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Irked Tagliani after Road America spin: 'Everything goes'
ELKHART LAKE, Wis. -- Alex Tagliani has made a handful of NASCAR starts across the XFINITY and Camping World Truck Series over the past several years, remaining winless despite often, if not always, looking like the man to beat. Being the accomplished road course ace that he is -- along with the horsepower and backing from Team Penske / Brad Keselowski Racing that he's enjoyed since 2014 -- you can typically count on the 42-year-old to start up front, and stay there. A third career Coors Light Pole for Saturday's Road America 180 Fired Up by Johnsonville at Road America -- in just his eighth XFINITY start -- once again put Tagliani in prime position to compete for his first NASCAR national series victory, but once again he came up short. For the second consecutive year, his sole XFINITY start was foiled by contact from the eventual race winner. Last year it was Regan Smith at Mid-Ohio; Michael McDowell was Saturday's culprit. With 17 laps remaining in the 48-lap event (extended three laps by overtime), Tagliani -- who'd led a dominating 17 laps already at that point -- retook the lead from Erik Jones , only to be spun after left-rear contact from the No. 2 of McDowell in Turn 5. He was relegated to 30th place after the contact, having to battle back to salvage a seventh-place finish. "I could basically say what I want to say, but I don’t know if it's going to matter at the end," Tagliani told NASCAR.com on pit road following the race. "I think the 2 realized that we were the car to beat and it's unfortunate he presents himself to take us out, and he did it to take away some competition from him. In those instances, I'm a firm believer that you have to resist the temptation of doing it, but it seems in this world, in this series, in this sport, everything goes. "I think I should try to play smarter and drive him that way. At that time, instead of trying to fight clean with the 2 and give him a hard time and try to be creative and try to go around me, I should've let him go by and do what he did to me and take away the competition. It crossed my mind, but I said 'Walk, man.' Because other than the 2, there was nobody else that could touch us. After what I saw, I should've. Should've, could've, but it's not the way you win races." Looking at the replay, it's tough to tell whether or not McDowell should've lifted, or Tagliani shouldn't have dove into the corner, but it was evident neither driver was willing to budge. Particularly after some prior in-race contact between the two. Regardless, McDowell -- while implying in his post-race press conference that he was in a bit of a damned-if-you-do, damned-if-you-don't situation -- stands by his declaration that the spin was not intentional. "No, it wasn't intentional; I wasn't intentionally doing it, but at the same time I was clearly in there and I wasn't really sure what he was doing when he came across the nose … " the Richard Childress Racing driver said. "… I don't know. I didn't see the replay yet. The 22 and I had a little run-in earlier in the race and basically I kept putting my nose in and he kept slamming the door. He went wide in Turn 5 and I got underneath the 42 ( Justin Marks ) and 22 and I was alongside of him and he decided just to turn in. Once we made contact, I just came off the brake and pushed him out of the way. The reason I did that is because had I not, I would've been stuck there, too, and I would've gotten ran over. Once he committed to turn in and I was on the inside, we already made the contact. "But I haven't seen a replay. A lot of times, I watch the replay and I go, 'Yeah, yeah, yeah, I was right.' And a lot of times I go, 'Oh, gosh … ' I hope it's not an 'Oh, gosh' moment. But by no means did I come out of Turn 5 and be like 'Here's my shot. I'm going to wipe him out.' That wasn't the case at all. I got a run and went underneath him and when he slammed his door, I wasn't expecting him to slam the door." McDowell now heads to Michigan International Speedway , where he will race in Sunday's Sprint Cup Series race.
Junior causes PR freak-out after 'married' Instagram photo
"DALE EARNHARDT JR. IS MARRIED. THIS IS NOT A DRILL. JUNIOR IS MARRIED." When the Hendrick Motorsports driver posted the above photo to Instagram on Friday, it sent off alarms that likely sounded a lot like the above in the heads of just about every commenter on the photo, but also to his public relations staff, whose collective blood pressures undoubtedly hit an all-time high. However, if you read the caption on the photo, it's clear that Junior is not married. Yet, anyway. "First time I've seen it in print. It's not quite official yet but sure is cool to think its about to be," Earnhardt said in the caption. Mike Davis, director of Brand and Communications for Earnhardt, gave the driver a hard time about it on Monday's edition of " The Dale Jr. Download ," saying,"You sort of caused a little bit of a ruckus over the weekend, did you know that? ... You sent off 100 fire alarms for the PR people." The photo was just a mistake on a form. Earnhardt was just excited to see it in print for the first time. "I did not know that people didn't read," Earnhardt said. Always read the fine print, people. Always.
Hamlin to Elliott: 'Have more fun, less stress'
MORE: Elliott foiled on final restart Sunday at Michigan International Speedway, Chase Elliott once again narrowly missed out on his first Sprint Cup Series win -- and once again, he was devastatingly hard on himself. USA Today's Jeff Gluck wrote a letter to the Hendrick Motorsports rookie on Monday, addressing the fact that to this point in the season, Elliott is actually out-performing four-time Sprint Cup Series champion Jeff Gordon's final season and he just needs to enjoy the ride. Wins will come. (You may recall -- the 20-year-old replaced Gordon after he hung up the full-time firesuit last season, so those stats are pretty compelling.) Former HMS driver and all-around NASCAR sage of wisdom Mark Martin agrees. "(I) just made another mistake." -- @chaseelliott after his P2 run at Michigan. https://t.co/DOTaTLEmFn — NASCAR (@NASCAR) August 29, 2016 Way to self critical. @chaseelliott is doing amazing things behind the wheel and should give himself a little credit https://t.co/XCNxNJdz7b — Mark Martin (@markmartin) August 29, 2016 The letter also points out that Elliott brings to mind another uber-competitive rookie that we saw a decade ago -- Denny Hamlin. And that seems to have turned out just fine for the 2016 Daytona 500 champion. The Joe Gibbs Racing driver chimed in on Elliott and the letter on Monday, telling the young phenom to stop stressing so much and have more fun. I must say. I agree. Have more fun less stress https://t.co/ZkyeL4SFIF — Denny Hamlin (@dennyhamlin) August 29, 2016 @dennyhamlin — Frustration born from the desire to validate the opportunity by winning. I seem to recall a similar ol’ boy from Chesterfield — Marty Smith (@MartySmithESPN) August 29, 2016 No question. Then a crew chief named Mike Ford says to me"Your in a losing business, find happiness in other ways" https://t.co/SJ6Cu2bUUU — Denny Hamlin (@dennyhamlin) August 29, 2016 In other words, chillax, bro. You're an elite talent at a young age. Your time will come.
H2H: Tackling three key questions on 2016 winners, Chase implications
MORE: 'Smoke' gets hot in the summer once again With the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series having an off week, it's time to answer some hard-hitting questions, such as: Is Tony Stewart a legitimate title contender? Which winless driver this season is most likely to get one next? And can Chris Buescher crack the top 30 in the points standings? If so, whom might he boot out of Chase contention? There are just four races left until the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup field is set, so NASCAR.com editors Pat DeCola and Taylor Nunnally tackle these questions in a quick roundtable. 1. Is Tony Stewart a legitimate title contender? TN: I'd like to start off by saying that I think it's awesome to see a driver find such great success in their final full-time season. Tony Stewart 's win at Sonoma and his performance since has been better than his last two seasons combined, and the No. 14 driver currently sits 26th in the Sprint Cup Series standings. If the Chase field were set today, he'd be in it. Come playoff time I wouldn't be surprised if we saw "Smoke" slip back into the shadows of elimination. Yes, he's a champion driver with wins at all but two tracks on the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series schedule (Darlington and Kentucky), but if we're looking at recent performances at the Chase-designated circuits that lie ahead, he's only got one win (at Dover in 2013) and three top-five finishes in the last three years. I'd be as pumped as anyone if Stewart made it to the Championship 4 this year, but stats don't lie, Pat . PD: Stats don't lie, but they don't always tell the whole story. I've come to learn that a determined Tony Stewart behind the wheel is not something to doubt. Based on the turmoil of his past few seasons, it'd be easy to just ride it out, collect his checks (signed by him, as the team owner and all) and focus on Porkchop's agility training. But this show pig ain't done yet. Stewart isn't that far removed from his miraculous 2011 Chase run, when he deemed his team unfit to win a Sprint Cup Series title ... then went out and won half the playoff races to secure his third title. He told NASCAR.com's Jonathan Merryman after his Sonoma win that he's "going to stick with my approach from 2011. I said we couldn't win it then and we ended up winning it. I feel like we're just starting to get going." Based on his recent spate of consistently strong runs, I don't see why he isn't in the title conversation -- especially given how far we saw an under-performing Jeff Gordon make it in 2015. 2. Which winless driver this is season is most likely to end up in Victory Lane? TN: I love a race that brings a season's first-time winner. In 22 Sprint Cup Series-scored races this year there have been 12 different winners, and I'd say it's time for a new face in that mix. Who, you ask? I've got my eyes on Sunoco Rookie of the Year candidate Chase Elliott . The No. 24 Hendrick Motorsports driver has already put up impressive numbers in his rookie season, with six top-five and 11 top-10 finishes, Elliott knows how to run with the big dogs. His best finish of this year came at Michigan where he was runner-up to 2015 Daytona 500 winner Joey Logano , so I'm banking that on the return to the Irish Hills in a couple weeks, the 20-year-old will turn that second-place finish into a first-time trip to Victory Lane. PD: You know, at first I actually had Elliott targeted at Michigan, as well, for that reason. But who was third in that race? My real pick: Kyle Larson . Elliott has been more consistent on the whole this season -- as evidenced by his 12th place to Larson's 15th in the standings -- but just based on the "feel test," it seems like Larson has been thisclose to a win a handful of times this season. In contrast, there aren't any races that jump out as real missed opportunities for a win for Elliott, despite his high finishes. At some point, it feels like Larson is just going to break through, whereas it wouldn't surprise me if we don't see Chase win until next year. 3. Can Chris Buescher crack the top 30? TN: I'm probably not alone in saying that I'm surprised Chris Buescher was the first rookie to score a Sprint Cup Series win this season. Yes, he's the 2015 XFINITY Series champion, but the Sprint Cup Series is another animal and his performance behind the wheel of the No. 34 this year has been less-than exhilarating. Buescher is currently sitting 31st in the point standings and needs to be in 30th place come Richmond (Sept. 10) to be Chase-eligible. Given his track record (literally), Buescher's best performance at the last four circuits before the Chase field is set doesn't seem too promising, with his best finish of 20th coming at Michigan earlier this year; he's yet to try the "Lady in Black" that is Darlington. Long story short, although he seems close right now, I don't see Buescher cracking the top 30 and knocking another Chase contender out. PD: Sure, it's a bit of a longshot, but it seems more likely that he makes the leap from 31st to at least 30th (only three points at this ... point) than his win was, so it certainly isn't out of the equation. Looking at the drivers directly ahead of him in the standings -- David Ragan , Landon Cassill , Casey Mears , Aric Almirola -- they have zero top-10s combined. I expect the Chase-determined No. 34 team to be grinding for every point, and don't expect the respective performance of each of those other teams to suddenly improve. Plus, neither Cassill nor Ragan has a DNF this season, so if either winds up with one it opens the door a little more for Buescher.
What it's like to eat a 'pork chop sandwich' at Eldora Speedway
ROSSBURG, Ohio -- A couple of factoids you may or may not know -- Tony Stewart owns a race track (Eldora Speedway) and he also owns a pet pig (which he's nicknamed 'Porkchop'). Porkchop and I are wore out after watching the truck race #Porkchop pic.twitter.com/VyrMHubRsF — Tony Stewart (@TonyStewart) May 17, 2014 Another little tidbit -- on site at Eldora, where the Camping World Truck Series will be putting on arguably the most anticipated show of the season in Wednesday night's Aspen Dental Dirt Derby (9 p.m. ET, FS1, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio), there is a vendor selling pork chop sandwiches . Dark? Yes. In poor taste? Not at all. Quite delicious, actually. I hear the guy who owns Eldora has a pet pig named "Porkchop." Dark? Yes. Poor taste? Nope. Delicious. #NASCAR pic.twitter.com/Ooneuy1S9j — Pat DeCola (@Pat_DeCola) July 20, 2016 You can judge a sandwich (or most foods, honestly) by the "Seventh-bite factor," which is a term that I literally just made up as I started writing this sentence. But hear me out. It's easy enough for a food to catch you off-guard -- good or bad -- on the first bite. When you find yourself saying "Oh my gosh, this sandwich," seven bites in, you know you've got yourself a sandwich among sandwiches. Boylan's Original Pork Chop Sandwich is that kind of sandwich. I mean, just look at it. Boylan's Original Pork Chop Sandwich (est. 1967) @EldoraSpeedway . #NASCAR #AspenDerby pic.twitter.com/ox1gadBU3P — Pat DeCola (@Pat_DeCola) July 20, 2016 It looks so simple -- the thing is enclosed in literally just a run-of-the-mill, store-bought plain hamburger bun -- but you can tell just from the picture that it's tasty AF. The secret is the marinade, which, just guessing, is a secret in itself. But whatever marination process that led to this perfectly seasoned pork tenderloin resulted in a delectably tangy-yet-sweet creation that had me actually considering getting another despite a serious lack of room in my stomach. Oh, and about that pet pig? Sorry, Porkchop. I recommend this sandwich. #NASCAR #AspenDerby pic.twitter.com/eVEPMkszZJ — Pat DeCola (@Pat_DeCola) July 20, 2016
Staff picks for Brickyard 400 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway
RELATED: See all the cars lined up for Sunday's race Jimmie Johnson : "The focus is rightly on Jeff Gordon and Tony Stewart this weekend. Away from the spotlight, though, Johnson and his No. 48 team finally get back on track with a dominant showing -- and "Six-Time" ties Gordon with his fifth career win at the Brickyard." -- Brad Norman Tony Stewart : 'Smoke' has been on a roll and no place means as much to him as the Brickyard. -- Kenny Bruce Kyle Larson : " Fueled by a landmark victory at Eldora Speedway and increased team performance, expect Kyle Larson to ride a wave of momentum into the Brickyard, backing up his two Indy top-10s by landing in Victory Lane for the first time in his Sprint Cup Series career." -- Pat DeCola Martin Truex Jr. : Furniture Row Racing puts all the pieces together, shedding any bad luck for another crown jewel win to pair with its Coca-Cola 600 triumph. -- Zack Albert Jimmie Johnson : " He's won here four times before and it's time for his frustrating summer to end." -- Holly Cain Tony Stewart : "Equipped with a third-place starting position for his final Brickyard 400 run, look for Indiana native Tony Stewart to continue his hot streak up front -- and eventually in Victory Lane." -- Jessica Ruffin Ryan Newman : "The Rocket Man has been close the past two weeks (seventh at Loudon, third at Kentucky) and qualified sixth at the Brickyard, so let's go with Indiana's forgotten son to pull off the upset on Sunday. After all, his last Sprint Cup Series win came at Indy (2013)." -- George Winkler Kyle Busch: " The Sprint Cup Series champ is starting on the pole and I think he's going to stay there to bring home his second consecutive Brickyard win. Also, with Saturday's XFINITY Series win under his belt, Busch is eyeing a sweep again, a feat that's only been done by him." -- Taylor Nunnally Carl Edwards : " The Joe Gibbs Racing driver has the speed this weekend and his quiet summer is about to come to an end with his first Brickyard win." -- RJ Kraft Jimmie Johnson : Four-time Indy winner is due for a Brickyard win and this weekend could be the year "Six-Time" ties Jeff Gordon for the most wins at the 2.5-mile track. -- Maggie MacKenzie Make your picks in Streak to the Finish !
How Matt Kenseth helped John Krasinski land role of 'Jim' on 'The Office'
It's nearly impossible to think an actor besides John Krasinski playing the role of 'Jim Halpert' on the American version of "The Office," but it may not have happened without the help of Matt Kenseth . Did that just blow your mind? It should have. Back in 2002 -- a full three years before the NBC premiere of inarguably the greatest comedy series of all time, in my opinion, at least -- a fresh-faced Krasinski appeared in a commercial with Kenseth that caught the eye of future "Office" executive producer, Greg Daniels. The back-and-forth dialogue between last fall's grand marshal at Texas Motor Speedway and Kenseth (more back than forth, knowing the stoic Joe Gibbs Racing driver) and wild antics by the now-36-year-old led to an audition and before long, "Jim" was born. Krasinski recently spoke about it on NPR's Fresh Air podcast with Dave Davies . "I haven't seen or heard that since the time I did it. That is a real send back to memory lane," Krasinski said. " … That was a huge performance and I remember we had a little bit of script and Matt Kenseth had said he doesn't want to have a line in the script. He was very shy and he didn't want ... he just wanted to walk through the commercial. "At the end of the day, they just asked 'Would you just improv and have fun? Let's see what we get' and we just kept going and I think they just watched the dog go off the leash, just improving all this stuff. By the end, Matt said 'Well, now I do want to say some stuff.' So he came in and we were joking around all day. It was probably one of the more fun times I've had, certainly before I got 'The Office . ' " The commercial worked wonders for both men, as Krasinski is now a household name and Kenseth won five races that year, following it up with his only premier series title the following season. Watch the full commercial below.
Jeff Gordon's retirement gifts: Where are they now?
RELATED: List of Gordon's gifts " @nascarcasm: Jeff's crappiest gifts LONG POND, Pa. -- As his full-time Sprint Cup Series career wound down last season, Jeff Gordon received some sort of "gift" -- sometimes tangible, often times not -- from race tracks upon his final stop at each venue. Gordon, filling in for No. 88 Hendrick Motorsports driver Dale Earnhardt Jr. at Pocono Raceway this weekend, gave us a little insight into just exactly what he's been doing with all of his new possessions. "Well, I'm kind of a hoarder when it comes to things like that, anyway. When somebody gives me things, I'm maybe too superstitious to give anything away or do anything with it," said Gordon, who finished 13th in fill-in duty last weekend at Indianapolis. "So, we have a warehouse in North Carolina that all those things are stored in. One day, I'll look forward to revisiting those moments and those things and enjoying them." Wait, so they're just sitting in a warehouse in North Carolina somewhere? That's no fun. EXCLUSIVE: I've obtained footage of @JeffGordonWeb in his N.C. warehouse full of retirement gifts. #NASCAR #PA400 pic.twitter.com/KqdFkvxh7N — Pat DeCola (@Pat_DeCola) July 29, 2016 What about the cool Bandolero that Atlanta Motor Speedway gifted to his kids? What about the Shetland ponies that Texas Motor Speedway … also gifted to his kids? "Nobody is ready for a Bandolero in my family, so that hasn't happened," Gordon said. "We've enjoyed the ponies. They surprisingly went over well in the family." Phew. As for the more "adult"-aged gifts … "We haven't done any Blackjack (Las Vegas Motor Speedway) and haven't drank any whiskey (Kentucky Speedway) or wine (Sonoma Raceway) or any of those things. Well, I mean I have (laughter); I drank plenty but it's just not from the collection I was given as a gift." Y ou thinking what I'm thinking? Off-season party at Jeff's mysterious, hidden warehouse? YUP.
Johnson remembers new teammate Byron as trick-or-treater
MORE: Hendrick signs Byron For a while there, Jimmie Johnson had a hold on the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series that resulted in five straight championships and six overall. The Hendrick Motorsports driver was so good, it was like he was taking candy from a baby. Johnson, being the nice guy that he is, apparently likes to give candy back to the proverbial baby every Halloween. And now one of those trick-or-treaters is his Hendrick teammate in William Byron, who the organization officially signed Thursday. "Yeah, I've definitely been paying attention to him. We live in the same neighborhood and I can recall him trick-or-treating at my house in one of the rare opportunities we were home," Johnson said Friday at Bristol Motor Speedway . "I absolutely know who he is and have gotten to know him and have seen him around home. "I think he's an amazing talent with a great head on his shoulders and I’m very excited that he's under the Hendrick umbrella now. Hopefully we can take advantage of his youth and great talent and give him a great run. I'm excited that he's on the team." Byron will drive for JR Motorsports in the XFINITY Series in 2017 -- and that's no trick.
Staff picks for GEICO 500 at Talladega Superspeedway
RELATED: See all the cars lined up for Sunday's race Denny Hamlin : If Joe Gibbs Racing can get organized in the same way it did at Daytona in February, the No. 11 could be the winning ticket at Talladega. -- Zack Albert Dale Earnhardt Jr .: Series' best plate racer has had three runner-up finishes this season. He's due. -- Kenny Bruce Jimmie Johnson : This will mark the 10th Talladega race since Johnson last won here and, quite simply, it's time. While his teammates will grab the lion's share of the attention, "Six-Time" will ultimately hold the winner's trophy -- his third. -- Holly Cain Joey Logano : Entering the weekend, I'd already pegged Joey Logano as the favorite -- then he went out and topped final practice. Seemingly due for a win and with a pair of restrictor-plate victories in his back pocket from last year, what more are you looking for? -- Pat DeCola Ryan Blaney : His best Cup finish came in this race last year and Penske, with whom Wood Brothers is affiliated, has taken two of the last three 'Dega races. -- RJ Kraft Dale Earnhardt Jr .: I'm jumping on the Junior bandwagon. He's always the one to beat at the 2.66-mile track and he'll make it difficult for the rest of the field en route to his seventh Cup win here. -- Maggie MacKenzie Brad Keselowski : The 2012 premier series champion spoils the recent Hendrick-JGR show of power, thanks to his own racing ingenuity and plenty of fast Fords with which to partner. -- Brad Norman Brad Keselowski : The Team Penske driver earned his first Cup win in 2009 at Talladega and has won twice more since. Couple that with he and teammate Joey Logano 's history of working closely together on-track -- a crucial element to plate racing -- and 'Dega Victory Lane could be calling Keselowski's name. -- Jessica Ruffin Matt Kenseth : All the bad luck that the No. 20 team has had this year has masked impressive speed. Talladega is about both luck and speed. With the former in hand as shown by his fourth-place qualifying effort, Kenseth is due for a more auspicious turn of his fortune. -- Kathy Sheldon Denny Hamlin : Hamlin saw Victory Lane two years ago at Talladega and with his 2016 Daytona 500 win under his belt, the JGR driver seems ready to dominate another superspeedway this season. -- Taylor Starer Chase Elliott : His dad won here twice and the man who drove the No. 24 before him won here six times. Talladega has been known to produce dramatic moments, so let's root for another one to happen Sunday. -- George Winkler Make your picks in Streak to the Finish !