Sprint Cup

NASCAR Sprint Cup News Wire
  • Saturday, May 23, 2015
    Dillon dominates Xfinity race at Charlotte
    By The Sports Xchange

    By Reid Spencer, NASCAR Wire Service

    • Distributed by The Sports Xchange

      CONCORD, N.C. -- For the second straight Saturday, Denny Hamlin had the chance to hold off a race's strongest car for the victory.

      Unlike last Saturday's NASCAR Sprint All-Star Race, however, there were too many laps left after the final restart in Saturday's Hisense 300 NASCAR XFINITY Series, and polesitter Austin Dillon powered past Hamlin on Lap 186 of 200 to finish the race where he belonged -- at the front of the field.

      By the time he crossed the finish line, Dillon was 2.692 seconds ahead of Hamlin, who had taken the lead during a restart on Lap 167 that saw Dillon fall back to fourth from the inside lane by the time the leaders exited Turn 2.

      One by one, Dillon picked off Regan Smith, Kahne and Hamlin on the way to his second XFINITY Series victory of the season, his first at Charlotte and the fourth of his career.

      Kahne ran third behind Dillon and Hamlin, followed by Smith and rookies Darrell Wallace Jr. and Daniel Suarez. Ty Dillon came home seventh and trimmed the series lead of 11th-place finisher Chris Buescher to four points.

      Dillon led 163 laps and held an advantage of more than six seconds during a 54-lap green-flag run that preceded the second caution of the race on Lap 110.

      How good was Dillon's No. 33 Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet?

      "I didn't want to get out of this thing," Dillon said in Victory Lane. "This thing drove so good. It was a heck of a race there with Denny at the end and Kasey (Kahne). I had to go right there in lapped traffic (to make the winning pass).

      "I knew if I didn't hurry up and get in front of him right there, the tires might equalize (in terms of grip)."

      But when Dillon picked the inside lane for what proved to be the final restart -- after a caution for Kyle Fowler's wreck in Turn 1 -- Hamlin seized what he considered a fortuitous opportunity and surged into the lead.

      "I thought when the 33 gave us the outside, that was a big advantage for us if we could stay with him through Turns 1 and 2," said Hamlin, who last Saturday held off Kevin Harvick in the final 10-lap shootout to win the all-star race. "We (did), and it allowed us to get position on him and even get him shuffled a few spots.

      "That was all good, but his car was just so fast he just overcame that track position."

      Hamlin lost the lead when the lapped car of Peyton Sellers stayed low and forced Hamlin's No. 54 Toyota to pass on the outside.

      "I needed to stay on the bottom," Hamlin said. "My car was best on the bottom. His car was pinned to the bottom as well. So I needed all of the lapped cars to move up high, and all of them did, except for the 97 (Sellers). He gave us the high line. That just killed us and killed our chances from that point, once the 33 got to our inside."

      Dillon chose the inside line because his car had worked well on the bottom for the entire race to that point.

      "My spotter (Andy Houston) made the fact that we should have probably taken the top, and I had been on the bottom all day, so I chose the bottom again," Dillon said. "I just didn't want to let these guys down (his crew). The Rheem car was so fast ...

      "I thought about it, and I probably should have used the top, just because I would have had the run down the backstretch. It seems that, as the race goes on, that the outside can stop spinning the tires, and the rubber lays down ...

      "Andy made the point, and it all worked out, but I'll definitely learn from that, for sure."

      Smith, Wallace, Suarez and Ty Dillon qualified for next week's XFINITY Dash4Cash competition at Dover as the top four finishers among series regulars. Those drivers will compete for $100,000 in next Saturday's race at Dover, with the top finisher among them claiming the prize.

      NASCAR XFINITY Series Race - Hisense 300

      Charlotte Motor Speedway

      Concord, North Carolina

      Saturday, May 23, 2015

      1. (1) Austin Dillon(i), Chevrolet, 200, $70854.

      2. (4) Denny Hamlin(i), Toyota, 200, $45242.

      3. (8) Kasey Kahne(i), Chevrolet, 200, $35150.

      4. (15) Regan Smith, Chevrolet, 200, $34424.

      5. (2) Darrell Wallace Jr. #, Ford, 200, $35548.

      6. (19) Daniel Suarez #, Toyota, 200, $29090.

      7. (9) Ty Dillon, Chevrolet, 200, $27577.

      8. (16) Chase Elliott, Chevrolet, 200, $27640.

      9. (11) Elliott Sadler, Ford, 200, $25831.

      10. (12) Ryan Blaney, Ford, 200, $25997.

      11. (14) Chris Buescher, Ford, 200, $24514.

      12. (10) Ryan Reed, Ford, 200, $23983.

      13. (24) Jeremy Clements, Chevrolet, 200, $23375.

      14. (13) Kevin Harvick(i), Chevrolet, 200, $16895.

      15. (7) Erik Jones(i), Toyota, 200, $23170.

      16. (18) Dakoda Armstrong, Ford, 200, $22287.

      17. (21) Landon Cassill, Chevrolet, 200, $22060.

      18. (17) Brendan Gaughan, Chevrolet, 199, $21832.

      19. (6) Aric Almirola(i), Ford, 199, $15806.

      20. (3) Brian Scott, Chevrolet, 197, $22255.

      21. (25) JJ Yeley, Toyota, 196, $21554.

      22. (32) David Starr, Toyota, 196, $21497.

      23. (30) Blake Koch, Toyota, 196, $21448.

      24. (22) Ryan Sieg, Chevrolet, 195, $21381.

      25. (28) Chad Boat(i), Chevrolet, 194, $15496.

      26. (35) Jimmy Weller, Chevrolet, 193, $21311.

      27. (34) Kyle Fowler(i), Toyota, 192, $15275.

      28. (38) Peyton Sellers #, Chevrolet, 192, $21240.

      29. (23) John Wes Townley(i), Chevrolet, 191, $21194.

      30. (36) Eric McClure, Toyota, 189, $21449.

      31. (20) Ross Chastain #, Chevrolet, Engine, 187, $21113.

      32. (39) Joey Gase, Chevrolet, 186, $21067.

      33. (5) Kyle Larson(i), Chevrolet, 183, $15097.

      34. (26) Cale Conley #, Toyota, 146, $20991.

      35. (27) Harrison Rhodes #, Chevrolet, Transmission, 141, $20957.

      36. (37) Carl Long, Dodge, Engine, 129, $19499.

      37. (33) BJ McLeod(i), Chevrolet, Fuel Pump, 58, $18499.

      38. (31) Jamie Dick, Chevrolet, Accident, 45, $17499.

      39. (29) Timmy Hill(i), Toyota, Electrical, 40, $10499.

      40. (40) Jeff Green, Toyota, Vibration, 2, $9499.

      Average Speed of Race Winner: 139.824 mph.

      Time of Race: 02 Hrs, 08 Mins, 44 Secs. Margin of Victory: 2.692 Seconds.

      Caution Flags: 3 for 22 laps.

      Lead Changes: 9 among 7 drivers.

      Lap Leaders: A. Dillon(i) 1-98; D. Wallace Jr. # 99; K. Kahne(i) 100; D. Suarez # 101; L. Cassill 102-105; A. Dillon(i) 106-111; K. Harvick(i) 112-122; A. Dillon(i) 123-166; D. Hamlin(i) 167-185; A. Dillon(i) 186-200.

      Leaders Summary (Driver, Times Lead, Laps Led): A. Dillon(i) 4 times for 163 laps; D. Hamlin(i) 1 time for 19 laps; K. Harvick(i) 1 time for 11 laps; L. Cassill 1 time for 4 laps; D. Suarez # 1 time for 1 lap; K. Kahne(i) 1 time for 1 lap; D. Wallace Jr. # 1 time for 1 lap.

      Top 10 in Points: C. Buescher - 401; T. Dillon - 397; C. Elliott - 373; D. Wallace Jr. # - 371; R. Smith - 360; E. Sadler - 352; B. Scott - 350; R. Reed - 320; D. Suarez # - 320; B. Gaughan - 309.

  • Saturday, May 23, 2015
    Safety concerns hover over 99th Indianapolis 500
    By The Sports Xchange

    Drivers participating in the 99th running of the Indianapolis 500 received final instructions in the public drivers' meeting Saturday.

    • Questions about safety hover over Sunday's race at Indianapolis Motor Speedway -- known as "The Greatest Spectacle in Racing."

      Cars of Helio Castroneves, Josef Newgarden and Ed Carpenter all went airborne during practice sessions in the 10 days leading up to the race. All three drivers walked away unscathed, but IndyCar officials scrambled on qualifying day for a solution.

      James Hinchcliffe's crash in a post-qualifying practice only added to the drama.

      Hinchcliffe's crash was different than the others as his car had a failure in the right-front corner of the Honda, turning the car helplessly to the Turn 3 wall, where the impact with the ride side was ferocious.

      Hinchcliffe's car tried to flip over after a long slide, but the cause of that largely was tied to the right side being shaved off. The car went vertical only briefly before turning back on its wheels.

      A piece of the suspension came through the car and pierced the driver's upper-left thigh, an artery and his pelvis. He lost a lot of blood at the scene, requiring quick surgery. IndyCar announced Wednesday that Hinchcliffe won't require further procedures and is expected to make a full recovery.

      "This will never be a safe race -- it's an open wheel car going 230 mph over three and a half hours trying to win," said Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing driver Oriol Servia. "Safe is not really what defines it. It will never be. But I think it could be safer than what we'll do Sunday."

      Pole-sitter Scott Dixon was candid when asked whether he is expecting a safe race.

      "I hope so. That's all you can do," said Dixon, who is from New Zealand. "We've always been at these speeds, or close to them, and accidents are going to happen. You just hope everyone will be safe.

      "I think everybody will be on the edge of their seats. The race will be very good."

      Meanwhile, awards were given out Saturday in the final activity at the track before the race. IndyCar Series driver Ryan Hunter-Reay and racing legend Mario Andretti -- representing his son, Andretti Autosport owner Michael Andretti -- each accepted a "Baby Borg" trophy from Brady Ericson, president and general manager of BorgWarner Emission Systems, for being the winning driver and car owner at the 2014 race.

      The Baby Borg is a miniature replica of the famed Borg-Warner Trophy, which bears the bas-relief likeness, name and average speed of every Indianapolis 500 winner.

      Hunter-Reay and Andretti received winning driver and car owner's rings from Ken Keltner of Herff Jones and Gordon Knapp, COO of Bridgestone Americas, respectively.

      "It's been a productive morning for me," Mario Andretti joked. "I've been wanting a Baby Borg, since I only got a plaque to honor my win (in 1969), so I'm keeping this and the ring, too."

      Firestone also awarded its Legends of the Indianapolis 500 Award to four-time Indy 500 winner Al Unser. A $20,000 donation will made in his name to the Unser Children's Discovery Center in Unser's hometown of Albuquerque, N.M.

      Unser also was honored as part of Legends Day at IMS and addressed the 33-driver field.

      "Who wants to trade me?" he asked. "I don't want the back row. I've been there."

      Deb Osza, general manager for the American Dairy Association of Indiana, presented the "Winners Drink Milk" plaque honoring Louis Meyer to Hunter-Reay for his victory last year. Keltner presented special Indianapolis 500 starter's rings by Herff Jones to all 33 drivers.

      Brian Barnhart, IndyCar Series race director, concluded the drivers' meeting by discussing race rules and guidelines with the drivers.

      NOTES: For the first time, the ABC broadcast of the Indianapolis 500 will track drivers' heart rates during the race and how they change under stressful situations. Dr. Terry Lyles developed a biotelemetry system that will be worn by James Jakes, driver of the No. 7 Schmidt Peterson Motorsports Honda, and Sage Karam, driver of the No. 8 Comfort Revolution/Big Machine Records Chevrolet. Readings from the sensor will be sent through the cars' on-board telemetry, allowing the ESPN production crew to capture the data for use on the broadcast. ... The 99th running of the Indy 500 will be broadcast on ABC for the 51st consecutive year, with the pre-race show beginning at 11 a.m. ET Sunday. "We're always looking for better ways to serve fans and this is an opportunity to bring the viewers something they've never seen before," said Rich Feinberg, vice president of production for ESPN. ... James Davison is hoping to have a little extra push in the race. Davison and his Dale Coyne Racing team hosted a group of military veterans from Folds of Honor and their families for a garage tour before members of the group affixed their thumbprints to the ReplayXD logos on the rear wing of the No. 19 Honda that Davison will drive in the race. Folds of Honor provides scholarships to the spouses and children of fallen heroes. ... Davison, who will start 33rd in his second Indy 500 after teammate Tristan Vautier qualified his car while Davison was racing a sports car in Canada, is up for the challenge of starting in the back. He knows he has a strong car after running 11th in the Carb Day practice on Friday. ... The No. 15 Steak 'n Shake Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing crew for driver Graham Rahal won the Firestone Pit Stop Performance Award and its $10,000 prize with a total pit-lane time of 80.341 seconds during the Grand Prix of Indianapolis on May 9. ... Actor Patrick Dempsey, a former Verizon IndyCar Series team co-owner, was named honorary starter and will wave the green flag to start the race.

  • Saturday, May 23, 2015
    Birth of son brings change to Kyle Busch's life
    By The Sports Xchange

    By Reid Spencer, NASCAR Wire Service

    • Distributed by The Sports Xchange

      CONCORD, N.C. -- The birth of a first child is often described as a life-changing experience.

      For NASCAR Sprint Cup Series driver Kyle Busch, it has also been diaper-changing.

      Brexton Locke Busch was born to Kyle and wife Samantha Busch on Monday night, and the routine of the driver of the No. 18 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota changed immediately.

      "It's a whole new world right now for sure," acknowledged Kyle Busch, who fielded questions from reporters before Thursday night's Coca-Cola 600 qualifying session at Charlotte Motor Speedway. "It's an entirely different feeling. You wonder where the time goes already. I was trying to get ready this morning, and Samantha was trying to get ready -- she had to take him for an appointment and some other stuff, and I'm trying to help out -- and all of the sudden it's time for me to leave to come out here to the race track and I'm like, 'Holy smokes, I have to get ready, I have to hurry up.'

      "That was different. It's way different than what it was before he was born. Obviously, Samantha was taking care of him. She had him in her, so just taking care of him that way and carrying him around. I didn't have to worry about anything. I didn't have to feed him, I didn't have to change him or nothing like that, but it's a whole different world now that he's here with having to take care of him, so we both have to spread our time. Obviously, when his favorite thing to do is make stinky diapers, then you've certainly got your work cut out for you."

      The birth of his son capped a milestone week for the driver of the No. 18 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota, who returned to competition for the first time two days earlier. Busch broke his right leg and left foot on Feb. 21 in an accident at Daytona during a NASCAR XFINITY Series race and missed the first 11 Sprint Cup points races of the season.

      In his first competitive action since the wreck that sidelined him, Busch finished sixth in last Saturday's NASCAR Sprint All-Star Race. On Sunday, he'll race for the first time in an event that counts in the standings.

      But the thrill of being back on the track couldn't compare to the feelings that surfaced when Busch witnessed the birth of his son.

      "It was emotional and physically taxing on me," Busch said. "I couldn't imagine what Samantha was going through. Obviously, I was there and trying to help her and coach her and be with her the entire time, and she did phenomenal.

      "For me, just working through that whole experience was -- I can't even really put a word on it, I guess. It was just an amazing feeling. She's a champ -- Samantha is my champion. No matter how well or how successful I ever am in my career, she's got the championship trophy already on her mantle."

      TIME FLIES WHEN YOU'RE HAVING FUN

      Greg Biffle made his NASCAR Sprint Cup Series debut in 2002 at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, Calif.

      On Sunday at Charlotte Motor Speedway (6 p.m. ET on FOX), Biffle, 45, will race for the 450th time in NASCAR's top series.

      "It's kind of amazing how fast the time goes by," said Biffle, who has accumulated 19 victories in his 14-year career with Roush Fenway Racing. "I remember my 300th start; we did a deal at Martinsville a few years back.

      "It seems like it was last year or the year before, but it was 150 starts ago, and that is a long time. It amazes you how fast it goes, and I've got a lot of great memories, wins, close races and fun times."

      Biffle hopes the fun continues on Sunday, when he takes the green flag in the Coca-Cola 600. The driver of the No. 16 Ford would like nothing better than to break his current 68-race winless streak with a breakthrough victory at Charlotte.

      Saturday's practice results were promising. Biffle had the fifth-fastest 10-lap average in the first session and posted the fourth-quickest lap during Happy Hour.

      SHORT STROKES

      David Ragan was fourth fastest in Saturday's first practice but spun off Turn 4 and slid through the infield grass during the session. Amazingly, the car sustained no serious damage from the incident ...

      Erik Jones took over for Kyle Busch late in Happy Hour to prepare for the possibility Busch might need a relief driver in NASCAR's longest race on Sunday. Returning to competition after rehabilitation from injuries sustained at Daytona in February, Busch said he intends to complete all 600 miles ...

      Kurt Busch led both Sprint Cup practices on Saturday, running 192.644 mph, the fastest lap of the day, during the morning session when temperatures were cooler.

  • Friday, May 22, 2015
    NASCAR plans American salute at Coca-Cola 600
    By The Sports Xchange

    Staff Report

    • NASCAR Wire Service

      Distributed by The Sports Xchange

      A major faction for Sunday's Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway will be noticeably absent yet far from forgotten.

      They are the fallen heroes of the U.S. Armed Forces, and although their uniforms have been retired and their medals preserved -- their legacies remain untouchable. NASCAR will pay tribute them in a special Memorial Day event featuring 600 Miles of Remembrance at Charlotte Motor Speedway.

      The Coca-Cola 600 marks the launch of NASCAR: An American Salute, the industry's collective expression of reverence, respect and gratitude for those who have served and those who continue to defend.

      Sunday's race will feature all 43 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series drivers in cars bearing the names of fallen heroes, some with more personal ties than others.

      Roush Fenway Racing driver Greg Biffle will proudly showcase the name Pvt. Dean Van Dyke, a relative killed in Vietnam. A member of the BK Racing team's pit crew -- Chris Clayton -- will honor his relative First Lt. Daniel Hyde, who was killed alongside him during Operation Iraqi Freedom.

      "The NASCAR community rallying to honor the U.S. Armed Forces, past and present, has long been part of our sport's heritage," said Brent Dewar, chief operating officer for NASCAR. "As part of NASCAR: An American Salute, 600 Miles of Remembrance represents a special moment in time as we pay tribute to service members who have sacrificed dearly for our freedom."

      The Coca-Cola 600 -- which is expected to host more than 6,000 active military members -- is the first of several on-and-off-track activities to support the seven-week campaign, culminating Independence Day Weekend with the Coke Zero 400 at Daytona International Speedway.

      As part of NASCAR: An American Salute, fans will have front-seat access to the stories of our nation's military heroes on NASCAR's social platforms. Fans, service members and families are encouraged to offer their own words of gratitude using #NASCARSalutes.

      Catch live interviews with NASCAR drivers on Sunday as they discuss 600 Miles of Remembrance on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio (Channel 90) during a special military tribute show airing at 1 p.m. ET.

      The "Dialed In Salute to the Troops" special, hosted by Claire B. Lang, will highlight interviews with several drivers as well as service men and service women from various branches of the military.

      Then tune in at 6 p.m. ET to see and hear the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series' Coca-Cola 600, broadcast live from Charlotte Motor Speedway on FOX, PRN and SiriusXM Radio. Additional live coverage can be found on NASCAR.com.

  • Friday, May 22, 2015
    Huertas not medically cleared to drive in Indy 500
    By The Sports Xchange

    Driver Carlos Huertas has been ruled out of the 99th running of the Indianapolis 500 with an inner ear condition.

    • Huertas had qualified 18th in the No. 18 Dale Coyne Racing Honda car.

      Dr. Terry Trammell, IndyCar's medical consultant, said Friday that Huertas will have to undergo further evaluation before being cleared to return to IndyCar Series competition. The 23-year-old Colombian is out for the remainder of Indy 500 on-track activities, including Friday's one-hour carb day practice and Sunday's race.

      Huertas was scheduled to start on the outside of Row 6. The car will be moved to the last row of the 33-car field because IndyCar requires driver changes prior to the race to start in the back.

      Tristan Vautier will drive the No. 18 car and start in the last row.

      Starting lineup for the 99th Indianapolis 500 Verizon IndyCar Series event on the 2.5-mile Indianapolis Motor Speedway, with rank, car number in parentheses, driver, chassis-engine, time and speed in parentheses:

      1. (9) Scott Dixon, Chevrolet, 02:38.7579 (226.760)

      2. (1) Will Power, Chevrolet, 02:39.0458 (226.350)

      3. (22) Simon Pagenaud, Chevrolet, 02:39.1900 (226.145)

      4. (10) Tony Kanaan, Chevrolet, 02:39.6428 (225.503)

      5. (3) Helio Castroneves, Chevrolet, 02:39.6439 (225.502)

      6. (25) Justin Wilson, Honda, 02:39.8022 (225.279)

      7. (11) Sebastien Bourdais, Chevrolet, 02:39.8626 (225.193)

      8. (27) Marco Andretti, Honda, 02:39.8659 (225.189)

      9. (21) Josef Newgarden, Chevrolet, 02:39.8670 (225.187)

      10. (6) JR Hildebrand, Chevrolet, 02:39.9297 (225.099)

      11. (26) Carlos Munoz, Honda, 02:39.9703 (225.042)

      12. (20) Ed Carpenter, Chevrolet, 02:40.0830 (224.883)

      13. (32) Oriol Servia, Honda, 02:40.1585 (224.777)

      14. (83) Charlie Kimball, Chevrolet, 02:40.1828 (224.743)

      15. (2) Juan Pablo Montoya, Chevrolet, 02:40.2446 (224.657)

      16. (28) Ryan Hunter-Reay, Honda, 02:40.3041 (224.573)

      17. (15) Graham Rahal, Honda, 02:40.5064 (224.290)

      18. (29) Simona de Silvestro, Honda, 02:40.8304 (223.838)

      19. (7) James Jakes, Honda, 02:40.8651 (223.790)

      20. (48) Alex Tagliani, Honda, 02:40.9140 (223.722)

      21. (8) Sage Karam, Chevrolet, 02:41.0051 (223.595)

      22. (43) Conor Daly, Honda, 02:41.0865 (223.482)

      23. (24) Townsend Bell, Chevrolet, 02:41.1119 (223.447)

      24. (14) Takuma Sato, Honda, 02:41.2718 (223.226)

      25. (63) Pippa Mann, Honda, 02:41.3600 (223.104)

      26. (98) Gabby Chaves, Honda, 02:41.4958 (222.916)

      27. (17) Sebastian Saavedra, Chevrolet, 02:41.5086 (222.898)

      28. (41) Jack Hawksworth, Honda, 02:40.9022 (223.738)

      29. (4) Stefano Coletti, Chevrolet, 02:42.1617 (222.001)

      30. (88) Bryan Clauson, Chevrolet, 02:42.6328 (221.358)

      31. (5) Ryan Briscoe, Honda, 02:41.0602 (223.519) *

      32. (18) Tristan Vautier, Honda, 02:40.5473 (224.233)**

      33. (19) James Davison, Honda, 02:40.8960 (223.747) ***

      * - Substitute driver for James Hinchcliffe, who qualified car on May 17; ** - Replacement driver for Carlos Huertas, who qualified car on May 17; *** - Replacement driver for Tristan Vautier, who qualified car on May 17. Note: Car order for Cars 5, 18 and 19 set by IndyCar Series entrant points entering event.

  • Thursday, May 21, 2015
    Kenseth wins pole for Coca-Cola 600
    By The Sports Xchange

    By Reid Spencer

    • NASCAR Wire Service

      Distributed by The Sports Xchange

      CONCORD, N.C. -- After powering to his second pole of the season on Thursday night, Matt Kenseth will start NASCAR's longer race from the most advantageous position -- with his Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota getting serviced in the most advantageous pit stall.

      Kenseth ran his fastest lap of the night (194.252 mph) in the third and final round of knockout qualifying at Charlotte Motor Speedway and secured the top spot on the grid for Sunday's Coca-Cola 600 (6 p.m. ET on FOX), the 12th NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race of the season.

      The pole was Kenseth's first at Charlotte and the 15th of his career. Kenseth, who covered the 1 1/2-mile distance in 27.799 seconds, was a whopping .204 of a second faster than Joey Logano (192.836 mph), whose Team Penske Ford will start beside Kenseth's Camry on the front row.

      "I think starting up front is important at this track," Kenseth said. "It typically goes through a lot of changes here, especially if the sun is out for the beginning of the race. You want to have good track position, good pit selection -- all those things -- so if you get a little bit off and you're chasing the setup, or the track changes, you have a little bit of a buffer being toward the front, hopefully...

      "All the Joe Gibbs Racing Toyotas had some speed tonight, and that was encouraging."

      Carl Edwards (192.733 mph) was third in his Joe Gibbs Toyota, followed by Greg Biffle in his Roush Fenway Ford (192.226 mph) and NASCAR Sprint All-Star Race winner Denny Hamlin in his JGR Toyota (192.007 mph).

      Surprisingly, in consecutive seasons that have seen domination of the intermediate speedways by the Stewart-Haas Chevrolet of reigning series champion Kevin Harvick and the Chevy of six-time champ Jimmie Johnson, Toyotas and Fords claimed the top seven qualifying positions for the 600.

      To Logano, however, the absence of a Chevrolet from the top five spots on the grid for the first time this season isn't hugely significant.

      "Those guys have been fast in the race -- that's where their speed really shines," Logano said. "They qualify good -- don't get me wrong -- but in the race they shine a little bit more. You’re talking about the 4, the 41 (Kurt Busch) and the 48. Those are the ones that stand out.

      "And I'm sure they'll be fast when it comes to race time. Qualifying's a different animal. You use a completely different setup, and qualifying can kind of mask over some issues you have in race trim a lot of times. ... I wouldn’t (read) too much into it."

      NOTES: All four Hendrick Motorsports entries failed to advance to the final round of knockout qualifying, but Kasey Kahne had a valid excuse. A cut tire prevented him from posting a quick qualifying laps. As a result, the three-time winner of the Coke 600 will start 33rd on Sunday. ... Jeb Burton, Mike Bliss, Travis Kvapil, Jeff Green and Brendan Gaughan failed to make the 43-car field. The 48-car turnout for qualifying was the largest since 49 entries showed up for the season-opening Daytona 500.

  • Thursday, May 21, 2015
    Briscoe replaces rapidly recovering Hinchcliffe at Indy
    By The Sports Xchange

    Veteran driver Ryan Briscoe was named Thursday to replace injured James Hinchcliffe in Sunday's Indianapolis 500.

    • Briscoe will take over Schmidt Peterson Motorsports' No. 5 Arrow/Lucas Oil Honda for the 99th running of the race.

      Hinchcliffe was injured in a high-speed practice crash at Indianapolis Motor Speedway and underwent surgery on Monday.

      "We explored quite a few options and felt confident in Briscoe," team co-owner Sam Schmidt said. "We were glad he was available and willing to drive for us with such short notice. Obviously, this was not a situation we were expecting to be in for the biggest race of the year, but we're making the best of it. Our thoughts and prayers are with James and his family right now."

      The 33-year-old Briscoe ran 21 laps on Thursday during a one-hour practice session to get acclimated to the car, which will start in the middle of the 11th row on Sunday.

      "First and foremost, I feel absolutely terrible for Hinch," Briscoe said. "I wish him the best and a speedy recovery."

      Briscoe will get more track time on Friday with the others in the 33-car field during the annual Carb Day in preparation for his 10th career start in the race. He won the pole in 2012 and finished fifth that year.

      "You (usually) sort of prepare for this race a year out," Briscoe said. "You visualize how you're going to go through practice, all the prep you're going to do, and something like this comes up and you throw that all out the window.

      "I feel with my experience and the experience the team has, the experience that Hinch has had with (race engineer) Allen McDonald putting this car in really good condition for the race, I feel really confident that even with a few laps I'll be able to find my groove again."

      Hinchcliffe's condition was reported to be improving rapidly after he underwent surgery at IU Health Methodist Hospital on Monday for pelvic and upper left thigh injuries caused by a piece of the car's suspension piercing the driver's tub. He is out of intensive care and receiving visitors.

      "Every 24 hours that goes by, the doctors are amazed," Schmidt said. "There was a lot of speculation about an injury this critical in nature and how long it would take. All of that is proving to be completely not the case. He's exceeding everybody's expectations every day."

      A full recovery is anticipated, but Hinchcliffe is not expected to return to racing this year.

  • Thursday, May 21, 2015
    Johnson looks to pick up pace at Charlotte
    By The Sports Xchange

    By Reid Spencer

    • NASCAR Wire Service

      Distributed by The Sports Xchange

      CONCORD, N.C. -- After last Saturday's lackluster performance in the NASCAR Sprint All-Star Race, Jimmie Johnson returned to Charlotte Motor Speedway on Thursday still searching for speed.

      Apparently, he found it.

      In opening practice for Sunday's Coca-Cola 600 (6 p.m. ET on FOX), Johnson was second on the speed chart to Carl Edwards at the 1 1/2-mile track, posting a lap at 191.673 mph.

      "Unfortunately, the showing we had in the All-Star race was less than stellar," Johnson said. "The confidence we would normally walk in with has been diluted with lack of speed that we had then. Brought back a different car and certainly trying to do things differently with the setup of the race car. I think the 600-mile race has always been good for us.

      "(Crew chief) Chad (Knaus) and I seem to fix our race car as the night goes on, be aggressive with adjustments, chase the racetrack well, and I do a nice job searching for a line. The distance of the race doesn’t bother me.

      "I think we'll have a strong night, but we have a few things to sort out today and even into Saturday's practice sessions, based on what we learned and what we saw during the all-star race."

      There's only one problem with practicing in the sunlight, which the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series drivers did on Thursday. The Coca-Cola 600 concludes in the dead of night, and track conditions invariably are quite different.

      Johnson found that out the hard way during the All-Star Race.

      "The car had decent speed in practice in the sun," the six-time series champion said of his effort last weekend. "We got into the night and just couldn't get the car to turn. ... All this day practice does not help build confidence in a night race.

      "We thought we were good in the day last weekend, went to night and didn't have what we needed. This track is tricky. It's tough to get it right. Luckily, it's a long race, and if need be, in the race we will make big changes."

      WILL HARVICK/JOHNSON DOMINANCE CONTINUE?

      More than seven months ago, Joey Logano took the checkered in the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Kansas Speedway.

      That was the last time a driver other than Kevin Harvick or Jimmie Johnson won a NASCAR Sprint Cup Series points race at a 1 1/2-mile intermediate speedway.

      Harvick won at Charlotte on Oct. 11. Johnson followed with a victory at Texas on Nov. 2, and Harvick locked up his first series championship when he triumphed at Homestead-Miami Speedway on Nov. 16.

      A week after Johnson won the first open-motor race of the 2015 season at Atlanta, Harvick took the checkered flag at Las Vegas. Johnson followed with wins at Texas in April and Kansas on May 8.

      Do the math. That's seven straight races on 1 1/2-mile tracks won by Harvick or Johnson.

      True, Denny Hamlin won last Saturday night's NASCAR Sprint All-Star Race, holding off Harvick during the final 10 laps, but that event didn't count in the standings. Sunday's Coca-Cola 600 does, and given the recent results, there's no reason not to consider Harvick and Johnson the co-favorites.

      "I hope that we're on the winning side of it," Harvick said Thursday. "I think, as you look at our strengths as the No. 4 team and how we ran last week and the way (teammate) Kurt (Busch) ran last week, I think from a Stewart-Haas standpoint, we feel really good about coming into the week and where we are with things. I feel like hopefully we've made ourselves better than what we were last week.

      "You just never know, obviously. As you look at the results, the 1.5-mile tracks have been really good for us. This track in general, for the No. 4 team in general, has been good since really all last year. ... This is an important race as far as ones that you circle on the calendar. The Coke 600 is definitely one of those you want to win.

      "I think (crew chief) Rodney (Childers) and the team guys want to win it, too. You just never know what's going to happen, but you expect to be competitive and hopefully run up front."

      GORDON TO FOX BOOTH

      Jeff Gordon will join Fox NASCAR full time in 2016 as an analyst for the network's16th year of NASCAR Sprint Cup Series coverage, it was announced Thursday.

      Gordon will join play-by-play announcer Mike Joy and analyst Darrell Waltrip in the booth for the network's race broadcasts. Chris Myers will continue to host Fox Sports' coverage alongside analysts Larry McReynolds (who leaves the booth for this role) and Michael Waltrip.

      "NASCAR has provided me so many incredible memories, experiences and opportunities throughout my 23 years as a driver, and I can't wait to start a new chapter in racing with this new relationship with Fox and to be in the booth with Mike and Darrell," said Gordon, who has agreed to a multiyear contract that begins with in-race reporting from the No. 24 during selected races this year.

      “I feel so lucky to be a part of a sport that I'm very passionate about, and now I get the opportunity to share that passion to millions of race fans from a whole new perspective."

  • Thursday, May 21, 2015
    Gordon to work for Fox
    By The Sports Xchange

    Jeff Gordon is retiring as a full-time driver after the 2015 season but won't be out of work next year.

    • Fox Sports announced Thursday that Gordon signed a multi-year contract to join the network as a full-time analyst in 2016. He will be teamed with Mike Joy and Darrell Waltrip in a three-man booth.

      "NASCAR has provided me so many incredible memories, experiences and opportunities throughout my 23 years as a driver, and I can't wait to start a new chapter in racing with this new relationship with Fox," Gordon said Thursday. "I feel so lucky to be a part of a sport that I'm very passionate about, and now I get the opportunity to share that passion to millions of race fans from a whole new perspective."

      Gordon will begin working for Fox during Sprint Cup telecasts later this year when he offers in-race reports during some events. He already has worked as an analyst for Fox during Xfinity Series races this year.

      Larry McReynolds will move from the booth to an in-race analyst job with Michael Waltrip and Chris Myers. Gordon's first race next year will be at the Daytona 500.

      "The things that you see and are able to tell the fans and observe for the fans, when you are that close, and that relevant, from getting out of the car, is really unique," Fox Sports president Eric Shanks said. "It's great to be able to get somebody who will be able to tell you exactly what it's like to try to pass Kevin Harvick or hold off Kevin Harvick."

  • Thursday, May 21, 2015
    Indy 500: Has IndyCar solved flying-car problem?
    By The Sports Xchange

    INDIANAPOLIS -- The crashing-cars saga over the past week at Indianapolis Motor Speedway has many asking the same questions: Has IndyCar solved its problem of cars getting airborne? What happens if one flies amid oncoming traffic?

    • James Hinchcliffe's crash Monday in a post-qualifying practice only added to the drama. Clearly, Hinchcliffe's crash was different than that of Helio Castroneves (May 13), Josef Newgarden (May 14) and Ed Carpenter (May 17). Hinchcliffe's car had a failure in the right-front corner of the Honda, turning the car helplessly to the Turn 3 wall, where the impact with the ride side was ferocious.

      Hinchcliffe's car tried to flip over after a long slide, but the cause of that largely was tied to the right side being shaved off. The car went vertical only briefly before turning back on its wheels.

      A piece of the suspension came through the car and pierced the driver's upper-left thigh, an artery and his pelvis. He lost a lot of blood at the scene, requiring quick work and surgery. Rehabilitation figures to be lengthy.

      The popular Canadian has made four Indy 500 starts previously, with a best finish of sixth in 2012. He has won four IndyCar Series races, including the April 12 race at Barber Motorsports Park. He is being replaced in the 500 by veteran driver Ryan Briscoe, who earned the pole for Team Penske in 2012.

      IndyCar postponed last Sunday's qualification session by seven hours as it sought a solution to Chevrolets flipping. Being the third of those, Carpenter's created panic in the paddock, but Castroneves' crash should have elicited the most concern. As several engineers noted, the rear of Castroneves' car was off the ground even before the wall contact came.

      A blown tire turned Newgarden to the wall, and his flip was a result of climbing the Turn 1 wall. The same was sort of true for CFH Racing teammate Carpenter, although that Turn 2 trouble couldn't be linked to the tire. Apparently, it was truly an accident.

      After Carpenter's crash, IndyCar took the unprecedented step of forcing teams to race with the aerodynamic pieces used in qualifying. That didn't please Honda teams, which have had not had Chevrolet-like issues with cars in flight. But they obliged in the name of safety.

      Chevrolet took eight of the top 10 starting positions, with Honda drivers Justin Wilson sixth and Marco Andretti eighth. A third Andretti Autosport driver, Ryan Hunter-Reay, the reigning 500 champion, will start 16th. He started 19th last year, although he clearly doesn't feel as confident about his chances this time around.

      Scott Dixon has the pole, and he's one of five drivers already with 500 victories. The others are Castroneves (2001, 2002 and 2009), Juan Pablo Montoya (2000), Tony Kanaan (2013) and Hunter-Reay (2014). Dixon won in 2008 from the pole.

      Castroneves aims to join Indy's elite four-time champion club, which includes A.J. Foyt, Al Unser and Rick Mears.

  • Thursday, May 21, 2015
    Smith finally makes NASCAR's Hall
    By The Sports Xchange

    O. Bruton Smith, whose track annually hosts stock car racing's longest race and its all-star event, finally has been voted into NASCAR's Hall of Fame. That the Hall is located in Charlotte, seat of Smith's race promotion empire and scene of this weekend's Coca-Cola 600, seems only appropriate.

    • Smith should have been elected before now. The way NASCAR is structured, the race promoters are the most important element -- judging by who makes the most money. While the sanctioning body does very well financially as the middle man that conducts races and assigns TV rights, the France family that owns NASCAR does even better with its racetrack business.

      The ownership of both the sanctioning body and tracks where races are held is a longstanding conflict of interest, but it has always worked well for everybody. That includes Smith, whose Speedway Motorsports Inc. is a very lucrative company and second only to the France family's International Speedway Corporation in number of Sprint Cup races and revenue.

      One might not have thought it would turn out this way. When Detroit began churning out cheap and fast cars in the mid-1930s, many promoters saw stock car racing as just another thrill show for a gullible public. But some promoters more partial to racing, such as Bill France and Smith, saw bigger things. They both studiously avoided the suit jackets and fedoras favored by big-city promoters in favor of caps (France) or aviator sunglasses (Smith).

      After World War II, France and NASCAR, which he incorporated in early 1948, were hardly alone when it came to running stock car races. The popularity of racing production cars was blossoming across the country.

      Since the mid-1930s, France had always had an ace up his sleeve due to the popular and lucrative promotion of the Beach & Road Course races in Daytona Beach. But it's not as if he didn't have competition. A variety of promoters helped stoke the fires that eventually made the yeoman South the sport's hottest crucible.

      From 1948 to 1951, the National Stock Car Racing Association, organized by a group of drivers and promoters, went head-to-head with NASCAR in the Southeast. Both organizations fought for the best dates, the best drivers and the most popular tracks.

      The NSCRA's makeup included promoters such as Smith in Concord, N.C., Alf Knight in Chattanooga and Sam Nunis in Atlanta. Due to internal squabbles over dates and drivers who formed the majority of the membership, the NSCRA eventually folded. A driving force behind the group, Smith missed the breakup because he was drafted into the military. Had he not been serving overseas, the future of stock car racing might well have turned out differently.

      Under the one-man, one-vote system employed by France, who owned 40 percent of NASCAR while three partners each held 20 percent, conflicts within the organization were kept to a minimum. But outside the organization was a different story.

      France regularly scheduled races opposite Smith's Charlotte Speedway, including NASCAR's first Strictly Stock race, the series that eventually became the Sprint Cup. France later got the Lakewood Mile controlled by Nunis in Atlanta, the biggest and most popular on the NSCRA schedule, to switch to a NASCAR sanction. Once the NSCRA broke up in 1951, many of the drivers -- such as Jack Smith, Gober Sosebee, Billy Carden, Ed Samples and Buddy Shuman -- became better known for their NASCAR exploits. The latter two were the NSCRA champions during its three complete seasons.

      After splitting with the NSCRA, France frequently used the strategy of divide-and-conquer. For example, he signed West Coast promoter Bill Barkheimer into the NASCAR fold and made big-city promoter Ed Otto a partner and put him in charge of events in the Northeast and Midwest. Otto brought NASCAR to Soldier Field in Chicago and to Canada. Otto, who was not above blowing up caskets with dynamite or using buxom women in pre-race stunts to sell tickets, organized the race in Linden, N.J., on a road circuit won by a Jaguar in 1954.

      Smith eventually built Charlotte Motor Speedway, lost it due to too much debt, then came back to reclaim it by buying out stockholders. But Smith was already behind, because "Big Bill" had built Daytona International Speedway, launching the superspeedway era and putting himself head and shoulders above other promoters.

      Along with the already established Darlington track, Daytona, Charlotte and a new high-banked track in Atlanta -- eventually owned by Smith -- became cornerstones of NASCAR in the Roaring Sixties that ushered in the superspeedway era, which put stock car racing on the map.

      It wasn't until the 1990s that Smith started accumulating race dates by buying tracks such as North Wilkesboro and inaugurated a public stock offering among other initiatives, which led to his racetrack empire.

      Smith's tactics also led the France family to do likewise. But due to the control of the schedule, which limited Smith's new 1.5-mile tracks in Texas and Las Vegas to one date initially, the better-financed France family was always one step ahead during the rapid expansion of Speedway Motorsports and the International Speedway Corporation in the 1990s and first decade of the current century.

      Given that the voters for the Hall include many current or former NASCAR employees, it's not a surprise that Smith's entry has taken this long. Alas, that's the nature of all sports halls of fame, whose credibilities often are lessened by cronyism and politics. But Smith has made it after all. The sport of stock car racing has long been better off due to his presence.

  • Thursday, May 21, 2015
    Indy 500 Starting Lineup
    By The Sports Xchange

    The starting lineup for the 99th Indianapolis 500 on the 2.5-mile Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

    • Rank, car number in parentheses, driver, chassis-engine, time and speed in parentheses:

      1. (9) Scott Dixon, Chevrolet, 02:38.7579 (226.760)

      2. (1) Will Power, Chevrolet, 02:39.0458 (226.350)

      3. (22) Simon Pagenaud, Chevrolet, 02:39.1900 (226.145)

      4. (10) Tony Kanaan, Chevrolet, 02:39.6428 (225.503)

      5. (3) Helio Castroneves, Chevrolet, 02:39.6439 (225.502)

      6. (25) Justin Wilson, Honda, 02:39.8022 (225.279)

      7. (11) Sebastien Bourdais, Chevrolet, 02:39.8626 (225.193)

      8. (27) Marco Andretti, Honda, 02:39.8659 (225.189)

      9. (21) Josef Newgarden, Chevrolet, 02:39.8670 (225.187)

      10. (6) JR Hildebrand, Chevrolet, 02:39.9297 (225.099)

      11. (26) Carlos Munoz, Honda, 02:39.9703 (225.042)

      12. (20) Ed Carpenter, Chevrolet, 02:40.0830 (224.883)

      13. (32) Oriol Servia, Honda, 02:40.1585 (224.777)

      14. (83) Charlie Kimball, Chevrolet, 02:40.1828 (224.743)

      15. (2) Juan Pablo Montoya, Chevrolet, 02:40.2446 (224.657)

      16. (28) Ryan Hunter-Reay, Honda, 02:40.3041 (224.573)

      17. (15) Graham Rahal, Honda, 02:40.5064 (224.290)

      18. (18) Carlos Huertas, Honda, 02:40.5473 (224.233)

      19. (29) Simona de Silvestro, Honda, 02:40.8304 (223.838)

      20. (7) James Jakes, Honda, 02:40.8651 (223.790)

      21. (48) Alex Tagliani, Honda, 02:40.9140 (223.722)

      22. (8) Sage Karam, Chevrolet, 02:41.0051 (223.595)

      23. (43) Conor Daly, Honda, 02:41.0865 (223.482)

      24. (24) Townsend Bell, Chevrolet, 02:41.1119 (223.447)

      25. (14) Takuma Sato, Honda, 02:41.2718 (223.226)

      26. (63) Pippa Mann, Honda, 02:41.3600 (223.104)

      27. (98) Gabby Chaves, Honda, 02:41.4958 (222.916)

      28. (17) Sebastian Saavedra, Chevrolet, 02:41.5086 (222.898)

      29. (41) Jack Hawksworth, Honda, 02:40.9022 (223.738)

      30. (4) Stefano Coletti, Chevrolet, 02:42.1617 (222.001)

      31. (88) Bryan Clauson, Chevrolet, 02:42.6328 (221.358)

      32. (5) Ryan Briscoe, Honda, 02:41.0602 (223.519) *

      33. (19) James Davison, Honda, 02:40.8960 (223.747) **

      *Named as driver of car qualified by James Hinchcliffe.

      **Named as driver for car qualified by Tristan Vautier.

      Order of Briscoe and Davison determined by Verizon IndyCar Series entrant points entering the event.

  • Wednesday, May 20, 2015
    Labonte, Smith elected to NASCAR Hall of Fame
    By The Sports Xchange

    By Reid Spencer

    • NASCAR Wire Service

      Distributed by The Sports Xchange

      CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- The architect of some of NASCAR's most impressive facilities joined four of the sport's most tenacious racers in comprising the 2016 NASCAR Hall of Fame Class selected Wednesday.

      Two-time NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion Terry Labonte headlines a quartet of drivers that includes six-time NASCAR modified champion Jerry Cook, 1970 Cup titleholder Bobby Isaac and 17-time premier series race winner Curtis Turner, one of the most flamboyant figures to sit behind the wheel of a stock car.

      Joining the four men who made their reputations on the track was a man who has spent his life building some of the most prestigious venues in the sport, Speedway Motorsports Inc. chairman O. Bruton Smith.

      Another pioneer in the realm of race track construction, Darlington Raceway founder Harold Brasington, received the Landmark Award for outstanding contributions to NASCAR, announced Wednesday along with the 2016 NASCAR Hall of Fame inductees.

      Known as "Texas Terry," Labonte also earned the nickname "Iron Man" for his 655 consecutive starts in NASCAR's foremost series. He won his championships 12 years apart, driving for two different owners -- Billy Hagan in 1984 and Rick Hendrick in 1996.

      Labonte, who won 22 Cup races and 27 poles in a career that spanned 37 years, was in a hotel room with son Justin Labonte when he realized he had been elected to the Hall.

      "My phone started blowing up and I said, 'Oh, wow, I just got selected to the NASCAR Hall of Fame,'" Labonte said in a conference call with reporters. "(Justin) said, 'Oh, cool, is it on TV?' and we started flipping channels looking for it. ...

      "It was very exciting. It's quite an honor to be in that group of people that are in the Hall of Fame -- all these people I looked up to. I never really thought about being part of the Hall of Fame because there's so many great people that are in it."

      Isaac, who died in 1977, raced for the first time at NASCAR's highest level in 1961, but the most productive stretch of his career was compressed into two seasons, 1969 and 1970. In 1969, the Catawba, N.C., driver won 19 poles in 50 attempts, still a high-water mark for a Cup racing season.

      Isaac won 37 career races and 49 poles, ranking him 10th all time in the latter category. His conversion rate of poles to wins also was phenomenal; 19 of his 37 victories came from the top starting spot.

      Known as the "Babe Ruth of Stock Car Racing," Turner, who died in 1970, competed in NASCAR's first Strictly Stock event in Charlotte in 1949. Three starts later, he posted the first of his 17 victories in NASCAR's premier division at Langhorne (Pa.) Speedway.

      Known for his prowess on dirt tracks, Turner nevertheless won the Southern 500 in 1956 and the first American 500 at Rockingham Speedway in 1965. Turner, who also won 38 races in 79 starts in NASCAR's Convertible Division, is the only driver to win two consecutive races from the pole, leading every lap, a feat he accomplished in back-to-back starts at Monroe County Fairgrounds in Rochester, N.Y., and Charlotte (N.C.) Speedway in 1950.

      Renowned for his intense battles with NASCAR Hall of Famer and fellow Rome, N.Y., driver Richie Evans, Cook won more than 300 races in the NASCAR Modified division to go with his six titles, four of which were consecutive (1974 through 1977).

      Cook helped shape the NASCAR Whelan Modified Tour and served as series director before continuing his career with the sanctioning body as competition administrator.

      "This is like winning all the championships at one time," said Cook, the only inductee present at the announcement.

      Smith's Speedway Motorsports Inc. operates eight tracks that collectively host 12 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races. It was Smith's vision, for example, that transformed Bristol Motor Speedway from a half-mile short track to a vast coliseum with seating for more than 150,000 fans.

      "When I found out that I was nominated, I realized how much this meant to my family and the 15,000 employees that work for my companies," Smith said in a statement released after the results of the voting were announced. "Now I realize how much it means to me. It will truly be an honor to be remembered at the Hall of Fame along with people like Dale Earnhardt, Richard Petty, Glen Wood, Junior Johnson, Darrell Waltrip and so many others who helped build this sport.

      "That’s what I've tried to do my entire life. I'm a frustrated builder who had a knack for promoting races, and it's been fun to always try to push the sport to greater heights for the fans. From the first World 600, I've always wanted the fans to leave with something spectacular to remember about their experience."

      Smith was the leading vote-getter in the 2016 class, being named on 68 percent of the ballots. Labonte (61 percent) was second, followed by Turner (60 percent), Cook (47 percent) and Isaac (44 percent).

      The induction ceremonies for the 2016 class are scheduled for Jan. 22.

  • Wednesday, May 20, 2015
    Racing Glance
    By The Sports Xchange

    SPRINT CUP SERIES: Coca-Cola 600 Charlotte (NC) Motor Speedway; Charlotte, N.C.

    • TV: Sunday, 6 pm ET -- Fox Sports (Radio: Performance Racing Network/SiriusXM Channel 90).

      THEN AND NOW: NASCAR's longest and most grueling race of the season -- 400 laps, 600 miles -- is always an unpredictable event. It can be crash filled or be virtually incident free. Some races can finish in just over three hours or last more than five. Jimmie Johnson is the defending champion of the event, the fourth time he has captured the 600. He led just 44 laps in 2014 but was in the right place at the right time when the checkered flag fell. ... Heading into Sunday's race, Kevin Harvick remains the leader atop the Sprint Cup points standings. He holds a full race's worth of points lead over second-ranked Martin Truex Jr. (minus-46) and Johnson is a close third (minus-48). ... One of the big things to watch in Sunday's race is how Denny Hamlin does. He is coming off a win in last Saturday's non-points Sprint All-Star Race, which paid $1 million. Hamlin believes both he and Joe Gibbs Racing are poised for a turnaround and that the All-Star Race could be the start. ... Also watch for Kyle Busch, who returned to the track in last Saturday's Sprint All-Star Race after suffering a broken leg and fractured foot less than three months ago. Will Busch, who became a father for the first time earlier this week (wife Samantha gave birth to a baby daughter), be able to physically stand the 400 laps Sunday? There has been no word from Joe Gibbs Racing if Busch will have a relief driver standing by.

      XFINITY SERIES: Hisense 300, Charlotte Motor Speedway; Charlotte, N.C.

      TV: Saturday, 2:30 pm ET -- Fox Sports 1 (Radio: Performance Racing Network/SiriusXM Channel 90).

      THEN AND NOW: The undercard to the Sunday's main event typically is an extension of the Coca-Cola 600 when it comes to winners. In the last 12 Xfinity races on the Memorial Day weekend, 11 have been won by Sprint Cup regulars. Kyle Busch has the most wins (five). Another Kyle, Kyle Larson, won the race last season. ... Heading into the race, Chris Buescher is the new points leader, having taken the top spot by virtue of winning at Iowa Speedway this past Sunday. Former points leader Ty Dillon slipped to second place in the standings (minus-8), followed by defending series champ Chase Elliott (minus-31), Darrell Wallace Jr. (minus-37) and Brian Scott (minus-42).

      VERIZON INDYCAR SERIES: Indianapolis 500, Indianapolis Motor Speedway; Speedway, Ind.

      TV: Sunday, May 24, 12 pm ET on ABC (Radio: Indianapolis Motor Speedway Radio Network, Sirius Radio Ch. 213, XM Radio Ch. 209).

      THEN AND NOW: One more to go to 100 -- Sunday will mark the 99th running of the so-called Greatest Spectacle in Racing at the legendary 2.5-mile Brickyard. ... Ryan Hunter-Reay is the defending champion, but Helio Castroneves is going to have quite a bit of attention as he looks to become only the fourth driver in history to win the Indy 500 four times. The others are Rick Mears, Al Unser and AJ Foyt. ... Canadian driver James Hinchcliffe, who suffered critical injuries in a crash during practice on Monday was released from Intensive Care on Wednesday. Hinchcliffe suffered injuries to his pelvic area and upper thigh. Ryan Briscoe will replace Hinchcliffe in the race. It's uncertain how long Hinchcliffe will miss while recovering, but it would not be out of the question if he misses the remainder of the 2015 IndyCar season (11 races are left). ... Juan Pablo Montoya remains atop the IndyCar points standings. Montoya leads Will Power by five points and Castroneves by 10 points. All three drivers are with Team Penske. ... Scott Dixon won the pole at Indy last weekend, ending a streak of pole positions in the last eight consecutive races (the first five this season and the last three of 2014) by Team Penske.

  • Wednesday, May 20, 2015
    Hinchcliffe expected to make full recovery
    By The Sports Xchange

    Driver James Hinchcliffe won't require further procedures and is expected to make a full recovery from his injuries, IndyCar announced Wednesday.

    • Hinchcliffe has been transferred out of intensive care as he continues to make improvement following surgery for injuries suffered to his pelvic area and upper left thigh during a practice crash Monday.

      "We're very pleased with his progress and his condition continues to improve," said Dr. Timothy Pohlman, senior staff trauma surgeon at IU Health Methodist Hospital who performed the surgery. "Our expectation, in consultation with the IndyCar medical staff, is that a normal recovery is to be expected."

      Hinchcliffe was practicing for Sunday's 99th running of the Indianapolis 500 when his car crashed into the wall, causing the back end to burst into flames.

      The Canadian driver slammed into wall entering turn three, the fourth significant wreck during Indy 500 practice in the past week. Helio Castroneves and Josef Newgarden went airborne last week, and Ed Carpenter flipped his car on its side during practice leading up to qualifying. IndyCar officials later announced changes to cut down on power and speed.

      According to a Honda spokesman, Hinchcliffe's car experienced a right front suspension failure.

      Hinchcliffe's team owner, Sam Schmidt, said a piece of the car's wishbone pierced the tub and went through the driver's leg.

      "Words can't describe how thankful I am to the Holmatro Safety Team," Hinchcliffe said Tuesday. "Those guys, in addition to the doctors and staff at the hospital, are my heroes. I can't say enough how much I appreciate the outpouring of support from IndyCar fans, my family and fellow drivers. We are all one big family and it feels like that today."

      Ryan Briscoe will replace Hinchcliffe in Sunday's race. Briscoe is a nine-year veteran of the Indy 500, having won the pole in 2012 for Team Penske.

  • Tuesday, May 19, 2015
    Hinchcliffe listed in stable condition after surgery
    By The Sports Xchange

    IndyCar Series driver James Hinchcliffe remained in stable condition after surgery while showing improvement after a practice crash on Monday at Indianapolis Motor Speedway that injured his left thigh and pelvic area.

    • IndyCar announced that Hinchcliffe was undergoing additional evaluations in intensive care at IU Health Methodist Hospital and will not return to racing for the foreseeable future.

      "Words can't describe how thankful I am to the Holmatro Safety Team," Hinchcliffe said. "Those guys, in addition to the doctors and staff at the hospital, are my heroes. I can't say enough how much I appreciate the outpouring of support from IndyCar fans, my family and fellow drivers. We are all one big family and it feels like that today."

      His surgery was performed by Dr. Timothy Pohlman, senior staff trauma surgeon at IU Health Methodist Hospital, where Hinchcliffe was transported after Monday's accident.

      "He's stable and improving," Pohlman said. "His condition was critical upon his arrival and I think the IndyCar system as a whole needs to be commended for how well they can take care of drivers in this situation."

      Hinchcliffe was practicing for Sunday's Indianapolis 500 when his car crashed into the wall, causing the back end to burst into flames.

      The Canadian driver slammed into the wall entering turn three, the fourth significant wreck during Indy 500 practice in the past week. Helio Castroneves and Josef Newgarden went airborne last week, and Ed Carpenter flipped his car on its side during practice leading up to qualifying. IndyCar officials later announced changes to cut down on power and speed.

      According to a Honda spokesman, Hinchcliffe's car experienced a right front suspension failure.

  • Monday, May 18, 2015
    Hinchcliffe hospitalized after Indy wreck
    By The Sports Xchange

    IndyCar driver James Hinchcliffe was awake and out of surgery after being hospitalized Monday when his car crashed into the wall during practice for the Indianapolis 500 causing the back end to burst into flames.

    • "Obviously we're relieved that James is awake and out of surgery," said Schmidt Peterson Motorsports team owner Sam Schmidt. "That's the most important thing on our minds right now and we will do absolutely everything required to ensure a complete recovery."

      IndyCar officials said Hinchcliffe was in stable condition after undergoing surgery at IU Health Methodist Hospital for an injury to his left upper thigh.

      The Canadian driver slammed into the wall entering Turn three, the fourth significant wreck during Indy 500 practice over the past week. Helio Castroneves and Josef Newgarden went airborne last week, and Ed Carpenter flipped his car on its side during practice leading up to qualifying. IndyCar officials later announced changes to cut down on power and speed.

      According to a Honda spokesman, Hinchcliffe's car experienced a right front suspension failure.

  • Monday, May 18, 2015
    Hamlin makes All-Star effort
    By The Sports Xchange

    Denny Hamlin may not have abided by the precise rules of re-starts when he got the edge on the final green flag and won the $1 million payday at the Charlotte Motor Speedway on Saturday night. But in the unusual Sprint All-Star Race format with so many variations on rules, why not a little hocus pocus by the race leader?

    • It might not have pleased runners-up Kevin Harvick and Kurt Busch, but a little trickery on re-starts is a time-honored racing tradition. It wasn't as if Hamlin did anything they themselves have not tried in the past (speeding up and slowing down, then taking off slightly early).

      Perhaps there's a more serious question on rules that should be asked.

      Hamlin knew that once in the lead, his Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota would be hard to catch and pass. So Hamlin took off to a relatively anti-climactic finish – unless one counts the fact it was the first win in the All-Star race for Hamlin, Gibbs and Toyota.

      The current low downforce cars make overtaking mighty difficult on short runs once the leader is in clean air. If the trademark of a good NASCAR race is last-lap showdowns, should the rules for the current Gen 6 cars be altered?

      It was a weekend of rules changes elsewhere. The Indy Racing League altered its aerodynamic rules the morning of Sunday's qualifying for the Indy 500 after the third accident within three days where a car lifted off. In this case, the IRL's efforts to introduce variety to its race cars backfired when teams found ways to gain speed that led to cars getting airborne. The idea was to get away from the spec chassis in favor of cars that look different from one another – in other words to generate more fan interest in the sport.

      Also, in the run-up to the Monaco Grand Prix, Formula 1 announced radical changes to its cars in 2017 plus a return to mid-race refueling. The new cars will look jazzier and be faster. The new package is also part of an effort to generate more interest in F1 following two years of steady slippage in TV ratings in response to what was a radical change at the outset of the 2014 season to hybrid-powered, V-6 turbo cars.

      Both the IRL and F1 have demonstrated the perils of changing rules. It was a lesson that NASCAR learned with the Car of Tomorrow – which may have been safer but came to be despised by fans. NASCAR had put a self-imposed deadline of the All-Star weekend for announcing further downforce reductions in 2016, but those plans are at least on hold.

      Hamlin's runaway at Charlotte followed a similar finish to the preceding race at the Kansas Speedway, where Jimmie Johnson got away clean from Harvick due to a caution – as opposed to the formatted 10-lap shootout of the All-Star race.

      Try as the organizers might, the Sprint All-Star event predictably missed the mark due to a final 10-lap shootout that wasn't likely to produce many fireworks from the current low downforce cars. It seems all the teams knew the leader after the final pit stops would be the car to win.

      Brad Keselowski even speeded purposefully on the pit road to beat Hamlin to the pit exit, thinking if he didn't start first he wouldn't win, potential penalties be damned. "I'd rather go down swinging than take a strike," he said of a move that clearly irritated his own Penske Racing team.

      In addition to last-lap showdowns, the ebb and flow among a variety of drivers are key to sustaining fan interest – and different winners. In that category, the low downforce Gen. 6 cars are scoring well. Over the course of a full green flag run, there's plenty of action for fans to follow. There is the point of view that a faster car will prevail. Unfortunately, that wasn't the case on Saturday night for the quicker Harvick and Busch at the finish.

      Give Hamlin further credit for moving up a lane in Turn 2 with three laps to go to blunt the chasing Harvick's momentum. It seems to have become a standard practice – getting in front of the trailing car to use the aerodynamic wash to slow it down – and it worked for Hamlin.

      Give credit to the All-Star Race for putting more emphasis on the pit crews.

      Qualifying included a pit stop and four-tire change and resulted in Hamlin getting the number one pit stall at the end of the pit road. And when the final stops took place, his crew got him out first with an amazing sub-11 second change of four tires. So in that sense, the Gibbs team richly deserved the $1 million victory.

      Also, credit the race format for putting an emphasis on average finish in the first four 25-lap features to determine the order in which cars came down the pit road for the final, crucial stops. The "average finish" rule put a lot of emphasis on overtaking in the first four segments, which were long enough to create some ebb and flow. It bears mentioning, Hamlin opted for track position and took just two tires for his last 25-lap segment and came home third, which helped set up his "comeback" effort on the pit road. He entered sixth in line and came out first.

      A longtime critic of the All-Star format's plasticity over the years, this writer found it to be an almost entertaining format, especially given the emphasis on the athleticism of the pit crews. Tradition dictates a final 10-lap shootout, but with these cars 15 might work better.

      The finish was a chance to applaud a Joe Gibbs Racing team still struggling with the illness of its longtime president J.D. Gibbs, who was at the race while still battling symptoms of brain dysfunction. Even those not committed to the idea of a Higher Power had to like the fact Joe Gibbs spoke the invocation at a time when his family is relying on faith as much as anything.

      The weirdo types, boo birds and NASCAR critics might say Hamlin got away with one on the re-start in order for the Gibbs team to get the limelight. While there's enough evidence of selective enforcement over the years to fill, well, an entire scripture book, sometimes things just work out for a feel good story line.

  • Sunday, May 17, 2015
    Dixon wins Indy 500 pole
    By The Sports Xchange

    INDIANAPOLIS -- Scott Dixon won the Indianapolis 500 pole for the second time in his career in the most unusual circumstances Sunday.

    • IndyCar Series officials changed the qualification procedures at about noon, the second change of the weekend. The first was due to rain, the second because of a crash.

      Dixon won his first pole at Indianapolis Motor Speedway in 2008, the year he won the 500. Dixon, who drives for Ganassi Racing, also ended Team Penske's run of eight consecutive IndyCar Series poles dating to last season.

      A four-lap average speed of 226.760 mph was enough to put Dixon on top early in the process. He said he didn't watch the rest of qualifying, in part because there wasn't anything he could do about others taking a shot at his time. Drivers were only allowed one chance to make a qualifying attempt.

      "Yeah, the pressure was really tough there, and after you've done it, there's a sense of relief," said Dixon, a three-time IndyCar Series champion. "You've got to wait another two hours to see how it stacks up, and it was definitely very daunting."

      Reigning series champion Will Power (226.350 mph) and Penske teammate Simon Pagenaud (226.145 mph) joined Dixon on the front row for the 99th 500, which rolls off May 24.

      Sunday's drama started early when Ed Carpenter's car crashed hard in Turn 2 in practice, turning over and getting airborne before landing upside down. Carpenter was not injured, but he was angry at the circumstances.

      Not only was that the second destroyed car of CFH Racing this month -- Josef Newgarden crashed Thursday in practice -- but it was the third Chevrolet to get in the air. Helio Castroneves' car launched in Wednesday's practice.

      Gasoline Alley went into almost immediate panic after Carpenter's crash, with IndyCar officials convening first with Chevrolet and its team leaders, then with the principals from Honda, then with Chevrolet's again. Answers came after noon.

      IndyCar instructed all teams to focus on qualifying in race-day specifications, requiring each to race with the parts it qualified with. Those on the Honda side were upset, saying the changes should not have included its cars.

      But IndyCar executives Mark Miles, the CEO of Hulman Motorsports, and Derrick Walker, IndyCar's president, told a press gathering that the changes were based on safety.

      "This may be being done with an abundance of caution, but these are increasing speeds," Miles said. "We hope to go faster, but we're going to do so being responsible; safety is the first responsibility.

      "I think that's understood, generally speaking, in the paddock."

      Miles noted the differences in the crashes.

      "What puts a car in the wall in the first place?" he said. "And each of the three incidents may have happened for different reasons. Another is what gets the car to go backwards and ultimately in the air? We don't have complete clarity on that situation. This is the reason to be careful out there now."

      Honda teams were angry about the changes, but they reluctantly agreed to them due to the safety aspect. They couldn't argue with Walker on the point that it is possible the next three similar crashes could be with Hondas.

      "Even though we have every confidence in our design, we support IndyCar in their efforts to improve safety," Honda Performance Development president Art St. Cyr said.

      IndyCar also reduced engine boost levels to pre-qualifying levels, taking another 3-4 mph out of the speeds. The combination left qualifying speeds much slower than what was experienced in practice. More downforce and less engine power meant teams couldn't match the 233.474 mph lap Castroneves turned in Saturday before the rain arrived.

      Carpenter ran 231.806 mph just moments before he crashed. He couldn't explain what happened, but it certainly was a surprise given he was the pole winner both in 2013 and '14. Carpenter is one of only five drivers in history to win consecutive 500 poles. The most recent before him was Scott Brayton in 1995-96.

      Fortunately, he wasn't injured. Castroneves and Newgarden were not hurt in their accidents either.

      As a result of the equipment changes, IndyCar decided not to award points in qualifying, and it scrapped plans for a special pole shootout.

      The speedway aero kits were not full-scale tested until May 3 at IMS. Walker vowed to have an appropriate level of testing before the next oval-track race, set for June 6 at Texas Motor Speedway.

      IndyCar officials want to surpass Arie Luyendyk's qualifying record of 236.496 mph by 2016, the 100th running of the 500, and what happened this week does not necessarily change that goal.

      "This problem is solvable," Walker said.

      IndyCar will return to practice Monday from 12:30-4 p.m. with all 33 cars participating. The field has five former winners, including last year's champion, Ryan Hunter-Reay.

      The top five qualifiers are powered by Chevrolet, and there are only two rookies, Gabby Chaves and Stefano Coletti. The last time there were fewer first-time starters was in 1941 (one). There are four drivers who did not start last year's race, including the last-place starter, four-time USAC champion Bryan Clauson. His only other start was in 2012.

  • Sunday, May 17, 2015
    Buescher wins in thrilling finish at Iowa Speedway
    By The Sports Xchange

    By Robert Gray, NASCAR Wire Service

    • Distributed by The Sports Xchange

      NEWTON, Iowa -- Chris Buescher and all but one driver battling at the front of the pack yearned for one last caution.

      The lone exception?

      Chase Elliott, who, fully fueled, had powered to a commanding lead and near-certain win in Sunday's NASCAR XFINITY Series 3M 250 at Iowa Speedway.

      Two laps remained. Elliott's trip to Victory Lane loomed. Then, it happened.

      Jamie Dick, running mid-pack, hit the wall and spun, drawing a caution flag.

      Buescher -- his No. 60 Roush Fenway Racing Ford packed with fuel and four fresh tires -- smiled, charging hard and low on the restart to cap a temper-tinged and thrill-filled race with a green-white-checkered triumph at the 7/8-mile short track.

      "When that happened, I knew we had an awesome shot at it," said Buescher, who raced to the series standings lead by eight points over Ty Dillon, who finished 14th.

      Buescher had on-track help -- namely from Roush Fenway teammate, Darrell Wallace Jr., who provided a strong nudge as the race went green.

      Maybe more than a nudge.

      "(He) gave us a heck of a shot on the restart," said Buescher, who relegated Elliott to second while notching his first win of the season and Roush Fenway's fifth in 11 XFINITY Series races at Iowa. "It was a hard hit. That was almost a crash. It was exactly what we needed to get going and get to the inside and be able to pull this win off."

      Elliott took the runner-up finish in stride. He led 114 laps. His car ran fast all day long. The late-race pit strategy -- partly because of minor right-side damage, he pitted on lap 177 while other leaders stayed out -- nearly paid off.

      "That's racing some days," said Elliott, who like Buescher enjoys a series-leading five top-five finishes this season. "You make a decision -- and I think it was a good one. We had some right-side damage and it was good to come in and make sure that was OK rather than to face the opposite of that, cutting down a tire and have a day like we did in Talladega. So I think it was the right move."

      Erik Jones climbed from 35th to take third. Brian Scott and Ryan Blaney completed the top five.

      Jones started near the rear of the field because Drew Herring qualified the Joe Gibbs Racing No. 20 Toyota on the pole while Jones remained in Charlotte.

      By the Lap 60 competition caution, Jones had raced into the top 10, but couldn't find enough speed in the ensuing laps to advance past third.

      "We worked ourselves into a good position," Jones said. "A long day coming from the back."

      Buescher -- who raced outside the top 10 in both XFINITY Series Iowa races last season -- merely needed to come from the second row.

      He'd reluctantly accepted the waning laps would mostly entail driving in "points mode," as Dillon had pitted late after running in the top eight most of the day.

      "I hate points racing," Buescher said. "I despise it. When that caution came out -- watched it happen right in front of me -- it was like, 'All right, this is it. This is what we need. We need to come in and get some tires and get back rolling here.'"

      That he did, right to the top, for now, at least.

      "This is big," Buescher said.

      Black Flag: The race was marred by a temper-stoked wreck. Brennan Poole -- who felt rival J.J. Yeley had struck him intentionally early in the race -- spun Yeley out on lap 153. Yeley's car sustained damage, but he was unharmed. Poole drew the black flag and told the Motorsports Racing Network, "it happens." Yeley said the early-race encounter was unintentional and described his mood as "very furious."

      "Hopefully NASCAR gets ahold of him before I do," Yeley added.

      NASCAR XFINITY Series Race -- 3M 250

      Iowa Speedway

      Newton, Iowa

      Sunday, May 17, 2015

      1. (4) Chris Buescher, Ford, 259, $91509.

      2. (6) Chase Elliott, Chevrolet, 259, $70020.

      3. (1) Erik Jones(i), Toyota, 259, $57688.

      4. (3) Brian Scott, Chevrolet, 259, $40566.

      5. (13) Ryan Blaney, Ford, 259, $36811.

      6. (8) Darrell Wallace Jr, Ford, 259, $33637.

      7. (14) Ben Rhodes, Chevrolet, 259, $32286.

      8. (5) Brandon Jones(i), Chevrolet, 259, $31236.

      9. (10) Elliott Sadler, Ford, 259, $30106.

      10. (11) Brendan Gaughan, Chevrolet, 259, $30123.

      11. (7) Regan Smith, Chevrolet, 259, $28617.

      12. (16) Ryan Reed, Ford, 259, $28062.

      13. (18) John Wes Townley(i), Chevrolet, 259, $27532.

      14. (9) Ty Dillon, Chevrolet, 258, $27003.

      15. (19) Jeremy Clements, Chevrolet, 258, $26873.

      16. (20) David Starr, Toyota, 258, $26321.

      17. (21) Ryan Sieg, Chevrolet, 257, $26094.

      18. (2) Daniel Suarez #, Toyota, 257, $27042.

      19. (24) Cale Conley #, Toyota, 257, $25615.

      20. (25) Landon Cassill, Chevrolet, 257, $25888.

      21. (15) Dakoda Armstrong, Ford, 257, $25261.

      22. (23) Blake Koch, Toyota, 256, $25130.

      23. (40) Kenny Wallace, Toyota, 256, $18978.

      24. (29) Todd Bodine, Chevrolet, 255, $24828.

      25. (30) Jamie Dick, Chevrolet, 255, $24852.

      26. (22) Boris Said, Toyota, 254, $24575.

      27. (31) Joey Gase, Chevrolet, 253, $24449.

      28. (33) Peyton Sellers #, Chevrolet, 252, $18298.

      29. (36) Derrike Cope, Chevrolet, 247, $18171.

      30. (37) Mike Harmon, Dodge, 247, $18345.

      31. (39) John Jackson, Dodge, 247, $17889.

      32. (17) Ross Chastain #, Chevrolet, Accident, 215, $23778.

      33. (27) Eric McClure, Toyota, Accident, 160, $23662.

      34. (26) JJ Yeley, Toyota, Accident, 151, $23551.

      35. (32) Ryan Ellis(i), Toyota, Electrical, 99, $17436.

      36. (35) BJ McLeod(i), Chevrolet, Brakes, 68, $15678.

      37. (28) Harrison Rhodes #, Chevrolet, Suspension, 42, $14678.

      38. (12) Brennan Poole, Chevrolet, Parked, 39, $19678.

      39. (34) Charles Lewandoski, Toyota, Brakes, 4, $12678.

      40. (38) Carl Long, Toyota, Electrical, 0, $11678.

      Average Speed of Race Winner: 94.242 mph.

      Time of Race: 2 Hrs, 24 Mins, 17 Secs. Margin of Victory: 0.523 Seconds.

      Caution Flags: 9 for 54 laps.

      Lead Changes: 9 among 5 drivers.

      Lap Leaders: 0; D. Suarez # 1-48; C. Buescher 49-66; C. Elliott 67-144; C. Buescher 145-180; R. Blaney 181; C. Buescher 182-219; C. Elliott 220-255; R. Reed 256-257; C. Buescher 258-259.

      Leaders Summary (Driver, Times Lead, Laps Led): C. Elliott 2 times for 114 laps; C. Buescher 4 times for 94 laps; D. Suarez # 1 time for 48 laps; R. Reed 1 time for 2 laps; R. Blaney 1 time for 1 lap.

      Top 10 in Points: C. Buescher -- 368; T. Dillon -- 360; C. Elliott -- 337; D. Wallace Jr -- 331; B. Scott -- 326; R. Smith -- 320; E. Sadler -- 317; R. Reed -- 288; B. Gaughan -- 283; D. Suarez # -- 281.

  • Sunday, May 17, 2015
    Hamlin races to first All-Star win
    By The Sports Xchange

    CONCORD, N.C. -- Denny Hamlin claimed his first NASCAR Sprint All-Star Race win on Saturday night at Charlotte Motor Speedway.

    • It was also the first win in the All-Star Race for Joe Gibbs Racing.

      "Everyone worked hard for this win," crew chief Dave Rogers said. "I'm so proud to be a part of this team."

      Stewart-Haas Racing teammates Kevin Harvick and Kurt Busch finished second and third. Jeff Gordon was fourth and Matt Kenseth rounded out the top five.

      When the race field was reset to reflect the average finish for each driver in each of the four 25-lap segments before mandatory four-tire pit stops and the 10-lap sprint to the finish, Hamlin was placed sixth in the running order with Brad Keselowski in first, Busch second, Kasey Kahne third, Harvick fourth and Jeff Gordon fifth.

      Hamlin's team, though, was able to get him from sixth to first on pit road during the mandatory stop to restart first for the final 10 laps. Keselowski got off pit road second but was sent to the back after getting caught speeding on pit road.

      "I knew when I came out of my pit stall and the 11 (Hamlin) was pulling out with me that I either beat him to that line or lose the race, and the penalty was that I was 0.3 mph over the speed limit. But I told my crew chief I'd rather go down swinging than take a strike and wonder what might have been," Keselowski said.

      Hamlin's team pulled off a pit stop of 10.4 seconds for the lead that led to the win.

      "That's all there is to it," Hamlin said. "The pit crew did an amazing job. The number one pit stall also helped us. I knew it was fast when they went over to the left side."

      Harvick got up to second when the race restarted and ran right behind Hamlin before the winner pulled away in the closing laps to finish ahead of Harvick by 0.923 of a second.

      "I moved up and changed lines, and when I changed lines, the car just took off," Hamlin said.

      Keselowski led 41 laps throughout the first three segments before losing the lead on pit road when Kenseth and Hamlin took two tires for track position before the fourth segment. Kenseth lost positions in the running order when the race restarted and Busch moved up to second and then eventually took the lead from Hamlin.

      Busch pulled away and then Harvick moved into second to give Stewart-Haas Racing the top two spots in the running order at the end of segment four. Hamlin finished third in the fourth segment.

      "What a great night for the Haas Automation Chevy," Busch said. "We won a segment but not the right one. I don't know why we're standing here in third. I thought we were a better car than that."

      Keselowski was the leader at the end of the third of four 25-lap segment.

      Keselowski maintained his lead in the closing laps of the segment by holding off Harvick, who got by Busch in the final laps of the segment and closed in on Keselowski before running out of steam.

      Harvick finished the third segment in second, Busch third, Logano fourth and Kahne fifth.

      Jamie McMurray began the third segment with the lead with a two-tire pit strategy at the end of the previous segment. The call didn't pan out as McMurray was passed by Keselowski and Busch as soon as the race restarted and continued to give up positions throughout the segment.

      Hamlin started on the pole and led until he was passed by Kahne on Lap 15 of the first segment of the race. Kahne led the rest of the 25-lap segment but lost positions to Keselowski and Dale Earnhardt Jr. on pit road between segments one and two after Keselowski and Earnhardt took only two tires while the other drivers took four.

      With the two-tire strategy, Keselowski and Earnhardt started segment two on the front row. Keselowski ran up front throughout the segment, leading all but one lap of the second 25 laps, with the one other lap of the segment being led by Busch.

      Busch started the segment from the third spot but quickly got up to second and battled Keselowski throughout segment two. Earnhardt, though, wasn't able to stay near the front, dropping positions throughout the segment and falling outside the top 10 by the end of the second segment.

      NOTES: The starting grid for the Sprint All-Star Race included 20 cars/drivers, including Kyle Busch, making his first start after being sidelined by a broken right leg and broken left foot. ... Greg Biffle and Clint Bowyer advanced to the Sprint All-Star Race by being segment winners in the Sprint Showdown on Friday night. ... Danica Patrick got a spot in the All-Star Race by winning the fan vote, becoming the first repeat winner of the honor. ... Other drivers in the All-Star Race included 2014 and 2015 race winners, past Sprint Cup champions and former winners of the All-Star Race. ... Jamie McMurray won last year's All-Star Race. ... Jimmie Johnson is the winningest driver of the All-Star Race, winning four times, most recently in 2013.

  • Saturday, May 16, 2015
    Fan Vote gives Patrick chance to fine-tune balky car
    By The Sports Xchange

    Reid Spencer, NASCAR Wire Service

    • Distributed by The Sports Xchange

      CONCORD, N.C. -- Sometimes it's more productive to figure out what's wrong with a race car, rather than what's right.

      At least Danica Patrick hopes that's the case.

      And, fortunately for Patrick, winning the Sprint Fan Vote on Friday night gave Patrick's crew a chance to work on her car in preparation for Saturday night's NASCAR Sprint All-Star Race at Charlotte Motor Speedway (on FOXSports 1).

      That race, in turn, affords Patrick an extra 110 laps to try to improve her equipment for next week's Coca-Cola 600. Though Patrick won't run the same car she uses for the All-Star Race in NASCAR's longest event, the knowledge should transfer.

      "I found a lot of things I didn't like," Patrick said after finishing ninth in Friday night's Sprint Showdown. "So that usually helps springboard it to the next night. ... I wasn't happy with it, so I hope that means that it's going to be that much easier to make it better for (Saturday) night. We'll just have to see."

      Patrick said she and her entire team could use a test session at a 1.5-mile intermediate speedway. Since NASCAR no longer allows discretionary testing, logging laps in the Sprint All-Star Race, courtesy of her fan base, is the next best solution for Patrick, who is both grateful for the opportunity and determined to make the most of it.

      "I'm extremely fortunate to have some great fans," Patrick said. "They're very active all across all the social media platforms and just in general cheering for me out loud at the racetrack.

      "I'm just extremely fortunate. I don't take them for granted for a second. That's why I want to do well, 'cause I want to do well for all those people that wear my shirt and wave my flag and wear my hat."

      GREAT START FOR KAHNE -- FOR A CHANGE

      In relative terms, 2015 has been a strange season for Kasey Kahne, starting at Daytona.

      Why? Because, for one thing, Kahne didn't wreck in the season-opening Daytona 500, a radical shift in fortune for a driver who had been wiped out in his previous six starts in the Great American Race, four of the accidents leading to DNFs.

      This year, Kahne ran ninth in the 500, a considerable improvement over his average finish in the previous six races -- 30th. And with new crew chief Keith Rodden on his pit box this year, Kahne is 10th in points through the first 11 races of the season.

      "It's been nice not to be so far behind early in the year," Kahne said Friday at Charlotte Motor Speedway, seven hours before he moonlighted in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series and won his fifth race in six starts. "We got out of Daytona without wrecking and that was something different than I think the six previous 500's or something like that.

      "So it was nice to start off in the top 10 right off the bat. We've been able to do a pretty good job of staying in that top 10 since. The only reason we're in (as low as) 10th right now is because of things happening. Tony (Stewart) got me at Bristol and then we got in a wreck at Talladega. That's worth 60 points right there, so that's why we're in 10th.

      "I feel like we're doing a good job. We're not where we want to be, but we're much closer and we know the things that we need to keep working on."

  • Saturday, May 16, 2015
    Indy 500 qualifying washed out
    By The Sports Xchange

    Persistent Saturday afternoon rain canceled the remainder of scheduled track activity on the first day of qualifying for the 99th running of the Indianapolis 500.

    • The process begins anew Sunday when the forecast is calling for a 50 percent chance of rain and temperatures almost 20 degrees warmer than Saturday.

      A revised schedule for pole day calls for the 34 entries to make one four-lap qualifying attempt each on the 2.5-mile oval, followed by the "Fast Nine Shootout" in which the top nine cars return to determine the Verizon P1 Award for pole position and the first three rows for next Sunday's race. Finally, positions 31-33 will be determined in a 45-minute session.

      Ryan Hunter-Reay (229.845 mph) and Carlos Huertas (228.235) were the only drivers to post four-lap qualifying runs before the rain Saturday, but those will not count since not everyone was able to make an attempt.

      "You just have to wait for it and keep your thoughts cool and calm and collected and get on with the job," Hunter-Reay said. "It's not a big deal. It's OK."

      Two groups of cars will be accorded practice time Saturday morning prior to qualifying.

      In Saturday's morning practice, Helio Castroneves recorded a lap of 233.474 mph that, while unofficial, is the fastest lap at Indianapolis Motor Speedway since the 1996 race when Eddie Cheever Jr. had the fastest race lap at 236.103 mph. That same year, Arie Luyendyk set the one- and four-lap qualifying records (237.498 mph and 236.986 mph, respectively).

      "That 233 mph number was pretty cool, but it was with a little bit of help (with a tow from cars in front of him)," said Castroneves, driving the No. 3 Team Penske Chevrolet car. "The guys have really done an amazing job over the last couple of days since the (May 13 crash). To lose a day and still be on top of the practice speeds is a testament to how hard they worked. The weather, there is nothing we can do about the weather. We'll just come back and see what's in store."

      Castroneves seeks to join A.J. Foyt, Al Unser and Rick Mears as four-time Indy 500 winners, and he is in contention for pole history. Castroneves, with No. 1 qualifying efforts in 2003, 2007, 2009 and 2010, is tied with Foyt and Rex Mays. A fifth would put him second among all-time Indy 500 pole winners, one behind Team Penske consultant Mears.

      Castroneves also could give team owner Roger Penske a record-extending 18th pole position at the Indy 500.

      "It's a little bit of a disappointment that we didn't get to qualify today because the Team Penske cars were very strong in the practice sessions," said Juan Pablo Montoya, the Verizon IndyCar Series championship points leader. "I've been happy with the car even though we continue to struggle a bit with the balance. We are confident that we know what direction we need to go with the weather. It's going to be a fast, exciting qualifying session, I know that."

      In 2014, Ed Carpenter had a four-lap average speed of 231.076 mph -- the second consecutive year that he started from the pole. Carpenter will seek to become the first to earn the pole in three consecutive years.

      Twenty drivers have won the race from the pole -- most recently Castroneves in 2009.

      "Last year we were pretty solid, so I think we can get in (to the Fast Nine Shootout), but we've got to play our cards right and find a little bit (of speed)," said Carpenter, driver of the No. 20 CFH Racing Chevrolet car. "The thing we've got to figure out is how to make the fourth lap still be good."

      Will Power, who last week won the Grand Prix of Indianapolis from the pole, is attempting to pull off the first May sweep.

      "People will be, definitely, quicker than last year if it doesn't get really hot," Power said. "It's going to make the day really interesting tomorrow. When you make your first run, depending on where you are in the line, it's going to be very cool, and these cars are very, very affected by track temps, so if it goes up, you've drastically got to change your setup."

  • Saturday, May 16, 2015
    Kahne wins again, but truck fails inspection
    By The Sports Xchange

    By Reid Spencer

    • NASCAR Wire Service

      Distributed for The Sports Xchange

      CONCORD, N.C. -- Driving for Dale Earnhardt Jr.'s JR Motorsports, in the organization's second start in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series, pole-sitter Kasey Kahne won a two-lap drag race against Erik Jones for his fifth victory in six starts in the series.

      Kahne's victory in the North Carolina Education Lottery 200 at Charlotte Motor Speedway denied the dominant No. 4 Kyle Busch Motorsports Toyota of Jones, who led 88 laps but ran a disappointing second after a late caution forced a green-white-checkered flag finish that took the race five laps past its scheduled distance of 134 laps.

      In his six Truck Series starts, Kahne has five wins and a second-place finish.

      Kahne's No. 00 Chevrolet, however, failed post-race inspection. NASCAR deemed the front of the truck too low on both sides and too high in the right rear. The sanctioning body will take the truck to its nearby research-and-development center for further evaluation.

      If penalties are forthcoming, they will be announced next week.

      Kahne's margin of victory was a mere .005 of a second, tied for second closest in series history behind the .002-second margin of Kyle Busch over Aric Almirola at Talladega in October 2010.

      "Jones was really fast," Kahne said. "He was kind of in a league of his own when he could get to clean air. I knew if we could stay back and stay with him (on the final restart), as long as he didn't get to clean air, it would be all right.

      "I was able to side-draft, and it worked out perfect to get back to the line."

      Less than half a lap before Jones would have taken the white flag—after Jones made a deft pass for the lead to the outside on Lap 131 -- Daniel Hemric's accident in Turn 1 caused the fifth caution of the night, sending the race to overtime.

      Jones picked the outside lane for the final restart on Lap 138, but couldn't clear Kahne, who side-drafted Jones' Toyota Tundra off the final corner and beat him to the stripe.

      In the wake of last week's misfortune at Kansas Speedway, where Jones led 151 of 167 laps but ran short of fuel while leading late in the race, Friday night's result left the young driver bitterly disappointed.

      "It's really a shame that we can't bring it home," Jones said. "I really thought tonight was the night. Unfortunately, we just couldn't do it.

      "It just sucks. I don't know what to say. It just really, really hurts. I can't believe it, man. I really wanted this one, and it's hard to come home second."

      Interestingly, though Kahne and Jones qualified on the front row, both drivers had to start the race from the rear of the field, Kahne for an unapproved adjustment (changing a broken shock) and Jones for arriving late to the drivers1 meeting.

      But by Lap 26, after the first caution, Jones had the lead, a position he maintained until the late caution gave Kahne the opportunity he needed.

      NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Race - NC Education Lottery 200

      Charlotte Motor Speedway

      Concord, North Carolina

      Friday, May 15, 2015

      1. (1) Kasey Kahne(i), Chevrolet, 139, $48454.

      2. (2) Erik Jones #, Toyota, 139, $36563.

      3. (9) Matt Crafton, Toyota, 139, $26622.

      4. (7) Tyler Reddick, Ford, 139, $22672.

      5. (4) Brad Keselowski(i), Ford, 139, $17402.

      6. (11) John Wes Townley, Chevrolet, 139, $17157.

      7. (17) Timothy Peters, Toyota, 139, $16592.

      8. (3) Matt Tifft, Toyota, 139, $16481.

      9. (22) Justin Boston #, Toyota, 139, $16342.

      10. (18) Spencer Gallagher #, Chevrolet, 139, $17182.

      11. (16) Joe Nemechek, Chevrolet, 139, $15761.

      12. (6) Scott Lagasse Jr., Chevrolet, 139, $15566.

      13. (15) Brandon Jones #, Chevrolet, 139, $15427.

      14. (13) Cameron Hayley #, Toyota, 139, $15316.

      15. (19) Johnny Sauter, Toyota, 139, $15606.

      16. (10) Ben Kennedy, Toyota, 139, $15295.

      17. (5) Daniel Hemric #, Chevrolet, 139, $15040.

      18. (20) Tyler Young, Chevrolet, 138, $14984.

      19. (30) Jennifer Jo Cobb, Chevrolet, 137, $14929.

      20. (29) Kyle Fowler(i), Chevrolet, 136, $15373.

      21. (23) Tyler Tanner, Chevrolet, 136, $13546.

      22. (8) Ray Black Jr. #, Chevrolet, 135, $13485.

      23. (27) Jordan Anderson, Chevrolet, 135, $12457.

      24. (26) Caleb Holman, Chevrolet, 133, $12430.

      25. (28) Wendell Chavous #, Chevrolet, Engine, 132, $12525.

      26. (21) Mason Mingus, Chevrolet, Accident, 114, $12347.

      27. (14) David Gilliland(i), Ford, Vibration, 84, $12318.

      28. (31) Travis Kvapil, Chevrolet, Accident, 62, $12071.

      29. (12) Korbin Forrister #, Chevrolet, Steering Box, 38, $12016.

      30. (24) Justin Jennings, Chevrolet, Electrical, 33, $11516.

      31. (25) BJ McLeod, Chevrolet, Electrical, 26, $10016.

      32. (32) Norm Benning, Chevrolet, Suspension, 9, $9016.

      Average Speed of Race Winner: 128.947 mph.

      Time of Race: 01 Hrs, 37 Mins, 01 Secs. Margin of Victory: 0.005 Seconds.

      Caution Flags: 5 for 25 laps.

      Lead Changes: 12 among 6 drivers.

      Lap Leaders: K. Kahne(i) 0; B. Keselowski(i) 1-4; M. Crafton 5-22; J. Jennings 23; M. Crafton 24-25; E. Jones # 26-65; M. Crafton 66-69; E. Jones # 70-108; T. Reddick 109; E. Jones # 110; K. Kahne(i) 111-130; E. Jones # 131-138; K. Kahne(i) 139;.

      Leaders Summary (Driver, Times Lead, Laps Led): E. Jones # 4 times for 88 laps; M. Crafton 3 times for 24 laps; K. Kahne(i) 2 times for 21 laps; B. Keselowski(i) 1 time for 4 laps; J. Jennings 1 time for 1 lap; T. Reddick 1 time for 1 lap.

      Top 10 in Points: M. Crafton - 217; E. Jones # - 201; T. Reddick - 199; J. Sauter - 182; J. Townley - 160; T. Peters - 158; C. Hayley # - 153; J. Boston # - 149; S. Gallagher # - 145; D. Hemric # - 136.

  • Friday, May 15, 2015
    Biffle, Bowyer, Patrick take different routes into All-Star Race
    By The Sports Xchange

    By Reid Spencer

    • NASCAR Wire Service

      Distributed for The Sports Xchange

      CONCORD, N.C. -- Greg Biffle led every lap of the caution-free first 20-lap segment of Friday night's Sprint Showdown at Charlotte Motor Speedway.

      Clint Bowyer needed an early caution in the second segment to validate crew chief Brian Pattie's four-tire call.

      Though they arrived at the finish line through different routes, Biffle and Bowyer earned the two transfer spots into Saturday night's NASCAR Sprint All-Star Race (7 p.m. ET) and will compete for the million-dollar top prize.

      Ninth-place finisher Danica Patrick also made the field for NASCAR's glamour nonpoints race at the 1.5-mile speedway, as the first multiple winner of the Sprint Fan Vote.

      Biffle, who put a Roush Fenway Racing car into the Sprint All-Star Race for the 16th straight year, ran away from the rest of the field in the first segment, beating Bowyer to the stripe by 1.583 seconds, and took his car to the garage.

      "I'm really excited," said Biffle, who started second and traded paint with pole-winner Paul Menard before assuming the top spot on the first lap. "We've worked really hard and we had good track position. We qualified well. It seems like we're getting our cars a little bit better.

      "We know we still have work to do, but when it got out in clean air it was pretty fast, and we were able to hold off Clint and have a pretty good lead. I definitely didn't want to see a caution flag. I wasn't ready for a restart and mix it up again, but we're pretty happy with the car.

      "I've never been so excited to win half a race in my life."

      Martin Truex Jr. was one of four drivers who changed two tires during the break between segments, and the driver of the No. 78 Furniture Row Racing Chevrolet took the lead after close-quarters racing to start segment No. 2. But a caution for J.J. Yeley's spin out of Turn 4 slowed the field on Lap 22, and put Bowyer in position to take advantage of his four fresh tires.

      After two laps of breathtaking three-wide racing, Bowyer surged past Truex and Kyle Larson to take the lead for good. His winning margin over second-place Menard was 1.521 seconds, as Truex fell back to third and Larson pitted under green with a cut tire.

      "You definitely don't want to be known as the winner of the Sprint Showdown, but it's better than going home," quipped Bowyer, who like Biffle has suffered through an extended victory drought. "I'm glad we're a part of that show. ... I almost did a burnout."

      NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Race -- Sprint Showdown

      Charlotte Motor Speedway

      Concord, North Carolina

      Friday, May 15, 2015

      1. (2) Greg Biffle, Ford, Winner (Segment 1), 20

      1. (4) Clint Bowyer, Toyota, Winner (Segment 2) 40,

      2. (1) Paul Menard, Chevrolet, 40,

      3. (7) Martin Truex Jr., Chevrolet, 40,

      4. (13) Sam Hornish Jr., Ford, 40,

      5. (11) Chase Elliott(i), Chevrolet, 40,

      6. (5) Austin Dillon, Chevrolet, 40,

      7. (15) Trevor Bayne, Ford, 40,

      8. (14) Justin Allgaier, Chevrolet, 40,

      9. (8) Danica Patrick, Chevrolet, 40,

      10. (9) Casey Mears, Chevrolet, 40,

      11. (3) David Ragan, Toyota, 40,

      12. (10) Michael McDowell, Ford, 40,

      13. (17) David Gilliland, Ford, 40,

      14. (23) Cole Whitt, Ford, 40,

      15. (21) Matt DiBenedetto #, Toyota, 40,

      16. (22) Jeb Burton #, Toyota, 40,

      17. (19) Josh Wise, Ford, 40,

      18. (24) JJ Yeley(i), Toyota, 40,

      19. (26) Jeff Green(i), Chevrolet, 40,

      20. (28) Alex Kennedy #, Chevrolet, 40, .

      21. (29) Tanner Berryhill #, Chevrolet, 39,

      22. (27) Brendan Gaughan(i), Chevrolet, 39,

      23. (12) Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Ford, 39,

      24. (6) Kyle Larson, Chevrolet, 38,

      25. (25) Michael Annett, Chevrolet, 37,

      26. (16) Alex Bowman, Chevrolet, Electrical, 22,

      27. (20) Landon Cassill(i), Chevrolet, Engine, 20,

      28. (18) Mike Bliss(i), Ford, Vibration, 6,

      Average Speed of Race Winner: 102.37 mph.

      Time of Race: 00 Hrs, 35 Mins, 10 Secs. Margin of Victory: 1.521 Seconds.

      Caution Flags: 2 for 0 laps.

      Lead Changes: 4 among 4 drivers.

      Lap Leaders: 4; G. Biffle 1-20; M. Truex Jr. 21-22; K. Larson 23; C. Bowyer 24-40.

      Leaders Summary (Driver, Times Lead, Laps Led): G. Biffle 1 time for 20 laps; C. Bowyer 1 time for 17 laps; M. Truex Jr. 1 time for 2 laps; K. Larson 1 time for 1 lap.