Archive for the ‘NASCAR’ Category
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.
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.)