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.

Christopher Bell survives caution-filled Chili Bowl Prelim

TeeJay Crawford
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Christopher Bell survived the most caution-filled Feature of the week to win Thursday’s preliminary night at the 33rd Annual Chili Bowl. His ability to hold the lead on restarts helped lock Bell into his seventh Saturday A-Feature since 2013.

“I pretty much suck on restarts. I do better when I get into a rhythm,” said Christopher Bell on twitter.

Bell started the feature in third place behind Danny Stratton and Jerry Coons Jr. He took the lead on the first official lap of the race, but not until after two Lap 1 cautions.

The Oklahoma native held the lead through the remaining 24 laps and eight cautions until being challenged by Shane Golobic and CJ Leary on the final laps. Golobic briefly made it past him though Turns 3 and 4 of the final lap. Bell regained control in 1 and 2 to claim the checkers.

“It was a lot busier than what I wanted them to be. Shane definitely made a race out of it and I hope the last four laps were a good show. It was a lot of fun … well it was fun because I won but if I hadn’t won it wouldn’t have been much fun,” Bell said regarding the final laps.

Golobic earned the second transfer into Saturday’s A-Main after starting to the outside of Bell.

Leary completed the podium with the pole sitter Stratton finished fourth.

Josh Most battled through the B after a hard crash in his heat. He rebounded to transfer to the A and drove from 22nd to fifth.

With the throng of cautions at the start and finish of the race, the goal quickly became survival. Only 15 of 24 entries completed the full feature. Notable DNF’s included Ryan Bernal who started fifth, Coons, who started on the front row and Thomas Meseraull in 15th.

NASCAR’s Justin Allgaier finished 13th and will have a long day ahead of him on Saturday.

Friday Jan. 18 will be the final Qualifying night for the 33rd annual Chili Bowl Nationals.

MORE: Rico Abreu wins Chili Bowl Night 3 
MORE: Kyle Larson wins Chili Bowl Night 2

Thursday’s Results

1. Christopher Bell
2. Shane Golobic
3. CJ Leary
4. Danny Stratton
5. Josh Most
6. Austin Brown
7. Tracy Hines
8. Casey Shuman
9. Kyle Cummins
10. Andrew Felker
11. Austin O’Dell
12. Seth Carlson
13. Justin Allgaier
14. Chase Johnson
15. Johnny Herrera
16. Ryan Bernal
17. Jerry Coons Jr.
18. Matt Sherrell
19. Thomas Meseraull
20. Jake Morgan
21. Andrew Deal
22. Kevin Bayer
23. Kaleb Currie
24. Joe B. Miller