Rookie Larson, veteran McMurray aim to help Ganassi regroup
Dylan Kwasniewski and Chip Ganassi Racing sign development deal at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.
Between on-track success and off-track prosperity, Sunoco Rookie of the Year in a great place RELATED: Play NASCAR Fantasy Live " Sign up for RaceView today In putting together one of the most dramatic and impressive Sprint Cup Series Sunoco Rookie of the Year seasons in recent memory, 22-year old Kyle Larson recognizes there are plenty of options for defining moments and highlight reels. For some, it will be his last lap tangle with Ryan Newman in the next to last race of the season, which set the championship contender field. Needing one more position on track, Newman pulled his Chevy alongside Larson's and sent the rookie into the wall derailing an 18th top-10 run, while the veteran Newman crossed the finish line in precisely the place he needed to advance to the Chase Championship Round. "I didn't know 100 percent if he needed that spot that I was in,'' Larson said between practices at Homestead-Miami Speedway last weekend. "I got loose off (Turn) 2 and they said he had a run and I thought well, he might try something crazy, so I left him a lane and I don't know if I should have done that and he was able to get to me and hit me. "Anybody would have been upset, but I got over it pretty quick because I knew what was at stake. That was a very important spot for him to get." What Larson himself considers his defining moment may surprise. It's not the blazing runner-up finish at Auto Club Speedway in his native California in March -- only five races into the schedule. And it's not even his runner-up showings in New Hampshire and Kansas during the Chase. "The best feeling I had this year was probably when I finished fourth at Watkins Glen, (New York)," Larson said, taking a moment to mentally rewind and really think through the question. "I didn't grow up racing on road courses and I struggled really bad the whole practice and qualifying that weekend. So then to end up fourth, which was way, way better than I thought I was going to be -- I was super pumped up about that." The fact that Larson had so many good performances in the No. 42 Target Chevrolet to choose from is not lost on the young talent. Neither is the fact that few picked him to win the 2014 Sunoco Rookie of the Year title before the season started. The Elk Grove, California native didn't come from a racing pedigree, nor had he won a NASCAR development series title. Larson earned his seat showing natural talent and the can't-miss potential that have made him one of NASCAR's biggest young stars in only one full season in the Cup ranks. Like his racing heroes Gordon and Tony Stewart , he came up through the open-wheel ranks of sprint cars and midgets. Team owner Chip Ganassi signed the NASCAR Drive for Diversity grad and Larson realized this was his big opportunity to make it in stock cars. He delivered with two pole positions, three runner-up finishes among his eight top-five showings and his 17 top-10s was more than eight of the 16 Chase drivers. "Really to start the year everyone thought I was going to fail,'' Larson said. "At least three-quarters of the people sitting in the media center probably did. Then I think they realized after the first handful of races that our team was capable of running well and the bar got raised and raised more throughout the year. "My expectations going into the start of the season were top-15 every week would be great and that quickly turned into wanting top-10s every week and lately top-fives and wins are the goal." And he's not the only one who expects great things of the No. 42 team. And expects them soon. The opinion shifting began early and earnestly. The bar has only risen. "I feel we could win every week,'' Larson said with a big grin. "I think (teammate) Jamie (McMurray) feels the same way, all our guys feel that way and Chip definitely feels that way, so his expectations are a lot higher. "That's good though. It's nice coming to the race track every week and knowing your car is going to be fast. In years past, this team maybe hasn't felt like that every week, but now they're in a good spot and I'm definitely glad I got in here when I did." Larson continued, "The best thing to happen to me is being with a really good team that's excited to have a new driver. "I think we're capable enough with more experience and good tracks at the beginning of the year that I'd like to get a win early in the season and know you're going to be in the Chase. … and then you don't have to stress out every other race." Before he suits back up, however, Larson's amazing year will get even better. He and longtime girlfriend Katelyn Sweet are expecting their first child in late December, a son they will name Owen Miyata -- the middle name a nod to Larson's Japanese roots. Miyata is Larson's mom Janet's maiden name and giving it to Owen ensures it will carry on in the family. "As much as I've had a blast racing , I can't wait for the offseason for all the exciting things coming, the baby, the new house -- we just finally stayed in it one night this week,'' Larson said, clearly enjoying the anticipation. Moving in is exciting. Just ask @Katelyn_Sweet pic.twitter.com/DUnX6SaeON — Kyle Larson (@KyleLarsonRacin) November 19, 2014 "There's been a ton that's happened and it's all been great stuff. I've had great years results-wise, but the baby, the house, first year in Cup probably never been a year as exciting as this.'' 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
Former race engineer for No. 31 team starts immediately RELATED: See other changes for 2015 Jamie McMurray will have a new crew chief for the 2015 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season. Matt McCall will take the reins of the No. 1 Chevrolet team from Keith Rodden for Chip Ganassi Racing effective immediately. McCall joins the team from Richard Childress Racing , where he served as the race engineer for the No. 31 team of Ryan Newman , which finished as the runner-up in the Sprint Cup championship. McCall has experience competing in the NASCAR Nationwide Series and NASCAR Camping World Truck Series as a driver. He also served as a crew chief for one race in 2013 for Jeff Burton at Indianapolis. The Denver, North Carolina, native graduated from the University of North Carolina at Charlotte with a major in mechanical engineering. "I am very excited to join the Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates team," McCall said in a team release. "This organization is one that everyone in the garage has taken notice of in 2014 and I am just looking forward to the opportunity to make them even better. We have a group of very talented people building and driving the race cars here and I can't wait to get started." There was no immediate word on Rodden's future with Chip Ganassi Racing . In 2014, McMurray finished with the most top-fives (seven) since 2010 and the most top-10s (13) since 2004. In addition to winning the 2014 Sprint All-Star Race, McMurray and Rodden really seemed to find their stride in the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup. While McMurray did not qualify for the 10-race playoff, he racked up four top-five finishes in that 10-race stretch. "I am really looking forward to 2015 and beginning to work with Matt," McMurray said in a team release. "As a team, I think we will carry a lot of momentum into Daytona and the hiring of Matt will continue to move the program forward." McMurray, who has competed in the sport's premier series full time for 12 years, has seven wins -- including the 2010 Daytona 500 . 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
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. -- The Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates organization's Christmas card sent out last month was a keeper. Lining up for a group photo were drivers Scott Pruett, Memo Rojas, Scott Dixon, Dario Franchitti, Juan Montoya, Jamie McMurray -- and team owner Chip Ganassi . Grand-Am Road Racing got one of those cards. On Tuesday, Grand-Am - and its fans -- got a belated Christmas gift from Ganassi's group, in the form of a star-studded lineup for the upcoming Rolex 24 at Daytona (Jan. 29-30), one encompassing two cars, eight drivers, three racing disciplines and a return appearance by McMurray, the reigning Daytona 500 champion. Pruett and Rojas, the reigning Rolex Series Daytona Prototype co-champions, will be joined in the No. 01 Target/Telmex BMW/Riley prototype by Grand-Am veteran Joey Hand and Graham Rahal, the latter recently announced as a new Ganassi driver in the IndyCar Series. In the No. 02 Telmex/Target BMW/Riley, last year's Daytona team returns intact: McMurray, two-time Rolex 24 champion Montoya and two IndyCar vets -- two-time series titlist Dixon and the series' reigning champ, Franchitti. Collectively, those two teams have won 12 series championships, eight Rolex 24s, one Daytona 500 and four Indianapolis 500s. Happy Holidays indeed, belated or not. Ganassi clearly is pulling out all the stops to get a fast start on the 2011 season -- and a fast follow-up to a memorable 2010. Last season arguably was the greatest by any race car owner in any series: Pruett and Rojas dominated the Grand-Am Rolex Series season en route to winning the DP championship for a second time; McMurray won the marquee event in the Sprint Cup Series, plus the Brickyard 400; and Franchitti won the Indy 500 for a second time and the IndyCar series title for a third time. "The Rolex 24 at Daytona is always exciting for our team, especially because it involves so many of our drivers from all different series," Ganassi said. "There are so many elements out of the drivers' hands that need to come together, in order to have a shot at winning this event. That's what I love about it. You have to not only be good, but you also have to have a little bit of luck on your side to succeed in a race that lasts 24 hours." Ganassi's No. 02 DP team dominated the race's first eight hours last year before mechanical problems forced an early retirement of the car. Pruett and Rojas went on to finish second, teamed with two other drivers. McMurray was involved in a recent test session at Daytona International Speedway; both NASCAR stock cars and Grand-Am sports cars turned laps on the new DIS pavement for the first time. "They did a really nice job with the paving project, so I expect the racing to be really good for the 24-hour race," McMurray said. "I'm certain that we'll bring good cars for the race, as Chip and his Grand-Am guys do each and every year. It's great to have the opportunity to once again drive for Chip in one of the most prestigious motorsports events out there." Testing for the Rolex 24 at Daytona -- the Roar Before the Rolex 24 -- is Friday-Sunday at Daytona. The 49th running of the endurance classic is set for 3:30 p.m. ET on Jan. 29.
Harvick dominates in Phoenix, others overcome obstacles RELATED: Follow your picks in the Chase Battle Grid Presented by Toyota AVONDALE, Ariz. -- For three of the four, there was nothing easy about advancing to the NASCAR Sprint Cup Championship. For the fourth, it was a real Sunday drive. Kevin Harvick dominated Sunday's Quicken Loans Race for Heroes 500 at Phoenix International Raceway , earning one of four berths in next week's championship-determining race. The Stewart-Haas Racing driver led three times for 264 laps, earning a perfect driver rating of 150.0 in scoring his fourth win of the season. He is the only driver advancing into the final based on winning one of the three races in the Eliminator Round. For three others -- Ryan Newman , Joey Logano and Denny Hamlin -- it was a stress-filled day that saw each battle back from adversity, their chances at advancing to Homestead-Miami Speedway as a Chase finalist changing on nearly every lap. With Harvick dominating, points positions determined their fate. Only a last-lap pass of Kyle Larson in the fourth turn gave Newman ( Richard Childress Racing ) the spot necessary to edge Jeff Gordon for the final spot in next week's championship. Denny Hamlin ( Joe Gibbs Racing ) had to battle back from a flat tire caused when a lug nut knocked the valve stem out of a tire early in this year's 35th Sprint Cup Series race. Joey Logano also was forced to make his way back through the field after going a lap down, his misfortune striking when a gas can became stuck during a pit stop. "I'm whipped," Newman said as he sat down on the pit-road wall after finishing 11th. "I haven't been that tired after 312 laps around here in a long time. … I didn't want to do what I did at the end, but I did what I had to do. I kept it as clean, to me, as I possibly could." Newman, needing one position to advance, was trailing Larson and Marcos Ambrose with two laps remaining. In the final turn on the final lap, he dove inside Larson’s Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet, and contact sent Larson out of the racing groove, up the track and into the wall. "He did the same thing to me in a truck race for about $9,000 to win," Newman said. "To me, there's a Sprint Cup championship on the line. I kept it as clean as I could." Chris Heroy, Larson's crew chief, expressed no ill will toward Newman afterward. "He's got to do what he's got to do," Heroy said. "It's just racing . … We're here to try to win races. We'd gotten on a different strategy to try to win and it didn't work out. It's just part of racing ." "That's just what you do," said Newman's team owner, Richard Childress. "I didn't know (how it would play out)." Hamlin, the pole winner, was the first to feel the sting of trouble. After leading the first 24 laps, he fell from third to 37th when a flat tire while pitting under caution sent him back to pit road. By Lap 75 he was a lap down before a subsequent caution for debris allowed him to get back on the lead lap. Unable to advance through the field, he fell a lap off the pace again just shy of the halfway point of the race, and then gained it back during a caution at Lap 207. "We definitely didn't have that strong of a car today but we had a strong car on restarts, and that kind of allowed us to be aggressive and pick up a handful of spots; then a caution would come out, we'd pit, get a little bit better tires, then the guys that stayed out would make up a few more spots," Hamlin said of his fifth-place finish. "And next thing you know we ended up finishing in the top five somehow, some way." "I need a new stomach lining after all that," said crew chief Darian Grubb, who won the 2011 title as crew chief for Tony Stewart . "It's tough -- being in, being out, having just a fluke flat tire when a lug nut got caught in the wheel. I've got the valve stem in my pocket. … Just stuff like that we fought all day long to get back." Logano, sixth on the day, was penalized during a round of pit stops at Lap 124 when he pulled out of his pit stall with the fuel can still attached to the No. 22 Ford. He also found it difficult to navigate his way back to the front after restarting the race in 27th. But, similar to Hamlin, the miscue occurred early enough to provide a window of opportunity. "I don't really know what got us behind but the same deal as last week, you get back there and you're in the danger zone," he said. "The 18 (of Kyle Busch ) spun out, (we) went down a lap, got our lap back. We're in (the championship) though, one to go for all the money." In the meantime, Harvick wheeled his way to his second consecutive win at Phoenix and career win No. 27 in the series. While it might have been dominant, it was also necessary. Eighth in points entering Sunday's race, Harvick would have not been one of the four drivers advancing to next week's championship without the victory. "I guess that is what it feel like to hit a walk-off (home run) in extra innings there," he said. "This (car) here has just been bad to the bone. I could tell we were probably going to have to win because everybody was running up front of the pack that we were racing against. … "I think we have been through a lot this year. They put our backs against the wall; we put it in Victory Lane and get to go on." 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
Team history, full team rosters for Jamie McMurray, Kyle Larson
CGR owner receiving award for contributions to motorsports
Learn more about the impact across four NASCAR racing series
See where each driver finished the Eliminator Round opener and why RELATED: Follow your picks in the Chase Battle Grid Presented by Toyota Editor's note: Drivers in italics are in the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup 1. Dale Earnhardt Jr ., No. 88 Chevrolet, Hendrick Motorsports Well, as always, timing is everything. Dale Earnhardt Jr . won at Martinsville for the first time in his career, a win that would've propelled him to the Championship Round at Homestead had he not been eliminated last week at Talladega. Still, he was plenty excited. "I definitely polished off the jerky too early," he said over the radio. "Cold beer, a whole (expletive) keg would be awesome. I could do a keg stand right now." Get more driver audio with RaceView 2. Jeff Gordon , No. 24 Chevrolet, Hendrick Motorsports Jeff Gordon incurred a speeding penalty ("I knew it. Big mistake on my part. My bad guys.") when he was caught going too fast on pit road on Lap 192. Considering he had to overcome this severe disadvantage and beefs with Carl Edwards (who checked up in front of him, damaging the nose of the No. 24) and Ryan Newman ("What's up with that 31 getting into me?"), it's incredible that he finished runner-up to his teammate. Get more driver audio with RaceView 3. Ryan Newman , No. 31 Chevrolet, Richard Childress Racing Speaking of incredible, Ryan Newman also had to overcome a speeding penalty at the same time as Gordon, rebounding for a third-place finish. Newman's consistent charge through this Chase has been remarkable. He keeps inching closer to that elusive first win of 2014 and it just feels like at some point he'll break through. 4. Tony Stewart , No. 14 Chevrolet, Stewart-Haas Racing Martinsville proved successful for "Smoke" once again, as the driver was in contention for the win late for the first time since his return from a three-race absence. More importantly, he built momentum to carry into the end of the season and beyond, leading multiple laps in consecutive races for the first time this season. 5. Joey Logano , No. 22 Ford, Team Penske It wasn't the round-opening race that Joey Logano enjoyed for the start of the Contender Round -- i.e. his win at Kansas -- but his fifth-place finish was enough to keep his head above water and in good standing for advancement to the Championship Round. As we've been seeing more and more lately, the No. 22 was out front for 60 laps and it wouldn't be a shock to see him win next week at 1.5-mile Texas, the type of track Team Penske has dominated this year. 6. Matt Kenseth , No. 20 Toyota, Joe Gibbs Racing While his mix-up with fellow Chase driver Kevin Harvick left his competitor's No. 4 Chevrolet with heavy damage, Matt Kenseth was able to recover from the incident well enough to nearly muster a top-five finish. The Joe Gibbs Racing driver even absorbed an intentional hit from the SHR driver: "(Harvick) tried to knock our radiator off. Check the nose for any damage." Get more driver audio with RaceView 7. Clint Bowyer , No. 15 Toyota, Michael Waltrip Racing Ladies and gentlemen, we have a Clint Bowyer sighting. Having led just one -- one! -- lap since he led all of three at Indianapolis in July, Bowyer looked like his old self on Sunday, leading 33 laps on his way to a seventh-place finish. Get more driver data with RaceView. 8. Denny Hamlin , No. 11 Toyota, Joe Gibbs Racing At times, it looked like Denny Hamlin and the No. 11 car were the combo to beat -- he led 68 laps -- and that the Joe Gibbs Racing driver was back to honing his Martinsville prowess. An eighth-place finish is still good, especially considering an early pit stop flub where the car was too close to pit wall and the temporary jack man couldn't get the handle down all the way nearly derailed him, but Hamlin still sits on the wrong side of the Chase bubble. 9. AJ Allmendinger , No. 47 Chevrolet, JTG Daugherty Racing A solid top-10 finish for AJ Allmendinger and crew, which should go a long way toward solidifying another of the JTG Daugherty Racing driver's strong suits as they turn their focus toward 2015. He may be out of the Chase, but this team won't forget that they made it via the Watkins Glen win. If Dinger has road courses and short tracks nailed down, look out. 10. David Ragan , No. 34 Ford, Front Row Motorsports If you were told that in two races at Talladega and Martinsville, David Ragan would've finished 30th and 10th, there's no way you'd think the top-10 came at the short track. Alas, that's the case, as the Front Row Motorsports driver recovered from a spin on Lap 207 for his best finish of the season. 11. Kyle Busch , No. 18 Toyota, Joe Gibbs Racing Early in the race, Kyle Busch struggled with some steering issues into the turns, telling his team, 'Won’t turn. Won’t leave," later asking crew chief Dave Rogers to free up the car. Whatever changes the No. 18 team made must've worked, as Busch worked his way through the field for a near top-10 finish. Get more driver audio with RaceView 12. Austin Dillon , No. 3 Chevrolet, Richard Childress Racing Austin Dillon was caught speeding on pit road on Lap 391, a penalty that normally would've derailed the rookie and saddled him with a poor finish. The RCR driver rallied, however, to improve upon his spring Martinsville finish of 15th. 13. Greg Biffle , No. 16 Ford, Roush Fenway Racing Not much is expected of Greg Biffle when the veteran driver hits the Virginia short track -- after all, he's never finished in the top five and has just five top-10s in 24 starts. That said, he's been much better at Martinsville lately, averaging a finish of 12.0 since the start of 2012, so his 13th-place finish is right in line with his recent results. 14. Paul Menard , No. 27 Chevrolet, Richard Childress Racing Paul Menard has finished inside the top 10 at Martinsville once in his career, placing exactly 10th this spring. In that race, he moved up 11 positions from where he started. In Sunday's contest, he started 14th and finished there, too. 15. Ricky Stenhouse Jr ., No. 17 Roush Fenway Racing Ford Ricky Stenhouse Jr. was involved in a late-race mix-up, but recovered enough for a 15th-place finish. Considering he missed last week's race at Talladega completely, a mid-teens finish has to be considered a success for the second-year driver. 16. Jamie McMurray , No. 1 Chevrolet, Chip Ganassi Racing For a good portion of the race, it sure looked like Jamie McMurray was going to play the part of Chase spoiler -- a role that instead was filled by Dale Jr. -- as he led 84 laps from the pole. In this year's postseason, McMurray has shown serious speed and a competitive nature that wasn't seen much in the regular season, so he could be a guy to watch as a 2015 Chase sleeper. 17. Justin Allgaier , No. 51 HScott Motorsports Chevrolet Much like Ricky Stenhouse Jr ., Justin Allgaier missed the Talladega race because of a qualifying gaffe, so his 17th-place finish is a solid return to the track for the No. 51 driver. Plus, he improved upon his starting and finishing position from the spring race. 18. Cole Whitt , No. 26 Toyota, BK Racing Partly due to the overwhelming success of Kyle Larson and the hype around Austin Dillon , Cole Whitt hasn't gotten the attention he deserves in 2014. The rookie has shown marked improvement over the course of the season and finished inside the top 20 for consecutive races for the first time this season via his 18th-place Martinsville result. 19. Landon Cassill , No. 40 Chevrolet, Hillman Racing While it's unlikely another one of his fans will get a tattoo to commemorate his 19th-place Martinsville finish like one did after his top-five at Talladega, Landon Cassill matched his career-best "Paperclip" finish in nine races. 20. Carl Edwards , No. 99 Ford, Roush Fenway Racing Given how many of the remaining Chase drivers finished inside the top 10, Carl Edwards ' 20th-place finish could've been a lot worse had Brad Keselowski and Kevin Harvick not imploded and scored 31st and 33rd-place finishes, respectively. The Roush Fenway Racing driver battled grip and water temperature issues all day and ended up being involved in Keselowski's wreck on Lap 436, but remains in the Chase hunt because of his slight recovery. 21. Aric Almirola , No. 43 Ford, Richard Petty Motorsports Proof that the new Chase format is doing its job: Aric Almirola , who made the Chase via his July Daytona win and was knocked out almost immediately when he blew an engine in the opener at Chicago, has averaged a finish of 26.9 in the seven postseason races thus far. This team made plenty of improvements this year, but it's clear they aren't ready for the big stage yet. 22. David Gilliland , No. 38 Ford, Front Row Motorsports With no top-10s under his belt in 2014 and only eight to his name in his career, it'd be irresponsible to expect one to come at Martinsville for the veteran driver, given that his career average finish is 29.6. Still, a 22nd-place result is better than he's been, and he improved on his spring finish by four spots. 23. Marcos Ambrose , No. 9 Ford, Richard Petty Motorsports Marcos Ambrose had a quiet race until he and Kyle Larson got into each other with 11 laps to go, sending both drivers sideways into the wall. It's possible that Larson was protecting his teammate, Jamie McMurray , as the No. 9 and No. 1 were beating and banging mere seconds before this happened, but it isn't the kind of race a driver bowing out of the sport in three weeks was looking to have. 24. Michael Annett , No. 7 Chevrolet, Tommy Baldwin Racing There was a five-race stretch in the middle of the season in which Michael Annett seemed to be closer to "getting it", when he averaged a finish of 22.0. It was respectable for a rookie, but he hasn't shown much since then. Perhaps his 24th-place showing at Martinsville will kick off a strong finish to his 2014 campaign. 25. Josh Wise , No. 98 Chevrolet, Phil Parsons Racing Josh Wise has run more laps at Martinsville -- 2,103 -- than any other track on the circuit, and it shows. The 2014 All-Star has steadily improved his finishing position at the short track since his 2012 debut there, culminating in Sunday's top-25. 26. Mike Wallace , No. 49 Toyota, Jay Robinson Racing Mike Wallace ran back-to-back races for just the second time this season and it resulted in his best race of the year. After starting dead last, Wallace marched through the field for his best cup finish since 2007. 27. Brian Vickers , No. 55 Toyota, Michael Waltrip Racing Brian Vickers had an entertaining race. He traded shots back and forth with Kasey Kahne , at times blaming his car ("The car just went straight when I got down to (Turn) 1. Be sure and check that splitter. Something has to be wrong.) but then later wanting to take part in the melee, saying "Alright, we owe him another. We can do this all day long." Get more driver audio with RaceView 28. Kyle Fowler , No. 32 GO FAS Racing Ford For a driver making his Sprint Cup Series debut, Martinsville is no easy task. It showed on Lap 75, when the 22-year-old spun and drew a caution. Still, he battled hard all day to recover for a respectable 28th-place showing. 29. Alex Bowman , No. 23 Toyota, BK Racing Alex Bowman had a really difficult race from the get-go. He spun on Lap 5, making contact with Aric Almirola and later crunched his hood on Lap 207 when traffic in front of him stopped abruptly. To make matters worse, he couldn't even unwind the way he wanted to, tweeting, "So to top today off they're holding the driver owner lot for an hour. Which means missing the walking dead tonight." 30. Kyle Larson , No. 42 Chevrolet, Chip Ganassi Racing It's clear that Kyle Larson will need to make one of his priorities over the offseason focusing on short track racing , because Martinsville always seems to eat up the otherwise super-talented rookie. He was involved in a bad wreck with 11 to go after he tangled with Marcos Ambrose and has yet to finish better than 27th in three races. 31. Brad Keselowski , No. 2 Ford, Team Penske Brad Keselowksi must like racing as the Chase underdog, because he didn't do himself any favors at Martinsville. His No. 2 started running hot on Lap 95, then he was caught speeding on Lap 163, and finally lost an axel on Lap 436, causing the biggest wreck of the day. At one point, team owner Roger Penske chimed in, "Lot of time. You'll be fine." He wasn't. 32. Jimmie Johnson , No. 48 Chevrolet, Hendrick Motorsports It's a good thing for the No. 48 team that they were eliminated last week at Talladega, because otherwise they'd be in a serious hole right now. Johnson's race was bad the whole way through, saying in the early going, "Weird vibration in the front. Feels like maybe some rubber on the tire that won't come off. … Might be a loose left-front. Getting worse." He later ran into Casey Mears , prompting a testy crew chief Chad Knaus to say "Try not to run into anything else.” The HMS ride was later leaking oil and limped to the garage for a poor finish. Get more driver audio with RaceView 33. Kevin Harvick , No. 4 Chevrolet, Stewart-Haas Racing Luckily for Kevin Harvick , he's magnificent at Phoenix and should contend for the win there. For now, Martinsville presented a nightmare race for the SHR driver, getting into a mess with Matt Kenseth that sent him to the garage with damage and a faulty oil cooler and radiator. He came back out around Lap 268, but it was too late. 34. Danica Patrick , No. 10 Chevrolet, Stewart-Haas Racing At times, Danica Patrick looked to be putting together a second-consecutive competitive race, but later traded shots with a feisty Martin Truex Jr . that resulted in her No. 10 Chevy wrecked beyond repair. Her thoughts? "That 78 (expletive) took me out. If he thinks there's a problem, he better look at what he did first." Get more driver audio with RaceView 35. Reed Sorenson , No. 36 Chevrolet, Tommy Baldwin Racing Reed Sorenson was another guy who was happy to see the checkered flag, since it signaled that his horrible day was over. The TBR driver spun in Turn 2 on Lap 188 with a blown tire and later spun again and smashed the wall on Lap 386. 36. Kurt Busch , No. 41 Chevrolet, Stewart-Haas Racing In his final race with crew chief Daniel Knost, Kurt Busch certainly had a fast car, but his engine caught on fire late in the race while in seventh place. It ended a day in which they already had to overcome a tire issue, "The right rear is already kicking out on us." 37. Casey Mears , No. 13 Chevrolet, Germain Racing Casey Mears was the unlucky meat of a Brad Keselowski and Kasey Kahne sandwich, getting squashed between the two on the Lap 436 wreck. After he was released from the infield care center, he lamented the fact that he couldn't be back on the track, because he was having a good time. 38. Martin Truex Jr ., No. 78 Chevrolet, Furniture Row Racing It's tough to say exactly why Martin Truex Jr . and Danica Patrick were so mad at each other; if it all stemmed from this race (which it might've) or if there's history there. Either way, the pair traded shots until the No. 78 was eventually wrecked for good in Keselowski's big wreck on Lap 436. 39. J.J. Yeley, No. 83 Toyota, BK Racing Yeley has only run 15 Sprint Cup Series races in 2014 and none of them has been particularly good, including Martinsville. He's yet to finish higher than 29th this season, with only three races to go. 40. Kasey Kahne , No. 5 Chevrolet, Hendrick Motorsports Of course, he was involved in the late wreck on Lap 436 like plenty others, but it was his drama with Brian Vickers that was the most entertaining part of Kahne's race. Both drivers knew what was going on, with Kahne's crew chief Kenny Francis saying "I'd say the ball is in his court now," after Kahne knocked the No. 55. 41. Travis Kvapil , No. 33 Chevrolet, Circle Sport Racing Travis Kvapil struggled on Sunday, getting into the wall on Lap 16 after contact from Josh Wise . He later said on Twitter, "Tough day for the @Circle_Sport 33. Got turned around early, then it went downhill from there. Car wasn't 2 bad. Engine broke to end our day." 42. Timmy Hill , No. 44, Team XTREME Racing Cheverolet Timmy Hill had one of the shortest races of any driver, going over the wall on Lap 37 with smoke billowing from his engine. His take: "Out early today. Had a small fire under the hood. Track staff did a good job putting the fire out. Will take the car back & diagnose at shop." 43. Clay Rogers , No. 93 BK Racing Toyota And finally, Clay Rogers made just his second career Sprint Cup Series start, finishing 43rd again after he did so at Loudon a few weeks back. 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