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Robert Willett/The News & Observer via AP

NASCAR teams impacted by North Carolina stay at home order

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North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper announced a stay at home order for the entire state of North Carolina, beginning at 5 p.m. ET Monday because of the COVID-19 pandemic. The order is for 30 days.

The move impacts all NASCAR teams based in North Carolina.

“These are tough directives, but I need you to take them seriously,” Gov. Cooper said in afternoon news briefing.

MORE: N.C. Governor enlists Jeff Gordon, Jimmie Johnson for COVID-19 PSA

MORE: North Carolina stay at home order

The order bans gatherings of more than 10 people and directs everyone to stay at least six feet away from each other. The order requires all residents to stay at home except for essential activities. The order states: “non-essential business and operations must cease.”

The order also states that among the definitions for an essential business and operation is “Businesses that meet Social Distancing Requirements. Businesses, not-for-profit organizations or educational institutions that conduct operations while maintaining Social Distancing Requirements:

a. Between and among its employees; and

b. Between and among employees and customers except at the point of sale or purchase.”

Mecklenburg County and Cabarrus County, which are home to such race teams as Joe Gibbs Racing, Hendrick Motorsports, Chip Ganassi Racing, Roush Fenway Racing and JTG Daugherty Racing, were already under a stay at home order through April 16.

By the end of the week, more than 20 states will have issued stay at home orders, including California, Illinois, New York, New Jersey and Ohio.

More NASCAR teams under stay at home order

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Cabarrus County in North Carolina became the second county that is home to NASCAR teams to issue an order for residents to stay at home because of COVID-19.

The order was issued Wednesday after two individuals in the county died of coronavirus. The order takes effect at 5 p.m. ET on Thursday. The order, which restricts non-essential travel and bans gatherings of more than 10 pepole, goes through April 16.

The order impacts those also in the cities of Kannapolis, Concord and Harrisburg. Cup race shops in those locations – and subject to the order – include Stewart-Haas Racing (Kannapolis), Chip Ganassi Racing (Concord), Roush Fenway Racing (Concord), Leavine Family Racing (Concord) and JTG Daugherty Racing (Harrisburg).

Previously, Mecklenburg County issued a stay at home order that begins at 8 a.m. ET Thursday and goes through April 16. Joe Gibbs Racing, based in Huntersville, is in that county. Hendrick Motorsports has a Charlotte address in Mecklenburg County.

Race shops in other counties are not under such orders at this time.

Here is the Cabarrus County order.

 

 

Phoenix winners and losers

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WINNERS

Joey LoganoMade a spirited charge late to rebound from a slow pit stop when the jack broke and then held off Kevin Harvick in an overtime restart to score his second win this season, matching his win total from the 2019 season.

Stewart-Haas Racing — Still winless this season but placed all four cars in the top 10 at Phoenix: Kevin Harvick was second, Clint Bowyer was fifth, Aric Almirola placed eighth and rookie Cole Custer was ninth.

Chip Ganassi Racing — Placed both its cars in the top 10 for the first time this season. Kyle Larson finished fourth and Kurt Busch was sixth. Both had gritty performances.

Brandon JonesPassed Kyle Busch for win with 20 laps left in the Xfinity race. It took Jones 134 races to win his first Xfinity race. He needed only seven races to score his next series win.

MORE: Phoenix race proves tantalizing for title event 

MORE: What drivers said after Phoenix Cup race 

LOSERS

Ryan BlaneyCollected in crash triggered by Denny Hamlin and Brad Keselowski early in the race and finished 37th. Blaney has had one of the best cars all season but never got to show what he could do at Phoenix.

Martin Truex Jr.If it’s not one thing, it’s another for him and his Joe Gibbs Racing team. He started at the rear for the second consecutive week but worked his way up to the front with the help of his pit crew, which had let him down the past couple of weeks. This time, contact from Aric Almirola put Truex in the wall. Almirola said the contact was unintentional but the damage was enough too ruin Truex’s race. He finished 32nd.

Chase ElliottIn one sense, his seventh-place finish was not satisfying considering how strong a car he had. On the other hand he still scored a top 10 after he had to pit for a loose wheel under green and later hit the wall, slowing his progress. But when one has among the strongest cars, one has to take advantage of the situation.

Denny Hamlin — Last November, Phoenix was magical with a win that put him into the Championship 4. This time, his contact with Brad Keselowski sent him into the wall. While Hamlin continued, the damage kept him from contending and he finished 20th.

Kurt Busch, Kyle Larson finally put together strong joint effort at Phoenix

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After three races with opposite individual results, Chip Ganassi teammates Kurt Busch and Kyle Larson were able to enjoy a productive joint effort in Sunday’s Cup Series race at Phoenix Raceway.

Larson finished fourth, while Busch finished sixth on the one-mile oval. That was a far cry from how they finished in the first three races together:

Daytona: Larson finished 10th, Busch 33rd.

Las Vegas: Larson finished 9th, Busch 25th.

Fontana: Busch finished 3rd, Larson 21st.

With their joint Phoenix effort, Larson now has three top-10 finishes in the first four races while Busch has two. But added together, the No. 42 and No. 1 are starting to jell more productively as a pair.

“With Larson fourth and us sixth, that’s better than what we ran all day,” Busch, who recorded the 300th top-10 finish of his Cup career, said afterward. “I feel like we struggled quite a bit, so we’ll take that.

“Any time you can finish better than where you run, you have to cash those points. We survived all those last restarts, we just weren’t on offense. We just couldn’t attack. I was just kind of slip-sliding around a bit too much today.”

MORE: Joey Logano wins Phoenix Cup race in overtime

MORE: Phoenix Cup results, point standings

MORE: What drivers said after Phoenix Cup race

With the next three races on 1.5-mile tracks (Atlanta, Homestead and Texas), followed by three of the following five races on short tracks (Bristol, Richmond and Martinsville), Sunday’s end result should help the two Ganassi drivers going forward.

“You just still have to find that right balance and I think we at Ganassi had some things that weren’t quite set right for anything,” Busch said. “I didn’t have short run speed, I didn’t have long run speed, but we finished sixth.

“So, I can’t complain. We have to put that in the bank, learn from it and then head to the short tracks later on at Bristol, Martinsville and Richmond coming up. We were just inches away from another top five.”

Still, while the two teammates were happy with their respective finishes, they weren’t completely satisfied, either.

“I was just hoping that I could do something and maybe (race winner Joey Logano and runner-up Kevin Harvick would) mess up,” Larson said of the closing laps. “The 18 (Kyle Busch) went really low and I was just trying to run the bottom, and didn’t make up much ground.

“If they were to get bottled up at the top, I would have enough momentum I could drive in front of them. But it didn’t work out that way, obviously. We still got a top five, so it was a nice day for us. We fought back from a really bad car from the first run and tuned on it to come away with a top five, so that was good.”

Added Busch, “I feel like we battled the best that we could have. We didn’t have much for any kind of spectacular stat, other than perseverance. We didn’t have good short-run speed or long-run speed. Sixth is better than we ran all day, so we’ll take that. We really have to look hard at what we believe led to all of this. But at one point we were running 17th without a scratch on the car.”

Having gone in the first four races from a 2.5-mile track to a 1.5-mile track, back to a 2-mile track and then Sunday at a 1-mile track, returning to a 1.5-mile track over the next three races could potentially help both drivers make significant moves upward in the standings.

Larson leaves Phoenix tied with Aric Almirola for seventh in the standings – both drivers 43 points behind points leader Kevin Harvick – while Busch moves up to 16th, 74 points out of first place,

“Even though we finished sixth, we’ll cash that in,” Busch said. “But we have to learn from (it). Chip (Ganassi) has two really good drivers getting everything out of those two cars that we can.

“It’s fun. Larson and I have a really good read on each other on-track and we just have to get a better read communicated to the engineer staff to help our handling.”

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GearWrench returns as Kurt Busch sponsor in 2020

Kurt Busch
Chip Ganassi Racing
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GearWrench, a hand tool brand from Apex Tool Group, will return as a sponsor of Kurt Busch in the Cup Series in 2020, Chip Ganassi Racing announced Wednesday.

GearWrench will be on the No. 1 Chevrolet in four Cup Series races: Phoenix Raceway (March 8), Charlotte Motor Speedway (May 24), Dover International Speedway (Aug. 23) and Talladega Superspeedway (Oct. 4).

The brand has been a primary sponsor of CGR since 2017 when Jamie McMurray drove the No. 1 car.

In 2019, it was Busch’s primary sponsor in four races and a co-primary sponsor in a fifth race.

Monster Energy will also return as a sponsor for Busch in his 20th full-time season in the Cup Series. This is will be Busch’s second season with Ganassi. He signed two-year extension last season.

MORE: Kurt Busch continues ticket program for veterans.