Archive for category Sports

Kevin Harvick Dominates In Dover To Capture Fourth Victory Of 2018 Season

By: Camille Jones/

DOVER, Del. –  Kevin Harvick captured his fourth win of the season on Sunday as he held off his Stewart-Haas Racing teammate, Clint Bowyer in the AAA 400 Drive for Autism at Dover International Speedway.

Harvick led 201 laps throughout the afternoon, and he also swept all of the stages in the race. It looked as if Bowyer was going to be the driver to beat in the closing laps of Sunday’s race, but the rain fell, and the race had a 41-minute red flag. Following the delay, Harvick retook the lead and led the final 63 laps. The driver of the No. 4 Jimmy John’s Ford for Stewart-Haas Racing has now won four races in the 2018 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series season. He now has more win than any other driver so far this year.

“I felt like we had a really good car from the time we unloaded, and I think you could tell that from when we qualified,” Harvick said. “That’s usually not my strong point, qualifying up here, and to be able to qualify on the front row, we had three great practices and everything just kind of fell into place, and when they dropped the green flag, it was definitely still good.

“It was just one of those weekends where the car was spot‑on from the time we got here, and the guys are just doing a great job. Everybody is just so detail oriented right now, and I feel like we’re playoff racing on a weekly basis, and if you’re going to win a bunch of races, that’s what you have to do.”  Read the rest of this entry »

Op-Ed: The Inherent Risk of Sport Specialization

Jerome Singleton

Bob Gardner

By Bob Gardner, Executive Director of the National Federation of State High School Associations and Jerome Singleton, Commissioner of the South Carolina High School League.

One of the responsibilities that parents take most seriously is protecting their children from injury, whether it is buckling seat belts in a car or wearing a helmet while riding a bike. And when their kids become teenagers and want to participate in sports or other activities, parents do everything they can to keep their sons and daughters from getting hurt.

But not all injuries are caused by a twist, fall, collision or accident. Many are caused when young athletes repeat the same athletic activity so often that muscles, ligaments, tendons and bones don’t have time to recover—especially among middle school and high school students. These injuries can end promising careers, cost families tens of thousands of dollars, squash dreams and literally change lives.

Examples include elbow and arm injuries to teenagers who play baseball or softball all year long, shoulder injuries to year-round swimmers, wrist and elbow injuries to gymnasts, and stress fractures to soccer players.

The culprit, most often, is what’s commonly known as “sport specialization,” the process of playing the same sport all year long with the goal of either gaining a competitive edge or earning a college scholarship. It involves intense, year-round training in a single sport.  Read the rest of this entry »

Kyle Busch Battles From 32nd At Richmond To Win Third Consecutive NASCAR Cup Race

By: Hunter Thomas/

RICHMOND, Va. – Kyle Busch capitalized on a NASCAR Overtime restart on Saturday night to win the Toyota Owners 400 at Richmond Raceway after starting the race in 32nd.

Saturday’s victory was Busch’s fifth win at Richmond Raceway and his third series victory in a row. Busch entered the weekend coming off a win at Texas Motor Speedway and Bristol Motor Speedway.

After a poor qualifying effort, Busch, driver of the No. 18 M&M’s Flavor Vote Toyota had to race his way from 32nd to the front of the field.

“It’s definitely cool we’ve won three in a row,” Busch said. “We did it a couple years ago and now I don’t know if you can shoot for four in a row. It’s hard to go to Talladega with that much of a winning streak and think that you can go to victory lane, but we’re going to go there anyway and give it a shot. We’ll see what we can do. Our guys are amazing. They’re awesome every week and I love racing with these guys and Joe Gibbs Racing.”

In the closing laps of the Toyota Owners 400, Busch maneuvered his way to the front of the field. On the final restart of the night in NASCAR Overtime, Busch, who led the field to the start-finish line left his Joe Gibbs Racing teammate, Denny Hamlin and Chase Elliott in the dust to solidify the victory.

“The first run of the race we actually made really good ground,” Busch said. “I was really happy with the way our car took off there at the beginning of the race. As the night kind of wore on we just didn’t quite have that advantage to everybody. Everybody kind of gained and got a little better and we made some adjustments and changes to the car in order to try to help ourselves and it seemed to be better there. Then, the last couple runs were just short runs. Adam (Stevens, crew chief) and the guys making the right adjustments to the car to have it faster on the short run was where it was at.”  Read the rest of this entry »

Keeping the legacy of baseball’s “second man” alive

By Michael Stewart
Carolina News and Reporter

The U.S. Postal Service issued a commemorative stamp of Larry Doby in 2012, honoring his role in pioneering racial integration in Major League Baseball.

CAMDEN, S.C. – The small city of Camden, tucked away about 45 minutes northeast of the state capital Columbia, is the birthplace of an often overlooked pioneer in racial integration. Larry Doby, the second African-American player to play major league baseball, was born here and spent the first 14 years of his life in this place he always called home. 

Earl Benedict, a lifelong Camden resident, felt the influence of the game-changing second baseman as a child, even though he never saw Doby play in a game.

“Certainly, when I played ball, I thought of Doby as one of the main people to be,” Benedict said. “I don’t know if emulate is the right word, but he was in my mind at times.”

Doby, who died in 2003, was a phenomenon in his time but seemed to fall through the cracks of baseball history in comparison to Jackie Robinson, who broke professional baseball’s color barrier in  1947. Robinson’s story has been documented in hundreds of stories, books, documentaries and in the popular motion picture, “42.”

But the African-American Cultural Center of Camden is trying to pique interest in Doby’s story as the first black player in the American League.

On the field, Doby was a seven-time all-star, the first black player to get a hit and homerun in the World Series, and was the first black player to win the World Series in 1948 with the Cleveland Indians. Unlike Robinson, who spent a year in the Brooklyn Dodgers farm system, Doby went straight to the majors from the Negro League’s Newark Eagles. He made his debut on July, 5 1947, three months after Robinson played his first MLB game.

These accomplishments, plus the immeasurable social contributions Doby’s presence in the league created made him a logical choice for National Baseball Hall of Fame honors. But he dropped off the ballot in 1984 after running out of eligibility.

Doby had to wait until 1998, when he was 74, to get the call that he was a member of baseball’s most prestigious club. The Veterans Committee, which looks at long-retired players, managers, umpires and executives, elected him.

Doby opened his induction speech by saying: “I’m from a little town in South Carolina called Camden.”

The free museum has been running a comprehensive exhibition of Doby since Feb. 24, complete with photos, memorabilia and an hour-and-a-half long documentary on his life, which ends Aug. 30.

Located on York Street, the African-American Cultural Center of Camden is showing an exhibit on the life of baseball great Larry Doby. It will run until Aug. 30.

The exhibit is open Monday, Wednesday Friday, 1-4 p.m., and Saturday 10 a.m.-4 p.m.

Gwen Shannon volunteers at the Larry Doby exhibit on Monday’s and despite her aversion to baseball, she decided to donate her time to Camden’s most accomplished athlete in its history.

“I can’t stand baseball!” Shannon laughed. “It’s more about the history. I was really unfamiliar with him, but once they decided on the exhibit it intrigued me to come and see someone like Larry Doby, and I’ve learned so much about him.”

Elizabeth Robinson, a former middle school teacher, also volunteers at the African-American Cultural Center of Camden. She hopes it will raise Doby’s profile and fill in some of the historical gaps for school children who visit.

“It will be promoted through the schools but it will be hard to have field trips because they normally do whole grades at a time and this is such a small space,” Robinson said. “But what they can do is have small groups like gifted classes, special education classes and after-school clubs.”

Elizabeth Robinson volunteers at the African-American Cultural Center of Camden on Wednesdays and she says her time learning about Larry Doby has sparked her previously minimal interest in baseball.

Elizabeth Robinson, like Shannon, was not a baseball fan before she volunteered at museum. But after forgetting her phone and crochet needles one day while volunteering, Robinson toured the exhibit and found herself more absorbed than she thought she’d be.

“I am more interested in baseball now and I have more respect for Larry Doby,” Robinson said. “The other night I was flipping through the TV and I stopped at baseball and I never would have done that before.”

While he was not as well-known as other pioneering black stars of the mid-twentieth century like Jackie Robinson, Willie Mays, and Don Newcombe, Doby was a player of similar caliber and experienced the same level of racism as his counterparts.

Doby’s teammate from 1947 to 1955, Al Rosen told Cleveland Plain-Dealer columnist, Russell Schneider in his 2002 book, Tales from the Tribe Dugout, that Doby put up with everything Jackie Robinson did, and more.

“Jackie was a college-educated man who had been an officer in the service and who played at the Triple-A level. Jackie was brought in by (General Manager) Branch Rickey specifically to be the first black player in major league baseball,” Rosen said. “Larry Doby came up as a second baseman who didn’t have time to get his full college education, and was forced to play a different position in his first major league season.  I think because of those circumstances, he had a more difficult time than Jackie Robinson did. I don’t think he has gotten the credit he deserves.”

Even Earl Benedict, who has always called Camden home, says Doby was not his ball playing  idol.

“I was a fan of Monte Irvin and Willie Mays more than Doby,” Benedict said. “Because I liked the Giants and the National League.”

Larry Doby’s entire baseball career was marked by being second in line to break racial barriers. Not only was he the second black player in MLB,  he was the second black manager. Doby became the interim skipper of the Chicago White Sox June 30, 1978. This was almost three years after the Cleveland Indians named Frank Robinson their manager.

Bob Heere, associate professor of sport and entertainment management at USC, was born and raised in the Netherlands and didn’t know much about baseball until he moved to the United States. And he had never heard of Doby.

“I know Jackie Robinson. I’ve seen the movie, I teach him in my intro to sport management class, but here’s this other guy who entered the league just a few months later and who was arguably just as successful,” Heere said. “So holy crap. Why don’t I know about him?”

Heere, coming from a different background on how society views success in sports was able to offer a theory on why Doby has been left behind in the history books.

“America is obsessed with individualism so they’re looking for that great individual and they attribute so much to him,” Heere said. “We all know who was the first man on the moon but we don’t even care about the second man. Anyone outside of the United States would just name the three astronauts collectively.”

While he was living, Larry Doby never complained about the lack of attention he receive during and after his playing career, despite his stunning accomplishments. Ten years after his death, Camden unveiled a statue in his honor in front of the city’s archives. 

Larry Doby was honored as a distinguished native of Camden with this road sign on November 24, 2002. The road marker stood at U.S. 521 and I-20.

“I was never bitter because I believed in the man upstairs. I continue to do my best. I let someone else be bitter. If I was bitter, I was only hurting me,”  Doby told Fay Vincent, former commissioner of MLB, in a 2003 article published in the New York Times.

One thing Doby was firm on was his South Carolina heritage and he never let anyone mistake his Southern origins.

Jerry Izenberg, journalist for the Newark-Star Ledger, followed Doby throughout his career and on multiple occasions he saw him correct reporters on his hometown.

“Larry made sure they knew,” Izenberg said in Pride Against Prejudice: The Larry Doby Story, the film on display at the African-American Cultural Center of Camden. “One time I heard him stop a reporter before an interview and say ‘I’m not from Paterson, I’m from South Carolina.’”

Larry Doby’s pride in his hometown of Camden is being reciprocated by the efforts of volunteers like Elizabeth Robinson. She hopes that Doby’s story, and his relative lack of fame can teach young African-American athletes how past sacrifices shape today’s society.

What the students have got to learn, she said, “is what they (black baseball players) went through to make your life what it is today.”

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Kyle Busch Holds Off Kevin Harvick To Win O’Reilly Auto Parts 500 At Texas

By: Camille Jones/

FORT WORTH, Tex. – Kyle Busch held off a hard-charging Kevin Harvick to earn the win in Sunday’s O’Reilly Auto Parts 500 at Texas Motor Speedway.

Busch, driver of the Joe Gibbs Racing No. 18 Interstate Batteries Toyota earned his first victory and sixth top-10 of the 2018 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series season after leading 116 laps of the 334-lap race. In the closing laps, Kevin Harvick attempted to chase Busch down, but he came up just short. The win is Busch’s fifth consecutive top-three finish.

“(Winning) means a lot,” said Busch. “It just kind of solidifies your Playoffs and solidifies us in being the points leader and the way we’ve been running this year. My guys were just so good. I can’t say enough about everybody on my team and you know, we’ve just got everything clicking right now. Adam (Stevens, crew chief) does a great job. He leads these guys really really well. We all communicate so well and we do what we need to do inside the hauler to make sure that we have a good race car and get good feedback and things like that to be able to have fast race cars on race day.”

Harvick’s second-place finish was a tough battle after issues on pit road. The driver of the Stewart-Haas Racing No. 4 Busch Light Ford entered the weekend coming off a fifth-place finish at Martinsville Speedway. On Sunday, Harvick started on the outside of the pole and led 87 laps throughout the afternoon.  Read the rest of this entry »

Clint Bowyer Snaps 190-Race Winless Streak With STP 500 Win At Martinsville Speedway

By: Hunter Thomas/

RIDGEWAY, Va. – Clint Bowyer snapped a 190-race winless streak on Monday at Martinsville Speedway after he led a race high of 215 laps en route to winning the STP 500.

Prior to Monday, the last time that Bowyer celebrated in Victory Lane was back in 2011 when he won the October race at Talladgea Superspeedway. Monday’s victory is the 38-year-old’s ninth series win of his career. The driver of the Stewart-Haas Racing No. 14 Haas Automation Demo Derby Ford led more laps on Monday than he has in the previous four years combined.

“For whatever reason, it felt right driving up here,” Bowyer said. “It’s such a cool place to be able to drive up through the countryside on a two-lane road and think about the race.”

Bowyer continued and said, “Let me tell you something, Gene Haas, Tony Stewart, to give this old dog a fresh chance and fresh blood with a new opportunity. Finally to get the 14 in victory lane is just a weight off the shoulders. It’s been a long time. You start to question if you can get it done or not. To have it come at this place meant a lot.”

Kyle Busch finished second on Monday in his Joe Gibbs Racing No. 18 M&M’s Caramel Toyota. Busch attempted to chase Bowyer down, but he just wasn’t able to navigate through the lapped traffic as the final 109 laps went caution free. The second-place finish marks Busch’s second consecutive runner-up effort.  Read the rest of this entry »

Martin Truex Jr. Outperforms Kyle Busch At Auto Club Speedway To Win Auto Club 400

By: Hunter Thomas/

FONTANA, Calif. – In the closing laps of Sunday’s Auto Club 400 at Auto Club Speedway, Martin Truex Jr. battled and outperformed Kyle Busch to capture his first Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series win of the season.

With just 39 laps to go, Truex passed Busch for the race lead, and two laps later, both drivers hit pit road nose-to-tail for the final stops of the afternoon. Busch’s pit crew got him off pit road just ahead of Truex. With just 31 laps remaining, Truex chased down and pulled off the race-winning pass on Busch. Truex, defending Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series champion, finished out the afternoon leading a race high of 125 of the 200 laps.

“It’s good to be here,” Truex said in Victory Lane. “I am really proud of my team and everybody here. We’ve started the season out strong. Everyone kept asking when we were going to win and we hadn’t won any stages yet. And I said don’t worry, we are close. We just need to figure it out a little bit. And today, what a damn hotrod. This thing was unbelievable. Just thanks to all the guys and everybody at Toyota, TRD, Bass Pro Shops, 5-hour ENERGY, Auto Owners and all of our sponsors and helps supports this deal. It’s a dream come true and this team is unbelievable.”

Read the rest of this entry »

Kevin Harvick Dominates In Las Vegas To Capture 100th NASCAR National Series Win

By: Camille Jones/

LAS VEGAS, Nev. – Kevin Harvick sailed off to his second victory of the season in Sunday’s Pennzoil 400 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. Harvick led 214 of 267 laps on his way to his 100th win in NASCAR’s top-three series.

Harvick in the Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR) No. 4 Jimmy John’s Ford has seen two dominant performances in three races this season. Harvick’s victory on Sunday comes just one week after his win at Atlanta Motor Speedway.

“We have definitely had three good race cars with the Xfinity car and the Cup car and we had a good race car at Daytona as well and got caught up in a wreck,” Harvick said following his win. “As you look at the last two weeks and our 1.5-mile program in general it has been really good since I started here at SHR. They put a lot of effort into everything we do from every standpoint to get these cars going like they are. I have to thank everyone from Stewart-Haas Racing, Gene and Tony, it is fun to have them here when we win. Everybody who helps put this thing on the race track, we couldn’t do it without them. And the fans for coming out to the racetrack today. We really appreciate you all coming out. It is always fun for me to win on the west coast and I didn’t have a lot of luck here until I came to SHR. It is great to win on the west coast for me.”

On Sunday, 42-year-old Harvick added his 39th Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series win to his 47 wins in the NASCAR XFINITY Series and 14 wins in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series. Harvick becomes only the fourth driver in history to capture 100 wins across the NASCAR national series. He joins Richard Petty (200 wins), Kyle Busch (184 wins) and David Pearson (106 wins).  Read the rest of this entry »

Kevin Harvick Wins First Cup Series Race At Atlanta Motor Speedway Since 2001

By: Camille Jones/

HAMPTON, Ga. – Kevin Harvick cruised to victory in Sunday’s rain-delayed Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway, 17 years after claiming his first win at the track after taking over the ride of the late Dale Earnhardt Sr.

Harvick paid tribute to Earnhardt by raising three fingers out of his window as he drove around the track celebrating his win in his No. 4 Jimmy Johns Ford. Although Harvick has led 1,152 laps at Atlanta Motor Speedway in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series, Sunday’s win was his first at the track since his debut start in 2001. Harvick also won the NASCAR XFINITY Series race at the track on Saturday afternoon.

“I’m just so proud of everybody on our team,” Harvick said as he reflected on his victory celebration. “That was the first win in my career and to be able to do that and pay tribute to Dale was pretty cool. I’ve been waiting a long time to do that. We’ve had so many days where we could do that here, but I just want to thank everybody from Stewart-Haas Racing, Jimmy John’s, Busch, Ford, Mobil 1, Outback, Hunt Brothers, Morton Buildings, Textron Off Road, Liftmaster, everybody who puts this car on the race track and for five years it’s been so fast at this particular race track and a lot of other ones. I love racing here and it’s good to be back in Victory Lane finally. It took a while.”

With the threat of rain in the area lingering throughout the entire race, several different strategies unfolded over the course of 325 laps. Harvick stuck to the plan and out-raced the strategy with pure speed and a late caution that reset the field.  Read the rest of this entry »

Austin Dillon Wins Daytona 500 In No. 3 Car 20 Years After Earnhardt’s Historic Victory

By: Camille Jones/

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – Twenty years ago, Austin Dillon was a kid celebrating a Daytona 500 win in Victory Lane with Dale Earnhardt Sr. On Sunday while driving Richard Childress Racing’s iconic No. 3 Chevrolet, 27-year-old Dillon held off the field and captured his first Harley J. Earl trophy at Daytona International Speedway.

The 60th running of The Great American Race finished in NASCAR Overtime. On the final lap, Austin Dillon made a late move on Aric Almirola. Dillon had momentum and didn’t slow down when Almirola went to block the race-winning move. Almirola lost control and crashed into the outside wall heading into Turn 3. Dillon held on for his second-career Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series victory, capturing the third Daytona 500 win for Richard Childress Racing after Kevin Harvick also won the race in 2007 for the team.

“I said my first win I couldn’t beat it, but this does,” said Dillon. “My Grandfather has done everything for me. Everybody knows it. There is a lot of pressure on me to perform because I have had a little bit of everything. But I like that pressure. The same with the No 3. There is a lot of pressure behind that. But I’m willing to take that and go with it. I’m just thankful for all the people that support us along the way. Dale Earnhardt, Jr. and his family for letting us bring this number back. It comes full circle. I just can’t thank the Lord enough for this opportunity.”

Darrell “Bubba” Wallace Jr. finished second in his Daytona 500 debut and only his fifth Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series start. Wallace’s runner-up effort marked the highest finish by an African American in the Daytona 500 since Wendell Scott finished 13th in 1966. During his post-race press conference, Wallace became emotional after a hug from his mother. Wallace explained what his second-place finish meant while sharing the experience with his family.  Read the rest of this entry »

USC swimmer competes for international recognition

By Sarah Stone

Out of all the obstacles distance swimmer Akram Mahmoud had to overcome when he traveled 6,000 miles to the University of South Carolina, from his home in Cairo, Egypt, culture shock was not one of them.

“I felt like it’s home here, and I was really blessed,” Mahmoud said.

Mahmoud, one of the world’s top performing distance swimmers, and head coach McGee Moody attributed Mahmoud’s ease of transition to his international teammates.

“Having other people on our team that have made that adjustment, that have walked through that process, it definitely has a big impact,” Moody said.

Mahmoud, who began swimming at age 5 and wi

nning international competitions by 15, knew that he wanted to go to swim at a U.S. college. in the United States. The University of South Carolina’s reputation as a top program for distance swimming and international athletes helped him make the decision to head to Columbia.

“We’ve kind of become known worldwide as a program that can develop international students and then provide them the opportunity to go back and compete for their country,” Head Coach McGee Moody said. But there were athletic and academic hurdles to overcome.

He did not join the team until January of his freshman year, which meant he was forced to adapt to a team that had been training for months with one of the most volume-based programs in the nation. Mahmoud also had to adjust to from the long course yards used internationally to the short course yards used only in American swimming.

“It was a little bit hard for me because I have to do a lot of turns since I’m a distance swimmer so it took a long time to make my turns better and adjust for the short course yards,” Mahmoud said.

Many people also doubted the student-athlete’s ability to perform well outside the pool.

“He had a lot of people when he was coming into school here that said, ‘I don’t think we’re going to let him into school because we don’t think he can get it done. We don’t think he can make the grade,’” Moody said.

Mahmoud has earned All-American honors eight times. He has also proved skeptics of his academic performance wrong by getting his name on the list of multiple honor rolls.

Moody believes that Mahmoud is one of the top distance swimmers in the world, but he finds the mindset that inspires this success nearly as impressive.

“He has a huge heart and loves his teammates,” Moody said. “And at the same time, what’s awesome about Akram is he is one of the most fierce competitors that I’ve ever met.”

During last year’s NCAA tournament, Mahmoud was one of four swimmers who broke the American 1650 freestyle record.

“It was an epic race that to this day has never been repeated and probably won’t be for a long time, you walk over to Akram and in that moment the first thing he said to me was ‘I’m sorry coach,’” Moody said. “And I’m sitting there thinking ‘Akram, there’s only two people on the face of this planet that have swam faster than you in the 1650.’ I was like ‘What are you sorry for?’ and he was like ‘Yeah,’ but he goes ‘Those two people swam faster than me in this heat.’”

Mahmoud does not feel satisfied with what he has accomplished so far. Before his time as a Gamecock is over, he hopes to become the only swimmer at the university to win an NCAA title.

Another “first” also motivates Mahmoud. He wants to become the first Egyptian to medal in swimming. The pressure to do well for his family, country and coaches played a large role in Mahmoud’s performance in Rio. Mahmoud qualified for the Rio Olympics in 2016, but did not reach the finals. He did, however, meet his hero Michael Phelps.

“That was something I will never forget for the rest of my life,” Mahmoud said.

Over the last year and a half, Mahmoud has worked to become more confident and more experienced before Tokyo. Following graduation this spring, Mahmoud plans to stay in Columbia to train for the Olympic Games in 2020. He also plans to pursue sponsors.

Martin Truex Jr. Wins Ford EcoBoost 400 And Championship At Homestead-Miami

By: Camille Jones/

HOMESTEAD, Fla. – Martin Truex Jr. won it all after taking the checkered flag in Sunday’s Ford EcoBoost 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway, naming him the 2017 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Champion.

Truex’s victory at Homestead-Miami Speedway was his eighth victory of the 2017 season with his Furniture Row Racing No. 78 team that’s based out of Denver, Colorado, the only team based in the Centennial State to win a Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series championship.

“It’s just overwhelming,” said Truex. “To think about all the rough days and bad days, the days that couldn’t run 20th, to be here, I never thought this day would come and to be here is so unbelievable.”

Truex added and said, “I can’t event believe it. I can’t believe we got the lead. I can’t believe we kept it. We weren’t the best car all day long. We fought it. Cole (Pearn, crew chief) had some great pit strategy and the caution came at the right time to get us the lead and then they put it in my hands and I had to hang onto it. It’s all I could do to hang onto that thing and find a lane that would work for me and the 4 (Kevin Harvick) and the 18 (Kyle Busch) were both better on the long run all day long. I just had to find something at the end and luckily was able to find a lane that was really good for my car, but also bad for them behind me and just worked out.”

The race was an up-and-down event for Truex. His car was fast enough, but he wasn’t making the powerful statement that the No. 78 team usually makes.  Read the rest of this entry »

Matt Kenseth Captures First Win Of 2017 At Phoenix; Brad Keselowski Hangs On For Final Spot In Championship 4

By: Sarah Sedwick/

Matt Kenseth passed Chase Elliott in the closing laps of the Can-Am 500 at Phoenix International Raceway on Sunday to earn his first win of the 2017 season. Brad Keselowski held on to capture the final spot in the Championship 4.

Although Kenseth doesn’t currently have a ride for 2018, the veteran driver managed to claim the win at Phoenix Raceway on Sunday, which marked his 39th victory in the NASCAR Monster Energy Cup Series. Kenseth, driver of the Joe Gibbs Racing No. 20 Circle K Toyota led the race twice for a total of 62 laps en route to his second Phoenix win.

“I never dreamed I’d win one of these races, so obviously I’ve been so incredibly blessed throughout my whole career and I’ve had so many great people work with me – great sponsors, crew chiefs, car owners,” said Kenseth. “I’ve raced against great drivers, so, you know – but last year, we won a couple races and I usually never look at stats and I saw Mark (Martin) had 40 and I was like, ‘I just want to get 40 so I can tie my hero Mark’.”

Chase Elliott and Denny Hamlin entered the weekend competing for the fourth and final spot in the Championship 4. At Martinsville Speedway in October, Elliott and Hamlin were seen in a heated argument after Hamlin got into the back of Elliott, causing him to spin and pound the wall. Throughout the day on Sunday, both drivers maintained the tension between them because the Playoffs were on the line.

Elliott needed a win to continue and Hamlin needed the sufficient amount of points to advance. Both, Elliott and Hamlin were competitive. Hamlin led for 193 laps, while Elliott only led for 34. Late in Stage 3, the two drivers battled each other hard. While coming out of Turn 4, Elliott got underneath Hamlin and left no room for error. Hamlin bounced off the wall and eventually cut a tire, bringing out the seventh and final caution on lap 276. After Hamlin hit the wall, he realized his chances of claiming the final Championship 4 spot were no more.  Read the rest of this entry »

My Brain on NASCAR: The People’s Champion

Cathy Elliott

By Cathy Elliott

There’s a giant billboard currently on display at Texas Motor Speedway (TMS) proclaiming that “Chase Elliott is the People’s Champion.”

This creative – and largely unsubstantiated, based on the fact that Elliott has won zero NASCAR Cup Series races to date — piece of advertising is the track’s response to a heated post-race exchange between Elliott and Denny Hamlin at Martinsville on Oct 29. Hamlin wrecked Elliott from the lead with two laps remaining, earning the ire of fans and allowing Kyle Busch to claim the checkered flag and a guaranteed spot in the championship final four in the process.

That was quite the triple whammy. Good job, Hamlin.

While fans were probably still trying to exit Martinsville’s parking lots after the race, TMS went to work, taking advantage of this fledgling rivalry. Despite the events at the historic track nicknamed “the Paper Clip,” Hamlin and Elliott remained in the top eight and are still eligible to win the championship. Cue the fireworks; things are only going to get better from here.

TMS’ decision to fan the competitive flames by bestowing the somewhat grandiose “People’s Champion” title on Elliott, in addition to being a fantastic case of deliberate pot-stirring, is really kind of brilliant on a number of levels. Hamlin has earned the reputation of being rather volatile during his racing career, so I’m guessing that seeing his much less experienced competitor being so highly touted isn’t sitting very well.

And Elliott, while wildly popular with fans, still has a lot to prove on the track … winning a race would be a good place to start. Duh.

Taking advantage of controversy to drive ticket sales is hardly a new strategy. Almost two decades ago, the late Jim Hunter, who then served as president of Darlington Raceway, took masterful advantage of what could have been a discouraging situation for a track promoter. Read the rest of this entry »

Martin Truex Jr. Continues NASCAR Playoff Dominance With Kansas Win

By: Hunter Thomas/

KANSAS CITY, Kan. – While racing with heavy hearts for the passing of Furniture Row Racing road-crew fabricator Jim Watson, Martin Truex Jr. piloted the No. 78 Bass Pro Shops/Tracker Boats Toyota to victory on Sunday in the Hollywood Casino 400 at Kansas Speedway.

Throughout the afternoon, Truex Jr. overcame a restart penalty that was assessed on lap 38 and an unscheduled green flag pit stop for a vibration to capture his seventh Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series victory of 2017. With the win, he becomes the first driver in series history to ever win both Kansas races in a season. He led 91 laps during the 267-lap NASCAR Playoff race.

“Just couldn’t believe some of the things that were happening and thought there was no way that we were going to win that race at some point,” Truex Jr. said. “That first restart violation really caught me by surprise and that hurt, but that wasn’t the last blow we had to take. There was the loose wheel we had to pit for under green and getting a lap down and being able to stay out through that last stage and get that lap back was crucial, without that, we didn’t have a shot. Then we got back mid-pack and had a couple really good restarts to get some track position and then really fought the car through that part of the race and had to make some big adjustments and I felt like at the end we got dialed in pretty good. I’m pretty happy with that.”

Kurt Busch finished second on Sunday after starting 15th in the Stewart-Haas Racing No. 41 Haas Automation/Monster Energy Ford. The runner-up finish comes as a sigh of relief for Busch. He hasn’t earned a top-five finish since Richmond in early September. Read the rest of this entry »

My Brain on NASCAR: Simply Awesome

Cathy Elliott

By Cathy Elliott

Like different types of music, conversations can have their own distinctive rhythm.

I learned this from experience. In any given verbal exchange, the moment the other person knows you have an affiliation with NASCAR – no matter how small — the same two things invariably happen.

First comes the inevitable driver question. There’s a small amount of wiggle room on this one, but ninety-nine percent of the time this blank is filled in with, “Do you know Dale Jr.?”

The next level in this two-step process has a bit more verbal Spandex, stretching to fit the speaker’s dimensions. Usually it’s a suggestion. You know it’s coming, because it’s always prefaced by the query, “You know what NASCAR needs to do?”

I don’t know that, actually, but folks don’t mind one bit offering their opinions to help me figure it out. They have informed me that NASCAR should remove all road courses from the schedule; do away with the current scoring system in favor of “the guy with the most points at the end of the season is the champion, just like the old days” system; throw all the restrictor plates into a box and sell them off for scrap metal; and ban Kyle Busch from racing. In any series. Ever.

There is something to be said for consistency. If you’re forced to address something on a regular basis, it can turn anyone, regardless of age or gender, into a Boy Scout: always prepared.

The problem with thinking that you’re “always” anything, though, is that you never really are. So a couple of days ago, when someone asked me, “You know what NASCAR needs to do?” I mentally readied my defense of road course racing and said, “Nope. Tell me.” Read the rest of this entry »

Dale Earnhardt Jr. Ran As Hard As He Could In Final Race At Talladega Superspeedway

By: Sarah Sedwick/

TALLADEGA, Ala. – After what he called a lucky day, Dale Earnhardt Jr. managed to avoid several accidents to finish seventh during his last race at Talladega Superspeedway, a track that has been synonymous with the Earnhardt family.

Sunday’s Alabama 500 marked the first time Earnhardt Jr., driver of Hendrick Motorsports No. 88 Mountain Dew Chevrolet, started on the pole in 35 starts at Talladega Superspeedway. During qualifying on Saturday, Earnhardt Jr. reached a top speed of 190.544, which held off Hendrick Motorsports teammate, Chase Elliott, driver of the No. 24 NAPA Chevrolet by .035 seconds.

Earnhardt Jr. has had a thriving record at Talladega Superspeedway throughout his career. In the early 2000s, he won five races, which included two in the 2002 season. Earnhardt Jr.’s total wins then rose to six in 2015, marking Talladega Superspeedway as holding the most wins of his career at a single track. He holds 12 Top-5 finishes and 17 Top-10 finishes at the track. Overall, he has led 967 total laps at Talladega Superspeedway.

“I just wanted to come in here and be considered talented, but to be great at anything was beyond my imagination,” said Earnhardt Jr. “I appreciate people’s compliments on my plate driving and the success we’ve had at all the plate races.”

Throughout Sunday’s race, Earnhardt Jr. led a total of seven laps. Earnhardt Jr. also received two penalties; one for pitting before pit road was open, right after a major wreck on lap 26, and the other for speeding while entering pit road on lap 52.

As if dealing with penalties weren’t enough, Earnhardt Jr. narrowly escaped four accidents, all in Turn 3.  Read the rest of this entry »

Martin Truex Jr. Wins Bank of America 500 In Overtime Finish At Charlotte

By: Hunter Thomas/

CONCORD, N.C. – Martin Truex Jr. held off the field in NASCAR Overtime at Charlotte Motor Speedway to win the Bank of America 500, the first race of the Round of 12.

Truex Jr. was on his way to the victory, but on lap 327, Kyle Busch brought out the caution for the third time of the afternoon. On the restart, Truex Jr. lined up on the inside with Joe Gibbs Racing’s Denny Hamlin to his outside. When the green flag flew, Truex Jr. in the Furniture Row Racing No. 78 Auto-Owners Insurance Toyota, was able to stay out in front; however, on lap 333, the caution came out for the 10th and final time, when Kurt Busch slid up the track, hit Kyle Larson and spun through Turn 2. On the NASCAR Overtime restart, Truex Jr. got an even better jump on Hamlin and went on to win his sixth race of the season.

“Unbelievable win. Just a total team effort,” Truex Jr. said. “Every single guy – every guy on this team just did a perfect job today and I can’t be more proud of them and at this time of the year is just when you want it to happen. You dream about days like today. I don’t know if we had the best car, but we damn sure go it in victory lane.”

Chase Elliott, who started third on both of the last two restarts, finished second in his Hendrick Motorsports No. 24 SunEnergy1 Chevrolet. Elliott has now finished second for two consecutive weekends. Last weekend, he nearly won at Dover until Kyle Busch was able to get around him in the final laps. On Sunday at Charlotte Motor Speedway, Elliott led 12 laps and ran up front throughout the entire event.  Read the rest of this entry »

Kyle Busch Passes Chase Elliott In Final Laps At Dover To Win 42nd Career Cup Series Race

By: Hunter Thomas/

DOVER, Del. – Chase Elliott was on the verge of his first career victory until Kyle Busch passed him with just two laps to go to win the Apache Warrior 400 presented by Lucas Oil at Dover International Speedway.

Elliott looked as if he was going to cruise to his first Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series victory in the Hendrick Motorsports No. 24 NAPA Chevrolet, but after leading 59 consecutive laps, Busch, driver of the Joe Gibbs Racing No 18 M&M’s Caramel Toyota, was able to get the best of Elliott in heavy lapped traffic to take over the race lead in the closing two laps. The win is Busch’s 42nd career series win.

“Just we kept working on it all day long,” Busch said. “We kept making adjustments to it every pit stop, every chance we got and Adam (Stevens, crew chief) and the guys did a really, really good job of that and I think the biggest thing there at the end was just having a little bit fewer, fresher lap tires than Chase (Elliott) did and I wasn’t sure if it was going to be enough when I got close. I got within five lengths and I stalled out and I was like, ‘Oh, man, I think that was it,’ you know? But I got back to the top and got enough momentum back rolling. Chase was kind of plugged up with the lap cars in front of him, so I think the lap cars actually helped us with that one, but overall just great day for us.”

Elliott, who although didn’t win the event, led a race high of 138 laps after being out in front of the field on three occasions. With the runner-up finish, Elliott will transfer to the second round of the NASCAR Playoffs.  Read the rest of this entry »