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NASCAR

Denny Hamlin Clinches Championship Berth With Win In Phoenix

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Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images

AVONDALE, AZ (Pittsburgh Racing Now) – Joe Gibbs Racing’s Denny Hamlin is locked into NASCAR’s Championship 4 after winning Sunday’s Bluegreen Vacations 500 at ISM Raceway outside Phoenix.

“I can’t believe it,” said Hamlin after the race.  “This race team worked so hard this whole year.  They deserve to be there. One of the best cars of my career, I can tell you that.  Fast car.”

Hamlin entered the race as one of six drivers fighting for two spots in the season-ending Championship race next week at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

Hamlin’s teammate Kyle Busch earned the final spot with a runner-up finish on Sunday.  Busch’s finish gave him enough points to get in, leaving defending series Champion Joey Logano out of the title fight.  Logano finished ninth on Sunday.

Three Rivers Karting

“Just didn’t quite have enough,” said Busch.  “I knew the 11 was the best car in practice. I knew we were going to be about third to fifth. We were second. Guys did a great job, this M&M Camry was good. Thanks to everybody at JGR, Stanley, Toyota, TRD. It’s cool to have a chance to go race for a championship. Just keep coming up short.”

“I went from a car that could lead and win a stage and run really well, and from what they told me, it was an air pressure adjustment made it go from a winning car to can’t stay on the lead lap, and one of the tightest things I’ve ever driven,” said a frustrated Logano.  “I don’t really understand it.  It doesn’t make any sense.  You change tires and change a half pint of air, that sounds ridiculous.  It is what it is.  Just wasn’t our year to make it, I guess.”

Also missing the cut were Logano’s Penske teammate Ryan Blaney, who finished third, and Chip Ganassi Racing’s Kyle Larson, who finished fourth.  Hendrick Motorsports Chase Elliott also didn’t make the cut after another disastrous race.  Elliott wrecked for the second consecutive weekend, ending his title hopes.

Martin Truex Jr. and Kevin Harvick are the other two Championship 4 drivers based on their wins at Martinsville and Texas, respectively.

Phoenix Race Results

NASCAR

Chip Ganassi Fined And Suspended By NASCAR

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Chris Graythen/Getty Images

DAYTONA BEACH, FL (Pittsburgh Racing Now) – Team owner Chip Ganassi ended up on the NASCAR penalty report following this weekend’s events at Daytona International Speedway.

Ganassi was fined $30,000 and suspended from the next NASCAR Cup Series Championship Points Event which is Sunday at Homestead Miami Speedway.

Three Rivers Karting

Ganassi violated section 12.8.1.b of the NASCAR Rule Book “for bringing into the competition area a non-essential individual that was restricted from the footprint”, essentially brining someone not authorized inside the ‘bubble’ which part of the sanctioning body’s COVID-19 protocol.

Chip Ganassi Racing will be permitted to enter their cars, the No. 1 Monster Energy/Gearwrench Chevrolet driven by Kurt Busch and the No. 42 McDonald/Clover Camaro driven by Ross Chastain, in the event.

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NASCAR

Christopher Bell Wins NASCAR Cup Series Road Course Race At Daytona

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James Gilbert/Getty Images

DAYTONA BEACH, FL (Pittsburgh Racing Now) – Christopher Bell picked up his first NASCAR Cup Series win in Sunday’s road course race at Daytona International Speedway.

Bell passed leader Joey Logano with two laps to go to give Joe Gibbs Racing their second win of the weekend.  JGR’S Ty Gibbs won Saturday’s Xfinity Series race.

“I knew I was faster than him,” said Bell. “I ran him down from a while back. All I had to do was get a couple good corners and get away. The last thing I wanted was coming down to the checkered flag with him on my bumper.”

“I was trying to keep him (Bell) behind me,” said Logano. “We gambled by staying out and I’d say it paid off overall, but you just hate being so close. He started catching me a second a lap and it wasn’t like I blew any corners or anything. We just got beat, plain and simple.”

JGR’s Denny Hamlin started fourth and finished third in the No. 11 Toyota and said he just didn’t have the speed of the frontrunners.

“For me, I’m stuck at par right now,” said Hamlin, an avid golfer off the track. “I can’t break par. I’m just right there third to fourth fastest, and that’s where I’m at. I think the more times I run, the tighter that gap is going to get.”

Three Rivers Karting

Chip Ganassi Racing’s Kurt Busch rallied from an off-track excursion while leading the race to finish fourth.

“I just crossed over that fine line of grip,” said Busch.  “The tires, at this track with the worn out asphalt of the infield section, it’s really easy to step over that line.  Matt McCall (crew chief) and all my guys, they had an awesome day on pit road, strategy wise and with their (pit) stops to get us that track position and to get us back up front.”

Team Penske’s Brad Keselowski rounded out the top 5.

“It was a front, back, front, back kind of race, but the Discount Tire team, we just didn’t give up and kept working on it,” said Keselowski. “Eventually, the race came to us. We caught some breaks for sure and made the most of it. It was just one of those never-give-up kind of races.”

The race featured 12-lead changes among 7 drivers and 8-caution flags for 12-laps.

The Series concludes the early season Florida swing next Sunday, February 28 at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

Daytona RC Results

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NASCAR

Chip Ganassi Racing’s Kurt Busch and Ross Chastain Ready For Road Course Racing

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Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images

DAYTONA BEACH, FL (Pittsburgh Racing Now) – Chip Ganassi Racing’s Kurt Busch and Ross Chastain are looking forward to turning left and right at this Sunday’s NASCAR Cup Series O’Reilly Auto Parts 253 on the road course at Daytona International Speedway.

Chastain will start ninth thanks in part to a seventh place finish in the season-opening Daytona 500, his first Cup Series start in the No. 42 Chevrolet.

“A great way to kick off the year with this No. 42 car,” said Chastain. “We tore it up at the end – hit the wall a ton coming to the checkered, but still finished seventh. We got a few stage points. Thank you to everyone at Clover, McDonald’s, AdventHealth, Caregility. I still have some learning to do.”

Busch will start 17th on Sunday after being an innocent victim of a lap 14 accident.  The accident was triggered when Christopher Bell attempted to bump draft Aric Almirola but did not hit him cleanly and subsequently sending Almirola into the wall in front of the rest of the field.

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“All those boys started pushing way too hard, way too early, and we got wrapped up in it,” reflected Busch. “Got stuck in the mud, had too much damage and never really got to race. We had to ride around all day.”

Busch ultimately finished 22nd, which left him sitting in 20th place in the Cup Series drivers points standings.

“We’ll dig out of this hole,” said Busch, the 2004 Cup Series Champion. We’re a great team; we’re ready for this.”

The green flag is schedule to drop at 3 p.m.

Daytona RC Starting Lineup

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