Kyle Busch came back from being assessed pre-race penalties to win Saturday night’s Gander RV & Outdoors Truck Series race at Homestead-Miami Speedway.
Busch shook off a pre-race inspection infraction that cost him 10 owner points and likely will result in additional penalties in the next few days, was forced to start from the back of the field (after he had been slated to start from the second position) and had to serve a pass-through penalty after the green flag fell.
The L1 violation assessed against Busch’s truck and team, per the NASCAR Rule Book, is: 18.104.22.168 Rear Sub-Frame Assembly I-4 Track Bar Supports a. A maximum of one track bar mount frame support and a maximum of one track bar mount lateral support must be used.
It took Busch just 39 laps to roar through the 38-truck field to take the lead and led 82 laps in the 134-lap race. He wrapped things up following the last caution and restart, sailing away from the field in the final seven laps to earn the 58th Truck Series win of his career.
“The deal with the infraction was a fluke deal,” Busch told FS1. “That’s how these trucks were allowed to run last time here at Homestead. This thing has just been sitting on the side waiting for me to get back behind the wheel. It didn’t go to the fab shop, so it didn’t get a bar cut out that was legal here last year but not legal here this year. So, not sure if there was a performance advantage to it, just something we’ve been running but not allowed to do it anymore.”
Who had a good race: Tyler Ankrum ran solid much of the night to earn his first top-10 finish of the season. … Christian Eckes (eighth) was the highest finishing rookie.
Who had a bad race: It was a rough night for GMS Racing. Shortly after a restart on Lap 20, three of its trucks – Chase Elliott, Brett Moffitt and Zane Smith – were involved in a wreck. Only Elliott was able to continue and finished fourth. Moffitt finished 36th and Smith finished 37th.
Notable: This was Busch’s second win and third top-10 finish in a Truck this season. He also said that he expects his final Truck Series start this year will be at Texas on July 18. … There was a red flag of almost 16 minutes late in the race when Sheldon Creed ran into sand barrels at the entrance to pit road.
What’s next: The series is off next weekend and returns to action on Saturday, June 27, at Pocono Raceway (12:30 p.m. ET on FS1).
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.”
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.”
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.”
“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.”
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.
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.
Nate Ryan: It’s another sign of Harvick’s underrated savvy for NASCAR exposure and promotion (he’s the same star who advocated rotating the championship race long before it was in vogue).
Dustin Long: I like it in the sense of creating some buzz around the series, but I think it should be open to anyone, not just a Cup interloper. And why not do the same thing when Kyle Busch runs in the Xfinity Series?
Daniel McFadin: My initial gut reaction is that it’s awesome. NASCAR needs more promotions like this, especially building off the Triple Truck Challenge that started last year. My secondary reaction: why just full-time Cup drivers? That $100,000 could do a lot for a mid-tier or lower-tier team in the Truck Series. I can’t imagine the investment is worth it for a major sponsor or a top-tier team to have to put together a quality one-off ride for a Cup driver in hopes of winning the bounty. But, I still think it’s cool and I’m crossing my fingers something comes of it.
Jerry Bonkowski: It’s a novel idea but isn’t it kind of going backwards in terms of putting more full-time Cup drivers into a Truck, when the general idea of the series was to be a developmental entity for other drivers, primarily younger ones, rather than a place where full-time Cup drivers can go to race a few times a year for extra cash? If anything, the “bounty” should also be available to regular full or part-time Truck drivers, as well, to beat Busch, drivers from Matt Crafton to Jennifer Jo Cobb to Norm Benning.
Nate Ryan: In the absence of the Big Three and a less experienced field, Briscoe’s Las Vegas victory was a promising start, and it’s encouraging that he has set such a high bar. It’s a big jump to go from one victory in each of the past two seasons to eight, but it could happen.
Dustin Long: I think the chances are slim. Even with a limited number of drivers with wins in the series, I don’t foresee someone dominating as Christopher Bell did last year in winning a series-high eight races.
Daniel McFadin: Eight wins is a lot. We don’t yet know who will be Briscoe’s most stout competition this year and likely won’t have a real grasp of that until the end of March. At this point I don’t anticipate anyone reaching the eight-win mark.
Jerry Bonkowski: I feel the domination of the “Big 3” – Tyler Reddick, Christopher Bell and Cole Custer — was somewhat of an anomaly the last few years in the Xfinity Series. Now that they’re in Cup, that opens up the door for more parity in the series. And as a result, an opportunity for more wins across the board for many more drivers. I don’t think Briscoe, or any other driver for that matter, needs to have eight to 10 wins to make the championship race. I can see a few drivers maybe winning four or five races, but don’t feel anyone will dominate the way Bell, Reddick and Custer did the last couple of seasons.
Nate Ryan: It was impressive, particularly how he fought to pick up spots with the dive onto the apron during the final restart. There’s been no shortage of talk about the team’s determination to return as contenders, but Sunday backed it up for the first time in a long while.
Dustin Long: Good run and this team needs good performances early to not be buried by its winless streak. Let’s see if this team can keep it going.
Daniel McFadin: I wasn’t surprised by the result. Johnson and his three Hendrick Motorsports teammates ran in the top 10 consistently all day, with Johnson placing ninth in Stage 1 and seventh in Stage 2. He clearly had top-10 speed and the chaos around the final restart obviously helped him improve his position a few spots. It was a much needed result for a team that only had one top 10 in the final six races last year.
Jerry Bonkowski: I picked Johnson to win at Las Vegas, so a fifth-place finish isn’t all that bad. I think he has a great opportunity to finally break his 2 ½-year winless streak at his home track of Fontana on Sunday. Even if not there, I’m convinced JJ will definitely break the winless streak soon. I expect to see him at least make the playoffs. In his final Cup season, he has nothing to lose and everything to gain.
What will you be keeping a close eye on this weekend at Auto Club Speedway?
Nate Ryan: Whether the Toyotas can prove that Las Vegas was just a blip.
Dustin Long: I want to see if Team Penske, after its strong showing at Las Vegas, will continue to be as strong this weekend. Last year at Auto Club, Team Penske went second (Joey Logano), third (Brad Keselowski) and fifth (Ryan Blaney).
Daniel McFadin: I’ll be watching to see if the improvement of the Chevys and the downturn of the Toyotas shown in Las Vegas was a one-off or the start of an extended narrative for the opening portion of the season. Not seeing any Toyota driver finish better than 15th was kind of a shocker.
Jerry Bonkowski: Jimmie Johnson, obviously. But I’m also keeping my eyes on guys who usually aren’t in the conversation all that much, but are off to decent starts to the season points-wise, including Chris Buescher, Bubba Wallace, Corey LaJoie and Ricky Stenhouse Jr. It will be interesting to see how they fare over the next few races, to see if they can maintain their spots in the standings and keep their performance level up.
A new hope: Hailie Deegan’s success could transform NASCAR
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. — An effervescent 18-year-old, who channels the sport’s pioneers in spirit and aggression, moves closer to leading a NASCAR movement.
But Hailie Deegan does not take this journey alone. With family close by and female competitors watching, Deegan’s rise through stock-car racing could open more driving opportunities for women. As long as she continues to succeed.
Such marks are just the beginning, her father, former motocross superstar Brian Deegan, says.
“She’s going to be a pioneer to break down all these barriers that haven’t been done yet,” he told NBC Sports after celebrating his daughter’s Daytona performance.
“I’m excited that no girl has won yet because there is a chance to set records. That’s what our house has been about, setting records and creating new opportunities and just breaking down those barriers. I think she’s got a cool road ahead of her.”
Deegan’s Daytona performance came 10 years after Danica Patrick’s heralded stock-car debut at the same track. Patrick’s arrival raised hopes that more women could follow her to NASCAR, but those aspirations vanished as funding faded and results waned for many. Eventually, those obstacles sidelined Patrick. Deegan, who moved from Toyota’s development program to Ford’s program in the offseason, is poised to shake up the sport.
Others can’t wait, including Jennifer Jo Cobb, who has competed in the Truck series since 2010 minus the resources Deegan has.
“What I do hope is for her success,” Cobb told NBC Sports, “because what I’ve always wanted to see happen is for a woman to have the money so that we could prove that with the right resources it can be done.”
When Patrick made her stock-car debut in the Daytona ARCA race a decade ago, she was one of a series-record six women in the 43-car field. That Daytona Speedweeks also saw a female in the Truck race (Cobb) and two women in the Xfinity race, including Patrick. A few months later, Patrick was one of four women to compete in the Indianapolis 500.
“I thought it was super exciting,” Kenzie Hemric told NBC Sports of so many women racing in top levels in 2010, a year before she made her ARCA debut. “I thought, ‘Gosh, all these women are getting these chances and it’s going to be so good for me.’
“I thought I would be right there with them in a couple of years.”
Although Patrick had won an IndyCar race, led the Indianapolis 500 and appeared in multiple Super Bowl commercials, her move to stock car racing helped attract more attention.
“The way I liken Danica in NASCAR at the time is if we had a female quarterback playing for one of the major NFL teams,” said Norma Jones, who wrote a dissertation in 2016 on Patrick in NASCAR for her doctorate in philosophy at Kent State University.
Jones said among Patrick’s biggest impacts was showing that a woman could reach the heights of auto racing.
“If you can’t imagine something to happen or if you can’t place that there,” Jones said, “then it’s an impossibility for you.”
Kenzie Hemric, whose last name was Ruston before she married NASCAR driver Daniel Hemric, also was a pioneer. She was the first female driver selected to the NASCAR Next program, which highlighted rising young talent. Kenzie Hemric was selected in 2013 and ’14. Among the drivers also chosen then were Chase Elliott, Erik Jones, Daniel Suarez, Ryan Preece and Cole Custer.
Hemric competed in K&N Pro Series East from 2013-15. Her first series race came a few weeks after Patrick won the 2013 Daytona 500 pole. That would be among the highlights for Patrick, who never finished better than 24th in the points before completing her NASCAR career with the 2018 Daytona 500.
Patrick, who did not have any stock-car experience before 2010, was a victim of unrealistic expectations that had a far-reaching effect, Hemric said.
“I think fans, sponsors and everybody expected more results out of her that weren’t necessarily achievable,” she said, “and I think just falling short on those unrealistic expectations made it really hard for other women and sponsors to help other women at that time.”
Lack of sponsorship left Hemric without a ride in the ARCA East Series after 2015. She ran Super Late Model races in 2016 but never made it back to NASCAR as a driver.
LOOKING TO THE FUTURE
McKenna Haase scans the living room in the Indianapolis home she rents and sees a sprint car seat, midget car seat, asphalt car seat, her racing helmet and seat belts.
Haase, who turns 23 Thursday and again will race sprint cars this season, became a race fan after a chance meeting with Kasey Kahne at a Nashville, Tennessee mall when she was in the third grade. Her passion for racing grew and she later convinced her parents to let her compete.
She became the first female to win a sprint car race at Knoxville (Iowa) Raceway, which hosted its first automobile race in 1901 and is home to the Knoxville Nationals. Her victory came in 2015, a day before she graduated from high school as class valedictorian. Haase has won at Knoxville four other times.
One of the points Jones discussed in her 229-page doctorate dissertation about Patrick in NASCAR was the role of women in a masculine sport. Jones wrote that “women sporting competitors talk about desiring to be perceived as just athletes, without the gender identification.”
So does that mean recognizing Haase as the first female to win at Knoxville merely reinforces gender divides instead of celebrating a significant accomplishment?
“The local people are probably sick and tired of hearing that phrase (track’s first female winner) over and over again, and even myself it’s like I want to just be known as a really good race car driver at this point,” Haase told NBC Sports.
“Now, are there other first female records that I’d like to break? Absolutely, because there is something to be said about going someplace that nobody has ever gone.”
She acknowledges that “it’s not like we need special treatment or anything like that, but we are at a disadvantage, so to be able to overcome something like that to accomplish something is special.”
Haase says there are numerous challenges competing in a male-dominated sport.
“It starts out fine until the next thing you know you get up into those higher levels and there’s that strength difference, there’s that bravery difference and there’s like a passion difference and a priority difference in what (female drivers) want to do with their lives,” she said. “Another challenge, I guess, would just be obviously the men in general. Now you’re looking around and there are hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of men at the track and one female.”
While she admits the obstacles can make the sport “very frustrating at times,” she said she races because “I was designed to be where I am for a reason.”
Those reasons include youth racers. She started the Compass Racing Development program in 2015 to give kids a chance to race an outlaw karts. She’s had about 10 children compete in that program, including four girls. Haase also will launch Youth Racers of America Inc. and plans to host a national motorsports camp in Indianapolis in December for 300-500 youth racers.
The idea for Youth Racers of America stemmed from a paper she wrote at Drake University on the economics of motorsports.
“I basically did a study on where I think our sport is missing and what our greatest value proposition is,” she said. “All my research tied back to youth motorsports and the lack of support in that area and support for the future of the sport.”
“IT’S FUN TO DO THE IMPOSSIBLE”
The poster came from T.J. Maxx and hangs in Jennifer Jo Cobb’s office in a race shop that barely holds five trucks and various parts and pieces.
A black high heel shoe is on the white poster. Above it reads: “The question isn’t who is going to let me, it’s who is going to stop me.”
On the opposite wall in Cobb’s office is a smaller framed poster with words over a giant lipstick kiss imprint that states: “Life is tough and so are you.”
“These are my sources of inspiration,” Cobb said. “I need to be reminded.”
Racing has not been easy for the 46-year-old Cobb, who has made 190 Truck starts and 31 Xfinity starts. Only Patrick (252 starts) has been in more national series NASCAR races than Cobb, whose team is beginning its 10th season.
She has done it with minimal resources. Even a week before Truck teams were to arrive in Daytona, Cobb needed to find wheels for her race truck, a driver’s uniform and possibly a hauler to transport her vehicle and equipment to Daytona because her team’s hauler was not operational.
Cobb is undeterred by such difficulties. She just thinks back to how her father, Joe, whom she calls her hero, raced.
“He had less money than anybody else he raced against,” she said. “Driving into the racetrack, just my mom, my dad and me at like 10 years old … and this moment is as clear as day for me, there was one tire on dad’s open trailer tire rack.
“I’m looking around and my mom’s commenting, ‘Look at all the tires these guys are bringing’ for local dirt racing. I said, ‘Yeah dad, why do we have only one tire?’ My dad’s response was ‘Because that’s the spare for the trailer, and if we break down we have to have that.’ ”
Cobb recalls that her father won that night.
“He taught me, not even realizing it, some really huge life lessons, that created my character, which is never give up,” Cobb said. “I say all the time I probably don’t belong here. I know I don’t. This is a sport for people with a lot of money.”
Even with the financial hardships and one top-10 finish in her Truck career, if a younger female sought Cobb’s advice on racing, she would not dissuade that person.
“Look at all the things that people have said were impossible,” Cobb said. “My favorite is it’s fun to do the impossible. How many times was Walt Disney told that his little mouse dream was ridiculous. If you ask me, it’s nobody’s business to discourage you.”
At a time when many teens attempt to navigate life’s complexities, Hailie Deegan experiences often take place in public.
She makes those challenges seem easy, often smiling, laughing and full of energy. Deegan is not afraid to share amusing experiences on social media including the time last year she put the wrong fuel in the van she drove and faced a repair bill in the thousands of dollars.
But it’s not always so much fun having everything you do watched.
“Trust me, it’s a lot of pressure,” Deegan told NBC Sports. “It’s a lot that comes with racing, Being a girl in racing does bring attention. … At the end of the day it has its pros and cons. When you’re doing good, it gets you noticed. When you’re doing bad, it tears you down. That’s how racing is.
“Racing is kind of like the craziest roller coaster you’ll be on, emotionally. It takes a toll on you because you’re going to have lot more bad races than good races.”
Deegan’s victories have been memorable for more than the historic value. She made contact with the leader on the last lap in all three ARCA West races she’s won. Twice Deegan took the win from a teammate, including at Colorado National Speedway last June. Deegan, echoing a sentiment from generations of drivers, said after that win: “If you take a swing at me, I’m going to take a swing at you back.”
Deegan acknowledged after her runner-up finish at Daytona last week “that one thing I regret from the past two seasons was making more enemies than I should have. Carrying more grudges than I should have. That is something this season, especially coming to the ARCA Series and a lot of news drivers, I want to stay away from that and have people on my side.”
Especially young girls.
“That is always cool having little girls come up to me and say they want to be a race car driver one day,” Deegan said. “That motivates me more because you know what you are doing is right and all the work you are putting in is worth something.”