DAYTONA BEACH, Fla.—  Kurt Busch scored his first Daytona 500 victory due to the many of his fellow competitors losing fuel. This is Stewart-Haas Racings first win in a Ford. This is Busch’s first restrictor plate win since entering into the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series in 2001. Busch led the most important lap, the last lap.

 

"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. The more unpredictability that keeps unfolding at the Daytona 500, I predicted it. 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,” said Busch in victory lane.

 

Ryan Blaney finished second, AJ Allmendinger finished third, Aric Almirola finished fourth, and Paul Menard rounded out the top-five.

 

At Daytona 500 Media Day on Wednesday, Busch stated, “It owns me.  It doesn’t owe me anything, it’s just owned me over the years.” Now, he will go down in history as a Daytona 500 champion.

 

Busch started the race from the eighth position. Busch was a darkhorse throughout much of the first stage. Busch and his Stewart-Haas teammates attempted to stay together throughout much of the race. Busch and his teammates were hitting pit road during the first segment at lap 32 when Corey LaJoie wrecked coming onto pit road. However, that did not effect their performance when the race restarted. Busch went back down pit road shortly after, and was quiet until the second stage. Kyle Busch won the first stage with Kevin Harvick in second, Blaney in third, Brad Keselowski in fourth, and Dale Earnhardt Jr. rounded out the top-five at the end of the first stage.

 

The second stage was saw a six car pileup in turn three that brought out the red flag for 17 minutes. Busch was the silent sleeper in the second stage. When the field was going back to green, Busch joined his teammates to have the top-three positions while Ford had the top-seven. The end of the segment saw Joey Logano attempt to make a pass on Harvick in the tri-oval, but was unsuccessful. Harvick won the stage, Logano was second, Ku. Busch was third, Keselowski was fourth, and Danica Patrick rounded out the top-five.

 

The third stage was wild and crazy. The field began to get ansy. The caution flew four times during the stage. The day almost ended for Ku. Busch on lap 129. Jimmie Johnson spun going into the third turn with help from Jamie McMurray. The wreck left Busch as the lone survivor of the Stewart-Haas camp to contend for the win.  Despite the damage, Ku. Busch was able to contend with the leaders. As the race began to wind down, Ku. Busch and others were being told to conserve fuel. The field ran single file for numerous laps as drivers contended to save fuel. However, drivers began to drop out of the pack because they were running out of fuel. On the final lap, Ku. Busch was running second coming off of turn two chasing Kyle Larson. Larson ran out of fuel which allowed Ku. Busch to score the victory.

 

Despite not winning the Daytona 500 as a driver, Tony Stewart was ecstatic to win the race as an owner.

 

“It’s probably the most patient race I’ve watched Kurt Busch run. He definitely deserved that one for sure. I’m really proud of everybody . Great day for Ford Performance and everybody at Stewart-Haas Racing. I think this finally gets Gene Haas all the crown jewels. This is awesome, man.”

 

The race saw 37 lead changes among 18 different drivers. The race was slowed eight times for 40 laps by caution.

 

Next up for the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series is the Folds of Honor QuickTrip 500 from Atlanta Motor Speedway. Coverage from Atlanta will be on FOX and Performance Racing Network on March. 5 beginning at 2:30 p.m. EST.

The 2016 season began for Stewart-Haas Racing at the end of September in 2015. It was announced that driver and team owner Tony Stewart would be retiring at the end of the 2016 season after 18 years in NASCAR. It was also announced on that September day that Clint Bowyer would join HScott Motorsports in 2016 before replacing the retiring Stewart in 2017.

Stewart missed the first eight races of the 2016 season after suffering a lower back injury while riding sand dunes in January. Brian Vickers and Ty Dillon would fill in for Stewart while he nursed his injury. In his return at Richmond International Raceway, Stewart was able to finish in the 19th position. At Talladega Superspeedway, Stewart remained in the car until the first caution when Dillon would take over to help prevent anymore injury. This was the only time when Stewart did not finish a race. Stewart did not finish at Dover because of suspension damage. After terrible finishes at Charlotte and Pocono, Stewart began to heat up as the season went to the summer months. Over those summer months, Stewart was able to claim victory at Sonoma Raceway after a gutsy call by his crew chief, Mike Bugarwicz and a last lap pass in the final corner. This would end up being his final victory in the Sprint Cup Series. Stewart claimed seven top-15 finishes over the summer months with only one DNF at Talladega. However, Stewart began to cool off in mid-August. Stewart was able to make the Chase, but was eliminated in the first round. His only top-10 was a ninth place finish at Charlotte.

As the smoke settled on the career of Stewart as a NASCAR driver, Stewart had one of his better years after three dismal years. He was able to complete 7631 of the 7874 laps he ran in 2016. He was able to lead 36 laps over the season. He had five top-five’s, eight top-10’s, an average start of 24.8, an average finish of 18.3, and four DNF’s

For Kurt Busch, 2016 was a year of consistency. The season started off strong with a top-ten finish in the Daytona 500. Busch was also able to gain two poles at Atlanta and Las Vegas. He finished in the top-10 in the first four races, but that streak was broken at Fontana after a terrible weekend. Over the next eight weeks, he was able to finish in the top-10 in each race. His only win of 2016 came at Pocono Raceway in June without primary crew chief, Tony Gibson, on a race that was based on fuel strategy.  He followed the win with two top-10 finishes. Over the next 10 weeks, Busch had good weeks and bad weeks and only suffered two DNF’s at Darlington and Bristol. When the Chase began, the consistency continued. The first two rounds were consistent for Busch with top-20 finishes in all six races. In the third round, consistency was thrown out the window with a 22nd place finish at Martinsville and a 20th place finish at Texas. Busch was able to rebound at Phoenix with a fifth place finish, but came up short to compete for a championship at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

Busch had 36 starts in 2016. He competed in 10348 of 10523 laps in the 2016 season. He was able to lead 238 laps in the season. He had nine top-five finishes, 21 top-10 finishes, an average start of 12.1, an average finish of 12.0, and two DNF’s on the season.

For Kevin Harvick, 2016 was another great year despite not racing for a championship. The season started out in the first five races with five top-five finished and a win at Phoenix International Raceway where he edged Carl Edwards by .008 seconds. His top-five streak broke at Martinsville with a 17th place finish, but he quickly rebounded for three-top-five finishes. Harvick won his first pole at Richmond and then three weeks later at Dover. After much speculation about Harvick leaving SHR after 2017, the rumors were put to rest when he signed a long term contract extension. The next four races saw Harvick finish in the top-five four times before a crash at Daytona resulted in a 39th place finish. He was able to rebound with a pole at Kentucky and four more top-five finishes before a crash at Watkins Glen. Despite that wreck, Harvick captured victory at Bristol Motor Speedway. Entering into the Chase, Harvick scored one more pole at Darlington and three more top-five finishes to become the regular season points leader. The opening round of the Chase saw Harvick have two bad finishes at Chicago and Dover, but his win at New Hampshire allowed for him to transfer into the next round. The second round kicked off with a 38th place finish at Charlotte, but a win at Kansas to move onto the third round. Harvick was consiststent in the third round, but a 20th place finish at Martinsville ruined his chances at a championship. Despite not being in the championship four, he scored the pole at Homestead and a third place finish to finish 2016.

Harvick competed in all 36 races. He competed in 10215 of 10523 laps in the season. He led 1384 laps throughout the season, and was the “regular” season point leader before the Chase began. He had 17 top-five’s, 27 top-10’s, an average start of 11.7, an average finish of 9.9, and only four DNF’s.

2016 was another lackluster season for Danica Patrick. The season started with a 35th place finish in the Daytona 500 with a crash. Patrick’s best finish of 2016 came in October at Charlotte Motor Speedway with a finish in the 11th position. Her worst finish was 38th at Fontana when she was caught up in an accident on the speedway. She ended up finishing 24th in the final points standings.

Patrick competed in all 36 races. She competed in 10326 of 10523 laps in 2016. She only led 30 laps throughout the season. She had zero top-five’s, zero top-10’s , an average start of 25.1, an average finish of 22.0, and three DNF’s

Despite not contending for a championship, the 2016 was a year of transition for the Stewart-Haas organization. 2017 will be an interesting year for the organization with the transition to Ford and the addition of a NASCAR Xfinity Series program. It will also be interesting to see how Bowyer does in his first season with the organization. For Patrick, 2017 is a crucial year for her in NASCAR. Harvick and Busch should come back even stronger in 2017The 2016 season began for Stewart-Haas Racing at the end of September in 2015. It was announced that driver and team owner Tony Stewart would be retiring at the end of the 2016 season after 18 years in NASCAR. It was also announced on that September day that Clint Bowyer would join HScott Motorsports in 2016 before replacing the retiring Stewart in 2017.

Stewart missed the first eight races of the 2016 season after suffering a lower back injury while riding sand dunes in January. Brian Vickers and Ty Dillon would fill in for Stewart while he nursed his injury. In his return at Richmond International Raceway, Stewart was able to finish in the 19th position. At Talladega Superspeedway, Stewart remained in the car until the first caution when Dillon would take over to help prevent anymore injury. This was the only time when Stewart did not finish a race. Stewart did not finish at Dover because of suspension damage. After terrible finishes at Charlotte and Pocono, Stewart began to heat up as the season went to the summer months. Over those summer months, Stewart was able to claim victory at Sonoma Raceway after a gutsy call by his crew chief, Mike Bugarwicz and a last lap pass in the final corner. This would end up being his final victory in the Sprint Cup Series. Stewart claimed seven top-15 finishes over the summer months with only one DNF at Talladega. However, Stewart began to cool off in mid-August. Stewart was able to make the Chase, but was eliminated in the first round. His only top-10 was a ninth place finish at Charlotte.

As the smoke settled on the career of Stewart as a NASCAR driver, Stewart had one of his better years after three dismal years. He was able to complete 7631 of the 7874 laps he ran in 2016. He was able to lead 36 laps over the season. He had five top-five’s, eight top-10’s, an average start of 24.8, an average finish of 18.3, and four DNF’s

For Kurt Busch, 2016 was a year of consistency. The season started off strong with a top-ten finish in the Daytona 500. Busch was also able to gain two poles at Atlanta and Las Vegas. He finished in the top-10 in the first four races, but that streak was broken at Fontana after a terrible weekend. Over the next eight weeks, he was able to finish in the top-10 in each race. His only win of 2016 came at Pocono Raceway in June without primary crew chief, Tony Gibson, on a race that was based on fuel strategy.  He followed the win with two top-10 finishes. Over the next 10 weeks, Busch had good weeks and bad weeks and only suffered two DNF’s at Darlington and Bristol. When the Chase began, the consistency continued. The first two rounds were consistent for Busch with top-20 finishes in all six races. In the third round, consistency was thrown out the window with a 22nd place finish at Martinsville and a 20th place finish at Texas. Busch was able to rebound at Phoenix with a fifth place finish, but came up short to compete for a championship at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

Busch had 36 starts in 2016. He competed in 10348 of 10523 laps in the 2016 season. He was able to lead 238 laps in the season. He had nine top-five finishes, 21 top-10 finishes, an average start of 12.1, an average finish of 12.0, and two DNF’s on the season.

For Kevin Harvick, 2016 was another great year despite not racing for a championship. The season started out in the first five races with five top-five finished and a win at Phoenix International Raceway where he edged Carl Edwards by .008 seconds. His top-five streak broke at Martinsville with a 17th place finish, but he quickly rebounded for three-top-five finishes. Harvick won his first pole at Richmond and then three weeks later at Dover. After much speculation about Harvick leaving SHR after 2017, the rumors were put to rest when he signed a long term contract extension. The next four races saw Harvick finish in the top-five four times before a crash at Daytona resulted in a 39th place finish. He was able to rebound with a pole at Kentucky and four more top-five finishes before a crash at Watkins Glen. Despite that wreck, Harvick captured victory at Bristol Motor Speedway. Entering into the Chase, Harvick scored one more pole at Darlington and three more top-five finishes to become the regular season points leader. The opening round of the Chase saw Harvick have two bad finishes at Chicago and Dover, but his win at New Hampshire allowed for him to transfer into the next round. The second round kicked off with a 38th place finish at Charlotte, but a win at Kansas to move onto the third round. Harvick was consiststent in the third round, but a 20th place finish at Martinsville ruined his chances at a championship. Despite not being in the championship four, he scored the pole at Homestead and a third place finish to finish 2016.

Harvick competed in all 36 races. He competed in 10215 of 10523 laps in the season. He led 1384 laps throughout the season, and was the “regular” season point leader before the Chase began. He had 17 top-five’s, 27 top-10’s, an average start of 11.7, an average finish of 9.9, and only four DNF’s

2016 was another lackluster season for Danica Patrick. The season started with a 35th place finish in the Daytona 500 with a crash. Patrick’s best finish of 2016 came in October at Charlotte Motor Speedway with a finish in the 11th position. Her worst finish was 38th at Fontana when she was caught up in an accident on the speedway. She ended up finishing 24th in the final points standings.

Patrick competed in all 36 races. She competed in 10326 of 10523 laps in 2016. She only led 30 laps throughout the season. She had zero top-five’s, zero top-10’s , an average start of 25.1, an average finish of 22.0, and three DNF’s

Despite not contending for a championship, the 2016 was a year of transition for the Stewart-Haas organization. 2017 will be an interesting year for the organization with the transition to Ford and the addition of a NASCAR Xfinity Series program. It will also be interesting to see how Bowyer does in his first season with the organization. For Patrick, 2017 is a crucial year for her in NASCAR. Harvick and Busch should come back even stronger in 2017

MARTINSVILLE, Va— The weekend started out strong for Stewart-Haas Racing, but when it was time to race, that magic wore off. All four Stewart-Haas cars ended up multiple laps down.

 

In the first practice session of the weekend, Tony Stewart was 21st, Danica Patrick was fifth, Kevin Harvick was 19th, and Kurt Busch was 11th. In the second practice on Saturday morning, Stewart was ninth, Busch was 12th, Harvick was 13th, and Patrick was 14th. In the final practice session, Stewart was second, Harvick was 10th, Busch was 12th, and Patrick was 21st.

 

However, when the green flag fell, the struggles came with the Stewart-Haas cars.

 

Stewart-Haas had no cars in the top-20 by the time of race end. Harvick was the highest finisher of the SHR cars finishing in 20th, Busch was the second highest finisher at 22nd, Patrick was in the 24th position, and Stewart finished in the 26th position.

 

“We missed it.  I don’t know where, how, why, we missed it.  Even SHR (Stewart-Haas Racing) as a group we didn’t perform well.  That was not the day we needed.  Sorry to State Water Heaters, their only race of the year and we didn’t perform well for them.  We just missed it,” said Busch post-race.

 

"We were slow all weekend. We could just never get the handle on it,” said Harvick about the issues of the day.

A new era of NASCAR merchandising began on July 31, 2015. One year later and Fanatics has taken the fans of NASCAR by storm, introducing never before seen products, ultimately becoming part of the racing experience.

For years, fans were accustomed to the driver souvenir haulers, located around each and every race track. Many fans were sad to see their favorite drivers stand go away, but in the process adapted to Fanatics.

Chris Williams, Vice President of Trackside for Motorsports Authentic was one of the people in charge of setting up Fanatics. He had a vision of what he wanted to see at the track, and thought that this was the way of the future.

Williams has worked around for the sport for the past 30 years, and much like Fanatics celebrating it’s one year anniversary at Pocono Raceway, so is he. He once worked for Dale Earnhardt, Sr. and then became the man in charge of the 30 plus souvenir haulers.

Much like the fans, getting used to the 1.5-acre tent that Fanatics is made up of has been a transition process for him over the season.

“Fanatics had a great vision of what they wanted to do with Trackside,” Williams said of the merchandise. “A lot of people don’t realize that we were digressing away from trailers because there were really only five guys that were making a profit and we were reducing trailers as they went. What was happening is we didn’t have a full assortment of drivers. We didn’t have any Truck drivers, hardly any XFINITY drivers at all and the lower tier drivers weren’t having any coverage at all from a Trackside standpoint.”

The support of the XFINITY Series drivers has said to gone up over 100 percent and the Truck Series over 150 percent, simply because prior to Fanatics, Motorsport Authentic didn’t carry much product for those two series.

Not only did the value of product increase, but so has the support from NASCAR. The way to purchase NASCAR merchandise at the race track is unlike any other sport. For that Fanatics and NASCAR have had a great relationship in year one.

“They [NASCAR] saw the numbers go down from the trailers and they knew they needed to keep the environment as part of the show,” Williams said of the support from NASCAR. “Shopping is a part of the excitement. We have the displays, interactions and hospitality, so they wanted something to be created that was going to be fan friendly. Going up to the trailers and waiting 40 minutes to be serviced was difficult.”

While shopping at Fanatics, fans will get in and out as quickly or as slowly as one wants. Each team has its own individual pod with hundreds of products for that organization. 15-time Most Popular Driver Dale Earnhardt, Jr. has five pods dedicated to him, which is upward of 100 feet of merchandising.

Over the past year brands such as Columbia, New Era and even Under Armor through Hendrick Motorsports have joined the sport. Fanatics is always trying to produce more and are hopeful that even more companies will join in the next calendar year.

Last weekend at Indianapolis was the last track that saw the new setup. Though the tent has been to every track, the company is not afraid to change.

“A year into this, we’ve gone to all the race tracks, we’ve changed them all a few times,
 Williams said. “We’ve even changed in dimension a few times. We’ve changed even location from a couple of the historical places that we set with the trailers. But when they find us, the shopping has been very good. All of the transactions are doing extremely well, compared to last year. Though we might have seen a declining in some of the race attendance, our sales are pretty much flat or better, which tells us we are giving the right things to the fans.”

Going into the new process, Motorsports Authentic wasn’t sure how the process would go. Most of the people are the same from the trailers, but this is said to be a unique experience that sets NASCAR apart.

Many of the products, including die-cast cars, t-shirts and fans are all merchandise that fans can see up close and even feel. Before, fans had to ask to see the product after waiting in a long line just to be serviced.

For years, there were over 30 trailers touring the United States, going from track-to-track. Now, full-time employees are given days off in-between races, something that hasn’t been done before.  

“Presentation wise, it looks very good and fans love the presentation part of it,” Williams said. “I think from an expectation standpoint everyone seems happy. I know from a process standpoint it’s really good.”

With 26 full-time employees, Fanatics goes into each region looking for help. The company hires over 100 people per region to help set up the process as well work at the track. Over the last 52 weeks, the company has hired 12 new people, but that doesn’t fill more than 60 cash registers.

“We do a deal online through our HR department, where they can go out and say that they would like to work in Fanatics,” Williams said. “We have a training deal that we do for different colleges that come out that’s kind of like an internship as well as a placement of positions. So far it’s turned out really well. Everyone that has come on board except for one is still here and they really like the job. They like being mobile and dealing with the consumer, they thrive on getting it done in a certain amount of timeframe because there is such a limited window.”

As year two is now in the making, Fanatics is trying to get bigger and better. With goals of expanding based on each race track, the company knows that there will be challenges.

Unlike other sports, the drivers are constantly changing colors due to sponsorship. It’s something that some fans enjoy and other fans despise, but it’s all part of the game.

“I think what we need to do is get a little bit thinner and deeper in product because we didn’t know what to expect,” Williams said of one of his main goals. “We probably enlarged our inventory 30 to 35 percent more than we ever had it. Our sport is a little different than any other sport, so we kind of learn through that.”

 Income is based solely off the market. There will always be that die-hard fan that comes in at whatever track they go to, but the money varies by different markets.

It was announced earlier this week that Earnhardt was the top driver in merchandise sales. Six-time Sprint Cup champion Jimmie Johnson was second on the list. Defending Cup Series champion Kyle Busch was third in product sold, rookie Chase Elliott was fourth and Kevin Harvick rounded out the top five.

Since the beginning of the 2016 season at Daytona, Tony Stewart and Martin Truex, Jr. have seen their merchandise sales improve the most from last season.

In a day that arose with smoke, it ended with Smoke in victory lane as Tony Stewart does a bump and run to Denny Hamlin coming off the final turn at Sonoma Raceway to win the Toyota Save Mart 350. Hamlin finished second, followed by, Joey Logano, Carl Edwards, and Martin Truex Jr. This win by Stewart snaps a three year winless streak. 

Stewart talks about the final couple of laps that led to him losing the lead, but regaining it in the final turn. "I made mistakes the last two laps. I had just a little bit too much rear brake for Turn 7, and wheel-hopped it two laps in a row. But, I felt a nudge when I got down there and he knew where it was and he did the right thing doing it there; but if I could get to him, he knew what was coming. He told me he was proud of me. He knows what it means. We were teammates for a long time and we respect each other a lot.”

Denny Hamlin recalls the final laps from his perspective. “Tony (Stewart) was doing a good job maintaining his tires, a good job of running consistent laps there. Really he gave me an opportunity to get close. On the second to last lap he wheel hopped into (turn) seven, allowed us to get close and I just did a poor job of getting through 11. I was expecting to really drive in deep and I really thought that was going to happen and he did, but I also left the bottom open and that was a bad mistake on my part.”

The Toyota Save Mart 350 saw 12 lead changes among eight drivers. Hamlin led the most laps with a total of 33, followed by Carl Edwards (24), Tony Stewart (22), AJ Allmendinger (20), Danica Patrick, Paul Menard, and Kevin Harvick led three, and Kyle Busch led two. 

The caution flag flew four times for 10 laps. The flag flew twice for accidents and for debris. 

Kevin Harvick maintains a 34 point lead over Kurt Busch, followed by Carl Edwards (-52), Brad Keselowski (-56), and Joey Logano (-69).

The Chase Grid is now a battle to be in thhe top-15 in points. Despite his win today, Stewart is nine points away from 30th to be considered in the Chase. When Stewart gets in the top-30, Kasey Kahne would be on the outside looking in, and Jamie McMurray would have the final spot.

The Toyota Save Mart 350 lasted 2 hours, 42 minutes, and 43 seconds. The average speed was 80.966 mph. The margin of victory was .625 seconds.

The NASCAR Sprint Cup Series will head to Daytona International Speedway for the annual Fourth of July spectacle. Coverage from Daytona will begin on Thursday, June 30, on the NBC Sports Network for the first practice at 3 pm Eastern.

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