NASCAR

A change for NASCAR – and how it would be beneficial 


Photo by: Chris Trotman

When it comes to comparing sports, NASCAR may seem like the least comparable to the likings of the NBA, NFL, or MLB. But it isn’t just about how each sport is alike in how they are played. It’s about the dynamics of how they are run and how each one can progress in making themselves better.

That is why it is time for NASCAR to embrace another factor that separates it from others: trades.

When it comes to trades within other sports, each team is given something in return of one of their own. In NASCAR we call it “Silly Season” and rumors fly just like every other sport in the country, but they don’t play out like them. NASCAR teams do not get anything in return when a driver’s contract is up and they and/or the driver choose not to sign an extension.

Prior to the start of the 2017 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series season, several top stars were at the end of their current contract: Denny Hamlin, Joey Logano, and Chase Elliott are just a few of the drivers this season who have already signed to stay with their current team for 2018 and beyond.

Would trades have impacted their decision? Probably not, but it can impact others.

When it comes to trades teams sometimes take a huge gamble to acquire a player that fits their wants and needs for their team. When they receive a key player it often adds depth to their game and what they can do, but they aren’t always going to receive a key player. Sometimes they receive prospects, or what NASCAR calls developmental drivers.

In today’s NASCAR where the youth movement is gaining a ton of momentum and drive, trades can become a significant element that allows each team to gain something in what they would normally lose.

For teams like Roush Fenway Racing, where they have the youth but lack a veteran driver, trades can become a valuable way to even the scale.

Now is the perfect time to make NASCAR Trades a reality

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.

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.”

Jimmie Johnson avoids trouble at Charlotte

Photo by: Jared C. Tilton

In a race in which the Chase drivers were inflicted by numerous setbacks throughout the Bank of America 500, Jimmie Johnson avoided disaster to earn his third win of the 2016 season at Charlotte Motor Speedway.

Johnson showed that his No. 48 Lowe’s Chevrolet remain a contender in the Chase for the Sprint Cup, leading 155 laps toward the 78th victory of his career and the eight at this racetrack.

“We’re a brotherhood on this No. 48 team, and just so thankful for the friendship and the hard work. Same thing for everybody at Hendrick Motorsports. We’re really going to enjoy this.”

The hard work has landed them a Chase berth inside the Round of 8 for the first time since the playoff system was put in place in 2014.

“That is massive,” Johnson said, “I’m so happy about that. So happy to be in Victory Lane with (crew chief, Chad Knaus) this guy.”

Johnson’s win gives him a chance to continue to compete for a record-tying seventh career championship, one that did not seem within reach throughout the summer.

“We can’t sit back and celebrate too much on this,” Johnson said. “We’ve got to buckle down and get to work and keep advancing our race cars. But this does buy us a couple weeks of freedom.”

Johnson and his team may have found their breakthrough, but many teams weren’t so lucky. Five of the Chase contenders finished 30th or worse in the opening race of the second round in the Chase.

Joey Logano finished 36th after heavy damage from wall contact sent him to the garage for repairs, while Kevin Harvick and Denny Hamlin encountered engine trouble halted their race for good finishes.

Chase Elliott and Austin Dillon were caught up in a 12-car pile-up after the No. 78 of Martin Truex Jr tapped the No. 3 Chevrolet, who gained track position after taking two tires, on the restart.

Elliott tried to make it through, but unavoidable contact with Kyle Busch resulted in him being turned into the outside wall.

Dillon and Elliott finished 32nd and 33rd, respectively.

Catch Elliott as he searches for redemption, and his first Sprint Cup victory, on October 16th at Kansas Speedway at 2:15 PM/ET on NBC.

Martin Truex Jr. tames the Monster Mile

Photo by: Sean Gardner

Martin Truex Jr. continued his dominance with his victory in the Citizen Soldier 400 at Dover International Speedway. Truex led the most laps of six drivers Sunday with 187 laps, scoring his third win within the last five races.

“I guess right now it’s just our time,” Truex said. “Throughout the summer, we led so many laps and had so many great race cars and so many great weekends that things would happen [and we’d lose].”

“Sometimes it was just rotten luck, sometimes it was mistakes or just circumstances that didn’t play out. But I think that the biggest thing is we just kept our heads in the game. We stayed focused on the things that truly matter, and when all that bad luck went away, here we are. I mean, it’s just been amazing.”

But right now that rotten luck has vanished for the time being, shifting to Hendrick Motorsports driver Jimmie Johnson. The Lowe’s Chevrolet team continues to stumble on mistakes that could have been prevented.

The No. 48 was hit with a penalty after a crewman went over the pit wall too early during a stop, forcing Johnson to return to pit road under green. Johnson battled back for a seventh place finish, but did not get the chance to contend for the win after leading 90 laps.

Johnson held a significant cushion to advance into the Round of 12. Those not as fortunate were Tony Stewart, Jamie McMurray, Kyle Larson, and Chris Buescher.

Both Jamie McMurray and Kyle Larson failed to advance after being hit with their own misfortunes. McMurray suffered through a blown engine on Lap 193 after complaining of a vibration. Larson, who held the last advancing spot coming into Dover, finished 25th after hitting the wall.

Austin Dillon took advantage of the day, finishing eighth and advancing into the next round of the Chase. The driver remained focused during the race without worrying about where he stood in the Chase.

“I knew what we had to do.” He said.

The Round of 12 drivers head into Charlotte with a clean slate as the points reset to 3,000 each for the championship contenders. While there may be clear favorites, everyone is fair game and looking to lock themselves in early.