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April 10 in NASCAR: Bill Elliott gets spun late, wins at Bristol

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One thing stands out among the 44 Cup Series wins that Bill Elliott earned in his career.

The 1988 champion made a name for himself dominating on superspeedways and other tracks 1 mile and longer, but he only won twice on short tracks.

The first came in dramatic fashion early in his championship season in the Valleydale Meats 500 at Bristol Motor Speedway.

After starting 13th, Elliott took the lead on Lap 379. He led the next 113 laps and along the way picked up a tail in the form of Geoffrey Bodine.

With nine laps to go, Bodine moved to Elliott’s inside as they entered Turn 3. Bodine’s No. 5 Chevrolet then nosed up into Elliott’s left-rear quarter panel, sending Elliott into a smokey spin.

The incident brought out the caution as Bodine took the lead.

During the caution, Elliott and the third-place car of Mark Martin took four new tires in the pits. Luckily for them, there were only three cars on the lead lap.

Elliott beat Martin off pit road and they lined up behind Bodine in the outside lane with as the race resumed with four laps to go.

Bodine’s lead would last just a lap-and-a-half. On his four new tires, Elliott eased his way underneath Bodine in Turns 1 and 2 with three laps to go. Bodine edged Elliott down the backstretch, but in Turn 3 and 4 Elliott bounced lightly off him, causing Bodine to get out of shape as Elliott took the lead and then the win.

“I didn’t have any doubt at all, I was going to get by him one way or the other,” Elliott told ESPN.

Elliott’s only other short-track win would come in 1992 at Richmond.

Also on this date:

1960: In his third career start at the track, Richard Petty won his first of 15 career Cup races at Martinsville Speedway, winning over Jimmy Massey and Glen Wood. It was his second of 200 career wins.

1971: Bobby Isaac led 181 of 200 laps to win in his fourth straight start at Greenville-Pickens Speedway in South Carolina. Isaac did it in front of roughly 8,500 fans in attendance and an audience watching on ABC, which aired it live flag-to-flag, eight years before the 1979 Daytona 500.

1980 – Kasey Kahne, future 18-time Cup winner, was born

2010Ryan Newman ended a 77-race winless streak with a victory at Phoenix Raceway over Jeff Gordon. It was his first victory with Stewart-Haas Racing and his first victory since the 2008 Daytona 500.

April 4 in NASCAR history: Rusty Wallace honors Alan Kulwicki after Bristol win

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On April 4, 1993, Rusty Wallace had a typical Rusty Wallace day on the high-banks of Bristol Motor Speedway.

The Team Penske driver started from the pole and led 376 of 500 laps around the short track before winning over Dale Earnhardt and Kyle Petty. It was his fourth of nine career wins he’d earn at Bristol.

But what Wallace did right after taking the checkered flag was a reminder that it was not a typical weekend.

After his cool down lap, Wallace turned his No. 2 Pontiac around and drove the opposite way around the half-mile track. It was the “Polish Victory Lap,” the winning trademark of 1992 Cup champion Alan Kulwicki.

On April 1, Kulwicki and three others were killed in a plane crash as they traveled to Tennessee for that weekend’s races.

A fellow Midwest native, Wallace had competed against Kulwicki in the American Speed Association before they arrived in NASCAR.

Wallace’s win came a year after Kulwicki claimed one of his two career Bristol wins.

In Victory Lane, Wallace barely mentioned his performance in the race, using the moment to highlight Kulwicki.

“It’s almost tearful, I tell you I wanted to win this race so bad,” Wallace told ESPN. “I was so mad when Alan got killed there. … When I took that thing, I looped that baby around, I did the Alan Kulwicki Victory Lap and I was so prideful.”

Also on this date:

1976: Cale Yarborough beat Richard Petty by a lap at North Wilkesboro. It could have been two laps if Yarborough didn’t have to pit to have a banner that blew off a camper removed from the front of his car.

1982: Dale Earnhardt ended a 39-race winless streak with a victory at Darlington. It was the first of his three wins in the No. 15 Ford owned by Bud Moore.

2004: Elliott Sadler eared his second Cup Series win in a side-by-side finish with Kasey Kahne at Texas Motor Speedway. Kahne had led 148 laps but was beat by .028 seconds.

NASCAR’s top 5 moments from Texas Motor Speedway

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Today would have seen the Cup Series take to the 1.5-mile Texas Motor Speedway just outside Fort Worth. The race would have been the 39th Cup Series event at the track since it opened in 1997.

Like last weekend with Homestead-Miami Speedway, we’re taking a trip down memory lane to look at five of the most memorable NASCAR moments seen at the track.

Here’s our list:

 

 1) Jeff Gordon gets in a fight, Part II (2014)

“He’s just a dipshit!”

Jeff Gordon gave the NASCAR world whiplash after the Texas playoff race six years ago.

First, he got in a Kevin Harvick-induced scuffle with Brad Keselowski and their respective crew members on pit road. Then he cursed on live television to show he was really mad with Keselowski for making contact with him on a late-race restart and cutting down a tire while battling at the front.

As you’ll see later, Gordon’s temper is just bigger in Texas.

 

2) Dale Earnhardt Jr. wins a Cup race (2000)

You know what’s better than winning your first career Xfinity Series race at a track in 1998?

Winning your first career Cup race at that same track two years later.

Good things happened to Dale Earnhardt Jr. at Texas Motor Speedway early in his career. On April 2, 2000, Earnhardt took his No. 8 Budweiser to victory lane, earning his first Cup victory in his 12th career start. He led 106 of 334 laps and beat Jeff Burton, who also got his first Cup win at Texas three years before.

 

3) Kyle Busch gets parked (2011)

What happens when you intentionally wreck a competitor under caution?

You get “parked” by NASCAR for the rest of the weekend.

That’s the position Kyle Busch found himself in after he did just that to Ron Hornaday Jr. in a Truck Series race.

After Hornaday and Busch made contact in the middle of a three-wide pass, both of them got into the outside wall, causing the caution. As they entered Turn 3, Busch began roughing up the back of Hornaday’s truck, causing Hornaday to be turned nose first into the outside wall.

When the green flag dropped on that weekend’s Cup race, Michael McDowell was driving Busch’s No. 18 car and Busch’s bank account had $50,000 less in it.

 

4) Elliott Sadler crosses the finish line first … barely (2004)

When Elliott Sadler won his first Cup race in 2001, he did it for the historic Wood Brothers Racing at Bristol Motor Speedway.

Sadler would have to wait three years for another visit to victory lane, but he made it count.

Now with Robert Yates Racing, Sadler dueled with Kasey Kahne for the win in Texas’ spring race, and edged Kahne by .028 seconds in a side-by-side finish.

Sadler would only have to wait 18 races for his third – and final – Cup win, at Auto Club Speedway.

 

5) Jeff Gordon gets in a fight, Part I (2010)

It’s been a decade, but yes, Jeff Gordon got into two scuffles at Texas Motor Speedway during his career.

While under caution for a Martin Truex Jr. incident on Lap 191, Gordon was involved in a wreck with another Jeff by the name of Burton.

Burton’s car turned left into Gordon’s rear bumper. The contact sent both cars into the wall at the exit of Turn 2.

Gordon was not pleased, going after Burton and having to be separated by safety workers before it got out of hand.

Burton later took full responsibility for the accident.

Meanwhile, Denny Hamlin won that day, completing a sweep of that year’s Texas races. During the race, Hamlin’s main competition for the championship, Jimmie Johnson, got a new pit crew after multiple slow pit stops. His team swapped crews with Gordon’s. The move came with two races left in the season.

Mike Ford, Hamlin’s crew chief, called the switch a “desperation move.

“They just took their team out of it,” Ford said. “This is more about trying to win a championship for (Hendrick Motorsports) and not (Johnson’s) team.”

Two weeks later, Johnson won his fifth consecutive title.

Kasey Kahne retiring from full-time racing in NASCAR

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Kasey Kahne announced Wednesday morning that the 2018 Cup season will be his last full time in NASCAR.

The driver of Leavine Family Racing’s No. 95 Chevrolet made the announcement on his Twitter account.

“Racing in Cup full time for a few more years was just something that I couldn’t commit to,” said Kahne, who had been racing on NASCAR’s premier circuit since 2004. “I’m not sure what the future holds for me, but I know I’m at ease with the decision that I have made.”

Kahne, 38, was the 2004 Cup rookie of the year with Evernham Motorsports and scored his first victory in May 2005 at Richmond Raceway. He has 18 victories in 527 starts during 15 full-time seasons and posted a best finish of fourth in the points standings in 2012, his first year at Hendrick Motorsports.

Kahne also has eight Xfinity Series wins and five Camping World Truck Series wins.

In the wake of Elliott Sadler’s announcement Tuesday, Kahne is the latest of several drivers to walk away from NASCAR in the last three seasons. Jeff Gordon, Tony Stewart, Danica Patrick, Carl Edwards and Dale Earnhardt Jr. all have walked away since 2015.

Here is Kahne’s announcement.

Kasey Kahne, Matt DiBenedetto marking Cup start milestones at Kansas

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Sunday’s NASCAR Cup Series race at Kansas Speedway will mark career milestones for Kasey Kahne and Matt DiBenedetto.

Kahne, who is in the final five races of his tenure driving the No. 5 for Hendrick Motorsports, will make his 500th Cup Series start.

DiBenedetto, driver of Go Fas Racing’s No. 32 Ford, will reach the century mark with his 100th Cup start.

The two join the ranks of drivers who have celebrated similar milestones this season.

Dale Earnhardt Jr. marked his 600th start at Auto Club Speedway. Kevin Harvick made his 600th start in the regular-season finale at Richmond Raceway and Kurt Busch made his in the Bristol night race.

Brad Keselowski won Sunday at Talladega Superspeedway in his 300th Cup start.

Kahne, 37,  made his first Cup start in the 2004 Daytona 500 for Evernham Motorsports. The 24-year-old driver won the Rookie of the Year that season, making him the youngest winner of the award at the time since Jeff Gordon earned it at the age of 22 in 1993.

Since then he has earned 18 wins, 92 top fives, 175 top 10s and 27 poles. He has yet to miss a race in his 14-year career in the Cup Series.

DiBenedetto, 26, made his first Cup start on March 15, 2015 in the CampingWorld.com 500 at Phoenix Raceway. The start, in the No. 83 Toyota for BK Racing, came after he failed to qualify for the previous two races at Atlanta and Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

In the two years since, DiBenedetto has earned three top 10s, including two this year in the Daytona 500 and Brickyard 400.

His career-best finish is sixth in the April 2016 race at Bristol.

Through 31 races this year, DiBenedetto has an average finish of 26.8, an improvement over his totals in 2015 (32nd) and 2016 (30th).

In five Kansas starts, DiBenedetto’s best result is 24th in the fall 2016 race. His average finish is 28.2.

“I really enjoy racing at Kansas Speedway,” DiBenedetto said in a press release. “Our mile-and-a-half program has been very strong this year and (Crew chief) Gene (Nead) has been giving me fast race cars to compete with. We qualified in the second-round here at Kansas earlier in the season, so that gives us a lot of hope.

“I like the racing at Kansas because you can move around a lot groove-wise and find a line that works with the balance of your race car. I’m usually one of the first people to move up into the high-groove and that seems to help find us some speed. If we can get a balance on the race car like we had in the spring, I know we’ll be fast and competitive.”