Sprint Cup

NASCAR Sprint Cup News Wire
  • Monday, September 1, 2014
    Kahne edges Kenseth for win, Chase spot
    By The Sports Xchange

    HAMPTON, Ga. -- Kasey Kahne claimed his first win of the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season when he beat Matt Kenseth to the checkered flag Sunday in the Oral-B USA 500.

    • It was Kahne's third-career win at Atlanta Motor Speedway, and it punched his ticket into the Chase for the Sprint Cup.

      "It took a lot," Kahne said. "We were all over the place during the race, but the guys stayed with me and worked hard."

      Denny Hamlin finished third.

      "We really didn't have the fastest car after halfway by any means," Hamlin said.

      Kevin Harvick dominated the race, leading a total of 195 laps, and was chasing Kahne in what appeared to be the duel for the win when the yellow flag waved for an incident between Martin Truex Jr. and Kyle Busch with a lap and a half remaining in the race's scheduled 325-lap distance.

      After running first and second, Kahne and Harvick took four fresh tires and restarted the race fourth and fifth for the first attempted green-white-checker finish behind Kenseth, Paul Menard and Hamlin. Kenseth and Menard took only two new tires each.

      "If you get in the front, you have a chance," Kenseth said. "This aero package there is so much downforce, and it's hard to pass. You saw that when the 4 (Harvick) dominated all night; then you put the 5 (Kahne) in front of him and you just can't pass very good. We knew if we were in front, we'd at least have a chance."

      Menard spun his tires on the restart, bunching up cars behind him. Harvick was among the victims, hitting the wall. The reset button was set again in the form of a caution and another green-white-checker attempt, with Kenseth, Hamlin and Kahne restarting first through third.

      "On those restarts, I didn't know what would happen, because I had great restarts all night and I struggle with restarts a lot," Kahne said. "That's big, because that is one of the things you have to be good at, and it worked really well tonight."

      After putting on a dominating performance early in the race, Harvick retook the lead just past the halfway point. He then lost three positions on a restart following a lap-173 caution but soon got back up to the front.

      Harvick then lost his lead on pit road during a caution just past lap 300, but he got back to the lead with just over 100 laps remaining.

      Jimmie Johnson finished fourth, and Carl Edwards was fifth. Danica Patrick posted a career-best, sixth-place finish.

      "It was a long night," Patrick said. "Man, that race felt like it was 700 miles. Sometimes when you are running well, they feel like that because you are hoping it stays there, keeps going well and you keep improving and don't lose it."

      Kenseth led at the halfway point, with Stewart-Haas Racing teammates Harvick and Kurt Busch running second and third.

      Busch took the lead from Kenseth soon after a restart that followed a lap-125 caution, the fourth caution of the race. He pulled away for several laps after the restart, but as the race neared the halfway point, Kenseth and Harvick closed, and both were able to get by Busch to take over the top two spots.

      Harvick dominated the race early. After starting on the pole, he led all 81 laps until Hamlin beat him off pit road during the second caution. For most early laps, Jeff Gordon ran second, but the second caution came as a result of debris from Gordon's car when it scraped the wall. Gordon then went two laps down due to the damage and time spent on pit road for repairs.

      "We really overachieved with our pit stops," Hamlin said. "Those guys just kept me in it all day long, and it's a great feeling when you come to pit road and you know you're going to come out first pretty much every time. If it wasn't for our pit crew, it was a tough fight for us, but they did a good job."

      Harvick retook the lead from Hamlin in lapped traffic just before lap 110, but when the third yellow flag waved, Hamlin again beat him off pit road. When the race restarted, instead of moving back to the lead, Harvick dropped back to fifth as Kenseth moved up to second.

      With Hamlin leading and Kenseth in second, Joe Gibbs Racing had a hold on the top two spots. Kenseth took the lead from his teammate just before the lap 125 caution. After the top five drivers stayed out, Kenseth restarted in the lead but quickly lost the advantage to Busch.

      NOTES: Jeff Gordon made his 750th career Sprint Cup start. Atlanta was also the site of his first career start in November 1992 in the same race that was Richard Petty's last. ... Kevin Harvick led all but 36 laps and won the NASCAR Nationwide Series race at Atlanta on Saturday night. ... Tony Stewart returned for his first race after missing three Sprint Cup Series events. He started 12th, raced into the top five early but then scraped the wall just before halfway, causing a steering problem. He finished 41st. ... Nationwide Series regular Ty Dillon made his Sprint Cup Series debut in the No. 33 Circle Sport Chevrolet. ... The six-race suspension for Denny Hamlin's crew chief, Darian Grubb, is winding down, with only the Sept. 6 regular-season finale at Richmond (Va.) International Raceway remaining in the punishment.

  • Monday, September 1, 2014
    NASCAR Sprint Cup Oral-B USA 500 results
    By The Sports Xchange

    By NASCAR Wire Service

    • Distributed by The Sports Xchange

      NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Race -- Oral-B USA 500

      Atlanta Motor Speedway

      Hampton, Georgia

      Sunday, August 31, 2014

      1. (10) Kasey Kahne, Chevrolet, 335, $310965.

      2. (5) Matt Kenseth, Toyota, 335, $264741.

      3. (17) Denny Hamlin, Toyota, 335, $182705.

      4. (16) Jimmie Johnson, Chevrolet, 335, $198516.

      5. (11) Carl Edwards, Ford, 335, $147505.

      6. (27) Danica Patrick, Chevrolet, 335, $133095.

      7. (4) Ryan Newman, Chevrolet, 335, $127545.

      8. (3) Kyle Larson #, Chevrolet, 335, $150840.

      9. (7) Aric Almirola, Ford, 335, $151506.

      10. (18) Greg Biffle, Ford, 335, $154470.

      11. (20) Dale Earnhardt Jr., Chevrolet, 335, $119860.

      12. (15) Jamie McMurray, Chevrolet, 335, $144049.

      13. (22) Kurt Busch, Chevrolet, 335, $110135.

      14. (14) Joey Logano, Ford, 335, $145126.

      15. (19) Brian Vickers, Toyota, 335, $141710.

      16. (8) Kyle Busch, Toyota, 335, $151751.

      17. (9) Jeff Gordon, Chevrolet, 335, $149546.

      18. (33) Paul Menard, Chevrolet, 335, $132824.

      19. (1) Kevin Harvick, Chevrolet, 335, $158218.

      20. (26) Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Ford, 334, $141010.

      21. (25) Michael Annett #, Chevrolet, 334, $121343.

      22. (24) Casey Mears, Chevrolet, 334, $126418.

      23. (6) Martin Truex Jr., Chevrolet, 334, $129393.

      24. (13) Austin Dillon #, Chevrolet, 334, $146096.

      25. (29) Ty Dillon(i), Chevrolet, 332, $111418.

      26. (31) Justin Allgaier #, Chevrolet, 332, $119018.

      27. (38) David Ragan, Ford, 331, $116207.

      28. (37) David Gilliland, Ford, 330, $105935.

      29. (43) Reed Sorenson, Chevrolet, 330, $97660.

      30. (40) Cole Whitt #, Toyota, 329, $99010.

      31. (42) Landon Cassill(i), Chevrolet, 329, $96860.

      32. (41) JJ Yeley(i), Ford, 328, $94185.

      33. (36) Josh Wise, Chevrolet, 328, $94010.

      34. (35) Brett Moffitt, Toyota, 327, $101860.

      35. (30) Alex Bowman #, Toyota, 326, $93685.

      36. (39) Ryan Truex #, Toyota, 326, $93560.

      37. (34) Joe Nemechek(i), Ford, 324, $93391.

      38. (21) Clint Bowyer, Toyota, 314, $122756.

      39. (2) Brad Keselowski, Ford, Accident, 296, $130173.

      40. (23) AJ Allmendinger, Chevrolet, Vibration, 258, $79765.

      41. (12) Tony Stewart, Chevrolet, Accident, 170, $109923.

      42. (32) Marcos Ambrose, Ford, Engine, 122, $98110.

      43. (28) Mike Bliss(i), Chevrolet, Vibration, 23, $68265.

      Average Speed of Race Winner: 131.514 mph.

      Time of Race: 03 Hrs, 55 Mins, 22 Secs. Margin of Victory: 0.574 Seconds.

      Caution Flags: 10 for 56 laps.

      Lead Changes: 21 among 6 drivers.

      Lap Leaders: K. Harvick 1-80; D. Hamlin 81-84; K. Harvick 85; D. Hamlin 86-107; K. Harvick 108-118; D. Hamlin 119-122; M. Kenseth 123-135; Kurt Busch 136-157; M. Kenseth 158-164; K. Harvick 165-170; B. Keselowski 171-173; D. Hamlin 174; M. Kenseth 175-182; K. Harvick 183-210; M. Kenseth 211-227; K. Harvick 228-258; D. Hamlin 259-260; K. Harvick 261-298; D. Hamlin 299-302; K. Kahne 303-325; M. Kenseth 326-333; K. Kahne 334-335.

      Leaders Summary (Driver, Times Lead, Laps Led): K. Harvick 7 times for 195 laps; M. Kenseth 5 times for 53 laps; D. Hamlin 6 times for 37 laps; K. Kahne 2 times for 25 laps; Kurt Busch 1 time for 22 laps; B. Keselowski 1 time for 3 laps.

      Top 16 in Points: J. Gordon -- 872; D. Earnhardt Jr. -- 851; M. Kenseth -- 794; J. Logano -- 791; B. Keselowski -- 782; J. Johnson -- 766; C. Edwards -- 755; K. Harvick -- 748; R. Newman -- 747; G. Biffle -- 728; K. Kahne -- 708; C. Bowyer -- 705; K. Larson # -- 704; P. Menard -- 675; A. Dillon # -- 674; J. Mcmurray -- 666.

  • Sunday, August 31, 2014
    Blaney wins thriller at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park
    By The Sports Xchange

    By Chris Knight

    • NASCAR Wire Service

      Distributed by The Sports Xchange

      In a dramatic finish, Ryan Blaney drag-raced German Quiroga off the last corner at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park to the start-finish line to win Sunday afternoon's NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Chevrolet Silverado 250.

      The two drivers duked it out for the win following the final restart, but a pass for the lead by Quiroga in Turn 8 on the final lap would be short lived, as Blaney set up his crucial move exiting the final turn allowing Blaney to score his third career victory by 0.049 seconds.

      "That was a ton of fun racing with German," said Blaney. "We raced really, really hard and really clean and that's how racing should be. We had a problem last week (at Bristol) and just fate would have us racing each other for the win this week. That's awesome. That's what racing needs to be, it was so fun racing with him and battling it out with him."

      Blaney's teammate Alex Tagliani led the field from the pole in his NASCAR Camping World Truck Series debut and held the point until he strategically made a green flag pit stop on Lap 8 with Gray Gaulding inheriting the lead. The NASCAR Next driver would control the field for five laps before he headed to pit road and handed the lead to Canadian Andrew Ranger.

      When Ranger pitted on Lap 16, Blaney assumed command on Lap 17. Utilizing a one-stop strategy, he stayed out until Lap 29, when Quiroga shuffled to the top spot.

      With the lead exchanging between Quiroga, Cole Custer and Johnny Sauter, crew chief Chad Kendrick's early-race pit stop call would prove to be beneficial for Blaney, as he climbed from outside the top 10 to reclaim the lead from Sauter on Lap 44.

      Blaney's healthy lead over Quiroga would be diminished when the first full-course caution would wave on Lap 48 for the No. 8 of John Hunter Nemechek, who lost an engine in Turn 1. Under the yellow, the leaders elected to stay out, setting up for a restart twelve laps from the finish.

      Quiroga couldn't make the pass on Blaney on the restart, but he would get another chance when the second and final caution of the day waved on Lap 55 for Tagliani, who stalled on the track in Turn 5.

      On the final restart, Blaney got a strong jump on the field and was able to clear Quiroga, but the Mexico City, Mexico native reeled him back in over the last eight laps before making his move in the Esses.

      Coming out of Turn 10, Blaney made the crossover move to win his first race of the season. Quiroga matched his career-best finish in 42 starts.

      "We tried hard, we came in second. I'm going to keep on trying," said Quiroga. We were really, really fast on long runs. Everyone at the shop worked really hard to build a road course truck and that's how we arrived. I think we were on the right path, just strategy and how things played out, Blaney was in front of us. I tried really hard to pass him, tried to make him make a mistake, he didn't. I passed him in Turn 8, and Turn 9, coming off he got a really good run off the corner and beat us."

      Erik Jones was third followed by Gaulding and Ranger to close out the top five. Matt Crafton, Brennan Newberry, Johnny Sauter, Cole Custer and Timothy Peters comprised the top-10.

      NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Race -- Chevrolet Silverado 250

      Canadian Tire Motorsport Park

      Sunday, Aug. 31

      1. (14) Ryan Blaney, Ford, 64, $64295.

      2. (4) German Quiroga, Toyota, 64, $43585.

      3. (3) Erik Jones, Toyota, 64, $28176.

      4. (2) Gray Gaulding #, Chevrolet, 64, $21525.

      5. (6) Andrew Ranger, RAM, 64, $17300.

      6. (8) Matt Crafton, Toyota, 64, $18025.

      7. (13) Brennan Newberry, Chevrolet, 64, $16075.

      8. (11) Johnny Sauter, Toyota, 64, $15575.

      9. (5) Cole Custer, Chevrolet, 64, $14675.

      10. (9) Timothy Peters, Toyota, 64, $15850.

      11. (10) Cameron Hayley, Chevrolet, 64, $14475.

      12. (7) Darrell Wallace Jr., Toyota, 64, $14300.

      13. (15) Joey Coulter, Chevrolet, 64, $14200.

      14. (20) Mason Mingus #, Toyota, 64, $15100.

      15. (12) Ben Kennedy #, Chevrolet, 64, $14525.

      16. (1) Alex Tagliani(i), Ford, 63, $16300.

      17. (17) Jeb Burton, Toyota, 63, $13700.

      18. (19) Tyler Young #, Chevrolet, 63, $13600.

      19. (18) Bryan Silas, Chevrolet, 63, $13500.

      20. (21) Ray Courtemanche Jr., Chevrolet, 63, $12775.

      21. (22) TJ Bell, Chevrolet, 62, $12050.

      22. (26) Norm Benning, Chevrolet, 58, $10950.

      23. (27) Jennifer Jo Cobb, RAM, 54, $10750.

      24. (23) Scott Stenzel, Chevrolet, 45, $10650.

      25. (16) John H. Nemechek, Toyota, Transmission, 26, $10750.

      26. (25) Justin Jennings, Chevrolet, Transmission, 15, $10550.

      27. (24) BJ McLeod, Chevrolet, Ignition, 8, $10500.

      28. (28) Caleb Roark, RAM, Clutch, 0, $10450.

      Average Speed of Race Winner: 92.514 mph.

      Time of Race: 1 Hrs, 42 Mins, 04 Secs. Margin of Victory: 0.049 Seconds.

      Caution Flags: 2 for 6 laps.

      Lead Changes: 8 among 7 drivers.

      Lap Leaders: A. Tagliani(i) 1-7; G. Gaulding # 8-12; A. Ranger 13-16; R. Blaney 17-29; G. Quiroga 30-32; C. Custer 33-34; G. Quiroga 35-39; J. Sauter 40-43; R. Blaney 44-64.

      Leaders Summary (Driver, Times Lead, Laps Led): R. Blaney 2 times for 34 laps; G. Quiroga 2 times for 8 laps; A. Tagliani(i) 1 time for 7 laps; G. Gaulding # 1 time for 5 laps; A. Ranger 1 time for 4 laps; J. Sauter 1 time for 4 laps; C. Custer 1 time for 2 laps.

      Top 10 in Points: J. Sauter - 524; M. Crafton - 517; R. Blaney - 511; D. Wallace Jr. - 486; G. Quiroga - 476; R. Hornaday Jr. - 460; J. Coulter - 456; T. Peters - 448; B. Kennedy # - 441; J. Burton - 420.

  • Sunday, August 31, 2014
    Earnhardt: Harvick's contribution goes far beyond dominant driving
    By The Sports Xchange

    By Reid Spencer

    • NASCAR Wire Service

      Distributed by The Sports Xchange

      HAMPTON, Ga. -- Yes, Kevin Harvick made mincemeat of the rest of the field in Saturday night's Great Clips 300 at Atlanta Motor Speedway.

      And, yes, Harvick has crafted a remarkable record in 11 NASCAR Nationwide Series appearances for JR Motorsports this season.

      But according to team owner Dale Earnhardt Jr., Harvick's contribution to the organization goes far beyond his performance on the track.

      "He's brought a lot to our team," Earnhardt said Saturday night, while Harvick celebrated in Victory Lane. "We've said it every time we've had the opportunity to talk about it, how much he's brought to the team in terms of performance and speed. He continues to help us improve our equipment and our cars, and that raises the competitiveness of the whole company.

      "He's not only a great driver -- he gets in there and drives the heck out of it -- but he raises the whole company, and that's pretty unique. You don't really get that in a lot of race car drivers. Some guys are really, really good, and they can get the job done behind the wheel, but it's rare where you find a driver that makes a huge impact on the entire company and the business model, and Kevin definitely does that with us."

      A former NASCAR Nationwide and Camping World Truck Series owner himself, Harvick has shared insights that have made a difference in the way JR Motorsports operates and competes.

      Perhaps that's why the company's two full-time drivers, Chase Elliott and Regan Smith, are 1-2 in the series standings right now.

      ROOTING FROM AFAR

      Brad Keselowski spent Sunday afternoon in his motor coach at Atlanta Motor Speedway, but he wasn't relaxing.

      Keselowski was watching the TV broadcast of the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park with particular interest, given that his Brad Keselowski Racing driver, Ryan Blaney, was locked in a high-intensity duel for the win against German Quiroga.

      Blaney edged in front of Quiroga at the finish line to win the dramatic battle, giving the team its second straight victory, after Keselowski himself scored his inaugural triumph on Aug. 21 at Bristol.

      "It was just great racing," Keselowski said of Blaney's victory. "Ryan and German put on an awesome show and a clinic of what racing should be. I'm just really proud of Ryan to get back on his feet there (after two straight finishes outside the top 10) and get a win.

      "I wouldn't have thought his first win of the year would have come on a road course, but that makes it even more exciting. They certainly have some momentum back to make a run for this championship -- and they're poised to strike."

      After the victory, Blaney is third in the series standings, just 13 points behind leader Johnny Sauter.

      SPONSORSHIP YOU CAN BANK ON

      During a press conference scheduled, appropriately, for 3:53 p.m. at Atlanta Motor Speedway, Roush Fenway Racing announced a three-year extension of its partnership with Fifth Third Bank as a primary sponsor on Ricky Stenhouse Jr.'s No. 17 Ford.

      "Fifth Third plays a huge role in our organization's business side, to let the competition side do their thing, and they also do a lot for me on my personal finances side," said Stenhouse, who hoped he would have a chance to use one of the bank's services after Sunday night's Oral-B USA 500 at Atlanta.

      "Hopefully, by the end of the night, we can use the Fifth Third mobile banking to deposit a big check. That would be nice."

  • Sunday, August 31, 2014
    Power claims IndyCar title; Kanaan wins season finale
    By The Sports Xchange

    FONTANA, Calif. -- Will Power finally overcame his IndyCar championship demons.

    • The 33-year-old driver of Toowoomba, Australia, had finished second in the point standings three times in the past four years but delivered a special moment Saturday night in the MAVTV 500 at Auto Club Speedway.

      Power finished ninth in the season-ending race as Team Penske teammate Helio Castroneves settled for 14th place after being penalized for crossing a line coming to pit road on his final stop.

      The white line in the corners is to keep drivers from straying into the path of others still on the track. Castroneves was on pit road in Turn 3 but drifted up in Turn 4 before turning down toward pit road.

      "I was crying over the line," Power said. "I can't believe I'm the champion. That's 15 years of hard work."

      Team Penske won its first IndyCar title since 2006 and its 13th overall in the sport.

      Tony Kanaan won the race, his first for Ganassi Racing since replacing Dario Franchitti, the driver who twice denied Power the championship. Kanaan became the 11th different driver to win this season, matching the record set twice in CART. It also gave Chip Ganassi's team three wins in the season's final four races.

      Kanaan even confirmed that his wife, Lauren, is pregnant. She is due in January.

      After qualifying poorly, starting 21st among 22 cars, Power and strategist Tim Cindric decided to go conservative with the race approach. Power made no move to advance his position in the early laps, and he was briefly last in the field.

      Slowly and surely, he started his march, picking off a car here, another there. After the second pit stop at Lap 70, he was 10th and starting to see the level he needed.

      Meanwhile, Simon Pagenaud effectively lost his chance to steal the title from Team Penske early on. The most points the Schmidt Peterson Hamilton Motorsports driver could attain was 648 and that's if he scored maximum race-day points. That meant Power only needed to finish in the top 19.

      Pagenaud didn't help his chances by falling a lap off the pace with an early pit stop under green on Lap 22, and he nearly crashed leaving the pits as he did in Wednesday's test.

      Pagenaud, who fell all the way to fifth in the standings with a 20th-place finish, was trying to win his first IndyCar Series championship. He won an American Le Mans Series sports car title in 2010 and continued to show why he's the top member of IndyCar's free agent class.

      Pagenaud said he'd decide where he'll race next season in the next couple of weeks, although it's expected he'll join Andretti Autosport.

      "I don't have an answer for you guys tonight," Pagenaud said. "After I crashed on Wednesday night, we rebuilt the car. Everybody checked everything, but it never fit just as good. What it is, I have no idea."

      The race went on without Pagenaud's teammate, rookie Mikhail Aleshin, who was hospitalized at Loma Linda University Medical Center with an assortment of injuries suffered in Friday night's crash during the final practice.

      Aleshin was in stable condition Saturday evening with a broken clavicle, fractured ribs, a concussion and a chest injury that was vague in its description. IndyCar did confirm, however, that Aleshin had a procedure on his chest.

      Aleshin, a 27-year-old Moscow native, is expected to remain hospitalized for the next five to seven days. His car was withdrawn from the race.

      NOTES: MAVTV announced a two-year extension to sponsor IndyCar races at this track, but the date will be changing. Track president Gillian Zucker is pushing for a June weekend, and it's expected that the sanctioning body will accommodate. ... Rookie Carlos Huertas won an IndyCar race earlier this year, in Houston in June, but he was no factor this weekend. He qualified last among the 22 drivers at 202.319 mph. The pole speed was 218.540 mph. He was first out of the race with an illness. ... Castroneves' pole was significant for more than the championship point he earned. The top qualifying spot was the 41st of his career, breaking a tie for fourth place with Rick Mears. Next for Castroneves to catch is Bobby Unser with 49.

  • Sunday, August 31, 2014
    Harvick dominant in Nationwide Series win at Atlanta
    By The Sports Xchange

    By Reid Spencer, NASCAR Wire Service

    • Distributed by The Sports Xchange

      HAMPTON, Ga. -- No wonder they call Kevin Harvick "The Closer."

      From the moment Harvick's No. 5 JR Motorsports Chevrolet took the lead from polesitter Chase Elliott on Lap 37, Saturday night's Great Clips 300 at Atlanta Motor Speedway was an open-and-shut case.

      In posting his third NASCAR Nationwide Series victory of the season and the 43rd of his career, Harvick led the last 159 laps and finished .567 seconds ahead of runner-up Joey Logano.

      "This thing was bad fast from the drop of the green flag," Harvick said after finishing off a spectacular victory burnout and exiting the car. "This is just one of those race tracks where I like the challenge of everything you get to do here.

      "(Crew chief) Ernie (Cope) and I have found a great setup over the years back into the trucks (NASCAR Camping World Truck Series), and it's still working today."

      The only factors preventing Harvick from lapping the field -- or so it seemed -- were a pair of debris cautions, the first of which erased a four-second lead after Harvick had paced the field from Laps 37 through 72.

      The second caution flag, which flew on Lap 120, wiped out a Harvick advantage that was close to seven seconds. By then, only 10 of the 40 cars that started the race remained on the lead lap.

      A light rain extended that second caution to 13 laps, but after a restart on Lap 134, it was more of the same. Harvick quickly pulled out to a lead of more than four seconds before a cycle of green-flag pit stops trimmed his advantage to two seconds over Logano, the only driver able to keep pace with Harvick over the closing laps.

      Kyle Larson ran third, followed by Kyle Busch and Elliott, who extended his series lead to 15 points over JR Motorsports teammate Regan Smith, the sixth-place finisher.

      Logano's car came to life in the closing laps but not soon enough for him to catch Harvick.

      "I took off that last run and started to catch Kevin a little bit and then started to get too tight," Logano said. "He started driving away a little bit, and then the last six or seven laps, all of a sudden the light switch turned on and I started catching him.

      "I just ran out of time. I wish there were five or seven more laps, and I could have got to him and tried to do something with him. We were catching him two or three tenths (of a second) a lap there at the end and having some fun with it, but it was too little, too late."

      In Friday's NASCAR Sprint Cup Series time trials, Harvick won the pole for Sunday's Oral-B USA 500 at the 1.54-mile speedway. Though there are vast differences in the behavior of NNS versus Cup cars, Harvick's ability to run the bottom at Atlanta might be an indication of good things to come on Sunday.

      "I'm really happy with our car," Harvick said. "It's been good in every practice and obviously qualified well. You just have to have it all go your way. These races are hard to win, so we'll just enjoy this one tonight and go from there."

      NASCAR Nationwide Series Race - Great Clips 300 to benefit Feed The Children

      Atlanta Motor Speedway

      Hampton, Georgia

      Saturday, August 30, 2014

      1. (8) Kevin Harvick(i), Chevrolet, 195, $50000.

      2. (4) Joey Logano(i), Ford, 195, $37225.

      3. (2) Kyle Larson(i), Chevrolet, 195, $27250.

      4. (3) Kyle Busch(i), Toyota, 195, $21875.

      5. (1) Chase Elliott #, Chevrolet, 195, $30225.

      6. (11) Regan Smith, Chevrolet, 195, $23875.

      7. (9) Brian Scott, Chevrolet, 195, $22060.

      8. (10) David Ragan(i), Ford, 195, $15520.

      9. (14) Ty Dillon #, Chevrolet, 195, $20900.

      10. (5) Elliott Sadler, Toyota, 194, $22150.

      11. (6) Matt Kenseth(i), Toyota, 194, $13850.

      12. (7) Trevor Bayne, Ford, 193, $19400.

      13. (13) Chris Buescher #, Ford, 192, $18600.

      14. (16) Brendan Gaughan, Chevrolet, 192, $18050.

      15. (24) Landon Cassill, Chevrolet, 192, $18725.

      16. (23) JJ Yeley, Dodge, 191, $17800.

      17. (19) Mike Bliss, Toyota, 191, $17725.

      18. (12) Ryan Reed #, Ford, 190, $17625.

      19. (18) James Buescher, Toyota, 190, $17550.

      20. (29) Ryan Sieg #, Chevrolet, 190, $18150.

      21. (15) Dylan Kwasniewski #, Chevrolet, 190, $17375.

      22. (20) Jeremy Clements, Chevrolet, 190, $17295.

      23. (27) Tanner Berryhill #, Dodge, 189, $17220.

      24. (25) Eric McClure, Toyota, 188, $17120.

      25. (28) Jeffrey Earnhardt, Chevrolet, 188, $17570.

      26. (26) Matt DiBenedetto, Chevrolet, 188, $17020.

      27. (37) Jamie Dick, Chevrolet, 187, $16970.

      28. (22) Blake Koch, Toyota, 187, $16895.

      29. (36) Chris Cockrum(i), Ford, 183, $16845.

      30. (33) Joey Gase, Chevrolet, Fuel Pump, 180, $17045.

      31. (32) Derrike Cope, Chevrolet, 180, $16690.

      32. (21) John Wes Townley(i), Toyota, Engine, 157, $16630.

      33. (17) Dakoda Armstrong #, Ford, Engine, 129, $16565.

      34. (34) Mike Harmon, Dodge, Transmission, 92, $16530.

      35. (38) Morgan Shepherd, Chevrolet, Overheating, 51, $10482.

      36. (31) Kevin Swindell, Dodge, Fuel Pump, 43, $15750.

      37. (35) Carlos Contreras, Chevrolet, Engine, 35, $15715.

      38. (40) John Jackson, Chevrolet, Vibration, 19, $9661.

      39. (39) Carl Long, Chevrolet, Overheating, 4, $9545.

      40. (30) Jeff Green, Toyota, Vibration, 3, $9480.

      Average Speed of Race Winner: 140.091 mph.

      Time of Race: 02 Hrs, 08 Mins, 37 Secs. Margin of Victory: 0.567 Seconds.

      Caution Flags: 2 for 18 laps.

      Lead Changes: 1 among 2 drivers.

      Lap Leaders: C. Elliott # 1-36; K. Harvick(i) 37-195.

      Leaders Summary (Driver, Times Lead, Laps Led): K. Harvick(i) 1 time for 159 laps; C. Elliott # 1 time for 36 laps.

      Top 10 in Points: C. Elliott # - 874; R. Smith - 859; T. Dillon # - 839; E. Sadler - 826; B. Scott - 820; T. Bayne - 803; C. Buescher # - 713; B. Gaughan - 694; R. Reed # - 658; J. Buescher - 646.

  • Saturday, August 30, 2014
    Doctors upgrade Aleshin's condition
    By The Sports Xchange

    Doctors upgraded the condition of IndyCar driver Mikhail Aleshin to stable on Saturday following a procedure for a chest injury suffered in a crash on Friday.

    • Aleshin had been hospitalized and listed in serious but stable condition early Saturday after suffering a concussion, broken right shoulder, broken ribs and other chest injuries in an accident at Auto Club Speedway on Friday in Fontana, Calif.

      The crash took place around 10 p.m. ET during the final practice session for the Verizon IndyCar Series' MAVTV 500, which is scheduled for later Saturday.

      The crash wreck occurred during Turn 4 and involve Marco Andretti, Sebastian Bourdais and Charlie Kimball. Kimball also was examined at the hospital. He was released and cleared to drive in Saturday night's race.

      Aleshin is the first Russian driver in IndyCar history.

  • Saturday, August 30, 2014
    Gordon to start 750th straight race
    By The Sports Xchange

    By Reid Spencer

    • NASCAR Wire Service

      Distributed by The Sports Xchange

      HAMPTON, Ga. -- Making 750 starts in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series is quite an accomplishment in itself.

      Doing so without interruption is even more remarkable.

      Jeff Gordon will make his 750th start at NASCAR's highest level in Sunday night's Oral-B USA 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway. Gordon hasn't missed a race since he took the green flag in Cup competition for the first time, in November 1992 at Atlanta.

      "It seems like just yesterday that it started right here, over 20 years ago," Gordon said. "I love this track, love racing here, so it's pretty cool to have 750 happening here."

      If Gordon’s streak remains unbroken, he'll surpass Ricky Rudd's series-record 788 consecutive starts in the 28th race of 2015, at New Hampshire Motor Speedway.

      Gordon's longevity, and the four series championships that have accompanied it, have earned the driver of the No. 24 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet a number of enviable perks through the years.

      Earlier this week, he got an invitation to tour Air Force One when President Obama visited Charlotte, N.C.

      "I was testing in Martinsville, and so luckily my mom and my dad were able to go as well as (wife) Ingrid and the kids," Gordon said. "They didn't expect to be able to say hi to President Obama. They just thought they were going to go and have a tour. So it was quite a surprise and quite an experience for them.

      "They've been talking about it all week and how cool it was. It's interesting these days. You know, you have a 7-year-old daughter (Ella), who missed a day of school and then goes back the next day and they say, 'Where were you?' and she says she was seeing the President and I went on Air Force One and they're like, 'Oh, right, where were you?'"

      Starting Spot Doesn’t Worry Logano

      In Friday's NASCAR Sprint Cup Series qualifying session at Atlanta Motor Speedway, Joey Logano failed to make the final session of knockout time trials for the first time on an open-motor track.

      Logano qualified 14th for Sunday's Oral-B USA 500 at the 1.54-mile track, but the winner of last week's Bristol race isn't particularly concerned about his starting position. Logano's No. 22 Team Penske Ford was fast enough to pace Saturday's first Sprint Cup practice session with a lap at 189.351 mph.

      "You have to go fast for a long time here, but we were OK, even on the long runs," Logano said after the session, which was truncated by an afternoon rainstorm. "We never put new tires on it, so we kind of just kept working,

      "We'll see. I think the 4 car (of pole winner Kevin Harvick) is super-fast, but I don't think we're far behind him."

      Looking For A Win

      Matt Kenseth is a likely Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup qualifier whether he wins one of the final two regular-season races or not, but the driver of the No. 20 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota would rather solidify his Chase berth with a victory.

      In final Sprint Cup practice at Atlanta, Kenseth was headed in the right direction. He was fastest in the Happy Hour with a lap at 188.251 mph. Given that Atlanta is a track where the Gibbs cars traditionally have excelled, Kenseth has to like his chances in race trim on Sunday night.

  • Saturday, August 30, 2014
    Castroneves grabs pole for season finale
    By The Sports Xchange

    Helio Castroneves won the 41st pole of his IndyCar career in qualifying Friday for the MAVTV 500 at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, Calif.

    • Castroneves posted a two-lap average of 218.540 mph on the 2-mile oval and moved ahead of four-time Indianapolis 500 winner Rick Mears for fourth in career poles in IndyCar history.

      In the final practice season for the race, rookie Mikhail Aleshin suffered injuries to his right shoulder and right foot in a serious crash. He was airlifted on Loma Linda University Medical Center and reported to be conscious and alert.

      The crash involved three drivers in Turn 4. Aleshin's car hit the wall hard, leaving a large hole and a wheel in the fence. Debris was spread on the track as rescue workers removed Aleshin on a stretcher.

      Castroneves picked up one bonus point in the championship race for winning the pole, which was his third of the year. He trails series leader and teammate Will Power by 50 points entering the final race of the season.

      "It ain't over; it's just beginning," Castroneves said. "Our job is to be aggressive over the 500 miles and finish where we started."

      Juan Pablo Montoya qualified second at 217.621 mph, followed by Josef Newgarden at 217.600 mph.

      Power was one of the slowest qualifiers at 21st with a two-lap average of 212.604 mph. Simon Pagenaud, also in contention for the series championship, qualified 13th at 215.752 mph.

      "With the starting position, I'd rather start at the very front or the very back to stay out of trouble early on," Power said. "It's obviously all about the race; it's very long and we'll be racing in different conditions."

  • Friday, August 29, 2014
    Harvick snags pole at Atlanta
    By The Sports Xchange

    By Reid Spencer

    • NASCAR Wire Service

      Distributed by The Sports Xchange

      HAMPTON, Ga. -- NASCAR's new qualifying knockout format -- not to mention the quality of his race cars -- certainly agrees with Kevin Harvick.

      Fastest in the qualifying round that counted, the final five-minute session on Friday at Atlanta Motor Speedway, Harvick put his No. 4 Stewart-Haas Racing Chevrolet on the pole for Sunday night's Oral-B USA 500 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race with a lap at 190.398 mph.

      The pole was Harvick's sixth of the season, matching the total he accumulated in the first 13 seasons of his Sprint Cup career. It was Harvick's first pole at the 1.54-mile intermediate speedway, following top qualifying efforts at Darlington, Kansas, Michigan, Indianapolis and Bristol earlier this year.

      Brad Keselowski took the second position on the grid with a lap at 190.058 mph. Rookie Kyle Larson (189.883 mph) qualified third on pavement he termed "a whole new level of worn out," a characteristic drivers tend to favor.

      Ryan Newman (189.396 mph) will start fourth, followed by Matt Kenseth 188.996 mph) and Martin Truex Jr. (188.918 mph). Aric Almirola set the fastest lap of the evening in the first round (191.278 mph) but slipped to seventh in the last session.

      Tony Stewart, returning to action after a three-race hiatus in the wake of his involvement in a fatal Sprint Car accident Aug. 9 at Canandaigua (N.Y.) Speedway, qualified 12th but helped Harvick with advice on his racing line before the final two runs.

      "He told me to go back to the way I was practicing and used to getting around the racetrack," said Harvick, who had tried to run Stewart's preferred line in the first round and failed to find the rhythm. "It was definitely the right decision."

      For Harvick this year, qualifying has clearly been a point of emphasis, and his results reflect it.

      "The qualifying stuff has obviously been a major focus of what we've done," Harvick said. "I think it's kept us in a lot of races where we were off a little bit and gave us an advantage on pit road.

      " ... (Crew chief) Rodney (Childers) and the guys focus a lot on qualifying, and I think that when you're able to push the cars and feel comfortable with it like you can right now, it obviously gives me a lot of confidence. It's been a lot of fun. Obviously, it's not something I've done in my career (before this year)."

      Keselowski's qualifying effort was his best ever at the track.

      "That's a testament to the team and the work they've done and trying to be better," Keselowski said. "We're having a phenomenal season, but I just wish it had been one more spot instead of second place."

      NOTES: Matt Kenseth led the 10-minute second round with a lap at 190.883 mph. Speeds slowed with each session because of tire wear on the abrasive asphalt. ... Michael McDowell failed to make the 43-car field. ... The Oral-B USA 500 is the 25th race of the regular season. The field for the 2014 Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup will be set next weekend at Richmond.

  • Friday, August 29, 2014
    Power goes into final IndyCar race with points lead
    By The Sports Xchange

    FONTANA, Calif. -- Someone will win a Verizon IndyCar Series championship for the first time this weekend.

    • Will Power, Helio Castroneves and Simon Pagenaud head to Saturday night's MAVTV 500 at Auto Club Speedway (10:20 p.m. ET, NBCSN) with varying chances.

      Power holds what should be a comfortable 51-point lead over Castroneves, but Power never takes the easy road. He led the 2010 and 2011 point standings heading to the final race only to be tripped up by race-day contact and overtaken by Dario Franchitti. The next year, his chance to win the title effectively ended with an early race crash.

      This has been one of Power's better seasons, but he had a stretch of five midseason races with four penalties, including a pit road speeding infraction in the Indianapolis 500 that wiped away his chance to win. He finished eighth. At Pocono (Pa.) Raceway last month, his block of Castroneves was flagged, too.

      Power could have effectively wrapped up the title last week at Sonoma (Calif.) Raceway, but he spun on his own mid-race. Instead of finishing in the top three, he had to fight his way back to 10th, leaving the door open for Castroneves, Pagenaud and, to a lesser extent, Ryan Hunter-Reay.

      The easiest way for Power to win the title is to finish in the top six. If he leads at least one lap, he’ll get a bonus point and then would only need to finish seventh.

      Castroneves is the driver with everything on his resume but a championship. Driving for Team Penske since 2000, he has won 29 races, including three Indianapolis 500s. He is tied with Rick Mears with 40 career poles.

      Castroneves went side by side with Sam Hornish Jr. on the last lap of the 2002 season only to finish second in both the race and the season standings. He lost the 2006 title by two points and has finished in the top four an astounding 11 times. He has a Mirror Ball Trophy for winning "Dancing With the Stars," but he doesn't have an IndyCar Series trophy.

      Castroneves' best chance to win this title involves scoring maximum points (being the top qualifier, leading the most laps in the race and going to victory lane). But the title can still be his if he finishes second with Power not in the top 15.

      Pagenaud is a former American LeMans Series champion (2010) that is only in his third IndyCar season. A strong finish could earn him a top-three finish for the second straight year, particularly noteworthy given that his team, Schmidt Peterson Hamilton Motorsports, doesn't have the resources or history of Team Penske, Ganassi Racing and/or Andretti Autosport.

      Power and Castroneves are Penske drivers; Hunter-Reay leads the Andretti charge.

      Pagenaud's chance at the title depends on Power finishing in one of the bottom three or four positions. If attrition dominates the 500-mile race and Power is not involved in it, Pagenaud, who trails by 81 points, will not win the title.

      If Pagenaud doesn't win the title, team owner Roger Penske will, and he hasn't since Hornish was the champion in 2006.

      This is the earliest an IndyCar champion has been crowned. Series officials decided it shouldn't go head-to-head with the upcoming football season.

  • Friday, August 29, 2014
    Stewart returns in emotionally charged press conference
    By The Sports Xchange

    By Reid Spencer, NASCAR Wire Service

    • Distributed by The Sports Xchange

      HAMPTON, Ga.-- In his first public appearance since the sprint car accident that took the life of Kevin Ward Jr., driver Tony Stewart, his voice cracking with emotion, sat at the dais in the media center at Atlanta Motor Speedway and talked about the accident's profound effect on his life.

      "This has been one of the toughest tragedies I've ever had to deal with both professionally and personally," Stewart said in a statement he had written. "This is something that will definitely affect my life forever. This is a sadness and a pain that I hope no one ever has to experience in their life.

      "With that being said, I know that the pain and the mourning that Kevin Ward's family and friends are experiencing is something that I can't possibly imagine. I want Kevin's father, Kevin Sr., and his mother Pam, and his sisters Christi, Kayla, Katelyn, to know that every day I'm thinking about them and praying for them.

      "The racing community is a large family, as you guys know. Everyone's saddened with this tragedy."

      Slightly more than two hours before he was to return to the cockpit of the No. 14 Stewart-Haas Racing Chevrolet for the first time since the fatal accident Aug. 9 at Canandaigua Speedway in Ontario County, N.Y., Stewart left the stage without taking questions.

      Forty-five minutes after Stewart's press conference, however, NASCAR president Mike Helton answered one of the most pressing questions of the day, announcing that Stewart would retain his eligibility for the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup despite missing three races in the aftermath of the tragedy.

      Specifically, Helton addressed the requirement that a driver must attempt to qualify for all 26 regular-season races and must be in the top 30 in the series standings after 26 races. (Stewart currently is 26th in points).

      "I'll remind everybody back earlier this year, when we announced the format for the '14 Chase, that announcement included some responsibility about the routine participation in the season in order to be eligible for the Chase," Helton said.

      "Along with that importance of routine participation came the asterisk, so to speak, about 'except in rare instances.' This has been a very unique set of circumstances to Tony and to our sport. As the league, it's our responsibility to make decisions that are correct and right.

      "After evaluating the circumstances around this occurrence, we've come to the conclusion that Tony would be eligible to participate in the Chase, if he were to earn a spot in it."

      Stewart would have to win either Sunday at Atlanta or the following Saturday at Richmond in order to qualify for NASCAR's 10-race playoff.

      Chase status aside, the three-time NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion and Stewart-Haas Racing co-owner seemed more concerned with expressing his gratitude toward those who have sustained him through the crisis.

      "I want to thank all my friends and family for their support through this tough emotional time, and the support from the NASCAR community, my partners, all of our employees, it's been overwhelming," he said. "I've taken the last couple weeks off out of respect for Kevin and his family, and also to cope with the accident in my own way. It's given me the time to think about life and how easy it is to take it for granted.

      "I miss my team, my teammates. I miss being back in the race car. I think being back in the car this week with my racing family will help me get through this difficult time. I also understand that all of you have many questions and want a lot of answers. However, I need to respect the ongoing investigation process and cannot answer and address the questions at this time. Emotionally I'm not sure if I could answer them anyway.

      "We're here to race this weekend, and I appreciate your respect. There will be a day when I can sit here and answer the questions. Thank you."

      Authorities in Ontario County have not announced their findings in what remains an open investigation of Ward's death. A press release issued by the Ontario County Sheriff's Department on Friday indicated the investigation would "continue for at least another two weeks."

      Stewart and Ward were racing winged Sprint Cars in close quarters at the half-mile dirt track on the night of Aug. 9 when Ward's car spun near the outside wall. Ward climbed from his car and walked toward Stewart's car, which was circling the track under caution.

      A video of the event shows Ward stepping toward Stewart's car and gesticulating, ostensibly expressing his displeasure. Stewart's car hit Ward and knocked the young driver toward the outside wall, where he lay motionless. Ward was pronounced dead on arrival at a local hospital.

      Brett Frood, executive vice president of Stewart-Haas Racing, remained at the dais at Atlanta after Stewart departed and took questions from reporters.

      Frood said Stewart's return to the track was part of the healing process.

      "Besides his mom, his dad, his sister, his niece and nephew, his family is here -- it's at the race track," Frood said. "It's part of the healing process of being with his family that he's been with since 1999, knowing that these people are going to help him get through this.

      "I think that's one side of it. The other side of it is he's a racer. We have 270 employees (at Stewart-Haas). I think him putting a helmet on will help him cope with this situation."

  • Friday, August 29, 2014
    An emotional Stewart returns to racing
    By The Sports Xchange

    HAMPTON, Ga. -- Tony Stewart, who will make his first race start on Sunday in the Oral-B USA 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway after missing three consecutive races, choked up between words of his opening statement.

    • Stewart had been in seclusion since the Aug. 9 death of Kevin Ward Jr. after an incident between the two drivers in a sprint car race at Canandaigua Motorsports Park in upstate New York. Stewart has since missed races at Watkins Glen (N.Y.) International, Michigan International Speedway and Bristol (Tenn.) Motor Speedway.

      On Friday, Stewart spoke publicly about the incident at Canandaigua for the first time, making a statement in the Atlanta Motor Speedway Media Center. He didn't take questions, saying he wouldn't do so out of respect to the still ongoing investigation. Stewart went on to say that, emotionally, he probably couldn't answer questions, anyway.

      "This has been one of the toughest tragedies I've ever had to deal with both professionally and personally. This is something that will definitely affect my life forever. This is a sadness and a pain that I hope no one ever has to experience in their life," Stewart said in his prepared statement.

      "With that being said, I know that the pain and the mourning that Kevin Ward's family and friends are experiencing is something that I can't possibly imagine.

      "I want Kevin's father, Kevin Sr., and his mother, Pam, and his sisters, Christi, Kayla, Katelyn, to know that every day I'm thinking about them and praying for them.

      "The racing community is a large family, as you guys know. Everyone's saddened with this tragedy.

      "I want to thank all my friends and family for their support through this tough emotional time, and the support from the NASCAR community, my partners, all of our employees, it's been overwhelming.

      "I've taken the last couple weeks off out of respect for Kevin and his family, and also to cope with the accident in my own way. It's given me the time to think about life and how easy it is to take it for granted.

      "I miss my team, my teammates. I miss being back in the racecar. I think being back in the car this week with my racing family will help me get through this difficult time.

      "I also understand that all of you have many questions and want a lot of answers, however I need to respect the ongoing investigation process and cannot answer and address the questions at this time. Emotionally I'm not sure if I could answer them anyway.

      "We're here to race this weekend, and I appreciate your respect. There will be a day when I can sit here and answer the questions."

      Stewart-Haas Racing executive vice president Brett Frood also spoke, taking questions. According to Frood, the decision to return to racing, despite the investigation still being open was Stewart's decision.

      "I think for Tony, it's all about this healing process; that's part of why he's in the car," Frood said. "Besides his mom, his dad, his sister, his niece and nephew, his family is here, it's at this racetrack. It's part of the healing process of being with his family that he's been with since 1999, knowing that these people are going to help him get through this. I think that's one side of it. The other side of it is he's a racer. We have 270 employees. I think him putting a helmet on will help him cope with this situation."

      As a result of being out of commission since Aug. 9, Stewart had to go through a process that included a physical to be cleared by NASCAR to compete this weekend.

      "Tony Stewart has received all necessary clearances required to return to all racing activities, and therefore is eligible to compete this weekend at Atlanta Motor Speedway," NASCAR executive vice president and chief racing development officer Steve O'Donnell said on Thursday. "NASCAR has remained in constant contact with his race team, and we will stay very close to this situation as Stewart returns to competition."

      NASCAR president Mike Helton also announced on Friday that a special case would be made for Stewart in regard to Chase for the Sprint Cup eligibility. Under normal circumstances, drivers must attempt to qualify for all races to be eligible to be one of the 16 drivers battling for the Sprint Cup championship in the 10-race Chase postseason. Since NASCAR deemed Stewart's situation as unusual, he will be eligible to compete in the Chase, should he garner a spot by virtue of a win, either Sunday at Atlanta or Sept. 6 at Richmond (Va.) International Raceway, the only two races remaining before the cut-off to get into the Chase.

      "I'll remind everybody back earlier this year when we announced the format for the '14 Chase, that announcement included some responsibility about the routine participation in the season in order to be eligible in the Chase," Helton said. "Along with that importance of routine participation also came the asterisk, so to speak, about except in rare instances. This has been a very unique set of circumstances to Tony and to our sport.

      "As the league, it's our responsibility to try to make decisions that are correct and right. Sometimes we evaluate circumstances that are given us and then make those decisions as correctly as we can. After evaluating the circumstances around this occurrence, we've come to the conclusion that Tony would be eligible to participate in the Chase if he were to earn a spot in it."

      The 16 Chase for the Sprint Cup berths will go to race-winning drivers first, provided they're in the top-30 in the points standings, and then the remaining ones to the highest drivers in points. Stewart enters the Atlanta race 26th in the standings and is still winless on the year.

      Stewart is a three-time winner at Atlanta, with his most recent win coming in 2010. His average finish at the track is 11.65. He didn't compete in last year's race at Atlanta, as he was sidelined by injury. Stewart is a three-time winner at Richmond, with all three of those wins coming fairly early in his career in 1999, 2001 and 2002. The 1992 RIR victory was his first-career NASCAR Cup level win. Stewart also missed the fall 2013 race at Richmond because of injury.

  • Friday, August 29, 2014
    Stewart: Tragedy with me ''forever'
    By The Sports Xchange

    For three weeks since the tragic accident Aug. 9 that killed 20-year-old Kevin Ward in upstate New York, Tony Stewart has been in seclusion in his hometown of Columbus, Ind.

    • "This is been one of the toughest tragedies I've ever had to deal with both personally and professionally," Stewart said, choking up between words of his opening statement.

      "I want Kevin's father, Kevin Sr., and his mother, Pam ... to know every day I'm thinking about them and praying for them. The racing community is a large family and as you know, everyone is sad about this tragedy."

      "It's given me time to think about life and how easy it is to take it for granted. I miss my team, my teammates, and I miss being back in the racecar. I think being back in the car this week with my racing family will help me get through this stressful time."

      Stewart said "out of respect for the ongoing process" he would not answer questions. Stewart added "emotionally, I'm not sure I'd be able to answer them."

      "There will be a day when I can sit here and answer the questions," Stewart said.

      Stewart made the decision to return to the car "100 percent" on his own.

      Brett Frood, executive vice president of Stewart-Haas Racing, said he would not comment on the incident in New York and wants the focus on Stewart, and how he'll get through it.

      "He's ready to be in the racecar, or he wouldn't be here," Frood said.

      Stewart sent flowers and a card to the family and plans to reach out again "at the appropriate time," the team said Friday.

      Frood said the entire 270-employee team will "respect the process" in the ongoing investigation into Ward's death. He said SHR has no information on the investigation.

      "For Tony, its all about the healing process and that's why he's here," Frood said. "He's here with his family. That's one side of it. The other side of it, he's a racecar driver."

      Frood said it will be very overwhelming for Stewart to be in the garage with his "family" of crewmembers and fellow drivers.

      "That being said, Tony Stewart is a racecar driver. He's been a racecar driver the past 35 years," Frood said.

  • Friday, August 29, 2014
    Drivers standing behind Stewart
    By The Sports Xchange

    Tony Stewart returned to racing Friday, and most of his peers were beyond pleased to welcome him back.

    • "I'm excited to have my friend back," Stewart-Haas Racing teammate Kevin Harvick said Friday at Atlanta Motor Speedway in Hampton, Ga.

      "I think everybody has obviously been concerned and wants to support Tony in every way possible. Everybody has waited to see when this day would be. Obviously, Tony knew when it was time for him to come back to the racetrack and be a part of getting in the car again. We'll support him and hopefully get him running again and have a good weekend."

      Stewart has not raced since Aug. 9, when he was involved in a collision that killed 20-year-old Kevin Ward during a dirt track race in upstate New York. An investigation into the accident is ongoing.

      Stewart was said by close friends and team employees to be under a heavy emotional toll since the incident, which became a national story and attracted international media to Georgia this week.

      "As I've watched and been very frustrated through a lot of this, you get outside our core media and the perceptions are tough to see and listen to," Harvick said. "For me, it's very important for those people to understand that our sport is just like a lot of other sports. There's a lot of emotion involved in what we do. You see those highlight reels of people throwing stuff – in this case Tony throwing stuff, but you get in the heat of the moment and you can make that highlight reel for most of us. It's tough to see and hear the things that are being tossed that way toward him."

      After skipping three Sprint Cup races, Stewart is returning for Sunday night's Oral-B USA 500.

      "Trying to feel something normal again might feel good to him," teammate Danica Patrick said. "It was a tragic accident, so there's no timeline when you work through that.

      "I don't think he'd be here if he didn't feel like he was ready."

  • Thursday, August 28, 2014
    Stewart to return for Atlanta race
    By The Sports Xchange

    Tony Stewart will race this weekend at Atlanta Motor Speedway, ending a three-week absence from the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series after he struck and killed Kevin Ward Jr. during a sprint car race in upstate New York.

    • Stewart-Haas Racing made the announcement Thursday.

      "Tony Stewart has received all the necessary clearances required to return to all racing activities and therefore is eligible to compete this weekend at Atlanta Motor Speedway," said Steve O'Donnell, NASCAR's executive vice president and chief racing development officer. "NASCAR has remained in constant contact with his race team and we will stay very close to this situation as Stewart returns to competition."

      Stewart has remained in seclusion since the Aug. 9 incident at Canandaigua Motorsports Park in upstate New York. Ontario County (N.Y.) Sheriff Philip Povero announced Aug. 12 that his department was investigating the 20-year-old Ward's death, but there have been no updates since then.

      The 43-year-old Stewart is scheduled to speak at a news conference at 1 p.m. Friday at Atlanta Motor Speedway, followed by NASCAR president Mike Helton at 2 p.m.

      Stewart, a three-time Sprint Cup champion, has yet to qualify for the season-ending Chase for the championship and would need a win in either of the final two races of the regular season and a waiver to be eligible.

      Jeff Burton filled in for Gordon as the driver of the No. 14 Chevrolet the past two weeks at Michigan and at Bristol Motor Speedway, finishing 37th and 15th, respectively.

      Since Ward's death, NASCAR implemented rules that require a driver to stay in the car after a crash until safety officials arrive on the scene. Ward exited his car after a wreck and walked up the track toward Stewart's moving car, which hit him.

      Sunday's NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Atlanta (7:30 p.m. ET, ESPN) marks NASCAR's second-to-last regular-season race.

  • Thursday, August 28, 2014
    Two chances remain to qualify for Chase
    By The Sports Xchange

    NASCAR Wire Service

    • Distributed by The Sports Xchange

      The formula for making NASCAR's postseason under the new Chase format is easy.

      Win and you're in.

      A driver can get into the Chase through points, but a victory alleviates any concern of missing out.

      With two races left in the regular season, 12 different winners have clinched berths in the Chase. Of the winless drivers, Matt Kenseth and Ryan Newman can feel somewhat comfortable, sitting 83 and 42 points ahead of the cutoff, respectively. But the same can't be said for Clint Bowyer and Greg Biffle, who man the 15th and 16th final slots. Bowyer (+31) and Biffle (+26) lead 17th-place Kyle Larson in points but have to be worried about a winless driver currently outside the grid ousting them from the Chase.

      Biffle relayed this sentiment before Bristol last week when discussing whether he should be cautious to retain his points lead or go for wins.

      "You take chances, make passes, do all the things you can do," Biffle said. "But at the same time, we know we're on the bubble in points. I feel it's going to take a win still to get in this thing, and that's what we're going for."

      Prime off-the-grid candidates that can punch their ticket into the Chase with a win in Sunday's Oral-B USA 500 at Atlanta (7:30 p.m. ET on ESPN) include Larson, Kasey Kahne and Jamie McMurray.

      "I hope we can go there and get a win and stop worrying about points," said Larson, who boasts a fifth-place finish in one NASCAR Nationwide Series appearance at Atlanta but has yet to make his NASCAR Sprint Cup debut there. "I think 26 behind Biffle is a long way to go for two races. Hope for some bad luck for him, but we will see."

      Kahne might pose the biggest threat, having won at Atlanta twice. A Chase veteran, he has big-race experience and drives for Hendrick Motorsports, which has produced the most powerful engines in the series this year.

      "I think all of us communicating and working together, it's been better for the last month, month-and-a-half than what it was earlier in the season," Kahne said. "We just have to do the same thing, but we need to max our points each weekend and go for wins. Hopefully between one of those we can work our way in."

      He's coming home: Georgia native Elliott eyes victory at Atlanta

      Chase Elliott's young racing career has taken him across the country from the beaches of Daytona to the deserts of Phoenix and even over the border to Canada, where he announced his presence to the NASCAR world as the then youngest victor of a national series event.

      Ironically, the 18-year-old wunderkind has never competed at Atlanta Motor Speedway, a track located 80 miles south of his hometown of Dawsonville, Ga.

      In fact, the only time he has even taken a motor vehicle out on the track was when he took Great Clips customers for a spin in a pace car in July.

      He will finally get the chance to race in front of his hometown crowd in Saturday's Great Clips 300 Benefiting Feed the Children (7:30 p.m. ET, ESPN 2).

      "It's always exciting to race around home, and anytime you can do that it's definitely one of the places you want to shine," Elliott said. "There's no question this is one of the dates I've been most excited for all season long. Who doesn't want to do well in front of their friends and family? I'm really looking forward to the weekend. This will be big."

      Even bigger than the chance to put on a show for his friends and family is the opportunity for Elliott to further strengthen his hold on the top of the NASCAR Nationwide Series standings. At the moment, he leads teammate Regan Smith and fellow Sunoco Rookie of the Year contender Ty Dillon by 13 and 30 points, respectively. Even after a streak of four top-10 finishes in five races following his victory at Chicago -- including a third-place performance last week at Bristol -- he has only been able to increase his advantage over Smith by six points.

      "Unfortunately, I don't think my pace car laps last month count as 'experience' at Atlanta, so I don't really know what to expect," Elliott said. "I have a lot of good information to lean on through my teammates and crew chief at JR Motorsports, and that's what I plan to do until I'm able to turn some laps myself. It's a historic track. I've been there many times, so I'm really looking forward to finally racing on it."

      Truck Series returns to Canada for second tilt

      Last season, the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series made its inaugural visit to Canada, providing high-octane entertainment and making history for all those involved.

      Chase Elliot shook Ty Dillon on the final lap at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park in the trucks' first go-around at a road course since 2000 to become the youngest winner in NASCAR national series history (17 years and nine months) -- a record broken two months later by NASCAR Next member Erik Jones (17 years, five months, nine days).

      In the NCWTS' return to Canada for Sunday's Chevrolet Silverado 250 (1:30 p.m. ET, Fox Sports 1), history can be written again, possibly by the young prospects of NASCAR or the quartet of Canadians making their truck series debuts.

      John Hunter Nemechek (17 years and two months) and NASCAR Next members Gray Gaulding (16 years and six months) and Cole Custer (16 years and seven months) are all candidates to break Jones' record for youngest race winner.

      Momentum is on Nemechek and Custer's side after respective sixth and eighth-place finishes at Bristol, but Gaulding might have the strategy down pat after competing in two NASCAR K&N Pro Series road course races this month.

      "I have always loved road racing and when the schedule came out and I knew I could run this race I was pumped," Gaulding said. "It's extremely fast and very technical."

      First-time truck series entrants Alex Tagliani, Ray Courtemanche Jr., Cameron Hayley or Andrew Ranger could become just the third Canadian winner in NASCAR national series history and the first since Ron Fellows came up victorious in the 2008 NAPA Auto Parts 200 at Circuit Gilles Villeneuve in Montreal.

      Of the four, Ranger has the most NASCAR national series experience with 17 starts on the Nationwide circuit and one appearance in Sprint Cup action. No stranger to Canadian Tire Motorsport Park, he owns two wins, five top-five and six top-10 finishes in seven starts on the 10-turn track as a competitor in NASCAR's Canadian Tire Series.

  • Wednesday, August 27, 2014
    IndyCar to race in New Orleans in 2015
    By The Sports Xchange

    The IndyCar Series committed to adding the Indy Grand Prix of Louisiana at NOLA Motorsports Park in Avondale, La., to its 2015 schedule.

    • The event will be run April 12 on a new 13-turn, 2.67-mile permanent road course as part of a three-day festival highlighting Louisiana's culture.

      "We're delighted about the opportunity to showcase the Verizon IndyCar Series at NOLA Motorsports Park and to IndyCar fans in the greater New Orleans area," said Mark Miles, CEO of Hulman & Co., the parent of IndyCar and Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

      "The commitment from track owner Laney Chouest and his associates, combined with the support we received from the state of Louisiana, was the catalyst in making this come to fruition. New Orleans has a history of hosting successful major sporting events and we're thrilled to be able to add the Indy Grand Prix of Louisiana to the 2015 Verizon IndyCar Series schedule."

      The course layout and track improvements will be made before the race next year.

      "I'm really excited about going to NOLA next year," IndyCar driver James Hinchcliffe said. "Having seen the track and the changes they are going to make, I think it'll be great to drive. Great for fans, too, because you can see most of the track from the stands, which is rare on road courses.

      "But maybe even more than that just going to that city is going to be a blast. They sure know how to throw a party and I know that they are going to roll out the red carpet for IndyCar and really make it an event."

  • Wednesday, August 27, 2014
    NASCAR Driver Capsules, Aug. 27
    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 atop the Sprint Cup standings for the second straight week, 10 of the last 11 weeks and 16 of the last 17 weeks. He leads Hendrick Motorsports teammate and second-ranked Dale Earnhardt Jr. by 27 points and holds a 69-point edge over third-ranked Brad Keselowski.

      ATLANTA RECORD: 40 career starts, 5 wins, 16 top-5s, 26 top-10s, 2 poles. Best career finish: First in spring 1995, fall 1998, spring 1999, fall 2003 and summer 2011. Finished sixth in this race last year and was second in the 2012 race there.

      LOOKING AHEAD: Gordon is the No. 1 seed with two races remaining before the Chase for the Sprint Cup. If he or the other four drivers with three wins each can win a fourth race, they would become the No. 1 seed. So, there's plenty for Gordon to protect heading into Atlanta. "There have been a lot of significant moments that have occurred during my career at Atlanta," Gordon said. "My first Nationwide win, my first Cup start, the 85th win, winning some championships there and this upcoming start. In my first Cup start (final race of 1992 season at Atlanta), I was completely unaware of what I was getting into. I had a great race car, but I did everything I possibly could do to ruin that opportunity."

      LOOKING BACK: Gordon led 17 laps at Bristol, but fell back in the second half of the race to finish 16th, one lap off the lead lap.

      ETC.: Gordon has completed 93.2 percent (11,999) of the 12,876 total laps contested in 40 career starts at Atlanta. His average start is 12.1 and average finish is 11.8. He has five DNFs there.

      88 DALE EARNHARDT JR., Chevrolet

      Team: Hendrick Motorsports

      WHERE HE STANDS: Dale Earnhardt Jr. remained in second place for the second straight week after Saturday's race at Bristol. He's now been ranked second for six of the past seven weeks. He trails points leader and Hendrick Motorsports teammate Jeff Gordon by 27 points (was only three points behind heading into Bristol) and is just 42 points ahead of third-ranked Brad Keselowski (after being ahead by 80 points going into Bristol).

      ATLANTA RECORD: 26 career starts, 1 win, 8 top-5s, 12 top-10s, 2 poles. Best career finish: First in spring 2004. Finished eighth in this race last year and was seventh in the 2012 race there.

      LOOKING AHEAD: Just like the four other drivers he's tied with for wins (three each) thus far this season, Earnhardt is hoping to earn at least one more victory in the two races remaining before the start of the Chase. If he does that, he would likely start the Chase as the No. 1 seed.

      LOOKING BACK: Earnhardt had a rough night at Bristol, getting caught up in a wreck when he wasn't able to avoid a spinning Denny Hamlin. He suffered one of his worst finishes of the season, 39th. And even though he remains in second place in the standings, he dropped a significant amount behind Jeff Gordon and cut the gap between him and third-ranked Brad Keselowski nearly in half. "I couldn't see what happened to Denny (Hamlin), but he got turned around or something and was coming up the track," Earnhardt said. "There was a lot of smoke so I couldn't really judge the speed of his car to know whether I needed to be going up there and go around him on the top. I had to make that choice. I just went ahead and went to the top and ended up getting into him. It wasn't too hard of a hit just did a lot of damage and tore the lower (control arm) off the left-front."

      ETC.: Earnhardt has completed an outstanding 99.5 percent (8,359) of the 8,400 total laps contested in 26 career starts at Atlanta. His average start there is 15.9, and average finish is 12.3. He has two DNFs there.

      2 BRAD KESELOWSKI, Ford

      Team: Penske Racing

      WHERE HE STANDS: Brad Keselowski remained in third place for the second consecutive week after Bristol. He trails points leader Jeff Gordon by 69 points (was 83 points before Bristol), is 42 points behind second-ranked Dale Earnhardt Jr. (was 80 points back before Bristol) and leads fourth-ranked and Penske Racing teammate Joey Logano by 15 points.

      ATLANTA RECORD: 5 career starts, 0 wins, 1 top-5s, 2 top-10s, 0 poles. Best career finish: Third in 2012. Finished 35th in this race last year and was a career-best third in the 2012 race there.

      LOOKING AHEAD: Keselowski has long said how much a win at Atlanta would mean to him, but he's endured some significant struggles there. Will he finally realize that goal this Sunday evening? "Atlanta is yet another one of the tracks that we've run better than our results indicate," Keselowski said. "We've had some strong runs there though we have yet to earn the victory. It's a great track - the racing surface is one that challenges drivers and I like that. The No. 2 Ford team has been executing at a high level over the summer races and I feel good going into this weekend. The team has a great intermediate track program and we are looking to bring our best effort to Atlanta as we prepare for the Chase."

      LOOKING BACK: Keselowski had an outstanding run at Bristol, leading 46 laps. Maybe if he had one more lap, he might have been able to catch Joey Logano. But there was no shame in finishing second to his Penske Racing teammate.

      ETC.: Keselowski has completed 97.7 percent (1,605) of the 1,643 total laps contested in five career starts at Atlanta. His average start is 22.8 and his average finish is 21.0. He has two DNFs there.

      22 JOEY LOGANO, Ford

      Team: Penske Racing

      WHERE HE STANDS: Joey Logano remained in fourth place in the Sprint Cup standings after his win Saturday night at Bristol. He trails points leader Jeff Gordon by 84 points (was 102 points prior to Bristol), is 15 points behind third-ranked and Penske Racing teammate Brad Keselowski, and is 10 points ahead of fifth-ranked Matt Kenseth.

      ATLANTA RECORD: 7 career starts, 0 wins, 1 top-5, 1 top-10s, 0 poles. Best career finish: Second in 2013. Finished a career-best second in this race last year and was 18th in the 2012 race there.

      LOOKING AHEAD: Much like teammate Brad Keselowski, Logano is looking for his first win at Atlanta and to put himself ahead of all other drivers contending for the No. 1 seed in the upcoming Chase for the Sprint Cup. "That was an amazing car," Logano said of finishing second in last year's race at Atlanta. "We were so fast. We started 11th and we were able to drive to the lead in the first 25 laps of the race. The car was stuck to the bottom lane and we just trucked toward the front. It was pretty awesome. The car was so good. We just didn't have the track position late in the race. We were chasing down the leader and with about five more laps, we could have won the race. But we just ran out of time. So hopefully, we can do that again this year. I've told (crew chief) Todd (Gordon) to do whatever it takes to bring me the same type of car this year. That was a lot of fun last year, despite not winning."

      LOOKING BACK: Logano led the second-most laps at Bristol (76) and held off teammate Brad Keselowski in the closing laps to earn his first career win at the half-mile short track.

      ETC.: Logano has completed a near-perfect 98.8 percent (2,271) of the 2,298 laps contested in seven career starts at Atlanta. His average start there is 25.7 and average finish is 22.6. He has zero DNFs there.

      20 MATT KENSETH, Toyota

      Team: Joe Gibbs Racing

      WHERE HE STANDS: After falling two spots in the standings after Michigan, Matt Kenseth remained in fifth place for the second straight race after Bristol. He trails points leader Jeff Gordon by 94 points, is 10 points behind fourth-ranked Joey Logano and leads sixth-ranked Jimmie Johnson by 25 points.

      ATLANTA RECORD: 25 career starts, 0 wins, 8 top-5s, 14 top-10s, 0 poles. Best career finish: Second in spring 2010. Finished 12th in this race last year and was ninth in the 2012 race there.

      LOOKING AHEAD: Atlanta is one of Kenseth's favorite and most successful tracks. So why has he still not claimed a win there? Given that he's still seeking his first win of 2014, could Sunday night be Kenseth's night to achieve two goals in one try? "I feel like we're getting better," Kenseth said. "We just didn't quite have it (at Bristol) and we still got a decent finish out of it, but we just didn't quite have the speed we've had the last few races here. We'll keep working on it."

      LOOKING BACK: Kenseth led the third-most number of laps (62) at Bristol and was the class of the field when it came to Toyota drivers, finishing third. Unfortunately, he couldn't quite catch Penske Racing teammates Joey Logano (winner) and Brad Keselowski (runner-up). It was a significant difference from the previous week, when he finished 38th at Michigan.

      ETC.: Kenseth has completed 95.8 percent (7,732) of the 8,075 total laps contested in 25 career starts at Atlanta. His average start there is 21.0 and average finish is 12.7. He has three DNFs there.

      48 JIMMIE JOHNSON, Chevrolet

      Team: Hendrick Motorsports

      WHERE HE STANDS: Jimmie Johnson climbed from seventh to sixth place in the standings after Saturday's race at Bristol. He trails points leader and Hendrick Motorsports teammate Jeff Gordon by 119 points, is 25 points behind fifth-ranked Matt Kenseth and is five points ahead of seventh-ranked Kevin Harvick.

      ATLANTA RECORD: 22 career starts, 3 wins, 11 top-5s, 13 top-10s, 0 poles. Best career finish: First in fall 2004, spring 2007 and fall 2007. Finished 28th in this race last year and was 34th in the 2012 race there.

      LOOKING AHEAD: Johnson has been in a slump in his last two starts at Atlanta, finishing 34th in 2012 and 28th in 2013. In the bigger picture, Johnson has struggled significantly in the middle third of this season, as well. He needs to build upon his fourth-place finish at Bristol and enter the Chase - and to make his bid for a record-tying seventh championship - with momentum. "We had a great handle on Atlanta about five or six years ago but since then the track has evolved and changed so much," Johnson said. "You are on edge the entire lap on the track. Not only is the asphalt old but there are some bumps you have to deal with. When you ride a few inches from the fence you really have to have a good handle on your car. It's for sure an exciting race."

      LOOKING BACK: After finishes of 39th at Pocono and 28th at Watkins Glen, Johnson finished ninth at Michigan and, even though he did not lead a lap in the 500-lap event, still finished a strong fourth at Bristol.

      ETC.: Johnson has completed 98.5 percent (6,995) of 7,100 total laps in 22 career starts at Atlanta. His average start there is an outstanding 8.6, while his average finish is a very respectable 11.9. He has two DNFs there.

      4 KEVIN HARVICK, Chevrolet

      Team: Stewart-Haas Racing

      WHERE HE STANDS: After climbing up to sixth after his runner-up finish at Michigan, Harvick fell back one place in the standings to seventh after Bristol. He trails points leader Jeff Gordon 124 points, is five points behind sixth-ranked Jimmie Johnson and leads eighth-ranked Carl Edwards by five points.

      ATLANTA RECORD: 23 career starts, 1 win, 5 top-5s, 9 top-10s, 0 poles. Best career finish: First in spring 2001. Finished ninth in this race last year and was fifth in the 2012 race there.

      LOOKING AHEAD: Harvick's first career Sprint Cup win came at Atlanta, just three weeks after the death of Dale Earnhardt in the 2001 Daytona 500. Since then, however, Harvick has struggled at the fast 1.5-mile track. Is performance has improved over the last five seasons, but a win would be sweet, especially in his first time at Atlanta with his new team, Stewart Haas Racing. "Atlanta has been a great race track for me the last few years," Harvick said. "The asphalt is really worn out and the speed of the car changes a lot from the start of a run to the finish of the run. It makes for some good racing as the cars start moving and sliding around the track."

      LOOKING BACK: After finishing seventh at Watkins Glen and second at Michigan, Harvick led 75 laps and finished a respectable 11th at Bristol this past Saturday.

      ETC.: Harvick has completed 97.7 percent (7,252 laps) of the 7,425 total laps contested in 23 career starts at Atlanta. His average start there is 19.2 and his average finish is 18.7. He has four DNFs there.

      99 CARL EDWARDS, Ford

      Team: Roush Fenway Racing

      WHERE HE STANDS: Carl Edwards remained in eighth place after Bristol, although he's no longer tied with Ryan Newman as he was heading into that race. Edwards trails points leader Jeff Gordon by 129 points, is five points behind seventh-ranked Kevin Harvick and is six points ahead of ninth-ranked Ryan Newman.

      ATLANTA RECORD: 16 career starts, 3 wins, 8 top-5s, 10 top-10s, 0 poles. Best career finish: First in spring 2005, fall 2005 and fall 2008. Finished 18th in this race last year and was 36th in the 2012 race there.

      LOOKING AHEAD: Atlanta has become one of Edwards' favorite and most successful racetracks. But he's struggled in four of his last six starts there, with finishes of 37th, 39th, 36th and 18th, sandwiched around finishes of second and fifth. "Atlanta is our last shot before the Chase to work on our mile and a half program," Edwards said. "I love racing in Atlanta. It's fun, the track's got character, and it's fast. For me it's a special place considering both my first Nationwide win and first Cup win came at that track. ... So for us it's an opportunity to do three things; to win the race to get some bonus points, to learn for the Chase and to just have a little bit of fun before the real pressure of the Chase starts."

      LOOKING BACK: Edwards had a good run at Bristol this past Saturday. While he failed to lead any laps, he still came home with a good seventh-place finish.

      ETC.: Edwards has completed 93.9 percent (4,906) of 5,227 total laps contested in 16 career starts at Atlanta. His average start there is an excellent 9.8, while his average finish is 15.2. He has three DNFs there.

      31 RYAN NEWMAN, Chevrolet

      Team: Richard Childress Racing

      WHERE HE STANDS: Ryan Newman fell out of a tie for eighth place at Bristol and into ninth place. He trail points leader Jeff Gordon by 135 points, is six points behind eighth-ranked Carl Edwards and leads 10th-ranked Clint Bowyer by 11 points.

      ATLANTA RECORD: 21 career starts, 0 wins, 2 top-5s, 7 top-10s, 7 poles. Best career finish: Fifth in spring 2004 and in 2013. Finished fifth in this race last year and was 35th in the 2012 race there.

      LOOKING AHEAD: Newman has a strange scorecard at Atlanta. While he's started from the pole seven times, he's yet to win there and has managed just two top-five finishes in 21 career starts there. Given that he still needs a win to clinch his spot in the upcoming Chase, this Sunday could be the place where he achieves both goals. "I don't see it as the final tune-up, I see it as another opportunity (to earn a win)," Newman said. "It is such a different animal of a race track because of the way the tires fall off. You really don't see that as much with the tracks coming up, except for a place like Texas. I see Atlanta as its own kind of animal because of the tire-track combination. But it is important. It does build confidence, which is probably more important than the actual balance of the car."

      LOOKING BACK: Newman had a relatively uneventful race at Bristol, finishing 13th.

      ETC.: Newman has completed 97.9 percent (6,635) of the 6,775 total laps contested in 21 career starts at Atlanta. His average start there is an excellent 7.6, while his average finish is 17.7. He has three DNFs there.

      15 CLINT BOWYER, Toyota

      Team: Michael Waltrip Racing

      WHERE HE STANDS: Clint Bowyer remained in 10th place in the standings for the second consecutive week after Bristol. He trails points leader Jeff Gordon by 146 points, is 11 points behind ninth-ranked Ryan Newman and leads 11th-ranked Greg Biffle by five points.

      ATLANTA RECORD: 13 career starts, 0 wins, 0 top-5s, 5 top-10, 0 poles. Best career finish: Sixth in spring and fall 2007, spring 2008 and spring 2009. Finished a career-worst 39th in this race last year and was 27th in the 2012 race there.

      LOOKING AHEAD: Atlanta is one of Bowyer's worst tracks. In his last six starts there, he's finished 23rd or lower five times. That kind of performance is odd, since Bowyer typically likes high speed 1.5-mile tracks. Will he be able to change his luck and fate this Sunday night? "We go to the track every weekend looking to win," Bowyer said. "That doesn't change. But we're not going to be stupid. If we have a chance to win we will go for it, of course, but we aren't going to do something to jeopardize a good finish. We just need to stay focused on what we need to do to get a finish and if a win is in reach, we will go for it."

      LOOKING BACK: Bowyer had struggles throughout Saturday's race at Bristol, eventually finishing 17th, two laps off the lead lap.

      ETC.: Bowyer has completed 94.7 percent (4,027) of the 4,252 total laps contested in 13 career starts at Atlanta. His average start there is 15.7 and average finish is 19.8. He has two DNFs there.

      16 GREG BIFFLE, Ford

      Team: Roush Fenway Racing

      WHERE HE STANDS: 11th, only five points out of the top 10. Would make the Chase if the Chase for the Championship began this week.

      ATLANTA RECORD: Nine top-10 finishes in 19 starts.

      LOOKING AHEAD: Biffle spent the first part of the week testing at Chicagoland Speedway. "I'm more excited for the test in Chicago than I am anything else right now because that gives us two days of work on finding that last bit of speed in our cars for Atlanta and moving forward for the rest of the year," said Biffle. "We know we are still on the bubble in points (in the race for the last spot in the Chase). And that's why we are going to Atlanta to win. That's the best way to make sure we get in."

      LOOKING BACK: Biffle got real lucky with 125 laps to go at Bristol. Three laps earlier, he and Paul Menard tangled with Biffle's rear bumper getting torn loose. With the bumper bouncing off the track, NASCAR ordered Biffle to pit for repairs. But just as Biffle got ready to pit, the caution flag was waved for an accident on the front stretch. This allowed Biffle to pit under the yellow flag to have the bumper removed without losing a lap. If he had pitted under the green flag, Biffle would have lost at least two laps. As a result of his good fortune, Biffle was able to finish 10th at Bristol for his fourth straight top-10 finish.

      ETC.: Biffle got some very good news last week when Roush Fenway Racing announced that Ortho will serve as the anchor sponsor for Biffle in 2015-16-17. "I can't tell you how excited I am to have Ortho on the car for 2015," said Biffle. "It's gonna be really exciting at Atlanta (where the company will make its debut as the team's sponsor). I've been very fortunate to build great relationships over a long period of time. I can count my sponsors on basically one hand that I've had in the last 16 years in the sport."

      42 KYLE LARSON, Chevrolet

      Team: Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates

      WHERE HE STANDS: 12th, 26 points out of a spot in the Chase. Gained two spots last week.

      ATLANTA RECORD: Will be making his Cup debut. Finished fifth in the Nationwide race last year.

      LOOKING AHEAD: Larson said, "I'm excited about Atlanta and our chances there this weekend. I've never raced the Cup car at Atlanta, but I'm looking forward to racing on the rough, worn-out surface, which I prefer. Our Target Chevy's have been really fast just about every race, so I think we'll have a fun weekend down in Atlanta."

      LOOKING BACK: After posting the fastest speed during the first practice session at Bristol, Larson felt he had a car capable of winning the race. But he got loose during qualifying and bounced hard off the wall forcing the team to go to a back-up car for the 500-lap event. After starting at the back of the field, Larson raced his way into the top 10 despite being part of an early-race accident. "That was probably the hardest I've ever raced," said Larson, after ending the night in 12th place. "Given where we started it was a pretty good night for us. I'm really proud of how our team performed today, and throughout the whole weekend."

      ETC.: Larson knows "we're quite a bit behind Biffle (in the race for the final spot in the Chase). I think 26 (points) behind Biffle is a long way to go for two races. We'll keep trying and we are consistently around fifth to 10th place. Atlanta is a fun track. I hope we can go there, get a win and stop worrying about points."

      5 KASEY KAHNE, Chevrolet

      Team: Hendrick Motorsports

      WHERE HE STANDS: 13th, 33 points out of a spot in the Chase. Lost one spot last week.

      ATLANTA RECORD: Two wins and eight top-10 finishes including six top-five's in 17 starts.

      LOOKING AHEAD: Kahne knows "we're in a tough spot because we need maximum points every week and we also need a win to secure our spot in the Chase. But we've had pretty fast cars. Hopefully between one of those things we can work our way in." Actually they are the same thing. The only way to score maximum points is by winning a race.

      LOOKING BACK: Kahne's hopes of making the Chase took a real hit Saturday night at Bristol. Good pit strategy vaulted Kahne into the lead on lap 198 of the 500-lap event, and he led the next 40 laps before being forced to make an unscheduled pit stop for a loose right-front tire. An ill-timed caution flag shortly afterwards put Kahne two laps down to the leaders. Kahne's rally ended with a 100 laps to go when he was forced to go behind the wall for repairs to the right-front wheel. He ended the night in 35th place. Kahne began the night only nine points out of a spot in the Chase, but now is 33 points back with only two races left before the Chase begins.

      ETC.: Kahne believes "the team has been doing a much better job communicating and working together. It's been better for the last month and a half than what it was earlier in the season. We just have to do the same thing these next two weeks."

      3 AUSTIN DILLON, Chevrolet

      Team: Richard Childress Racing

      WHERE HE STANDS: 14th, 40 points out of a spot in the Chase. Lost one spot last week.

      ATLANTA RECORD: Finished 19th in his Sprint Cup debut a year ago.

      LOOKING AHEAD: Dillon is looking forward to the race this weekend after testing at Atlanta. "Our teams did learn a lot during the test," said Dillon. "It was definitely helpful. Atlanta is one of those places that can be very frustrating and very fun at the same time. I really enjoy it at night, and I'm ready to get there."

      LOOKING BACK: Dillon's night began badly and never got better as he finished 28th at Bristol. On the very first lap of the race, Dillon got knocked out of the groove as he dropped from 26th to 40th. He battled an extremely loose race car for much of the rest of the race as he finished seven laps down. "Tonight was definitely not the finish we were hoping for, or the way we were expecting the race to go," said Dillon. "However, sometimes you will have instances like that and you just have to shake it off and move onto the next race."

      ETC.: Austin's younger brother Ty will make his NASCAR Sprint Cup debut this weekend at Atlanta. "It's going to be a pretty special moment when I make those first few laps this weekend, ones that I won't forget," said Ty. "I've been fortunate enough in my racing career to have great opportunities like this one. I'm looking forward to racing the No. 33 Realtree/Rheem Chevrolet under the lights on Labor Day weekend." Ty, 22, competes full time on the Nationwide Series and recently won the Nationwide race at Indianapolis.

      27 PAUL MENARD, Chevrolet

      Team: Richard Childress Racing

      WHERE HE STANDS: 15th, 46 points out of a spot in the Chase. Gained two spots last week.

      ATLANTA RECORD: Three top-10 finishes in 12 starts.

      LOOKING AHEAD: Menard feels all of the drivers love to race at Atlanta. "If you took a poll of all the drivers, the number one track to race at is going to be Atlanta," said Menard. "It is going to get everyone's vote. It's abrasive, it wears out tires and we slide around the track. It's really fast for one lap, then it progressively gets worse from there. All of these factors make it really fun for the drivers."

      LOOKING BACK: Menard rallied in the second half of the race to finish ninth at Bristol. "We had two runs where we just got off," said Menard. "We took right sides (tires) and it didn't work out very well. Then we did a chassis adjustment and put four tires on. We were able to pass some guys for the lucky dog (to get back on the lead lap). We just got off a little bit in the middle. I'm proud of my guys for the way they kept digging."

      ETC.: Menard said there is no time to rest when it comes to racing at Atlanta. "You go all out, all the time," said Menard. "There's no conserving, so it's full out all the time. It's just a matter of what your car is doing and how to not make the tires angry. You still have to get all you can out of every corner."

      1 JAMIE MCMURRAY, Chevrolet

      Team: Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates

      WHERE HE STANDS: 16th, 60 points out of a spot in the Chase. Gained three spots last week.

      ATLANTA RECORD: Four top-10 finishes in 20 starts.

      LOOKING AHEAD: McMurray said, "We've had some good runs on the intermediate tracks this season, so I hope we can go down there (Atlanta) and have a strong run with the Cessna Chevy. Atlanta is one of the few tracks that haven't been repaved for a while, so it has a rough surface and bumps that I think give a track a lot of character. I like a track where the tires give up during a run and the driver has to work the car during long runs. That makes racing a lot of fun."

      LOOKING BACK: With 100 laps to go, it looked as if McMurray was going to win the race and earn a spot in the Chase. But things changed dramatically with 68 laps to go. McMurray was leading as he headed to pit road during a caution flag for debris. With several cars deciding not to pit, McMurray started fifth on the restart. He has never able to get back to the front as he ended the night in eighth place. "We had the best car, I thought, for the first three-quarters of the race," said McMurray, who led three times for a race-high 148 laps. "I don't know what happened (after the restart with 63 laps to go). Our car got really tight. As it (the track) rubbered up, we just didn't keep up with it. It wasn't from a lack of effort. We were freeing the car up every stop. Just couldn't get the car to turn enough (at the end)."

      ETC.: Surprisingly, McMurray said he was more frustrated about not getting his first win in the night race at Bristol than not qualifying for the Chase. "I have to be honest, I more wanted to win the night race at Bristol than I was worried about the Chase," said McMurray. "That was definitely the best car I've had all year long. I would love to be in the Chase, but if I don't make the Chase and win three or four races after that, I would rather have that, than just make the Chase and not run well."

      18 KYLE BUSCH, Toyota

      Team: Joe Gibbs Racing

      WHERE HE STANDS: 17th. Has clinched a spot in the Chase as a result of his win at California.

      ATLANTA RECORD: Won last year's race for his second win at AMS.

      LOOKING AHEAD: Even though Busch won last year at Atlanta and teammate Denny Hamlin won the year before Busch believes Joe Gibbs Racing is "not quite where we need to be with our mile-and-a-half stuff (because of the 2014 rules package). But Atlanta is one of those places where anything can happen. You have to have good grip, you have to have good fall-off - you have to be fast to start a run yet you don't want to fall off more than anybody else - so you have to take care of your stuff and bide your time a little bit. That lends itself to options by the driver to either push hard early or save a little and be there late."

      LOOKING BACK: Busch took the lead on lap 55 and led the next eight laps before NASCAR waved the yellow flag. During the ensuing pit stop, Busch was penalized for speeding as he entered pit stop. He restarted the race at the rear of the field and was involved in a multi-car accident on lap 125. Busch's car suffered heavy damage and he struggled with an ill-handling car for the next 300 laps before crew chief Dave Rogers got tired of Busch's complaining and told him to "park the car." Busch ended the night in 36th place, his fourth straight finish of 36th or worse. Rogers called the night "just a frustrating race. Tempers flare at Bristol. Kyle was trying to communicate to what was wrong with the car. I couldn't hear him most of the time and could not communicate with him. It just led to more frustration."

      ETC.: After several heated exchanges during the Bristol race, Rogers and Busch met in the team's hauler to "hash things out. Me and Kyle came back here and we talked after the race and aired everything out," said Rogers. "I got to hear his side of the story. Of course, you sit down and talk with someone you realize there's a lot more to the story than you knew initially. He heard mine. After, I got with all my guys. We talked about it and just discussed things we could do better and things we did right tonight. We talked about going forward - what we have lined up to go into the Chase."

      9 MARCOS AMBROSE, Ford

      Team: Richard Petty Motorsports

      WHERE HE STANDS: 18th, 68 points out of a spot in the Chase. Lost two spots last week.

      ATLANTA RECORD: One top-10 finish in eight starts.

      LOOKING AHEAD: Ambrose said, "We are in the position now where winning is all that matters to get into the Chase for us. We aren't going to leave anything on the table. The focus is to win this weekend or at Richmond and leave nothing else to chance. Our fate is in our hands, and we know the challenge. It's just time to go out and execute. I expect us to run well this weekend."

      LOOKING BACK: Ambrose had high hopes for Bristol, but they were wiped out early in the 500-lap race when the team discovered a problem with the track bar mount. Ambrose lost four laps while the team fixed the problem. His troubles continued as he had to make an unscheduled pit stop for a flat right-front tire on lap 154. And then on lap 376, Ambrose bounced off another car into the inside wall. As a result, Ambrose finished 34th. "It was a rough night for our team," said a dejected Ambrose. "We had a really good car tonight and just had bad luck all night."

      ETC.: Car owner Richard Petty was presented the American Legion's James V. Day "Good Guy" Award during the organization's 96th annual national convention on Monday. "Richard Petty is so much more than just a former race driver and now current team owner," said American Legion National Commander Daniel M. Dellinger. "He is a great American, who is always giving back to the community. By donating his land, and more importantly, his time, to Victory Junction, Richard has helped chronically ill children receive life-changing camping experiences." In receiving the award, Petty said, "It's an honor to be recognized by the American Legion. It's humbling to be rewarded for it (giving back to the community)."

      55 BRIAN VICKERS, Toyota

      Team: Michael Waltrip Racing

      WHERE HE STANDS: 19th, 73 points out of a spot in the Chase. Lost one spot last week.

      ATLANTA RECORD: Finished 10th a year ago for his eighth top-10 finish in 16 starts.

      LOOKING AHEAD: Vickers knows he has to win one of the next two races if he wants to qualify for the Chase. "We've had cars capable of winning races this year, but we just haven't put a whole race together," said Vickers. "A lot of that is because of bad luck. So I know we can win at either Atlanta or Richmond. Time is running out, but we still have two shots at it (a win to make the Chase)."

      LOOKING BACK: As Vickers said, "That was a tough night for the Aaron's Dream Machine." First, he triggered a multi-car accident on lap 125 when he got loose and bounced off Kyle Larson. "We were still sitting decent for a decent finish with about 100 laps to go but the green flag stop just killed us," added Vickers. "It was a bad vibration and I had to come in. At the end we had a good car but just two laps down." Vickers ended the night in 21st place.

      ETC.: Vickers and his team will spend Thursday at the Brookhaven Boys & Girls Club in Atlanta. "These events are a lot of fun because we get to meet the kids and the guys on the crew show them how much we use math, science and engineering on our race car," said Vickers. "Whether it's showing them the tires, aero or setting up the car, you can see how their eyes light up when we start applying the lessons they learn in school."

      11 DENNY HAMLIN, Toyota

      Team: Joe Gibbs Racing

      WHERE HE STANDS: 20th. Has clinched a spot in the Chase as a result of his Talladega win.

      ATLANTA RECORD: Won the 2012 race.

      LOOKING AHEAD: Hamlin said, "Atlanta has been a good track for me over the last few years. Last week at Bristol, the guys did a great job preparing a fast Toyota Camry for me and I know if we would have been there at the end, we would have been contending for the win. This week I know will be no different. We won at Atlanta two years ago, and if things fall into place like they did then, we can certainly take our Sports Clip Toyota to victory lane."

      LOOKING BACK: Hamlin was leading the race on lap 160 when suddenly he was spinning into the inside wall on the frontstretch from contact by Kevin Harvick. An angry Hamlin waited until the safety workers got to his car before getting out of his battered auto as the new rules require. But that didn't keep him from throwing his HANS device at Harvick's car as it passed under the yellow flag. "I wish I had some kind of car left to show him (Harvick) the favor back," said Hamlin. "We're not even halfway." After looking at the replays, Hamlin added, "it was just a misjudgment (by Harvick). He knows better. He made a mistake." NASCAR said Hamlin would not be fined for throwing his HANS device at Harvick's car.

      ETC.: Despite the frustrating end to his night at Bristol, Hamlin believes "we're slowly gaining momentum" for the Chase. "We've been a top-10 in five out of the last six and seven out of the last 11 or something," added Hamlin. "We're getting back to being a little bit better and for a team that's under-performed as a whole we have some cars upfront that I thought could win in any of the last three races."

      47 A J ALLMENDINGER, Chevrolet

      Team: JTG Daugherty Racing

      WHERE HE STANDS: 21st. Has clinched a spot in the Chase as a result of his Watkins Glen win.

      ATLANTA RECORD: Two top-10 finishes in eight starts.

      LOOKING AHEAD: Allmendinger said, "Atlanta is definitely important because it is the last race at a mile-and-a-half before we go to Chicagoland Speedway and kick off the Chase. So, I think there's some stuff we can learn. I have always liked Atlanta. It's probably been my favorite mile-and-a-half track over my career. I like that is kind of old school. It's slick and you slide around. I really do enjoy the track and it's important to us to do well there."

      LOOKING BACK: Allmendinger finished 14th at Bristol. "It's a really good night because I'm not really good here," said Allmendinger. "At times, we had a top-10 Bush's Beans Chevrolet and even at the end there when the car was terrible we were inside the top-15 with decent speed. At times, we were eighth, ninth or tenth like last week. So, I think we are making progress. I think the team was a little better than me tonight."

      ETC.: Allmendinger said, "I have definitely been more relaxed after winning a race. I went golfing recently and I did not throw a club. So, I definitely more relaxed. It is hard because I took it personal and there were definitely times I thought maybe I was never going to win a (Sprint Cup) race. Maybe, it's just not meant to happen. Yeah, it is definitely a relief and I would love to have a lot more and hopefully we get them."

      41 KURT BUSCH, Chevrolet

      Team: Stewart-Haas Racing

      WHERE HE STANDS: 22nd. Has clinched a spot in the Chase as a result of his win at Martinsville.

      ATLANTA RECORD: Three wins and 10 top-10 finishes in 23 starts. Finished fourth last year for his fourth top-six finish in the last five races including his third win in 2010.

      LOOKING AHEAD: Busch believes "one of the biggest things that can be tough at Atlanta is getting your car to handle in turns three and four. It's very specific. You really need the car to hook at the bottom of three and four, particularly when you're on fresh tires. If you have a car that can run the bottom close to wide open in three and four, then that's when you can separate yourself to be a race-winning contender."

      LOOKING BACK: After finishing fifth at Bristol, Busch said, "I'm worn out. I gave it all I had and raced hard for all that she would give me. It seemed like every 50 laps our tires would drop off quite a bit. But man we rallied, rallied, rallied and the crew chief (Daniel Knost) made a change with 130 to go and that kept us from going a lap down and turned us into a top-five car."

      ETC.: Busch and teammate Kevin Harvick tested at Chicagoland Speedway the first of the week as they get ready for the Chase for the Championship. "We (Stewart-Haas Racing) want to get the Chase off to a good start," said Busch. "That is why this particular test was so important. You need to start the Chase off well if you want to be a contender all the way to Homestead (the final race of the year)."

      43 ARIC ALMIROLA, Ford

      Team: Richard Petty Motorsports

      WHERE HE STANDS: 24th. Has clinched a spot in the Chase as a result of his Daytona win in July.

      ATLANTA RECORD: Best finish in three starts is 20th.

      LOOKING AHEAD: Almirola said, "I like Atlanta because as a driver you feel like you can make a difference. You can search around for grip. A lot of places we go to there is one groove. You really are at the mercy of your car and track position. You can't move around to find more grip. It makes it difficult if you don't have the best car or good track position. But when you go to Atlanta, you can run from the white line all the way up to rubbing the fence. You just constantly search for grip for 500 miles."

      LOOKING BACK: Almirola was forced to start at the back of the field after crashing during qualifying and going to a backup car. But he rallied and was running in the top 20 when he got caught up in a multi-car accident on lap 125. As a result, Almirola finished 41st. "What an amazing race car these guys brought me - two of them - and to go out like that is certainly disappointing," said Almirola. "We drove from 42nd up into the top 20, so I thought we had a stellar race car and we were making a lot of passes compared to other people. It's frustrating. We've had a terrible six weeks since we won at Daytona."

      ETC.: Almirola began the week by testing at Chicagoland Speedway, the site of the first race in the Chase for the Championship. "We are hoping the test will translate into a fast car this weekend and leading into the Chase," said Almirola. "We've got to get things turned around. The last few weeks have been brutal. We're doing everything we can to get the Chase started off with a bang."

      78 MARTIN TRUEX, JR., Chevrolet

      Team: Furniture Row Racing

      WHERE HE STANDS: 25th, 154 points out of a spot in the Chase. Gained one spot last week.

      ATLANTA RECORD: Finished third last year after a fourth-place finish in 2012.

      LOOKING AHEAD: Truex said he "loves Atlanta. It's the best race track on the circuit - it's right there with Homestead. The Atlanta track wear tires out. It's the old surface and you can run all over the place there. I am definitely looking forward to Atlanta - it's been a good track for me in the past. Obviously that's not a guarantee this time around, but it does give you a shot of confidence going to a place that you really like and feel comfortable racing at."

      LOOKING BACK: Truex finished 20th at Bristol. "I couldn't predict what the car was going to do," said Truex. "It was very inconsistent. The car was tight then it was loose and it plowed through the corners. We had a couple of good runs (moving into the top 10), but couldn't maintain the performance."

      ETC.: Sherry Pollex, Truex's long-time girlfriend, returned home last week a week after having surgery for ovarian cancer. "Everything has gone really well up to this point, as well as we could have hoped," said Truex. "Her spirits are high. She's amazing, and she's going to get through this." Truex added, "the hardest part is over, I think for her. The surgery was pretty extensive. Her doctor is incredible, feels good with where she is."

      14 TONY STEWART, Chevrolet

      Team: Stewart-Haas Racing

      WHERE HE STANDS: 26th, 157 points out of a spot in the Chase. Lost one spot last week.

      ATLANTA RECORD: Three wins and 15 top-10 finishes including 10 top-five's in 26 starts.

      LOOKING AHEAD: The team continues to take it one race at a time when it comes to when Stewart will return to the driver's seat. "We are leaving that all up to Tony," said Brett Frood, executive vice president of Stewart-Haas Racing. Stewart has not been to a race since the tragic sprint car accident on Aug. 9 where his car hit and killed 20-year-old Kevin Ward, Jr.

      LOOKING BACK: For the third straight race, Stewart elected to stay home with Jeff Burton driving the 14 car for the second consecutive time. Burton ran as high as fourth before getting involved in some short-track beating and banging that resulted in nose damage to his car in the final 150 laps. "We had a fast car till about 150 to go," said Burton. "We got some nose damage and we weren't good after that. But I'm proud of the effort of everyone on this Bass Pro Shops/Mobile 1 team. We had a real shot (at a top-10 finish) for a long time tonight."

      ETC.: The Ontario County (NY) Police Department said earlier this week that it is in the final stages of its investigation into the death of Ward, Jr. at Canandaigua Motorsports Park. The investigation will determine whether or not Stewart will face any criminal charges.

  • Monday, August 25, 2014
    The Green Flag: Kenseth comfortable in Chase standings
    By The Sports Xchange

    By Reid Spencer, NASCAR Wire Service

    • Distributed by The Sports Xchange

      Matt Kenseth is close to clinching a spot in the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup -- even if he doesn't win one of the next two races.

      Joey Logano's victory on Saturday night at Bristol Motor Speedway -- keeping the number of different winners at 12 through 24 races -- guaranteed Chase berths for the top two drivers in the standings without victories after 26 events.

      Kenseth, fifth in points, is far ahead of the next three winless drivers in the standings. He's 41 points ahead of Ryan Newman in ninth, 52 points up on Clint Bowyer in 10th and 57 points clear of Greg Biffle in 11th.

      Accordingly, there's a high likelihood Kenseth will clinch a Chase spot on Sunday at Atlanta Motor Speedway, even if he doesn't win the Oral-B USA 500.

      So, on the one hand, Kenseth doesn't need a win. On the other hand, he does -- desperately.

      With race victories the key to advancement through the elimination rounds in the Chase, particularly as the playoff gets closer to the four-driver shootout at Homestead-Miami Speedway, Kenseth needs a win in the next two races, simply to reassure himself that he can get to Victory Lane.

      Kenseth led the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series with seven victories last year in his debut season with Joe Gibbs Racing. This year -- nada.

      So don't be surprised if the laid-back Wisconsinite approaches the last two regular-season races at Atlanta and Richmond with an uncharacteristic sense of urgency, despite his comfortable position in the standings.

      @nascarcasm

      --Joey Logano wins at Bristol. Receives gladiator sword in victory lane. Uses it to slice the hell out of some bread.

      --With two races left until the Chase, it's crunch time for several drivers, who desperately need to either win, or peel a winner sticker off of someone else's car and slap it on their own and just hope no one notices.

      --NASCAR would like to thank its competitors for adhering to the new rule stating that drivers must wait for safety personnel to arrive at their cars before hurling things at others in a blind rage. We're pleased with the results.

      --After Denny Hamlin threw his HANS device at Kevin Harvick, TV failed to show Harvick coming back around and throwing a bean bag back at Hamlin.

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

      NASCAR NUMBERS

      6: The number of victories recorded by Team Penske drivers in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series this year. It's the first time a Ford team has won more than five races in a single year since Carl Edwards' nine-victory season for Roush Fenway Racing in 2008.

      21: The number of top-five finishes posted by Joey Logano in NASCAR Sprint Cup Series points races in 60 starts since his arrival at Team Penske to start the 2013 season. In his previous 147 starts, Logano had 16 top fives.

      5: The number of drivers tied with a series-best three NASCAR Sprint Cup Series victories this season. Three of those drivers -- Dale Earnhardt Jr., Jimmie Johnson and Jeff Gordon -- compete for Hendrick Motorsports. The other two -- Brad Keselowski and Joey Logano -- drive for Team Penske.

      19.6: Kasey Kahne's average finish in 17 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races at Atlanta Motor Speedway. The 1.54-mile track has been a feast-or-famine venue for a driver who desperately needs a win to secure a Chase spot. Kahne has two wins and two poles at Atlanta, but he also has three DNFs and seven finishes of 32nd or worse.

      4: The number of NASCAR Sprint Cup Series victories for the Busch brothers, Kurt and Kyle, in the last nine races at Atlanta Motor Speedway. Kurt won the spring race at AMS in both 2009 and 2010, the last year Atlanta hosted two Cup events. Kyle won the spring race in 2008 and the Labor Day weekend event last year.

      NASCAR NUMBER

      Joey Logano completed the first Ford sweep since 2006 over the weekend, winning at Bristol to become the fifth driver on the circuit with three wins this season. With two races left before the Chase, Logano is in championship form, with four top fives and a sixth-place finish in his last five starts. Statistically, the 24-year-old leads the circuit in average running position (9.460) and boasts the second-best driver rating in the series (106.4). ... With just two races to go in the regular season, winless NASCAR Sprint Cup drivers have two more chances left to lock themselves into Chase. Zero-win drivers Matt Kenseth, Ryan Newman, Clint Bowyer and Greg Biffle man the 12-16 spots and have considerable breathing room with Biffle leading 17th-place Kyle Larson by 26 points. Still, any of them can be bumped by a first-time victor. A potential Atlanta contender -- Kasey Kahne, who currently sits in 18th (33 points behind Biffle), has won at Atlanta twice. ... Kyle Busch looks to win Atlanta's NASCAR Sprint Cup race for the second consecutive season, and capture the three Chase bonus points that would go with the victory. Last year, Busch notched his second career Atlanta victory, seizing the top spot on Lap 288 and holding off Joey Logano through the end of the race. He will compete with a group of past Atlanta winners already locked into the Chase vying for precious bonus points, including: his brother Kurt Busch, Jeff Gordon, Denny Hamlin, Carl Edwards, Jimmie Johnson and Dale Earnhardt Jr.

      Tune-In: NASCAR On Television, August 25-31

      Monday, August 25

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

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

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

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

      Tuesday, August 26

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

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

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

      Wednesday, August 27

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

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

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

      Thursday, August 28

      7 a.m., TUDOR United SportsCar Championship Race at VIR (re-air), FOX Sports 2

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

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

      6:30 p.m., Empty Cup: Quest for the 1992 NASCAR Championship (re-air), FOX Sports 2

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

      Friday, August 29

      1 p.m., The 10 Earnhardt Moments (re-air), FOX Sports 1

      1:30 p.m., NASCAR Race Hub Special, FOX Sports 1

      2:30 p.m., NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Practice,

      FOX Sports 1

      4 p.m., NASCAR Nationwide Series Practice, FOX Sports 1

      5 p.m., NASCAR Live, FOX Sports 1

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

      5:30 p.m., NASCAR Nationwide Series Final Practice,

      FOX Sports 1

      7 p.m., NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Coors Light Pole Qualifying, FOX Sports 1

      4:30 a.m. (Sat.), NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Coors Light Pole Qualifying (re-air), FOX Sports 1

      Saturday, August 30

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

      10:30 a.m., NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Coors Light Pole Qualifying (re-air), FOX Sports 1

      12:30 p.m., NASCAR America: Scan All 43 Special (re-air), NBC Sports Network

      3 p.m., NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Practice, FOX Sports 2

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

      5:30 p.m., Empty Cup: Quest for the 1992 NASCAR Championship (re-air), FOX Sports 2

      6 p.m., NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Final Practice, FOX Sports 2

      7 p.m., NNS Countdown, ESPN2

      7:30 p.m., NASCAR Nationwide Series Race at Atlanta, ESPN2

      Sunday, August 31

      10 a.m., Continental Tire Sports Car Challenge Race at VIR, FOX Sports 1

      Noon, NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour Race at Bristol, FOX Sports 1

      1 p.m., NCWTS SetUp, FOX Sports 1

      1:30 p.m., NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Race at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park, FOX Sports 1

      5 p.m., NASCAR RaceDay, FOX Sports 1

      7 p.m., NSCS Countdown, ESPN

      7:30 p.m., NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Race at Atlanta, ESPN

      Midnight (Mon.), NASCAR Victory Lane, FOX Sports 1

      National Series Schedule

      NASCAR SPRINT CUP SERIES

      The Next Race:

      Oral-B USA 500

      The Place:

      Atlanta Motor Speedway

      The Date/Time:

      Sunday, Aug. 31, 7:30 p.m. (ET)

      TV: ESPN

      Radio: PRN Radio,

      Sirius XM Channel 90

      NASCAR NATIONWIDE SERIES

      The Next Race:

      Great Clips 300

      Benefitting Feed the Children

      The Place:

      Atlanta Motor Speedway

      The Date/Time:

      Saturday, Aug. 30, 7:30 p.m. (ET)

      TV: ESPN 2

      Radio: PRN,

      Sirius XM Channel 90

      NASCAR CAMPING WORLD TRUCK SERIES

      The Next Race:

      Chevrolet Silverado 250

      The Place:

      Canadian Tire Motorsport Park

      Date/Time:

      Sunday, Aug. 31, 1:30 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.

      Currently there are 12 different winners. The remainder of the 16-driver Chase Grid will be filled by those drivers highest in NASCAR Sprint Cup Series points. See below for how the current Chase Grid would look if NASCAR's playoffs began today:

      Chase Grid Outlook

      Pos Driver Wins

      1 Jeff Gordon 3

      2 Dale Earnhardt Jr. 3

      3 Brad Keselowski 3

      4 Joey Logano 3

      5 Jimmie Johnson 3

      6 Kevin Harvick 2

      7 Carl Edwards 2

      8 Kyle Busch 1

      9 Denny Hamlin 1

      10 AJ Allmendinger 1

      11 Kurt Busch 1

      12 Aric Almirola 1

      13 Matt Kenseth 0

      14 Ryan Newman 0

      15 Clint Bowyer 0

      16 Greg Biffle 0

      NASCAR Nationwide Series

      Pos Driver Points

      1 Chase Elliott # 834

      2 Regan Smith 821

      3 Ty Dillon # 804

      4 Elliott Sadler 792

      5 Brian Scott 783

      6 Trevor Bayne 771

      7 Chris Buescher # 682

      8 Brendan Gaughan 664

      9 Ryan Reed # 632

      10 James Buescher 621

      NASCAR Camping World Truck Series

      Pos Driver Points

      1 Johnny Sauter 487

      2 Matt Crafton 479

      3 Ron Hornaday Jr. 470

      4 Ryan Blaney 463

      5 Darrell Wallace Jr. 454

      6 German Quiroga 433

      7 Joey Coulter 425

      8 Timothy Peters 414

      9 Ben Kennedy # 412

      10 Jeb Burton 393

  • Sunday, August 24, 2014
    Dixon takes Sonoma as Power extends points lead
    By The Sports Xchange

    SONOMA, Calif. -- Scott Dixon had the right fuel strategy, again.

    • IndyCar's master of saving fuel delivered his first win of the season Sunday at Sonoma Raceway as the series prepares for a championship fight next weekend at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, Calif.

      The title is still at stake because series leader Will Power stunningly spun in Turn 7 on Lap 41. He had led 33 laps to that point.

      Power fought back to pass Team Penske teammate Helio Castroneves in an exchange of pit stops and trouble all day by the Brazilian. Castroneves dropped back all the way to finish 20th.

      Power finished 10th, extending his lead over Castroneves to 51 points.

      "It was a good recovery there," Power said.

      Power all but eliminated everyone but Castroneves as Simon Pagenaud, who finished third in the race, is 81 points back. Pagenaud will be eliminated once Power starts the race.

      The championship will be Team Penske's first since 2006.

      Power knows he should have the title effectively wrapped up by now.

      "Man, I was on it," Power said of his early command of the race from the pole. "Then to get back in the pack (and spin). Unbelievable."

      Ryan Hunter-Reay, who finished second, leads the group of drivers that has been eliminated.

      Castroneves' race was botched almost from the start. He got caught in the Turn 2 bottleneck created by Sebastien Bourdais and Ryan Briscoe having contact and veering to the dirt on the left side.

      Castroneves ran into the back of James Hinchcliffe, and they both got turned sideways. Castroneves then took lighter contact from behind from rookie Carlos Munoz. After the front wing was replaced on pit road, Castroneves was 19th among 22 in the field. He lost three more positions when he pitted on Lap 9 to have a broken right rear bumper cut off.

      That wasn't even the last of Castroneves' troubles. On a restart on Lap 36, the Brazilian tried to go three-wide with Bourdais and Sebastian Saavedra in the tight Turn 7. That didn't work. Castroneves bumped Bourdais, and Saavedra spun. Briscoe then hit Saavedra to bring out the full-course caution.

      Power and Castroneves started the day jostled in their downtown Napa hotel, located only about 10 miles from the earthquake's epicenter. Their rooms a mess of scattered debris, they found themselves outside talking about what had just happened.

      "Will thought it was the end of the world, I thought it was a plane crash," Castroneves said. "It was this rumbling noise, and it completely trashed the bathroom. It was like a movie, and I was in it.

      "A very scary moment. I'm still shaking."

      Said Power: "That earthquake was crazy. We were in the epicenter."

      Said Dixon of Power: "I spoke to Will before the race and he thought he was dying."

      Evacuation followed, leaving the drivers no alternative than to head to the track for an early morning arrival.

      Power said it wasn't a major problem, "but I'll sleep well tonight."

      Meanwhile, CNN reported at least 90 people injured, three critically, and a state of emergency was issued for Napa, which is about 20 miles northeast of the track.

      "All these things falling on the floor, mirror breaking in the bathroom, you hear the alarms, pipes (breaking), not a single picture moved," Castroneves said. "I want the guy who put those nails in to come to my house."

      Almost everyone associated with the event spoke of the noise associated with the tremor that emanated from American Canyon, a town just north of Vallejo, where Jeff Gordon hails from.

      One driver who missed the action was Josef Newgarden, who admitted he slept through the bumps.

      "I didn't know anything had happened and then my (friend) said, 'We should probably go to the track a little earlier in case there are problems,'" he said. "I said, 'What problems?'"

      Track president Steve Page said the decision to continue with the event was based on the fact there were no logistical issues -- no damage to the track or the facilities -- and the roads were open.

      Coincidentally, the event seemed to draw one of its largest crowds in recent years, although the official attendance figures were not released.

      NOTES: Josef Newgarden, who qualified second, signed a one-year deal with the merged teams currently known as Ed Carpenter Racing and Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing. The new team will be known as CFH Racing and will give Newgarden a teammate for 2015. ... Jack Harvey dominated both season-ending Indy Lights races at Sonoma Raceway, but he couldn't shake Gabby Chaves for the series championship. Chaves finished second in the finale, the position he needed. The two drivers tied in points and race wins (four), but the Colombian had more second-place finishes (five to one). ... Winning the title earned Chaves a $750,000 scholarship to apply toward an IndyCar Series ride next year, which all but assures him a chance at the Indianapolis 500.

  • Sunday, August 24, 2014
    Logano defied odds with career renaissance at Penske
    By The Sports Xchange

    By Reid Spencer

    • NASCAR Wire Service

      Distributed by The Sports Xchange

      For every Kyle Busch, there's a Casey Atwood.

      For every Kyle Larson, there's a Todd Kluever.

      For every young talent who shows enough in his first moments in the limelight to tell you he's a certain star, there's a young talent who fades quickly into obscurity, retaining a connection to the sport only as the answer to a "What ever happened to ... ?" question.

      And then there's Joey Logano.

      It's not Logano's 'overnight' success at Team Penske that's remarkable. Logano's third NASCAR Sprint Cup Series victory of the season on Saturday night at Bristol Motor Speedway is simply an affirmation of talent that was always there.

      Logano was an adolescent when Mark Martin began touting his prospects.

      "Joey Logano, in my opinion, will be a Cup champion," Martin said back in 2008, after Logano turned 18.

      Martin has a great eye for talent, and he may well be right. Now 24, Logano has begun to realize the promise he showed as a teenager.

      After a difficult tenure at Joe Gibbs Racing, Logano is starting to harness the ability that compelled Penske teammate Brad Keselowski to lobby aggressively for Logano as the full-time driver of the No. 22 Ford to start the 2013 season.

      In his two seasons with Team Penske -- the current one less than two-thirds complete -- Logano has recorded four of his six career victories and 21 of his 37 career top-five finishes.

      No, Logano's current run is not remarkable. What is indeed remarkable is that Logano remained at the highest level of NASCAR racing long enough to achieve it.

      "He's a huge part of our future," team owner Joe Gibbs said that same year, even before Logano was announced as the full-time successor to Tony Stewart in the No. 20 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota.

      But Gibbs' endorsement was hardly prophecy. It's fair to say that, at the time, Logano lacked the experience and maturity to live up to the moniker "Sliced Bread," a nickname that earned him more derision than respect when Logano faltered early in his career.

      Gibbs paired Logano with veteran crew chief Greg Zipadelli for his 2009 debut season, but Zipadelli was accustomed to working with a veteran champion in Stewart, not a raw rookie. To call the relationship between Logano and Zipadelli strained is to understate the reality.

      And with Stewart leaving in 2009 to form his own team, there was always the sense, rightly or wrongly, that Zipadelli had one foot out the door at JGR before he made the move to Stewart-Haas Racing as competition director after the 2011 season.

      Gibbs retained Home Depot as the primary sponsor for Logano, another awkward fit for a 19-year-old who didn't have a home of his own at the time.

      Those weren't the only distractions. As far as job security was concerned, Logano was always on the precipice.

      During the 2011 season, Gibbs made a strong run at Carl Edwards, fueling speculation that Edwards would be in the No. 20 Camry and Logano out of a job. Edwards opted to re-sign with Roush Fenway Racing for three more years, and Logano was back, with Jason Ratcliffe as his crew chief.

      Earlier, Gibbs had courted Juan Pablo Montoya as a possible candidate for a fourth car. Had a deal come to fruition, Logano would have lost another spot in the pecking order, as he already played third fiddle behind Kyle Busch and Denny Hamlin.

      And, ultimately, the signing of Matt Kenseth for the 2013 season spelled the end of Logano's stint at Joe Gibbs Racing. With Home Depot taking a reduced sponsorship role, and with Dollar General preferring Kenseth, a former series champion, there was no money to support Logano's efforts at the Sprint Cup level.

      In several respects, though, Logano was lucky. The recipient of enormous marketing hype, Logano made his first start in the Sprint Cup Series in a relative vacuum of young talent in stock car racing. In 2008 and 2009, there were no Kyle Larsons, Chase Elliotts, Ryan Blaneys or Darrell Wallaces clamoring for the glamor rides.

      That contributed to Logano's longevity.

      He was also fortunate that Edwards deferred his move to JGR for three years. Had Edwards signed with Gibbs -- and it was close -- Logano would have been out of a ride a year earlier, in a different landscape of available Cup rides.

      Logano also made his own luck by continuing to win in the Nationwide Series. He posted nine victories in 2012 alone and now has 21, tied for 13th on the all-time list with Dale Earnhardt Sr. and Harry Gant.

      As Logano struggled in Cup, his frequent visits to Victory Lane in the Nationwide Series kept reminding us of his talent and suggested that a breakthrough in NASCAR's premier series was inevitable.

      In confirming the departure of Logano, Joe Gibbs acknowledged that team owner Roger Penske might well pick the fruit that JGR had cultivated.

      That's exactly what has happened.

      And in that respect, Gibbs was prophetic indeed.

  • Sunday, August 24, 2014
    IndyCar race a go despite earthquake
    By The Sports Xchange

    Sunday's IndyCar race in Sonoma, Calif., will go on as scheduled despite a 6.0 magnitude earthquake that shook the area at 3:20 a.m., IndyCar announced.

    • The quake lasted about 25 seconds, and multiple aftershocks were recorded.

      No damage was reported at Sonoma Raceway, which is about 15 miles from the epicenter of the earthquake in American Canyon. The main arteries to the race track -- California highways 37 and 121 -- also sustained no damage.

      The 2.385-mile, 12-turn road course and buildings at the facility have been inspected, according to a track spokesman. Emergency responders, including Holmatro Safety Team members, are on-site at the facility. No fans or campers were injured during the quake or its aftershocks.

      Competition includes the championship-deciding Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires race and the 85-lap GoPro Grand Prix of Sonoma at 1:40 p.m. local time.

      The Sonoma County Sheriff's Office reported power outages in the city of Sonoma and surrounding area but no significant damage. Structural damage and fires were reported in nearby Napa.

      It is the largest earthquake in Northern California since the Loma Prieta temblor in 1989.

  • Sunday, August 24, 2014
    Logano races to third win of year
    By The Sports Xchange

    BRISTOL, Tenn. -- Joey Logano claimed his third NASCAR Sprint Cup Series victory of the season in the Irwin Tools Night Race on Saturday at Bristol Motor Speedway.

    • Logano took the lead from Matt Kenseth with 44 laps remaining in the 500-lap race and remained up front for the win.

      "Man, what a Shell-Pennzoil Ford there," Logano said. "Made some small adjustments all night and got our third win of the year."

      Brad Keselowski passed Kenseth to move into second with 31 laps remaining, and the Team Penske duo of Logano and Keselowski pulled away for a two-car battle to the finish.

      "The Wurth Ford Fusion was about equal to Joey's," Keselowski said. "He just had track position on me."

      Kenseth finished third, Jimmie Johnson was fourth and Kurt Busch rounded out the top five.

      Kenseth was one of four drivers who stayed out during the final caution of the race inside the final 100 laps, inheriting the lead from Jamie McMurray, who headed for pit road during the yellow flag.

      "I just knew that new tires for the setup we had tonight and what our car would do in traffic -- I just knew that clean air was going to be worth more than new tires," Kenseth said. "Maybe we could have gotten tires and beaten those guys. We'll never know. I just had such a hard time. I knew clean air would cover up a lot of problems."

      McMurray had taken the race lead before the halfway point. He lost it to Keselowski on pit road just before a lap 270 restart, but when the race returned to green, McMurray retook the top spot.

      McMurray had passed Kasey Kahne for the top spot on lap 239. Kahne had inherited the lead from Kevin Harvick by staying out during a caution just before the 200-lap mark. Kahne also lost spots to Keselowski and Johnson.

      Harvick pitted for four tires under the caution and restarted 12th. His No. 4 was the class of the field for much of the first half of the race, though, leading the first 37 laps before losing the lead to Jeff Gordon.

      Kyle Busch, Kenseth, Logano and Denny Hamlin also led laps before Harvick retook the top spot on lap 161.

      Hamlin got off pit road first by taking only two tires during a caution just before lap 130. Harvick, on four fresh tires, moved into second on the restart. While racing Hamlin for the lead, Harvick clipped Hamlin, ending Hamlin's race.

      Busch's night was also cut short after leading the pack. He was caught speeding on pit road during a competition caution on lap 60 and then was collected in a wreck that involved Aric Almirola, Kyle Larson, Clint Bowyer and Brian Vickers.

      "We were catching a slower lapped car. I think it was the 7 (Michael Annett), and we were all starting to find our way to the bottom because the 7 was clogging up the top lane," Almirola said.

      "The 55 (Vickers) started to cheat his way down there, since I was already inside of him, and the 42 (Kyle Larson) got to his outside, I guess, and the 55 got together with him. It's frustrating. It's certainly not the way we wanted to end our day."

      NOTES: Kevin Harvick's pole was his fifth pole of the season. He set a track record with a 14.607-second/131.362 mph lap in qualifying Friday. ... Jeff Burton once again subbed for Tony Stewart. ... Matt Kenseth won last year's Bristol night race. ... The two Bristol races in 2013 were won by two drivers -- Kasey Kahne and Kenseth -- who headed into this race weekend winless. ... Carl Edwards won at Bristol earlier this season. .... Winning at Bristol runs in the Busch family. Both Kurt and Kyle Busch are five-time Sprint Cup winners at BMS. ... The Busch brothers' five wins apiece matched Jeff Gordon's five at the track. ... Kyle Busch became the youngest race winner at Bristol, winning at age 21 years, 10 months and 23 days in March 2007.

  • Saturday, August 23, 2014
    Power wins IndyCar pole at Sonoma
    By The Sports Xchange

    IndyCar Series points leader Will Power claimed his second straight pole and fourth of the season on Saturday as the fastest qualifier for the GoPro Grand Prix of Sonoma, Calif.

    • Power broke his own track record on the 2.385-mile, 12-turn road course, clocking 111.161 mph for his fourth career pole at Sonoma.

      "It's a track-position race and starting on pole puts us in a good position," Power said. "If it's a normal sort of strategy, we've put ourselves in a great position to win the race. But you know how these races go. You've got to get everything right on race day and we're going to try and do that."

      Josef Newgarden will start second in Sunday's race. Scott Dixon, the 2013 IndyCar Series champion, qualified third and James Hinchcliffe was fourth.

      Starting in the third row will be Ryan Briscoe, a 2012 winner at Sonoma, and Helio Castroneves.

      "We know we have a very good car and hopefully we'll have a good race," Castroneves said. "You have to be aggressive in a way that puts you in position going to the last race to win the championship."

      The IndyCar season ends Aug. 30 with the MAVTV 500 on the 2-mile Auto Club Speedway oval.