Brett has been following the sport of NASCAR since the beginning of the 2006 NASCAR Sprint Cup season. Since Brett was 13, he has had a passion of chasing a job in sports that not many get the opportunity of doing. He has been in the NASCAR media since the middle of the 2010 season. Since then, he has been a part of many racing podcast shows to improve his talents. You can find him on twitter @NASCAR_Brett.
Ty Gibbs visited victory lane on Friday at Pocono Raceway piloting the No. 18 Monster Energy Toyota. The driver from North Carolina led 65 of the 80 circuits en route to his third career ARCA Menards Series victory.
“It feels good getting back into victory lane here at Pocono,” said Gibbs after the race. “Especially, it sucked to see Riley (Herbst) get wrecked last week by whoever that was, and we come back to win. It was good revenge.”
Chandler Smith, starting fourth on the grid because of 2020 owner points, sat runner-up in the General Tire #ANYWHEREISPOSSIBLE 200 behind Gibbs. Smith, piloting the No. 20 JBL Audio Toyota and leading four circuits, leaves the “Tricky Triangle” with his second top five and top 10 finish of 2020.
Gibbs, finishing ahead of Smith by 2.314 seconds, earned his ninth career top five and 11th top 10 finish in the ARCA Menards series. He goes into Lucas Oil Raceway Park in Indianapolis looking to capture his fourth career win.
The win Friday afternoon was a dream come true for Gibbs.
“Can’t thank everyone enough. This was a dream come true as I’ve come to this track since I was a little kid,” Gibbs told FS1. “Feels good!”
Sam Mayer rounded out the top three finishers on Friday at Pocono. The driver of the No. 21 Chevrolet scored his first top five of the season in his second start of 2020.
Bret Holmes and pole sitter Michael Self, leader of 11 laps, rounded out the top five.
Drew Dollar, Hailie Deegan, Derek Griffith, Ryan Huff and Scott Melton rounded out the top 10.
The series will now move on to Lucas Oil Raceway Park in Indianapolis on July 3rd. The event will air live on MAVTV and NBC Sports Gold at 8:00 p.m. ET.
NASCAR President Steve Phelps addressed the media via teleconference on Thursday to discuss its findings and offer more of a timeline in the investigation of a noose found in the Richard Petty Motorsports garage stall at Talladega Superspeedway. All quotes below are statements made by Phelps.
"When I spoke on late Tuesday, the federal investigation had just been completed. Before then we were not allowed to comment beyond what was disclosed and we wanted to make sure we had a complete investigation before commenting in detail and fielding the questions".
"Upon learning of and seeing the noose, our initial reaction was to protect our driver. We're living in a highly charged and emotional time. What we saw was a symbol of hate and was only present in one area of the garage, that of the 43 car of Bubba Wallace. In hindsight, we should have, I should have used the word "alleged" in our statement. Many of you have seen the photo. As you can see from the photo, the noose was real, as was our concern for Bubba. With similar emotion, others across our industry and our media stood up to defend the NASCAR family, our NASCAR family, because they are part of the NASCAR family too. We are proud to see so many stand up for what's right."
On Sunday, after initial inspection and prior to the race, a member of the 43 team noticed the noose in the garage stall. At roughly 4:30 NASCAR was alerted to the presence of the noose. At that point we did a full sweep of the garage by our security team, and only the rope of the 43 team saw was a noose, all the others were regular ropes.
"At about 6:00 NASCAR senior leadership met and immediately determined this needed to be investigated and began those initial steps of the investigation. At approximately 7:30 I notified Bubba Wallace of what was found in the garage. After that we continued to gather facts and conduct our investigation, we thought it was important to put out a statement as quickly as we could, which we did at roughly 10:40 on Sunday evening.
Early Monday morning the FBI Birmingham office reached out to us. By roughly 10:00 the FBI arrived with 15 field agents to begin their investigation. We provided the FBI with a list of personnel with access to the garage, as well as video and images taken from the weekend and the 2019 fall weekend as well.
During the course of the day the FBI interviewed race team personnel from multiple teams, NASCAR officials, track fire and safety personnel and track custodial staff. Talladega Superspeedway also provided the FBI with a list of events that had taken place since October of 2019, which is when the new garages opened.
The FBI reports back at the end of the day that their interviews are complete for the day and the evidence so far or thus far at that point was inconclusive, with plans to continue their investigation the following morning.
On Tuesday morning NASCAR received additional video from the team and provided it to the FBI. The video corroborated the testimony from one of the interviews that the FBI had conducted that the noose was present in that stall during the fall Cup event. The U.S. Attorney's Office and the FBI informed NASCAR that their investigation had conclusively found this was not a hate crime.
We were asked to keep this confidential until the release. Their release went out at roughly 4:10. About 4:15 we released our own statement and then we had our NASCAR teleconference on Tuesday evening. So those are the events of the day.
NASCAR conducted a thorough sweep of all the garage areas across the tracks that we race. So across those 29 tracks and 1,684 garage stalls, we found only 11 total that had a pull-down rope tied in a knot. And only one noose: The one discovered on Sunday in Bubba Wallace's garage."
"We further determined that the noose was not in place when the October 2019 race weekend began but was created at some point during that weekend. Given that timing and the garage access policies and procedures at the time, we were unfortunately unable to determine with any certainty who tied this rope in this manner or why it was done."
We know it brings up another question: How could it have gone unnoticed by so many people in October 2019 and for the morning on June 21, 2020? Our ultimate conclusion for this investigation is to ensure that this never happens again, that no one walks by a noose without recognizing the potential damage it can do.
"Moving forward we'll be conducting thorough sweeps of the garage area to ensure nothing like this happens again, and we are installing additional cameras in all of our garages. We'll make any changes necessary to our sanctions and our code of conduct and we will mandate that all members of our industry complete sensitivity and unconscious bias training with specifics and timing forthcoming.
Going forward, our efforts are best spent on making sure every competitor feels safe and every guest feels welcome. I would also like to reinforce that we did see at Talladega in pre-race on Monday our drivers, crews and officials proudly demonstrated that we are united in the belief that there is no place for racism in our sport."
"Before I turn this over to questions, let me reiterate two things. Bubba Wallace and the 43 team had nothing to do with this. Bubba Wallace has done nothing but represent this sport with courage, class and dignity. It is offensive seeing anyone suggest otherwise, and frankly it's further evidence as to how far we still need to go as a society. Secondly there's been discussion and criticism on how this was handled and characterized. Some feel that the phrasing or words used were not right. That comes with the territory, and I will take full responsibility for that and for the emotion that was attached to it. Based on the evidence we had, we thought our drivers -- that one of our drivers had been threatened, a driver who had been extremely courageous in recent words and actions. It's our responsibility to react and investigate, and that's exactly what we did."
"I think it goes to the industry broadly and not just the fan base, which is there was something -- a member of our community, in this case Bubba Wallace, we believed was under attack, right? That the events that we found or that the crew member of the 43 found and the subsequent things that happened after that, that it was, we needed to protect -- kind of protect our ranks and protect our family member. So I don't want anyone to feel -- I don't think anyone should feel embarrassed, right. I don't think anyone, those people who are not part of our sport and are making comments about what we should or shouldn't have done or it was a hoax and this is all fake, I just, I can't speak to that, but I would say, again, NASCAR showed its true colors on Monday, our drivers, our crews, anyone at the racetrack, but more importantly, all the fans that watched it on TV. I watched it on television, and I'm not embarrassed to say, I cried. It was an emotional, moving moment for our sport and I think an important one that suggests that NASCAR is welcome to all."
Q. I'm curious about the photo release you guys put out of the formulated noose in Bubba's garage. What was the origin of the photo, when and how was it taken and who captured that photo, for anybody that doesn't believe it's authentic?
STEVE PHELPS: "Yeah, that was captured by NASCAR security as part of our investigation. I think it speaks volumes for why we reacted the way we did. I know that you and others had supported where we were on Sunday night and on Monday and the twists and turns that this has taken, and we appreciate the support that all people have given to Bubba and our sport overall. I'll go back to it; I don't think that anyone should hang their head at all. I think that everyone should hold their head tall on this and stand tall with Bubba on this and stand tall as an industry, and that's what we're going to do."
Q. Just a question, you went into the timeline of everything that took place that led to the conclusions that everybody seemed to reach as a general consensus. I was wondering how much you felt the circumstances surrounding the weekend, such as the Confederate flag parade, the plane flying over the speedway the day before sort of added to a confluence of various circumstances, in addition to what already was going on in the weeks and month prior to the race weekend?
STEVE PHELPS: "I would say it absolutely it was a factor in it. I think that being at the racetrack and someone's ability to protest peacefully outside of our facility, we were all for, right? A guy flying overhead in a crop duster with a Confederate flag, saying "defund NASCAR," you know, and frankly all the points to your points, things that have led up to that, including the banning of the Confederate flag, something that we were enforcing for the first time that weekend and fortunately we didn't see any incidents of the Confederate flag on the property and our fans respected that. And it was a great first step on that front. But were there heightened emotions and what has gone on over the past two and a half weeks in our country and then in our sport? I think it absolutely was emotionally charged for a lot of people, and I'll include myself in that."
Q. And one quick follow-up question, in regards to Bubba, as you pointed out, he really in terms of the discovery of this had nothing to do with it, yet of course on social media and on across TV and so forth he's bearing a lot of undeserved negative connotations. I was just wondering if you had a chance to speak with him again since then and wondered how you thought he was holding up.
STEVE PHELPS: "I have. I've spoken to Bubba a couple of times. You know, I think it's hard. The kind of twists and turns that happened on Tuesday, it was surprising for me. I know it was surprising for Bubba. It was surprising for our entire industry that we're trying to point towards solving for what we believe was -- it was an alleged hate crime, right? So that's what we were solving for. And then to have it be, hey, this is something that actually was coincidental, that's a very difficult thing to try to get to. But, listen, Bubba is a warrior, he is strong, he's resolute in what he thinks is right. I find it, I just find it incredibly disturbing and that there are those that are out there that just feel the need to spread the hate or to spread false things, I just, I don't understand it, I really don't."
Q. Do you know, is it a functioning noose? Does the knot actually slip?
STEVE PHELPS: "I don't know. I think that -- I saw the picture and it looked like -- obviously it looks like a noose, and I'm no expert on nooses. I'm sure there are experts out there that would suggest that it function or it can't function, I just don't know."
Q. You also said that you would have added "allegedly" to your statement Sunday and Monday. You also said in those statements Sunday and Monday that a heinous act had been committed, presumably you mean last weekend, before it was confirmed by the FBI that no hate crime was committed this past weekend. Do you have any regrets about saying that a heinous act had been committed before it could be fully vetted that that didn't occur last weekend?
STEVE PHELPS: "Well, I think to your point, if we had said "alleged", yes, you know, I think -- I'll go back to the emotion of the moment and I'll take responsibility for that. And should we have toned that message down slightly? Maybe we should have. And I'll take responsibility for that. I think it's a -- I stand by the actions that we took and I think they were the right ones. And as I said before, given the evidence that we had, we would do, we would do the same thing, we would investigate it the same way. If it comes to where we need to craft a statement differently, and I need to take a little less emotion out of it, that's something I'll do, I'll take responsibility for that.
Can I make one closing statement? So I'm asking myself that question. I do want to say a quick close, because I think it's important, I want to reiterate something. I want to thank Bubba Wallace and everyone at Richard Petty Motorsports. Specifically thank Bubba for his leadership over this past three weeks. Bubba has done nothing but represent this sport with courage, class and dignity and he stood tall for what he believes in. And we all need to stand with him, I know I'm going to. As we pivot now and look forward to racing this weekend at Pocono, I think it's important to make sure that we are getting back to something that helps take, people take incredible comfort and enjoy so much, which is our racing and that's what we need to try to get back and doing. We had a phenomenal race at Talladega with a ton of emotion and we're looking forward to getting to this quadruple weekend of racing in Pocono and I just want to thank everyone for their support and for their time today."
Drew Dollar and Riley Herbst battled for the win all afternoon long at Talladega Superspeedway on Saturday. Dollar, piloting the No. 15 Lynx Toyota and leading 42 circuits, started the afternoon runner-up beside teammate Ryan Repko.
Herbst, also leading 34 of the 76 laps with Dollar, finished the General Tire 200 in fourth. The Las Vegas native scored his first top five and second top 10 finish of the season at the 2.66-mile oval.
“It’s really important and definitely needed this one,” said winner Drew Dollar. “Had the best team and the best spotter today. Lost a family member over the break so this is definitely an emotional one. I know he was watching from above”.
Ryan Repko started on the pole via 2019 owner points and finished the event in second. Repko, finishing 22nd at Daytona because of a crash in the ARCA Menards Series season opener, sat 0.115 seconds behind the race winner to earn his first career ARCA top five.
Sixth-place starter Bret Holmes rounded out the top three finishers. The driver from Alabama entered the day with only one top five this season.
“We stayed out front all day. It’s a tough race gaining track position,” said Holmes after the race. “I wish it could’ve played out better than that but I’m never gonna complain about the opportunity to race at Talladega. I wish the racing was better, but I’ll take any chance I get. We’re knocking on the door.”
Michael Self rounded out the top five.
Dollar, taking the lead from Herbst with two laps remaining, leaves the track with his first career ARCA Menards Series win and second career top five finish. The Atlanta, GA., native has two top five and four top 10 finishes in five career starts.
“Just hoping that caution didn’t come out there at the end,” continued Dollar. “They let me go all the way to the checker and I think it was the right move and put on a good show”
Thad Moffitt, Hailie Deegan, Jason Kitzmiller, Sean Corr and Ed Pompa rounded out the top 10.
The ARCA Menards Series will make their way to Pocono Raceway on June 26th. The General Tire #AnywhereIsPossible 200 will take place at 6:00 p.m. ET. live on FOX Sports 1.
The ARCA Menards Series will return to action on Saturday at Talladega Superspeedway following a three-month hiatus due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The series, last racing at Phoenix Raceway in March, will host their third race of the year in 2020.
The entry list features 21 entries for Saturday’s General Tire 200 at the 2.66-mile oval in Alabama. Of those drivers some of the entries include Hailie Deegan, Tanner Gray, Riley Herbst, Bret Holmes, Michael Self and Gus Dean.
According to the crew chief handout posted on ARCARacing.com, there will be some differences to this weekend’s event. Most notably, there will be no qualifying. ARCA will set the lineup by 2019 owner points for the first 20 spots. ARCA will then conduct a random draw for positions 21-30 and 31st – 36th will be determined by the provisional process.
The 76-lap, 200-mile event will have two segments with a halfway break at or near lap 38. Lead lap vehicles that pit will be lined up in the order they were running at the beginning of the break behind the cars that elected to stay out.
A total of four crew members may service the vehicle while no tires or fuel may be added outside of the break.
Deegan, piloting the No. 4 DGR Crosley Ford at Talladega, spoke to the media on Wednesday discussing what she needed to work on the most going into the General Tire 200 – her second start on a superspeedway track.
“I still feel like I need to work on backing up to the guy behind me. Me and my spotter were just talking about that … watching the past races from Daytona and Talladega,” said Deegan. “The thing I need to work on the most is just being able to get out of the gas to back up to the guys behind me and get that draft off. And little bit of restarting, too”
In the season opener at Daytona in February, Deegan qualified seventh and finished runner-up in her superspeedway debut. She enters the weekend at Talladega with two top fives and six top 10 finishes while still chasing her first career ARCA victory.
Bret Holmes is another contender chasing his first career victory in the ARCA Menards Series. Holmes, from Munford, Alabama, has eight combined starts (four each) at Talladega and Daytona.
"There is a lot of pressure that comes from racing here," said Holmes on Wednesday’s meeting with the media. "Not only that, but just from being here and racing across the road at the dirt track. The success of the Alabama Gang at Talladega. I want to be a part of that. I want to win here more than any place we race at."
Since the COVID-19 hiatus started, Holmes had spent time finishing school and working for a construction company. SpeedwayDigest.com asked him how working in the construction industry keeps him focused and disciplined when at the track working with the team.
“I’ve really learned a lot through all those all those things. Communication is very important,” said Holmes. “Mainly, as far as the track goes, communication with your crew chief and spotter … telling them what you need … what they want you to do and how you get that point across and knowing what the goal you’re trying to get to is. It’s definitely helped. And not just a communication aspect but a maturity aspect also. I’m glad I’ve kinda had facets of everything and I think it’s helped me as a person.”
Gus Dean, winner at Talladega Superspeedway in 2016, will pilot the No. 32 MASHONIT Apparel Chevrolet with owner Kevin Cywinski. In three career starts at the superspeedway track, Dean holds one top five and three top 10 finishes and led four laps there in 2019.
"When you get to the closing laps and you know you’re in a position to win you start counting down the laps, and you’re counting every corner," said Dean on Wednesday. "Honestly you’re just trying to forget that it’s the end of the race. You want to drive a little harder at the end of the race but you don’t want to get yourself psyched out and let your nerves ruin your chances. It definitely got a little crazy at the end.”
Dean has 14 top five and 30 top 10s along with two victories in 52 starts.
The ARCA Menards Series race will air live on FOX Sports 1 at 2:00 p.m. ET. The Motor Racing Network will offer a live radio broadcast of the General Tire 200 on their website along with SiriusXM on Ch. 385 and online Ch. 985.
On Tuesday Spire Motorsports announced that Australian driver James Davison, a five-time Indianapolis 500 starter, would make his NASCAR Cup Series debut this weekend at Talladega Superspeedway. On Thursday, however, Spire Motorsports sent out a release that BJ McLeod will instead pilot the No. 77 entry at the 2.66-mile oval.
According to Davison in the release, issued by Spire Motorsports on Thursday, NASCAR reconsidered their approval given that Talladega is a Superspeedway and that there would be no practice ahead of Sunday’s 500-mile event. NASCAR had originally scheduled a practice session prior to the event but rescinded.
“I have been contacted by NASCAR and informed that although I was previously approved to race, they had to reconsider their position on Superspeedways, given there won’t be practice or qualifying prior to Sunday’s race at Talladega,” explained Davison.
Davison will make his NASCAR Cup Series debut for the team one week later at Pocono Raceway.
“I was pumped about the opportunity to take the green flag, but I fully understand and appreciate NASCAR’s position,” Davison later said in the release. “I’m approved to race next weekend at Pocono and equally thrilled to make my series debut there.”
Davison has some previous experience in NASCAR at road courses. He made his NASCAR XFINITY Series debut in 2016 piloting the No. 90 entry owned by Mario Gosselin at Road America. He made three more XFINITY Series starts over the course of 2017 and 2018 with Joe Gibbs Racing also at Road America and Mid-Ohio.
Kyle Busch ended the night victorious at Homestead-Miami Speedway on Saturday piloting the No. 51 Toyota Tundra for his own team. The series veteran led the field for 82 of the 134 completed circuits after starting the event at the rear of the field and serving a pass-through penalty at the start of the race. It marked Busch’s 58th career win in the series.
“You’re always concerned about tires being better and having the opportunity to out-show you,” said Busch. “Felt like six laps was just the right amount and anymore than that, it probably would have been a different outcome. Can’t say enough about this Cessna Beechcraft Toyota Tundra, it was awesome tonight.”
Tyler Ankrum started 11th and ended the night 2.847 seconds behind race winner Kyle Busch. The driver of the No. 26 Liuna! Chevrolet finished 12th in stage one and sat 20th at the conclusion of stage two. Ankrum leaves Homestead sitting 10th in points while earning his first top 10 of the 2020 season.
Kyle Busch had an L1 penalty discovered during pre-race inspection involving the rear sub-frame assembly and will lose 10 Gander RV & Outdoors Truck Series owner points because of the infraction. The penalty forced the No. 51 Toyota to the rear of the field for the start and a pass-through penalty following the initial green flag.
18.104.22.168 Rear Sub-Frame Assembly I-4 Track Bar Supports a. A maximum of one track bar mount frame support and a maximum of one track bar mount lateral support must be used.
“I guess some rules were changed over the off-season and the truck we ran tonight I think ran here at Homestead last year and they just put it off to the side knowing that I would be in it in March,” explained Busch regarding the penalty. “It’s now June, but still it never made it’s way to the fab shop for some updates or for some bars that needed to be cut out due to NASCAR changing the rules. We missed it and came down here with that bar in there and I guess they wanted to prove a point. We had a big penalty, probably bigger than it would have been if there had been another driver in the truck. We’ll take it and move on.”
The Las Vegas native, winner of stage two, finished stage one sitting 33rd.
Florida native Ross Chastain, winner of stage one, rounded out the top three finishers on Saturday. Chastain started 15th on the leaderboard and went on to finish runner-up in stage two. The driver of the No. 44 Chevrolet leaves the 1.5-mile oval with his first top five of the year.
Chase Elliott and Johnny Sauter rounded out the top five.
Todd Gilliland, Austin Hill, Christian Eckes, Matt Crafton and Ty Majeski rounded out the top 10.
Chase Elliott overcame an issue early on as he and three other trucks tangled in turn four on lap 21. The four-truck incident also included drivers Brett Moffitt, Zane Smith and Brennan Poole. Moffitt and Smith did not continue while Poole went on to finish 19th. The fourth-place finish will mark Elliott’s second top 10 of the year in the series.
The race had a 15-minute red flag period after Sheldon Creed made contact with the sand barrels at the entrance of pit road. The incident did not end the night for the team as Creed captured a 20th-place finish.
Brennan Poole was involved in a single-truck incident on lap 71. The No. 7 of Korbin Forrister and the No. 3 of Jordan Anderson were also involved in single-truck incidents throughout the remainder of the race.
The next race for the Gander RV & Outdoors Truck Series will take place at Pocono Raceway on June 27th. The event will air live on FS1 at 12:30 p.m. ET.
Chase Elliott left Charlotte Motor Speedway victorious and $100,000 richer after beating Kyle Busch by 0.627 seconds. Elliott, piloting the No. 24 GMS Racing Chevrolet and making his first appearance in the series since 2017 at Martinsville Speedway, led the field for 47 circuits. The Dawsonville, GA. native started the night 26th on the leaderboard.
“He was a little better than I was there at the end,” Elliott said after the race. “I got tight. I don’t think we adjusted enough on that last pit stop (on Lap 89). I was a little scared. I really didn’t know exactly what I needed or what these things did as time went on.
Busch, leading 25 circuits of the North Carolina Education Lottery 200, left Charlotte Motor Speedway in the runner-up spot. The Las Vegas native started 16th and finished stage one in 14th and stage two in fifth. Busch acknowledged an issue post-race with the right-front stopper from the get-go.
“It doesn’t help showing up to the race track with broke parts on your truck,” said Busch. “That was a problem from the get-go. Didn’t have our right-front stopper right so we were all over the splitter. We came in and didn’t know it was broke so had to fix it with a make shift piece and it was way too high. Then we tried to fix it and just never was right. We were out in left field the whole night. Never really had a great feel for the truck or a great driving truck. Just salvaged what I could.”
Elliott, claiming the $100,000 bounty by beating Busch, took home his third career truck series victory in his 13th career start. He has nine top five and 11 top 10 finishes in the series.
“It was a lot of fun,” Elliott said. “First off, a thanks to (sponsors) iRacing and Hooters, Chevrolet and GMS (Racing) for letting me come do this. (The truck) was really good from the get-go, for having no laps (of practice). The splitter was where it needed to be.”
Busch earned his 100th career top five finish at Charlotte and leaves the 1.5-mile oval with his 121st top 10. He has 57 career victories in the series.
Zane Smith rounded out the top three finishers on Tuesday at Charlotte. The California driver scored his third career top five finish -- bettering his fifth-place finish at Gateway Motorsports Park in 2018.
Brett Moffitt and Sheldon Creed rounded out the top five.
John Hunter Nemechek, Johnny Sauter, Ty Majeski, Austin Hill and Ben Rhodes rounded out the top 10.
Ross Chastain, winner of stage one and the ninth-place finisher of stage two, took home the 11th position.
John Hunter Nemechek faced adversity late into the race as he and Todd Gilliland brought out the final caution on lap 103 in turn four. Nemechek, piloting the No. 8 Ford, tangled with Todd Gilliland with 31 circuits to go. The North Carolina native continued to finish sixth while Gilliland finished 37th because of the incident.
A competition caution and stage breaks resulted in the first three stoppages of the night. Four trucks tangled on the frontstretch on lap 81 involving Stewart Friesen, Brennan Poole, Jesse Iwuji and Tyler Ankrum. Poole tangled with Natalie Decker two laps after going green following the four-truck incident in turn three on lap 88. The sixth yellow of the night involved debris on the frontstretch.
The series will head to Atlanta Motor Speedway for a 200-mile event on June 6th. The event will take place at 1:00 p.m. ET. on FOX Sports 1 and MRN Radio.
Denny Hamlin rolls into the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway on Sunday riding a wave of momentum. The Virginia driver sits fourth in points following a pair of top five finishes at Darlington Raceway – including his second victory of the season on Wednesday.
The pair of races at Darlington Raceway marked NASCAR’s return from the COVID-19 hiatus that started following the race at Phoenix Raceway in March. The opportunity is unique as NASCAR typically only visits a track for one or two points races a season. Hamlin’s crew chief, Chris Gabehart, spoke to SpeedwayDigest.com on the uniqueness of visiting a track three times and how it will help when visiting Darlington a third time later in 2020.
“Being that we get to come back just a few short days later in conditions that will be more like the Southern 500 later this year, myself and the engineers took the opportunity and really swung the bat hard,” said Gabehart. “We didn't come back with a setup anything like what we raced Sunday even though we were good Sunday. It was all about trying to learn for the fall, just believing in your guys, your tools. I'm just so proud of my engineers and our process at Joe Gibbs Racing, how we worked through it. I had all the confidence in the world to really swing the bat. It worked out.”
Hamlin, winning the season opening Daytona 500 in February, has only two finishes outside the top 10 through six cup series races. The No. 11 Toyota driver joined the media and spoke the importance of having good momentum with events so close together.
“It’s good. When you’re winning, it means you’re doing some things right. I think being able to go right back to a race track three or four days later, it allows you to keep that momentum for an extended amount of time when it comes to races,” said Hamlin. “I like it. I’m voicing out loud here that this is something I’d like to see for years to come – to have multi races in a week. This is something that can really help our sport, I believe personally. Like I said, there’s so many loops you are going to have to jump through to get it done. This is a good thing for our sport right now. To make up some of these races, it might not be at the same race track – we’re putting on a show for the people at home that millions of people that have been waiting on us to get on track.”
HAMLIN’S FINISHES BY TRACK:
As for visiting Darlington back-to-back, as the series will do the same at Charlotte Motor Speedway, Hamlin discussed how he and Gabehart worked on improving the set-up for the second race. He also provided an outlook on how the previous races at Darlington will help when the series returns in the Fall for the Southern 500.
“We wholesaled our car. I won’t giveaway any secrets, but my conversation with my crew chief on Monday was, ‘Okay we have a third-place car, we can try to tweak on it and maybe things fall our way and we can win the race on Wednesday,” Hamlin said. “Or, the Southern 500 will be back here later in the year, do we want to come up with a completely different setup, new ideas and see if it’s better? And, it was better. I’m glad we took the chance. He said I was very nervous, not me, but the crew chief said he was nervous two nights ago thinking we could run really bad with this. It’s out of the box for us, but it was certainly better and when we go back for the Southern 500 in a couple months, that’s the direction we’ll be heading towards.”
The series will return to action at Charlotte Motor Speedway for the Coca-Cola 600 on May 24. The event, airing live on FOX and PRN radio, will take place at 6:00 p.m. ET. Qualifying for NASCAR’s biggest event will take place at 2:00 p.m. ET. on Sunday.
In NASCAR’s return on Sunday at Darlington Raceway, the first race since the COVID-19 pandemic hiatus started in March, Kevin Harvick visited victory lane in his No. 4 Busch Light Stewart-Haas Racing Ford. Harvick, a native of California, led two times for a total of 159 laps.
“I want to thank everybody from NASCAR and all the teams for letting us do what we do, said Harvick after the race. “I didn’t think it was gonna be that much different and then we won the race and it’s dead silent out here. We miss the fans. It’s a pretty big honor to win 50 races in this deal and I just have to thank all my team guys and everybody for what they’re doing. This Dr. Josh Hughes is one of my really good friends. I spend a lot of time with him and have seen how this whole pandemic has affected our front line workers in person on a weekly basis, so thank you, Josh. We’re thinking of you.
Alex Bowman nearly picked-off his second victory of the season on Sunday at Darlington. Bowman, driving the No. 88 Chevrolet for Hendrick Motorsports, sat 2.154 seconds behind race winner Kevin Harvick and led the field for 41 laps.
Bowman, a native of Arizona, will leave Darlington with his second top five and top 10 finish of 2020.
The day was a special one for Harvick as he earned his 50th career NASCAR Cup Series victory. The driver, finishing fourth in both stages, earned his third top five and fifth top 10 finish in 2020.
“It doesn’t seem real and I think as you look at Darlington I think as you look at the things that happened this weekend I really thought that it would definitely play into our hand just because our guys are so good at hitting the car off the truck for the most part,” continued Harvick. “We put a lot of time, a lot of effort, a lot of studying, a lot of meetings and just have to thank everybody at the shop who has built all these cars and just, man, I’m excited. It is weird just because there’s nobody up there, and you can go to Busch Beer.com and maybe have your face on the car next week, up here on the hood. I’m speechless.”
Kurt Busch rounded out the top three finishers on Sunday. Busch started 22nd on the starting grid.
Chase Elliott and Denny Hamlin rounded out the top five.
Martin Truex Jr., Tyler Reddick, Erik Jones, John Hunter Nemechek and Matt Kenseth rounded out the top 10.
Tyler Reddick, finishing sixth, and John Hunter Nemechek, finishing ninth, took home their first career top 10 finishes in the cup series. Reddick started 29th on the leaderboard while Nemechek started the afternoon in 34th. Both drivers have 15 starts combined in the series since last year.
Matt Kenseth made his debut with Chip Ganassi Racing following the removal of Kyle Larson. Kenseth, piloting the No. 42 Chevrolet, finished 10th after starting in the 12th spot.
A total of 10 cautions slowed the field in the event with the first coming out on lap one involving Ricky Stenhouse Jr. in turn two. The crash ultimately ended the day for the No. 47 team.
The second yellow flag involved a scheduled competition caution on lap 30 with the third one coming out on lap 91. That caution involved Chris Buescher and race leader Jimmie Johnson. Buescher rallied to finish 32nd while Johnson finished 38th as a result.
The next several cautions included a debris, a stage break, and three single car incidents. On lap 213, the No. 17 Ford of Chris Buescher and the No. 95 of Christopher Bell tangled on the frontstretch. Bell, one of six rookies in the field, went on to a 24th place finish.
The final yellow flag of the afternoon involved Ryan Newman in turn one on lap 254. Newman, in his first race back since his crash in the season opener at Daytona International Speedway, finished 15th on the board.
The next race for the series will also be at Darlington Raceway. The event will take place Wednesday, May 20 at 7:30 p.m. ET. on FS1.
NASCAR will become one of the first professional sports across North America to resume action following a two-month hiatus because of the on-going COVID-19 pandemic. The first event, closed off to fans and other non-essential personal, will take place at 3:30 p.m. ET. live on FOX from the Darlington Raceway.
Two days later, on Tuesday, May 19th, the NASCAR XFINITY Series will resume with a 200-mile event also at Darlington Raceway. That event will take place at 8:00 p.m. ET live on FOX Sports 1. The day following, on May 20th from Darlington at 7:30 p.m. ET. on FOX Sports 1, the cup series will hit the track for a second time at the famed oval.
The sanctioning body will then head to Charlotte Motor Speedway for several events as well beginning with the historic Coca-Cola 600 cup series race on Sunday, May 24th at 6:00 p.m. ET. on FOX. The NASCAR XFINITY Series will race the following day at 7:30 p.m. ET. on FOX Sports 1.
On May 26th, the NASCAR Gander RV & Outdoors Truck Series will resume action at Charlotte Motor Speedway. The Tuesday night feature will take place at 8:00 p.m. ET. and air live on FOX Sports 1. The truck series last hit the track on February 21st at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.
The cup series will cap off these scheduled events thus far at Charlotte Motor Speedway on Wednesday, May 27th at 8:00 p.m. ET. on FOX Sports 1.
Except for the Coca-Cola 600, where qualifying will take place, there will be no practices or qualifying held. In addition, no fans will be allowed to attend the noted above races.
NASCAR will expand the field size in XFINITY from 36 to 40 and from 32 to 40 in the Gander RV & Outdoors Truck Series for events in which qualifying will not take place. Race winners will still receive 40 points for a win while the 36th-place finisher in the NXS will get one point. 37th to 40th will also take home one point. 32nd to 40th place finishers in trucks will get five points. The NASCAR Cup Series field will remain at 40 entries.
With essential personal only allowed, NASCAR will require several restrictions to drivers and team members for these events. The restrictions include masks and social distancing as well as required temperature checks when entering the premises.
NASCAR issued a rule bulletin last week outlining possible penalties if an individual fails to comply with NASCAR’s COVID-19 protocols. In the cup series the fine can range from $10,000 to $50,000. Over in the NASCAR XFINITY Series it can range from $5,000 to $25,000 and $2,500 to $12,500 in the Gander RV & Outdoors Truck Series.
The NASCAR Cup Series and XFINITY Series were last on-track at Phoenix Raceway in March. Joey Logano scored his second win in 2020 after leading the field for 60 laps. Brandon Jones took the checkered flag the last time out in the NASCAR XFINITY Series at the one-mile Arizona oval. The win marked his second career trip to victory lane.
Kyle Busch visited victory lane the last time out for the truck series at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. The Vegas native led the field for 108 laps in the second event of 2020. Grant Enfinger won the season opener a week earlier at Daytona International Speedway.
Top five in cup series standings going into Darlington this week: Kevin Harvick, Joey Logano, Chase Elliott, Alex Bowman and Jimmie Johnson.
Top five in XFINITY Series standings through four races include: Harrison Burton, Chase Briscoe, Austin Cindric, Brandon Jones and Ross Chastain.
Top five in Gander RV & Outdoors Truck Series standings with two races complete: Austin Hill, Johnny Sauter, Ben Rhodes, Brett Moffitt and Sheldon Creed.
NASCAR has yet announced its plans for racing beyond the month of May.
NASCAR on Tuesday sent out a competition update regarding how lineups and pit stalls will be determined for these events. You can read all the details from that announcement below:
Pit Selection and Starting Lineup:
May 17 (NASCAR Cup Series)
- Order based on charter team owner points followed by open team owner points. Pit stalls will be picked in advance and the pit boxes will be in the stalls when the teams arrive.
- Positions 1-12: Random draw from charter teams in those positions in owner points
- Positions 13-24: Random draw from charter teams in those positions in owner points
- Positions 25-36: Random draw from charter teams in those positions in owner points
- Positions 37-40: Open teams in order of owners points in owner points
May 19 (NASCAR Xfinity Series)
- Order based on Phoenix qualifying.
- Positions 1 -12: The first 12 NXS Teams based on the Adverse Conditions Line Up Eligibility will be assigned starting positions 1st – 12th using a random draw.
- Positions 12 – 24: The next 12 NXS Teams based on the Adverse Conditions Line Up eligibility will be assigned starting positions 12th- 24th using a random draw.
- Starting positions 25 – 36: The next 12 NXS Teams based on the Adverse Conditions Line Up eligibility will be assigned starting positions 25th -36th using a random draw.
- Any vehicles that are eligible for the Event in position 37th – 40th will be assigned starting positions based on their order of eligibility.
May 20 (NASCAR Cup Series)
- Order based on finishing position from the May 17th race at Darlington, followed by new entries in order of points. Pit stalls will be picked in advance and the pit boxes will be in the stalls when the teams arrive.
- Positions 1-20: Invert the top 20 from the May 17th race at Darlington
- Positions 21-40: In finishing order from the May 17th race at Darlington, followed by new entries
May 24 (NASCAR Cup Series)
- Order based on finishing position from the May 20th race at Darlington, followed by new entries in order of points. Pit stalls will be picked in advance and the pit boxes will be in the stalls when the teams arrive.
- Based on qualifying
May 25 (NASCAR Xfinity Series)
- Order based on finishing position from the May 19th race at Darlington, followed by new entries in order of points.
- Same procedure as Darlington
May 26 (NASCAR Gander RV & Outdoors Truck Series)
- Order based on Las Vegas qualifying.
- Positions 1 -10: The first 10 NGROTS Teams based on the Adverse Conditions Line Up Eligibility will be assigned starting positions 1st – 10th using a random draw.
- Positions 11 – 21: The next 11 NGROTS Teams based on the Adverse Conditions Line Up eligibility will be assigned starting positions 11- 21 using a random draw.
- positions 22 – 32: The next 11 NGROTS Teams based on the Adverse Conditions Line Up eligibility will be assigned starting positions 22nd – 32nd using a random draw.
- Any vehicles that are eligible for the Event in position 33rd – 40th will be assigned starting positions based on their order of eligibility.
May 27 (NASCAR Cup Series)
- Order based on qualifying for the May 24th race at Charlotte, followed by new entries in order of points. If qualifying is rained out, pit selection will be determined by finishing order on May 24. Pit stalls will be picked in advance and the pit boxes will be in the stalls when the teams arrive.
- Positions 1-20: Invert the top 20 from the May 24th race at Charlotte
- Positions 21-40: In finishing order from the May 24th race at Charlotte, followed by new entries
Modified Competition Caution Procedures:
With the absence of practice, NASCAR will be modifying its Competition Caution procedures to allow teams additional time for adjustments.
The competition cautions will occur at or around the following laps:
- NASCAR Cup Series
- Darlington – May 17: Lap 30
- Darlington – May 20: TBD
- Charlotte – May 24: TBD
- Charlotte – May 27: TBD
- NASCAR Xfinity Series
- Darlington – May 19: Lap 15
- Charlotte – May 25: TBD
- NASCAR Gander RV & Outdoors Truck Series at Charlotte – May 26: TBD
Below are the procedures for the modified competition caution:
- Field will be frozen at the time of the competition caution
- Field will be assembled behind the pace car
- The running order lead lap / lap down will be established and the free pass sent
- Wave around rule is not in effect
- Pit road will open to the top 20 – car must beat the pace car off pit road to retain freeze position
- Pit road will open to the next 20 – car must beat the pace car off pit road to retain freeze position
- Above pit cycle repeats – each team allowed to pit two times
- Re-establish line-up per freeze and restart race
Infractions under modified competition caution:
- Not beating the pace car off pit road results in loss of lap and restarting at tail of the field
- Pitting more than twice or out of sequence results in restarting at the tail of the field
- All current pit road rules are in effect
May 11, 2020
Updated on Xfinity Series and Gander Trucks Field Size for Darlington and Charlotte:
For Xfinity Series and Gander Trucks races for which there is no qualifying scheduled to give teams the opportunity to earn their position in the starting lineup, the field size will be expanded to a maximum of 40 participants in each series to allow additional opportunities for teams to race.
NASCAR Xfinity Series
- Maximum of 40 (up four positions from 36)
- Currently 36th finishing position receives one point
- Under expanded field size, 36th to the balance of the field will be awarded one point
- Note: Post entries will not be eligible for the event.
NASCAR Gander RV & Outdoors Truck Series
- Maximum of 40 (up eight positions from 32)
- Currently 32nd finishing position receives five points
- Under expanded field size, 32nd to the balance of the field will be awarded five points
- Note: Post entries will not be eligible for the event.
Below is a statement from NASCAR, attributed to Scott Miller – NASCAR Senior Vice President, Competition:
"This move is critical for the long-term health of the NASCAR Xfinity Series and NASCAR Gander RV & Outdoors Truck Series. There are many new full-time and part-time team owners who have made significant commitments to our sport and secured sponsorship to participate this season. NASCAR wants to enable these teams to fulfill their commitments and grow their businesses without being affected by circumstances out of their control."
May 8, 2020
Darlington & Charlotte Stage Lengths:
May 17 (NASCAR Cup Series): 90 / 185 / 293 laps
May 19 (NASCAR Xfinity Series): 45 / 90 / 147 laps
May 20 (NASCAR Cup Series): 60 / 125 / 228 laps
May 24 (NASCAR Cup Series): 100 / 200 / 300 / 400 laps
May 25 (NASCAR Xfinity Series): 45 / 90 / 200 laps
May 26 (NASCAR Gander RV & Outdoors Truck Series): 30 / 60 / 134 laps
May 27 (NASCAR Cup Series): 55 / 115 / 208 laps