Photo by Jerry Markland/Getty Images for NASCAR

Reliving some of NASCAR’s most dramatic finishes

Leave a comment

The Minnesota Vikings’ win against the New Orleans Saints on Sunday marked the first time in NFL history that a playoff game ended with a game-winning touchdown with no time left on the clock.

NASCAR has had its share of dramatic finishes through the years. While it’s easy to debate which dramatic finishes rank among the all-time best, here’s a look at some of the most dramatic (and surprising) wins in NASCAR.

The first selection comes from what is now the Xfinity Series. It was the 2012 season-opening race at Daytona International Speedway. Kurt Busch led with Kyle Busch pushing him as they entered Turn 3. Behind them were Joey Logano, Trevor Bayne, Tony Stewart, Elliott SadlerRicky Stenhouse Jr., Kasey Kahne, Cole Whitt and Brad Keselowski.

None of them won the race. 

James Buescher, who was 11th in Turn 4 won for his only Xfinity victory in 91 career starts. 

 

Carl Edwards had won the Xfinity race the day at Atlanta but had yet to win in 16 previous Cup starts before he cranked the engine at Atlanta Motor Speedway in March 2005. Edwards came from behind to beat Jimmie Johnson at the line in among the closest finishes in NASCAR.

 

Dale Earnhardt’s incredible ride from 18th to first in the final five laps in 2000 at Talladega Superspeedway is memorable for that alone but it also was his 76th and final Cup victory. When the video clip below starts, you don’t even see Earnhardt but he’s there lurking and works his way up the field. With two laps left, announcer Jerry Punch exclaims: “The Intimidator is scraped and beaten on the right side, but he will not be denied! “Mr. Restrictor Plate knows there are two laps to go! Earnhardt drives to the high side of Bobby Labonte. Wow.”

 

As they took the white flag at Watkins Glen International in 2012, Kyle Busch led, Brad Keselowski was second and Marcos Ambrose was third.

What followed was a chaotic final lap that ended with Ambrose winning. It led broadcaster Dale Jarrett to say about the beating, banging and battling: “A year’s worth of excitement in 2.45 miles. Incredible.”

 

Ricky Craven tried to make his move by Kurt Busch with two laps to go at Darlington Raceway in 2003 but slid up and made contact with Busch and lost his momentum. That allowed Busch to dive underneath and take the lead back. Craven persisted. As they came off the final corner, Craven went underneath Busch for a door-slamming drag race to the checkered flag, nipping Busch by 0.002 seconds to win.

Of course, one can’t include such a list without one of the sport’s most famous finishes. Donnie Allison led Cale Yarborough on the last lap of the 1979 Daytona 500. Yarborough dived low on the backstretch to pass Allison, who blocked. They hit, bounced off each other and hit again before crashing in Turn 3. Richard Petty drove by several seconds later to take the lead and go on to win the event. As Petty celebrated, Allison, Yarborough and Bobby Allison, who had stopped to check on his brother, fought.

 

 and on Facebook

Ricky Stenhouse Jr. triumphs at Daytona, snatching win from upset contender David Ragan

1 Comment

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – Ricky Stenhouse Jr. won his second consecutive restrictor-plate race, capturing the Coke Zero 400 at Daytona International Speedway.

Stenhouse snatched the lead from David Ragan on an overtime restart and led the final two laps in his No. 17 Ford. It’s the second career victory for the Roush Fenway Racing driver, who won at Talladega Superspeedway in May.

“This validates what we did at Talladega,” Stenhouse said. “I want to first off thank all the troops that have fallen for our country, for our freedom. That is most important right now. “We have been working hard at Roush Fenway and this pushes us further along.”

Clint Bowyer finished second, followed by Paul Menard, Michael McDowell and Ryan Newman. Ragan, who was trying to qualify underdog Front Row Motorsports for the playoffs for the second consecutive season, finished a season-best sixth in a race filled with multicar crashes.

“I zigged when I should have zagged,” said Ragan, who chose the inside lane for the restart despite the oustide lane being fast and then missed a chance to throw a block on Stenhouse after pulling away from second-place Ty Dillon.

The race featured a record 14 caution flags involving 27 drivers, and several of the fastest cars were eliminated early.

Pole-sitter Dale Earnhardt Jr. hit the Turn 1 wall on the 52nd lap after getting hit by Menard because Earnhardt had slowed with an apparent flat tire.

After falling two laps down for repairs, he climbed back to the lead lap and into the top 10 when he was collected in a four-car crash resulting from a spin by Kevin Harvick, who led three times for seven laps before a cut tire ended his race.

A seven-car wreck on Lap 153 featured Kyle Larson’s No. 42 Chevrolet getting airborne and a heavy hit for Kurt Busch (neither was injured).

 A 10-car crash on Lap 71 that began with a cut tire for Kyle Busch eliminated Martin Truex Jr. and Austin Dillon.

Defending race winner Brad Keselowski, whose No. 2 Ford led a race-high 35 laps, hit the wall with another cut tire on Lap 117, finishing 31st.

STAGE 1 WINNER: Brad Keselowski

STAGE 2 WINNER: Matt Kenseth

WHO HAD A GOOD DAY: Michael McDowell finished a career-best fourth. … Brendan Gaughan‘s seventh was his best showing since a sixth in the 2004 season finale. … Corey LaJoie earned a career-best 11th. … Ty Dillon led seven laps and was in front on a restart with two laps remaining in the scheduled distance. … JTG Daugherty Racing earned top 10s with drivers A.J. Allmendinger (eighth) and Chris Buescher (10th).

WHO HAD A BAD DAY: Where to start? With 40 laps, five of the prerace favorites with the fastest cars (Harvick, Truex, Keselowski, Earnhardt, Logano and Truex) were out. … Ryan Blaney, Matt Kenseth and Kurt Busch were eliminated by crashes after running well. … Danica Patrick crashed out of a race for the sixth time this season. … Ryan Sieg, DJ Kennington and Cole Whitt were out within the first 15 laps because of problems related to engine trouble.

QUOTE OF THE DAY: “We just blew a tire. That’s the way it goes. It just blew out right in the middle of the corner. I hate to wreck half the field. That’s a part of what we do.” — Harvick

WHAT’S NEXT: The Quaker State 400 presented by Advance Auto Parts at 7:30 p.m. ET, Saturday, July 8 on NBCSN

Brad Keselowski outduels Dale Earnhardt Jr. to win the first stage at Daytona

Matt Sullivan/Getty Images
Leave a comment

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – Defending Coke Zero 400 winner Brad Keselowski picked up where he left off a year ago at Daytona International Speedway, winning the first stage Saturday night.

The Team Penske driver fended off late charges by Dale Earnhardt Jr., Kevin Harvick and Ryan Blaney to win his third stage of the 2017 season.

Earnhardt, likely racing for the final time in the summertime Cup race at Daytona, finished second in the 40-lap stage after starting on the pole position. Blaney, Clint Bowyer and Joey Logano rounded out the top five.

Michael McDowell finished sixth, followed by Jamie McMurray, Kurt Busch, Tony Stewart and David Ragan.

Harvick fell to 19th after leading with 10 to go, missing the chance to gain stage points.

Denny Hamlin rebounded from an unscheduled pit stop for a loose wheel on the 12th lap. He stayed on the lead lap and restarted the second stage in second.

Blaney restarted the second stage in 35th because he missed his first entry to the pits after contact with Joey Logano.

There were two early cautions in the first stage for engine failures. Cole Whitt’s powerplant let go in the No. 72 Chevrolet on the ninth lap, bringing out a yellow for two laps.

DJ Kennington spun on the 15th lap after the engine in his No. 15 Toyota expired, bringing out a three-lap caution that served as a competition caution that originally had been scheduled for halfway point of the 40-lap stage.

Ryan Sieg also had early trouble, completing only seven laps in the No. 83 Toyota and finishing last.

Click here for the results of the first stage.

Bump & Run: Is Daytona last true shot for Dale Earnhardt Jr. to make playoffs?

2 Comments

Kyle Petty, Slugger Labbe and Dale Jarrett join Leigh Diffey from 5:30 – 7 p.m. ET today on NASCAR America on NBCSN. Petty, Labbe, Jarrett, Nate Ryan and Dustin Long discuss this week’s hot topics.

Does Saturday night’s race at Daytona International Speedway mark Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s last true shot to win and make the playoffs?

Dale Jarrett: Certainly by what we’ve seen to this point, it would take something extraordinary for it to happen somewhere else. Even though they’ve run better. There’s nothing telling me that they’re at that point that they can go win one of these other races without pulling some type of strategy. Yes, I think that this is it. It’s going to take a win for him to make the playoffs. He’s going to have to make that push Saturday night.

Kyle Petty: I don’t believe it’s his last shot, but it may be his best shot. I say that not because he’s run well enough to win anywhere this year, they just seem to be a step behind everywhere. I say “best shot” because throughout his career he’s always stepped up at the “storybook, Hollywood script” moments to win. Can his last Daytona be another one of those moments? Yes. Will it? Only the Racing Gods know.

Slugger Labbe: Unfortunately I believe Daytona is the last opportunity (which a win at Daytona would be AWESOME) for Dale Jr. and the 88 team. We just haven’t seen the performance and confidence in this team to be perfect and on the same page on a given race weekend and being perfect is about what it takes to win.

Nate Ryan: The answer seemed yes … until Michigan and Sonoma. Those are Earnhardt’s first consecutive top 10s this season, and that is meaningful for a streaky driver who always has thrived on confidence and momentum. If he doesn’t break through at Daytona, don’t expect a win at Kentucky, New Hampshire or Indianapolis … but if the No. 88 can continue a string of solid finishes, it doesn’t seem out of the question that Earnhardt still could sneak into victory lane at Pocono, Michigan or Bristol.

Dustin Long: I agree with Kyle that a win by Dale Jr. this weekend would mark another one of those “storybook’’ triumphs, but I think he can win elsewhere. It just keeps popping into my head that a storybook moment would be for Dale Jr. to win at Indianapolis, a track Hendrick Motorsports has had much success. After Indy, though, his chances will be limited to a maybe a couple of tracks.

What has been the biggest surprise this season?

Dale Jarrett: How intense the racing is in the early and middle parts of these races. I knew that the stage racing was going to change things, but it’s really opened up something totally different to me. To sit and watch an entire race now and see drivers pressing hard and the crew chiefs making decisions at times to gather playoff or more points, whatever it is that they are looking for there, and then putting themselves in a position that they have to try to find their way back to the front to try to win the race. That’s something more from teams that have the luxury of doing that that have won races, but it’s pretty entertaining.

Kyle Petty: Too many surprises to name only one. First-time winners, drivers that haven’t won, Kurt Busch at Daytona, how much stage racing has changed how teams/crew chiefs/drivers race. After this coming weekend, I may have to add “see answer to question #1.”

Slugger Labbe: How stage racing has changed our sport for the better, between known cautions (stage ends) that require different strategies and limited tire allotments. There have been races that have been just downright hard to predict, what is right or wrong, until they throw the checkers, and also the effects of the playoff points that are rewarded for stage victories!!

Nate Ryan: That there are 11 winners representing eight teams through the first 16 races – and that none is from Joe Gibbs Racing.

Dustin Long: I wouldn’t have guessed that Richard Childress Racing would have two wins and Roush Fenway Racing would have one victory while Joe Gibbs Racing remained winless with its driver lineup.

Kyle Busch is winless in his last 32 races, a streak that dates back to his win last year at Indianapolis. Does he win before next month’s race at Indy?

Dale Jarrett: I have to believe he will. There’s not a track that we will be going to between now and then that he doesn’t perform at a high level at. They continue to put themselves in position. I think at some point in time things will work out. Could be this weekend. I really believe it will happen certainly within the next four races.

Kyle Petty: Yes! Kyle wins before Indy. Honestly he should/could have won two or three races already this year. Driver, crew and pit call mistakes have kept them out of victory lane. They’ve beaten themselves. I believe with the tracks that are coming up that Kyle’s frustration ends.

Slugger Labbe: YES!! KB and the 18 team have been to me one of the best performers so far in 2017. They just need to seal the deal. Speed is not an issue, but they need to clean up a few things. I think it would be great for the garage to see KB win Daytona with a third-string crew chief. This team has had a shot at seven victories so far in 2017: Phoenix, Martinsville, Talladega, Charlotte, Dover, Pocono and Michigan. For KB to have a mic drop and a few F-bombs, I think he has done a remarkable job so far. Amazing that we are halfway through season and NO JGR team has been to victory lane yet!

Nate Ryan: He has three top fives in the past six restrictor-plate races between Daytona and Talladega, so I’ll be picking him Saturday night.

Dustin Long: Yes. The drought ends at Kentucky.

Upon Further Review: Daytona Speedweeks was a weeklong wreckfest

5 Comments

Daytona Speedweeks proved to be one of the costliest ever for NASCAR team owners in the Cup, Xfinity and Truck Series.

More than 100 vehicles were damaged in wrecks during races at Daytona International Speedway, including 35 each in the Daytona 500 and the Xfinity race, based on NASCAR reports and information from Racing Insights.

Reasons vary on the cause of the pileups — from aggressive driving to inexperienced drivers to rule changes and the introduction of stages — but Speedweeks 2017 will go down as one of the most wreck-filled weeks in years.

Among the numbers:

  • There were 106 vehicles involved in accidents in the Cup, Xfinity and Truck Series races during Speedweeks. That includes the Clash and Duels.
  • There was a 29.2-percent increase in the number of vehicles involved in wrecks during Speedweeks from last year.
  • Only once in the last 10 years were more vehicles damaged during Speedweeks. There were 122 vehicles in accidents in 2012.
  • The 35 cars involved in crashes in the Daytona 500, according to Racing Insights, were more than the number of cars that wrecked in the past two Daytona 500s combined (29).
  • The 35 cars involved in wrecks in the Xfinity race was nearly more than the total for that event for the previous three years combined (38).
  • The 27 trucks that wrecked in that race were the most since 2012 when 30 trucks were involved in incidents.

daytona-crash-graphic

One of the reasons for the chaos in the Daytona 500 is where the accidents started. Drivers say they want to be at the front to avoid crashes, but that wasn’t helpful this time.

Consider:

Dale Earnhardt Jr. was leading when Kyle Busch, trying to stay on the lead lap after a green-flag pit stop, had a tire issue and spun in front of Earnhardt. Six cars were collected.

Later, a 17-car crash started after Jimmie Johnson, running third, was hit from behind. Many had nowhere to go.

“That could have been avoided and it wasn’t called for,” Johnson said. “From the minute, I got off of Turn 2 on the entire back straightaway, I kept getting hit, and the rear tires are off the ground. I know there is a lot of energy behind me in the pack, but I didn’t have a chance.

An 11-car crash started when Jamie McMurray hit the rear of Chase Elliott‘s car shortly after a restart as Elliott was running fourth.

But it wasn’t just the Cup drivers who had such issues.

Saturday’s Xfinity race featured a 20-car wreck that started when Tyler Reddick got hit from behind while running seventh.

A 12-car crash started when Brandon Jones was hit while running fifth after contact among two cars behind him.

“I thought everybody would still be somewhat smart and mindful of not tearing up your equipment early and let’s go after it with three to go,” Darrell Wallace Jr. said after he was eliminated by that accident. “But there are different mentalities out there and that’s what causes chaos.”

There was still more to go. A 16-car crash began when Elliott Sadler, running second, was hit from behind. In the Camping World Truck Series race, Matt Crafton was leading when he was hit in the right side by Ben Rhodes, who had been hit from behind. Crafton went airborne. Twelve trucks were in the accident.

 So what caused all the crashes?

Many will blame the introduction of stages and the points that are awarded as a cause, but the only multi-car crash in the Daytona 500 that happened during the first two stages was when Busch’s tire let go.

The 17-car crash and 11-car crash happened after the completion of the second stage.

Daytona 500 winner Kurt Busch told NBC Sports that he thought the field would calm down after the completion of the second stage on Lap 120 since 80 laps remained.

That didn’t happen.

“Excuse my language but there was shit going everywhere,’’ Busch said. “Everyone was going every which way. I couldn’t figure out what was going on.’’

He wasn’t the only to notice the aggressive driving that took place in the 500.

Kevin Harvick, who was involved in the 17-car crash, wasn’t pleased with how some raced.

“We just got some cars up there that didn’t need to be up there and wound up doing more than their car could do,’’ he said.

The result was a Daytona 500 that matched the tenor of Speedweeks and left crews with mangled machines to take back to the race shop.

 and on Facebook