Monster Energy Cup Series News

Monster Energy Cup Series News (16167)

For the third time in the past four years Martin Truex Jr. will be going to NASCAR’s Big Dance at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

Truex, the defending NASCAR Cup Series champion, earned a spot in the Championship 4 with a conservative 14th-place finish in Sunday’s penultimate race at ISM Raceway near Phoenix. He had a comfortable 42-point margin above the cutline.

“We didn’t want to do anything crazy there at the end, we knew what we had to do and we accomplished the mission,” Truex said.

Truex will be joined in the Championship 4 by Kyle Busch, Kevin Harvick and Joey Logano. The Championship 4 driver with the best finish at Homestead will be crowned the 2018 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Champion.

Truex, who qualified 13th at the 1-mile Arizona oval in his No. 78 Auto-Owners Insurance Toyota, struggled early in the race. He was shut out for points in the first stage. But a timely caution in the second stage helped the Furniture Row Racing driver to finish third and pick up eight standing points.

“We didn’t have the greatest car, but we just battled hard and had a little bit of good fortune,” noted Truex, who led twice for eight laps. “Cole (Pearn, crew chief) made good calls. He and the guys are just an unbelievable group.

“Short runs really killed us today. We couldn’t run good for 40 or 50 laps and when my car started to come in, a caution would come out. All in all proud of everybody – the guys back at the Denver shop for continuing to bring good cars to the track. We had 1300 names from Auto-Owners – people who got together to help raise money for our foundation. That and Veterans Day so many cool things about today. We’re going to Miami – one last hurrah next week and we’ll give it all we got.”

Regarding next Sunday's race at Homestead Truex went on to say, “Homestead is a tough track, it’s a long race and anything can happen. We saw last year that we were really good on short runs and the 18 (Kyle Busch) was good on long runs, and at the end, it came down to a short run and we were able to hold him off.

“You have to have a little bit of luck on your side, have a good race car and have things play out the way you need them to suit your setup and suit what you’re doing. For us, we’ve got a lot of confidence and we really don’t have a lot of pressure on us. We haven’t been the fastest car this year by any means, but when we hit it right we can beat anybody. If we can go down there and hit it right, we’re going to have some fun.”

The race winner was Kyle Busch. Rounding out the top 10 were: Brad Keselowski, Kyle Larson, Aric Almirola, Kevin Harvick, Jamie McMurray, Matt Kenseth, Austin Dillon, William Byron and Bubba Wallace.

The race had 10 cautions for 61 laps and two red flags for nearly 16 minutes. There were 17 lead changes among nine drivers.

FRR PR

After entering the weekend with optimism, Paul Menard and the No. 21 Menards/Cardell team experienced disappointment from the start to the finish of Sunday’s Can-Am 500 at ISM Raceway near Phoenix, ending the race with a 29th-place finish. 

Menard qualified a strong 11th on Friday at Phoenix, but near the end of practice on Saturday he experienced a tire failure, which led to contact with the wall.
 
That forced him to an untried back-up car – and to the rear of the field - for the start of Sunday’s 500-kilometer race. Menard initially moved forward but before four laps had been completed, the engine in his Menards/Cardell Fusion lost a cylinder. Menard soldiered on despite the loss of power, and his crew spent several pit stops trying to solve the problem, changing coils, wires and spark plugs.
 
On the team’s final pit stop, the crew eventually found the faulty wire and got the engine going strong again, but by that time Menard was nine laps down to the leaders and had no real chance to improve.
 
If there was a bright spot to Sunday, it was the fact that the two of the drivers he’s battling in the points standings, Ricky Stenhouse Jr. and Daniel Suarez, also had troubles, so the battle for positions 18-20 in the season standings will continue through next weekend’s season-ending Ford 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway.
 
Menard, who entered Sunday’s race in 19th place, four points behind Stenhouse, was able to move into a tie with Stenhouse at 680 points, while Suarez remains 20th, 13 points back.
 
“As it turned out, with others around us in points having problems, we’ll move on to Homestead and try to capitalize on the speed we’ve shown in qualifying the past two weeks.”

WBR PR

Race Winner: Kyle Busch of Joe Gibbs Racing (Toyota)

Stage 1 Winner: Chase Elliott of Hendrick Motorsports (Chevrolet)

Stage 2 Winner: Kyle Busch of Joe Gibbs Racing (Toyota)

 

Stage 1 Recap (Laps 1-75):

Kevin Harvick started first and finished 30th.

The Busch Light Ford led the first 72 laps before a punctured tire sent the car to pit road with two laps remaining in the stage.

The team fell a lap down during the stop and restarted as the last car one lap down.

● Harvick came to pit road for four tires and fuel following the stage. The team was ineligible for the wave-around due to a commitment line violation.

 

Stage 2 Recap (Laps 76-150):

Harvick started 28th, finished fourth, earning seven bonus points.

The Busch Light team was awarded the free pass to return to the lead lap on lap 96.

● Harvick raced his way back into the top-15 on lap 123 and up to 13th by the following caution on lap 134.

● The team stayed out under caution as many of the leaders came to pit road. The strategy allowed Harvick to restart third on lap 139.

● The No. 4 Ford held on to the fourth position to end the stage.

● The team came to pit road for four tires and fuel at the conclusion of the stage.

 

Final Stage Recap (Laps 151-312):

Harvick started 10th and finished fifth.

● The No. 4 Ford raced from 10th up to the fourth position before coming to pit road for four tires and fuel on lap 227.

● The caution flag came out while the No. 4 Busch Light Ford was on pit road, trapping the team a lap down.

● Harvick took the wave-around on lap 235 to return to the lead lap in the 11th position.

● The Busch Light team came to pit road under caution for a two-tire stop on lap 265 and came out sixth.

● Harvick narrowly avoided a multicar incident on a lap-268 restart that took out Kurt Busch and Chase Elliott.

● The No. 4 Ford was in the third position on lap 286 when the caution flag came out. He restarted second on lap 292.

● The Busch Light team chose to stay out for the final caution on lap 295 while in third.

● The team restarted third on lap 300 and held on to score a top-five finish.

 

Kevin Harvick, driver of the No. 4 Busch Light Ford Fusion for Stewart-Haas Racing:

Were you stressed at all in the car or did it just fuel the fire for you?

“Yeah, we’re happy about going to Miami and I think as you run you just want to make it lap by lap.”

 

Any indication the right-front tire was going down when it did?

“Yeah, I felt it start to go down going into turn one there and just slowed down to the point where I thought I could at least make it back to the pits and not hit the wall.  It came at an OK time because it didn’t tear the car up.  It never really drove as well after that, but we kept ourselves in position all day and there at the end it was just like with everybody wrecking and all over the place, we just needed to stay out of trouble and try to find a safe spot there.”

 

Notes:

●  This was Harvick’s series-leading 22nd top-five and 28th top-10 of 2018.

●  Harvick earned his 16th top-five and 21st top-10 in 32 career Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series starts at Phoenix.

●  Harvick finished fourth in Stage 2 to earn seven bonus points.

●  Harvick led twice for 73 laps to increase his laps-led total at Phoenix to a series-best 1,595. This is nearly twice as many as the next best driver Kyle Busch, who has led 944 laps at Phoenix.

●  Kyle Busch won the Can-Am 500k to score his 51st career Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series victory, his eighth of the season and his second at Phoenix. His margin of victory over second-place Brad Keselowski was .501 of a second.

●  There were 10 caution periods for a total of 61 laps.

●  Only 15 of the 39 drivers in the Can-Am 500k finished on the lead lap.

 

Championship 4 Drivers:

1.  Kevin Harvick (5,000 points)

2.  Joey Logano (5,000 points)

3.  Kyle Busch (5,000 points)

4.  Martin Truex Jr. (5,000 points)

●  Harvick will compete in the Championship 4 for the fourth time in the last five years. He won the championship in 2014.

 

Failed to Advance to Championship 4:

1.  Kurt Busch

2.  Aric Almirola

3.  Clint Bowyer

4.  Chase Elliott

 

Next Up:

The next event on the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series schedule is the season-ending Ford EcoBoost 400 on Sunday, Nov. 18 at Homestead-Miami Speedway. The final race of the 10-race playoffs starts at 2:30 p.m. EST with live coverage provided by NBC beginning at 1:30 p.m.

 

TSC PR

Race Winner:      Kyle Busch of Joe Gibbs Racing (Toyota)

Stage 1 Winner:  Chase Elliott of Hendrick Motorsports (Chevrolet)

Stage 2 Winner:  Kyle Busch of Joe Gibbs Racing (Toyota)

 

Stage 1 Recap (Laps 1-75):

Kurt Busch started 14th, finished fourth, earning seven bonus points.

Busch said the car was a bit loose, but he was up to 10th by lap 30.

 

Stage 2 Recap (Laps 76-150):

Busch started second, finished 22nd.

On lap 79, Busch pitted for four tires and fuel.

● Busch took the lead at lap 84 and held the top spot until he pitted under caution on lap 135 for four tires and fuel.

● The No. 41 Ford was issued a one-lap penalty for passing the pace car on pit road entrance. He restarted 27th, one lap down.

 

Final Stage Recap (Laps 151-312):

Busch started 21st, one lap down, and finished 32nd.

● On lap 230, after a caution, Busch was the “lucky dog” and back on the lead lap in 12th.

● Busch pitted on lap 231 for four tires and fuel.

● After not pitting during a lap-263 caution, Busch restarted second.

● Unfortunately, as Busch entered turn two on the restart, the car of Denny Hamlin brushed up against the No. 41 Ford and drove both cars into the SAFER Barrier on the outside retaining wall. Busch’s car then struck the car driven by Chase Elliott.

● The No. 41 Haas Automation/Monster Energy Ford Fusion could not be repaired in the allotted five-minute window, and Busch’s day was done.

 

Kurt Busch, driver of the No. 41 Haas Automation/Monster Energy Ford Fusion for Stewart-Haas Racing:

 

“Erik Jones was on my inside when we restarted, and I just wanted to make sure I didn’t slip through the new one and two. If I could have been to somebody’s outside off two, then I thought we had a good shot of maintaining the lead, and I just got cleaned out. I flat out got cleaned out. I thought it was the right decision on staying out. I’m not going to look back on it. If the rule earlier in the race on the pit road of passing the pace car is black and white, I just need to get brushed up on my rulebook. I didn’t gain anything by doing what I did other than just digging from behind all day. It was a really good year for our Haas Automation Ford. Thanks to Monster Energy and everybody that put their talent into that 41 car. I just didn’t get the job done to get us to Homestead.”

 

You embraced Tony Stewart when you got out of the car. What did you say?

 

“He was just helping me out as a driver, owner. That’s what Tony Stewart does. He’s a good individual that knows how to pat somebody on the back and create clarity from the outside on what went on, because I only see what happens from the inside of the car.”

 

Notes:

●  Kurt Busch finished fourth in Stage 1 to earn seven bonus points.

●  Kurt Busch led once for 52 laps to increase his laps-led total at Phoenix to 809.

●  Kyle Busch won the Can-Am 500k to score his 51st career Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series victory, his eighth of the season and his second at Phoenix. His margin of victory over second-place Brad Keselowski was .501 of a second.

●  There were 10 caution periods for a total of 61 laps.

●  Only 15 of the 39 drivers in the Can-Am 500k finished on the lead lap.

 

Playoff Standing (with one race to go before the Championship 4):

Championship 4 Drivers:

1.       Kevin Harvick (5,000 points)

2.       Joey Logano (5,000 points)

3.       Kyle Busch (5,000 points)

4.       Martin Truex Jr. (5,000 points)

●  Harvick will compete in the Championship 4 for the fourth time in the last five years. He won the championship in 2014.

 

Failed to Advance to Championship 4:

1.       Kurt Busch

2.       Aric Almirola

3.       Clint Bowyer

4.       Chase Elliott

 

Next Up:

The next event on the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series schedule is the season-ending Ford EcoBoost 400 on Sunday, Nov. 18 at Homestead-Miami Speedway. The final race of the 10-race playoffs starts at 3 p.m. EST with live coverage provided by NBC beginning at 1:30 p.m.

 

TSC PR

Holding off Brad Keselowski after a restart with 12 laps left in Sunday’s Can-Am 500 at ISM Raceway, Kyle Busch claimed his eighth Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series victory of the season and led NASCAR’s Big Three into the Championship 4 race at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

After a wreck on Lap 269 of 312 ended the championship hopes of Kurt Busch and Chase Elliott—both of whom had been in the mix throughout the day—Busch grabbed the lead from Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Erik Jones on Lap 277 and held it the rest of the way, through two subsequent cautions and restarts.

Busch’s victory, the 51st of his career and his second at the one-mile track—coming 13 years after his first one—tied him for the series lead with Kevin Harvick, who had to overcome an early flat tire to join Busch, Martinsville winner Joey Logano and Martin Truex Jr. (14th on Sunday) in the Championship 4 Round.

The 51st win broke a tie with NASCAR Hall of Famers Junior Johnson and Ned Jarrett, leaving Busch alone in 11th place on the all-time list.

By the time he took the checkered flag .501 seconds ahead of Keselowski, Busch had already clinched a spot in the title race on points.

“What a day! What a race!” Busch said. “It’s an awesome team and awesome group of guys. Can’t say enough about everybody at Joe Gibbs Racing—all the men and women there that work so hard to prepare such great race cars that I get to drive.”

Busch, who won the 2015 championship after missing the first 11 events of the season because of injuries sustained in an accident at Daytona, now carries significant momentum into the championship race.

“I’d like to think it gives us a lot, but I don’t know–talk is cheap. We’ve got to be able to go out there and perform and just do what we need to do. Being able to do what we did here today was certainly beneficial.

"I didn’t think we were the best car, but we survived, and we did what we needed to do today. It’s just about getting to next week, and once we were locked in, it was ‘All  bets are off, and it’s time to go.’”

Truex didn’t have a contending car, but the reigning series champion did an admirable job avoiding the sort of trouble that dashed the hopes of other championship contenders.

Clint Bowyer exited early, thanks to a flat left rear tire that sent him hard into the Turn 3 wall on Lap 133. Kurt Busch led 52 laps and overcame a one-lap penalty for passing the pace car at the entrance to pit road under caution on Lap 135.

After regaining the lost lap, however, Busch was fighting for the lead after a restart on Lap 269 when the No. 11 Toyota of Denny Hamlin ran him into the outside wall. Busch’s No. 41 Ford bounced off the barrier and collected the No. 9 Chevrolet of Chase Elliott, who had led 16 laps and won the first stage.

Unable to continue, Busch finished 32nd. Elliott lost three laps under repairs and came home 23rd.

With Kurt Busch and Elliott out of contention, Harvick was assured of a Championship 4 berth unless Stewart-Haas Racing teammate Aric Almirola won the race. Almirola lined up second to Kyle Busch for the final restart on Lap 301 but faded to fourth at the finish, and Harvick was in.

“That flat tire, just leading the stage there, coming to the white, and the tire goes flat,” Harvick said of his early issue. “That just put us behind and that was really the turning point in our day, to not have everything go right.

“I mean, we got ourselves back in contention there, and we're going in the right direction and wound up just finding a spot at the end to just survive there and get to the finish.”

Harvick finished fifth behind Almirola. Jamie McMurray, Matt Kenseth, Austin Dillon, William Byron, and Bubba Wallace completed the top 10.

Byron clinched Sunoco Rookie of the Year honors for the series.

“We haven't had very good runs, to be honest, the whole year, but this run we kind of went a completely different direction with what we were doing and it seemed to pay off, and just kind of had a solid weekend other than qualifying,” Byron said.

“Got some damage there, but we were able to come back, I guess, and finish ninth, so I guess that's decent, and going to Homestead next week.”

Austin Dillon Earns Top-10 Finish at ISM Raceway in  
American Ethanol Chevrolet Camaro
 

8th
 
 
 15th
 
 13th
"I'm really proud of this No. 3 team. This was one of the best Chevrolet Camaros we have brought to the racetrack all season long. We had solid practices, a strong qualifying effort and a good start to the race. We were able to earn points in both stages, but we made one adjustment that hurt the handling of the car and then we're caught on pit road right as a caution came out. These guys never gave up, though. We got the wave around and were able to make another adjustment that really helped this American Ethanol Chevrolet over the final run. We also had a little luck on our side as we were able to avoid that big wreck late in the race. We'll take this eighth-place finish and try to end the season on a high note at Homestead-Miami Speedway."
-Austin Dillon 
Shootout to the Finish Results in 11th-Place Finish for  
Ryan Newman and Cat Global Mining Team at ISM Raceway
 

 11th
 
 
 22nd
 
 17th
"We battled pretty much the same issues all weekend. Our Cat Global Mining Camaro ZL1 was tight in Turns 1 and 2 and then loose in Turn 3. Obviously we weren't happy with our qualifying effort but our car typically likes the long green-flag runs that are common at ISM Raceway so we made up the ground when the race started. Turns 1 and 2 was our biggest challenge but we were able to manage it and race the majority of the event in the top 10. We even drove up to fifth by lap 230. We ended up having a 12-lap shootout to the finish where we lined up ninth. I thought we had a top-10 finish in the cards but it just wasn't meant to be. Shoutout to the Cat crew for a great job in the pits and thanks to all the Cat Global Mining customers for cheering us on today."
-Ryan Newman 

RCR PR

The Can-Am 500 at ISM Raceway marked the first Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series (MENCS) race at the upgraded speedway in Phoenix, Arizona, and the final race in the MENCS Playoffs Round of 8. With only 312 miles scheduled before the final event, tensions were high and Playoff drama surrounded the speedway all day.

When the initial green flag waved on pole-sitter Kevin Harvick, the driver who sat 3 points above the elimination line cruised to a 1-second lead over must-win driver, Chase Elliott. Harvick led the first 72 laps of Stage 1, and 3 laps before the green-and-white-checkered flag, Harvick's Busch Light Ford Fusion cut a right front tire. Chase Elliott assumed the race lead with Harvick limping around the 1-mile oval. With the green flag still out, Harvick had to enter a closed pit, but Harvick only lost a single lap. Elliott won the stage.

In the opening laps of Stage 2, Chase Elliott and Kurt Busch battled for the lead, and with either up front it would knock Harvick outside of the Championship 4. However, shortly after the beginning of Stage 2, Playoff driver Joey Logano blew a tire through the speedway's dog-leg on the front straightaway. The crash didn't hurt Logano's title hopes after his win at Martinsville Speedway two weeks ago. A result of the caution was that Harvick received the free pass, and gained his lap back. Once the race got back underway, Clint Bowyer blew a tire on lap 133. When pit road opened, Kurt Busch led the field onto the lane.

NASCAR held Kurt a lap because they saw the No. 41 Fusion pass the pace car entering pit lane, which promoted Martin Truex, Jr. in the lead shortly before the stage end. Kyle Busch ran Truex down, passed the No. 78 and won Stage 2.

During a green flag cycle woth about 80 laps remaining, Tanner Berryhill in Obaika Racing's No. 97 spun entering pit lane, causing a caution. Several drivers were trapped a lap down, but took the wave around before the green flag. Chase Elliott was caught with speeding, and joined the wave around cars at the rear of the field for the restart.

On Lap 262, Ricky Stenhouse, Jr.'s No. 17 Fusion spun viciously into turn 1. The red flag was put out for 10 minutes. The following restart shook up the remainder of the race.

Kurt Busch and Denny Hamlin drove into turn 1 on the restart, but Hamlin's No. 11 Camry couldn't stick to the center of the track's turn 2 and slammed Kurt Busch's No. 41 into the wall. Busch, who was stuck in the wall in a four-wide situation down the backstraightaway, shot into Hamlin, spinning the No. 11 around. Kurt spun, too into Chase Elliott's door, taking most of the No. 9's sheet metal of with him. Kurt Busch's car wasn't repaired during the 6-minute repair clock, eliminating Busch from a shot at the Championship 4. The crash brought out a red flag, 10 and a half minutes.

With over 35 laps to go, NASCAR confirmed that Kyle Busch was safe on points, and the Joe Gibbs driver nabbed the lead from his teammate. Kevin Harvick was running third with 30 laps to go and was comfortable in the points, but if Aric Almirola won the race, the No. 4 would be eliminated, with Almirola running down Harvick. Almirola and Kyle Busch were on four fresh tires, with Harvick and second place Larson, on two fresh.

With 27 laps remaining, Alex Bowman's No. 88 Camaro caught fire and spun in turn 2. Bowman blew an engine and the car erupted into flames. The tenth caution of the day brought out the second red flag, this one lasting nearly 6 minutes. Once the yellow came back out, Larson pitted to fix a loose wheel, which moved Harvick up to second, and Almirola in third, the favored position of the weekend.

The race restarted with 20 to go, but shortly after the caution would come out for Berryhill yet again. However, Almirola passed Harvick, essentially having the two swap positions. Just past the 3 hour make of race time, the green flag waved with 12 to go. Brad Keselowski got around the two Stewart-Haas Racing teammates, trying to chase down Kyle Busch, meanwhile Almirola tried to hold off Kyle Larson for third just in case the two leaders tangled. With 5 laps to go, Larson got around Almirola, and Keselowski trailed Busch by 0.7 seconds.

Kyle Busch was able to hold off Keselowski's quicker car and score his eighth win of the 2018 MENCS season and automatically clinch a spot in the Championship 4.

When Busch's smoke cleared from celebratory doughnuts, Kevin Harvick and Martin Truex, Jr. knew they would advance to the Championship 4 next week at Homestead-Miami and seek their second MENCS title. The three are joined by Joey Logano who looks to clinch his first.

The Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series season wraps up the season and crown the champion, next Sunday, November 18 at 2:30PM EST on NBC and NBCSN.

For Clint Bowyer, it’s all about getting better at a track and on a weekend when he has to be the absolute best.

Bowyer is still alive in the race for the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series championship—but just barely. After a 21st-place finish at Martinsville to start the Round of 8 and a problem-laden 26th-place result at Texas last Sunday, Bowyer has only one way to advance to the Championship 4 Round at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

Quite simply, he must win Sunday’s Can-Am 500 at ISM Raceway (2:30 p.m. ET on NBC, MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio). The way the weekend started for Bowyer, that possibility seemed remote at best.

The No. 14 Stewart-Haas Racing Ford struggled in Friday’s opening practice, posting the 19th fastest lap. In knockout qualifying that afternoon, Bowyer nailed down the 16th starting spot for Sunday’s race.

“I felt like we definitely improved from our practice,” Bowyer said. “Unfortunately, our result didn’t show much for it, but I think the car responded to some of the things that we changed going into qualifying for the better.

“Here, it’s all about the long runs and getting settled in and being good, having a good medium, middle-ground balance between these drastically different corners. (Turns) 1 and 2 are a lot different than 3 and 4, and you’ve got to have that balance. You’ve got to have a happy medium there.”

Bowyer’s approach to Sunday’s race will be as simple and straightforward as his mission—to get to the front and stay there. Bowyer concedes that an off-the-wall strategy isn’t likely to accomplish that objective.

“At the end of the day, stage points lead to good results,” Bowyer said. “Everybody wants stage points, because, if you’re getting stage points, you’re running up front, and you’ve got a shot at winning. That’s the way it is.

“If there’s some sort of opportunity that opens up, of course we’re going to take it at all costs, but at the end of the day, the reason people want stage points is because you’re running up front where you need to be running and in position to win the race.”

 

JEFF GORDON HEADLINES WEST COAST STOCK CAR HALL OF FAME NOMINEES

Four-time Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series champion Jeff Gordon is one of 20 racing luminaries on this year’s list of West Coast Stock Car Hall of Fame nominees.

Born in Vallejo, Calif., Gordon is third on the all-time victory list at NASCAR’s highest level with 93, behind only Richard Petty (200) and David Pearson (105). Gordon also will be inducted into the NASCAR Hall of Fame on February 1.

The West Coast Stock Car Hall of Fame will hold its inductions on Thursday, June 20, 2019 to kick of the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series weekend at Sonoma Raceway.

Gordon isn’t the only marquee driver on a list that includes four-time Indianapolis 500 winner Rick Mears, who qualifies for the WCSC Hall on the basis of his IROC exploits, versatile Tom Sneva, sports car standout Tommy Kendall and George Follmer, who competed in everything from the NASCAR K&N Series to Formula 1.

“We are rapidly approach our 20th year as the West Coast Stock Car Hall of Fame, and I can’t recall ever having a stouter list of nominees from many walks of competition who have touched all forms of stock car racing,” said WCSC Hall of Fame chairman Ken Clapp, who announced the current list of nominees on Saturday morning at ISM Raceway.

“As I look at these 20 nominations, I am not yet sure how I’m going to vote. I’m certain all of our board members will be equally challenged.”

Other nominees for the 2019 class are drivers Mike Bliss, Dave Byrd, Mike David, Ron Esau, Tom Gloy, Lance Hooper, Doug McCoun, Eric Norris, Tom Pettit II, Greg Pickett and Boris Said; car owners Gary Bechtel and Bob Bruncati; driver/promoter Garrett Evans; and crew chief Ernie Cope.

 

SHORT STROKES

Fourth-generation driver Jeffrey Earnhardt announced via Twitter on Saturday morning that he has a nine-race NASCAR Xfinity Series deal to drive the No. 18 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota next season. Earnhardt, the grandson of seven-time Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series champion Dale Earnhardt, will make his debut in the car in February at Daytona. Xtreme Concepts Inc., a company specializing in security solutions, will be his sponsor. “I’ve worked incredibly hard for this opportunity and I’ve got to thank Xtreme Concepts for making it happen,” Earnhardt said. “You see the level of expertise Joe Gibbs Racing has and the caliber of equipment they bring to the race track every week. As a driver, it’s exactly where you want to be. It’s the best opportunity I’ve had in my career, and I plan to make the most of it.”…

Kevin Harvick continued his mastery of ISM Raceway, topping the speed charts in both Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series practice sessions on Saturday. Harvick ran 134.710 mph in the morning session and 135.125 mph in Happy Hour. The 2014 series champion, who has a three-point cushion over Stewart-Haas Racing teammate Kurt Busch entering the Round of 8 elimination race, was also fastest in consecutive 10-lap average at 134.072 mph. Busch had the 13th quickest single lap during final practice. Paul Menard cut a tire and wrecked with two minutes left in Happy Hour, forcing the team to roll out a backup car. He’ll start from the rear of the field on Sunday.

Paul Menard and the No. 21 Menards/Cardell team appear to be getting their qualifying program back on track.

On Friday at ISM Raceway near Phoenix, Menard advanced through all three rounds of knock-out qualifying to secure the 11th starting spot for Sunday’s Can-Am 500.

It was the second straight week that Menard qualified 11th, the first coming at Texas Motor Speedway a week ago, and the ninth time this season that Menard and the No. 21 team have been among the top 12 qualifiers for a Monster Energy Cup Series race.

Menard opened the day at Phoenix by posting the 13th-best speed in practice with a lap at 136.893 miles per hour, which he posted on his fourth of eight laps run.

Then in qualifying, his speed of 137.258 mph in the opening round was 12th fastest, easily earning a spot in Round Two.
 
In the middle round, he ran his best lap of the day, at 138.686 mph, which was fifth fastest and put him in the elite 12 for the final go against the clock.
 
But his No. 21 Fusion was a tick of the timer slower in the final round, and his speed of 137.889 mph placed him 11th.
 
“We just have been struggling on entry,” Menard said. “It seems like as the grip comes up and you try to charge the corner a little bit harder I just got looser in [to the corner], so the last round wasn’t our friend.
 
“I’m proud of our guys though. We have a decent starting spot and good pit selection and we’ll make a day out of it.”
 
The Menards/Cardell team will have two practice sessions on Saturday to perfect a race set-up for Sunday’s 500-kilometer, 312-mile race.
 
The first practice is set to start at 11:30 a.m. Eastern Time and will be broadcast on CNBC, with the second starting at 2 p.m. with coverage switching to NBCSN.
 
Sunday’s race, which also will be carried by NBCSN, is scheduled to start just after 2:30 p.m. Eastern Time.

WBR PR

Resilient Kevin Harvick bounced back at his best track, winning the pole position for Sunday’s Can-Am 500 at ISM Raceway and putting behind him a penalty that threatened his Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series championship chances.

Harvick, a nine-time Phoenix winner, toured the newly configured one-mile track in 25.386 seconds to run the fastest lap in the three-round knockout qualifying session at 139.340 mph to edge fellow Playoff driver Chase Elliott (139.152 mph) for the top starting spot in Round of 8 elimination race.

Harvick lost 40 points and the services of crew chief Rodney Childers and car chief Bob “Cheddar” Smith for the final two races of the season for an infraction involving the placement of the rear spoiler on last Sunday’s race-winning car at Texas Motor Speedway.

The penalty also wiped out Harvick’s automatic qualification for the Nov. 18 Championship 4 event at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

Nevertheless, Harvick enters Sunday’s race (2:30 p.m. ET on NBC, MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio) with a three-point edge over Stewart-Haas Racing teammate Kurt Busch, with three of four berths in the Championship race still on the line.

“I just deal with the facts,” Harvick said. “I know where we are, I know what our plan is, and we don’t look back.”

Harvick had veteran Tony Gibson on his pit box in lieu of Childers.

“Everyone went smooth,” said Harvick, who won his second Busch Pole Award at Phoenix, his fourth of the season and the 25th of his career. “I think, as you guys are quickly figuring out, it’s more about people than it is about cars.

“We’ve got a lot of good people and, obviously, a lot of experience with Tony, and those guys did a great job filling roles. You can’t drive a slow car fast, and you can’t beat good people.”

Though Elliott posted his best qualifying effort of the Playoffs so far, he seemed disappointed with his second-place starting position.

“Yeah, unfortunately not good enough,” Elliott said. “The guys brought me a great NAPA Chevy this week and one of these days I’ll figure out how to qualify on a non-plate track, maybe. I had a car to do it today, and I didn’t get it done. So, we’ll go to work on Sunday.”

Elliott starts Sunday’s race 17 points behind Harvick for the final spot in the Championship 4.

Playoff drivers Kyle Busch and Joey Logano earned the sixth and ninth spots on the grid, respectively, but four Playoff drivers failed to advance to the final round. Clint Bowyer and Aric Almirola, both in must-win situations, will start from the 16th and 18th positions.

Kurt Busch qualified 14th, one spot behind Martin Truex Jr., who needs to score 34 points to clinch a spot in the Championship 4. Truex failed to advance to the final round by .003 seconds.

“This seems to be kind of par for the course for us lately,” Truex said. “I’d say 13th is a pretty good starting spot for the day we’ve had. We really didn’t get a crack at anything in practice and we didn’t have much time to get ready for qualifying and we were pretty far off.

“Made some good gains for sure. I wish we could have ran again. I definitely feel like I could pick up some more, we were pretty tight. We’ll start 13th and get to work tomorrow.”

Ricky Stenhouse Jr. will start third on Sunday, followed by Ryan Blaney and Alex Bowman.