Sten­house hangs on, Earn­hardt crashes out

The Washington Post Sunday - - BASEBALL -

day­tona beach, fla. — Ricky Sten­house Jr. raced to his sec­ond vic­tory of the sea­son — and sec­ond on a re­stric­tor-plate track — Satur­day night at Day­tona In­ter­na­tional Speed­way.

Sten­house picked up his first ca­reer NASCAR Cup Se­ries win in May at Tal­ladega. Just like last time, girl­friend Dan­ica Pa­trick was there to greet him in Vic­tory Lane — she had wrecked out shortly be­fore and was the first per­son at his car win­dow when he pulled in to cel­e­brate.

“It val­i­dates what we did in Tal­ladega,” Sten­house said.

He earned this one for Roush Fen­way Rac­ing in a two-lap over­time sprint when leader David Ra­gan tried to block the field and lost mo­men­tum. Sten­house squirted by and held on for the vic­tory. He did it in a new car, too, be­cause he wasn’t giv­ing back the Ford he drove at Tal­ladega to his first ca­reer Cup vic­tory.

“I kept my Tal­ladega car and told them to build a new one,” he said. “I have been com­ing here since 2008. I ac­tu­ally came in 2006 one time with Bobby Hamil­ton Jr., and it is cool to put it in Vic­tory Lane and get our sec­ond win this year.”

The race was billed as Dale Earn­hardt Jr.’s Cup Se­ries finale at Day­tona, and he was the pole-sit­ter and a clear fa­vorite. He had one of the fastest cars in the field and spent much of the first two stages up front.

But NASCAR’s most pop­u­lar driver scraped the wall early in the 400-mile race and then got knocked out with 54 laps re­main­ing when Kevin Har­vick spun and crashed in front of him. It was a dis­ap­point­ing and frus­trat­ing fin­ish af­ter a full week of hype.

“I just didn’t ex­pect all that at­ten­tion all week,” he said. “My phone buzzing all day long with so­cial me­dia go­ing crazy, every­body talk­ing about this be­ing my last Day­tona race. I hope ev­ery week­end isn’t like this as far as that goes. The at­ten­tion and the re­ac­tion from the fans makes me feel great. Hope­fully, we are able to turn that around and back on them for the rest of the sea­son and thank them for all they had done.”

Clint Bowyer was sec­ond for the sec­ond con­sec­u­tive week.

“This brides­maid thing sucks,” Bowyer said. “But sec­ond is bet­ter than third.”

Paul Me­nard was third, fol­lowed by Michael McDow­ell, Ryan New­man and Ra­gan.

Bren­dan Gaughan, A.J. All­mendinger, Erik Jones and Chris Buescher rounded out a bizarre top 10. Many of the top con­tenders were knocked out in crashes, in­clud­ing Pa­trick, who was seen kick­ing her car in frus­tra­tion when she wrecked. She also was out of the race and in street clothes when Sten­house won at Tal­ladega.

The race had hit full in­ten­sity in the fi­nal 10 laps with se­ries points leader Kyle Lar­son slic­ing his way back into con­tention. He was chas­ing Ty Dil­lon for the lead with seven laps re­main­ing when he moved up a lane to block Sten­house.

There wasn’t enough room for Lar­son’s car in front of Sten­house, and the con­tact turned Lar­son to­ward the wall and lifted his car off the track. It trig­gered an eight­car crash that col­lected Day­tona 500 win­ner Kurt Busch and whit­tled down the field to just a hand­ful of con­tenders.

NASCAR red-flagged the race to clean the dam­age and went back to yel­low af­ter a stop­page of nearly nine min­utes.

Dil­lon was out front as the leader, fol­lowed by Ra­gan, All­mendinger and Sten­house, who de­spite driv­ing un­der Lar­son’s air­borne car, seemed to come out un­scathed and restarted fourth.

Ra­gan got a good push from All­mendinger on the restart, but a spin by Denny Ham­lin and Erik Jones brought out the cau­tion to send the race into over­time. That’s when Sten­house got his chance.

XFIN­ITY SE­RIES: Wil­liam Byron got his sec­ond win of the sea­son, and this time he got to do it in front of his bosses.

Byron won his sec­ond straight race by lead­ing a one-two fin­ish at Day­tona for JR Mo­tor­sports. He raced to his first ca­reer Xfin­ity vic­tory last week­end at Iowa, but team own­ers Earn­hardt and Rick Hen­drick weren’t at the track to see him.

This time, Hen­drick was the first per­son to the win­dow of his car in Vic­tory Lane. The 19-yearold be­came the youngest se­ries win­ner at Day­tona.

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