NASCAR

Jeff Gordon punches ticket to championship race after win at Martinsville

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Jeff Gordon punches ticket to championship race after win at Martinsville

MARTINSVILLE, Va. (AP) — As the adoring crowd lingered in the darkness at Martinsville Speedway, Jeff Gordon took a moment to soak it in.

In a 23-year career that is one long highlight reel, his victory Sunday overwhelmed the NASCAR great. He had just earned a spot in the championship race, a chance to race for an elusive fifth title. It was, in his mind, "one of my finest moments I've ever had."

So Gordon, who at 44 years old celebrated his ninth Martinsville win by jumping along the track like a little boy on Christmas morning, climbed into the grandstands to share the emotion of the victory with the fans.

"I don't know what it feels like to be a rock star, but that's as close as it can get," Gordon said. "That's a rock star moment right there."

He has Matt Kenseth to thank for this storybook ending to his career.

Kenseth intentionally wrecked Joey Logano — payback from an incident three races ago — to take the race leader out with 47 laps remaining. Logano had the dominant car, and Kenseth, who was in an earlier wreck with Brad Keselowski, came back on the track 10 laps down and drove Logano into the wall.

Logano had led 207 of the 500 laps and was furious. His father, Tom, had to be pushed into the team hauler by the crew chief as the crowd cheered wildly in support of Kenseth.

Although NASCAR chairman Brian France has championed on-track incidents, Kenseth could be sanctioned because he was not racing for the win.

"I think what was disappointing ... a driver that's not competing for a win, in fact, was many laps down when that happened, in our minds, that's a little bit different than two drivers really going after it coming out of turn four for a win," said Steve O'Donnell, head of NASCAR's racing operations.

Denny Hamlin, who last week accused Kevin Harvick of deliberately causing an accident to preserve his spot in the Chase for the Sprint Cup championship field, said the level of aggression is out of hand. He's teammates with Kenseth, and both were eliminated from title contention last week.

"It's a no-holds-barred, Wild, Wild West," Hamlin said. "The structure in which we have around us is not very strong as far as an authority figure saying, 'No, you cannot do that anymore.'

"I love Brian France, but when he says that drivers are 'doing what they have to do,' it seems like he's promoting this type of racing. That's tough to crown a true champion when things go like this."

Kenseth downplayed the incident, deadpanning it was a result of an earlier incident with Keselowski, who had led 143 laps as the two Team Penske teammates were the class of the field. Instead of celebrating a win and a spot in the Nov. 22 finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway, Logano is last in the eight-driver field and Keselowski is sixth.

There are two races remaining for the rest of the final four to be set, and Logano has a lot of work to do to make it back to the championship finale for the second year.

He was racing for his fourth consecutive victory, but there was a looming suspicion that Kenseth would get in the way.

Kenseth had been leading in the closing laps three weeks ago at Kansas when Logano spun him out of the way for the win. Kenseth has been furious since.

Logano felt Kenseth's move was dirty.

"I think what happened at Kansas is a completely different deal. We were racing for the win and he blocks you a few times and then we raced hard and he blocked me the last time and we spun out," Logano said. "Here it was just a complete coward move, especially for a championship race car driver and race team. Just a complete coward. I don't have anything else to say. It's a chicken-you-know-what move to completely take out the leader when your race is over."

The two drivers have not talked since Kansas, and even though they were in the care center together after the accident, there was no conversation.

"They won't let me get to him," Logano said about NASCAR.

NASCAR star Jimmie Johnson tests positive for COVID-19, out indefinitely

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USA TODAY

NASCAR star Jimmie Johnson tests positive for COVID-19, out indefinitely

NASCAR star Jimmie Johnson has tested positive for COVID-19, Hendricks Motorsports announced Friday.

Johnson, a seven-time NASCAR Cup series champion, has not experienced any symptoms and was tested after his wife tested positive. He will miss Sunday's race at Indianapolis Motor Speedway and Justin Allgaier will race in his place.

“My first priority is the health and safety of my loved ones and my teammates,” Johnson said in a statement. “I’ve never missed a race in my Cup career, but I know it’s going to be very hard to watch from the sidelines when I’m supposed to be out there competing. Although this situation is extremely disappointing, I’m going to come back ready to win races and put ourselves in playoff contention.”

Per NASCAR protocols in accordance with the CDC's guidelines, Johnson cannot return until he is symptom-free and has two negative coronavirus tests at least 24 hours apart. He also must be cleared by his physician before returning.

NASCAR has granted Johnson a playoff waiver. He is currently 12th in the standings.

FBI, NASCAR announce noose found in Bubba Wallace's garage not hate crime

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USA Today

FBI, NASCAR announce noose found in Bubba Wallace's garage not hate crime

Following an FBI investigation, it has been determined that Bubba Wallace was not the victim of a hate crime when a noose was found in his Talladega garage on Sunday.

NASCAR made the announcement on Tuesday.

NASCAR and the FBI launched the investigation after the rope was found by one of Wallace’s crew members. ESPN reported that Wallace himself never saw the noose.

After its discovery, the entire NASCAR garage banded together in a show of solidarity against racism. NASCAR drivers and crew members walked the track and pushed Wallace’s car to the front of the starting grid before Monday's Geico 500.

In addition “#IStandWithBubba” was painted on the infield grass.

Wallace is NASCAR’s only Black driver.

RELATED: NASCAR bans confederate flag displays at all races, properties