The NASCAR Cup Series will make history today by racing around the 12-turn 2.2-mile street course around and in Grant Park in downtown Chicago in what will be NASCAR’s first ever street course race, the Grant Park 220, with the Chicago city skyline and Lake Michigan as the backdrop.
Drivers to watch
The Grant Park 220 will consist of 100 laps (220 miles), and will have three stages of 20, 25, and 55 laps but like road course races this season, there will be no stage ending cautions, giving crew chiefs more options with strategy.
The green flag has been moved up from 5:30pm ET to 5pm due to downtown Chicago receiving a month’s worth of rainfall in the last 24 hours with the intention of avoiding further weather however it will be a very wet start to the race at least.
Drivers on Saturday prior to qualifying did get some practice in light rain conditions but will possibly have to relearn the track in the anticipated tricky conditions.
Check NASCAR and the @PitCrew_Online on Twitter for updates.
Denny Hamlin knocked three-time Supercars champion Shane van Gisbergen off provisional pole, to secure his third pole of the season with a 1.28.435.
Hamlin said: “The course is actually very very good and raceable. I think there will be a ton of passing zones [in Sunday’s race].”
Shane van Gisbergen, who is making his NASCAR Cup Series debut with the Trackhouse Racing Project 91 team, ended up third fastest in the top-10 shootout with a 1.28.588.
23XI Racing’s Tyler Reddick, who Hamlin is the team co-owner of, qualified second with a 1.28.479.
Jenson Button, in his second Cup Series start with Rick Ware Racing, also made the top-10 shootout, qualifying eighth with a 1.29.571.
Mexico’s Daniel Suarez topped the Round 1 Group A qualifying session with a 1.28.755, with Larson, Button, Reddick, and Allmendinger joining him for the top-10 shootout.
Group B’s qualifying session was not so smooth with Chase Elliott and Kevin Harvick crashing and bringing out two red flags in the session.
Elliott, while following Shane van Gisbergen, clipped the right hand wall going into turn eight and the hit the wall opposite head on. Harvick made the same mistake in turn one, hitting the wall hard.
Polesitter Hamlin topped Group B with a 1.28.369, while van Gisbergen was second with a 1.28.509. Bell, McDowell, and Logano also joined them for the top-10 shootout.
Drivers to watch
In terms of one-lap pace, Hamlin, Reddick, and van Gisbergen were nearly a whole second quicker than the rest of the top-10 shootout contenders.
Van Gisbergen is a three-time and reigning Supercars champion in Australia and topped the practice charts on Saturday in what has been a mighty impressive performance so far from the New Zealander.
With the Gen 3 Supercars sharing many similarities with NASCAR’s Gen 7 car, Gisbergen who drives for the Red Bull Ampol Racing Chevrolet Camaro team in the series, is accustomed to racing heavy V8-powered muscle cars around street courses, with the Supercars series competing on several street courses each season such as in Newcastle, and Townsville, Australia.
Shane van Gisbergen could very well take the chequered flag today, if he can carry over his experience, patience, and sensational car control and placement that he has shown in the Supercars series.
The NASCAR Cup Series regulars could come out on top by the end in Hamlin or Reddick, with Hamlin having one road course win at Watkins Glen, and Reddick winning three of the last six road course races, at Indianapolis Road Course, COTA, and Road America.
Martin Truex Jr. has been on fire lately, including winning the Sonoma road course race three weeks ago for a second consecutive year and has five road course wins to his name.
Chase Elliott, while not having been at his best this weekend, should not be dismissed, as he holds the highest number of road course wins amongst active drivers with seven, coming at five different road courses.
2009 F1 World Champion Jenson Button finished 18th at NASCAR’s Cup Series race at COTA earlier this year. With improved pace on the field this weekend, and extensive experience driving in the wet, we could see Button dueling it out for a top-five finish or better today.
Shane van Gisbergen
Martin Truex Jr.
Ricky Stenhouse Jr.
Featured Image: A general view of the setup for the Chicago Street Race frontstretch (Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images)
Kyle Busch led half the laps in Sunday’s Enjoy Illinois 300, and conquered five late race restarts, including an overtime restart, to take the chequered to claim his third career win of the season, and win at World Wide Technology Raceway at Gateway, Illinois, in the Cup Series for the first time in his second try.
Kyle Busch checks off Gateway
Brake rotor failures
Rest of race recap
Full race results
The polesitter won stage one, and led five different times for 121 laps of the 240 to get his 63rd Cup Series career win.
Kyle Larson challenged Busch for the lead in each of the final five restarts, who had got to first with under 65 laps to go after only taking two tyres on pit road.
Larson was unable to challenge Busch on the final restart, allowing Denny Hamlin to take second with last year’s winner Joey Logano finishing third and Larson fourth.
Kyle Busch said: “Man, to sit on the pole, lead a lot of laps and have my guys do such a great job today was pretty phenomenal for us. Great for RCR. Just win, baby! Thanks to Team Chevy, appreciate 3Chi (sponsor).”
Kyle Busch had won at every track on the Cup Series schedule prior to the 2018 season, but with the addition of several new tracks in recent years, Busch has more work to do to reach that feat again. He has gotten one step closer by winning at World Wide Technology after only been added to the Cup Series schedule last year.
Kyle Larson had been outside the top 30 during stage one and described his car as “bad loose” finishing 28th in stage one. Several adjustments made to the car by the No. 5 Hendrick Motorsports crew, along with the two-tyre call with less than 60 laps to go miraculously saw him go to the front briefly.
Ryan Blaney left off where he finished last week where he ended his 59 winless drought to win the Coca-Cola 600, led 83 laps, including dominating and winning stage two, but was unable to get by Busch and Larson in the closing 50 laps of the race and would finish sixth.
William Byron had taken over the lead of the race halfway through the final stage but a slow pit stop under caution on lap 178 dropped him down to fourth and sank further through the field under green. Byron finished eighth.
Corey Lajoie made his debut for Hendrick Motorsports filling in for Chase Elliott, who was serving a one race suspension by NASCAR for intentionally wrecking Denny Hamlin in last week’s Coca-Cola 600.
LaJoie’s No. 9 Chevrolet was not handling well in the first half of the race after qualifying 30th, being stuck outside the the top 25 but managed a solid 21st place finish despite the ill handling race car.
Brake rotor failures
Full time Truck Series competitor Carson Hocevar, who got his first Truck Series win at Texas Motor Speedway earlier this year, filled in for LaJoie in the No. 7 Spire Motorsports Chevrolet, making his Cup Series debut and put on an impressive show.
He qualified 26th but worked his way up the order in the first two stages challenging Austin Dillon for 16th but his race ended early when on lap 90 his right front brake rotor exploded, taking him out of the race.
Hocevar said: “I had a blast. Just so thankful for the opportunity. I was running 16th… just so surreal for the first time ever. I thought we were going to have a good day and be in a good spot for the No. 7 Chevy team. Hopefully, that call for a Cup ride isn’t the only one I get in my life.”
Several drivers experienced brake rotor failures in the race, most likely down to the hard braking required from high speed to make turns one and three. The brakes appeared to be worse when drivers only took two tyres and ran long.
Tyler Reddick, Noah Gragson, and Bubba Wallace all had front right brake rotor failures on lap 175, 198, and 235 respectively, bringing out the caution as brake rotor debris littered turns one and two.
Rest of race recap
The race was stopped on lap seven and delayed for two hours due to lightning in the area but no rain reached the race track.
Brad Keselowski lost engine performance at the end of stage one and went down a lap. Due to a flurry of late race cautions, Keselowski was able to finish 28th on the lead lap despite the loss in performance.
The start of stage two saw Ross Chastain tag Michael McDowell on the restart sending McDowell go for a spin. McDowell had taken two tires during the stage break, gaining 11 positions, that put him inside the top 10. McDowell recovered from this to finish ninth.
Lap 61 saw Ryan Blaney finally clear Kyle Busch for the lead after racing side by side for several laps, and would lead the rest of stage two to lap 90 to take the stage win.
Daniel Suarez and Ricky Stenhouse Jr. had strong runs going in the first two stages, running inside the top 10.
William Byron took over the lead briefly from Tyler Reddick at the start of the final stage. Reddick had gained 11 positions during the stage break on pit road by taking two tyres only. Byron lost the lead to Larson on pit road during the next caution due to Reddick’s brake rotor failure.
With 55 to go, Kyle Busch cleared Kyle Larson for the lead coming off turn two, who had held it briefly on the restart. Busch would stay out front for the remainder of the race.
Christopher Bell was spun out by Austin Cindric in a three-wide incident in turn two but recovered to a 11th place finish.
Klye Busch’s RCR teammate Austin Dillon ended Ricky Stenhouse Jr.’s strong day with 22 laps to go when he turned off of the nose of Austin Cindric and piled into Stenhouse going into turn one, taking both of them out of the race.
Ryan Blaney made the sweep happen for Team Penske for the first time with both United States crown jewel races on Memorial Day Weekend, the Indy 500 and Coca-Cola 600 being won by Team Penske. Blaney led 163 of the 400 laps of Monday’s rain-delayed Coca-Cola 600, won stage three, and took the chequered flag to end a 59-race drought, claiming his eighth Cup Series win.
William Byron one-place short
Kyle Larson spins
Elliott hooks Hamlin
Rest of race recap
Full race results
Blaney said: “I might shed a tear. You start to get to feel like you can’t win anymore when you don’t win in a while. It kind of gets hard. So just super thankful to the 12 guys for believing in me. What a weekend with Newgarden and Roger winning at Indy and us winning the 600. I mean that’s just so cool.”
Blaney had to fend off a series of late race cautions and a fast Hendrick Motorsports’ William Byron with Blaney lining up alongside Byron with 20 laps to go for what was the final restart, finishing the race over half a second in front.
Blaney replicated fellow Team Penske teammate Josef Newgarden’s celebration from Sunday’s Indy 500, where Josef Newgarden passed reigning Indy 500 champion Marcus Ericsson on the backstretch in a one-lap shootout, by leaping into the crowd in the frontstretch grandstand to take in the moment with the fans.
Blaney’s dad, Dave Blaney, only ever NASCAR national series win came at Charlotte Motor Speedway in the Xfinity Series in 2006. His dad joined Ryan in victory lane.
William Byron one-place short
Byron after being up front all race long, including leading 91 laps and winning stage one, comes up one place short. Byron had the edge in the first stage and regained the lead several times under yellow throughout the race thanks to a fast pit crew and No. 1 pit stall but Blaney’s short run speed was better overall, getting by Byron for the final time inside of 30 laps to go.
Byron said: “Really happy for Ryan. He really deserves it. He’s a good dude. Cool to see him get a win. The car was great tonight. Just not quite good enough. Pit crew was phenomenal on pit road. Just needed a little bit more.”
Larson’s bid for a second Coca-Cola 600
Kyle Larson, who attended Sunday’s Indy 500 with Tony Kanaan’s Arrow McLaren IndyCar team, after completing his IndyCar test, in preparation for his 2024 Indy 500 effort, found himself out of contention when on lap 375, he spun coming off turn two taking out himself, Ty Gibbs, who had a career day running inside the top 10 for much of the second half of the race, Christopher Bell and others, ending his chances of winning his second Coca-Cola 600 again.
Larson after being in the mid-pack in the early going had been inside the top five in the latter stages of the race prior to his spin. Larson’s crash set up the final 20 lap green flag run.
Chase Elliott hooks Denny Hamlin
Deep into the second stage of the 600 Chase Elliott hooked Denny Hamlin in the right rear sending him hard into the wall on the frontstretch at speeds over 150mph in retaliation to Hamlin squeezing Elliott into the wall for consecutive laps, ending both their races and leading Chase Elliott to being given a one race ban by NASCAR on Tuesday.
Elliott, who needs a win to make the playoffs, due to being out of action for several weeks due to a fractured tibia from snowboarding earlier in the season, claimed he had lost steering of his car after hitting the wall.
Hamlin later in the race posted telemetry on social media showing that Elliott’s steering had not been damaged in any way meaning he had complete control of where to aim his race car implying he had been intentionally taken out.
A similar incident occurred last year at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, between Bubba Wallace and Kyle Larson when, following Laron squeezing Wallace into the turn four wall, Wallace turned down into Larson’s car at high speed on the frontstretch taking both cars out of the race with Wallace physically showing his displeasure to Larson out of the car also. Wallace received a one race ban.
It is not the first time Hamlin and Elliott have have ran into each other as in 2017, Hamlin dumped Elliott in the playoff race at Martinsville.
Rest of race recap
After qualifying was rained out, William Byron based on having the highest average score determined by championship position, last week’s race finishing position, and fastest lap, led the field to green on a grey filled sky afternoon at Charlotte Motor Speedway.
Seven-time Cup Series champion and Legacy Motor Club co-owner Jimmie Johnson, who was making his second start of the season, was running 25th but lost control of his No. 84 Chevrolet coming off turn two deep into stage one sending his car to the garage.
His Legacy Motor Club teammates Erik Jones, who was running inside the top-15, and Noah Gragson, both hit a piece of debris at the end of stage one, that punctured their radiators, sending them to the garage, taking them out of contention for having a solid points day.
William Byron just held off Christopher Bell and Ryan Blaney to win stage one.
There was a temporary stop to the race after a rain shower swept through the area bringing out the red flag. A quick cleanup with the jet driers and racing resumed.
Late in stage two but prior to Elliott’s incident with Hamlin, Kyle Busch and Brad Keselowski got together coming out of turn two bringing out the caution. Busch spun out but would recover quickly finding himself in the top by stage three.
Chris Buescher took over the lead with eight laps to go in stage two and went on to win stage two.
Ryan Blaney won stage three but Byron leapfrogged Blaney on pit road to reclaim the lead for the start of the final stage. Blaney took the lead back on the restart.
With less than 80 laps to go, Tyler Reddick, who was running inside the top five, performed a phenomenal save coming off turn four after the car got away from under him.
Halfway through the final stage, Kevin Harvick, in his final full-time season, brought out a caution after spinning out off turn four before getting it straightened it out. Kyle Larson had just passed Busch for second.
Inside of 50 laps to go, Stenhouse Jr. shot Allmendinger up the track in turn 4 up into Logano sending Allmendinger for a spin and made light contact with Harrison Burton. Logano grazed the wall.
Toyota’s took the rest of the top five spots with Joe Gibbs Racing’s Martin Truex Jr, the 2019 Coca-Cola 600 winner finishing third, and 23XI Racing in Bubba Wallace and Tyler Reddick finishing fourth and fifth.
The next race for the NASCAR Cup Series is the Enjoy Illinois 300 race at World Wide Technology Raceway this Sunday with the green flag flying at 3:30pm ET.
Featured Image: Ryan Blaney, driver of the #12 BodyArmor Cherry Lime Ford, celebrates after winning the NASCAR Cup Series Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway on May 29, 2023 in Concord, North Carolina. (Photo by Logan Riely/Getty Images)
Joey Logano outduelled former Penske teammate and two-time Atlanta winner Brad Keselowski in the final laps of the Ambetter Health 400 on Sunday, with a push from Christopher Bell down the backstretch helping Logano clear the pack to win for the first time at Atlanta in the Cup Series.
It was a dominant display from Logano, having nabbed the pole from Penske teammate Austin Cindric by 0.006 of a second on Saturday, and going on to lead the most laps in Sunday’s race, leading 140 of the 260 laps, and also winning stage one before taking the chequers.
The reigning Cup Series champion said: “Yeah, first off so special to win Atlanta for me. So many memories of me and my dad racing right here on the quarter mile. This is the full circle for us. So many memories gritting over there with the Legends car, racing, having a big time. Dreaming of going straight at the quarter mile and going onto the big track. That was always the dream to do it. To finally win here means so much to me here personally, but the team.”
The track has deep family ties for Logano, having lived at one of the condo’s at the race track for four years with his family whilst working his way through the racing ranks.
Logano and his Team Penske teammates executed a strong race plan all day long. After the trio qualified one-two-three for the race with Austin Cindric and Ryan Blaney qualifying second and third respectively, they helped Logano lead from the off. They stayed together for most of the race including in the final twenty laps where they persisted on the bottom lane, not allowing Brad Keselowski and the top lane to run away with the race.
With six laps to go it appeared all momentum and hope for Logano and Team Penske had been lost but a reenergized bottom lane put Logano back in contention.
On the final lap, Corey Lajoie bump-drafted Logano into turn one propelling Logano to lead the top lane and race side-by-side with Keselowski before Bell bumped him down the backstretch and into the lead.
Logano said: “The Auto Trader Mustang; this thing was an animal. Very, very fast.”
Runner-up Brad Keselowski furthered a dominant Ford display, with Ford having taken the top eight spots in qualifying, a feat that Ford hadn’t reached since 1965.
Keselowski looked in control of the race until he could no longer halt the momentum of Logano and raced cleanly to the chequered flag. Keselowski led the second most laps with 47.
Keselowski said: “The coolest thing about this race is two veterans showed you can run a race here side by side, bump-drafting, and not wreck the field. It can happen if you race respectfully. I thought everybody did a great job.”
Corey LaJoie had a career best fourth place finish after running inside the top 15 for the majority of the race.
Rest of race recap
Joey Logano and Austin Cindric led the field to green for the third Atlanta race since the 2021 repave where the banking was raised to 28 degrees in both corners, as well narrowing the corners, turning the track into a downsized Daytona superspeedway with the cars using the same race package used for Daytona and Talladega.
Logano led the first 10 laps before a caution came out for an out of control Bubba Wallace when he got loose on the outside next to Kyle Busch coming off turn two, before spinning across the track into the wall. Wallace was able to continue the race after repairs but would finish 27th five laps down.
Early on in stage one saw Kevin Harvick lead the bottom lane, but was not able to take the lead away from Logano for long. The NASCAR veteran was competing in his final Spring Atlanta race before retirement, the race of which he won in just his third Cup start 22 years ago, driving for Richard Childress, only three weeks after Childress and the NASCAR world suffered the loss of Dale Earnhardt Sr.
It was single file for the second half of stage one with Logano comfortably taking the stage win.
Stage two briefly saw a six-car breakaway at the front, midway through the fuel run in Logano, Kyle Busch, Blaney, Keselowski, Chris Buescher, and Cindric, before the rest of the pack came back to them.
Green flag pit stops just after 70 laps into stage two saw Ryan Blaney who had been running second behind Logano receive a speeding penalty for driving too fast on the apron in turn four in what is now part of pit entry, after NASCAR doubled the length of pit road entry, after the drivers had voiced safety concerns of having no runoff for pitting under green with the new configuration.
After serving the drive-through penalty, Blaney ended up being three cars in front of Logano trying to prevent his No. 12 BodyArmor SportWater Ford going two laps down before the stage break.
Blaney held on, with Cindric pinching the stage two win coming off turn four. Blaney would get the free pass later in the final stage.
The final stage saw both lanes in use with Aric Almirola, Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Denny Hamlin, and Harvick all taking turns to lead.
Disaster struck for Harvick when on lap 190, as he was sent around after Ross Chastain pushed air onto his rear bumper aggressively around the corner in turns one and two until Harvick’s car squirrelly lost control causing carnage for the field behind to avoid.
Buescher, Josh Berry, Daniel Suarez, Harrison Burton and BJ McLeod all got collected up in the mayhem.
Aric Almirola led the field back to green but on lap 209, on 72 lap old tyres, he blew a tyre in front of the pack, taking out Kyle Larson who was running second. Almirola had prior to the restart, gained 17 spots on pit road after taking fuel only under the caution.
The final 40 laps saw a duel between Logano and Keselowski, swapping the lead, before the duel intensified further with 13 laps to go.
Logano had help in his Penske teammates on the bottom, while the three Toyota’s in Tyler Reddick, Christopher Bell, and Denny Hamlin raced on the top, with Keselowski methodically blocking both lanes with help from his spotter TJ Majors.
Logano outduelled Keselowski on the final lap with help from LaJoie and Bell sending the Connecticut driver to victory lane at Atlanta for the first time in the Cup Series.
The next race of the 2023 NASCAR Cup Series season is the 68-lap road-course race around Circuit of The Americas (COTA).
It’s a star-studded lineup for COTA’s Cup race with F1 champions Jenson Button and Kimi Raikkonen as well seven-time Cup Series champion as well as 2017 IMSA Champion Jordan Taylor all competing in the first road-course race of the season.
The race starts at 3:30pm ET.
Featured Image: Joey Logano, driver of the No. 22 Autotrader Ford, celebrates in Victory Lane after winning the NASCAR Cup Series Ambetter Health 400 at Atlanta Motor Speedway (Photo by Jonathan Bachman | Getty Images)
Sunday saw William Byron, for two-weeks in a row, beat Kyle Larson in a overtime restart to win the Cup Series race, this time at Phoenix Raceway in the United Rentals Work United 500. Kevin Harvick had overtaken Larson for the lead with 43 laps to go but a caution with 11 laps to go for Harrison Burton blowing a tyre, saw Harvick lose the lead on pit road and fall back to seventh, having taken four tyres, while Larson and Byron came off pit road first and second on just two tyres.
William Byron had taken the lead away from pole-sitter Kyle Larson on lap two and went on to win stage one but Kyle Larson took the lead back on pit road during the stage break and won stage two.
Heading towards the white flag, Tyler Reddick gave a helpful push to Byron coming down the backstretch heading, as Blaney, Larson and Byron were three-wide for the lead with Byron on the outside, helping Byron clear Larson and Blaney going into turn four to take the white flag and the checkered flag.
It’s Byron sixth career win and his first at Phoenix in the Cup Series.
Byron thanked crew chief Rudy Fugle for the win saying: “Owe the last couple weeks to him. He’s done a really good job strategy-wise, and execution-wise we’ve done a good job to put ourselves in those positions on the front row with a shot at the end.”
Kyle Larson led 201 of the 312 laps so was not too pleased to come in fourth after losing the win to Byron in the same fashion for two-weeks running, being beat in last week’s overtime restart in Las Vegas Motor Speedway’s 400-mile race, saying: “Restarts are just tough. [Byron] did a really good job of holding it to my outside, clearing me down the back. Yeah, I’m pissed off.”
Kevin Harvick aka “The Closer” was looking to become a 10-time Phoenix Cup Series winner. Having started 15th, he finished eighth and third in stages one and two respectively before in the final stage on a long green flag run passed Larson for the lead with 43 laps to go.
Harvick was clear sailing prior to the caution with 11 laps to go and was not able to gain any positions when the field went back to green with three laps to go before Noah Gragson, AJ Allmendinger, and Ty Gibbs wrecked in turns one and two sending the race into overtime.
Harvick said: “That’s the way it goes. Just smoked ’em up until the caution. They did a great job with our Hunt Brothers Pizza Ford Mustang. Didn’t need the caution at the end.”
It was Harvick’s 20th straight top-10 finish at Phoenix Raceway in the Cup Series.
Ryan Blaney had a strong race from start to finish coming home in the runner up spot. Blaney finished sixth and eighth in stage one and two respectively. The Team Penske driver was running sixth at the time of Burton blowing his tyre.
Ford and former Penske teammate Brad Keselowski also had a strong race prior to the overtime finish, being ninth and fourth in stages one and two respectively before finishing eighteenth.
Josh Berry, subbing for the injured Chase Elliott, drove the No. 9 Kelley Blue Book Chevrolet to an impressive 10th place finish. Berry was getting used up in stage one struggling to get inside the top 25. The full-time JR Motorsports Xfinity driver worked his way into the top 15 in the final stage before finishing one place behind Hendrick teammate Alex Bowman, placing all four Hendrick Chevrolet’s in the top-10.
Rest of race recap
The United Rentals 500 marked the debut of the new short track package, seeing a 30% reduction in downforce compared to last year’s short track package, due in part to halving the spoiler from four inches to two.
The cars were permitted to race in wet conditions if they occurred during the race as part of NASCAR’s expansion to allow wet-weather racing at one mile or less sized oval tracks in addition to the road course races.
2021 Phoenix winner Kyle Larson led the field to green flag before Byron released Larson of the lead getting by on the inside of turn one on lap two.
With under ten to go in stage one, BJ McLeod retired with a fuel pump issue before Ricky Stenhouse Jr. tagged the turn one wall running 25th but was able to continue. Byron led the rest of the laps to win stage one.
During the stage one caution break, Kyle Larson was able to win back the lead on pit road in part to having the number one pit stall at the end of pit road.
Aric Almirola brought out the caution on lap 139 after his wheel hub and tyre broke free. Larson was first off pit road again and went on to win stage two.
Harvick started the final stage side-by-side with Larson on the restart but Larson quickly pulled away to a 2.5 second gap by lap 207.
During the rest of the final stage, the whole field split the 127-lap stage in half except Erik Jones who stayed out in the lead on old tyres until Kyle Larson caught and passed him for the lead on much fresher tyres with 52 laps to go. Jones was hoping for a caution to force everybody else down pit road again while with the lead but one didn’t come before having to pit. Jones finished 21st.
As the run went on Harvick closed back down the gap to Larson to just 0.3 seconds and cleared him coming out of turn three with 43 laps to go.
The crash that led to the overtime finish came from Gragson and AJ Allmendinger colliding into the turn two wall together, while Gibbs piled into the back of them after getting tangled with Corey Lajoie on the high lane in turn one.
The 2022 Hamlin-Chastain clash was revived on the final lap when Denny Hamlin washed up the race track in turn two dragging Chastain into the wall. Hamlin had spent most of the day in the top five but would only come home 23rd in the end, with Chastain 24th. Both had a long conversation with each other on pit road post-race.
The next race for the NASCAR Cup Series is the Ambetter Health 400 at Atlanta Motor Speedway this Sunday, with the race starting at 3pm ET.
Featured image: William Byron, driver of the #24 Valvoline Chevrolet, drives during the NASCAR Cup Series United Rentals Work United 500 at Phoenix Raceway on March 12, 2023 in Avondale, Arizona. (Photo by Meg Oliphant/Getty Images)
William Byron dominated Sunday’s Pennzoil 400, leading 176 of the 267 laps, sweeping all three stages, and passing Martin Truex Jr. in overtime to take his first Cup win at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. Byron had battled hard with Hendrick Motorsports teammate Kyle Larson all race long for control of the lead and just pipped the Larson to the pit road exit line, seeing him line-up alongside Truex Jr. for the overtime restart, who gambled to stay out on old tyres.
Byron said: “Yeah, just happy with getting the first win of the year. It’s been a while since we’ve won. It’s been almost a year, and it’s nice to kind of just get back to what I feel like we’re capable of.”
Byron was part of Hendrick Motorsports’ third one-two-three finish in the teams Cup Series career with Kyle Larson and Alex Bowman finishing second and third respectively, finishing the race how they ended stage two. Hendrick’s previous one-two-three finish came in the 2021 spring Dover race where it was also Hendrick’s first one-two-three-four finish with Byron finishing fourth and Alex Bowman taking the spoils that day.
Byron first took the lead on lap 10 from pole-sitter Joey Logano. From then on it was mostly smooth sailing for the first stage with Larson keeping tabs on the Charlotte, North Carolinian finishing just under a second behind him.
Stage two was a carbon copy for both drivers with Larson once again finishing second in stage two under a second behind Byron. The final stage saw the roles reversed with Byron losing places on pit road under caution on lap 184, and starting fourth on the restart with Larson in third.
Larson was all over Denny Hamlin, who had stayed out on older tyres, for the lead and finally claimed top spot in the running order with 71 laps to go. Larson pulled out a five second-plus gap to Byron over the course of the final stage but this was eradicated when the caution came out with four to go in response to Aric Almirola sliding into a spin against the turn four wall.
At the time of caution Byron had halved the gap down to 2.4 seconds but it looked like a tall-order to have caught Larson without the Californian making a mistake or traffic getting in the way before they yellow flags waved.
Larson was only able to clear Truex Jr. with half a lap to go on the backstretch to finish runner-up.
Larson commented: “It seems like kind of laps down, lap by lap, and then, sure enough, the yellow lights come on. I had a gap to William behind me, and their pit crew must have just done a really good job and got out in front of us, and that gave up the front row. I knew I was in trouble with the 19 staying out.”
A dominant display by Hendrick comes on the week of teammate and 2020 NASCAR Cup champion Chase Elliott being forced to sit out indefinitely after fracturing his tibia in a snowboarding accident in Colorado last Friday.
Team owner Rick Hendrick speaking on Friday about NASCAR’s most popular driver said: “Chase’s health is our primary concern. He’s understandably disappointed to miss time in the car.”
JR Motorsports driver Josh Berry stood in for Elliott on Sunday, finishing 29th, two laps down, in his first race in the Next Gen car.
Bubba Wallace had a stand-out day running inside the top ten for most of the race, taking sixth in stage two and eighth in stage one, and coming home fourth. After not finishing either of the first two races of the season, it’s a much needed boost of confidence and points for the No. 23 team.
Wallace said: “Never stop fighting. You never give up. I almost come over the radio and said, hey, good job, we finished sixth, then the caution came out, and I perked up again and got some.”
Wallace’s teammate Tyler Reddick had a wild day after marching up to 19th, just 11 laps after starting the race in the rear. Reddick nearly let a good points day get away when inside of 65 laps to go, he ripped the turns three and four wall running sixth, sending him back to tenth. Reddick would finish 15th, after coming into the weekend with just four points after being wrecked out of the first two races.
Sunday’s pole-sitter Joey Logano and last week’s Auto Club finale winner Kyle Busch both difficult races.
After losing the lead on lap 10 to Byron, Logano fought a tight handling race car for the first half of the race, clinging onto the top 15.
The two-time Pennzoil 400 winner asked a little too much of his No. 22 Pennzoil Ford Mustang on lap 182, when while he was battling three-wide on the outside with Brad Keselowski and Kyle Busch coming off turn four over 14th place, he ran out of real estate, colliding with the wall before spinning across the track into the infield grass. Logano’s team were not able to fix the car under the damage vehicle policy in time, forcing him to retire.
Kyle Busch made contact with the yellow outside walls several times during the race including twice in stage one, once clattering the turn two wall hard, bending the steering angle whilst challenging Hamlin for ninth place, but was able to continue.
Kyle Busch's hard hit into the turn two wall during stage 1. He's currently challenging Hamlin for 9th place!pic.twitter.com/srnHvC3ntK
The Las Vegas native wound up 14th in a weekend where he had attempted to sweep all three national series races taking place at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, trying to replicate his Bristol Motor Speedway’s 2010 and 2017 weekend sweeps.
Busch won the Craftsman Truck Series race on Friday driving for his own Kyle Busch Motorsports team but could only manage fourth in Saturday’s Xfinity Series race driving for Kaulig Racing.
The next race for the NASCAR Cup Series is the United Rentals Work United 500 at Phoenix Raceway this Sunday, with the race starting at 3:30pm ET.
Featured Image: William Byron, driver of the #24 RaptorTough.com Chevrolet, celebrates in victory lane after winning the NASCAR Cup Series Pennzoil 400 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway on March 05, 2023 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Meg Oliphant/Getty Images)
Sunday 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)
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)
Joey Logano bumped William Byron out of the way to take his first victory at Darlington Raceway in NASCAR’s Goodyear 400 on Sunday. With Byron getting ready to take the white flag heading into turn three, a faster Logano gave him a sizable shot in the rear shooting him up the race track and into the wall resulting in Logano flying past to take the win. Byron finished 13th.
With 26 to go, Byron had fended off Logano for the lead by squeezing him into the wall coming off turn two forcing Logano to lift off the gas.
Facing a hostile crowd, Logano explained to FOX’s Regan Smith that the move was retaliation for it saying “You’re not going to put me in the wall and not get anything back, that’s how that works.”
Logano ends his 40 winless streak in terms of championship points paying races, last winning the 2021 inaugural Bristol Dirt Race. The polesitter had either led or been at the front of the pack for the entire race, leading over 100 laps and had won stage one.
Logano was sporting a 1995 throwback paint scheme to his original quarter midget that had got him racing as a kid. In victory lane Logano said “This is the car where it all started for me back in ’95 in a quarter midget. Really, honestly, all the young kids racing out there right now, this could be you.”
Byron was upset with Logano’s driving saying to FOX’s Jamie Little: “He’s just an idiot. He slammed me so hard he knocked the whole right side off the car, and I couldn’t even make the corner. He didn’t even make it a contest. He’s just a moron.”
In honour of NASCAR’s annual throwback weekend for the race, Byron was sporting a Jeff Gordon 2007 Axalta paint scheme. The incident with Logano saw Jeff Gordon himself shaking his head in disbelief on pit road.
Tyler Reddick came up one place short of a win for a second time this season, but was under a second behind Logano when they crossed the finish line. With 15 to go, Reddick was attempting to make a late race charge for the win but was unable to find a way past Logano before Logano pulled away and began to close down Byron inside of five to go.
Reddick had been one of few drivers who had broken the final stage up into thirds, instead of in half. Due to pitting early on in the final stage and being on fresher rubber for a while when everybody else had made their first pit stop, he cycled to the front of the pack to lead for a few laps. He would get overtaken on pit road by Logano under caution which had come out for Alex Bowman, who’s car was on fire that had to be put out on pit road.
Justin Haley earned an impressive first top-five of the season with a third place finish for him and Kaulig Racing. Haley’s strong performances at Talladega, Dover and now Darlington is making him quite the feel-good story of 2022.
Kevin Harvick would finish fourth and grow his consecutive top-10 finishes at Darlington to 13, beating Bill Elliott’s record who was commentating in the FOX booth for the final part of the race. Harvick ran a special Rheem Chasing a Cure paint scheme for St. Jude Children’s Hospital.
Chase Elliott who started from the rear, came home to finish a well earned fifth place after battling hard with Christopher Bell, Denny Hamlin, and Erik Jones throughout much of the final part of the race.
The race proved to be one of attrition with race contenders Ross Chastain, Denny Hamlin, Kyle Busch, and Martin Truex Jr. all falling out of contention or out of the race due to crashing during stage’s two and three.
Kyle Busch got collected by an out of control Brad Keselowski in the closing laps of stage two. Keselowski had wrecked after colliding with the turn two wall before coming back down the race track and spinning back across into Kyle Busch who was trying to keep out of his way running next to the backstretch wall. The impact buckled Kyle Busch’s wheel and suspension forcing him to retire. Busch had led laps in stage one after wrestling the lead away from Logano after a two lap duel. He had remained in the top five for much of the first half of the race.
Ross Chastain had been upfront for the first half of the race and had won stage two before spinning out by himself on the next restart after getting loose under Denny Hamlin for the lead coming out of turn two and consequently collided with the inside wall, ending his day.
On lap 260 of 293, Martin Truex Jr. was the cause of a big multi-car crash on a restart involving eight cars including Kurt Busch, Bubba Wallace, Cole Custer, Erik Jones and Hamlin, after getting loose in the middle of three wide in turn two and backing up the field as he spun sideways across the track.
Hamlin, who restarted stage two with the lead and had recently retaken the lead of the race in stage three after getting by Logano before falling back into the field after a mistake on pit road, piled into the back of Jones who was caught up in the accident, ending his day.
On lap 112, reigning champion Kyle Larson, who started second, had to retire due to an engine failure.
Full finishing order: (1st) Joey Logano, (2nd) Tyler Reddick, (3rd) Justin Haley, (4th) Kevin Harvick, (5th) Chase Elliott, (6th) Christopher Bell, (7th) Michael McDowell, (8th) Ricky Stenhouse Jr., (9th) Austin Dillon, (10th) Daniel Suárez, (11th) Aric Almirola, (12th) Ty Dillon, (13th) William Byron, (14th) Harrison Burton, (15th) Todd Gilliland, (16th) Chris Buescher, (17th) Ryan Blaney, (18th) Austin Cindric, (19th) Cody Ware, (20th) Chase Briscoe, (21st) Denny Hamlin, (22nd) Landon Cassill, (23rd) JJ Yeley, (24th) Martin Truex Jr., (25th) Erik Jones, (26th) Cole Custer, (27th) Bubba Wallace, (28th) Kurt Busch, (29th) Alex Bowman, (30th) Ross Chastain, (31st) Daniel Hemric, (32nd) BJ McLeod, (33rd) Kyle Busch, (34th) Brad Keselowski, (35th) Corey Lajoie, (36th) Kyle Larson.
Top 10 in points standings: 1st Chase Elliott (453), 2nd William Byron (388), 3rd Ryan Blaney (388), 4th Joey Logano (374), 5th Ross Chastain (364), 6th Kyle Busch (364), 7th Martin Truex Jr. (364), 8th Alex Bowman (357), 9th Kyle Larson (336), 10th Christopher Bell (327).
Featured Image: Joey Logano, the No. 22 Shell Pennzoil Ford, takes the checkered flag to win the NASCAR Cup Series Goodyear 400 at Darlington Raceway (Photo by Emilee Chinn/Getty Images)
Watermelon farmer turned NASCAR Cup racer Ross Chastain smashed out his first career win at Circuit of the Americas in final lap brawl.
On the hottest day of the year just outside of Austin, Texas, the NASCAR race at COTA came down to an overtime finish between Ross Chastain, road-course ringer AJ Allmendinger and Hendrick’s Alex Bowman.
On the final restart, it was Richard Childress Racing’s Tyler Reddick who led the field to green with Ross Chastain right beside him in second, but Chastain used the chrome horn and power moved by Reddick in the S’s to retake the lead.
Reddick would fall back to sixth while Chastain would take the white flag and would lead the break away with AJ Allmendinger and Alex Bowman in tandem.
Allmendinger closed up to Chastain in the turn 12 heavy braking zone and would continue to fill his mirrors up in turns 13 and 14 before sticking his Camaro up the inside of Chastain in turn 15, consequently pushing Chastain wide after he tried to cover him off.
Chastain would get passed by Bowman too after he dived past him on the inside of 18 while Chastain returned the favour to Allmendinger going into the penultimate corner, using him as a braking block. Allmendinger’s car stepped out on him and flew into Bowman who was alongside him. Allmendinger ended up backwards in the sand while Bowman had to take evasive action to avoid him. Chastain went on to take the checkered flag.
The highly anticipated ritual-like smashing of the watermelon was performed by Chastain on the straightaway from on top of his ONX Homes/iFly Camaro. Chastain was so thrilled he ate the juicy fruit while being interviewed, saying to FOX, “it’s never tasted sweeter.”
It was also Trackhouse Racing’s first Cup win and was quite the birthday present for co-team owner Justin Marks.
Celebrations continued throughout the first half of the week with Chastain’s own Melon Man Brand, a grassroots lifestyle organisation uniting all watermelon lovers, putting up pre-orders for a most appropriate T-shirt on Tuesday to mark the iconic moment.
Back at the race shop on Tuesday, Team Trackhouse were all bought a celebratory breakfast. Watermelon may or may not have been present.
Back to Sunday’s race, other drivers had found to be fast throughout the race, most notably Team Trackhouse teammate Daniel Suárez, who after starting second would take the lead away from polesitter Ryan Blaney on the opening lap. Suárez would go onto win the first stage of the race. He had a not so fun experience on the restart however, finding himself spinning around while in a five-wide mess in turn one. Denny Hamlin, in desperate need of points, would sacrifice track position and stay out to win stage two.
Ford drivers Chase Briscoe and Austin Cindric would also be at the front throughout much of the race but not when Cindric brought out the first non-scheduled caution of the day for spinning coming out of the turn 10 kink, with Christopher Bell narrowly avoiding him by a whisker. The race would go to overtime when Kurt Busch, Kyle Larson, and Joey Logano came together in the turn one sandpit.
Bowman, Bell, Elliott, and Reddick made up the top five finishing order.
Featured Image: Ross Chastain, celebrates after winning at COTA (Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images)