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Get a Grip: Michigan and Mid-Ohio Edition

As the championship run nears, the intensity level of each race increases.

All three series took a step closer to the title over the weekend at Michigan International Speedway and Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course. Each of these three events had an impact on the ongoing championship battles, making the weekend momentous for some and disappointing to others. This led to many moments, and the best and worst are recapped on this week’s list.

Four Tires

  • @ReganSmith entered the weekend not having scored a NASCAR XFINITY Series victory since Daytona in February 2014. After a disappointing race in Watkins Glen, the Cato, New York native knew he had to kick his performance into high gear if he hoped to compete for the title. This is why the JR Motorsports driver took the opportunity in the final turn on the last lap to use the bumper on Alex @Tagliani and score the win while picking up the most points. Knowing time is running out, this mindset will help the 31-year old do all he can to erase the 51 points gap in the championship standings.
  • After not reaching Victory Lane in 2014, @MattKenseth has now captured the checkered flag three times this season. In dominant fashion on Sunday, the No. 20 Dollar General Toyota team won for the second time in the last three weeks. The 43-year old started from the pole, led 146 laps, and pulled away on a late restart to secure the win. Looking ahead to the Chase for the Sprint Cup, this momentum will likely turn the 2003 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion into a major threat.

Two Tires

  • @Erik_Jones continues to impress in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series. The 19-year old had another solid performance on Saturday, finishing third and being the highest placing series regular. With five consecutive top-10 finishes, including four top-five results, the Iowa winner has climbed back into the championship battle. He now sits nine points behind @TylerReddick and will make it a three truck battle this fall as the up and coming drivers go up against the two-time defending series champion @Matt_Crafton.
  • In his sophomore season, @AustinDillon3 continues to improve. The Richard Childress Racing driver had one of the best cars in the Pure Michigan 400 and led 19 laps along with contending for the victory. With only four races remaining before the playoffs begin, the 23-year-old knew going into Sunday this would be one of his best opportunities to earn the Chase berth clinching win. Although he didn’t leave with the trophy, he scored a career-best fourth-place finish. This run will provide the team with momentum as they search for a victory in the next three races.

No Tires

  • If @JimmieJohnson is to win a record-tying seventh NASCAR Sprint Cup Series championship this season, the No. 48 Lowe’s Chevrolet team has work to do. The team struggled in Michigan and finished a disappointing 38th. While they are securely locked into the Chase with four victories this season, consistency and momentum are two areas the Hendrick Motorsports team needs to work on before the Chase. Seeing if the six-time champion can return to title-contending form in the remaining regular season races will determine his hopes of capturing the Sprint Cup.
  • @ClintBowyer is one of the five competitors currently holding a spot in the playoffs without a victory. However, the Michael Waltrip Racing driver’s chances of making the Chase took a dive in the Pure Michigan 400 as he crashed and came home 41st. Mistakes are costly at this time of the season, and another could leave the 36-year old on the outside. In the next three races, his best bet to lock up a Chase spot is to win. However, the team will have to play it conservative as well because they cannot afford another disappointing result.

While most title contenders aimed to be consistent last weekend, their focus will be survival in the upcoming tripleheader at Bristol Motor Speedway. “Thunder Valley” has been known to shake up the title battle before and will twist the picture again this weekend. There will be plenty to discuss once the checkered flag falls on Saturday night and the best and worst moments will be recapped on next week’s list.

JOIN THE DISCUSSION

FOLLOW ON TWITTER: @NASCARJason

EMAIL JASON AT jason.schultz@popularspeed.com

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Get a Grip: New Hampshire Edition

Short-track racing at its finest was on display over the weekend at New Hampshire Motor Speedway.

The 1.058-mile oval may not resemble a typical short-track. However, the competition mirrored this type of racing as there were triumphs, tempers, and plenty of storylines. Drivers made headlines with their performances on and off the track. These events influenced the best and worst moments on this week’s list.

Four Tires

  • It was an eventful Lakes Region 200 for @DennyHamlin. The 34-year old was making a rare appearance in the NASCAR XFINITY Series, and he was all in for the victory. This included doing everything possible to secure track position as it’s a crucial component of racing at the speedway. While he may not have made many friends with the way he approached passing, everything worked out for the No. 20 Sun Energy 1 Toyota team. He led a race-high 145 laps and pulled away at the finish to earn his second series victory of the year.
  • @KyleBusch continues to impress in his comeback this season. Many expected it to be difficult for the 30-year old to reach Victory Lane before the Chase for the Sprint Cup. However, he has proven that wrong as for the third time in the last four weeks he captured the win. The No. 18 Interstate Batteries Toyota team improved as the race progressed. The Kentucky winner led 95 laps, most of which came near the finish when he cruised to victory. This team’s performance resembles that of a championship winning group, and that should provide additional confidence going forward.

Two Tires

  • @DnlSuarez (Daniel Suarez) continues to excel in the NASCAR XFINITY Series. After a slow start to the season, the 23-year old has become one of the most consistent drivers. While NASCAR Sprint Cup Series regulars took the top four positions on Saturday, he was the highest-finishing series regular in fifth-place. Being able to compete with the stars of the sport shows his potential. If he keeps this level of performance up, expect this team to score a win before the season concludes.
  • @AustinDillon3 has been in the spotlight for many reasons over the last three weeks. The reason on Sunday was one to celebrate. The 25-year old finished eighth in the 5-Hour Energy 301. This tied his highest result in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series on a non-restrictor plate track. He competed inside the top-10 for much of the afternoon and was rewarded with the solid finish. Expect similar runs from the No. 3 Dow Chevrolet going forward as they continue to improve.

No Tires

  • @Bscottracing (Brian Scott) had another strong run going on Saturday before trouble struck. This resembled his performance in Daytona when he dominated only to crash late. He ran in the runner-up spot for a majority of the race. However, as the team went for victory late in the event, they gambled and fell back to fifth-place. Shortly after, the engine expired and took the car out of contention. This continues to be the story of the team’s season. If they keep performing as well, a win may fall their way in the near future.
  • Many expected a strong run from @ClintBowyer on Sunday. The “Magic Mile” is one of his best tracks as he has scored two victories there. A solid day could have been the turnaround the team needed as they hunt for a Chase position. However, it didn’t turn out as planned. The No. 15 5-Hour Energy Toyota finished 34th. If the team does make the playoffs, they will need to return to the track with a different game plan and hope for the best in September.

A summer tradition awaits NASCAR this week. The NASCAR Camping World Truck Series heads to Eldora Speedway for the Mudsumer Classic while the top-two series will grace the famed Indianapolis Motor Speedway. These events will be among the best of the season and will produce many moments to discuss on next week’s list.

Jason Schultz is a POPULAR SPEED Development Journalist

EMAIL JASON AT jason.schultz@popularspeed.com

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Get a Grip: Dover International Speedway Edition

Dover International Speedway is one of the most unique tracks on the schedule. From its concrete surface to steep banking, the facility is difficult to maneuver around.

The force of “Miles the Monster” also leads to many competitors finding trouble. He caused havoc over the weekend as the triple header was filled with action, carnage and strategy play. This produced the best and worst moments that are recapped on this week’s list.

Four Tires

  • The “Monster Mile” is known for long green flag runs. This resulted in @Chris_Buescher’s team making the call to stretch the final tank of fuel over 90 laps during Saturday’s Buckle Up 200. While others pitted near the end, he backed off the gas and went into a fuel conserving mode. This included running the final laps nearly half-throttle. It all worked out in the Prosper, Texas native’s favor as he went on to lead the final ten laps and grab his second checkered flag of the season.
  • The FedEx 400 came down to one call when the yellow flag flew on Lap 377. It ended a green flag run that stretched over 100 laps and provided an option for another pit stop. Some took advantage of the caution and pitted for fresh tires. @JimmieJohnson and @KevinHarvick stayed out in favor of track position, which turned out to be the winning move. Many expected the competitors with fresher tires to prevail. However, additional caution flags aided those who had not pitted as they remained up front. Johnson went on to capture his tenth victory at the speedway despite not having the strongest car in the field.

Two Tires

  • For the third consecutive NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race, @Erik_Jones had the most dominant truck and came up short at the finish. After leading 50 laps, he surrendered the lead late to the quickly approaching @TylerReddick. The No. 19 BBR Music Group Ford came alive late in the race and found the speed to challenge the Kyle Busch Motorsports driver. He made the pass in the closing laps and went on to score his second victory of the season.
  • Following the wild finish on Sunday afternoon that included multiple restarts and an overtime period, @Aric_Almirola secured a season-high fifth-place finish. Despite struggling for much of the first half of the race and falling off the lead lap, the No. 43 Smithfield Ford team persevered and applied changes to the car that provided speed late. The 2014 Coke Zero 400 winner was one of 11 competitors on the lead lap near the conclusion and used that to secure a solid finish.

No Tires

  • When Ryan @Blaney climbs behind the wheel of an NASCAR XFINITY Series car for Team Penske, he often finds success. However, this was not the case in Dover. The 21-year old was involved in a wreck with @BScottRacing (Brian Scott) on Lap 65. This caused significant damage to both cars, sending them behind the wall for repairs. The High Point, North Carolina native finished 34th, his worst result in a Team Penske machine and second worse finish in the series. In 2012, he finished 43rd at Darlington Raceway with Tommy Baldwin Racing.
  • Joe Gibbs Racing lost Sunday’s battle with the “Monster Mile.” All four cars found trouble in the race, with Carl Edwards being the organization’s highest finisher in 19th. He experienced multiple pit road problems that took him out of contention as he went for a second straight victory. @DennyHamlin led the second most laps as he spent 118 circuits out front. However, a late race incident with @ClintBowyer sent the No. 11 FedEx Cares Toyota spinning, hitting the outside wall and coming home in 21st-place. Both @KyleBusch and @MattKenseth had strong performances early in the race before Busch was involved in a crash, and Kenseth faced suspension issues. This forced each behind the wall with 36th and 39th-place finishes respectively.

It ended up being a triumphant weekend for some and frustrating for others. The good news for most is that a new race weekend is quickly approaching as the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series heads to Pocono Raceway, and the Camping World Truck Series visits Texas Motor Speedway. All will aim for improved performances as the summer stretch continues.

Jason Schultz is a POPULAR SPEED Development Journalist

EMAIL JASON AT jason.schultz@popularspeed.com

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Get a Grip: Charlotte Motor Speedway Edition

Following a Memorial Day Weekend tradition that included 900 miles of competition at Charlotte Motor Speedway, one of racing’s best qualities stood out – unpredictability. Multiple unpredictable events unfolded in each race which led to an ending that many did not see coming.

Both events featured many drivers exchanging the top positions, ultimately having luck and strategy combine to produce the end results. It was a wild road to the finish, which included the best and worst moments of the weekend.

Four Tires

  • @austindillon3 put on a dominant performance during Saturday’s Hisense 4k TV 300. After starting on the pole, he led a majority of the event and was hard to catch. He lost the lead a couple of times on late restarts. However, the 25-year old used the car’s speed and performance to regain the top spot. For the second time in the NASCAR XFINITY Series this season, he pulled into Victory Lane. He previously won in Las Vegas where the team raced the same car and found similar results.
  • In a 600-mile race, strategy often influences the outcome. Carl Edwards benefited when the No. 19 Subway Toyota team developed a different pit cycle that included one less pit stop late in the event. They went on to save enough fuel to take the checkered flag. Despite not having the best car, the 35-year-old managed to be in the best position near the finish. He went on to claim his first win with Joe Gibbs Racing and secured a spot in the Chase for the Sprint Cup.

Two Tires

  • @gbiffle (Greg Biffle) also used strategy to secure a solid finish on Sunday night. The No. 16 Ortho Ford had decent speed throughout the weekend. However, the car did not appear to be a threat for the win. Similar to Edwards, the team adopted a different pit cycle and conserved fuel in the closing laps that allowed them to not have to make an additional pit stop. The 45-year old went on to earn a second-place finish, his best result of the season.
  • @KyleBusch accomplished a lot in the past week. In addition to making his return to NASCAR Sprint Cup Series competition in the Sprint All-Star Race, his son Brexton Locke Busch was born on Monday. He then followed both achievements with an impressive run in the Coca-Cola 600. The No. 18 Skittles team ran inside the top-10 for most of the race and competed for victory, finishing 11th. This was a solid first step in his quest to gain enough points and win a race to make the playoffs.

No Tires

  • @JimmieJohnson is the most successful active driver in Charlotte. He has won seven races and always seems to be a threat when the speedway shows up on the schedule. Many expected another stellar performance from the six-time champion this weekend. Despite not needing a win with three already this year and a Chase berth all but officially secured, he was chosen as one of the favorites. His night did not go as planned as he brought out two cautions. The first was due to a spin. However, the second again featured a spin that included a hard impact into the inside wall before pit road. This put the No. 48 Lowe’s Chevrolet team behind the wall and took away their shot at another victory in the “Queen City.”
  • For the second straight week, @DennyHamlin had one of the best cars in the race. He led 53 laps and came alive late in the going. However, a loose wheel cost the Sprint All-Star Race winner the Charlotte sweep. He pitted from the lead with 38 laps to go and surrendered his opportunity at victory. With the leaders being close on fuel, he saw a glimpse of hope that he could rebound to take the win. However, time ran out and the No. 11 FedEx Office Toyota team came home eighth.

The focus now shifts from a long, grueling race to a tough, demanding track at Dover International Speedway. This facility is always treacherous and requires perfection to come home victorious. It’s shaping up to be another wild weekend that will be recapped on next week’s list.

Jason Schultz is a POPULAR SPEED Development Journalist

EMAIL JASON AT jason.schultz@popularspeed.com

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Get a Grip: Charlotte Motor Speedway and Iowa Speedway Edition

When everything is on the line at the end of a race, it’s often strategy that decides the outcome. This proved true over the weekend at Charlotte Motor Speedway and Iowa Speedway as the finishes to the events were influenced by late race calls.

The decisions were made under high-pressure situations as they sealed each team’s fate. This produced mixed emotions following the races as some competitors were pleased with their performance while others were not. The calls influenced the best and worst moments which are recapped on this week’s list.

Four Tires

  • In one of the most exciting NASCAR Camping World Truck Series finishes in recent years, @KaseyKahne edged out @Erik_Jones at the line to capture the victory. Both drivers started at the rear of the field and worked their way up throughout the race. This led to an intense battle at the end of the event that featured multiple lead changes. Ultimately, a green-white-checkered finish set up a two-lap dash won by Kahne, giving JR Motorsports their first victory in the series.
  • One of the most integral parts of the Sprint All-Star Race is the mandatory pit stop prior to the final segment. This stop decides who will be up front in the crucial clean air with ten laps remaining in the “dash for cash.” @DennyHamlin has had one of the strongest pit crews over the past few years. The group’s strength showed on Saturday night as he came in sixth and exited first. This secured the 34-year old the top spot and ultimately led to his first victory in the million dollar race.

Two Tires

  • For @ClintBowyer, it was a strategy call that led him to victory in the second segment of the Sprint Showdown. The No.15 5-Hour Energy Toyota team took four tires between segments which proved to be the winning move. The Emporia, Kansas native wasn’t initially up front on the restart. However, the advantage of changing all tires allowed him to move quickly through the field. He battled three-wide with @MartinTruex_Jr and @KyleLarsonRacin who only changed two tires before pulling away and advancing to the Sprint All-Star Race.
  • @Chris_Buescher had one of the most dominant cars in the 3M 250 at Iowa Speedway. After surrendering the lead to @ChaseElliott for a portion of the race, the NASCAR XFINITY Series points leader pitted during the final caution. This gave him an advantage over Elliott on the restart as the defending series champion stayed out. When the green flag waved, he dove to the bottom and passed the 19-year old. This allowed him to secure his second series victory.

No Tires

  • Brad @Keselowski dominated the Sprint All-Star Race. He led a race-high 49 laps and had the best average finish leading into the final segment. This allowed him to enter pit road first for the mandatory pit stop. Once his team completed the stop, he no longer held the top spot. The 31-year old would speed up on exit to secure the best position possible for the restart. However, this cost the 2012 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion as he was caught speeding. Instead of restarting near the front, he was at the rear of the field and essentially forfeited his chance at the million dollar prize.
  • Chase Elliott led the most laps Sunday afternoon in Iowa, being out front for 114 circuits. He was a half lap away from the win when the caution came out with two laps remaining. The No. 9 NAPA Auto Parts team decided to stay out which put them at a disadvantage as the cars behind them had fresher tires. The 2014 series champion was passed quickly on the restart and lost a victory that seemed to be his for the taking.

As the second week of the Charlotte, North Carolina homestretch begins, teams set their sights on the grueling races ahead. The role of strategy will expand this weekend as the longer events mean more tough decisions will need to be made. Seeing how it plays out will determine the best and worst moments that will be featured on next week’s list.

Jason Schultz is a POPULAR SPEED Development Journalist

EMAIL JASON AT jason.schultz@popularspeed.com

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Get a Grip: Talladega Superspeedway Edition

Talladega Superspeedway often produces some of the wildest racing fans see throughout the season. From the drop of the green flag in both the NASCAR Sprint Cup and XFINITY Series events, the competition was close and intense throughout the weekend.

This led to exciting and unpredictable racing that didn’t stop until the final lap. Both events were filled with wild and memorable moments, making up the best and worst of this week’s list.

Four Tires

  • Hendrick Motorsports held the lead for much of the GEICO 500. @JeffGordonWeb and @KaseyKahne started on the front row, maintaining position up front for a majority of the opening portion of the race. @DaleJr and @JimmieJohnson made their way to the front soon after and swapped the top spot throughout the remainder of the event. Overall the team led all but 21 laps on Sunday, showing their dominance when it comes to restrictor plate races.
  • Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s time in the lead came towards the finish when he dominated and scored the victory. He led most of the final 65 laps of the event, only briefly being overtaken by @TonyStewart and @DennyHamlin. His performance resembled the No. 88 Nationwide Chevrolet team’s 2014 Daytona 500 victory where he maintained the top spot for much of the closing portion of the race. His restrictor plate racing prowess likely means that fans can anticipate similar runs in the final two plate events of 2015.

Two Tires

  • The Alabama superspeedway often favors the underdog. Saturday’s Winn Dixie 300 proved this as @JJYeley1 and @JoeyGaseRacing both posted top-five runs, respectively finishing fourth and fifth. While they weren’t at the front of the field for much of the afternoon, drafting help placed them there in the closing laps as they capitalized on the situation and posted impressive finishes.
  • Ryan @Blaney had a strong car throughout the weekend. After starting third on Sunday, he remained at the front for most of the race. When the finish neared, he had a chance to go for victory. However, a lack of drafting help prevented him from doing so and he ended up in fourth place. As he becomes a more prominent figure in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, expect similar performances at plate tracks from the 21-year old.

No Tires

  • The unavoidable “Big One” in Talladega often strikes when the cars are three-wide and at full-speed. However, Saturday’s version of the wreck occurred as drivers slowed to make green flag pit stops. Miscommunication between the competitors led to some braking while others didn’t. Cars began running into each other, triggering the accident that took many out of contention.
  • One aspect of racing at Talladega is that anyone can make it to Victory Lane. The final laps of the race often feature jostling for position among drivers in the draft in order to contend for the win. However, this wasn’t the case on Sunday. For about the final 20 laps, drivers arranged in a single-file line along the top of the track.

They remained this way until the final lap, which was too late for most to battle for the victory. Many fans were confused as to why drivers waited so long to make a move, and those behind the wheel were even shocked that no one stepped out of line and formed a bottom lane. Many missed a great opportunity at victory by doing this, and it’s a chance that some might not get back.

One of the most exciting months of racing is upon fans and another thrilling weekend is ahead at Kansas Speedway. This track has been known to be a wild card as of late and will produce plenty of moments to be recapped on next week’s list.

Jason Schultz is a POPULAR SPEED Development Journalist

EMAIL JASON AT jason.schultz@popularspeed.com

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Get a Grip: Richmond International Raceway Edition

Racing under the lights at short tracks is always a spectacle as fenders rub, and tempers flare. While rain prevented two-night races at Richmond International Raceway over the weekend, both events still featured exciting moments.

For some competitors, strong runs made for a great race. However, others faced disappointment after not running as well as they had hoped. This created many storylines and provided the best and worst moments featured in this week’s list.

Four Tires

  • @DennyHamlin opened the weekend by setting a tone of dominance. He cruised through the Toyota Owners 250 by leading all but two laps. This was his first NASCAR XFINITY Series victory since 2011 when the Chesterfield, Virginia native again captured the checkered flag at his home track. With a fast car, expect similar performances from the 34-year old each time he gets behind the wheel in the series.
  • @KurtBusch followed the dominant trend set by Hamlin as he led 291 of the 400 laps en route to his first NASCAR Sprint Cup Series victory in over a year. His performance mirrored others from earlier in the season. However, this time he was able to seal the deal. The 36-year old expects to get more victories, which will only build his case for a run at the championship.

Two Tires

  • In the NASCAR XFINITY Series, every point matters. @ReganSmith has discovered this in year’s past as he has lost the championship trailing the leader by just a few points. After finishing 30th at Bristol Motor Speedway, the No. 7 Breyers Chevrolet team needed a big rebound if they hoped to remain in the title hunt. They were able to do so as Smith placed third and gained some momentum heading into a crucial part of the season. Anticipate this team to continue posting solid performances each week.
  • Smaller teams always celebrate the little victories. @LandonCassill’s No. 01 Flex Seal Chevrolet team did just that on Friday night as they finished tenth. By scoring their best result of the season, they now carry confidence heading to Talladega Superspeedway where anything can happen. This JD Motorsports entry always seems to be a contender during plate races and will look to pull off the upset in the Winn Dixie 300.

No Tires

  • Short tracks often bring out tempers and lower competitors’ patience levels. This proved true again on Sunday as the lead lap car of @Aric_Almirola was stuck behind the lapped down machine of @JoeyGaseRacing. Last year’s Coke Zero 400 winner didn’t have much patience left and sent Gase spinning down the backstretch, into the inside wall. Slower cars are expected to let the quicker ones by, and it can end in a similar fashion if that doesn’t happen. Hopefully, this turned into a learning experience for the rookie as he continues to compete in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series.
  • After being the strongest team during the season’s first two short track events, Joe Gibbs Racing struggled in the Toyota Owners 400. @MattKenseth placed highest in seventh. However, the other three teams weren’t much of a factor throughout the afternoon. While the organization may have just missed the correct setup, regaining the advantage that they have shown on the smaller tracks is crucial if all four teams plan to contend for the title later this season.

If fans thought Richmond provided thrills, wait until Talladega Superspeedway arrives this weekend. The biggest track on the circuit never fails to produce some of the best racing of the year and should provide plenty to discuss following both events.

Jason Schultz is a POPULAR SPEED Development Journalist

EMAIL JASON AT jason.schultz@popularspeed.com

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Get a Grip: Bristol Motor Speedway Edition

Bristol Motor Speedway is often deemed one of the most action-packed tracks on the schedule. From the close corridor racing to the abundant storylines – the events never disappoint.

During a wild and wet weekend at the “World’s Fastest Half-Mile,” two thrilling races brought out the best qualities in short-track competition. With many surprise contenders and game-changing crashes, fans were left wanting more. The best and worst moments surely won’t be forgotten anytime soon, and they are recapped on this week’s list.

Four Tires

  • The course of events can change in a second in “Thunder Valley.” With trouble lurking around every corner, it’s often difficult to finish the race. It’s even harder to lead the race, especially every lap. @JoeyLogano accomplished this feat on Saturday as he jumped from second to first on the opening lap and never looked back. This was his second NASCAR XFINITY Series victory of the year, and fans can expect similar results throughout the season when he’s behind the wheel.
  • It wasn’t a dominant performance by @MattKenseth in the Food City 500. However, it was enough to get the job done. After starting on the pole, he surrendered the lead early. He remained close to the front for much of the event and capitalized late when the opportunity presented itself. For the No. 20 Dollar General Toyota team, this was their first victory in 51 races and provided a sigh of relief as they returned to their winning ways.

Two Tires

  • NASCAR XFINITY Series rookie @dnlsuarez (Daniel Suarez) has experienced a rough start to the season. He had only scored one top-10 finish heading into Bristol and hadn’t been much of a factor. This all changed in the Drive to Stop Diabetes 300 as he ran competitively and finished second. Many were impressed with his performance, and this likely indicates better runs ahead for the No. 18 ARRIS Toyota team.
  • There’s typically a luck factor associated with Bristol. Combining luck, superb driving and survival skills often lead a competitor to a solid finish. This was the case for 2013 Rookie of the Year Ricky @StenhouseJr as well as 2013 and 2014 Rookie of the Year candidates @DanicaPatrick, @J_Allgaier and @austindillon3. The growth in their experience levels showed as they all placed inside the top-10.

For Stenhouse Jr, a difficult start to the year was relieved with a fourth-place run. Allgaier scored his best career NASCAR Sprint Cup Series finish of eighth after showing signs of improvement throughout the season. Patrick continues to excel on the short tracks, and her ninth-place result showed that fact. Dillon had a fast car throughout the weekend and was able to contend in the closing portion of the event, ending up in tenth.

No Tires

  • After such strong starts to the season with seven consecutive top-10 finishes, @KevinHarvick, Joey Logano and @MartinTruexJr all saw their streaks fall on Sunday night. Short-track racing tends to be unpredictable, and it surely was for these three teams. However, they will not be kept down for long and will be back in contention next weekend.
  • It was a rough day in Bristol, Tennessee for Team Penske. After waiting out the initial rain delay, Brad @Keselowski and Joey Logano wrecked just before the rain returned. Teams weren’t allowed to work on their cars during the delay and that made the wait seem even longer for the crews. The good news is that they both have already secured Chase for the Sprint Cup spots and won’t be greatly affected by Keselowski’s 35th and Logano’s 40th-place finishes.

Another round of short-track competition is up next weekend at Richmond International Raceway. Fans can expect more thrills as the track never fails to deliver exciting racing. No matter the outcome, expect to find both the good and bad moments on next week’s list.

Jason Schultz is a POPULAR SPEED Development Journalist

EMAIL JASON AT jason.schultz@popularspeed.com

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Get a Grip: Texas Motor Speedway Edition

Racing under the lights often produces added excitement. Fans were treated to the first night racing weekend of the season at Texas Motor Speedway, and the competition didn’t disappoint.

From the rising of a young star to a battle among the sport’s best – there was no shortage of action. These moments along with others came together to create this week’s list of the best and worst from Texas.

Four Tires

  • @Erik_Jones took another step in his young career during the O’Reilly Auto Parts 300 as he won his first career NASCAR XFINITY Series race. He showed tremendous talent by capturing the pole, leading the most laps, passing more experienced drivers such as Brad @Keselowski and @DaleJr, and holding them off on the final restart. This victory opened the eyes of many and further solidified his spot among the future stars of the sport.
  • When the finish neared on Saturday night, @JimmieJohnson made some very impressive moves to secure the lead. His biggest challenge came with getting around @KevinHarvick and then holding off the 2014 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion in the closing laps. He successfully did this, and then slightly pulled away in route to victory. This is his second victory of the season, tying him with Harvick. The two will likely battle many more times as the season rolls on.

Two Tires

  • Loose tires were a common theme throughout the Duck Commander 500. Many drivers had to pit and fix the issue, which cost them valuable track position. While some fell behind because of the problem, @KaseyKahne, and Brad Keselowski were able to recover after having the wheel tightened as cautions fell their way. Both teams quickly corrected their pit strategies and returned to the front by the checkered flag. The 2012 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion ended up in fifth place while Kahne placed eighth.
  • Hendrick Motorsports had a solid night in the “Lone Star State” as all four teams finished inside the top-10. For a multi-car organization, this is an impressive accomplishment. The team was on their game throughout the night and used some strategy to secure the solid results. While Johnson took the checkered flag, Earnhardt Jr. finished third, @JeffGordonWeb seventh, and Kahne eighth.

No Tires

  • When the cars line up on the starting grid prior to the beginning of each race, they are assumed to be relatively safe. However, this was not the case for @DennyHamlin’s machine. During @mw55’s (Michael Waltrip) Grid Walk segment, he had a bag filled with tacos and grabbed one to hand to Hamlin over his car. This simple task didn’t go as planned as Waltrip spilled some taco contents on the rear windshield of the No. 11 FedEx Office Toyota. Hamlin was not pleased, but the team cleared it off before the car rolled off pit road.
  • Texas Motor Speedway was one of @KyleLarsonRacin’s best tracks last year as he finished in the top seven during both events. He had a great run going on Saturday night. However, a late race penalty for driving through too many pit stalls put him in the back. He went on to finish a disappointing 25th, and will look forward to trying to better his run next weekend.

Bristol Motor Speedway is one track on the schedule where there’s never a shortage of storylines. There will be plenty to discuss on next week’s list following a weekend that will surely feature thrilling racing.

Jason Schultz is a POPULAR SPEED Development Journalist

EMAIL JASON AT jason.schultz@popularspeed.com

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Development Journalists

Get a Grip: Martinsville Speedway Edition

Short-track competition tends to bring out the best qualities in racing. With the action and excitement produced in its grueling nature, it has always been a fan favorite. Martinsville Speedway didn’t disappoint this weekend as arguably two of the best races of the season took place.

A thrilling finish in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Kroger 250 and a wild day for the Sprint Cup Series left fans wanting more when the 750 laps of racing concluded. Along with the best moments from the weekend came the worst, and the two blended to create this week’s list.

Four Tires

  • It was a great weekend for @JoeyLogano. He has recently become one of the top drivers to watch at “The Paperclip.” He dominated much of the Truck Series race and held on for the victory late despite being challenged by both @Matt_Crafton and @ColeCuster00. He then went on to lead 108 laps on Sunday and finish third. When the track shows back up on the schedule in November, keep an eye on the 24-year old Middletown, CT native.
  • Many expected @DennyHamlin to be quick in the STP 500, and he lived up to this expectation. He had one of the strongest cars in the field and was able to work his way to the front on multiple occasions. In the closing laps, he played it conservative and held off Brad @keselowski to claim the checkered flag for the fifth time at the speedway.

Two Tires

  • Following Saturday’s race, Matt Crafton returned to a familiar place in the Truck Series –atop the points standings. After finishing eighth at Daytona International Speedway, he posted two consecutive top-two finishes. If history repeats itself, he will likely continue running consistently and remain there for much of the season. Keep an eye on this team going forward.
  • It’s never easy for drivers to step into another competitor’s car. It typically takes a handful of races to get adjusted and familiar with the car and team. @DavidRagan has been able to get acclimated over the past month, and the results are beginning to show. He finished a season-high fifth on Sunday and was pleased with the performance. While he may not post similar results every week, expect him to contend when more short tracks show up on the schedule.

No Tires

  • Sunday was a day to forget for Ricky @StenhouseJr. The two-time NASCAR XFINITY Series champion brought out three cautions in the first half of the race. The first two yellow flags were due to spins. The third one was for a wreck that put the team behind the wall. They eventually returned to the track and gained two additional positions, finishing 40th.
  • @JimmieJohnson is one of the best drivers ever to compete in Martinsville. However, the six-time champion didn’t have the greatest race on Sunday. He started fifth, but multiple problems and a lack of speed put the No. 48 Lowe’s Chevrolet team back in the field. He finished a disappointing 35th and will hope for better luck in the fall race when the stakes are higher for the Chase for the Sprint Cup.

The upcoming off-week provides a much-needed break for some of the competitors. However, those currently carrying momentum will anticipate the next weekend of action at Texas Motor Speedway. When the season resumes, in just under two weeks, seeing cars back on a track will be a welcome sight for everyone.

Jason Schultz is a POPULAR SPEED Development Journalist

EMAIL JASON AT jason.schultz@popularspeed.com