Bruce: Never count 'Smoke' out, but he needs a win RELATED: Chase-clinching scenarios for Pocono It's been three years since Tony Stewart qualified for the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup . And it's beginning to look as if the three-time series champion might miss this year's field of 16 as well. Stewart, 44, is 26th in points heading into this weekend's Windows 10 400 at Pocono Raceway. With only six races remaining before the field is set, it's unlikely that the co-owner/driver at Stewart-Haas Racing will qualify for one of the 16 positions based on points. To earn a chance to compete for this year's championship, Stewart needs nothing less than a victory in the coming weeks. Defending series champion Kevin Harvick , six-time champion Jimmie Johnson , '04 champ Kurt Busch and Dale Earnhardt Jr . have officially clinched Chase berths. Joey Logano , Martin Truex Jr ., Brad Keselowski , Matt Kenseth , Denny Hamlin and Carl Edwards are 2015 race winners and are currently 16th or higher in the points standings. Kyle Busch , riding a white-hot streak that has seen the Joe Gibbs Racing driver win three consecutive Sprint Cup events, and four of the last five, is on the doorstep of the top 30 in points (another Chase eligibility requirement). Non-winners, but those somewhat safely inside the top 16 in points include Jamie McMurray and Jeff Gordon . On less stable ground are Ryan Newman , Paul Menard and Kasey Kahne , currently 12th through 14th, respectively, in points. Unless he can advance his points position, Clint Bowyer , who sits 15th, would fall outside the Chase as soon as Kyle Busch cracks the top 30. Stewart is trying to climb into contention. Those on the periphery are likewise trying to advance -- or hold on -- to what they've earned thus far. A win in the coming weeks by anyone else, AJ Allmendinger (23rd) at Watkins Glen for example, would trump the points position of a non-winner inside the top 16. It's unlikely that someone such as Kahne, Menard or Bowyer is resting too comfortably these days. Kahne has made three consecutive appearances in the Chase, but isn't taking anything for granted; Menard's still chasing that first playoff opportunity; Bowyer, meanwhile, is attempting to return after missing the field a year ago. Aric Almirola (17th) and Greg Biffle (18th) made last year's Chase. Austin Dillon (19th) and Kyle Larson (20th) are still looking for that first career win and first Chase appearance. Would it be unwise to look past any of those drivers given the uncertain nature of racing? Rules package changes and a variety of tracks -- large, small and a road course to boot -- only serve to muddy the racing waters. Stewart's Chase absence has been well documented. A broken leg in 2013 sidelined the No. 14 driver for the season's final 15 races. A year ago, he missed three races prior to the start of the Chase, and while he was given a NASCAR exemption, Stewart failed to produce the necessary win or points position to qualify. Perhaps it would be just as unwise to look past Stewart, given what he has been able to accomplish in previous years. But the road ahead won't be an easy one for him or any of those looking to go from Chase hopeful to Chase qualifier. The calendar is starting to take an ugly turn. FULL SERIES COVERAGE • Latest news • Standings • Schedule
Kyle works to keep up momentum to join brother, more in Chase RELATED: Chase Grid Only six races remain before the 16-driver Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup field is set. Here's what we know: Kyle Busch 's third consecutvie win continues his incredible comeback and brings him even closer to the Chase. He heads into Sunday's Windows 10 400 at Pocono Raceway only 23 points behind Justin Allgaier for 30th in the standings -- the position that would make him eligible for the Chase. In order to do this before the Chase starts, Busch will need to average 19.6 points in the final six races of the regular season. This means "Rowdy" must finish 24th or better each race. Kyle's older brother, Kurt, left Indianapolis in good standings after locking up a top 30 spot. Kurt Busch joins Kevin Harvick , Dale Earnhardt Jr . and Jimmie Johnson as they have all guaranteed their spots in the Chase. Drivers with a win who are still looking to lock up a top 30 spot are Joey Logano , Martin Truex Jr ., Brad Keselowski , Matt Kenseth and Denny Hamlin and Carl Edwards . A win at Pocono would secure any of these drivers a spot in the Chase. FULL SERIES COVERAGE • Latest news • Standings • Schedule
Matt Kenseth explains how Jeff Gordon’s successful and long career helped pave the way for young drivers to get into NASCAR.
Joey Logano will also start from the front row in Sunday's Coca-Cola 600 RELATED: Full starting lineup " See all 43 cars CONCORD, N.C. – After powering to his second pole of the season on Thursday night, Matt Kenseth will start NASCAR's longest race from the most advantageous position—with his No. 20 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota getting serviced in the most advantageous pit stall. Kenseth ran his fastest lap of the night (194.252 mph) in the third and final round of knockout qualifying at Charlotte Motor Speedway and secured the top spot on the grid for Sunday's Coca-Cola 600 (6 p.m. ET on FOX, PRN, SiriusXM), the 12th NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race of the season. The Coors Light Pole Award was Kenseth's first at Charlotte and the 15th of his career. Kenseth , who covered the 1.5-mile distance in 27.799 seconds, was a whopping .204 seconds faster than Joey Logano (192.836 mph), whose No. 22 Team Penske Ford will start beside Kenseth's Camry on the front row. "I think starting up front is important at this track," Kenseth said. "It typically goes through a lot of changes here, especially if the sun is out for the beginning of the race. You want to have good track position, good pit selection—all those things—so if you get a little bit off and you're chasing the setup, or the track changes, you have a little bit of a buffer being toward the front, hopefully... "All the Joe Gibbs Racing Toyotas had some speed tonight, and that was encouraging." SHOP: Kenseth gear Carl Edwards (192.733 mph) was third in his No. 19 JGR Toyota, followed by Greg Biffle in his No. 16 Roush Fenway Ford (192.226 mph) and NASCAR Sprint All-Star Race winner Denny Hamlin in his No. 11 JGR Toyota (192.007 mph). Surprisingly, in consecutive seasons that have seen domination of the intermediate speedways by the No. 4 Stewart-Haas Chevrolet of reigning series champion Kevin Harvick and the No. 48 Chevy of six-time champ Jimmie Johnson , Toyotas and Fords claimed the top seven qualifying positions for the 600. To Logano, however, the absence of a Chevrolet from the top five spots on the grid for the first time this season isn't hugely significant. "Those guys have been fast in the race—that's where their speed really shines," Logano said. "They qualify good--don't get me wrong—but in the race they shine a little bit more. You're talking about the 4, the 41 ( Kurt Busch ) and the 48. Those are the ones that stand out. "And I'm sure they'll be fast when it comes to race time. Qualifying's a different animal. You use a completely different setup, and qualifying can kind of mask over some issues you have in race trim a lot of times. ... I wouldn't (read) too much into it." Notes: All four Hendrick Motorsports entries failed to advance to the final round of knockout qualifying, but Kasey Kahne had a valid excuse. A cut tire prevented him from posting a quick qualifying laps. As a result, the three-time winner of the Coca-Cola 600 will start 33rd on Sunday ... Jeb Burton , Mike Bliss , Travis Kvapil , Jeff Green and Brendan Gaughan failed to make the 43-car field. The 48-car turnout for qualifying was the largest since 49 entries showed up for the season-opening Daytona 500 .
Veteran won Sprint Unlimited, posted strong time in qualifying Play: NASCAR Fantasy Live " Vote: Ultimate Daytona Challenge DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – He won the Sprint Unlimited and posted the fourth fastest time in the final round of qualifying for Sunday’s Daytona 500 (which became the third fastest in the final round after teammate Denny Hamlin's time was disallowed). Matt Kenseth is looking more like the driver that won seven times in 2013 and less like the one who went winless last season. But there's a long way to go between qualifying for the 500 and taking the green flag in the season-opening race. Three more practice sessions (two on Wednesday and another on Thursday) are on tap, and that's just before this week's Budweiser Duel qualifying races on Thursday night. There are three more practices after the duels. "We got through the first two processes and now we need to get through the (qualifying race) with a good finish and get ready for Sunday," Kenseth said after locking in the No. 2 starting spot for Thursday's opening 60-lap, 150-mile race. "I feel like all our (cars) have been real competitive since we got here – we've got a lot of speed and that's encouraging, but it's speedway racing and anything can happen." Kenseth's No. 20 Joe Gibbs Racing entry will start alongside Daytona 500 pole winner Jeff Gordon in the opening duel. Help from his teammates was crucial during Sunday's qualifying, but Kenseth will have no such assistance come Thursday. Kyle Busch, Carl Edwards and Denny Hamlin will be lining up in the second qualifier, based on the odd-even pairing to set the two fields. Those three rolled into Daytona with new crew chiefs in tow – Darian Grubb with Edwards, Adam Stevens with Busch and Dave Rogers with Hamlin. Kenseth touched down with Jason Ratcliff, just as he did last year. Team owner Joe Gibbs said there no reason to pull the plug on the No. 20 pairing. "There was no thought there," he said. "We really felt like this is one team we wanted to leave matched up. "Each one of those other situations was a little bit different." Kenseth didn't make it to the winner's circle last year in a points-paying event, but Ratcliff doesn't sound too disappointed when ask about the results. "We had a great season. When you look at our overall performance, our top 10s, top fives … we had a lot of good opportunities," he said. "Having two years under out belt, I think it's a no-brainer. We're looking forward to a remarkable year." How a team fares here at Daytona may set the tone for the season, but it doesn't set the table. Restrictor-place races are few and far between on the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series schedule. It's the intermediate tracks that are the meat and potatoes. And while history shows that Daytona 500 winners rarely go on to win the championship, that nugget doesn't take any of the shine off winning the series biggest race. Kenseth has been to Victory Lane here twice in the 500, both times while with Roush Fenway Racing. JGR drivers have won here once, and that was back in '93 with NASCAR Hall of Famer Dale Jarrett driving. "We've been here 24 years. We've won once," Gibbs said. "It's extremely hard. … For us it has been gut‑wrenching. I can't tell you how many times we've been disappointed walking away from here." Getting a win in the Unlimited race, a non-points event, was big, Kenseth said, but it also afforded the team the opportunity to understand a few things that might be of use in the coming days. "I felt like we learned some things about the race car, the track and the tires a little bit," he said. "that will apply Thursday night. This is the only shot at it (in race conditions). "It's a great start. Hopefully we can keep the momentum for the rest of the week." 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
A statistical look ahead to the 21st race of the Sprint Cup season DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – Below is a look at some of the top statistical performers at Pocono Raceway in Pocono, Pennsylvania going into the WINDOWS 10 400 on August 2 (1:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN). POCONO-SPECIFIC STATISTICS Kurt Busch (No. 41 Haas Automation Chevrolet) · Two wins, 12 top fives, 16 top 10s; two poles · Average finish of 12.421, eighth-best · Average Running Position of 10.246, second-best · Driver Rating of 105.9, third-best · 332 Fastest Laps Run, sixth-best · Average Green Flag Speed of 162.733, second-fastest · 2659 Laps in the Top 15 (77.0), second-most · 774 Quality Passes, seventh-most Dale Earnhardt Jr (No. 88 MICROSOFT Chevrolet) · Two wins, nine top fives, 13 top 10s; one pole · Average finish of 15.900, 11th-best · Average Running Position of 14.002, 10th-best · Driver Rating of 92.6, ninth-best · 102 Fastest Laps Run, third-best · Average Green Flag Speed of 162.237, eighth-fastest · 2286 Laps in the Top 15 (63.3), eighth-most · 727 Quality Passes, eighth-most Carl Edwards (No. 19 STANLEY Toyota) · Two wins, five top fives, eight top 10s · Average finish of 15.500, 10th-best · Average Running Position of 14.826, 13th-best · Driver Rating of 94.2, eighth-best · 176 Fastest Laps Run, fourth-best · Average Green Flag Speed of 162.224, ninth-fastest · 2262 Laps in the Top 15 (62.6), 10th-most · 712 Quality Passes, ninth-most Jeff Gordon (No. 24 AARP Member Advantages Chevrolet) · Six wins, 19 top fives, 31 top 10s; two poles · Average finish of 9.650, second-best · Average Running Position of 9.916, series-best · Driver Rating of 103.5, fourth-best · 169 Fastest Laps Run, 12th-best · Average Green Flag Speed of 162.625, fifth-fastest · 2777 Laps in the Top 15 (76.9), third-most · 885 Quality Passes, series-most Denny Hamlin (No. 11 FedEx Office Toyota) · Four wins, nine top fives, 13 top 10s; three poles · Average finish of 11.889, seventh-best · Average Running Position of 10.844, fourth-best · Driver Rating of 108.3, series-best · 437 Fastest Laps Run, seventh-best · Average Green Flag Speed of 162.806, series-fastest · 2543 Laps in the Top 15 (79.3), series-most · 685 Quality Passes, 10th-most Kevin Harvick (No. 4 Jimmy John's/Budweiser Chevrolet) · Seven top fives, 11 top 10s · Average finish of 10.600, fifth-best · Average Running Position of 13.743, eighth-best · Driver Rating of 91.9, 11th-best · 63 Fastest Laps Run, eighth-best · Average Green Flag Speed of 162.159, 10th-fastest · 2277 Laps in the Top 15 (63.0), ninth-most · 789 Quality Passes, sixth-most Jimmie Johnson (No. 48 Kobalt Tools Chevrolet) · Three wins, 11 top fives, 18 top 10s; three poles · Average finish of 10.500, third-best · Average Running Position of 10.487, third-best · Driver Rating of 106.9, second-best · 273 Fastest Laps Run, 10th-best · Average Green Flag Speed of 162.708, third-fastest · 2774 Laps in the Top 15 (76.8), fourth-most · 861 Quality Passes, fourth-most Kasey Kahne (No. 5 Aquafina Chevrolet) · Two wins, five top fives, eight top 10s; two poles · Average finish of 18.750, 13th-best · Average Running Position of 14.622, 11th-best · Driver Rating of 92.1, 10th-best · 306 Fastest Laps Run, series-best · Average Green Flag Speed of 162.436, sixth-fastest · 2199 Laps in the Top 15 (60.9), 11th-most · 804 Quality Passes, fifth-most Brad Keselowski (No. 2 Alliance Truck Parts Ford) · One win, three top fives, four top 10s · Average finish of 13.400, ninth-best · Average Running Position of 14.786, 12th-best · Driver Rating of 90.8, 12th-best · 96 Fastest Laps Run, fifth-best · Average Green Flag Speed of 161.894, 13th-fastest · 852 Laps in the Top 15 (50.1), 13th-most · 306 Quality Passes, 12th-most Kyle Larson (No. 42 Suave Men Chevrolet) · One top five, two top 10s; one pole · Average finish of 8.000, series-best · Average Running Position of 12.672, seventh-best · Driver Rating of 95.7, sixth-best · 2 Fastest Laps Run, 13th-best · Average Green Flag Speed of 162.690, fourth-fastest · 230 Laps in the Top 15 (71.9), seventh-most · 87 Quality Passes, 13th-most Joey Logano (No. 22 Shell Pennzoil Ford) · One win, three top fives, five top 10s; two poles · Average finish of 16.583, 12th-best · Average Running Position of 13.811, ninth-best · Driver Rating of 88.9, 13th-best · 61 Fastest Laps Run, second-best · Average Green Flag Speed of 162.097, 12th-fastest · 1190 Laps in the Top 15 (56.6), 12th-most · 456 Quality Passes, 11th-most Ryan Newman (No. 31 Caterpillar Chevrolet) · One win, nine top fives, 14 top 10s; two poles · Average finish of 10.500, fourth-best · Average Running Position of 11.426, fifth-best · Driver Rating of 95.3, seventh-best · 36 Fastest Laps Run, 11th-best · Average Green Flag Speed of 162.135, 11th-fastest · 2689 Laps in the Top 15 (74.4), fifth-most · 883 Quality Passes, second-most Tony Stewart (No. 14 Rush Truck Centers/Mobil 1 Chevrolet) · Two wins, 12 top fives, 22 top 10s; two poles · Average finish of 10.600, sixth-best · Average Running Position of 12.223, sixth-best · Driver Rating of 97.6, fifth-best · 99 Fastest Laps Run, ninth-best · Average Green Flag Speed of 162.319, seventh-fastest · 2619 Laps in the Top 15 (72.5), sixth-most · 880 Quality Passes, third-most Driver Races Poles Wins Top Fives Top 10s DNFs Average Finish Driver Rating 1 Kevin Harvick 29 0 0 7 11 2 13.2 91.9 2 Joey Logano 13 2 1 3 5 1 15.6 88.9 3 Dale Earnhardt Jr 31 1 2 9 13 1 15.2 92.6 4 Jimmie Johnson 27 3 3 11 18 1 9.6 106.9 5 Martin Truex Jr 19 0 1 3 7 0 15.1 80.4 6 Brad Keselowski 11 0 1 3 4 0 13.7 90.8 7 Matt Kenseth 31 0 0 3 11 1 15.7 86.7 8 Kurt Busch 28 2 2 12 16 5 14.4 105.9 9 Jamie McMurray 25 1 0 0 7 3 19.3 73.1 10 Denny Hamlin 19 3 4 9 13 2 11.8 108.3 11 Jeff Gordon 45 2 6 19 31 5 10 103.5 12 Ryan Newman 27 2 1 9 14 3 12.4 95.3 13 Paul Menard 17 0 0 0 2 1 23.6 64.6 14 Kasey Kahne 23 2 2 5 8 3 17.6 92.1 15 Clint Bowyer 19 0 0 2 8 0 14.6 82.8 16 Carl Edwards 21 0 2 5 8 1 15.5 94.2 * – Based on last 21 races at Pocono Raceway (2005 – 2015). Kyle Busch ’s Chase Eligibility 30th Justin Allgaier 317 Rank Driver Wins Points Points From 30th 31 Cole Whitt 0 314 -3 32 Kyle Busch 4 294 -23 33 Brett Moffitt # 0 266 -51 34 Alex Bowman 0 245 -72 35 Michael Annett 0 230 -87 36 Matt DiBenedetto # 0 205 -112 37 Josh Wise 0 186 -131 38 Michael McDowell 0 124 -193 39 Jeb Burton 0 111 -206 40 Alex Kennedy 0 71 -246 * To be eligible for the Chase, the driver must be in the top 30 of the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series standings following race number 26. Pocono Raceway Data Season Race #: 21 of 36 (08-02-15) Track Size : 2.5-miles Banking/Turn 1 : 14 degrees Banking/Turn 2 : 8 degrees Banking/Turn 3 : 6 degrees Frontstretch Length : 3,740 feet Backstretch Length : 3,055 feet Shortstretch Length : 1,780 feet Race Length : 160 laps / 400 miles Top 10 Driver Ratings at Pocono Denny Hamlin ............................ 108.3 Jimmie Johnson ........................ 106.9 Kurt Busch ................................ 105.9 Jeff Gordon .............................. 103.5 Tony Stewart ............................... 97.6 Kyle Larson ................................ 95.7 Ryan Newman ............................. 95.3 Carl Edwards .............................. 94.2 Dale Earnhardt Jr ........................ 92.6 Kasey Kahne .............................. 92.1 Note: Driver Ratings compiled from 2005-2015 races (21 total) among active drivers at Pocono Raceway. Qualifying/Race Data 2014 pole winner : Kyle Larson , Chevrolet 183.438 mph, 49.063 secs, 08-01-14 2014 race winner : Dale Earnhardt Jr ., Chevrolet 127.411 mph, (03:08:22), 08-03-14 Track qualifying record: Kyle Larson , Chevrolet 183.438 mph, 49.610 secs, 08-03-14 Track race record: Jeff Gordon , Chevrolet 145.384 mph, (03:26:21), 06-12-11 At Pocono Raceway: History · Opened in 1968 as a three-quarter-mile track, Pocono Raceway held the first race on the 2.5-mile track in 1971. · The first NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race was in 1974 – won by Richard Petty , Dodge, 115.593 mph, 08/04/1974. · The 2.5-mile track was repaved during the fall of 2011. · 2012 marked the first season the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races at Pocono were scheduled for 400 miles. Prior to 2012 all NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races were 500 miles at Pocono Raceway. Starts · There have been 75 NASCAR Sprint Cup races at Pocono Raceway, one race from 1974 through 1981, and two per year since. · 327 drivers have competed in at least one NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Pocono Raceway; 229 in more than one. · Ricky Rudd leads the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series in starts at Pocono with 55. · Jeff Gordon leads all active drivers with 45 starts (eighth most all-time) at Pocono; followed by Tony Stewart with 33 starts. · Denny Hamlin (19 starts) leads all active drivers in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series in average starting position at Pocono with a 6.632. Poles · 40 drivers have posted Coors Light poles at Pocono, led by Bill Elliott and Ken Schrader with five each; Jimmie Johnson and Denny Hamlin lead all active drivers with three each. · Buddy Baker won the inaugural Coors Light pole at Pocono in 1974 with a speed of 144.122 mph. · Five drivers have won consecutive Coors Light poles at Pocono. Bill Elliott holds the record for most consecutive poles at Pocono with three; fall 1984 and both races in 1985. · Two active drivers have posted consecutive Coors Light poles at Pocono: Denny Hamlin (2006 sweep) and Joey Logano (fall 2011 and spring 2012). · Youngest Pocono pole winner: Joey Logano (08/07/2011 – 21 years, 2 months, 14 days). · Oldest Pocono pole winner: David Pearson (06/10/1984 – 49 years, 5 months, 19 days). · Kyle Larson (8/03/2014) and Casey Mears (8/1/2004) posted their first career NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Coors Light poles at Pocono Raceway. Wins · 33 different drivers have won at Pocono Raceway, led by Jeff Gordon with six wins. · Seven active drivers have multiple wins at Pocono: Jeff Gordon (6), Denny Hamlin (4), Jimmie Johnson (3), Carl Edwards , Kasey Kahne , Kurt Busch and Tony Stewart (each have 2). · Seven drivers have posted consecutive wins at Pocono Raceway all-time, including three consecutive by Bobby Allison (1982 sweep and spring 1983) and Tim Richmond (1986 sweep and spring 1987). · Three of the seven drivers to win consecutive races at Pocono are active: Jimmie Johnson (2004 sweep); Denny Hamlin (2006 sweep and 2009 fall and 2010 spring races) and Dale Earnhardt Jr . (2014 sweep). · Youngest Pocono winner: Joey Logano (06/10/2012 – 22 years, 0 months, 17 days). · Oldest Pocono winner: Harry Gant (06/17/1990 – 50 years, 5 months, 7 days). · Hendrick Motorsports has the most wins at Pocono in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series with 17: Jeff Gordon (six), Tim Richmond (three), Jimmie Johnson (three), Dale Earnhardt Jr . (two), Kasey Kahne (one), Geoff Bodine (one) and Terry Labonte (one). · Eight different manufacturers have won in the NSCS at Pocono; led by Chevrolet with 31 victories; followed by Ford with 21 and Toyota has three. · 13 of the 75 (17.3%) NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races at Pocono have been won from the Coors Light pole; the most recent was Joey Logano (June, 2012). · 15 of the 74 (20%) NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races at Pocono have been won from the first starting position; the most recent was Jimmie Johnson (June, 2013). · The first starting position is the most proficient starting position in the field, producing more winners (15) than any other starting position at Pocono Raceway. · 24 of the 75 (32%) NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races at Pocono have been won from the front row: 15 from the first starting position and nine from second-place. · 53 of the 75 (70.6%) NASCAR Sprint Cup races at Pocono have been won from a top-10 starting position. · Five of the 75 (6.7%) NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races at Pocono have been won from a starting position outside the top 20. · The deepest in the field that a race winner has started at Pocono is 29th, by Carl Edwards in the spring of 2005. · One active NASCAR Sprint Cup Series driver has posted his first career win at Pocono Raceway: Denny Hamlin (06/11/06). · Denny Hamlin and Carl Edwards are the only two active drivers to win at Pocono in their first appearances. · Matt Kenseth leads the series among active drivers with the most NASCAR Sprint Cup Series starts at Pocono without visiting Victory Lane at 31; followed by Kevin Harvick with 29. Additional Finishing Position Stats · Mark Martin leads the series in runner-up finishes at Pocono with seven; Jeff Gordon leads all active drivers with six; followed by Kurt Busch with five. · Mark Martin leads the series in top-five finishes at Pocono with 20; Jeff Gordon leads all active drivers with 19; followed by Kurt Busch and Tony Stewart with 12 each. · Mark Martin leads the series in top-10 finishes at Pocono with 34; Jeff Gordon leads all active drivers with 31; followed by Tony Stewart with 22. · Jimmie Johnson leads all active drivers in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series in average finishing position at Pocono with a 9.630. Track Specific Stats · Since the advent of electronic scoring the closest margin of victory (MOV) in
Joe Gibbs Racing driver holds off Truex Jr., teammate Edwards Play: NASCAR Fantasy Live " Vote: Ultimate Daytona Challenge MORE: Full Sprint Unlimited results DAYTONA BEACH, Fla.— Matt Kenseth did what he couldn't do all of last year — win a race. And Martin Truex Jr., runner-up in Saturday night's 75-lap Sprint Unlimited exhibition race at Daytona International Speedway, did what he could do only once in 2014 — lead a lap. Coming to the finish line on the last lap, Kenseth blocked Truex’s move off Turn 4 and crossed the finish line in his No. 20 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota .219 seconds ahead of Truex, who led four times for 28 laps after leading just one lap in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series all of last season. The victory was Kenseth's first in the non-points race, but it was the second straight win for Joe Gibbs Racing. RELATED: See the best photos from Saturday's race With only 12 of the 25 cars that started the race running at the finish, Carl Edwards came home third in his first run in a JGR Toyota, followed by Casey Mears and Kyle Larson. Joey Logano was sixth, but a last-lap altercation with reigning series champion Kevin Harvick (11th Saturday), left those two drivers jawing at each other after the finish. Logano was pushing Harvick after the final restart with four laps left, and Harvick felt the No. 22 Ford ran him up into the outside wall. Kenseth was worried when he saw Truex back out of the throttle on the final lap. "At the end there, Martin did an excellent job," Kenseth said. "He backed off me so far. I saw him letting off the gas before we got to Turn 1, and I was like 'Ah, this isn’t good.'... "I just decided I was going to keep going. He got a big run at me, but we just had enough speed that, as he starting getting closer to me, we started building a little bit of RPM, and I was able to make sure that my car stayed in front of his car and was able to hold on." Truex didn't get the help he needed from Edwards, who joined JGR during the offseason. But Truex was elated with the speed in his car after a very disappointing first year in the No. 78 Furniture Row Chevrolet in 2014. "I had more fun in the car tonight than I've had since 2013," said Truex, who raced for the first time with former team engineer Cole Pearn as his crew chief. "I only made one mistake tonight — and that was giving up the lead with handful of laps to go (Truex led for the last time on Lap 55). That’s what cost us the race." An early incident that KO'd the No. 2 Team Penske Ford of Brad Keselowski on Lap 23 was merely a prelude to the main event, a 14-car wreck on Lap 45 that erupted when the field accordioned out of Turn 4 and Greg Biffle tapped Jamie McMurray's bumper and sent the No. 1 Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet out of control. MORE: 'Big One' hits 14 cars Severely damaged in the accident that red-flagged the race for 15 minutes were the cars of McMurray, polesitter Paul Menard, Jimmie Johnson, defending race winner Denny Hamlin, Kasey Kahne and Clint Bowyer among others. Hamlin's No. 11 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota took a ride through the tri-oval grass. "It was a matter of time that we were going to wreck," Hamlin said. "We were side-drafting so aggressively from the first lap of the race… We were trying to get to front and protect our track position, because we knew this was coming. I just couldn't get there quick enough. "When you hit the grass now, it's death. It tore the front end of the car off." Subsequent wrecks eliminated Ricky Stenhouse Jr. and Austin Dillon (Lap 62), as well as Tony Stewart, Kurt Busch and Biffle (Lap 68). The latter incident brought out the second red flag of the night, for 5 minutes 18 seconds. "You can tell we've been cooped up all winter long and we're ready to go," Stenhouse said ruefully. Note: The first caution of the race produced the first use of NASCAR's new pit road technology. Cameras flagged infractions by McMurray's crew (over the wall too soon) and driver Ryan Newman (passing through too many pit boxes), and officials on computer monitors in a NASCAR trailer confirmed the violations. 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
Sponsor will be back of No. 20 XFINITY Series Toyota for five races Play: NASCAR Fantasy Live " Vote: Ultimate Daytona Challenge A familiar sponsor will be back on board with Joe Gibbs Racing and Matt Kenseth's No. 20 Toyota in the NASCAR XFINITY Series for the 2015 season. Reser's Fine Foods will be the primary sponsor of Kenseth and the No. 20 Toyota for five XFINITY Series races in 2015, beginning with the second race of the season at Atlanta Motor Speedway on Feb. 28. "I'm excited to work with Reser's again this year," Kenseth said in a release provided by the team. "It has been a lot of fun representing their deli salad and baked side dish brands over the past few seasons, and I'm happy to know that we'll be working together again. We were able to grab them a big win along the way, but I'd like to add to that total for them this year." In addition to the XFINITY Series race at Atlanta, Reser's will be the primary sponsor for the following races: • March 14 at Phoenix International Raceway • May 30 at Dover International Speedway • Sept. 19 at Chicagoland Speedway • Oct. 17 at Kansas Speedway FULL SERIES COVERAGE • Latest news • Standings • Schedule
Joe Gibbs Racing driver looks to bounce back from winless season RELATED: Full schedule of driver previews Team: Joe Gibbs Racing No. 20 Toyota Rank in final 2014 standings: Seventh Wins: None Year in photos: Recap Kenseth's 2014 season Strides: "Highlight of our season? That's a tough one because we didn't win any races," Kenseth said when asked about 2014 superlatives. The winner of a career-best seven races after making the move to JGR in 2013, Kenseth and the No. 20 team couldn’t find their way to Victory Lane once the '14 season got under way. But by the end of the year, Kenseth actually had more top-five (13) and top-10 (22) finishes than he managed the previous year. He also qualified for the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup for the 10th time, advancing through two rounds before being eliminated in the Eliminator Round. In addition to earning two pole positions, Kenseth posted a career-best second-place finish at Atlanta Motor Speedway . Actually, Kenseth wasn't shut out of Victory Lane entirely -- he did collect a checkered flag in the season-ending Nationwide (now XFINITY ) Series event at Homestead, and won one of the two qualifying races prior to the Daytona 500 . "Winning the first (Duel) race at Daytona was probably the highlight, going out and feeling like we were going to be pretty competitive there; Denny (Hamlin) won the second one, we won the first one," Kenseth said. "At the time I didn't think that would be our highlight, but that was probably one of them. "We had a lot of solid races but none that really stand out, where I was like 'Man, that was just an awesome day' because we didn't get any wins." Setbacks: The lack of wins -- it was his first shutout season since 2010 -- and a lack of get-to-the-front speed proved to be the team's undoing. But Kenseth said it wasn't a single item that held the team back throughout the course of the 36-race season. Down the stretch, he and his team remained in contention. A third-place finish at Phoenix in the Eliminator Round finale saw him finish just outside the cutoff for advancing to the Championship Round. "Exceptionally fast" the previous year, Kenseth said "between the aero changes (in '14) and getting the car down on the track, we just didn't seem to have a handle on it the way we did the year before. Our balance was just way off and we could never get it fixed the way we wanted it." Quoteworthy: "I feel like we did a really good job this year with what we had to work with. None of our cars were near as fast as they were last year." What's next: While expansion and a crew chief shuffle at JGR will have new faces in new places for '15, Kenseth's group will have a familiar look. Jason Ratcliff returns for a third season as crew chief, a non-change that Kenseth feels good about. Kenseth said he's also looking forward to the the latest changes to the rules package, moves that will take away a bit of horsepower and lessen downforce. "Hopefully that will make it a little easier to pass in traffic; hopefully it will make the cars a little freer," he said. "They just had so much spoiler on them last year and were always so tight. I'm hoping that will help. It's the same for everybody but hopefully it will help." FULL SERIES COVERAGE • Latest news • Standings • Schedule
Matt Kenseth holds off the field to win the 2015 Sprint Unlimited at Daytona International Speedway.