Results of 59th Daytona 500: Kurt Busch wins, Blaney runner-up

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After finishing runner-up three different times there in his career (2003, 2005, 2008), Kurt Busch finally captured his first Daytona 500 in Sunday’s 59th edition of the “Great American Race.”

The 2004 NASCAR Cup champion led only one lap, but it was the most important lap — the final lap of the 200-lap event at the “World Center Of Racing.”

Ryan Blaney finished second, followed by A.J. Allmendinger, Aric Almirola and Paul Menard. Pole-sitter Chase Elliott led 39 laps but fell back late in the race to finish 14th.

Kevin Harvick led the most laps (50) and finished 22nd.

And Michael Waltrip, racing in his 30th Daytona 500 — and what he previously said will be the final race of his lengthy NASCAR Cup career — finished a respectable eighth place.

Also of note, Dale Earnhardt Jr., who missed the entire second half of last season due to a concussion, as well as 2016 NASCAR Cup champ Jimmie Johnson, both wrecked out and failed to finish.

Click here for the full results of the 2017 Daytona 500.

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2016 Season in Review: A.J. Allmendinger

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A.J. Allmendinger

CREW CHIEF: Randall Burnett (35 races), Ernie Cope (one race)

TEAM: JTG Daugherty Racing

POINTS: 19th

WINS: 0

LAPS LED: 29 (fewest in last three seasons)

TOP 5s: 2 (ties career best from 2014 and 2010)

TOP 10s: 9 (Most since 2010)

POLES: 0

WHAT WENT RIGHT: His nine top 10s included a career best three in a row late in the season at Kansas, Talladega and Martinsville … His two top fives came at Martinsville I (second) and Watkins Glen (fourth) … Finished eighth in both Kansas races … Best average finish (17.8) since 2010.

WHAT WENT WRONG: Recorded four DNFs (Michigan I, Kentucky, Indy and Charlotte II) … Finished outside the top 10 at Sonoma Raceway for the sixth time in his eight starts at the road course … Allmendinger was without his crew chief Randall Burnett at Pocono I for a lug nut violation.

WHAT TO EXPECT IN 2017: Allmendinger enters his 11th season on NASCAR’s premier circuit and his fifth with JTG Daugherty Racing, which adds Chris Buescher as the driver of its new second team.

Sprint Cup pit stall assignments for today’s Toyota/Save Mart 350 at Sonoma

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While Carl Edwards will start Sunday’s Toyota/Save Mart 350 from the pole at Sonoma Raceway, he’ll be in pit stall No. 11 and have an opening in front.

California native AJ Allmendinger has the first pit stall (stall No. 2) with Chase Elliott behind him.

By contrast, Aric Almirola and Tony Stewart have the last stalls on pit road.

Matt Kenseth lost his selection of pit stalls because his team received a fourth warning for an inspection issue that came before qualifying Saturday at Sonoma. Kenseth will have Brian Scott in front of him and Josh Wise behind.

Here’s how the pit stall assignments look:

sonoma pit stall assignments

NASCAR on NBC podcast, Episode XXVI: A.J. Allmendinger

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A.J. Allmendinger returns to his hometown track of Sonoma Raceway this weekend with the same winner’s confidence but a much different championship attitude.

After virtually needing a victory to qualify for the 2015 Chase for the Sprint Cup, the JTG Daugherty Racing driver said on this week’s NASCAR on NBC podcast that his No. 47 Chevrolet can make the 2016 playoffs on points this season – lessening the pressure of last year’s win or bust approach.

“By the time we came to Sonoma, we were already out of the points” last season, said Allmendinger, who was ranked 21st and 79 points behind the cutoff spot after 15 races last year. “That made Sonoma just that little bit more pressure knowing if you went there and won, it was great. But if you went there and finished second, it was a good day, but it really did nothing for us in points.

“This year, we’re right on that 16th place cutoff.”

Through 15 races this season, Allmendinger already has matched last year’s total for top 10s (three), including a season-best second at Martinsville Speedway. He is ranked 19th in the standings and a manageable 27 points behind Ryan Blaney, who holds the provisional cutoff spot for the Chase.

“Right now every week is a points race,” Allmendinger said. “It’ll make Sonoma a little bit easier knowing you come and have a solid day and finish second or third, that’s still big for us in the points. That’s how I look at this year. We’re stronger everywhere we’ve been.

“I don’t doubt Sonoma, even though we’ve had fast race cars the past two years, we’re not going to be stronger. I really feel confident that we will be, but it is a slightly different outlook than in the past. … You try and maximize each weekend. At this point last year, it wasn’t about maximizing Sonoma, it was about winning. Ultimately believe me, that is my goal. I would love to win my hometown race. I’d love for it to be a win. That’s still the ultimate goal, but it’s a slightly different outlook. If we have a 2nd or 3rd place finish, it makes a big difference in points, and that’s what we want.”

Last year, Allmendinger, whose lone Sprint Cup win in 2014 at Watkins Glen International catapulted him to the playoffs, swept the road-course pole positions at Sonoma and Watkins Glen. But he finished outside the top 20 in both because of mechanical problems.

“Last year we shot ourselves in the foot,” he said. “Our race cars, our attention to detail are a lot better.”

Allmendinger also discussed on the podcast:

–His racing roots in Northern California, and why the native of Los Gatos doesn’t have strong emotional attachments or memories of home;

–How his single-car team has been able to excel this season despite the odds;

–A poor round of golf with car owner Tad Geschickter that convinced him he had found the right team in Sprint Cup.

You can listen to the podcast by clicking below or download the AudioBoom app and listen there. You also can download and subscribe to it on iTunes by clicking here. The free subscription will provide automatic downloads of new episodes to your smartphone. It also is available on Stitcher by clicking here.

Stayed tuned for time cues to provide easy referencing while listening to the episode.

Ernie Cope will be A.J. Allmendinger’s interim crew chief at Pocono; team won’t appeal

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JTG Daugherty Racing won’t appeal the one-race suspension of crew chief Randall Burnett for lug nut violations after the Coca-Cola 600.

The team said Ernie Cope will fill in for Burnett as the interim crew chief for A.J. Allmendinger’s No. 47 Chevrolet at Pocono Raceway. Cope, a former winning crew chief in the Xfinity Series, was hired as JTG Daugherty’s director of competition in the offseason.

Stewart-Haas Racing announced Wednesday night the team wouldn’t appeal crew chief Tony Gibson’s one-race suspension for improper lug nuts on Kurt Busch’s car.

A Roush Fenway Racing spokesman said Thursday afternoon that the team still was evaluating whether to appeal the two-race suspension of crew chief Brian Pattie after Greg Biffle’s No. 16 Ford failed postrace inspection from the Coke 600.