Saturday, October 7, 2017

NASCAR Dream Season: "Intimidator" goes back-to-back


The Folds of Honor/Quik Trip 500, now the second race of the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series season, has a long and interesting history.

It was first run on October 30, 1960, as the Atlanta 500; Bobby Johns was the race winner.  From 1975 until 2000, it was the last race of the year, and sometimes - most notably the 1992 Hooters 500 - it decided the series champion.  The 2001 race was to be last, but it was supplanted by a race at what is now New Hampshire Motor Speedway due to a delay resulting from the September 11 attacks.  In 2002, it was moved up a few weeks as Homestead-Miami Speedway became the season-ending site.

From 2004 to '08, it was part of what was then called the Chase, and from 2009 to '14 it was held on Labor Day weekend.

Since 2015, it has been the second race of the entire season, in about the same part of the schedule as another race day which AMS lost in the 2010-11 offseason in favor of Kentucky Speedway, which was new to the Cup series.

February 25
Atlanta Motor Speedway
500.5 miles/325 laps (stages: 85, 85, 155)

For this running, Cale Yarborough won the pole.  Before the race, the command was given by Jimmy and Rosalyn Carter, former President and First Lady of the United States.  Carter was picked for two big reasons: he served in the U.S. Navy during World War II, fitting in with the military charity Folds of Honor; and he once sold tickets at AMS.

A.J. Foyt caused the first caution when the engine blew on lap 26.  A four-car crash including 1950s stars Lee Petty and Herb Thomas also occurred in stage 1, which Dale Earnhardt won.

Stage 2 included both another crash - which claimed mainstays Jeff Burton and Kenny Wallace - and a round of green-flag pit stops.  Earnhardt won this stage as well.

A crash in stage 3 took out four more cars, two of which were champions from Wisconsin - Matt Kenseth (2003) and Alan Kulwicki (1992). Finally, Tony Stewart lost a front tire, skidded across half the backstretch, and Neil Bonnett could not escape the skidding car.

That last caution came with seven laps to go, forcing teams to decide whether to pit or not.  Earnhardt, Tim Richmond, and Bill Elliott decided to stay out, while Jeff Gordon and Bobby Labonte among others decided to pit.  However, staying out proved to the winning call in the final three-lap segment.  The seven-time champion won the race and swept all the prizes on this day!




Tim Richmond finished a surprising second.  He never won at AMS and had an average finish of 16.71, nowhere near the top of the list.  Dave Marcis (average finish: 21.32) managed an eighth-place run.  On the other hand, three-time winner Neil Bonnett and Kenseth (average finish: 10.76) finished closer to the bottom of the pack.

Top 10 after stage 1: Dale Earnhardt, Richard Petty, Jimmie Johnson, Bobby Labonte, Jeff Gordon, Bill Elliott, Neil Bonnett, David Pearson, Mark Martin, Bobby Allison
Top 10 after stage 2: Dale Earnhardt, Matt Kenseth, Jimmie Johnson, Richard Petty, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Alan Kulwicki, Cale Yarborough, Dale Jarrett, Jeff Gordon, Bobby Allison


Full-field results with point totals:
  1. Dale Earnhardt - #3 Nationwide Chevrolet - 60
  2. Tim Richmond - #25 Farmers Insurance Chevrolet - 35
  3. Bill Elliott - #9 Cessna Chevrolet - 39
  4. David Pearson - #21 Motorcraft Ford - 36
  5. Cale Yarborough - #11 FedEx Toyota - 36
  6. Jimmie Johnson - #48 Lowe's Chevrolet - 47
  7. Dale Jarrett - #88 UPS Ford - 33
  8. Dave Marcis - #31 Caterpillar Chevrolet - 29
  9. Richard Petty - #43 STP Ford - 44
  10. Mark Martin - #6 Advocare Ford - 29
  11. Bobby Labonte - #18 M&M's Toyota - 33
  12. Jeff Gordon - #24 AARP Drive to End Hunger Chevrolet - 33
  13. Dale Earnhardt, Jr. - #8 Budweiser Folds of Honor Chev. - 30
  14. Tim Flock - #38 Love's Truck Stops Ford - 23
  15. Fireball Roberts - #78 Furniture Row Chevrolet -22
  16. Davey Allison - #28 Havoline/Chevron Ford - 21
  17. Ricky Rudd - #10 GoDaddy Chevrolet - 20
  18. Buck Baker - #2 Miller High Life Ford - 19
  19. Ned Jarrett - #16 KFC Ford - 18
  20. Bobby Allison - #12 Mobil 1 Ford - 19
  21. Terry Labonte - #5 Kellogg's Chevrolet - 16
  22. Kurt Busch - #97 John Deere Ford - 15
  23. Darrell Waltrip - #17 DeWalt Toyota - 14
  24. Tony Stewart - #20 The Home Depot Toyota - 13
  25. Neil Bonnett - #1 Shell/Pennzoil Chevrolet - 16
  26. Benny Parsons - #41 Target Chevrolet - 11
  27. Buddy Baker - #00 Haas Automation Chevrolet - 10
  28. Matt Kenseth - #34 Dockside Logistics Ford - 18
  29. Joe Weatherly - #4 Outback Steakhouse Chevrolet - 8
  30. Harry Gant - #33 Dow Chemical Chevrolet - 7
  31. Alan Kulwicki - #7 WRL Construction Chevrolet - 11
  32. Sterling Marlin - #13 Geico Chevrolet - 5
  33. Jeff Burton - #99 Xfinity X1 Ford - 4
  34. Rusty Wallace - #27 AutoTrader Ford - 3
  35. Lee Petty - #42 Kroger ClickList Ford - 2
  36. Kenny Wallace - #15 NAPA Chevrolet - 1
  37. Curtis Turner - #40 Ol' Smoky Moonshine Chevrolet - 1
  38. Adam Petty - #44 Bubba Burger Ford - 1
  39. Herb Thomas - #23 Dr Pepper Toyota - 1
  40. A.J. Foyt - #14 Jimmy John's Chevrolet - 1

Top 16 in points after this race:
  1. Dale Earnhardt - 118 (2 wins)
  2. Richard Petty - 90
  3. Dale Earnhardt, Jr. - 85
  4. Jeff Gordon - 82
  5. Bill Elliott - 81
  6. Cale Yarborough - 81
  7. Jimmie Johnson - 77
  8. David Pearson - 73
  9. Tim Richmond - 63
  10. Dale Jarrett - 58
  11. Davey Allison - 56
  12. Dave Marcis - 55
  13. Ned Jarrett - 50
  14. Kurt Busch - 48
  15. Bobby Allison - 48
  16. Fireball Roberts - 44

Saturday, September 30, 2017

NASCAR Dream Season: Kyle Busch ends disappointing day

The back half of the Atlanta Motor Speedway doubleheader on Saturday, February 24 was the Camping World Truck Series' Active Pest Control 200.  This race was first run in 2004, discontinued in 2012, then restored in 2015.

February 24
Atlanta Motor Speedway
200.2 miles/130 laps (stages: 40, 40, 50)

In the end, the Dream Season version of this event also proved to be the back end of a bummer day for future NASCAR Hall of Famer Kyle Busch, who finished second - again.

Minutes after finishing "first loser" to Brad Keselowski in the Xfinity Series race, he climbed into the #51 Toyota Tundra he "leased back" to former owner Billy Ballew.  He took the lead from pole-sitter Kasey Kahne on lap 19 and hung on through the end of the first stage on lap 40.  Jack Sprague was kept on the track during the break and led the race on the restart.

The first major incident was on lap 48, when James Buescher (2012 champion) cut a tire and took John Wes Townley and Scott Riggs out with him.  Busch won stage 2 as well when the pit stops cycled through.

Stage 3 again saw a new leader when it went green, but this time it was due to Justin Allgaier winning the race off pit road.  However, Busch quickly regained the lead; in fact, he would lead 90 of the 130 laps in the race.

But - and I think you know where this is going - none of those laps were the last one.  That's because the truck Busch drove got looser and looser as the run progressed, enough for Matt Crafton, two-time champion and record holder for most career starts in NCWTS history, to make the pass with seven laps to go.  Crafton would go on to replicate his victory from 2015.

"Frankly, I don't know where it all went wrong for me," Busch would have said afterwards.  "Some things are meant to be, and unfortunately for me this whole day was not among them."

Busch's stage wins were based on three career wins and an incredible average finish of 1.80.

Two crashes on laps 94 and 113 during stage 3 ended the day for eight drivers.

Top 10 after stage 1: Kyle Busch, Ron Hornaday, Todd Bodine, Mike Skinner, Matt Crafton, Bobby Hamilton, David Reutimann, Timothy Peters, Dennis Setzer, Travis Kvapil
Top 10 after stage 2: Kyle Busch, Todd Bodine, Timothy Peters, Matt Crafton, Brendan Gaughan, Ron Hornaday, Mike Skinner, Johnny Sauter, Travis Kvapil



Final full-field results with point totals
  1. Matt Crafton - #88 Menards Toyota - 53
  2. Kyle Busch - #51 CertainTeed Toyota - 0*
  3. Travis Kvapil - #77 SafeLite Auto Glass Toyota - 37
  4. Todd Bodine - #13 Ride TV Toyota - 50
  5. Kurt Busch - #2 LTi Printing Ford - 0*
  6. Kasey Kahne - #21 Allegiant Air Chevrolet - 31
  7. Justin Allgaier - #19 Draw-Tite Ford - 30
  8. Joey Logano - #29 Cooper Standard Ford - 29
  9. Kyle Larson - #12 Georgia Tech Chevrolet - 28
  10. Mike Skinner - #5 Edelbrock Ford - 38
  11. David Reutimann - #18 Aaron's Toyota - 30
  12. Timothy Peters - #17 Red Horse Racing Toyota - 36
  13. Darrell Wallace, Jr. - #4 Sirius XM Toyota - 24
  14. Ryan Blaney - #66 Blue Gate Bank Ford - 23
  15. Ron Hornaday - #33 Smoky Mountain Snuff Ford - 36
  16. Erik Jones - #16 Great Wolf Lodge Toyota - 21
  17. Mike Wallace - #50 BB&T Chevrolet - 0*
  18. Jack Sprague - #7 Red Horse Racing Toyota - 20
  19. Johnny Sauter - #23 Allegiant Air Chevrolet - 21
  20. Jason Leffler - #83 Tom Johnson's RV/MRN Chevrolet - 17
  21. Scott Riggs - #52 Ford Credit Ford - 16
  22. Brendan Gaughan - #62 South Point Hotel & Casino Chevrolet - 21
  23. Bobby Hamilton - #98 Square D Toyota - 19
  24. Reed Sorenson - #02 Young Motorsports Chevrolet - 13
  25. David Ragan - #63 Mittler Racing Chevrolet - 12
  26. Regan Smith - #8 DAB Construction Chevrolet - 11
  27. Dennis Setzer - #44 TMM Chevrolet - 12
  28. John Wes Townley - #1 Zaxby's Ford - 9
  29. James Buescher - #92 Black's Tire Service Chevrolet - 8
  30. Jennifer Jo Cobb - #10 Racegirl Ford - 7
  31. Cale Gale - #99 Stone Mountain Park Chevrolet - 6
  32. Joe Ruttman - #49 Schwan's Ford - 5
*Driver not eligible for points

Top 8 in points after this race
  1. Todd Bodine - 89
  2. Matt Crafton - 85 (1 win)
  3. Ron Hornaday - 76
  4. Timothy Peters - 74
  5. Mike Skinner - 71
  6. Joey Logano - 69 (1 win)
  7. Bobby Hamilton - 64
  8. David Reutimann - 62
Race statistics
Pole winner: Kasey Kahne, 177.873 mph
Race speed: 130.397 mph
Margin of victory: 0.402 seconds
Time of race: 1 hr., 32 min., 7 sec.
Cautions: 6 for 29 laps
Lead changes: 7 among 5 drivers

Saturday, September 23, 2017

Xfinity Series Rinnai 250 at Atlanta Motor Speedway

In 2015, Atlanta Motor Speedway president Ed Clark launched a new idea for his racetrack: placing both the Xfinity and Camping World Truck series races on the same day.  As it turns out, it's the Saturday after the Daytona 500, meaning that there's another occasion for all three of NASCAR's top series to get together.

Up first was the Xfinity Series Rinnai 250.  The series has raced at AMS every year, once a year, since 1992.  Jeff Gordon - driving the #1 Baby Ruth Ford for Bill Davis - was the winner of that race; months later, he would sign with Rick Hendrick and make his Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series debut on the same track.  Carl Edwards won the 2005 event for his first career win, which he would back up with his first career Cup win the next day - still the only time that has ever occurred.  Kevin Harvick (2013-15) and Kyle Busch (2016-17) are the only race winners in the last five years.

And it was Harvick who was the only leader of this dream race early on; he led the first 48 laps, including all 40 in the first stage (based on his series-high four NXS wins at Atlanta).  Busch took over the lead on the second-stage restart.  That stage had only one caution, as Joe Nemechek spun off turn two on lap 69.  The leaders came down for the pit stops, and there Brad Keselowski beat Busch off, and held on to win stage two.  ("Brad K" has never won at AMS in the series, but his average of 6.17 as of the 2016 race was good enough to be best among all qualifiers.)

Top 10 after stage 1: Kevin Harvick, Matt Kenseth, Carl Edwards, Jamie McMurray, Kyle Busch, Greg Biffle, Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Joe Nemechek, Johnny Benson, Michael Waltrip
Top 10 after stage 2: Brad Keselowski, Carl Edwards, Kevin Harvick, Matt Kenseth, Greg Biffle, Kyle Busch, Brian Scott, Paul Menard, Jamie McMurray, Clint Bowyer



A four-car crash early in stage 3 took out 1996 and '97 series champion Johnny Benson and teammate J.J. Yeley among others.  Keselowski, meanwhile, passed Busch for the lead with 17 laps to go and held on for the win.  However, Harvick's consistent day gave him the most points among all drivers.  Bobby Labonte finished third for Joe Gibbs Racing.

Past champs Austin Dillon and Martin Truex, Jr. were among those caught speeding on pit road, thereby costing them potential good finishes.

Final race results with point totals:
  1. #22 Brad Keselowski - Discount Tire Ford - 50
  2. #18 Kyle Busch - GameStop Toyota - 46
  3. #11 Bobby Labonte - AXE Body Spray Toyota - 0*
  4. #2 Kevin Harvick - Hunt Brothers Pizza Chevrolet - 51
  5. #7 Geoffrey Bodine - Brandt Chevrolet - 32
  6. #60 Carl Edwards - Arris Ford - 48
  7. #5 Brian Vickers - Armour Meats Chevrolet - 30
  8. #43 Adam Petty - Smithfield Foods Ford - 0*
  9. #20 Denny Hamlin - Hisense 4K Toyota - 28
  10. #33 Paul Menard - Menards/Dutch Boy Chevrolet - 30
  11. #55 Clint Bowyer - Aaron's "Lucky Dog" Toyota - 27
  12. #21 Austin Dillon - Bass Pro Shops Chevrolet - 25
  13. #42 Jamie McMurray - ENEOS Chevrolet - 33
  14. #16 Greg Biffle - Leidos Ford - 34
  15. #6 Ricky Stenhouse, Jr. - Roush Performance Ford - 26
  16. #48 Randy LaJoie - DC Solar Chevrolet - 21
  17. #99 Michael Waltrip - Aaron's "Dream Machine" Toyota - 21
  18. #98 Matt Kenseth - Resers Meats Ford - 0*
  19. #01 Elliott Sadler - FlexSeal Chevrolet - 18
  20. #88 Mike Wallace - Hellman's Chevrolet - 17
  21. #1 Martin Truex, Jr. - OneMain Financial Chevrolet - 16
  22. #52 Chase Elliott - Emory Healthcare Chevrolet - 15
  23. #24 Buckshot Jones - Can-Am/BRP Toyota - 14
  24. #87 Joe Nemechek - Leaf Filters Chevrolet - 16
  25. #8 Kenny Wallace - MillionThanks.org Chevrolet - 0*
  26. #32 Brian Scott -  Shore Lodge Chevrolet - 15
  27. #14 J.J. Yeley - Owens-Corning Toyota - 10
  28. #39 Rob Moroso - ZombieAuto.com Chevrolet - 9
  29. #44 Johnny Benson - Johnsonville Toyota - 10
  30. #51 Jack Ingram - RepairableVehicles.com Chevrolet - 7
  31. #40 Jeff Green - Nutrition for Life Dodge - 6
  32. #78 Bobby Hamilton, Jr. - McLeod Motorsports Chevrolet - 5
  33. #0 Sam Ard - JD Motorsports Chevrolet - 4
  34. #90 Bill Rexford - Boomershine Auto Chevrolet - 3
  35. #28 David Green - WinField United Toyota - 2
  36. #4 Jimmy Spencer - FlexSeal Chevrolet - 1
  37. #74 Bobby Isaac - Mike Harmon Racing Dodge - 1
  38. #13 Ricky Craven - Long Motorsports Dodge - 1
  39. #07 Chuck Bown - Sea Life Chevrolet - 1
  40. #93 Jeff Purvis - Sieg Motorsports Chevrolet - 1
*Driver ineligible for points in this race
Top 12 in points after this race
  1. Kevin Harvick - 100
  2. Brad Keselowski - 84
  3. Geoffrey Bodine - 73
  4. Carl Edwards - 72
  5. Clint Bowyer - 62
  6. Greg Biffle - 61
  7. Kyle Busch - 59
  8. Michael Waltrip - 56
  9. Austin Dillon - 55
  10. Paul Menard - 55
  11. Denny Hamlin - 54
  12. Chase Elliott - 49
The second half will be in the next post.

Sunday, September 17, 2017

NASCAR dream season Daytona 500

Now for the post that you've all been waiting for.

Since the opening of Daytona International Speedway in 1959, the Daytona 500 has become the greatest race in the stock car world, and the Harley J. Earl Trophy perhaps the greatest individual trophy.  A win makes a career; multiple wins make a legend.

The moments make the ultimate highlight reel: Lee Petty's win in the first race, confirmed only by photo finish; the 1976 collision in which David Pearson outlasted Richard Petty; the first national telecast in 1979 and the post-race fight; Ned Jarrett's emotional reaction after his son Dale won the 1993 race; Dale Earnhardt's highly popular breakthrough victory in 1998; Michael Waltrip's first career win on the day Earnhardt was killed in 2001; Kevin Harvick's narrow win and last-lap crash behind in 2007; Denny Hamlin winning the closest finish ever in 2016; Kurt Busch's first win as "old man" Tony Gibson acted like a little boy in 2017.

For the race I'm running, the field includes 20 drivers who have won 43 of the 59 races held to date.  Of those, 12 have won more than once.

I would book Garth Brooks for the pre-show entertainment concert, Carrie Underwood for the national anthem, and as grand marshals I would hire Bill France Sr., Bill France Jr., and Junior Johnson.  The Frances and Johnson were three of the five members of the inaugural class of the NASCAR Hall of Fame.  The other two - Richard Petty and Dale Earnhardt - will drive in the race.

This looks like an awesome race, so let's drop the green flag on this one.

February 18
Daytona International Speedway
500 miles/200 laps (stages: 60, 60, 80)

Mark Martin, who once lived in Daytona Beach, was the pole sitter at 193.021 miles per hour; he went on to lead the first nine laps before Earnhardt's stalking efforts led to the first lead change.  Jeff Gordon passed Earnhardt on lap 16; three circuits later came the first caution when Tim Flock brought a cut tire to pit road.  The next caution came for debris on lap 45, by which time there were four more lead changes.  The lead changed hands twice more before Richard Petty completed a dramatic comeback from 16th to 1st to win stage 1.  (This was based on Petty's seven Daytona 500 wins, more than any other driver.)

A.J. Foyt stayed out to lead at the start of stage 2.  On lap 78, Harry Gant cut a tire and slammed into Adam Petty on the superstretch.  Then Jimmie Johnson spun off turn 2 to cause the race's fifth caution.  A wide variety of drivers led throughout the stage, including Gordon, Tony Stewart, and Davey Allison; however, Fred Lorenzen had a remarkable 46-lap run on fuel and had just enough to win stage 2.  (Lorenzen had an average finish of 6.91, best of all of those in the field with at least six starts.)

Stage 1 top 10: Richard Petty, Cale Yarborough, Bobby Allison, Jeff Gordon, Dale Jarrett, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Bill Elliott, Sterling Marlin, Jimmie Johnson, Michael Waltrip
Stage 2 top 10: Fred Lorenzen, Ned Jarrett, Dale Earnhardt, Earnhardt Jr., Elliott, Terry Labonte, Petty, Benny Parsons, David Pearson, Davey Allison

Lap 144 brought the track's dreaded "big one" in which 18 cars sustained at least some damage.  It began when 1975 winner Benny Parsons lost a right front tire.  When some other cars checked up, they were all brought together into the same narrow spot, with the usual bad consequences.  Among the stars who ended with wrecked cars: Martin, Stewart, Darrell Waltrip, Bobby Allison, Neil Bonnett, Jeff Burton, and Matt Kenseth.  The race was stopped for some 28 minutes.

Once everyone came back, Dale Earnhardt Jr. and then Kurt Busch and Davey Allison asserted themselves as the front-runners.  But on lap 190, Earnhardt used the slingshot to take over the lead for the fourth time - and the last.

On the anniversary of the day he was killed in this very race, I have Dale Earnhardt as the winner of this mythical special event.  What's more, Dale Jr. came home in second place.  In third place was Davey Allison; his crew chief that day would be Larry McReynolds, the same one who led "the Intimidator" to victory in '98.

Kurt Busch and Jeff Gordon rounded out the top five, while Michael Waltrip surprised with a sixth-place finish for a part-time team.  Richard Petty finished eighth, Jimmie Johnson 12th, and Lorenzen came home 19th.

Earnhardt would have been the first driver to win the Advance Auto Parts Clash, his race at the Can-Am Duel, and the Daytona 500 in the same year.

Full-field rundown with point totals
  1. #3 Dale Earnhardt - Nationwide Chevrolet - 48
  2. #8 Dale Earnhardt, Jr. - Budweiser Chevrolet - 47
  3. #28 Davey Allison - Havoline Ford - 35
  4. #97 Kurt Busch - Monster Energy Ford - 33
  5. #24 Jeff Gordon - Axalta Chevrolet - 39
  6. #51 Michael Waltrip - Seminole Hard Rock Toyota - 0*
  7. #21 David Pearson - Motorcraft Ford - 32
  8. #43 Richard Petty - STP Ford - 43
  9. #25 Tim Richmond - Farmers Insurance Chevrolet - 26
  10. #11 Cale Yarborough - FedEx Toyota - 36
  11. #31 Dave Marcis - Caterpillar Chevrolet - 26
  12. #48 Jimmie Johnson - Lowe's Chevrolet - 27
  13. #9 Bill Elliott - McDonald's Chevrolet - 34
  14. #16 Ned Jarrett - KFC Ford - 32
  15. #4 Joe Weatherly - Outback Steakhouse Chevrolet - 22
  16. #42 Lee Petty - Kroger ClickList Ford - 21
  17. #5 Terry Labonte - Kellogg's Chevrolet - 25
  18. #88 Dale Jarrett - UPS Ford - 25
  19. #98 Fred Lorenzen - Florida Lottery Ford - 28
  20. #78 Fireball Roberts - Furniture Row Chevrolet - 17
  21. #2 Buck Baker - Miller Lite Ford - 16
  22. #13 Sterling Marlin - Geico Chevrolet - 18
  23. #10 Ricky Rudd - GoDaddy Chevrolet - 14
  24. #7 Alan Kulwicki - Golden Corral Chevrolet - 13
  25. #12 Bobby Allison - Mobil 1 Ford - 20
  26. #1 Neil Bonnett - Shell/Pennzoil Chevrolet - 11
  27. #14 A.J. Foyt - ABC Supply Chevrolet - 10
  28. #27 Rusty Wallace - AAA Ford - 9
  29. #15 Kenny Wallace - NAPA Chevrolet 8
  30. #18 Bobby Labonte - M&M's Toyota - 7
  31. #41 Benny Parsons - Target Chevrolet - 9
  32. #38 Tim Flock - Camping World Ford - 5
  33. #00 Buddy Baker - Haas Automation Chevrolet - 4
  34. #34 Matt Kenseth - Dockside Logistics Ford - 3
  35. #17 Darrell Waltrip - Tide Toyota - 2
  36. #20 Tony Stewart - The Home Depot Toyota - 1
  37. #6 Mark Martin - Valvoline/Walmart Ford - 1
  38. #99 Jeff Burton - Exide Ford - 1
  39. #33 Harry Gant - Dow Chemicals Chevrolet - 1
  40. #44 Adam Petty - Bush's Baked Beans Ford - 1
*Not eligible for points

Top 16 in points (this includes Duel races as well as the Daytona 500)
  1. Dale Earnhardt - 58
  2. Dale Earnhardt, Jr. - 55
  3. Jeff Gordon - 49
  4. Richard Petty - 46
  5. Cale Yarborough - 45
  6. Bill Elliott - 42
  7. David Pearson - 37
  8. Davey Allison - 35
  9. Kurt Busch - 33
  10. Ned Jarrett - 32
  11. Jimmie Johnson - 30
  12. Bobby Allison - 29
  13. Tim Richmond - 28
  14. Fred Lorenzen - 28
  15. Dave Marcis - 26
  16. Terry Labonte - 26
Additional statistics
Pole winner and speed: Mark Martin, 193.121 mph
Race speed: 152.853 mph
Margin of victory: 0.339 seconds
Time of race: 3 hr., 16 min., 16 sec.
Cautions: 9 for 40 laps
Lead changes: 28 among 16 drivers

B.W. comments: "This is an awesome thing.  Dale Earnhardt was one of my favorite drivers growing up, and he is part of the family that is the very reason I and so many others watch NASCAR today.  And for this to happen on the anniversary that killed him is sweeter than I can describe.  Even in a small, mythical way, it brings joy to the whole racing world."

Saturday, September 16, 2017

NASCAR Dream Season: Camping World Truck Series opener at Daytona

Over the last few years, the Camping World Truck Series has emerged as a mix between veteran drivers wanting a second chance at glory and young up-and-comers making names for themselves.  And that's definitely true here.

I placed Kasey Kahne, who has only a handful of starts in this series, in version 1.0 and he won the title!  He's back to defend, joined by current Cup stars Joey Logano, Kyle Larson, David Ragan, and Erik Jones; truck veterans Matt Crafton, Ron Hornaday, Brendan Gaughan, Darrell Wallace Jr., and Timothy Peters; and past series champions Mike Skinner, Jack Sprague, and the late Bobby Hamilton.

Their first test was the season-opening NextEra Energy Resources 250, which Daytona first put on in 2000.  Thrilling moments include the scary crash that literally cut a truck (driven by Geoffrey Bodine) in half in that first race, Carl Edwards' first national-level win in 2003, and Kaz Grala's triumph in 2017 which made him the youngest winner in the track's history.

February 16
Daytona International Speedway
250 miles, 100 laps (stages: 20, 20, 60)

But the race I put on would be nothing like any ever seen before.

For one thing, two drivers who started at the back of the field would take just 20 laps - the length of the first stage - to roar into the top 10!  Those would be Joe Ruttman (4th based on his win in the 2001 race) and Ted Musgrave (a past race runner-up who finished seventh).  Sweeping stages 1 and 2 would be Todd Bodine (2-time race winner, tied with Johnny Sauter who I left out of the starting field; and an average finish of 6.11 in nine starts).

Top 10 after stage 1: Todd Bodine, Timothy Peters, Bobby Hamilton, Joe Ruttman, Jack Sprague, Travis Kvapil, Ted Musgrave, Erik Jones, Ron Hornaday, Mike Wallace
Top 10 after stage 2: Bodine, Peters, Kvapil, Matt Crafton, Hamilton, Sprague, James Buescher, Hornaday, Musgrave, Wallace

The biggest accident came on lap 36 and involved six trucks, including Ruttman and past champs Jones and James Buescher.  Larson slid off the track and onto the backstretch on lap 93; collected were former three-time
Cup champion Tony Stewart and former Formula One driver Nelson Piquet, Jr.

The last lap was wild.  Bodine and Timothy Peters (second in both stages) battled for the lead, but both ran out of gas just seconds after each other in that order.  Just off turn 3, Logano took over the lead and won the race!  As he could not earn stage points due to him not having any previous starts in the truck series at Daytona, Logano needed all the race points he could get - and got them!

Full-field rundown with point totals
  1. #29 Joey Logano - Cooper Standard Ford - 40
  2. #33 Ron Hornaday - Smoky Mountain Snuff Chevrolet - 40
  3. #75 Austin Dillon - Food Country USA Chevrolet - 0*
  4. #5 Mike Skinner - Wauters Motorsports Ford - 33
  5. #18 David Reutimann - Nintendo Switch Toyota - 32
  6. #98 Bobby Hamilton - Square D Toyota - 45
  7. #63 David Ragan - Bommarito Chevrolet - 30
  8. #19 Justin Allgaier - Draw-Tite Toyota - 29
  9. #52 Scott Riggs - VisitOrlando.com Ford - 28
  10. #21 Kasey Kahne - Allegiant Air Chevrolet - 27
  11. #2 Mike Bliss - SKF Ford - 26
  12. #88 Matt Crafton - Menards/Goof-Off Toyota - 32
  13. #4 Darrell Wallace, Jr. - JBL Toyota - 24
  14. #7 Jack Sprague - Red Horse Toyota - 34
  15. #66 Ryan Blaney - Herbalife Toyota - 22
  16. #50 Mike Wallace - BB&T Chevrolet - 0*
  17. #17 Timothy Peters - SiriusXM Toyota - 38
  18. #13 Todd Bodine - Maroone Auto Group Toyota - 39
  19. #12 Kyle Larson - UNOH Chevrolet - 18
  20. #51 Tony Stewart - Rush Truck Centers Toyota - 0*
  21. #22 Nelson Piquet, Jr. - Petrobras Chevrolet - 16
  22. #02 Reed Sorenson - Young Motorsports Chevrolet - 15
  23. #74 Ted Musgrave - Mike Harmon Racing Dodge - 20
  24. #83 Jason Leffler - Fanatics Toyota - 13
  25. #23 Scott Lagasse, Jr. - Allegiant Air Chevrolet - 0*
  26. #16 Erik Jones - AISIN Toyota - 14
  27. #49 Joe Ruttman - LoanMart.com Chevrolet - 17
  28. #77 Travis Kvapil - SafeLite Auto Toyota - 22
  29. #92 James Buescher - Black's Tire Service Chevrolet - 12
  30. #62 Brendan Gaughan - South Point Chevrolet - 7
  31. #8 Regan Smith - Death Wish Coffee Chevrolet -  6
  32. #28 Steve Park - FDNY Foundation Chevrolet - 5
*Not eligible for points

Top 8 in points after this race
  1. Bobby Hamilton - 45
  2. Joey Logano - 40
  3. Ron Hornaday - 40
  4. Todd Bodine - 39
  5. Timothy Peters - 38
  6. Jack Sprague - 34
  7. Mike Skinner - 33
  8. David Reutimann - 32
Additional statistics
Pole winner and speed: Kasey Kahne, 179.623 mph
Race speed: 132.182 mph
Margin of victory: 0.425 seconds
Time of race: 1 hr., 53 min., 28 sec.
Cautions: 8 for 32 laps
Lead changes: 11 among 6 drivers

NASCAR Dream Season: Xfinity opener at Daytona

Don't worry, race fans.  In due course, I will get to the outcome of my redone "Great American Race," the Daytona 500.  But right now, it's on to the races the track holds on the two days before that.

With the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series field dominated by returning drivers, the two series just below it on the NASCAR rung are filled with the millennial drivers that succeeded them at the top of the stock-car racing world.  The Xfinity Series slogan is "names are made here," and this is definitely true for the drivers I have committed to full seasons.  Consider these career numbers for some of them, in that series alone:
  • Kyle Busch - 91 wins (most in series history), champion in 2008
  • Kevin Harvick - 46 wins, champion in 2001 and '07
  • Carl Edwards - 38 wins, champion in 2007
  • Brad Keselowski - 36 wins, champion in 2010
  • Denny Hamlin - 17 wins
  • Martin Truex, Jr. - 13 wins, champion in 2004 and '05
And that's not accounting for what has happened to them since.  Busch, Harvick, and Keselowski are also past season champions in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series, and Truex Jr. is the favorite to win it all in 2017.

Oh, and another two-time champion, Ricky Stenhouse Jr., is only a part-timer in my scenario!

I have also added returnees like Brian Vickers, Jimmy Spencer, Elliott Sadler, Michael Waltrip, Jeff Green, and Adam Petty to the mix.  Finally, there are the earliest stars of the series, including NASCAR Hall of Famer Jack Ingram.

All of that will make Saturday afternoons as exciting as Sunday afternoons most weeks for the next nine months.

February 17
Daytona International Speedway
300 miles/120 laps (stages: 30, 30, 60)

It all began with the PowerShares QQQ 300, heir to a racing tradition that began with the series' first-ever race on Feb. 13, 1982.  Dale Earnhardt won that event, and I have his son Dale Earnhardt Jr. as the winner here, just as in the first version.  Here's how it happened:

Kyle Busch won the pole but faded back quickly as he lost the draft about halfway through the first 30-lap stage.  Tony Stewart came from the sixth starting position to win stage 1; that win was based on his seven February wins, which is tied with the elder Earnhardt for the most all-time.

On lap 49, Wendell Scott - the only black driver to win a top-series race and another member of the Hall of Fame - cut a tire and three other drivers (including Trevor Bayne, the youngest winner in Daytona 500 history) were caught up in the wreck, ending their days.  Geoffrey Bodine somehow maneuvered his way to the green-white-checkered flag to capture stage 2.  (That was based on his average finish of 2.63; all eight of his NXS finishes were in the top five.)

Top 10 after stage 1: Tony Stewart, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Randy LaJoie, Geoffrey Bodine, Kevin Harvick, Matt Kenseth, Joe Nemechek, Chase Elliott, Michael Waltrip, Carl Edwards
Top 10 after stage 2: Bodine, Harvick, Stewart, Kenseth, Clint Bowyer, Earnhardt Jr., LaJoie, Edwards, Brad Keselowski, Kenny Wallace

More bad wrecks followed: Brian Scott and Randy LaJoie side-drafted and found the superstretch wall together on lap 78.  Then came two huge wrecks, which each caused red-flag delays.  In the first, on lap 96, Busch lost a front tire and nine drivers, including Busch, Matt Kenseth, and Jamie McMurray, saw their races end.  Part two came with seven laps to go: A battle for position between Edwards and Joe Nemechek went horribly wrong, and their collision moved into the vicinity of seven other race cars.  Those included Mark Martin (who held the career win record in this series before Busch), past champs Johnny Benson and David Green, and the late and beloved Adam Petty.

Earnhardt Jr. inherited the lead and chose the inside lane for the restart.  That almost backfired, as Stewart fought hard from the outside, but in the end "Little E" had just enough to take the #3 Wrangler Chevrolet to victory.  Harvick finished third, Waltrip fourth, and Keselowski fifth.




 Full field rundown and point totals
  1. #3 Dale Earnhardt, Jr. - Wrangler Chevrolet - 0*
  2. #11 Tony Stewart - Old Spice Toyota - 0*
  3. #2 Kevin Harvick - Rheem Chevrolet - 49
  4. #99 Michael Waltrip - Aaron's Chevrolet - 35
  5. #22 Brad Keselowski - Siscount Tire Ford - 34
  6. #52 Chase Elliott - Florida Hospital Chevrolet - 34
  7. #21 Austin Dillon - Bass Pro Shops Chevrolet - 30
  8. #55 Clint Bowyer - 5 Hour Energy Toyota - 35
  9. #78 Michael McDowell - K-LOVE Chevrolet - 28
  10. #16 Greg Biffle - Leidos Ford - 27
  11. #20 Denny Hamlin - Hisense 4K Toyota -  26
  12. #33 Paul Menard - Menards Chevrolet - 25
  13. #7 Geoffrey Bodine - Brandt Chevrolet - 41
  14. #87 Joe Nemechek - Leaf Filters Chevrolet - 27
  15. #88 Mike Wallace - HendrickAuto.com Chevrolet - 22
  16. #1 Martin Truex, Jr. - OneMain Financial Chevrolet - 21
  17. #60 Carl Edwards - Arris Ford - 24
  18. #8 Kenny Wallace - Alert Today Florida Chevrolet - 0*
  19. #6 Mark Martin - Sam's Club Ford - 0*
  20. #43 Adam Petty - Smithfield Foods Ford - 0*
  21. #5 Brian Vickers - Pilot Truck Stops Chevrolet - 16
  22. #44 Johnny Benson - Spectrum Toyota - 15
  23. #28 David Green - WinField United Toyota - 14
  24. #18 Kyle Busch - NOS Energy Toyota - 13
  25. #98 Matt Kenseth - Fresh From Florida Ford - 0
  26. #93 Bobby Gerhart - Sieg Motorsports Chevrolet - 11
  27. #01 Elliott Sadler - JD Motorsports Chevrolet - 10
  28. #42 Jamie McMurray - ENEOS Chevrolet - 9
  29. #14 J.J. Yeley - Tri-Star Motorsports Toyota - 8
  30. #4 Jimmy Spencer - FlexSeal Chevrolet - 7
  31. #90 Scott Lagasse, Jr. - Nexteer Automotive Chevrolet - 6
  32. #32 Brian Scott - ShoreLodge Chevrolet - 5
  33. #48 Randy LaJoie - DC Solar Chevrolet - 16
  34. #39 Rob Moroso - CarShield Chevrolet - 3
  35. #40 Jeff Green - Long Motorsports Dodge - 2
  36. #24 Trevor Bayne - Nikko RC/Road Rippers Toyota - 1
  37. #46 Wendell Scott - Bethune-Cookman College Chevrolet - 1
  38. #0 Sam Ard - FlexSeal Chevrolet - 1
  39. #51 Jack Ingram - RepairableVehicles.com Chevrolet - 1
  40. #07 Chuck Bown - Sea Life Chevrolet - 1
Top 12 in points after race 1
  1. Kevin Harvick - 49
  2. Geoffrey Bodine - 41
  3. Michael Waltrip - 35
  4. Clint Bowyer - 35
  5. Brad Keselowski - 34
  6. Chase Elliott - 34
  7. Austin Dillon - 30
  8. Michael McDowell - 28
  9. Greg Biffle - 27
  10. Joe Nemechek - 27
  11. Denny Hamlin - 26
  12. Paul Menard - 25
Additional statistics
Pole winner and speed: Kyle Busch, 180.467 mph
Race speed: 140.354 mph
Margin of victory: 0.226 second
Time of race: 2 hr., 8 min., 15 sec.
Cautions: 8 for 31 laps
Lead changes: 25 among 11 drivers

The Camping World Truck Series opener will be detailed in the next post.

Saturday, September 9, 2017

NASCAR dream season continues with Can-Am Duel at Daytona

Since Daytona International Speedway opened in 1959, the starting lineup for the Daytona 500 has always been determined by two qualifying races.

The original distance for each race was 100 miles, or 40 laps.  In 1969, the races were extended to 125 miles, or 50 laps, and by the 1980s the name "Twin 125s" was adopted which was used until 1997.  In 2005, the races were lengthened again to the current 150 miles, or 60 laps.

From 1959 to '72, these were official races and drivers received full points.  In 2017, points were restored, but only for the top 10 drivers on the same basis as stage points.  No race points were awarded, and the wins were not placed on the drivers' official records.

So how did it go in my dream world?

First, I picked eight drivers (Buddy Baker, Michael Waltrip, Fred Lorenzen, Herb Thomas, Curtis Turner, Derrike Cope, Adam Petty, and Casey Atwood) to join the 36 locked into the field, as explained in the opening post.  I then placed them in 1-to-44 order of what I thought their qualifying laps would be.  Those laps were then transferred into one of two qualifying races, held on the Thursday night of speedweeks.  Here's how each of them would go.

Race 1
Mark Martin, the local resident of Daytona Beach, won a sentimental Daytona 500 pole with a speed of 193.021 mph.  That meant he also led the field to green for the start of this race.

He led the first seven laps before Dale Earnhardt, Jr. took the lead on lap 8.  On lap 18, two-time champion Ned Jarrett spun out off turn 2 and took out Bobby Labonte with him.  Everyone then came down pit road to fill the tank for the expected fuel run to the finish.

Darrell Waltrip used the draft from Cale Yarborough to take over the lead from Dale Earnhardt (the elder) at the halfway mark.  But that didn't last long, as "Junebug" retook the point on lap 38.  But on lap 49, the father got the better of son again and he wouldn't look back.  At the checkered flag, the winner was the king of the Duel (he had 12 wins, including 10 in a row from 1990-99).

Oh, and one more thing: I set this race on February 15, the exact anniversary of the only time "the Intimidator" won the Daytona 500, which was in 1998.  Six years later exactly, Dale Earnhardt Jr. was the race winner.

Full-field rundown with point totals
Dale Earnhardt - 10
Cale Yarborough - 9
Dale Earnhardt, Jr. - 8
Darrell Waltrip - 7
Buddy Baker - 6
Fireball Roberts - 5
Neil Bonnett - 4
Jimmie Johnson - 3
Joe Weatherly - 2
Matt Kenseth - 1
Dale Jarrett - 0
Benny Parsons - 0
Kurt Busch - 0
Ricky Rudd - 0
Bobby Labonte - 0
Harry Gant - 0
Mark Martin - 0
Ned Jarrett - 0
Derrike Cope - 0^
Kenny Wallace - 0
Curtis Turner - 0^
Adam Petty - 0
^Failed to qualify

Pole speed: 193.021 mph
Race speed: 169.201 mph
Margin of victory: 0.358 second
Time of race: 53 min., 11 sec.
Cautions: 2 for 8 laps
Lead changes: 6 among 4 drivers


Race 2
The second race was faster, stranger, and had a more fantastic finish than the first.

It began with a bizarre moment on the second lap.  Thomas, two-time champion of the series in the early 1950s and inducted into the NASCAR Hall of Fame in 2016, pulled off the track just two laps into the race.  Worse yet, he was told by NASCAR officials that he was somehow ineligible to start the Daytona 500!  Needless to say, Thomas was angry and stormed off when FOX tried to interview him.

(This development was based on how I set the finishing order: career records in the qualifiers.  As with the Clash, drivers with the most wins were the race winners, and everyone else finished in order of career wins, followed by best remaining finishes.  Thomas was one of three drivers who never drove in a qualifier, so I had to put him in last place.  Unfortunately, this was contrary to the whole idea that drivers would race their way to either better starting positions or the race itself.  Failing that, Thomas had to have a speed fast enough to back into the event.  But he finished only sixth out of eight, which was not good enough.  The other two with zero attempts did get in: Tim Flock was one of the 36 guaranteed competitors, while Adam Petty [3rd] fell back on his speed when Buddy Baker raced in.  Bottom line: This was an unintended consequence for which I take full responsibility.)

Meanwhile, Tony Stewart used a combination of patience and aggression to grab the lead from Bill Elliott on lap 15.  Davey Allison led three laps (29-31) during a series of green flag pit stops, then Elliott retook the point.

On lap 44 came the only caution, for by far the biggest crash of the night.  Lee Petty cut a tire, and he slid on the superstretch, Buck Baker, Rusty Wallace, Davey Allison, and Tim Richmond went down with him.

Once the race resumed, Elliott continued to dominate.  However, that would end on lap 58, when Jeff Gordon stormed ahead to the front.  On the final lap, Bobby Allison (Davey's father) came up with a full head of steam and challenged for the lead, but it was not enough.  Gordon won by just .008 (eight-thousandths) of a second!

(The close finish reflected Gordon's tiebreaker edge over Allison.  Both had five wins, but Gordon finished second five times, Allison twice.)

Full-field rundown with point totals:
  1. Jeff Gordon
  2. Bobby Allison
  3. Bill Elliott
  4. Tony Stewart
  5. Sterling Marlin
  6. David Pearson
  7. Michael Waltrip
  8. Richard Petty
  9. A.J. Foyt
  10. Terry Labonte
  11. Jeff Burton
  12. Fred Lorenzen
  13. Davey Allison
  14. Dave Marcis
  15. Rusty Wallace
  16. Buck Baker
  17. Alan Kulwicki
  18. Tim Richmond
  19. Lee Petty
  20. Casey Atwood
  21. Tim Flock
  22. Herb Thomas
*Not eligible for points
^Failed to qualify

Pole speed: 192.963 mph
Race speed: 193.173 mph
Margin of victory: 0.010 second
Time of race: 46 min., 35 sec.
Cautions: 1 for 4 laps
Lead changes: 5 among 3 drivers