team penske

Harrison Burton, Paul Menard exchange words after trading hits

2 Comments

LOUDON, N.H. – There’s a 20-year gap between Paul Menard and Harrison Burton and seemingly just as wide a gulf in how they viewed their incident Saturday at New Hampshire Motor Speedway.

Burton, 18, finished 29th in the Xfinity Series race after being wrecked by Menard, 38, with 45 laps remaining.

Parking his No. 18 Toyota after completing 169 of 200 laps, Burton waited for more than 20 minutes until the race ended and then strode purposefully from the entrance of the Xfinity garage to the pits and confronted Menard for a terse but civil conversation.

“I wanted to get across to him that I got wrecked for no reason,” said Burton, who competes full-time in the Gander Outdoors Truck Series and was making the third start of his Xfinity career and the first on a track at least a mile in length. “I barely touched him. There’s barely a mark on his door. I don’t know if he’s heard of NASCAR before, but this isn’t F1 where if you touch someone, there’s a 5-second penalty.

“I barely touched him, and I got wrecked. He says that I got into him on the restart. I’m on the apron, and he comes down across my nose and then gets mad about it. When he watches the film, I think he’ll see that. I think that we just worked our butts off and didn’t get the result we deserve. We’ll just come back and race harder and beat him next time.”

Menard said he was justified to tap Burton in the left rear and spin the Joe Gibbs Racing driver into the Turn 1 wall.

“He ran into me a couple of times,” said the driver of the No. 12 Ford for Team Penske. “So I voiced my displeasure. He’s a young kid. He’s got a long time in this sport. He’s got to figure that stuff out pretty early. As he races more in Xfinity, and especially if he gets to the Cup level, they don’t put up with that stuff. I felt it was my place to tell him that’s not cool.

“A lot of these kids are good clean racers. He kind of stood out from the crowd. He had a fast enough car he could have been clean. I hate tearing up race cars. I didn’t really want to tear up his race car, that’s for sure. But sometimes enough is enough.”

Menard singled out Chase Briscoe and Noah Gragson, both in their early to mid-20s, for having raced him cleaner than Burton.

“Some of these kids are really fun to race with, and some of them just don’t get it,” said Menard, a veteran of 14 seasons in the Cup series who was teamed with Burton’s father (and NASCAR on NBC analyst), Jeff, for three seasons at Richard Childress Racing. “So I think you have to cut that shit out at an early age.”

“Some of these kids have a lot of talent and don’t have to run into you to try to pass you. Harrison, I’ve never met the kid before. I know his dad really well. I’ve got a lot of respect for Jeff. Really good man. But the kid ran into me a couple of times, and that was enough of that.”

Though he had the chance to air his grievances, Burton was skeptical it would make any difference with how Menard would race him in the future.

“He doesn’t care,” Burton said. “He doesn’t care about anyone else but himself. But I’m going to just go out and beat him on the racetrack like I was going to today. I was driving away from him. I was gone.

“We were going to beat him on the racetrack, and that’s all you can do is just beat people on the racetrack and show them you’re going to outwork them. I’m fired up and ready to go for the next one.”

Joey Logano’s reign continues atop NBC Sports Power Rankings

4 Comments

You like chaos in your superspeedway racing?

Daytona International Speedway delivered Sunday with a backup performance from Mother Nature to provide one of the most unexpected winners in NASCAR history in Justin Haley.

As a result, there are four new drivers in the top 10 of this week’s NBC Sports NASCAR Power Rankings.

The chaos also resulted in Joey Logano keeping the No. 1 spot for the second straight week. But this time the Team Penske driver is the unanimous pick.

1. Joey Logano (40 votes): Despite being involved in the 18-car wreck, Logano won a stage and kept his points lead. Last week: 1st

2. Kyle Busch (30 points): Was the only driver in the top 10 in points to finish in the top 15 at Daytona. Last week:   4th

3. Martin Truex Jr. (27 points): After three straight top 10s, had a slight bump in the road by finishing 22nd after a wreck. Now on to Kentucky where he is the two-time defending winner. Last week (2nd)

4. William Byron (23 points): Career-high runner-up finish was something to celebrate but to be so close to a win was a bit agonizing. Last week: Not ranked

5. Jimmie Johnson (22 points): After two consecutive top fives, Kentucky will be a good barometer for the No. 48 team. Last week: ties for 9th

6. Ross Chastain (19 points): His redemption story continues with his second career Xfinity win. Last week: (Unranked)

7. Denny Hamlin (11 points): Another solid showing at Daytona before being involved in the big wreck. Last week: 8th

8. Ryan Newman (10 points): Has three top 10s in the last four races and earned his first top five since 2017. Last week: Unranked.

9. Justin Haley (8 points): Finished second in Friday’s Xfinity race before pit strategy and a lightning strike helped give the 20-year-old driver his first Cup win in surprising fashion. Last week: Unranked

10. Ryan Blaney (6 points): Can’t seem to catch a break on the superspeedways. Has DNFs in last three Daytona starts. Last Week: 5th

Others receiving votes: Ty Dillon, Kurt Busch and Aric Almirola (4 votes each), Brad Keselowski (3 votes) and Corey LaJoie (2 votes).

Bump and run: How to view Justin Haley’s Daytona win

2 Comments

How do you view Justin Haley’s victory at Daytona?

Dustin Long: Every team running at that point had the same opportunity so congrats to Haley and his team for pulling it off. It’s understandable how some might feel a little empty because of how Haley rode at the back to protect his car. That also leads to the issue of how the team, Spire Motorsports, competes. It’s a small operation with limited resources. Not every team can start as a multi-car operation. Again, they played by the rules that were there for everyone and won. And I don’t want to hear anything about how NASCAR should have put Kurt Busch back in the lead because they gave the signal of one to go and then lightning struck within the 8-mile radius shortly after he gave up the lead to pit. Want to give Busch the lead back? Go invent a time machine and change history. Until you do so, Justin Haley won fair and square.

Daniel McFadin: It’s a nice, inexplicable oddity. It has no impact on the season-long narrative outside of taking away a chance for a Cup regular to win and get in the playoffs. It also makes sure everybody will remember the last July race at Daytona.

Jerry Bonkowski: Another feel-good story for the season. NASCAR can never have too many of those. While I’m happy for Justin, though, I’m worried that he may be labeled going forward as only winning because the race was rain-shortened, much like Aric Almirola‘s and Chris Buescher‘s first career Cup wins. Still, it was great to see how a small team beat the big boys. 

Nate Ryan: It’s a feel-good story, but we probably won’t know how good we really will feel about it until a few years from now. Will it be remembered as the start of something big for Haley and Spire Motorsports, or just a miraculous confluence of circumstances that produced an unbelievable blip during a season with a roster of overly familiar winners that can best described as rote? In the short term, the win has no legs because neither Haley or the team is making the playoffs. What driver and team are able to accomplish over the long term — and in the team’s case, there are valid questions about viability — will factor into how Sunday’s win ultimately is viewed.

If a driver is ineligible for a playoff spot that would come with a victory — as happened with Justin Haley’s win at Daytona — should NASCAR award that playoff spot to the first eligible driver? Should that be considered for Cup only because of the rarity of the situation or all three national series, if at all?

Dustin Long: No. Doing so tarnishes the “win and you are in” mantra. Don’t make such silly changes.

Daniel McFadin: I don’t think so. The only time a second-place finisher should be given a playoff spot is if the winner is disqualified. 

Jerry Bonkowski: No, a playoff spot should not be awarded to the first eligible driver. In the whole big scheme of things, those still vying for a playoff spot on points have really not lost (or gained) much with Haley’s win, given that he is ineligible for the Cup playoffs. Those drivers vying for the playoffs still have to be there at the end after Indianapolis. I can’t see how Haley’s win will cost anyone a playoff spot. And no, it should not be considered for all three national series. The rule is the rule; it’s not broken, so don’t try to “fix” it.

Nate Ryan: Only a win should guarantee a berth. But it’s deflating to have an ineligible winner in a race such as this that’s billed as one of the best hopes for an underdog to make the playoffs.

Does it matter to you that Daytona is moving from its traditional weekend on or near July 4 to August next year to be the regular-season finale?

Dustin Long: No. Next question.

Daniel McFadin: I’m all for the change. If a track has two races, both of them can’t be sacred just because of where they fall on the schedule. Making it the regular-season finale raises the intensity of the summer Daytona race and gives it more significance than it ever had, which is saying a lot given how frenetic the racing was Sunday. Also, hopefully, the move provides more consistent weather for racing.

Jerry Bonkowski: Yes it does bother me. There is so much history and tradition of the Independence Day weekend that has been built around Daytona. It’s not going to have the same feeling in late August next year. Plus, even though restrictor plates are gone, I question having a race that decides the final 16-driver playoff field using tapered spacers — which to me is like a plate by another name — be an event that weighs so heavy on who will or won’t make the playoffs.

Nate Ryan: It was a long overdue change (underscored again by the events of last weekend) to end the practice of racing Daytona on a Saturday night in early July. Making a wild-card race the regular-season cutoff is also an extremely smart play. It’s sad to sever the track’s holiday tradition, but it’s outweighed by the benefits, and the lack of community uproar (the Volusia County tourism industry is happy about having adding a busy weekend; people will still visit the beach July 4) confirms it’s a good call.

Two months remain until the playoffs begin. What will be you be watching in the coming weeks?

Dustin Long: I’m looking for the team to emerge that can challenge the Joe Gibbs Racing and Team Penske cars. I want to see if Kevin Harvick and his team can put away the issues that have hindered them and go on a run of winning races. I also want to see how Hendrick Motorsports progresses and if Jimmie Johnson in particular can become a contender.

Daniel McFadin: I’m interested to see how much Joey Logano can flex his muscles. He’s the point leader yet he only has two wins. He’s putting together an effective defense of his Cup title.

Jerry Bonkowski: How Stewart-Haas Racing evolves, whether Joe Gibbs Racing and Team Penske have noticeable fall-offs, if drivers who are getting close (like William Byron, Ryan Blaney, Jimmie Johnson, Kurt Busch and Kyle Larson) will finally break through with wins that boost them into the playoffs, and whether there may be another Justin Haley- or Ross Chastain-like surprise winner in any more races in the three national event series.

Nate Ryan: How many positions will be determined by points and the margins around the bubble. This is shaping up as possibly the fiercest and tightest cutoff battle yet since the 16-driver championship field was introduced in 2014.

Sunday’s Cup race at Daytona: Start time, lineup and more

Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images
1 Comment

Let’s try this again. The Cup Series will run today at Daytona International Speedway after rain postponed the race from Saturday night. The race will be on NBC (1 p.m. ET).

After qualifying was cancelled Friday due to weather, the field was set by owner points. Joey Logano will start from the pole and be joined by Kyle Busch on the front row.

Will today’s race see the dominance of Team Penske and Joe Gibbs Racing continue? Is today the day a new winner emerges?

Here’s all the info you need for today’s race.

(All times are Eastern)

START: The command to start engines will be given 12:52 p.m. The green flag is scheduled to wave at 1:04 p.m.

PRERACE: Garage opens at 10 a.m. Driver introductions are at 12:20 p.m. The invocation will be given at 12:43 p.m. The National Anthem will be performed at 12:44 p.m.

DISTANCE: The race is 160 laps (400 miles) around the 2.5-mile track.

STAGES: Stage 1 ends on Lap 50. Stage 2 ends on Lap 100.

TV/RADIO: NBC will televise the race. Coverage begins at 1 p.m. The Motor Racing Network’s radio broadcast begins at 1 p.m. and also can be heard at mrn.com. SiriusXM NASCAR Radio will carry MRN’s broadcast.

FORECAST: wunderground.com calls for a high of 86 degrees at the start of the race. There is a 42% chance of scattered thunderstorms.

LAST TIME: Erik Jones won his first career Cup race after a last-lap pass of Martin Truex Jr.

TO THE REAR: William Byron (backup), Kyle Larson (unapproved adjustments), Justin Haley (unapproved adjustments), Brendan Gaughan (unapproved adjustments), Joey Gase (unapproved adjustments), Matt DiBenedetto (unapproved adjustments), BJ McLeod (unapproved adjustments).

STARTING LINEUP: Click here for the starting lineup.

Chicagoland winners and losers

Leave a comment

WINNERS

Alex BowmanSaying he was tired of finishing second after three runner-ups this season, Bowman fought back after Kyle Larson took the lead from him late and scored his first career Cup victory.

Kyle Larson — It wasn’t the victory he was seeking but his runner-up finish was his best result of the season and his first top five since Dover in May. The result was that he climbed from 15th to 13th in the points.

Hendrick Motorsports — Led by Alex Bowman’s win, the organization placed three of its four cars in the top 10 — Jimmie Johnson was fourth and William Byron was eighth. Chase Elliott finished 11th.

Team Penske — The organization didn’t get a victory but placed all three of its cars in the top six with Joey Logano third, Brad Keselowski fifth and Ryan Blaney sixth.

Cole Custer His Xfinity win Saturday was his fourth of the season, tying him with Christopher Bell for most in the series this year.

LOSERS

Clint Bowyer Can it get any worse for him lately? Maybe it’s better to not ask. He finished 37th in the 38-car field Sunday, marking the second time in the last three races he’s finished 35th or worse. After his fifth-place finish at Pocono, Bowyer was 10th in the standings. Now, he’s 16th, in the final transfer spot to the playoffs, with nine races left.

Ryan NewmanHe entered the race in the 16th and final playoff spot but a 17th-place finish and lack of stage points dropped him 20 points out of a playoff spot.

Kevin Harvick He led a race-high 132 laps, marking the fourth time this year he’s led 45 or more laps, but still remains winless this year.  He overcame a cut tire to get back into the lead but got into the wall on Lap 172 and fought the car’s handling the rest of the way to finish 14th. Another fast car without the results to show for it.

Christopher Bell — His third-finish was wiped out after the race when his car failed inspection and was disqualified.