Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series

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

Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series O'Reilly Auto Parts 500

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

Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Camping World 500

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.”

Martin Truex Jr. victorious in Las Vegas

NASCAR Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Kobalt 400

Photo by: Jared C. Tilton

Martin Truex Jr. and Brad Keselowski controlled much of the Kobalt 400 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. The two combined for 239 laps led, but when Keselowski decelerated for a potential problem, the win was Truex’s for the taking.

Truex captured the win, but it was overshadowed by a post-race scuffle on pit road. After exiting his vehicle, 2015 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series champion Kyle Busch went straight to the No. 22 pit stall of Joey Logano.

It is unclear if Logano was struck by the Joe Gibbs Racing driver, but after NASCAR officials broke up the exchange Busch emerged with blood on his forehead.

Logano and Busch made slight contact in the final two laps after dodging an off the pace Keselowski. Nevertheless, the contact sent the No. 18 sliding toward the entrance of pit lane. Busch avoided further damage and finished 22nd because of the incident.

“I got dumped,” Busch said afterward, “Flat-out just drove straight into the corner and wrecked us. That’s how Joey races, so he’s gonna get it.”

Logano didn’t seem phased by Busch’s reaction.

“We were just racing hard there at the end,” Logano said, “I was underneath him on the backstretch and he tried to crash me into the corner getting underneath Brad (Keselowski) there and at that point I was just trying get through the corner. I was sideways all the way through and got into him. Nothing intentional.”

“I’ve never had an issue with Kyle,” Logano continued. “Kyle and I have always raced really well together. We’ve never had an issue, but I guess that’s over.”

If Busch sticks to his word, what happens in Vegas may not stay in Vegas.

There was much to be celebrated for however, as Truex became the first driver to claim all three stages in a single event.

“We definitely had our share of races where we’ve dominated and gave one away, and it looked like today was going to be another one of those,” Truex said, “The runs just didn’t work out the way we needed them. We were struggling on the really long runs.”

The struggles turned into triumphant in the remaining laps for Truex, who earned his eight career Cup Series victory.

Truex may not have received all the glory despite a dominating performance, but he will take it for what it’s worth. After all, he knows all too well what it feels like to come short of reaching Victory Lane.

“It feels good to come out on the good end for once.”

Brad Keselowski prevails at Atlanta

Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500

Photo by: Brian Lawdermilk

Brad Keselowski capitalized on others mistakes Sunday evening after battling his own to win the Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500.

Keselowski was forced to pit late in the race after a team setback left the No. 2 Autotrader Ford restarting 13th, dampening their chances at a victory. But Keselowski was not to be denied.

“Everybody stayed focused and nobody had to say anything,” he said. “We know the deal. We know this isn’t going to be easy. You have to keep your head down and keep fighting at all times and that’s what we did.”

Keselowski maintained the track position he worked for despite pitting for fresh tires after a caution was thrown for Austin Dillon and Kevin Harvick was penalized for speeding on pit road.

Keselowski passed Kyle Larson five laps later to score the 22nd victory of his Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series career. Harvick dominated the event, winning both Stage 1 and Stage 2, before a costly miscalculation.

“I thought I was being conservative,” Harvick said, “Apparently, I wasn’t. I was just pushing it too hard.”

Harvick was just one of the 13 speeding violations throughout the event. Chase Elliott, who paid the price on Lap 212, made a comeback for fifth place.

While most drivers were being penalized for speeding on pit road, surprisingly, Joe Gibbs Racing’s Denny Hamlin was not. However, he suffered a rear end issue and finished 38th of the 39 car field.

At the end of the day it was Keselowski with all the glory. He sits third in the standings after gaining five playoff points, while Harvick leads after two races.

Kurt Busch wins Daytona 500

59th Annual DAYTONA 500
Photo by: Jonathan Ferrey

2004 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series champion Kurt Busch can now add Daytona 500 champion to his resume. The Stewart-Haas Racing driver acquired the lead on the last lap of The Great American Race, and despite reports that he would be short on fuel, made it to the end .228 seconds ahead of the No. 21 of Ryan Blaney.

Busch led only one lap Sunday afternoon, but it was by far the most important one. Busch, who is sponsored by the new series title sponsor, persevered with a damaged car and a missing rear view mirror in the final stage of the historic event.

“There is nothing predictable about this race any more, and the more years that have gone by that I didn’t win I kept trying to go back to patterns that I had seen in the past,” Busch said. “My mirror fell off with 30 laps to go and I couldn’t even see out the back. And I thought that was an omen. Throw caution to the wind.”

And he did. Busch gained the momentum that his fellow drivers while running out of fuel. Pole sitter Chase Elliott finished 14th after falling short of fuel on the final lap.

“It just got crazy and wild, and I am so proud of all the drivers at the end. We put on a show for a full fuel run, and nobody took each other out and it was one of the smartest chess games I have seen out there. All the hard work that Ford and SHR put into this — this Ford Fusion is in Daytona’s Victory Lane!”

Busch’s brother, Kyle Busch, won the first 60-lap stage but spun on Lap 105 because of a punctured tire. He collected teammate Matt Kenseth and NASCAR’s most popular driver, Dale Earnhardt Jr., who was racing for the first time since July after missing the second half of the 2016 season due to a concussion. Earnhardt took his Nationwide Chevrolet to the garage and finished in the 37th position.

Stage 2 winner Kevin Harvick was involved in a multi-car wreck on Lap 128 when Jamie McMurray made it four wide, causing the defending champion Jimmie Johnson to spin. The incident was the cause of the eventual race winner’s damage that also destroyed the No. 14 of Clint Bowyer.

The newlywed driver, who married his wife Ashley in the offseason, brought Stewart-Haas Racing it’s first Ford victory since making the manufacturer switch. The win is the 29th of Busch’s career and the first for co-owner Tony Stewart since retirement.

“If I had known all I had to do was retire, I would have retired 17 years ago, if I knew it was what it took to win the race … I ran this damn race for 18 years and didn’t win it.”