
  10. Erik Jones
  11. Matt DiBenedetto
  12. Landon Cassill
  13. Parker Kligerman
  14. Ross Chastain
  15. Joey Logano
  16. Clint Bowyer
  17. Ryan Truex
  18. Bobby Labonte
  19. Ty Dillon
  20. Justin Allgaier
  21. Ricky Stenhouse Jr.
  22. Austin Cindric
  23. Michael McDowell
  24. Chase Elliott
  25. Brad Keselowski
  26. Christopher Bell
  27. Austin Dillon
  28. Chris Buescher
  29. Kyle Busch
  30. John Hunter Nemechek
  31. Jimmie Johnson
  32. Anthony Alfredo
  33. Kyle Larson
  34. William Byron
  35. Kurt Busch

 

 

Top 5 moments at Homestead-Miami Speedway

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Today the NASCAR Cup Series was supposed to run a race at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

But like six other Cup races, it has been postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

To get you by today and the remaining Sunday’s without a Cup racing, each weekend we’re going to bring you a look at five memorable moments from each track.

So let’s get started with a look at some memorable moments at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

 1. Smoke clinches third Cup title (2011)

When the 2011 postseason began, two-time champion Tony Stewart had no wins and wasn’t expecting to contribute much to the 10-race spectacle.

Then he became the spectacle.

Stewart reeled off five wins in 10 races, including the season finale in Miami, where he beat Carl Edwards and clinched the title in a tiebreaker over Edwards.

Stewart remains the only Cup driver to earn their first win of the season in the playoffs and go on to win the championship.

 2. Jimmie Johnson earns seventh championship (2016)

Jimmie Johnson’s record-tying seventh Cup Series title did not come easily.

After starting the season finale from the rear of the field due to a pre-race inspection failure, the Hendrick Motorsports driver did not lead until an overtime restart to finish the race.

He led the final three laps and solidified his name as one of the greatest to drive a stock car, alongside Richard Petty and Dale Earnhardt Sr. Johnson’s seven titles are spread out over 11 years and multiple playoff formats.

3) Joey Logano wins the “damn war” (2018)

Three weeks before the season finale, last-lap contact between Martin Truex Jr. and Joey Logano resulted in a win for Logano at Martinsville Speedway.

A displeased Truex declared afterward that Logano “may have won the battle but he ain’t winning the damn war”

When the sun set on the season in Miami, Logano proved Truex wrong. Logano passed him for the lead with 12 laps to go, navigating around Truex’s No. 78 Toyota on the outside in commanding fashion.

Logano cruised to the win and his first Cup title.

4) Kevin Harvick kicks off the elimination era with championship (2014)

The 2014 Cup title came down to a three-lap shootout, with Kevin Harvick and Ryan Newman leading the way.

Newman entered the race having not won any of the previous 35 races. But he wouldn’t get to break NASCAR’s brand new elimination format designed to emphasize wins (Matt Crafton would do that in 2019).

Instead, Harvick held off Newman in the shootout to win the race and his first Cup title.

5) Kurt Busch loses tire mid-race, bounces back to win championship (2004)

The playoff era of NASCAR got off to an interesting start thanks to Kurt Busch.

The Roush Fenway Racing driver entered the season finale with an 18-pointy advantage over Jimmie Johnson, who had won four times in the previous five races.

Busch’s championship hopes almost came apart on Lap 250. As Busch attempted to enter pit road, the right-front tire came off his No. 97 Ford and Busch barely avoided hitting the pit wall.  Busch made it to pit road and the tire rolled down the track, creating a caution.

Luckily, he was able to stay on the lead lap. While teammate Greg Biffle won the race and Johnson finished second, Busch placed fifth and clinched his first championship with an eight-point advantage over Johnson.