All-Star winners and losers

Leave a comment

WINNERS

Kyle LarsonHe joked that by running in the Monster Open he was in the B Main, but he won the final stage to advance to the All-Star Race and then went on to win the main event. He became only the fourth driver in All-Star history to win the event after transferring in from the preliminary race.

Bubba Wallace It was the night he needed. He’s referenced recently how tough things have been on him in his life. After losing the opening stage of the Monster Open, a “pissed off” Wallace won the next stage in a tight finish to advance to the All-Star Race and get a big hug from Ryan Blaney. Wallace went on to finish fifth in the All-Star Race and beamed afterward. “I honestly haven’t had this much fun in a long time,” Wallace said.

Fans — They saw spectacular finishes in the first two stages of the Monster Open, saw three-wide racing at times during the night, saw a different winner this season in Kyle Larson, and saw Clint Bowyer run to Ryan Newman’s car and start swinging at Newman, who remained in the car, in retaliation for contact that sent Bowyer into the wall on the cool-down lap. What more do you want?

LOSERS

Erik JonesThe best thing that can be said about his rough night was that it was a non-points race so his last-place finish didn’t hurt him in his bid to make the playoffs.

Kevin Harvick’s pit crew — Harvick was not happy with how his pit crew performed after his second-place finish. After winning the second stage, Harvick lost six spots on pit road and then had a loose wheel a few laps into the run. Said Harvick of his crew: “They just need to be ready to race. They’ve done it all year. You can’t just show up and have it be a disaster. They’ve been great all year. Tonight wasn’t great.”

Fabricators — The All-Star Race promotes beating and banging and there was a good bit of it Saturday. There were five incidents in the 150 laps of racing on the night for incidents, involving nine different cars. Many others also were beat up. Of course, imagine if they held an All-Star Race on a short track.

Austin Dillon fastest in final practice session for All-Star cars

Getty Images
Leave a comment

CONCORD, N.C. – Austin Dillon was the fastest in the final practice session Friday for cars in the All-Star Race.

Dillon ran a top lap of 179.450 mph at Charlotte Motor Speedway. He was followed by Ryan Blaney (178.560 mph), Clint Bowyer (178.336), Joey Logano (177.954) and Denny Hamlin (177.713).

Kyle Busch ran the most laps in the session at 28. He was 10th on the speed chart with a top lap of 176.592 mph.

Blaney had the best average over 10 consecutive laps at 176.786 mph. He was followed by Logano (176.723) and Kevin Harvick (176.634).

There were no incidents in the session.

Rules, format for Monster Energy All-Star Race

Getty Images
Leave a comment

It’s time to brush up on the rules and format for Monster Energy All-Star Race, which will be held Saturday night at Charlotte Motor Speedway.

The All-Star Race is 85 laps this year, an addition of five laps. It will be split up into stages of 30 laps, 20 laps, 20 laps and a 15-lap final segment. Only green flag laps will count in the final stage.

Each stage must end under green. Overtime procedures will be in place for each stage. If the race is restarted with two laps or less in the final stage, there will be unlimited attempts at a green, white, checkered finish.

There is no mandatory pit strategy.

Driver eligibility: Winners from last season and this season, previous all-star winners who are competing full-time in the series, Cup champions who are running full-time in the series, the three stage winners from the Monster Energy Open and the winner of the fan vote.

Fifteen drivers are already locked into the main event: Aric Almirola, Ryan Blaney, Clint Bowyer, Kurt Busch, Kyle Busch, Austin Dillon, Chase Elliott, Denny Hamlin, Kevin Harvick, Jimmie Johnson, Erik Jones, Brad Keselowski, Joey Logano, Ryan Newman and Martin Truex Jr.

Four more drivers will transfer into the All-Star Race from the 50-lap Monster Energy Open (divided into segments of 20 laps, 20 laps and 10 laps).

For the second straight year NASCAR is using the All-Star Race to try features on the cars that could be used in upcoming seasons. There will be two technical changes that could be used in the Gen 7 car.

Jay Fabian, the Cup Series competition director, discussed the changes to the cars Monday on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio’s “SiriusXM Speedway.”

# A single-piece carbon fiber splitter/pan that is expected to offer improvements in ride height sensitivity for drivers. This is expected to provide a more stable aero platform and create more consistent performance in traffic.

“The splitter … It’s about 48 inches wide and the center part is all carbon and it’s got an integrated pan that goes back about the same distance as the current pan does,” Fabian said. “It’s got the nose of the splitter turned up just a bit, and it’s still got the bull nose on the front and then out bore that is what you would see as the current splitter material that’s a little more high density. There’s a step between the bolt on ears to the center bit of about a quarter inch. So keeping that throat in the center should help cure some ride height sensitivity problems and it should help with some traffic. Once you get in traffic, that ride height sensitivity is important and keeping that throat open is important. So we’re optimistic that’s going to help in traffic.”

# The car will be configured with a radiator duct that exits through the hood as opposed to the current design, which exits into the engine component. This feature is expected to create improved aerodynamic parity and reduce engine temperatures.

“We had to work through some (manufacturer) styling on the hood to make sure they ended up where they needed to be,” Fabian said of the exit duct. “Also, we’ve kept them centered up enough so that the (air) stream stays over the greenhouse of the car cause those are all common elements. Keeping that flow across the windshield, roof, back glass, deck lid, spoiler, it’s important to keep it in that stream instead of letting it fall along the sides of the car.”

Brad Keselowski wins Kansas Cup race in overtime

5 Comments

Brad Keselowski won Saturday night’s Cup Series race at Kansas Speedway in an overtime finish, claiming his third win of the season.

Keselowski triumphed in the two-lap shootout over Alex Bowman, Erik Jones, Chase Elliott and Clint Bowyer.

The overtime finish was caused by Matt DiBenedetto‘s engine expiring with four laps left in the scheduled distance.

Keselowski took the lead three laps before that with a pass of Alex Bowman on the outside in Turn 3.

Bowman led 63 laps and has finished second in the last three races.

“That restart, we just got a great launch,” Keselowski told Fox Sports 1. “Alex Bowman, I tell you he’s going to win a race. He did a great job today. We just a had a little bit fresher tires than he did.”

Keselowski dedicated his win to Mike Mittler, a long-time Truck Series owner who passed away Friday.

“He helped a lot of guys in their career and I was one of them,” Keselowski said. “He was local to here and he passed away yesterday. Just such a huge loss for the NASCAR community. He’s one of those unsung heroes that works in the garage, gave his whole to this sport. … Hurts to see those guys go away.”

Kyle Busch had to pit for a tire rub with 21 laps to go. He finished 30th, ending his stretch of races to start the season with a top-10 finish at 11 races.

STAGE 1 WINNER: Kevin Harvick

STAGE 2 WINNER: Chase Elliott

Click here for results and point standings.

WHO HAD A GOOD RACE: Erik Jones finished third to match his best finish of the year (Daytona 500) … Chase Elliott earned his third straight top five, tying him with Alex Bowman for the best active streak … Clint Bowyer earned his first Kansas top five since April 2014 …. Tyler Reddick placed ninth for his first career Cup top 10 in just his second start.

WHO HAD A BAD RACE: Kevin Harvick had the car to beat until he had to pit unexpectedly with 88 laps to go for an issue with his right-side tires. But crew chief Rodney Childers said no problem was found. After leading 104 laps, Harvick placed 13th … Denny Hamlin spun on his own in Stage 1 and was never competitive. He finished 16th … Ryan Blaney placed 32nd after he made contact with the wall in the final stage and had to pit for repairs.

NOTABLE: Alex Bowman is the first winless driver to finish second in three straight races … Brad Keselowski earned his 30th Cup win, tying him with Kurt Busch for 26th all time … The cars of Keselowski and Quin Houff each had on unsecured lug nut after the race.

WHAT’S NEXT: Monster Energy Open/All-Star Race at Charlotte Motor Speedway at 6 p.m. ET on May 18 on Fox Sports 1

Ryan: Dover criticism at interesting juncture for leadership, rules

2 Comments

How much would Kyle Busch’s excoriation of the racing Monday at Dover International Speedway draw the ire of NASCAR?

Discussions took place Tuesday (as part of the sanctioning body’s weekly postrace analysis) on whether to punish the 2015 series champion. Late Tuesday afternoon, a NASCAR spokesman said Busch wouldn’t be fined.

It was an interesting window into the new dynamics of NASCAR leadership and the sanctity of a rules package that has been a central storyline of the 2019 season.

By previous standards, Busch’s harsh assessment of how higher speeds impacted the racing at Dover might have crossed NASCAR’s boundaries for language detrimental to stock-car racing.

Series officials previously have said drivers are welcome to criticize them for their calls but draw the line on assailing the entertainment value of the on-track product. In announcing the abolition of its “secret fine” policy, Brian France said sanctions publicly would be levied on those perceived as denigrating NASCAR, and it’s been applied (sometimes capriciously) to Ryan Newman, Denny Hamlin and Tony Stewart for their views on restrictor plates, the Gen 6 car and loose wheels.

However, Busch’s comments weren’t completely out of line given NASCAR’s expectations for a radically different rules package in 2019.

During a critical preseason test at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, vice president of development and innovation John Probst told JeffGluck.com and other reporters that NASCAR “wanted cars close together. We don’t want people falling off and going laps down. We don’t want people checking out.”

Martin Truex Jr. won Monday’s rain-delayed race at Dover by 9.5 seconds, a margin of victory greater than the previous 10 races combined this season, and even Truex said passing was difficult for his No. 19 Toyota.

It’s also worth noting that Probst said during the Las Vegas test that most drivers were opposed to the new rules – and many seem to have been biting their tongues when asked to evaluate the rules. The introduction of 550 horsepower at larger speedways was intended to keep cars closer together, but the reviews have been mixed.

Though Kevin Harvick offered a stronger opinion Monday after Dover, his restraint after a March 23 qualifying session at Martinsville Speedway reflected the reticence many drivers have had about the package this season.

“Look, I bailed on having an opinion on rules and downforce the middle of last year,” Harvick said, apparently referring to when NASCAR moved in the direction of the 2019 rules after a version was used in the All-Star Race.

Martinsville was among the 2019 races in which drivers were more vociferous about the impact of the rules on passing.

Those complaints have undoubtedly been heard by Jim France, who took over as NASCAR CEO for his nephew, Brian, nine months ago and has been a much more visible presence and sounding board at the racetrack.

Though his leadership style has been universally praised for its connectivity, Jim France also has an old-school approach that is in line with his late older brother who ran NASCAR for more than 40 years.

Traditional hard-line leadership at NASCAR has been less receptive to rebukes from drivers, and a punishment for speaking out against the 2019 rules – which likely will remain for the foreseeable future – might have sent the message that some sacred cows remain in Cup.


Perhaps more at risk for NASCAR sanction was Leavine Family Racing owner Bob Leavine, who began tweeting his support of Busch and his dissatisfaction with the rules since shortly after Monday’s race ended in a tweetstorm that lasted more than a day.

“It’s unfortunate, especially when a team owner does social media,” NASCAR senior vice president Steve O’Donnell told SiriusXM’s NASCAR channel Tuesday morning. “I don’t think that’s the right way to do it at all. It’s a choice that was made. We’re available every race and talk to every constituent we have. Jim France is at every race, which is phenomenal. The ability to say that you don’t have a chance to talk to us about your feedback is a bit questionable.”

NASCAR ultimately declined to punish Leavine, too.

The team owner has some leverage. As he noted, he is a Race Team Alliance board member. He also has a midpack team that joined the Toyota Racing Development fold this season.

With open speculation about Toyota’s desire and need to add another car to its lineup, an expansion of LFR would be the easiest option. If Leavine were to leave NASCAR (and this tweet didn’t exactly inspire confidence about his long-term belief in the product), it would leave a gaping hole that would take a lot of effort and money to fill.


Prior to Martin Truex Jr.’s wins at Dover (1-mile track) and Richmond Raceway (the 0.75-mile layout where he scored his first short-track win in Cup), his previous 12 wins had come at ovals either 1.5 miles and longer or road courses.

Because his 2017 championship was built on the 1.5-mile tracks (a record seven wins, including the championship finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway), it’s easy to overlook Truex’s versatility. His 0-for-80 winless stretch on short tracks was an anomaly, and his team’s only weakness is on superspeedways, which are largely immaterial to winning a title once a driver has qualified for the playoffs.

With two wins in three races, Truex and crew chief Cole Pearn seem fully assimilated into Joe Gibbs Racing and poised to continue a five-season run as a first-tier championship-caliber duo.


Truex’s win also helped make a strong case for cementing JGR as the reigning top team in NASCAR’s premier series. Between Busch, Truex and Denny Hamlin, Toyota is the only manufacturer with a trio of multiple winners, and Erik Jones has shown signs of righting the ship in the past two races.

Team Penske might remain a clear second in the pecking order, but there weren’t many highlights at Dover with Joey Logano (who fought for a sixth after getting mired deep in traffic from playing two-tire strategy to win a stage), Brad Keselowski (who faded greatly to 12th after leading 58 of the first 181 laps) and Ryan Blaney (15th).

Those struggles, coupled with Hendrick Motorsports’ four top 15s, underscored that the battle behind Gibbs has been tightening.


The tactics of Logano and William Byron revealed how strategy can be tricky with races that run largely incident-free. Both drivers sacrificed track position for Stage 1 points and then spent much of the remaining 280 miles trying to regain ground.

Dover marked the sixth of 11 races in 2019 that didn’t feature a multicar wreck, and the resultant lack of yellows can make it difficult to catch a tactical break. Logano and Byron both abandoned long-run strategies to short pit and get on sequence with the other lead-lap cars for their final stops with around 80 laps to go.

Gambles on being able to stay out longer under the final green-flag run (which lasted 131 laps) went unrewarded for Daniel Suarez, Jimmie Johnson and Aric Almirola, who would have benefited if there’d been a late caution.


The return of single-car qualifying at Dover was kindest to the less experienced. Four of the top five qualifiers (Chase Elliott, Byron, Kyle Larson and Alex Bowman) weren’t running Cup full time in 2013, the last season before the debut of group qualifying.

With only one driver starting in the top 10, qualifying at Dover was surprisingly unkind to JGR. During the 2013 season, JGR had three of the top four qualifiers (Matt Kenseth, Busch and Hamlin), and Truex also ranked in the top 10.


The demise of Furniture Row Racing sadly cut short one of NASCAR’s great underdog stories, but it’s good to see at least one thread remains to the Denver-based team.

Though only a handful of several dozen team members at Barney Visser’s defunct organization migrated with Truex to the No. 19 Toyota, Pearn keeping his postrace victory selfies tradition alive is a welcome reminder of the iconoclastic camaraderie that powered Furniture Row (even if the beards are gone).