Sprint Cup

NASCAR Sprint Cup News Wire
  • Thursday, August 21, 2014
    Keselowski earns first Truck Series win at Bristol
    By The Sports Xchange

    By Chris Knight, NASCAR Wire Service

    • Distributed by The Sports Xchange

      BRISTOL, Tenn. -- After 62 races -- the last 20 of which were in his own equipment -- Brad Keselowski is finally a NASCAR Camping World Truck Series winner.

      "We did it," Keselowski said as he took the checkered flag in Thursday morning's postponed UNOH 200 presented by ZLOOP at Bristol Motor Speedway.

      Keselowski's joy may have been short lived. Following the race, NASCAR announced that his No. 19 truck, as well as the trucks driven by Cole Custer and Ron Hornaday Jr., measured too high at the rear spoiler during post-race inspection. More on these findings will be determined early next week.

      Keselowski took the lead from Keystone Pole Award winner Kyle Busch on Lap 124 and never relinquished, despite repeated attempts by former NASCAR Drive for Diversity graduate Darrell Wallace Jr.

      "It was a good battle and Bristol has always been a special track," Keselowski said. "(Crew chief) Doug Randolph and the team gave me a great truck. This thing took off and it was flying and I knew we had a shot at it right away from Lap 1. It's (a) matter of putting it all together and not having any bad luck and we didn't and everything came together and the team did a great job."

      Busch, who scored his fourth pole of the season Wednesday afternoon, appeared to be the class of the field and had his sixth win of the season in his sights. But he found himself out of the racing groove 76 laps from the finish, stalling his momentum and allowing the 2012 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion to slip by and control the remainder of the race.

      After persistent rain forced the 17th annual Bristol race to be rescheduled for the next morning, Busch led the green shortly after 10 a.m. Keselowski took advantage of lap traffic to squeeze by Busch on Lap 12 and led through the competition caution on Lap 50.

      Stout work by Busch's team on pit road gave him the lead back for the restart on Lap 53. Keselowski though wouldn't let Busch escape as he retook command briefly on Lap 59 before Busch rolled to the point on Lap 61 and led until his miscue 63 laps later.

      The final caution flag of the morning waived on Lap 147 for a four-truck accident on the backstretch, which allowed an attempt by the lead lap trucks to gang up and steal Keselowski's thunder, but he would have none of it.

      On the restart, Busch stalked Keselowski, but in their rearview mirrors, a hard-charging Wallace Jr. appeared and took second from his boss and set his sights on the Rochester Hills, Mich., native.

      The No. 54 ToyotaCare Tundra closed up to within a truck length of Keselowski's No. 19 Ford F-150 coming to the white flag, but Keselowski was able to fend off the former NASCAR Next driver to earn his first triumph in 62 NCWTS races.

      With his win, Keselowski and father, Bob Keselowski, became the first father and son duo to win NCWTS races. The senior Keselowski won at Richmond (Va.) International Raceway in 2007.

      Furthermore, the 2010 NASCAR Nationwide Series champion became the 25th driver to win a race in all three of NASCAR's national series. His first Sprint Cup win came at Talladega (Ala.) Superspeedway on April 26, 2009. His first Nationwide Series victory occurred at Nashville Superspeedway on June 7, 2008.

      "For me, it's a big day for me personally and professionally," Keselowski said. "Personally I think we dug into a lot of things with my family and the commitment they've had to the sport and specifically to this series for a long time. To race and make a living for quite a while then to beyond that to give me an opportunity to do the same in the latter stages of their involvement. It was a tough road and quite honestly we didn't make it. It's always a personal tragedy of sorts to go through that and that's why for one of the many reasons I'm still involved in this series."

      Wallace Jr., achieved his third runner-up finish of the season, but noted he respected Keselowski too much to wreck him for potentially his third win of the season.

      "We had a very fast ToyotaCare Tundra and it's shown, I'm proud of my guys," Wallace Jr. said. "Brad's good and I really had to wreck him to get by him, so I respect him and we'll build off this and go to Canada, that's a whole different animal in itself." Behind Keselowski and Wallace Jr., Ron Hornaday Jr. was third followed by Matt Crafton and Johnny Sauter. John Hunter Nemechek, Joey Coulter, Cole Custer, Ben Rhodes and Corey Lajoie comprised the top 10. Busch fell victim to a flat tire and finished 24th.

      Sauter continues to lead the series standings by eight points (487 to 479) over ThorSport Racing teammate Crafton.

      The Truck Series returns to the track on Aug. 31 for a trip across the border to Canadian Tire Motorsport Park for the running of the Chevrolet Silverado 250 (1:30 p.m. ET on FOX Sports 1) in Bowmanville, Ontario.

  • Wednesday, August 20, 2014
    Rain pushes Bristol truck race To Thursday
    By The Sports Xchange

    By Chris Knight, NASCAR Wire Service

    • Distributed by The Sports Xchange

      BRISTOL, Tenn. -- Persistent rain forced postponement of Wednesday night's NASCAR Camping World Truck Series UNOH 200 presented by ZLOOP at Bristol (Tenn.) Motor Speedway.

      The race has been rescheduled to start Thursday morning at 10:00 a.m. ET live on FOX Sports 1.

      NASCAR officials made the decision shortly before 10:00 p.m. Wednesday.

      Before rain drenched the 0.533-mile concrete oval, pole sitter Kyle Busch in the No. 51 Dollar General Toyota Tundra earned his fourth Keystone Light Pole Award of the season. He will share the front row with NASCAR Next driver Cole Custer driving for Haas Racing Development.

      Tickets for Wednesday night's race will be honored Thursday. Grandstand gates will open at 9:00 a.m. and parking lots will open at 7:00 a.m.

  • Wednesday, August 20, 2014
    Burton to drive for Stewart again this week
    By The Sports Xchange

    Tony Stewart will sit out a third straight Sprint Cup Series race this week when he hands the wheel of his No. 14 Chevrolet to Jeff Burton for Saturday's Irwin Tools Night Race at Bristol Motor Speedway.

    • Stewart has not raced since he was driving a sprint car that struck and killed 20-eyar-old Kevin Ward Jr. at a dirt track in New York earlier this month.

      Burton subbed for Stewart last week at Michigan and finished 37th in just his third Sprint Cup race of the season. Stewart was replaced two weeks ago at Watkins Glen by Regan Smith, who also came in 37th.

      Stewart-Haas Racing has not announced when Stewart will return to the series, saying it's Stewart's decision. He has stayed out of the public eye since the Aug. 8 incident in Canandaigua, N.Y., when his car hit Ward, who had walked up the track after a crash and gestured toward Stewart.

      An investigation into Ward's death is continuing.

      Stewart also canceled an appearance at Plymouth (Ind.) Speedway scheduled for this weekend.

      In 542 career Sprint Cup starts, Stewart has 48 victories, including one at Bristol in 2001.

  • Wednesday, August 20, 2014
    NASCAR Driver Capsules, Aug. 20
    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's fall from the top spot in the Sprint Cup standings lasted just one week, as he climbed back into first place after Sunday's win at Michigan. Gordon has now been No. 1 in the points for nine of the last 10 weeks and 15 of the last 16 weeks. He leads Hendrick Motorsports teammate and second-ranked Dale Earnhardt Jr. by three points and holds an 83-point edge over third-ranked Brad Keselowski.

      BRISTOL RECORD: 43 career starts, 5 wins, 16 top-5s, 24 top-10s, 5 poles. Best career finish: First in spring 1995, spring 1996, spring 1997, spring 1998 and summer 2002. Finished seventh in this race last year and was seventh in this year's spring race there.

      LOOKING AHEAD: Gordon is back atop the standings and is tied for the lead for most wins by a driver thus far this season (three). With three races left, he's trying to earn the top seed heading into the Chase. "(Crew chief) Alan (Gustafson) and the crew are giving me great cars each week," Gordon said. "It's a lot of fun going to the track right now, and this week is no exception. I love racing at Bristol and we're really looking forward to this Saturday night's race. Bristol provides the teams with a lot of challenges, but I love the input a driver can give to help influence the setup. It's a track that most drivers seem to enjoy racing at. It's a track the fans love, as well."

      LOOKING BACK: Gordon led 65 laps en route to earning his third win of the season this past Sunday at Michigan, a big rebound from finishing 34th the week before at Watkins Glen.

      ETC.: Gordon has completed 96.1 percent (20,519) of the 21,358 total laps contested in 43 career starts at Bristol. His average start is an outstanding 7.4 and average finish is 12.2. He has six DNFs there.

      88 DALE EARNHARDT JR., Chevrolet

      Team: Hendrick Motorsports

      WHERE HE STANDS: After one week back atop the Sprint Cup points, Dale Earnhardt Jr. dropped back to second place after Michigan. He's now been ranked second for five of the past six weeks. He trails points leader and Hendrick Motorsports teammate Jeff Gordon by three points and is 80 points ahead of third-ranked Brad Keselowski.

      BRISTOL RECORD: 29 career starts, 1 win, 7 top-5s, 14 top-10s, 0 poles. Best career finish: First in summer 2004. Finished 10th in this race last year and was 24th in this year's spring race there.

      LOOKING AHEAD: Earnhardt has not won at Bristol in 10 years. He's hoping to not only break that winless string but also to take the lead in wins thus far this season (he's tied Jeff Gordon, Jimmie Johnson and Brad Keselowski with three wins each). "Bristol is a fun racetrack," Earnhardt said. "I love racing on the short tracks. We don't get to do a whole lot of it throughout the year so I'm really hoping to just be able to make all the laps. If you are out there making all the laps, you're going to be enjoying yourself because you can't run around Bristol without having fun."

      LOOKING BACK: Earnhardt was consistently within the top 10 at Michigan. While he didn't have enough to challenge for the win, he still came away with a respectable fifth-place finish.

      ETC.: Earnhardt has completed 99.0 percent (14,364) of the 14,516 total laps contested in 29 career starts at Bristol. His average start there is 21.3, and average finish is 12.0. He has one DNF there.

      2 BRAD KESELOWSKI, Ford

      Team: Penske Racing

      WHERE HE STANDS: After dropping one position to fourth place after Watkins Glen, Brad Keselowski regained that lost position and climbed back to third after Sunday's race at Michigan. He trails points leader Jeff Gordon by 83 points, is 80 points behind second-ranked Dale Earnhardt Jr. and leads fourth-ranked and Penske Racing teammate Joey Logano by 19 points.

      BRISTOL RECORD: 9 career starts, 2 wins, 3 top-5s, 3 top-10s, 0 poles. Best career finish: First in summer 2011 and spring 2012. Finished 30th in this race last year and was 14th in this year's spring race there.

      LOOKING AHEAD: Keselowski has three races to win at least one more race to potentially give him the top seed position when the rankings are reset prior to the start of the Chase for the Sprint Cup. "This has been a different track for us these last few races and honestly it has been a bit of a struggle for us," Keselowski said. "The team has been working diligently to improve our Bristol car, and we hope to turn things around this weekend. Overall, the team has been doing well, and we feel good about where we are at this point of the season. This track and this race in particular is one that I truly enjoy and even though we have a couple of wins here - we always want more. We will certainly do everything we can to get to Victory Lane this Saturday night."

      LOOKING BACK: Keselowski is still looking for his first career Sprint Cup win at his home track in Michigan, finishing eighth there this past Sunday.

      ETC.: Keselowski has completed 98.0 percent (4,414) of the 4,503 total laps contested in 9 career starts at Bristol. His average start is 12.2 and his average finish is 14.3. He has zero DNFs there.

      22 JOEY LOGANO, Ford

      Team: Penske Racing

      WHERE HE STANDS: Joey Logano continued his upward climb in the Sprint Cup standings, improving from fifth to fourth after Michigan. He trails points leader Jeff Gordon by 102 points, is 19 points behind third-ranked and Penske Racing teammate Brad Keselowski, and is five points ahead of fifth-ranked Matt Kenseth.

      BRISTOL RECORD: 11 career starts, 0 wins, 1 top-5, 2 top-10s, 1 pole. Best career finish: Fifth in summer 2013. Finished a career-best fifth in this race last year and was 20th in this year's spring race there.

      LOOKING AHEAD: Logano is looking for both his first career win at Bristol, as well as a third win for the season. "We have been strong at Bristol since I started over here with Team Penske," Logano said. "I've always loved going to Bristol and having a good car under me these last couple of years has helped. I've been able to win at the track in the Nationwide Series, but I really want to win now in the Cup Series. I think I have that chance with Team Penske. I want to get that third win before the Chase starts."

      LOOKING BACK: Logano led the most laps at Michigan (86), but couldn't hold off Jeff Gordon on the final restart and eventually finished third at Michigan

      ETC.: Logano has completed a near-perfect 99.2 percent (5,463) of the 5,506 laps contested in 11 career starts at Bristol. His average start there is an excellent 8.6 and average finish is 19.9. He has one DNF there.

      20 MATT KENSETH, Toyota

      Team: Joe Gibbs Racing

      WHERE HE STANDS: After moving back up to third place after Watkins Glen, Matt Kenseth fell two spots in the standings to fifth after Michigan. He trails points leader Jeff Gordon by 107 points, is five points behind fourth-ranked Joey Logano and leads sixth-ranked Kevin Harvick by 22 points.

      BRISTOL RECORD: 29 career starts, 3 wins, 11 top-5s, 18 top-10s, 1 pole. Best career finish: First in summer 2005, summer 2006 and summer 2013. Finished first in this race last year and was 13th in this year's spring race there.

      LOOKING AHEAD: In making his 30th career start at Bristol, Kenseth has arguably his best chance in the remaining three pre-Chase races to earn his first victory of the season, especially since he won at Bristol in this race last year. The question, much like he's been asked the first 23 races this season, can he finally earn his first win of 2014 this weekend?

      LOOKING BACK: Kenseth had one of his worst outings of both the season and his career at Michigan, a track he typically does well at, finishing a disappointing 38th due to a wreck.

      ETC.: Kenseth has completed 97.2 percent (14,104) of the 14,516 total laps contested in 29 career starts at Bristol. His average start there is 15.9 and average finish is 12.5. He has four DNFs there.

      4 KEVIN HARVICK, Chevrolet

      Team: Stewart-Haas Racing

      WHERE HE STANDS: After climbing back into the top 10 and up to eighth place after Watkins Glen, Kevin Harvick moved up two additional spots to sixth following his runner-up finish at Michigan. He trails points leader Jeff Gordon 129 points, is seven points behind fourth-ranked Joey Logano and leads seventh-ranked Jimmie Johnson by one point.

      BRISTOL RECORD: 27 career starts, 1 win, 9 top-5s, 12 top-10s, 0 poles. Best career finish: First in spring 2005. Finished 34th in this race last year and was 39th in this year's spring race there.

      LOOKING AHEAD: Harvick is seeking his first win at Bristol in nine seasons. What's more, he's managed just one top-10 finish in his last 11 starts there. He's overdue, many would say. "Bristol has never been one of those place that you think about that much to be honest with you," Harvick said. "It just seems like all the action and everything happens for the night races there for whatever reason. It's a fun place to race. It's been a place where we've had a lot of success. And, sometimes you go there and you have no success because you run into something. It's kind of feast or famine as you go there and that's kind of where we are at right now in this point of our season. We want to win races and really nothing else matters at this point except for wins. Hopefully when we go back to Bristol we will be on the right side of having some success."

      LOOKING BACK: After finishing seventh the week before at Watkins Glen, Harvick put on a great show and a strong challenge in the closing laps at Michigan against Jeff Gordon, but was forced to settle for runner-up.

      ETC.: Harvick has completed 97.6 percent (13,189 laps) of the 13,516 total laps contested in 27 career starts at Bristol. His average start there is 18.0 and his average finish is 14.3. He has three DNFs there.

      48 JIMMIE JOHNSON, Chevrolet

      Team: Hendrick Motorsports

      WHERE HE STANDS: Jimmie Johnson remained in seventh place for the second consecutive week after Michigan. He trails points leader and Hendrick Motorsports teammate Jeff Gordon by 130 points, is one point behind sixth-ranked Kevin Harvick and is seven points ahead of the eighth-place tie between Carl Edwards and Ryan Newman.

      BRISTOL RECORD: 25 career starts, 1 win, 7 top-5s, 13 top-10s, 1 pole. Best career finish: First in spring 2010. Finished 36th in this race last year and was 19th in this year's spring race there.

      LOOKING AHEAD: Johnson continues to have one of the worst struggles of his career. He needs a strong finish in the remaining three races to get back on track heading into the Chase. "I'm looking forward to Bristol on Saturday night. It should be an exciting race for the fans for sure - we had a great Lowe's Chevy there in the spring but had a tire issue so we didn't have a great finish. I'm looking forward to keeping all the wheels on it under the lights Saturday night."

      LOOKING BACK: After finishing 39th at Pocono and 28th at Watkins Glen, Johnson bounced back to a hard-fought ninth-place finish at Michigan. He was forced to improvise and use a pair of pliers to shift gears after the shifter on his car broke early in the race.

      ETC.: Johnson has completed 97.5 percent (12,203) of 12,516 total laps in 25 career starts at Bristol. His average start there is 15.4, while his average finish is also 15.4. He has one DNF there.

      99 CARL EDWARDS, Ford

      Team: Roush Fenway Racing

      WHERE HE STANDS: Carl Edwards lost the two spots he earned after Watkins Glen, dropping from sixth and into a tie for eighth with Ryan Newman after Michigan. The pair trail points leader Jeff Gordon by 137 points, are seven points behind seventh-ranked Jimmie Johnson and are seven points ahead of 10th-ranked Clint Bowyer.

      BRISTOL RECORD: 20 career starts, 3 wins, 5 top-5s, 8 top-10s, 2 poles. Best career finish: First in summer 2007, summer 2008 and spring 2014. Finished 39th in this race last year, and bounced back to win in this year's spring race there.

      LOOKING AHEAD: Edwards would love to celebrate Tuesday's announcement that he'll move to Joe Gibbs Racing next season with a season sweep at Bristol on Saturday night.

      LOOKING BACK: After finishing fifth at Watkins Glen, Edwards had an afternoon of handling problems at Michigan, ultimately finishing a disappointing 23rd. "We were so loose I just couldn't drive it," Edwards said. "It looked like Greg (Biffle) had a good run and we had speed in qualifying so that gives us something to look forward to but we were just too loose today to be able to do anything."

      ETC.: Edwards has completed 94.6 percent (9,473) of 10,016 total laps contested in 20 career starts at Bristol. His average start there is 17.4 and average finish is 15.2. He has two DNFs there.

      31 RYAN NEWMAN, Chevrolet

      Team: Richard Childress Racing

      WHERE HE STANDS: Ryan Newman remained in a tie for eighth place after Michigan. Only this week, it's not Kevin Harvick he's tied with. Rather, Newman is now tied with Carl Edwards. Both drivers trail points leader Jeff Gordon by 137 points apiece, seven points behind seventh-ranked Jimmie Johnson and are seven points ahead of 10th-ranked Clint Bowyer.

      BRISTOL RECORD: 25 career starts, 0 wins, 1 top-5, 13 top-10s, 3 poles. Best career finish: Second in summer 2004. Finished 21st in this race last year and was 16th in this year's spring race there.

      LOOKING AHEAD: Newman continues in pursuit of his first win of the season, which would guarantee his berth in the upcoming Chase for the Sprint Cup. "The speeds at Bristol are so much greater than they used to be," Newman said. "It used to be where they would fall off two, three or four seconds a run while fighting forward drive. Now it's not so much that, so it's pretty intense both mentally and physically."

      LOOKING BACK: Newman had a good run at Michigan, including leading 14 laps. However, his car trailed off in the final stages of the race and he just barely missed a top-10 finish, ending up 11th.

      ETC.: Newman has completed 93.9 percent (11,754) of the 12,516 total laps contested in 25 career starts at Bristol. His average start there is a strong 10.3, and average finish is 17.0. He has three DNFs there.

      15 CLINT BOWYER, Toyota

      Team: Michael Waltrip Racing

      WHERE HE STANDS: Clint Bowyer climbed one spot in the Sprint Cup standings and back into the top 10 after Michigan, ranking 10th heading into Bristol. He trails points leader Jeff Gordon by 144 points, is seven points behind the eighth-ranked tie between Carl Edwards and Ryan Newman, and leads 11th-ranked Greg Biffle by 12 points.

      BRISTOL RECORD: 17 career starts, 0 wins, 5 top-5s, 8 top-10, 0 poles. Best career finish: Third in both summer 2007 and spring 2008. Finished 14th in this race last year and was 15th in this year's spring race there.

      LOOKING AHEAD: Bowyer is like Matt Kenseth, Ryan Newman and several others, still looking for his first win of the season that would assure he makes this year's Chase for the Sprint Cup. "We've clearly got a lot of work to do," Bowyer said. "It's unfortunate -- we're behind, there's no question. ... Right now, everything has to be perfect to get a decent finish. ... This is a tricky part of the season. Everybody is pushing hard. You got a lot of guys coming from behind that are getting their stuff working better. Everybody's working hard. It's that time of year."

      LOOKING BACK: Bowyer likes to go fast, and he got plenty of that at Michigan, eventually finishing with a strong sixth-place showing.

      ETC.: Bowyer has completed 93.2 percent (7,936) of the 8,516 total laps contested in 17 career starts at Bristol. His average start there is 20.2 and average finish is 16.0. He has two DNFs there.

      16 GREG BIFFLE, Ford

      Team: Roush Fenway Racing

      WHERE HE STANDS: 11th, 12 points out of the top 10. Gained one spot last week. Would make the Chase if the Chase for the Championship began this week.

      BRISTOL RECORD: 12 top-10 finishes including six top-five's in 23 starts.

      LOOKING AHEAD: Biffle said, "Saturday night under the lights, where else would you want to be except Bristol, Tennessee. We run hard at Bristol, which is always fun and exciting. We always have good runs at that race track. You race right up against the fence, as fast as you can go. Track position is key, you've got to be up front and stay up front."

      LOOKING BACK: After a very disappointing run in the first Michigan race, Biffle was delighted with his 10th-place finish on Sunday. It was his third straight top-10 finish in his bid to secure a spot in the Chase. "It was a good day," said Biffle. "We got a top-10. Really wanted to run up in the top-five. We had a car to do that, but we would get loose around other cars. We still have to work on that with our race cars. It was a great day for us because we had a lot more speed than last time here. We have worked really hard and been off all year. It is a huge improvement for us."

      ETC.: Biffle realizes "if one of these other guys that are behind us in points goes and wins (one of the next three races), it really, really shoots us in the foot as far as the points go. So that's what we're focusing on is winning one of these last three and getting our way in the Chase that way. Certainly we're hanging on by a shoe string to make it on points if it comes down to that." As the series heads to Bristol, Biffle is the last man in when it comes to qualifying for the Chase via the point standings. He leads Kasey Kahne by only nine points.

      5 KASEY KAHNE, Chevrolet

      Team: Hendrick Motorsports

      WHERE HE STANDS: 12th, nine points out of a spot in the Chase. Gained one spot last week.

      BRISTOL RECORD: Won the spring race of 2013 and finished second in the fall event. Finished eighth in the March race. Will be seeking his fifth straight top-nine finish.

      LOOKING AHEAD: Kahne can't wait to get to Bristol. "We've really run well there, especially the same couple of years," said Kahne. "We've got three great tracks coming up for us, beginning with Bristol. We can win any of them. We are still really optimistic about our chances of making the Chase."

      LOOKING BACK: It was a very frustrating end to the day for Kahne as he finished 16th after running in the top 10 for most of the afternoon. "For some reason, the car just didn't respond like we needed it to those last 25 laps," said Kahne. "We thought by changing tires during the final yellow we would be in good shape for a run back to the front. But the car just didn't react well in traffic."

      ETC.: Kahne was one of 10 drivers who took part in the NASCAR test at Michigan on Monday. The test was to help the sanctioning body determine the new rules package for 2015. Kahne feels any improvement will be a blessing. He pointed out how well his car felt alone on the track, but "when we went green (for the mock race), and I followed a car into turn one my front end would not turn getting into the corner," said Kahne. "That is what we need changed." Gene Stefanyshyn, NASCAR's vice president of innovation and racing development, said, "We learned a lot and were able to test a lot of our ideas. We are listening to our fans; they have said they like a lot of passing, side-by-side racing and lead changes. That is what we are aiming to accomplish with these tests."

      3 AUSTIN DILLON, Chevrolet

      Team: Richard Childress Racing

      WHERE HE STANDS: 13th, 22 points out of a spot in the Chase. Gained one spot last week.

      BRISTOL RECORD: Finished 11th in the spring race.

      LOOKING AHEAD: Dillon feels "every racer loves Bristol Motor Speedway. It's a fun little bullring. In the spring, the day race pretty much turned into a night race because of the weather and it worked out well for our team. We ended up having a really decent run there, so I have been looking forward to this race for a while."

      LOOKING BACK: Dillon seemed headed for a top-10 run as the race reached the midway point. But then Dillon told the crew the car seemed to be losing power. Despite several trips to the pits to try and find the problem, Dillon was forced to be content with a 22nd-place finish at Michigan. "The American Ethanol Chevrolet was solid all weekend and I am proud of the team's efforts," said Dillon. "We just had a string of bad luck. If we wouldn't have had mechanical issues we would have easily had a top-five effort today."

      ETC.: Dillon is one of four drivers within 24 points of each other in a bid to earn the final spot in the Chase. And Dillon knows he must outrun the other three - Greg Biffle, Kasey Kahne and fellow rookie Kyle Larson - in the next three races to have any shot at making the Chase. "Of course, if we win one of the next three, we are in no matter what they do," said a smiling Dillon.

      42 KYLE LARSON, Chevrolet

      Team: Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates

      WHERE HE STANDS: 14th, 24 points out of a spot in the Chase. Lost four spots last week to fall out of the top 10 and a spot in the Chase.

      BRISTOL RECORD: Finished 10th in the March race.

      LOOKING AHEAD: Larson said, "I'll be looking for a big turnaround this weekend at Bristol after a disappointing race at Michigan. We had a really good car last weekend and have had fast Target Chevy's just about every weekend. The team is excited about being back at Bristol and think we have a really good shot there. I had my first top-10 finish there (in the spring), and I think we are a much stronger team now."

      LOOKING BACK: Larson began the afternoon believing he had a car capable of winning the race. But a pit-road accident followed by a blown right-front tire that shot him hard into the wall ended his day in last (43rd) place to severely damage his hopes of making the Chase. The hard crash triggered an oil-line fire that caused Larson to quickly exit his car. Track workers quickly extinguished the blaze. Larson was unhurt. "We had a really good Target Chevy this weekend, so that's why what happened in the race was so disappointing," said Larson. "It's just a shame because we were up there in the points' battle for the Chase. Now we have to work even harder to try and get in."

      ETC.: Larson knows his chances of getting into the Chase were damaged big time at Michigan, and that is why Bristol is so important in his bid to boost his fading hopes. "We want to be in the Chase, and a win is really all we can do now," said Larson. "We'll use what we learned from our first good run at Bristol earlier in the year, and do everything we can to try and get a win."

      18 KYLE BUSCH, Toyota

      Team: Joe Gibbs Racing

      WHERE HE STANDS: 15th. Has clinched a spot in the Chase as a result of his California win.

      BRISTOL RECORD: Five wins and 12 top-10 finishes including eight top-five's in 19 starts.

      LOOKING AHEAD: Busch said, "When they changed the track (Bristol) to this current surface in 2007, I just really took to it right away. I really liked it and I've been fast there. I've had great race cars from Joe Gibbs Racing. It's just a fun race track no matter what series I'm running there. We'd love to be able to repeat 2010 (when he swept the weekend by winning the truck race, the Nationwide Series event and the Sprint Cup race) - that would be amazing - do another trifecta."

      LOOKING BACK: It was another long and frustrating afternoon for Busch. On lap four of the 200-lap event, Busch got loose and slammed hard into the turn one wall. His car suffered heavy damage and Busch was forced to go to the garage area for repairs. He returned to the track more than 40 laps down as he finished 39th. Busch has now finished 39th or worse in three straight races. "I felt good about my car those first few laps running the bottom," said Busch. "Then I just tried going to the top in (turns) three and four and I got loose all the way through three and four. Every time I touched the gas it wanted to spin out, and finally it was too much gas and not enough save, and I wrecked. We didn't get to see what we were capable of."

      ETC.: Busch feels the "most challenging aspect of Bristol is how difficult it is to transition through from the straightaways to the corners, back to the straightaways and have your car set up in order to do all that. Sometimes you can be really loose getting in, or you can really tight in the middle - you just seem to never be able to get a good-flowing car that works well there. Drivers have to do a lot of manipulation on the race track with their car in order to try to make the best of it."

      9 MARCOS AMBROSE, Ford

      Team: Richard Petty Motorsports

      WHERE HE STANDS: 16th, 44 points out of a spot in the Chase.

      BRISTOL RECORD: Finished fifth in the spring race for his second straight top-eight finish and second top-five finish in the last four events.

      LOOKING AHEAD: Ambrose has high hopes for this weekend. "I feel like we have a chance (to win the race)," said Ambrose. "I really enjoy the challenge of Bristol. This team gave me a good car in March, and we had good strategy. Our cars have been good there. We have had decent finishes, a few top-five results and now just looking to get that win. If you are in it (the top five) in the final 100 laps, you have a chance to win."

      LOOKING BACK: Ambrose rallied in the final 75 laps to finish 12th at Michigan. "We really wanted to get that top-10," said Ambrose. "We will take this though. It's a big improvement for us here. This team really worked hard, and we're getting our cars better. It gives us confidence for Atlanta, and we should be really good at Bristol this weekend."

      ETC.: Ambrose said "you have to be aggressive" at Bristol. "And I love racing hard. It's a track and race that really proves how much mettle you have as a driver. That's played into my hands. I can really muscle the car and race with it. I just enjoy the track, the challenge and am looking forward to Saturday night."

      27 PAUL MENARD, Chevrolet

      Team: Richard Childress Racing

      WHERE HE STANDS: 17th, 46 points out of a spot in the Chase.

      BRISTOL RECORD: Four top-10 finishes in the last five races.

      LOOKING AHEAD: Menard expects the intensity level to be quite high this weekend at Bristol. "It's getting close to Chase time and everyone amps it up a notch," said Menard. "The first race (at Bristol) is earlier in the year and everybody is just trying to figure out where they're at. Now everyone knows where they're at and it's go time. Since the race is at night it adds a whole different element, too."

      LOOKING BACK: Menard was all smiles despite losing a last-lap battle with Joey Logano for the third spot. "Our cars are really good," said Menard after his third straight top-four finish at Michigan. "The RCR fab shop, the ECR engine shop - they made really good race cars. This track kind of suits my driving style. Slugger (Labbe, crew chief) and everybody on the 27 car have a good baseline intermediate track package that seems to work good at these fast tracks. Definitely needed a good run - the last three or four weeks have been pretty brutal. We definitely needed this."

      ETC.: Menard expects the racing groove this weekend at Bristol to be "up high, near the wall. They really haven't changed the track in a couple of years, so it's going to be where it was in the last few races. We're just up by the fence. With the ride-height rule and more aero this year, the cars handle better so you can run lower longer, but as the tires wear and the pace slows down you'll want to move to the top."

      55 BRIAN VICKERS, Toyota

      Team: Michael Waltrip Racing

      WHERE HE STANDS: 18th, 62 points out of a spot in the Chase.

      BRISTOL RECORD: Will be shooting for his sixth straight top-nine finish.

      LOOKING AHEAD: Vickers is another driver who realizes the only way he can make the Chase is by winning one of the next three races. "There is not enough time left to gain the points we need," said Vickers. "So we may have to do some gambling, try some things we might not do otherwise. We can win any of the next three races, but Bristol may be our best shot based on how we've run there the last couple of years."

      LOOKING BACK: An unscheduled pit stop and a late-race spin resulted in a 19th-place finish for Vickers at Michigan. "That was a disappointing finish for the Aaron's Dream Machine today" said Vickers. "We were looking pretty good then I had a vibration that shook the car so bad I couldn't drive it. We had to pit and that got us a lap down. We were in good position to get our lap back, but had a few more things happen (headlined by the spin with 26 laps to go). We'll just have to go Bristol and win the race."

      ETC.: Roman Pemberton, the spotter for Vickers, said spotting at Bristol is "mentally draining. Everything at Bristol happens fast and there is always something going on. It wears you down when you have to focus for 500 laps. At Bristol, you have to be really quick on the radio and economize your words. If you were to talk for 20 seconds that is more than a whole lap."

      1 JAMIE MCMURRAY, Chevrolet

      Team: Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates

      WHERE HE STANDS: 19th, 64 points out of a spot in the Chase.

      BRISTOL RECORD: Nine top-10 finishes in 23 starts.

      LOOKING AHEAD: McMurray is "looking forward to going back to Bristol this week. We had a really good car there in the spring, running in the top five when another car cut an oil line and crashed us with less than 50 laps to go. I feel like we had a car capable of winning that race and I hope we can go back this time and run just as strong."

      LOOKING BACK: McMurray seemed headed for a top-10, maybe even a top-five finish before running over debris that fell over another competitor's car with less than 35 laps to go. As a result, McMurray had to be content with a 14th-place finish. "We had a really good car today and throughout the weekend," said McMurray. "Unfortunately, I hit something that fell off another car that put a hole in the right-front nose of my car. That forced us to make an extra pit stop under caution for repairs. There isn't much that you can do about random things like that. I hate that it happened because I think we had a top-five car today."

      ETC.: McMurray calls the Bristol night race "just one of those races that is unlike any other. It is like going back to our roots racing on a Saturday night under the lights. It is always a lot of fun. It would be great to win the Bristol night race."

      11 DENNY HAMLIN, Toyota

      Team: Joe Gibbs Racing

      WHERE HE STANDS: 20th. Has clinched a spot in the Chase thanks to his Talladega win.

      BRISTOL RECORD: Won the fall race in 2012. Has won the pole for the last two races. Finished sixth in the March event for his eighth top-10 finish in 17 starts.

      LOOKING AHEAD: Hamlin believes he has a "real shot" at getting his second win of the season this weekend. "Bristol has been a good track for the 11 team and everyone at JGR," said Hamlin. "It is one of those places that all of us at JGR look forward to. We all feel we are going to run good there."

      LOOKING BACK: Hamlin finished seventh at Michigan. "We're running fast through the corners and the crew chief (Mike Wheeler is the interim crew chief while Darian Grubb serves his six-race suspension for a rule infraction at Indianapolis) is doing an amazing job, the best we've run here in a long time," said Hamlin. "We just get freight-trained down the straightaways. There's nothing we can do about it right now. We'll just have to brave through it."

      ETC.: After exiting his car following the Michigan race, Hamlin confronted Dale Earnhardt, Jr. to express his displeasure with Earnhardt for running him up the track midway through the race. "I felt like he crowded me off of (turn) four," said Hamlin. "We're trying to make the best we can down 50 horsepower. I'm trying to fight - do everything I can - to keep up with the Hendrick engines. I'm side-drafting down the straightaways, trying to do everything I can. He got a little upset that I was side-drafting and so he kind of crowded me up to the wall in turn four. I was a little disappointed. You talk about it, get it worked out and move on." Earnhardt admitted, "I ran him up the track a little bit early in the race. He didn't like it too much. I've been run up the track, too. I don't like it either, but I didn't want him hanging on my quarter panel all the way down the front straightaway and end up three or four-wide. I just wanted to get on by him."

      43 ARIC ALMIROLA, Ford

      Team: Richard Petty Motorsports

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

      BRISTOL RECORD: Finished third in the spring race.

      LOOKING AHEAD: Almirola said, "Bristol is a race I have circled as somewhere we could potentially win another race. I thought we had a shot to win the first race there and finished third. We locked into the Chase last week which is really big for our team. We'll spend the next few weeks really getting ready for the Chase. We have some tests scheduled and are really focused on getting through the first round."

      LOOKING BACK: Despite being involved in an early-race accident, Almirola was able to finish 20th at Michigan. "We started the race really loose, and Trent (Owens, crew chief) made a big swing during the first pit stop," said Almirola. "The adjustment really helped. Unfortunately, we got caught up in an accident early on and had some damage to the front end which put us back in the field again. I think we made some progress getting the car to handle better throughout the race. The good news is we are locked in the Chase."

      ETC.: Almirola feels the waiting around all day for the night race at Bristol is one reason why everyone gets so pumped for the race. "All the drivers are pent up in their bus all day long and have all this stored up energy, so we're dying to get going by the time the race starts," said Almirola. "Night racing at Bristol is what it's all about. That's NASCAR racing at its best in my opinion."

      47 A J ALLMENDINGER, Chevrolet

      Team: JTG Daugherty Racing

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

      BRISTOL RECORD: Best finish in 12 starts is 12th.

      LOOKING AHEAD: Allmendinger calls Bristol "a unique race track. I love the Bristol night race so much because there is such great energy. It is summer night racing at its finest. It's what the sport was based off of. You get so many people coming out for that race and it's really cool to look up and see everyone. There's flash bulbs going off, just all sorts of stuff going on. It's just a cool race, but it is a grueling night."

      LOOKING BACK: Allmendinger finished 13th at Michigan. "I thought the car was really good all day," said Allmendinger. "The farther we get up on the race track I felt like the faster we would be. At the end there just couldn't find a clean spot on the restart and lost a little bit. I thought we could have been a little bit better than that. Some of the cars that finished ahead of us I thought we were better than, but more than anything it's more about learning and I thought we learned a lot."

      ETC.: Allmendinger calls Bristol a "long night and you know it whether the car is good or bad. You are in a fight all night long. It makes it tough. You've got to be physically and mentally strong for that race. I've had some success there. Hopefully, we can have a good run. It's such a cool place especially at night."

      41 KURT BUSCH, Chevrolet

      Team: Stewart-Haas Racing

      WHERE HE STANDS: 23rd. Has clinched a spot in the Chase as a result of his Martinsville win.

      BRISTOL RECORD: Five wins and 14 top-10 finishes in 27 starts.

      LOOKING AHEAD: Busch admits "Bristol is one of those tracks that I get a little extra pumped up for. For me, I think that feeling gets a little stronger when you're talking about the night race at Bristol. There's just something special about that race. I knew it before I ever made it to the big-league level of the Sprint Cup Series, but, the first time I was able to experience the night race as a competitor, it's almost indescribable. It's a place that gives you a big adrenaline rush. There's nothing quite like it."

      LOOKING BACK: Busch wasn't going to settle for anything less than a win Sunday at Michigan, and it ended up costing him as he got loose while battling for the lead with 21 laps to go and slammed hard into the turn one wall. "I was going for the win," said Busch. "I think we've finished third four times this year, and I didn't want to make that five - I wanted the win. I knew we were in a good position as far as being locked into the Chase, so I went for it. I'm really proud of the Haas Automation guys and the job they did today. We had a car that I felt was capable of winning and I went for it." Busch ended the day in 31th place.

      ETC.: Busch said he "loves to attack the track at Bristol. The track really seems to fit my driving style. Ever since they polished the outside groove, you have to wait for it to come in. But when it comes in, it's fast up there. So, I expect a lot of fast cars to be up there on the high side. One of the important tasks of the weekend is getting the splitter control set properly on the Haas Automation Chevrolet this time around if we want to be better than we were in the spring."

      14 TONY STEWART, Chevrolet

      Team: Stewart-Haas Racing

      WHERE HE STANDS: 25th, 123 points out of a spot in the Chase. Lost four spots last week.

      BRISTOL RECORD: Finished fourth in the spring race. Overall has one win and nine top-10 finishes including seven top-five's in 30 starts.

      LOOKING AHEAD: Brett Frood, the executive vice president of Stewart-Haas Racing, said the organization is taking it "week by week" when it comes to Stewart returning to the race track. "It will be up to Tony when he's ready to get back in the car," said Frood. "He's grieving. Right now, it's about getting Tony in a better place than he is. When he's ready to get back in the car, he'll get back in the car." Stewart has not raced since his car hit and killed Kevin Ward, Jr., in a sprint car race at Canandaigua (NY) Motorsport Park on Saturday, Aug. 9.

      LOOKING BACK: Stewart decided not to race at Michigan. Jeff Burton subbed for Stewart and finished 37th after suffering a broken tailpipe. "I started smelling something and then just before we pitted I got a lot of smoke in the cockpit," said Burton. "We put a great effort out there. I did a terrible job on the restarts, but once we got in clean traffic we were maybe a tenth (of a second) off the leader. I was really encouraged by the one change we made. The car was fast. I thought everybody did a really good job."

      ETC.: Stewart drove for Joe Gibbs from 1999 through 2008, and Gibbs believes his former driver will be able to return to the driver's seat at some time in the future. "I would love at some point to be able to talk to him and encourage him," said Gibbs. "He's very important to our sport. This is a horrible thing to have happened for the Ward family, for him. We're all praying for them. From what I saw with Tony, he's got great courage, he's smart, he loves the sport. He's totally focused on it." Gibbs said the Canandaigua tragedy was "one of those things you hoped would never happen. None of us dreamed it would happen. It did happen, and now you got to go through a process of working through it. But we're all praying for Tony and want to support him."

      78 MARTIN TRUEX, JR., Chevrolet

      Team: Furniture Row Racing

      WHERE HE STANDS: 26th, 144 points out of a spot in the Chase.

      BRISTOL RECORD: Two top-three finishes in 17 starts.

      LOOKING AHEAD: Truex said, "We had a pretty good run going at Bristol in the spring race but a late mechanical issue ruined our day. Considering what happened to us at the last Bristol race and last week at Michigan it's time for the luck factor to turn in our favor. I do love racing at Bristol and have always enjoyed that place."

      LOOKING BACK: Truex is glad there are no more races at Michigan this year. For the second straight time, he was involved in an early-race accident and spent considerable time in the garage area. "These two Michigan races turned out to be very long days," said Truex after his 36th-place finish. "It was hard to learn anything about this place back in June and it was the same story today. We don't have a lot of good Michigan data right now. I just wish we could have finished one of these Michigan races with a clean car. You're always curious to see how things would have played out and where you could have potentially finished."

      ETC.: There is a lot on Truex's mind these days after long-time girlfriend Sherry Pollex was diagnosed with ovarian cancer. Truex skipped the Friday practice and qualifying sessions at Michigan to spent time with Pollex. "Everyone at Furniture Row Racing extends their thoughts and prayers to Sherry during her treatment and recovery period," said Joe Garone, the team's general manager. "We can't wait for her return to the track."

  • Tuesday, August 19, 2014
    Gibbs offers support for Stewart
    By The Sports Xchange

    Joe Gibbs believes that Tony Stewart will eventually overtime the trauma associated with the accident that killed sprint car driver Kevin Ward Jr. earlier this month.

    • Stewart, who formerly drove for Joe Gibbs Racing in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series before forming his own team, has sat out the past two races in the series and has not indicated when he might return to the track.

      Gibbs and other drivers have not spoken with Stewart since the incident in New York on Aug. 9 that left the young Ward dead after he exited his wrecked car and tried to confront Stewart on the dirt track while the race was under caution.

      "From what I saw with Tony, he's got great courage, he's smart, he loves this sport," Gibbs said Tuesday. "He's totally focused on it."

      Gibbs said he has been praying for his former driver.

      "We all love Tony, we love what he did for us here," he said. "We know he's a racer's racer and he's big for our sport. I would love to have a chance to speak with him at some point and encourage him."

      Gibbs was told that Stewart is in seclusion with close family and friends while he grieves.

      "This is a horrible thing to have happen -- for the (Ward) family, for (Stewart) -- so we're all praying for 'em," Gibbs said. "This is just hard to go through, so everybody is going to have to prayerfully work their way through it."

  • Tuesday, August 19, 2014
    Edwards, Suarez join Joe Gibbs Racing
    By The Sports Xchange

    Carl Edwards will join Joe Gibbs Racing in 2015, owner and founder Joe Gibbs announced at a press conference Tuesday morning.

    • "We're going forward knowing we've got to win," Gibbs said. "I'm going to be so excited going to the race track."

      Edwards joins the JGR NASCAR Sprint Cup stable that includes Matt Kenseth, Kyle Busch and Denny Hamlin.

      "I think they'll all gain from Carl, and Carl will gain from them," said J.D. Gibbs. "They'll make each other better."

      Edwards, who is eighth in the 2014 Sprint standings, will be in the No. 19 Toyota next season, a move that was much discussed this season.

      "This is a huge day for me," Edwards said. "It means the world to me to have this opportunity. It means a lot to me for Denny and Kyle to be here. It wil be nice to be able to talk about this now. I'm looking forward to next year."

      JGR also added Daniel Suarez, who leads the NASCAR Mexico Toyota Series. He will compete in the NASCAR Nationwide Series under the JGR umbrella and select truck races as a partner of Busch.

      "This is crazy," Suarez said Tuesday. "I can't thank enough Joe Gibbs Racing. "I'm pretty excited. I'm really looking forward to start racing."

  • Monday, August 18, 2014
    The Green Flag: Would Gordon leave on top? Not a chance
    By The Sports Xchange

    By Reid Spencer, NASCAR Wire Service

    • Distributed by The Sports Xchange

      At Daytona in February, Jeff Gordon hinted to reporters in a preseason question-and-answer session that he might consider leaving the driver's seat of the No. 24 Chevrolet if he wins a fifth NASCAR Sprint Cup Series championship this year.

      After Gordon's third victory of the season in Sunday's Pure Michigan 400, a fifth championship is a distinct possibility.

      But don't expect Gordon to retire, even if he wins the title. He's enjoying himself too much.

      How much? Enough to take on sponsor 3M for three years on the No. 24 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet. The length of the deal for the new primary sponsor suggests Gordon will drive for at least three more years as he establishes an identity with the company.

      Another strong hint that Gordon's tenure will extend beyond a potential championship was the pairing of crew chief Greg Ives with Dale Earnhardt Jr., starting next year.

      If Gordon's departure were imminent, it would be logical to keep Ives with heir apparent Chase Elliott, with whom Ives has enjoyed success in the Nationwide Series at JR Motorsports.

      And even if Gordon wins the championship this year, he'll have another goal staring him straight in the face: teammate Jimmie Johnson's six titles. Gordon helped bring Johnson into the Hendrick fold and, for the last 12 years, has all but ceded the role of "alpha" driver to his teammate.

      As competitive as Gordon is, reclaiming the top of the pyramid is something he'd relish enormously.

      @nascarcasm

      --Nine total stickers total for Hendrick Motorsports this year on their Victory Lane loyalty card. One more, and they get a free 24-oz. fountain drink at participating victory lanes.

      --The Pure Michigan 400 in a nutshell -- if your first name is Kyle, your day sucked.

      --On Twitter this Tuesday: "@JimmieJohnson: 48th person to join the human wall protecting me from Ryan Newman wins my Michigan hat. No repeat winners."

      --Odd final round of qualifying for the Camping World Truck Series. Most of the trucks left way too late and didn't make it to the line in time. As a result, they didn't record a qualifying lap, but they did become eligible to run an airline.

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

      NASCAR NUMBER

      26: The number of races between Jeff Gordon's two most recent NASCAR Sprint Cup Series victories at Michigan International Speedway. Gordon took the checkered flag at MIS on June 10, 2001 in his last championship season. On Sunday, he won his third race at the two-mile track.

      20: The number of NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races Jeff Gordon has won from the pole position, fifth most on the all-time list. Gordon claimed the Coors Light pole award for Sunday's race at Michigan with a track-record speed of 206.558 mph and went on to take the checkered flag.

      4: The number of consecutive NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races at Michigan International Speedway in which Joey Logano has both started from inside the top 10 and finished inside the top 10. Logano has two ninths, a third (Sunday) and a win from the pole at MIS since joining Team Penske in 2013.

      3: The number of NASCAR Sprint Cup Series victories recorded at Bristol Motor Speedway by Matt Kenseth, the defending winner of the IRWIN Tools Night Race. Kenseth would like nothing better than to win for a fourth time at Thunder Valley on Saturday night, given that a victory would lock him into the Chase.

      54: The number of laps led at Bristol Motor Speedway by Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup qualifier AJ Allmendinger, second only to the 152 laps Dinger has led at Dover. The driver of the No. 47 JTG/Daugherty Chevy followed his victory at Watkins Glen with a strong 13th-place run at Michigan on Sunday.

      NASCAR NOTES

      Last year, the Bristol winner's list looked like this: Kasey Kahne in the spring, Matt Kenseth in the fall. Kenseth's lofty points position (he's fifth) means he likely has a spot in the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup. But Kahne could use a win, badly. He's currently outside the Chase Grid, nine points behind Greg Biffle for the 16th and final spot. ... Michigan saw five more drivers clinch a spot in the 2014 Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup. With 12 different winners and only three races left in the regular season, all one-win drivers are guaranteed a spot on the 16-driver Chase Grid (assuming they start the remaining races in the regular season). Kyle Busch, Denny Hamlin, Aric Almirola, AJ Allmendinger and Kurt Busch have all now locked up a spot. Only four spots remain. ... Sunoco rookie dynamo Kyle Larson suffered his first NASCAR national series last place finish on Sunday at Michigan, dropping him outside the current Chase Grid. But, there's good news coming -- immediately. Larson has finished in the top 10 in all four of his NASCAR national series races at Bristol, a slate that includes a 10th-place run in his NASCAR Sprint Cup Series debut there in March. He's finished runner-up there twice in the NASCAR Nationwide Series.

      Tune-In: NASCAR On Television, August 18-24

      Monday, August 18

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

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

      7:30 p.m., NASCAR America, NBC Sports Network

      7:30 p.m., Empty Cup: Quest for the 1992 NASCAR Championship (re-air), FOX Sports 2

      Tuesday, August 19

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

      6:30 p.m., NASCAR America, NBC Sports Network

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

      Wednesday, August 20

      4:30 p.m., NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Keystone Light Pole Qualifying, FOX Sports 1

      6:30 p.m., NASCAR America, NBC Sports Network

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

      8:30 p.m., NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Race at Bristol, FOX Sports 1

      Thursday, August 21

      12:30 p.m., The 10 (re-air), FOX Sports 1

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

      1:30 p.m., NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Keystone Light Pole Qualifying (re-air), FOX Sports 1

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

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

      6:30 p.m., NASCAR America, NBC Sports Network

      7 p.m., The 10 Greatest Bristol Moments (re-air), FOX Sports 1

      7:30 p.m., The 10 NASCAR's Greatest Finishes (re-air), FOX Sports 1

      4 a.m. (Fri.), NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Race at Bristol (re-air), FOX Sports 1

      Friday, August 22

      10 a.m., NASCAR K&N Pro Series Race at Evergreen, FOX Sports 1

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

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

      1:30 p.m., NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Final Practice, FOX Sports 1

      2:30 p.m., NASCAR Live, FOX Sports 1

      3:30 p.m., NASCAR Nationwide Series Coors Light Pole Qualifying, FOX Sports 1

      5:30 p.m., NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Coors Light Pole Qualifying, ESPN2

      7 p.m., NNS Countdown, ESPN

      7:30 p.m., NASCAR Nationwide Series Race at Bristol, ESPN

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

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

      Saturday, August 23

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

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

      6 p.m., NASCAR RaceDay, FOX Sports 2

      7 p.m., NSCS Countdown, ABC

      7:30 p.m., NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Race at Bristol, ABC

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

      3 a.m. (Sun.), NASCAR Victory Lane, FOX Sports 1

      3 a.m. (Sun.), NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Race at Bristol (re-air), ESPN2

      3:30 a.m. (Sun.), FOX Sports 1 on 1: Jimmie Johnson (re-air), FOX Sports 1

      Sunday, August 24

      10:30 a.m., NASCAR Victory Lane (re-air), FOX Sports 1

      11 a.m., NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Race at Bristol (re-air), FOX Sports 1

      4 p.m., TUDOR United SportsCar Championship Race at VIR, FOX Sports 1

      National Series Schedule

      NASCAR SPRINT CUP SERIES

      The Next Race:

      Irwin Tools Night Race

      The Place:

      Bristol Motor Speedway

      The Date/Time:

      Saturday, Aug. 23, 7:30 p.m. (ET)

      TV: ABC

      Radio: PRN,

      Sirius XM Channel 90

      NASCAR NATIONWIDE SERIES

      The Next Race:

      Food City 300

      The Place:

      Bristol Motor Speedway

      The Date/Time:

      Friday, Aug. 22, 7:30 p.m. (ET)

      TV: ESPN

      Radio: PRN,

      Sirius XM Channel 90

      NASCAR CAMPING WORLD TRUCK SERIES

      The Next Race:

      UNOH 200 Presented by ZLoop

      The Place:

      Bristol Motor Speedway

      Date/Time:

      Wednesday, Aug. 20, 8:30 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 Dale Earnhardt Jr. 3

      2 Brad Keselowski 3

      3 Jimmie Johnson 3

      4 Jeff Gordon 3

      5 Joey Logano 2

      6 Carl Edwards 2

      7 Kevin Harvick 2

      8 Kyle Busch 1

      9 Denny Hamlin 1

      10 Aric Almirola 1

      11 Kurt Busch 1

      12 AJ Allmendinger 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 # 792

      2 Regan Smith 782

      3 Elliott Sadler 776

      4 Ty Dillon # 764

      5 Brian Scott 750

      6 Trevor Bayne 740

      7 Chris Buescher # 648

      8 Brendan Gaughan 626

      9 Ryan Reed # 602

      10 James Buescher 586

      NASCAR Camping World Truck Series

      Pos Driver Points

      1 Johnny Sauter 448

      2 Matt Crafton 439

      3 Ryan Blaney 432

      4 Ron Hornaday Jr. 429

      5 Darrell Wallace Jr. 412

      6 German Quiroga 403

      7 Timothy Peters 396

      8 Ben Kennedy # 389

      9 Joey Coulter 388

      10 Jeb Burton 360

  • Monday, August 18, 2014
    Chase race reaches crunch time for drivers without a win
    By The Sports Xchange

    By Reid Spencer

    • NASCAR Wire Service

      Distributed by The Sports Xchange

      In a season of accumulating tension, it's time for a number of NASCAR Sprint Cup Series drivers to get worried -- really worried.

      Sunday's Pure Michigan 400 at Michigan International Speedway established two important facts. First, Jeff Gordon's third victory of the season ensured that there will be no more than 15 different winners in the first 26 races this year.

      That in turn guarantees that at least one driver will qualify for the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup based on position in the standings.

      Second, as of the Michigan race, all 12 drivers who have victories so far this season are now locked into the Chase, provided they attempt to qualify for the next three events.

      That leaves four Chase spots available in what is certain to be a mad scramble for playoff eligibility in the next three weeks. If Bristol, Atlanta and Richmond all give us repeat winners, four drivers will qualify for the Chase on points.

      Position in the standings, however, is far from a guarantee. In the bifurcated system for determining Chase eligibility, race wins trump points position, and each new different winner eliminates a position available on points to a winless driver.

      Matt Kenseth, Ryan Newman, Clint Bowyer and Greg Biffle are the top four drivers in the standings without a victory this year, but those four drivers have a right to be nervous entering the final three races of the regular season.

      On the one hand, they can lock up Chase spots with race wins. On the other hand, if they don't get to Victory Lane, they leave their fate in the hands of others.

      Hypothetically, Marcos Ambrose could win at Bristol, arguably his best track other than the road courses. Ambrose has two fifth-place finishes and three top 10s in his last four starts at Thunder Valley. Should he win there -- or should 2013 Bristol winner Kasey Kahne take the checkered flag -- a Chase spot available on points vanishes.

      The worst nightmare for Kenseth, Newman, Bowyer and Biffle would be for three drivers currently outside the Chase grid to win the next three races and eliminate all but one spot available on points.

      Before Michigan, Kenseth seemed relatively secure as the top driver in the standings without a victory, but the No. 20 Toyota fell victim to a nine-car accident on Lap 25 and finished 38th, cutting Kenseth's margin over Ryan Newman (the next driver in the standings without a win) to 30 points.

      Accordingly, the No. 20 team faces a ticklish situation and two divergent goals heading to Bristol on Saturday night. A victory would be by far the best outcome, because it would lock Kenseth into the Chase. But with one spot guaranteed to the highest points finisher without a win, Kenseth also needs to preserve his position in the standings.

      One of the crowning achievements of this year's new Chase qualification system is the layer of complexity it has added to the process. We won't know until the checkered flag in the final regular-season race at Richmond how many different winners we’ll have in the first 26 races and how many drivers will qualify on points.

      The permutations are almost endless. If Greg Biffle can't win one of the next three races, for example, he'll be cheering for drivers who already have race wins -- the rivals he would face in the Chase -- to sweep Bristol, Atlanta and Richmond.

      And there's certain to be intense racing between the four winless drivers currently inside the Chase grid and those immediately behind them: Kahne, Austin Dillon, Kyle Larson and Ambrose.

      During a three-week period rife with unknowns, however, there is one certainty. We won't know the identities of all 16 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series title contenders until the final lap at Richmond.

      And that's as it should be.

  • Sunday, August 17, 2014
    IndyCar results at Milwaukee Mile
    By The Sports Xchange

    WEST ALLIS, Wis. -- Results Sunday of the ABC Supply Wisconsin 250 Verizon IndyCar Series event on the 1.015-mile Milwaukee Mile, with order of finish, starting position in parentheses, driver, chassis-engine, laps completed and reason out (if any):

    • 1. (1) Will Power, Dallara-Chevy, 250, Running

      2. (3) Juan Pablo Montoya, Dallara-Chevy, 250, Running

      3. (2) Tony Kanaan, Dallara-Chevy, 250, Running

      4. (11) Scott Dixon, Dallara-Chevy, 250, Running

      5. (5) Josef Newgarden, Dallara-Honda, 250, Running

      6. (4) Ryan Briscoe, Dallara-Chevy, 250, Running

      7. (16) Simon Pagenaud, Dallara-Honda, 250, Running

      8. (15) Mikhail Aleshin, Dallara-Honda, 249, Running

      9. (7) Ed Carpenter, Dallara-Chevy, 249, Running

      10. (17) Jack Hawksworth, Dallara-Honda, 249, Running

      11. (8) Helio Castroneves, Dallara-Chevy, 249, Running

      12. (18) Sebastien Bourdais, Dallara-Chevy, 249, Running

      13. (9) Marco Andretti, Dallara-Honda, 249, Running

      14. (14) Graham Rahal, Dallara-Honda, 249, Running

      15. (10) Takuma Sato, Dallara-Honda, 248, Running

      16. (6) Charlie Kimball, Dallara-Chevy, 248, Running

      17. (12) Justin Wilson, Dallara-Honda, 248, Running

      18. (21) Sebastian Saavedra, Dallara-Chevy, 246, Running

      19. (13) James Hinchcliffe, Dallara-Honda, 244, Running

      20. (22) Carlos Huertas, Dallara-Honda, 243, Running

      21. (19) Ryan Hunter-Reay, Dallara-Honda, 168, Mechanical

      22. (20) Carlos Munoz, Dallara-Honda, 130, Contact

      Race Statistics

      Winner's average speed: 145.243

      Time of Race: 1:44:49.4611

      Margin of victory: 2.7949 seconds

      Cautions: 1 for 9 laps

      Lead changes: 8 among 4 drivers

      Lap Leaders:

      Power 1 - 57

      Montoya 58 - 59

      Carpenter 60 - 62

      Power 63 - 121

      Kanaan 122 - 132

      Power 133 - 187

      Kanaan 188 - 190

      Montoya 191 - 192

      Power 193 - 250

      Point Standings: Power 602, Castroneves 563, Pagenaud 510, Hunter-Reay 494, Montoya 488, Dixon 472, Kanaan 425, Munoz 424, Bourdais 418, Andretti 400

  • Sunday, August 17, 2014
    Late restart catapults Gordon to Michigan victory
    By The Sports Xchange

    By Scott Held, NASCAR Wire Service

    • Distributed by The Sports Xchange

      BROOKLYN, Mich. -- So much for restarts being a problem for Jeff Gordon.

      The four-time NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion broke away after a late caution to win Sunday's Pure Michigan 400 at Michigan International Speedway.

      Gordon, who faced questions about his struggles on restarts earlier this season, passed Joey Logano at the start of lap 183 and kept his Chevrolet in front when Logano got next to him on the following lap. Logano fell back after falling out of a draft and Gordon never was challenged again as he rolled to his third series victory of the season.

      His win at Indianapolis last month followed a similar script.

      "I thought he had a good start, but I had one, too," Gordon said. "It's pretty nice to have the last two wins come down to restarts.

      "Those restarts are so crucial but also intense because of the speed we're carrying here."

      The pole winner went to victory lane at MIS for the third time -- his first since June 2001 -- and collected the 91st win of his career. He also gave Hendrick Motorsports, which saw Jimmie Johnson win here in June, a sweep of this year's races at the track closest to General Motors Corp.'s world headquarters.

      Kurt Busch hit the turn 2 wall shortly after a lap 178 restart and the ensuing yellow flag bunched the field for a final sprint to the finish.

      "I wish the last caution didn't come out," said Logano, who started second and led a race-best 86 laps. "I thought we had a better shot at it.

      "I won every single restart I was on the front row except the last one."

      Kevin Harvick was second for the fourth straight race here, followed by Paul Menard, Logano and Dale Earnhardt Jr. Earnhardt, who started the day with a four-point series lead on Gordon, dropped to second after the checkered flag.

      "We had a solid day but the 24 (Gordon) just had a little more speed than us," Harvick said.

      Gordon had a little more speed all weekend. He set a new track record with a 206.558 mph qualifying lap and was the only car faster than 200 mph in Saturday's final practice session. He led 68 laps and seemed to keep the car wherever he wanted on the track throughout the race.

      Owner Rick Hendrick said Gordon's performance reminded him of the driver as a young man, but added he felt his experience and patience have served him well all season.

      "There's got to be some advantages to being 43 out there," said Gordon, who's seeking his first series title since 2001. "I'd like to think patience and using your head is one of them."

      The victory was Hendrick Motorsports' ninth of the season and the team left the track with three of the top four spots in the standings. Kasey Kahne is nine points out of the final spot in the Chase with three races remaining.

      The longest of the race's eight caution periods came midway through the afternoon when rookie Kyle Larson's Chevrolet struck the turn 4 wall and caught fire. Crews needed 11 laps to clean up the debris.

      The slowdown helped Johnson, who started 30th and broke the shifter in his Chevy early in the race. The long caution period allowed his crew to replace it and he ended the day sixth.

      A lap 26 crash that began with Danica Patrick's spin in turn 1 collected eight other cars, including Matt Kenseth, who started the day third in the Sprint Cup standings but still needing a victory to guarantee a spot in the new Chase for the Sprint Cup Series format.

      NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Race - Pure Michigan 400

      Michigan International Speedway

      Brooklyn, Michigan

      Sunday, August 17, 2014

      1. (1) Jeff Gordon, Chevrolet, 200, $213686.

      2. (6) Kevin Harvick, Chevrolet, 200, $176343.

      3. (2) Joey Logano, Ford, 200, $164326.

      4. (7) Paul Menard, Chevrolet, 200, $136399.

      5. (25) Dale Earnhardt Jr., Chevrolet, 200, $109900.

      6. (19) Clint Bowyer, Toyota, 200, $132106.

      7. (21) Denny Hamlin, Toyota, 200, $108940.

      8. (5) Brad Keselowski, Ford, 200, $135173.

      9. (30) Jimmie Johnson, Chevrolet, 200, $142151.

      10. (11) Greg Biffle, Ford, 200, $133990.

      11. (12) Ryan Newman, Chevrolet, 200, $99515.

      12. (20) Marcos Ambrose, Ford, 200, $117235.

      13. (22) AJ Allmendinger, Chevrolet, 200, $108448.

      14. (9) Jamie McMurray, Chevrolet, 200, $128279.

      15. (10) Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Ford, 200, $126840.

      16. (15) Kasey Kahne, Chevrolet, 200, $104140.

      17. (26) Casey Mears, Chevrolet, 200, $112348.

      18. (14) Danica Patrick, Chevrolet, 200, $95765.

      19. (4) Brian Vickers, Toyota, 199, $119565.

      20. (23) Aric Almirola, Ford, 199, $125076.

      21. (29) David Gilliland, Ford, 199, $108698.

      22. (8) Austin Dillon #, Chevrolet, 199, $133151.

      23. (3) Carl Edwards, Ford, 198, $101865.

      24. (34) David Ragan, Ford, 198, $105448.

      25. (36) Cole Whitt #, Toyota, 198, $86015.

      26. (32) Alex Bowman #, Toyota, 198, $94562.

      27. (40) Reed Sorenson, Chevrolet, 197, $84690.

      28. (33) Josh Wise, Chevrolet, 197, $84540.

      29. (43) Landon Cassill(i), Chevrolet, 197, $83865.

      30. (31) JJ Yeley(i), Toyota, 197, $82765.

      31. (16) Kurt Busch, Chevrolet, 196, $81140.

      32. (38) Travis Kvapil, Ford, 196, $81040.

      33. (37) Dave Blaney, Chevrolet, 195, $80965.

      34. (41) Alex Kennedy, Chevrolet, 195, $80865.

      35. (42) Joe Nemechek(i), Toyota, 195, $88715.

      36. (39) Martin Truex Jr., Chevrolet, Accident, 177, $108573.

      37. (27) Jeff Burton, Chevrolet, 176, $114750.

      38. (18) Matt Kenseth, Toyota, 170, $124941.

      39. (24) Kyle Busch, Toyota, 159, $119646.

      40. (35) Michael Annett #, Chevrolet, Vibration, 155, $67805.

      41. (28) Trevor Bayne(i), Ford, 153, $63805.

      42. (17) Justin Allgaier #, Chevrolet, Accident, 97, $67805.

      43. (13) Kyle Larson #, Chevrolet, Accident, 94, $82650.

      Average Speed of Race Winner: 141.788 mph.

      Time of Race: 02 Hrs, 49 Mins, 16 Secs. Margin of Victory: 1.412 Seconds.

      Caution Flags: 8 for 37 laps.

      Lead Changes: 20 among 8 drivers.

      Lap Leaders: J. Gordon 0; J. Logano 1-21; R. Newman 22-24; J. Johnson 25-37; J. Logano 38-55; J. Gordon 56; J. Logano 57; J. Gordon 58-63; D. Earnhardt Jr. 64-67; J. Johnson 68-75; R. Newman 76-78; J. Gordon 79-99; R. Newman 100-107; J. Logano 108-139; Kurt Busch 140-141; J. Gordon 142-164; Kurt Busch 165; B. Keselowski 166-167; K. Kahne 168-169; J. Logano 170-183; J. Gordon 184-200.

      Leaders Summary (Driver, Times Lead, Laps Led): J. Logano 5 times for 86 laps; J. Gordon 5 times for 68 laps; J. Johnson 2 times for 21 laps; R. Newman 3 times for 14 laps; D. Earnhardt Jr. 1 time for 4 laps; Kurt Busch 2 times for 3 laps; B. Keselowski 1 time for 2 laps; K. Kahne 1 time for 2 laps.

      Top 16 in Points: J. Gordon - 816; D. Earnhardt Jr. - 813; B. Keselowski - 733; J. Logano - 714; M. Kenseth - 709; K. Harvick - 687; J. Johnson - 686; C. Edwards - 679; R. Newman - 679; C. Bowyer - 672; G. Biffle - 660; K. Kahne - 651; A. Dillon # - 638; K. Larson # - 636; Kyle Busch - 620; M. Ambrose - 616.

  • Sunday, August 17, 2014
    Power lives up to name at Milwaukee Mile
    By The Sports Xchange

    WEST ALLIS, Wis. -- Will Power apparently is now an oval specialist in IndyCar.

    • Less than a year after winning his first full-length race on such a track, Team Penske's driver won another.

      Power led 228 of the 250 laps at the historic Milwaukee Mile, giving himself a big lead heading to the season's final two races.

      With teammate Helio Castroneves finishing 11th, Power has a 39-point advantage heading to next weekend's race at Sonoma, Calif., with an Aug. 30 date with Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, Calif., where Power won last year, awaiting to clinch his first series title.

      Power also won a split-distance oval race at Texas Motor Speedway in 2011.

      "It's something I've worked on so hard on," the road racing specialist said of winning on oval tracks. "I really enjoy racing on ovals now. Just a perfect day."

      The margin of victory was 2.79 seconds, with Power scoring his 24th career win in the series. He's now tied with Bobby Rahal, a three-time CART champion, for 16th place on the sport's all-time list.

      Simon Pagenaud moved to third in the standings with a seventh-place drive. He is 92 points behind.

      The championship all but slipped from Ryan Hunter-Reay's hands when the car failed on Lap 168. The disappointment was similar to what happened at last month's race at Pocono (Pa.) Raceway. Fortunately, it broke while he was on the front straight rather than in a corner where he would have been turning.

      Hunter-Reay, who had started 19th, had driven to fifth place through the first fuel stint, but he was 11th at the time of the trouble. He had won the past two Milwaukee races.

      "I could feel it running rough for a couple of laps," he said, saying there was some sort of right rear failure. "It was undriveable. It was unfortunate."

      Hunter-Reay entered the event 63 points out of the lead; he'll need something close to a miracle in the final two races to grab his second title (the first came in 2012). He trails Power by 108 points.

      "This is probably our championship going up in smoke," he said.

      Juan Pablo Montoya finished second and is 114 points out of the lead. He is one of only six drivers still with a chance to win the title, but the bottom five must wrestle the lead from Power.

      The race went the first 130 laps without a caution, which was through two pit stops. Carlos Munoz necessitated the stoppage by banging his right rear tire off the Turn 4 wall.

      "Once you're in the (excess tire rubber in the higher lane), it's impossible to get it back," the Colombian said.

      The only other caution was for Hunter-Reay's car.

      Ryan Briscoe finished sixth, which was remarkable given the virus he had earlier in the week. Chip Ganassi's crew had brought in rookie Sage Karam as a possible replacement, if necessary, but it wasn't. Briscoe ran fourth in the first practice session, and he never seemed to have a problem.

      Rookie Mikhail Aleshin, who is Pagenaud's teammate, finished eighth with Ed Carpenter ninth and rookie Jack Hawksworth 10th. Hawksworth received a warning for holding up Montoya late in the race, but he never received an official penalty.

      Andretti Autosport wasn't the dominant team it has been in the past. Marco Andretti finished 13th and James Hinchcliffe couldn't regain his mojo after crashing just before qualifying Saturday. Hunter-Reay and Munoz finished in the last two positions.

      There almost was a big crash on the opening lap as Takuma Sato, who qualified 10th, had a major wiggle in Turn 4 in front of half of the field. Somehow, Sato was able to keep his car under control as several drivers behind him made quick, evasive moves to dodge him.

      The race was otherwise plenty straightforward, with Power jumping to the front from the pole and sailing along. He went 58 laps on the first fuel stint, which was a sign of how the rest of the race would play out.

      Power had a second-stint struggle with Tony Kanaan, who qualified second but hasn't scored a win yet this season. They had a pair of side-by-side runs in Turn 3, enough to put a scare in Roger Penske's throat.

      Kanaan acknowledged that the two of them were awfully close in that battle, but they came out all right. Once Power wiggled free, Kanaan said he made an observation about Power given how strong his car seemed to be even that early in the race.

      "If nothing goes wrong with him today I think he'll win," Kanaan said.

      Kanaan finished third with fellow Ganassi Racing driver Scott Dixon fifth. Dixon is one of six drivers still with a chance to win the title, but Dixon is realistic.

      "I might need some meteors to come out of the sky and hit the 12 car," Dixon said of Power.

      Newgarden finished fifth on the same weekend that his Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing team confirmed that it will merge for next season with Ed Carpenter Racing.

      Team co-owner Sarah Fisher said Newgarden has been offered a contract for 2015, but he has not yet returned it signed. Carpenter said he'd like to have Newgarden as a teammate, and there still might be a third car if sponsorship for JR Hildebrand, the 2011 Indianapolis 500 runner-up, can come together. Hildebrand attended Sunday's race wearing a hat of Carpenter's sponsor.

      Newgarden and his team knew he couldn't make it to the finish with the amount of fuel on board, so it came to pit road and grabbed new tires, too. That allowed for a valiant sprint to the finish that was eye-popping given the speed advantage new rubber provided on this flat, slick short oval.

      But no one was going to catch Power, the new oval sensation.

      NOTES: Hunter-Reay, the Indianapolis 500 champion, officially signed paperwork Sunday for a three-year extension with Andretti Autosport's DHL-sponsored car. Hunter-Reay joined Michael Andretti's team in 2010, winning the series title in his third year. ... Andretti, whose marketing company promotes the Milwaukee IndyFest, said an announcement is expected soon on a new IndyCar race next year at NOLA Motorsports Park in Avondale, La. ... Zach Veach used an outside pass in Turn 1 of Andretti Autosport teammate Matthew Brabham, the grandson of the late Sir Jack Brabham, to win Sunday's Indy Lights race at Milwaukee. Series points leader Gabby Chaves finished third and leads Veach by eight points heading to the season's final two races next weekend at Sonoma (Calif.) Raceway.

  • Sunday, August 17, 2014
    Notebook: Forgettable day at Michigan for Larson
    By The Sports Xchange

    By Scott Held

    • NASCAR Wire Service

      Distributed by The Sports Xchange

      BROOKLYN, Mich. -- Sunday was a rough day on the track for rookie Kyle Larson.

      It got worse when he looked at the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series standings after the Pure Michigan 400 at Michigan International Speedway.

      An early pit lane collision with Dale Earnhardt Jr. damaged the left front of his No. 42 Chevrolet and his race ended on lap 98 when he hit the turn 4 wall. His car caught fire as it rolled to a stop but he was not injured.

      The last-place finished dropped him from 10th to 14th in the standings and put greater pressure on him to win or stay near the front in the next three races to ensure a spot in the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup.

      Twelve spots in the Chase are taken in this year's new format, which expanded to 16 drivers and grants automatic berths to drivers who win a race and finish in the top 30 in the final points standings. A.J. Allmendinger became the latest member of the fortunate dozen with last weekend's win at Watkins Glen (N.Y.) International.

      Larson will head to Bristol (Tenn.) Motor Speedway next Saturday (Aug. 23, 7:30 p.m. ET on ABC) 15 points out of the final spot in the Chase. Atlanta and Richmond are the final stops before the postseason gets under way.

      Matt Kenseth, the highest ranked driver without a win, fell from third to fifth in the standings after finishing 38th. He was one of the nine cars that sustained damage during a lap 26 pileup that began when Danica Patrick spun in turn 1.

      Kenseth's No. 20 Toyota was in the garage area for 30 laps before he returned to the track.

      Barring a string of finishes near the rear of the field, Kenseth still appears to be comfortably in the Chase field.

      Ryan Newman, Clint Bowyer and Greg Biffle -- all of whom are winless this season -- are ninth through 11th in the standings and separated by 19 points. Kasey Kahne is nine points out of the last spot.

      Familiar finish

      Kevin Harvick was second at Michigan for the fourth straight race, matching the Sprint Cup Series record set by Dale Jarrett at Rockingham (N.C.) Speedway. He was in a sour mood in June after winning the pole and getting stuck in a battle of pit strategy but was in better spirits Sunday.

      He's already locked up a spot on the Chase Grid and said the team is much more concerned with remaining consistent as it counts the days until the series' postseason.

      The finish was welcome news for Stewart-Haas Racing, which has been under a cloud since co-owner Tony Stewart struck and killed Kevin Ward Jr. during a sprint car race last Saturday.

      "Everybody has stepped up and did what they had to do inside the shop," Harvick said. "Everybody just has to pitch in and do their part to help Tony get through his situation.

      "I know he'll stay strong and fight."

      Jeff Burton qualified Stewart's No. 14 Chevrolet and finished 37th after electrical problems forced him to bring the car to the garage area for several laps.

      SHR teammates Danica Patrick and Kurt Busch finished 18th and 31st, respectively, after each had crashes. Patrick spun on lap 26 and the ensuing pileup collected eight cars. Busch hit the turn 1 wall while running second on a lap 180 restart.

      Fast laps

      Gordon's last two championship seasons, 1998 and 2001, included victories at MIS and Indianapolis. ... J.J. Yeley subbed for Ryan Truex, who missed the race due to effects of a concussion. ... U.S. Olympic champion ice dancers Meryl Davis and Charlie White were the race's grand marshals. ... Chevy retained the trophy given to the winning manufacturer at MIS, the closest Sprint Cup stop to the world headquarters of General Motors Corp. and Ford Motor Co. ... It will be quite a change of pace this weekend when the series moves from the ultra-fast 2-mile MIS to half-mile Bristol Motor Speedway. ... Saturday was the annual Woodward Dream Cruise in suburban Detroit and Kurt Busch brought along a 1961 Chevy to join in the fun.

  • Sunday, August 17, 2014
    Gordon overtakes Logano to win at Michigan
    By The Sports Xchange

    BROOKLYN, Mich. -- Jeff Gordon got out in front of Joey Logano on a restart just inside 20 laps to go in the Pure Michigan 400 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series on Sunday and remained up front the rest of the way to claim his third win of the season.

    • "It wasn't easy," Gordon said. "It's never easy to win at any of these tracks, especially when aerodynamics and track position mean so much. I thought we learned a lot the last time we were here on track position. Alan (Gustafson, crew chief) just called a perfect race. I kept getting on that inside lane and just not getting very good restarts."

      The win was Gordon's first at Michigan International Speedway since 2001.

      Logano got back beside Gordon right after the restart in an attempt to retake the lead, but Gordon got a push from Kevin Harvick to maintain the position, and Harvick got by Logano to take second.

      "Our car handled great all day; we just didn't have the speed that the No. 24 (Gordon) had," Harvick said. I felt like we could race with the No. 22 (Logano), but just not with the No. 24. But all in all, it was a good day for the Jimmy John's Chevrolet."

      Logano also lost third to Paul Menard for a time, but recovered to take back the spot for a top-three finish.

      "I had a bunch of good ones," Logano said about his restarts. "The last one wasn't the greatest. I got through the gear box good and had the 24 cleared, and I should have pulled down in front of him and got that draft, but he got up next to me and pulled me back so hard that I couldn't get away from him. He was able to get position on me into one and once he got that clear air. I knew I had one more shot. I knew I was really good into one and that was his week point. I drove it off there and got him wiggled a little bit getting underneath him and cleared him again, but he was able to pull me back again off the corner and then I got loose under him trying to maintain what I had and came in third."

      Gordon and Logano were mainstays at or near the front throughout the race after starting on the front row, with Gordon on the pole and Logano starting second. Logano was the laps leader for the day, leading 86 of them. Gordon led 68.

      "Whoever got out in front had such a huge advantage," Gordon said.

      Logano took the lead from Gordon at the start of the race, and Gordon settled into second. Varying pit strategies came during a caution on lap 20, with Jimmie Johnson and Jeff Burton up front after staying out, while Brad Keselowski was third on the restart after pitting for fuel only.

      Those varying pit strategies then resulted with Logano back up front, with Harvick in second and Gordon also in the top five for a restart following a debris caution on lap 36.

      Ryan Newman led laps in the second half of the race by getting himself off sequence from the regular front-runners. He pitted on lap 122, and his team then planned only one more stop through the remaining distance, while everyone else would need two additional stops.

      Gordon and Logano, along with most of the race field, pitted around lap 139. Then, when Newman made his final stop on lap 162, Gordon, Logano and company then followed a few laps later with their final stops.

      After those stops, the sixth caution of the race came on lap 168 and somewhat pushed the reset button on the race with Gordon and Logano up front with everyone on the same pit sequence.

      Kurt Busch was able to get ahead of Gordon on the restart, just in time for another caution. Gordon retook second on the next restart, and the eighth and final yellow flag of the race flew soon afterward on lap 178.

      With the exception of one caution at the halfway point of the race, the middle portions of the event ran green, with cautions littering the opening and closing segments of the race. The first four cautions came in the first 50 laps, while the last three came in the final 50 laps of the 200-lap race.

      Menard finished fourth and Dale Earnhardt Jr. finished fifth. Clint Bowyer was sixth. Denny Hamlin seventh, Brad Keselowski eighth and Jimmie Johnson finished ninth, despite battling with a broken shifter lever early in the race. Greg Biffle rounded out the top 10.

      NOTES: Jeff Burton substituted for Tony Stewart, who missed his second consecutive Sprint Cup race. Burton wound up in the garage with an electrical issue. ... J.J. Yeley drove the No. 83 BK Racing Toyota normally driven by Ryan Truex after Truex suffered a concussion in practice on Saturday. Yeley finished 30th. ... Jeff Gordon's pole winning lap of 206.558 mph was a track record and the seventh-fastest pole lap in NASCAR history. ... Joey Logano won the 2013 Pure Michigan 400. ... Jimmie Johnson was the winner the last time the Sprint Cup Series visited Michigan in June. ... Kevin Harvick's second-place finish with his fourth straight runner-up showing at Michigan.

  • Saturday, August 16, 2014
    Buescher claims first Nationwide win at Mid-Ohio
    By The Sports Xchange

    By NASCAR Wire Service

    • Distributed by The Sports Xchange

      LEXINGTON, Ohio -- The math didn't add up.

      Crew chief Scott Graves was in NASCAR Nationwide Series rookie Chris Buescher's ear, telling him he was two laps shy of making the finish. The thing was, Buescher was in the lead by more than two seconds when he got the news.

      "Not going to lie. Scott about had my nerves shot there at the end," Buescher said. "We were trying to save all we could there knowing that we were trying to keep the distance on the guys behind us."

      Somehow, someway Buescher did the job, coaxing his No. 60 Ford to the finish line to win the first race of his Nationwide Series career, taking the Nationwide Children's Hospital 200 at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course. He is the third rookie to win this season and the 14th different driver to do so in 2014.

      Turns out all the figuring was off a bit.

      "It was cool to pull it off and have plenty left over for a good burnout at the end," Buescher said.

      In the 90-lap race, Buescher last pitted on Lap 52 during the fourth caution of the day. The fifth and final caution for Jeff Green hitting the wall in the Esses (Turn 5) lasted three laps and it was a key three laps.

      "The way the race played out helped us as well," Graves said. "When everybody did pit, we had a big enough lead, and I think that allowed him to save a little bit more for a few laps."

      His closest rivals, Regan Smith and Brian Scott, marveled at the mileage he squeaked out of his fuel tank.

      "I don't know for the life of me how the 60 made it on fuel because nobody else in the field was even near that fuel mileage," Smith said after finishing second in the No. 7 Chevrolet. "That was pretty interesting."

      Smith wasn't surprised by the speed Buescher showed in the last third of the race, saying the rookie has come a long way this season.

      "I was surprised that he made it. I didn't have much more for him at the end," Smith said.

      Buescher gave the car a little shake on the last lap which Smith thought was a signal that the leader was out of gas, but it was for naught. Buscher got around Ashland's Tim Cowen in the Carousel and crossed the finish line with 1.114 seconds to spare.

      "Sometimes the race comes to you," Scott said, the third-place finisher in the No. 2 Chevrolet. "I think all the circumstances happened for him. Right place at right time."

      Early in the race Scott, pole-sitter Sam Hornish Jr. and Alex Tagliani had the fastest cars

      Hornish led or battled for it for more than 50 laps, but a missed shift hurt the engine and he had to park his No. 54 Toyota in the garage.

      "I didn't give them what they deserved," Hornish said.

      Scott and Tagliani briefly tangled, sending Scott off course and clogging his air intake with grass. He started to overheat but made it to the pits in time to save his race. From there he battled through the field to land on the podium.

      "It's the nature of the beast when these guys come in and are supposed to be road course specialists and are only doing one-off races. They feel they have something to prove and they drive like they do," Scott said.

      Points leader and rookie Chase Elliott was fourth and Tagliani fifth. Justin Marks, Elliott Sadler, Dylan Kwasniewski, Trevor Bayne and Dakoda Armstrong rounded out the top 10.

      As for Buescher, he had the added pressure of winning his first race while driving for the race and series title sponsor on the side of his car.

      "It was a really humbling experience and really cool to get our first win here under these circumstances," he said.

  • Saturday, August 16, 2014
    Truex sustains concussion in crash, will miss race
    By The Sports Xchange

    Ryan Truex was hospitalized after crashing his car in practice Saturday at Michigan International Speedway, and he will miss Sunday's Pure Michigan 400 due to a concussion.

    • BK Racing will put J.J. Yeley behind the wheel of the No. 83 Toyota.

      Truex's car slammed into the wall during the first of two practice sessions at the track, causing damage to the right front of the car. Truex climbed out of the car and walked with safety personnel to a waiting ambulance. He complained of a headache and shoulder pain.

      He underwent head, neck, chest and abdominal scans, which found no major damage. He must be cleared by NASCAR before returning to race.

      Truex is ranked 37th in Sprint Cup points and has started 19 of 22 races this season. His best finish was 20th at Pocono Raceway two weeks ago.

      Jeff Gordon won the pole Friday with a track-record lap at 206.558 mph.

  • Saturday, August 16, 2014
    Johnson relishes return to Michigan
    By The Sports Xchange

    By Scott Held

    • NASCAR Wire Service

      Distributed by The Sports Xchange

      BROOKLYN, Mich. -- Jimmie Johnson finally found his way to victory lane at Michigan International Speedway two months ago. Since then, it's been a rocky road.

      Johnson, who won here in June for the first time in 25 starts, has led just six laps and has finished 39th or worse three times in the seven races since.

      He's glad to be back.

      "We've had the craziest luck over the last six or seven races," said Johnson, who finished 28th last weekend at Watkins Glen (N.Y.) International and dropped a spot to seventh in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series standings.

      "Although we've only won here once, it's been a very strong track for the No. 48 and there is a lot of room on this racetrack, so I think I can be out of harm's way."

      The six-time Sprint Cup champion left the June race on cloud nine. His victory was his third in four starts and vaulted him to second in the season standings behind teammate Jeff Gordon. He's already guaranteed a spot in the revamped Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup and didn't seem concerned about a lack of momentum when the playoffs begin Sept. 14 at Chicagoland Speedway.

      "It's nice to have momentum entering the Chase," he said. "If it doesn't happen, we've won championships that way, too.

      "So, we're taking it as it comes, but it has been a very challenging year."

      Johnson will have a long ride to the front of the field in Sunday's Pure Michigan 400 (1 p.m. ET on ESPN), where he'll start 30th.

      Still on top

      It wasn't a record, but Gordon still was the fastest man at Michigan International Speedway on Saturday.

      A day after turning the fastest lap in track history and seventh fastest pole speed in NASCAR history, Gordon was the only driver to record a lap faster than 200 mph in the final practice session for Sunday's Sprint Cup Series Pure Michigan 400.

      Gordon, seeking his first win here since June 2001, had a lap of 200.156 on Saturday, eight-hundredths of a second faster than Kyle Larson. It came a day after he shattered the track record with a 206.558 circuit in the final qualifying session in the same car he drove to victory last month at Indianapolis.

      Gordon and his Hendrick Motorsports teammates have to be hoping for the same kind of luck they had here in June, when Johnson recorded his first career win here and Kasey Kahne, Gordon and Dale Earnhardt Jr. finished sixth through eighth.

      All four drivers are in the top 16 of the standings with three races to go before the start of the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup. Only Kahne, who started the weekend 13th in the standings, has yet to guarantee a spot in the grid with a victory.

      Joey Logano, who'll start next to Gordon on Sunday, had a lap of 198.785 ­— sixth-fastest overall -- in the final practice session.

      Still smiling

      No one came to MIS happier than A.J. Allmendinger.

      A week removed from his first career Sprint Cup victory and the automatic berth in the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup that came with it, the No. 47 Chevy driver still was flying high.

      "Just enjoying it," he said of the last several days. "Having my parents there was so special to be able to share that with them in victory lane.

      "I've put so much pressure on myself whether it's this year or the last few years to go out and try to be at my best and I felt like at times if I didn't win it was a negative on me."

      The win came in his 214th career start and closed the book on a chapter of his life that saw him lose a job with Penske Racing after a positive drug test in 2012. He was reinstated later that season and started 2014 with JTG-Daugherty Racing.

      He won't be a favorite to win the championship and he doesn't care.

      "It can only help us to keep getting better," he said of the win at Watkins Glen. "We know when it comes to the Chase as a championship contender, obviously our names aren't going to be the first ones that are brought up. We know that.

      "So when we get to the Chase, hopefully we can make just a little bit of noise in it as well."

      Roush rebound?

      Roush Fenway Racing has won 13 times at Michigan, but June's stop here was a nightmare.

      Greg Biffle's Ford was the only of the team's three to finish on the lead lap -- in 20th -- and Carl Edwards and Rick Stenhouse Jr. were 23 and 27, respectively, at the track that's about 90 miles from Roush Industries' headquarters.

      Edwards, who already has secured a spot in the Chase, is finishing his final season with the team but still wants to give his bosses and crew something to remember.

      "This race is special," he said. "Right now my goal is to go represent Ford and drive as hard as I can for Jack Roush the same way I always have and to get us a championship."

      Edwards, who's won twice here, will start third and Stenhouse has the 10th spot on the grid Sunday. Biffle, who won last season's June race to collect his fourth career MIS victory, starts 11th. A win would be especially sweet for Biffle, who could lock up a spot in the Chase. He'll start the day 12th in the series standings.

  • Saturday, August 16, 2014
    Sauter delivers Truck Series win at Michigan
    By The Sports Xchange

    By Scott Held

    • NASCAR Wire Service

      Distributed by The Sports Xchange

      BROOKLYN, Mich. -- Johnny Sauter's new crew chief started work eight days before Saturday's NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Careers for Veterans 200.

      So much for a getting-to-know-you period.

      Sauter's Toyota Tundra went to the front after leader Matt Crafton pitted with three laps left and the veteran claimed his first Truck Series victory of the season at Michigan International Speedway.

      His 161.087 mph average speed is the fastest in series history, breaking the 154.737 record he set in 2012 when he won at Texas.

      "When I was out front leading, I could go where I wanted and do what I wanted," Sauter said. "The last 40 laps of the race I was running wide open."

      Crafton, Sauter's ThorSport Racing teammate, finished second after pulling in for a quick splash of fuel. He had a 31-second lead when he entered the pits and was passed as he emerged from the lane after stopping for less than three seconds.

      The win vaulted Sauter into the first place in the season standings, seven points ahead of Crafton, who moved from third to second. Pole winner Ryan Blaney started the race with the points lead but lost it after finishing 21st.

      "This is great, this is the thing we needed to swing it," Sauter said after leading 21 laps in his 10th career series win. "We've been consistent. We finally got speed this weekend."

      The win ran Sauter's streak of seasons with at least one truck victory to six.

      Ron Hornaday Jr.'s Chevy was third, followed by Tayler Malsam and Kyle Busch. Busch, who'll start 24th in Sunday's NASCAR Sprint Cup Pure Michigan 400 (1 p.m. ET on ESPN), was seeking his sixth victory in as many starts this season in the Truck Series.

      ThorSport brought in Jeff Hensley to replace Dennis Connor as crew chief despite the fact Sauter was second in the points standings. Sauter said there were no hard feelings.

      "It was just something we thought would make the whole organization stronger," he said.

      Hensley, of course, enjoyed his first race in the pit box.

      "I thought we could win, but I sure as heck didn't think it would be the first time out," he said.

      Crafton was happy the team, based in nearby Sandusky, Ohio, had the top two spots -- though he would've rewritten the ending if it was up to him.

      "It was very eventful, without a doubt," he said. "All in all, not a bad day. It's nice to see ThorSport one-two. I just wish it was the other way around."

      The race's only caution flag came nine laps in after Travis Kvapil's engine failed and left oil on the track. The last 86 laps of the record-setting race were green.

      The long stretch of green-flag laps seemed to benefit Sauter and other drivers who ducked into the pits during the lone caution period.

      "It sure seemed like there was more passing in the pits than on the track with everyone so spread out," he said. "Sometimes it's good to have a race like that."

      Darrell Wallace Jr. led a race-best 48 laps but finished a lap down in 11th.

      Blaney won the pole just by showing up for the final qualifying session. He was the only driver to attempt a lap before time ran out. His 173.152 mph pole speed was significantly slower than the track record 187.647 turned by Joey Logano in the second session.

      Jeb Burton set the record during last year's stop here.

      NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Race -- Careers for Veterans 200

      Presented by The Cooper Standard Foundation and Brad Keselowski's Checkered Flag Foundation

      Michigan International Speedway

      Brooklyn, Mich.

      Saturday

      1. (5) Johnny Sauter, Toyota, 100, $38595.

      2. (14) Matt Crafton, Toyota, 100, $27435.

      3. (17) Ron Hornaday Jr., Chevrolet, 100, $20976.

      4. (8) Tayler Malsam, Chevrolet, 100, $16050.

      5. (11) Kyle Busch(i), Toyota, 100, $11975.

      6. (10) German Quiroga, Toyota, 100, $12300.

      7. (3) Timothy Peters, Toyota, 100, $11850.

      8. (7) Jeb Burton, Toyota, 100, $11475.

      9. (9) Joey Coulter, Chevrolet, 100, $11425.

      10. (19) Joe Nemechek, Toyota, 99, $12675.

      11. (4) Darrell Wallace Jr., Toyota, 99, $11350.

      12. (15) Jason White(i), Chevrolet, 99, $11200.

      13. (12) Spencer Gallagher, Chevrolet, 99, $11125.

      14. (21) Tyler Young #, Chevrolet, 98, $12075.

      15. (20) Bryan Silas, Chevrolet, 98, $11850.

      16. (18) Mason Mingus #, Toyota, 97, $11000.

      17. (13) Austin Dillon(i), Chevrolet, 96, $8650.

      18. (2) Joey Logano(i), Ford, 96, $8625.

      19. (16) Ben Kennedy #, Chevrolet, 96, $10825.

      20. (23) Jennifer Jo Cobb, Chevrolet, 94, $11425.

      21. (1) Ryan Blaney, Ford, 91, $13075.

      22. (26) Norm Benning, Chevrolet, Clutch, 75, $9475.

      23. (25) Justin Jennings, Chevrolet, Electrical, 49, $9450.

      24. (22) Jimmy Weller #, Chevrolet, Engine, 36, $8425.

      25. (29) TJ Bell, Chevrolet, Oil Line, 20, $8550.

      26. (6) Travis Kvapil(i), Toyota, Engine, 7, $8375.

      27. (24) Todd Peck, Chevrolet, Handling, 4, $8325.

      28. (28) Adam Edwards, Chevrolet, Electrical, 3, $8300.

      29. (27) Caleb Roark, Chevrolet, Rear Gear, 2, $8250.

      Average Speed of Race Winner: 161.11 mph.

      Time of Race: 01 Hrs, 14 Mins, 29 Secs. Margin of Victory: 0.433 Seconds.

      Caution Flags: 1 for 6 laps.

      Lead Changes: 10 among 5 drivers.

      Lap Leaders: R. Blaney 1-2; D. Wallace Jr. 3; R. Blaney 4-11; D. Wallace Jr. 12-37; K. Busch(i) 38-51; J. Sauter 52; M. Crafton 53-54; D. Wallace Jr. 55-75; J. Sauter 76-91; M. Crafton 92-96; J. Sauter 97-100.

      Leaders Summary (Driver, Times Lead, Laps Led): D. Wallace Jr. 3 times for 48 laps; J. Sauter 3 times for 21 laps; K. Busch(i) 1 time for 14 laps; R. Blaney 2 times for 10 laps; M. Crafton 2 times for 7 laps.

      Top 10 in Points: J. Sauter - 448; M. Crafton - 439; R. Blaney - 432; R. Hornaday Jr. - 429; D. Wallace Jr. - 412; G. Quiroga - 403; T. Peters - 396; B. Kennedy # - 389; J. Coulter - 388; J. Burton - 360.

  • Saturday, August 16, 2014
    Fans, drivers stand behind Stewart
    By The Sports Xchange

    BROOKLYN, Mich. --When Tony Stewart returns to his No. 14 SHR Chevrolet is uncertain, and it's possible one of NASCAR's most recognizable names won't be back in the pits this season.

    • Following the Aug. 9 accident that resulted in the death of 20-year old Kevin Ward Jr. at Canandaigua (N.Y.) Motorsports Park, Stewart is idle for a second consecutive week. With Stewart grieving, Stewart-Haas Racing team announced on Thursday that semi-retired NASCAR Sprint Cup Series veteran will drive in Sunday's Pure Michigan 400 at Michigan International Speedway.

      Fan opinions of the Stewart-Ward incident remain split. Many NASCAR fans are behind Stewart, adamant that the driver did nothing wrong, that he did all he could possibly do to avoid hitting Ward, who had climbed from his race car and walked toward moving cars on the race track at Canandaigua. Some also add that Ward essentially caused his own death by climbing out of his car and approaching traffic.

      Others, meanwhile, are sure that there was more that Stewart could have done to avoid hitting Ward. Opinions from fans who blame Stewart vary in degree of blame. Some say that, while not intentional, Stewart still could have done more, while others believe Stewart acted with malice and that his actions were deplorable.

      An informal survey of fans in attendance at MIS over the weekend showed that a majority of fans are behind Stewart, looking forward to his return to the track and concerned about his mental well-being.

      Most competitors in the garage seem to be behind Stewart and certain that the incident was an accident.

      "It's a tough situation altogether," Greg Biffle said. "Nobody wants to deal with something like that, and we support Tony in whatever decision he makes. He has to personally make a decision on what he wants to do, and we absolutely support that 100 percent.

      "Let's face it; the obvious thing is it's an accident and, unfortunately, accidents happen. No matter what, accidents happen, and we have to, at some point, move on. It's a tragedy for the Ward family and everyone involved."

      Although the majority of drivers support Stewart, they are wary of coming to a decision on the matter without hearing both sides of the story and the results of the ongoing police investigation.

      "To frame this in the light that we understand what happened, I think, is wrong. I will say that really clearly," Carl Edwards said. "I have been racing my whole life. I have been around racing my whole life. I don't know what happened. I guess the people that know what happened or know what everybody was thinking must be a lot smarter than me."

      There is no set timetable for Stewart's return to NASCAR, and according to Stewart-Haas Racing executive vice president Brett Frood, the decision of when to return is Stewart's. Frood, Stewart and his team are taking things week-by-week as the driver continues to mourn.

      "This decision (to sit out another week) was Tony's. An emotional week for him," Frood said. "He's grieving. Made the decision he's not ready to get in the racecar and will take it week by week. It will be up to Tony when he's ready to get back in the car."

      Stewart's decision to not be in Michigan removes him from Chase for the Sprint Cup eligibility, even if he returns and wins a race before the Chase cutoff at Richmond (Va.) International Raceway in September. NASCAR rules state that a driver must attempt to qualify for all races before the Chase to be eligible. Stewart qualified his car at Watkins Glen (N.Y.) last weekend before heading to Canandaigua, so even though Regan Smith raced the No. 14 at Watkins Glen, Stewart retained Chase eligibility.

      But, according to Frood, Chase eligibility for the Stewart's No. 14 is low on the list of concerns right now.

      "I'll be honest; the Chase is of the lowest priority as it relates to Tony right now," Frood said. "As far as the Chase, the only care I have this weekend is to get Danica (Patrick, one of Stewart's teammates at SHR) in the Chase. Right now it's about getting Tony in a better place than he is. When he's ready to do that, he'll get back in the car. Don't care about the Chase."

      NASCAR made an addition to its rule book on Friday in the name of safety to prohibit drivers from walking near oncoming traffic after on-track incidents.

      "Throughout the history of our sport, NASCAR has reviewed an analyzed situations and occurances that take place, not just in NASCAR racing but also throughout all motorsports and other sports," NASCAR Vice President of Competition and Racing Development Robin Pemberton said. "When we believe we can do something to make our sport safer and better for the competitors and others involved in the competition environment, we react quickly. Safety always has been priority number one at NASCAR."

      The new rule orders drivers to shut off electrical power after being involved in an on-track incident during a race and, if uninjured, lower their window nets. But drivers involved in an incident are to wait until given clearance by NASCAR or track safety personnel before unbuckling or removing safety equipment and climbing out of their race cars. Violation of the new rule, according to NASCAR, will result in some form of penalty.

      Sprint Cup Series driver Matt Kenseth thinks it's a good idea that NASCAR spelled out the concern over safety of drivers outside their race cars on the track during races.

      "Anybody who has ever changed their tire along an interstate knows that's still pretty fast and things can happen," Kenseth said. "I think it's good to spell it out. Most of the time we're impatient to get out for a variety of reason, even if you're not mad or whatever, you're impatient to get out and see what kind of damage you have."

  • Friday, August 15, 2014
    Gordon sets record in pole run at Michigan
    By The Sports Xchange

    By Chris Knight

    • NASCAR Wire Service

      Distributed by The Sports Xchange

      BROOKLYN, Mich. -- With a lighting-fast track record at Michigan International Speedway, Jeff Gordon claimed his second consecutive NASCAR Sprint Cup Series pole of the season on Friday afternoon after turning a lap of 206.558 mph in qualifying for Sunday's Pure Michigan 400.

      Gordon, 42, crushed Kevin Harvick's track record by three-tenths of a second at the two-mile oval set just two months ago. Gordon's qualifying lap was the seventh-fastest pole-winning speed in Sprint Cup history.

      Gordon knocked Joey Logano from the top spot in the final two minutes of the third and final round of qualifying, establishing the 17th track record of the season. Gordon also took the pole last weekend at Watkins Glen (N.Y.) International.

      "I don't know how to make it much better than that," said Gordon, who won his 76th career pole in 748 races. "This entire Axalta Chevrolet crew just did a phenomenal job. Our first qualifying effort today, and practice, was not good. I've been hearing a lot about tire chatter and we had it big time.

      "The next run out we made some adjustments and it was better. That whole qualifying session, from the first one, second one, and the third session, the car was just near perfect. This is our Brickyard 400 car, so it's a fast one. And let's hope we can keep it going fast all day on Sunday."

      Logano will start on the front row for the seventh time this season, but six of them have been from the outside pole. He is optimistic about his chances on Sunday.

      "Close, but didn't quite make it," Logano said. "This is our seventh front row start this year, which we are very proud of -- don't get me wrong. It takes a lot of effort to do that, but we only have one pole. That is frustrating.

      "I have a really fast Shell Pennzoil Ford this weekend and we have been able to keep showing (Team) Penske is very strong in qualifying. I have a good car in race trim too. I have something similar to what I had in this race last year that we won the pole and race with. Hopefully, we can do it in the race."

      Third-place qualifier Carl Edwards celebrated his 35th birthday at the track and led the Roush Fenway Racing camp with his best start since a fourth at Sonoma (Calif.) Raceway in June.

      Behind the top-three starters, Brian Vickers qualified fourth and Rochester Hills, Mich., native Brad Keselowski rounded out the top five.

      Kevin Harvick wound up sixth, followed by Paul Menard, Austin Dillon, Jamie McMurray, Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Greg Biffle and Ryan Newman.

      Danica Patrick narrowly missed the cut into the final round of knockout qualifying, but will line up 14th.

      While Gordon won his sixth career pole at Michigan International Speedway, his Hendrick Motorsports teammates struggled in time trials.

      Dale Earnhardt Jr., the points leader entering Sunday's race, could only manage the 25th quickest lap Friday. Six-time and reigning Sprint Cup champion Jimmie Johnson qualified 30th and Kasey Kahne qualified 15th.

      "We were a little loose on that second run," said Earnhardt, a three-time winner this season. "We made a good lap on the first run and expected to go out there and pick up two or three tenths and the back end was just moving around a lot and real loose and I guess just couldn’t get into the throttle like we needed to. But I'm real happy with the car in race trim."

  • Friday, August 15, 2014
    Stewart-Haas Racing sets no timetable for Stewart's return
    By The Sports Xchange

    By Chris Knight, NASCAR Wire Service

    • Distributed by The Sports Xchange

      BROOKLYN, Mich.-- Tony Stewart will sit out his second straight NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race of the season this weekend at Michigan International Speedway in a decision made by the three-time premier series champion himself following last Saturday night's tragedy with sprint car driver Kevin Ward Jr.

      Ward Jr. was fatally injured when he was hit by a winged sprint car driven by Stewart at Canandaigua (N.Y.) Motorsports Park. The next day, Stewart withdrew from the Cheez-It 355 at Watkins Glen International and was replaced by NASCAR Nationwide Series regular Regan Smith.

      On Thursday, Stewart-Haas Racing announced that Jeff Burton would drive the team's entry in Sunday's Pure Michigan 400 (1 p.m. ET on ESPN). The team reiterated on Friday at MIS that no timetable has been set for Stewart's return.

      "The decision was Tony's," said Brett Frood, executive vice president of Stewart-Haas Racing. "An emotional week for him. He's grieving. Made the decision he's not ready to get in the racecar and will take it week by week. Tony is surrounded right now by his closest friends and family."

      Burton said he received the call from SHR on Wednesday morning about potentially driving for Stewart, if he decided not to race.

      "My role here is to hopefully provide a little stability, give that team a chance to have the most success they can have in a very difficult situation," offered Burton. "Hopefully me being here in some kind of way can help. I don't know how, but hopefully I can find a way to help a healing process start. I don't know how that is, but that would be my ultimate goal for everybody.

      "Obviously, it's an awkward situation for everyone. But there's a lot of people at Stewart-Haas Racing that work really, really hard and deserve 100 percent effort from me and that's what they're going to get."

      Stewart-Haas Racing would not specify if Burton would drive for the team next weekend at Bristol (Tenn.) Motor Speedway should Stewart decide (again) not to compete.

      NASCAR implements new on-track incident procedure for competitors

      In its continued efforts to evolve the safety of its sport, NASCAR announced Friday morning at Michigan International Speedway a new procedure for on-track incidents, effective immediately.

      The rule, listed as Section 9-16, will be an addendum to the NASCAR rule book and will apply to all of its racing series.

      The procedure states that during an event, if a racecar is involved in an on-track incident and / or is stopped on or near the racing surface and unable to continue to make forward progress, unless extenuating emergency conditions exist with the racecar (i.e. fire, smoke in cockpit, etc.), the driver should take the following steps:

      --Shut off electrical power and, if driver is uninjured, lower window net.

      --Do not loosen, disconnect or remove any driver personal safety equipment until directed to do so by safety personnel or a NASCAR/Track Official.

      --After being directed to exit the racecar, the driver should proceed to either the ambulance, other vehicle, or as otherwise directed by safety personnel or a NASCAR/Track Official.

      --At no time should a driver or crew member(s) approach any portion of the racing surface or apron.

      --At no time should a driver or crew member(s) approach another moving vehicle.

      "We're formalizing rules that have been there," said Robin Pemberton, NASCAR's vice president of competition. "It's reminders that take place during driver meetings with drivers about on-track incidents. We're just formalizing this and it's something that we worked on this week."

      Pemberton added the new rule was precipitated following the Kevin Ward Jr. tragedy last Saturday night at Canandaigua (N.Y.) Motorsports Park.

      "Through time you have to recognize when you get a reminder or tap on the shoulder, something that may need to be addressed," he said. "This is one of those times where we look outside our sport and we look at other things and we feel like it was time to address this."

      As with other behavioral infractions, NASCAR will handle each instance separately when assessing potential penalties.

      Blaney to drive Wood Brothers Racing famed No. 21 In 2015

      Ryan Blaney is all smiles this weekend at Michigan International Speedway. And as he should be.

      Not only is the 20-year old the current NASCAR Camping World Truck Series points leader for Brad Keselowski Racing, but he is also the new driver of the famed No. 21 Ford Fusion for Wood Brothers Racing in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series in 2015.

      Officially announced Thursday, Blaney will take the reins from current driver Trevor Bayne who will move to a full-time Cup ride at Roush Fenway Racing next season. Blaney, a Team Penske Racing development driver since 2012, will compete in at least 12 races driving the iconic No. 21 Motorcraft / Quick Lane Ford Fusion.

      "I am very excited to be able to race for the Wood Brothers next year," said Blaney Friday morning. "They have been so great to me with the week and a half that I have been over there. The history of this team is very special and being able to drive for this team is special and a dream come true."

      The Wood Brothers Racing team will get more than just Blaney though. The Stuart, Virginia-based team also announced that it has formed a technical alliance with Team Penske.

      "Right now we have an alliance with Roush Fenway and that includes engineering, cars and everything about it. It will be a similar situation with Team Penske," said Eddie Wood, co-owner of Wood Brothers Racing. "The difference will be that Team Penske has never done this before. This is new to them. That will be a work in progress to figure out how to do everything. It is going to be a similar situation."

      This weekend, Blaney is getting acquainted with his new ride by practicing and qualifying the No. 21 Ford Fusion for Bayne, who's in Mid-Ohio competing in Saturday's NASCAR Nationwide Children's Hospital 200 (2:45 p.m. ET on ESPN). Bayne, the 2011 Daytona 500 winner for Wood Brother Racing, will race Sunday in the Pure Michigan 400 Sprint Cup event.

      Blaney's first Cup race under the Wood Brothers Racing banner will come in next February's season-opening Daytona 500.

  • Friday, August 15, 2014
    NASCAR welcomes rule change, grieves
    By The Sports Xchange

    Drivers are prohibited from exiting their cars barring "extenuating circumstances," NASCAR vice president Robin Pemberton announced Friday.

    • "It's safety first right now," Pemberton said.

      "At no time should a driver approach a moving vehicle."

      A rule change to take effect immediately was pushed through by NASCAR in the wake of the dirt track race death in which Sprint Cup driver Tony Stewart struck and killed 20-year-old Kevin Ward Jr.

      "We're all going to think twice," said Kyle Larson, the 22-year old driver from California who came up racing on dirt tracks. "If we're upset, we're going to think twice before getting out of the car."

      Ward's funeral was Thursday in New York.

      "It's not just about NASCAR. It's about all of motorsports," Pemberton said.

      Stewart did not race last week at Watkins Glen and announced he would sit out again Sunday at Michigan. Stewart-Haas Racing is unsure when Stewart might return. The team said Friday that Jeff Burton was promised only this week's race but stated that the Chase playoff standings were not even a minor priority for Stewart.

      Stewart isn't at Michigan International Speedway, and his absence is being felt.

      "This decision was Tony's," said Brett Frood, executive vice president of Stewart Haas Racing. "An emotional week for him. He's grieving. Made the decision he's not ready to get in the racecar and will take it week by week. It will be up to Tony when he's ready to get back in the car."

      Defending NASCAR champion Jimmie Johnson said Friday that short tracks should soon adopt a policy for spotters in the name of increasing safety. Even the notably reserved Johnson, who said he has been unable to reach Stewart, recalled an incident during his rookie season when his temper got the best of him and he got out of his car to offer a one-finger salute to Robby Gordon at Bristol.

      Johnson said he believes the fatal crash was a "complete accident," but allowed that hearing from Stewart is likely the only way to set others at ease.

      Until then, some will play independent jury, but the majority of NASCAR drivers are not playing judge.

      "It's not right for me to discuss what happened; it's a tragedy," said Carl Edwards. "I've been around racing my whole life ... I don't know what happened."

  • Friday, August 15, 2014
    Grieving Stewart extends layoff
    By The Sports Xchange

    Tony Stewart's plans for the remainder of NASCAR schedule are to be determined, but veteran Jeff Burton is subbing for his good friend Sunday at Michigan International Speedway.

    • "This decision was Tony's," said Brett Frood, executive vice president of Stewart Haas Racing, at a press conference prior to qualifying for the Pure Michigan 400. "An emotional week for him. He's grieving. Made the decision he's not ready to get in the racecar and will take it week by week. It will be up to Tony when he's ready to get back in the car."

      Stewart-Haas Racing announced Thursday that Stewart would miss the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Pure Michigan 400 Sunday at Michigan International Speedway. He also skipped last weekend's race at Watkins Glen in the wake of the death of Kevin Ward, Jr., in a sprint car accident Saturday in Canandaigua, N.Y.

      "(SHR's) Greg (Zipadelli) reached out to me Wednesday morning," said Burton, who has 21 career victories. "It was just in case Tony decides. He gets up earlier than I do, by the way."

      Burton agreed to one race in Stewart's No. 14 car, and any additional plans are up in the air according to Frood. Burton said he didn't speak to Stewart.

      "Jeff will be the driver this weekend at Michigan," Frood said. "We have not discussed any other races. We'll talk to Tony, and when he's ready to get in the car, he'll be in there."

      Frood said the Chase is of the lowest priority -- other than getting Danica Patrick in the playoff.

      "Right now the focus is getting Tony in a better place than he is right now," Frood said.

      Frood said Stewart has had an emotional week and is grieving.

      "Anytime someone is lost, especially at a race track, it's tragic. He's dealing with quite a bit of grief," Frood said.

      The incident has been a popular topic in and outside of the motorsports community, with speculation around what Stewart did and didn't see. SHR said Friday morning that "all of the appropriate parties" would be heard from when it becomes appropriate.

      "We certainly understand the media has a job to do. While there may be some irresponsible reporting, right now the focus should be immediately on the family," said Frood.

      Burton, 47, is racing for only the third time this season. He finished 17th at Las Vegas, 20th in New Hampshire, and spent most of the season in the broadcast booth for NBC.

      The timing was right for Burton. He started and finished in the top 10 in both Michigan races last year, including eighth in his Richard Childress Chevrolet on Aug. 18, 2013. As for Stewart, Burton said the well-known driver needs time to "get his head right" and referred to any timetable for determining who'll drive the No. 14 in future weeks as unknown.

      Earlier Friday, NASCAR announced a rules change prohibiting drivers from exiting vehicles on the track unless extenuating circumstances -- such as smoke, fire, threat of bodily harm -- exist.

      "NASCAR has been unbelievable in regards to safety," Burton said. "I support the decision if it feels like it's what they need to do. I'm proud that they want safety to be at the forefront."

  • Friday, August 15, 2014
    Biffle goes for fifth Michigan win, Chase climb
    By The Sports Xchange

    The clock is ticking for Greg Biffle.

    • Although he ranks 12th in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series in points standings, the No. 16 3M Ford Fusion driver sits 17th in Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Grid, on the outside looking in, with just four races remaining before the postseason, because he has yet to record a victory.

      But, Biffle remains confident entering Sunday's Pure Michigan 400 (1 p.m. ET, ESPN).

      "We feel like we can win one of these last four races, so that's what we're focusing on is winning one of these last four and getting our way into the Chase that way," Biffle said, whose precarious position on the Chase Grid has everything to do with his lack of wins this season. "But certainly we're hanging on by a shoestring to make it in on points if it comes down to that."

      A wild ride of off-the-track developments further adds to the pressure. Biffle must carry the weight of proving he can be Roush Fenway Racing's No. 1 driver following the impending departure of Carl Edwards at the end of the season.

      Luckily, Biffle gets a shot to go for victory at Michigan this week, a track where he has won a career-best four times, including two of the last four races. He boasts 10 top-five finishes in 23 Sprint Cup starts there in addition to a pair of NASCAR Camping World Truck Series wins. Additionally, Biffle owns the series-best average running position (8.9) and driver rating (107.8) at the D-shaped, two-mile Brooklyn speedway located in the scenic Irish Hills area of southeastern Michigan.

      "I cannot wait to get there," said Biffle, whose four wins are most among active drivers. "Do I think we're going to have the fastest car? I'm hoping we're close … I feel like we're going to be running in the top 10."

      Since team owner Jack Roush entered NASCAR in 1988, RFR has accumulated a course-record 13 Sprint Cup checkered flags with five different drivers.

      "It's just been one of those racetracks like Homestead or Darlington for us that I really like," said Biffle of RFR's success at Michigan. "I like the layout. I love the way it races, and we've just been super successful there."

      Thirteen points separate top four entering Mid-Ohio.

      The upper echelon of the NASCAR Nationwide Series standings can be described with one word…tight.

      A mere 13 points separate the top four drivers with only a dozen races remaining on the season.

      Sunoco Rookie of the Year candidate Chase Elliott holds a 12-point series lead over JR. Motorsports teammate Regan Smith, sitting just one point ahead of third-place Elliott Sadler and fourth-place Ty Dillon, who are tied in the standings.

      "As far as the points (total) goes, like I've said all season long, I don't get too caught up in it, I don't pull it up during the week, I don't worry about it," said Elliott, following the Zippo 200 at Watkins Glen. "When you get caught up in that, that's when I think things can go south, so just trying to focus on running well and contending for wins I think is the best way to go about a championship."

      Elliott will go for the win this Saturday in the Nationwide Children's Hospital 200 at Mid-Ohio (2:45 p.m. ET on ESPN), where he will race on the 13-turn, 2.25-mile road course for the first time. He hopes to build off of his sixth-place finish at Watkins Glen, which he described as "decent" after the race.

      "I think we're capable of running top five in all these events, including the companion races, road courses or whatever," Elliott said. "I personally need to step up and be a better road racer, try to figure out how to keep up with those guys and try to figure out how to beat them."

      On paper, the only way for Elliott to be a better road racer is to win on a road course. In addition to his top 10 run at Watkins Glen, he finished fourth at Road America earlier this season. Overall, Elliot boasts three wins, eight top fives, 15 top 10s and an average finish of 9.0 in his rookie campaign.

      Big day for Keselowski

      Without even getting behind the wheel of a truck, Brad Keselowski will make an impact on and off the track Saturday as the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series returns to his home state of Michigan for the Careers for Veterans 200 (12:30 p.m. ET on FS1).

      The former NASCAR Sprint Cup champion's Checkered Flag Foundation is a presenting sponsor of the race. Additionally, series points leader Ryan Blaney and Sprint Cup standout Joey Logano will race in Keselowski-owned Fords.

      "Finding jobs for those guys is a very rewarding task," said Keselowski on partnering with Cooper Standard's Careers for Veterans Foundation, a program that provides career opportunities for military veterans and those who are transitioning from active service. "We hope that publicizing this initiative will get us other major companies onboard to look out for these guys and find jobs for them on their way back home from the battlefield."

      On the track, Blaney will attempt to increase his seven-point advantage and maintain the Brad Keselowski Racing No. 29 Ford's top position in the owner standings where it leads Kyle Busch Racing's No. 51 Toyota by two points. Logano enters his second NCWTS race of the season in Keselowski's No. 19 truck. He finished third in his first appearance at Kansas in June after leading for 41 laps.

      Keselowski is pleased to see Blaney in the points lead, but acknowledges he still has "a long way to go."

      "With the amount of races we have left, the way that team is gelling together, I think they've got a great shot at winning the championship," Keslowski said.

  • Thursday, August 14, 2014
    Stewart won't race this weekend
    By The Sports Xchange

    Tony Stewart announced Thursday that he will not race this weekend, skipping a second straight Sprint Cup race since his car struck and killed a driver on a dirt track in upstate New York.

    • Jeff Burton will drive Stewart's No. 14 Chevrolet for Stewart-Haas Racing on Sunday at Michigan International Speedway.

      Stewart sat out last Sunday NASCAR race at Watkins Glen, a day after he struck and killed Kevin Ward Jr. during a sprint car race in Canandaigua, N.Y.

      On Saturday night at Canandaigua Motorsports Park, Ward was killed when he tried to confront Stewart on the track after Stewart sent Ward's winged car into the wall. Ward was fatally struck by the right rear tire of Stewart's car.

      Ward's funeral was Thursday in Boonville, N.Y.

      Ontario County Sheriff Philip Povero said that investigators don't have any evidence at this point to support criminal intent. The investigation could last another two weeks.

      According to a team press release, the driver change only pertains to the Michigan race. Stewart's plans for the upcoming Sprint Cup Series schedule have yet to be determined.

      Burton, a 21-time winner in the sport's premier series, has made only two starts this season in a part-time role for Michael Waltrip Racing. He finished 17th at Las Vegas in March and 20th at New Hampshire in July as he transitions to the broadcast booth next season for NBC.

  • Thursday, August 14, 2014
    Mourners gather to remember Ward
    By The Sports Xchange

    Dale Earnhardt Jr. wanted Kevin Ward's family to know they're not alone. The NASCAR star sent flowers to Ward's family as they prepared to say goodbye to the 20-year-old racer who died after being struck by Tony Stewart's car during a race on Saturday night.

    • Orange and white flowers draped Ward's casket as mourners flocked to upstate New York for his funeral on Thursday. Mourners also were dressed in orange and white, Ward's racing colors.

      Ward was remembered as a happy-go-lucky kid around Boonville, N.Y. Townspeople said he was always polite and respectful.

      Mourners heard stories about Ward's talent on the racetrack. He had a bright future ahead, family and friends told the grieving audience. They did not want Ward to be remembered as an accident victim, but as a young man who embraced life and lived it to its fullest.

      On Saturday night at Canandaigua Motorsports Park, Ward was killed when he tried to confront Stewart on the track after Stewart sent Ward's winged car into the wall. Ward was fatally struck by the right rear tire of Stewart's car.

      As of Thursday, Stewart had remained silent and no charges had been filed.

      Ontario County sheriff Philip C. Povero issued a statement Tuesday setting expectations for a two-week investigation, including a recreation of the fatal crash. Povero said there are no facts to support a criminal charge at this time.

      The sheriff's words provide little consolation to Ward's father, who clearly places the blame for his son's death on Stewart.

      "The one person that knows what happened that night is possibly facing 10 years in prison," Kevin Ward Sr. said earlier this week. "Is he going to say what he done?"

      One of Stewart's NASCAR rivals has come to his defense.

      "Tony Stewart is a great person," Kevin Harvick told Sports Illustrated. "I know in my heart he would never do anything like that on purpose. We just have to let it all play out. I do know that Tony is a great friend of mine; I've known him a long time, and he probably has the biggest heart of anybody in that garage."

      He has not announced plans for this week, when the Sprint Cup comes to Michigan International Speedway.

      Stewart is on the entry list for Sunday's race. He withdrew from a sprint-car race Saturday at Plymouth Speedway in Indiana, according to the track.

      "It is still an emotional time for all involved, Tony included," team representative Mike Arning said. "He is grieving, and grief doesn’t have a timetable."