Ricky Stenhouse Jr. earns Daytona Victory

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Photo by: Sean Gardner

When the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series rolled into Daytona International Speedway Ricky Stenhouse Jr. wasn’t one of the most talked about, despite his win at its sister track Talladega two months ago. But he was the one with all the glory Saturday night.

Stenhouse propelled himself to victory in overtime to earn his second career victory this season. A feature no one could have predicted, but everyone can appreciate.

Stenhouse started beside David Ragan on the restart after a incident involving Denny Hamlin and Erik Jones brought out the caution. Ragan gained the lead, but Stenhouse quickly made his way to the front for the top spot.

“I was really having to lift a lot to keep from running over the cars in front of us,” Stenhouse said. “Even when I was leading, I could run not-full-throttle and be able to keep them at a certain distance. … I was pretty surprised with our damage that we were able to stay up front that last lap and a half.”

Stenhouse won the Coke Zero 400 in a brand new car that Roush Fenway built for him. The car that he won with at Talladega was gifted to Stenhouse by team owner Jack Roush for his first career MENCS victory.

Stenhouse is one of five drivers that have multiple wins this season. He sits 16th in the standings with nine races to go in the regular season.

The race was plagued with several multi-car accidents that left many of the favored contenders with finishes of 20th or worse.

Dale Earnhardt Jr. was involved in a wreck on Lap 52 after he felt one of his tires was losing air. That turned out to be a false alarm, however he made contact with Paul Menard and was two laps behind the leaders.

Earnhardt just received the free pass before being collected in a crash after a blown tire sent the No. 4 of Kevin Harvick spinning. Stage 1 winner Brad Keselowski was also involved, ending his night with a finish of 31st.

In the chaotic night the top 10 finishers of the night were practically unrecognizable. Paul Menard, Michael McDowell, and Xfinity Series regular Brendan Gaughan all claimed finishes inside the top 10, with BK Racing’s Corey Lajoie just outside in 11th place.

The Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series head under the lights again at Kentucky on July 8, 2017 at 7:30 p.m ET.

Chase Elliott signs contract extension with Hendrick Motorsports

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Photo by: Sarah Crabill

Hendrick Motorsports and Chase Elliott have announced that they have reached a contract extension agreement that puts the driver with the team through the 2022 racing season.

Elliott, who earned the 2016 Rookie of the Year honors, has 6 top-5 finishes and 11 top-10 finishes so far this season. He currently sits third in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series regular point season standings.

“It means the world to me to be a part of this organization, and I couldn’t be happier,” Elliott said in a statement, “I wouldn’t want to drive for anybody else but Hendrick Motorsports. I am very proud to be where I am, and I definitely take it upon myself to work hard and make sure I do my part for the company as we move forward.”

Elliott signed with Hendrick Motorsports in 2011 and took over the iconic No. 24 Chevrolet from Jeff Gordon at the start of 2016. The 21-year old was previously signed through 2018.

“As both a driver and a person, where Chase is today at 21 years old is unbelievable,” said Rick Hendrick, owner of Hendrick Motorsports. “With all the expectations and pressure, he’s stayed focused on being himself and working as hard as he can.”

“The pure driving talent has always been obvious, and he’s doing so many great things off the track. He’ll be a big part of our organization and our sport for many years. I’m looking forward to watching him continue to grow with us.”

The 2014 Xfinity Series champion is still searching for his first Cup Series victory ahead of this weekend’s race at Daytona International Speedway. He finished 14th at the Daytona 500.

Kevin Harvick wins at Sonoma

Photo by: Jared C. Tilton

If there were ever any concerns about 2014 Champion Kevin Harvick reaching victory lane this season, those quickly diminished at the end of the Toyota/Save Mart 350 at Sonoma Raceway.

Harvick dominated the final stage of the event, leading 24 laps, and holding more than an eight-second lead before Kasey Kahne’s hard hit brought out the caution on the final lap.

“I’m so excited,” Harvick said in Victory Lane. “I think, as you look at it, getting our first win with Ford, this has been a great journey for us as an organization and team. (Teammate) Kurt (Busch) winning the Daytona 500, and we have run well.”

Stewart-Haas Racing secured the top two spots during Sunday’s event, as Harvick’s teammate Clint Bowyer used strategy to his advantage for another second place finish this season. Kurt Busch finished seventh and Danica Patrick finished 17th.

Stage 1 winner Martin Truex Jr. finished 37th after leading a race-high 25 laps. Truex reported issues with his No. 78 Toyota for several laps before the engine gave out on Lap 86 while on pit road.

“For about the past 20 laps, I’ve been on seven cylinders,” Truex said of his sputtering engine. “After we made that last pit stop, when we lost the lead to (Kevin) Harvick, soon as I left pit road, I lost a cylinder. I was surprised we were able to keep up with them as well as we could on seven, but just shows how strong the car was. Just wasn’t meant to be today.”

Kyle Larson now holds the series points standings 13 points ahead of Truex. Larson finished 26th in his fourth attempt at the road course.

Brad Keselowski, Denny Hamlin, and 2015 Sonoma winner Kyle Busch rounded out the top 5, while Dale Earnhardt Jr. battled back for sixth after contact with Patrick and a speeding penalty.

NASCAR returns to NBC on July 1, 2017 when the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series head to Daytona at 7:30 p.m ET.

Kyle Larson Wins at Michigan

Photo by: Jonathan Ferrey

Kyle Larson celebrated Father’s Day in the best way any driver could, in Victory Lane.

Larson out ran his opponents through a series of cautions at Michigan and received a push from last week’s winner Ryan Blaney that put him ahead for his second win this season.

Larson did the complete opposite from two weeks ago, where Jimmie Johnson beat Larson on a restart that ultimately led him to another Dover victory despite the Chip Ganassi Racing driver having the dominate car.

“Yeah, Ryan Blaney gave me a heck of a push,” Larson said “So I’ve really got to thank him a ton. I knew the Penske cars took off good, so I was happy to see him behind me. For us to withstand a few restarts there with some tough competitors there was pretty important. I can’t thank these guys enough.”

Through the series of restarts Larson held off 2015 Champion Kyle Busch and finished .993 seconds ahead of Chase Elliott, who scored his third consecutive second place finish.

“From where we started the day to where we ended up, I was really proud of our effort,” Elliott said. “I really think we overachieved today from what we had on Friday and Saturday, and even last night, I was getting a little nervous about how the day was going to go.”

Kyle Busch came home in seventh after a late caution for debris on Lap 180 demolished his 1.4-second lead. Larson passed him shortly after the restart for his second win this season. The driver of the No. 18 Toyota is still searching for his first.

The win also landed Larson atop the point standings, five points ahead of Martin Truex Jr., who secured both Stage 1 and Stage 2 wins during the Firekeepers Casino 400.

The Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series head to Sonoma, California next weekend, where Tony Stewart battled it out with Denny Hamlin for the last win of his NASCAR career.

Who will take home the win? Find out Sunday, June 25th at 3 p.m ET on Fox Sports 1.

Earnhardt’s career more than what meets the eye

Dale Earnhardt Jr. Announces His Retirement After the 2017 NASCAR Season

Photo by: Mike Comer

Hendrick Motorsports announced early Tuesday morning that Dale Earnhardt Jr. will retire after the 2017 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series season, ending a career that spans 18 years.

Earnhardt has been embraced by millions who first began following the career of his late father, known as The Intimidator, but along the way he carved a name for himself and a way to be remembered for who he was.

Dale Jr. didn’t ask for the Earnhardt name, but the Earnhardt name is what he was given. The differences between him and his father could possibly be described as a complete 360 degree difference, but that didn’t stop the 14-time Most Popular Driver from being the driver that he wanted to be.

Earnhardt has earned 26 victories, including two Daytona 500 wins, in 603 starts. He also has two championships in NASCAR’s second tier series now known as the XFINITY Series.

Earnhardt’s career began in the No. 8 driving for Dale Earnhardt Incorporated, or DEI, where he won 17 times. In 2007, Earnhardt announced he would be joining Hendrick Motorsports at the beginning of the 2008 season. Earnhardt began his tenure by winning the 2008 Budweiser Shootout, which is now The Clash.

With a career of about two decades, Earnhardt’s highlight reel is a significant one. He will be remembered for his dominance of NASCAR’s two restrictor plate circuits, Daytona and Talladega Superspeedway, where he has a combined total of 10 wins.

The 2001 Pepsi 400 and 2014 Daytona 500 are two of Earnhardt’s most memorable wins. The 2001 win at Daytona was the first win for the driver since Dale Earnhardt Sr.’s passing. The driver was pushed to victory by teammate Michael Waltrip. Earnhardt’s second win of The Great American Race also brought the addition of Earnhardt to the social media world. He joined Twitter the day after the victory, sharing pictures of him in victory lane with the Harley J. Earl trophy and in front of the statue of his father at the Daytona Experience.

Earnhardt’s career in racing will be remembered for years to come. Diehard fans who coined the name “Junior Nation”, should remember him for being as loyal to them and the sport as they were to him. Those that have gotten the chance to see the transformation of Earnhardt into not only his own driver, but also his own man, should consider themselves lucky.

The rest of the 2017 season should be a time to rejoice and come Homestead know that even though it’s the end of an era, the era was well spent.

Jimmie Johnson captures Texas Victory

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Photo by: Sarah Crabill

If there were any doubts about Jimmie Johnson’s winning ways before the O’Reilly Auto Parts 500, they were put to rest at Texas Motor Speedway.

Johnson earned his first win of the 2017 season after starting from the back. A spin in qualifying caused the Lowe’s Chevrolet team to change tires before making his 550th career start.

“I guess I remembered how to drive, and I guess this team remembered how to do it,” Johnson said. “I’m just real proud of this team. What a tough track and tough conditions. We were really in our wheelhouse and we were just able to execute all day.”

Johnson led twice for a total of 18 laps toward the 81st victory of his Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series career. Johnson retook the lead on Lap 318 after a debris caution allowed for the No. 22 of Joey Logano to gamble.

Sunday’s race at Texas was the first since the repavement and reconfiguration that lowered the banking of the 1.5-mile track by four degrees.

Ryan Blaney finished 12th after a dominating performance that scored him two stage wins, but a mistake by the Wood Brothers Racing driver on pit road sent him rallying for positions.

“Not a bad day for us,” Blaney said, “It’s nice to win a couple segments, but I want to lead the last lap. That’s the lap I care about, but I thought we made a big gain today as a team.”

Blaney led a career-high of 148 laps before sliding through his pit box on Lap 301.

Kyle Larson extended the standings lead after a second place finish. Logano and Harvick finished third and fourth, respectively, and Dale Earnhardt Jr. earned his first top-5 finish of the year.

NASCAR returns to Bristol on April 23rd on FOX.

 

Ryan Newman snaps winless streak at Phoenix

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Photo by: Jonathan Ferrey

Ryan Newman snapped a 127 race winless streak Sunday after a late caution allowed the team to play with strategy. Luke Lambert, crew chief for Ryan Newman, made the call to stay out despite Newman wanting to pit.

The decision was the race winning move that gave Newman his 18th career Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series victory, and his first since July 28, 2013 at Indianapolis.

“I’ve lost count—that’s how long it’s been,” Newman said, “What a gutsy call by Luke. I called for two tires, and he called for none.”

Newman wasn’t the only one on old tires, however. He was joined by Ricky Stenhouse Jr. and Martin Truex Jr. Kyle Larson restarted fourth with two fresh tires, but collided with Stenhouse before he was able to take advantage of it.

“Hindsight is always 20/20, but I should have went a lane up in (Turns) 1 and 2.” Larson said, “I should have known to just stay close to Newman. That’s what I wish I would have done.”

Larson does have one thing to be happy about after the Camping World 500. He gained the series points lead earning his third straight second place finish.

Kyle Busch, who led 114 laps and looked to capture his first win of the season before Joey Logano’s tire blew, finished third, followed by Stenhouse, Brad Keselowski, and Kevin Harvick.

“We really needed the outside like Larson had,” Busch said after the race. “Overall, we should be proud of our run today and we will move on.”

It was a sweet victory for all involved at Richard Childress Racing. RCR had yet to win a race since Kevin Harvick won the fall race at Phoenix before joining Stewart-Haas Racing.

“It’s sweet for so many reasons,” Newman said. “This is the longest drought I’ve ever had. A hard-fought battle, a hard-fought race, a hard-fought four years.”