January 24, 2019
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Newman wins duel with Larson at Phoenix

AVONDALE, Arizona — Pit strategy put Ryan Newman up front for an overtime restart in the Camping World 500 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series race, and he held off Kyle Larson to win on Sunday at Phoenix International Raceway.

Newman earned his first victory in four years and also the first for Richard Childress Racing since 2013, the year before Newman joined the team.

“I’ve lost count, that’s how long it’s been,” Newman said.

Larson finished second and Kyle Busch was third. Ricky Stenhouse Jr. and Brad Keselowski rounded out the top five.

“Dang it. I wish I wouldn’t have gotten sideways there in [turns] one and two, and I would have stayed close enough to Newman, and I probably would have got him down in three and four, coming to the white [flag],” Larson said. “You never know, though. That’s how the races play out. Maybe I made a mistake there. This one stings, because I feel like I was in the best spot out of anybody there to line up fourth on two tires.

“But it’s really, really cool to be the point leader right now. That was a goal of mine going into today, so thanks to everybody at Chip Ganassi Racing for all your hard work. We’ll hopefully continue to have this speed in our race cars and, maybe, close some of these races out.”

Busch was the race leader when the yellow flag waved for the final time, but Busch and the other front-runners pitted while Newman, Stenhouse and Martin Truex Jr. stayed out. Larson, who took two new tires, got off pit road ahead of Busch but couldn’t catch Newman.

“What a gutsy call by Luke [Lambert, crew chief],” Newman said. “I called for two tires, and he called for none. I’ve won more races no tires than I have with four. I’m just proud of these guys. We had a good car all day. We kept it out of trouble and collected in the end.”

After the caution that signaled the end of the second stage of the race on lap 150, Busch restarted fourth. With 122 laps remaining, he got by Larson for second.

Busch then took the lead from Chase Elliott by getting off pit road first during a caution for his Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Matt Kenseth with 121 laps remaining. Busch ran up front until the final caution of the race.

“Everything’s great; we got a top-five, and that’s what we set out to do today, and we got a third, so we should be pumped about that and how good this Camry ran today,” Busch said. “It was awesome there at the end, and the guys made some really good calls there at the end. Adam [Stevens, crew chief] and the guys did a good job being able to make some good adjustments and make it feel better once we got out front. Thanks to my pit crew; the car really liked clean air.

“We just got caught up in traffic a little bit early in the race, but we were mindful of that and just kind of bided our time and got up to the front when we did, but we had a little miscue there on pit road with Kurt [Busch], and from there it was just too many cars that stayed out. If it was just two that stayed out, maybe, but we really needed the outside like Larson had. Overall, we should be proud of our run today, and we will move on.”

Elliott was the leader at the end of the second 75-lap stage, with a nearly three-second lead on second-place Larson. It was the first stage win of the year for Chevrolet.

Busch, Jimmie Johnson and Keselowski were third through fifth, respectively, at the end of stage two.

After Joey Logano started on the pole and led the entire way in stage one and got off pit road first during the caution between the first two stages, Elliott and Larson took Logano three-wide on lap 84. Elliott came out with the lead and Larson was second.

A pit road speeding penalty on Logano during a lap 118 caution resulted in Logano running outside the top 10 at the end of stage two. He ran in the back of the top 20 for most of the remainder of the race and blew a right-front tire to bring out the eighth and final caution of the race on lap 306.

Larson was second at the end of the first stage and Elliott was fourth behind Keselowski. But once Elliott and Larson got by Logano early in the second stage, they maintained their positions throughout the second 75 laps.

Finishing sixth through 10th were Kevin Harvick, Daniel Suarez, Erik Jones, Jimmie Johnson and Denny Hamlin.

NOTES: Kevin Harvick is an eight-time winner at Phoenix International Raceway, including wins in the last three editions of the Camping World 500. … Joey Logano won the last time the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series visited PIR in November 2016. … Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s No. 88 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet dominated the November race last year, starting on the pole and leading 192 laps with fill-in driver Alex Bowman behind the wheel. … Denny Hamlin started the race in the back because his team changed tires on his car after Friday’s qualifying session. One of Hamlin’s tires picked up a screw during the first round of qualifying. A new NASCAR rule for 2017 requires cars to start races on the tires with which they qualify.

Allgaier ends 80-race Xfinity drought

AVONDALE, Arizona — Justin Allgaier popped a tire during his celebratory burnout after Saturday’s DC Solar 200 at Phoenix International Raceway.

But you can forgive the driver of the No. 7 JR Motorsports Chevrolet if he was a trifle rusty with his donuts — Allgaier hadn’t been to Victory Lane in the NASCAR Xfinity Series since August 2012 at the road course in Montreal.

On a blistering afternoon that brought emotions to a boil at the 1-mile race track in the Sonoran Desert, Allgaier sailed away with a magnificent restart with four laps left and finished .741 seconds ahead of runner-up Ryan Blaney, who started 33rd after inspection issues kept him off the grid during qualifying earlier in the day.

“You have no idea how proud I am of you,” Allgaier radioed to his team after he crossed the finish line and broke an 80-race drought.

After climbing from the car, Allgaier began to digest what he had just accomplished, not the least of which was claiming the $100,000 bonus in the first Dash 4 Cash race of the season. The victory was Allgaier’s fourth in the series.

“Last year was tough,” Allgaier said of a winless 2016, his first year with JRM. “We had really good runs all year but we weren’t able to get to Victory Lane. This was the same group of guys we had last year, and to be able to do it here in Phoenix and win the first Xfinity Dash 4 Cash race. …

“This is a team effort. We had four really good JR Motorsports hot rods out there.”

In fact, with polesitter William Byron running fourth and series leader Elliott Sadler coming home fifth, JRM put three cars in the top five and four in the top nine, with Michael Annett finishing ninth.

With 10 laps left, contact from Cole Custer’s Ford sent Austin Dillon’s No. 2 Chevrolet hard into the outside wall, collecting Ryan Sieg’s Chevrolet in the process. After caution flew on lap 191, Dillon rode Custer’s car into the outside wall, earning a summons to the NASCAR hauler for Dillon and crew chief Justin Alexander.

“He over-drove the corner and took us out with it,” Dillon said after exiting the infield care center.

Dillon wasn’t particularly apprehensive about the meeting with NASCAR.

“We’ll probably just have a Coke and discuss things,” he said optimistically.

Custer took full responsibility for the incident.


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