Audi confirmed their entry in August 2022 after the announcement of the new power unit rules for 2026. They decided, unlike Ford, to not just make power units but to take control of Sauber, currently known as Alfa Romeo, and are in the first year of that phase as a minority stakeholder of the team. But according to some, all is not well with paddock rumours and media, is it over before a wheel has been turned? Does this mean Peter Sauber is staying or is it just rumours?
F1 have been trying to get the Volkswagen Group back in the sport which Audi are apart of along with Bentley, Porsche and others. Audi itself have had recent changes within its own high organisation levels and supposedly the idea may have come to an end before it has started, which will cost the German manufacturer millions.
In early 2024, Audi will become 50% joint owners with Sauber and then in early 2025 they become 75% owners of the team. However, the new board at Audi have supposedly concluded the venture may be too expensive.
According to some of the German Media, the rumour is that the VW Group want to keep the programme in house with a potential switch to Porsche. With the venture still in the early stages in F1 terms, this could mean a simple switch of data and staff between the companies.
However, within the paddock, the rumour is that Toyota will try their chances once again, having previous knowledge of the sport. Additionally this could be in collaboration with Mclaren to a certain extent, as the team from Woking don’t have power unit supplier for 2026 as of yet. Toyota are looking to become a manufacturer again and also return as power unit supplier for the McLaren for the first time in history.
Despite all of this, Audi are still looking to join F1 in the future as nothing has changed officially or been announced. But murmurings suggest this is something to keep an eye on as we go into the final races of 2023. Will we get a Germany v Mercedes regardless or Toyota v Honda? Time will tell.
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)
Sunday saw JTG Daugherty Racing’s Ricky Stenhouse Jr. win the 65th Daytona 500 in a double overtime finish beating Team Penske’s Joey Logano to the caution flag as the field wrecked behind them. It was the longest Daytona 500 being 212 laps (530 miles) compared with 2020’s 209 lap race. The two Kyle’s of Busch and Larson missed out again while Travis Pastrana came home 11th in his first Daytona 500.
Rest of race recap
After starting 31st with 20 laps to go after receiving a penalty for speeding exiting pit road, Stenhouse Jr. methodically worked his way back through the field to take the lead away from Kyle Busch during the first of two overtimes.
In the final overtime, he held off Kyle Larson and inched in front of Joey Logano on the white flag lap at the time of caution as nearly the entire field wrecked behind them after Almirola turned Pastrana down into the pack.
Two minutes later, NASCAR declared Ricky Stenhouse Jr., of Olive Branch, Mississippi, the winner of the 65th running of the Daytona 500; his 12th attempt at winning the Great American Race.
It ends a 199-winless streak and earned the Mississippi native his third career win, all coming at restrictor plate tracks, including the 2017 summer Daytona race. This was Stenhouse’s first season back with his old crew chief Mike Kelly, who he won the 2011 and 2012 Xfinity Championships together with.
Stenhouse Jr. said: “everything played out perfectly for us at the end of that. It’s the Daytona 500. It’s a long race. You’re going to have good parts and bad parts, but we just kept pushing through.”
For most of the race the pack was tightly strung together two-wide 15-plus rows deep. While any aggressive maneuvers and sudden movements often came close to causing the big one, there was perpetual energy changes in the two lanes leading to 52 lead changes in the race shared amongst 21 drivers. Prior to overtime, there was only four cautions for cause.
Joey Logano had been upfront throughout the race including leading the pack for most of the final 18 laps of stage two. Logano retook the lead with 13 laps to go before losing it to AJ Allmendinger two laps later.
Logano circled around the top five for all of overtime including in the first before the big one happened when William Byron and Austin Dillon spun back into the pack in turn three after Byron had sent Dillon into a spin.
In the final overtime finish Logano was ahead of Stenhouse Jr. when the field began wrecking behind them but by the time the caution was thrown five seconds later, Stenhouse Jr. had surged back ahead.
Logano, speaking about his decisions afterwards said: “Second is the worst, man. You’re so close. Leading the white flag lap there, I was up front. Kyle gave me a good push. I knew if I went to the bottom my car didn’t handle good enough. I already got pushed off the bottom once and I thought, if I go down there, I’m probably going to get wrecked, and I don’t know if I can get down there in time to throw the block [on Stenhouse] and so I didn’t want to wreck my car either.”
Richard Childress Racing’s Kyle Busch had taken over the lead with teammate Austin Dillon in tandem inside of three laps to go, slingshotting around the Roush Fenway Keselowski Ford’s of Brad Keselowski and Chris Buescher.
The RCR camp offered Stenhouse an olive branch on the restart when a drop to the bottom lane from the top by Busch to allow Dillon in to push saw Logano’s and Stenhouse Jr.’s outside led lane out-drag them down the backstretch. Busch would be collected in the final wreck sending him tumbling down the finishing order to 19th.
Busch had a stereotypically rowdy race. In his 18th attempt to win the Daytona 500, he had to start in the rear due to going to a backup car after Thursday night’s duel crash but worked his way up to the top-10 after the first green flag pit stops. Busch was caught speeding on pit road on lap 107 and served his drive through penalty under green, consequently being caught by the pack laps later.
After being the lucky dog on lap 132, putting himself back on the lead lap, Busch worked his way up to inside the top five with 15 laps to go, only to wreck out of the Daytona 500 again when Kyle Busch spun off of Bubba Wallace’s nose in the final wreck.
‘@KyleBusch led lap 200, the advertised race length.
Kyle Larson led the opening lap of the race, pipping polesitter Alex Bowman to the line. Larson, while staying in contention, would only be at the front again in the second overtime, lining up alongside Stenhouse Jr. for the restart. Larson would finish 18th after being taken out in the final crash.
The first stint of the race was smooth sailing apart from a spinning Riley Herbst in the infield grass on lap 38, but the race stayed caution free. After the first green flag pit stops were complete on lap 45, the four Toyota’s found themselves in the top-five in 23XI Racing’s Bubba Wallace leading with teammate Tyler Reddick followed by Joe Gibbs Racing’s Denny Hamlin and Christopher Bell. Wallace had to come to pit road from the lead after a light bump from Truex Jr. sent him into the wall and would go down a lap.
With six to go in stage one it was a JGR one-two-three in Martin Truex Jr, Hamlin and Ty Gibbs but were sitting ducks to the RFK and Stewart-Haas Racing Ford’s of Brad Keselowski, Ryan Preece, Chris Buescher and Kevin Harvick. The blue ovals pounced on the final lap with Keselowski winning the stage.
Keselowski also led much of the halfway part of the race. At lap 100 Erik Jones, in his striking Guns N’ Roses sponsored No. 43, was up to fifth, and Jimmie Johnson, the two-time Daytona 500 winner who finished eighth in stage one, was up to sixth.
Lap 118 saw the first major incident of the race when Harvick gently pushed outside leader Reddick into a spin down into Blaney and Truex Jr. before careering into the turn four wall causing the field to check up behind. Blaney would whack the outside wall also but would continue after repairs while Jones would spin into Chase Elliott taking both, along with Reddick, out of the race. Wallace ironically would get the free pass following his teammate’s crash.
A six-lap shootout to end stage two saw Ross Chastain drag-race Alex Bowman to the green chequered flag to take the stage win.
Wallace would lead the start of the final stage after staying out under yellow. Wallace had no top-end pace on the restart and quickly fell back through the pack as Aric Almirola took over the lead.
A seven-car crash came just after the final scheduled green flag pit stop’s with 19 laps to go when part of the mid-field stacked up behind Keselowski leading to 14th place running Preece, the fifth car in line, spinning out from Michael McDowell’s rear contact, taking out himself and SHR teammate Chase Briscoe from the race.
Harrison Burton and Logano briefly led at the front before Kaulig Racing’s AJ Allmendinger took over the lead from Logano while Burton squeezed Busch into the frontstretch wall. The RFK Ford’s of Keselowski and Buescher took back the lead with 10 to go before an eight-car breakaway developed inside of five to go, with Busch and Dillon tucked in behind the RFK Ford’s.
A spinning Daniel Suarez coming off turn four into the infield grass helped lead to the double-overtime finish that saw Ricky Stenhouse Jr. win his first Cup race since 2017 and Chevrolet win their first Daytona 500 since RCR’s win with Austin Dillon in 2018.
The mayhem at the end and good incident avoidance led Rick Ware Racing’s Riley Herbst to come home in 10th in his first Daytona 500 start, despite being a part of the first overtime crash, and X-Games gold medallist Travis Pastrana finish 11th in his first Daytona 500. Jimmie Johnson was forced to retire from the race after being caught up the first overtime pile-up and would finish 31st.
This Sunday sees the NASCAR Cup Series travel to Fontana, California for the second race of the season, the Pala Casino 400 at Auto Club Speedway starting 3:30pm ET.
Featured Image: 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)
Bowman was the last car to go out in single- car qualifying’s final round and had to beat Hendrick Motorsport teammate Kyle Larson’s lap speed of 181.057mph. Both Bowman and Larson make up the front row for the Great American Race for two years in a row except it was Larson on pole for last year’s race.
Bowman, who announced a contract extension earlier in the day that sees him through to 2026 with Hendrick said: “This Ally 48 Camaro is obviously really fast. I don’t really have a lot to do with qualifying here, so just fortunate to qualify some really fast race cars.”
Hendrick drivers have won eight of the last nine Daytona 500 poles, and Chevrolet drivers have won the last 11.
It was a Hendrick one-two-three at the end of qualifying with William Byron coming in third with a lap speed of 180.727mph. Unlike his teammates, his starting position for the Daytona 500 will be decided in the duel races as only the front row is locked in for the Daytona 500 ahead of the duels.
It was all Ford’s from fourth to ninth in Almirola, Logano, Briscoe, Blaney, Cindric and Burton. Kyle Busch had his initial top-five time disallowed for dipping his Richard Childress Chevrolet below the double yellow lines on the frontstretch, having to settle for 10th out of the 10 cars in the final round.
Jimmie Johnson and Travis Pastrana were the top two non-chartered cars, qualifying 23rd and 25th with near equal lap speeds; 179.276mph and 179.254mph respectively. There’d been no practice prior to qualifying so it was all the more impressive to see Johnson, the seven-time Cup champions’ first qualifying session with the New Gen Car and Pastrana, making his first Daytona 500 run, lay down competitive lap speeds.
Pastrana said: I just can’t say enough about this 23XI team. And this TRD motor and being able to get on the [simulator], that was everything. Can’t give them enough credit for this opportunity.”
It means that Conor Daly, Chandler Smith, Zane Smith and Austin Hill will have to race their way into the Daytona 500. Daly, who led laps in last year’s Indy 500, was unable to go out to qualify due to a broken oil line. The Money Team Racing car was completely disassembled during qualifying while they awaited the arrival of a replacement oil heater. He consequently qualified 42nd.
An oil line broke on the No. 50 car. Conor Daly told me he isn't sure if the team will be able to fix it in time to post a qualifying lap tonight. #NASCARpic.twitter.com/OMRBa6mXV9
Front Row Motorsport’s Zane Smith was the best of the rest of the non-chartered cars qualifying 29th with a lap speed of 178.862mph. Austin Hill and Chandler Smith qualified 32nd and 41st.
The single-car qualifying results decide where each driver will start in the Blue Vacations Duel 60-lap qualifying races to determine the starting positions for the Great American Race. The qualifying field will be split into two duels, with the odd numbered qualified cars racing in duel one and even numbered qualified cars in duel two.
The highest finishing non-chartered car from each duel that isn’t locked in from single-car qualifying will lock themselves into Sunday’s race.
The Blue Vacation Duels begin 7pm ET time Thursday night.
Full qualifying results
(48) Alex Bowman, Chevrolet, 181.686 mph.
(5) Kyle Larson, Chevrolet, 181.057 mph.
(24) William Byron, Chevrolet, 180.727 mph.
(10) Aric Almirola, Ford, 180.723 mph.
(22) Joey Logano, Ford, 180.712 mph.
(14) Chase Briscoe, Ford, 180.661 mph.
(12) Ryan Blaney, Ford, 180.054 mph.
(2) Austin Cindric, Ford, 180.014 mph.
(21) Harrison Burton, Ford, 179.748 mph.
(8) Kyle Busch, Chevrolet, 0.000 mph.
(23) Bubba Wallace, Toyota, 180.011 mph.
(99) Daniel Suarez, Chevrolet, 179.921 mph.
(17) Chris Buescher, Ford, 179.888 mph.
(9) Chase Elliott, Chevrolet, 179.881 mph.
(1) Ross Chastain, Chevrolet, 179.863 mph.
(41) Ryan Preece, Ford, 179.849 mph.
(4) Kevin Harvick, Ford, 179.684 mph.
(6) Brad Keselowski, Ford, 179.673 mph.
(54) Ty Gibbs #, Toyota, 179.616 mph.
(45) Tyler Reddick, Toyota, 179.612 mph.
(20) Christopher Bell, Toyota, 179.497 mph.
(19) Martin Truex Jr., Toyota, 179.347 mph.
(84) Jimmie Johnson, Chevrolet, 179.276 mph.
(34) Michael McDowell, Ford, 179.265 mph.
(67) Travis Pastrana, Toyota, 179.254 mph.
(11) Denny Hamlin, Toyota, 179.154 mph.
(43) Erik Jones, Chevrolet, 178.998 mph.
(42) Noah Gragson #, Chevrolet, 178.941 mph.
(36) Zane Smith(i), Ford, 178.862 mph.
(16) AJ Allmendinger, Chevrolet, 178.813 mph.
(31) Justin Haley, Chevrolet, 178.763 mph.
(62) Austin Hill(i), Chevrolet, 178.660 mph.
(3) Austin Dillon, Chevrolet, 178.525 mph.
(38) Todd Gilliland, Ford, 178.204 mph.
(47) Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Chevrolet, 177.925 mph.
(78) BJ McLeod, Chevrolet, 177.834 mph.
(51) Cody Ware, Ford, 177.169 mph.
(15) Riley Herbst(i), Ford, 176.849 mph.
(77) Ty Dillon, Chevrolet, 176.315 mph.
(7) Corey LaJoie, Chevrolet, 176.287 mph.
(13) Chandler Smith(i), Chevrolet, 175.022 mph.
(50) Conor Daly(i), Chevrolet, 0.000 mph.
Featured Image: Alex Bowman, driver of the #48 Ally Chevrolet, poses on the track during qualifying for the Busch Light Pole at Daytona International Speedway on February 15, 2023 in Daytona Beach, Florida. (Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)
This Sunday the NASCAR Cup Series’ regular season gets underway at Daytona International Speedway, Daytona Beach, Florida, for the 65th running of the Daytona 500 on its 75th anniversary. 40 cars will compete in the Great American Race in front of a sold out crowd at speeds over 200mph, 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 in the history books on stock car racing’s biggest day.
Drivers to watch
42 drivers have entered into the 500-mile 200 lap race around the 2.5-mile superspeedway with seven part-time entries including seven-time Cup Series champion and Legacy Motor Club co-owner Jimmie Johnson and X Games gold medallist and Hoonigan driver Travis Pastrana.
Last year saw Team Penske rookie Austin Cindric win the Daytona 500 on his full-time debut. It was the first time a rookie has won the Daytona 500 since Trevor Bayne in 2011, driving for Wood Brothers Racing.
There are 36 chartered cars in this year’s Daytona 500 meaning they are guaranteed a spot in the race regardless of where they qualify. There are four spots available for non-chartered cars to claim with six entering meaning two will fail to qualify for this year’s race. Two cars will able to secure their spot from single car qualifying while the remaining two spots will be decided in the duels.
The NASCAR Cup Cars will run single car qualifying on Wednesday at 8pm ET where in round one they will run a single timed lap attempting to lay down a top-10 lap to get through to the final round where they will set another single timed lap in an attempt to secure the pole for the Great American Race.
The top two from single car qualifying will keep their starting positions on the front row for the Daytona 500 regardless of where they finish in their duel race. Hendrick Motorsport’s Kyle Larson scored the pole in last year’s event with teammate Alex Bowman qualifying second.
The Bluegreen Vacations Duels, the two qualifying 60-lap races, will be run on Thursday starting at 7pm ET. The finishing positions determine where the drivers will start the Daytona 500, and which two non-chartered cars will go home. Roush Fenway Keselowski Racing’s Brad Keselowski and Chris Buescher won last year’s duels.
As and added incentive, the top 10 in each duel race will receive points; 10 for finishing first, nine for second and so on all the way down to receiving one point for finishing 10th.
On Friday the Cup Series will have the first of two 50-minute practice sessions starting at 5:35pm ET before the NextEra Energy 250, the Craftsman Truck Series 100-lap night race, starting at 7:30pm ET.
Saturday sees the Cup Series have its final 50-minute practice session starting at 10:30am ET before the Beef. It’s What’s For Dinner 300, the Xfinity Series 120-lap race, starting at 5pm ET.
Sunday sees the biggest day in stock car racing with the 65th running of the Daytona 500 starting at 2:30pm ET in front of a sold out crowd for the eighth year running. The 200-lap race will be broken down into three stages of 65,65 and 70 laps respectively.
Drivers to watch
Two-time Daytona 500 champion Jimmie Johnson will attempt to win the Daytona 500 for a third time to join the likes of three-time Daytona 500 champions Denny Hamlin and old Hendrick Motorsports teammate Jeff Gordon in the history books. He will drive the No. 84 Carvana Chevrolet for Legacy Motor Club. He has to qualify his way into the race due to having an non-chartered car.
Travis Pastrana, the legendary Hoonigan stunt performer and Nitro RallyCross series founder will attempt to qualify for his first Daytona 500 as a third entry for 23XI Racing driving the No. 67 Black Rifle Coffee Toyota.
Pastrana said: “I’m thrilled at the chance to race in the Daytona 500. It’s the one event every year that all my friends and family come together to watch at our buddy Dale’s house and it’s an event I’ve wanted to race my entire life.”
He has competed in five Craftsman Truck Series races and 42 Xfinity Series races and has raced at Daytona three times before in NACAR’s national series including finishing 10th in the 2013 Xfinity Series Daytona season-opener.
Conor Daly, who competes full-time in the NTT IndyCar Series, will also attempt to qualify for his first Daytona 500 with The Money Team Racing which is co-owned by boxing legend Floyd Mayweather, sporting the No. 50 BitNile.com Chevrolet. Daly has one Cup start to his name, competing in last year’s Charlotte Roval race where he finished 34th.
Rookie Ty Gibbs will make his first start for his grandfather’s team Joe Gibbs Racing competing full-time, replacing two-time NASCAR Cup Series champion Kyle Busch. The reigning Xfinity Series champion will be driving the No. 54 Monster Energy/Interstates Batteries Toyota.
Ty Gibbs is racing with a heavy heart after his dad, a member of the Joe Gibbs Racing family, Coy Gibbs, suddenly passed away the day after he won the Xfinity Series title last November. Ty made 15 Cup starts last year after subbing for Kurt Busch where he earned one top-10 at Michigan.
Rookie Noah Gragson will drive the No. 42 Legacy Motor Club Wendy’s Chevrolet in what will be his second Daytona 500 start. Gragson is in his first full-time Cup season, after 18 Cup races last year with the majority being with Kaulig Racing. The 13-times Xfinity Series winner was runner up to Ty Gibbs last season championship finale in Phoenix.
Denny Hamlin will be going for a fourth Daytona 500 victory with Joe Gibbs Racing, sporting the FedEx 50 Toyota. Hamlin won the 2016, ’19, and 2020 Daytona 500’s with JGR.
In case you missed the unveil, here is the scheme I'll be running at @DAYTONA. Anytime you have a 50th birthday, it's a cause for celebration and definitely deserves a special paint scheme. Excited to hit the track! pic.twitter.com/O4X9wcDp3g
Bubba Wallace will compete in his sixth Daytona 500, racing the No. 23 McDonald’s Toyota for Denny Hamlin’s and Michael Jordan’s 23XI Racing. The Alabama native will hope to finish one place better after being the 2018 and 2022 runner-up. If Wallace wins this year’s race, he would become the first African-American to have done so.
This will be Kevin Harvick’s final Daytona 500 driver as a full-time Cup driver after announcing his retirement in the off-season. Harvick won the 2007 Daytona 500 when he pipped fan-favourite Mark Martin at the finish line. Harvick will drive No. 4 Busch Light Ford for Stewart-Haas Racing.
Austin Hill, the 2022 Daytona Xfinity Series race winner, will attempt to qualify for his first Daytona 500 for Beard Motorsports and will pilot the No. 62 Bennett Transportation and Logistics Chevrolet. He made his Cup debut at last August’s Michigan race in the No. 33 Richard Childress Racing Bennett Transportation and Logistics sponsored Chevrolet where he impressively finished 18th.
23-year-old Zane Smith, the 2022 Craftsman Truck Series champion, will attempt to qualify for his first Daytona 500 with Front Row Motorsports driving the No. 36 Wellcare Ford. Smith impressed the NASCAR garage when he subbed for RFK’s Chris Buescher last season, finishing 17th on his Cup debut at World Wide Technology Raceway.
Rookie Chandler Smith, the five-time Craftsman Truck Series winner, will attempt to qualify for his first Daytona 500 with Kaulig Racing driving the No. 13 Quick Tie Inc. Chevrolet. The 20-year-old is racing full-time in the Xfinity Series for Kaulig Racing this season.
Austin Cindric will hope to go back to back in this year’s edition of the Great American race, joining Denny Hamlin and Sterling Marlin who did it in 2019 and 2020, and 1994 and ’95 respectively. Cindric will drive the No. 2 Discount Tire Team Penske Ford.
Rookie Riley Herbst will race in his first Daytona 500 and first Cup start with Rick Ware Racing, sporting the No. 15 Sunny D Ford. The Las Vegas native has competed in 109 Xfinity races, bagging 54 top-10 finishes.
Herbst said: “It’s such a big event and for it be my first Cup start will be a crazy experience. I’m looking forward to seeing what I can do behind the wheel.”
Catch the 65th running of the Daytona 500 this Sunday at 2:30pm ET!
Wednesday 8:15pm ET – Cup Series single car qualifying
Thursday 7pm ET – Bluegreen Vacations Duels (Cup Series two 60-lap qualifying races)
Friday 5:35pm ET – 1st Cup Series 50 minute practice session
Friday 7pm ET – NextEra Energy 250 (Craftsman Truck Series 100-lap race)
Saturday 10:30am ET – 2nd Cup Series 50 minute practice session
Saturday 5pm ET – Beef. It’s What’s For Dinner. 300 (Xfinity Series 120-lap race)
Sunday 2:30pm ET – 65th running of the Daytona 500 (Cup Series 200-lap race)
Featured Image: 20: Kyle Larson, driver of the #5 HendrickCars.com Chevrolet, leads the field to the green flag to start the NASCAR Cup Series 64th Annual Daytona 500 at Daytona International Speedway on February 20, 2022 in Daytona Beach, Florida. (Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images)
NASCAR is celebrating its 75th anniversary this year and is meshing the old with the new, bringing back the iconic and beloved North Wilkesboro Speedway for its All-Star Race, while introducing its first ever street course in downtown Chicago this summer. There has also been exciting changes made to the rulebook including the introduction of wet weather tyres for short oval tracks. With a revised Next Gen car coming off its maiden voyage last season, and plenty of significant driver changes, this year’s NASCAR season is set to bring the thunder.
Discussing the 75th anniversary, NASCAR President Steve Phelps said: “I think anyone who is involved in this sport at all, whether you work at NASCAR, or you work at a race team or for a racetrack, or our fans, it’s just a moment in time for us to take a step back and really celebrate and honor the past which is what we’re going to do. And I think the unique thing is we also need to celebrate what’s happening today in this sport and then a look forward. That’s what we’re going to do. We’re talking about this, our “75th” and we have a tagline, “always forward”. That’s going to represent what we’re going to do.”
North Wilkesboro Speedway
North Wilkesboro Speedway returns to the NASCAR Cup Series schedule for it’s All-Star Race, after being removed from the schedule following the conclusion of the 1996 season after NASCAR had to replace some Southeast tracks in order to expand further into new markets across America such the Midwest. Wilkes County historically, was NASCAR’s heartland for both team and fans with much of their fanbase still found there and in the surrounding region today.
NASCAR have rightly brought one of NASCAR’s most legendary tracks back into the limelight where it will shine again on May 21st. It makes North Wilkesboro Speedway officially the oldest track on the schedule, having being opened in 1947. It saw on-track racing again last August including Late Model racing, after being closed since 2011. The NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series will also have a 250-lap points-paying race on May 20th.
NASCAR is in with the old and new this year, introducing it’s 220-mile street course in the downtown Chicago area. Chicago continually proves to be one of NASCAR’s largest market, with a much needed return to the region after cutting Chicagoland Speedway from the schedule in 2021.
The new street course debuted virtually in iRacing in 2021.
The July Atlanta race has been converted into a night race with all races since the 2021 reconfiguration, where it was turned into a superspeedway, taking place in the daytime. They have not had a night race in the Cup Series there since 2014.
World Wide Technology Raceway & Bristol Motor Speedway
The 300-mile race at World Wide Technology Raceway returns for a second year after the Cup Series’ inaugural race there last season, where Joey Logano took his second points-paying win on his way to his second Cup Series championship.
We will also see a third rendition of the Bristol Dirt Race, hoping to capitalise on last year’s dramatic race ending that saw Chase Briscoe collide with Tyler Reddick on the final lap allowing Kyle Busch to beat both to the finish line.
Auto Club Speedway
NASCAR is taking its 75th anniversary tagline “Always Forward” to the construction site as well as it will sadly be the last race for Auto Club Speedway on February 26th in its two-mile configuration before being temporarily taken off the schedule to be reconfigured into a half-mile track on the same site with the race venue not set to return to the NASCAR schedule until after 2024.
By far the biggest driver change this season is the switch of two-time Cup champion Kyle Busch from leading Toyota team Joe Gibbs Racing after racing for “The Coach” for 15 years, to Richard Childress Racing’s Chevrolet team.
Busch was unable to secure new sponsorship with Gibbs after M&M’s announced in the 2021 off-season that they were pulling out of the sport. Busch replaces RCR hotshot Tyler Reddick after he controversially signed a contract with Denny Hamlin’s 23XI Racing to drive for them starting in 2024 without consulting with Childress. This resulted in Childress removing Reddick from his seat early as he was due to race for RCR still for the 2023 season.
Kyle Busch returns to Chevrolet after starting his Cup Series career with them in 2004 with Hendrick Motorsports until 2008 when he went to Toyota’s JGR. It is a huge loss for Toyota, having lost their most successful NASCAR driver, with Busch winning the first Cup Series race with them in 2008 at Atlanta Motor Speedway, and having won the 2015 and 2019 Cup Series championships with them.
Luckily for Reddick, Denny Hamlin, who ironically drives for JGR, had the contract brought forward to have him race for him this season instead of having to sit the year out. This became possible after 2004 Cup Series champion Kurt Busch announced he would no longer be racing full-time after not being able to return to race for 23XI Racing following a serious injury he received during qualifying for the M&M’s Fan Appreciation 400 at Pocono Raceway last July. Kurt Busch remains a key part of the 23XI Racing operation.
Ty Gibbs, the grandson of Joe Gibbs, replaces Kyle Busch at Joe Gibbs Racing and will compete full-time this season after he filled in for Kurt Busch last season competing in 15 Cup races for 23XI Racing. Ty Gibbs won last year’s Xfinity Series Championship after controversially spinning out teammate Brandon Jones at Martinsville Speedway the week before, preventing him from having the chance to make the Final 4 at Phoenix to compete for a championship.
Tragically, Ty’s dad Coy Gibbs, a much beloved long-time member of the Joe Gibbs Racing family, suddenly passed away the day after he watched his son win the championship and be loudly booed by fans. Ty Gibbs has been through an incredibly difficult time but is now all set to go for the 2023 season.
Ryan Preece returns to the Cup Series full-time after he was left without a ride after the 2021 season. He replaces Cole Custer who’s performance was mediocre at best across his three seasons with Stewart-Haas Racing, only bagging one victory at Kentucky Speedway in 2020. It’s not all doom and gloom for Custer however, as he will still race part-time for Stewart-Haas Racing in the Xfinity Series.
Seven-time Cup Series champion Jimmie Johnson, to the world’s excitement announced in the off-season he had become a co-owner at Petty GMS Motorsports, now renamed to Legacy Motor Club, and would also race on a part-time schedule for them including the Daytona 500 and the Chicago street course.
Jimmie Johnson will also compete in this year’s Le Mans 24 Hour race as part of NASCAR’s Garage 56 program alongside the 2009 Formula 1 World Champion Jenson Button and 2010 Le Mans 24 winner Mike Rockenfeller.
Kaulig Racing have promoted AJ Allmendinger to a full-time Cup ride this season alongside Justin Haley after competing part-time only in the Cup Series after the 2018 season when he then raced for JTG Daugherty Racing and joined Kaulig’s Cup program the following year. He brought Kaulig success when he won the Cup Series race at the Indy Road Course in 2021. This was his second Cup win after earning his first at Watkins Glen in 2014.
Noah Gragson, the 13-time Xfinity Series winner, replaces Ty Dillon at Legacy Motor Club after competing for JR Motorsports in the Xfinity series from 2019-2022. Gragson is another fresh driver like Ty Gibbs that we could see some outstanding performances from this year. The Las Vegas native has already competed in a handful of Cup races for Beard Motorsports and Kaulig Racing over the last two seasons.
Ty Dillon, while having one of his strongest season performances last year, including at Talladega and the Bristol Dirt Race, did not perform consistently enough compared with teammate Erik Jones but has found himself a new home at Spire Motorsports with new teammate Corey LaJoie, joining the teams ambition to become a more competitive car this year. Ty is more motivated than ever to prove to everyone he belongs in the Cup Series and at the front. He will also race a part-time schedule for his grandfather Richard Childress in the Xfinity Series racing the infamous No. 3 car.
Zane Smith will run a select number of races this year for Front Row Motorsports with six of his seven starts replacing Todd Gilliland, who is good friends with the 2022 Craftsman Truck Series Champion, forcing Gilliland to find new rides for those races in order to compete full-time this season and be eligible for a championship run. The two will race alongside each other as teammates for Front Row for the Daytona 500.
In the off-season Kevin Harvick announced that 2023 would mark his final season in the NASCAR Cup Series before retiring following a 23-year run in the Cup Series. He will join the FOX Sports Booth NASCAR alongside former Stewart-Haas Racing teammate Clint Bowyer.
Harvick has accomplished a lot, including taking the 2014 Cup Series championship, winning the 2007 Daytona 500, and helping take the sport out of a tragically difficult time when he took over the Richard Childress Racing seat, making his Cup debut in 2001, following the passing of seven-time Cup champion Dale Earnhardt Sr. after a serious crash in the 2001 Daytona 500. Harvick, a highly respected voice in the garage, will surely continue to voice his opinion about all things NASCAR this season too.
The Team Penske driver from Connecticut, will attempt to go back-to-back for Cup championships this year after becoming a two-time Cup champion last season. He took four wins on his way to his second title, in addition to winning the inaugural LA Clash at the Coliseum exhibition race at the start of the season, including the inaugural World Wide Technology Raceway Cup race and winning the Championship 4 race at Phoenix. The 2015 Daytona 500 winner earned his first Cup championship in 2018.
Harrison Burton, son of former NASCAR Cup Series driver and now NBC Sports commentator Jeff Burton, comes off his rookie season with only two-top 10’s with him struggling to be seen in his first campaign in the Cup Series. Driving for the famed Wood Brothers, who have a technical alliance with Team Penske, Burton will be expected to step up this season and deliver a more competitve performance.
Wet weather tyres
There is a whole roster of rule changes that aims to improve the racing and keep the cars on track. No more exciting is the addition of wet-weather tyres being permitted at several tracks of one mile or less including the LA Coliseum, Martinsville Speedway, New Hampshire Motor Speedway, North Wilkesboro Speedway, Phoenix Raceway, and Richmond Raceway.
Officials tested wet weather tyres at Martinsville’s 0.526-mile short track in March 2021 and June 2022. Windshield wipers will also be required on the cars for these tracks but only starting with the Phoenix Raceway race in March.
Road course races will no longer have mandatory caution periods during stage breaks. Instead, the race will continue under green at the stage break with stage points being given out as normal at the end of the stage-ending lap. With the removal of mandatory stage break cautions, this brings back the prospect of having entire green-flag races with only organic strategies influencing them.
Loose wheels became a thorn in teams’ sides last season. Thankfully, there will no longer be any four-race crew chief suspensions for loose wheels. Instead, pass through penalties under green or being sent to the tail end of the longest line under yellow will be given out with however NASCAR have said: “If the wheel breaks free outside of pit road, the new rules guidelines mandate a two-lap penalty, plus a two-race suspension for two crew members.”
Drivers will now be able to choose which lane they restart on during races at superspeedways and dirt tracks. This adds Daytona International Speedway, Talladega Speedway, and the Bristol Dirt Race to the list of eligible tracks.
Hail Melon move
Ross Chastain’s “Hail Melon” move at Martinsville Speedway last season, where he wall-rided around turns three and four like it was an EA Sports NASCAR video game to gain enough positions to qualify for the championship 4 in Phoenix, has been clamped down by NASCAR due to safety concerns.
There will be a time penalty handed out to anyone who tries to make the move. Still, it became one of NASCAR’s most iconic moments in history becoming the most viewed moment of NASCAR in a matter of days via social media.
Little has changed to the playoff structure despite calls from fans to have it changed, such as cycling the championship 4 race destination, other than making it so that drivers will no longer be required to be in the top 30 in points to be eligible for the playoffs.
Damaged Vehicle Policy
Teams will now be see a seven-minute repair clock instead of five for working on the car on pit road under the damage vehicle policy.
Safety became a huge talking point last season after serious concussions caused by crash impacts fell upon the drivers Kurt Busch, while qualifying at Pocono, and Alex Bowman during the Texas Motor Speedway race, as well as serious car fires experienced by Kevin Harvick and Brad Keselowski due to rubber build up in the wheel well. In addition, many drivers complained of hard impacts during crashes throughout the season with driver such as Harvick, Kyle Busch, and Noah Gragson concerned for their own safety.
This season, teams will use new centre and rear clips on the car chassis, with both sections modified to better absorb rear impacts.
NASCAR stated: “The improved 2023 design features the removal of some bars, a reduction in the thickness of some tubing and adding pivot points called “triggers” in the structure to encourage deformation while protecting both the oil tank and fuel cell.”
Alex Bowman will miss Talladega with concussion-like symptoms.
NASCAR are mandating new incident data collection systems on all Cup cars for 2023. Dr. John Patalak, NASCAR’s Vice President of safety engineering said: “It is a completely new system from the ground up. This will give us more data channels, will give us dedicated GPS data as far as the speed of the vehicle, and we’ll have a lot of those things all synchronized in time.”
Some drivers will also voluntarily wear mouthpiece sensors this season, continuing from 2022, which provide vital information about the driver’s bodies during the crashes as well as the race in general.
The SFI-approved foam that surrounds the driver’s head has been improved to better protect the drivers from injury, addressing the most significant heights, positioning and gaps that best protect the driver’s head in a crash.
Longtime NASCAR executive Mike Helton, talking about the 75th anniversary 2023 season said: “It’s kind of indicative going into 2023, [that] our 75th anniversary, with the uniqueness of the LA Coliseum for the Clash and then the Chicago Grant Park race because it all signals we’ve been doing this for 75 years, but one of the ways we figured out how to do it for 75 years was to stay fresh and current.”
NASCAR President Steve Phelps furthered the sentiment by saying: “Our fans have told us again and again and again, they want schedule variation. So, whether we’re going to North Wilkesboro for the All-Star race, or to the Chicago street course, in our 75 years we’ve never raced on the street ever, so you’re talking about milestones.”
NASCAR 2023 has the most diverse schedule ever seen for a season in decades, with arguably the most competitive driver line-up to date. In the modern era, and most certainly in the playoff era, it’s not just an exciting time to be a NASCAR fan on it’s 75th anniversary, it’s the best time to be a NASCAR fan.
We cannot wait to cover the 2023 NASCAR Cup Series season for you here at ThePitCrewOnline!
Featured Image: NASCAR’s 75th Anniversary logo (Photo by NASCAR)
Kurt Busch battled hard with Kyle Larson and younger brother Kyle Busch in the final half of stage three going from third to first, passing Kyle Larson in turn two with eight to go, to slam dunk his way to his first ever win at Kansas Speedway after 33 tries and score his first win with 23XI Racing.
Kurt Busch would lead the most laps, 116 in total, and win stage two before earning his 34th NASCAR Cup Series career victory.
Kurt Busch was appropriately sporting a sharp looking Jordan brand primary paint scheme for the race, winning for the first time for co-team owners NBA legend Michael Jordan and Joe Gibbs Racing’s Denny Hamlin.
Speaking to FOX’s Jamie Little Kurt Busch said: “With the Jordan brand on the hood, I felt like I had to play like the goat, race like the goat, and I had to beat the Kyles, I had to beat both.” Busch said he was sporting Michael Jordan’s colours, when Jordan won the Slam Dunk Contest in 1988.
With 86 laps to go, Larson had attempted the slide job on Kurt Busch for the lead but after getting by on the inside he got loose and began spinning sideways and slid into the wall before saving it as Kurt Busch got back around him.
On the next restart, after a caution came out for Chase Elliott losing a tyre and wildly spinning down the race track, Kurt Busch and Larson battled side by side for the lead for two laps before Larson tagged the turn four wall, allowing Kurt Busch to hold the lead.
Kyle Busch, after a speeding penalty at the start of stage three that had sent him to the rear, had worked all his way up to second and was three seconds behind his older brother. Another caution with less than 40 to go, this time for what NASCAR said was fluid on the front straightaway, saw the field bunch up again and the following laps saw a three-way battle for the lead with Kurt Busch and Larson leading the charge with Kyle Busch closely following the pair.
Larson and Kyle Busch would both get past Kurt Busch but with 22 laps to go, with Kyle Busch unable to find a way past Larson, Kurt Busch would sail past on the back straightaway and quickly close down Larson.
With eight to go, Kurt Busch would run Larson tight but fair up against the turn two wall. Larson slid briefly into the wall allowing Kurt Busch to take back the lead and win.
Kyle Larson would finish second and Kyle Busch would finish third. After having an up and down day, Denny Hamlin would finish fourth. Kurt Busch’s 23XI teammate Bubba Wallace would finish 10th.
It was a very successful day for Toyota overall, with four Toyota’s making up the top five finishing positions with Bell finishing fifth and six Toyota’s making up the top-10 with Martin Truex Jr. finishing sixth.
Denny Hamlin and Kyle Busch would both congratulate Kurt Busch on pit road as he drove to victory lane.
This was also Kurt Busch’s first win with Toyota in the Cup Series, now making him a NASCAR Cup driver to have won with four different manufacturers; them being Ford, Dodge, Chevrolet and now Toyota.
Kansas week also marked the 22nd anniversary of the tragic passing of NASCAR driver Adam Petty, who was just 19. Before the start of the 2022 season, Adam Petty’s father Kyle Petty had given his blessing to 23XI Racing for the use the No. 45 number, the number that Adam Petty raced with. After the race Kurt Busch said: “It’s a small spiritual connection.”
The start of the race saw a green race track due to rain the previous night and that morning, with pole sitter Christopher Bell leading the opening nine laps before Tyler Reddick would get by on the next restart as Bell slid up the race track.
As the track rubbered in, the top lane became the preferred lane as the bottom and middle lanes lost grip due to the rubber build up.
Larson took the lead away from Reddick on lap 34 but on the next restart after losing positions on pit road, Larson got fender damage in traffic and fell outside the top 10. Bell led the middle half of stage one before discovering under caution that he had a flat left rear tyre.
Bell was not the only driver to have flat left rear tyre issues, as B. J. McLeod and Daniel Suárez would bring out cautions for spinning out with flats. Suárez was running fourth on lap 62 at the time when he hit the turn four wall and spun.
With 13 laps to go, Kyle Busch would take the lead and fend off Ross Chastain for the final seven laps to win stage one.
The start of stage two saw the No. 43 Petty GMS Racing team relentlessly try to get Erik Jones’s right rear tyre off. Saws, hammers and drills were used to try to get the tyre off with FOX’s Mike Joy saying: “That’s truck stop torture right there.” They settled on cutting away the wheel to get access to the lug nut which they eventually did and free the tyre from the car. Jones would return to the track seven laps down.
Stage two continued the theme of flat right rear tyres, as now leader William Byron who had recently taken the lead over from Chastain and Truex Jr. at the start of stage two, had to take to the apron and give up the lead due to one. Tyler Reddick got a flat after slapping the wall too many times. Truex Jr. would also get a flat left rear tyre at the end of stage two and be forced to give up fourth position.
Chastain would lead the following laps until Kurt Busch, who had only managed 12th in stage one, would take the lead for the final 50 laps to win stage two. Kurt Busch was the first driver this season to win both stage two and the race, ending the curse.
The Busch brothers continue their recent dominance at Kansas Speedway. Kyle Busch appropriately won last spring’s fan named “Buschy McBusch 400” at Kansas despite the race being named after the Busch beer company that primarily sponsor Kevin Harvick. Kyle Larson nearly went back to back as he won last fall’s Kansas race.
It was special race week all around for the Busch family as Kyle and Samantha Busch welcomed their second child, Lennix Key Busch into their life on May 10th.
Full race results: (1st) Kurt Busch, (2nd) Kyle Larson, (3rd) Kyle Busch, (4th) Denny Hamlin, (5th) Christopher Bell, (6th) Martin Truex Jr., (7th) Ross Chastain, (8th) Ricky Stenhouse Jr., (9th) Alex Bowman, (10th) Bubba Wallace, (11th) Austin Cindric, (12th) Ryan Blaney, (13th) Austin Dillon, (14th) Brad Keselowski, (15th) Kevin Harvick, (16th) William Byron, (17th) Joey Logano, (18th) Noah Gragson, (19th) Corey Lajoie, (20th) Ty Dillon, (21st) Harrison Burton, (22nd) Cole Custer, (23rd) Michael McDowell, (24th) Chase Briscoe, (25th) Todd Gilliland, (26th) Aric Almirola, (27th) Chris Buescher, (28th) Josh Bilicki, (29th) Chase Elliott, (30th) Tyler Reddick, (31st) JJ Yeley, (32nd) Erik Jones, (33rd) Daniel Suárez, (34th) Cody Ware, (35th) Justin Haley, (36th) B. J. McLeod.
Top 10 in stage 1: (1st) Kyle Busch, (2nd) Ross Chastain, (3rd) Chase Elliott, (4th) Tyler Reddick, (5th) William Byron, (6th) Martin Truex Jr., (7th) Bubba Wallace, (8th) Erik Jones, (9th) Ryan Blaney, (10th) Alex Bowman.
Top 10 in stage 2: (1st) Kurt Busch, (2nd) Kyle Busch, (3rd) Ryan Blaney, (4th) Austin Cindric, (5th) Chase Elliott, (6th) Kyle Larson, (7th) Ross Chastain, (8th) Denny Hamlin, (9th) Joey Logano, (10th) Bubba Wallace.
Top 10 in points standings: 1st Chase Elliott (475), 2nd Ryan Blaney (423), 3rd Kyle Busch (417), 4th William Byron (415), 5th Ross Chastain (407), 6th Martin Truex Jr, (400), 7th Joey Logano (396), 8th Alex Bowman (386), 9th Kyle Larson (376), 10th Christopher Bell (359).
Featured Image: Kurt Busch, driver of the No. 45 Jordan Brand Toyota, celebrates in victory lane after winning the AdventHealth 400 at Kansas Speedway( Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)
Denny Hamlin took the lead with five laps to go and held off Kevin Harvick to win his fourth Richmond Cup race in his native state of Virginia.
NASCAR’s Toyota Owners 400 race came down to a split strategy showdown in the closing laps. Third place Denny Hamlin and fourth place Kevin Harvick were on a two stop strategy for the final stage of the race while leaders William Byron and Martin Truex Jr. had split the final stage in half.
As sun began to set and the laps got down to single digits, Hamlin was catching Byron by a second a lap, with Byron being on much older tyres. Byron had held a four second gap over Truex Jr with 25 to go but this began shrinking significantly inside 15 to go. Hamlin flew by Truex with six to go and sped by Byron on the inside on lap 396 of 400 to take the lead away. Harvick did appear to be catching Hamlin with two to go but after Harvick’s Stewart-Haas Racing teammate Aric Almirola got out of the way on the back straightaway on the final lap, Hamlin set sail for the checkered flag.
After a roller-coaster start to the season, this was not just Hamlin’s first win of the year but his first top-10 finish of the season after seven races. This was also Toyota’s first Cup win of the season and was rather appropriate being the title sponsor of the race.
There were nearly more green flag pit stop cycles completed today than the first six races combined. Long green flag runs is often the way with Richmond and Sunday’s race was no exception. This gave extra weight to the two stop versus one stop strategies that played out during stage two and the final stage of the race but ultimately fresher tyres came out on top; partly due to Truex Jr. and Byron wearing each other out and faster lap down cars on fresher tyres taking away the inside lane that they wanted to run, allowing Hamlin and Harvick to gain more time on them.
It was a stellar day for the Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota’s overall with all four running in the top seven at one point. Truex Jr. had worked his way to the front from the drop of the green flag and won stage two on the one stop strategy, the same strategy that arguably cost him the win in addition to getting stuck behind the wake of Byron’s Hendrick Chevrolet for the last 100 laps. This is despite being on 10 lap fresher tyres.
Kyle Busch had worked his way to fourth but was black flagged with 50 laps to go for having tape over his grille that cost him a top-5 finish. Kyle Busch’s crew chief claimed the tape had been on there for 200 laps and were frustrated with NASCAR’s call in forcing them down pit road to remove it. Christopher Bell had led the field in the second quarter of the race and came home sixth.
The first quarter of the race was the Ryan Blaney show however. After securing the pole he led the first 100 laps and won stage one with Byron finishing second, before losing the lead in stage two. Last week’s winner Ross Chastain did not make friends with Blaney during the race. While fighting inside the top five towards the end of stage two, Blaney drove up alongside Chastain and pushed the watermelon man up the race track in turns three and four. Chastain returned the favour and pushed Blaney into turn one before Blaney veered to the right to a loss of grip and Chastain retook the position. Blaney had the final laugh as he gave Chastain a little shot into turn three late on in the race in and got by.
Team Penske teammate Joey Logano had made it up to second halfway through the race but the team’s jack became jammed underneath his car and would lose track position and only manage to recover to a top-20 finish.
The Roush Fenway Keselowski racing car’s of Brad Keselowski and Chris Buescher had a good outing and were fighting for a top-10 spot for much of the race.
There would be a couple of crashes during the race. Lap 245 would see an caution a few laps after the start of the final stage due to a crash between Cody Ware, Erik Jones and Ricky Stenhouse Jr that left all parties upset. On lap 260 there would be another caution after contact between Austin Cindric and Cole Custer, causing Cindric to spin out. This was triggered after Ty Dillon had washed up into Custer in turn two as he came slightly down.
Part two of the Virginia tour takes place at Martinsville Speedway under the lights this Saturday night; another track that Hamlin has had great success at, winning five Cup series races at the half mile paperclip.
Top 10 finishing order of the Toyota Owners 400
Denny Hamlin(Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota)
Kevin Harvick(Stewart-Haas Racing Ford)
William Byron(Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet)
Martin Truex Jr(Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota)
Kyle Larson(Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet)
Christopher Bell(Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota)
Ryan Blaney(Team Penske Ford)
Alex Bowman(Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet)
Kyle Busch(Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota)
Austin Dillon(Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet)
Featured Image: Denny Hamlin celebrates after winning the NASCAR Cup Series Toyota Owners 400 at Richmond Raceway (Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)
As expected, Toyota hold the lead of the LMP1 field at midnight. Mike Conway kept the #7 TS050 in front at the start, leading from pole position during the first two hours before handing over to Kamui Kobayashi.
The two Toyotas briefly traded places later in the evening as a series of safety car periods brought the cars nose-to-tail. Kazuki Nakajima, taking over the #8 Toyota from Fernando Alonso, passed José María López in the #7 to take the lead. Lopez retook the lead shortly after only to surrender it with a trip through the gravel, but by hour 9 the two cars had swapped once again and the #7—with Conway back the wheel—resumed the lead.
Third place was long held by the #3 Rebellion which, in the hands of Gustavo Menezes, moved up from fourth on the grid and held off advances by Vitaly Petrov in the #11 SMP. However this came to an end later in the evening, when Thomas Laurent put the #3 in the wall and dropped two laps behind the two SMPs, with Egor Orudzhev’s #17 now the Russian team’s lead car.
There was trouble throughout the first ten hours for the remaining privateers. Bruno Senna picked up a puncture for the #1 Rebellion in the first hour and dropped to last in class, while the #4 ByKolles made eight difficult pitstops in the by hour 3. Later in the afternoon the #10 DragonSpeed entered the garage and has remained there since.
Signatech Alpine took an early lead as Nicholas Lapierre moved the #36 up from third to first off the line. But impressive pace from Jean-Éric Vergne and Dutch rookie Job van Uitert in the #26 G-Drive soon put the #36 under pressure, and Van Uitert took the class lead during his second stint.
The remaining class podium position changed hands several times during the first ten hours of the race. Initially Matthieu Vaxiviere held third in the #28 TDS Racing, but a strong opening stint from Giedo van der Garde took the position for the #29 Racing Team Nederland.
However, at hour 3 Nyck de Vries picked up a puncture during his stint in the #29. Anthony Davidson’s #31 DragonSpeed was briefly promoted to third, but was dropped down to fourth by the #38 Jackie Chan DC Racing.
Corvette took first blood in the Pro class with Antonio Garcia moving the #63 up from third to first. But over the course of the afternoon the Porsches hauled in the Corvette and the #92 took the lead with Kevin Estre at the wheel.
In the Am class, Matteo Cairoli in the #88 Dempsey-Proton Porsche converted pole into an early lead. But this was lost when he handed over to Satoshi Hoshino, who spun the #88 on the Mulsanne Straight and handed the lead to Giancarlo Fisichella in the #54 Spirit of Race Ferrari.
Hoshino would be involved in another, much heavier incident later in the evening as he collided with Marcel Fassler’s #64 Corvette, making the first official retirement of the race.
Toyota broke its 24 Hours of Le Mans curse with an emotional 1–2 finish led home by the #8 car of Sebastien Buemi, Kazuki Nakajima and Fernando Alonso.
The Japanese marque was the overwhelming favourite coming into the 86th running of Le Mans, and aggressive opening stints from both Buemi and the #7 car’s Mike Conway soon put the two TS050 Hybrids well ahead of the privateer LMP1 entries battling for third.
The #7 gained the advantage late on Saturday when Buemi earned the #8 car a 60-second stop-go penalty for speeding in a slow zone. But a pair of rapid nighttime recovery drives by first Alonso and then Nakajima saw the #7’s lead disappear. Nakajima then completed the #8’s comeback in the 16th hour by snatching first place from Kamui Kobayashi on the inside of Arnage.
The #8 went on to hold the lead for the remaining eight hours, while the #7 dropped back after a series of late difficulties that included Jose Maria Lopez spinning at the Dunlop chicane and Kobayashi missing a pit stop and needing to take an extra lap at full course yellow speed to save fuel.
In the end Nakajima brought the #8 Toyota across the line with two laps in hand over Kobayashi in the sister car, which was a further ten laps clear of the #3 Rebellion in third. The win was Toyota’s first at Le Mans after 19 attempts and the first by a Japanese manufacturer since Mazda in 1991. Nakajima meanwhile became the first Japanese driver to win since Seiji Ara did so with Audi in 2004.
Behind the Toyotas, Rebellion and SMP Racing immediately established themselves as the chief contenders for best-of-the-rest.
After Andre Lotterer lost the nose of his #1 Rebellion in a first lap collision, it was Thomas Laurent in the sister #3 who took charge of the Swiss team’s race by pressuring the #17 SMP of Stephane Sarrazin for third.
The two Frenchmen and their subsequent replacements swapped third and fourth position several times in the opening hours of the race, although the battle was eventually ended early and in Rebellion’s favour when Matevos Isaakyan spun the #17 into the barriers at the Porsche Curves shortly after midnight.
Isaakyan’s crash came not long after Dominik Kraihamer spun the #4 ByKolles out of the race at the same part of the track. The #10 Dragonspeed was another casualty of the Porsche Curves with Ben Hanley finding the barriers in hour 17, while the Manor-run #6 CEFC Ginetta and the #11 SMP were both waylaid by mechanical troubles to make it five LMP1 retirements by the end of the race.
That left the #1 Rebellion—which recovered from its opening lap crash and several late penalties to take fourth—and the #5 CEFC Ginetta, as the only surviving LMP1 cars outside of the podium.