Harvick knocks off Pocono from winless list

Late scratch: Harvick knocks off Pocono from winless list
By DAN GELSTON AP Sports Writer
LONG POND, Pa. (AP) — Kevin Harvick snapped an 0-for-38 drought at Pocono Raceway, taking the checkered flag Saturday at one of two tracks where victory had eluded him. Harvick won the first of two NASCAR Cup races in front of no fans this weekend at Pocono and will start 20th on Sunday with the field set by inverting the lead-lap finishers. Harvick has won at every active track except Kentucky Speedway (nine tries) and the 2014 series champion has three wins overall for Stewart-Haas Racing this season. Harvick held off a hard-charging Denny Hamlin for his 52nd career Cup victory. He had 12 top-five finishes in his other 38 starts at Pocono.

PENNSYLVANIA PAYBACK: Sheppard Finds Redemption with Victory on Firecracker Friday

(Jason Shank Photo)

PENNSYLVANIA PAYBACK: Sheppard Finds Redemption with Victory on Firecracker Friday

Brandon Sheppard Scores His 60th Career World of Outlaws Late Model Series Win

SARVER, PA. – Less than 24 hours after Thursday’s preliminary win was ruthless ripped from his grasp in the final corner, Brandon Sheppard of New Berlin, Ill. got his vengeance in the best way possible; by winning.

Drawing the pole position after he was QuickTime in his group and won his heat race, Sheppard piloted the Rocket1 Racing, Valvoline No. 1 to a dominant Friday night win at the Firecracker by leading all 25 laps around the Lernerville Speedway. His conquest at the Sarver, Pa. 4/10th-mile marked his 60th career World of Outlaws Morton Buildings Late Model Series feature win.

“This track was definitely a lot different than what I’m used to, but we were still really good,” noted Sheppard on the conditions. “I could run the middle-to-high real well, didn’t try the bottom too much, but I felt comfortable down there when I did. I think tonight says a lot for tomorrow, because the big race will probably be a little bit more slicker and I don’t know if it will be this slick or not. I have a feeling we’ll be between last night and tomorrow on the track. Either way, it’s gonna be a great race.”

While Sheppard paced the 25-lap feature from the pole, the Sarver, Pa. crowd had another front row hopeful to cheer for on Friday night. Going second-quick and winning his heat race, Boom Briggs of Bear Lake, Pa. put his Chub Frank Racing, CJ’s Auto Transport, Barry Wright Race Cars No. 99B on the outside pole of the feature; his best starting spot of the season with hopes of his first-career World of Outlaws Late Model Series win on the line.

Beginning a green-to-checkered run, Sheppard immediately gained control of the top spot while Scott Bloomquist of Mooresburg, Tenn. wrestled the runner-up spot away from Briggs. While “The Rocket Shepp” raced into lap traffic at halfway, the battle behind him heated up as fourth-starter Mike Norris got his act together and came charging in the late running.

Passing Bloomquist for second on lap 15, “The Crusher Kid” began to track down Sheppard with ten laps remaining as the intensity picked up at Lernerville. Cutting his lead from 2.9-seconds to 1.2-seconds, it was evident that Norris was coming for Sheppard’s lead (with the aid of lap traffic), but the laps were running out while Norris still had ground to make up.

In the end, Norris ran out of time in his pursuit for Sheppard, having to sit back and watch the No. 1 take the checkered flag and keep Norris winless in Firecracker preliminary action for the first time since 2017. For Norris, being disappointed is just a reminder of how far he and his team have come.

“This is definitely a little redemption for us,” Norris said after finishing 10th on Thursday. “It’s crazy to think that when we started we just wanted to make these features and now we’re disappointed with tenth-place finishes. Tonight felt really great though. We’re in pretty good company up here on this podium. I think we’ll have something for them tomorrow. We’ll see what the weather brings and go from there.

Surviving that late rally from Norris, a Friday night win for Sheppard not only meant a milestone career win with the World of Outlaws, but he also gave Steve Baker, Rocket Chassis co-owner, a birthday present with a trip to victory lane. Even after two championships, 60 career wins, and countless other accomplishments, the New Berlin, Ill. native is still thankful to this day for Baker and Mark Richards taking their chances on him.

“They’ve got more than 40+ years of experience and notes that go as far back as possible,” said Sheppard on the success of Rocket Chassis. “That’s the key to being out here on the road. I’m so fortunate to be able to work with them. They took a chance on me back in 2012 and we’ve been working close together ever since. It’s still a dream come true for me to this day,”

Following Sheppard and Norris to the strip on Friday was Scott Bloomquist with fourth-consecutive top five finish aboard the Drydene Performance Products No. 0. The National Dirt Late Model Racing Hall of Fame Inductee is certainly one to keep an eye on in Saturday’s $30,000-to-win finale. Bloomquist has three former titles at the Firecracker and the No. 0 has been rock solid all weekend long at the Sarver, Pa. 4/10th-mile.

“I love it,” Bloomquist said on Lernerville. “We’ve been coming here for a long time, we’ve had some good runs and won some races. We’ve been making some mistakes with tires that we need to fix tomorrow. Last night we put a hard tire on and that was wrong, tonight we put a soft tire and needed a hard one. At least we know what we’re getting into tomorrow. Hopefully the weather holds off and we can get up front.”

Cade Dillard, Thursday’s runner-up finisher, ended up fourth aboard his MB Customs No. 97, giving him the best average finish of any driver through the two preliminary features. Boom Briggs, who started on the outside pole, earned a season-best finish of fifth-place aboard his No. 99B. Rounding out the top ten on Friday night was Mason Zeigler, Gregg Satterlee, Darrell LaniganChase Junghans and Chris Madden.

The 14th rendition of the Firecracker will conclude tomorrow night at Lernerville Speedway tomorrow night with a $30,000-to-win, $1,000-to-start, 50-lap main event airing LIVE on CBS Sports Network at 9:00pm ET. Tickets are still available for purchase at the gate for those in the area.

Morton Buildings Feature (25 Laps) – 1. 1-Brandon Sheppard [1][$6,000]; 2. 72n-Mike Norris [4][$3,000]; 3. 0-Scott Bloomquist [3][$2,000]; 4. 97-Cade Dillard [5][$1,750]; 5. 99b-Boom Briggs [2][$1,500]; 6. 25z-Mason Zeigler [6][$1,400]; 7. 22-Gregg Satterlee [13][$1,300]; 8. 29v-Darrell Lanigan [15][$1,200]; 9. 18-Chase Junghans [7][$1,100]; 10. 0m-Chris Madden [9][$1,000]; 11. 18b-Shannon Babb [8][$900]; 12. 56-Russ King [10][$850]; 13. 72-Jason Covert [11][$800]; 14. 28-Dennis Erb [12][$775]; 15. 10-Jared Miley [17][$750]; 16. 12-Ashton Winger [23][$700]; 17. 1x-Chub Frank [16][$660]; 18. 20rt-Ricky Thornton [18][$640]; 19. 111-Max Blair [20][$620]; 20. 7-Ricky Weiss [22][$600]; 21. 12d-Doug Drown [14][$600]; 22. 2s-Dan Stone [21][$600]; 23. B1-Brent Larson [24][$600]; 24. 0s-Ryan Scott [19][$600]. Lap Leader(s): Sheppard 1-25. Hard Charger Award: 29v-Darrell Lanigan[+7]

(Jason Shank Photo)

Blaney wins at Talladega after NASCAR unites behind Wallace

Blaney wins at Talladega after NASCAR unites behind Wallace
By JOHN ZENOR AP Sports Writer
TALLADEGA, Ala. (AP) — Ryan Blaney held onto the lead after a restart with two laps to go, earning his second straight win at Talladega Superspeedway on a day that began with NASCAR drivers throwing their support behind Bubba Wallace. Blaney nipped Ricky Stenhouse Jr. at the finish line for his fourth win and first since Talladega in October, albeit this time before a mostly empty venue. It was a race marked by support for Wallace instead of another Big One at Talladega, though there was mayhem behind Blaney on the final lap and he also pushed Erik Jones into the wall near the finish.

NASCAR wants 30,000 fans at All-Star race in Tennessee

NASCAR wants 30,000 fans at All-Star race in Tennessee
CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) — NASCAR is set to allow up to 30,000 fans at the track in Bristol next month when it moves the All-Star race out of Charlotte Motor Speedway for just the second time in the history of the race. NASCAR is set to allow up to 30,000 fans at the track next month when it moves the All-Star race out of Charlotte Motor Speedway for just the second time in the history of the race. The race was originally scheduled for May 16 at Charlotte. It has been held at the track every year since its inception in 1985. The 1986 race was run at Atlanta Motor Speedway.

A safe return for golf as Berger wins Colonial in a playoff

A safe return for golf as Berger wins Colonial in a playoff
By DOUG FERGUSON AP Golf Writer
FORT WORTH, Texas (AP) — The PGA Tour completed a safe and successful return to competition, and so did Daniel Berger. He made a 10-foot birdie putt on the final hole and then won the Charles Schwab Challenge by saving par behind the 17th hole in a playoff. Collin Morikawa, who missed a 6-foot putt in regulation for the win, missed a 3-foot par putt in the playoff. Commissioner Jay Monahan called it a phenomenal return because all 487 coronavirus tests at Colonial came back negative. And it was a good show, even though i t was a quiet one with no fans.

Denny Hamlin wins on a long day at Homestead

Denny Hamlin wins on a long day at Homestead
By TIM REYNOLDS AP Sports Writer
HOMESTEAD, Fla. (AP) — Denny Hamlin found the magic at Homestead-Miami Speedway, once again. Hamlin went to the lead for the final time with 30 laps left and held off Chase Elliott for his record-tying third NASCAR Cup Series victory at Homestead. Former drivers Tony Stewart and Greg Biffle are the other three-time winners. Hamlin is in the club now, after battling Elliott most of the night. Hamlin raced to his third victory of the season and 40th overall. He opened the season with a victory in the Daytona 500 and won at Darlington last month. At Homestead, he led 137 of 267 laps on the 1 1/2-mile track in Joe Gibbs Racing’s No. 11 Toyota, finishing 0.895 ahead of Elliott.

Schauffele leads Colonial over host of stars in tour return

Schauffele leads Colonial over host of stars in tour return
By DOUG FERGUSON AP Golf Writer
FORT WORTH, Texas (AP) — The PGA Tour has returned after three months because of the pandemic, and it hasn’t taken long for fans to see what they were missing. Xander Schauffele made a 12-foot birdie putt on the last hole for a 66 and a one-shot lead over an All-Star cast at the Charles Schwab Challenge. Among those one shot behind were Jordan Spieth, Justin Thomas and U.S. Open champion Gary Woodland. Among the 14 players separated by three shots were Rory McIlroy and Justin Rose. That sets up what should by a dynamic Sunday with no spectators allowed on the course.

Kyle Busch wins trucks race at Homestead

Kyle Busch wins trucks race at Homestead
By TIM REYNOLDS AP Sports Writer
MIAMI (AP) — Kyle Busch’s slump wasn’t much of a slump. And it’s over now anyway. Busch won the NASCAR Trucks Series race at Homestead-Miami Speedway on Saturday night, his 58th career win on the circuit and his eighth victory in his last 10 series starts. Busch had to start at the back of the field, then serve a pass-through penalty on top of that, after failing pre-race inspection. But he managed to stay on the lead lap, then worked his way to the front and made it all seem easy.

Earnhardt Jr. returns; Burton wins Xfinity race at Homestead

Earnhardt returns; Burton wins Xfinity race at Homestead
By TIM REYNOLDS AP Sports Writer
MIAMI (AP) — A late caution flag gave Harrison Burton new life, and he took advantage. Burton took the inside line on the way to the lead in the final lap, and held on to win the Xfinity Series race at Homestead-Miami Speedway — denying, among others, Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Noah Gragson, who seemed to be in full command with seven laps remaining. Burton, Gragson and Austin Cindric were three-wide going into that last lap, and it was Burton who wound up winning what turned into a wild finish. Cindric got second and Gragson finished third, two spots ahead of Earnhardt — part of his car’s JR Motorsports ownership.

Austin Dillon welcomes baby, will race Sunday at Homestead

Austin Dillon welcomes baby, will race Sunday at Homestead
HOMESTEAD, Fla. (AP) — Austin Dillon announced Sunday morning that he and his wife Whitney are now parents. The NASCAR driver said in a post on Instagram that Whitney Dillon gave birth to a boy named Ace. Austin Dillon is scheduled to start 16th in the No. 3 car in Sunday’s Cup Series race at Homestead-Miami Speedway. AJ Allmendinger had been on standby to drive if needed, but Dillon indicated in the post that he would get behind the wheel as planned.