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Monday, February 27, 2017

RACE WEEK ARRIVES IN ATLANTA

RACE WEEK ARRIVES IN ATLANTA ALONG WITH SEVERAL INTRIGUING STORYLINES
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HAMPTON, Ga. (Feb. 27, 2017) – After a rough and tumble opening weekend for all three national touring series, the 2017 NASCAR season shifts 400 miles north to Atlanta Motor Speedway, a track where drivers will face a whole different set of challenges, as the historic facility, first opened in 1960, closes the books on one iconic era of racing before opening another on a new surface in 2018.
As the season shifts into its non-restrictor-plate racing schedule, Week 2 offers a bounty of intriguing storylines to watch as NASCAR returns to the historic high banks of Atlanta Motor Speedway.
Final Race on Current Atlanta Surface
After 20 years, 31 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series races, 19 XFINITY Series races and 15 Camping World Truck races since it was last repaved in the spring of 1997, Atlanta Motor Speedway’s 1.54-mile quad oval track will see one more race in each of NASCAR’s top three series this before getting a facelift later this spring. Atlanta's is the second-oldest surface on the NASCAR circuit.

Some of the many iconic events in NASCAR’s history that happened on the current surface include Dale Earnhardt’s 0.01-second margin of factory over Bobby Labonte in 2000, Kevin Harvick’s emotional and record-setting 0.006-second margin of victory over Jeff Gordon in Earnhardt’s Richard Childress Racing car the following year, Carl Edwards’ first Cup Series victory and subsequent season sweep of both Atlanta races in 2005 and the first-ever Atlanta night race in 2009.
NASCAR’s 2500th Race
In its 68th year of competition, NASCAR will run its 2,500th Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series race at Atlanta Motor Speedway during this Sunday’s Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500. It will also be Atlanta Motor Speedway’s 102nd 500-mile race. No other track on the circuit has hosted as many races of that length.

Double-Duty for Chase Elliott
After leading 23 of the final 26 laps in yesterday’s season-opening race and falling just short of his first regular-season victory in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series, 21-year-old Chase Elliott will offer Georgia racing fans double the opportunity to watch him win on his home track. 

Elliott will pilot the No. 23 All-Star Team for GMS Racing in Saturday’s Active Pest Control 200 Camping World Truck Series race, just his 11th career start in a truck, before attempting his first Cup Series win in the Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500 on Sunday.
AMS Legends Alum Victorious
While Elliott fell just short of his first Cup Series victory, one of his fellow AMS Legends alumni did emerge victorious after the first week of the 2017 NASCAR season. Kaz Grala, who raced on the AMS “Thunder Ring” in both 2011 and 2012, sealed his first NASCAR win in last Friday’s Camping World Truck Series race in Daytona. He will try for his second straight to open the season in this Saturday’s Active Pest Control 200, driving for GMS Racing in the Camping World Truck Series.

Seven-Time Three Straight at Atlanta?
In its 57-year history, no driver has ever won three straight races at Atlanta Motor Speedway, but seven-time Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series champion Jimmie Johnson can be the first to accomplish that feat on Sunday. Johnson drove from the 37th starting position in 2015 and the 19th last season to win back-to-back Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500 victories. He is the winningest current driver at Atlanta with five trips to Victory Lane. NASCAR Hall-of-Famer Fred Lorenzen, however, did win four races in four years at Atlanta from 1961 to 1964, though they were not consecutive. Cale Yarborough, another Hall-of-Famer, did something similar three years in a row from 1967 to 1969, winning three straight Atlanta spring races.

Family Affair
The defending 2016 Atlanta Camping World Truck Series winner, John Hunter Nemechek, will be joined on the race track this weekend by his father, four-time Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series and 16-time XFINITY Series winner, Joe Nemechek, in the Active Pest Control 200. Father Joe has two Camping World Truck Series starts at Atlanta under his belt, finishing 35th in 2006 and 10th in 2015. He also has seven top-10 finishes in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series level in 39 Atlanta races.

Crowded XFINITY Series Lineup
While full-time XFINITY Series drivers make up the bulk of the Rinnai 250 entry list, several Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series drivers are set to crowd the front of the pack for Saturday’s race. Brothers Austin and Ty Dillon, Kyle Busch, Denny Hamlin, Brad Keselowski, Kevin Harvick, Kyle Larson and Aric Almirola are all scheduled to compete for this year’s Atlanta XFINITY Series crown.

Doubleheader Double-Duty
Three drivers, JJ Yeley, Mike Harmon and Kyle Busch, winner of the 2016 Atlanta XFINITY Series race, are scheduled to drive in both the Rinnai 250 XFINITY Series and Active Pest Control 200 Camping World Truck Series race on Saturday.

The 2017 Atlanta NASCAR weekend gets underway this Friday, March 3 with practice sessions from all three NASCAR national touring series, followed by Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series qualifying. On Saturday, AMS will host NASCAR’s only same-day doubleheader with the Rinnai 250 XFINITY Series and Active Pest Control 200 Camping World Truck Series races. The Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series race rounds out the weekend on Sunday, March 5.
For more information or to purchase tickets today, contact the Atlanta Motor Speedway ticket office at (770) 946-4211, (877) 9-AMS-TIX or visit www.atlantamotorspeedway.com.
-AMS-

Sunday Daytona Notebook

Sunday Daytona Notebook

Notebook Items:
·        Despite the crash that took him out, Earnhardt encouraged by strong performance
·        Ryan Blaney has mixed feelings about runner-up finish
·        Michael Waltrip finishes eighth in final Daytona 500

February 26, 2017

By Reid Spencer
NASCAR Wire Service

Despite the crash that took him out, Earnhardt encouraged by strong performance

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – Returning to action from a concussion that sidelined him for the second half of the 2016 season, Dale Earnhardt Jr. was leading Sunday’s Daytona 500 at the halfway point, having passed Hendrick Motorsports teammate Jimmie Johnson for the top spot on lap 97 of 200.

But both Earnhardt and Johnson were off-cycle on pit stops, and a trip to pit road was imminent. What Earnhardt needed was a caution.

What Earnhardt didn’t need was to be part of the wreck that caused the yellow.

On Lap 105, Earnhardt was trailing a trio of Toyotas into Turn 3 when Kyle Busch spun as his right rear tire deflated. Earnhardt tried to steer around the wreck but clipped the rear of Busch’s Toyota, severely damaging the right front suspension of Earnhardt’s Chevrolet.

Earnhardt took the car to the garage and fell out of the race in 37th place, a disappointing end to a strong week that saw him qualify on the outside of the front row for the Great American Race and finish fifth in his Can-Am Duel on Thursday.

“I don't know what happened there with the No. 18 (Busch),” Earnhardt said of the crash that knocked him out of the race. “He just got turned around. I tried to get the wheel turned and get down the race track, but I lifted off the gas to miss it, and got on the splitter a little bit, and the car went straight. We jumped him, and got in the wall a little bit.

“Wasn't too hard of a hit. We thought we could get the car fixed and get back out there and see what we could do with the rest of the day and make up some spots maybe. But there was just too much damage. The radiator is pushed back. The toe is all messed up.  The front suspension is knocked around pretty bad, so the upper A-frame is laid over on the motor. We just can't drive it like that.”

The wreck, however, didn’t diminish the positive feelings Earnhardt takes away from Daytona.

“I really enjoyed the whole week,” he said. “We had a lot of fun. Everybody was looking forward to getting back to the race track. It meant a lot to me. And I'm just sorry we weren't able to deliver a better result today for all our fans and everybody that was looking forward to today. We had a great car. At least we went out leading the race.

“Luckily, the hit wasn't that hard, and we'll be able to get to Atlanta and compete again. It's going to be a fun season, and we've got pretty high spirits. This was not the result we wanted today, but like I said, it's been a great week.”

RYAN BLANEY HAS MIXED FEELINGS ABOUT RUNNER-UP FINISH

Given his running position with two laps left in Sunday’s Daytona 500, Ryan Blaney was pleasantly surprised with his runner-up finish in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series’ most prestigious race.

On the other hand, there was a tinge of disappointment at coming so close to a victory and falling .228 seconds short.

“We all got single-file with 15 (laps) to go, something like that,” Blaney said. “I tried to make a move with 10 to go to see what would happen. No one really went with me. The 22 (Joey Logano) tried too. It really wasn’t happening. I was kind of worried it was just going to end that way.

“Luckily, I got Joey behind me there down the frontstretch, and we were able to lay back to him and get a huge run into (Turn) 1. At the same moment, the 41 (race winner Kurt Busch) went to go pass the 42 (Kyle Larson), and it kept my run going, all the way up to second.”

But second was also where the run stopped.

“It was a good way to start off the year,” Blaney said. “Stinks to be so close. But I think that’s good momentum for our team, to be good at the beginning of the day, get some damage and be able to rally for a good finish.”

MICHAEL WALTRIP FINISHES EIGHTH IN FINAL DAYTONA 500

Michael Waltrip didn’t have the fastest car in Sunday’s Daytona 500, but he managed to avoid the prolific multicar wrecks that peppered the first 150 laps of the race.

And when he took the checkered flag, Waltrip was eighth in his 30th and final trip around Daytona International Speedway in NASCAR’s most important race.

“Yeah, it’s going to be a great memory to have a top 10,” Waltrip said. “I had so many times I was in the middle of a crash and just missed it. So you do a good job, and you get lucky—both. At the end, I just lost the draft, and that’s unfortunate, because I was able to weave my way past people.

“I had a really, really good handling car. I’m thankful that I survived, and I’m thankful for being able to run up front, and I’m happy about the finish. I’m ready for it to be my last one, so it’s going to be a good one to remember it by.”

Sunday, February 26, 2017

Patient Kurt Busch wins wild Daytona 500—without looking back

Patient Kurt Busch wins wild Daytona 500—without looking back
 February 26, 2017
 By Reid Spencer
NASCAR Wire Service

RESULTS AT RACE REPORT
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – His car damaged in a wreck on the backstretch and held together with tape, Kurt Busch grabbed the lead on the final lap of the 59th Daytona 500 on Sunday and took the checkered flag in the Great American Race as a capstone to a checkered career that has trended upward since Busch joined Stewart-Haas Racing in 2014.
In a race that featured the first test of a new three-stage race format in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series—and featured enough twisted sheet metal to keep fabricators busy for a month—Busch surged to the front with a run around the outside when more than half the vehicles in an 11-car lead draft sputtered and ran short on fuel.
Having pushed other drivers to victory in the 500 on three previous occasions, Busch took the prize himself this time, finishing .228 seconds ahead of Ryan Blaney, who came from the rear of the lead pack on the final two laps.
AJ Allmendinger ran third after conserving fuel over the final 20 laps, as a race that had produced eight caution flags for 40 laps ran green for the final 47 circuits. Aric Almirola finished fourth as a single car for Richard Petty Motorsports, with Paul Menard and Joey Logano coming home fifth and sixth, respectively.
“I can’t believe it!” Busch shouted on his team radio after claiming the 29th victory of his career and by far the most significant. “I love you guys! Thank you! Thank you!”
Busch lost his rear view mirror in the middle of the final green-flag run, but it didn’t matter.
“There is nothing predictable about this race any more, and the more years that have gone by that I didn’t win I kept trying to go back to patterns that I had seen in the past,” Busch said. “My mirror fell off with 30 laps to go and I couldn’t even see out the back. And I thought that was an omen. Throw caution to the wind.
“It just got crazy and wild, and I am so proud of all the drivers at the end. We put on a show for a full fuel run, and nobody took each other out and it was one of the smartest chess games I have seen out there. All the hard work that Ford and SHR put into this -- this Ford Fusion is in Daytona’s Victory Lane!”
Busch did what other drivers with seemingly stronger cars could not. Pole winner Chase Elliott was disconsolate after running out of fuel on the white-flag lap. He finished 14th.
Kyle Busch won the first 60-lap stage and collected the first playoff point in series history, but on Lap 105, he spun in Turn 3 when he cut a rear tire and collected fellow Toyota drivers Erik Jones and Matt Kenseth, as well as Dale Earnhardt Jr., who was returning to competition after missing the final 18 races of the 2016 season while recovering from a concussion.
Busch fell out of the race in 38th-place. Earnhardt took his car to the garage in 37th.
Kevin Harvick led 50 of the 200 laps and took the second stage, but he fell victim on Lap 128 to the 17-car pileup on the backstretch that also did the most damage to the sheet metal on Kurt Busch’s car.  The 2014 series champion finished 22nd, three laps down.
Busch’s team owner, Tony Stewart, retired from Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series competition at the end of the 2016 season. Stewart-Haas spent the winter converting from Chevrolet to Ford, but it seemed to make little difference to Busch, who won his 2004 series championship in a Roush Fenway Racing Ford.
“It was a crazy race, even crazier to sit and watch it from a pit box finally,” Stewart said. “If I had known all I had to do was retire, I would have retired 17 years ago, if I knew it was what it took to win the race… I ran this damn race for 18 years and didn’t win it.
“Kurt did an amazing job. He doesn’t even have a rear view mirror. The mirror folded on him. His spotter, Tony Raines, did an amazing job. That is the most composed I have ever seen Kurt at the end of a race. He deserved this.”