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Driving While Daddy: How fatherhood affects NASCAR drivers
The 2014 season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway was one of the most anticipated races in NASCAR history, the culmination of the sport's widely anticipated new Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup format. Already that year, the Chase had been the wildest in history, with drivers fighting after races at Charlotte and Texas, and Ryan Newman wrecking Kyle Larson on the last lap at Phoenix to bully his way into the four-driver finale. The final race pitted Kevin Harvick against Newman, Joey Logano and Denny Hamlin in the first-ever, best-finisher-wins- the - Sprint - Cup format. Harvick had already had the most dominant season of his career and set personal records in poles, laps led and earnings -- all of which would be diminished, if not forgotten, if he didn't win the championship. He was the favorite, but in a high-stakes, one-race, do-or-die format, nobody knew what to expect, Harvick included. Leading up to the race, he examined problems that could crop up and strived to eliminate as many of them as he could. He thought back to the season finale the year before. His son, Keelan, was 1 1/2 at the time and had cried all night long. It's hard enough to sleep in a house with a racket like that. In the 40-foot motorhome in which Harvick sleeps at the race track, it was impossible. Harvick got, at most, two hours of sleep that night. He managed to overcome his exhaustion enough to finish 10th. But he knew that a sleep-deprived 10th wouldn't be good enough to win the 2014 championship. On the eve of the season finale in 2014, Keelan was 2 1/2 and thus less likely to spend the whole night crying, but Harvick took no chances. He rented a separate motorhome for Keelan to sleep in and parked it near his own motorhome in the infield. If Keelan screamed for hours, Harvick would be oblivious. Harvick slept better that night than he had any other night that week, woke up refreshed, then won the race and the championship.
Tony Stewart Chase Watch
RELATED: Coverage of Stewart's accident, comeback " Updated Chase Grid Tony Stewart returned from a back injury in April and the three-time champion is in pursuit of one of the 16 spots in the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup in his final season. Here's a look at where the driver of the No. 14 Chevrolet stands in his pursuit after the season's 12th of 26 regular-season races. WHAT JUST HAPPENED It was a rough weekend for the three-time Dover winner who took his last trip to Victory Lane in 2013 at the "Monster Mile." First, Stewart was forced to a backup car after wrecking in practice Friday, and started 34th. He'd worked his way up to steadily running in the 20s until Lap 343, when he suddenly broke a track bar. The bar punctured the oil tank, and smoke billowed from the rear of his No. 14 Chevrolet as he made his way to the garage. He ended up finishing exactly where he began: 34th, but was 58 laps down. RELATED: Stewart's Chase chances take a hit at Dover WHAT HE NEEDS Stewart received a waiver from NASCAR for Chase eligibility. The surest way into the Chase is by winning before the end of regular season (at Richmond International Raceway on Sept. 10) and climb into the top 30 in the points standings. En route to his 2015 championship, Kyle Busch faced a similar path after missing the first 11 races with a leg injury. Currently, Stewart is 37th in the standings, 67 points behind David Ragan for 30th place. WHAT'S NEXT "Smoke" heads to Charlotte Motor Speedway for the Coca-Cola 600 on May 29 (6 p.m. ET, FOX, PRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio). Stewart has just one of his 48 career wins at the 1.5-mile track, with it coming in 2003. He has six top fives and 13 top 10s in 33 starts there. RELATED: See all of Stewart's wins " "Smoke" granted Chase waiver
No. 18 Sprint Cup team hit with P3 penalty
NASCAR levied a P3 penalty against the No. 18 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota driven by Kyle Busch for infractions in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series GoBowling 400 event on Saturday at Kansas Speedway . Adam Stevens, crew chief, was fined $20,000, suspended from all NASCAR Series Championship points events through May 18 and put on NASCAR probation through Dec. 31. The No. 18 team's front tire changer, Josh Leslie, was suspended through May 18 and put on NASCAR probation through Dec. 31. The No. 18 was penalized under sections 12:1 (actions detrimental to stock car racing), 10.11.3 (pit road equipment) and 188.8.131.52.1 (which outlines the P3-level penalty) of the NASCAR Rule Book. According to Richard Buck, NASCAR Sprint Cup Series managing director, an infraction with the No. 18's lug nuts was found in post-race inspection. NASCAR mandates that all wheels and lug nuts be secured in a safe manner and that all five lug nuts be installed. Joe Gibbs Racing will not appeal the penalty, the team announced in a press release Wednesday. Todd Berrier will replace Stevens atop the pit box at Dover. The JGR team statement read, " The 18 team utilized unaltered stock lug nuts during Saturday night 's NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Kansas Speedway and each wheel had all five lug nuts attached to the wheel at the conclusion of the race. The team does acknowledge that not all lug nuts were tightened to the wheel." Busch started sixth and finished first at Kansas for his third win of the season. Busch, the 2015 series champion, sits atop the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series standings. In additon to the No. 18 team's penalty, NASCAR issued written warnings to the Nos. 43 and 78 teams ( for failing pre-qualifying laser inspection twice) and the Nos. 7, 43, 47 and 48 teams ( for failing pre-qualifying template inspection twice).
Tony Stewart Chase watch
RELATED: Coverage of Stewart's accident, comeback " Updated Chase Grid Tony Stewart returned from a back injury in April and the three-time champion is in pursuit of one of the 16 spots in the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup in his final season. Here's a look at where the driver of the No. 14 Chevrolet stands in his pursuit after the season's 11th of 26 regular-season races. WHAT JUST HAPPENED The two-time Kansas winner proved why he's so good at the 1.5-mile track, just missing the top 10 with a 12th-place finish. "Smoke" even led for 12 laps while a cycle of green flag pit stops was taking place. WHAT HE NEEDS Stewart has received a waiver from NASCAR for Chase eligibility. The sureest way into the Chase is by winning before the end of regular season (at Richmond International Raceway on Sept. 10) and climb into the top 30 in the points standings. En route to his 2015 championship, Kyle Busch faced a similar path after missing the first 11 races with a leg injury. Currently, Stewart is 37th in the standings, 59 points behind Regan Smith for 30th place. WHAT'S NEXT "Smoke" heads to Dover International Speedway for the AAA 400 Drive for Autism race on May 15 (1 p.m. ET, FOX Sports 1, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio). The 1-mile track has been the site of three of Stewart's 48 wins, including his most recent win in 2013. In addition to the three wins at the "Monster Mile," Stewart also has 11 top fives and 17 top 10s in 33 starts there. MORE: See all of Stewart's wins " "Smoke" granted Chase waiver
The Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup explained
Got questions about the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup format? This brief video will get you up to speed.
Chase Elliott wins Sprint Fan Vote
The fans have spoken. Chase Elliott is headed to the Sprint All-Star Race as the Sprint Fan Vote winner. Danica Patrick finished in second place and also transfers into the Sprint All-Star Race to complete the 20-car field. " The biggest thing is just very fortunate to have some great fans," Elliott said after coming up just short of racing his way into the field with runner-up finishes is Segments 1 and 3. "Definitely really appreciate everybody voting and taking time out of their day to vote for us and get us in this race. Obviously wish I could've gotten us in racing our way, but fortunately have some great fans to do that for us." Patrick was appreciative of the fan support as well as she will make her third Sprint All-Star Race start. "First and foremost, thank you to the fans," Patrick said. " The only thing that would make this any better is if I could deliver a great finish for them and an exciting race and pass cars and make the car better for next week. "... It’s just even that much better to know that I have incredible fans that always come through. Don't think that I don’t see social media fans. And I see all the times that people said they voted for me. So, thank you very much." The Sprint All-Star Race, scheduled for 9 p.m. ET Saturday night, awards $1 million to the winner. The annual rite of spring boasts an impressive history and plenty of elite drivers. The 2016 version is televised on FS1 with radio coverage on MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio. Fifteen drivers had qualified for the event heading into Saturday morning's Sprint Showdown by virtue of either winning a points-paying race in 2015 or thus far in 2016, having won a previous Sprint All-Star Race or being a former series champion. Three drivers qualified from the Sprint Showdown's three segments: Trevor Bayne , Greg Biffle and Kyle Larson . The top five vote-getters heading into the final week of voting were, in alphabetical order: Ryan Blaney , Matt DiBenedetto , Chase Elliott , Kyle Larson and Danica Patrick.
Progress is evident for Truex Jr., Furniture Row
Martin Truex Jr . led a race-high 172 laps on Saturday night at Kansas Speedway , which serves as the "home" track for Denver-based Furniture Row Racing . A mechanical issue kept him out of Victory Lane, but his single-car team was the class of the field -- just ask race-winner Kyle Busch . " The 78 was probably the fastest car," Busch said of his Toyota teammate. It's something to get used to. Furniture Row Racing , owned by Barney Visser and stationed near the Rocky Mountains as opposed to "Race City USA," has developed into one of the premier teams in NASCAR while operating under the radar to the west of the Mississippi River. RELATED: Learn more about Furniture Row Coming off a year in which the single-car organization qualified for the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup for the second time in three years, and then promptly followed that with a berth in the Championship 4 Round at Homestead-Miami Speedway , the organization may be even better in 2016. This season's results prove last year's playoff push was no fluke. A manufacturer change from Chevrolet to Toyota brought alignment with Joe Gibbs Racing , and Truex is consistently one of the fastest cars every week. He and Furniture Row appear in excellent shape to qualify for the postseason for the second consecutive year, and perhaps another deep run is possible. Here's how driver and team got to this point. The past Visser began his career in the manufacturing business more than 40 years ago, starting the Furniture Row company in 1972 after growing up dreaming not of racing, but of business. That drive turned into a successful career in the west as the owner of several retailers -- but when Visser decided to cut back, he caught the NASCAR bug. Racing as a hobby at Colorado National Speedway led to his desire to start a NASCAR XFINITY Series team, which has evolved into the successful single-car Sprint Cup team. ( The first year in Cup was 2005.) The organization earned its first win in 2011 when Regan Smith won the historic Southern 500 at Darlington Raceway . In 2013, Kurt Busch qualified for the postseason and would finish the season 10th in points, then the best standing in team history. That changed last year. Truex Jr. joined the company before the 2014 season after losing his ride at Michael Waltrip Racing when that organization went from three cars to two. In 2015, Truex and first-year crew chief Cole Pearn led Furniture Row to its second-ever win when he conquered the "Tricky Triangle" of Pocono. It capped a four-race stretch in which Truex led 454 laps and asserted Furniture Row as a premier series power. A technical alliance with Richard Childress Racing buoyed Furniture Row, then running Chevrolets, last year -- and Truex would advance deeper into the Chase than any of RCR's three drivers. The present Speed hasn't been a problem for Furniture Row Racing after the switch to Toyota. If anything, the team has been faster this year. "If we were going to run and be happy running in the middle of the field week in and week out, we would have been fine where we were," Furniture Row General Manager Joe Garone said before the season. "But Chevrolet has their hands full. They have plenty of teams and, as a new one coming in we were always going to be the bottom team. They can only spread themselves so thin. So, honestly, there wasn't the opportunity for us to get to the upper tier. "Toyota looked at it completely differently. They could see the benefits that we bring to the table as a single-car team partnered with one of their teams, and they jumped right on board." Truex has one top-five and four top-10 finishes through 11 races, but that doesn't fully tell the story. His 370 laps led are behind only Joe Gibbs Racing 's Kyle Busch and Carl Edwards and Stewart-Haas Racing 's Kevin Harvick . His average start (12.2) and average finish (12.7) both rank in the top 10 in NASCAR ; only six other drivers can say the same. In short, there's been plenty of speed, just not finishes -- Kansas was shaping up to be one of the most dominant showings of the season until a fluke tire issue caused the No. 78 to pit from the lead late. "I couldn't believe it," Truex said after the race. "It's frustrating, but that's how it goes. We're going to win some races (this year), for sure. We keep bringing cars like that, we're going to win some. ... It's tough, but it happens. It's part of racing." Watch: Truex Jr. stays positive after tough finish The future Truex Jr. and Furniture Row Racing have proven to be a good fit, and the addition of sponsors such as Bass Pro Shop and Auto Owners Insurance help the team move toward a reality of running two cars. In July of last year, Visser told SiriusXM NASCAR Radio: "We'd like to have (a second team) by '17. ... We think maybe '17 it's going to roll around the way we need it to. We're going to have to attract the sponsors. When we finally get the sponsors, we'll be able to do it." A technical alliance with Joe Gibbs Racing will likely prove fruitful for years, as the JGR Toyota Camrys appear to have a leg up on the field, and Truex himself sits above Denny Hamlin and Matt Kenseth in the points standings. "I don't like to look back, but I think it's safe to say that we had the opportunity to have two win stickers on our car at this point of the season," Truex said before Kansas, which could have been win No. 3. "We've gone through a major transition by switching to Toyota and having a new technical alliance with Joe Gibbs Racing . I truly feel that we've come a long way in a short period of time, and feel the rest of the season looks promising for our Furniture Row Racing team."
Harvick, Outback again team up for popular promotion
Kevin Harvick has helped fill the stomachs of hungry NASCAR fans for the past two years, and his promotion with Outback Steakhouse is back for a third. If history is any indication, plenty of free Bloomin' Onions will be dispersed this season. It's simple, really. If Harvick notches a top-10 finish of any NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race in 2016, Outback Steakhouse -- which sponsors the Stewart-Haas Racing driver -- offers its patrons a free Bloomin' Onion® on Monday. Following a top 10 by the No. 4 car, simply go to your local Outback Steakhouse and say "Bloomin' Monday" to your server. That's it -- no coupon or paperwork required. To make it even easier, visit outback.com/racing and sign up for the Bloomin' Monday e-mail notification so you'll never miss an onion opportunity. This is the fifth year of the Bloomin' Monday program, and Outback has given away more than 1.5 million free Bloomin' Onions over 80 Mondays. That's a lot of free food. Fans now have Harvick to thank. The 2014 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion logged 20 top-10 finishes the year he won his championship, then followed that up with 28 top-10s last year, tied for best in the series. Twenty-eight! In addition to the Bloomin' Mondays, Harvick's No. 4 will also sport the Outback Steakhouse paint scheme in two races this year: June 12 at Michigan and Oct. 16 at Kansas, a Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup race. Outback Steakhouse was founded in 1988 and is known for its delicious seasoned & seared and wood-fire grilled steaks, Bloomin' Onions (naturally), chicken and seafood. To make your dining experience even better, download the Outback App, which is currently in the App Store and Google Play. Features include getting on the wait list, checking out the menu and even paying your bill.
Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Facts & FAQs
Round-by-Round and Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Grid explanations
Gordon's love for Charlotte lasting, 22 years after first win
Photo credit: Charlotte Motor Speedway CONCORD, N.C. – With its close proximity to race shops, Charlotte Motor Speedway is known as the home track for most of the NASCAR community. But Tuesday's gathering at the 1.5-mile speedway had more of a tourist feel, as fans hailed from places near and far. There was the man from Bakersfield, California, – "Harvick country," he states proudly – the fan from Switzerland, the Canadian couple and everyone in between. They wore different numbers on their shirts and spoke with different accents, but they were all there to see one man. Mr. Jeff Gordon . The FOX Sports analyst and four-time NASCAR champion helped celebrate the 10 Days of NASCAR Thunder leading up to Sunday's Coca-Cola 600 (6 p.m. ET, FOX, PRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio) by taking photos with 100 Charlotte ticketholders. Despite Gordon's retirement following his championship run last season, the fandom was as feverous as ever, as each visitor itched to exchange a few words with the former No. 24 driver. "It's slightly different (now) because many of them say a lot of the same things, 'I wish you were out there,' (or) 'I miss you being out there,'" Gordon said of the fans. "But I'm getting a lot of great comments about being up in the booth, so it's nice. I'm enjoying myself, so I think it comes across in the broadcast and interacting with the fans, I get to hear that from them as well." Gordon and the fans stood on the roof of the infield's Champion's Pavilion, the spot providing the group a birds-eye view of the quad oval. The track is impressive; a feeling Gordon reciprocates, as he recalls the first time he laid eyes on it. "I think it doesn't mean the same to everybody," Gordon said, "but for me, the very first time I ever came to North Carolina … when I drove by this facility, I was blown away. I'd seen Indianapolis Motor Speedway , but beyond that, I'd never seen anything that looked like this. Just the appearance of it put me in awe." Gordon found success at Charlotte early in his career, earning a runner-up result in his first race at the North Carolina track in 1993. And on Sunday, he'll broadcast his first Coca-Cola 600 ; 22 years after he earned his first-ever win in the Cup Series in the '94 running of the 600-mile event. The win put Gordon on the racing map and made folks wonder about this young "kid" from California who was driving nose-to-nose with Dale Earnhardt. RELATED: See all the winners of the longest race in NASCAR But Gordon's love affair with Charlotte began before the Victory Lane celebration. "When I drove a stock car here for the first time, I just fell in love with it," Gordon said. "I love the way the track flows, the banking, the grip level, bumps and everything that comes along with it. And of course, winning my first race, having it happen in the 600." The longest race on the Cup circuit, the Coca-Cola 600 has long been revered as one of NASCAR's biggest races – one of the sport's "Majors," as Gordon says. "Daytona, here, Brickyard, maybe a Southern 500, some would also say Talladega." Gordon said, rattling off a list of stock car racing's biggest events. "But this is a big, big deal to win this race. To me, it's probably second or third ranking in our series as far as most prestigious events." Winning the coveted Coca-Cola 600 trophy is no easy feat – the man who has won three of those races can tell you that. With the cars being more advanced today and eliminating some of the physical aspect, Gordon emphasizes the continued need for mental toughness. "You're talking about a minimum of four hours being in the car," Gordon said. "Pit crews, crew chiefs, everyone's on edge, not just the drivers … (They're) pushing the limits every single lap, which is not the way it used to be. You used to pace yourself and be able to manage the tires and your car and you could still be competitive at the end of the day – if you were in one piece. "That's not the case anymore – it's just all out. So, that mentally drains you by pushing that hard for that period of time." RELATED: Gordon embraces new career with 'contagious' energy The task of taming a 600-mile monster is daunting, especially for younger drivers. Gordon's No. 24 replacement Chase Elliott will attempt the feat, as he prepares to make his second Coca-Cola 600 start. Elliott, now in his rookie season, started 28th and finished 18th in the 2015 Coca-Cola 600 , then driving the No. 25 for Hendrick Motorsports . As for any advice from the former boss of the No. 24? Gordon said his 20-year-old successor doesn't need it. "I haven't had to give him much advice on the race track," Gordon said. "He's a natural … He gets better every weekend. "I'm excited for that 24 team. I had to defend a lot with fans being upset about them keeping the No. 24 and I said, 'Just wait, just wait, I think you're going to be proud of the results.' And now, I'm starting to see everybody's now saying, 'What a great replacement for the 24!' " Gordon's statement was validated by fans sporting Elliott-themed shirts earlier, one young boy in particular wearing a blue No. 24 NAPA hat. This fan will likely grow up knowing Elliott -- rather than Gordon -- as the driver of the legendary No. 24 Chevrolet. It's a mark of a racing transition, a generational shift. And Gordon loves it. "Listen, I love seeing the sport grow," he said. "I'm still heavily involved in the sport, not just from the FOX side, but from Hendrick Motorsports . And I think the sport is amazing right now. The racing is as good as it's ever been. We have some great young talents. Not to mention veterans that are doing great things … I'm all for bringing new fans and seeing fans get excited about it, people like Chase or Ryan Blaney or Kyle Larson . "I support it 100 percent."