One year later, NASCAR reflects on a COVID-changed sport
Larson wasn't sure he'd race in NASCAR again until Rick Hendrick took a chance on a him. Last weekend at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, Larson raced to his first NASCAR victory since he was reinstated from a nearly yearlong suspension. He was hired by Hendrick Motorsports when NASCAR said the suspension would lift at the start of this year. KEEP IT COOLLast year's spring race in Phoenix was a hot one, with temperatures pushing close to 90 degrees. ... Jason Biggs, host of “Cherries Wild” on NASCAR broadcast partner Fox, is the grand marshal.
Kyle Larson celebrates return with 1st win since suspension
LAS VEGAS – Kyle Larson wasn't sure he'd ever race again in NASCAR, and if he could, he didn't know who would even hire him. On Sunday at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, Larson raced to his first NASCAR victory since he was reinstated from a nearly yearlong suspension. “Thanks Mr. H. for believing in me,” Larson radioed to boss Rick Hendrick after crossing the finish line. Larson is considered one of the top talents in NASCAR but won just six times in six seasons with Chip Ganassi Racing. “He got in a great car, he's a great driver and he's going to make things happen,” runner-up Brad Keselowski said.
Byron gives NASCAR another surprise winner at Homestead
William Byron was the third surprise winner through three races this season with his victory Sunday at Homestead-Miami Speedway. Byron controlled most of the final two stages at Homestead to win for the second time in 111 Cup starts. Byron entered the weekend as a 28-1 shot to win a race many expected would provide a return to normal for the racing series. The Roush Fenway Racing driver led five times for a total of 57 laps, but he started to fade "when as sunset neared. He ended up getting X-rays, which were negative, and was cleared to work the Cup Series event.
NASCAR's 'unique' winners already altering playoff landscape
Christopher Bell celebrates at the finish line after winning the NASCAR Cup Series road course auto race at Daytona International Speedway, Sunday, Feb. 21, 2021, in Daytona Beach, Fla. (AP Photo/Terry Renna)HOMESTEAD, Fla. – NASCAR’s postseason landscape has been altered after just two Cup Series races. “The number of unique winners is really going to change how many cars get in on points, right? Although Bell drives for powerhouse Joe Gibbs Racing, he was a rookie for that top team and in his second full season in the Cup series. The Cup Series opened on a superspeedway, then raced on a road course, and now heads to an intermediate track. Whether that’s different markets, different racetracks, it has to be different from year to year.
Bell snags first Cup victory in another surprise Gibbs win
Bell won in his second race driving for Joe Gibbs Racing to give the team a pair of surprising victories at Daytona International Speedway. Ty Gibbs, the 18-year-old grandson of team owner Joe Gibbs, won the Xfinity Series race Saturday night in his first career national series start. “I've prepared my whole life for this moment to race in the Cup Series, last year was such a learning curve for me. Kevin Harvick finished sixth and AJ Allmendinger, in his first Cup race since the 2018 season finale, finished seventh. It was the highest finish in three Cup races for Kaulig Racing, an Xfinity Series team formed in 2016 that wants to be full-time Cup next season.
Allmendinger back at Daytona in 1st Cup race since 2018
Allmendinger will run his first Cup race since the 2018 season finale in Kaulig's first Cup race not at a superspeedway. The longshot Daytona 500 win earned McDowell his first playoff berth and FRM now is positioned to build a once unthinkable cushion. This road course race was added to NASCAR's schedule in December because COVID-19 restrictions would not allow a stop at Fontana, California. AdThe Daytona road course was wedged into the open slot, creating two weekends of very different racing that very much suits Furniture Row. Dillon missed the Cup race in August because he'd received a positive COVID-19 test.
Bubba Wallace becomes first Black driver to lead lap at Daytona 500
Bubba Wallace checks his helmet before the NASCAR Daytona 500 auto race at Daytona International Speedway, Sunday, Feb. 14, 2021, in Daytona Beach, Fla. (AP Photo/John Raoux)DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – Bubba Wallace ran into trouble early and late in his first Daytona 500 driving for Michael Jordan. He still came out of NASCAR's marquee race with another milestone, becoming the first Black driver to lead a lap in the Daytona 500. Wallace dipped to the low line late in the second stage to grab the lead on lap 129 in the No. Wallace got caught up in a fiery, chaotic last lap and finished 17th in a race won by Michael McDowell. Wallace had a solid first two-thirds of the rain-delayed race at Daytona International Speedway after a tumultuous start in Jordan's debut race.
Michael McDowell beats 100-1 odds for upset Daytona 500 victory
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – Michael McDowell was glued to Brad Keselowski’s bumper, watching and waiting for his chance to win the Daytona 500. Denny Hamlin was trying for a record third-consecutive Daytona 500 victory, and the team he started with Michael Jordan was debuting with driver Bubba Wallace. Kyle Larson was back after nearly a year in exile for using a racial slur, and reigning Cup champion Chase Elliott was going for his first Daytona 500 win. And all the way at the back of the field, 1990 Daytona 500 winner Derrike Cope made what he said would be his final NASCAR start. “I wanted to make the pass to win the Daytona 500 and it ended up really bad,” Keselowski said.
The Latest: Keselowski has no regrets about Daytona 500 end
Racers crash during the last lap in the NASCAR Daytona 500 auto race at Daytona International Speedway, Monday, Feb. 15, 2021, in Daytona Beach, Fla. (AP Photo/Chris O'Meara)DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – The Latest on the Daytona 500 (all times local):12:35 a.m.Brad Keselowski has no regrets about the way he handled the final lap of the Daytona 500. ___12:15 a.m.Michael McDowell won the Daytona 500 after Penske Racing teammates Joey Logano and Brad Keselowski wrecked on the final lap. ___3:25 p.m.Derrike Cope was knocked out after only three laps, an ignominious end for the 62-year-old driver who won the 1990 Daytona 500. ___2 p.m.Bubba Wallace’s car failed inspection twice for the Daytona 500 and will have to start at the back of the field. AdWallace drives a new entry owned by NBA great Michael Jordan and three-time Daytona 500 winner Denny Hamlin.
Drivers competing in the 2021 Daytona 500
Austin Dillon (3) takes the checkered flag to win the second NASCAR Daytona 500 duel qualifying auto race Friday, Feb. 12, 2021, at the Daytona International Speedway in Daytona Beach, Fla. (AP Photo/Chris O'Meara)DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – The 40 drivers competing in the 2021 Daytona 500, in order of starting position:___No. This is his 20th Daytona 500; he was hired days after Earnhardt's death. Son of two-time Daytona 500 champion and Hall of Fame driver Bill Elliott. Finished a career-best seventh in the 2017 Daytona 500, but has been 27th, 28th and 19th since. McLeodBORN: Nov. 17, 1983AdHOMETOWN: Wauchula, FloridaCREW CHIEF: Frank KerrSPONSOR: NASCAR HeatsTWITTER: @bjmcleod78NOTEWORTHY: Owner-driver racing in his third Daytona 500.
Road king: Elliott wins at Daytona for 3rd straight on road
NASCARs most popular driver won the Cup Series road course race at Daytona International Speedway on Sunday, holding off hard-charging Denny Hamlin following a late restart and notching his third consecutive victory away from ovals. The 24-year-old Elliott also won on road courses at Charlotte and at Watkins Glen last year. Elliott, Hamlin and Martin Truex Jr. had the cars to beat. Making up that kind of ground on a 14-turn, 3.61-mile road course was a nearly impossible tough task, especially considering Elliott was turning mistake-free laps at the front of the field. Newman was one of the few Cup drivers with experience on Daytonas road course.
Unpredictability ahead as NASCAR gets on Daytona road course
NASCAR takes to the retooled road course at Daytona this weekend for what surely will be a unique unprecedented, really experience for dozens of drivers who have only raced it online. The Xfinity Series race is Saturday, followed a day later by the Truck Series and the Cup Series. Both ran the Rolex 24 endurance race on the road course in January. Kenseth and Ryan Newman have victories on the Daytona road course, each winning IROC races in the mid-2000s. While Busch and Allmendinger surely provided teammates help learning the tracks nuances, many teams eager to gain an advantage turned to road course experts for assistance this week.
Leavine Family Racing to close at end of 2020 season
CHARLOTTE, N.C. – Leavine Family Racing has sold its NASCAR team but will finish the season with driver Christopher Bell. Team owner Bob Leavine made the announcement Tuesday, saying he could not risk his 41-year-old construction business by continuing to fund the team. Leavine is the second team owner to close its doors after aligning with Joe Gibbs Racing. Leavine Family Racing has competed in NASCAR since 2011, making its debut with David Starr at Texas Motor Speedway. Leavine Family Racing is winless in 240 Cup starts.
Wallace crashed out of chance of racing for $1 million prize
BRISTOL, Tenn. Bubba Wallace was wrecked out of the qualifying race for NASCARs annual All-Star event, ruining his shot of racing for the $1 million prize. One driver advanced into the All-Star race through a fan vote and Wallace had been leading when results were last updated by NASCAR a week ago. Aric Almirola advanced by winning the first stage, William Byron for winning the second stage and Matt DiBenedetto for winning the third stage. Crowd estimates for that event have been around 10,000 spectators, but the NASCAR race would likely be the largest sporting event in the United States since March. Meanwhile, Martin Truex Jr. failed inspection twice and forfeited the top starting spot in the All-Star race.