Hooters to sponsor Chase Elliott beginning in 2017
CONCORD, N.C. -- Hooters has joined 12-time NASCAR Cup Series champions Hendrick Motorsports as a primary sponsor of driver Chase Elliott and the No. 24 Chevrolet SS team beginning in 2017. A casual dining establishment with a deep history in NASCAR, Hooters will be a two-race primary sponsor and full-season associate sponsor of the No. 24 team in both 2017 and 2018. The Hooters Chevrolet SS will debut May 7 at Talladega Superspeedway and appear again during the Chase for the NASCAR Cup Nov. 12 at Phoenix International Raceway . Hooters has been a primary sponsor in more than 150 Cup-level races, notably as the full-season sponsor of 1992 premier series champion Alan Kulwicki. That year, Kulwicki won two races and narrowly edged Elliott’s father, 1989 Cup champion Bill Elliott , by 10 points to win the title. “Twenty-five years after being part of one of the most memorable seasons in NASCAR history, Hooters is excited to support another amazing talent in Chase Elliott and the No. 24 team,” said Carl Sweat, chief marketing officer of Hooters of America LLC. “As the official headquarters of race day, we’re proud that so many NASCAR fans choose to watch the races at Hooters every week while enjoying their favorite wings, ice cold beer and one-of-a-kind Hooters Girl hospitality.” As part of the new relationship, Hooters has launched a full year of promotions, exclusive content and commemorative merchandise for fans at www.hooters.com . Beginning today, fans can register for the chance to win a trip for two to meet Elliott and cheer on the No. 24 team from pit road at the Nov. 12 Phoenix race. Everyone who registers will receive a $5 off certificate toward their next visit to Hooters. For a limited time, the first fans to register can also purchase collectible limited-edition $24 Hooters gift cards commemorating Elliott and the new No. 24 Hooters Chevy. "Hooters started with six people in 1983, and now they’re in 42 states and 28 countries," said Rick Hendrick, owner of Hendrick Motorsports . "They've grown by focusing on the experience, earning the business of their customers and supporting terrific causes like cancer research and our men and women in uniform. NASCAR fans appreciate those things, and we have an opportunity to do some great work together." In 2016, Elliott earned Cup Series rookie of the year honors after posting 10 top-five finishes, 17 top-10s and two pole positions, including the season-opening Daytona 500 . He is a second-generation NASCAR champion, having won the 2014 XFINITY Series title at just 18 years old. Now 21, the Dawsonville, Georgia, native has already earned six wins, 47 top-fives and 84 top-10s in NASCAR national series competition. "Hooters is a place where I can let down my guard and have a good time," Elliott said. "It means a lot to have them support the No. 24 team, and I can't wait to get behind the wheel of their car. Being on the ground level of introducing a new partner to the Hendrick Motorsports family is going to be a lot of fun. Hooters has a historic place in this sport, and I'm glad they're back. Our entire team is looking forward to making the program a success." Fans are encouraged to use the #Hooters24 hashtag throughout the year to share their excitement and engage via social media.
Chase Bubble: Points update before regular-season finale
RELATED: Provisional Chase Grid Here's a breakdown of the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Grid and bubble picture after Sunday's Bojangles' Southern 500 at Darlington Raceway . NO NEW WINNER, NO CHANGES Martin Truex Jr . already had clinched a Chase spot, so his win at Darlington didn't cause any changes in the Chase Grid. There was a moment of uncertainty when Ryan Newman led for Laps 330-338 of the 367-lap race, however. But Newman slipped back, and he remains the first driver outside the Chase Grid. Newman also faces a potential penalty for failing post-race Laser Inspection System at Darlington. Jamie McMurray currently clings to the final Chase berth with one regular-season event at Richmond remaining. BUESCHER'S STANDING Chris Buescher 's 17th-place finish helped boost his Chase chances. Buescher prevailed at Pocono Raceway in August to check off one requirement for Chase eligibility; the second is a place among the top 30 in the Sprint Cup driver standings. Buescher remains 30th in the standings, increasing his lead over 31st-place David Ragan to 11 points . LOCKED IN Drivers who have clinched a spot in the Chase are: Brad Keselowski , Carl Edwards , Kyle Busch , Matt Kenseth , Jimmie Johnson , Kevin Harvick , Denny Hamlin and Martin Truex Jr . (all with multiple wins), along with one-win drivers Kurt Busch , Kyle Larson , Joey Logano and Tony Stewart . Chris Buescher is currently in the Chase Grid, but has not clinched a spot. After Sunday's 500-miler, just one regular-season race (Richmond) remains before the 16-driver postseason field is settled. BUBBLE WATCH With 25 of 26 regular-season races complete, just three at-large spots (at present) for non-winners remain available. Here's how that picture looks post-Darlington. Editor's note: The standings below are the Chase Grid standings, not the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series drivers' standings.
H2H: Chase's Round of 12 set to stir at Charlotte
RELATED: See the Chase Grid Story lines abound, and NASCAR.com's Holly Cain and Zack Albert tackle three pressing topics as the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup enters the Round of 12 at Charlotte Motor Speedway . 1. What surprised you most from Dover weekend in terms of who advanced in the Chase elimination race and who did not? Cain: I was surprised by the results in several areas, but more so by drivers who did not advance as expected. Like many, I believed Chip Ganassi Racing driver Kyle Larson would advance well beyond the Round of 16. In fact, I had him in my Championship 4. I do believe he will win another race before the season is over. And perhaps I was being sentimental in expecting Tony Stewart to advance, but I still remember the amazing Chase charge in 2011 and saw the motivation in the three-time champion's eyes after he won at Sonoma this summer. Albert: Austin Dillon 's advancement on the basis of pure consistency didn't send shock waves through the ol' surprise meter, but fate's cruel hand for Chip Ganassi Racing did. To see both Larson and teammate Jamie McMurray ejected from the Chase field at least qualified as a mild stunner. It's a solid dozen that remain, but Dover showed again how exacting this postseason format can be. RELATED: Larson, McMurray ousted from Chase after Dover woes 2. With the points standings reset for the Chase Round of 12, all drivers resume with a clean slate. Are there any incentives you would add to enhance the current format? Cain: A case could be made to give drivers who have won in the Chase a small points bonus in the ensuing round. But the equal reset given to all 12 drivers in the current format certainly increases the drama in a very different way from the Chase start, when regular-season wins are factored in. It's the first time since the Daytona 500 green flag that the top-tier drivers are ranked evenly, and it should make the next three races even more dramatic. Albert: It may not rate highly on the drama scale, but I've always maintained that the top points -earner during the regular season should be rewarded -- nominally if not handsomely. A first-round bye might be a stretch, but a bigger bounty of points would offer a larger incentive for consistent performance over the opening 26 events. Offering bonus points through each elimination round would be an inviting enhancement, but keeping them out of the championship race -- leaving the calculators at home -- has valuable merits. RELATED: Are added incentives for regular-season winners on horizon? 3. Among the remaining 12 Chase drivers, who's your pick to win this weekend at Charlotte and lock in early in the Round of 8? Cain: There's a certain six-time champion who I believe will collect his eighth win at Charlotte Motor Speedway this weekend. Jimmie Johnson has been close to wins already in the Chase only to fall victim to pit-road miscues -- something uncharacteristic of his Hendrick Motorsports organization. You've got to think that will be cleaned up, and I believe there's no one more motivated to remind naysayers why he is the modern era's very best. Albert: Is there any stopping the Truexpress? Wins in two of the first three Chase races have established the Furniture Row Racing No. 78 Toyota as a strong title favorite, and the team returns to the site of Truex's crushing victory in the Coca-Cola 600 in May. Placing former Charlotte winners Kevin Harvick , Carl Edwards and Jimmie Johnson under the heading of "sleepers" ranks as a testament to Truex's formidable stature this season. Upcoming wild-card races at Talladega and Martinsville have the potential to derail the No. 78's march; don't count on that happening this weekend at Charlotte.
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;
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;
Chase Bubble: Stewart in; Larson sparks shake-up
RELATED: Provisional Chase Grid Here's a breakdown of the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Grid and bubble picture after Sunday's Pure Michigan 400 at Michigan International Speedway . NEW WINNER, NEW SHAKE-UP Kyle Larson 's victory in Sunday's Pure Michigan 400 altered the complexion of the provisional Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup playoff grid, securing another postseason berth for a first-time winner. The result means one less postseason berth for drivers hoping to qualify for the Chase on points , knocking Ryan Newman out of the provisional field of 16. Jamie McMurray , Larson's Chip Ganassi Racing teammate, currently clings to the final Chase berth with two regular-season events (Darlington, Richmond) remaining. FORMALLY WIN AND IN Tony Stewart wound up 21st in his final Michigan race, two laps off the leader's pace. It was enough to formally clinch a postseason spot, pairing his Sonoma victory in June with a steady hold on 26th in the driver standings. Stewart missed the first eight races of his final championship campaign with a back injury. BUESCHER'S STANDING Chris Buescher limped to a 35th-place finish, slightly weakening his grasp on a postseason slot. Buescher prevailed at Pocono Raceway earlier this month to check one requirement for Chase eligibility; the second is a place among the top 30 in the Sprint Cup driver standings. Buescher remains 30th in the standings, but his margin over 31st-place David Ragan shrank from 13 to seven points . LOCKED IN Drivers who have clinched a spot in the Chase are: Brad Keselowski , Carl Edwards , Kyle Busch , Matt Kenseth , Jimmie Johnson , Kevin Harvick and Denny Hamlin (all with multiple wins), along with one-win drivers Kurt Busch , Kyle Larson , Joey Logano , Tony Stewart and Martin Truex Jr . Chris Buescher is currently in the Chase Grid, but has not clinched a spot. After Sunday's 400-miler, just two regular-season races (Darlington, Richmond) remain before the 16-driver postseason field is settled. BUBBLE WATCH With 24 of 26 regular-season races complete, just three at-large spots (at present) for non-winners remain available. Here's how that picture looks post-Michigan. Editor's note: The standings below are the Chase Grid standings, not the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series drivers' standings.
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."
Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup clinching scenarios for Round of 12 spots
The Citizen Soldier 400 (Sunday, 2 p.m. ET, NBCSN, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio) at Dover International Speedway marks the first elimination of the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup as the field shrinks from 16 drivers to 12. How can drivers advance to the Round of 12? Martin Truex Jr . and Kevin Harvick are already locked into the next round with victories at Chicagoland and New Hampshire, respectively. Here's a look at how drivers can clinch spots in the next round. Possible to Clinch: — Brad Keselowski (0 Wins, 2087 Points ) - Would clinch on points with 12 Points (29th and no laps led, 30th and led at least one lap, 31st and led most laps) and a new winner. If there is a repeat winner, he would clinch on points with 7 Points (34th and no laps led, 35th and led at least one lap, 36th and led most laps). With a win, he would clinch a next round spot on wins. — Kyle Busch (0 Wins, 2085 Points ) - Would clinch on points with 14 Points (27th and no laps led, 28th and led at least one lap, 29th and led most laps) and a new winner. If there is a repeat winner, he would clinch on points with 9 Points (32nd and no laps led, 33rd and led at least one lap, 34th and led most laps). With a win, he would clinch a next round spot on wins. — Matt Kenseth (0 Wins, 2078 Points ) - Would clinch on points with 20 Points (21st and no laps led, 22nd and led at least one lap, 23rd and led most laps) and a new winner. If there is a repeat winner, he would clinch on points with 15 Points (26th and no laps led, 27th and led at least one lap, 28th and led most laps). With a win, he would clinch a next round spot on wins. — Joey Logano (0 Wins, 2073 Points ) - Would clinch on points with 26 Points (15th and no laps led, 16th and led at least one lap, 17th and led most laps) and a new winner. If there is a repeat winner, he would clinch on points with 21 Points (20th and no laps led, 21st and led at least one lap, 22nd and led most laps). With a win, he would clinch a next round spot on wins. — Denny Hamlin (0 Wins, 2071 Points ) - Would clinch on points with 28 Points (13th and no laps led, 14th and led at least one lap, 15th and led most laps) and a new winner. If there is a repeat winner, he would clinch on points with 23 Points (18th and no laps led, 19th and led at least one lap, 20th and led most laps). With a win, he would clinch a next round spot on wins. — Jimmie Johnson (0 Wins, 2070 Points ) - Would clinch on points with 29 Points (12th and no laps led, 13th and led at least one lap, 14th and led most laps) and a new winner. If there is a repeat winner, he would clinch on points with 24 Points (17th and no laps led, 18th and led at least one lap, 19th and led most laps). With a win, he would clinch a next round spot on wins. — Chase Elliott (0 Wins, 2068 Points ) - Would clinch on points with 31 Points (10th and no laps led, 11th and led at least one lap, 12th and led most laps) and a new winner. If there is a repeat winner, he would clinch on points with 26 Points (15th and no laps led, 16th and led at least one lap, 17th and led most laps). With a win, he would clinch a next round spot on wins. — Carl Edwards (0 Wins, 2068 Points ) - Would clinch on points with 31 Points (10th and no laps led, 11th and led at least one lap, 12th and led most laps) and a new winner. If there is a repeat winner, he would clinch on points with 26 Points (15th and no laps led, 16th and led at least one lap, 17th and led most laps). With a win, he would clinch a next round spot on wins. — Kurt Busch (0 Wins, 2067 Points ) - Would clinch on points with 32 Points (9th and no laps led, 10th and led at least one lap, 11th and led most laps) and a new winner. If there is a repeat winner, he would clinch on points with 27 Points (14th and no laps led, 15th and led at least one lap, 16th and led most laps). With a win, he would clinch a next round spot on wins. — Kyle Larson (0 Wins, 2057 Points ) - If there is a repeat winner, he would clinch on points with 37 Points (4th and no laps led, 5th and led at least one lap, 6th and led most laps). With a win, he would clinch a next round spot on wins. Could clinch on points with a new winner and help. For the following, the only guaranteed clinch would be with a win. Each could clinch without a win, but would need varying levels of help, however: — Jamie McMurray (0 Wins, 2052 Points ) — Austin Dillon (0 Wins, 2052 Points ) — Tony Stewart (0 Wins, 2046 Points ) — Chris Buescher (0 Wins, 2027 Points )
McMurray, Newman, Buescher vie for Chase berths
WATCH: Buescher says he's not in full defensive mode RICHMOND, Va. -- Jamie McMurray and Ryan Newman have adjacent garage areas this weekend at Richmond International Raceway . And Friday morning the two chatted briefly and smiled before climbing into their Chevrolets for practice. McMurray, who is making his 500th Sprint Cup start, holds a 22-point edge over Newman for the 16th and final Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup playoff berth – and the field will be decided in Saturday night's regular season finale, the Federated Auto Parts 400 (7:30 p.m. ET, NBCSN, MRN, Sirius XM NASCAR Radio). It would have been an even closer contest between the two drivers, but Newman was penalized 15 points this week after his car failed post-race inspection following a eighth-place run at Darlington on Sunday. That turned a 7-point difference into a 22-point difference. RELATED: Chase Bubble Watch " Clinching scenarios for Richmond With many scenarios in play, Newman and McMurray each could clinch a Chase berth with a win. But Pocono winner and Sunoco Rookie of the Year candidate Chris Buescher also poses a challenge. He enters Saturday's race in 13th place on the Chase Grid, ahead of McMurray (16th) and Newman (17th). "I feel pretty good about our car after practice," McMurray said of his No. 1 Sherwin Williams–sponsored Chevrolet. "Richmond has actually been a pretty good track for me, finishes-wise and we've raced pretty well. Thought we were pretty good that first practice. I'm encouraged by the speed of the cars and hope to have a trouble-free night and that the race is just a normal race, you don't get hung out by a caution or have something happen. "Or,'' he said smiling and pausing, "you don't have a first-time winner. That could happen. But if the race plays out normal we've got a really good car and can have a really good finish.'' McMurray's crew chief Matt McCall said he expects business as usual for the Ganassi Racing team. He acknowledged that, of course, the team will keep an eye on Newman, but insisted the best route for McMurray is simply to try to win. "I guess every race you come to, you try to pay attention to what everyone else is doing,'' McCall said. "We still want to come here and try to win the race. To me, that makes the easiest scenario. "Anytime you start looking back, you go backwards. I'm a big believer in that. No different approach here. "Jamie's been doing this a long time and he's not going to put himself in any crazy situations that he wouldn't normally get in." RELATED: Chase Grid " Driver standings For all the dramatic scenarios coming into the Richmond Chase -setter, only one time has a driver raced his way into the Chase with a victory: Jeremy Mayfield won the Richmond race in 2004 to earn a postseason bid. Because of the penalty this week, the 22-point differential that separates McMurray and Newman is certainly wider. But these two drivers have raced right around one another most of the season. Both drivers have one top-five and eight top-10 finishes in 2016. And they have finished within five positions of one another in nearly half the season's races. While McMurray is understandably glad to have gained a little more cushion, he seemed genuinely regretful it came by way of Newman's penalty. RELATED: No. 31 and No. 42 teams penalized after Darlington "I've been on both sides of that,'' said McMurray, who was penalized 25 points after the Bristol race in 2004 and ultimately missed the Chase by 15 points . "As relieving as it is when you come here because it is a little different environment now [with Newman's penalty], you hate it for that team, and those guys because you know they have worked so hard to get to that point and then to have it taken away sucks.” Buescher, the 2015 XFINITY Series champion who won the season's second Pocono Sprint Cup race, said he will also be cautiously aggressive Saturday night as he attempts to make his first Cup Chase . "We need to race aggressively for every position, every point we can get without taking unnecessary risks,'' Buescher said. "We can only control, what we can control. "We're going out there to race and have a really good day and avoid the risks that would put us in a bad spot or possibly take us out of this Chase .'' "If we can see the 23 car (Ragan), for the most part, we'll know we're OK.‘' Although both the veterans, McMurray and Newman, appeared cool and calm going about their Friday practice at Richmond, there was an unmistakable hint of what's dramatically on the line. "That would be huge if we're able to pull this off,'' McMurray said. "It would be great for our organization. To go from where we were to [teammate] Kyle [Larson] winning a race and both cars competing in the top-10 for the last month, that's a really big step and not something that happens these days. "Maybe 15 years ago you could do that. Now you can't, so pretty phenomenal what they've been able to pull off and our whole group should be pretty proud of themselves.” The celebration, he's hoping, will come Saturday night.
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;