Speedway Digest Staff
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The exciting and drama-filled Bass Pro Shops NRA Night Race Saturday at Bristol Motor Speedway was so popular with fans that it set a record in the online fan poll conducted by veteran NASCAR journalist Jeff Gluck of The Athletic that simply asks, "Was it a Good Race?" BMS now holds the top three spots in the poll.
Saturday night’s race energized fans with a thrilling finish that featured Kyle Larson racing past Kevin Harvick in the closing laps. Larson made his move to take the lead and pass Harvick with a slide job, and Harvick’s machine made contact with the bumper on Larson’s Chevy, but Larson was able to control it even though it got out of shape. Larson then pulled away to take the checkered flag. It was Larson’s first BMS victory and his sixth win of the season. Sparks also flew post-race as Harvick and Chase Elliott had an animated nose-to-nose discussion in the pit area after the two were not pleased with each other following several on-track skirmishes. The race also featured a couple of drivers, Alex Bowman and William Byron, who entered the race outside the top 12 but managed to race their way into the next round of the Playoffs with strong Bristol finishes.
More than 23,000 fans participated in the poll and a record 95.7 percent voted yes in the poll, that it was a good race. The race took over the No. 1 spot in the poll by moving past the 2020 Bristol Spring Race, which held firm at 94.9 percent. Another Bristol Motor Speedway race, the 2018 Bass Pro Shops NRA Night Race, sits third on the list with a 94.8 percent vote. BMS has another race in the top 10 of the list, as the 2019 Bass Pro Shops NRA Night Race comes in at sixth overall with a 94.1 approval rating.
"We are so thankful to the thousands of fans who voted for the Bass Pro Shops NRA Night Race in Jeff Gluck's popular 'Was it a Good Race' fan poll," said Jerry Caldwell, executive vice president and general manager, Bristol Motor Speedway. "We are so proud to see Bristol races in the top three positions in that poll. We have been very blessed here to have many thrilling races throughout the decades and Saturday night’s race was one for the ages and will certainly always be remembered as one of the greats here at The Last Great Colosseum."
The 2020 Food City Supermarket Heroes 500, second on the list, was won by Brad Keselowski after he sprinted past Elliott and Joey Logano who tangled on track in the closing laps. The 2018 Bass Pro Shops NRA Night Race, third on the list, has been called an ‘Instant Classic’ after Kurt Busch emerged to take the checkered flag after several different leaders appeared to have the race under control throughout the race. The 2019 Bass Pro Shops NRA Night Race, which was won by Denny Hamlin after passing Matt DiBenedetto in the closing laps, is fourth on the Gluck ranking list, with a 94.1 percent approval rate.
Three more Bristol races rank in the top 40 of the Gluck fan poll. The 2018 Food City 500 ranks 29th with an approval rating of 87.9 percent, the 2017 Food City 500 is 33rd with a rating of 86.4, and the 2019 Food City 500 is 36th with a fan approval mark of 86.2 percent. You can see the full Jeff Gluck 'Was it a Good Race?' fan poll by clicking here.
The Jeff Gluck 'Was it a Good Race?' fan poll is conducted via the social media platform Twitter and was started in 2016. A Bristol Motor Speedway event has held the top spot now since August 19, 2018.
The next NASCAR Cup Series race scheduled for Bristol Motor Speedway is the Food City Dirt Race, to be held under the lights on Sunday April 17, 2022.
The Whelen Modified Tour returns to Stafford Speedway this Saturday, September 25, for the NAPA Fall Final 150, the final race of the 2021 season. The race for the championship has come down to defending and 2-time WMT champion Justin Bonsignore and Patrick Emerling. Emerling and the #07 Captain Pip’s Hideaway and Marina team jumped out to the early season point lead thanks to their victory in the NAPA Spring Sizzler back in April and they held the lead through July and the Tour’s annual stop to Loudon, NH. Bonsignore and the #51 Phoenix Communications, Inc. team took over the point lead following that race and have held the lead for the remainder of the season heading into the NAPA Fall Final 150.
“It’s been a really great season overall,” said Bonsignore. “We’ve unfortunately only won once so far but we’ve been really fast every week and the car has a lot of speed and the team has been jelling really well together on pit road. It’s just a matter of putting a whole race together with cautions falling at the wrong time or the luck part of the race hasn’t gone our way like it has in years past. We’ve been fast every week and that’s all you can ask for. When you put yourself in position to be in the top-3 every week the wins will come or you’ll finish second or third, and those are good days as well to put points together.”
“The season has gone kind of how we expected it to,” said Emerling. “We’ve been in contention in a lot of races and running up front but we’ve also had some struggles with inconsistency that we have to get corrected for the future. We’re always trying to get better and we can call this a successful season even if we end up not winning the championship.”
Both Bonsignore and Emerling head into the NAPA Fall Final 150 with similar results over their past few races. Both drivers encountered mechanical issues in the Richmond race and then Emerling beat Bonsignore to the checkered flag this past weekend at Riverhead in a 1-2 finish. While Emerling has little option other than to go all out for victory, Bonsignore can afford to be aggressive in seeking his first win at Stafford while also keeping the points race in the back of his mind.
“We feel good but we know anything can happen,” said Bonsignore. “We’re going to race hard and try to maximize our day and first and foremost try to get our first Stafford win. We’re feeling confident even though Patrick outran us the last race but we always feel confident coming to the track and we’ll take what the day gives us. It’s definitely better to be leading rather than chasing. The points will be in the back of our minds to not put ourselves in a bad position or do anything stupid but we are still chasing our first Stafford win so we’re going to try to get that if we can. If you can be up front, lead laps, and lead the most laps, that helps with the points situation and then when it gets late in the race you can take what you need in order to clinch the championship. We’re hoping the race will play out where we have an opportunity to win the race.”
“We pretty much have to go for it,” said Emerling. “We’ve been trying to go for it every race this season and this race will be no different, it’s definitely go time. The 51 team has been on point all season long and they did exactly what they needed to do last weekend. Those guys are hard to beat but anything can happen. We need to have a phenomenal day and we need to be on our A-game so we can have another strong run and give ourselves a chance at winning the championship. We had a good run last time out at Stafford even though we had some issues with the car in practice, but we have the win from the Sizzler earlier in the year. We’re going to be looking to continue our momentum from Riverhead over to Stafford this weekend and we’re really looking forward to the race.”
Before Bonsignore or Emerling can challenge for the checkered flag, they first must qualify to see where they will be starting the 150 lap race. While a good qualifying run and starting position is usually a key factor in determining how good of a race a driver will have, Emerling showed back in April that a driver can win at Stafford after starting in the back. Emerling qualified 23rd for the NAPA Spring Sizzler.
“We started scratch when we won the Sizzler because we had a motor issue from time trials that we had to fix but we don’t want to have any issues so we can have a clean race day,” said Emerling. “I think we have a pretty good idea of where we want to go with the car for this weekend. We’ve had a good car the last 2 races at Stafford and if we can have a day where we can unload the car without any issues, I think we’re going to have a pretty good race.”
“Without a doubt qualifying is important at every track we go to, but at Stafford in general track position is huge,” said Bonsignore. “In a perfect world, you’d start up front, lead some laps early or lead the most laps and be able to control the race from the front. We qualified up front in the last Stafford race in August and it always helps make your day a little easier starting up front. Pit strategy makes it tough to come to Stafford and have a smooth day. We won’t know until around halfway how the race is unfolding and what our strategy is going to be.”
NAPA Fall Final tickets are available now online and are priced at $40.00 for adults, $10.00 for kids 6-14, and free for kids 5 & under. Reserved seating is priced at $45.00 for all ages and pit passes are $50.00 with a valid 2021 Stafford Competition License and $55.00 without a Stafford license.
Stafford Speedway will also be in action this Friday, September 24 with a Weekly Racing Series program. Tickets for the Sept. 24 Stafford Weekly Racing event are $20.00 for adults, $5.00 for kids 6-14, and free for kids 5 & under. Reserved seating is priced at $25.00 for all ages and pit passes are $35.00 with a valid 2021 Stafford Competition License and $40.00 without a Stafford license. If you are unable to attend either event, tune into the live stream on FloRacing, the official streaming partner of Stafford Speedway.
For more information, visit www.staffordspeedway.com, checkout Stafford Speedway on Facebook or Twitter, or contact the track office at 860-684-2783.
Stafford Speedway PR
Susan G. Komen® Cancer Survivors Honored During Nascar Cup Series Playoff Race at Texas Motor Speedway
With the all-important second race in the 2021 NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs Round of 12 looming for Talladega Superspeedway’s YellaWood 500 on Sunday, Oct. 3, what Playoffs drivers have the advantage? If history repeats itself, Team Penske should be in good shape, at least that is what statistics show.
Team Penske has won nine out of the last 14 races at the biggest, baddest race track on the planet. Brad Keselowski, with his win in the spring GEICO 500, tied Dale Earnhardt, Jr. and Jeff Gordon for second on the track’s all-time win list with his sixth Talladega triumph (and trails Dale Earnhardt, Sr. with 10). Teammates’ Joey Logano and Ryan Blaney have three and two victories, respectively. A win by any Playoffs driver means an automatic ticket to the Round of 8.
In addition to Keselowski, Logano and Blaney, four other Playoffs drivers have wins at the 2.66-mile tri-oval, and include Chase Elliott, Kevin Harvick, defending YellaWood 500 Champion Denny Hamlin and Kyle Busch. Hamlin is the only driver of the quartet with multiple wins (2). Of the 12 drivers who have a shot at this year’s premier series title, Keselowski also leads the way in career average finish at NASCAR’s Most Competitive track with 15.60 and is closely followed by Elliott at 15.73 and Harvick at 15.76.
With the unpredictability of the 33-degree-banked venue, some drivers have had good luck on their side while others clearly haven’t. The latter includes the top two seeds in Kyle Larson and Martin Truex, Jr., whose best finishes are sixth and fifth, respectively. Below is a look at all 12 drivers and their stats at Talladega Superspeedway, plus a quick recap of their season thus far.
- No. 1 seeded Kyle Larson, No. 5 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet (3,059 points): Looking for his first victory at Talladega. Best finish came in the 2016 YellaWood 500 when he was sixth. In 13 TSS starts, has two top-10 results with an average finish of 23.54. The top seed this season has six wins in 2021 with 16 top-5 efforts in 29 starts. Has led a series-best high 1905 laps. Best finish in championship standings is sixth in 2019.
- No. 2 seeded Martin Truex, Jr., No. 19 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota (3,029 points): Has never won a Cup Series race at Talladega’s 2.66-mile venue but reeled off three straight wins in the NASCAR Xfinity Series from 2004-06. In 33 career NASCAR Cup Series races at Talladega, he has two top-five finishes (5th in 2016 & ’06) with an average result of 21.82. The 2017 NASCAR Cup Series Champion has four wins in 2021 and 10-top-5 finishes.
- No. 3 seeded Ryan Blaney, No. 12 Team Penske Ford (3,024 points): Has two NASCAR Cup Series wins at Talladega (2019 YellaWood 500 and 2020 GEICO 500). In 14 TSS races, he also has a total of three top-five results and five top-10s for an average finish of 17.43. Has three wins in 2021, and his Best finish is the seventh in the final championship standings in 2019).
- No. 4 seeded Denny Hamlin, No. 11 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota (3,024 points): Winner of the 2014 GEICO 500 and is the defending champion of the YellaWood 500. In 32 TSS races, has an average finish of 17.19 with nine top-five and 13-top results. Searching for his first premier series title, with a best career finish of second in 2010. Has one victory thus far in 2021.
- No. 5 seeded Kyle Busch, No. 18 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota (3,022 points): The winner of the 2008 GEICO 500 at Talladega, Busch has an average finish of 20.78 with six top-five efforts to go along with eight top-10 finishes. He is one of two drivers (along with Mark Martin) to win in all three of NASCAR’s top-tier series at Talladega). A two-time NASCAR Cup Series Champion (2015, 2019), he is the only active driver with multiple titles. Has made the Championship 4 in four of the last five seasons. Has captured two victories in 2021.
- No. 6 seeded Chase Elliott, No. 9 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet (3,021 points): The defending NASCAR Cup Series Champion has one triumph at the 2.66-mile Talladega Superspeedway, coming in the 2019 GEICO 500. He has four top-five finishes and five top-10s for an average finish of 15.73. Has gone to Ruoff Victory Lane twice this season.
- No. 7 seeded Alex Bowman, No. 48 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet (3,015 points): Best finish at Talladega came in 2019 when he was runner-up to teammate Elliott in the GEICO 500. In 12 career starts at Talladega, has three top-10s for an average finish of 24.58. Best finish in the championship standings came in 2020 when he was sixth. Has three wins in 2021.
- No. 8 seeded William Byron, No. 24 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet (3,014 points): Still looking for initial triumph at Talladega Superspeedway, coming up just one position short earlier this year in the GEICO 500. In seven starts at TSS, has two top-five results and an average finish of 17.14. Was 11th in the battle for the championship in 2019, his best to date. Has won victory in 2021, coming at Homestead-Miami Speedway in February.
- No. 9 seeded Joey Logano, No. 22 Team Penske Ford (3,013 points): The three-time Talladega Superspeedway winner (2015, 2016, 2018) has competed in 25 premier series races at ’Dega with a 17.52 average finish (eight top-fives and 10 top-10s). He has led 407 laps at Talladega, the most of any of the title contenders. He also has two NASCAR Xfinity Series triumphs at TSS. Won the 2018 NASCAR Cup Series Championship. Has one win this year and has advanced to the Round of 12 seven times.
- No. 10 seeded Brad Keselowski, No. 2 Team Penske Ford (3,008 points): Talladega Superspeedway’s active win leader with six victories (tied with Jeff Gordon and Dale Earnhardt, Jr., four behind Dale Earnhardt, Sr., with 10). Captured his first career win at Talladega in 2009 and is the latest victor at the track after claiming the GEICO 500 earlier this April to secure his spot in the playoffs. Other wins came in 2012, 2014, 2016 and 2017). His average finish in 25 Cup Series races at the 2.66-mile venue is 15.60, tops of the drivers battling for the title. In addition, has one win in the NASCAR Xfinity Series at the historical track. Trying for his second championship after winning the title in 2012.
- No. 11 seeded Christopher Bell, No. 20 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota (3,005 points): His average finish in three starts at Talladega is 28.33 with his best finishing effort at 17th this past spring. This is his first time in the NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs. Qualified for the playoffs with his win in February on the DAYTONA Road Course.
- No. 12 seeded Kevin Harvick, No. 4 Stewart-Haas Racing Ford (3,002 points): The 2014 NASCAR Cup Series Champion has one win at Talladega, coming in the 2010 GEICO 500. His average finish is 15.76 at the mammoth track with eight top-five and 17 top-10s in 41 races. Has posted 16 Cup Series Playoffs wins and has made it to the Championship 4 Round in five of the last seven seasons.
The YellaWood 500 will be the culmination of a tripleheader NASCAR Playoffs weekend, which also features a duo of races on Saturday, Oct. 2 with the Sparks 300 for the NASCAR Xfinity Series and the Chevy Silverado 250 for the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series. The action begins at Noon CDT.
Admission to the traditional Saturday Night Infield Concert, headlined by platinum-selling Dustin Lunch, is FREE to all infield guests, who purchases a ticket to the YellaWood 500. To see all admission options, including the Talladega Garage Experience (includes access to Garage Viewing Walkways, Pre-Race Ceremonies on Sunday and Ruoff Mortgage Victory Lane), visit www.talladegasuperspeedway.com
Franklin Graham’s God Loves You Tour will stop at World Wide Technology Raceway in Madison, Illinois, on Tuesday, September 20, at 7 p.m. Gates will open at 5:30 p.m. Admission and parking is free. Attendees are asked to bring their own lawn chairs and blankets.
The eight-city, Route 66-themed Good Loves You Tour is a free celebration of God’s love for you. The event will feature live music from the Newsboys and other uplifting musicians, as well as a powerful message of hope from Franklin Graham.
For more information on Franklin Graham’s God Loves You Tour, please visit GodLovesYouTour.com. Follow Franklin Graham on Twitter at @Franklin_Graham or visit franklingraham.com.
For more information on World Wide Technology Raceway, please call (618) 215-8888 or visit www.WWTRaceway.comollow WWTR on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
Nashville, Tennessee-based music, racing and entertainment brand Big Machine first joined JRM as an associate partner on the No. 8 team earlier this year and is taking things to the next level with its primary sponsorship on Mayer’s Camaro for the Sept. 25 NXS race in Las Vegas.
“Supporting new young talent, whether in music or racing, has been a life-long passion,” said Scott Borchetta, president and CEO of all things Big Machine. “To bring both music and racing together, with Carly Pearce and Sam Mayer this weekend in Las Vegas, is what it’s all about for the Big Machine brand… and Carly and Sam are both chasing No. 1s this week!”
Pearce is a two-time ACM Award winner with No. 1 hits such as the platinum certified “Every Little Thing” and 2X platinum “I Hope You’re Happy Now”, which ignited her truth-soaked career. Earlier this summer, Dolly Parton invited the Kentucky native to become a member of the Grand Ole Opry ahead of an official induction by Trish Yearwood. Pearce is also celebrating two big CMA nominations for Female Vocalist and Album of the Year. Her new album 29: WRITTEN IN STONE is out now and features 15 songs Pearce wrote about the most pivotal year of her life. Leading the collection is “Dear Miss Loretta”, a from-the-heart ballad written for Country Music Hall of Famer Loretta Lynn and recorded alongside fellow Kentucky icon Patty Loveless.
Mayer, who joined JRM in 2021, made history by becoming the youngest NASCAR champion when he won the K&N Pro Series East title in 2019 at just 16 years old. Mayer first climbed behind the wheel of the No. 8 JRM Camaro at Pocono Raceway in June following his 18th birthday. In addition to racing in the Xfinity Series, Mayer also competes part-time in the Trans Am Series TA2 class alongside Borchetta.
“Our entire No. 8 team is looking forward to debuting this paint scheme in Las Vegas,” said Mayer. “Personally, I’ve always been a country music fan, so it’s pretty cool to see Carly’s new album on the car. A huge thanks to Scott [Borchetta] and everyone at Big Machine Records for putting this together.”
Tune in to NBCSN to see Mayer in action in the No. 8 Big Machine Records / Carly Pearce Chevrolet during the Alsco Uniforms 302 NXS race from Las Vegas on Saturday, Sept. 25 at 7:30 p.m. ET.
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Colton Herta continued his family’s success at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca with a dominant victory Sunday in the Firestone Grand Prix of Monterey, while Alex Palou marched closer and closer to an even bigger win.
Herta earned his second victory this season and fifth career victory, beating Palou’s No. 10 NTT Data Honda to the finish by 1.9747 seconds. NTT P1 Award winner Herta led 91 of the 95 laps in the No. 26 Gainbridge Honda.
California native Herta also won this event from the pole the last time it took place, in 2019 in his only other start here. This race was canceled last year due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Herta’s father and race strategist, Bryan Herta, won this race as a driver from the pole in 1998 and 1999.
“I enjoy racing here so much,” Herta said. “It’s an amazing track for me and my family. It’s been so good to us. To go two-for-two so far (at Laguna Seca) is great. We were fast all weekend, and I’m glad we could pull it off in the race.”
Spaniard Palou pulled 35 points ahead of Pato O’Ward in the NTT INDYCAR SERIES standings with just one race remaining, the Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach this Sunday at Long Beach, California. Palou must finish 11th or better at Long Beach to earn his first title in his second season in the series.
“We didn’t have it today for the win, but we did the most we could,” Palou said. “I was trying, but it was tough. It was Herta’s day today. I’m happy with P2.”
Palou, O’Ward and two-time series champion Josef Newgarden are the only drivers eligible to win the Astor Challenge Cup at the season finale. Newgarden is third in the standings, 48 points back. Six-time series champion Scott Dixon and Chip Ganassi Racing teammate Marcus Ericsson were eliminated from contention at this race after finishing 13th and sixth, respectively.
This will be the 16th consecutive season in which the NTT INDYCAR SERIES title race will be decided at the final race of the season.
Romain Grosjean finished third today in the No. 51 Nurtec ODT Honda after a stirring late-race charge past rivals and lapped traffic in which he sliced between one to two seconds per lap from Herta and Palou. Grosjean’s third podium finish of the season helped him stay alive in the race for Rookie of the Year honors, as he trails Scott McLaughlin by 20 points.
Grosjean was 10 seconds behind Herta with nine laps remaining but closed to within 3.7087 seconds at the finish after some deft driving, including a wheel-banging, side-by-side duel to lap Jimmie Johnson in the famous “Corkscrew” turn with seven laps remaining. Series rookie Johnson was hip-checked off the track by Grosjean but returned to the racing surface to finish a season-best 17th in the No. 48 Carvana Honda fielded by Chip Ganassi Racing.
“The last stint was very fun because we were on new tires and fresher than everyone else,” Grosjean said. “So, that was exciting. It’s been a great day. Sorry to Jimmie for the contact out there. He was trying to protect Alex (Palou, teammate), and I wanted to go chase Alex.
“P13 to P3 today, it’s a pretty good day. Laguna Seca, I love you. That’s all I can say.”
Graham Rahal finished fourth in the No. 15 United Rentals Honda, with O’Ward rounding out the top five in the No. 5 Arrow McLaren SP Chevrolet.
“All weekend we didn’t have it,” O’Ward said. “I truly feel like we used every single ounce of energy and pace that this car had. We pulled off a near-miracle in qualifying to start in the first three rows. In the race, honestly, that was as much as I had.
“All we can do at Long Beach is win, and then let everything else fall. I’ve got faith in myself. I know I’m pretty handy around a street course, so let’s see what we can pull off next week.”
Herta’s path to victory become much clearer on Lap 2 of the 95-lap race, ironically after he made a mistake. Herta went wide in Turn 4, opening the door for fellow front-row starter and Andretti Autosport teammate Alexander Rossi in Turn 5.
Rossi and Herta banged wheels while side-by-side in Turn 5, and Rossi’s No. 27 NAPA AUTO PARTS/AutoNation Honda then spun into the gravel and stalled. Rossi’s car was refired, but he finished 25th, two laps down.
After that incident, teams unfolded varying tire and fuel strategies trying to undercut or overcut Herta’s lead. None worked, as Herta’s speed and consistency were too much.
The only time Herta didn’t lead the race came when Grosjean was at the front on Lap 19 and from Laps 69-71 during pit cycles.
Palou kept the race close around the midway point, pulling to within one second of Herta as both drivers’ Firestone tires wore during a stint. But Herta had extended his lead to 5.4 seconds by Lap 75.
“There was always pressure there from Alex behind me,” Herta said. “Even at the beginning of the stints when I was a little bit better, he was still there. And he closed it back up at the end of the stints. I think he was a little better that time.
“I’m just happy to have done it. This place is so awesome – it’s my favorite track in North America by far. To win here means so much.”
About the only drama for Herta over the closing laps came with 14 laps remaining when he couldn’t avoid what appeared to be a rabbit or a squirrel running across the track. But the wildlife collision did no damage to his machine, and he marched home to victory.
Grosjean’s charge kept the race lively over the closing laps. It appeared with 10 laps to go the Frenchman may have been able to shave enough time per lap to pass Palou and possibly catch Herta for the win. But traffic and tire wear blunted that effort, and Grosjean ended up 1.734 seconds behind Palou.
While the Drivers’ Championship will go to the wire at Long Beach, Honda today clinched the Manufacturers Award for the fourth consecutive season.
NTT IndyCar Series PR