Next Sprint Cup Series Race * Chicagoland Speedway * Joliet, Illinois * Sunday, September 14, 2014
Next Nationwide Series Race * Chicagoland Speedway * Joliet, Illinois * Saturday, September 13, 2014
Next Camping World Truck Series Race * Chicagoland Speedway * Joliet, Illinois * Friday, September 12, 2014
Credit: Jeff Zelevansky/NASCAR via Getty Images
The 16 drivers of the NASCAR Chase for the Sprint Cup are photographed at NASCAR Chase Media Day, September 11, 2014 in Chicago, Illinois.
Passports, Please: 16 Challengers Embark On Multi-Country Media Blitz
Over the next 10 weeks – roughly 70 days – NASCAR Sprint Cup Series drivers will log a scheduled 3,995.98 miles. But today alone, in terms of distance traveled, 16 drivers collectively obliterated that figure during an unprecedented 16-market media tour known as “Chase Across North America.”
Bigger … and better. That was the tone set today as the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series gets ready to start its playoffs – the win-and-advance 10-race Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup – on Sunday at Chicagoland Speedway (2 p.m. ET on ESPN, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio).
The most populated city in the United States? Jimmie Johnson went there (New York).
Biggest in Mexico? Got it: Carl Edwards, Mexico City.
Largest in Canada? Yep, Jeff Gordon hit Toronto.
All 16 Challengers – the apt name of those who will vie for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series championship – scattered throughout the continent today as part of an expanded media blitz to launch the Chase.
The 16 markets: all 10 Chase track markets, New York City, Los Angeles, San Antonio, Texas, Toronto, Mexico City and ESPN’s headquarters in Bristol, Connecticut.
Here’s the full rundown of Wednesday’s events
Live! With Kelly and Michael… and Jimmie: Once these 10 weeks are complete, we could have three drivers who have won a record seven NASCAR Sprint Cup Series championship: Richard Petty, Dale Earnhardt and Jimmie Johnson. But before Johnson, the reigning six-time series champion, embarks on that historic quest, he hit New York City for a day of media that included two of the most recognizable morning shows in television history. Johnson chatted with Matt Lauer and took a selfie with Al Roker during his visit on the TODAY show’s plaza and appeared on Live! With Kelly and Michael.
Kevin Harvick’s Chances For A Championship Better Than His Fantasy Football Team’s: Kevin Harvick visited ESPN’s campus in Bristol, Connecticut, appearing on several editions of SportsCenter, one of which included a fantasy football segment with ESPN fantasy guru Matthew Berry. After his appearance, one fan tweeted Harvick, “Saw you on SportsCenter. Your team [stinks].”
Dale Jr. In La La Land: The fans have spoken, 11 times over -- Dale Earnhardt Jr. is NASCAR’s Most Popular Driver. And as its biggest star, it makes perfect sense that he would visit Los Angeles, a city filled with them. During his stay, Earnhardt appeared on several FOX Sports 1 shows and ended his day on Jimmy Kimmel Live!
Gordon Goes North of the Border: For the first time, a Chase-launching event took place in Canada, as four-time series champion flew to Toronto for a day of media and photo opportunities at such iconic Toronto locations as the CN Tower, Dundas Square and the Hockey Hall of Fame (a stop that included a photo with the Stanley Cup).
Edwards Goes South of the Border: Carl Edwards speaks a bit of Spanish, and was able to wield that skill during his trip to Mexico City this morning. Edwards appeared at some of the city’s most internationally recognizable locations, including the Soumaya Museum and the Angel of Independence monument. Said Edwards: "We meet a lot of Mexican, Mexican-American and Latino fans at the track each week. I think it's important for us to do things like this and find ways to engage them. … I really like Mexico. When I heard what NASCAR was doing with the Chase Across North America, I chose to come here because I love it."
Kurt Busch Salutes Military in San Antonio: Kurt Busch’s passion for American service men and women has been well document, so his visit to the Center for the Intrepid at Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio was a natural fit. “"That's what it's all about. Just saying thanks to our men and women who have served. … To see people smiling and to get some inspiration and to say we appreciate your service."
Matt Kenseth Has Pep In His Step: Texas is a big state. It gets two drivers. Matt Kenseth hit Texas Motor Speedway in Ft. Worth, Texas, for a pep rally with six schools with more than 3,000 students in attendance. Kenseth’s sponsor, Dollar General, through its Dollar General Literacy Foundation, donated $1,000 and a case of books to each school.
Busch’s Promise: ‘Winner, Winner Pizza Dinner’: Kyle Busch made a special appearance at Chicago’s G.B. Swift Specialty School as part of The NASCAR Foundation’s education initiative, where students filled out Chase Grids. Busch promised a Pizza Party to the winning class (media can fill out their Chase Grids at www.NASCAR.com/grid ... but are not eligible for the pizza). “The kids were awesome today, and I think we picked up more than a few new fans for Sunday, even before we offered pizza,” said Busch. “Not only that, but I think it’s important for them to hear about the value of education from someone they might not expect it from. NASCAR incorporates as much math and science as any professional sport out there, and dedicating yourself in the classroom will benefit you in any profession, especially as a race car driver.”
Grid-ology With Kasey Kahne: In Boston – a little more than an hour south of New Hampshire Motor Speedway – Kasey Kahne joined college basketball broadcasting legend Dick Vitale and NCAA bracket expert Joe Lunardi at the Hard Rock Café to give their expert opinions on filling out the perfect Chase Grid. Said Vitale: “The beauty of college basketball is the excitement of March Madness and the tournament, and that’s what NASCAR has now. It’s gonna be awesome baby!” For the record, Lunardi picked Jimmie Johnson to win the championship. Kahne went with a bit of a dark horse: Kasey Kahne.
Biffle Spreads Joy At Children’s Hospital: Greg Biffle visited with patients at the Nemours/Alfred I duPont Hospital for Children in Wilmington, Delaware, today, a hospital in the Delaware Valley that cares for more than 250,000 children annually. The kids asked Biffle a bevy of racing-related questions, as well as this gem: “If you could have a superpower what would it be?” Biffle said: “To be able to fly.”
Tough ‘Cookie’ Allmendinger Relishing Dark Horse Role: AJ Allmendinger, who enters his first Chase, participated in a local media tour in Kansas City, Mo., and made an appearance at a Hy-Vee retail store location, where he decorated cookies with children in the store’s bakery. Throughout the day, the comedic Allmendinger – a dark horse candidate in this year’s championship hunt – continually dropped the famous line from the movie Dumb and Dumber, “So you’re saying there’s a chance.”
Capital Reigns: Top Seed Keselowski Hits Raleigh: Brad Keselowski, whose win at Richmond International Raceway last Saturday locked him in as the top seed to start the Chase, visited North Carolina’s capital city of Raleigh on Wednesday, participating in a media tour and outdoor fan event at the popular City Plaza on Fayetteville Street. The 2012 champion said, “We’re kicking off the launch of NASCAR’s ‘Chase Across North America.’ Sixteen drivers going to 16 different cities, and as the number one seed, I got home field, which is here in Raleigh, close to Charlotte, North Carolina.”
Kid at Heart Logano Cheers Up Children: Joey Logano paid a visit to the Children’s Hospital of Alabama at the University of Alabama Birmingham to spend time with the patients for the hospital’s ‘Celebrating Superheroes’ month. During his stay, Logano asked the kids who their favorite driver was, which led to this exchange: Child: “Lightning McQueen [from the movie Cars].” Logano: “It's hard to beat Lightning.”
Newman To School: ‘Cheers To You’: Ryan Newman participated in a pep rally at Martinsville High School, along with the 150-member marching band, cheerleaders, football players and students. The clear highlight:Newman taking cheer lessons from two of the school’s cheerleaders. “The most fun part for me about today was having some kind of impact on the kids. They are highly influential and they are getting ready to make a difference in our lives and so it is nice to have influence on those people. High school is an important time in anyone’s life.”
Hamlin Has Most Important Meal of the Day: Denny Hamlin participated in a “Breakfast with Champions” along with Phoenix International Raceway President Bryan Sperber and former Indianapolis 500 champion Tom Sneva. The breakfast concluded with Hamlin filling out his own Chase Grid. Not surprisingly, in the empty white box where you’d write the champion, Hamlin simply wrote, “#11.” Said Hamlin, “In this format, you won’t know who the final four will be until the last lap at Phoenix. You live in the here and now in racing. I really think this will be the most exciting format. As far as the Chase is concerned, NASCAR nailed the system and I think it will stay for a long time.”
Almirola’s All Fired Up: Aric Almirola visited Homestead Reserve Air Force Base near Homestead-Miami Speedway, where he participated in a variety of activities with stationed service members, including a ‘burn pit’ exercise and an F-16 jet launch. During the burn pit exercise, Almirola donned firefighter’s gear, and helped extinguish a burning airplane. Said Almirola, "Man, if I knew how close to fire I would be, would've brought my fire suit." // NASCAR News Wire
Keselowski Dominates Richmond, As Newman And Biffle Claim Last Chase Spots
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Keselowski Displays The Flag After Each Win
The car and driver to beat in the 2014 Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup identified themselves emphatically on Saturday night at Richmond International Raceway. Brad Keselowski led all but 17 of 400 laps in winning the Federated Auto Parts 400, the final race of the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series regular season. In the process, he won his fourth race of the season and secured top seeding for the 10-race Chase, which starts Sunday, Sept. 14 at Chicagoland Speedway (2 p.m. ET on ESPN). Ryan Newman and Greg Biffle secured the final two of 16 Chase spots on points, Newman with a solid ninth-place run, Biffle with a much shakier 19th-place finish, two laps down.
But it was Keselowski who made the statement in securing the 400th victory across all racing series for team owner Roger Penske. "What a night!" Keselowski said. "Part of me, I pulled into victory lane and I pinched myself once to make sure I wasn't dreaming. These are nights you don't forget as a driver—and you live for. The Miller Lite Ford Fusion was just flying, and this is— I couldn't ask for a better way to enter the Chase than to win and take the first seed. "We're ready. We want to run for another Cup. We really feel like this team has it. Team Penske is really clicking… 400th win for Team Penske, and this feels so lucky, man, to have such an incredible team and a car like we did tonight and be able to execute it and not have any bad luck. We've had plenty of bad luck over the last few weeks, but, wow, what a night!"
Keselowski, the Coors Light pole winner, took the lead for the final time on Lap 127 when he beat race runner-up Jeff Gordon and Kevin Harvick, the race’s only other leader, off pit road. From that point on, Keselowski’s No. 2 Ford was untouchable. Gordon made it interesting in the closing laps, finishing .797 seconds behind the Keselowski, who won for the first time at the .75-mile short track and the 14th time in his career. Clint Bowyer ran third but failed to make the Chase. Jamie McMurray came home fourth, one spot ahead of Harvick, whose car faded in the final 110 laps.
For the first three quarters of the race, Keselowski was totally dominant, leading 283 of the first 300 laps. Harvick provided the only competition for the No. 2 Team Penske Ford in the early stages of the race, running a high line in the corners and taking the point twice for a total of 17 laps before Keselowski regained control after a restart on Lap 132. Bowyer grabbed the second position from Harvick with an aggressive move on a Lap 271 restart. Keselowski continued to lead, but Bowyer stayed close for the first 50 laps of the subsequent green-flag run.
Gordon charged past Harvick for the third spot on Lap 290 and took off in pursuit of Bowyer, who surrendered the second position on Lap 319, 10 circuits before a fan caused a caution with an ill-advised, albeit successful attempt to scale the catchfence in Turn 4. But if that caution gave the drivers behind him a glimmer of hope, Keselowski quickly snuffed it out, pulling away from Gordon, Bowyer and Harvick after a restart on Lap 337 and opening a two-second advantage by Lap 355. Though Gordon got closer as the run continued, Keselowski had built too big a lead in the early stages for Gordon to challenge for the win.
The four-time series champion acknowledged he couldn’t compete with Keselowski on the short runs, but Gordon wasn’t about to concede the title to his Team Penske rival. "I didn't feel like we had a car that could compete with Brad at certain portions of the night, but we just never gave up on it… great pit stops, great adjustments, and there at the end, we were closing on him," Gordon said. "It wasn't a win, but still great momentum to carry into the Chase. This team is on fire, and we just can't wait to get it all started. It's been a heck of a year. Our fans and the way that they've embraced this season has been extremely motivating, and I know how proud they are. And we're proud of the effort and the results that we're getting this year. Ten more weeks that we've got to get it done, and this team is ready to do that."
Though Bowyer finished just seven points behind Biffle in the battle for the final Chase position, realistically, the driver of the No. 15 Michael Waltrip Racing Toyota had to win the race to make the postseason. And Bowyer left nothing on the table. "That was our best effort," he said. "That's all I had. That's all we had as a race team. We put it all out there, and still, we were just third best."
Note: Keselowski eclipsed Denny Hamlin for most laps led in a scheduled 400-lap Richmond race. Hamlin led 381 laps in May 2008. // NASCAR News Wire
Kyle Busch Leads Every Lap In Dominating Nationwide Win At Richmond
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Kyle Busch Celebrates Victory
Picture perfect. Coors Light polesitter Kyle Busch led all 250 laps in Friday night’s Virginia 529 College Savings 250 NASCAR Nationwide Series race at Richmond International Raceway and beat runner-up and series leader Chase Elliott to the finish line by 1.323 seconds. Driving a No. 54 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota that was the clear class of the field, Busch won for the fourth time this season, the fifth time at Richmond and the series-best 67th time in his career.
It was the second time Busch has led every lap in a Nationwide Series race, the first coming at Phoenix in 2011 when he led 200 laps after starting from the pole. "It's been a while, if you think about it," said Busch, who hadn’t won a Nationwide race at Richmond since 2011. "We’ve had a lot of bad luck lately, and it feels good, trying to get some mojo back, get ready for tomorrow night (Saturday’s NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race), see what we can salvage there and roll on into the Chase."
Busch said Joe Gibbs Racing did considerable work on its short-track package after finishing third behind the Chevrolets of Harvick and Elliott in April. "All in all, the guys did a great job," Busch said. "They were really smart about what they needed, what we needed, what I needed."
Kevin Harvick ran third after ceding the second position to Elliott on the race’s final restart on Lap 233. Ryan Blaney came home fourth, followed by Brian Scott and Regan Smith, who fell 19 points behind Elliott, his JR Motorsports teammate in the series standings.
While Busch spent the race comfortably out front after taking the green flag from the pole position, Harvick systematically worked his way forward from the 15th starting position. Harvick passed Blaney for the second spot just before the caution flag flew for the fifth time on Lap 166 because of debris on the backstretch. But that was as close as Harvick could get. Busch quickly pulled away to a lead of more than two seconds after the subsequent restart on Lap 172 and continued to pull away. The margin stabilized at roughly 3.3 seconds as Busch and Harvick worked heavy traffic as the laps counted down. Harvick began to eat into Busch’s advantage before a yellow flag interrupted his progress.
NASCAR called the sixth caution on Lap 226 after Landon Cassill’s Chevrolet brushed the wall in Turn 2, but the restart on Lap 33 produced more of the same for Busch, who blocked Elliott to the inside and took off. "Kyle had a much better car and was able to take off on the short runs and get way out there," said Harvick, who thought he might have been able to catch Busch during the final run, if not for the caution.
Note: NASCAR is taking the rear gear from Busch's winning No. 54 Camry back to its research-and development center in Concord, N.C., for further evaluation. Should any penalties be warranted, they will be announced next week. // NASCAR News Wire
Late-Race Surge At Atlanta Puts Kahne In Victory Lane -- And In The Chase
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Kahne Earns First Win Of The Season
It was Tony Stewart’s return to racing that dominated the headlines before Sunday night’s Oral-B USA 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway, but it was Kasey Kahne who stole the show—and a berth in the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup. In a race that went 10 laps beyond its scheduled distance of 325 laps, Kahne surged past Matt Kenseth on the second attempt at a green-white-checkered-flag finish to win for the first time this year and the third time at the 1.54-mile speedway. Kenseth finished second and clinched a Chase spot on points, leaving just two of 16 positions in NASCAR’s 10-race playoff available in Saturday’s regular-season finale at Richmond International Raceway.
After streaking into the lead on a restart with 24 laps left, Kahne held the top spot until a caution for a fracas between Kyle Busch and Martin Truex Jr. slowed the field with less than two laps left. On the first attempt at overtime, a multicar wreck in Turn 1 wiped out the dominant car of polesitter Kevin Harvick, requiring a second attempt at a two-lap shootout. With four fresh tires to Kenseth’s two, Kahne overtook the No. 20 Toyota after he and Kenseth battled for a lap after the restart and pulled away to win the 17th race of his career by .574 seconds.
"We were all over the place during the race, but the guys stayed with me and worked hard," Kahne said. "On those restarts--I didn’t know what would happen, because I had great restarts all night, and I struggle with restarts a lot. That’s big, because that is one of the things you have to be good at, and it worked really well tonight."
It also took a huge weight off Kahne’s shoulders, as the end of the regular season approached. "Yeah, we are locked in, and I hate that it comes down to this Atlanta or Richmond just about every year for me," Kahne said of the pressure to make the Chase. "Sometimes we are in, sometimes we are out. But thankful that now at HMS (Hendrick Motorsports), I’ve been in all three years now. We have the pressure all the way to Richmond, but we made it again -- thankful for that." Denny Hamlin ran third, followed by Jimmie Johnson and Carl Edwards. Danica Patrick finished sixth, beating by four positions the best previous finish by a female driver at Atlanta (Janet Guthrie was 10th in 1978).
The race that turned the season around for Kahne provided little solace for Stewart. Starting a Cup race for the first time since his involvement in the fatal sprint car accident that took the life of Kevin Ward Jr. on Aug. 9 at Canandaigua (N.Y.) Speedway, Stewart charged forward from his 12th-place starting position and ran as high as fourth in the early going. But Stewart’s race came undone moments after a restart on Lap 123, when Kyle Busch’s Toyota pinched Stewart’s Chevy into the outside wall off Turn 2, significantly damaging both cars. On Lap 160 Matt Kenseth, then the leader, passed Stewart to put the No. 14 a lap down.
Twelve laps later, a blown right front tire sent Stewart hard into the Turn 2 wall, forcing him to the garage and out of the race. Credited with a 41st-place finish, Stewart has one more chance—on Saturday at Richmond—to take advantage of a NASCAR dispensation that kept him eligible for the Chase. Having missed three races, Stewart must win at the .75-mile short track to qualify for NASCAR’s 10-race playoff.
After exiting his car, Stewart declined requests for interviews, but crew chief Chad Johnston spoke to reporters in the garage. "I went into today with some pretty high hopes of finishing well and possibly coming out of here with a win, but it just didn’t work out in our favor," Johnston said. "We got into a little trouble with the 18 (Busch) and got into the outside wall, knocked the toe out of it, and a lot of heavy right side damage. We were just trying to fix that and salvage what we could out of the day but then we blew a right front there right before that caution came out."
If Stewart had issues on the track, so did one prominent driver on the Chase bubble. The shifter on Clint Bowyer’s No. 15 Toyota broke, preventing him from getting the car into high gear. Bowyer lost 22 laps in the garage as his team made repairs. He finished 38th, leaving his chances to make the Chase on points in dire jeopardy. // NASCAR News Wire
Blaney Scores First Camping World Truck Series Victory Of 2014
Ryan Blaney Has Close Finish With German Quiroga
In a dramatic finish, Ryan Blaney drag-raced German Quiroga off the last corner at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park to the start-finish line to win Sunday afternoon's NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Chevrolet Silverado 250.
The two drivers duked it out for the win following the final restart, but a pass for the lead by Quiroga in Turn 8 on the final lap would be short lived, as Blaney set up his crucial move exiting the final turn allowing Blaney to score his third career series victory by 0.049 seconds. "That was a ton of fun racing with German," said Blaney. "We raced really, really hard and really clean and that's how racing should be. We had a problem last week (at Bristol) and just fate would have us racing each other for the win this week. That's awesome. That's what racing needs to be, it was so fun racing with him and battling it out with him."
Blaney's teammate Alex Tagliani led the field from the pole in his NASCAR Camping World Truck Series debut and held the point until he strategically made a green flag pit stop on Lap 8 with Gray Gaulding inheriting the lead. The NASCAR Next driver would control the field for five laps before he headed to pit road and handed the lead to Canadian Andrew Ranger. When Ranger pitted on Lap 16, Blaney assumed command on Lap 17. Utilizing a one-stop strategy, he stayed out until Lap 29, when Quiroga shuffled to the top spot.
With the lead exchanging between Quiroga, Cole Custer and Johnny Sauter, crew chief Chad Kendrick's early-race pit stop call would prove to be beneficial for Blaney, as he climbed from outside the top 10 to reclaim the lead from Sauter on Lap 44. Blaney's healthy lead over Quiroga would be diminished when the first full-course caution would wave on Lap 48 for the No. 8 of John Hunter Nemechek, who lost an engine in Turn 1. Under the yellow, the leaders elected to stay out, setting up for a restart twelve laps from the finish.
Quiroga couldn't make the pass on Blaney on the restart, but he would get another chance when the second and final caution of the day waved on Lap 55 for Tagliani, who stalled on the track in Turn 5. On the final restart, Blaney got a strong jump on the field and was able to clear Quiroga, but the Mexico City, Mexico native reeled him back in over the last eight laps before making his move in the Esses.
Coming out of Turn 10, Blaney made the crossover move to win his first race of the season. Quiroga matched his career-best finish in 42 starts. "We tried hard, we came in second. I'm going to keep on trying," said Quiroga. We were really, really fast on long runs. Everyone at the shop worked really hard to build a road course truck and that's how we arrived. I think we were on the right path, just strategy and how things played out, Blaney was in front of us. I tried really hard to pass him, tried to make him make a mistake, he didn't. I passed him in Turn 8, and Turn 9, coming off he got a really good run off the corner and beat us." Erik Jones was third followed by Gaulding and Ranger to close out the top five. // NASCAR News Wire
Harvick Dominant In Nationwide Series Win At Atlanta
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Harvicks Celebrates With Car Owner Dale Earnhardt Jr.
No wonder they call Kevin Harvick "The Closer." From the moment Harvick’s No. 5 JR Motorsports Chevrolet took the lead from polesitter Chase Elliott on Lap 37, Saturday night’s Great Clips 300 at Atlanta Motor Speedway was an open-and-shut case. In posting his third NASCAR Nationwide Series victory of the season and the 43rd of his career, Harvick led the last 159 laps and finished .567 seconds ahead of runner-up Joey Logano.
"This thing was bad fast from the drop of the green flag," Harvick said after finishing off a spectacular victory burnout and exiting the car. "This is just one of those race tracks where I like the challenge of everything you get to do here. (Crew chief) Ernie (Cope) and I have found a great setup over the years back into the trucks (NASCAR Camping World Truck Series), and it’s still working today."
The only factors preventing Harvick from lapping the field—or so it seemed—were a pair of debris cautions, the first of which erased a four-second lead after Harvick had paced the field from Laps 37 through 72. The second caution flag, which flew on Lap 120, wiped out a Harvick advantage that was close to seven seconds. By then, only 10 of the 40 cars that started the race remained on the lead lap.
A light rain extended that second caution to 13 laps, but after a restart on Lap 134, it was more of the same. Harvick quickly pulled out to a lead of more than four seconds before a cycle of green-flag pit stops trimmed his advantage to two seconds over Logano, the only driver able to keep pace with Harvick over the closing laps. Kyle Larson ran third, followed by Kyle Busch and Elliott, who extended his series lead to 15 points over JR Motorsports teammate Regan Smith, the sixth-place finisher.
Logano’s car came to life in the closing laps but not soon enough for him to catch Harvick. "I took off that last run and started to catch Kevin a little bit and then started to get too tight," Logano said. "He started driving away a little bit, and then the last six or seven laps, all of a sudden the light switch turned on and I started catching him. I just ran out of time. I wish there were five or seven more laps, and I could have got to him and tried to do something with him. We were catching him two or three tenths (of a second) a lap there at the end and having some fun with it, but it was too little, too late."
In Friday’s NASCAR Sprint Cup Series time trials, Harvick won the pole for Sunday’s Oral-B USA 500 at the 1.54-mile speedway. Though there are vast differences in the behavior of NNS versus Cup cars, Harvick’s ability to run the bottom at Atlanta might be an indication of good things to come on Sunday. "I’m really happy with our car," Harvick said. "It’s been good in every practice and obviously qualified well. You just have to have it all go your way. These races are hard to win, so we’ll just enjoy this one tonight and go from there." // NASCAR News Wire
Logano Nabs Third Win 0f The Season In Bristol Night Race
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Sixth Career Sprint Cup Win For 21 Year-Old Logano
Joey Logano believes he has the car and Team Penske believes they have the team to win the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series championship. Logano took the lead from Matt Kenseth with 44 laps remaining and scooted to his third Sprint Cup victory of the season in Saturday’s IRWIN Tools Night Race at Bristol Motor Speedway. "We can win the championship. We’ve showed it at every kind of race track. We’ve just got to keep doing it," said Logano, 24, who held off his Team Penske teammate Brad Keselowski in the final laps. What a year we’re having. I’m having so much fun. The past six or seven races have been unbelievable."
Logano has finished no worse than sixth in any of the last five races but took special pride in winning at the track known as the "World’s Fastest Half-Mile." -- "It’s just the baddest mamma jamma race track ever built," said Logano, who two years ago was struggling with a loss of confidence at Joe Gibbs Racing. "At that point, I would never think I’d have a year like this," he said. "That’s why the mental side of this is just as important as the physical side. But I’m happy I went through all that. It’s made me what I am now and made me aware of how I have to be, mentally, to win these things."
It was a big weekend for both Penske and Ford Racing with Keselowski winning the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series event in a truck he owns, Ryan Blaney winning for Penske in the NASCAR Nationwide Series race and Logano and Keselowski finishing 1-2 in the main event. "I think we’re legitimate threats to win a championship this year and I’m proud of that," said Keselowski, the 2012 Sprint Cup champion and the ‘old man’ of the group at 30. "To have all three drivers win races, I think that’s a testament to how bright the future is. I think the results speak for themselves. We’ve just got to keep rolling."
It’s also the first time that Ford Racing has swept a NASCAR weekend series since 2006 when Mark Martin won in truck and Kenseth won both the Nationwide and Sprint Cup races at Bristol. Ford’s nine Sprint Cup victories this season are its most since 2008 when it won 11 times.
Like Logano, Keselowski has three victories this season. The difference between the two drivers on Saturday was minimal. "I think our two cars were really, really equal," Keselowski said. "Whoever got out front and got the clean air first was going to win the race and Joey was able to do that. The last lap I just dive-bombed it in there on a prayer, kind of hoping it would stick or he would slip or something would happen for me. It made it look cool but it really wasn’t that close."
Team Penske Executive Vice President Walt Czarnecki couldn’t be happier with the way things are working out with his team in its second year with Ford. "When Joey came on board, we told him, ‘There’s no No. 1. There’s no No. 2. Everybody’s equal. We all contribute, we all have the same access to information, the same access to resources. I think it’s really been demonstrated in the performance of the team this year with six wins."
Saturday, Logano had fresher tires than Kenseth, who elected not to pit under caution when he took the lead from Jamie McMurray during the race’s ninth caution which came out on Lap 433 of 500. McMurray, who led a race-high 148 laps, said his car "got really tight" in the final 100 laps and settled for eighth place. "As the track rubbered up, it just didn’t suit our car as much as it did the other guys," he said. McMurray remains one of a handful of drivers who now need a victory at either Atlanta or Richmond to have any realistic chance of making the Chase.
Clint Bowyer (17th) and Greg Biffle (10th) remained on the positive side of the points bubble for non-winners. Kyle Larson (12th) trails Biffle by 26 points and Kasey Kahne is 33 points behind Biffle for the 16th and final Chase spot. Kahne Led 40 laps but suffered recurring issues with his right front wheel and finished 35th on Saturday. Denny Hamlin, who ended up 40th, was as upset as Kahne was disappointed.
Hamlin was leading the race when Kevin Harvick sent him spinning on Lap 162. Dale Earnhardt Jr. side-swiped Hamlin on the way by, putting both Hamlin and Earnhardt (39th) behind the wall and ending promising runs for both. "It was a misjudgment. He knows better. He made a mistake," said Hamlin, who fired a piece of his HANS device off the rear end of Harvick’s car as the new leader circled the track. "He thinks he knows everything. I just wish I had some kind of car left to show him the favor back."
Harvick led the first 37 laps from the pole but finished 11th. Jeff Gordon, shooting for a third consecutive victory, finished 16th while his Hendrick Motorsports teammate Jimmie Johnson overcame a pair of early-race speeding penalties to finish fourth. // NASCAR News Wire
Stout Restart Gives Ryan Blaney Nationwide Series Victory At Bristol
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First Win In A Nationwide Series Car
Ryan Blaney swept past Kyle Busch on a restart with seven laps to go and held on to win Friday night’s rain-delayed Food City 300 at Bristol Motor Speedway. Until the final restart, Busch appeared dominant and on his way to his seventh win in his last nine NASCAR Nationwide Series starts at Bristol. Blaney’s victory was his first this season and second in 24 career Nationwide Series races. "It's awesome to be here in Bristol in Victory Lane," said Blaney. "Really I was worrying about salvaging second because Kyle was so good ... But we were ready for our opportunity. Luckily we got it and we were able to take advantage of it."
Busch, however, was not happy with Blaney’s timing on the final restart. "The leader is always at the biggest disadvantage," Busch said. "The 22 (Blaney) was five mph faster than me by the first double stripe. I didn’t go because I didn’t want to go, but everybody behind me is trying to go. It’s stupid. One of these days I’m going to lock all four down and stack the whole field up. You’re supposed to be nose-to-nose on the restart. When the leader picks up pace, everybody else (is supposed to) pick up pace."
Blaney saw it differently. "Kyle didn't go on that final restart," Blaney said." He said his tires were jacked up. But we got to the second (yellow) line and we went. Luckily, we were able to hold him off there. It was one heckuva race." Blaney survived contact with Kyle Larson with 19 laps remaining before fending off Busch down the stretch.
Series points leader Chase Elliott finished third with Ty Dillon fourth and Regan Smith fifth. Elliott had a bird’s eye view of the final restart. "No harm, no foul (the way I saw it)," said Elliott, who led 59 of the first 149 laps. "I saw Kyle make a rare mistake on the restart. It was really hard not to spin your tires. One guy (Busch) spun his tires and the other guy capitalized."
Larson seemed to be posing the most serious challenge to Busch until he tangled with Blaney with 19 laps remaining. That collision sent Larson into a spin that led to heavy contact with his Turner Scott Motorsports teammate Dylan Kwasniewski. Busch had wrestled the lead from Kyle Larson after a restart on Lap 195 and appeared on his way to dominating the the remainder of the race in his Monster Energy Toyota. He drew away from Dillon on restarts with 33 and 13 laps remaining. But the race’s 10th caution flag prevented him from posting his 67th career Nationwide victory in 287 starts.
Aside from Busch, Larson, Elliott and Blaney, the only other driver to lead laps was Elliott Sadler, whose championship hopes took a hit. Sadler, who began the night third in points, 16 behind Elliott, suffered front end damage in a collision with Timmy Hill on Lap 185 and ended up hitting the wall twice before race’s end, settling for 29st place. // NASCAR News Wire
Brad Keselowski Earns First NASCAR Truck Series Win At Bristol
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Keselowski Finally Earns Victory In Truck Series
After 62 races—the last 20 of which were in his own equipment—Brad Keselowski is finally a NASCAR Camping World Truck Series winner. "We did it," said Keselowski as he took the checkered flag in Thursday morning's postponed UNOH 200 presented by ZLOOP at Bristol (Tenn.) Motor Speedway. Keselowski’s joy may have been short lived. Following the race, NASCAR announced that his No. 19 truck, as well as the trucks driven by Cole Custer and Ron Hornaday Jr. measured too high at the rear spoiler during post-race inspection. More on these findings will be determined early next week.
Keselowski took the lead from Keystone Pole Award winner Kyle Busch on Lap 124 and never relinquished, despite repeated attempts by former NASCAR Drive for Diversity graduate Darrell Wallace Jr. "It was a good battle and Bristol has always been a special track," Keselowski said. "(Crew chief) Doug Randolph and the team gave me a great truck. This thing took off and it was flying and I knew we had a shot at it right away from Lap 1. It's (a) matter of putting it all together and not having any bad luck and we didn’t and everything came together and the team did a great job."
Busch, who scored his fourth pole of the season Wednesday afternoon, appeared to be the class of the field and had his sixth win of the season in his sights. But he found himself out of the racing groove 76 laps from the finish, stalling his momentum and allowing the 2012 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion to slip by and control the remainder of the race.
After persistent rain forced the 17th annual Bristol race to be rescheduled for the next morning, Busch led the green shortly after 10 a.m. Keselowski took advantage of lap traffic to squeeze by Busch on Lap 12 and led through the competition caution on Lap 50. Stout work by Busch’s team on pit road gave him the lead back for the restart on Lap 53. Keselowski though wouldn’t let Busch escape as he retook command briefly on Lap 59 before Busch rolled to the point on Lap 61 and led until his miscue 63 laps later.
The final caution flag of the morning waived on Lap 147 for a four-truck accident on the backstretch, which allowed an attempt by the lead lap trucks to gang up and steal Keselowski’s thunder, but he would have none of it. On the restart, Busch stalked Keselowski, but in their rearview mirrors, a hard-charging Wallace Jr. appeared and took second from his boss and set his sights on the Rochester Hills, Mich., native.
The No. 54 ToyotaCare Tundra closed up to within a truck length of Keselowski's No. 19 Ford F-150 coming to the white flag, but Keselowski was able to fend off the former NASCAR Next driver to earn his first triumph in 62 NCWTS races. With his win, Keselowski and father, Bob Keselowski, became the first father and son duo to win NCWTS races. The senior Keselowski won at Richmond (Va.) International Raceway in 2007.
Furthermore, the 2010 NASCAR Nationwide Series champion became the 25th driver to win a race in all three of NASCAR’s national series. His first Sprint Cup win came at Talladega (Ala.) Superspeedway on April 26, 2009. His first Nationwide Series victory occurred at Nashville (Tenn.) Superspeedway on June 7, 2008. "For me, it’s a big day for me personally and professionally," Keselowski added. "Personally I think we dug into a lot of things with my family and the commitment they’ve had to the sport and specifically to this series for a long time. To race and make a living for quite a while then to beyond that to give me an opportunity to do the same in the latter stages of their involvement. It was a tough road and quite honestly we didn’t make it. It’s always a personal tragedy of sorts to go through that and that’s why for one of the many reasons I’m still involved in this series."
Wallace Jr., achieved his third runner-up finish of the season, but noted he respected Keselowski too much to wreck him for potentially his third win of the season. "We had a very fast ToyotaCare Tundra and it’s shown, I’m proud of my guys," said Wallace Jr. "Brad’s good and I really had to wreck him to get by him, so I respect him and we’ll build off this and go to Canada, that’s a whole different animal in itself." Behind Keselowski and Wallace Jr., Ron Hornaday Jr. was third followed by Matt Crafton and Johnny Sauter. John Hunter Nemechek, Joey Coulter, Cole Custer, Ben Rhodes and Corey Lajoie comprised the top 10. Busch fell victim to a flat tire and finished 24th.
Sauter continues to lead the series standings by eight points (487 to 479) over ThorSport Racing teammate Crafton. The Truck Series returns to the track on August 31 for a trip across the border to Canadian Tire Motorsport Park for the running of the Chevrolet Silverado 250 (1:30 p.m. ET on FOX Sports 1) in Bowmanville, Ontario. // NASCAR News Wire
Late Restart Catapults Gordon To Michigan Victory
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Gordon Gets A Face Full Of Champagne
So much for restarts being a problem for Jeff Gordon. The four-time NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion broke away after a late caution to win Sunday's Pure Michigan 400 at Michigan International Speedway. Gordon, who faced questions about his struggles on restarts earlier this season, passed Joey Logano at the start of lap 183 and kept his Chevrolet in front when Logano got next to him on the following lap. Logano fell back after falling out of a draft and Gordon never was challenged again as he rolled to his third series victory of the season.
His win at Indianapolis last month followed a similar script. "I thought he had a good start, but I had one, too," Gordon said. "It’s pretty nice to have the last two wins come down to restarts. "Those restarts are so crucial but also intense because of the speed we’re carrying here." --/-- The pole winner went to victory lane at MIS for the third time—his first since June 2001 -- and collected the 91st win of his career. He also gave Hendrick Motorsports, which saw Jimmie Johnson win here in June, a sweep of this year’s races at the track closest to General Motors Corp.’s world headquarters.
Kurt Busch hit the turn 2 wall shortly after a lap 178 restart and the ensuing yellow flag bunched the field for a final sprint to the finish. "I wish the last caution didn’t come out," said Logano, who started second and led a race-best 86 laps. "I thought we had a better shot at it. "I won every single restart I was on the front row except the last one."
Kevin Harvick was second for the fourth straight race here, followed by Paul Menard, Logano and Dale Earnhardt Jr. Earnhardt, who started the day with a four-point series lead on Gordon, dropped to second after the checkered flag. "We had a solid day but the 24 (Gordon) just had a little more speed than us," Harvick said.
Gordon had a little more speed all weekend. He set a new track record with a 206.558 mph qualifying lap and was the only car faster than 200 mph in Saturday’s final practice session. He led 68 laps and seemed to keep the car wherever he wanted on the track throughout the race. Owner Rick Hendrick said Gordon’s performance reminded him of the driver as a young man, but added he felt his experience and patience have served him well all season. "There’s got to be some advantages to being 43 out there," said Gordon, who’s seeking his first series title since 2001. "I’d like to think patience and using your head is one of them."
The victory was Hendrick Motorsports’ ninth of the season and the team left the track with three of the top four spots in the standings. Kasey Kahne is nine points out of the final spot in the Chase with three races remaining. The longest of the race’s eight caution periods came midway through the afternoon when rookie Kyle Larson’s Chevrolet struck the turn 4 wall and caught fire. Crews needed 11 laps to clean up the debris. The slowdown helped Johnson, who started 30th and broke the shifter in his Chevy early in the race. The long caution period allowed his crew to replace it and he ended the day sixth.
A lap 26 crash that began with Danica Patrick’s spin in turn 1 collected eight other cars, including Matt Kenseth, who started the day third in the Sprint Cup standings but still needing a victory to guarantee a spot in the new Chase for the Sprint Cup Series format. // NASCAR News Wire