Pistone will make season debut at Martinsville
Pit strategy pays off for No. 24 team, puts Gordon 10th in points RELATED: Updated Chase Grid standings " Complete results from Pocono LONG POND, Pa.-- Four-time premier series champion Jeff Gordon ended his Pocono Raceway career with a record-tying 20th top-five finish in his 46th start at the track. After sitting 16th with 10 laps to go, no one was more shocked than Gordon when he crossed the start/finish line bearing his name in third place as several cars on differing pit strategies ran out of fuel before the end. "Well, it would be a long, long list if we talked to a bunch of people in the grandstands and myself, and everybody on pit road and probably people watching at home to find out who was more surprised," Gordon said. "That was crazy." As he attempted to extend his track record win total to seven while also earning a Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup berth, Gordon's team stayed out under the Lap 17 competition caution and climbed to second following a 10th-place qualifying effort. But five more cautions in the first half of the race found the No. 24 car in 16th at the midway mark. Gordon moved up to sixth place 10 laps later, but the seventh and final caution at Lap 93 dropped him outside of the top 15 again. "I'm not exactly sure where I started on that first restart but it was like 15th, 16th and I can't say I passed many cars," Gordon said. "We just kind of hovered around that area, wasn't real pleased with how our car was in traffic, and when we were up front we were pretty good, felt like we were a top-five car," Gordon said, echoing the comments of Hendrick Motorsports teammate Dale Earnhardt Jr ., who finished fourth. "But we played the fuel‑mileage strategy pretty early on and that lost us track position and we weren't able to climb our way up through there," Gordon continued. "And we continued to play that strategy and I'm proud of Alan (Gustafson, crew chief) for sticking with it. There at the end, we were one of the last ones to pit, which allowed us to run hard all the way to the finish, not having to conserve or save fuel." During the race, though, the strategy didn't inspire confidence in the driver, who never thought he would have earned a top-five finish or even his 32nd top-10 result, second-best to Mark Martin 's 34. "The script I had played out in my head was we were going to be 15th, so this one was way better than that," Gordon said. "For whatever reason, the last couple times we've been here, we've had decent race cars, not maybe the cars that we would have liked to have had, but cars far capable of better finishes than what we've had, have been getting, and just a lot of different circumstances not playing out. Some to our own credit and others just circumstances. "Today finally one went our way for a change, which is really nice to bounce back after last week's unfortunate incident where we lost so many points." Following a 42nd-place finish at Indianapolis, Gordon dropped to 11th place in the points standings. He bounced back to 10th after Pocono, encouraging Gordon in his quest to make the playoffs -- with five races until the start of the Chase -- and his hopes to make his drive for five championships. MORE: Gordon wrecks in final Indy appearance "As a team, even though we're not performing to the level we want to, we are performing well enough to make it into the Chase ," Gordon said. "If you knew that you were going to finish between 10th and 15th every week here going forward, but just like what happened last week, you can't afford to have many 42nd-place finishes. That could be disastrous. There are no guarantees, and so you've got to gain all the points you can when you have the opportunity. We had that opportunity today; we did it." The series heads to Watkins Glen next Sunday for the Cheez-It 355 at The Glen (2 p.m. ET, NBCSN, MRN, SiriusXM), and Gordon believes he has a shot at tying Tony Stewart 's record of five wins on the road course after a stout effort in 2014 that found him racing road-course ace Marcos Ambrose for the lead until a mechanical failure dropped him to a 34th-place finish. "The one thing that's encouraging to me is last year I thought we were really strong there, and we had ... some kind of battery connection issue and we lost power, so we never saw it play out. That happened ‑‑ I think we were running second to Ambrose at the time. I'm encouraged by that. I'm looking forward to going back there. I know our aero package is a little bit different, but you know, I don't think it's that much different from what we had last year, so hopefully we can have another strong finish and performance there. That would be awesome. "We need them -- right now every race is so critical for us. We can't afford to have finishes like we had last week at Indy, and so we're going to have to attack and be on -- just marching forward to be aggressive to try to get those good points and finishes and hopefully a win." FULL SERIES COVERAGE • Latest news • Standings • Schedule
See how the postseason picture looks after 21 races Note: Kyle Busch has four wins and is the only driver with a win outside the top 30. Kyle Busch must finish in the top 30 in points after the regular-season finale at Richmond International Raceway to make the Chase field.
Kyle works to keep up momentum to join brother, more in Chase RELATED: Chase Grid Only six races remain before the 16-driver Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup field is set. Here's what we know: Kyle Busch 's third consecutive win continues his incredible comeback and brings him even closer to the Chase . He heads into Sunday's Windows 10 400 at Pocono Raceway only 23 points behind Justin Allgaier for 30th in the standings -- the position that would make him eligible for the Chase . In order to do this before the Chase starts, Busch will need to average 19.8 points in the final six races of the regular season. This means "Rowdy" must finish 24th or better each race. Kyle's older brother, Kurt, left Indianapolis in good standings after locking up a top 30 spot. Kurt Busch joins Kevin Harvick , Dale Earnhardt Jr . and Jimmie Johnson as they have all guaranteed their spots in the Chase . Drivers with a win who are still looking to lock up a top 30 spot are Joey Logano , Martin Truex Jr ., Brad Keselowski , Matt Kenseth and Denny Hamlin and Carl Edwards . A win at Pocono would secure any of these drivers a spot in the Chase , although Edwards may need some help. FULL SERIES COVERAGE • Latest news • Standings • Schedule
Bruce: Never count 'Smoke' out, but he needs a win RELATED: Chase -clinching scenarios for Pocono It's been three years since Tony Stewart qualified for the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup . And it's beginning to look as if the three-time series champion might miss this year's field of 16 as well. Stewart, 44, is 26th in points heading into this weekend's Windows 10 400 at Pocono Raceway. With only six races remaining before the field is set, it's unlikely that the co-owner/driver at Stewart-Haas Racing will qualify for one of the 16 positions based on points. To earn a chance to compete for this year's championship, Stewart needs nothing less than a victory in the coming weeks. Defending series champion Kevin Harvick , six-time champion Jimmie Johnson , '04 champ Kurt Busch and Dale Earnhardt Jr . have officially clinched Chase berths. Joey Logano , Martin Truex Jr ., Brad Keselowski , Matt Kenseth , Denny Hamlin and Carl Edwards are 2015 race winners and are currently 16th or higher in the points standings. Kyle Busch , riding a white-hot streak that has seen the Joe Gibbs Racing driver win three consecutive Sprint Cup events, and four of the last five, is on the doorstep of the top 30 in points (another Chase eligibility requirement). Non-winners, but those somewhat safely inside the top 16 in points include Jamie McMurray and Jeff Gordon . On less stable ground are Ryan Newman , Paul Menard and Kasey Kahne , currently 12th through 14th, respectively, in points. Unless he can advance his points position, Clint Bowyer , who sits 15th, would fall outside the Chase as soon as Kyle Busch cracks the top 30. Stewart is trying to climb into contention. Those on the periphery are likewise trying to advance -- or hold on -- to what they've earned thus far. A win in the coming weeks by anyone else, AJ Allmendinger (23rd) at Watkins Glen for example, would trump the points position of a non-winner inside the top 16. It's unlikely that someone such as Kahne, Menard or Bowyer is resting too comfortably these days. Kahne has made three consecutive appearances in the Chase , but isn't taking anything for granted; Menard's still chasing that first playoff opportunity; Bowyer, meanwhile, is attempting to return after missing the field a year ago. Aric Almirola (17th) and Greg Biffle (18th) made last year's Chase . Austin Dillon (19th) and Kyle Larson (20th) are still looking for that first career win and first Chase appearance. Would it be unwise to look past any of those drivers given the uncertain nature of racing? Rules package changes and a variety of tracks -- large, small and a road course to boot -- only serve to muddy the racing waters. Stewart's Chase absence has been well documented. A broken leg in 2013 sidelined the No. 14 driver for the season's final 15 races. A year ago, he missed three races prior to the start of the Chase , and while he was given a NASCAR exemption, Stewart failed to produce the necessary win or points position to qualify. Perhaps it would be just as unwise to look past Stewart, given what he has been able to accomplish in previous years. But the road ahead won't be an easy one for him or any of those looking to go from Chase hopeful to Chase qualifier. The calendar is starting to take an ugly turn. FULL SERIES COVERAGE • Latest news • Standings • Schedule
Lofton -- filling in for Gaulding -- scored the fastest speed in the second session
See how the postseason picture looks after 20 races Note: Kyle Busch has four wins and is the only driver with a win outside the top 30. Kyle Busch must finish in the top 30 in points after the regular-season finale at Richmond International Raceway to make the Chase field.
See what the driver of the No. 18 Toyota needs to make the Chase RELATED: Updated series standings " Latest Chase Grid With only six races left until the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup , it's time to check up on Kyle Busch , driver of the No. 18 Toyota for Joe Gibbs Racing , as he tries to rebound from early-season injuries and make the Chase . WHAT JUST HAPPENED: The beat goes on for Busch, who won for the fourth time in five races, taking the Crown Royal Presents the Brickyard 400 in overtime on Sunday at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Busch held off Joey Logano on the final restart during a green-white-checkered finish to get his first Cup win at the famed 2.5-mile superspeedway. Busch led only 19 of the 164 laps, but he was perfect on the late restarts en route to his 33rd win in the premier series and fourth since returning from injuries sustained in the season-opening NASCAR XFINITY Series race at Daytona International Speedway. WHAT HE NEEDS: With four wins this season, Busch still needs to finish in the top 30 in the standings and be able to start the remaining regular-season races to be eligible for the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup . With six races to go before Chicagoland, Busch is unofficially 23 points behind Justin Allgaier , who is in 30th place. At his current pace, Busch needs 19.68 points per remaining event or an average finish of 24th place. WHAT'S NEXT: The Sprint Cup Series heads to Pocono Raceway for the Windows 10 400 at 1:30 p.m. ET on Aug. 2 (NBCSN, MRN, SiriusXM). Busch finished ninth earlier this season at the Tricky Triangle in his third race since returning from injuries. It was his best finish in his comeback until he won two races later at Sonoma. For his career, Busch has eight top-10 finishes in 21 Cup starts at Pocono. He has an average finish of 18.3 and a driver rating of 84.6. WHAT THEY'RE SAYING: Really hurts to be so close to this one. Wanted it bad for RP. Had awesome restarts. Tired of finishing second. @KyleBusch is on fire — Joey Logano (@joeylogano) July 27, 2015 If you love cars you have to love @ToyotaRacing and @KyleBusch They build them he drives them. Congrats! — Michael Waltrip (@mw55) July 26, 2015 Pucker Up! @KyleBusch @CoachJoeGibbs JD Gibbs and the @Skittles crew are kissing the bricks at Indy! #Brickyard400 pic.twitter.com/luNe90JjHx — Joe Gibbs Racing (@JoeGibbsRacing) July 26, 2015 Seeing JD Gibbs today around the track made my day. He is a Great man and I miss seeing him more. — Steve Letarte (@SteveLetarte) July 27, 2015 RETWEET to congratulate @JoeGibbsRacing ! They swept both poles & races this weekend at @IMS , 2nd week in a row! pic.twitter.com/KGUnVLLHxJ — Toyota Racing (@ToyotaRacing) July 27, 2015 FULL SERIES COVERAGE • Latest news • Standings • Schedule
Ryan Reed post-race: 'I told him we can race like that and I'm totally fine' NEWTON, Iowa -- What opened up as a reasonably clean, meandering NASCAR XFINITY Series race turned into a regular Saturday night showdown, a swashbuckling smashfest in three acts that left bruises on fenders and egos alike at Iowa Speedway. After traveling 205 of an overtime 260 laps with a harmless three caution periods, short-track bedlam erupted in the late stages, potentially re-opening an old rift between teammates, ruffling the feathers of the defending series champion and sparking a post-race shove further back in the pack. The earliest sign that the U.S. Cellular 250 would not go quietly into the good Iowa night came with 21 laps left in regulation, when reigning champ Chase Elliott tangled with rookie Brandon Jones on the frontstretch in a contest for sixth place. Elliott, already frustrated by his late fade as the only front-runner to make a two-tire stop in the last exchange, keyed his radio to tell his JR Motorsports crew: "I'm pretty upset right now. That's all I'm going to say." Told that Jones accepted full blame over the his own radio, Elliott replied: "Yeeeeppp. They can tell that to the points tally." Jones was apologetic again after the race, telling NASCAR.com that he felt he was clear as he slid up the race track on the exit of Turn 4. He said he didn't have a chance to issue an apology in person with ninth-place finisher Elliott after the race. "I think he probably went back to his hauler, but I'll get back up with him (later) and try to explain what happened, for sure," said Jones, who finished 20th in just his second XFINITY start. "Me and Chase are really good friends and I didn't mean for that to happen, but can't do anything now about it. We'll go to the next one." The next one in terms of post-race flare-ups should make for another interesting team meeting this week at Roush Fenway Racing . Points leader Chris Buescher and teammate Bubba Wallace, who locked horns in May at Dover International Speedway, collided again with two laps left, pushing the race into overtime. Wallace, damaged in an earlier incident with Erik Jones entering pit road, caught the worst of it with fellow teammate Ryan Reed and the retiring Kenny Wallace sliding behind him in the aftermath. Wallace dismounted from his No. 6 Ford post-race, exchanged words with Buescher's crew chief Scott Graves, and leaned in to Buescher's window for a succinct post-race talk. "I think he said, 'good job.' I just grabbed him really quick," Wallace said. "We screwed up so bad in this race. It was miserable. I let my guys down. I got into Erik there on pit road and that put us in a corner. Just hate it, man. I screwed up tonight. Just paying for it." Asked about any potential tension within the Roush ranks, Wallace smiled and shrugged: "He's racing. We're racing hard. That's it. Nothing to it. I just told him good job and we'll go to Watkins Glen." Buescher, the winner here at the .875-mile track in May, was aiming for a rare Iowa season sweep, but on the first green-white-checkered attempt that followed, his No. 60 was heavily damaged by the sliding car of Brennan Poole . He limped home to a 13th-place finish, two spots behind Wallace, but retained his lead in the XFINITY standings. "Our guys did a heck of a job and we brought back a heck of a car to Iowa and we should've been in really good contention for this thing," Buescher said. "You know, it's just tough. We had so many restarts there late. Guys are just, they're tough -- just dive-bomb it in there and it's tough." Pressed for specifics about his contact with Wallace, Buescher declined to tell: "I'm not talking about that one. … Nope. Nothing to say." Caught in part of the crossfire was Reed, who soldiered to a 19th-place finish and had fireworks of his own to come. In trying to assess the hard-nosed racing between Buescher and Wallace, he said he felt certain the issues would be resolved in time. "They're both great drivers and I have a lot of respect for both of them and get along with both of 'em. I can't really get in the middle of it, but at the same time, I understand how it can be racing teammates," Reed said. "You want to run everyone as hard as you can, just seems, like you said, they're magnets and I'm not sure why it's like that. They're both great drivers, I have a lot of respect for them, and I'm sure they'll get through it." Reed's issues weren't over, though, as his No. 16 Ford scraped across the start-finish line in 19th-place at the checkered flag. Very little cool-down happened on the cool-down lap, with Reed marching over to the No. 4 Chevrolet and giving its driver, Ross Chastain , a swift shove. "There were a lot of wrecks there at the end. It's part of short-track racing," Reed said. "My getting at the 4, like I said in my other interview, it's kind of the pot calling the kettle black because I got into the 20 ( Kenny Wallace ), but the 20 was very unintentional. I just went up to the 4 and he just flat-out told me, 'Hey man, it was a green-white-checkered,' so I have a hard time with that. I have a really hard time with going in there and just intentionally banzai-ing someone and punting them out of the way. It's fine. I told him we can race like that and I'm totally fine with that." Chastain claimed said he wanted to see video of the incident before making a judgment call. "I haven't seen a replay yet, so I can't say too much. I don't want to because I don't want to overstep what I don't know," Chastain told NASCAR.com. "What I remember -- and it might be completely wrong -- is I got to the bottom of (Turn) 1 and the 16 was right outside of me. I thought we were pretty low on the race track and we might've gotten together a little bit. It looks like there's a little mark on my fender, and I just got by him and there was mayhem and chaos everywhere. I don't know. Until I see a replay, I don't know. "Me and him have raced hard all year. It's good for us that we're racing against guys like that because people think we shouldn't be, but we are. When we come to a track like Iowa, we can show what this team's made out of. I'm proud of my guys. I hate it that he got torn up, but I didn't feel like I was too in the wrong, but I'll have to watch a replay to see." FULL SERIES COVERAGE • Latest news • Standings • Schedule
No. 18 driver trails 30th-place Cole Whitt by 87 points after Kentucky RELATED: Who can clinch Chase spots Sunday " Updated Chase grid LOUDON, N.H. -- Kyle Busch 's drive to race his way into the top 30 in points begins anew this weekend at New Hampshire Motor Speedway, site of Sunday's 5-hour ENERGY 301 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race (1:30 p.m. ET, NBCSN, PRN, SiriusXM). The 16 spots in the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup will be filled by those drivers with one or more wins and who are in the top 30 in points after the season's 26th race (at Richmond International Raceway). Should there not be 16 different winners, the remaining positions will be filled based on points positions. Winning hasn't been an issue for the Joe Gibbs Racing driver. Although he missed the season's first 11 races because of injuries sustained in the season-opening XFINITY Series event at Daytona International Speedway, Busch, 30, has won twice in Sprint Cup since returning in late May. Cracking the top 30 in points has been another matter. Since his return, Busch has climbed six positions – from 41st to 35th. He currently trails 30th-place Cole Whitt by 87 points. Eight races remain. MORE: Timeline of Kyle Busch 's injury and recovery "I think if we were a guy or a team that was sort of 13th through 16th or whatever and didn't have wins then we'd be in the same position we're in right now," Busch said Friday at NHMS. "We're racing for points. "We have to get those points to be the highest eligible guy without the win – but our circumstances are a little different; we've got wins and yet we still seem to be out." "We're just doing the best job that we can each and every week to continue to put good cars on the race track." The good news for Busch, of course, is that he has the wins, the more difficult of the two hurdles he's had to clear. Even better is that he's won on six of the eight tracks the series will visit before the start of the Chase . Only Indianapolis Motor Speedway and Pocono Raceway have yet to welcome Busch into the winner's circle, and stops at those two tracks come after this weekend's stop at NHMS. He's a one-time winner in Sprint Cup here at the 1.058-mile track. Victories provide the most points, but the road to the winner's circle often is lined with potholes. Busch already has stepped in his share, finishing 36th at Dover and 43rd at Michigan. "I feel like I probably gave away 60 points in those two (races)," he said, "so I would be 17 (points) out right now, which is essentially nothing. We might even make that up here this weekend." Of course, he said, "that's irrelevant." "We're 87 out so that's the number we look at. ... We'll be fine, we just have to do the right things and if this Sunday is an eighth-place finish, then that's what it is. If it's a 12th, then that's what it is. It will get us there a little bit slower, but if we can get a win or a top-five like we should be here, that's the way I've run here the last few times." A year ago, he finished second in the summer race, and then managed an eighth-place result when the series returned in the fall. An incident with teammate Matt Kenseth "knocked our nose in and ... we still ended up eighth somehow," he said. "That wasn't too terrible. "As bad as that day could have been, we finished top-10; I feel pretty promising that we can have a good run here." FULL SERIES COVERAGE • Latest news • Standings • Schedule