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NASCAR Cup Series

Tire Gamble Nets Top-10 for Gordon

All eyes have been on @JeffGordonWeb in all of the seven races so far in the 2015 season to see how he will close out his run as a driver in the No. 24 Chevrolet with Hendrick Motorsports. Gordon came into Texas Motor Speedway with hopes of a win, but his car was a challenge for him throughout the 334-lap Duck Commander 500 Saturday night.

He reported handling problems to crew chief Alan Gustafson around lap 26 and struggled to keep in the top 10 in the middle of the race. After the first round of pit stops, his team got him up to the fourth position. He stayed in the fourth and fifth running position until a third round of pit stops on lap 111 when Gordon fell out of the top 10. He was able to ride around in the 13th position and fell back two more spots after a debris caution on lap 173. That’s where he stayed for the last few laps of the race.

On lap 310, @AJDinger met the wall in turns three and four that brought out the last caution of the night. Alan Gustafson made the call for two tires which put Gordon in a position to restart on the front row. He restarted on the outside lane and was side-by-side with @jamiemcmurray for a lap with 21 laps left in the race. Gordon slipped in behind McMurray to stay in the second spot. Gordon could not hold on to the spot with @JimmieJohnson, @DaleJr, and @KevinHarvick on the prowl. They picked Gordon off one-by-one until Gordon came home in the seventh spot, five positions ahead of where he began on the night. His teammate, Jimmie Johnson, won the race.

“Yeah that was a great gamble, great call by Alan,” said Gordon. “We saw early some guys take two tires and made it work for a short period of time,” said Gordon. “I don’t know we just struggled tonight. I’m not really sure where we are missing it. I just had my hands full. We were not able to get the balance just right. But we didn’t give up. I’m proud of that. We made it good at one point and then we got off and then we had to kind of start over and got it pretty good there at the end. Great to have Panasonic and Toughbook on board we love their involvement at Hendrick Motorsports.”

He later found out that were was a possible brake issue.

“Yeah, I don’t know if I had a brake problem we had a brake bias adjuster that was not functioning properly. We struggled. Early on, we weren’t great. We made some adjustments. We got some decent track position; I thought we were going to be pretty good. (Dale Earnhardt) Junior got to the outside of me on a restart. Our car just wasn’t very good right there. I really struggled, and we fell back and never regained it. Alan made a great two-tire call there at the end, and we ended up coming home seventh.”

Gordon and the No. 24 team will have some notes to go by when he races in his final Texas Motor Speedway race in November.

“Yeah, Texas is tough when everything is working right for you. Our Panasonic/Tough Books Chevrolet was just….I don’t know….just trying to get the balance right in it. Obviously our teammates have it worked out because all of them were fast, and obviously we have got some work to do, and I have got to figure this package out. We struggled, and we fought through it and we didn’t give up. Alan made a great call there at the end to take two tires, and that is what got us to seventh.”

Gordon will head into the Food City 500 at Bristol Motor Speedway 13th in points. He is looking for his first win of the season and his sixth Sprint Cup Series victory at the half-mile track in Tennessee. The race is Sunday, April 19 at 1 p.m. ET.

EMAIL ANITA AT anita.goodan@popularspeed.com

FOLLOW ON TWITTER: @Anita_Goodan

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NASCAR Cup Series

Denny Hamlin Looks to Keep Momentum Going in Texas

It’s been five years since his last win at Texas Motor Speedway, but he has got all of the momentum headed into Sunday’s Duck Commander 500. @Dennyhamlin is the latest NASCAR Sprint Cup Series driver with a win. He collected that victory at his home track, Martinsville Speedway, on March 29.

Hamlin said his team’s success in the STP 500 just fuels the desire to succeed even more.

“The win obviously takes a lot of pressure off our FedEx team,” noted the driver of the No. 11 FedEx Toyota.

“Getting a victory so early in the season will allow us to work on our program, try some things and try to get better for the Chase. We are ahead of where we were at this point one year ago, and each week we seem to get a little bit more speed. Now, with a Chase berth pretty much locked up, we can take a few more chances to try to get more wins. We still have a lot of work to do, but hopefully Martinsville is a springboard for our team. We have a lot of good tracks coming up for us and I’m excited to get back out there.”

Hamlin will have more seat time during the upcoming weekend. He is substituting for @KyleBusch in the No. 54 Monster Energy Toyota in the XFINITY Series. Busch continues to recover from surgeries to repair fractures sustained in his right leg and upper left foot after a crash in the opening XFINITY Series race at Daytona International Speedway. Hamlin and @erik_jones have been splitting the seat while Busch remains sidelined.

Looking ahead to this weekend, Hamlin says Texas Motor Speedway has its fair share of character, which gives drivers a challenge.

“Texas is a really fast race track and for as old as the asphalt is, it still has a lot of speed. Although it’s fast, it has enough tire fall-off that a good handling car makes up for it. It’s a real interesting place, with flat corners getting in and getting out of them, but you can still carry a lot of speed through those areas of the racetrack,” said Hamlin.

“Just having your car secure enough in those areas and being able to have a lot of wide-open throttle time is key. I believe that we have all the tools necessary. Hopefully we can get this Monster Energy Camry into victory lane.”

Crew chief Chris Gayle believes the team has great potential to drive into Victory Lane.

“I’m looking forward to racing with Denny in Texas. I feel like he’s done a great job for us in the two previous events he’s driven this (No.) 54. We’ve had issues like race damage or pit/balance adjustments that have kept us from finishing to our and Denny’s potential. He has a lot of experience at Texas and also two Cup race wins there. The (No.) 54 team won this race in the fall, and all three JGR teams had top ten finishes then. So as a whole our XFINITY Series teams have good notebooks and car setups to rely on for Texas. This should be an event where the (No.) 54 team contends for our first win of 2015,” said Gayle.

Fans should watch to see if Hamlin can still pull off the look of wearing a cowboy hat and firing six shooters while also keeping the rodeo going for the No. 11 team.

The O’Reilly Auto Parts 300 is set for Friday, April 10 at 8:30 p.m. ET at Texas Motor Speedway and the Duck Commander 500 is Saturday, April 11 at 7:30 p.m. ET.

EMAIL ANITA AT anita.goodan@popularspeed.com

FOLLOW ON TWITTER: @Anita_Goodan

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Editorial

ICYMI: The Top-Five Moments From The AAA Texas 500

By Kayla Darrow – Sunday’s Sprint Cup race at Texas Motor Speedway had a sense of urgency to it, as drivers and teams still in contention for the championship watch as the final events of the season fly by. With only one race left before the series finale in Homestead-Miami, fans saw drivers not only give it their all on the track, but also bring the drama back to pit road afterwards. @JimmieJohnson scored the win, but plenty of other action occurred.

In case you missed it, here are the top-five moments from NASCAR’s return to Texas Motor Speedway:

1. A Pit Road Brawl: If anyone was wondering how high tensions are for the Chase drivers, Sunday’s pit road brawl that broke out between @JeffGordonWeb and Brad @Keselowski should serve as a good reference point. The drama started during the first green, white checkered attempt of the night when Gordon restarted first with Keselowski close behind. Keselowski skated by Gordon but not before the two exchanged some paint. The contact caused Gordon’s left rear tire to go down, sending him spinning across the track and bringing out the final caution of the night. Gordon would go on finish 29th, one lap down and with only one point keeping him in the final Chase transfer spot. Keselowski still sits on the outside of the bubble in seventh.

“I’m here to win races for Roger Penske and for my team. That means when there’s a gap, I have to take it. If it requires a tiny bit of rubbing, that’s okay. It’s not anything I don’t expect on the other side,” said Keselowski.

“We’ll go through these battles. I’ve gone through them before and came out stronger. I’ll go through them again and come out stronger, a better racecar driver. But what I’m not going to do is back down.” 

Joey Logano, driver of the #22 AAA Insurance Ford, leads a pack of cars during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series AAA Texas 500 at Texas Motor Speedway on November 2, 2014 in Fort Worth, Texas. (Photo: Tom Pennington/Getty Images North America)
Joey Logano, driver of the #22 AAA Insurance Ford, leads a pack of cars during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series AAA Texas 500 at Texas Motor Speedway on November 2, 2014 in Fort Worth, Texas. (Photo: Tom Pennington/Getty Images North America)

2. The Top Spot for @JoeyLogano: The driver with the biggest up and down day on Sunday was definitely Joey Logano. Logano spent most of the race inside the top-10 but began facing adversity when his crew had a problem with the lugnut glue not sticking while they pitted under caution. Logano then brought out the ninth caution of the night with just 30 laps to go when his right rear tire went flat, sending him for a spin from the 24th position. Luckily for him, there was no damage to his car. Logano and his team were able to rally back and finish in 12th place. Perhaps more important than anything – Logano came out of Texas with the points lead.

“I am proud of everyone that kept their heads down and kept digging. That isn’t the way we wanted to do it; that is for sure, ” Logano said.

“You have to expect that though when you put yourself back there with a few laps to go. We put ourselves in a bad spot for something to happen. It is a snowball effect. We put ourselves in a bad spot and got in an even worse spot and then dug ourselves halfway out of a hole there.”

Kyle Busch, driver of the #18 M&M's Toyota, races past the Big Hoss during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series AAA Texas 500 at Texas Motor Speedway on November 2, 2014 in Fort Worth, Texas. (Photo: Tom Pennington/Getty Images North America)
Kyle Busch, driver of the #18 M&M’s Toyota, races past the Big Hoss during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series AAA Texas 500 at Texas Motor Speedway on November 2, 2014 in Fort Worth, Texas. (Photo: Tom Pennington/Getty Images North America)

3. From One Lap Down: If you told @KyleBusch he was going to finish inside the top-five halfway during the race, he probably wouldn’t have believed you. It was a rough day for the driver, as his dreams to sweep the weekend went down the drain pretty early on. Busch skimmed the wall and went a lap down all within the first half of the race. However, the team stuck together, and Busch got his lap back towards the end of the race. They would go on to finish in fourth place, quite the accomplishment considering how hard they had to fight to get there.

“We were a bag of everything today. Man, we were so bad. I don’t know what happened to us from yesterday. We fought all day long. The guys prepared this thing. They’ve gotten plenty of practice in this Chase,” said Busch afterwards.

“They did a good job. They got me a good car there at the end in order to battle back and come back for a fourth. I appreciate all the effort — all my guys. They did a good job. It’s good to continue to fight like that and bring home a top-five.”

Kasey Kahne, driver of the #5 Great Clips Chevrolet, crashes during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series AAA Texas 500 at Texas Motor Speedway on November 2, 2014 in Fort Worth, Texas. (Photo: Tom Pennington/Getty Images North America)
Kasey Kahne, driver of the #5 Great Clips Chevrolet, crashes during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series AAA Texas 500 at Texas Motor Speedway on November 2, 2014 in Fort Worth, Texas. (Photo: Tom Pennington/Getty Images North America)

4. Another Rough Day For @KaseyKahne: Kasey Kahne just can’t seem to catch a break this year. The driver, who was running up in third place at one time and looked like a threat to win, found himself caught up in two consecutive accidents on Sunday. The first incident occurred when Kahne and Ambrose made contact, sending Kahne spinning across the frontstretch into the grass. Just eight laps later, Kahne found himself spinning again after running into @Tbayne21 and slamming into the wall, causing serious damage to both cars. Kahne would go on to finish 38th, 22 laps down.

5. Mr. 500: While he may not have gotten the win, @KevinHarvick has got to be pleased with the result of his 500th start in the Sprint Cup Series. He started off in fifth place and dealt with multiple handling issues during the day, but never really slipped out of the top-10. Harvick finished the night off second and still sits in eight place in the Chase standings. However, Sunday’s performance helped to shorten up his point deficit, as Harvick is now only six points out from the final Chase transfer spot.

“We had a solid night, got ourselves back in the championship running for what we needed to do on the weekend. Next week is going to be pretty crazy. I’m looking forward to it.”

EMAIL KAYLA AT kayla.darrow@popularspeed.com

FOLLOW KAYLA ON TWITTER: @kayla_darrow

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Uncategorized

Justin Allgaier: Texas Motor Speedway is Awesome

By Matt Weaver (FORT WORTH, Tex.) — NASCAR Sprint Cup Series rookie Justin Allgaier compared Texas Motor Speedway to Atlanta Motor Speedway on Sunday morning during a pace car ride around the Great American Speedway.

Texas has not been repaved since 2006 and the racing surface has started to provide the tire wear and widened grooves of its sister track in Hampton, Ga, which is noted for its good racing as a result of an increasingly corrosive track surface.

“The only difference is that Atlanta has more banking to hold it,” Allgaier said. “Here we don’t quite have the banking so it makes it a little more difficult because of that. It still has good banking but you’ll notice how flat the straightaways are.Atlanta still has good banking in the straights so that makes a little bit of a difference.”

Allgaier also agreed that the racing surface has started to widen out over the past several seasons, making it one of his favorite stops on the tour.

“Oh this place is awesome,” he said. “You can really run four-wide if you wanted to.”

The complete conversation with Allgaier and video of his pace car ride can be viewed below.

Categories
NASCAR Cup Series

Six Pack of Stats: Texas

By Stephanie Adair – The NASCAR Sprint Cup Series is at Texas Motor Speedway for the seventh race of the 2014 season. Each of the first six has had a different winner, which is a ten-year record. Could the streak continue with seven different winners at the end of the Duck Commander 500? Will one driver be the first to capture a repeat win?

While waiting for the green flag to drop, here is this week’s six-pack of interesting stats:

  • @MattKenseth has the best average finish at Texas with an 8.3, followed by @JimmieJohnson with an 8.7 average finish. Both are currently winless this season. They look to change that later today.
  • Two drivers, Carl Edwards and @DennyHamlin have won back-to-back races at Texas. Could defending winner Jimmie Johnson be the next?
  • Ford holds the most wins at Texas Motor Speedway with 11. Chevrolet is second with nine victories.
  • The last six races here were won by drivers starting in the top five. Johnson (2012) and @KyleBusch (2013) won from the pole. Will one of today’s top five starters visit Victory Lane?
  • @JeffBurton (1997), @DaleJr (2000) and Carl Edwards (2005) all won at this track in their first full-time rookie season. NASCAR Nationwide Series rookie @ChaseElliott won the series race on Friday night. Could one of the eight Sprint Cup rookies contending today do the same?
  • This weekend marks the debut of Texas Motor Speedway’s “Big Hoss” TV board. The 20,633.64 square foot high definition LED video screen will be certified prior to the race by the Guinness Book of World records as the largest of its kind in the world.
Categories
Editorial NASCAR Cup Series

Matt Kenseth Defying the Odds in Championship Chase

By Matt Weaver — The midpoint of Sunday’s NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Texas Motor Speedway may be remembered as a pivotal moment in Matt Kenseth’s chase for a second championship.

Kenseth entered the race tied with Jimmie Johnson atop of the standings but fell to as low as 20 points (as they run) after a pit road speeding penalty on lap 173 dropped him to 16th place with 159 circuits remaining in the race.

And while that may seem like enough time to get back to the front, Texas is notorious for being a difficult place to pass. And with 100 laps left, Kenseth appeared stuck in about seventh-place and unable to make any gains on a dominant Johnson.

As it stands, Kenseth was able to grind his way back inside of the top-5, finished fourth and only lost seven points to Jimmie Johnson, who scored max points with his most laps led and a victory on Sunday night.

Kenseth’s comeback performance keeps him in the tire trails of the championship leader as seven points isn’t that insurmountable for a team that has already won seven times and has 11 top-5s in 31 races. More so, Kenseth was able to rally back to where he likely would have finished all along as it seems that no one had anything late for the Hendrick Motorsports tandem of Johnson and Dale Earnhardt Jr.

It’s also important to note that Johnson had a seven point lead over Brad Keselowski with two races remaining last season before a pair of DNFs ended his hunt for a sixth championship.

And while Kenseth shouldn’t expect the same such luck to befall his friendly rival, Kenseth is in a better position to outduel Five-Time than Keselowski was a year ago.

With Joe Gibbs Racing, Kenseth has appeared to eliminate his all of his remaining weaknesses in Sprint Cup Series racing — qualifying and consistency on flat tracks like the upcoming Phoenix International Raceway.

And while Kenseth has won at Phoenix, Johnson has won there four times. So Kenseth is set to face a similar situation as to the one he faced at New Hampshire — a place Kenseth had downright struggled at up until this season.

If the 2003 champion can continue to buck the trend at Phoenix and at least cut his deficit in half, he may have the clear advantage heading into the season finale at Homestead Miami Speedway, a track where Kenseth has won at once and has five top-10s in 13 starts.

On Sunday, Kenseth defied the odds, something he has continued to do all season. He defied them when many said it was a mistake to leave Roush Fenway Racing. They said it again in reference to his struggles in qualifying and on the flat tracks.

And now they’re saying it one more time as he’s set to duel with the mighty Jimmie Johnson championship buzzsaw.

Bet against Matt Kenseth at your own risk. The championship isn’t over by a long shot.