Singer, actress and “Dancing With the Stars” finalist Jana Kramer will perform a pre-race concert on Sunday at I-S-M Raceway in Phoenix prior to the Monster Energy Series TicketGuardian 500. Kramer’s appearance is made possible through a partnership with Niner Sports and Entertainment, and is free to all fans with a grandstand ticket for Sunday’s race. She is a native of Rochester Hills, Michigan … which also is Brad Keselowski’s hometown. Tickets for the weekend ahead are available at I-S-M Raceway-dot-com or by calling 1-866-408-RACE … 408-7223.
Ryan Blaney & Chase Elliott win Thursday’s qualifying races as the starting field was set for Sunday’s Daytona 500. Blaney started eighth in the first half of the can-am Duel at Daytona International Speedway, leading the final six laps and beating runner-up … and Team Penske teammate … Joey Logano to the checkered flag by two tenths of a second as Ford swept the top two finishing positions. Rookie Darrell Wallace Junior, Ricky Stenhouse Junior and defending Daytona 500 winner Kurt Busch completed the top five. The victory gave Blaney the Number-3 starting spot in Sunday’s “five hundred.” Elliott gave Chevrolet its turn in Victory Lane by winning the nightcap on Thursday, leading the final thirty-four laps and beating Kevin Harvick to the finish by eight one-hundredths of a second to secure the Number-4 starting spot in Sunday’s “Great American Race.” Erik Jones took third place with Clint Bowyer and Kyle Busch completing the top five … Front-row qualifiers Alex Bowman and Denny Hamlin were already locked into their starting positions for the season opener after topping last weekend’s qualifying and will lead the field to the green flag Sunday in the sixtieth running of the Daytona 500 after finishing fourteenth and ninth, respectively, in Thursday’s races.
Hendrick Motorsports collected its fourth straight Daytona 500 pole on Sunday when Alex Bowman steered the Number-88 Chevrolet to the top of the speed chart as the front row for next weekend’s race was locked in. Bowman, who’s replacing the retired Dale Earnhardt Junior, had a lap of 195.644 miles per hour. He’ll share the front row with Joe Gibbs Racing’s Denny Hamlin, who was second-quick at 195.092 miles per hour. Lap times for the remaining thirty-eight drivers set the starting lineups for Thursday night’s qualifying races, with Bowman and Hamlin starting from the pole in their respective 150-mile events. Hendrick Motorsports’ Daytona pole streak began in 2015 with Jeff Gordon and continued the next two years when Chase Elliott went back-to-back.
Bowman and Hamlin are locked into their starting positions for the Daytona 500 regardless of where they finish Thursday. The remainder of the forty-car field for next weekend’s race will be set in the Can-Am Duel twin qualifying races … Other qualifying results of note … Brad Keselowski, Sunday’s Advance Auto Parts Clash winner, qualified nineteenth among forty drivers … seven-time Cup Series champion Jimmie Johnson qualified third … Hendrick Motorsports’ William Byron is the highest-qualified rookie, fifth … defending Daytona 500 winner Kurt Busch was seventeenth … 2017 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series champion Martin Truex Junior qualified twenty-sixth … Danica Patrick was twenty-eighth for her final NASCAR race. She’s stepping away from the sport after Speedweeks.
Brad Keselowski went from last to first on Sunday afternoon at Daytona International Speedway, giving Team Penske its second straight victory in the season-opening Advance Auto Parts Clash. Keselowski lined up at the rear of the seventeen-car field for the non-points race that features pole winners from the previous season, which is where he was placed following a random draw to determine the starting lineup. From the drop of the green flag, Keselowski began pushing his Number-2 Ford toward the front of the field and then dominated the second half of the race – leading the final thirty-seven laps to claim his first victory in the exhibition race that annually opens Speedweeks. Joey Logano, seeking his second straight “Clash” victory, finished second to give Team Penske a one-two sweep. Defending Daytona 500 winner Kurt Busch came home in third place with Ryan Blaney – the third Team Penske driver – finishing fourth and pole sitter Austin Dillon completing the top five. 2017 Monster Energy Series champion Martin Truex Junior started sixth and finished fourteenth … The race included eleven lead changes among seven drivers: Keselowski, Logano, Dillon, Denny Hamlin, Kevin Harvick, Kyle Larson and Chase Elliott.
Tune in to WCUB at 1 pm Sunday to hear the kick-off of the NASCAR season…it’s the Advance Auto Parts Clash. Here’s a recap of last year’s race:
Team Penske extended its run of success on restrictor-plate tracks with Joey Logano’s victory in the thirty-ninth running of the Advance Auto Parts Clash. Contact between race leader Denny Hamlin and a fast-closing Brad Keselowski on the last lap opened the door for Logano to claim his first victory in the annual non-points special event featuring pole winners from the previous season. Dating back to May 2016, Logano and Keselowski had now combined to give Team Penske four straight wins on NASCAR superspeedways at Daytona and Talladega. Hamlin led a race-high forty-eight laps and took the white flag at the front of the field before feeling the heat from Keselowski, who stuck the nose of his Number-2 Ford under Hamlin as they charged through Turns-1 and 2. Hamlin, seeking his second straight victory in the exhibition race and fourth overall, moved the Number-11 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota down the track to block Keselowski but wasn’t quick enough and made contact. Logano steered his Number-22 Ford to the outside and motored past the skirmish, beating runner-up Kyle Busch to the checkered flag by one-point-one seconds. Keselowski finished sixth and Hamlin slipped to thirteenth.
Premium Motorsports has added veteran crew chief Todd Parrott to its competition department as the organization gears up for the 2018 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series. The team is fielding the Number-7 Chevrolet for Danica Patrick in this year’s Daytona 500, with crew chief Tony Eury Junior already assigned to steer Patrick through her final NASCAR race. After attempting to qualify for the Indianapolis 500 later this year, Patrick plans to retire from competition. The news of Parrott joining Premium came on Tuesday, just three days before he celebrates his 54th birthday.
NASCAR’s primary rule change in the off-season was a reduction in the number of over-the-wall crew members for pit stops from six to five. Carrying tires, changing them and jacking the car will now be performed by a group of four, one member of which will do double duty. A fifth person will fuel the car but is prohibited from doing anything else. A light-duty sixth crew member will be allowed but only to assist the driver by providing food or drink and changing windshield tear-offs. The primary reasons for the reduction are to (1) reduce the number of team members on pit road for safety reasons and (2) highlight the athleticism of over-the-wall crew members, some of whom will now adapt to multiple jobs during stops.