Kevin Harvick, Matt Kenseth among Bristol leaders that got in trouble

0 Comments

A long list of race leaders in tonight’s Food City 500 at Bristol Motor Speedway wound up having their nights turn into something much less that what they were hoping for.

With 50 laps to go, a potential Top-10 for Kevin Harvick literally went up in flames when his already smoking No. 4 Stewart-Haas Racing Chevrolet slammed into the wall. The incident caused Jamie McMurray to check up and Brad Keselowski wound up slamming into the back of the Chip Ganassi Racing driver.

Harvick’s car then caught fire on its way to the garage, causing him to quickly climb out and leave the mess behind. McMurray retired from the race shortly afterwards, while Keselowski soldiered on without a hood to a 14th place finish.

All three drivers had led earlier in the race, with Harvick in particular coming on late to lead 28 laps. But they were far from the only leaders to suffer.

On Lap 394 of 500, Kyle Busch crashed while running 17th and forced cars to evade him on the inside and outside as his wrecked machine came to a stop in the middle of the backstretch.

One of those oncoming cars was Kurt Busch, who tried to go to the outside of Kyle but clipped the No. 18 Toyota instead. He then went into the backstretch wall.

Kyle and Kurt would finish 29th and 35th respectively after also leading earlier in the race. Kyle’s downfall was particularly noteworthy, as he had led a 73-lap portion in the middle stages and was the halfway leader as well.

But on Lap 272, Kyle sensed a problem and decided to pit under green. That decision cost him when the caution came out six laps later for a Ryan Truex crash that sent a piece of debris – a brake rotor – to be ultimately run over by Busch.

Busch went down two laps in the sequence, but took the wave-around to get within one lap of the leaders. He was still at that point when he crashed on Lap 394.

Then there was Matt Kenseth, who had an up-and-down day before finishing 13th.

Kenseth was the leader coming out of the three-hour, 19-minute red flag and held the point until Kurt Busch took it on Lap 153. Four laps later on Lap 157, Danica Patrick and Cole Whitt made contact that put Whitt in the wall.

As the caution lights turned on, Busch and Kenseth checked up for Whitt but Timmy Hill failed to slow down and plowed into the back of Kenseth.

Multiple repairs on pit road enabled Kenseth to stay on the lead lap though, and with the back of his car crumpled in, he rocketed from 29th all the way through the field and to the lead on Lap 285.

Kenseth would lead for a race-high 165 laps but late in the race, he suffered handling issues and fell back. Then with 92 laps to go, he tagged the wall after apparently running over debris with his tires.

He would continue on, but it was a disappointing ending to a night that had been largely positive.

Finally, Jimmie Johnson led 44 laps early in the race but on Lap 114, his right front tire unexpectedly went down and he lost multiple laps having to pit under green.

“Something made it come apart in this really long 50-foot section,” Johnson said according to NASCAR.com’s David Caraviello. “I don’t know if we clipped something on the track that wore the tread and it unwound, or if something else happened…”

Johnson would eventually come home 19th.

New Chip Ganassi driver Marcus Armstrong will team with boyhood idol Scott Dixon

Marcus Armstrong Scott Dixon
Joe Portlock - Formula 1/Formula Motorsport Limited via Getty Images
2 Comments

Marcus Armstrong was a Scott Dixon fan his entire life, and when he was 8, the aspiring young racer asked his fellow New Zealander to autograph a helmet visor that he hung on his bedroom wall.

Next year, Armstrong will be Dixon’s teammate.

Armstrong was named Friday as the fourth IndyCar driver in the Chip Ganassi Racing lineup and will pilot the No. 11 next season on road and street courses.

A driver for the five oval races on the 17-race schedule will be named later.

The No. 11 is essentially the No. 48 that seven-time NASCAR champion Jimmie Johnson drove the last two seasons, with Chip Ganassi making the change to run four cars numbered in sequential order. Indianapolis 500 winner Marcus Ericsson drives the No. 8, six-time champion Dixon drives the No. 9, and 2020 IndyCar champion Alex Palou drives the No. 10.

So just who is the second Kiwi in the Ganassi lineup?

A 22-year-old who spent the past three seasons in Formula One feeder series F2, a Ferrari development driver in 2021, and former roommate of Callum Illot and former teammate of Christian Lundgaard – both of whom just completed their rookie IndyCar seasons.

“I’ve always been attracted to the IndyCar championship because it’s one of those championships that’s been really well televised in New Zealand since I was young, mainly because of Scott and his success,” Armstrong told The Associated Press. “As time progressed, as I got closer to F1 and single-seaters, the attraction to IndyCar grew just because of how competitive the championship is – I like to challenge myself and the level of competition in IndyCar is remarkably high.”

Armstrong, from Christchurch, New Zealand, was set to travel from his current home in London to Indianapolis this weekend to meet his new team. He won’t need an introduction to Dixon, the 42-year-old considered the best IndyCar driver of his generation and Armstrong’s unequivocal childhood hero.

Last season, Dixon earned his 53rd career victory to pass Mario Andretti for second on the all-time list. Dixon has driven for Ganassi in all but 23 of his 345 career starts.

“For a long time I’ve been a Scott Dixon fan. I don’t want to make him cringe with our age difference,” Armstrong told the AP.

Despite the two-decade age difference, Armstrong never considered someday racing with Dixon a fantasy.

He convinced his father after winning five national karting championships to allow him to leave New Zealand for Italy at age 14, where he moved by himself to pursue a racing career. Armstrong said as soon as he’d received parental permission, he’d never look back.

Armstrong was in Formula 4 two years after his move to Italy and won that title in his first season. He won four races and four poles in F3 in the 2018 and 2019 seasons, then collected four wins and eight podiums in three seasons of F2.

“Maybe it’s a strength, or maybe it’s a weakness, but I always thought I was capable of doing great in the sport,” Armstrong told the AP. “I think you probably have to succeed in the sport, you need to believe in yourself. I always pictured myself being in IndyCar.

“As Scott’s teammate? I can’t specifically say I saw that. It’s an extraordinary chain of events.”

Armstrong becomes just the latest driver to leave Europe, where F1 is the pinnacle but has only 20 seats each year. Alexander Rossi began the trend in 2016 when the American left F1 and won the Indianapolis 500 as a rookie. He’s been followed by Ericsson, last season’s Indy 500 winner, Romain Grosjean, Illot, Lundgaard, and on Thursday three-time W Series champion and Williams F1 reserve driver Jamie Chadwick was announced as driver for Andretti Autosport in IndyCar’s second-tier development series.

Armstrong said he could have remained in F2 for a fourth season, but he’d been watching IndyCar for so long, and after conversations with Illot and Lundgaard, he decided to make the move to what he believes is the most balanced racing series in the world. He tested for Dale Coyne Racing at Sebring in October.

He doesn’t know if European racing is done for good, just that he wants to be in IndyCar right now.

“I don’t want to think too far into the future, I’m just grateful for this opportunity that is standing right in front of me,” Armstrong said. “I want to perform as well as I can in the near future and just consolidate myself in the fantastic chance that is IndyCar and just do my best.

“I’m not looking at F1 as a landing spot – I am looking at IndyCar, and that’s exactly why I am here.”