David beats Goliaths in astonishing Cup race at Talladega.
At Talladega Superspeedway, David Ragan led an extraordinary 1-2 finish for Front Row Motorsports, which had never won a NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race before Sunday.
David Gilliland pushed Ragan, his teammate, to the lead on the final circuit in a green-white checkered-flag finish that took Sunday's Aaron's 499 four laps past its scheduled distance of 188 laps. Gilliland came home second, followed by pole sitter Carl Edwards, Michael Waltrip and series leader Jimmie Johnson.
As Ragan put it, two Davids beat the Goliaths of NASCAR racing in one of the sport’s most unlikely finishes ever.
Ragan's victory followed a massive wreck that took the race to overtime--and to near-darkness, in what truly was truly was a Talladega night. In fact, NASCAR gave the drivers a chance to change their tinted visors for clear ones during the final caution.
Afterwards, Ragan tried to put the win in perspective.
"I can only imagine what it felt like back in 1988 when Mark Martin got that first win for Jack Roush or when Geoff Bodine won that first race for Hendrick Motorsports," said Ragan, who scored his only Sprint Cup win at Daytona in July 2011, his last season with Jack Roush. "I’m sure it was just as special.
Ragan restarted 10th and Gilliland 11th for the final two-lap sprint. As the cars raced into Turn 1, they were barely visible from the frontstretch grandstand, but the teammates managed to find each other on the track. For the first time in NASCAR’s new Gen-6 car, Gilliland pushed another car through the corners--to the amazement of Edwards, whose jaw dropped in the post-race news conference as Gilliland described the final two laps.
"We got restarted there, and it was sprinkling, and it was dark and there was (speedy-dry) on the track so it got on the windshield where it was wet but I could see, and I could see David there and he came down," Gilliland said. "Michael Waltrip was behind me, giving me a good run and just carried a lot of momentum up through there and got hooked up with David and figured he's got the best chance of anybody sticking together with him out there and just worked our way up there.
"It got real tight getting into (Turn) 3 and 4 with Carl there. I know David was sideways and out of the gas, and Carl was right up on his door, and could have gone a number of ways. But, thankfully I just stayed on his bumper. I pushed him all the way through the corners. It's the first time I've ever done that with this car, with these style of cars, because with these type of cars in practice I've pushed people down the back straight and it actually kind of gets underneath that little lip underneath the back bumper cover and I've always been kind of scared getting into the corner. As the front car compresses, the back part of the nose doesn't have anywhere to go because the splitter is already on the racetrack.
"But I just pushed him all the way around there and Carl about stalled out a little bit, and we were just able to carry some good momentum and come home one-two."
Kevin Harvick wins thrilling Richmond race in overtime
Kevin Harvick sped away on fresh tires to win Sunday night’s Toyota Owners 400 in a green-white-checkered-flag finish at Richmond International Raceway, leaving a grup of drivers with widely different emotions oh his bumper. Harvick beat Clint Bowyer to the finish line by .343 seconds to win his first NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race of the season, his second at Richmond and the 20th of his career.
.Harvick came to pit road for tires on Lap 396, after Brian Vickers’ slapped the Turn 3 wall to cause the 11th caution of the race. Harvick’s No. 29 Richard Childress racing Chevrolet made short work of three drivers who had stayed out after the race restarted on lap 405. One happy guy was Juan Pablo Montoya: even though he lost the chance to break a 94-race drought since his Cup victory at Watkins Glen in August 2010, Montoya was elated just to get a top-five finish after struggling mightily for more than a year. Not so happy were Kurt Busch and Tony Stewart, who repeatedly swapped shots with their Chevys on the cool-down lap. Stewart was fifth on the final restart but dropped to 18th at the finish after Busch rubbed him out of the racing groove during a two-lap free-for-all that saw prolific contact throughout the field. Tony is outside the to-20 in points and wasn't in a good mood to start with.
The record book will say that Kyle Busch won the NRA 500 on Saturday night
If truth be known, Busch started the process on Friday afternoon and applied the coup de grace with 20 laps left on Saturday evening.
Yes, Busch capped a perfect weekend when he took the checkered flag .508 seconds ahead of runner-up Martin Truex Jr. But Busch’s first NASCAR Sprint Cup Series victory at Texas, his second of the season and the 26th of his career started with a pole-winning run on Friday that afforded him the luxury of picking the No. 1 pit stall.
At the race’s crucial juncture, under the final caution for debris in Turn 4, Busch used a lightning-fast pit stop and the pit stall position closest to the exit from pit road to grab the top spot for the final restart. Truex restarted on the outside and struggled to maintain contact with the race winner.
Though he gained ground in the closing laps, Truex ran out of time.
Carl Edwards was third, followed by Greg Biffle and Joey Logano, who barely made the starting grid and rallied for an unexpected top five.
Busch, who won Friday night’s Nationwide Series race after claiming the pole, finished off the seventh Nationwide/Cup sweep of his career, a NASCAR record--and all because of the final pit stop.
"It feels good--oh, man," Busch exulted after climbing from his car. "(Crew chief) Dave Rogers and these guys gave me a great piece today. We ran up front all day long. But if it wasn’t for my pit crew, the most awesome group ever--since 2008 we’ve been together, haven’t had any changeover--man, those guys are just awesome.
"They pulled out one heck of a stop right there at the end to put us up front, to give us that lead, and we were able to bring it home."
Busch led a race-high 171 laps to 142 for Truex, who was beyond disappointed with the second-place result. Truex was on the verge of getting his first win since June 2007 atDover.
Joey Logano can dish out the spins, but gets hot when someone does it to him. After the Bristol race, Joey had a prayer meeting through the window of the 11 car. As Logano leaned into the window of Hamlin's No. 11 Toyota, a shoving match broke out between the crews of both teams. Logano quickly was restrained and retreated to his Penske Racing hauler.
"We've got a freaking genius behind the wheel of the 11," Logano said. "Probably the worst teammate I ever had, so I learned that now. He chose to run into the back of me. Whatever. I have a scorecard and I'm not putting up with that. "What goes around come around."
Hamlin apologized on the radio for getting into Logano, who was battling Jeff Gordon for the lead. He said the incident didn't have anything to do with the exchange the two had on Twitter following the Daytona 500 in which Hamlin questioned Logano's driving.
"No, it didn't have anything to do with that," Hamlin said. "You've really got to control your car, and he slipped up into me. Really, he would have been in the garage with no radiator in it if I had not checked up twice.
"I just, you know, I meant to run in to him. I didn't mean to spin him out, but his day was fine."
Asked what Logano said to him at the car, Hamlin said, "He said he was coming for me. I usually don't see him, so it's usually not a factor."
NASCAR spokesman Kerry Tharp said no penalties were expected for either driver or team.
This isn't the first time Hamlin and Logano have exchanged barbs.
Shortly after the Daytona 500, Hamlin sent a message to Logano teammate Brad Keselowski on Twitter. "@keselowski sorry I couldn't get close to you cuz your genius teammate was too busy messing up the inside line 1 move at a time" Hamlin wrote.
The number is 70 — and no longer counting
As Denny Hamlin put it, Carl Edwards is "relevant again" after winning Sunday's Subway Fresh Fit 500 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Phoenix International Raceway in a green-white-checkered-flag finish that took the race four laps past its posted distance of 312 laps.
In beating Jimmie Johnson to the finish line by 1.024 seconds, Edwards broke a winless streak that had reached 70 races, dating to Mar. 6, 2011 at Las Vegas. Remarkably, Edwards broke another 70-race drought at the one-mile track in the Sonoran desert when he won at Phoenix in November 2010.
Behind Edwards and Johnson, Denny Hamlin ran third, making the most of a daredevil move that cut the backstretch dogleg on the last lap and got his No. 11 Toyota past the No. 2 Ford of reigning series champion Brad Keselowski, who came home fourth.
It was Keselowski, though, driving a Ford after Penske Racing's between-season switch from Dodge, who gave Edwards the push that propelled him to the front on the final restart on Lap 315.
For his part, Edwards hopes the momentum of his 20th career victory continues throughout the season.
"When you're struggling, it seems like time slows down," Edwards said after being told of Hamlin's "relevant" comment. "You're working harder, you're trying more, you're questioning yourself more. ... (Last year) was one of the longest years of my life, to work that hard and not get the victories.
"I'm very, very happy to be back in the mix here. A victory is huge for so many reasons. Last year we didn't make the Chase. For me to sit home, while everybody was at the Chase stuff in Vegas—that was a little bit of a shock to me. I did not like that at all.
Seven NASCAR Sprint Cup Champions Headline
NASCAR Preview 2013
NASCAR Hall of Fame Induction, Autographs, Gen-6 Car Part Of Season Kickoff
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Jan. 16, 2013) – Reigning NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion Brad Keselowski and fellow titleholders Tony Stewart, Jimmie Johnson, Kurt Busch, Matt Kenseth, Jeff Gordon and Bobby Labonte are among more than 60 drivers from three NASCAR national series set to participate in NASCAR Preview 2013 on Saturday, Feb. 9.
The NASCAR Acceleration Weekend fan event will be held from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the Charlotte (N.C.) Convention Center and feature autographs from NASCAR Sprint Cup, NASCAR Nationwide and NASCAR Camping World Truck Series drivers, on-stage Q&As, the opportunity to get a close-up look at the new NASCAR Sprint Cup Gen-6 race car and other special events.
Tickets, priced at $20, are available at www.nascaracceleration.com. A NASCAR Preview ticket includes same-day admission to the NASCAR Hall of Fame. For the full driver autograph schedule, please see the bottom of this release.
NASCAR Acceleration Weekend begins Friday, Feb. 8 at 7:30 p.m., with the NASCAR Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony. Former NASCAR premier series champions Buck Baker, Herb Thomas and Rusty Wallace, championship car owner Cotton Owens and innovative mechanic, crew chief and engine builder Leonard Wood will be the fourth class enshrined.
Tickets to Friday night’s Induction Ceremony start at $45 and can be purchased at www.nascaracceleration.com and the NASCAR Hall of Fame box office.
Eight NASCAR Hall of Fame members will appear at the hall from 4-4:45 p.m. on Feb. 8 and sign autographs for those with a NASCAR Hall of Fame ticket. They include Junior Johnson, David Pearson, Bud Moore, Bobby Allison, Ned Jarrett, Dale Inman, Darrell Waltrip and Glen Wood.
NASCAR Acceleration Weekend wraps up Sunday, Feb. 10 with the unveiling of the five NASCAR Hall of Fame inductees’ granite markers. Wallace and Leonard Wood will sign autographs at 10 a.m. for hall ticket holders.
NASCAR Preview 2013 is expected to draw thousands of fans to the Convention Center to meet their favorite drivers. Last year’s event, the first of its kind in Charlotte, was the successful rebirth of what for many years officially signaled the beginning of a new NASCAR season. The 2013 season is exactly one month away and begins with The Sprint Unlimited on Feb. 16 at Daytona International Speedway – the traditional lead-in to the 55th running of the Daytona 500 at 1 p.m. ET on Feb. 24. Both races will be broadcast live by FOX Sports, Motor Racing Network and SiriusXM Satellite Radio.
Reigning series champions in all three NASCAR national series headline the list of drivers confirming their participation in NASCAR Preview 2013. Keselowski will appear at 1:30 p.m. along with NASCAR Camping World Truck Series champion James Buescher. NASCAR Nationwide Series champion Ricky Stenhouse Jr. is slotted at 9 a.m.
No Championship, No Biggie For "Loopie" Winners Johnson, Busch
Kyle Busch has frequently called this the worst year of his motorsports career.
We’ve got news for him: He’s wrong. So, so wrong. His tune will change by the time he reads the next 1,271 or so words. There’s some hardware in his future. And not just any hardware … Loopie hardware. And not just any Loopie hardware … the granddaddy of them all.
So paraphrasing Ralph Wiggum, who once succinctly said “Me fail English? That’s unpossible,” we say: “Congratulations Kyle, you’ve won the Stefan Kretschmann Lifetime Achievement Award. Worst year ever? That’s unpossible.”
A quick primer for those just tuning in: For the sixth consecutive season, the NASCAR Integrated Marketing Communications team has pored over a season’s worth of Loop Data and filtered out the top statistical performances of the 2012 season. After a painstaking review, a select committee created awards to recognize those drivers who numerically excelled this season. Those awards have evolved into arguably the most coveted prize in all of NASCAR. They are – and this is – The Loopies.
The envelopes please…
Quantity of Quality Award: This award goes to the driver who led the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series in Quality Passes, which are passes of cars in the top 15 while under green flag conditions.
The winner, who will have to clear up even more mantle space, is Brad Keselowski. Keselowski, who led the series by more than 200 quality passes, tallied 2,201 quality passes overall.
This is significant. These are the toughest cars – with the most talented drivers – to pass, and Keselowski did it more often than any other driver.
And considering his average starting position of 16.2, he had to do it often. Did You Know: Keselowski is the first champion to fail to win a pole in his championship season since Matt Kenseth in 2003.
Most Improved Driver: Awards like these are usually given after taking into account a number of different success barometers. But this is the Loopies. And our nominating committee needs only one measure: Driver Rating.
The driver with the biggest improvement in Driver Rating from 2011 to 2012, and winner of the coveted Loopie: Greg Biffle. Biffle, who finished fifth in 2012 after missing the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup in 2011, ballooned his Driver Rating by 13.6 points over last season. Last year, he had an 85.9. This year: 99.5.
In all, six drivers enjoyed a double-digit improvement in Driver Rating from last season: Biffle, Martin Truex Jr., Denny Hamlin, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Brad Keselowski and Jimmie Johnson.
Least Improved Driver: Not all Loopies are coveted. That’s what makes these awards so unique, and dare we say, unrivaled.
Here’s one of them. The driver with the biggest drop in Driver Rating wins this Loopie, and it goes to Carl Edwards – with an asterisk. Edwards actually only had the third-biggest drop – 16.8, from 101.0 in 2011 to 84.2 this season. But it was the biggest drop among drivers who didn’t switch teams, and therefore the committee made an executive decision to allow Edwards to take home this award.
In actuality, David Ragan suffered the biggest drop in Driver Rating. In 2011, Ragan had a Driver Rating of 78.3 for Roush Fenway Racing. For Front Row Motorsports this season, it dropped to 49.2. Kurt Busch, who went from Penske Racing to Phoenix Racing and Furniture Row Racing, dropped 22.7 points.
Coffee’s For Closers Award: Stealing a line from one of the most famous scenes in cinematic history, this “Glengarry Glen Ross”-themed award goes to the top “Closer” in the series. The “Closer” statistic measures the positions gained or lost in the last 10 percent of races. The top Closer this season: Ryan Newman, who improved 68 total positions in the last 10 percent of races this season.
“He’s Partially Sponsored By An Energy Drink, So Doesn’t Need Coffee, Thankfully” Award: (If by now you haven’t realized that these awards are all in good fun – and, well, ridiculous – hopefully this award’s name has sealed the deal.) This one goes to one of the worst Closers (again, not all of these awards are coveted). And the winner: Dale Earnhardt Jr. Earnhardt lost 41 spots in the last 10 percent of races this year, among the worst of any driver. But, with a sponsor like AMP Energy, he doesn’t need coffee to keep him caffeinated, anyway. Nor does Kurt and Kyle Busch (Monster Energy) or Clint Bowyer (5-hour Energy), all of whom also were in the red in the Closer category.
Serenity Now Award: A happy driver is a successful driver, and that’s certainly true with the winner of this award, Kurt Busch. When Busch announced his move to Furniture Row Racing during the Chase, he exuded calm and joyfulness. The results were immediate. A tale of the tape breakdown of Busch in his new No. 78 Furniture Row ride compared to his stats in No. 51 Phoenix Racing car:
- In only 6 races, he had more top 10s in the No. 78 (three) than he did in in 29 races in the 51 (two)
- Driver Rating: 86.6 vs. 67.8
- Average start: 17.7 vs. 22.7
- Average finish: 14.3 vs. 25.0
- Average Running Position: 14.6 vs. 22.2
- Pass Differential: +13 vs. 0
- Laps in the top 15 percentage: 47.8% vs. 21.5%
Stefan Kretschmann Lifetime Achievement Award: It’s the moment we’ve all been waiting for. A brief setup of this one: Stefan Kretschmann works for our partners at Stats, LLC in Chicago, and is considered the godfather of Loop Data. His brain created the formula for Driver Rating, and many of the other formulas that make Loop Data so interesting and invaluable. We started this award last season to honor a driver who has been statistically strong throughout the Loop Data Era (2005-Present). Jimmie Johnson to