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NASCAR

Double Deuces As Brad K Takes Bristol; Second Year in a Row

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In what may have been one of the strangest races in recent history at Bristol Motor Speedway, which featured minimal cautions and long green-flag runs, a familiar sight continued to take place on the half-mile oval as Brad Keselowski went on to claim the victory in Sunday’s Food City 500.

Leading 232 of the 500 laps in the event, Keselowski held of challenges from Matt Kenseth in the closing stages of the race to pick up his fifth career NASCAR Sprint Cup Series win, and second at Bristol.

 

“Everybody back at the shop just did a phenomenal job,” said Keselowski in victory lane after tweeting a picture looking out at Bristol’s victory lane. “Last few races have been really good,and I knew we had a shot at winning one of them if we ran like we were and today we closed the deal.”

 

Oddly enough, the race came down to the drivers who pulled the controversial moves in the August race just one year ago. Both Keselowski and Kenseth took advantage of NASCAR’s timing lines on pit road to grab the top spots of pit road late in the race. For that very reason, NASCAR created new timing lines on pit road so that would not happen.

“I’m sure there’s a rule that could be made,” said Keselowski when he was asked about the new timing line rules. “I got on Twitter, and got mad at some people that sad I won it because of the timing lines. I knew this blue deuce was fast enough to win the race last fall with or without the timing lines. It just feels so good to prove it here today.”

Keselowski’s win marks the tenth time that Penske Racing has gone to victory lane at Bristol, each with the No.2 car winding up in the winner’s circle. Runner-up finisher, Kenseth, appeared as though he had something for Keselowski before the sixth and final caution flag on lap 478. When the race was restarted, the No.17 never got back to Keselowski’s bumper.

“That last run we got a little too loose,” said Kenseth after the race. “I was just too free. He could really roll the bottom and I knew he was good on old tires. I could just keep up and that was about it.”

Quite possibly the story of the day however was Brian Vickers. Vickers, who signed a six race deal with Michael Waltrip Racing to drive the No.55 Toyota, leading 125 laps en route to a fifth place finish. “When it’s your only one, you got to make it count,” said Vickers after the race. “I can’t take any of the credit. I’m just proud to be a part of MWR.”

“Rodney Childers (crew chief) bolted together my first go-kart twenty years ago and now he just put together my last one. What a great race.” With Vickers’ top-five finish, he adds to top-five runs by teammates Clint Bowyer and Martin Truex Jr. to mark the first time that all three MWR cars have finished inside the top-five in one race.

As the Sprint Cup Series heads to Auto Club Speedway next weekend, Greg Biffle retains his points lead. However, Sunday marks the first time all season that he has finished outside of the top-five in 2012.

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NASCAR

Kyle Busch Wins Second NASCAR Cup Title

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Kyle Busch

Kylke Busch, who is arguably the most polarizing driver in NASCAR, won his second Cup title on Sunday and took the opportunity to celebrate the victory with fans, a big change from his first win back in 2015 when Busch ruined the massive championship banner by doing smoke-filled burnouts.

“It messed up the flag and everything, and I wanted to get a good shot with the flag everywhere, make sure everybody could get a good shot of the flag because we’re the 2019 champions,” Busch said (h/t ESPN/Associated Press). “There are always your doubters. There are always your haters. You know what? This one’s for ‘Rowdy Nation’ because you guys are the best. Thank you so much.”

Busch won the season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway to snap a 21-race losing streak, doing so as teammates Denny Hamlin and Martin Truex Jr. were slowed by pit-road issues.

Busch joined seven-time champion Jimmie Johnson as the only active drivers with multiple titles.

“You’ve got to be perfect. One mistake probably cost us the championship,” Truex said. “I’ve never had that happen. I don’t even know what to say. It doesn’t drive good with the left front on the right front, though, I can tell you that. It’s very tight.”

“I feel like I did all I could. I don’t feel I could have done a better job. I didn’t leave anything out there,” Hamlin said. “I was thinking we got a chance, and it just didn’t work out. We got a little aggressive there, and it cost us.”

“Everybody always says you never give up. We’re no different. We just do what we can do each and every week,” Busch said. “Sometimes we may not be the best. Sometimes we may not have the right track position. We had a really good car, and I could race around and move around. That’s what’s so special about Homestead Miami Speedway is the ability to put on a show.

“I felt like we did that there racing those guys. I know it kind of dulled out toward the end. It was exciting enough from my seat. It was a lot of fun to cap off such an amazing year.”

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NASCAR

Tony Stewart Punches Heckler During Race Track Fight

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Tony Stewart

NASCAR superstar Tony Stewart, a three-time NASCAR Cup Series champion, got into a fight with a heckler at a Jackson, Minnesota racetrack on Friday night, which saw the 48-year old driver punch a heckler in the face.

Stewart, who was the center of attention as that Jackson Motorplex put on “Tony Stewart Night”, was driving in a spring car race when his engine apparently blew out after only one lap.

Following the race, Stewart was signing autographs for fans when a heckler approached Stewart and, according to eye witnesses, began cussing Stewart out for “quitting” only one lap into the race.

Stewart responded to the colorful tirade, which included calling Stewart a “piece of sh#t”, but saying that; “I blew out my engine, you f#cking asshole. Do you want to pay for it?”

The exchange continued and escalated further when Stewart hauled off and punched the heckler in the face, with it all caught on video, courtesy of TMZ Sports.

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Auto Racing

Grading 2018′s New Driver/ Team Pairings – Alex Bowman/ Hendrick Motorsports

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Undeniably the apple of an entire nation’s eye for over two decades, Dale Earnhardt Jr poignantly announced in the spring of 2017 he would step away from driving in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series at the end of the 2017 season.

 

Once the initial shock value wore off, reality set in. Who could possibly fill the shoes of the sport’s most popular driver? Dale Jr’s lasting impression on legions of fans young and old is unparalleled. Ultimately the conundrum of the century would centre around who might fill the gargantuan shoes little E would leave behind.

Dale Jr’s departure from Hendrick Motorsports left one the sport’s most coveted rides up for grabs. Immediately the rumour mill was set ablaze with potential candidates loyal Dale Jr supporters fancied.  Following three months of intense speculation, Rick Hendrick would reveal Dale Jr’s replacement in late July 2017.

 

Next man up for the #88 team a tall lanky fella from Tucson Arizona.  Chances are y’all probably remember him as the kid that subbed for Dale Jr while he recovered from concussion-like symptoms that kept him from the seat of the Nationwide Chevrolet in the fall of 2016.

 

Certainly no stranger to the Monster Energy Cup Series (Made 81 Career starts from 2014-2016), Alex Bowman makes his triumphed return as a full time driver on the circuit for the first time in nearly two years. Driving the #88 car for Hendrick Motorsports axiomatically elevates Bowman from enchanting underdog to proverbial impact player. No longer a low man on the totem pole expeditious results at HMS would give credence to an emerging young star hoping for a rebirth following past failures with BK Racing & Tommy Baldwin Racing.

 

Thrust into a precarious position at the age of 21, Alex Bowman exhibited incredible poise in the face of adversity. Visibly Alex was not equipped for the competitive environment that cup racing bestowed upon him back in 2014. One quality season (2013 – 2 top 5’s, 6 top 10’s 2 poles, 11th in the driver standings) in the Xfinity Series cannot enumerate impending success on the other side.

Instead of licking his wounds Bowman bided his time wisely eventually earning the opportunity to sub for Dale Jr in the fall of 2016.  What could have easily morphed into catastrophic gaffe #3 for Bowman positively altered his career saving him from infinite anonymity.

 

In the 10 races (2016) Alex piloted the #88 car he made quite an accounting for himself (3 top 10’s, 1 pole) earning the respect and confidence of both Mr. Hendrick and Dale Jr.

 

The simple formula for success in 2018 relies squarely on the shoulders of Alexander Bowman.

Bowman’s familiarity with crew chief Greg Ives and the entire #88 team perpetuates some of the chemistry established back in 2016.  A contingent of smart fans out there including myself firmly believe Alex Bowman was on his way to capturing the checked flag at his home track(Phoenix) in November of 2016. On this day Bowman dazzled, starting the race from the pole ultimately leading 194 laps on his way to a career best 6th place finish.

 

Even though the former self-proclaimed bad luck Bowman left the desert without the checked flag, indisputably he walked away a winner.  Bowman’s courageous showing converted the cynics into believers. Without this fine performance in the bag Bowman could have found himself easily lost in the shuffle never to be heard from again.

Perseverance spearheaded the rise of Bowman mania. The whimsical wave of momentum Bowman’s been on since that race at Phoenix spilled over into 2017. Bowman turned heads in February finishing third in the Clash at Daytona, once again piloting the #88 Nationwide Chevrolet. He would also capture his first career Xfinity Series victory at Charlotte in the fall of 2017 driving for Chip Ganassi.

 

Perceptibly this young buck is completely equipped for the fate that awaits him once the green flag drops on the 2018 Monster Energy Cup Series at Daytona in February.

Rick Hendrick has all the confidence in the world in Bowman’s capabilities. Mr. H could have taken the high road and hired an established veteran driver, instead trusting Bowman’s youthful exuberance lets the entire racing world know he’s committed for the long haul.

Alex Bowman has the credentials to resuscitate Rick Hendrick’s anaemic #88 team from the ashes. Fresh blood can unite an entire nation of fans that are starving for a breath of fresh air.

 

Don’t Be Dale Jr, Be Alex Bowman. That’s paramount.

 

Alex Bowman has an entire nation on his side. So watcha  gonna do when Bowmanmania runs wild on you?

 

Final grade – B

 

Photo courtesy of Autoweek

 

 

 

 

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