Pistone will make season debut at Martinsville
RELATED: Updated Chase Grid CONCORD, N.C. -- After a tough run of races over the summer heading into the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup , Martin Truex Jr . came into the postseason a bit under the radar. Most don't see us. We're still here. #ambush #truexnation — Martin Truex Jr . (@MartinTruex_Jr) October 13, 2015 The Furniture Row Racing driver's stealth run toward a possible championship continued at Charlotte Motor Speedway on a day that saw Joey Logano dominate his way to victory and several title contenders find trouble. Truex scored a third-place finish in the Bank of America 500 that puts him third in the standings and 12 points above the cutline to be one of eight drivers to advance to the Eliminator Round. RELATED: See how the entire 43-car field fared at Charlotte "Third is great and all, but it's no guarantee," Truex said after the race. "I felt like this round would be good for us. Charlotte and Kansas, we ran so good here in the first race this year, and then after practice I was like, 'oh my God, we're struggling.' This was honestly the worst weekend we've had all season long as far as how I felt about the race car. "So I was like, ok, kind of damage control. Let's just hopefully get a top 10 out of this thing, and to do ‑‑ to get third out of it was a huge step for us." Truex qualified 15th for the Bank of America 500 and finished 16th, 4th and 15th in the three practice sessions. "From the time practice was over on Friday until this morning, we were texting about the set-up and what we were going to do and what we had to do and what to focus on," Truex said of his single-car team's efforts to improve the No. 78 Chevrolet this weekend. " I'm just proud of those guys for what they did. It was a true team effort and a testament to this team and their fight." The run was Truex's best result since a third-place finish at Michigan in August and was his best career finish at Charlotte. The finish also gave Truex a career-high in top-fives for a single season (eight) and matched his career-high in top 10s (19). And now the 35-year-old turns his attention to the next race of the Contender Round at Kansas. Truex led a race-high 95 laps in the spring race at Kansas, the SpongeBob SquarePants 400 , en route to a ninth-place finish. Prior to that, he had four top-four finishes in his past six starts at the 1.5-mile track. "Honestly, I think going to Kansas, a win is huge," Truex said. "It would be so huge. It's so critical to try to get that win out of the way. Logano is the only one that's going to sleep for the next two weeks. You know what I mean? "Kansas has been one of my best race tracks, and certainly one of my best since I went to Furniture Row. Honestly, we're going there as hard as we can go with everything we have to try to win just because we know Talladega is that wild card." Add in his 6.7 average finish in the seven intermediate track races that have used the 2015 rules package and its easy to see why Truex feels confident heading into Sunday's Hollywood Casino 400 (2:15 p.m. ET, NBC, MRN, SiriusXM). "Talladega still looms. It still makes us nervous," Truex said. "But next week could be a really good race for us and we're looking forward to getting that win that’s been eluding me at Kansas for a couple of years."
RELATED: Full race results " Updated series standings Joey Logano surged to a dominant victory Sunday afternoon at Charlotte Motor Speedway , landing an automatic berth in the next round of the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup playoffs. Logano, driving the Team Penske No. 22 Ford, led 227 of 334 laps in the Bank of America 500 , which was postponed by heavy Saturday night rain. He held off defending Sprint Cup champion Kevin Harvick to record his fourth win of the season, his first at the 1.5-mile track and 12th of his Sprint Cup Series career. The victory gives Logano immunity from elimination in the three-race Contender Round, making him one of the final eight title-eligible drivers in the Eliminator Round. His road to last year's championship round took a similar path; Logano also won 2014's Contender Round opener, which was hosted last year at Kansas Speedway . "This makes Talladega way easier," Logano said, pointing toward the always dicey Contender Round finale at the 2.66-mile Alabama track. "I know that's on everyone's mind when this round starts and last year we won Kansas when it was the first race of this round and now we were able to get it this time at Charlotte. We'll get lots of sleep here the next couple of weeks." Logano notched his victory a week after Harvick triumphed at Dover to claw his way back into the Chase . "I think everyone saw how fast he was last week and it probably made a lot of people nervous, but our team kept their heads up and stayed confident," Logano said. "We know we can beat them. We know we've got what we need over here, and our team is as tight-knit as they get. "I'm proud of them. I couldn't be more proud of them. We had a lot of money stops today to keep us out front. The pit stops were great and I couldn't be more proud of what they’re doing right now." Harvick's Stewart-Haas Racing No. 4 Chevrolet finished .704 seconds behind Logano at the end of his 11th runner-up finish this year. Martin Truex Jr ., Denny Hamlin , Kurt Busch and Carl Edwards completed the top six as Chase drivers swept the first half-dozen positions. Seventh-finishing Austin Dillon was the top non- Chase driver. Early trouble made for a difficult day for Chase drivers Dale Earnhardt Jr ., Matt Kenseth and Kyle Busch , all of whom failed to finish on the lead lap. Earnhardt spent much of the race's middle section one lap down after brushing the wall twice, on Lap 69 and 74. He continued after repairs, then scraped the wall again after hitting oil on the track on a Lap 190 restart. Kenseth, the Coors Light Pole Award winner in Thursday qualifying, led 72 laps early before running into his own pitfalls. A pair of errors on pit stops pushed him back in the running order, then things got worse when he made contact with fellow Chaser Ryan Newman on Lap 176, sending his Joe Gibbs Racing No. 20 entry into the outside wall. After numerous stops for repairs, Kenseth scraped the wall again on Lap 204 and then hammered it on Lap 241, sending him behind the wall. "These are never the kind of days you want to have for sure, but it's just one of those days," Kenseth said. "We're real fast up front and we're real tight in traffic. We got behind on that first pit deal and then didn't catch the cautions right and it went green, overshot my pit and put us in the back so it’s just like one thing led to another and led to another. "We shouldn't have ever been back there to start with. My mistakes and they cost us today so we'll just move on from this and get ready for Kansas." Busch, Kenseth's JGR teammate, suffered damage and lost headway when he collided with Kyle Larson in a quirky collision at the pit-road entrance. Both drivers made moves to fake and entry onto pit road, but when Busch tried to return to the track in third place, he made sizable contact with second-place Larson. Busch wound up with a 20th-place finish, Earnhardt 28th and Kenseth 42nd, leaving all three with plenty of ground to make up in the next two Contender Round races -- next weekend at Kansas Speedway and the following week at Talladega Superspeedway . RELATED: Where Chase bubble drivers stand after Charlotte The race was originally scheduled for Saturday night, but rain forced its postponement to a sunny Sunday. "Well, we definitely had to make some bigger swings at the handling of the car than what we were prepared for last night," said Harvick. "I like racing in the day, and especially here at Charlotte, because it seems like the cars move around more and it's harder to get a hold of your car. "But we never were able to get the balance right on our car all weekend and just never really got comfortable in the car -- but kept grinding away, and it got better throughout the day today, and that's a good thing on race day." Contributing: NASCAR Wire Service
LEARN MORE: About Bing PLAY NOW: Play The Chase Grid Battle Game Powered by Bing The intensity in the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup is building as the competition moves to the Contender Round starting Saturday night in Charlotte and continuing the next two weeks at Kansas and Talladega. With the always unpredictable Talladega sitting at the end of this stretch of races, it's extra difficult to choose which eight of the remaining 12 drivers will advance to the Eliminator Round and get closer to a championship. But never fear, Bing is here to give you confidence in the picks you're about to make in The Chase Grid Battle Game Powered by Bing . With Bing Predicts , a methodology that has a history of producing accurate forecasts, you will be able to sort through these difficult times and come up with the winning choices. Bing Predicts accurately predicted the 16 drivers who would make the Chase this season, and it correctly picked 11 of the 12 drivers who advanced to the Contender Round. Check out the eight drivers Bing predicts will make it out of the Contender Round and into the Eliminator Round, then read at the bottom about an exciting opportunity to win a trip to Las Vegas for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series' Champion's Week. Bing Predicts : The eight drivers who will advance to the Eliminator Round Kevin Harvick , 96% chance Joey Logano , 86% Kyle Busch , 78% Denny Hamlin , 78% Brad Keselowski , 77% Matt Kenseth , 74% Carl Edwards , 64% Dale Earnhardt Jr ., 64% Kurt Busch , Jeff Gordon , Martin Truex Jr , and Ryan Newman are projected not to advance to the 'Final 8.' Note: Bing's models predicted that Earnhardt Jr. is actually more likely to be eliminated than Kurt Busch , but Junior's stellar record on restrictor-plate tracks, particularly at Talladega where he has six career Sprint Cup victories, makes him more likely to win the last race in this round at Talladega and advance -- similar to what Harvick did at Dover to get into the Contender Round. In addition to helping you win the NASCAR Chase Grid Battle game, Bing also wants to send you on a trip of a lifetime to celebrate the NASCAR Chase for the Sprint Cup champion. Now y ou can enter a sweepstakes through Bing Rewards for a chance to win a trip to Las Vegas for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Champion’s Week.
RELATED: See the full Chase Grid Entering the Contender Round of the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup , something looms over the remaining 12 drivers in the sport's championship battle -- massive Talladega Superspeedway . Yes, the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series is at Charlotte Motor Speedway for Saturday's Bank of America 500 (7 p.m. ET, NBC, PRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio) and from there the series moves to Kansas Speedway for the Hollywood Casino 400 . Yet the 2.66-mile track, which hosts the CampingWorld.com 500 on Oct. 25, is firmly on the minds of all the competitors even though it's two weeks away. "I think this round is probably the most stressful because of Talladega," Martin Truex Jr . told reporters earlier this week at Contender Round Media Day at the NASCAR Hall of Fame. "I think everybody is really putting a lot of pressure on themselves to do good in these first two and try to get a win so you don't have to worry about Talladega." And Truex is not the only driver who feels that way. "Yeah, nobody wants to go to Talladega ‑‑ even if you're Dale Earnhardt Jr . and you feel like you're the most dominant car on those restrictor-plate tracks, and we've been, I think, as dominant as he has been just without the victories, I still don't want to go there and have to be in the top 10," four-time series champion Jeff Gordon said during media day. "You know, it's just one of those tracks where there's too many variables that can reach out and grab you." Carl Edwards simplified the approach even more, saying that he looked at the Contender Round as a "two-race series" instead of three races because of the uncertainty with Talladega. The two-time 2015 winner predicted drivers would be going even harder to try to get a win at Charlotte or Kansas to secure a spot in the Eliminator Round of eight drivers. "If you have a shot, if you can see the win at one of these next two races, you are going to see just some really tough racing for that win because nobody wants to go to Talladega with the uncertainty," Edwards said on Thursday at Charlotte Motor Speedway . "There's going to be a lot of nerves at Talladega." Last year Kansas hosted the opening race of the Contender Round. That event saw Jimmie Johnson and Dale Earnhardt Jr . find trouble they ultimately could not recover from, while Brad Keselowski had to score a walk-off win at 'Dega to overcome his Kansas trouble. But simply navigating the opening two races of the Contender Round doesn't make drivers immune to Talladega trouble, either. Kyle Busch scored top-five finishes at Kansas and Charlotte in 2014 before being caught up in a 10-car wreck at the Alabama track that sent him to a 40th-place finish and ultimately knocked him out of the Chase -- something that wasn't lost on the Joe Gibbs Racing driver this week. "Last year we played it right, we were the top point total scorer of the first two rounds and we were seeded the highest guy without a win and we went to Talladega and we sure learned how to throw that away," Busch said. "I think what we can do a better job of instead of being one of the only guys to race at the back of the pack and get ourselves caught up in something that none of the other Chasers were involved in, is race with all the rest of the Chasers and if they all get caught up in a wreck and we do too then hopefully our point total will all be lower, but all the same instead of me just being the only guy down at the bottom of the totem pole." The value of winning early in a round of the Chase is raised to an even higher level in the Contender Round with the uncertainty of Talladega on the horizon. "When you look at Charlotte and Kansas -- the first two races of this round -- they're super-important," Joey Logano said. "If you can win, you're going to be sleeping a lot better at night."
RELATED: Live weather updates from Charlotte " See the starting lineup CONCORD, N.C. -- Saturday night's scheduled NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Charlotte Motor Speedway , the Bank of America 500 , has been postponed due to rain. Originally scheduled for a 7:16 p.m. ET start on Saturday, the race will now go green at 12:30 p.m. ET on Sunday afternoon. NBCSN will televise the 334-lap race, with radio coverage on PRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio -- NBCSN, PRN and SiriusXM will go live with pre-race coverage at noon ET. The race at Charlotte is the first event of the three-race Contender Round in the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup. Prior to this race, six races had a weather delay of some kind during the 2015 Sprint Cup Series season: The Atlanta race in March, the Bristol race in April, the Richmond race in April, the Kansas race in May, the Michigan race in June and the summer race at Daytona. Only the Richmond race was postponed from Saturday night to Sunday afternoon, while the Michigan race was shortened by rain. Matt Kenseth won the Coors Light Pole Award at Charlotte and will start out front. Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Kyle Busch joins him on the front row. Kevin Harvick , who scored a win at Dover International Speedway last weekend to advance in the Chase , is the defending race winner at Charlotte. Twelve drivers remain in play for the championship: Kenseth, Joey Logano , Denny Hamlin , Carl Edwards , Martin Truex Jr . , Kurt Busch , Jeff Gordon , Brad Keselowski , Kyle Busch , Ryan Newman , Dale Earnhardt Jr . and the defending series champion, Harvick. Races at Kansas Speedway and Talladega Superspeedway are also part of the Contender Round. This story will be updated.
Lofton -- filling in for Gaulding -- scored the fastest speed in the second session
RELATED: Johnson's post-race reaction to being eliminated DOVER, Del. -- Once the crowd cleared, Jimmie Johnson walked around to each member of his crew on pit road, giving them a pat on the back and "good job," following his 41st-place finish in Sunday's AAA 400 at Dover International Speedway . His dreams of a seventh title in the 2015 season had been washed away, his finish eliminated the No. 48 team from the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup -- coincidentally in what was his 500th premier series start. The result marked Johnson's worst finish in his career at Dover, a track that he's dominated in years past, reaching Victory Lane a series-best 10 times. "It just wasn't meant to be," Johnson said on pit road after the race. "It's unfortunate. I feel for my team, I feel for Hendrick Motorsports , Lowe's, Chevrolet." Trouble began stirring around Lap 104 when Johnson felt something breaking in his car while running 16th. "It was instantaneous for me," Johnson recalled. "I was coming down the frontstretch and it just started vibrating, the right rear hub I guess started seizing up because the fluid was out of it. It was just metal on metal shaking." A broken rear axle seal was revealed as the culprit of Johnson's Monster Mile misfortune -- a part that Johnson said retails for around $5. "It's really horrible, it's a simple piece," Johnson said. "We're always very cautious, these axles come in and out of the car. I think I had one go in practice earlier this year. Maybe five in my whole career have ever gone." The faulty part sent Johnson behind the wall for nearly 30 minutes, as every member of the No. 48 team -- and even a few No. 88 crew members -- feverishly worked to get the car back on track. They returned to the track in last place, 37 laps down. But as the race continued, Johnson's daunting task became an uphill battle -- a monster that even "Six-Time" couldn't tame. "I really didn't have anything to fight for," Johnson said. "It was completely out of my control with how many laps we were down. Just a matter of what went on. "But then 20-30 minutes of being back on the track, I could see the flow of the race. Guys were minding their manners pretty well on the track, a lot of green flag runs, so I kind of felt like we were in big trouble." Mechanical issues have been few and far between for the No. 48 team in the past. Johnson's six championship titles prove that, his cars under guidance of crew chief Chad Knaus and his notoriously meticulous nature. But as Johnson showed today, even something as simple as an axle failure can happen to anyone. "As I worry about things, I worry about a flat, I worry about a pit call, I worry about hard racing, something going on -- I don't worry about an axle seal failing," Johnson said. "It's just not on your radar. "You just take things for granted. There's so many parts and pieces on these cars and you take for granted what they all do." No. 4 crew chief Rodney Childers, who won Sunday's race at Dover with driver Kevin Harvick , attested to that after the race. "Honestly, it's one of the things that is the scariest of everything that race teams deal with," Childers said in the post-race press conference. "... You think that race teams worry about engine trouble or things like that. But these axle seal problems, they happen all the time, and a lot of times you don't hear about them." With a win at Dover, Childers and Harvick will continue on to the Contender Round in the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup , vying for a second straight title for the No. 4 team. But while the hunt for a seventh championship title is over for Johnson this season, the chance remains for his Hendrick Motorsports teammates Jeff Gordon and Dale Earnhardt Jr ., who advanced to the next round. And Johnson's own desire to win races remains furiously intact. "We had a very, very fast race car today, the past three or four weeks we've had very competitive cars," Johnson said. "We want to win races, that's what the rest of the season is for us. "Help our teammates advance, help our teammates win the championship."
RELATED: Full Dover race results " Updated Chase Grid " Series standings DOVER, Del. -- It was a second-half battle between Dale Earnhardt Jr . and Jamie McMurray and it wasn't settled until the final lap of Sunday's AAA 400 at Dover International Speedway . It wasn't for the win. But, in this scenario, it was just as important. Earnhardt Jr. finished third in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series event, McMurray finished fourth and that order determined the final spot in the 12-driver lineup for the Contender Round of the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup . The two drivers finished tied in the final points standings after the three-race Challenger Round, but Earnhardt Jr. earned the final transfer position based on having the better finish of the two drivers (his Dover result) in this opening round. A fast restart by McMurray's Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates Chevrolet inside the final 100 laps of the 400-lap event took Earnhardt Jr. by surprise -- "I didn't see that kind of speed in his car all day," Earnhardt said -- and had some wondering if Earnhardt would be the second Hendrick Motorsports to fail to advance. Teammate Jimmie Johnson , felled by a broken rear axle seal, finished 41st and dropped from Chase contention. RELATED: Johnson's hopes for a seventh title come to an end It was a final caution, the result of oil put down by the No. 40 of Landon Cassill on Lap 373, that gave Earnhardt Jr. his opportunity. "Jamie was trying to squeeze down in front of Matt (Kenseth) into Turn 3 and get to the bottom, and they really slow‑rolled that corner for some reason, both of them," he said. "I just went to the outside because it was about the only shot I had to pinch anybody down, pinch Jamie down if I could get to his quarter panel, and that's how it worked out. "I thought we were about the third- to fifth-best car, and we just fought all day for track position, and we passed a lot of cars and had a lot of fun." The No. 88 crew chief, Greg Ives said having the two earlier wins was fortunate but that "we shouldn't even be in this position right now. "Running out of fuel (at Loudon), we ran well enough to finish in the top three (there)," he said. "This is not indicative of where our team is; the heart and the fight we had today showed where this team is at." Earnhardt had finished 12th in the Chase opener at Chicagoland Speedway , then ran out of fuel in the waning laps at New Hampshire Motor Speedway to wind up 25th. He came into Sunday's cutoff race 12th in points and just one point ahead of Joe Gibbs Racing 's Kyle Busch . "I feel like we've got pretty good speed," Earnhardt said. "We lost a little ... over the summer and I think we're gaining a little bit on it. We've still got some more to find." McMurray was disappointed in the outcome -- he was making his first appearance in the Chase -- but was pleased with what his team accomplished this season. "Our goal at the beginning of the year was to make it into the Chase ," he said. "The unfortunate part is we didn't run well enough the first two races; we ran great today. We got a lap down and then Matt (McCall, crew chief) did a really good job adjusting the car and getting it back to where we had a top five car; our pit crew did an awesome job, our team did a tremendous job today; we just didn't run well enough the first two races." Finishes of 16th and 14th in the first two Chase races put McMurray 11th in points headed into Dover, one point ahead of Earnhardt. Kevin Harvick dominated the race to vault his No. 4 Stewart-Haas Racing team into the Contender Round. Busch, Earnhardt, McMurray and Aric Almirola completed the top five. "I really thought just being consistent would get us in and it was close, we just needed one more point," said McMurray. Bonus points for race wins, awarded for during the first 26 races and used to help determine seeding for the opening round, are not awarded after the first round. Therefore, the 12 drivers advancing into the Contender Round each have 3,000 points heading into next weekend's race at Charlotte Motor Speedway .
RELATED: Full Dover results " Updated Chase grid " Updated standings DOVER, Del. -- Kyle Busch , still looking for his first NASCAR Sprint Cup championship, remains in the title picture thanks to a runner-up finish in Sunday's AAA 400 at Dover International Speedway . The result proved to be more than enough to push the Joe Gibbs Racing driver into the top 12 in points, a necessity for those hoping to advance into the Contender Round of this year's Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup . Busch led five times for 19 laps in an event that was dominated by defending series champion Kevin Harvick . During a weekend that saw rain limit practice time and force the cancelation of qualifying, Busch said there was enough of an unknown going into Sunday's race to hold his attention. "I had a little bit of concern just based off the short amount of practice time that we got and the way the car was feeling in those practice sessions," Busch said. "You know, I just wasn't quite as confident in it as I wanted to be. "I never really got a good feel for what I thought I needed to race. But right then and there, for today, the way we ran, I can't say enough about my team. Adam (Stevens, crew chief) and the guys, they made some really good calls and … some smart changes overnight, and we had a really fast car today. "You know, I shouldn't have been too worried, I guess. I should have put my faith in my team, which they prevailed today for me." Busch missed the season's first 11 races after suffering a broken leg and fractured foot in an XFINITY Series crash in February at Daytona International Speedway . He returned to Victory Lane five races later, and captured four of five during a hot summer stretch that saw him begin to work his way back inside the top 30 in points. Now, he's one of 12 still contending for this year's title. He's advanced through the opening Challenger Round by rallying from a 37th-place finish a week ago at New Hampshire Motor Speedway . Although outside the top 12 heading into Dover, Busch said he wasn't counting points as the race played out. "I think when you're in the position that we were in when we were running second there the whole race, you don't have to watch it," he said. "You just do the best you can and that was the best that we were going to do today. "Fortunately we came out with that finish and second-place was what we needed to do. ... The points reset so we're back even with those guys and hopefully we can have a good, solid next three races." Bonus points for race wins, awarded for during the first 26 races and used to help determine seeding for the opening round, are not awarded after the first round. Therefore, the 12 drivers advancing into the Contender Round each have 3,000 points heading into next weekend's race at Charlotte Motor Speedway .