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NASCAR’s best cage rattling short track finishes

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The history of exciting short track finishes in NASCAR is long, colorful and angry.

The latest entry occurred Sunday night at Martinsville Speedway.

Here’s a look at iconic short track finishes that have sent fans into a frenzy and competitors a rage.

“WHERE’S KYLE PETTY?!” – Richmond (Fairgrounds) Raceway – Feb. 23, 1986

Before its multi-million dollar renovations, Richmond Raceway was basically a slab of concrete with a guard rail around it.

The old Richmond track was the site of Kyle Petty’s first Cup win. That wouldn’t have been possible if not for an intense battle between Dale Earnhardt and Darrell Waltrip that ended with three laps to go with contact in Turn 3 and a vicious multi-car wreck.

This is also the race where Earnhardt famously cleaned his own windshield while on the track.

GORDON vs WALLACE X 2 – Bristol Motor Speedway

Bristol Motor Speedway is synonymous with the names Earnhardt and Labonte.

But Jeff Gordon and Rusty Wallace have multiple Bristol entanglements in their history.

April 13, 1997

Their first run-in came on the final lap of the spring race, with Gordon giving Wallace the bump-and-run in Turn 3 and sneaking by for the win.

Aug. 24, 2002

This time it was under the lights.

With flames on his hood instead of a rainbow, Gordon gave Wallace the boot with three laps to go and went on to snap a 31-race winless streak.

THE INTIMIDATOR STRIKES BACK – Bristol Motor Speedway, Aug. 28, 1999

Earnhardt was up to it again.

Four years earlier, Bristol hosted the first round of The Intimidator vs the Ice Man, as Earnhardt wrecked Terry Labonte coming to the checkered flag. Labonte won and pulled an obliterated No. 5 Chevrolet into Victory Lane.

Earnhardt wasn’t having any of that this time.

The seven-time champion spun Labonte as they entered Turn 1 on final lap and slipped by to earn his 73rd Cup win.

If not for a mechanical problem, Labonte said recently he would have retaliated. 

 

MARTINSVILLE MARVEL – Martinsville Speedway, April 1, 2007

After Richard Petty and Darrell Waltrip, the winningest drivers at Martinsville are Jeff Gordon and Jimmie Johnson, who are tied with nine.

In 2007, Johnson entered the April Martinsville race with just two wins on the short track. He got No. 3 after coming out on top of an 18-lap battle with Gordon.

The last lap looked almost like its 2018 counterpart, except Gordon never led.

TEAMMATE TAP Richmond Raceway, April 24, 2016

Richmond returns to the list courtesy of Carl Edwards’ bump-and-run of teammate Kyle Busch in the final turn two years ago.

PLAYOFF PUNT – Martinsville Speedway, Oct. 28, 2018

It’s still fresh on everyone’s mind.

Sunday’s move by Joey Logano that Martin Truex Jr. called a “cheap shot.”

An intense five-lap battle turned into an almost three-wide finish at the checkered flag, with Logano clinching a spot in the championship four at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

Chase Elliott’s Kansas win good for sponsor, manufacturer and record book

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Here are some of the achievements Chase Elliott notched and streaks he extended and ended with his win Sunday in the playoff elimination race at Kansas Speedway.

– At 22 years, 10 months and 23 days old, Elliott is the youngest Cup driver to win at Kansas Speedway.

– Elliott provided a big day for Mountain Dew. His trip to Victory Lane was the first for a car with the soft drink as its sole primary sponsor since October 1982 when Darrell Waltrip won at Rockingham. Mountain Dew did not sponsor any cars from 1985 – 2000.

– Elliott extended Hendrick Motorsports’ record streak of seasons with at least one win on a 1.5-mile track to 25. He did it with three tracks left on the schedule (Kansas, Texas and Homestead). The streak began in 1994 with Jeff Gordon‘s first career win at Charlotte Motor Speedway.

– With his three wins this season, Elliott is the first driver since Carl Edwards in 2005 to earn his first three wins in the same season. Edwards went on to claim four wins that season. The big difference is when the wins occurred. Edwards’ came in his first full-time season. It took until Elliott’s third full-time year for him to get his wins.

– Elliott earned his first top five on a 1.5-mile track this season and just his second top 10.

– The win was also the first for Chevrolet on a 1.5-mile track since Austin Dillon won the 2017 Coca-Cola 600, 55 races ago.

Carl Edwards to be inducted into Texas Motorsports Hall of Fame

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Carl Edwards has been selected as the newest inductee into Texas Motor Speedway’s Texas Motorsports Hall of Fame.

Edwards won at TMS six times in his NASCAR career including four times in the Cup Series. He will be the 20th inductee into the Hall of Fame.

Edwards, who retired from NASCAR competition ahead of the 2017 season, earned the last of his 28 Cup wins in the fall 2016 race at Texas.

Edwards was the first driver to sweep Texas’ two race dates in 2008.

Edwards will be inducted in a special ceremony during the November race weekend at the track. It will be held Nov. 3 in The Grand Ballroom of the track’s Speedway Club, beginning at Noon ET.

The Texas Motorsports Hall of Fame ceremony serves as a major fundraiser for the Speedway Children’s Charities-Texas Chapter. Tickets are priced at $75 and includes a gourmet Texas barbecue.

ISC president cites ‘issue with star power’ for attendance drop

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DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. — International Speedway Corp. President John Saunders cites “an issue with star power” as a contributing factor to the company’s attendance decline.

“All in all, the attendance was a little softer than expected,” Saunders said Thursday morning during ISC’s conference call with investor analysts to discuss results from the second quarter. “We still have an issue with star power. Hopefully this stable of young drivers coming along will start to win and build their brands.”

Ryan Blaney, 24, says he’s tiring of the discussion.

“This whole young guys need to win now thing is getting old,’’ Blaney said Thursday at Daytona International Speedway. “We’re trying. We’re trying our hardest. It’s not like I go out there and I’m happy for fifth every single week. Every other guy under the age of 25 I’ll just say is the same way.

“It’s not a competition here between young guys and old guys. It’s a competition between 39 other cars and yourself. No matter what your age is, experience level, everyone is trying to accomplish the same goal.

“I think it would be healthy for the sport if we see just more variation in general of winners. How many winners this year? Six. Come on now. You can’t just put that on the young guys for not winning. That’s a lot of other people that aren’t winning too.”

Daytona 500 winner Austin Dillon said he’s not bothered by Saunders’ comment but raises a question himself.

“I just want to know what we do about it,” Dillon said Thursday. “How do you move forward with that because the guys that are in this sport are talented enough to win. We haven’t made any changes this year to the packages that we’re running. Each and every week you probably can guess … who the top three guys are probably going to be. I bet if everybody had to bet their house on it, they’d take between three guys right now, maybe four. I bet he would too.”

Bubba Wallace, 24, wasn’t thrilled with Saunders’ comment.

“There’s a lot of boring stuff that we still have that has been the same thing at ISC tracks that we could update to get more fans out,” Wallace said. “It kind of goes hand in hand from us behind the wheel to people that are here hosting us. It’s a group effort.”

ISC stated that attendance for its six Cup weekends in the second quarter was down about 10 percent. Those six events were races at Phoenix, Auto Club Speedway, Martinsville, Richmond, Talladega and Kansas. Other tracks operated by ISC include Daytona International Speedway, Talladega Superspeedway and Homestead-Miami Speedway.

ISC stated that it had an increase in attendance with the Richmond event.

ISC cited weather, construction at ISM Raceway (Phoenix) and “a general trend of lower sales at live sporting events” for impacting revenue.

Saunders said on the call that “these headwinds are further impacted by recent retirements of star drivers.”

Jeff Gordon, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Tony Stewart, Carl Edwards and Greg Biffle are among drivers who have exited the car in recent years.

Only two of the first 17 Cup races this season has been won by a driver under the age of 30. Dillon (Daytona 500) and Joey Logano (Talladega) were both 27 when they won. They’ve since had birthdays.

Former champions Kevin Harvick (five wins), Kyle Busch (five) and Martin Truex Jr. (three) have combined to win 76.5 percent of the races this season. They’ve also combined to lead 47.2 percent of the laps this year and won 48.6 percent of the stages.

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Bump & Run: Should NASCAR look at future street race for Cup?

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Should NASCAR run a Cup race on a street course?

Nate Ryan: Absolutely. It’s the best avenue for getting into some major metropolitan areas where NASCAR belongs (Seattle, New York, perhaps Denver) but has little chance of gaining a foothold with a permanent facility. It would add a wrinkle to the right-turn racing that has delivered some great action for the past decade at the two road-course stops in Cup. And despite there being a lack of current momentum, there is past evidence it’s worked for lower stock-car series in cities as large as Los Angeles in the past.

Dustin Long: It would be a good move to get into markets the sport doesn’t race in now, but the key question is what will the racing be like? For those who imagine it would be beating and banging on a tight circuit, well, there’s less of that now on short tracks, in part, because of how little contact damages fenders and can create tire rubs. Open up the fenders then that could encourage the type of racing.

Daniel McFadin: Please? There’s precedent for it with the old NASCAR Southwest Tour holding three races in the streets of Los Angeles from 1998-2000. I sincerely believe a stock car race on a street course would be a better product than IndyCar could ever provide. With the close quarters, it would encourage more beating and banging and there’s no pesky penalties for “avoidable contact.” Like this year’s Roval race, let’s just try it once.

Dan Beaver: Absolutely. NASCAR’s schedule is already among the most diverse in all sports. To be crowned the champion, the driver should be able to show skill on every type of track. My vote is Central Park, which would give NASCAR their much-coveted venue in the Big Apple. For that matter, they should also run on a dirt track.

What is a memorable road course moment that stands out to you?

Nate Ryan: Because it’s Sonoma weekend, I’ll pick Marcos Ambrose stalling his car while leading and trying to save fuel under caution with seven laps remaining in the June 20, 2010 race. The massive blunder dropped Ambrose from first to seventh for the final restart, and it was historically significant for two major reasons: 1) It was the most agonizing of seven winless trips to Sonoma for Ambrose, a two-time Cup winner at Watkins Glen and one of the greatest road-course drivers in NASCAR history; 2) The gaffe handed the victory to Jimmie Johnson, who led the final seven laps for his only win on a road course in NASCAR.

Dustin Long: Tony Stewart‘s last Cup win in 2016 was a last-lap thrill ride at Sonoma. Stewart led starting the final lap, lost the lead to Denny Hamlin after contact in Turn 7 and got it back after making contact with Hamlin on the final corner. 

Daniel McFadin: Anytime I’ve encountered someone who decries NASCAR as just a bunch of guys going in circles, I make sure to show them video of the last lap of 2012 Cup race at Watkins Glen. It’s everything you’d want on the last lap of any race: the leader getting spun, NASCAR not throwing a caution, multiple lead changes, cars going off track and a drag race through the final turn. I think it was the watershed moment for road course racing in NASCAR.

Dan Beaver: The 1991 Sonoma race. Whether Ricky Rudd deserved to be black flagged for spinning Davey Allison on the next-to-last lap might be open to debate, but the timing of the penalty – more than a full lap later, with Rudd in sight of the checkered flag – was startling. Equally surprising was the fact that NASCAR decided to penalize Rudd just the one position he made up with that contact  – restoring the running position from before the contact.

Between these two groups, who would you take this weekend at Sonoma — The field or Kevin Harvick, Martin Truex Jr. and Kyle Busch?

Nate Ryan: Repeat season won’t be ending anytime soon in NASCAR: Take the Big Three.

Dustin Long: Considering that Harvick, Busch and Truex have won three of the last five Sonoma races and the other two winners (Tony Stewart and Carl Edwards) aren’t in the series, it’s hard not to take the Big Three.

Daniel McFadin: The field. There’s been nine different winners at Sonoma in the last nine races and only once in the last seven races has the winner started in the top five. I think we’re in store for the most unpredictable race of the year that hasn’t been on a restrictor-plate race.

Dan Beaver: The field: There are so many variables on a road course that this is one of the best opportunities for the field to beat Harvick, Busch, and Truex by employing an alternate strategy.