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Cain: No need to panic about struggling Hendrick
Who's panicking? Not the Hendrick Motorsports team, as some have suggested. Working overtime, brainstorming, gritting their teeth and rolling up their sleeves? Perhaps. But this organization -- which hasn't celebrated a victory since March -- knows a little something about challenging for NASCAR's Sprint Cup Series championships, and it would be naïve and foolhardy to believe the team's summer doldrums are a definitive sign of playoff potential. At least that's what history has shown us. And what Jimmie Johnson tells us. And what team owner Rick Hendrick has assured. "A lot of hard work went on during the break that we had," Johnson said last weekend at Bristol, Tennessee. "Just judging by the excitement from (crew chief) Chad (Knaus) and all the way through to Mr. Hendrick, we're definitely turning over some stones and are hopeful to bring a little better product to the race track week in and week out. "We've been struggling at times, trying to produce speed and lap times of late and making mistakes in the process. We're still rallying with some decent finishes from time to time, but then again, still having some bad luck. I think Watkins Glen kind of speaks to that as well; and also self-inflicted mistakes. "I think come Chase time, in the middle of the Chase, the way things are looking back at the shop, and the excitement I see in all the departments, we're expecting a good late-season surge for Hendrick Motorsports ." Labor Day -- which traditionally marks the end of summer -- can't come soon enough for this team. Johnson is the only member of this Fab Four lineup to hoist a trophy this season, and the six-time champ did it twice right off the bat -- winning the second race of the year at Atlanta, then three weeks later in California. Chase Elliott opened his rookie campaign with 11 top-10 finishes in the first 15 races, including pole positions for the Daytona 500 and at Talladega Superspeedway . And he capped off that season-starting run with a career-best runner-up at Michigan International Speedway -- where the series returns this weekend. Kasey Kahne is also seeking his first trophy of the year, but already has six top 10s -- more than halfway to his entire total (10) from last year. And he has won at both Michigan (2006 from the pole position) and at Richmond, Virginia (2005), where the Chase field will be formally set on Sept. 10. As the Chase Grid stands now, Kahne is tied with Kyle Larson , three positions shy of qualifying. They trail 16th-place Ryan Newman by 39 points. With Dale Earnhardt Jr .'s return still unknown as he recovers from concussion-like symptoms, the feared Hendrick foursome realizes it is a threesome come title time. But it remains a championship threat. "Our guys have been working really hard these past few weeks," said Elliott, who is Chase-eligible by being ranked 12th in the standings. "Everybody is fired up at Hendrick Motorsports . Mr. Hendrick himself is fired up -- he has been around the shop a lot. We are all just trying to give it the best effort we can to try and make the most of these next 14 weeks. "We are all working hard, we are all in. Hopefully, Michigan will be a step in the right direction." In the past -- such as during Johnson's jaw-dropping six title runs in eight years – this team has made it look almost too easy. So Toyota has stepped it up, winning its first Cup championship last year with Kyle Busch and collecting 11 trophies already this year. Ford's been every bit a player, as well, with Team Penske drivers -- Brad Keselowski and Joey Logano -- earning enough trophies (five) between the two of them to keep the others honest this season. And Hendrick's Chevy "alliance" partner, the Stewart-Haas Racing team, has certainly come to the party with at least three Chase entrants including 2014 Sprint Cup champion Kevin Harvick , who won his second race Sunday at Bristol and leads the championship standings; team owner Tony Stewart , who won at Sonoma , California; and Kurt Busch , who is ranked third in points. And while Johnson's two wins and Elliott's poles seem like it's business as usual, there is a new sense of urgency to right the Hendrick ship heading into the Chase. Johnson has the two wins, but he has only three top 10s in the last 14 races, a stretch that also includes four finishes of 30th or worse. Similarly, Elliott hasn't had a top-10 since his runner-up at Michigan. And Kahne has only one top 10 in that time. "We have been struggling this year, have not been as good as we want or should be," Hendrick said over the weekend while admitting he's even gotten up at 4:30 am to go to the wind tunnel with his team. "We know we have the ingredients and we're not satisfied, and we're going to do whatever it takes. That's been our motto all these years. We're at, what, 242 wins in Cup series? And we're not done. "Nobody's satisfied. We've wrecked more cars. … Haven't led races like we usually do. Not making any excuses, we've got to get to work. That's the deal. We're all committed and we're all excited. Nobody stays on top forever but we're not happy where we are and we want to get back." "I'm accountable," Hendrick continued. "They're accountable. "When you're not doing well, you can walk away and point fingers or you can jump in it and say, 'Let's get with it. We know how to do it. Let's get better working together.' "I'm proud of our company and we're going to be better. I like the challenge."
Michigan gives final sneak peek at proposed '17 aero package
The prospective 2017 aerodynamic rules package for NASCAR's premier series will receive what likely will be its final dress rehearsal this weekend at Michigan International Speedway . NASCAR officials announced the move July 28, one month ahead of Sunday's Pure Michigan 400 (2 p.m. ET, NBCSN, MRN, SiriusXM). The 400-mile race is expected to be the last step before NASCAR's competition department delivers final, formal aero rules to teams as preparations for next season begin. The rules at the 2-mile track this weekend will be a repeat of what the series competed with earlier this year in a 400-mile event won by Joey Logano . The rules are designed to reduce the over-stabilizing effects of downforce and sideforce with smaller spoilers, fewer cooling fans, and a neutral body alignment that eliminates rear axle offset, or "skew." The Sprint Cup Series began the season with a five-stage process for testing and validating the potential 2017 rules setup. With last month's announcement, there's an unexpected sixth stage, intended to help competition officials accumulate more data and feedback before finalizing the package. Similar incarnations of the package went through testing at Michigan (May 17) and Kentucky Speedway (June 13-14) before being used in race conditions at the NASCAR Sprint All-Star Race at Charlotte Motor Speedway (May 21), Michigan (June 12) and Kentucky (July 9). Competition officials have indicated they do not intend to adjust aero rules for any of the 10 races in the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup playoffs, which begin Sept. 18 at Chicagoland Speedway . The reduction of downforce and other aerodynamic stability has been an evolving philosophy during the last two seasons. The guiding principles behind the trends involve placing more control and input into the drivers' hands, and promoting side-by-side racing by minimizing the advantages of undisturbed, "clean" air for leading cars. Last weekend at Bristol Motor Speedway , several drivers mentioned their desire for further testing of the package at more varied tracks before the 2017 rules are decided. Carl Edwards , winner of the series' two most recent Coors Light Pole Awards, still said he was encouraged by the push toward lower downforce, saying, "I think that the less we have, the better." "Michigan is a tough place because even though we're reducing downforce, there is still a lot of it, but it's a very high-speed track so any aero changes, they are magnified there," Edwards added. "Hopefully the track has aged some there. It's a little hotter the second time back and there's a little more rubber down, and hopefully it provides a really good race. "I hope it's a good test of that package. You test it at a new repave like Kentucky and you test it at a really, really fast single-groove track right now like Michigan and it's really hard to gauge where it's at, but I really applaud NASCAR trying and going that direction. I think what you've seen this year with all the great racing and the passing and all that is due in large part to the reduced downforce. If we can keep going that way, it's going to be good." </p>
How Matt Kenseth helped John Krasinski land role of 'Jim' on 'The Office'
It's nearly impossible to think an actor besides John Krasinski playing the role of 'Jim Halpert' on the American version of "The Office," but it may not have happened without the help of Matt Kenseth . Did that just blow your mind? It should have. Back in 2002 -- a full three years before the NBC premiere of inarguably the greatest comedy series of all time, in my opinion, at least -- a fresh-faced Krasinski appeared in a commercial with Kenseth that caught the eye of future "Office" executive producer, Greg Daniels. The back-and-forth dialogue between last fall's grand marshal at Texas Motor Speedway and Kenseth (more back than forth, knowing the stoic Joe Gibbs Racing driver) and wild antics by the now-36-year-old led to an audition and before long, "Jim" was born. Krasinski recently spoke about it on NPR's Fresh Air podcast with Dave Davies . "I haven't seen or heard that since the time I did it. That is a real send back to memory lane," Krasinski said. " … That was a huge performance and I remember we had a little bit of script and Matt Kenseth had said he doesn't want to have a line in the script. He was very shy and he didn't want ... he just wanted to walk through the commercial. "At the end of the day, they just asked 'Would you just improv and have fun? Let's see what we get' and we just kept going and I think they just watched the dog go off the leash, just improving all this stuff. By the end, Matt said 'Well, now I do want to say some stuff.' So he came in and we were joking around all day. It was probably one of the more fun times I've had, certainly before I got 'The Office . ' " The commercial worked wonders for both men, as Krasinski is now a household name and Kenseth won five races that year, following it up with his only premier series title the following season. Watch the full commercial below.
Pray for rain? Marks aims for wet-weather edge
RELATED: Marks tops leaderboard in final practice ELKHART LAKE, Wis. -- Rain, rain, go away , come again on Sat-ur-day. That's the song Justin Marks will be singing the rest of the time he's at Road America , site of Saturday's Road America 180 Fired Up by Johnsonville (3 p.m. ET, NBCSN, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio). The National Weather Service's Saturday forecast calls for showers and thunderstorms in the track's vicinity, with an 80 percent chance in the morning giving way to a 50-50 shot in the afternoon. NASCAR drivers typically view rain the same way cats do, so why would the most recent XFINITY Series road course winner be hoping for the wet stuff? Because it gives him an advantage. "I've had a lot of people ask, you know, 'Are you praying for rain when you get (to Road America )?' " said Marks, who prevailed at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course two weeks ago on a rain-soaked Saturday. "I try to keep myself and the team ... we try to manage our expectations around not banking too much around the things that we can't control. We can't control the weather. We know that we're really good in the rain. We know that if it rains, certainly we're going to be a threat to win again. "At Mid-Ohio a couple weeks ago, we were a little bit off on speed in the dry. We needed to improve on that and that was a big part of what we were working on today. I think we satisfied that initiative." Marks and his No. 42 Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet crew appear to have found the dry speed Friday, improving on his fourth-place showing in opening practice (108.279 mph) to lead final practice at a blistering 108.946 mph. He backed it up in qualifying later on in the evening, making a quick lap of 109.196 mph to line up third. "Our goal -- we know we're fast in the rain -- our goal is to be fast on dry. That way, no matter what happens, we know we're a threat to win and we don't have to sit and cross our fingers and hope for something that's outside of our control," Marks said. "That being said, I would be OK if I woke up and it was wet in the morning."
ThorSport draws strength to keep trucking after devastating fire
RELATED: Exclusive look at the ThorSport shop in Ohio SANDUSKY, Ohio -- No matter what happens from here on out, win or lose, championship or bust, ThorSport Racing officials likely will look back on the 2016 season as something of a rebirth. It's been a year in which the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series organization has literally risen from the ashes. Cut short just seven races into the season by a raging fire that damaged much of the team's race shop, the company marched on, spent weeks working piecemeal out of everything from the parking lot of a former grocery store to a section of bays inside a custom trailer manufacturing facility. Each off-site venue was within roughly a five-mile radius of the team's 100,000-square-foot home base. Each was also an example of a small, tight-knit community reaching out to help in any way possible. ThorSport, owned by Duke and Rhonda Thorson, has fielded entries in the Camping World Truck Series since 1996, the second year of the series' existence. Today, four teams run out of the large cream-colored building -- the No. 88 Toyota Tundra of two-time series champion Matt Crafton , the No. 13 of Cameron Hayley , the No. 41 of Ben Rhodes and the No. 98 of Rico Abreu. Rhodes and Abreu are Sunoco Rookie of the Year candidates. But for six weeks, the four teams and approximately 85 employees worked "old school," minus many of the technological necessities prevalent throughout all three of NASCAR's national series. They did so while traveling to and competing at Iowa and St. Louis, Kentucky and Eldora. Walk into the shop today and you might not realize the place had been filled with smoke "so thick you couldn't see your hand in front of your face," one first responder recalled on Thursday, or that water was "up to our knees in most places, and running out of the hauler bays in back like a river," said another. But the smell tells another story. "There were times," said Jim Johnson, captain of the Perkins Township Fire Department, "I thought we were going to lose the entire building." Johnson was the first to arrive on the scene, just after midnight on Monday, June 13. Assuming it was nothing more than a small brush fire out back of the team's headquarters, he said he quickly realized the severity of the situation and alerted departments from nearby townships as well as Sandusky. Three other localities and 47 firefighters quickly responded. The fire, which began outside behind the main building, had spread up the rear wall and then began moving beneath the rubber-sealed roof. The rear portion, which housed a fabrication area and machine shop, had to be knocked down in order for firemen to get to the blaze. Johnson said it took approximately 500,000 gallons of water to finally extinguish the fire. Most equipment was quickly removed from the shop -- a large grassy area outside was soon filled with race trucks, pit boxes and assorted tools. There were no injuries and, surprisingly, no race vehicles were damaged to the extent that they had to be discarded. While ThorSport teams regrouped and continued to focus on racing, workers began the process of renovating the shop. Walls, blackened by smoke and damaged by water, were torn down to the studs and rebuilt. New wiring was installed. Eventually, equipment was brought back in. And what little remained of the destroyed rear portion, about 25,000 square feet of shop space, was hauled away. The organization was slowed, perhaps, but not stopped. "We can't use (the fire) as an excuse to under-achieve," ThorSport General Manager David Pepper said. Today, trucks in various states of assembly sit on the pristine shop floor. Work has resumed in a building, a former slaughterhouse that was first put into use by the group in 2011. "Duke and Rhonda have given us our biggest, best resource you could possibly ask for to win races, and we've proven we can do that from here," Carl "Junior" Joiner, crew chief for Crafton, said. "Not having it, you were lost. "At this level, you need resources like this to win and we didn't have that for a long time." The smell, less strong now, still lingers inside the shop. Inside some of the trucks, too. "We still have to put air fresheners in some of them because of the stench," he said. It is not only a reminder of what happened, but how far the organization has come in such a short period of time. "When something bad happens, my father always told me, 'Well kid, it builds character.' And I know that we're going to be stronger from it," Joiner said. "I know we will." &amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;lt;/p&amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;gt;
Drivers embrace #KidsDriveNASCAR, more tweets
Editor's note: Every Friday, "Tweets You Might Have Missed" will present eight of the best NASCAR-related tweets from the week. 1. The go kart Kyle learned to race on #KidsDriveNASCAR pic.twitter.com/qaz83QcPiO — Samantha Busch (@SamanthaBusch) August 24, 2016 2. #KidsDriveNASCAR pic.twitter.com/Vjetui5V99 — Rodney Childers (@RodneyChilders4) August 25, 2016 3. "I don't know why people think this running thing is so hard, Dad. This is easy." #KidsDriveNASCAR pic.twitter.com/WjgG3TPaBJ — FrontRow Motorsports (@Team_FRM) August 26, 2016 4. The future right here... #KidsDriveNASCAR #MiniDanica pic.twitter.com/evUGcdhYjX — Kurt Busch (@KurtBusch) August 25, 2016 5. My little buddy #KidsDriveNASCAR pic.twitter.com/YseWNovqwb — landon cassill (@landoncassill) August 25, 2016 6. . @chandrajanway couldn't contain herself, both kids are now potty trained. pic.twitter.com/3ohVmkf3xv — Jimmie Johnson (@JimmieJohnson) August 24, 2016 7. The little dumb ass thinks he's a cow! pic.twitter.com/8BxCkQJI2m — Clint Bowyer (@ClintBowyer) August 24, 2016 8. Remember when you thought your parents knew NOTHING, but quickly figured they do??? pic.twitter.com/cdPhX7TBYn — DeLana Harvick (@DeLanaHarvick) August 22, 2016
Logano leaps to Coors Light Pole Award at Michigan
RELATED: Qualifying results " See every car, team rosters BROOKLYN, Mich. – If Joey Logano was looking for a good omen for Sunday, he found it on Friday afternoon at Michigan International Speedway . Touring the two-mile track in 35.697 seconds (201.698 mph) during the final round of knockout qualifying for Sunday's Pure Michigan 400 (2 p.m. ET on NBCSN), Logano edged Jimmie Johnson (201.523 mph) for the top starting spot by .031 seconds. The Coors Light Pole Award was Logano's third at MIS. On the previous two occasions the driver of the No. 22 Team Penske Ford started first on the grid—in August 2013 and June 2016—he won the subsequent NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race. Should Logano win form the pole on Sunday, he would be the third driver to win three or more Michigan races from the top starting spot, joining NASCAR Hall of Famers David Pearson and Bill Elliott . "Any time you put your name with a Hall of Famer of any sort, it would be really special for me," said Logano, who has collected three poles this season and 16 in his career. "That's crazy—that's a really, really neat stat. "We've got to do it though. But, obviously, starting up front here is an advantage, for sure. We talk about track position. We talk about safety on restart, being how crazy it is with the low-downforce package. And the first pit stall—probably the most important thing of all is keeping the track position through the race." And, of course, when Logano is fast in qualifying trim at MIS, he usually races well, too. "I'm excited about it," he said. "I thought our car was really fast in race trim earlier (in practice). ... I didn't think we were going to make it happen today (in qualifying), but (crew chief) Todd (Gordon) made some good adjustments, and he gave me a little pep talk, and I was ready to go. I was going to drive the heck out of that thing." Denny Hamlin (201.406 mph) qualified third, followed by Kevin Harvick (201.382 mph) and Chase Elliott (201.303 mph). Johnson's second-place start led a resurgence by Hendrick Motorsports , which placed all four cars in the top 12 during qualifying for only the second time this season, the first coming in May at Talladega, a restrictor-plate track. "It was just an awesome day for this Lowe's race car and this Lowe's race team," Johnson said. "We keep stacking pennies and making this car better and better. "My hat's off to everyone at Hendrick Motorsports and all the hard work they're putting into things. Great practice and great qualifying. We need some more practice sessions (Saturday) and roll them into a good race." Johnson participated in a NASCAR organization test (one car per team) on Tuesday at Chicagoland Speedway and found the session helpful in finding speed. Indeed, the Hendrick cars more than held their own against the four entries from Joe Gibbs Racing , which have been the dominant force in Cup qualifying this season. Hamlin and Carl Edwards (ninth), were the only two JGR drivers to make the top 12, with Matt Kenseth qualifying 13th and Kyle Busch 16th. &amp;lt;/p&amp;gt;
Patrick: 'Chad Knaus would've killed me'
Host shares story of his last NASCAR experience Chatting with Kansas winner Joey Logano on his NBCSN simulcasted talk show, "The Dan Patrick Show" on Monday morning, host Dan Patrick shared a funny little story about the last time he was at a NASCAR race -- and why he might not be welcome back. "I was in Chicago a couple of years ago and I almost leaned on Jimmie Johnson 's spoiler, pre-race," Patrick said. Uh oh. " Chad Knaus, I think, would've killed me. I was talking to Jimmie right before the race and I almost leaned on his spoiler." Logano, quick on his feet, noted that if he bent it the right way, Knaus may have even thanked him. "If you were pulling it back, or something, ( Chad ) might've been okay with it." Not that he would know anything about those sort of hijinks. RELATED: NASCAR to police flared skirts in 2015 Still, Logano wants the host to come out to a race to cheer him on – well, maybe. "I don't know if you want me out there, Joey," Patrick said. "Because then I'm going to want to get in your pits and I'm going to want to work the pits." Logano, entrenched in a Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup run, can't take any risks and responded appropriately. "Then just don't come."
Cain: Bigger and more memorable at Texas
RELATED: Gallery of memorable moments at Texas " Full weekend schedule FORT WORTH -- From track "weepers" and multicar inaugural-lap pileups to a winner's circle confrontation between two Indianapolis 500 champs, Texas Motor Speedway has been the site of some of the most remarkable, memorable and bizarre story lines of any circuit on the NASCAR circuit. The 1.5-mile oval outside Fort Worth celebrates its 20th year hosting a NASCAR race this week with Saturday night's Duck Commander 500 (7:30 p.m. ET, FOX, PRN, Sirius XM NASCAR Radio.) And for those of us around at the very beginning, it seems a fitting time to reminisce a bit about the facility's famously storied early history. As they like to remind you in Texas, everything is "bigger" there. And it has been. The track's early trials and tribulations have only contributed to its great character and esteem. In my 25 years of sports journalism, the opening races at Texas Motor Speedway still remain among the most unforgettable times of my career. Never before and never since have I covered a specific beat that provided as much sensation, controversy and must-see-TV as TMS in the early years. Two decades later, the track located at the intersection of an interstate and two major Texas highways has evolved into one of the sport's most prestigious venues. It boasts the largest HD screen, named "Big Hoss," fantastic spectator seating and the most condominiums of any track on the circuit. Plus really great racing. Nearly 195,000 people showed up for the inaugural Texas race in 1997 and most of those who were ticket holders then still are, two decades later proving they are as faithful and optimistic as they were devoted. It turns out those have been good traits for this endeavor. MORE: Paint scheme preview for Texas I had just started work at The Dallas Morning News newspaper in the spring of 1997 a few weeks after Jeff Burton took the checkered flag for NASCAR's first Cup series race at Texas in April. The new facility was considered the "home track" to cover. After reporting on the Indianapolis 500 in May, I was immediately back home in Dallas, ready for the Indy Racing League's night-time debut at TMS the next week. There, a 26-year old future three-time NASCAR Cup champion Tony Stewart put on an open-wheel show for the ages, racing wheel-to-wheel lap-after-lap with Buddy Lazier. Stewart -- who went on to win two Cup races at Texas (2006 and 2011) -- led a race-high 100 of the 208 laps only to suffer an engine failure that night. But toward the end of the race there were questions regarding the scoring shown on the monitor in the press box. And soon after making my way down to the infield to prepare for a super-tight Saturday night newspaper deadline, the real craziness began. While trying to get post-race quotes from the apparent first-time winner Billy Boat ( XFINITY Series driver Chad's dad) and Boat's team owner, Texan A.J. Foyt, I was standing a few feet away when driver Arie Luyendyk confronted Foyt in Victory Lane. After questioning the results, challenging Foyt and suggesting he was actually the legitimate race winner, Luyendyk tumbled into the victory flowers. Boat and Foyt hoisted the trophy. It was surreal. I was on a crazy tight deadline. But the next day in a hastily called press conference, Luyendyk was declared the winner after USAC conceded a scoring error. After USAC officials suggested problems with the track's scoring system, TMS President Eddie Gossage took the press conference podium and strongly reminded that the speedway wasn't responsible for the scoring. "I got home at 3 in the morning knowing we gave the trophy to the wrong winner and had a press conference for 8 in the morning," said Gossage. "I go in to the press conference with two hours of sleep and I'm sitting in the back row and the head scorer for USAC says that the speedway's timing and scoring equipment didn't work. "He says it again and then a third time so I just walked up on stage and stepped up to the podium and eased him to the side and said, " Texas Motor Speedway doesn't own a stop watch. ... People have a right to know when they leave the race track who the winner is and we all didn't get what we paid for." Then after a dramatic exit and door slam, Gossage recalls, "My dad called from Tennessee and said, 'You were raised better, acting like an idiot on television for all the world to see, embarrassing me and your mom.' I said, 'What?' He said, 'You didn't know it was live on ESPN?' "I didn't. And then I was like, 'You're right, sir. I'm sorry. I know better.' " Gossage has a good laugh recalling the whole ordeal now. Foyt, who still disputes the result, kept the trophy and Luyendyk was given another one. A year later, Boat recalled of the evening, "We went into Victory Circle knowing nothing about a scoring error, only that someone was talking derogatory about our race team. You don't do that in a big Texan's Victory Circle." Luyendyk, of Holland, said the incident -- replayed repeatedly all over the world at the time -- actually made him and the Texas Motor Speedway more famous overseas. MORE: Gossage and drivers try to draw state of Texas And then in 1998 came NASCAR's second Cup try. After two multi-car accidents in the inaugural race, conventional wisdom promised this one just had to go down more smoothly. NASCAR's biggest stars such as Rusty Wallace, Ernie Irvan, Dale Earnhardt and Mark Martin were among those who crashed in the opening race. Darrell Waltrip finished last after being involved in a 13-car wreck on the very first turn of the very first lap of Cup competition there. And Burton ended up winning by 4 seconds. Surely, everyone figured, the second race would be smoother. It wasn't. "Weepers" became a familiar word. The water seeping through the track caused qualifying to be completed a day late. And of all things, there was a huge 10-car accident on the second lap of the race. Jeff Gordon and yes, Waltrip, were collected in that melee. Mark Martin won the race by a half-second over Chad Little and Robert Pressley. Shortly after, TMS went through a re-paving and re-fitting, track owner Bruton Smith and Gossage committed to correction. "The first year it was just terrible and everything seemed to go wrong," Gossage conceded this week. "And the second year, obviously you try to improve so all of a sudden here's these weepers that came through. "I remember driving into the infield and in the rearview mirror saw Lake Speed knock the wall down in Turn 1 in qualifying. I thought, 'Oh no.' "I'm always the worst critic," Gossage said, logging the long hours readying for the weekend's big events. "There are things other people might not have noticed but I did. For some reason things worked really well in 1999 when Terry Labonte won and it's been better since then. That's the way a race weekend was supposed to go." Not only has it been better, it's typically a discussion point in every season review. In 2005, Texas finally got the second date it had longed for since I worked at the Dallas paper nearly a decade earlier. And the facility -- big enough to fit every Texas sporting stadium in its infield -- is also a big-time player in the Chase for the Sprint Cup . It's still providing those jaw-dropping, television highlight moments seemingly born with the track. Dale Earnhardt Jr . scored his first Cup win at TMS in April 2000. And Chase Elliott got his first XFINITY Series win here in 2014 driving for Junior at JR Motorsports. Gordon, who won this race in 2009, has starred in a couple TMS highlight reels, too. He was involved in a pair of high profile skirmishes from taking on Burton on-track after a wreck in 2010 to a crazy pit road scuffle with Brad Keselowski in 2014. "You have to be honest," Gossage said. "And looking back, it's just how things occurred. I wouldn't trade any of it, if it is what got us where we are. I'll take where we stand in our success as the most successful major market speedway in the history of this sport. I'll take that. "I won't trade my job with the guy running any other race track because I'm just so proud of what's been accomplished here."
Jesse Little teams with ThorSport for Truck debut
NASCAR Next driver to make first national series start at Dover Team Little Racing announced Friday afternoon that it has reached an agreement with ThorSport Racing for a part-time schedule for NASCAR Next driver Jesse Little in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series this season. Little , 18, had previously announced that he would make his truck tour debut May 29 at Dover International Speedway . Friday's announcement provided extra detail on his 2015 plans, including the partnership with ThorSport -- winner of the last two Camping World Truck Series championships with veteran Matt Crafton . "To have this alliance and support from ThorSport Racing for my Truck Series Events is a huge step forward for me, Team Little Racing and our partners," Little said in a release provided by his team. "Our goals are to put together solid finishes and represent ThorSport Racing, Duke Thorson and our sponsors including NASCAR Technical Institute and Performance Friction Brakes in a first-class manner." Thorson has fielded trucks in the series since 1996. His three-truck effort this season includes rides for Crafton, Johnny Sauter and rookie Cameron Hayley . "We look forward to supporting Jesse as he makes his transition into the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series," Thorson said. "We feel that this alliance with ( Little ) will assist him in reaching his ultimate goal in NASCAR." Little will have a familiar face atop the pit box in Harold Holly, a 19-time winner as a crew chief in what is now called the NASCAR XFINITY Series. The veteran wrench spent two seasons as crew chief for Little's father, Chad , in both XFINITY and Sprint Cup competition. "Jesse is an impressive young man in so many aspects of life," Holly said. "He's a strong student, treats everyone with respect and is eager to learn new things. From a racing perspective Jesse has won at every level he's competed on, takes care of his equipment, provides his team with good feedback and knows how to pace himself during a race. This partnership with ThorSport Racing will give us a chance to compete at one of the sport's top levels where Jesse can show his skills. "We have solid goals, will work to be a good teammate and always be respectful on the track. As a team we're excited to get to Dover and see what our team can do in our Camping World Truck Series debut." Jesse Little is in his fourth season in the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East, where he was the rookie of the year in 2013. FULL SERIES COVERAGE • Latest news • Standings • Schedule