Next Sprint Cup Series Race * Atlanta Motor Speedway * Hampton,Georgia * Sunday, August 31, 2014
Next Nationwide Series Race * Atlanta Motor Speedway * Hampton, Georgia * Saturday, August 30, 2014
Next Camping World Truck Series Race * Canadian Tire Motorsport Park * Bowmanville, Ontario, Canada * Friday, August 31, 2014
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
Chris Buescher Claims First Career NASCAR Nationwide Win At Mid-Ohio
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Enough Fuel For A Post Race Burnout
The math didn't add up. Crew chief Scott Graves was in NASCAR Nationwide Series rookie Chris Buescher's ear, telling him he was two laps shy of making the finish. The thing was Buescher was in the lead by more than two seconds when he got the news. "Not going to lie. Scott about had my nerves shot there at the end," Buescher said. "We were trying to save all we could there knowing that we were trying to keep the distance on the guys behind us."
Somehow, someway Buescher did the job, coaxing his No. 60 Ford to the finish line to win the first race of his Nationwide Series career, taking the Nationwide Children’s Hospital 200 at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course. He is the third rookie to win this season and the 14th different driver to do so in 2014. Turns out all the figuring was off a bit. "It was cool to pull it off and have plenty left over for a good burnout at the end," Buescher said.
In the 90-lap race, Buescher last pitted on Lap 52 during the fourth caution of the day. The fifth and final caution for Jeff Green hitting the wall in the Esses (Turn 5) lasted three laps and it was a key three laps. "The way the race played out helped us as well," Graves said. "When everybody did pit, we had a big enough lead, and I think that allowed him to save a little bit more for a few laps."
His closest rivals, Regan Smith and Brian Scott, marveled at the mileage he squeaked out of his fuel tank. "I don’t know for the life of me how the 60 made it on fuel because nobody else in the field was even near that fuel mileage," Smith said after finishing second in the No. 7 Chevrolet. "That was pretty interesting." --/-- Smith wasn’t surprised by the speed Buescher showed in the last third of the race, saying the rookie has come a long way this season. "I was surprised that he made it. I didn’t have much more for him at the end," Smith said.
Buescher gave the car a little shake on the last lap which Smith thought was a signal that the leader was out of gas, but it was for naught. Buscher got around Ashland’s Tim Cowen in the Carousel and crossed the finish line with 1.114 seconds to spare. "Sometimes the race comes to you," Scott said, the third-place finisher in the No. 2 Chevrolet. "I think all the circumstances happened for him. Right place at right time." Early in the race Scott, pole-sitter Sam Hornish Jr. and Alex Tagliani had the fastest cars.
Hornish led or battled for it for more than 50 laps, but a missed shift hurt the engine and he had to park his No. 54 Toyota in the garage. "I didn’t give them what they deserved," Hornish said. Scott and Tagliani briefly tangled, sending Scott off course and clogging his air intake with grass. He started to overheat but made it to the pits in time to save his race. From there he battled through the field to land on the podium. "It’s the nature of the beast when these guys come in and are supposed to be road course specialists and are only doing one-off races. They feel they have something to prove and they drive like they do," Scott said.
Points leader and rookie Chase Elliott was fourth and Tagliani fifth. Justin Marks, Elliott Sadler, Dylan Kwasniewski, Trevor Bayne and Dakoda Armstrong rounded out the top 10. As for Buescher, he had the added pressure of winning his first race while driving for the race and series title sponsor on the side of his car. "It was a really humbling experience and really cool to get our first win here under these circumstances," he said. // NASCAR News Wire
Johnny Sauter Delivers New Crew Chief A Truck Series Win At Michigan
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Sauter Wins At Michigan International Speedway
Johnny Sauter's new crew chief started work eight days before Saturday's NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Careers for Veterans 200. So much for a getting-to-know-you period. Sauter's Toyota Tundra went to the front after leader Matt Crafton pitted with three laps left and the veteran claimed his first Truck Series victory of the season at Michigan International Speedway. His 161.087 mph average speed is the fastest in series history, breaking the 154.737 record he set in 2012 when he won at Texas. "When I was out front leading, I could go where I wanted and do what I wanted," Sauter said. "The last 40 laps of the race I was running wide open."
Crafton, Sauter's ThorSport Racing teammate, finished second after pulling in for a quick splash of fuel. He had a 31-second lead when he entered the pits and was passed as he emerged from the lane after stopping for less than three seconds. The win vaulted Sauter into the first place in the season standings, seven points ahead of Crafton, who moved from third to second. Pole winner Ryan Blaney started the race with the points lead but lost it after finishing 21st. "This is great, this is the thing we needed to swing it," Sauter said after leading 21 laps in his 10th career series win. "We’ve been consistent. We finally got speed this weekend." The win ran Sauter’s streak of seasons with at least one truck victory to six.
Ron Hornaday Jr.’s Chevy was third, followed by Tayler Malsam and Kyle Busch. Busch, who’ll start 24th in Sunday’s NASCAR Sprint Cup Pure Michigan 400 (1 p.m. ET on ESPN), was seeking his sixth victory in as many starts this season in the Truck Series. ThorSport brought in Jeff Hensley to replace Dennis Connor as crew chief despite the fact Sauter was second in the points standings. Sauter said there were no hard feelings. "It was just something we thought would make the whole organization stronger," he said. --/-- Hensley, of course, enjoyed his first race in the pit box. "I thought we could win, but I sure as heck didn’t think it would be the first time out," he said.
Crafton was happy the team, based in nearby Sandusky, Ohio, had the top two spots – though he would’ve rewritten the ending if it was up to him. "It was very eventful, without a doubt," he said. "All in all, not a bad day. It’s nice to see ThorSport one-two. I just wish it was the other way around." The race’s only caution flag came nine laps in after Travis Kvapil’s engine failed and left oil on the track. The last 86 laps of the record-setting race were green.
The long stretch of green-flag laps seemed to benefit Sauter and other drivers who ducked into the pits during the lone caution period. "It sure seemed like there was more passing in the pits than on the track with everyone so spread out," he said. "Sometimes it’s good to have a race like that." Darrell Wallace Jr. led a race-best 48 laps but finished a lap down in 11th.
Blaney won the pole just by showing up for the final qualifying session. He was the only driver to attempt a lap before time ran out. His 173.152 mph pole speed was significantly slower than the track record 187.647 turned by Joey Logano in the second session. Jeb Burton set the record during last year’s stop at Michigan. // NASCAR News Wire
Allmendinger Stakes Claim To Chase Spot With Thrilling Win At The Glen
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Allmendinger First Time Sprint Cup Winner
In a battle between two drivers with everything on the line, AJ Allmendinger held off Marcos Ambrose in breathtaking fashion to win Sunday’s Cheez-It 355 at the Glen and claim an almost certain spot in the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup. In the closing laps, Allmendinger and Ambrose bumped each other, leaned on each other, raced each other side-by-side through the esses without wrecking—astoundingly—and swapped the lead before Allmendinger secured his first NASCAR Sprint Cup Series victory with a pass in Turn 6 with just over one lap left. The 2.45-mile road course at Watkins Glen International gave both drivers their best chance to qualify for the Chase, and it was Allmendinger who prevailed in a two-lap battle that that was a long-time coming, thanks to three red-flag periods needed to repair safety barriers at the track.
Kurt Busch ran third, hoping during the final two laps that Ambrose and Allmendinger would take their aggression over the line and give him a chance to win. Rookie Kyle Larson kept his Chase hopes alive with a fourth-place run, and Carl Edwards came home fifth. Joey Logano, Kevin Harvick, Greg Biffle, Matt Kenseth and Brian Vickers completed the top 10. Dale Earnhardt Jr. finished 11th and took the series lead from pole winner Jeff Gordon, who ran 34th after losing four laps while his team diagnosed and repaired an electrical-system failure. On the next-to-last lap, Allmendinger controlled the restart and held the lead through Turn 1, but Ambrose applied pressure up through the esses, gained ground when Allmendinger ran wide in the bus stop chicane and got past the No. 47 JTG/Daugherty Chevrolet after setting up a pass with a tap at the exit from the bus stop.
But Allmendinger stayed to Ambrose’s outside through Turn 5 and leaned on the No. 9 Ford through Turn 6, gapping Ambrose down the front straight and pulling away for the win. "Yeah, I mean I knew our car was slick on restarts on the tires, and I knew Marcos was going to try to move me out of the way if he had the opportunity," Allmendinger said. "To his credit, he didn’t wreck me. He just moved me like he should have. I went down into the next corner and leaned on him a little bit to see if I could get a gap and get them racing behind me. I knew if I could just get a three- or four-car-length gap, they weren’t going to get back to me. That was just a fun race. Thanks to the fans for enduring the red flags, the track workers for putting the track back together a couple of times. Everybody at home, if you didn’t love that you are not a fan of racing."
Despite the exchange of the lead on the 89th of 90 laps, Ambrose felt the race may have been decided on the previous restart on Lap 86, when Ambrose took the lead after a side-by-side race through the esses only to lose it when Allmendinger out braked him into Turn 1 before two separate incidents involving Denny Hamlin and Alex Kennedy caused the sixth caution of the afternoon. "I slid coming off Turn 11 after I got the lead (on Lap 86), and he was able to get it back before the caution dropped," Ambrose said. "That was probably the difference between winning and losing the race right there. If I could have held the lead when the caution came out, I would have probably had the advantage on the restart and been able to fend him off. But that's just racing. It's what it is, what it's all about. You try to land him on a restart, take a couple of chances. I'm pleased we got through the S's side by side without wrecking the whole field, because it could have easily happened out there."
The final few laps were worth the wait, but the wait was longer than anyone might have anticipated. A violent crash on Lap 56 near the exit from the Carousel (Turn 5) halted the action for an extended period, as track workers made repairs to severely damaged Armco barriers between Turns 5 and 6. Destroyed in the wreck were the No. 31 Chevrolet of Ryan Newman, which turned sideways and smashed into the guard rail to the right of the racing surface, and the No. 95 Ford of Michael McDowell, which plowed into Newman’s car as it rebounded from the barrier and backed hard into the guard rail on the left side of the course.
Newman was running behind Biffle right before the crash. "From my standpoint, Biffle jumped the curb and hit the splitter or something up on the curb and got out and got across the grass," Newman said. "And I probably could have given him a little bit more (room), but I tried to time it so I could shoot past, but he slowed down when he got back on the race track." --/-- Newman shot across the track into the barrier as he was trying to avoid Biffle. McDowell, on the other hand, hand no chance to avoid Newman’s Chevy. "I’m not sure what happened," McDowell said. "I saw the 16 (Biffle) get wide and the 31 (Newman) come back across the track. I didn’t have time to adjust or move. I tried not to hit Ryan in the door there. That was pretty much it. I was just along for the ride."
The stoppage lasted more than 81 minutes, and after pit stops under caution when the race resumed, Allmendinger passed Edwards for the top spot on Lap 61. He stayed out front, maintaining a lead of more than 1.5 seconds over Ambrose, who moved into second place on Lap 66. And then came the win. "This is what I live for—this is all I talk about," Allmendinger said. "I don’t want to hear that AJ might be the next first-time winner -- I’m tired of hearing that." On Sunday, Allmendinger made sure he won’t ever hear those words again. // NASCAR News Wire
Marcos Ambrose Holds Off Kyle Busch For Fifth Nationwide Series Road Course Win
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Ambrose Celebrates Glen Victory
Recovering from an early spin after contact with Kyle Busch’s Toyota, Marcos Ambrose held off Busch in the closing laps of Saturday’s Zippo 200 at the Glen to win the series-best fifth road course race of his Nationwide Series career. The Australian driver has won four consecutive NNS starts at 2.45-mile Watkins Glen International, having triumphed in three straight from 2008 through 2010 and this year after a three-race hiatus from competition at the Glen. Though Ambrose knows full well the big prizes—a NASCAR Sprint Cup Series victory in the Cheez-It 355 at the Glen (1 p.m. ET on ESPN) and a berth in the Chase—will be contested on Sunday, he was eager to savor the NNS win. "I just want to enjoy today," Ambrose said. "You get to victory lane, and it’s special. I would love to repeat, but it’s a lot of work tomorrow. I want to think about this and get a good night’s rest and come attack them tomorrow."
During an exchange of pit stops with 32 of 82 laps left, Ambrose surged past Joey Logano as the driver of the No. 12 Team Penske Ford exited pit road. When the sequence of stops cycled through, Ambrose, who had pitted one lap earlier than Logano, held the lead, with Logano running second. Ambrose kept the top spot after a restart on Lap 63 that followed the fifth and final caution of the race. With five laps left, Busch roared past Logano but couldn’t get to the bumper of Ambrose’s No. 9 Richard Petty Motorsports Ford in time to make a move for the win. Logano came home third, followed by pole winner Brad Keselowski and Matt Kenseth. Rookie Chase Elliott ran sixth and extended his series lead to 12 points over JR Motorsports teammate Regan Smith, who finished 17th.
The way Logano saw it, losing the spot to Ambrose during the cycle of green-flag stops was crucial. "That was definitely a key moment," Logano said. "If I was able to get in front of him there… all I needed was three-tenths of a second probably, and that would have been enough position into that corner to beat him through the esses and get position. I felt like, if I got clean air and ran hard, that I could have gapped him. "I think at the end of the race, he would have caught me and the 54 (Busch) also. It would have been close. I’m not going to say we would have won the race. It would have been close. Our car was good on the short run. Marcos was steady all the way through and the 54, late in the run, was really fast. If I didn’t run so hard and had clean air and didn’t burn the tires off, would I have lasted longer? Yeah. "Would it have been enough to beat him? We’ll never know. But I feel it would have been closer for us, for sure."
Ambrose agreed. "I think if I hadn’t cleared him right there, he would have been gone," Ambrose said. "Maybe I could have stalked him a little bit and got him in traffic, but we had a fast enough car to lead like that, but it would have been really tough to pass." Before the battle with Logano was even a consideration, Ambrose had to recover from a Lap 6 spin in the bus stop chicane after he and Busch collided near the entrance. "He ducked out late, and then the spotter was late," Ambrose said. "I was already committed to that line, and he thumped my left rear there. It wasn’t intentional. I’ve got no malice against him whatsoever—he spun out, too."
Busch wasn’t quite as charitable in his assessment of the mishap. "We didn’t qualify as well as we needed to and tried to make a move on somebody who didn’t give a crap, and then he just turned into me and spun us out, so that put us behind," Busch said. "We came back and got second."
In a quirky sort of way, the accident may have helped both drivers. Both Ambrose and Busch brought their cars to pit road for fuel and fresh tires under caution on Lap 13. Knifing his way through traffic, Ambrose worked his way back to fifth before pitting again under green on Lap 20, covering stops made by Keselowski (Lap 18) and Logano (Lap 19). "If you’d told me that’s how we were going to do the race, I would have said that’s a bad strategy," Ambrose quipped. "But it worked out for us—first and second. For two guys doing pirouettes in the bus stop, that’s pretty cool. And it just shows you how these races are never over. You can’t quit. Just because you’re in the grass backwards doesn’t mean your race is done." // NASCAR News Wire
Earnhardt Jr. Holds Off Harvick To Complete Sprint Cup Season Sweep At Pocono
Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images
Earnhardt Enjoying Life As A Three-Time Winner
Dale Earnhardt Jr. realized that it took a bit of luck for him to win at Pocono Raceway in June. But he knew his team was firing on all cylinders Sunday when he completed the season sweep. Benefitting from impeccable pit strategy, Earnhardt led the final 14 laps and a car with the performance to hold off Kevin Harvick on a restart with three laps to go to ring up his third victory of the 2014 season in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series GoBowling.com 400. "It wasn’t about luck this time," said Earnhardt, who roared past Brad Keselowski in the June race after Keselowski caught a piece of trash in his grill and began to overheat.
Earnhardt credited crew chief Steve Letarte and his team for not resting on their laurels at Pocono. "We were determined to go home from the last win and improve the car," Earnhardt said. "Steve and the guys studied and improved the setup. We had a little luck on the win the last time with Keselowski having the debris and we wanted to be in the driver’s seat this go-round with a faster car."
Letarte said the homework paid off in a faster Chevrolet. "I feel we unloaded a better car for the second Pocono than we did the first Pocono," he said. "You cannot ever assume a winning car is going to be good enough the next week. While we were excited to win (in June) and we’ll take it, there was room for improvement, so we worked very hard between that race and this race." The result was Earnhardt’s second season sweep of his career (Talladega 2002). He also became the first driver to sweep at Pocono since Denny Hamlin in 2006.
Almost from the outset, Sunday’s 400-miler was a battle of pit strategies regarding fuel strategy and tires. Throw in a 13-car wreck that took much of the field out of contention for the final 34 laps and crew chiefs had their hands full. Letarte made the ultimate decision to take four fresh tires with 39 laps to go, then bring Earnhardt back for a splash of gas 10 laps later. "All we needed to get there was a gallon or two while the rest of the guys in front of us needed four tires and a full tank," Earnhardt said "We were on pit road for two seconds in the box and they were in their pit stalls for 12-14 seconds. We were able to leapfrog those guys. We weren’t technically leading the race when the (next) caution came out, but we were ahead of those guys on where we needed to be. It takes a really, really smart guy to understand what to do and take those gambles. Sometimes they pay off and sometimes they don’t. I’ve got a lot of faith in Steve and the strategy he used today gave us the opportunity to get by some guys that we probably weren’t going to pass on the race track."
It was the fifth consecutive Sprint Cup victory at Pocono for Hendrick Motorsports, which also had Jeff Gordon in contention for much of the race. Gordon, a six-time winner at Pocono, led a race-high 63 laps. He also became the first driver to lead 1,000 laps at Pocono and passed the 24,000 mark in career laps led in Sprint Cup competition. Joey Logano, who led the first 30 laps, finished third ahead of Clint Bowyer and Greg Biffle. Saving fuel, Biffle found himself with the lead after AJ Allmendinger’s crash brought out a caution with 21 laps left. But Biffle couldn’t hold off Earnhardt, who took command with 14 laps to go. "I was heartbroken when that caution came out," said Biffle, who thought strategy had given him a fighting chance. "That just killed our day. We had a 20th-place car but got track position and drove our butt off. (If the race stayed green) it was going to be ‘Mickey Mouse’ –- who would run out of fuel -- unless those guys could catch us."
Earnhardt had opened a 2.7-second lead on Harvick when Kurt Busch hit the wall, bringing out another caution that created the final restart. "With Kevin, I’m racing one of the best," Earnhardt said. "That guy is going to get everything he can out of his car. I was anticipating him being right there on the inside going into (Turn) 1. I knew I was just going to have to really get brave, drive it down in there and pray for it to stick." --/-- Harvick, who overcame a pit road speed penalty on Lap 96 and found himself 14th after driving over a storm drain in avoiding major damage during the 13-car melee, gave it all he could. "I timed that last (restart) pretty good," Harvick said.. "But I couldn’t turn into the corner like I needed to to stay beside him. I thought if I could get beside him going into (Turn) 1 I’d have a chance, but he was a little better than I was in Turn 3."
On his way to his Victory Lane celebration, Earnhardt took a phone call from team owner Rick Hendrick. "I just thanked him for how much he changed my life and how he has supported me," Earnhardt said. "I wanted to thank him and make sure he understood how much I appreciated him. I wanted him to know how much it meant to me that I got the chance to drive this car and get a win today." // NASCAR News Wire