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Nemechek, Byron ready for anything in Truck Chase
RELATED: Truck Chase Grid " Learn more about the drivers in the Truck Chase LOUDON, N.H. -- The inaugural Camping World Truck Series Chase is upon us, which means the pressure, nerves and action that come along with it are set to rise to unparalleled levels over the next eight weeks. So is the tension. After John Hunter Nemechek and Cole Custer fought, quite literally, to the finish and beyond at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park last month -- rguably costing the JR Motorsports his spot in the Chase , as the driver of the No. 8 Chevrolet came away victorious in that one -- the consensus is that Custer will find a way to repay the favor to Nemechek at some point during the series' first playoff season. RELATED: Custer, Nemechek get physical at Canada The two-time 2016 winner doesn't see it that way. "I wouldn't say we have a target on our back; we're all racers," Nemechek said Friday at New Hampshire Motor Speedway , site of Saturday's Chase -opening UNOH 175 (1 p.m. ET, FS1, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio). " … You can't really worry about it. If it happens, it happens. If it doesn't, it doesn't. You just kind of have to take it race by race, lap by lap. And we're going to go out there and focus on our race and do everything we have to do to get another win." Custer narrowly missed out on the Chase cut, ending up tied with Cameron Hayley as the first drivers on the wrong side of the standings bubble. Taking that into consideration, along with how the future Stewart-Haas Racing XFINITY Series driver charged at Nemechek following the Mosport checkered flag, it may be a stretch to think that Nemechek won't be targeted for payback at some point during the Chase . William Byron didn’t cross too many drivers on his way to notching the top spot for the landmark CWTS Chase , but he did cross plenty of finish lines ahead of them -- five, in fact. RELATED: Byron checks off boxes one milestone at a time Unlike Nemechek, the Kyle Busch Motorsports driver sees the level of competitiveness rising -- potentially along with the tempers. "I think the competition and intensity is going to ramp up here in the last seven races," Byron said Friday at the "Magic Mile." "We've seen that in the (Sprint) Cup Series and so now we're going to be able to experience that here in the Truck Series, so I'm looking forward to it." Regardless of whether the threat of payback looms large or not, there's an incumbent sense of pressure and nerves that comes along with being among the youngest drivers -- not to mention title favorites -- in the first-ever Chase format for the series. The nerves haven't fully crept in yet, but that could change in a hurry. "We're going to take it race by race and we're not going to let the pressure or nerves get to us unless it's a pressure situation where we have a bad race," Nemechek said. "We're going to go out and do what we do best and that's to run our race, try and lead laps and run up front and hopefully get another win. If you can't do that, salvage a bad day into a good day. You just can't make mistakes. You have to make every day the best you possibly can. In reality, nobody really knows what to expect come Saturday. "I think a little bit of nerves just with the unexpected of what this format is going to be like for us, but honestly it's exciting and it's something new and it’s the new era of the playoff-type format, so I'm looking forward to it," said Byron. "It's something that we've been preparing for and I think we’re going to see what happens here in the next seven races."
Chase Trivia with Matt Kenseth
NASCAR.com's Jonathan Merryman quizzes Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup veteran Matt Kenseth about how much Chase knowledge he has acquired in his 12 appearances in the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup.
Phone call changes Jimmie Johnson's Chase outlook
RELATED: See the Chase Grid LOUDON, N.H. -- Jimmie Johnson felt certain he'd be facing a much larger deficit in the second event of the 10-race Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup playoffs. A points penalty for his Hendrick Motorsports No. 48 Chevrolet failing its post-race pass through the Laser Inspection Station (LIS) platform last week likely would have dropped him into the bottom four of the 16-driver postseason field. But Johnson said he received a phone call Wednesday afternoon on his way back from his race shop that altered his outlook. NASCAR competition officials had just implemented a midweek update regarding minor LIS infractions, offering a reprieve for both himself and the Furniture Row Racing No. 78 team of last weekend's race winner, Martin Truex Jr . "I was just taking my lumps and going on with my business and then kind of Christmas showed up in September," Johnson said Friday after qualifying fourth for Sunday's Bad Boy Off Road 300 (2 p.m. ET, NBCSN, PRN, SiriusXM) at New Hampshire Motor Speedway . "Just unexpected, but happy." NASCAR's competition department announced Wednesday that P2 and P3-level penalties would be eliminated for lesser LIS violations found in post-race inspections, leaving the stricter P4-grade punishments in place for more egregious infractions. Truex, who automatically advanced to the Chase's next round with his victory at Chicagoland Speedway , and Johnson were not penalized in the points standings. Johnson said he was pleasantly surprised, though he knew his car was slightly outside of the allowable measurements for its rear axle offset, or "skew." "I really feel NASCAR was trying to create a penalty system that was more forgiving," Johnson said. "Stuff bends, stuff moves, and they set those tolerances up to really help the garage area and then to keep cars failing out of the headlines. But it's tough. There's a lot of moving parts in these cars and of course we're trying to get as much skew as we can and we failed. "I'm sure directionally, it was an advantage. Everybody will take every hundredth of an inch they can get. I think we were four thousandths over. I don't know how much of an advantage you can get in four thousandths. That's awfully, awfully small, but we're in a world now where it's black or white." The non-penalty kept Johnson in the heart of the Chase's opening round, slotted eighth with a 13-point spread behind series leader Truex. Four drivers will be eliminated from championship eligibility after next weekend's race at Dover International Speedway , where Johnson has won a record 10 times. Johnson's current ranking could be worse had the penalty taken effect, but it could have been better as well. Johnson was solidly on the verge of a top-five finish last week at Chicagoland, but a pit-road speeding penalty on his penultimate stop bumped him outside the top 10. Johnson said he began to accelerate just 2 feet too early at the pit-exit line, sending him over the speed limit for the final timing section and offsetting the performance strides the No. 48 team had made in recent weeks. "We've definitely been showing speed over the last month and a half," Johnson said. "That's been something that's very welcomed and it's been a lot of hard work to get to that point. Unfortunately, mistakes still are continuing to happen and last week was on me." RELATED: Hear Johnson's reaction on the scanner
Second-best thrills Logano as he readies for Chase long haul
LOUDON, N.H. -- As the engines cooled from last weekend's Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup opener at Chicagoland Speedway , Joey Logano and his Team Penske No. 22 crew shared emphatic high-fives back at the team hauler. The celebration might have been unbefitting for a runner-up effort, but for Logano, the strength his over-the-wall outfit showed in a pressure-packed situation provided a window for added optimism. Logano's second-place finish last weekend kept him lodged in the top half of the Chase grid heading into Sunday's Bad Boy Off Road 300 (2 p.m. ET, NBCSN, PRN, SiriusXM) at New Hampshire Motor Speedway . He sits fifth in the Sprint Cup standings, just seven points back of series leader Martin Truex Jr ., last weekend's winner. As last week's race headed to overtime, Logano's No. 22 Ford benefited from speedy service and emerged from pit road ahead of Denny Hamlin 's No. 11 Toyota -- which happens to be the Joe Gibbs Racing team with one of the best pit-stop crews in the business. The fast stop allowed Logano to restart on the outside line, following Truex's charge through to the front in the two-lap dash to the checkers. "If it wasn't for that pit stop, we wouldn't have been in position for a great finish like we had," Logano said Friday at the 1.058-mile track in the cradle of the Connecticut native's New England stomping grounds. "That pressure and the way you handle it is, to me, the definition of a true athlete. There are a lot of athletes that can practice really well and when it becomes game time and you put the pressure on them, it goes the wrong way. And then there's an athlete that you put the pressure on and they get better, and that's what I saw in the 22 team last weekend, and I couldn't be more proud to be a part of that." The finish provides some needed breathing room for Logano, who's claimed two of his 15 Sprint Cup victories at New Hampshire. The cushion he obtained last weekend is hardly a failsafe, but it hasn't altered his team's tack in the Chase's Round of 16, the opening three-race series in the postseason. "We talk about this round as being base hits and don't have to do anything crazy," Logano said, taking a cue from the "small-ball" tactics of baseball strategy. "We did that exactly last week, so we'll just come up here and do the same exact thing. If something happens, something happens and we'll approach Dover in a different way, but, right now, let's go out here and if we can win the race, let's win the race. If not, let's try to top-5 it and that will give us a good sense of security heading into Dover. It's one race at a time, one step at a time." The pressure of the opening round may not drastically sway the game plan for either Logano or teammate Brad Keselowski , but there's already some incentive coming from within the walls of Team Penske 's Mooresville, North Carolina, headquarters. Simon Pagenaud locked up the IndyCar championship last weekend for team owner Roger Penske, leading a 1-2-3 sweep of Penske-owned cars in the series' final standings. The IndyCar title and podium monopoly have given Team Penske one crowning highlight to its 50th anniversary season. Your move, Joey and Brad. "It makes the NASCAR guys want to go out here and continue this awesome year that Team Penske has had so far, and Brad and I have a great shot at it," Logano said. "What if we finished 1-2 at Homestead? How cool would that be? We have an amazing opportunity to do that. We've got a long ways to go to get there, but we can do it."
Keselowski takes on 'The Big Apple' for Chase media tour
Team Penske 's Brad Keselowski entered the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup 's Chicagoland opener as one of the favorites thanks to his four regular-season wins. He finished a strong fifth at Chicago and enters the New Hampshire weekend with an average finish of 10.7. Ahead of Sunday's Bad Boy Off Road 300, (2 p.m. ET, NBCSN, PRN SiriusXM NASCAR Radio) Keselowksi traveled to New York City Thursday for his Chase media day to discuss NASCAR's playoff season. See what was on the 2012 Sprint Cup champion's docket. Getting ready for Live With Kelly. Tune in now! pic.twitter.com/HJo0fErSpl — Team Penske (@Team_Penske) September 22, 2016 Off to a good start to the NYC media day for @keselowski with @LiveKelly pic.twitter.com/jJjBU70lA9 — Team Penske (@Team_Penske) September 22, 2016 . @keselowski dishing on the @Lions on NFL Radio at the @SIRIUSXM studio #TheChase pic.twitter.com/2BRaseDJBT — Team Penske (@Team_Penske) September 22, 2016 . @keselowski live now on the @RoadandTrack Facebook page. Tune in to ask questions — Team Penske (@Team_Penske) September 22, 2016
Chase driver Brandon Jones involved in costly incident
Brandon Jones is involved in a costly incident with Justin Marks, becoming the first Chase driver sent to the garage at Kentucky Speedway.
Chase driver Austin Dillon wrecks in practice, forced to backup car
Austin Dillon wrecks late in the opening NASCAR Sprint Cup Series practice at New Hampshire Motor Speedway, forcing the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup competitor to a backup car.
First Chase race for Jones, Dillon ends in trouble
Late in the race Erik Jones slips getting into Turn 3 and takes out fellow Chase contender, Ty Dillon, at Kentucky Speedway.
NASCAR XFINITY Series Chase explained
Get the 101 on how the 2016 NASCAR XFINITY Series Chase will work and how a champion will be crowned at Homestead-Miami Speedway.
Byron wins first-ever NCWTS Chase race
William Byron wins the first-ever NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Chase race at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in dominant fashion.