Garrett Smithley

AJ Allmendinger earns first career oval win in Atlanta Xfinity race

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NASCAR On NBC analyst AJ Allmendinger showed Saturday he still has a lot of racing success left in him, winning the EchoPark 250 NASCAR Xfinity Series race at Atlanta Motor Speedway.

Driving part-time this season for Kaulig Racing, Allmendinger, who had to roar back from back in the field, earned his fourth career Xfinity Series win, but the first on an oval.

“Oh my God, oh my God, I won on an oval. Do you like that? Whoo!” Allmendinger said to Fox Sports after climbing from his race car. He even kissed the camera, he was so excited about the win.

“This car was awesome,” said Allmendinger, who took the lead on Lap 127 of the 163-lap race and held on the rest of the way. “This is Atlanta. The car was awesome on long runs, probably better than the driver early. Once I got in the lead, I was just trying to hit my marks, which is hard to do.”

Later, in a post-race teleconference, Allmendinger said, “Heck, I might retire. Man, I just wanted to win on a damn oval. … I wanted to win on an oval that we really had to drive and get after it. More than anything, I was happy with myself because I always push myself and question myself a lot if I can do it on these race tracks and it’s always a challenge each time I’m in the race car with myself mentally and to push myself and try to be better. … What I was most happy about those last 35 laps was I gave everything I could and not make any mistakes.”

Noah Gragson, who won last week at Bristol, was the highest finisher of the four drivers eligible for the first of four Xfinity Dash 4 Cash races, finishing second and taking home a cool $100,000.

Allmendinger was originally not slated to be entered in next Sunday’s back end of a weekend doubleheader race at Homestead-Miami Speedway. The second race of the weekend on Sunday, June 14, will serve as the second of four races in the Dash 4 Cash series.

Moments after Allmendinger left the stage, Kaulig Racing president Chris Rice told the media that the team will indeed field a car for “Dinger” in the Homestead Dash 4 Cash race. He will go for the $100,000 price along with Kaulig Racing teammate Justin Haley, as well as Noah Gragson and Daniel Hemric.

“I haven’t told AJ this yet, but we will be running the second race at Homestead next Sunday with the Ellsworth Advisors Chevrolet with A.J. Allmendinger starting dead last because we will not run the first race (Saturday), we’ll run the second race,” Rice said. “(Allmendinger) said he had a tee time, but that gives Kaulig Racing two chances to run for $100,000. So yeah, we’ll be there with A.J.”

MORE: Results, standings from Atlanta Xfinity race

Haley was third, followed by Hemric and Harrison Burton. Sixth through 10th were Justin Allgaier, Ross Chastain, Brandon Jones, Chase Briscoe and Anthony Alfredo.

STAGE 1 WINNER: Austin Cindric (first stage win of season)

STAGE 2 WINNER: Austin Cindric (second stage win of season)

Who had a good race: Noah Gragson almost made it two wins in a row, but can’t be too upset for finishing second in Saturday’s race. Also, Harrison Burton continued his strong effort this season with his fifth-place showing.

Who had a bad race: Timmy Hill finished 33rd, 76 laps back. Even though he was strong in the iRacing Series during the COVID-19 pandemic hiatus, Hill continues to struggle since the Xfinity Series resumed with finishes of 20th or worse in three of the four races back.

Notable: Ross Chastain did his Kyle Busch impression of sorts, competing in both races Saturday. He finished seventh in the Xfinity race and was sixth in the Truck Series race earlier in the day. … All cars passed post-race inspection with just one issue: a lug nut violation on the No. 19 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota driven by Brandon Jones, who finished eighth.

What’s next: There will be an Xfinity Series doubleheader next weekend at Homestead-Miami Speedway: Saturday, June 13 (3:30 p.m. ET on Fox), and Sunday, June 14 (Noon ET on FS1). The latter race is also the second of four Xfinity Dash 4 Cash Series races.

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Entry lists for this weekend’s NASCAR races at Atlanta

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NASCAR heads to Atlanta Motor Speedway this weekend for all three of its national series.

The Xfinity and Gander RV & Outdoors Series will race Saturday. The Cup series will race Sunday.

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

Cup – Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500 (3:30 p.m. ET Sunday on FS1)

There are 40 entries.

Reed Sorenson is in the No. 7 for Tommy Baldwin Racing.

Josh Bilicki is now entered in the No. 27 for Rick Ware Racing. Gray Gaulding was originally listed in the car.

JJ Yeley is in the No. 77 for Spire Motorsports.

Click here for the updated entry list.

Xfinity – EchoPark 250 (4:30 p.m. ET Saturday on Fox)

There are 37 entries.

Brett Moffitt is back in Our Motorsports’ No. 02 Chevrolet after a one-race break.

Garrett Smithley is in SS Green Light Racing’s No. 07 Chevrolet.

Daniel Hemric is in JR Motorsports’ No. 8 Chevrolet.

AJ Allmendinger is entered in Kaulig Racing’s No. 16 Chevrolet.

Anthony Alfredo is in Richard Childress Racing’s No. 21 Chevrolet.

Myatt Snider is in RSS Racing’s No. 93 Chevrolet.

Click here for the entry list.

Truck – Vet Tix Camping World 200 (1 p.m. ET Saturday on FS1)

There are 40 entries for Saturday’s race after the field was cut from 47 original entries.

Cup drivers entered are Kyle Busch, Chase Elliott, John Hunter Nemechek, Brennan Poole and Gray Gaulding.

Click here for Truck entry list

 

Call him the bounty hunter: Chase Elliott beats Kyle Busch to win $100K

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Chase Elliott may have earned a new nickname Tuesday night: the Bounty Hunter.

By winning the North Carolina Education Lottery 200 at Charlotte Motor Speedway, Elliott won a $100,000 “bounty” put up by Kevin Harvick and Gander RV & Outdoors CEO Marcus Lemonis to be a full-time Cup driver to beat Kyle Busch to the finish line, snapping Busch’s streak of seven consecutive Truck Series wins.

The money goes to a charity of Elliott’s choosing, benefitting COVID-19 relief.

“It was a lot of fun,” Elliott told FS1. “It’d been a long time. It doesn’t make up for Sunday (finished second in the Coca-Cola 600) but it was still a really good night. I’m glad to win and do some good for the relief efforts for this virus.”

Busch gave Elliott all he could handle in the last 15 laps, drawing closer seemingly on every lap, but ultimately couldn’t catch Elliott before the finish line.

“He was a little better than I was there at the end; I had gotten a little tight and I don’t think we adjusted enough on the last pit stop,” Elliott said of Busch. “Luckily, the right front stayed on it long enough to get to the end.

“To be able to come out and out-run him and him finish second, I’d rather have him finish second than wreck or something, so I feel like I did something right.”

MORE: Results, standings after Truck race at Charlotte

It was Elliott’s third win in 13 career Truck Series races.

Busch was frustrated with his truck all night.

“(The truck) just never was right, so we were out in left field the whole night, never had a real great feel for the truck, a great driving truck, so I just salvaged what I could,” Busch said in a post-race Zoom media conference call. “It was self-inflicted, threw it away. We had six months to prepare and screwed it all up.”

Chase Elliott celebrates after winning the NASCAR Gander Outdoors Trucks Series North Carolina Education Lottery 200. (Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)

Busch chuckled when told that Elliott imitated Busch’s usual bow after each win he amasses.

“No, this is the first I’m hearing of it,” Busch said. “Imitation is the strongest form of flattery or I don’t know what it is. But that’s cute.”

Elliott

“It was just a spur of the moment thing,” Elliott said with a smile. “I thought we’ve had so much fun with it with Kevin (Harvick) and putting up the money, Kyle was a good sport about it.

“It was not a dig at anybody, just having fun with it. It was about beating him, so why not have some fun with it.”

Zane Smith finished third, followed by Brett Moffitt and Sheldon Creed.

John Hunter Nemechek finished sixth followed by Johnny Sauter, Ty Majeski, Austin Hill and Ben Rhodes.

Tuesday’s race was the first for the Truck Series since Busch won Feb. 21 at Las Vegas, just a couple of weeks before the COVID-19 pandemic shut down NASCAR racing for more than two months.

It was Elliott’s first Truck race since 2017.

“It was about beating Kyle and we did that, so I guess I can quit now,” Elliott laughed.

Busch, meanwhile, saw his streak of winning the last seven Truck races he entered fall short of an eighth consecutive start and win.

Busch finished fourth in Sunday’s Coca-Cola 600, won Monday’s Xfinity race and was runner-up in Tuesday’s race. He goes for another win in Wednesday’s Alsco Uniforms 500, which wraps up four races in as many days at Charlotte Motor Speedway.

STAGE 1 WINNER: Ross Chastain (first stage win of season)

STAGE 2 WINNER: Chase Elliott

Who had a good race: Zane Smith was the highest finishing rookie driver, earning a career-best third-place finish. Smith has made just four starts in a Truck in his career but gave the front runners a formidable challenge, particularly in the final 15 laps. “I was so determined to get third,” the 20-year-old Smith said. “It was an awesome night.”

Who had a bad race: Brennan Poole was involved in two last segment incidents that prevented him from making his bid to collect the Harvick/Lemonis bounty. Poole finished 38th. … Matt Crafton suffered a broken track bar late in the race, ending his night prematurely. Crafton finished 35th.

Notable: Brett Moffitt continues to impress in his ongoing recovery from suffering two broken legs in mid-March. In the last five days, Moffitt has earned strong 11th (Darlington) and 6th (Charlotte) place finishes with a fourth-place finish in the Truck race.

What’s next: Vet Tix Camping World 200, Saturday June 6 at 1 p.m. ET, Texas Motor Speedway.

Follow @JerryBonkowski

Friday 5: Behind-the-scenes view shows more than expected

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Twitch video streams bring fans closer to drivers by showing them as they compete in iRacing events, but those streams have revealed more in the past two weeks, costing one driver a sponsor and another his job.

Twitch.tv is the popular site to watch people play video games and racers compete in iRacing events, such as Sunday’s eNASCAR Pro Invitational iRacing Series event from a virtual Richmond Raceway.

Twitch allows race fans to see facial reactions, comments drivers make to themselves and those they make to competitors during races. This unfiltered access is more than fans would experience with a real race. There they would only hear what a driver says when the driver pressed the radio button. With Twitch, the radio button, in essence, is on all the time.

It was on Twitch that fans saw Bubba Wallace quit the April 5 Pro Invitational Series race at a virtual Bristol after he was involved in multiple incidents. A sponsor responded that it would cut all ties with Wallace.

Last weekend, another competitor’s twitch stream caught Kyle Larson using a racial slur, costing Larson his job at Chip Ganassi Racing and leading to questions of if he’ll race in NASCAR again.

Without Twitch, those situations likely wouldn’t have been seen.

But they were and the fallout was real.

“People are going to say, ‘Oh, it’s getting too serious, it’s taking all the fun out of it,” Dale Earnhardt Jr. said on this week’s Dale Jr. Download of the recent controversies. “I’m sorry. That’s the way you’ve got to approach it. You can still enjoy what you’re doing. You can still sit down there and have fun with it.”

Some drivers do, continuing to remain on Twitch. 

“Now, I’ve got to practice what I preach,” Earnhardt said on the Dale Jr. Download. “I’m going to be put in situations where you’re going to bite your tongue and not lash out at someone that might have done you wrong. Like Smithley. Garrett Smithley runs over me at Bristol, cleaned me out. We take care of each other, I always race hard, but I like to take care of the people around me. I don’t go into the corner and if I door this guy and he finishes 20th, I don’t care. That’s not my mentality. I race like I’d love this position but I’m not going to cost this guy 20 spots trying to get it, especially in a sim race.

“I think Garrett went in there and didn’t take care of me and it cost me a top 10 and in that moment I was as angry as I would have been in a real race car. I told him to eat (expletive). I did it over a private (channel to Smithley). I even went to his name and hit private message, but I knew as soon as I was sending that, while I was sending that I knew that that could be on Twitter in two minutes, less than that and it was, but you got to be aware (of) everything you say and do.

“It was tongue-in-cheek and we had a little fun with it. He’s a good guy and has done a good job of being a good ambassador of the sim racing life we’re all living now. You’ve just got to know that everything you type, say (and) do is going to be up for criticism or debate while you’re out there racing.”

2. A new following

After Kyle Larson uttered a racial slur last weekend, Sam Young had a talk with 11-year-old son James, who is a Larson fan.

“We always try to be open and try and make sure he knows if something is not right that he needs to know that, ‘Hey, this isn’t right and this is why it isn’t right,’ ” said Young, who lives in Sturgeon Bay, Wisconsin. “He already knew what Kyle had said was wrong before we even talked about it.

“That afternoon, he was like I guess I need a new driver.”

MORE: Bubba Wallace addresses Kyle Larson’s racial slur 

MORE: Ryan: These might have been Kyle Larson’s last words in NASCAR

That night Young tweeted that her son was looking for a new driver and she wrote: “Any driver out there want to help a mom out?”

She received several replies from fans and some drivers. She showed James the responses and he made his decision.

He chose Spencer Boyd, who was among the drivers who responded to Young’s tweet, which James said swayed him. He also chose Ross Chastain, who was promoted by multiple people.

James later decided to continue to support Larson.

Young also discussed with James what he could learn from Larson’s situation.

“People make mistakes and it’s something that you need to learn from,” she said. “There will be consequences. You have to face the consequences of your action.”

3. Time to read a book

Call him a performance coach or human optimizer or some other title, Josh Wise doesn’t have a particular title. The former racer just works with drivers on how to be better.

Among the drivers he works with are Tyler Reddick, Alex Bowman, Kurt Busch, Ross Chastain, Noah Gragson and those with GMS Racing’s Truck program.

With racing suspended because of the COVID-19 pandemic, there’s still work for drivers to do. Wise makes sure of it. But it’s not all physical.

“You can be as physically fit as you want, but you get to a point where being more fit isn’t going to make you drive a race car better,” Wise said. “It becomes cognitive and psychological and how you react and respond.”

iRacing helps — and Wise has set up private sessions for his drivers to work on skills while racing on a virtual track with them.

But there is something else that Wise preaches to his students.

Read a book.

“My goal over the last few weeks has really shifted to focus in this area because I see the opportunity that comes through causal conversations and book assignments and other literature that I’ve gone through with guys,” Wise said. “I think it’s a great time for that mindset growth and development.”

Wise has used book assignments even before this break.

He said one driver was given “Mind to Matter” by Dawson Church. The book shows how intentions can create things. Gragson said in September that he was reading John Maxwell’s book “25 Ways to Win with People” to be a better team leader.

“That’s what I need to be for this race team,” Gragson said at the time. “It’s really easy to be happy and smiling when things are going good, but I feel like your character comes out when maybe things aren’t going as well as you would want. I’m trying to lean on people who I call my mentors … reading that book and just trying to be better and more positive.”

Wise said the book assignments are good for many reasons, especially the younger drivers.

“Most of them are kids and they’re just bombarded with this stream of information that isn’t always the best for developing the way you think,” Wise said. “Books became a big part of what I do with everyone because it gives them something positive and productive to talk about. I’ve obviously read most of the books, and if I haven’t read it, I read it with them, and we’re talking about something that is pushing us to grown and change the way we think.”

4. Advice for those at home

With so many in the country under stay-at-home orders, what advice can Josh Wise give to the public to optimize their time?

“I had this kind of thought … I’m really talking to myself, if you’re not coming out of this with a new skill or self-betterment in some way — whether that is I’ve always wanted to run or I wanted to be more flexible and I want to do yoga —  we still have access to the tools to better ourselves,” Wise said. “Just focusing on what you can control and that’s those things. That’s you. This is the time. This is an opportunity I feel like.”

5. Somber day

Thursday, Indianapolis Motor Speedway was the site of a funeral for Indianapolis Metropolitan Police officer Breann Leath, who died after being shot on duty while responding to a domestic disturbance call April 9. She was 24.

With social distancing, officers could not pay their respects in the customary ways following a line-of-duty death.

Indianapolis Motor Speedway, which had never before hosted a funeral, was utilized. Cars lined the inside lane and outside lane around the 2.5-mile track and the funeral procession drove a lap in the middle lane, allowing those to pay their respects while maintaining social distancing.

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What drivers said after iRacing race at virtual Texas

Photo: NASCAR
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Timmy Hill — Winner: I definitely rank (the win) up there (among career achievements). The reason being is just because the platform is being televised on FOX, having essentially the entire NASCAR audience tuning in. I’ve won a lot of iRacing races. It’s neat to win on there. It’s really neat to win against your competitors that you race each and every Sunday.  … For me personally, what I’ll gain from this is recognition. For us, it’s hard to get that recognition because of the level of competition that we are in real life.  We’re doing our best. Frankly, we just don’t have the money, the dollars, to compete at a high level.  Every once in a while we’ll get a big sponsor and you’ll see us exceed normal expectations for us, like at Daytona where we had a really good Daytona 500 car, really good Xfinity car.  We finished third in the Xfinity race, made the Daytona 500. Every once in a while we’ll get that big payday and we can really reinvest in our race team. But most weekends we got to kind of do the best we can with the dollars we have. This win will hopefully gain some recognition and attract more sponsors for us maybe in the real world when we get back racing because they know Timmy Hill from iRacing.”

Ryan Preece — Finished 2nd:

 

Garrett Smithley — Finished 3rd: 

 

Alex Bowman — Finished 5th:

 

Dale Earnhardt Jr. — Finished 6th:

 

William Byron — Finished 7th:

 

John Hunter Nemechek — Finished 8th:

 

Kurt Busch — Finished 10th:

Clint Bowyer — Finished 11th: “Today was all about survival, guys. I needed a redo for my Rush Truck Centers Ford Mustang because I got together with (Greg) Biffle, ‘The Biff’, off of (Turn) two. I guess we were three-wide. I didn’t realize we were three-wide. My spotter Jeff Gordon, I had to fire him halfway through the race and moved to Larry McReynolds. Larry said nothing when we were three-wide and I wrecked and collected a bunch of them. But again, a great time was had by all. Timmy Hill, big win for him and his brand. It’s going to be a lot of fun to compete in this over the next few weeks. But, man we are all in this together! Looking forward to next week.”

Parker Kligerman — Finished 12th:

 

Bobby Labonte — Finished 13th:

 

Michael McDowell — Finished 14th:

 

Kyle Busch — Finished 17th:

Jimmie Johnson — Finished 19th:

Chase Elliott — Finished 20th:

 

Erik Jones — Finished 21st:

 

Bubba Wallace — Finished 25th:

Alex Labbe — Finished 26th:

 

Austin Dillon — Finished 29th:

 

Ty Majeski — Finished 30th:

 

Ruben Garcia Jr. — Finished 31st:

 

Greg Biffle — Finished 32nd:

 

Daniel Suarez — Finished 33rd:

 

Anthony Alfredo — Finished 35th: