NASCAR: Chase contenders cause chuckles at “After The Lap”

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source: Getty Images
Chase drivers cut loose Thursday night in NASCAR After The Lap. Photo: Getty Images.

With a pressure-packed Chase for the Sprint Cup finally over, the 16 contenders for this year’s title got to cut loose a bit tonight in Las Vegas at NASCAR After The Lap.

The “ultimate driver tell-all” has produced some interesting moments in the past, perhaps the most interesting being the revelation of Jeff Gordon’s break dancing skills in 2011.

We didn’t get another boogie from Gordon or anybody else tonight, but there were still some really funny moments.

New Sprint Cup Series champion Kevin Harvick started the evening with a flashy entrance before speaking with host/ESPN reporter Marty Smith about winning a title in his first year with Stewart-Haas Racing (credit to Jeff Gluck of USA Today for the clip below):

“I think we expected to race for wins and be competitive, but I don’t think you can ever imagine it coming together like it has this year,” Harvick said. “I think with the format and winning early in the season and being able to really get a lot of our new team problems out of the way in the first half of the season – for us, it was important.

“As we got further into the year, we started proving to ourselves that we could win in pressure situations and that’s what it came down to with a couple of those at the end.”

That led into the first big group segment of the night, which included Smith asking about drivers’ specific ‘Welcome to NASCAR’ moments.

Jeff Gordon, who was pushing for a career in IndyCar racing in his early years, talked of how running a Busch Grand National car at Rockingham (N.C.) showed what NASCAR could hold for him.

Denny Hamlin (whose No. 11 car lost an engine during the afternoon’s Victory Lap parade down the Las Vegas Strip) spoke of getting a tongue-lashing from Tony Stewart at Chicagoland after racing door-to-door with J.J. Yeley early in the race.

“I was like, immediately, ‘Okay, I’m sorry, sir,'” Hamlin recalled.

Dale Earnhardt Jr. also had a great tale involving the first time he raced against his father, seven-time Cup champion Dale Sr., in a 1998 exhibition race in Japan.

After the two tangled on the track toward the end of the race, the Earnhardts had to share a trailer afterwards to change into street clothes.

Junior was feeling good about his efforts, but those vibes quickly disappeared.

“I had my head down taking my shoes off, and he threw a shoe at me,” he said. “He didn’t say a word the whole time I was in there, and he threw a shoe at me, and it must have been going 100 miles an hour. It hit the wall behind me and knocked a hole in the wall.”

As it turns out, the Intimidator had another reason to be mad.

“We had stole a set of tires from his pit stall in the middle of the race,” Junior explained, triggering a wave of laughs from the crowd. “Me and Tony [Eury] Jr. needed tires. Nobody could pit that last stop. A bunch of guys had used all their tires up and [Dale Sr.] had an extra set.

“…They didn’t come and get that last set of tires, and we stole them out of the pit, put ’em on our car, passed him and ran him in the wall, and he was really pissed off about that. We didn’t sit next to each other on that 13-hour [plane] ride home.”

Another memorable moment came when NASCAR’s current wearer of the black hat, Brad Keselowski, made his entrance for the second group segment to a chorus of boos.

Afterwards, the conversation settled on drivers’ first jobs. Keselowski replied that he washed motor homes for his father at the track, which led Kyle Busch to cut in and ask Gordon if he would let Keselowski – his sparring partner in last month’s post-race fight at Texas – wash his.

“Yes, I would,” Gordon said. “I’d have him start underneath.”

That was when Harvick, who had now returned to the stage, spoke up.

“Has anybody else noticed how happy Kyle is?,” he said. “He’s the one that’s been doing all the stirring. He’s so happy that they boo Brad more than him. He can’t hardly get over it.”

After a loud round of applause, Busch replied: “I feel like Dale Earnhardt Jr. anywhere I walk in now.”

Needless to say, a fun time was had by all.

Starting lineup grid for IMSA Petit Le Mans: Tom Blomqvist puts MSR on pole position

Petit Le Mans lineup
IMSA
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IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar championship contender Tom Blomqvist put the Meyer Shank Racing Acura at the front of the starting lineup for the Motul Petit Le Mans at Michelin Road Atlanta.

Blomqvist turned a 1-minute, 8.55-second lap on the 2.54-mile circuit Friday to capture his third pole position for MSR this season. Earl Bamber qualified second in the No. 02 Cadillac for Chip Ganassi Racing.

Ricky Taylor was third in the No. 10 Acura of Wayne Taylor Racing, which enters Saturday’s season finale with a 19-point lead over the No. 60 of Blomqvist and Oliver Jarvis (who will be joined by Helio Castroneves) for the 10-hour race.

PETIT LE MANS STARTING GRID: Click here for the starting lineup l Lineup by car number

PETIT LE MANS: Info on how to watch

With the pole, MSR sliced the deficit to 14 points behind WTR, which will field the trio of Taylor, Filipe Albuquerque and Brendon Hartley in Saturday’s race.

“We really needed to put the car in this kind of position,” Blomqvist said. “It makes our life a little less stressful tomorrow. It would have given the No. 10 a bit more breathing space. It’s going to be a proper dogfight tomorrow. The guys gave me such a great car. It’s been fantastic this week so far, and it really came alive. I’m hugely thankful to the boys and girls at MSR for giving me the wagon today to execute my job.

“That was a big effort from me. I knew how important it was. It’s just awesome for the guys to give them some sort of reward as well. It’s always nice to be quick. If you do the pole, you know you’ve got a quick car.”

Though WTR has a series-leading four victories with the No. 10, MSR won the Rolex 24 at Daytona and has five runner-up finishes along with its three poles.

The strong performances of the ARX-05s ensure that an Acura will win the final championship in IMSA’s premier Daytona Prototype international (DPi) division, which is being rebranded as Grand Touring Prototype in the move to LMDh cars next season.

Taylor qualified third despite sliding into the Turn 5 gravel during the closing minutes of qualifying while pushing to gain points.

“Qualifying was important for points,” Taylor said. “Going into it, if we outqualified the No. 60 Meyer Shank Acura, they had a lot to lose in terms of championship points. So, we were trying to increase the gap over 20 points which would’ve made a big difference for tomorrow. We would have loved to get the pole and qualify ahead of the No. 60, but in the scheme of the points, it didn’t change a whole lot. I’m feeling good since it’s such a long race, and the No. 10 Konica Minolta Acura team does such a good job strategizing and putting us in a good position.

“I’m very confident in our lineup and our team compared to them over the course of 10 hours. I’d put my two teammates up against those guys any day. I think we are all feeling optimistic and strong for tomorrow.”

In other divisions, PR1 Mathiasen Motorsports (LMP2), Riley Motorsports (LMP3), VasserSullivan (GTD Pro) and Paul Miller Racing (GTD) captured pole positions.

The broadcast of the 10-hour race will begin Saturday at 12:10-3 p.m. ET on NBC, moving at 7 p.m. to USA Network. Peacock will have flag-to-flag coverage.


QUALIFYING

Results

Results by class

Fastest lap by driver

Fastest lap by driver after qualifying

Fastest lap by driver and class after qualifying

Fastest lap sequence in qualifying

Best sector times in qualifying

Time cards in qualifying

PRACTICE RESULTS: Session I l Session II l Session III