Pistone will make season debut at Martinsville
HOLLYWOOD, Fla. -- The two Most Popular Drivers were absolutely suited for NASCAR's big awards. Second-generation NASCAR mega-talents, both Chase Elliott ( XFINITY Series) and John Hunter Nemechek ( Camping World Truck Series) absolutely earned the distinction and the nod in Monday awards presentation. Elliott, who will drive the Hendrick Motorsports No. 24 Chevy next year in the Sprint Cup Series -- replacing the retiring Jeff Gordon -- was typically low-key and humble about the whole NASCAR XFINITY and Camping World Truck Series awards evening. But he was eager to get going in his Cup career after a championship and second place finish (2015) in the XFINITY Series. Earning the Most Popular Driver Award for the recent season must have felt very appropriate for the son of Bill Elliott , who took the Cup Series vote a record 16 times. Dale Earnhardt Jr . has won it the past 12 years. "I think we have definitely a lot of work to do to catch Dale in that sense," a smiling Elliott said. "But I'm very appreciative of the support I've had, especially the past two years and I've noticed it. I don't think people realize how much that means to a driver when they see you wearing their T-shirt. It goes a long way for me. Seeing them do that means a lot." Elliott conceded he and his father, a NASCAR Hall of Famer, haven't discussed this honor's impact even though he is touched to receive it. "We really haven't talked about that," Elliott said. "Fortunately he (his dad) had a big following and some of those people are following me. Can't look past that. Dale has an obviously great following and I'm a Dale fan too." Nemechek, 18, was equally as excited to be recognized on the Camping World Truck Series side. A second-generation racer who won his first major race this season, Nemechek was obviously moved by the honor. "It definitely can't hurt to win the Most Popular Driver in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series, " Nemechek said. "It's definitely an honor for me and my family, but more importantly, hopefully it'll help us gain some reputation on selling some sponsorship for the seasons tocome. Can't thank all of the supporters enough that voted, and all the friends and family as well." Nemechek is the second family member to be honored with the award. His father, Joe Nemecheck -- a former XFINITY Series champion and four-time Cup winner. "Yeah, he won I think in 1992 and '93, so it's awesome to be able to win an award that he's won," Nemechek said. "I beat him to something. "I wish he wouldn't have won most popular so I could've beat him to that. We're very competitive, but to get my first truck win when he didn't was very special as well. He wants one bad." With Elliott moving into the Cup series and Nemechek hoping to continue his rise in the NASCAR ranks in 2016. "It definitely is special to hear how good you're doing with the equipment that you have," Nemechek said. "We utilize our resources to the absolute max that we possibly can. We try and get our trucks as good as we can. There's a lot of late nights and hard work put in with just a few people. Finding the funding to get a few more people and not have to work as late and getting some free time to work on some other projects could even make us better, but it was definitely a good year. Getting our first win and finishing in the top five so many times, all the hard work did pay off. "We're still working on trying to find funding. Nothing is set in stone yet. It's all kind of up in the air right now, so still trying to find those possible partners to sit down, sign a deal with, hopefully for years to come."
HOLLYWOOD, Fla. -- Navigating through negative comments from detractors on social media is often a tough road. For Samantha Busch, criticism has been a much more personal topic of late, one that brings emotional timbres to her voice. Her husband, Kyle Busch , hoisted the NASCAR Sprint Cup championship trophy for the first time Sunday night at Homestead-Miami Speedway , capping a stirring comeback season that opened with multiple severe leg injuries in a harrowing crash during the NASCAR XFINITY Series opener at Daytona International Speedway . Busch missed the first 11 races of the year as he recovered, returning to competition in mid-May with an exemption from NASCAR officials that kept him eligible for the title. When that eligibility eventually resulted in his first premier-series championship, online naysayers renewed their scrutiny of a decision and a playoff format that kept Busch's dreams intact. For Samantha Busch, that criticism hit home. "The waiver is very emotional," she said Monday night, moments after accepting accolades for her husband's championship-winning team in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series' season-ending awards banquet. "First of all, it wasn't just there for Kyle. It's been used for other drivers. It's been used for Tony Stewart and Kurt Busch and I believe Kyle Larson , so it's not like something that was just invented for Kyle and this injury. So that's the first thing that gets me a little emotional. "But secondly, I think people just think, 'Oh, he got to take 11 weeks off and so he's more refreshed than other drivers.' Absolutely wrong. He was sitting there trying to learn how to bend his toes, how to move his foot, how to stand up out of bed. It was not a walk in the park for him, it was not a vacation, and it was probably the hardest thing he's ever done in his life, and not only did he do it with such determination and passion, but he came back so much earlier than anyone expected." Samantha Busch recounted the more difficult moments of her husband's rehabilitation -- the falls, the doubts, and the struggle of merely learning to walk again. "People don't see what we went through," Busch said. "They don't know every hour. They don't understand how hard he works and I think that's why I get a little bit more emotional about it."
Lofton -- filling in for Gaulding -- scored the fastest speed in the second session
RELATED: Race results " See who advanced, who was eliminated post-Phoenix AVONDALE, Ariz. -- For Kurt Busch , the high hopes for a second NASCAR Sprint Cup Series title were dented almost before they started Sunday, the result of a first-lap penalty for jumping the initial drop of the green flag at Phoenix International Raceway . For the 2004 champ and three other drivers on an odd, rainy Sunday, there would be no sun in the Arizona desert and no safe passage to the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Championship Round next Sunday. Rain brought an early halt to a NASCAR premier-series event for only the second time in 39 races at the 1-mile track, leaving 93 laps on the board and four drivers wondering what could have been over the final stretch. Team Penske teammates Joey Logano and Brad Keselowski both entered the Quicken Loans Race for Heroes 500 in essentially must-win situations to clinch a berth in the season finale next Sunday at Homestead-Miami Speedway ; Logano wound up two positions short and Keselowski missed it by eight. Edwards just needed a better points day than the three drivers ahead of him; he fell short by five points, telling his crew "they can't let it end like this" as the curtain-closing showers intensified. The sour taste was perhaps most pungent for Busch, who started in second place but was just inches ahead of pole-sitter Jimmie Johnson once the race started -- nearly seven hours late and with Busch ruled just a split second too soon. "That wasn't a penalty," said Busch, who wound up seventh of the eight title hopefuls after the Eliminator Round cutoff. "That's a reason to start a survey and right now, I encourage everybody to go onto Twitter, my Facebook, my Instagram and follow it, and we're all going to have a survey." Restarts -- an increasingly intriguing topic in the second half of the season -- were again on the front burner in the pre-race drivers' meeting, with four-time champion Jeff Gordon asking if the second-place car could beat the leading "control" car to the start-finish line. The social media jury may still be out, but a NASCAR spokesperson said the ruling was a procedural penalty that race officials stand behind. "Who knows, man?" said Tony Gibson, crew chief of Busch's Stewart-Haas Racing No. 41 Chevy. "We've seen guys all year long do that, so it's … I don't know. It's the most inconsistent thing I've ever seen, so it is what it is. We'll just deal with it and go on. "We definitely had a car to win. Just didn't happen. We'll be all right." Busch protested over the radio once the penalty was announced after a brief review, and he eventually served his penalty on Lap 8, stripped of leading the opening laps and left to rally from last place to an eventual seventh-place result. Despite his dismay, Busch was able to find positives in the way his scrappy team responded to its tumultuous season. "I had a great season. We won two races, sat on three poles," Busch said. "We did everything possible to put polish on a season like this and get out there with elbow grease and work hard at it. There's some tarnish that's sitting there. Polish and polish and polish -- that's all I kept doing this whole year." The others dealt with a mixed bag of misfortune, either coming out on the wrong end of a final caution flag that interrupted a green-flag cycle of pit stops and ultimately propelled Dale Earnhardt Jr . to victory, or failing to make up ground on runner-up Kevin Harvick , whose dominance during a four-race Phoenix win streak ended despite leading 143 of the 219 laps. Logano spent the majority of his day among the top five, but couldn't escape the deficit caused by Matt Kenseth 's intentional crash at Martinsville in the round opener. He left Phoenix last among the final eight, but still able to savor a six-win season. "I'm proud of what this team's done," Logano said moments before the race was abbreviated. "We've had amazing runs throughout the year, we've been consistently fast. We showed it again tonight that we've got really good speed in our cars. Our team doesn't make mistakes and it's something I'm very proud of. Today is obviously a high-pressure situation for everyone, and everyone's just been loose and acting like it was a normal day. Couldn't be more proud of this team either way, no matter what happens. I really wanted to get another shot, so we can wait and see." Keselowski, also caught up in one of the Martinsville run-ins, was sixth among the final eight -- a distant 13 points behind final championship qualifier Martin Truex Jr . "I don't think it matters what's fair," Keselowski said when asked about the early end to the next-to-last race of the season. "What matters is what entertains the fans, and if the fans are happy, that's what it's all about." Edwards was vocal on his team radio in his desire to restart the race, potentially waiting out another delay under the lights. The ending left him 12th in the race and fifth in the Eliminator Round standings, five points behind Truex. "How hard they've worked all year to come down to something as simple as a rainout," said Grubb, in his fourth year with Joe Gibbs Racing . "We feel like we could have raced our way back in there and had a shot at it. We were still five points out, just like we were five points coming in. We knew that was going to be a tough situation, but it ended up that it bit us and I just hate it for these guys. I'm very proud to have had a championship in the past and I wanted to help bring one to these guys who have worked so hard for it."
RELATED: See the full results The Championship 4 has been determined following the Quicken Loans Race for Heroes 500 at Phoenix International Raceway , which ended at Lap 219 of a scheduled 312 due to rain. Four in, four out: Here's the bubble picture following Phoenix. The four drivers below the line failed to advance to the Championship Round at Homestead-Miami Speedway while the four drivers above the line will be racing on Sunday, Nov. 22 for the title in the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup . 1. Kevin Harvick 2. Jeff Gordon 3. Kyle Busch 4. Martin Truex Jr . --------------- 5. Carl Edwards 6. Brad Keselowski 7. Kurt Busch 8. Joey Logano Reason for hope: As the defending race winner, Kevin Harvick is looking to defend his title. Out of the Championship 4, "Happy" has the best average finish at 7.6 at Homestead. Reason for worry: In 10 starts, Kyle Busch only has three top 10 finishes at the Florida track and finished 39th last year. To add to that, "Rowdy" has an average finish 23.1 and hasn't led any laps there since 2012. Up next: Ford EcoBoost 400 , 3 p.m. ET, Nov. 22 at Homestead-Miami Speedway (NBC/Live Extra, MRN, Sirius XM) Who it favors Most wins: Jeff Gordon and Kevin Harvick (one win each) Best driver rating: Martin Truex Jr ., 106.6 Best average finish: Kevin Harvick , 7.6 Who it hurts Fewest top 10s: Kyle Busch , 3 Worst driver rating: Kyle Busch , 91.5 Worst average finish: Kyle Busch , 23.1
RELATED: Full race results " Final standings HOMESTEAD, Fla. -- To go fast, all Kyle Busch had to do was mash the gas pedal. To go faster, all he had to do was slow down. Had to slow down. No choice there. Busch "got in a fight" with an unprotected, concrete wall at Daytona before the season's first Sprint Cup Series race. He lost. Sunday night at Homestead-Miami Speedway , he won. The road to the Sprint Cup title is a curious one. They say the 30-year-old Busch is a "changed" man -- actually, the word often used is "matured" -- and I hope that's only partly true. It's the competitive fire in Busch that pushes him to dance with a race car on the very edge. Occasionally, the results are disastrous; often, though, they are a thing of beauty. Busch didn't compete in all 36 points races this season, but for reasons out of his control. A broken right leg and a left foot that gave new meaning to the word "fractured" took care of that. For nearly 12 weeks, Busch idled. Idle is not a speed to which the Joe Gibbs Racing driver is accustomed. One doesn't win 154 races across three series by idling. A bed-ridden Busch had to sit and watch as three other drivers climbed into his No. 18 Toyota. It's been said that nothing hurts a racer more than seeing someone else in his car. Rehab was painful; sitting on the sidelines was agonizing. Potential wins were slipping by him on the television screen. When he finally did make it back to the track, no one knew what to expect, least of all Busch. Sure, he was confident. His crew chief, Adam Stevens, and car owner, Joe Gibbs, were confident. But no one was certain. No one knew if a broken leg and fractured foot were the only real injuries Busch suffered in Daytona several months earlier. Maybe the "want to" was still there, but the question was, could he? Could he still feel every nuance of the car as it rocketed around a race track? Could he push it to the very edge, find the sliver of an opening that existed only briefly, and charge his way through the field? Not only could Busch still do those things, but in some ways he did them better. Only six weeks after his return, Busch was back in the winner's circle, victorious at, of all places, Sonoma Raceway. In little more than a month's time, he won three consecutive races and four of five. Nearly as telling was his performance in the 10-race Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup . The format, tweaked from time to time, has always dealt hefty penalties for miscues with little or no time to recover, and Busch has had his share. This time, he navigated the minefield that stretched from Chicago to Homestead with minimal damage. If Busch has changed, so has his approach, something he called a "just let everything be" tactic. It's a short phrase that speaks volumes about his confidence in himself and his team. Changed? Maybe. Maybe hitting a concrete wall and starting a family and sitting on the sidelines had an effect on him after all. Slowing down wasn't a part of the plan. But in the end, that's what it took. And Busch, the 2015 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion, is just fine with that.
HOLLYWOOD, Fla. -- One night after Kyle Busch took a bow as a first-time NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion, he helped to toast the youngster who brought him his first driver's title as a team owner. With milk. On a night for honoring new champions, Erik Jones and Chris Buescher took center stage at the NASCAR XFINITY and Camping World Truck Series Awards at the Diplomat Resort and Spa. For Buescher, it marked the 23-year-old's first national series championship in just his second full year in the series. For Jones, the title march coincided with a Sunoco Rookie of the Year campaign. Busch was missing from Monday night's awards, occupied with the media duties and obligations that came with winning his first premier series title at Homestead-Miami Speedway . His wife, Samantha, attended on behalf of Kyle Busch Motorsports, which claimed the team owners' title for the third straight year. With Busch making the rounds with the Sprint Cup trophy, Ed Laukes, Toyota's vice president of marketing communications and motorsports, provided an assist in toasting Jones' stellar season. But the raised glass for the 19-year-old was full of milk, a half-joking homage to Dale Earnhardt's toast of first-time champion Jeff Gordon in 1995. "I wish Kyle would've been there to see his creation come to life, I guess you'd say," said Jones, who won three races and five pole positions in his first full season. "I think he had a good excuse to miss it, but that was funny. That's definitely a Kyle thing he would do, especially to me." Buescher's coronation on the XFINITY tour came after a two-win season with hallmark consistency -- 20 top-10s in 33 races. Monday night, he took his place with his Roush Fenway Racing team at the head table, saying that he showed a slight case of nerves in the Great Hall's gala setting. Jitters notwithstanding, the experience capped a stellar 48-hour period full of well-wishes from his peers. "The coolest thing is just having so many different people come up and say congratulations and we've seen what you've done to work for this and it's awesome to see you here," Buescher said. "Stuff like that means that all those years working up to this point were well worth it. It's been countless hours, many all-nighters to make sure we could get to the next ARCA race at night. We've done so many things to try and get to this point, and to finally be here, it's special. It's very humbling." Chase Elliott , the driver who preceded Buescher as series champion, took Most Popular Driver honors with him as he transitions to the Sprint Cup Series next year, replacing Jeff Gordon in the Hendrick Motorsports No. 24 Chevrolet. NASCAR Next driver John Hunter Nemechek was voted Most Popular Driver in the Camping World Truck Series. Daniel Suarez , another product of the NASCAR Next program, was named Sunoco Rookie of the Year in the XFINITY Series.
Crash that broke his leg and foot, journey back to racing SHOP: Busch gear Nov. 22: Busch wins first Sprint Cup Series championship In a season fit for the silver screen, Kyle Busch completes his emotional comeback from a devastating season-opening injury to capture his first career NASCAR Sprint Cup Series title. " Read the full story " Final 2015 standings Nov. 22: Busch wins title with victory at Homestead-Miami Driver Kyle Busch caps an amazing comeback, winning the Ford EcoBoost 400 to hold off fellow Championship 4 contenders Kevin Harvick , Jeff Gordon and Martin Truex Jr . " Read the full story " Complete race results Aug. 9: Busch breaks into top 30 in drivers points standings A runner-up finish at Watkins Glen pushed Kyle Busch into 30th place in the Sprint Cup points standings, a requirement of eligibility for him for the Chase . With four race wins under his belt, he must remain in the top 30 to make the Chase . " Read the full story " Full race results July 11: Kyle Busch wins Sprint Cup race at Kentucky A second win helps Kyle Busch 's chances of cracking the top 30 in points, the second condition he must meet to make the 2015 Chase for the Sprint Cup . " Read the full story " Full race results June 28: Kyle Busch wins Sprint Cup race at Sonoma Needing victory to make the Chase for the Sprint Cup , Kyle Busch got the victory at Sonoma , a track that had been a concern as he continues to recover because the road course is so physically demanding. " Read the full story " Full race results June 13: Kyle Busch wins XFINITY race at Michigan Kyle Busch goes to Victory Lane in his first race back in the XFINITY Series after breaking his leg and left foot at Daytona. " Read the full story " Full race results May 24: Kyle Busch completes Coca-Cola 600 , finishes 11th Kyle Busch makes his Sprint Cup points race debut for the season in the Coca-Cola 600 , climbing to second place before fuel strategy led to an 11th-place finish. " Read the full story May 18: Kyle, Samantha Busch welcome first baby Driver Kyle Busch and his wife, Samantha, had their first child, a boy, at 9:45 p.m. May 18. Brexton Locke Busch is his name. " Read the full story May 16: Busch finishes sixth in All-Star race After a pleasing top-10 run in his first race back from leg and foot injuries, Kyle Busch looks forward to running in the Coca-Cola 600 " Read the full story May 13: Kyle Busch granted Chase waiver NASCAR has granted Kyle Busch a waiver for the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup . Find out what he has to do to make the Chase . " Read the full story " Official NASCAR release " Cain: Making Chase will cap comeback May 12: Kyle Busch announces return After missing 11 events to open the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season following his injury at Daytona, Kyle Busch has set his return for the Sprint All-Star Race on May 16. " Read the full story " Drivers react to news of Busch's return " Herman Unplugged: Reaction to Busch's return " Busch's return a hot topic at Dover test May 9: Jones' promising run crashes at Kansas Making his first Sprint Cup start filling in for the injured Kyle Busch , Erik Jones was working on a great run at Kansas until he found the wall late in the race. " Read the full story April 16: Accident leads Busch to become unexpected safety advocate NASCAR.com's Holly Cain tells the story of how Kyle Busch 's wreck at Daytona has changed the Joe Gibbs Racing driver into a saftey advocate for the sport. Busch talks about how impressed he was of the breadth and depth of detailed information that has been gathered from his accident. " Read the full story April 16: Busch family bonds, finds strength in recovery With a baby on the way, the Busch family discuss how they've worked as a team to recover from Kyle's injury while prepping to expand their family. The parents-to-be explain that it hasn't been easy, but they're counting their blessings. " Read the full story April 15: Kyle Busch analyzes tape of his wreck Kyle Busch holds his first press conference after his crash at Daytona and uses video to break down his thought process as the wreck unfolded. His doctors are pleased with his progress, but he has no timeline for returning to driving. " Read the full story " Herman Unplugged: Busch should sit out 2015 April 15: Kyle Busch responds to Keselowski blog During his first press conference after his Daytona crash, Kyle Busch also addressed his long-running feud with fellow Sprint Cup driver Brad Keselowski . " Watch the video " More on Keselowski's blog April 15: Kyle Busch , wife discuss crash, impending parenthood In an interview with Charlotte NBC affiliate WCNC, Kyle Busch and his wife Samantha discussed the driver's accident at Daytona in February " Read the full story March 20: Kyle Busch takes next step in recovery Kyle Busch posts a video on Facebook of himself moving around a bit with the aid of a walker, along with encouragement from his wife, Samantha, and their dog. " Read the full story March 17: KBM drivers keep in touch Daniel Suarez says his team owner's advice is invaluable. And Justin Boston reports Busch is 'recovering quickly.' " Read the full story March 14: Kurt Busch hopes brother doesn't rush return Kurt Busch says, 'You can't rush the healing of bones and surgeries.' And teammate Denny Hamlin says Kyle Busch is staying engaged with the No. 18 team despite being sidelined. " Read the full story March 11: Kyle Busch , Samantha, visit KBM Kyle Busch and his wife, Samantha, take a field trip to Kyle Busch Motorsports and tell the team, 'Progress is going well.' " Read the full story March 10: Busch gets walking boots Kyle Busch gets soft casts removed from both legs and moves up to walking boots, which Samantha Busch dubs 'Terminator boots' in a Twitter photo. " Read the full story March 2: Subs announced for No. 54 XFINITY Toyota Denny Hamlin , Erik Jones and Boris Said are tapped as substitute drivers for Kyle Busch in the No. 54 NASCAR XFINITY Series Toyota. "Get Well Kyle" stickers adorn the No. 54. " Read the full story Feb. 27: Kyle Busch heads home after second surgery After a second surgery to treat his injuries, Kyle Busch was in a Charlotte hospital for observation for two days before being cleared to go home. The No. 18 racing team put a "Get well Kyle" on the rear bumper of the Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota for the Atlanta race. " Read the full story Feb. 25: Kyle Busch has successful surgery on left foot Joe Gibbs Racing announces that Kyle Busch underwent a successful surgery on his left foot at a Charlotte hospital. " Read the full story Feb. 24: Kyle Busch leaves Florida hospital Kyle Busch was released from Halifax Health Medical Center. He boarded a plane on a stretcher and was transferred to a North Carolina hospital for further treatment of multiple leg injuries. " Read the full story Feb. 24: David Ragan to sub for Kyle Busch Joe Gibbs Racing announces that David Ragan will sub for the injured Kyle Busch in the No. 18 Toyota for several weeks, starting at Atlanta Motor Speedway . " Read the full story Feb. 24: ISC working on 'significant plan' for safer barriers In the wake of Kyle Busch 's severe crash and resulting injuries during the season-opening NASCAR XFINITY Series race at Daytona International Speedway , International Speedway Corporation announces a plan to expand its use of impact-diffusing barriers at its 12 tracks. " Read the full story Feb. 22: Joe Gibbs says Busch's surgery went well Team owner Joe Gibbs gives an update on Kyle Busch 's status after surgery and says he is 'resting comfortably.' Doctors reported that things went well with surgery on Busch's lower right leg. " Read the full story Feb. 22: Samantha Busch gives update from hospital Samantha Busch posts a selfie with Kyle Busch from his hospital bed on Twitter with a tweet saying, "Getting ready to watch the Daytona 500 ! Cheering on our 18 boys!" " Read the full story Feb. 21: Drivers wish Kyle Busch well after hard hit Kyle Busch is taken to the hospital by ambulance after a big wreck during the XFINITY Series race at Daytona International Speedway . Fellow drivers sent well-wishes via Twitter. " Read the full story Feb. 21: Hard hit sidelines Kyle Busch for Daytona 500 A crash in the season-opening NASCAR XFINITY Series race caused NASCAR Sprint Cup Series driver Kyle Busch to miss the Daytona 500 after suffering injuries to his right leg and left foot a day before the Great American Race at Daytona International Speedway . " Read the full story
Check out some of the best radio chatter from Homestead-Miami Speedway as Jeff Gordon starts his final race and Kyle Busch takes home the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup title.