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About NASCAR

Celebrating its 75th Anniversary in 2023, the National Association for Stock Car Auto Racing, LLC (NASCAR) is the sanctioning body for the No. 1 form of motorsports in the United States and owner of 16 of the nation’s major motorsports entertainment facilities. NASCAR consists of three national series (NASCAR Cup Series™, NASCAR Xfinity Series™, and NASCAR Camping World Truck Series™), four regional series (ARCA Menards Series™, ARCA Menards Series East & West and the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour™), one local grassroots series (NASCAR Advance Auto Parts Weekly Series™) and three international series (NASCAR Pinty’s Series™, NASCAR Mexico Series™, NASCAR Whelen Euro Series™). The International Motor Sports Association™ (IMSA®) governs the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship™, the premier U.S. sports car series. NASCAR also owns Motor Racing Network, Racing Electronics, and ONE DAYTONA. Based in Daytona Beach, Florida, with offices in eight cities across North America, NASCAR sanctions more than 1,200 races in more than 30 U.S. states, Canada, Mexico and Europe. For more information visit www.NASCAR.com and www.IMSA.com, and follow NASCAR on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Snapchat (‘NASCAR’).


 

William Byron wins DAYTONA 500 under caution after frenetic next-to-last lap

 Chris Graythen/Getty Images)

February 19, 2024

 

By Reid Spencer

NASCAR Wire Service

 

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. — William Byron gave team owner Rick Hendrick something extra to celebrate in the 40th anniversary year of Hendrick Motorsports.

 

In a frantic scramble after a restart on Lap 197 of 200 in the DAYTONA 500, Byron reached the finish line and took the white flag moments before NASCAR called the fifth caution of the evening as Ross Chastain slid wildly through the infield grass off the bumper of Austin Cindric’s Ford.

 

Alex Bowman was a close second to his teammate at the moment of caution, giving Hendrick a 1-2 finish and the organization’s first victory in the Great American Race since Jimmie Johnson beat teammate Dale Earnhardt Jr. to the stripe in 2013.

 

The victory was Hendrick’s ninth in the DAYTONA 500, tying the company with Petty Enterprises for most in the history of the NASCAR Cup Series most prestigious event. The race was postponed from Sunday to Monday because of heavy rains during the weekend.

 

“I'm just a kid from racing on computers and winning the Daytona 500,” said the 26-year-old Byron, who picked up the 11th victory of his career and his second at Daytona, the first coming in the 2020 summer race at the 2.5-mile superspeedway.

 

“I can't believe it. I wish my dad was here. He's sick, but this is for him, man. We've been through so much, and we sat up in the grandstands together and watched the race (when Byron was younger). This is so freaking cool.”

 

Hendrick could barely contain his elation in Victory Lane.

 

“I'm telling you, you couldn't write the script any better,” he said. “When we thought about coming down here the first time, we didn't think we should be here, felt so out of place.

 

“We win this on our 40th to the day, it's just… and tied a record now, so that's awesome.”

 

Before the final restart, Chastain was racing at the front of the field on Lap 192 when a bump from Alex Bowman got Hendrick Motorsports teammate William Byron out of shape and knocked Byron into the right rear of Brad Keselowski’s Ford.

 

Keselowski turned up the track into the Ford of Joey Logano, who had led a race-high 45 laps to that point. Reigning series champion Ryan Blaney’s Ford was among the 23 cars involved in the accident that left string of mangled vehicles strewn along the backstretch.

 

The wreck knocked Blaney, Keselowski and Logano out of the race, along with Tyler Reddick, defending race winner Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Daniel Suarez and Todd Gilliland. NASCAR red-flagged the race for 15 minutes 27 seconds for track clean-up.

 

“Speedway racing again,” Logano said ruefully. “It’s a lot of fun until this happens. It was pretty interesting with a lot of pushing and shoving there at the end. Our car was able to take it. Our Mustang was so fast. It could lead a line really well. I kind of thought I had the cars I wanted around me. I had at least one I wanted around me, but just couldn’t make it work.”

 

“Obviously, hate what happened on that backstretch," Byron said of the accident. “I just got pushed and got sideways. But so proud of this team, whole AXALTA team, 40th anniversary to the day, on Monday.

 

“Just extremely blessed and thankful for all the opportunities, and we just want to keep it going. We have a lot to prove this year, and this is a good start, obviously.”

 

How much Byron has yet to prove is debatable. He won a series-best six races last year, qualified for the Championship 4 and finished third in the final standings.

 

The race was not quite five laps old when an eight-car accident off Turn 4 started the inevitable attrition. Contact from Keselowski’s Ford in a tightly bunched line of the outside knocked the Toyota of John Hunter Nemechek into the center lane and into the side of Harrison Burton’s Ford.

 

Burton slid toward the infield, collecting the Chevrolet of Sunoco rookie Carson Hocevar. Burton’s No. 21 Mustang shot up the track and slammed into the Ford of Kaz Grala and the Chevrolet of Austin Dillon. Behind Dillon, Hocevar careened into the path of seven-time series champion Jimmie Johnson, who couldn’t avoid the collision.

 

The wreck eliminated the cars of Burton, Hocevar and Grala. Dillon took his No. 3 Chevy to the garage for extensive repairs, and Johnson lost two laps on pit road as his Legacy Motor Club crew worked frantically to repair his Camry.

 

“I don’t remember exactly who it was on my outside,” Burton said after a trip to the infield care center. “It just looked like they either got a bad push or got loose and just hit me in the right side and sent me across.

 

“The grass was so wet that once I got in the grass, I thought I’d be OK, but the car just kept going and going… so really sad that our day is over as quick as it was. We had a really fast Ford. It’s just a bummer. There’s nothing we can do but just move on and try to win next week.”

 

It took 187 more laps of racing before the colossal wreck that dwarfed the earlier incident thinned the field and set up the fight to the finish among the cars that survived.

 

In a race that featured 41 lead changes among 20 drivers, Christopher Bell ran third, followed by Corey LaJoie, Bubba Wallace and AJ Allmendinger. Chastain, who didn’t have quite enough room when he dived to the inside of Cindric on the penultimate lap, finished 21st, one spot ahead of Cindric.

 

NASCAR Cup Series Race - DAYTONA 500

Daytona International Speedway

Daytona Beach, Florida

Sunday, February 18, 2024

 

                1. (18)  William Byron, Chevrolet, 200.

                2. (7)  Alex Bowman, Chevrolet, 200.

                3. (4)  Christopher Bell, Toyota, 200.

                4. (29)  Corey LaJoie, Chevrolet, 200.

                5. (24)  Bubba Wallace, Toyota, 200.

                6. (28)  AJ Allmendinger(i), Chevrolet, 200.

                7. (10)  John Hunter Nemechek, Toyota, 200.

                8. (11)  Erik Jones, Toyota, 200.

                9. (38)  Noah Gragson, Ford, 200.

                10. (20)  Chase Briscoe, Ford, 200.

                11. (17)  Kyle Larson, Chevrolet, 200.

                12. (34)  Kyle Busch, Chevrolet, 200.

                13. (14)  Zane Smith #, Chevrolet, 200.

                14. (5)  Chase Elliott, Chevrolet, 200.

                15. (27)  Martin Truex Jr., Toyota, 200.

                16. (37)  Daniel Hemric, Chevrolet, 200.

                17. (15)  Ty Gibbs, Toyota, 200.

                18. (19)  Chris Buescher, Ford, 200.

                19. (8)  Denny Hamlin, Toyota, 200.

                20. (40)  David Ragan, Ford, 200.

                21. (21)  Ross Chastain, Chevrolet, 199.

                22. (6)  Austin Cindric, Ford, 199.

                23. (25)  Ryan Preece, Ford, 199.

                24. (36)  Riley Herbst(i), Ford, 199.

                25. (30)  Josh Berry #, Ford, 199.

                26. (22)  Justin Haley, Ford, 199.

                27. (39)  Anthony Alfredo(i), Chevrolet, 198.

                28. (23)  Jimmie Johnson, Toyota, 196.

                29. (3)  Tyler Reddick, Toyota, Accident, 192.

                30. (32)  Ryan Blaney, Ford, Accident, 192.

                31. (35)  Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Chevrolet, Accident, 192.

                32. (1)  Joey Logano, Ford, Accident, 191.

                33. (16)  Brad Keselowski, Ford, Accident, 191.

                34. (13)  Daniel Suarez, Chevrolet, Accident, 191.

                35. (31)  Todd Gilliland, Ford, Accident, 191.

                36. (2)  Michael McDowell, Ford, 176.

                37. (33)  Austin Dillon, Chevrolet, 146.

                38. (26)  Kaz Grala #, Ford, Accident, 5.

                39. (12)  Harrison Burton, Ford, Accident, 5.

                40. (9)  Carson Hocevar #, Chevrolet, Accident, 5.

 

Average Speed of Race Winner:  157.178 mph.

Time of Race:  3 Hrs, 10 Mins, 52 Secs. Margin of Victory:  Under Caution Seconds.

Caution Flags:  5 for 20 laps.

Lead Changes:  41 among 20 drivers.

Lap Leaders:   J. Logano 1;M. McDowell 2;J. Logano 3;M. McDowell 4;J. Logano 5-8;C. Bell 9-30;R. Blaney 31-39;M. McDowell 40-43;J. Berry # 44;C. Elliott 45-54;B. Wallace 55;N. Gragson 56-60;*. Ragan 61-62;K. Busch 63-64;C. Elliott 65-67;B. Keselowski 68;K. Larson 69-71;J. Logano 72-92;T. Gilliland 93-108;K. Busch 109-113;K. Larson 114-117;A. Cindric 118-122;K. Busch 123;A. Cindric 124-128;K. Busch 129;R. Blaney 130-132;B. Keselowski 133-134;A. Cindric 135-136;B. Wallace 137;A. Cindric 138;B. Wallace 139;A. Allmendinger(i) 140-148;K. Busch 149-150;C. LaJoie 151;D. Hamlin 152;K. Busch 153;D. Hamlin 154-162;J. Logano 163-180;R. Chastain 181-185;D. Suarez 186-187;R. Chastain 188-196;W. Byron 197-200.

Leaders Summary (Driver, Times Lead, Laps Led):  Joey Logano 5 times for 45 laps; Christopher Bell 1 time for 22 laps; Todd Gilliland 1 time for 16 laps; Ross Chastain 2 times for 14 laps; Austin Cindric 4 times for 13 laps; Chase Elliott 2 times for 13 laps; Kyle Busch 6 times for 12 laps; Ryan Blaney 2 times for 12 laps; Denny Hamlin 2 times for 10 laps; AJ Allmendinger(i) 1 time for 9 laps; Kyle Larson 2 times for 7 laps; Michael McDowell 3 times for 6 laps; Noah Gragson 1 time for 5 laps; William Byron 1 time for 4 laps; Brad Keselowski 2 times for 3 laps; Bubba Wallace 3 times for 3 laps; * David Ragan 1 time for 2 laps; Daniel Suarez 1 time for 2 laps; Corey LaJoie 1 time for 1 lap; Josh Berry # 1 time for 1 lap.

Stage #1 Top Ten: 9,5,1,48,24,8,11,23,19,99

Stage #2 Top Ten: 12,2,99,8,45,24,23,47,16,17

 

--30--

 


 

DAYTONA 500 postponement creates NASCAR doubleheader on Monday

 

February 18, 2024

 

By Reid Spencer

NASCAR Wire Service

 

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. — The weather simply wouldn’t cooperate with the Great American Race.

 

With Daytona International Speedway awash with rain and no abatement likely, NASCAR was forced to postpone the 66th running of the DAYTONA 500 until Monday at 4 p.m. ET.

 

The 500 now will be run as the second leg of a doubleheader with the postponed NASCAR Xfinity Series race at 11 a.m. ET. The United Rentals 300 was rescheduled from Saturday to Monday after rain began falling in earnest on Saturday afternoon.

 

The broadcast details remain the same. FOX, MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio will carry the DAYTONA 500. The NASCAR Xfinity race will be broadcast on FS1, MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio.

 

Ford drivers Joey Logano and Michael McDowell, both former DAYTONA 500 winners, will lead the field to green on Monday afternoon, having claimed the two front-row spots in Wednesday’s qualifying. The pole position was Logano’s first on a superspeedway.

 

Fans with Saturday grandstand tickets and admission to the Hard Rock Bet Fanzone may attend both the NASCAR Xfinity Series race and the DAYTONA 500.

 

--30--


 

Toyota drivers Tyler Reddick, Christopher Bell win Duels, as Jimmie Johnson races into DAYTONA 500

...

Chris Graythen/Getty Images

February 15, 2024

 

By Reid Spencer

NASCAR Wire Service

 

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. — With a deft move to the inside in the final corner of the first of two Bluegreen Vacations Duel 150-mile qualifying races on Thursday night, 19th-place starter Tyler Reddick took the checkered flag and earned the inside second-row starting position for Sunday’s DAYTONA 500 (2:30 p.m. ET on FOX, MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio).

 

And by the skin of his teeth, in that same Duel, seven-time NASCAR Cup Series champion and recent NASCAR Hall of Fame inductee Jimmie Johnson edged J.J. Yeley for one of the final two starting spots in the Great American Race.

 

In the two races that set the field for the DAYTONA 500—and in which the Toyotas managed a sweep after a lackluster qualifying effort on Wednesday—Christopher Bell led only the final lap of the second Duel, holding off 2022 DAYTONA 500 winner Austin Cindric for the victory.

 

As Bell was securing the outside starting spot on the second row for Sunday’s race, Kaz Grala edged B.J. McLeod for the final spot in the field by. 0.067 seconds. Grala ran 12th to McLeod’s 14th in a battle that wasn’t settled until the last few yards of the final lap.

 

As Reddick was outfoxing three Hendrick Chevrolets at the front of the field on Lap 60 of the first Duel—clearing Chase Elliott and diving to the inside of Kyle Larson’s Camaro—Johnson was in dire peril of missing the 500 in his first competitive race in a Legacy Motor Club Toyota.

 

Johnson trailed Yeley by a car-length through Turn 4, but Yeley moved to the top lane, and Johnson shoved the Chevrolet of Ross Chastain through a gap in the middle lane and used the momentum to overtake Yeley as the cars approached the checkered flag.

 

As a result, Johnson will race on Sunday, and Yeley will not. In the scramble to the finish line, Johnson finished 12th and Yeley 16th.

 

“I’ve never been in a position like this before, and I have such a greater appreciation for everyone before me that’s tried to race their way in,” said Johnson, who overcame a spin with 10 laps left to edge Yeley for the available spot.

 

“It’s very stressful. I’m very thankful we got this Carvana Toyota into this race. I knew the first half of the race was going too easy. I knew there’d be a challenge thrown at us, and we got it just in time. Hats off to J.J. Yeley. He put up a heck of a fight in a very competitive car.”

 

A rueful Yeley second-guessed the closing move that didn’t work.

 

“Side-by-side coming to two (laps) to go, I thought we were in really good shape,” Yeley said. “Coming into Turn 3 (on the final lap), I wasn’t counting my chickens, but I was getting close. Saw there was some contact. Someone in the middle lost a lot of momentum.

 

“I made a split-second decision to go to the outside, carry the momentum, clear him, make the racetrack two-wide where he couldn't pass. He stayed in the middle. The 19 (Martin Truex Jr.) pushed him. The momentum carried him all the way to the checkered flag.

 

“It sucks. Two years ago we were close. Just couldn't get it.”

 

As if knowing his victory was a sidebar to the drama surrounding Johnson, Reddick kept his postrace interview to a minimum.

 

“Great way to start off the weekend,” said Reddick, who led only the final lap in his No. 45 23XI Toyota and beat runner-up Elliott to the finish line by 0.056 seconds. “This thing is a beast. It's a great way to kick off the brand-new (sponsor’s) product. Go out and get some Hard Tea, have a good time tonight. I know we are.”

 

Bell’s victory followed a massive wreck in Turn 1 on Lap 48. Defending series champion Ryan Blaney took a jarring hit after contact from Kyle Busch’s Chevrolet—with a shot to Busch’s Camaro from Brad Keselowski behind him--turned the Chevrolet of Willian Byron into Blaney’s Ford and ignited an 11-car melee.

 

Byron’s car had gotten loose and lost pace, stacking the field up behind him. The wreck eliminated Blaney, Busch, Riley Herbst and Noah Gragson.

 

“I was just getting a push from the No. 6 (Keselowski) there, and the No. 24 (Byron) I saw kind of got messed up, out of line and slowed down,” Busch explained. “I tried to lift and roll out of the gas smoothly. I was still gaining too fast, and then I got all the way out of the gas. Got bumped again from behind and just accordioned into the No. 24 and sent him spinning.

 

“You don’t want to hit a guy in the tri-oval. I’ve been there, I’ve done that. I’ve also rolled out of here in an ambulance before doing that, so I know it’s not the right thing to do, but sometimes you don’t have a choice, and I turned the No. 24 sideways and caused a wreck.”

 

Bell restarted fourth with eight laps left and surged into the lead on the final circuit.

 

“Yeah, it feels good,” Bell said. “These (superspeedway) races, man, I don't know what to think of 'em. Me and Adam Stevens, my crew chief, we have a running joke: I say these races are 100-percent luck. I know that's not true, but it seems like we've been struggling to get to the end of it. I know I've been a common denominator in a lot of the wrecks. Feels good to do everything well today.”

 

Grala, who failed to qualify for last year’s DAYTONA 500 in his only attempt at a Cup race in 2023, found redemption this year in the No. 36 Front Row Motorsports Ford.

 

“Just really proud of everybody at Front Row Motorsports,” Grala said. “They worked so hard the last 24 hours to get the car ready to race today. Some trouble yesterday. Really cool to be able to get it in the show for them. Real big opportunity for me. Excited to be here on Sunday again.”

 

By virtue of his second-place finish in the first Duel, Elliott will line up on the inside of the third row on Sunday, with the rest of the Duel 1 cars behind him in finishing order. Alex Bowman was third on Thursday, followed by Sunoco rookie Carson Hocevar and Erik Jones, who led the Toyota contingent with a 22nd-place run in Wednesday’s time trials.

 

The second Duel set the outside row for the 500, with three-time DAYTONA 500 winner Denny Hamlin securing the outside fourth-row starting spot with a third-place finish. John Hunter Nemechek and Harrison Burton were fourth and fifth in Duel 2.

 

Joey Logano won the DAYTONA 500 pole in Wednesday’s qualifying session, with Michael McDowell claiming the second starting position.

 

NASCAR Cup Series Race - Bluegreen Vacations Duel 1 at DAYTONA

Daytona International Speedway

Daytona Beach, Florida

Thursday, February 15, 2024

 

                1. (19)  Tyler Reddick, Toyota, 60.

                2. (3)  Chase Elliott, Chevrolet, 60.

                3. (9)  Alex Bowman, Chevrolet, 60.

                4. (20)  Carson Hocevar #, Chevrolet, 60.

                5. (12)  Erik Jones, Toyota, 60.

                6. (10)  Daniel Suarez, Chevrolet, 60.

                7. (1)  Joey Logano, Ford, 60.

                8. (15)  Ty Gibbs, Toyota, 60.

                9. (2)  Kyle Larson, Chevrolet, 60.

                10. (8)  Chris Buescher, Ford, 60.

                11. (5)  Ross Chastain, Chevrolet, 60.

                12. (18)  Jimmie Johnson, Toyota, 60.

                13. (7)  Ryan Preece, Ford, 60.

                14. (14)  Martin Truex Jr., Toyota, 60.

                15. (17)  Corey LaJoie, Chevrolet, 60.

                16. (21)  JJ Yeley(i), Chevrolet, 60.

                17. (6)  Todd Gilliland, Ford, 60.

                18. (4)  Austin Dillon, Chevrolet, 60.

                19. (11)  Anthony Alfredo(i), Chevrolet, 59.

                20. (16)  Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Chevrolet, DVP, 51.

                21. (13)  Daniel Hemric, Chevrolet, Accident, 49.

 

Average Speed of Race Winner:  167.963 mph.

Time of Race:  0 Hrs, 53 Mins, 35 Secs. Margin of Victory:  0.056 Seconds.

Caution Flags:  1 for 4 laps.

Lead Changes:  15 among 9 drivers.

Lap Leaders:   K. Larson 1-4;E. Jones 5-9;R. Stenhouse Jr. 10-17;C. LaJoie 18;R. Stenhouse Jr. 19-24;M. Truex Jr. 25;R. Stenhouse Jr. 26;M. Truex Jr. 27-39;K. Larson 40-43;T. Gilliland 44;J. Logano 45;K. Larson 46-54;D. Suarez 55-56;K. Larson 57-59;T. Reddick 60.

Leaders Summary (Driver, Times Lead, Laps Led):  Kyle Larson 4 times for 20 laps; Ricky Stenhouse Jr. 3 times for 15 laps; Martin Truex Jr. 2 times for 14 laps; Erik Jones 1 time for 5 laps; Daniel Suarez 1 time for 2 laps; Corey LaJoie 1 time for 1 lap; Tyler Reddick 1 time for 1 lap; Joey Logano 1 time for 1 lap; Todd Gilliland 1 time for 1 lap.

 

NASCAR Cup Series Race - Bluegreen Vacations Duel 2 at DAYTONA

Daytona International Speedway

Daytona Beach, Florida

Thursday, February 15, 2024

 

                1. (16)  Christopher Bell, Toyota, 60.

                2. (2)  Austin Cindric, Ford, 60.

                3. (17)  Denny Hamlin, Toyota, 60.

                4. (19)  John Hunter Nemechek, Toyota, 60.

                5. (5)  Harrison Burton, Ford, 60.

                6. (18)  Zane Smith #, Chevrolet, 60.

                7. (12)  Brad Keselowski, Ford, 60.

                8. (3)  William Byron, Chevrolet, 60.

                9. (7)  Chase Briscoe, Ford, 60.

                10. (15)  Justin Haley, Ford, 60.

                11. (14)  Bubba Wallace, Toyota, 60.

                12. (21)  Kaz Grala #, Ford, 60.

                13. (10)  AJ Allmendinger(i), Chevrolet, 60.

                14. (20)  BJ McLeod(i), Chevrolet, 60.

                15. (13)  David Ragan, Ford, 60.

                16. (1)  Michael McDowell, Ford, 60.

                17. (11)  Josh Berry #, Ford, Fuel Pump, 48.

                18. (9)  Ryan Blaney, Ford, Accident, 47.

                19. (4)  Kyle Busch, Chevrolet, Accident, 47.

                20. (6)  Riley Herbst(i), Ford, Accident, 47.

                21. (8)  Noah Gragson, Ford, Accident, 47.

 

Average Speed of Race Winner:  161.146 mph.

Time of Race:  0 Hrs, 55 Mins, 51 Secs. Margin of Victory:  0.113 Seconds.

Caution Flags:  1 for 4 laps.

Lead Changes:  13 among 9 drivers.

Lap Leaders:   M. McDowell 1-6;W. Byron 7-10;R. Herbst(i) 11;W. Byron 12;R. Herbst(i) 13-14;A. Allmendinger(i) 15-16;R. Herbst(i) 17-20;B. Wallace 21-41;M. McDowell 42;H. Burton 43;R. Blaney 44;M. McDowell 45-54;D. Hamlin 55-59;C. Bell 60.

Leaders Summary (Driver, Times Lead, Laps Led):  Bubba Wallace 1 time for 21 laps; Michael McDowell 3 times for 17 laps; Riley Herbst(i) 3 times for 7 laps; William Byron 2 times for 5 laps; Denny Hamlin 1 time for 5 laps; AJ Allmendinger(i) 1 time for 2 laps; Christopher Bell 1 time for 1 lap; Harrison Burton 1 time for 1 lap; Ryan Blaney 1 time for 1 lap.

 

--30--

 


Joey Logano breaks Chevrolet streak with pole-winning run for DAYTONA 500

 James Gilbert/Getty Images

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla.— The new Ford Dark Horse lived up to its nomenclature in Wednesday night’s NASCAR Cup Series qualifying session for Sunday’s DAYTONA 500 (2:30 p.m. ET on FOX, MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio).

 

Running the fastest lap in both rounds of the time trials, Team Penske’s Joey Logano put his car on the pole for the Great American Race, as he and Front Row Motorsports’ Michael McDowell locked their Mustangs—featuring a new body style dubbed the Dark Horse—into the front row for the 500.

 

The Oxford dictionary defines “dark horse” as “a candidate or competitor about whom little is known but who unexpectedly wins or succeeds.”

 

Logano secured his first Busch Light Pole Award at Daytona with a final-round lap in 49.465 seconds (181.947 mph), beating McDowell (181.686 mph) by 0.261 seconds. It is also the first DAYTONA 500 pole for Team Penske.

 

“This is all about the team,” said Logano, who scored the 29th pole of his career. “I’d like to take credit, but I can’t today. The guys have done such an amazing job working on these cars. Speedway qualifying is 100 percent the car.

 

“There’s only so much a driver can do, so I’m really proud of them. It’s a big win for our team… Finally, someone else wins the pole—that part feels good. I’ve never even been close to a superspeedway pole before, so my first pole on a speedway couldn’t be at a cooler event than the DAYTONA 500.”

 

But was his pole-winning run unexpected? Consider that Chevrolets had won the previous 11 DAYTONA 500 poles, that cars sporting Hendrick Motorsports power had won the previous nine and that Hendrick drivers had claimed the top starting spot in eight of the last nine years.

 

So, yes, the Fords found success in a car that was unknown and untried on a superspeedway.

 

Hendrick drivers Kyle Larson (181.635 mph), Chase Elliott (181.178 mph) and William Byron (181.174 mph) qualified third, fifth and sixth, respectively, with Ford driver and 2022 DAYTONA 500 winner Austin Cindric posting the fourth fastest final-round lap at 181.207 mph.

 

Richard Childress Racing teammates Austin Dillon and Kyle Busch were seventh and eighth fastest, followed by Ross Chastain and Harrison Burton.

 

But the only two drivers who know where they will start on Sunday are Logano and McDowell, both former DAYTONA 500 winners. The rest of the field will be set in Thursday night’s Bluegreen Vacations Duel 150-mile qualifying races, with the odd-numbered qualifiers racing in Duel 1 and the even-numbered qualifiers competing in Duel 2.

 

Among those trying to race into the 500 is seven-time NASCAR Cup Series champion Jimmie Johnson, who failed to time into Sunday’s race in his No. 84 Legacy Motor Club Toyota.

 

In fact, the Toyotas—also with a new body style this season—showed a jarring lack speed in single-car runs, with Erik Jones leading the manufacturer’s effort with a 22nd-place run. Johnson was 35th fastest.

 

In the race among six unchartered cars for four available spots, Kaz Grala was unable to make a qualifying run because of a mechanical failure on his No. 36 Ford, locking Anthony Alfredo (20th fastest overall) into Sunday’s race with a lap at 179.648 mph, fastest among the open cars.

 

“We’re in, and to not have to race in tomorrow and just remove ourselves for some of the sketchy circumstances and focus on Sunday is just an amazing, amazing feeling.”

 

David Ragan claimed the second guaranteed starting spot on speed among the unchartered cars when Johnson failed to better Ragan’s lap at 179.283 mph.

 

“I didn’t have a chance to beat Jimmie Johnson too often in my career when he and I were running week-in and week-out,” said Ragan, who hasn’t raced a Cup car since the regular-season finale of 2022 at Daytona. “So, I’ll take the small victories when I can. Yeah, that just shows you how close the competition is.”

 

Driving the No. 84 Toyota, third fastest of the open cars at 178.845 mph, Johnson must race his way into the DAYTONA 500 field in the first of the two Duels.

 

“I had higher expectations for sure, but we are lumped right there with the other Toyotas,” Johnson said. “The 43 (Erik Jones) car got a little more out of it, so I wish we had a bit more out of ours, but it is what it is. We will go out and race hard tomorrow night and try to make the 500.

 

“I’ve never been in this position, so I don’t know. I came down here mentally prepared to race my way in if that was required. I’m well studied. I spent a lot of time working on the environment of the Duels and the way the race will unfold. Just get out there and race hard and see how it unfolds.”

 

B.J. McLeod, J.J. Yeley and Grala will be competing with Johnson for the two remaining spots in the race.

 


 

Denny Hamlin wins rescheduled Busch Light Clash from pole position

 

Meg Oliphant/Getty Images

February 3, 2024 

 

By Reid Spencer  

NASCAR Wire Service

 

LOS ANGELES—The final restart was the difference for Denny Hamlin.

 

A day earlier than planned—the result of a devastating weather forecast for the Los Angeles area—Hamlin got the jump he needed on an overtime restart and won Saturday night’s third edition of the Busch Light Clash at the Coliseum.

 

Smoking his tires in every corner after grabbing the lead on a restart on Lap 141 of a scheduled 150, Hamlin was a few yards away from the finish line when his Joe Gibbs Racing teammate, Ty Gibbs, spun off the bumper of Kyle Larson’s Chevrolet to bring out the seventh caution and force a two-lap overtime.

 

In a two-lap shootout for the win, Hamlin stayed clear of runner-up Kyle Busch and crossed the stripe with a 0.610-second advantage, earning his fourth victory in the season-opening exhibition race—most among active drivers—with the first three coming at Daytona International Speedway.

 

Given the prediction of heavy rain and possible flooding from Sunday through Tuesday, NASCAR made the unprecedented and provident call to move the start of the race from 8 p.m. ET on Sunday to the same time on Saturday.

 

The decision allowed the NASCAR Cup Series competitors to complete the event without extreme disruption to the schedule.

 

“I got a really good run off Turn 2 and just got position and was able to hang on from there,” Hamlin said of his run to the lead after the Lap 141 restart. “It’s so chaotic on the restarts, with everyone bumping and banging, but it’s great to win here in L.A.

 

“It’s just a great momentum boost. It doesn’t do much more than that, but I clean off all the trophies every January 1 in the entryway to the house, and now we get to add one pretty quick, so I’m really happy about that.”

 

Busch restarted behind Hamlin in the overtime, but Hamlin pulled away to a lead of nearly two car-lengths, and Busch couldn’t get to his bumper after that.

 

“I felt like the first half (of the race), I had a better car, better than the 11 (Hamlin), but some of the adjustments we made weren’t as good, some of the adjustments they made were better,” said Busch, who has finished second, third and second in the three events at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum.

 

“All in all, just glad to have a good night. Glad to come out of here in one piece with all the bumping and banging and everything else that happens.”

 

With a remarkable run from the rear of the field, 2023 Cup Series champion Ryan Blaney finished third after using a provisional just to make the field. Blaney started 23rd and made steady progress throughout the race.

 

Joey Logano came home fourth, with Kyle Larson claiming the fifth position. Alex Bowman, Chase Briscoe, Brad Keselowski, Martin Truex Jr. and William Byron completed the top 10.

 

Hamlin led 58 laps, second only to Gibbs, who was out front for 84 circuits and led by nearly three seconds before catching the back of the field in a green-flag run from Lap 78 to Lap 140. The yellow that ended the run—the result of Michael McDowell’s spin in Turn 3—bunched the field and gave Hamlin a shot at the victory.

 

Clearly, Hamlin took full advantage.

 

--30—

 

NASCAR Cup Series Race - Busch Light Clash at The Coliseum

Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum

Los Angeles, California

Sunday, February 4, 2024

 

                1. (1)  Denny Hamlin, Toyota, 151.

                2. (5)  Kyle Busch, Chevrolet, 151.

                3. (23)  Ryan Blaney, Ford, 151.

                4. (2)  Joey Logano, Ford, 151.

                5. (8)  Kyle Larson, Chevrolet, 151.

                6. (4)  Alex Bowman, Chevrolet, 151.

                7. (22)  Chase Briscoe, Ford, 151.

                8. (13)  Brad Keselowski, Ford, 151.

                9. (19)  Martin Truex Jr., Toyota, 151.

                10. (6)  William Byron, Chevrolet, 151.

                11. (12)  Ryan Preece, Ford, 151.

                12. (9)  Bubba Wallace, Toyota, 150.

                13. (21)  John Hunter Nemechek, Toyota, 150.

                14. (11)  Tyler Reddick, Toyota, 150.

                15. (7)  Ross Chastain, Chevrolet, 150.

                16. (20)  Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Chevrolet, 150.

                17. (18)  Corey LaJoie, Chevrolet, 150.

                18. (3)  Ty Gibbs, Toyota, 150.

                19. (15)  Michael McDowell, Ford, 149.

                20. (17)  Noah Gragson, Ford, 147.

                21. (10)  Justin Haley, Ford, Engine, 135.

                22. (14)  Chase Elliott, Chevrolet, Steering, 77.

                23. (16)  Todd Gilliland, Ford, Brakes, 68.

 

Average Speed of Race Winner:  32.937 mph.

Time of Race:  1 Hrs, 8 Mins, 46 Secs. Margin of Victory:  .610 Seconds.

Caution Flags:  7 for 0 laps.

Lead Changes:  6 among 4 drivers.

Lap Leaders:   J. Logano 1-2;D. Hamlin 3-49;T. Gibbs 50-70;B. Keselowski 71;J. Logano 72-77;T. Gibbs 78-140;D. Hamlin 141-151.

Leaders Summary (Driver, Times Lead, Laps Led):  Ty Gibbs 2 times for 84 laps; Denny Hamlin 2 times for 58 laps; Joey Logano 2 times for 8 laps; Brad Keselowski 1 time for 1 lap.

 

 


 

Saturday Daytona Notebook

 

Notebook Items:

                 Ryan Blaney: Pushing on superspeedways is a reality, but be sensible about it

                 Brad Keselowski: Daytona is not the most fertile scouting ground

                 Short Strokes and Notable Quotes

 

February 17, 2024

 

By Reid Spencer

NASCAR Wire Service

 

Ryan Blaney: Pushing on superspeedways is a reality, but be sensible about it

 

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. — After slamming into the outside wall approaching Turn 1 at Daytona International Speedway in Thursday night’s second Bluegreen Vacations Duel 150-mile qualifying race, Ryan Blaney was irate.

 

“Three times in a row here I’ve been right-reared by someone else’s awful push, so I’m getting pretty sick of it,” Blaney said after the wreck. “People just have to be smart...

 

“It’s a Duel race. Why are you shoving in the tri-oval? I don’t get it, so just a shame we have to be the one with a tore-up race car when it’s someone else’s issue.”

 

The reigning NASCAR Cup Series champion acknowledged on Saturday morning that pushing has become a necessary part of superspeedway racing. He just wishes that some of his fellow competitors would be more sensible about it.

 

“Pushing is a huge part of the speedways now, right?” Blaney said on Saturday morning. “You see it more than ever. You see it more now than… I look back and the only time you pushed more was the tandem racing, but that was like solid connection being on somebody. Now, with the bumpers kind of being round, you see drivers get out of control more.

 

“I think you have to push hard, and I fully understand that. I push people hard, but I try to take care of people. As the pusher, you are responsible for the guy in front of you. You have just as much a responsibility to make sure that you don’t shove the guy in front of you through somebody, and you have to understand where you have to let them go.

 

“If you are the third car in line, you have to let the second-place car in line go. You can’t just shove ‘em through the guy leading the top lane, ‘cause then it gets ‘bumper cars,’ and that’s when people get turned.”

 

Brad Keselowski: Daytona is not the most fertile scouting ground

 

Dale Earnhardt Jr. first noticed Brad Keselowski when the Roush Fenway Keselowski Racing co-owner/driver outperformed the capabilities of his back marker car at Atlanta Motor Speedway in 2007.

 

When Earnhardt decided to make a driver change on his JR Motorsports team later that season, he tapped Keselowski to replace Shane Huffman behind the wheel of the No. 88 NASCAR Xfinity Series Chevrolet.

 

Like Earnhardt, Keselowski has an eye for promising driving talent, but he wouldn’t pick Daytona as the track to look for it. The random, unpredictable nature of the racing on superspeedways might skew the results, particularly if you’re trying to evaluate a race winner.

 

“If I was like, ‘Let’s go watch the ARCA, Truck, Xfinity races, and we’re going to pick the next NASCAR Cup Series phenomenon,’ I’m not like, ‘Well, let’s look who won Daytona last night. That’s the guy I’m going to pick,’” Keselowski said. “The reality is that’s not what you’re going to do.

 

“You’re going to look for the guy that made good moves and was calm in situations of duress. You’re going to look for the guy that didn’t speed down pit road or make a dumb mistake.

 

“That stuff carries over, the execution stuff, but probably not so much the pure race winner, where I think you look at most other races… fast forward a couple weeks to Vegas or Phoenix, and you’re going to look at the guy who won the race like that’s probably a guy I would need to scout a little more.”

 

Short Strokes and Notable Quotes

 

Here are some of the best quotes and one-liners gleaned from copious interviews prior to the DAYTONA 500:

 

                 “When it comes to the racing gods, I guess I’m an atheist, because I don’t believe in them.” — 2021 DAYTONA 500 winner Michael McDowell, who is well known for the faith that guides him.

 

                 “I’m glad it’s not Daytona. I think Martinsville is more my speed.” — Team owner Rick Hendrick on learning he’ll be the honorary pace car driver at Martinsville in April in celebration of the 40th anniversary of Hendrick Motorsports.

 

                 “Yeah, I wanted to break that streak.” — Kyle Larson, after being told there was a silver lining in his third-place qualifying effort on Wednesday, namely that no driver had won the DAYTONA 500 from the pole since Dale Jarrett in 2000.

 

                 “There is no favorite in this race.” — Denny Hamlin, on being asked to handicap the DAYTONA 500.

 

                 “I guess finishing second. Not a great memory, but to be part of the closest finish in history here is cool. Just wish we were on the other side of it.” — Asked to name his best DAYTONA 500 memory, Martin Truex Jr. cited the 2016 race, when he finished second to Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Denny Hamlin by 0.010 seconds.

 

                 “I think my name is on the bottom right. It says ‘Kurt.’ It doesn’t say ‘Kyle.’… I’ve got the Harley J. Earl at home. He does not.” — Kurt Busch on the friendly sibling rivalry with brother Kyle Busch, pointing to the large Harley J. Earl trophy during a press conference for Vet Tix, a charity Kurt supports.

 

--30--


Toyota, Ford both have reason to celebrate the first results of new NASCAR Cup body styles

 

February 16, 2024

 

By Reid Spencer

NASCAR Wire Service

 

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. — Clearly, the powers that be at Toyota had cause for deep concern after Wednesday night’s qualifying session at Daytona International Speedway.

 

In fact, Paul Doleshal, group manager of motorsports, Toyota North America, used the word “disturbed” to describe the reaction to the performance of the Toyota contingent in DAYTONA 500 time trials.

 

Both the Toyota Camry and Ford Mustang are sporting new body styles in the Cup Series this year.

 

In time trials, no Camry driver cracked the top 20. Erik Jones, who posted the fastest lap for the OEM, was 22nd on the speed chart. His Legacy Motor Club owner/teammate, seven-time NASCAR Cup Series champion Jimmie Johnson, qualified 35th and failed to make the race on speed.

 

On Thursday night, the picture brightened considerably for the Toyota camp. Camry drivers Tyler Reddick and Christopher Bell swept the two Bluegreen Vacations Duel 150-mile qualifying races, and Johnson earned a spot in the Great American Race with a last-ditch effort approaching the finish line in the first Duel.

 

“I think we were a little bit disturbed — probably a strong word — but just surprised about the lack of qualifying speed,” said Doleshal during a Friday manufacturers question-and-answer session with reporters at Daytona. “But then felt that the car would race well, and that proved out, so we’re encouraged with that.

 

“I think it’s just where the car wants to sit and working on some things from a center perspective which the teams and TRD (Toyota Racing Development) are actively pursuing and already have been.”

 

Ford teams had a lot to celebrate on Wednesday night. Team Penske’s Joey Logano and Front Row Motorsports’ Michael McDowell put their new “Dark Horse” Mustangs on the front row for the DAYTONA 500 with the two fastest laps in the final round of qualifying.

 

That broke a streak of 11 straight DAYTONA 500 pole positions for Chevrolet.

 

“We normally don’t place a lot of emphasis on qualifying here, because what matters at the end of the day is how the cars race,” said Mark Rushbrook, global director, Ford Performance Motorsports. “But it still was nice to get that front row, especially for Roger Penske. The pole here was on the list of accomplishments he wanted to add to. And really happy to see Front Row up there next to Penske.

 

“We were really curious to see how things were going to play out in the Duels, because that’s our first opportunity with the new car in traffic. We didn’t have the numbers in the first race, with only four or five Mustangs in there, but we certainly had the numbers in the second race, and we got a lot of feedback and comments from the drivers on the things that can be worked on with the setup to optimize that.

 

“At this point, we’re still very happy with the new car and looking forward to see how things play out through the weekend.”

 

Jim Campbell, vice president, performance and motorsports for General Motors, said the company had nothing to announce about a possible new model to race in NASCAR competition.

 

Chevrolet currently races the Camaro, but the last internal combustion engine (ICE) version of the car reportedly rolled off the assembly line in December.

 

“We are not making any announcements today, but we did say that Camaro is ending production,” Campbell said. “We are selling Camaros all through this year, and actually, some may remain in next year as well. 

 

“And as Scott Bell, who heads up our Chevrolet dealers, said, this is not the end of the Camaro story. But we have nothing to announce today.”

 

Chevrolet, which has 99 victories at Daytona across all three NASCAR national series, won 18 of 36 NASCAR Cup points races last year and captured the manufacturers’ championship. But Chevy had to share the spoils with Ford, which claimed the drivers’ title with Ryan Blaney.

 

“The manufacturers’ and drivers’ championships are goals that we put forth every season and in every series,” Campbell said. “We didn’t get all the way there, and it motivates us more at the end of that (Championship 4) race in Phoenix and when you go to the banquet.

 

“You see who is getting celebrated, and you get motivated. That is part of the excitement of racing is to come back the next season and go for it. And that is what we are doing.”


DAYTONA 500 Media Day Notebook

 

Notebook Items:

  • Denny Hamlin contemplates a significant milestone—a fourth DAYTONA 500 win
  • Kyle Busch feels he may be destined to fill the last hole in his resume
  • With outstanding Daytona record, Bubba Wallace needs just slight improvement to win
  • New to Stewart-Haas Racing, Noah Gragson is grateful for a second chance

 

February 14, 2024

 

By Reid Spencer

NASCAR Wire Service

 

Denny Hamlin contemplates a significant milestone—a fourth DAYTONA 500 win

 

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla.—As Denny Hamlin sat at the dais in the Daytona International Speedway media center, a photo recalling the history he hopes to achieve hung on the wall to his immediate left.

 

It was a Victory Lane shot of NASCAR Hall of Famer Cale Yarborough, holding the Harley J. Earl Award the earned by winning the 1977 DAYTONA 500.

 

Yarborough, who died in December at age 84, won the Great American Race four times, second only to the seven victories achieved by seven-time NASCAR Cup Series champion Richard Petty.

 

Hamlin, one of four drivers to have won back-to-back DAYTONA 500s—the others being Yarborough, Petty and Sterling Marlin—will make his fourth attempt to match Yarborough’s win total in Sunday’s race (2:30 p.m. ET on FOX, MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio).

 

The most significant hole in Hamlin’s all-but-certain Hall-of-Fame resume is the lack of a series championship, but the driver of the No. 11 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota would be loath to pick between a fourth DAYTONA 500 and a title.

 

“By the outside views, this is the pinnacle of our sport,” Hamlin said on Wednesday during DAYTONA 500 media day. “The championship is decided in one race, just like this is decided in one race. I’m not really sure. It just depends on whose perspective it might be. But certainly, with the championship getting a smaller and smaller sample size, I view them very similarly.”

 

To win a fourth 500, Hamlin believes he’ll have to approach the race in a more self-centered way, rather than relying on the help of teammates or fellow Toyota drivers.

 

“I think it’s in my best interest in getting back to basics, and that's doing what I feel is best to win the race for myself,” Hamlin explained. “While having teammates is great, and they are certainly assets to use in certain situations to win races, I think sometimes it's those who are the most selfish, that make moves for themselves, are those who win the race.

 

“Ricky (Stenhouse Jr.) had no teammates last year. He won the race. We've certainly had our fair share of moments when we’ve had to pick between a move with a teammate made versus a move someone else made, and I deemed the other person made the right move…

 

“Still, you want to help your teammates as much as you can, as you’ll need those allies throughout the race and certainly during it. But I feel I need to personally go back to the style I had a few years ago, and we’ll see what the results say.”

 

Kyle Busch feels he may be destined to fill the last hole in his resume

 

Before his breakthrough victory in the 1998 DAYTONA, the late Dale Earnhardt had won everything else there was to win at Daytona International Speedway.

 

Finally, in his 20th attempt, Earnhardt broke the jinx that had haunted him throughout his career and won the Great American Race.

 

Likewise, Kyle Busch has been to Victory Lane at Daytona on numerous occasions—just not in the race he covets most. He has won the Clash twice, triumphed three times in the Duels and claimed one trophy in the summer race at the World Center of Racing.

 

Busch will make his 19th DAYTONA 500 start on Sunday (2:30 p.m. ET on FOX, MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio). It would have been his 20th, but for a 2015 injury—suffered in the NASCAR Xfinity Series race a day before the 500--that sidelined him for the first 11 events of the season.

 

So, if not precisely comparable, Busch is in a position like the one Earnhardt faced in 1998.

 

“Trust me, I'm well aware,” Busch said. “Thank you very much. I hope we can talk about some of the same storylines on Sunday. That would be nice.”

 

Last year’s running of the 500 still sticks in Busch’s craw. He led the race under caution at Lap 200 (500 miles) but was collected in a wreck during overtime. Taking the checkered flag under green has continued to elude him.

 

“I have not done that yet, although I won the Daytona 500 last year under the yellow flag, not under the checkered flag,” Busch quipped. “Those damn technicalities keep coming up and getting me.”

 

A Las Vegas native, Busch has sponsorship support from the BetMGM website. Asked whether he was a good bet for Sunday’s race, Busch replied in the affirmative.

 

“I would,” he said. “Well, from what I've heard of a lot of other people around our industry this past week, there's a lot of people that have good feelings on us this week. Maybe that's a good omen.”

 

With outstanding Daytona record, Bubba Wallace needs just slight improvement to win

 

It’s hard to argue with Bubba Wallace’s past performance at Daytona International Speedway.

 

In 13 starts at the 2.5-mile track, Wallace has posted an admirable average finish of 12.9 and has completed 2,303 of a possible 2,346 laps (98.2 percent). He has led 28 laps and has been in the front of the field more often than not.

 

In his best two DAYTONA 500 races, Wallace finished second to Austin Dillon by 0.260 seconds in 2018 and second to Austin Cindric by 0.036 seconds in 2022. 

 

Despite the enviable statistics, Wallace isn’t satisfied with his DAYTONA 500 results.

 

“A little inconsistent, but we always find our way to the front and showing good pace on speedways,” he said on Wednesday. “We're still a few moves away from getting that first Daytona 500 win, but I feel the most prepared I’ve ever been, but you never know.

 

“You could be out leading and get turned. That’s what happened to me last year. You never know when another person in the field is going to make the wrong move, so you have to be aware.” 

 

In last year’s race, for example, Wallace was in good position in the closing laps before disaster struck.

 

“I came across the line fifth or sixth taking the white flag,” he said. “(Kyle) Larson was stuck in the middle, and I could’ve went down to him, but the 10 (Aric Almirola) turned the 67 (Travis Pastrana) right into Larson, which turned me.

 

“Should’ve, could’ve, would’ve. It’s so hard until it’s too late.”

 

New to Stewart-Haas Racing, Noah Gragson is grateful for a second chance

 

After steady progress toward the upper echelons of stock car racing, Noah Gragson made a critical mistake that altered the trajectory of his career.

 

Armed now with a new perspective, Gragson hopes to restart his truncated stint in the NASCAR Cup Series with a new team, Stewart-Haas Racing.

 

Gragson was suspended last August for “liking” a racially insensitive social media post relating to the death of George Floyd. He resigned as driver of the No. 42 Legacy Motor Club Chevrolet 21 races into the NASCAR Cup Series season.

 

Gragson earned reinstatement in September and subsequently landed a ride in the No. 10 Stewart-Haas Ford, replacing Aric Almirola. He’s grateful for the opportunity to prove himself.

 

“Yeah, it’s definitely a reboot,” said Gragson, who won eight NASCAR Xfinity Series races with JR Motorsports in 2022 and finished second in the final standings before moving up to the Cup Series with Legacy. “It’s incredible to get an opportunity like this.

 

“At the same time, there’s going to be challenges along the way. There’s going to be adversity. There’s going to be good runs and bad runs, but it’s how you react to it and how you keep on moving forward each and every race. It’s easy when you’re winning, and I’ve kind of learned that over the past couple of years.

 

“When we were in the Xfinity Series and literally could do no wrong, it might have been the best thing for me, but the worst thing of winning all those races because, I kind of lost my grounding in the sense of ‘Hey, I’ve got to keep on working at this.’  It’s not always going to come as easy as it did in my final year in Xfinity.”

 

The reality of that statement hit home last year even before the suspension. Gragson failed to score a top 10 and suffered DNFs in six of the 21 races.

 

“It was somewhat of a rude awakening in 2023,” he acknowledged. “Obviously, we didn’t unload with race-winning speed, ever, so that was a big challenge. (I’ve) done a lot of self-reflecting and soul searching over the past handful of months and trying to become the best leader possible.

 

“I think that’s what in 20 years, when I look back, I feel like, man, if I was the best leader for my team and the best piece of the puzzle for my team and did the best job, I’ll be satisfied with myself.”


With record motorsports purse this year, the DAYTONA 500 is clearly the race to win

 

February 14, 2024

 

By Reid Spencer

NASCAR Wire Service

 

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. - If Michael McDowell should win a second DAYTONA 500 this year, he won’t know how much he’ll get from the record purse of $28,035,991 until the check arrives.

 

Suffice it to say that the winner’s share of the largest purse in motorsports history is enough to make a huge difference to McDowell and his Front Row Motorsports team.

 

McDowell, however, doesn’t plan to crunch the numbers before the race – he just knows it’s a lot.

 

“Obviously, it’s significant,” said McDowell, who scored his first NASCAR Cup Series victory in the 2021 edition of the Great American Race. “It’s the biggest race of the year for us and for the team from a payout standpoint. It does matter, especially for a team like us at Front Row. Winning the race and making the Playoffs, financially what that does for you, it sets up the next few years—not just that year.

 

“If you’re going to win a race, this is the one you want to win, as far as the financial part of it goes.”

 

With the advent of the charter system in the Cup Series, individual payouts are no longer published. In the last DAYTONA 500 where prize money was revealed, Joey Logano won $1,586,503 for his victory in 2015.

 

It would make sense to extrapolate a higher first-place figure from a record purse in excess of $28 million. That sort of sum can be transformational for a driver or team. 

 

“On the money side, it takes a lot of money to make this sport go around, and this race team,” said 2023 DAYTONA 500 winner Ricky Stenhouse Jr., who drives the No. 47 Chevrolet for JTG-Daugherty Racing. 

 

“My wife and I are redoing our bathroom and bedroom and now a nursery, and that would go a long way. So, it’s kind of already spent—I hope we win.”

 

 


 

Weekend Preview: Daytona International Speedway

 

February 13, 2024

 

By Holly Cain

NASCAR Wire Service

 

No other season-opener like the DAYTONA 500

 

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. - There is no season-opener in sports like NASCAR’s DAYTONA 500. More than 200,000 people will fill the beloved Daytona International Speedway this Sunday to watch drivers and teams compete for a life-changing trophy. After months of offseason preparation, it’s time to drop the flag on the 2024 season. It’s time for the 66th running of the DAYTONA 500 (Feb. 18 at 2:30 p.m. ET on FOX, MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio).

 

Interestingly, for all its esteemed and lengthy history, there is only one fulltime driver with multiple DAYTONA 500 victories. Joe Gibbs Racing’s Denny Hamlin has three DAYTONA 500 trophies (2016, 2019 and 2020). Seven-time NASCAR Champion and recently enshrined NASCAR Hall of Famer, Jimmie Johnson will be attempting to make the race as a part-time driver this season and he has two DAYTONA 500 trophies (2006, 2013).

 

There are seven former winners in the field, and it's been a steady stream of new faces hoisting that Harley J. Earl trophy recently. Team Penske's Austin Cindric won in his rookie debut in 2021. Longtime competitor and fan favorite Michael McDowell scored his first career series win the next year for Front Row Motorsports. And JTG Daugherty Racing's Ricky Stenhouse Jr. added to his superspeedway record of excellence with his first DAYTONA 500 win last February.

 

There are plenty of longtime – even former champion – drivers that want nothing more than to join that list.

 

What a title defense message it would be for the series reigning champion, Ryan Blaney, if he could score a DAYTONA 500 win on Sunday. And he’s proven himself a legitimate contender for years. This weekend marks his 10th 500 start and he’s had five top-10 finishes - highlighted by heartbreaking runner-up showings in both 2017 and 2020. He dominated the race in 2018 leading 118 laps but finished seventh. He won the summer race at Daytona in 2020.

 

Another pair of former series champions – Brad Keselowski and Kyle Busch – are also competing for their first DAYTONA 500 victory despite decades of excellence in the sport.

 

Keselowski, owner-driver of the No. 6 Roush-Fenway-Keselowski Racing Ford, has 14 DAYTONA 500 starts with a best showing of third place in 2014.  He’s won the summer 400-miler (2016) and was runner-up in that race last year. Considering the 2012 series champ’s record at Talladega – six wins – it’s easy to consider the superspeedway expert a perpetual favorite in the DAYTONA 500 as well.

 

Busch, a two-time series champion and driver of the No. 8 Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet, has plenty of reason to feel optimistic about securing his first DAYTONA 500 trophy. This will be his 19th start in the grand race. He finished runner-up in 2019 and third place in 2016. Busch won the 2008 summer race and has another pair of second place finishes in it. And he has wins at Daytona in the NASCAR Xfinity Series (2007) and NASCAR CRAFTSMAN Truck Series (2014).

 

Last year Busch scored a 19th-place finish in the DAYTONA 500 after being collected in a multi-car accident - his first year driving for RCR which claims DAYTONA 500 wins with the late legend Dale Earnhardt (1998), Kevin Harvick (2007) and Austin Dillon (2018).

 

Of course, Hamlin must be considered a major factor in this event. Although he hasn’t had a top-10 since his fifth-place effort in 2021, he brings a victory in the Feb. 3 Busch Light Clash at the Coliseum with him to Florida - the only winner in the series to date. A fourth DAYTONA 500 win would tie him the late NASCAR Hall of Famer Cale Yarborough and be second only to seven-time DAYTONA 500 champion Richard Petty.

 

Hendrick Motorsports drivers Kyle Larson, William Byron and Chase Elliott also have to be considered odds-on contenders on Sunday. Larson, the 2021 series champion, has had challenging times in the race with a best finish of seventh in 2016 and 2019 but claims he is more optimistic on the big tracks than ever before.

 

Byron, 26, has a victory (2020) and runner-up finish (2019) in the summer 400-mile race at Daytona. His best finish in the DAYTONA 500 is 21st in 2019.

 

Elliott, driver of the No. 9 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet, won the DAYTONA 500 pole position in his first start in 2016 and has led laps in five of his eight 500 starts. His best finish in the race is runner-up in 2021.

 

Qualifying to set the front row of the DAYTONA 500 grid is Wednesday and will be televised at 8 p.m. ET on FS1. The remainder of the 36 “locked in positions” for the series charter teams will be set in Thursday’s always-exciting BlueGreen Vacations Duel 150-mile races  (7 p.m. ET, FS1).

 

Six of the “open” teams will be racing for the final four positions and that group this year includes former winner Johnson and Daytona summer race winner David Ragan in a third RFK car.

 

There is a DAYTONA 500 practice on Friday at 5:30 p.m. ET (FS1) and final practice Saturday morning at 10:30 a.m. ET (FS1). Cars will grid Sunday for the 2:30 p.m. ET (FOX) DAYTONA 500.

 

Daytona sets the stage for the beginning the 2024 NASCAR Xfinity Series season

 

Always one of the most exciting and compelling races of the season, the NASCAR Xfinity Series kicks off the year with Saturday afternoon’s United Rentals 300 (5 p.m. ET on FS1, MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio) at Daytona International Speedway.

 

It’s a serious season sendoff for the fulltime championship contenders, especially so, perhaps for Richard Childress Racing’s Austin Hill, the two-time defending race winner. And as much as Hill would love a Daytona three-peat, his eyes are also on the big prize, the 2024 championship.

 

Hill will again be competing against reigning series champion, Stewart-Haas Racing’s Cole Custer for that elite prize. In fact, three of the four championship finalists – Custer, Justin Allgaier and Sammy Smith – will be back to vie for the 2024 trophy as will JR Motorsports’ Sam Mayer, who enjoyed a breakout season last year.

 

Smith will team with Allgaier and Mayer at the perennial championship JR Motorsports organization this season. It’s one of several high-profile moves in the series.

 

Josh Williams, who will steer the No. 11 Kaulig Racing Chevrolet teaming fulltime with another perennial championship contender, A.J. Allmendinger, who after competing – and winning – in the NASCAR Cup Series will run a full Xfinity Series season in the No. 16 Kaulig Racing Chevrolet. Williams and Allmendinger will team with New Zealand superstar Shane van Gisbergen. The popular Kiwi will compete in his first fulltime NASCAR season driving the No. 97 Chevrolet for Kaulig and also making a handful of starts in the NASCAR Cup Series with Trackhouse Racing, a combo that stunned the competition and fans by winning his first race in his first try - at Chicago.

 

Former NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series regular Hailie Deegan will make her Xfinity Series fulltime debut in the No. 15 AM Racing Ford. Sheldon Creed moves to the No. 18 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota. And Chandler Smith moves to the No. 81 JGR Toyota this season.

 

Aric Almirola leads a list of high-profile drivers expected to run substantial parts of the 2024 schedule. He left fulltime NASCAR Cup Series competition at the end of last year and will share the cockpit of the Joe Gibbs Racing No. 20 with last season’s most dominant Xfinity Series racer, John Hunter Nemechek. Frankie Muniz, a renowned actor who has transitioned to a fulltime racing career, is competing fulltime in the ARCA Menards Series in 2024 but will also make a handful of starts – including at Daytona – in the No. 35 Joey Gase Motorsports Ford.

 

A lot of new talent and a lot of highly-motivated returnees are sure to make the 2024 Xfinity Series season another thrilling season with its first always-exciting chapter opening this week.

 

Practice for the United Rentals 300 is slated for Friday at 4:30 p.m. ET (FS1) with qualifying Saturday morning at 11:30 a.m. (FS1).

 

NASCAR CRAFTSMAN Truck Series is always a good show in Daytona

 

Following a dramatic 2023 championship finale and featuring a strong lineup of title favorites, new series regulars and new team combinations, the NASCAR CRAFTSMAN Truck Series opens the 2024 season with high expectations Friday night at Daytona International Speedway with the Fresh from Florida 250 (7:30 p.m. ET on FS1, MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio).

 

Reigning series champion, ThorSport Racing's Ben Rhodes is back and ready to race for a third season trophy for his mantle with confidence he and his No. 99 ThorSport Racing team are absolutely up to the task. The competition too.

 

Rhodes earned that 2023 championship by a mere 1-point margin on veteran Grant Enfinger, who lines up for Friday’s season-opener with a new look and team this season. He’ll drive the No. 9 Chevrolet for CR7 Motorsports.

 

They will both have serious title competition again from 21-year-old Corey Heim, who posted three wins, led most of the season's statistical categories and advanced to his first Championship 4 with his No. 11 TRICON Garage Toyota team. The motivation will be intense as last year’s breakout star race for the title again.

 

And there’s no question, a key championship challenger and last year’s Sunoco Rookie of the Year Nick Sanchez as well as another young star, Christian Eckes, will play an important part in the title run.

 

The 2024 season also sees a high profile addition of full-timers racing for the trophy. Former NASCAR Cup Series regular Ty Dillon returns to fulltime truck competition in No. 25 RACKLEY W.A.R. Chevrolet. Veteran Timmy Hill will be competing fulltime alongside popular young stars like Rajah Caruth, rookie Layne Riggs and Thad Moffitt. IndyCar star Marco Andretti will be spending significant time behind the wheel of the No. 04 Roper Racing Ford – planning on seven starts in the Truck Series and another 13 in the ARCA Menards Series.

 

Zane Smith is the two-time defending Daytona race winner. Rhodes won it three years ago and Enfinger, four years ago.

 

Practice is at 5 p.m. on Thursday and televised on FS1. Qualifying for the Fresh from Florida 250 is slated for 3 p.m. Friday and will air live on FS1.

 


 

 

Kyle Busch applauds NASCAR decision to move Clash to Saturday

LOS ANGELES—The decision was courageous and unprecedented, and it found favor with the NASCAR Cup Series drivers scheduled to race in Sunday’s Busch Light Clash at the Coliseum.

Because of a dire weather forecast for Sunday and several days beyond, NASCAR opted to move the season-opening exhibition race to Saturday at 8 p.m. ET. NASCAR made the move after consultation with its FOX Sports television partners and the management of the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum.

Kyle Busch was vocal in his praise of the decision, which ultimately was governed by potential public safety issues from heavy rains and possible flooding.

“No question—I think today is an unprecedented mark in our sport and one that I think all of us will applaud NASCAR and FOX and everybody on for giving us a chance to get a race in today,” Busch said. “I don’t know if we would have been able to do it before Wednesday. And would we even have been here on Wednesday?

“This is the best chance that we had, and I feel like it was a very good move.”

Busch, who finished second and third, respectively, in the first two editions of the Clash at the Coliseum, didn’t think the revised schedule would have a negative effect on the performance of his No. 8 Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet.

“You better be ready when you get here,” Busch said. “It’s all good. It’s already done, so (we’re) ready for what we have in store for today—just get out there on the track, run some practice laps, get some qualifying laps in hopefully that are good and get us in the top 22 to be in the show and from there, go race it out.”

For Ryan Blaney, a championship means changes—and good ones at that 

NASCAR Cup Series champion Ryan Blaney arrived in Southern California for Saturday’s Busch Light Clash at the Coliseum poised to start the momentum toward a second title after an offseason filled with new experiences, plenty of championship feting and most importantly, an engagement.

Blaney, who turned 30 on New Year’s Eve, got engaged to his long-time girlfriend Gianna Tulio in December—big life events for the 2023 NASCAR Cup Series champion whose spent the months since he won the title happily serving as NASCAR’s competitive ambassador. Blaney has made media appearances in all the big markets, sat courtside at high profile NBA games and received a whole new level of recognition everywhere he’s been.

Of the new profile, Blaney insists the best part is the good vibes generated by his No. 12 Penske Racing Ford team.

“It’s nice to walk around, you’re like, ‘Man, I feel like I’ve done something really nice for the whole company and organization, for RP (team owner Roger Penske) and everyone working there,’ “ Blaney said Saturday from the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum.

“I don’t want to say you feel validated in being there, because everyone always believes in you, but it’s just like a personal confidence-booster. It’s nice to feel part of that champion group that’s won for RP, so it personally makes you feel a little bit better and a little bit more certified in being there and racing for the cause each week.”

One of the most personally rewarding things, Blaney concedes, is seeing the words “NASCAR Cup Series Champion” on his 2024 driver’s suit. 

“That meant a lot—it did mean a ton,’’ Blaney said. “It was one of those things that was like a month removed from all those celebrations and it’s in the new year, but you see that—you get the trophy, you get the Goodyear car, you get the ring and then once the banquet is done that stuff is over. 

“You’ve got all of that stuff, but then it’s a nice little refresher for the new year when you pull out the fire suit from the bag and you see the champion logo beneath the NASCAR logo.

 “That part was nice. You look at that every morning, at least I will on race day. You look at it and it’s one of those little things you notice. It’s kind of a nice little reminder.”

Denny Hamlin happy to start 2024 season with health issues behind him

In racing parlance, you can now say Denny Hamlin has fresh rubber on all four corners.

Hamlin, who was playing hurt during last season’s NASCAR Cup Series Playoff, needed surgery in November to repair a condition in which his collar bone intruded into the rotator cuff in his right shoulder.

Starting in 2010 with an operation to repair a torn ACL in his left knee, Hamlin now has had surgery on both knees and both shoulders.

“I feel like it’s progressing really well,” said Hamlin, who also got engaged to long-time girlfriend Jordan Fish during the offseason. “While not 100 percent, (it’s) certainly better than it ended last season. Ran enough laps in the sim (simulator) and other places to feel pretty good at it.

“Actually, I’m happy to start the season knowing that I don’t have any physical ailments ahead of me. I feel really good about that, for sure.”

Hamlin, 43, and Fish have two daughters together. They announced their engagement on New Year’s day.

“It’s good,” Hamlin said. “Certainly, age is all a factor, right? Certainly, the relationship that you’ve got… She’s a great mom, a great partner and glad to move forward.”

It’s a new chapter for 2020 Cup champion Chase Elliott

There are few drivers on the 2024 NASCAR Cup Series grid more eager for a season re-start than 2020 NASCAR Cup Series champion Chase Elliott. The series’ reigning—and perpetual—Most Popular Driver broke his leg in a snowboarding accident early last year and missed six races while recovering. 

The lost time behind the wheel of the No. 9 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet and a highly competitive title essentially proved too big an obstacle to overcome. Elliott missed the Playoffs for the first time in his eight-year full-time career. It was Elliott’s first non-winning season since 2017 and so, understandably, the 28-year-old is eager for this year’s first green flag.

“I’m excited for another year,’’ said Elliott, who had left shoulder surgery during the offseason.

“For me, the way it feels, my career doesn’t feel like one book, and every season is another chapter. It feels like every year is a whole different book in itself, and I think they have all had different feels, to me. Every year, from my rookie year up to last year, has felt so entirely different. I closed that book up and will try again. I’m thankful for the opportunity and ready to go to work.”

Elliott’s last victories came in a five-win 2022 season. He finished 21st in last year’s Busch Light Clash at the Coliseum. His best career finish in the annual preseason exhibition is runner-up in 2021, when the race was run at Daytona International Speedway.


 

 

Top NASCAR Cup drivers are eager to start 2024 season with the Clash

 

It truly will be a Clash of the Titans.

 

No, that’s not a reference to the 1981 film steeped in ancient Greek mythology. It concerns the third iteration of the Busch Light Clash at the Coliseum, a short-track NASCAR Cup Series exhibition race that features the titans of stock car racing, whose talent is no myth at all.

 

On Sunday at 8 p.m. ET, a field of 23 qualifying Cup drivers will compete for bragging rights on a quarter-mile, purpose-built race track inside iconic Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. As an addition to the program this year, the rising stars and veterans of the NASCAR Mexico Series will run a 150-lap race at 4:30 p.m. ET.

 

The Clash will be broadcast on FOX, MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio.

 

“This is a tremendous win for our fans and our sport,” said Ben Kennedy, NASCAR senior vice president, racing development and strategy, and the principal architect of NASCAR’s expansion into stadium-based racing.

 

“Not only will the fans see the stars of the NASCAR Cup Series in action, they will also bear witness to the talent and skill that is found within the NASCAR Mexico Series. I can’t think of a better way to begin our 2024 season.”

 

Though this is the third running of the Clash in Los Angeles, the event as the kickoff to Speedweeks in Daytona dates to 1979. Among active drivers, Denny Hamlin is the only three-time winner of the Clash, starting with his rookie season in 2006 and adding victories in 2014 and 2016.

 

The bullring in the L.A. Coliseum, however, is a far cry from 2.5-mile Daytona International Speedway, where Hamlin scored his three Clash wins.

 

“It’s a unique atmosphere and a fun race to kick the season off,” said Hamlin, who finished ninth after leading 26 laps of 150 last year. “It doesn’t really translate to anything else we do because the track is so small, but it’ll be fun to knock some of the rust off from not being in the car since November.

 

“I’m looking forward to it. Our team is looking forward to it. So, we’ll just see what we unload with on Saturday and hopefully get ourselves locked into the main event with a good starting spot. From there, you have to stay up front and stay out of trouble to have a shot at the end.”

 

That’s exactly what Hamlin’s Joe Gibbs Racing teammate, Martin Truex Jr., did last year. The driver of the No. 19 Toyota started second, took the lead from Ryan Preece on Lap 126 and won the Clash by .786 seconds over runner-up Austin Dillon.

 

The triumph put Truex in a two-driver club with Joey Logano, winner of the inaugural Busch Light Clash at the Coliseum in 2022.

 

If the size of the track is unique to Cup racing, so is the race format. The starting field will be set from four 25-lap heat races on Saturday, with the starting lineups for the heats based on practice speeds earlier in the day.

 

The top five finishers in each heat transfer to Sunday’s main event, with the winners of Heats 1 and 2 making up the front row for the Clash. The top two finishers in a 75-lap Last Chance Qualifier on Saturday will be added to the field in positions 21 and 22, with the final starting spot in the Clash going to the driver finishing highest in 2023 championship points who does not transfer into the main event though the heats or Last Chance Qualifier.

 

Short-track ace and Sunoco rookie Josh Berry, who succeeds Kevin Harvick in the No. 4 Stewart-Haas Racing Ford, is looking forward to his first appearance in the Clash.

 

“I’m definitely excited to go to the Coliseum,” Berry said. “I think it’s a really cool event—having watched the races there, it’s really fun to get the chance to compete there. I think, for the race, it’s a good opportunity for us to run well.

 

“Obviously, with my background being in short-track racing, I think it should help, but I definitely think it will be a unique experience.”

 


 

NASCAR Cup Series

Next Race: Busch Light Clash at the Coliseum

The Place: Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum

The Date: Sunday, February 4

The Time: 8 p.m. ET / 5 p.m. PT

The Purse: $2,210,000

TV: FOX, 6 p.m. ET / 3 p.m. PT

Radio: MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio

Distance: 37.5 miles (150 laps), Stage Break: Lap 75

 

NASCAR Mexico Series

Next Race: King Taco La Batalla en El Coliseo

The Place: Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum

The Date: Sunday, February 4

The Time: 4:30 p.m. ET / 1:30 p.m. PT

TV: FS1/FOX Deportes, 4:30 p.m. ET / 1:30 p.m. PT

Radio: MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio

Distance: 37.5 miles (150 laps), 60 Minute Time Limit

 

NASCAR Cup Series

 

Wave the green flag it’s time to Clash in Los Angeles

Pull the seat belts tight and start your engines because the 2024 NASCAR Cup Series season is upon us, and for the third consecutive year the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum will play host to the Busch Light Clash at the Coliseum (Sunday, Feb. 4 at 8 p.m. ET on FOX, MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio), but this time the annual special event will be joined by the NASCAR Mexico Series, which will also start their 2024 season this weekend with the King Taco La Batalla en El Coliseo (Sunday, Feb. 4 at 4:30 p.m. ET on FS1, FOX Deportes and MRN) - the first-ever NASCAR Mexico Series race in the state of California.

 

“This is a tremendous win for our fans and our sport,” said Ben Kennedy, NASCAR’s Senior Vice President, Racing Development and Strategy. “Not only will the fans see the stars of the NASCAR Cup Series in action, but they will also bear witness to the talent and skill that is found within the NASCAR Mexico Series. I can’t think of a better way to begin our 2024 season.”

 

How to view all the action this weekend at Los Angeles

This year’s Busch Light Clash at the Coliseum will be the 46th running of the annual non-points exhibition race that has been hosted by the NASCAR Cup Series since 1979. The weekend’s schedule is packed with on-track activity. Below is where to tune-in for this weekend’s racing action:

 

·       Busch Light Clash Practice on FS1 from 6 p.m. – 8 p.m. ET (Saturday)

·       Busch Light Clash Qualifying Heat Races on FS1 from 8:30 p.m. – 9:30 p.m. ET (Saturday)

·       King Taco La Batalla en El Coliseo on FS1, FOX Deportes from 4:30 p.m. – 6:30 p.m. ET (Sunday)

·       Busch Light Clash Last Chance Qualifiers Race on FOX from 6:30 p.m. – 7:30 p.m. ET (Sunday)

 

·       Busch Light Clash at the Coliseum Race on FOX from 8 p.m. – 10 p.m. ET (Sunday)

 

In addition, the NASCAR Mexico Series race will be on Fox Sports 3 in Mexico, and available pan regionally on Claro Sports and the D Motors channel on DirecTV.

 

MGK named race break entertainer for the Busch Light Clash at the Coliseum

GRAMMY-nominated and multi-platinum recording artist Machine Gun Kelly, also known as MGK, has been named this weekend’s entertainer and will give a show-stopping race break performance during the 2024 Busch Light Clash at the Coliseum on Sunday, Feb. 4 (on FOX, MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio).

 

“Machine Gun Kelly is the true embodiment of what it means to be a modern-day rock star,” said Ben Kennedy, NASCAR’s senior vice president of racing development and strategy. “We’re thrilled to have as captivating of an artist as MGK bring in the 2024 season during the Busch Light Clash at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum.”

 

The Cleveland, Ohio, native has been on a tear since releasing his first Rock/Pop Punk album Tickets to My Downfall in 2020. It became his first No. 1 effort with songs like “bloody valentine” and “my ex’s best friend” going platinum.

 

In 2022, MGK continued to top the charts with Mainstream Sellout, his second album to hit No. 1 on the Billboard 200. The album was nominated for a 2023 GRAMMY Award for “Best Rock Album” and was supported with a sold-out tour. The US leg ended back in Cleveland to a crowd of 50,000 fans, making him the first and only Ohio native to sell out FirstEnergy Stadium.

 

In addition to putting on a spectacular race-break performance, MGK will show off both his signature nail polish line UN/DN LAQR and his Cleveland-based 27 Club Coffee lounge with pop ups at the NASCAR Fan Fest.

 

Busch Light Clash at the Coliseum Format for 2024

The NASCAR Cup Series is back in L.A. and with a new season, comes a new format to keep everyone on their toes.

 

In 2024, the field is open to 40 entrants to participate in this weekend’s events and earn a spot in the Busch Light Clash at the Coliseum; currently 36 drivers are entered (click this link to view Preliminary Entry List).

 

 Format Rundown: How to make the Busch Light Clash at the Coliseum:

 

·       Heat Race Starting Lineup – The field will be spilt into (3) practice groups, with each group receiving (3) sessions. Each competitor’s fastest lap time from their final practice session will determine the starting lineup for the heat races.

 

·       Heat Races – Four heat races of 25 laps each with only green flag laps counted – no overtime in play. The top five from each heat race advance through to The Clash.

 

·       Last Chance Qualifier – Cars that do not transfer to The Clash will compete in the Last Chance Qualifier Race with their starting position determined by where they finished in their respective heat races. The Last Chance Qualifier Race is 75 laps with only green flag laps counted – no overtime in play. The top two finishers in the Last Chance Qualifier Race will transfer to The Clash. 

 

·       Starting Lineup – The first 22 starting spots for The Clash are set through finishing positions in the Heat Races and the Last Chance Qualifying Race. The 23rd and final starting spot is reserved for the driver who finished the highest in the 2023 season driver points standings who did not already transfer into The Clash.

 

·       Main Feature – The main event, The Busch Light Clash at The Coliseum, will feature 23 drivers competing for 150 laps with only green lag laps counted – the race must end under green. A timed break will be observed at the halfway point of the race (Lap 75).

 

Select this link for the 2024 Busch Clash at the Coliseum Race Format Graphic.  

 

NASCAR brings the excitement back to the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum

The Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum has been a familiar name in sports for nearly 100 years, having been home to two Olympic Games, two NFL Super Bowls, the 1959 World Series and several collegiate and professional teams such as the USC Trojans, UCLA Bruins, the Los Angeles Rams, the Raiders and the Los Angeles Dodgers. Its size and location, combined with its history, has made it iconic, even earning a State and Federal Historic Landmark title in 1984.

 

In 2022, NASCAR added its name to the prestigious list of sports entities that have competed at the historic hallowed grounds in L.A. and this season, looks to return to turn up the excitement even more. Just like the last two years, the Coliseum has been transformed to a quarter-mile short track where drivers will battle it out in a unique exhibition-style event to open up the 2024 season. The Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum (2022-2024) is the third different venue to hold the Busch Light Clash, joining Daytona International Speedway, where it was hosted from 1979 to 2020 and the DAYTONA Road Course which hosted the event in 2021.

 

Racing for medals in NASCAR only happens at the Clash

NASCAR announced last year that the top-three finishers in the Busch Light Clash at the Coliseum will be awarded gold, silver and bronze medals – the only event in the sport where medals are awarded. This year, once again the competitors will have a chance to earn the medals in the non-points exhibition event.

 

The medal ceremony will take place on a podium in Victory Lane, which is located beneath the Olympic cauldron at the historic Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum.

 

Jostens will once again produce these exquisite medals, along with the Busch Light Clash at the Coliseum Trophy that’s presented to the winner of the season-opening exhibition.

 

Last season, Martin Truex Jr. took home the gold, Austin Dillon grabbed the silver and Kyle Busch pocketed the bronze.

 

Martin Truex Jr. looks to become fifth back-to-back Clash winner

Currently, 36 different drivers are entered to compete for the win this weekend, including last season’s victor Joe Gibbs Racing’s Martin Truex Jr. and the No. 19 team. This season, Truex will look to defend his win and become just the fifth driver all-time, and the first since 2010, to win consecutive Clash races; joining Kevin Harvick (2009-10), Tony Stewart (2000-01), Ken Schrader (1990-91) and Neil Bonnett (1983-84).

 

Truex has participated in both Clash events at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, finishing 15th in 2022 and first last season. This weekend’s Busch Light Clash at the Coliseum will be on Sunday, Feb. 4 at 8 p.m. ET / 5 p.m. PT on FOX, MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio.

 

Joe Gibbs Racing looks to extend Busch Light Clash wins record to a dozen

No organization has more wins in the NASCAR Cup Series Busch Light Clash at the Coliseum than Joe Gibbs Racing, and this weekend they look to extend their wins in the non-points exhibition event to 12.

 

Last season, JGR’s Martin Truex Jr. added his name to the Clash wins list earning the organization its 11th Clash victory – three more than the next organization on the wins list (Richard Childress Racing with eight).

 

Top Five Organizations in Wins in the Busch Light Clash (All-Time)

Rank

Organization

Busch Light Clash Wins

Seasons

1

Joe Gibbs Racing

11

2023, '21, '20, '16, '14, '15, '12, '07, '06, '02, '01

2

Richard Childress Racing

8

2013, '10, '09, 1995, '93. '91, '88, '86

3

Hendrick Motorsports

7

2019, '08, '05, '1997, '94, '90, '89

4

Team Penske

5

2022, '18, '17, 11, '98

5

Yates Racing

3

2004, '00, 1996

 

Former Clash winners to watch in L.A.

Just six active drivers this weekend have earned a ticket to Victory Lane for the Busch Light Clash in their careers, and they might just be who you will want to keep an eye on this Sunday.

 

Joe Gibbs Racing’s Denny Hamlin (2006, 2014, 2016) leads all active drives in Clash wins with three. Kyle Busch (2012, 2021) and Joey Logano (2017, 2022) are the only other two active drivers with multiple Clash wins entered this weekend.

 

Active NASCAR Cup Series Drivers with Busch Light Clash Wins

 No. of Wins

Active Winners

Seasons

3

Denny Hamlin

2006, 2014, 2016

2

Kyle Busch

2012, 2021

2

Joey Logano

2017, 2022

1

Brad Keselowski

2018

1

Erik Jones

2020

1

Martin Truex Jr.

2023

 

Statistical leaders at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum

Looking back at the stats from two Busch Light Clash events at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum and several drivers have performed at a high level on California’s 0.25-mile short track. Below is a look at all the stat leaders at the Los Angeles Coliseum heading into this weekend.

 

·       Wins – 1 – Joey Logano (2022) and Martin Truex Jr. (2023)

·       Runner-Up Finishes – 1 – Kyle Busch (2022) and Austin Dillon (2023)

·       Top Fives – 2 – Kyle Busch, Austin Dillon, Kyle Larson

·       Laps Led – 64 laps (21.3% of laps completed) – Kyle Busch

·       Driver Rating – 122.6 – Kyle Busch (only driver with a +100 rating)

·       Average Running Position – 5.057 – Kyle Busch

·       Fastest Laps Run – 30 laps – Kyle Busch

·       Green Flag Passes – 56 – Christopher Bell

·       Laps In The Top 15 – 300 (100%) – Austin Dillon, William Byron, Kyle Larson

 

NASCAR Next Gen is ready for 2024

After a record-blistering first two seasons, the Next Gen car returns for another statistic filled 2024 NASCAR Cup Series season, and it all gets started this weekend in Los Angeles.

 

Collaborating with drivers and teams over the offseason, NASCAR has announced the following changes to the Next Gen car short track and road course package – starting in 2024 the NASCAR Cup Series cars will run a simplified diffuser at a majority of tracks measuring one-mile or shorter, as well as all road courses. (Note: Bristol and Dover excluded.) The simplified diffuser will not be used at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum.

 

The details of the components updated:

  • 2023 short track/road course splitter stuffers
  • No engine panel strakes
  • 3-inch spoiler
  • Simplified Diffuser
  • Simplified Diffuser Strakes

 

Eric Jacuzzi, NASCAR Vice President, Vehicle Performance: "At the test, we noticed an improvement in traffic. The car did not lose rear downforce when it yawed, which is an issue we fight with the current car. The drivers would be able to slide around more on the short tracks and really have to be less careful about putting power down. We felt that would be a benefit, and that was the big takeaway from the driver feedback. At the test, they felt they could really tell that it was more forgiving. They felt they could slide the car."

 

NASCAR is looking for these updates to improve the already impressive competition the Next Gen car produces. Last season, the Next Gen car continued to exceed expectations on the competition-side.

 

o   The 2023 season produced 15 different Cup winners; which is tied with the 2005, 2012 and 2017 seasons for the fifth-most winners through a 36-race season in the Modern Era (1972-Present).

 

o   With a total of 15 different pole winners, the 2023 season is tied with the 1982, 1995, 1998, 1999, 2002, 2003, 2006, 2008, 2014 and 2019 seasons for the fourth-most pole winners through the 36 races of a season in the Modern Era (1972-Present).

 

o   The 2023 NASCAR Cup Series season’s 1.110-seconds average Margin of Victory is the third-closest through a 36-race season since the advent of electronic scoring in 1993 (31 seasons total). The 2014 season holds the series record for the closest average Margin of Victory through 36 races with a 0.909-second; followed by the 2022 season (1.011-secs.).

 

o   The 2023 NASCAR Cup Series season has produced 1,808 Green Flag Passes for the Lead through the 36 points-paying races of the year – series-most since 2007 (last 17 seasons).

 

o   A total of 21 of 36 races during the 2023 NASCAR Cup Series season produced positive year-over-year percentage changes (58.3%). The five largest positive percentage changes were Martinsville-1 (+480%), Homestead-Miami (+300%), Richmond-1 (+288.9%), Bristol (+250%) and Martinsville-2 (+233.3%).

 

o   The 2023 NASCAR Cup Series season produced 153,672 Total Green Flag Passes in the 36 points-paying races of the year - the series-most since 2007 (last 17 seasons). This is the first time the NASCAR Cup Series has eclipsed 150k Total Green Flag Passes in a single season since the inception of the statistical category in 2005 (no matter the number of races). The series accomplished the feat in 34 races.

 

o   A total of 28 of the 36 NASCAR Cup Series races this season have produced a positive year-over-year percentage change in Total Green Flag Passes (77.8%).

 

Make sure to tune-in this Sunday for the start of the 2024 NASCAR Cup Series season with the Busch Light Clash at the Coliseum at 8 p.m. ET on FOX, MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio.

 

Busch Light Clash: By The Numbers

Below are key statistical numbers stemming from the Busch Light Clash events from 1979-2023:

  

.013 – Closest Margin of Victory in seconds by Kyle Busch over Tony Stewart in 2012, the closest margin in the Clash at Daytona history

.058 – Second closest Margin of Victory in seconds by Kurt Busch over Jamie McMurray in 2011, the second-closest margin in the Clash at Daytona history

.080 – Third closest Margin of Victory in seconds by Dale Earnhardt over Sterling Marlin in 1995, the third-closest margin of victory in the Clash at Daytona history

.786 – The 22nd closest Margin of Victory (in seconds) all-time for the Busch Light Clash exhibition race, and the closest at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum by Martin Truex Jr. over Austin Dillon in 2022.

1 – Fewest laps led by a winner, one and it has occurred nine times - Rusty Wallace (1998), Neil Bonnett (1983-84), Dale Earnhardt (1980), Dale Jarrett (2000 and 2004), Kevin Harvick (2009) and Erik Jones (2020) - all at Daytona International Speedway – Kyle Busch (2021) at Daytona International Speedway Road Course.

2.75 – Best average finish in The Clash - Dale Earnhardt holds the best average finish of any driver with multiple starts.

3 – Number of different venues the Busch Light Clash event has been held – Daytona International Speedway, Daytona International Speedway Road Course, and the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum.

4 – Number of drivers to win the Busch Light Clash from the pole or first starting position – Darrell Waltrip (1981), Bill Elliott (1987), Ken Schrader (1989) and Denny Hamlin (2014).

5 – Drivers who have won the event in their first appearance - Buddy Baker, 1979; Dale Earnhardt, 1980; Jeff Gordon, 1994; Dale Jarrett, 1996; Denny Hamlin, 2006.

6 – Most Busch Light Clash wins all-time - Dale Earnhardt, the series leader (1980, ‘86, ‘88, ‘91, ‘93, ‘95).

7 – All-time fewest starters in the field for the Busch Light Clash (1981).

12 – Most number of starts before winning the event – Martin Truex Jr (2023).

14 – Highest number of different leaders in a Busch Light Clash event (2009, Daytona International Speedway).

22 – Highest number of wins by a manufacturer in the Busch Light Clash – Chevrolet.

22 – Most consecutive starts in the Busch Light Clash by a driver - Jeff Gordon (1994-2015).

27 – Kevin Harvick’s starting position in 2009, the lowest by a race winner in the event’s history.

28 – Number of lead changes in the 2011 event, highest number since race began in 1979.

47 – Most laps led by the winner of a Busch Light Clash event - Dale Earnhardt Jr. in 2008 at Daytona.

64 – Most laps led by a driver that did not win the Busch Light Clash event – Kyle Busch in 2022 at the LA Memorial Coliseum.

197.802 mph – The fastest average speed of the race for the Busch Light Clash - in 1987 at Daytona International Speedway and won by NASCAR Hall of Famer Bill Elliott.

For additional in-depth stats and figures about the upcoming Busch Light Clash at the Coliseum check out NASCARMedia.com’s Statistical Advance Release.   

 

NASCAR Cup Series, Etc.

 

Canelo Alvarez to serve as Grand Marshal for the Busch Light Clash at the Coliseum - NASCAR announced that Mexican professional boxer and current super middleweight undisputed champion of the world Saul “Canelo” Alvarez will serve as the Grand Marshal for the Busch Light Clash at the Coliseum on Feb. 4.

 

“Canelo is synonymous with strength, victory and triumph,” said Ben Kennedy, NASCAR’s Senior Vice President, Racing Development and Strategy. “He’s a fan favorite in Los Angeles and Mexico, and we’re honored to have him give the command to start engines for the Busch Light Clash.”

 

Born in Guadalajara, Mexico as the youngest of eight siblings, Saul “Canelo” Alvarez grew up in a family of fighters where he utilized boxing as a method to take out his frustrations on those who teased him for his appearance. As a result, he found his way to the renowned Julian Magdaleno Gym, where the father-and-son training team of Chepo and Eddy Reynoso quickly took notice and nicknamed him, “Canelo,” the Spanish word for “Cinnamon.” Canelo thus began his amateur career at the age of 13 where he would go 44-2 (12KOs) and earn Junior Mexican National Champion honors. And after only two years, he was led to turn pro as they could no longer find amateur opponents to face him.

 

Since then, Canelo has turned his passion into one of the most successful fighting careers of all-time. With a professional record of 60-2-2 (39KOs), Canelo has won titles in four different divisions, including light heavyweight, middleweight, junior middleweight, and the first and only boxer in history to become undisputed champion at super middleweight. He has faced an array of formidable opponents, including boxing legends such as Gennady “GGG” Golovkin, Amir Khan, Miguel Cotto, and Daniel Jacobs. Known for his versatility, tactical skills, exceptional punching power, and high fight IQ, Canelo has become the blueprint for boxing excellence.

 

Nita Strauss to perform the National Anthem prior to the Busch Light Clash at the Coliseum - NASCAR announced this week that renowned guitarist Nita Strauss will perform the National Anthem prior to the 2024 Busch Light Clash at the Coliseum, Feb. 4.

 

“Nita Strauss can excite a crowd like no other,” said Ben Kennedy, NASCAR’s Senior Vice President, Racing Development and Strategy. “Her mastery on the guitar will invigorate everyone in attendance, and we’re thrilled to have her play to our fans before the Busch Light Clash.”

 

The Los Angeles born guitarist has become a force to be reckoned with, dazzling over a million audience members per year around the world. Fans may recognize Nita as the touring guitarist for rock legend Alice Cooper and superstar Demi Lovato, the official guitarist of the Los Angeles Rams, as well as her successful career as a solo artist. She has played multiple sports events including NASCAR Races and WWE Pay Per Views, most notably her critically acclaimed performance at WrestleMania 34 in 2018.

 

Nita is currently on tour supporting her newest solo album The Call of the Void, which debuted as the #1 Top New Artist album on the Billboard chart, #1 on the iTunes Rock chart, and #4 on the overall iTunes chart, behind only Taylor Swift.

 

With the album’s first single, “Dead Inside” feat. David Draiman of Disturbed, Nita became the first female solo artist to have a #1 single at rock radio in 32 years. The album also features guest appearances from Alice Cooper, Lzzy Hale, Alissa White-Gluz, Dorothy, Chris Motionless and guitar legend Marty Friedman.

 

Ford and Toyota to debut new cars in Busch Light Clash – When fans arrive at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum this weekend, they will have the opportunity to see the new Ford Mustang Dark Horse and the new Toyota Camry XSE in the first public on-track competition for both vehicles.

 

Ford won the first Busch Light Clash at the Coliseum with driver Joey Logano in 2022 and Toyota won last season’s event with driver Martin Truex Jr.

 

Seven different manufactures have won a Busch Light Clash exhibition race (all-time), led by Chevrolet with 22 victories; followed by Ford (10), Toyota (seven), Buick (two), Oldsmobile (two), Dodge (one) and Pontiac (one).

 

Driver Seat Shuffle: Some new faces in new places – With the 2024 season kicking off this weekend at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum fans will get their first chance at seeing several of the drivers that are new to the NASCAR Cup Series or have made a move to a new team in the offseason.

 

With the retirement of Kevin Harvick and Aric Almirola, Stewart-Haas Racing has a couple new faces joining the team this season in Josh Berry and Noah Gragson. Berry will pilot the No. 4 Ford with crew chief Rodney Childers and Gragson will be in the No. 10 Ford with crew chief Drew Blickensderfer. Of the two, only Gragson has made start in the Clash at Los Angeles; he started 13th and finished 14th last season.

 

Kaulig Racing will also have two new drivers joining the fold this weekend. Josh Williams will pilot the No. 16 Chevrolet with crew chief Travis Mack and 2021 NASCAR Xfinity Series Champion Daniel Hemric returns to the Cup Series driving the No. 31 Chevrolet with crew chief Trent Owens. Both drivers will be making their Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum track debuts this weekend.

 

Joining the Rick Ware Racing organization this weekend will be Justin Haley, who will pilot the No. 51 Ford alongside crew chief Chris Lawson, and driver Kaz Grala will jump behind the wheel of the No. 15 Ford working with crew chief Billy Plourde. Grala will be making his L.A. Coliseum track debut this weekend and Haley will be looking to make his third start at the 0.25-mile short track. In Haley’s last two Clash starts he managed to finish 19th in 2022 and 11th in 2023.

 

Spire Motorsports welcomes two new drivers as well to the organization this weekend. Driving the No. 71 Chevrolet will be 2022 NASCAR CRAFTSMAN Truck Series Champion Zane Smith with crew chief Stephan Doran on the pit box. Joining Smith will be Carson Hocevar, and he will pilot the No. 77 Chevrolet with crew chief Kevin Bellicourt. Both drivers will be making their track debuts at the L.A. Coliseum this weekend.

 

Legacy Motor Club is also updating their roster this season and joining the organization is John Hunter Nemechek, who will drive the No. 42 Toyota working with crew chief Ben Beshore. This will be Nemechek’s series track debut at the L.A. Coliseum.

 


 

NASCAR Champion's Week at Nashville Notebook

 

Notebook Items:

  • Ryan Blaney’s championship was a predictable next step in a long racing journey
  • Denny Hamlin’s recovery from surgery leaves the Clash in question
  • Kevin Harvick has a “retirement” project at hometown speedway
  • Despite rookie honors, Ty Gibbs wasn't fully satisfied with debut NASCAR Cup season

 

November 30, 2023

 

By Reid Spencer and Holly Cain

NASCAR Wire Service

 

Ryan Blaney’s championship was a predictable next step in a long racing journey

 

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Team owner Roger Penske never lost patience with Ryan Blaney, who took the next step in his NASCAR racing journey with a Nov. 5 victory at Phoenix Raceway.

 

With the hotly contested win, Blaney earned his first NASCAR Cup Series championship and the second straight for team owner Roger Penske.

 

“We just knew he was a champion,” Penske said Thursday morning during a question-and-answer session with reporters at the Music City Center. “His persona—the fans liked him. 

 

“Putting together those last races, those last six, was amazing. The proof in the pudding was racing Kyle Larson—forget everything else—racing Kyle Larson those last 20 or 25 laps and being able to win the championship. Nobody gave it to him.”

 

Penske noted one particular benchmark in Blaney’s career that proved a portent of things to come. In 2017, driving for Team Penske affiliate Wood Brothers Racing, Blaney held off veteran Kevin Harvick to record his first NASCAR Cup Series victory. 

 

Nine more victories followed over the next six years, culminating in this year’s three-win season and the Cup championship. 

 

“When you get your first win in the series, internally it gives you confidence, and ‘Hey, I can win at this level, I can be here,’” Blaney said. “That was fantastic. Whenever you get your first one… but then you still have to prove yourself, right? 

 

“You can’t just be one-and-done. You got to continue to try to do better and to continue to grow as a driver and as a person. But, yeah, winning for the Wood Brothers was great. That was a really special one, and it opened up a lot of doors.” 

 

The NASCAR Cup title was the second in a row for Penske, who won the 2022 championship with driver Joey Logano. But the championship was the 12th for Team Penske over the last six years across all series, including NASCAR, IndyCar, IMSA and V8 Supercars.

 

“You win one, and you start all over again,” Penske said. “They don’t give you an extra lap ahead of everybody after you win one. Last year, Joey did a great job, and by the way—when you think about it—last year at Phoenix, if you watched it, Ryan was a good wing man. He had a fast car at Phoenix, so we knew that he had the speed.”

 

For Blaney, it’s gratifying just to be part of the massive Team Penske record.

 

“To be a small part of that success is great,” Blaney said. “I felt the same way winning my race for the Wood Brothers. Those guys had 98 other wins, but it means a lot that you’re a small part of the journey and the success.

 

“I was telling people after we won that we did two ‘firsts’ for Roger this year, which was win the Indy (500, with Josef Newgarden) and (Coca-Cola) 600 (Blaney), which is fantastic, and back-to-back (Cup) championships. You don’t get to do that often—do something for Roger that he hasn’t done before—and to be able to bring that to him is definitely very special.”

 

Denny Hamlin’s recovery from surgery leaves the Clash in question

 

Perennial NASCAR Cup Series championship contender Denny Hamlin came to Nashville wearing a soft brace on his right arm to immobilize his shoulder after surgery a week ago to repair a lingering rotator cuff injury—aggravated by pulled tendons he suffered “playing sports" just before the Oct. 15 Las Vegas Playoff race.

 

Hamlin, driver of the No. 11 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota, didn’t disclose the injury publicly during the season, saying he didn’t want anyone to think it served as an “excuse" during his Playoff performance. But he conceded Thursday the post-surgery situation has turned out to be more painful and involved than he anticipated.  

 

Surgeons have recommended three months of rest and rehabilitation, so Hamlin is not absolutely certain today where he will be in the recovery process come the first race of 2024 – the Feb. 4 non-points Busch Light Clash at the Coliseum. He was reticent to say for sure yet whether he would be in the field for that exhibition event, or not.

 

“What I’m optimistic of is that I’ve got a great team that’s going to work on me to get this better and certainly, I find it hard to believe that I’ll have more pain in late January than what I did in the end of October and November," Hamlin said. “Getting through those last five races was really, really hard so I think if I can get through that, then certainly I’ll be able to challenge myself enough to get back in a car sooner than what they’d want me to."

 

Hamlin finished fifth in the 2023 NASCAR Cup Series championship winning three races, but the right-handed 43-year-old conceded the injury did force him to rely more on his left arm completing the final part of the 2023 Playoff portion of the season schedule.

 

“It was painful, there were many times when they asked me to turn on a switch and I couldn’t reach it, I couldn’t touch it," Hamlin said. “We were certainly up against the odds, but one thing is I didn’t want to use it as any kind of excuse for not making the Final Four.

 

“I think really our performance was as good as it possibly could be on track. I did everything I could to succeed, we just didn’t get it done for whatever reason. Certainly, I didn’t want that to be any excuse of why we didn’t perform well.

 

“… it’s just one of those things I grew up being a right-arm driver and during the Playoffs had to switch to holding the wheel with the left hand, so it was certainly different."

 

Hamlin, was a three-race winner last season, earning his milestone 50th NASCAR Cup Series victory at Pocono (Pa.) Raceway in July and answering with a 51st at the celebrated Bristol (Tenn.) night race in September during the Playoff portion of the schedule.

 

Kevin Harvick has a “retirement” project at hometown speedway

 

Now retired from full-time NASCAR Cup Series racing after accumulating 60 victories in the premier division, Kevin Harvick is set to begin a new career as a full-time broadcaster in the FOX Sports booth.

 

That’s not the only activity, however, that will occupy Harvick’s attention. Kern County Raceway Park in Harvick’s hometown of Bakersfield, Calif., was purchased recently by Tim and Lisa Huddleston and renamed Kevin Harvick’s Kern Raceway in honor of the 2014 Cup champion.

 

Harvick’s commitment will constitute more than just providing a marquee name. He’ll be involved in plotting the future of the half-mile asphalt track.

 

“Bakersfield is obviously my hometown, and I view it as one of the biggest racing towns in the country,” Harvick said during a question-and-answer session with reporters on Thursday morning at the Music City Center. “When I look at the Kern facility and what it is, it’s one of the nicest short tracks in the country. It’s kind of that hidden gem that just needed a kick in the butt to kind of get restarted and reintroduced to the world.

 

“Working with Tim Huddleston and his family and hopefully getting that back to having the right events and the right weekly shows that it needs and everything that’s going to happen is going to be fun. I’m looking forward to that project, and those are the types of projects that I enjoy, and we’re looking forward to hopefully great things.”

 

Harvick raced at Kern County in 2018, finishing fourth in a one-off appearance in an ARCA Menards Series West race.

 

Despite rookie honors, Ty Gibbs wasn't fully satisfied with debut NASCAR Cup season

 

Ty Gibbs showed up a the NASCAR Awards Banquet smiling and ready to receive his 2023 NASCAR Cup Series Sunoco Rookie of the Year trophy. But the former NASCAR Xfinity Champion said he was not absolutely satisfied with this first full-season run, even if he had plenty to be proud of.

 

Gibbs earned the first top-five and top-10 NASCAR Cup Series finishes of his career—posting four top fives and an impressive 10 top 10s over the 36-race season in the No. 54 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota. He led 112 laps, including 102 laps in the fall Bristol, Tenn. night race where he finished fifth—his best overall race effort, statistically speaking. His top finish was fourth-place at the Charlotte ROVAL.

 

“Statistically, yes (he was happy), but I feel like I wanted to run a lot better, of course and I’m working really hard," Gibbs said. The one thing I can take away from my [Xfinity Series] championship [last year] and all the other championships is to enjoy the journey and I am.

 

“And I’m working hard. Getting better every weekend is the main goal, and I feel like I accomplished that, so I’m happy with that.

 

“But definitely not really anything to be satisfied with until your winning, so got to keep going."

 

The 21-year-old grandson of team owner Joe Gibbs said he learned many lessons throughout the season, primarily that patience is essential in racing, no matter how counter-intuitive that may sound.

 

“You learn over time and the way Cup series is now, there are not as many crazy moves going on as there were in Xfinity Series," Gibbs said, allowing a smile. 

 

"I’m not worried about showing others what I’m doing, I think for me, I’m just trying to do the best I can and when I can do that it shows others," Gibbs added. “It’s a fine line. You can’t race to make everybody else happy but at the same time, if you do everything right and calculate everything right and are patient, usually it pays off."

 

"For me, like this year, even if I wasn’t running as well, I’m still trying to figure out what I have to do to run better and win and that’s the same it will be for next year and until I retire. For me, it’s working hard during the week, having fun, but really learning where I can get better at. I want to win every week if I could, and I want to win championships too. I feel like it’s been the same motto for me since I’ve been in ARCA and Xfinity, it was how I was raised.


NASCAR Cup champion Ryan Blaney honored in Nashville awards ceremony

 

November 30, 2023

 

By Reid Spencer and Holly Cain

NASCAR Wire Service

 

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – On Tuesday night at the Music City Center, the NASCAR Champion’s Week festivities concluded with the honoring of Ryan Blaney, who reached the pinnacle of the sport—claiming the NASCAR Cup Series title—by outdueling three other Championship 4 contenders Nov. 5 at Phoenix Raceway.

 

The 29-year-old Blaney finished second to Ross Chastain in the season finale but crossed the finish line ahead of Playoff drivers Kyle Larson and William Byron—both representing Hendrick Motorsports—to earn his first Cup championship and the second in a row for team owner Roger Penske.

 

“I know, all the competitors, we don’t agree all the time, but it is a true honor to race with the best in the world on a weekly basis, and I do appreciate that,” Blaney said after an introduction from NASCAR president Steve Phelps and a welcome to the stage from one of Blaney’s favorite bands, Whiskey Myers. 

 

Blaney comes from a racing family that includes his father, Dave Blaney and uncle, Dale Blaney, both superstars in the sprint car realm. 

 

“Obviously, growing up, watching Dad race, that’s just what I wanted to do, and I wanted to be like my Dad,” Blaney said. “I was super lucky to be able see that at a young age and get the whole spectrum of seeing what it’s like as a driver, seeing how teams operated.”

 

Blaney had special praise for team owner Roger Penske, who has fielded Cup cars for Blaney for the last six seasons.

 

“Roger and (wife) Kathy Penske—it’s hard to believe it’s been over 10 years since we first met,” Blaney said. “As a kid, there’s nothing more I wanted to do than to win you a championship and just be successful, because I was such a big fan of you, not only in NASCAR but in every form of motorsport.

 

“I have such a huge respect for what you did. You stuck with me for over 10 years, and it’s been unbelievable.”

 

Blaney delivered Penske’s first back-to-back Cup championships this season, with Jonathan Hassler as his crew chief.

 

“Ryan is the champion, but think about his position in the garage area with other teams and other drivers,” Penske said. “He’s a champion with them, too. It’s very important, as you climb the ladder in this sport.” 

 

For the sixth straight year, Chase Elliot won the National Motorsports Press Association Most Popular Driver Award. Justin Allgaier and Hailie Deegan were most popular drivers in the NASCAR Xfinity and CRAFTSMAN Truck Series, respectively.

 

Elliott, who is 10 short of the 16 Most Popular Driver Awards won by his father, Bill Elliott, appeared on stage with a sling on his left arm, indicative of recent offseason should surgery.

 

Ty Gibbs was named Sunoco Rookie of the Year in NASCAR’s top series.

 

“It’s been a great year, and we want to keep going,” said Gibbs, who scored 10 top-10 finishes with a best result of fourth in his first full-time season.

 

All 16 of the NASCAR Cup Series Playoff drivers appeared on stage during the award ceremony. Veteran Michael McDowell perhaps had the best laugh line of the evening.

 

“It’s taken me a long time not to suck,” said McDowell, a former Daytona 500 winner who earned his second career victory on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Road Course this year.

 

Kevin Harvick summed up his retirement from full-time Cup racing with a poignant image.

 

“When I got out of my car in Phoenix, there wasn’t another (race),” said Harvick, who is leaving full-time racing after 23 Cup seasons.

 

NASCAR vice chairman Mike Helton had high praise for Harvick, who will remain prominent in the sport as an analyst in the FOX Sports booth.

 

“I want to say, ‘thank you’ to everybody in this room,” Harvick said. “It’s been a heck of a ride… “Where’s Bubba (Wallace)? He bet me $100 I’d cry like a baby—I won $100. Thank you!”

 

Brad Keselowski, co-owner/driver at Roush Fenway Keselowski Racing, pointed to the progress the organization has made in 2023, with both Keselowski and teammate Chris Buescher, a three-time winner, qualifying for the Playoffs.

 

Driving for Stewart-Haas Racing, Cole Custer bested Justin Allgaier, Sam Mayer and John Hunter Nemechek to win his first NASCAR Xfinity Series championship.

 

Custer returned to the Xfinity Series this season after three disappointing years in NASCAR’s top division. 

 

“I think he’s matured a lot, and it’s very gratifying to see him win the Xfinity Series championship,” said team owner Gene Haas. 

 

NASCAR chief operating officer Steve O’Donnell brought Custer to the stage with high praise for the title-winning performance at Phoenix. 

 

“He dug deep, like he always does,” O’Donnell said, referencing the nail-biting restarts late in the championship race.

 

“At the end of that race in Phoenix, when we held that championship trophy, I’ve never been more proud to be a part of that (team),” Custer said. “To the whole team, thank you for believing in me—I love you guys.”

 

Custer also acknowledged the help and advice he received from Harvick, the 2014 Cup Series champion. 

 

In the NASCAR CRAFTSMAN Truck Series, Ben Rhodes won his second title for ThorSport Racing, beating Grant Enfinger, Carson Hocevar and Corey Heim in the Championship 4 finale. Also notable in the Truck Series was Sunoco Rookie of the Year Nick Sanchez, the only rookie driver to qualify for the Playoffs this season.

 

Rhodes finished the season with Rich Lushes as his crew chief after two in-season changes to that vital role.

 

Ben Kennedy, NASCAR vice president of racing development and strategy, introduced Rhodes for his champion’s speech. 

 

“I can’t speak for everyone on the team,” Rhodes said, “but I can say they had incredible tenacity. We went through a lot of adversity, and not once did I hear anyone complain… While I stand before you tonight taking recognition, I really defer that to my team, without which none of it would have been possible.”

 

Carson Hocevar and John Hunter Nemechek earned respective driver of the year honors in the NASCAR CRAFTSMAN Truck Series and Xfinity Series, while Christopher Bell won the 2023 Busch Light Pole Award for his career-best six pole positions this year.

 

Kurt Busch held back tears as he was recognized for a NASCAR career that spanned more than two decades.

 

“I want to say thank you to everyone in this room and everyone in this industry for supporting me for all these years,” said Busch, the 2004 series champion. “I want to thank my father, my mother and my brother Kyle—we always pushed each other to get to the next level.”

 

NASCAR chairman Jim France presented the Bill France Award of Excellence to Rich Kramer, chairman, president and CEO of the Goodyear Tire & Rubber Company.

 

“I’m completely humbled by this acknowledgement,” Kramer said. “The team you see at the track each weekend—anything I’m acknowledged for is due to them…. Goodyear is long-term partner of NASCAR, I think, because we’re cut out of the same cloth.” 

 

Lesa France Kennedy, executive vice chair of NASCAR, announced Molly Moran, a volunteer at Comfort Zone Camp, as the winner of this year’s prestigious Betty Jane France Humanitarian Award. 

 

Comfort Zone Camp is a non-profit bereavement organization that transforms the lives of children who have experienced the death of a parent, sibling, primary caregiver, or significant person. 

 

Ryan Vargas was honored as Comcast Community Champion of the Year for his work with FACES, the National Craniofacial Association. Diagnosed with craniosynostosis as a child, Vargas serves as a board member of FACES and earned a $60,000 donation from Comcast and Xfinity for the organization.

 

Sherry Pollex, long-time partner of 2017 Cup Series champion Martin Truex Jr., was honored with the NMPA Myers Brothers Award. Pollex lost a valiant, nine-year battle against ovarian cancer this year.


Chase Elliott takes home "Most Popular Driver" Award

 

November 30, 2023

 

By Holly Cain

NASCAR Wire Service

 

NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- For the sixth consecutive season, Hendrick Motorsports driver Chase Elliott was selected as the National Motorsports Press Association “Most Popular Driver” in an online vote by the sport’s fans – the longest such winning mark by an active NASCAR Cup Series driver and a nod to the Elliott family’s rich tradition in the sport. Elliott’s father, NASCAR Hall of Famer Bill Elliott, won the honor a record 16 times in his championship career.

 

The 28-year old Elliott arrived at Thursday’s night’s NASCAR Awards Ceremony in downtown Nashville to accept his award wearing a sling on his right arm – a result of recent offseason shoulder surgery. The nod to Elliott’s huge popularity comes even in a season when the 2020 NASCAR Cup Series champion missed five races after breaking his leg in a snowboarding accident and another as a result of NASCAR discipline.

 

Even with his impressive streak of winning the award, Elliott insists he never assumes he will be bestowed with the honor. He finished 17th in the NASCAR Cup Series standings – tops among the non-Playoff drivers - despite missing those six events and he finished with seven top-five and 15 top-10 finishes.

 

“There’s always a chance for anything and also too, I think [NASCAR Cup Champion] Ryan [Blaney] has a great following as well and obviously him having a great year I thought he’d have a shot and also Kevin [Harvick] finishing up his career, a great career," Elliott said. “Obviously, I know our fans pretty well and they are loyal folks. But I don’t ever take it for granted. I think it’s an easy thing to look at and think that I would, but I’m always grateful for the honor and to have the support we’ve had.

 

“This has always been, to me, an extension to me of my family’s place in the sport and the success it’s had over the years and the fans have been great to all of us, not just myself but to my entire family."

 

Of his shoulder injury, Elliott said surgery two weeks ago went well and he didn’t expect to miss any competitive time in the 2024 season. He didn’t believe the injury was directly NASCAR or even racing related, instead saying it was a result of longstanding wear and tear dating back to his high school days.

 

“I missed a bunch of races and had two surgeries in a calendar year which was not how I anticipated my 2023, but that’s life and I think you learn through those situations and sometimes you have to step back and realize there’s more things to it than going in circles and sometimes you have to put your health first and make the right decisions on long-term health and that was really where my head space was in doing my shoulder when I did it," Elliott said.

 

Of winning the award again even in a season he did not compete in every race, Elliott reminded that he never takes it for granted and sees it as a genuine continuation of his family’s long legacy in the sport.

 

“I certainly respect the honor and don’t take it lightly, but I understand my spot in line of my family’s heritage in racing and I feel like it’s always been an extension of their presence here in NASCAR and the success they had and the many years they spent traveling around doing this stuff," Elliott said. “And for me, I’m just fortunate to have the opportunity to do this for a living and try to carry it forward as much I can,”

 

JR Motorsports driver Justin Allgaier was voted Most Popular Driver in the 2023 NASCAR Xfinity Series and for the third consecutive season, ThorSport Racing’s Hailie Deegan won the award for the Most Popular Driver in the NASCAR CRAFTSMAN Truck Series.

 

 

nascar reviews & NOTEBOOKS

www.nascar.com

Celebrating its 75th Anniversary in 2023, the National Association for Stock Car Auto Racing, LLC (NASCAR) is the sanctioning body for the No. 1 form of motorsports in the United States and owner of 16 of the nation’s major motorsports entertainment facilities. NASCAR consists of three national series (NASCAR Cup Series™, NASCAR Xfinity Series™, and NASCAR Camping World Truck Series™), four regional series (ARCA Menards Series™, ARCA Menards Series East & West and the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour™), one local grassroots series (NASCAR Advance Auto Parts Weekly Series™) and three international series (NASCAR Pinty’s Series™, NASCAR Mexico Series™, NASCAR Whelen Euro Series™). The International Motor Sports Association™ (IMSA®) governs the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship™, the premier U.S. sports car series. NASCAR also owns Motor Racing Network, Racing Electronics, and ONE DAYTONA. Based in Daytona Beach, Florida, with offices in eight cities across North America, NASCAR sanctions more than 1,200 races in more than 30 U.S. states, Canada, Mexico and Europe. For more information visit www.NASCAR.com and www.IMSA.com, and follow NASCAR on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Snapchat (‘NASCAR’).

 


 

 


   nascar cup series

2024 NASCAR CUP SERIES SCHEDULE

Date

Race / Track

Network

Start Time (ET)

Radio

Sunday, February 4

Clash (L.A. Memorial Coliseum)

FOX

8:00 p.m.

MRN/SiriusXM

Thursday, February 15

Duel at Daytona

FS1

7:00 p.m.

MRN/SiriusXM

Sunday, February 18

DAYTONA 500

FOX

2:30 p.m.

MRN/SiriusXM

Sunday, February 25

Atlanta Motor Speedway

FOX

3:00 p.m.

PRN/SiriusXM

Sunday, March 3

Las Vegas Motor Speedway

FOX

3:30 p.m.

PRN/SiriusXM

Sunday, March 10

Phoenix Raceway

FOX

3:30 p.m.

MRN/SiriusXM

Sunday, March 17

Bristol Motor Speedway

FOX

3:30 p.m.

PRN/SiriusXM

Sunday, March 24

COTA

FOX

3:30 p.m.

PRN/SiriusXM

Sunday, March 31

Richmond Raceway

FOX

7:00 p.m.

MRN/SiriusXM

Sunday, April 7

Martinsville Speedway

FS1

3:00 p.m.

MRN/SiriusXM

Sunday, April 14

Texas Motor Speedway

FS1

3:30 p.m.

PRN/SiriusXM

Sunday, April 21

Talladega Superspeedway

FOX

3:00 p.m.

MRN/SiriusXM

Sunday, April 28

Dover Motor Speedway

FS1

2:00 p.m.

PRN/SiriusXM

Sunday, May 5

Kansas Speedway

FS1

3:00 p.m.

MRN/SiriusXM

Sunday, May 12

Darlington Raceway

FS1

3:00 p.m.

MRN/SiriusXM

Sunday, May 19