Sprint Cup

NASCAR Sprint Cup News Wire
  • Thursday, July 24, 2014
    Brickyard provides element of unpredictability
    By The Sports Xchange

    NASCAR Wire Service

    • Distributed by The Sports Xchange

      The Brickyard is the home of champions.

      Or is it?

      A quick point-counterpoint on the subject…

      Point

      Heading into the 20th anniversary of NASCAR racing at Indianapolis Motor Speedway (Sunday at 1 p.m. ET on ESPN), legendary names have conquered more often than not.

      For instance,

      -- 15 of the 20 races have been won by past, future or reigning series champions

      -- Eight winners have gone on to win that year's NASCAR Sprint Cup Series championship.

      -- Three NASCAR Hall of Famers have won: Dale Earnhardt, Dale Jarrett (twice) and Bill Elliott. Three others, at least, will undoubtedly one day be enshrined: Jeff Gordon, Jimmie Johnson and Tony Stewar).

      Counterpoint

      Lately, those facts above have been turned on their head.

      The recent winners include Jamie McMurray, Paul Menard and Ryan Newman, all of whom are winless in 2014. Even Stewart, a two-time Brickyard winner, still seeks his first victory of the season.

      A part-time driver like Juan Pablo Montoya could win -- and probably should have in 2009, if not for a pit road speeding penalty. Montoya will make his second NASCAR Sprint Cup Series start of the season on Sunday, driving the No. 12 Team Penske Ford.

      Either way, know this: This race should be interesting.

      No driver falls into both the "legit contender" and "potential surprise" categories like Stewart. The three-time series champion remains winless and in real danger of missing the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup.

      But Stewart boasts a brilliant history at his home track, so there's hope. The two-time Brickyard winner has finished in the top 10 in five consecutive Indianapolis races and nine of the last 10.

      "You always want to win it," Stewart said. "Every driver has a home race. Some of the tracks we go to twice, and Indy is one we get to go to once, and this is our trip to it.

      "If you can only win one race a year, I'm still going to pick the Daytona 500. But if you can't win Daytona as that one race a year, I want to win the Brickyard. It's always big when you come home. It's always big when you have friends and family that don't get the opportunity to go see you race anywhere else but can be there in person to watch and experience it. So you always want to run well."

      Chase Elliott hopes to join Dad on Brickyard wins list

      Chase Elliott, the runaway leader in the Sunoco Rookie of the Year battle, has three wins and the NASCAR Nationwide Series points lead. He's zeroing in on the season wins record of five held by Greg Biffle (2001), Kyle Busch (2004) and Carl Edwards (2005). No rookie has won the Nationwide Series championship.

      But more immediately, there's Indianapolis Motor Speedway, where Chase and his father Bill can become the first father-son winners in NASCAR’s 21-year history at the track.

      The Dawsonville, Ga., native will be making his series debut at Indianapolis this weekend, the track at which his father and NASCAR Hall of Fame inductee Bill Elliott won the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race in 2002.

      "It's one of the places I look back on, I do have memories of The Brickyard win he (Bill Elliott) had, I think it was 2002," Chase Elliott said. "That’s a special racetrack for me. I always love going back there ever since then knowing he has been to Victory Lane. We are going to give it our best shot.”

      JR Motorsports has won seven of the 18 races this season -- Elliott (Texas, Darlington and Chicago), Kevin Harvick (Richmond, Kentucky), Regan Smith (Daytona-1) and Kasey Kahne (Daytona-2). The team has led the driver points after 17 of 18 races this year (Elliott Sadler was the lone outlier, leading the points after Kentucky).

  • Thursday, July 24, 2014
    Wallace Jr. drives truck to Eldora win
    By The Sports Xchange

    By Chris Knight, NASCAR Wire Service

    • Distributed by The Sports Xchange

      In front of a packed house at Eldora Speedway in Rossburg, Ohio, Darrell Wallace Jr. won Wednesday's night second annual 1-800 CarCash Mudsummer Classic. Wallace, a NASCAR Drive for Diversity graduate, earned his second NASCAR Camping World Truck Series (NCWTS) win of the season.

      Wallace led the final 97 laps of the 150-lap race and withstood a relentless effort by Kyle Larson, another NASCAR Drive for Diversity graduate. However, Larson creamed the wall with two laps remaining, sealing Wallace's third career victory in NCWTS competition in the No. 54 ToyotaCare Toyota Tundra for Kyle Busch Motorsports.

      "That's so cool -- on the dirt at Eldora," Wallace said from Victory Lane. "Really? Eldora?

      "The coolest things about it is I came into this hoping we'd finish in the top-five. I was worried about the Toyota streak, not to lie."

      The triumph solidified the 12th consecutive victory for manufacturer Toyota, dating back to Phoenix International Raceway last November.

      The 20-year old took the lead from Ron Hornaday Jr. on Lap 49 and led the field to the first competition caution on Lap 60, completing the first of three segments. Under the yellow, Wallace brought his truck to the attention of the Jerry Baxter-led team where they changed tires and added fuel.

      On the restart, Wallace checked out on the field and led the entire second segment, until the sixth caution flag of the night waved on Lap 112, ending segment two.

      Wallace, along with a majority of the leaders, elected to stay out, setting the tone for the final 40-lap dash to the finish.

      During the final stint, Wallace found himself being haunted by last year's runner-up finisher Larson, with the lead exchanging in the waning laps. Despite what seemed like a never-ending attack by Larson, the Chip Ganassi Racing development driver's countless meetings with the Eldora Speedway walls would finally end his night within sight of the white flag, when a broken brake line sent Larson hard into the Turn 1 wall.

      With no pressure from behind, Wallace was able cruise to give Kyle Busch Motorsports its eighth triumph of the season in 10 races overall. Despite a hiccup two weeks ago at Iowa Speedway, Wallace's slow start to the season has gained serious momentum with two wins and a second in three of the last four races.

      "I think my crew chief showed up," joked Wallace "It's just trial and tribulations that we go through. This team never gives up. We talked about Iowa and moved on from it and I said we were going to bounce back. This is a hell of a way to bounce back."

      Ryan Blaney, who finished third, took over the points lead from Matt Crafton by four points.

      "We struggled for forward drive a lot, we were getting killed off the corners," Blaney said. "I'm happy (though) to come out of here with a top-three finish and the points lead."

      Larson, who led five laps during the final segment, settled for 26th.

      "Thanks to Turner Scott Motorsports for building a strong truck to make it last that long," Larson said. "Didn't realize how stupid I was driving. Sucks, but Darrell (Wallace Jr.) did a really good job. He was fast all day today and he ran close to the wall the whole time and never really hit it."

      Wallace finished 5.4-seconds ahead of second place finisher Ron Hornaday Jr. Blaney was third with Ken Schrader and Ty Dillon rounding out the top-five. John Hunter Nemechek was sixth followed by Jeb Burton, Johnny Sauter, Matt Crafton and the inaugural Eldora winner Austin Dillon.

      Blaney assumed the points lead for the first time this season with his sixth top-five of the year. Crafton trails 369 to 365. Johnny Sauter is third (-10), Hornaday Jr. fourth (-19) and German Quiroga fifth (-26).

      Next up for the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series is a trip to Long Pond, Pennsylvania for the running of the Pocono Mountains 125 at Pocono (Pa.) Raceway on Saturday, August 2.

      NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Race -- 1-800-CarCash Mudsummer Classic

      Eldora Speedway

      Rossburg, Ohio

      Wednesday, July 23, 2014

      1. (6) Darrell Wallace Jr., Toyota, 150, $33585.

      2. (3) Ron Hornaday Jr., Chevrolet, 150, $22160.

      3. (4) Ryan Blaney, Ford, 150, $18510.

      4. (10) Ken Schrader, Toyota, 150, $14410.

      5. (13) Ty Dillon(i), Chevrolet, 150, $9885.

      6. (18) John H. Nemechek, Toyota, 150, $10310.

      7. (2) Jeb Burton, Toyota, 150, $9760.

      8. (5) Johnny Sauter, Toyota, 150, $9710.

      9. (9) Matt Crafton, Toyota, 150, $10660.

      10. (19) Austin Dillon(i), Chevrolet, 150, $8635.

      11. (8) Tyler Reddick #, Ford, 150, $10560.

      12. (24) German Quiroga, Toyota, 150, $9510.

      13. (21) Ben Kennedy #, Chevrolet, 150, $9460.

      14. (7) Joey Coulter, Chevrolet, 150, $9410.

      15. (27) Tyler Young #, Chevrolet, 150, $10185.

      16. (14) Timothy Peters, Toyota, 150, $9310.

      17. (23) Chase Pistone #, Chevrolet, 150, $9260.

      18. (16) JR Heffner, Chevrolet, 150, $9210.

      19. (26) John Wes Townley, Toyota, 150, $6755.

      20. (17) Gray Gaulding #, Chevrolet, 150, $9580.

      21. (15) TJ Bell, Chevrolet, 150, $8905.

      22. (12) Mason Mingus #, Toyota, 150, $7605.

      23. (20) Bryan Silas, Chevrolet, 150, $7555.

      24. (25) Korbin Forrister, Chevrolet, 150, $6505.

      25. (30) Michael Annett(i), Chevrolet, 149, $6605.

      26. (11) Kyle Larson(i), Chevrolet, Accident, 148, $6405.

      27. (29) Norm Benning, Chevrolet, 148, $6355.

      28. (28) Jody Knowles, Ford, 148, $6305.

      29. (1) Erik Jones, Toyota, 144, $6205.

      30. (22) Michael Affarano, Chevrolet, Overheating, 93, $6564.

      Average Speed of Race Winner: 50.195 mph.

      Time of Race: 1 Hrs, 29 Mins, 39 Secs. Margin of Victory: 5.489 Seconds.

      Caution Flags: 7 for 33 laps.

      Lead Changes: 5 among 5 drivers.

      Lap Leaders: E. Jones 1-24; J. Burton 25-31; R. Hornaday Jr. 32-48; D. Wallace Jr. 49-127; K. Larson(i) 128-132; D. Wallace Jr. 133-150.

      Leaders Summary (Driver, Times Lead, Laps Led): D. Wallace Jr. 2 times for 97 laps; E. Jones 1 time for 24 laps; R. Hornaday Jr. 1 time for 17 laps; J. Burton 1 time for 7 laps; K. Larson(i) 1 time for 5 laps.

      Top 10 in Points: R. Blaney -- 369; M. Crafton -- 365; J. Sauter -- 359; R. Hornaday Jr. -- 350; G. Quiroga -- 343; D. Wallace Jr. -- 341; B. Kennedy # -- 332; T. Peters -- 327; J. Coulter -- 312; J. Townley -- 304.

  • Wednesday, July 23, 2014
    NASCAR Driver Capsules, July 23
    By The Sports Xchange

    Capsules for the top 20 drivers in the Sprint Cup standings, plus five additional drivers of note.

    • By Jerry Bonkowski and Bob Moore

      24 JEFF GORDON, Chevrolet

      Team: Hendrick Motorsports

      WHERE HE STANDS: Jeff Gordon remained in first place for the sixth consecutive week after New Hampshire and for 12 of the last 13 weeks. Gordon leads second-ranked Dale Earnhardt Jr. by just 12 points (was 27 points last week).

      INDIANAPOLIS RECORD: 20 career starts, 4 wins, 11 top-5s, 16 top-10s, 3 poles. Best career finish: First in 1994, 1998, 2001 and 2004. Finished seventh in this race last year.

      LOOKING AHEAD: Gordon is still looking for his second win of the season, his fifth overall win at Indy and first there since 2001. Gordon won the first Brickyard 400 in 1994, as well. "It's hard to believe it's been 20 years," Gordon said. "That was such a big event, and Ernie Irvan and I had a great battle where we were passing each other for the top spot before he had a tire issue. Growing up in nearby Pittsboro (Indiana) made that such a special win for me."

      LOOKING BACK: Gordon led 19 laps at New Hampshire, but his car faded and he eventually wound up with a disappointing 26th place finish, the last car on the lead lap.

      ETC.: Gordon has completed 96.2 percent (3,079) of the 3,201 total laps contested in 20 career starts at Indianapolis. His average start there is 12.2 and average finish is an outstanding 8.8. He has one DNF there.

      88 DALE EARNHARDT JR., Chevrolet

      Team: Hendrick Motorsports

      WHERE HE STANDS: Former points leader Dale Earnhardt Jr. remained in second place for the second week. Earnhardt trails points leader and Hendrick Motorsports teammate Jeff Gordon by 12 points and is 24 points ahead of third-ranked Brad Keselowski.

      INDIANAPOLIS RECORD: 14 career starts, 0 wins, 1 top-5s, 4 top-10s, 0 poles. Best career finish: Fourth in 2012. Finished sixth in this race last year.

      LOOKING AHEAD: Earnhardt has never won at Indianapolis, but he's coming off his two best showings there in 2012 (fourth) and last year (sixth, tying his earlier previous best in 2006). Here's his thoughts on Sunday's race: "The shape of the track is unique compared to anything else we race on. Indianapolis is a real technical track. The car must go through each corner pretty much the same and what you might be fighting in one corner you would probably assume you would fight in all of them but all the corners are really different. That makes it a bit of a challenge, a good challenge, trying to get a car that goes fast and doesn't have trouble at one end of the track to make things difficult."

      LOOKING BACK: Earnhardt had a decent run and finished 10th at New Hampshire.

      ETC.: Earnhardt has completed 93.0 percent (2,084 laps) of the 2,241 total laps contested in 14 career starts at Indianapolis. His average start there is 16.9 and average finish is 19.3. He has three DNFs there.

      2 BRAD KESELOWSKI, Ford

      Team: Penske Racing

      WHERE HE STANDS: After two weeks in fourth place, Brad Keselowski moved up to third place after New Hampshire. He trails points leader Jeff Gordon by 36 points (was 65 points prior to Loudon), is 24 points behind second-ranked Dale Earnhardt Jr. and leads fourth-ranked Matt Kenseth by 13 points.

      INDIANAPOLIS RECORD: Four career starts, 0 wins, 0 top-5s, 2 top-10s, 0 poles. Best career finish: Ninth in 2011 and 2012. Finished 21st in this race last year.

      LOOKING AHEAD: Keselowski is looking for his first top-five, if not his first win, at the legendary Brickyard. He's also looking for his second straight win after his triumph at New Hampshire (and third win in the last four races). "We want to win everywhere we go, but the Brickyard does hold more significance with this team than most considering Roger Penske's legacy at Indy," Keselowski said. "We have had some strong runs there in the past, but we just haven't put it all together. Looking at our current performances and the momentum we have right now, I feel like we're well positioned to close the loop on this one and get Team Penske its first Brickyard 400 victory."

      LOOKING BACK: After finishing 18th at Daytona, Keselowski bounced back to earn his second win in three races, adding New Hampshire to his win three weeks earlier at Kentucky.

      ETC.: Keselowski has completed a perfect 100 percent (640) of the 640 total laps contested in four career starts at Indianapolis. His average start is 12.5 and his average finish is 14.5. He has zero DNFs there.

      20 MATT KENSETH, Toyota

      Team: Joe Gibbs Racing

      WHERE HE STANDS: After two weeks in fifth place, Matt Kenseth moved up to fourth place after Loudon. He trails points leader Jeff Gordon by 49 points (after being 71 points behind prior to Loudon), is 13 points behind third-ranked Brad Keselowski and leads fifth-ranked Jimmie Johnson by 23 points.

      INDIANAPOLIS RECORD: 14 career starts, 0 wins, 6 top-5s, 8 top-10s, 0 poles. Best career finish: Second in 2003 and 2006. Finished fifth in this race last year.

      LOOKING AHEAD: Kenseth is still looking for his first win of the season - not to mention his first career win at Indianapolis. "I'm looking forward to this weekend because it's Indy and it's just a really cool track to go to," Kenseth said. "I always feel like this is the second biggest race of the year and everybody wants to win the Brickyard 400. If you could only have two wins, you want the Daytona 500 and the Brickyard 400, so it's a big race weekend for sure. The last few years we haven't been close, but there have been five or six times where we have been really close to winning there and had one of the best cars, but just had problems for whatever reason. I feel like Indy is just one that has just gotten away a lot of times where we've had legitimate chances. Indy is definitely the top of my list, of all the tracks left, of the places that I want to win at for sure."

      LOOKING BACK: Kenseth led 12 laps at New Hampshire and finished fourth.

      ETC.: Kenseth has completed just 90.9 percent (2,038) of the 2,241 total laps contested in 14 career starts at Indianapolis. His average start is 19.2 and his average finish is 15.1. He has two DNFs there.

      48 JIMMIE JOHNSON, Chevrolet

      Team: Hendrick Motorsports

      WHERE HE STANDS: After dropping from second to third after Daytona, Jimmie Johnson dropped two more spots to fifth place after New Hampshire. He trails points leader and teammate Jeff Gordon by 72 points (was 55 before Loudon), is 23 points behind fourth-ranked Matt Kenseth and leads sixth-ranked Carl Edwards by 24 points.

      INDIANAPOLIS RECORD: 12 career starts, 4 wins, 5 top-5s, 6 top-10s, 1 pole. Best career finish: First in 2006, 2008, 2009 and 2012. Finished second in this race last year.

      LOOKING AHEAD: After coming up one spot short in last year's race, Johnson looks to once again become the winningest NASCAR driver at Indianapolis - he and teammate Jeff Gordon are tied among all drivers with four wins each. "Everyone risks it all for Indianapolis," Johnson said. "I'm excited because for a long stretch now we have been able to go there and get it right and be competitive with this Lowe's team. So now I unload there and I understand how to drive the track and I'm able to get us in that window to be competitive. It's a huge honor to be out there kissing the bricks at the end - something I would love to do again."

      LOOKING BACK: Johnson completed just 11 laps before he was involved in a race-ending wreck, resulting in his second consecutive 42nd place finish of the season, first at Daytona the week before and then at Loudon.

      ETC.: Johnson has completed 90.1 percent (1,731) of 1,921 total laps in 12 career starts at Indianapolis. Even with four wins there, his average start is 12.6 and his average finish is 15.6. He also has three DNFs there.

      99 CARL EDWARDS, Ford

      Team: Roush Fenway Racing

      WHERE HE STANDS: Carl Edwards climbed one spot, from seventh to sixth, after New Hampshire. He is now 96 points behind series leader Jeff Gordon (was 108 points back prior to Loudon), is 24 points behind fifth-ranked Jimmie Johnson and leads seventh-ranked Ryan Newman by one point.

      INDIANAPOLIS RECORD: Nine career starts, 0 win, 1 top-5, 3 top-10s, 0 poles. Best career finish: Second in 2008. Finished 13th in this race last year.

      LOOKING AHEAD: Edwards will be making the 10th career start of his Sprint Cup career Sunday at Indianapolis and is still in search of his first career win there (and his second career top-five, for that matter).

      LOOKING BACK: Edwards had a relatively uneventful race at New Hampshire, finishing 13th.

      ETC.: Even though he's never won a Sprint Cup race there, Edwards has completed an almost perfect 99.7 percent (1,436) of 1,440 total laps contested in nine career starts at Indianapolis. His average start there is 19.9 and his average finish is 13.2. He has zero DNFs there.

      31 RYAN NEWMAN, Chevrolet

      Team: Richard Childress Racing

      WHERE HE STANDS: After three straight weeks in eighth place, Ryan Newman moved up one spot to seventh after New Hampshire. He trails points leader Jeff Gordon by 97 points (was 117 points behind before Loudon), is one point behind sixth-ranked Carl Edwards and leads eighth-ranked Kyle Busch by six points.

      INDIANAPOLIS RECORD: 13 career starts, 1 wins, 2 top-5, 3 top-10, 1 pole. Best career finish: First in 2013. Finished first in this race last year (after starting from the pole).

      LOOKING AHEAD: Newman hopes to win a second straight Brickyard 400 on July 27. His win in last year's race all but equaled Newman's Daytona 500 victory several years ago, with significant importance due to being an Indiana native. "It's hard to rationalize a race beating the Daytona 500, but with all that happened to me last year, winning the 2013 Brickyard 400 is kind of in a tie with me winning the 50th running of the Daytona 500," Newman said. "I went through a lot last year. Plus, I am from Indiana and that place is important to my state. I think the most important part of winning at Indy is appreciating the history of the speedway and the history of all the race car drivers who have competed there. Then, to see the list of drivers who have actually fulfilled their dreams of winning there, it's pretty amazing."

      LOOKING BACK: Newman had a good, strong run at Loudon, which is one of his favorite tracks regardless, finishing fifth.

      ETC.: Newman has completed 92.8 percent (1,931) of the 2,081 total laps contested in 13 career starts at Indianapolis. His average start there is an outstanding 7.4 and his average finish is 17.7. He has two DNFs there.

      18 KYLE BUSCH, Toyota

      Team: Joe Gibbs Racing

      WHERE HE STANDS: After climbing from 10th to ninth after Daytona, Kyle Busch jumped up one more spot to eighth after New Hampshire. He trails points leader Jeff Gordon by 103 points (was 127 points back prior to Loudon), is six points behind seventh-ranked Ryan Newman and leads ninth-ranked Joey Logano by 16 points.

      INDIANAPOLIS RECORD: 9 career starts, 0 wins, 2 top-5s, 7 top-10s, 0 poles. Best career finish: Second in 2012. Finished 10th in this race last season.

      LOOKING AHEAD: Busch makes his 10th career start at Indianapolis and is still in pursuit of his first Sprint Cup win there. "Indianapolis is a really cool place," Busch said. "It's got a lot of history. I know the history is not all NASCAR - a lot of it is IndyCar - but it's one of America's oldest speedways. The prestige of winning there is a big deal. It's a unique place to race. ... We've run well there the past couple of times. We haven't qualified well, though, and I think we need to focus on qualifying when we get there and, if we can do that, we will be a heck of a lot better off for the race. Two years ago, I'd say we were pretty close to winning there. We got out front and ran second, third or fourth much of the day. Last year, not so much. We ran around 10th or 12th all day. We need to pick our game back up there."

      LOOKING BACK: Busch gave it everything he had but came up short to Brad Keselowski at New Hampshire, finishing a close second.

      ETC.: Busch has completed 96.7 percent (1,392 laps) of the 1,440 total laps contested in nine career starts at Indianapolis. His average start there is a mediocre 20.9, but has a much-better average finish of 11.6. He has zero DNFs there.

      22 JOEY LOGANO, Ford

      Team: Penske Racing

      WHERE HE STANDS: After moving up to sixth following Daytona, Joey Logano dropped three spots to ninth after New Hampshire. He trails points leader Jeff Gordon by 119 points, is 16 points behind eighth-ranked Kyle Busch and leads 10th-ranked Clint Bowyer by three points.

      INDIANAPOLIS RECORD: 5 career starts, 0 wins, 0 top-5s, 2 top-10, 0 poles. Best career finish: Eighth in 2013. Finished eighth in this race last year.

      LOOKING AHEAD: Logano bounced back after two straight poor performances to finish eighth at Indianapolis last season. He's definitely looking for his first career top-five at the fabled Brickyard, if not his first win there this Sunday. "It's one of our biggest races of the year, it's one of the crown jewels," Logano said of the Brickyard 400. "Everyone wants to win at Indianapolis. I didn't really grow up watching Indy cars, but everyone watched the Indy 500 and knows what it means. There are a handful of tracks that everyone wants to win at. Indy is one of them. And now, driving for Roger Penske, you want to win even more. To try and get him a win in a stock car at a place where he has had so much success would be pretty dang cool. I just want to win any race I can. But I will take Indy for sure."

      LOOKING BACK: Logano was involved in a wreck with Morgan Shepherd on Lap 211 of Sunday's race at New Hampshire, ultimately finishing 40th (Shepherd, ironically, wound up 39th in the final order).

      ETC.: Logano has completed 98.0 percent (784 laps) of the 800 laps contested in five career starts at Indianapolis. His average start there is 17.2 and average finish is a nearly identical 17.4. He has zero DNFs there.

      15 CLINT BOWYER, Toyota

      Team: Michael Waltrip Racing

      WHERE HE STANDS: Clint Bowyer climbed two spots in the standings, from 12th to 10th after New Hampshire. He trails points leader Jeff Gordon by 122 points, is three points behind ninth-ranked Joey Logano and leads 11th-ranked Paul Menard by seven points.

      INDIANAPOLIS RECORD: 8 career starts, 0 wins, 2 top-5s, 2 top-10s, 0 poles. Best career finish: Fourth in 2006 and 2010. Finished 20th in this race last year.

      LOOKING AHEAD: Time is starting to close in on Bowyer to assure that he'll make the revamped and expanded Chase for the Sprint Cup. While he's 10th in the points standings, he's a more precarious 14th in the Chase eligibility standings. If he can get a win in the next seven races, he's likely a lock to make the Chase. If not, he definitely runs the risk of falling short. Here's his thoughts on Sunday's race at Indianapolis: "The history is what you go there for. That place is just so rich and deep in history that you're ecstatic every time you roll into the place. It's like, 'Holy cow, this is Indy.' A lot of big names and a lot of exposure has always been on the place. It doesn't matter what you race or how you came up, you're very fond and very aware of Indianapolis and what that track means to auto racing. It really is cool to be able to race on that race track, but aside from that it's so hard to get around."

      LOOKING BACK: Bowyer had a very strong run at New Hampshire, leading 36 laps before ultimately settling for a still-decent sixth place finish.

      ETC.: Bowyer has completed a perfect 100 percent (1,280 laps) of the 1,280 total laps contested in eight previous career starts at Indianapolis. His average start there is 20.0 and average finish is a significantly better 13.2. He has zero DNFs there.

      27 PAUL MENARD, Chevrolet

      Team: Richard Childress Racing

      WHERE HE STANDS: 11th, only seven points out of the top 10. Would earn a spot in the Chase for the Championship if the Chase began this weekend.

      INDIANAPOLIS RECORD: One win in seven starts.

      LOOKING AHEAD: Menard calls Indianapolis Motor Speedway "the greatest race track in the world. It's the one I circle every year, even before I won there. I spent a lot of time there as a kid watching Indy Car races. We had a tough weekend in Loudon so I'm looking forward to getting back on track at Indy." Adds Menard, "I was at the inaugural Brickyard 400 (as a fan). The track holds a special meaning for me for sure."

      LOOKING BACK: Menard finished 19th at New Hampshire.

      ETC.: Menard said, "I practically grew up at the race track (Indy) watching IndyCar races with my family. It's always special to come here. At one point I could name every Indy 500 winner from 1911 through probably the mid-90's. I've forgotten most of them now, but could still probably name quite a few. I was and still am a big history geek. I love history, especially at Indianapolis."

      11 DENNY HAMLIN, Toyota

      Team: Joe Gibbs Racing

      WHERE HE STANDS: 12th, 18 points out of the top 10. Will make the Chase for the Sprint Cup championship because of his Talladega win.

      INDIANAPOLIS RECORD: Three top-10 finishes in eight starts.

      LOOKING AHEAD: Hamlin won the pole for the 2012 race at Indianapolis Motor Speedway and finished sixth after leading 27 laps. In 2008, he led 26 laps before ending up third. "Those were my two best shots at it (a win)," said Hamlin. "So we know we can run well at Indy. We just have to put together a complete race. Winning at Indy is every driver's dream. Hopefully this is the year we do it."

      LOOKING BACK: Hamlin was running second when he was forced to pit late in the race for fuel. He rallied during the green-white-checkered flag finish to end up eighth at New Hampshire. Hamlin led twice for 20 laps.

      ETC.: Hamlin spent his off week in Lake Tahoe, Nev., where he competed in the American Century Celebrity Golf Championship. Before heading to Lake Tahoe, Hamlin tweeted "can't wait...best week of year." Hamlin was the highest-finishing NASCAR driver during the four day tournament, besting Ricky Stenhouse, Jr., and Michael Waltrip.

      4 KEVIN HARVICK, Chevrolet

      Team: Stewart-Haas Racing

      WHERE HE STANDS: 13th, 20 points out of the top 10. Will make the Chase after winning two of the first 19 races this season.

      INDIANAPOLIS RECORD: One win and seven top-10 finishes including four top-five's in 13 starts.

      LOOKING AHEAD: Harvick said, "Indianapolis is a very hard race track to pass on. Obviously, with how narrow the race track is and how fast the cars are going, you have to try and maintain your track position all day. It takes really everything - you have to have great motors, good handling and all the things you hear about at a lot of race tracks. You can't overcome a lack of horsepower or a lack of downforce and I feel like we've done a good job with both of these things all year. Hopefully, we can find the right handling package to go with the great pieces and parts that we have on the cars."

      LOOKING BACK: Harvick was running second when the green flag was waved for the last time at New Hampshire. But he ran out of gas moments later and finished 30th.

      ETC.: To the surprise of no one, Harvick said his "favorite Brickyard moment is definitely the win (in 2003). I always tell people that the best part of the win is not kissing the bricks or taking the checkered flag, but the best part of the win is driving around in the Corvette after the race. You can tell who the fans are who have been at Indy for a long time and know about the victory lap. So just driving around and reminiscing about what you just achieved with the team owner (Richard Childress) and DeLana (his wife) is just a cool 15 minutes."

      42 KYLE LARSON, Chevrolet

      Team: Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates

      WHERE HE STANDS: 14th, 24 points out of the top 10. Would make the Chase if the Chase for the Championship began this week.

      INDIANAPOLIS RECORD: Will be making his Sprint Cup debut.

      LOOKING AHEAD: Larson said, "I'm definitely looking forward to racing in my first Cup race at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. To be able to race at a track that has such a rich history is a really cool experience. The team is excited about our chances in the Brickyard, and I know the guys back at the shop have put together a really good Target Chevy for this weekend. We will be looking to build upon the solid race we had in Loudon just before the break, and keep pushing hard for a spot in the Chase."

      LOOKING BACK: After finishing third in the Sprint Cup race at New Hampshire, Larson finished third in the Nationwide Series event last Saturday night at Chicagoland Speedway.

      ETC.: Larson feels "I've struggled at most flat tracks where you have to use a lot of braking - Phoenix, Martinsville, Richmond. It's definitely a style of track I've got to get better at. It's a lot different than the style of racing I grew up doing. Nothing I ever did you were hard on the brakes almost coming to a stop and making a U-turn and going the other way. I think that is why I have struggled so far on the flat tracks."

      3 AUSTIN DILLON, Chevrolet

      Team: Richard Childress Racing

      WHERE HE STANDS: 15th. Tied with fellow rookie Kyle Larson, but loses the tiebreaker based on Larson's second place finish at California.

      INDIANAPOLIS RECORD: Finished 26th a year ago in his Sprint Cup debut.

      LOOKING AHEAD: Dillon said, "Everybody knows how prestigious this race (the Brickyard 400 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway) is and just being a part of it with Mycogen Seeds was huge last year, and we get to come back with them this year. We've been running a little better as of late on the ovals, so I'm definitely looking forward to Indy. To become the fourth driver from Richard Childress Racing to win and to do it in my first (full) year in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series would be crazy. It would definitely be an amazing experience."

      LOOKING BACK: After running in the top 10 for much of the race, Dillon had to be content with a 14th place finish at New Hampshire.

      ETC.: Dillon will participate in an autograph session on behalf of Chevrolet on Friday from 8:30 to 9:30 a.m. in Chalets 4 and 5 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. He also will take part in a question-and-answer session from 9:35 to 10 a.m. at the Team Chevy Stage. Wristband distribution for the autograph session will start at 8 a.m. in the Pagoda Plaza.

      16 GREG BIFFLE, Ford

      Team: Roush Fenway Racing

      WHERE HE STANDS: 16th, only five points out of a spot in the Chase.

      INDIANAPOLIS RECORD: Has five top-eight finishes in the last six races including two third place finishes.

      LOOKING AHEAD: Biffle began the week by testing at Michigan, and he feels "pretty good about going to Indy now. We tested there and were about a half second off the cars we tested around. We knew we had to find that speed. So we feel like we have found some of that speed (at Michigan). I was not feeling good about it (racing at Indy this weekend) until this test."

      LOOKING BACK: Biffle rallied in the second half of the race to finish 15th at New Hampshire.

      ETC.: Biffle admits that Roush Fenway Racing has not been on par with fellow Ford-racing Team Penske. "It is pretty obvious that we need to catch up to where the Penske team is," said Biffle. "That is why we are here (Michigan) testing and we are finding some of that speed. We just need to continue to work hard and narrow in on it and see if we can close that gap to the fast Penske cars."

      5 KASEY KAHNE, Chevrolet

      Team: Hendrick Motorsports

      WHERE HE STANDS: 17th, only nine points out of a spot in the Chase.

      INDIANAPOLIS RECORD: Finished third in the race last year for his fifth top-seven finish in 10 starts.

      LOOKING AHEAD: Kahne puts winning at Indianapolis Motor Speedway "definitely at the top of my list. When I was coming up through the sprint car ranks, I raced in the Indianapolis area a lot and learned early on how significant winning at the Brickyard was. It would really mean a lot to me to add my name to the list of drivers that have won at Indy over the years. We've been close a few times, and we had a great run there last year."

      LOOKING BACK: Kahne did not take last weekend off. Instead, he went to Chicagoland Speedway for the Nationwide Series event and finished fourth.

      ETC.: As the Sprint Cup Series heads to Indy, Kahne is the only Hendrick Motorsports driver that has yet to win a race this year or is guaranteed a spot in the Chase for the Championship. But Kahne is optimistic that he will win a race "shortly" and be a part of the Chase. "We've got several good tracks coming up for us, and we are not that far out in the points," said Kahne. "So we feel good about our chances of making the Chase."

      55 BRIAN VICKERS, Toyota

      Team: Michael Waltrip Racing

      WHERE HE STANDS: 18th, 17 points out of a spot in the Chase.

      INDIANAPOLIS RECORD: Two top-five finishes in seven starts.

      LOOKING AHEAD: Vickers will be making his 300th Cup start this Sunday. "That's pretty hard to believe," said Vickers. "I would have never guessed it's been that many. Making it to 300 starts in this sport is certainly a big milestone and I couldn't have done it on my own." When told five drivers have won their 300th start, Vickers said, "That's cool. Let's hope history repeats itself."

      LOOKING BACK: Vickers finished 21st at New Hampshire.

      ETC.: Vickers feels he's been "fortunate enough to race at the world's best tracks like Daytona, Spa in Belgium and others and Indy ranks up there. It doesn't matter who you are, whether you grew up in stock car racing or open wheel or outside our country, everyone recognizes winning at Indianapolis as a major career achievement. That trophy is one that you will put on the mantle."

      14 TONY STEWART, Chevrolet

      Team: Stewart-Haas Racing

      WHERE HE STANDS: 19th, 22 points out of a spot in the Chase.

      INDIANAPOLIS RECORD: Finished fourth a year ago. Will be seeking his sixth straight top-10 finish. Overall has three wins and 11 top-10 finishes including five top-five's in 15 starts.

      LOOKING AHEAD: Stewart calls Indianapolis Motor Speedway "a challenging track in a Cup car. In an Indy car you just don't lift - if the car's right. But in a stock car, even if it's right, you've got to lift and you've got to brake for at least two of the corners. It's a challenging track in an Indy car too, but if can get it right in an Indy car then you can run it wide open around there, and that's one less variable you've got to worry about when it comes to getting around the race track."

      LOOKING BACK: Stewart struggled during the middle portion of the race at New Hampshire, but rallied in the final 75 laps to finish seventh for his seventh top-10 finish of the season.

      ETC.: Stewart returned to his roots last week as he went sprint car racing for the first time since breaking two bones in his lower right leg in a sprint car crash at Southern Iowa Speedway in Oskaloosa, Iowa last Aug. 5. On Friday night, he won the main event at Tri-City Motor Speedway in Auburn, Mich. A night later he finished third at Crystal (Mich.) Motor Speedway. "It was neat to get back in the car, finally, in a scenario that was low pressure," said Stewart, who added that running as well as he did was a confidence boost. "When you necessarily haven't been a contender to be in the top two or three each week and having those opportunities to win races, you start questioning what is it in the equation that you're missing," said Stewart, who is winless this season in the Sprint Cup Series. "It's nice to hopefully eliminate a variable from that side of it and feel like it's not necessarily what you're doing behind the wheel."

      9 MARCOS AMBROSE, Ford

      Team: Richard Petty Motorsports

      WHERE HE STANDS: 20th, 35 points out of a spot in the Chase.

      INDIANAPOLIS RECORD: Best finish in six starts is 16th.

      LOOKING AHEAD: Ambrose said, "Our goal is still to win a race, the only way to basically guarantee you a spot in the Chase, and that goal has not changed. We came out of New Hampshire and slipped a bit, something we really can't do over the next few weeks. There are a lot of points to be gained at Indy, Pocono and of course, Watkins Glen. There are still four or five races after that, too. So, there is a lot of racing left and a lot of good things can happen for our race team."

      LOOKING BACK: Ambrose struggled big time at New Hampshire as he finished 27th.

      ETC.: Ambrose is a two-time winner at Watkins Glen and everybody at Richard Petty Motorsports believe the road course is his best shot at

      Winning a race and making the Chase. But Ambrose said, "We are not putting all our eggs in one basket. We are still concentrating on this weekend and getting a really good finish, the same for the upcoming races. If we can put a string of two or three good runs together, like we have done this year, we have seen how far we can climb in points. That's a big goal of ours, and we're looking to work hard this weekend."

      1 JAMIE MCMURRAY, Chevrolet

      Team: Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates

      WHERE HE STANDS: 21st, 49 points out of a spot in the Chase.

      INDIANAPOLIS RECORD: One win and five top-10 finishes including three top-five's in 11 starts.

      LOOKING AHEAD: McMurray said, "I think the Brickyard 400 is about as special as it gets. I feel that it is one of the toughest tracks to win at because we only race there once a year. Although NASCAR has only been racing at Indianapolis Motor Speedway for 20 years, the history of the track makes it a special place. I think that as far as the racing there, it is critical to get off of turns two and four to get down the long straights, you can make up or lose a lot of time there. It is another flat track so it is hard to pass and track position will be critical."

      LOOKING BACK: McMurray finished 16th at New Hampshire.

      ETC.: With the week off before Indy, McMurray had some time to cherish his victory in the Sprint All-Star Race earlier this season. "I have such a clear vision of those three or four laps with (Carl Edwards) being on the inside of me (as they raced for the lead at the start of the 10-lap shootout), and it's what we wake up every single day and live for is to get in that exact position. It's three or four of the hardest laps I've ever driven in my racing career, and it's one of those memories that I hope I never forget."

      43 ARIC ALMIROLA, Ford

      Team: Richard Petty Motorsports

      WHERE HE STANDS: 22nd. Will make the Chase because of his win at Daytona earlier this month.

      INDIANAPOLIS RECORD: Best finish in two starts is 17th.

      LOOKING AHEAD: Almirola said, "Typically cars that run well at Pocono, especially the tunnel turn, run well at Indy. We've got some work to do because we weren't really happy with our car at Pocono. We've got to be better at the flatter tracks. Indy is a very challenging and fast track. It's one of the races that we all love to go to because of its history, but everything has to be perfect to run well there."

      LOOKING BACK: Almirola struggled at New Hampshire and finished 23rd.

      ETC.: Almirola has always been a motorsports fan. "I grew up watching motorsports," said Almirola. "I always watched the Indy 500. Indy is so special. Knowing the history of the place, having the opportunity to drive around Indy is really special."

      78 MARTIN TRUEX, JR., Chevrolet

      Team: Furniture Row Racing

      WHERE HE STANDS: 23rd, 78 points out of a spot in the Chase.

      INDIANAPOLIS RECORD: Only one top-10 finish in nine starts.

      LOOKING AHEAD: Truex said, "A victory at Indianapolis would be the ultimate double. A win would most likely secure us a spot in the Chase and winning at Indianapolis will go a long way in history of capturing one of NASCAR's crown jewels. Indy is not an easy place to drive. You really got to get your car figured out for all four corners, which is a huge challenge, especially when the sun and shade move around. Aero also comes into play with the high speeds. It's just a very difficult place to race."

      LOOKING BACK: Truex passed 10 cars in the final two laps to finish 12th at New Hampshire.

      ETC.: Truex knows "Indianapolis Motor Speedway will always be a special venue and it's a place where every driver and crew member wants to kiss those bricks following a victory. Stock car drivers and stock car fans were thrilled when the track, known for open-wheel racing and the Indy 500, worked with NASCAR to create the Brickyard 400 twenty years ago. It has given our sport a midseason race that carries plenty of intrigue and excitement."

      41 KURT BUSCH, Chevrolet

      Team: Stewart-Haas Racing

      WHERE HE STANDS: 25th. Will make the Chase because of his Martinsville win.

      INDIANAPOLIS RECORD: Four top-10 finishes in 13 starts.

      LOOKING AHEAD: Busch admits, "Indianapolis is tough. It's been a tough place for me but it became even more of a challenge when they did the diamond cutting of the track. It's just hard trying to find the balance you need that works at the beginning and will get you to the end of the race. We tend to have long, green-flag runs there and, for some reason, it has just been a track where I'm still trying to figure out the nuances you need to have a proper-handling car that gets around there and is fast."

      LOOKING BACK: Busch finished 17th at New Hampshire.

      ETC: Busch made his Indianapolis 500 debut in May and finished sixth as he won the Rookie of the Race Award, the first for a NASCAR driver since Donnie Allison in 1970. "Indy, was all about doing something different," said Busch. "It was a personal challenge to push myself in a totally different driving direction. I love racing and I wanted to challenge myself physically and mentally. But Dale Jr.,(Earnhardt) is the guy that threw down the gauntlet - 'You are representing NASCAR' - and at that point it hit me that this was the bigger than any personal goals. I was going to be judged as the only pure NASCAR driver with no Indy experience to go there and compete with the best of the best in their biggest race."

      47 A J ALLMENDINGER, Chevrolet

      Team: JTG Daugherty Racing

      WHERE HE STANDS: 26th, 84 points out of a spot in the Chase.

      INDIANAPOLIS RECORD: One top-10 finish in five starts.

      LOOKING AHEAD: Allmendinger said, "Indy will be a tough place to get our Kingsford Chevrolet SS to turn and not over rotate. Turn one, you are going so fast and that corner comes up quick and invites you to drive in too deep. It's about flow. Turn two is loose in, but critical to get back to power. Turn three is the most wide open corner with a lot of grip and the most speed in. Turn four, when you get off the corner, it gets loose on exit. Indy is a rhythm place. Being up front is critical because in traffic handling is worse. It's just so tough when you are in traffic."

      LOOKING BACK: Allmendinger finished 18th at New Hampshire.

      ETC.: Allmendinger said he didn't really understand how big racing at Indianapolis was until "I pulled out into Gasoline Alley in a Cup car for the first time. I was like, 'Okay, I think I understand now and I get what it's all about.' Then I went back there with Roger Penske last year to race the Indy 500 and I was like, 'Oh this is what Indy is all about.' It was just an unreal experience. To run the Indy 500 was such a dream come true. The experience alone to do with Roger Penske with leading laps and having a legitimate shot to win the race showed me what being at Indy was all about."

  • Monday, July 21, 2014
    The Green Flag: 20th anniversary at the Brickyard
    By The Sports Xchange

    NASCAR Wire Service

    • Distributed by The Sports Xchange

      Note: Reid Spencer and @nascarcasm have the week off, but will return next week to recap Sunday's NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Indianapolis Motor Speedway (1 p.m. ET on ESPN).

      NASCAR ETC.

      From the very first NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Indianapolis Motor Speedway (won by Indiana's adopted son Jeff Gordon), to the most recent (won by native son Ryan Newman), a bevy of memories has taken root as the series enters the 20th anniversary of racing at the Brickyard. It's a place of champions -- 15 of the 20 winners were either past, future or reigning series champions. And eight winners went on to win that year's championship. ... It's not a record, but it's close. Chevrolet has won 11 consecutive races at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, two short of the all-time record for a manufacturer (Chevrolet, 13 at Talladega from 1999-2005). Kevin Harvick started the streak in 2003 while with Richard Childress Racing, with the likes of Jeff Gordon, Tony Stewart, Jimmie Johnson, Jamie McMurray, Paul Menard and Ryan Newman following suit. ... Indy could be a potential wild-card track on the way to the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup. The Brickyard wins list includes NASCAR Hall of Famers Dale Earnhardt, Dale Jarrett and Bill Elliott. But it also includes some surprises, like Jamie McMurray, Paul Menard and Ryan Newman -- all of whom are looking for their first win of the season, and the likely Chase spot that goes with it. They're among a large group who are relying on an Indy win to lock up a spot in the playoffs. Others include two-time winner Tony Stewart, Kasey Kahne (third last year) and Matt Kenseth (fifth last year).

      Tune-In: NASCAR On Television, July 21-27

      Monday, July 21

      5 p.m., NASCAR America: Scan All 43 Special, NBC Sports Network

      5 p.m., NASCAR Race Hub, FOX Sports 1

      5 p.m., 2008 Allstate 400 at the Brickyard (re-air), ESPN Classic

      5:30 p.m., NASCAR's The List: Iconic Cars, NBC Sports Network

      7 p.m., NASCAR Race Hub (re-air), FOX Sports 2

      8 p.m., Empty Cup: Quest for the 1992 NASCAR Championship (re-air), FOX Sports 2

      4 a.m. (Tue.), Continental Tire Sports Car Challenge Race at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park (re-air), FOX Sports 1

      Tuesday, July 22

      7 a.m., 2009 Brickyard 400 (re-air), ESPN Classic

      9 a.m., 2012 Brickyard 400 (re-air), ESPN Classic

      10 a.m., NASCAR K&N Pro Series Race at New Hampshire (re-air), FOX Sports 1

      11 a.m., 2010 Brickyard 400 (re-air), ESPN Classic

      1 p.m., 2011 Brickyard 400 (re-air), ESPN Classic

      3 p.m., 1998 Brickyard 400 (re-air) ESPN Classic

      5 p.m., NASCAR Race Hub, FOX Sports 1

      5 p.m., NASCAR America Future Stars (re-air), NBC Sports Network

      5 p.m., 1994 Brickyard 400 (re-air), ESPN Classic

      5:30 p.m., NASCAR's The List: Tracks, NBC Sports Network

      6:30 p.m., NASCAR Race Hub (re-air), FOX Sports 2

      7:30 p.m., NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour Race at New Hampshire (re-air), FOX Sports 2

      Wednesday, July 23

      7 a.m., 1995 Brickyard 400 (re-air), ESPN Classic

      10 a.m., NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Practice, FOX Sports 1

      11 a.m., NASCAR Live, FOX Sports 1

      11:30 a.m., NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Final Practice, FOX Sports 1

      1 p.m., 2008 Allstate 400 at the Brickyard (re-air), ESPN Classic

      3 p.m., 2009 Brickyard 400 (re-air), ESPN Classic

      5 p.m., NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Keystone Light Pole Qualifying, FOX Sports 1

      6 p.m., NASCAR America, NBC Sports Network

      6 p.m., NASCAR Race Hub, FOX Sports 1

      7 p.m., NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Qualifying Races at Eldora, FOX Sports 1

      8:30 p.m., NCWTS SetUp, FOX Sports 1

      9 p.m., NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Race at Eldora, FOX Sports 1

      1 a.m. (Thu.), NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Race at Eldora (re-air), FOX Sports 2

      3 a.m. (Thu.), NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Race at Eldora (re-air), FOX Sports 1

      5 a.m. (Thu.), The 600: History of NASCAR's Toughest Race (re-air), FOX Sports 1

      Thursday, July 24

      7 a.m., 2010 Brickyard 400 (re-air), ESPN Classic

      9 a.m., 2011 Brickyard 400 (re-air), ESPN Classic

      11 a.m., 1998 Brickyard 400 (re-air) ESPN Classic

      1 p.m., 1994 Brickyard 400 (re-air), ESPN Classic

      3 p.m., 1995 Brickyard 400 (re-air), ESPN Classic

      5 p.m., NASCAR America, NBC Sports Network

      5 p.m., NASCAR Race Hub, FOX Sports 1

      5 p.m., 2007 Allstate 400 at the Brickyard (re-air), ESPN Classic

      6:30 p.m., NASCAR Race Hub (re-air), FOX Sports 2

      Friday, July 25

      8 a.m., The 10 Greatest Drivers in NASCAR History (re-air), FOX Sports 1

      8:30 a.m., NASCAR Nationwide Series Practice, FOX Sports 1

      10 a.m., NASCAR Live, FOX Sports 1

      10:30 a.m., NASCAR Nationwide Series Final Practice, FOX Sports 1

      11:30 a.m., NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Practice, FOX Sports 1

      1 p.m., NASCAR Race Hub Special, FOX Sports 1

      1 p.m., 2010 Brickyard 400 (re-air), ESPN Classic

      2 p.m., The 10 NASCAR's Greatest Races (re-air), FOX Sports 1

      2:30 p.m., NASCAR's The List: Dale Earnhardt Sr. Moments, NBC Sports Network

      2:30 p.m., NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Race at Eldora (re-air), FOX Sports 1

      3 p.m., 2011 Brickyard 400 (re-air), ESPN Classic

      5 p.m., NASCAR America, NBC Sports Network

      5:30 p.m., TUDOR United SportsCar Championship Race at Indianapolis, FOX Sports 1

      8:30 p.m., The 10 NASCAR's Greatest Finishes (re-air), FOX Sports 1

      3 a.m. (Sat.), NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Practice (re-air), FOX Sports 1

      4:30 a.m. (Sat.), NASCAR Nationwide Series Practice (re-air), FOX Sports 1

      Saturday, July 26

      9 a.m., NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Final Practice, ESPN2

      11 a.m., NASCAR K&N Pro Series Race at State Line, FOX Sports 1

      Noon, NASCAR Nationwide Series Coors Light Pole Qualifying, FOX Sports 1

      2 p.m., NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Coors Light Pole Qualifying, ESPN2

      4 p.m., NNS Countdown, ESPN

      4:30 p.m., NASCAR Nationwide Series Race at Indianapolis

      Sunday, July 27

      9 a.m., NASCAR K&N Pro Series Race at Columbus, FOX Sports 1

      10 a.m., NASCAR RaceDay, FOX Sports 1

      Noon, NSCS Countdown, ESPN

      1 p.m., NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Race at Indianapolis, ESPN

      10:30 p.m., NASCAR Victory Lane, FOX Sports 1

      1 a.m. (Mon.), NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Race at Indianapolis (re-air), ESPN2

      National Series Schedule

      NASCAR SPRINT CUP SERIES

      The Next Race:

      Crown Royal Presents The John Wayne Walding 400 at the Brickyard

      The Place:

      Indianapolis Motor Speedway

      The Date/Time:

      Sunday, July 27, 1 p.m. (ET)

      TV: ESPN

      Radio: IMS Radio,

      Sirius XM Channel 90

      NASCAR NATIONWIDE SERIES

      The Next Race:

      Indiana 250

      The Place:

      Indianapolis Motor Speedway

      The Date/Time:

      Saturday, July 26, 4:30 p.m. (ET)

      TV: ESPN

      Radio: IMS Radio,

      Sirius XM Channel 90

      NASCAR CAMPING WORLD TRUCK SERIES

      The Next Race:

      1-800-CarCash Mudsummer Classic

      The Place:

      Eldora Speedway

      Date/Time:

      Wednesday, July 23, 9 p.m. (ET)

      TV: FOX Sports 1

      Radio: MRN, Sirius XM Channel 90

      NASCAR National Series Standings

      This year, wins matter more than in any season in the 65-year history of the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series.

      Essentially, a win locks a driver into the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup.

      2014 Winners

      Pos Driver Wins

      1. Jimmie Johnson 3

      2. Brad Keselowski 3

      3. Kevin Harvick 2

      4. Joey Logano 2

      5. Dale Earnhardt Jr. 2

      6. Carl Edwards 2

      7. Kyle Busch 1

      8. Kurt Busch 1

      9 Denny Hamlin 1

      10. Jeff Gordon 1

      11. Aric Almirola 1

      NASCAR Sprint Cup Series

      Pos Driver Points

      1 Jeff Gordon 670

      2 Dale Earnhardt Jr. 658

      3 Brad Keselowski 634

      4 Matt Kenseth 621

      5 Jimmie Johnson 598

      6 Carl Edwards 574

      7 Ryan Newman 573

      8 Kyle Busch 567

      9 Joey Logano 551

      10 Clint Bowyer 548

      11 Paul Menard 541

      12 Denny Hamlin 530

      13 Kevin Harvick 528

      14 Kyle Larson # 524

      15 Austin Dillon # 524

      16 Greg Biffle 519

      NASCAR Nationwide Series

      Pos Driver Points

      1 Chase Elliott # 646

      2 Regan Smith 639

      3 Elliott Sadler 638

      4 Ty Dillon # 616

      5 Brian Scott 599

      6 Trevor Bayne 596

      7 Brendan Gaughan 526

      8 Chris Buescher # 523

      9 James Buescher 492

      10 Ryan Reed # 485

      NASCAR Camping World Truck Series

      Pos Driver Points

      1 Matt Crafton 330

      2 Ryan Blaney 328

      3 Johnny Sauter 323

      4 German Quiroga 311

      5 Ron Hornaday Jr. 307

      6 Ben Kennedy # 301

      7 Timothy Peters 299

      8 Darrell Wallace Jr. 293

      9 Joey Coulter 282

      10 John Wes Townley 279

  • Sunday, July 20, 2014
    Conway claims second race in Toronto doubleheader
    By The Sports Xchange

    TORONTO -- IndyCar's road racing ace won another one Sunday.

    • Mike Conway, the British driver hired by Ed Carpenter Racing to conquer these types of tracks, did just that at Exhibition Place in the second half of the Honda Indy Toronto doubleheader.

      Conway also won the April street race in Long Beach, Calif., giving the small Indianapolis-based team three wins this season. Team owner/driver Ed Carpenter won the oval race at Texas Motor Speedway in June.

      Conway got to the lead Sunday because his crew brought him to pit road first for dry-condition tires as the wet track dried. Tony Kanaan tried to catch Conway, but he finished 3.54 seconds behind at the finish.

      The win was the fourth of Conway's career.

      "It feels really good," he said. "It was really difficult conditions in the wet. As soon as I saw the track drying I knew it was time to come in."

      The crew called him in.

      "It was a great call," Conway said.

      Among championship contenders, Will Power gained on Team Penske teammate Helio Castroneves by finishing third to the Brazilian's 12th. Castroneves leads by 13 points heading to the season's final four races.

      Sunday's second race started with drivers positioned based on entrant points entering the weekend, which means Castroneves and Power started on the front row with first-race winner Sebastien Bourdais in 10th.

      The standing start went off mostly without a hitch. Justin Wilson's car did not start from the 15th spot. When the field got to Turn 3, Kanaan got pushed wide when alongside Carlos Munoz. The caution was short, but the skies were darkening.

      Simon Pagenaud incurred heartbreak on Lap 6 when his engine cut out. He spent the next lap trying to work magic from the cockpit, but nothing work. That was a big hit to his title chances, too.

      Sprinkles started on Lap 12, and the next lap was worse. Juan Pablo Montoya missed the corner in Turn 8, nosing headfirst into the tire barrier. James Hinchcliffe's car spun behind Montoya, hitting the tires farther through the corner. Rookie Mikhail Aleshin could not avoid hitting Montoya, and Montoya's car landed on top of Aleshin's cockpit.

      "That was not a good feeling," Aleshin said with tire marks on the front of his helmet. "I couldn't breathe at all; the car was very hot."

      With the rain coming harder, Josef Newgarden and Bourdais tried to stay on slick tires, but that did not work. Newgarden spun at Turn 8.

      It was not over for Newgarden. Along with Justin Wilson, he stayed out on the track with rain tires with about 10 minutes left. But they could not hold back Kanaan or catch Conway.

      After finishing second and third in last year's races here, Bourdais won Sunday's first race from the pole. The four-time champion of the old Champ Car World Series earned his 32nd career win by 3.34 seconds over Castroneves.

      Bourdais last won a pole and a race in 2007, and he is eighth-best in both categories with 32 of each. He broke a tie in wins with Paul Tracy and Dario Franchitti and is tied with Michael Andretti in poles.

      Bourdais gave his team, KV Racing Technology, its second IndyCar win. The other came in 2013 when Kanaan won the Indianapolis 500.

      The last time IndyCar had a true same-day doubleheader was in 1981 when Rick Mears won both races at Atlanta Motor Speedway.

      NOTES: Whereas the lineup for Sunday's first race was determined by Saturday qualifying, Sunday's second race started on entrant points entering the event, which put Team Penske drivers Helio Castroneves and Will Power on the front row. ... Sunday's two races also had different types of starts. The first was the traditional rolling start; the second a standing start. ... James Garner, who died Saturday night in Los Angeles, was more than a Hollywood actor; he was an amateur racer who drove the Indianapolis 500's pace car driver in 1975, '77 and '85. Former 500 winner Parnelli Jones called Garner "a man's man."

  • Sunday, July 20, 2014
    Bourdais takes Race 1 in Toronto
    By The Sports Xchange

    TORONTO -- Finally, Sebastien Bourdais is a winner again in IndyCar after taking Race 1 of the Honda Indy Toronto event on Sunday.

    • Bourdais' last win came Nov. 11, 2007, in a Champ Car race in Mexico City.

      The career win was his 32nd, breaking a tie with Paul Tracy and Dario Franchitti for eighth place.

      Bourdais, who drives for KV Racing Technology, won by 3.34 seconds over series points leader Helio Castroneves.

      KV, a team owned by Kevin Kalkhoven and former CART champion Jimmy Vasser, last won an IndyCar race in 2013 with Tony Kanaan capturing the Indianapolis 500.

      Bourdais finished second and third in last year's doubleheader here.

      "It's really sweet, man," he said. "We had to fight and wait for it for a long time. I was not expecting it because I know how things can go here.

      "I couldn't be any happier with this one."

      Kanaan finished third with Simon Pagenaud fourth.

      Pagenaud was involved in a first-lap spin with contact from rookie Luca Filippi. Pagenaud's team switched out the damaged front wing assembly and got him back in the race.

      Scott Dixon finished fifth.

      Championship contenders Will Power (ninth) and Ryan Hunter-Reay (21st) did not have the best of races, but they will get another chance Sunday afternoon at 4:15 p.m. in the second half of the doubleheader. The morning's first race was delayed by Saturday's rain. Both races are 65 laps, and both award the normal amount of points.

      Hunter-Reay hit the wall after contact with Kanaan. On the next lap, Bourdais ran over front wing debris from Hunter-Reay's car, which scared him. But the tire stayed true, and he soldiered on.

      NOTES: Winner Sebastien Bourdais started on the pole after winning a qualifying session for the first time since 2007 in what was then known as the Champ Car World Series. The pole was the 32nd of his career, tying Michael Andretti for eighth place on the sport's all-time list. ... The last IndyCar race to be postponed by rain was in Sao Paulo, Brazil, in 2011. That race ran its first 15 laps on Sunday and concluded with 40 laps on Monday. ... Same-day IndyCar doubleheaders are indeed rare, although the series ran a pair of shortened races at Texas Motor Speedway in 2011. Before that, the last event of two points-paying races was in 1981 at Atlanta Motor Speedway. Rick Mears won both of those races.

      Verizon IndyCar Series

      Honda Indy Toronto Race 1

      TORONTO -- Results Sunday of the Honda Indy Toronto Verizon IndyCar Series event on the 1.755-mile Exhibition Place street circuit with order of finish, starting position in parentheses, driver, chassis-engine, laps completed and reason out (if any):

      1. (1) Sebastien Bourdais, Dallara-Chevy, 65, Running

      2. (2) Helio Castroneves, Dallara-Chevy, 65, Running

      3. (5) Tony Kanaan, Dallara-Chevy, 65, Running

      4. (4) Simon Pagenaud, Dallara-Honda, 65, Running

      5. (9) Scott Dixon, Dallara-Chevy, 65, Running

      6. (11) Graham Rahal, Dallara-Honda, 65, Running

      7. (18) Charlie Kimball, Dallara-Chevy, 65, Running

      8. (8) James Hinchcliffe, Dallara-Honda, 65, Running

      9. (23) Will Power, Dallara-Chevy, 65, Running

      10. (7) Justin Wilson, Dallara-Honda, 65, Running

      11. (19) Mikhail Aleshin, Dallara-Honda, 65, Running

      12. (21) Ryan Briscoe, Dallara-Chevy, 65, Running

      13. (15) Jack Hawksworth, Dallara-Honda, 65, Running

      14. (17) Carlos Huertas, Dallara-Honda, 65, Running

      15. (13) Mike Conway, Dallara-Chevy, 65, Running

      16. (20) Marco Andretti, Dallara-Honda, 65, Running

      17. (14) Carlos Munoz, Dallara-Honda, 65, Running

      18. (22) Juan Pablo Montoya, Dallara-Chevy, 64, Running

      19. (16) Sebastian Saavedra, Dallara-Chevy, 64, Running

      20. (10) Josef Newgarden, Dallara-Honda, 63, Contact

      21. (3) Ryan Hunter-Reay, Dallara-Honda, 39, Contact

      22. (6) Luca Filippi, Dallara-Honda, 17, Contact

      23. (12) Takuma Sato, Dallara-Honda, 10, Contact

      Race Statistics

      Winner's average speed: 90.370

      Time of Race: 01:15:44.3232

      Margin of victory: 3.3408

      Cautions: 2 for 5 laps

      Lead changes: 3 among 3 drivers

      Lap Leaders: Bourdais 1-33; Castroneves 34; Pagenaud 35-40; Bourdais 41-65.

      Point Standings: Castroneves 512, Power 484, Pagenaud 454, Hunter-Reay 448, Montoya 417, Munoz 371, Dixon 361, Andretti 351, Kanaan 340, Bourdais 336.

  • Sunday, July 20, 2014
    Rookie Elliott claims third Nationwide win
    By The Sports Xchange

    By Jerry Bonkowski

    • NASCAR Wire Service

      Distributed by The Sports Xchange

      JOLIET, Ill. – Third time's a charm. But so was the first and the second.

      Accomplishing feats uncharacteristic for a rookie, Chase Elliott won again Saturday night, leading 85 of 200 laps en route to his third win of the season in the EnjoyIllinois.com 300 NASCAR Nationwide Series race at Chicagoland Speedway.

      Elliott took the lead for the fourth and final time on Lap 177 and held on for the final 23 laps, winning by 1.7 seconds. The NNS Sunoco Rookie of the Year frontrunner tied Kyle Busch for most wins in the series this season, each with three visits to Victory Lane in the first 19 races.

      "This is an unbelievable night," Elliott said. "We were fortunate enough to be in contention on that last pit stop, the guys busted their butts for me and that was the deciding factor.

      "We all as a team, we completed our task tonight. And that was the difference."

      Trevor Bayne finished second, followed by Kyle Larson, Kasey Kahne and Ty Dillon.

      "We got our car turning there at the end," Bayne said. "That's probably the strongest weekend we've had in a while. Had it stayed green for another 15, we might have had it, but that's 15 laps we'll never know about."

      Larson said, "I thought we had a real good car. I had some fun, just frustrating coming in third when I thought we had a real good chance to win."

      As for Dillon, "I've got a feeling that we can keep doing this as the year goes on," he said. "The car was coming to me there at the end."

      In addition to the race winner, Kahne was the second JR Motorsports driver in the top five. It almost didn't happen for Kahne, who had a late brush with the wall that did just enough damage to keep him from making a last-ditch run toward the front.

      Pole-sitter Brian Scott made $100,000 in the Nationwide Insurance Dash 4 Cash for finishing sixth, ahead of fellow D4C competitors Chris Buescher (eighth), Elliott Sadler (10th) and Regan Smith (16th).

      Seventh through 10th were Erik Jones (in his NNS debut), Buescher, Ryan Blaney and Sadler.

      Smith, who was the points leader coming into the race, struggled with a loose car and finished with a disappointing 16th.

      Elliott's win also vaulted him from third to the top of the Nationwide points standings. He now leads Smith by seven points and Sadler by eight.

      A series of green-flag pit stops around Lap 161 shuffled the field with teams hoping they could make it to the finish without it turning into a fuel-mileage race.

      Bayne took the lead on Lap 161 when the leaders made stops for service and held on until he had to come in on Lap 176 for four tires and fuel. Elliott inherited the lead and kept it for the remainder of the race.

      Scott led 20 laps early on before Blaney, Elliott and Larson took their turns ahead of the field.

      Sam Hornish Jr., who started at the back of the field because of unapproved adjustments, quickly worked his way up to the middle of the pack only to have uncharacteristic engine failure in his Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota that ended his night just eight laps into the event, finishing 36th in the 40-car field.

      "It felt like we were going to have a really good day and felt like this was going to be a race where we had opportunity to lead laps and potentially win," Hornish told ESPN.

  • Sunday, July 20, 2014
    Rain postpones IndyCar race in Toronto
    By The Sports Xchange

    TORONTO -- The IndyCar race never got started Saturday at Exhibition Place.

    • Persistent and consistent rain arrived just as the cars were rolling into position for the start of the Honda Indy Toronto. The field completed 12 laps in two attempts to get going, but the conditions never improved and the green flag never waved.

      The race was called shortly after 6 p.m. ET.

      IndyCar will stage two races Sunday. The morning race will use a starting lineup based on Saturday's qualifying.

      The second race, scheduled for 3:55 p.m., will set its lineup based on entrant points, per the rulebook. Both races will be 65 laps or 80 minutes, whichever comes first.

      Three cars slid off the track during the wet conditions, one involving pace car driver Arie Luyendyk, a former driver who won two Indianapolis 500s. He did not make contact with anything, but Will Power and Ryan Briscoe did.

      Power hit the wall enough to damage his car's left rear suspension, but his team made repairs during the stoppage. Briscoe slid into a tire barrier.

      Qualifying for a street circuit generally isn't that newsworthy, especially when it happens on the morning of the race, but it was Saturday.

      Sebastien Bourdais earned the top spot in IndyCar for the first time since his days as Champ Car's four-time series champion. Bourdais' last pole came Sept. 2, 2007, at the TT Assen circuit in the Netherlands.

      "I've been on pole in sports cars and everything in between, but it's racing and everyone suffers from short-term memory," said the driver with 31 wins in Champ Car but none in the combined open-wheel series. "You have to prove yourself every time you get in the car. I know that it's the way that it is. I don't care. I don't race to prove points to people."

      Power was happy for his Champ Car contemporary.

      "He's getting back to where he should be," he said. "Everyone knows he's a champion."

      The pole allowed Bourdais to tie Michael Andretti for eighth place with 32 career poles.

      Also in qualifying, Simon Pagenaud crashed completing his final lap in the Firestone Fast Six pole-determining session, putting his crew in hurry-up mode just five hours before the race.

      NOTES: Difficult as it is to believe, Marco Andretti has started 145 consecutive IndyCar races, which is tied for eighth all time. Tony Kanaan is the leader at 227 (and counting). ... IndyCar is in the middle of its third and final doubleheader of the season. The format will continue in 2015 even though the drivers think the physical demand on them (and mechanics) is too much. Detroit promoter Bud Denker said he's seen Saturday attendance at that event increase by 20 percent and overall sponsorship jump 12 percent. ... This Toronto event is expected to return next season, but it will move off its traditional date because Exhibition Place will host the Pan American Games.

  • Sunday, July 20, 2014
    Four drivers prepare for dash to cash in
    By The Sports Xchange

    NASCAR Wire Service

    • Distributed by The Sports Xchange

      This is no joke.

      Listen to NASCAR Nationwide Series drivers talk about the intense desire to win the Dash 4 Cash. It's not lip service. There's some serious green on the line.

      Consider this: Regan Smith took home $100,000 last Saturday at New Hampshire Motor Speedway, the first of four rounds in the Nationwide Dash 4 Cash. The race winner has won more than $100,000 in just one race this season -- the season opener at Daytona (which, coincidentally, was won by Smith).

      So this is a big deal. On the final lap Saturday night at Chicagoland Speedway (8:30 p.m. ET on ESPN2), there could be fireworks. You don't get a chance at 100 grand every race.

      Smith and the top-three finishing NASCAR Nationwide Series championship contenders in last weekend's race at New Hampshire -- Chris Buescher, Elliott Sadler and Brian Scott -- qualified for the second round of the Dash 4 Cash program at Chicagoland. The top finisher among that group will win the $100,000.

      "Chicago should be pretty good for us," said Buescher, a Sunoco Rookie of the Year contender. "It is really cool being a part of the Dash 4 Cash program and having the opportunity to put on a show. We had an awesome run at New Hampshire, finished fifth and had some really good pit strategy. Everything worked out in our favor and I am really proud of all of our guys.

      "I am hoping that we can keep the momentum rolling in our Ford EcoBoost Mustang and not only get the Nationwide Dash 4 Cash, but capture another top five or possibly a win at Chicagoland."

      Among this round's qualifiers, Sadler and Scott have enjoyed the most success at Chicago. Sadler, who calls Chicagoland one of his favorite tracks (and cities), has made nine starts there, posting one win (2012), four top 10s and an average finish of 15.6.

      "Chicagoland has always been one of my favorite stops on our Nationwide Series schedule," Sadler said. "Not only do I enjoy racing at Chicago, I also strongly enjoy the city entertainment too. For the past couple years, I've traveled out to Chicago early with family and friends to enjoy the festivities the city has to offer.

      "After the fun is over with the family and friends, the goal will be to lock down a great qualifying position, secure a strong finish, capture the points lead and win the Dash 4 Cash."

      Scott has made seven series starts at Chicago, posting three top 10s, his first career Coors Light pole and an average finish of 9.8 -- the second-best average finish among active drivers.

      "Chicago has been a good racetrack for me in the Nationwide Series," Scott said. "I'm always excited when we go there. I'm disappointed with how we performed in Chicago last year (he finished 11th and 14th in the series' two Chicagoland Speedway stops).

      "Chicago is one of my better 1.5-mile tracks and we have a package now at RCR where I feel like when we go back, I think we'll be really strong and really stout. It's one of my favorite racetracks."

      The highest finisher of the four eligible drivers at Chicago will win the money and automatically qualify for the Dash 4 Cash at Indianapolis the following weekend. The next three highest finishing Nationwide Series regulars at Chicago not already qualified will also get to compete for the $100,000 bonus at Indianapolis (July 26). The final event at Iowa Speedway (Aug. 2) will carry the same qualifying requirements.

      If Smith can win the next two legs of the Dash 4 Cash and the Iowa race outright, Nationwide Insurance will award him an extra $600,000 -- totaling $1 million.

      "Now we have another shot at it again at Chicago," Smith said. "It’s a really cool program that Nationwide has put together, and everyone wants to be part of it. I'm grateful to be one of the four competing again."

  • Sunday, July 20, 2014
    NASCAR Next drivers take center stage
    By The Sports Xchange

    What do Kyle Larson, Chase Elliott and Dylan Kwasniewski have in common with the likes of Kenzie Ruston, Brandon McReynolds and Ryan Gifford?

    • They've all been members of the NASCAR Next program that helps promote young drivers in NASCAR's national and touring series. Larson, Elliott and Kwasniewski used it as a springboard to bigger and better endeavors in stock cars, while the likes of Ruston, McReynolds and Gifford are part of a talented 2014 NASCAR Next class that hopes to do the same.

      The 2014 class gathered Wednesday at the GoPro Motorplex in Mooresville, North Carolina, for a day of fellowship, meeting and talking with the media – and racing go-karts against each other and the media in a friendly, yet competitive environment.

      This year's Next class includes not only Ruston, McReynolds and Gifford, but also rising stars such as recent NASCAR Camping World Truck Series winner Erik Jones, Cole Custer, Ruben Garcia Jr., Gray Gaulding, Austin Hill, Jesse Little, Dylan Lupton, Ryan Preece and Ben Rhodes, who has won five K&N Pro Series East races this season overall, including four in a row.

      "It's very humbling that they even picked me to be in the program, to tell you the truth," said Ruston, 22, the only woman in the group. "When you look at how much success Kyle Larson and Chase Elliott and Dylan Kwasniewski have had, and how many other people have been in this program and gone on to be very successful, I just think it's very cool to be able to be a part of it. I just hope that one day I can be a respected alumni of this program like they all are. This program has definitely helped my career a lot over the last two years."

      Ruston finished sixth in last year's K&N Pro Series East standings and has scored top-five finishes this season at Five Flags and Langley. The native of Reno, Okla., has the highest finish – both in a race and in the championship standings – for a female driver in K&N Pro Series East history.

      McReynolds, the son of former championship crew chief Larry McReynolds who is now a respected NASCAR television analyst, said that the Next program helps young drivers develop in a number of ways.

      "The Next program, with Chase Elliott and Kyle Larson and Dylan Kwasniewski and Corey Lajoie having gone through it and gone on to become so successful at whatever they're doing, I think NASCAR likes to point that out. ... To be part of that Next group is humbling," said McReynolds, who has starts in four different NASCAR series and presently is third in the K&N Pro Series West standings. "I think this group we've got now, they're all good race-car drivers and they're good at speaking with the media and representing sponsors – and those are the tools that NASCAR Next lets you try to build on, so you'll be successful at the next level."

      Now in its third year, the program features 12 drivers actively competing in a NASCAR touring or weekly series selected through an evaluation process that included input from industry executives and veteran racers. Its goal is to spotlight a group of young competitors who will resemble the "face" of NASCAR into the next decade. They represent diverse backgrounds and each has a unique story to tell – as well as the talent worthy of a being a NASCAR Next selection.

      The 2014 participants range in age from 16 (Custer and Gaulding) to 25, making Gifford the "old guy" of the bunch. Gaulding joked that he recently had to go through a driver's education class to get his regular driver's license.

      "Yeah, it was kind of weird," said Gaulding, who is the youngest pole winner in both the K&N Pro Series East and the K&N Pro Series West, and is competing in select Camping World Truck Series races this season. "Here I am going 180 (miles per hour) on weekends, and then during the week I had to sit through a driver's ed class. It was OK, though. I read through the book – and I had a pretty girl sit beside me, too, while I was doing it."

      If you get the idea that the members of the 2014 NASCAR Next class enjoy being around each other, that would be correct. Gifford, also a member of the NASCAR Drive for Diversity program who is in his second year as part of the NASCAR Next program, said it has been a great experience that he believes will help him in many ways as he attempts to forge a career in the sport going forward.

      "It's been fun. I've had a lot of opportunity to meet great people and make great friendships," said Gifford, who has won at Richmond in the K&N Pro Series East and also driven in the Nationwide Series. "A lot of times when we're at the race track, we don't get to talk. We're so busy focused on what we're trying to do and trying to win races that we don't really have time to talk or hang out.

      "This gives us an opportunity to hang out and be friends outside the race track. Then we go race hard against each other when we get there. To work as hard as you have to in this sport to even get to this level, it's nice to be recognized like this. It's nice to be recognized in a group that has included guys like Kyle (Larson) and Darrell (Wallace Jr.). That's really cool."

  • Sunday, July 20, 2014
    NASCAR Driver Capsules, July 16
    By The Sports Xchange

    Capsules for the top 20 drivers in the Sprint Cup standings, plus five additional drivers of note.

    • By Jerry Bonkowski and Bob Moore

      24 JEFF GORDON, Chevrolet

      Team: Hendrick Motorsports

      WHERE HE STANDS: Jeff Gordon remained in first place for the sixth consecutive week after New Hampshire and for 12 of the last 13 weeks. Gordon leads second-ranked Dale Earnhardt Jr. by just 12 points (was 27 points last week).

      INDIANAPOLIS RECORD: 20 career starts, 4 wins, 11 top-5s, 16 top-10s, 3 poles. Best career finish: First in 1994, 1998, 2001 and 2004. Finished seventh in this race last year.

      LOOKING AHEAD: Gordon is still looking for his second win of the season, and is also looking for his first win at Indy since 2001. "Yeah, every time it's something special when you go to Indianapolis," Gordon said. "It's just such a cool place, so much history, and obviously a lot of great memories for me and confidence. As a driver when I go there, of course it takes a great car and a great team to win that race, but it seems like most years that we've been there, we've had a car that's capable of winning. With the type of season that we're having, I'm extremely excited about going to Indianapolis. I think that the way that our cars are performing, the way our engines are performing, Indianapolis is a track that we certainly can win at. It's hard to believe it's been 20 years, but looking forward to celebrating those 20 years hopefully with another win."

      LOOKING BACK: Gordon led 19 laps at New Hampshire, but his car faded and he eventually wound up with a disappointing 26th-place finish, the last car on the lead lap.

      ETC.: Gordon has completed 96.2 percent (3,079) of the 3,201 total laps contested in 20 career starts at Indianapolis. His average start there is 12.2 and average finish is an outstanding 8.8. He has one DNF there.

      88 DALE EARNHARDT JR., Chevrolet

      Team: Hendrick Motorsports

      WHERE HE STANDS: Former points leader Dale Earnhardt Jr. remained in second place for the second week. Earnhardt trails points leader and Hendrick Motorsports teammate Jeff Gordon by 27 points and is 24 points ahead of third-ranked Brad Keselowski.

      INDIANAPOLIS RECORD: 14 career starts, 0 wins, 1 top-5s, 4 top-10s, 0 poles. Best career finish: Fourth in 2012. Finished sixth in this race last year.

      LOOKING AHEAD: Earnhardt has never won at Indianapolis, but he's coming off his two best showings there in 2012 (fourth) and last year (sixth, tying his earlier previous best in 2006).

      LOOKING BACK: Earnhardt had a decent run and finished 10th at New Hampshire. Although after the race, he complained about how he and his team should have finished higher than they did. "I think we worked real hard to finish where we finished," Earnhardt said after the race. "The guys worked their guts out every practice. We changed a lot of stuff on the car. It was real disappointing not to have the speed a lot of those other guys had. The No. 2 (Brad Keselowski) and the Gibbs guys they were all real fast. Hats off to them because they surely got their cars figured out. It's just real frustrating all day long to be playing second fiddle. We worked really hard all day to finish 10th. Pretty disappointing we will go home and work on it and try to do better."

      ETC.: Earnhardt has completed 93.0 percent (2,084 laps) of the 2,241 total laps contested in 14 career starts at Indianapolis. His average start there is 16.9 and average finish is 19.3. He has three DNFs there.

      2 BRAD KESELOWSKI, Ford

      Team: Penske Racing

      WHERE HE STANDS: After two weeks in fourth place, Brad Keselowski moved up to third place after New Hampshire. He trails points leader Jeff Gordon by 36 points (was 65 points prior to Loudon), is 24 points behind second-ranked Dale Earnhardt Jr. and leads fourth-ranked Matt Kenseth by 13 points.

      INDIANAPOLIS RECORD: Four career starts, 0 wins, 0 top-5s, 2 top-10s, 0 poles. Best career finish: Ninth in 2011 and 2012. Finished 21st in this race last year.

      LOOKING AHEAD: Keselowski is looking for his first top-five, if not his first win, at the legendary Brickyard. He's also looking for his second straight win after his triumph this past Sunday at New Hampshire (and third win in the last four races).

      LOOKING BACK: After finishing 18th at Daytona, Keselowski bounced back to earn his second win in three races, adding New Hampshire to his win three weeks ago at Kentucky. "Where do I start? The team was just really on it today," Keselowski said after the race. "It really feels like we've hit our stride, and I'm kind of quiet and somber because I want to soak it all in. I don't want this moment to go away so quick. It seems like you get in Victory Lane and you're rushed around left and right you don't really get a chance to soak it in. This was just such a phenomenal weekend, and these don't happen that often, and that's what makes it special. You try to appreciate them and enjoy them and hope that there's more but not count on it, because these are big deals, winning races at the Sprint Cup level - sweeping a weekend, and it's all possible because of the hard work and effort from everyone at Team Penske. I can drive the heck out of a car, but you can only do so much. You've got to have a good horse, and we had that today. I'm just really, really thankful and happy with the form we have."

      ETC.: Keselowski has completed a perfect 100 percent (640) of the 640 total laps contested in four career starts at Indianapolis. His average start is 12.5 and his average finish is 14.5. He has zero DNFs there.

      20 MATT KENSETH, Toyota

      Team: Joe Gibbs Racing

      WHERE HE STANDS: After two weeks in fifth-place, Matt Kenseth moved up to fourth-place after Loudon. He trails points leader Jeff Gordon by 49 points (after being 71 points behind prior to Loudon), is 13 points behind third-ranked Brad Keselowski and leads fifth-ranked Jimmie Johnson by 23 points.

      INDIANAPOLIS RECORD: 14 career starts, 0 wins, 6 top-5s, 8 top-10s, 0 poles. Best career finish: Second in 2003 and 2006. Finished fifth in this race last year.

      LOOKING AHEAD: Kenseth is still looking for his first win of the season - not to mention his first career win at Indianapolis.

      LOOKING BACK: Kenseth led 12 laps at New Hampshire and finished fourth. "Green-white-checkers on 80 lap tires are always exciting," Kenseth said. "I got a good move in (turns) one and two and got a couple of those there and Kyle (Larson) and I got racing. I had a good run off of (turn) two and was going to try to go in the corner and use him up as much as I could -- and he got up in the third groove and grabbed that sticky stuff and raced it off the corner. So, we both raced as hard as we could there without wrecking. That was fun, except for him beating me -- that part was no good. The rest was fun. Overall, it was a good day. ... I feel like we're definitely moving in the right direction."

      ETC.: Kenseth has completed just 90.9 percent (2,038) of the 2,241 total laps contested in 14 career starts at Indianapolis. His average start is 19.2 and his average finish is 15.1. He has two DNFs there.

      48 JIMMIE JOHNSON, Chevrolet

      Team: Hendrick Motorsports

      WHERE HE STANDS: After dropping from second to third after Daytona, Jimmie Johnson dropped two more spots to fifth place after New Hampshire. He trails points leader and teammate Jeff Gordon by 72 points (was 55 before Loudon), is 23 points behind fourth-ranked Matt Kenseth and leads sixth-ranked Carl Edwards by 24 points.

      INDIANAPOLIS RECORD: 12 career starts, 4 wins, 5 top-5s, 6 top-10s, 1 pole. Best career finish: First in 2006, 2008, 2009 and 2012. Finished second in this race last year.

      LOOKING AHEAD: After coming up one spot short in last year's race, Johnson looks to once again become the winningest NASCAR driver at Indianapolis - he and teammate Jeff Gordon are tied among all drivers with four wins each.

      LOOKING BACK: Johnson completed just 11 laps before he was involved in a race-ending wreck, resulting in his second consecutive 42nd-place finish of the season, first at Daytona the week before and then at Loudon. "The first one (tire issue he had just a few laps into the race), I was able to drive the car all the way through Turns 1 and 2. I knew I had a flat and then got down the back and came in. The other one just blew on the straight as soon as I hit the brakes. I'm not sure what caused it. I'm sure there will be a lot of speculation and I'm sure finger pointing back to the teams or our team. But we saw some issues here especially with that particular tire the last couple of days. We will try to dig in and learn more, but I can promise you one thing is wasn't low tire pressure. I've been out here for two days running around and haven't had a flat."

      ETC.: Johnson has completed 90.1 percent (1,731) of 1,921 total laps in 12 career starts at Indianapolis. Even with four wins there, his average start is 12.6 and his average finish is 15.6. He also has three DNFs there.

      99 CARL EDWARDS, Ford

      Team: Roush Fenway Racing

      WHERE HE STANDS: Carl Edwards climbed one spot, from seventh to sixth, after New Hampshire. He is now 96 points behind series leader Jeff Gordon (was 108 points back prior to Loudon), is 24 points behind fifth-ranked Jimmie Johnson and leads seventh-ranked Ryan Newman by one point.

      INDIANAPOLIS RECORD: Nine career starts, 0 win, 1 top-5, 3 top-10s, 0 poles. Best career finish: Second in 2008. Finished 13th in this race last year.

      LOOKING AHEAD: Edwards will be making the 10th career start of his Sprint Cup career next Sunday at Indianapolis and is still in search of his first career win there (and his second career top-five, for that matter).

      LOOKING BACK: Edwards had a relatively uneventful race at New Hampshire, finishing 13th.

      ETC.: Even though he has never won a Sprint Cup race there, Edwards has completed an almost perfect 99.7 percent (1,436) of 1,440 total laps contested in nine career starts at Indianapolis. His average start there is 19.9 and his average finish is 13.2. He has zero DNFs there.

      31 RYAN NEWMAN, Chevrolet

      Team: Richard Childress Racing

      WHERE HE STANDS: After three straight weeks in eighth place, Ryan Newman moved up one spot to seventh after New Hampshire. He trails points leader Jeff Gordon by 97 points (was 117 points behind before Loudon), is one point behind sixth-ranked Carl Edwards and leads eighth-ranked Kyle Busch by six points.

      INDIANAPOLIS RECORD: 13 career starts, 1 wins, 2 top-5, 3 top-10, 1 pole. Best career finish: First in 2013. Finished first in this race last year (after starting from the pole).

      LOOKING AHEAD: Newman hopes to win a second straight Brickyard 400 on July 27. His win in last year's race all but equaled Newman's Daytona 500 victory several years ago, with significant importance due to being an Indiana native.

      LOOKING BACK: Newman had a good, strong run at Loudon, which is one of his favorite tracks regardless, finishing fifth. "We just finally got to where we should have been running all day in the last little bit there," Newman said after the race. "Good run for the Caterpillar Chevrolet team. The guys did a good job today. Thank all the fans for coming out. I enjoyed the modified races as well as this Cup race. We had a really good long run car we just never got the track position we needed to really show it. The longer runs there at the end paid off and that restart was obviously to our advantage."

      ETC.: Newman has completed 92.8 percent (1,931) of the 2,081 total laps contested in 13 career starts at Indianapolis. His average start there is an outstanding 7.4 and his average finish is 17.7. He has two DNFs there.

      18 KYLE BUSCH, Toyota

      Team: Joe Gibbs Racing

      WHERE HE STANDS: After climbing from 10th to ninth after Daytona, Kyle Busch jumped up one more spot to eighth after New Hampshire. He trails points leader Jeff Gordon by 103 points (was 127 points back prior to Loudon), is six points behind seventh-ranked Ryan Newman and leads ninth-ranked Joey Logano by 16 points.

      INDIANAPOLIS RECORD: 9 career starts, 0 wins, 2 top-5s, 7 top-10s, 0 poles. Best career finish: Second in 2012. Finished 10th in this race last season.

      LOOKING AHEAD: Busch makes his 10th career start next week at Indianapolis and is still in pursuit of his first Sprint Cup win there.

      LOOKING BACK: Busch gave it everything he had but came up short to Brad Keselowski at New Hampshire, finishing a close second. "The guys did a great job today," Busch said after the race. "This Interstate Batteries Camry was good. Should have been anywhere from fourth to sixth, but we made a gutsy call there at the end to stay out and see if we can make it on fuel -- barely made it, ran out right at the start-finish. Couldn't have timed it more perfect. That was good. Solid effort for our team. We still know we got a little bit of work to do trying to get better and be able to catch up with some of our other competitors. All in all, a decent day to be coming home second for our Interstate Batteries Camry."

      ETC.: Busch has completed 96.7 percent (1,392 laps) of the 1,440 total laps contested in nine career starts at Indianapolis. His average start there is a mediocre 20.9, but has a much-better average finish of 11.6. He has zero DNFs there.

      22 JOEY LOGANO, Ford

      Team: Penske Racing

      WHERE HE STANDS: After moving up to sixth following Daytona, Joey Logano dropped three spots to ninth after New Hampshire. He trails points leader Jeff Gordon by 119 points, is 16 points behind eighth-ranked Kyle Busch and leads 10th-ranked Clint Bowyer by three points.

      INDIANAPOLIS RECORD: 5 career starts, 0 wins, 0 top-5s, 2 top-10, 0 poles. Best career finish: Eighth in 2013. Finished eighth in this race last year.

      LOOKING AHEAD: Logano bounced back after two straight poor performances to finish eighth at Indianapolis last season. He's definitely looking for his first career top-five at the fabled Brickyard, if not his first win there next weekend.

      LOOKING BACK: Logano was involved in a wreck with Morgan Shepherd on Lap 211 of Sunday's race at New Hampshire, ultimately finishing 40th (Shepherd, ironically, wound up 39th in the final order). "I got taken out by the slowest car out there," Logano said after the race. "You would think there would be some courtesy to the leaders. We were in second place. (Shepard) gets out of the way on the straightaway and then goes into the corner and slides right up into the lane I was in. We were doing a good job after having a left rear flat in practice and having to go to a backup car. We were out there running second. I can't get too mad at ourselves over this...I feel like that should be stuff that shouldn't happen at this level of racing. It's just too bad because I feel like we were a second-place car. We were the second best. We didn't have anything for Brad. But it would have been nice to get a 1-2 Team Penske finish. I feel like we have missed out on that three or four times this year."

      ETC.: Logano has completed 98.0 percent (784 laps) of the 800 laps contested in five career starts at Indianapolis. His average start there is 17.2 and average finish is a nearly identical 17.4. He has zero DNFs there.

      15 CLINT BOWYER, Toyota

      Team: Michael Waltrip Racing

      WHERE HE STANDS: Clint Bowyer climbed two spots in the standings, from 12th to 10th after New Hampshire. He trails points leader Jeff Gordon by 122 points, is three points behind ninth-ranked Joey Logano and leads 11th-ranked Paul Menard by seven points.

      INDIANAPOLIS RECORD: 8 career starts, 0 wins, 2 top-5s, 2 top-10s, 0 poles. Best career finish: Fourth in 2006 and 2010. Finished 20th in this race last year.

      LOOKING AHEAD: Time is starting to close in on Bowyer to assure himself that he'll make the revamped and expanded Chase for the Sprint Cup. If he can get a win in the next seven races, that likely will be enough to lock in Bowyer into the Chase. But until then, he has to keep working at it. Indianapolis has been particularly arduous for Bowyer. Can he turn things around there next weekend?

      LOOKING BACK: Bowyer had a very strong run at New Hampshire, leading 36 laps before ultimately settling for a still-decent sixth-place finish. "Just frustrating," Bowyer said of his finish after Sunday's race. "Kind of our M.O. This year, nothing goes right. We got into position to get a top-five and a solid run and the 4 (Kevin Harvick) runs out of gas and stacks us all up on the bottom and a bunch of them get around us. We got the consistency down -- we just got to keep gaining on it. We're here to win races for 5-Hour Energy and everybody and all our partners on this Toyota. We're just not quite there yet. We still got some work to do to catch up to the Fords and the Hendrick cars. We're gaining on it. We got the consistency."

      ETC.: Bowyer has completed a perfect 100 percent (1,280 laps) of the 1,280 total laps contested in eight previous career starts at Indianapolis. His average start there is 20.0 and average finish is a significantly better 13.2. He has zero DNFs there.

      27 PAUL MENARD, Chevrolet

      Team: Richard Childress Racing

      WHERE HE STANDS: 11th, only seven points out of the top 10. Lost one spot to fall out of the top 10 last week. Would make the Chase if the Chase for the Championship began this week.

      LOOKING AHEAD: Menard said, "We're looking forward to the off weekend, but we'll be ready to get back at it in Indy. We won there a couple of years ago, so all of us can't wait to get back there. We are doing everything we can to make the Chase."

      LOOKING BACK: Menard battled a loose-handling race car for most of the day as he finished 19th at New Hampshire. "Loudon is traditionally not very good to us so it's good to come out of it with a decent finish," said Menard. "It's not where we could've been, but we salvaged it there at the end when guys were running out of fuel."

      ETC.: Menard said he really enjoys being around his two teammates - Ryan Newman and rookie Austin Dillon. "It's two new guys (to RCR) and two guys that are very different in their personalities and the way they think," said Menard. "You have Ryan, who is a degreed engineer, been around the sport a long time, a multi-time race winner and a Chase guy every year. And then we have Austin, who is this young and enthusiastic guy and full of energy. I feel like we all have the same interests, we can talk about racing, talk about hunting, talk about just being outside or doing something totally different, spend time together doing that and get to know each other a lot better."

      11 DENNY HAMLIN, Toyota

      Team: Joe Gibbs Racing

      WHERE HE STANDS: 12th, 18 points out of the top 10. Gained two spots last week. Will make the Chase as a result of his Talladega win.

      LOOKING AHEAD: Hamlin said he will "enjoy the weekend off, but it is the road crew and the guys back at the shop that really need this weekend off. We get so few weekends off, and they work so hard. It will just be nice for them to get a couple of days off."

      LOOKING BACK: Hamlin led twice for 20 laps and was running second when a late-race caution flag forced him to pit for fuel. The crew decided to change all four tires, and that decision helped Hamlin rally in the final two laps to finish eighth at Loudon. "It's a tough finish to swallow, for sure," said a frustrated Hamlin. "We adjusted our car throughout the day and got it pretty good on that last run. I got up to second and within five car lengths of the 2 (Brad Keselowski) before I was told I had to save more fuel. The last caution was pretty unlucky for us, because we were going to finish second, but we still rallied from 16th to eighth in two laps at the end."

      ETC.: Hamlin is involved with a lot of charities, but the one that is the "most personal" is cystic fibrosis because of his cousin. "He's kind of going through a tough time," said Hamlin. "It's tough for any family that has cystic fibrosis and I've met a lot of kids that have it and they live at the hospital a lot. It's tough to be in that situation. I'm very fortunate to be partnered with the people I'm partnered with because FedEx really allows me the liberty to be out there and help promote these great organizations. It makes me feel really good when I'm able to go out there and have a sponsor that supports that."

      4 KEVIN HARVICK, Chevrolet

      Team: Stewart-Haas Racing

      WHERE HE STANDS: 13th, 20 points out of the top 10. Lost two spots last week. Will make the Chase because of his two wins so far in 2014.

      LOOKING AHEAD: Harvick is looking forward to spending the week off with his family. "They are usually at the track with me," said Harvick, "but there is just something different when you can get away by yourself with your family. It will be a fun time."

      LOOKING BACK: The gamble to try and run the final 82 laps on one tank of fuel backfired for Harvick when a caution flag was waved with two laps to go sending the race in overtime. Harvick was second when the green flag waved for the green-white-checkered flag finish. But he immediately ran out of gas as he ended the day in 30th place. "We would have been in great shape if the race had gone the regular distance (301 laps), but those extra four laps killed us," said Harvick. "That last caution really, really hurt."

      ETC.: Harvick has nothing but high praise for crew chief Rodney Childers when it comes to putting together the 4 team. "He recruited every single person on this team," said Harvick. "They all came for the same reasons. They all want to win races. They all want to win and race for championships and when you put that kind of people together with that determination everybody pushes everybody else."

      42 KYLE LARSON, Chevrolet

      Team: Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates

      WHERE HE STANDS: 14th, 24 points out of the top 10. Gained three spots last week. Would make the Chase if the Chase for the Championship began this week.

      LOOKING AHEAD: As a new and first-time home owner and an expectant father, Larson had a lot on his plate as he heads in the last off week of the season. "I much prefer racing, but we have a lot of things we need to do while we are off," said Larson. "I'm sure having a blast right now driving these Target Chevrolets. I want to thank Chip (Ganassi, car owner) and everybody at the shop. These race cars have been a lot faster this year than they have in the past. Just really want to thank those guys."

      LOOKING BACK: Larson was running 16th when a caution flag fell on lap 113 of the 301-lap race at Loudon. Crew chief Chris Heroy decided to gamble by telling Larson not to pit. "It was a bold call by Shine to get us some track position and it really paid off," said Larson, who ran in the top 10 for the rest of the day before ending the race in the third spot. "We talked about it in our team meeting - that it is going to take a really dumb call, or what would look dumb, but hopefully work out. It did. We got to lead some laps (13) and maintained our track position all race long after that. Great pit calls by Shine. The Target Chevy was really good. The last restart worked out for us (as he jumped from sixth to third). All in all, a really good day."

      ETC.: Three straight finishes of 28th or worse had dropped Larson from eighth to 17th in the point standings, and more importantly, dropped him out of a spot in the Chase. "It's been a rough three weeks," said Larson. "We were really good (three top-five finishes and seven top-10's in the first 15 races) and then we had two DNF's (did not finish) and then a bad race at Sonoma. That is why this (the top-five finish at Loudon) is so important. To get back up in the points. To get back where we are in the Chase. This is what we needed as we head into the off week."

      3 AUSTIN DILLON, Chevrolet

      Team: Richard Childress Racing

      WHERE HE STANDS: 15th. Lost two spots last week. Tied with fellow rookie Kyle Larson in the point standings, but because Larson has more top-five finishes Dillon is on the outside looking in when it comes to making the Chase if the Chase for the Championship began this week.

      LOOKING AHEAD: Dillon knows the team needs the week off, but he kind of wishes "we would be racing this weekend. We want to make the Chase, and we are so close to doing that. But the guys that go on the road each week and the guys back at the shop need some time off. This is their last weekend off for the rest of the season."

      LOOKING BACK: Dillon rallied in the final 50 laps to finish 14th at Loudon. "To finish 14th is quite an accomplishment after the day we had in the Dow Chevrolet," said Dillon. "The car really reacted well once the sun came out, and we seemed to perform better on four tires versus two tires all day long. We were able to take advantage of the green-white-checker restart at the end, too and gain some positions."

      ETC.: Since his grandfather Richard Childress started RCR, Dillon feels a little extra responsibility to everyone that is part of the organization. "I've grown up with those guys, know how much heart and soul they put in the race cars," said Dillon. "I said it at our kickoff lunch. We have a great house at RCR. When I cross the bridge (that leads to the facility), that's our house. When we get to the track, my job and our teams' jobs are to represent our house. That's what we try and do every time we bring our stuff to the race track."

      16 GREG BIFFLE, Ford

      Team: Roush Fenway Racing

      WHERE HE STANDS: 16th, only five points out of a spot in the Chase. Lost one spot last week.

      LOOKING AHEAD: Biffle said he is "just going to get away for a few days" during the upcoming off weekend. "Everyone at Roush Fenway has been working hard to get better, but they also need a break and this is the last weekend to get away," said Biffle. "So it will be nice for everyone in the organization to get a couple of days off before we start the big push for the Chase."

      LOOKING BACK: After hitting the wall early in the race, Biffle struggled with an ill-handling race car for most of the first half of the race. But he rallied in the second half to finish 15th at Loudon. "We battled really hard today to come away with a 15th-place finish," said Biffle. "I'm proud of the guys. My crew didn't give up and we were able to make the most of it today. We stayed in the hunt (for a place in the Chase for the Championship)."

      ETC.: Doug Yates, the chief executive officer for Roush Yates Engines, said his organization is "really pushing hard to get Greg Biffle a win, along with Marcos Ambrose and Ricky Stenhouse. I applaud NASCAR because this new format is doing exactly what it's supposed to do. It's supposed to have some wildcards and really make it exciting, but as far as breaking the season down we're really focused on the Chase and what we have to do as an engine company to give our teams what they need to win this championship."

      5 KASEY KAHNE, Chevrolet

      Team: Hendrick Motorsports

      WHERE HE STANDS: 17th, only nine points out of a spot in the Chase. Gained one spot last week.

      LOOKING AHEAD: Kahne does not have an off week as he will race in the Nationwide Series event at Chicagoland Speedway on Saturday night. He will drive the number 5 Great Clips Chevrolet for JR Motorsports. In Kahne's last Nationwide start, he edged teammate Regan Smith by 0.021 seconds for the win in the Firecracker 250 at Daytona.

      LOOKING BACK: After running in and just outside the top 10 all day, Kahne ended the day in 11th place. "We had stretches where we were pretty good, and then we had stretches where we were real tight," said Kahne. "We had a top-10 car, but things got a little crazy on that green-white-checkered deal and we just missed getting us another top 10. We needed another lap or two and we would have been two or three spots better."

      ETC.: As the Sprint Cup Series takes its last week off this season, Kahne is still on the outside looking in when it comes to being part of this year's Chase for the Championship. But he is still very confident that come September he will be in the hunt for the championship. "We aren't that far out points wise, and we feel we have some real chances to win a race between now and Richmond," said Kahne.

      55 BRIAN VICKERS, Toyota

      Team: Michael Waltrip Racing

      WHERE HE STANDS: 18th, 17 points out of a spot in the Chase. Lost two spots last week.

      LOOKING AHEAD: Vickers plans to spend the off week "just relaxing. There are several things we might do," adds Vickers. "We just want to get away for a few days and relax. I know we are going to enjoy the time off, and I know the team is going to do the same."

      LOOKING BACK: After winning the July race a year ago at Loudon, Vickers had high hopes for the weekend. But he struggled most of the race as he ended up 21st. "We were just struggling with being too tight and with track position all day," said Vickers. "I felt like we always restarted in the wrong lane. It just wasn't our day."

      ETC.: Blake Haugland, the rear tire carrier for Vickers' pit crew, is in training for the Ironman Triathlon in Cozumel, Mexico on Nov. 30. And while the team was in the San Francisco area for the race at Sonoma last month, Haugland competed in the "Touch Alcatraz 'n' Go swim as part of his training. "I have friends who've done that swim, and they had already kind of prepped me and told me about it," said Haugland. "It's about six-to-eight-foot circular swells, like water swirling down a drain. It was definitely challenging. I've been in triathlons for a little over two years, now, primarily just up to the half-Ironman distance. I've done a little over a half-dozen of those."

      14 TONY STEWART, Chevrolet

      Team: Stewart-Haas Racing

      WHERE HE STANDS: 19th, 22 points out of a spot in the Chase. Gained one spot last week.

      LOOKING AHEAD: Stewart is not one to sit at home, but he does plan to "relax a little" during the off weekend. He also will spend some time with his sprint car team as well as heading to Eldora Speedway to see how work is coming for the upcoming Camping World Truck Series race at his dirt track.

      LOOKING BACK: It was an up and down day for Stewart at Loudon. After starting fourth, Stewart ran well early before his car got real tight as he started sliding back through the field. He was 19th with 50 laps to go before rallying to finish seventh. "We went from holding our own at the beginning of the race to getting beat up out there," said Stewart. "Finally, we just made a big change to get the front end of the car to bite. We honestly didn't know how well it would work, but it beat running 20th. We were able to drive back toward the front and salvaged a decent finish."

      ETC.: Stewart hopes he has had all his bad luck at Indy already this year and that when he goes back next week he will be in contention for a third win in the Brickyard 400. During a tire test at Indianapolis Motor Speedway last month, Stewart blew a tire and crashed hard. "It destroyed the car, so it was a good hit," said Stewart, who is winless in 2014.

      9 MARCOS AMBROSE, Ford

      Team: Richard Petty Motorsports

      WHERE HE STANDS: 20th, 35 points out of a spot in the Chase. Lost one spot last week.

      LOOKING AHEAD: After a very frustrating afternoon at Loudon, Ambrose is glad there is no race this weekend. "It will be good to have a week off," said Ambrose. "The crew had been working really hard and need a few days off. It will be good to just get away for a few days for all of us. That will help us get ready for this stretch run to make the Chase."

      LOOKING BACK: Ambrose struggled all day with a "very tight" race car and finished a disappointing 27th at New Hampshire Motor Speedway. "You are going to have races like this," said Ambrose. "We are all in this together and today was tough for everyone. The car didn't handle well and we could never get our lap back. When you can't get back on the lead lap it really kills any strategy for track position. It just wasn't our day."

      ETC.: After seeing teammate Aric Almirola win at Daytona and earn a spot in the Chase, Ambrose feels good about his chances of doing the same. "We have seen that our organization can do that (win a race), and that's our most secure way to get into the Chase," said Ambrose. "We have a lot of good tracks coming up for us, and I think we'll compete for the win. We can continue to gain points by having good finishes, and that's important too. Each week is a chance to get closer in points."

      1 JAMIE MCMURRAY, Chevrolet

      Team: Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates

      WHERE HE STANDS: 21st, 49 points out of a spot in the Chase. Gained one spot last week.

      LOOKING AHEAD: McMurray feels the week off will be good for everyone on the team. "We continue to have fast race cars every week," said McMurray. "We just need to have some breaks fall our way. Hopefully the week off will put an end to all of the things that have happened to us.

      LOOKING BACK: After running in the top 10 for the first 215 laps, McMurray lost valuable track position when numerous teams gambled on fuel strategy in the waning laps of the New Hampshire race. As a result, McMurray ended the day in 16th place. "A tough day for our McDonald's team," said McMurray. "We had a top-10 car all day and our guys worked really hard all weekend to give me a strong car. The caution flag flew at the wrong time for us on a couple of occasions in the race and it hurt our track position. My car would not get going very well on restarts and track position is critical at a place like Loudon."

      ETC.: McMurray will appear in the BBC America original docu-series, "Idris Elba: King of Speed." The series will premier in the United States on Monday, July 14 at 10 p.m. (EDT). In this episode, McMurray and NASCAR Hall of Famer Rusty Wallace will introduce Elba to life at the track at Watkins Glen International. "I had a lot of fun doing that," said McMurray.

      43 ARIC ALMIROLA, Ford

      Team: Richard Petty Motorsports

      WHERE HE STANDS: 22nd. Will make the Chase because of his Daytona win earlier this month.

      LOOKING AHEAD: Almirola knows the team needs to be a lot better when the series returns to New Hampshire in September for the second race in the Chase. "We'll have to regroup for this race in September," said Almirola. "For now, we'll take this off week to get some much needed relaxation and hope to hit the ground running in Indy."

      LOOKING BACK: The weekend didn't begin well for Almirola as left-rear tire problems sent him crashing hard into the outside wall during practice on Saturday. This forced the team to go to a back-up car and for Almirola to start last on Sunday. Almirola rallied to finish 23rd. "That was surely not the weekend we hoped for," said Almirola. "Coming off a win, we hoped to use momentum to score a good finish. We were really loose (in the race), and it felt like the rear end wasn't getting any drive through the corner."

      ETC.: Now that he has won his first Sprint Cup race, Almirola wants to add to that total "as quickly as we can. We just have to figure out what we need to go that next step and get in the top-10 regularly and run in the top-five, so we can compete for wins (on a weekly basis)."

      78 MARTIN TRUEX, JR., Chevrolet

      Team: Furniture Row Racing

      WHERE HE STANDS: 23rd, 78 points out of a spot in the Chase. Gained two spots last week.

      LOOKING AHEAD: Truex hopes the off weekend will put an end to what has been a rough start to the 2014 season, his first with Furniture Row Racing. "It's been a really tough season," said Truex. "It's been a lot of tough luck and lot of things that just keep happening. You wonder what's going to happen next. We're definitely nowhere near a 25th-place team. The guys are staying positive and that's been a good thing."

      LOOKING BACK: Truex picked up 10 spots in the final two laps to finish 12th at Loudon. "The biggest reason we gained all those positions on the final restart is that we had fresh tires and got in the right lane," said Truex. "That was a good call to come in for two tires during that last caution." Crew chief Todd Berrier was quick to praise Truex for turning what had been a "disappointing day into a good one. Restarts didn't go our way until the end when Martin passed all those cars," added Berrier.

      ETC.: Because of the slow start to the year, Truex realizes his only chance at making the Chase is by winning a race. "There are seven races left before the Chase begins," said Truex. "We've got to find a way to win one of them. I think we can do that. The car has been getting faster. We just have to finish races."

      41 KURT BUSCH, Chevrolet

      Team: Stewart-Haas Racing

      WHERE HE STANDS: 25th. Gained one spot last week. Will make the Chase because of his Martinsville win.

      LOOKING AHEAD: Busch is like most everyone else in the garage area. He is looking forward to a "little time off. It just will be nice to get away for a few days and not worry about how you can get better."

      LOOKING BACK: Busch battled an ill-handling race car for most of the day as he finished 17th at Loudon. "We lacked front grip and we were extremely tight," said Busch. "We kept making a lot of adjustments and we got it a little better. But we still weren't where we needed to be. It was just one of those days."

      ETC.: Busch believes it is very important to "evaluate each weekend based on your successes or failures. You can't get too wrapped up in the end result. If you ran poorly and you steal something at the end, then maybe you did something that worked out, but, at the end of the day, you still ran poorly, and you need to figure out why you did. If you ran well and get taken out or something breaks that isn't in your control or whatever, then you look at that. Then you say, 'What did we do right' and 'How did we do in failure mode. What can we do to prevent that from happening in the future?' We look at each weekend to evaluate what we do well, what we need to work on and how do we improve on those things."

      47 A J ALLMENDINGER, Chevrolet

      Team: JTG Daugherty Racing

      WHERE HE STANDS: 26th, 84 points out of a spot in the Chase. Lost two spots last week.

      LOOKING AHEAD: Allmendinger feels the off weekend is just what the team needs. "We'll hit the reset button and start fresh at Indy," said Allmendinger. "The last few weeks have been tough on us, and we need a break. We've got some work to do, but the off weekend will allow the crew to catch their breath and get ready for this very important stretch."

      LOOKING BACK: Allmendinger finished 18th at Loudon. "I was okay on long runs and restarts, but it was just so bad loose that guys would just run right through me and we would lose track position," said Allmendinger. "We didn't give up and we fought hard. We had damage to the right-front of the car and I'm sure that had something to do with it. We're better than where finished."

      ETC.: Allmendinger said he is not a big fan of "going home again." Allmendinger laughs as he points "I hated high school, so I definitely don't go back to high school (in Los Gatos, Calif.). My goal of high school was just getting through it. I wouldn't even say I roll through my old town. Nobody really knows me, and that is the way I like it. I sneak in under the radar, and nobody really knows me, that is my happiest moment. I actually don't get back much. I am fortunate that my parents come to a lot of races. They still live in Hollister (Calif.), and they come to at least 10 or 12 races. I only come back really for Christmas."

  • Sunday, July 20, 2014
    Winless Dixon excited to see Toronto
    By The Sports Xchange

    TORONTO -- Who wants to win this Verizon IndyCar Series championship?

    • The road to finding out begins this weekend in Toronto where the last of the season's three doubleheaders is held (3:30 p.m. ET, Saturday and Sunday, NBCSN).

      Scott Dixon of Ganassi Racing won both races last year, part of a 74-point swing that pushed him ahead of Team Penske's Helio Castroneves for the title.

      There's been no such consistency this year for Dixon, Castroneves or anyone else for that matter. Ryan Hunter-Reay of Andretti Autosport had three disastrous finishes in succession after winning the Indianapolis 500, and he retired early from the recent double-points-paying race at Pocono Raceway earlier this month, yet he finds himself only 32 points out of the lead with six races left.

      Castroneves enters the Toronto weekend with a nine-point lead over teammate Will Power. Both are seeking their first IndyCar title, but both have failed to capitalize on their advantage over the field in recent weeks. They were eighth and 14th in last week's race at Iowa Speedway, with Power scrubbing the wall in the final laps.

      Simon Pagenaud is the most prized free-agent-to-be in the sport, but he's gone up and down like a yo-yo in recent events. In Houston's doubleheader last month, for example, he finished 16th of 23 drivers in the first race and won the second. He's 50 points out of the lead, most of which can be erased in a single race.

      Former NASCAR driver Juan Pablo Montoya is fifth in his return to IndyCar, but he followed his win at Pocono with a crash at Iowa. He's still within reach of what would be his second series title in the past 15 years (he won CART's title in 1999), but a lot has to go right for the Colombian to make up 66 points.

      The remaining schedule is balanced. After street races Saturday and Sunday at Exhibition Place, IndyCar still goes to a pair of road courses (the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course and Sonoma Raceway) and two oval tracks (the Milwaukee Mile and Auto Club Speedway). Even the ovals are diverse.

      Milwaukee is a short, tight oval; Auto Club, which is in Fontana, Calif., is large and sweeping, the fastest circuit of the year.

      The season ends with the Auto Club race Aug. 30.

      Dixon is glad to see Toronto. It not only was the site of last year's doubleheader sweep, it's the place he hopes to get his season back on track.

      The three-time series champion is eighth in the standings and stuck without a win. But he's not alone. None of Chip Ganassi's four drivers have a win this season, although Tony Kanaan appeared to have one at Iowa before Hunter-Reay grabbed new tires on a late pit stop and passed him with two laps left.

      "There are times when we feel like we're right there, but we haven't been able to get over the hump," Dixon said. "It's definitely time to."

      Dixon is 140 points out of the lead, and there are plenty of points left to be won. With the Auto Club race counting for twice the normal number, 368 points remain to be won.

  • Monday, July 14, 2014
    Streaking Ford faces toughest challenge: Brickyard
    By The Sports Xchange

    By Reid Spencer, NASCAR Wire Service

    • Distributed by The Sports Xchange

      Is it time for Ford to shoot for the moon?

      The Blue Oval manufacturer is enjoying a breakthrough season. Led by Team Penske's five victories, Ford drivers have racked up eight wins through 19 races this year--two more than they posted collectively in 36 points-paying events in 2013.

      Brad Keselowski's victory on Sunday at New Hampshire Motor Speedway was the fourth straight for Ford, marking the first time since 2001 that the automaker has won four consecutive races in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series.

      Dale Jarrett accounted for three of those triumphs, at Darlington, Texas and Martinsville, in the No. 88 Robert Yates Racing Ford. Elliott Sadler took a checkered flag for the Wood Brothers at Bristol in the second race of the string.

      Ford's streak is even more impressive this time because of the tracks involved: a road course (Carl Edwards at Sonoma), a 1.5-mile intermediate speedway (Keselowski at Kentucky), a restrictor-plate superspeedway (Aric Almirola at Daytona) and a one-mile flat track (Keselowski at New Hampshire).

      To keep the streak going, however, Ford drivers will have to reach for and grab the brass ring at 2.5-mile Indianapolis Motor Speedway, a track unlike any other.

      Only one problem. Chevrolet has had an absolute stranglehold on Indy, having won the Sprint Cup race there for the past 11 years.

      Does Ford have a realistic chance at breaking the monopoly, or will it simply be a case of tilting at windmills? We'll find out on July 27.

      NASCAR NUMBER

      138: The number of laps race winner Brad Keselowski led in Sunday's NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at New Hampshire Motor Speedway. The number is remarkable because Keselowski repeatedly lost track position with four-tire calls and had to drive back to the front.

      11: The number of different winners in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series so far this year. With only seven races left, tension is mounting as the opportunity to qualify for the Chase by winning a race diminishes with each passing event.

      3: The number of bonus points added to a driver's total at the start of the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup for each race won during the regular season. Those bonus points, however, apply only to the first round of the Chase. When points are reset after the first elimination, bonus points for wins are no longer a factor.

      31: The number of laps completed by six-time NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion Jimmie Johnson in the last two races, out of a possible 417. Early crashes took Johnson out of the Cup races at Daytona and Loudon. The last time Johnson had back-to-back DNFs? At Chicagoland and Indy in 2007.

      882: The number of laps led this year in NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races by Kevin Harvick, who is fast approaching the high-water mark for his career. Driving for Richard Childress Racing in 2006, Harvick led 895 laps and also set a personal best for victories with five.

      NASCAR ETC

      Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Brad Keselowski have clinched a spot in the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup, assuming they attempt to qualify for the remaining seven races in the regular season. Both Earnhardt and Keselowski have fulfilled two of the three requirements to guarantee their spot in the Chase -- multiple wins and locking in to the top 30 in points. With Keselowski's third win of the season this past weekend he could be seeded first in the Chase -- each win is worth three Chase bonus points. ... Count it. Five of the 19 NSCS races (26.3%) this season have been won by Team Penske (Keselowski, three; Logano, two). Brad Keselowski's win last weekend at New Hampshire was his third of the season and 13th of his career. Not only did it move Keselowski to third in the regular season points, it clinched him a spot in the Chase, assuming he starts the remaining events on the regular season schedule. Keselowski's teammate Joey Logano, with two wins, is one of six drivers with multiple wins. ... A number of other drivers can join Earnhardt and Keselowski as Chase clinchers. Jeff Gordon has already clinched a top 30 spot, but with a single win has yet to clinch the "wins" portion of the criteria. A win at Indy would clinch him a spot. To clinch a top 30 spot, the clinching driver must be 289 points ahead of 31st place after Indianapolis.

      @nascarcasm

      Mixed bag for Team Penske at New Hampshire -- 77-year-old owner earns a big win from Brad Keselowski, and 72-year-old driver earns big rebuke from Joey Logano.

      Was it really the best idea to hand Brad Keselowski a broom? I know he swept the weekend and all, but given his history in victory lane, the chances of him getting a giant, painful splinter from that thing were pretty damn high.

      Jimmie Johnson's day-ending wreck on lap 15 will significantly reduce the amount of data the #48 team will have for NHMS when they return for the Chase. In fact, their setup notes from this race read as follows: "NOT THAT."

      (Follow @nascarcasm on Twitter. His unique views on NASCAR are his own -- but chances are you have probably figured that out by now.)

      Tune-In: NASCAR On Television, July 14-20

      Monday, July 14

      5 p.m., NASCAR America, NBC Sports Network

      5:30 p.m., NASCAR's The List: Famous Families, NBC Sports Network

      7 p.m., NASCAR Race Hub, FOX Sports 1

      8 p.m., NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Race at Iowa (re-air), FOX Sports 2

      Tuesday, July 15

      5 p.m., NASCAR America: Scan All 43 Special (re-air), NBC Sports Network

      5:30 p.m., NASCAR's The List: Rookie Seasons, NBC Sports Network

      8 p.m., TUDOR United SportsCar Championship Race at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park (re-air), FOX Sports 2

      11 p.m., NASCAR Race Hub Special (re-air), FOX Sports 2

      11:30 p.m., NASCAR America: Scan All 43 Special (re-air), NBC Sports Network

      2:30 a.m. (Wed.), NASCAR's The List: Legendary Drivers, NBC Sports Network

      Wednesday, July 16

      10 a.m., TUDOR United SportsCar Championship Race at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park (re-air), FOX Sports 1

      2:30 p.m., NASCAR's The List: Greatest Finishes (re-air), NBC Sports Network

      4 p.m., NASCAR K&N Pro Series Race at Sonoma (re-air), FOX Sports 1

      5 p.m., NASCAR America: Scan All 43 Special (re-air), NBC Sports Network

      5 p.m., NASCAR Race Hub, FOX Sports 1

      5:30 p.m., NASCAR's The List: Memorable Moments (re-air), NBC Sports Network

      6 p.m., NASCAR's The List: Fights & Feuds, NBC Sports Network

      6 p.m., NASCAR Race Hub (re-air), FOX Sports 2

      6:30 p.m., NASCAR's The List: Rookie Seasons (re-air), NBC Sports Network

      7 p.m., NASCAR's The List: Famous Families (re-air), NBC Sports Network

      7 p.m., NASCAR K&N Pro Series, Race at Sonoma (re-air), FOX Sports 2

      7:30 p.m., NASCAR's The List: Legendary Drivers (re-air), NBC Sports Network

      11 p.m., NASCAR America: Scan All 43 Special (re-air), NBC Sports Network

      11:30 p.m., NASCAR America: Scan All 43 Special (re-air), NBC Sports Network

      Thursday, July 17

      5 p.m., NASCAR America: Scan All 43 Special, NBC Sports Network

      5 p.m., NASCAR Race Hub, FOX Sports 1

      5:30 p.m., NASCAR America: Scan All 43 Special, NBC Sports Network

      6 p.m., NASCAR America: Scan All 43 Special (re-air), NBC Sports Network

      6:30 p.m., NASCAR Race Hub (re-air), FOX Sports 2

      6:30 p.m., NASCAR America: Scan All 43 Special (re-air), NBC Sports Network

      7 p.m., NASCAR America: Scan All 43 Special (re-air), NBC Sports Network

      7:30 p.m., NASCAR America: Scan All 43 Special (re-air), NBC Sports Network

      Friday, July 18

      Noon, NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour Race at New Hampshire, FOX Sports 1

      1 p.m., NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Race at Iowa (re-air), FOX Sports 1

      3 p.m., Empty Cup: Quest for the 1992 NASCAR Championship (re-air), FOX Sports 1

      3:30 p.m., NASCAR Nationwide Series Practice, FOX Sports 1

      4:30 p.m., NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour Race at New Hampshire (re-air), FOX Sports 1

      6:30 p.m., NASCAR Nationwide Series Final Practice, FOX Sports 1

      8 p.m., The Mudsummer Classic: The 2013 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Race at Eldora, FOX Sports 1

      9 p.m., NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour Race at New Hampshire (re-air), FOX Sports 2

      10 p.m., NASCAR Nationwide Series Practice (re-air), FOX Sports 2

      11 p.m., NASCAR Nationwide Series Final Practice (re-air), FOX Sports 2

      12:30 a.m. (Sat.), NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Race at Iowa (re-air), FOX Sports 2

      3 a.m. (Sat.), NASCAR Nationwide Series Practice (re-air), FOX Sports 2

      4 a.m. (Sat.), NASCAR Nationwide Series Final Practice (re-air), FOX Sports 2

      Saturday, July 19

      6 a.m., NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour Race at New Hampshire (re-air), FOX Sports 2

      7 a.m., NASCAR Nationwide Series Practice (re-air), FOX Sports 2

      8 a.m., NASCAR Nationwide Series Final Practice (re-air), FOX Sports 2

      10 a.m., NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour Race at New Hampshire (re-air), FOX Sports 1

      11 a.m., NASCAR Nationwide Series Final Practice (re-air), FOX Sports 1

      4 p.m., NASCAR Nationwide Series Coors Light Pole Qualifying, FOX Sports 2

      8 p.m., NNS Countdown, ESPN2

      8:30 p.m., NASCAR Nationwide Series Race at Chicagoland, ESPN2

      11 p.m., NASCAR America: Scan All 43 Special (re-air), NBC Sports Network

      11:30 p.m., NASCAR America: Scan All 43 Special (re-air), NBC Sports Network

      4 a.m. (Sun.), NASCAR Nationwide Series Race at Chicagoland, ESPN2

      5 a.m. (Sun), NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour Race at New Hampshire (re-air), FOX Sports 1

      Sunday, July 20

      10 a.m., Continental Tire Sports Car Challenge Race at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park, FOX Sports 1

      Noon, NASCAR K&N Pro Series Race at New Hampshire, FOX Sports 1

      2 p.m., NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour Race at New Hampshire, FOX Sports 1

      2:30 p.m., Continental Tire Sports Car Challenge Race at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park (re-air), FOX Sports 1

      4:30 p.m., Empty Cup: Quest for the 1992 NASCAR Championship (re-air), FOX Sports 1

      7:30 p.m., NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour Race at New Hampshire (re-air), FOX Sports 2

      8:30 p.m., NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour Race at New Hampshire (re-air), FOX Sports 2

      National Series Schedule

      NASCAR SPRINT CUP SERIES

      The Next Race:

      Crown Royal Presents The John Wayne Walding 400 at the Brickyard

      The Place:

      Indianapolis Motor Speedway

      The Date/Time:

      Sunday, July 27, 1 p.m. (ET)

      TV: ESPN

      Radio: IMS Radio,

      Sirius XM Channel 90

      NASCAR NATIONWIDE SERIES

      The Next Race:

      EnjoyIllinois.com 300

      The Place:

      Chicagoland Speedway

      The Date/Time:

      Saturday, July 19, 8:30 p.m. (ET)

      TV: ESPN2

      Radio: MRN,

      Sirius XM Channel 90

      NASCAR CAMPING WORLD TRUCK SERIES

      The Next Race:

      1-800-CarCash Mudsummer Classic

      The Place:

      Eldora Speedway

      Date/Time:

      Wednesday, July 23, 9 p.m. (ET)

      TV: FOX Sports 1

      Radio: MRN, Sirius XM Channel 90

      NASCAR National Series Standings

      This year, wins matter more than in any season in the 65-year history of the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series.

      Essentially, a win locks a driver into the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup.

      2014 Winners

      Pos Driver Wins

      1. Jimmie Johnson 3

      2. Brad Keselowski 3

      3. Kevin Harvick 2

      4. Joey Logano 2

      5. Dale Earnhardt Jr. 2

      6. Carl Edwards 2

      7. Kyle Busch 1

      8. Kurt Busch 1

      9 Denny Hamlin 1

      10. Jeff Gordon 1

      11. Aric Almirola 1

      NASCAR Sprint Cup Series

      Pos Driver Points

      1 Jeff Gordon 670

      2 Dale Earnhardt Jr. 658

      3 Brad Keselowski 634

      4 Matt Kenseth 621

      5 Jimmie Johnson 598

      6 Carl Edwards 574

      7 Ryan Newman 573

      8 Kyle Busch 567

      9 Joey Logano 551

      10 Clint Bowyer 548

      11 Paul Menard 541

      12 Denny Hamlin 530

      13 Kevin Harvick 528

      14 Kyle Larson # 524

      15 Austin Dillon # 524

      16 Greg Biffle 519

      NASCAR Nationwide Series

      Pos Driver Points

      1 Regan Smith 611

      2 Elliott Sadler 603

      3 Chase Elliott # 598

      4 Ty Dillon # 577

      5 Brian Scott 560

      6 Trevor Bayne 553

      7 Brendan Gaughan 493

      8 Chris Buescher # 486

      9 James Buescher 470

      10 Ryan Reed # 456

      NASCAR Camping World Truck Series

      Pos Driver Points

      1 Matt Crafton 330

      2 Ryan Blaney 328

      3 Johnny Sauter 323

      4 German Quiroga 311

      5 Ron Hornaday Jr. 307

      6 Ben Kennedy # 301

      7 Timothy Peters 299

      8 Darrell Wallace Jr. 293

      9 Joey Coulter 282

      10 John Wes Townley 279

  • Monday, July 14, 2014
    Keselowski's rebound to championship form continues
    By The Sports Xchange

    By Reid Spencer, NASCAR Wire Service

    • Distributed by The Sports Xchange

      Sometimes a driver needs a reality check.

      Brad Keselowski certainly got one in 2013 when he failed to qualify for the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup a year after winning the series championship.

      It's not that Keselowski didn't have speed in his Team Penske Fords last year. The problem was a lack of execution at key moments, a team-wide failure to operate with the tenacity and precision that had earned Keselowski his first title in NASCAR's premier series a year earlier.

      You could call it a post-championship hangover. You could say Keselowski and his team as a whole approached the 2013 season with a complacency they failed to back up on the track and in the garage.

      You could apportion a share of the blame to the transition from Dodge to Ford. No matter how seamless the change might appear, it's never easy to switch manufacturers. And with that change, Team Penske began using engines supplied by Roush Yates, rather than building its own.

      That's not a knock on the quality of the Roush Yates product. It's simply pointing out that any significant change requires a period of adjustment, and the No. 2 team didn't adjust quickly enough to things that were different from 2013 to 2014.

      And the bottom line was that Keselowski didn't make the Chase, becoming only the second driver in the Chase era (since 2004) to miss NASCAR's 10-race playoff after winning the championship the year before.

      But the focus really shouldn't be on the causes of last year's shortcomings. The focus belongs, appropriately, on the way Keselowski and his team are reacting to a disappointing 2013 season.

      From all appearances, it has elevated them, collectively, to a higher plane.

      Two weeks after a dominant victory at Kentucky Speedway, Keselowski led a race-high 138 laps in winning on Sunday at New Hampshire Motor Speedway.

      The superiority of Keselowski's car was obvious. Clearly, the team has found something on the engineering side that's allowing the No. 2 Ford to rotate through the centers of the corners.

      Keselowski's car was so strong on Sunday that crew chief Paul Wolfe had the luxury of making repeated four-tire stops, even though those decisions were guaranteed to sacrifice track position.

      Just as often as Wolfe opted to change tires, Keselowski was able to drive right back to the front.

      With three victories, Keselowski shares the series lead with six-time champion Jimmie Johnson, who was out of Sunday's race early after blowing a tire and clobbering the wall. It's not just the checkered flags, however, that Keselowski finds so encouraging.

      "It's gratifying in a lot of ways," Keselowski said. "I don't think it's just that we have three wins. I think that it's that we're leading laps. I think we were fast last year at this time, but we weren't executing. This year we're executing, which is really important as well, and we have a lot of momentum.

      "And I think we have a lot of potential still left in our team that we've got to keep working to get to, because everybody is going to turn it up a notch when the Chase comes, and we know that, and we need to have another gear to grab to be able to run for a championship here in 2014.

      "I think we're close, but I want to keep pushing, and I'm committed to getting another championship. I know (team owner) Roger and Paul sitting next to me are committed to it, and we want to make it happen. It's a good feeling for sure."

      In fact, Keselowski thinks his 2014 effort may be superior to the one that won the title two years ago.

      "I think, in a lot of ways, we're stronger than that," Keselowski said. "I don't think we've had this much speed before. We had tremendous speed today, and I think there's potential left, like I said, with different things.

      "So that's all very encouraging to me. I feel like I'm in a really strong rhythm right now. I think some of last year's struggles put me in a spot to work harder and become a better race car driver, and I think we're combining all those things, and we're seeing the fruits of that labor with, like I said, more to come."

      And, in all honesty, Keselowski looks more like championship timber right now than does Johnson, who continues to battle all-too-frequent racing gremlins while Keselowski continues to run up front.

  • Sunday, July 13, 2014
    Logano upset after crash with Shepherd ended promising day
    By The Sports Xchange

    By Seth Livingstone, NASCAR News Service

    • Distributed by The Sports Xchange

      LOUDON, N.H. -- Perhaps the only driver with a chance to prevent Brad Keselowski from winning Sunday's Camping World RV Sales 301 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race was his Team Penske teammate Joey Logano.

      Logano was one of nine drivers to lead the race and was running second when his quest was ended by a crash on Lap 213 with Morgan Shepherd.

      It was the kind of incident that occurs all the time in NASCAR, one car getting into the back of another. But this one came with a twist.

      Logano, age 24, was a contender to win the race and remains a contender to advance in the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup.

      Shepherd, 72, is the oldest driver to compete at NASCAR's highest level. Breaking into Sprint Cup in 1970, he's notched 168 top-10 finishes but not a one since 1997. His last win came in 1993.

      This was just the second race this season for Shepherd, who did not race Cup from 2007-12, and his Thunder Coal Chevrolet posed a threat only as a rolling roadblock, struggling at times to maintain minimum speed.

      "I got taken out by the slowest car out there," said Logano, visibly upset after the crash. "You would think there would be some courtesy to the leaders. It is just dumb that it happened. I feel like that's stuff that shouldn't happen at this level of racing."

      Logano went on to say that if a driver can't "control his stuff," he "shouldn't be out there. He suggested that NASCAR might consider requiring drivers to pass a test.

      NASCAR's vice president of competition Robin Pemberton defended Shepherd's right to be on the track, competing against some drivers who are more than a half-century his junior.

      "Morgan Shepherd has always been approved (to drive)," Pemberton said. "He's been approved for decades. Under our situation here, you take a physical at the beginning of the year. You pass your physical. You pass inspections with your car, you qualify for the race and you run the event. So, he met everything he needed to meet.

      "Joey was half-kidding (about requiring a test). I understand that. Nobody wants to be (taken) out of a race because of an accident."

      Pemberton called Sunday's incident "an accident" that "could happen to anybody."

      "Those things happen," Pemberton said. "(Shepherd) was above the minimum speed. He pulled over to let Joey go by. That's a responsibility for all competitors. Everybody has a responsibility to lay off each other."

      Asked if his age should be a barrier to competition, Shepherd responded with a question.

      "Was that the only wreck out there?" he asked. "OK. That answers that.

      "It was nobody's fault. Maybe he didn't realize how wicked-loose I was. I was having to tip-toe through the corner. It's one of those deals that my car wasn't driving real good. Whenever he drove down in the corner, he was close to me and it pulled my car around."

      Roger Penske seemed very willing to give Shepherd a pass.

      "Morgan's a good friend of everyone in the garage area. He's a good friend of mine," Penske said. "We've tried to support him.

      "I told Joey, 'Look, you can't go back and fix it.' When Brad came up on (Shepherd) later in the race, he slowed down to let everybody by him.

      "The great thing about the sport (is) that if you want to tee it up here and bring your car and have a team, we let them run. So, I don't feel bad about it other than the fact that Joey got knocked out. He was running second at that time and, obviously, at that point you say, 'damn,' but at the end of the day we've got to move on."

      Jimmie Johnson exits early

      A week after completing just 20 laps at Daytona, Jimmie Johnson suffered a pair of early flat tires, the second of which resulted in a race-ending crash. Johnson completed only 11 laps and recorded a second consecutive 42nd-place finish.

      Johnson refused to believe that lower-than-advised air pressure might have led to his tire failures.

      "I'm not sure what caused it," he said. "I'm sure there will be a lot of speculation and, I'm sure, finger-pointing back to the team or our team. But we saw some issues here, especially with the particular tire the last couple of days. We will try to dig in and learn more. But I can promise you one thing: It wasn't due to low left-rear tire pressure."

      Johnson did not rule out the possibility that damage to his car from the first flat might have caused a rub that led to the second tire failing.

      The early exit hurt Johnson in multiple ways. New Hampshire is the second race of the Chase and the No. 48 team, which slipped to fifth in points, now has a limited notebook. "It would have been nice to get a race in here before we come back for the second one," Johnson said. "It's definitely a setback, missing out on track time."

      Ford keeps rolling

      Keselowski gave Ford its fourth consecutive Cup victory, something that the manufacturer has not enjoyed since 2001. Ford's eight trips to Victory Lane this season are the most since it had 11 wins in 2008.

      Keselowski, who won at Kentucky Speedway on June 28, has won twice during the four-race streak. Carl Edwards (Sonoma) and Aric Almirola (Daytona) have accounted for the other wins.

      Fuel shortage

      Jeff Gordon remained the Sprint Cup points leader despite running out of gas during the final caution and finishing 26th. His lead dwindled to 12 points in front of teammate Dale Earnhardt Jr.

      "I felt very confident we could finish third until that caution came out," Gordon said. "We knew we were very close. That (fuel) pickup is on the right side, so I was scuffing my tires. I think if we had (stayed) green we would have been fine. Under caution, it wouldn't pick up the amount of fuel that was in there."

      Chasing the Chase

      Matt Kenseth finished fourth, Ryan Newman fifth, Clint Bowyer sixth, Austin Dillon 14th and Paul Menard 19th to remain positioned to make the Chase field without a victory this season.

      Greg Biffle, the first driver on the outside looking in at this point, battled through early tire issues to finish 16th and remain five points behind Dillon for the final Chase spot. Kasey Kahne (11th) is just four points behind Biffle.

  • Sunday, July 13, 2014
    Keselowski completes New Hampshire weekend sweep
    By The Sports Xchange

    By Seth Livingstone, NASCAR Wire Service

    • Distributed by The Sports Xchange

      LOUDON, N.H. -- For Brad Keselowski, it's beginning to look an awful lot like 2012 when everything went right on the way to a NASCAR Sprint Cup Series title.

      Keselowski led 138 of the last 232 laps to win Sunday's Camping World RV Sales 301 for his third Sprint Cup victory of the season. He held off Kyle Busch on the final restart and pulled away to win by three-quarters of a second in a green-white-checker finish.

      "I'm not thinking of anything else right now (other) than how thankful I am to have a team and a car that is clicking well," Keselowski said from Victory Lane. "It's every driver's dream.

      "I think, in a lot of ways, we're stronger than (2012). I don't think we've had this much speed before. I feel like I'm in a really strong rhythm right now. I think some of last year's struggles put me in a spot to work harder and become a better race car driver. I think we're combining all those things and we're seeing the fruits of that labor -- with more to come."

      Keselowski, 30, captured his first Sprint Cup championship in 2012 on the strength of five victories and 23 top-10 finishes in 36 starts. After failing to qualify for the Chase last season, he's produced 10 top-10 performances in 19 races this season.

      "We were fast last year at this time but we weren't executing," said Keselowski, who also won Saturday's Sta-Green 200 Nationwide Series race and had dominated the speed charts during Saturday's Sprint Cup practice sessions. "This year we're executing and we have a lot of momentum. It really feels like we have hit our stride.

      "At the same time, we have a lot of potential still left in our team. Everybody is going to turn it up a notch when the Chase comes and we know that. You've got to have a good horse and we had that today. (But) we know we have to have another gear to grab to be able to run for a championship. I think we're close but I want to keep pushing."

      Presuming they attempt to qualify for the next seven races, Keselowski and Dale Earnhardt Jr. (10th) became the first two drivers to clinch spots in the Chase thanks to their showings on Sunday.

      "I'm proud of our team for that," Earnhardt said. "Hopefully we can improve before we come back here (for the second race of the Chase). That was the hardest I've ever worked for a 10th-place finish. We (were) off all weekend -- a real frustrating weekend to be honest."

      Keselowski seemed to be in cruise control, leading Denny Hamlin by 2.91 seconds with four laps remaining. But Justin Allgaier spun and struck the wall, bringing out the race's seventh caution flag and necessitating the fifth green-white-checker finish of the 2014 season and juggling the field.

      As soon as the yellow flag came out, Hamlin headed to the pits for a splash of gas and settled for eighth place. Jeff Gordon, who had been running third, ran his Hendrick Chevrolet out of gas and was relegated to 26th place. Kevin Harvick started second alongside Keselowski but ran out of fuel on the restart.

      "We had what I thought was the second-best car," Hamlin said. "I had to save fuel and couldn't push it. I would have liked to have seen if we could have raced with the (No.) 2, but he obviously had a very dominant car."

      The fuel situation left Busch and Clint Bowyer as the only drivers with a real shot at Keselowski in the final two laps.

      In the end, neither had anything for Keselowski.

      "I don't think anybody did," said Busch, whose Joe Gibbs Toyota was strong enough to sit on the pole and lead 62 laps.

      "We made a gusty call at the end to stay out and see if we could make it on fuel. We barely made it -- ran out right at the start-finish. All in all, a decent day to be coming home second."

      Bowyer, who led 36 laps after leading a total of 12 in the previous 12 Cup events, faded to sixth behind rookie Kyle Larson, Matt Kenseth and Ryan Newman.

      Keselowski's power was evident when crew chief Paul Wolfe opted to give up the lead and take four tires when the race's second caution came on Lap 113. It took Keselowski 13 laps to drive from 10th place to third and 10 more laps for him to get to the rear bumper of the leader, Kenseth. Throughout the race, Wolfe opted for fresh tires over track position.

      "I really was not sure how that was going to work out and unfold," Wolfe said. "Seeing that, I felt pretty good about the strength of our car and what Brad was able to do moving through traffic."

      Team owner Roger Penske also liked what he was seeing.

      "Paul made great calls today," he said. "Watching Brad -- and I got to see it from up on top -- I can tell you there was nobody that could beat him. It was just great execution from everybody."

      Keselowski became the 13th different winner in the last 13 Cup races at New Hampshire, tying a record set at Texas Motor Speedway. Busch has now finished second at New Hampshire in three consecutive races.

  • Sunday, July 13, 2014
    Keselowski comes out on top in New Hampshire
    By The Sports Xchange

    LOUDON, N.H. -- Brad Keselowski dominated the Camping World RV 301 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race Sunday at New Hampshire Motor Speedway after taking the lead on lap 90 and leading 138 laps.

    • Keselowski survived a green-white-checker finish to claim his third win of the 2014 season.

      "(Having such a dominant car) is every driver's dream," Keselowski said. "Every once in a while you get these cars and you are thankful and try like hell to not screw them up."

      After Jeff Gordon and Kevin Harvick ran out of fuel just before and after the final restart of the race with two laps remaining, Kyle Busch moved up to second. Busch was able to ride Keselowski's bumper, but Keselowski was able to pull a few car lengths out in front of Busch on the final lap. Kyle Larson finished third.

      "The guys did a great job today," Busch said. "This Interstate Batteries Camry was good. Should have been anywhere from fourth to sixth, but we made a gutsy call there at the end to stay out and see if we can make it on fuel. Barely made it, ran out right at the start-finish."

      Busch and Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Denny Hamlin combined to dominate the first third of the race. Busch started on the pole and led the way until Hamlin took over on lap 63. Hamlin ran up front until a cycle of green-flag pit stops around lap 80 and was back up front once the cycle completed. He continued to lead until Keselowski took the lead for the first time.

      Through the remainder of the race, Keselowski was only passed on pit road, mostly due to varying pit strategies. Larson stayed out to inherit the lead during a caution around lap 110. Meanwhile, Keselowski restarted 10th on four new tires, behind several drivers who took two. Keselowski moved back into the lead just a handful of laps later.

      "This was a hard-fought battle, passing cars and trying to stay up front all day," Keselowski said. "We had a couple bullets to dodge, and I am not thinking of anything else right now than how thankful I am to have a team and car that is clicking this well. Hopefully, we can keep it going."

      When several drivers took two tires during the next caution around the halfway point of the race, Keselowski, again, took four and restarted 11th. He retook the lead 20 laps after the restart. When the yellow flag waved on lap 212, Keselowski took four tires and restarted seventh. That time around, it took him 12 laps to go from seventh to the lead.

      Keselowski changed up his strategy and took only two tires when the yellow flag was displayed on lap 246. But after several drivers opted to stay out, he restarted ninth. In 10 laps, Keselowski was up to second. Gordon, who stayed out, was able to hold Keselowski off for several laps, but seven laps after moving into second, Keselowski was back in the lead.

      Hamlin also stayed out during the lap 246 caution and got by Gordon to move into second on lap 282. Hamlin was gaining on Keselowski when the caution came out for the seventh and final time with three laps remaining in the originally-scheduled 301-lap distance. Having stayed out during the lap 246 caution, though, Hamlin gave up second to pit for fuel.

      Matt Kenseth finished fourth, and Ryan Newman was fifth. Finishing sixth through 10th were Clint Bowyer, Tony Stewart, Hamlin, Ricky Stenhouse Jr. and Dale Earnhardt Jr.

      "It was a really good day for the Target Chevy team," Larson said. "We ran up front all day long. We got to lead some laps, there. Shine (crew chief Chris Heroy) made some bold calls on pit road to get us some track position, and it really paid off."

      NOTES: Kyle Busch's pole-winning 138.130 mph qualifying lap was a track record. ... Brad Keselowski dominated the NASCAR Nationwide Series race at New Hampshire on Saturday, winning after leading 152 of 200 laps. ... Reigning Sprint Cup champion Jimmie Johnson finished 42nd for the second straight week. ... Jeff Burton is the all-time wins leader at NHMS with four wins and led all 300 laps of a race at the track in 2000; he made his second start of the season Sunday in the No. 66. Morgan Shepherd extended his record of being the oldest driver to start a Sprint Cup race with his second start of the season. ... Joey Logano was racing a backup car after wrecking in practice earlier in the weekend. ... Kyle Busch finished second in both New Hampshire races last season.

  • Sunday, July 13, 2014
    Hunter-Reay wins IndyCar race in Iowa over Kanaan
    By The Sports Xchange

    NEWTON, Iowa -- Ryan Hunter-Reay stole a win from Tony Kanaan Saturday night at Iowa Speedway.

    • With Kanaan dominating the Iowa Corn Indy 300, Hunter-Reay’s team gave him new tires with nine green-flag laps to go, and the Indianapolis 500 winner did the rest.

      Hunter-Reay blew through the lead pack and passed Kanaan with two laps to go. Those were the only two laps Hunter-Reay led all night. Kanaan had led 247 laps.

      "It was like a video game out there,” Hunter-Reay said of passing others with older tires.

      Hunter-Reay won a series-leading third victory and Andretti Autosport's fifth consecutive at this track.

      Kanaan, who finished third, was bidding for his first win since the 2013 Indianapolis 500. Teammate Scott Dixon was four, leaving Ganassi Racing still winless this season.

      Hunter-Reay now has 14 career wins, one shy of Kanaan.

      "We can’t get a break," Kanaan said.

      Josef Newgarden of Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing came with Hunter-Reay, driving to a career-best second-place finish.

      "It’s almost unfair," Newgarden said. "If this plays out, it’s going to be between us. With five to go you realized it was pretty good."

      Ed Carpenter finished fifth.

      Helio Castroneves and Will Power entered the race tied for the championship lead, but they struggled at the end, finishing eighth and 14th, respectively. Next weekend’s event is a doubleheader in Toronto.

      Saturday’s race started on time but after 39 laps was stopped for about a half-hour for light rain. Fortunately, that was the end of that.

      Coming to the restart, rookie Mikhail Aleshin spun during acceleration, and the momentum carried him to the outside wall, which is where Takuma Sato was headed. If the two-car crash sounds familiar, it should. The same two drivers tangled in one of Houston street races, with Aleshin’s lapped car running into Sato’s.

      The same reaction came from Sato’s team owner, A.J. Foyt, who as in Houston called them “idots” with a few choice words thrown in. Both drivers were checked at the infield care center and released.

      "I just made a mistake," Aleshin said. "I spun."

      Said Sato: "I just couldn’t see anything. It was all smoke until I hit him. I couldn’t see anything. I tried to avoid it."

      The other interesting part of the race’s first half was the charge of Sebastian Saavedra. He started 17th and was having his best performance since winning the pole for the road race at Indianapolis Motor Speedway in May.

      That race ended with Saavedra’s car stalling and being struck by that of Aleshin and rookie Carlos Munoz; this one effectively ended with a drift into and light contact with the Turn 2 wall. Saavedra was in third place at the time.

      With 20 laps left, Juan Pablo Montoya went inside of Carpenter entering Turn 3 in a bid for sixth place. Carpenter turned down in front of Montoya, causing the former Formula One and NASCAR driver to lose control and hit the wall.

      Montoya wasn’t pleased and stood on the track to wave his arms at Carpenter, but IndyCar’s officiating staff decided not to take action against Carpenter.

      "I got inside of him," he said. "He was running every lap high and then went low."

      Montoya then called Carpenter a word that shouldn’t be repeated.

      That seems to come with short-track racing.

      NOTES: Rookie driver Jack Hawksworth bounced back from the bruised heart muscle he suffered in the July 5 race at Pocono Raceway to compete at Iowa Speedway. The 23-year-old Englishman said he was "super sore" in the days after the accident, and he arrived at Iowa still with bruising to the top of his sternum. The crash in Turn 1 didn’t initially appear to be that significant, but the G force numbers registered 100. ... Simon Pagenaud denied a rumor within the paddock that he’s signed a contract with Andretti Autosport for the 2015 season. "I haven’t, and I don’t expect anything to happen for a while," the Frenchman said. ... James Hinchcliffe and Indianapolis 500 winner Ryan Hunter-Reay are awaiting finalization of their contracts with Andretti Autosport. The team is believed to have until Aug. 1 to exercise its option to bring Hinchcliffe back for 2015. Hunter-Reay said his new deal is a matter of “when” it gets signed, not "if." ... Hunter-Reay and reigning series champion Scott Dixon are finalists for ESPYs this week in Los Angeles in the "best driver" category. Neither expects to win given that 16-time drag racing champion John Force, six-time NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion Jimmie Johnson and popular Daytona 500 winner Dale Earnhardt Jr. are also up for the award.

  • Saturday, July 12, 2014
    Keselowski dominates Nationwide Series race at New Hampshire
    By The Sports Xchange

    Distributed by The Sports Xchange

    • LOUDON, N.H. – Taking a deep breath at the winner's podium, Brad Keselowski took a second to savor his dominant Saturday at New Hampshire Motor Speedway.

      Keselowski captured the pole, then led 152 of 200 laps to win the NASCAR Nationwide Series Sta-Green 200. In addition, he posted the fastest times in both NASCAR Sprint Cup Series practice sessions in preparation for Sunday’s Camping World RV Sales 301.

      "One helluva Saturday," said Keselowski, who recorded a perfect driver rating for the sixth time in his Nationwide career and has finished no worse than third in any of his six Nationwide Series starts this season.

      "Sometimes on these really busy days you get so caught up in the action that you really can’t appreciate all that’s transpired.

      "We have so much to be proud of there and, obviously, we’re looking forward to tomorrow and the opportunity we have. Our Cup car was fast this morning. Our Nationwide car in qualifying had a lot of adversity but we fought through that and got the pole. In the Nationwide race the car was really fast."

      In addition, Keselowski’s Penske-prepared Hertz Mustang became the first Nationwide Series car to win from the pole position in 17 races this season. He also won the March 8 race at Las Vegas and now has 29 victories in 211 Nationwide races.

      Kyle Busch, the pole-sitter for Sunday’s Sprint Cup race, was Keselowski’s primary competition and finished second ahead of Matt Kenseth, Kyle Larson and rookie Chris Buescher.

      "It was a bit of a dogfight – one of the most challenging races I’ve ever ran, knowing that you have Kyle Busch behind you and he’s just a tiny bit faster," said Keselowski, whose only mistake was accidentally dropping the American flag during his victory lap. "You have to fight through a line of cars and it seemed like there was always something coming at us."

      Busch pulled to within a car length of Keselowski’s rear bumper with 29 laps to go, but got loose on Lap 173, slid up the track and dropped nearly a second off the pace with 25 laps left. Taking advantage of lap traffic in the final 20 laps, Keselowski’s eventual winning margin was 1.8 seconds.

      "It was actually very hard-fought there at the end," Keselowski said. "He (Busch) was really good at making adjustments. I didn’t think I was going to be able to hold him off."

      Busch led the first 34 laps but never led again in falling just short of his fifth win in nine Nationwide Series starts at New Hampshire.

      "We got what we could out of our Monster Energy Camry," Busch said. "We had the best run there at the end but just not quite enough. We had to fight hard to get by a few guys, got to second but didn’t have quite enough to chase (Keselowski) down.

      "If it was clean and green all the way to the end I don’t know if I could have got to him. I was hoping for a couple opportunities there in traffic."

      Keselowski asserted his car as the one to beat, leading 66 of the first 100 laps. By Lap 66, only Busch (2.88) and Kenseth (9.25) were within 10 seconds of Keselowski’s yellow No. 22 Mustang.

      True to its name, the Sta-Green 200 stayed caution-free for 76 laps prior to a yellow flag for debris on Lap 93 that tightened the field.

      Busch struggled after the restart while Larson seized the opportunity and tucked in second behind Keselowski. And he wasn’t second for long.

      When Brian Scott got into the back of third-place Elliott Sadler, it touched off a spin that involved seven cars, enabling Larson to seize the lead.

      Larson led the race twice for 11 laps. But when things settled down after the race’s fourth caution, Keselowski regained the top spot and went on to dominate the final 56 laps.

      Series points leader Regan Smith didn’t have a top-five car but was the big bonus winner, capturing the $100,000 payoff in the first of four Dash 4 Cash races courtesy of Nationwide Insurance.

      Smith finished ahead of championship-eligible Nationwide Series drivers Ryan Reed (11th), Ryan Sieg (18th) and Jeremy Clements (20th), each of whom qualified for the Dash last week at Daytona International Speedway.

      Smith was in control of the Dash for most of the race but had trouble during a four-tire change in the pits with 55 laps left. Although Reed restarted in seventh and Smith ninth, Smith regained command on his fresh rubber and maintained his advantage the rest of the way.

      "The race was difficult for us," Smith said. "We didn’t have the speed I thought we were going to have. The last pit stop we decided to go for four (tires), had a little hiccup, and it cost us some positions. At that point, you kind of know the situation for the day and it’s 'OK, let’s take the silver lining and get out of here with the money. This means a lot to our team."

      Smith, Buescher, Sadler and Scott emerged as qualifiers for the second of four Dash 4 Cash races next Saturday at Chicagoland Speedway.

      Smith also became the only driver eligible for a $600,000 bonus – which will translate to $1 million in total prize money should he win the Dash 4 Cash at Chicagoland next weekend and Indianapolis Motor Speedway (July 26), then win the Aug. 2 race at Iowa Speedway outright.

      Smith retained the series points lead by eight points over Sadler, who finished sixth, and 13 over Chase Elliott, who finished eighth.

  • Saturday, July 12, 2014
    Notebook: Streaking Ford teams set sights on Chase
    By The Sports Xchange

    By Seth Livingstone

    • NASCAR Wire Service

      Distributed by The Sports Xchange

      LOUDON, N.H. -- Enjoying a sustained run of success not experienced in nearly a decade, Ford teams are thinking about the long haul as they prepare for Sunday's Camping World RV Sales 301 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series event at New Hampshire Motor Speedway.

      Thanks to Carl Edwards (Roush Fenway Racing), Brad Keselowski (Team Penske) and Aric Almirola (Richard Petty Motorsports), Ford is riding a three-race winning streak for the first time since June 2005.

      The last time Ford won four consecutive Cup events was 2001 with Dale Jarrett and Robert Yates Racing posting three of the four victories and Elliott Sadler the other for the Wood Brothers.

      "I do feel like one of us can win the championship," Penske's Joey Logano said of Ford's 2014 chances.

      Keselowski, who qualified seventh for Sunday's race, easily had the fastest laps in both of Saturday's practice sessions. Keselowski turned the fastest lap of the day in the morning session (133.745 mph) and was the only driver to top 133 mph in final practice (133.254).

      That said, New Hampshire continues to present both a challenge and a checkpoint. No Ford driver has won on the Magic Mile since Greg Biffle in 2008. Logano was the top Ford qualifier for Sunday's race, checking in with the sixth-fastest lap on Friday.

      Logano, Edwards and Keselowski are all but locked into the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup field with two victories apiece this season. Almirola's victory last week at Daytona nearly assures his place. That doesn't mean that every Ford team will take the same approach as it applies to preparation for the Chase or choosing tracks at which to test.

      While teammates Biffle (15th in points) and Ricky Stenhouse Jr. (28th) need a win to start thinking about the Chase, Edwards views Sunday's race at New Hampshire (one of 10 tracks in the Chase lineup) as a chance to experiment.

      "For us, this is really a race where we can try some things for the second race of the Chase because it is going to be so important to try to make it through that first round," Edwards said.

      Team Penske and Richard Petty Motorsports are already taking very different approaches when it comes to testing. Penske has yet to use any of its allotted four test sessions this season.

      "We are stockpiling them because we are both in," Logano said. "We are going to go to the tracks where we feel we need to test the most. It definitely gives us an edge. Are we where we want to be? No. We want to keep getting better and will work with Ford with that. We want to make sure that come Chase time our weak points are as strong as our good points."

      RPM plans to use its third of four tests to prepare for the Aug. 10 road course race at Watkins Glen International. The team knows that its best chance of putting a second car in the Chase is to have Marcos Ambrose win at Watkins Glen.

      "For as small an underdog team as we are, to have the possibility of getting both our cars in the Chase is phenomenal," Almirola said. "We want to give Marcos the best shot to win there. That is the priority on our list right now."

      Ambrose has two victories in 209 Sprint Cup starts, wins at Watkins Glen in 2011 and 2012. He has 11 top-10 finishes in 13 career road course races.

      One thing could change RPM's plans to test at Watkins Glen: a win by Ambrose either this week at New Hampshire or next week at Indianapolis. A victory at New Hampshire would be a true upset for Ambrose, who in 10 Cup races at NHMS has finished no better than ninth.

      "I would love for (Ambrose) to win here this weekend," Almirola said. "Then we don't have to test Watkins Glen because we know he will be good there anyway."

      "But our philosophy is still that it doesn't do us any good to save and hold onto those tests. We have to do everything we can to be the best in that first round of the Chase. It doesn't do us any good to save a test for Homestead if we are knocked out of the Chase. Our motto: Go big or go home."

      LARSON SEEKS TURNAROUND

      NASCAR sprint Cup rookie Kyle Larson was eighth in points after his seventh top-10 finish of the season June 15 at Michigan International Speedway. Since then, Larson has finished 28th, 40th and 36th, plummeting to 17th in points, 12 behind Austin Dillon (13th) in the battle for rookie supremacy.

      "Our chances (to make the Chase) were really good up until three weeks ago," Larson said. "Then we lost power steering at Sonoma. At Kentucky we were pretty fast and blew a right-front tire. Then at Daytona we got caught up in a typical Daytona crash. Now we've fallen to where we have to fight really hard again. I figured we may have some bad luck one week or two weeks in a row, not three."

      Larson said he looked forward to coming to New Hampshire, a track "where you have a little more control over your outcome." And heading into Sunday, the 21-year-old from Elk Grove, Calif., had demonstrated speed.

      Larson had the Target Chevrolet among the five fastest cars in the weekend's first two practice sessions and was second to Keselowski in best 10 consecutive lap average (131.569) in final practice. Although on the wrong side of the knockout qualifying bubble (13th), Larson qualified fourth for Saturday's Sta-Green 200 Nationwide race.

      BACK TO REALITY

      Almirola, fresh off his first career victory at Daytona, crashed his Charter Ford Fusion in Saturday's morning practice. He was forced to a backup car and will start Sunday's race at the rear of the field. Similar to Logano's mishap in Friday's practice, a left-rear tire was the culprit.

      Jeff Gordon (132.771) and Denny Hamlin (132.739) were second- and third-fastest in final practice. Pole-sitter Kyle Busch was eighth (132.370).

  • Saturday, July 12, 2014
    Jones gets NCWTS victory at Iowa Speedway
    By The Sports Xchange

    By Rob Gray, NASCAR Wire Service

    • Distributed by The Sports Xchange

      NEWTON, Iowa -- No one's ever questioned the talent Erik Jones possesses.

      His luck? That's another matter entirely.

      But Friday at Iowa Speedway, both skill and good fortune finally co-existed for the 18-year-old Kyle Busch Motorsports driver, who powered to his second career NASCAR Camping World Truck Series triumph in the American Ethanol 200.

      "Glad we could get out and command the race and bring it home," said Jones, who led 130 laps and held off a spirited charge from Brad Keselowski Racing's Ryan Blaney, who settled for second.

      He brought it home in one piece, too.

      Jones, who runs a 12-race schedule, was wrecked while leading late in the June 14 race at Gateway Motorsports Park outside of St. Louis.

      He was running in the top five when another truck sent him spinning on a late restart in the March 29 race at Martinsville.

      "You really want to try to make your mark every time you get in (the truck)," Jones said. "It's a tough industry and when you get in and you get turned around or something like that, it's just really a bummer and it kind of takes that week and you have to throw it away. When you only get so many opportunities, it makes it really hard as a young guy."

      Not that he's complaining.

      His turn at the wheel of the No. 51 Toyota put the truck into victory lane for the sixth time this season -- and the first time when owner Kyle Busch wasn't driving.

      "It was definitely fun," Jones said. "I had a lot of fun -- two young guys battling hard there for the win. Pretty hungry."

      It's the second time Blaney snared a runner-up finish at Iowa Speedway this season.

      He ran second to Sam Hornish Jr. in May's Get to Know Newton 250 NASCAR Nationwide Series race.

      "We're getting closer and closer to getting to victory lane," said Blaney, who owns one win at Iowa, which came in 2012. "It's just a matter of time."

      That description appeared appropriate for Friday's race at times, as well.

      Blaney, who excelled in long runs, could reel in Jones, but couldn't stick a pass.

      His best chance came with 16 laps remaining, but a side-by-side duel that went three-wide with the lapped truck of Justin Lofton didn't provide enough daylight.

      "I knew that was my best opportunity to try to get by him," said Blaney, who notched his fifth top-five finish of the season. "We got really close. It almost sucked me around. Luckily we didn't wreck right there. It was tight racing, but a good race and hopefully good for the fans."

      Matt Crafton earned third, with Joey Coulter and German Quiroga Jr. completing the top five.

      Crafton said lapped traffic often proved to be perilous, so he was pleased with his podium finish.

      "My lord, some of these guys would go from the bottom to the top and back to the bottom," said Crafton, who assumed the series points lead by two over Blaney, while former leader Johnny Sauter limped in with an 18th-place finish. "It was absolutely insane, lapping some of them. I know they had their hands full, without a doubt."

      That's not a problem for Jones, who battled his teammate Darrell Wallace Jr. for the lead early in the race before an ill-timed pit stop helped drop Wallace -- the pole sitter -- to 13th.

      "He knows what he needs in a truck and he knows how to race," said Eric Phillips, Jones' crew chief. "He raced side by side with a lot of lapped cars to work through and he and Blaney raced hard all night. They didn't beat on each other or take each other out. They just raced hard and that's the sign of a true winner, or champion, in years to come."

      Note: The No. 51 car was ruled to be too low during post-race inspection. Any possible penalties will be determined early next week by NASCAR officials.

  • Friday, July 11, 2014
    Dixon sets record in IndyCar qualifying at Iowa
    By The Sports Xchange

    Scott Dixon led a front-row sweep for Target Chip Ganassi Racing on Friday in qualifying for the Iowa Corn Indy 300 in Newton, Iowa.

    • Dixon set a two-lap qualifying record of 186.256 mph at Iowa Speedway to win the pole for Saturday night's race, breaking the previous mark of 180.375 mph by Takuma Sato since 2011.

      Teammate Tony Kanaan was the second fastest at 185.891 mph on the 0.894-mile oval. Kanaan won the race in 2010.

      Helio Castroneves, tied with Team Penske teammate Will Power for the IndyCar series points lead, set a one-lap track record of 186.809 mph on his second lap and posted a two-lap average of 185.685 mph to qualify third. Ryan Briscoe was fourth at 185.339 mph. Power will start ninth.

      Dixon became the ninth different driver to win a pole this year. It was the 21st of his IndyCar career. His best previous qualifying effort this season was seventh at Texas Motor Speedway.

      "It's definitely a good thing to see the Ganassi cars at the top," said Dixon, the 2013 series champion. "We had been stuck in sort of a rut and it had been a while since my last pole (Baltimore in August 2013). We're winless so we have a bit of work to do. It definitely will be a tough one; the competition is extremely good."

  • Friday, July 11, 2014
    Kyle Busch wins pole at New Hampshire
    By The Sports Xchange

    By Seth Livingstone

    • NASCAR Wire Service

      Distributed by The Sports Xchange

      LOUDON, N.H. -- Kyle Busch didn't just break the track record at New Hampshire Motor Speedway on Friday. He obliterated it by 1.633 mph in qualifying for Sunday's NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Camping World RV Sales 301.

      "(The lap) didn't feel that good, but it felt good," said Busch, who finished second in both Sprint Cup races at New Hampshire last year. "It was real stable, real comfortable. The car turned well (in Turns 3 and 4)."

      After finishing 25th or worse in four of the last six races, Busch could use a good result to get back on track. Ninth in points, he is in good shape to make the Chase with a win in the fifth race of the season at Auto Club Speedway.

      "This has been a good place for us," Busch said. "We've been close here. The second race here last year we were a lot better on the long runs, but the race was just a little too short for us."

      Neither Brian Vickers nor Matt Kenseth, who won the 2013 Sprint Cup races at New Hampshire, made it to the second and final round of qualifying on Friday.

      Jimmie Johnson's Hendrick Chevrolet joined Busch's Toyota on the front row, qualifying at 137.790 mph, also considerably faster than Ryan Newman's record (136.497) set last September.

      "To come out for our second session on older tires and improve by over two-tenths of a second is something to be proud of," Johnson said. "Of course we want to get the pole. But this helps make the weekend so much easier to race. You get a good pit stall, good track position and you can fine tune from here. This is such a scrappy track. It's tough to complete a pass here."

      Denny Hamlin, Busch's Joe Gibbs Racing teammate, also will have the benefit of starting near the front. Hamlin became the 13th driver to set a track record in the first 30-minute session and turned the third-fastest lap.

      "Our cars have got some speed here," said Hamlin, who will be joined on the second row by Tony Stewart.

      The Stewart-Haas Chevrolet was the provisional pole-sitter as eight of the 12 drivers in the final round waited for their cars to cool and a cloud to obscure the sun before taking their best shots in the final 3:30 of qualifying.

      Jamie McMurray qualified fifth and Joey Logano sixth. Logano turned the second-fastest lap in the first round of knockout qualifying, despite being forced to a backup car.

      Logano had just five minutes of practice in his backup car after blowing a left rear tire and tagging the Turn 1 wall in the morning practice.

      "The same exact thing happened in this race last year," Logano said. "It's a bummer because I felt like our car was pretty good. Hopefully, the other one is just as good."

      Brad Keselowski, Clint Bowyer, Martin Truex Jr., Kasey Kahne, Jeff Gordon and Kevin Harvick were the other drivers to advance past knockout qualifying and earn starting spots on the first six rows.

      ALMIROLA GETS HIS FLAG

      With last week's race at Daytona ending under red-flag conditions, first-time Sprint Cup winner Aric Almirola never got the opportunity to retrieve the checkered flag from the flag stand.

      "When I got in the race car (Friday) morning, the checkered flag was sitting inside my race car. That was really cool," Almirola said.

      The flag appeared courtesy of veteran NASCAR flag man Rodney Wise, who brought the flag from Daytona to New Hampshire.

      NEWMAN WINS ALL-STAR RACE

      With seven poles, three victories and 15 top-10 finishes in 24 career NASCAR Sprint Cup starts, Ryan Newman knows what it takes to win at New Hampshire.

      On Friday, Newman executed a last-lap pass to best a 20-car field and win the Whelen All-Star Shootout for Modified cars. Justin Bonsignore of Holtsville, N.Y., finished second and Mike Stefanik of Coventry, R.I., was third.

      "This isn't the 'raciest' track we go to, but it doesn't mean you can't go to Victory Lane at the end of the day," Newman said. "We weren't great during the race, but, obviously, we were good enough.

      "I've always been a big fan of the Modifieds. They're pretty much the ultimate race car to me -- just a lot of fun to drive. Coming up here and being able to race them is an honor for me."

      BACK IN THE SADDLE

      Jeff Burton qualified for his second start of the season and will start 30th on Sunday for Michael Waltrip Racing. Burton finished 17th at Las Vegas in March.

      No driver has more victories at New Hampshire than Burton, who posted all four of his wins in his first 12 Cup starts at NHMS. Although he could not say definitively, Burton 47, said there's "a good chance" that this will be his final Sprint Cup race.

      Morgan Shepherd, 72, also qualified for his second race this season, driving Joe Falk's Thunder Coal Chevrolet. Shepherd also raced at Phoenix this year.

  • Friday, July 11, 2014
    Nationwide rookie Reed winning battle against diabetes
    By The Sports Xchange

    By Seth Livingstone, NASCAR Wire Service

    • Distributed by The Sports Xchange

      LOUDON, N.H. -- Ordinarily, this might be a feel-good story about Ryan Reed, a 20-year-old NASCAR Nationwide Series rookie winning his battle against diabetes, visiting youngsters at the Joslin Pediatric Diabetes Clinic in Boston, then getting his first tour of Fenway Park as a member of the Roush Fenway Racing team.

      It's still a feel-good story. But this is also about Reed, capitalizing on his first career top-five Nationwide Series finish to earn a spot in this weekend's Dash 4 Cash and the chance to earn a $100,000 bonus on Saturday at New Hampshire Motor Speedway.

      "Honestly, I was not even thinking about it," said Reed, who finished fourth in last week's Subway Firecracker 250 at Daytona. "I was just focused about bringing home a good finish.

      "A lot of good things came out of last week. It wasn't like we haven't had the speed lately. It's just that everything came together. At Kentucky (June 27), everything we tried backfired. Finally, nothing went wrong at the end of a race. We did everything right and got ourselves a good finish."

      Joining Regan Smith, Ryan Sieg and Jeremy Clements as one of the top four full-time Nationwide drivers at Daytona, Reed can now claim the $100,000 payout from Nationwide Insurance and the opportunity to qualify for $100,000 more next weekend at Chicagoland Speedway if he finishes ahead of those drivers in Saturday's Sta-Green 200.

      The son of former NASCAR driver Mark Reed, who instilled his never-give-up attitude, Ryan Reed appears short on experience but long on maturity.

      "You've got to manage a good race," he said. "If you get caught up with racing, Regan Smith and Ryan Sieg and Jeremy Clements all day long, you just shoot yourself in the foot. If we just do what we're capable of, we'll be in position for a good finish.

      "But (Dash 4 Cash) does raise the stakes a ton. I promise you if there's 10 to go and there's a late restart and we're racing against Regan, you can bet we're going to go at it as hard as we can. That's why the Dash 4 Cash is so much fun and I really, really hope we can bring home that 100 Grand."

      Standing in the cool of the No. 16 hauler, a Lilly Drive to Stop Diabetes T-shirt is the only clue that Reed has any connection to a disease most medical professionals predicted would short-circuit his career before it could even get going.

      "It was a really tough deal when I was diagnosed. I was 17 and they told me I couldn't race anymore," recalled Reed, a native of Bakersfield, Calif., who began racing go-karts at age 4. "The first question was, 'Why?' What about diabetes would not allow me to race? It kind of fell on my shoulders to do some research and understand diabetes. Ultimately, that research is what led me to my doctor, Anne Peters, who told me that I could race."

      A number of world-class athletes, notably Bobby Clarke of the Philadelphia Flyers, Jay Cutler of the Chicago Bears and Olympic swimmer Gary Hall, have overcome diabetes. IndyCar driver Charlie Kimball is also winning his battle against the disease and being advised by Peters.

      "I'm monitoring my blood sugar with a wireless monitor that mounts on my dash," Reed said. "It allows me to monitor my blood sugar and whether it's going up or down. In case it's low, I have a drink that's high in glucose that runs from the front of my helmet through a straw. I can sip on that whenever I want. Craig (Herrmann), my engine tuner, is trained to come over the wall and give me an insulin injection through my fire suit if I ever need it."

      That's a safety net Reed has yet to need in a race.

      "The diabetes is absolutely no factor to us," said Reed's crew chief Seth Barbour. "Ryan does a great job with his side of it with his exercise and his diet. If it wasn't for his sponsor and the hype, you wouldn't know he has diabetes. He's just another 20-year-old kid racing cars."

      Reed said he couldn't be happier to have Lilly onboard as a sponsor and to become a spokesman, particularly in encouraging youngsters like he met at the Joslin Clinic on Thursday.

      "I didn't choose the disease," he said. "At the same time, I'm able to go out and do what I love in spite of it. I'm proud of it. I'm not embarrassed or frustrated or ashamed, even a little bit.

      "Now, I couldn't imagine my life without it. Here's this kid out of nowhere who has this great opportunity. I've met so many great people and been able to do so much in inspiring so many kids. The Drive to Stop Diabetes program is obviously something that means a ton to me.

      "People are going to remember you for something until you've made that name for yourself. Being known for fighting diabetes -- that really draws a lot of attention to the program and what we're doing."

      Barbour sees Reed drawing attention for his on-track performances in weeks to come.

      "Everybody's quick to compare all the rookies to Chase Elliott," said Barbour, who watched Reed lead 29 laps at Talladega this season. "Well, Chase Elliott has a lot more seat time than Ryan. So, it's taken a little time to kind of get acquainted to these cars, the radial tires and the guys he's racing around. I think the biggest thing he's learned is patience. A 200-lap race gives him plenty of time to work his way up there and we have plenty of time to make the car better."

      Like Reed, Sieg picked the right week for his first top-five finish of the season. Sieg, a 27-year-old from Tucker, Ga., helped push Kasey Kahne to last week's win and finished third behind Smith, 30, who owns four career wins on the Nationwide circuit.

      Clements, a 29-year-old from Spartanburg, S.C., has made 150 Nationwide starts without a top-five finish. But, in the last three races he has a sixth at Road America and last week's eighth at Daytona that propelled him to the Dash 4 Cash.

  • Friday, July 11, 2014
    Helton: We will 'build NASCAR collectively'
    By The Sports Xchange

    By Seth Livingstone

    • NASCAR Wire Service

      Distributed by The Sports Xchange

      LOUDON, N.H. -- Emphasizing that NASCAR respects the needs, rights and opinions of all stakeholders in the sport, NASCAR president Mike Helton said Friday that the formation of the Race Team Alliance by nine leading owners will not significantly alter the way the sport conducts business.

      Helton spoke from the steps of the NASCAR hauler before the start of the weekend action at New Hampshire Motor Speedway

      "We're going to stay our course," said Helton, who warned against public misconceptions and indicated that stock car owners and the sport's governing body have much in common and every reason to work together. "We have great respect for our stakeholders, so any perception there could be animosity based on this topic is incorrect.

      "Part of our method of operation over the last six decades is to make decisions by listening to a lot of individual stakeholders in the garage area. Every car owner in here has a voice -- crew members, drivers, crew chiefs. We take that input and make what we think are the best decisions that are good for the whole sport. We will continue to operate that way. Our intention is to build NASCAR collectively."

      In that regard, Helton said the sport and the RTA seem to be on the same page.

      "We take very serious our responsibility to make decisions in this sport, in the garage area, for the race tracks and the other partners that we have," Helton said. "Part of that responsibility is to have a sport that has a great product at great race tracks for our fans -- and the owners have been very clear that that is their intention, too. So, we stand together, very clearly, on that.

      "We believe that the way we (manage) our form of motorsports has worked. We continue to add assets and value in order to create and grow the sport."

      Six-time NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion Jimmie Johnson said he did not foresee the formation of the RTA driving a wedge between owners and the sport's management and views it as a positive step, particularly in attempts to contain escalating operating costs.

      "I'm excited for the teams and the opportunity they have to work together, try to hold costs down and having a more clear and concise voice in the industry," Johnson said. "I'm happy that the teams are working to drive costs down in this very expensive sport. "I'm fortunate to drive for Hendrick Motorsports and have the best of any situation and it's still tough."

      The RTA is currently composed of nine multi-car teams. Helton made it clear that while it will always listen to the opinions of those major teams, it must also continue to consider the needs of smaller operations and individuals.

      "We'll continue to (grow the sport) with the input of as many people as we can talk to, individually," Helton said. "A lot of that is to limit the barrier of entry the best we can, particularly in the garage area in all of our series -- to encourage people who want to be owners or drivers or crew members to be part of this sport."

      Helton said that NASCAR has not heard from the RTA since the public announcement that the organization had been formed on July 7.

      Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates, Hendrick Motorsports, Joe Gibbs Racing, Michael Waltrip Racing, Richard Childress Racing, Richard Petty Motorsports, Roush Fenway Racing, Stewart-Haas Racing and Team Penske were announced as first members of the RTA which stated that its purpose is to "create an open forum for the teams to explore areas of common interest and to work collaboratively on initiatives to help preserve, promote and grow the sport of stock car racing."

      "The key word is collaboration," said Rob Kauffman, co-owner of Michael Waltrip Racing, who was elected as the RTA's first chairman. "We all have vested interests in the success and popularity of stock car racing. By working together and speaking with a single voice, it should be a simpler and smoother process to work with current and potential groups involved in the sport."