Archive for the ‘NASCAR’ Category
Tony Stewart claimed the pole for the Bank of America 500 after edging Matt Kenseth in Thursday night’s qualifying at Charlotte Motor Speedway.
Stewart, who is one the 12 drivers in this year’s Chase for the Sprint Cup championship, turned a lap at 191.959 mph around the 1.5 mile track for his 13th career pole but his first since August 2010 at Pocono. His lap time was only 0.006 seconds faster than title contender Kenseth and just 0.013 seconds ahead of third-place qualifier and current points leader Carl Edwards.
It’s the first pole for Stewart in 26 attempts at Charlotte. He won the first fall nighttime race here in 2003.
“That was a [Ryan] Newman lap there,” Stewart said. “We’ve been pretty solid since we unloaded, so it’s a perfect way to start the weekend so far.”
A.J. Allmendinger and Greg Biffle — both non-Chase drivers — rounded out the top-five.
Newman, who is Stewart’s teammate and a Chase driver, qualified sixth, followed by Paul Menard and Kasey Kahne, who was quickest in practice earlier in the day with a lap at 191.455 mph.
Jimmie Johnson, the five-time defending Sprint Cup Series champion, took the ninth spot. Johnson picked up his second win of the season last Sunday at Kansas. He is a six-time race winner at this track.
Trevor Bayne took the tenth spot.
Other Chase drivers and their starting positions include: Kevin Harvick (14th), Dale Earnhardt Jr. (15th), Kurt Busch (20th), Jeff Gordon (23rd), Kyle Busch (25th) and Brad Keselowski (26th). Harvick won the 600-mile race at Charlotte in May.
After high speeds were posted in practice, teams were anticipating faster laps during qualifying. That wasn’t the case.
“I thought we could pick up time, but it was kind of weird because we were watching the lap times, and guys weren’t picking up as much as we are used to seeing here at Charlotte,” Stewart noted. “I knew Ryan would put down a good lap, and I rely on Ryan a lot when it comes to qualifying, because he’s the master at it for sure. We just took some information that he gave us and went forward.”
The margin of time among the 43 drivers who qualified for this race was less than less than 0.8 seconds.
Geoffrey Bodine, Scott Speed and Josh Wise failed to qualify.
Teams will practice again on Friday afternoon. The 500-mile race at Charlotte is scheduled for Saturday at 7:30 p.m. (et).
– Steve

Harvick denies Earnhardt Jr. at Martinsville

Kevin Harvick won his second straight Sprint Cup Series race on Sunday, but it wasn’t to the delight of the estimated crowd of 60,000 on hand for the Goody’s Fast Relief 500 at Martinsville Speedway.

Harvick, who won last weekend at his home track in California, prevented Dale Earnhardt Jr. — NASCAR’s most popular driver — an opportunity to end his winless streak that dates back to June 2008 at Michigan.

Earnhardt Jr. passed Kyle Busch for the lead with 21 laps remaining in the 500-lap affair at the flat, half-mile Virginia track. But Harvick took over the top position with four laps to go when Earnhardt Jr. got loose, allowing Harvick to squeak by him.

Harvick dealt with a loose car and fell back in the field in the early going, but he patiently made his way to the front in the late stages. He crossed the finish line 0.7 seconds ahead of Earnhardt Jr. to become the first repeat winner in the series this season.

“I didn’t think we had the car to do that,” said Harvick, who led just six laps. “I had a lot of fun racing with Dale Jr. I hate to be the bad guy here, but we’re in it to win it.”

Last Sunday at California, Harvick passed Jimmie Johnson and led only the final lap for the victory.

It was Harvick’s 16th career Cup win, but his first at Martinsville. He also gave team owner Richard Childress his first victory here since Dale Earnhardt’s win in the fall 1995 race.

Earnhardt Jr.’s winless drought now stretches to 99 races.

“[Harvick] was coming, and there wasn’t much I could do,” a disappointed Earnhardt Jr. said. “I got a little loose coming into [turn] one, and I wanted to do a cross-over move. I thought I had that.”

Busch dominated during a series of long green-flag stretches in the second half, but the final caution for an incident involving Regan Smith occurred 34 laps away from the finish. That allowed Earnhardt Jr. to chase down Busch for the lead just after the last restart.

“We just didn’t have a short-run car today,” Busch said. “We were really good on the long runs, but it just wasn’t a long-run race there at the end.”

Busch led the most laps with 151, but ended up in third.

Juan Pablo Montoya finished fourth, while Jeff Gordon, a seven-time Martinsville race winner, took the fifth spot.

Matt Kenseth, pole sitter Jamie McMurray, David Ragan, Clint Bowyer and Mark Martin, who made his 800th career Cup start, completed the top-10.

Five-time defending series champion Jimmie Johnson was in contention to win until he was slapped with a pit-road speeding penalty during the final round of stops. Johnson, who has won at Martinsville six times, settled for an 11th- place finish.

Denny Hamlin, who had won the last three races at Martinsville, led a total of 89 laps, but faded in the second half en route to a 12th-place run.

The race featured a track-record 31 lead changes, as well as 11 cautions — including one for a vicious accident involving Martin Truex Jr. and Kasey Kahne on lap 221.

The throttle in Truex’s car became stuck, causing him to hit Kahne, therefore sending both drivers straight into the wall.

“When you usually get hit here, you spin out because somebody is mad,” Kahne said. “I knew that the throttle had stuck on Martin’s car, because he drove me through the wall.”

Truex’s battered car briefly erupted into flames. Both drivers were not injured in what is being considered one of the hardest crashes to occur at NASCAR’s oldest and shortest track on the schedule.

NASCAR halted the race for 25 minutes to allow track personnel to repair the SAFER (Steel And Foam Energy Reduction) barrier on the outside wall.

“I was thinking, ‘Oh man, this is going to hurt,’ but it didn’t hurt at all,” Truex said. “I want to thank NASCAR and everybody who built the SAFER barrier and these cars; they’re unbelievable. Ten years ago, I wouldn’t have been standing here.”

After the sixth race of the season, Kyle Busch took over the points lead. His advantage is five markers over Carl Edwards, who finished one lap behind in 18th.

– Steve

Johnson tops in qualifying at Bristol

Jimmie Johnson picked up his first pole of the season by winning Friday’s qualifying for the IRWIN Tools Night Race at Bristol Motor Speedway.

Johnson, who won at Bristol for the first time in March, posted a lap of 123.475 m.p.h. around the 0.533-mile, high-banked oval for his 24th career Sprint Cup Series pole, but his first since last year’s season-ending race at Homestead.

“We have a lot of things going in the right direction for us here,” Johnson said after claiming his first pole at Bristol. “We all know how important track position is, and your pit stall pick, so we have the best of both worlds starting on the front row. But we’ll have to be smart, because there’s no safe place on this racetrack.”

Johnson, the four-time defending series champion, knocked Carl Edwards off of the pole position shortly after Edwards’ qualifying lap of 122.937 m.p.h., which put him on the outside pole.

“I felt like the line I ran around the top was the line that was going to get the pole, but I watched Jimmie use the bottom, and I thought, ‘there’s no way, he’s going to be slow,’ but somehow he made it work, so those guys did a good job.”

Joey Logano qualified third, while Tony Stewart and David Reutimann rounded out the top-five. Reutimann suffered from food poisoning and had Aric Almirola drive his car during the first of two practices earlier in the day. Reutimann recuperated from his stomach ailment in time to participate in the final practice.

Ryan Newman took the sixth spot, followed by Jamie McMurray, Juan Pablo Montoya, Martin Truex Jr. and A.J. Allmendinger.

Kevin Harvick, the current points leader, will start 28th. Harvick holds a 293-point advantage over second-place Jeff Gordon, who will start 26th, one position ahead of his Hendrick Motorsports teammate Dale Earnhardt Jr.

Dave Blaney, Joe Nemechek, Kevin Lepage, J.J. Yeley, Brian Keselowski and Mike Bliss failed to qualify.

Saturday’s 500-lap race at Bristol is scheduled to start shortly after 7:30 p.m. (et).

– Stephen (DS LLC.)

Almirola to drive for JR Motorsports

Aric Almirola has signed a multi-year contract to drive the No. 88 car for JR Motorsports on the Nationwide circuit, starting next year.

Almirola has 32 career Nationwide Series starts, including a third-place finish for JR Motorsports last month at O’Reilly Raceway Park.

“The chance to drive full time in the Nationwide Series with a top caliber team is something I am extremely excited about,” said Almirola in a release from JR Motorsports. “We raced at ORP together a month ago and had a really good run. There is no reason why we cannot compete like that every race, and there is no reason why we shouldn’t be running for a championship. I would expect nothing less.”

Almirola is currently second in the Truck Series standings. In 15 races this year, he has a pair of victories and has finished in the top 10 in all but four events.

– Stephen (DS LLC.)

Ambrose joining Richard Petty Motorsports in 2011

Marcos Ambrose has signed a multi-year contract with Richard Petty Motorsports to drive the No.9 Ford in the Sprint Cup Series beginning in 2011, the team announced on Tuesday.

Ambrose  will replace  Kasey Kahne in the  No.9 car when Kahne departs RPM for Red Bull Racing at the end of this season.

“We  are  very happy  to have  Marcos Ambrose  join our  team,” team owner and NASCAR  Hall of Famer Richard Petty said in a statement. “He’s a very talented and passionate driver and will be a great addition to our team.”

Long-time RPM sponsor Stanley Black and Decker will serve as Ambrose’s primary sponsor next year.

“I’m  very excited  to join Richard Petty Motorsports,” Ambrose said. “It’s an incredible honor to be able to race for a legend like ‘The King’ and be a part of  this  organization. I’m also  happy to be back  with Ford Racing. The No.9 team has been a very successful team in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series. With the support  of Ford and everyone at RPM, I believe we can continue that tradition of success. I’m also excited to join forces with Stanley.”

Ambrose  revealed  three weeks ago  that he will  part ways with JTG Daugherty Racing  at  the end  of this  season. He has  driven the  No.47 Toyota for JTG Daugherty  since the  tail end of the  2008 season. He also drove a Nationwide Series entry full-time for the team during the 2007 and ’08 seasons.

The  33-year-old  Ambrose currently  is  26th  in  points, with  three  top-10 finishes  so  far this  season. He ended  the 2009 season  18th in points. His career-best  Cup finish of  second came last year at the Watkins Glen, NY road course. Ambrose is considered a road course expert.

– Stephen (DS LLC.)

Budweiser moving sponsorship to Harvick’s No.29 team in 2011

Kevin  Harvick will become NASCAR’s next “Bud Man,” starting in 2011.

Richard  Childress  Racing announced  on Tuesday that  Budweiser will serve as primary  sponsor  of Harvick’s No.29 team  for 20 points races, two non-points races  during  Daytona Speedweeks and  co-primary sponsor of the NASCAR Sprint All-Star  Race in Charlotte next year. The beer brand will remain an associate sponsor for the remaining 16 point races on the ’11 schedule.

“Budweiser  is one of the most respected sponsors in our sport,” said Harvick, who  is the  current Sprint Cup points  leader and the first of 12 drivers who has  clinched  a spot  in this  year’s championship  Chase. “They  do a lot to market  their  teams and the sport  in television broadcasts and away from the track.  I’m looking  forward to driving the No. 29 Budweiser Chevrolet, taking it to victory lane and winning championships.”

In  April, Harvick’s current primary sponsor — Shell/Pennzoil — announced it will  leave RCR at season’s end and move over to Penske Racing to sponsor Kurt Busch and his new No.22 ride, beginning next year.

Harvick  signed a multi-year contract extension with RCR in May. He has driven the  No.29 car for RCR in Cup since replacing Dale Earnhardt after Earnhardt’s fatal  crash in  the 2001  Daytona  500. Harvick  has recorded  14 career  Cup victories,  including  a win  last Sunday  at Michigan. He  also is a two-time Nationwide Series champion (2001 and ’06).

“Throughout  his career,  Kevin has shown he  can win at any level in NASCAR,” team  owner Richard  Childress said.  “Combining his  talent with  Budweiser’s NASCAR  lineage and  proven track record of innovative sponsorship activations makes  this an  exciting pairing for fans everywhere. RCR prides itself on its heritage  and authenticity,  so working with a brand like Budweiser, which has built their reputation on those same values, is a very special opportunity.”

Budweiser  currently  supports the efforts of  Kasey Kahne’s No.9 Ford team at Richard  Petty Motorsports. But Kahne is leaving RPM at the end of this season to drive one of two Red Bull Racing cars for next year. He will then move over to  Hendrick Motorsports in  2012 to take over the wheel of Mark Martin’s No.5 car.

“The  King of  Beers” also has sponsored Dale Earnhardt Jr., Wally Dallenbach, Ricky  Craven,  Ken Schrader, Bill  Elliott, Geoff Bodine, Darrell Waltrip and Terry Labonte since it entered the Cup circuit in 1983.

– Stephen (DS LLC.)

Harvick clinches spot in Chase with Michigan win


Kevin Harvick became the first driver to lock down a position in the championship Chase after winning Sunday’s CARFAX 400 at Michigan International Speedway.

Harvick  gambled on  fuel and tires when  he opted to stay on the track, while most  of the leaders  pitted for the final time during a late-race caution. He passed  Denny Hamlin with 11 laps remaining and then beat Hamlin at the finish by  1.7 seconds for his third victory of the season and the 14th of his Sprint Cup Series career. Harvick also won at Michigan for the first time in his 20th Cup start here.

“It’s really been a great weekend all around and a great year, for that fact,” said  Harvick, who  led a total of 60 laps.  “It’s a lot of fun to come to the racetrack  right now. Everybody is doing a great job of not only continuing to press  but to  put better  things  on the  racetrack and  put things  together correctly and just do a great job at the shop.”

Harvick  recorded his  first Cup  win on  a non-restrictor  plate track  since November 2006 at Phoenix. He also gave RCR its first Cup win at Michigan since Dale Earnhardt did it in 1990.

“It’s  been 20 years since RCR won,” team owner Richard Childress said. “Kevin almost  had the race several years ago. We broke a distributor. I can remember that  one. We’ve had  some really good runs. But to be able to put it together today, Kevin, he’s figured out how to make this thing work in the groove.”

The  34-year-old Harvick  has been enjoying a complete turnaround this season, as  he now holds a 293-point lead over Jeff Gordon, who finished 27th. Harvick sat 23rd in points when the series raced at Michigan one year ago.

With  three  races  remaining  before  the Chase  begins  next  month  in  New Hampshire,  Jimmie Johnson and Hamlin lead the series with five victories each so far this season. Harvick is now second in line with his three wins.

“We’re going to enjoy it and we’re going to hopefully be ready for the last 10 weeks,” Harvick added.

Hamlin  has not  won a race since  the series last came to Michigan two months ago.

“This  is  the kind  of run we  needed to kind  of get  back into the swing of things, but we still need to get better,” second-place finisher Hamlin said.

Carl  Edwards finished  third, while  his Roush  Fenway Racing  teammates Greg Biffle,  who led the  most laps with 66, and Matt Kenseth rounded out the top- five.

Team  owner Jack  Roush returned to the  track for the first time this weekend after  suffering serious facial and back injuries during a plane crash on July 27 in Oshkosh, WI.

Tony   Stewart   finished  sixth,  and   Juan  Pablo  Montoya,  who  won  last weekend  on the road course in Watkins Glen, NY, took the seventh spot. Martin Truex   Jr.,  Elliott  Sadler  and  Joey  Logano  were  eighth  through  10th, respectively.

Mark  Martin  and Kurt Busch  suffered major blows in  their bids to make this year’s Chase.

Martin  fell out  of the  top-12 in  points after  a disappointing  28th-place finish.  He  suffered damage to the  nose and front  fender of his car when he made contact with the wall in the opening laps.

“The  car was really  fast that last run, but it took the whole race to fix up my mistakes,” Martin said. “I was real aggressive early in the race, and I got that damage in the front.”

Martin   fell  to  13th  in  the  rankings  and  trails  Clint  Bowyer  by  35 points for the 12th spot. Bowyer finished 13th.

Kurt  Busch  blew an engine  and retired from the  race after 30 laps. Busch’s 40th-place finish dropped him from fourth to 10th in the standings.

– Stephen (DS LLC.)