Getty Images

Jeff Gordon elected to West Coast Stock Car Hall of Fame

Leave a comment

Jeff Gordon will get to add to his Hall of Fame membership soon with being elected for induction into the West Coast Stock Car Hall of Fame.

The four-time Cup champion is among five people selected for induction, including NASCAR team owners Gary Bechtel and Bob Bruncati; NASCAR weekly racing series national champion Doug McCoun; and NASCAR K&N Pro Series West champion Eric Norris.

J.D. Gibbs, who died in January due to complications from a degenerative neurological disease, also will be inducted after his election in 2018.  His induction was postponed at the request of Gibbs’ family.

The induction will take place June 20 at the Meritage Resort & Spa in Napa, California.

Gordon’s election follows his induction into the NASCAR Hall of Fame and National Motorsports Press Association Hall of Fame earlier this year.

Gordon, a native of Vallejo, California, will join former Gander Outdoors Truck Series champion Ron Hornaday Jr. in being a member of the NASCAR Hall of Fame and the WCSC Hall of Fame.

 

Long: Let’s talk about 250 NASCAR wins for Kyle Busch, not 200

2 Comments

As Kyle Busch approaches 200 NASCAR victories, the question that should be asked is how many more will he win in his career instead of how his victory total compares to Richard Petty’s 200 Cup wins.

Busch could reach 200 total NASCAR victories this weekend at Auto Club Speedway. He’s entered in the Xfinity race — he’s won both series races he’s entered this season — and the Cup race.

But why stop there? Busch doesn’t turn 34 until May 2, meaning he could have another decade of racing in NASCAR. That would put him at the age Jimmie Johnson is. Johnson turns 44 in September.

Could 250 wins be a possibility for Busch?

Without a doubt.

Provided NASCAR continues to limit Cup drivers to five Gander Outdoors Truck Series races a season, Busch could have another 50 races if he goes a decade longer. He has a 36.1 percent career winning percentage in that series. At that pace, he would win 18 times in 50 more starts.

The Xfinity Series is a bit tricky. Busch is limited to seven series races a year, but he has hinted that once he reaches 100 series victories, he would reduce his involvement in that series. He enters this weekend with 94 series victories. So one can figure on at least six more wins, but after that it remains uncertain. Still, if he got six wins and 18 in the Trucks that would put him at 224.

So what about Cup?

To figure this out, take a look at what Johnson has done. Johnson has won 36 races since the season he turned 34 (the season Busch is in now). If Busch won 36 more Cup races before his career ended, that would give him 88 total, putting him behind only Petty (200), David Pearson (105) and Jeff Gordon (93) in that category. Johnson is at 83 so he could finish with more than 88 career wins.

If you want to pencil Busch in for 36 Cup wins the rest of his career and add it to his projected total for Truck and Xfinity, that would put him at 260 total wins.

So, yes it is possible for him to top 250 career NASCAR wins. 

Get ready for some more bows.


With track position so critical, strategy and restarts proved key Sunday at ISM Raceway.

Kyle Larson again showed what makes him so special with restarts, making moves others couldn’t.

Larson finished a season-high sixth and it was because of his restart ability.

Twice in the final stage, Larson restarted on the outside and rode the high line to gain multiple positions on a day when Joey Logano said “it was really, really, really, really, really hard to pass.”

Larson was 12th when the final stage began on Lap 158. He went to the outside of Aric Almirola, starting the row ahead of him  and was up to ninth entering Turn 1. Larson stayed in the high line and was about to pass Logano for seventh off Turn 2 when Ryan Newman and Jimmie Johnson both bobbled, killing Larson’s momentum. He still managed to be ninth on the first lap after the restart.

Larson started on the outside in 14th after pit stops later in that stage. He took four tires while a few others in front of him took no tires or two tires. Johnson blocked the high line so Larson went underneath him but got boxed in. Larson still had gained two spots before the caution came back out.

Larson then restarted 12th on the outside and made his biggest move on the Lap 233 restart. This time, Larson got outside of Johnson and passed four cars by the exit of Turn 1. He gained two more spots — for a total of six positions — before another quick caution. That put him in position to finish sixth

“You had to take advantage of the restarts for sure,” Larson said after the race. “I felt like I did a good job of that today going to the very top when I was in the outside lane and passing four or five guys at times. Yeah, that was important and then just being able to pass some cars and get in line and just kind of try and maintain and not make any mistakes.”


Richard Childress Racing is not afraid to take chances, particularly at ISM Raceway.

Recall that Ryan Newman won there in March 2017 on a pit gamble by crew chief Luke Lambert to stay out late. Newman took the lead while others pitted just before the overtime restart. He led the final six laps to win.

Sunday, Danny Stockman, crew chief for Austin Dillon, called for a two-tire stop twice and no tires on what was to have been their final pit stop. That put Dillon in position for a fifth-place finish despite a speeding penalty on Lap 196 of the 312-lap race. The plan failed when Dillon had to come to the pits late for fuel and finished 21st.

“Danny made a good call during the final stage to take fuel only to put us back up front, but that cut us just a couple laps shy of making it,” Dillon said after the race. “I was doing everything I could to save through the remaining cautions and lift as much as I could once we got spread out. It was just a little short this time around.”

Also, Lambert, who is with rookie Daniel Hemric this season, had Hemric not pit when the field did on Lap 222. Those with fresher tires ate up Hemric but he went on to finish 18th, which is his best result of the season.

Keep an eye on this organization and the chances they take in the coming weeks.


Kyle Busch’s victory marked the fourth different winner in the season’s first four races.

That’s not a new trend.

Seven times in the last nine years, the season opened with different winners in each of the first four races.

What’s different this time is that Sunday marked the first time Busch had won in the first four races of the season since 2011. He won the season’s fourth race, which was at Bristol, that year.

The last time there were five different winners in the first five races was 2017. It also happened in 2011, ’13 and ’14 in the previous nine seasons.

 and on Facebook

 

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

Leave a comment

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.

 and on Facebook

Long: In a time of change, some things remain the same at Daytona

2 Comments

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. — They’ve reconvened in Daytona International Speedway’s infield, some back for a fifth year, others a 10th and still others for more, to watch cars go around in circles.

Their flags pledge loyalties to Dale Earnhardt Sr., Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Jeff Gordon, celebrating days gone by. Other flags wave for Kyle Busch, Kyle Larson and reigning series champ Joey Logano.

New or old, fans have returned for Sunday’s Daytona 500, which will held among a swirl of changes.

The season starts with talk of rules that debut next weekend at Atlanta Motor Speedway and will change how the racing looks. There also have been discussions of a new look for 2020 and beyond. Schedule changes are expected next year, even more in 2021 – when the Gen 7 car is projected to premiere.

The dawn of a new season and what is coming has reinvigorated a garage beaten down the past couple of years. Jim France is now in charge and he’s in the garage, a marked change from Brian France’s approach.

Seeing Jim France each weekend gives those who work in the garage optimism. How long it lasts depends on what changes the sanctioning body make.

For fans, it’s all about what the racing looks like.

That’s a lot left to be desired at Daytona so far. Asked if he thought the racing had been good this week, Richard Petty said: “No, I don’t.”

His comment came before Saturday’s Xfinity race won by Michael Annett, who led the final 45 laps. It was great win for Annett personally but the single-file racing frustrated some fans and left them to wonder how Daytona could turn into a high-speed conga line.

“I don’t know what’s going on with the high line becoming just so clearly dominant,” Dale Earnhardt Jr. said after watching JR Motorsports win the season-opening Xfinity race for the fourth time in the last six years. “To listen to the drivers and to watch what happened (Saturday) in the race, it doesn’t seem like it’s entirely by choice that they all ride up there, it’s by necessity.”

Fans saw that same type of racing in the Clash and both qualifying races during Speedweeks. What often was missing in those events were things Clint Bowyer says are important to make a good race.

“Moments,” Bowyer said this week. “No different than when I go to a football game. The Super Bowl sucked and I am a football fan. Again, you go watch the (Kansas City) Chiefs games, I was lucky enough to be a Chiefs fan this year and it was a highlight reel one after another with (quarterback Patrick) Mahomes and (Tyreek) Hill.

“I don’t know, there wasn’t a highlight the whole Super Bowl in my opinion. It was a snoozer. Was it an extremely challenging game in other eyes, yes. I guarantee you there are football gods out there saying it was the best game in the history of football. To me, there weren’t enough moments.

“You have to have good passing, side-by-side (racing), changes for the lead, cautions – I don’t want a caution because that means somebody has wrecked or had a problem but there are so many things that go into adding up to those moments. Us drivers, you have to be in a situation that you can make the most of.

“Again, without a caution at the end of some of these restrictor-plate tracks, we may not have those moments. Sometimes all it takes is a caution to make that moment that someone takes to the office the next (day) to say, ‘My gosh, you should have been there and seen that.’ We have to have more of those, no question.”

There is a belief that the racing should be better in the Daytona 500 with a full 40-car field. The Clash had 20 cars and both qualifying races had 21-car fields. There weren’t enough cars to create a competitive second lane, so most ran the high line. That said, Chase Elliott made a number of passes on his own in his qualifying race. Daniel Suarez also tried such moves.

But for all the talk about the racing, some things remain the same. Cup veterans often dominate Speedweeks and have done so this week. Jimmie Johnson won the Clash after contact with Paul Menard. Kevin Harvick and Logano each won their qualifying races. A Hendrick Motorsports car is on the pole for a fifth consecutive year, this time with William Byron.

Maybe things will change Sunday. The Truck Series saw Austin Hill score his first career series win. Then Annett recorded his first career Xfinity win Saturday. 

That’s why fans travel near and far to be at Daytona on a Sunday in February. For all the questions about the racing, for the surprise winners, no one knows what to expect. Just like it has always been at this track.

 

 

Sam Bass, famed paint scheme and race program designer, dies

Getty Images
2 Comments

Sam Bass, the artist known for designing many iconic NASCAR paint schemes and race programs, died Saturday.

His wife Denise confirmed Bass’ passing on Twitter. He was 57.

Bass, who designed Jeff Gordon’s striking “Rainbow Warriors” paint scheme, had spent the last few years looking for a new kidney. That was a result of a sepsis infection that originated in a blister on his left foot in 2005 and led to a below-the-knee amputation in 2008. Bass also had Type 1 diabetes, which he was diagnosed with at the age of 29.

Bass was inspired to become a NASCAR artist when he was 7 after attending his first race at Southside Speedway in suburban Richmond, Virginia.

“I was so amazed that night not only by the excitement and watching those cars run around and beat and bang on each other, but also the color – how all the cars were painted so many different colors,” Bass told NBC Sports in 2017. “I was like, ‘How cool is this?’ I couldn’t wait to get home to pull out my markers.”

The first car Bass designed was Bobby Allison’s Miller High Life car in 1988. That car went on to win the Daytona 500.

He went on to design the first Cup schemes for Gordon, Jimmie Johnson, Tony Stewart and Dale Earnhardt Jr.

Bass first designed a race program for the 1985 World 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway. He designed programs for it and other Speedway Motorsports, Inc. tracks through 2018.

Marcus Smith, the CEO and President of SMI, issued the following statement.

“Our deepest sympathies are with Denise and her family today. Sam Bass has been a significant part of NASCAR’s history. He poured his heart, soul and talent into producing souvenir program covers at many speedways including Charlotte for more than 30 years. His work provided our fans a keepsake to treasure, and that was so appropriate, because Sam was always such a fan of our sport and he was such a treasure to the entire NASCAR family. His body of work will be a legacy that lives forever. We will miss Sam’s smile and positivity.”

NASCAR issued the following statement.

“Though he may have never turned a lap or a wrench, few captured the essence of our sport through his work more than Sam Bass. He was a consistent presence in the NASCAR garage, and his ever-present smile and endearing personality welcomed all. Though we have lost a member of the NASCAR family, his legend will continue in his art – all of which illustrated the greatness of our sport and the talent of a true friend.”