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SpongeBob, NASCAR team up for new apparel
SHOP: SpongeBob NASCAR gear Do fire suits come in size square? NASCAR and Nickelodeon launched on Monday a new line of SpongeBob SquarePants-themed fan merchandise highlighting the absorbent yellow icon and his underwater cast of characters from Bikini Bottom. The new offerings include apparel for kids of all ages (yes, adults too!) as well as lanyards, beach towels, flags, koozies and more. So whether you want to show your fandom for the Krusty Krab pit crew or fly your Bikini Bottom colors with pride, the NASCAR Superstore has got you covered. But that's not all. This summer, Nickelodeon will unveil a line of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles-themed NASCAR gear as the season heats up for the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 400 at Chicagoland Speedway , the kick off of the 2016 Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup . Fans can grab the new merchandise at the Fanatics Trackside Superstore and the NASCAR .com Superstore.
Keselowski holds off field for Talladega victory
RELATED: Race results SHOP: No. 2 gear TALLADEGA, Ala. -- Taking control in the final three laps of Sunday's wreck-filled GEICO 500 at Talladega Superspeedway , Brad Keselowski claimed his fourth NASCAR Sprint Cup Series victory at the 2.66-mile race track and solidified his spot in the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup . Choosing the top lane for a restart on Lap 186 of 188, Keselowski powered his No. 2 Team Penske Ford past Kurt Busch with two laps left and crossed the finish line as a gaggle of cars wrecked behind him coming to the stripe. " The last three or four restarts before that, the high lane had went, and as the leader a lot of it is out of your control," Keselowski said in Victory Lane. "You need the cars behind you to push and a couple of them they did and a couple they didn't. That's just part of racing, and there was nobody at fault with that. "We actually lost the lead and got a better run. Jamie McMurray behind me gave me a great push, and then Kyle Busch gave me a push that was big to clear the 41 ( Kurt Busch ), and without those two I couldn't have made it to the front. So 'Thank you' to them. It's Talladega. This is my fourth win here. I never thought I'd win at Talladega four times, and I'm super-pumped. This is awesome." In claiming the 19th victory of his career, Keselowski became the fourth two-time winner in the Sprint Cup series this season. RELATED: Keselowski celebrates fourth 'Dega win The race ended under caution, with Kyle Busch in second place and Austin Dillon bringing his battered No. 3 Chevrolet home in third as the survivor of two early crashes. McMurray ran fourth, one spot ahead of polesitter Chase Elliott , who worked his way up from ninth to fifth after the final restart. Ty Dillon finished sixth after taking over for Tony Stewart under the first caution on Lap 51, a move that proved wise given the combination of Stewart's recent recovery from a broken back and the chaos that followed late in the race. Clint Bowyer was seventh -- his best result so far this year -- and Kurt Busch was shuffled back to eighth on the final lap. With drivers jockeying for position and making risky moves throughout the race -- with a sense of urgency exacerbated by the threat of rain that never came -- Sunday's event featured 10 cautions and more torn-up race cars than one can count on a full complement of fingers and toes. There wasn't just one "Big One." There were three massive wrecks at Talladega on Sunday, with one melee on Lap 161 involving 21 cars, more than half the field. Kurt Busch ignited that accident by tapping Jimmie Johnson 's bumper in the wrong place, turning Johnson's No. 48 Chevrolet into Paul Menard 's Chevy and triggering a wreck that ended with chassis strewn across the racing surface and on the infield grass. On Lap 181, a 12-car chain-reaction incident took out hard-luck Matt Kenseth , who had led 39 laps, second only to Keselowski's 46. Earlier, on Lap 96, Chris Buescher 's No. 34 Ford took the brunt of a seven-car crash that ended with Buescher barrel-rolling three times after contact from Michael Annett 's Chevrolet. "I thought we were clear of the wreck," Buescher said after leaving the infield care center. "I saw it happening in front of us and checked up, and the next thing I knew I was upside down. "We felt we were decent this race. We were holding our own and waiting, but here we are. It's unfortunate. I really hate it for the guys." By the time Buescher flipped, Dale Earnhardt Jr .'s winning chance already had evaporated. Fighting a loose handling condition in heavy traffic, Earnhardt lost control of his No. 88 Chevrolet on Lap 50 and wiped out Hendrick Motorsports teammate Kasey Kahne . Earnhardt returned to the race only to be ridden into the Turn 1 wall when Carl Edwards ' damaged Toyota blew a right front tire and shot up the track into Earnhardt's path. That was a two-car incident, a small one relative to the multicar crashes that followed in the second half of the race, which, in true restrictor-plate racing fashion, produced 37 lead changes among 17 drivers. "You know, it's just Talladega,” Kyle Busch said, summing up the afternoon. "It is what it is. These cars, you try to get a little bit aggressive, start bumping people and pushing people, they're real easy to get out of control. "I really don't know why we're bumping and pushing and everything else, because these cars, they go slower when you push. Makes a lot of sense. That's how stupid we are." Keselowski might argue that point, because pushes from both McMurray and Busch got him to the front when it counted most.
Ty Dillon subs for Stewart, salvages sixth at Talladega
RELATED: Talladega results Ty Dillon subbed in for three-time NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion Tony Stewart on Sunday, taking over the Stewart-Haas Racing No. 14 Chevrolet and driving it to a sixth-place finish at Talladega Superspeedway . The team made the driver switch in the 52nd of a scheduled 188 laps in Sunday's GEICO 500 . The swap went according to plan, with Dillon intending to fill in during the first caution period as Stewart eases back to full-time competition after suffering a broken back in an offseason all-terrain vehicle accident. From there, Dillon managed to avoid the four multicar crashes that followed, including one that punctuated the event at the checkered flag. The result earned Stewart 35 valuable championship points as he tries to position himself for a berth in the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup playoffs. "All in all I'm so glad I got a good finish for Tony," Dillon said post-race. "I know this team is so strong they're going to win a race and get in the top 30. Just glad I got to be a part of what they're going to do this year." RELATED: Ty and Tony make the switch, frame-by-frame After a pit-road speeding penalty during the first round of green-flag pit stops, Stewart was running a lap down at the time of the first caution period, triggered by a three-car crash involving Dale Earnhardt Jr ., Kasey Kahne and Matt DiBenedetto . Stewart was the beneficiary of the yellow flag, putting him back on the lead lap. After regaining his lost lap, Stewart pitted separately of the main pack and Dillon resumed near the tail end of the field in 33rd place. "I think it went well; it might have been a little bit slower … but we were being patient, methodical," Dillon said of the driver swap, a change-over the team rehearsed during Friday practice. "I had my belts tight and everything was really smooth. We just made sure everything was perfect. We knew we had ample amount of time and it went well." Stewart told FOX Sports' Jamie Little after exiting the car that "it sucks" to turn over the wheel, but that he understood the reasoning. He plans to return full-time next weekend at Kansas Speedway . "If I wouldn't have broken my back in the end of January, we wouldn't have been in this situation," Stewart said. " The good news is it's the last time I've got to do it and then I'm back in the next week. Really appreciate Ty. I mean, he's been a rock star through this whole thing and especially this weekend. He's done all the heavy lifting and I just go riding around for 50 laps and turn it over to him." WATCH: Stewart talks about getting out of the car Multiple chaotic wrecks ensued in the laps that followed the driver change, further justifying Stewart's decision. Dillon, a NASCAR XFINITY Series regular with 12 Sprint Cup starts, managed to keep the SHR entry free of major involvement the rest of the way. "I don't know how I missed them, really," Dillon said. "(Spotter) Bob Jeffrey on top of the roof did a great job navigating me through. Just missed them by a narrow margin but we missed them. That was all that mattered." Dillon drove the No. 14 in Saturday's Coors Light Pole Qualifying to the 14th starting spot. Stewart started Sunday's 500-miler, dropping to the rear of the 40-car field before the green flag because of the driver change. "Guys, I know this isn't the optimal situation, but we have a kid who's done a great job for us," Stewart told his team over the radio during pace laps. "He'll do another great job today." As the driver of record at the initial start, Stewart was credited with the finish and points. The two-driver effort moved Stewart up two spots to 38th in the Sprint Cup driver standings, 71 points behind 30th-place DiBenedetto. Under the terms of the medical eligibility waiver granted by NASCAR upon his return, Stewart must win a race and finish among the top 30 in driver standings to qualify for a Chase berth. Dillon made three starts for SHR this season in place of Stewart, dividing driving duties with Brian Vickers in the eight races Stewart was sidelined. Contributing: Kenny Bruce
NASCAR : Tony Stewart granted Chase waiver
RELATED: Full Stewart coverage Tony Stewart , who will return to the track this weekend at Richmond International Raceway after missing the first eight races of the season, has been granted a waiver making him eligible to qualify for the 2016 Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup , according to NASCAR . " NASCAR received the appropriate medical clearance documentation allowing Tony Stewart to resume normal racing activities," NASCAR Executive Vice President and Chief Racing Development Officer Steve O'Donnell. "We also have granted the request from Stewart-Haas Racing for a waiver for Tony to be eligible to qualify for the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup . As he begins his final season, we wish Tony the best of luck." Because he did not attempt to qualify for every race, Stewart would not have been eligible for the 2016 postseason without the waiver. The Stewart-Haas Racing driver and co-owner is now in the same position as Kyle Busch in 2015. The clearest path to the postseason, as Busch proved last year, is for Stewart to win one race before the regular season ends at Richmond in the fall, and climb into the top 30 in the points standings. "Smoke" injured his back in an all-terrain vehicle accident in late January, and has been sidelined since. He's been prevalent at the track, though, as drivers Ty Dillon and Brian Vickers have filled his seat.
Kenseth, Patrick collide; JGR driver has words for Logano
RELATED: Full results " Frame-by-frame of Kenseth-Danica collisio n Danica Patrick crashed hard into the interior SAFER barrier wall, flipping Matt Kenseth airborne in the process, as the two cars sustained the brunt of the damage in a 12-car wreck with eight laps remaining in Sunday's GEICO 500 at Talladega Superspeedway . Patrick appeared to get loose when shoved from behind by the No. 95 of Michael McDowell . Her No. 10 Chevrolet veered left into Kenseth's No. 20 Toyota, sending Kenseth flying. Both drivers were up and out of their car and sent to the care center. Patrick's X-rays came back negative, and she said it was her hardest-ever hit at a superspeedway. Just before the wreck, Kenseth had been pushed below the double yellow line on the track by Joey Logano , reminding Kenseth, at least, of conflict between the two drivers at the end of last season. " The first thing that happened is the 22 ran us off the race track," he said. "I thought we were done with that, but maybe we aren't." Later, FOX cameras caught Kenseth exchanging words with Logano after both had been checked out of the infield care center. The driver of the No. 20 wagged his finger before walking away; Logano smiled throughout the exchange and shook his head. RELATED: Watch their exchange "We worked hard all day, but unfortunately didn't end up as well as we'd like to two days in a row," Logano said. "A couple big hits, so I can't wait to get out of this place.” When told Kenseth seemed upset, Logano said: "OK. He can get in line with the rest of them." The two drivers have a history dating back to last year's Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup . On-track contact and incidents throughout the postseason eventually led to Kenseth wrecking a race-leading Logano at Martinsville Speedway in November, a move that netted Kenseth a two-race suspension. The NASCAR Sprint Cup Series returns to the track next weekend at Kansas Speedway -- coincidentally, the spot where contact between Logano and Kenseth instigated their late-season feud.
Amelia flies again: No. 88 car restored for 'Dega
Amelia is back. The No. 88 Chevrolet for Dale Earnhardt Jr ., a car so good on superspeedway tracks that it earned its own name, has apparently been restored from a Daytona 500 wreck. According to team crew chief Greg Ives, she'll be back on the track this weekend. For all those asking, it is time. Amelia will be making her return to the track this weekend. @TeamHendrick did a great job fixing her up. — Greg Ives (@Ives_Greg) April 25, 2016 Amelia -- formally known as Chassis No. 88-872 -- has been Earnhardt Jr.'s primary car for the past five races at Daytona and Talladega. In 2015, Earnhardt Jr. won twice in four restrictor-plate events, with one win at Daytona and one at Talladega. He finished third ( Daytona 500 ) and second in the fall Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Talladega. In the 2016 Daytona 500 , Earnhardt Jr. was charging toward the front of the field when his car whipped around on him and smashed the inside barrier, crumpling sheet metal and denting the frame. He would finish 36th in the race. “We're going to have Amelia ... I’m excited about that," Earnhardt said in this week's " The Dale Jr. Download" on Dirty Mo Radio. "We know how she ran last year. We've just got to run Talladega like we have to win it, just like we did the last time we were there. We did a good job. "If we run it like that, we'll be up front at the end." WATCH: Daytona wreck cripples car Amelia, named after Amelia Earhart, became something of a Junior Nation sensation when Dale Jr. revealed he had named the car. "A car gets named when you drive it long enough to see a personality, typically," Earnhardt said earlier in 2016. "… The fact that we're going to keep running it, I said, 'We gotta name it' and we were thinking of a woman who has accomplished something that was an awesome person that was something we could be proud of. "Amelia Earhart was the first thing that came to my mind."
Sprint Fan Vote: Current top 10 revealed
RELATED: Cast your vote now The Sprint Fan Vote is underway, and now, we have updates on (perhaps) your favorite driver. There's still plenty of time left to vote but, so far, the top-10 vote-getters are as follows, in alphabetical order: AJ Allmendinger , Trevor Bayne , Ryan Blaney , Clint Bowyer , Matt DiBenedetto , Chase Elliott , Kyle Larson , Casey Mears , Danica Patrick and Brian Vickers . Patrick, who won the Sprint Fan Vote last year and in 2013, is the first two-time Sprint Fan Vote winner. Elliott and Blaney are the current leaders in the Sunoco Rookie of the Year competition. Fans are able to vote daily by downloading the NASCAR Mobile App or visiting www. nascar .com/SprintFanVote. Votes that are shared on Facebook or Twitter will count for double, so make sure to post on your social media channels. So if you're voting for one of the 10 drivers above, get to it! If your driver isn't on the list, don't worry -- there's still plenty of time to help him or her catch up. Fans have until 5 p.m. ET May 20 to cast their votes. NASCAR will announce the winner of the Sprint Fan Vote in Victory Lane after the Sprint Showdown at Charlotte Motor Speedway on Friday, May 20 (7 p.m. ET, FS1/MRN/Sirius XM NASCAR Radio). The NASCAR Sprint All-Star Race is scheduled for May 21. If any of the Sprint Fan Vote candidates wins in the races leading up to the Sprint All-Star Race, he or she will automatically earn a spot in the race and their name will be removed from the Sprint Fan Vote ballot. To purchase ticket packages for the Sprint All-Star Race weekend -- which includes the Sprint Showdown, NASCAR Camping World Truck Series N.C. Education Lottery 200, Andy Grammer pre-race concert powered by Rayovac and the Sprint All-Star Race and qualifying -- call Charlotte Motor Speedway at 1-800-455-FANS or visit CharlotteMotorSpeedway.com . Fans wishing to engage in the #SprintAllStar Race conversation through the #SprintFanVote window are encouraged to follow @MissSprintCup, @CLTMotorSpdwy and @ NASCAR on Twitter.
Bowyer: Racing is 'about what you're going to do tomorrow'
KANSAS CITY, Kan. -- Those heat-of- the -moment tirades that fans are able to hear during the course of a NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race might be entertaining, but they don't always tell the whole story, according to HScott Motorsports driver Clint Bowyer . "Whether I'm frustrated or happy or whatever … whether it's a (celebration) or a pissed off moment that happens, the wick's pretty short," Bowyer said Thursday at Kansas Speedway , site of Saturday's GoBowling 400 (7:30 p.m. ET, FS1, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio). "It burns out in about five minutes. The next thing out of my mouth is 'Alright, now what are we going to do to fix it?' " Bowyer, 36, is in a transition year, spending the 2016 season as driver of the No. 15 Chevrolet for HSM. He'll move over to Stewart-Haas Racing in '17, inheriting the No. 14 ride currently occupied by co-owner/driver Tony Stewart . An early-season start that saw the driver finish inside the top 20 only once in seven races frustrated the eight-time winner, and that frustration often could be heard as he vented to his team on the radio during races. But it's what takes place after the pot has boiled over, he said, that determines what occurs next. "I don't ever care about yesterday or what happened in a practice or a race," he said. "… This sport is all about what you're going to do tomorrow. That's what you have to instill into yourself and everybody around you to be able to go out there and get the job done, compete at the level I know we're capable of competing at for our sponsors and for ourselves." Bowyer hasn't been to victory lane in a Sprint Cup race since the 2012 season, a span of 123 races. He did qualify for last year's Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup based on points earned, but was eliminated in the first round. HScott fields two Sprint Cup teams -- the No. 15 of Bowyer as well as the No. 46 for driver Michael Annett . Bowyer enters this weekend's race 27th in points while Annett is 35th. But two of the last three races have seen Bowyer finish inside the top 10 -- he was eighth at Bristol and seventh most recently at Talladega. "I was struggling to get that kind of consistency where I was last year," he said of his final season at the now-defunct Michael Waltrip Racing. "When you're down, most of the time there's a reason, especially when you're down as far as we' re down. We had work to do; we're starting to get some new waves of cars built, get some things to where we are satisfied with them and excited about bringing them to the track and seeing what our hard work has done. That's all you can do." Anyone should be frustrated, he said, if they felt their performance as a driver or their team's performance wasn't up to par. That doesn't mean a team no longer attempts to improve. "When you're running good, it's easy," Bowyer said. "When you're running bad, it's the hardest thing you've ever done in your life. I don't care what organization you're at or how much depth you have or anything else. It's that simple. … "This is hard. This is a hard business and it's very competitive. If you're good, you better work hard to stay good or you're not going to be there long. If you're bad, you've got to work hard to get caught up."
Early release, Chase swap highlight '17 schedule
RELATED: See the full 2017 schedules here NASCAR released its 2017 national series schedules on Thursday -- months prior to the more typical fall arrival -- and among the significant news is a Chase -time swap between two of the tracks on the Cup schedule. Although the order and dates of races in NASCAR's premier series remain mostly intact, a noteworthy change involves swapping the Chase race order at Talladega Superspeedway and Kansas Speedway . For 2017, Talladega (Oct. 15) will be the second race in the Round of 12 with Kansas becoming the third -- and elimination -- race (Oct. 22) for the Round of 12. This past weekend, Talladega recorded the second-highest number of green-flag passes for the lead in the track's great history (213), and the series heads to Kansas this week for a Saturday night show with its revamped rules package. NASCAR Senior Vice President of Racing Operations Jim Cassidy caught up with reporters Thursday at Kansas Speedway , explaining the dynamics of the schedule swap and the enhancements to the Chase . Cassidy said that with the new reduced downforce package in place, driver input and a team's ability to adjust at an intermediate-sized track would play a greater role in determining eliminations. "I would say it definitely adds a different layer of pressure for the competitors; I would say it adds certainly to the weekend and to the Chase overall," Cassidy said. "But at the same time it does not take away from, on the Talladega side, what the fans are going to get. To me, it's good for the fans on either side because … no matter when you go to Talladega you're going to see a product that is quite frankly some of the most popular racing that we've got on the circuit. Now with Kansas in that spot, you add another layer of complexity to a very compelling playoff format." NASCAR credited an "unprecedented" collaboration among the industry for being able to complete and announce the upcoming 2017 schedule so early in 2016, specifically noting the importance of the five-year sanctioning agreement between NASCAR and its tracks. "Announcing the 2017 national series schedules this early in the season is another example of the collaborative spirit across the NASCAR industry," NASCAR Executive Vice President and Chief Racing Development Officer Steve O'Donnell said. "It's an exciting time in NASCAR , with some of the most intriguing racing we've seen in years. With the 2017 schedule solidified, the industry can now concentrate on the remainder of this season while planning for the future much earlier than in previous years." RELATED: Explaining the five-year agreement The other big date news is that Dover International Speedway 's spring race will be moved back a month to June 4 -- a week after the Coca-Cola 600 -- versus a date in May this year. And Michigan International Speedway 's second race returns to its traditional August timeframe -- Aug. 13. Texas Motor Speedway 's spring race will also be held on Sunday afternoon, rather than Saturday night. The Cup schedule begins with the Daytona 500 at Daytona International Speedway on Feb. 26. Its regular-season finale at Richmond is Sept. 9, with the first round of the 10-stop playoff slate scheduled for Sept. 17 at Chicagoland Speedway . The 2017 champion will be crowned at Homestead-Miami Speedway on Nov. 19. As for the NASCAR XFINITY Series and NASCAR Camping World Truck Series schedules, they will open the new season at Daytona on Feb. 25 and Feb. 24, respectively. The XFINITY Series will feature four stand-alone events -- at Iowa Speedway (July 29), Mid-Ohio (Aug. 12), Road America (Aug. 26) and Kentucky Speedway (Sept. 23). The Kentucky event opens the NASCAR XFINTY Series Chase . The Camping World Truck Series will host five stand-alone events on its 23-race schedule, including the hugely popular race at Eldora Speedway on July 19. It will kick off its postseason at New Hampshire Motor Speedway on Sept. 23. Iowa Speedway will again host an XFINITY and Camping World Truck series doubleheader on June 23-24. Contributing: Kenny Bruce in Kansas City. RELATED: Learn more about all 23 Cup tracks
The Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup explained
Got questions about the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup format? This brief video will get you up to speed.