CONCORD, N.C-- After a daring move to go three-wide on the start of the final 10 lap shootout, Kyle Busch went victorious in the Monster Energy All Star Race. Busch was able to sweep the weekend at Charlotte Motor Speedway by winning tonight and the North Carolina Education Lottery 200 last night.

 

“It’s the All-Star race for one and for two, we’ve never won at Charlotte in a Cup car so we finally achieved that goal tonight and won the All-Star race and won a million bucks, so there’s reason to celebrate and to celebrate big. I can’t say enough about this team, everybody on this M&M’s Camry, this M&M’s Caramel Camry this week. First race, first win for those guys. Being a whole new product and being on the shelves here in May, it’s a whole new launch and a whole new program and it’s here to stay, so everybody pick up your caramel,” said Busch. “Can’t say enough about Adam Stevens (crew chief). You have Adam Stevens and these guys in the pit box and you can rely on them all day long. I had to do that tonight. You know we weren’t quite the fastest car, but we made the right changes when it mattered most. We made the right moves when it mattered most and we got the most out of our night tonight and got here to victory lane. Feel so relieved, alluded, proud and excited all in the same time.”

 

This was Busch’s 12th attempt to score an All-Star victory, and his first victory at Charlotte Motor Speedway in a Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series race.

 

After dominating the first two stages, Kyle Larson was able to finish in the second position after losing some track position in the third stage by going to the “option” tires.

 

“My pit crew has been awesome all year and I don’t want to take anything away from them. We came down pit road the leader and three people passed us, that was pretty much the difference there. But, in ten laps, track position is huge. We just didn’t have it there at the end,” said Larson. “We had the best car out there, for sure. In traffic I thought it was really good. I thought we had it most of the race but that’s how racing goes. Sometimes it works out and sometimes it doesn’t. But I think we had a really fast car today. We’ll go onto the 600, that’s a long race, and try it again.”

 

Being a silent contender for most of the night, Jimmie Johnson was able to win the third stage and finish third overall in the All-Star race.

 

“When you’re the second place car, you can’t jump the leader. But everybody in the second, third, and fourth row is going to jump and do what they can to roll-up on the situation. So, I was really hopeful of old tires and being on the bottom. They’d be able to hold that lane back, especially Kyle (Busch) and how good he is on race starts. And it just didn’t happen. He got in there. I had a decent start. They weren’t able to push me and get me going. And I had a couple of shots at him,” said Johnson. “He wasn’t handling too well at the start of the run, but I just drove too hard. I could see a million dollars out the windshield and I just drove this Lowe’s Chevy way too hard in the corner a couple of times and gave up some ground. We learned a little bit tonight and we’ll come back next week and have some more fun.”

 

Drivers will return to Charlotte Motor Speedway on Thursday to begin preparations for the Coca-Cola 600, the sports longest race. FOX and Performance Racing Network will have the coverage on May 28th beginning at 6:00 p.m. EST.

CONCORD, N.C— Clint Bowyer, Ryan Blaney, and Daniel Suarez will transfer into the Monster Energy All-Star Race at Charlotte Motor Speedway based on their victories in the stages.

 

After starting from the pole position, Bowyer led all 20 laps in the opening stage. He had a 3.653 second lead over Blaney at the start-finish line.

 

In the second stage, Blaney led the field to the green to led all 20 laps. Blaney beat Chase Elliott by 0.203 seconds.

 

In the final 10 lap stage, Landon Cassill was the race leader, but was punted by Elliott before the first turn. Daniel Suarez assumed the race lead, but Elliott was pass Suarez with four laps remaining. The caution flew as Erik Jones went through the grass in an effort to pass Suarez and Elliott. Suarez won the final stage by 1.039 seconds over Austin Dillon

 

The winner of the fan vote was Chase Elliott.

 

The Monster Energy All-Star Race is set to go green shortly after 8:00 p.m. EST on Fox Sports 1 and Motor Racing Network.

TALLADEGA, Al.— Ricky Stenhouse Jr. will start from the pole in Sunday’s Geico 500 from Talladega Superspeedway. Stenhouse Jr. was able to pick up two tenths of a second over his first round speed. Stenhouse Jr. posted the winning speed at 191.547 mph.

“It’ll be nice to lead the field to green here. The Fifth Third guys worked really, really hard on these cars. Like I said earlier, Jimmy Fennig has done a great job on these speedway cars. This is cool. Doug Yates builds awesome horsepower,” said Stenhouse Jr. “With his dad, Robert, not doing as well as we would like, it would be cool to dedicate this one to him and all the hard work that the engine shop does. Man, it’s  a cool way to start the weekend. I’m ready to get to Sunday.:

This is his first pole of 2017. Stenhouse Jr. scored his last pole at Atlanta Motor Speedway in 2013.

Dale Earnhardt Jr. will start from the second place position on Sunday.  Earnhardt Jr. picked up one tenth of a second over his first round speed. This is also his first front row start at Talladega Superspeedway. Earnhardt, Jr. posted a speed of 190.780 mph to score the second place starting position.

"We would have loved to have got the pole. (Ricky) Stenhouse and those guys had a really fast car, so congratulations to them and Roush/Yates Engines and all those guys had great power.  Pretty happy with our car.  The Hendrick guys have been doing a great job.  We always kind of come down here and find ourselves with an opportunity for the pole.  Hopefully, we will get one before the year is out at one of these plate tracks.  I know the guys have been so close at Daytona and Talladega for so many years, so it would be great to do it this last season together.  Just came up a little short today, but the car is fast and it will be good for Sunday," said Earnhardt Jr.

Brad Keselowski qualified third at 190.427 mph, Matt Kenseth qualified fourth at 190.177 mph, and Trevor Bayne rounded out the top-five at 190.155 mph.

DJ Kennington was the sole driver to not make it into the field on Sunday.

The GEICO 500 will be broadcasted on FOX and Motor Racing Network at 1:00 p.m. EST.

TALLADEGA, Al.— As the first quarter of the 2017 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series season came to a close last week at Richmond, drivers begin to assess their seasons and where they would like to improve on throughout the rest of the season.

The first nine races of the season have seen encumbered wins and side-by-side racing. Seven different drivers have made their way to victory lane this season, while Brad Keselowski and Jimmie Johnson have made their way into victory lane twice. Three short track, one restrictor plate event, and five different tracks have encompassed the first quarter of the season.

Some teams have struggled while some teams have flourished with the new aero packages, while some teams have excelled in stage racing.

Kyle Larson leads the points standing by 40 points over Martin Truex Jr, 52 points over Chase Elliott, 71 points over Brad Keselowski (pending points penalty from Phoenix), and Joey Logano sits 90 points out of the lead following his encumbered win at Richmond.

In his first season in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series, Erik Jones has made a name for himself in the top series. He currently has one top-10 finish this season.

“I wish through the first part of the season we would have just had more results. I think we've ran a lot better than what we've really finished, which is disappointing and unfortunate in a way. But knowing that we showed up at the race every week ‑‑ I can only point at a couple races where I didn't really feel like we should have ran in the top 10, just circumstances, and the way these races have kind of played out, at the end of the them, it just hasn't been in the cards for us,” said Jones.

When asked how he would like to improve on the season, Jones stated, “I think beyond that as the season goes on, we just want to keep working on executing better at the end of the races, getting these finishes and running up front and honestly feel like we keep bringing these fast race cars to the track, one of these weeks it's just going to kind of click for us, and we're just going to be running up front and have a good shot at the win. I thought Bristol was kind of going to be that day, but it seems as things have gone, we just haven't had the tides been falling in our favor."

Although he received an encumbered penalty after his win last weekend at Richmond, Logano is impressed with how his season as gone.

“For us as the 22 team, we were able to kick off the season great with the win at The Clash.  That was nice, and since then we’ve had decent speed in our cars.  At the beginning part of the year we didn’t execute perfectly during the race, so we didn’t get many stage points, but we were able to recover and get a lot of top 5s and top 10s so far this year.  Our average finish is great.  I think last week to get through and win the race is a nice thing,” said Logano, “Obviously, this is a little bit of a setback, so I think in general we’re doing a good job.  I think we’ve cleaned up the mistakes that we had earlier in the year to where now we’re running as well as we should during the event, which is gonna help us score stage points because we all know how big that is right now and it will be forever.  I think the fact that we cleaned up our races a little bit, that’s a big deal, and our speed is still really well.  We have good speed in our cars, so those wins will start clicking off is good.  I feel happy with where we’re at.  I think we have an average finish of around sixth and seventh with the blown right-front at Phoenix and a thirtysomething finish there, so I’m proud of the way we’ve handled the situations this year and the finishes we’ve been getting and the way we’ve been recovering I think that’s an A-plus, and I think we’ve cleaned up to where we don’t have to recover as much, hopefully, here in the future.”

For Ryan Blaney, the season has been filled with ups and downs. He assessed his second season with the Wood Brothers:

“We started off the year really strong. I feel like we didn’t get good finishes the first six or seven races. We had really good cars where things happened and we didn’t get the finish we deserved. I’d say our season started off really strong. The past two weeks have been kind of rough on us. Bristol was a shame. We were really fast and had that power-steering issue and had to ride around there for 300 laps to the end of the race. Richmond, I actually salvaged a really good finish out of that after not being good all day…running 18th all day. I think we drove up to eighth and got the car better, and then Kurt (Busch) wrecked us. I feel like those are the things that we need to do if we don’t run well the first three-quarters of the race, keep working on our car and finish well,” said Blaney. “That’s what we did last week, and I feel like we didn’t have that last year. If we ran bad last year, the first portion of the race we stayed there all day, so this year I feel like we’ve gotten better with that. I’m pretty happy how the Woods Brothers team is running now and where our performance is. It’s just a matter of getting back on track and getting the finishes that we deserve. I feel like there are some really good race tracks that we can definitely capitalize on.”

Consistency in second place, a win at Auto Club, and during the stages was key. Here is how Larson rated his first quarter:

“It’s been good.  We had three consecutive second place finishes that led to the win and then we got another second-place finish after that.  Four second place finishes and a win to start, I think our average finish is like basically sixth.  It’s been a solid start to the year we’ve just got to keep working hard.  It’s a really long season.  Teams get better and worse throughout the year, so we’ve just got to continue to dig deep and build on what we have right now to get better and hopefully challenge for some more wins,” said Larson.

Chase Elliott has not had the first quarter he would like, it has been full of ups and downs.

“I think we’ve had some ups and downs. I feel like we fired off really well with the way we ran at Daytona and Atlanta. I thought our West Coast swing was pretty strong. I feel like over the past few weeks we really haven’t performed up to our potential. As a group, I think anybody in our group would feel the same way. We’ve had some fast cars at times. We’ve had our driving good and then other weeks, not so much,” said Elliott. “But, we definitely need to execute races; even on the days that your car is not driving like you want it to. That execution and doing everything correctly on pit road, restarts, giving the right information, can turn a bad day into a pretty good day, really. Like last week, for instance, we ran not very good and just inside the 15th; not quite inside the top 10 the majority of the day. We got towards the end of the day and had an opportunity to finish up well inside the top 10 if we had just executed a little bit better. So, that’s what we need to do. And we know we need to do that. And, we’ll try to make that happen.”

Although he won the Daytona 500 this year, Kurt Busch has had a season of ups and downs highlighted by alternator issues.

“For us on the 41 car, we’ve almost gotten a top 10 at half the races so far.  This will be our 10th race, so if we get a top 10 this weekend that means we’ve been in the top 10 half the time.  We had a couple alternator bugs and issues that we had to work through on the west coast trip.  We missed the setup at Fontana.  Martinsville was better this time around, we just didn’t seal the deal.  We got caught up in a wreck there,” said Busch. “Overall, when you win the Daytona 500 it can carry you for a lifetime.  It can carry you for a season and so for the first 10 races, we’ve had a great deal of success and we’re very happy about that with our Ford, with Haas, with Monster and for everybody on the team.  Ring-sizing was this week at Stewart-Haas Racing for everybody to get their ring sizes measured up to get a Daytona 500 championship ring, so it’s been pretty special so far to start the year.”

Although the first quarter is a basis for many teams, there are still many more opportunities in 2017 to improve and stay consistent.

Earlier today, Dale Earnhardt, Jr. announced that 2017 would be his final year in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series. The decision was made on March 29th.

 

When I think of Dale Earnhardt, Jr., I think of the words bold and courageous. Earnhardt Jr. has went through trial and tribulation throughout his illustrious career.

 

Why does bold and courageous come into my mind when I think of Earnhardt Jr.? Here’s why:

 

The weight of the NASCAR world was thrown onto the young driver in 2001 when his father was tragically killed in the Daytona 500. As a young driver in NASCAR at the age of 26, it was more to handle. However, he handled it well. The NASCAR world looked for Jr. to carry the torch and live up to the legacy his father left. The weight of living up to that legacy left Earnhardt, Jr. burdened.

 

In 2007, he announced that he would leave the organization his father started, Dale Earnhardt Incorporated, to go race for Rick Hendrick at Hendrick Motorsports in 2008. That was a bold move leaving an organization that he was slated to run in the future for a ride at Hendrick. He ultimately left that organization because Theresa Earnhardt, his stepmother, would not give him controlling interest in the organization. Earnhardt Jr.

 

Later that season, he announced that he would be joining Hendrick Motorsports in 2008, where he is set to end his career.

 

In the midst of a career shakeup in the Cup Series, Jr also started a NASCAR Xfinity Series team, JR Motorsports, in 2006 just before the economic struggles began in the United States. In an effort to survive, JR Motorsports joined an alliance with Hendrick Motorsports in 2008 that would provide engineering, chassis, and engine support. Without the bold and courageous move to join an alliance with Hendrick, JR Motorsports would probably not be able to field five cars in 2017.

 

More recently, Jr. made a bold and courageous move to step out of the car in 2016 after suffering a concussion. He also made the decision to be open and candid about the struggles and experience of rehabilitation from concussions.

 

The decision to be candid with media and fans showed athletes that they do not have to be silent about the issues they face due to participating in the sports they love. This decision also opened the door for Earnhardt Jr. to help others find ways to get treated for concussions they have suffered.

 

Although he may retiring for Cup action in 2017, Earnhardt Jr is still set to be around the NASCAR realm as a team owner in the Xfinity Series and potentially on TV.


As Dr. Suess once said, “Don’t cry because it’s over, smile because it happened.” To Dale Earnhardt Jr., thank you for your impact on our sport and the best is yet to come.