Roger Penske bullish on large crowd for Indianapolis 500
FILE - Roger Penske looks over the track from the grandstand at Indianapolis Motor Speedway in Indianapolis, in this Thursday, July 2, 2020, file photo. There will be fans at this year's Indianapolis 500, Penske said Monday, March 22, 2021, but how many remains a moving target based on pandemic restrictions. (AP Photo/Jenna Fryer, File)A fully vaccinated Roger Penske is hard at work at Indianapolis Motor Speedway preparing for a full season of racing that will include spectators at his showcase event. There will be fans at this year's Indianapolis 500, Penske said Monday, but how many remains a moving target based on COVID-19 restrictions. Penske noted Monday that the positivity rate for COVID-19 for Marion County, where Indianapolis Motor Speedway is located, was 3.1%.
Martin Truex Jr. wins NASCAR Cup race at Phoenix Raceway
AVONDALE, Ariz. – Joey Logano has won a few times at Phoenix Raceway and knows a good restart when he feels one. Truex blew past Logano on the final restart and pulled away for his first NASCAR Cup Series victory of the season and 28th overall. Logano — who led 143 laps — won the second stage after leading the final 35 laps during a long stretch of green-flag racing. But he couldn't hold back Truex, who won his ninth race with JGR. Hamlin was fast early in the race, leading for 31 laps until the competition caution midway through the first stage.
One year later, NASCAR reflects on a COVID-changed sport
Larson wasn't sure he'd race in NASCAR again until Rick Hendrick took a chance on a him. Last weekend at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, Larson raced to his first NASCAR victory since he was reinstated from a nearly yearlong suspension. He was hired by Hendrick Motorsports when NASCAR said the suspension would lift at the start of this year. KEEP IT COOLLast year's spring race in Phoenix was a hot one, with temperatures pushing close to 90 degrees. ... Jason Biggs, host of “Cherries Wild” on NASCAR broadcast partner Fox, is the grand marshal.
Kyle Larson celebrates return with 1st win since suspension
LAS VEGAS – Kyle Larson wasn't sure he'd ever race again in NASCAR, and if he could, he didn't know who would even hire him. On Sunday at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, Larson raced to his first NASCAR victory since he was reinstated from a nearly yearlong suspension. “Thanks Mr. H. for believing in me,” Larson radioed to boss Rick Hendrick after crossing the finish line. Larson is considered one of the top talents in NASCAR but won just six times in six seasons with Chip Ganassi Racing. “He got in a great car, he's a great driver and he's going to make things happen,” runner-up Brad Keselowski said.
NASCAR's 'unique' winners already altering playoff landscape
Christopher Bell celebrates at the finish line after winning the NASCAR Cup Series road course auto race at Daytona International Speedway, Sunday, Feb. 21, 2021, in Daytona Beach, Fla. (AP Photo/Terry Renna)HOMESTEAD, Fla. – NASCAR’s postseason landscape has been altered after just two Cup Series races. “The number of unique winners is really going to change how many cars get in on points, right? Although Bell drives for powerhouse Joe Gibbs Racing, he was a rookie for that top team and in his second full season in the Cup series. The Cup Series opened on a superspeedway, then raced on a road course, and now heads to an intermediate track. Whether that’s different markets, different racetracks, it has to be different from year to year.
Bell snags first Cup victory in another surprise Gibbs win
Bell won in his second race driving for Joe Gibbs Racing to give the team a pair of surprising victories at Daytona International Speedway. Ty Gibbs, the 18-year-old grandson of team owner Joe Gibbs, won the Xfinity Series race Saturday night in his first career national series start. “I've prepared my whole life for this moment to race in the Cup Series, last year was such a learning curve for me. Kevin Harvick finished sixth and AJ Allmendinger, in his first Cup race since the 2018 season finale, finished seventh. It was the highest finish in three Cup races for Kaulig Racing, an Xfinity Series team formed in 2016 that wants to be full-time Cup next season.
Logano wants peace at Penske following Daytona 500 crash
(AP Photo/Chris O'Meara)DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – A truce has yet to be called in the Team Penske camp amid friction following the last lap Daytona 500 crash between teammates Joey Logano and Brad Keselowski. To me, the biggest heartbreak of this whole thing is that there are 400 people at Team Penske asking where their Daytona 500 bonus is and it’s up in a ball of flames up in turn three.”Three-time Daytona 500 winner Denny Hamlin bristled at Logano's deflection. The Daytona crash belied Roger Penske's edict that his drivers are permitted to race one another hard so long as they don't wreck. That’s a great problem to have.”It remains to be seen how Keselowski chooses to work with Logano going forward. Logano, also a Cup champion and the 2015 Daytona 500 winner, doesn't have the same job security concerns.
McDowell beats 100-1 odds for upset Daytona 500 victory
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – Michael McDowell was glued to Brad Keselowski's bumper, watching and waiting for his chance to win the Daytona 500. Denny Hamlin was trying for a record third-consecutive Daytona 500 victory, and the team he started with Michael Jordan was debuting with driver Bubba Wallace. Kyle Larson was back after nearly a year in exile for using a racial slur, and reigning Cup champion Chase Elliott was going for his first Daytona 500 win. And all the way at the back of the field, 1990 Daytona 500 winner Derrike Cope made what he said would be his final NASCAR start. “I wanted to make the pass to win the Daytona 500 and it ended up really bad,” Keselowski said.
The Latest: Keselowski has no regrets about Daytona 500 end
Racers crash during the last lap in the NASCAR Daytona 500 auto race at Daytona International Speedway, Monday, Feb. 15, 2021, in Daytona Beach, Fla. (AP Photo/Chris O'Meara)DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – The Latest on the Daytona 500 (all times local):12:35 a.m.Brad Keselowski has no regrets about the way he handled the final lap of the Daytona 500. ___12:15 a.m.Michael McDowell won the Daytona 500 after Penske Racing teammates Joey Logano and Brad Keselowski wrecked on the final lap. ___3:25 p.m.Derrike Cope was knocked out after only three laps, an ignominious end for the 62-year-old driver who won the 1990 Daytona 500. ___2 p.m.Bubba Wallace’s car failed inspection twice for the Daytona 500 and will have to start at the back of the field. AdWallace drives a new entry owned by NBA great Michael Jordan and three-time Daytona 500 winner Denny Hamlin.
Rain washes out NASCAR's final practices for Daytona 500
“I think we proved as an industry last year that track time was a little overrated," said David Wilson, head of Toyota Racing Development. Heavy rain soaked the track early, though, prompting officials to shift gears before the Xfinity Series opener later Saturday. An ARCA series race also was scheduled for the middle of the day. “I'm fine without it,” said 2017 Daytona 500 winner Kurt Busch. ..."Obviously, we didn’t want to go to a backup car, but I think we’re still in a really good place for the 500.
Elliott too fast for Hamlin, Logano, Keselowski
Brad Keselowski (2) and Denny Hamlin (11) race side by side through Turn 4 during the NASCAR Cup Series auto race at Phoenix Raceway, Sunday, Nov. 8, 2020, in Avondale, Ariz. (AP Photo/Ralph Freso)AVONDALE, Ariz. – Denny Hamlin, Joey Logano and Brad Keselowski got a big head start on Chase Elliott. Hamlin, Logano and Keselowski never got the caution flag they needed to catch up, with Keselowski finishing second, Logano third and Hamlin fourth. “I would have liked to have one of those late-race yellows like we saw in the Truck race and the Xfinity race,” Keselowski said. Hamlin won the season-opening Daytona 500 and had seven victories this year — two behind leader Kevin Harvick. “As an organization we have got to get a little better, especially on the short tracks,” Hamlin said.
Elliott drives from back of the field to first NASCAR title
The Elliotts joined Lee and Richard Petty and Ned and Dale Jarrett as just the third father-son combination to win a NASCAR Cup title. Elliott passed Joey Logano with 42 laps remaining and pulled away in a race Elliott controlled even as the four title contenders ran 1-2-3-4 most of the afternoon. Elliott had charged through the field during the first stage to clump the four contenders in the winner-take-all season finale. Elliott's win at Martinsville last week not only locked him into the final four, but eliminated regular-season champion Harvick. On the cool-down lap, Johnson pulled up alongside Elliott and fist-bumped the new face of Hendrick, of Chevrolet and of NASCAR.
Denny Hamlin faces tough field for elusive 1st NASCAR title
(AP Photo/Ralph Freso, File)AVONDALE, Ariz. – Denny Hamlin is 0-for-3 in championship chances, his shot at an elusive first NASCAR crown ending just short each time. Hamlin on Sunday will try to close his own career-defining season with the Cup title in NASCAR's season finale at Phoenix Raceway. Chase Elliott last week drove Chevrolet and Hendrick Motorsports back into the championship race for the first time since 2016. The 24-year-old is statistically enjoying his best Cup season and advanced to the final four after three previous failures. The last two times I’ve raced for championships I’ve had no regrets.”Hamlin turns 40 exactly 10 days after Sunday's title race and has matured greatly the last several seasons.
Crew chiefs feel the heat to be perfect in NASCAR finale
FILE - In this Nov. 16, 2019, file photo, crew chief Christopher Gabehart watches practice for a NASCAR Cup Series auto race at Homestead-Miami Speedway in Homestead, Fla. The pressure will be intense for crew chiefs in NASCAR's championship race. With everything on the line, his crew chief went with an aggressive adjustment aimed at gaining one last burst of speed. Only Hamlin and Gabehart, in their second season as driver and crew chief, have previously raced for a championship together. “I don’t think you can really be prepared for it until you go through it,” said the veteran Hendrick Motorsports crew chief.
Elliott races into NASCAR championship; Harvick eliminated
That's how it was supposed to play out, at least, after Harvick won a Cup series-high nine races and the regular-season title. Chase Elliott won the high-stakes race to earn his first career berth in the championship four. Just came up short," Harvick said. “It was just a move I had to try knowing that I needed one point," Harvick said. Bill Elliott was 0 for 45 at Martinsville in his Hall of Fame career, and Chase Elliott won in his 11th try.
Martinsville set for high-stakes Sunday in NASCAR playoffs
NASCAR's needed horsepower for its stale playoffs so Martinsville was shuffled to the back of a revamped schedule. So Martinsville was moved to the final elimination race and NASCAR created a high-stakes last-chance Sunday at the historic Virginia paperclip. It means at least one of NASCAR’s top stars and maybe even a legitimate title contender won’t advance out of Martinsville. Hamlin hasn't been great in the playoffs and he holds just a two-point lead over Brad Keselowski above the cutline. “It’s up to us to get it done," said Hamlin, a five-time Martinsville winner.
Kyle Busch wins rain-delayed NASCAR playoff race in Texas
Kyle Busch drives on the front stretch during a NASCAR Cup Series auto race at Texas Motor Speedway in Fort Worth, Texas, Wednesday, Oct. 28, 2020. (AP Photo/Richard W. Rodriguez)FORT WORTH, Texas – Kyle Busch won for the first time this season to extend a 16-year streak while his penalized teammate missed a chance to secure a spot in the championship in the NASCAR playoff race at Texas that finished Wednesday, three days after it started. The only race before then is Sunday at Martinsville, NASCAR's oldest and shortest track where Truex won in June. Logano secured his spot in the final four with his win 10 days earlier at Kansas to open the three-race round of eight. The two-time Cup champion got his fourth Cup win at Texas.
Logano wins at Kansas to clinch spot in Cup Series finale
KANSAS CITY, Kan. – Joey Logano spent the final 40-plus laps at Kansas Speedway keeping an eye on Kevin Harvick in his rear-view mirror. Now, he can look ahead to the NASCAR Cup Series finale at Phoenix. Using every bit of the track Sunday to hold off the winningest driver this season, Logano took the checkered flag on a cold, blustery Sunday to secure a spot in the championship round of the playoffs. Hamlin managed to hold off the 2014 series champion to win his 10th stage of the season. Then, midway through the final stage, he began to notice a problem in his car.
Race into NASCAR's championship round begins at Kansas
Elliott won the race. The path to the championship finale begins Sunday at Kansas Speedway, the first of three races in the title-setting third round. It's a fairly straightforward series with ensuing stops at Texas Motor Speedway, like Kansas a 1.5-mile intermediate oval, then half-mile Martinsville Speedway, NASCAR's shortest and oldest active track. Hamlin has won NASCAR's last two visits to Kansas, a turnaround after several so-so races. “If you fast-forward to Kansas and Texas, it’s a mile-and-a-half, so everything is just pointing in our direction right now,” he said.
NASCAR's upcoming economic model spurs interest in new teams
Without that charter, Marks had almost no chance to get his team on track in 2021. As NASCAR plans for the 2022 cost-cutting introduction of the “NextGen” new car, the demand for charters has soared. Denny Hamlin has also entered team ownership and explored several charter opportunities before he and Michael Jordan last month bought out Germain Racing. Hamlin, as Spire had done two years ago, studied the economics of NASCAR’s planned new car and determined team ownership will be more affordable in 2022. The NextGen car was supposed to debut next season but has been delayed a year by the pandemic.
Talladega briefly stopped after 13-car crash and wall damage
TALLADEGA, Ala. – NASCAR's playoff race at Talladega Superspeedway was briefly red-flagged so a wall could be repaired after Kurt Busch went airborne in a 13-car crash. The melee Sunday required a welding truck go onto the track to repair a damaged section of the wall. Busch smashed into the outside wall, was hit from behind and his car launched over the car of Cole Custer. Busch, winner of last week's playoff race at his home track of Las Vegas, is the only driver already locked into the third round of the playoffs. “That's the nature of the sport — you are on top one week and the next week you are at Talladega,” Busch said.
Ryan Blaney hopes to avoid playoff elimination at Bristol
With a bit of disbelief over his fast fall in the NASCAR standings, Ryan Blaney is determined to avoid elimination from the playoffs. William Byron, Cole Custer, Matt DiBenedetto and Blaney are the four drivers below the cutline headed into the knockout race. “This whole group, this team, we are not a 16th-place-in-points team,” Blaney said. 12 team was also off last week at Richmond, where Blaney finished 19th to fall to the edge of elimination. Cole Custer trails Bowyer by eight points, while DiBendetto is 25 points behind and Blaney is 27 points out.
NASCAR: Keselowski dominates in playoff win at Richmond
RICHMOND, Va. – Brad Keselowski entered NASCAR's playoffs certain he has as good a chance at the Cup championship as favorites Kevin Harvick and Denny Hamlin. His confidence was correct as Keselowski indeed won Saturday night at Richmond, the second playoff race, and advanced into the second next round. Harvick, the title favorite, won last week’s opener to earn the automatic berth into the second round. Harvick, Hamlin and Keselowski are the only drivers locked into the next round of the playoffs. Harvick finished seventh.
Playoffs begin with 14 drivers chasing Harvick and Hamlin
Kevin Harvick and Denny Hamlin are expected to race head-to-head for the NASCAR Cup title when the 10-week playoff series begin Sunday at Darlington Raceway. That theoretically leaves the 14 other drivers racing for just two spots in the winner-take-all race. Busch joins his older brother, Kurt, Aric Almirola, Clint Bowyer and DiBenedetto as drivers without a win as the playoffs begin. Logano won twice in the first four weeks of the season, while Elliott scored his two wins after racing resumed. Others have been labeled dark horses, but Truex has very quietly made himself a strong challenger to Harvick and Hamlin.
NASCAR's playoffs move on without any pomp or circumstance
The party has been canceled during the pandemic but the playoffs go on, starting Sunday, Sept. 6, 2020, without any of the pomp and circumstance. (AP Photo/John Raoux, File)CHARLOTTE, N.C. A NASCAR race is far more than 500 miles of left turns. Owners can't even visit their race cars and NASCAR's top leadership doesn't enter the infield. But he is also pragmatic and recognizes the enormous undertaking NASCAR made to get back on schedule with Sunday's playoffs beginning on time. NASCAR takes pride in getting the show rolling again during the pandemic.These playoffs look nothing like a true NASCAR weekend and no one knows when the show will truly be the same.