It was Kyle Busch‘s race to lose and he lost it under caution.
On May 8, 2009, Busch dominated the Xfinity Series race at Darlington Raceway, starting from the pole and leading 143 laps.
But Busch’s chances at a victory ended in a whimper.
Busch led when the caution came out on Lap 147 of 153 for a wreck between Joe Nemechek and Scott Lagasse, Jr.
As the field slowly made its way around the 1.366-mile track, Busch’s No. 18 car drove through debris from the wreck on the backstretch.
The team soon realized Busch’s right-rear tire was going down.
After a few more circuits of the track, Busch was forced to bring his car to pit road. That gave Matt Kenseth the lead as Busch returned to the track in 18th.
Kenseth wouldn’t have to worry about keeping the lead very long. Moments after the field took the green flag as part of a green-white-checkered finish, Morgan Shepherd crashed into the inside wall on the frontstretch, bringing out the caution and effectively ending the race.
It gave Kenseth the win, his only Xfinity victory in 15 starts in 2009.
Also on this date:
1955: Tim Flock completed a marathon of running in two races in two states on back-to-back days. After finishing second in a 100-mile race at Hickory (N.C.) Speedway, Flock took the private plane of team owner Carl Kiekhaefer and flew to Arizona. At Fairgrounds Raceway in Phoenix, Flock started second and led all 100 laps on the 1-mile dirt track to claim the win over Marvin Panch. According to “Forty Years of Stock Car Racing: The Beginning,” Panch was able to compete in the race due to receiving a weekend pass from the U.S. Army. After competing in the following weekend’s race in Tucson, he wouldn’t race again until July.
1976: Cale Yarborough led all but 22 laps to win the Music City 420 at Fairgrounds Speedway in Nashville. An 18-year-old Sterling Marlin made his first of 748 Cup Series starts. He started last and fell out after 55 laps due to an oil pump failure.
1982: Darrell Waltrip led all but one of 420 laps to win at Fairgrounds Speedway in Nashville. It was his fifth win in the first 10 races.
1993: Ward Burton led 227 of 300 laps to beat Bobby Labonte in a Xfinity Series race at Martinsville. It was his only national NASCAR victory in his home state of Virginia.
2004: Martin Truex Jr. led 123 laps and won the Xfinity Series race at Gateway International Raceway. He was joined by two other “Juniors” in the top five. Ron Hornaday Jr. placed second and Bobby Hamilton Jr. finished fourth.
April 19 in NASCAR: Lee Petty wins at Richmond as Flocks boycott race
Today would have seen the Cup Series hold its 128th race at Richmond Raceway.
The race would have fallen on the same day that Richmond hosted its inaugural event in 1953.
Then, instead of a .750-mile paved short track, NASCAR’s pioneers competed on a half-mile dirt track at the Atlantic Rural Fairgrounds.
According to the next day’s Richmond Times-Dispatch, about 5,000 fans watched Lee Petty claim the win. He took the lead with 10 laps to go and went on to beat Dick Rathmann (after an evaluation of scoring cards resulted in Buck Baker being moved back to third).
The race also was highlighted by who wasn’t in it.
Brothers Tim and Fonty Flock boycotted the event. When it came to qualifying, the Flocks had wanted to wait for track conditions to improve before they made their attempts. But after NASCAR gave all drivers a 30-minute window in which to make their runs, the Flocks refused. NASCAR then asked them to start from the rear of the field, according to “Forty Years of Stock Car Racing: The Beginning.” The Flocks objected, packed up and left.
Also on this this date:
1964: Fred Lorenzen crossed the finish to win at North Wilkesboro just in time. His engine almost immediately blew after coughing its way through the final five laps, according to “Forty Years of Stock Car Racing: The Superspeedway Boom.” Lorenzen survived to beat Ned Jarrett by about 200 yards.
1997: Steve Park led the final 71 laps to win the Xfinity Series race at Fairgrounds Speedway Nashville. Park became the first driver not named Dale Earnhardt to win in the Xfinity Series for Dale Earnhardt, Inc.
1998: Ron Hornaday Jr. passed Jack Sprague with five laps to go and won a Truck Series race at Phoenix Raceway.
2010: Denny Hamlin took the lead on a restart with 12 laps to go and led the rest of the way to win at Texas Motor Speedway over Jimmie Johnson. It was Hamlin’s second of eight wins that season.
2015: Matt Kenseth won at Bristol Motor Speedway in a race named after NASCAR reporter Steve Byrnes, who would pass away two days later from cancer.
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.
Hall of Famer Ron Hornaday Jr. will serve as grand marshal for the race, while Bobby Labonte, who will be inducted into the Hall in January, will serve as the honorary starter.
“We are honored to have 2018 NASCAR Hall of Fame inductee Ron Hornaday Jr. as Grand Marshal and 2020 inductee Bobby Labonte as Honorary Starter at the first NASCAR Hall of Fame 200,” NASCAR Hall of Fame executive director Winston Kelly said in a statement. “Ron is the series’ only four-time champion. As the 2000 premier series champion and 1992 Xfinity champion, Bobby is one of only 31 drivers who has won races in all three NASCAR national series with his lone truck series win coming at Martinsville.”
Said Clay Campbell, president of Martinsville Speedway: “We appreciate the NASCAR Hall of Fame making it possible to have two great NASCAR champions available to meet our fans Saturday morning before the NASCAR Hall of Fame 200. Having Ron and Bobby be a part of our race weekend is special for everyone at Martinsville Speedway.”
The overhaul of the game is evident from the main menu screen, which is broken up into window-like boxes, and clearly felt in the gameplay itself.
Here’s a breakdown of what you can expect when you fire up your PlayStation 4, Xbox One or PC to play the latest NASCAR game.
THE THRILL IS BACK
The best part about this revamped game is the enhanced racing physics, which the player has even more control over.
In the last edition of NASCAR Heat, overshooting a corner and sideswiping a CPU car would result in … a thud, mostly. It was very hard for any kind of crash – intentional or accidental – to develop.
But now, getting into a car’s left or right-rear quarter panel is more likely to result in a “will they or won’t they” situation, with you having to decide whether to step on the gas or hit the brakes not knowing whether the car will correct itself or go into a slide.
And you can make it easier or harder for that to happen.
704Games has added sliders in a settings menu which allow you to adjust a multitude of aspects to the physics and gameplay:
Player tire wear rate and grip falloff rate
Speed range between fastest and slowest AI drivers (“wide” for more separation and “narrow” for tighter field)
AI stability after making contact with the player
AI driver recovery ability
Closeness of field on restarts
AI mechanical failures
AI tire wear effect and fuel consumption
These adjustments are welcome. With that said, it took a lot of trial and error to find the settings that made racing for eighth entertaining, which is a fun sentence to write. Fun tracks to conduct those trials on are Darlington, Bristol, Dover and Charlotte.
Also, if you’re one of those who have no clue how to make adjustments to tire pressure, track bars or brake bias, 704Games has an easier option available.
At the menu you see in-between practice, qualifying and a race, the upper right-hand corner has a slider where you can simply adjust from “tight” to “loose.”
Further, AI cars are no longer glued to the inside line. You’ll see cars traverse the track all the way up to the wall. This makes coming up through the field a more challenging experience.
Though wrecks are more frequent now, as a player you still can’t DNF yourself in the middle of the race after a bad enough wreck to warrant it. You can go to the pits and be repaired like nothing happened. Sometimes you’ve had enough and you just want the race to end and move onto the next.
On the plus side, in career mode you can simulate races you don’t want to take part in.
EASY ON THE EYES
NASCAR Heat 4 pops.
More care has been put into the visuals for this installment. The atmosphere at tracks, especially night races, is really striking. It’s even more apparent now that day will transition into night if you go with stage races.
At some tracks, like Darlington, the far end of the track always has a haze over it.
But in general, almost every aspect of what you see on the screen stands out more.
Two other things that caught my eye: Ryan Blaney’s stellar PPG paint scheme and Johnny Sauter’s “tenda” scheme in the Truck Series.
On Blaney’s car, the dripping paint aspect of it really sticks out.
As for Sauter’s, did you know there’s the outline of a horse on the side of Sauter’s truck (tenda is an Equine and Pet Care Products company)? I never noticed it through the first seven months of the season. But it’s there, clear as day in the game. I looked at pictures of the real car and was surprised to see it.
Speaking of paint schemes, there’s new ways to have more in your possession, including existing cars and your own creations.
Added to the usual “challenge” mode (watch out for the Sonoma Raceway “carousel” challenge) is being rewarded with the car from that challenge.
Oddly, this sometimes includes a “Victory Lane” version of the car, so you’ll be driving around the track with a confetti-covered vehicle.
The game creators have also heard cries for enhancements to the custom car builder.
While you unfortunately can’t paint a car at will any way you want, the game gives you significantly more tools to work with.
An addition to the game is the ability to use any number on your custom cars, on top of a wider variety of paint scheme templates and a handful of number fonts.
While I’m not a fan of the number font designs, it’s nice to have more choices, which is the overarching theme of most of new tweaks with NH4.
A little thing I appreciate is a change to Bristol Motor Speedway. The track has been using a traction compound on the inside lane of its corners for the last few years, but that had been missing from NASCAR Heat’s version of the track. Now, there is a layer of grip present there that makes getting through each turn more manageable.
In single season mode you can now create custom seasons via track order.
The track map on the HUD display is one of those additions that took way too long to be introduced.
When qualifying, a timer is present on the screen now to help give an indication of how you’re doing.
You’re still unable to watch a replay until after the race. So you’ll have no idea what caused a caution until then if you weren’t involved directly.
The only options you can change during a race are driving aids.
Drafting works! Especially at superspeedways. You can even hear the wind change as you drift in and out of the wake of cars in front of you.
If your tire wear gets to a certain point, you’ll be in danger of outright spinning on a restart if you’re not careful. Took me by surprise.