Marcus Lemonis

Chase Elliott announces recipients of $100K bounty money

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Almost two weeks after he beat Kyle Busch in the Gander RV & Outdoors Truck Series race at Charlotte, Chase Elliott has announced which charities he’ll donate his $100,000 bounty reward to.

In two tweets Friday morning, Elliott said he’ll be giving the money – put up by Kevin Harvick and Gander RV & Outdoors CEO Marcus Lemonis – to three different groups.

The $50,000 from Harvick will go to Feed the Children’s COVID-19 response.

The $50,000 from Lemonis will go to the Red Cross and  Kyle Busch’s foundation.

“Y’all should definitely recognize this wouldn’t have happened or been any fun without (Kevin Harvick) tweeting what he did,” Elliott said in one of the tweets. “So thanks to him for making it all happen and Marcus for adding to the fun.”

While the bounty challenge is over, Elliott’s not done in the Truck Series. He’s entered in Saturday’s race at Atlanta Motor Speedway (1 p.m. ET on FS1) in GMS Racing’s No. 24 Chevrolet.

The bounty reward isn’t the only charitable event Elliott is part of.

For the fourth consecutive year Elliott and Hendrick Motorsports are taking part in the “DESI9N TO DRIVE” art design collaboration with Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta (Children’s), the largest healthcare provider for children in Georgia.

It involves an auction of signed racing shoes from all four of Hendrick’s drivers. The shoes were designed by patients at Children’s who submitted color sketches of racing shoes depicting their “big dreams.” Four drawings were selected, replicated on Alpinestars racing shoes to be worn by the drivers during Sunday’s race at Atlanta Motor Speedway (3 p.m. ET on Fox).

The auction will end at 9 p.m. ET June 14. Proceeds go to the Chase Elliott Foundation to benefit the summer camp program that Children’s runs for its large patient network and the Children’s Covid-19 fund that helps provide needed support, supplies and equipment for their most fragile patients and frontline employees.

MORE: Chase Elliott on pole for Cup Series race at Atlanta

Take a bow: Chase Elliott celebrates Truck win in Kyle Busch style

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A form of flattery? Something deeper? Or just having fun?

Chase Elliott punctuated his victory over Kyle Busch in Tuesday night’s Truck race at Charlotte Motor Speedway by performing a bow, Busch’s customary celebration.

“It was a spur-of-the-moment thing,” Elliott said after the win. “I thought we’ve had so much fun with this with Kevin (Harvick) putting up money (for a bounty to beat Busch) and Kyle is a good sport about it, I hope. Just having fun. It’s not a dig at anybody. Just having fun with it. It was about beating him and we did it, so why not have some fun with it?”

Busch’s response?

He didn’t know about Elliott’s bow until being told by a reporter in the Zoom media conference after the race but said: “Imitation is the strongest form of flattery or something, I don’t know what it is. Huh, that’s cute.”

The bow added to the growing saga between Elliott and Busch over the past week. It started when Busch wrecked Elliott late in a Cup race at Darlington while Elliott ran second, costing him a chance at a win. Elliott responded to that accident by giving Busch the middle finger when he drove by. Busch later told Elliott that he made a mistake.

Asked if he got any satisfaction beating Busch, who finished second, and ending Busch’s personal seven-race Truck winning streak, Elliott said: “Yeah I do, for sure. He’s really good in anything he does. I enjoy it just to have a chance to race against him. Like I said there on TV, I was glad that I had a chance to race him for the win instead of him finishing 10th or having a problem or one of us having a messed up night.

“For us to be able to go head-to-head for the win like that was really cool, certainly felt good to come out on top. Doesn’t make up for Sunday by any means (when Elliott lost the Cup lead pitting before overtime), but it was a fun night and I appreciate (GMS Racing) letting me do it.”

Busch said after the race that a broken part impacted his truck’s performance.

“It doesn’t help showing up to the race track with broke parts on your truck,” he said. “That was a problem from the get-go. Didn’t have our right front stopper right, so we were all over the splitter. So we came in and didn’t know that it was broke. We had to fix it with a makeshift piece and it was way too high then we tried to fix it and it just was never right. We were out in left field the whole night, never really had a great feel for the truck, a great driving truck and just salvaged what I could.”

Busch called the problem “self-inflicted.”

“Threw it away,” he said. “Had six months to prepare and screwed it all up.”

Tuesday marked Elliott’s first Truck start since 2017. Asked if he would do more, he said: “It was about beating Kyle and we did that, so I guess I can quit now.”

By beating Busch, Elliott scored the bounty.

Harvick and Marcus Lemonis, CEO of Gander RV and Outdoors, each put up $50,000 to any Cup driver who could beat Busch in a Truck race. They announced before Tuesday’s race that they would earmark the money to the COVID-19 relief program of the winning driver’s choosing.

NASCAR driver: ‘Sitting here at home on a Saturday. It feels weird’

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Saturday was to have been the day NASCAR fans found out: Could someone defeat Kyle Busch in a Truck race?

The answer had been no in Busch’s last seven series starts, dating to 2018, but the interest in his streak built the last few weeks.

It started with a Feb. 22 tweet from Kevin Harvick: “I’ll put up a $50,000 bounty for any full time cup driver who races a truck and can beat @KyleBusch in his next 4 races. #gameon.”

Marcus Lemonis, from series sponsor Gander RV & Outdoors, added another $50,000 to Harvick’s bounty. Truck owner Chris Larsen pledged $50,000 to any Truck Series regular who could win a series race with Kyle Busch.

Suddenly, Saturday’s Truck race at Atlanta Motor Speedway became the most anticipated series event since the Trucks ran at Eldora Speedway for the first time in 2013.

With sports shut down, including NASCAR, for the foreseeable future because of the COVID-19 pandemic, Saturday became a day of confusion. What to do with no racing and no sports.

“I’m sitting here at home on a Saturday. It feels weird,” Matt DiBenedetto said in a video to fans.

Ryan Newman, who continues his recovery from a head injury suffered in a crash on the last lap of the Daytona 500, took time for more of what he called “therapy” on Saturday. He went fishing.

Aric Almirola did some racing at home with his children.

This much is certain. NASCAR postponed this weekend’s races at Atlanta Motor Speedway and next weekend’s races at Homestead-Miami Speedway. Dale Earnhardt Jr. was to have made his one Xfinity start at Miami. Now? We’ll see.

Next on the schedule is Texas Motor Speedway. It hosts Trucks, Xfinity and Cup on March 27-29.

On Friday, the mayor of Fort Worth, Texas issued a state of emergency that included a mandatory cancelation of any events or gatherings with an expected attendance of 250 people or more. The mandate, though, is for seven days.

Texas Motor Speedway issued a statement Saturday that track officials are “currently preparing to host our regularly scheduled events and will continue consulting with officials on best practices and recommendations.”

But there will be racing Sunday even if Atlanta Motor Speedway will sit silent.

Kevin Hamlin, spotter for Alex Bowman, tweeted that there will be a 100-lap NASCAR industry iRacing event at 3 p.m. ET Sunday. Among those scheduled to take part are Hamlin, Bowman, Earnhardt, William Byron, Bubba Wallace, Justin Allgaier, Harrison Burton and crew chief Chad Knaus.

DiBenedetto mentioned in his video to fans about an iRacing event next weekend..

As restrictions continue and events are postponed, the only races for NASCAR fans could be online events with some of the their favorite drivers.

“Hope all this stuff passes,” DiBenedetto said in his video to fans. “Hang with us and we can get back to the racetrack soon.”

Friday 5: NASCAR’s decision to compete stands out among other sports

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UPDATE: NASCAR announced at 11:37 a.m. ET Friday that this weekend’s races at Atlanta Motor Speedway and next weekend’s races at Homestead-Miami Speedway have been postponed. No makeup dates have been set. 

MORE: President Trump to declare national emergency to combat coronavirus 

By the time the clock hit midnight, ending an unprecedented day and beginning a Friday the 13th, a new reality emerged because of COVID-19.

No NCAA Tournament. No Major League Baseball. No NBA. No NHL. No MLS. No Formula One race in Australia.

What was left? Primarily NASCAR and IndyCar.

While some NASCAR fans bristle at the notion that their sport be more similar to stick-and-ball sports, on this day, NASCAR was not.

With other sports postponing or canceling events, NASCAR announced plans to compete beginning today at Atlanta Motor Speedway with the Cup, Xfinity and Truck Series. No fans will be allowed to attend. Same for IndyCar in St. Pete.

Thursday night, though, the NTT IndyCar Series announced that it had eliminated Friday’s two 45-minute practice sessions. Instead, the weekend will begin Saturday for that series. At the end of its release on the updated weekend schedule, IndyCar stated: “Due to the fluidity of the situation, more modifications may be forthcoming and will be announced at the appropriate time.”

Things can change. NASCAR’s statement Thursday announcing plans to race without fans started: “At this time …” and ended with: “We will work with public health officials as we determine future scheduling beyond these events.”

Plans remain for next weekend’s NASCAR races at Homestead-Miami Speedway to be held without fans.

But how much longer can this go? Or will this go? There are indications that other sports are prepared to be idle for weeks.

In a letter to fans Thursday night, NBA Commissioner Adam Silver stated: “This hiatus will last at least 30 days and we intend to resume the season, if and when, it becomes safe for. all concerned.”

Major League Baseball announced Thursday that it would delay the regular season “by at least two weeks due to the national emergency created by the coronavirus pandemic.” Opening day had been scheduled for March 26.

The NCAA canceled the men’s and women’s basketball tournament, turning March Madness into March Sadness, and all spring sport championships, including some events that would not be held until after Memorial Day.

PGA Golf, which stated Thursday that The Players Championship would continue with no fans, reversed course and announced at 10 p.m. ET that it was canceling the event. That means every PGA Tour event is canceled up to the Masters, which is scheduled from April 9-12.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention stated Thursday that there were 1,215 total cases of COVID-19 (both confirmed and presumptive awaiting test results) in the United States with 36 deaths. The CDC stated that 42 states and the District of Columbia reported cases.

The CDC stated that Georgia, where NASCAR races this weekend, had reported 31 cases of COVID-19 (both confirmed and presumptive pending test results). Only Washington (366 cases), New York (217), California (175), Massachusetts (95) and Colorado (34) had more cases than Georgia.

Should NASCAR race this weekend and be one of the few sports to compete? To some sports-starved fans, NASCAR (and IndyCar) will be viewed as a hero for doing so. Others, though, may question both sports for holding an event during a pandemic.

Either way, today begins with NASCAR competitors scheduled to be on track at Atlanta Motor Speedway.

2. What’s next?

Once the NBA announced Wednesday night it was suspending its season because of COVID-19, momentum began to build for other sports to follow, leading to Thursday’s string of cancellations and postponements.

With NASCAR continuing, many questions remain. Beyond plans to race at Atlanta and Miami the next two weeks, then what?

Both Texas Motor Speedway, which will host the Cup race on March 29, and Bristol Motor Speedway, which will host the Cup race on April 5, issued statements via social media. Texas Motor Speedway’s statement noted that track officials are “closely monitoring facts and in frequent communications with public health officials. We are currently preparing to host our regularly scheduled events and will continue consulting with officials on best practices and recommendations.”

Bristol Motor Speedway stated Thursday that “there are no changes to our NASCAR race weekend April 2-5. Bristol Motor Speedway is working closely with our state and local health officials in preparation for our events.”

3. Bounty Race

With NASCAR stating it will race this weekend, the focus will turn to what is one of the most anticipated Truck Series races in years.

Kevin Harvick started the excitement by offering a $50,000 bonus for any Cup driver who could beat Kyle Busch in a Truck race. Marcus Lemonis, CEO of Gander RV and Outdoors, added another $50,000.

Busch has won his last seven Truck starts.

To collect the $100,000, a full-time Cup driver does not have to win. They only have to finish better than Busch but cannot do so by unfairly roughing him up. If more than one full-time Cup driver places ahead of Busch, the one who finishes highest wins all the money.

Cup regulars entered in Saturday’s Truck race at Atlanta are Chase Elliott, John Hunter Nemechek and Brennan Poole.

But that bounty left Truck series regulars out. So, Halmar International and truck owner Chris Larsen are putting up a $50,000 bounty for any Truck series regular.

To collect the $50,000 from Larsen, a Truck series regular needs to win the race. Also, Busch must be running at the finish. The bounty is for Atlanta but would continue to Busch’s next race, Homestead, if he wins.

Should Busch win at Atlanta, Larsen and Hal-mar will donate $25,000 to the Bundle of Joy fund, which is a part of the Kyle Busch Foundation and provides funds for families struggling to conceive.

4. Ready to collect

Although Johnny Sauter could collect a $50,000 bonus for beating Kyle Busch and winning Saturday’s Truck race at Atlanta Motor Speedway, he’s not focused on the bounty.

Johnny Sauter has finished second, third and third in his last three Atlanta Truck races. (Photo by Adrian Garcia/Getty Images)

“There’s no greater thing in the world or feeling,” Sauter told NBC Sports of winning. “Even though I’ve been fortunate enough to win a lot of races, it never gets old. … That’s what we do this for, at least that’s what I do it for. It’s not for bounty money or anything else. Winning races is awesome. So when you have trucks that are capable of doing it, especially where we’re at right now, I feel like we’re going to win quite a few races this year.”

Sauter, the 2016 Truck champion, has finished no worse than third in the last three Truck races at Atlanta. He’s also off to a strong start this season, placing seventh at Daytona and second to Busch at Las Vegas.

While there will be plenty of attention on Busch, Sauter doesn’t focus on such things.

“It’s just another person to beat,” Sauter said. “There’s no question that Kyle brings his ‘A’ game, not only with himself but with the program and the whole deal. A lot of people, I think, it bothers them that he runs in the Truck Series. Me personally, it doesn’t matter to me one way or the other. I know why he does it, and I think it’s good for his business and his company to run the Truck Series personally.

“When I look at him, he’s beatable. We’ve beaten him before. There’s no question to beat him you’re going to have to have everything going the way it needs to go. But at the end of the day when you do beat him, it feels good, but I like beating everybody.”

If not Sauter, another candidate among the Truck Series regulars to beat Busch would be 2018 champion Brett Moffitt.

Moffitt won at Atlanta in 2018 — the last time a Truck Series regular won there (Busch won last year’s truck race there).

Brett Moffitt won the 2018 Atlanta Truck race. (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)

“To have a shot for us to go win 50 grand from Chris Larsen, I think that makes it all the more exciting,” Moffitt told NBC Sports. “I think it’s kind of Chris Larsen’s way of saying our guys are talented too … that they can run with any of the Cup guys that come down here.

“Obviously we haven’t done a good job of that in the last seven races that Kyle has been in, but I feel it can be done.

“I have confidence that we can beat him on the right day. With his talent and the amount of effort he puts into his organization at KBM, that Toyota helps him out with, it’s a tough combination to beat. He’s proven that.

“I think it can be done. I’ve had a few races over the last couple of years with him where I feel like if things would have fallen a little differently, I would have a shot at it, but I’m sure many others have felt the same way. We have yet to deliver on it and I understand that. We’ll just keep putting our best foot forward and go after it.”

5. Streakin’

Brad Keselowski has finished no worse than second in the last three Atlanta Cup races. He won in 2017, finished second in 2018 and won again last year.

Team Penske already has won two races this season with Joey Logano at Las Vegas and Phoenix. Team Penske’s Ryan Blaney has had among the best cars in three of the first four races. Could it be Keselowski’s time to shine this weekend?

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Add Erik Jones to those chasing $100,000 Truck bounty

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Former NASCAR team owners Billy Ballew and James Finch have come together to run a Truck for Erik Jones this month at Homestead-Miami Speedway in pursuit of the $100,000 bounty Kevin Harvick and Marcus Lemonis have put up for any full-time Cup driver who beats Kyle Busch in a Truck race.

Ballew made the announcement Tuesday afternoon on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio’s “Sirius Speedway” program.

Jones becomes the third Cup driver to seek the bounty.

Chase Elliott will run in a Gander RV & Outdoors Truck Series race March 14 at Atlanta Motor Speedway in the next race Busch also will compete. Elliott also is scheduled to compete in the May 30 Truck race at Kansas Speedway against Busch. Elliott will drive for GMS Racing in both events.

Kyle Larson is scheduled to drive a Truck for GMS Racing on March 20 at Homestead-Miami Speedway against Busch.

Busch has won the past seven Truck races he’s entered.

Ballew was a Truck series owner from 1996-2012. Busch drove for Ballew’s team from 2005-09, winning 16 of 62 races (25.8%).

Finch, who will appear on this week’s “The Dale Jr. Download” (5-6 p.m. ET Wednesday on NBCSN), owned cars in either the Xfinity or Cup Series from 1989-2013. He won one Cup race, which came in 2009 at Talladega with Brad Keselowski.

“We decided we would come and do a joint effort and come get us a driver,” Ballew told SiriusXM NASCAR Radio. “After some things that we’ve done with Erik Jones in the past, winning the Snowball Derby, … we put a deal together.”

Ballew said the $100,000 bounty put up by Harvick and Lemonis, chairman of Camping World, spurred this effort.

“I don’t know that I would have overtaken this, even with James’ help, if it wasn’t for that (bounty),” Ballew said.