Next Sprint Cup Series Race * Pocono Raceway * Pocono, Pennsylvania * Sunday, August 3, 2014
Next Nationwide Series Race * Iowa Speedway * Newton, Iowa * Saturday, August 2, 2014
Next Camping World Truck Series Race * Pocono Raceway * Pocono, Pennsylvania * Saturday, August 2, 2014
Jeff Gordon Wins Record Fifth NASCAR Sprint Cup Race At Indy - 90th Overall
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Gordon Wins At Indianapolis Motor Speedway
As he crossed the yard of bricks, and the significance of his fifth victory at Indianapolis Motor Speedway hit him like a ton of bricks, Jeff Gordon reveled in the moment that propelled him to victory in the Crown Royal Presents The John Wayne Walding 400 at The Brickyard. "God! I finally had the restart of my life," Gordon shouted into his radio mic, recalling the move just 15 minutes earlier that launched him past Hendrick Motorsports teammate Kasey Kahne on Lap 144 of 160 in Sunday’s marquee NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race.
Twenty years removed from his victory in the inaugural Brickyard 400, Gordon finished 2.325 seconds ahead of Kyle Busch who with teammates Denny Hamlin and Matt Kenseth finished 2-3-4 in the 20th Sprint Cup race of the season. The win was the 90th of Gordon’s career, third-most all-time, his second of the season and, of course, his record fifth at IMS, breaking a tie with teammate Jimmie Johnson for most Cup wins at the Brickyard. The win also clinched Gordon a spot in the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup, assuming he attempts to qualify for the remaining six races of the regular season.
And though open-wheel purists may blanch at the notion, Gordon is the first driver in any series to win five races on the legendary 2.5-mile oval that has played such an integral role in the history of motorsports in the United States. "I’m not very good on restarts and wasn’t very good today, but I finally got the restart of my life today when it counted most," said Gordon, who gave Chevrolet its 12th straight Cup victory at Indy. "Once I got clear, I was thinking like, ‘I can’t believe this is happening now...’ I was trying so hard with 10 (laps) to go not to focus on the crowd," added Gordon, who increased his series lead over teammate and ninth-place finisher Dale Earnhardt Jr. to 24 points. "Every once in a while, I’d glance up there and I could see the reaction. I was trying not to let it get to me and not think about it too much. And yet you can’t help it.
"It’s such a big place and such an important victory and a crucial moment in the season and the championship, and those emotions take over. I have my kids here. There’s nothing better, especially at one of the biggest races, to have your family here. ... This one is for all those fans throughout the years and all weekend long. They’re saying ‘We believe you can get number 5.’ We got number 5—yes!" If Gordon had trouble believing the outcome, team owner Rick Hendrick did not. In fact, Hendrick had a premonition about the race. I told (Gordon) this morning, ‘This is your day,’ Hendrick recalled. "For him to break that tie (with Johnson), it’s pretty special. I remember the first one (1994) and how good it felt. This one feels just as good."
Joey Logano ran fifth, and Kahne slipped to sixth in the final 17-lap run after leading 70 laps and, for most of the afternoon, looking to be the likely winner. Kahne grabbed the lead from Denny Hamlin after a restart on lap 73, bringing Kyle Busch with him. For the next 24 laps, Kahne maintained an advantage over Busch that fluctuated between one and two seconds until Trevor Bayne’s No. 21 Ford spun and smacked the inside guard rail in the short chute between Turns 3 and 4 to cause the third caution of the afternoon. Clint Bowyer, who had come to pit road moments before Bayne’s spin, had the luxury of staying out while other lead-lap cars stopped under yellow and led the field to green on Lap 102. Seconds later, however, Kahne retook the lead, and Bowyer soon slipped back to fourth behind Kahne, Busch and Gordon.
Busch surrendered second place to Gordon on Lap 113 and used the opportunity to duck behind the No. 24 Chevrolet and free a piece of paper debris that had attached itself to the grille of the No. 18 Toyota. Gordon quickly pulled away and began to close on Kahne, knocking a 2.6-second deficit to two car-lengths by the time Ryan Truex’s Toyota stalled on the track. "Use one of the freaking exits," Gordon screamed rhetorically on his radio, but Truex’s car came to a stop, and NASCAR had no choice but to call the fourth caution.
Kahne and Gordon led a large contingent that opted to stay out on the track under the yellow, but Kahne faltered on the restart, opening the door for Gordon to pass on the outside through Turns 1 and 2 as Kahne slipped back to fifth. And that restart, as No. 24 crew chief Alan Gustafson had predicted during a quick interview before the final green-flag run, decided the race.// NASCAR News Wire
Ty Dillon Holds Off Kyle Busch For First Nationwide Series Win
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Dillon Outruns The Field At Indianapolis Motor Speedway
Ty Dillon held off a charging Kyle Busch in the closing laps of the Lilly Diabetes 250 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, but he had to win the first NASCAR Nationwide Series race of his career with a fuel cell approaching empty. Dillon grabbed the lead from Busch, the pole winner, moments after a restart on Lap 77 of 100. He soon opened a lead of one second over the most prolific winner in series history, but it wasn’t without some pinpoint calculations on the part of crew chief Danny Stockman.
In what was a family affair of the first order, Mike Dillon, the driver’s father and spotter, told Ty Dillon to start backing up his corners with six laps left. Dillon promptly lost a third of a lead that had grown to more than 1.2 seconds. Team owner Richard Childress, Dillon’s grandfather, broke into the radio channel a lap later. "You can’t give up that much to him," Childress said. "Go for it."
From that point on, Mike Dillon and Stockman kept repeating the same mantra, "Hammer down!" — and Dillon obliged, getting to the finish line .833 seconds ahead of Busch. Matt Kenseth ran third, and Kevin Harvick fourth. "Boy, that was all I had," Dillon said. "When you’ve got the best in the business behind you, it’s tough. It’s tough to stay focused and not give up." As the highest finisher among four eligible drivers for the Nationwide Insurance "Dash 4 Cash," Dillon pocketed an extra $100,000, but the important thing was his first win in the series. "The car started getting a little tight, but we had speed all weekend," Dillon said. "We got out front, and she unleashed."
Harvick led a race-high 33 laps but fell victim to the timing of a late debris caution on Lap 71. The five laps run under yellow before the final restart gave Dillon and Busch the margin they needed to get to the end of the race on fuel. In Busch’s estimation, the outcome hinged on the Lap 77 restart. "I gave it away on that last restart there in Turn 1," Busch said. "I got down in there, and the car never turned, and the car on my inside, Ty, drove right on by me. He got the lead, and it was over from there. I tried to maintain with him and tried to do a few things to get by him the first few laps before I got tight. And as soon as I got tight, he distanced me, and that was it."
Joey Logano finished fifth, followed by Paul Menard, Brian Scott, Kyle Larson and Trevor Bayne. Regan Smith ran 10th and trimmed the series lead of JR Motorsports teammate Chase Elliott, who came home 12th, to four points. // NASCAR News Wire
Darrell Wallace Jr. Wins Wild Truck Race At Eldora Speedway
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Wallace Shows Off The Golden Shovel Trophy
In front of a packed house at Eldora Speedway, Darrell Wallace Jr. won Wednesday’s night second annual 1-800 CarCash Mudsummer Classic. Wallace, a NASCAR Drive for Diversity graduate, earned his second NASCAR Camping World Truck Series (NCWTS) win of the season.
Wallace led the final 97 laps of the 150-lap race and withstood a relentless effort by Kyle Larson, another NASCAR Drive for Diversity graduate. However, Larson creamed the wall with two laps remaining, sealing Wallace's third career victory in NCWTS competition in the No. 54 ToyotaCare Toyota Tundra for Kyle Busch Motorsports. "That's so cool - on the dirt at Eldora," Wallace said from Victory Lane. Really? Eldora? The coolest things about it is I came into this hoping we'd finish in the top-five. I was worried about the Toyota streak, not to lie."
The triumph solidified the 12th consecutive victory for manufacturer Toyota, dating back to Phoenix International Raceway last November. The 20-year old took the lead from Ron Hornaday Jr. on Lap 49 and led the field to the first competition caution on Lap 60, completing the first of three segments. Under the yellow, Wallace brought his truck to the attention of the Jerry Baxter-led team where they changed tires and added fuel.
On the restart, Wallace checked out on the field and led the entire second segment, until the sixth caution flag of the night waved on Lap 112, ending segment two. Wallace, along with a majority of the leaders, elected to stay out, setting the tone for the final 40-lap dash to the finish. During the final stint, Wallace found himself being haunted by last year’s runner-up finisher Larson, with the lead exchanging in the waning laps. Despite what seemed like a never-ending attack by Larson, the Chip Ganassi Racing development driver's countless meetings with the Eldora Speedway walls would finally end his night within sight of the white flag, when a broken brake line sent Larson hard into the Turn 1 wall.
With no pressure from behind, Wallace was able cruise to give Kyle Busch Motorsports its eighth triumph of the season in 10 races overall. Despite a hiccup two weeks ago at Iowa Speedway, Wallace’s slow start to the season has gained serious momentum with two wins and a second in three of the last four races. "I think my crew chief showed up," joked Wallace "It’s just trial and tribulations that we go through. This team never gives up. We talked about Iowa and moved on from it and I said we were going to bounce back. This is a hell of a way to bounce back."
Ryan Blaney, who finished third, took over the points lead from Matt Crafton by four points. "We struggled for forward drive a lot, we were getting killed off the corners," Blaney said. "I’m happy (though) to come out of here with a top-three finish and the points lead."
Larson, who led five laps during the final segment, settled for 26th. "Thanks to Turner Scott Motorsports for building a strong truck to make it last that long," Larson said. "Didn’t realize how stupid I was driving. Sucks, but Darrell (Wallace Jr.) did a really good job. He was fast all day today and he ran close to the wall the whole time and never really hit it."
Wallace finished 5.4-seconds ahead of second place finisher Ron Hornaday Jr. Blaney was third with Ken Schrader and Ty Dillon rounding out the top-five. John Hunter Nemechek was sixth followed by Jeb Burton, Johnny Sauter, Matt Crafton and the inaugural Eldora winner Austin Dillon. Blaney assumed the points lead for the first time this season with his sixth top-five of the year. Crafton trails 369 to 365. Johnny Sauter is third (-10), Hornaday Jr. fourth (-19) and German Quiroga fifth (-26).
Next up for the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series is a trip to Long Pond, Pennsylvania for the running of the Pocono Mountains 125 at Pocono (Pa.) Raceway on Saturday, August 2. // NASCAR News Wire
Rookie Chase Elliott Wins Third Race Of The Season At Chicagoland Speedway
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Chase Elliott Lights Up The Tires
Accomplishing feats uncharacteristic for a rookie, Chase Elliott won again, leading 85 of 200 laps en route to his third win of the season in Saturday's EnjoyIllinois.com 300 NASCAR Nationwide Series race at Chicagoland Speedway.
Elliott took the lead for the fourth and final time on Lap 177 and held on for the final 23 laps, winning by 1.7 seconds. The NNS Sunoco Rookie of the Year frontrunner ties Kyle Busch for most wins in the series thus far this season, each with three visits to Victory Lane in the first 19 races. "This is an unbelievable night," Elliott said. "We were fortunate enough to be in contention on that last pit stop, the guys busted their butts for me and that was the deciding factor. We all as a team, we completed our task tonight. And that was the difference."
Trevor Bayne finished second, followed by Kyle Larson, Kasey Kahne and Ty Dillon. "We got our car turning there at the end," Bayne said. "That's probably the strongest weekend we've had in a while. Had it stayed green for another 15, we might have had it, but that's 15 laps we'll never know about. Added Larson, "I thought we had a real good car. I had some fun, just frustrating coming in third when I thought we had a real good chance to win."
As for Dillon, "I've got a feeling that we can keep doing this as the year goes on," he said. "The car was coming to me there at the end."
In addition to the race winner, Kahne was the second JR Motorsports driver in the top five. It almost didn't happen for Kahne, who brushed the wall late that did just enough damage to keep him from making a last-ditch run towards the front. Pole-sitter Brian Scott earned $100,000 in the Nationwide Insurance Dash 4 Cash for finishing sixth, ahead of fellow D4C competitors Chris Buescher (eighth), Elliott Sadler (10th) and Regan Smith (16th).
Seventh through 10th were Erik Jones (in his NNS debut), Buescher, Ryan Blaney and Sadler. Smith, who was the points leader coming into the race, struggled with a loose car and finished with a disappointing 16th showing. Elliott's win also vaulted him from third to the top of the Nationwide points standings. He now leads Smith by seven points and Sadler by eight points.
A series of green-flag pit stops around Lap 161 shuffled the field with teams hoping they could make it to the finish without it turning into a fuel-mileage race. Bayne took the lead at Lap 161 when the leaders made stops for service and held on until he had to come in on Lap 176 for four tires and fuel. Elliott inherited the lead, and kept it for the remainder of the race. Pole-sitter Scott led 20 laps early on before Ryan Blaney, Elliott and Larson took their turns ahead of the field.
Sam Hornish Jr., who started at the back of the field due to unapproved adjustments, quickly worked his way up to the middle of the pack only to have uncharacteristic engine failure in his Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota that ended his night just eight laps into the event, finishing 36th in the 40-car field. "It felt like we were going to have a really good day and felt like this was going to be a race where we had opportunity to lead laps and potentially win," Hornish told ESPN. // NASCAR News Wire
Keselowski Cruises To NASCAR Sprint Cup Win, Completes New Hampshire Weekend Sweep
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Keselowski Sweeps New Hampshire Weekend
For Brad Keselowski, it’s beginning to look an awful lot like 2012 when everything went right on the way to a NASCAR Sprint Cup Series title. Keselowski led 138 of the last 232 laps to win Sunday’s Camping World RV Sales 301 for his third Sprint Cup victory of the season. He held off Kyle Busch on the final restart and pulled away to win by three-quarters of a second in a green-white-checker finish.
"I’m not thinking of anything else right now (other) than how thankful I am to have a team and a car that is clicking well," said Keselowski from Victory Lane. "It’s every driver’s dream. I think, in a lot of ways, we’re stronger than (2012). I don’t think we’ve had this much speed before. I feel like I’m in a really strong rhythm right now. I think some of last year’s struggles put me in a spot to work harder and become a better race car driver. I think we’re combining all those things and we’re seeing the fruits of that labor -- with more to come."
Keselowski, 30, captured his first Sprint Cup championship in 2012 on the strength of five victories and 23 top-10 finishes in 36 starts. After failing to qualify for the Chase last season, he’s produced 10 top-10 performances in 19 races this season. "We were fast last year at this time but we weren’t executing," said Keselowski, who also won Saturday’s Sta-Green 200 Nationwide Series race and had dominated the speed charts during Saturday’s Sprint Cup practice sessions. "This year we’re executing and we have a lot of momentum. It really feels like we have hit our stride. "At the same time, we have a lot of potential still left in our team. Everybody is going to turn it up a notch when the Chase comes and we know that. You’ve got to have a good horse and we had that today. (But) we know we have to have another gear to grab to be able to run for a championship. I think we’re close but I want to keep pushing."
Presuming they attempt to qualify for the next seven races, Keselowski and Dale Earnhardt Jr. (10th) became the first two drivers to clinch spots in the Chase thanks to their showings on Sunday. "I’m proud of our team for that," Earnhardt said. "Hopefully we can improve before we come back here (for the second race of the Chase). That was the hardest I’ve ever worked for a 10th-place finish. We (were) off all weekend -- a real frustrating weekend to be honest."
Keselowski seemed to be in cruise control, leading Denny Hamlin by 2.91 seconds with four laps remaining. But Justin Allgaier spun and struck the wall, bringing out the race’s seventh caution flag and necessitating the fifth green-white-checker finish of the 2014 season and juggling the field. As soon as the yellow flag came out, Hamlin headed to the pits for a splash of gas and settled for eighth place. Jeff Gordon, who had been running third, ran his Hendrick Chevrolet out of gas and was relegated to 26th place. Kevin Harvick started second alongside Keselowski but ran out of fuel on the restart. "We had what I thought was the second-best car," Hamlin said. "I had to save fuel and couldn’t push it. I would have liked to have seen if we could have raced with the (No.) 2, but he obviously had a very dominant car."
The fuel situation left Busch and Clint Bowyer as the only drivers with a real shot at Keselowski in the final two laps. In the end, neither had anything for Keselowski. "I don’t think anybody did," said Busch, whose Joe Gibbs Toyota was strong enough to sit on the pole and lead 62 laps. "We made a gusty call at the end to stay out and see if we could make it on fuel. We barely made it – ran out right at the start-finish. All in all, a decent day to be coming home second."
Bowyer, who led 36 laps after leading a total of 12 in the previous 12 Cup events, faded to sixth behind rookie Kyle Larson, Matt Kenseth and Ryan Newman. Keselowski’s power was evident when crew chief Paul Wolfe opted to give up the lead and take four tires when the race’s second caution came on Lap 113. It took Keselowski 13 laps to drive from 10th place to third and 10 more laps for him to get to the rear bumper of the leader, Kenseth. Throughout the race, Wolfe opted for fresh tires over track position. "I really was not sure how that was going to work out and unfold," Wolfe said. "Seeing that, I felt pretty good about the strength of our car and what Brad was able to do moving through traffic."
Team owner Roger Penske also liked what he was seeing. "Paul made great calls today," he said. "Watching Brad – and I got to see it from up on top – I can tell you there was nobody that could beat him. It was just great execution from everybody." Keselowski became the 13th different winner in the last 13 Cup races at New Hampshire, tying a record set at Texas Motor Speedway. Busch has now finished second at New Hampshire in three consecutive races. // NASCAR News Wire
Keselowski Dominates Nationwide Series Race At New Hampshire
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Keselowski Records a Perfect Driver Rating For The Sixth Time
Taking a deep breath at the winner's podium, Brad Keselowski took a second to savor his dominant Saturday at New Hampshire Motor Speedway. Keselowski captured the pole, then led 152 of 200 laps to win the NASCAR Nationwide Series Sta-Green 200. In addition, he posted the fastest times in both NASCAR Sprint Cup Series practice sessions in preparation for Sunday’s Camping World RV Sales 301. "One helluva Saturday," said Keselowski, who recorded a perfect driver rating for the sixth time in his Nationwide career and has finished no worse than third in any of his six Nationwide Series starts this season. "Sometimes on these really busy days you get so caught up in the action that you really can’t appreciate all that’s transpired."
In addition, Keselowski’s Penske-prepared Hertz Mustang became the first Nationwide Series car to win from the pole position in 17 races this season. He also won the March 8 race at Las Vegas and now has 29 victories in 211 Nationwide races. "We have so much to be proud of there and, obviously, we’re looking forward to tomorrow and the opportunity we have. Our Cup car was fast this morning. Our Nationwide car in qualifying had a lot of adversity but we fought through that and got the pole. In the Nationwide race the car was really fast."
Kyle Busch, the pole-sitter for Sunday’s Sprint Cup race, was Keselowski’s primary competition and finished second ahead of Matt Kenseth, Kyle Larson and rookie Chris Buescher. "It was a bit of a dogfight – one of the most challenging races I’ve ever ran, knowing that you have Kyle Busch behind you and he’s just a tiny bit faster," said Keselowski, whose only mistake was accidentally dropping the American flag during his victory lap. "You have to fight through a line of cars and it seemed like there was always something coming at us."
Busch pulled to within a car length of Keselowski’s rear bumper with 29 laps to go, but got loose on Lap 173, slid up the track and dropped nearly a second off the pace with 25 laps left. Taking advantage of lap traffic in the final 20 laps, Keselowski’s eventual winning margin was 1.8 seconds. "It was actually very hard-fought there at the end," Keselowski said. "He (Busch) was really good at making adjustments. I didn’t think I was going to be able to hold him off."
Busch led the first 34 laps but never led again in falling just short of his fifth win in nine Nationwide Series starts at New Hampshire. "We got what we could out of our Monster Energy Camry," Busch said. "We had the best run there at the end but just not quite enough. We had to fight hard to get by a few guys, got to second but didn’t have quite enough to chase (Keselowski) down. "If it was clean and green all the way to the end I don’t know if I could have got to him. I was hoping for a couple opportunities there in traffic." Keselowski asserted his car as the one to beat, leading 66 of the first 100 laps. By Lap 66, only Busch (2.88) and Kenseth (9.25) were within 10 seconds of Keselowski’s yellow No. 22 Mustang.
True to its name, the Sta-Green 200 stayed caution-free for 76 laps prior to a yellow flag for debris on Lap 93 that tightened the field. Busch struggled after the restart while Larson seized the opportunity and tucked in second behind Keselowski. And he wasn’t second for long. When Brian Scott got into the back of third-place Elliott Sadler, it touched off a spin that involved seven cars, enabling Larson to seize the lead. Larson led the race twice for 11 laps. But when things settled down after the race’s fourth caution, Keselowski regained the top spot and went on to dominate the final 56 laps.
Series points leader Regan Smith didn’t have a top-five car but was the big bonus winner, capturing the $100,000 payoff in the first of four Dash 4 Cash races courtesy of Nationwide Insurance. Smith finished ahead of championship-eligible Nationwide Series drivers Ryan Reed (11th), Ryan Sieg (18th) and Jeremy Clements (20th), each of whom qualified for the Dash last week at Daytona International Speedway. Smith was in control of the Dash for most of the race but had trouble during a four-tire change in the pits with 55 laps left. Although Reed restarted in seventh and Smith ninth, Smith regained command on his fresh rubber and maintained his advantage the rest of the way. "The race was difficult for us," Smith said. "We didn’t have the speed I thought we were going to have. The last pit stop we decided to go for four (tires), had a little hiccup, and it cost us some positions. At that point, you kind of know the situation for the day and it’s 'OK, let’s take the silver lining and get out of here with the money. This means a lot to our team."
Smith, Buescher, Sadler and Scott emerged as qualifiers for the second of four Dash 4 Cash races next Saturday at Chicagoland Speedway. Smith also became the only driver eligible for a $600,000 bonus – which will translate to $1 million in total prize money should he win the Dash 4 Cash at Chicagoland and Indianapolis Motor Speedway (July 26), then win the Aug. 2 race at Iowa Speedway outright. Smith retained the series points lead by eight points over Sadler, who finished sixth, and 13 over Chase Elliott, who finished eighth. // NASCAR News Wire
Erik Jones Wins Iowa Camping World Truck SeriesRace
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Erik Jones Celebrates Iowa Victory
No one's ever questioned the talent Erik Jones possesses -- His luck? -- That's another matter entirely. But Friday at Iowa Speedway, both skill and good fortune finally co-existed for the 18-year-old Kyle Busch Motorsports driver, who powered to his second career NASCAR Camping World Truck Series triumph in the American Ethanol 200. "Glad we could get out and command the race and bring it home," said Jones, who led 131 laps and held off a spirited charge from Brad Keselowski Racing's Ryan Blaney, who settled for second.
He brought it home in one piece, too. Jones, who runs a 12-race schedule, was wrecked while leading late in the June 14 race at Gateway Motorsports Park outside of St. Louis. He was running in the top five when another truck sent him spinning on a late restart in the March 30 race at Martinsville. "You really want to try to make your mark every time you get in (the truck)," Jones said. "It's a tough industry and when you get in and you get turned around or something like that, it's just really a bummer and it kind of takes that week and you have to throw it away. When you only get so many opportunities, it makes it really hard as a young guy."
Not that he's complaining. His turn at the wheel of the No. 51 Toyota put the truck into Victory Lane for the sixth time this season — and the first time when owner Kyle Busch wasn't driving. "It was definitely fun," Jones said. "I had a lot of fun — two young guys battling hard there for the win. Pretty hungry."
It's the second time Blaney's snared a runner-up finish at Iowa Speedway this season. He ran second to Sam Hornish Jr. in May's Get to Know Newton 250 NASCAR Nationwide Series race. "We’re getting closer and closer to getting to Victory Lane," said Blaney, who owns one win at Iowa, which came in 2012. "It's just a matter of time." That description appeared apropos to Friday’s race at times, as well.
Blaney, who excelled in long runs, could reel in Jones, but couldn't stick a pass. His best chance came with 16 laps remaining, but a side-by-side duel that went three-wide with the lapped truck of Justin Lofton didn't provide enough daylight. "I knew that was my best opportunity to try to get by him," said Blaney, who notched his fifth top-five finish of the season. "We got really close. It almost sucked me around. Luckily we didn't wreck right there. It was tight racing, but a good race and hopefully good for the fans."
Matt Crafton earned third, with Joey Coulter and German Quiroga Jr. completing the top five. Crafton said lapped traffic often proved to be perilous, so he was pleased with his podium finish. "My Lord, some of these guys would go from the bottom to the top and back to the bottom," said Crafton, who assumed the series points lead by two over Blaney while former leader Johnny Sauter limped in with an 18th-place finish. It was absolutely insane, lapping some of them. I know they had their hands full, without a doubt."
That's not a problem for Jones, who battled his teammate Darrell Wallace Jr. for the lead early in the race before an ill-timed pit stop helped drop Wallace — the pole sitter — to 13th. "He knows what he needs in a truck and he knows how to race," said Eric Phillips, Jones’ crew chief. "He raced side by side with a lot of lapped cars to work through and he and Blaney raced hard all night. They didn't beat on each other or take each other out. They just raced hard and that's the sign of a true winner, or champion, in years to come."
The news was not all good for Jones, though, as it was determined after the race that the No. 51 truck was too low in the rear in post-race inspection. Any possible penalties will be determined early next week by NASCAR officials. The No. 51 Toyota was found to be too low in the front following Kyle Busch's win at Kentucky two weeks ago. Jones and Busch split seat time in the No. 51 truck. For the Kentucky infraction, NASCAR stripped KBM of six points in the series' team owner championship standings for violating a minimum ride height rule. Crew chief Eric Phillips was issued a $5,000 fine for the P2 level infraction at Kentucky. // NASCAR News Wire
Aric Almirola Wins Rain-Shortened Race At Daytona
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Almirola Celebrates In Victory Lane
The rain and the wrecks kept on coming at Daytona International Speedway in Sunday's 56th running of the Coke Zero 400 Powered by Coca-Cola. When the carnage from two major contender-claiming incidents was over, it was Aric Almirola who not only survived but claimed his first career NASCAR Sprint Cup Series victory and took the giant step toward punching his ticket into the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup. Running the iconic No. 43 with the U.S. Air Force on the hood for July 4 weekend, Almirola's win came on the 30th anniversary of team owner Richard Petty's 200th Cup victory. "I'm more concerned with getting my first win than what happened 30 years ago," admitted Almirola during the race's third red-flag delay for a thunderstorm that eventually halted the race with 48 scheduled laps remaining.
Not that Almirola, who edged Brian Vickers and Kurt Busch for the win, had no sense of history or what his triumph might mean to Richard Petty Motorsports. "Man, I just took the 43 car to victory at Daytona," said Almirola, standing under an umbrella in Victory Lane. "This is amazing. I grew up two hours away from here in Tampa and grew up in those stands, watching Daytona 500s and Firecracker 400s -- and grew up dreaming about what it would be like to win here."
Richard Petty wasn't at Daytona on Sunday but reveled in the victory via phone. "Today is the future," Petty said. "To be able to win a race down there, win it for the Air Force on the Fourth of July, the whole thing is great. We've had so many disappointments -- and it rained on us today. But it rained on us at the right time. You know, I don't ever give up on anything. Looking back on the history of Petty Enterprises -- the turmoil we've been through the last seven or eight years ... I've always said is that if I keep working on it long enough, you're going to overcome all of these things. One win doesn't get you over the hump but it makes it easier to go on from here."
With the No. 43's first victory at Daytona since 1984 and first Cup win at any track since John Andretti's victory at Martinsville Speedway in 1999, Almirola can now dream about what it will be like to pilot the No. 43 in the Chase. "Yes, and deservedly so for this race team," he said. "Now we're going to be a part of that, to have the opportunity, not only to take (our sponsors) to Victory Lane, but to have that added exposure of the Chase. It is really cool to give back to those people who took a chance on me and took a chance on our race team." The victory was the third consecutively for Ford, which last won three in a row in 2005 with victories by Greg Biffle (2) and Carl Edwards.
Biffle, who led the race briefly but finished 29th, predicted chaos when he watched drivers such as David Gilliland, Landon Cassill and Reed Sorenson, not among the points leaders, battling at the front of the field early on. Biffle called it some of the craziest racing he'd ever seen. But he never saw the massive incident on Lap 98 brewing. "The beginning of (the race) was crazy when the 40 and 36 and 38 were dicing for the lead," he said. "Then it calmed down and we had a green-flag pit cycle. (The 26-car crash) was just a chain reaction. This wasn't (about craziness) at all. This was pretty calm."
Sunday's first big-time wreck occurred on Lap 20, just before NASCAR's scheduled competition caution. Sixteen cars were involved, including the top six drivers in the point standings. Near the front of the field, Ricky Stenhouse Jr. got a bit loose. Jeff Gordon, looking to avoid him, tapped Tony Stewart and the chaos was on. Jimmie Johnson, Kevin Harvick, Edwards, Kyle Larson and AJ Allmendinger joined Stenhouse and Stewart in the garage with substantial damage. "A half-lap from getting a competition caution and Stenhouse is going to be a hero," said Stewart, among the perennial contenders to note of some wild racing at the front of the pack. "I guess Ricky thought it paid something to get to Lap 20. I don't know what happened to him, but he took out a bunch of good cars right there."
Stenhouse deflected the criticism. "It just got loose," Stenhouse said. "We had a full head of steam. The 24 (Gordon) was pushing me pretty good there and the 33 (Bobby Labonte) pulled out ahead of us and blocked. I checked up a little and all of a sudden we got hit in the left rear. " The second incident also began near the front of the pack when Biffle got into the back of the weekend's NASCAR Nationwide Series race winner Kasey Kahne. That contact sent Kahne and Joey Logano spinning in action that collected a total of 26 cars.
The chaos left Almirola on the lead with Kurt Busch and Vickers in pursuit. It also left Kyle Busch upside down in his Joe Gibbs Toyota. "I knew it was going to be big as far up (in the field) as I was," Kahne said. "I was getting hit from behind and I just started spinning. It's kind of scary. I think my car got airborne. I have never had that happen before and it's a helpless feeling when you're getting hit as you are in the air. I was more concerned when I got out and saw Kyle on his roof. I wasn't sure why he wasn't getting out with his car being upside down on the track."
Kyle Busch was able to manage a bit of levity even after his car was plowed into by Cole Whitt, toppling it onto its roof. "Just hanging out," Busch radioed, indicating he was OK. "It felt like a slow carnival ride. I guess that's fitting for 4th of July weekend but not here in Daytona. I just got T-boned there at the end and it just kind of toppled me over."
Note: Kurt Busch's No. 41 car will undergo a tech investigation at the NASCAR R&D Center in Concord, North Carolina, after a split track bar was discovered. // NASCAR News Wire