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MWR driver ends five-year pole drought in topsy-turvy Talladega qualifying
Grant Lynch: 'What they can do here is special' RELATED: Follow your picks in the Perfect Chase Grid Challenge for chance at $100,000 prize TALLADEGA, Ala. -- Five minutes, five laps and the fastest lap of the five determines where you stack up in the 43-car lineup. Maybe that's the next qualifying format change for restrictor-plate tracks in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series . "If you don't make five laps, you don't count any of them," an exasperated Grant Lynch, chairman of Talladega Superspeedway , said Sunday morning. Lynch said he thought the format used Saturday failed to achieve the desired result, which was to have multiple cars on the track for much of the opening round with speeds more closely resembling those seen in race conditions. Instead, some teams waited until the last possible moment to make a qualifying run and came up short when they were unable to get up to speed before the session ended. Tony Stewart , Denny Hamlin , Kevin Harvick , Joey Logano , Kyle Busch , Kyle Larson and Jeff Gordon qualified for today's GEICO 500 at Talladega based on their position in owner points, not by virtue of their qualifying lap speeds. Five of the seven drivers are championship contenders. Two full-time teams, the No. 17 of Ricky Stenhouse Jr . and the No. 51 of Justin Allgaier , failed to qualify because of how the owner points fell. "It's frustrating," Lynch said. "I've said this many times -- what they can do here is special. To see them have the opportunity to go out and finally … qualify at the speeds we race at … is disappointing. "But I understand strategies; I understand there are different people in the draft that will get different benefits." Drivers were no less taken with the new format, which broke the teams into two groups for the first session. "You don't really feel like you are doing your part as a race car driver in a qualifying session like this," six-time NASCAR Sprint Cup champion Jimmie Johnson said. "But it is plate racing and if it's entertaining I guess I'm OK with it." AJ Allmendinger , third fastest behind pole winner Brian Vickers and Johnson, the No. 2 qualifier, called it "a weird format." "I'm not sure it's any better than single-car qualifying," he said. "It's hard to say, but it is what it is." Former series champion Brad Keselowski said the bigger question was whether the fans liked the format change "because that is who we do everything for." "If the fans like it, then I'm happy, and if not, I am not," the Team Penske driver added. Lynch said he's certain NASCAR officials will look into possible changes to the format. "They've already taken it down from 25 (minutes) in the first round to five," he said. "I'd rather die quick than from a bunch of cuts." MORE: READ: Latest Chase news PLAY: Monitor your Chase Grid Game picks WATCH: Latest NASCAR video FOLLOW LIVE: Get RaceView FULL CHASE COVERAGE • Chase hub page • Chase Grid games • #MyChaseNation
Get caught up quickly before the GEICO 500 (2 p.m. ET, ESPN) RELATED: Follow your picks in the Perfect Chase Grid Challenge for chance at $100,000 prize What: 46th annual GEICO 500 Where: Talladega Superspeedway, Talladega, Alabama When: Sunday, Oct. 19, 2014 TV/Radio: ESPN, Motor Racing Network Time: 2:00 p.m. ET Distance: 188 laps (500.08 miles) Pit road speed: 55 mph Caution car speed: 70 mph On the front row " Starting lineup 1. Brian Vickers , Michael Waltrip Racing No. 55 Toyota (196.129 mph) 2. Jimmie Johnson , Hendrick Motorsports No. 48 Chevrolet (195.732 mph) Failed to qualify Ricky Stenhouse Jr. ( Roush Fenway Racing No. 17 Ford); Justin Allgaier (HScott Motorsports No. 51 Chevrolet); Joe Nemechek (RAB Racing No. 29 Toyota) To the rear Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup drivers Matt Kenseth and Brad Keselowski will drop to the rear of the field prior to the start of today's race. Kenseth's Joe Gibbs Racing team changed engines in the No. 20 Toyota Saturday morning while Keselowski's Team Penske group made an alternator change before qualifying. Kenseth qualified 13th while Keselowski was fifth fastest. Going out in style Two-time NASCAR premier series champion Terry Labonte will make his final Sprint Cup start today, driving the No. 32 Ford fielded by Go FAS Racing. It will be the 61st start at Talladega for Labonte, tying the mark currently held by Dave Marcis, and Labonte’s 890th career Cup start. The decklid of the car features artwork depicting his first Cup entry, as well as the two in which he won championships in '84 and '96. Fastest in practice First Practice: Clint Bowyer , Michael Waltrip Racing No. 15 Toyota (200.385 mph) Final Practice: Kyle Busch , Joe Gibbs Racing No. 18 Toyota (195.205 mph) Defending GEICO 500 Champion Jamie McMurray , Chip Ganassi Racing No. 1 Chevrolet Driver rating (Best driver rating average at Talladega Superspeedway based on past nine years) Kyle Larson , Chip Ganassi Racing No. 42 Chevrolet (94.8*) Matt Kenseth , Joe Gibbs Racing No. 20 Toyota (90.9) Dale Earnhardt Jr. , Hendrick Motorsports No 88 Chevrolet (90.3) *Based on one career start Former Talladega winners in the field Jeff Gordon (6); Dale Earnhardt Jr . (5); Clint Bowyer , Jimmie Johnson , Terry Labonte , Jamie McMurray , Brad Keselowski (2); David Ragan , Tony Stewart , Brian Vickers , Michael Waltrip , Matt Kenseth , Kevin Harvick , Kyle Busch , Denny Hamlin (1). MORE: READ: Latest Chase news PLAY: Monitor your Chase Grid Game picks WATCH: Latest NASCAR video FOLLOW LIVE: Get RaceView FULL CHASE COVERAGE • Chase hub page • Chase Grid games • #MyChaseNation
See the full entry list for the 33rd race of the Sprint Cup Series season RELATED: Follow your picks in the Perfect Chase Grid Challenge for chance at $100,000 prize Entry # Driver Owner Crew chief Manufacturer Sponsor 1 1 Jamie McMurray Felix Sabates Keith Rodden 14 Chevrolet McDonald's 2 2 Brad Keselowski Roger Penske Paul Wolfe 14 Ford Alliance Truck Parts 3 3 Austin Dillon Richard Childress Gil Martin 14 Chevrolet Dow 4 4 Kevin Harvick Tony Stewart Rodney Childers 14 Chevrolet Outback Steakhouse 5 5 Kasey Kahne Linda Hendrick Kenny Francis 14 Chevrolet Great Clips 6 7 Michael Annett Tommy Baldwin Kevin Manion 14 Chevrolet Allstate Peterbuilt Group 7 9 Marcos Ambrose Richard Petty Drew Blickensderfer 14 Ford STANLEY 8 10 Danica Patrick Tony Stewart Tony Gibson 14 Chevrolet GoDaddy Breast Cancer Awareness 9 11 Denny Hamlin J D Gibbs Darian Grubb 14 Toyota FedEx Freight 10 13 Casey Mears Bob Germain Bootie Barker III 14 Chevrolet No. 13 GEICO Chevrolet SS 11 14 Tony Stewart Margaret Haas Chad Johnston 14 Chevrolet Bass Pro Shops / Mobil 1 12 15 Clint Bowyer Rob Kauffman Brian Pattie 14 Toyota AAA Insurance 13 16 Greg Biffle Jack Roush Matt Puccia 14 Ford 3M 14 17 Ricky Stenhouse Jr John Henry Michael Kelley 14 Ford Roush Fenway Racing 'Pit for a Pair' Fusion 15 18 Kyle Busch Joe Gibbs Dave Rogers 14 Toyota M&M's Halloween 16 20 Matt Kenseth Joe Gibbs Jason Ratcliff 14 Toyota Dollar General 17 22 Joey Logano Walter Czarnecki Todd Gordon 14 Ford Shell Pennzoil 18 23 Alex Bowman Ron Devine Dave Winston 14 Toyota Dustless Blasting Toyota Camry 19 24 Jeff Gordon Rick Hendrick Alan Gustafson 14 Chevrolet Drive To End Hunger 20 26 Cole Whitt Anthony Marlowe Randy Cox 14 Toyota Bad Boy Mowers Toyota Camry 21 27 Paul Menard Richard Childress Justin Alexander 14 Chevrolet Richmond / Menards 22 31 Ryan Newman Richard Childress Luke Lambert 14 Chevrolet Quicken Loans 23 32 Kyle Fowler(i) Frank Stoddard Jr Clinton Cram 14 Ford corvetteparts.net 24 33 Travis Kvapil Joe Falk Mike Hillman Jr 14 Chevrolet Little Joe's Autos Chevrolet 25 34 David Ragan Bob Jenkins Derrick Finley 14 Ford WENDELL SCOTT HOF TRIBUTE 26 36 Reed Sorenson Allan Heinke Todd Parrott 14 Chevrolet Zing Zang Chevrolet 27 38 David Gilliland Brad Jenkins Jay Guy 14 Ford A&W ALL AMERICAN FOOD 28 40 Landon Cassill(i) Michael Hillman Mark Hillman 14 Chevrolet Newtown Building Supplies 29 41 Kurt Busch Gene Haas Daniel Knost 14 Chevrolet Haas Automation 30 42 Kyle Larson Chip Ganassi Chris Heroy 14 Chevrolet Target 31 43 Aric Almirola Richard Petty Trent Owens 14 Ford Smithfield 32 144 Timmy Hill John Cohen Peter Sospenzo 14 Chevrolet Phoenix Warehouse 33 47 A J Allmendinger Tad Geschickter Brian Burns 14 Chevrolet Clorox 34 48 Jimmie Johnson Jeff Gordon Chad Knaus 14 Chevrolet Lowe's 35 51 Justin Allgaier Harry Scott Jr Steve Addington 14 Chevrolet Auto-Owners Insurance 36 55 Brian Vickers Michael Waltrip Billy Scott 14 Toyota Aaron's Dream Machine 37 66 Mike Wallace(i) Jay Robinson Scott Eggleston 14 Toyota Royal Teak Collection.com 38 78 Martin Truex Jr Barney Visser Todd Berrier 14 Chevrolet Furniture Row 39 83 TBA Ron Devine Joe Williams 14 Toyota Burger King Toyota Camry 40 88 Dale Earnhardt Jr Rick Hendrick Steve Letarte 14 Chevrolet National Guard 41 93 TBA Wayne Press Doug Richert 14 Toyota TBA 42 98 Josh Wise Mike Curb Gene Nead 14 Chevrolet Phil Parsons Racing 43 99 Carl Edwards Jack Roush James Fennig 14 Ford Ford Ecoboost Fusion MORE: READ: Latest Chase news PLAY: Monitor your Chase Grid Game picks WATCH: Latest NASCAR video FOLLOW LIVE: Get RaceView
Incident sent 'Rowdy' to garage early and he couldn't recover TALLADEGA, Ala. -- Kyle Busch was enjoying one of his best efforts ever in the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup, with five consecutive top-10 finishes and a second-place position in the points standings. Then came Talladega, and the wreck, and the mad scramble to repair a car that looked beyond repair. Busch was able to return to Sunday's GEICO 500 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race, but the 40th place finish proved too damaging to overcome. Seemingly headed for the Eliminator Round of the Chase, Busch instead now joins six-time champion Jimmie Johnson , Dale Earnhardt Jr . and Kasey Kahne as those who are no longer in contention for the series title. "We were riding around back, Kyle was just playing it conservative … they wrecked in front of us, we got slowed up and the guys in back didn't," said crew chief Dave Rogers. "It's part of speedway racing; you know someone is going to wreck out, you just hope it's not you." Busch, whose car was nicked only slightly in a six-car incident on Lap 60 when Jamie McMurray appeared to have a tire go down, wasn't nearly as fortunate on Lap 103. Contact between Aric Almirola and J.J. Yeley on the backstretch started a chain reaction incident that swept up Tony Stewart , Casey Mears , AJ Allmendinger , Busch, Terry Labonte , Alex Bowman , Clint Bowyer , Austin Dillon and Brian Vickers . Busch and Almirola were the only two to spend an extensive amount of time in the garage, but both eventually made it back on the track. While Busch did gain three spots after his car was repaired -- he finished ahead of Michael McDowell , Yeley and Bowman -- he was four points behind Kahne and seven behind Jeff Gordon , who was eighth in the standings before the Eliminator Round reset. "It was a tough day for the crew but we'll gather ourselves back up tomorrow and we’ll race them hard at Martinsville," Rogers said. "We'll try to advance in points and get to fifth, do the best we can the rest of the year." Busch, 29, was making his seventh Chase appearance. He finished a career-best fourth in the championship battle a year ago. He qualified for the Chase thanks to a win earlier this season at Auto Club Speedway , and advanced out of the first three-race round with finishes of seventh, eighth and 10th at Chicagoland, Loudon and Dover, respectively. A third-place finish at Kansas and fifth-place run at Charlotte in the Contender round left him second in points heading into Sunday's race. Busch did not comment publicly after the race. "I can't praise him enough," Rogers said of his driver. "He's really stepped up to be a great leader of this race team in the Chase. "We've had a couple of things go against us -- getting the nose knocked off at Loudon (and) today, and Kyle's done a really good job of biting his lip and just backing the race team to let us do our job. "I can't say enough good about him. I'm really proud of him. It's been a lot of fun working with him and we're not done yet." MORE: READ: Latest Chase news PLAY: Monitor your Chase Grid Game picks WATCH: Latest NASCAR video FOLLOW LIVE: Get RaceView FULL CHASE COVERAGE • Chase hub page • Chase Grid games • #MyChaseNation
Changes include horsepower reduction, ban on team-faciliated testing Photo courtesy of Hendrick Motorsports MORE: Official NASCAR release " Horsepower reduction highlights changes " Fast facts RELATED: Follow your picks in the Perfect Chase Grid Challenge for chance at $100,000 prize CONCORD, N.C. – It's the time of year when Jimmie Johnson typically is running roughshod over the competition, so it really wasn't surprising to find the Hendrick Motorsports driver guiding a World War II tank over two automobiles in the infield at Charlotte Motor Speedway Tuesday afternoon. The event was to promote next month's Bank of America 500 (October 11, 7:30 p.m. ET, ABC) at CMS, and a special "Let the Troops Race" program. Johnson's appearance took place shortly before NASCAR officials unveiled the sanctioning body's 2015 rules package, which includes among other things a reduction in horsepower and down force as well as a ban on team-faciliated private testing. As a six-time Sprint Cup champion, Johnson was the perfect sounding board to ask about the changes. "In one respect it's great," Johnson said of the testing ban. "We don't have to spend more time away from home (to) go testing. As long as you're in great shape, you're going to be happy with that rule." But, he added, HMS, which includes drivers Dale Earnhardt Jr ., Jeff Gordon and Kasey Kahne as well as Johnson, has been one to utilize other facilities often in an attempt to remain competitive. Now, he said, such on-track information will have to be obtained at the track leading into a race weekend. "We've been one that has used Nashville and a lot of other tracks to advance our cars," he said. "We’re going to have to do it the old fashioned way, at the track. Use practice sessions as test sessions and also fall back on our tools and instruments that we have in-house at Hendrick Motorsports." Others also chimed in Tuesday once the '15 rules were announced. Michael Waltrip Racing 's Brian Vickers was quoted in his team's weekly pre-race release as saying less down force, which will be obtained in part by a reduction in the height of the rear spoiler on the car, "should make the driver a greater part of the success equation." "There is a ton to absorb with the announcement today, but I think all of the changes are in the right direction," Vickers said. "The testing ban is the right decision. It saves car owners some money and increases the quality of life for all the crew that don't get to spend a lot of time with their family." Doug Yates, CEO of Roush Yates Engines, said changes to the motors would mean "a lot of work ahead." To drop horsepower from its current 850 range to the NASCAR target of 725, the use of tapered spacers such as those currently found in the Nationwide and Camping World Truck Series will be implemented. For Daytona and Talladega, restrictor plates will continue to be used to control speeds. "The engine configuration as we know it is going to change considerably and what that means is a different camshaft," Yates said. "They're going from flat tappet to roller lifter, which is a step in the right direction for longevity, but as far as the cam design, the cylinder head, intake manifold and exhaust system – all of those things that are related to air-flow – is going to have to be developed and tested over the winter to have a package that's ready to go race next March in Atlanta. "At the same time, they're reducing the horsepower target 125 and they’re also reducing the RPM from 9,500 today to 9,000 RPM going forward, so there are a lot of changes and a lot of work ahead." Back at CMS, Johnson was asked about constant changes to rules and if perhaps NASCAR should leave well enough alone for now. "It's debatable," he said. "I was in a great conversation with (Clint) Bowyer … he brought up a good point. Every time there is change, there is more competition. When the rules sit still for a long period of time, (competition on the track) kind of falls into a follow-the-leader type of event. With more change, there will be that race again to find out who can figure out the mousetrap first. "I'm not against that. And at the end of the day, if the cars really have a lot of give-up in them and they are abusing tires and wearing tires out, (then) that's going to create the best racing for us.” MORE: READ: Latest Chase news PLAY: Monitor your Chase Grid Game picks WATCH: Latest NASCAR video FOLLOW LIVE: Get RaceView FULL CHASE COVERAGE • Chase hub page • Chase Grid games • #MyChaseNation
Brian Vickers cut down a left front tire early in practice forcing him to a backup car in Richmond.
See where your favorite driver will pit for Sunday's race (2 p.m. ET, ESPN) RELATED: Follow your picks in the Perfect Chase Grid Challenge for chance at $100,000 prize Brian Vickers won the Coors Light Pole Award and the right to the first pit-stall pick for Sunday's NASCAR Sprint Cup Series GEICO 500 at Talladega Superspeedway (2 p.m. ET, ESPN). His No. 55 team chose the first stall at the exit of pit road. Six-time champion Jimmie Johnson , in a must-win situation, qualified second and chose the 17th stall, the first one on pit road with a front opening. Johnson will pit across the opening from another driver who has to win to get into the Eliminator Round of the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup as former champion Brad Keselowski will park in the 16th stall. The rest of the 12-driver Contender Round will pit in the following stalls: Kasey Kahne , Stall 7 Kevin Harvick , Stall 11 Denny Hamlin , Stall 13 Ryan Newman , Stall 14 Kyle Busch , Stall 15 Dale Earnhardt Jr. , Stall 21 Joey Logano , Stall 32 Carl Edwards , Stall 36 Matt Kenseth , Stall 41 Jeff Gordon , Stall 42 MORE: READ: Latest Chase news PLAY: Monitor your Chase Grid Game picks WATCH: Latest NASCAR video FOLLOW LIVE: Get RaceView FULL CHASE COVERAGE • Chase hub page • Chase Grid games • #MyChaseNation
Vickers is currently 16th in the Sprint Cup Series driver standings