Road America may be Boris Said's last NASCAR ride
ELKHART LAKE, Wis. -- Saturday's race at Road America marks the finale of a five-race NASCAR XFINITY Series schedule for veteran road racer Boris Said this year in Joe Gibbs Racing 's No. 54 Toyota. On Friday, Said hinted that the event could signify another finale on a much broader scale. Said will try to cash in on another opportunity in top-flight equipment in Saturday's Road America 180 Fired up by Johnsonville (3 p.m. ET, NBCSN, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio). He'll be driving for the same No. 54 team that's visited Victory Lane four times this season, three times with Sprint Cup vet Kyle Busch and once with JGR prodigy Erik Jones . "Man, this is like the best Christmas present I ever got in my life," Said said after Friday's final practice at the 4.048-mile track. "I've been racing for over 30 years. I'm going to be 53 in a couple weeks. In the last three or four years, I've been racing cars that don't have a prayer to win, underfunded teams. It's still fun, but not fun not being competitive. So, to get an opportunity to drive for Monster and Joe Gibbs and Toyota in equipment like this, it was a dream come true. To finally run in the top five at Watkins Glen, it kind of shows, hey maybe it's not my age, it was just the equipment. "It's just been one of the most fun years I've ever had doing these five races with these guys. Now that it's last one, it might be the last NASCAR car race I ever run, I don't know. But it sure is a cool way to go out." If Saturday proves to be Said's swan song, his record will show one XFINITY victory, one Camping World Truck Series win and two Sprint Cup pole positions in a career that dates back to 1995 in NASCAR national series competition. This year, Said's biggest highlight was a fourth-place finish at the Glen, and leading two laps two weeks ago at Mid-Ohio and a lap at Talladega in May. Said pointed out that he dialed back his sports-car racing schedule this year to better focus on his five-race schedule with Joe Gibbs Racing . But he's otherwise kept occupied off the track in a partnership with Rick Hendrick's automotive group for BMW and Volkswagen dealerships. "That's another dream come true," Said said . In terms of the future, Said indicated that he'd likely compete in sports car events next season, but he'd jump at the chance for another competitive ride in NASCAR. "Who knows? If I could ever get another opportunity like this again, I don't care if I was 70 years old, I'd take it," Said said . "This is like a vacation every time I get to run this. I have fun every minute of the day here. Part of me is sad to see it end, but part of me is like, man, it sure was fun, though."
Said : "[Biffle] is a chump"
Boris Said doesn't mince words about Greg Biffle after they had on-track incidents and a skirmish in the garage area.
Recovering Hamlin expects to be ready at Daytona
CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Denny Hamlin said Tuesday that he's roughly 50 percent recovered from offseason knee surgery, but that the relatively lengthy healing process should not hinder his readiness for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season. Hamlin, 35, underwent successful surgery Nov. 30 after tearing the anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee while playing basketball in early September. The Joe Gibbs Racing driver, who competed in the final 11 races of the season without an absence, said his recovery was still a "day by day" process. "I'm not where I want or should be right now, but I'm getting there, like every day," Hamlin said during the Joe Gibbs Racing portion of the Charlotte Motor Speedway Media Tour. "I went on vacation and that kind of set me back a little bit and then now I'm starting to get back in the groove of things." Hamlin said the method of surgery differed from an ACL operation he underwent on his left knee during the 2010 season. He added that while the style of surgery may make him stronger in the long run, the short-term recovery process might be more drawn out. With little more than three weeks before cars hit the track at Daytona International Speedway ahead of the Feb. 21 Daytona 500 (1 p.m. ET, FOX, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio), Hamlin said he wasn't worried about any sort of delay for the start of his season. "There's no concern about Daytona," Hamlin said . "I definitely could get in a car and do what I need to do right now. I think the challenge for me would probably be getting in the car, (that) would probably be the toughest part, but I was able to get in one at JGR last week, so I think everything will be fine. It's just once I get my range of motion back, it'll be fine. I'd say 50 percent's probably fair." Coach Joe Gibbs, Hamlin's car owner since his Sprint Cup debut in 2005, also struck a positive note. "I think it's been a lot slower coming back, but I think he feels good about it," Gibbs said . "We don't see any issues, so he should be ready to go at Daytona." The recuperation process did have an unintended side effect, halting an opportunity for Hamlin to compete in his first Rolex 24 at Daytona, the star-studded opening race for the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship. Hamlin was in line to join part-time NASCAR competitors Boris Said and Kenny Habul in the Stevenson Motorsports Audi R8 LMS entry for the 24-hour sports car race Jan. 30-31. "I was closer than what Joe was willing to think I was," Hamlin said with a grin. "I think I was going to run it, I'd verbally told someone I was going to run it, but then Joe reminded me and he talked to my doctor and said that I just wasn't ready to do it. I agree with them. I needed some more time to get ready for the season, and when you have the Rolex 24 and driver changes and you've got to get in and out real fast, I just wasn't ready for that."
NASCAR tweaks rules for Kentucky, Michigan races
RELATED: 2016 Cup schedule " Memorial Day weekend schedule Changes to the rear spoiler, front splitter and rear deck fin will be put into play for two upcoming NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races as the sanctioning body continues to reduce aerodynamic downforce and sideforce in an effort to promote closer competition on the race track. The changes, announced Thursday morning, will be in effect only for upcoming races at Michigan International Speedway (June 12) and Kentucky Speedway (July 9) and are in addition to previous adjustments made by the officials in recent weeks. Initial moves implemented before the start of the season combined with a Goodyear tire matched more closely to the lower downforce package have resulted in closer competition through the season's first 12 races. Why, then, continue to make adjustments in the overall package? "I think we look at it as a never-ending journey; if we can improve we're going to do that," Steve O'Donnell, executive vice president of competition and chief racing development officer, told NASCAR.com. "We wanted to go the direction of low downforce, see how that worked, not kind of go all the way in and hope that we are directionally right. And we are seeing that play out. We've seen some great racing at the beginning of the year. "But we also knew that we had some more levers that we could pull if the direction kind of proved out, so we've tried some of those things. We've tested it and what we've also wanted to do is lower some of the corner speeds to allow for even more passing. That was one of the areas where we've seen minimal change, but there are some levers we can pull to really drive that down." The changes for those races consist of a reduction in spoiler height from 3.5 inches to 2.5 inches, a splitter reduction of two inches and a re-sizing of the rear deck fin to complement the spoiler change. Beginning with this year's race at Kansas Speedway , NASCAR required teams to weld truck arm mounts; for the recently completed Sprint All-Star Race at Charlotte Motor Speedway , downforce-generating electric fans were removed and the rear toe alignment was reset to zero to reduce sideforce. The changes to truck arm mounts and fans are to remain in place for the remainder of the 2016 season. The rear toe adjustment was initially only in play for the All-Star event but now will be incorporated into the June Michigan and July Kentucky races. Downforce is the pressure created across the surface of a vehicle at speed. Likewise, sideforce is generated by the flow of air along the sides of the vehicle. O'Donnell said limiting the latest changes to two upcoming races is beneficial in two ways: Teams have spent plenty of time in development of setups with the initial base package and that information will still be relevant; and focusing on two tracks will give teams and officials much-needed information as they look ahead to 2017. "We have worked collectively on some directions we want to go in, but to do that right we think the final step is to let that play out on one or two tracks," he said . "And these are the two -- Kentucky and Michigan -- that we've played out and let the teams concentrate really on what they've done to prepare for the year. We think that's manageable and that'll give us enough data to look at for 2017." Four teams recently tested the aero changes while taking part in a one-day Goodyear tire test at Michigan. Kentucky, which just completed a re-pave and redesign of its 1.5-mile layout, remains an unknown. It is expected to be fast with the additional grip provided by the new pavement. Ray Evernham, winner of three premier series titles as crew chief for Jeff Gordon and currently in a competition role with Hendrick Motorsports , said rule changes don't necessarily create more work for teams, but rather redefines the focus of what's being worked on. "Everybody works on something, no matter what," Evernham told NASCAR.com. "… It just changes that focus because any of the good teams are working to the maximum on something all the time." Evernham said he had been impressed with how the previous changes had affected the racing this season. The All-Star Race, he said , provided "the best racing we've seen at Charlotte in awhile. "That's what's coming around the corner. That's exactly what everybody has been asking for -- the drivers, fans, everybody," he said . "That was some darn good racing in the daytime and in the nighttime. That's what I'm focused on. I think that NASCAR and Goodyear and the teams are getting to a place now where the cars are competitive like they want them, but it gives the drivers, crew chiefs and teams a lot more options to have passing." All races with the rules package, with the exception of this year's stop at Auto Club Speedway , have been contested on 1.5-mile or smaller venues. The package is not in play for restrictor-plate races at Daytona and Talladega. Will the base package provide similar results at the larger venues? Pocono (2.5 miles), Michigan (2 miles) and Indianapolis (2.5 miles) loom ahead. O'Donnell believes that will be the case. "I think one of the biggest things we've seen from Goodyear is the ability to match the tire up now with where we're going, the tire wear we're seeing producing much better racing," O'Donnell said . "If you take a Michigan for instance, one of the things with low downforce, if you don't do anything to the tire, you're going to go in and the speeds are going to continue to increase. We know that's a challenge for us. How do we balance that with the corner speeds? "By tweaking the package a little bit, it's really going to keep what we've seen from the positive play out and then really lower that corner speed which should produce the best of both worlds." Buy Tickets: Michigan " Kentucky
Martin calls selection 'the crown jewel' of his career
RELATED: Photos from the induction day Mark Martin told the tale more than once on NASCAR Hall of Fame Voting Day this week, about his connection to fellow inductee Benny Parsons. Martin was a teenager -- "a nobody," as he termed it -- with racing dreams carved from his earliest days of wheeling cars on dirt. Parsons, in the prime of his driving career in the mid-1970s, took time for the Arkansas youngster and his father, sharing advice over lunch in his hometown of Ellerbe, North Carolina. Talk about a follow-through. Martin, 57, joined Parsons among the five chosen for induction in the NASCAR Hall of Fame's Class of 2017. "It hasn't soaked in yet," Martin said by telephone Wednesday after the Hall's announcement. "I didn't expect it. It is, by far, the crown jewel of my career and I'm so grateful for the people that helped me get there." Martin wasn't in Charlotte to hear his name called; instead, he was on his way to Indianapolis, reasoning that he wouldn't be among the five inductees this year. Martin was named on 57 percent of the voting panel's ballots, third-most among the 20 nominees. Still, he took the unexpected nature of being selected to heart, saying, "If I would've been on the voting panel, I would've probably voted another way." Martin's credentials -- both his success and his longevity across four decades in NASCAR competition -- eventually won out in just his second year on the ballot. Martin won 40 times in NASCAR's top division and combined for 56 more victories in its other two national series. But Martin acknowledged the gaps in his resume, those that he came heart-wrenchingly close to achieving. Among those were his five runner-up finishes in the championship standings and his 0-for-29 career streak in the Daytona 500 , the sport's most prestigious race. After Wednesday's accomplishment, Martin said that Hall of Fame induction fills any potential voids. "Look, I don't have a Daytona 500 trophy and I don't have a championship trophy, and I said many times that when people would complain about my not having one of those, I would ask the question: 'How would my life be different if I had one?' " Martin said . "And I truly believe that my life would not be very different. But my life will be different from now on because I'm in that Hall, because that is my crown jewel. "That speaks of not one year worth of success, not one great achievement, but a body of work, and that's what I'm proud of."
Growth, new pairing lead to big gains for Bayne
CONCORD, N.C. -- In the closing lap of the opening segment of last week's Sprint Showdown, Trevor Bayne saw an opening just after the restart and went for it. With a spot on the line in the Sprint All-Star Race where $1 million would be at stake, there was no hesitation. "I guess I've always kind of driven that way but it doesn't get talked about it because it's like for 25th and sometimes it doesn't work because it doesn't stick," Bayne told NASCAR.com at Charlotte Motor Speedway , site of Sunday's Coca-Cola 600 (6 p.m. ET, FOX, PRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio). "Right now, when I've got cars that are capable of doing that and when it's for the win, it just looks a lot different. It's kind of always been my style on late-race restarts being able to go for it." That aggression came out in the Sprint All-Star Race as well where Bayne battled and traded paint with Kurt Busch en route to the Roush Fenway Racing driver ending up with a seventh-place result. And while that seemed to open some eyes at the track, Bayne has quietly been making strides in his second full-time season in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series. Thanks to a new rules package that caters to his driving style, his growth behind the wheel and a burgeoning partnership with new crew chief Matt Puccia, Bayne sits 18th in the point standings. That is the highest spot for the three-car Roush organization heading into Sunday's race. The pairing with Puccia, who replaced Bob Osborne atop the No. 6 pit box ahead of this season, has been just the tonic for Bayne in a solid bounce-back campaign. Puccia had been atop the No. 16 pit box for Bayne's Roush teammate, Greg Biffle for the prior four-and-a-half-seasons. The two have come to a quick understanding and that has paid off on the track. "We've known each other for a long time ever since I came to Roush really, we've been buddies," Bayne said . "I think that relationship from the past and kind of going through the same struggles last year and coming back together and both of us needing to revamp everything. He was going to end up being a XFINITY crew chief and that's not what he wanted to do. Things weren't looking up on the 6 team over here, so we were both kind of what each other needed to revitalize our careers." Part of the bond between the duo comes in the form of becoming new fathers in the past year. Last December, Bayne and his wife Ashton, welcomed their first child, Elizabeth Kate, into the world. Puccia and his wife, Alyssa, welcomed their first child, Kennedy Harper in October. "Matt's daughter is two months older than ours. We'll talk on the plane and he will show me a video of her doing something new and I'm like, 'oh boy, this is what I got to deal with in two months,' " Bayne said . "Now, Kennedy, his daughter is crawling around so I'm cherishing the moments while Ellie's still immobile and lays still and I can keep up with her." He may only be 25 years old, but Bayne has already had a career full of peaks and valleys. In just his second career Sprint Cup start; he won the sport's biggest race, the Daytona 500 in 2011 at the age of 20 years old. He was sidelined for two months in 2011 and was later diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in 2013. Last season in his first full-time season in the sport's top level, Bayne finished 29th in the point standings (and was no higher than 22nd during the course of the season) with just two top 10s in 36 races. "When you are struggling, you are super analytical about everything," Bayne said . "You look at everything you are doing. You analyze it. You try to make it better and sometimes that hinders you. I actually feel like I worked way harder at it last year than I'm having to this year. Sometimes that's what it takes. It's got to come naturally. "I'm not saying I’m not working at it because I am. There's a lot of things I learned last year that I implemented whether its post-race notes or spending time with the simulator. … I can't really say it's anything I'm doing, but when things are clicking it just makes it easier on everybody." This year, Bayne already has three top 10s in the season's first 12 races and is looking for a spot in the 16-driver Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup . The cutoff to the Chase is roughly three-and-a-half months away with 14 races to go. At present, Bayne sits eight points out of the 16th and final Chase Grid spot held by AJ Allmendinger . The driver of the No. 6 Ford views consistency as his ticket into the Chase. "Right now, our goals are to finish top 15 every week, be on the lead lap. Don't dig ourselves a hole," Bayne said . "Kansas, we blew a left rear tire and maybe could have avoided losing some of those laps had we pitted sooner when we knew we had a rub. We can't make mistakes. If you minimize that, you've got a good shot at it. … People are going to have bad days. You look at July in Daytona, you got to get through that race. You got to have a solid finish there like we did at Talladega (10th-place in May). "When the opportunity strikes to get a win or to run top five, you got to make those points up when you can, so you got to be pretty aggressive. I think our best chance is to points-race in right now, so those top 15s, top 10s we got to keep clicking them off like we've been doing."
'Hero' moment for Ty Dillon as Richard Childress makes NASCAR Hall
CONCORD, N.C. -- Richard Childress has many titles to Ty Dillon : Team owner, hunting buddy, grandfather. And now NASCAR Hall of Famer, thanks to a moment that Dillon and his family -- including brother and fellow driver Austin -- weren't expecting Wednesday. "I was actually standing with my mom when I got a text message, 'Congratulations to your grandfather,'" Dillon said on Thursday during a media availability at Charlotte Motor Speedway . "We were like, 'No way!' We weren't even expecting this year. I'm so happy for him." Childress is part of the five-person 2017 NASCAR Hall of Fame class that was unveiled Wednesday. Joining Childress in the Hall will be Rick Hendrick, Mark Martin , Raymond Parks and Benny Parsons. H. Clay Earles was named the recipient of the Landmark Award for Outstanding Contributions to NASCAR. "I think at first, I called him probably five minutes after I found out -- I'm sure he was getting all kinds of calls -- it seemed like it hadn't set in for him yet," Dillon said of his first communication with his grandfather after learning Childress had made the Hall of Fame. "He's a hard worker so he's always thinking about what's going on next. "I saw him this morning (at an appearance at Bass Pro Shops). First thing I did was just give him a big hug because I was proud of him. He's very happy today and excited, and it's well-deserved." Childress, 70, began his career as a driver, making his first NASCAR start in 1969, and he went on to score six top-five finishes and 76 top-10 finishes over 12 years and 285 starts. He formed Richard Childress Racing in 1969 and eventually teamed with NASCAR Hall of Famer Dale Earnhardt for six championships. In his storied history as an owner, Childress is the first to have owner championships in all three NASCAR national series, and his 11 driver championships are second all-time. RCR has 212 NASCAR national series victories: 105 wins in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, 76 wins in the NASCAR XFINITY Series and 31 wins in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series. The bond Dillon and Childress share is much more than that of your typical grandfather and grandson. "He's my hero and glad that I get to spend time with him not only in our sport but every day at the shop and away from it, when we're hunting and hanging out with family," Dillon said . RCR currently fields Chevrolets for three full-time teams in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series ( Austin Dillon in the No. 3, Paul Menard in the No. 27 and Ryan Newman in the No. 31) and four full-time teams in the NASCAR XFINITY Series (Menard/Dillon primarily in the No. 2, Ty Dillon in the No. 3, Brandon Jones in the No. 33 and Brendan Gaughan in the No. 62). "He's such a focused individual about making this race team great again." Ty Dillon said . "I think this is a moment that is going to be big for him for feeling like he's finally made it. He's the first one at the shop every single day and the last one to leave. Working hard like he did way back when he had a $20 race car. I think it's finally a moment for him to sit back and realize what he's accomplished and hopefully it continues to set in for the rest of the week."
Mark Martin will drive pace car before Coca-Cola 600
RELATED: 2017 NASCAR Hall of Fame class revealed " Event photos Mark Martin 's back in a car this weekend at Charlotte Motor Speedway -- this time, however, it will be in the pace car. Freshly minted as a selectee in the NASCAR Hall of Fame's Class of 2017, Martin jumped at the opportunity to log laps again before the Coca-Cola 600 -- a race he won in 2002. Martin will lead the field to green for the 57th running of the Coca-Cola 600 and said , "When the speedway called to ask me if I'd do it, my first reaction was 'Hell, yeah!' " "Originally I'd planned to be at Indy, but now I get to do the 'double' in a way, and I can say I'll be driving at Charlotte," Martin said . " Charlotte Motor Speedway was always my favorite race track. I was fortunate enough to have a lot of success there, including winning a Coke 600. Bruton and Marcus always put on a fabulous show, and this will be cool to lead the field to green in front of thousands of fans that I enjoyed racing for all those years." WATCH: Stewart completes Indy-Charlotte 'double' Several drivers, notably including current NASCAR Sprint Cup Series competitors Tony Stewart and Kurt Busch , have competed in the Memorial Day Double, racing in both the Indianapolis 500 and the Coca-Cola 600 . Stewart was the first to complete all 1,100 miles in one day in 2001. Martin plans to see the start of the Indianapolis 500 on Sunday before heading to Charlotte for the Coca-Cola 600 (6 p.m. ET, FOX, PRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio.)
H2H: Would 600 win mean more to Junior or Busch?
RELATED: Full 600 coverage A winner's trophy for the marathon, reputation-making Coca-Cola 600 is certainly one of the most prized possessions in all of NASCAR. The longest race (600 miles) on the NASCAR circuit is about so much more than just distance, too. There's the history of having such a contest at the 1.5-mile track just north of the Charlotte, North Carolina, NASCAR hub, not to mention this is the only race with three unique sets of elements: A race that starts under the sun, traverses to dusk and ends at night under the lights makes for three time frames with three unique sets of circumstances. Yes, it is truly a battle of man vs. machine. That's what makes it so difficult to win the Coca-Cola 600 , which both Kyle Busch and Dale Earnhardt Jr . have never done. In fact, neither has won a points-paying event at Charlotte Motor Speedway . So which driver would benefit most from a win Sunday? Brad Norman and George Winkler set out to answer the question. PHOTOS: All of Busch's victories " See Junior's patriotic scheme NORMAN: So sorry, Junior Nation, but Sunday's race is more important to Kyle Busch . "Rowdy" has been on an incredible hot streak since returning from a broken leg last season -- eight wins in 37 races in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series. Four of those victories were his first at the tracks in Indianapolis, Homestead, Martinsville and Kansas, respectively. There are only two tracks remaining on the circuit where Busch has not won a Cup race -- Charlotte and Pocono. The career-sweep is a mind-boggling feat, making Sunday's event a massive deal for the Joe Gibbs Racing driver. WINKLER: Sure, it would be impressive for Kyle Busch to add to his resume with a victory at Charlotte, but it would be an all-out celebration for Junior to win the Coca-Cola 600 . From downtown Kannapolis, North Carolina, (where Junior grew up) to Charlotte Motor Speedway is just a 25-minute drive, so one can only imagine the type of attention a victory like this would get. Plus, Junior has said repeatedly that winning the Coca-Cola 600 is a top priority of his and one of the gaps he'd most like to fill on his resume. NORMAN: Yeah, it's a big 'un for Junior on a personal level. History is at stake for Busch, though. Not just personal history, either -- team history. Check out some of the most historic races on the NASCAR circuit and their results over the past year -- 2015 Coca-Cola 600 ( Carl Edwards wins); 2015 Brickyard 400 ( Kyle Busch wins); 2015 Southern 500 ( Carl Edwards wins); Homestead finale ( Kyle Busch wins, and wins 2015 championship); 2016 Daytona 500 ( Denny Hamlin wins). JGR has a ridiculous streak at stake in these types of races, too. There's simply way more on the line for both "Rowdy" and the organization at large. WINKLER: See, I think the reverse is true. Because JGR has been so dominant this season, I think it's more important for Hendrick Motorsports , and particularly Junior, to re-establish their mojo. Earnhardt Jr. has wrecked in two of his last three points-paying races, has had some races where he qualified poorly but came through the field and others where he overcame in-race issues and the odds to post top fives. Considering how Junior has battled this season, I think he's tested and ready to fight for the whole 600 miles and be in a good position to win.
Chase Elliott reveals Darlington paint scheme
RELATED: Buy Darlington tickets " '16 throwback schemes " SHOP: No. 24 gear Chase Elliott became the latest driver to reveal his throwback paint scheme for the Bojangles' Southern 500 at Darlington Raceway (Sept. 4, 6 p.m. ET, NBC, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio) via Race Hub on Friday. . @ChaseElliott unveils his @NAPARacing @TooToughToTame throwback paint scheme on @FS1 's #NASCAR #RaceHub . https://t.co/VA17ixUToP — FS1 (@FS1) May 27, 2016 The Sunoco Rookie of the Year contender's No. 24 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet will feature a yellow and black paint scheme honoring Elliott's primary sponsor NAPA Auto Parts and its delivery truck logo from the 1960s. The bottom half of the Chevrolet is a sleek black with the current NAPA design atop the quarter panels. The rear television panel includes white script reading "90 Years Strong" to celebrate the company's 90 years in business. Hendrick Motorsports posted a live teaser video minutes before the unveiling with Kenny Wallace at the organization's Concord, North Carolina-based shop. "We appreciate the support of our throwback program by Chase Elliott and Hendrick Motorsports," Darlington Raceway President Chip Wile said in a release. "Chase's special paint scheme for the Bojangles' Southern 500 is one that fans won't want to miss on Labor Day weekend." This marks Darlington's second straight year -- in a five-year plan -- hosting a throwback-themed event for the famed Southern 500 event.