Sprint Cup

NASCAR Sprint Cup News Wire
  • Wednesday, July 29, 2015
    Auto Racing Glance
    By The Sports Xchange

    NASCAR SPRINT CUP SERIES: Microsoft 10 400 at Pocono Raceway; Long Pond, Pa.

    • TV: Sunday, Aug. 2, 1:30 p.m. ET -- NBCSN (Radio: Motor Racing Network/SiriusXM Channel 90).

      THEN AND NOW: Dale Earnhardt Jr. is the defending winner of this race, having won both races at the Tricky Triangle in 2014. ... Martin Truex Jr. won the last Sprint Cup race at Pocono on June 7. ... Jeff Gordon failed in his bid to win a final Brickyard 400 race this past Sunday at Indianapolis after being collected in a wreck with Clint Bowyer. Gordon finished 42nd. ... Kyle Busch won his first Brickyard 400, earning his third straight Sprint Cup win and fourth in the last five races. The win leaves Busch just 28 points out of 30th place, which is what he must reach to be eligible for the Chase for the Sprint Cup. Busch has made up 150 points in the last five races in his quest to reach 30th position. ... There are six races remaining before the start of the Chase at Chicago on Sept. 20. ... Kevin Harvick remains atop the Sprint Cup point standings, holding a 69-point lead over Joey Logano and a 100-point margin over Earnhardt. Jimmie Johnson is in fourth place, 102 points back, while Truex is fifth (109 points back).

      NASCAR XFINITY SERIES: U.S. Cellular 250 Presented by New Holland, Iowa Speedway; Newton, Iowa.

      TV: Saturday, Aug. 1, 8 p.m. ET -- NBCSN (Radio: Motor Racing Network/SiriusXM Channel 90).

      THEN AND NOW: Brad Keselowski is the defending winner of this race and has won two of the last four races at Iowa. ... Chris Buescher won the most recent Xfinity race at Iowa on May 17. ... Kyle Busch won last week's Xfinity Series race at Indianapolis, and then doubled up the next day to win the Brickyard 400 Sprint Cup race there. ... Chris Buescher remains atop the Xfinity points standings, but saw his lead once again shrink slightly for the second straight week. He still leads second-ranked Chase Elliott, but that margin dipped from 31 to 25 points after Indianapolis. Third-ranked Ty Dillon also closed the margin on Buescher, from 38 to 30 points after Indy. ... Saturday's race is the fifth of a stretch of 16 consecutive weeks of racing for Xfinity Series drivers before the final off-weekend of the season in October.

      NASCAR CAMPING WORLD TRUCK SERIES: Pocono Mountains 150, Pocono Raceway; Long Pond, Pa.

      TV: Saturday, Aug. 1, 1 p.m. ET -- Fox Sports 1 (Radio: Motor Racing Network/SiriusXM Channel 90).

      THEN AND NOW: Austin Dillon is the defending winner of this race, having won at Pocono last August. ... This is only the sixth Truck race ever held at Pocono, a streak that began in 2010. ... Christopher Bell won the most recent race, the Mud Summer Classic, on July 22, at Eldora Speedway -- the only NASCAR race in any of the three major series to be run on dirt. ... One big thing to watch in this race: Kyle Busch will make his first Truck Series start of 2015. ... Matt Crafton saw his points margin drop slightly after Eldora, going from a 20-point lead over No. 2-ranked Tyler Reddick to just 14 races. No. 3-ranked Eric Jones also closed in from 29 to 24 points behind Crafton.

      VERIZON INDYCAR SERIES: Honda Indy 200 at Mid-Ohio; Lexington, Ohio.

      TV: Sunday, Aug. 2, 1:30 p.m. ET -- NBCSN.

      THEN AND NOW: Scott Dixon is the defending winner of this race. Dixon has all but owned IndyCar races at Mid-Ohio, having won three of the last four and five of the eight overall races run there since the series began racing there in 2007. ... The series was off last weekend and resumes action Sunday. Ryan Hunter-Reay won the most recent race, the Iowa Corn 300, at Iowa on July 18. ... There are only three races remaining on the schedule for this season: Sunday at Mid-Ohio, Aug. 23 at Pocono and the season finale at Sonoma on Aug. 30. ... As he has since the first race of the season (which he won in St. Petersburg, Fla.), Montoya remains No. 1 in the point standings. Montoya leads No. 2 ranked Graham Rahal by 42 points, and leads third-ranked Dixon by 48 points. Helio Castroneves is fourth (minus-54) and Will Power is in fifth (minus-55).

      NATIONAL HOT ROD ASSOCIATION MELLO YELLO DRAG RACING SERIES: Sonoma Nationals, July 31-Aug. 2, Sonoma Raceway; Sonoma, Calif.

      TV: Saturday, Aug. 1, qualifying, ESPN2, 8 p.m. to 10 p.m. ET; Sunday, Aug. 2, final rounds of eliminations, ESPN2, 9 p.m. to 12 a.m. ET (tape delay).

      THEN AND NOW: Defending winners of this race from last year are Khalid alBalooshi (Top Fuel), Courtney Force (Funny Car), Jason Line (Pro Stock) and Eddie Krawiec (Pro Stock Motorcycle). ... This is the second race of the annual "Western Swing," which began last week at Denver and continues next week at Seattle. ... Winners at Denver this past Sunday were: Steve Torrence (Top Fuel), Jack Beckman (Funny Car), Larry Morgan (Pro Stock) and Eddie Krawiec (Pro Stock Motorcycle). Of note, it was Beckman's fourth win of the season and Torrence's first win in more than two years. ... This will be the 15th race on the 24-race NHRA national event schedule. ... Tony Schumacher maintains his lead on the Top Fuel standings, with an 85-point edge over teammate Antron Brown and a 206-point edge over Larry Dixon. ... In Funny Car, Matt Hagan maintains his lead in the standings, but Jack Beckman moved into second place after his win at Denver. Beckman is 145 points back. John Force moved into third place, 192 points back. ... In Pro Stock, Greg Anderson saw his points lead drop from 66 to 37 points over No. 2-ranked Erica Enders, while Jason Line remains No. 3, 2013 points back. ... In Pro Stock Motorcycle, Eddie Krawiec holds a 36-point lead over Hector Arana Jr., while defending series champ Andrew Hines remains in third, 91 points back.

  • Monday, July 27, 2015
    IndyCar rescinds fine against Jakes
    By The Sports Xchange

    IndyCar on Monday rescinded a fine against James Jakes from the Iowa Corn 300 on July 18 at Iowa Speedway.

    • Jakes, a driver for Schmidt Peterson Motorsports, had been fined $500 for violating a rule regarding personal safety equipment. IndyCar initially said he had his visor up during a pit-stop fueling; but, after further review of the incident, the organization decided there was no such violation.

      Three $500 fines stand from that race. A.J. Foyt Enterprises and Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing each were penalized for a deadman not wearing a headsock, and the No. 8 Chip Ganassi Racing entry was fined $500 for an unattended tire.

      Chevrolet also received a deduction of 20 manufacturer points because an engine on the No. 10 Chip Ganassi Racing Teams entry did not reach its life cycle before being changed out.

  • Monday, July 27, 2015
    Kyle Busch goes for historic fourth straight win
    By The Sports Xchange

    Kyle Busch might have watched the Daytona 500 from a hospital bed, but on Sunday he won NASCAR's summertime crown jewel at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

    • For the first time since his extraordinary comeback following injuries in February, Busch declared himself to be happy with his life's situation in the post-race victory ceremonies at Indy, where he was joined by his wife and infant son.

      It appears that Busch not only realized how much he missed the sport during his 11-race hiatus, but how much the sport missed him.

      Given that it was his third straight victory and fourth in five races, just how extraordinary are Busch's accomplishments?

      When he first returned to points races in Charlotte in May after the injuries he suffered in February at the Daytona International Speedway, Busch was effectively 11 races behind his fellow drivers and the new rules package. On the other hand, Busch has benefitted mightily from the unprecedented mid-season rules changes.

      When radical alterations were introduced for all drivers at the Kentucky Speedway and at Indianapolis, it put him on a more level playing field. He won both races.

      Perhaps the more important context is this year's development of the Joe Gibbs Racing team. In an effort to create better chemistry, crew chief changes were made in the offseason, including the elevation of Adam Stevens from the Xfinity Series to Busch's Sprint Cup car. A fourth car -- which had been a possibility due to sponsor interest in preceding seasons -- was added when Carl Edwards switched over from Roush Fenway Racing.

      Having struggled with relatively less horsepower during the 2014 season from engines built by Toyota Racing Development, JGR did what all teams do in such circumstances -- worked extra hard on the handling. When this year's new engine rules for induction and the valve train arrived, suddenly the Gibbs team found itself with as much if not more horsepower from its Toyota engines relative to Chevy and Ford.

      JGR's performance at Indy this past weekend was ample evidence of its newfound horsepower. The rules called for significantly higher drag due to rear spoilers three inches taller and extended front splitters. Those with more horsepower had the opportunity to gain more downforce for handling in the corners without paying too much of a drag penalty on the straight. Under these circumstances, JGR's Carl Edwards won the pole -- only his second since 2013.

      In the race, Busch was a strong front runner throughout -- especially on the "drag" races during the final three re-starts in the closing laps. By the finish, JGR had three drivers in the Top 10 -- not including Edwards -- and Toyota-powered Clint Bowyer joined them. It was the first time Toyota has won at the 400-mile race at the Brickyard and the first loss for Chevrolet since 2003. All these results say something about horsepower from Toyota, which team owner Joe Gibbs acknowledged Sunday for the first time this season.

      But the context of the Gibbs team also highlights that Busch has done more with the advantages the team enjoys in technology and car preparation, which results in part by the information sharing among the four entries. Edwards, for example, had a chance to advance to the front at the finish, but instead he slid up the track on the same re-start where Busch took the lead from Kevin Harvick. Denny Hamlin and Matt Kenseth were able to advance their positions during the day, but were unable to contend for victory.

      Busch now heads to Pocono this weekend in position to do what only eight other drivers have done since the modern era schedule began in 1972 -- win four straight races. (No driver has been able to win five straight since the schedule was first shortened.) And, of course, Pocono's long straights and relatively sharp corners lend themselves to a combination of handling and horsepower, which is what Busch had on display at Indy.

      In some respects, since Busch won his first pole at age 19 for team owner Rick Hendrick during the era of a minimum age of 18 for NASCAR's traveling series, he has been overdue for super stardom. His attempts at greatness have always faltered on the rocks and reefs of the postseason Chase for the Sprint Cup. But these days, the wind appears to be more favorable after his injury hiatus.

      The new rule changes were much ado about not very much. All the passing still took place in the two or three laps following restarts or as a result of pit stops. But there's nothing like one driver's great season and heroic comeback to put a positive light on a major racing series working hard to maintain its appeal in the grandstands and on TV.

      A former three-time Super Bowl-winning coach, Gibbs declines to suggest Busch's injury comeback is like anything he's ever seen in the NFL, perhaps because serious injuries are far more likely to hurt a player's physical performance. But he continues to allude to Busch's season as a great sports story with each new victory an added chapter.

      Stay tuned for the next installment at Pocono, where a victory by Busch would be a bonafide historic achievement in addition to a great comeback story.

  • Sunday, July 26, 2015
    Gordon leaves Indy with bad finish, great memories
    By The Sports Xchange

    By Reid Spencer, NASCAR Wire Service

    • Distributed by The Sports Xchange

      INDIANAPOLIS -- A Lap 50 crash, after Clint Bowyer spun in front of him, knocked Jeff Gordon for a loop in Sunday's Crown Royal presents the Jeff Kyle 400 at The Brickyard, his last race at Indianapolis Motor Speedway as a full-time NASCAR Sprint Cup Series driver.

      After colliding with the Turn 3 wall, Gordon spent nearly half the race in the garage as his No. 24 Hendrick Motorsports team repaired his Chevrolet. Gordon returned to the track but was credited with a 42nd-place finish, a far cry from the record fifth Brickyard victory he posted last year.

      "It's disappointing," Gordon said afterwards. "You're out there pushing hard to get the best finish that you can, (but) I can't say that I'm too disappointed overall. I've had an amazing career at Indy. The fans have been spectacular. I've had a few not go well here, but I've certainly had plenty that have gone well.

      "Today was not the way we would have liked it to end, but that's the reality, and we just deal with it and move on. My memories are always going to be spectacular. I'm very upbeat about Indianapolis. Some of the greatest memories of my life are here at Indianapolis, starting with that inaugural Brickyard 400 (Gordon's first victory at the 2.5-mile track)."

      Gordon's Brickyard week started with a visit to Pittsboro, Indiana, where he grew up after moving east from his native Vallejo, California.

      "The whole week and weekend has been incredible," Gordon said. "The parade the Speedway put on, and Pittsboro, Indiana, put on -- that's a highlight for me that I'll never forget, and to follow up with the support I got when I got here to the track and today...

      "It was amazing, and I know that makes it even that much more difficult to handle when you have a poor finish like that, but I can't thank the fans enough for the last 22 years."

      Gordon is the last active driver who has competed in every Sprint Cup race at the Brickyard, dating to the first race in 1994.

      Brickyard win is the pinnacle for Stevens

      Adam Stevens has played a part in victories at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, but not until Sunday had he won a race at The Brickyard as a crew chief in NASCAR's premier series.

      Stevens called the shots from the pit box in Kyle Busch's NASCAR Sprint Cup Series triumph at the legendary 2.5-mile track. Clearly, the win was the most meaningful of Stevens' career.

      "As a boy growing up, I can tell you that there's not another racetrack that's more important to me to get a victory at," Stevens said. "I felt that way when we won on the XFINITY side (with Busch in 2013). I felt that way when I was able to be a race engineer on Zippy (crew chief Greg Zipadelli) and Tony (Stewart's) teams and win a couple races.

      "The history of racing at this track is unmatched anywhere on this planet. To lead a team that put together a car that put together a weekend and a setup and did all the right things to bring home the trophy is something that I can hang my hat on for the rest of my life."

  • Sunday, July 26, 2015
    Sprint Cup Jeff Kyle 400 at the Brickyard results
    By The Sports Xchange

    NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Race -- Crown Royal Presents the Jeff Kyle 400 at the Brickyard

    • Indianapolis Motor Speedway

      Speedway, Indiana

      Sunday, July 26, 2015

      1. (9) Kyle Busch, Toyota, 164, $424191.

      2. (2) Joey Logano, Ford, 164, $367408.

      3. (6) Kevin Harvick, Chevrolet, 164, $356825.

      4. (13) Martin Truex Jr., Chevrolet, 164, $283170.

      5. (17) Denny Hamlin, Toyota, 164, $249875.

      6. (7) Clint Bowyer, Toyota, 164, $239498.

      7. (23) Matt Kenseth, Toyota, 164, $236326.

      8. (14) Kurt Busch, Chevrolet, 164, $206615.

      9. (5) Kyle Larson, Chevrolet, 164, $217073.

      10. (31) Brad Keselowski, Ford, 164, $233856.

      11. (43) Ryan Newman, Chevrolet, 164, $211040.

      12. (30) Ryan Blaney(i), Ford, 164, $168540.

      13. (1) Carl Edwards, Toyota, 164, $179740.

      14. (11) Paul Menard, Chevrolet, 164, $174640.

      15. (12) Jimmie Johnson, Chevrolet, 164, $209976.

      16. (10) Jamie McMurray, Chevrolet, 164, $194531.

      17. (18) Sam Hornish Jr., Ford, 164, $194660.

      18. (28) Chase Elliott(i), Chevrolet, 164, $158515.

      19. (20) Greg Biffle, Ford, 164, $192723.

      20. (16) Casey Mears, Chevrolet, 164, $186748.

      21. (3) David Ragan, Toyota, 164, $188654.

      22. (8) Dale Earnhardt Jr., Chevrolet, 164, $173840.

      23. (26) AJ Allmendinger, Chevrolet, 164, $187523.

      24. (27) Kasey Kahne, Chevrolet, 164, $170365.

      25. (25) Austin Dillon, Chevrolet, 164, $191701.

      26. (24) Landon Cassill(i), Chevrolet, 164, $153590.

      27. (15) Danica Patrick, Chevrolet, 164, $160490.

      28. (4) Tony Stewart, Chevrolet, 164, $179854.

      29. (37) David Gilliland, Ford, 163, $172948.

      30. (34) Michael Annett, Chevrolet, 162, $151740.

      31. (32) Michael McDowell, Ford, 162, $146685.

      32. (40) Matt DiBenedetto #, Toyota, 162, $161843.

      33. (41) Cole Whitt, Ford, 162, $155482.

      34. (39) Brett Moffitt #, Ford, 162, $145635.

      35. (29) Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Ford, 161, $153385.

      36. (36) Brian Scott(i), Chevrolet, 161, $145285.

      37. (21) Justin Allgaier, Chevrolet, 161, $153148.

      38. (22) Aric Almirola, Ford, 161, $176386.

      39. (38) JJ Yeley(i), Toyota, 160, $135450.

      40. (33) Trevor Bayne, Ford, Accident, 155, $176025.

      41. (42) Timmy Hill(i), Ford, 111, $127450.

      42. (19) Jeff Gordon, Chevrolet, 110, $171986.

      43. (35) Alex Bowman, Chevrolet, Engine, 78, $119950.

      Average Speed of Race Winner: 131.656 mph.

      Time of Race: 03 Hrs, 06 Mins, 51 Secs. Margin of Victory: 0.332 Seconds.

      Caution Flags: 9 for 36 laps.

      Lead Changes: 16 among 6 drivers.

      Lap Leaders: C. Edwards 0; J. Logano 1-11; C. Edwards 12-31; K. Harvick 32-45; J. Logano 46-61; K. Harvick 62-83; B. Keselowski 84; Kyle Busch 85-92; K. Harvick 93-120; D. Ragan 121-123; B. Keselowski 124; D. Ragan 125-126; B. Keselowski 127-141; K. Harvick 142-152; Kyle Busch 153-161; J. Logano 162; Kyle Busch 163-164.

      Leaders Summary (Driver, Times Lead, Laps Led): K. Harvick 4 times for 75 laps; J. Logano 3 times for 28 laps; C. Edwards 1 time for 20 laps; Kyle Busch 3 times for 19 laps; B. Keselowski 3 times for 17 laps; D. Ragan 2 times for 5 laps.

      Top 16 in Points: K. Harvick -- 777; J. Logano -- 708; D. Earnhardt Jr. -- 677; J. Johnson -- 675; M. Truex Jr. -- 668; B. Keselowski -- 638; M. Kenseth -- 615; Kurt Busch -- 612; J. Mcmurray -- 602; D. Hamlin -- 591; J. Gordon -- 575; R. Newman -- 563; P. Menard -- 558; K. Kahne -- 558; C. Bowyer -- 538; C. Edwards -- 519.

  • Sunday, July 26, 2015
    Busch takes Brickyard 400 for 3rd consecutive Sprint Cup win
    By The Sports Xchange

    SPEEDWAY, Ind. -- Kyle Busch claimed his first Brickyard 400 victory at Indianapolis Motor Speedway on Sunday. Although it was his first win, Sunday's event brought Busch his third-consecutive NASCAR Sprint Cup Series victory and his fourth in the last five races.

    • "I can't believe what's going on," Busch said. "Everybody is going to be chasing the rainbow tonight, that's for sure. This Skittles Camry was awesome. I knew if we could just get out front we could just go. Adam Stevens (crew chief) and these guys, they dialed it in again."

      Joey Logano finished second after battling Busch for the lead on a green-white-checker restart following the ninth yellow flag of the race. Busch took the lead from Kevin Harvick on a restart with eight laps to go.

      "We lost the lead there," Harvick said. "The No. 18 (Busch), and No. 22 (Logano) got hooked up on the restart there and got by us in turn one. The No. 78 (Truex) and I didn't really get together and weren't able to keep the lead. Then I lost the lead and Kyle had a faster pace than I wanted to go and spun the tires and then he was able to keep the lead. We lost a couple more spots because we got all jacked up once we started spinning the tires. All in all, just really proud of everybody on the Jimmy John's team. I just didn't put it together there at the end."

      Harvick finished third, Martin Truex Jr. was fourth, and Denny Hamlin rounded out the top-five.

      Harvick gave up the race lead when hit headed down pit road for the final time during the fifth caution of the race. As a result, he restarted eighth with 36 laps to go. Meanwhile, David Ragan restarted with the lead.

      Ragan pitted under green a few laps later, handing the lead over to Brad Keselowski. Harvick was back up front when Keselowski pitted under yellow just inside 20 laps to go. Busch restarted third behind Harvick and Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Carl Edwards and then took second from Edwards on the restart.

      "What a crazy end to that race," Busch said. "First, I have to thank Joey Logano; then, I have to thank Joey Logano. Then, I have to thank Martin Truex Jr. Those two guys behind me on those three restarts, they are the ones that just helped propel my car a little bit ahead. So when I got to turn one, I could keep the gas down and pull ahead and get up to the lead."

      Harvick was the leader at the halfway point by a margin of more than four seconds over his boss and teammate at Stewart-Haas Racing, Tony Stewart, who continued to hold off Keselowski. He gave up that lead a few laps later to head for pit road for a scheduled green-flag pit stop. After several others pitted, Busch moved into the top spot and was leading when the yellow flag flew for the third time just past lap 90.

      Harvick, among others, stayed out during the yellow flag, while Busch led another group down pit road. As a result, Harvick was back up front for the restart with Keselowski next to him on the front row for a restart just before the lap-100 mark.

      Edwards started on the pole, but lost the lead to Joey Logano on the first lap. Edwards and Busch stayed out a few laps longer during a cycle of green-flag pit stops around lap 32, putting Edwards back up front for a few laps. But when he finally hit pit road, Harvick cycled to the lead.

      Pit strategies began to vary when the yellow flag waved for the first time on lap 45, with strategies for some taking on a road course-type flair with teams scheduling pit stops by counting laps backward from the end of the race.

      Logano was among those who stayed out during the first yellow flag, inheriting the lead and holding the top spot until he turned the position back over to Harvick when he headed for pit road under green just before lap 65.

      Jeff Gordon's bid to extend his Indy record to a sixth win flew out the window at the lap 50 mark, courtesy of an incident with Clint Bowyer that resulted in significant damage to Gordon's car.

      "I was underneath Kasey Kahne and we were just racing for position," Gordon said. "I saw Bowyer get sideways. I don't know what caused it. Me and Kasey were trying to check up to avoid it. I don't know if he got loose or we just both got loose together. Then, I just lost control and got into the wall."

      NOTES: Jeff Gordon leads the all Sprint Cup Series drivers in wins at Indianapolis Motor Speedway with five, including last year's race and the inaugural event in 1994. He is the only driver to compete in every NASCAR Cup race at IMS to this point. ... Indiana native Tony Stewart posted the fastest lap in qualifying on Saturday with a 185.548 mph lap in the first round of qualifying, but with the pole set in the second round, Stewart wound up fourth after Carl Edwards took the pole with a 183.464 mph lap. ... Sunday's race featured a new aerodynamic rules package that will also be used next month at Michigan International Speedway. That package, aimed at increasing downforce, include nine-inch rear spoilers, one-inch wicker bills, two-inch splitters and 43-inch radiator pans. ... Kyle Busch won Saturday's NASCAR Xfinity Series race at Indianapolis after leading 53 of the 100 laps that made up the race. Ryan Blaney, also racing Sunday in the Sprint Cup race, finished second in the Xfinity race. ... Busch's win snapped a 12-race Indianapolis winning streak for Chevrolet.

  • Saturday, July 25, 2015
    Kyle Busch passes Blaney on last lap to win The Brickyard
    By The Sports Xchange

    By Reid Spencer

    • NASCAR Wire Service

      Distributed by The Sports Xchange

      INDIANAPOLIS -- With a relentless charge that forced Ryan Blaney into a mistake on the final lap, Kyle Busch grabbed the lead with a half-lap left at Indianapolis Motor Speedway and took the checkered flag in Saturday's Lilly Diabetes 250 NASCAR Xfinity Series race.

      Blaney missed his mark in Turn 2 as Busch closed in, and with his momentum broken, Blaney couldn't stave off Busch's winning pass on the backstretch.

      Busch pulled away to win by .421 of a second, continuing his white-hot run with his second Xfinity victory of the season, his second at The Brickyard and the record 72nd of his career.

      Since returning to competition in May after an injury absence, Busch has won three times in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series and twice on the Xfinity circuit.

      Blaney led by more than .6 of a second when he crossed the stripe to complete Lap 97 of 100. But the lapped car of Derrike Cope slowed his progress on the following circuit and Busch cut the advantage in half.

      Busch had closed the gap to .279 when he took the white flag, and his constant pressure forced Blaney into a mistake.

      "I just got close enough to make him mess up and made him get tight off (Turn) 2, and then I was able to capitalize underneath him with him losing his momentum off of 2 and being able to get under him," Busch said. "It was the class of the field. We should have won this thing going away, but I guess we had to make it exciting."

      With the Xfinity Series running a higher-drag package this weekend, Busch tried in vain -- until the final circuit -- to get around Blaney in the closing laps.

      "I was trying to back up so I could get some clean air and keep my tires as fresh as possible, but I got too far back and got out of the draft and then I couldn't make up any ground anymore, so I was kind of stuck back there about eight or 10 car lengths and not really going anywhere," Busch explained.

      "Fortunately, a couple of lapped cars messed up his momentum and didn't mess up mine as much, and I was able to get through there. Once I got back close enough to him, I pushed him into a mistake and that was all that it took."

      A despondent Blaney took the blame for the loss.

      "It's my fault, obviously," Blaney said. "You saw it. I screwed up. This team doesn't deserve that. I dropped the ball for them today, and I take full responsibility. It's all my fault ... I got tight and I got too deep and didn't get off the long corner.

      "It's a pretty bad feeling to throw one away here at the Brickyard. There was no pressure for 24 laps, and the last one I just made a mistake."

      Blaney had taken the lead from Busch on a restart on Lap 76, after Busch's Joe Gibbs Racing teammate, Erik Jones, hit the wall on lap 70, and NASCAR called a caution because of fluid on the track.

      Rookie Daniel Suarez ran third in his first visit to The Brickyard, collecting his third straight top five. Paul Menard finished fourth, followed by Elliott Sadler, Kevin Harvick and Kyle Larson.

      Regan Smith came home eighth and claimed his second straight $100,000 bonus in the Xfinity Series Dash 4 Cash program, keeping his hopes alive for a $1 million payday. If Smith is the highest finishing eligible driver at Bristol (Aug. 21) and Darlington (Sept. 5), he'll receive a total of $1 million.

      Blaney, Suarez, Sadler and Smith are the eligible Dash 4 Cash drivers at Bristol, having secured their spots as the top four finishing series regulars at Indianapolis.

      NASCAR XFINITY Series Race - Lilly Diabetes 250

      Indianapolis Motor Speedway

      Speedway, Indiana

      Saturday, July 25, 2015

      1. (1) Kyle Busch(i), Toyota, 100, $77539.

      2. (11) Ryan Blaney, Ford, 100, $61023.

      3. (2) Daniel Suarez #, Toyota, 100, $52131.

      4. (5) Paul Menard(i), Chevrolet, 100, $39052.

      5. (6) Elliott Sadler, Ford, 100, $42331.

      6. (16) Kevin Harvick(i), Chevrolet, 100, $31957.

      7. (10) Kyle Larson(i), Chevrolet, 100, $30321.

      8. (14) Regan Smith, Chevrolet, 100, $35440.

      9. (9) Ty Dillon, Chevrolet, 100, $34935.

      10. (13) Chase Elliott, Chevrolet, 100, $35626.

      11. (7) Brian Scott, Chevrolet, 100, $33247.

      12. (20) Ryan Sieg, Chevrolet, 100, $32996.

      13. (4) Brendan Gaughan, Chevrolet, 100, $32718.

      14. (8) Aric Almirola(i), Ford, 100, $26365.

      15. (26) Jeremy Clements, Chevrolet, 100, $32564.

      16. (12) Chris Buescher, Ford, 100, $32212.

      17. (15) Alex Bowman(i), Chevrolet, 100, $25836.

      18. (17) JJ Yeley, Toyota, 100, $31685.

      19. (18) Dakoda Armstrong, Ford, 99, $31484.

      20. (22) Ryan Reed, Ford, 99, $31857.

      21. (25) Cale Conley #, Toyota, 98, $31207.

      22. (30) Ross Chastain #, Chevrolet, 98, $31075.

      23. (23) Darrell Wallace Jr. #, Ford, 98, $30924.

      24. (36) Martin Roy, Chevrolet, 97, $30798.

      25. (29) Harrison Rhodes #, Chevrolet, 97, $30898.

      26. (37) Joey Gase, Chevrolet, 97, $30673.

      27. (24) Timmy Hill(i), Toyota, 97, $24521.

      28. (31) Stanton Barrett, Ford, 97, $30445.

      29. (32) Eric McClure, Toyota, 96, $30344.

      30. (38) Derrike Cope, Chevrolet, 95, $30569.

      31. (19) Landon Cassill, Chevrolet, 92, $30168.

      32. (28) BJ McLeod(i), Dodge, 90, $30042.

      33. (40) Mike Harmon, Dodge, 87, $29982.

      34. (3) Erik Jones(i), Toyota, 80, $29946.

      35. (34) Peyton Sellers #, Chevrolet, Oil Leak, 77, $29875.

      36. (27) David Starr, Toyota, Accident, 22, $27598.

      37. (21) Blake Koch, Toyota, Accident, 22, $26598.

      38. (33) Morgan Shepherd, Chevrolet, Handling, 18, $19598.

      39. (39) Josh Reaume #, Dodge, Electrical, 8, $18598.

      40. (35) Jeff Green, Toyota, Vibration, 2, $17598.

      Average Speed of Race Winner: 136.529 mph.

      Time of Race: 1 hr, 49 mins, 52 secs.

      Margin of Victory: 0.421 seconds.

      Caution Flags: 3 for 16 laps.

      Lead Changes: 8 among 6 drivers.

      Lap Leaders: K. Busch(i) 1-10; D. Suarez # 11-13; K. Busch(i) 14-17; P. Menard(i) 18-26; T. Dillon 27-34; K. Larson(i) 35-37; K. Busch(i) 38-75; R. Blaney 76-99; K. Busch(i) 100;.

      Leaders Summary (Driver, Times Lead, Laps Led): K. Busch(i) 4 times for 53 laps; R. Blaney 1 time for 24 laps; P. Menard(i) 1 time for 9 laps; T. Dillon 1 time for 8 laps; K. Larson(i) 1 time for 3 laps; D. Suarez # 1 time for 3 laps.

      Top 10 in Points: C. Buescher - 651; C. Elliott - 626; T. Dillon - 621; R. Smith - 600; E. Sadler - 594; D. Wallace Jr. # - 568; D. Suarez # - 558; B. Gaughan - 537; B. Scott - 527; R. Reed - 526.

  • Saturday, July 25, 2015
    Edwards puts No. 19 Toyota on pole at Brickyard
    By The Sports Xchange

    By Reid Spencer, NASCAR Wire Service

    • Distributed by The Sports Xchange

      INDIANAPOLIS -- If Toyota and Ford are to break the Chevrolet stranglehold on Indianapolis Motor Speedway, the two manufacturers took a positive step in that direction during NASCAR Sprint Cup Series time trials on Saturday.

      Underscoring the recent resurgence of Joe Gibbs Racing, Carl Edwards toured the 2.5-mile track in 49.056 seconds (183.464 mph) to put his No. 19 Toyota on the pole for Sunday's Crown Royal presents the Jeff Kyle 400 at The Brickyard (3:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN), edging Joey Logano's Team Penske Ford (183.139 mph) by .087 seconds.

      David Ragan (182.886 mph) qualified third in the No. 55 Michael Waltrip Racing Toyota. Fourth-place qualifier Tony Stewart (182.823 mph) had the fastest Chevrolet in the final round. Chevrolets have won the last 12 Sprint Cup races at Indianapolis.

      Stewart, though, had the fastest lap of the afternoon (185.547 mph) in the first round of time trials, which trimmed the number of drivers eligible for the pole from 46 to 12.

      The Coors Light Pole Award was Edwards' first at The Brickyard, his second of the season, his second in a row and the 15th of his career.

      "After yesterday, this is amazing," Edwards said. "We started so slow yesterday and we struggled. I think at one point (crew chief) Darian (Grubb) and I were looking at each other going, 'What are we going to do here?'

      "It was a struggle, and everybody buckled down, worked hard -- I'm so proud of my guys. TRD and Toyota have been putting so much effort into this whole program. Stanley has been behind us 100 percent -- not just me, but Matt Kenseth and our whole team. This is big. It will be neat to start up front."

      Kyle Busch, Edwards' JGR teammate, will start ninth on Sunday in search of his third consecutive victory in the Sprint Cup Series. Sidelined for the first 11 events of the season by injuries sustained in an accident at Daytona in February, Busch has won three of the last four races and has seven races left in which to regain eligibility for the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup by finishing the regular season in the top 30 in the series standings.

      Entering Sunday's race, Busch is 33rd in points, 58 behind David Gilliland in 30th place.

      Behind Stewart, Kyle Larson, Kevin Harvick, Clint Bowyer and Dale Earnhardt Jr. will line up fifth through eighth on the grid.

      After qualifying, Logano and Ragan were quick to point out an unusual coincidence. Edwards, Logano and Ragan started 1-2-3, in that order, a week before at New Hampshire Motor Speedway, a one-mile flat track.

      The Sprint Cup cars are running a completely different high-drag aerodynamic package this week, with a nine-inch-tall rear spoiler and a one-inch wicker. Last week at Loudon, the cars featured the normal 2015 rules package with a six-inch spoiler.

      "David and I were just laughing up here that these are the same three race cars that started up front at Loudon," Logano said. "A completely different race track, different package and the same cars are fast. It's good for us. We're close. Second always hurts, but it's nice to be up toward the front, especially here."

      Jeff Gordon's final run at Indianapolis as a full-time driver didn't start the way the driver of the No. 24 Chevrolet would have hoped.

      "I really think our 3M Chevrolet is really good," said Gordon, who qualified 19th. "It's been good all weekend. I feel like I underestimated the grip. I had a little wiggle out of three coming to the green and that concerned me slightly. The grip was there in Turn 4, and I was aggressive into Turn 1, but not aggressive enough.

      "That's what's disappointing; it wasn't a balance issue or a speed issue. I didn't get enough speed through (Turn) 1. It adds up with this new package. Yeah, I'm pretty disappointed to start back there."

      NOTES: Josh Wise, Jeb Burton and Reed Sorenson failed to make the 43-car field. ... Ryan Newman's time was disallowed because he ran his lap without the mandatory right-side window in his car. Newman will start 43rd on Sunday on a provisional.

      NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Qualifying

      Crown Royal Presents the Jeff Kyle 400 at the Brickyard

      Indianapolis Motor Speedway

      Speedway, Indiana

      Saturday, July 25, 2015

      1. (19) Carl Edwards, Toyota, 183.464 mph.

      2. (22) Joey Logano, Ford, 183.139 mph.

      3. (55) David Ragan, Toyota, 182.886 mph.

      4. (14) Tony Stewart, Chevrolet, 182.823 mph.

      5. (42) Kyle Larson, Chevrolet, 182.634 mph.

      6. (4) Kevin Harvick, Chevrolet, 182.448 mph.

      7. (15) Clint Bowyer, Toyota, 182.382 mph.

      8. (88) Dale Earnhardt Jr., Chevrolet, 182.308 mph.

      9. (18) Kyle Busch, Toyota, 182.278 mph.

      10. (1) Jamie McMurray, Chevrolet, 182.238 mph.

      11. (27) Paul Menard, Chevrolet, 182.028 mph.

      12. (48) Jimmie Johnson, Chevrolet, 181.987 mph.

      13. (78) Martin Truex Jr., Chevrolet, 183.240 mph.

      14. (41) Kurt Busch, Chevrolet, 183.072 mph.

      15. (10) Danica Patrick, Chevrolet, 183.001 mph.

      16. (13) Casey Mears, Chevrolet, 182.667 mph.

      17. (11) Denny Hamlin, Toyota, 182.637 mph.

      18. (9) Sam Hornish Jr., Ford, 182.482 mph.

      19. (24) Jeff Gordon, Chevrolet, 182.389 mph.

      20. (16) Greg Biffle, Ford, 182.360 mph.

      21. (51) Justin Allgaier, Chevrolet, 182.238 mph.

      22. (43) Aric Almirola, Ford, 182.113 mph.

      23. (20) Matt Kenseth, Toyota, 182.079 mph.

      24. (40) Landon Cassill(i), Chevrolet, 181.939 mph.

      25. (3) Austin Dillon, Chevrolet, 181.928 mph.

      26. (47) AJ Allmendinger, Chevrolet, 181.910 mph.

      27. (5) Kasey Kahne, Chevrolet, 181.386 mph.

      28. (25) Chase Elliott(i), Chevrolet, 181.036 mph.

      29. (17) Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Ford, 180.963 mph.

      30. (21) Ryan Blaney(i), Ford, 180.919 mph.

      31. (2) Brad Keselowski, Ford, 180.854 mph.

      32. (95) Michael McDowell, Ford, 180.777 mph.

      33. (6) Trevor Bayne, Ford, 180.469 mph.

      34. (46) Michael Annett, Chevrolet, 180.426 mph.

      35. (7) Alex Bowman, Chevrolet, 180.325 mph.

      36. (33) Brian Scott(i), Chevrolet, 180.022 mph.

      37. (38) David Gilliland, Ford, Owner Points

      38. (23) JJ Yeley(i), Toyota, Owner Points

      39. (34) Brett Moffitt #, Ford, Owner Points

      40. (83) Matt DiBenedetto #, Toyota, Owner Points

      41. (35) Cole Whitt, Ford, Owner Points

      42. (98) Timmy Hill(i), Ford, Owner Points

      43. (31) Ryan Newman, Chevrolet, Owner Points

      Three drivers failed to qualify:

      44. (32) Josh Wise, Ford, 178.941 mph.

      45. (26) Jeb Burton #, Toyota, 176.170 mph.

      46. (62) Reed Sorenson, Chevrolet, 174.540 mph.

  • Saturday, July 25, 2015
    After injury, Kyle Busch got morale boost from Stewart
    By The Sports Xchange

    By Reid Spencer, NASCAR Wire Service

    • Distributed by The Sports Xchange

      INDIANAPOLIS -- A day after suffering a broken right leg and left foot in a Feb. 21 crash at Daytona International Speedway, Kyle Busch had his first hospital visitor.

      It was Tony Stewart, who had been sidelined in August 2013 by a sprint car accident that had caused a compound fracture of his right leg.

      As Busch's mind raced through possible dire consequences of his injuries, Stewart was there to offer support and counsel.

      "Tony was actually the first one to the hospital," Busch said Saturday morning at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, the site of Sunday's NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Crown Royal presents the Jeff Kyle 400 at The Brickyard (3:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN). "As soon as the Daytona 500 was over, he was there. He actually told everybody that was on his plane that they were going to wait. He was there for about four hours. We had a good talk.

      "We had a good discussion about just what it was like and the process that he had to go through and how long it was probably going to be or what it was going to be. In all reality, our injuries were the same but entirely different. His was much more severe than mine. Just being able to talk with him, my mind-set was OK."

      Stewart helped allay Busch's fears that his injury might be career-ending.

      "At first I was like, 'I'm never going to race again, and I don't know what I'm going to do' -- all those things go through your mind," Busch said. "You just continue to power through and listen to your doctors and those that are around you and, of course, my wife and the support system that I had.

      "I wouldn't call it painless. There was certainly a lot of pain, but it went really, really well as far as you could say any injury healing goes. I was pretty pleased with everything."

      If recent results are any indication, Busch has returned stronger than ever. He has won three of the last four Sprint Cup events, at Sonoma, Kentucky and New Hampshire.

      SUNDAY WILL TELL THE TALE

      Aric Almirola echoed the sentiments of the vast majority of NASCAR Sprint Cup Series drivers, asserting that the full import of the new high-drag package introduced for Sunday's race at The Brickyard won't be known until the green flag waves to start the race.

      In three practice sessions totaling 4 hours, 45 minutes on Friday, Cup drivers avoided running in close quarters. Accordingly, they won't know the effects of the new aerodynamic package until they get a chance to race in heavy traffic.

      "We were going slower down the straightaways, which means we were on throttle more in the corners," Almirola said Saturday morning, after he and sponsor Eckrich presented U.S. Army veteran Luther Martin and his family with a new Ford Fusion and free groceries for a year as part of Eckrich's participation in Operation Homefront.

      "I think it'll be interesting to see how the race plays out on Sunday. Any time you go and drive your car by yourself, you can kind of get the balance close, and you can get an idea of what your car is going to drive like. But when the green flag drops for the race is when you'll really be able to tell if it's an improvement for the racing or not."

      JIMMIE JOHNSON ISN'T SWEATING CONTRACT STATUS

      The driver and crew chief who have combined for six NASCAR Sprint Cup Series titles -- including a record five in a row -- are both in contract years.

      But Jimmie Johnson doesn't appeared worried about his future at Hendrick Motorsports. In fact, during a question-and-answer session with reporters at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, the driver of the No. 48 Chevrolet had to be reminded that his deal is up at the end of 2015.

      "We still have ... is it next year on my contract?" Johnson asked coyly. "I don't even know. We are obviously not concerned. We have been getting things buttoned up with (sponsor) Lowe's, with Hendrick, with (crew chief) Chad (Knaus) and myself -- all of that.

      "Like I said, I'm home (at Hendrick). It's just a formality at this point to get everything kind of finished up and done."

  • Friday, July 24, 2015
    Hamlin weathers disintegrating hood in practice at Indy
    By The Sports Xchange

    By Reid Spencer

    • NASCAR Wire Service

      Distributed by The Sports Xchange

      INDIANAPOLIS -- Sporting the new high-drag configuration for NASCAR Sprint Cup Series cars at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, Denny Hamlin punched a big hole in the air in posting the top speed in opening practice.

      On Friday at the Brickyard, the air decided to punch back.

      As Hamlin was running his first lap in the second of three practice sessions at the famed 2.5-mile track, the site of Sunday's Crown Royal presents the Jeff Kyle 400 at the Brickyard (3:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN), the hood of his No. 11 Toyota flew up and back, crashing into the windshield and breaking into pieces.

      Hamlin drove his wounded car to the garage, where crew chief Dave Rogers and the No. 11 team repaired the hood in time for Hamlin to return to the track less than an hour into the session.

      Hamlin speculated that the hood was inadvertently left unpinned, but he wasn't certain about the cause of the mishap.

      "(The hood pins) were probably hanging, I would say," Hamlin said. "It wasn't on TV, so I'm just assuming they were probably out. You know the speeds we were going, when that hood comes up, it just disintegrates and blows. The good thing is it didn't all stay together. The hood blew apart so much that I had a gap there (where) I could see."

      Hamlin also was worried about other potential damage to the car.

      "The roof is what we're most concerned about," Hamlin said. "It blew the roof apart a lot and did some damage inside the car. It's just a lot of force there that tears up a lot of stuff any time the hood comes up."

      The incident didn't slow Hamlin's car appreciably.

      After topping the speed chart at 182.208 mph in the opening practice, Hamlin was 12th quickest after returning to the track in the second session, running 179.968 mph in warmer temperatures.

      LOGANO WANTS TO WIN ONE FOR THE BOSS

      Joey Logano would like nothing better than to fill the one glaring hole on Roger Penske's resume as a team owner.

      Penske has won a championship in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series (2012 with driver Brad Keselowski). Team Penske driver Will Power is the reigning IndyCar Series champion.

      Penske has 16 Indianapolis 500 trophies in his showcase. Keselowski won the NASCAR XFINITY Series race at the Brickyard in 2012.

      But the victory Penske now covets most is a Brickyard 400 win at Indianapolis. The boss has made that abundantly clear to both his Sprint Cup Series drivers, and their next opportunity comes Sunday at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

      "Any time we hear Indy coming up, we start getting the calls from Roger," Logano said. "We really want to win this race. This is the one on his bucket list that he hasn't gotten yet, and we talk about it a lot. It would be very special to give him a Brickyard 400, along with the Indy 500 he won earlier this year and the Daytona 500 we won earlier, too."

      In fact, Logano gave Penske his second victory in the Great American Race in February, and a victory Sunday at Indy would be doubly sweet.

      The last driver to win both the Daytona 500 and Brickyard 400 in the same season was Jamie McMurray, who did it in 2010 while driving for Chip Ganassi, Penske's archrival in both the NASCAR and IndyCar garages.

      BRUTAL START TO BRICKYARD WEEKEND FOR TIMMY HILL

      The No. 98 Ford driven by Timmy Hill had a multitude of issues Friday in Sprint Cup practice. In the second session, a 35-pound tungsten weight fell off the car. NASCAR typically takes a dim view of ballast that is not secured properly.

      The sanctioning body confiscated the jettisoned weight and will address the matter in next week's competition meeting.

      In Happy Hour, Hill's Ford spun off Turn 4 and slammed nose-first into the inside wall, forcing his team to go to a backup car. As a tow truck was removing Hill's car from the track, the back of the car scraped the track, knocking off the rear extension.

      Hill didn't participate in the opening practice session. In hindsight, he might have been better off skipping them all.

  • Thursday, July 23, 2015
    Truckin' from Eldora to Indy
    By The Sports Xchange

    It's an odd week when NASCAR visits the heartland of Ohio and Indiana each summer. The schedule includes a dirt track and the mighty Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

    • In a dirt-track revival that informally began in 2005, Tony Stewart started hosting the "Prelude to the Dream" at Eldora Speedway before the Brickyard 400. It was an invitational Late Model race for Sprint Cup drivers on the half-mile in Rossburg, Ohio.

      Before that exhibition race came along, the rutted, red-clay short track known as State Fairgrounds Speedway in Raleigh, N.C., had been the scene of the last NASCAR Sprint Cup race on dirt -- in 1970.

      Since 2013, the Camping World Truck Series has visited Eldora for a points race that invariably has been a slam-bang success and an interesting preliminary to the far faster Xfinity and Sprint Cup races in Indianapolis.

      The late, legendary promoter Earl Baltes built Eldora into a racing bonanza by hosting major sprint car and Late Model events with big purses, although he always claimed to be just shy of breaking even. He sold the facility after 50 years of operation to Stewart.

      The Truck Race at Eldora this year featured Sprint Cup regulars Austin Dillon and Brad Keselowski, as well as sure-bet future Sprint Cup participants such as Matt Crafton, Erik Jones and Ty Dillon. The race comes off like an old-fashioned promoter's ploy, where the slower bomber vehicles put on a show that confirms just how fast the main show is -- in this case, at Indy. There is also the inherent charm of bona fide dirt-track "slide jobs" in full bloom on every lap.

      Perhaps it was inevitable, but this year's Eldora race belonged to dirt-track regulars. Sprint car and midget phenom Christopher Lee and Late Model teen sensation Bobby Pierce rode the cushion, banged the wall and slide-jobbed one another all night before Lee prevailed against Pierce's battered truck. In an impressive comeback performance, Jones led home the Truck Series regulars in fourth -- behind dirt-tracker Tyler Reddick.

      And, yes, you're likely to see Lee and Pierce in the Truck Series on asphalt in the future, if not behind the wheels of Xfinity or Sprint Cup cars. Pierce, who started on the pole Wednesday, drives for Mike Mittler, who helped Keselowski, Carl Edwards and Jamie McMurray find their way into Cup racing. And, in this sense, the lone dirt-track appearance is a way for NASCAR to siphon off some of the open-wheel talent that might get away to IndyCar or the World of Outlaws.

      So now it's on to Indy. About the time Eldora ran its first race in 1954, Indy was hosting drivers in converted dirt-track cars taking their once-a-year shot at the brass ring.

      These days, when the good ol' stars of NASCAR put their best feet forward at Indy, it marks an annual cataclysm. The Brickyard was built for open-wheel racers and 500-mile events, not stock cars racing for a mere 400.

      "It's the kind of place you can feel a lot of ghosts floating around when you first go in," Kyle Petty said back when the hallowed grounds were selling out every seat when NASCAR first came to town in the mid-1990s.

      The cataclysm these days is the sea of ghosts disguised as empty seats, which further irritates the purists who thought the "taxi cabs" never should have raced at Indy in the first place.

      Yes, these hoary crustaceans are still out there, crabbing about NASCAR ruining the Speedway. In truth, for the past several years, the Indy 500 has been far more exciting, fun to watch and interesting than the Brickyard 400 -- never mind that the Indy cars are 30 mph faster.

      To bring more overtaking, NASCAR has mandated a "high downforce" package that will be used for the first time on a track that is harrowing at best and often dangerous. Extended front splitters (two inches), taller rear spoilers (nine inches) and a wider belly pan (45 inches) will generate more downforce. That will slow cars on the straightaways, increase speeds in the corners and -- it is hoped -- punch a bigger hole in the air to produce more overtaking.

      The track is a long way from the slide jobs on dirt. This year, cars will have more "stick" with the downforce. That's exactly what drivers had at this year's Indy 500 under new adjustable bodywork rules. During practice in May, those rules proved quite scary, with three cars flipping on separate occasions when all of that downforce suddenly and unexpectedly disappeared at yaw (i.e., while turning or slipping).

      NASCAR intends to allow teams to monitor their cars' performance with computer data during practice, due to a lack of extensive testing of the new package. The sanctioning body also will allow teams to try four different rear gears before it will make one final selection for the race, which effectively will determine top speed on the straights and, to some extent, cornering speeds.

      NASCAR expects its fixed set of rules will work better than allowing teams to experiment with bodywork, one of the culprits leading to problems in May. (After practice crashes, the Indy Racing League fixed the rear wings and bodywork before the 500-mile race, where no flips occurred.)

      NASCAR is praying that rain will not cancel practice sessions, as occurred when it introduced extensive midseason rules changes at Kentucky Speedway.

      In any event, like Eldora, where grip is always elusive, look for a number of cars at Indy embracing the wall at relatively high speeds when drivers or teams get it wrong in the corners under the new downforce package.

      Overtaking? Well, that's the object, and there's likely going to be more of that as well.

  • Thursday, July 23, 2015
    At Brickyard, Kyle Busch seeks third straight win
    By The Sports Xchange

    NASCAR Wire Service

    • Distributed by The Sports Xchange

      Kyle Busch has been racking up victories at the same rapid pace Taylor Swift produces chart-topping hits.

      The No. 18 Toyota driver has won the past two NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races and three of the last four. His three wins in a mere eight starts since returning from a broken right leg and fractured left foot rank second in the series to Jimmie Johnson, who has accumulated four checkered flags in 19 starts.

      "It's been cool," Busch said. "I just can't say enough about this group of guys behind me -- everyone on this team and Adam Stevens (crew chief) and my pit crew."

      Busch will attempt to become the first driver since Johnson in 2007 to take the checkered flag in three consecutive races when he takes control of the wheel Sunday for the Crown Royal presents the Jeff Kyle 400 at the Brickyard at Indianapolis Motor Speedway (3:30 p.m. ET on NBC Sports Network). In 2007, Johnson won four straight races during the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup en route to his second career premier series championship.

      "I think the biggest thing about the Brickyard is the prestige, the track's history and quality of racing -- all the historic finishes it's had over the years, whether it has been IndyCar or NASCAR," Busch said. "To me, it's a special place to go to because of its heritage of being Indianapolis.

      "Getting our Skittles Camry to Victory Lane there would be special for a lot of reasons."

      Busch has been strong at Indianapolis, finishing second last season and in 2012, but he's still searching for his first checkered flag at the 2.5-mile track. In 10 Brickyard starts, he has posted three top-five finishes and eight top-10s. The Joe Gibbs Racing driver has been able to produce quality finishes even though he has started within the top 10 only once at the track known for being hard to pass.

      "If you are back in traffic, it's a little more frustrating because it can be hard to pass (at Indianapolis)," Busch said. "But, if you have a fast race car, being able to cut the middle and get down the long, fast straightaways is important there. We've run well there the past couple of times. We haven't qualified well, though, and I think we need to focus on qualifying when we get there; and, if we can do that, we will be a heck of a lot better off for the race."

      DILLON DRIVES FOR INDY REPEAT

      Ty Dillon had a day to remember at Indianapolis Motor Speedway last year, holding off elite drivers Kyle Busch, Matt Kenseth and Kevin Harvick as his fuel cell neared empty to win his first XFINITY Series race. Once Dillon got out of his car, he participated in the historic ritual of "Kissing the Bricks" along with his family members on the finish line of the 2.5-mile track.

      On top of that, as the highest finisher among the four eligible XFINITY Dash 4 Cash drivers, Dillon earned an extra $100,000.

      "It was one of the best moments of my racing career, one that I'll never forget," Dillon said. "I think the best part of that afternoon was having my family with me to enjoy the moment. They were all so excited and happy for our team. It was a great day all around; we won the race, the Dash 4 Cash bonus and we had a heck of a race car."

      Dillon will drive to defend his Brickyard title Saturday in the Lilly Diabetes 250 (3:30 p.m. ET on NBC). This time he will not compete for the Dash 4 Cash bonus. Teammate Brendan Gaughan, Chase Elliott, Regan Smith and XFINITY Series points leader Chris Buescher will vie for the $100,000 bonus -- they were the top four finishers at Dover among eligible drivers.

      "Indianapolis Motor Speedway is one of my favorite places to race, and we as a company have had a lot of success at this track," said Dillon, who finished third in his Brickyard debut in 2012. "I think the biggest success factor is we bring the best horsepower to the race track with ECR Engines under the hood. Last season when we won the race, the horsepower we had on that final restart put me out front, and we were able to take the checkered flag."

      NASCAR RACE WEEKEND GUIDE

      NASCAR Sprint Cup Series

      Race: Crown Royal presents the Jeff Kyle 400 at the Brickyard

      Track: Indianapolis Motor Speedway

      Date and Time: Sunday, July 26 at 3:30 p.m. ET

      Distance: 400 miles (160 laps)

      On the Air: NBC Sports Network, 3 p.m. ET, IMS Radio Network, SiriusXM Ch. 90

      What to Watch For: Kyle Busch goes for third straight win. ... Track wins record holder Jeff Gordon tries to defend 2014 victory at Brickyard in likely his final start there. ... A track-specific high-drag rule package will be used at Indianapolis this weekend. ... Both the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series and NASCAR XFINITY Series will use the superspeedway qualifying format. ... Active drivers who grew up in Indianapolis have logged eight wins at the Brickyard (Jeff Gordon five, Tony Stewart two, and Ryan Newman one). ... Chevrolet's 12-race winning streak at Indianapolis Motor Speedway is the longest active string of victories at any track.

      NASCAR XFINITY Series

      Race: Lilly Diabetes 250

      Track: Indianapolis Motor Speedway

      Date and Time: Saturday, July 25 at 3:30 p.m. ET

      Distance: 250 miles (100 laps)

      On the Air: NBC, 3 p.m. ET, IMS Radio Network, SiriusXM Ch. 90

      What to Watch For: The highest finisher among Chris Buescher, Regan Smith, Brendan Gaughan and Chase Elliott will earn a $100,000 bonus as part of the NASCAR XFINITY Series Dash 4 Cash program. ... Ty Dillon will attempt to win his second straight at the Brickyard. ... Daniel Suarez looks to extend his three-point lead over Darrell Wallace Jr. in the Sunoco Rookie of the Year race.

  • Thursday, July 23, 2015
    Bell slings to dramatic win at Eldora Speedway
    By The Sports Xchange

    By Chris Knight, NASCAR Wire Service

    • Distributed by The Sports Xchange

      In one of the most anticipated races of the year, Christopher Bell scored a dramatic win in the third annual 1-800-CAR-CASH Mud Summer Classic on the famed Eldora Speedway dirt.

      It was the first victory for Bell in just his third career start. Bell's triumph marked back-to-back victories for Kyle Busch Motorsports in the No. 54 Toyota Tundra at Eldora.

      "It's just unbelievable," said Bell in Victory Lane. "I've been coming here quite a few times and if you would have told me two years ago that my first win at Eldora was going to be in a truck, I would have told you you're crazy. This is just fantastic. I'm just thrilled to be here."

      Veteran dirt late model ace Bobby Pierce scored the Keystone Light Pole Award earlier in the day, giving MB Motorsports, one of the longest running teams in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series, its first-ever pole. Pierce lost the lead on Lap 1 to John Hunter Nemechek, but took it back on Lap 2.

      Pierce maintained control of the race, until a Lap 42 restart when Bell, also a dirt veteran, swiped the lead from Pierce in Turn 1. Bell led through Lap 60.

      When Spencer Gallagher spun on lap 53, NASCAR utilized the yellow flag to serve as the competition caution originally scheduled for Lap 60, allowing teams to come in for tires and fuel. Brad Keselowski elected to stay out during the caution, inheriting the lead alongside Bell for the Lap 61 restart.

      Bell quickly slid by Keselowski a lap later and stretched his advantage by 1.5 seconds until a debris caution on Lap 72 brought the field to his bumper.

      Through the race's then-longest green flag stretch, Bell increased his lead on Pierce, but when Chris Fontaine spun on Lap 94, it once again bunched up the field.

      On the restart, Pierce attacked Bell and stole the lead on the backstretch and kept it through a yellow for John Wes Townley on Lap 94. Bell slid in front of Pierce two laps after the restart and held the point until the end of segment two for the second competition caution of the night.

      Under the yellow, most of the field elected to stay out, setting up for the start of segment three, a 40-lap dash.

      Showcasing his dirt track skills, Bell checked out from the field with Pierce, Ty Dillon, Austin Dillon and Tyler Reddick chasing. The opportunity to pull away would be denied when the 11th caution flag of the night waved.

      Chasing his first career win in his truck series debut, Pierce stalking Bell for the lead, made contact with the Turn 4 wall with about 15 laps remaining, causing significant rear-end damage. Even with a battered truck, Pierce stayed on the throttle. The challenge for the lead would be slowed with 11 laps remaining when Timothy Peters went for a solo spin in Turn 2.

      A five-lap sprint to the finish set up for the winner of the 1-800-CAR-CASH Mud Summer Classic with Bell and Pierce up front on the restart.

      Bell would accelerate hard, while a slow restart for Pierce put him in the clutches of Austin Dillon and Tyler Reddick. Pierce escaped them and set his sights on Bell.

      When Korbin Forrister spun with two laps to go, the drama meter pegged even more, setting up for a green-white-checkered finish.

      On the final restart of the night, Bell refused to give up the race lead and withstood an attempted pass by Pierce on the last lap to earn the win.

      "I'll tell you that's pretty awesome that Bobby and I could come here and run 1-2," added Bell. "I never heard of him until I was at a sprint car race last year and he was running his late model. It's pretty cool that a couple of dirt guys could run 1-2 at a dirt race track."

      Tyler Reddick finished third ahead of Erik Jones and Daniel Hemric. Inaugural Eldora winner Austin Dillon was sixth followed by Nemechek, Cameron Hayley, Matt Crafton and Ty Dillon.

      The NASCAR Camping World Truck Series returns to action on Aug. 1 at Pocono (Pa.) Raceway for the running of the Pocono Mountains 150 (1 p.m. ET on FOX Sports 1).

      NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Race -- 1-800-CarCash Mud Summer Classic

      Eldora Speedway

      Rossburg, Ohio

      Wednesday, July 22, 2015

      1. (4) Christopher Bell, Toyota, 154, $37273.

      2. (1) Bobby Pierce, Chevrolet, 154, $27697.

      3. (5) Tyler Reddick, Ford, 154, $23646.

      4. (19) Erik Jones #, Toyota, 154, $18870.

      5. (17) Daniel Hemric #, Chevrolet, 154, $16430.

      6. (10) Austin Dillon(i), Chevrolet, 154, $13086.

      7. (2) John H. Nemechek #, Chevrolet, 154, $14794.

      8. (9) Cameron Hayley #, Toyota, 154, $14745.

      9. (12) Matt Crafton, Toyota, 154, $15695.

      10. (15) Ty Dillon(i), Chevrolet, 154, $13346.

      11. (3) Ken Schrader, Toyota, 154, $12347.

      12. (27) Ben Kennedy, Toyota, 154, $14548.

      13. (6) Tyler Young, Chevrolet, 154, $14498.

      14. (20) John Wes Townley, Chevrolet, 154, $14450.

      15. (23) Ray Black Jr. #, Chevrolet, 154, $15000.

      16. (21) Chris Fontaine, Chevrolet, 154, $12100.

      17. (18) Spencer Gallagher #, Chevrolet, 154, $14302.

      18. (30) Jody Knowles, Ford, 154, $14252.

      19. (13) Norm Benning, Chevrolet, 154, $14050.

      20. (25) Sean Corr, Ford, 154, $12251.

      21. (22) Matt Tifft, Toyota, 154, $13952.

      22. (7) Johnny Sauter, Toyota, 153, $13902.

      23. (8) Timothy Peters, Toyota, 153, $13853.

      24. (16) Korbin Forrister #, Chevrolet, 153, $12554.

      25. (26) Cody Erickson, Chevrolet, 153, $11654.

      26. (32) Wendell Chavous, Chevrolet, 152, $12456.

      27. (29) Jennifer Jo Cobb, Chevrolet, 151, $11406.

      28. (11) Brad Keselowski(i), Ford, 144, $11063.

      29. (38) Cole Custer, Chevrolet, 136, $10964.

      30. (28) Travis Kvapil, Chevrolet, Accident, 119, $10464.

      31. (14) Chad Boat, Chevrolet, Accident, 110, $8964.

      32. (31) Stewart Hayward, RAM, Engine, 79, $7964.

      Average Speed of Race Winner: 44.602 mph.

      Time of Race: 1 Hrs, 43 Mins, 35 Secs. Margin of Victory: 0.761 Seconds.

      Caution Flags: 13 for 61 laps.

      Lead Changes: 9 among 4 drivers.

      Lap Leaders: B. Pierce 0; J. Nemechek # 1; B. Pierce 2-5; A. Dillon(i) 6-12; B. Pierce 13-22; A. Dillon(i) 23; B. Pierce 24-41; C. Bell 42-98; B. Pierce 99-105; C. Bell 106-154.

      Leaders Summary (Driver, Times Lead, Laps Led): C. Bell 2 times for 106 laps; B. Pierce 4 times for 39 laps; A. Dillon(i) 2 times for 8 laps; J. Nemechek # 1 time for 1 lap.

      Top 10 in Points: M. Crafton -- 452; T. Reddick -- 438; E. Jones # -- 428; J. Sauter -- 381; J. Townley -- 360; C. Hayley # -- 351; D. Hemric # -- 347; T. Peters -- 343; S. Gallagher # -- 335; B. Kennedy -- 329.

  • Wednesday, July 22, 2015
    Auto Racing Glance
    By The Sports Xchange

    NASCAR SPRINT CUP SERIES: Crown Royal Presents the Jeff Kyle 400 at The Brickyard at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

    • TV: Sunday, July 26, 1:30 pm ET – NBCSN (Radio: Indianapolis Motor Speedway Radio Network/SiriusXM Channel 90).

      THEN AND NOW: Jeff Gordon won a record fifth Brickyard 400 last year, calling it one of the most special wins of his long Sprint Cup career. This Sunday marks Gordon's 23rd and final Brickyard 400, as he retires as a driver at the end of this season. Perhaps the only way Gordon can top last year's win is to do so for a sixth time, which, given the fact he has yet to win a race this season, would likely put him into his final Chase for the Sprint Cup, as well. … Also keep your eye out for Jimmie Johnson, who has won four times at Indianapolis. And what about Tony Stewart, who has suffered through his most miserable start to a season in his career in 2015. Stewart has not won a race in more than two years. To do so at Indianapolis, where he has won the Brickyard twice previously, would help salvage his poor start and also likely put him into the Chase. … Kyle Busch won Sunday's race at New Hampshire, his second win in a row and third victory in the last four races. Busch is now only 58 points out of the top 30 in the Sprint Cup standings. He has to be in 30th place or higher by the end of the final Chase qualifying race at Richmond in September to make the 16-driver playoff. … Kevin Harvick remains atop the point standings, holding a 69-point lead over Joey Logano and a 79-point margin over Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jimmie Johnson, who was tied for second with Logano heading into Loudon last week, fell to fourth place, 88 points back, while Martin Truex Jr. is fifth (106 points back).

      NASCAR XFINITY SERIES: Lilly Diabetes 250, Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

      TV: Saturday, July 25, 3:15 pm ET – NBCSN (Radio: Indianapolis Motor Speedway Radio Network/SiriusXM Channel 90).

      THEN AND NOW: Ty Dillon is the defending winner of the Xfinity race at IMS, the third time the series has raced at the fabled and legendary track. Kyle Busch won the 2013 race, while Brad Keselowski won the 2012 race. The race was previously held at nearby Lucas Oil Raceway. … Denny Hamlin held off a late run by Austin Dillon to take last week's Lakes Region 200 Xfinity Series race at New Hampshire Motor Speedway. … Chris Buescher remains atop the Xfinity points standings, holding a 31-point edge over Chase Elliott. Ty Dillon remains in third place (38 points back). … Saturday's race is the fourth of a stretch of 16 consecutive weeks of racing for Xfinity Series drivers before the final off-weekend of the season in October.

      NASCAR CAMPING WORLD TRUCK SERIES: 1-800-CARCASH Mud Summer Classic, Eldora Speedway; Rossberg, Ohio.

      TV: Wednesday, July 22, 9 pm ET – Fox Sports 1 (Radio: Motor Racing Network/SiriusXM Channel 90).

      THEN AND NOW: After not racing last weekend, the Camping World Truck Series resumes on Wednesday in the third-annual Mud Summer Classic race in the dirt at Eldora Speedway, just northwest of Daytona, Ohio. The track is owned by NASCAR Sprint Cup star Tony Stewart, who purchased the facility 10 years ago. … Matt Crafton won his fourth race of the season (a career high) on July 9 in the UNOH 225 at Kentucky Speedway. Crafton is going for a record third consecutive Truck championship. … Crafton holds a 20-point edge over No. 2-ranked Tyler Reddick, and a 29-point margin over No. 3-ranked Erik Jones. … The next Truck race is the Pocono Mountains 150, to be held on Saturday, Aug. 1, at Pocono Raceway.

      VERIZON INDYCAR SERIES: The series is off this weekend.

      THEN AND NOW: Ryan Hunter-Reay earned a huge win in last Saturday night's Iowa Corn 300 at Iowa Speedway in Newton, Iowa. Josef Newgarden finished second, followed by rookie Sage Karam, Graham Rahal and fifth-place finisher Carlos Munoz. … Points leader Juan Pablo Montoya suffered his worst race of the season, finishing last in the 24-car field after being involved in a crash on Lap 10 of the 300-lap event. ... Three races remain on the schedule: one oval (Pocono) and two road courses (Mid-Ohio and the season finale in Sonoma). Mid-Ohio hosts the next race, the Honda Indy 200, on Sunday, Aug. 2 … As he has since the first race of the season (which he won in St. Petersburg, Fla.), Montoya remains No. 1 in the point standings despite his wreck at Iowa. However, his lead slipped as a result. Montoya entered Iowa with a 54-point lead over Scott Dixon, but left there with just a 42-point edge over second-ranked Graham Rahal, and a 48-point margin over Dixon, who fell to third place after Iowa. Helio Castroneves is fourth (minus-54) and Will Power is in fifth (minus-55).

      NATIONAL HOT ROD ASSOCIATION MELLO YELLO DRAG RACING SERIES: Mopar Mile-High Nationals, Morrison, Colo. (suburb of Denver), July 24-26.

      TV: Saturday, July 25, qualifying, ESPN2, 11 pm to 1 am ET (tape delay); Sunday, July 26, final rounds of eliminations, ESPN2, 9 pm to 12 am ET (tape delay).

      THEN AND NOW: After a weekend off, the NHRA begins its vaunted "Western Swing," with three consecutive races in as many weeks, starting with this weekend in Morrison, Colo., followed by Sonoma (Calif.) and Kent (suburban Seattle), Wash. … This will be the 14th race on the 24-race NHRA national event schedule. … J.R. Todd (Top Fuel), Robert Hight (Funny Car), Allen Johnson (Pro Stock) and Andrew Hines (Pro Stock Motorcycle) are defending winners. … The winners in the last race, the Lucas Oil Route 66 Nationals on July 12 in Joliet, Ill., were Tony Schumacher (Top Fuel), Tommy Johnson Jr. (Funny Car), Allen Johnson (Pro Stock) and Hector Arana Jr. (Pro Stock Motorcycle). … Schumacher leads the Top Fuel standings. Teammate Antron Brown is No. 2 (minus-20) and Larry Dixon is No. 3 (minus-180). … In Funny Car, Matt Hagan leads Ron Capps by 178 points, Jack Beckman and Del Worsham are tied for third place, 189 points behind Hagan. … In Pro Stock, Greg Anderson leads defending champion Erica Enders by 66 points and third-ranked Jason Line by 214 points. … In Pro Stock Motorcycle, Eddie Krawiec holds a 16-point lead over Hector Arana Jr., while defending series champ Andrew Hines remains in third, 48 points back.

  • Monday, July 20, 2015
    Can comeback Kyle Busch go all the way?
    By The Sports Xchange

    After career-threatening injuries at the outset of the season, Kyle Busch has learned how to handle disappointment. In a career marked alternately by brilliance and baffling poor performances, Kyle Busch has commuted between potential champ to also-ran for 10 years.

    • Following three victories in four Sprint Cup races capped by a victory Sunday at the New Hampshire Motor Speedway, this season could be different.

      Recovering from horrendous leg and foot injuries sustained at the Daytona International Speedway in February and missing 11 races seems to have given Busch a new perspective. It's an outlook the likes of Yogi Berra or the Philadelphia Flyers can understand. The race isn't over until it's over, the fat lady sings or, in the case of Busch, the checkered flag falls.

      At the Golden Mile in New Hampshire on a sweltering day, Busch went for the, well, gigantic lobster in place of the gold with an amazing five-lap comeback – from his own error. Having mistakenly pitted for a tire problem that was actually some oil in Turn 2, he lost a lap after taking four new tires. In a gutsy maneuver, he regained the lead lap after a scintillating five-lap chase by passing Kevin Harvick and Brad Keselowski in Turn 1, diving inside the two cars on his fresher rubber just before a caution waved. That put Busch at the front of the field while others pitted for tires and he held the lead to the finish.

      "What I was racing for at that time was my life, to get back on the lead lap," said Busch, who seems to at least be racing for his career these days. "We needed that. That's when you got to make those moves. That's why I say, I felt like I took a little bit of a chance there today, you know, with the move down the front stretch. But that was a calculated risk that I felt like I needed to take at that particular moment."

      But Busch added that he's more calculating these days with his eye on the points he'll need to qualify for the Chase for the Sprint Cup Championship. "I'm not sure we've unleashed the beast at all," he said. "We're just taking one race at a time and doing everything that we need to do to have the right opportunities come our way like today."

      This season has been one long comeback. Prior to winning at Sonoma Raceway in June, Busch had a solo spin during what appeared to be a phantom rain shower that only he could see and collected the wall at the oval in Michigan, finishing 43rd. Afterward, the smoldering, pouting Busch reappeared – his version of older brother Kurt Busch's rants – and he refused to speak to the media.

      Needing to get a win and finish in the Top 30 in points to make the Chase, Busch stunned all by winning at Sonoma using a previously broken left foot under heavy braking on the road circuit.

      He had to overtake Brad Keselowski in the closing laps to win at the Kentucky Speedway – after getting caught out in the draft on the high banks of the Daytona International Speedway and finishing 17th.

      These days, whatever the task, the younger Busch seems to be up for it. His team owner, Joe Gibbs, has seen mental toughness as a three-time winner of the Super Bowl with the Washington Redskins and as the team owner of three titles in the Sprint Cup with Bobby Labonte and Tony Stewart. He sees the same winning attitude now in Busch, who he teamed with Crew Chief Adam Stevens in the Sprint Cup for the first time this year.

      "I said before when we won Sonoma with Kyle, it was a great sports story," said Gibbs in New Hampshire. "I think this only adds to it. I think he's been on a tear. Mentally I think he's really been up on it. Ever since the injury, I think Adam will tell you this, he's really been after it. We've really been proud of him. The way he's handled everything, disappointments, handled that really well, too."

      There were two major disappointments this weekend. First, Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Denny Hamlin knocked Busch askew in the Xfinity Series race on Saturday, sending both to the back of the field. Hamlin recovered to win and Busch fumed. Crew chief Stevens, who was promoted from his job with Busch in the Xfinity Series, said he helped his driver re-focus in their pre-race meeting.

      "It was pretty standard," Stevens said of the meeting, "other than a little bit of the conversation covering his frustrations from the Xfinity race. But, you know, Kyle, one of his greatest strengths, I've said before, too, is being able to focus forward. The more you put on him, it seems like the better he can perform."

      It's strength not consistently in evidence until this season. The irony of this scenario is that Busch is extraordinary at adapting physically, particularly to different cars and changing circumstances. He's won 42 Camping World Truck Series races, 71 Xfinity Series races and 32 Sprint Cup races for a combined total of 145 victories. If he breaks 200, some suggest it would put him in the same category as "The King," Richard Petty, who won 200 Cup races in his career, many of them backwater events on dirt tracks against relatively weak fields.

      "One of Kyle's strongest suits behind the wheel is being able to adjust, being able to adjust at changing track conditions, to different cars, to different rules packages," said Stevens, who noted that Busch has had it tougher this year with the new low downforce cars due to his absence.

      "A lot of stuff changed," said Stevens. "The spoilers changed, the splitters changed, a lot of the body panels changed. He got a carbon seat this year to meet the rules. All that changes the feel he gets from the car. Then there's the problem with getting adjusted to his feet, and those things, still continuing to get better.

      "It's pretty amazing that he's been able to adapt as well as he has and still get everything out of the car with as much stuff that has changed and the leg up that the competition has just as far as number of laps with all this new stuff."

      At 58 points outside the Top 30, Busch is now considered a lock to make the Chase field. Can he win it all – and add a Sprint Cup title to all those victories?

      "I think so," said Stevens. "You know, I think it's all about how we prepare the cars and execute, like I've said. Even while Kyle was gone, I feel like we've shown that we have speed and we have solid cars. Since Kyle's come back, maybe it's put a little bit more speed in them."

  • Sunday, July 19, 2015
    Notebook: Harvick settles for third after snafu
    By The Sports Xchange

    By Reid Spencer, NASCAR Wire Service

    • Distributed by The Sports Xchange

      LOUDON, N.H. -- Until an uncharacteristic miscue on pit road cost him precious track position late in Sunday's 5-Hour ENERGY 301 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at New Hampshire Motor Speedway, Kevin Harvick appeared a likely candidate for Victory Lane.

      Harvick was leading the race when NASCAR called the sixth caution of the event on lap 251 because of fluid on the track. But after a slow four-tire stop, Harvick's No. 4 Chevrolet was fifth off pit road and restarted sixth because eventual race winner Kyle Busch stayed out on seven-lap-old tires.

      Harvick quickly moved to fourth, and on Lap 288 of 301 he passed Joey Logano for the third spot. But the reigning series champion couldn't overcome the loss of track position on pit road.

      Nevertheless, Harvick believed the four-tire call was the right one.

      "I think we had the right strategy, just a little miscue on the last pit stop," he said. "Those guys have done great all year. They did great today. It just took me a little longer to get around a couple of those cars and lost the track position.

      "I just have to thank everybody (on our team) for everything they do. We were off on Friday, and we were able to really rebound and have a good Saturday and good race car today. It's encouraging for two months."

      Two months hence, that is, when the Cup series returns to New Hampshire for the second race in the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup.

      JEFF GORDON SALVAGES SOLID FINISH

      After qualifying 23rd and having his No. 24 Chevrolet damaged during a run-in with Clint Bowyer in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series garageon Saturday, Jeff Gordon reversed his ill fortune in Sunday's race.

      Though he fought the handling of his car late in the race, Gordon held on for a ninth-place finish, improving 14 spots over his starting position.

      "Honestly, that's the kind of effort that this team has been putting in a lot lately," Gordon said. "We haven't been coming to the track in the position that we really feel like we could be, like we were last year. We've got some catch-up to do there; but, my gosh, one thing we're not lacking is determination and just the ability to overcome adversity. I'm really proud of that.

      "The car was actually pretty good. When they dropped the green, we were good for about the first half of the race. But the second half of the race, we just couldn't keep up with the track conditions. I'm not sure exactly what went on, but we were just kind of holding on there at the end. But it was still a nice top 10."

      NEW HAMPSHIRE HEAT HAMPERS DRIVERS

      An unusually hot New Hampshire day produced temperatures that adversely affected several drivers, even with cool boxes as standard issue in the cars.

      Both Michael Annett and Matt DiBenedetto were treated in the infield care center for heat-related issues after the race. Both were released soon afterward.

      "Everybody's working real hard inside the cars," fifth-place finisher Dale Earnhardt Jr. told PRN's Steve Richards. "This is a track where you've got to drive real, real hard every lap. The corners don't work for you to where you can kind of settle into a pace.

      "You're working the car into the corner real loose and real tight in the center, and you're working your guts out. It's just a good thing they didn't call any red flags. We'd have had some heat strokes out there. It's pretty warm."

  • Sunday, July 19, 2015
    Kyle Busch continues march toward Chase with win
    By The Sports Xchange

    By Reid Spencer, NASCAR Wire Service

    • Distributed by The Sports Xchange

      LOUDON, N.H. -- The odds in Kyle Busch's favor made another dramatic surge on Sunday afternoon at New Hampshire Motor Speedway.

      In winning for the third time in eight starts since returning from an 11-race injury absence, Busch solidified his chances of qualifying for the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup with a serendipitous victory in the 5-Hour ENERGY 301 at the Magic Mile.

      Two critical moves were essential to Busch's winning for the second time at New Hampshire and the 32nd time in his career. First, with the No. 18 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota sliding in a patch of oil and thinking he had a tire going flat, Busch brought his car to pit road on Lap 244, sooner than planned.

      That allowed Busch to gain time on the track while other contending cars stayed out on old tires. The spur of the moment "strategy" ultimately played out in his favor.

      Second, Busch got back on the lead lap with a gutsy pass of race leader Kevin Harvick and second-place Brad Keselowski, weaving through traffic on the frontstretch seconds before NASCAR called a caution for fluid on the track on Lap 251 of 301.

      Busch inherited the top spot when the rest of the lead-lap cars came to pit road on Lap 253, and he stayed up front the rest of the way. After taking the white flag, Busch won the race under yellow when Alex Bowman's accident in Turn 2 on the final lap caused the race's seventh caution.

      Given the discussion on team radios about the probability of that Lap 251 caution being called, Busch felt a strong sense of urgency to make what proved to be the decisive pass.

      "I knew I'd been running it hard and I'd been trying to catch (Matt) Kenseth in front of me that entire run, and I had just been so tight that I couldn't get going and couldn't get a rhythm going to close in on Kenseth. And I figured I just chewed the right front off of it, because I went into the corner and the thing just went straight one time so I was like, 'Man, I'm down to cords now, that's it, it's done.'

      "We shot to pit road and got it changed there, and evidently it was oil on the race track that just made the car slip so bad from out from under me. We got a lucky break and I hauled butt, man, those five laps I ran were five qualifying laps through traffic trying to get back up to the front and pass Harvick to stay on the lead lap. That was our saving bucket right there. That was what we needed to do."

      The offshoot of the victory is that Busch's hopes of making the Chase now are better than realistic. To qualify, he must finish the first 26 races in the top 30 in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series standings. With seven races left before the cutoff, Busch is 33rd, trailing 30th-place David Gilliland by 58 points.

      "This is such an awesome win and such an awesome comeback," Busch said. "I just can't say enough about everyone at Joe Gibbs Racing, the work that they've put in. Our cars are a lot better than what they were last year.

      "It's so much fun to win these races and to win with this group of guys - (crew chief) Adam Stevens and this bunch, all my pit crew since 2008, they deserve all this."

      Keselowski, who got two fresh tires on the last pit stop, was closing on Busch at the end of the race but ran out of time and finished second. For the second straight week, Keselowski failed to win in what was arguably the best car.

      "We had a really fast car and led a lot of laps (a race-high 100)," Keselowski said tersely. "I'm really proud of the team for bringing me two fast cars these past two weekends."

      "It's a joy to drive cars that fast," added Keselowski, looking less than joyful.

      Asked whether he was frustrated, Keselowski replied, "I'm ready to go home."

      Asked whether taking four tires instead of two on the last pit stop might have made a difference, Keselowski said, "It probably didn't matter, so it's hard to say. It is what it is."

      Harvick came home third, followed by Joey Logano and Dale Earnhardt Jr. Kenseth, polesitter Carl Edwards, Austin Dillon, Jeff Gordon and Kurt Busch completed the top 10.

      NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Race - 5-hour ENERGY 301

      New Hampshire Motor Speedway

      Loudon, New Hampshire

      Sunday, July 19, 2015

      1. (4) Kyle Busch, Toyota, 301, $271031.

      2. (10) Brad Keselowski, Ford, 301, $214416.

      3. (12) Kevin Harvick, Chevrolet, 301, $184550.

      4. (2) Joey Logano, Ford, 301, $161258.

      5. (19) Dale Earnhardt Jr., Chevrolet, 301, $127600.

      6. (8) Matt Kenseth, Toyota, 301, $144026.

      7. (1) Carl Edwards, Toyota, 301, $107315.

      8. (24) Austin Dillon, Chevrolet, 301, $137601.

      9. (23) Jeff Gordon, Chevrolet, 301, $137901.

      10. (6) Kurt Busch, Chevrolet, 301, $107415.

      11. (26) Ryan Newman, Chevrolet, 301, $124590.

      12. (15) Martin Truex Jr., Chevrolet, 301, $117485.

      13. (22) AJ Allmendinger, Chevrolet, 301, $121898.

      14. (5) Denny Hamlin, Toyota, 301, $102615.

      15. (29) Aric Almirola, Ford, 301, $125251.

      16. (21) Casey Mears, Chevrolet, 301, $111548.

      17. (32) Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Ford, 301, $95515.

      18. (3) David Ragan, Toyota, 301, $115309.

      19. (9) Kasey Kahne, Chevrolet, 301, $100590.

      20. (25) Tony Stewart, Chevrolet, 301, $113804.

      21. (37) David Gilliland, Ford, 301, $112898.

      22. (7) Jimmie Johnson, Chevrolet, 300, $129826.

      23. (16) Ryan Blaney(i), Ford, 300, $81665.

      24. (20) Danica Patrick, Chevrolet, 300, $92965.

      25. (28) Paul Menard, Chevrolet, 300, $92665.

      26. (11) Jamie McMurray, Chevrolet, 300, $114356.

      27. (14) Greg Biffle, Ford, 299, $115048.

      28. (33) Cole Whitt, Ford, 299, $95373.

      29. (27) Sam Hornish Jr., Ford, 299, $109685.

      30. (13) Landon Cassill(i), Chevrolet, 299, $84590.

      31. (17) Kyle Larson, Chevrolet, 299, $110298.

      32. (31) Trevor Bayne, Ford, 299, $124190.

      33. (34) Brett Moffitt #, Ford, 297, $80890.

      34. (18) Clint Bowyer, Toyota, 297, $113348.

      35. (35) Matt DiBenedetto #, Toyota, 296, $88537.

      36. (38) Michael Annett, Chevrolet, 296, $78760.

      37. (41) Eddie MacDonald, Ford, 295, $78542.

      38. (43) Timmy Hill(i), Ford, 292, $73727.

      39. (42) Derek White(i), Chevrolet, 290, $69655.

      40. (30) Justin Allgaier, Chevrolet, 284, $73655.

      41. (36) Jeb Burton #, Toyota, 239, $61655.

      42. (40) Alex Bowman, Chevrolet, 230, $57655.

      43. (39) JJ Yeley(i), Toyota, Rear Gear, 202, $54155.

      Average Speed of Race Winner: 108.504 mph.

      Time of Race: 02 Hrs, 56 Mins, 06 Secs. Margin of Victory: Caution.

      Caution Flags: 7 for 34 laps.

      Lead Changes: 9 among 7 drivers.

      Lap Leaders: C. Edwards 1-19; Kyle Busch 20-66; B. Keselowski 67-88; J. Gordon 89-90; A. Allmendinger 91-103; B. Keselowski 104-178; J. Logano 179-190; B. Keselowski 191-193; K. Harvick 194-252; Kyle Busch 253-301.

      Leaders Summary (Driver, Times Lead, Laps Led): B. Keselowski 3 times for 100 laps; Kyle Busch 2 times for 96 laps; K. Harvick 1 time for 59 laps; C. Edwards 1 time for 19 laps; A. Allmendinger 1 time for 13 laps; J. Logano 1 time for 12 laps; J. Gordon 1 time for 2 laps.

      Top 16 in Points: K. Harvick - 734; J. Logano - 665; D. Earnhardt Jr. - 655; J. Johnson - 646; M. Truex Jr. - 628; B. Keselowski - 603; M. Kenseth - 578; Kurt Busch - 576; J. Mcmurray - 574; J. Gordon - 573; D. Hamlin - 552; K. Kahne - 538; R. Newman - 530; P. Menard - 528; A. Almirola - 502; C. Bowyer - 500.

  • Sunday, July 19, 2015
    Kyle Busch wins in New Hampshire
    By The Sports Xchange

    LOUDON, N.H. -- Kyle Busch claimed his third win in his last four races by holding off Brad Keselowski in lap traffic in the closing laps of the 5-hour Energy 301 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at New Hampshire Motor Speedway on Sunday.

    • "I just can't say enough about everyone at Joe Gibbs Racing, the work that they've put in," Busch said. "Our cars are a lot better than what they were last year. It's so much fun to win these races and to win with this group of guys. Adam Stevens (crew chief) and this bunch, all my pit crew since 2008, they deserve all this."

      Keselowski finished second, and Kevin Harvick was third. Joey Logano and Dale Earnhardt Jr. rounded out the top five.

      The race ended under yellow because of a spinning car on the final lap, slowing Busch and everyone behind him to 45 mph as they headed to the checkered flag.

      Harvick took the lead from Keselowski on a restart following a lap-188 caution. Busch, though, short-pitted with about 55 laps remaining, un-lapped himself just before a caution came out, then stayed out to inherit the lead when the other front-runners headed for pit road under yellow.

      "For five laps, I just drove as hard as I could when I got off pit road and knew I needed to get those guys," Busch said. "They were telling me the 38 (David Gilliland) was in the lucky dog spot and once I got there, I was like 'OK, what else do I have to do to get back on the lead lap.' I figured it was the four (Harvick) still and it was. The four and the two (Keselowski) were really the class of the field I felt like today."

      Harvick took four tires while others took two and, as a result, restarted seventh. As Busch and Keselowski raced up front, Harvick worked his way back toward the front, moving into the third spot with 13 laps remaining.

      "Well, I definitely think that track position didn't help us, but I think four tires was the right call," Harvick said. "Just really proud of my guys for the whole weekend. We didn't start off well on Friday and were able to really get our car going. Had a really good car during the race."

      Keselowski had taken command of the race by grabbing the lead with a pass on Busch on lap 67. Keselowski was among the drivers who pitted during the first caution of the race on lap 22. He restarted ninth, but with newer tires, he quickly made his way to the front.

      "We had a really fast car and led a lot of laps," Keselowski said. "I'm really proud of the team for bringing me two fast cars these past two weekends. It's a joy to drive cars that fast."

      A.J. Allmendinger led briefly under yellow during the second caution of the race that came on lap 97. He was running low on fuel during the lengthy caution as the track clean-up crew worked after the car of Alex Bowman caught fire at his exit of pit road. After most of the race field pitted under green, Allmendinger pitted under yellow when pit road finally opened, handing the lead back over to Keselowski.

      Kurt Busch and Earnhardt Jr. battled for second behind Keselowski for several laps before Kyle Busch got by both of them for the second position.

      Earnhardt eventually finished fifth.

      "We had drama with the set-up," Earnhardt said. "The car didn't drive very good all day, and we've worked hard trying to fix it and just couldn't get it any better, really. We worked hard all weekend, just frustrated with the balance on the car. Had a little engine issue the whole race that was hurting us down the straightaway real bad."

      Carl Edwards started the race from the pole, with Logano alongside on the front row. Kyle Busch moved up to the second spot behind Edwards in the early laps of the race to give Joe Gibbs Racing the top two spots in the running order. On lap 20, Busch took the lead from his teammate.

      NOTES: Denny Hamlin led 145 laps and won the 200-lap Lakes Region 200 NASCAR Xfinity Series race at New Hampshire Motor Speedway on Saturday. The top four finishers were all Sprint Cup Series drivers, with Austin Dillon, Brad Keselowski and Kyle Busch finishing second through fourth. ... Kyle Busch became the 12th different winner to win in the 12 most recent New Hampshire races. ... Team Penske swept last year's two Cup races at NHMS, with Joey Logano winning in September and Keselowski winning last July. ... Five drivers in this year's 5-hour Energy 301 came into the race with three career wins at the track -- Kurt Busch, Jeff Gordon, Jimmie Johnson, Ryan Newman and Tony Stewart.

  • Sunday, July 19, 2015
    Hunter-Reay wins Iowa IndyCar race again
    By The Sports Xchange

    NEWTON, Iowa -- IndyCar saw a lot of red, white and blue -- with a big splash of yellow -- in the heartland Saturday night.

    • Ryan Hunter-Reay held off Josef Newgarden and Sage Karam in the Iowa Corn 300 at Iowa Speedway for a 1-2-3 sweep by U.S. drivers -- the first such performance by Americans since Sam Hornish Jr. held off Marco and Michael Andretti in the 2006 Indianapolis 500.

      Graham Rahal gave the U.S. fourth place, too, with Ed Carpenter sixth and Marco Andretti seventh. The only foreign-born driver in the top group was Colombian Carlos Munoz, who placed fifth.

      Driving the yellow car, Hunter-Reay desperately needed this win. The former IndyCar champion and 500 winner hadn't reached Victory Lane since July 12, 2014, when he beat Newgarden on the same track. Hunter-Reay has won three of the past four races on the 0.875-mile short oval.

      Hunter-Reay's victory also gave Andretti Autosport -- another U.S.-born entity -- its sixth consecutive win at Iowa Speedway. Its other winners have been Dario Franchitti, Tony Kanaan, Marco Andretti and James Hinchcliffe.

      "I don't know what it is about this team and this place, but we're awesome here," Hunter-Reay said. "This season has been a challenge, for sure, but we've kept our heads up and kept working. This feels so good, such a relief. We can exhale now."

      Indianapolis 500 champion Juan Pablo Montoya entered the event with a 54-point lead over Scott Dixon, a total amounting to a full-race advantage with just four races left. But that changed on Lap 10 when suspension failure in Turn 2 caused Montoya to hit the outside wall. His race was done.

      "As soon as I loaded up (in the corner), something gave up," said Montoya, nursing a

      bruised hand.

      Other championship contenders struggled, too. Scott Dixon's car needed mid-race repairs, costing him considerably. He finished 18th.

      He'll head to the Aug. 2 race at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course, a track where he has won three of the past four races and five overall, trailing Montoya by 48 points.

      "I thought we were getting a break with (Montoya) going out early and then we

      had a weird problem with the right rear axle," Dixon said.

      Chip Ganassi's team had troubles throughout the night. Kanaan retired with an electrical problem after leading 70 laps. Charlie Kimball glanced off the Turn 2 wall, slid to the inside wall and was done.

      That left only Karam to compete for the win. His race ended with Carpenter giving him an earful about safe driving. Carpenter said they would have crashed if the veteran had not backed out of a couple of close calls.

      Turn 2 was the trouble spot throughout. Justin Wilson grazed the wall trying to slow up for traffic ahead of him. Kimball also spun there, as did rookie Stefano Coletti and Takuma Sato. None of them were injured.

      The memorable moment of the night came when Carpenter marched toward Karam to

      express his anger with Karam twice squeezing him against the front straightaway wall.

      "I said that he has no respect for anyone out there," Carpenter said. "If it wasn't for guys with experience driving with their heads on, he would be hurting himself and other people. He has no clue."

      Karam said, "He says I squeezed him a few times, but it is the same way he drove me. It's hard racing. I'm going for wins and that is how we are driving. It's close racing, it's IndyCar racing. This ain't go-karts or anything anymore.

      "We are going to race each other hard, and we are professionals. We know each other's limits. I mean, tough luck for him."

      NOTES: Helio Castroneves won the pole by edging Tony Kanaan, 183.480 mph to 183.125 mph. It was the 44th pole of his career, tops among active drivers and fourth in IndyCar history. The top three: Mario Andretti (67), A.J. Foyt (53) and Bobby Unser (49). ... Longtime Champ Car rivals Paul Tracy and Sebastien Bourdais have reconciled, capped by an appearance together in Saturday night's pre-race show. Tracy started the reconciliation by unexpectedly calling Bourdais last month. Tracy, who is an IndyCar television analyst, was effusive with his praise of Bourdais last week as Bourdais won IndyCar's oval race in Milwaukee. ... Max Chilton completed an emotional weekend by winning the Indy Lights race from the pole, the first of both for him in the series. Chilton dedicated both to Jules Bianchi, his teammate last year on the Marussia F1 team. Bianchi died Friday after nine months in a coma following a crash in Suzuka, Japan. Bianchi became the first F1 driver to die from injuries since Ayrton Senna in 1994.

  • Saturday, July 18, 2015
    Hamlin's winning Xfinity move rankles Dillon
    By The Sports Xchange

    By Reid Spencer

    • NASCAR Wire Service

      Distributed by The Sports Xchange

      LOUDON, N.H. -- To Denny Hamlin, it was just hard short-track racing for the win.

      To runner-up Austin Dillon, it was unnecessarily aggressive driving that led to Hamlin's victory in the Lakes Region 200 NASCAR Xfinity Series race on Saturday at New Hampshire Motor Speedway.

      On Lap 179 of 200 at the Magic Mile, Hamlin drove to the inside of Dillon. Hamlin slid up the track into Dillon, broke his momentum and took the lead.

      Eventual third- and fourth-place finishers Brad Keselowski and Kyle Busch also passed Dillon, who later regained the positions he lost to Keselowski and Busch but ran out of time in his pursuit of Hamlin.

      Earlier in the race, Hamlin had two similar incidents with Busch, his teammate. And though Busch didn't appear particularly annoyed with Hamlin's tactics, Dillon was incensed.

      "He got to me and I figured he was going to race, but he never even wanted to," Dillon said. "He wrecked his teammate and then proceeded to try and wreck me, and if I had gotten back to him, it would have happened to him."

      Hamlin wrote off the contact to all-out racing at a one-mile flat track.

      "The bottom line is, if you don't have any air on the outside of you, you just can't hold it," Hamlin said. "There was an example of that about three times today ... I want to thank 'Wheels' (crew chief Mike Wheeler) for giving me the dominant car. We had the best car, and just, wow, what a day."

      In Hamlin's view, Dillon wasn't blameless either.

      "Well, he jumped the restart, for one," Hamlin said. "I'm the control car, but that's fine. Eventually I was going to get back around him anyway. Same thing -- I was a fender ahead, and he drove in there knowing that he was going to have to hold me low to hold the position, and I just washed up into him.

      "But that's two guys on a short track racing for the win."

      Dillon clearly had a different opinion.

      "What is racing, if you can't race side by side for more than a corner?" Dillon asked rhetorically. "He never even went through a corner with me, the whole race. He didn't want to. He just moved me. Missed the corner. Wrecked me.

      "I'm fine with racing rough. I promise you, I can do it to anybody. But if we're going to race like that, I need to know before you get to the first corner. Give me a corner at least."

      Dillon indicated there might be some payback in the offing but wouldn't reveal how or when.

      "I'm not going to talk about it," Dillon said. "He won't be ready."

      Hamlin's reply? "We've both got race cars."

      Dillon got the lead on Lap 175 moments after a restart following the sixth and final caution for Brian Scott's blown engine.

      Both Hamlin and Dillon had stayed out on old tires under the previous yellow, but Keselowski came to pit road for fresh rubber on Lap 142. As it turned out, the new tires made little difference.

      "It was the right call and probably got us to third, instead of fourth or fifth," Keselowski said. "We just weren't as fast as the 33 and 20 were. ... We just weren't fast enough this weekend."

      Rookie Daniel Suarez ran fifth, followed by Ty Dillon, Regan Smith, Darrell Wallace Jr., Chase Elliott and Brennan Poole. Series leader Chris Buescher finished 14th, one lap down, and saw his lead in the standings shrink to 31 points over second-place Elliott.

      NASCAR XFINITY Series Race - Lakes Region 200

      New Hampshire Motor Speedway

      Loudon, New Hampshire

      Saturday, July 18, 2015

      1. (1) Denny Hamlin(i), Toyota, 200, $52101.

      2. (6) Austin Dillon(i), Chevrolet, 200, $32261.

      3. (4) Brad Keselowski(i), Ford, 200, $27038.

      4. (2) Kyle Busch(i), Toyota, 200, $26186.

      5. (3) Daniel Suarez #, Toyota, 200, $27768.

      6. (7) Ty Dillon, Chevrolet, 200, $23909.

      7. (8) Regan Smith, Chevrolet, 200, $23253.

      8. (11) Darrell Wallace Jr. #, Ford, 200, $24948.

      9. (9) Chase Elliott, Chevrolet, 200, $23720.

      10. (13) Brennan Poole, Chevrolet, 200, $23494.

      11. (10) Brendan Gaughan, Chevrolet, 200, $22467.

      12. (14) Ben Rhodes, Chevrolet, 199, $22341.

      13. (21) Ryan Reed, Ford, 199, $22188.

      14. (20) Chris Buescher, Ford, 199, $21935.

      15. (19) JJ Yeley, Toyota, 199, $22209.

      16. (15) Dakoda Armstrong, Ford, 199, $21681.

      17. (17) Elliott Sadler, Ford, 199, $21755.

      18. (28) Eric McClure, Toyota, 198, $21402.

      19. (23) Jeremy Clements, Chevrolet, 198, $21352.

      20. (16) Blake Koch, Toyota, 198, $21802.

      21. (25) Cale Conley #, Toyota, 198, $21200.

      22. (24) David Starr, Toyota, 198, $21144.

      23. (18) Landon Cassill, Chevrolet, 198, $21093.

      24. (26) Dylan Lupton, Chevrolet, 198, $21028.

      25. (27) BJ McLeod(i), Chevrolet, 197, $21142.

      26. (31) Peyton Sellers #, Chevrolet, 195, $20957.

      27. (36) Derek White, Dodge, 195, $20921.

      28. (33) Joey Gase, Chevrolet, Clutch, 174, $20885.

      29. (5) Brian Scott, Chevrolet, Engine, 165, $20850.

      30. (35) Todd Peck(i), Chevrolet, Fuel Pump, 156, $21115.

      31. (37) Mike Harmon, Dodge, Brakes, 111, $20779.

      32. (38) Derrike Cope, Chevrolet, Brakes, 98, $14744.

      33. (29) Matt Wallace, Toyota, Vibration, 84, $14723.

      34. (12) Ryan Sieg, Chevrolet, Brakes, 46, $20703.

      35. (40) Matt Frahm, Chevrolet, Brakes, 42, $14651.

      36. (34) Morgan Shepherd, Chevrolet, Brakes, 40, $13234.

      37. (22) Ross Chastain #, Chevrolet, Accident, 36, $18234.

      38. (39) Josh Reaume #, Dodge, Brakes, 24, $11234.

      39. (32) Harrison Rhodes #, Chevrolet, Engine, 16, $16234.

      40. (30) Jeff Green, Toyota, Vibration, 3, $9234.

      Average Speed of Race Winner: 98.342 mph.

      Time of Race: 2 Hrs, 9 Mins, 6 Secs.

      Margin of Victory: 0.516 Seconds.

      Caution Flags: 6 for 38 laps.

      Lead Changes: 12 among 7 drivers.

      Lap Leaders: D. Hamlin(i) 0; K. Busch(i) 1-22; B. Keselowski(i) 23-39; D. Lupton 40-42; D. Hamlin(i) 43-44; K. Busch(i) 45-47; D. Hamlin(i) 48-119; B. Scott 120-121; A. Dillon(i) 122-123; D. Wallace Jr. # 124; D. Hamlin(i) 125-173; A. Dillon(i) 174-178; D. Hamlin(i) 179-200.

      Leaders Summary (Driver, Times Lead, Laps Led): D. Hamlin(i) 4 times for 145 laps; K. Busch(i) 2 times for 25 laps; B. Keselowski(i) 1 time for 17 laps; A. Dillon(i) 2 times for 7 laps; D. Lupton 1 time for 3 laps; B. Scott 1 time for 2 laps; D. Wallace Jr. # 1 time for 1 lap.

      Top 10 in Points: C. Buescher - 623; C. Elliott - 592; T. Dillon - 585; R. Smith - 564; E. Sadler - 555; D. Wallace Jr. # - 547; D. Suarez # - 516; B. Gaughan - 506; R. Reed - 502; B. Scott - 494.

  • Saturday, July 18, 2015
    Disappointing start to weekend gets worse for Gordon
    By The Sports Xchange

    By Reid Spencer, NASCAR Wire Service

    • Distributed by The Sports Xchange

      LOUDON, N.H. -- To say the least, four-time NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion Jeff Gordon was disappointed with his 23rd-place qualifying effort on Friday afternoon at New Hampshire Motor Speedway.

      Then came the first Cup practice on Saturday morning, when the weekend really turned sour for the driver of the No. 24 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet.

      Halfway through the session in preparation for Sunday's race (1:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN), Gordon backed out of his garage stall, waved on by one of his crewmen. Unfortunately, he backed right into the path of the oncoming No. 15 Toyota of Clint Bowyer, who caved in the right rear quarter panel of Gordon's car.

      Bowyer had the right of way in a garage area congested with onlookers and pit carts, and the damage to the nose of his Camry was primarily cosmetic. The same couldn't be said of the right rear of Gordon's car, and his crew went to work immediately to repair the quarter panel.

      Gordon got his Chevy back on the track in time for the start of Saturday's final practice. Gordon was 22nd fastest in Happy Hour with a lap at 131.017 mph.

      "We're gaining on it," Gordon said. "I don't want to say it can't get worse, but I know it can, so I'm not going to say that. But, hopefully, this will all pay off for us tomorrow (in Sunday's 5-Hour Energy 301)."

      SUAREZ STAYING FOCUSED ON XFINITY SERIES

      As the NASCAR Xfinity Series season has progressed, Joe Gibbs Racing driver Daniel Suarez has become a fixture near the front of the field almost every weekend.

      Inevitably, his strong performance (three top-seven finishes in the last six races) has raised questions about possible participation in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series next year. But Suarez would prefer to concentrate on the matters at hand.

      "To be honest, I feel like I'm getting comfortable right now where we are right now in the NASCAR Xfinity Series," he said Saturday morning before qualifying at New Hampshire Motor Speedway. "My focus and my goal is in the NASCAR Xfinity Series, and I feel like I'm getting comfortable in this, and I think we're getting better on this.

      "The big focus right now is in the NASCAR Xfinity Series -- some stuff in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series as well -- but I really feel like we shouldn't think about something else right now because we can lose some focus. We have to keep working on what we're doing right now and try to be more competitive, try to win some races and then the opportunities will come."

      POLE WINNER EDWARDS IS FAST IN RACE TRIM, TOO

      New Hampshire pole winner Carl Edwards didn't miss a beat when his No. 19 Joe Gibbs Racing team returned the car to race trim for Saturday's two practice sessions.

      Edwards was third fastest behind Kevin Harvick and Jimmie Johnson in the morning session. During Happy Hour, Edwards posted the top speed of the day, 133.110 mph, beating Harvick (132.397 mph) and Ryan Blaney (132.213 mph) for the top spot on the speed chart.

      Kyle Busch, last week's winner at Kentucky Speedway, brought sustained momentum to New Hampshire. Busch posted the fourth-fastest speed in both Sprint Cup practice sessions.

  • Friday, July 17, 2015
    F-1 driver Bianchi dies at 25
    By The Sports Xchange

    Jules Bianchi, a 25-year-old Formula 1 driver injured in a crash during a race last October, has died.

    • Bianchi's family announced Friday that the driver died Thursday night at the French hospital where he had been in a coma since the crash in the Japanese Grand Prix.

      "Jules fought right to the very end, as he always did, but today his battle came to an end," the Bianchi family said on Facebook. "The pain we feel is immense and indescribable. ... We thank Jules' colleagues, friends, fans and everyone who has demonstrated their affection for him over these past months, which gave us great strength and helped us deal with such difficult times. Listening to and reading the many messages made us realize just how much Jules had touched the hearts and minds of so many people all over the world."

  • Friday, July 17, 2015
    Pole winner Edwards: 'It just feels right'
    By The Sports Xchange

    By Reid Spencer

    • NASCAR Wire Service

      Distributed by The Sports Xchange

      LOUDON, N.H. -- As Carl Edwards put it, "Things just feel right."

      That was Edwards' take on the state of affairs at Joe Gibbs Racing after he put his No. 19 Toyota on the pole for the 5-Hour ENERGY 301 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at New Hampshire Motor Speedway (1:30 p.m. ET Sunday on NBCSN).

      "Right now it just feels right," said Edwards, who toured the Magic Mile in 28.179 seconds (135.164 mph) in the qualifying session Friday to earn his first pole of the season, his first at New Hampshire and the 14th of his career.

      "It's just cool, man," he said. "My expectation is to do the best we can. My hope is that we win this thing. ... We've been working very hard to bring this team together to be the best that we can be. It just feels right. This is cool. It's a lot of fun."

      Last Saturday in Kentucky, JGR teammate Kyle Busch won and the organization placed all of its drivers in the top five: Denny Hamlin, Edwards and Matt Kenseth trailed second-place Joey Logano of Team Penske.

      Coincidentally, Logano (135.021 mph) qualified second to Edwards on Friday, with Michael Waltrip Racing's David Ragan third (also at 135.021 mph), Busch (134.025 mph) fourth and Hamlin (134.601 mph) fifth.

      Edwards, who dramatically improved his average starting position of 14.9 at New Hampshire, didn't believe he had won the pole Friday until he got reassurance from crew chief Darian Grubb.

      On the other hand, Logano wasn't particularly thrilled to run second to a Gibbs driver for the second time in six days.

      "Second: It seems like the story of our week, coming off Kentucky with a strong second-place run and then qualifying second here as well," Logano said. "Not that I'm complaining about it, but it's not much fun finishing second, being so close to getting trophies and pole flags and all the fun stuff.

      "There's not really much fun that happens when you finish second, but we're close. We've got speed in our race car once again."

      Danica Patrick advanced to the second round of knockout qualifying and will start 20th, one spot behind Dale Earnhardt Jr.

      Jeff Gordon, still seeking his first victory in his last season of full-time Sprint Cup racing, will start 23rd.

      "Yeah, it's not been a good day for us with the No. 24 car," Gordon said. "We've been struggling getting the car to do what we need it to do. Just real tight through the center. (We) need to get it to rotate, need some front grip, so we will go to work on it (Saturday in practice).

      "It's disappointing that we didn't qualify better. We typically qualify well here and perform well here. We'll put this day behind us and go work on it tomorrow and get it ready for Sunday."

      NOTES: Reed Sorenson failed to make the 43-car field. ... Joey Logano posted the fastest speed in Friday's time trials (135.448 mph) when he paced the second of the three knockout rounds, but the final round determines the pole winner.

  • Friday, July 17, 2015
    Biffle's big idea: Different aero packages at same track
    By The Sports Xchange

    By Reid Spencer, NASCAR Wire Service

    • Distributed by The Sports Xchange

      LOUDON, N.H. -- Greg Biffle had a novel idea -- one that is unlikely to be implemented, but interesting nevertheless.

      Given NASCAR's willingness to refine its competition package in effort to enhance the quality of racing, though, nothing is totally out of the question.

      Whether feasible or not, Biffle posed the following hypothetical during a media session on Friday morning at New Hampshire Motor Speedway prior to Sunday's 5-hour ENERGY 301 (1:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN).

      "Do you know what would be perfect at Michigan would be we just run the first half of the race with the high downforce and run the second half of the race with the low downforce and see which half was better."

      Last week at Kentucky Speedway, NASCAR introduced a new small-spoiler, low-downforce package that won nearly universal acclaim among drivers and produced one of the most exciting intermediate-track races since last year's season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

      Next week at Indianapolis, and three weeks later at Michigan, NASCAR will try a higher-drag package with a nine-inch-tall spoiler (compared with 3.5 inches used at Kentucky) in an attempt to give cars a better chance to pass on those tracks.

      Biffle's idea is to compare the results of both the low-downforce and high-drag packages under the same conditions at the same race track, a concept that's not as impractical as it might sound at first. Changing the key aerodynamic elements of the current Sprint Cup cars is a relatively simple process.

      "I think it's definitely a bold idea, and the way these cars are, it gives us that opportunity for having the splitter and the spoiler and being able to adjust those fairly easily to change the package around," Biffle said. "Before, that was difficult to do, because we had a front valance on it, so you could never change the front downforce by changing that pan and the splitter.

      "With them being able to change that around from track to track, it makes it fairly easy for the teams to switch out as well, so that's a positive. I like the idea of changing it around."

      KYLE BUSCH: GETTING BETTER ALL THE TIME

      For a race car driver, winning often is enough to take one's mind off pain and discomfort, but even when he's not visiting Victory Lane, Kyle Busch says the residual effects of the crash that sidelined him for 11 weeks is certainly tolerable.

      Busch broke his right leg and left foot in a Feb. 21 accident at Daytona International Speedway but has won two of his last three NASCAR Sprint Cup Series starts after returning to action at Charlotte in May.

      "Winning cures all and it seems like last week at Kentucky (his second win), the good runs we had there, my foot has felt a lot better," Busch said Friday before opening Cup practice at New Hampshire Motor Speedway. "(But) I wouldn't attribute it to that. Early on, I probably mentioned at Charlotte that I wasn't dealing with much pain, and I really wasn't. There's times where it flares up and it gets bad, and you have some good days and you have some bad days.

      "The more and more we get going here, the more and more good days I seem to have. Just trying to get through the inflammation and stuff like that, that I had in my foot and ankle, and everything has gotten a lot better. To be honest with you, I feel 100 percent behind the wheel of the car, and I can push the brakes real well -- I think we saw that at Sonoma (his first win this year)."

      The excitement of leading the race at the road course in wine country masked the discomfort Busch started to feel late in the race.

      "I started to feel a little bit of pain with about 25 (laps) to go," he acknowledged, "but then you get the adrenaline to take over and get going when you're having a shot at the win, and you don't feel anything until the next day afterwards, when everything kind of calms back down.

      "Last week at Kentucky, everything went real well, real smooth, actually. Got out of the car and walked around for all the media stuff afterwards and didn't really feel any ill effects. It's getting better."

      NO PLACE LIKE (CLOSE TO) HOME

      OK, it's a stretch.

      The state of Massachusetts and roughly 180 highway miles separate Joey Logano's house in Connecticut from New Hampshire Motor Speedway, but if the driver of the No. 22 Team Penske Ford thinks of the Magic Mile as his home track, so be it.

      After all, success and history are on his side.

      Two of Logano's nine career NASCAR Sprint Cup Series victories have come at Loudon, most recently in last September's Chase race at the one-mile flat track.

      So Logano returns to New Hampshire for Sunday's 5-Hour Energy 301 as the most recent winner here -- and as the runner-up in last week's event at Kentucky Speedway.

      "Any time you come back to a race track that you won at, coming off a weekend that you had a really good run at in Kentucky, the confidence is high in the team," Logano said Friday before opening Cup practice. "I think that's good. That's what momentum is--it's just confidence. This is a race track that I've always loved coming to. I consider it my home race track. We were running second before we got crashed (in last year's July race), and then we came back and won the fall race.

      "So it's a special place for me considering I started my first Cup race here and watched my first Cup race when I was seven here, so this is just a special place to come to and I've always enjoyed it. It's a tricky place. It took me a long time to understand what it takes to go fast, but lately the last four or five times we've been here we've had some fast cars, so I'm ready to go. I can't wait to get on the track."

  • Thursday, July 16, 2015
    Team Penske aims to extend New Hampshire reign
    By The Sports Xchange

    NASCAR Wire Service

    • Distributed by The Sports Xchange

      Team Penske shopmates Brad Keselowski and Joey Logano both participated in arguably the coolest victory celebration in all of NASCAR last season.

      Both drivers earned the right to stand at the podium and hoist a gargantuan lobster over their heads after they won at New Hampshire Motor Speedway.

      Keselowski took the checkered flag in July, while Logano won in September, making them the first teammates to sweep the track known as "The Magic Mile."

      The duo will try to continue Team Penske's New Hampshire winning streak on Sunday in the 5-hour ENERGY 301 (1:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN).

      "Last year was special as we are the only team to sweep both races at New Hampshire to date, and that is something we can all feel good about," said Keselowski, who claims six top-10 finishes in his last seven visits to the New England track. "This team is hungry right now, which I think is a good thing. We're ready to get back to Victory Lane."

      Last week at Kentucky, Team Penske got the closest it has been to Victory Lane since Keselowski's win at Auto Club. Logano finished second and Keselowski placed sixth. Both are firmly locked into the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup, with one win each; but, they are off their first-place pace from last season, when Keselowski led the series with six victories and Logano tied for second with five.

      "All year long, I've said we have been just missing some speed in these cars," Logano said. "But what we are missing in speed we are making up in execution. That is why we have more top-fives and top-10s than we did last year at this point. However, we need to get that speed back to have a chance to win races. And that's what we did last weekend. I think we have as good a shot as anyone."

      New Hampshire is a special place for Logano. Not only is it the site of his first career start (Sept. 14, 2008) and win (June 28, 2009), it is also the closest track to his hometown of Middletown, Conn.

      "I think we had a car that could have won at both (New Hampshire) races last year; we just got wrecked in the first race while we were running second," Logano said. "That's stuff that happens. We just need to continue executing and do what we do as a team. This is probably the most important track to me on the schedule because it really is my home track. We are doing a lot of stuff with my foundation around the race weekend here, so to win would just cap off an amazing weekend."

      SUÁREZ, WALLACE TIED IN ROOKIE RACE

      The NASCAR XFINITY Series has provided a multitude of compelling storylines this season.

      Fans tune in every week to see Chase Elliott attempt to defend his championship, Team Penske battle Joe Gibbs Racing for the owner's title and Chris Buescher solidify himself as NASCAR's next ace driver.

      One overlooked narrative has been the NASCAR XFINITY Series Sunoco Rookie of the Year race. Darrell Wallace Jr. held the lead through the first 16 races but finally was caught by Daniel Suarez last weekend at Kentucky Speedway. Suarez drew even with Wallace (188 points each) by producing a fourth-place finish.

      The next bout in Wallace and Suarez's rookie showdown is the Lake Regions 200 on Saturday (1:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN) at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Loudon, N.H. The two NASCAR Next and Drive for Diversity alumni will attempt to pull away from each other in their first XFINITY Series starts at "The Magic Mile."

      Despite being new to driving XFINITY cars at New Hampshire, Wallace and Suarez both have bountiful experience there in other series.

      In his lone NASCAR Camping World Truck Series start at NHMS last season, Wallace started third and finished second. The No. 6 Roush Fenway Racing driver made five NASCAR K&N Pro Series East starts in the Granite State from 2010 to 2012, earning one pole (2011), three top-fives and four top-10s.

      "Loudon has always been a good place for me, going back to the K&N days," Wallace said. "It's just a big Martinsville, and I feel like we get around there pretty well. I'm excited to get on track this weekend."

      Suarez enters the race riding a streak of two top-10s in his last three races. Like Wallace, the No. 18 Joe Gibbs Racing driver has made NASCAR K&N Pro Series East starts at NHMS; he has posted three top-10s, including a runner-up finish in 2013.

      "I think this coming weekend has a chance to be a very positive one for the No. 18 ARRIS Toyota Camry team," Suarez said. "New Hampshire Motor Speedway is a track that I like a lot. ... I think we're getting better as a team every week. We're more competitive and spending more time up front every week, but we still have to keep pushing and learning. We know there's still more work to be done, and we're looking forward to doing it."

      NASCAR Race Weekend Guide

      NASCAR Sprint Cup Series

      Race: 5-hour ENERGY 301

      Track: New Hampshire Motor Speedway

      Date and Time: Sunday, July 19 at 1:30 p.m. (ET)

      On the Air: NBCSN, 1 p.m. (ET), PRN, SiriusXM Ch. 90

      Distance: 318.46 miles (301 laps)

      What to Watch For: Eleven drivers have won the last 11 races at New Hampshire. Will a new victor emerge on Sunday? ... Kyle Busch rolls into New Hampshire on a hot streak after winning two of the last three races. ... Joe Gibbs Racing tries to continue its momentum from Kentucky Speedway, where it placed four drivers in the top five. ... Kyle Larson searches for a Chase berth at "The Magic Mile," where he claims a second- and a third-place finish in two career starts.

      NASCAR XFINITY Series

      Next Race: Lakes Region 200

      Track: New Hampshire Motor Speedway

      Date and Time: Saturday, July 18 at 4 p.m. (ET)

      On the Air: NBCSN, 3:30 p.m. (ET), PRN, SiriusXM Ch. 90

      Distance: 211.6 miles (200 laps)

      What to Watch For: Heavyweights Brad Keselowski and Kyle Busch are entered in Saturday's race at New Hampshire. Keselowski has won in his last two starts at the 1.058-mile track, while Busch leads the series with four victories there. ... Chris Buescher tries to increase the standings lead he has held for the last seven races. ... Elliott Sadler makes his 150th consecutive XFINITY Series start. He ranks fourth in the series points standings.