I am a 25-year-old motorsport and automotive journalist. I grew up being an all round motorsports fan watching the BTCC, WRC, NASCAR, and F1. Since then, I have become a NASCAR fanatic, and a huge IndyCar fan whilst taking interest in other motorsport series such as IMSA, Supercars, Turismo Carretera and Stock Car Pro Series. I am now the NA Editor & NASCAR Writer for ThePitCrewOnline.
The NASCAR Cup Series will make history today by racing around the 12-turn 2.2-mile street course around and in Grant Park in downtown Chicago in what will be NASCAR’s first ever street course race, the Grant Park 220, with the Chicago city skyline and Lake Michigan as the backdrop.
Drivers to watch
The Grant Park 220 will consist of 100 laps (220 miles), and will have three stages of 20, 25, and 55 laps but like road course races this season, there will be no stage ending cautions, giving crew chiefs more options with strategy.
The green flag has been moved up from 5:30pm ET to 5pm due to downtown Chicago receiving a month’s worth of rainfall in the last 24 hours with the intention of avoiding further weather however it will be a very wet start to the race at least.
Drivers on Saturday prior to qualifying did get some practice in light rain conditions but will possibly have to relearn the track in the anticipated tricky conditions.
Check NASCAR and the @PitCrew_Online on Twitter for updates.
Denny Hamlin knocked three-time Supercars champion Shane van Gisbergen off provisional pole, to secure his third pole of the season with a 1.28.435.
Hamlin said: “The course is actually very very good and raceable. I think there will be a ton of passing zones [in Sunday’s race].”
Shane van Gisbergen, who is making his NASCAR Cup Series debut with the Trackhouse Racing Project 91 team, ended up third fastest in the top-10 shootout with a 1.28.588.
23XI Racing’s Tyler Reddick, who Hamlin is the team co-owner of, qualified second with a 1.28.479.
Jenson Button, in his second Cup Series start with Rick Ware Racing, also made the top-10 shootout, qualifying eighth with a 1.29.571.
Mexico’s Daniel Suarez topped the Round 1 Group A qualifying session with a 1.28.755, with Larson, Button, Reddick, and Allmendinger joining him for the top-10 shootout.
Group B’s qualifying session was not so smooth with Chase Elliott and Kevin Harvick crashing and bringing out two red flags in the session.
Elliott, while following Shane van Gisbergen, clipped the right hand wall going into turn eight and the hit the wall opposite head on. Harvick made the same mistake in turn one, hitting the wall hard.
Polesitter Hamlin topped Group B with a 1.28.369, while van Gisbergen was second with a 1.28.509. Bell, McDowell, and Logano also joined them for the top-10 shootout.
Drivers to watch
In terms of one-lap pace, Hamlin, Reddick, and van Gisbergen were nearly a whole second quicker than the rest of the top-10 shootout contenders.
Van Gisbergen is a three-time and reigning Supercars champion in Australia and topped the practice charts on Saturday in what has been a mighty impressive performance so far from the New Zealander.
With the Gen 3 Supercars sharing many similarities with NASCAR’s Gen 7 car, Gisbergen who drives for the Red Bull Ampol Racing Chevrolet Camaro team in the series, is accustomed to racing heavy V8-powered muscle cars around street courses, with the Supercars series competing on several street courses each season such as in Newcastle, and Townsville, Australia.
Shane van Gisbergen could very well take the chequered flag today, if he can carry over his experience, patience, and sensational car control and placement that he has shown in the Supercars series.
The NASCAR Cup Series regulars could come out on top by the end in Hamlin or Reddick, with Hamlin having one road course win at Watkins Glen, and Reddick winning three of the last six road course races, at Indianapolis Road Course, COTA, and Road America.
Martin Truex Jr. has been on fire lately, including winning the Sonoma road course race three weeks ago for a second consecutive year and has five road course wins to his name.
Chase Elliott, while not having been at his best this weekend, should not be dismissed, as he holds the highest number of road course wins amongst active drivers with seven, coming at five different road courses.
2009 F1 World Champion Jenson Button finished 18th at NASCAR’s Cup Series race at COTA earlier this year. With improved pace on the field this weekend, and extensive experience driving in the wet, we could see Button dueling it out for a top-five finish or better today.
Shane van Gisbergen
Martin Truex Jr.
Ricky Stenhouse Jr.
Featured Image: A general view of the setup for the Chicago Street Race frontstretch (Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images)
Kyle Busch led half the laps in Sunday’s Enjoy Illinois 300, and conquered five late race restarts, including an overtime restart, to take the chequered to claim his third career win of the season, and win at World Wide Technology Raceway at Gateway, Illinois, in the Cup Series for the first time in his second try.
Kyle Busch checks off Gateway
Brake rotor failures
Rest of race recap
Full race results
The polesitter won stage one, and led five different times for 121 laps of the 240 to get his 63rd Cup Series career win.
Kyle Larson challenged Busch for the lead in each of the final five restarts, who had got to first with under 65 laps to go after only taking two tyres on pit road.
Larson was unable to challenge Busch on the final restart, allowing Denny Hamlin to take second with last year’s winner Joey Logano finishing third and Larson fourth.
Kyle Busch said: “Man, to sit on the pole, lead a lot of laps and have my guys do such a great job today was pretty phenomenal for us. Great for RCR. Just win, baby! Thanks to Team Chevy, appreciate 3Chi (sponsor).”
Kyle Busch had won at every track on the Cup Series schedule prior to the 2018 season, but with the addition of several new tracks in recent years, Busch has more work to do to reach that feat again. He has gotten one step closer by winning at World Wide Technology after only been added to the Cup Series schedule last year.
Kyle Larson had been outside the top 30 during stage one and described his car as “bad loose” finishing 28th in stage one. Several adjustments made to the car by the No. 5 Hendrick Motorsports crew, along with the two-tyre call with less than 60 laps to go miraculously saw him go to the front briefly.
Ryan Blaney left off where he finished last week where he ended his 59 winless drought to win the Coca-Cola 600, led 83 laps, including dominating and winning stage two, but was unable to get by Busch and Larson in the closing 50 laps of the race and would finish sixth.
William Byron had taken over the lead of the race halfway through the final stage but a slow pit stop under caution on lap 178 dropped him down to fourth and sank further through the field under green. Byron finished eighth.
Corey Lajoie made his debut for Hendrick Motorsports filling in for Chase Elliott, who was serving a one race suspension by NASCAR for intentionally wrecking Denny Hamlin in last week’s Coca-Cola 600.
LaJoie’s No. 9 Chevrolet was not handling well in the first half of the race after qualifying 30th, being stuck outside the the top 25 but managed a solid 21st place finish despite the ill handling race car.
Brake rotor failures
Full time Truck Series competitor Carson Hocevar, who got his first Truck Series win at Texas Motor Speedway earlier this year, filled in for LaJoie in the No. 7 Spire Motorsports Chevrolet, making his Cup Series debut and put on an impressive show.
He qualified 26th but worked his way up the order in the first two stages challenging Austin Dillon for 16th but his race ended early when on lap 90 his right front brake rotor exploded, taking him out of the race.
Hocevar said: “I had a blast. Just so thankful for the opportunity. I was running 16th… just so surreal for the first time ever. I thought we were going to have a good day and be in a good spot for the No. 7 Chevy team. Hopefully, that call for a Cup ride isn’t the only one I get in my life.”
Several drivers experienced brake rotor failures in the race, most likely down to the hard braking required from high speed to make turns one and three. The brakes appeared to be worse when drivers only took two tyres and ran long.
Tyler Reddick, Noah Gragson, and Bubba Wallace all had front right brake rotor failures on lap 175, 198, and 235 respectively, bringing out the caution as brake rotor debris littered turns one and two.
Rest of race recap
The race was stopped on lap seven and delayed for two hours due to lightning in the area but no rain reached the race track.
Brad Keselowski lost engine performance at the end of stage one and went down a lap. Due to a flurry of late race cautions, Keselowski was able to finish 28th on the lead lap despite the loss in performance.
The start of stage two saw Ross Chastain tag Michael McDowell on the restart sending McDowell go for a spin. McDowell had taken two tires during the stage break, gaining 11 positions, that put him inside the top 10. McDowell recovered from this to finish ninth.
Lap 61 saw Ryan Blaney finally clear Kyle Busch for the lead after racing side by side for several laps, and would lead the rest of stage two to lap 90 to take the stage win.
Daniel Suarez and Ricky Stenhouse Jr. had strong runs going in the first two stages, running inside the top 10.
William Byron took over the lead briefly from Tyler Reddick at the start of the final stage. Reddick had gained 11 positions during the stage break on pit road by taking two tyres only. Byron lost the lead to Larson on pit road during the next caution due to Reddick’s brake rotor failure.
With 55 to go, Kyle Busch cleared Kyle Larson for the lead coming off turn two, who had held it briefly on the restart. Busch would stay out front for the remainder of the race.
Christopher Bell was spun out by Austin Cindric in a three-wide incident in turn two but recovered to a 11th place finish.
Klye Busch’s RCR teammate Austin Dillon ended Ricky Stenhouse Jr.’s strong day with 22 laps to go when he turned off of the nose of Austin Cindric and piled into Stenhouse going into turn one, taking both of them out of the race.
Ryan Blaney made the sweep happen for Team Penske for the first time with both United States crown jewel races on Memorial Day Weekend, the Indy 500 and Coca-Cola 600 being won by Team Penske. Blaney led 163 of the 400 laps of Monday’s rain-delayed Coca-Cola 600, won stage three, and took the chequered flag to end a 59-race drought, claiming his eighth Cup Series win.
William Byron one-place short
Kyle Larson spins
Elliott hooks Hamlin
Rest of race recap
Full race results
Blaney said: “I might shed a tear. You start to get to feel like you can’t win anymore when you don’t win in a while. It kind of gets hard. So just super thankful to the 12 guys for believing in me. What a weekend with Newgarden and Roger winning at Indy and us winning the 600. I mean that’s just so cool.”
Blaney had to fend off a series of late race cautions and a fast Hendrick Motorsports’ William Byron with Blaney lining up alongside Byron with 20 laps to go for what was the final restart, finishing the race over half a second in front.
Blaney replicated fellow Team Penske teammate Josef Newgarden’s celebration from Sunday’s Indy 500, where Josef Newgarden passed reigning Indy 500 champion Marcus Ericsson on the backstretch in a one-lap shootout, by leaping into the crowd in the frontstretch grandstand to take in the moment with the fans.
Blaney’s dad, Dave Blaney, only ever NASCAR national series win came at Charlotte Motor Speedway in the Xfinity Series in 2006. His dad joined Ryan in victory lane.
William Byron one-place short
Byron after being up front all race long, including leading 91 laps and winning stage one, comes up one place short. Byron had the edge in the first stage and regained the lead several times under yellow throughout the race thanks to a fast pit crew and No. 1 pit stall but Blaney’s short run speed was better overall, getting by Byron for the final time inside of 30 laps to go.
Byron said: “Really happy for Ryan. He really deserves it. He’s a good dude. Cool to see him get a win. The car was great tonight. Just not quite good enough. Pit crew was phenomenal on pit road. Just needed a little bit more.”
Larson’s bid for a second Coca-Cola 600
Kyle Larson, who attended Sunday’s Indy 500 with Tony Kanaan’s Arrow McLaren IndyCar team, after completing his IndyCar test, in preparation for his 2024 Indy 500 effort, found himself out of contention when on lap 375, he spun coming off turn two taking out himself, Ty Gibbs, who had a career day running inside the top 10 for much of the second half of the race, Christopher Bell and others, ending his chances of winning his second Coca-Cola 600 again.
Larson after being in the mid-pack in the early going had been inside the top five in the latter stages of the race prior to his spin. Larson’s crash set up the final 20 lap green flag run.
Chase Elliott hooks Denny Hamlin
Deep into the second stage of the 600 Chase Elliott hooked Denny Hamlin in the right rear sending him hard into the wall on the frontstretch at speeds over 150mph in retaliation to Hamlin squeezing Elliott into the wall for consecutive laps, ending both their races and leading Chase Elliott to being given a one race ban by NASCAR on Tuesday.
Elliott, who needs a win to make the playoffs, due to being out of action for several weeks due to a fractured tibia from snowboarding earlier in the season, claimed he had lost steering of his car after hitting the wall.
Hamlin later in the race posted telemetry on social media showing that Elliott’s steering had not been damaged in any way meaning he had complete control of where to aim his race car implying he had been intentionally taken out.
A similar incident occurred last year at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, between Bubba Wallace and Kyle Larson when, following Laron squeezing Wallace into the turn four wall, Wallace turned down into Larson’s car at high speed on the frontstretch taking both cars out of the race with Wallace physically showing his displeasure to Larson out of the car also. Wallace received a one race ban.
It is not the first time Hamlin and Elliott have have ran into each other as in 2017, Hamlin dumped Elliott in the playoff race at Martinsville.
Rest of race recap
After qualifying was rained out, William Byron based on having the highest average score determined by championship position, last week’s race finishing position, and fastest lap, led the field to green on a grey filled sky afternoon at Charlotte Motor Speedway.
Seven-time Cup Series champion and Legacy Motor Club co-owner Jimmie Johnson, who was making his second start of the season, was running 25th but lost control of his No. 84 Chevrolet coming off turn two deep into stage one sending his car to the garage.
His Legacy Motor Club teammates Erik Jones, who was running inside the top-15, and Noah Gragson, both hit a piece of debris at the end of stage one, that punctured their radiators, sending them to the garage, taking them out of contention for having a solid points day.
William Byron just held off Christopher Bell and Ryan Blaney to win stage one.
There was a temporary stop to the race after a rain shower swept through the area bringing out the red flag. A quick cleanup with the jet driers and racing resumed.
Late in stage two but prior to Elliott’s incident with Hamlin, Kyle Busch and Brad Keselowski got together coming out of turn two bringing out the caution. Busch spun out but would recover quickly finding himself in the top by stage three.
Chris Buescher took over the lead with eight laps to go in stage two and went on to win stage two.
Ryan Blaney won stage three but Byron leapfrogged Blaney on pit road to reclaim the lead for the start of the final stage. Blaney took the lead back on the restart.
With less than 80 laps to go, Tyler Reddick, who was running inside the top five, performed a phenomenal save coming off turn four after the car got away from under him.
Halfway through the final stage, Kevin Harvick, in his final full-time season, brought out a caution after spinning out off turn four before getting it straightened it out. Kyle Larson had just passed Busch for second.
Inside of 50 laps to go, Stenhouse Jr. shot Allmendinger up the track in turn 4 up into Logano sending Allmendinger for a spin and made light contact with Harrison Burton. Logano grazed the wall.
Toyota’s took the rest of the top five spots with Joe Gibbs Racing’s Martin Truex Jr, the 2019 Coca-Cola 600 winner finishing third, and 23XI Racing in Bubba Wallace and Tyler Reddick finishing fourth and fifth.
The next race for the NASCAR Cup Series is the Enjoy Illinois 300 race at World Wide Technology Raceway this Sunday with the green flag flying at 3:30pm ET.
Featured Image: Ryan Blaney, driver of the #12 BodyArmor Cherry Lime Ford, celebrates after winning the NASCAR Cup Series Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway on May 29, 2023 in Concord, North Carolina. (Photo by Logan Riely/Getty Images)
Larson gave the 23 other Cup drivers in what he described as an “old-school ass whipping” by comfortably winning his third All-Star Race in Sunday night’s 200-lap race around the revived North Wilkesboro Speedway, leading 145 laps, and taking home $1 million dollars.
Rest of race recap
Full race results
Larson’s strategy winning move came on lap 18 when crew chief Cliff Daniels had him pit for fresh tyres while the top half of the field stayed out including leaders Suarez and Hamlin, and despite receiving a speeding penalty for speeding on pit road that sent him to restart the race in the rear in 24th place, by lap 55 he was overtaking Daniel Suarez for the lead and pulled a 12-second lead by the time the 100-lap competition break came around.
Bubba Wallace attempted to match Larson’s pace in the final 100 laps but Larson maintained a four-second lead over the 23XI Racing driver to take himself with his No. 5 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet to a third All-Star Race win at a third different track, the first two coming at Charlotte Motor Speedway in 2019 and Texas Motor Speedway in 2021.
Larson said: “So much fun there. That was an old-school ass whipping, for sure. We had a great car on the long run there and was just thinking for sure there was going to be a caution. I got out to a big lead, and I could see everybody’s cars were driving like crap in front of me, but I cannot thank this 5 team enough.”
Larson was able to hook the bottom of the track including the apron in turns three and four while most of the other cars’ handling difficulties meant they lacked the capability to replicate his line with Wallace coming close, running a lane higher out of turn four.
While there was a lack of traditional short-track bumper banging, it was a real drivers race, with most only using seventy percent throttle at most around the track and having to control the amount of slipping and sliding, making it a real test of car control and tyre management.
Larson swept the weekend by also winning Saturday’s Truck Series 250-lap race, where he had to pass Bubba Wallace inside of 20 laps to go and hold him off in an overtime finish to take the chequered flag.
Larson equals Jeff Gordon, now Vice Chairman of Hendrick Motorsports, and Dale Earnhardt Sr. with three All-Star wins. It’s Hendrick Motorsports 11th All-Star win, the most all-time.
Bubba Wallace adds to a string of recent strong performances by coming up deservingly in the runner-up spot.
Wallace was also on the same strategy as Larson, having pitted on lap 18 and found himself in eighth by lap 75 before a phenomenal charge up to second passing cars on older tyres except Larson in the closing laps before the competition break at lap 100.
Wallace was unable to match Larson’s pace in the final 100 laps but was able to keep the rest of the field at bay including his 23XI Racing teammate Tyler Reddick who finished 3rd, making it a Toyota 23XI two-three finish.
Wallace said: “If this was any other race, I’d be excited, but for a million dollars to come up short and walk home with nothing. Tail tucked between our legs, but all in all, just continuing to ride the momentum train. Just have to keep it going. Now we show back up to home turf (for next Sunday’s Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway) and really got to keep the momentum going there and get ourselves deeper into the Playoffs.”
Rest of race recap
The inside groove at North Wilkesboro was king during the race. Chris Buescher who started outside pole, was unable to find a gap to fall into the inside lane of cars at the start of the race, and fell back to 11th as a result of being trapped on the outside.
A caution came out on lap 16, when Ricky Stenhouse Jr. boldly came down the race track in front of a faster Erik Jones who spun him around as a result.
Polesitter Daniel Suarez, who won heat race one on Saturday to secure the pole for Sunday’s All-Star Race, led the opening 55 laps of the race but chose not to pit on lap 18 for tyres, which saw Larson pass him easily on lap 55 on fresher tyres.
William Byron and Kyle Busch had such poor handling race cars, that both were forced to pit under green during the opening 100 laps to make adjustments, and went down a lap and two laps to the leader respectively as a result.
Despite everyone pitting for tyres and fuel during the competition break on lap 100, now that Larson had taken the lead, there was no looking back for the Californian, who led the rest of the race in dominating fashion.
This Sunday as part of Memorial Day Weekend in the United States, the NASCAR Cup Series will race at Charlotte Motor Speedway in one of it’s crown jewel events following IndyCar’s Indy 500, the Coca-Cola 600; a 400 lap (600 mile) race around the 1.5-mile Charlotte Motor Speedway.
The green flag flies at 6pm ET. Follow ThePitCrewOnline’s twitter @PitCrew_Online for live updates and reporting of the Coca-Cola 600.
Featured Image: Kyle Larson, driver of the No. 5 HendrickCars.com Chevrolet, celebrates with the one million dollar check in Victory Lane after winning the NASCAR Cup Series All-Star Race at North Wilkesboro Speedway (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)
NASCAR is returning to the legendary 0.625-mile North Wilkesboro Speedway as part of its 75th anniversary to run its All-Star Race where the winner will take home $1 million dollars.
North Wilkesboro Speedway
All-Star Open lineup
All-Star Race lineup
Drivers to watch
Notable paint schemes
Located in the heart of NASCAR country, Wilkes County, NASCAR, Marcus Smith’s Speedway Motorsports Incorporated and the local community have spent the last year restoring North Wilkesboro Speedway to its former glory while making it a venue fit for a modern day NASCAR Cup Series race after the track was abandoned by NASCAR in 1996 in pursuit of furthering national expansion efforts beyond the Southeast into it’s schedule to grow regional markets.
NASCAR has now come home though, returning to its roots in what many are calling the ‘Field of Dreams of Racing’.
New grandstands have been built, a freshly repaved pit road has been put down, and the cracks in the asphalt filled in. Surrounding this though still is much of its history, with old signage including the original scoreboard have remained in place and the original walls and buildings also kept wherever possible including the famous NASCAR Winston Cup Series wall.
The track has been described as a cheese grater by the drivers who have teared around the half mile track of dreams so far this week such as in the CARS Tour Late Model race on Wednesday, the NASCAR Truck Series 250-lap race on Saturday, and during the various practice sessions.
Sunday night’s All-Star Race will consist of 200 laps with a break at 100 laps while the 100-lap All-Star Open race being run prior to decide the final three spots to make up the 24 car field for the All-Star Race.
The green flag for the 100-lap All-Star Open will fly at 5:30pm ET while the All-Star Race will begin at 8pm ET.
In the All-Star Open there will be a competition break around lap 40. The top-two finishers will advance to the All-Star Race as well as the fan vote driver (the driver from the All-Star Open who received the most fan votes to advance to the All-Star Race).
For the All-Star Race, there are three sets of sticker tyres allocated to each team in addition to the sticker set they start on. Strategy will come into play in when to and when not to take tyres due to the high falloff with over a second a falloff being seen in the lap times in a matter of laps around the historic half mile.
To complicate matters further, only one additional set of sticker tyres can be used following the competition break.
Eligibility to be locked into the All-Star Race is if a driver is a previous champion of the sport or previous All-Star Race winner that is currently competing full-time, or has won a Cup Series points paying race in the 2022 or 2023 season.
The Grand Marshals for the All-Star Race will be seven-time Cup champion Richard Petty and three-time Cup cahmpion Darrell Waltrip who combined have won 25 Cup races at North Wilkesboro, Petty 15 to Waltrip’s 10.
The Honorary Starter will be Ray Evernham, three-time Cup Series champion crew chief.
The Honorary Pace Car Driver will be Jeff Gordon, four-time Cup Series champion driver who won the very last Cup race at North Wilkesboro Speedway in 1996.
The track itself sees 13 degrees of banking in both turns one and two, and three and four ,with the a downhill frontstrectch and an uphill backstretch.
The starting lineup for the All-Star Race was decided in Saturday night’s two 60-lap heat races with heat race one determining the inside row lineup and heat race two the outside.
Daniel Suarez won heat one in damp conditions to start on pole for the All-Star Race while Chris Buescher led every single lap of heat two that a saw a switch onto rain tyres on lap 25, to start alongside the Mexican.
All-Star Open Lineup
Friday’s Pit Crew Challenge won by the Ty Gibbs No. 54 Joe Gibbs Racing Team determined the starting lineup for the heat races as well as the All-Star Open, with Gibbs securing the pole for the All-Star Open due to not being locked into the main event.
The All-Star Open lineup is as follows.
All-Star Race Lineup
The first 21 of 24 positions with the final three to come from the All-Star Open are as follows.
*Josh Berry won the All-Star Open with Ty Gibbs being the runner up. Noah Gragson won the Fan Vote. All three advance through to the All-Star Race. Berry, Gibbs, and Gragson, will start 22nd, 23rd, and 24th respectively.
Martin Truex Jr.
Ricky Stenhouse Jr.
Drivers to watch
Kevin Harvick and Kyle Larson have both won two All-Star Races, in 2007/2018 and 2019/2021 respectively and with Kyle Larson winning the 250-lap NASCAR Truck Series race at North Wilkesboro in dominating fashion leading over half the laps, he is one of the favourites to make it a third All-Star Race win.
Kyle Larson was joined by four other Cup regulars for Saturday’s truck race, in Chastain, Bell, Wallace and Hendrick Motorsports teammate Byron.
They all saw action at the front, most notably Bell and Larson charging through the field together to the front in stage one, Larson and Byron duelling for the lead in the final stage, and Larson passing Wallace, who was on older tyres inside of 20 laps to go, and holding him off in an overtime finish, to go onto the win the race.
The more in-race track time the better prepared a driver will be for the All-Star Race due to having to rely on old data, and sim time prior to this week.
Ryan Blaney is the reigning All-Star Race winner having won the 2022 All-Star Race at Texas Motor Speedway in an overtime finish.
Chase Elliott won the 2020 All-Star Race at Bristol Motor Speedway that was accompanied by all car having fluorescent light bars attached to the rear of the cars that made it quite the spectacle around the colosseum.
Kyle Busch, Denny Hamlin, Joey Logano, and Ryan Newman all have one All-Star Race win, all having come at Charlotte Motor Speedway where the event was held in 1985 and then from 1987-2019.
Notable paint schemes
Erik Jones is piloting the No. 43 STP LEGACY MOTOR CLUB Chevrolet that is throwing it back to Richard Petty, who won 15 times at North Wilkesboro in the Cup Series, including eight time while racing STP colours.
Kevin Harvick is throwing back to his 2001 Atlanta scheme when he was promoted to the Cup Series by Richard Childress Racing following the tragic passing of seven-time Cup champion Dale Earnhardt Sr. It is Harvick’s final full-time season before retiring.
Michael McDowell is racing the No. 34 Ford that is throwing it back to Mark Martin’s 1990 Cup win at North Wilkesboro Speedway.
Follow ThePitCrewOnline’s twitter @PitCrew_Online for live updates and reporting of the All-Star Open and All-Star Race.
Featured Image: Erik Jones, driver of the #43 STP Chevrolet, exits the track during practice for the NASCAR Cup Series All-Star Race at North Wilkesboro Speedway on May 19, 2023 in North Wilkesboro, North Carolina. (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)
William Byron won Sunday’s Goodyear 400 at Darlington Raceway by avoiding two huge pile-ups and keeping his car inside the top 10 all race long, to secure his seventh career win and third win of the season while lots of drivers’ good days, including teammate Kyle Larson, were ruined by being caught up in multi-car pile-ups caused by Ross Chastain and Martin Truex Jr.
Another Blow to Larson’s Quest for Darlington Cup Win
Chastain Overdrives into Truex
Truex wrecks Logano
Bubba Wallace Comeback
Rest of Race Recap
Full Race Results
Byron snuck past the carnage caused by Truex Jr. and Joey Logano wrecking in turn one on a late race restart that created a pile-up behind them, moving Byron up into third place, where he had spent much of the race until a slow pit stop with less than 40 laps to go saw him fall back to ninth.
He found himself taking the lead via another pile-up on the very next restart with six laps to go as Chastain and Larson wrecked in turn one much like Truex Jr. and Logano had.
Byron easily fought off Harvick in the two-lap overtime shootout as Harvick’s car had suffered front-end damage from the first pile-up, to take the chequered flag in what was a moment of redemption for Byron as he had lost last year’s Spring Darlington race to Joey Logano via a bump and run in turns three and four on the final lap.
Byron said: “My grandad passed away on Thursday, and just, man, I wish my family could be here. Just things have a way of working out, honestly. It just worked out that way today. We didn’t have the best third stage. We just kept battling, and things just kind of come back around.”
As part of NASCAR’s Throwback Weekend at Darlington’s Raceway on its 75th anniversary, William Byron’s No. 24 team was running a throwback paint scheme to four-time Cup champion and Hendrick Motorsports Vice Chairman, Jeff Gordon’s shiny 1998 All-Star Race DuPont (now AXALTA) Chromalusion/NASCAR 50th anniversary car.
On this day in 1998, Jeff Gordon's "Illusion Car" paint scheme for that year's All-Star Race was unveiled. It was painted in ChromaLusion Pure Fire Prizm, DuPont's new paint that changed color from red to gold depending on the light. The expensive paint cost $17 an ounce. pic.twitter.com/h7qW3gSBYw
Byron’s redemption Darlington victory appropriately secures the No. 24 car it’s 100th win in NASCAR, with Jeff Gordon having scored 93 of them.
Another Blow to Larson’s Quest for Darlington Cup Win
Kyle Larson fell short of a Darlington Cup Series win once again, after marching through the field and appearing to have the best car, only to be taken out by Ross Chastain who while also having one of the strongest cars in the race, failed to stop himself from causing multiple pileups from asking too much out of his race car.
Larson, Saturday’s Darlington Xfinity race winner, became buried back in traffic after having a slow pit on lap 39 in stage one but went from 29th to 12th by the end of the stage.
Larson impressively cut through the field all the way up to third by the end of stage two and was a threat for the win as he jumped race leader Ross Chastain during the final green flag pit stop on lap 246, and led over 20 laps until a caution for returning Cup Series veteran Ryan Newman saw the field be restacked with Larson and Chastain lined up together for the lap 281 restart.
As Truex and Logano wrecked behind them, Larson lost the lead as Chastain had inched ahead on the inside from the last scoring loop the two had past prior to the caution.
The next restart saw the pair race tightly side-by-side into turn one before Chastain sailed up into Larson and spun off Larson’s nose causing a pile-up behind with Larson pushing Chastain sideways out of turn two, dashing both their hopes for a Darlington win with Larson and Chastain ending up 20th and 29th.
Rick Hendrick, owner of Hendrick Motorsports and Kyle Larson’s No. 5 Chevrolet post-race said regarding Chastain’s aggressive driving: “It’s hard to win a championship when you got a lot of paybacks out there. Dale Earnhardt Sr. said ‘he got all the talent. He just doesn’t know how to race. [Chastain] is making a lot of enemies out there.”
Chastain said: “I got really tight and drove up and turned myself. I wanted to squeeze him. I wanted to push him up. We’d been racing back and forth all day. But I definitely didn’t want to turn myself.”
Larson did make contact with Chastain prior to the incident as they battled over the race lead as Truex Jr. and Logano wrecked behind them on the previous restart.
It’s yet another one that got away for Larson’s Darlington Raceway quest for a Cup Series win at The Lady In Black after previously amassing three runner up finishes, in 2019 and in both 2021 races as well as finishing third in the 2016 and 2018 Darlington races.
It’s the third time this season that Chastain has had a coming together with Larson that cost them the chance at a win, previously at Dover and Talladega.
Chastain Overdrives into Truex
Chastain had ran inside the top-five for much of the race and led over 100 laps before crashing into Larson. After finishing fourth in stage one, Chastain drove like he had been shot out of a cannon following the green flag pit stop halfway through stage two that saw him fly by Byron for second on lap 147 and race leader Truex Jr. four laps later as was able to hold off a late charging Truex for the final 11 laps to win stage two but not without controversy.
In turn three on the final lap Chastain broke hard behind a lapped car and bounced off the wall and into Truex who was sent spinning down the track and would finish 10th while Chastain would win stage two.
Truex’s car remained tight for the remainder of the race, with Truex putting it down to a bent toe link in the right front as a result of the contact.
All this comes just days after Chastain’s fighting incident with Legacy Motor Club driver Noah Gragson following the Kansas Cup race where he decided to land the first punch on pit road post-race after Gragson was displaying his displeasure towards him for running him into the turn four wall during the race.
Martin Truex Jr. started on the inside of Logano on row two for the lap 281 restart but got tight underneath him in turn one and ran Logano into the wall, and spun off of Logano’s Ford Mustang causing an eight-car pile-up and all but ended what had a been a strong day for the polesitter having led 145 laps.
Truex said: “Like I said, knocked the toe out in the right front. Pretty crappy from there, and then on that restart, I guess I just got real tight and I don’t even know who I squeezed into the wall, but I apologize to them. Probably my fault, just got real tight and couldn’t stay down the track.”
Logano and Truex Jr. would finish 18th and 31st respectively. Logano was running a distinctive 1973 Mark Donohue throwback scheme for the race that had got Team Penske their first NASCAR Cup Series win at Riverside.
Bubba Wallace came back to a fifth place finish after plummeting to 18th from third during the stage one break following a slow pit stop due to a lug nut issue.
Wallace had qualified second and dominated stage one with Truex until Byron passed Wallace for second with 10 laps to go in stage one.
Wallace found himself stuck during stage two unable to move forward much as only managed 15th at the end of stage two.
Avoiding being caught up in the late race drama saw Wallace earn valuable points with the fifth place finish.
Rest of Race Recap
The drivers to give command for Sunday’s race were none other than the drivers from NASCAR’s 75 Greatest Drivers list, all of which had been selected and revealed throughout the year up until the throwback weekend with drivers who could attend it in person such as Richard Petty, Jeff Gordon, Dale Jr., and Kevin Harvick giving the command to start engines.
Truex Jr. following the last lap spin in stage one, led the first half of stage two keeping ahead of Byron, despite Byron pitting lap earlier for fresh tyres, bringing the gap down from over four seconds to 1.4.
Lap 194 saw Erik Jones crash into the pack off turn two on a restart due a loose wheel coming away from under him, causing a nine-car crash that took Austin Dillon, and Daniel Suarez out of the race.
Jones, who was running a 1968 Richard Petty Daytona 500 throwback scheme, had worked his way up inside the top 15 from a 28th starting position.
A few laps into the final stage saw Ricky Stenhouse Jr. who had ran as high as sixth throughout stage one, spin out in turn three bringing out another caution.
With 78 laps to go on the next restart, Chastain and Kyle Busch, who had been inside the top ten all race, led the field back to green but Busch slid up into the turn two wall dropping down to fourth.
There was a three car battle in Chastain, Byron and Larson inside of 50 laps to go that saw Larson come out on top following the final green flag pit stop.
Three time Darlington Southern 500 winner Denny Hamlin stayed out for several laps during the final green flag pit cycle in a hope for a caution that would drag the field down pit road with him but did not come in time before Larson took the lead back from Hamlin on fresher tyres.
Christopher Bell was running second to Larson inside of 20 to go but a loose wheel from the pit stop forced him back down pit road under caution following Newman’s spin, which saw him start from the rear.
Due in part to the two late race pile-ups, the final top 10 was somewhat new compared to the rest of the race with Chase Elliott finishing third after a steady march through the field, Harrison Burton sixth, Justin Haley eighth, and Chris Buescher tenth.
The next race for the NASCAR Cup Series sees them return to the legendary and freshly renovated North Wilkesboro Speedway in Wilkes County, North Carolina this Sunday for this season’s All-Star Race with the All-Star Open last chance qualifying starting 5:30pm ET and the All-Star Race starting at 8pm ET.
Full Race Results
Ricky Stenhouse Jr.
Martin Truex Jr.
Stage 1 Top 10
Martin Truex Jr.
Ricky Stenhouse Jr.
Stage 2 Top 10
Ricky Stenhouse Jr.
Martin Truex Jr.
Ross Chastain – 429
Christopher Bell – 402
Kevin Harvick – 400
Denny Hamlin – 393
William Byron – 387
Martin Truex Jr. – 385
Ryan Blaney – 381
Tyler Reddick – 371
Brad Keselowski – 365
Kyle Larson – 363
Kyle Busch – 353
Joey Logano – 334
Chris Buescher – 329
Ricky Stenhouse Jr. – 325
Bubba Wallace – 293
Chase Briscoe – 275
Daniel Suarez – 262
Ty Gibbs – 260
Austin Cindric – 248
Michael McDowell – 241
Todd Gilliland – 240
Corey LaJoie – 238
Justin Haley – 225
Erik Jones – 221
Aric Almirola – 221
AJ Allmendinger – 214
Chase Elliott – 212
Ryan Preece – 201
Harrison Burton – 176
Austin Dillon – 166
Noah Gragson – 138
Ty Dillon – 110
BJ McLeod – 70
Featured Image: DARLINGTON, SOUTH CAROLINA – MAY 14: William Byron, driver of the #24 Axalta Throwback Chevrolet, reacts after winning the NASCAR Cup Series Goodyear 400 at Darlington Raceway on May 14, 2023 in Darlington, South Carolina. (Photo by Logan Riely/Getty Images)
Joey Logano outduelled former Penske teammate and two-time Atlanta winner Brad Keselowski in the final laps of the Ambetter Health 400 on Sunday, with a push from Christopher Bell down the backstretch helping Logano clear the pack to win for the first time at Atlanta in the Cup Series.
It was a dominant display from Logano, having nabbed the pole from Penske teammate Austin Cindric by 0.006 of a second on Saturday, and going on to lead the most laps in Sunday’s race, leading 140 of the 260 laps, and also winning stage one before taking the chequers.
The reigning Cup Series champion said: “Yeah, first off so special to win Atlanta for me. So many memories of me and my dad racing right here on the quarter mile. This is the full circle for us. So many memories gritting over there with the Legends car, racing, having a big time. Dreaming of going straight at the quarter mile and going onto the big track. That was always the dream to do it. To finally win here means so much to me here personally, but the team.”
The track has deep family ties for Logano, having lived at one of the condo’s at the race track for four years with his family whilst working his way through the racing ranks.
Logano and his Team Penske teammates executed a strong race plan all day long. After the trio qualified one-two-three for the race with Austin Cindric and Ryan Blaney qualifying second and third respectively, they helped Logano lead from the off. They stayed together for most of the race including in the final twenty laps where they persisted on the bottom lane, not allowing Brad Keselowski and the top lane to run away with the race.
With six laps to go it appeared all momentum and hope for Logano and Team Penske had been lost but a reenergized bottom lane put Logano back in contention.
On the final lap, Corey Lajoie bump-drafted Logano into turn one propelling Logano to lead the top lane and race side-by-side with Keselowski before Bell bumped him down the backstretch and into the lead.
Logano said: “The Auto Trader Mustang; this thing was an animal. Very, very fast.”
Runner-up Brad Keselowski furthered a dominant Ford display, with Ford having taken the top eight spots in qualifying, a feat that Ford hadn’t reached since 1965.
Keselowski looked in control of the race until he could no longer halt the momentum of Logano and raced cleanly to the chequered flag. Keselowski led the second most laps with 47.
Keselowski said: “The coolest thing about this race is two veterans showed you can run a race here side by side, bump-drafting, and not wreck the field. It can happen if you race respectfully. I thought everybody did a great job.”
Corey LaJoie had a career best fourth place finish after running inside the top 15 for the majority of the race.
Rest of race recap
Joey Logano and Austin Cindric led the field to green for the third Atlanta race since the 2021 repave where the banking was raised to 28 degrees in both corners, as well narrowing the corners, turning the track into a downsized Daytona superspeedway with the cars using the same race package used for Daytona and Talladega.
Logano led the first 10 laps before a caution came out for an out of control Bubba Wallace when he got loose on the outside next to Kyle Busch coming off turn two, before spinning across the track into the wall. Wallace was able to continue the race after repairs but would finish 27th five laps down.
Early on in stage one saw Kevin Harvick lead the bottom lane, but was not able to take the lead away from Logano for long. The NASCAR veteran was competing in his final Spring Atlanta race before retirement, the race of which he won in just his third Cup start 22 years ago, driving for Richard Childress, only three weeks after Childress and the NASCAR world suffered the loss of Dale Earnhardt Sr.
It was single file for the second half of stage one with Logano comfortably taking the stage win.
Stage two briefly saw a six-car breakaway at the front, midway through the fuel run in Logano, Kyle Busch, Blaney, Keselowski, Chris Buescher, and Cindric, before the rest of the pack came back to them.
Green flag pit stops just after 70 laps into stage two saw Ryan Blaney who had been running second behind Logano receive a speeding penalty for driving too fast on the apron in turn four in what is now part of pit entry, after NASCAR doubled the length of pit road entry, after the drivers had voiced safety concerns of having no runoff for pitting under green with the new configuration.
After serving the drive-through penalty, Blaney ended up being three cars in front of Logano trying to prevent his No. 12 BodyArmor SportWater Ford going two laps down before the stage break.
Blaney held on, with Cindric pinching the stage two win coming off turn four. Blaney would get the free pass later in the final stage.
The final stage saw both lanes in use with Aric Almirola, Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Denny Hamlin, and Harvick all taking turns to lead.
Disaster struck for Harvick when on lap 190, as he was sent around after Ross Chastain pushed air onto his rear bumper aggressively around the corner in turns one and two until Harvick’s car squirrelly lost control causing carnage for the field behind to avoid.
Buescher, Josh Berry, Daniel Suarez, Harrison Burton and BJ McLeod all got collected up in the mayhem.
Aric Almirola led the field back to green but on lap 209, on 72 lap old tyres, he blew a tyre in front of the pack, taking out Kyle Larson who was running second. Almirola had prior to the restart, gained 17 spots on pit road after taking fuel only under the caution.
The final 40 laps saw a duel between Logano and Keselowski, swapping the lead, before the duel intensified further with 13 laps to go.
Logano had help in his Penske teammates on the bottom, while the three Toyota’s in Tyler Reddick, Christopher Bell, and Denny Hamlin raced on the top, with Keselowski methodically blocking both lanes with help from his spotter TJ Majors.
Logano outduelled Keselowski on the final lap with help from LaJoie and Bell sending the Connecticut driver to victory lane at Atlanta for the first time in the Cup Series.
The next race of the 2023 NASCAR Cup Series season is the 68-lap road-course race around Circuit of The Americas (COTA).
It’s a star-studded lineup for COTA’s Cup race with F1 champions Jenson Button and Kimi Raikkonen as well seven-time Cup Series champion as well as 2017 IMSA Champion Jordan Taylor all competing in the first road-course race of the season.
The race starts at 3:30pm ET.
Featured Image: Joey Logano, driver of the No. 22 Autotrader Ford, celebrates in Victory Lane after winning the NASCAR Cup Series Ambetter Health 400 at Atlanta Motor Speedway (Photo by Jonathan Bachman | Getty Images)
Sunday saw William Byron, for two-weeks in a row, beat Kyle Larson in a overtime restart to win the Cup Series race, this time at Phoenix Raceway in the United Rentals Work United 500. Kevin Harvick had overtaken Larson for the lead with 43 laps to go but a caution with 11 laps to go for Harrison Burton blowing a tyre, saw Harvick lose the lead on pit road and fall back to seventh, having taken four tyres, while Larson and Byron came off pit road first and second on just two tyres.
William Byron had taken the lead away from pole-sitter Kyle Larson on lap two and went on to win stage one but Kyle Larson took the lead back on pit road during the stage break and won stage two.
Heading towards the white flag, Tyler Reddick gave a helpful push to Byron coming down the backstretch heading, as Blaney, Larson and Byron were three-wide for the lead with Byron on the outside, helping Byron clear Larson and Blaney going into turn four to take the white flag and the checkered flag.
It’s Byron sixth career win and his first at Phoenix in the Cup Series.
Byron thanked crew chief Rudy Fugle for the win saying: “Owe the last couple weeks to him. He’s done a really good job strategy-wise, and execution-wise we’ve done a good job to put ourselves in those positions on the front row with a shot at the end.”
Kyle Larson led 201 of the 312 laps so was not too pleased to come in fourth after losing the win to Byron in the same fashion for two-weeks running, being beat in last week’s overtime restart in Las Vegas Motor Speedway’s 400-mile race, saying: “Restarts are just tough. [Byron] did a really good job of holding it to my outside, clearing me down the back. Yeah, I’m pissed off.”
Kevin Harvick aka “The Closer” was looking to become a 10-time Phoenix Cup Series winner. Having started 15th, he finished eighth and third in stages one and two respectively before in the final stage on a long green flag run passed Larson for the lead with 43 laps to go.
Harvick was clear sailing prior to the caution with 11 laps to go and was not able to gain any positions when the field went back to green with three laps to go before Noah Gragson, AJ Allmendinger, and Ty Gibbs wrecked in turns one and two sending the race into overtime.
Harvick said: “That’s the way it goes. Just smoked ’em up until the caution. They did a great job with our Hunt Brothers Pizza Ford Mustang. Didn’t need the caution at the end.”
It was Harvick’s 20th straight top-10 finish at Phoenix Raceway in the Cup Series.
Ryan Blaney had a strong race from start to finish coming home in the runner up spot. Blaney finished sixth and eighth in stage one and two respectively. The Team Penske driver was running sixth at the time of Burton blowing his tyre.
Ford and former Penske teammate Brad Keselowski also had a strong race prior to the overtime finish, being ninth and fourth in stages one and two respectively before finishing eighteenth.
Josh Berry, subbing for the injured Chase Elliott, drove the No. 9 Kelley Blue Book Chevrolet to an impressive 10th place finish. Berry was getting used up in stage one struggling to get inside the top 25. The full-time JR Motorsports Xfinity driver worked his way into the top 15 in the final stage before finishing one place behind Hendrick teammate Alex Bowman, placing all four Hendrick Chevrolet’s in the top-10.
Rest of race recap
The United Rentals 500 marked the debut of the new short track package, seeing a 30% reduction in downforce compared to last year’s short track package, due in part to halving the spoiler from four inches to two.
The cars were permitted to race in wet conditions if they occurred during the race as part of NASCAR’s expansion to allow wet-weather racing at one mile or less sized oval tracks in addition to the road course races.
2021 Phoenix winner Kyle Larson led the field to green flag before Byron released Larson of the lead getting by on the inside of turn one on lap two.
With under ten to go in stage one, BJ McLeod retired with a fuel pump issue before Ricky Stenhouse Jr. tagged the turn one wall running 25th but was able to continue. Byron led the rest of the laps to win stage one.
During the stage one caution break, Kyle Larson was able to win back the lead on pit road in part to having the number one pit stall at the end of pit road.
Aric Almirola brought out the caution on lap 139 after his wheel hub and tyre broke free. Larson was first off pit road again and went on to win stage two.
Harvick started the final stage side-by-side with Larson on the restart but Larson quickly pulled away to a 2.5 second gap by lap 207.
During the rest of the final stage, the whole field split the 127-lap stage in half except Erik Jones who stayed out in the lead on old tyres until Kyle Larson caught and passed him for the lead on much fresher tyres with 52 laps to go. Jones was hoping for a caution to force everybody else down pit road again while with the lead but one didn’t come before having to pit. Jones finished 21st.
As the run went on Harvick closed back down the gap to Larson to just 0.3 seconds and cleared him coming out of turn three with 43 laps to go.
The crash that led to the overtime finish came from Gragson and AJ Allmendinger colliding into the turn two wall together, while Gibbs piled into the back of them after getting tangled with Corey Lajoie on the high lane in turn one.
The 2022 Hamlin-Chastain clash was revived on the final lap when Denny Hamlin washed up the race track in turn two dragging Chastain into the wall. Hamlin had spent most of the day in the top five but would only come home 23rd in the end, with Chastain 24th. Both had a long conversation with each other on pit road post-race.
The next race for the NASCAR Cup Series is the Ambetter Health 400 at Atlanta Motor Speedway this Sunday, with the race starting at 3pm ET.
Featured image: William Byron, driver of the #24 Valvoline Chevrolet, drives during the NASCAR Cup Series United Rentals Work United 500 at Phoenix Raceway on March 12, 2023 in Avondale, Arizona. (Photo by Meg Oliphant/Getty Images)
William Byron dominated Sunday’s Pennzoil 400, leading 176 of the 267 laps, sweeping all three stages, and passing Martin Truex Jr. in overtime to take his first Cup win at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. Byron had battled hard with Hendrick Motorsports teammate Kyle Larson all race long for control of the lead and just pipped the Larson to the pit road exit line, seeing him line-up alongside Truex Jr. for the overtime restart, who gambled to stay out on old tyres.
Byron said: “Yeah, just happy with getting the first win of the year. It’s been a while since we’ve won. It’s been almost a year, and it’s nice to kind of just get back to what I feel like we’re capable of.”
Byron was part of Hendrick Motorsports’ third one-two-three finish in the teams Cup Series career with Kyle Larson and Alex Bowman finishing second and third respectively, finishing the race how they ended stage two. Hendrick’s previous one-two-three finish came in the 2021 spring Dover race where it was also Hendrick’s first one-two-three-four finish with Byron finishing fourth and Alex Bowman taking the spoils that day.
Byron first took the lead on lap 10 from pole-sitter Joey Logano. From then on it was mostly smooth sailing for the first stage with Larson keeping tabs on the Charlotte, North Carolinian finishing just under a second behind him.
Stage two was a carbon copy for both drivers with Larson once again finishing second in stage two under a second behind Byron. The final stage saw the roles reversed with Byron losing places on pit road under caution on lap 184, and starting fourth on the restart with Larson in third.
Larson was all over Denny Hamlin, who had stayed out on older tyres, for the lead and finally claimed top spot in the running order with 71 laps to go. Larson pulled out a five second-plus gap to Byron over the course of the final stage but this was eradicated when the caution came out with four to go in response to Aric Almirola sliding into a spin against the turn four wall.
At the time of caution Byron had halved the gap down to 2.4 seconds but it looked like a tall-order to have caught Larson without the Californian making a mistake or traffic getting in the way before they yellow flags waved.
Larson was only able to clear Truex Jr. with half a lap to go on the backstretch to finish runner-up.
Larson commented: “It seems like kind of laps down, lap by lap, and then, sure enough, the yellow lights come on. I had a gap to William behind me, and their pit crew must have just done a really good job and got out in front of us, and that gave up the front row. I knew I was in trouble with the 19 staying out.”
A dominant display by Hendrick comes on the week of teammate and 2020 NASCAR Cup champion Chase Elliott being forced to sit out indefinitely after fracturing his tibia in a snowboarding accident in Colorado last Friday.
Team owner Rick Hendrick speaking on Friday about NASCAR’s most popular driver said: “Chase’s health is our primary concern. He’s understandably disappointed to miss time in the car.”
JR Motorsports driver Josh Berry stood in for Elliott on Sunday, finishing 29th, two laps down, in his first race in the Next Gen car.
Bubba Wallace had a stand-out day running inside the top ten for most of the race, taking sixth in stage two and eighth in stage one, and coming home fourth. After not finishing either of the first two races of the season, it’s a much needed boost of confidence and points for the No. 23 team.
Wallace said: “Never stop fighting. You never give up. I almost come over the radio and said, hey, good job, we finished sixth, then the caution came out, and I perked up again and got some.”
Wallace’s teammate Tyler Reddick had a wild day after marching up to 19th, just 11 laps after starting the race in the rear. Reddick nearly let a good points day get away when inside of 65 laps to go, he ripped the turns three and four wall running sixth, sending him back to tenth. Reddick would finish 15th, after coming into the weekend with just four points after being wrecked out of the first two races.
Sunday’s pole-sitter Joey Logano and last week’s Auto Club finale winner Kyle Busch both difficult races.
After losing the lead on lap 10 to Byron, Logano fought a tight handling race car for the first half of the race, clinging onto the top 15.
The two-time Pennzoil 400 winner asked a little too much of his No. 22 Pennzoil Ford Mustang on lap 182, when while he was battling three-wide on the outside with Brad Keselowski and Kyle Busch coming off turn four over 14th place, he ran out of real estate, colliding with the wall before spinning across the track into the infield grass. Logano’s team were not able to fix the car under the damage vehicle policy in time, forcing him to retire.
Kyle Busch made contact with the yellow outside walls several times during the race including twice in stage one, once clattering the turn two wall hard, bending the steering angle whilst challenging Hamlin for ninth place, but was able to continue.
Kyle Busch's hard hit into the turn two wall during stage 1. He's currently challenging Hamlin for 9th place!pic.twitter.com/srnHvC3ntK
The Las Vegas native wound up 14th in a weekend where he had attempted to sweep all three national series races taking place at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, trying to replicate his Bristol Motor Speedway’s 2010 and 2017 weekend sweeps.
Busch won the Craftsman Truck Series race on Friday driving for his own Kyle Busch Motorsports team but could only manage fourth in Saturday’s Xfinity Series race driving for Kaulig Racing.
The next race for the NASCAR Cup Series is the United Rentals Work United 500 at Phoenix Raceway this Sunday, with the race starting at 3:30pm ET.
Featured Image: William Byron, driver of the #24 RaptorTough.com Chevrolet, celebrates in victory lane after winning the NASCAR Cup Series Pennzoil 400 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway on March 05, 2023 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Meg Oliphant/Getty Images)
Sunday’s Pala Casino 400 saw Kyle Busch outrun Chase Elliott’s late race charge to win NASCAR’s final Cup race at Auto Club Speedway in its two-mile superspeedway format before being taken off the schedule to be reconfigured most likely into a short track of one mile or less.
Kyle Busch’s first win of the 2023 Cup Series season, in just his second points paying race with Richard Childress Racing, sees him go above Richard Petty for the most consecutive seasons with at least one win, making it 19-consecutive seasons, starting in 2005.
Busch mirrored his previous triumph here when he won the 2005 Auto Club Cup race, his first Cup win, in just his fourth start for Hendrick Motorsports.
In 2005, @KyleBusch won his first Cup Series race at Auto Club Speedway. Busch and Rick Hendrick both donated their winnings to the American Red Cross Hurricane Relief Fund. pic.twitter.com/OSZjIytjlt
The four-time Fontana winner teared back through the field in what seemed like a handful of laps, after being penalised and sent to the rear for speeding on pit road on lap 43 under caution, after running inside the top 10.
Busch took the lead of the race for the first time with 63 laps to go, then again with 36 laps to go after passing Chastain through the green flag pit cycle and then again following green flag pit stops on lap 180 of the 200-lap race where he would stay.
Busch added: “I’ve worked with a lot of great people who’ve given me a lot of great opportunities in my career. It’s awesome to be able to reward them.”
It was Busch’s 61st Cup career win, ninth-all time.
The track proved to entertain much like last year with drivers using all five lanes to race and search for clean air, but this time without any sudden tyre failures.
It was Trackhouse Racing’s Ross Chastain that spent the most time upfront, winning both stages convincingly, leading the most laps with 91 and coming home third. He has won three of the four stages this year, including winning stage two of last week’s Daytona 500.
Chastain’s teammate Daniel Suarez showed speed, racing in the top 10, and was looking for a way past Chastain for the lead on the opening laps of a stage one restart. Suarez finished fourth.
Chase Elliott was in the mix during the second half of the race, slowly working his way through the top 10 until he got past Chastain for second with 21 laps to go and narrowed the gap to Busch down to 3.4 seconds before the gap levelled out. Elliott finished 2.998-seconds behind Busch.
Joey Logano had been a contender for most of the race, taking the lead multiple times from Chastain and Hamlin, until the final stint following green flag pit stops with under 40 laps to go, where he dropped back throughout the final run to finish 10th.
It had been the Chastain-Logano-Busch show previous to final green flag pit stops. With 55 laps to go, Chastain threw an aggressive block on Logano when he and Busch got stalled out side-by-side for the lead, but Logano swept down to the apron and cleared both going into turn one.
Rest of race recap
Saturday’s qualifying was cancelled due to a historic weather event that swept the racetrack including blizzard-like conditions of snow, sleet and wind, hitting Fontana and the surrounding LA area Friday and Saturday.
A five-wide salute was shown to the sell-out crowd on the warm-up laps in appreciation of their continued support and love given to Auto Club Speedway.
It was Bakersfield, California’s Kevin Harvick 750th straight Cup start, only behind Jeff Gordon and Ricky Rudd for all-time.
JGR’s Christopher Bell led from the off after being awarded the pole due to having the best fastest lap speed and finishing position combination from last week’s Daytona 500.
Alex Bowman, who finished eighth, took the lead on lap two going into turn one and went straight to the top groove while the rest of the field searched all over the race track for grip.
A lack of rubber being laid down prior to the race due to the weather, saw everyone run the top groove following Bowman but before long drivers throughout the field were diving to the middle and bottom lanes again to find extra speed and clean air while the top was still preferred.
On lap 13, Kyle Larson, last year’s Fontana winner, came down pit road and went to the garage to fix an electrical problem. Larson did go back out but was not operating under full power. The Cali kid finished 29th, 15 laps down.
Chastain took over the lead on pit road during the competition caution period on lap 17.
Team Penske’s Logano and Ryan Blaney traded the lead after surpassing Chastain before Brad Keselowski was sent spinning down the back straightaway after Corey LaJoie tagged his left rear on lap 42.
Keselowski was running 13th place at the time and came back to finish seventh, in what was a solid day for Roush Fenway Keselowski Racing with teammate Chris Buescher running inside the top 10 throughout the race before finishing 13th.
Blaney and Suarez kept Chastain honest at the end of the first stage but it wasn’t enough to beat the eighth-generation watermelon farmer to the finish line.
Denny Hamlin passed Chastain for the lead on lap 72 before he threw an aggressive block three-laps later on Logano, much like Chastain would later on in the race, but Logano dived to the inside to take the lead on the frontstretch.
Austin Dillon and Noah Gragson briefly led during stage two after staying out on older tyres before Logano seized back the lead.
Corey LaJoie continued to find himself in trouble. On lap 76, he clipped AJ Allmendinger trying to avoid Blaney and Stenhouse Jr. in front, sending the Californian skidding into the inside wall on the backstretch.
LaJoie became the victim of the next caution several laps later when Tyler Reddick ran into the back of him sending him into the infield grass.
The biggest incident of the day was yet to come. On the lap 86 restart a 10-car crash occurred when the field stacked up sending Ty Dillon spinning into the grass, and Bell, Reddick, Preece, and Almirola crashing into the pack among others.
All four except Ty Dillon would retire from the race, only for Dillon to retire later with 61 laps to go due to engine trouble. Blaney received heavy damage from the crash and had to settle for 26th.
Kyle Busch would take second away from former teammate Hamlin on lap 93 while Chastain led. Busch was filling Chastain’s mirrors inside of 20 to go in stage two; a blanket could be thrown over second to sixth place in the closing laps. Chastain won stage two with a six second lead over Busch.
Kevin Harvick, in his final season before retiring, got the lead on pit road during the stage break before Kyle Busch took the lead for the first time on lap 138.
Michael McDowell led for a handful of laps during the final green flag run as he held out for a caution compared to most of the field pitting 10+ laps earlier. On fresher tyres following his final pit stop, McDowell managed to finish 18th.
Bubba Wallace spent the first half of the race inside the top 15, often inside the top 10, but overheating issues would force him out of the race on lap 172.
The third race of the season sees the Cup Series go to the 1.5 mile speedway Las Vegas Motor Speedway this Sunday, Kyle Busch’s home track, for the Pennzoil 400 with the race starting at 3:30pm ET.
Full race results
Kyle Busch, 200
Chase Elliott, 200
Ross Chastain, 200
Daniel Suarez, 200
Kevin Harvick, 200
Denny Hamlin, 200
Brad Keselowski, 200
Alex Bowman, 200
Austin Dillon, 200
Joey Logano, 200
Martin Truex Jr., 200
Ricky Stenhouse Jr., 200
Chris Buescher, 200
Corey LaJoie, 200
Harrison Burton, 200
Ty Gibbs, 200
Todd Gilliland, 200
Michael McDowell, 200
Erik Jones, 200
Chase Briscoe, 200
Justin Haley, 199
Noah Gragson, 199
JJ Yeley, 199
BJ McLeod, 199
William Byron, 198
Ryan Blaney, 196
Cody Ware, 195
Austin Cindric, 194
Kyle Larson, 185
Bubba Wallace, Engine, 172
Ty Dillon, Engine, 140
Christopher Bell, Accident, 88
Ryan Preece, Accident, 87
Tyler Reddick, Accident, 87
Aric Almirola, Accident, 86
AJ Allmendinger, Accident, 75
Martin Truex Jr.
Ross Chastain – 92
Joey Logano – 91
Alex Bowman – 80
Kevin Harvick – 79
Daniel Suarez – 77
Chris Buescher – 74
Ricky Stenhouse Jr.* – 73
Kyle Busch* – 67
Denny Hamlin – 64
Brad Keselowski – 64
Martin Truex Jr. – 60
Ryan Blaney – 57
Corey LaJoie – 51
Chase Elliott – 49
Christopher Bell – 49
Michael McDowell – 40
Ty Gibbs – 38
Austin Cindric – 38
AJ Allmendinger – 35
Harrison Burton – 35
Todd Gilliland – 35
Cody Ware – 33
Austin Dillon – 32
Kyle Larson – 32
Aric Almirola – 31
Bubba Wallace – 28
Noah Gragson – 28
Travis Pastrana – 26
William Byron – 25
Justin Haley – 21
BJ McLeod – 20
Erik Jones – 19
Chase Briscoe – 19
Ryan Preece – 15
J.J. Yeley – 14
Jimmie Johnson – 10
Ty Dillon – 7
Tyler Reddick – 4
Featured Image: Kyle Busch, driver of the No. 8 Lucas Oil Chevrolet, celebrates with the checkered flag after winning the NASCAR Cup Series Pala Casino 400 at Auto Club Speedway (Photo by Meg Oliphant | Getty Images)