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Driving While Daddy: How fatherhood affects NASCAR drivers
The 2014 season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway was one of the most anticipated races in NASCAR history, the culmination of the sport's widely anticipated new Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup format. Already that year, the Chase had been the wildest in history, with drivers fighting after races at Charlotte and Texas, and Ryan Newman wrecking Kyle Larson on the last lap at Phoenix to bully his way into the four-driver finale. The final race pitted Kevin Harvick against Newman, Joey Logano and Denny Hamlin in the first-ever, best-finisher-wins- the - Sprint - Cup format. Harvick had already had the most dominant season of his career and set personal records in poles, laps led and earnings -- all of which would be diminished, if not forgotten, if he didn't win the championship. He was the favorite, but in a high-stakes, one-race, do-or-die format, nobody knew what to expect, Harvick included. Leading up to the race, he examined problems that could crop up and strived to eliminate as many of them as he could. He thought back to the season finale the year before. His son, Keelan, was 1 1/2 at the time and had cried all night long. It's hard enough to sleep in a house with a racket like that. In the 40-foot motorhome in which Harvick sleeps at the race track, it was impossible. Harvick got, at most, two hours of sleep that night. He managed to overcome his exhaustion enough to finish 10th. But he knew that a sleep-deprived 10th wouldn't be good enough to win the 2014 championship. On the eve of the season finale in 2014, Keelan was 2 1/2 and thus less likely to spend the whole night crying, but Harvick took no chances. He rented a separate motorhome for Keelan to sleep in and parked it near his own motorhome in the infield. If Keelan screamed for hours, Harvick would be oblivious. Harvick slept better that night than he had any other night that week, woke up refreshed, then won the race and the championship.
Chase Elliott wins Sprint Fan Vote
The fans have spoken. Chase Elliott is headed to the Sprint All-Star Race as the Sprint Fan Vote winner. Danica Patrick finished in second place and also transfers into the Sprint All-Star Race to complete the 20-car field. " The biggest thing is just very fortunate to have some great fans," Elliott said after coming up just short of racing his way into the field with runner-up finishes is Segments 1 and 3. "Definitely really appreciate everybody voting and taking time out of their day to vote for us and get us in this race. Obviously wish I could've gotten us in racing our way, but fortunately have some great fans to do that for us." Patrick was appreciative of the fan support as well as she will make her third Sprint All-Star Race start. "First and foremost, thank you to the fans," Patrick said. " The only thing that would make this any better is if I could deliver a great finish for them and an exciting race and pass cars and make the car better for next week. "... It’s just even that much better to know that I have incredible fans that always come through. Don't think that I don’t see social media fans. And I see all the times that people said they voted for me. So, thank you very much." The Sprint All-Star Race, scheduled for 9 p.m. ET Saturday night, awards $1 million to the winner. The annual rite of spring boasts an impressive history and plenty of elite drivers. The 2016 version is televised on FS1 with radio coverage on MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio. Fifteen drivers had qualified for the event heading into Saturday morning's Sprint Showdown by virtue of either winning a points-paying race in 2015 or thus far in 2016, having won a previous Sprint All-Star Race or being a former series champion. Three drivers qualified from the Sprint Showdown's three segments: Trevor Bayne , Greg Biffle and Kyle Larson . The top five vote-getters heading into the final week of voting were, in alphabetical order: Ryan Blaney , Matt DiBenedetto , Chase Elliott , Kyle Larson and Danica Patrick.
Tony Stewart Chase Watch
RELATED: Coverage of Stewart's accident, comeback " Updated Chase Grid Tony Stewart returned from a back injury in April and the three-time champion is in pursuit of one of the 16 spots in the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup in his final season. Here's a look at where the driver of the No. 14 Chevrolet stands in his pursuit after the season's 12th of 26 regular-season races. WHAT JUST HAPPENED It was a rough weekend for the three-time Dover winner who took his last trip to Victory Lane in 2013 at the "Monster Mile." First, Stewart was forced to a backup car after wrecking in practice Friday, and started 34th. He'd worked his way up to steadily running in the 20s until Lap 343, when he suddenly broke a track bar. The bar punctured the oil tank, and smoke billowed from the rear of his No. 14 Chevrolet as he made his way to the garage. He ended up finishing exactly where he began: 34th, but was 58 laps down. RELATED: Stewart's Chase chances take a hit at Dover WHAT HE NEEDS Stewart received a waiver from NASCAR for Chase eligibility. The surest way into the Chase is by winning before the end of regular season (at Richmond International Raceway on Sept. 10) and climb into the top 30 in the points standings. En route to his 2015 championship, Kyle Busch faced a similar path after missing the first 11 races with a leg injury. Currently, Stewart is 37th in the standings, 67 points behind David Ragan for 30th place. WHAT'S NEXT "Smoke" heads to Charlotte Motor Speedway for the Coca-Cola 600 on May 29 (6 p.m. ET, FOX, PRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio). Stewart has just one of his 48 career wins at the 1.5-mile track, with it coming in 2003. He has six top fives and 13 top 10s in 33 starts there. RELATED: See all of Stewart's wins " "Smoke" granted Chase waiver
No. 18 Sprint Cup team hit with P3 penalty
NASCAR levied a P3 penalty against the No. 18 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota driven by Kyle Busch for infractions in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series GoBowling 400 event on Saturday at Kansas Speedway . Adam Stevens, crew chief, was fined $20,000, suspended from all NASCAR Series Championship points events through May 18 and put on NASCAR probation through Dec. 31. The No. 18 team's front tire changer, Josh Leslie, was suspended through May 18 and put on NASCAR probation through Dec. 31. The No. 18 was penalized under sections 12:1 (actions detrimental to stock car racing), 10.11.3 (pit road equipment) and 18.104.22.168.1 (which outlines the P3-level penalty) of the NASCAR Rule Book. According to Richard Buck, NASCAR Sprint Cup Series managing director, an infraction with the No. 18's lug nuts was found in post-race inspection. NASCAR mandates that all wheels and lug nuts be secured in a safe manner and that all five lug nuts be installed. Joe Gibbs Racing will not appeal the penalty, the team announced in a press release Wednesday. Todd Berrier will replace Stevens atop the pit box at Dover. The JGR team statement read, " The 18 team utilized unaltered stock lug nuts during Saturday night 's NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Kansas Speedway and each wheel had all five lug nuts attached to the wheel at the conclusion of the race. The team does acknowledge that not all lug nuts were tightened to the wheel." Busch started sixth and finished first at Kansas for his third win of the season. Busch, the 2015 series champion, sits atop the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series standings. In additon to the No. 18 team's penalty, NASCAR issued written warnings to the Nos. 43 and 78 teams ( for failing pre-qualifying laser inspection twice) and the Nos. 7, 43, 47 and 48 teams ( for failing pre-qualifying template inspection twice).
Weather wipes out Sprint All-Star Race qualifying
RELATED: See the lineup in photos Inclement weather wiped out Saturday night's Sprint All-Star Race qualifying at Charlotte Motor Speedway . This meant the lineup was set by owner points, putting Stewart-Haas Racing 's Kevin Harvick on the Coors Light Pole. RELATED: Complete lineup for Sprint All-Star race The qualifying session was scheduled to start at 7:10 p.m. ET on FS1 and was set to precede the Sprint All-Star Race at 9 p.m. ET (FS1, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio). Driver introductions began at 9:05 p.m. ET as NASCAR Air Titans continued to work on drying the track. Green flag dropped at 10:12 p.m. ET. Earlier Saturday, Trevor Bayne , Greg Biffle and Kyle Larson all earned berths into the Sprint All-Star Race by each winning one of three segments in the Sprint Showdown. Chase Elliott and Danica Patrick were first and second, respectively, in the Sprint Fan Vote to complete the 20-car Sprint All-Star Race field. Denny Hamlin , who qualified for the Sprint All-Star Race with a win in the 2015 season, is the defending champion of the Sprint All-Star Race. MORE: Live leaderboard for Sprint All-Star Race
SpongeBob, NASCAR team up for new apparel
SHOP: SpongeBob NASCAR gear Do fire suits come in size square? NASCAR and Nickelodeon launched on Monday a new line of SpongeBob SquarePants-themed fan merchandise highlighting the absorbent yellow icon and his underwater cast of characters from Bikini Bottom. The new offerings include apparel for kids of all ages (yes, adults too!) as well as lanyards, beach towels, flags, koozies and more. So whether you want to show your fandom for the Krusty Krab pit crew or fly your Bikini Bottom colors with pride, the NASCAR Superstore has got you covered. But that's not all. This summer, Nickelodeon will unveil a line of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles-themed NASCAR gear as the season heats up for the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 400 at Chicagoland Speedway , the kick off of the 2016 Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup . Fans can grab the new merchandise at the Fanatics Trackside Superstore and the NASCAR .com Superstore.
Hard luck, near-win heartbreak for Kyle Larson
RELATED: Full race results CONCORD, N.C. – Kyle Larson nearly became the latest driver to go from the preliminary event to the winner's circle of the annual NASCAR Sprint All-Star Race. But a loose-handling car and a hard-charging Joey Logano proved to be his undoing Saturday night at Charlotte Motor Speedway . It's a familiar feeling for the young driver of Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates' No. 42 Chevrolet, who has finished second four times in points-paying races in NASCAR ’s Sprint Cup Series. RELATED: Larson grabs runner-up finish at Dover Saturday night's 113-lap show wasn't for points, but there was a $1 million payday waiting at the checkered flag. And when the 23-year-old shot the gap on the race's final restart, he zoomed from third to first with less than 13 laps remaining. But Logano ( Team Penske ) was able to track the leader down and after a side-by-side battle, Larson slipped up and into the wall less than three laps from the finish. Logano held on for the victory; Larson limped to the garage, 16th in the final rundown. "I definitely didn't over-correct," a dejected Larson said afterward. "I was just going fast, got loose, lost control and hit the wall. I'm disappointed. I feel like I keep letting my guys down." Larson had qualified for the Sprint All-Star Race by winning a sheetmetal swapping, last-lap battle with Chase Elliott ( Hendrick Motorsports ) in the final segment of the Sprint Showdown preliminary event earlier in the day. The damage done to his car kept his team busy throughout the afternoon, but by the time the red-and-white entry rolled through pre-race inspection for the main event, it looked good as new. And it ran that way, too. RELATED: Larson edges out Elliott " See frame-by-frame of the finish "They worked their tails off after I got all the damage in the Showdown," he said. "We had a really, really good Target Chevy and were able to get to the front pretty quick there to be in the best position possible there for the last restart." After starting the race 18th , Larson ended the first 50-lap segment inside the top 10. He eventually took the lead on Lap 94 and was the race leader after 100 laps had been completed to end the second segment. He restarted third for the final 13-lap dash after only two drivers, Jimmie Johnson ( Hendrick Motorsports ) and Kyle Busch ( Joe Gibbs Racing ), running 12th and 13th respectively, were re-slotted to the front. The top 11 were required to pit. "I was getting looser throughout the race," Larson said. "We were making adjustments but weren't making big enough ones. I just got loose and Joey caught me. "He did a really good job side-drafting me. I tried to hang on his quarter panel like I did with Chase earlier today. I got really loose as soon as I got in the corner." Logano said he knew Larson would "try to suck me around from the outside and I knew I had to drive in to make sure he didn't do that. "Just good hard racing there at the end. It was a lot of fun. He's a heck of a racer. He's going to win a lot of races, that's for sure." Kasey Kahne ( Hendrick Motorsports ) was the last driver to win the Sprint All-Star Race despite not automatically qualifying for it (and having to race in the preliminary event) heading into the weekend, accomplishing the feat in 2008. (Kahne won the Sprint Fan Vote that year.) "I thought clean air would be everything there on four tires," Larson said. "Joey was just really good there that last run; I thought I was better than him most of the race. I don't know, I feel bad. But it's good that we have fast race cars right now. "Just really, really proud of everybody on this team. We were pretty down earlier in the year but we've got cars now and confidence and one of these days it will all come together."
Larson: 'I had to do what I had to do' in Showdown
RELATED: Results from Segment 3 CONCORD, N.C. -- Kyle Larson shoehorned his way into the NASCAR Sprint All-Star Race by whatever means necessary, making a full-contact lean on Chase Elliott 's fenders on the last lap of Saturday's Sprint Showdown preliminary. Did the contact cross the line of sportsmanship? Maybe not, with both drivers deeming it a compulsory evil with the checkered flag in sight and a chance at a $1 million payday in the Sprint All-Star Race up for grabs. In the end, both drivers won out by transferring into Saturday night's main event, but through different methods. Larson snatched one of three transfer spots available to segment winners, joining Roush Fenway Racing 's Trevor Bayne (first segment) and Greg Biffle (second segment) in the non-points invitational. Elliott claimed his berth by winning the Sprint Fan Vote. Danica Patrick finished runner-up in the fan vote to fill the 20-car field. Larson's method of securing his eligibility ranked as the most dramatic of the five. The Chip Ganassi Racing driver recovered from an opening-segment wall scrape to work his way back to first place by the start of the final 10-lap dash to the finish. He led all the way, but Elliott gained tremendous ground on fresher tires, pulling alongside Larson through Turns 3 and 4 for the final time. Larson's No. 42 and Elliott's No. 24 Chevrolets locked fenders and scraped side-by-side all the way to the checkers, with Larson prevailing by just .015 seconds to qualify for his first All-Star Race. "I would hate to be raced like that, like I raced him," Larson said. "But I knew he was going to win the fan vote, so I knew he was going to be in the All-Star Race either way and I wasn't if I didn't win. I had to do what I had to do to get the win. Hate racing like that, obviously, but I felt that's what I had to do to make it in." Larson was on the receiving end of a similar shove in 2014, when Ryan Newman slammed him aside on the final corner of the final lap at Phoenix to land the final spot in the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup championship race. Back then, Larson said he understood the circumstances. Saturday, Larson indicated that he knew Elliott was justifiably upset with him. Based on his sometimes choppy responses in post-race interviews, Elliott was, but he also said he understood Larson's aggressive move considering the stakes. "He did what he had to do to beat us back to the line, that's all there is to it," Elliott said. "Part of it." Elliott found himself on the short end of an even closer finish in the first 20-lap leg, edged by .005 seconds by Bayne, who split the middle on a bold, three-wide move shortly after the segment's final restart. That restart also proved to be the undoing of rookie Ryan Blaney , who was black-flagged for jumping the green flag and could only recover for a third-place finish overall. RELATED: Watch the Segment 1 finish unfold The nifty maneuver, though, launched Bayne into his first All-Star Race since 2012. "You don't hesitate when you can see the front any time, and especially when it's like this -- not a points race," said Bayne, who scored his only Sprint Cup win in the 2011 Daytona 500 . "If it doesn't work out, it doesn't work out. You've got to win. It was pretty cool. Maybe if you're battling to get in the Chase on points, you don't make that move for third or fourth, but when it's for a win even in a points race, you've got to do it every time." Biffle, his Roush Fenway teammate, had a slightly easier time of it, slipping past Austin Dillon six laps into the second 20-lap segment to clinch his 13th consecutive All-Star start. Biffle advanced into the main event as a Showdown segment winner last year as well. His transfer inspired some lively banter with crew chief Brian Pattie. "Hope no one had dinner reservations," Pattie said over the team radio on the segment's cool-down lap. "Nope, I was planning on being here all night," Biffle replied, later noting the seven-figure incentive for the All-Star Race winner. RELATED: Biffle ecstatic after finish Patrick advanced through fan balloting for the third time in four years. "I definitely thought if there were two spots, I had a lot better shot," Patrick said. "My fans voted well."
Tony Stewart Chase watch
RELATED: Coverage of Stewart's accident, comeback " Updated Chase Grid Tony Stewart returned from a back injury in April and the three-time champion is in pursuit of one of the 16 spots in the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup in his final season. Here's a look at where the driver of the No. 14 Chevrolet stands in his pursuit after the season's 11th of 26 regular-season races. WHAT JUST HAPPENED The two-time Kansas winner proved why he's so good at the 1.5-mile track, just missing the top 10 with a 12th-place finish. "Smoke" even led for 12 laps while a cycle of green flag pit stops was taking place. WHAT HE NEEDS Stewart has received a waiver from NASCAR for Chase eligibility. The sureest way into the Chase is by winning before the end of regular season (at Richmond International Raceway on Sept. 10) and climb into the top 30 in the points standings. En route to his 2015 championship, Kyle Busch faced a similar path after missing the first 11 races with a leg injury. Currently, Stewart is 37th in the standings, 59 points behind Regan Smith for 30th place. WHAT'S NEXT "Smoke" heads to Dover International Speedway for the AAA 400 Drive for Autism race on May 15 (1 p.m. ET, FOX Sports 1, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio). The 1-mile track has been the site of three of Stewart's 48 wins, including his most recent win in 2013. In addition to the three wins at the "Monster Mile," Stewart also has 11 top fives and 17 top 10s in 33 starts there. MORE: See all of Stewart's wins " "Smoke" granted Chase waiver
The Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup explained
Got questions about the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup format? This brief video will get you up to speed.