Categories
News

NASCAR Community Offers Help to Hurricane Irma Evacuees

With Hurricane Irma apparently heading for a direct hit on South Florida over the weekend, the NASCAR community is reacting.

Atlanta Motor Speedway, Bristol Motor Speedway, Charlotte Motor Speedway and Talladega Superspeedway are all opening their campgrounds for evacuees fleeing the path of the devastating storm closing in on Florida.

Some specific information:

“With severe weather forecasted to directly affect numerous states throughout the Southeast in the coming days, Bristol Motor Speedway’s campgrounds are open to evacuees of Hurricane Irma,” track officials said in a statementFriday. “Evacuees may call toll free 866.415.4158 for more information. Our thoughts and prayers continue to be with those in the path of the hurricane.”

Charlotte will open its Rock City Campground off Bruton Smith Boulevard. Evacuees can enter through Entrance Z and will have access to bathhouse facilities on speedway property. “We are happy to open our doors to help those needing a place to seek shelter during this difficult time,” said Greg Walter, the executive vice president of Charlotte Motor Speedway. “We look forward to showing them the hospitality for which we’re known and they deserve.”

At Atlanta Motor Speedway, those interested in RV or tent camping should enter the facility at Entrance “E” off GA Highway 19/41. The Unreserved Campgrounds will be on the left. From I-75 and GA Highway 20, campers should see signs to AMS and follow Lower Woolsey road to Entrance “H” and the Speedway Credential Building. Make a right into Speedway property and then another immediate right onto Richard Petty Boulevard. Follow Richard Petty Boulevard and turn left into Entrance “G”. The campgrounds will be on the right.

For on-site assistance or directions, visit the ticket office/gift store building. For more information, contact Atlanta Motor Speedway at (770) 946-4211 or visit www.atlantamotorspeedway.com.

Talladega Superspeedway will offer campground space with hot shower and restroom facilities, as well as water hookups on gravel and grassy areas – free to evacuees seeking temporary refuge.

“Our track is committed to helping our friends in Florida and the surrounding states during this time of need,” Talladega Superspeedway Chairman Grant Lynch said. “We hope to provide a sense of relief by offering a place to stay for no charge for evacuees during this time of adversity. Our thoughts and prayers go out to everyone in the path of the storm.”

For more information, please contact the Talladega Superspeedway guest services department at (256) 761-4709.

Meanwhile, at Richmond Raceway, site of Saturday night’s Federated Auto Parts 400 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series race, several drivers including Joey Logano and Matt Kenseth are carrying paint schemes dedicated to victims of Hurricane Harvey, which devastated Houston, and the anticipated damage Irma will cause.

“We saw what happened down in the Houston area and the devastation that is there and also looking in the future the next few days of what Florida looks like could possibly happen there,” said Logano. “Obviously we need all hands on deck. If we are able to help out in any little way we should. It is what we should do as contributing members of our society. We should be thinking with our heart at this point. There are a lot of innocent people getting hit hard by these storms lately.”

We got the Red Cross on there (sponsoring his car), the St. Bernard Project to give money to both of those places, so, yeah, it’s obviously a terrible thing in Texas,” said Kenseth. “Toyota moved their headquarters to Texas here recently, so they’re not real far removed from that. Obviously with another one (hurricane) coming, there’s a lot of people that need a lot of help.”

Categories
XFINITY

THREE TAKEAWAYS: Drive For The Cure 300 at Charlotte

The Round of 12 in the inaugural NASCAR XFINITY Series Chase came to an end on Sunday evening with Joey Logano winning the 300-mile event at Charlotte Motor Speedway. Ty Dillon, Brennan Poole, Ryan Sieg, and Brandon Jones were eliminated from playoff contention, and now the Chase Grid is set for the Round of 8.

Larson’s Domination Not Enough

Kyle Larson started from the pole and led 165 laps in the 200-lap event, but a late caution along with a not-so-good restart handed Logano the lead with 12 laps remaining.

Larson, although not an XFINITY regular, did have an incentive to win in the Chip Ganassi Racing entry.

His car entered the race 12th in the owner’s championship standings and needed a win to advance to the next round. It looked like it was going to happen for the No. 42, but the team finished fourth and won’t be contending for the XFINITY owner championship in the final four races.

Jones Advances, But Still Not Error-Free

Erik Jones entered Sunday’s event 10th in the driver standings and needed a mistake-free day to advance to the Round of 8 — or at least it seemed that way. He didn’t have a perfect race, but luckily for him, other Chase contenders had issues, and he was able to keep his championship hopes alive.

Jones battled Larson for the lead for a majority of the race, but he was penalized with 25 laps to go for an uncontrolled tire during a round of green-flag pit stops.

He was running second at the time of the penalty, and his wandering tire brought out the caution. Jones was able to rebound to a fifth-place finish after leading 21 laps.

Dillon’s Disappointment; Koch’s Exuberance

Ty Dillon missed the cutoff for the Round of 8 by one point. He finished one lap down in 11th place and the third-year series regular will not win the 2016 championship.

Dillon told NBC Sports: “We were terrible today and didn’t give ourselves much of a shot. We fired off pretty good. I don’t know — for whatever reason; our car was definitely not the same today.

“You got to expect things to happen, which happened in the first race at Kentucky. That’s the way this Chase is built. Things happen, and some of the best cars are going to get knocked out, but you got to be able to rebound if you’re going to win the championship and we weren’t able to rebound.”

On the other hand, Blake Koch and his first-year team, Kaulig Racing, are advancing in the Chase. Koch said he was so excited he wanted to do a burnout when his team told him they’re advancing to the Round of 8.

Koch finished 12th at Charlotte; he and the No. 11 team appear to be the underdog story of 2016.

EMAIL JOHN AT john.haverlin@popularspeed.com

FOLLOW ON TWITTER: @The5thJohnHav

The thoughts and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of PopularSpeed.com, its owners, management or staff. Any links contained in this article should not be considered an endorsement.

Categories
Commentary NASCAR Cup Series

RAPID REACTION: Daytime Drama

CONCORD, N.C. – The Chase’s lone night race turned into a midday melee at Charlotte Motor Speedway. Questionable weather conditions force the sanctioning body to move the Sprint Cup Series event to Sunday afternoon for the second year in a row. This decision threw teams for a loop and led to plot twists no one expected.

As Jimmie Johnson outran Matt Kenseth for the coveted Chase-securing victory, others didn’t fare as well. For many, the first race of round two raised more questions than it answered. That makes the next two weeks kind of interesting.

Here are some rapid reactions from Charlotte’s Chase race.

Pencil in some cautions?

Moving the race to the daytime was a decision NASCAR had to make to keep fans safe. Good karma repaid them with a chaotic event, which had a total of eight cautions. The move to Sunday afternoon made every team’s setup useless, and it was all about who could adapt the best.

The current aero package doesn’t favor night races, and Sunday proved that. Afternoon heat caused a lot of side-by-side racing, yet some weren’t impressed with the action.

Kyle Larson, who finished fifth, said, “I thought it was going to be a lot better, but it wasn’t actually much fun. It was single-file, much like a night race here.”

Nevertheless, it was an entertaining afternoon, to say the least.

Rough start to Round of Twelve

No Chase driver was safe from Charlotte’s wrath; five championship-eligible racers suffered issues, ranging from accidents to blown engines.

Kevin Harvick locked himself into round three with his New Hampshire victory, and good thing, too. The No. 4 team’s day started off strong but came to a screeching halt when problems with the electronic control unit arose. The finished relegated the 2014 Sprint Cup Series champion to a 38th-place finish.

The Stewart-Haas Racing driver fell off the pace on lap 155, but Joey Logano hit the wall as the caution flew. It was the second time the No. 22 got in the wall – but the Team Penske car could not fix the damage. Logano finished 36th.

Two other drivers – Chase Elliott and Austin Dillon – ended up in the garage as well; Martin Truex, Jr. hit Dillon’s bumper on a late restart and caused an accident that involved 12 cars. The No. 3 collected others, including the No. 24. Elliott and Dillon’s days were decent in their respective ways, yet their Chase hopes are now hanging by a thread.

Denny Hamlin is no stranger to playoff season issues, and he joined other Chasers in battling harsh circumstances; while running second with less than 50 to go, his engine failed. It was a shocking development, given Joe Gibbs Racing’s dominance throughout the season. The 2016 Daytona 500 champion and four fellow competitors find themselves in compromising positions just one race into the second round.

Chasers who?

With various championship contenders struggling, the door opened for under-the-radar drivers to pull off strong days.

Kasey Kahne, who’s found consistency as of late, credited crew chief Keith Rodden with his third-place finish, saying, “We were bouncing a bit, so we struggled with that. Keith made the right adjustments to get me off my right front, and that helped a lot during the last three or four runs of the race.”

Larson is still fighting for wins despite his elimination from the Chase field. His attributes the No. 42 team’s speed for the top five effort.

“We’ve had fifth to 10th place speed the last couple of months, but we haven’t had the luck to go with it,” he said, adding, “Today was good; we got some bad luck in the beginning of the race when our tire came apart, but we fought back to the lead lap and got a top five. I’m good with that.”

Ryan Newman failed to make the Chase Grid but keeps pulling off impressive finishes; he brought the No. 31 home fourth. Other non-Chasers who filled out the top 10 include Tony Stewart and Jamie McMurray.

Hendrick power shines again

If anyone doubted Johnson would be a major player for the 2016 championship, he proved them wrong on Sunday He took Hendrick Motorsports to victory lane after leading 155 laps throughout the afternoon. The Chevrolet organization is flexing its muscle at the right time, with its other three cars also recent contenders. Elliott led 103 laps before the wreck, Kahne finished strong, and Alex Bowman was in the top 10 when his accident took place.

You can say HMS was sandbagging throughout the entire regular season. You might be right – but they call it “strategy,” and it’s a strategy they do very, very well. All four cars have the ability to win in the next six races, and that should scare the other 36 cars on the track.

EMAIL KRISTEN AT kristen.schneider@popularspeed.com

FOLLOW ON TWITTER: @KristenS_Writes

The thoughts and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of PopularSpeed.com, its owners, management or other contributors. Any links contained in this article should not be considered an endorsement.

Categories
XFINITY

Burton Back in the Saddle

Jeb Burton is returning to the XFINITY Series this weekend at Charlotte Motor Speedway, driving the No. 98 Mustang for Biagi-DenBeste Racing

Burton, son of 2002 Daytona 500 champion, Ward Burton, has made two starts for the team already this season, with a 12th-place finish at Indianapolis Motor Speedway and a 19th-place finish at Richmond International Raceway.

“I’m really excited and thankful for the opportunity to run the No. 98 The Z Real Estate Group, KW Burlington Ford with Biagi-DenBeste Racing in Charlotte,” Burton said in a press release. “Biagi-DenBeste Racing has shown speed in their cars all year long, especially getting the win in Daytona in July. I’ve had a couple of solid runs with them this year, and am excited to get back to the track and get a good finish at Charlotte.”

As Burton alluded to, Biagi-DenBeste Racing went to Victory Lane in July with Aric Almirola behind the wheel.

“I’m really looking forward to returning to racing at Charlotte Motor Speedway this weekend,” the 24-year-old said. “We drove really well there in the spring race and have found success on intermediate tracks this season. At Charlotte, you can move around the racetrack in multiple grooves, running all three lines and being able to gain track position. Our goal this weekend is to maintain good track position and get another Top-10 finish.”

Finding consistent seat-time has plagued Burton through his young career. He started the XFINITY Series season as the full-time driver of Richard Petty Motorsports’ No. 43 Ford Mustang. Unfortunately for Burton, the team suspended operations following the race at Charlotte in May due to a financial dispute with sponsor J. Streicher.

Before Richard Petty Motorsports halted their XFINITY Series operations, the Virginia native had scored one top-10 and four top-15s.

This weekend will mark Burton’s 16th career XFINITY start, and his 14th this year. His best finish came at Atlanta Motor Speedway in February, where he placed 10th.

In Burton’s last XFINITY Series start at Charlotte earlier this season, he finished 11th.

Shane Carlson is a POPULAR SPEED Development Journalist

EMAIL SHANE AT shane.carlson@popularspeed.com
TWITTER: @ShaneCarlson4

The thoughts and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of PopularSpeed.com, its owners, management or staff. Any links contained in this article should not be considered an endorsement.

Categories
NASCAR Cup Series

Truex Shatters Lap-Leader Record

CONCORD, N.C. – While Martin Truex Jr. dominated the field at Charlotte Motor Speedway, he also notched new entries in the history books.

The driver of the No. 78 Furniture Row Racing Toyota claimed his first Coca-Cola 600 win after leading 392 of 400 laps. This crushes a record set by Jim Paschal, who led 335 laps in the 1967 World 600. Truex also led 588 miles Sunday night, the most in any NASCAR race in history.

Truex’s performance earned him a perfect driver rating of 150.0. Kevin Harvick was the last driver to earn a perfect driver rating when he won at Phoenix in March 2015 after starting from the pole.

In addition, Sunday’s race was the shortest Coca-Cola 600 ever run, with an official length of three hours, 44 minutes and eight seconds. Charlotte Motor Speedway has held races since 1960, and the first 600-mile event was on June 19, 1960.

EMAIL KRISTEN AT kristen.schneider@popularspeed.com

FOLLOW ON TWITTER: @KristenS_Writes

The thoughts and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of PopularSpeed.com, its owners, management or other contributors. Any links contained in this article should not be considered an endorsement.

Categories
Development Journalists

Coke 600 Could Favor a First-Time ‘Young Gun’ Winner

Since its first running in 1960, the Coca-Cola 600 has become famous not only for being NASCAR’s longest race but for producing numerous first-time winners. In all, there have been six drivers to win their first Sprint Cup Series race at the event, four of whom went on to become champions later in their career.

The list is an impressive one: David Pearson, Jeff Gordon, Bobby Labonte and Matt Kenseth.

Casey Mears won his first (and so far only) Cup race in the 2007 Coca-Cola 600 while David Reutimann won his first of two career Cup races in the 2009 Coca-Cola 600.

The 2016 NASCAR season has shown that the sport’s ‘young guns’ are on the rise — could there be another first-time winner on Sunday?

Here are some potential candidates:

Chase Elliott — The Rookie of the Year contender has two poles and four top-five finishes in 2016. The 20-year-old has shown speed since Daytona in February and earlier this month, crept into Kenseth’s and Kyle Larson’s battle at Dover in the closing laps. Elliott also came close to winning two segments in the Sprint Showdown last Saturday. Could the No. 24 team have deja vu with another driver earning their first career Cup win in the 600?

Kyle Larson — Speaking of Larson, the Chip Ganassi Racing driver again came close to earning that elusive first victory at Kansas, Dover and most recently, the All-Star race at Charlotte. He’s come up short in each event, but it looks like his day will come. Many predicted that Larson would break out after a sophomore slump in 2015 and through 12 races in 2016, he’s led 94 laps and is on pace to lead more this year than the previous two years combined.

Austin Dillon — Dillon, like Larson, has been racing full-time in the Cup Series since 2014 but is yet to visit Victory Lane. The Richard Childress Racing driver has one pole and three top-five finishes in 2016, most recently earning a third-place finish at Talladega after being involved in a wreck. RCR has shown somewhat of a resurgence in recent weeks, and Dillon is carrying the flag, as he sits 10th in the standings. He also swept the races at Charlotte in the XFINITY Series in 2015.

Ryan Blaney — Blaney drives the No. 21 Ford for Wood Brothers Racing, NASCAR’s oldest active race team. The Wood Bros. are no strangers to Victory Lane in Charlotte (or anywhere else for that matter) and have won the 600 four times, most recently in 1987 with Kyle Petty. Blaney is Elliott’s greatest threat in the Rookie of the Year battle and sits 15th in the standings. The Wood Bros. team is a satellite of Team Penske, who has three Cup wins in 2016 — including last Saturday’s All-Star race. Blaney has as strong a car as his Penske teammates, Joey Logano and Brad Keselowski.

John Haverlin is a POPULAR SPEED Development Journalist

EMAIL JOHN AT john.haverlin@popularspeed.com

The thoughts and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of PopularSpeed.com, its owners, management or staff. Any links contained in this article should not be considered an endorsement.

Categories
News

Sprint All-Star Race to Feature Aero Tweaks

The current rules package in the Sprint Cup Series will have aerodynamic adjustments for this weekend’s Sprint All-Star Race at Charlotte Motor Speedway.

NASCAR announced Monday morning that tweaks have been made to the truck trailing arm, cooling fans, and rear toe in an attempt to reduce downforce and side force. Teams were required to weld the truck trailing arm beginning at Kansas Speedway, a rule that will be reinforced throughout the rest of the season. Securing the arm reduces movement.

The number of electric cooling fans will be limited after the discovery that the fans create some downforce themselves. Teams were allowed to adjust the rear toe alignment to increase side force advantage. The new rule eliminates that; no amount of toe can be removed before the start of the All-Star Race, with a maximum of .25 degrees allowed in post-race inspection.

This assures that all the cars will be neutral at the start of the race.

These adjustments signal the sport’s desire to keep the playing field equal and hinder teams’ efforts to gain back downforce.

NASCAR debuted the low downforce package in 2015 at Kentucky Speedway and has built upon the concept since then. The announced changes are also possible additions to the 2017 rules package; implementing them for Saturday’s exhibition event is a chance to experiment without season-altering consequences for drivers. Teams are expected to collect data from Saturday’s event and assess the changes as a whole.

A Goodyear tire test at Michigan International Speedway on Tuesday will feature the modifications. Drivers Aric Almirola, Austin Dillon, Kyle Larson, and Martin Truex, Jr. will participate in the session.

EMAIL KRISTEN AT kristen.schneider@popularspeed.com

FOLLOW ON TWITTER: @KristenS_Writes

The thoughts and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of PopularSpeed.com, its owners, management or other contributors. Any links contained in this article should not be considered an endorsement.

Categories
News

Austin Dillon Dominates NASCAR XFINITY Race at Charlotte

By Reid Spencer (NASCAR Wire Service) – For the second straight Saturday, Denny Hamlin had the chance to hold off a race’s strongest car for the victory.

Unlike last Saturday’s NASCAR Sprint All-Star Race, however, there were too many laps left after the final restart in Saturday’s Hisense 300 NASCAR XFINITY Series, and polesitter Austin Dillon powered past Hamlin on Lap 186 of 200 to finish the race where he belonged—at the front of the field.

By the time he crossed the finish line, Dillon was 2.692 seconds ahead of Hamlin, who had taken the lead during a restart on Lap 167 that saw Dillon fall back to fourth from the inside lane by the time the leaders exited Turn 2.

One by one, Dillon picked off Regan Smith, Kahne and Hamlin on the way to his second XFINITY Series victory of the season, his first at Charlotte and the fourth of his career.

Kahne ran third behind Dillon and Hamlin, followed by Smith and rookies Darrell Wallace Jr. and Daniel Suarez. Ty Dillon came home seventh and trimmed the series lead of 11th-place finisher Chris Buescher to four points.

Dillon led 163 laps and held an advantage of more than six seconds during a 54-lap green-flag run that preceded the second caution of the race on Lap 110.

How good was Dillon’s No. 33 Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet?

“I didn’t want to get out of this thing,” Dillon said in Victory Lane. “This thing drove so good. It was a heck of a race there with Denny at the end and Kasey (Kahne). I had to go right there in lapped traffic (to make the winning pass).

“I knew if I didn’t hurry up and get in front of him right there, the tires might equalize (in terms of grip).”

But when Dillon picked the inside lane for what proved to be the final restart—after a caution for Kyle Fowler’s wreck in Turn 1—Hamlin seized what he considered a fortuitous opportunity and surged into the lead.

“I thought when the 33 gave us the outside, that was a big advantage for us if we could stay with him through Turns 1 and 2,” said Hamlin, who last Saturday held off Kevin Harvick in the final 10-lap shootout to win the all-star race. “We (did), and it allowed us to get position on him and even get him shuffled a few spots.

“That was all good, but his car was just so fast he just overcame that track position.”

Hamlin lost the lead when the lapped car of Peyton Sellers stayed low and forced Hamlin’s No. 54 Toyota to pass on the outside.

“I needed to stay on the bottom,” Hamlin said. “My car was best on the bottom. His car was pinned to the bottom as well. So I needed all of the lapped cars to move up high, and all of them did, except for the 97 (Sellers). He gave us the high line. That just killed us and killed our chances from that point, once the 33 got to our inside.”

Dillon chose the inside line because his car had worked well on the bottom for the entire race to that point.

“My spotter (Andy Houston) made the fact that we should have probably taken the top, and I had been on the bottom all day, so I chose the bottom again,” Dillon said. “I just didn’t want to let these guys down (his crew). The Rheem car was so fast…

“I thought about it, and I probably should have used the top, just because I would have had the run down the backstretch. It seems that, as the race goes on, that the outside can stop spinning the tires, and the rubber lays down…

“Andy made the point, and it all worked out, but I’ll definitely learn from that, for sure.”

Smith, Wallace, Suarez and Ty Dillon qualified for next week’s XFINITY Dash4Cash competition at Dover as the top four finishers among series regulars. Those drivers will compete for $100,000 in next Saturday’s race at Dover, with the top finisher among them claiming the prize.

NASCAR XFINITY Series Race – Hisense 300

1. (1) Austin Dillon(i), Chevrolet, 200, $70854.
2. (4) Denny Hamlin(i), Toyota, 200, $45242.
3. (8) Kasey Kahne(i), Chevrolet, 200, $35150.
4. (15) Regan Smith, Chevrolet, 200, $34424.
5. (2) Darrell Wallace Jr. #, Ford, 200, $35548.
6. (19) Daniel Suarez #, Toyota, 200, $29090.
7. (9) Ty Dillon, Chevrolet, 200, $27577.
8. (16) Chase Elliott, Chevrolet, 200, $27640.
9. (11) Elliott Sadler, Ford, 200, $25831.
10. (12) Ryan Blaney, Ford, 200, $25997.
11. (14) Chris Buescher, Ford, 200, $24514.
12. (10) Ryan Reed, Ford, 200, $23983.
13. (24) Jeremy Clements, Chevrolet, 200, $23375.
14. (13) Kevin Harvick(i), Chevrolet, 200, $16895.
15. (7) Erik Jones(i), Toyota, 200, $23170.
16. (18) Dakoda Armstrong, Ford, 200, $22287.
17. (21) Landon Cassill, Chevrolet, 200, $22060.
18. (17) Brendan Gaughan, Chevrolet, 199, $21832.
19. (6) Aric Almirola(i), Ford, 199, $15806.
20. (3) Brian Scott, Chevrolet, 197, $22255.
21. (25) JJ Yeley, Toyota, 196, $21554.
22. (32) David Starr, Toyota, 196, $21497.
23. (30) Blake Koch, Toyota, 196, $21448.
24. (22) Ryan Sieg, Chevrolet, 195, $21381.
25. (28) Chad Boat(i), Chevrolet, 194, $15496.
26. (35) Jimmy Weller, Chevrolet, 193, $21311.
27. (34) Kyle Fowler(i), Toyota, 192, $15275.
28. (38) Peyton Sellers #, Chevrolet, 192, $21240.
29. (23) John Wes Townley(i), Chevrolet, 191, $21194.
30. (36) Eric McClure, Toyota, 189, $21449.
31. (20) Ross Chastain #, Chevrolet, Engine, 187, $21113.
32. (39) Joey Gase, Chevrolet, 186, $21067.
33. (5) Kyle Larson(i), Chevrolet, 183, $15097.
34. (26) Cale Conley #, Toyota, 146, $20991.
35. (27) Harrison Rhodes #, Chevrolet, Transmission, 141, $20957.
36. (37) Carl Long, Dodge, Engine, 129, $19499.
37. (33) BJ McLeod(i), Chevrolet, Fuel Pump, 58, $18499.
38. (31) Jamie Dick, Chevrolet, Accident, 45, $17499.
39. (29) Timmy Hill(i), Toyota, Electrical, 40, $10499.
40. (40) Jeff Green, Toyota, Vibration, 2, $9499.

Categories
News

KK in for CC at JRM in CLT

JR Motorsports will be competing in next weekend’s Camping World Truck Series race at Charlotte Motor Speedway with a familiar face.

@KaseyKahne will pilot the No. 00 Haas Automation Chevrolet for the team, making only his fifth Truck Series start. In five starts he has won four times – his latest coming at Rockingham in 2012 – and has never finished worse than second. He is no stranger to JR Motorsports, having raced for the organization in select XFINITY Series events for several seasons.

“This opportunity to have Kasey in the truck will help the team evaluate our program on an intermediate track,” general manager Kelly Earnhardt-Miller said. “And Kasey’s stats in that series really speak to his talent.”

Kahne steps into the ride at an important time for the organization. NASCAR Next driver @ColeCuster00 is too young to race at intermediate tracks, allowing the Cup veteran to help the young truck team grow.

In his only race with the truck so far this year, Custer found himself battling for the win in a dramatic race in Martinsville, though a late race accident saw him finish 16th. The 17-year-old driver is slated to drive the truck nine more times throughout the rest of the season.

The opportunity will also allow Kahne to grab more experience behind the wheel for a busy two weeks at Charlotte. He has claimed victory once at the race track when he won the Coca-Cola 600 in 2012.

“I’m looking forward to running the truck race at Charlotte for JR Motorsports,” said Kahne. “They had a fast truck in the Martinsville race and have a great program going over there. Thanks to Kelley, Dale Jr. and Gene Haas for putting this deal together.”

“I haven’t been in a truck race in a long time, but I always enjoy racing in that series.”

EMAIL JOEY AT joey.chapman@popularspeed.com

FOLLOW ON TWITTER: @Joey_Chapman

Categories
NASCAR Cup Series

Joe Gibbs Racing, Team Penske Drivers Scuffle Following Charlotte

By Matt Weaver (CONCORD, N.C.) — Tempers flared following the conclusion of the Bank of America 500 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race on Saturday night.

Under the pressure of advancing to the next round in the Chase for the Championship, Denny Hamlin, Matt Kenseth and Brad Keselowski all raced each other extremely hard in the closing stages of the race. The post-race shenanigans began during the cool-down lap when Keselowski attempted to intentionally spin Hamlin going into Turn 3.

When he was unsuccessful, Keselowski turned his attention towards Kenseth when they both reached pit road, with Keselowski speeding down the entrance to sideswipe Kenseth. As an unintended consequence, Keselowski bumped into the back of a prone Tony Stewart No. 14 Chevrolet, drawing the ire of the three-time Sprint Cup champion, who promptly tossed his car into reverse and backed into Keselowski.

At this point, Hamlin drove by the melee and Keselowski followed him into the garage area. They both drove down the hill and entered garage stalls 2 and 3 respectively, again making contact inside the garage, and driving through the other end towards both team’s haulers.

The team members from the No. 2, No. 20 and No. 11 teams all began shoving each other in the garage area, with the No. 11 team dragging Hamlin away to their team’s hauler. Simultaneously, Keselowski began walking between the No. 2 and No. 22 hauler when Kenseth came running after, lunging at the 2012 champion, resulting in another shoving contest between the Gibbs and Penske crewmembers.

When the dust eventually settled, NASCAR officials requested that Keselowski and Jesse Sanders (a crew member on the No. 20 team) appear in the Sprint Cup hauler while Kenseth’s crew chief — Jason Ratcliffe — appeared voluntarily.

For Hamlin and Keselowski, the problems began with intense racing on the final restart, leading to Hamlin calling Keselowski “desperate and out of control,” due to his diminishing championship chances.

“It’s either four or five of us are wrong or he’s wrong because he’s pissed off everyone,” Hamlin said. “Just disappointing — but we’re trying to get in this deal. We’re sitting in a decent spot, but we’ve lost six spots or so with the last restart when he ran into us and knocked us up the track. That was unfortunate.

“Matt was nearly out of his car and (Brad) just plowed into Matt and then ran into Tony (Stewart) and then went in through the garage and cleared out transmissions and did burnouts in the garage — just acting like a dumbass instead of a champion.”

Kesneth was mad because he was starting to come to a stop and had his seat belts unbuckled when Keselowski side-swiped him on pit road.

“I had my HANS off and my seat belts off — and he clobbers me at like 50 (mph),” Kenseth said. “With the accidents and stuff that we’ve had around here — the race is over and we’re trying to come back to pit road.

“If he wants to come and talk about it like a man then go do that, but to try to wreck somebody on the race track and to come down pit road with other cars and people standing around with my seat belts off and drive into the side of me is just inexcusable.”

Keselowski explained that he didn’t have a problem with Kenseth until late in the race when, after Kenseth earned the wave-around, he swiped into the side of the No. 2 Ford.

“When we restarted fifth with no right-front on it, we fell all the way back to 16th and it ruined our day,” Keselowski said. “That gave us a big Chase hurt, which is unfortunate, and then for some reason after the race the No. 11 stopped in front of me and tried to pick a fight.

“I don’t know what that was all about and he swung and hit at my car, so I figured if we’re gonna play car wars under yellow and after the race I’ll join too. Those guys can dish it out, but they can’t take it. I gave it back to them and now they want to fight, so I don’t know what’s up with that.”

Following his conversation with NASCAR officials, Keselowski spoke to the media and offered that he was there to simply help them construct the events that had transpired from his perspective. Keselowski said he was not told of any penalties and was not sure if any would ultimately come his way.

“I don’t know — shoot, I never know the answers to those questions. You’ll have to ask them and not me.”

NASCAR Vice President of Competition Robin Pemberton addressed the media outside of the NASCAR hauler after the meetings with Keselowski, and said that any penalties will be announced on Tuesday and only after the league reviews all the evidence.

“As always, we’ll continue to gather the facts and the tapes and the video, things of that nature,” Pemberton said. “We’ll talk to some other people who were around and we’ll work on that and come up with something by Tuesday like we normally do. Most of the stuff happened on racetrack before pit road. Right now, we’re in the middle of gathering video. We’ve got a lot of cameras available and different things, and that’s why we don’t make decisions tonight.”

The reckless behavior inside the garage area will certainly be a factor when determining penalties, judging from Pemberton’s closing remarks.

“Everything plays into it,” he said. “We just have to gather information on the scope of it from what went on after the checkered flag to what went on in between the haulers.”