KANSAS CITY, Kan. — Bubba Wallace won his second career NASCAR Cup Series race Sunday and denied the playoff field an automatic spot in the next round for the second straight week when he held off championship contenders Denny Hamlin and Christopher Bell to prevail at Kansas Speedway.
Wallace, who is not among the 16 in the title hunt, got around Alex Bowman for the lead with 67 laps to go and then built a two-second lead over a parade of playoff drivers trying to earn a win and ensure their spot in the next round.
Hamlin was at the front of it. The co-owner with Michael Jordan of Wallace’s car at 23XI Racing managed to whittle about a tenth of a second off the No. 45’s lead over the closing laps. Hamlin ultimately ran out of time, and Wallace took the checkered flag in the same car that Kurt Busch won with at Kansas earlier this year.
“I knew Denny was going to be strong,” said Wallace, who stepped into the car while Busch deals with the effects of a concussion. “It’s cool to beat the boss, but it’s just cool to be lights out today and come away with the win.”
Bell finished third and Bowman fourth with playoff outsider Martin Truex Jr. in fifth. William Byron, Ross Chastain, Kyle Larson, Ryan Blaney and Daniel Suarez — all in the playoff hunt — rounded out the top 10.
Bell clinched a spot in the next round of the playoffs on points. The other 11 spots are up for grabs heading to Bristol.
Wallace also won during last year’s playoffs at Talladega when he was likewise out of the title picture. And his win came after Erik Jones, who likewise missed out on the postseason, won a week ago at Darlington.
Wallace is the 18th driver to win this season.
“I was driving as hard as I could,” said Hamlin. “Nothing will ever come free when you’re driving for me. If you think I’m going to let you win, you better find another team.”
Kevin Harvick spent the week ruing an inferno that ruined his playoff opener and led to plenty of discussion on safety in the Next Gen car. But it was the aerodynamics of the car that ruined his Sunday and left his playoff hopes in peril.
The trouble began when Harvick was caught four wide shortly after a Lap 25 competition caution. Chastain drifted in front of him, took the air off Harvick’s nose and instantly made him loose. The three-time Kansas winner touched the wall out of Turn 4 and then hit hard again across the start-finish line, leaving him with heavy damage to the right side.
It’s the first time in a Cup career spanning 782 races that Harvick has failed to finish three straight races.
“It is what it is,” Harvick said. “We were racing to win anyway today, so that’s what we will do again next week.”
Tyler Reddick‘s brilliant weekend, which included his first pole on an oval, likewise ended in the first stage when his right rear tire went down. That sent his No. 8 sliding into the wall, breaking the upper control arm in the right front.
“We leave here with not a lot of points,” Reddick said, “so we’re going to fight hard at Bristol.”
Stage 2 was just as frustrating to playoff hopefuls. Many had problems on pit road, including Kyle Busch, who not only had a penalty for an uncontrolled tire but later spun into the grass and went a lap down. He finished 26th and dropped below the playoff cutline along with Harvick, Chase Briscoe and Austin Dillon.
Busch trails Reddick and Austin Cindric by two points heading to Bristol. Dillon is another point back.
Odds and ends
JTG Daugherty Racing learned that longtime team member JR Hollar died early Sunday. He was 57. The cause was not disclosed. … Ricky Stenhouse Jr. also had a right rear tire go down while running near the front, then Harrison Burton and Corey LaJoie wrecked on the restart.
The final race in the round is Saturday night on the concrete at Bristol, where Kyle Busch won the Cup race on dirt in April.
Georgia’s Bennett arrested for public intoxication
Former Georgia quarterback Stetson Bennett, who led the Bulldogs to their second straight CFP National Championship earlier this month, was arrested on a misdemeanor public intoxication charge in Dallas on Sunday morning.
In a statement to ESPN, a Dallas Police Department spokesperson said officers responded to a report of a man banging on doors in the 1600 block of Tribeca Way at 7:10 a.m. ET on Sunday.
“The preliminary investigation found when officers arrived, they located the man, Stetson Bennett, 25, and determined he was intoxicated,” the police statement read. “Bennett was taken into custody, transported to the City Detention Center and charged with public intoxication.”
Bennett left the detention center Sunday morning, but he could not be reached for comment.
Bennett, who started his college career as a walk-on, was a Heisman Trophy finalist this past season, after leading the Bulldogs to a 15-0 record and SEC championship. He passed for 4,127 yards with 27 touchdowns and seven interceptions, while rushing for another 10 scores.
Bennett was named the offensive MVP in both of Georgia’s victories in the CFP, a 42-41 comeback win against Ohio State in the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl and a 65-7 rout of TCU in the CFP National Championship presented by AT&T.
Bennett, who is listed at 5-foot-11 and 190 pounds, is considered a potential selection in April’s NFL draft. He recently won the Manning Award, which is given to the top quarterback in the FBS by the Allstate Sugar Bowl.
Sources: Ex-Buffs QB Shrout picks Arkansas St.
Shrout visited Arkansas State over the weekend and his commitment looms as a significant win for Butch Jones, who is entering his third season as Arkansas State’s head coach.
Shrout will graduate from Colorado this spring and plans to enroll at Arkansas State in May, according to sources. He has one year of eligibility remaining and potentially a second if he gets a medical redshirt after missing the entire 2021 season with a torn ACL.
Shrout most recently played at Colorado in 2022, where he threw for 1,220 yards, seven touchdowns and eight interceptions and delivered the game-winning touchdown pass against Cal in overtime in Colorado’s lone victory of the season. He started seven games at Colorado and had one start during his three seasons at Tennessee (2018-2020).
Shrout is one of three Buffaloes quarterbacks who have entered the NCAA transfer portal since the school hired Deion Sanders as head coach. Sanders has made it clear that his son, Shedeur, will be the starter next season. He introduced him at his opening news conference by saying, “This is your quarterback.”
According to sources, Shrout was attracted to the potential opportunity at Arkansas State, including playing in offensive coordinator Keith Heckendorf’s West Coast-style offense. Shrout also had some teammates at Tennessee who played for Jones, and sources said the former teammates endorsed Jones both as a person and a coach.
Arkansas State (3-9) ranked No. 118 in total offense last season and No. 85 in scoring offense. The Red Wolves open the 2023 season at Oklahoma on Sept. 2.
Sources: Harbaugh, Broncos meet but no deal
Broncos owner Greg Penner and University of Michigan football coach Jim Harbaugh met last week in Ann Arbor to discuss Denver’s head-coaching position without any deal materializing, league sources told ESPN.
Although Harbaugh two weeks ago announced he was staying at Michigan, Penner did his due diligence and still traveled to Ann Arbor to meet with the coach in person, like he’s done with seven other candidates during the Broncos’ head-coaching search.
The follow-up conversations were part of the process for both Denver — led by Penner with general manager George Paton — and Harbaugh. The face-to-face meeting came after Harbaugh’s initial video interview with Denver, after which he pulled his name out of contention and reaffirmed his commitment to Michigan.
“I love the relationships that I have at Michigan — coaches, staff, families, administration, president Santa Ono and especially the players and their families,” Harbaugh said in his statement Jan. 16. “My heart is at the University of Michigan. I once heard a wise man say, ‘Don’t try to out-happy, happy.’ Go Blue!”
The Broncos moved on as well, continuing their discussions with several other candidates. Denver has interviewed former Saints coach Sean Payton, former Colts and Lions coach Jim Caldwell, former Stanford coach David Shaw, Rams defensive coordinator Raheem Morris, Cowboys defensive coordinator Dan Quinn, 49ers defensive coordinator DeMeco Ryans and their own defensive coordinator, Ejiro Evero.
Harbaugh now has met with the Vikings and Broncos in back-to-back years. While one source wondered how many more chances Harbaugh would get, another league source said “The league is likely to be interested in Jim as long as he is successfully coaching. He’s proven at every level including the NFL. That’s a hard resume to match.”
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