Ka-chow: Daniel Suárez wins Atlanta race in three-wide Pixar-esque photo finish

The Disney Pixar Cars movie intro came to life on Sunday night when Daniel Suárez edged Ryan Blaney by 0.003 seconds and Kyle Busch by 0.007 seconds in a three-wide finish in the Ambetter Health 400 at Atlanta Motor Speedway to take his second Cup series win of his career and his first oval win.

Daniel Suarez, driver of the #99 Freeway Insurance Chevrolet, crosses the finish line ahead of Kyle Busch, driver of the #8 Cheddar’s Scratch Kitchen Chevrolet, and Ryan Blaney, driver of the #12 BodyArmor Zero Sugar Ford, to win the NASCAR Cup Series Ambetter Health 400 at Atlanta Motor Speedway on February 25, 2024 in Hampton, Georgia. (Photo by Alex Slitz/Getty Images)
  • Suárez wins
  • Blaney and Busch
  • Front Row Motorsports vs Team Penske
  • Rest of race recap
  • Full race results
  • Points standings

6 min read

In what had been a thrilling and intense restrictor plate race, with dynamic hypercompetitive pack racing all race long, came down to a five-lap shootout that Suárez lost control of on the restart as Blaney retook the lead, only on the final lap coming out of turn four for Kyle Busch and Suárez to pull up alongside Blaney, with Suárez surging ahead with side drafting and momentum on the top lane to win the third closest NASCAR Cup series race in history.

Suárez said: “It was so damn close. It was good racing. Ryan Blaney there, Kyle Busch, Austin Cindric also was doing a great job giving pushes. In the back straightaway he didn’t push me because he knew I was going to [screw] his teammate, but man, what a job. We wrecked [on] lap two. The guys did an amazing job fixing this car.”

Daniel Suarez, driver of the #99 Freeway Insurance Chevrolet, celebrates after winning the NASCAR Cup Series Ambetter Health 400 at Atlanta Motor Speedway on February 25, 2024 in Hampton, Georgia. (Photo by Alex Slitz/Getty Images)

Suárez was caught up in an Atlanta record-breaking 16-car crash on lap two when Front Row Motorsport’s driver Todd Gilliland checked up to let teammate and polesitter Michael McDowell in on the top, causing a large stack up behind, pinballing Austin Dillon and Bubba Wallace sideways, taking Josh Williams out of the race and later Noah Gragson as he would retire the car at the end of stage one as a result of the crash.

Suárez recovered from the crash but would narrowly escape further carnage when with 21 laps to go, Chase Briscoe boldly made it four-wide with Suárez on the bottom entering turn three resulting in Denny Hamlin collecting Briscoe, taking them both out of contention.

Suárez would find himself on the row front row inside of 30 laps to go, and would battle for the lead until taking the checkered flag.

It’s Suárez’s second Cup win, his first coming in the 2022 Sonoma road course race, both with Trackhouse Racing.

Daniel Suarez, driver of the #99 Freeway Insurance Chevrolet, and crew celebrate in victory lane after winning the NASCAR Cup Series Ambetter Health 400 at Atlanta Motor Speedway on February 25, 2024 in Hampton, Georgia. (Photo by Todd Kirkland/Getty Images)

Reigning Cup series champion and race runner up Ryan Blaney was one of the cars to beat throughout the race, leading six times for 31 laps, including duelling with Kyle Busch and Kyle Larson for the lead in the first half of stage one, and staying up front for the second half of stage two, before leading for much of the final 40 laps prior to the checkered flag.

Blaney said: “I thought I laid back enough in [turns] one and two to not let both lanes get that big of a run. What a cool finish. Appreciate the fans for sticking around. That’s always a good time when we can do that, race clean, three-wide finish to the end. Happy for Daniel. Fun racing with Kyle. I can’t complain; I’ve won them by very, very little too, so I can’t complain too much when I lose them by that much.”

Ryan Blaney, driver of the #12 BodyArmor Zero Sugar Ford, leads the field during the NASCAR Cup Series Ambetter Health 400 at Atlanta Motor Speedway on February 25, 2024 in Hampton, Georgia. (Photo by Alex Slitz/Getty Images)

Third place Richard Childress Racing driver Kyle Busch had an up-and-down race being involved in three crashes including when Denny Hamlin spun off Busch’s front end as he came down on him with nine to go in stage one, at the beginning of stage three when Kaz Grala ran Busch very tight on the bottom of turn one before being collected by Busch as a result, and escaping the four-wide melee crash with Briscoe with Busch up top.

Busch even had to come from a lap down in the final stage after a serving a drive through speeding penalty under green but after getting the free pass, he found himself charging to the front inside of 50 to go through a four-wide manoeuvre and would fight to the checkered flag to try to claim his third Atlanta Cup win.

Busch said: “Typically whoever is behind getting into [turn] three prevails at the start finish line with the side draft and everything, so I was second to the 12 [Blaney] right there, and the 99 [Suárez] was the furthest back, and he made the ground back up with the side draft and stuff. It’s good to see Daniel get a win. We were helping each other, being Chevy team partners and working together there.”

The finishing order may have been different if Bubba Wallace, who is close friends with Blaney, had been able to lock bumpers and push Blaney in turns three and four on the final lap but instead washed up the race track and lost touch with the front three.

The race featured a record 48 lead changes amongst 14 different drivers. Suárez led twice for nine laps. The race saw 10 cautions for 65 laps of the 260 lap 400-mile race.

Front Row Motorsports vs Team Penske

It was a bittersweet day for Front Row Motorsports after competing with Team Penske for the top positions in the race.

Front Row’s Todd Gilliland led a career high of 58 laps, the most of anyone, on six separate occasions while Michael McDowell would lead five times for 27 laps including winning stage one in a one-lap shootout.

Michael McDowell, driver of the #34 Benebone Ford, lduring the NASCAR Cup Series Ambetter Health 400 at Atlanta Motor Speedway on February 25, 2024 in Hampton, Georgia. (Photo by Alex Slitz/Getty Images)

Team Penske’s Joey Logano was due to start second but the reigning race winner was sent to the rear for the start of the race and had to serve a drive through penalty under green due to wearing a webbed left glove during qualifying that NASCAR deemed illegal due to violating NASCAR rule 14.3.1.1 governing driver protective clothing and equipment. It is possible that Logano wore the glove to gain a competitive advantage due to being able to manipulate the airflow more on the drivers side.

To Logano’s fortune, he was serving the drive through penalty as the 16-car crash on lap two happened, so was able to stay on the lead lap.

Stage two was a fierce battle between the two teams, as Gilliland led the opening segment with Logano behind, and McDowell inside the top five.

Joey Logano, driver of the #22 Shell Pennzoil Ford, Chris Buescher, driver of the #17 BuildSubmarines.com Ford, and Todd Gilliland, driver of the #38 Georgia Peanuts Ford, race during the NASCAR Cup Series Ambetter Health 400 at Atlanta Motor Speedway on February 25, 2024 in Hampton, Georgia. (Photo by Todd Kirkland/Getty Images)

The second half of stage two saw Front Row’s race become undone as they first drifted back as their cars became tight before McDowell, during the green flag pit stop, wheel hopped entering pit road and collided with last week’s Daytona 500 winner William Byron, sending them both spinning into and off the wall. The race miraculously stayed green and both were able to continue with McDowell just one lap down after repairs.

After the green flag pit stop cycle, it was the Penske trio of Austin Cindric, Logano, and Blaney out front but Logano drifted back with a few laps to go and coming off turn two on the final lap crashed into the wall as his car got very tight, collecting Chris Buescher.

Cindric won stage two. Logano would finish the race several laps down following multiple repairs.

Front Row fell short in the final stage as despite Gilliland leading the start of stage three and again later, Gilliland had to pit for damage late on, and was forced to pit under green inside of 15 laps to go for right side tyres, taking him out of contention.

Todd Gilliland, driver of the #38 Georgia Peanuts Ford, pits during the NASCAR Cup Series Ambetter Health 400 at Atlanta Motor Speedway on February 25, 2024 in Hampton, Georgia. (Photo by Todd Kirkland/Getty Images)

McDowell gambled to stay out longer than most of the field in stage three to regain track position but was forced to pit with 35 laps to go as he began slipping down the order. McDowell still recovered to an eighth place finish.

Rest of race recap

Ross Chastain sent Georgia’s Chase Elliott for a spin as he pushed Elliott in the rear in turn three with 65 laps to go, as Chastain was fighting with Wallace for the free pass who was just one car length ahead.

Elliott rescued his car with a sideways drift in the turn three grass reminiscent of Lightning McQueen’s save at the end of the Cars movie.

Elliott was then caught up in Josh Berry’s crash with 12 to go spinning down the backstretch, but was able to recover to a 15th place finish.

Denny Hamlin, despite being involved in multiple crashes including with Busch and Buescher, led parts of the final stage, only to receive heavy damage in the Briscoe crash with 21 to go.

Hamlin’s teammate Martin Truex Jr. would lead parts of the final stage also, fighting Kyle Larson for control of the race.

The next race is the Pennzoil 400 from Las Vegas Motor Speedway on Sunday 3rd March with the race starting at 3:30pm ET (8:30pm UK time).  

Full race results 

  1. Daniel Suárez
  2. Ryan Blaney
  3. Kyle Busch
  4. Austin Cindric
  5. Bubba Wallace
  6. Ricky Stenhouse Jr.
  7. Ross Chastain
  8. Michael McDowell
  9. Chris Buescher
  10. Ty Gibbs
  11. Harrison Burton
  12. Martin Truex Jr.
  13. Corey LaJoie
  14. Kaz Grala
  15. Chase Elliott
  16. Ryan Preece
  17. William Byron
  18. Daniel Hemric
  19. Carson Hocevar
  20. Justin Haley
  21. John Hunter Nemechek
  22. Austin Dillon
  23. Denny Hamlin
  24. B.J. McLeod
  25. Erik Jones
  26. Todd Gilliland
  27. Alex Bowman
  28. Joey Logano
  29. Josh Berry
  30. Tyler Reddick
  31. Chase Briscoe
  32. Kyle Larson
  33. Brad Keselowski
  34. Christopher Bell
  35. Zane Smith
  36. Noah Gragson
  37. Josh Williams

Points standings

*=win -=playoff cut line

  1. Kyle Busch – 77
  2. William Byron* – 76
  3. Austin Cindric – 76
  4. Bubba Wallace – 74
  5. Ryan Blaney – 69
  6. Chase Elliott – 65
  7. Daniel Suárez* – 64
  8. Ross Chastain – 62
  9. Alex Bowman – 60
  10. Martin Truex Jr. – 60
  11. Kyle Larson – 58
  12. Corey LaJoie – 57
  13. John Hunter Nemechek – 53
  14. Ty Gibbs – 50
  15. Chris Buescher – 49
  16. Christopher Bell – 47

  17. Erik Jones – 47
  18. Ricky Stenhouse Jr. – 44
  19. Denny Hamlin – 44
  20. Michael McDowell – 40
  21. Daniel Hemric – 40
  22. Chase Briscoe – 37
  23. Harrison Burton – 36
  24. Ryan Preece – 35
  25. Tyler Reddick – 31
  26. Noah Gragson – 29
  27. Zane Smith – 29
  28. Justin Haley – 29
  29. Carson Hocevar – 26
  30. Kaz Grala – 24
  31. Josh Berry – 20
  32. Todd Gilliland – 19
  33. Joey Logano – 18
  34. David Ragan – 17
  35. Austin Dillon – 16
  36. Brad Keselowski – 16
  37. Jimmie Johnson – 9

Featured image: Daniel Suarez, driver of the #99 Freeway Insurance Chevrolet, crosses the finish line ahead of Kyle Busch, driver of the #8 Cheddar’s Scratch Kitchen Chevrolet, and Ryan Blaney, driver of the #12 BodyArmor Zero Sugar Ford, to win the NASCAR Cup Series Ambetter Health 400 at Atlanta Motor Speedway on February 25, 2024 in Hampton, Georgia. (Photo by Alex Slitz/Getty Images)

Ambetter Health 400 race preview

Following on from the closest Daytona 500 finish ever, this weekend sees NASCAR returns to its moonshining roots in Atlanta, Georgia, for the Ambetter Health 400 at Atlanta Motor Speedway.

3 min read

The NASCAR Cup Series will race around the 28 degree banked 1.54-mile superspeedway oval for 260 laps (400 miles), with stage lengths of 60, 100, and 100 laps.

This will be the fifth NASCAR Cup Series race at Atlanta Motor Speedway since the track reconfiguration in 2021 turning the track into a steeper banked, repaved, ‘mini-Daytona’ type racing track, with the cars using a superspeedway package like at Daytona and Talladega.

Joey Logano, driver of the #22 Autotrader Ford, and Brad Keselowski, driver of the #6 King’s Hawaiian Ford, lead the field during the NASCAR Cup Series Ambetter Health 400 at Atlanta Motor Speedway on March 19, 2023 in Hampton, Georgia. (Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images)

For large parts of the race, drivers will be racing in high-speed packs, utilising the draft and pushes to get to the front, especially on restarts. As the tires begin to wear more into a run, cars will begin to spread out and large packs will break up, racing more like a traditional 1.5-mile speedway race.

Last year’s Ambetter Health 400 saw Joey Logano achieve his childhood dream by winning the race after outduelling former Penske teammate Brad Keselowski in the final laps of the race, partly due to a helpful push from Christopher Bell down the backstretch to clear the pack.

Joey Logano, driver of the #22 Autotrader Ford, celebrates after winning the NASCAR Cup Series Ambetter Health 400 at Atlanta Motor Speedway on March 19, 2023 in Hampton, Georgia. (Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images)

Michael McDowell earned his first ever Cup series pole today with a lap time of 30.999 seconds (average speed of 178.844mph). With 467 Cup races under his belt, it’s the most start’s by a Cup driver before securing a pole since J.D. McDuffie’s 404 Cup starts before securing a pole at the 1978 Delaware 500 at Dover Motor Speedway.

Michael McDowell, driver of the #34 Benebone Ford, poses for photos after winning the pole award during qualifying for the NASCAR Cup Series Ambetter Health 400 at Atlanta Motor Speedway on February 24, 2024 in Hampton, Georgia. (Photo by Alex Slitz/Getty Images)

Josh Williams will make his fourth Cup series start at Atlanta Motor Speedway this weekend for Kaulig Racing, qualifying 30th.

This follows a memorable 2023 spring Xfinity race at Atlanta where Williams grabbed the headlines after parking his No. 92 DGM Racing Chevrolet at the start finish line and walking across the track to the garage after refusing to accept NASCAR’s ruling for him to park his car for the race, due to multiple yellow flags coming out for debris off his car following race damage.

It led to a surge of fan, garage, and sponsor support for Williams, who is known to be a big personality, and unafraid to express himself in NASCAR, being a ‘what you see is what you get’ type character, as well overachieving in his equipment, leading to a full-time Kaulig Racing ride in the Xfinity series this season as well as a part-time Cup schedule with them including at Atlanta this weekend.

Since the reconfiguration in 2021, last week’s Daytona 500 winner William Byron has won two of the first four Atlanta races, including the first race in the spring of 2022, and the summer 2023 race. Chase Elliott won the 2022 summer race and Joey Logano won the 2023 spring race.

HAMPTON, GEORGIA – JULY 09: William Byron, driver of the #24 Axalta Chevrolet, drives during the NASCAR Cup Series Quaker State 400 Available at Walmart at Atlanta Motor Speedway on July 09, 2023 in Hampton, Georgia. (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)

Other active drivers to have won at Atlanta Motor Speedway pre-2021 reconfiguration include two-time winners Kyle Busch and Brad Keselowski, as well as reigning Cup series champion Ryan Blaney, and Denny Hamlin.

Tune in Sunday for the Ambetter Health 400 at Atlanta Motor Speedway this with the race beginning at 3pm ET (8pm UK time).

Full qualifying results 

  1. Michael McDowell
  2. Joey Logano
  3. Kyle Busch
  4. Todd Gilliland
  5. Kyle Larson
  6. Ryan Blaney
  7. Chris Buescher
  8. Austin Cindric
  9. Chase Brisoce
  10. Austin Dillon
  11. William Byron
  12. Martin Truex Jr.
  13. Denny Hamlin
  14. Josh Berry
  15. Noah Gragson
  16. Harrison Burton
  17. Alex Bowman
  18. Bubba Wallace
  19. Tyler Reddick
  20. Ryan Preece
  21. Ross Chastain
  22. Christopher Bell
  23. Daniel Suárez
  24. Brad Keselowski
  25. Ty Gibbs
  26. Daniel Hemric
  27. Ricky Stenhouse Jr.
  28. Chase Elliott
  29. Zane Smith
  30. Josh Williams
  31. Justin Haley
  32. Corey LaJoie
  33. Kaz Grala
  34. John Hunter Nemechek
  35. Carson Hocevar
  36. B.J. McLeod
  37. Erik Jones

Featured image: HAMPTON, GEORGIA – MARCH 19: Joey Logano, driver of the #22 Autotrader Ford, Austin Cindric, driver of the #2 Menards/Knauf Ford, and William Byron, driver of the #24 Liberty University Chevrolet, race during the NASCAR Cup Series Ambetter Health 400 at Atlanta Motor Speedway on March 19, 2023 in Hampton, Georgia. (Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images)

William Byron wins Daytona 500 in closest finish ever

After surviving a 23-car wreck with nine laps to go, William Byron went on to win his first Daytona 500 on Hendrick Motorsports’ 40th anniversary via a four-lap shootout, when the yellow came out on the final lap for a Ross Chastain and Austin Cindric wrecking on the frontstretch.  At the moment of caution, Byron had his nose ahead of Hendrick Motorsports teammate Alex Bowman to be 0.006 seconds in front, making it the closest finish in Daytona 500 history, and a Hendrick Motorsports one-two, on Monday night.

5 min read

Hendrick anniversary celebrations

It was William Byron’s second Cup win at Daytona having won the 2020 summer race, the Coke Zero Sugar 400, and his 11th Cup series win.

Byron said: “I’m just a kid from racing on computers and winning the Daytona 500. This is so freaking cool.”

Byron gave Hendrick Motorsports their ninth Daytona 500 win, tying them with Petty Enterprises for most Daytona 500 wins.

William Byron, driver of the #24 Axalta Chevrolet, and crew celebrate in victory lane after winning he NASCAR Cup Series Daytona 500 at Daytona International Speedway on February 19, 2024 in Daytona Beach, Florida. (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)

Team owner Rick Hendrick said, “I’m telling you, you couldn’t write the script any better. We win this on our 40th to the day, so that’s awesome.”

It was the 40th anniversary to the day as NASCAR was forced to move the race to Monday due to bad weather all day Sunday.

Hendricks Motorsports made their NASCAR Cup Series debut in the 1984 Daytona 500 when Geoff Bodine took their No. 5 Chevrolet to an eighth place finish.

Three-time Daytona 500 winner Jeff Gordon, who won the Great American Race with Hendrick Motorsports in 1997, ’99, and ’05 with the No. 24 Chevrolet, and now is Vice Chairman for Hendrick Motorsports was ecstatic about the win.

Gordon said: “I might not have been driving the car tonight, but I felt like I made every lap with our guys, especially with the 24 and with William in those closing laps when he was out front. To me, when I found out that they had won, I honestly was about as excited as I was when I was driving. It is 2024, and the 24 is always going to be very, very special to me. But what I loved the most is seeing him make it his number.”

Jeff Gordon celebrates his win in the Daytona 500 (Photo credit: Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)

Alex Bowman very nearly ended Byron’s chances of winning the Daytona 500 on lap 192 when down the backstretch he bumped an already loose Byron that sent him veering to the left into Brad Keselowski’s right rear setting off the 23-car wreck. Both Bowman and Byron managed to escape the wrecking field unscathed.

Chastain, Busch, and Logano

Ross Chastain had led 14 laps of the Daytona 500 and been duelling at the front for much of the final stage of the race, including on lap 192 when the 23-car wreck occurred behind him.

Chastain, after already making aggressive blocks earlier in the final stage on Joey Logano, as the field took the white flag on the frontstrectch, from the second row Chastain bolted for a closing gap between Austin Cindric and William Byron but Chastain got collected by Cindric before both spun down into the grass and back into the pack, bringing out the yellow, ending the race one-lap early.

Speaking to the media afterwards, Chastain said: “I took the gap, I don’t apologise for that. Too aggressive though, and when you don’t finish.” Chastain wound up 21st.

Polesitter Joey Logano, going for his second Daytona 500 win, led a race high of 45 laps but was taken out by Brad Keselowski in the lap 192 big one and finished 32nd.

AJ Allmendinger, driver of the #16 Celsius Chevrolet, and Tyler Reddick, driver of the #45 Nasty Beast Toyota, lead the field during the NASCAR Cup Series Daytona 500 at Daytona International Speedway on February 19, 2024 in Daytona Beach, Florida. (Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images)

Kyle Busch went into Monday’s Daytona 500 as the driver who had led the most laps in the Daytona 500 race in history without a Daytona 500 win. Busch led in all three stages of the races and was in the mix in the final 10 laps but was unable to draft up to the front in the closing laps and had to settle for 12th.

Kyle Busch had an eventful race as in stage three during the stage break, a loose lug nut led to a tyre puncture forcing him to limp round and get a new set of tyres, only to take back the lead of the race with less than 60 laps to go.

The after falling back through the pack, Busch would bounce off the turn two wall in the mid pack on lap 172.

Rest of race recap

After Logano and 2021 Daytona 500 winner Michael McDowell led the field to green for the 66th running of the Daytona 500, a multi-car crash on lap six transcended when Keselowski pushed John Hunter Nemechek in the rear, turning him down into Harrison Burton and rookie Carson Hocevar, ending both their races, as well as collecting Kaz Grala, Austin Dillon, Jimmie Johnson, and Ryan Preece in the melee.

Joey Logano, driver of the #22 Shell Pennzoil Ford, and Michael McDowell, driver of the #34 Love’s Travel Stops Ford, lead the field during the NASCAR Cup Series Daytona 500 at Daytona International Speedway on February 19, 2024 in Daytona Beach, Florida. (Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images)

Fans saw two and three-wide action in all the stages, with pit stop strategies mostly aligning with the manufacturer’s.

David Ragan and Ryan Preece tried to win stage one without pitting for fuel for a second time but were caught by the Kyle Busch led pack with three laps to go, that ended with Chase Elliott winning stage one, and with the four Hendrick Motorsport’s drivers inside the top five.

Stage two saw Joey Logano lead the opening 20 laps of the stage and Kyle Busch led much of the last 15 laps, overcoming a pit road penalty for having too many pit crew members over the wall. It was reigning Cup series champion Ryan Blaney who won the stage.

Three-time Daytona 500 champion Denny Hamlin took the lead on lap 152 and would lead again from 154-162, while Busch would bounce off the turn two wall in the mid pack on lap 172.

Also taken out in the lap 192 big one was last year’s Daytona 500 winner Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Thursday night’s duel one winner Tyler Reddick, and Ryan Blaney.

The next race is the Ambetter Health 400 from Atlanta Motor Speedway on Sunday 25th Feb with the race starting at 3pm ET (8pm UK time).  

Full race results 

  1. William Byron
  2. Alex Bowman
  3. Christopher Bell
  4. Corey LaJoie
  5. Bubba Wallace
  6. AJ Allmendinger
  7. John Hunter Nemechek
  8. Erik Jones
  9. Noah Gragson
  10. Chase Briscoe
  11. Kyle Larson
  12. Kyle Busch
  13. Zane Smith
  14. Chase Elliott
  15. Martin Truex Jr.
  16. Daniel Hemric
  17. Ty Gibbs
  18. Chris Buescher
  19. Denny Hamlin
  20. David Ragan
  21. Ross Chastain
  22. Austin Cindric
  23. Ryan Preece
  24. Riley Herbst
  25. Josh Berry
  26. Justin Haley
  27. Anthony Alfredo
  28. Jimmie Johnson
  29. Tyler Reddick
  30. Ryan Blaney
  31. Ricky Stenhouse Jr.
  32. Joey Logano
  33. Brad Keselowski
  34. Daniel Suárez
  35. Todd Gilliland
  36. Michael McDowell
  37. Austin Dillon
  38. Kaz Grala
  39. Harrison Burton
  40. Carson Hocevar

Points standings 

  1. William Byron – 54
  2. Alex Bowman – 50
  3. Christopher Bell – 44
  4. Chase Elliott – 42
  5. Bubba Wallace – 39
  6. John Hunter Nemechek – 37
  7. Kyle Larson – 37
  8. Kyle Busch – 37
  9. Erik Jones – 35
  10. Corey LaJoie – 33
  11. Austin Cindric – 33
  12. Denny Hamlin – 30
  13. Chase Briscoe – 29
  14. Zane Smith – 29
  15. Noah Gragson – 28
  16. Martin Truex Jr. – 24
  17. Ross Chastain – 24
  18. Tyler Reddick – 24
  19. Ty Gibbs – 23
  20. Daniel Hemric – 21
  21. Chris Buescher – 21
  22. David Ragan – 17
  23. Ryan Blaney – 17
  24. Daniel Suárez – 17
  25. Ryan Preece – 14
  26. Josh Berry – 12
  27. Justin Haley – 12
  28. Jimmie Johnson – 9
  29. Ricky Stenhouse Jr. – 9
  30. Joey Logano – 9
  31. Brad Keselowski – 8
  32. Carson Hocevar – 8
  33. Harrison Burton – 7
  34. Todd Gilliland – 2
  35. Michael McDowell – 1
  36. Austin Dillon – 1
  37. Kaz Grala – 1

Featured Image: William Byron, driver of the #24 Axalta Chevrolet, leads Alex Bowman, driver of the #48 Ally Chevrolet, to the checkered flag to win the NASCAR Cup Series Daytona 500 at Daytona International Speedway on February 19, 2024 in Daytona Beach, Florida. (Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images)

2024 Daytona 500: preview, schedule, lineup

 

NASCAR are racing on a Monday to get the Cup Series’ super bowl season opener underway at Daytona International Speedway, Florida, for the 66th running of the Daytona 500.

4 min read

  • Preview
  • Schedule
  • Lineup

Forty V8 Gen 7 stock cars will compete in the Great American Race in front of a sold out crowd at speeds over 200mph, on the high 31 degrees Daytona banking, inches apart from each other for 200 laps, in a bid to win one of NASCAR’s most prestigious prizes, the Harley J. Earl Trophy and forever immortalise themselves into the history books on stock car racing’s biggest day.

The Daytona 500 relinquished the usual Sunday race date due to heavy rain all day yesterday but it’s clear skies ahead for today’s running of NASCAR’s crown jewel event.

 

Last year saw Ricky Stenhouse Jr. win the Great American race for the first time with JTG Daugherty Racing in a double overtime finish after marching through the field from 31st with 20 laps to go.

There are seven active Daytona 500 winners in this year’s edition of the race including three-time Daytona 500 winner Denny Hamlin, and two-time Daytona 500 winner Jimmie Johnson.

Ricky Stenhouse Jr., driver of the #47 Kroger/Cottonelle Chevrolet, and crew celebrate in victory lane after winning the NASCAR Cup Series 65th Annual Daytona 500 at Daytona International Speedway on February 19, 2023 in Daytona Beach, Florida. (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)

Schedule

The Daytona 500 race starts at 4pm ET (9pm UK time) with American actor and pro wrestler Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson giving the command to fire engines.

The race will be broken down into three stages of 65, 65, and 70 laps totaling 200 laps (500 miles). There is a grand purse of over $28 million up for grabs to be shared out amongst the 40 drivers and teams, making victory lane a very wealthy place to find yourself in post-race.

Grand Marshal Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson speaks to the media during a press conference after the NASCAR Cup Series Daytona 500 was postponed due to weather at Daytona International Speedway on February 18, 2024 in Daytona Beach, Florida. (Photo by Adam Glanzman/Getty Images)

It is likely we will see an overtime finish given five of the last six Daytona 500 races have had an overtime finish; where NASCAR reset the laps to two laps to go if there is a yellow flag brought out too close to the finish but before one lap to go, in an attempt to end the race finish under green racing conditions, with the race leader needing to take the one lap to go white flag at the start finish line to make the race end official regardless of whether or not the yellow flag comes out on the final lap. If the white flag isn’t taken due to a yellow flag being brought out, the field of cars are restacked and another NASCAR overtime will commence.

Lineup

2015 Daytona 500 winner Joey Logano secured the pole position for Team Penske on Wednesday night in the brand new Dark Horse Mustang, the first Daytona 500 pole for Team Penske, with fellow Ford driver and 2021 Daytona 500 winner Michael McDowell, lining up alongside him for Front Row Motorsports, the first time Ford have swept the front row for the Daytona 500 grid since 2012 and ending Chevrolet’s 11-year streak of taking pole.

Joey Logano, driver of the #22 Shell Pennzoil Ford, (R) winner of the Daytona 500 pole award and Michael McDowell, driver of the #34 Love’s Travel Stops Ford, Front Row second fastest winner pose for a photo during qualifying for the NASCAR Cup Series Daytona 500 at Daytona International Speedway on February 14, 2024 in Daytona Beach, Florida. (Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images)

Lining up on row two are the two duel winners, Tyler Reddick and Christopher Bell from Thursday night in the brand new Toyota Camry XSE, where rows 2-20 were decided for the 500 via two 60-lap heat races with a 42-car field split in half to compete in either heat.

Row three sees NASCAR’s most popular driver and 2020 NASCAR Cup Series champion Chase Elliott start 5th alongside 2022 Daytona 500 winner Austin Cindric.

Row four is composed of three-time Daytona 500 pole winner Alex Bowman starting 7th and 2016, ’19, and ’20 Daytona 500 winner Denny Hamlin lining up 8th.

Row five sees breakout star and rookie Carson Hocevar lineup 9th in his first Daytona 500 start, with John Hunter Nemechek lining up 10th making his second Daytona 500 start, now driving for Legacy Motor Club.

2006 and 2013 Daytona 500 winner Jimmie Johnson will start 23rd after narrowly qualifying for the Great American Race in Thursday night’s duel race passing rival qualifying challenger J.J. Yeley coming off turn four on the final lap to secure his spot in today’s race, with Yeley going home.

Jimmie Johnson, driver of the #84 Carvana Toyota, and JJ Yeley, driver of the #44 100 Coconut Water Chevrolet, race during the NASCAR Cup Series Bluegreen Vacations Duel #1 at Daytona International Speedway on February 15, 2024 in Daytona Beach, Florida. (Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images)

Full lineup 

  1. Joey Logano (2015 Daytona 500 winner)
  2. Michael McDowell (2021 Daytona 500 winner)
  3. Tyler Reddick
  4. Christopher Bell
  5. Chase Elliott
  6. Austin Cindric (2022 Daytona 500 winner)
  7. Alex Bowman
  8. Denny Hamlin (2016, ’19, ’20 Daytona 500 winner)
  9. Carson Hocevar
  10. John Hunter Nemechek
  11. Erik Jones
  12. Harrison Burton
  13. Daniel Suárez
  14. Zane Smith
  15. Ty Gibbs
  16. Brad Keselowski
  17. Kyle Larson
  18. William Byron
  19. Chris Buescher
  20. Chase Briscoe
  21. Ross Chastain
  22. Justin Haley
  23. Jimmie Johnson (2006, ’13 Daytona 500 winner)
  24. Bubba Wallace
  25. Ryan Preece
  26. Kaz Grala
  27. Martin Truex Jr.
  28. AJ Allmendinger
  29. Corey LaJoie
  30. Josh Berry
  31. Todd Gilliland
  32. Ryan Blaney
  33. Austin Dillon (2018 Daytona 500 winner)
  34. Kyle Busch
  35. Ricky Stenhouse Jr. (2023 Daytona 500 winner)
  36. Riley Herbst
  37. Daniel Hemric
  38. Noah Gragson
  39. Anthony Alfredo
  40. David Ragan

Featured image: Alex Bowman, driver of the #48 Ally Chevrolet, and Kyle Larson, driver of the #5 HendrickCars.com Chevrolet, lead the field to start the NASCAR Cup Series 65th Annual Daytona 500 at Daytona International Speedway on February 19, 2023 in Daytona Beach, Florida. (Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images)

Toyota triumph in duels: Johnson races into Daytona 500, Reddick and Bell victorious

After Toyota’s mediocre single car qualifying performance on Wednesday, the new Camry XSE triumphed in Thursday night’s duels with Tyler Reddick and Christopher Bell each taking wins in each duel respectively while Jimmie Johnson secured his spot in a nail-biting finish, passing open challenger J.J. Yeley coming off turn four on the final lap.

5 min read

  • Jimmie Johnson
  • Duel 1
  • Duel 2
  • Full race results

Jimmie Johnson races his way into the Daytona 500

Seven-time Cup series champion Jimmie Johnson started off his first Daytona race in his Legacy Motor Club Toyota strong by racing inside the top 10 in duel one, aggressively pushing the top line to the front, but following pit stops on lap 47 fellow Toyota driver Ty Gibbs went three-wide around Johnson seeing him go to the back of the pack to only have Daniel Hemric wreck in front of him as a result of an accordion effect that had started much further up the pack with Chase Elliott, sending Johnson spinning down onto the apron in turn three.

Ricky Stenhouse Jr., driver of the No. 47 Boost by Kroger/Cottonelle Chevrolet, Austin Dillon, driver of the No. 3 Bass Pro Shops Chevrolet, Jimmie Johnson, driver of the No. 84 Carvana Toyota, and Daniel Hemric, driver of the No. 31 Cirkul Chevrolet, spin after an on-track incident during the NASCAR Cup Series Bluegreen Vacations Duel 1 at Daytona International Speedway (Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images).

Johnson miraculously came away with no damage while others who were caught up in the wreck like Austin Dillon received bodywork damage while Hemric was out. After his inspection pit stop, Johnson started at the rear with six laps to go to catch NY Racing’s J.J. Yeley, who was starting 14th, to Johnson’s 18th, who was also trying to race his way into the 500, of who Johnson had to beat to get himself into the Great American Race.

When Ross Chastain slowed in turn three on the final lap in front of both Yeley and Johnson, Yeley took his momentum to the top but stalled out while Johnson filled the gap and the middle lane carried him past Yeley who was left out to hang on the top, taking the two-time Daytona 500 champion to the finish line ahead, locking him into Sunday’s Daytona 500.

Jimmie Johnson, driver of the #84 Carvana Toyota, and JJ Yeley, driver of the #44 100 Coconut Water Chevrolet, race during the NASCAR Cup Series Bluegreen Vacations Duel #1 at Daytona International Speedway on February 15, 2024 in Daytona Beach, Florida. (Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images)

Johnson said: “It’s very stressful. I’m very thankful we got this Carvana Toyota into this race. I knew the first half of the race was going too easy. I knew there’d be a challenge thrown at us, and we got it just in time. Hats off to J.J. Yeley. He put up a heck of a fight in a very competitive car.”

Duel 1

In what would set rows 2-20 for the Daytona 500, Tyler Reddick’s 23XI Racing Toyota took the chequered flag in duel one but his day nearly ended early during green flag pit stops. A miscommunication between the Toyota drivers saw Martin Truex Jr. tag Reddick as he slowed down to enter pit road seeing him tank slap Ty Gibbs before straightening out and was able to carry on without cause for concern.

Post-race Reddick said: “Great way to start off the weekend. This thing is a beast.”

Tyler Reddick, driver of the #45 Nasty Beast Toyota, celebrates in victory lane after winning the NASCAR Cup Series Bluegreen Vacations Duel #1 at Daytona International Speedway on February 15, 2024 in Daytona Beach, Florida. (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)

Truex had been at the front with Reddick before pit stops but a slow stop due to running out of fuel and stalling saw him lose the draft until the yellow came out for the four-car wreck with Hemric.

Duel 2

Duel two saw young guns Riley Herbst and Noah Gragson lead the pack for the opening few laps until the Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota of Bell and the 23XI Racing Toyota of Bubba Wallace went on the dominate the rest of the first green flag run.

An 11-car crash brought out a yellow on lap 48, a few laps after pit stops when William Byron blocked reigning Cup champion Ryan Blaney in the tri-oval causing Byron to slow as he drove up into the top lane. With Keselowski unaware of the move ahead, he pushed Kyle Busch into Byron sending the Hendrick Motorsports driver down into Blaney who was sent head on into the outside wall, with the incident collecting half the field in the process, and ending Blaney’s and Busch’s race.

Ryan Blaney, driver of the No. 12 Menards/PEAK Ford, in flames after an on-track incident with Kyle Busch, driver of the No. 8 Zone Chevrolet, and Brad Keselowski, driver of the No. 6 Castrol Edge Ford, during the NASCAR Cup Series Bluegreen Vacations Duel 2 at Daytona International Speedway (Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images).

Bell’s teammate Denny Hamlin pole-vaulted from the back to the front though the green flag pit stop exchange but on the last lap Bell took a run to the outside of Hamlin on the and was able to fend of the Ford’s of Cindric and Burton to win the duel.

Bell said: “Me and Adam Stevens, my crew chief, we have a running joke: I say these races are 100-percent luck. I know that’s not true, but it seems like we’ve been struggling to get to the end of it. I know I’ve been a common denominator in a lot of the wrecks. Feels good to do everything well today.”

Christopher Bell, driver of the #20 DEWALT/Interstate Batteries Toyota, celebrates in victory lane after winning the NASCAR Cup Series Bluegreen Vacations Duel #2 at Daytona International Speedway on February 15, 2024 in Daytona Beach, Florida. (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)

Kaz Grala came out on top in what was another last lap duel to the flag between him and B.J. McLeod for the last spot in Sunday’s Daytona 500 seeing Grala take it by 0.067 seconds over McLeod who suffered minor damage from being caught in the11-car wreck.

McLeod had spent the first half of the race inside the top five, as high as third, but the unsponsored entry got caught out and dropped to the tail of the field shortly before pit stops, where he was unable to recover enough to beat Grala.

Grala had his own set of hurdles to overcome, having blown an engine when accidentally downshifting when starting his single car qualifying run the night before, and a slow pit stop in the duel saw him lose the draft entirely before being saved by the yellow coming out for the 11-car wreck with less than 15 to go. A restack was enough to see him through.

Grala said: “Just really proud of everybody at Front Row Motorsports. They worked so hard the last 24 hours to get the car ready to race today. Really cool to be able to get it in the show for them. Real big opportunity for me.”

Kaz Grala, driver of the #36 Ruedebusch Ford, and David Ragan, driver of the #60 BuildSubmarines.com Ford, race during the NASCAR Cup Series Bluegreen Vacations Duel #2 at Daytona International Speedway on February 15, 2024 in Daytona Beach, Florida. (Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images)

As a result of winning the duels, Reddick will start third, on the inside second-row, while Bell will start fourth, on the outside second row. Both front row cars including 2024 Daytona 500 pole-winner Joey Logano and front row starter Michael McDowell survived the duels, with McDowell having a close shave on lap 56, meaning they will lead the field to green on Sunday. The top 10 drivers from each duel received championship points with the winner receiving 10 all the way down to one point for 10th.

Denny Hamlin, driver of the #11 FedEx Toyota, Christopher Bell, driver of the #20 DEWALT/Interstate Batteries Toyota, and Michael McDowell, driver of the #34 Love’s Travel Stops Ford, race during the NASCAR Cup Series Bluegreen Vacations Duel #2 at Daytona International Speedway on February 15, 2024 in Daytona Beach, Florida. (Photo by James Gilbert/Getty Images)

Full race results below. Catch the 66th running of the Daytona 500 this Sunday at 2:30pm ET.

Full race results 

Duel 1 

  1. Tyler Reddick
  2. Chase Elliott
  3. Alex Bowman
  4. Carson Hocevar
  5. Erik Jones
  6. Daniel Suárez
  7. Joey Logano
  8. Ty Gibbs
  9. Kyle Larson
  10. Chris Buescher
  11. Ross Chastain
  12. Jimmie Johnson
  13. Ryan Preece
  14. Martin Truex Jr.
  15. Corey LaJoie
  16. J.J. Yeley
  17. Todd Gilliland
  18. Austin Dillon
  19. Anthony Alfredo
  20. Ricky Stenhouse Jr.
  21. Daniel Hemric

Duel 2  

  1. Christopher Bell
  2. Austin Cindric
  3. Denny Hamlin
  4. John Hunter Nemechek
  5. Harrison Burton
  6. Zane Smith
  7. Brad Keselowski
  8. William Byron
  9. Chase Briscoe
  10. Justin Haley
  11. Bubba Wallace
  12. Kaz Grala
  13. AJ Allmendinger
  14. B.J. McLeod
  15. David Ragan
  16. Michael McDowell
  17. Josh Berry
  18. Ryan Blaney
  19. Kyle Busch
  20. Riley Herbst
  21. Noah Gragson

Featured image: Jimmie Johnson, driver of the #84 Carvana Toyota, and JJ Yeley, driver of the #44 100 Coconut Water Chevrolet, race during the NASCAR Cup Series Bluegreen Vacations Duel #1 at Daytona International Speedway on February 15, 2024 in Daytona Beach, Florida. (Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images)

Sweet Home Chicago: Grant Park 220 preview, lineup, drivers to watch

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.

  • Preview
  • Qualifying report
  • Drivers to watch
  • Starting lineup 
Bubba Wallace, driver of the No. 23 McDonald’s Toyota, drives during practice for the NASCAR Cup Series Grant Park 220 at the Chicago Street Course (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images)

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.

Qualifying

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].”

Denny Hamlin, driver of the #11 Yahoo! Toyota, drives during practice for the NASCAR Cup Series Grant Park 220 at the Chicago Street Course on July 01, 2023 in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)

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.

Shane van Gisbergen, driver of the No. 91 Enhance Health Chevrolet, looks on during practice for the NASCAR Cup Series Grant Park 220 at the Chicago Street Course (Photo by Alejandro Alvarez/NASCAR Studios)

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.

Kevin Harvick’s No. 4 Ford took on damage during practice on the Chicago Street Course (Photo by Taylor Robbins/Race Service)

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, driver of the No. 91 Enhance Health Chevrolet, drives during practice for the NASCAR Cup Series Grant Park 220 at the Chicago Street Course (Photo by Alejandro Alvarez/NASCAR Studios)

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.

Jenson Button, driver of the No. 15 Mobil 1 Ford, drives during practice for the NASCAR Cup Series Grant Park 220 at the Chicago Street Course (Photo by Alejandro Alvarez/NASCAR Studios)

Starting lineup 

  1. Denny Hamlin
  2. Tyler Reddick
  3. Shane van Gisbergen
  4. Christopher Bell
  5. Daniel Suarez
  6. Michael McDowell
  7. Kyle Larson
  8. Jenson Button
  9. Joey Logano
  10. AJ Allmendinger
  11. Martin Truex Jr.
  12. Ty Gibbs
  13. Alex Bowman
  14. Bubba Wallace
  15. Chris Buescher
  16. Chase Briscoe
  17. Ryan Blaney
  18. Kyle Busch
  19. Corey LaJoie
  20. Brad Keselowski
  21. Erik Jones
  22. William Byron
  23. Noah Gragson
  24. Aric Almirola
  25. Todd Gilliland
  26. Chase Elliott
  27. Josh Bilicki
  28. Ryan Preece
  29. Austin Dillon
  30. Andy Lally
  31. Austin Cindric
  32. Harrison Burton
  33. Ty Dillon
  34. Ross Chastain
  35. Kevin Harvick
  36. Ricky Stenhouse Jr.
  37. Justin Haley

 

Featured Image: A general view of the setup for the Chicago Street Race frontstretch (Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images)

Kyle Busch checks off Gateway

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
  • Points standings
Kyle Busch, driver of the #8 3CHI Chevrolet, celebrates with a burnout after winning the NASCAR Cup Series Enjoy Illinois 300 at WWT Raceway on June 04, 2023 in Madison, Illinois. (Photo by Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images)

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, driver of the #8 3CHI Chevrolet, celebrates with RCR team owner and NASCAR Hall of Famer, Richard Childress and wife, Samantha Busch in victory lane after winning the NASCAR Cup Series Enjoy Illinois 300 at WWT Raceway on June 04, 2023 in Madison, Illinois. (Photo by Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images)

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.

Kyle Larson, driver of the #5 HendrickCars.com Chevrolet, and Alex Bowman, driver of the #48 Ally Chevrolet, race during the NASCAR Cup Series Enjoy Illinois 300 at WWT Raceway on June 04, 2023 in Madison, Illinois. (Photo by Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images)

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. 

Ryan Blaney, driver of the #12 Menards/Richmond Water Heaters Ford, and Joey Logano, driver of the #22 Shell Pennzoil Ford, race during the NASCAR Cup Series Enjoy Illinois 300 at WWT Raceway on June 04, 2023 in Madison, Illinois. (Photo by Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images)

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.

Corey LaJoie, driver of the #9 NAPA Auto Parts Chevrolet, drives during the NASCAR Cup Series Enjoy Illinois 300 at WWT Raceway on June 04, 2023 in Madison, Illinois. (Photo by Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images)

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

Kyle Busch, driver of the #8 3CHI Chevrolet, leads the field during the NASCAR Cup Series Enjoy Illinois 300 at WWT Raceway on June 04, 2023 in Madison, Illinois. (Photo by Jeff Curry/Getty Images)

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.

A general view of pit road during a weather delay of the NASCAR Cup Series Enjoy Illinois 300 at WWT Raceway (Photo by Jeff Curry/Getty Images)

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.

Bubba Wallace’s brake rotor failure with five laps to go saw the caution come out again that led to the overtime finish that saw Kyle Busch take the chequered flag for Richard Childress Racing.

The next race for the NASCAR Cup Series will be the Toyota/Save Mart 350 at Sonoma Raceway in California with the green flag flying this Sunday at 3:30pm ET.

Full race results 

  1. Kyle Busch
  2. Denny Hamlin
  3. Joey Logano
  4. Kyle Larson
  5. Martin Truex Jr.
  6. Ryan Blaney
  7. Daniel Suarez
  8. William Byron
  9. Michael McDowell
  10. Kevin Harvick
  11. Christopher Bell
  12. Chris Buescher
  13. Austin Cindric
  14. AJ Allmendinger
  15. Todd Gilliland
  16. Justin Haley
  17. Ryan Preece
  18. Erik Jones
  19. Aric Almirola
  20. Ty Gibbs
  21. Corey LaJoie
  22. Ross Chastain
  23. Harrison Burton
  24. JJ Yeley
  25. Ty Dillon
  26. Alex Bowman
  27. BJ McLeod
  28. Brad Keselowski
  29. Gray Gaulding
  30. Bubba Wallace
  31. Austin Dillon
  32. Ricky Stenhouse Jr.
  33. Noah Gragson
  34. Chase Briscoe
  35. Tyler Reddick
  36. Carson Hocevar

Stage one

  1. Kyle Busch
  2. Ryan Blaney
  3. Denny Hamlin
  4. Martin Truex Jr.
  5. Joey Logano
  6. Kevin Harvick
  7. William Byron
  8. Ross Chastain
  9. Austin Cindric
  10. Daniel Suarez

Stage two 

  1. Ryan Blaney
  2. Kyle Busch
  3. Denny Hamlin
  4. William Byron
  5. Daniel Suarez
  6. Ricky Stenhouse Jr.
  7. Joey Logano
  8. Kevin Harvick
  9. Ross Chastain
  10. Kyle Larson

Points standings

(* = locked into playoffs)

  1. Ryan Blaney* – 495
  2. William Byron* – 482
  3. Kevin Harvick – 473
  4. Martin Truex Jr.* – 472
  5. Ross Chastain – 466
  6. Christopher Bell* – 455
  7. Kyle Busch* – 451
  8. Denny Hamlin* – 451
  9. Kyle Larson* – 411
  10. Tyler Reddick* – 411
  11. Brad Keselowski – 403
  12. Joey Logano* – 401
  13. Chris Buescher – 393
  14. Ricky Stenhouse Jr.* – 368
  15. Bubba Wallace – 334
  16. Daniel Suarez – 313

  17. Alex Bowman – 307
  18. Ty Gibbs – 298
  19. Austin Cindric – 280
  20. Michael McDowell – 278
  21. Corey LaJoie – 274
  22. Justin Haley – 268
  23. Todd Gilliland – 266
  24. AJ Allmendinger – 260
  25. Aric Almirola – 251
  26. Erik Jones – 245
  27. Ryan Preece – 245
  28. Chase Elliott – 215
  29. Harrison Burton – 209
  30. Austin Dillon – 200
  31. Chase Briscoe – 175
  32. Noah Gragson – 143
  33. Ty Dillon – 132
  34. BJ McLeod – 88

Featured Image: Kyle Busch, driver of the No. 8 3CHI Chevrolet, takes a bow after winning the NASCAR Cup Series Enjoy Illinois 300 at WWT Raceway (Photo by Jeff Curry/Getty Images)

 

Ryan Blaney wins Coca-Cola 600, securing Team Penske crown jewel sweep

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.  

  • Blaney victorious 
  • William Byron one-place short
  • Kyle Larson spins
  • Elliott hooks Hamlin
  • Rest of race recap 
  • Full race results
  • Points standings
CONCORD, NORTH CAROLINA – MAY 29: Ryan Blaney, driver of the #12 BodyArmor Cherry Lime Ford, takes the checkered flag to win 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)

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.

Ryan Blaney, driver of the #12 BodyArmor Cherry Lime Ford, celebrates in victory lane after winning the NASCAR Cup Series Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway on May 29, 2023 in Concord, North Carolina. (Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)

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.

Ryan Blaney, driver of the #12 BodyArmor Cherry Lime Ford, celebrates with fans 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)

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.

Ryan Blaney, driver of the #12 BodyArmor Cherry Lime Ford, William Byron, driver of the #24 Liberty University Patriotic Chevrolet, and Chase Briscoe, driver of the #14 Mahindra Tractors Ford, race during the NASCAR Cup Series Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway on May 29, 2023 in Concord, North Carolina. (Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)

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.

Denny Hamlin, driver of the No. 11 Sport Clips Haircuts Toyota, spins after an on-track incident with Chase Elliott during the NASCAR Cup Series Coca-Cola 600 (Photo by David Jensen/Getty Images)

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.

William Byron, driver of the #24 Liberty University Patriotic Chevrolet, leads the field to the green flag to start 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)

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. 

Drivers pit during the NASCAR Cup Series Coca-Cola 600 (Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)

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.

Bubba Wallace, driver of the No. 23 Dr Pepper Strawberries & Cream Toyota, Harrison Burton, driver of the No. 21 DEX Imaging Ford, and Aric Almirola, driver of the No. 10 Smithfield Ford, race during the NASCAR Cup Series Coca-Cola 600 (Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)

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)

Full race results 

  1. Ryan Blaney
  2. William Byron
  3. Martin Truex Jr.
  4. Bubba Wallace
  5. Tyler Reddick
  6. Kyle Busch
  7. Ricky Stenhouse Jr.
  8. Chris Buescher
  9. Austin Dillon
  10. Zane Smith
  11. Kevin Harvick
  12. Alex Bowman
  13. Ryan Preece
  14. AJ Allmendinger
  15. Justin Haley
  16. J. J. Yeley
  17. Corey LaJoie
  18. Harrison Burton
  19. Brad Keselowski
  20. Chase Briscoe
  21. Joey Logano
  22. Ross Chastain
  23. Daniel Suarez
  24. Christopher Bell
  25. Aric Almirola
  26. Ty Gibbs
  27. Ty Dillon
  28. Michael McDowell
  29. BJ McLeod
  30. Kyle Larson
  31. Austin Cindric
  32. Erik Jones
  33. Todd Gilliland
  34. Chase Elliott
  35. Denny Hamlin
  36. Noah Gragson
  37. Jimmie Johnson

 Points standings 

(*=Locked into playoffs)

  1. Ross Chastain – 446
  2. Ryan Blaney* – 445
  3. William Byron* – 442
  4. Kevin Harvick – 438
  5. Martin Truex Jr.* – 433
  6. Christopher Bell* – 429
  7. Tyler Reddick* – 409
  8. Denny Hamlin* – 400
  9. Brad Keselowski – 394
  10. Kyle Busch* – 392
  11. Kyle Larson* – 377
  12. Chris Buescher – 368
  13. Ricky Stenhouse Jr.* – 358
  14. Joey Logano* – 357
  15. Bubba Wallace – 327
  16. Alex Bowman – 296
  17. Chase Briscoe – 292
  18. Ty Gibbs – 281
  19. Daniel Suarez – 276
  20. Corey LaJoie – 258
  21. Austin Cindric – 254
  22. Michael McDowell – 250
  23. Justin Haley – 247
  24. Todd Gilliland – 244
  25. AJ Allmendinger – 237
  26. Aric Almirola – 233
  27. Erik Jones – 226
  28. Ryan Preece – 225
  29. Chase Elliott – 215
  30. Harrison Burton – 195
  31. Austin Dillon – 194
  32. Noah Gragson – 139
  33. Ty Dillon – 120
  34. B. J. McLeod – 78

Larson in class of his own in North Wilkesboro All-Star Race

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.

  • Kyle Larson
  • Bubba Wallace
  • Rest of race recap
  • Coca-Cola 600
  • 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.

Kyle Larson, driver of the #5 HendrickCars.com Chevrolet (1st), and Daniel Suarez, driver of the #99 Trackhouse Motorplex Chevrolet (2nd), lead the field during the NASCAR Cup Series All-Star Race at North Wilkesboro Speedway on May 21, 2023 in North Wilkesboro, North Carolina. (Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)

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.

A general view of racing during the NASCAR Cup Series All-Star Race at North Wilkesboro Speedway.

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.

Kyle Larson, driver of the #5 HendrickCars.com Chevrolet (front), and Bubba Wallace, the No. 23 23XI Racing Toyota (behind), pits during qualifying heat #2 for the NASCAR Cup Series All-Star Race at North Wilkesboro Speedway on May 20, 2023 in North Wilkesboro, North Carolina. (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)

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.”

Bubba Wallace, driver of the No. 23 23XI Racing Toyota, drives during the NASCAR All-Star Race at North Wilkesboro Speedway (Photo by Alejandro Alvarez/NASCAR Studios)

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.

Erik Jones, driver of the No. 43 STP Chevrolet, drives during the NASCAR Cup Series All-Star Race at North Wilkesboro Speedway (Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images)

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.

Coca-Cola 600

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)

Full race results

  1. Kyle Larson
  2. Bubba Wallace
  3. Tyler Reddick
  4. Chase Briscoe
  5. Chase Elliott
  6. Ryan Blaney
  7. Daniel Suarez
  8. Erik Jones
  9. Ty Gibbs
  10. Joey Logano
  11. Ross Chastain
  12. Christopher Bell
  13. Denny Hamlin
  14. Martin Truex Jr.
  15. Josh Berry
  16. Chris Buescher
  17. Austin Dillon
  18. Kevin Harvick
  19. Brad Keselowski
  20. William Byron
  21. Austin Cindric
  22. Kyle Busch
  23. Noah Gragson
  24. Ricky Stenhouse Jr.

 

The Track of Dreams: North Wilkesboro All-Star Race Format and Lineup

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
  • Format
  • Heat races
  • 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’.

Dale Earnhardt’s No. 3 Chevrolet sits on display at North Wilkesboro Speedway in NASCAR’s return to Wilkes County (Zack Albert/NASCAR Studios)

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.

Format

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.

A general view of NASCAR Cup Series drivers (Back Row L-R) Ryan Blaney, Josh Bilicki, Erik Jones, Noah Gragson, Aric Almirola, Corey LaJoie, Ross Chastain, Ty Gibbs, Bubba Wallace, Ty Dillon, Kyle Busch, Denny Hamlin, Daniel Suarez, Chase Briscoe, Christopher Bell, Michael McDowell, Chris Buescher, Chase Elliott, Austin Cindric, Martin Truex Jr., (Front Row L-R) Chandler Smith, Harrison Burton, Kyle Larson, Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Joey Logano, William Byron, Justin Haley, AJ Allmendinger, Kevin Harvick, Austin Dillon, Todd Gilliland, Brad Keselowski, Ryan Preece, JJ Yeley, and Tyler Reddick pose on track for a photo at North Wilkesboro Speedway on May 19, 2023 in North Wilkesboro, North Carolina. (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)

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.

Heat races

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.

Chris Buescher, driver of the #17 Fastenal Ford, leads the field during qualifying heat #2 for the NASCAR Cup Series All-Star Race at North Wilkesboro Speedway on May 20, 2023 in North Wilkesboro, North Carolina. (Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images)

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.

NORTH WILKESBORO, NORTH CAROLINA – MAY 19: Pit crew members of the #54 Monster Energy Toyota, leaps into action
during the NASCAR Cup Series All-Star Race Qualifying Pit Crew Challenge at North Wilkesboro Speedway on May 19, 2023 in North Wilkesboro, North Carolina. (Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)

The All-Star Open lineup is as follows.

Position Driver
1st Ty Gibbs
2nd Josh Berry
3rd Corey LaJoie
4th Harrison Burton
5th Justin Haley
6th Michael McDowell
7th Todd Gilliland
8th

9th

10th

11th

12th

13th

14th

15th

16th

Ryan Preece

Aric Almirola

AJ Allmendinger

Josh Bilicki

Ty Dillon

Chandler Smith

Ryan Newman

Noah Gragson

JJ Yeley

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.

Position Driver
1st Daniel Suarez
2nd Chris Buescher
3rd Joey Logano
4th Austin Dillon
5th Chase Briscoe
6th William Byron
7th Christopher Bell
8th

9th

10th

11th

12th

13th

14th

15th

16th

17th

18th

19th

20th

21st

Brad Keselowski

Denny Hamlin

Bubba Wallace

Ryan Blaney

Martin Truex Jr.

Chase Elliott

Kyle Busch

Kevin Harvick

Kyle Larson

Austin Cindric

Ross Chastain

Ricky Stenhouse Jr.

Tyler Reddick

Erik Jones

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, driver of the No. 7 HendrickCars.com Chevrolet, takes the checkered flag to win the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series Tyson 250 at North Wilkesboro Speedway (Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)

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.

Bubba Wallace, driver of the No. 1 Pristine Auction Toyota, leads the field during the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series Tyson 250 at North Wilkesboro Speedway (Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images)

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.

Chase Elliott, driver of the #9 NAPA Auto Parts Chevrolet, and Daniel Suarez, driver of the #99 Trackhouse Motorplex Chevrolet, race during qualifying heat #1 for the NASCAR Cup Series All-Star Race at North Wilkesboro Speedway on May 20, 2023 in North Wilkesboro, North Carolina. (Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images)

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.

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)

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.

Kevin Harvick, driver of the No. 29 Busch Light Ford, drives during Heat Race No. 1 for the NASCAR Cup Series All-Star Race at North Wilkesboro Speedway (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)

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)

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