As the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup turns 10, get the history, format and more
NASCAR Next graduate sets new standards in 2014 MORE: Full race results " Look back at Chase's Sunoco Rookie Report " JR Motorsports championship fast facts AVONDALE, Ariz. -- Proving that stock-car racing talent hasn't skipped a generation, 18-year-old Chase Elliott continued a family tradition Saturday afternoon at Phoenix International Raceway , becoming the youngest champion in NASCAR national series history. Elliott, son of 2015 NASCAR Hall of Fame inductee Bill Elliott , entered Saturday's DAV 200 - Honoring America's Veterans needing only to lose none of his 48-point lead over JR Motorsports teammate Regan Smith . He did, finishing fifth to sew up his Nationwide Series title pursuit with one race remaining. "Are you kidding me?! Yes!" Elliott said over his in-car radio at the checkered flag before running through a list of thank-yous. "You know what they say," his radio crackled back, "you can chase Elliott, but you can't catch him." The siren at the Dawsonville Pool Room -- nearly 2,000 miles east in the Elliotts' Georgia hometown -- sounded loud and proud after the teenager's latest accomplishment, just as it frequently did in his father's heyday. Saturday, the shrill signal celebrated the teenager's impressive body of work throughout 2014, with the Dawsonville institution tweeting, "Call the fire department we might let the "Si-REEN" blare until she catches on fire!!!" and then providing proof. Sorry for the video delay, we are so happy here in Dawsonville we almost forgot to upload it! #di9 http://t.co/LBjiWPlhXK — Dawsonville PoolRoom (@DawsonPoolRoom) November 8, 2014 — Dawsonville PoolRoom (@DawsonPoolRoom) November 8, 2014 Elliott became the first rookie to wear the Nationwide Series crown since the circuit's infancy, landing the first championship for his JRM team -- co-owned by Dale Earnhardt Jr . -- in the process. He also became the first product of the NASCAR Next youth initiative to claim a season-long title at the national series level. And he also followed his father's footsteps to become part of just the fifth father-son duo to claim a NASCAR national series title. "This certainly has not set in for me, and I don't know when it's going to," Elliott said. "I want to enjoy every bit of it. I'm going to enjoy it all the way till the green flag at Daytona because this is just such a cool honor to have. To be able to come and drive the race cars I've been able to this season, and to be able to do this every week, this is a dream come true. I get to go race cars on the weekend; it doesn't get much better than that." The elder Elliott's list of stock-car achievements has few peers with multiple Daytona 500 victories and the Cup championship in 1988. Saturday, though, was a special moment of a different sort for the proud pop. "I think this is above everything. I'm serious," Bill Elliott said. "I think this is above everything that I've accomplished because that's kind of in the past, and this is him living for his future. He's a good kid, he's done a great job and he's kind of got the world by the tail. He's got to keep his head screwed on straight and headed in the right direction, but I feel like he can do that." Elliott broke through for his first NASCAR national series victory last season at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park during his partial schedule in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series. His progress in trucks and other forms of stock-car racing was enough to attract the attention of Earnhardt, who tapped Elliott in January for a full-time ride with his Nationwide Series team. In making the jump, Elliott's car bore the No. 9 that his father made famous, scoring 38 of his 44 career victories in NASCAR's premier series with the car number. NAPA, making its return to NASCAR after departing the Michael Waltrip Racing team weeks earlier, signed on as a full-time sponsor. Though he currently drives for JRM, he remains under contract through the team's association with Rick Hendrick and his Hendrick Motorsports operation -- Earnhardt's team in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series. The 65-year-old car owner, whose eye for budding young racers is credited with developing the championship-caliber careers of Jeff Gordon and Jimmie Johnson , said he noticed Elliott's poise and maturity early on. "He is so mature beyond his years, how he can be fast but not wreck the car," said team partner Rick Hendrick. "It's just unbelievable how talented he is, but how smart he is. I think he's got the whole package and that's what impressed me from the very beginning." While Bill Elliott 's career began as a Ford loyalist, Chase Elliott 's big break came in Chevrolets. Success came early, in just his sixth Nationwide race at Texas Motor Speedway in April. Elliott passed Kevin Harvick with 16 laps to go and led five Sprint Cup regulars -- including Earnhardt -- to take the checkered flag. The following week, he was back in Victory Lane at Darlington Raceway , the treacherous South Carolina track where his father captured the Winston Million triple crown bonus in 1985. Though a crash at Charlotte Motor Speedway at May knocked him out of the lead in standings, he snatched the top spot back with a win in July at Chicagoland Speedway and never relinquished his perch. The Nationwide Series season wraps up next weekend at Homestead-Miami Speedway with Saturday's Ford EcoBoost 300 (4:30 p.m. ET, ESPN2). After a historic Saturday in the desert, Elliott's race will serve as a 300-mile victory lap. Elliott's coronation had just one moment of uncertainty. The rookie-turned-champ had been fast all day, but when it came to doing a post-race burnout, he paused. "Do I go burn 'em down right now?" Elliott said. "Is that acceptable?" Spotter Earl Barban passed the buck over the radio: "You'll have to ask your crew chief." The affirmative reply came from Greg Ives, "Do what you need to do." Elliott complied like a kid at heart, but one accomplished beyond his years. MORE: READ: Latest Chase news PLAY: Monitor your Chase Grid Game picks WATCH: Latest NASCAR video FOLLOW LIVE: Get RaceView FULL SERIES COVERAGE • Latest news • Standings • Schedule
Cain: Don't expect these guys to lay off in the postseason RELATED: Track your picks in the Perfect Chase Grid Challenge and Chase Battle Grid Presented by Toyota As Kyle Larson juked and jived his No. 42 Target Chevrolet to a near victory at Chicagoland Speedway on Sunday afternoon, his ultra-determined effort served as NASCAR's ultimate spoiler alert. Even in a season featuring 16 title contenders -- the largest Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup championship field ever -- it should surprise no one if one of the super talented, highly motivated non- Chase drivers hoists a trophy in the remaining nine races, stealing a Chaser's fast pass to the title round. After all, non- Chase drivers have won races in four of the last five postseasons. And not only is the rookie Larson a leading candidate to win before the season winds down, his Chip Ganassi Racing teammate Jamie McMurray has earned his late season television time, too. His No. 1 McDonald's Chevrolet has led 180 total laps in the last four races and is keeping the Chasers honest. A couple other veterans, Clint Bowyer and three-time Cup champ Tony Stewart , boast resumes that absolutely make them favorites in the season's final races as well. For the 22-year-old Larson, it's been simply about "when" he'll score his maiden Sprint Cup victory. His third-place effort in a back-up car that started last in the Chicago field is proof of how driven he and that team are to win. Far from backing off and letting the Chase drivers settle the checkered flag in Chicago, Larson demonstrated exactly the kind of grit and gumption that makes this Chase portion of the season so exciting and potentially the most competitive in history. Nearly half the field has something to prove, whether it be a championship run or scoring a season- or career-first victory. There are sponsors to attract and scores to settle. No one is backing off or playing it safe. It's go time from the front to back of the grid. "(People might think) those guys might be a little bit more cautious, won't race you as hard,'' Larson said. "I didn't feel that way at all. I felt everybody was racing as hard as they do all season long. "We definitely have to be a little bit more careful around those guys, too, because we don't want to hurt their chances of advancing. "(But) like I said, I had a lot of fun racing Kev (Harvick), Jeff (Gordon), Brad (Keselowski) and Junior (Dale Earnhardt Jr.) at some points in the race. I didn't feel like anybody was holding back at all." As good as Larson was Sunday, his teammate McMurray also furthered his case as someone who will have to be dealt with each week. In fact, McMurray is definitively the champion Chase spoiler of the last five years -- winning more Chase races (three) than any non- Chase eligible driver during that time. Four of McMurray's seven career Cup wins have come at Chase tracks. He's won twice at Charlotte and twice at Talladega, where he is the defending winner of the upcoming Oct. 19 race at NASCAR's biggest track. Bowyer, a preseason Chase favorite who like Larson just missed making the field, is another driver who has proven himself a contender at the 10 Chase tracks, venues where he has recorded five of his eight career Cup victories. He has a pair of wins at this week's stop, New Hampshire Motor Speedway , a pair of wins at Talladega and also a victory at Charlotte . Perhaps the biggest unknown in all this is the most accomplished racer not to earn a Chase berth -- three-time champ Stewart, who may view the race track as a focus for his off-track distractions and heavy heart. He has won in all 15 previous seasons competing in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, but is still looking for his first in 2014. He has victories at all nine of the remaining Chase venues and 19 of his 48 career wins have come at these venues. He has three victories apiece at New Hampshire, Dover , Martinsville, and Homestead. Certainly this week's venue -- the notoriously tight and tough 1.058-mile Loudon oval -- is a prime opportunity to shake up the Chase order. But it's not just the championship contenders that see the opportunity, which makes the 2014 version of the Chase that much more compelling in ways that weren't even anticipated. MORE: READ: Latest Chase news PLAY: Monitor your Chase Grid Game picks WATCH: Latest NASCAR video FOLLOW LIVE: Get RaceView FULL CHASE COVERAGE • Chase hub page • Chase Grid games • #MyChaseNation
NASCAR Chairman and CEO: 'Teams just elevate … when there is more on the line' RELATED: Follow your picks in the Chase Battle Grid Presented by Toyota NASCAR Chairman and CEO Brian France said he expects one of the four teams contending for this year's Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup championship to win the title by winning Sunday's race at Homestead-Miami Speedway . The Ford EcoBoost 400 (3 p.m. ET, ESPN) is the 36th and final race of the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season, and the finale of the 10-race Chase . Denny Hamlin ( Joe Gibbs Racing ), Kevin Harvick ( Stewart-Haas Racing ), Joey Logano ( Team Penske ) and Ryan Newman ( Richard Childress Racing ) are competing for the title, having survived and advanced through three previous rounds to reach the championship event. Because the points were reset after every round, each of the four drivers enter this weekend's event tied atop the standings. The driver finishing highest in the race will be crowned champion for 2014. "That's the coolest part of what's happened here -- and I'll be really surprised if one of those four teams doesn't win the race," France said Wednesday on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio. "Anything's possible, who knows? But the way … history has gone, teams just elevate, athletes elevate (their game) when there is more on the line. And it's exciting to watch." France referenced Tony Stewart 's stirring win at Homestead in 2011, a victory that earned the veteran a third Sprint Cup title, calling it "one of the best performances I've seen from a driver." "He had to win the race, had to beat Carl Edwards and did just that," France said. Changes to the Chase format this year expanded the field to 16 teams and divided the Chase into three three-race segments -- the Challenger Round, Contender Round and Eliminator Round -- followed by a one-race Championship Round. Chase eligible drivers scoring a win in each round automatically advanced to the next round, with four drivers lowest in points being eliminated. The remaining spots in the field for each round were determined based on points earned in that round. While Harvick and Logano advanced thanks to timely victories -- Logano at Loudon and Kansas, Harvick at Charlotte and Phoenix -- and accumulating the points needed when they didn't win, others weren't as fortunate. Former champions such as Jimmie Johnson , Jeff Gordon , Matt Kenseth and Brad Keselowski all eventually were knocked from contention, leaving some to question the process. "I would say that with any format that we would ever devise, with the exception of if we qualify that with a 'you have to win to compete for the championship,' that's auto racing," France said. "That happens. "Talk to Rusty Wallace, who won more races (than anyone) in a given year, talk to Bill Elliott , talk to all the past champions, past competitors in NASCAR who had a stellar season but they weren't the best on any given day. "This format, you've got to be the best all the way through. There is no format that we're going to devise that weights it so much that if you win so many races that you're going to somehow automatically going to be the champion. … In my view, this is the best balance in auto racing. There's no question about it. You've still got to win and move on, still got to do a lot of things." Hamlin has just a single win (at Talladega earlier this year) while Newman has yet to win since joining RCR prior to the start of the 2014 season. Yet both have managed to advance and now find themselves with a chance to win their first Sprint Cup title. " Ryan Newman did everything he needed to do to put himself in position to be a champion, and those are all great things for us," France said. MORE: READ: Latest Chase news PLAY: Monitor your Chase Grid Game picks WATCH: Latest NASCAR video FOLLOW LIVE: Get RaceView FULL CHASE COVERAGE • Chase hub page • Chase Grid games • #MyChaseNation
Driver offers idea for tweak to Chase scoring system
See where each driver finished at Charlotte and why RELATED: Track your picks in the Perfect Chase Grid Challenge and Chase Battle Grid Presented by Toyota Editor's note: Drivers in italics are in the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup 1. Kevin Harvick , No. 4 Chevrolet, Stewart-Haas Racing Harvick showed the "freaky fast" dominance that he's been notorious for throughout the 2014 season as he led for a total of 162 laps out of 334 to win the Bank of America 500 . Harvick started seventh in the field and maintained a top-10 presence. The No. 4 SHR driver won by pulling away on the final restart on Lap 333 to beat Jeff Gordon to the finish line by .571 seconds. Harvick enters the final race in the Contender Round with a win to guarantee a position in the Eliminator Round. Get more driver data with RaceView. 2. Jeff Gordon , No. 24 Chevrolet, Hendrick Motorsports Gordon wasted little time shooting from second place to stealing the lead from Kyle Busch on Lap 14. The No. 24 Hendrick Motorsports driver led for a total of 74 laps before finishing .571 seconds away from first. Gordon currently sits sixth in the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series standings with 18 points over Matt Kenseth , the first driver sitting in a position to be eliminated in ninth. 3. Jamie McMurray , No. 1 Chevrolet, Chip Ganassi Racing McMurray used an interesting pit strategy on a Lap 95 caution, only taking two tires. The pit move put the No. 1 Chip Ganassi Racing driver second in the field on the restart, alongside Dale Earnhardt Jr ., who also only took two tires. Unlike Dale Jr., McMurrary maintained his position. CGR teammates McMurray and Larson went on to bounce in and out of the top five, giving the Chase drivers a run for their money along the way. McMurray ultimately finished third at Charlotte, achieving his seventh top five of his Cup career at the track. Get more pit data with RaceView. 4. Joey Logano , No. 22 Ford, Team Penske Logano played a low profile this week. Why make a scene when you're already guaranteed a spot in the Elimination Round of the Chase ? "Sliced Bread" started 13th in the field, and besides his slight run-in with Danica Patrick on Lap 246 when he got into the back of the No. 10 coming out of Turn 2, causing Patrick to spin out, the Team Penske driver had a successful night. Logano remains on the top of the points standings heading into Talladega. See Logano's interaction with Patrick here . 5. Kyle Busch , No. 18 Toyota, Joe Gibbs Racing Pole-sitter Kyle Busch came out looking as strong as ever. Leading a total of 41 laps, the No. 18 Toyota driver had a lot of contenders gunning after his lead position and he just couldn't hold off the hard-charging Harvick. Despite losing the lead, Busch just added another top-five finish at Charlotte his new total of 10. Busch sits second in the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup standings. 6. Kyle Larson , No. 42 Chevrolet, Chip Ganassi Racing Larson found the high line early in the race and was able to fly into the top 10 on a restart after the competition caution on Lap 25. The No. 42 Chevrolet driver even saw the lead for five laps. The Chip Ganassi Racing rookie has been consistent for his first Sprint Cup Series season -- with eight top fives and now 16 top 10s, Larson's sixth-place finish proves he's a driver Chasers should be worried about now and in the future. 7. Ryan Newman , No. 31 Chevrolet, Richard Childress Racing Newman was running in the top 15 when a spin from Danica Patrick collected him and sent the No. 31 shooting across the track. Newman started the race fifth, and despite his incident managed to rally a top-10 finish. Newman now sits fourth in the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup standings as he heads to Talladega. See Newman's spin here . 8. Carl Edwards , No. 99 Ford, Roush Fenway Racing Starting 10th in the Bank of America 500 , Edwards didn't make any significant moves in the second race of the Contender Round of the Chase besides scoring his 13th top-10 finish at Charlotte. Looking ahead, Edwards is 12 points off of first in the standings. The No. 99 driver would need to finish 18th with no laps led, 19th with at least one lap led or 20th with most laps led at Talladega to advance in order to the clinch into the Eliminator Round of the Chase . 9. Denny Hamlin , No. 11 Toyota, Joe Gibbs Racing Hamlin started the race third and surprisingly didn't see the lead until Lap 272 out of 334. Hamlin led 22 laps before falling short to eventual winner Kevin Harvick . The lead gave Hamlin enough momentum to remain in the top 10 from there on out. After the race on the cool down lap, Hamlin found himself tangled in post-race drama with Brad Keselowski . The No. 2 and No. 11 seemed to have a disagreement, causing Keselowski to try to wreck Hamlin. "He just tried to turn ya," Hamlin's crew chief explained to Hamlin. "Get out of there. Be smart. Don't do nothing stupid. Let Tony (Stewart) handle it." Get more in-race audio with RaceView . " View the video of the post-race drama here . 10. Kasey Kahne , No. 5 Chevrolet, Hendrick Motorsports Kahne escaped the craziness of what was the Bank of America 500 with a top-10 finish and even moved a position higher in the Chase standings. Currently sitting in the eighth position in the standings, in order for Kahne to clinch a spot in the Eliminator Round of the Chase he would have to win at Talladega. Kahne has three top-fives in 21 starts at the superspeedway with an average finish of 21.5. 11. Kurt Busch , No. 41 Chevrolet, Stewart-Haas Racing The kind of run that Busch had at Charlotte was exactly the kind of run he needed earlier in the season to have remained in the Chase . Busch saw his way into the top five quickly after starting the race 11th in the field and even saw the lead for two laps. The No. 41 SHR driver finished 11th, more than 8 spots ahead of his average finishing position at the North Carolina track. 12. AJ Allmendinger , No. 47 Chevrolet, JTG Daugherty Racing Although no longer in the Chase , Allmendinger is still running in the top 15. The 'Dinger started the race 26th and made significant positive movement in the race despite a pit road penalty on Lap 97 for equipment leaving his pit box. Allmendinger is also leading in the non- Chase driver standings. 13. Austin Dillon , No. 3 Chevrolet, Richard Childress Racing Improving his previous Charlotte showing, the Sunoco Rookie of the Year competitor started the Bank of America 500 20th in the field and eventually led for a total of six laps during a flurry of green-flag pits stops. Dillon has shown he's powerful on speedways, earning his first Coors Light Pole Award at the start of the year in the Daytona 500 . Dillon's previous trip to Talladega had him finishing 15th. Not bad for a rookie. 14. Martin Truex Jr ., No. 78 Chevrolet, Furniture Row Racing In one of Truex's better races this season, the Furniture Row Racing driver started 23rd and made huge gains by Lap 124 and was running as high as sixth. Truex's average finish at Charlotte is 18.5 in 19 starts, so his 14th-place finish is a move in a positive direction. Truex Jr. moved up one spot in the standings. 15. Justin Allgaier , No. 51 Chevrolet, HScott Motorsports Still in his rookie season, Allgaier has only two Sprint Cup Series starts at Charlotte, his best run coming in the Bank of America 500 . Not only was this Allgaier's best run at Charlotte, it was also his best run of 2014. Could the HScott driver be catching on? 16. Brad Keselowski , No. 2 Ford, Team Penske Unlike Keselowski's typical chamionship-worthy form, the No. 2 Team Penske driver fought to stay in the top 10 at Charlotte. It wasn't until after the race that Keselowski started to heat up. During the cool-down lap, the No. 2 and No. 11 seemed to have a disagreement, causing Keselowski to go after Denny Hamlin . Once heading onto pit road Keselowski then went after Matt Kenseth and also crashed into Tony Stewart along the way. Stewart had no tolerance for it and reversed himself into Keselowski. Back in the garage area, Hamlin and Kenseth went after Keselowski and physical altercations broke out between the No. 2 and No. 20 team. All in all, with a finish of 16th, Keselowski now must battle at Talladega next week to keep his position in the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup. Keselowski sits 19 points behind the eighth-place cut off for the Eliminator Round. View the video of the post-race drama here . 17. Jimmie Johnson , No. 48 Chevrolet, Hendrick Motorsports Better than his finish last week at Kansas, Johnson could have still had a better night in the Bank of America 500 . In his 27 starts, Johnson had earned seven wins at the North Carolina track, his most recent coming in the spring race of this year. Unlike his typical calm and cool demeanor, Johnson let a bit of the pressure get to him, resulting in a heated exchange with crew chief Chad Knaus over the radio as Knaus was trying to adjust Johnson's car. Hanging on the edge of the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup standings in 11th, the Hendrick Motorsports driver must win at Talladega in order to clinch a spot in the next round. Johnson only has two wins in 25 starts at the Alabama superspeedway where he finished 23rd earlier this year. To hear the heated discussion click here . 18. Greg Biffle , No. 16 Ford, Roush Fenway Racing Even though Biffle is out of the Chase , he still found a way to make an impact. Biffle's 18th-place finish was not only better than his spring showing, but the non-Chaser took away a position that Kenseth and Dale Jr. were gunning for. 19. Matt Kenseth , No. 20 Toyota, Joe Gibbs Racing After starting the race in the rear for unapproved adjustments, winless Chase contender Kenseth worked his way through traffic and even saw the top five. It wasn't until Lap 272 that things started to shake up. During a restart on that lap, Kenseth and Keselowski made contact and Hamlin ran away with the lead. The contact dropped Kenseth from fourth back to 18th-place. Following Harvick's win, Kenseth was driving down pit road with his seat belt and HANS device off, and Keselowski charged from behind him to scrape the back side of the No. 20 Toyota Camry. Kenseth later found Keselowski on pit road and a fight broke out between the two teams. View the video of the post-race drama here . 20. Dale Earnhardt Jr ., No. 88 Chevrolet, Hendrick Motorsports Earnhardt Jr. needed Charlotte to be a success story. He even went as far as declaring his win a day before the race. "We're gonna win this race," Earnhardt said in a televised interview after Friday's first practice at Charlote. "I've got a really good feeling about it." Earnhardt Jr. pitted before pit road was open on Lap 138 and got a penalty, forcing him to restart in the rear. The No. 88 crew also had to deal with a broken shifter in the Hendrick Chevrolet. Earnhardt was also penalized for speeding on pit road which ultimately set him back further in the field. After a second penalty for speeding and constantly battling to stay on the lead lap, Dale Jr. finished the race 20th and is currently 12th in the Chase standings with one race left in the Contender Round. Junior has the best record at Talladega of any of the Chasers on the bubble going into next round with five wins, 10 top-fives and 14 top-10s in 29 career starts. 21. Tony Stewart , No. 14 Chevrolet, Stewart-Haas Racing It looked like a quiet night for Stewart. The SHR co-owner and driver started fourth in the field and by Lap 4 had stolen third from Hamlin. He eventually drifted back, occasionally making an appearance in the top 10. Stewart finished the race 21st and was heading down pit road when Keselowski made contact with the No. 14 as he was attempting to go after Kenseth. Stewart had zero tolerance for the No. 2's behavior and put his SHR Chevrolet into reverse, crunching the hood of Keselowski. View the video of the post-race drama here . 22. Aric Almirola , No. 43 Ford, Richard Petty Motorsports It's a good thing Almirola is no longer in the Chase running. His poor showings at both Kansas (31st) and Charlotte (22nd) would be a surefire way to eliminate himself. The No. 43 team couldn't seem to find their groove on Saturday night and caught themselves a lap down on Lap 85. After starting 15th, Almirola just dropped back. We know the RPM driver is capable of more because he finished 11th in the spring race this year. Perhaps, Almirola is experiencing more of a laid back attitude now that the Chase pressure is off his shoulders. 23. Landon Cassill , No. 40 Chevrolet, Hillman Racing With three previous DNFs at Charlotte, just finishing the race is an accomplishment for the No. 40 team. Cassill's 23rd-place finish is his second best in nine starts at the track. His best was 18th in 2012. Although Cassill only finished 331 out of 334 laps, this is still a move in the right direction. 24. Ricky Stenhouse Jr ., No. 17 Ford, Roush Fenway Racing While this isn't Stenhouse's worst finish at Charlotte, it isn't his best either. The No. 17 RFR driver started 28th in the field and didn't see much movement. Perhaps he was distracted by his contact he made with Mears on Lap 109. From the looks of it, it seemed intentional and Mears headed to pit road. If Stenhouse gets his mind back on racing, he might find himself in the top five at Talladega, as he was in 2013. 25. Marcos Ambrose , No. 9 Ford, Richard Petty Motorsports 2014 hasn't been Ambrose's year at Charlotte. This weekend earning 25th, and then previously finishing 29th in the spring, he doesn't seem like he's looking to leave his mark on the Cup Series before he leaves after the end of the season. Moving forward, although the No. 9 is a road course expert, he did once earn a top five on Talladega Superspeedway . 26. Danica Patrick , No. 10 Chevrolet, Stewart-Haas Racing Patrick celebrated a small victory early in the race as she moved up 11 positions to fourth in the race off pit road following the competition caution on Lap 25. After that, the No. 10 Stewart-Haas Racing driver quickly fell into the 20s. Patrick brought herself back up to 11th but spun in Turn 2 after trying to get around Logano. Patrick collected Ryan Newman with her. "It was such a bummer for the GoDaddy team," Patrick said. "We were having such a good night, and I really think we had a car that was capable of a top-10 finish tonight, and that got taken away from us for really no reason. It's just really frustrating. Charlotte has not been good to me." The No. 10 suffered damage to the right-rear and front end as she hit the wall but was able to continue with the race. Patrick ultimately finished 26th, her second-best finish at the track in five starts. See Patrick's spin here . 27. Reed Sorenson , No. 36 Chevrolet, Tommy Baldwin Racing Sorenson started 30th in the field and finished just three positions better. The No. 36 driver finished 42nd in the spring race, ultimately improving his finish by 15 positions in the fall race. Looking ahead, Sorenson has four DNFs at Talladega, his most recent coming in the spring. The Tommy Baldwin Racing driver's best finish at the superspeedway is 10th in 2007. 28. Cole Whitt , No. 26 Toyota, BK Racing Sunoco Rookie of the Year competitior Whitt made his fourth Sprint Cup Series start at Charlotte and scored his second-best finish. Whitt started 36th and finished 28th, raising him one spot in the Cup standings. 29. Michael McDowell , No. 95 Ford, Leavine Family Racing Scoring his best finish at Charlotte in 11 starts, McDowell might be on to something. Although he only improved two spots from his starting position, the No. 95 driver is chipping away at his high average finish of 36.3 30. Alex Bowman , No. 23 Toyota, BK Racing In his second career start at Charlotte, rookie Bowman may have had a finish barely inside the top 30, but it's the better of his two appearances, so that has to be a step in the right direction. His pit crew, on the other hand, might be what's slowing him down. On Lap 330, nearing the end of the race, Bowman pitted and was penalized for a missing lugnut on his car. Without that, could the No. 23 rookie have pulled off a top-20 finish? 31. Casey Mears , No. 13 Chevrolet, Germain Racing It's been about seven years, but Mears knows what it feels like to win at Charlotte. More often than that, though, he knows how it feels to get a DNF at the track. Thankfully, the No. 13 driver avoided the latter, but finished several positions off his average of 23.6. 32. David Gilliland , No. 38 Ford, Front Row Motorsports Finishing two spots behind his position a week prior at Kansas, it seems like Gilliland might only drop off the map from here on out, or we could see another top 10 performance at Talladega like he put on in 2013. Although the No. 38 driver gained five positions from his starting spot, he still finished a few places behind his average of 29.8. 33. Michael Annett , No. 7 Chevrolet, Tommy Baldwin Racing Annett got into the wall on Lap 266, bringing out a caution at Charlotte. The No. 7 driver also experienced leakage earlier in the race, but finished 33rd despite his shortcomings. Annett finished 28th in his first start at Charlotte in the spring. 34. David Ragan , No. 34 Ford, Front Row Motorsports Ragan saw no movement at Charlotte after starting the race in the same position as he ended. Ragan's average finish at Charlotte is 23.7, but his last six efforts have all been worse than that. Looking ahead, the No. 34 Front Row Motorsports driver actually has a win at Talladega than came in the spring of 2013. 35. Corey LaJoie, No. 77 Ford, Randy Humphrey Racing Making his second career Cup start and his first at his hometrack, LaJoie didn't exactly make a grand entrance. The 23 year old started the race 42nd, so to say he didn't make any gains would be a lie, they were just few and far between. 36. Timmy Hill , No. 33 Chevrolet, Circle Sport Spilled gasoline in Hill's pit box brought a small fire that was quickly extinguished on pit road. If only the No. 33 brought the same heat to the track. Hill finished 36th in his fourth start at Charlotte. This is the third time out of those four starts that Hill has finished 36th. 37. Brian Vickers , No. 55 Toyota, Michael Waltrip Racing Vickers was running in the top 15 when he spun in Turn 2, bringing out a caution on Lap 237. Vickers was then running 20th when his engine blew on Lap 328, bringing out another caution. Vickers finished 37th after starting the race eighth. This is Vickers' second time finishing 37th in 17 starts at Charlotte. 38. J.J. Yeley, No. 83 Toyota, BK Racing Yeley's best performance at Charlotte came in 2007 when he finished second. Since then, the No. 83 driver has hardly seen finishes inside the top 30. Although this isn't Yeley's worst finish at Charlotte, he's seen better days. 39. Blake Koch , No. 32 Ford, FAS Lane Racing Koch's 39th-place finish in the Bank of America 500 was the worst position the driver has earned in his total of three starts at the track. The only other tracks Koch has raced s Cup car are Phoenix and Dover. Some experience on different styles of tracks could help out the 29-year-old. 40. Brett Moffitt , No. 66 Toyota, Jay Robinson Racing In his first start at Charlotte Motor Speedway , the 22-year-old Sprint Cup part-timer was just getting his feet wet. Moffitt has made four other Cup starts this season, scoring his best finish of 22nd in his series debut at Dover. 41. Josh Wise , No. 98 Chevrolet, Phil Parsons Racing Wise had to head to the garage for vibrations on Lap 81, but returned on Lap 116. Not making any big moves, the No. 98 came down the apron, car smoking at Lap 221 bringing out a caution. Wise ultimately finished 41st and 156 laps behind. 42. Paul Menard , No. 27 Chevrolet, Richard Childress Racing On Lap 136, Menard brought out a caution as the No. 27 blew an engine and was forced to the garage. This was Menard's second career DNF at Charlotte, his first coming in 2008. Menard started sixth in the race and had showed potential of a top-10 finish. 43. Clint Bowyer , No 15 Toyota, Michael Waltrip Racing Bowyer faced engine issues on Lap 96, which brought out a caution, and ultimately had to take the No. 15 Toyota to the garage. This is Bowyer's first DNF at Charlotte and his fourth of 2014, his first coming in the season-opening Daytona 500 . MORE: READ: Latest Chase news PLAY: Monitor your Chase Grid Game picks WATCH: Latest NASCAR video FOLLOW LIVE: Get RaceVie FULL CHASE COVERAGE • Chase hub page • Chase Grid games • #MyChaseNation
One year after wild ending, veteran in completely different position MORE: Full coverage of "One Night in Richmond" series RELATED: #MyChaseNation " Current Chase Grid Jeff Gordon says he doesn't believe in karma by its strictest definition. But as the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series returns to Richmond International Raceway this week for the regular-season finale, he has some definite ideas about the success he's had since NASCAR Chairman Brian France granted him a 13th entry position into last year's Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup field following a controversial Richmond finish that NASCAR ruled unfairly bumped Gordon from the initial 12-driver postseason field. It's a vastly different scenario this weekend for Gordon. Instead of showing up at Richmond still needing to race his way into the Chase field, he's already clinched a Chase berth this year thanks to a three-win performance. The biggest stress Gordon has on the weekend is trying to become the series' first four-time winner and earn more bonus points to start his championship bid. "I think life has a way of balancing itself out, I do believe in that,'' said Gordon, who leads the Sprint Cup driver standings entering Saturday night's Federated Auto Parts 400. "I believe you get back in life what you put into it, that when you treat people right, they treat you right. When you do good things, good things are going to happen. When you do bad things, then bad things are going to happen. "I think you could take the last couple years and look at those instances, whether it be the one with me and (Clint) Bowyer (at Phoenix), that was a bad judgment call on my part and in many ways I paid the price for that. "And then you could look at how we've handled that situation ever since and I think yeah, you could say that I believe handling those situations the right way and learning from them you get the rewards of that as well." However, Gordon continued, "Most of what's happening for us this year is we're committed, we're working hard and working in the right direction and we've got a good team." "Good" might be an understatement. Gordon took the championship lead April 7 following the Texas Motor Speedway race and has held the point for 17 of the 19 weeks since, only twice dropping to a second-place ranking. He started out the year scoring seven top-10s in the first 10 races. He won the 11th race at Kansas, which started a roll of six more top-10s in the following seven races in the No. 24 AARP Drive to End Hunger Chevrolet. This summer, the 43-year old four-time NASCAR champ collected a historic fifth win in the Brickyard 400 at Indianapolis, won the pole at the Watkins Glen road course and then the next week won at Michigan from the pole position. While Gordon made the most of the 10-race Chase in 2013, scoring his only win of the season at Martinsville among five top-10s, he thinks while that effort was probably buoyed by high emotion of his surreal Chase circumstances, this year's results are the product of something else. Preparation and horsepower trump good karma as far as Gordon is concerned. "It's simply about this year,'' Gordon said. "Ever since the Gen-6 car came along, I feel like we've been more competitive. And the new ride height rules and spoiler rules, I feel like (crew chief) Alan (Gustafson) and everybody at Hendrick Motorsports went to work to figure that out as soon as possible to see how we're going to set the cars up and benefit from those changes. "I think they did their homework really well and it's paying off for us this year." So much so that Gordon concedes it feels a bit like his 2001 championship season -- the most recent of his four titles. "Back in the late 1990s we were winning a lot of races,'' Gordon explained. "Back in '98 it was like it was set on autopilot. We were winning races we should have won, winning races we shouldn't have won. That year there is no comparing. "That's the only year I've ever had when I'd pull into Victory Lane on that ninth or 10th win and I was like, 'I almost feel bad we won another one, this is crazy.' " "But I got over it real quick,'' he added, laughing. "I'd say in 2001, the competition was tougher, the team was really clicking, cars were good and that reminds me more what we have now. "And in some ways we're even better." Gordon is especially enthused about the depth of the team's potential. While some of his competitors have put together trophy-winning days, they have also had a lot more weekends to forget. Gordon's No. 24 team has proven it can win races and capitalize on securing good points days in between trips to Victory Lane. With a new Chase format that includes three elimination rounds in the 10-race championship stretch, Gordon is confident his team's all-around strength could be the difference. "I mainly just look at how good our team is performing not only in winning races but we're also very consistent,'' Gordon said. "And you know to be successful in this new format, either one of those can get you through to the next round. I think we have the ability to win which will get us through and I think we have the ability to be strong and consistent and get through with points as well. "Most of all I think of the strength of our team and how much we believe in one another and how we're working together, just how we're clicking. It's been a great season, just with the new format, and in the Chase it only matters what we do in those final 10 races.'' Then he added with a laugh, "Talk to me after that." MORE: READ: Latest NASCAR news WATCH: Latest NASCAR video PLAY: NASCAR Fantasy Live FOLLOW LIVE: Get RaceView FULL SERIES COVERAGE • Latest news • Standings • Schedule
Chase Elliott recalls his late-race pass and what it means to get his first NASCAR Nationwide Series Victory.
Brian France and Mike Helton hand down more penalties and Jeff Gordon is in The Chase as a result of the final laps at Richmond International Raceway.
Chase Elliott had taken the lead at Talladega but hits the wall with a flat right front after flat spotting them on pit road.