Mike Harmon

Justin Allgaier wins Saturday’s Dover Xfinity race

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Justin Allgaier won Saturday’s Dover Xfinity race to claim his first victory of 2020 and end a 20-race winless streak.

Allgaier dominated, leading 120 of 200 laps, including the final 50 laps around the 1-mile track.

More: Race results, point standings

The JR Motorsports driver defeated Austin Cindric, who was trying to win for the sixth time in seven races.

“These last 18 to 24 months have been crazy,” Allgaier told NBCSN. “Just proud of these guys and the no give of attitude they’ve got. … What a day. What a race car. We were off a little bit in the beginning and (crew chief) Jason (Burdett) did a great job of getting us where we need to be at.”

For Allgaier, it is the sixth consecutive Dover race he’s finished third or better.

The top five was completed by Ross Chastain, Noah Gragson and Harrison Burton.

The top-15 finishers will be inverted for Sunday’s Xfinity race. Brett Moffitt will start first and Brandon Brown will start second.

STAGE 1 WINNER: Austin Cindric

STAGE 2 WINNER: Justin Allgaier

WHO HAD A GOOD RACE: Austin Cindric has finished in the top two in the last seven races … Ross Chastain earned his eighth top five of the year and his best career finish at Dover in 11 starts … Jeb Burton placed seventh for his third top 10 of the year in six starts this season.

WHO HAD A BAD RACE: Chase Briscoe finished 10th after he spun and hit the inside wall on the backstretch with 14 laps left in Stage 2 … Brandon Jones finished 16th after he spun while running in fifth with 37 laps to go.

NOTABLE: Kyle Weatherman finished 25th. His team, Mike Harmon Racing, was at the track after it had a truck, trailer and race car stolen last weekend.

QUOTE OF THE RACE: “The 22 car (Austin Cindric) looked like a normal race car today and not a superhero car.” – Ross Chastain.

WHAT’S NEXT: Dover Race No. 2, 1 p.m. ET Sunday on NBCSN

Mike Harmon: Help from teams ‘heartwarming’ after race car, trailer theft

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The last few nights have been hard for Mike Harmon to “get good rest.”

Since early Sunday, he and his Xfinity Series team have tried to find their truck and trailer that were stolen from a Cracker Barrel parking lot in Kingsland, Georgia.

Inside the trailer was one of the team’s six race cars, a pit box, team radios and tools. According to a police report, the estimated cost of the stolen property was $400,000.

“It’s already tough enough coming from Daytona and having to be at Dover on Friday morning,” Harmon told NBC Sports on Wednesday, not long after the reward for info on the stolen property was raised to $10,000. “You also have it going on in your head, ‘Where is my stuff? Are they going to find it? What kind of shape is it going to be in?’ You can’t get good rest, cause you can’t get your mind off of it. It’s a big, big, big, hinderance. But you can’t survive in this business by not being strong. But we’re strong enough to do it and we will do it. It’s tough enough without having unnecessary stuff like this happen.”

The race car that was in the stolen trailer was the No. 47 Chevrolet Kyle Weatherman drove to a 17th-place finish Saturday on the Daytona road course. While it was a road course specific car, Harmon said it had “our best parts on it that we interchange every week. Its carburetor, shocks, sway bar, stuff like that. The seat insert for the driver.”

Three days after the theft, Harmon said there’s “not very many” leads in the search, outside security camera footage taken from the Cracker Barrel that showed the pickup truck and trailer being taken.

“I’m doing a little bit better each day, but I don’t know how to describe it, it’s a different feeling than I’ve ever had,” Harmon said. “So many people are searching for it, (but) haven’t really turned up anything yet.”

Making it easier for Harmon’s team to compete in this weekend’s Dover doubleheader weekend are his fellow NASCAR competitors.

Harmon said it’s been “heartwarming” to receive aid from team owners Rick Ware and Johnny Davis and Josh Reaume. Ware has provided a truck and hauler. Davis has chipped in tire and gas can carts, while Reaume has contributed a fuel cell and driver seat.

“It really helps out because we’d all do the same for each other,” Harmon said. “I’m sure we’re not done yet, but that’s to name a few.”

After the Dover weekend, the team will have to travel back south to Daytona for the Aug. 28 race on the Daytona oval.

What precautions will Harmon take when traveling between races now?

“Well, I’m going to make sure we got a GPS locator on it, that’s for sure,” Harmon said. “I wasn’t actually with them when it got stolen. I stayed back in Daytona and I was meeting the guys the next morning. I told them I didn’t want them to drive sleepy, because you know how dangerous that is. … I wish we had done it different, but we didn’t.”

Harmon doesn’t believe the culprits knew what they had on their hands when they pulled away.

When asked if he wished he could have seen their face when they opened the trailer, Harmon laughed.

“Well, I wish I could have seen them,” Harmon said. “I’m pretty sure my hands would be pretty beat up now. That’s for sure.”

Race team offers reward for recovery of stolen equipment, car

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Mike Harmon Racing has offered a $5,000 reward for the recovery of a vehicle, trailer and race car that were stolen Sunday morning, hours after the team competed in the Xfinity Series race at the Daytona International Speedway road course.

The vehicles were stolen from a Cracker Barrel parking lot in Kingsland, Georgia, according to a Kingsland Police Department report.

The police report states that the driver and two passengers stopped in Kingsland around midnight on their way back from the race and stayed at a Super 8 hotel. They parked their 2000 silver Ford F350 pickup truck, which pulled a trailer that carried the No. 47 car driven by Kyle Weatherman in Saturday’s race to a 17th-place finish. The report states that the value of the items in the trailer, including the race car, pit box and tool box, was about $400,000.

The report states that a surveillance camera at the Cracker Barrel showed the truck and trailer leaving the parking lot at 5:55 a.m. ET on Sunday.

The vehicles had not been found as of Monday afternoon.

Xfinity Series crew chief suspended indefinitely

Mike Harmon Racing
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Theodore Brown, who has been the crew chief for Mike Harmon Racing’s No. 74 car in the Xfinity Series this year, was suspended indefinitely by NASCAR on Friday for a behavioral violation.

Brown has a court date July 28 in Iredell County Court for felony habitual misdemeanor assault and misdemeanor assault on a female.

Motorsport.com first reported Brown’s arrest.

Brown violated Section 12.8.1.e in the rule book.

The section states:

“Member actions that could result in a fine and/or indefinite suspension, or termination:

  • Public statement and/or communication that criticizes, ridicules, or otherwise disparages another person based upon that person’s race, color, creed, national origin, gender, sexual orientation, marital status, religion, age, or handicapping condition.
  • Being charged with or convicted of significant criminal violations (e.g. Domestic Violence, Trafficking, Assault), or having had determinations rendered by criminal or civil authorities that in NASCAR’s judgement necessitate action. NASCAR will not pre-judge guilt or innocence in the criminal or civil legal system, or the guilt or innocence of the Member, but rather review each matter in its own context and circumstances and with regards to its potential effects upon the sport.”

Brown served as crew chief on the No. 74 last weekend at Talladega.

NBC Sports has reached out to Mike Harmon Racing regarding the suspension and Brown’s status with the team.

Check back for more.

Friday 5: Preparing for a ‘strange feeling’ when NASCAR returns

Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images
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With NASCAR focused on resuming its season May 17 at Darlington Raceway, the Cup Series could be less than a month from being among the first sports in the U.S. to return during the COVID-19 pandemic.

But when NASCAR comes back, the sport will do so without fans in the stands.

It will be in moments before a race and after a race where the absence of fans will be felt the most, at least to Erik Jones.

“It’s going to be a strange feeling,” Jones told NBC Sports of competing without fans at the track. “I would say that before the race, the crowd gets you into it. You’re already excited to race as a driver, but when you see the fans there and they’re excited, I can think of a few times in my career where the crowd was really into it before the race. What a neat feeling that was as an athlete, as a driver, to have people so excited to see you go out and perform. That’s an awesome feeling.”

But there’s a feeling that can top it.

“One of the other cool parts about racing is when you do get a chance to win, you really do get to celebrate with the crowd and they’re really into it and want to see the burnout and the celebration,” Jones said. “That’s a cool moment for them and a cool moment for you. 

“To be a winner and take the checkered flag, and there’s nobody cheering. That would be something I don’t think any of us have experienced. It would be weird, for sure.”

It will happen when NASCAR returns.

Until then, Jones remains at home. He spends his free time reading. He recently read a book on country singer Johnny Cash and one about the city of Detroit.

Reading has been a lifelong passion for the 23-year-old. It was a family activity, especially when his dad took him to races.

“All the travel we would do cross-country, I know a lot of times I would pick a book or my dad would pick a book, and I would read it aloud going down the road so he could hear it while he was driving,” Jones said. 

He continues to read aloud. Jones started “Erik’s Reading Circle” for children this past Tuesday. His Facebook page streamed him reading “Oh, the Places You’ll Go!” by Dr. Seuss. At 7 p.m. ET next Tuesday, he’ll read another children’s book, “The Gruffalo.”

Reading to children online is an idea that came from earlier this season when he read a book to children the day of the Cup race at Auto Club Speedway.

“With everybody kind of being stuck at home, it was a nice opportunity to try to do something like that and see what the reception was,” Jones said of his reading circle. “Everybody is looking for something to do and something to be a part of, and I thought that was a good opportunity to give this thing a shot.

“I wasn’t sure how much interest it would really ever have. You never really know when you do something like that for the first time. I was surprised, really, how many people were interested in it and how many people wanted me to continue it.”

2. Still laughing 18 years later

It’s still among the most talked-about accomplishments for a driver who won four Xfinity races — and this was a race he didn’t win.

He actually didn’t have a ride when he went to Talladega in April 2002. When he got one, he wasn’t expected to finish the race

But after getting through the largest crash in Xfinity Series history, Tim Fedewa scored a third-place finish at Talladega Superspeedway that remains nearly as memorable as any of his victories.

Fedewa, now the spotter for Kevin Harvick, didn’t have a ride in the 2002 season and went to the first seven races without finding a ride. That changed at Talladega when someone said that the Biagi Brothers were looking for someone to drive Mike Wallace’s backup car. 

The plan was for Fedewa to run about 15 laps and park it. The crew left the qualifying setup on the car instead of changing to a race setup. They didn’t put any heat matting under the floorboard to protect Fedewa’s feet as would have been done if he was going to run the whole race.

Fedewa started 32nd. He was 39th, well behind the pack within the first few laps. His team asked him if he wanted to keep going, and he kept saying he did.

Then on the 15th lap, contact at the front of the field triggered chaos. Depending on the source, there were 27 cars in the crash or up to 32. Either way, it remains the largest crash in Xfinity Series history.

 

“I just kind of picked my way through,” Fedewa told NBC Sports. “I just remember specifically going through that wreck thinking ‘This is awesome. Hope no one is hurt, but I want to keep going here.’

The only injury in that incident was to Mike Harmon, who bit his tongue.

By getting through the crash, Fedewa was a top-10 car with so few cars left. He continued to race, but his feet were burned without the extra heat protection.

As the finish neared, Fedewa was third (and the last car on the lead lap). He was too far behind the leaders to challenge for the win. Unless Jason Keller and Stacy Compton wrecked.

“I’m just thinking, ‘Come on guys, just wreck, just wreck,’” Fedewa said. “Usually you don’t wish for people to wreck, but I was (wishing it) pretty damn hard. I cannot lie. They’re both good friends of mine. But at that particular moment, I was wishing bad things on them.”

Keller won, Compton was second and Fedewa finished third.

“It wasn’t a win, but it sure felt good,” Fedewa said.

The feeling wasn’t so great later. He recalls going to the track a week or two later and his feet still hurting, so he went to the infield care center.

“I burned my heel really, really bad and the side of my right foot really bad,” Fedewa said.

“It got really infected. So I went into the infield care center, and the doctor looked at it and said ‘You ain’t going to like what I’m going to do.’ He had to clean it with a syringe. I don’t know if you ever had a needle stuck in your feet, especially when you got open wounds on your feet. That was the closest I was to passing out, the most pain I felt in my life.”

Now? He laughs about it.

3. Could a driver race showing some COVID-19 symptoms?

NASCAR is in position to return before other sports because its athletes are isolated in a car.

While there are also crew members, those numbers are expected to be reduced to limit the number of people in the garage. Social distancing methods and protective equipment will be key for crew members to avoid any transmission of the coronavirus.

With so much of the sport based around the driver, should a driver be found with COVID-19 symptoms, it could end their championship hopes if it happens during the playoffs.

With that in mind, would it be possible for a driver to show potential signs of coronavirus, such as a slightly elevated temperature, and still be allowed to race?

Dr. John Torres, NBC News medical correspondent, raises some concerns about such a scenario.

“Theoretically, you could do something like that, where as much as they do with NASA astronauts they keep them isolated,” Dr. Torres told NBC Sports. “But there are people that help them get into the car that could be at-risk. If they get into an accident, there would be rescue crews who would be at risk. If somebody has to do CPR on them for whatever reason, that even puts them at a higher risk.

“Every time somebody competes with known symptoms of coronavirus or is suspected to have coronavirus, they are putting other people at risk. In an ideal situation, it would be saying, ‘Hey if you have symptoms, you can’t compete.’ It’s unfortunate, but it’s to protect other people.”

Erik Jones said he’s thought about what he will have to do when the season resumes to try to ensure he is not infected and misses races.

“I would say it’s all in the back of our minds that if we do go back racing, what if somebody tests positive?” Jones said. “What if a driver tests positive or even a crew member? I think anybody would be lying to you if they didn’t say they haven’t thought about it. The thing is the situation is so fluid, and it has been from the start. It changes day by day. I don’t think any of us can plan that far ahead.”

Another issue Dr. Torres notes is that that all sports may have to postpone events even after they resume competing if the coronavirus surges throughout the country again.

“Right now, everything is walking that fine line between protecting people from coronavirus, but at the same time getting back to our lives as best we can, including sports,” he said. “It is going to take some looking at it and saying, ‘Let’s start this,’ but being prepared to pull back if things do start cropping up and particularly being prepared to shut things down if we need to, if they do start showing more and more cases.

“Over time, especially once we get that vaccine, we’ll be able to do more and more. I think we’ll be able to do more and more even without the vaccine once we start getting this under control, and we see cases are lowering, deaths are lowering, and we’re getting a better understanding of how to handle the virus. This is going to take effort by all of us. This is a new normal.”

4.  Plane crash memories

During a recent appearance on the Barstool Sports podcast “Bussin’ with the Boys,” Dale Earnhardt Jr. was asked about the plane crash he, his wife and daughter survived in August in Tennessee.

Earnhardt talked for about 16 minutes detailing the incident, starting with when the plane hit the ground and bounced on landing. The contact with the ground was hard enough that the blinds shut on the windows, preventing Earnhardt from seeing outside the plane.

“We just know we bounced up in the air,” Earnhardt said on the podcast. “I don’t know if we’re 10 feet in the air or 100 feet in the air. But I know we got to get down on that runaway, and it’s not a really long runaway, and we don’t have a lot of time to be bouncing.”

Remains of Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s plane at Elizabethton (Tennessee) Municipal Airport in August 2019. (Photo: Dustin Long).

Earnhardt detailed how when the plane came back down, the right-side landing gear broke. The plane leaned to the right with the wing hitting the ground and the left wing higher in the air.

“That’s probably going to try to create some lift and put the plane up in the air and cartwheel the plane,” he said on the podcast of the elevated left wing. “You’re thinking you’re going to die.”

The plane went off the runaway, down a ditch — “that was extremely violent,” he said — before it went through a fence and came to a stop.

As daughter Isla screamed in the plane, Earnhardt said on the podcast that his thoughts were “God, please don’t let nothing be wrong with her.”

After a quick look at his daughter revealed no obvious injuries, Earnhardt handed Isla to his wife, Amy, and went to the rear of the plane to open the door.

“I went back there, and I’m seeing smoke come out of the toilet,” Earnhardt said on the podcast. “Black, dark, thick smoke. I hollered up to the front, ‘We’ve got a fire! We’ve got to go!”

Earnhardt also discussed the challenges in exiting the plane, what a paramedic did to comfort him in the ambulance and the feelings he, Amy and Isla have about flying since in the podcast.

To hear Earnhardt’s full description, you can listen to the podcast here.

5. Could there be a way to Twitch real races some day?

Parker Kligerman discusses on this week’s NASCAR on NBC Podcast how there could be real-world potential for Twitch – which is a site where people can watch others play video games or in racing, watch professionals compete in iRacing events such as Sunday’s Pro Invitational Series race at a virtual Talladega Superspeedway.

“One of the things we’ve been missing as an opportunity is thinking that (in-car cameras are) solely for the broadcast,” Kligerman said. “And what the Twitch streams have exposed in connection with the linear TV broadcast is these are being put up by the drivers themselves who are willing to do it and offer this inside little view. It’s not great for watching the whole race, but just seeing their little view and seeing their chat.”

He said such cameras on all cars could enhance race broadcasts.

“Then you have this flush of content that we don’t always have,” Kligerman said. “You see a wreck happen in 32nd place, and we don’t have a camera on it, and they don’t have an onboard camera. Well, now you have that chance. So I think the sport could think about it in a way that isn’t degrading the TV broadcast … but it’s almost adding content they maybe wouldn’t have had before.”

To listen check out this or other NASCAR on NBC Podcast episodes with Nate Ryan, go to Apple PodcastsSpotifyStitcherGoogle Play or wherever you get podcasts and download the episodes.