brendan gaughan

Watkins Glen latest example of short track excitement, tempers on road courses

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The hurt feelings and damaged cars from revenge were so numerous this weekend, one could have mistaken the postrace atmosphere at Watkins Glen International for that of the Bristol night race during its peak in the late 90s and early 2000s.

All that was missing was a thrown helmet.

MORE: NASCAR won’t punish retaliatory actions from Watkins Glen

But Bristol is still two weeks away.

The Cup and Xfinity races on the New York track again provided further evidence that road courses are the new short tracks, and it wouldn’t hurt to see more added to the schedule.

Don’t believe us? Here’s proof from the last five years.

Jimmie Johnson vs. Ryan Blaney / William Byron vs. Kyle Busch / Bubba Wallace vs. Kyle Busch, Sunday

Ok, so a lot happened on Sunday. But even more happened after the race.

Bubba Wallace went on an expletive filled rant against Kyle Busch after their run-in.

William Byron provided a “no comment” on his retaliation against Busch.

But Jimmie Johnson?

After he was wrecked from contact with Ryan Blaney, a clearly angry Johnson confronted the Team Penske driver on pit road. Afterward, he shared his feelings with NBCSN. This isn’t the kind of Johnson we’re used to seeing. But we’re also not used to seeing Johnson desperate to make the payoffs.

“I couldn’t hear what he was saying, his lips were quivering so bad that he can’t even speak,” Johnson said. “I guess he was nervous or scared or both, I don’t know what the hell the problem is. He just drove through me and spun us out, and it clearly has big implications on what we’re trying to do for the playoffs right now. Clearly not happy with his actions there.”

Justin Allgaier vs. Ross Chastain, Saturday

A short book could be written about Chastain and his altercations with drivers over the last few years.

The latest chapter was Saturday between him and Allgaier in the first stage of the Xfinity race, when Chastain made contact with Allgaier in the inner loop and sent him into a tire barrier on Lap 14.

Six laps later, Allgaier used his front bumper to get his message across.

“We’ve had a rocky relationship over our racing career,” Allgaier said after he finished the race in third. “Unfortunately, I’ve been on the receiving end a number of times of him running into me. He flat wrecked me in the Bus Stop back there. At some point you just get to a point where you’re tired of getting run into. I ran back into him. I had no intention of putting him in the wall. I wanted to spin him out for sure. I wanted him to kind of have the same feeling that I had a few laps before whenever he spun me out.”

Said Chastain: “It’s better if I keep my opinion to myself.”

Jimmie Johnson vs. Martin Truex Jr., Charlotte Roval 2018

There’s one road course left on the Cup schedule: The Charlotte Roval (Sept. 29).

On any given day, Truex and Johnson are two of the more mild-mannered drivers in the garage.

That says a lot about the power of road courses.

On the final turn of the final lap of the inaugural Cup race on the Roval, Johnson locked his brakes while trying to pass Truex for the win. That sent Johnson’s car spinning and into Truex’s car, which also went around.

After Ryan Blaney slipped by for the win, Truex rammed into the back of Johnson’s car and turned him around.

“I was not mad at all about Jimmie trying to win,” Truex said the next weekend. “That’s his job. That’s what we all try to do every single weekend. He was trying to win the race. I get that.

“I was mad that he screwed up.”

While you have to wait two months for Cup to return to a road course, the Xfinity Series will satisfy your needs for two of the next three races. First up, the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course this Saturday (3 p.m. ET on NBCSN).

Ross Chastain vs. Joey Gase, Mid-Ohio 2018

A year ago, Chastain and his JD Motorsports crew members got into an expletive-laden scuffle with Joey Gase following the race at Mid-Ohio.

The ruckus was a result of Chastain pushing Gase deep into a corner on the last lap and spinning him.

“I don’t really appreciate that a whole lot,” Gase said afterward. “He’s (JD Motorsports team owner) Johnny Davis’ golden child. He can’t do anything wrong. It’s always the other guy’s fault. I passed him clean through the Keyhole, he left the door open. In the esses, he hit me six times and pushed me off the track. He races everyone hard, but if you race him that way, it’s a problem.”

John Hunter Nemechek vs. Cole Custer, Canadian Tire Motorsports Park 2016

Something dramatic happens on the last lap of this Truck Series race every year.

No, seriously. Every. Single. Year. (Except 2015).

But only once did it result in the driver who lost tackling the winner while he celebrated on the frontstretch.

The series returns north of the border on Aug. 25

Regan Smith vs. Alex Tagliani, Mid-Ohio 2015

There were no blows or expletives exchanged after Smith performed a bump-and-run on Tagliani in the final corner of this race to capture the win.

But Tagliani let it be known he wasn’t happy with the maneuver or Smith’s choice of a burnout celebration.

“He knows I’m not going to be there next weekend to retaliate and give him the payback,” Tagliani said. “It’s just really unfortunate to win like that, but also to see him celebrate after a win like that … but he knows he wasn’t going to win unless he pushed us off.”

Regan Smith vs. Ty Dillon, Watkins Glen 2015

Smith had an eventful year on road courses in 2015. Before Mid-Ohio he was on the opposite end of a bumper at Watkins Glen when Ty Dillon tagged his right rear in Turn 1 and spun him on a restart.

After the race, Smith grabbed Dillon by the collar. They began grappling and had to be separated by NASCAR officials.

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Sunday’s Cup race at Daytona: Start time, lineup and more

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Let’s try this again. The Cup Series will run today at Daytona International Speedway after rain postponed the race from Saturday night. The race will be on NBC (1 p.m. ET).

After qualifying was cancelled Friday due to weather, the field was set by owner points. Joey Logano will start from the pole and be joined by Kyle Busch on the front row.

Will today’s race see the dominance of Team Penske and Joe Gibbs Racing continue? Is today the day a new winner emerges?

Here’s all the info you need for today’s race.

(All times are Eastern)

START: The command to start engines will be given 12:52 p.m. The green flag is scheduled to wave at 1:04 p.m.

PRERACE: Garage opens at 10 a.m. Driver introductions are at 12:20 p.m. The invocation will be given at 12:43 p.m. The National Anthem will be performed at 12:44 p.m.

DISTANCE: The race is 160 laps (400 miles) around the 2.5-mile track.

STAGES: Stage 1 ends on Lap 50. Stage 2 ends on Lap 100.

TV/RADIO: NBC will televise the race. Coverage begins at 1 p.m. The Motor Racing Network’s radio broadcast begins at 1 p.m. and also can be heard at mrn.com. SiriusXM NASCAR Radio will carry MRN’s broadcast.

FORECAST: wunderground.com calls for a high of 86 degrees at the start of the race. There is a 42% chance of scattered thunderstorms.

LAST TIME: Erik Jones won his first career Cup race after a last-lap pass of Martin Truex Jr.

TO THE REAR: William Byron (backup), Kyle Larson (unapproved adjustments), Justin Haley (unapproved adjustments), Brendan Gaughan (unapproved adjustments), Joey Gase (unapproved adjustments), Matt DiBenedetto (unapproved adjustments), BJ McLeod (unapproved adjustments).

STARTING LINEUP: Click here for the starting lineup.

Entry lists for Cup, Xfinity at Daytona

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Get ready for lots of fireworks this 4th of July weekend – both on and off the race track at Daytona International Speedway.

This race marks the first time the 2.5-mile track hosts a Cup race without restrictor plates since 1988, utilizing instead the tapered spacer – which we’ve already seen used once this year at Talladega Superspeedway.

Both the Cup and Xfinity Series will be in action at Daytona. The Truck Series is off until July 11 at Kentucky Speedway.

Here are the updated entry lists for this weekend’s races:

Cup – Coke Zero Sugar 400 (7:30 p.m. ET Saturday on NBC)

There is a full 40-car field of cars and drivers entered for this race.

For the second time this season, Garrett Smithley is entered in Premium Motorsports’ No. 15 Chevrolet.

Quin Houff will drive the No. 15 for Premium Motorsports.

Ross Chastain will be in the No. 27 for Premium Motorsports.

B.J. McLeod makes his ninth start of the season for Petty Ware Racing in the No. 51 Ford

J.J. Yeley makes his third start of the season for Rick Ware Racing in the No. 52 Ford.

Joey Gase makes his first start of the season for Rick Ware Racing in the No. 53 Chevrolet.

Brendan Gaughan makes his third start of the season for Beard Racing in the No. 62 Chevrolet.

Justin Haley is back in the No. 77 Spire Motorsports Chevrolet.

And Parker Kligerman makes his eighth start of the season in the No. 96 Toyota for Gaunt Brothers Racing.

Last year, Erik Jones earned his first career Cup win in this race. Martin Truex Jr. was second and A.J. Allmendinger finished third.

Click here for the entry list.

Xfinity – Circle K Firecracker 250 (7:30 p.m. ET Friday on NBCSN)

There are 42 cars entered. Four cars will not make the race.

Sheldon Creed makes his third Xfinity start of the season and the first for JR Motorsports in the No. 8 Chevrolet.

A.J. Allmendinger makes his first Xfinity start of the season in the No. 10 Kaulig Racing Chevrolet.

Joe Nemecheck makes his second Xfinity start of the season in the No. 13 Motorsports Business Management Toyota.

Riley Herbst makes his fifth start of 2019 in the No. 18 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota.

Joe Graf Jr. makes his second start of 2019 in the No. 21 Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet.

Chris Cockrum makes his third start for ACG Motorsports in the No. 25 Chevrolet.

Shane Lee makes his third start for H2 Motorsports in the No. 28 Toyota.

Austin Hill makes his Xfinity Series debut in the No. 61 Hattori Racing Enterprises Toyota.

Jeffrey Earnhardt is on the entry list with the No. 81 XCI Racing Toyota but stated on Twitter that the team would not be competing this weekend. 

A spokesperson for True Speed Communications, which had done PR for XCI Racing, said they had no additional info and that its agreement with the team was only through Chicagoland.

Caesar Bacarella makes his third start of 2019 in the No. 90 DGM Racing Chevrolet.

Cody Ware makes his second Xfinity start of the season in the No. 99 B.J. McLeod Motorsports Toyota.

Kyle Larson won this race last year, followed by Elliott Sadler and Christopher Bell.

Click here for the entry list.

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Friday 5: ‘Chaotic’ qualifying is entertaining and shouldn’t change

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Last week’s Cup qualifying at Las Vegas Motor Speedway raised the question of is qualifying more about entertainment or sport?

It was fascinating to watch cars parked on pit road and drivers waiting for someone to go because nobody wanted to be the lead car. They all wanted to be in the draft.

While that took place, spotters counted down the time remaining in the session.

It became a game of who would blink first and take off.

When it was time to go, there was chaos. Cars darted around each other. In the final round, Joey Logano went four-wide on pit road. Ricky Stenhouse passed Logano on the inside and left pit road ahead of him.

“Is chaos a bad thing?” Logano asked NBC Sports’ Jerry Bonkowski this week. “I think that’s the question we have to ask ourselves. Is it chaos? Yes. Is it entertaining? Oh yeah, it’s entertaining, there’s a lot going on. So I don’t know if it’s wrong and we should be changing much.

“I think there’s a couple safety aspects we can add to pit road while we’re jockeying around for position and stuff like that. But as far as the entertainment value, will you get the lap in before the clock runs out, will you get a big enough draft, will they all go out for a second time and you get a big pack again, are they going to knock somebody out of the round? That’s good.

“I don’t know why we would change much of that, I think it’s OK. Yeah, it’s a little chaotic, it’s crazy and none of us has it figured out or scienced out the way we want to have it yet, but that’s competition, that’s just what it is.”

Logano is right. While there was a randomness to who won the pole at Las Vegas, qualifying was as entertaining as any session in recent years.

What happened last week was reminiscent of qualifying at Talladega in October 2014. NASCAR divided teams into two groups for the opening round and each had five minutes. The top 24 overall times advanced.

Most cars stayed on pit road until they hit their cutoff mark to complete two laps. Not everyone made it. Ricky Stenhouse Jr. and Justin Allgaier were among the cars that didn’t make it to the start/finish line before the session ended. Their fastest laps didn’t count. They both failed to qualify. It’s the only race Stenhouse has failed to make since his 2013 rookie Cup season.

These days, 36 chartered cars are guaranteed a starting spot. That prevents a situation Stenhouse experienced five years ago with a well-funded team.

But that doesn’t ease all the angst. Some competitors were frustrated at Las Vegas because the draft negates who has the fastest car. It’s all about being in the right place to draft and turn the quickest lap. Being in that position can be as much luck as skill.

What happens in qualifying can impact the race. Teams pick pit stalls based on their starting spot. A poor qualifying effort can lead to issues in the race.

Logano is aware of that. He qualified 27th at Atlanta and his team had limited options on where to pick their pit stall. Crew chief Todd Gordon chose a stall behind Alex Bowman’s pit and in front of Martin Truex Jr.’s pit.

Rarely do strong teams pit next to each other because they don’t want to have to go around a car to enter their stall or be blocked in by the car in front. Logano faced that situation at Atlanta. He lost more than 10 spots on each of his first two pit stops because he couldn’t get around Bowman’s car to exit his stall.

That leads back to the question of should qualifying be about entertainment or sport?

The decision today will be easy. The fastest car will be rewarded because teams are not expected to draft.

This issue that will come up again in the coming weeks, though, when the series heads to Auto Club Speedway, Texas Motor Speedway and Kansas Speedway.

“Texas, I don’t know,” Logano said. “I think there’s going to be parts of the track that you want to draft and parts of the track when you’re going to want clean air. When you get to Turns 1 and 2, you’re going to want some air on the car to be able to get through the corner with as much wide open time as possible. That one’s a real question for me.

“I think Kansas is a no-brainer, you’re definitely going to be drafting. As for Fontana, it’ll be interesting. I think there’s going to be some drafting going on there, but I think it’ll be split up a little bit, kind of like the way Atlanta was, kinda 50-50.”

There’s no splitting this issue. It’s about entertainment. Let chaos reign in qualifying.

2. Second to Kyle Busch

For all the wins Kyle Busch has amassed in his NASCAR career, there is a recurring theme.

The runner-up to Busch in more than a third of the 197 races he’s won across Cup, Xfinity and the Gander Outdoors Truck Series has been one of five drivers.

Kyle Busch celebrating a NASCAR win has been a familiar sight through the years. (Photo by Sarah Crabill/Getty Images)

The driver who has finished runner-up to Busch the most in those races is Kevin Harvick. He’s done so 18 times — five times in Cup, 10 times in Xfinity and three times in Trucks. The total equates to 9.1 percent of the time Busch has won a NASCAR race, Harvick has been second.

Carl Edwards is next on the list with 15 runner-up finishes to Busch. He’s followed by Brad Keselowski and Joey Logano with 13-runner-up finishes. Next is Kyle Larson, who has placed second to Busch eight times.

Combined, Harvick, Edwards, Keselowski, Logano and Larson have finished second to Busch in 67 of his 197 wins (34 percent).

They are among the 60 drivers who have placed second to Busch in a race he won. The list includes three NASCAR Hall of Fame members (Jeff Gordon, Mark Martin and Ron Hornaday Jr.), two Indianapolis 500 winners (Sam Hornish Jr. and Juan Pablo Montoya) and drivers who have combined to win 48 NASCAR titles in either Cup, Xfinity or Trucks.

The list could grow this weekend. Busch is entered in both the Cup and Xfinity races at Phoenix.

Here is who has finished second to Busch in Cup, Xfinity and Trucks races and how often:

18 — Kevin Harvick

15 — Carl Edwards

13 — Brad Keselowski, Joey Logano

8 — Kyle Larson

7 — Todd Bodine, Matt Crafton

6 — Erik Jones, Johnny Sauter

5 — Greg Biffle, Ryan Blaney, Chase Elliott, Denny Hamlin, Ron Hornaday Jr., Matt Kenseth, Tony Stewart

4 — Jeff Burton, Austin Dillon

3 — Aric Almirola, Clint Bowyer, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Daniel Suarez, Martin Truex Jr.

2 — Mike Bliss, Terry Cook, Jimmie Johnson, Kasey Kahne, Mark Martin, John Hunter Nemechek, Timothy Peters, David Reutimann, Elliott Sadler

1 — Justin Allgaier, AJ Allmendinger, Marcos Ambrose, Trevor Bayne, James Buescher, Kurt Busch, Colin Braun, Jeb Burton, Brendan Gaughan, David Gilliland, Jeff Gordon, Daniel Hemric, Sam Hornish Jr., Parker Kligerman, Jason Leffler, Sterling Marlin, Jamie McMurray, Casey Mears, Brett Moffitt, Juan Pablo Montoya, Ryan Newman, Nelson Piquet Jr., Ryan Preece, Brian Scott, Reed Sorenson, Brian Vickers, Bubba Wallace, Cole Whitt

3. Multiple surgeries

Tanner Thorson, who competed in 11 Gander Outdoors Truck Series races last season, is recovering after he was involved in a highway crash early Monday morning in Modesto, California.

The 2016 U.S. Auto Club national champion had surgery Monday night for a broken left arm, according to the USAC Racing. Thorson had surgery Wednesday on his broken right foot. He also suffered a cracked sternum, broken ribs and a punctured lung, according to USAC Racing. The organization said that Thorson’s family hopes the 22-year-old can return home soon.

According to a preliminary investigation by the California Highway Patrol, Thorson was driving a 2019 Ford pickup that was towing his sprint car when he approached slower moving traffic shortly before 4 a.m. PT. Thorson’s truck struck the rear of a vehicle. KCRA, an NBC affiliate in Sacramento, reported that vehicle was a milk truck.

The impact sent the milk truck into the next lane where it was hit by another vehicle and then came back across the road and was struck another car. The driver was uninjured. A passenger in the truck was transported from the scene with minor injuries, according to the California Highway Patrol. Thorson’s vehicle came to rest on the shoulder and caught fire.

4. First time in new garages at Phoenix

ISM Raceway at Phoenix debuted its new garages and layout when NASCAR raced there in November.

One person missing that weekend was Rodney Childers, crew chief for Kevin Harvick. NASCAR suspended Childers the final two races of last year as part of penalties imposed to the No. 4 team for failing inspection after its win at Texas. So Childers missed the new look at Phoenix – until this weekend.

Childers shared his excitement of being in Phoenix on Thursday night.

5. Remarkable record

Kevin Harvick has finished in the top five in half of the 32 Cup races he’s run at Phoenix. He has nine wins there. Jimmie Johnson has 15 top-five finishes in 31 Cup races there. He has four wins there.

Despite the dominance of the two, they have combined for one win (by Harvick) in the last five races at Phoenix. The other winners in the last five races at Phoenix are Kyle Busch, Matt Kenseth, Ryan Newman and Joey Logano.

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Preliminary Daytona 500 entry list released

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Forty-two cars are on the preliminary entry list for the Feb. 17 Daytona 500.

NASCAR released the entry list Wednesday night.

Among those on the entry list are: Casey Mears (No. 27, Germain Racing), Reigning Xfinity champion Tyler Reddick (No. 31, Richard Childress Racing), Brendan Gaughan (No. 62 Beard Motorsports), Joey Gase (No. 66, Motorsports Business Management), Ryan Truex (No. 71, Tommy Baldwin Racing) and NASCAR on NBC analyst Parker Kligerman (No. 96, Gaunt Brothers Racing).

Click here for Daytona 500 entry list

MORE: Full Daytona Speedweeks schedule