Joey Logano charges past Jeff Gordon to Texas win in G-W-C

Leave a comment

What was effectively a Sunday cruise at Texas Motor Speedway for Joey Logano got far more interesting than he likely would have preferred.

Logano took the lead just after a restart at Lap 227 and dominated the final stages of the race – only to have a left-rear tire failure for Kurt Busch spray debris on the track and trigger the caution with two laps to go.

Coming out third after pit stops before the first Green-White-Checkered finish attempt, he was going to have to earn this one. And he did, blowing past Brian Vickers and then Jeff Gordon on the final lap to nail down a win in the Duck Commander 500.

After earning Top-5 finishes in both races last year at Texas Motor Speedway, Logano has conquered the 1.5-mile oval for the first time in his Sprint Cup career.

Additionally, he is now the seventh different winner in as many Sprint Cup races this season. With the result, he joins Team Penske teammate Brad Keselowski in the Chase Grid, with the latter having won earlier this year in Las Vegas.

“Talk about a lot of emotions! You feel like you’re about to win the race and then the caution comes out when you’re coming to take the white and you’re ‘You’ve got to be kidding me,'” Logano told Fox Sports.

After Busch’s issue, Logano led the field to the pits where Gordon and Vickers leapfrogged him by taking two tires to Logano’s four.

That put Logano third in line ahead of Keselowski, albeit only briefly; Keselowski was tagged for speeding on pit road and had to drop to the tail end of the longest line (he would finish 15th).

Gordon got a good restart in G-W-C, but Logano quickly dispatched Vickers on the inside. Then, as the white flag waved, Logano went side-by-side with Gordon across the start/finish line.

Logano would complete the pass in Turn 1 and leave Gordon in the dust.

“The boys did a great job in the pits and we came out where we needed to be,” Logano said. “Then, I had a good enough restart and then a good enough run on [Gordon] to pass him…Man, it feels good to be back in Victory Lane, in the Chase. I’m just stoked.”

As for Gordon, who almost took a Texas A&M-sponsored car to Victory Lane in the Lone Star State, he admitted that he wouldn’t have had a chance to win without the yellow at the end.

“At one point [today], I thought we didn’t have a shot at all,” Gordon said. “We got a pretty good restart, Joey was right on me and I was pretty loose in [Turns] 1 and 2.

“I wish I’d would’ve gone a little bit higher down in 3 and 4, but he got that run off of 4 and then he got in the back of me so I thought I was gonna wreck. At that point, I was like, ‘Second would be good’ [laughs].”

Gordon can at least take solace in becoming the new Sprint Cup points leader by four points over Matt Kenseth.

Gordon’s Hendrick Motorsports teammate, Dale Earnhardt Jr., entered Texas as the points leader but crashed out of the race on Lap 13 after running his left-side tires into the wet infield grass and then skidding into the wall.

That was part of a bizarre beginning to the event, which started with the first 10 laps running under yellow to help track dryers put more heat in the track.

Following Earnhardt’s wreck, another Texas contender fell by the wayside on Lap 28 as Kevin Harvick suffered a terminal engine problem that continues his run of horrid luck.

Fortunately, things eventually settled down and the race took on a normal rhythm – until the caution with two laps to go jumbled everything up.

While Logano and Gordon finished first and second pretty much by themselves, Kyle Busch was left to fight off a cluster of cars for third place. But the Joe Gibbs Racing driver was able to do the job, completing a solid run after starting 29th.

Vickers faded back on the restart after Logano took care of him, but was able to nip Kyle Larson at the stripe for fourth.

NASCAR SPRINT CUP SERIES – DUCK COMMANDER 500 AT TEXAS
Unofficial Results

1. Joey Logano, led 108 laps
2. Jeff Gordon, led 40 laps
3. Kyle Busch, led 10 laps
4. Brian Vickers
5. Kyle Larson
6. Greg Biffle
7. Matt Kenseth
8. Clint Bowyer, led 1 lap
9. Paul Menard
10. Tony Stewart, led 74 laps
11. Kasey Kahne
12. Aric Almirola
13. Denny Hamlin, led 20 laps
14. Carl Edwards
15. Brad Keselowski, led 85 laps
16. Ryan Newman
17. Jamie McMurray
18. Martin Truex Jr.
ONE LAP DOWN
19. Trevor Bayne
20. Marcos Ambrose
21. Austin Dillon
22. David Gilliland
23. A.J. Allmendinger
24. Justin Allgaier
TWO LAPS DOWN
25. Jimmie Johnson
26. Ricky Stenhouse Jr.
27. Danica Patrick
28. Casey Mears
THREE LAPS DOWN
29. Michael Annett
FIVE LAPS DOWN
30. Michael McDowell
31. Cole Whitt
32. Alex Bowman
SIX LAPS DOWN
33. Reed Sorenson, led one lap
34. Landon Cassill
35. David Ragan
SEVEN LAPS DOWN
36. Josh Wise
EIGHT LAPS DOWN
37. Travis Kvapil
38. David Reutimann

39. Kurt Busch, Lap 327, Accident
40. Parker Kligerman, Lap 313, Overheating
41. Dave Blaney, Lap 272, Steering
42. Kevin Harvick, led one lap, Lap 28, Engine
43. Dale Earnhardt Jr., Lap 12, Accident

WATCH LIVE: IndyCar at Phoenix (9 p.m. ET, NBCSN)

Getty Images
Leave a comment

AVONDALE, Ariz. – Coverage of the fourth round of the 2017 Verizon IndyCar Series season, the Desert Diamond West Valley Phoenix Grand Prix, takes place today starting at 9 p.m. ET on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com (stream link here). The coverage comes after an encore presentation of Phoenix qualifying, which begins at 7:30 p.m. ET.

Rick Allen will be in the booth with Townsend Bell and Paul Tracy. Marty Snider, Kevin Lee, Katie Hargitt and Robin Miller will be in pit lane.

Coverage will run from 6 to 9 p.m. PT and local time, so 9 p.m. to midnight ET.

Each of the top three drivers on the grid, Helio Castroneves, Will Power and JR Hildebrand, seek their first wins of the year. The first three race winners start fourth (Josef Newgarden), 10th (points leader Sebastien Bourdais) and 11th (James Hinchcliffe).

Track position is expected to be key for the 250-lap race, the first oval event of the season, with passing projected to be difficult – albeit not impossible.

Beyond the top three, some of the other story lines to watch include these:

  • On the inside of Row 3, is Simon Pagenaud positioned to secure his first oval victory?
  • Will any of the Hondas be able to make significant inroads on the Chevrolets?
  • Is anyone going to be able to make enough gains on pit road to move up the order?

The starting lineup is below:

Monaco apartment bet gives extra spice to race for P5 in Russia

Getty Images
Leave a comment

Remember that episode of Friends where Joey and Chandler go up against Rachel and Monica in a crazy quiz that ends in them swapping apartments for a while?

Well, Formula 1 might be doing its own version on Sunday in Russia.

With Ferrari and Mercedes over one second per lap clear of the rest of the pack, the top four positions seem settled, leaving Williams and Red Bull to battle for P5.

Red Bull has been the third-quickest team for much of the season so far, yet Williams looks more competitive in Russia, with Felipe Massa charging to sixth place in qualifying to split Daniel Ricciardo and Max Verstappen.

“I predicted them to be quick here. It’s been one of their stronger circuits the last few years, and Massa’s always been pretty handy around here,” Ricciardo said of Williams.

“He got close, split Max and myself. I expect that battle to remain tomorrow. Not expecting to have the battle for the win, I think that’s between Ferrari and Mercedes, but we could have a nice little battle within ourselves for the top five.”

To add an extra twist to things, it turns out that Ricciardo, Massa and Verstappen all live inside the same apartment complex in Monaco – so why not add some extra incentive to the battle?

“I was saying whoever maybe wins our battle tomorrow can get the… Massa or Verstappen, they’ve both got pretty good-sized apartments, so maybe they can give the winner their apartment for the weekend as a bit of a token gesture!” Ricciardo joked to NBCSN after the session.

“Yeah I can give a good party and I will join,” Verstappen added.

Massa laughed before saying: “I hope I will win and I cannot give!’

The race between Red Bull and Williams may be tight, but somehow we doubt remembering that the TV guide goes to Miss Chanandeler Bong or that his job is a transpon… transponster (“that’s not even a word!”) will be much help to Ricciardo, Massa or Verstappen on Sunday.

The Russian Grand Prix is live on NBCSN and the NBC Sports app from 7am ET on Sunday.

F1 Paddock Pass: Russian Grand Prix, Saturday edition (VIDEO)

Leave a comment

Life as a rookie in Formula 1 is always tough, but for Williams’ Lance Stroll, his arrival on the grid has been particularly challenging.

Entering F1 as its second-youngest debutant and after an extensive private testing program with Williams last year, big things were expected of Stroll when he made his debut in Australia.

However, his first three races in F1 have been far from ideal, all of them ending in retirement.

The DNF is Australia was the result of a brake issue, while incidents in China and Bahrain – both of which were hard to pin on Stroll – mean the Canadian is without a classified finish to his name.

So how has he dealt with the struggles? To find out, Will Buxton brings you a special edition of NBC Sports’ original digital series ‘Paddock Pass’ to lift the lid on Stroll’s start to life in F1.

You can watch the video in full above.

JR Hildebrand returns in career-best third on grid at Phoenix

Photo: IndyCar
Leave a comment

AVONDALE, Ariz. – The last first-time winner in the Verizon IndyCar Series came on an oval, when Alexander Rossi captured last year’s 100th Indianapolis 500 presented by PennGrade Motor Oil.

The guy who could well have captured his first career victory five years earlier in 2011, JR Hildebrand, remains in search of ‘ol first win number one. But he’s got a good chance to do so tonight in his No. 21 Fuzzy’s Vodka Chevrolet, as he’ll roll off from a career-best third on the grid in the Desert Diamond West Valley Phoenix Grand Prix (9 p.m. ET, NBCSN).

The qualifying result for Hildebrand eclipses a previous best set twice: fourth at Iowa in 2011, and at Fontana in 2012, both with Panther Racing but in separate iterations of cars. This marks Hildebrand’s first top-five start since that Fontana race in September of that year, and easily eclipses his other 2017 starts of 19th and 15th on the two street course races to start the year.

In some respects Hildebrand’s pace this weekend is not a surprise; he was the pace-setter during the open test here in February. However, after missing Barber owing to his broken bone in his left hand, the more important aspect of his performance this weekend is that he’s back on song and comfortable – best as he can be – for today’s 250-lap race.

“I think with the kind of injury that I’m dealing with and the surgery that I had, an oval definitely is a little easier just literally turning left versus turning right even,” Hildebrand said after practice, when he was second to Josef Newgarden – who will start alongside him tonight on Row 2.

“So it felt better than honestly I thought it would in practice. I didn’t have any, like, major issues. I got a couple of different braces that I’m kind of playing around with and stuff like that. But felt like I got it pretty dialed in. Feel good about qualifying today and then the race tomorrow as well.”

Hildebrand was in a unique situation at Barber where he watched someone else in his car – a situation he hadn’t been afforded since Panther showed him the door after the 2013 Indianapolis 500. His starts since, it’s been Hildebrand in either a fill-in or extra entry, usually at Ed Carpenter Racing.

“It was definitely different to be watching in that situation than it was last year, you know, or in years past when I’ve been stepping in for testing or whatever and doing that on behalf of other guys,” he said. “It was painful to sit there and watch, but I think was in the end the only, you know, feasible kind of way to get through that weekend.”

That being said, Hildebrand wound up playing the mentor role well to Zach Veach, who methodically and consistently improved over the weekend on debut. It flashed back nicely to Hildebrand’s own debut at Mid-Ohio 2010 under nearly identical circumstances.

“I filled in for Mike Conway at Mid-Ohio back in 2010 in sort of similar conditions,” Hildebrand explained.

“Yeah, I mean, knowing this was going to be sort of a short-term thing, in particular, I wanted for the team’s sake to be able to get as much as they could out of having Zach in the car in my absence. That in some ways sort of requires that Zach is up to speed.

“But being a driver myself, being in that situation before, I know that it helps a lot to have somebody that, you know, is kind of just there to help you through whatever those difficulties and challenges are.

“Barber is a really tough place. He had some testing time at Sonoma, which is not really super relevant going into Barber. And on top of that, like, we were not great there when we tested there previously.

“You know, he was in for an uphill battle going in. He had a great attitude about the whole thing. I thought he made evident progression through the weekend. You know, was definitely helpful for the team and did a good job for himself.”

Hildebrand also noted that he wouldn’t have been in this position in the first place had he not had the contact with Mikhail Aleshin at Long Beach that put him into the wall and caused the hand injury.

“Yeah, he came over and told me he didn’t block me while I was still sitting in the car. Then he got a penalty 30 seconds later for doing that. Whatever,” Hildebrand deadpanned.

“I don’t have hard feelings about it, for sure. But, you know, I think that there’s definitely a track record that, you know, he’s begun to build up.”

Hildebrand will look for his second career podium at least if he can finish where he starts – in a weird quirk, his only career IndyCar top-three finish has come at a race where there is not the traditional podium ceremony for top-three finishers, that aforementioned 2011 Indianapolis 500.

Tonight gives him a great opportunity to break that run of tough luck and get a result to match his determination and will to return.