Denny Hamlin Clinches Championship Berth With Win In Phoenix
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.
“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.
Ben Rhodes takes NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series Win in Charlotte
CONCORD, NC (Pittsburgh Racing Now) – Ben Rhodes picked up the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series victory Friday night at Charlotte Motor Speedway, grabbing the lead on a late restart and beating Corey Heim to the checkered flag by 2.398-seconds.
“I didn’t qualify the best, and here it came to life at night,” said Rhodes. “This is so much fun. Charlotte is a track that we come to—ThorSport Racing, we’re based in Sandusky, Ohio—we come to the North Carolina guys’ house, and we like to win.”
The victory was the first of the year for Rhodes and seventh of his career and first at Charlotte. The victory also locks Rhodes into the Playoffs.
“A championship being locked in, I’ll take that,” said Rhodes. “The last three races have been so unbelievably hard on my team. We’ve been wrecked in the last three and haven’t had very good showings because of it so I’ll take the points—thank you.”
Heim, who won the the race’s first stage, couldn’t get to Rhodes because he was busy battling Carson Hocevar and Dean Thompson.
“Me and the 42 (Hocevar) and the 5 (Thompson) were probably the best trucks,” said Heim, who led a race-high 49 laps. “But the 99 (Rhodes) just came along really strong, and once we got to second on the restart where the 42 got put in the middle there, I really thought we had a shot at it. But it just proves that clean air is king here.”
Thompson finished a career-best third with Hocevar, who won the races second stage, finishing fourth. Grant Enfinger rounded out the Top 5.
Wexford native Kris Wright finished 32nd in the No. 02 FNB Corporation Chevy after suffering contact with Tyler Antrum on the backstretch on lap 105.
Racing Notebook: Rosenqvist earns INDYCAR Pole; Dixon starts 2nd; Hocevar, Smith earn NASCAR victories
FORT WORTH, TX – (Pittsburgh Racing Now) – The NTT INDYCAR SERIES gets back on track Sunday at Texas Motor Speedway with Arrow McLaren and Chip Ganassi Racing leading the field to green. In NASCAR, Carson Hocevar and Chandler Smith each earned victories on Saturday and Alex Bowman will lead the Cup field to green on Sunday.
Felix Rosenqvist wins INDYCAR Texas Pole:
- Arrow McLaren Racing’s Felix Rosenqvist is on the pole position for Sunday’s NTT INDYCAR SERIES PPG 375. Rosenqvist’s 2-lap average of 220.264 mph was slower than the 221.110 mph he posted in 2021. The pole is the second consecutive for Rosenqvist at the 1.5-mile oval. “I think we just built on last year,” said Rosenqvist. “Maybe it was a good thing to start early. The track kind of warmed up. We’ll take it. We’ve always been good here, but this is a whole different confidence level compared to last year. Let’s try to wrap it up tomorrow.” The 250-lap race starts at Noon (ET) Sunday with live coverage on NBC, Peacock and the INDYCAR Radio Network.
Dixon Puts PNC Bank Honda on front row:
- PNC Bank Chip Ganassi Racing’s Scott Dixon will start on the outside of the front row for Sunday’s NTT INDYCAR SERIES PPG 375 at Texas Motor Speedway. Dixon’s 2-lap average around the 1.5-mile oval of 219.972-mph was 0.292-mph behind pole-sitter Felix Rosenqvist. Dixon, a 6-time NTT INDYCAR SERIES Champion has five career victories at Texas, including wins in four of the last nine races. Dixon’s CGR teammates Takuma Sato and Alex Palou will start 6th and 7th respectively. CGR’s Marcus Ericsson will roll off 16th in the No. 8 Huski Chocolate Honda.
Carson Hocevar Wins NASCAR Truck Race at Texas:
- Carson Hocevar avoided a crash on the white flag lap to power to the win in the NASCAR CRAFTSMAN Truck Series race at Texas Motor Speedway. Hocevar made contact with the back of the truck of Nick Sanchez, as Sanchez was recovering from door-to-door contact with Zane Smith. Sanchez spun and collected Smith as Hocevar avoided the mayhem to take the double-overtime victory. The win was Hocevar’s first career win. “I didn’t mean to get into him, I just meant to give him a push and he got sideways the second I hit him, I apologize to them, I’ll take the fall for it.”
Chandler Smith takes NASCAR Xfinity win at Richmond:
- Rookie Chandler Smith earned his first career NASCAR Xfinity Series victory Saturday afternoon at Richmond (Va.) Raceway holding off John Hunter Nemechek on a final race restart to win the ToyotaCare 250. Smith’s margin of victory was .298-seconds. Smith’s No. 16 Kaulig Racing Chevrolet led a race best 83 of the 250 laps.
Alex Bowman on NASCAR Cup Series Pole at Richmond:
- Current NASCAR Cup Series championship leader Alex Bowman will start Sunday’s Toyota Owners 400 (3:30 p.m. ET, FS1, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio) from pole position in the No. 48 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet with Kyle Busch completing the front row in the No. 8 Richard Childress Chevy after NASCAR’s Cup Series practice and qualifying sessions were cancelled Saturday morning at Richmond (Va.) Raceway because of poor weather.
Kyle Busch takes NASCAR Cup Series win in California
FONTANA, CA (Pittsburgh Racing Now) – The pairing of Kyle Busch and Richard Childress Racing is paying dividends as two races into their partnership, they were celebrating victory at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, California. Busch beat Hendrick Motorsports Chase Elliott by ?.?-seconds to pick up his ??-career Cup Series victory and the ?? of his NASCAR career.
“I felt like there was going to be a little bit of a learning experience, a little bit of a growth pattern, but also on the flipside of that, I always just kind of looked back and watched some of their results and success that they had last year with Austin,” explained Busch. “He ran second here last year, and Reddick was super, super fast. They were fast at the Clash before they broke, the 8 car was.”
Busch said the transition to a new team has been good.
“It’s just been really, really cool, and it’s been a great piece of — we’re making history, right, but a great piece of opportunity to go out there and continue to win races at a new team with RCR, so I can’t say enough about Austin giving me a call, first and foremost, but then Richard and Judy giving me this opportunity to go out here and race for wins.”
Elliott was happy for his manufacturer teammate and former Champ and to get a finish after getting crashed out of the Daytona 500.
“Congratulations to Kyle,” said Elliott. “For him to leave and then to go get the job done like that is pretty cool. He’s always been really good to me, so happy for them. Obviously I think we still have some work to do, but it was really nice to just see a lot of that hard work pay off and have the car driving like we were wanting it to do. So that’s always a good thing. Appreciate everybody on our NAPA team, Hendrick Motorsports and Chevrolet for just sticking with it and sticking with each other. Looking forward to getting to Vegas and hopefully competing for some more wins.”
Ross Chastain, who led a race high 92-laps, finished third in the No. 1 Kubota Chevrolet for Trackhouse Racing.
“Our balance was building loose most of the day, so I thought we did everything right,” said Chatain. “We kept up with it. It would just feel pretty loose late in the runs, and at times it was enough, and at times they got way better.”
The NASCAR Cup Series moves on to Las Vegas for the Pennzoil 400 March 5th.