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With races postponed, NASCAR drivers sign digital autographs for fans

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While the COVID-19 pandemic has postponed all NASCAR races until at least May, several of the sport’s drivers have still been able to sign autographs for fans – virtually at least.

Many drivers have recently begun to sign digital autographs for fans via social media. Similar to a traditional autograph session, where fans bring photos and memorabilia for drivers to sign, fans have been tweeting pictures to drivers with the hopes of getting them to sign the photos with a phone stylus.

The new trend appears to have started on March 13 when a fan tweeted a request for a digital autograph to Hailie Deegan.

“Some guy just tweeted a pic of him and I and wanted me to sign it. So I screenshot it and signed it on my phone and then sent it back,” Deegan tweeted. “Not gonna lie, laying in bed signing autographs ain’t too bad.”

After Deegan sent that tweet, several fans responded with similar requests for autographs. Deegan continued to sign for them as well.

One of the fans who replied to Deegan’s tweet, tagged Corey LaJoie, asking if he would sign an autograph as well. LaJoie obliged.

Since then, several other drivers from NASCAR’s top three series have begun to sign digital autographs for fans, many signing photos fans had taken with them.

Racers from IndyCar and NHRA have also since joined in on the fun.

Team Penske has also encouraged all 15 of its drivers across NASCAR, IndyCar, IMSA and Supercars to sign a group photo. All 14 of Penske’s drivers have signed the photo.

While racetracks all around the world sit empty, signing digital autographs has proved to be yet another way drivers can continue to interact with fans.

iRacing gives fans a Sunday afternoon with racing

Photo: iRacing/Twitch
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On a day that NASCAR was to have raced at Atlanta Motor Speedway, before the COVID-19 pandemic postponed that event and halted nearly every sport, there was a race at a virtual Atlanta Motor Speedway.

NASCAR announced Friday that it was postponing its races this weekend at Atlanta and next weekend at Homestead-Miami Speedway. So with no real racing, some competitors went to sim racing.

iRacing set up a 100-lap race Sunday afternoon to give fans at least some form of racing to watch online.

MORE: Coronavirus updates from NBC News

“It all kind of came together Friday when we were home,” said T.J. Majors, spotter for Joey Logano, on the Twitch broadcast of the iRacing event, The Replacements 100. “Bryan Cook had the same idea as I did, Boris at JGR, and then Kevin Hamlin put a lot of work into this as well. … We started adding drivers to the list. A lot of fun. It’s unfortunate circumstances that we’re all home today, but we’re just trying to make the most of it and give people something to do and watch and have some fun.”

Josh Williams, spotter for Ryan Blaney, dominated, winning the event. William Byron was second.

Here is the finishing order:

  1. Josh Williams
  2. William Byron
  3. Steven Steffen
  4. TJ Majors
  5. Parker Kligerman
  6. Tyler Overstreet
  7. Garrett Smithley
  8. Dale Earnhardt Jr.
  9. Bubba Wallace
  10. Coleman Pressley
  11. Chase Briscoe
  12. Bryan Boris Cook
  13. Justin Haley
  14. John Theodore
  15. Kevin Iannarelli
  16. KC Heschel
  17. Kyle Long
  18. Anthony Pelican
  19. Tyler Truex
  20. Gary Sexton
  21. Anthony Alfredo
  22. Tim Dugger
  23. John Guidone
  24. Harrison Burton
  25. Myatt Snider
  26. Chad Knaus
  27. Ben Rhodes
  28. Matt Noyce
  29. Justin Allgaier
  30. Alex Bowman
  31. Taylor Gray
  32. Jonathan Davis
  33. Kevin Hamlin
  34. Tyler Ankrum
  35. Noah Gragson

As NASCAR entered its first weekend without racing on the track, Bristol Motor Speedway issued a statement Sunday afternoon. Part of the statement read:

“As these uncertain times unfold, we remain in constant contact with health officials, NASCAR and key stakeholders to continue to monitor this pandemic closely. … We must move forward preparing for our events, even if there’s a chance it might not happen, but know that we’re doing our part to enhance our cleaning efforts, locating additional handwashing for our fan zone areas and providing hand sanitizer around the property.”

Bristol is scheduled to host Cup, Xfinity and ARCA East on April 3-5.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued what it called a guidance Sunday that stated:

“Large events and mass gatherings can contribute to the spread of COVID-19 in the United States via travelers who attend these events and introduce the virus to new communities. Examples of large events and mass gatherings include conferences, festivals, parades, concerts, sporting events, weddings, and other types of assemblies. These events can be planned not only by organizations and communities but also by individuals.

Therefore, CDC, in accordance with its guidance for large events and mass gatherings, recommends that for the next 8 weeks, organizers (whether groups or individuals) cancel or postpone in-person events that consist of 50 people or more throughout the United States.”

Xfinity set to reach new track winner mark for first time in 22 years

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Unless Joe Nemechek, who hasn’t won a NASCAR Xfinity race since 2004, wins Saturday’s Xfinity event at Atlanta Motor Speedway (4 p.m. ET on FS1), the series will accomplish something that hasn’t been done since Dale Earnhardt Jr.‘s first championship season in the series

A non-Nemechek winner will become the fifth driver to earn their first victory at a track in the opening five races of the season.

They’ll have Brandon Jones to thank.

When Jones passed Kyle Busch with 20 laps to go on his way to a win at Phoenix Raceway last weekend, he kept Busch from claiming his 12th series victory on the 1-mile track.

While it was Jones’ second career Xfinity win, it was his first at Phoenix.

Jones followed Noah Gragson‘s first career win to open the year at Daytona, Chase Briscoe‘s first win at Las Vegas and Harrison Burton‘s first career victory at Auto Club Speedway.

Now here’s where we make you feel old.

The Xfinity Series has not seen a new track winner in each of the first five races of a season since 1998. That year, the first 10 races of the year featured new track winners, including the first career wins of Earnhardt and Matt Kenseth.

The streak is primarily a sign of the times. The trio of Cole Custer, Tyler Reddick and Christopher Bell, who won 34 of 99 Xfinity races over the previous three seasons, have moved to the Cup Series.

It’s also a result of NASCAR limiting drivers who earn points in the Cup Series to five Xfinity starts a year.

Busch isn’t scheduled to make another Xfinity start until May 23 at Charlotte Motor Speedway, with six races between starts. Brad Keselowski also competed in Phoenix, but a Team Penske spokesperson said the team hasn’t solidified the remaining schedule for its No. 12 car.

The streak could continue next weekend at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

None of the current full-time Xfinity drivers have won there. Even though Earnhardt is slated to compete in the March 21 race, he hasn’t won there in five career starts.

What’s the next track the Xfinity Series will visit where one of its full-time drivers has already won?

The May 2 race at Dover International Speedway. Justin Allgaier won the spring 2018 race there.

Brandon Jones passes Kyle Busch to take Xfinity win at Phoenix

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Brandon Jones passed Kyle Busch with 20 laps to go and held on to win Saturday’s NASCAR Xfinity Series race at Phoenix Raceway.

It was Jones’ second career win in 141 Xfinity starts. His previous win came last October at Kansas.

Busch started from the pole and sought his 12th career Xfinity win at Phoenix. It appeared that he was headed toward that goal, leading a race-high 78 laps, but trailed off in the final 20 laps.

Not only did Jones pass him for the lead, last week’s winner at Fontana, Harrison Burton, also got past Busch and finished runner-up Saturday.

Still, it was some consolation that each of the top three drivers were Toyota drivers for Joe Gibbs Racing.

Brad Keselowski finished fourth, followed by Justin Haley, Chase Briscoe, Noah Gragson, Austin Cindric, Ross Chastain and Riley Herbst.

STAGE 1 WINNER: Justin Allgaier

STAGE 2 WINNER: Noah Gragson

RESULTS

DRIVER STANDINGS

WHO HAD A GOOD RACE: Harrison Burton is on a roll. After winning last week at Fontana, he roared back for a runner-up finish in Saturday’s race. He has scored a top-five finish in each of the season’s first four races. Burton also is atop the Xfinity driver standings after Saturday’s race.

WHO HAD A BAD RACE: Joe Nemechek had a scary moment with 72 laps to go when his brakes went out, causing Nemechek to hit the wall and sustain moderate damage to the right side of his car. Nemechek finished 32nd. … NASCAR met with Dillon Bassett, Brandon Brown and their crew chiefs for an altercation on pit road after the race. Bassett went to Brown’s car and reached into the car on pit road. The two had made contact on Lap 137 of the 200-lap race.

NOTABLE: This was the 500th win on the NASCAR national level for Toyota.

WHAT’S NEXT: EchoPark 250, Saturday March 14 at 4 p.m. ET, at Atlanta Motor Speedway.

Follow @JerryBonkowski

Kyle Busch, Austin Cindric on front row for today’s Xfinity race in Phoenix

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Kyle Busch won the pole and will start alongside Austin Cindric on the front row in today’s LS Tractor 200 Xfinity Series race at Phoenix Raceway.

Busch and the No. 54 Toyota covered the one-mile oval at 133.983 mph, while Cindric knocked Harrison Burton, last week’s winner at Fontana, off the front row with a late run of 133.665 mph.

This will be Busch’s 24th career Xfinity start and 10th pole at Phoenix, where he’s also earned 11 wins in 23 starts. Five of those wins have been from the pole at the one-mile short track. It’s also Busch’s 68th career pole in 353 Xfinity Series races.

Burton will start third, having turned in a speed of 133.496 mph. Brad Keselowski will start forth (133.378 mph), followed by Ross Chastain (133.358 mph), Justin Allgaier (133.348 mph), Noah Gragson (133.333), Brandon Jones (133.279), Chase Briscoe (132.631) and Ryan Sieg (132.631).

A total of 39 cars made qualifying attempts for the 36-car race field. Three drivers failed to qualify: Phoenix native JJ Yeley, Matt Mills and Bayley Currey.

Qualifying results

Today’s race begins at 4 p.m. ET and will air on FS1, as well as on the radio on Motor Racing Network (including MRN.com) and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio.

The only other on-track action today at Phoenix Raceway will be NASCAR Cup qualifying at 2:35 p.m. ET for Sunday’s FanShield 500.

Follow @JerryBonkowski