A stats-based look ahead to the second race of the Sprint Cup season Play: NASCAR Fantasy Live RELATED: Chase Grid standings after Daytona 500 DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. –Below is a look at some of the top statistical performers at Atlanta Motor Speedway in Hampton, Georgia going into the Folds Of Honor QuikTrip 500 on March ATLANTA-SPECIFIC STATISTICS Greg Biffle (No. 16 Ortho Ford) · Three top fives, 10 top 10s; one pole · Average finish of 15.7 · Average Running Position of 13.9, 12th-best · Driver Rating of 90.8, 11th-best · 237 Fastest Laps Run, eighth-most · 1,031 Green Flag Passes, seventh-most · 3,466 Laps in the Top 15 (66.2%), sixth-most · 539 Quality Passes (passes of cars in the top 15 under green), seventh-most Dale Earnhardt Jr. (No. 88 Kelly Blue Book Chevrolet) · One win, eight top fives, 12 top 10s; two poles · Average finish of 12.3 · Average Running Position of 13.0, 10th-best · Driver Rating of 92.7, ninth-best · 227 Fastest Laps Run, 11th-most · 1,119 Green Flag Passes, third-most · Average Green Flag Speed of 171.203 mph, eighth-fastest · 3,382 Laps in the Top 15 (64.6%), seventh-most · 535 Quality Passes, eighth-most Carl Edwards (No. 19 ARRIS Toyota) · Three wins, nine top fives, 11 top 10s · Average finish of 14.6 · Average Running Position of 12.4, eighth-best · Driver Rating of 100.1, third-best · Series-high 371 Fastest Laps Run · Average Green Flag Speed of 171.499 mph, second-fastest · 4,038 Laps in the Top 15 (77.1%), third-most · 552 Quality Passes, fifth-most Jeff Gordon (No. 24 3M Chevrolet) · Five wins, 16 top fives, 26 top 10s; two poles · Average finish of 11.9 · Average Running Position of 10.2, second-best · Series-best Driver Rating of 106.0 · 296 Fastest Laps Run, second-most · Average Green Flag Speed of 171.453 mph, fourth-fastest · 4,161 Laps in the Top 15 (79.5%), second-most · Series-high 612 Quality Passes Denny Hamlin (No. 11 FedEx Ground Toyota) · One win, three top fives, six top 10s; one pole · Average finish of 16.8 · Average Running Position of 12.1, fifth-best · Driver Rating of 97.4, sixth-best · 263 Fastest Laps Run, sixth-most · Average Green Flag Speed of 171.463 mph, third-fastest · 3,312 Laps in the Top 15 (67.4%), ninth-most Kevin Harvick (No. 4 Jimmy John's/ Budweiser Chevrolet) · One win, five top fives, nine top 10s; one pole · Average finish of 18.8 · Driver Rating of 90.4, 12th-best · 280 Fastest Laps Run, third-most · 949 Green Flag Passes, ninth-most · Average Green Flag Speed of 171.232 mph, seventh-fastest · 3,045 Laps in the Top 15 (58.1%), 12th-most · 470 Quality Passes, 11th-most Jimmie Johnson (No. 48 Lowe's Chevrolet) · Three wins, 12 top fives, 14 top 10s · Average finish of 11.5 · Series-best Average Running Position of 9.1 · Driver Rating of 104.9, second-best · 280 Fastest Laps Run, third-most · Series-best Average Green Flag Speed of 171.523 mph · Series-high 4,381 Laps in the Top 15 (83.7%) · 582 Quality Passes, third-most Matt Kenseth (No. 20 Dollar General Toyota) · Nine top fives, 15 top 10s · Average finish of 12.3 · Average Running Position of 12.2, sixth-best · Driver Rating of 97.9, fifth-best · 201 Fastest Laps Run, 12th-most · 1,034 Green Flag Passes, sixth-most · Average Green Flag Speed of 171.339 mph, fifth-fastest · 3,749 Laps in the Top 15 (71.6%), fourth-most · 544 Quality Passes, sixth-most Kyle Larson (No. 42 ENERGIZER Chevrolet) · One top 10 · Average finish of 8.0 · Average Running Position of 11.3, third-best · Driver Rating of 91.1, 10th-best Tony Stewart (No. 14 Bass Pro Shops/Mobil 1 Chevrolet) · Three wins, 10 top fives, 15 top 10s; one pole · Average finish of 12.7 · Average Running Position of 12.3, seventh-best · Driver Rating of 98.1, fourth-best · 233 Fastest Laps Run, ninth-most · Average Green Flag Speed of 171.191 mph, ninth-fastest · 3,353 Laps in the Top 15 (68.3%), eighth-most · 509 Quality Passes, 10th-most The NASCAR Sprint Cup Series 2015 Top 16 at Atlanta Motor Speedway Rank Driver Races Poles Wins Top Fives Top 10s DNFs Average Finish Driver Rating 1 Joey Logano 8 0 0 1 1 0 21.5 71.9 2 Kevin Harvick 24 1 1 5 9 4 18.8 90.4 3 Dale Earnhardt Jr. 27 2 1 8 12 2 12.3 92.7 4 Denny Hamlin 15 1 1 3 6 2 16.8 97.4 5 Jimmie Johnson 23 0 3 12 14 2 11.5 104.9 6 Casey Mears 19 0 0 0 0 2 22.5 59.1 7 Clint Bowyer 14 0 0 0 5 2 21.1 83 8 Martin Truex Jr. 16 1 0 2 4 4 20.4 90.1 9 Kasey Kahne 18 2 3 7 9 3 18.6 87.2 10 Greg Biffle 20 1 0 3 10 2 15.7 90.8 11 David Gilliland 13 0 0 0 0 2 26.8 56.6 12 Sam Hornish Jr. 7 0 0 0 0 1 27.1 57.9 13 Michael Annett 1 0 0 0 0 0 21 59.2 14 Austin Dillon 2 0 0 0 0 0 21.5 65.1 15 Aric Almirola 4 0 0 0 1 0 20.5 65.8 16 David Ragan 12 0 0 0 1 1 26.5 57.3 * – Based on last 16 races at Atlanta Motor Speedway (2005 – 2014). Atlanta Motor Speedway Data Season Race #: 2 of 36 (03-01-14) Track Size : 1.54-miles Banking/Turn 1 & 2 : 24 degrees Banking/Turn 3 & 4 : 24 degrees Banking/Frontstretch : 5 degrees Banking/Backstretch : 5 degrees Frontstretch Length : 2,332 feet Backstretch Length : 1,800 feet Race Length : 325 laps / 500.5 miles Top Driver Ratings at Atlanta Jeff Gordon .............................. 106.0 Jimmie Johnson ........................ 104.9 Carl Edwards ............................ 100.1 Tony Stewart ............................... 98.1 Matt Kenseth .............................. 97.9 Denny Hamlin ............................. 97.4 Dale Earnhardt Jr. ....................... 92.7 Kyle Larson. ............................... 91.1 Note: Driver Ratings compiled from 2005-2014 races (16 total) among active drivers at Atlanta Motor Speedway. Qualifying/Race Data 2014 pole winner : Kevin Harvick, Chevrolet 190.398 mph, 29.118 secs. 08-29-14 2014 race winner : Kasey Kahne, Chevrolet 131.514 mph, (03:55:22), 08-31-14 Track qualifying record: Geoffrey Bodine, Ford 197.478 mph, 28.074 secs. 11-15-97 Track race record: Bobby Labonte, Pontiac 159.904 mph, (03:07:48), 11-16-97 Statistical Advance Atlanta Motor Speedway: History · Originally called Atlanta International Raceway, the track was then a 1.5-mile paved speedway. · The first NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Atlanta was on July 31, 1960, won by Fireball Roberts from the pole. · The track was re-measured to 1.522 miles in the spring of 1970. · It was renamed Atlanta Motor Speedway in 1990. · The track layout was reversed and the track was re-configured to 1.54 miles between the two races in 1997. Notebook · There have been 107 NASCAR Sprint Cup races at Atlanta Motor Speedway since the first race there in 1960. Until 2010 there have been two races per year except 1961, which had three. This year marks the fourth season with only one event. · 552 drivers have competed in at least one NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Atlanta Motor Speedway; 367 in more than one. · Richard Petty leads the series in starts at Atlanta with 65. Jeff Gordon leads all active drivers with 41 starts, followed by Joe Nemechek with 38. · Fireball Roberts won the inaugural Coors Light pole at Atlanta in 1960 with a speed of 133.870 mph. · 48 drivers have Coors Light poles at Atlanta, led by Buddy Baker and Ryan Newman with seven each. · Winning consecutive Coors Light poles has happened eight times at Atlanta, among six drivers. · Ryan Newman holds the record for most consecutive poles at Atlanta with six; spring of 2003 through 2005. · Youngest Atlanta pole winner: Terry Labonte (03/15/1981 – 24 years, 3 months, 27 days). · Oldest Atlanta pole winner: Harry Gant (11/14/1993 – 53 years, 10 months, 4 days). · 43 different NSCS drivers have won at Atlanta Motor Speedway, led by NASCAR Hall of Famer Dale Earnhardt with nine wins. Jeff Gordon leads all active drivers with five. · 11 drivers have posted consecutive wins at Atlanta Motor Speedway: Marvin Panch (1965 sweep), Bobby Allison (1972 sweep), David Pearson (1973 sweep), Richard Petty (1974 fall, 1975 spring), Cale Yarborough (1980 fall, 1981 spring), Bill Elliott (1985 sweep; 1992 sweep), Dale Earnhardt (1989 fall, 1990 spring; 1995 fall, 1996 spring), Bobby Labonte (1997 fall, 1998 spring), Jeff Gordon (1998 fall, 1999 spring), Carl Edwards (2005 sweep), Jimmie Johnson (2007 sweep) · Youngest Atlanta winner: Kyle Busch (03/09/2008 – 22 years, 10 months, 7 days). · Oldest Atlanta winner: Morgan Shepherd (03/20/1993 – 51 years, 5 months, 8 days). · The Wood Brothers and Hendrick Motorsports have the most wins at Atlanta in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series with 12 each: o Wood Brothers: Cale Yarborough (three), David Pearson (three), Marvin Panch (two), Neil Bonnett (two) A.J. Foyt (one) and Morgan Shepherd (one). o Hendrick Motorsports: Jeff Gordon (five), Jimmie Johnson (three), Darrell Waltrip (one), Jerry Nadeau (one), Kasey Kahne (one) and Ken Schrader (one). o Joe Gibbs Racing has the third most wins at Atlanta with 11. · Nine different manufacturers have won in the NSCS at Atlanta; led by Chevrolet with 38 victories; followed by Ford (29), Pontiac (11), Dodge (nine), Mercury (eight), Buick (four), Plymouth (four), Toyota (three) and Oldsmobile (one). · 14 of the 107 (13.1%) NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races at Atlanta have been won from the Coors Light pole; the most recent was Kasey Kahne in 2006. · The fifth starting position is the most proficient starting position in the field, producing more winners (15) than any other starting position at Atlanta Motor Speedway; the most recent was Jeff Gordon in 2011. · 26 of the 107 (24.2%) NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races at Atlanta have been won from the front row: 14 from the pole and 12 from second-place. · 60 of the 107 (56.1%) NASCAR Sprint Cup races at Atlanta have been won from a top-five starting position. · 85 of the 107 (79.4%) NASCAR Sprint Cup races at Atlanta have been won from a top-10 starting position. · Seven of the 107 (6.5%) NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races at Atlanta have been won from a starting position outside the top 20. · The deepest in the field that a race winner has started at Atlanta is 39th, by Bobby Labonte in the fall of 2001. · No driver has swept the weekend at Atlanta Motor Speedway across all three NASCAR national series. Two drivers have won in multiple NASCAR national series in the same weekend at Atlanta: Carl Edwards (2005, NSCS/NNS); (fall 2008, NSCS/NNS) and Kyle Busch (spring 2008, NSCS/NCWTS) · Dale Earnhardt and David Pearson lead the series in runner-up finishes at Atlanta with seven each; Jeff Gordon leads all active drivers with five. · Dale Earnhardt leads the series in top-five finishes at Atlanta with 26; Jeff Gordon leads all active drivers with 16. · Richard Petty leads the series in top-10 finishes at Atlanta with 33; Jeff Gordon leads all active drivers with 26. · Ryan Newman leads all active drivers in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series in average starting position at Atlanta with a 7.409. · Jimmie Johnson leads all active drivers in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series in average finishing position at 11.522. · Nine of the 10 active NASCAR Sprint Cup Series winners at Atlanta Motor Speedway participated in at least one or more races before visiting Victory Lane. Kevin Harvick won at Atlanta in his first appearance (2001). Carl Edwards won in his second appearance (2005). · Denny Hamlin competed at Atlanta Motor Speedway 12 times before winning in the spring of 2012; the longest span of any the 10 active NASCAR Sprint Cup Series winners. · Among the 10 active NSCS Atlanta winners Denny Hamlin (12) is the only driver to have made 10 or more attempts before his first win. · Joe Nemechek leads the series among active drivers with the most NASCAR Sprint Cup Series starts at Atlanta without visiting Victory Lane at 38; followed by Matt Kenseth with 26. · Since the advent of electronic scoring the closest margin of victory (MOV) in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series at Atlanta Motor Speedway was the March 11, 2001 race won by Kevin Harvick over Jeff Gordon with a MOV of 0.006 second. · There have been four NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races resulting with a green-white-checkered finish at Atlanta Motor Speedway (Scheduled No. of Laps/Actual No. of Laps): fall of 2007 (325/329); spring of 2010 (325/341), fall of 2012 (325/327) and 2014 (325/335). · Qualifying has been cancelled due to weather conditions in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series at Atlanta Motor Speedway five times; most recently the fall of 2010. · One active driver has posted his first career NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Coors Light pole at Atlanta Motor Speedway: Ricky Stenhouse Jr. (9/01/2013). · Two active NASCAR Sprint Cup Series drivers have posted their first career start at Atlanta Motor Speedway: Jeff Gordon (11/15/1992) and Martin Truex Jr. (10/31/2004). · Two active NASCAR Sprint Cup Series drivers have posted their first career win at Atlanta Motor Speedway: Kevin Harvick (3/11/2001) and Carl Edwards (3/20/2005). · Cale Yarborough leads all drivers in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series in laps led at Atlanta with 3,283 laps led in 47 starts. Jeff Gordon leads all active drivers in laps led at Atlanta with 1,297. · Three female drivers have competed at Atlanta Motor Speedway in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series: Janet Guthrie, Shawna Robinson and Danica Patrick. Driver Starting Position Finishing Position Date Janet Guthrie 34 30 3/20/1977 Janet Guthrie 19 16 11/6/1977 Janet Guthrie 23 10 3/19/1978 Shawna Robinson 31 34 3/10/2002 Danica Patrick 23 29 9/2/2012 Danica Patrick 21 21 9/1/2013 Danica Patrick 27 6 8/31/2014 NASCAR in Georgia · There have been 166 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races among 12 different tracks in Georgia. Track Name City NSCS Atlanta Motor Speedway Hampton 107 Augusta International Speedway Augusta 12 Lakewood Speedway Atlanta 11 Savannah Speedway Savannah 10 Middle Georgia Raceway Macon 9 Central City Speedway Macon 7 Valdosta 75 Speedway Valdosta 3 Jeffco Speedway Jefferson 2 Oglethorpe Speedway Savannah 2 Augusta International Raceway Augusta 1 Columbus Speedway Columbus 1 Hayloft Speedway Augusta 1 · 180 drivers in NASCAR national series history have their home state recorded as Georgia; 15 have won at least once in one of NASCAR’s national series. · 11 of the 178 have posted at least one victory in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series. · Bill Elliott (five wins) is the only Georgia native to have won at Atlanta Motor Speedway in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series. MORE: Driver NSCS NXS NCWTS Bill Elliott 44 1 0 Tim Flock 39 0 0 Jack Smith 21 0 0 Fonty Flock 19 0 0 Bob Flock 4 0 0 Frank Mundy 3 0 0 David Ragan 2 2 0 Gober Sosebee 2 0 0 Harold Kite 1
NASCAR reminds teams of severe penalties Vote: Who will win at Martinsville? " Play: NASCAR Fantasy Live Related: Crew chief Childers loves chatter about tires MARTINSVILLE, Va. -- NASCAR gave teams a reminder Friday morning about the severity of tampering with tires, a hot-button issue after the sanctioning body sent the Goodyears from select teams for an independent audit the last two weeks. Hendrick Motorsports crew chiefs Alan Gustafson and Chad Knaus, making an early Friday media appearance at Martinsville Speedway , addressed the issue, saying their frantic schedules on race weekends prevented them from witnessing any prohibited behavior first-hand. Still, NASCAR's confiscations and the rumblings at the track made the issue hard to ignore. "It's hard to speculate because that's all I can do, but in my experience there's a lot of smoke around that, right?" said Gustafson, who oversees preparation for Jeff Gordon 's No. 24 Chevrolet. "There's a lot of talk, there's a lot of dialogue, there's a lot of rumors in the garage. So yeah, I think some people think something is going on. And is NASCAR reacting to that or do they feel uncomfortable with what's going on? I don't know that answer. "I do think that it is something that's on the forefront of a lot of people's minds and obviously NASCAR is trying to make sure that we're all on a level playing field and if anyone is violating that that they'll pay the price, which they've reminded us this morning is very, very stiff. That's all I know, but anything beyond that speculation beside the fact is that it's a hot topic obviously." NASCAR took the tires from two teams -- those of points leader Kevin Harvick and Joey Logano -- after the season's fourth Sprint Cup Series race, at Phoenix International Raceway . Harvick's tires were taken again for independent study after last weekend's race at Auto Club Speedway , joining those from the cars driven by fellow Chevrolet drivers Kurt Busch , Paul Menard and Ryan Newman . Officials issued no penalties or expanded details from their findings, and NASCAR Executive Vice President and Chief Racing Development Officer Steve O'Donnell said in a recent appearance on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio that the "audits" were routine. WATCH: Drivers sound off on tire tampering talk Any infraction involving manipulating tires falls under the heading of a P5 penalty -- the second-highest severity in the NASCAR deterrence system, which was introduced before the 2014 season. The NASCAR Rule Book provides examples of P5 penalties, including a specific passage about tires in Section 18.104.22.168.1.a, which states, "Effecting, modifying and/or altering the standard tires in any way, other than through authorized means such as tire pressure adjustments within the recommended range, permitted tire cooling when mounted on the race vehicle; or heat-cycling on the race vehicle on the race track earlier in the Event." The punishment for a P5 violation includes the loss of 50 points in the driver and team owner standings, a fine ranging from $75,000 to $125,000, a six-race suspension for the crew chief, probation until the end of the calendar year for all suspended crewmembers, and any other applicable penalties. The practice of teams potentially "needling" tires with miniscule holes, Gustafson said, would "be a very difficult thing to police." The tactic is intended to provide a slow release of air, which would allow tire pressures to remain more consistent -- while improving grip and durability -- over the course of a green-flag run. Ordinarily, pressures rise as the tires heat up, changing the handling characteristics of the car. Gordon said that he has been a longtime advocate for NASCAR adopting bleeder valves on its tires to better regulate pressure. "I came from sprint cars where they're just built into the wheel," Gordon said. "You set them. Those might not be advanced enough for what we need in a Cup car and a Cup tire, but it just makes sense. It's crazy what we do with air pressures and these big, heavy cars build the air pressures up so much that we're always trying to start them real low, which always causes issues for Goodyear and the teams. They just increase, increase, increase. "So it makes sense to me that we have bleeder valves, but because we don't, it's pushing the teams to do things. … I've heard about a lot of things with valve caps and poking holes in tires for years, but I've never seen it done, have never had proof that it was done, so it's very interesting to me that NASCAR is investigating this further and I look forward to seeing what comes out of it. "If they find a way to stop that, if it's really going on, I get excited about our chances because I know that we're not doing it, so it will close the gap for us to whoever may be doing it. WATCH: Chris Rice explains the issue Gordon was at the center of another TireGate in September 1998, when rival team owner Jack Roush accused his Hendrick team of using illegal, chemically treated tires to gain an advantage. He said Friday that if Ray Evernham, his crew chief, was doing something illegal back then, he wasn't aware of it. No team has been outed as a rule-breaker yet, but the murmurs of unusual happenings in the garage persist. Gordon said when the rumor mill churns as loudly as its current tenor, there's something to it -- just how it's being done is the question. "I don't know if there's anything or not," said Knaus, crew chief for Hendrick's No. 48 Chevy driven by Jimmie Johnson -- like Gordon, an eight-time Martinsville winner. "I'm busy on Sunday and I don't have a lot of friends in the garage. I don't talk to anybody else, either, so it's OK. My friends are outside of racing. So I don't know what's going on. I know I sent ( Sprint Cup managing director) Richard Buck a text and I said, 'Hey man, can we poke holes in our tires? Is that OK?' and he sent me a text back that said, 'Absolutely not.' So that's all I know." Denny Hamlin said that NASCAR told all crew chiefs at Phoenix International Raceway last fall to discontinue the tactic, but since it deals with one of the three so-called sacred areas -- engine, tires and fuel -- the penalties should be fittingly severe. "If it's out there and they know about it, you should be gone forever," said Hamlin, a four-time Martinsville winner. "I mean, that's a major, major, major thing. This isn't like the old rodeo days of being able to go out there and run a big motor or soak the tires. This is a professional sport and when people alter tires that's a big, big deal. Definitely no room for it in the sport, that's for sure. Hope they clamp down on that if they do find it, and if they find it multiple times with somebody, they should have a permanent vacation somewhere." That said, Hamlin acknowledged that trying to make the distinction between a natural tire leak and a man-made one is difficult. "They'll figure out a way, and whether it will be with someone else taking a look at the tires to try to figure it out, they'll find it," Hamlin said of NASCAR officials. "And when they do, that person when they feel NASCAR getting hot on them, they're going to stop doing it and that's maybe when you'll see some performance differences. You never know." MORE: READ: Latest NASCAR news PLAY: Sign up for Fantasy Live WATCH: Latest NASCAR video FOLLOW LIVE: Get RaceView today FULL SERIES COVERAGE • Latest news • Standings • Schedule
Breaking down how the full 43-car field fared at Phoenix International Raceway Play: NASCAR Fantasy Live RELATED: Full race results " Updated series standings 1. Kevin Harvick , No. 4 Chevrolet , Stewart-Haas Racing . The desert domination continued for Harvick and the No. 4 bunch, which led 224 of 312 laps in the team's fourth straight Phoenix victory. Harvick's second straight NASCAR Sprint Cup Series win increased his streak of top-two finishes to seven, the first driver to accomplish it since Richard Petty in 1975. "That gives me chills," said the defending Sprint Cup champ. 2. Jamie McMurray , No. 1 Chevrolet , Chip Ganassi Racing . Though he voiced concerns about a tire going down to crew chief Matt McCall in the final 50 laps, McMurray persevered for his best Sprint Cup finish since winning at Talladega Superspeedway in October 2013. McCall's decision to keep the No. 1 on the track over the final fuel run gave McMurray a chance to battle hard with Harvick in the late stages. 3. Ryan Newman , No. 31 Chevrolet , Richard Childress Racing . Newman went all the way into late June last year before he notched his first top-five finish of the season. Four races into the 2015 campaign, Newman already has two top-fives -- his 99th and 100th of his career -- thanks to his second straight third-place finish. 4. Kasey Kahne , No. 5 Chevrolet , Hendrick Motorsports . Kahne saved his best finish of the season for his 400th start in NASCAR's premier series, moving up two spots to fourth place in the Sprint Cup standings in the process. "I hope I get 400 more," said the 34-year-old driver. 5. Kurt Busch , No. 41 Chevrolet , Stewart-Haas Racing . The driver formerly known as "The Outlaw" ran second to his SHR teammate Harvick for much of the waning stages, but lost ground when he pitted for fresh tires with 22 laps left. In his first race of the season since NASCAR lifted his suspension, Busch was all business, telling his crew on the radio on the cool-down lap that he thought he had "enough good will saved up, but top five is exactly where we need to be." " Sign up for Scanner today to hear in-car audio 6. Brad Keselowski , No. 2 Ford , Team Penske . The 2012 Sprint Cup champ led the second-most laps (52) and landed his best finish of the season, but remains on the hunt for his first top-five. "We just didn't quite have enough speed," said Keselowski, who drove the top-finishing Ford. "I thought we were about a third- or fourth-place car and got shuffled to finish where we did." 7. Martin Truex Jr ., No. 78 Chevrolet , Furniture Row Racing . The scrappy Colorado-based team continued its upswing, moving to third in the early Sprint Cup standings. Truex rose to as high as second place Sunday, gaining two spots on a 126th-lap restart and leading his spotter to exclaim, "All clear, you are the man!" Truex joins points leader Kevin Harvick and Daytona 500 winner Joey Logano as the only three drivers with top-10 finishes in all four races thus far. " Sign up for RaceView to see in-car video on race days 8. Joey Logano , No. 22 Ford , Team Penske . Logano led twice (the only driver other than Harvick to lead more than once) for 35 laps, benefitting from some fleet-footed pit work from his No. 22 crew. He rallied back after a pit stop during the next-to-last caution period, saying afterward, "getting a top-10 is great but we want to win some more." 9. Jeff Gordon , No. 24 Chevrolet , Hendrick Motorsports . The first top-10 finish of Gordon's final full season in NASCAR's top division couldn't come soon enough, helping him jump five spots to 25th in the Sprint Cup standings. He gave up third place by pitting during the ninth of 10 yellow flags, but threaded his way back for his fourth top-10 in his last five Phoenix races. 10. Kyle Larson , No. 42 Chevrolet , Chip Ganassi Racing . Larson survived a dicey moment shortly after a restart in the 126th lap when Kevin Harvick pushed on his back bumper, getting the No. 42 askew off Turn 4. Larson kept headed in the right direction, securing his second straight top-10 finish. 11. Jimmie Johnson , No. 48 Chevrolet , Hendrick Motorsports . Johnson's adventures came early and late in the 312-lapper at Phoenix: He collided with Brian Vickers at the end of the first lap, leading Johnson to tell crew chief Chad Knaus on the radio, "It's so weird, he left me a lane and came over on the straight." Johnson pressed on after more contact with Carl Edwards on pit road during the race's seventh caution. 12. Ricky Stenhouse Jr ., No. 17 Ford , Roush Fenway Racing . Stenhouse was at the head of the Roush Fenway class Sunday, marking his best Sprint Cup finish since a sixth-place effort at Bristol Motor Speedway last August. The effort wasn't without some drama, an 81st-lap nudge from Tony Stewart that sent him out of the groove and cost him a handful of spots early on. 13. Carl Edwards , No. 19 Toyota , Joe Gibbs Racing . Over his radio in the final stages, Edwards -- who withstood a collision with Jimmie Johnson 's No. 48 on pit road -- radioed his crew that the No. 19 was "shaking like hell," but he was assured that a flapping piece of sheet metal at the rear was upsetting the car's balance. His JGR entry was the highest-finishing Toyota in the 43-car field. " Sign up for Scanner today to hear in-car audio 14. Paul Menard , No. 27 Chevrolet , Richard Childress Racing . Menard's third straight finish on the outskirts of the top 10 didn't come without some excitement as he just missed Tony Stewart 's spinning car in the 238th lap. "I may have just kissed it, but nothing major," he told his RCR crew. 15. Austin Dillon , No. 3 Chevrolet , Richard Childress Racing . Another RCR driver having a more definitive brush with Tony Stewart was Dillon, who sustained a 143rd-lap bump off the fourth turn. Displeased team owner Richard Childress, Dillon's grandfather, gave him some stern instruction for dealing with Stewart over the team radio: "You know what to do when you get back there." 16. Matt Kenseth , No. 20 Toyota , Joe Gibbs Racing . Kenseth spent his fair share of the day mixing it up among the top 10, but an 188th-lap penalty for speeding exiting the pits cost the No. 20 group precious track position. 17. AJ Allmendinger , No. 47 Chevrolet , JTG-Daugherty Racing. The 'Dinger overcame a pair of Phoenix setbacks -- starting at the rear of the field because of a Saturday engine change, then seeing his jack man sidelined by injury on an early pit stop. The solid finish kept Allmendinger firmly in the provisional Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup playoff grid, fifth in the series standings. 18. Justin Allgaier , No. 51 Chevrolet , HScott Motorsports . Allgaier sewed up his best finish of the season, but also drew some initial criticism from Tony Stewart after their 238th-lap battle sent Smoke spinning. "I don't think I crowded him, but you know how it is," Allgaier told his crew, noting the difficulties in judging his line through the third and fourth turns. " Sign up for Scanner today to hear in-car audio 19. Aric Almirola , No. 43 Ford , Richard Petty Motorsports . Almirola lamented his car's struggles with handling, especially in traffic, but was hopeful for a rebound next Sunday at Auto Club Speedway , site of the third and final leg of NASCAR's West Coast Swing. "Our intermediate program has been good this year, so we'll look to getting up front next week in California," Almirola said. 20. Casey Mears , No. 13 Chevrolet , Germain Racing . Handling woes kept the No. 13 from making progress during the 500-kilometer race, but Mears tweeted hours after the checkered flag that the team found a problem in the right-rear that was the culprit. Despite the midpack finish, he still held a tenuous grip on the 12th of 16 spots in the provisional Chase grid. 21. David Ragan , No. 18 Toyota , Joe Gibbs Racing . Ragan's stint as a substitute for the injured Kyle Busch has yet to produce a finish better than his interim car number. Sunday, it produced an irate Danica Patrick after their late-race run-in. Ragan's JGR team celebrated as last year's winner at Auto Club Speedway , where Busch scored his only Sprint Cup victory of the season. 22. Landon Cassill , No. 40 Chevrolet , Hillman Smith Motorsports. The Iowa native posted his best finish of the Sprint Cup season by a wide margin, finishing on the lead lap for the first time in 2015. He was the recipient of the free pass back onto the lead lap three times in the early going. 23. Denny Hamlin , No. 11 Toyota, Joe Gibbs Racing . Finishing last among the JGR contingent didn't sit well with Hamlin, who hopes to bounce back into form at Auto Club Speedway , a track that has been a house of horrors, injury-wise, for him the last two years. "We have to go to California and offset this," he told his No. 11 team on the cool-down lap. " Sign up for Scanner today to hear in-car audio 24. Clint Bowyer , No. 15 Toyota , Michael Waltrip Racing . An unscheduled pit stop for a loose wheel in the 143rd lap left Bowyer shouting a stream of profanities over his team radio near the race's midpoint. He received the free pass back onto the lead lap during the sixth of 10 caution periods. 25. Cole Whitt , No. 35 Ford , Front Row Motorsports . Whitt matched his best performance in five career Sprint Cup starts at Phoenix International Raceway , but also held the distinction Sunday as the race's biggest gainer, finishing 14 spots up from his starting position. 26. Danica Patrick , No. 10 Chevrolet , Stewart-Haas Racing . Patrick found herself at the tail of the field after drawing a 201st-lap penalty for her crew's failure to control a tire on pit road, then spun through turns 3 and 4 after a significant nudge from David Ragan 's No. 18. "Nice try, Mr. Nice Guy Ragan," she told her crew under caution. " Sign up for Scanner today to hear in-car audio 27. Greg Biffle , No. 16 Ford , Roush Fenway Racing . A loose wheel with roughly 75 laps to go cost Biffle dearly when he was forced to make an unscheduled green-flag pit stop. He was the beneficiary of the race's next caution flag, but wound up as the final driver on the lead lap in his worst finish of the season. 28. Trevor Bayne , No. 6 Ford , Roush Fenway Racing . After going a lap down to leader Kevin Harvick in the race's first half, Bayne said, "I about flipped over trying to keep up with him. Loose in, about to wreck every lap. Just terrible." Bayne matched both his result from the previous week and the number of laps down at the finish (3). 29. David Gilliland , No. 38 Ford , Front Row Motorsports . Gilliland illustrated the tooth-and-nail nature of racing back in the pack when he traded paint with Mike Bliss down the backstretch early on, trying to avoid going a lap down. He eventually did, winding up three laps back at the checkered flag in his worst result so far in 2015. 30. Alex Bowman , No. 7 Chevrolet , Tommy Baldwin Racing . The second-year driver made the most of an ill-handling car, telling his TBR crew over the radio about feeling "brake shake" as the race entered its second half. It marked a modest improvement over Bowman's last-place finish the previous weekend in Las Vegas. 31. J.J. Yeley , No. 23 Toyota , BK Racing . High hopes for a solid day in his Arizona hometown went for naught with his worst finish at the 1-mile track since spring 2011. The performance left him 0-for-13 in the top-10 column over his Sprint Cup career at Phoenix. 32. Brett Moffitt , No. 34 Ford , Front Row Motorsports . In two starts thus far as David Ragan 's sub in the No. 34, Moffitt has been unable to replicate the magic from his eighth-place outing earlier in the season as Brian Vickers ' fill-in at MWR. He'll get another shot this Sunday at Auto Club Speedway in the last of his three scheduled drives for the Front Row team. 33. Mike Bliss , No. 32 Ford , GoFAS Racing. After Bliss failed to qualify the previous weekend at Las Vegas Motor Speedway , the No. 32 was back on track Sunday at Phoenix. The veteran won a NASCAR Camping World Truck Series event at Phoenix in 1998, but has been no better than 20th in the desert in his Sprint Cup career. 34. Jeb Burton , No. 26 Toyota , BK Racing . The rocky start to Burton's Sprint Cup tenure continued Sunday at Phoenix, but the 22-year-old can take some solace in wrapping up a career-best finish. "We made big gains this weekend had a better car then (sic) where we finished," Burton tweeted after the race. "Proud of the effort all weekend." 35. Matt DiBenedetto , No. 83 Toyota , BK Racing . After failing to qualify the previous two weeks at Atlanta and Las Vegas, DiBenedetto's Sprint Cup debut finally came. He drove home in the same position that he started -- 35th. 36. Josh Wise , No. 98 Ford , Phil Parsons Racing. Wise lagged to his lowest finish of the season, continuing a trend of finishing 35th or worse in all six of his Sprint Cup starts at Phoenix International Raceway . 37. Brendan Gaughan , No. 62 Chevrolet , Premium Motorsports. Gaughan sits sixth in the standings in his regular circuit, the NASCAR XFINITY Series, but the results haven't been there on the Sprint Cup side. His third start of the season in the Jay Robinson-owned ride marked his 45th career start in NASCAR's top series. 38. Alex Kennedy , No. 33 Chevrolet , Circle Sport Racing. Kennedy started last in the Joe Falk-owned Chevy and recovered from a Turn 3 spin during the 16th lap. He wound up eight laps down in making his first Sprint Cup start of the year. 39. Tony Stewart , No. 14 Chevrolet , Stewart-Haas Racing . Smoke used brute force to complete two passes earlier in the race, but found close-quarters racing with Justin Allgaier to be his undoing in the 238th lap. Stewart scraped the wall again 52 laps later, ending his day. The three-time series champ has just 32 points, lowest among drivers who have run all four Sprint Cup events this year. 40. Sam Hornish Jr ., No. 9 Ford , Richard Petty Motorsports . Involvement in the fourth yellow flag (for a solo spin) and the ninth caution period (for catching a piece of Tony Stewart 's second crash of the day) doomed any chances at Phoenix, the site of his first NASCAR XFINITY Series victory. The Petty No. 9 spent plenty of time behind the wall for repairs, finishing 35 laps down at the end. 41. Brian Vickers , No. 55 Toyota , Michael Waltrip Racing . Vickers' second start of the year went awry as he crossed the stripe to complete Lap 1, when he collided with Jimmie Johnson 's car on the frontstretch. "What happened to all clear?" Vickers exclaimed, raising the possibility of miscommunication with his MWR spotter. 42. Michael Annett , No. 46 Chevrolet , HScott Motorsports . Annett's car sputtered down on the apron in the 63rd lap, leading him to radio his crew: "Something rattling around in the drivetrain. … It's in gear and nothing gets power to it." Once in the garage, crew chief Jay Guy issued a warning to the No. 46 crew: "The gear is burned up. Do not expose it to air, it will catch on fire." Annett eventually returned to the track, finishing 110 laps down. " Sign up for Scanner today to hear in-car audio 43. Dale Earnhardt Jr ., No. 88 Chevrolet , Hendrick Motorsports . A blown right-rear tire sent Earnhardt's car careening into the Turn 2 wall, severely damaging the rear end and snapping his streak of three top-five finishes to start the season. Earnhardt was uninjured and was at least able to joke about the situation, which happened suddenly in the 182nd lap. "They never tell you they are going to blow out, never," he said with a laugh. "You don't ever have a warning." MORE: READ: Latest NASCAR news PLAY: Sign up for Fantasy Live WATCH: Latest NASCAR video FOLLOW LIVE: Get RaceView today FULL SERIES COVERAGE • Latest news • Standings • Schedule
Smith will act as Jeff Gordon's fill-in in the Coca-Cola 600 if need be
Driver nabs award for 12th straight year DARLINGTON, S.C. -- Dale Earnhardt Jr ., winner of four NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races in 2014 and eighth overall in the final points standings, has been named the 2014 recipient of the Sprint NMPA Most Popular Driver award for the series. It is the 12th consecutive year that Earnhardt Jr., 40, has won the award. In addition to the trophy he received during Friday evening's season-ending NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Awards Ceremony at the Wynn Las Vegas, Earnhardt will collect a check for $10,000 earmarked for the charity of his choice. "Even after all these years, I never have an assumption that I have won it," Earnhardt Jr. said after receiving the award. "You just never know. I never anticipated having the support that we have. When I began racing, I knew of my father's support, he had a ton of fans. … I didn't assume or anticipate the following that we have, even today it really is just overwhelming. It really is hard to believe and hard to fathom that we continue to win this award; this was a good year because of the victories we were able to deliver on the race track but all those years when we weren't … it was very difficult to accept the award because I felt we hadn't performed. But our fans stood behind us. It just says a lot about their loyalty." In his speech, accepting the award, Earnhardt Jr. thanked the fans numerous times. And Junior shared an interesting fact about the speech, he didn't use the teleprompter. "It was the first time I gave my speech without reading it from the teleprompter or a piece of paper so I hope my remarks came across well because I genuinely do appreciate all the efforts the fans put in. "I was able to literally witness it in the palm of my hand all year long. The fans were up all day every day voting … that was the most impressive thing." Earnhardt Jr. joined Twitter after his Daytona 500 win this year and he got to converse with his fans in a whole new way this season. "People ask me all the time about what the most positive thing about being on Twitter this year was and I never could give them my honest opinion because I hadn't won the award, but having won it tonight, seeing those votes every day, seeing that commitment and determination was really inspiring knowing that we had that kind of support. They were up before I was every day, going to town on that … computer. It really meant a lot to me." And that fan support was there for Junior on social media, in good times and bad. "I got to know my fans really in a whole new way this year. We got to talk a lot on social media. When we lost we talked, when we won we talked and that was a great experience for me as well, and all-around an eye-opener to make that connection that wasn't there before." Completing the top 10 in total votes for this year's award were (listed alphabetically): Carl Edwards , Jeff Gordon , Jimmie Johnson , Kasey Kahne , Matt Kenseth , Brad Keselowski , Danica Patrick , Tony Stewart and Josh Wise . The MPD award, sponsored by Sprint and overseen by the National Motorsports Press Association, is the only NASCAR award determined solely by fan vote. It has been awarded annually since 1953. Beginning in July, fans were able to vote once daily by visiting www.sprint.com/speed. Those who chose to share their votes via social media (Facebook, Twitter) were allowed one additional vote during each 24-hour window. Additionally, fans were able to cast votes for their favorite driver by visiting the Sprint Experience at the track during NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race weekends throughout the year. Bill Elliott holds the record for most MPD awards, winning the fan vote 16 times during a career that spanned 37 years. Previous MPD Winners Year, recipient 2014, Dale Earnhardt Jr . 2013, Dale Earnhardt Jr . 2012, Dale Earnhardt Jr . 2011, Dale Earnhardt Jr . 2010, Dale Earnhardt Jr . 2009, Dale Earnhardt Jr . 2008, Dale Earnhardt Jr . 2007, Dale Earnhardt Jr . 2006, Dale Earnhardt Jr . 2005, Dale Earnhardt Jr . 2004, Dale Earnhardt Jr . 2003, Dale Earnhardt Jr . 2002, Bill Elliott 2001, Dale Earnhardt 2000, Bill Elliott 1999, Bill Elliott 1998, Bill Elliott 1997, Bill Elliott 1996, Bill Elliott 1995, Bill Elliott 1994, Bill Elliott 1993, Bill Elliott 1992, Bill Elliott 1991, Bill Elliott 1990, Darrell Waltrip 1989, Darrell Waltrip 1988, Bill Elliott 1987, Bill Elliott 1986, Bill Elliott 1985, Bill Elliott 1984, Bill Elliott 1983, Bobby Allison 1982, Bobby Allison 1981, Bobby Allison 1980, David Pearson 1979, David Pearson 1978, Richard Petty 1977, Richard Petty 1976, Richard Petty 1975, Richard Petty 1974, Richard Petty 1973, Bobby Allison 1972, Bobby Allison 1971, Bobby Allison 1970, Richard Petty 1969, Bobby Isaac 1968, Richard Petty 1967, Cale Yarborough 1966, Darel Dieringer 1965, Fred Lorenzen 1964, Richard Petty 1963, Fred Lorenzen 1962, Richard Petty 1961, Joe Weatherly 1960, Rex White 1959, Jack Smith 1958, Glen Wood 1957, Fireball Roberts 1956, Curtis Turner 1955, Tim Flock 1954, Lee Petty 1953, Lee Petty MORE: READ: Latest Chase news PLAY: Monitor your Chase Grid Game picks WATCH: Latest NASCAR video FOLLOW LIVE: Get RaceView FULL SERIES COVERAGE • Latest news • Standings • Schedule
JR Motorsports will make its Truck debut this weekend at Martinsville Play: NASCAR Fantasy Live Kelley Earnhardt Miller appeared on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio Wednesday. Among other topics, she discussed JR Motorsports' first NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race this weekend at Martinsville Speedway . Earnhardt Miller, co-owner of JR Motorsports, said earlier this year that there were no plans at that time to field the organization’s Camping World Truck Series team for any races beyond the 10 currently in place with driver Cole Custer . On Wednesday she said that was still the case, but also said Sprint Cup Series Dale Earnhardt Jr . had broached the subject of driving the truck. "He's definitely mentioned that that's something he might be interested in," Earnhardt Miller said. "I think he would want to see how the program is going to do, and make sure we have the resources and the capability to do that. Let Cole the team get off the ground first and see how that goes." The organization will make its CWTS debut this weekend at Martinsville Speedway , fielding the No. 00 Chevrolet for Custer in Saturday’s Kroger 250 (FOX Sports 1, 2:30 p.m. ET). The entry will carry sponsorship from Haas Automation and will be under the direction of crew chief Joe Shear Jr. Earnhardt Miller, Earnhardt Jr. and Sprint Cup Series team owner Rick Hendrick share ownership of JRM. One of the organization’s three full-time XFINITY Series teams features multiple Sprint Cup drivers, Earnhardt Jr., Kevin Harvick and Kasey Kahne , behind the wheel for select events. Two other full-time teams feature drivers Chase Elliott and Regan Smith , who finished 1-2 in points, respectively, last season. "He (Earnhardt Jr.) and some others have expressed interest in running the truck," Earnhardt Miller said. “We’ve actually gotten calls from other people saying ‘do you want to fill out the balance of your schedule and run it full time?' "We really don't want to do that. We want to focus on Cole. If the opportunity exists to put a couple of the Cup drivers in there to make our program stronger, (that's) really why would we want to do that… "I won’t say it’s not going to happen but there aren’t any concrete plans for it to happen right now." Even though the XFINITY Series is taking a one-week break after five consecutive races to open the 2015 season, it is shaping up to be a big weekend for JRM. Custer, 17, made his NCWTS debut last season with Haas Racing Development and became the youngest winner in a NASCAR national series event when he won the UNOH 175 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway . In only nine starts, he scored six top-10s and two poles. Elliott, the defending XFINITY Series champion, will attempt to make his Sprint Cup Series debut in Sunday’s STP 500 at Martinsville. The 19-year-old is scheduled to step into the Hendrick Motorsports No. 24 Chevrolet in 2016, replacing four-time series champion Jeff Gordon . HMS will field a No. 25 entry for Elliott this weekend, with veteran crew chief Kenny Francis heading up the team. With Elliott already tabbed for the move to Sprint Cup next season, Custer could be auditioning for a full-time XFINITY Series ride with the organization. "Hopefully, that (truck effort) will roll into an XFINITY Series ride for Cole, depending on how he performs," Earnhardt Miller said. It will be the first start of the season for Custer, who is limited to competing on road courses and tracks 1.1 miles or less in length due to his age. MORE: READ: Latest NASCAR news PLAY: Sign up for Fantasy Live WATCH: Latest NASCAR video FOLLOW LIVE: Get RaceView today FULL SERIES COVERAGE • Latest news • Standings • Schedule
GarageCam takes you inside the Sprint Cup Series garage at Martinsville Speedway.
AJ Allmendinger stops by the #NASCARGoesWest RV to visit with Chuck Bush and Matthew Dillner. Visit CampingWorld.com to find everything you need for your RV!
With new crew chief, JR Motorsports driver looks to defend 2014 Daytona win Play: NASCAR Fantasy Live DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. -- As last year's runner-up in the NASCAR XFINITY Series, Regan Smith has only one possible spot to move up the pecking order in the season-long standings. He'll make that effort by working with new crew chief Jason Burdett, starting a communication process that is more personal than one might think. "We go to the movies, we go to dinner … no, I'm just messing with you," Smith said during a playful moment at last week's NASCAR Media Day. "We skip through the park together. In all seriousness, we've spent quite a bit of time together just at the shop." The imagery, which could've been plucked from an online dating commercial, doesn't quite capture the early semblances of team chemistry for the JR Motorsports No. 7 Chevrolet group. But at the same time, Smith said the getting-to-know-you phase has been an important step in moving forward. "I think the season holds some change," Smith said. "New crew chief, some new guys coming in. We kept most of our team intact other than the crew chief position, so that's going to be a good thing. I think it holds a strong year and a solid year that needs to be stronger than last year was. That means only one position that we can go from where we were." The 31-year-old veteran's journey begins with Saturday's season-opening Alert Today Florida 300 (3:30 p.m. ET, FOX Sports 1) at Daytona International Speedway, where Smith is the defending race winner. It marks his third year with JRM, which ran 1-2 in the final XFINITY standings last season, with rookie Chase Elliott hoisting the series title. The opening win wound up being the No. 7 team's only victory in 2014, prompting JR Motorsports to shuffle the crew chief order, replacing Ryan Pemberton with Burdett, who boasts a history of working on championship-level Sprint Cup Series teams. Though the NASCAR-mandated ban on testing has limited some of the time it takes for a team to become a more cohesive group, Smith said he has little concern about putting the pairing into action for the 33-race long haul. "Our relationship was good before he came to work there, but it's gotten better since he's come to JR Motorsports," Smith said. "The more I've been around him and seen how he acts with the guys, how he handles the guys, how the guys act with him -- it's gotten me more and more excited about getting down here and just getting everything started." Without testing, Smith has had plenty of off-track developments to keep him busy in the offseason. His wife, Megan, is expecting the couple's first child -- a boy -- any day now. For a man who finds comfort driving cars at rapid rate of speed, Smith described the couple's experience at a birthing class with one word -- "terrifying." "I walked out of there, and I'm not going to lie, I got a beer almost immediately," Smith said. "Outside of that, it was good." The other major life adventure of the offseason involved driving of a different sort, a nearly 1,600-mile road trip to Colorado for Thanksgiving with his team boss, Dale Earnhardt Jr. After forging through the night, rain and fog to help move a truck to Smith's Rocky Mountain home, it left Smith with a better appreciation for their relationship -- not to mention a better impersonation of Earnhardt's trademark North Carolina twang. "I feel like we know quite a bit about each other, just as friends," Smith said. "Yeah, he's a boss, but he's a friend, too. Fortunate to have that situation." MORE: READ: Latest NASCAR news PLAY: Sign up for Fantasy Live WATCH: Latest NASCAR video FOLLOW LIVE: Get RaceView today FULL SERIES COVERAGE • Latest news • Standings • Schedule
Crafton: 'It was very, very tough, but that's what we get paid to do' SHOP: Buy Daytona 500 gear RELATED: Get full race results " Series standings DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. -- NASCAR's first Sprint Cup Series race since 2001 without a driver named Busch in the field featured two high-profile substitutes in stock-car racing's highest-profile event. In the end, keeping a low profile worked out for both late-hour fill-ins. Both Matt Crafton and Regan Smith had hopes for higher finishes from their Daytona 500 experience Sunday at Daytona International Speedway, but each gave their teams some solace amid the Daytona Speedweeks disarray with clean, respectable results. Smith -- a former Sprint Cup Series regular, now a title hopeful in the NASCAR XFINITY Series -- finished 16th behind the wheel of the Stewart-Haas Racing No. 41 Chevrolet as a late substitute for Kurt Busch, who was suspended indefinitely by NASCAR for his off-the-track legal issues. Crafton, the two-time defending champion of the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series, made his Sprint Cup debut on the sport's biggest stage, finishing 18th in the Joe Gibbs Racing No. 18 Toyota in place of Kyle Busch, who remains sidelined indefinitely after suffering multiple lower leg injuries in Saturday's XFINITY Series opener. Smith's seventh Daytona 500 was hampered by an ill-handling car, made worse by one, a lack of practice time after being named Kurt Busch's replacement late Friday night, and two, weather conditions far warmer than the rest of the week leading up to the Great American Race. "Started off really tight with the race car and never got it turning," said Smith , who made his 173rd Sprint Cup start Sunday. "I don't know, kind of frustrating. I actually anticipated a much better day and nothing much more to show for it. Those guys did a nice job all weekend but we just plowed through the corners." Still, Smith managed to keep the car straight in the midst of increasingly intense racing in the aerodynamic draft during the final laps, drawing praise from Tony Gibson, the team's veteran crew chief. SHR shifted Gibson over to the No. 41 team with three races remaining last season in an effort to build some early chemistry with Busch leading into 2015. When Busch's suspension was handed down Friday and both options for appeals were exhausted Saturday, Gibson and Co. were forced to uproot their original plan for starting the year with momentum. "It's tough on guys," Gibson said. "We were all so pumped up at the beginning of the season. We had three races last year and were really good, then we go to Vegas and have a tire test and he's just blistering fast. We come into here wanting to start off with a win or a top-five and get us going. Yeah, it's hard to keep morale up, but that's my job to be that coach and that guy that keeps everybody swinging, and that's my plan." Crafton became an even-later replacement for Kyle Busch, receiving a call at 7 p.m. ET Saturday night that he was the top pick for the interim Daytona 500 ride. Already back at his North Carolina home after racing in the Truck Series opener Friday night, Crafton was whisked back to Florida, fitted for the car and plugged in for his first Sprint Cup start. "Pretty gnarly," said Crafton, who lacked any benefit of practice but leaned instead on his 339 career truck starts. "It was very, very tough, but that's what we get paid to do -- drive race cars and figure it out quick. I felt fine, just my back from being in that seat hurt. Under yellows I would loosen up the belts as much as I could and just try to bow myself up in the seat just because my back was just cramped so unbelievably bad. We made it." With an unexpected driver change to start the season, JGR found itself in similar fettle to Stewart-Haas Racing. The Daytona 500 was intended to serve as a kickoff to the Gibbs' team's realignment of crew chiefs, in particular the pairing of Adam Stevens with Kyle Busch. Instead, the No. 18 team resorted to Plan B, even though the injured driver has already been lobbying from his hospital bed about making a hasty return. "Everybody is in high spirits to start this season. We got the wind taken out of our sails yesterday, but we've all been in communication with Kyle and we know that he's a strong person and he's going to come back stronger than ever," Stevens said. "Whatever the doctors tell him, he's probably going to shave about three or four weeks off of that and be beating on our door. I'm sure he'll be in my office sometime next week talking about how we're going to make this happen." The backup plan remains murky for both organizations once the Sprint Cup Series hits Atlanta Motor Speedway next weekend. In naming their Daytona 500 replacements, neither team went on to indicate who would drive their cars in the second race of the season. While that component of the 2015 campaign remains up in the air, both teams have some consolation of emerging from Daytona with better-than-middling results after making last-minute alterations behind the wheel. "When you have a bad finish at Daytona, it makes it really, really hard to overcome, so for us and the road we're traveling down right now, we want to log as many points as we can get and have that cushion there, so when Kurt comes back, we'll be ready to roll," Gibson said, adding that he'll prepare the No. 41 with an eye open for Busch's return. "That's the best we can do. We'll just take it one race at a time, one day at a time, and when they come down and tell me who's driving it each week, that's what we'll do, and we'll approach it like Kurt's driving it every week and we'll adjust on it and do the best we can." MORE: READ: Latest NASCAR news PLAY: Sign up for Fantasy Live WATCH: Latest NASCAR video FOLLOW LIVE: Get RaceView today FULL SERIES COVERAGE • Latest news • Standings • Schedule