In one of the wildest NASCAR races of the year thus far, Denny Hamlin and the No. 11 car took the checkered flag and won the 2014 Aaron’s 499 Sprint Cup Series race at the always unpredictable Talladega Superspeedway.
Hamlin, who opened the season with a pair of wins in Daytona exhibition races only to finish second in the Daytona 500, was again sitting second in the closing laps Sunday at Talladega Superspeedway. But he won a drag race with leader Kevin Harvick on a restart with two laps remaining, and was out front when NASCAR froze the field because of debris from an accident.
Hamlin let out a deep sigh when the yellow flag waved.
“Superspeedway win,” he said on his radio. “With points! With points!”
Hamlin became the eighth winner in 10 races this season as drivers jockey to grab the 16 spots available in the Chase for the Sprint Cup championship.
Tempers were flaring, caution flags were flying and keeping a clean car was nearly impossible for every Sprint Cup driver during the STP 500 at Martinsville Speedway on Sunday.
Kurt Busch experienced all of that. But when the brake dust finally settled at the short track, the Outlaw emerged as the sixth different driver to take the checkered flag through as many races.
The victory was his first for Stewart-Haas Racing, in just their sixth race together, suggesting that it could prove a very productive partnership, and one that a reflective Busch said he has learned to approach with a more mature attitude.
Flirting with disaster yet again as he did during the Daytona 500 victory, Dale Earnhardt Jr. had the lead heading into the final lap of the Kobalt Tools 400 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway on Sunday. The gamble didn’t pay off this time around, however, as Earnhardt Jr. ran out of fuel and Brad Keselowski emerged victorious.
Keselowski, the 2012 Sprint Cup champion, also virtually assured himself of a spot in the Chase for the Sprint Cup championship after missing it entirely last season, a thought was already on his mind immediately after the finish.
“Locked in the Chase early,” Keselowski said. “I don’t have to hear all that crap about not being in the Chase.”
Earnhardt was just a few ounces of fuel shy of earning his second victory in three races to start the season. The Daytona 500 champion also finished second last week at Phoenix before improving the best start to a season in his NASCAR career.
Keselowski swept both the Nationwide and Sprint Cup races on consecutive days and secured his third top-five finish of the season through three races—the same as Earnhardt Jr.
Kevin Harvick held off the competition Sunday to win The Profit in the CNBC 500 at Phoenix International Raceway, for his fifth victory at the track, which is the most all-time, per ESPN’s Matt Willis.
Coming off a disappointing finish at the Daytona 500, Harvick had the fastest car in practice and kept it rolling in the race, leading 224 of 312 laps on the odd-shaped mile oval.
Late in the race, though, the caution flag came out three times in the final 34 laps. The restarts put both Earnhardt and Joey Logano, who led 71 laps and finished fourth, right back on Harvick’s tail.
Harvick would keep them there.
Here are the top 10 finishers from the race. You can view the full leaderboard on NASCAR.com.
As if we need to see or hear more of the Robertsons, Duck Dynasty, the popular A&E series and NASCAR have joined efforts of sorts as the stars of the show will sponsor the upcoming April 6 Sprint Cup race, choosing to go with the apt moniker Duck Commander 500.
Sporting News‘ Jeff Owens reports that the Hill-billy family, whose successes and lives are chronicled on the hit show, are actually going to be something of an early-season mainstay for NASCAR.
Duck Commander, the highly successful business that spawned the creation of the hit show, signed a three-year deal to sponsor the spring race at Texas. The Robertson clan will be a big part of the festivities at the track, possibly serving as grand marshals and making appearances on race weekend.
So for at least three years, the Robertson family will sidle up next to the NASCAR brand. Oh joy.
[UPDATE: Duck Commander, the company that makes the famous duck calls of the same name, is reportedly set to purchase the rights to the Independence Bowl, or AdvoCare V100 Bowl as it has been known in recent years.
Duck Commander Independence Bowl signs 6-year deal for naming rights to the bowl game source told @ESPN
After several wrecks during the Sprint Unlimited at Daytona International Speedway, the pace car appeared to have had enough. Before the final segment of the race the car filled with smoke and flames appeared at the back right side of the Chevrolet SS. Driver Brett Bodine pulled the car down to the apron of the track and radioed the tower.
“Tower, we’re on fire,” Bodine radioed.
NASCAR referred all questions about the incident to Chevrolet. In a statement Sunday morning, Chevrolet said the fire was in the trunk area, which contained “a purpose-built auxiliary electrical kit to operate the numerous caution lights during the race.”
“The pace car driver and passenger safely exited the vehicle,” the statement said. “An assessment is underway.”
It’s been a tough week for GM.
Earlier this week, the car manufacturer had to recall 778,562 of its 2005-2007 Chevrolet Cobalt and 2007 Pontiac G5 compacts in North America after faulty ignition switches were linked to six deaths.
And a sinkhole swallowed eight cars at the National Corvette Museum in Kentucky.