Speedway Digest Staff

Speedway Digest Staff

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In his second ride in the No. 21 Motorcraft/Quick Lane Mustang, Matt DiBenedetto finished second in the Pennzoil 400 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, tying his best career Cup finish and posting his first-ever top-10 on an intermediate track.

“This is all just too surreal,” a beaming DiBenedetto said in a televised post-race interview.

“Tough to be that close, but, hey, this is only the second race of the season.”
 
“It was the strength of this team. It's so cool to have the backing of all the people that allow me to drive this thing. It took so many people, Motorcraft, Quick Lane.”
 
DiBenedetto also gave a shout out to Paul Menard, who drove the Wood Brothers’ No. 21 for the past two seasons and selected DiBenedetto to be his replacement when he decided to retire.
 
“Paul, I know you're watching at home and proud and I can't thank everyone in that whole family for this opportunity.”

DiBenedetto also expressed his appreciation to the Motorcraft/Quick Lane crew and to the people who supply his horsepower.
 
 “I'm proud to have that Roush Yates power under the hood,” he said. “This whole team, [crew chief] Greg Erwin, all of them, we were covered. It wasn't pretty at the start, but, man, they did an excellent job.  
 
“So happy to be working with this team, the fans. Thank you all so much. The journey has been pretty cool.”
 
DiBenedetto started 19th, with the line-up set by 2019 car owner points after qualifying was rained out Saturday afternoon. He steadily worked his way forward, his No. 21 Mustang driving progressively better after each adjustment on pit road.
 
He broke into the top 10 for the first time with 87 laps remaining, and steadily moved forward.

 DiBenedetto made his final pit stop on Lap 163, but a caution flag before the cycle of pit stops could be concluded put him a lap down. Running in 11th place, he took the wave-around to rejoin the leaders and then resumed his march forward.

He took seventh place with 35 laps remaining and was running there when the caution flag flew for a spin by Ross Chastain.
 
Erwin elected to stay on the track when most of the leaders pitted, a decision that put the Motorcraft/Quick Lane Mustang in third place when the green flag flew with two laps remaining.
 
DiBenedetto, despite having older tires than many of the drivers behind him, moved into second place and was running there when the caution flag flew just after the leaders took the white flag, freezing the field at that point.  He said his team’s speed and improvement as the race went along came as no surprise.
  
“I knew the team has every bit of that capability,” he said. “They’re so good with Greg Erwin leading these guys. This team is phenomenal. There’s no doubt about that.”
 
DiBenedetto did acknowledge having a few worries early in the 400.
 
“It wasn’t a picture-perfect day,” he said. “We had to make huge adjustments and our communication was great from me screaming really loose and us being off to start and then dialing it in little by little every pit stop, and then getting it there at the end where I was comfortable staying out because I knew the car had great speed.” 
 
“It was best on the long runs and we just needed a little track position because we were a little stuck in the dirty air.”
 
He said the Motorcraft/Quick Lane team’s performance at Las Vegas gives him optimism moving forward.
 
 “We didn’t start off great,” he said. “But it’s good to know that we can close, make the right adjustments, do all the right things, my pit crew can do an excellent job – all the things that tie a race together.”
 
DiBenedetto and the No. 21 team now move to Auto Club Speedway in California for next Sunday’s Auto Club 400.  

WBR PR

Race Winner: Joey Logano of Team Penske (Ford)

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

Stage 2 Winner: Chase Elliott of Hendrick Motorsports (Chevrolet)

 

Stage 1 Recap (Laps 1-80):             

● Cole Custer started 17th and ended the stage 29th.

● The Ford driver pitted on lap 26 during the competition caution for fuel, four tires and adjustments to address a loose condition.

● Custer restarted 27th and reported his Production Alliance Group/Haas Automation Mustang had tightened up.

● He ended the stage 29th, then pitted for fuel, four tires and adjustments.

 

Stage 2 Recap (Laps 81-160):

● Custer started Stage 2 in 27th and completed it 28th.

● He made a scheduled green-flag pit stop on lap 129 for fuel, four tires and adjustments to help his tight-handling Mustang while in the 29th position.

● Custer ended the stage 28th.

 

Final Stage Recap (Laps 161-267):

● Custer began the final stage from 28th and ended the race 19th.

● Shortly after the green flag dropped on the final stage, a caution occurred on lap 169, which allowed Custer to be the beneficiary of the free pass and gain one lap back.

● When the next caution was displayed on lap 177, Custer was once again the beneficiary of the free pass, putting him back on the lead lap in 28th.

● On lap 217, he was 27th and made a scheduled green-flag stop for fuel, four tires and adjustments.

● The California native was 26th when the next caution was displayed on lap 221 and crew chief Mike Shiplett made the call to stay out.

● After returning to green, Custer was in the 23rd position on lap 228.

● With six laps remaining, the final caution of the race was displayed. The Ford driver pitted for fresh tires and restarted 20th, before ending the day in 19th.

 

Notes:

● Custer’s 19th-place result bettered his previous best finish at Las Vegas – 25th, earned in March 2018.

● Joey Logano won the Las Vegas 400 to score his 24th career NASCAR Cup Series victory, his first of the season and his second at Las Vegas. His beat second-place Matt DiBenedetto as the race ended under caution.

● This was Ford’s series-leading 13th NASCAR Cup Series victory at Las Vegas and its 687th all-time NASCAR Cup Series win.

● There were nine caution periods for a total of 37 laps.

● Twenty-four of the 38 drivers in the Las Vegas 400 finished on the lead lap.

● Ryan Blaney leaves Las Vegas as the championship leader with a three-point advantage over second-place Logano.

 

Cole Custer, Driver of the No. 41 Production Alliance Group/Haas Automation Ford Mustang for Stewart-Haas Racing:

“It’s not the result we wanted today with the Production Alliance Group/Haas Automation Mustang, but the guys worked hard on the car all day. I’m still learning a lot with the Cup car and wanted a better result. We came back from two laps down, and (crew chief) Mike Shiplett did a good job continuing to adjust on the car. I know I need to be better at restarts and some things like that, but I’m looking forward to next week and excited about working with the No. 41 team this year.”

 

Next Up:

The next event on the NASCAR Cup Series schedule is the Auto Club 400 on Sunday, March 1 at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, California. The race starts at 3:30 p.m. EST with live coverage provided by FOX and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio.

 

TSC PR

Race Winner: Joey Logano of Team Penske (Ford)

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

Stage 2 Winner: Chase Elliott of Hendrick Motorsports (Chevrolet)

 

Stage 1 Recap (Laps 1-80):

● Aric Almirola started 14th and finished 12th.

● Almirola pitted during the lap-25 competition caution for four tires, fuel and air pressure and chassis adjustments, and gained three spots on pit road.

● He noted that the Smithfield Ford had trouble turning after the adjustments were made.

● He pitted the No. 10 Ford at the end of the stage for four tires, fuel and adjustments to correct the handling issues.

 

Stage 2 Recap (Laps 81-160):

● Started 12th and finished 11th.

● Almirola aggressively drove to the middle of three cars and advanced back to the top-10.

● He pitted under green on lap 120 from 11th for four fresh tires, fuel and adjustments. He said his Smithfield Ford’s front tires needed more grip.

● Almirola was scored 11th after pit stops cycled through.

● He pitted at the conclusion of the stage for four tires, fuel and more adjustments.

 

Stage 3 Recap (Laps 161-267):

● Started 11th and finished 21st.

● Almirola pitted on lap 177 under caution for four fresh tires and fuel.

● He restarted 21st and quickly made his way back to the top-15.

● Almirola radioed to crew chief Mike Bugarewicz that he was contacted by the No. 6 car under caution.

● After noting tight-handling conditions, he cut a tire on lap 208, then pitted for four tires and damage repair.

● He returned to pit road two laps down in 28th before the caution was called on lap 221, where Almirola gained a lap back.

● Almirola returned back on the lead lap on lap 262.

● During the final restart, Almirola avoided a multicar accident and gained multiple spots before crossing the finish line.

 

Notes:

● Joey Logano won the Las Vegas 400 to score his 24th career NASCAR Cup Series victory, his first of the season and his second at Las Vegas. He beat second-place Matt DiBenedetto as the race ended under caution.

● This was Ford’s series-leading 13th NASCAR Cup Series victory at Las Vegas and its 687th all-time NASCAR Cup Series win.

● There were nine caution periods for a total of 37 laps.

● Twenty-four of the 38 drivers in the Las Vegas 400 finished on the lead lap.

● Ryan Blaney leaves Las Vegas as the championship leader with a three-point advantage over second-place Logano.

 

Aric Almirola, driver of the No. 10 Smithfield Ford Mustang for Stewart-Haas Racing:

“We had a car capable of running in and around the top-10 today. We tried a lot of adjustments to hang in there, then the No. 6 car hit us under caution and we cut a tire with about 60 to go that put us a few laps down. That’s not the way we wanted to start the West Coast swing, but we’ll head to Fontana with our heads held high and brush it off.”  

 

Next Up: 

The next event on the NASCAR Cup Series schedule is the Auto Club 400 on Sunday, March 1, at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, California. The race starts at 3:30 p.m. EST with live coverage provided by FOX and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio.

 

TSC PR

STEVE NEWMARK, President, Roush Fenway Racing – “I appreciate all you guys being here today.  Ryan apologizes for not being able to be here, but he did prepare a statement:

RYAN NEWMAN STATEMENT:

“I’m sorry that I can’t be at the track in person, but I asked Steve to take a moment to express my sincere appreciation and gratitude for all the support that was shown last week to both me and my family.  The outpouring of emotion from not only the NASCAR community, but across the country has been truly humbling.

“I want to personally thank everyone, including the man upstairs, for their support, encouragement and the numerous offers of assistance.  We always say that the NASCAR community is one big family and never has that been more evident to me than after seeing this family rally together and provide the comfort and support that has been shown to my family and me over the past few days.  The calls and visits from the NASCAR executives and my friends and competitors has been truly uplifting.

“I want to thank everyone involved in my care, especially the staff at Halifax Medical Center, where I am convinced I received the best care available.  I’m confident the efforts of each of those trained professionals played a major role in where I’m sitting today.  And to the entire NASCAR organization, led by Jim France, thanks for being by my side the entire time.  You truly stepped up to support me unconditionally when it mattered most.

“Most importantly, I have to thank the guys back at the Roush Fenway Racing shop that built me a car not only fast enough to lead the final seconds of the Daytona 500, but strong enough to do its job under great distress, allowing me to survive such an accident.  I am truly indebted to each of you and it is unlikely I will ever be able to properly express to you how much the diligent effort with which you conduct your craftmanship has affected me and my family.  I hope you took pride in the photograph of me walking out of the hospital hand-in-hand with my daughters on Wednesday.  Thank you.  I can’t wait to get back in your race car.

“I was fortunate to avoid any internal organ damage or broken bones.  I did sustain a head injury for which I’m currently being treated.  The doctors have been pleased with my progression over the last few days.

“Again, I want to thank each of you, from my partners, teammates and competitors and each and every fan across the country.  Thank you everyone for the unparalleled concern and unwavering support.  And to the media, who has acted with such respect and class during this time.

“I have spoken with Jack Roush and he has assured me that the number six car will be waiting and ready for my return.  I’m looking forward to getting behind the wheel and battling for another race win in the Roush Fenway Ford.”

Ford Performance PR

Bridgeport Speedway Micro Sprint regular Jon Keller of Salem, NJ raced to a thrilling victory Saturday night in the East Coast Indoor Dirt Nationals 600 Sprint race held inside Cure Insurance Arena in Trenton, NJ. The race was a 50-lap event and paid $5,000 to win.

“I can’t believe I even made it into the A-Main all the way from the E-Main let alone win the race,” Keller, 33, said. “I got run into the wall during the feature and rode along it and flipped in Saturday afternoon practice. On Friday, I got black flagged for spinning out three times in my heat and that put me in the back of the E-Main,” Keller related.

“I was discouraged enough after Friday that I actually went home.  But as the crew told me the next morning, we’ve come all this way, now’s not the time to give up. They were right, and here we are.”

Keller started the feature dead last, from the thirteenth row, sidestepped several multi-car crashes, and took the lead with two laps to go, bringing Kenny Miller, III, who had started from the twelfth row, with him.

Billy Pauch, Jr., finished third. He led the first ten laps, then was involved in a six-car crash that affected several other front runners including Eddie Strada and Tim Buckwalter. All restarted, but at the back of the field.

Brenden Bright picked up the lead after the big tangle with the remarkable run of Keller first becoming apparent when he moved into the top three on lap 20.

Erick Rudolph, defending race winner, took the lead with 11 laps left as Bright faded. Keller grabbed second, closed on Rudolph and then, on the final restart of the race, shot by Rudolph on the high side of the multi-groove course to complete his shocking ride.

Miller was second, Pauch third, Rudolph fourth and Strada fifth.

“I don’t believe any of this. Winning this race against these top guys from the back of the field,” Keller said. “I don’t belong here, but here I am.”

Larry Wight, who worked his way through from the D Main into the A was sixth after running as high as third at one point. Kyle Spence, Mike Bednar, Bright and Jesse Maurer completed the top ten.

Two B Mains, from which the top six transferred to the A Main, were won by Joey Amantea and Pat Bealer.

C Main race winners were Brandon Pavel and Kyle Spence. Sammy Martz, Jr. and James Morris captured the pair of D Mains. Mike Mahaney and Matt Warner won the two E Mains.

The Indoor Auto Racing Series Fueled By VP Race Fuels concludes its 2020 season with the final ‘Concrete Series’ event at the New York State Fairgrounds Expo Center in Syracuse, NY on March 13-14, 2020 at which time the Series 2020 champion will be crowned.

For more information, visit indoorautoracing.com.

East Coast Indoor Dirt Nationals Feature Finish (50 Laps): 1. Jon Keller, 2. Kenny Miller III, 3. Billy Pauch Jr., 4. Erick Rudolph, 5. Eddie Strada, 6. Larry Wight, 7. Kyle Spence, 8. Mike Bednar, 9. Brenden Bright, 10. Jesse Maurer, 11. Mike Thompson, 12. Gary Bozowski, 13. Pat Bealer, 14. Christian Bruno, 15. Tyler Lindsay, 16. Doug Snyder, 17. Whitey Kidd, 18. Tim Buckwalter, 19. Brian Carber, 20. Alex Bright, 21. Joey Amantea, 22. Brett Altemose, 23. Jim Radney, 24. Aiden Bordan, 25. Wayne Scott.

AARN PR

Rain has postponed the Boyd Gaming 300 NASCAR Xfinity Series race at Las Vegas Motor Speedway after the completion of Stage 1.

All Saturday tickets will be honored on Sunday, and seating priority will go to those with Pennzoil 400 tickets. Saturday ticket holders will have access to standing room only areas for the Pennzoil 400.

The race is scheduled for completion on Sunday, and will be run after the conclusion of the Pennzoil 400 presented by Jiffy Lube. The Boyd Gaming 300 will resume approximately one hour after the Cup race concludes.

Club and suite ticket holders for the Boyd Gaming 300 will be admitted to the grandstands for the Pennzoil 400 – which begins at 12:30 p.m. – on Sunday, but will not be allowed to access the premium areas until 30 minutes after the Cup Series race concludes.

The Pennzoil 400 will air live on FOX at 12:30 p.m., and the Boyd Gaming 300 will follow with live coverage on FS1.

LVMS PR

What seemed like an eternity was actually 19 seconds.

After Ryan Newman’s battered race car came to rest last Monday at the end of the tri-oval in a brutal wreck at the finish of the Daytona 500, it took only 19 seconds for the first emergency vehicle to arrive, according to a chronology provided by NASCAR officials during a question-and-answer session with reporters on Saturday at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

“The tool truck arrived at the vehicle 19 seconds after it came to rest,” said Steve O’Donnell, NASCAR executive vice president and chief racing development officer. “The fireman that you saw with the extinguisher was in that vehicle. One of the three trauma doctors assigned to the safety team for the race arrived at the car at the 33‑second mark, and a paramedic entered the vehicle at the 35‑second mark.

“For the next three and a half minutes, two doctors and paramedics attended to Ryan. At the 4:05 mark, the decision was then made to roll the car over while continuing to help aid the driver. At the 6:56 mark, the car was upright. The extrication team then began cutting the car, and a doctor continued to provide treatment.

“The roof was removed at the 11:10 mark, and the extrication was completed at 15:40, and the driver was then moved to the ambulance for transport. During this entire time, doctors and paramedics were attending to Ryan, except at the moment of the car rollover.”

Newman, who was taken directly to the Halifax Medical Center and released from the hospital on Wednesday, may well have benefitted from the so-called “Newman bar,” reinforcement for the roll cage that strengthened the roof and the windshield that was implemented after a wreck involving Newman in 2013.

“So when we look at the cars and look back at what we've been able to do with the cars as an industry, we've been able to make improvements,” said Dr. John Patalak, NASCAR’s senior director of safety engineering. “The one you've referenced in 2013 with the additional roll bars and the roof and the windshield area… we were also able to do things with the laminate windshield in 2013 and improved window net mounting in 2013.

“All of those things really contribute and work together as an assembly to improve the overall outcomes to what we saw in Daytona.”

“I think, just to add to that, John and I were talking earlier about the fact that Ryan Newman was involved in this accident, with his engineering background, has been someone who we have turned to in many times talking about safety enhancements,” rejoined O’Donnell.

“One of the reasons you won't hear as many details today is we still haven't had the chance to go through this with Ryan and his team, with the other drivers in the garage, but Ryan's feedback as we go through this will be key, and I think that'll be a key component as it's always been throughout the process when he's been racing.”

Both Newman’s car and the No. 32 of Corey LaJoie, which collided with Newman’s Ford as it flipped upside-down, were destroyed in the wreck, and both were taken to NASCAR’s R&D Center in Concord, N.C., for further inspection and evaluation.

 

MARTIN TRUEX JR. ELATED TO SEE CLOSE FRIEND RYAN NEWMAN AFTER WRECK

Driver Martin Truex Jr. and long-time girlfriend Sherry Pollex were among the first to see Ryan Newman after he was released from Halifax Medical Center on Wednesday.

The relief and elation were still evident when Truex stopped by the media center on Saturday, after rain washed our NASCAR Cup Series qualifying and put Truex on the outside of the front row, based on final 2019 owner points.

“It was cool to just go down there and see him and make sure he was OK,” Truex said. “Really, Sherry and I just wanted him to know we were there for him if he needed anything. It was cool. It was good to see the good shape he was in. It was a little surprising as well.

“We’re planning fishing trips already, so it was a fun visit to hang out. I’ve been talking to him throughout the week, obviously. He’s doing real good. I feel like he’ll be back before anybody thinks he could. He’s a tough son of a gun. He’s in good spirits and hanging out with his family, so he’s doing well.”

Truex didn’t have any qualms, though, about some playful ribbing of his friend.

“He’s got no neck and a big hard head, so that helps for sure,” Truex said. “I told him this week he’s lucky he’s such a hard-headed son of a gun. All those things, and God was riding with him. What else can you say? It was a scary wreck, for sure. Hopefully, we don’t have to worry about things like that, for sure. We just have to figure out ways to keep the cars on the ground.”

 

KEVIN HARVICK ISSUES CHALLENGE TO KYLE BUSCH’S DOMINATION IN TRUCKS

With seeming ease, Kyle Busch won Friday night’s Strat 200 NASCAR Gander RV & Outdoors Truck Series race at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. It was Busch’s seventh straight victory in as many starts in his own trucks.

But when fans on Twitter decried the reigning NASCAR Cup champion’s moonlighting in the Gander Truck Series, fellow Cup champ Kevin Harvick came to his defense, offering a $50,000 bounty if any driver could beat Busch in any of his four remaining truck races this year (Atlanta, Homestead, Texas and Kansas).

The rules are simple. The Cup driver has to beat Busch fair and square, without wrecking him.

Marcus Lemonis, owner of the series sponsor, chimed in with an offer to match Harvick’s $50,000. Naturally enough, Busch wanted to know what he would get if he kept the competition at bay for all four races.

“If you put money on a bounty on somebody, then bad things tend to happen,” Busch said. “Make it whatever you want. It doesn’t matter to me. I’ve got great stuff, I’m a good driver—bring it.”

Harvick later tweeted that, if Busch wins the challenge, he would donate the $50,000 to the Bundle of Joy Fund founded by Busch and his wife Samantha to help couples who are having difficulty conceiving children.

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