Sprint Cup

NASCAR Sprint Cup News Wire
  • Wednesday, February 25, 2015
    Kahle returns to Atlanta seeking repeat
    By The Sports Xchange

    NASCAR Wire Service

    • Distributed by The Sports Xchange

      Kasey Kahne was in desperation mode at Atlanta Motor Speedway last August.

      Sitting in 18th on the Chase grid -- 33 points below the 16th-place cutoff line -- the No. 9 Hendrick Motorsports driver needed a win to make NASCAR's playoffs.

      Kahne came through.

      He seized the lead with two laps remaining, cruising to victory lane, and more important, a berth in the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup.

      "There won't be as much pressure on us for a while now, I guess," Kahne said after the race. "Just to make it, I mean, that's just such a -- it was winding down, we were -- I don't know. I feel like making the Chase, there's a lot of pressure and you don't really see that again until probably late in the Chase."

      Kahne faces less stress heading into Sunday's Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500 (1 p.m. ET on FOX) at Atlanta Motor Speedway -- the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series' first March visit to the Georgia track since 2010.

      He still has 25 races left before the Chase opener on Sept. 20 at Chicagoland.

      Atlanta Motor Speedway has been kind to Kahne during his NSCS career. The 12-year veteran owns three wins at the 1.5-mile track with seven top fives, nine top 10s and two poles.

      Not the only driver with Peach State success, Kahne will face stout competition from Hendrick Motorsports teammates Jeff Gordon and Jimmie Johnson. Gordon leads all active full-time drivers with five AMS wins. Johnson's three victories tie Kahne and three other drivers for third.

      "I love racing at Atlanta. I won my first-ever (Xfinity) Series race there and it was also the site of my very first Sprint Cup Series start more than 22 years ago," Gordon said. "We've won races and clinched championships there. Atlanta Motor Speedway holds a special place in my heart."

      'Reedy' to go: Daytona winner Ryan Reed leads Roush Fenway Racing to Atlanta

      In February 2011, Ryan Reed was diagnosed with Type-1 diabetes and was told by doctors he'd never be able to drive a race car again.

      Four years later, he's a NASCAR national series race winner.

      Reed pulled a crafty move to the inside to pass 2012 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion Brad Keselowski on the final lap of the season-opening race at Daytona International Speedway and received a timely push from Roush Fenway Racing teammate Chris Buescher to capture his first NASCAR Xfinity Series victory.

      "I can't describe the emotions and the feelings that go into the first win," Reed said. "So much hard work and sacrifice from all my guys -- (crew chief) Seth (Barbour) and (owner) Jack (Roush) and everyone who stood behind me, including Lilly Diabetes and the American Diabetes Association."

      Reed will attempt to win his second race when he leads a quartet of RFR drivers that includes young guns Buescher, Darrell "Bubba" Wallace Jr. and two-time NASCAR Xfinity Series runner-up Elliott Sadler -- to Atlanta Motor Speedway for Saturday's Hisense 250 (2 p.m. ET on FOX Sports 1). The 21-year-old finished 18th in his only start at Atlanta last season.

      "This past week has been a whirlwind after earning my first win at Daytona -- just overwhelming. Seth (Barbour), the team and I have a tremendous amount of confidence and momentum from the win that will carry us into this weekend's race at Atlanta," Reed said. "Our communication has improved so much since the last time we were there and I really think we have a chance to continue our hot streak and bring home another win."

      Robust rookie of the year race heats up at Atlanta

      The NASCAR Camping World Truck Series has long been a proving ground for young drivers to test their talents against grizzled veterans.

      The 2015 season is no exception.

      Eleven drivers are in contention for Rookie of the Year honors in the series.

      In the first race of the season, three of the top five drivers at Daytona were Rookie of the Year candidates: Erik Jones (second), Austin Theriault (fourth) and Ray Black Jr. (fifth).

      Fellow rookies Korbin Forrister (12th at Daytona), Spencer Gallagher (21st), Daniel Hemric (26) and Justin Boston (29th) will attempt to catch up to the pack in Saturday's Hyundai Construction 250 at Atlanta Motor Speedway (5:30 p.m. ET on FOX Sports 1).

      "I'm really looking forward to Atlanta this weekend," Boston said. "KBM has a lot of success at intermediate tracks. It will be nice to race at a place where truck handling, race strategy and skill play a bigger part than just luck."

      Many of the rookies lack experience on 1.5-mile tracks like Atlanta, putting them at a disadvantage to their older counterparts.

      "With the speeds you reach at Atlanta being a mile-and-a-half, it is definitely a lot harder on the tires than at the short tracks we race in late models," Jones said. "But I guess the concept of managing your equipment is the same, so hopefully I can apply some of it."

  • Tuesday, February 24, 2015
    Ragan to take over for Kyle Busch
    By The Sports Xchange

    David Ragan was named Tuesday by Joe Gibbs Racing to replace injured Kyle Busch in the No. 18 car for the next few races in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, beginning this weekend at Atlanta Motor Speedway.

    • Busch suffered a compound fracture of his right leg and a broken left foot in a serious head-on crash with a wall during the Xfinity Series race last Saturday night at Daytona (Fla.) International Raceway.

      Ragan drove his own No. 34 car in the Daytona 500 last Sunday to a 17th-place finish. He has two victories his NASCAR career, the last one in 2013 at Talladega.

      "We appreciate being able to work with Front Row Motorsports and CSX for David's (Ragan) availability," team owner Joe Gibbs said. "We are fortunate to be able to have someone of David's caliber behind the wheel while Kyle recovers."

      Matt Crafton, a two-time NASCAR Truck Series champion, drove Busch's car in the Daytona 500 and finished 18th in his first Sprint Cup race.

      Erik Jones will replace Busch in the Xfinity series. Jones has four career victories in 18 truck races.

  • Tuesday, February 24, 2015
    Daytona safety 'failure' pushes Atlanta, Talladega to safety changes
    By The Sports Xchange

    Talledega Superspeedway will invest in "soft walls" for NASCAR's largest oval track before the first of two Sprint Cup series events in May.

    • Before this weekend's races, Atlanta Motor Speedway plans to have its own safety improvements, including 130 linear feet of protective barrier -- primarily exiting pit road and near Turn 4.

      In light of what NASCAR and Dayton International Speedway officials described as a safety "failure" last week, Talledega plans to use SAFER (Steel and Foam Energy Reduction) barriers to help protect drivers in the event of a crash.

      Kyle Busch was injured Saturday in the Xfinity Series race -- the Alert Today Florida 300 -- at Daytona. Busch is out indefinitely recovering from leg and foot injuries. He hit an unprotected wall head-on at Daytona, and NASCAR said changes would be made to that track immediately.

      "I'm really disappointed that we didn't get that right and obviously disappointed for Kyle," NASCAR chairman Brian France said on Sirius XM radio. "But we will. That's a cornerstone of what we do. (If) we don't get safety right then nothing else really matters."

      Talledega isn't the only track reacting to the incident with major structural changes to the protective walls. The track hosts the Geico 500 on May 3 and a second race Oct. 23-25.

      Kentucky Speedway and others immediately responded to blunt criticism from drivers Saturday night in saying they would address barrier coverage with urgency.

      "It's beyond me why we don't have soft walls everywhere," said six-time champion Jimmie Johnson via Twitter.

      Xfinity driver Ty Dillon, who was third in Saturday's race, said the sport must consider universal SAFER systems.

      "We should have SAFER barriers at a place like this — we're going so fast (and) I think we could probably afford it," he said. "I hate to hear anybody in our sport getting hurt. We've advanced so far in safety. We shouldn't be having any crazy bad injuries."

  • Tuesday, February 24, 2015
    Kyle Busch moved to North Carolina
    By The Sports Xchange

    NASCAR driver Kyle Busch is headed back to North Carolina to continue his recovery from a serious accident Saturday night at Daytona International Speedway.

    • Busch was transferred Tuesay from Halifax Health Medical Center in Daytona Beach, Fla., to a North Carolina hospital for more treatment of a broken right leg and broken left foot suffered when his car collided head-on with an concrete wall during the Xfinity race.

      It's not known how long Busch's recovery will last and when he will be able to drive again. He will be under the care of Dr. Robert Anderson, who is also the team physician for the Carolina Panthers.

      Busch's wife, Samantha, sent a picture via Twitter of her smiling husband on a stretcher being loaded on a plane for transport back to North Carolina on Tuesday.

      Matt Crafton, a two-time NASCAR Truck Series champion, drove Busch's car in Sunday's Daytona 500 and finished 18th in his first Sprint Cup race.

      Possible replacements for Busch in his Joe Gibbs Racing car until he returns are David Ragan and Erik Jones, according to reports. Regan has two career Cup wins and Jones has posted four victories in 18 career truck races.

  • Monday, February 23, 2015
    Kurt Busch might never escape outsider status
    By The Sports Xchange

    Kurt Busch can't catch a break.

    • After being forced to sit out the Daytona 500 following an indefinite suspension by NASCAR, Busch probably couldn't help but notice that Joey Logano's breakthrough victory in the sport's biggest race came in the same No. 22 Shell-sponsored ride that he lost due to bad behavior three seasons ago.

      And, it was Kurt's younger brother Kyle Busch who got the sympathy vote on Sunday after being forced to watch the race while mending from surgery to a leg broken Saturday in the Xfinity Series race at Daytona. His team owner Joe Gibbs is already talking about getting Kyle back into his Toyota as soon as is feasible.

      It is likely Kurt Busch will not compete again in a car capable of winning the Daytona 500.

      On Sunday, it was Regan Smith who drove the Stewart-Haas Racing Chevrolet that Busch had wheeled during Thursday night's 150-mile qualifying races. No man is an island, but Busch now lives on a very lonely peninsula after being suspended Friday by NASCAR due to a family court finding that he "most likely" assaulted his ex-girlfriend.

      He then lost his appeal to NASCAR a day later.

      Career-wise, Busch is now a three-time loser in a sport pickled green by corporate sponsor money. While the future now looks bright for 24-year-old Logano, whose sponsor Home Depot soured on his prospects while he was driving for Gibbs, Busch remains on the same downward path that has been his career trademark.

      Busch won his first – and now likely only – championship at age 26. But in 2005, one year after winning the first Chase for team owner Jack Roush, he was fired with two races to go in the season following an arrest by police in Phoenix resulting from a confrontation during a traffic stop.

      Following an epithet-laced meltdown with a TV reporter in 2012, Busch lost the plum Penske Racing ride that Logano drove on Sunday to become the second youngest Daytona 500 winner.

      So it's hard to feel sorry for Busch, who has made his own bed with a persistent pattern of defiant, over-the-top angry behavior toward team owners, the media, other drivers, and, occasionally, NASCAR officials.

      Busch made a short cut entry into racing's highest rank by scoring well in one of Roush's "gong show" tryouts, where seat-of-the-pants ability was all that mattered. He raced five seasons for Roush in the Cup series before his unceremonious departure. Between the release by Roush and the firing by Penske, Busch had six years to get the counseling he needed to operate in the pressure cooker at the sharp end of professional motor racing. But, his behavior didn't change and Shell representatives notified team owner Roger Penske they'd had enough after Busch F-bombed an ESPN reporter several times while waiting to go on air for a post-race interview.

      On the other hand, there was no police report immediately following an alleged assault last September in Busch's motor home at the track in Dover as in the incident a decade earlier in Phoenix. There was no hand-held device and resulting video that went viral as when he blasted ESPN reporter Jerry Punch.

      The evidence boiled down to "she said" and "he said" in front of a lower echelon family court in Delaware, a place rarely frequented by major media coverage and high-powered attorneys.

      But put Busch in front of even a low level authority figure like a county commissioner in a court setting and, well, stuff happens. In this case, he claimed that his ex-girlfriend Pamela Driscoll had told him of working as an assassin and had used a sniper rifle and close combat to take out drug lords. In short, he was claiming it was he who should have been physically afraid of her.

      Once he used these comments to state his own innocence, comments that bore remarkable similarities to previous episodes in terms of defiance and disrespect, Busch's days were numbered. He lost crucial credibility with the commissioner running the court, embarrassed the NASCAR community in general and his Stewart-Haas Racing team. Driscoll may have made such fanciful claims, but was Busch really afraid of her?

      All this took place in the midst of the NFL's major league headache over domestic violence and made it seem as if Busch did not take the issue seriously. Non-racing fans and reporters found his comments ludicrous or laughable. The NASCAR community could not get far enough away from Busch and his problems. Once the court's ruling that Busch "most likely" committed assault, his indefinite suspension by NASCAR quickly followed as well as a terse announcement by his team that offered no support for the driver.

      In the current modern era, the only domestic problem in NASCAR has been some drivers sleeping around in the same fashion that happens in every major league sport as a result of women chasing male stars with money or male stars looking to "cash in" on fame. Absent that behavior and the tawdry, sad affair of Busch and Driscoll, NASCAR's top series gives every appearance of living up to the sport's family-oriented image.

      We haven't seen the last of Kurt Busch as a race car driver. NASCAR's suspensions have usually provided a path for re-instatement that includes counseling, although technically Busch has three major offenses detrimental to the sport, which could put his return in jeopardy. He was fired twice previously by team owners in lieu of suspension by NASCAR, but the sanctioning body is not keen on behavior by drivers that discourages corporate sponsorship. Unlike the drug abuse program, there are no specific guidelines for re-instatement following domestic abuse by a NASCAR license holder. Also, criminal charges may yet be filed by the district attorney.

      Whatever his fate in NASCAR, Busch has top drawer talent. This is the driver who finished 6th in his first Indy 500 last year – and then raced his Stewart-Haas Chevy in Charlotte for 271 laps before his engine blew. A car owner will elect to put him behind the wheel in some form of racing at some stage.

      One of the pleasures in motor racing is watching a fast driver fall to the rear of the field due to circumstances and then work his way back to the front. (See Jimmie Johnson in Sunday's 500 after he became the first driver penalized under new pit road safety procedures.) But there'll be no watching Busch try to recover in the short term in a sponsorship-driven sport.

      For him, going to the back of the pack is now a metaphor for a life and career gone haywire yet again.

  • Sunday, February 22, 2015
    Daytona 500 race results
    By The Sports Xchange

    NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Race results -- Daytona 500

    • Daytona International Speedway

      Daytona Beach, Florida

      Sunday, February 22, 2015

      1. (5) Joey Logano, Ford, 203, $1581453.

      2. (11) Kevin Harvick, Chevrolet, 203, $1157470.

      3. (3) Dale Earnhardt Jr., Chevrolet, 203, $857245.

      4. (42) Denny Hamlin, Toyota, 203, $680758.

      5. (2) Jimmie Johnson, Chevrolet, 203, $616232.

      6. (41) Casey Mears, Chevrolet, 203, $470640.

      7. (9) Clint Bowyer, Toyota, 203, $437870.

      8. (10) Martin Truex Jr., Chevrolet, 203, $405297.

      9. (13) Kasey Kahne, Chevrolet, 203, $375045.

      10. (8) Greg Biffle, Ford, 203, $389308.

      11. (26) David Gilliland, Ford, 203, $348458.

      12. (38) Sam Hornish Jr., Ford, 203, $361953.

      13. (27) Michael Annett, Chevrolet, 203, $330945.

      14. (30) Austin Dillon, Chevrolet, 203, $365219.

      15. (33) Aric Almirola, Ford, 203, $363381.

      16. (24) Regan Smith(i), Chevrolet, 203, $340558.

      17. (28) David Ragan, Ford, 203, $324908.

      18. (4) Matt Crafton(i), Toyota, 203, $383124.

      19. (36) Johnny Sauter(i), Toyota, 203, $318970.

      20. (40) AJ Allmendinger, Chevrolet, 203, $337420.

      21. (20) Danica Patrick, Chevrolet, 203, $331628.

      22. (19) Cole Whitt, Ford, 203, $318065.

      23. (6) Carl Edwards, Toyota, 203, $335603.

      24. (43) Bobby Labonte, Ford, 203, $326103.

      25. (21) Paul Menard, Chevrolet, 203, $327840.

      26. (34) Michael Waltrip, Toyota, 203, $347217.

      27. (15) Jamie McMurray, Chevrolet, 203, $349398.

      28. (31) Ty Dillon(i), Chevrolet, 203, $317190.

      29. (32) Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Ford, 203, $325778.

      30. (37) Trevor Bayne, Ford, 203, $313240.

      31. (23) Michael McDowell, Ford, 203, $313590.

      32. (14) Reed Sorenson, Chevrolet, 203, $314228.

      33. (1) Jeff Gordon, Chevrolet, 203, $594801.

      34. (29) Kyle Larson, Chevrolet, Accident, 202, $344381.

      35. (35) Matt Kenseth, Toyota, 202, $350826.

      36. (16) Mike Wallace, Toyota, 199, $313883.

      37. (18) Justin Allgaier, Chevrolet, Accident, 197, $319158.

      38. (22) Ryan Newman, Chevrolet, 184, $317261.

      39. (12) Ryan Blaney(i), Ford, Engine, 175, $281003.

      40. (25) JJ Yeley(i), Toyota, 161, $273790.

      41. (39) Brad Keselowski, Ford, Engine, 160, $318331.

      42. (7) Tony Stewart, Chevrolet, Accident, 72, $300598.

      43. (17) Landon Cassill, Chevrolet, Engine, 18, $262390.

      Average Speed of Race Winner: 161.939 mph.

      Time of Race: 3 Hrs, 08 Mins, 02 Secs. Margin of Victory: Caution.

      Caution Flags: 7 for 26 laps.

      Lead Changes: 27 among 12 drivers.

      Lap Leaders: J. Gordon 1; J. Johnson 2-13; J. Gordon 14-19; J. Yeley(i) 20; M. Annett 21; C. Mears 22; J. Gordon 23-45; J. Logano 46-51; J. Gordon 52-86; C. Edwards 87; D. Hamlin 88; J. Gordon 89-107; A. Allmendinger 108; J. Gordon 109-111; D. Hamlin 112; J. Logano 113; D. Earnhardt Jr. 114-145; J. Logano 146-153; G. Biffle 154-155; J. Logano 156-157; J. Johnson 158-165; C. Edwards 166-167; J. Johnson 168-180; J. Logano 181; J. Johnson 182-187; M. Truex Jr. 188; D. Hamlin 189-190; J. Logano 191-203.

      Leaders Summary (Driver, Times Lead, Laps Led): J. Gordon 6 times for 87 laps; J. Johnson 4 times for 39 laps; D. Earnhardt Jr. 1 time for 32 laps; J. Logano 6 times for 31 laps; D. Hamlin 3 times for 4 laps; C. Edwards 2 times for 3 laps; G. Biffle 1 time for 2 laps; C. Mears 1 time for 1 lap; J. Yeley(i) 1 time for 1 lap; M. Annett 1 time for 1 lap; A. Allmendinger 1 time for 1 lap; M. Truex Jr. 1 time for 1 lap.

      Top 16 in Points: J. Logano -- 47; K. Harvick -- 42; D. Earnhardt Jr. -- 42; D. Hamlin -- 41; J. Johnson -- 40; C. Mears -- 39; C. Bowyer -- 37; M. Truex Jr. -- 37; K. Kahne -- 35; G. Biffle -- 35; D. Gilliland -- 33; S. Hornish Jr. -- 32; M. Annett -- 32; A. Dillon -- 30; A. Almirola -- 29; D. Ragan -- 27.

  • Sunday, February 22, 2015
    Logano kicks off season with Daytona 500 win
    By The Sports Xchange

    DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. -- Joey Logano drove to the checkered flag under caution to win the Daytona 500 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season opener at Daytona International Speedway on Sunday.

    • "What an amazing moment," Logano said. "Wow. To win this race is just amazing. I have the best team on pit road, for sure. These guys are awesome."

      It was Logano's first Daytona 500 victory and ninth career win in his 220th start.

      Kevin Harvick finished second and Dale Earnhardt Jr., Denny Hamlin and Jimmie Johnson rounded out the top five.

      "I thought we were in good shape with the 88 (Earnhardt) behind us," Harvick said. "I was trying to back up to him to get a run up off of turn four. All in all, it was a good weekend for our Jimmy John's/Budweiser team, and everyone at Stewart-Haas did a great job. I'm really proud of everyone, and we're looking forward to Atlanta."

      Logano was able to get out in front on a green-white-checker restart after a wreck involving Justin Allgaier and Ty Dillon.

      "I saw that we were single file the first three cars, and I knew that was a good thing, because it would be harder for them to form a run," Logano said. "Then I saw them crash in the mirror, but I had a distance to go, and I thought that was good because it was still going to be harder for them to catch up without as many cars in the pack."

      Logano took the white flag in the lead to secure the win as cars wrecked behind him. Jeff Gordon, who led a race-high 87 laps, was among the drivers caught up in the last-lap crash. He wound up 33rd.

      "For some reason, I'm still smiling and enjoying every moment of it," Gordon said after his final Daytona 500. "Obviously, I enjoyed the first half a lot more than the second half. What an amazing car we had, just out there in the front with our Drive To End Hunger Chevrolet, just controlling the race."

      Johnson restarted with the lead with 35 laps remaining by staying out while others pitted to top off their fuel tanks during a caution. Carl Edwards and Harvick both got by on the restart, but Johnson retook the lead a few laps later.

      After a three-wide battle just outside the final 10 laps, Logano got out front by himself with nine laps to go.

      "My spotter did a great job giving me the information I needed to get out front and stay out front before that last caution and be able to have a good restart there at the end," Logano said. "I knew I had the 15 (Clint Bowyer) behind me and Clint Bowyer was the best pusher I could find out there and was able to push me to the lead and I knew I wanted the outside to make sure he was behind me to work up there again."

      Gordon dominated the first half of race after starting on the pole, leading all but 21 laps before heading to pit road during a cycle of green-flag stops on lap 87. He was back up front after the cycle completed.

      Gordon was joined by his Hendrick Motorsports teammates throughout his time up front. Johnson started next to Gordon on the front row and led 12 laps early before being shuffled back through the field. He was nabbed later on pit road when his pit crew went over the wall too soon.

      Earnhardt was able to keep up with teammate Gordon up front, and they were eventually joined by remaining HMS driver Kasey Kahne.

      Gordon drifted back several positions after a lap-107 debris caution, leaving Logano and Earnhardt to battle for the lead. Earnhardt secured the position with 86 laps to go.

      Logano, was able to keep up, though, atnd took the lead from Earnhardt with 55 laps remaining. By that time, Johnson was back inside the top five.

      Brad Keselowski, Logano's teammate at Team Penske, blew his engine with 40 laps to go. Landon Cassill also blew an engine early in the race on lap 19, and Ryan Blaney lost his engine in the final 25 laps. Other drivers who had problems included Tony Stewart and Matt Kenseth, both of whom hit the wall on lap 41 following an early re-start. Stewart remained winless at the Daytona 500 in 17 career starts.

      Finishing sixth through 10th were Casey Mears, Bowyer, Martin Truex Jr., Kahne and Greg Biffle.

      Brothers Kurt and Kyle Busch were absent from the race line-up.

      Kurt Busch was indefinitely suspended from NASCAR competition Friday after ex-girlfriend Patricia Driscoll was granted a no-contact order from a Delaware family court following allegations of domestic abuse from Busch.

      Kyle Busch suffered a compound fracture of his lower right leg and a mid-foot fracture in his left foot during a crash on lap 111 of the 120-lap NASCAR Xfinity Series race on Saturday.

      Xfinity Series regular Regan Smith replaced Kurt Busch, while two-time reigning NASCAR Camping World Truck Series champion Matt Crafton filled in for Kyle Busch. Smith finished in 16th, while Crafton finished in 19th.

      Roger Penske, Logano's car owner, won the Daytona 500 for the second time as an owner.

      "I think Joey managed the race well," Penske told ESPN. "It showed what a leader he is."

      NOTES: Danica Patrick raced her Sprint Unlimited car in the Daytona 500 after wrecking her primary car in a practice crash Wednesday and a crash in the Budweiser Duel on Thursday. She finished 21st. ... The Daytona 500 was the first Sprint Cup Series race without Kurt or Kyle Busch in the field since 2000. ... Matt Kenseth, Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Jimmie Johnson headed into Daytona 500 already with Cup-level race wins during 2015 Speedweeks, with Kenseth winning the Sprint Unlimited on Feb. 14 and Earnhardt and Johnson winning Budweiser Duel races Thursday. ... Jamie McMurray also already had a 2015 Daytona win, winning the Rolex 24 sports car race in late January. ... Jeff Gordon failed to win in the last eight races in which he led the most laps. ... Tony Stewart has 19 NASCAR wins at Daytona but has never won the Daytona 500. He wound up 42nd in the 2015 event. ... NASCAR handed out 21 penalties under its new pit road officiating system.

  • Sunday, February 22, 2015
    Logano caps spectacular race with Daytona 500 victory
    By The Sports Xchange

    By Reid Spencer, NASCAR Wire Service

    • Distributed by The Sports Xchange

      DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. -- The record will reflect that Joey Logano won Sunday's 57th Daytona 500 under caution, when a multicar wreck on the backstretch forced NASCAR to wave the yellow flag as Logano led the field into the final corner on the second lap of a green-white-checkered-flag finish.

      But the notation of that final caution does no justice to the memory of a race that produced some of the most scintillating restrictor-plate racing in the history of the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series.

      From a restart on Lap 182 of a scheduled 200, fans standing -- not sitting -- in a packed front grandstand were treated to 16 straight laps of close-quarters, three-wide racing that saw the lead change from one lap to the next, as one line or another would inch ahead. Indeed, NASCAR's loop data statistics said Sunday's race set a Daytona record for green flag passes (12,677 in all).

      The final two-lap sprint, on the other hand, was no contest. Logano picked the outside lane for the restart on Lap 202 and surged ahead of second-place Jimmie Johnson when the bottom lane didn't move as quickly as expected.

      Kevin Harvick was second when NASCAR threw the final caution and froze the field. Defending race winner Dale Earnhardt Jr. charged from eighth to third before the yellow. Denny Hamlin ran fourth, followed by Johnson and Casey Mears.

      But it was Logano who earned the trip Victory Lane, continuing unabated from a breakout 2014 season that saw him win five times in the Sprint Cup Series and qualify for the final round of the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup before finishing fourth in the final standings.

      If Logano streaked away on the final restart, it was Clint Bowyer who helped move him into position to win the race during the 16-lap green-flag run that preceded the sixth caution on Lap 198.

      Logano could barely contain himself when recalling the action of the closing laps. With a shove from Bowyer, Logano took the lead from Jimmie Johnson on Lap 191 and held it until NASCAR called the caution for Justin Allgaier's spin seven laps later.

      "I keep looking at this trophy, and it's amazing," Logano said after climbing from his No. 22 Team Penske Ford. "What a beauty. ... Now I lost my train of thought. I'm sorry. I'm so distracted right now.

      "We got the push that got us out front and that was just Clint pushing hard. He wasn't lifting before he got to my bumper, he was slamming into the back bumper and that is what we needed to get this Ford out front and here in Victory Lane."

      Logano's ninth win in the Cup series in all likelihood will mean a return trip to the Chase. It's also the second victory for team owner Roger Penske in the Great American Race, the first coming in the 50th edition of the event in 2008, with driver Ryan Newman.

      Logano's victory also extended a remarkable four-race streak for Ford, which won the Rolex 24 Hours in January and swept the NASCAR weekend with triumphs in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series on Friday (Tyler Reddick) and NASCAR XFINITY Series on Saturday (Ryan Reed).

      Earnhardt felt he had the strongest car in the field, but a mistake on the Lap 182 restart shuffled him from third all the way out of the top 15. For the balance of the race, the driver of the No. 88 Chevrolet fought his way back toward the front but wasn't in position to make a play for the win at the end.

      Earnhardt had planned to tuck in behind Johnson, his teammate, after the restart, but didn't have room to make the move.

      "Jimmie was on the quarter panel ... he was in a great spot on the guy in front of me," Earnhardt said. "And I thought if I could get in behind him, he was going to shoot past to the lead, I could tuck on the quarter panel a little bit as soon as I got on that right rear quarter panel.

      "I didn't think they were that close on the outside line. I thought we had a couple car-lengths on the outside line, but they were right there. Just one of them moves. You make some good ones, you make some bad ones. I made a bad one too late."

      Harvick, the defending series champion, was philosophical about the runner-up finish.

      "Yeah, definitely, for us it was a good, solid day to start the season," Harvick said. "Obviously, you want to try to win the race. But sometimes you're just happy to keep rolling and going out of here and head to Atlanta (next Sunday) with a solid day.

      "I thought we were going to have at least a chance, back up to the 88 there, come up to the 22 coming off of Turn 4. But in the end, that didn't all pan out with the caution. Still, a good weekend for us."

      Polesitter Jeff Gordon, racing in the Daytona 500 for the last time, was a victim of the wreck that brought out the final caution. Gordon dominated early, leading a race-high 87 laps, but the late wreck dropped him to 33rd at the finish.

      "This was an amazing week and an amazing day," Gordon said. "I'm just in a different place that is so foreign to me, but so incredible--to just be taking it all in and enjoying every moment.

      "Yeah, right now I'm a little bit sad this is my final Daytona 500, but I'm more upset we didn't have a shot at winning there at the end."

      Notes: Regan Smith finished 16th in the No. 41 Stewart-Haas Racing Chevrolet in relief of suspended driver Kurt Busch. ... Matt Crafton finished 19th as an 11th-hour substitute in the No. 18 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota, after driver Kyle Busch was sidelined with a broken leg in Saturday's XFINITY Series race. ... A blown engine relegated 2012 series champion Brad Keselowski to a 41st-place finish. ... Danica Patrick ran 21st in her fourth Daytona 500 start.

  • Sunday, February 22, 2015
    Harvick says Busch wreck 'wake-up call'
    By The Sports Xchange

    Following Kyle Busch suffering a broken right leg and broken left foot in a crash Saturday at Daytona International Speedway, Kevin Harvick said it was a "wake-up call" and all tracks need to be more proactive about the exposed concrete walls.

    • Daytona International Speedway president Joie Chitwood pledged that the entire oval's inside and outside walls will have the steel-and-foam energy-reduction (SAFER) barrier for future events.

      Harvick criticized Daytona International Speedway last year for still having exposed concrete walls following his 2014 accident.

      "Just like we did with Dale Earnhardt, Kyle Busch, one of our sport's biggest stars, is out and not being able to race because of the lack of attention that it takes for the safety on these superspeedways," Harvick, the reigning Sprint Cup champion, said Sunday morning before the Daytona 500. "Instead of being proactive, the track was reactive.

      "Fortunately, it's not a situation of a magnitude of Earnhardt's, but it's still a wake-up call in my opinion to make sure we do things right."

      Earnhardt Sr., a seven-time Cup champion, died in a last-lap crash in the 2001 Daytona 500. On Saturday during an Xfinity Series race, Busch slammed head-on into a concrete wall on the inside heading into Turn 1 in a spot close to where Harvick hit last year.

      "It's a reaction from the racetrack unfortunately," Harvick said. "I hit the same wall a little further up last year at this particular race and kind of voiced my opinion, and unfortunately I was just a dot on the chart and there was no reaction.

      "Now there's a reaction from the racetrack. Hopefully this is a lesson learned. You don't want to have a reaction. Racetracks have to be proactive and ... they have to look ahead and look for accidents that might happen."

      NASCAR chairman Brian France told the drivers at their prerace meeting he was "not proud" of Saturday's accident, with the wall not having a SAFER barrier.

      "SAFER barriers, and any area that we work on particular to safety, if it's not up, we'll get it up," France said. "That's our commitment going forward on that issue."

      NASCAR mandated SAFER barriers in the turns of all ovals by the 2005 season. The barrier uses a steel front with foam in sections between the steel and concrete.

      "We know what fixes these walls, and that's to put a wall in front of them," Harvick said. "(What happened) yesterday, that's why we wear a helmet, that's why we wear a HANS (neck restraint), that's why we wear firesuits, that's why we have fire bottles (in the car). It's for that one moment that you have to protect yourself against."

      Busch needed assistance getting out of his car after it slammed into the wall. His right leg was placed in an air cast before he was transported by ambulance to nearby Halifax Health Medical Center in Daytona Beach, where he underwent surgery Saturday night.

      Joe Gibbs Racing reported late Saturday night the surgery was successful and that Busch would remain hospitalized for observation.

      Busch's wife, Samantha, offered an update on Twitter early Sunday morning:

      "In the recovery room with Kyle he's alert n chatting. Surgery went well. We thank you all for the support, prayers and love during this time."

      Joe Gibbs Racing has not put a timetable on the Busch's return.

      Team owner Joe Gibbs said the number of weeks he misses will be determined after he returns to Charlotte and visits OrthoCarolina Dr. Robert Anderson, who performed surgery on Busch's left foot in the offseason and serves as the team doctor for the Carolina Panthers.

      Gibbs said Busch will return to North Carolina as soon as he feels well enough to fly home.

      "Today has been our whole focus so we'll talk more about how long he's going to be out and try to get an evaluation of that and then starting tomorrow we'll talk about what's our best decision for everybody on going forward," Gibbs said Sunday. "I know our emphasis is getting him back as quick as we can.

      "I know that's what Kyle will be wanting to do, and we'll have everybody working with him and for him in rehab and everything else to get him back as quick as we can in the car."

      Chitwood said the speedway failed for not having the soft walls and will start next week on having them installed "on every inch of our property."

      "The Daytona International Speedway did not live up to its responsibility today," Chitwood said Saturday night. "We should have had SAFER barrier there. We're going to fix that. We're going to fix that right now."

      Reaction from the crash was swift on social media.

      "Man I hope @KyleBusch is alright ... It's beyond me why we don't have soft walls everywhere," tweeted Jimmie Johnson, a six-time Cup champion.

      Regan Smith, who earlier in Saturday's race rolled his car for the first time in his career, said it was inexcusable in 2015 for tracks not to have SAFER barriers everywhere.

      "I'm genuinely furious right now," Smith tweeted.

  • Sunday, February 22, 2015
    Kurt Busch loses final appeal of suspension
    By The Sports Xchange

    By Reid Spencer

    • NASCAR Wire Service

      Distributed by The Sports Xchange

      DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. -- Kurt Busch's final attempt to win reinstatement failed Saturday night when NASCAR appeals officer Bryan Moss upheld Busch's indefinite suspension from all NASCAR activities.

      Earlier in the day, the National Motorsports Appeals Panel had denied Busch's appeal of an indefinite suspension imposed by NASCAR on Friday in the aftermath of a finding by Family Court of the State of Delaware that Busch had likely committed domestic abuse against his former girlfriend, Patricia Driscoll.

      On Monday, the court had issued an Order of Protection of Abuse against the 2004 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion.

      Busch appealed the panel's decision to Moss as the final step in the process. The hearing convened at 7:30 p.m. ET in the International Motorsports Center. Moss' decision closes the door on any hope that Busch might have had of racing in Sunday's Daytona 500 (1 p.m. ET on FOX).

      Busch has now exhausted all his options under the NASCAR rulebook and his indefinite suspension remains intact. Moss determined that the original suspension fell within scope of NASCAR's guidelines and was appropriate to the situation.

      Busch's brother, Kyle Busch, also will miss the Daytona 500 after suffering a broken leg during a 10-car wreck in Saturday's Florida 300 NASCAR Xfinity Series race at Daytona.

      At least one of the two brothers has raced in every Daytona 500 since 2000. Sunday's event will be the first NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race without a Busch brother since the 35th race of the 2001 season at Atlanta.

  • Saturday, February 21, 2015
    Busch loses appeals of indefinite suspension
    By The Sports Xchange

    Kurt Busch's appeals of his indefinite suspension were denied Saturday by NASCAR.

    • Busch was banned indefinitely by NASCAR on Friday when a court in Delaware ruled that he likely choked and beat his former girlfriend and projected a high likelihood of domestic violence in Busch's future.

      As a result, Busch will remain on indefinite suspension. He was not going to race in Sunday's Daytona 500 even if NASCAR had overturned Busch's suspension.

      After the ruling, Busch left the building, across the street from Daytona International Speedway, without comment. Busch had one last chance Saturday night with NASCAR Final Appeals Officer Bryan Moss, but his plea was rejected.

      NASCAR announced the first decision from its headquarters at the International Motorsports Center in Daytona Beach, Fla., where Busch's appeal was heard. Former NASCAR executive Paul Brooks, former race-car driver Lyn St. James and Greenville Pickens (S.C.) Speedway track owner Kevin Whitaker voted Saturday afternoon to deny Busch's initial appeal.

      "We are very disappointed that our appeal was rejected by NASCAR's appeal panel," Busch's attorney, Rusty Hardin, said in a statement. "We are re-appealing immediately, per the proscribed process. We have significant and strong evidence that contradicts the commissioner's conclusions.

      "In the end, we are confident that Kurt will be vindicated and he will be back racing. Until then, we will continue to fight on his behalf by ensuring that the entire truth is known."

      Stewart-Haas Racing spokesman Mike Arning confirmed Saturday morning that Regan Smith -- a regular in the NASCAR Xfinity Series -- would drive Busch's No. 41 Stewart-Haas Chevrolet in the Daytona 500. Smith was fitted for the driver's seat and drove the car in Saturday's final NASCAR Sprint Cup Series practice.

      Busch was suspended Friday after the conclusions reached by Kent County (Del.) Commissioner David Jones stated that a "preponderance of the evidence" indicated that Busch "committed an act of domestic violence" against former girlfriend Patricia Driscoll last September at Dover International Speedway. Jones' findings were released four days after the family court granted Driscoll's request for an Order of Protection from Abuse, stemming from their alleged altercation in Busch's motorcoach.

      Steve O'Donnell, NASCAR executive vice president and chief racing development officer, said Friday that Busch had the option of appealing the decision and that the process would be expedited. Hardin, Busch's lead attorney, indicated shortly thereafter that his client would contest the ruling, though the terms of the hearing did not permit him to have legal representation during the appeal.

      The Monday ruling for a no-contact order is a separate legal matter from the Dover (Del.) Police Department's investigation of the alleged assault. The department concluded its probe on Jan. 6, turning the case over to the county's attorney general's office, which has not decided whether Busch will face criminal charges.

  • Saturday, February 21, 2015
    Busch out of Daytona 500 after crash; Reed wins Xfinity race
    By The Sports Xchange

    By Reid Spencer

    • NASCAR Wire Service

      Distributed by The Sports Xchange

      DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. -- Kyle Busch sustained a leg injury during a hard crash into a wall in Saturday night's Xfinity Series race at Daytona International Speedway that will keep him out of the Daytona 500.

      Ryan Reed won the Florida 300 race with a spectacular last-lap move to the inside and a timely shove from Roush Fenway Raceway teammate Chris Buescher for his first victory in the series.

      On Lap 112, during a 10-car wreck that started at the exit from the tri-oval, Busch crashed nose-first into the concrete wall inside Turn 1. Busch climbed from his car but was unable to stay on his feet.

      Emergency medical technicians put an air cast on Busch's right leg before lifting him on a stretcher into a waiting ambulance. The driver of the No. 54 Toyota was transported directly to Halifax Medical Center. He suffered a compound fracture of his lower right leg and a mid-foot fracture of his left foot and underwent surgery Saturday night.

      Busch will be sidelined for an undetermined period, the team said. Matt Crafton will replace Busch in the No. 18 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota for Sunday's Daytona 500.

      Crafton, the two-time defending NASCAR Camping World Truck Series champion, is the interim driver for Daytona. Beyond that, the team has not yet made a determination as to a relief driver or drivers.

      Sunday's race will be the first Sprint Cup event since the next-to-last event of the 2001 season without one of the Busch brothers (Kurt or Kyle) in the field.

      Reed has overcome diabetes to drive full time in the Xfinity Series.

      "Oh, my God, we won Daytona!" Reed said.

      Buescher finished second, .089 of a second behind, with Ty Dillon, Austin Dillon and Brad Keselowski claiming positions three through five.

      Keselowski was leading at the white flag, but a last-lap crash in Turn 1 left him alone in front of the field and a prime target for the Roush Fenway tandem.

      In a race where attrition was the watchword, Reed was one of nine drivers to finish on the lead lap.

      "For every kid that gets diagnosed with diabetes, or anything that says you can't do something, just go out there and overcome it and do it," Reed said. "This is unreal. It hasn't even sunk in yet. ...

      "When the wreck broke out of the least lap, Keselowski was out there on an island, and we got a huge run and it set up perfectly. ... It's amazing."

      After failing to qualify for the Daytona race last year, Buescher was elated with his second-place run, especially since he finished runner-up to a teammate.

      "We're just happy to be running this race this year," Buescher said. "After last year going the way it did, we're proud that we were in it. Our Ford Mustang was fast all weekend. Just trying to stay out of trouble, and there was a lot of it.

      "We barely got out of it. I think we ended up, me and Ty, at one point getting through one of those last ones. It was a melee, a lot of torn up equipment. Just happy we could get out of it.

      "Happy for Ryan to get his first win, knowing the feeling after last year (when he got his first win at Mid-Ohio) of finally getting one off your back."

      Chase Elliott's Xfinity Series title defense got off to a rocky start. Elliott was an innocent victim of a 13-car wreck on Lap 93 but continued after repairs. The coup de grace for the driver of the No. 9 JR Motorsports Chevy came on Lap 112 when he was sidelined in the same wreck that injured Busch.

      The DNF (did not finish) was Elliott's first in 34 Xfinity Series starts.

      Darrell Wallace Jr. and Elliott Sadler finished 12th and 19th, respectively, in their first events for Roush Fenway Racing.

      NASCAR XFINITY Series Race - Alert Today Florida 300

      Daytona International Speedway

      Daytona Beach, Florida

      Saturday, February 21, 2015

      1. (8) Ryan Reed, Ford, 120, $128770.

      2. (10) Chris Buescher, Ford, 120, $101035.

      3. (34) Ty Dillon, Chevrolet, 120, $82710.

      4. (1) Austin Dillon, Chevrolet, 120, $74735.

      5. (14) Brad Keselowski, Ford, 120, $64245.

      6. (18) David Starr, Toyota, 120, $67520.

      7. (5) Aric Almirola, Ford, 120, $57820.

      8. (27) Kyle Larson, Chevrolet, 120, $57745.

      9. (21) Ross Chastain, Chevrolet, 120, $61495.

      10. (40) Dale Earnhardt Jr., Chevrolet, 119, $55445.

      11. (7) Dakoda Armstrong, Ford, 119, $59445.

      12. (28) Darrell Wallace Jr., Ford, 119, $59070.

      13. (31) Mike Wallace, Toyota, 119, $52595.

      14. (23) Jeremy Clements, Chevrolet, 118, $58270.

      15. (37) Mario Gosselin, Chevrolet, 118, $58570.

      16. (13) Jeffrey Earnhardt, Chevrolet, 118, $57670.

      17. (25) Eric McClure, Toyota, 116, $57420.

      18. (6) Erik Jones, Toyota, 116, $57295.

      19. (11) Elliott Sadler, Ford, 116, $57145.

      20. (38) Blake Koch, Toyota, 115, $57520.

      21. (20) Chris Cockrum, Chevrolet, 115, $56895.

      22. (33) Derek White, Dodge, 115, $56765.

      23. (24) Josh Reaume, Chevrolet, 115, $50590.

      24. (19) Mike Harmon, Dodge, 114, $56465.

      25. (15) Brian Scott, Chevrolet, Accident, 112, $56465.

      26. (32) Kyle Busch, Toyota, Accident, 111, $52690.

      27. (9) JJ Yeley, Toyota, Accident, 111, $56090.

      28. (35) Chase Elliott, Chevrolet, Accident, 111, $56990.

      29. (4) Brendan Gaughan, Chevrolet, Accident, 110, $55990.

      30. (17) Cale Conley, Toyota, Accident, 110, $56065.

      31. (39) Landon Cassill, Chevrolet, 108, $55590.

      32. (26) Joey Gase, Chevrolet, 107, $55495.

      33. (29) John Wes Townley, Chevrolet, 106, $55445.

      34. (2) Justin Marks, Toyota, Accident, 93, $55640.

      35. (12) Regan Smith, Chevrolet, Accident, 93, $55224.

      36. (3) Chad Boat, Chevrolet, Accident, 92, $45650.

      37. (22) Scott Lagasse Jr., Toyota, Accident, 92, $50500.

      38. (16) Ryan Sieg, Chevrolet, Accident, 92, $49500.

      39. (36) Daniel Suarez, Toyota, Accident, 91, $48500.

      40. (30) Dexter Bean, Chevrolet, Fuel Pump, 5, $41500.

      Average speed of race winner: 148.781 mph.

      Time of race: 2 hours, 0 minutes, 59 seconds. Margin of Victory: 0.089 seconds.

      Caution flags: 4 for 17 laps.

      Lead changes: 24 among 9 drivers.

      Lap leaders: A. Dillon 1; C. Buescher 2-7; T. Dillon 8-12; D. Wallace Jr. 13; T. Dillon 14; D. Wallace Jr. 15-16; T. Dillon 17-18; D. Wallace Jr.19-21; T. Dillon 22-23; D. Wallace Jr. 24-26; T. Dillon 27; D. Wallace Jr. 28; T. Dillon 29; D. Wallace Jr. 30-31; T. Dillon 32-34; D. Wallace Jr. 35-40; T. Dillon 41; K. Busch 42-68; R. Smith 69-78; K. Larson 79-82; R. Smith 83-87; R. Reed 88-100; C. Buescher 101-106; B. Keselowski 107-119; R. Reed 120.

      Leaders summary (Driver, Times Lead, Laps Led): K. Busch 1 time for 27 laps; D. Wallace Jr. 7 times for 18 laps; T. Dillon 8 times for 16 laps; R. Smith 2 times for 15 laps; R. Reed 2 times for 14 laps; B. Keselowski 1 time for 13 laps; C. Buescher 2 times for 12 laps; K. Larson 1 time for 4 laps; A. Dillon(i) 1 time for 1 lap.

      Top 10 in points: R. Reed - 47; C. Buescher - 43; T. Dillon - 42; D. Starr - 38; R. Chastain - 35; D. Armstrong - 33; D. Wallace Jr. - 33; J. Clements - 30; M. Gosselin - 29; J. Earnhardt - 28.

  • Saturday, February 21, 2015
    Busch suffers leg fracture; Crafton to sub at Daytona
    By The Sports Xchange

    By Reid Spencer

    • NASCAR Wire Service

      Distributed by The Sports Xchange

      DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. -- Matt Crafton will replace injured Kyle Busch in the No. 18 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota for Sunday's Daytona 500, the team announced Saturday night.

      Busch suffered a compound fracture of his lower right leg during a 10-car accident late in Saturday's Florida 300 NASCAR Xfinity Series race at Daytona International Speedway. Busch also sustained a mid-foot fracture of his left foot during the crash.

      Busch was transported to nearby Halifax Medical Center after the accident and was undergoing surgery on his right leg on Saturday night.

      He will be sidelined for an undetermined period, the team said. Crafton, the two-time defending NASCAR Camping World Truck Series champion, is the interim driver for Daytona. Beyond that, the team has not yet made a determination as to a relief driver or drivers.

  • Saturday, February 21, 2015
    Busch to appeal ban; sub Smith ready to win
    By The Sports Xchange

    Kurt Busch filed an immediate appeal of the indefinite suspension handed down by NASCAR on Friday.

    • Busch was banned indefinitely by NASCAR when a court in Delaware ruled that he likely choked and beat his former girlfriend and projected a high likelihood of domestic violence in Busch's future.

      Busch will not race Sunday at the Daytona 500, even if a promised expedited appeal is heard this weekend.

      "We ask everyone's patience as this case continues in the court of law and are confident that when the truth is known Mr. Busch will be fully vindicated and back in the driver's seat," attorney Rusty Hardin said in a statement.

      Stewart-Haas Racing replaced Busch with Regan Smith for the Daytona 500 as Chevrolet announced it ended a relationship with Busch based on the court ruling.

      On Busch's garage stall at Daytona was scribbled "#41 Ray Rice" a reference to Busch's car number and the former Baltimore Ravens running back who has not played since a highly publicized domestic violence incident in which the knocked his wife unconscious in a casino elevator.

      In the released opinion from court commissioner David Jones on Friday, the justice system sided with Patricia Driscoll. Among its findings, the court said it was likely Busch pushed Driscoll's head into the side of a motorhome and strangled her with his hands. Busch denies he assaulted Driscoll and is still subject to a pending investigation.

      Driscoll said there was no goal of taking anything away from Busch when she reported the criminal incident and said she is very encouraged to see NASCAR "taking steps to recognize that domestic violence is a serious issue."

      Busch was found to be in violation of the following sections in the NASCAR rule book:

      Section 12.1.a: Actions detrimental to stock car racing;

      Section 12.8: Behavioral penalty.

      NASCAR said in a thorough statement Saturday that Busch "will not be allowed to race nor participate in any NASCAR activities until further notice. ... We will continue to respect the process and timetable of the authorities involved."

      Busch, 36, has been suspended three times.

      Smith was the SHR sub last season when Tony Stewart took indefinite leave in the aftermath of the fatal accident in a New York sprint car race. Smith said Saturday morning before his final Happy Hour practice the goal for the No. 41 car didn't change with the driver.

      "I think we have a shot to go out and win this race on Sunday. I really do," said Smith.

  • Saturday, February 21, 2015
    Reddick claims first Truck win at Daytona
    By The Sports Xchange

    By Reid Spencer

    • NASCAR Wire Service

      Distributed by The Sports Xchange

      DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. -- As trucks fanned out four-wide behind him, Tyler Reddick took the first checkered flag of his NASCAR Camping World Truck Series career in Friday night's NextEra Energy Resources 250 at Daytona International Speedway.

      Behind the race winner, Erik Jones charged to the outside to grab the runner-up spot, followed by Scott Lagasse Jr. and Austin Theriault, Reddick's Brad Keselowski Racing teammate.

      "I just had all the confidence in the world in our trucks going into the race," Reddick said. "If we were able to get together, we were going to be able to do some great things together and help each other out. Once I knew we finally we got together on the front row for those restarts, I had a pretty good feeling that we were controlling the race and controlling the pack.

      "I just can't tell you how much it means to have a teammate there helping me get my first win. I just hope I can do the same for him on down the road."

      Lagasse agreed.

      "He owes the 29 (Theriault) big," Lagasse said, "because the 29 did some door-slamming to help him."

      Jones surged from fourth to first off the final corner after he and Lagasse lagged back to get a run on the leader.

      "Scott and I were kind of dragging back, trying to see if we could get a run to the top there," Jones said. "When the 29 and the 19 (Reddick) came off of (Turn) 4, the 29 never lagged back. He just tried to pull out and make the pass on the 19.

      "When he did that, it just opened the door for Scott on the bottom, and I was dragged back a little bit more than he was and got the pull off both of them. I went to the top and saw the opening and (ended up) running second. Just kind of a typical Daytona thing, I guess."

      A massive wreck on Lap 49 of 100 wiped out a third of the field, but the two Brad Keselowski Racing trucks managed to stay out of harm's way by remaining up front for the majority of the race.

      By the time the hood flew up on Bryan Silas' No. 99 Chevrolet, covered the windshield and forced the truck to pit road, there were 13 trucks on the lead lap, with Reddick and Theriault in the top two spots.

      Silas returned to the track without the hood, but on Lap 85 the air cleaner dislodged from the top of the engine, landed on the racing surface and caused the fifth caution of the evening.

      Reddick and Theriault paced the field to a restart on Lap 89 and held the top two spots until Ryan Ellis' Chevy slowed on the track and caused the sixth caution with eight laps remaining, setting up the scramble to the finish at the end.

      NOTES: Defending series champion Matt Crafton finished eighth. ... Rookie Ray Black Jr. ran fifth despite sustaining damage during a Lap 13 accident that caused the first caution of the evening.

      NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Race - NextEra Energy Resources 250

      Daytona International Speedway

      Daytona Beach, Florida

      Friday, February 20, 2015

      1. (3) Tyler Reddick, Ford, 100, $91804.

      2. (7) Erik Jones #, Toyota, 100, $58057.

      3. (9) Scott Lagasse Jr., Chevrolet, 100, $42138.

      4. (4) Austin Theriault, Ford, 100, $32221.

      5. (15) Ray Black Jr., Chevrolet, 100, $26294.

      6. (13) David Gilliland, Ford, 100, $22729.

      7. (28) Bryan Silas, Chevrolet, 100, $22981.

      8. (31) Matt Crafton, Toyota, 100, $22883.

      9. (30) Daniel Suarez, Toyota, 100, $20786.

      10. (19) Johnny Sauter, Toyota, 100, $20638.

      11. (1) Ty Dillon(i), Chevrolet, 100, $19673.

      12. (23) Korbin Forrister, Chevrolet, 100, $19430.

      13. (29) Tyler Young, Chevrolet, 100, $17050.

      14. (22) Norm Benning, Chevrolet, 100, $19171.

      15. (2) Travis Kvapil, Chevrolet, 93, $17192.

      16. (21) Ryan Ellis, Chevrolet, Accident, 87, $16798.

      17. (5) James Buescher, Chevrolet, 85, $16469.

      18. (11) Jennifer Jo Cobb, Chevrolet, 77, $18590.

      19. (16) Matt Tifft, Toyota, Rear Hub, 64, $18461.

      20. (18) Joe Nemechek, Chevrolet, 62, $18896.

      21. (10) Spencer Gallagher, Chevrolet, 61, $18267.

      22. (26) John Wes Townley, Chevrolet, Accident, 48, $18138.

      23. (14) Cameron Hayley, Toyota, Accident, 48, $18009.

      24. (32) Timothy Peters, Toyota, Accident, 48, $17879.

      25. (8) Chris Fontaine, Toyota, Accident, 48, $15650.

      26. (20) Daniel Hemric, Chevrolet, Accident, 48, $16435.

      27. (24) Todd Peck, Chevrolet, Accident, 48, $15241.

      28. (6) Ben Kennedy, Toyota, Accident, 20, $15661.

      29. (25) Justin Boston, Toyota, Accident, 18, $14550.

      30. (17) Austin Hill, Ford, Accident, 13, $14050.

      31. (12) Donnie Neuenberger, Chevrolet, Accident, 13, $12550.

      32. (27) Justin Marks. Toyota, Accident, 12, $11550.

      Average Speed of Race Winner: 128.48 mph.

      Time of Race: 1 hour, 56 minutes, 45 seconds. Margin of Victory: 0.173 seconds.

      Caution Flags: 6 for 28 laps.

      Lead Changes: 14 among 7 drivers.

      Lap Leaders: T. Dillon 1-16; M. Crafton 17; T. Dillon 18-21; T. Reddick 22; T. Dillon 23-24; T. Reddick 25-31; T. Dillon 32; T. Reddick 33-36; T. Dillon 37-50; T. Reddick 51; D. Suarez 52-56; A. Theriault 57-65; T. Young 66; D. Gilliland 67; T. Reddick 68-100.

      Leaders Summary (Driver, Times Lead, Laps Led): T. Reddick 5 times for 46 laps; T. Dillon 5 times for 37 laps; A. Theriault 1 time for 9 laps; D. Suarez 1 time for 5 laps; M. Crafton 1 time for 1 lap; D. Gilliland 1 time for 1 lap; T. Young 1 time for 1 lap.

      Top 10 in Points: T. Reddick - 48; E. Jones - 42; A. Theriault - 41; R. Black Jr. - 39; B. Silas - 37; M. Crafton - 37; J. Sauter - 34; K. Forrister - 32; T. Young - 32; N. Benning - 30.

  • Friday, February 20, 2015
    NASCAR suspends Busch after domestic abuse finding
    By The Sports Xchange

    By Reid Spencer, NASCAR Wire Service

    • Distributed by The Sports Xchange

      DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. -- NASCAR has suspended Sprint Cup Series driver Kurt Busch indefinitely after the release of a supplemental disposition by the Family Court of the State of Delaware delineating the reasons for the court's decision, announced Monday, to grant an order of protection to Busch's former girlfriend, Patricia Driscoll.

      Busch, the driver of the No. 41 Stewart-Haas Racing Chevrolet, was found to be in violation of the following sections in the NASCAR rule book:

      Section 12.1.a: Actions detrimental to stock car racing;

      Section 12.8: Behavioral penalty.

      "Given the serious nature of the findings and conclusions made by the Commissioner of the Family Court of the State of Delaware, NASCAR has indefinitely suspended driver Kurt Busch, effective immediately," the sanctioning body said in a statement released Friday evening. "He will not be allowed to race nor participate in any NASCAR activities until further notice.

      "Kurt Busch and his Stewart-Haas Racing team are fully aware of our position and why this decision was made. We will continue to respect the process and timetable of the authorities involved."

      The findings of the court stem from an incident that allegedly occurred Sept. 26, 2014, in Busch's motor home at Dover International Speedway. The family court commissioner concluded that the preponderance of evidence indicated Busch had committed an act of domestic violence.

      Busch had earned the 24th starting spot for Sunday's Daytona 500. Stewart-Haas Racing released a statement indicating the organization is finalizing plans for Sunday's race.

      "We understand NASCAR's position regarding Kurt Busch and accept their decision," the statement said. "We are in the midst of finalizing our plans for the Daytona 500 and we will announce those details as soon as we're ready."

      Chevrolet subsequently released a statement indicating the manufacturer is severing ties with the driver.

      "Chevrolet has suspended its relationship with Kurt Busch indefinitely," Chevrolet vice president of motorsports and performance vehicles Jim Campbell said in a statement. "We will continue to monitor the events surrounding Mr. Busch and are prepared to take additional action if necessary."

      NASCAR executive vice president and chief racing development officer Steve O'Donnell affirmed the sanctioning body's zero-tolerance policy for acts of domestic violence.

      "NASCAR has made it very clear to our entire membership and the broader industry that any actions of abuse will not be tolerated in the industry," O'Donnell said. "I want to make it clear that any inference that there is a culture or tolerance for this type of behavior is patently false."

      O'Donnell said Busch has the right to appeal NASCAR's decision and if he requests it, NASCAR would grant him an expedited appeal.

      Rusty Hardin, Busch's attorney, indicated that the driver will appeal NASCAR's suspension immediately.

  • Friday, February 20, 2015
    Busch suspended indefinitely after court ruling
    By The Sports Xchange

    Kurt Busch was suspended indefinitely by NASCAR on Friday after a Delaware family court judge concluded that the NASCAR driver committed an act of domestic violence against his former girlfriend.

    • Kent County commissioner David W. Jones said in his findings that he believes Busch abused Patricia Driscoll last September by "manually strangling her by placing his left hand on her throat, while placing his right hand on her chin and face and smashing her head into the wall of his motor home, thereby recklessly placing (Driscoll) in reasonable fear of physical injury."

      On Monday, Driscoll received a protective order against Busch, who appealed that ruling.

      The court argued that the protective order was necessary because it would reduce the possibility of domestic violence, even though Busch and Driscoll are no longer in a relationship.

      NASCAR announced the suspension early Friday evening, stating Busch's actions were dertrimental to stock car racing. Regan Smith is expected to replace Busch in the No. 41 Chevrolet for Sunday's Daytona 500.

      "Given the serious nature of the findings and conclusions made by the Commissioner of the Family Court of the State of Delaware, NASCAR has indefinitely suspended driver Kurt Busch, effective immediately. He will not be allowed to race nor participate in any NASCAR activities until further notice," NASCAR said in its statement.

      "Kurt Busch and his Stewart-Haas Racing team are fully aware of our position and why this decision was made. We will continue to respect the process and timetable of the authorities involved."

      Chevrolet, Busch's car manufacturer, also indefinitely suspended its relationship with the driver.

      "We will continue to monitor the events surrounding Mr. Busch and are prepared to take additional action if necessary," said Jim Campbell, Chevrolet's vice president of motorsports and performance vehicles.

      Jones' decision calls for Busch "to be evaluated by a licensed mental health professional" and pursue any treatment deemed necessary, but he was not ordered to enter into a "batterer's intervention program" because Jones believes Busch is not a "power and control batterer."

      Jones' opinion stated that Driscoll's account of the incident was more credible than Busch's testimony.

      According to the protective order, Busch must stay 100 yards from Driscoll, except at NASCAR tracks. He is not allowed to contact her and also must undergo an evaluation for anger management problems. The order stemmed from an incident Sept. 26 in Busch's motorhome at Dover International Speedway.

      During testimony in January, Driscoll claimed that Busch grabbed her by the neck and smashed her head against a wall three times. Busch denied that accusation, saying he tapped the wall as he told his uninvited guest to leave.

      Busch also testified that he believes Driscoll was a trained assassin, and his lawyers portrayed her as a jilted lover bent on ruining him. Driscoll, the CEO of a defense contracting firm, denied the accusations, claiming Busch took them from a screenplay, while he told the court that he was afraid of Driscoll.

      "The assertion that he would be chastened from assaulting her for fear of the possibility of physical injury is further discredited, in the court's view, by the fact that he makes his living risking his life on an almost daily basis by aggressively driving a race car at speeds often approaching 200 miles per hour in close contact with others driving in the same manner at the same speed," Jones wrote.

      Busch, the 2004 Sprint Cup champion, had been in Daytona Beach, Fla., preparing for Sunday's race. Smith replaced Busch's car owner, Tony Stewart, last season at Watkins Glen after Stewart was involved in a Sprint Car accident that killed driver Kevin Ward Jr.

      No decision has been made on whether Busch will face charges. The Delaware attorney general's office is still investigating the case and said there is no timetable for resolution.

  • Friday, February 20, 2015
    NASCAR announces Hall of Fame nominees
    By The Sports Xchange

    By Reid Spencer

    • NASCAR Wire Service

      Distributed by The Sports Xchange

      DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. -- Three-time NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion crew chief Ray Evernham and prolific winner Mark Martin are new additions who headline the list of 20 nominees for the 2016 class of the NASCAR Hall of Fame.

      Other first-time nominees announced Friday by NASCAR are legendary crew chief Harry Hyde, on whom the character Harry Hogge in the film "Days of Thunder" was based; 1992 NASCAR Sprint Cup champion driver Alan Kulwicki, the last "privateer" to win the title; and Hershel McGriff, who competed in NASCAR events during seven decades.

      Evernham won championships in 1995, 1997 and 1998 with driver Jeff Gordon before leaving Hendrick Motorsports to head the flagship team for Dodge’s return to NASCAR Sprint Cup Series competition.

      Martin won 40 races in NASCAR’s premier series and finished second in the championship standings five times. In addition, he collected 49 victories in what is now the NASCAR XFINITY Series, second most all-time, and seven more in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series.

      The other 2016 nominees previously appeared on the Hall of Fame ballot: 19-time winner Buddy Baker; Red Byron, NASCAR’s first premier series winner; car owner Richard Childress, an 11-time champion in NASCAR’s three national series; six-time NASCAR Modified champion Jerry Cook; legendary engine builder and car owner Ray Fox; 14-time champion car owner Rick Hendrick; 1970 Cup champion Bobby Isaac; two-time Cup champion Terry Labonte; Raymond Parks, NASCAR’s first champion car owner; 1973 Cup champion Benny Parsons; Larry Phillips, NASCAR’s only five-time weekly series national champion; O. Bruton Smith, chairman of Speedway Motorsports, Inc.; modified driver Mike Stefanik, winner of a record-tying nine NASCAR touring series championships; Curtis Turner, legendary entrepreneur and winner of 17 races at NASCAR’s top level; and champion team owner and engine builder Robert Yates.

      In addition, NASCAR announced the five finalists for the prestigious Landmark Award, which recognizes outstanding contributions to NASCAR stock car racing.

      Darlington Speedway founder Harold Brasington joins a list that includes Parks; H. Clay Earles, founder of Martinsville Speedway; executive Ralph Seagraves, who forged the long-standing NASCAR-Winston partnership; and broadcaster Ken Squier.

  • Friday, February 20, 2015
    Hamlin admits following Patrick 'too close'
    By The Sports Xchange

    By Reid Spencer

    • NASCAR Wire Service

      Distributed by The Sports Xchange

      DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. -- Maybe Denny Hamlin was simply trying to smooth the waters after his run-in with Danica Patrick in Thursday night's second Duel at Daytona 150-mile qualifying races.

      Or perhaps his after-the-fact tweets were slightly tongue-in-cheek, which, knowing Hamlin, wouldn't be beyond the realm of possibility.

      "On the streets of real life cops always give the ticket to the car behind in an accident," Hamlin posted on his Twitter feed late Thursday night. "We will use that logic on this one. #tooclose #mybad"

      Martin Truex Jr., who finished fifth in the second Duel, weighed in shortly thereafter. "Denny you can push me anytime," Truex tweeted.

      "Wow ... You were going somewhere in a hurry ... NOTED," Hamlin replied.

      There's no doubt Hamlin and Patrick were racing in extremely tight quarters late in Thursday night's race, which set the field for Sunday's Daytona 500. Hamlin was following Patrick closely, made a move to the inside and took the air off the spoiler on Patrick's No. 10 Chevrolet.

      Patrick spun and slid through the infield grass; but, with quick repair work by her crew and a stout push from Stewart-Haas teammate Kurt Busch, she rallied to finish 10th and qualified for Sunday's race.

      After watching video of the incident, Hamlin added another tweet: "Folks, I watched it back and I was in the driver's seat so I know ... I did NOT hit her. But I was close, too close obviously."

      NO LET-UP

      Dale Earnhardt Jr. was fast during Thursday night's first Budweiser Duel at Daytona qualifying race, which he won after starting at the back of the field.

      Nothing changed Friday, after Earnhardt's crew replaced the engine used in the Duel with a new one for Sunday's Daytona 500.

      Earnhardt skipped Friday's first NASCAR Sprint Cup Series practice session; but, in the second practice, his No. 88 Chevrolet topped the speed chart at 194.405 mph, nearly a full mph faster than the 193.528 mph lap posted by Hendrick Motorsports teammate Kasey Kahne.

      How good is Earnhardt's car? So good that it surprised its driver in the Duels.

      "It finishes a lot of moves," Earnhardt said. "It kind of surprised me. It does a couple things that surprised me out there in the race. So I felt like the car made the job a lot easier."

      Hendrick cars driven by Jeff Gordon and Jimmie Johnson swept the front row in last Sunday's Daytona 500 time trials. Then Earnhardt and Johnson swept Thursday's Duels.

      On Friday, cars powered by Hendrick engines -- those of Earnhardt, Kahne, Johnson and Danica Patrick -- were the four fastest cars in the final practice.

      See a trend?

      MORE PROBLEMS FOR PATRICK

      After wrecks last Saturday in the Sprint Unlimited, Wednesday in practice and Thursday in the Duel, the last thing Patrick needed was another problem.

      Consider that Patrick and her No. 10 Stewart-Haas Racing team already had launched their own recycling program -- for race cars. The car Patrick wrecked in the Unlimited had been sent back to Charlotte, N.C., for repairs, and that was the machine Patrick was driving during Friday afternoon's practice session at Daytona International Speedway.

      Seventeen minutes into Friday's second session -- the first of the day for Patrick at the 2.5-mile superspeedway -- her car began to smoke and dropped fluid on the track, causing a brief red-flag period.

      Fortunately, the problem was merely a water line and not a blown engine, and Patrick was able to return to the track later in the session.

      NASCAR LAUNCHES LEARNING & ENTERTAINMENT PLATFORM FOR KIDS

      The school of NASCAR is officially in session. NASCAR on Friday announced the launch of NASCAR Acceleration Nation, the sport's first national learning and entertainment platform created just for kids.

      NASCAR Acceleration Nation will impact children across the country through an in-school Science, Technology, Engineering & Math (STEM) program, created together with Scholastic. Classroom content will focus on teaching the aerodynamic principles of drag, downforce and drafting, NASCAR's Three D's of Speed.

      AccelerationNation.com will engage kids with exclusive content and NASCAR-themed games and activities, while the NASCAR Acceleration Nation Experience will bring the platform to life for children and families at race tracks.

      "NASCAR Acceleration Nation is about bringing kids closer to our sport in an entertaining and educational way," said Brent Dewar, NASCAR chief operating officer. "When you look at the speed and design of our race cars and their performance on the track, NASCAR represents a unique platform to teach math and science. Our goal is to make learning these subjects fun for kids."

  • Friday, February 20, 2015
    Danica-Hamlin dustup adds fuel to Daytona 500
    By The Sports Xchange

    The Hendrick Motorsports sweep of Thursday night's qualifying races for the Daytona 500 was anticlimactic compared to the drama Danica Patrick and Denny Hamlin provided during -- and after -- the race.

    • Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Jimmie Johnson swept the Budweiser Duel races to give Hendrick Motorsports a 1-2-3 start for the Daytona 500. Jeff Gordon had already won the pole for Sunday's season-opening race.

      Patrick was in the second race and needed to finish 15th or better in the 60-lap, 150-mile race to guarantee a spot Sunday. Then Patrick's second incident with Hamlin in two days damaged her car and put her in danger of missing the field.

      After repairs by her Stewart-Haas Racing team, Patrick restarted 18th with two laps to go. She was pushed all the way around Daytona International Speedway by teammate Kurt Busch to finish 10th and make the 500.

      Patrick, who was already in her backup car because of an incident in Wednesday's practice, confronted Hamlin after the race with heated words and finger-pointing to his chest.

      "You hit me in the left rear and spun me out. Yesterday you did the same thing," an angry Patrick said to Hamlin. "What is up? Nobody else left me with a problem."

      Hamlin had his hands on Patrick's shoulder in an attempt to defuse an argument being broadcast live and surrounded by crew members from both teams.

      "Nobody has your back like I have," Hamlin said. "Stop and listen to me. Listen to me. I gave you an extra two feet because it was you."

      Patrick responded, "You gave me nothing. It spun my back end around. Denny, it happened twice, the same person, the same way."

      "But guess what," Hamlin said. "I didn't hit you either time."

      Hamlin was adamant that Patrick's car was too loose and he didn't touch her

      Tony Stewart, her car co-owner, came to Patrick's defense and told Hamlin to watch the video.

      "What do you want me to do, Tony? Not race close," replied Hamlin, who said the spin was an aerodynamic issue.

      "I try to treat everyone as equal," Hamlin told reporters. "If you're in this Cup series, you deserved your way here and you can handle a lot of situations. I just got close to her and her car got loose again. I just tried to explain that, 'Danica, oh, it's you, I've got to stay away two feet because your car is loose?'

      "I guess I just have to give more room because once I get close enough to her, her car just gets out of control."

      Hamlin later took to Twitter after watching the replay:

      "On the streets of real life cops always give the ticket to the car behind in a accident. We will use that logic on this one. #tooclose #mybad.

      "Folks I watched it back and was in the drivers seat so I know. I did NOT hit her. BUT I was close, too close obviously."

      Patrick also later responded on Twitter:

      "Glad tonight is over. Couldn't of done it without @KurtBusch help! @TonyStewart came over after & stuck up for me! Also, got help from my bae!"

      Patrick gave reporters her version of what happened in the dustup.

      "There's a lot of stressing out. Obviously, for my team and everybody, but mostly for (sponsor) GoDaddy, it made me nervous, too," she said. "This is the biggest race of the year and they need to be in it.

      "He cut across my rear bumper and pulls the back end around. I get being close. But he's been going to my left rear and it just gets it light. I don't want to have these issues, but if we're going to have these issues then we're going to have to deal with them. We can't be putting ourselves out of our race at someone else's expense and nothing's happened to him."

  • Friday, February 20, 2015
    Teammates Johnson, Earnhardt win Duels at Daytona
    By The Sports Xchange

    DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. -- Jimmie Johnson dominated the second of two Budweiser Duel races at Daytona International Speedway on Thursday night, giving Hendrick Motorsports a sweep after teammate Dale Earnhardt Jr. won the first 60-lap, 150-mile race.

    • "It's a special night; what a race car," Johnson said. "That car is mad fast. I'm stoked for my teammate (Earnhardt) to win the first Duel. We won the second, and Jeff (Gordon) and I have the front row (for the Daytona 500) locked down."

      Johnson had already claimed a front-row starting spot for the Daytona 500 on Sunday, taking the second position.

      "It's huge," Johnson said of the win. "To have the week we have had with the front row being secured, the wins tonight, it has been a great start to Speedweeks.

      "I just thave to say thank you to everybody at Hendrick Motorsports for their hard work. Thank you to my great sponsor, Lowe's. This is our 14th season together. I just wish my family was here, wish my girls were here."

      Joe Gibbs Racing teammates Kyle Busch and Carl Edwards finished second and third, followed by Greg Biffle and Martin Truex Jr. in the nightcap.

      "I thought our race was pretty good," Busch said. "I wish we would have won, obviously, just one short. We were a restart off."

      As a result of their finishes in the second Budweiser Duel race, Busch, Edwards, Biffle and Truex claimed even-numbered starting spots on the Daytona 500 grid.

      Johnson lost the lead to Busch at the start of the race. Busch was able to remain up front until he was caught speeding on pit road during a caution that came out around lap 20.

      Johnson quickly retook the lead on the restart that followed and Busch worked his way back toward the front.

      Kurt Busch was up to second by the halfway point of the race and remained in the top five for several laps but was nabbed by NASCAR for passing below the yellow line with 14 laps to go and wound up in the back.

      Kyle Busch was back near the front to restart second next to Johnson with three laps to go.

      "I didn't get the best of jumps there (on the final restart). Jimmie did -- really bad on me," Busch said. "That just kind of set the tone for the final two laps, but proud to have a fast Crispy M&Ms Camry there."

      The yellow flag waved three times in the second Duel, first for a single-car spin by David Ragan in the first third of the race.

      The second caution on lap 36 resulted in a red flag after a multi-car crash involving Sam Hornish Jr., Alex Bowman and Jeb Burton. The wreck ended Daytona Speedweeks for Bowman and Burton, who both failed to make the field for the Daytona 500.

      The final yellow flag of race two came with just over five laps to go when Danica Patrick spun and hit the wall after drafting assistance from Denny Hamlin.

      Also collected in the incident were Brian Scott, Ryan Newman and Bobby Labonte. Scott, like Bowman and Burton failed to make the Daytona 500.

      Among the others who didn't qualify for the Daytona 500 were Justin Marks, Ron Hornaday and Josh Wise. Wise never made a lap in the Budweiser Duel after he had difficulty getting his car fired to start the race.

      In the first race, Earnhardt went from last to first.

      "We have had a great car all week," Earnhardt said. "I'm so glad to be able to get through the Duel in one piece because I know how good this race car is. We have a couple more practices to go through and try to stay out of trouble during those and put this thing on the grid. We are going to have a fun day on Sunday."

      Gordon, already the pole-sitter for the Daytona 500, finished second. Joey Logano was third and Tony Stewart fourth.

      "Of course, you always want to win the race," Gordon said. "Congrats to Dale Jr. He drove a great race, was aggressive and made some good moves. I thought we worked really well together."

      Clint Bowyer drove up to a fifth-place finish after racing near the back of the 25-car field through the first half of the 60-lap, 150-mile race.

      Earnhardt Jr. took the second position on a restart near the halfway point of the race and, with drafting help from Gordon, took the lead from Matt Kenseth soon after. Kenseth retook the lead temporarily, but Earnhardt quickly got back up front and remained in the lead the rest of the way.

      "We had to do a lot of blocking there at the end, but those guys were mounting some pretty hard charges," Earnhardt said. "We made a lot of good moves tonight because the car is so good. T.J. Majors (spotter) deserves a ton of credit for helping us win that race tonight."

      Gordon started the first Duel from the pole but lost the lead to Kenseth in the opening laps. Kenseth ran up front until losing the lead to Earnhardt Jr. on the restart that followed a lap 27 caution. By 15 laps to go, Kenseth was shuffled outside the top-10.

      The yellow flag waved three times in the first race. Casey Mears blew an engine to bring out the first caution on lap 17. Johnny Sauter spun after contact from A.J. Allmendinger, bringing out the second caution on lap 27.

      The final caution came with just under 10 laps to go when Trevor Bayne and Kyle Larson made contact racing for the 16th position. Both drivers were able to continue.

      NOTES: Danica Patrick, Michael Annett and Jeb Burton had to go to backup cars for their respective Budweiser Duel races because of a crash in practice Wednesday. Denny Hamlin and Casey Mears were also involved in the wreck, but their primary cars were repaired. ... Hamlin also sustained slight damage during front row qualifying on Sunday from a wreck that also involved Reed Sorenson, Clint Bowyer, Bobby Labonte and J.J. Yeley. ... Hamlin, like Dale Earnhardt Jr., started in the back for his duel race after both drivers' car failed post-qualifying inspection.

  • Thursday, February 19, 2015
    Daytona notebook: Gordon faces hurdle to occasional racing
    By The Sports Xchange

    By Reid Spencer, NASCAR Wire Service

    • Distributed by The Sports Xchange

      DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. -- Never say never.

      Though Jeff Gordon has left the door cracked ever so slightly when it comes to a possible appearance on the track after 2015, he's more likely to end his competitive role in NASCAR Sprint Cup Series racing at the end of the season.

      "I have too much respect for other drivers that have ended their career or said they were going to end their career of driving the Cup cars and then they come back and want to run some more races," Gordon said Thursday morning at Daytona prior to practice for Sunday'sDaytona 500 (1 p.m. on FOX). "I feel like because I have so much respect for those guys, I felt like it was necessary for me to leave those options open.

      "But when I start really thinking about it from a realistic standpoint, what I love about racing is not going out there and driving fast and driving race cars. I like competing at a high level to win. If I felt like I could go to a Brickyard or a Martinsville or Bristol or -- I don't know, a couple of tracks that come to mind and be competitive with a competitive team -- then I might consider doing that."

      When Gordon started enumerating the obstacles to an occasional return to competition, however, the probability of a reappearance on track after 2015 started to sound far less likely, though he did allow that he'd enjoy racing at Indianapolis Motor Speedway if he had a competitive car.

      "You can't do it at Hendrick really," Gordon said. "The way I see it, there are four teams there (at Hendrick Motorsports) that are focused on winning the championship, so it would be a disruption to that flow. Then you have to have somebody as a car owner, you have to team up with somebody to pull together a team. Pull together good cars and engines and (make) sure we have the resources there.

      "Then you have to get sponsors. I don't see it happening, but if I were to do it, if it did become a reality, certainly Indianapolis would be pretty high on my list of tracks. It would have to be something non-restricted, and it would have to be a place that I feel like I can make a difference and really be competitive at. Indianapolis is one of those tracks that come to mind."

      STROKER ACE

      NASCAR Sprint Cup Series drivers Michael Waltrip and Denny Hamlin displayed their skills at another sport on Wednesday morning, during a FOX Sports/USGA gathering in the Daytona International Speedway infield.

      Drivers, media members and professional golfers Brad Faxon, Paula Creamer and Marco Dawson took turns trying to hit a small floating green in Lake Lloyd from a distance of 85 yards. Predictably, a pro won the overall competition. Dawson hit the 20-by-20-foot green with two of his three attempts and won a $10,000 donation to charity, which he designated for The First Tee.

      Hamlin, a lefty, and Waltrip, who swings from the right side, tied for the lead among drivers after the first round. Waltrip won the playoff by sticking a wedge shot 5 feet from the flag.

      PRACTICE? WHO NEEDS PRACTICE?

      Only five drivers chose to participate in Thursday afternoon's NASCAR Sprint Cup Series practice at Daytona International Speedway, and Kyle Larson's No. 42 Chevrolet was the only car to run more than seven laps in the 85-minute session.

      On the 17th of 18 laps of single-car runs, Larson posted the fastest speed of the session -- 192.699 mph. Cole Whitt, who ran seven laps, was second fastest at 190.710 mph, followed by Michael Annett, JJ Yeley and Jeb Burton.

      Danica Patrick, who wrecked early in Wednesday's opening NASCAR Sprint Cup Series practice, did not participate in Thursday's session. Patrick ran 13 laps in Wednesday's second practice in her backup No. 10 Stewart-Haas Racing Chevrolet.

  • Thursday, February 19, 2015
    Gordon: The real superstar deal
    By The Sports Xchange

    What makes an athlete a superstar? In the case of Jeff Gordon, who is scheduled for retirement at the end of the 2015 season, it's been a matter of prodigious talent, ambition, guts and, as history would have it, good timing.

    • Gordon's arrival as a teenager at Daytona in February of 1991 demonstrated first impressions can be deceiving. Twenty-five seasons ago, a skinny Gordon was sporting a learner's-permit mustache that seemed to complement the Baby Ruth sponsorship on his driver's suit.

      But soon after starting in the understudy circuit then known as the Busch Series, he became NASCAR's first "bonus baby" when he was signed midway in 1992 to drive in NASCAR's premier Cup series by Rick Hendrick. The enterprising team owner spotted Gordon's talent and offered him an unprecedented $750,000 retainer to leave a Ford team and join his Chevy squad for the step up to stock car racing's big league. It could only have happened in a new era of corporate sponsorship driven by the live coverage of all the races in what is now called the Sprint Cup.

      After driving his first Cup race the same day "King Richard" Petty drove his last in November of 1992, Gordon became the youngest winner of a 125-mile qualifying race at Daytona, stock car racing's most hallowed track, the following February. Two years after crashing 10 times in his rookie season, an ultra-aggressive Gordon became the first driver to go door-to-door with Dale Earnhardt and win in a close championship race. (He beat none other than Cale Yarborough, Mark Martin and Rusty Wallace to that honor; each of them had failed to beat Earnhardt in title stretch runs.)

      Always talkative and never shy about wearing sneakers and playing video games instead of wearing boots while hunting or fishing, Gordon became a major national sports phenomenon due to the contrast between his fresh-faced youth and the grizzled, often stone-faced facade of Earnhardt. "The Intimidator" had ruled the roost with his sixth and seventh championships before Gordon came along and spoiled his bid for a record-breaking eighth title.

      Gordon's first championship in 1995 was followed by two more within three years. With a crew dubbed the Rainbow Warriors and youthful genius Ray Evernham calling the shots as crew chief, not even the sky appeared to be a limit for Gordon at Hendrick Motorsports.

      He won his first of three Daytona 500s in 1997 by powering past Earnhardt in Turn 2, which ultimately sent the famed black number 3 Chevy careening down the back straight on its roof. "The Intimidator" would have to wait another year to win his first Daytona 500. Although it didn't stop him from razzing Gordon about drinking milk instead of champagne or dubbing him "Wonder Boy," Earnhardt actually liked Gordon because the newcomer loved racing at close quarters on superspeedways and followed the Earnhardt creed -- race me like I race you if you want to win.

      And win Gordon did, eventually surpassing Earnhardt and all but Petty and David Pearson on the all-time win list after becoming only the third driver to win four championships. He gradually outlasted all the booing from the Earnhardt fans and other diehards who didn't like the changing of the guard.

      All that booing meant credibility. A young Gordon was able to establish himself with the rank and file of NASCAR's fans. By going up against the established good ol' stars who had become folk heroes, including Bill Elliott, Harry Gant, Martin and Wallace, Gordon took on the mantle of a charismatic stock car hero himself. Never tall, but well muscled with a strong upper body and jaw line by his mid-twenties, a clean shaven Gordon was the real deal when it came to American sports superstars.

      With a following of new female fans and school-aged youth, Gordon became one of the key drivers in the meteoric growth of NASCAR. Despite losing Evernham, who moved up to team owner, Gordon won his fourth title in 2001 with Robbie Loomis as the crew chief.

      But then it all seemed to slow down. Earnhardt had been killed in the season-opening Daytona 500 the year of Gordon's fourth title. Soon after the fatal Daytona crash, Gordon became the first star driver to thank the HANS Device -- the same one Earnhardt refused to use -- for saving his life after hitting the wall head-on in Charlotte's all-star race. Later, there was another scary collision with the wall in Las Vegas and again the HANS Device likely saved him.

      Off track life cycles were also taking place. There was a high-profile divorce and a second marriage followed by children. Gordon's admirable charity commitments grew. A lavish apartment in New York City overlooking Central Park came and went. Gordon even became a minority car owner in partnership with Hendrick.

      The one thing Gordon, now 43, did not accomplish in his career? He didn't establish himself as the standard quite like Petty and Earnhardt, the straw who stirred the drink. Somehow, it didn't impress NASCAR's rank and file when a newcomer beat Gordon. The proportions were not epic. For all his popularity and status in the general sports media and a segment of NASCAR fans, Gordon did not fill the boots of either "The King" or "The "Intimidator." He is a modern sports hero, a man child of television rather than a word-of-mouth folk legend.

      When Hendrick Motorsports teammate Jimmie Johnson replaced Gordon as the NASCAR's young superstar, winning four straight titles in the Car of Tomorrow, it didn't resonate with fans the way Gordon's takeover from Earnhardt gave him credibility. Once Johnson had taken over from Gordon as the man to beat for championships, winning six titles in eight years, there was no rallying cry for the new king. Another new-age TV hero arrived to a relatively tepid reception among longtime fans.

      Having won the pole for the Daytona 500, the ever-talented Gordon enters Sunday's race in search of a 93rd win and a fourth victory in NASCAR's crown jewel. Having contended for the championship last year, he is a candidate to win a fifth championship in this year's Chase.

      There remains a tinge of disappointment with the winding down of victories and championships by Gordon and soon retirement at a relative young age. But he followed his own path and was always honest about who he was and took the races one at a time. The even-keeled Gordon never strutted, bragged or tilted at mythic windmills -- and never took issue when major league fame arrived at his doorstep. He sought victory lane on his own terms -- and got there far more often than any other driver of his generation.

  • Wednesday, February 18, 2015
    Daytona qualifying format altered for two series
    By The Sports Xchange

    By Reid Spencer

    • NASCAR Wire Service

      Distributed by The Sports Xchange

      DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. -- Why have a five-minute qualifying session if no one is going to use the full five minutes?

      That was one of the rationales NASCAR considered in streamlining the time trial process for the NASCAR Xfinity and Camping World Truck Series for events to be held at Daytona International Speedway this weekend.

      The first round of qualifying for Friday's Nextera Energy Resources 250 NCWTS race (7:30 p.m. ET on FOX Sports 1) and Saturday's Alert Today Florida 300 Xfinity Series race (3:30 p.m. ET on FOX Sports 1) will feature cars divided into four groups, in numbers as equal as possible based on a random draw.

      Smaller groups will ease pit road congestion, which was an issue during Sunday's NASCAR Sprint Cup Series qualifying. The cars will be staged with their left-side tires just outside an assigned pit box, giving each driver an unimpeded exit from pit road.

      And once a car begins to roll, it must continue its progress toward the end of pit road. No more starting and stopping. No more backing up.

      Each qualifying session will be reduced to 2.5 minutes as opposed to the five minutes used in the Cup series on Sunday. The 24 fastest cars from the four sessions in the first round combined will advance to the second round, which will feature two 2.5-minute sessions with cars divided into even- and odd-numbered groups based on speeds in the first round.

      The fastest 12 cars advance to the final 2.5-minute round, which will determine the pole winner.

      Though the new format applies only to the NCWTS and NXS races at Daytona, NASCAR considers this a trial run for possible modifications to the system for other superspeedway races, and perhaps extending to Sprint Cup.

      Dale Earnhardt Jr. applauded NASCAR for its willingness to make modifications to the process.

      "I'm happy that NASCAR is looking to improve and tweak and learn and to change from single-car to group qualifying," Earnhardt said. "It works really well at all the other racetracks to try to find the right mix of excitement and professionalism and all those good things that you want to have in a show and in a qualifying segment.

      "It's going to take a pretty unique set of circumstances and guidelines and rules for group qualifying at the plate tracks. And I'm glad that they're open to making moves and making changes and trying to learn from those changes.”

      Earnhardt, who will compete in Saturday's Xfinity Series race, also favored the move to shorter segments, given that most drivers waited until late in the sessions to leave pit road.

      "Well, the waiting on pit road feels kind of clunky and unnatural," Earnhardt said. "So we're all kind of waiting. Everybody wants to be last so you can get the best draft. We all understand that.

      "So, obviously, it's almost pointless to have the extra time if you're going to wait until the end anyway. So cutting down the segments may work well and just alleviate some of that waiting and anticipation."

      PATRICK GOES TO BACKUP CAR

      Six minutes into Wednesday's first NASCAR Sprint Cup Series practice session, Danica Patrick's No. 10 Stewart-Haas Racing Chevrolet sat immobile on the infield grass.

      Patrick's car had turned and smacked the outside wall when Denny Hamlin steered to the middle in a three-wide draft, and her team immediately rolled out a backup car to use in Thursday night's Budweiser Duel at Daytona 150-mile qualifying races (7 p.m. on FOX Sports 1).

      "I was just riding along and it turned, so it's the nature of pack racing, and that's what makes it challenging, too," Patrick said after exiting the infield care center. "Sometimes there's not much you can do about it. I could have collected more people, and it wouldn't have been anything that they were a part of.

      "But that's just group racing at Daytona. That's the gamble that we all face. That's what makes it exciting and very frustrating. So we knew we were going to have to run hard in the Duels no matter what, and that just doesn't change."

      Hamlin said he was trying to gauge how his car would react in a three-wide situation.

      "People say in practice that you can't make aggressive moves, but we also have to put ourselves in decent positions where we're going to have to figure out what our car is doing," Hamlin said.

      "I went through the middle and it was really wide -- it just closed as soon as I had already got inside of her (Patrick) and the lane closed. It knocked me into the 13 (Casey Mears) and we had some attrition after that."

      The damage to Hamlin's car wasn’t serious enough to scrap the primary car, but Michael Annett, who also was collected in the crash, will go to a backup No. 46 Chevrolet for the Duels.

      NASCAR CLARIFIES CHASE ELIGIBILITY

      To be eligible to compete in the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup, drivers must start each race for which they have qualified, unless the sanctioning body finds reason to waive that requirement.

      That change, announced in a bulletin on Wednesday morning, modifies the language of Rule 17.6.2.1.a, which last year required drivers to attempt to qualify for each event to retain Chase eligibility.

      Under the current provision, drivers still must attempt to qualify for each race, but they also must start every race for which they qualify successfully, unless NASCAR authorizes otherwise. A driver does not lose Chase eligibility for attempting to qualify for a race and failing to make the field.

      The clarified rule would apply in a situation where Kurt Busch, for example, were to qualify for the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte, race in the Indianapolis 500 on Sunday (as he did last year), but fail to return to Charlotte in time to start the Cup race. In that event, NASCAR would be unlikely to grant a waiver.

      On the other hand, NASCAR already has indicated that Brian Vickers, who will miss the first two events of the season while recovering from offseason heart surgery, retains his Chase eligibility because of a medical exception.

  • Monday, February 16, 2015
    Busch ordered to stay away from ex
    By The Sports Xchange

    Still awaiting NASCAR's decision on whether to punish him for an alleged assault on his ex-girlfriend, Kurt Busch on Monday was ordered by a family court judge to stay away from the woman.

    • Commissioner David W. Jones of Kent County (Del.) Family Court issued the protective order after determining that Busch "has committed an act or repeated acts of domestic violence against" Patricia Driscoll.

      Busch, a driver for Stewart-Haas Racing, must stay 100 yards from Driscoll, except at NASCAR tracks. He is not allowed to contact her and also must undergo an evaluation for anger management problems. Busch plans to appeal the decision.

      The order stems from an incident Sept. 26 in Busch's motorhome at Dover International Speedway.

      During testimony in January, Driscoll claimed that Busch grabbed her by the neck and smashed her head against a wall three times. Busch denied that accusation, saying he tapped the wall as he told his uninvited guest to leave.

      Busch also testified that he believes Driscoll was a trained assassin, and his lawyers portrayed her as a jilted lover bent on ruining him.

      Driscoll, the CEO of a defense contracting firm, denied the accusations, claiming Busch took them from a screenplay.

      The Delaware attorney general's office is still investigating the case and said there is no timetable for resolution.

      Stewart-Haas Racing said it will not take any action until the attorney general presents its decision.

      NASCAR had no immediate decision Monday after the order was revealed.

      Busch is expected to race Sunday in the season-opening Daytona 500.