Keselowski tops Cup practice; Crafton, Jones, Custer top Truck sessions RELATED: Track your picks in the Perfect Chase Grid Challenge and Chase Battle Grid Presented by Toyota Sprint Cup Series Practice 1 " RESULTS Already in the hunt for his second straight win and a sweep of New Hampshire Motor Speedway for the season, Brad Keselowski topped opening Sprint Cup Series practice on Friday morning in Loudon, New Hampshire. The Team Penske driver ran just 12 laps, but found enough speed in his No. 2 Ford on his final run around the Magic Mile to best the field with a speed of 138.421 mph. The top 10 was chock-full of Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup drivers, save for Chip Ganassi Racing teammates Jamie McMurray (137.890 mph) and Kyle Larson (137.631 mph), who both ran well at Chicagoland last week and placed second and fifth, respectively, in Friday's opening session. After McMurray, 12 of the next 14 drivers on the chart were all postseason contenders, with the top five rounded out by Dale Earnhardt Jr . (3rd, 137.825 mph) and Kasey Kahne (4th, 137.661 mph). Reigning champion Jimmie Johnson was the slowest Chase driver, pulling in 29th with a speed of 135.699 mph. Just over 50 minutes into the session, practice was halted for debris on the track. Nationwide Series final practice " RESULTS A Richard Childress Racing driver led final NASCAR Nationwide Series practice at Kentucky Speedway , just not the one most would have expected. Rookie Cale Conley , on a part-time schedule this season, circled the 1.5-mile speedway at a clip of 175.404 mph to take top honors in the final 60-minute session. He also led the field with most laps run at 53. RCR's Brian Scott (175.075 mph), who drives the No. 2 Chevrolet, finished third in the standings after coming in second in the opening session. Scott is fifth in the standings, 56 points behind leader Chase Elliott . A late push from Trevor Bayne put his No. 6 Ford into second on the speed chart (175.239 mph). Sam Hornish Jr . (174.944 mph) and Chris Buescher (174.419) rounded out the top five, with RCR's Ty Dillon (174.323 mph) coming in sixth. Elliott finished eighth (174.087 mph) with his JR Motorsports teammate Regan Smith in 16th. Smith trails Elliott in the standings by 18 points. Next up is Coors Light Pole Qualifying, scheduled for 4:10 p.m. ET. The VisitMyrtleBeach.com 300 follows at 7:30 p.m. ET (ESPNEWS). Nationwide Series practice 1 " RESULTS Richard Childress Racing opened up the weekend strong, placing all three of its cars in the top four placers in opening Nationwide Series practice for the VisitMyrtleBeach.com 300 (Saturday, 7:30 p.m. ET, ESPNEWS) at Kentucky Speedway in Lexington, Kentucky. Brian Scott was at the helm, leading the charge with a best speed of 173.980 mph to finish second fiddle to practice topper Chris Buescher (174.701). Brendan Gaughan (173.210) and RCR rookie Ty Dillon (173.205) were right behind Scott. Sam Hornish Jr. , filling in for Kyle Busch in the No. 54 this weekend, placed fifth on the charts at 173.082. Nationwide Series points leader Chase Elliott was eighth overall at 172.629, while Michael McDowell , driving the defending race-winning No. 22 Ford, was 11th overall at 172.348. Camping World Truck Series Practice 1 " RESULTS Rookie driver Erik Jones paced the first of three Camping World Truck Series practices at New Hampshire Motor Speedway on Friday morning in Loudon, New Hampshire. The Kyle Busch Motorsports driver posted a best speed of 131.925 mph on his 35th of 36 laps around the Magic Mile. Jones ousted reigning champion Matt Crafton from the top of the leaderboard in the closing seconds of practice, besting the ThorSport driver's speed of 131.035 mph. Sixteen-year-old Cole Custer , set to make just his seventh NASCAR National Series start in Saturday's UNOH 175 (1 p.m. ET, FS1), was third on the leaderboard with a speed of 131.031 mph -- 0.001 seconds off Crafton's pace. Joey Coulter (130.999 mph) and Ryan Blaney (130.864 mph) rounded out the top five. Positions six through nine were occupied by Toyota drivers in Darrell Wallace Jr . (130.846 mph), Johnny Sauter (130.260 mph) and Red Horse Racing teammates Timothy Peters (129.754 mph) and German Quiroga (129.648 mph). Camping World Truck Series practice 2 " RESULTS In the second of three scheduled Camping World Truck Series practices, reigning champion Matt Crafton topped the leaderboard on Friday at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Loudon, New Hampshire. Crafton's late-session best speed of 132.347 mph shot him past Cameron Hayley , who placed second with a best speed of 131.433. Gray Gaulding (131.180 mph), Joey Coulter (131.044 mph) and Timothy Peters (130.815 mph) rounded out the top five. First session leader Erik Jones was ninth at 130.385 mph. Camping World Truck Series final practice " RESULTS LOUDON, N.H. -- NASCAR Next driver Cole Custer cruised to the top of the speed charts in final NASCAR Camping World Truck Series practice Friday afternoon at New Hampshire Motor Speedway . Custer, 16, turned a lap of 133.226 mph in the Haas Racing Development No. 00 Chevrolet in preparation for Saturday's UNOH 175 (1 p.m. ET, FOX Sports 1). Custer, who is scheduled to make just the seventh Truck Series start of his career here, also won the pole position in June at Gateway Motorsports Park, a track of similar length with similar short-track characteristics. Ryan Blaney, 20 years old and third in the series standings, was second-fastest in the Brad Keselowski Racing No. 29 Ford at 133.007 mph. Erik Jones , another NASCAR Next class member at age 18, ran the most laps (63) and was third-best at 132.924 mph, just ahead of Kyle Busch Motorsports teammate Darrell Wallace Jr ., a two-time winner this season. Tyler Reddick completed the top five in another Keselowski-owned truck. Points leader Matt Crafton , the defending series champion, was ninth-fastest of the 26 drivers who participated in the 85-minute finalsession. Saturday's Keystone Light Pole Qualifying is scheduled for a 10:10 a.m. ET start, broadcast on FOX Sports 1. The race is the 17th Truck Series event hosted by New Hampshire, but the first for the 1.058-mile track since 2011. -- Zack Albert 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
Rookie Larson, veteran McMurray aim to help Ganassi regroup
Cain: Don't expect these guys to lay off in the postseason RELATED: Track your picks in the Perfect Chase Grid Challenge and Chase Battle Grid Presented by Toyota As Kyle Larson juked and jived his No. 42 Target Chevrolet to a near victory at Chicagoland Speedway on Sunday afternoon, his ultra-determined effort served as NASCAR's ultimate spoiler alert. Even in a season featuring 16 title contenders -- the largest Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup championship field ever -- it should surprise no one if one of the super talented, highly motivated non-Chase drivers hoists a trophy in the remaining nine races, stealing a Chaser's fast pass to the title round. After all, non-Chase drivers have won races in four of the last five postseasons. And not only is the rookie Larson a leading candidate to win before the season winds down, his Chip Ganassi Racing teammate Jamie McMurray has earned his late season television time, too. His No. 1 McDonald's Chevrolet has led 180 total laps in the last four races and is keeping the Chasers honest. A couple other veterans, Clint Bowyer and three-time Cup champ Tony Stewart , boast resumes that absolutely make them favorites in the season's final races as well. For the 22-year-old Larson, it's been simply about "when" he'll score his maiden Sprint Cup victory. His third-place effort in a back-up car that started last in the Chicago field is proof of how driven he and that team are to win. Far from backing off and letting the Chase drivers settle the checkered flag in Chicago, Larson demonstrated exactly the kind of grit and gumption that makes this Chase portion of the season so exciting and potentially the most competitive in history. Nearly half the field has something to prove, whether it be a championship run or scoring a season- or career-first victory. There are sponsors to attract and scores to settle. No one is backing off or playing it safe. It's go time from the front to back of the grid. "(People might think) those guys might be a little bit more cautious, won't race you as hard,'' Larson said. "I didn't feel that way at all. I felt everybody was racing as hard as they do all season long. "We definitely have to be a little bit more careful around those guys, too, because we don't want to hurt their chances of advancing. "(But) like I said, I had a lot of fun racing Kev (Harvick), Jeff (Gordon), Brad (Keselowski) and Junior (Dale Earnhardt Jr.) at some points in the race. I didn't feel like anybody was holding back at all." As good as Larson was Sunday, his teammate McMurray also furthered his case as someone who will have to be dealt with each week. In fact, McMurray is definitively the champion Chase spoiler of the last five years -- winning more Chase races (three) than any non-Chase eligible driver during that time. Four of McMurray's seven career Cup wins have come at Chase tracks. He's won twice at Charlotte and twice at Talladega, where he is the defending winner of the upcoming Oct. 19 race at NASCAR's biggest track. Bowyer, a preseason Chase favorite who like Larson just missed making the field, is another driver who has proven himself a contender at the 10 Chase tracks, venues where he has recorded five of his eight career Cup victories. He has a pair of wins at this week's stop, New Hampshire Motor Speedway , a pair of wins at Talladega and also a victory at Charlotte . Perhaps the biggest unknown in all this is the most accomplished racer not to earn a Chase berth -- three-time champ Stewart, who may view the race track as a focus for his off-track distractions and heavy heart. He has won in all 15 previous seasons competing in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, but is still looking for his first in 2014. He has victories at all nine of the remaining Chase venues and 19 of his 48 career wins have come at these venues. He has three victories apiece at New Hampshire, Dover , Martinsville, and Homestead. Certainly this week's venue -- the notoriously tight and tough 1.058-mile Loudon oval -- is a prime opportunity to shake up the Chase order. But it's not just the championship contenders that see the opportunity, which makes the 2014 version of the Chase that much more compelling in ways that weren't even anticipated. MORE: READ: Latest Chase news PLAY: Monitor your Chase Grid Game picks WATCH: Latest NASCAR video FOLLOW LIVE: Get RaceView FULL CHASE COVERAGE • Chase hub page • Chase Grid games • #MyChaseNation
Dylan Kwasniewski and Chip Ganassi Racing sign development deal at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.
Driver-by-driver news and notes from the opening race of the Chase MORE: Full race results " Updated series standings " Chicagoland photos " Gallery of winners RELATED: Track your picks in the Perfect Chase Grid Challenge and Chase Battle Grid Presented by Toyota Editor's Note: Drivers in the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup will appear in italics. 1. Brad Keselowski, No. 2 Ford, Team Penske. The 2012 champion started 25th and had the lead by Lap 46. Keselowski had to come back to pit road for a loose wheel on Lap 186 that took him from second at the time to restarting in 16th. Crew chief Paul Wolfe told him, "I don't want to take a chance." It was a good thing they didn't. Keselowski worked his way back up through the field and went between Larson and Harvick to take the lead for good on Lap 252. The win automatically punches Keselowski's ticket into the Contender Round of 12 drivers in the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup. Watch how Keselowski got the lead 2. Jeff Gordon, No. 24 Chevrolet, Hendrick Motorsports. For the second straight week, Gordon finished as the runner-up to Keselowski. He led 26 laps on the afternoon and really never left the top 10. Gordon was the fastest car during green flags (176.271 mph) and fastest on restarts (176.701 mph). The four-time champion said afterwards "the whole team was extremely solid and that's a great way to get started." See Gordon's race highlights 3. Kyle Larson, No. 42 Chevrolet, Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates. The rookie nearly played spoiler in the opening race of the Chase. He led 20 laps, the most he has led in a race in his Sprint Cup career. He had plenty of speed, with 17.2 percent of the fastest laps run (tied for the most), the third-fastest car on restarts at 175.847 mph and he did it all in a backup car after wrecking his main car in Saturday's practice session. After the race, the rookie lamented how close his was to earning his first Sprint Cup victory, telling ESPN, "Man, I was so close." See Larson's race highlights 4. Joey Logano, No. 22 Ford, Team Penske. Logano had his worst starting position since the July Daytona race, starting 28th, but he made up plenty of ground. He recorded 103 green flag passes (the fourth-highest total in the race) and was the best "closer" of the race. He picked up nine spots in the final 27 laps of the race for his fifth top-five finish in eight races, in which he has had an average finish of 5.3. Watch Logano's post-race interview 5. Kevin Harvick, No. 4 Chevrolet, Stewart-Haas Racing . Harvick had to pit again after a Lap 68 stop for a wheel going down. He originally pitted in fifth and restarted in 21st. By Lap 151, he had the lead and held it for 79 laps, the most of anyone in the race. He had speed, but had a tough time holding off a hard charging Larson and then Keselowski. He had 16.7 percent of the fastest laps run in the race and earned his sixth top-10 finish in eight races. See Harvick's race highlights 6. Denny Hamlin, No. 11 Toyota, Joe Gibbs Racing . Hamlin expressed some early fears that he was having engine trouble, but that turned out to not be the case. In Darian Grubb's return to the pit box, Hamlin continued to carry the good mojo from his strong run with interim crew chief Michael Wheeler. Hamlin had 109 green flag passes (tied for the most in the race) and spent the third-least amount of time on pit road. For in-race pit road data, subscribe to RaceView today 7. Kyle Busch, No. 18 Toyota, Joe Gibbs Racing . "Rowdy" led 46 circuits and never left the top 15 all race long. He showed some speed, laying down the fastest lap of the race on Lap 2 at 185.096 mph. For a team that had struggled in a big way entering the Chase, this top 10 finish -- their first in seven races -- was a huge step for the No. 18 team. See Kyle Busch's race highlights 8. Kurt Busch, No. 41 Chevrolet, Stewart-Haas Racing . Talk about an up-and-down day. "The Outlaw" spun entering pit road on Lap 46 and had to serve a pass-thru penalty for a commitment line violation, putting him in 30th place on Lap 60. How did he make up the ground? He tied for most green flag passes in the race with 109 and he closed strong, picking up seven spots in the final 27 laps of the race, despite some minor contact with his brother with 30 laps to go. See Kurt Busch's race highlights 9. Jamie McMurray, No. 1 Chevrolet, Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates. McMurray continued his late season surge by leading 32 laps on the day and spending all but one lap in the top 15. He spent the least amount of time on pit road and earned his third top-10 finish in four races. For in-race pit road data, subscribe to RaceView today 10. Matt Kenseth, No. 20 Toyota, Joe Gibbs Racing . Kenseth recovered well after spinning out on his way onto pit road on Lap 148. Part of that recovery can be attributed to his pit crew, with Kenseth's team earning the fastest average time on pit road (from pulling in to leaving) at 35.267 seconds. 11. Dale Earnhardt Jr., No. 88 Chevrolet, Hendrick Motorsports. Dale Jr. struggled in final practice but made some early gains in the race and spent significant time in the top five. Earnhardt had 50 quality passes on the afternoon, which was the fifth-most for the race. But just missing out on a top-10 finish left Junior a little disappointed, as he said over the radio, "I should have done a better job." See Dale Jr.'s race highlights 12. Jimmie Johnson, No. 48 Chevrolet, Hendrick Motorsports. As he began his pursuit for title No. 7, Johnson spent much of the afternoon in the top 10 but dropped out late. He was the second-fastest car early in a run at 177.930 mph, according to loop data. However, he was just the 11th-fastest car late in a run. Perhaps that explains part of the dropoff. It was Johnson's first finish outside of the top 10 since Watkins Glen. 13. Kasey Kahne, No. 5 Chevrolet, Hendrick Motorsports. Talk about being opportunistic. Kahne spent only 15.4 percent of the race running in the top 15, but those laps happened to fall in the latter part of the race. The result places him 11th in the standings. 14. Martin Truex Jr., No. 78 Chevrolet, Furniture Row Racing . Truex earned his best finish since Watkins Glen, a stretch of five races. He did that in part by being one of the better "closers" in the race. According to loop data, Truex moved four spots in the final 27 laps of the race. 15. Ryan Newman, No. 31 Chevrolet, Richard Childress Racing . Newman had two separate issues with tires during the races. The second of which -- a tire rub issue on Lap 155 -- led to Newman sternly saying over the radio, "find out why that tire started rubbing and make sure it doesn't happen again, please!" He was two laps down at one point and rallied for a top-15 finish. He is just outside the transfer spot to the Contender Round but can improve over the next two races to advance. For more in-car audio, subscribe to RaceView today 16. Austin Dillon, No. 3 Chevrolet, Richard Childress Racing . In his best result since Watkins Glen, Dillon registered the fourth-most quality passes of the afternoon with 51. He also spent 59.9 percent of the laps in the top 15 -- not bad for a rookie who looks to get better in the latter half of the season. 17. Ricky Stenhouse Jr., No. 17 Ford, Roush Fenway Racing . The second-year Sprint Cup driver was credited with the most quality passes in the MyAFibStory.com 400 with 63. He had a little run-in with his girlfriend on the track, but managed to earn his sixth top-20 result in the past seven races. He had just seven top-20 finishes in the 20 races before that. 18. Tony Stewart, No. 14 Chevrolet, Stewart-Haas Racing . It was a quiet day for "Smoke," who has put together back-to-back top-20 finishes. He ran well at Loudon in the summer and that one-mile track could be where Stewart gets his first win of 2014. He has three victories there in his Sprint Cup career. 19. Danica Patrick, No. 10 Chevrolet, Stewart-Haas Racing . Danica has now scored three straight top-20 finishes for the first time in her Sprint Cup Series career. However, there was a little dust up late when Stenhouse Jr., her boyfriend, made contact with her, bringing out a caution. See the contact between Danica and Ricky 20. Carl Edwards, No. 99 Ford, Roush Fenway Racing . Edwards showed plenty of speed in practices and looked to be one of the cars to contend with here. After starting third, he was out of the top 10 by Lap 60 and spent only 39.7 percent of the laps in the top 15. Edwards holds the final transfer spot in the standings, but his hold on that spot is anything but secure with two more races in the Challenger Round. 21. Paul Menard, No. 27 Chevrolet, Richard Childress Racing . With his first top 10 starting spot since the August Michigan race, this was not the result Menard was hoping for. It was also the sixth straight race at Chicagoland where Menard finished in a worse position than where he started. 22. AJ Allmendinger, No. 47 Chevrolet, JTG Daugherty Racing . Allmendinger's first career Chase race did not go badly, but it could have gone better. The result leaves him in 14th place in the standings and in need of better results at Loudon and Dover, which are not exactly two of his strongest tracks. 23. Greg Biffle, No. 16 Ford, Roush Fenway Racing . It was a tough day for "The Biff," who never mounted a charge out of a mid-20s position. Over the radio, the Chase driver sounded frustrated, telling his crew on Lap 257 "that this thing goes from hauling (expletive) to junk." Biffle will need two solid finishes at Loudon and Dover to advance to the Contender Round of the Chase. For more colorful in-car audio, subscribe to RaceView 24. Brian Vickers, No. 55 Toyota, Michael Waltrip Racing . Vickers has fared well at Chicagoland in the past with three top-finishes in his first five starts at the track, but this year's race continued a trend in the opposite direction. In the past two races at the venue, he has finished 38th and 24th, well below his average finish of 14.9 at the 1.5-mile track. 25. Marcos Ambrose, No. 9 Ford, Richard Petty Motorsports. Ambrose is leaving NASCAR after this season, but the Tasmania native is hoping to go out strong. This was his best finish since the August race at Michigan and he completed 67 green flag passes on the day. 26. Casey Mears, No. 13 Chevrolet, Germain Racing . Mears scored his sixth top-30 finish in seven races, while also earning his best Chicagoland finish since 2009. 27. Justin Allgaier, No. 51 Chevrolet, HScott Motorsports. After making some gains in the late summer, Allgaier has dropped off a bit of late. He has finished no better than 26th in his last three races, after finishing inside the top 20 in three of the previous four races. 28. Landon Cassill, No. 40 Chevrolet, Hillman Racing . This was Cassill's first top-30 finish in three races and his best finish in a Sprint Cup race at Chicagoland. 29. Reed Sorenson, No. 36 Chevrolet, Tommy Baldwin Racing . For the ninth straight week, Sorenson finished in a better spot than where he started. In the past four weeks, Sorenson has bounced between finishing 24th, then 29th, then 24th and 29th. So should we expect a 24th-place finish at Loudon? 30. Cole Whitt, No. 26 Toyota, BK Racing . It seemed like the rookie was heading for a really bad day with reports of engine trouble but Whitt was able to stay on the track to carry the flag for BK Racing for his fourth straight 30th-place finish. 31. David Ragan, No. 34 Ford, Front Row Motorsports. Ragan has had a knack over the past two months for finishing in a better spot than where he started. That continued this weekend as he started 39th, earning the ninth straight race of finishing in a better spot than where he started. 32. Michael McDowell, No. 95 Ford, Leavine Family Racing . The part-time driver finished exactly where he started but it was his best result in five starts at Chicagoland. 33. Josh Wise, No. 98 Chevrolet, Phil Parsons Racing . The past three races have seen Wise average a finish of 32.7. This finish at Chicagoland was the best of his career at the 1.5-mile track. 34. David Gilliland, No. 38 Ford, Front Row Motorsports. After six straight weeks of top-30 finishes, the veteran regressed with his result at Chicagoland. 35. Alex Bowman, No. 23 Toyota, BK Racing . For the 12th straight race, the rookie was running at the finish, although he was six laps down. He did, however, have 71 green flag passes on the afternoon. 36. Joe Nemechek, No. 66 Toyota, Jay Robinson Racing . Nemechek improved his position from start to finish for the second straight week. This result was his best since a 35th-place showing at Michigan nearly a month ago. 37. Joey Gase, No. 32 Ford, FAS Lane Racing . The Nationwide Series regular was making his Sprint Cup debut. The 37th-place showing was right around where this car has been all year. 38. Travis Kvapil, No. 33 Chevrolet, Circle Sport. Kvapil finished 11 laps down for his worst finish at Chicagoland finish since 2008. 39. Clint Bowyer, No. 15 Toyota, Michael Waltrip Racing . After the disappointment of not making the Chase following a strong run at Richmond, Bowyer found the wall a few times on the way to his second finish of 38th-or-worse in the past three races. Over the radio after the second time of hitting the wall, Bowyer's frustration was evident, "damn it, hit the (expletive) wall again." Another smack of the wall led to some significant right side damage and a trip to the garage. For more in-car audio, subscribe to RaceView 40. Michael Annett, No. 7 Chevrolet, Tommy Baldwin Racing . The rookie is trending the wrong way in recent weeks, as this was his fourth finish of 37th-of-worse in the past five races. 41. Aric Almirola, No. 43 Ford, Richard Petty Motorsports. A promising run for the Chase underdog was cut short by engine woes. He spent much of the day in the top 10 and led two laps before the disappointing end on Lap 231, at which he radioed in, "we blew up guys, push it back. Wasn't a tire, push it back." He has no margin for error now in the final two Challenger Round races. See how Almirola's day ended 42. Ryan Truex, No. 83 Toyota, BK Racing . An oil leak and a broken wheel bearing are never a good combination and the rookie paid the price for both. Truex finished in 42nd place for the second straight week, and it was his eighth DNF of the season. 43. Mike Bliss, No. 37 Chevrolet, Tommy Baldwin Racing . Making his fifth start of the season, Bliss finished 254 laps down due to a vibration for his third last-place finish this season. 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
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.
After close call at Chicagoland, rookie driver has momentum on his side
See where each driver finished at Atlanta and what put them there MORE: Gallery of 2014 winners " Best Atlanta photos 1. Kasey Kahne, No. 5 Chevrolet, Hendrick Motorsports. Kasey Kahne basically had to win, so that's what he did. And the journey Kahne took to get to Victory Lane was long and winding, but ultimately rewarding after the driver notched his first win of 2014 and punched his postseason ticket following two attempts at a green-white-checkered finish. "You're a badass!," spotter Kevin Hamlin said. "Nice job." Watch Kahne's highlights here. 2. Matt Kenseth, No. 20 Toyota, Joe Gibbs Racing . A late call for two tires gave Kenseth the best chance to win. And although the veteran couldn't quite hold off Kasey Kahne, he's getting closer to his first win of 2014. He finished third last week and second Sunday. Oh, and he clinched a berth in the Chase Grid, too. Watch the final laps here. 3. Denny Hamlin, No. 11 Toyota, Joe Gibbs Racing . Hamlin consistently gained ground on pit road and his pit crew rated the highest of the night, according to RaceView data. His average crew time (11.8 seconds), average driver time (24.3 seconds) and average total time (36.1 seconds) on pit road all ranked first for the night. To get live data during pit stops and post-race rankings, subscribe to RaceView. 4. Jimmie Johnson, No. 48 Chevrolet, Hendrick Motorsports. Johnson's car wasn't ridiculously fast, but it was good. The strategy was sound, as always, and "Six-Time" avoided the trouble that befell so many of Sunday's front-runners for his second consecutive fourth-place finish. The driver and crew chief Chad Knaus were also a delight over the radio. To subscribe to RaceView and get uncensored in-race audio, click here. 5. Carl Edwards, No. 99 Ford, Roush Fenway Racing . This was a weird race for Edwards. During the race's first caution, he had to come in for a new transponder but was awarded his spot in the field back. Then late, he was involved in a wreck on the first attempt at a green-white-checkered restart. But there was Edwards, barreling down the track and securing his sixth top-five of the year by the end of the night. 6. Danica Patrick, No. 10 Chevrolet, Stewart-Haas Racing . Danica Patrick said the race felt like "700 miles." All good things come to those who wait. Patrick restarted fourth with two laps to go and wound up sixth, a career-best effort. "I was starting to think holy (expletive), we can win here," she crowed to her team in celebration. To see her highlights, click here. 7. Ryan Newman, No. 31 Chevrolet, Richard Childress Racing . Newman notched his first top-10 in nearly a month, which was crucial to his postseason chances after Kasey Kahne won for the first time in 2014. He was able to do so by being the best closer of the race -- he moved up 12 positions over the final 33 laps. 8. Kyle Larson, No. 42 Chevrolet, Chip Ganassi Racing . Larson slid through his pit box early and lost critical positioning. During a long run at the midway point, he fell from fifth to 12th. Yet there was this rookie up front by the end, recording his 11th top-10 of the year and sixth top-12 in his past seven starts. On RaceView, crew chief Chris Heroy called out that a ladybug had landed on his visor -- isn't that supposed to bring good luck? To subscribe to RaceView, click here. 9. Aric Almirola, No. 43 Ford, Richard Petty Motorsports. Almirola was one of two drivers to gain more than 10 positions on the track over the final 10 percent of the race -- in this case, 33 laps. It led to a finish that should give his team a jolt with the Chase starting in two weeks. 10. Greg Biffle, No. 16 Ford, Roush Fenway Racing . Despite smacking Dale Earnhardt Jr. on Lap 269 and nearly getting sent off the track, Biffle recovered. The same can be said about his season. The veteran now has five consecutive top-10s after finishing 10th for the third consecutive race. He's currently the final driver in the Chase Grid. To see his highlights, click here. 11. Dale Earnhardt Jr., No. 88 Chevrolet, Hendrick Motorsports. Tony Stewart's disintegrated tire on Lap 173 strewed debris all over the track. Some of hit Junior's Chevrolet, and it ruined his chance of winning -- but not his night. Earnhardt had to come down pit road multiple times to fix his grille, but managed to stay on the lead lap. Click here to see Junior's highlights. 12. Jamie McMurray, No. 1 Chevrolet, Chip Ganassi Racing . McMurray and teammate Kyle Larson continue to have strong cars. And they've gotten good finishes out of them, too. After all, it was Chip Ganassi Racing -- not Team Penske -- as the two-car team to place both its drivers in the top 12. 13. Kurt Busch, No. 41 Chevrolet, Stewart-Haas Racing . The 'Outlaw' led more than 20 laps (22 total) for the fifth time this year, and his Chevrolet was in top form … at least until he blew a right rear tire around the midway point. His No. 41 hit the outside wall hard, knocking a chunk of the vehicle off and forcing Busch to play catch-up all night. To see his highlights, click here. 14. Joey Logano, No. 22 Ford, Team Penske. Certainly, Marcos Ambrose' engine blowing up wasn't good for the No. 9 team. It was for Logano and Co., however. The lengthy time it took to clean the track allowed Logano to get his mind cleared. "Probably a good thing we had this caution," he told crew chief Todd Gordon. "I needed a chill pill." A more calm and cool Logano took the track, and he remained in a zen-like mode … all the way up to a wreck on the first attempt at a green-white-checkered restarted, that ruined his chance at winning. To get in-race audio, subscribe to RaceView. 15. Brian Vickers, No. 55 Toyota, Michael Waltrip Racing . Vickers' worst finish at Atlanta over the past six races was due to a speeding penalty on pit road. That happened with fewer than 50 laps remaining, and it sent the driver well outside the top 10 -- where he had been running. 16. Kyle Busch, No. 18 Toyota, Joe Gibbs Racing . Near the midway point, Busch broke loose and smacked Tony Stewart, who got into the wall. Just before the white flag dropped, he ran Martin Truex Jr. into the wall and later barreled into his car once the caution flag came out. It's been a rough month for 'Rowdy' and company. Click here to see Sunday's highlights. 17. Jeff Gordon, No. 24 Chevrolet, Hendrick Motorsports. A spate of bad luck continued for Gordon, who has started in the top 10 for four consecutive races yet has just one top-15 to show for it. Sunday's showing, in which he started ninth and drove up to second early, was marred by a blown right front tire on Lap 78. He lost a lap getting repairs, then another after he had to come back down. Somehow getting back on the lead lap is a victory in its own right. 18. Paul Menard, No. 27 Chevrolet, Richard Childress Racing . The only surefire way the No. 27 team could crash the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup was by winning one of the final two regular-season races. It's why crew chief Slugger Labbe called for two tires on a pit stop before the first green-white-checkered restart, and Menard restarted second. He couldn't find his grip, though, and cars stacked up behind him, eventually leading to a wreck. 19. Kevin Harvick, No. 4 Chevrolet, Stewart-Haas Racing . For a while, it looked like Harvick had nine lives Sunday -- fascinating, of course, because the driver claims he nearly ran over a cat (or was it a squirrel?). Harvick consistently made up for lost time on pit road and led a whopping 195 laps before slamming the fence in a multicar incident on the penultimate restart. 20. Ricky Stenhouse Jr., No. 17 Ford, Roush Fenway Racing . Much like he did last season, Stenhouse is finding some consistency late in the year. While a 20th-place effort isn't a reason to celebrate, it's his fifth consecutive top-20 performance. That is easily his longest streak of the year. 21. Michael Annett, No. 7 Chevrolet, Tommy Baldwin Racing . Annett's 21st-place finish was his best showing in the past seven races, and he was the highest finisher for Tommy Baldwin Racing . Finishing one lap down on such a long race after two consecutive weeks of DNFs is a boon for this team. 22. Casey Mears, No. 13 Chevrolet, German Racing . If nothing else, Mears is consistent. His average career finish at Atlanta is 22.5. His finish last year was 22nd. His finish this year? 22nd. 23. Martin Truex Jr., No. 78 Chevrolet, Furniture Row Racing . For the second time in four races, Truex had a run-in with Kyle Busch. This one happened on Lap 324, with Busch essentially dumping Truex. The Furniture Row Racing driver leaned into Busch's car to talk to him after the race, but it didn't get physical. "The 18 will come on your outside," crew chief Todd Berrier said over the radio after the incident. "Getting pissy in my ear, cut it out, we'll take care of it in our own way." Click here to get in-race audio and telemetry. 24. Austin Dillon, No. 3 Chevrolet, Richard Childress Racing . Dillon's rookie season isn't over -- there are 11 more races, after all -- but his chance of advancing to the postseason based off points is kaput. It's simple at Richmond -- winning is the only way into the Chase Grid. 25. Ty Dillon, No. 33 Chevrolet, Circle Sport Racing . Not a bad finish for the NASCAR Nationwide Series regular in his first career Sprint Cup start. We're willing to bet he wished to be flipped with the person who finished 24th, though. Let's just say there was an extra incentive. 26. Justin Allgaier, No. 51 Chevrolet, HScott Motorsports. Allgaier's 26th-place run wasn't his worst showing of late. But when you take away races in which he was knocked out early due to a crash, Sunday was his worst finish since Indianapolis. 27. David Ragan, No. 34 Ford, Front Row Motorsports. Ragan was consistent Sunday, and actually ended up as one of the night's biggest gainers. Considering he started 38th, 27th wasn't a bad showing for the No. 34 team. 28. David Gilliland, No. 38 Ford, Front Row Motorsports. For the sixth time this year, Gilliland and teammate David Ragan finished in consecutive order. Like his teammate, the driver of the No. 38 gained incremental positions throughout the night. 29. Reed Sorenson, No. 36 Chevrolet, Tommy Baldwin Racing . For the fifth consecutive race, Sorenson finished inside the top 30 -- although just barely at Atlanta. Before this stretch, he had five top-30s in the first 20 races. 30. Cole Whitt, No. 26 Toyota, BK Racing . Whitt was whistled for speeding late in Sunday's event, the result of which sent him back down pit road for a pass-through penalty in what would be his second consecutive 30th-place finish. Denny Hamlin also called him out on the radio for not signaling to pit, causing a stack-up. 31. Landon Cassill, No. 40 Chevrolet, Hillman Racing . What is it about quirky intermediate tracks that has Cassill boosting his game? He hasn't done well on the "cookie-cutter" 1.5-mile tracks, but his effort at Atlanta (1.54 miles) mirrored his above-expectations finish at Darlington (1.37 miles) earlier this year. 32. J.J. Yeley, No. 32 Ford, GO Fas Racing . Driving the No. 32 car , Yeley finished 32nd for his second-best finish of the season. 33. Josh Wise, No. 98 Chevrolet, Phil Parsons Racing . Wise found his name being mentioned at the end of Sunday's race, although it was not in the manner he would have preferred. Brad Keselowski's hopes were dashed after he smacked Wise late while cars tried to figure out their pit strategy. 34. Brett Moffitt, No. 66 Toyota, Jay Robinson Racing . These races are supposed to be learning experiences for the 22-year-old Moffitt, so ideally he learned something he can use for the future when he was caught speeding on pit road. 35. Alex Bowman, No. 23 Toyota, BK Racing . Bowman finished just ahead of rookie teammate Ryan Truex. Those two were the only drivers to complete exactly 326 (of 335) laps. 36. Ryan Truex, No. 83 Toyota, BK Racing . Truex brought out the caution Lap 116 when he took a spin. Other than that, it was a relatively quiet night for the No. 83 team. 37. Joe Nemechek, No. 77 Ford, Randy Humphrey Racing . Sunday was Nemechek's 13th start in 25 races this year (he failed to qualify for five others) and it fell in line with his stats. His average finish this year is 36.3. 38. Clint Bowyer, No. 15 Toyota, Michael Waltrip Racing . If there was ever a time to subscribe to RaceView for uncensored audio, it was when Bowyer realized something was seriously wrong with his vehicle. Expletives flew as the driver took his car behind the wall with a busted gear shifter. He returned to the track 22 laps down -- and in real danger of missing out on the postseason after Kasey Kahne's win. Subscribe to RaceView here. 39. Brad Keselowski, No. 2 Ford, Team Penske. "We're here to win," Keselowski told his team over the radio before the race. "That's all that really matters right now." Those hopes all but ended when pitting following a Lap 209 caution, Keselowski severely overshot his stall. He came in second, and was out in 16th place. He explained over RaceView: "I couldn't see it, I'm sorry. It's so dark out here." Things got worse later, and a wreck with a lapped car sent Keselowski to the garage for good after 296 laps. For in-driver audio during races, subscribe to RaceView here. 40. AJ Allmendinger, No. 47 Chevrolet, JTG Daugherty Racing . Tires were twice a problem for Allmendinger and his team. Blowing a right tire on Lap 38 put him a lap down, and he blew another tire later and had to go behind the wall. It was a cruel blow to the one-car JTG Daugherty organization, which had pieced together three consecutive top-15s -- including a win at Watkins Glen. 41. Tony Stewart, No. 14 Chevrolet, Stewart-Haas Racing . In his first race in nearly a month following a tragic sprint car accident, Stewart's car was among the best in the field early. He gained five spots in the first two laps and was running in the top five early. Trouble started on Lap 122 when contact from Kyle Busch put the No. 14 into the wall, and a blown right front tire ended his night for good on Lap 173. "Sorry guys," Stewart said in driving his battered Chevy behind the wall. "You deserved better." See Stewart's highlights here. 42. Marcos Ambrose, No. 9 Ford, Richard Petty Motorsports. Ambrose has had good runs at Atlanta, but Sunday wasn't one of them. His No. 9 Ford blew an engine on Lap 123, ending his night. The Australian driver's slim hopes of advancing into the postseason on points alone are done. He must win next week. 43. Mike Bliss, No. 37 Chevrolet, Tommy Baldwin Racing . Sunday served as the third NASCAR Sprint Cup Series start of the season for the 49-year-old. He had previously finished 43rd at New Hampshire and 41st at Kentucky.
Both drivers miss out on making the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup RELATED: Play Perfect Chase Grid Challenge for chance at $100,000 prize RICHMOND, Va. -- Their chances at racing their way into NASCAR's 10-event playoff were slim, but both Clint Bowyer and Kyle Larson had a chance, and any chance is better than no chance at all. Bowyer nearly pulled it off, but neither race winner Brad Keselowski nor Greg Biffle , who finished 19th, gave the Michael Waltrip Racing driver much to work with. "That's all I had; that's all we had as a race team," Bowyer said of his third-place finish. "We put it all out there and still we were just third-best. We've got some work to do, but a lot of racing left." A win would have earned either driver, Bowyer or Larson, a ticket into the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup, which begins next weekend at Chicagoland Speedway . The more difficult process involved finishing the appropriate number of positions ahead of Ryan Newman and/or Biffle. Newman was steady if unspectacular, rolling his way to a rock-solid ninth-place finish. Biffle seemed more likely to fold, going two laps down at one point in Saturday night's Federated Auto Parts 400 at Richmond International Raceway . But in the end, he managed to do what he needed to do to make the Chase, eventually ending the night with a seven-point margin on Bowyer, and the final of the 16 berths to be awarded. "If you make the Chase you want to compete for a championship," Bowyer said. "Truth be told, we're not there right now. A lot of work to do. We've got to continue to build on momentum like we had here tonight. "You know, it's definitely frustrating not making that Chase, but like I said, when you do make the Chase, you want it to be for a championship, not just ride around in it. We still haven't won a race … everybody on this 15 team deserves a win by the end of the year, and I'll see to it they get it." Bowyer had been a Chase participant on five previous occasions, including the two previous seasons. After qualifying sixth for the final regular-season NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race, Bowyer had moved to fourth when NASCAR brought out the caution just past the 50-lap mark. Quick work by his No. 15 Toyota team put him second in the running order for the restart, but the outside line failed to advance, and Bowyer soon found himself running fourth and having to fight for lost positions. Throughout the race, he remained in the top five. But Keselowski's dominance and Biffle's unwillingness to go quietly into the night left Bowyer Chase-less. "Tip my hat to my guys, I'm really proud of them," co-owner Michael Waltrip said afterward. "They were really close to winning that race." But Keselowski, he said, "was just amazing" while runner-up Jeff Gordon "was just a little bit better" than Bowyer. No Chase, perhaps, but 10 races remain just the same. "I think that's their attitude, too," Waltrip said of the No. 15 team. "They don't quit, they don't give up. We know that this chapter is closed for us but we can come back and win races; we need to be on TV for … all our sponsors. "Clint's got a great attitude, he's energetic and fun to be around; I think maybe he can let loose now and maybe go win some races and we can finish the season strong." While Bowyer ran in the top five the majority of the night, Larson, the Sunoco Rookie of the Year contender, spent most of his evening inside the top 10, eventually finishing 11th. The Chip Ganassi Racing driver finished 16 points behind Biffle. "I'm still proud of my team," Larson said as he leaned back against his No. 42 Chevrolet. "We've been working hard and we're getting closer." Larson said he knew his odds weren't good, but "it was more that I was just hoping for the 16 (of Biffle) to have some trouble; he had about the night I figured he would, which was a smart night, to stay up there and make his way into the Chase. "Clint was doing a very good job too, all race long. I thought he might have a shot to win. I guess he fell just a little short." MORE: READ: Latest Chase news PLAY: NASCAR Chase Grid games WATCH: Latest NASCAR video FOLLOW LIVE: Get RaceView FULL CHASE COVERAGE • Chase hub page • Chase Grid games • #MyChaseNation
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