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Johnson, Truex Jr . lead final Sprint Cup practices of season
RELATED: Practice 3 results " 10-lap averages Martin Truex topped the leaderboard in Saturday's final NASCAR Sprint Cup Series practice at Homestead-Miami Speedway at 174.289 mph in the No. 78 Furniture Row Racing Toyota. Carl Edwards was right off his pace, leading the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup contingent at 174.031 mph, good for second overall on the leaderboard. Edwards' Chase competitors were a little off the pace in the session, seeing Joey Logano place eighth at 171.832 mph, Jimmie Johnson 10th at 171.587 mph and Edwards' Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Kyle Busch 14th at 170.924 mph. Early in the session, Johnson ran over a bit of debris to bring out the caution. His No. 48 Chevrolet wasn't severely impacted. Rounding out the top five were Ryan Newman in the No. 31 Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet, AJ Allmendinger in the No. 47 JTG-Daugherty Racing Chevrolet and Chase Elliott in the No. 24 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet. All that's left now is the race. Tune in Sunday at 2:30 p.m. ET on NBC/NBC Sports App (MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio) to watch the Ford EcoBoost 400 unfold, and a champion crowned. PRACTICE 2 " Results Jimmie Johnson led the first NASCAR Sprint Cup Series practice on Saturday at Homestead-Miami Speedway , driving a fast lap of 174.345 mph in the No. 48 Chevrolet for Hendrick Motorsports . Johnson found speed early in the second-to-last session before Sunday's Championship 4 race, the Ford EcoBoost 400 (2:30 p.m. ET, NBC, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio). Johnson will compete against three other drivers to try to win a record-tying seventh NASCAR Sprint Cup Series title. Of those drivers, Carl Edwards was the quickest in Saturday's practice, wheeling his No. 19 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota to third place at 172.949 mph. Joey Logano and Kyle Busch , the other Championship 4 contestants, were sixth and 28th, respectively, in the 55-minute session on the 1.5-mile track in South Florida. Busch ran 22 laps, which was fewest among the remaining Chase drivers. Rounding out the top five were Chase Elliott in second in the No. 24 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet, Trevor Bayne in fourth place in the No. 6 Roush Fenway Racing Ford and Ryan Blaney in fifth place in the No. 21 Wood Brothers Racing Ford. </p>
Dale Jr . wins NMPA Sprint Most Popular Driver Award
MORE: Junior through the years " Relive all of Dale Jr .'s win s DARLINGTON, S.C. -- Although he missed one half of the 2016 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season due to injury, race fans still overwhelmingly selected Dale Earnhardt Jr . as the National Motorsports Press Association Sprint Most Popular Driver. Earnhardt's selection was announced Friday during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Awards program at the Wynn Las Vegas. A $10,000 donation to the charity of his choice will be made on behalf of the NMPA. It is the 14th consecutive season Earnhardt has been voted the series' MPD. The award is the only major NASCAR honor to be determined solely by fan vote. Only one other driver, Bill Elliott , has won the award more often. Elliott was named the series' most popular driver 16 times between 1984 and 2002. Earnhardt, driver of the No. 88 Chevrolet for Hendrick Motorsports , was sidelined at midseason after suffering concussion-like symptoms following on-track incidents at Michigan International Speedway and Daytona International Speedway . He is expected to return to competition for 2017. RELATED: Junior injury timeline "The Most Popular Driver Award is always very humbling to receive, even more so this year with my injury and time out of the car," Earnhardt Jr . said. "The fans continue to amaze me with their loyalty and the support they've shown throughout my career no matter the circumstance. "I try not to think about winning or losing the Most Popular Driver award; it's a bit of a gift, you know. Whether we win the award or not, we get a lot of great support from our fans all season long. I certainly got some extra support this year through the injury and all that stuff; it's unfortunate to be in that position but the fans were great. That was an incredible motivator for me during my recovery to get healthy. Not a lot of people that go through those types of support groups, but the fans really made a world of difference. "I was pretty open and transparent in sharing the process and they were certainly open and honest replying and wishing us well. It made the bad days better and once I started feeling good about coming back it gave me a lot of motivation, maybe a reminder I guess of why I want to be back in the car. You race to have fun and win races, but it wouldn't even be worth making the trip if the fans didn't show up. They're a huge reason why we want to get back in the car and be back at the track next year." Junior also tweeted a message to his fans after receiving the award. Thank you fans! You guys are such a huge part of our team and help motivate us in so many ways. pic.twitter.com/hvEek8hkux — Dale Earnhardt Jr . (@DaleJr) December 3, 2016 Sprint has been the presenting sponsor of the Most Popular Driver Award program since 2014. Forty drivers received one or more votes from fans during this year's 12-week voting period. Aside from Earnhardt Jr ., others finishing in the top 10 in vote totals were (in alphabetical order): Kyle Busch , Carl Edwards , Chase Elliott , Jimmie Johnson , Kasey Kahne , Matt Kenseth , Danica Patrick , Tony Stewart and Martin Truex Jr . The Most Popular Driver Award has been presented annually since 1953 and the recipient was originally determined by a poll of competitors. It became a fan-driven program in 1984 under the guidance of the NMPA. &amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;lt;/p&amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;gt;
Understanding Johnson, Truex penalties at Phoenix
NASCAR Executive Vice President and Chief Racing Development Officer, Steve O'Donnell, joined SiriusXM NASCAR Radio to elaborate on the penalty given to Martin Truex Jr . and Jimmie Johnson for passing the pace car while heading to pit road.
In-car audio: Truex , Johnson react to penalties
Take an in depth listen to the in-car audio from Jimmie Johnson and Martin Truex Jr . at Phoenix International Raceway after pit-road penalties cost the Nos. 78 and 48 a lap on the track.
Bruce: Truex , team show resiliency after Chase elimination
RELATED: Truex wins pole at Martinsville MARTINSVILLE, Va. -- Less than a week after his championship hopes went up in a puff of smoke, Martin Truex Jr . sped his way to the pole here Friday at Martinsville Speedway . It wasn't redemption. But outrunning all those still harboring Chase dreams felt good just the same. His shot at a title was extinguished in Talladega; at Martinsville he said his team feels as if it still has something to prove. "I think the vibe is everybody kind of has a little chip on their shoulder and I think everybody wants to make sure that they show the other teams in the garage that we were for real and we just want to show them that we think we should still be going," Truex said. "But things happen and that’s the way things go. It's racing." RELATED: Blown engine eliminates Truex at Talladega With a pair of regular-season victories and two more in the opening Round of 16 of Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup , few doubted the strength of the Furniture Row Racing team. It would be foolhardy work to seek out disbelievers in the close confines of the Sprint Cup garage. "Let's be honest," Joey Logano , second-fastest in the final round of qualifying and driver of the No. 22 Team Penske Ford, said. "Some of the fastest cars in the series got knocked out last week, and it proves that with Truex getting the pole today, so obviously they have a fast race car." Four races remain, including Sunday's Goody's Fast Relief 500 (1 p.m., NBCSN, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio). Truex had that in mind at Talladega, almost as soon as he had pulled his disabled No. 78 Toyota into the garage after barely 40 laps of competition. Behind the bitter disappointment, the will to win remained. The 2016 season won't be defined by the frustration of Talladega. Truex won't allow it. "I literally pulled in there, got out and we all got together and said, 'Let's go win Martinsville; what do we have to do to win Martinsville?' " he said. "I think our attitude just instantly changed to, 'OK, we're out of it, there's nothing we can do about it now. Let's not focus on this or rip us apart or pull us down or hold us back. It's not easy to do. … "As bad as last week was and as bad as it hurt to get that ripped out from under us feeling, there's nothing we could do about it. It was tough. You have to move on and you have to look forward and try to be better the next week." Winning the pole, his fifth of the season, was a good start. Truex said he was proud of the effort and he has reason to be. They've kept the faith, he said, "and there is no quit in this team … it showed today." RELATED: Furniture Row heeds call of the West The engine issue at Talladega may have been the final Chase straw; it wasn’t the only one however. Finishes outside the top 10 at Charlotte and Kansas left the team sixth in the 12-team Chase field and on perilous footing. Minor setbacks, it turns out, had major implications. Inconsistency is a common thread in NASCAR -- it's difficult to be fast and fortunate through the long grind of a 36-race season. Truex and his team battled that as much as anyone. Such issues are magnified under the elimination-style format of the Chase. "Going forward, that will be something we focus on," he said. "We want to go out and we want to win races, that's just what we want to do and I think this is a golden opportunity for us to do that because the way this season has gone, the cars we’ve had, the job everybody has done, the communication we've had, the confidence we have – it's just that we have everything going for us right now … you always want to take advantage of that in this sport and you never know when it's going to change." For now, it's Martinsville and the grandfather clock awarded to the race winner. It's another piece of hardware Truex would like to add to his growing collection. The Sprint Cup trophy will go to someone else this time around. There's no changing that fact, and while Truex has come to terms with the situation, the disappointment of Talladega won't be forgotten. "I thought about it every day and every night," he said, "and I just kept telling myself to just go win Martinsville and I would feel a little bit better." Winning the pole was the first step, but just a step. "Honestly, I've just enjoyed this year and even if it doesn't turn out the way we wanted it to," he said, "I've enjoyed it with the team I have. This is something we’re going to build on for years to come and contend for more championships." &amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;lt;/p&amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;gt;
Truex tames Talladega for Coors Light Pole Award
RELATED: Qualifying results " See every car in the field TALLADEGA, Ala. – Just 13 points to the good entering Sunday's Round of 12 cutoff race in the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup , Martin Truex Jr . gave himself as much of a cushion as possible, winning the pole for the Hellman's 500 at Talladega Superspeedway during Saturday’s knockout qualifying session. Seventh in the Chase standings, and 13 points ahead of Joey Logano and Austin Dillon , Truex covered the 2.66-mile distance in 49.508 seconds (193.423 mph) to claim the Coors Light Pole Award for Sunday's race (2 p.m. ET on NBCSN, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio) that will trim the Chase field from 12 drivers to eight. "It's definitely cool," said Truex , who has never won a restrictor-plate race in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series. "You come here, and you don't really have a whole lot to say as a driver when it comes to qualifying, so obviously proud of the team and proud of everybody in Denver (Colorado) and proud of everybody at the race track for their efforts. "Built a brand new car to come here, and it's awesome to be the fastest guy in town. Excited about that, and obviously everybody at TRD (Toyota Racing Development) who builds the engines has done a great job too – it takes a lot to get a restrictor plate pole, so excited for all those guys and really neat to lead Toyota to their 1,000th start (in NASCAR’s top three series combined). Hopefully, we'll be able to get the victory when the day is over." Truex didn't allow a pre-qualifying inspection issue to derail his effort. Before his No. 78 Furniture Row Racing Toyota rolled out onto the grid, NASCAR confiscated a non-conforming jack screw from the car and required the team to replace it with a legal part. RELATED: NASCAR confiscates part from 78 team The pole was Truex's first at Talladega, his fourth of the season and the 11th of his career. Truex was .015 seconds faster than four-time Talladega winner Brad Keselowski (193.365 mph), who will start on the outside of the front row. Keselowski is 11th in the standings, seven points behind Logano and Dillon. "It's good to qualify up front," Keselowski said. "I think it's a good confidence boost. I feel like when we have cars that qualify well here, we race well. The Miller Lite Ford was really fast here in qualifying, and hopefully it will stay the same for Sunday. "It's been a good track for us, but past success is no guarantee. You have to go out and put the work in, and I think we're ready to do just that." Chase drivers Matt Kenseth (193.189 mph) and Chase Elliott (193.166 mph) will start third and fourth, respectively. Elliott is 12th in the Chase standings, likely needing a victory in Sunday's race to advance to the Round of 8. "As we all know, qualifying here is all about the guys back in the shop preparing these cars," Elliott said. "The Hendrick Engine shop gave me great speed, and the guys gave me an excellent car for tomorrow. "Qualifying here at Talladega isn't a make-or-break-you deal. I think it's good. I think our car has decent speed, and hopefully that will show up on Sunday." Roush Fenway racing drivers Greg Biffle and Ricky Stenhouse Jr ., both non-Chasers, will start from the third row after qualifying fifth and sixth, respectively. Other Chase drivers qualified as follows: Kurt Busch (seventh), Denny Hamlin (eighth), Dillon (ninth), Carl Edwards (13th), Kyle Busch (14th), Joey Logano (16th), Jimmie Johnson (17th) and Kevin Harvick (22nd). Johnson and Harvick already have earned spots in the Round of 8 by virtue of their respective victories at Charlotte and Kansas, leaving six berths available to the remaining 10 drivers. Reed Sorenson , who was required to make the field on the basis of qualifying time, posted an eyebrow-raising lap of 194.145 mph to lead the first round, a sizable .326 seconds faster than the next-fastest driver, Truex . Sorenson's Premium Motorsports No. 55 Toyota faded considerably in the final round and will start 12th. David Gilliland failed to qualify for the 40-car field. NASCAR will meet and discuss the non-conforming jack screw on Truex's car during its weekly competition meeting, but Scott Miller, NASCAR's senior vice president of competition, characterized the imposition of a points penalty that would affect the Chase standings as "unlikely." "I would say it would be unlikely, but it has to go through our process," Miller said. "We don't typically do that on a weekend, and because this is the playoffs, everybody has a heightened sense of everything. "But this is really no different than things that we've done all year. We'll treat this one like just like we've done all year long." Three Joe Gibbs Racing cars -- those of Kyle Busch , Denny Hamlin and Kenseth -- were pulled from the qualifying line just before their speed attempts. NASCAR officials said that they were investigating a potential issue with the rear deck lid and quarter panel area. With those issues remedied behind the wall, all three were allowed to qualify. RELATED: JGR cars brought back through pre-qualifying inspection Contributing: Staff reports &amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;lt;/p&amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;gt;
Kyle Busch, Truex lead practices at Phoenix
RELATED: Chase Grid " Chase Bubble Watch Practice 3 recap " Results " Best consecutive 10-lap average Kyle Busch led final practice in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series on Saturday at Phoenix International Raceway . Busch turned a fast lap of 136.358 mph in the No. 18 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota on the 1-mile track where Sunday's Can-Am 500 (2:30 p.m. ET, NBC, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio) will determine the final two drivers in the Championship 4 in the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup . Team Penske teammates Brad Keselowski (136.286 mph) and Joey Logano (136.204 mph) finished second and third, respectively. The No. 2 Ford will line up 14th on Sunday, while the No. 22 Ford of Chase driver Logano will start fourth. Pole winner Alex Bowman , who ran 50 laps during the session, was fourth in the No. 88 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet at 136.044 mph. Richard Childress Racing 's Austin Dillon rounded out the top five at 135.977 mph. Kyle Larson brought out the caution flag when his No. 42 Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet spun in Turn 2, but it appeared to avoid contact with the outside wall. Larson, a non-Chase driver, finished seventh in the session at 135.747 mph. Other Chase drivers had the following finishes in final practice: Matt Kenseth (10th), Jimmie Johnson (11th), Kevin Harvick (14th), Carl Edwards (15th), Kurt Busch (20th) and Denny Hamlin (22nd). Johnson (Martinsville) and Edwards (Texas) are locked into the Championship 4 by virtue of their wins earlier in the Round of 8. Practice 2 recap " Results " Best consecutive 10-lap average Martin Truex Jr . led Saturday's first of two Sprint Cup Series practice sessions at Phoenix International Raceway ahead of Sunday's Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Round of 8 elimination race. With a top speed of 135.476 mph, Truex Jr . topped the speed charts in his No. 78 Furniture Row Racing Toyota in preparation for the Cam-Am 500 (2:30 p.m. ET, NBC, MRN, Sirius XM NASCAR Radio). After having pre-qualifying inspection trouble Friday that prevented him from making a qualifying run, Truex Jr . will line up 40th Sunday. Truex was eliminated from the 2016 Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup in the Round of 12. Brad Keselowski , who suffered the same Chase fate, was second fastest at 135.410 mph in the No. 2 Team Penske Ford. With only Jimmie Johnson and Carl Edwards locked into berths for the season finale at Homestead-Miami, the top Round of 8 contender on the speed charts in this practice session was Joey Logano in fifth at 135.014 mph in the No. 22 Team Penske Ford. Two more drivers eliminated in the Round of 16 filled out the top five, with Jamie McMurray third at 135.105 mph in the No. 1 Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet and teammate Kyle Larson fourth after hitting 135.059 mph in the No. 42. Kurt Busch , who almost certainly needs a win to advance to the Championship 4, was ninth fastest Saturday afternoon with a top speed of 134.786 mph in the No. 41 Stewart-Haas Racing Chevrolet. He will start 12th on Sunday. &amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;lt;/p&amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;gt;
2's company: Keselowski joined in heartbreak by Truex , Dillon
RELATED: Full race results " Standings " Chase Grid SHOP: Chase gear TALLADEGA, Ala. -- This one hurt more. This one had the ring of finality to it. An expiration date: 10/23/16. For the second week in a row, Brad Keselowski found himself and his No. 2 Team Penske team in the garage much sooner than expected. Sunday's Hellmann's 500 was still underway, but for Keselowski, his day was done. Worse yet, his shot at advancing to the third round of NASCAR’s Chase for the Sprint Cup had ended. Title hopes were silenced. The outcome was a shame, but fast cars aren't always winning cars. Few could outrun the No. 2 Ford on the track; Keselowski appeared to be the only driver able to work his way effortlessly through the field, although, to be precise, he spent very little time having to do so. For 88 of the first 141 laps, the 2012 series champion and winner of two of the last four Sprint Cup races here at Talladega Superspeedway was the driver to beat. But a double dose of trash on the grill of his Ford proved to be fatal. Smoke began trailing the white and blue entry on Lap 144 of the 192-lap race. Engine temperatures rose as title hopes sank. He finished 38th for the second week in a row and ended the day 12th in points. Only the top eight advance to continue to battle for the championship. Climbing from his car and making his way into the shade of a nearby garage stall, Keselowski was quickly surrounded by reporters. The autopsy on his car was still on-going. Thus, he said, he didn't know the source of the problem. "I'm not an engine guy, but the car was really strong and we definitely kept finding debris," he said. "I thought I got it cooled off and only got it slightly over (heated), but I don' t know." Keselowski may not have been a Chase favorite coming into the 10-race playoff, but his team had been solid throughout the first round (three top-five finishes), and opened this latest segment with a seventh at Charlotte. But Kansas, where a crash ended his day, combined with Sunday's setback proved to be too much. If misery does indeed love company, Keselowski had his share. Martin Truex Jr ., one of the early Chase favorites, was also knocked out early due to engine issues. The No. 78 Furniture Row Racing Toyota lasted only 41 laps before his day, and his Chase, were done. MORE: Truex Jr .'s Chase hopes dashed Austin Dillon ? The Richard Childress Racing driver needed help to advance, and in the end he didn't get it. A furious finish by Denny Hamlin left the two tied in points for the final spot and Hamlin got the nod based on a tiebreaker. "It just wasn't our day today," a disheartened Dillon said after finishing ninth. But it was that kind of day at Talladega. The threat of a big, grinding multicar crash kept Chasers such as the Joe Gibbs Racing trio of Matt Kenseth , Kyle Busch and Carl Edwards running in the back of the pack all afternoon in an effort to stay out of the eye of the storm. But the storm really never made landfall. It was good racing, close racing, and relatively clean racing, slowed for the most part by a pair of three-car incidents that seemed tame in comparison to the mayhem that usually unfolds here. That may not be a bad thing, but that probably doesn't make Keselowski, Truex or Dillon feel any better. Out is out and done is done. The Chase moves on without them.
NASCAR explains penalty against Martin Truex Jr .
NASCAR Executive Vice President and Chief Racing Development Officer Steve O'Donnell addressed the penalty levied against Martin Truex Jr . on pit road in Saturday night's Sprint Cup Series race at Kentucky. After a caution on Lap 195, Truex Jr . was ruled to have passed a car while entering pit road and forced to line up at the tail end of the first line (22nd) for a restart on Lap 200.
Truex Jr . takes less, gives more to Furniture Row
RELATED: Inside the western rise of Furniture Row " Denver embraces its team JOLIET, Ill. -- How sincere was Martin Truex Jr . in his desire to stay with Furniture Row Racing during contract talks with team officials? Enough that the 36-year-old NASCAR Sprint Cup Series driver agreed to work for less than he likely could have earned elsewhere. "There were other opportunities that were out there," Truex said Sunday after winning the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 400 at Chicagoland Speedway . "I believe this is the best team I've ever had. This is my best opportunity to win races. We've proven that. It's my best opportunity, and really only my second opportunity, since last year, to go for a championship. That wasn't something I was willing to get rid of or throw away." While Furniture Row officials were in the midst of making the switch from Chevrolet to Toyota a year ago, a contract extension with Truex was also wrapping up. In late September, officials announced both agreements were in place. Then, in August of this year, the team announced a new, two-year extension for Truex . RELATED: Truex inks new deal at Furniture Row "I made the commitment to Barney we were going to do it, we were going to work together and make it work for everybody," Truex said of the arrangement. "Barney has put a lot into his race team over the years obviously. Seeing Furniture Row on that race car each and every year, that's Barney's race car and Barney is the one funding it. "He had to change some things in the way he was running his race team. He asked me if I would kind of, not take the hit but be the one that took a little bit of a hit for the team to make sure we could keep the competition up and make sure we could continue to get the things we needed to be competitive and win races and hopefully go after a championship." Visser started the Denver-based team from scratch in 2005, and has funded the single-car outfit for much of its existence through his own businesses. Others have come on board to help the cause and the switch from Chevrolet to Toyota has paid tremendous dividends. Sunday's victory was the third of the season for Truex and more importantly it came in the opening race of the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup . He and the No. 78 team, run by crew chief Cole Pearn, are guaranteed to advance to the Round of 12 in the Chase. Prior to this season, Truex had three career wins. Furniture Row had two. The organization, which now receives technical support from Joe Gibbs Racing , will expand in 2017 with the addition of a second team and driver Erik Jones . RELATED: Furniture Row adds Jones to growing team The rise from a struggling single-car outfit to a championship contender didn't happen overnight. "Yeah, I do feel like I'm living a dream," Visser, a Vietnam veteran, said. "But that's why we do it. Most of the other things that I've done in life have been a little bit like this, but nothing right to the very top of the best racing in the world here. (It's) very exciting. "I have to thank Toyota and Martin . Like I said, I think he's a pure athlete. He drove for a little bit less this year than I think a lot of the drivers in his class have, and he did it because he wanted to be here. I can't thank him enough for all that."