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Editorial

ICYMI: The Top-Five Stories From The Coca-Cola 600

On Sunday night, NASCAR’s Sprint Cup Series drivers competed in the longest race of the season, testing both physical and mental endurance. As the track conditions changed throughout the evening, fans saw some drivers battle up through the field while others faded into the background. Carl Edwards won the fuel mileage game and scored his first win at Joe Gibbs Racing, but plenty of other action happened.

In case you missed it, here are the top-five stories from the Coca-Cola 600:

1. @MartinTruex_Jr Falls Short: Martin Truex Jr. dominated much of Sunday night’s race at Charlotte Motor Speedway, but still was not able to capture the win. Despite having intermittent radio issues, he led 131 of the 400 laps – the most of the night. With around 20 laps to go, Truex was forced to pit from the lead for fuel. Carl Edwards claimed the lead then and successfully stretched out his fuel long enough to claim the win, relegating Truex to a fifth place finish.

“I didn’t even think fuel mileage strategy was an option,” said Truex. “I felt I only needed to pass the No. 11 (Hamlin). We had a very fast car all night. It really hurts knowing that you had the fastest car and didn’t win. I don’t know what to do about fuel mileage races. I’ve never ever in my entire career come out on the right end of them.”

2. @GBiffle Earns a Season-Best Finish: It’s been no secret that Roush Fenway Racing has struggled this year, but last night Greg Biffle was able to utilize the speed his team found last weekend to come home with a second place finish. Biffle consistently ran in the top-10 all night and is now looking to capitalize on the new speed next weekend at Dover.

“I’ve got my fingers crossed that we at least — with all the simulation and all the things we have, hopefully, we can pinpoint what we changed and what made the difference,” said Biffle. “And then continue to try and work in that same direction and then hopefully each racetrack is different, Dover is definitely different, so we’ll see if those changes we’ve made, improvements, will continue on.”

3. @JimmieJohnson’s Multiple Spins: Jimmie Johnson’s car was so loose Sunday night that he went spinning across the track not one, but two times. The first spin came within the first 100 laps of the race, but Johnson managed to make an incredible save and prevent any damage to the car. After racing his way back through the field, he found himself sitting fifth around Lap 273 when the car went for a spin again. This time Johnson made contact with the inside wall and was forced to visit the garage for repairs. He would return to the track, but finish in 40th place, 30 laps down.

“For us the car was just really loose. It was fast, but as soon as I would get close to somebody else, my car would bug out and get so edgy. Lost it twice, about had it saved both times. Once we would get in clean air and get strung out I could fly up through the field and went from last to fifth there,” said Johnson. “Then I had a lap car on the outside and a car I had been stalking on the bottom and then I tried to roll into the top behind the lap car. The thing just bugged out in the dirty air and around it went again. A tough day to try to get the balance right in the car.”

4. @DennyHamlin’s Rough Night: Denny Hamlin may have won the Sprint All-Star race, but he was unable to repeat that performance on Sunday. Hamlin ran up towards the front but dealt with a weird issue in his car where it acted like there was no exhaust pipe. He went on to lead 53 laps of the race but radioed over with about 60 laps to go saying he wasn’t feeling well. Also having to pit for fuel, Hamlin would finish the night eighth and then head straight for the infield care center. It was later released Hamlin was suffering from severe dehydration.

“I knew when my knee was sore afterward that it was probably fluids,” he said. “My off-day was 36 holes of golf and a full tennis match. Probably over did it a little bit this weekend. I think the dehydration led to a migraine and just felt nauseous the last 100 laps or so.”

5. @KyleBusch Makes All 600 Miles: Having just returned from the injuries he sustained in the NASCAR XFINITY season opener at Daytona, it was unclear whether Kyle Busch would make it through all 600 miles on Sunday night. The team had @Erik_Jones on standby in case Busch needed a reprieve, but it turned out to be unnecessary. Busch raced all 400 laps, getting as high as second place, before finishing the night in 11th place due to a late-race pit for fuel.

“I can’t say enough about everyone at Joe Gibbs Racing, everyone pulling for me and cheering for me and helping me get back into this race car, and to get out there and have a strong run means a lot. Real proud of my guys,” said Busch. “Adam Stevens made some great calls tonight and got ourselves in some really good spots and up towards the front. We raced up towards the front. We battled side-by-side, door-to-door with guys for a little while. Felt good. I feel good, and I admit I’ve probably got a little left foot soreness, but other than that, everything is pretty hunky-dory.”

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Categories
NASCAR Cup Series

Biffle Makes Gains on Competition at Charlotte

CONCORD, N.C. – Building on the speed he found at Charlotte Motor Speedway last weekend, @GBiffle secured his season-best finish when he brought home the No. 16 Ortho Ford in second place. His only other top-10 this season was a seventh place finish in the Daytona 500.

After the drop of the green flag, Biffle found himself quickly dropping back through the field before settling around 12th place. His racecar seemed to go from being too tight on one run to being too loose and lacking grip on the next.

During the second half of the race, Biffle found his groove and started moving forward. When it came down to the closing laps of the race, he was forced to make a decision on fuel mileage – pit and possibly lose track position, or stay out and possibly run out of gas? Biffle chose the latter, and while it earned him runner-up spot behind Carl Edwards, it wasn’t quite the result he wanted.

“I’m really excited for the team and the organization. We’ve been working really, really hard on our cars. It’s been well documented how bad we’ve been running, and so it feels good to — if I finished, it was kind of funny, I decided if I finished in the top-10 tonight, I was going to stand on the door top and be all excited and cheer, and I finished second, and I’m not happy,” said Biffle.

“I’m upset that I didn’t win. I was close.”

Despite not winning, Biffle says the second place finish is a confidence booster for the team, and something they can try and build on.

“You know, I think it’s mostly what I know of that we’ve found is really the setup on the race car. I can’t believe that we’ve missed that for a year, that we haven’t found anything to get our cars to go faster, and then we changed some minor stuff and all of a sudden here we are,” he explained.

“I’ve got my fingers crossed that we at least — with all the simulation and all the things we have, hopefully we can pinpoint what we changed and what made the difference and then continue to try and work in that same direction and then hopefully each racetrack is different, Dover is definitely different, so we’ll see if those changes we’ve made, improvements, will continue on.”

Speaking of Dover, Biffle and his team did participate in a one-day test session there earlier this year. While he claims the test did not go as well as he hoped, Biffle is looking forward to the next couple of weeks of racing.

“We’ve met our first goal or at least my first goal to run in the top-10. We haven’t been able to do that for a year and a half, and run there, not take two tires and get a 10th-place finish. I mean actually run the whole race. So we ran 600 miles virtually right in the top 10, so that’s a huge improvement for us, so now we’ll just work on trying to get in the top-five and then the wins will come after that.”

EMAIL KAYLA AT kayla.darrow@popularspeed.com

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Categories
XFINITY

Darrell Wallace Jr. Makes Another Move Towards Victory Lane

CONCORD, N.C. – @BubbaWallace just keeps moving on up. After tying his then career-best finish in the NASCAR XFINITY Series last week at Iowa Speedway, Wallace made another step towards Victory Lane when he set a new career-best finish by placing fifth at Charlotte Motor Speedway.

Wallace had been preparing for this weekend for a while, as the rookie driver used one of his four test sessions at Charlotte Motor Speedway. His only two previous trips to this track occurred in the Camping World Truck Series and did not end well. He wrecked in both of them and was unable to finish the races.

The test session certainly paid off. Wallace started in the second spot and stayed within the top-10 for the majority of the event. Most of his time was spent battling the handling of his car and searching for clean air. When Wallace did find the clean air, he was fast enough to battle would-be winner @austindillon3 for the lead but not fast enough to pull away with it.

“The 33 had us all covered. I think we were a top-three car, we just needed some work done. [Dillon] just had us beat, you know,” said Wallace. “He could get out there in the clean air in front of us first and we’d be fighting for it. So we were just lacking a little bit.”

With the fifth place finish, Wallace also qualifies for the first round of the NASCAR XFINITY Series Dash 4 Cash. Next weekend he will compete at Dover International Speedway alongside @tydillion, @dnlsuarez and @ReganSmith for a chance to win an extra $100,000.

“Dover has been a very successful track for me. It’d be nice if they paid for the pole there – I’m pretty good at qualifying there,” he joked. “I haven’t gotten the finishes I wanted but excited to be in the XFINITY Series and to be a part of the Dash 4 Cash series – so glad to be one of the four. So, we just got to keep playing smart and put ourselves in that position next week to come out on top.”

Wallace remains in fourth place in the XFINITY Series championship standings but did manage to gain a little ground. He is now only 30 points behind @Chris_Buescher and is looking forward to building on this success.

“This is a confidence booster for all of my guys. We just have to clean up ourselves on pit road. That’s been a struggle for us these past couple of races. We were able to manage a couple of spots on the restarts and come away with our first top-five of the series, so feels good to be running up front for these guys, it’s where they need to be, and we are setting up shit for later in the season.”

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Categories
Editorial

ICYMI: The Top-Five Stories From NASCAR’s Biggest Night

Saturday night marked one of NASCAR’s biggest events, as the sport’s best competed in the 2015 Sprint Cup All-Star Race. With a million dollars on the line, drivers left it all out on the track. @DennyHamlin scored the big bucks and brought Joe Gibbs Racing its first All-Star Race win, but that’s not all that happened.

In case you missed it here, are the top-five stories from the 2015 All-Star Race:

1. Who Made the Show: With three spots open in the All-Star lineup, drivers not automatically in the show still had a chance to make the event. Two of those spots were given to the winners of the two Sprint Showdown segments, while the remaining opening went to the Sprint fan vote. So who made it? @GBiffle made it after dominating all 20 laps in the first segment of the Showdown. @ClintBowyer secured the second spot after leading 17 of the remaining 20 laps. As for the fan vote, that honor went to @DanicaPatrick for the second time. Patrick is the first driver to win the fan vote multiple times, as she previously won it in 2013.

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

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

2. Brad @Keselowski’s Million Dollar Speeding Ticket: Brad Keselowski won two of the five segments on Saturday night and looked like he had the car to beat, but a costly speeding penalty took him out of contention when it mattered most. The driver of the No. 02 Miller Lite Ford Fusion got caught speeding down pit road during the fourth (and only mandatory) pit stop of the night. With just 10 laps in Segment five, there wasn’t enough time for Keselowski to recover. He went on to finish in ninth place.

“I knew when I came out of my pit stall and the 11 was pulling out with me that I either beat him to that line or lose the race, and the penalty was I was three-tenths of a mile an hour over the speed limit, but I told my crew chief I’d rather go down swinging than take a strike and wonder what might have been. I swung and missed,” said Keselowski.

3. @KyleBusch makes his return: Kyle Busch made his return to racing this weekend at the Sprint All-Star race after sustaining serious injuries during a crash at the opening NASCAR XFINITY Series race at Daytona International Speedway earlier this year. Busch dealt with a speeding penalty and loose wheel during the race, but overall had a great return to the sport and finished sixth.

“It was really good. I learned some things. I think we also learned some stuff, myself and Adam Stevens, about this racecar, for me, and getting around here in Charlotte. So we can take some of that next week and look forward to the Coke 600,” said Busch.

“All in all it was a good evening. We were clicking off some spots, moving ourselves forward. Felt really good about things. I got busted for speeding on pit road. In that same segment, we ended up having a loose wheel. At least it was two things biting us in one segment, not two things biting us in different segments. That was a real positive.”

4. Biffle’s Rough Night: Many fans were keeping their eyes on Greg Biffle Saturday night, as the Roush Fenway Racing driver dominated the first segment of the Sprint Showdown and secured one of his best starting sports of the season when he qualified second for the All-Star Race. However, his struggles returned pretty much right after the drop of the green flag when he got into the wall twice in the first of five segments. While he remained on the lead lap, Biffle’s car was just too loose for him to be in contention for the win and had to settle for a 13th place finish.

5. @JeffGordonWeb’s Final All-Star Race: Jeff Gordon had a historic night last night, as it was his last All-Star Race as a competitor. He ran up in the top-five for most of the night, but just didn’t have enough balance in his car to grab the win. Gordon went on to finish in fourth place, but is already looking ahead to next week.

“Obviously we came here to win and this is kind of a win or go home type of situation, but we also know that this is a test session for next week. I thought we showed signs of some good speed, learned some things on some restarts and got a couple of things we can work on to be even better for next week,” said Gordon.

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Categories
NASCAR Cup Series

Busch ‘Fortunate’ To Be Back and Competitive

CONCORD, N.C. – It may be four months into the 2015 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, but Saturday’s All-Star Race marked @KyleBusch’s first start of the season. Busch sustained a compound break of his right leg and a fracture in his left foot after a late-race accident during Daytona International Speedway’s opening XFINITY Series event and has not raced since then.

Busch qualified 19th for the show on Saturday night and moved up to 14th place after the first of five segments of the night. After making some adjustments to a loose-handling racecar, Busch flew up to finish seventh in segment two.

It was in segment three where the driver and team were tested. Busch received a speeding penalty while pitting between segments two and three. He then returned to pit road for an unscheduled pit stop during segment three due to a loose wheel, putting him one lap down. Busch went on to get his lap back at the next caution between segments three and four. From there, he climbed up through the field before finishing the night in sixth place.

“All in all, it was a good evening, kind of clicking off some spots there and moving ourselves forward. Felt really good about things, and then I got busted for speeding there on pit road, and in that same segment we ending up having a loose wheel so at least two things bit us in one segment there and it wasn’t two things hitting us in two different segments,” said Busch.

“That was a positive. We’ll take that. Real fortunate just to get back in the racecar and get out there and feel things out.”

Busch went on to address his recovery and how it felt to be back in a car.

“I’ll be sore for a couple days, just muscles that haven’t been woken up quite like this in a little while. It’s nothing new. Typically I get that in the beginning of the years anyway, and it takes a few weeks to kind of get warmed up to things and your body to kind of settle in, so being out of the race car for the longest I’ve ever been in my career that obviously is sort of a wake up call for myself to get back rolling,” Busch said.

“But other than that, just feel fine. I was never out of breath at all during the race or through the runs or anything like that so that was a good thing.”

Next week, Busch will face an even bigger challenge as the Sprint Cup Series tackles it’s longest race in the Coke 600.

“As far as endurance goes for next week, I felt like I got out of the car after 100 laps and I was fine. Am I going to die out after 200 or 300? I don’t know but the plan is to go the full distance. So we’ll just hope the rest of these guys run about 50 percent for the first 200 and I can keep up and then maybe at the end we’ll go after it. Doubt that will happen.” he joked.

All in all, tonight was a good one for Busch. He finished all the laps, earned a solid finish and took some notes for next weekend.

“Yeah, I learned some things. We also learned some stuff, myself and Adam Stevens about this racecar for me and getting around here in Charlotte, so we can kind of take some of that into next week and looking forward to the Coke 600 here.”

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Categories
Editorial

ICYMI: The Top-Five Stories From Kansas Speedway

It was another rainy race for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series during Saturday night’s SpongeBob SquarePants 400 at Kansas Speedway. This time, however, NASCAR did manage to get the race in after a slight delay, much to the appreciation of the fans. @JimmieJohnson checked off his third win of the season, but plenty of other stories came out of the 400 mile event as well.

In case you missed it, here are the top-five stories from NASCAR’s first visit to Kansas Speedway:

1. Weather Once Again Affects The Outcome: Once again, the rain played a factor in determining who won the race. This time, the weather hit just before Lap 100 of 267. Instantly cars were brought to pit road, and the red flag was displayed due to the lightning that accompanied the rain. The break in racing went on to last for 2 hours and 16 minutes. When racing resumed, the change in the track was evident and some drivers who were players up front earlier, like @KaseyKahne, found their cars struggling to remain fast. This opened the door for Johnson and other top finishers to make their way to the front.

2. @Erik_Jones Makes His Sprint Cup Debut: This weekend marked Erik Jones’ official Sprint Cup debut, and he certainly lived up to expectations. Jones was the fastest in the final practice before qualifying 12th for the race. He fell back at the beginning of the night while dealing with some radio issues but immediately moved up after fixing them. He went on to consistently race up in the top-10, even leading a lap during a green flag pit stop cycle. However, the rookie in him did show when Jones just plain lost control of the car late in the race and got into the wall. The crew was able to repair the damage after a trip to the garage, but it wasn’t fast enough to get back up front. Jones went on to finish in 40th place.

“I learned a lot about racing up front and racing with these guys. It’s definitely nice to be as fast as we were, and we had a great M&M’s Camry, but I just got loose off (turn) four and lost it,” said Jones.

“All my fault, guess I have to go back and figure it out. You know, we had a good night before that. Something to take from it. I’m ready to do another one — I hope I get another shot.”

READ MORE: Jones Left with Plenty to Digest

3. No Hometown Winners This Time: Despite three drivers hailing from the Kansas/Missouri area, no “hometown” driver was able to capture the win Saturday night. @ClintBowyer started and finished in 21st place after dealing with handling issues all night long. Carl Edwards had a fast car to start with, but loose conditions and a vibration from his car caused him to fall off the regular pit cycle and finish in 20th place. @JamieMcMuarry was the highest finishing driver from the area when he secured a 12th place finish. He was also fast from the start but had too loose of a car to grab the win.

“Not what I wanted at my home track. Just disappointing. I know these guys worked hard to give us a good 5-hour ENERGY Toyota for this weekend,” said Bowyer.

4. @JoeyLogano’s Multiple Pit Penalties: Joey Logano had to overcome multiple pit road penalties in order to secure his fifth place finish. Logano had a fast car and even led 29 laps, but found himself having to race up from the back of the field twice. He and his crew were penalized during the race for being over the wall too soon and later for hitting pit road before it was open. While the penalties didn’t hurt his finish, this is something Logano and his team will need to fix before the Chase starts.

“Passing all those cars was fun but the rest of it we just did a terrible job of executing this race. We made mistake after mistake,” said Logano.

“Whether it was me on pit road or everything we did it seemed. We had a fast race car, and that is what saved us. Execution was not very good tonight, and we all just have to raise our game a little bit and understand why we made mistakes and clean it up going forward.”

READ MORE: Logano’s Night of Pit Woes

5. @GBiffle Rallies To a Top-12: For a while, it looked like Greg Biffle was going to have another less than stellar finish when he found himself racing in the 23rd position, one lap down, early on in the event. He had started the night in seventh place, but the car turned out to just be too free with no front turn. However, after the rain delay and getting back on the lead lap, Biffle and his team made some big adjustments and got the car to move in the right direction. Biffle finished the night in 12th place, which also happens to be his best finish since grabbing 10th place in Daytona.

“It was a bit of an up and down night for us. I am really proud of the 16 team. We kept adjusting on the car as the night went on, and we were able to come home 12th,” said Biffle.

“We just missed out on the top-10, which is an improvement from where we have been lately, so that is a good sign. We just have to keep working on it, and I know they guys will. It is a little bit of momentum in the right direction, so we will take it and move on to Charlotte.”

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Categories
Editorial

ICYMI: The Top-Five Stories from an Action-Packed Talladega Superspeedway

The NASCAR Sprint Cup Series made its first visit to Talladega Superspeedway this past Sunday, and the racing proved to be just as action-packed as fans could have hoped for. ‘The Big One” made an appearance, and underdogs made surprising runs to the front of the field. Oh, and @DaleJr won in a place that could easily be dubbed as Jr. Nation’s headquarters.

In case you missed it, here are the top-five stories coming out of Sunday’s Geico 500:

1. “The Big One” Hits Early: Talladega is known for producing “The Big One,” or a wreck where it seems like half the field gets taken out of contention. This race was no different, except that it came early on and towards the front of the field. On Lap 47, Paul Menard tried to pass @TBayne6 on the outside while @KurtBusch crept up on the inside, causing the driver of the No. 6 Advocare Ford Fusion to go for a spin from eighth place. From there, the rest of the field got stacked up, and 15 cars came away with some damage. Among those involved were @KevinHarvick, @KaseyKahne, @DanicaPatrick, @Gbiffle, Ricky @StenhouseJr, @JoeyLogano, and @KyleLarsonRacin,

“I thought we had a really fast car compared to Daytona, and I thought we were gonna have a shot to run top five here today,” said Bayne.

“We made our way to the front a couple times and then the 27 just pulled down really tight on our door. When you have that much momentum going by on the outside, you’ve got to have a pocket in between your cars or it’s going to suck you around. I hate that everybody got torn up, but especially our Advocare Ford.”

2. Hendrick Motorsports Dominates: Despite not having all four cars finishing up in the top half of the field, Hendrick Motorsports clearly dominated the race on Sunday. Dale Earnhardt Jr., @JimmieJohnson, @JeffGordonWeb and Kasey Kahne all at least lead one lap during the event, combining for a total of 167 laps led out of the possible 188. While Earnhardt Jr. and Johnson finished first and second respectively, Kahne found himself as a victim of the Lap 47 wreck and was relegated to a 34th place finish. Gordon had his race go south when a speeding penalty under the final pit stop of the race sent him to the back of the field, where he then got swept up in a last lap wreck.

“This win had a lot of responsibility behind it with Greg (Ives) being the new crew chief.  We got a lot of new guys over the wall, new guys in the garage. A lot of changes. Brand-new sponsor, a lot of pressure there, trying to get those guys to Victory Lane.  My dad’s birthday.  A lot of things really happen at once when we cross the finish line. The pressure of trying to get in the Chase, knowing we’re locked in. Such a relief,” said Earnhardt Jr. of his win.

“Just winning. You just want to win. You want to win as often as possible. So this was really emotional. I don’t really get too emotional about wins. I get excited and super happy about them. But this one was certainly different. Just being at Talladega, I love this racetrack, the history here.”

3. Ryan @Blaney Shines: Despite running a part-time schedule, Ryan Blaney and his Wood Brothers Racing team were in contention to win from the drop of the green flag. The team qualified third for the main event and pretty much stayed in the top-10 for much of the race. While running third with less than 10 laps to go, it looked like Blaney was going to have a shot to win. However, when @DennyHamlin pulled out from behind him to try to make a move, Blaney was left without any help and had to scramble to claim his fourth place finish. While it’s not a win, the rookie driver was pleased with his run.

“We really just kind of were lucky to be in that position towards the end of the race. I think we made a couple good moves about three-quarters of the way through. Guys started to go with us a little bit more. Luckily the moves we were making worked out to where guys trust you a little bit more. That helped us get in the right spot for the end of the race,” said Blaney.

“I knew Denny was going to make a move. I thought he was going to do it later than what he did. I didn’t think he had a big enough run to get to us, pull out and pass us.  Luckily Sam Hornish took me up there on the front stretch, and we were able to get back up through there. Not a bad day after blowing up Atlanta, Daytona and Texas, it’s nice to get a good finish.”

4. Richard Childress Racing’s Fire Issues: For the second week in a row, Richard Childress Racing found itself dealing with fire issues. Last week, three crew members from @Brendan62 (Gaughan)’s team were injured when a fire broke out on pit road during the XFINITY race. This week, @RyanJNewman’s crew faced a similar situation on pit road, however with a much smaller fire to deal with. No one was injured. Later in the race, @austindillon3 also went up in flames when his engine blew with just 31 laps to go. While Newman was able to recover from his issue and grab a top-10 finish in seventh place, these are not the kind of races the team will want moving forward.

5. Carl Edwards Has Some Words: Carl Edwards looked like he was going to be getting his second top-10 finish of the season with a strong run at Talladega Superspeedway. That came to a stop on the final lap of the race when contact from @CJMearsGang sent Edwards spinning into the grass and then back up the track. While no other cars hit Edwards, he and his team expressed their displeasure at the fact that no one lifted as they went by him.

“That was frustrating. I was driving down here, and I thought we were going to have a good run and I thought we’d get a top-five and as he (Casey Mears) pushed and pushed I was just hoping he would let go,” said Edwards.

“I tried to save it, and I have to apologize to everybody for my language on the radio – I was really upset as I was saving it. There were people going by 100-plus mph and they never checked up. I really think that’s the most dangerous thing in the sport right now at these places. When there’s a wreck, guys have to get on the brake or we’re going to have a lot of problems here. We don’t want to see that.”

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Categories
Editorial

ICYMI: The Top-Five Stories From NASCAR’s First Stop at Richmond International Raceway

Once again, rain played a role in the race weekend’s festivities, pushing what was supposed to be the Sprint Cup Series’ first night race of the season at Richmond International Raceway to Sunday afternoon. Despite the delay, fans still got treated to some great racing once the action got underway. Sunday was full of surprises, from some notable drivers failing to be even remotely competitive to some underdogs making their way through the field.

In case you missed it, here are the top-five stories from Sunday’s Toyota Owners  400:

1. @KurtBusch Dominates: After having one of the fastest cars on the track and just not getting the finishes to show it, Kurt Busch finally put a complete race together and pulled off the win. Busch started the day in third and only moved forward from there, taking the lead from @JoeyLogano on Lap 95. From there he dominated the rest of the day, leading 291 of the 400 laps – the most he’s ever led in a single race.

“My thought was you’ve got to go slower to go faster. I think that I might have been driving too hard, too much of a chip on my shoulder, so to speak, to start the year.  But it was playing out well.  I mean, we came out of the box at Phoenix with a fifth-place finish and a chance to win, backed it up with a chance to win Fontana, brought it home third, and then a few weeks of missing it a little bit, and why were we missing it?  Well, maybe because I was just overdriving the car,” said Busch on why this week was different for him.

2. Struggles for Joe Gibbs Racing: After dominating the previous short track stops on the schedule, Joe Gibbs Racing found itself struggling to be competitive at Richmond. @MattKenseth was the organization’s only driver consistently in the top-10 all day, quietly bringing home a seventh place finish. The team’s next highest finishing driver was Carl Edwards in 19th. @DennyHamlin and @DavidRagan went on to finish two laps down in 22nd and 23rd respectively. All three drivers reported handling issues that were never quite fixed during the race.

“I felt like we were pretty solid on Friday, and obviously a lot has changed since Friday – track conditions and weather – but when they dropped the green flag we just weren’t as good,” said Ragan, continuing to sub for @KyleBusch.

“At the end of the day, we just didn’t start that good and we really worked hard at it. Yeah, disappointed at one of the 18’s best tracks and one of my favorite tracks. That was a disappointing day to get. Hopefully, we learn from it, and these guys can be a little better here in September.”

3. Hendrick Motorsports Shines: With the addition of @ChaseElliott, Hendrick Motorsports faced the daunting task of having five drivers to worry about in Sunday’s race. However, when all was said and done, the five would all finish inside the Top-20. @JimmieJohnson and @KaseyKahne had busy days, as the two qualified 36th and 40th, but managed to place within the Top-10. @JeffGordonWeb also ran inside the top-10 all day before finishing in a solid eighth place. @DaleJr had more of a rocky race and could never quite get his car to handle how he wanted, but managed to rally to a 14th place finish. Chase Elliott had quite the impressive day, competing in just his second Sprint Cup Series event. The rookie met his goal of finishing all the laps while also racing up towards the top-10 before he finished 16th.

“Overall I felt like we had a really solid day. Really the whole weekend for us here on the Sprint Cup side was solid. I thought we had a good car throughout practice, was able to run well in race trim, and our real struggle was trying to go fast for qualifying,” said Elliott.

“Guys made good adjustments for qualifying to get us in the show, and our car today had great long-run speed. Unfortunately, these races never ran to the long run. It’s always going to be a short run to the finish, and I didn’t tell them to do the right things for that last stop to run a short run. Lesson learned, and we’ll try to get better for the next one.”

4. Smoke’s Day Cut Short: After scoring his first top-10 of the season last week, @TonyStewart looked to continue his success at a track he earlier deemed as one of his favorites. Stewart started the day off from 13th place, shuffling in and out of the top-10 for much of the day. However, his day ended early after contact with Dale Earnhardt Jr. sent Smoke spinning on Lap 358. Stewart’s car would not restart, relegating him to a 41st place finish. Stewart declined to comment on the incident, but his frustrating was shown when broadcast cameras caught him throwing his helmet into his hauler.

5. @ClintBowyer’s Top-10 Day: Clint Bowyer scored his first top-10 since his seventh place finish at Daytona International Speedway at the start of the season. Bowyer still had to fight for his ninth place finish, as he made contact with @DanicaPatrick on pit road early in the race. His front right side had some slight damage, which threw off his car handling a little bit. Despite that incident, Bowyer rallied back, earning a solid finish and a jump to 14th place in the standings.

EMAIL KAYLA AT kayla.darrow@popularspeed.com

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Editorial

ICYMI: The Top-Five Stories From A Rainy Bristol Motor Speedway

Well, as the saying goes, it’s Bristol, baby. Sunday’s Food City 500 in Support of Steve Byrnes and Stand Up To Cancer at Bristol Motor Speedway was one wet, action-packed race from the start. With the weather adding an intensity to the already temperamental racing, fans saw everything from favorites being pushed out of the picture to underdogs making some surprising finishes. @MattKenseth found his way back to Victory Lane, but that’s definitely not all that happened.

In case you missed it, here are the top-five stories from Bristol Motor Speedway:

1. Rain, Rain Go Away: Rain was a factor in Sunday’s Sprint Cup event, causing major delays throughout the day. The unfavorable weather caused the red flag to be brought out three different times during the race, with the longest break being for four hours after drivers completed the first 22 laps of the race. The final red flag of the night came out right before drivers got to attempt what would be the first and only Green-White-Checkered finish. NASCAR worked to save the track to give fans the finish they deserved, which they finally got when Matt Kenseth held off a charging @JimmieJohnson and @JeffGordonWeb to score the victory.

“I thought that was a good call (for NASCAR to dry the track under the final red flag).  For me, I don’t know, I think last year didn’t it end yellow-white-checkered or something?” said Kenseth.

“At the end of the day, especially if you end up winning, you want to finish all the laps. You’d rather win on the racetrack obviously than win under yellow. I think if it would have totally lost the racetrack and it would have downpoured, I’m sure they would have called it, but I thought overall it was a good decision.”

2. Team Penske Crashes Early: It was over before it started for Team Penske on Sunday when teammates Brad @Keselowski and @JoeyLogano got tangled up in a wreck on Lap 19. While Keselowski later cited the rain as a reason for the wreck, replays showed him getting loose and running out of room while trying to pass a lapped car on the track. Logano just happened to be the car too close to Keselowski when he lost it, as they were both running up in the top-10 at the time. Neither would be able to recover from the accident, as Keselowski went on to finish 35th and Logano 40th.

“I would like to blame the rain, but I honestly don’t know. Usually when a car gets that far sideways and it’s kind of out of nowhere there’s a reason behind it. I just really hate that I tore up my teammate in the process. That’s really a bummer,” said Keselowski.

“It’s a bummer for everybody at Team Penske to tear up both cars that way. I hate racing in the rain, but I understand the position that NASCAR is in. They want to get the race going, and this is one of those days where it’s gonna just keep raining off and on, and we’re trying to get as many laps in at a time as we can to give the fans the best race possible, but we’re racing in the rain to do it and that’s what happens.”

3. @Erik_Jones To The Rescue: Erik Jones unexpectedly raced in his first Sprint Cup race on Sunday when he was called in to sub for @DennyHamlin who claimed to be suffering from neck spasms. While it was Jones’ first time in the Sprint Cup Series, it will not be cited as his debut, as Hamlin started the race and ran 22 of the 500 laps. It was during that first long red flag break that Hamlin made the decision not to complete the event. Jones was then flown into Bristol Motor Speedway and thrown in the No. 11 FedEx Toyota. He went on to use the experience as a learning one, trying to gain knowledge of how a Cup car runs while also dealing with comfort issues – Hamlin’s steering wheel was too big and causing his arms to cramp. Jones went on to finish in 26th place, six laps down but proud of what he accomplished.

“Obviously, it was a huge learning experience overall. The FedEx Camry was pretty good, but it just took me so long – really up until the red flag and kind of sitting and thinking about it and really figuring out what I had and what I had to do different from the Xfinity cars was just huge,” said Jones.

“I learned a ton. I wish we could start the night over and do it all again. It was an interesting situation for sure. I never turned a lap in one of these cars until the green flag dropped. It was interesting, and I learned a ton. I can’t wait to try it again.”

4. Streaks Are Broken: Coming into the race weekend at Bristol Motor Speedway, Joey Logano, @KevinHarvick and @MartinTrux_Jr were the only drivers to have top-10 finishes in all the races so far this season. All three streaks came to an end on Sunday. Logano got caught up with teammate Keselowski in the previously mentioned accident. Truex Jr. had a rocky night as well, dealing with loose wheels and multiple on-track accidents. He went on to finish 29th, seven laps down. For a while, Harvick looked to be in good shape, leading 184 laps before a wreck in the last 200 sent him to the garage for repairs. He would finish the night 38th, 43 laps down. Despite the broken streaks, all three drivers remain in the top-three spots of the standings.

5. Comebacks, The Theme of the Night: Multiple drivers in the top-10 had comeback stories to accompany their finishes. Jeff Gordon, who finished third, was two laps down thanks to a loose wheel earlier in the race. Jimmie Johnson, the runner-up of the event, was involved in two wrecks but made his way back to the front thanks to some strategic pit calls. Ricky @StenhouseJr scraped the wall in the opening laps but went on to finish in fourth place, a season-best finish for him. Finally, @KyleLarsonRacin went from leading 90 laps in the closing segment of the race to being forced to pit and going one lap down, to finishing seventh.

“I’m very pleased the way we finished. It certainly wasn’t easy and was filled full of ups and downs and emotions. You know, the whole weekend really was. We were very disappointed in the way we qualified. I didn’t get the best out of the car. But we were just lacking some speed, as well. And in the race, I thought we were really, really good.” said Gordon after the race.

EMAIL KAYLA AT kayla.darrow@popularspeed.com

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Editorial

ICYMI: The Top-Five Stories to Come From Texas Motor Speedway

Saturday night marked the Sprint Cup Series’ first night race and trip to Texas this season. The race had all the makings of a great one, with hard racing, comeback stories and a battle for the win. @JimmieJohnson earned his second victory of the season with his run in the Duck Commander 500, but there are plenty of other stories to discuss.

In case you missed it, here are the top-five stories from Texas Motor Speedway:

1. Carl Edwards Finally Gets His Finish: Carl Edwards was finally able to snap up his first top-10 finish of the season when he placed 10th in Saturday’s race. He previously had solid runs this season but could never seem to put together a complete race that translated into a good finish. Edwards raced as high as second during the Duck Commander 500 but couldn’t hold onto the position during the final laps. Regardless, Edwards is happy with the result.

“I want to make a statement. I just appreciate Stanley being a part of this. This is a big race for us,” said Edwards.

“We had a good run, and we just – that last restart kind of got us, but the kids were – it was cool, got out of the car and saw the kids over there at the pit box, seemed like they had a good time. It’s not a win, but for us it is our first top-10, and we dug hard all day, and we had a lot of fun. It’s a good race track.

2. @ClintBowyer’s Roller Coaster Continues: Clint Bowyer’s rocky season continues as he finished 22nd during Saturday’s event. Bowyer started the night towards the back of the field in 27th and immediately slipped back even further after the drop of the green flag. He later had two loose tires at different periods of the race, forcing the driver to get off the regular pit cycle. Despite being four laps down at one point, Bowyer did manage to climb back onto the lead lap before the night was over.

3. An Abundance of Loose Wheels: One common theme during Saturday’s race included the popular problem of having a loose wheel. @DaleJr, Brad @Keselowski, @KaseyKahne and Clint Bowyer all reported having a loose wheel at one point in time (or twice if you’re Bowyer).  While Bowyer struggled to come back from his issues, the other three drivers were able to battle back to finish in the top-10. It may have not been too big of an issue this time, but it’s something that teams need to work on before the Chase.

4. Dale Earnhardt Jr. Battles Back: It seemed like Dale Earnhardt Jr. had raced in every position on the track before he took home third place on Saturday night. After starting in the back, the driver drove up into the top-10 but was forced back after making a second pit stop under a caution to tighten some loose lug nuts. Earnhardt Jr. climbed back through the field for the second time that night, when he then radioed in about a vibration – which ended up being a loose wheel. Luckily for Earnhardt Jr., that vibration was fixed under a pit stop without any real loss of position. While it may not have been the smooth race the team was hoping for, Earnhardt Jr. was impressed by the effort.

“I just like racing here. I think it was a good show. It was raining debris out there for a while, and we were needing some green‑flag runs to get some of the track position back that we were having trouble keeping, and finally the rain shower of debris ended and we were able to finish the race,” said Earnhardt Jr.

“It’s a long race, and you get mentally prepared for it because it’s pretty tough. It feels almost like the 600 in some ways. It’s a slick old track, and the pace slows down. You work your guts out in there driving that car around there because the track is so slick, so it’s a very physical race, and I had a blast.”

5. A Step in the Right Direction: It’s no secret that it has been a tough year for Roush Fenway Racing, but Saturday’s race may have been a step in the right direction for the team. All three of its drivers finished in the top-20 and on the lead lap. Ricky @StenhouseJr was the highest finishing of the trio in 15th place. It wasn’t any easy road to get there, as Stenhouse Jr., @TBayne6, and @Gbiffle were all off the lead lap at one point of the race, but in the end, progress was made.

“I felt like it was one of our better mile-and-a-half races we’ve had in a while. We finished 18th, but we were a couple adjustments away from being a top-15 car. To have the 17, the 16 and myself all in the top 18 I think the scoreboard shows it was an improvement in itself,” said Trevor Bayne.

“Momentum isn’t gonna make faster race cars, but it just gives the guys that have been working their butts off for the last two years a little bit of hope. We need that, so it’s really good for us.”

EMAIL KAYLA AT kayla.darrow@popularspeed.com

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