Next Sprint Cup Series Race * Martinsville Speedway * Martinsville, Virginia * Sunday, October 26, 2014
Next Nationwide Series Race * Texas Motor Speedway * Fort Worth, Texas * Saturday, November 1, 2014
Next Camping World Truck Series Race * Martinsville Speedway * Martinsville, Virginia * Saturday, October 25, 2014
Brad Keselowski Holds Off Hard-Charging Ryan Newman For Sixth Win Of Season
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Keselowski Displays American Flag After Each Victory
In a must-win situation at Talladega Superspeedway, Brad Keselowski did exactly that, preserving his NASCAR Sprint Cup Series championship hopes with a victory in Sunday’s GEICO 500. With the right side of his car damaged in the wreck that brought out the first caution flag of the afternoon, Keselowski persevered, taking the lead during the first attempt at a green-white-checkered-flag finish and winning the race in the second overtime—after a wreck that ended the title run of Keselowski's former boss, Dale Earnhardt Jr.
"I can't believe it," Keselowski said in Victory Lane. "Talladega is such a wild card, and to be able to win here you have to catch breaks and make your own breaks-a little of both. I can't believe we won at Talladega. This race is the scariest of the three in the (Contender Round) bracket. To be able to win here is really a privilege. It really is."
Keselowski won his series-leading sixth race of the season, his third at Talladega and the 16th of his career. That alone propelled him into the Eliminator Round of the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup on a day that saw three of the four Hendrick Motorsports drivers -- Earnhardt, Kasey Kahne and six-time series champion Jimmie Johnson -- fall by the wayside.
On the first lap of the first overtime, Keselowski's Team Penske teammate gave the No. 2 Ford the push that enabled him to clear Ryan Newman and take the lead. "We just persevered," Keselowski said. "We didn't give up. I got a lot of help from my teammate Joey Logano and, wow, this is just special. Everything about today is special. I want to say 'Thank you' to everyone that supports our team."
A week after losing his cool on the race track and on pit road at Charlotte, Keselowski was the very model of professional poise at Talladega. Coincidentally, the driver with whom Keselowski had the most significant altercation at Charlotte -- Matt Kenseth -- was behind him on the final restart at Talladega, and at the finish line. And, coincidentally, both Keselowski and Kenseth, the race runner-up, started the race at the rear of the field, Keselowski after breaking an alternator and Kenseth after changing an engine.
Kenseth, Newman (fifth Sunday), Denny Hamlin (18th), Jeff Gordon (26th) and Carl Edwards (21st) joined Contender Round winners Logano, Kevin Harvick and Keselowski in the Eliminator Round, which opens next Sunday at Martinsville, (Va.) Speedway (1:30 p.m. ET on ESPN) with points for all the Chase drivers reset to 4,000. Newman was later found to have failed post-race inspection due to his car being too low in the rear on both sides. The No. 31 Chevrolet will be taken to NASCAR's R&D Center in Concord, North Carolina for further review.
Kyle Busch, victim of an early wreck, joined Earnhardt, Johnson and Kahne as drivers knocked out of the Chase. Johnson, who led a race-high 84 laps, was shuffled back after a restart on Lap 188, the first attempt at a green-white-checkered following a debris caution on Lap 184. In the second overtime, which took the race six circuits past its scheduled 188 laps, he fell back to 24th at the finish. But Johnson's finishing position was of little consequence, once victory was out of the question. Like Keselowski and Earnhardt, Johnson came to Talladega needing a win to move forward in the Chase.
After a wild shuffling of positions in the two overtimes, Clint Bowyer finished third, followed by Landon Cassill (first career top five in 147 starts) and Newman. Travis Kvapil, Kurt Busch, Marcos Ambrose and Kevin Harvick completed the top 10.
At Talladega, there are always victims, and Kyle Busch was the first. On the backstretch on Lap 103, Aric Almirola tapped the back bumper of J.J. Yeley's Toyota and turned the car sideways into the outside wall, igniting a 10-car chain-reaction wreck. Riding 28th near the rear of the field, Busch checked up and appeared poised to avoid the melee, only to be launched into the inside wall by Austin Dillon's Chevrolet. With the frame of the No. 18 Toyota bent like a pretzel and suspension parts askew on both ends, Busch brought the car to the garage and dropped to 43rd on the scoring monitor as his team frantically tried to restore the Camry to running condition.
"We were just all starting to shuffle around there and getting ready to pit, and I think it was the 83 (Yeley) in front of me, and I think he might have been trying to check up to get to the bottom," Almirola said of the incident that started the wreck. I just barely started to push him and it hooked his car—and we all wrecked."
Earnhardt's run at a first championship came to a sudden end on the backstretch on Lap 188, when contact from Greg Biffle's Ford spun the No. 88 Chevy, which had spent 31 laps in the lead, but restarted 16th on the first green-white-checkered attempt. With the car damaged in the wreck, Earnhardt finished 31st, a far cry from the victory he needed to advance to the next round of the Chase. // NASCAR News Wire
Timothy Peters Holds On For Truck Series Victory In Wild Race At Talladega
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Peters Leads The Field Back To The Start-Finish Line
Holding off all challengers in a race that went four-wide on the final two laps, Timothy Peters won the Fred’s 250 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race on Saturday at Talladega Superspeedway. Peters arrived at the finish line .143 seconds ahead of second-place starter and finisher Tayler Malsam. Spencer Gallagher ran third, followed by Tyler Reddick and Ryan Blaney, who trimmed 13th-place finisher Matt Crafton’s lead in the series standings to 17 points with four races left in the season. The victory was Peters’ first of the season, his first at Talladega and the eighth of his career.
After ducking onto the apron to ensure a strong flow to the fuel pickup in his No. 17 Toyota, Peters, who had charged forward from the 26th starting position, led the field to a green-white-checkered-flag finish on Lap 94 of 95, after Norm Benning’s spin in Turn 2 slowed the field for the sixth time. With a strong push from Malsam, Peters hugged the inside line into Turn 1 with Ryan Blaney to his outside. As the field spread out over the final two laps to three-wide and even four-wide, Peters doggedly held the lead and took the checkered flag with Malsam in his tow.
"Chris Lambert, who spots for me, did a great job from the time the green flag fell till the checkered flag waved," Peters said. "It was system overload, telling me everything, how far apart they were in front of me, how close the guy behind me was, what run was coming on the outside coming to the checkered flag… We were making our Toyota Tundra as wide as we could (on the final two laps), and so it feels really good to come across the start/finish line and kind of wipe missing the Daytona/Talladega sweep by (16) hundredths of a second (Peters finished second at Daytona by that margin earlier this year). It just felt really good to go to Victory Lane."
On the final restart, Blaney got a push from sixth-place finisher Erik Jones and thought he was in position for the win but acknowledged he didn’t expect a third line to develop to his outside as quickly as it did. "I thought we were in the perfect spot, leading the outside line into Turn 2," Blaney said. But the side draft from the outside line separated Jones from Blaney and broke their momentum, dropping them out of contention for the win.
A rare engine failure torpedoed Johnny Sauter’s championship hopes. Sauter’s Toyota slowed on Lap 24 and coasted onto pit road. His resulting 31st-place finish left him fourth in the standings, 36 points behind Crafton, his ThorSport Racing teammate. "Whatever… the championship’s over," a disconsolate Sauter said in the garage as his team worked on his Tundra. "From here on out, we can just race like hell."
At a track legendary for wild action, Ben Kennedy sustained the hardest hit on Lap 65, when Joe Nemechek lost control of his truck and knocked Kennedy’s Chevrolet into the outside wall. Nemechek’s first concern was for Kennedy’s safety. After learning he had walked away from the wreck, Nemechek radioed, "Put all of the blame for that one right square on my shoulders," indicating his Toyota had been sucked around in turbulent air.
Note: Daniel Suarez finished 15th in his NCWTS debut. On Sunday, he races in his native Mexico in the NASCAR Toyota Mexico Series. // NASCAR News Wire
NASCAR Penalizes Drivers Brad Keselowski And Tony Stewart
NASCAR has assessed behavioral penalties to drivers Brad Keselowski and Tony Stewart for their involvement in post-race incidents on Oct. 11 at Charlotte Motor Speedway.
Keselowski has been fined $50,000 and placed on NASCAR probation for the next four NASCAR Sprint Cup Series championship events through Nov. 12 for violating:
Section 12-1: Actions detrimental to stock car racingSection 12-4.9: Behavioral penalty – involved in post-race incidents
Stewart has been fined $25,000 and placed on NASCAR probation for the next four NASCAR Sprint Cup Series championship events through Nov. 12 for violating:
Section 12-1: Actions detrimental to stock car racingSection 12-4.9: Behavioral penalty – involved in a post-race incident
"These penalties are about maintaining a safe environment following the race," said Robin Pemberton, NASCAR senior vice president, competition and racing development. "We knew that the new Chase format was likely going to raise the intensity level and we want our drivers to continue to be themselves. However, the safety of our drivers, crew members, officials, and workers is paramount and we will react when that safety could be compromised." // NASCAR News Wire
Kevin Harvick Advances With Charlotte Win As Tempers Flare After The Race
The Closer finally closed the deal, and the door swung almost shut on Dale Earnhardt Jr., six-time NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion Jimmie Johnson and 2012 champion Brad Keselowski. With the dominant car in Saturday night’s Bank of America 500 at Charlotte Motor Speedway, Kevin Harvick led 162 laps and survived a wild two-lap dash to the finish after the final caution en route to his third NASCAR Sprint Cup Series win of the season and a free pass into the Eliminator Round of the Chase.
In a race that ended with battered cars, bruised egos, boiling tempers and physical confrontations in the garage, Harvick pulled away after a restart on Lap 333 of 334 and beat Jeff Gordon to the finish line by .572 seconds. Jamie McMurray ran third, followed by Joey Logano and polesitter Kyle Busch. "I won’t be anorexic and throwing up all week," Harvick quipped, knowing he won’t need to avoid the inevitable major wrecks in the Oct. 19 race at Talladega Superspeedway to advance to the next round of the Chase. "This was the night that we needed to win. I don’t want to go to Talladega next week."
Nicknamed "The Closer," Harvick had failed to win the last five races in which he had led the most laps, but his victory on Saturday night—his third at Charlotte and the 26th of his career -- was an emphatic rebuke to the ill fortune that had kept him out of Victory Lane since April. For Keselowski, Johnson and Earnhardt, it was a night of continuing disappointment—and in Keselowski’s case, a night of battling that continued onto pit road and into the garage after the race.
Keselowski and Johnson got shuffled back to their finishing positions of 16th and 17th, respectively, on the restart with two laps left, after a caution for Brian Vickers’ blown engine on Lap 327. After the race, Keselowski and ninth-place finisher Denny Hamlin traded insults on pit road, as NASCAR officials and their crews kept them apart in the wake of a late race incident between their two cars. Keselowski clipped Hamlin’s rear bumper on the cool-down lap, then hit Kenseth’s Toyota with his Ford on pit road after the race. After sustaining collateral damage on pit road during the melee, Tony Stewart backed into Keselowski’s Ford, crumpling the nose of the car.
Keselowski insisted it was Kenseth’s car and not his No. 2 Ford that bumped Stewart’s Chevy. "I rubbed into the No. 20 (Kenseth), and I think he gassed up and ran into Tony, and I don’t think Tony knew what was going on," Keselowski said. "He’s upset, and he has every right to be. His car was tore up. There was a whole lot of other stuff going on. I’m sure when he sees the whole situation, he’ll understand."
Kenseth, whose No. 20 Toyota had been damaged by contact from Keselowski’s car on a restart with 63 laps left, jumped Keselowski as he was walking between haulers in the garage, and the drivers scuffled before being separated. "I had my HANS (head and neck restraint) off and my seat belts off and everything," Kenseth said of the hit from Keselowski on pit road. "He clobbered me at 50 (mph). And the access we have around here… the race is over, trying to come back to pit road..."If you want to talk about it as a man, do that, but to try and wreck someone on the race track, come down pit road with other cars and people standing around with seat belts off and drive in the side of me—it's inexcusable. There is no excuse for that. He’s a champion. He’s supposed to know better than that."
Hamlin also had some harsh words for the 2012 champion. "There's a corner there, so you have to back off, and he just plowed into us," Hamlin said. "He's just out of control. He's desperate, obviously, and it's either four or five of us are wrong or he's wrong, because he's pissed off everyone. Just disappointing -- but we're trying to get in this deal. We're sitting in a decent spot, but we've lost six spots or so with the last restart when he ran into us and knocked us up the track. "That was unfortunate. Matt (Kenseth) was nearly out of his car and he just plowed into Matt and then ran into Tony (Stewart) and then went in through the garage and cleared out transmissions and did burnouts in the garage."
Both Johnson and Keselowski head to Talladega on Oct. 19 in all probability needing a victory to advance to avoid elimination from the Chase. The same goes for Earnhardt, whose shifter broke early in the race and relegated the driver of the No. 88 to a 20th-place finish, one lap down. Rookie Kyle Larson ran sixth, followed by Chase drivers Ryan Newman, Carl Edwards, Hamlin and Kasey Kahne. With the cut from 12 to eight Chase drivers looming at Talladega, Kenseth, Keselowski, Johnson and Earnhardt are the four drivers currently in positions 9 through 12 in the standings.
Note: Keselowski and Jesse Sanders, a member of the Kenseth’s crew were called to the NASCAR transporter after the race. Kenseth’s crew chief, Jason Ratcliff, also went to the hauler of his own volition in support of his crewman. Afterwards Keselowski posted the following on his Twitter account: "Rough night. Understand a lot of folks may not understand everything that happened and that's ok. I'm not perfect but also not the only one." // NASCAR News Wire
Brad Keselowski Grabs Nationwide Series Victory At Charlotte
In the closing laps of Friday night’s Drive for the Cure 300 at Charlotte Motor Speedway, with an air of inevitability, Brad Keselowski tracked down teammate Ryan Blaney and made the pass for the win on Lap 187 of 200. With frequent cautions giving crew chiefs multiple options and scrambling tire strategies, Keselowski had four fresh tires for the restart on Lap 182. It was simply a matter of time before he passed Blaney, who had gained seven positions with a two-tire stop under caution on Lap 169.
Keselowski finished .377 seconds ahead of runner-up Kyle Busch, who got past Blaney for the second spot on Lap 189. Matt Kenseth ran third, and Blaney held off Kyle Larson for the fourth position. The NASCAR Nationwide Series victory was Keselowski’s fourth in nine starts this year, his third at Charlotte and the 31st of his career. But before he made the winning pass, Keselowski had a moment of doubt.
"Under the yellow (that preceded the final restart), I was confident," Keselowski said. "Then he (Blaney) took off in those first five laps, and I went, ‘Uh, oh.’ I wasn’t holding back, and he was driving away, and then the pendulum swung. His car seemed to fall off—whether it was the two tires or just the nature of his car, I don’t know—but it came back to us. Yeah, when the yellow was out, I would have definitely said I was very confident, but after those first five laps, it swung back to us."
Busch had a one-second lead over Keselowski with 40 laps left, but his winning chances suffered when NASCAR called a caution on Lap 167 after a suspension part came to rest on the backstretch apron. "They were faster than us tonight," Busch said of Keselowski’s No. 22 Team Penske Ford. "Just knew that with about 60 (laps) to go that we had a tire advantage over them, and that was going to be the way for us to win the race. But bizarre debris cautions always ruin those things for you. It's a shame."
For the first two-thirds of the race polesitter Chase Elliott looked to be the driver to beat. Elliott pitted off-sequence on Lap 18, restarted 19th on Lap 22 and worked his way up to fifth before a cycle of green-flag pit stops put him in the lead on Lap 61. When NASCAR called a debris caution on Lap 68, only four drivers remained on the lead lap—Elliott, Regan Smith, Brendan Gaughan and Dylan Kwasniewski.
That yellow was a godsend for Elliott, who could pit on Lap 70 without losing the top spot. Though Smith took the lead briefly after a restart on Lap 74, and held it through a caution for a multicar wreck near the start/finish line on Lap 74, Elliott regained the point on Lap 83 and pulled away to a lead of 2.5 seconds over Smith as the race reached its halfway point.
But varying tire strategies shuffled Elliott backwards after Busch passed him for the lead on Lap 146. And after the final restart on Lap 182, Keselowski asserted his superiority and successfully held off the fast-closing No. 54 Toyota of Busch. Elliott came home eighth but extended his series lead to 42 points over JR Motorsports teammate Smith, who finished 11th Saturday.
The Lap 74 accident, proved the undoing of Ty Dillon, whose No. 3 Chevrolet suffered enough damage in the crash to force its retirement from the race. Dillon entered the race third in the series standings, but the wreck effectively ended his championship hopes. Dillon finished 30th and dropped to fifth in the standings, 64 points behind Elliott with three races left in the season. // NASCAR News Wire
Logano Advances With Kansas Win, As Several Chase Favorites Falter
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Smothered In Confetti
In a race that saw Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup favorites Jimmie Johnson, Brad Keselowski and Dale Earnhardt Jr. fall by the wayside, Joey Logano earned a ticket to the Eliminator Round of the Chase with a hard-fought victory in Sunday’s Hollywood Casino 400 at Kansas Speedway. Logano beat rookie Kyle Larson to the finish line by .480 seconds to notch his fifth victory of the season, tied with Team Penske teammate Brad Keselowski for most in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series this year. The win was Logano’s first at Kansas and the eighth of his career.
Kyle Busch ran third, posting his first-ever top five at a track that has plagued him mercilessly in races past. Martin Truex Jr. came home fourth, posting his first top five of the season and his second consecutive top 10. Carl Edwards was fifth, with fellow Chase drivers Ryan Newman and Denny Hamlin right behind him in sixth and seventh, respectively.
Logano can now enjoy the next two races at Charlotte and Talladega worry-free, assured of earning one of the eight spots in the Eliminator Round. "It makes Talladega a lot easier, that is for sure," Logano said. "To know we are onto the next round, we can focus on a few more races coming up, and we’ll keep trying to capitalize like we’re doing. ... It’s so much fun to race these cars lately. Everyone at Team Penske has given me great stuff to work with. It’s awesome to be back in Victory Lane again. I felt we had a good car all weekend, but I wasn’t 100-percent sure -- but once that top (lane of the race track) opened up, it just took off."
Clobbered in a Lap 85 wreck also involving Greg Biffle, Justin Allgaier and Josh Wise, Johnson finished 40th, matching his worst result ever in a Chase race (2005 at Homestead) and faces an uphill battle toward a possible record-tying seventh series championship. Johnson goes to Charlotte next Sunday last among the 12 remaining Chase drivers, 27 points behind teammate Jeff Gordon in eighth place. Two weeks hence, at Talladega, the Chase field will be cut from 12 to eight drivers.
Earnhardt led 45 laps before a flat right front tire sent him hard into the Turn 4 wall on Lap 122 of 267. Earnhardt limped home in 39th place and dropped to 11th in the Chase standings, 25 points behind Gordon, who salvaged a 14th place finish despite hitting the Turn 4 wall after contact from Jamie McMurray’s Chevrolet. Keselowski, the 2012 series champion, was running fifth when he blew a right front tire and slammed into the Turn 2 wall on Lap 160. He finished 36th and is 10th in the Chase standings, 22 points behind Gordon.
Johnson, Earnhardt and Keselowski weren’t the only Chase drivers to have issues. On a day that saw all four Hendrick Motorsports drivers tag the wall, Kasey Kahne damaged his No. 5 Chevrolet after a restart on Lap 235. Kahne had taken a wave-around after an early pit stop had left him a lap down and was mired in traffic when the car got away from him in Turn 2. He finished 22nd.
Polesitter Kevin Harvick led 61 laps but brought his car to pit road for an unscheduled stop on Lap 215, mistakenly thinking his right front tire was going down. Harvick lost a lap but used a wave-around and some hard racing in the closing laps to salvage a 12th-place result. "I thought I had a flat tire and pitted, because you see all the trouble that is going on (with other drivers having tire issues)," Harvick said. "(We) missed it on the handling a little bit today. We qualified well and had good track position. That saved us in the beginning of the race, and when I thought I had a flat, just got us behind."
Both Logano and Larson agreed that the final restart of the race on Lap 240 was critical. Logano surged into the lead and, in clean air, was able to keep Larson behind him. "I thought we were pretty equal and were running about the same (lap times) there on the last run," Larson said. "Just a good finish, and we were so even that I couldn’t do anything. I was hoping I would get a run on him in traffic, and all the lappers were giving us the top, so it kind of made it kind of easy for him to run the top. Another second and can’t be too disappointed with it. The wins will be coming, so I just have to be patient, and with every time I’m in the top three, it’s just going to make the wins feel that much better." // NASCAR News Wire
Busch Breaks Jinx With NASCAR Nationwide Series Win At Kansas
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Busch Celebrates With Team
Kyle Busch won the lottery on Saturday afternoon—the Kansas Lottery 300, to be precise. But it must have seemed like a huge jackpot for the driver of the No. 54 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota, who won a NASCAR Nationwide Series race at Kansas Speedway for the first time since 2007. "Whoo! We won at Kansas," Busch radioed as he crossed the finish line, with as much relief as elation in his voice.
It took Busch 19 circuits after a restart on Lap 161 to catch and pass runner-up Kevin Harvick. On Lap 180, Busch ducked down to the apron near the start/finish line and powered past Harvick into the lead. From that point, Busch pulled away for his sixth Nationwide Series victory of the season and the 69th of his career, extending his own series record.
The Kansas drought broken, Busch was already thinking about Sunday’s Hollywood Casino 400, the first race in the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup’s Contender Round. Never having scored a top-five in a Cup race at Kansas, Busch will start seventh on Sunday. "You learn enough here—there was a bit of moving around today and trying to run bottom and trying to run top and seeing where the different lines were in traffic and stuff like that," Busch said. "I feel like our Cup car is OK. If we can get out of here with a top-10 day tomorrow that would be pretty good. Great effort by (crew chief) Adam (Stevens) and all the guys on this 54 car—it was really awesome again today and should have won at Chicago just like we did here today. Missed out there, but we just keep doing things right, and you end up in Victory Lane, so you have to have it all match up for you."
Harvick had winning chances because his crew chief, Ernie Cope, played a contrarian pit strategy to perfection and got some help from a timely caution. Harvick was the only lead-lap driver to bring his car to pit road under the seventh caution on Lap 91, and that put him in position to wait out a cycle of green-flag stops with roughly 60 laps left. With all other lead-lap cars pitting between Laps 136 and 141, Harvick was the only car on the lead laps when Dakoda Armstrong’s spin brought out the eighth caution. Busch, who was leading before the cycle of stops began, got the free pass as the highest scored lapped car, and the rest of the lead-lappers took wave-arounds after Harvick pitted for fuel.
Harvick led the field to green on Lap 153 but couldn’t keep Busch at bay on longer runs. "They gave us a good opportunity with strategy there, (but) the 54 was quite a bit better as we got going into the run," Harvick said. "We could hold him off for a short run, but in the end his car would maintain speed, and ours would slow down. "We just got beat there today, but that happens."
The race dealt a crushing blow to Regan Smith’s championship hopes. Smith spun and backed into the wall during qualifying earlier in the day and was forced to start from the rear of the field in a backup car. On Lap 140, the sway bar arm on Smith’s No. 7 JR Motorsports Chevrolet broke, and he took the car behind the wall for repairs, losing seven laps in the process. Smith finished 22nd and fell 38 points behind teammate Chase Elliott in the series standings.
Ty Dillon, third in the championship battle, ran fifth Saturday and is 40 points behind Elliott, who finished 10th, with four races left in the season. "Any time you have to roll a backup car out two hours before a race, you have to expect anything to happen," said Smith, who just re-signed for another year with JR Motorsports’ Nationwide program. "My guys did a great job of getting the car ready to where we could get to the grid with it, much less be competitive for the first stage of the race. "We fought with it. It’s kind of what we anticipated for the day and at this point – obviously disappointed. It’s been a long year." // NASCAR News Wire
Jeff Gordon Makes A Statement In Final Challenger Round Race At Dover
CIA Stock Photos
Gordon Re-Visits Fountain Of Youth - Wins At Dover
Jeff Gordon took the checkered flag in Sunday's AAA 400 at Dover International Speedway, but four other drivers got the axe in the first Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup elimination race in the history of the sport. AJ Allmendinger, 2004 series champion Kurt Busch, Greg Biffle and Aric Almirola missed the cut for the next round of the Chase, as the field was pared from 16 drivers to 12 following the third and final Challenger Round race.
After the dominant car of Coors Light Polesitter Kevin Harvick had a major issue with the left front wheel on Lap 254 of 400, Gordon took control of the event on Lap 305, passing runner-up Brad Keselowski for the lead on Lap 305. After a cycle of green-flag pit stops, Gordon led the last 71 laps, pulling away to win by a comfortable 4.352 seconds.
Jimmie Johnson ran third, followed by Joey Logano and Matt Kenseth, as all of the top-five drivers advanced to the Contender Round, a three-race elimination with visits to Kansas Speedway, Charlotte Motor Speedway and Talladega (Ala.) Superspeedway. Harvick (13th Sunday), Kyle Busch (10th), Dale Earnhardt Jr. (17th), Ryan Newman (eighth), Carl Edwards (11th) and Denny Hamlin (12th) also advanced to the Contender Round.
The victory was Gordon’s fourth of the season, fifth at the Monster Mile and 92nd of his career, third most all-time behind Richard Petty (200) and David Pearson (105). And victory No. 92 had special significance beyond an automatic ticket to the next round of the Chase—especially after a blown tire last week at New Hampshire produced a 26th-place finish and put the four-time champion one disaster away from elimination from NASCAR’s 10-race playoff.
"I think this is huge," Gordon said in Victory Lane. "We came in here with a little bit of extra pressure because we weren’t guaranteed to be in. If we hadn’t finished where we were running at New Hampshire last week (sixth when the tire blew), it would have been kind of an easy day for us. But all we did was focus on executing as a team and trying to win this race and nothing else. It wasn’t about the points; it wasn’t about just squeezing by to get to the next round. It was about making a statement. I don’t know how you make a bigger statement than what this team just did right there."
If Gordon took the suspense out of the closing laps, making what he called a "statement" with the victory, there was plenty of drama mid-pack, as Kasey Kahne rallied from four laps down to claim the 12th and final spot in the next round by two points over Allmendinger, who finished 23rd to Kahne’s 20th. On Lap 161, Kahne brought his No. 5 Chevrolet to pit road with a loose left rear wheel and lost two laps in the process. He lost two more during a subsequent green-flag pit stop. Thanks to a wave-around and a timely caution for Harvick’s issue on Lap 254, Kahne ran the rest of the race one lap down and gained enough positions to knock both Busch and Allmendinger out of the Chase.
Keselowski already had a victory in the Chase and a guaranteed spot in the Contender Round, but he wanted more. "Yeah, we've had a really good start, so we can't really complain that much having won a race, and a second and a seventh," Keselowski said. "But it's hard to look at that. All I can think about is how I wanted to win all three races, and now it's time to move forward. Three more races, a new start, and what we were able to do in these last three, other than getting us to this next round, really mean nothing. We've got to keep our head on straight and push forward these next three like we have these last three."
All 12 remaining Chase drivers start the Contender Round with a baseline of 3,000 points. Any Chase driver who wins at Kansas, Charlotte or Talladega will advance automatically to the Eliminator Round. The Chase field will be reduced from 12 to eight drivers at Talladega. // NASCAR News Wire
Erik Jones Scores Las Vegas Jackpot With NASCAR Truck Series Victory
Credit: Christian Petersen/NASCAR via Getty Images
Jones Celebrates In Victory Lane After Winning The Rhino Linings 350 At Las Vegas
He isn't old enough to gamble, but Erik Jones played his cards right on Saturday night and won the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Rhino Linings 350 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. Jones, 18, the second youngest winner in NASCAR Truck Series history, made a late-race pass on his Kyle Busch Motorsports teammate Darrell Wallace Jr. with 13 laps to go, earning his second victory in nine starts this season. "It was a blast," said Jones, who recovered from an early race hiccup on pit road to win in his debut at Las Vegas. "I learned a ton. To get a win on a mile-and-a-half that’s awesome. It drove so good at the end, I couldn’t ask for any more than this. I wanted to win out here so bad, I had this marked down as one I was looking forward to. This is really surreal for me right now."
Jones, who notched KBM's 10th NCWTS win of 2014 credited crew chief Eric Phillips with the right adjustments on the final stop that earned him his third-career victory in 14 NCWTS starts. "It was perfect," he added. "We were way, way too loose in traffic before it, but we had a strong Tundra. It was a perfect adjustment. We made a big swing at it, it just worked out."
For Wallace Jr., after a dominant performance, took the defeat as a huge bust. "Just got beat, flat out," said Wallace Jr., after recording his fifth runner-up performance of the season. "Congrats to the 51 (Jones), hate that it’s not the 54. We need a win. (It’s) frustrating, I hate finishing second so bad. Thanks to my guys though. I thought it was ours. Another KBM dominance for sure. We’ll go onto Talladega and try to finish one spot better."
Ryan Blaney recorded his second Keystone Light Pole of the season and led the field to green, but Wallace Jr. used momentum to make the pass for the lead on Lap 1. Blaney, though, reclaimed the top-spot for six laps on Lap 2, before Wallace Jr. retook control on Lap 8 and led for 10 laps, when German Quiroga made a move on the second restart of the night. His Red Horse Racing teammate Timothy Peters flexed his muscles, taking the lead on Lap 19, before Jones muscled ahead for five laps, until the scheduled competition caution on Lap 30.
When the leaders hit pit road, Jones barely overshot his pit stall, which cost him the lead, allowing Peters to put his No. 17 Toyota Tundra back on the point. Peters controlled the field for 17 laps, before Wallace Jr. muscled back around him on Lap 51. The fourth and final caution of the race waived on Lap 57 for an accident in Turn 4, which sent the leaders to pit road. Peters’ crew won the race off pit lane, but Wallace Jr. soared ahead on the restart, which set the tone for the second half of the event, until green flag pit stops began on Lap 105.
Wallace Jr. cycled back through to the lead on Lap 114, but Jones already on the prowl caught him, making the move on the frontstretch on Lap 133, sealing his triumph. With five races remaining, the NCWTS will take a three-week break before returning to action at Talladega (Ala.) Superspeedway on Saturday, October 18. // NASCAR News Wire
Kyle Busch Cruises To Carbon-Copy Nationwide Win At Dover
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Busch Takes Victory Lap At Dover Intrenational Speedway
It was a case of Dover déjà vu. Kyle Busch took the lead from Joey Logano on pit road under caution near the midpoint of a NASCAR Nationwide Series race at Dover International Speedway and led every lap thereafter. In winning Saturday’s Dover 200 at the Monster Mille, Busch duplicated an accomplishment remarkably similar to his victory at Dover in May. In this case, he grabbed the lead from Logano with a lightning fast pit on Lap 100 and stayed out front for the final 101 circuits in winning his fifth Nationwide Series race of the season, his fifth at Dover and the 68th of his career, adding one to his series record.
Busch got to the finish line 2.545 seconds ahead of Logano, who ran second. Chase Elliott finished third and increased his series lead to 26 points over JR Motorsports teammate Regan Smith, who came home eighth. Rookie Chris Buescher was fourth, followed by Elliott Sadler, Kyle Larson and Brian Scott.
Busch swept the NNS season at the high-banked concrete track with an effort that mirrored his victory on May 31, when he passed Logano on pit road on Lap 77 and led the rest of the way. "I knew we had a good car," Busch said. "I was just kind of biding my time—I was just chillin.’… The second half of the race, when we beat the 22 (Logano) off pit road—these guys here, they did a great job on that pit stop. It was good for us to get out front like that, get in clean air and show what this car had for speed. This Monster Energy Toyota Camry was really, really fast. It was awesome."
Busch accomplished on pit road what had proven difficult on the race track, namely passing comparable cars in traffic. "For me, the fastest car here, I had a hard time passing the 60 (Buescher) in front of me, the 2 (Scott) in front of me," Busch said. "I couldn’t quite get to ‘em, I couldn’t quite get around the outside of ‘em. There was just too much track you had to make up… So you just kind of bide your time, pick at it and see what you can learn to make yourself better for tomorrow (Sunday’s AAA 400 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race)."
In the second half of the race, after he fell behind Busch, Logano’s car developed a push, preventing him from racing for the lead. "We got beat there off pit road, and after that, he was able to check out," said Logano, who led 95 of the first 99 laps. "We started very fast just like the spring race also, so it was kind of a replay all over again. We’ve got to figure out what to do in the second half, it seems like."
Elliott sustained damage from a wreck involving Kevin Swindell and Tanner Berryhill and dropped to 24th for a restart on Lap 47. But Elliott was able to cut through traffic and was running fifth before a Lap 96 caution for fluid on the track set the stage for the decisive pit stops. "I’m proud and frustrated at the same time," Elliott said. "I feel like we had a super-fast car, really from the get-go, and we were kind of biding our time in that first run. I made a mistake. I followed those guys (Swindell and Berryhill) way too close. It was completely my fault. I drove ourselves into a wreck and got behind and could never get back up to the front." // NASCAR News Wire
Logano Wins At New Hampshire As Chaotic Race Scrambles Chase Standings
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Logano Wins Fourth Race - Ninth For Penske This Year
Out of the maelstrom that was New Hampshire Motor Speedway sped Joey Logano, who took control of Sunday’s Sylvania 300 on a restart with 27 laps left and held on to win the second race in the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup. The crux of Sunday’s race wasn’t about Logano’s fourth victory of the season and the second straight for Team Penske in the Chase. It wasn’t about Logano winning for the seventh time in his career and punching his ticket into the second elimination round under NASCAR’s new playoff format.
It wasn’t about Sunoco rookie Kyle Larson posting his second straight top-three finish. Yes, Larson ran second, passing third-place finisher Kevin Harvick on a green-white-checkered flag restart that took the race three laps past its scheduled distance, but Larson was almost an afterthought amid the chaos that scrambled the Chase standings.
It wasn’t about another strong run for Jamie McMurray, who finished fourth, or about a top-five for six-time champion Jimmie Johnson, who came home fifth. -- It wasn’t about the crazy afternoon of polesitter Brad Keselowski, who ran back and forth through the field like a yo-yo, spun on Lap 194 of a scheduled 300 and nevertheless had a chance to win the race at the end before falling back to seventh on the restart that took the race to overtime.
No, the crux of the race wasn’t about the winner. It was about those who survived the crucible of pressure the Chase creates -- and those who didn’t. It was about uncharacteristic mistakes on pit road. It was about the aggression and desperation on the track that left the cars of six of 16 Chase drivers in relative states of damage and disrepair. It was about Aric Almirola’s heroic drive to a sixth-place finish after the heartbreak of a late engine failure last week at Chicagoland Speedway. It was about the a 13th-place finish for AJ Allmendinger, who reentered the Chase conversation, as did Almirola, by avoiding the calamities that placed some of their more potent peers on the cusp of elimination.
But first, credit to Logano, who survived a succession of restarts in a race littered with cautions—13 of a total 15 in the last 134 laps -- and prevailed on tires that, thanks to crew chief Todd Gordon’s astute call with 53 laps left in regulation, were superior to those of the drivers in contention on the final restart. Logano won Sunday’s race at a track that gave him his first victory in NASCAR’s premier series -- but a win that will always have an asterisk in Logano’s mind because it resulted from a fortunate pit call in a rain-shortened race.
The call for four tires on Lap 247 helped Logano on Sunday, but he had to earn the win, and he did so with a bold charge past Harvick and Keselowski on the Lap 274 restart. "I thought we gave it away at that point," said Logano, who traded track position for the new rubber and restarted 16th on Lap 251. "But four tires were good, and we had some good restarts and were able to get ourselves back up there. We worked hard. This is my home race track, the coolest place to win for me. I could never pick a better race track to win. I watched my first Cup race here when I was five, and I won that other Cup race here, but I just felt like I had to win one the right way here, and this means so much. I’ve got to thank all the boys at Team Penske. We’re doing what we’ve got to do to win this thing right now -- both teams are -- and I’m proud of that. This is my home track, so it means so much to me."
If Logano was elated with the victory, other Chase drivers experienced a gamut of emotions that ranged from relief to abject misery. Kyle Busch crumpled the hood of his car in a wreck that started when Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Matt Kenseth got loose in traffic on the backstretch. Busch’s team did yeoman work to keep him on the lead lap, setting up an eighth-place finish.
Dale Earnhardt Jr. brought his No. 88 Chevrolet to pit road for an unscheduled stop on Lap 123 to tighten a loose wheel -- the result of a hurried-but -- unsuccessful attempt to tighten the lugs—and lost a lap in the process. But Earnhardt regained his lap under caution and salvaged a ninth-place finish, so no harm done to his hopes of advancing after next Sunday’s race at Dover. Kenseth survived the melee with Busch on Lap 188 but was gobbled up in a wreck with Paul Menard on Lap 270 and finished 21st.
When Busch slowed after contact with Kenseth, he was rear-ended by the No. 5 Chevy of Kasey Kahne, who obliterated the nose of his car. Kahne finished 23rd. Ryan Newman also got a piece of that same accident and came home 18th. The real casualties of the afternoon were Kurt Busch and Denny Hamlin, who finished 36th and 37th, respectively and saw their hopes of advancing to the next round take a serious turn for the worse.
Hamlin led early but a problem with the fuel probe in his No. 11 Toyota prevented his crew from filling the fuel cell. All told, Hamlin lost four laps as his team tried to rectify the issue. Hamlin’s woes were far from over. On Lap 180, he slid into a Turn 2 wreck involving Martin Truex Jr. and David Ragan, knocked his right front wheel out of kilter and took the car to the garage. He lost another 34 laps before returning to the track. "We couldn’t get fuel in it from the get-go," Hamlin lamented. "Don’t know where that’s coming from, what it’s all about -- you just can’t have any mistakes in this three-race Chase deal. We went from looking pretty and probably going to coast our way to the next round to a long shot at best. It’s frustrating, but what can you do about it? You just have to suck it up and move on and try to do the best you can next week."
Kurt Busch had to return to pit road on Lap 109 to tighten a loose wheel. Busch fell one lap down after Harvick passed him on Lap 162, but got the lap back as the "lucky dog" under a debris caution called on lap 170. But that was a brief reprieve. Busch was running 15th when he clobbered the Turn 3 wall on Lap 221. He lost 35 laps in the garage before returning on Lap 255.
After Sunday's race, only 12 points separate Kenseth in eighth from Almirola in 16th, with Carl Edwards, Allmendinger, Kahne, Newman, Hamlin, Biffle and Kurt Busch in-between. The tightness of the standings sets up a free-for-all next Sunday at the Monster Mile for the remaining spots in the Chase's second round. // NASCAR News Wire
Thrilling Restart Gives Brendan Gaughan Nationwide Win At Kentucky
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Second Victory For Gaughan This Season
Brendan Gaughan capitalized on the opportunity to utilize the high line on the final restart of Saturday night’s VisitMyrtleBeach.com 300 at Kentucky Speedway to win his second NASCAR Nationwide Series race of the season. Gaughan, with a three-wide pass, powered around leaders Chase Elliott and Ty Dillon in the closing laps and cleared his competition in Turn 1, allowing him to cruise to an eight-tenths of a second lead over Richard Childress Racing teammate Brian Scott. "I love my restarts," said Gaughan in Victory Lane. "It was an awesome restart. Shane (Wilson, crew chief) kept telling me that lap times were great when everyone did two and we did four (tires), so it took us a while to get back (towards the lead) there, but four Goodyear tires in the end were the difference."
On the final restart of the night, Dillon and Elliott battled extremely hard for the win, but they forgot about the guy behind them on four tires. Gaughan with a head of steam used momentum to clear his competition with six laps to go and cruised to his second career NNS win, and first on an oval. He also won June's road course race at Road America. Richard Childress Racing swept the top-three finishing positions with Brian Scott second and Dillon finishing third after a dominating performance.
Gaughan, 39, credited his Earnhardt Childress Racing engine and transmission for assisting him in his triumph over the much younger Elliott (18) and Dillon (22). "There are great race teams and great young race car drivers, but the old dog still has something left," said Gaughan.
Scott on the verge of netting his first career Nationwide victory, settled for his best performance of the season after restarting sixth. "I thought it was the right call to take four tires at the end," Scott said. "I restarted sixth and got a good restart and got up to fourth and I thought we were going to win this race. But, unfortunately, we didn’t get any long runs and our Shore Lodge Camaro was a little too tight."
Dillon, who led 155 laps, said, "I’m sick for my guys. Our Bass Pros Chevy was top-notch, it’s a good thing for confidence to lead all those laps, but this hurts for sure." Dillon’s dominance would be challenged on Lap 171 when Cody Ware lost an engine. The fifth caution flag of the night proved to be a significant break for the leaders, as they avoided green flag pit stops. On pit road, Dillon exercised a two-tire stop with fuel with Chase Elliott, Michael McDowell and Elliott Sadler also vying for the same strategy.
Racing resumed with Chase Elliott making a valiant effort to overtake the lead from Dillon. He was able to nip ahead of Dillon’s No. 3 Bass Pro Shops Chevrolet, when Eric McClure crashed in Turn 4. With 19 laps to go, Elliott fended off a challenge from Dillon on the initial restart, but his opportunity to stretch his lead would be short lived, after Regan Smith made contact with Sam Hornish Jr. on Lap 184, sending him hard into the Turn 1 wall. A flawless restart from Elliott allowed the No. 9 NAPA Auto Parts Chevrolet Camaro to escape the hungry pack behind him. Again, Elliott’s gap would be diminished by yet another caution for debris on Lap 190 - which would prove the difference in the race.
Leaving Kentucky, fourth place finisher Elliott holds a 20-point cushion over JR Motorsports teammate Regan Smith in the championship standings with six races remaining. Next up for the NASCAR Nationwide Series is a trip to Dover (Del.) International Speedway for the running of the Dover 200 on Saturday, September 27. Joey Logano is the defending champion. // NASCAR News Wire
Cole Custer Triumphs At New Hampshire As youngest NASCAR National Series Winner
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Custer Celebrates In Victory Lane
Cole Custer had his Sweet 16 and his coming-out party on the same afternoon. On a restart with four laps left in Saturday’s UNOH 175 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race at New Hampshire Motor Speedway, Custer surged to the front past Matt Crafton, who spun his tires approaching the start/finish line. Darrell Wallace Jr. drove hard to the inside entering Turn 1, passing Crafton for second and challenging Custer for the lead. But with four fresh tires to Wallace’s two, Custer prevailed in Turn 3 and pulled away to become the youngest winner in NASCAR national series history at 16 years, 7 months, 28 days.
As he climbed from his No. 00 Haas Automation Chevrolet, Custer confessed to a surreal feeling. "I’ve been coming to these races since I was really young," Custer said. "I’ve looked up to this series and everybody who races in this series, and I couldn’t even imagine racing here and even winning a race. I can’t even explain how amazing this is." Custer, the polesitter, got his first NCWTS win in his seventh start in the series. It was also the first victory of the season for Turner Scott Motorsports.
Although Custer led 144 of the first 147 laps, a pit-road decision by crew chief Joe Shear Jr. complicated the equation -- but ultimately proved decisive. When Custer came to the pits from the lead under caution on Lap 147 of 175, Shear opted to change four tires. Erik Jones stayed out under the yellow—the second of the race—and five other drivers, including Crafton and Wallace, beat Custer out of the pits with two-tire calls, dropping Custer to seventh for a restart on Lap 153. "I was really worried," Custer confessed. "It was so hard to pass, even lappers."
But a race that had gone 101 laps without a caution—a record to start a Truck Series race at New Hampshire—saw three yellows in the final 20 laps, allowing Custer to gain positions. By the final restart on lap 172, he had worked his way to second and took the green from the front row, to the inside of Crafton. "I couldn’t believe we got through all of those guys," Custer said. "The air affected it so much. We had some great restarts, which helped us a lot. ... I can’t believe it’s happening right now."
Crafton started the race from the rear of the field after failing to post a qualifying time because of an electrical problem in the No. 88 Toyota. Though the defending series champion charged through the field, finished third and extended his series lead to seven points over ThorSport Racing teammate Johnny Sauter, who ran fourth, the positives in the run were of little consolation to Crafton. "Started at the back, drove to the front, got beat at the end," was Crafton’s terse assessment of his performance. "I spun the tires and couldn’t get it in fourth gear, to be totally honest. Once I spun the tires, I was screwed right there. Then I couldn’t get it in gear, and everybody had a run on me. My bad."
Notes: John Hunter Nemechek finished a career-best fifth. ... Ryan Blaney, third in points, spun after contact from Tim Peters’ Toyota to cause the fourth caution on Lap 160. Blaney finished 10th and dropped 24 points behind Crafton in the series standings. ... Tyler Reddick (eighth) was the highest finishing rookie. ... There were five lead changes among three drivers. All told, Custer led 148 laps; Crafton was out front for 20 circuits; and seventh-place finisher Jones led seven laps. // NASCAR News Wire
Bold Late-Race Move Sets Up Keselowski's Win In First Chase Event
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No. 2 Team Celebrates In Victory Lane
For Brad Keselowski, this year's Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup started the same way it did in 2012—with a victory at Chicagoland Speedway. Clearly, Keselowski would love to see the Chase end the same way it did two years ago—with a series championship. Needing an extra pit stop to tighten a loose wheel under caution on Lap 183 of 267 in Sunday’s MyAFibStory.com 400 at the 1.5-mile track, Keselowski restarted 16th on Lap 187, mired in traffic behind a gaggle of lapped cars.
But with a determined charge through the field and a couple of opportune cautions in the final 35 laps, Keselowski regained lost track position and put himself in position to make a dramatic race-winning move after a restart on Lap 250. With third-place finisher Kyle Larson battling Kevin Harvick for the lead on Lap 252, Keselowski powered between the two cars off Turn 2 and grabbed the lead. "I just saw a hole, and I went for it," Keselowski said.
He held the top spot for a restart on Lap 262, after an accident involving the cars of Danica Patrick and Ricky Stenhouse Jr., and pulled away to win his fifth race of the year and the 15th of his career by 1.759 seconds over Jeff Gordon, who passed Larson for the second spot in the closing laps. Joey Logano ran fourth and Harvick fifth, as Chase drivers took eight of the top 10 finishing positions.
With his second victory at Chicagoland, Keselowski ensured he would advance to the next round of the Chase under a new format that features a trio of three-race elimination rounds and a final race at Homestead to settle the championship between the last four eligible drivers. With the starting order set according to speeds in opening Sprint Cup practice because of a qualifying rainout, Keselowski started 25th and worked his way to the front, only to fall back again when he brought the No. 2 Team Penske Ford to pit road to have the loose wheel tightened.
"I’m not really sure what to say," said Keselowski, who can race for the next two weeks without fear of falling out of the Chase. I don’t really know what happened. I just know we got to the lead. There was traffic and I was just digging and in the zone. The recorder was turned off, so I don’t remember what happened. "I had my head down doing all I could do. We had a great Miller Lite Ford Fusion that I knew from the start would be good, but, man, it was really awesome the last few runs. We really dialed it in and the 2 crew did an excellent job. What a day! Man, I am still pumped!"
Larson, driving a backup car after a brush with the outside wall in Saturday morning practice, appeared headed for the first victory of his fledgling Cup career, before Carl Edwards’ cut tire brought out the fourth caution on Lap 231. That yellow, which interrupted a cycle of green-flag pit stops, leap-frogged Keselowski to the fourth spot for a restart on Lap 238. Seven laps later, caution for Clint Bowyer’s contact with the Turn 1 wall set up Keselowski’s opportunity to make the winning move.
"Man, I was so close," a rueful Larson said of his lost opportunity. "I didn’t need that caution there. I was just cruising out front, and then we got that yellow, and I had to battle Harvick really hard then. That allowed Brad to get by both of us. It really ended our shot at a win there. We had one more shot there at the last restart, but just didn’t have enough for Brad. He was really good around the bottom. He was about the only car that I thought could get around the bottom all race long. I had a lot of fun gripping the wall. I ran inches off of it the whole race and finally got into it there battling Jeff. Man, for a back-up car, that was amazing… I just hate it that we came up short."
If Larson had speed, Chase drivers Carl Edwards, AJ Allmendinger and Greg Biffle did not. None of the three drivers was quick enough to stay on the lead lap, and with respective finishes of 20th, 22nd and 23rd, all are in jeopardy of elimination after the third race of the Chase at Dover. The real casualty of Sunday’s race, however, was Aric Almirola, who was running sixth just before the engine in his No. 43 Richard Petty Motorsports Ford failed as he was coming to pit road for a green-flag stop on Lap 231. Almirola finished 41st and is in grave danger of missing the cut two races hence. // NASCAR News Wire