Getty Images

Kevin Harvick: ‘Chase Elliott winning is better for our sport’

2 Comments

The question was to make a pitch but Kevin Harvick admitted it likely doesn’t matter how much he does because there’s only one driver who will win the NMPA Most Popular Driver Award now that Dale Earnhardt Jr. is no longer racing.

“We’re fortunate to have a great fan base, but we probably won’t win,’’ Harvick said Friday at Kansas Speedway. “I’d say the next guy that’s going to take that reign is going to be Chase Elliott. The bottom line is when you look at our sport, there is only a few guys that come through this sport that have the name, the history, the heritage of that NASCAR family and carry that through their career, and Chase is one of those guys.

“He’s done a great job of carrying himself and being competitive and doing all the things that he does … he has that family name and that history and the heritage of the hardcore NASCAR fan who are going to be the people who vote that. His dad won a few times in the Most Popular Driver and he’s the next Dale Jr.”

Bill Elliott was selected as the most popular driver a record 16 times. Earnhardt won the honor 15 consecutive years.

Harvick suggests that Chase Elliott could make a significant impact on the sport but the key is winning. Elliott, the 2014 Xfinity champion, remains winless in Cup. Saturday night’s race will be his 89th career series start. He has finished second eight times, including at Richmond last month.

“Is he going to win enough to be the megastar? At some point,” said Harvick, who is coming off his win last weekend at Dover. “He’s a star right now, but winning takes you to that next level of being a bigger star, and Chase Elliott winning is better for our sport and he’s going to be the guy that wins the Most Popular Driver, in my opinion, for the next several years. There’s nobody else that has that ties to our sport like Chase does. I can win 20 races a year and I’m never going have that tie to the sport like Chase does.”

But Harvick does have one special fan among those who cheer him. Earnhardt revealed this week on Twitter that his grandmother is a Harvick fan because Harvick took over Dale Earnhardt Sr.’s ride after his death in the 2001 Daytona 500.

“Seeing that comment from Dale Jr. and seeing the reaction from a lot of the fans is a lot of responsibility, obviously,’’ Harvick said. “It’s like I said on the (SiriusXM NASCAR Radio) show Tuesday night, when you look at the Earnhardt family in general, the legacy they have in our sport from start to finish – from Ralph to Dale Jr. on down to what happens next, it’s a major backbone of what has happened in this sport. When you look at that, I feel like I have a small part of where that changed … and where it’s going.

“So, for me, there’s a lot of pressure but also a lot of pride in that as well to try to do right, whether it’s for the family or for those old Senior fans. You want to do the right thing. I haven’t always done the right thing, but I feel as you go through the years you transition more into the right direction than what we did in the beginning, so that, to me, personally feels good.”

 and on Facebook

Kyle Busch charges from back to win at Richmond in overtime

13 Comments

Kyle Busch charged from the 32nd starting spot to win in overtime Saturday night at Richmond Raceway and score his third consecutive Cup victory, matching what Kevin Harvick did earlier this season.

The last time two different drivers won three consecutive races in the same season was 2015 when Busch and Joey Logano did so.

Busch took the lead off pit road with 32 laps to go and led all but one lap the rest of the way. The Joe Gibbs Racing driver held the top spot through two more cautions.

MORE: Race results 

MORE: Points report

“The pit crew tonight, they won this race for us,’’ Busch told Fox in Victory Lane after his fifth career Richmond triumph. “Got us where we needed to be.’’

Chase Elliott finished second and was followed by Denny Hamlin, Joey Logano and Kevin Harvick in a race extended two laps by overtime. Elliott, winless in Cup, scored his eighth career series runner-up result. His father, Hall of Famer Bill Elliott, recorded eight second-place finishes before he scored his first series win.

Martin Truex Jr., seeking to score his first career Cup victory on a short track, saw his chances end on a slow pit stop with 10 laps left that dropped him from second to 11th. Truex, who led a race-high 121 laps, finished 14th.

Stage 1 winner: Joey Logano

Stage 2 winner: Joey Logano

How Kyle Busch won: He took the lead on pit road late and stayed out front through the late restarts.

Who had a good race: Chase Elliott rallied late to finish second for his best result of the season. … Denny Hamlin’s third-place finish matched his best result of the season set in the Daytona 500. … Joey Logano (fourth) has placed in the top four in the last three races at Richmond. … Kevin Harvick (fifth) earned his seventh top-10 finish in the last eight races. … Jimmie Johnson finished sixth after hitting the wall early. He fell a lap down before recovering. … Matt DiBenedetto tied his season-best result by placing 16th. He’s finished 16th, 21st and 16th in his last three races.

Who had a bad race: Martin Truex Jr. appeared headed to his first Cup win at a short track until late cautions proved to be his undoing. A bad pit stop ruined his night. He finished 14th. … Ryan Newman suffered damage in a late incident and finished 37th in the 38-car field. … David Ragan, who ran in the top 20 during the event, finished 33rd after a late crash.

Notable: Kyle Busch’s 46th career victory ties Buck Baker for 15th on the all-time list. … 46 Wins – Kyle Busch-Buck Baker comparison. … Busch’s 14th win at a short track ties him with Jimmie Johnson for most among active drivers. 

Quote: “I don’t know what we’ve got to do to win one of these short tracks. Tonight, we beat ourselves,’’ Martin Truex Jr. said to Fox after the race.

Next: The series races at Talladega Superspeedway on April 29.

 and on Facebook

Bill Elliott, Ray Evernham back behind the wheel at Road Atlanta for Georgia Speedfest

Getty Images
1 Comment

NASCAR may be enjoying its first off week of 2018, but that doesn’t mean you can’t see some NASCAR legends wheeling it around a track this weekend.

If you’re in the vicinity of Braselton, Georgia, you can see NASCAR Hall of Famers Bill Elliott and Ray Evernham in action.

The Trans Am Series presented by Pirelli is racing at Road Atlanta this weekend as part of Georgia Speedfest, and Elliott and Evernham are taking part.

Of course, it wouldn’t be a real Bill Elliott comeback if the native of Dawsonville, Georgia, wasn’t behind the wheel of the No. 9.

Fans send lucky charms to help Chase Elliott get to Victory Lane

Photo: Atlanta Motor Speedway
Leave a comment

In an effort to help Chase Elliott score that elusive first Cup victory, Atlanta Motor Speedway asked fans to send good luck charms to present to the Georgia driver.

Multiple boxes of Lucky Charms were sent. Other items included stuffed animals, a tie, coins, letters, and items with four-leaf clovers on them.

Ed Clark, president of Atlanta Motor Speedway, recalled doing a similar promotion when he worked at Charlotte Motor Speedway and Bill Elliott sought his first victory.

“If you can’t create a new idea, steal a new one,” Clark quipped Tuesday before presenting the good luck charms to Chase Elliott, who has finished runner-up seven times — including five such finishes last year — but has not won a Cup race.

Bill Elliott finished runner-up eight times before he scored his first Cup victory, which came in November 1983 at Riverside, California.

“I hope it works,” Chase Elliott said of the charms sent to Atlanta for him.

Elliott, in his first season driving the No. 9 for Hendrick Motorsports (a number his father drover during his career), was 10th in Daytona 500 qualifying Sunday. He will start fifth in the second Can-Am Duel qualifying race Thursday night. The two qualifying races set the starting lineup for the Daytona 500 behind the front row of Alex Bowman and Denny Hamlin.

After the Daytona 500, the series heads to Atlanta Motor Speedway on Feb. 25.

 and on Facebook

 

Friday 5: Questions about size of future Hall of Fame classes

Photo by Lance King/Getty Images
Leave a comment

After NASCAR celebrates the ninth Hall of Fame class tonight (8 p.m. ET on NBCSN), questions may soon arise about how many inductees should be honored annually.

NASCAR inducts five people each year. When NASCAR announced eligibility changes in 2013, a former series executive said that the sanctioning body would “give strong consideration” to if five people should be inducted each year and if there should be a veteran’s committee “after the 10th class is seated.’’

The 10th class — which Jeff Gordon will be eligible for and expected to headline— will be selected later this year and honored in 2019. That gives NASCAR a year to determine what changes to make if officials follow the schedule mentioned in 2013. NASCAR has discussed different scenarios as part of its examination of the Hall of Fame.

Among the questions NASCAR could face is should no more than three people be inducted a year? Should only nominees who receive a specific percentage of the vote be inducted? Should other methods be considered in determining who enters the Hall? 

Only one of the last five classes had all five inductees selected on at least 50 percent of the ballots. Five people in the last three classes each received less than 50 percent of the vote.

The challenge is that if NASCAR reduced the number of people inducted after the Class of 2019, it could create a logjam in the coming years.

Tony Stewart and Carl Edwards (provided Edwards does not return to run a significant number of races) would be eligible for the Class of 2020.

Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Matt Kenseth (provided Kenseth does not return to run a significant number of races) would be eligible for the Class of 2021.

Stewart would appear to be a lock for his year and it seems likely Earnhardt would make it as well his first year.

If the Hall of Fame classes were cut to three a year, and Stewart, Earnhardt and Kenseth each were selected in those two years, that would leave three spots during that time for others.

The nominees for this year’s class included former champions Bobby Labonte and Alan Kulwicki, crew chief Harry Hyde (56 wins, 88 poles) and Waddell Wilson (22 wins, 32 poles), car owners Roger Penske, Jack Roush and Joe Gibbs and Cup drivers Buddy Baker, Davey Allison and Ricky Rudd.

A 2019 Class that might feature Jeff Gordon, Harry Hyde, Buddy Baker and two others would still leave some worthy candidates who might not make it for a couple of years if the number of inductees is reduced.

Of course, there are those who haven’t been nominated that some would suggest should be, including Smokey Yunick, Humpy Wheeler, Buddy Parrott, Kirk Shelmerdine, Neil Bonnett, Harry Gant and Tim Richmond. That could further jumble who makes it if the number of inductees is reduced.

Those are just some of the issues NASCAR could face as it examines if any changes need to be made.

2. Hall of Fame Classes and vote totals

Note: NASCAR did not release vote totals for the inaugural class (2010 with Richard Petty, Dale Earnhardt, Junior Johnson, Bill France Sr., and Bill France Jr.). Below are the other classes with the percent of ballots each inductee was on:

2018 Class

Robert Yates (94 percent)

Red Byron (74 percent)

Ray Evernham (52 percent)

Ken Squier (40 percent)

Ron Hornaday Jr. (38 percent)

2017 Class

Benny Parsons (85 percent)

Rick Hendrick (62 percent)

Mark Martin (57 percent)

Raymond Parks (53 percent)

Richard Childress (43 percent)

2016 Class

Bruton Smith (68 percent)

Terry Labonte (61 percent)

Curtis Turner (60 percent)

Jerry Cook (47 percent)

Bobby Isaac (44 percent)

2015 Class

Bill Elliott (87 percent)

Wendell Scott (58 percent)

Joe Weatherly (53 percent)

Rex White (43 percent)

Fred Lorenzen (30 percent)

2014 Class

Tim Flock (76 percent)

Maurice Petty (67 percent)

Dale Jarrett (56 percent)

Jack Ingram (53 percent)

Fireball Roberts (51 percent)

2013 Class

Herb Thomas (57 percent)

Leonard Wood (57 percent)

Rusty Wallace (52 percent)

Cotten Owens (50 percent)

Buck Baker (39 percent)

2012 Class

Cale Yarborough (85 percent)

Darrell Waltrip (82 percent)

Dale Inman (78 percent)

Richie Evans (50 percent)

Glen Wood (44 percent)

2011 Class

David Pearson (94 percent)

Bobby Allison (62 percent)

Lee Petty (62 percent)

Ned Jarrett (58 percent)

Bud Moore (45 percent)

3. Charter Switcheroo

Five charters have changed hands since last season. One will be with its third different team in the three years of the charter system.

In 2016, Premium Motorsports leased its charter to HScott Motorsports so the No. 46 team of Michael Annett could use it.

The charter was returned after that season, and Premium Motorsports sold the charter to Furniture Row Racing for the No. 77 car of Erik Jones for 2017.

With Jones moving to Joe Gibbs Racing and Furniture Row Racing not finding enough sponsorship to continue the team, the charter was sold to JTG Daugherty for the No. 37 team of Chris Buescher for this season. (The No. 37 team had leased a charter from Roush Fenway Racing last year).

So that will make the third different team the charter, which originally belonged to Premium Motorsports, has been with since the system was created.

4. Dodge and NASCAR?

Fiat Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne excited fans when he said in Dec. 2016 about Dodge that “it is possible we can come back to NASCAR.’’

One report last year stated that Dodge decided not to return to NASCAR, and another countered that report.

While questions remain on if Dodge will return to NASCAR, Marchionne announced this week at the Detroit Auto Show that he’ll step down next year, and that Fiat Chrysler will release a business plan in June that will go through 2022. The company will announce a successor to Marchionne sometime after that.

Marchionne said, according to The Associated Press, that the U.S. tax cuts passed in December are worth $1 billion annually to Fiat Chrysler.

A Wall Street Journal story this week stated that Fiat Chrysler makes most of its profit from its Jeep and Ram brands, writing that those brands “have been on a roll as U.S. buyers shift to these kinds of light trucks and away from sedans, which is a segment the company has largely abandoned.’’

5. NMPA Hall of Fame

The National Motorsports Hall of Fame will induct four people into its Hall of Fame on Sunday night. Those four will be drivers Terry Labonte and Donnie Allison and crew chiefs Jake Elder and Buddy Parrott.

 and on Facebook