Todd Bodine

Miami weekend ends with never-before-seen achievement

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HOMESTEAD, Fla. — Never before has there been a championship weekend like the one just completed at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

Kyle Busch (Cup), Tyler Reddick (Xfinity) and Matt Crafton (Truck) each captured championships and set a standard for the sport.

This past weekend marked the first time in the history of the Truck, Xfinity and Cup series that each champion won more than their first series title. That goes back to 1995, the first season of the Truck Series.

Busch earned his second Cup crown Sunday night. Reddick won his second consecutive Xfinity championship Saturday. Crafton captured his third Truck title on Friday night.

The closest it has come in recent years to having all three national series champs winning multiple titles was 2010 when Jimmie Johnson won his fifth consecutive Cup championship and Todd Bodine claimed his second Truck title, but the Xfinity championship was won by Brad Keselowski, who collected his first and only championship in that series.

Crafton, who did not win a Truck race this season, opened Miami’s final championship weekend by finishing second to collect the series title.

Asked if he was worried about any criticism that he was a champion despite not winning a race this season, Crafton said: “I’m going to sleep really good all winter long with this trophy because when you win a race, that’s very sweet, but usually you only have one week, like four or five days to gloat about it, but I think I’ve got like two-and-a-half months to gloat about this championship before next year.”

Reddick topped Cole Custer in a late duel before pulling away to win the Xfinity championship. Reddick became the first driver in that series to win back-to-back championships with two different teams. He won the 2018 championship with JR Motorsports and this year’s crown with Richard Childress Racing.

“Just real awesome to be able to have two back‑to‑back championships with two different teams,” Reddick said. “And what made this one so much more special is we were consistent week in and week out.”

Busch completed the weekend by becoming the only active Cup driver, other than Johnson, to have multiple titles.

“I would love to be sitting here right now talking about eight,” Busch said. “I’ve been in the sport for 14, 15 years, whatever this season is for me, and so we’re only talking about two.  It’s nice to have the success that we have, take it when you get it, but there’s certainly a few missed opportunities for sure.”

Friday 5: ‘Chaotic’ qualifying is entertaining and shouldn’t change

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Last week’s Cup qualifying at Las Vegas Motor Speedway raised the question of is qualifying more about entertainment or sport?

It was fascinating to watch cars parked on pit road and drivers waiting for someone to go because nobody wanted to be the lead car. They all wanted to be in the draft.

While that took place, spotters counted down the time remaining in the session.

It became a game of who would blink first and take off.

When it was time to go, there was chaos. Cars darted around each other. In the final round, Joey Logano went four-wide on pit road. Ricky Stenhouse passed Logano on the inside and left pit road ahead of him.

“Is chaos a bad thing?” Logano asked NBC Sports’ Jerry Bonkowski this week. “I think that’s the question we have to ask ourselves. Is it chaos? Yes. Is it entertaining? Oh yeah, it’s entertaining, there’s a lot going on. So I don’t know if it’s wrong and we should be changing much.

“I think there’s a couple safety aspects we can add to pit road while we’re jockeying around for position and stuff like that. But as far as the entertainment value, will you get the lap in before the clock runs out, will you get a big enough draft, will they all go out for a second time and you get a big pack again, are they going to knock somebody out of the round? That’s good.

“I don’t know why we would change much of that, I think it’s OK. Yeah, it’s a little chaotic, it’s crazy and none of us has it figured out or scienced out the way we want to have it yet, but that’s competition, that’s just what it is.”

Logano is right. While there was a randomness to who won the pole at Las Vegas, qualifying was as entertaining as any session in recent years.

What happened last week was reminiscent of qualifying at Talladega in October 2014. NASCAR divided teams into two groups for the opening round and each had five minutes. The top 24 overall times advanced.

Most cars stayed on pit road until they hit their cutoff mark to complete two laps. Not everyone made it. Ricky Stenhouse Jr. and Justin Allgaier were among the cars that didn’t make it to the start/finish line before the session ended. Their fastest laps didn’t count. They both failed to qualify. It’s the only race Stenhouse has failed to make since his 2013 rookie Cup season.

These days, 36 chartered cars are guaranteed a starting spot. That prevents a situation Stenhouse experienced five years ago with a well-funded team.

But that doesn’t ease all the angst. Some competitors were frustrated at Las Vegas because the draft negates who has the fastest car. It’s all about being in the right place to draft and turn the quickest lap. Being in that position can be as much luck as skill.

What happens in qualifying can impact the race. Teams pick pit stalls based on their starting spot. A poor qualifying effort can lead to issues in the race.

Logano is aware of that. He qualified 27th at Atlanta and his team had limited options on where to pick their pit stall. Crew chief Todd Gordon chose a stall behind Alex Bowman’s pit and in front of Martin Truex Jr.’s pit.

Rarely do strong teams pit next to each other because they don’t want to have to go around a car to enter their stall or be blocked in by the car in front. Logano faced that situation at Atlanta. He lost more than 10 spots on each of his first two pit stops because he couldn’t get around Bowman’s car to exit his stall.

That leads back to the question of should qualifying be about entertainment or sport?

The decision today will be easy. The fastest car will be rewarded because teams are not expected to draft.

This issue that will come up again in the coming weeks, though, when the series heads to Auto Club Speedway, Texas Motor Speedway and Kansas Speedway.

“Texas, I don’t know,” Logano said. “I think there’s going to be parts of the track that you want to draft and parts of the track when you’re going to want clean air. When you get to Turns 1 and 2, you’re going to want some air on the car to be able to get through the corner with as much wide open time as possible. That one’s a real question for me.

“I think Kansas is a no-brainer, you’re definitely going to be drafting. As for Fontana, it’ll be interesting. I think there’s going to be some drafting going on there, but I think it’ll be split up a little bit, kind of like the way Atlanta was, kinda 50-50.”

There’s no splitting this issue. It’s about entertainment. Let chaos reign in qualifying.

2. Second to Kyle Busch

For all the wins Kyle Busch has amassed in his NASCAR career, there is a recurring theme.

The runner-up to Busch in more than a third of the 197 races he’s won across Cup, Xfinity and the Gander Outdoors Truck Series has been one of five drivers.

Kyle Busch celebrating a NASCAR win has been a familiar sight through the years. (Photo by Sarah Crabill/Getty Images)

The driver who has finished runner-up to Busch the most in those races is Kevin Harvick. He’s done so 18 times — five times in Cup, 10 times in Xfinity and three times in Trucks. The total equates to 9.1 percent of the time Busch has won a NASCAR race, Harvick has been second.

Carl Edwards is next on the list with 15 runner-up finishes to Busch. He’s followed by Brad Keselowski and Joey Logano with 13-runner-up finishes. Next is Kyle Larson, who has placed second to Busch eight times.

Combined, Harvick, Edwards, Keselowski, Logano and Larson have finished second to Busch in 67 of his 197 wins (34 percent).

They are among the 60 drivers who have placed second to Busch in a race he won. The list includes three NASCAR Hall of Fame members (Jeff Gordon, Mark Martin and Ron Hornaday Jr.), two Indianapolis 500 winners (Sam Hornish Jr. and Juan Pablo Montoya) and drivers who have combined to win 48 NASCAR titles in either Cup, Xfinity or Trucks.

The list could grow this weekend. Busch is entered in both the Cup and Xfinity races at Phoenix.

Here is who has finished second to Busch in Cup, Xfinity and Trucks races and how often:

18 — Kevin Harvick

15 — Carl Edwards

13 — Brad Keselowski, Joey Logano

8 — Kyle Larson

7 — Todd Bodine, Matt Crafton

6 — Erik Jones, Johnny Sauter

5 — Greg Biffle, Ryan Blaney, Chase Elliott, Denny Hamlin, Ron Hornaday Jr., Matt Kenseth, Tony Stewart

4 — Jeff Burton, Austin Dillon

3 — Aric Almirola, Clint Bowyer, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Daniel Suarez, Martin Truex Jr.

2 — Mike Bliss, Terry Cook, Jimmie Johnson, Kasey Kahne, Mark Martin, John Hunter Nemechek, Timothy Peters, David Reutimann, Elliott Sadler

1 — Justin Allgaier, AJ Allmendinger, Marcos Ambrose, Trevor Bayne, James Buescher, Kurt Busch, Colin Braun, Jeb Burton, Brendan Gaughan, David Gilliland, Jeff Gordon, Daniel Hemric, Sam Hornish Jr., Parker Kligerman, Jason Leffler, Sterling Marlin, Jamie McMurray, Casey Mears, Brett Moffitt, Juan Pablo Montoya, Ryan Newman, Nelson Piquet Jr., Ryan Preece, Brian Scott, Reed Sorenson, Brian Vickers, Bubba Wallace, Cole Whitt

3. Multiple surgeries

Tanner Thorson, who competed in 11 Gander Outdoors Truck Series races last season, is recovering after he was involved in a highway crash early Monday morning in Modesto, California.

The 2016 U.S. Auto Club national champion had surgery Monday night for a broken left arm, according to the USAC Racing. Thorson had surgery Wednesday on his broken right foot. He also suffered a cracked sternum, broken ribs and a punctured lung, according to USAC Racing. The organization said that Thorson’s family hopes the 22-year-old can return home soon.

According to a preliminary investigation by the California Highway Patrol, Thorson was driving a 2019 Ford pickup that was towing his sprint car when he approached slower moving traffic shortly before 4 a.m. PT. Thorson’s truck struck the rear of a vehicle. KCRA, an NBC affiliate in Sacramento, reported that vehicle was a milk truck.

The impact sent the milk truck into the next lane where it was hit by another vehicle and then came back across the road and was struck another car. The driver was uninjured. A passenger in the truck was transported from the scene with minor injuries, according to the California Highway Patrol. Thorson’s vehicle came to rest on the shoulder and caught fire.

4. First time in new garages at Phoenix

ISM Raceway at Phoenix debuted its new garages and layout when NASCAR raced there in November.

One person missing that weekend was Rodney Childers, crew chief for Kevin Harvick. NASCAR suspended Childers the final two races of last year as part of penalties imposed to the No. 4 team for failing inspection after its win at Texas. So Childers missed the new look at Phoenix – until this weekend.

Childers shared his excitement of being in Phoenix on Thursday night.

5. Remarkable record

Kevin Harvick has finished in the top five in half of the 32 Cup races he’s run at Phoenix. He has nine wins there. Jimmie Johnson has 15 top-five finishes in 31 Cup races there. He has four wins there.

Despite the dominance of the two, they have combined for one win (by Harvick) in the last five races at Phoenix. The other winners in the last five races at Phoenix are Kyle Busch, Matt Kenseth, Ryan Newman and Joey Logano.

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Red Horse Racing suspends operations

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Red Horse Racing, which has competed in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series since 2005, has suspended operations.

The organization, which reached the championship race last year with Timothy Peters, had 16 career victories. The team laid off 30 employees along with Peters and driver Brett Moffitt, a team official told NBC Sports. The team has kept a core group of employees as it seeks funding to resume operations.

Peters finished fifth in Friday night’s race at Charlotte Motor Speedway. Moffitt placed 18th. Peters is sixth in the points and Moffitt is 10th. Neither truck has had a primary sponsor listed in all five races this season. 

Peters won at least one race for the organization from 2009-15. In 2012, the organization finished second in the owner points with four drivers scoring wins: Peters (two wins), Todd Bodine (one), John King (one) and Parker Kligerman (one).

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Joey Logano is picture of perfection: Leads all 300 laps en route to Xfinity Series win at Bristol

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Joey Logano was absolutely perfect in Saturday’s Drive To Stop Diabetes 300, leading all 300 laps en route to victory at Bristol Motor Speedway.

Logano took the lead away from pole-sitter Erik Jones shortly after the green flag dropped and never looked back, earning his 23rd career Xfinity Series victory.

“Such a dominating car,” Logano told Performance Racing Network after the race. “It was fun to drive it. The whole time, you were so nervous that something would happen. It’s such a fun thing to win at Bristol. It’s Bristol. Any time you win here, it’s neat.”

Logano appeared as if he was on coast, but he admitted he was concerned that fellow Sprint Cup regular Kevin Harvick might rally late. As it was, Harvick finished seventh.

“I thought Harvick was really fast and was probably faster than me when we were single-file,” Logano said. “I was hoping for lapped traffic, which is never the case when you’re the leader.”

Logano was so dominant early that by Lap 36, he had lapped half of the 40-car field before cautions bunched the pack back up.

Xfinity Series rookie Daniel Suarez, a native of Mexico, earned a career-best second-place finish, followed by Chris Buescher, Jones and Ty Dillon.

How Logano won: One word best describes Logano: Dominant. Like a police K9 chasing a crook, Logano sunk his teeth in and went for the jugular right from the green flag. He was able to hold off challenges at various points in the race from drivers such as runner-up Daniel Suarez, fellow Cup driver Kevin Harvick, pole-sitter Erik Joes and Chris Buescher, among others.

Who else had a good day: Without question, Daniel Suarez had the most emotional story of the day. Not only did the native of Mexico give Logano a run for his money in the final 30 laps or so, Suarez also likely made headlines back in his native land by finishing a career-best runner-up, his best showing in his rookie Xfinity Series season. Said Suarez, “We kept fighting. All day we had a good car and kept improving it on every stop. … It was a good day. I’m very happy.”

Who had a bad day: There was one significant incident of note. JJ Yeley suffered heavy damage when he smacked the Turn 2 wall after making contact with Landon Cassill. Ryan Sieg also tagged the wall in the same incident. Yeley hit the wall so hard that three laps later, the race was red-flagged so that track and NASCAR officials could examine and repair a part of the SAFER barrier, which had part of the splitter from Yeley’s car embedded in it.

Notables: Chris Buescher finished third, while Ty Dillon finished fifth. As a result, the two drivers are now tied atop the Xfinity Series points standings (Buescher came into the race two points behind Dillon) after seven races into the 33-race junior league season. Chase Elliott and Bubba Wallace are tied for third at 22 points back in standings. Buescher said: “It was eventful. We had a lot of things going on today. I heard we’re in a good points situation now, so that’s pretty awesome.” Added Ty Dillon, “This is the boost we needed. We struggled last couple weeks. As soon as they dropped the green flag, we went to the top. I’m glad we’re back on track with our team and we’ll keep battling.”

Quote of the day: Pole-sitter Erik Jones was somewhat disappointed in his 40th place finish. “It’s alright. You can’t pass. It’s not any fun. We worked back up to the front, weren’t as good as the 22, kept working on it and thought we were a top-3 car.”

What’s next: Toyota Care 250 on Friday, April 24, at Richmond International Raceway.


Unofficial results of Drive for Diabetes 300:

1 Joey Logano … 300 laps

2 Daniel Suarez … 300 laps

3 Chris Buescher … 300 laps

4 Erik Jones … 300 laps

5 Ty Dillon … 300 laps

6 Chase Elliott … 300 laps

7 Kevin Harvick … 300 laps

8 Brian Scott … 300 laps

9 Brendan Gaughan … 300 laps

10 Elliott Sadler … 300 laps

11 Brennan Poole … 300 laps

12 Darrell Wallace Jr. … 300 laps

13 Jeremy Clements … 299 laps

14 John Wes Townley … 297 laps

15 Jeffrey Earhardt … 297 laps

16 Austin Dillon … 297 laps

17 Ryan Sieg … 296 laps

18 David Starr … 296 laps

19 Cale Conley … 296 laps

20 Mike Bliss … 295 laps

21 Ryan Reed … 294 laps

22 Blake Koch … 294 laps

23 Dakoda Armstrong … 294 laps

24 Todd Bodine … 293 laps

25 Joey Gase … 293 laps

26 Eric McClure … 291 laps

27 Ross Chastain … 273 laps

28 Landon Cassill … 268 laps

29 Harrison Rhodes … 260 laps

30 Regan Smith … 252 laps

31 Denny Hamlin … 229 laps

32 Peyton Sellers … 227 laps

33 JJ Yeley … 206 laps

34 Timmy Hill … 198 laps

35 Mike Harmon … 106 laps

36 Carlos Contreras … 60 laps

37 Derrike Cope … 55 laps

38 Morgan Shepherd … 41 laps

39 Jeff Green … 28 laps

40 Derek White … 11 laps

Time of Race: 1 hour, 50 minutes, 00 seconds

Average Speed: 87.218 mph

Margin of Victory: 1.172 seconds

Caution Flags: 8 for 48 laps

Lead changes: 1 among 1 driver

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Erik Jones earns third consecutive Xfinity pole, looks for second straight win

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Erik Jones earned his third consecutive Xfinity Series pole Saturday, capturing the top spot for the Drive to Stop Diabetes 300 later this afternoon at Bristol Motor Speedway.

Jones made it look easy in his Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota with a field-best speed of 125.158 mph, followed by Sprint Cup regular Joey Logano (124.768), Austin Dillon (124.549), Brian Scott (124.250) and Denny Hamlin (123.826)

Jones is going for his second consecutive Xfinity race win, having won last week at Texas Motor Speedway.


QUALIFYING SPEEDS:

1 Erik Jones … 125.158

2 Joey Logano … 124.768

3 Austin Dillon … 124.549

4 Brian Scott … 124.250

5 Denny Hamlin … 123.826

6 Kevin Harvick … 123.698

7 Darrell Wallace Jr. … 123.674

8 Brendan Gaughan … 123.674

9 Daniel Suarez … 123.403

10 Regan Smith … 123.071

11 John Wes Townley … 122.827

12 Elliott Sadler … 122.795

13 Chase Elliott … 123.016

14 Chris Buescher … 123.008

15 JJ Yeley … 122.764

16 Ty Dillon … 122.740

17 Brennan Poole … 122.638

18 Ross Chastain … 122.615

19 Landon Cassill … 122.521

20 Jeffrey Earnhardt … 122.178

21 Jeremy Clements … 121.697

22 Dakoda Armstrong … 122.443

23 Ryan Sieg … 121.228

24 Ryan Reed … 120.778

25 Mike Bliss … 121.620

26 Eric McClure … 121.274

27 Joey Gase … 121.259

28 Todd Bodine … 121.182

29 David Starr … 121.037

30 Morgan Shepherd … 120.915

31 Harrison Rhodes … 120.892

32 Blake Koch … 120.748

33 Cale Conley … 120.679

34 Jeff Green … 120.558

35 Peyton Sellers … 120.301

36 Derrike Cope … 118.065

37 Timmy Hill … 116.425

38 Carlos Contreras … 116.066

39 Mike Harmon … 114.466

40 Derek White (for Carl Long) … 106.034

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