Kevin Harvick

NASCAR: Logano wins Talladega to advance in NASCAR’s playoffs

This gallery contains 2 photos.

TALLADEGA, Ala. (AP) — When an engine failure knocked title favorite Martin Truex Jr. from NASCAR’s playoffs, the rest of the top contenders got a little bit of breathing room.

Then Brad Keselowski suffered the same cruel elimination when his engine failed Sunday at Talladega Superspeedway.

There was suddenly a wide-open competition to earn the final transfer spots into the third round of the Chase, and Denny Hamlin and Austin Dillon raced a tense final two laps in overtime to fill the bracket. With each pushing for every last point, it was Hamlin who advanced into the round of eight on a tiebreaker over Dillon.

Joey Logano won at Talladega Superspeedway, and Hamlin edged Kurt Busch by .006 seconds for third place and the one point he needed to tie Dillon in the standings.

Dillon was ninth, but lost the right to move into the next round based on average finish over the last three races.

Hamlin had told his Joe Gibbs Racing team not to give him points updates, and that lack of knowledge forced him to scramble through the final turn as he was undecided on how aggressive he needed to be.

“I wasn’t sure whether I needed to finish third,” he said. “I told them I didn’t want points updates. But that’s almost when I probably should have got one to figure out what I was going to do. (Dillon) is in the middle of the pack. He’s fighting and getting positions. He could change two positions in the last hundred yards.

“So you can’t really predict it. I knew I just had to try to finish as good as I could.”

With Truex and Keselowski out of the playoffs before the checkered flag, the suspense came down to final finishing order. Logano was not in a must-win situation, but the victory sure didn’t hurt.

Dillon, on a frantic dash over two overtime laps to gain as many spots as possible, called the outcome “heartbreaking.”

“It sure stinks to lose it on a tiebreaker,” Dillon said.

Also eliminated Sunday was Chase Elliott. Advancing are: Jimmie Johnson, Kevin Harvick, Matt Kenseth, Kyle Busch, Kurt Busch, Carl Edwards, Logano and Hamlin. There are four Toyotas remaining in the field, all from Joe Gibbs Racing. Stewart-Haas Racing has Kurt Busch and Harvick — but the two had a heated exchange after the race over alleged contact on the last lap — while Hendrick Motorsports has Johnson for three Chevrolets in the field. Logano is the only Ford driver.

“Feels good to win on a clutch moment like that with the pressure on,” Logano said. “I think we ran like a champ.”

The race was stark difference from the spring stop in Alabama, when 35 cars were involved in at least one accident and two cars went airborne . And last year, it appeared that Kevin Harvick intentionally caused an accident on an overtime restart to help his championship chances.

But for mile after mile Sunday, the drivers behaved.

The only glitches came in a harried sequence early in the race in which three championship contenders had uncharacteristic gaffes within minutes of each other. First Logano left pit road with a jack wedged under his Ford, and he had to return to pit road to have it removed. Then Hamlin was flagged for speeding, then Truex lost an engine .

Keselowski’s engine went with 43 laps remaining after he’d battled climbing temperatures on his car because of debris on his front grille.

“It is unfortunate for Brad,” Logano said. “It happens as a leader picking some (debris up). We picked it up just not as much.”

Keselowski was dominant for a huge chunk of the race, even as he battled climbing temperatures on his Ford. Then, with 43 laps remaining, his engine blew and Keselowski was sent to the garage.

Kasey Kahne spun with six laps remaining to bring out the caution for a heart-pounding final restart.

The caution had terrible timing for Hamlin, and was a gift for Dillon. Hamlin was trying to hold off Dillon for the last transfer position and the Kahne spin gave Dillon another chance to gain points that would keep him in contention and bump Hamlin from the playoffs.

The restart was with three laps remaining.

The push was intense for a lap, then a spin by Alex Bowman brought out the caution for an overtime finish.

Over the team radio, Dillon was told to concentrate.

“Focus forward, man. Focus forward on what we’ve gotta do. That’s what matters, OK?” Dillon was told by a team member.

Dillon gained two spots in overtime, but it wasn’t enough to pass Hamlin in the standings.

TREUX MAKES EARLY EXIT: His engine failure ended his title chances — one round after he’d moved to the top of the list of favorites.

Truex won a pair of races in the opening round of the Chase, and was above the elimination line Sunday and only needed a decent day to advance into the third round. He appeared to be in good shape after winning the pole — overcoming a qualifying day distraction when his team had trouble in inspection — but the engine blowing on his Toyota sent him to a last-place finish.

“We had a team capable of competing for the championship, and unfortunately we’re not going to be able to show that,” he said.

KESELOWSKI ELIMINATED: Faced with a must-win situation at Talladega two years ago, Keselowski stepped up and grabbed a monumental victory.

He was certain he could do the same on Sunday and after leading 90 laps, Keselowski was definitely in play for the win.

When his engine failed, his championship chances were done .

“A lot of fun to be leading at Talladega,” he said. “We were doing the best we could to have some fun and lead some laps.”

OH WHAT A FEELING: Toyota celebrated its 1,000th race at the Cup level by advancing a manufacturer-high four cars into the round of eight.

All four Joe Gibbs Racing entries moved into the third round, with Truex’s blown engine the only hiccup on the day.

Having four drivers, from the same team, still in the playoffs led winning car owner Roger Penske to poke the Toyota camp on the stakes.

“They’ve got more to lose than I do, I guess,” Penske said. “They’ve got four.”

UP NEXT: The opening race of the third round of the Chase on Sunday at Martinsville Speedway. Logano swept the second round last year and seemed headed to the win at Martinsville until he was intentionally wrecked as payback by Matt Kenseth. The feud between the two ultimately cost Logano a spot in the championship round.




Sunday’s results from the 2.66-mile Talladega Superspeedway (starting position in parentheses):

1. (16) Joey Logano, Ford, 192 laps, 0 rating, 44 points.

2. (25) Brian Scott, Ford, 192, 0, 39.

3. (8) Denny Hamlin, Toyota, 192, 0, 39.

4. (7) Kurt Busch, Chevrolet, 192, 0, 37.

5. (6) Ricky Stenhouse Jr, Ford, 192, 0, 37.

6. (24) Kyle Larson, Chevrolet, 192, 0, 35.

7. (22) Kevin Harvick, Chevrolet, 192, 0, 34.

8. (26) Aric Almirola, Ford, 192, 0, 33.

9. (9) Austin Dillon, Chevrolet, 192, 0, 33.

10. (32) AJ Allmendinger, Chevrolet, 192, 0, 31.

11. (15) Ryan Blaney, Ford, 192, 0, 31.

12. (4) Chase Elliott, Chevrolet, 192, 0, 30.

13. (10) Paul Menard, Chevrolet, 192, 0, 28.

14. (20) Ryan Newman, Chevrolet, 192, 0, 27.

15. (5) Greg Biffle, Ford, 192, 0, 27.

16. (34) Michael McDowell, Chevrolet, 192, 0, 25.

17. (11) Trevor Bayne, Ford, 192, 0, 24.

18. (36) Clint Bowyer, Chevrolet, 192, 0, 23.

19. (23) Jamie McMurray, Chevrolet, 192, 0, 22.

20. (30) Danica Patrick, Chevrolet, 192, 0, 21.

21. (31) Landon Cassill, Ford, 192, 0, 20.

22. (33) Chris Buescher, Ford, 192, 0, 19.

23. (17) Jimmie Johnson, Chevrolet, 192, 0, 18.

24. (40) David Ragan, Toyota, 192, 0, 17.

25. (29) Regan Smith, Chevrolet, 192, 0, 16.

26. (18) Ryan Reed, Ford, 192, 0, 0.

27. (35) Matt DiBenedetto, Toyota, 192, 0, 14.

28. (3) Matt Kenseth, Toyota, 192, 0, 14.

29. (13) Carl Edwards, Toyota, 192, 0, 13.

30. (14) Kyle Busch, Toyota, 192, 0, 12.

31. (38) Bobby Labonte, Ford, 192, 0, 10.

32. (21) Tony Stewart, Chevrolet, 192, 0, 10.

33. (37) Michael Annett, Chevrolet, 192, 0, 9.

34. (39) Jeffrey Earnhardt, Toyota, 192, 0, 7.

35. (27) Kasey Kahne, Chevrolet, 191, 0, 6.

36. (19) Alex Bowman, Chevrolet, 191, 0, 0.

37. (12) Reed Sorenson, Chevrolet, 179, 0, 4.

38. (2) Brad Keselowski, Ford, engine, 144, 0, 5.

39. (28) Casey Mears, Chevrolet, accident, 113, 0, 2.

40. (1) Martin Truex Jr, Toyota, engine, 41, 0, 2.


Race Statistics

Average Speed of Race Winner: 159.907 mph.

Time of Race: 3 hours, 11 minutes, 38 seconds.

Margin of Victory: seconds.

Caution Flags: 6 for 25 laps.

Lead Changes: 31 among 14 drivers.

Lap Leaders: M.Truex 0; B.Keselowski 1-11; M.Truex 12-13; B.Keselowski 14-25; C.Elliott 26-27; B.Keselowski 28; C.Elliott 29-31; B.Keselowski 32-37; D.Hamlin 38; M.Kenseth 39; Ky.Busch 40; B.Keselowski 41; R.Stenhouse 42-47; B.Keselowski 48-62; C.Elliott 63; G.Biffle 64-76; C.Elliott 77-78; B.Keselowski 79; C.Elliott 80; D.Hamlin 81; C.Edwards 82; M.Annett 83-88; B.Keselowski 89-110; R.Blaney 111; D.Hamlin 112-116; A.Dillon 117; D.Hamlin 118-122; B.Keselowski 123-143; R.Blaney 144-145; T.Stewart 146; Ky.Busch 147; J.Logano 148-192

Leaders Summary (Driver, Times Led, Laps Led): B.Keselowski, 9 times for 81 laps; J.Logano, 1 time for 44 laps; G.Biffle, 1 time for 12 laps; D.Hamlin, 4 times for 8 laps; M.Annett, 1 time for 5 laps; R.Stenhouse, 1 time for 5 laps; C.Elliott, 5 times for 4 laps; R.Blaney, 2 times for 1 lap; M.Truex, 2 times for 1 lap; Ky.Busch, 2 times for 0 laps; A.Dillon, 1 time for 0 laps; C.Edwards, 1 time for 0 laps; M.Kenseth, 1 time for 0 laps; T.Stewart, 1 time for 0 laps.

Wins: Ky.Busch, 4; K.Harvick, 4; B.Keselowski, 4; M.Truex, 4; D.Hamlin, 3; J.Johnson, 3; C.Edwards, 2; M.Kenseth, 2; C.Buescher, 1; Ku.Busch, 1; K.Larson, 1; J.Logano, 1; T.Stewart, 1.

Top 16 in Points: 1. J.Logano, 4000; 2. J.Johnson, 4000; 3. K.Harvick, 4000; 4. M.Kenseth, 4000; 5. C.Edwards, 4000; 6. D.Hamlin, 4000; 7. Ku.Busch, 4000; 8. Ky.Busch, 4000; 4. 9. M.Truex, 2191; 10. B.Keselowski, 2168; 11. A.Dillon, 2163; 12. C.Elliott, 2156; 13. K.Larson, 2155; 14. T.Stewart, 2141; 15. J.McMurray, 2110; 16. C.Buescher, 2190.

NASCAR: Chase Elliott, Kurt Busch have advantage at Talladega

This gallery contains 1 photo.

(PhatzRadio Sports / USA Today)    —   TALLADEGA, Ala. – Chase Elliott is in a horrible predicament. Kurt Busch is in a better situation, but hardly secure heading into the Chase for the Sprint Cup second-round elimination race Sunday. Because it’s at Talladega Superspeedway.

But oddly, they also might be the most advantaged of the 10 drivers still groping for six available transfer spots into the penultimate round.

In a sport and a playoff system where creative selfishness is a job necessity for the individual and a benefit to their teams, both Elliott and Busch are uniquely situated in having a teammate already through to the next round. That’s not to suggest that Elliott’s Hendrick Motorsports teammate (Charlotte winner Jimmie Johnson) or Busch’s Stewart-Haas Racing comrade (Kansas victor Kevin Harvick) won’t absolutely seize upon a chance to win again Sunday. But with the four Toyota drivers of Joe Gibbs Racing plus one from affiliate Furniture Row Racing attempting to wedge themselves in a half-dozen slots, and two Ford drivers of Team Penske doing the same, it won’t hurt to have a draft buddy with a punched pass to the next round and a common boss to please.

Although it’s unlikely that Johnson will be the Bandit to rookie Elliott’s Snowman all afternoon, or Harvick the Goose to Busch’s Maverick, it stands to reason they would be less inclined to forsake them in the fickle and cunning diplomacy of restrictor-plate racing. And that can’t hurt, when, in Elliott’s case, you’re attempting to come from last of 12 eligibles on the Chase grid, 25 points from eighth place, which is currently shared by Joey Logano and Austin Dillon. Busch enters sixth, 17 points ahead of the cut.

Brad Keselowski managed his must-win for advancement at Talladega in 2014 with help from Team Penske’s Logano, who nudged him to the front on a first green/white/checker attempt and allowed him to control his situation as much as possible on a decisive second.

Another seeming advantage for Elliott and Busch would be racing for four-car teams where their title-contending teammate already is secure. While the Toyota drivers joust with each other, Elliott has Johnson, Alex Bowman and Kasey Kahne in league. Busch has Harvick, Tony Stewart and Danica Patrick, who already has demonstrated a knack for the concept. Harvick lauded Patrick for her esprit de corps last fall at Talladega, helping him maintain his position near the front with drafting help as his engine spasmed in the waning laps. Harvick went on to veer into Trevor Bayne to prompt a wreck that ended the race under caution and helped him nab a 15th-place finish that advanced him to Round 3.

Still, restrictor-plate racing has a way of jumbling team dynamics, whether by design or unfortunate by-product. In trying to help or not. Brian Vickers’ attempt to push Johnson by leader Dale Earnhardt Jr. on the last lap of the 2006 Talladega fall race hooked his then-Hendrick teammate into a collision and off the track with Earnhardt. Vickers was credited for his first Cup win in his final season before changing teams. Johnson was displeased.

Johnson claimed he was attempting to link up for a draft when he sliced in front of the No. 24 Chevrolet as it charged forward in the 2010 spring race. Instead, he muted teammate Jeff Gordon’s momentum, sending him back into the mass and in position to be swallowed by a multi-car incident.

With five races left in the season, driver agendas are about to focus and intentions become self-serving. Talladega will be the dry run for the rest of the season. And this Sunday, it won’t hurt to have a wingman.

NASCAR: Forget about points, Logano racing to win at Talladega

This gallery contains 1 photo.

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — Joey Logano knows he is in the most precarious of positions heading to the Chase elimination race at Talladega, tied for the eighth and final spot for advancing to the next round of NASCAR’s playoffs.

There are two clear strategies his Penske Racing team could employ.

The first is the relatively low-risk option: They could spend the entire race at the unpredictable superspeedway spying on Austin Dillon, who is even with him in points, and Denny Hamlin and Brad Keselowski, who are also within striking distance, and ensure they get through on points.

The riskier option? Race to win, points be damned.

“That’s the way I race. I don’t know a different way,” said Logano, whose third-place finish behind Kevin Harvick and Carl Edwards on Sunday at Kansas at least made the points route possible.

“I’m sure we’ll talk about it this week,” Logano added, “but I’m a racer.”

At least three Chase contenders don’t have the same dilemma. Harvick and Jimmie Johnson are already locked into the next round by virtue of their wins in the first two stops of the round, and Chase Elliott’s trouble for the second straight week left him in a must-win situation.

The other nine drivers are much like Logano, racing to win but keeping a wary eye on points.

“The big thing that swung everything around was Kevin winning. We would have been in pretty good shape if he had finished second,” Logano said. “It isn’t disappointing because we still should be proud of the effort we had, but it would have meant a lot if he finished second.”

That’s because Harvick had problems of his own in the round at Charlotte, which means even second place at Kansas would have put him squarely on the bubble heading to Talladega.

Logano should at least have some confidence heading to the volatile restrictor-plate track. After years of mostly terrible results, he won there to complete a sweep of the entire round last fall.

Meanwhile, Dillon was third there earlier this year, Hamlin won there a couple of years ago and Keselowski won for the fourth time there earlier this year.

“I don’t think it’s a must-win situation,” said Keselowski, who spun into the grass and tore up his car before finishing 38th at Kansas. “I’m not worried about it. I’m going to go there and bust my butt to try to win, but I don’t think it’s a must-win yet.”

Matt Kenseth, Kyle Busch, Edwards and Kurt Busch are relatively safe after steering clear of major trouble the last two rounds, and Martin Truex Jr. has a 13-point cushion over eighth place.

For each of them, winning at Talladega would be great. But they also know that simply by staying out of trouble, their spot in the next round is virtually assured.

“It’s a what-have-you-done-for-me-lately sport and to a huge extreme with the Chase now with this format,” Truex said. “You’ve got to perform every single week. You’ve got a bad week, it could ruin your whole season. … We’ve just got to go to Talladega and hope that nothing crazy happens.”


NASCAR could take steps soon to limit Sprint Cup driver participation in lower series, a point driven home after Kyle Busch won his ninth Xfinity Series race of the year at Kansas. NASCAR executive vice president Steve O’Donnell was asked about the dominance on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio this week and said something could change in the rules by next year.

“We’ve heard the fans. It’s interesting, it’s been a balance throughout the years,” he said. “We have always had Sprint Cup drivers come into the Xfinity Series and sometimes dominate.

“As the sport has evolved, one of the great things is we’ve got more of a fan following in the Xfinity and Camping World Truck Series. They like seeing those drivers come up through the ranks and it’s our job to make sure that Xfinity is where names are made.”

NASCAR is already prohibiting any Sprint Cup driver who was in last year’s Chase from competing in this year’s season finale for the Xfinity and Truck Series at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

Of the 30 Xfinity races this season, 19 have been won by Sprint Cup regulars.


The Xfinity Series is on a two-week break after Kyle Busch trumped the eight Chase contenders at Kansas on Saturday. Justin Allgaier plans to do some endurance racing in Brazil, and Daniel Suarez will squeeze in a trip to Mexico before racing trucks at Martinsville.

“It’s been a while since the last time I went to Mexico to visit my family, my mom, my sisters and my dad,” he said. “We’re going to do something fun with the people from NASCAR.”


Truex’s team decided not to take part in this week’s testing at Homestead, even though it’s the site of the season-ending race next month. One reason is that it’s far from Denver, where his Furniture Row Racing team is based, and another is that he isn’t convinced it does any good.

“Every time we’ve tested this year, we’ve gone to the race track and spent the first day-and-a-half trying to regroup,” he said. “It seems like it’s probably hurt us more than helped us.”


Formula 1 team owner Gene Haas said Sunday that he wants to see how Esteban Gutierrez fares the rest of the season before deciding on a second driver for his team. Romain Grosjean has been solid in the team’s debut, and his spot for next year is secure. But while Gutierrez has been improving in recent races, he still has not earned a championship point.

“We haven’t definitively said whether Esteban is the driver for next year or not,” said Haas, whose Sprint Cup team won at Kansas. “That doesn’t necessarily mean that he won’t be, either.”

NASCAR: Talladega could eliminate some of NASCAR’s top names

This gallery contains 1 photo.

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) — Brad Keselowski thought playing it safe over two races would slide him into the third round of NASCAR’s playoffs.

Then he wrecked at Kansas Speedway and plummeted to the bottom of the Chase standings.

Now Keselowski is facing elimination at Talladega Superspeedway. Also in trouble? Joey Logano, his Team Penske teammate, and at least one driver from Joe Gibbs Racing.

It’s hardly the scenario Keselowski predicted a week ago when he sat in the middle of the Chase standings with five drivers clumped together facing elimination. By his estimation, the four drivers knocked from the Chase field would come from that group. He figured the fifth would win a race to advance into the round of eight.

Keselowski got that part correct: Kevin Harvick’s win on Sunday took him from last in the Chase standings into the third round. What he didn’t predict: Contact that led to a 38th-place finish at Kansas.

Now Keselowski is 11th in the standings headed to Talladega Superspeedway, where the field will be cut from 12 to eight. Although he’s suddenly in very dangerous territory, he didn’t seem overly worried and doesn’t consider this week’s race a must win.

Keselowski is a four-time winner at Talladega, including a 2014 must-win victory that pushed him from the brink of elimination into the third round. He’s also the winner of the last two restrictor-plate races this year, at Daytona in July and Talladega in May.

“I am not worried about it,” he said. “Talladega has been good to me and I am going to drive my butt off and at the end of the day I have faith that if it is meant to be, it is meant to be. We can’t get down. There is a long way to go still.”

What a bizarre second round this has been, beginning with the opener at Charlotte, where five Chase drivers finished 30th or worse. That included Denny Hamlin, one of the mighty Toyota drivers from JGR, who had an engine failure while running second. He needed a strong recovery at Kansas, but instead had a self-described “terrible” race in which “everything went wrong.” Hamlin sounded like a driver frustrated with errors that were out of his control and led to him falling to 10th in the standings.

But he’s a past winner at Talladega — if JGR and Toyota can give him the equipment he needs.

“I’ve got confidence I can win every single week on the race track,” he said. “It’s just, this is a team sport, and you’ve got to have every facet of the car and the team all put together and we’ve just got to execute.”

Hamlin of all drivers understands the complexity of Sunday’s race at Talladega. Only Jimmie Johnson and Harvick, winners of the first two races in the second round, are safe and breathing easy.

Even though the standings show only seven points separate Logano and Autin Dillon, tied for eighth, from Keselowski in 11th, anyone in the field can be kicked out after Talladega. Hamlin was second in the standings at Talladega last year, but finished 37th and was eliminated.

That means none of the Gibbs drivers are guaranteed anything, and odds are at least one of them will be knocked out on Sunday. Same goes for the two Penske drivers. Considering where they are in the standings, it will be difficult for both Keselowski and Logano to advance out of Talladega.

So the stage is set for a walk-off home run that could save the season for the winner at Talladega.

Among those who will be swinging the fences is Chase Elliott, the rookie who has found himself in the second round of the Chase but last in the standings. Elliott is 25 points behind the cutoff, and almost certainly must win at Talladega to remain in the playoff field.

Should he pull it off, it would be the first Sprint Cup win of his career. He won the pole at Talladega earlier this year and finished fifth, so anything is possible.

“I will go there and race our hearts out and try to win, I guess,” Elliott said. “That’s about all we can do.”



NASCAR: Harvick advances in Chase as others struggle at Kansas

This gallery contains 1 photo.

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — After departing the celebration in victory lane at Kansas on Sunday, Kevin Harvick reflected on how his Stewart-Haas Racing team always seems to rally when its back is against the wall.

Chase Elliott and Brad Keselowski just may need to follow suit.

Harvick dealt with a mechanical issue a week ago at Charlotte that put him in a big hole heading to the second stop in the Chase’s round of 12. But he rebounded by winning the Sprint Cup race at Kansas, not only locking up his spot in the next round but taking the pressure out of Talladega.

“Things are going to happen,” said Harvick, who also rebounded from a poor Chase opener to win at New Hampshire. “Things can break and you just have to be able to rebound from them.”

Elliott and Keselowski are in precisely that situation.

While several contenders were busy wrapping up top-10 finishes — Carl Edwards was second, followed by Joey Logano, Charlotte winner Jimmie Johnson , Kyle Busch and Austin Dillon — Elliott and Keselowski had been snared by late-race trouble that leaves them in desperation mode.

Elliott was running near the front when his left rear tire began rubbing on his fender, forcing a stop that left him a lap down. He managed to get back on the lead lap, only to have the same issue with another set of tires that forced him into another unscheduled stop.

“I don’t know if we got the left rear getting up on the track or something, and it got into the fender and it cut it down. I don’t know,” Elliott said. “We had such a good car today.”

He wound up finishing 31st and is now 25 points out of the eighth and final spot in the next round, which basically turns the unpredictable race at Talladega into a must-win scenario.

“Race our hearts out and try to win, I guess,” he said. “That’s about all we can do.”

Keselowski had a similarly dreadful day. He began wiggling with 78 laps left and Denny Hamlin was unable to check up in time, the gentle tap sending the No. 2 car shooting down the track. He slammed into the grassy turf and tore up the front of his car.

Keselowski wound up 38th, putting him seven points out of the final Chase spot.

“I like Talladega. Talladega has been good to me,” said Keselowski, who has won four times there, including earlier this year. “I’m going to drive my butt off and at the end of the day I have faith that if it is meant to be, it is meant to be. We can’t get down. There is a long way to go still.”

Things are more comfortable for other Chase contenders.

Edwards ran up front all day and thought he had the car to beat at Kansas before Harvick pulled away from him on a late restart. He still finished second to move up two spots in the points race and now has a 24-point buffer between himself Logano in eighth place.

Of course, that was of little solace to the Missouri native. He considers the speedway just across the Kansas border his home track and always has thousands of fans in the stands. He’s wanted to win at Kansas more than anywhere else on the circuit but has yet to reach victory lane.

“There’s so many people that come to this track that support me,” he said. “Maybe a day or two will pass and I’ll be more excited about the points situation going to Talladega.”

Martin Truex Jr. had issues with the refueling mechanism that forced him to pit out of sequence and wound up 11th. Kurt Busch finished two spots back in 13th after having to go to his backup car following a spin in practice. Hamlin dealt with an issue with the front splitter and was 15th.

As a result, Logano sits in the tenuous eighth spot in points — tied with Dillon and six ahead of Hamlin — as the Chase heads to the elimination race at Talladega.

“We came out swinging. That’s what we had to do. We did everything we were supposed to do,” Logano said. “It’s not comfortable being tied with Austin going into next week but that’ll be fun.”

NASCAR: Kevin Harvick wins at Kansas to reach next round of Chase

This gallery contains 2 photos.

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — No matter what kind of misfortune befalls Kevin Harvick in the early rounds of the Chase for the Sprint Cup championship, his team always seems to get things together when it matters.

The No. 4 crew did it again Sunday.

One week after a mechanical issue doomed him to a lousy finish at Charlotte, and put his hopes of advancing to the round of eight in jeopardy, Harvick roared to the front on the final restart to win at Kansas Speedway and take all of the pressure off next week’s elimination race at Talladega.

“These races are hard to win and these guys are so good at the details,” said Harvick, the 2014 champion, “and when you put their backs against the wall they’re even better. I’m so proud of them.”

Harvick was among the fastest in the final qualifying session, and hung around the front all day while other Chase contenders faltered. He was still at the front when Regan Smith brought out the final caution, and was able to keep Carl Edwards at bay over the final 30 laps.

“I was pretty sure we were in control of the race,” said Edwards, a Missouri native who has yet to win at what he considers his home track. “As much fun as I had running up front, it stings. There’s negative emotions tied up with not winning here with that fast of a car.”

It was the fourth win of the season for Harvick, and his second of the Chase — he rebounded from a poor performance at Chicago to win at New Hampshire and advance from the round of 16.

He joined Jimmie Johnson, the winner at Charlotte , in securing a spot in the next round of NASCAR’s playoffs, while also ramping up the pressure on the other 10 contenders fighting for points.

“They usually when it comes to this situation find a little more speed in their cars,” said Joey Logano, who finished third and now sits in the precarious eighth spot in points. “I don’t know how, but it seems like in must-win situations they always find a little more speed.”

Johnson was fourth, followed by fellow Chase drivers Kyle Busch and Austin Dillon. Matt Kenseth was ninth after dominating the first half of the race from the pole, giving him a nice points cushion as the series heads to the unpredictable pressure-cooker at Talladega.

Other drivers competing for the championship dealt with trouble all afternoon.

Martin Truex Jr. again found himself at the front at Kansas, only to have issues with the refueling mechanism that forced him to pit out of sequence. He wound up 11th and now sits seventh in points.

Kurt Busch finished two spots back in 13th after having to go to his backup car. He spun into the grass on the front stretch with seconds to go in the final practice session Saturday, tearing up the front of his car and forcing him to start from the back of the field.

Denny Hamlin had an issue with the front splitter that creates downforce on his car, sending him to the pits for repairs. He was also penalized for a loose tire but rallied to finish 15th.

The biggest losers on the day were Brad Keselowski and Chase Elliott.

Keselowski began wiggling with 78 laps remaining, and Hamlin came up behind him and a tap sent the No. 2 car shooting down the track. He slammed into the grassy turf, tore up the front of his car and wound up 38th, putting him seven points out of the eighth and final spot in the Chase.

“It’s an automotive war zone here. There’s parts, there’s pieces, they were working under it, there was oil, there was fire at one point,” said Keselowski, who briefly got back on the track before retiring for the day. “If my guys keep putting in this effort, I’m not worried about.”

Elliott was near the front when his left rear tire began rubbing on his fender, forcing a stop that left him a lap down. He managed to get back on the lead lap, only to have the same issue with another set of tires that forced him into another unscheduled stop.

He wound up finishing 31st and is now 25 points out of the final spot in the round of eight, which essentially makes Talladega a must-win situation for the Hendrick Motorsports rookie.

In other words, all the pressure that Harvick avoided with his win.




Lap length: 1.5 miles

(Starting position in parentheses)

1. (11) Kevin Harvick, Chevrolet, 267.

2. (3) Carl Edwards, Toyota, 267.

3. (6) Joey Logano, Ford, 267.

4. (21) Jimmie Johnson, Chevrolet, 267.

5. (2) Kyle Busch, Toyota, 267.

6. (12) Austin Dillon, Chevrolet, 267.

7. (5) Alex Bowman, Chevrolet, 267.

8. (10) AJ Allmendinger, Chevrolet, 267.

9. (1) Matt Kenseth, Toyota, 267.

10. (20) Kasey Kahne, Chevrolet, 267.

11. (4) Martin Truex Jr., Toyota, 267.

12. (9) Ryan Newman, Chevrolet, 267.

13. (15) Kurt Busch, Chevrolet, 267.

14. (17) Ryan Blaney, Ford, 267.

15. (7) Denny Hamlin, Toyota, 267.

16. (14) Tony Stewart, Chevrolet, 267.

17. (25) Trevor Bayne, Ford, 267.

18. (19) Danica Patrick, Chevrolet, 267.

19. (18) Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Ford, 267.

20. (16) Paul Menard, Chevrolet, 267.

21. (30) Chris Buescher, Ford, 267.

22. (33) Michael McDowell, Chevrolet, 267.

23. (29) Casey Mears, Chevrolet, 267.

24. (27) Matt DiBenedetto, Toyota, 267.

25. (22) Greg Biffle, Ford, 266.

26. (31) Clint Bowyer, Chevrolet, 266.

27. (34) Landon Cassill, Ford, 266.

28. (32) Brian Scott, Ford, 265.

29. (26) Regan Smith, Chevrolet, 265.

30. (24) Kyle Larson, Chevrolet, 265.

31. (13) Chase Elliott, Chevrolet, 264.

32. (37) Michael Annett, Chevrolet, 264.

33. (36) Cole Whitt, Chevrolet, 262.

34. (39) Reed Sorenson, Toyota, 261.

35. (38) Joey Gase, Ford, 260.

36. (28) David Ragan, Toyota, 258.

37. (23) Jamie McMurray, Chevrolet, 233.

38. (8) Brad Keselowski, Ford, Accident, 190.

39. (40) Josh Wise, Chevrolet, Accident, 108.

40. (35) Aric Almirola, Ford, Accident, 36.

Race Statistics

Average Speed of Race Winner: 133.155 mph.

Time of Race: 3 Hrs, 00 Mins, 28 Secs. Margin of Victory: 1.183 Seconds.

Caution Flags: 8 for 38 laps.

Lead Changes: 16 among 10 drivers.

Lap Leaders: M. Kenseth 1-27; Kurt Busch 28; M. Kenseth 29-86; J. Logano 87; B. Keselowski 88; D. Hamlin 89; C. Mears 90-94; M. Kenseth 95-125; K. Harvick 126-168; C. Elliott 169-172; C. Edwards 173; J. Logano 174; C. Edwards 175-221; K. Harvick 222; A. Dillon 223-224; C. Edwards 225-237; K. Harvick 238-267.

Leaders Summary (Driver, Times Lead, Laps Led): M. Kenseth 3 times for 116 laps; K. Harvick 3 times for 74 laps; C. Edwards 3 times for 61 laps; C. Mears 1 time for 5 laps; C. Elliott 1 time for 4 laps; A. Dillon 1 time for 2 laps; J. Logano 2 times for 2 laps; D. Hamlin 1 time for 1 lap; B. Keselowski 1 time for 1 lap; Kurt Busch 1 time for 1 lap.

Top 16 in Points: J. Johnson – 3,082; M. Kenseth – 3,074; Kyle Busch – 3,072; C. Edwards – 3,069; Kurt Busch – 3,062; M. Truex Jr. – 3,058; K. Harvick – 3,048; J. Logano – 3,045; A. Dillon – 3,045; D. Hamlin – 3,039; B. Keselowski – 3,038; C. Elliott – 3,020; T. Stewart – 2,131; K. Larson – 2,120; C. Buescher – 2,090; J. Mcmurray – 2,088.

NASCAR: Lacking speed, Kurt Busch aims for consistency in Chase

This gallery contains 1 photo.

KANSAS CITY, Kan. — Kurt Busch and crew chief Tony Gibson would have preferred a swift Chevrolet and a wonderfully uneventful cruise to victory lane at Charlotte Motor Speedway. Not even close.

But a plucky eighth-place finish in a dinged and sluggish No. 41 Chevy was close enough, especially considering the predicament several other title-eligibles found themselves in after the second-round opener of the Chase for the Sprint Cup.

At fifth in the standings entering Sunday’s Hollywood Casino 400 at Kansas Speedway, the 2004 series champion has a reset opportunity while contenders such as Stewart-Haas Racing teammate Kevin Harvick and Team Penske’s Joey Logano need a recoup of points.

Considering the handling of his car at the beginning of the race and his involvement in a late restart incident that claimed title contenders Chase Elliott and Austin Dillon and damaged the cars of others like Kyle Busch and Carl Edwards, Busch was in a conciliatory mood on pit road at Charlotte.

“We went through a lot today,” he said. “The restart, I guess we survived it better than most when everybody had that trouble. We just missed on the setup on the first five laps, and then after 30 laps, man, she would just go away, so we got what we could out of it and all in all an eighth-place finish …

“Guys had trouble. It’s one of those days when you just go, ‘All right, we’ll take it.’ You know, it’s not the best, but that’s a finish we need to advance though this Chase.”

Staying out of the way might be enough for Busch for the remainder of this round, as he has a 21-point edge on the eighth and final transfer spot currently held by Denny Hamlin, who had a strong run fouled by a blown engine at Charlotte.

But even though Busch finished second in the Kansas fall race in 2013, was third this spring and is arguably the best restrictor-plate racer in the sport without a points win at Talladega Superspeedway or Daytona International Speedway, Gibson asserts how quickly points and positions become vapor. He’d rather remain inconspicuous and workmanlike.

“Talladega is always going to be the key race no matter where you’re at unless you win or have a race lead,” Gibson said. “You’re going to be nervous going in there. You just try to build as much points as you can going into that race and hope you don’t have to race for the win, because if you do, it means you’ve got to put yourself in dangerous situations that you don’t want to be in.

“Hopefully we can go to Kansas and have another solid top-10 day and run good and have somewhat of a cushion going into Talladega. So that’s our plan. But plans don’t always go the way they’re supposed to in this business.”

They certainly didn’t at Charlotte. Pitting next to Danica Patrick, Busch found himself dealing with his Stewart-Haas teammate numerous times as she ran inside the top 15 throughout the afternoon. The restart crash created body damage, Gibson said, that skewed the No. 41 Chevrolet’s handling and spiked concerns over tire failures in a race in which Logano suffered two and Alex Bowman another.

“I think it (was a good finish) considering we had damage and we had to fix our car and it was beat up pretty good,” Gibson noted. “We were really tight after that. So at that point, yeah, it’s just OK. We don’t want to put ourselves where those guys are at: in trouble. It was maintaining.”

The team will lose its pit stall selection at Kansas because it received a fourth written warning after failing a laser inspection station test twice at Charlotte.

While Busch was content with the finish, he’s not comfortable with his position in the standings, admitting, “It’s all wide-open, still.”

Busch, who finished eighth in the final points standing last season, and Gibson would likely feel better if their car was yielding the type of speed it was demonstrating at this point in the 2015 season — when Busch finished fifth, sixth and 10th in the second round to advance to the third round. That will apparently be a key part of maintaining title hopes with six races and two eliminations left in the season. That, Gibson said, should help his team focus where it should, inward.

“We still just worry about us, man,” he said. “We need more speed. We really don’t have speed right now to win with. So we’re working on it and trying to find out where we can get some speed. But until we do, we take what the car can give us. If it’s 12th, it’s 12th. If it’s 10th, it’s 10th. If it’s fifth, it’s fifth. If you can win, win.

“That’s been our mentality just like it was last year. Last year we had more speed at this point, but it’s days like today where you never give up and you keep plugging, because you never know what can happen.”

NASCAR: Keselowski says dynamic has changed for Chase points leaders

This gallery contains 1 photo.

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) — The excitement level over the next two Chase races could very well vary from fan to fan.

As teams have adjusted to the elimination format of NASCAR’s playoffs, the goals now differ depending on where each driver sits in the standings .

Because five Chase drivers had trouble at Charlotte, Brad Keselowski believes the dynamic has changed for the rest of the field.

“The reality is, if you have a pretty good gap, you’re probably going to take a log off the fire,” Keselowski said.

The opening race of the second round of the Chase saw five drivers finish 30th or worse , and now only eight points separates Denny Hamlin in eight place from Kevin Harvick in 12th. Four drivers will be eliminated after Talladega next week, and Keselowski believes the paring will “absolutely” be four of the five currently sitting at the bottom of the standings.

Under his theory, Denny Hamlin, Austin Dillon, Chase Elliott, Joey Logano and Kevin Harvick are racing each other Sunday at Kansas Speedway and next week at Talladega. The rest of the field is simply trying to “live to fight another day.”

What exactly does that mean? Well, the remaining drivers in the field may not take many risks because there’s no need to put it all on the line. They have breathing room from the bottom of the field right now, and aren’t desperate for victories or track position.

A year ago, Logano opened the second round of the Chase with a win at Charlotte that earned him an automatic berth in the third round. The next week, he raced Matt Kenseth very hard in the closing laps at Kansas to snatch away a win that Kenseth needed to get into the third round.

The victory was nothing more than a trophy for Logano and had far more meaning to Kenseth’s playoff hopes. It ignited a feud that ultimately knocked Logano out of the playoffs in the next round.

“Everyone saw what happened with Joey, and they’re not going to do that to themselves,” Keselowski said of his teammate. “It’s like basketball: you want to make sure you don’t have a bunch of fouls and aren’t worn out when the fourth quarter comes, because it seems like those are always five-point games in the fourth quarter. So don’t be in a spot to foul out. Make sure you’ve got your legs beneath you.”

Now that the current Chase format is two years old, he also believes teams will race to do whatever is needed to make it into the next round. As an example, he used the 2014 race at Texas Motor Speedway, where Keselowski went three-wide on a late restart to make contact with Jeff Gordon. It led to a cut tire for Gordon that cost him a shot at the win, and Gordon punched Keselowski on pit road after the race.

“That was a race I had to win and I knew he didn’t have to win it,” Keselowski said. “All he had to do was run like fourth or even 10th. In the moment when I made the move and we got together and he ended up blowing a tire, I was shocked that he didn’t know the situation.

“Like, how do you not know the situation? I’m behind you with newer tires, you’re not getting a good restart, all you need to do is run fifth. Know the situation.”

Asked if all of this “hurts” the excitement level, Keselowski said it will be in the eye of the beholder.

“How do you define hurt? If you’re a fan of mine or anyone who has the ability to (advance) through consistency? If you’re a fan of someone who is out and has to dig real deep to make it through? I think it could be very exciting,” he said. “I think it’s just a matter of perspective.”


Martinsville Speedway will become the first major race track with LED lights when it installs them for next season. Speedway President Clay Campbell called the lights an “insurance policy.” During last year’s race, it was nearly dark when Jeff Gordon crossed the finish line.

“If we would have had one more delay, we wouldn’t have finished that race,” Campbell said.

International Speedway Corp., which owns Martinsville, will pay for the lights. Martinsville will not have a night race in 2017 because the schedule has already been set. The spring race is scheduled to begin at 2 p.m. ET and the fall race is scheduled for 1 p.m. ET.


Matin Truex Jr. is looking for some redemption when he makes his 400th career start Sunday at Kansas Speedway.

Truex won the pole at the track in May and led a race-high 172 laps. But a loose wheel forced a late pit stop and Truex finished 14th.

Although he’s won four races since that Kansas disappointment, he’d like a chance to get that victory back.

“We were dominant, but didn’t close the deal,” Truex said. “I am happy we’re headed to Kansas, this is a race we feel we can run up front and possibly win. When we left Kansas in May, I said, ‘If we keep on bringing cars like we had tonight we’re going to win.’ Since Kansas, we have done that.”

In Truex’s 399 starts, he has seven wins — five with Furniture Row Racing — 47 top-five finishes, 132 top-10s and 10 poles.

He is currently in the second round of NASCAR’s playoffs.


Richard Childress Racing gave Ryan Newman a multi-year contract extension this week to continue driving the No. 31 Chevrolet.

“Ryan’s consistency on the track has been a benefit to our organization and this extension solidifies the future of our racing program,” said Richard Childress.

Newman was in the final year of a three-year contract with RCR. He made the Chase each of the last two seasons — advancing to the final round in 2014 — but missed a spot in the playoffs this season.

“Our goal to win a championship all but turned into a reality during our first year together,” Newman said. “I feel like since then, we have some unfinished business to complete.”

Newman was fourth in Sunday’s race at Charlotte Motor Speedway. It was his second top-five finish this season.

NASCAR catches break with Chase race at Charlotte

This gallery contains 1 photo.

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) — When it’s all said and done at the end of this season, NASCAR just might have to thank Hurricane Matthew for saving its Chase.

It sure didn’t seem like that when rain was trying to swamp the weekend at Charlotte Motor Speedway. No track activity Friday, nothing again on Saturday and no buzz about the opening race of the second round of the playoffs.

Forced to run two races on Sunday, both NASCAR and Charlotte Motor Speedway somehow managed to pull off a miracle. They got a pair of decent races on a perfect North Carolina fall afternoon — not great races, but good enough that the Chase now warrants some chatter .

Even better, conversation will be about drivers and the standings and how teams are going to react after a race of attrition at Charlotte caused five championship drivers to finish 30th or worse. Now, only eight points separate Denny Hamlin in the transfer position from last-place Kevin Harvick.

Do you know what that means? A reprieve from talking about laser inspection, changing rules and encumbered finishes.

Finally, a chance to focus on what should really matter: the racing!

The word “drama” was bandied about often Sunday as contender after contender went to the garage. First up was Joey Logano , who had a wrecked car because of a tire issue. Then Harvick pulled into his stall with a mechanical problem. Austin Dillon was spun by Martin Truex Jr. on a restart. Chase Elliott was collected in that accident. Then Hamlin had an engine failure while running second late in the race.

None of that is the kind of “drama” that has driven the Chase the last two years. That excitement centered around Brad Keselowski getting tackled, Keselowski getting punched and Matt Kenseth’s running feud with Logano. Yes, those are the instances that make NASCAR a watercooler conversation on Monday mornings, but the drivers absolutely abhor the sensationalism and scrutiny that comes with such displays of emotion or personality.

So now they’ve provided an opportunity to really look at the racing and wonder how each team will react in this suddenly intense Chase.

The first round didn’t knock anyone’s socks off — two Truex wins and a Harvick victory — and no shocking elimination. Everyone probably wanted Tony Stewart to make it out of the first round, but nobody thought he was running well enough to do it. Stewart getting knocked out was hardly the same level of stunner as Jimmie Johnson’s first-round elimination a year ago.

But after Sunday’s opener , this round has the potential for some serious nail-biting over the next two weeks. Some really big names are going to be eliminated at Talladega Superspeedway, where the Chase field will be trimmed from 12 to eight drivers.

Free from worry is Johnson, the somewhat surprise winner on Sunday. It was his eighth victory at the Hendrick Motorsports home track, but Johnson has been a bit overlooked the last three years. He’d failed in the first two years of the elimination format to get past the second round, and there’s been no reason to think that Hendrick Motorsports can compete with the four Toyota drivers or Harvick.

But a summer of hard work has suddenly put Hendrick on the radar , and both Johnson and teammate Elliott have turned it up in the Chase. Now, Johnson has a spot in the round of eight, and his sights squarely on a seventh championship.

History has shown that Johnson dominance does little for the NASCAR fan base, and there’s been a total lack of appreciation for his five consecutive championships and six overall. But his win at Charlotte felt different. There was a sense that seven might actually be doable, and Johnson’s pursuit of Richard Petty and Dale Earnhardt in the record books could be embraced this year.

Whether Johnson moves your meter, his hunt for that seventh title is surely more entertaining that which driver fails the laser inspection each week.

So thank you, NASCAR. Thank you, Chase teams. Thank you, Charlotte Motor Speedway. Thank you, Jimmie Johnson.

Finally, there’s something to talk about in NASCAR.

NASCAR: Topsy-turvy day at Charlotte tightens NASCAR playoffs

This gallery contains 1 photo.

CONCORD, N.C. (AP) — It should have been catastrophic nearly any way Joey Logano looked at his situation. His wrecked race car was in the garage during the opening race of the second round of the playoffs, his crew frantically trying to get him back on track.

At the moment, Logano’s only saving grace was that Kevin Harvick had his own disabled vehicle and was stuck watching Sunday’s race at Charlotte Motor Speedway roll on without them.

Then Austin Dillon wrecked, Chase Elliott, too. Denny Hamlin lost an engine and Martin Truex Jr. had a pit road miscue.

In all, five drivers finished 30th or worse Sunday, meaning the field remained bunched enough that everyone has an equal shot to recover.

There are two more races, at Kansas and Talladega, before this field of 12 is whittled to eight, and only eight points separate Hamlin, in the cutoff position, from Harvick, who is last in the standings. Logano, who got back on track to finish 36th, is two points ahead of Harvick and only six behind Hamlin.

“I feel better about it,” Logano said of the standings. “My team did a good job fighting to get back out there and I think we gained two points by doing that, and that could be the difference when it’s all said and done.”

No one was immune Sunday, not Chevrolet, Ford or Toyota. The longshots Dillon and Elliott were wrecked, the favorites Harvick and Logano fallen by broken parts or tire issues.

The big winner? Why, Jimmie Johnson, who suddenly has a record-tying seventh championship in reach.

Hendrick Motorsports has been underwhelming this year, Johnson stuck in a 24-race losing streak. This Chase so far had been a Truex and Harvick show, Johnson just the driver of a car that seemed to have some speed but was no ultimate match with the others.

His win Sunday showed otherwise, and he stamped his name into the third round of the playoffs. Johnson had failed to advance to the round of eight each of the last two years, but he’s got his slot now, and that’s the first step in winning that elusive seventh title.

He sounded hungry after the race, his eighth win at Charlotte and 78th of his career.

“We can’t sit back and celebrate too much,” Johnson said. “We’ve got to buckle down and get to work and keep advancing our race cars.”

DOUBLE-HEADER: The race was originally scheduled to run Saturday night, but Hurricane Matthew washed out almost the entire weekend. So all racing was pushed to Sunday, which turned into an 800-mile doubleheader with the Xfinity Series.

Logano went on to win the Xfinity Series race, which was the eliminating event in the inaugural Chase for that series. Ty Dillon was knocked out by Bubba Wallace by one point, and Brennan Poole, Ryan Sieg and Brandon Jones were also eliminated.

The second round of the Chase is a reprieve for Erik Jones, the pre-playoff favorite who fell into a deep hole in the opening race and is now back to even.

KENSETH TO KANSAS: Matt Kenseth left Charlotte on solid footing for the first time in the elimination system via a second-place finish to Johnson.

The stop in Charlotte had been his downfall the last two years. He tackled Brad Keselowski in the garage following a disappointing finish in 2014, and was second-to-last a year ago.

So to leave in decent shape, with the pressure not nearly as high this weekend at Kansas, Kenseth felt OK.

“Honestly, last two years in a row, pretty much Charlotte has kind of taken us out of the Chase – mostly my doing,” he said.

HENDRICK RETURNS : This had been a miserable season for Hendrick Motorsports, by its own standards. Only two of its four drivers made the Chase this year and Dale Earnhardt Jr. is sidelined with a concussion.

Johnson has the only wins for the organization, but Elliott had been sniffing victory lane all season.

On Sunday, the two combined to lead 258 of the 334 laps, and Johnson and Elliott ran 1-2 for a huge chunk of the race.

Elliott was involved in an accident with 75 laps remaining and could not hide his disappointment.

“We had such a good car,” he said. “I’m devastated that we didn’t get the result that my guys deserve.”

Despite Elliott’s finish, it was a good organizational day for Hendrick: Kasey Kahne finished third and Alex Bowman showed early speed before a tire issue caused him to wreck.


Standings: NASCAR Sprint Cup

As of: Oct. 11
Rank Driver PV Rank
1 Jimmie Johnson 10
2 Matt Kenseth 9
3 Kyle Busch 4
4 Brad Keselowski 1
5 Kurt Busch 3
6 Carl Edwards 5
7 Martin Truex Jr.
8 Denny Hamlin
9 Austin Dillon 13
10 Chase Elliott 12
11 Joey Logano 6
12 Kevin Harvick 2


NASCAR: Jimmie Johnson moves into 3rd round of NASCAR’s playoffs

This gallery contains 2 photos.

CONCORD, N.C. (AP) — Stuck in the longest losing streak of his career, Jimmie Johnson had a chance for a critical win that could salvage this ho-hum season for Hendrick Motorsports.

Hardly a championship contender for most of this season, Johnson grabbed a victory at sun-soaked Charlotte Motor Speedway when nearly half the title contenders had horrible days.

The win Sunday was his third of the season, but snapped a 24-race losing streak dating to March. Johnson is the only Hendrick driver to visit victory lane this season, and this win earned him an automatic berth into the third round of the playoffs.

It’s the first time Johnson has made it out of the second round since the elimination format was introduced in 2014. He was knocked out at Talladega in the second round of the inaugural season, and was bounced in the first round last year.

Suddenly, the six-time NASCAR champion is a realistic contender for that elusive record-tying seventh title.

“We can’t sit back and celebrate too much on this,” Johnson said. “We’ve got to buckle down and get to work tomorrow and keep advancing our race cars. But this does buy us a couple weeks of freedom.”

The race was originally scheduled for Saturday night, but Hurricane Matthew washed out nearly the entire weekend and set up an 800-mile doubleheader of the Sprint Cup and Xfinity Series on Sunday. When the racing finally began on a beautiful North Carolina afternoon, it immediately shaped up as a Hendrick kind of day.

Johnson and Chase Elliott dominated the race, running 1-2 for a long stretch, and a Hendrick victory all but guaranteed based on the speed the Chevrolets showed. Elliott, though, was one of five Chase drivers to finish 30th or worse, and it was Johnson who had to carry the flag.

Fitting, though.

The win came on the 15th anniversary of Johnson’s debut in Cup for Hendrick, which was at Charlotte, and was his eighth career win at the track.

“Nobody ever gave up, and you know, we know what a champion Jimmie is,” team owner Rick Hendrick said.

Johnson has quietly turned up his performance in the Chase and became an official title contender as the first driver qualified for the next round. He led a race-high 155 laps Sunday, and in four Chase races this season, he’s led 363 laps and hasn’t finished lower than 12th.

“Be curious to look back, I guess, and see if these are all new cars that they’re bringing,” said reigning champion Kyle Busch. “Obviously, if it is, then they’ve found something that they’ve been waiting out and holding out on us. That’s to be expected, though, man. That’s what this sport is all about.”

Johnson certainly figured it out on a day when six Chase drivers had trouble.

Denny Hamlin and Kevin Harvick both had engine issues. Austin Dillon and Elliott were in accidents. Joey Logano had tire problems, and Martin Truex Jr. had an electrical issue as he left pit road after the final pit stop.

Five Chase drivers finished lower than 30th, and Harvick, the 2014 champion, is last in the standings.

Hamlin was running second when his engine blew with 25 laps remaining. As the cars left pit road, Truex seemed poised to restart in second, but he appeared to stall and instead restarted 16th.

Although Truex salvaged his day and finished 13th — lowest of the Chase drivers still running at the end of the race — Hamlin wound up 30th.

Dillon was 32nd, Elliott 33rd, Logano 36th and Harvick 38th.

The hectic day left only Johnson breathing easy at the end. Not even Matt Kenseth, who finished second to Johnson, is relaxed heading into races at Kansas and Talladega.

“Would love to have the win, would make you feel a lot better about the next two weeks,” Kenseth said.

HENDRICK RETURNS : This had been a miserable season for Hendrick Motorsports, by its own standards. Only two of its four drivers made the Chase this year and Dale Earnhardt Jr. is sidelined with a concussion.

Johnson has the only wins for the organization, but Elliott had been sniffing victory lane all season.

On Sunday, the two combined to lead 258 of the 334 laps, and Johnson and Elliott ran 1-2 for a huge chunk of the race.

Elliott was involved in an accident with 75 laps remaining and could not hide his disappointment.

“We had such a good car,” he said. “I’m devastated that we didn’t get the result that my guys deserve.”

Despite Elliott’s finish, it was a good organizational day for Hendrick: Kasey Kahne finished third and Alex Bowman showed early speed before a tire issue caused him to wreck.

HAMLIN WOES: During a lengthy red-flag, NBC Sports interviewed Hamlin while he idled in his car and said he was just cruising along for a strong finish.

Then his engine blew up and a strong points day was ruined.

It was Hamlin’s first engine failure since Talladega in 2013, and he noted afterward that he’s always hit with bad luck during NASCAR’s postseason.

“It’s just my time and it’s usually Chase time when I have these things happen,” he said. “I’ve been doing this 11 years and I can’t name anyone else who has had as bad of luck as I have in the Chase.”

DILLON GAMBLES: As the long shot in the field, Dillon likely needed tremendous luck or a stroke of strategic planning to advance out of the second round. His team gambled on a late pit stop in taking only two tires, a move that earned him nine spots and into second for a restart.

He seemed to get off cleanly at the drop of the flag, but as he shifted, he was hit from behind by Truex and spent spinning into an interior wall.

Truex accepted blame for hitting Elliott in a frustrated communication over his team radio.

“I tried to give him a shot and just turned him around like a damn idiot,” Truex radioed.

Dillon, a rookie in the Chase who is winless so far at the Cup level, figured he needs to get a victory in one of the next two races.

“We will have to work hard the next two weeks to get the points back,” he said. “We just have to do a lot, we have to win one of the next two races.”





Sunday’s results from the 1.5-mile Charlotte Motor Speedway (starting position in parentheses):

1. (11) Jimmie Johnson, Chevrolet, 334 laps, 133.6 rating, 45 points.

2. (17) Matt Kenseth, Toyota, 334, 91.3, 40.

3. (12) Kasey Kahne, Chevrolet, 334, 93.4, 38.

4. (21) Ryan Newman, Chevrolet, 334, 99.9, 38.

5. (25) Kyle Larson, Chevrolet, 334, 106.1, 36.

6. (4) Kyle Busch, Toyota, 334, 108.7, 36.

7. (20) Brad Keselowski, Ford, 334, 89.7, 34.

8. (23) Kurt Busch, Chevrolet, 334, 78.3, 33.

9. (5) Tony Stewart, Chevrolet, 334, 79.2, 32.

10. (16) Jamie McMurray, Chevrolet, 334, 90.3, 31.

11. (13) Danica Patrick, Chevrolet, 334, 72.0, 30.

12. (8) Carl Edwards, Toyota, 334, 101.4, 29.

13. (7) Martin Truex Jr, Toyota, 334, 92.1, 28.

14. (22) Michael McDowell, Chevrolet, 334, 64.8, 27.

15. (33) Aric Almirola, Ford, 334, 59.7, 26.

16. (26) Chris Buescher, Ford, 334, 60.8, 25.

17. (31) Clint Bowyer, Chevrolet, 334, 61.5, 25.

18. (27) Trevor Bayne, Ford, 334, 61.8, 23.

19. (32) Landon Cassill, Ford, 334, 50.7, 22.

20. (15) Ricky Stenhouse Jr, Ford, 333, 61.5, 21.

21. (35) Regan Smith, Chevrolet, 333, 46.8, 20.

22. (30) Brian Scott, Ford, 333, 52.0, 19.

23. (34) David Ragan, Toyota, 331, 42.9, 18.

24. (37) Michael Annett, Chevrolet, 330, 42.0, 17.

25. (24) Matt DiBenedetto, Toyota, 329, 40.8, 16.

26. (38) Jeffrey Earnhardt, Ford, 328, 33.7, 15.

27. (36) Cole Whitt, Ford, 327, 35.6, 14.

28. (39) Reed Sorenson, Chevrolet, 321, 32.9, 13.

29. (40) Josh Wise, Chevrolet, 320, 32.7, 12.

30. (9) Denny Hamlin, Toyota, engine, 308, 95.8, 12.

31. (18) Ryan Blaney, Ford, 307, 63.6, 10.

32. (19) Austin Dillon, Chevrolet, accident, 258, 68.7, 9.

33. (3) Chase Elliott, Chevrolet, accident, 258, 116.4, 9.

34. (28) Paul Menard, Chevrolet, accident, 258, 52.2, 7.

35. (14) Greg Biffle, Ford, accident, 257, 56.8, 6.

36. (10) Joey Logano, Ford, 254, 70.2, 6.

37. (6) AJ Allmendinger, Chevrolet, accident, 252, 77.0, 4.

38. (1) Kevin Harvick, Chevrolet, engine, 155, 77.1, 4.

39. (2) Alex Bowman, Chevrolet, accident, 61, 51.9, 0.

40. (29) Casey Mears, Chevrolet, accident, 61, 31.2, 1.


Race Statistics

Average Speed of Race Winner: 134.929 mph.

Time of Race: 3 hours, 42 minutes, 47 seconds

Margin of Victory: 1.474 Seconds.

Caution Flags: 8 for 51 laps.

Lead Changes: 17 among 9 drivers.

Lap Leaders: K. Harvick 1-12; C. Elliott 13-113; J. Logano 114-116; J. Johnson 117-118; D. Hamlin 119; J. Johnson 120-124; D. Hamlin 125-175; J. Johnson 176-213; R. Newman 214; Kyle Busch 215; C. Bowyer 216-217; J. Johnson 218-229; C. Elliott 230; J. Johnson 231-253; C. Elliott 254; J. Johnson 255-311; M. Kenseth 312-316; J. Johnson 317-334.

Leaders Summary (Driver, Times Lead, Laps Led): J. Johnson 7 times for 155 laps; C. Elliott 3 times for 103 laps; D. Hamlin 2 times for 52 laps; K. Harvick 1 time for 12 laps; M. Kenseth 1 time for 5 laps; J. Logano 1 time for 3 laps; C. Bowyer 1 time for 2 laps; Kyle Busch 1 time for 1 lap; R. Newman 1 time for 1 lap.

Top 16 in Points: J. Johnson, 3,045; M. Kenseth, 3,040; Kyle Busch, 3,036; B. Keselowski, 3,034; Kurt Busch, 3,033; C. Edwards, 3,029; M. Truex Jr, 3,028; D. Hamlin, 3,012; A. Dillon, 3,009; C. Elliott, 3,009; J. Logano, 3,006; K. Harvick, 3,004; K. Larson, 2,109; T. Stewart, 2,106; J. McMurray, 2,084; C. Buescher, 2,070.

NASCAR: Hurricane Matthew postpones Saturday night Sprint Cup race

This gallery contains 1 photo.

CONCORD, N.C. (AP) — Hurricane Matthew has washed out Saturday night’s Sprint Cup race at Charlotte Motor Speedway and led NASCAR to schedule a doubleheader Sunday.

Rain and wind from Matthew have doused the area the last two days, so NASCAR called off Saturday night’s Cup race. The Xfinity Series race scheduled for Friday had already been moved to Sunday.

The Cup race will start at noon ET on Sunday and air on both NBC and NBC Sports Network. The Xfinity Series race will begin at approximately 4:30 p.m. ET on Sunday and air on NBCSN.

Kevin Harvick won the pole Thursday night for Sunday’s Cup race, while the lineup for the Xfinity race was set per the rulebook. Kyle Larson will start on that pole.

NASCAR: Chase for the Sprint Cup drama about to ramp up

This gallery contains 2 photos.

CONCORD, N.C. — In case you didn’t notice, the first round of the elimination-style Chase for the Sprint Cup, now in its third season, was uneventful compared to the first two editions.

There was no close points battle, no tempers flared or punches thrown, no major upset with a top team getting eliminated early. That generated conversation this year’s Chase wasn’t as exciting as in the past.

So far, that’s true. But that talk completely overlooks an obvious fact: As the Chase progresses, it’s guaranteed to have more drama. It’s designed that way. The first round, which reduces the field from 16 drivers to 12, was never meant to be the thrilling one; it was just an appetizer.

In fact, the drama should start with the second round, beginning with Saturday night’s Bank of America 500 at Charlotte Motor Speedway. The urgency and intensity has picked up.

“The first round, Todd (Gordon, crew chief) has preached to me and to the whole team: ‘Base hits,’” Joey Logano said Tuesday at a media luncheon. “… As the Chase goes on, base hits don’t do it anymore. Then you’ve got to be hitting some triples and home runs.”

As Logano noted, none of the four drivers who were eliminated last week — Tony Stewart, Kyle Larson, Jamie McMurray and Chris Buescher — were among the fastest cars this season. All of the fastest cars are still in the top 12, which emphasizes the need for perfection.

“You have to go out there and perform,” Logano said. “You have to be 100%. You can’t make a mistake. The pressure is going to ratchet up for that reason.”

Here are some fun facts about each of the Chase drivers. USA TODAY Sports

That’s the nature of the format, particularly when Talladega Superspeedway looms as the elimination race of this round. Desperation and urgency have turned into frustration in Round 2 before; just think of Brad Keselowski vs. Denny Hamlin vs. Matt Kenseth at Charlotte, Kenseth vs. Logano at Kansas Speedway, Kevin Harvick vs. the field and the caution flag at Talladega.

Talladega and the prospect of going there without having clinched a win hangs over Round 2 like a full moon — it makes people act crazy.

“Somebody you think is going to be in the final four most likely is going to get knocked out in this round, because of the unknown of that third race,” Logano said.

Prior to the first round, most drivers agreed they didn’t have to win — or even come close — to make it to the top 12. All they had to do was be relatively consistent and avoid mistakes.

Base hits.

But that’s all changed now, and it will only increase over the next seven weeks. Now drivers feel they need to win.

“You can control a lot more of your destiny if you’re winning races in a round,” Harvick, who will start on the pole at Charlotte said. “Points racing just leaves you very vulnerable to being eliminated. If you have the opportunity to win, you have to try and push and make that happen.”

So if you haven’t been satisfied with the Chase so far, just chill for a minute.

The tension is about to rise. The pushing is about to begin.


CONCORD, N.C. (AP) — Rain has washed out all NASCAR activity at Charlotte Motor Speedway, including Friday night’s Xfinity Series race.

Both Sprint Cup practice sessions scheduled for Friday were canceled because of steady rain from Hurricane Matthew. The rain is expected to last into Saturday, so NASCAR rescheduled the Xfinity race for Sunday morning.

The Sprint Cup race is still scheduled for Saturday night. It is the opening race of the second round in the Chase for the Sprint Cup championship.

Kevin Harvick will start from the pole.



NASCAR: Harvick wins pole for opening race of 2nd round of Chase

This gallery contains 1 photo.

CONCORD, N.C. (AP) — Kevin Harvick has already proven he’s a factor at Charlotte Motor Speedway, especially during night races. With the top starting spot Saturday night, he’ll be tough to beat in the opening race of the second round of NASCAR’s playoffs.

Harvick turned a lap at 196.029 mph in a Stewart-Haas Racing Chevrolet to earn the top starting spot in Thursday night qualifying. He edged Alex Bowman, the replacement driver for Dale Earnhardt Jr., who is not racing for the championship.

It is Harvick’s first pole of the season.

“I think any time you can eliminate track position, that’s definitely a bonus for us,” he said. “This hasn’t really been our strongest day all year, qualifying day, in general has not been very good for us. So, to see the speed that the car immediately had … I’m just really proud of the guys who will hopefully catapult us in the right direction to get the night started right.”

Chase Elliott qualified third and was followed by Kyle Busch, the highest qualifying Toyota driver, Tony Stewart and AJ Allmendinger.

Martin Truex Jr., winner of two of the first three Chase races, qualified seventh.

He was followed by Carl Edwards, Denny Hamlin, Joey Logano, the top qualifying Ford driver, and Jimmie Johnson as Chase drivers took eight of the top 11 spots in Thursday night qualifying.

Kasey Kahne qualified 12th as all four Hendrick Motorsports drivers made the final round of qualifying.

But it was Harvick, with his fast lap, who stole the spotlight.

Harvick, the 2014 champion, has been looking forward to racing at Charlotte and a potential automatic berth into the third round of the Chase. Harvick has three career points victories at Charlotte, including the October race during his championship season. That victory pushed Harvick into the round of eight of the Chase.

He’s also has had success racing at night, and Charlotte Motor Speedway President Marcus Smith dubbed Harvick “Nighthawk” because Harvick has not finished outside the top 10 at night in the last seven races. He’s only been outside the top-five twice in that span.

Harvick has also won six times in night races on the NASCAR schedule since 2012, and he really wants win No. 7 to take the focus off upcoming races at Kansas and then the Chase eliminator at Talladega.

“It would be a lot easier on my blood pressure,” he said. “Any of these races can jump up and bite you at really any particular time just because of the fact that you just never know. Obviously Talladega has the most things out of your control. So if you can get to victory lane, it’s a huge benefit in this first round in the next two weeks.”

DIDN’T MOVE ON: Starting position isn’t all that critical in a 500-mile race, but the drivers competing for the championship don’t want the competition to get too big of a jump on them.

But four of the drivers in the field failed to make it out of the second round of qualifying. Matt Kenseth will start 17th, Austin Dillon will start 19th, Brad Keselowski 20th and Kurt Busch 23rd.

“We just lacked a little bit of speed in qualifying trim,” Keselowski said. “You want to qualify and race good, and I think we’ve got a great Ford Fusion to do that.”

Dillon was similarly optimistic.

“We had a good car in practice, we’re going to be fine,” he said.

BOWMAN COMES CLOSE: Bowman set the standard for qualifying and appeared to have the car to win the pole for Saturday night’s race.

The replacement driver for Dale Earnhardt Jr. was fast in practice and topped the speed chart in the second round of qualifying. Then he went out first to set the tone for the final round, only to be knocked off the pole by Harvick.

Harvick bumped Bowman by .029 seconds.

“We didn’t put the greatest lap together in the last round,” Bowman said.

It’s the best starting spot of Bowman’s career, and comes in his fifth race as Earnhardt’s replacement. He’s hopeful it leads to more work, either with Hendrick Motorsports or elsewhere.

“I don’t know what the future holds,” Bowman said. “There aren’t very many rides open for next year, so these rides might be the last of my Cup career.”

LARSON MISCUE: Kyle Larson thought he’d posted a fast enough lap to advance into the second round of qualifying.

Then Matt DiBenedetto posted a late fast lap that knocked Larson out of the top 24.

He scrambled to get back on track and run another qualifying lap, but Larson didn’t beat the clock. He’ll start 25th in Saturday night’s race.

“We were just kind of waiting and we ended up waiting too long,” said Larson. “It’s a bummer we didn’t get to go out there and make another lap.”

Larson was eliminated from the Chase last week at Dover.

FULL LINEUP: Bank of America 500 (Car number in parentheses)

1. (4) Kevin Harvick, Chevrolet, 196.029 mph
2. (88) Alex Bowman, Chevrolet, 196.000
3. (24) Chase Elliott, Chevrolet, 195.759
4. (18) Kyle Busch, Toyota, 195.228
5. (14) Tony Stewart, Chevrolet, 195.228
6. (47) AJ Allmendinger, Chevrolet, 195.087
7. (78) Martin Truex Jr, Toyota, 194.826
8. (19) Carl Edwards, Toyota, 194.553
9. (11) Denny Hamlin, Toyota, 194.168
10. (22) Joey Logano, Ford, 194.049
11. (48) Jimmie Johnson, Chevrolet, 192.630
12. (5) Kasey Kahne, Chevrolet, 188.547
13. (10) Danica Patrick, Chevrolet, 194.161
14. (16) Greg Biffle, Ford, 194.007
15. (17) Ricky Stenhouse Jr, Ford, 193.966
16. (1) Jamie McMurray, Chevrolet, 193.868
17. (20) Matt Kenseth, Toyota, 193.791
18. (21) Ryan Blaney, Ford, 193.736
19. (3) Austin Dillon, Chevrolet, 193.722
20. (2) Brad Keselowski, Ford, 193.625
21. (31) Ryan Newman, Chevrolet, 193.209
22. (95) Michael McDowell, Chevrolet, 193.009
23. (41) Kurt Busch, Chevrolet, 192.205
24. (83) Matt DiBenedetto, Toyota, 191.489
25. (42) Kyle Larson, Chevrolet, 191.980
26. (34) Chris Buescher, Ford, 191.829
27. (6) Trevor Bayne, Ford, 191.544
28. (27) Paul Menard, Chevrolet, 191.530
29. (13) Casey Mears, Chevrolet, 191.469
30. (44) Brian Scott, Ford, 191.381
31. (15) Clint Bowyer, Chevrolet, 190.954
32. (38) Landon Cassill, Ford, 190.617
33. (43) Aric Almirola, Ford, 190.564
34. (23) David Ragan, Toyota, 190.054
35. (7) Regan Smith, Chevrolet, 188.864
36. (98) Cole Whitt, Chevrolet, 186.002
37. (46) Michael Annett, Chevrolet, 185.976
38. (32) Jeffrey Earnhardt, Ford, 185.039
39. (55) Reed Sorenson, Chevrolet, 183.673
40. (30) Josh Wise, Chevrolet, 183.343

NASCAR: Harvick heads to Charlotte trying to extend success at night

This gallery contains 1 photo.

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) — Kevin Harvick has found himself against the ropes in NASCAR’s playoffs in each of the last two years. Tired of having to fight his way into the championship race, he is determined to leave nothing to chance.

A win two weeks ago at New Hampshire earned him an automatic berth in the second round of the Chase for the Sprint Cup championship. He’d like a win Saturday night at Charlotte Motor Speedway to push him right into the third round.

For this three-race segment, the 2014 NASCAR champion has eyed Charlotte as a track that gives him a good shot at a victory. The round also goes to Kansas next week before concluding at Talladega Superspeedway.

“Charlotte is probably the one I’m looking forward to the most,” Harvick said. “We’ve had so much success there. We’ve run well there, really, every time we’ve been there with our Stewart-Haas Racing cars.”

Harvick has three career points victories at Charlotte, including the October race during his championship season. That victory pushed Harvick into the round of eight of the Chase.

He’s also has had success racing at night, something Charlotte Motor Speedway President Marcus Smith noted this week. He dubbed Harvick “Nighthawk” because Harvick has not finished outside the top 10 at night in the last seven races. He’s only been outside the top-five twice in that span.

Harvick has also won six times in night races on the NASCAR schedule since 2012.

But with practice time during the daylight this weekend, he’s not sure what to expect.

“Charlotte is a really finicky racetrack and, with the way we practice, most of the practice will be done during the day with the race being at night,” he said. “Temperature has a huge factor in how the racetrack changes, how the pace changes, so you have to try to guess a little bit on that. You have to try to plan and balance all those things to have a good plan, but you have to be ready to abort that plan and come up with a new one on the fly at any given point.”


The late Bryan Clauson was honored as the fan’s favorite driver in the IndyCar Series during a remembrance for the three-time Indianapolis 500 starter.

Clauson died from injuries suffered in a sprint car crash in Kansas in August. He was leading when he was involved in the accident, which came in his 116th race of the year. Popular throughout the paddock, Clauson was attempting to race in 200 events this year and was one of the most well-liked drivers in every series.

He was remembered during IndyCar’s season-ending awards ceremony Tuesday night by Conor Daly, who was teammates with Clauson during this year’s Indianapolis 500 and, like Clauson, grew up in Noblesville, Indiana.

“You could always tell Bryan had such a strong positive impact on the racing world because everyone across the sport was happy to see him get a shot in the Indy 500,” Daly said. “It was a true pleasure getting to work with Bryan this year at Indy and to see the whole crowd and everyone around us support him and love seeing him there. He was and forever will be a driver to look up to, a person to strive to be like, and a hero.”


Juan Pablo Montoya and Tony Kanaan will both compete in this year’s Race Of Champions all-star event, which will be held in their adopted hometown of Miami.

Kanaan competed in the event in 2004, the year of his IndyCar championship, when it was held in France. The Brazilian partnered with Felipe Massa and the duo advanced to the semifinals.

“Having the race here in my backyard is the perfect opportunity to be part of it and to race against the biggest names from motorsport around the world,” Kanaan said.

Montoya will be making his Race of Champions debut. He and Kanaan bring the field to eight confirmed drivers for the event. Also committed to date for the January 21-22 race at Marlins Park Stadium are Ryan Hunter-Reay, Sebastian Vettel, nine-time Le Mans 24 Hours winner Tom Kristensen and Kurt Busch.

NASCAR: Truex dominates at Dover for 2nd Chase victory of season

This gallery contains 1 photo.

DOVER, Del. (AP) — Martin Truex Jr. watched season after empty season as other drivers hoisted trophies and celebrated championships and wondered if he was running out of time to become a winner.

Bad cars, bad teams, bad luck.

Whatever the cause, Truex was a journeyman driver seemingly doomed to a mediocre career. Now, what quantifies as a downer in Truex’s career rebirth is that he failed to actually sweep the first round of the Chase — but two of three is pretty dominant.

“We’re not messing around, I guess,” Truex said. “We are here to get it done.”

Truex’s late-season surge extended Sunday at Dover International Speedway for his second victory in the first three Chase races. Truex won for the fourth time this season in the No. 78 Toyota and paired this Chase win with his opening victory at Chicagoland.

“Kind of a bonus win,” crew chief Cole Pearn said. “We didn’t need it all.”

Well, plenty of other Chase drivers did.

Tony Stewart finished 13th and the three-time NASCAR champion was knocked out of contention in the first elimination race of the Chase for the Sprint Cup championship.

Chris Buescher and Chip Ganassi Racing teammates Kyle Larson and Jamie McMurray also dropped out of the Chase. The field was sliced from 16 drivers to 12.

Austin Dillon finished eighth and moved from outside the points cutoff of the Chase to a transfer spot and advanced to the next round.

Kevin Harvick, Kyle Busch, Brad Keselowski, Matt Kenseth, Joey Logano, Chase Elliott, Jimmie Johnson, Denny Hamlin, Carl Edwards and Kurt Busch joined Truex and Dillon in the next round that opens at Charlotte Motor Speedway.

Kyle Busch was second, followed by Chase Elliott, Keselowski, Kenseth and Logano — the only five other cars that finished on the lead lap.

Truex won his first career Cup race at Dover in 2007 and didn’t win again until 2013. But his career took off in his second year at Furniture Row Racing and he used a win at Pocono last year to make the Chase and become one of four drivers racing for the championship in the finale.

His career absolutely exploded with FRR and Toyota this season. Truex led a stunning 392 laps in a Coca-Cola 600 victory and then won at Darlington just two races before the Chase opened. He has led at least 140 laps in three of the last four races.

“The last month has just been ridiculous,” he said.

Harvick won last week at New Hampshire and was the only other driver to earn an automatic berth in the second round.

Here are other items of note from Dover:


Stewart, the 2002, 2005 and 2011 Cup champion, will retire at the end of the season without a fourth championship.

“I’ll tell you one thing, this one race, whatever happens, is not going to define the season this team has,” Stewart told his team over the radio.

He fell just short of keeping a drive for four alive.

“We kept making it better all day. That is as good as we had,” he said.


Ganassi went from two Chase drivers to none.

Larson’s race turned into a disaster early when the No. 42 Chevrolet lost power. His Chevy was pushed to pit road and a battery was changed. He then had to serve a pass-through penalty for having too many crew members over the wall during the pit stop.

Larson, one of the top, young drivers in the sport, had held the final transfer spot entering the race.

Jamie McMurray saw his Chase end at Dover for the second straight season. He battled problems in the No. 1 Chevy for most of the race before he engine blew near the halfway point. McMurray was 13th and hoped to race his way into the next round. He held the final transfer spot heading into last year’s race and lost his spot to Dale Earnhardt Jr.


Harvick had to take a deep breath in thanks that he won last week at New Hampshire or he would have faced sure elimination. Harvick’s No. 4 Chevrolet had a broken track bar early in the race that sent the car to the garage. Harvick returned more than 40 laps off the pace and finished 37th. Harvick, the 2014 Sprint Cup champion, had never finished last in a race in his career.


Earnhardt watched the race from atop the pit box for the first time since his season ended in July because of a concussion. Jeff Gordon finished 10th in Junior’s regular 88 Chevrolet ride. Gordon, who had retired at the end of last season, has one more race left subbing for Earnhardt later this month at Martinsville.


Daniel Suarez won the Xfinity Series delayed a day by rain to kick off 600 miles of racing. NASCAR ran its first Xfinity-Cup doubleheader since April 25, 2010, at Talladega Superspeedway.


The second round of the Chase opens at Charlotte and Logano is the defending race winner.

Citizen Soldier 400

Sunday’s results from the 1-mile Dover International Speedway (starting position in parentheses):

1. (2) Martin Truex Jr, Toyota, 400 laps, 0 rating, 45 points.

2. (3) Kyle Busch, Toyota, 400, 0, 40.

3. (9) Chase Elliott, Chevrolet, 400, 0, 38.

4. (1) Brad Keselowski, Ford, 400, 0, 38.

5. (4) Matt Kenseth, Toyota, 400, 0, 36.

6. (5) Joey Logano, Ford, 400, 0, 35.

7. (8) Jimmie Johnson, Chevrolet, 399, 0, 35.

8. (14) Austin Dillon, Chevrolet, 399, 0, 33.

9. (7) Denny Hamlin, Toyota, 399, 0, 32.

10. (18) Jeff Gordon, Chevrolet, 399, 0, 32.

11. (22) Ricky Stenhouse Jr, Ford, 399, 0, 30.

12. (17) Kasey Kahne, Chevrolet, 399, 0, 29.

13. (15) Tony Stewart, Chevrolet, 399, 0, 28.

14. (10) Carl Edwards, Toyota, 399, 0, 27.

15. (11) Kurt Busch, Chevrolet, 398, 0, 26.

16. (27) Aric Almirola, Ford, 398, 0, 25.

17. (19) Ryan Newman, Chevrolet, 397, 0, 24.

18. (25) Greg Biffle, Ford, 396, 0, 24.

19. (21) AJ Allmendinger, Chevrolet, 396, 0, 22.

20. (23) Trevor Bayne, Ford, 395, 0, 21.

21. (34) Brian Scott, Ford, 395, 0, 20.

22. (26) Paul Menard, Chevrolet, 395, 0, 19.

23. (16) Chris Buescher, Ford, 394, 0, 18.

24. (28) Clint Bowyer, Chevrolet, 394, 0, 17.

25. (12) Kyle Larson, Chevrolet, 394, 0, 16.

26. (29) Casey Mears, Chevrolet, 394, 0, 15.

27. (35) Matt DiBenedetto, Toyota, 393, 0, 14.

28. (24) Danica Patrick, Chevrolet, 393, 0, 13.

29. (31) Landon Cassill, Ford, 392, 0, 12.

30. (32) David Ragan, Toyota, 392, 0, 11.

31. (33) Regan Smith, Chevrolet, 391, 0, 10.

32. (30) Ty Dillon, Chevrolet, 390, 0, 0.

33. (37) Michael Annett, Chevrolet, 387, 0, 8.

34. (36) Timmy Hill, Ford, 386, 0, 0.

35. (39) Reed Sorenson, Chevrolet, 385, 0, 6.

36. (38) Jeffrey Earnhardt, Ford, 384, 0, 5.

37. (6) Kevin Harvick, Chevrolet, 354, 0, 4.

38. (20) Ryan Blaney, Ford, 281, 0, 3.

39. (40) Josh Wise, Chevrolet, engine, 196, 0, 2.

40. (13) Jamie McMurray, Chevrolet, engine, 192, 0, 1.


Race Statistics

Average Speed of Race Winner: 130.967 mph.

Caution Flags: 4 for 22 laps.

Lead Changes: 14 among 6 drivers.

Lap Leaders: B.Keselowski 1-5; M.Truex 6-20; Ky.Busch 21-35; M.Truex 36; Ky.Busch 37-105; M.Truex 106; Ky.Busch 107-124; M.Truex 125-188; J.Johnson 189-277; B.Keselowski 278-279; G.Biffle 280-286; M.Truex 287-365; J.Johnson 366; J.Gordon 367-373; M.Truex 374-400

Leaders Summary (Driver, Times Led, Laps Led): M.Truex, 6 times for 181 laps; Ky.Busch, 3 times for 99 laps; J.Johnson, 2 times for 88 laps; G.Biffle, 1 time for 6 laps; J.Gordon, 1 time for 6 laps; B.Keselowski, 2 times for 5 laps.

Wins: Ky.Busch, 4; B.Keselowski, 4; D.Hamlin, 3; K.Harvick, 3; M.Truex, 3; C.Edwards, 2; J.Johnson, 2; M.Kenseth, 2; C.Buescher, 1; Ku.Busch, 1; K.Larson, 1; J.Logano, 1; T.Stewart, 1.

Top 16 in Points: 1. M.Truex, 3000; 2. K.Harvick, 3000; 3. Ky.Busch, 3000; 4. M.Kenseth, 3000; 5. J.Logano, 3000; 6. C.Elliott, 3000; 7. B.Keselowski, 3000. 8. Ku.Busch, 3000; 9. D.Hamlin, 3000; 10. C.Edwards, 3000; 11. J.Johnson, 3000; 12. A.Dillon, 3000; 13. T.Stewart, 2074; 14. K.Larson, 2073; 15. J.McMurray, 2053; 16. C.Buescher, 2045.

NASCAR: Keselowski sits on 3rd Chase race pole after rain at Dover

This gallery contains 1 photo.

DOVER, Del. (AP) — Brad Keselowski says having all 16 Chase drivers start in the front of the field will be “fun to watch.”

He just won’t catch much of the action.

Keselowski has the pole after rain wiped out qualifying Friday at Dover International Speedway. It was the third straight Dover race where qualifying was canceled because of rain.

Keselowski benefited this time because Sunday’s Sprint Cup race was set on owner points. The 16 Chase drivers make up the first eight rows in the field, and it should be a battle from the start — the playoff field is cut from 16 to 12 drivers following Dover.

“I won’t get to see it, but you will,” Keselowski said. “That will be fun to watch.”

Martin Truex Jr. and Kevin Harvick have already advanced to the next round with Chase victories. Truex joins Keselowski on the front row. Kyle Busch starts third, followed by Matt Kenseth and Joey Logano.

Other Chase qualifiers, from sixth to 16th are: Kevin Harvick, Denny Hamlin, Jimmie Johnson, Carl Edwards, Chase Elliott, Kurt Busch, Kyle Larson, Austin Dillon, Jamie McMurray, Tony Stewart, and Chris Buescher.

Buescher made the Chase on the back of a rain-shortened victory at Pocono and made the rookie driver perhaps the most surprising playoff entrant in NASCAR history.

He pretty much has to win to advance to the second round, akin to a No. 16 seed beating a 1 in the NCAA tournament.

“It’s kind of nice to be able to go into a race and just worry about doing the best you can,” he said. “It’s going to make it where we’re able to go out here and not worry about it, take some chances, try and utilize some risk, and see if we can pull something off.”

Here are some other items of note from a short day at Dover:

PRACTCE: Larson turned the fastest practice lap of the day with a speed of 165.578 mph. Kyle Busch had the best 10-consecutive lap average at 159.336.

Larson holds the final transfer spot by five points over Chip Ganassi Racing teammate Jamie McMurray and Richard Childress Racing’s Austin Dillon.

Larson finished second in the spring at Dover.

OVER AT DOVER: McMurray was eliminated from the Chase at Dover last season after finishing fourth. Dale Earnhardt Jr. passed McMurray late in the race to tie him in points for the final transfer spot. Earnhardt advanced because his best finish of third in the opening round was better than McMurray’s top finish of fourth.

“Last year was a lot of fun, getting to race with the No. 88 and knowing that I had to finish ahead of him in order to advance to the next round,” McMurray said. “He was ahead on one restart and I’d be ahead on the next, so that was a fun battle.”

WIN AND IN: McMurray, Dillon, Stewart and Buescher can only guarantee a clinch with a win. Each could clinch without a win, but would need varying levels of help.

FIRST IS TOPS: Keselowski took pride in starting first on points because it mean his Team Penske has the been the best this late into the season.

“It’s certainly still something to be very proud of, this far into the season and being the points leader,” he said. “There are the perks you get when you’re in that position.”

Keselowski has four wins in the No. 2 Ford and is going for his first championship since 2012.

NASCAR driver Brad Keselowski ever run for political office?

This gallery contains 1 photo.

Brad Keselowski doesn’t have a high opinion of the campaign promises candidates make when running for political office.

So would the 2012 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion ever entertain running for elected office?

“Paige (White, his girlfriend) and I have talked about it before. She thinks I’m crazy, but I would never rule it out,” Keselowski said while participating in USA TODAY Sports’ weekly 12 Questions with NASCAR drivers.

Keselowski, 32, believes most political campaigns are filled with false promises.

“I always hate campaigns to begin with, because it’s really just a bunch of lies where you tell people things they want to hear, but not what they need to hear,” he said. “I’d rather just go off what you’ve done in the past, but that doesn’t always work. People like to be lied to, I guess”.

The Team Penske driver was initially asked to ponder the hypothetical scenario that the president of NASCAR was an elected position voted on by the drivers. If Keselowski decided to run, what would one of his campaign promises be?

Keselowski first pointed out that “NASCAR is not a democracy, and I don’t see it ever becoming one. So the likelihood of ever running for NASCAR office is very, very slim.

“If I had to campaign, I’d just campaign with my background of who I am and what I stand for and what I intend to do with the sport. Who I am and what I stand for is somewhat well known; as for my intentions with the sport, it would be simple: To grow it for everyone. Someone once told me high tides raise all ships, so my goal would be to raise the tides for everyone.”

Keselowski, who has four victories in 2016, heads into the first Chase for the Sprint Cup elimination race Sunday at Dover International Speedway ranked first in the point standings.


NASCAR: Several Chase stars avoid disaster at NHMS

This gallery contains 1 photo.

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) — Well, this isn’t the way anyone wanted to see Tony Stewart end his career. The driver went into NASCAR’s playoffs with a roar and is on the verge of exiting with a whimper.

Stewart is in the bottom four of the Chase standings and will be eliminated Sunday at Dover International Speedway if he doesn’t pull off some sort of miracle before the field is trimmed from 16 to 12 drivers. He’s retiring at the end of this season, and all his fans wanted to see a solid run toward a fourth NASCAR title.

Instead, he opened the playoffs with a 16th-place finish at Chicago and he was 23rd on Sunday at New Hampshire. Chris Buescher is the only driver below him in the standings, and Stewart might just need to win at Dover to advance to the second round.

Kevin Harvick, who won at New Hampshire to earn an automatic berth into the second round, isn’t counting out his teammate. With Harvick secure and Kurt Busch 11th in the standings, Stewart-Haas Racing can put an emphasis on Stewart’s performance at Dover.

“He can go to any racetrack and perform. He can go to any racetrack and win,” Harvick said. “He’s Tony Stewart. I wouldn’t bet against him. We’ll do everything we can to help him get to the point where he needs to be to try to move on.”

This is hardly the position anyone thought Stewart would be in a month ago, when his fiery side began to emerge as the Chase approached. He wrecked Brian Scott at Darlington, wrecked Ryan Newman at Richmond and seemed to be in no mood to play around over the final 10 races of his NASCAR career.

But he’s not performing on the track, not at the level to race for a championship, at least, and that’s got to change Sunday or he will close his career watching the playoffs go on without him. Stewart has not finished higher than 16th in the last six races, and his average finish is 26.3 over that span.

He has three career wins at Dover, the last during his 2013 march to the title. But his average finish of 14.1 won’t get it done.

Who else could be eliminated on Sunday? A list:


If you filled out a Chase bracket, you almost certainly had Buescher eliminated in the first round. He barely made the Chase, needing to cling to 30th in the standings to be eligible, and his Front Row Motorsports team just isn’t equipped to compete with the big dogs. Buescher was 28th at Chicago, 30th at New Hampshire and is last in the 16-driver Chase field.

If it rains on Sunday, and he uses strategy to stay out and inherit the lead before the race is canceled, then he’s got a shot at avoiding elimination. That is, after all, how he won Pocono to get into the Chase.


He is 14th in the standings, and that’s a bit of a surprise because the Chip Ganassi Racing cars had been strong headed into the Chase. McMurray was eliminated in the first round last year, and believed his team had learned enough to make it through this opening three-race stretch. But there’s no room at all for error in the Chase, and a 19th-place finish at New Hampshire simply isn’t good enough.

Ganassi teammate Kyle Larson, who many thought would go deep into the playoffs, isn’t secure, either. He’s 12th in the standings — only five points ahead of the elimination spot.


He is tied with McMurray in the standings and trails Larson by five points for the transfer spot. Not because he’s been bad in the Chase, but because he’s been mediocre through the first two races.

Dillon was 14th in the opener, 16th at New Hampshire and doesn’t have a top-10 finish in six weeks. His New Hampshire race was a struggle, but Dillon felt his Richard Childress Racing team persevered and has hope for Dover.

“I never gave in, never gave up, our team never gave up,” he said. “We go to Dover and we’ve given ourselves a shot. We’ve just got to go run good there.”


A win gets a driver an automatic berth to the second round, and Harvick and Truex have each punched those tickets.

But the standings are so close throughout the rest of the field that a mechanical problem, a crash or simply ailed strategy could end the Chase for any driver. Only six points separate fifth-place Joey Logano from 11th-place Kurt Busch and no one is feeling all that safe. Chase Elliott is ninth in points and finished third at Chicago, but he’s hardly breathing easy.

When asked what he expects from Dover, he was blunt: “I feel like it’s an upcoming race and we need to do a better job.”

NASCAR: Harvick wins at New Hampshire to advance to 2nd round

This gallery contains 2 photos.

LOUDON, N.H. (AP) — Kevin Harvick has thrived as NASCAR’s version of a Game 7 master, steeling his nerves and flourishing in those win-or-else races that kept a championship push alive.

His Chase off to a rocky start, Harvick injected the Chase again with a rousing finish that eliminated a must-win race for him and parked him in the next playoff round.

Harvick won Sunday at New Hampshire Motor Speedway to earn a spot in the second round of the NASCAR Sprint Cup playoffs, pulling away off a restart a year after a late loss at the track.

“It’s kind of like an addiction,” Harvick said. “You just love the rush of being able to be behind and be able to perform and make that happen.”

Harvick finished 20th in the Chase for the Sprint Cup championship opener which stuck him 15th in the standings. With another weak finish at New Hampshire, Harvick would have faced yet another race at Dover he may have had to win to advance.

His lap times in the No. 4 Chevrolet only got faster deeper into the race and he was soon nipping at Martin Truex Jr. and Matt Kenseth at the front of the field. Kenseth dominated the second half of the race and seemed poised to win the New Hampshire race for the third straight time.

Harvick, the 2014 Sprint Cup champion, had enough juice in the Chevy to zip past Kenseth with five laps left and join Truex as the drivers locked in the next round. Truex won the Chase opener at Chicagoland and he led a race-high 141 laps at New Hampshire.

Harvick ran out of fuel late last year at New Hampshire to lose and faced a win-or-elimination race the next week at Dover. Harvick, who won for the third time this season, rallied for one of the biggest wins of his career to survive another round.

He won in a similar situation in 2014 at Phoenix when he needed a victory to advance to the championship race. Harvick won the finale and the championship at Homestead.

“The last two years we’ve kind of just worn ourselves out and really stressed out over trying to perform at this level,” he said.

At Dover, it’s up to 14 other drivers to worry about a win.

Chase drivers took the top eight spots. The 16-driver Chase for the Sprint Cup championship field will be cut to 12 after Dover.

Kenseth led 105 of 300 laps and would have clinched with the win, just as he did last season at New Hampshire when he was in perfect position to take advantage of Harvick’s fuel foul up. Kenseth appeared to slow down just a bit off the last restart with five laps left, allowing Harvick to race side-by-side before he took off for his 11th win in 100 career starts at Stewart-Haas Racing.

“It was just a smooth restart. I just didn’t want to spin the tires,” Harvick said. “I don’t know what happened to him, or if I just timed it right.”

Kenseth won the May race at Dover and appears in solid shape to reach the second round.

“I let Kevin lay back on me, which we’re supposed to be side-by-side. I should have known better,” Kenseth said. “I should have just went really late in the zone and wait until he had to get up to my nose because he anticipated it just right and laid back. Plus, I spun the tires and I got beat through one and two and then it was over.”

Joe Gibbs Racing teammates Kenseth and Kyle Busch were second and third. They were followed by Chase drivers Brad Keselowski, Kurt Busch, Carl Edwards, Truex and Jimmie Johnson.

Other Chase results: Kyle Larson was 10th, Joey Logano 11th, Chase Elliott 13th, Denny Hamlin 15th, Austin Dillon 16th, Jamie McMurray 19th, Tony Stewart 23rd, and Chris Buescher 30th.

McMurray, Dillon, Stewart and Buescher are the bottom four drivers in the standings.

WARNING: Good news for the NASCAR PR machine — no Chase driver failed post-race inspection.

NASCAR issued a stern warning to the Sprint Cup garage before the race not to “circumvent what happens with postrace inspection.”

The sanctioning body decided not to penalize race winner Truex Jr. and Johnson for failing inspection after the opening Chase for the Sprint Cup championship race at Chicagoland Speedway. Both cars failed the laser inspection with infractions that should have drawn 10-point penalties.

NASCAR spent the week talking lasers — after spending a chunk of the season on lug nuts — instead of celebrating the playoffs.

“We ask all of you not to put it in our hands because we will react if we have to,” NASCAR executive vice president Steve O’Donnell said. “I think everybody knows what that means. We want to concentrate on the race.”

All remaining Chase cars will go through laser inspection after only nine were picked after the Chase opener.

BELIEVE IT: Danica Patrick finished 18th and actually led nine laps. Her 30 laps led this season are three more than her combined total the last three seasons.


The first Chase elimination race takes place at Dover International Speedway. Harvick is the defending race winner.




Lap length: 1.058 miles

(Start position in parentheses)

1. (19) Kevin Harvick, Chevrolet, 300 laps, 115.6 rating, 44 points.

2. (8) Matt Kenseth, Toyota, 300, 130.4, 40.

3. (12) Kyle Busch, Toyota, 300, 118.7, 39.

4. (11) Brad Keselowski, Ford, 300, 91.7, 38.

5. (13) Kurt Busch, Chevrolet, 300, 91.7, 36.

6. (1) Carl Edwards, Toyota, 300, 107.7, 36.

7. (2) Martin Truex Jr, Toyota, 300, 132.7, 36.

8. (4) Jimmie Johnson, Chevrolet, 300, 106.2, 33.

9. (9) Kasey Kahne, Chevrolet, 300, 89.4, 32.

10. (6) Kyle Larson, Chevrolet, 300, 95.7, 31.

11. (15) Joey Logano, Ford, 300, 77.8, 30.

12. (16) Ryan Blaney, Ford, 300, 76.0, 29.

13. (10) Chase Elliott, Chevrolet, 300, 106.5, 29.

14. (18) Alex Bowman, Chevrolet, 300, 82.3, 0.

15. (5) Denny Hamlin, Toyota, 300, 90.7, 26.

16. (29) Austin Dillon, Chevrolet, 300, 62.0, 25.

17. (26) Aric Almirola, Ford, 300, 67.9, 24.

18. (24) Danica Patrick, Chevrolet, 300, 67.5, 24.

19. (7) Jamie McMurray, Chevrolet, 300, 86.7, 22.

20. (3) Ryan Newman, Chevrolet, 300, 79.7, 21.

21. (17) AJ Allmendinger, Chevrolet, 300, 70.2, 20.

22. (37) Clint Bowyer, Chevrolet, 300, 47.5, 19.

23. (22) Tony Stewart, Chevrolet, 299, 71.8, 18.

24. (21) Ricky Stenhouse Jr, Ford, 299, 57.6, 17.

25. (14) Paul Menard, Chevrolet, 299, 62.5, 16.

26. (20) Michael McDowell, Chevrolet, 298, 56.5, 15.

27. (31) Casey Mears, Chevrolet, 298, 50.0, 14.

28. (33) Matt DiBenedetto, Toyota, 298, 39.5, 13.

29. (34) Landon Cassill, Ford, 298, 40.9, 12.

30. (28) Chris Buescher, Ford, 298, 48.8, 11.

31. (25) Brian Scott, Ford, 298, 46.0, 10.

32. (23) David Ragan, Toyota, 297, 39.5, 9.

33. (32) Greg Biffle, Ford, 297, 41.9, 8.

34. (30) Regan Smith, Chevrolet, 297, 37.5, 7.

35. (36) Cole Whitt, Ford, 294, 30.8, 6.

36. (38) Reed Sorenson, Chevrolet, 293, 28.3, 5.

37. (40) Jeffrey Earnhardt, Ford, 290, 24.8, 4.

38. (27) Trevor Bayne, Ford, accident, 282, 49.5, 3.

39. (39) Josh Wise, Chevrolet, 268, 25.2, 2.

40. (35) Michael Annett, Chevrolet, garage, 236, 29.0, 1.


Race Statistics

Average Speed of Race Winner: 109.292 mph.

Time of Race: 2 hours, 54 minutes, 15 seconds.

Margin of Victory: 0.442 seconds.

Caution Flags: 6 for 31 laps.

Lead Changes: 14 among 8 drivers.

Lap Leaders: C.Edwards 1-30; M.Truex 31-75; C.Edwards 76; Ky.Busch 77-78; B.Keselowski 79-80; M.Truex 81-124; Ky.Busch 125; M.Truex 126-166; C.Elliott 167; M.Truex 168-178; M.Kenseth 179-231; K.Harvick 232-233; D.Patrick 234-242; M.Kenseth 243-294; K.Harvick 295-300

Leaders Summary (Driver, Times Led, Laps Led): M.Truex, 4 times for 137 laps; M.Kenseth, 2 times for 103 laps; C.Edwards, 2 times for 29 laps; D.Patrick, 1 time for 8 laps; K.Harvick, 2 times for 6 laps; Ky.Busch, 2 times for 1 lap; B.Keselowski, 1 time for 1 lap; C.Elliott, 1 time for 0 laps.

Wins: Ky.Busch, 4; B.Keselowski, 4; D.Hamlin, 3; M.Truex, 3; C.Edwards, 2; K.Harvick, 2; J.Johnson, 2; M.Kenseth, 2; C.Buescher, 1; Ku.Busch, 1; K.Larson, 1; J.Logano, 1; T.Stewart, 1.

Top 16 in Points: 1. M.Truex, 2050; 2. B.Keselowski, 2049; 3. Ky.Busch, 2046; 4. D.Hamlin, 2045; 5. J.Logano, 2043; 6. C.Elliott, 2039; 7. M.Kenseth, 2038; 8. J.Johnson, 2037; 9. C.Edwards, 2032; 10. Ku.Busch, 2031; 11. J.McMurray, 2030; 12. T.Stewart, 2028; 13. A.Dillon, 2027; 14. K.Harvick, 2027; 15. K.Larson, 2026; 16. C.Buescher, 2016.

NASCAR: Carl Edwards wins pole at New Hampshire

This gallery contains 1 photo.

LOUDON, N.H. (AP) — Carl Edwards has mastered the art of starting first at New Hampshire.

It’s winning the race that has caused him fits.

Edwards turned a lap of 135.453 mph to win the NASCAR Sprint Cup pole at New Hampshire Motor Speedway. He took the top spot Friday for the third time in the last four New Hampshire races and he won his sixth pole of the season.

“We need to turn that into a race win,” Edwards said.

The Joe Gibbs Racing driver has failed to win in 24 career starts at New Hampshire. Edwards finished seventh and fifth off his two poles last season. Edwards would advance to the second round of the Chase for the Sprint Cup championship with a win on Sunday.

He’d rather take the checkered flag in the No. 19 Toyota and not have to worry about taking care of business next week at Dover.

“If we have a bad day here, I’m going to be real upset about it for about three or four days and then if you have a bad day at Dover, you’re going to be upset for the rest of the year,” he said.

Edwards led the way for the Chase for the Sprint Cup championship drivers. Martin Truex Jr. followed his Chase win at Chicagoland Speedway with a solid qualifying run to join Edwards on the front row.

Ryan Newman will start third, followed by Chase drivers Jimmie Johnson, Denny Hamlin, Kyle Larson, Jamie McMurray, and Matt Kenseth.

Chase drivers Chris Buescher and Austin Dillon failed to advance out of the first round of qualifying. Fellow Chase drivers Kurt Busch, Joey Logano, Kevin Harvick and Tony Stewart failed to get out of the second round.

Edwards won his 22nd career pole. He had never won more than three poles in a season.

“The cars are great, but it’s not just that,” Edwards said.

It’s Toyota. It’s crew chief Dave Rogers. It’s the support of having three stellar teammates in Kenseth, Hamlin and Kyle Busch (who starts 12th).

Kenseth has won the last two New Hampshire races for JGR.

“I became a lot better certainly when I started driving there. It’s funny how that works,” he said.

Here are some other items of note from Friday at New Hampshire.

DELAY OF GAME: Inspection issues delayed several cars from taking the track in the first round of qualifying. Nearly a dozen cars were in line at the inspection station once qualifying started. Clint Bowyer spun during his lap to bring out the red flag and buy time for the rest of the cars to complete inspection.

TOUGH BREAK: Chris Buescher (28th) and Austin Dillon (29th) have the worst starting spots among Chase drivers. Dillon qualified in a back-up car following an accident in practice.

“It’s not the exact same car, it’s a little older car, but same type of car we ran here the first time and we ran pretty solid in that race,” Dillon said. “We will just go out there and drive it hard and see what it gives me.”

Buescher realized that just making the Chase because of a rain-shortened win at Pocono will stand as the highlight of his season.

“We’re playing our own game right now,” he said. “We know that if we come out of here and do the best we can, put in our maximum effort, that’s all we can do.”

THOUGHTS AND PRAYERS: NASCAR drivers have found the violent protests in Charlotte, North Carolina in the wake of the fatal shooting of a black man by police unsettling.

The NASCAR Hall of Fame in downtown Charlotte had its exterior damaged this week during violent protests.

“A lot of times when you see things like this happen it’s in a different city and you don’t recognize where it’s at, but when you see the NASCAR building getting vandalized and you see areas of the city that you know very well with just crazy things happening, it makes you sick to your gut,” Logano said.


After Friday qualifying; race Sunday at New Hampshire Motor Speedway, Loudon, N.H. Lap length: 1.058 miles (Car number in parentheses)

1. (19) Carl Edwards, Toyota, 135.453 mph.

2. (78) Martin Truex Jr, Toyota, 135.212.

3. (31) Ryan Newman, Chevrolet, 134.896.

4. (48) Jimmie Johnson, Chevrolet, 134.858.

5. (11) Denny Hamlin, Toyota, 134.796.

6. (42) Kyle Larson, Chevrolet, 134.682.

7. (1) Jamie McMurray, Chevrolet, 134.477.

8. (20) Matt Kenseth, Toyota, 134.363.

9. (5) Kasey Kahne, Chevrolet, 134.221.

10. (24) Chase Elliott, Chevrolet, 133.901.

11. (2) Brad Keselowski, Ford, 133.694.

12. (18) Kyle Busch, Toyota, 133.445.

13. (41) Kurt Busch, Chevrolet, 134.359.

14. (27) Paul Menard, Chevrolet, 134.354.

15. (22) Joey Logano, Ford, 134.184.

16. (21) Ryan Blaney, Ford, 134.108.

17. (47) AJ Allmendinger, Chevrolet, 134.032.

18. (88) Alex Bowman, Chevrolet, 133.750.

19. (4) Kevin Harvick, Chevrolet, 133.717.

20. (95) Michael McDowell, Chevrolet, 133.133.

21. (17) Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Ford, 133.031.

22. (14) Tony Stewart, Chevrolet, 132.980.

23. (23) David Ragan, Toyota, 132.776.

24. (10) Danica Patrick, Chevrolet, 131.815.

25. (44) Brian Scott, Ford, 132.966.

26. (43) Aric Almirola, Ford, 132.887.

27. (6) Trevor Bayne, Ford, 132.688.

28. (34) Chris Buescher, Ford, 132.618.

29. (3) Austin Dillon, Chevrolet, 132.595.

30. (7) Regan Smith, Chevrolet, 132.586.

31. (13) Casey Mears, Chevrolet, 132.485.

32. (16) Greg Biffle, Ford, 132.177.

33. (83) Matt DiBenedetto, Toyota, 131.952.

34. (38) Landon Cassill, Ford, 131.624.

35. (46) Michael Annett, Chevrolet, 131.528.

36. (98) Cole Whitt, Chevrolet, 131.510.

37. (15) Clint Bowyer, Chevrolet, 131.031.

38. (55) Reed Sorenson, Toyota, 130.693.

39. (30) Josh Wise, Chevrolet, 129.503.

40. (32) Jeffrey Earnhardt, Ford, 127.701.

NASCAR: Martin Truex Jr. rallies to win NASCAR Chase opener

This gallery contains 2 photos.

JOLIET, Ill. (AP) — Martin Truex Jr. went from a completely unraveled tire that left him a lap down to the NASCAR Chase for the Sprint Cup championship lead for the first time in his career.

He can thank a late caution in what has been an emotional year for the small-team driver.

Truex shot to the front after a late re-start and pulled away to give Furniture Row Racing a NASCAR Sprint Cup playoff-opening victory Sunday at Chicagoland Speedway.

“I’ve had a lot of practice at it,” Truex said about the on-track obstacles. “I think my approach really changed two years ago when (girlfriend) Sherry got diagnosed with cancer. My approach to all those things changed and made me a better driver.”

NASCAR announced after the race that Truex’s No. 78 Toyota failed the laser inspection, but the infraction was not at the level of negating the victory for Chase qualification purposes. Truex is expected to receive a point penalty this week.

Rookie Chase Elliott appeared on his way to an easy win until Michael McDowell blew a tire and spun out to bring a caution with five laps left.

Elliott and Truex came in to pit for tires, with some non-Chase drivers Ryan Blaney and Kasey Kahne and Chase contender Carl Edwards staying on the track.

Truex restarted fourth and Elliott fifth, and Truex quickly got to the front and held off Joey Logano on the final lap for his third victory of the season. Truex is guaranteed to move on when the Chase field is cut from 16 to 12 in two weeks.

Truex, whose team gets technical support from Joe Gibbs Racing, made the last four in the 2015 Chase. His 2016 season started with near miss at the Daytona 500 and a Coca-Cola 600 win, while Sherry Pollex has battled ovarian cancer. She’s now in remission.

“You have to understand, this isn’t the end of the world.” Truex said of racing setbacks. “We can overcome it. That’s what we did today.”

Elliott, a rookie, finished third, followed by Blaney and Chase driver Brad Keselowski, who sits second in points.

“It’s not yours until it’s over,” the 20-year-old Elliott said. “That’s part of life, man. You’re not dumb. We’ve all watched this stuff long enough to know these races don’t go green that long.”

Truex led early in the race only to have his tire come completely unraveled. It led to an unscheduled stop that left him a lap down in the 400-mile race.

“The hard compound came off it,” Cole Pearn, Truex’s crew chief, said. “I guess (Goodyear) saw a couple other tires and came down and told us a certain sequence number had an issue.”

Truex had no other tire issues on the 1.5-mile oval and outraced Kevin Harvick, who also got into early trouble, to be in position for the free pass to the lead lap on the next caution.

Jimmie Johnson dominated the middle of the race, leading 118 laps, until Elliott got by him on lap 176 of 267.

Johnson was running second when he was caught speeding on pit road during the last green-flag stop, yelling “no way!” on his radio when told he had to serve a pass-through penalty. Johnson finished 12th, but his car also failed laser inspection and he could plummet in the points standings.

Elliott led for 75 laps in what was a clean race with only three cautions until McDowell’s late wreck changed the dynamic of the race.

“I feel for Chase. I know what he’s going through,” Truex said. “I wasn’t going to catch him.”

WHO’S HOT: Chase drivers Truex, Logano, Elliott, Keselowski, Denny Hamlin, Kyle Busch and Matt Kenseth all finished in the top 10. Jamie McMcMuray was 11th, Kurt Busch 13th, Austin Dillon 14th, Carl Edwards 15th and Tony Stewart 16th.

WHO’S NOT: Kyle Larson, who had the fastest car in Saturday’s practice, had to change a transmission and start from the back. He finished 18th. … Harvick ended up 20th amid multiple issues. … Rookie Chris Buescher fell a lap down 41 laps in and two laps down before the 100th lap. He finished 28th.

PENALTIES: Based on new rules announced last week, Johnson could receive a 10-point penalty, which would drop him into a tie for 12th in the Chase standings. Truex could be docked 15 points, but the win locks him into the second round.

DILLON SUBS: Ty Dillon finished 27th filling in for Regan Smith in the No. 7 Chevrolet. Smith left the track Friday and returned to North Carolina after his wife went into labor.

COWABUNGA: With Nickelodeon the race sponsor, the winning trophy was a gold base with the four Teenage Mutant Ninga Turtles on top in various poses. Truex plans to put it in his shop so visiting kids can get a picture with it.

UP NEXT: Two races remain before the Chase field is cut to 12. Next Sunday is a 300-mile race at New Hampshire, where Kenseth won in July.



NASCAR: Chase usually produces temper tantrums

JOLIET, Ill. (AP) — Based on history, the Chase for the Sprint Cup championship will produce pushing and shoving, ruined cars and a whole lot of yelling and finger-pointing.

The third year of NASCAR’s elimination-style, 10-race dash for the series title begins Sunday with the 400-mile race at Chicagoland Speedway. Drivers, start your aggression.

“I just know for us, it’s kind of a one-way street,” Kevin Harvick, the 2014 champion, said of his approach. “You do what you have to do for your team, whatever that may be, and worry about the consequences later.”

In last year’s Chase opener at the 1.5-mile oval, Harvick shoved Jimmie Johnson after a contentious race. It was similar to Matt Kenseth and Brad Keselowski brawling in 2014 at Charlotte and Jeff Gordon and Keselowski exchanging blows at Texas.

Last year there was bad blood between Joey Logano and Kenseth that ended with Logano’s car rammed into the wall at Martinsville.

“This is a mental game,” Logano said. “It is all about what is up in your head.”

There have already been clashes over this championship race. Ryan Newman’s faint Chase hopes were dashed when Tony Stewart intentionally wrecked him in last weekend’s final qualifying race at Richmond. Newman ripped Stewart, saying he was “bipolar” and “should be retired the way he drives.” The two were called to a meeting Friday with NASCAR executives.

“They’re trying to make sure they don’t have a scenario like what they had last year with Joey and Matt,” Stewart said.

That feud last year started at Kansas when Logano wrecked Kenseth. Then at Martinsville, with Kenseth out of the running to advance and nine laps down, he wrecked Logano to end his chances to move on.

Kenseth was suspended two races, but Logano’s season was over despite a dominating stretch when he won three straight Chase races.

Kyle Busch, the 2015 champ, has led the most laps this season and is the top-seed in the 16-driver field. He’ll also start Sunday’s race from the pole after Friday’s qualifying was washed out.

There will be three rounds of eliminations before four drivers are left to contend for the title at the finale on Nov. 20 at Homestead.

The format has led to high tension and unpredictability since its 2014 debut. Jimmie Johnson, a six-time series champion, has yet to be in contention going into the final race.

“It is shocking we haven’t made it past the second round,” he said.

Johnson, the No. 8 seed, is the highest-ranked Hendrick Motorsports driver with Joe Gibbs Racing and Toyota dominating the first 26 races. Practice times at Chicagoland seemed to show the gap is still there

Busch is joined by JGR teammates Denny Hamlin, Carl Edwards and Matt Kenseth in the Chase. And Martin Truex Jr., whose team is aligned with Gibbs, is considered a contender.

Team Penske, led by No. 2 seed and 2012 champ Brad Keselowski, and Logano, are back in the Chase, too.

“No, we aren’t going to crash each other,” Logano said of his teammate. “If that is the answer you are looking for, it isn’t what you are going to get. We would race each other hard. I don’t think it will get dirty for no reason at all. I wouldn’t want to do that to anybody. I want to win the right way.”

While NASCAR may wink at the arguments and rough racing, the sanctioning body has vowed to crack down on cheating in the garage. Penalties for cars that fail inspection could cost a driver the title.

But many drivers are too focused on their own work.

“I got the email and I hit ‘delete’ because it didn’t pertain to anything with driving the car,” Harvick said. “Really just trying to focus on what I need to do. I think everybody else is really focused on their jobs as well.”

Here are some other things to watch at Chicagoland:

STEWART’S FINALE: Retiring at the end of the season, Stewart will try to depart with his fourth title and first since 2011. “You’re not going to win the championship in this first segment, but you can sure take yourself out of an opportunity to win it,” he said.

JOHNSON: He begins his quest for a record-tying seventh title at a track where he’s never won and in a format he’s yet to master. “I guess it’s 10 years since my first championship, so there’s only four years I’ve missed,” he said. “I don’t think that’s too bad of a stat.”

YOUNGINS: The Chase includes two rookies for the first time. Chris Buescher is seeded 13th and Chase Elliott 14th.

THREE FINGERS: Others making Chase debuts include Kyle Larson, who had the fastest car in Saturday’s practice, and Austin Dillon, who has the iconic No. 3 Chevrolet in the playoffs for the first time.

BABY ALERT: Regan Smith, who is not in the Chase, returned to North Carolina with his wife in labor. Ty Dillon will replace him in the No 7 if he doesn’t get back in time.


NASCAR: Kyle Busch wins Truck race; Hemric, Peters earn Chase spots

This gallery contains 1 photo.

JOLIET, Ill. (AP) — Kyle Busch overcame a race-record 11 cautions for his 46th career NASCAR Truck Series victory Friday night, dashing the hopes of full-time drivers needing wins to claim a spot in the debut Chase for the championship.

The Sprint Cup star’s second circuit win of the season and fifth trucks win at Chicagoland Speedway meant Daniel Hemric and Timothy Peters earned the final two spots in the eight-driver playoff field based on points.

Busch took on four tires and re-started ninth with 42 laps to go before quickly charging to the front just before Johnny Sauter clipped Ben Kennedy to ignite a crash and red flag.

There were four more cautions before Busch blew past Cameron Hayley on an overtime restart and had the lead when the final caution flew on the last lap. Busch led 95 of the 150 laps on the 1.5-mile oval for his 167th win on NASCAR’s top three circuits.

Hemric finished second, followed by Cameron Hayley and Christopher Bell.

The race began with six of the eight Chase spots already determined. John Hunter Nemechek was the last to clinch after he tangled with Cole Custer in the grass before claiming claiming a win in Canada.

Top-seeded William Byron, 2015 champion Matt Crafton, Kennedy, Sauter and Bell also were safely in.

Custer, who announced earlier Friday that he would move to the Xfinity Series next season with Stewart-Haas Racing, was penalized for speeding on pit road with 84 laps left. He still got into the top 10 late before being involved in a wreck that caused a tire rub. He finished 10th.

Spencer Gallagher earned his first pole and John Wes Townley joined him on the front row. It rekindled memories of their on-track wrestling and boxing match after an incident at Gateway Motorsports Park in June that included takedowns and punches to the face.

But mistakes kept both out of the Chase, with Townley sparking an accident that caused the final caution and Gallagher finishing sixth.

Peters qualified for the Chase by finishing eighth despite hitting the wall and having a right-front tire go down on the 67th lap.

Byron, a five-time winner, scraped the outside wall after four laps and headed to the garage. He returned 40 laps later only to again crash and finished 30th.

Kennedy’s car was destroyed and damaged the SAFER barrier, causing a 14-minute delay. He was treated and released from the infield care center.

Matt Tifft had to pit early with a loose wheel and finished 12th in his first race since undergoing surgery to remove a non-cancerous brain tumor. Tifft received applause when he was introduced in the pre-race driver meeting.


JOLIET, Ill. (AP) — Qualifying for the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup playoff opener at Chicagoland Speedway was canceled because of rain Friday for the third consecutive year.

The lineup for Sunday’s 400-mile race will be based on the playoff seeding, putting Kyle Busch on the pole with Brad Keselowski joining him on the front row.

Denny Hamlin will start third, followed by Kevin Harvick, Cal Edwards and Martin Truex Jr. The 16 drivers who qualified for the 10-race playoff will all start at the front of the field.

Busch is seeking his second straight Sprint Cup title. He’ll need to get past two elimination rounds to get into the group of four drivers eligible going into the last race Nov. 20 at Homestead.

“We kind of look at this round as don’t make any mistakes,” Busch said. “Just kind of keep preparing yourself, keep getting ready for how the pressure will continue to rise.”

Rain started falling at midday and wiped out the only Sprint Cup practice scheduled at the 1.5-mile asphalt oval before the evening qualifying. The weather later cleared and an hour Sprint Cup practice was added around dusk.

Jimmie Johnson, who will start eighth Sunday, was the fastest in that session, followed by Edwards and Denny Hamlin.

Johnson has never won at Chicagoland and hasn’t made it out of the second round in the two years of the elimination format.

“There’s a lot of optimism and a lot of great things happening,” Johnson said. “We just need to deliver consistently and execute at the track.”

Alex Bowman, filling in for Dale Earnhardt as he recovers from a concussion, spun out in the closing seconds of practice trying to get onto pit road. He didn’t appear to damage his car.

Regan Smith, who will start 33rd based on the standings, left the track to return home after his wife went into labor. Ty Dillon filled in during the practice session, but it’s possible Smith will return for Sunday’s race.

“Big thanks to everybody who helped me back and those who offered,” Smith tweeted after landing in North Carolina.

With only 40 cars entered, none were eliminated without a qualifying session. The teams are scheduled for a final practice Saturday before the 267-lap race.

"PhatzRadio - A New view from the News Room"



Weekly Music / Sports Talk Schedule
NBA Unplugged 1:00PM
Audibly Offensive 2:02PM
The War Room 3:01PM
Smooth Jazz 5:11PM
PopSports Sports Radio Tues.AM
The Broad Street Line Wed.AM
After Further Review Wed.AM
HoopGirlz Radio Thur.AM
Gaffer & Hooligan Soccer Fri.AM

Horse Racing

Tue, Oct 25, 2016
Source Horse Racing
Tue, Oct 25, 2016
Source Horse Racing