Archive for category Sports

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

By: Sarah Sedwick/TheFourthTurn.com

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/TheFourthTurn.com

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/TheFourthTurn.com

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/TheFourthTurn.com

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/TheFourthTurn.com

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 »