Tag Archives: Charlotte Motor Speedway

Busch to make All-Star return, receives Chase waiver

Kyle Busch is finally back.

After months of healing and rehabilitation, the Joe Gibbs Racing driver was cleared to return to competition. He is set to make his comeback during Saturday night’s All-Star Race at Charlotte Motor Speedway. The news came Tuesday morning, along with a video Busch posted to Twitter.

The driver broke his leg in the NASCAR XFINITY Series race at Daytona International Speedway, the season-opening race for the second-tier series. After he wrecked, his car went into an inside wall with no SAFER barrier. Busch has been out of a car since that incident, which was nearly three months ago.

NASCAR announced Wednesday morning that Busch will receive a waiver for The Chase, excluding the requirement of starting all regular season races. To make the playoff field, however, Busch needs to win a race and be in the top 30 in the point standings.

“Our decision to grant [Busch] a waiver that allows him to continue running for a championship is one we discussed extensively,” said Steve O’Donnell, NASCAR executive vice president and chief racing development officer, in an official press release. “The spirit of the rule never was designed to punish drivers who are unable to compete due to extenuating circumstances such as recovering from a racing accident.”

This will be a big month for Busch, whose wife Samantha is expecting their first child any day now. The baby boy will add to the emotional resurgence his father is currently weathering.

Welcome back, Kyle Busch.


The Cost of Having at It: Keselowski and Stewart face fines, probation

After numerous incidents following Saturday night’s race at Charlotte Motor Speedway, NASCAR handed down penalties. Tuesday afternoon, which is known as Penalty Day in the NASCAR world, brought the monetary punishments.

Brad Keselowski’s fine adds up to $50,000 for his behavior in post-race incidents. Keselowski, who finished 16th at Charlotte, was caught on-video side-swiping fellow driver Matt Kenseth on pit road. Sources also claim he “performed a burnout” in the garage area to intimidate Denny Hamlin, another driver with who he bumped heads.

Another fine goes out to Tony Stewart. His $25,000 fine comes from his actions on pit road as well; when Keselowski hit Kenseth, the No. 2 hit Stewart’s No. 14 in the rear bumper. In turn, Stewart threw the car into reverse and back up into Keselowski.

Both drivers are also in a four-race probation period. NASCAR’s senior vice president, Robin Pemberton, made a statement on the penalties.

“These penalties are about maintaining a safe environment follow the race. We knew that the new Chase format was likely going to raise the intensity level, and we want our drivers to continue to be themselves. However, the safety of our drivers, crew members, officials, and workers is paramount, and we will react when that safety could be compromised.”

Fans are reacting with outrage and surprised. Many are confused that Kenseth wasn’t punished after attacking Keselowski and tackling him to the ground. Others are perplexed with Stewart’s fine and what the mainstream media will run; nearly two months after the fatal incident involving Kevin Ward, Jr., Good Morning America covered the Charlotte chaos with incrimination comments about Stewart and his role in the action.

One thing is for certain: it costs a lot of money for boys to have at it.

Some video covering Saturday night’s altercations can be watched here.

The personification of endurance, Johnson wins NASCAR’s longest race

Ah, the racing world may rest easy, and haters can light their torches.

Jimmie Johnson dominated at Charlotte Motor Speedway to win the Coca Cola 600 Sunday night. It was the first win of 2014 for the No. 48 team and the third for Hendrick Motorsports.

Johnson qualified on the pole and raced without a flaw, the ideal form of consistency. He was the last driver to win from the pole, a feat he accomplished in 2004. A whole decade later, the six-time champion proved he had a handle on the track.

“It’s great to win . . .but all that hype [about not winning] was elsewhere,” Johnson said in victory lane. “The clean air was key. Once we got our handling down, we were set.”

When asked if the field needed to worry, Johnson responded: “They know we’re awake. We can get [the other competitors] thinking about us.”

Second place went to Kevin Harvick, who’s car was solid but dismantled by multiple issues on pit road. There’s no doubt the No. 4 team will be a championship contender, the lone strength at a crumbling Stewart-Haas Racing.

Other notable stories include Kurt Busch, who attempted The Double. Running both the Indy 500 and the Coca Cola 600 has been done before, yet Busch was the first to try it in a long time. After finishing sixth at Indianapolis, the “Outlaw” suffered an engine failure, completing 906 of the 1100 scheduled miles. However, the performance was still admirable, and NASCAR fans everywhere are proud of Busch and his attempt. He and teammate Danica Patrick had difficult nights. Another SHR driver, Patrick started fourth and started out strong before falling back. Her night was capped off with an expired motor. The organization receives their engines from Hendrick, and the alliance may need further investigation. Jeff Gordon held onto seventh, impressive after suffering back spasms earlier in the weekend. Gordon sat our Happy Hour practice to rest up, and driver Regan Smith was on stand-by in case more issues came up. The four-time champion held out and put on quite a show.

Throughout the night, one car seemed the strongest and maintained that strength the entire night. The Coca Cola 600 is a race of endurance, and the one who endured the most won. Jimmie Johnson claimed the trophy, assuring people that he’s still around and still winning.

Point standings after the Coca Cola 600

1. Jeff Gordon (–)
2. Matt Kenseth (-11)
3. Kyle Busch (-24)
3. Carl Edwards (-24)
5. Dale Earnhardt Jr. (-38)
6. Jimmie Johnson (-44)
7. Joey Logano (-54)
8. Brian Vickers (-67)
9. Brad Keselowski (-71)
9. Ryan Newman (-71)
11. Greg Biffle (-81)
12. Kevin Harvick (-87)
13. Kyle Larson (-88)
14. Denny Hamlin (-92)
15. Austin Dillon (-98)
16. Paul Menard (-104)

A Hall of Famer an All-Star win makes?

)Credit: 298272Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)
(Credit: Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)

Jamie McMurray doesn’t win often, but watch out when he does; he can close the deal on some big ones.

The driver of the No. 1 came alive in the final segment of the Sprint All-Star Race and claimed the victory at Charlotte Motor Speedway. He was thrown into contention by his crew’s stellar performance on the final four-tire pit stop, which was mandatory. He crushed Kevin Harvick’s and Carl Edwards’ efforts and took home the checkered.

McMurray’s win emphasizes his stealth when it comes to the big events. He has now won the Daytona 500,the Brickyard 400, and now the All-Star Race. Add the Coca-Cola 600 and the Southern 500, and it’s a record other drivers would kill to claim. Stats like these could throw him into Hall of Fame conversation. However, is it warranted?

Like I said, his record is nothing to ignore, and he’s done it with a B-list team. Chip Ganassi Racing, an organization who is now running Hendrick motors, has always been resting underneath the surface. This season is the time for a breakthrough; McMurray has an intelligent crew chief in Keith Rodden, Kyle Larson is maturing rapidly, and the horsepower is there. All these factors can catapult the team ¾and McMurray— to a spot on the A-list.

If he’ll ever secure himself in NASCAR history as a Hall of Famer, now’s the time.

The All-Star Race had some great moments, with impressive showings by Harvick, Edwards, and even Kasey Kahne, although he suffered issues after his performance in the sun. What the No. 5 team hit on will most likely be used next weekend as the team hopes to rebound.

How did the event fare overall? Well, it had some good and bad qualities. Moving the Sprint Showdown to Friday night wasn’t a great decision; I can see what direction they wanted to go in, but it became a hassle. Also, Fox Sports 1 didn’t do a good job of advertising the switch, so people were dumbfounded. There were points of great racing, but the last segment erased it. My suggestion is to shorten the final segment and make it more of a Green-White-Checkered deal. THAT will keep the excitement going.

McMurray is known for being a driver who isn’t afraid to cry in victory lane. If he got into the Hall of Fame, I bet waterfalls would pour from his eyes. It’s a make or break season for this chance, and the first domino fell Saturday night.

Keselowski wins Charlotte, proving determined nature

The Queen City lives up to its name, being the home of many NASCAR drivers and their royalty-like race teams. When the race rolls into town, it’s a positive time, allowing everyone involved in the sport’s madness to sleep in their own beds. That boosts their morale more than any outside could understand.

A morale boost was exactly what Brad Keselowski needed, and that’s exactly what he got, breaking a winless streak that lasted thirty-seven races. It also marked the first time a non-Chaser won during The Chase since 2011.

After battling pit road troubles early on (troubles that included carrying a jack onto the track), Keselowski rebounded and won. In fact, he rebounded from a deflating season, one that was nowhere near as magical as last year’s. He seemed more like a chump than a champion to some, floundering and barely in contention for wins. But, in Keselowski-like fashion, he never gave up.

The last driver to break up the Chase party as a non-chaser was Kasey Kahne, and he was a factor all night. It came down to tires at the end. Kahne, along with teammate Jeff Gordon, took two, while Keselowski and the rest of the field took four. The No. 5 led them to the green with twenty laps to go, and the No. 2 ran him down in five laps.

Though he led the most laps, Kahne is up a creek without a paddle as far as The Chase is concerned; the driver is last in the points after having horrible luck during the first four races.

After the psychotic race at Kansas, Saturday night’s race seemed mundane, a switch fan’s didn’t take well. However, that’s something I plan to address in my next article. Most of the cautions thrown were for debris.

Next weekend, we head to Talladega, a place fans love and drivers hate. It will be interesting to see how the points shake out after that wild card.

Point Standings after Charlotte

1. Matt Kenseth (–)
2. Jimmie Johnson (-4)
3. Kevin Harvick (-29)
4. Jeff Gordon (-36)
5. Kyle Busch (-37)
6. Greg Biffle (-58)
7. Kurt Busch (-59)
8. Clint Bowyer (-63)
9. Dale Earnhardt Jr. (-66)
10. Carl Edwards (-67)
11. Joey Logano (-75)
12. Ryan Newman (-78)
13. Kasey Kahne (-81)

Harvick claims Coca-Cola 600 against fading Kahne

The Coca-Cola 600 should be renamed The 600 Hours of Charlotte, because that’s how long it took to complete it.

Okay, that may be an exaggeration, but the point is clear: the race lasted five hours and fourteen minutes. But I wouldn’t have traded it for anything.

A staple in our sport, this prelude to Memorial Day is one of the four famous races within our sport, joining the Daytona 500, Southern 500, and Brickyard 400. People mark this day on their calendars, cancel family gatherings, settle their pets down for the night.

It’s a big deal. And tonight reminded us why.

At one point in the night, only sixteen cars were on the lead lap. Some may think that’s pitiful, yet I see it as black and white; it’s how it was back in the 70s, no? It’s all about perspective, and I find that positivity is better in this case. Trust me, I’m not blind to the fact that it slightly dragged in the middle. However, it was going to be insane the last 150 laps.

That was proven right. But before we get to that, let’s talk about the most bizarre, red flag-resulting event since The Great Jet Dryer Explosion of 2011.

If you’re familiar with NASCAR on FOX’s race coverage, you know about the camera. You know, the camera that slides on cables above the frontstretch to provide that cool aerial view? Yeah, well, that won’t be happening next time; the cable that aids the camera in sliding across the sky broke and swung down in front of the field.

Leader Kyle Busch’s car was damaged, as were a few others’. As the remaining cables sunk lower to the ground, NASCAR threw the red flag and called the cars to pit road. Because we had an freakish rendition of Chicken Little on our hands, NASCAR allowed the teams fifteen minutes to work on their cars.

To even add more confusion, the initial cable flew into the stands before coming down on the track, injuring ten people. Although the severity doesn’t exceed a few cuts to arms and hands, three were sent to a local hospital for further evaluation. More information should be released later this week.

Back to the insanity.

The car to beat at Charlotte is none other than the no. 5, wheeled by Kasey Kahne and directed by Kenny Francis. Chasing his fourth Coca-Cola 600 win, Kahne came alive a fourth into the race and remained that way until the final caution.

The team survived the plethora of yellows that flew, yet the last one put the driver/crew chief duo in a complicated position. To pit, or not to pit?

As they went with the latter, everyone else on the lead lap did the exact opposite. Every Kahne fan’s heart sunk into the earth’s core. Damned if you do, damned if you don’t, the no. 5 team was at a loss either way. Sometimes it sucks being the leader.

The car on Kahne’s inside on that final restart with ten to go? Kevin Harvick, who was gone. G-O-N-E, gone. The fresh tires and clean air equaled perfection. He won for the second time this season, Kahne in tow and Kurt Busch a close third.

The Coca-Cola 600 is amazing to watch, even if it lasts well past everyone’s bed time. Cables and close calls highlighted what we’ve always known: this race is, and will forever be, a thrill.

Point Standings after Charlotte

1. Jimmie Johnson (–)
2. Carl Edwards (-32)
3. Matt Kenseth (-51)
4. Clint Bowyer (-60)
5. Kasey Kahne (-75)
6. Dale Earnhardt Jr. (-81)
7. Kevin Harvick (-83)
8. Paul Menard (-98)
9. Martin Truex Jr. (-109)
10. Brad Keselowski (-110)
11. Kyle Busch (-113)
12. Aric Almirola (-117)