Saturday, Sep 25

After winning two races early in the year, Kevin Harvick has been on a winless streak for over six month. On Saturday evening, the driver of the No. 4 Chevrolet drove back into Victory Lane at the Charlotte Motor Speedway in the Bank of America 500.

Leading a race-high 162 laps, Harvick was able to hold off Jeff Gordon on a restart with just a pair of laps remaining in the race to score his third victory of the season. With the triumph, he has now clinched his way into the third round of the Chase for the Sprint Cup.

“Everybody on our team has just continued to build better race cars and we know that we’ve had the cars to run up front and lead laps and do the things that we need to do,” said Harvick on his win. “Things just haven’t gone right and we’ve made some mistakes; things haven’t gone right ore than not. Oh, we came here and tested thinking that this was going to be the hardest round to get through because of Talladega. There’s so much that you can’t control there. We wanted to try to control the things that we could control. We felt like Kansas and here (Charlotte) were playing to our strengths; and just see where it fell after that once we get to the next round.”

Following the race, Brad Keselowski had an on-track altercation with Denny Hamlin on the cool down lap. The No. 2 car finished 16th, and was racing tightly with Hamlin through the final laps. However, Hamlin brake checked Keselowski on the cool down lap. Simultaneously, he spun Hamlin in Turn 3 and then hit Tony Stewart’s No. 14 Chevrolet as he was waiting in line to go into the garage on pit road.

“Through the whole sequence of events – I think the 20 car got in back of me on one of the restarts, it was just a racing deal and I wasn’t mad at him,” said Keselowski following the incident.  But when the last yellow came out he got the wave around and when he came by he swung at my car and tore the whole right-front off of it.  That gave us a big Chase hurt, which is unfortunate, and then for some reason after the race the 11 stopped in front of me and tried to pick a fight. I don’t know what that was all about and he swung and hit at my car, so I figured if we’re gonna play car wars under yellow and after the race I’ll join too.”

“I rubbed into the 20 and I think he gassed up and ran into Tony, and don’t think Tony knew what was going on so he’s probably upset and he has every right to be,” he continued. “His car got tore up, but there was a whole lot of other stuff going on and I’m sure when he sees the whole situation he’ll understand.” 

Following a confrontation with Hamlin, Keselowski was walking back to his hauler when Matt Kenseth jumped on his back. The No. 20 and No. 2 crews began to have a brawl, but they were separated within a few seconds. However, several drivers are calling for the 2012 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion to have a fine for what they believe was a dangerous move in the garage area.

Jimmie Johnson was running inside of the top-10 after struggling early on in the 500-mile race. The No. 48 team finished 17th after pitting during the final caution. Leading up to Talladega, he unofficially sits 12th in points; 26 markers behind Hendrick Motorsports teammate Kasey Kahne for the final position to advance to the Eliminator Round. Dale Earnhardt, Jr. finished 20th after going a lap down with a shifter knob issue during the race. He was never able to get back on the lead lap and is tied with Johnson in the standings.

Kyle Larson was battling Harvick for the lead prior to the final round of green flag pit stops, but slipped back to the sixth position. The No. 42 Chevrolet led six laps prior to sliding into the wall, which made him drop back a few spots. Larson’s Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates teammate Jamie McMurray came home in the third position after taking two tires on a late-race pit stop to gain track position and was able to contend for the win

Both Michael Waltrip Racing vehicles experienced engine issues on Saturday evening. Clint Bowyer’s engine let go on Lap 95 following a top-15 run. Meanwhile, Brian Vickers’ engine blew up with seven laps remaining in the race.

There were eight cautions that lasted 39 laps during the 334-lap event. During the race, there were 32 lead changes.  

Heading into Talladega, Joey Logano and Harvick are automatically locked into the next round of the Chase with victories. However, there are 10 other drivers vying for six remaining spots. Kyle Busch is the highest ranked driver without a victory, but is just 26 points ahead of Kenseth, who is the first driver on the outside looking in. Keselowski, Johnson and Earnhardt, Jr. are the four drivers that are currently outside of the top-eight. 

A hard charging Kevin Harvick was not enough for the second straight weekend at the Charlotte Motor Speedway. After coming so close to a victory during the Sprint All-Star Race, Harvick could not catch the reigning champion.

Jimmie Johnson ended his 13-race winless streak on Sunday evening. Johnson dominated the Coca-Cola 600, leading 165 of the 400 laps. The victory marks the fourth time Johnson has won the Coca-Cola 600, and his seventh points paying victory at Charlotte. After 447 career starts in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, Johnson has secured his 67th victory, which is approximately 15 percent of the races he has started.

Johnson was in position to lose the race after fuel strategy was falling into Carl Edwards’ hands, but after a late race caution – Johnson was able to capitalize after taking four tires, maneuvering his way through traffic, and shooting by Matt Kenseth with nine laps to go.

After 100 laps, Harvick had a five-second lead over Johnson as only 12 cars were still on the lead lap. The race went green for the first 107 laps while Harvick lapped all but the top-10.

David Gilliland slammed the wall on Lap 164, forcing him to become the first driver to go to the garage.

Clint Bowyer had a vibration preceding the half-way mark. Bowyer pitted for two tires, but continued to report a vibration, and was forced to bring his No. 15 Toyota back into the pits to change left-side tires after competing for the win.

Jeff Gordon had the lead on the final restart, but slipped back to the seventh position after taking two tires as his No. 24 team assumed the race would go green for the remaining 20 laps. But after having back spasms for the majority of the weekend, Gordon's fight for the win was another small victory for Hendrick Motorsports. 

Harvick led at the half-way mark with Johnson and Brad Keselowski trailing him by over two seconds. At the time, there were just 16 cars on the lead lap.

While running several laps down, Kurt Busch blew an engine on Lap 274, forcing an end to his attempt at becoming the first driver since Tony Stewart in 2001 to run all 1,100 miles in the Indianapolis 500 and the Coca-Cola 600. Busch finished sixth during his first race in the Verizon IndyCar Series after starting the day in what was originally Marco Andretti’s backup car. Overally, Busch ran a total of 906.5 miles between the two events.

“This symbolizes how tough it has been this year on the Haas Automation team,” Busch said after his engine blew. “I can’t let what happen with the car here dampen what I did today. The motor just went. I trained hard and gave it my all.”  

At Lap 220, Danica Patrick began reporting she was down a cylinder. Patrick was running in the top-15 for the majority of the first half of the race, but began to slide back as the track began to cool down. Evidently, Patrick’s car blew up proceeding Busch’s engine woes, making the Stewart-Haas Racing duo finish 39th and 40th, respectively.

13 cars finished on the lead lap in a race where green flag runs spread out the field, forcing a mixture of strategies. Six different drivers led during green flag conditions for 13 or more laps, and four of them led for 34 or more markers with a total of 34 lead changes. 

It’s NASCAR’s longest race. Recently, each one of these events comes down to fuel mileage. This year should be no different.

The Coca-Cola 600, formerly known as the World 600, enables teams to bring their family members to the track, and they get to spend more time with their families because of it. As part of the Memorial Day ceremonies, NASCAR teams and drivers unite on this special weekend with a sign of patriotism seldom seen in any other sport. And in the midst of NASCAR’s homeland,

During a test at Charlotte over the off-season, Kevin Harvick was seemingly the best car at the 1.5-mile speedway. Harvick was strong during the Sprint All-Star Race on long runs, and that is going to be important going into the homestretch of an event which he has won twice in the past. The move to Stewart-Haas Racing has started to pay dividends for the 38-year-old driver. However, the rest of SHR did not perform well during the Sprint Showdown and the All-Star Race, and this might be a weekend where things can turn around for the organization. SHR has done well on fuel mileage races this year, taking risks late in events in order to gain as many as 15 spots late in races such as Tony Stewart at Las Vegas.

After winning the Sprint All-Star Race, Jamie McMurray has plenty of momentum going into the Coca-Cola 600, which he finished second in during the 2010 edition of the event. Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates has done well as of late with Kyle Larson joining the organization this year, and if the All-Star Race was an indication of how the team will run at the All-Star Race, both drivers should contend for top-10 finishes.

Track position was a key during both races last weekend. Drivers which took two tires to get towards the front of the pack were able to stay up there for the most part. During the All-Star Race, Jimmie Johnson and Jeff Gordon had two of the strongest cars, yet they did not have the track position to compete for the lead. Gordon ended up getting involved in a wreck, and Johnson finished sixth because he did not have a short-run car.

Johnson has not won a points paying event at Charlotte since October of 2009, but he has been strong on the intermediate tracks this season. Even though he has yet to score a victory after winning the 2013 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series championship, Johnson is going to be a contender during the Coca-Cola 600. If Johnson can have a clean race, he might show the dominance which he had at Charlotte before the repave nearly a decade ago. Johnson’s teammate, Kasey Kahne, is also going to be a contender this weekend, especially after having a dominant car during the Sprint All-Star Race, leading 20 laps before smacking the wall multiple times.

Kurt Busch will be exhausted after the Coca-Cola 600 on Sunday evening. Busch will be racing a backup car in the Indianapolis 500 for Andretti Autosport, all while racing his Sprint Cup Series vehicle for SHR. Busch will have Parker Kligerman as his backup driver in case the Indianapolis 500 is delayed, but even if Busch can’t start the race, he will be able to qualify the No. 41 Chevrolet, making him still eligible for the Chase for the Sprint Cup as long as he is inside of the top-30 in points after Richmond in September.

However, even though the usual suspects will contend for the win this weekend, the Coca-Cola 600 provides an extra 100 miles that no other event does. Patience is going to be extremely key during this event. Drivers have a notorious history for over-driving their cars during the early stages of the race. With this race going from the sun beaming down on the track to seeing the night sky glowing above the track, drivers will have to communicate with their crew chiefs the best possible strategy to keeping up with the temperature sensitive track, all the while attempting to stay on the lead lap as green flag runs are at a premium during the Coca-Cola 600.

Here are some notables for the Coca-Cola 600:

-A.J. Allmendinger had an extremely strong car during the Sprint Showdown and All-Star Race. Allmendinger moved inside of the top-10 before being involved in an incident. The alliance JTG Daugherty Racing has with Richard Childress Racing is paying off, and it will show this weekend as Allmendinger attempts to get his fourth top-10 of the year.

-Trevor Bayne returns to the seat of the No. 21 Ford. Bayne made his Sprint Cup Series debut at Texas back in 2010, which is a track with somewhat similar characteristics to Charlotte. He finished 16th in the Coca-Cola 600 in 2013, but is looking for more after recording two top-20 finishes at Las Vegas and Texas this season.

-Blake Koch will make his first of multiple starts for Go Fas Racing this weekend in the No. 32 car. Koch raced at Phoenix earlier this year for Front Row Motorsports, but also missed the race at Las Vegas. Even though Koch won’t be a contender in this event, getting 600 miles on the Sprint Cup Series circuit will be one of the best opportunities he has ever had.

-Brian Scott will return to the seat of the No. 33 Chevrolet for Circle Sport Racing in conjunction with Richard Childress Racing. Scott made his Cup Series debut at Charlotte last October, and will be attempting to make his sixth career start in NASCAR’s top-tier division.

-Michael McDowell returns in the No. 95 Ford this weekend. The team has started to move into the right direction after finishing 30th at Texas after a rough start to the year.

One million dollars is on the line Saturday evening. No, it is not your ordinary NASCAR race. This is not just a preparation for NASCAR’s longest spectacle. This is the Sprint All-Star Race.

Jimmie Johnson has won back-to-back All-Star events, and is going for his third straight win. However, Johnson will have to beat Brad Keselowski who is driving the “best car he has ever driven” for the All-Star Race. Johnson had the second fastest 10 lap average in the lone practice session on Friday afternoon, but Keselowski was more than 1.2 mph faster than Johnson.

This edition of NASCAR’s All-Star event is setting up to be different from each of the previous races. After holding the Sprint Showdown on Friday evening, the three drivers which were able to lock themselves into the All-Star Race, Clint Bowyer, A.J. Allmendinger and Josh Wise, will be enabled to qualify with the drivers already locked into the one-of-a-kind event. Bowyer and Allmendinger were the class of the 23-car field. Wise pulled off the fan vote upset thanks to the Reddit.Com community, stunning the NASCAR world by beating Danica Patrick in the popularity contest. This will be Wise’s first career All-Star Race start after finishing 18th in the Sprint Showdown.

Dale Earnhardt Jr. paced the practice session on Friday afternoon, but was several miles per hour off the pace set by Keselowski, ending the day sixth out of seven cars to run 10 consecutive laps. Earnhardt Jr. currently sits fourth in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series points standings, and is looking to get his first win at Charlotte for the All-Star Race since he won the event during his rookie season.

Coming off of his win at Kansas, Jeff Gordon has plenty of momentum heading into the All-Star Race. Gordon is the points leader after 11 races, and looks to win his first All-Star Race since 2001. However, he has not finished inside of the top-10 for one of NASCAR’s most coveted events since third place finish in 2006.

Kevin Harvick was the fastest car during the test at Charlotte over the winter. Throughout all of the simulation races NASCAR held during that test, Harvick was arguably the best car no matter what type of aero package NASCAR created. Harvick was fourth in practice, and his crew chief, Rodney Childers, and he are looking to win their first All-Star Race together. Harvick's teammate, Kurt Busch, will make it to the All-Star Race after qualifying his No. 26 Honda in the IndyCar Series for his first Indianapolis 500 start. Busch's No. 41 Chevrolet was practiced by Parker Kligerman, who is on standby in case Busch misses the All-Star Race or Coca-Cola 600. 

Qualifying for the Sprint All-Star Race will be held on Saturday evening preceding the main event at 7:10 p.m. ET. This qualifying session will be unlike any other throughout the season as drivers will run three laps with a four-tire pit stop without a pit road speed limit, and the total time elapsed will determine the starting grid. This is the first time qualifying will be held on the same evening as the All-Star Race.

After qualifying is completed, the All-Star Race will start at approximately 9:00 p.m. ET. 

Hats Off to NASCAR

Tuesday, May 28

Sunday Night’s Coke 600 had to be one of the most unusual races NASCAR has had in a very long time. The most bazaar incident came on lap 126 when a cable holding up the SkyCam broke and fell onto the track and into the stands. Before anyone knew what had happened, race leader Kyle Busch ran over it and sent it flying. He and many others ran over portions of the cable damaging their cars.

NASCAR red flagged the race and brought the cars down pit road. Dozens of NASCAR Officials surrounded the cars to assess the damage and counted a total of 19 of them that had visible damage from the flying cable; the worst being on the No18 of Busch, the No55 of Mark Martin and the No9 of Marcos Ambrose.

After assessing the damage and giving officials enough time to clean the cable up off of the track, NASCAR had the teams fire the engines and make a trip around the track and back to pit road. This time, they sent them to their pit boxes and did something very unprecedented for NASCAR. They gave the teams 15 minutes to work on their cars.

That gave teams like Martin, Ambrose and Busch, who had to replace the right front and side of his car, 15 minutes to do so and other teams with little or no damage 15 minutes of time to make changes. NASCAR officials surrounded each and every car on pit road and monitored each team. It was organized chaos.

After the 15 minutes were up, the grid was reset and no driver lost his or her spot from before the caution and the race was restarted. Teams, drivers and fans were still scratching their heads wondering, what in the world just happened here?

Did NASCAR handle this bazaar situation correctly? I believe they did. The damage to the race cars had nothing to do with an on-track incident and it would have been unfair to punish the drivers with significant damage by sending them to the back of the pack after making repairs or possibly to the garage.

NASCAR handled this odd situation the best they could and since we usually criticize them and their decisions, I think we should commend them on a job well done. Listening and reading to drivers comments after the race, many agree that NASCAR did it the right way.

“Put them back into position on the same tires, open pit road, and then go ahead and pit,” Matt Kenseth said. “It just turned into a free-for-all. There were some crews with 15 people around the cars, and there was no way an official could have possibly seen what they were working on. But that was nice that the guys got to fix their damage, because it was certainly no fault of their own."

“NASCAR did a great job of actually handling a crisis there because we were hard-done by and they gave us our laps back and we were able to stay in the race and duke it out,” Ambrose said after the race.

It wasn’t just cars that sustained damage. In a statement released, 10 fans were also treated for injuries from the cable falling, three of whom were taken to local hospitals. All were treated and released.

The use of the camera has been suspended indefinitely and an investigation into what caused the failure has begun.

So hats off to those NASCAR Officials who made the call after this bazaar incident and also those who oversaw the happening on pit road; you definitely made the best out of an unforeseen situation.

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