Keselowski's Chase chances take a hit following contact with Hamlin
RELATED: Keselowski comes through in the clutch at Talladega in 2014 KANSAS CITY, Kan. -- Here we go again. The Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Round of 12 finale at Talladega Superspeedway just became that much more of a must-see event. Former Sprint Cup Series champion Brad Keselowski once again finds himself in a precarious position heading into the elimination race at the 2.66-mile track, in need of a victory to advance after finishing toward the back of the pack at Kansas Speedway . Two years ago the Team Penske driver placed 36th in the Hollywood Casino 400 . He placed 38th on Sunday after contact with Denny Hamlin on Lap 189 sent his No. 2 Ford careening into the grass, destroying the front end of his ride. And two years ago he hit the proverbial walk-off home run, landing in Talladega Victory Lane -- and into the Round of 8. Can he do it again? "We will win Talladega and other races and be fine," Keselowski said in the garage following the incident. "I like Talladega. Talladega has been good to me and I am going to drive my butt off and at the end of the day I have faith that if it is meant to be it is meant to be. We can't get down. There is a long way to go still." In an attempt to scrape together any extra points he could salvage, Keselowski returned to the race on Lap 218 -- 28 laps down -- for only two circuits before bringing out the seventh caution when his car started smoking again. He quickly returned to the garage and retired for the day. "It's an automotive war zone out here," Keselowski said. "(My team) just worked their guts out. If my team keeps putting out this kind of effort, I'm not worried about today. We're going to win races." Keselowski entered the race fourth on the Chase Grid but now sits 11th in the 12-driver field, ahead of Chase Elliott by 18 points . He trails points leader Jimmie Johnson by a whopping 44. If any driver in the field has a chance to pull off the miraculous feat that he once again faces, it's Keselowski. The winner of the past two restrictor plate races (May Talladega, July Daytona) has five total in his career, four of which have come at the Alabama track. With restrictor plate ace Dale Earnhardt Jr . sidelined for the remainder of the season, Keselowski is arguably the best superspeedway racer in the series right now. Some may question Keselowski's hard-charging method of racing at Kansas in an event he conceivably could've raced more for points than for the win, but -- as we've come to known -- that's not his style. "I probably could have raced less hard with a big points gap coming in," he said. "With this ( Chase ) format it is probably the smart thing to do but I don't want to race like that. I want to race my guts out and go for wins. I don't want to points race. I don't care what the damn format is, I am going to give it my best." There will be no option to points race at Talladega. Keselowski likely needs to win. "Days like today are going to happen to anybody and everybody in the Chase . It is about the effort you have when that happens," Keselowski said. "I am proud of my guys for doing their best to recover and we will move on to Talladega and give 'em hell." &amp;amp;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;amp;amp;gt;
Kyle Busch wins at Kansas; XFINITY Chase gets shake-up
RELATED: Race results " Standings " Chase Grid " Photos from the day SHOP: Busch gear KANSAS CITY, Kan. -- Kyle Busch 's domination of Saturday's Kansas Lottery 300 at Kansas Speedway was about the only predictable thing that happened in the first race of the Round of 8 in the inaugural NASCAR XFINITY Series Chase . In winning his fourth XFINITY race at the 1.5-mile track, his ninth of the season and the 85th of his career -- extending his own series record -- Busch led 150 of 200 laps, passing Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Daniel Suarez after a restart with 13 circuits remaining. "It was a hard-fought battle," said Busch, who had surged to a lead of 7.961 seconds before the first caution slowed the field on Lap 57. "Seemed like it was going to be easy for us. We had a super-fast car, and when we were out front, I could take it easy on those long runs and we could drive away. "The car would turn so well. A lot of things were trying to work against us at the end of the race. We were able to persevere and do the right things and have lucky restarts and be in the right grooves and not get caught up in the melee that was happening." Suarez had reason to be elated with his eventual third-place finish. An unexplained "popping" sound in his No. 19 Toyota accompanied a loss of horsepower, and Suarez settled for a hard-won result after Elliott Sadler passed him in the closing laps for the runner-up spot. Because Suarez led laps and Sadler didn't, he and Sadler leave Kansas tied for the Chase lead, but Sadler owns the tie-breaker due to higher finishes. "I'm proud of my race team," Sadler said. "We just kept working on the car and getting it better and better. I've got to do a better job trying to outrun that 18 car (Busch). He's really good, and he knows how to manipulate the air. But I've got to keep trying." Blake Koch finished ninth -- third among Chase drivers -- despite a late flat tire, the adverse effect of which was diminished by a timely caution, one of 10 during the afternoon. Koch is seven points behind the two Chase leaders. Chaos gobbled up the remaining five Chase contenders. A tap from Brandon Jones turned Chaser Justin Allgaier sideways and ignited a six-car wreck that also eliminated Darrell Wallace Jr ., who crashed out in 33rd-place. In a severely damaged car, Allgaier soldiered to a 14th-place result and left Kansas tied with Erik Jones for the final transfer spot into the Championship 4 race at Homestead-Miami Speedway . Jones ran up front through the vast majority of the race, but his No. 20 Toyota was turned into the Chevrolet of Ty Dillon when NASCAR Sprint Cup Series regular Kyle Larson made an aggressive move after a restart on Lap 183. Jones pitted with a cut tire and finished one position behind Allgaier, one lap down. "He (Larson) said it was his fault," Jones said after talking to Larson on pit road. "He owned up to it, got me ran over. It is what it is… He just said he got a good start and there was no hole there, nowhere to go with the run he had just got into my left rear and turned us. It's a shame, we both had fast cars." Ryan Reed salvaged a 16th-place finish despite a loose plug wire that kept him down on power until his team could troubleshoot the problem on pit road. After contact in heavy traffic on Lap 176, Brendan Gaughan took a wild spin through the infield grass and came home 31st, 18 laps down. Both Wallace and Gaughan will have yeoman work to do when the Chase resumes at Texas Motor Speedway after a two-week break for the O'Reilly Auto Parts Challenge (Nov. 5, 3:30 p.m. ET, NBC, PRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio). &amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;lt;/p&amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;gt;
Chase cutoff in Talladega means drivers swinging for the fences
TALLADEGA, Ala. -- Put into a position with nothing to lose and everything to gain, NASCAR Camping World Truck Series drivers Daniel Hemric and John Hunter Nemechek have a simple plan for this weekend. Swing for the fences, they both said. Saturday's fred's 250 Powered by Coca-Cola at Talladega Superspeedway is the final race of the opening round of the inaugural Camping World Truck Series Chase . Only one Chase participant, William Byron, scored a win in the previous two races, thus earning an automatic berth in the Round of 6 that begins next weekend at Martinsville Speedway . Hemric, driver of the No. 19 Ford for Brad Keselowski Racing, is seventh in points , 15 points outside Johnny Sauter in sixth. Nemechek, driver of the No. 8 Nemco Motorsports Chevrolet, is eighth, tied with Hemric for points and also 15 points outside the cutoff. "Everything here is kind of out of your hands," Nemechek, twice a winner this season, said Friday. "Being at Talladega in the spot that we're in … being 15 points out, I think it's way better for me to be able to come here … where anything can happen. "If we finish top five and someone else got caught up in somebody else's wreck and we didn't, we'd have a shot to make it compared to a mile-and-a-half track or short track where they can ride around all day and kind of salvage a finish where they make sure they make it. "I haven't quite called in any favors or anything like that. If we were able to qualify up front and run up front all day, as long as we put ourselves in a position to be top four in, where you can make a move coming to the start/finish line, I think you'll be all right. But who knows?" Christopher Bell , two-time series champion Matt Crafton , Ben Kennedy and Timothy Peters are second through fifth in points . All have won at least once this year, except for Peters. But he's won here at Talladega the last two times the series visited the 2.66-mile track. "In order to win now, we've just got to keep doing what we're doing and not change anything at this point," Hemric said. "All we can do here is control what we can control, go into it approaching every situation that way, whether it's practice, qualifying or the race. If we execute on all ends, I see no reason why we shouldn't have a shot at it. "At the end of the day … I think I would rather be on the end we're on. Obviously if you've won, that's even better. But the situation where we can go down swinging and not playing defense all day, I think, is going to be a good thing for (Nemechek) and I, both."
Trouble knocks Nemechek, Hemric from Chase hunt
RELATED: Chase Grid " Race results TALLADEGA, Ala. -- It was high drama for both NASCAR Camping World Truck Series drivers contending for a spot to advance in the series' Chase on Saturday at Talladega Superspeedway . For John Hunter Nemechek , it was an abbreviated fate; for Daniel Hemric , the action went right to the wire. Neither was able to race into the six-driver next phase of the title Chase , however, which will include William Byron, Christopher Bell , Timothy Peters , Matt Crafton , Ben Kennedy and Johnny Sauter . The motor on Nemechek's No. 8 Fire Alarm Services Chevrolet blew only 13 laps into Saturday's 94-lap elimination race. And he was scored in last place in the 32-truck field. Hemric, 25, was caught up in three incidents -- two of them multi-truck crashes including "The Big One" with 36 laps remaining that essentially sealed his fate, leaving his No. 19 DrawTite Ford with heavy damage to the rear and left side. But still drivable. He spun out again with 12 laps remaining and pitted for repairs. And despite all the drama, he still finished 11th and on the lead lap. "Today was another statement of what we've done all year, battle to the end," Hemric said, adding, "It was a matter of keep fighting, because you never know. We were trying to put ourselves in the best situation. I promise we made the most out of what was presented to us." In fact, with six laps remaining, Hemric's closest competitor in the Chase , Matt Crafton , went behind the wall, his truck smoking when the crew lifted the hood. But even by that point, pulling out a victory remained Hemric's best option to move on. "Honestly, we were hoping to be in a points battle moving forward, but with knowing that situation was you still need to win races," Hemric said. "… We're going to go down swinging. I hate coming up short, but now we have nothing to lose to make that situation a reality." The first multi-truck crash happened with 51 laps remaining. Hemric's teammate Tyler Reddick drove into the rear of his Ford while they both were trying to avoid an accident in front of them. Hemric had to make an extended pit stop for repairs, going a lap down at the time but got back on the lead lap a handful of laps later as a result of another accident. "A busy day to say the least. We didn't qualify where we wanted to but I was around our teammates. I thought we would be OK. We knew coming here the variables of superspeedway racing. … I hate we got caught up in what we did but we did everything we could. "The effort from this team was second to none. We were just a part of a lot of very unfortunate situations there that we couldn't avoid, couldn't miss. One, you can rebound from, two, you can probably rebound from, but the third one definitely put us in a bad situation. Hate we couldn't win a race earlier and get locked in." The disappointment was also palpable for the 19-year-old second-generation driver Nemechek, whose family-owned team had positioned him for his first try at the series title. Nemechek qualified for the series' first version of the Chase thanks to wins at Atlanta and again in a controversial close finish on the Bowmanville, Canada, road course. But he hardly even got a shot to race into the next round after his motor let go on the Talladega high banks minutes into the race. "All my temps were fine, I haven't seen a big blow-up like that in a while," said Nemechek. "We didn't even really have a shot to race our way in. But that's kind of how our last three weeks have been. I haven't seen a motor blow up like that in a while. Bad stuff can happen at Talladega and unfortunately we got the bad side. "We'll go back and regroup. I'm very proud of all our guys and now our focus will be on just getting some wins." Nemechek has a pair of runner-up finishes (2015 and 2016) at next week's short-track stop, Martinsville Speedway .
Truex tames Talladega for Coors Light Pole Award
RELATED: Qualifying results " See every car in the field TALLADEGA, Ala. – Just 13 points to the good entering Sunday's Round of 12 cutoff race in the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup , Martin Truex Jr . gave himself as much of a cushion as possible, winning the pole for the Hellman's 500 at Talladega Superspeedway during Saturday’s knockout qualifying session. Seventh in the Chase standings, and 13 points ahead of Joey Logano and Austin Dillon , Truex covered the 2.66-mile distance in 49.508 seconds (193.423 mph) to claim the Coors Light Pole Award for Sunday's race (2 p.m. ET on NBCSN, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio) that will trim the Chase field from 12 drivers to eight. "It's definitely cool," said Truex, who has never won a restrictor-plate race in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series. "You come here, and you don't really have a whole lot to say as a driver when it comes to qualifying, so obviously proud of the team and proud of everybody in Denver (Colorado) and proud of everybody at the race track for their efforts. "Built a brand new car to come here, and it's awesome to be the fastest guy in town. Excited about that, and obviously everybody at TRD (Toyota Racing Development) who builds the engines has done a great job too – it takes a lot to get a restrictor plate pole, so excited for all those guys and really neat to lead Toyota to their 1,000th start (in NASCAR’s top three series combined). Hopefully, we'll be able to get the victory when the day is over." Truex didn't allow a pre-qualifying inspection issue to derail his effort. Before his No. 78 Furniture Row Racing Toyota rolled out onto the grid, NASCAR confiscated a non-conforming jack screw from the car and required the team to replace it with a legal part. RELATED: NASCAR confiscates part from 78 team The pole was Truex's first at Talladega, his fourth of the season and the 11th of his career. Truex was .015 seconds faster than four-time Talladega winner Brad Keselowski (193.365 mph), who will start on the outside of the front row. Keselowski is 11th in the standings, seven points behind Logano and Dillon. "It's good to qualify up front," Keselowski said. "I think it's a good confidence boost. I feel like when we have cars that qualify well here, we race well. The Miller Lite Ford was really fast here in qualifying, and hopefully it will stay the same for Sunday. "It's been a good track for us, but past success is no guarantee. You have to go out and put the work in, and I think we're ready to do just that." Chase drivers Matt Kenseth (193.189 mph) and Chase Elliott (193.166 mph) will start third and fourth, respectively. Elliott is 12th in the Chase standings, likely needing a victory in Sunday's race to advance to the Round of 8. "As we all know, qualifying here is all about the guys back in the shop preparing these cars," Elliott said. "The Hendrick Engine shop gave me great speed, and the guys gave me an excellent car for tomorrow. "Qualifying here at Talladega isn't a make-or-break-you deal. I think it's good. I think our car has decent speed, and hopefully that will show up on Sunday." Roush Fenway racing drivers Greg Biffle and Ricky Stenhouse Jr ., both non-Chasers, will start from the third row after qualifying fifth and sixth, respectively. Other Chase drivers qualified as follows: Kurt Busch (seventh), Denny Hamlin (eighth), Dillon (ninth), Carl Edwards (13th), Kyle Busch (14th), Joey Logano (16th), Jimmie Johnson (17th) and Kevin Harvick (22nd). Johnson and Harvick already have earned spots in the Round of 8 by virtue of their respective victories at Charlotte and Kansas, leaving six berths available to the remaining 10 drivers. Reed Sorenson , who was required to make the field on the basis of qualifying time, posted an eyebrow-raising lap of 194.145 mph to lead the first round, a sizable .326 seconds faster than the next-fastest driver, Truex. Sorenson's Premium Motorsports No. 55 Toyota faded considerably in the final round and will start 12th. David Gilliland failed to qualify for the 40-car field. NASCAR will meet and discuss the non-conforming jack screw on Truex's car during its weekly competition meeting, but Scott Miller, NASCAR's senior vice president of competition, characterized the imposition of a points penalty that would affect the Chase standings as "unlikely." "I would say it would be unlikely, but it has to go through our process," Miller said. "We don't typically do that on a weekend, and because this is the playoffs, everybody has a heightened sense of everything. "But this is really no different than things that we've done all year. We'll treat this one like just like we've done all year long." Three Joe Gibbs Racing cars -- those of Kyle Busch , Denny Hamlin and Kenseth -- were pulled from the qualifying line just before their speed attempts. NASCAR officials said that they were investigating a potential issue with the rear deck lid and quarter panel area. With those issues remedied behind the wall, all three were allowed to qualify. RELATED: JGR cars brought back through pre-qualifying inspection Contributing: Staff reports &amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;lt;/p&amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;gt;
RECAP: Logano advances as field cut to eight
NASCAR.com’s Jonathan Merryman recaps all the action at Talladega Superspeedway as Joey Logano advances into the Round of 8 in the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup, while four other drivers are cut from Championship contention.
Talladega history shows second in points far from secure
RELATED: Series standings " Chase Grid " All you need to know for Talladega The Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup elimination-style format is in its third year and the 2016 postseason marks the last time that Talladega Superspeedway will serve as a cutoff race for the Round of 12 as the playoff field drops to eight drivers. The Talladega and Kansas Chase races will flip-flop their spots on the schedule in 2017, making Kansas the Round of 12 cutoff race. In previous years, "The Big One" has wreaked havoc on the postseason picture, leaving drivers who looked like near-locks to advance on the outside looking in as the championship battle continued. Bad luck at Talladega always seems to find at least one Chase driver. In the past two years, the driver second in points (and the first driver not locked in by a win) entering Talladega has failed to advance. Both times that has been a Joe Gibbs Racing driver; Kyle Busch in 2014, Denny Hamlin in 2015. This year, Matt Kenseth , a JGR driver, enters Sunday's Hellmann's 500 (2:30 p.m. ET, NBCSN, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio) in that same position. Will bad luck strike JGR three years in a row? NASCAR.com examines how the Chase eliminations played out at Talladega the past two years. (*) on chart indicates that driver won a Round of 12 race to lock up a spot in the Round of 8.
Chase rookie Larson sweeps Saturday Chicago practices
RELATED: Practice 2 results " Practice 3 results MORE: Top 10 consecutive lap averages Kyle Larson topped the leaderboard in both of Saturday's NASCAR Sprint Cup Series practices at Chicagoland Speedway , pacing final practice with a fast lap at 183.299 mph in the No. 42 Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates Chevrolet. The Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup rookie paced the earlier session at 185.995 mph. (Full recap below.) Right behind him was fellow Chase rookie Chase Elliott in the No. 24 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet at 182.883 mph. Rounding out the top five were Chase points leader Kyle Busch in the No. 18 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota (182.828 mph), Carl Edwards in the No. 19 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota (182.624 mph) and Kurt Busch in the No. 41 Stewart-Haas Racing Chevrolet (182.482 mph). Jimmie Johnson , who led Friday's opening practice, was 11th on the board at 182.020 mph. Chris Buescher was the lowest Chase driver on the charts at 26th (179.396 mph). The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 400 is Sunday at 2:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN, MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio. RELATED: All the Chase news in one place Larson fastest in first Saturday practice Kyle Larson topped the leaderboard at 185.995 mph in the No. 42 Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet in the first of two NASCAR Sprint Cup Series practices at Chicagoland Speedway on Saturday. Right behind him was Kurt Busch in the No. 41 Stewart-Haas Racing Chevrolet at 185.778 mph. Rounding out the top five were another trio of Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup drivers in Joey Logano in the No. 22 Team Penske Ford, Carl Edwards in the No. 19 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota and Martin Truex Jr . in the No. 78 Furniture Row Racing Toyota. Chase points leader Kyle Busch was 13th fastest with a speed of 184.049 mph in the No. 18 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota. Jimmie Johnson , fastest in Friday's first practice of the weekend, was 17th on the board at 183.861 mph. &amp;amp;amp;lt;/p&amp;amp;amp;gt;
RECAP: Harvick closes Kansas, Chase drama builds
NASCAR.com’s Jonathan Merryman recaps all the action at Kansas Speedway as Kevin Harvick clinches into the Round of 8 in the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup, while other Chasers leave their fate in the hands of the unpredictable Talladega.
For small teams of Sieg, Koch, Chase berth feels like a win
RELATED: Chicagoland race results " Chase Grid JOLIET, Ill. – Ryan Sieg rebounded from a pit-road speeding penalty and an errant pit stop. Blake Koch said it was a race-long vibration that raised his concerns. But the two drivers and their respective teams persevered to come home with top-15 finishes in Saturday’s Drive for Safety 300 NASCAR XFINITY Series race at Chicagoland Speedway and clinched spots in the series’ inaugural Chase . Sieg wound up 12th while Koch battled to a 15th- place finish in the 200-lap race. "We're going to have to be top 15 or better each race, be on our game and make no mistakes," said Sieg, driver of the No. 39 Chevrolet for RSS Racing. "If some other people make mistakes, we can benefit from that and make it to the next round. "You've got to race hard and get everything out of everybody; it's going to be a struggle but we're ready for it." Sieg, 29, will enter the seven-race playoff seeded ninth, 12 points behind Saturday's race winner, top-seeded Erik Jones ( Joe Gibbs Racing ). Sieg is not alone – nine of the 12 drivers in the field qualified for the Chase on points , and will begin with 2,000-point total after the reset. It's a daunting task for Sieg's group, as well as for Koch and others who have seen Sprint Cup -affiliated teams dominate the competition this season. But they'll all be racing for the same hardware come next week, and to be among the handful in that position is a win in itself. "This is huge," Sieg said. "It's like a race within a race – the Cup affiliated teams and the smaller teams. We're one of the top two smaller car teams. This is like our little championship here. It's exciting; I'm ready to go to the next three." For Koch, it was a stressful event at Chicagoland, in part brought on by a season spent on the Chase bubble. The vibration in the No. 11 Kaulig Racing Chevrolet only made matters worse. The concern in his voice as the race wound down wasn't anything new. "How about a little concern in my voice all race long?" said Koch, who called the event "the biggest XFINITY race I've ever been a part of. "I had this little vibration that just scared me. When you're in this tight of a points battle you want everything to feel perfect and I had a vibration through my shifter; I don't know where it was. It never went away, it never got worse." It was not the first time the issue had cropped up; the last time it did, Koch said, he failed to finish the race. "So it just had my stomach in knots," the 31-year-old said. “Chris (Rice, crew chief) was able to use his psychology and get my head off of it and just race the race." The XFINITY Chase format consists of seven races and three rounds, with four drivers eliminated at the conclusion of each of the first two rounds. The drivers in the Championship 4 will go to Homestead-Miami Speedway to determine the champion. The Round of 12 will consist of stops at Kentucky, Dover and Charlotte while Kansas, Texas and Phoenix make up the Round of 8 races. "I feel like I've been points racing all year, like I've been the guy on the bubble every single race," Koch said. “You're going to have to be smart at Kentucky and get through there with a solid finish but then I think you can go to Dover and let it all hang out."