Larson, Johnson, Busch talk Bristol's updated racing groove
BUY TICKETS: See the races at Bristol MORE: Weekend schedule " Starting lineup " Bristol photos BRISTOL, Tenn. -- It's not that Kyle Larson isn't a fan of the sticky substance put down on the racing surface at Bristol Motor Speedway. The Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series points leader understands the reasoning behind the application of an adhesive product to the lower portion of the track. But the driver of the No. 42 Chevrolet for Chip Ganassi Racing said he believes the amount placed on the concrete could create a situation that lends itself to keeping drivers racing single-file around the steeply-banked .533-mile track for Monday's Food City 500 (1 p.m. ET, FOX, PRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio). Track officials applied the adhesive in the lower sections of the turns in an attempt to create an additional racing groove and promote passing on the often treacherous track. One of a handful of Monster Energy Cup drivers who also competed in Saturday's Fitzgerald Glider Kits 300 XFINITY Series race, Larson said he "tried to work the top in" during Friday’s XFINITY Series practice at BMS. "I feel like it would still be really fast up there, it's just nobody is brave enough to go up there and work in the groove," said Larson, who won the pole for Saturday's XFINITY Series race. "The VHT (substance) is wider than the width of our race cars now too, which makes it extremely easy to run around the bottom and not a lot of fun. "I don't know, maybe some guys like it, but I think, yeah it looks like old Bristol because we are all running around the bottom, but I just don't see how that is fun." For years, Bristol was known as a one-groove track where drivers were forced to bump their way past competitors as they tried to advance through the field. That often led to ill tempers and altercations but tremendous fan turnout as well. The facility boasted a string of 55-consecutive sellouts between 1982 and 2010 during a time that seating capacity grew from approximately 30,000 to nearly 160,000. Officials added progressive banking in 2007 in an effort to move away from the single-file racing for which the facility, which opened in 1961, had become known. But the change created a reverse situation -- the upper groove became the preferred line around the track, and after several races that featured few lead changes and contact, officials went back to the drawing boards In 2012, the track was altered once again when officials milled the upper groove in an effort to create more side-by-side competition. The results have been mixed, and the application of the adhesive is the latest move. Officials first applied the product prior to last year's night race at BMS. "I think it was like three or four feet wide," Larson, one of six race winners through this season's first seven races, said of the initial application. "I thought that was a good width because you could get your left sides in it and you really had to be cautious of hitting your marks every corner. "Now it's like you just fire off from the corner and it doesn't really matter where you enter as long as your right sides are in the grip you are going to rip around the corner. (It) just makes it too easy for us and I don't think that is good for racing ." Kyle Busch, a winner of five Monster Energy NASCAR races and 17 overall at BMS, said the early indication Friday was that "there's a lot of bottom going on and not a whole lot of middle or top." "I'm sure Larson's thrilled and he'll have to rubber in the top himself while the rest of us are rooting and gouging for the bottom," he said. Seven-time series champion Jimmie Johnson commended Bristol officials for the effort, noting that it was something that had worked in the past. "And in the Driver's Council meeting after our fall race here, we were all eager to make sure it was back down," Johnson said, "and (we) thought that it did offer more options (for passing) than without it." &amp;amp;amp;lt;/p&amp;amp;amp;gt;
Cain: Penske, Ganassi battling for early season supremacy
BUY TICKETS: See the races at Texas Chip Ganassi Racing's Kyle Larson leads the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series points standings for the third consecutive week. Roger Penske's driver Brad Keselowski collected his second race trophy of the year on Sunday -- the first multi-time winner of the season. Chip Ganassi Racing driver Jamie McMurray is enjoying the best six-race start of his Daytona 500-winning career -- ranked ninth in the standings entering this weekend's race at Texas, despite a crash last week at Martinsville. Penske driver Joey Logano is fifth in the standings with a pole position at Phoenix and five top-six finishes through six races -- top-five showings in both the last two weeks. 2017 Stats: Logano " Keselowski " Larson " McMurray While these two great racing organizations -- Chevy's Ganassi and Ford's Penske -- have long settled trophies and championships between themselves in the open-wheel ranks, simultaneously leading the way in NASCAR is a relatively uncommon development. But certainly not unforeseen. And what makes this situation even more interesting is that these are two-car teams -- not the four-car mega-organizations like Hendrick Motorsports, Joe Gibbs Racing or Stewart-Haas Racing , which have more frequently visited winner's circles and hoisted the champion’s hardware. Kurt Busch's dramatic final lap win in the Daytona 500 is the only victory thus far in 2017 for the three four-car teams that have dominated the landscape in recent years. Sure it’s early in the season, but the standings look as diverse as they ever have. Entering Sunday's O’Reilly Auto Parts 500 at Texas Motor Speedway (1:30 p.m. ET, FOX, PRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio), Furniture Row Racing's two drivers -- Martin Truex Jr. and rookie Erik Jones are both ranked among the top-13 and Truex has a win. Wood Brothers Racing driver Ryan Blaney -- a one-car operation with support from Penske -- is ranked seventh. RELATED: See the full standings " Who's earned the most stage points? Meanwhile, the larger teams are having an uncharacteristically and decidedly slower start to the year. Second-year driver Chase Elliott, 21, is setting the standard at Hendrick -- winless, but only four points behind the 24-year old Larson in the standings. Elliott's the only driver ranked among the top-five not from a two-car team and his three veteran teammates have ground you'd expect them to make up points-wise. Hendrick's Kasey Kahne is ranked 12th , reigning seven-time Monster Energy Series champion Jimmie Johnson is 14th and Dale Earnhardt Jr. is 25th -- a hefty 169 points behind Larson. No Hendrick driver has won a race in 2017. RELATED: Junior weighs in on slow start to 2017 Kyle Busch is leading the way for Joe Gibbs Racing -- ranked sixth, 80 points behind Larson. His teammate Denny Hamlin is 16th in the standings. Rookie Daniel Suarez is 21st and former champion Matt Kenseth is 22nd -- with three finishes of 36th or worse. No Gibbs driver has hoisted the hardware in 2017 either. Stewart-Haas' newest driver Clint Bowyer has been a bright light for Stewart-Haas outside of Busch's Daytona 500 win. Bowyer is ranked eighth -- his highest place atop the standings since he finished seventh in the 2015 season-opening Daytona 500. The last time he was ranked among the top-10 outside of Daytona was in 2014. Bowyer's teammate, 2014 Monster Energy Series champion Kevin Harvick is 10th in the standings with three finishes of 20th or worse through the opening six races. He was leading the standings at this time the past two seasons. After winning the Daytona 500 and finishing seventh the next week at Atlanta, Kurt Busch has suffered through four consecutive showings of 24th place or worse and has fallen to 19th in the points standings. His teammate Danica Patrick is ranked 29th. Her 17th place showing at Atlanta last month is the only top-20 for her so far this season. Yes, it's early in the year. And drivers such as Johnson -- a six-time winner at this week's Texas venue, Kyle Busch, Harvick and Hamlin are traditional trophy sure-bets. But the Ganassi and Penske organizations know a little something about winning championships too. And so far, they are well-positioned to make a run at the mega-teams who are less accustomed to playing catch-up, even this early in the season. Both Ganassi and Penske are among the most respected, decorated and competitive people in the garage with records and statistics to verify the stature -- in NASCAR and beyond. Ganassi holds the record for most Rolex 24 at Daytona wins (six), has won the 12 Hours of Sebring and won in class at the 24 Hours of LeMans in addition to his 11 IndyCar season titles and four Indy 500 wins. Penske is the reigning IndyCar champion team owner -- for the 14th time -- and has an incredible 16 Indy 500 wins in addition to his 2012 NASCAR title (Keselowski) and two Daytona 500 wins (Ryan Newman in 2008 and Logano in 2015). How many people would have predicted that come the second week of April either the Hendrick or Gibbs organizations would be winless? RELATED: NASCAR executive says more drivers have an opportunity to win But it's a reflection as much on the other teams -- Ganassi , Penske, Furniture Row, Wood Brothers and Richard Childress -- who have picked up the pace. The situation shows off NASCAR's talent diversity and speaks volumes about the ever-increasing intrigue and all around competitive level. Everyone's raising their game. And the big winner is the fan. &amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;lt;/p
Sabates offers insight into Chip Ganassi Racing's gains
Felix Sabates, the co-owner of Chip Ganassi Racing , discusses the gains the two-car team has made since last season.
Tyler Reddick seizes opportunity with Chip Ganassi Racing
BUY TICKETS: See the Daytona 500 live! Tyler Reddick won't be competing full time in 2017, but the former NASCAR Camping World Truck Series racer expects to log just as many laps this season as he did this past year. After two full seasons of seasoning with Brad Keselowski Racing , Reddick will split seat time with Kyle Larson this season in the No. 42 NASCAR XFINITY Series entry fielded by Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates. BBR Music Group will provide sponsorship for multiple races with Reddick. His first scheduled start with the team will be the season-opening Powershares QQQ 300 at Daytona International Speedway (3:30 p.m. ET, Feb. 25, FS1, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio.) "A full-time schedule in the Truck Series is 23 races," Reddick told NASCAR.com. "The partial (XFINITY) schedule will be 18-20, so when you think about that ... and add up all the laps, you're probably going to get more seat time than you would running a full-time truck schedule, you'll probably have more tires for practice. So actually I'm probably going to get about the same or maybe a little more seat time than I did running full time in the Truck Series. That's still a lot of great opportunities to learn and get better and hopefully have some good runs with the team." Reddick, 21, won three times in the Truck Series. He finished second in points in his first full season in 2015 with wins at Daytona and Dover. He added a victory at Las Vegas last year but slipped to ninth in points. RELATED: See Reddick's No. 42 look for 2017 "I could have worked out an opportunity to where I possibly could have remained at BKR one more year but there were definitely some other things going on and some other opportunities to be had," he said. "Fortunately, the right person kind of got us pointed in the right direction, got us talking with Chip's people and got the ball rolling there. ... "We were just really fortunate that the guys with Ganassi wanted me to be in their vehicle." Larson and Justin Marks shared driving duties last year for the No. 42 team, which will continue to be led by crew chief Mike Shiplett. Larson also drives the organization's No. 42 Chevrolet in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series ; he picked up XFINITY Series wins at Pocono and Texas while Marks earned the victory at Mid-Ohio last year. Ganassi also fields additional teams in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series , with driver Jamie McMurray , and the XFINITY Series, with Brennan Poole . It's that depth and talent, Reddick said, that makes running a partial schedule just as attractive as running full time elsewhere. "There are a lot of really good people in the shop and on the road that are within Chip Ganassi in the XFINITY and on the Cup side," he said. "Whether it be a partial schedule with this team or someone different -- the advantage with this team is they have Cup cars, they have XFINITY cars and they are more than a single-car team. There's a lot of good people involved here. "The other big gains from this are having someone like Kyle Larson that I'm sharing the car with. Being able to go to the race track and when I'm outside the vehicle, being able to take in a different perspective just from afar." It's a similar situation to his move into the Truck Series, when he initially ran a partial schedule for Keselowski in 2014 and shared seat time with the owner/driver as well as fellow racer Joey Logano . "I got to learn a lot just from those guys," Reddick said. "Sitting outside and watching them work with the guys ... seeing how they worked with them, how they go about their race, what their race plan is and how they communicate with one another. You wouldn't think it would do much but it really helps to get things moving in the right direction. I thought it really helped me on my first year." It's not the first time Reddick and Larson's paths have crossed. Both grew up in California -- Reddick hails from Corning, while Larson is a native of Elk Grove -- and the two often competed in the same events. Larson eventually migrated to Sprint cars while Reddick, at his family's urging, chose the dirt late model route. "My family was scared to death of Sprint cars and scared I was going to get hurt so we decided to go dirt late model racing ," he said. "That's where our backgrounds split. But where we learned how to race and drive was pretty much the same -- in those early outlaw cars. "So similar backgrounds; obviously we took two different paths there toward the end but somehow we've ended back up in the same place." Although he will only run between 18 and 20 races with the team this season, Reddick expects to be competitive. The No. 42 entry finished seventh in the owners' championship a year ago and Reddick said that's a team goal from the outset. As for his goals, Reddick said he hopes to step in and compete for top-five finishes out of the box. "Top 10s would be great but I know this team is capable of that with anybody in the car. I want to get these guys top fives right off the bat," he said. "They are capable of it and I have to do my part. I know this team has won races with Kyle and Justin." A win, he said, would be "very reasonable." "I'm not just trying to say 'Oh yeah, I can win a race' or come across as being boastful or ... arrogant," he said. "That's how good this team is -- they're very capable of that and I'm not going to sell it short. They won multiple times last year. "If I do my part and don't make any mistakes throughout the course of a race, that's something that's very reasonable that we can accomplish. No pressure, right? I just have to do my part and be smart about it." &amp;lt;/p&amp;gt;
Larson, McMurray surge as CGR work bears fruit
BUY TICKETS: See the races at Bristol A strong finish to the 2016 season and an equally impressive start to 2017 has placed the two-team effort of Chip Ganassi Racing squarely in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series spotlight. These are heady days for drivers Jamie McMurray and Kyle Larson, crew chiefs Matt McCall and Chad Johnston, and the dozens upon dozens of support personnel surrounding the No. 1 and No. 42 teams. Not that you would know it from speaking with the principals. "No, I think that's what we expected," Johnston said of the organization's rise up the competitive ladder. Johnston's driver, Larson, is the series' points leader heading into Monday's Food City 500 at Bristol Motor Speedway (1 p.m. ET, FOX, PRN, SiriusXM NASCAR). "I think it catches some people off guard and I think it's gotten a lot of hype, but we felt like we were pretty good last year toward the end of the year; we weren't as consistent as we wanted to be. "But performance-wise we felt like we were pretty good. We also knew we needed to continue to work hard to keep gaining on it through the offseason. I think anything less than what we started off would have been a disappointment for all of us." McCall said the resurgence is more than lip service. The results back up the attention being paid to the Ganassi organization this year. "Because you know how it is, everyone always claims they're working hard, working hard and that's the case," he said. "But until you actually have something to show for it, you really don't get to show the world that. "It's good for everyone that works here, a lot of long hours, to get a little recognition for all the work that's been put in." RELATED: Penske, Ganassi battle for early season supremacy The explanations run the gamut, from the obvious to the intricate. "I don't know what the difference ... is, but our race cars are just way faster," said Larson, who has banked one win and four runner-up finishes after seven races. "I think after we struggled so bad through this point of the season last year, (Chad) got really aggressive on what changes he wanted done in the race shop and with the race cars, with the bodies. As soon as he got his bodies and chassis built, we had a great test at Pocono (in April 2016), then we went to Dover, almost won that race; came to Charlotte, won the Showdown, almost won the All-Star Race. "Really since that point, we've had a lot of speed in our cars and we've just built on that and made them better and better." There's been no magic bullet, according to McMurray, who sits eighth in points and has four top-10 results this season. Instead, he said, it's a combination of things that have, in some cases, taken years to develop and implement. Better cars, better personnel, better decisions. The organization has been a contender before, but it's also had its share of expectations that failed to pan out. "It's been kind of years in the process of getting every department just a little bit better," McMurray, 40, said. "I think taking everybody's ideas from engineering, from the guys on the shop floor that have grown up racing , taking all that and combining it and it's all added up to a really good performance." McMurray has been "on both sides" of the situation -- those times when you show up at the track confident that you will contend and those times when you know there's still plenty of work to be done just to survive. "The frustrating part is that you know it's not one little piece," he said. "It's a lot of little, small things that are going to add up to getting you there. "(From) 2010 being as high as you can get to, by 2012 it was horrible. It was super frustrating to go every week and know that if you did everything right you were maybe going to run 20th. Super frustrating weekends." McMurray won the Daytona 500, the Brickyard 400 and the Charlotte fall race in '10. He also won four poles. Two years later, he had only three top 10s and finished outside the top 20 in points. "But right now we are back on top and it's so much fun to show up every weekend and know that even if your car doesn't drive great that you're going to run really well and hopefully have a shot to win," he said. Two Teams, Two Styles, One Goal There's a 16-year difference in ages between McMurray and Larson, and nearly as large of a gap in their approach to racing . Now in his fourth full season in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series, Larson's approach is simple: "I show up and drive," he said. McMurray, however, is a product of his past, having arrived on the scene at a time when "guys that were big into setups and how do you make your car drive better," he said. "I was raised with that mentality of kind of understanding the car and trying to make the right adjustments to it to make the car faster. Where Kyle really doesn't know anything about cars. He doesn't really give suggestions of what he thinks you need on the car to make it faster. He just searches around. A lot of times that works out well for him, so that's opened my eyes up to maybe not trying to make the car perfect but maybe just search around and try to find something on the track." Larson calls his teammate "a very underrated driver" with a ton of experience. "He's won every big race on our circuit," Larson said of McMurray. "I can go to him ... and just pick his brain and get any bits of advice I could, look at his data and compare it to mine. "I feel like we are very similar drivers and the way we use our hands and feet and how aggressive we are, so we mesh well together. I love working with Jamie; I hope he stays around for a long time and we can work together for a long time, as well, and have a lot of success together." While the drivers come from different backgrounds and developed different approaches, the crew chiefs come from similar backgrounds. Both McCall and Johnston had driving careers and served at one point as engineers for other teams. While experience behind the wheel has been helpful, understanding the methodology behind making a car go fast has been more crucial as the two made the move atop the pit box. "I think the driving part, that sort of changes week to week," McCall said. "Especially every time you change a package and the tires change. ... "The other side (of that) is the managing skills, the people skills -- there's no experience for that so that's definitely different on the crew chief side." Johnston said the "other side of the steering wheel pays a lot better but it comes with a lot more hassles, too." "The engineering side and just knowing all the nuances, the aerodynamics ... things like that probably helped me more than anything," he said. The two teams work as one, with key personnel working out of one trailer every week at the track. That promotes open dialogue, with both teams knowing what each is doing at any given time. The differences in the cars and their setups are minor, tweaked to suit each driver's individual needs. And their driving styles really aren't that different. While some folks make much over Larson's high-groove, sideways-here-I-come approach, Larson said it's certainly not by design. Changes in the aero package and the loss of downforce, he said, have actually hurt him as much as anyone. RELATED: Larson fast, atop the standings and having fun "Everybody thinks that because I grew up dirt racing that I like the car sideways and all this and that," he said. "But I don't. Stock car sideways is a way different feeling, a bad feeling, compared to Sprint cars. When you're sideways in a Sprint car, you still have grip; you're making more grip, to a certain point. Where with stock cars, you've got to worry about tire management so much and all that. "If anything, I would honestly say less downforce is bad for me. In 2014, my first year in Cup, we had the most downforce we've had since I've been in NASCAR and I ran really well that year. That's been my best season up until this year. I know last year we won a race and made the (playoffs) and all that, but consistently (2014) was our best up until this season. "Lower downforce, the racing is better but I wouldn't say it suits my driving style any better than it suits anybody else." Having been in the spotlight before, McMurray isn't fazed by the recent surge in attention paid to the Ganassi operation. He's just happy to be a part of the process. "I don't know that when you're on the inside that you view it that differently," he said. "When I think about our shop I know all the sacrifice and the work that's gone into this and sometimes you don't get rewarded for that. Sometimes you put all that time and effort in and it doesn't translate to speed. "But when you're on the inside, you know everything that's happened and why it is. I'm just thankful for it."
Monster Energy Series Bristol race postponed
RELATED: Full starting lineup " Live weather radar BRISTOL, Tenn. -- Sunday's Food City 500 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series race at Bristol Motor Speedway has been postponed due to rain. The race, No. 8 on the 36-race schedule for 2017, has been rescheduled for a 1 p.m. ET start Monday. FOX will provide live television coverage; radio coverage is on the Performance Racing Network (PRN) and SiriusXM NASCAR. "We are close to home so it will be fine," points leader Kyle Larson ( Chip Ganassi Racing ) said Sunday morning. "Our car was good in practice and I don't think the track will be too different." Larson will start from the pole position in his No. 42 Chevrolet, the result of rain canceling Friday's qualifying and the field being set per the rulebook (owner points). With one victory (at Auto Club Speedway) and four runner-up finishes, Larson leads second-place Chase Elliott (Hendrick Motorsports) by 17 points. " See the full lineup Rain also interrupted Saturday's NASCAR XFINITY Series race, creating a delay of more than 90 minutes. But when the rain moved out of the area, officials were able to quickly dry the .533-mile track, and that race was run to its scheduled distance with Erik Jones (Joe Gibbs Racing ) flagged the winner. The rain continued throughout the night and through the morning, eventually forcing officials to postpone. It is the first race to be pushed to the following day due to inclement weather since last fall's Bank of America 500 at Charlotte Motor Speedway. Both races at Pocono Raceway last year also were delayed from Sunday to Monday. Last year's Bristol Night Race, the most recent Monster Energy Series event at the track, was postponed from Saturday to Sunday due to wet weather as well. Because the rain will wash all the rubber build-up off the racing surface, drivers will face a "green" track on Monday when the event gets underway. NASCAR officials have already announced a Lap 60 competition caution to allow teams to check tire wear. Kurt Busch (Stewart-Haas Racing No. 41 Ford) said the rain "is somewhat of a blessing in disguise." " Because (track officials were) talking about laying down more VHT and they can't do it while it's wet," this year's Daytona 500 winner said. "The VHT is like a grip applicator and you have to heat it up to make it work, so in the drag racing world the guys do a burnout through it and you have that stripe that you just heat it up and that's what has to happen for us oval guys. We have to have more cars out there to heat it up, so it's going to be like ice when we first start off and then the grip will come back once we do heat it up after this rain delay." Track officials applied an adhesive compound (VHT) to the lower lanes in the turns prior to this weekend's race at the request of drivers. A similar substance was used in 2016. Matt Puccia, crew chief of the No. 6 Roush Fenway Racing Ford with driver Trevor Bayne, said the rain will likely wash what remains of the compound off the racing surface and, as a result, "I think that you're going to see the top groove move up and you'll see more of the two- and three-lane racing that we've traditionally seen here." "I think there might still be a little bit of an advantage on the bottom," Puccia said, "but I definitely think the top groove will come in, which, for us, makes it a little bit more challenging because we haven't had any opportunity to run up on the top yet." Some other key story lines to consider with the rain wrecking Sunday's schedule: • Beating the Busches will be tough for competitors; and what about that pesky JGR slow start? " Read more • An updated racing groove has the track extra sticky " Read more • Two XFINITY Series drivers had an altercation that included a connected punch , and a trip to the NASCAR hauler " Read more • Kyle Busch was fast Saturday, but there were multiple spins , including one from Larson that sent his car into the wall " Read more • Larson looks like a championship contender so far, and he and teammate Jamie McMurray have Chip Ganassi Racing surging " Read more &amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;lt;/p&amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;gt
Larson, McMurray and CGR make hard work pay off
Kyle Larson gives his Chip Ganassi Racing team an 'A' for the 2017 season so far, and Jamie McMurray says the success has been years in the making
Busch sweeps Saturday practices; Larson, Stenhouse spin early
BUY TICKETS: See the races at Bristol RELATED: Practice 3 results " Top 10-lap times from final practice Five-time Bristol winner Kyle Busch topped the leaderboard in final practice for the Saturday sweep. The 2015 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series champion led all drivers with a quickest lap of 128.563 mph. He was also fastest in the first practice session Saturday. Busch's Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Daniel Suarez completed the 55-minute session second in his No. 19 Toyota (128.262 mph). A trio of Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolets were next with Kasey Kahne (128.253 mph), Chase Elliott (128.185 mph) and Jimmie Johnson (128.168 mph) rounding out the top five. The 39-car field returns to the short track Monday at 1 p.m. ET for the Food City 500 (FOX, PRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio). RELATED: Practice 2 results " Best 10-lap times from Practice 2 Busch also topped the speed charts in Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series opening practice Saturday at Bristol Motor Speedway, wheeling his No. 18 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota around the .533-mile track in 128.865 mph. Toyota completed the top three in the 55-minute outing with Furniture Row Racing's Erik Jones (128.649 mph) and JGR's Denny Hamlin (128.176 mph) taking second and third, respectively. Next up was Ford driver Kevin Harvick, earning the fourth-fastest lap (128.091 mph), with Chevrolet wheelman Dale Earnhardt Jr. behind him, completing the top five (128.005 mph). Ricky Stenhouse Jr. (26th, 128.846 mph) brought out the session's first caution after he brushed the wall with 36 minutes remaining. It was originally reported that the team would race in a backup car, but the Roush Fenway Racing crew decided to try to fix the No. 17 Ford so as to not lose its 19th-place starting position for Monday's Food City 500 (1 p.m. ET, PRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio). "I had just been really loose and just got down in the corner and it took off," Stenhouse said following the incident. "I thought I saved it and just got the right-rear in the wall." RELATED: Watch Stenhouse bring out the caution The second and final yellow flag was brought out after Kyle Larson clipped the outside wall with roughly 10 minutes left in the session. He was 17th quickest at 127.343 mph in his No. 42 Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet. With Friday's qualifying canceled due to rain, the series points leader will start the race on the pole position, per NASCAR Rule Book. &amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;lt;/p&amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;gt;
Chip Ganassi Racing adds GearWrench as sponsor to No. 1 team
In what seems a natural fit for both GearWrench and Chip Ganassi Racing , the NASCAR team announced Tuesday that the innovative tool brand will serve as primary sponsor on the No. 1 Chevrolet driven by Jamie McMurray for multiple races in the 2017 season. GearWrench executives joined Ganassi team officials and McMurray on Tuesday at the prestigious Specialty Equipment Market Association (SEMA) Show in Las Vegas to announce the news. The tool brand ran the announcement live on Facebook on Tuesday, and fans can also sign up for a sweepstakes on the GearWrench Facebook page for a chance to win one of 10 new tool sets to be given away as part of the big news. McMurray agrees the partnership couldn't be more authentic for his team. "It was interesting," the 2010 Daytona 500 winner told NASCAR.com. "The day I was in the shop and I knew they were coming by (to see the shop), my car chief asked who was coming by. I told him the name of the company and he said, 'Those are awesome tools.' "Then he took me over to his toolbox and opened one of the drawers up and he had a whole drawer already of the GearWrench tools. That's really special when you get to be a part of a brand you're already using. Guys that work on our cars every day believe in them and they're using the tools every day. We’re super pumped to have them on board." It's the company's biggest foray into NASCAR and judging by the excitement from its executives, Tuesday's announcement about this partnership is welcome and positive news. "This is the biggest announcement in the history of the GearWrench brand and a significant marketing investment that will deliver significant growth in sales and market share," said John Constantine, president of GearWrench's North American Hand Tools, Apex Tool Group. "We are thrilled to be taking GearWrench to the next level by partnering with Chip Ganassi Racing and their top mechanics in 2017." Chip Ganassi Racing President Steve Lauletta echoed McMurray's enthusiasm for this partnership, and the team's fond familiarity of the brand. The tools also are used in industrial and aerospace work as well as in technical education. "GearWrench is a brand that understands how our team strives to deliver value to our partners and find ways to grow the business together," Lauletta said. "They have been associated with the sport for several years from local tracks to the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series and we are excited that we will be able to put their products to work in the hands of our mechanics in the shop and at the race track." And the No. 1 GearWrench Chevrolet that McMurray will pilot in races next year will be designed to look like the GearWrench distribution fleet vehicles that so many have already seen on the nation's roads. "It's wonderful that a new brand recognizes the value of NASCAR," McMurray said. "And when you're talking about a tool, there's really no better fit than a race team and NASCAR being the most popular form of racing in America makes that a really easy tie-in."
Kyle Busch: Parity in NASCAR racing is good
BUY TICKETS: See the races at Martinsville " Starting lineup MARTINSVILLE, Va. – Joe Gibbs Racing , which dominated the first half of the 2016 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series season, is winless in five races to start the current season. So is Hendrick Motorsports, the juggernaut that carried Jimmie Johnson to his record-tying seventh championship last year. Instead, Kyle Larson delivered Chip Ganassi Racing its second victory in as many years last Sunday at Auto Club Speedway, and Ryan Newman broke a 127-race drought with his strategic win at Phoenix International Raceway. But don't think for a minute that Busch is worried heading into Sunday's STP 500 at Martinsville Speedway (2 p.m. ET on FS1). "I don't think it should be alarming," Busch said Friday at Martinsville, where he broke through with his first victory at the track in last year's spring race. "I think it's probably a good thing, to be honest with you. There needs to be more parity in our sport. There needs to be other teams that have the opportunity to get up there and run well and win races. "You see RCR (Richard Childress Racing ) has done that (with Newman). You see Ganassi has done that. Those would be two teams that probably haven't won in the last couple years. I know Larson won a race last year, but not regularly, let's say, like the JGR bunch or the HMS bunch. Our time is coming. We know that. We'll turn our program around. We'll get it up to speed to where we need to." Busch has acknowledged that JGR perhaps hasn't kept up with other Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series teams in adapting to the new lower-downforce aerodynamic package introduced full-time this season. "I think we're playing a little bit of catch up right now, to be honest with you," Busch said. "We do have great partners with the guys at Furniture Row that have been running really good. They've been strong and up front each week. "They have been helping us as well, getting our program to where we believe we know it can be. They've shown us. They've had the potential each week. We just have to get there with ourselves." &lt;/p&gt;
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