Almirola Emerges Victorious at Talladega
TALLADGEA, Al— After a last lap charge from the back of the field, Aric Almirola was able to hold off the charge to win the Sparks Energy 300 from Talladega Superspeedway. Darrell Wallace, Jr. and Ryan Siege spun on the backstretch, but the caution did not fall. Almirola lost the draft after a long green flag run in the final stage, but a caution flew for debris giving Almirola the chance to head to victory lane.
“It means so much. First, I want to thank God. And then I want to thank Fresh from Florida and everybody at this Biagi DenBeste race team. They let me run this thing seven or eight times a year and I have so much fun, especially at the speedway races. Doug Yates brings some awesome horsepower and our Ford Mustang was super-fast. I knew it right from the beginning of practice. We ran about 10 laps in practice and I said, ‘Put it on jack stands. We’re ready to go. This thing is fast.’ What an awesome day. I feel really bad about the 16. I got in the back of the 16 and tore up a lot of cars there, but I got a good push and I got in the back of him. I was trying to help him, trying to make the Fords work together and I hooked him, so I feel sorry about that. But an awesome job. I told the kids we were gonna get soaking wet again. They’ve talked about Daytona for a year and it’s just awesome to get this Fresh from Florida Ford Mustang into Victory Lane, so we’ll drink down a cold glass of orange juice and get ready to qualify.”
This is the third career win for Almirola in the NASCAR Xfintiy Series. This is Biagi-DenBetse first win since July 2016 at Daytona.
Elliott Sadler finished second in the Sparks Energy 300. Sadler hit the wall early in the first stage after a charge from Logano. Sadler and his JR Motorsports team worked on the car all day long to finish in the second position. Although he finished second, Sadler was disappointed in the finish.
“I really wanted to win this race today. I came up a little short. I am proud of my guys for battling getting us back to where we need to be, one spot short today,” said Sadler post-race.
Joey Logano finished third in the race. Logano was a contender for most of the race, but debris on the grill towards the end of the final stage gave Justin Allgaier the lead. Logano also had to hit pit road at the conclusion of the second stage to make sure that his lug nuts were tight for the final stage.
"Man we were so close, aggravating, but so much fun. I love racing here at Talladega in these XFINITY cars. The draft is so crazy and different. The runs come so quick and it's hard to block them. You have to physically block them with your car and it's really tight. We came through (Turns) 3 and 4, I thought I had a run and Aric was late to block and I was like, 'This is could be where it all ends (laughs)'. (He) got there just in time and I just got into his rear and had to cross him over. Dang it! I had a good push there at the end with the 2 car and we just couldn't stay attached like we needed to. If the caution came out sooner, we would have won the race. I'm glad they let us race to the end. Selfishly, I wish the caution came out, but for the fans I'm glad that it didn't. We did everything that we could do."
The Sparks Energy Solutions 300 was slowed five times by caution for 20 laps. The red flag was displayed twice for a combined time of 20 minutes and 33 seconds. There were 27 lead changes amongst 13 different drivers.
Sadler continues to hold a 29 point lead over second place driver Justin Allgaier.
Next up for the NASCAR Xfinity Series has two off weekends before the Hisense 4K TV 300 from Charlotte Motor Speedway. That race will be on May 27th at 1:00 p.m. EST on Fox Sports 1 and Performance Racing Network.
Drivers Assess First Quarter of 2017
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.
Logano Scores First 2017 Victory in Crazy Richmond Race
After gaining the lead when teammate Brad Keslowski was fending off Kyle Busch and moving through the field with fresh tires on the final restart, Joey Logano will win the Toyota Owners 400 from RIchmond International Raceway under hot and slick conditions for his first win of 2017. Logano had to start at the back of the field due to changing a transmission on Saturday.
“I knew the 2 was so much faster than everybody and I had to get out there as quick and as far as I could. He was on his way to catch me. I think he was catching me a couple tenths a lap. That was all I had inside the car and I burned them up early trying to go,” said Logano post-race. “I am proud of the effort of the team. We executed under pressure today and brought a car home that was a 5th-10th place car home to victory lane.”
This is Logano’s 18th career win coming on his 300th start. Ford has won four of the first nine race of 2017. This is Logano's second victory at Richmond.
Keselowski finished second after the best long run car throughout the day. Keselowski ran up front for most of the race leading 110 laps. Despite having one of the cars to beat, Keselowski was upset after the race despite a second place finish.
“It was just hoping for another restart or the race to get extended for another 10 laps. I think we had a ton of long run speed today. That short run at the end...half the field came, half the field didn’t. I just got stuck in a lane of cars that didn’t go,” said Keselowski post-race. “By the time I did, he had a whole straightaway on me. I got it down to a couple of car lengths at the end. All and all I’m happy for Team Penske withe 1-2 finish. We’ll take it and move on.”
Denny Hamlin finished quietly in third after leading 59 laps during the race. Hamlin played a two-tire strategy in the second stage to give him the track position beginning on lap 211. According to the TV pit stop times, Hamlin’s pit crew was doing 10 to 11 second stops. However, NASCAR found a missing lug nut on the right rear tire post-race.
“We were competitive and our car drove really good. We were just missing some of the speed from the 2 (Brad Keselowski) and the 22 (Joey Logano) – they run a little more sideways than what we run and just they have more grip. I think we optimized our day for the most part and that’s about as good as we could do.”
Commitment line violations changed the complexion of the race, especially for Kyle Busch. When he leaders hit the pit lane after the final caution of the race, Busch was nabbed for violating the commitment line by not having all four tires below the line. NASCAR warned drivers in the driver’s meeting pre-race and over the radio before the green flag fell. Busch was unable to see the box due to the fact that Logano cut down to the pit lane at the last moment.
Busch declined full comment after the race about the incident, but told FOX. “Balls and strikes.” Busch walked away briskly without answering anymore questions. Busch finished the race in the 16th position despite running up front all race. Busch was one of six drivers busted for violating the commitment line.
There were 18 lead changes amongst eight different drivers. The caution flew nine times for 53 laps. The time of race was three hours, 14 minutes, and 34 seconds
Next up for the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series is the GIECO 500 from Talladega Superspeedway in Alabama. Coverage from Talladega will be on FOX and Motor Racing Network beginning at 2:00 p.m. EST.
Keselowski Scores Ford's First Martinsville Win Since 2002
RIDGEWAY, Va.— Brad Keselowski was able to hold off and set sail to give Roger Penske and Ford Performance the victory in Sunday’s STP 500.
“This is awesome. We’ve ran so good here with the Miller Lite Ford, but something always happens and we haven’t been able to bring it home. Martinsville is just one of those champion’s tracks. The guys that run well everywhere run well here, and it’s really just an honor to win here and get to compete here. This track is 70 years old and a lot of legends have won here. It feels great to be able to join them and bring home a clock,” said Keselowski in victory lane.
This is Ford’s first win at Martinsville since 2002 with Kurt Busch, and Team Penske’s first win at Martinsville since 2004 with Rusty Wallace. This is Keselowski’s second victory in 2017.
The first stage started with an early surge from pole sitter Kyle Larson. Larson was able to lead the first 22 circuits, but as he was battling lapped traffic, Keselowski was able to pass him. That sent Larson dropping through the field. Keselowski was on point until the caution flew on lap 70. During the pit stops, Keselowski was busted for speeding resulting in him starting from the back of the field. Martin Truex Jr. assumed the race lead to go on to dominate and win the stage. Denny Hamlin finished second in the first stage, Kyle Busch finished third, Keselowski finished fourth, and Chase Elliott rounded out the top-five.
Many drivers stayed out at the conclusion of the stage because they pitted 13 laps before hand. To start the second stage, Ky. Busch was the race leader, Elliott restarted second, Ryan Blaney restarted third, Logano restarted fourth, and Erik Jones rounded out the top-five.
The second stage belonged to Ky. Busch. Busch dominated the second stage, but came up short on the playoff point. As Ky. Busch was putting cars a lapped down, Ricky Stenhouse Jr. was trying to stay on the lead lap, but failed to do so. As the stage closed, Stenhouse was able to get on the bumper of Busch coming off the fourth turn on the final lap of the stage. That bump was able to give Elliott the advantage and the stage win. Ky. Busch finished second, Keselowski finished third, Jimmie Johnson finished fourth, and Blaney rounded out the top-five in the second stage.
Elliott won the stage off pit road, Ky. Busch was second, Johnson was third, Keselowski was fourth, and Dale Earnhardt Jr. rounded out the top-five to start the final stage.
The final stage was prominently dominated once again by Ky. Busch. The first laps of the stage were unable to get in a rhythm as the caution flew five times for 25 laps. Once the race was able to get into a rhythm, Ky. Busch was able to lead 65 laps before Keselowski began to close in. The lead swapped between Keselowski and Busch numerous times. The final pass on Busch for Keselowski was the money move. Keseloski was able to move Kyle Busch up the race track and set sail for victory.
Ky. Busch finished second, Elliott finished third, Logano finished fourth, and Austin Dillon rounded out the top-five in the STP 500.
The caution flew 14 times for 95 laps. The lead changed 18 times among 17 drivers. The average speed was 70.139 mph. The time of race was three hours, 44 minutes, and 59 seconds.
Kyle Larson still holds the points lead by four points over Chase Elliott, Truex Jr. is third in points only 32 points behind Larson, Keselowski is 34 points behind in fourth, and Logano rounds out the top-five in points 61 back.
Next up for the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series is the O’Rielly Auto Parts 500 from Texas Motor Speedway on April 9th at 1:30 p.m. EST on FOX and Performance Racing Network.
Day of Highs and Lows For Logano
FONTANA, Calif.— Joey Logano was hoping to have a picture perfect day At Auto Club Speedway in Southern California. However, when the Service King 300 began, the day saw its highs and lows.
Logano started from the pole position to lead 31 laps in the opening stage. However, the caution flew for a spin by Matt Tifft on lap. Logano led the field down pit road for four tires and fuel. Logano beat the field off pit road. However, Logano was caught for speeding on pit road in sections two through nine.
Logano was in shock that he was caught speeding. Because the cars of not have speedometers, drivers rely on the RPM’s when they enter pit road. NASCAR allows a five mile per hour tolerance for speeding on pit road.
Logano started at the tail end of the longest line in the 35th position.. When the race restarted, Logano began his charge towards the front.
He worked his way towards the second position at the conclusion of the second stage.
When the third stage began, Logano was running up front before more trouble on pit road plagued him.
Logano has more trouble on pit road towards the end of the race. On the pit stop, the jack fell off on the left side with all the tires off of the car. The team had to petition NASCAR to allow them to use a second jack to jack the car up. The request was granted and the team finished the pit stop.
Logano and his crew chief were not happy with what occurred on pit road, but were happy they stayed on the lead lap and suffered minimal damage.
Logano started at the end of the lead lapped cars in 25th., but once again, quickly moved towards the front. When the caution flew for a hit by Cole Custer, the leaders pitted and Logano moved up to third position.
On the restart, he gave Kyle Busch a push to move to the second position. He kept pushing and battling Busch for the lead for a couple laps. Logano was able to grab the lead with 32 laps remaining and set sail.
Logano used Busch as a cushion from Kyle Larson. Larson was on fresher tires than Logano. Busch made contact with the wall and dropped back moving Larson to second. Larson was closing in about two-tenths every lap. Larson grabbed the lead for a moment, but Logano grabbed it back.
After Logano grabbed the lead, Larson hit the wall, but lost momentum. When the momentum was regained by Larson, he made his charge back to Logano. However as they battled for the lead, the lapped car 99 went in front of Logano slowing him down.
Luckily, the caution flew for Brandon Jones, who hit the wall. On the pit stop, Logano took four tires and fuel, but lost one position as Spencer Gallagher only took two tires and fuel.
On the restart, Larson took the high side leaving Logano with Gallagher in front of him. Gallagher did not go on the restart. Logano was boxed in, but was able to get past Gallagher. Logano battled with Busch, but cleared him as Busch did not have the short run speed. Logano had momentum in the closing lap to get the win, but came up 0.127 seconds short to finish second.
“I don’t know about that move. That wasn’t a good move. I don’t know what they were thinking, but that maybe wasn’t the best play at this race track. I knew he was gonna spin them,” said Logano about being boxed in by Gallagher. “There’s no way he couldn’t. It wasn’t his fault. He was a sitting duck and I was a sitting duck behind him that lost too much track position on that restart being too far behind Kyle. If not for that, we would have probably been door-to-door across the line bumping and banging or something. We were able to catch Larson the last few laps. We were definitely faster, but I needed another lap, maybe two.”
When Logano was asked about how he made the moves from back to the front, he stated, “More throttle and less brake usually makes you go faster. It was just getting in the right line at the right time and keeping the momentum. That’s what this XFINITY racing is – and anytime you go to a big two-mile race track it’s all about mo and keeping that momentum going and we were able to keep that rolling while the cars were side-by-side and stuff like that. We were able to keep the momentum going.”
Logano finished second giving the No. 22 Team Penske Ford 33 owner points, moving the team to 33 points ahead of the No. 42 Chip Ganassi Racing entry. Logano lead the Service King 300 six times for 70 laps.