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Matt Kenseth loses 50 driver’s points

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — NASCAR came down hard Wednesday on the Joe Gibbs Racing team of Matt Kenseth after the engine in the winning No. 20 car from Sunday’s Sprint Cup race at Kansas Speedway failed inspection.

Kenseth was penalized 50 points in the standings and his crew chief, Jason Ratcliff, was suspended for six races — as well as the May 18 All-Star race — and fined $200,000 after the engine failed a secondary postrace inspection.
The president of Toyota Racing Development was quick to take full blame for the violation that cost Kenseth and JGR everything but the trophy and the official win.

“This is a total screw-up on our part,” Lee White told ESPN.com. “I’m not going to point fingers at anybody. This is on my head. We neglected to double- and triple-check a shipment of parts from a European vender.”

Kenseth was essentially stripped of the win — he also lost the three bonus points he earned for the win that would have been applied in seeding for the Chase for the Sprint Cup championship. His pole, which would have made him eligible for the 2014 Sprint Unlimited at Daytona International Speedway, also was rescinded.

And in a rare move, car owner Joe Gibbs had his owner’s license suspended for the next six races and he won’t earn car owner points during that time. He also was docked 50 car owner points. Toyota, which supplies the JGR engines through Costa Mesa, Calif.-based TRD, also lost five points in the manufacturer standings.

Kenseth dropped from eighth in the standings to tied with Jeff Gordon in 14th place. Ratcliff’s suspension will be put on hold pending an appeal the Toyota team plans to file.

Toyota’s White took “full responsibility for this issue,” confirming that a sole connecting rod was to blame.

“One part came in 2.7 grams underweight, and somehow made it through our processes and ended up unfortunately in an engine that was selected to be weighed,” White told ESPN.com.

He said the magnetic steel part, which connects the piston and crankshaft, had a required minimum of 525 grams.

White added the illegal part was underweight by the equivalent of “two cotton balls.”

White said his organization has gone back and checked the rods in other engines supplied by TRD and called back a few that were within a couple of grams of the legal limit. He said one was from JGR and at least one other from Michael Waltrip Racing.

White added that the weight of the rod in no way gave Kenseth a competitive advantage.
“Zero,” he said. “Absolutely not any possible way this is a performance advantage. You would not do this for performance. You certainly would not do it here and do it in only one of the eight rods.

“This isn’t a gray area. It’s black and white. This should never have happened. It’s a total screw-up on my end.”

White understands NASCAR has no tolerance when it comes to engine rules, but he believes the punishment was too severe and he will help JGR all he can during the appeal process.

“This has zero to do with Joe Gibbs Racing, nothing to do with Jason Ratcliff, nothing to do with Matt Kenseth,” he said. “Zero. Having said that, everyone understands the way the rules are structured the team takes the heat.

“Thank the Lord we do have an appeals process. Hopefully, that will be a fair hearing.”

No announcement has been given on the date of the appeal. White said he assumed it will be two weeks since Penske Racing’s appeal of penalties against Brad Keselowski and Joey Logano will be heard next Wednesday.

The Penske Racing drivers were docked 25 points each after NASCAR confiscated rear end housing parts from their cars two weeks ago at Texas. The teams also had a combined seven team members suspended pending the May 1 appeal.

White said TRD designs and develops all primary major components for its engines. He said all other parts are purchased from “top quality outside vendors.”

He said the vendors build the parts to TRD’s specifications, but it is up to TRD to make sure the parts are legal.

“This is not on Joe Gibbs Racing,” White reiterated. “This is on TRD. This is on myself.”

Kenseth’s car passed an initial postrace inspection, but the engine was brought back to NASCAR’s Research and Development Center in Concord, N.C., for further evaluation — as it always is with the winning car — where it failed.

The win was the second this season for Kenseth, who moved to Joe Gibbs Racing from Roush Fenway Racing after the 2012 season, and the fourth for JGR in the past six races.

NASCAR has reacted firmly on engine issues before. In 2009, little-known Carl Long was penalized 200 driver points when his engine was found to be 0.17 cubic inches too big in preparation for the preliminary to the Sprint All-Star race. His crew chief was fined $200,000 and suspended for 12 weeks.

In 1983, Hall of Fame driver Richard Petty was fined $35,000 and docked 104 championship points for an oversized engine at Charlotte Motor Speedway.

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NASCAR eyes sponsor decisions

FORT WORTH, Texas — NASCAR plans to become more involved in race-sponsorship decisions by speedways in light of the continuing controversy surrounding the National Rifle Association’s sponsorship of the Sprint Cup race Saturday at Texas Motor Speedway.

“The NRA’s sponsorship of the event at Texas Motor Speedway fit within existing parameters that NASCAR affords tracks in securing partnerships,” said NASCAR spokesman David Higdon. “However, this situation has made it clear that we need to take a closer look at our approval process moving forward, as current circumstances need to be factored in when making decisions.”
In some respects, this weekend at TMS has become more about politics than racing for the NRA 500, as the sponsorship coincides with the current national gun control debate to become the prevailing storyline.

Democratic Sen. Chris Murphy of Connecticut wrote to News Corp. chief Rupert Murdoch asking the Fox network not broadcast Saturday night’s race because of the NRA sponsorship.

TMS president Eddie Gossage and Speedway Motorsports Inc. chairman Bruton Smith answered questions regarding Murphy’s request and the NRA sponsorship Friday. Gossage said it would be the only time they would address the topic.

He said only a few people had contacted the speedway to criticize the sponsorship decision.

“We’ve had fewer than a dozen responses,” Gossage said. “Of those, only two had purchased tickets [to other TMS events]. There is no controversy or big uproar or even a tiny uproar. As for this senator, I appreciate a good publicity effort as much as anyone.”

Sources confirmed Friday that two drivers were advised by their public relations directors not to do interviews in the TMS media center so they could avoid having the NRA logo behind them.

Brad Keselowski and Dale Earnhardt Jr. were asked about it on Thursday.

“I think it’s a good fit for Texas,” Earnhardt Jr. said. “If we win the race, we’re going to treat Victory Lane just like any other race, and we’ll be happy to celebrate just like everybody else has celebrated here in the past.”

That celebration involves cowboy hats and pistols that shoot blanks.

“I own guns,” Earnhardt said. “I like to hunt. When I’m not hunting, I keep my guns in a safe place, out of reach from my younger family members and my nieces and nephews. I like to hunt and I believe in ownership, but I also believe in responsibility. You can’t ever be safe enough in regards to that, especially with gun ownership.”

Keselowski said he would rather stay out of politics, but that’s becoming difficult when questions about the subject continue.

The Sandy Hook Elementary School tragedy in December in Newtown, Conn., where 20 children and six adults were killed, is fresh on the minds of many Americans and has been central to the gun control debate.

Gossage has said all along that the NRA sponsorship was a business decision, not a political statement. Negotiations for the NRA contract took place long before the Newtown incident, but the announcement of the sponsorship agreement came after the tragedy.

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Hall of Fame nominees announced

A mixture of champions, engine builders and innovators highlight the five newest nominees for the NASCAR Hall of Fame.
The new nominees announced on Wednesday are 1999 Sprint Cup champion and ESPN analyst Dale Jarrett, engine builder Maurice Petty, Speedway Motorsports Inc. chairman Bruton Smith, 1960 Cup champion Rex White and five-time NASCAR weekly series national champion Larry Phillips.

Jarrett is the son of two-time Cup champion Ned Jarrett, a member of the 2011 Hall of Fame class. Dale Jarrett won 32 times, including three Daytona 500s.

Petty was the chief engine builder for Petty Enterprises. He is the brother of Hall of Famer Richard Petty, a seven-time Winston Cup champion and NASCAR’s all-time winner with 200 victories.

Smith built Charlotte Motor Speedway and is known as an innovator among track owners, introducing condominiums, VIP suites and club-like restaurants to the sport. As the chairman of SMI, he owns eight tracks that host 12 Cup events.

White was considered one of the sport’s most consistent drivers, recording top-five finishes in nearly half of his 233 races. He finished outside the top 10 only 30 percent of the time in collecting 28 wins.

Phillips won an amazing 226 times en route to an unprecedented five wins in NASCAR’s Whelen All-American Series.

The five nominees join 20 others previously selected by a 21-person nominating committee.

The five 2014 inductees will be selected from the list of 25 by a 54-member voting panel for the Hall’s fifth class on May 22.

The entire list of 25 includes:

• Red Byron: First champion in NASCAR’s premier series now known as the Sprint Cup series in 1949.

• Richard Childress: 11-time car owner champion in NASCAR’s three national series, including six with Dale Earnhardt in the Cup series.

• Jerry Cook: Six-time NASCAR Modified champion.

• H. Clay Earles: Founder of Martinsville Speedway.

• Tim Flock — Two-time Cup series champion.

• Ray Fox: Legendary engine builder and owner of cars driven by Buck Baker, Junior Johnson and others.

• Anne Bledsoe France: Helped build the sport with husband, Bill France Sr.

• Rick Hendrick: 13-time car owner champion in NASCAR’s three national series.

• Jack Ingram: Two-time champion in NASCAR’s second-tier series (now Nationwide) and three-time Late Model Sportsman champion.

• Bobby Isaac: 1970 Cup champion.

• Dale Jarrett: 1999 Cup champion and three-time Daytona 500 winner.

• Fred Lorenzen — Winner of 26 Cup races, including the Daytona 500 and World 600.

• Raymond Parks: NASCAR’s first champion car owner.

• Benny Parsons: 1973 Cup champion.

• Maurice Petty: Chief engine builder for Petty Enterprises.

• Larry Phillips: Only five-time NASCAR Whelen All-American Series national champion.

• Les Richter: Former NASCAR executive, former president of Riverside International Raceway.

• Fireball Roberts: 33 Cup wins, including the 1962 Daytona 500, and the sport’s first true superstar.

• T. Wayne Robertson: Helped raise NASCAR popularity as R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company senior vice president.

• Wendell Scott: First and only black driver to win a Cup race in 1964.

• Ralph Seagraves: Formed Winston-NASCAR partnership as an executive with R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company.

• O. Bruton Smith: Builder of Charlotte Motor Speedway and chairman of Speedway Motorsports Inc. that owns eight NASCAR tracks that host 12 Cup events.

• Curtis Turner: Early personality known as the “Babe Ruth of stock car racing.”

• Joe Weatherly: Two-time Cup champion.

• Rex White: 1960 Cup champion.

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Jimmie Johnson wins at Martinsville

MARTINSVILLE, Va. — Jimmie Johnson pulled away on a restart with eight laps to go and won the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Martinsville Speedway on Sunday.

It was his eighth career victory on the shortest track the series races.

Only Richard Petty with 15, and Darrell Waltrip with 11 have won more.

The five-time champion picked the inside line for the restart with Clint Bowyer on the outside, teammate Jeff Gordon behind him and Kyle Busch to his outside, and Johnson got a clean break into Turn 1.

Bowyer was second and Busch, who tried to use the outside line, instead got hung up on the outside as Gordon and his Hendrick Motorsports teammate, Kasey Kahne, who restarted fifth, went underneath to take fourth.

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Kasey Kahne finally wins at Bristol

BRISTOL, Tenn. — Kasey Kahne won his first career Sprint Cup Series race at Bristol Motor Speedway after Brad Keselowski struggled on the final restart.

Tempers flared after the race when Joey Logano leaned inside the car window of former teammate Denny Hamlin to complain about Hamlin spinning him during the race. At the time, Logano was racing Jeff Gordon for the lead.
Logano was pulled away from Hamlin’s car by crew members for both drivers in a classic post-Bristol clash that delighted the crowd. “They’re fighting! It’s Bristol!” yelled Clint Bowyer, who saw the action on the infield big screen.

Logano wouldn’t discuss what he told Hamlin.

“That is for me to know and Denny to know. Frustrating,” he said. “I had a really fast … Ford and I felt like it was capable to win the race.”

Hamlin shrugged it all off.

“He said he was coming for me,” Hamlin said. “I usually don’t see him, so it’s usually not a factor.”

The two sparred briefly on Twitter after the season-opening Daytona 500, when Hamlin complained Logano ruined the closing laps of the race. But he said Sunday’s flap was not a carryover.

“It didn’t have anything to do with that,” Hamlin said. “You’ve really got to control your car and he slipped up into me. Really, he would have been in the garage with no radiator in it if I had not checked up twice. I meant to run in to him. I didn’t mean to spin him out, but his day was fine. We finished bad and he finished bad. It’s even.”

Their feuding may have played a role in the outcome of the race.

Keselowski was the leader on the final restart with 39 laps to go and lined up next to Kane. Hamlin was lined up behind Keselowski, with Logano lined up behind Hamlin. When the flag waved, Keselowski didn’t go and Kahne rocketed to the lead and never looked back.

Although it appeared Keselowski spun his tires, he was adamant after the race about what happened — “I got ran over!” — and that prevented him from breaking away on the restart.

Hamlin backed up Keselowski’s account.

“The 22 (Logano) ran into me and shoved me into (Keselowski),” Hamlin said. “Sorry to the 2, but I was the pinball in the sandwich. Once he throttled up, the 22 lifted me up and just flat out pinned me up against the 2.”

Logano seemed to think Keselowski spun his tires and that created the bottleneck, but Keselowski believed he had help from behind.

“I haven’t seen the replay, I just know my rear tires were off the ground before I got to the restart zone,” he said. “Eventually I got hit so hard it pushed my foot in the gas pedal, made myself look like a (fool). That was the deal. Never had another chance.”

Nobody came close to Kahne, who drove his Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet to the win by 1.7-seconds. Hendrick drivers have now won two of the first four races this season.
Kyle Busch snagged second from Keselowski, who took over the Sprint Cup Series points lead as the only driver to open the season with four top-five finishes. Kurt Busch finished fourth and was followed by Bowyer and Dale Earnhardt Jr.

Ryan Newman was seventh, Brian Vickers was eighth and Paul Menard and Jamie McMurray rounded out the top 10.

The race changed dramatically with 110 laps to go in a bizarre crash between leaders Gordon and Matt Kenseth. Gordon was out front when he suddenly lost a tire and his car darted up the track into the wall. Kenseth had nowhere to go to avoid him and drove directly into the back of Gordon, causing heavy damage to both cars.

“You all right?” crew chief Alan Gustafson radioed Gordon.

“Yeah, I’m OK. Did we take out Matt, too?” Gordon asked.

With the top two cars in the garage, the rest of the field headed to pit road to reset for the final 100 laps.

“I hate that for Matt Kenseth,” Gordon said. “He was coming, and it was just a matter of time before he caught us. We needed points. This definitely isn’t going to get us many.”

Kenseth, winner of last week’s race at Las Vegas, said the crash was unavoidable.

“There’s not a lot either one of us can do about that,” he said. “There was nowhere to go.”

Before the Gordon-Kenseth crash, Gordon and Logano were dueling for the lead. Gordon used a two-tire stop with about 175 laps to go to gain eight spots on pit road and take the lead. Logano chased Gordon around the 0.533-mile bullring, pulling even with the four-time champion as he exited the corners only to lose ground on the straights.

Lurking behind in third was Hamlin, who apparently got tired of waiting for Logano to get past Gordon and showed how restless he was with slight contact on Logano’s bumper as they exited Turn 2.

The tap caused Logano to back his car into the wall and took him out of contention, leading to the post-race drama Bristol is known to create.

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Denny Hamlin, NASCAR move on

BRISTOL, Tenn. — Although he’s out $25,000, Denny Hamlin declared himself the winner over NASCAR in the battle of public opinion.

The Joe Gibbs Racing driver also believes, after meeting with chairman Brian France, that NASCAR understands it overreacted in fining him for what the governing body called his “disparaging remarks” about the Gen-6 car on March 3 at Phoenix.

“The peers of mine, at least the ones that have a backbone to have the nerve to stick up for what’s right and wrong, agreed,” Hamlin said on Friday at Bristol Motor Speedway, explaining his decision not to appeal the fine. “What was the point in going another week or so? We’ve got bigger fish to fry than to argue over what I said just for $25,000.

“It’s better to move on and let NASCAR get its credibility back, and they’re going to do that, and I’m going to move on and focus on the championship.”

Hamlin met with France on Sunday morning at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. Hamlin announced via Twitter on Thursday that he would not appeal the fine after saying a week earlier that he would.

“They are very, very sensitive about this car,” Hamlin said of NASCAR. “This is their baby. What I was most frustrated with is it’s not even the opinion I have. I like the car. I think the car is better. That’s me giving you 100 percent honest truth.

“I was more frustrated with the tire that we were on than anything. That’s the part that frustrated me. It put me on an island feeling like I was bashing the race car, which is not how I felt.”

Hamlin was issued the fine three days after the Sprint Cup race at Phoenix International Raceway.

“I don’t want to be the pessimist, but it did not race as good as our Gen-5 cars,” Hamlin told reporters after the Phoenix race. “This is more like what the Generation 5 was at the beginning. The teams hadn’t figured out how to get the aero-balance right.

“Right now, you just run single file and you cannot get around the guy in front of you. You would have placed me in 20th place with 30 [laps] to go, I would have stayed there — I wouldn’t have moved up. It’s just one of those things where track position is everything.”

After meeting with France, Hamlin discovered he was on the same page with him and NASCAR for the most part.

“In hindsight, I really believe they overreacted and I believe that they think they overreacted once they thought about it a little bit,” Hamlin said. “Now we’re at a point where we’re good with each other and we’re just going to move on from here.”

Hamlin declined to get into specifics of what was said between him and France.

“The things that we said we’ve got to keep between us for the sake of my relationship with [NASCAR],” he said. “I definitely believe we were on the same page when we left the hauler.”

Hamlin said he was prepared to face suspension if NASCAR chose that option, which the rulebook allows, when a driver does not pay a fine. NASCAR also has the option to take the fine out of the driver’s winnings, which will be done in this situation.

Hamlin said team owner Joe Gibbs did not push him to back off the appeal and settle with NASCAR. What bothered Hamlin most was no one from NASCAR reached out to discuss what he said before issuing the fine.

“That was the biggest complaint I had,” Hamlin said. “If I was Jeff Gordon, Tony [Stewart], Dale [Earnhardt] Jr. … they would have had a conversation with me before.

“To not tell me anything is what really, really bugged me — a lot. That felt like I had not earned my place in the sport. I have grinded it out here for eight years, and I really felt like I had done what it takes to earn the respect of my peers and NASCAR. I felt like if I had been somebody else the outcome may have been different.”

Hamlin, who is fourth in points heading into Sunday’s race, didn’t seem surprised that many drivers did not support his stance against NASCAR.

“Everyone wants to stay on NASCAR’s good side,” he said. “That ultimately plays a lot of what you hear in interviews. Ninety percent of what you hear on a weekly basis is just guys trying to stay on NASCAR’s good side. There’s very few that really give the honest and true truth.”

Asked whether he will give honest opinions moving forward, Hamlin smiled and said, “I’ll have to really honestly think about that.”

“As long as I can give a 100 percent honest answer and not get in trouble, I’ll give an honest answer,” he added. “If I know my answer could have repercussions, I’ll just refer to ‘no comment.'”

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Jimmie Johnson wins Daytona 500

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. — A big first for Danica Patrick, but an even bigger second for Jimmie Johnson.

Patrick made history up front at the Daytona 500 Sunday, only to see Johnson make a late push ahead of her and reclaim his spot at the top of his sport.

It was the second Daytona 500 victory for Johnson, a five-time NASCAR champion who first won “The Great American Race” in 2006.
“There is no other way to start the season than to win the Daytona 500. I’m a very lucky man to have won it twice,” said Johnson, who won in his 400th career start. “I’m very honored to be on that trophy with all the greats that have ever been in our sport.”

It comes a year after Johnson completed only one lap in the race because of a wreck that also collected Patrick, and just three months after Johnson lost his bid for a sixth Sprint Cup title.

Patrick, the first woman to win the pole, also became the first woman to lead the race. She was running third on the last lap, but faded to eighth at the finish and admitted she’ll replay it over in her mind.

“I would imagine pretty much anyone would be kicking themselves about what they coulda, shoulda have done to give themselves an opportunity to win,” she said. “I think that’s what I was feeling today, was uncertainty as to how I was going to accomplish that.”

There were several multi-car crashes during the race, none approaching the magnitude of the wreck that injured more than two dozen fans a day earlier in the second-tier Nationwide Series race on the same track. Daytona International Speedway workers were up until 2 a.m repairing the fence that was damaged in the accident, and track officials offered Sunday morning to move any fans who felt uneasy sitting too close to the track.

Several drivers said the accident and concern for the fans stuck with them overnight and into Sunday morning, and Johnson was quick to send his thoughts in Victory Lane.

“Me personally, I was just really waiting to get the news on how everybody was, how all the fans were overnight, just hoping that things were going to improve … was not really ready to proceed until you had some confirmation that things were looking more positive,” said Dale Earnhardt Jr., who was involved in Saturday’s accident but refocused and finished second to Johnson, his Hendrick Motorsports teammate.

The race itself, the debut for NASCAR’s new Gen-6 car, was quite similar to all the other Cup races during Speedweeks in that the cars seemed to line up in a single-file parade along the top groove of the track. It made the 55th running of the Daytona 500 relatively uneventful.

When the race was on the line, Johnson took off.
The driver known as “Five-Time” raced past defending NASCAR champion Brad Keselowski on the final restart and pulled out to a sizable lead that nobody challenged over the final six laps.

“We have a hard time finishing these races. Boy, to run 1-2, man, what a day,” said Rick Hendrick, team owner for both Johnson and Earnhardt.

Mark Martin was third in a Michael Waltrip Racing Toyota. Keselowski, who overcame two accidents earlier in the race, wound up fourth in Penske Racing’s new Ford. Ryan Newman was fifth in a Chevy for Stewart-Haas Racing and was followed by Roush-Fenway Racing’s Greg Biffle, who was second on the last lap but was shuffled back with Patrick to finish sixth.

Regan Smith was seventh for Phoenix Racing, while Patrick, Michael McDowell and J.J. Yeley rounded out the top 10.

Patrick was clearly disappointed with her finish, even though she ran inside the top-10 the entire race. When the race was on the line, though, she was schooled by Earnhardt, who made his move for the win.

Still, Patrick became the first woman in history to lead laps in the 500 when she passed Michael Waltrip on a restart on Lap 90. She stayed on the point for two laps, then was shuffled back to third. She ended up leading five laps, another groundbreaking moment for Patrick, who in 2005 as a rookie became the first woman to lead the Indianapolis 500.

Janet Guthrie was the first woman to lead laps at NASCAR’s top Cup Series, in 1977 at Ontario, where she led five laps under caution.

“Dale did a nice job and showed what happens when you plan it out, you drop back and get that momentum. You are able to go to the front,” Patrick said. “I think he taught me something. I’m sure I’ll watch the race and there will be other scenarios I see that can teach me, too.”

Earnhardt was impressed, nonetheless.

“She’s going to make a lot of history all year long. It’s going to be a lot of fun to watch her progress,” said Earnhardt Jr. “Every time I’ve seen her in a pretty hectic situation, she always really remained calm. She’s got a great level head. She’s a racer. She knows what’s coming. She’s smart about her decisions. She knew what to do today as far as track position and not taking risks. I enjoy racing with her.”

The field was weakened by an early nine-car accident that knocked out race favorite Kevin Harvick and sentimental favorite Tony Stewart.
Harvick had won two support races coming into the 500 to cement himself as the driver to beat, but the accident sent him home with a 42nd place finish.

Stewart, meanwhile, dropped to 0-for-15 in one of the few races the three-time NASCAR champion has never won.

“If I didn’t tell you I was heartbroken and disappointed, I’d be lying to you,” Stewart said.

That accident also took former winner Jamie McMurray, his Chip Ganassi Racing teammate Juan Pablo Montoya, and Kasey Kahne out of contention.

The next accident — involving nine cars — came 105 laps later and brought a thankful end to Speedweeks for Carl Edwards. He was caught in his fifth accident since testing last month, and this wreck collected six other Ford drivers.

The field suddenly had six Toyota drivers at the front as Joe Gibbs Racing and Michael Waltrip Racing drivers took control of the race. But JGR’s day blew up — literally — when the team was running 1-2-3 with Matt Kenseth, Denny Hamlin and Kyle Busch setting the pace.

Kenseth, who led a race-high 86 laps, went to pit road first with a engine problem, and Busch was right behind him with a blown engine. Busch was already in street clothes watching as Hamlin led the field.

“It’s a little devastating when you are running 1-2-3 like that,” Busch said.

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Fans injured during scary wreck

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. — A horrific multicar crash moments before the end of the Nationwide Series race Saturday at Daytona International Speedway injured 28 fans after Kyle Larson’s car flew into the frontstretch catch fencing, shearing off its front half and leaving large pieces of the vehicle inside the fencing.
Speedway president Joie Chitwood said 14 of the injured spectators were transported off-property for medical attention and 14 were treated on site.

Seven were taken to Halifax Health Medical Center, two of which were in critical condition, hospital representative Byron Cogdell told ESPN. One adult suffered life-threatening head trauma but was later stabilized, while a 14-year-old was also in critical but stable condition.

At least one tire from Larson’s car flew into the seating area at Daytona. Police officers and NASCAR safety officials quickly ran to the location where part of the car went through the fencing, destroying one section of the catch fence.

One of the injured taken to Halifax Health near the track was Eddie Huckaby, 53, of Krum, Texas. He suffered a severe laceration from the hip to the knee on his left leg.

His brother, Terry, of Hendersonville, Tenn., controlled the bleeding by turning his belt into a makeshift tourniquet.

“Stuff was flying everywhere,” Terry Huckaby told ESPN. “It was like you was in a war zone or something. Tires were flying by and smoke and everything else.”

Terry said his brother is stable but has to stay in the hospital for at least 48 hours.

“I know there’s a lot of people hurt out there, and I’m just rooting for them,” he said. “I know my brother is going to be fine. The other people I don’t know. I’m praying for them and hoping they’ll be OK, too.”

Larson climbed out of what was left of his car. He was not hurt.

“I hope all the fans are OK,” Larson said. “I took a couple of big hits and saw my engine was gone.”

The engine from Larson’s car was sitting on the front walkway of the grandstand, along with one of the wheels.

“I was getting pushed from behind,” Larson said. “Before I could react, it was too late. Flames came in the cockpit, but I was able to get out of the car quick.”

Twelve cars were involved in the crash as the leaders headed for the finish line. Tony Stewart won the race, and Sam Hornish Jr. finished second.

Stewart, who won for the 19th time at Daytona and seventh time in the last nine season-opening Nationwide races, was in no mood to celebrate, skipping the traditional post-race victory celebration.

“The important thing is what’s going on on the frontstretch right now,” said Stewart, the three-time NASCAR champion. “We’ve always known, and since racing started, this is a dangerous sport. But it’s hard. We assume that risk, but it’s hard when the fans get caught up in it.

“So as much as we want to celebrate right now and as much as this is a big deal to us, I’m more worried about the drivers and the fans that are in the stands right now because that was … I could see it all in my mirror, and it didn’t look good from where I was at.”

Driver Michael Annett was transported to a local hospital after his car slammed head on into the SAFER barrier. Annett was treated for bruising on his chest and underwent a CT scan. He will be kept overnight for observation.

Regan Smith was leading and had Brad Keselowski right on his back bumper. But Smith’s car suddenly spun to the right and shot up the track, triggering the huge crash.

“I tried to throw a block,” Smith said. “I knew Brad was going to make a move. It’s Daytona. You have to go for it. We were coming to the checkered flag. You want to win. I don’t know how you can play it any differently, other than conceding to second place, and I wasn’t going to do that.”

The race had restarted with two laps to go after a 13-car accident caused it to be red-flagged.
“We’ve always known this is a dangerous sport, but it’s hard when the fans get caught up in it,” Stewart said in Victory Lane. “As much as we want to celebrate, I’m more concerned about the fans and the drivers right now. We want to put on a good show, but not at the risk to fans. There’s no easy solution on these types of track.” Keselowski took a deep breath as he left the infield care center.

“After watching the replay, my reaction is the same as everyone else and that’s hoping everyone in the grandstands is OK,” Keselowski said. “I felt I was in position to win it and made what I thought was the winning move. Regan moved to block it, and that’s his right.”

NASCAR vice president Steve O’Donnell said NASCAR will conduct a complete investigation of the incident to determine if safety changes are needed.

“We look at these things after every incident to learn how we can apply changes in the future,” O’Donnell said. “If we can improve upon it, we will put those improvements in place as soon as we can. But we need to take the time to really study it. The safety of our fans is first and foremost.”

The catch fencing and the SAFER barrier were being repaired Saturday night in preparation for Sunday’s Daytona 500. The area of the fence that was damaged included a walk-through gate, but it won’t be replaced in the initial fence repairs.

Chitwood said no seating changes will take place Sunday.

“We don’t anticipate moving any of our fans,” Chitwood said. “All of our safety protocols are in place. We are going racing tomorrow with no changes.”

NASCAR president Mike Helton said an incident like this shows safety is ever-evolving.

“The biggest thing we know is we don’t know everything we need to know,” Helton said. “We have things happen we’ve never seen before. We’re always made aware of the fact that we don’t know everything.”

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