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Blake Koch ecstatic after advancing to Round of 8
Blake Koch expressed his excitement after a 12th-place finish at Charlotte Motor Speedway advanced him into the Round of 8 in the NASCAR XFINITY Series Chase.
Post-Race Reactions: Good Sam Club 200
Clint Bowyer, Blake Feese , Kyle Busch, James Buescher and Ryan Newman comment on their Atlanta finishes.
Buescher and Raymer get together
Rookie Blake Feese gets loose in front of new points leader James Buescher and brings out the caution.
XFINITY contenders to apply Round of 12 lessons at Kansas
RELATED: Chase Grid KANSAS CITY, Kan. – The first round of the first Chase for NASCAR's XFINITY Series trimmed the field of championship hopefuls from 12 to eight. The three-race subset also served as a learning tool for those who advanced to the second round, which begins Saturday with the Kansas Lottery 300 (3 p.m. ET, NBC, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio) here at Kansas Speedway . "I learned that in the first race of the first round the intensity level was very high," Daniel Suarez ( Joe Gibbs Racing No. 19 Toyota) said Friday. "It was definitely more high than what I was expecting." Elliott Sadler (JR Motorsports No. 1 Chevrolet) won the Chase opener held at Kentucky Speedway . Suarez was a close second, won the following week at Dover and finished third last weekend at Charlotte, unofficially taking the mantle of Chase favorite with four races remaining. "I thought everyone was going to go out there to try to be consistent and to try to make it for the next round and that wasn't the case," Suarez said. "Everyone was going for the win and everything got a little crazy in the first race in Kentucky. "But, honestly I'm very proud of everyone …. We had three races with three top-three finishes which I think is something really good for the first round. We have to do exactly the same thing for the second round and after that try to put ourselves in a good position for Homestead and pull everything we have for that last race and the most important race of the year." Sprint Cup Series regular Joey Logano won the Charlotte event, the only race not won by an XFINITY Series regular in the Round of 12. Suarez, 24, said he expects the level of intensity seen in that opening race to return here this weekend as drivers and teams try to knock out an early win and qualify for the Round of 8. "For some reason everyone – I thought everyone was going to be more relaxed in the first race but for some reason everyone was very, like I said, the intensity level was very high," he said. "And, then for the second race it was lower and everyone was more relaxed because everyone was a little bit too crazy in the first one. I wouldn't be surprised if it was the same in this second round. "I don't think that I was myself, I don't think I got super crazy in Kentucky and we ended up with a pretty good result. Actually I felt like we should've won that race, we just came up one lap short. "I felt like everything that we learned the whole year we are trying to put that in the most important part of the year in the Chase in the first round and second round in order to get to the last race at Homestead and so far it's been working out. So, hopefully we can keep it up and move forward." Justin Allgaier (JRM), Erik Jones (JGR), Brendan Gaughan ( Richard Childress Racing ), Ryan Reed ( Roush Fenway Racing ), Darrell Wallace Jr . (RFR) and Blake Koch (Kaulig Racing) complete the Round of 8 for the XFINITY Series Chase. Suarez, Sadler and Jones are the only drivers in the postseason with victories this season. Gaughan, who has 15 top 10s, including a season-best runner-up at Road America , said the first round taught his team that "organizationally, to make sure we are prepared. "Make sure … we have everything kind of set and ready. "Another thing Shane (Wilson, crew chief) and I learned was (we) still are clowns that do it our way. It works for us. We don't scream and yell. … He doesn't get down on me when I hit a wall twice at Kentucky. And I don't bark at him when I think he makes the wrong call on pit road or we unload and it doesn't handle quite the way I want. "We're going to do it the way we think it needs to be done, stay patient and stay on each other’s team. A lot of pressure comes on these guys … and a lot of people succumb to that pressure." NASCAR Sprint Cup Series drivers have won the last three XFINITY Series races at Kansas.
Kyle Busch wins at Kansas; XFINITY Chase gets shake-up
RELATED: Race results " Standings " Chase Grid " Photos from the day SHOP: Busch gear KANSAS CITY, Kan. -- Kyle Busch 's domination of Saturday's Kansas Lottery 300 at Kansas Speedway was about the only predictable thing that happened in the first race of the Round of 8 in the inaugural NASCAR XFINITY Series Chase. In winning his fourth XFINITY race at the 1.5-mile track, his ninth of the season and the 85th of his career -- extending his own series record -- Busch led 150 of 200 laps, passing Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Daniel Suarez after a restart with 13 circuits remaining. "It was a hard-fought battle," said Busch, who had surged to a lead of 7.961 seconds before the first caution slowed the field on Lap 57. "Seemed like it was going to be easy for us. We had a super-fast car, and when we were out front, I could take it easy on those long runs and we could drive away. "The car would turn so well. A lot of things were trying to work against us at the end of the race. We were able to persevere and do the right things and have lucky restarts and be in the right grooves and not get caught up in the melee that was happening." Suarez had reason to be elated with his eventual third-place finish. An unexplained "popping" sound in his No. 19 Toyota accompanied a loss of horsepower, and Suarez settled for a hard-won result after Elliott Sadler passed him in the closing laps for the runner-up spot. Because Suarez led laps and Sadler didn't, he and Sadler leave Kansas tied for the Chase lead, but Sadler owns the tie-breaker due to higher finishes. "I'm proud of my race team," Sadler said. "We just kept working on the car and getting it better and better. I've got to do a better job trying to outrun that 18 car (Busch). He's really good, and he knows how to manipulate the air. But I've got to keep trying." Blake Koch finished ninth -- third among Chase drivers -- despite a late flat tire, the adverse effect of which was diminished by a timely caution, one of 10 during the afternoon. Koch is seven points behind the two Chase leaders. Chaos gobbled up the remaining five Chase contenders. A tap from Brandon Jones turned Chaser Justin Allgaier sideways and ignited a six-car wreck that also eliminated Darrell Wallace Jr ., who crashed out in 33rd-place. In a severely damaged car, Allgaier soldiered to a 14th-place result and left Kansas tied with Erik Jones for the final transfer spot into the Championship 4 race at Homestead-Miami Speedway . Jones ran up front through the vast majority of the race, but his No. 20 Toyota was turned into the Chevrolet of Ty Dillon when NASCAR Sprint Cup Series regular Kyle Larson made an aggressive move after a restart on Lap 183. Jones pitted with a cut tire and finished one position behind Allgaier, one lap down. "He (Larson) said it was his fault," Jones said after talking to Larson on pit road. "He owned up to it, got me ran over. It is what it is… He just said he got a good start and there was no hole there, nowhere to go with the run he had just got into my left rear and turned us. It's a shame, we both had fast cars." Ryan Reed salvaged a 16th-place finish despite a loose plug wire that kept him down on power until his team could troubleshoot the problem on pit road. After contact in heavy traffic on Lap 176, Brendan Gaughan took a wild spin through the infield grass and came home 31st, 18 laps down. Both Wallace and Gaughan will have yeoman work to do when the Chase resumes at Texas Motor Speedway after a two-week break for the O'Reilly Auto Parts Challenge (Nov. 5, 3:30 p.m. ET, NBC, PRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio). &amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;lt;/p&amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;gt;
NBC, Blake Shelton bring back the sunshine
RELATED: Full schedule for 2016 Blake Shelton and his NASCAR friends are "Bringing Back the Sunshine" for NBC's second season of NASCAR coverage under its new television deal. The country singer is once again performing the song -- with slightly new lyrics -- that will serve as the introduction ahead of each race televised on the NBC family of networks. The spot was filmed during the spring race weekend at Texas Motor Speedway in April. Watch the video below to see a host of your favorite Sprint Cup drivers barbecuing, including an awkward "bro hug" attempt by Aric Almirola and interesting air guitar by Clint Bowyer and Martin Truex Jr . Who plays it better? You be the judge! NBC's NASCAR race coverage kicks off this weekend at Daytona International Speedway with the Coke Zero 400 Powered by Coca-Cola on Saturday, July 2. Pre-race coverage begins at 7 p.m. ET on NBC.
Jones aims to contend at Dover, boost Chase standing
RELATED: Jones talks about wreck at Kentucky DOVER, Del. -- The XFINITY Series rewrote history books last weekend when it kicked off the series' inaugural 12-driver Chase at Kentucky Speedway . Points leader Elliott Sadler used a late pass to win in the Bluegrass State and simultaneously punch his ticket to the next round of the Chase. This Saturday's race at Dover International Speedway (3 p.m. NBCSN, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio) marks the second of three races in the opening round of the playoffs. May's Dover winner Erik Jones -- who dropped from first to ninth in the Chase standings after a late wreck at Kentucky -- hopes he's not one of those unlucky four. "It's been fun so far," Jones said of the format. "Obviously, only one race in, not the finish we wanted but had a really fast car and had one that could've won the race, but ended up being our own biggest enemy in that one. "Hopefully we can get it back on track here at Dover -- another really good race track for us." For these 12 championship contenders, the "win-and-you're-in" format lends itself to Victory Lane remaining the goal. Spectators saw championship hopes glimmer in the eyes of the Chasers last week, as aggression heated up on track . But with only two races to make up positions on the Chase Grid, it's a balance between staying out of trouble on track but not getting eliminated, either. "You've got to control what you can control and at Kentucky I didn't do a very good job of that. ... I put myself in a situation to make a mistake and ended up doing that and taking ourselves out," Jones said. "If we're caught up in something and it's something out of our control, that's nothing we can do about that. "We still need to put ourselves in a good position and one where we're running up front and hopefully in the mix for a win. If we can do that, I think we'll be just fine." Sadler enters Saturday's race at the Monster Mile atop the Chase Grid, followed by Daniel Suarez , Brendan Gaughan , Ryan Reed , Darrell Wallace Jr ., Justin Allgaier , Brennan Poole , Blake Koch , Jones, Ryan Sieg , Brandon Jones and Ty Dillon , who was also caught up in a late-race wreck at Kentucky. &amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;lt;/p&amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;gt;
Blake Koch, Austin Dillon lead XFINITY practices at Bristol
RELATED: Practice 2 results Blake Koch topped the leaderboard in Friday's second NASCAR XFINITY Series practice at Bristol Motor Speedway , clocking in at 123.666 mph in his No. 11 Kaulig Racing Chevrolet. Right behind him was Kyle Busch in his No. 18 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota after posting a fastest lap of 123.364 mph. Rounding out the top five were Austin Dillon in the No. 2 Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet (123.356 mph), Jeb Burton in the No. 43 Richard Petty Motorsports Ford (123.166 mph) and Erik Jones in the No. 20 JGR Toyota (122.905 mph). Series points leader Daniel Suarez was eighth-fastest with a speed of 122.131 mph in the No. 19 JGR Toyota while the defending race winner Joey Logano was 10th on the leaderboard in his No. 22 Team Penske Ford (122.092 mph). With approximately five minutes remaining in the 55-minute session, Darrell Wallace Jr . made some contact with the wall, causing slight damage to the right-rear fender of his No. 6 Roush Fenway Racing Ford (18th-fastest, 121.366 mph). Saturday's Coors Light Pole Qualifying is set for a 9:30 a.m. ET green flag (FS1). PRACTICE 1 RECAP RELATED: Practice 1 results Austin Dillon topped the leaderboard in Friday's opening NASCAR XFINITY Series practice at Bristol Motor Speedway , turning a fast lap of 123.237 mph in his No. 2 Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet. Kyle Larson clocked in second, wheeling his No. 42 Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet at 123.095 mph around the short track. Richard Childress Racing teammates Brandon Jones in the No. 33 Chevrolet (123.016 mph) and Brendan Gaughan in the No. 62 Chevrolet (122.866 mph) came up third and fourth, respectively, while Texas winner Kyle Busch completed the top five with a fast lap of 122.819 mph in his No. 18 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota. Defending race winner Joey Logano was eighth-fastest in the field (122.357 mph), driving the No. 22 Ford for Team Penske . Series points leader Daniel Suarez was 11th-fastest with a speed of 121.906 mph in the No. 19 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota.
Cain: For breast cancer survivors, Charlotte is 'their race'
CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- The good vibes were easy to feel as one pink shirt after another crowded around the Charlotte Motor Speedway Victory Lane and pit road, where NASCAR stars mingled with breast cancer survivors and their families. Six-time Sprint Cup Series champion Jimmie Johnson joined United States soccer legend Mia Hamm greeting people and ultimately delivering encouraging words to the crowd of nearly 500 gathered to kick off October's Breast Cancer Awareness campaign. Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina -- for whom Johnson and Hamm are "ambassadors" -- along with the track brought everyone together to paint the speedway's pit wall pink in a visible reminder of this disease that has affected so many people on some level. "The NASCAR industry has always been so supportive of these kind of causes and teams have adopted the pink color for October for years," the No. 48 Lowe's Chevrolet driver Johnson explained between posing for photos, painting the pit wall pink and delivering an inspiring message to those attending. "We have pink trim on our hats and it's been on race cars. The support has been there. It's important to be a part of this and raise awareness. "The great thing is if you detect it early there really is something you can do about it. And this event also raises awareness for kids so they grow up knowing it's a priority. As a father (of two young girls), that's definitely something on my radar." Drivers Elliott Sadler , Blake Koch and Jeb Burton were also among the sport's stars there generously offering a friendly smile or gentle hug to survivors and greeting others who came to show support for family members and friends. These drivers are all too familiar with the devastating effects of this disease because their mothers have fought through diagnosis and treatment. Being trackside with so many people who care was a transformative event for so many patients, who for at least one morning could take a deep breath and replace their pain and worry with the feeling of gratitude and hope. And that is the whole reason behind this. Drivers who spend their weekends so tense and focused were at the track last Wednesday able to show how much they genuinely care, just in taking the time to be there, posing for a photo or sharing a paintbrush dripping pink. "This is very personal to me and my family," said XFINITY Series Chase participant Sadler. "To see what our NASCAR community does for breast cancer awareness, for all the pink race cars, the uniforms, the pink trophies, the pink pace car and Charlotte Motor Speedway taking it a step further today. Look at all the breast cancer survivors we have here today. To paint the wall means so much to people affected by it. "This is by far my mom's favorite race of the year, by far all because we get to run a pink car. I have an amazing sponsor, OneMain Financial, that lets me run a pink car for this race giving up their colors. What I've learned from my mom and other breast cancer survivors, this is their race. They've been through so much, this is a celebration of life, a time to forget about the bad and cherish the good. And that is a neat concept and a neat way to look at it." Driver Jeb Burton 's mother Tabitha is another breast cancer patient. She and I were diagnosed at similar times and have been supportive of one another while going through painful treatment and navigating the reality of this disease. "She went through a lot and it's definitely hit home for us," said Burton who will drive the No. 98 Biagi-DenBeste Ford in Friday's XFINITY Series race at Charlotte. "This is a great cause and I'm thankful to be out here and paint the wall pink. Hopefully we can find a cure soon." That is certainly the hope behind the easy smiles and loving hugs we all shared that day. RELATED: Battling cancer, NASCAR.com writer finds strength in numbers In the year since I finished my own harsh chemotherapy and radiation, I have lost a half dozen "chemo" friends to this disease. Some I was still too sick to attend their funerals. The NASCAR community suffered incredibly sad losses to cancer in the last year including 10-year old Elijah Aschbrenner to Epithelioid Sarcoma cancer last November and Scott Zipadelli's 19-year old step-daughter Torie Costa to the disease (Rhabdomyosarcoma) last Christmas Day. Steve Byrnes, a popular broadcaster and my friend, passed away from cancer in April 2015; and another friend, longtime NASCAR journalist Bob Margolis, lost his three-time cancer battle just weeks ago. Sherry Pollex, the longtime girlfriend of Sprint Cup Series points leader Martin Truex Jr ., has battled ovarian cancer for the past two years. Today, one of my dear friends is having breast cancer surgery. The follow-up and treatment of the disease afterward remains unknown at this point. Her children attend middle school with my daughter. And she was one of the people who immediately and lovingly cared for me and for my children when I was too sick to function during my own chemo. She brought dinner and comfort to us even when I was too sick to answer the door. And now her diagnosis feels like a punch in the gut, such a cruel twist. It's my turn to be her source of strength and optimism. So many people cared when I was at my sickest. And now it's an opportunity for me to be there for them. I am aware like I've never been before. This disease has a way of humbling you and simultaneously motivating you to be a better person. It opens your mind to think more broadly, to act more swiftly. To realize you can care more. When I left Charlotte last week after the event at the track I was full of gratitude, it was as if I had received a present for my soul. And judging by the smiles, hugs, even tears shared among the group, it was widespread feeling and greatly appreciated. "These amazing women, their stories and their fight, honoring them and their families and obviously the women that have passed, too," Hamm said of her time at the speedway. "It's important to continue telling their story of hope and determination and really empowering these women that are here to be proactive in their health. That's one of the reasons I feel so strongly to be a Blue Cross Blue Shield ambassador. It's really about empowering them to take care of themselves." "This is one of the wonderful things that all the hard work I did in my career was able to do -- to inspire people. And in the end you pass it off to this incredible (NASCAR) race that millions of people will be watching to help spread the message of continued work and awareness for breast cancer." By the end of the morning, it was truly, truly difficult to tell who was being motivated and who was doing the motivating. And what an incredibly positive feeling to carry on.
Bubba in, Ty Dillon and others out in Chase elimination
RELATED: Updated Chase Grid " Race results CONCORD, N.C. -- One point. One point separated Ty Dillon from Darrell Wallace Jr . in the Chase Grid after Sunday's elimination race at Charlotte Motor Speedway that dwindled the field of 12 to eight drivers. And with one point, Dillon's 2016 championship run came to a sorrowful end. "Man, it's heartbreaking," an emotional Dillon said after the race. "We're a team that should have been in the final round and you've got to expect things to happen, which happened in the first race at Kentucky. That's the way this Chase is built. Things happen, some of the best cars are going to get knocked out. But you've got to be able to rebound if you're going to win a championship and we weren't able to rebound good enough." The Chase bubble fluctuated throughout the 300-mile event, as initial problems for Wallace & Co. set the No. 6 back in the field and on the Chase Grid. But Dillon's crash that resulted in a 27th-place finish in the opening Chase race at Kentucky Speedway two weeks ago put the No. 3 camp in an upward battle that needed an especially strong run at Charlotte. And despite posting a runner-up result last week at Dover, Dillon's 11th-place finish Sunday didn't cut it, as he struggled to pass 10th-place Ryan Sieg on older tires for that one point he needed to advance. "We had so much momentum coming off Dover," Dillon said. "Had a car capable of winning a race and today we couldn't even stay on the lead lap, so it's just very upsetting. "... I've wanted this championship so bad every year I've ran the XFINITY Series. Just, it hurts." As the checkered flag waved as the sun set in North Carolina, Wallace Jr. was on the other side of the Chase bubble, his No. 6 Roush Fenway Racing Ford advancing with a 20th-place result. But after battling a torn-up nose, pit road penalty and free-handling race car in the day time, Wallace was less than thrilled about his performance. "We don't deserve to be in the Chase," Wallace said on pit road after the race. "Just bummed we couldn't have a better showing for Leidos, especially at our home track. ... When we race during the day, no matter what track we go to, we are all over the place. But here when nightfall came about, they were telling me to be conservative, but I felt like I could have drove up there to the lead, how much different the car was and how much better it drove. "We're missing something ... I don't know what ... we've got going on for daytime stuff, but it's just a bummer -- yeah, cool we made it to the next round. But who the hell is happy about the way we ran?" Despite the messy run, Wallace expressed gratitude for his advancement to the next round, a chance to improve upon the team's daytime racing program. "My team never gave up and I never gave up," Wallace said. "Never got too pissed off, too frustrated, never put her in the fence. (Ran) up there in the top, I was trying to get it all I could to keep us going ... We've just got to get better. I don't like running 20th." Wallace will move on to Kansas next week to vie for the XFINITY Series championship, along with Elliott Sadler , Daniel Suarez , Erik Jones , Justin Allgaier , Blake Koch , Brendan Gaughan and Ryan Reed . Brennan Poole -- who was forced to change the battery midway through the race in his No. 48 Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates Chevrolet -- Brandon Jones , Sieg and Dillon were the four drivers eliminated in the opening round of the inaugural XFINITY Series Chase. For No. 3 crew chief Nick Harrison, these final four races are about redemption, finishing a disappointing Chase on a high note. "Just one of those deals -- you've just got to hold your head up and move on to the next race," Harrison told NASCAR.com in the garage. "It's racing and (you've) gotta be a big boy -- we weren't good enough to advance, we had ourselves in a hole at Kentucky. Just didn't make it. "... The only way to have a little satisfaction of a season is to go out there and win some of these races and that's definitely what we're going to do -- there will be no give-up here."