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Hard tires, reworked curbing present challenges at repaved Watkins Glen
RELATED: Before and after: Watkins Glen repave WATKINS GLEN, N.Y. -- NASCAR Sprint Cup Series teams wrapped up a two-day organizational test Wednesday at newly repaved Watkins Glen International, emerging with better ideas of the challenges they'll face when the series returns for the Aug. 4-7 race weekend. Among those challenges: reworked curbing, a fast circuit and a harder-compound tire that has made grip elusive. A total of 16 Sprint Cup teams -- one permitted from each organization -- tried to unlock the novelty of the $12 million resurfacing project, using a Goodyear tire that emphasizes durability at the expense of traction and wear. The rubber compound chosen is similar to that used July 9 at Kentucky Speedway, site of the Sprint Cup Series' most recent race on a repaved track. At Kentucky, the tire selection made for treacherous conditions in certain spots and made passing a delicate process. Though road courses don't lend themselves to the multi-groove racing seen at several well-aged oval tracks, Watkins Glen might still be a tricky place to maneuver when the series reconvenes for the Cheez-It 355 at The Glen. "The main thing we've learned so far is how hard the tire is," said Jamie McMurray, driver of the Chip Ganassi Racing No. 1 Chevrolet. "It just seems to be no wear at all or lap time fall-off right now. This place didn't ever wear tires like Sonoma, but it seems like the tire is pretty hard." Sonoma, the other road course where the Sprint Cup Series races, is a much more intricate circuit with qualifying speeds roughly 30 mph slower than at Watkins Glen's open, free-wheeling layout. The Goodyear tire compound designated for both the Watkins Glen test and the race weekend is the same used for right-side tires in XFINITY Series competition at Iowa Speedway. Those Iowa right-sides will be used at all four corners for the Sprint Cup event at the 2.45-mile road course. Racing with a softer tire with more adhesion would potentially introduce the threat of excessive wear or blistering. It's a trade-off that Sunoco Rookie of the Year candidate Chase Elliott says he's willing to accept. "I think a lot of it is just having a fresh surface like this, you've got to have a tire that's pretty hard," said Elliott, Hendrick Motorsports' driver representative for the two-day test. "It's fast, and to ask a tire to hold up, you've got to bring something that's durable. It puts Goodyear in a tough spot, but I think they do a good job of trying to make the most of tough situations. There's been a lot of repaves here lately and I know they're working hard." David Groseclose, NASCAR's lead tire engineer, said Wednesday that the benefits of competing with a more rigid rubber compound outweighed the potential drawbacks. "As with all repaves -- same thing as Kentucky -- if you don't have a hard tire, you're going to blister them up," Groseclose said. "The way that works is if you've got a soft compound and you use it, the soft compounds tend to retain heat. It's just the nature of a soft compound. But on a repave, it's not going to wear so that heat's not going to be dissipated out of the tire. It has nowhere to go, so it stays in the tire, so that's why it blisters up. That's what we saw at Kentucky with the XFINITY and Truck Series." In addition to the surface itself, the track features new concrete for the rumble strips that border the circuit's turns and run-off areas. Some drivers found the differences barely noticeable, but Kurt Busch discovered a distinction the hard way with an early Tuesday spin as he bounded over the apex points in the backstretch chicane on one of his initial laps. "It's a lot different," said Tony Gibson, Busch's crew chief on the Stewart-Haas Racing No. 41 Chevrolet. "Kurt's like, 'I've got to learn all the curbs again.' The curbs over in the bus stop (chicane) are probably the biggest change. They're way more aggressive, and they've tightened up, so it's a lot tighter lane through there." Said Elliott, who will race here in Sprint Cup for the first time next weekend: "Some of the curbs may be a little different here or there, some a little rougher, a little smoother just depending on how they laid the asphalt in or however it worked. It's as close as you could make a track from an old surface to a repave, for sure." Five Sprint Cup teams participated in a Goodyear tire test May 10-11, and another 16 were present for this week's organizational test. For the remaining half of the field, the work toward finding the proper handle begins with opening practice on Friday, Aug. 5. "If you get your balance right, it'll be a no-drama," Gibson said. "Man, I told Kurt earlier, 'I'd hate to know I had to come here next Friday and hit the track for the first time and try to figure out these curbs and how much the race track has changed.' It'll be a handful in the short amount of time we get to practice. "It'll be interesting to see when we come back who has issues and who doesn't. But it's definitely going to be a plus to come and learn the race track, even if your car is not right or whatever, just getting here and getting behind the wheel and getting time on the race track is going to mean more." Pit notes: -- The full roster (in alphabetical order) of drivers and teams participating in the test: AJ Allmendinger (JTG Daugherty Racing ), Ryan Blaney (Wood Brothers Racing ), Clint Bowyer (HScott Motorsports), Chris Buescher (Front Row Motorsports), Kurt Busch (Stewart-Haas Racing ), Kyle Busch (Joe Gibbs Racing ), Austin Dillon (Richard Childress Racing ), Chase Elliott (Hendrick Motorsports), Brad Keselowski (Team Penske), Michael McDowell (Circle Sport-Leavine Family Racing ), Jamie McMurray ( Chip Ganassi Racing ), Casey Mears (Germain Racing ), Brian Scott (Richard Petty Motorsports), Regan Smith (Tommy Baldwin Racing ), Ricky Stenhouse Jr. (Roush Fenway Racing ), Martin Truex Jr. (Furniture Row Racing ). -- Casey Mears turned the fastest lap in the two-day test, which was divided into four sessions of four hours apiece. Mears pushed the Germain Racing No. 13 Chevrolet in the closing session to a best lap of 126.7 mph, a good bit slower than the track qualifying record of 129.491 mph set by Marcos Ambrose in August 2014. -- Brad Keselowski returned to the track Wednesday, one day after his severe, nearly head-on crash in Turn 1. He turned 74 laps over both sessions in a reserve Team Penske No. 2 Ford. -- Two teams -- Furniture Row Racing (driver Martin Truex Jr.) and Circle Sport-Leavine Family Racing (driver Michael McDowell) -- were absent from testing's opening day, arriving in the Watkins Glen garage Wednesday in time for the two closing sessions. -- Wednesday's final session was extended 30 minutes to a 5:30 p.m. ET close because of a nearly hour-long clean-up for fluid on the track. After Chase Elliott's No. 24 Chevrolet suffered a broken axle, Clint Bowyer's No. 15 Chevy ran over the part, damaging the car's transmission. -- NASCAR XFINITY Series teams are scheduled to turn their first laps on the new Watkins Glen surface next Thursday. The NASCAR K&N Pro Series East will stage a support race the following day on the 2.45-mile course.
Chip Ganassi always up for next racing challenge
SEBRING, Fla. -- Fans practically contorted themselves to get the perfect "selfies" and random close-ups of Chip Ganassi's two Ford GT cars on the grid awaiting Saturday's green flag for the 64th annual Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring. Dressed in their finest Ford, Chevrolet Corvette and even Ferrari and Porsche T-shirts and hats, the crowd around Ganassi's two red-white-and-blue entries was easily the largest on the starting grid. The curious and adoring fans examined the rear wing, peered into the car's windows and asked crewman to pose for photos. And there were audible bursts of "ohhh and ahhh" in various inflections and languages. Unlike most race events, the fancy sports cars parked in the infield lots didn't belong to the drivers or team executives, but instead to the highly devoted sports car fans who attend the famous Twelve Hours of Sebring dressed in Mark Donohue shirts with prototype car silhouettes on their cap. NASCAR Hall of Famers Bill Elliott and Terry Labonte have competed at Sebring as have Ricky Rudd and Michael Waltrip . While no former NASCAR drivers were entered this weekend, Sprint Cup team owners Ganassi and Rob Kauffman, who competed here with Michael Waltrip in 2012, were on hand to see their Fords compete in what is considered one of the world's greatest races. Ganassi's team won this race in a prototype class car in 2014. "The big thing is to get some distance in them," Ford driver Joey Hand told the crowd Saturday. "But the cars look fast and they are fast." Going the distance is the big challenge. The brand new Ford GT EcoBoosts had a few hiccups in their Rolex 24 debut, but in all fairness, had only turned laps a couple weeks before the race during a massive test session. It was a tricky debut at Daytona for the new cars, but the team is quite confident it has learned from the growing pains and repaired the glitches. They led laps and kept pace at Daytona and Saturday was all about increasing the performance further. "The good thing about it all, and the thing we are pleased about, is the car is showing some pace, it is showing some opportunity, and overall we are happy that we have a fast car and we need to work on reliability,’" Ford Motor Company's executive vice president, Product Development, and chief technical officer, Raj Nair said after Daytona. "That's a lot better than having a slow car that's reliable, but you don't know how to get speed out of it. Overall, this is racing and this is what can happen in racing . If we don't win every race, we are disappointed, but at the same time we know how to fix our issues and we'll be better the next time we come out." The whole program is a major undertaking for Ganassi , who has won Daytona 500 , Indianapolis 500, Brickyard 400, Rolex 24 and 12 Hours of Sebring trophies already. But the quest is as sentimental as it is ambitious. A win at the famed 24 Hours of Le Mans is the next great trophy Ganassi desires -- and a victory there would certainly add to what is absolutely already one of the greatest resumes in racing history. "I think it’s obviously something that's been on our radar screen for a couple years," Ganassi said standing alongside his car Saturday, enjoying the large and curious crowd. "It's going to be a challenge and we're hopeful we can put Ford forward the way they want to be represented. We look forward to it. "The greatest events attract the greatest teams and the greatest challenges. That's why we look forward to it. "And it's nice to go over there with an American company. That's pretty cool."
Childress, Ganassi feted at Motorsports Hall
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. -- One inductee has won six NASCAR premier series titles as an owner. The other has won just about everything else. NASCAR Sprint Cup Series team owners Richard Childress and Chip Ganassi were among this year's seven-member class inducted into the 2016 Motorsports Hall of Fame of America on Wednesday evening. For Childress, the ride to the Shores Resort & Spa, site of the induction ceremony, brought back memories. "I passed by Nova Road and got to thinking," the team owner said. "I remember I came down here in 1965 (working as a crewman) and we pitched a tent and camped there in a campground off Nova. "Four years later, in 1969, I came down here and we had six people and a four-person camper. So a couple had to sleep outside on the ground. "And now here tonight, to be inducted into the Motorsports Hall of Fame of America, it's just unbelievable." Childress made 285 starts as a driver in NASCAR, and although he failed to win a race, he finished in the top 10 in points five times during his 12-year driving career. Teamed with driver Dale Earnhardt, however, his Richard Childress Racing organization was nearly unbeatable from 1986-95, scoring six championships and 53 wins while finishing first or second in points eight times. Childress will be inducted into the NASCAR Hall of Fame in January of 2017, an honor he said he never imagined. Likewise, his selection into the Motorsports Hall of Fame of America was unexpected. "I was just telling Rusty (Wallace), going up to Detroit when they put Dale in, man you just saw all the greats of motorsports," he said. "To be put in this hall of fame is pretty special. In the NASCAR world, it doesn't get any bigger than to be chosen to go into the NASCAR Hall of Fame. But in the motorsports world, this is the top." Earnhardt, a member of the inaugural NASCAR Hall of Fame class, was inducted into the Motorsports Hall of Fame of America in 2002. Ganassi , a team owner in NASCAR since 2001, has yet to see one of his drivers capture the premier series title, although they have won some of the series' biggest events, including the Daytona 500 and the Brickyard 400. Ganassi's teams have excelled elsewhere as well. He is the only team owner to win the Daytona 500 , Indianapolis 500, Brickyard 400 and Rolex 24 at Daytona. Now he can also add a Le Mans title to the list. His Ford Chip Ganassi Racing team recently captured the iconic 24-hour endurance race one year after the automaker announced its return to the annual event and 50 years to the day after Ford won its first Le Mans crown. Aside from a NASCAR title, are there other worlds for the owner to capture? "I'm sure I could think of something," Ganassi said Wednesday night. "I've won some big races, sure. I've just been lucky. I've been lucky to be around great drivers and great people in my career. I just want to win. I want to win this weekend. I want to win the next race." Ganassi was still basking in the glow of the Le Mans victory, accepting congratulations from many of those on hand Wednesday evening. "We were over there … and we were learning new rules like drinking from a firehose," Ganassi said. "We raced hard and at the end of the day we were first, third and fourth and all I can say is it was one of the most exciting weeks of my life. … "We go to victory circle and we're shooting champagne, having a good time and you look out and there's 100,000 people there on the frontstretch just standing there cheering at you. "They raise the American flag behind you and they play the national anthem. And I tell you, that really hits you in your stomach. When you're in a foreign land and they play the national anthem for you, that's a big thing, I can tell you. That's something in sports that's not to be taken lightly." His induction into the Motorsports Hall of Fame is special, he said, because "your heroes, guys you grew up emulating, are all in this thing. "I'll tell you what a big deal it is," he said. "When you go to lunch and Craig Breedlove wants to get his picture taken with you and I wanted my picture taken with him. I'm thinking, 'Man, this is a big thing.' " Breedlove, who set numerous land speed world records, was inducted into the Hall in 1993. "It's just great to get to see and meet all those guys," Ganassi said. "And I'm shocked that they know me. They say, 'Hey, congratulations,' when I'm trying to introduce myself and they go 'I know who you are.' It's kind of dumbfounding." In addition to Childress and Ganassi , others inductees were Everett Brashear (Motorcycles), Gary Gabelich (At Large), Dave McClelland (Drag Racing ), Sam Posey (Sports Cars) and Bob Sweikert (Historic). The event kicked off the Hall's move from its previous location in Novi, Mich., to the grounds of Daytona International Speedway .
Credit One bank partners with NASCAR, Chip Ganassi Racing
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (February 12, 2016) – One of the largest and fastest growing credit card issuers in the United States, Credit One Bank has entered into a multi-year partnership with NASCAR to include official agreements with both the sanctioning body and one of the most successful teams in auto- racing , Chip Ganassi Racing . The collaborations designate Credit One Bank as the "Official Credit Card of NASCAR," in addition to being a partner of Chip Ganassi Racing . As part of the agreement with NASCAR, Credit One Bank will offer fans officially licensed NASCAR-themed credit cards. Credit One Bank will also be the primary sponsor of the No. 1 Chevrolet, piloted by "2015 Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup " contender Jamie McMurray for three races, as well as an associate partner throughout the 2016 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series (NSCS) campaign. The No. 1 Credit One Bank Chevy SS will debut on the track at Richmond International Raceway (RIR) on April 24. "Our partnerships with both NASCAR and Chip Ganassi Racing will introduce the benefits of Credit One Bank card membership to a new audience of consumers," said Laura Faulkner, vice president of marketing communications, Credit One Bank. "With the Official Credit Card of NASCAR, fans can further their love of racing with a rewards program that complements that same passion. We also look forward to supporting Jamie McMurray in the 2016 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series." Credit One Bank offers full spectrum credit card products, and is among the top 10 largest Visa credit card issuers in the United States. Credit One Bank will offer cash back rewards, exclusive experiences, discounts, and special offers to their NASCAR Visa ® card members. The inaugural card design will feature NASCAR official marks and exciting race imagery, with additional designs to be released throughout the season. Fans can apply for the official NASCAR credit card by visiting www.CreditOneBank.com/NASCAR . "We could not be happier with Credit One Bank's fully integrated campaign to introduce its brand to our industry, stakeholders, and most importantly, our fans," said Steve Phelps, NASCAR executive vice president and chief marketing officer. "As our entire industry gears up for Daytona 500 weekend, this new agreement signals that NASCAR is still one of the most effective marketing spends in all of sports." Credit One Bank will utilize 2010 Daytona 500 champion McMurray as a spokesperson to promote its brand and the Official Credit Card of NASCAR. The 2016 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series (NSCS) season will be McMurray's 14th full-time year in NASCAR’s premier division. McMurray has seven career NSCS wins and 11 pole awards. McMurray is one of only three drivers to have won the Daytona 500 and the Brickyard 400 in a single season (2010). "This announcement is really exciting news for our team, but it is also a testament to our sport when a company like Credit One Bank recognizes the power of brands like NASCAR and Chip Ganassi Racing . It is always nice to see new brands come to the sport and make a commitment like Credit One Bank has with this news," said Steve Lauletta, president, Chip Ganassi Racing Teams. "We are excited to have Credit One Bank onboard the No. 1 Chevrolet with Jamie McMurray and look forward to working with them to introduce their products and services to NASCAR fans everywhere." The Credit One Bank NASCAR marketing campaign will also include national television advertising, network and satellite radio advertising, sweepstakes and promotions, at-track marketing, unique retail partnerships and card member experiences for NASCAR fans.
Chip Ganassi Racing No. 42 NXS car chief passes away
Ryan Shea, car chief for the Chip Ganassi Racing No. 42 Chevrolet in the NASCAR XFINITY Series, died Wednesday night at his home in Troutman, North Carolina, according to the team. He was 34. "It is a sad day for our team as we mourn the untimely loss of Ryan," team owner Chip Ganassi said in a team release. "Ryan was a dedicated worker and a great friend to those on our team, as well as others in the garage. Our hearts go out to Ryan’s family and friends during this difficult time." Shea had previously worked at Michael Waltrip Racing before joining CGR in 2015. Kyle Larson and Justin Marks have been behind the wheel of the No. 42 this season. My thoughts on the passing of Ryan Shea: pic.twitter.com/XzKUBibck1 — Justin Marks (@JMarksDE) March 31, 2016 "Ryan was a tremendous asset to Chip Ganassi Racing and the No. 42 team and will be sorely missed," said crew chief Mike Shiplett. "My thoughts go out to his wife, children, family and friends in this time of mourning." Chip Ganassi Racing will communicate further details regarding funeral arrangements and memorials as they become available. A GoFundMe page has been established to take donations for Ryan's family -- go here to see it. Also, CGR cars will have a special decal on their Chevrolets this weekend. The NASCAR community collectively offered its condolences to the team and the Shea family on Twitter: Just heard the news of Ryan Shea passing away in his sleep. A great person and great worker in the industry.. Prayers with his wife & kids — Rodney Childers (@RodneyChilders4) March 31, 2016 Ryan Shea will be greatly missed by this community. He is a model to follow in this sport. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family. — JR Motorsports (@JRMotorsports) March 31, 2016 Wow shocked to hear about the passing of Ryan Shea. He was my car chief in 2006. Thoughts and prayers to Cory and the Shea family. — Kevin Conway (@TheKevinConway) March 31, 2016 Very sad day @CGRnascar as we lost one of our teammates far too soon. Keep Ryan's family in prayers #RIPRyanShea https://t.co/lwHv4UwIUl — Steve Lauletta (@slauletta) March 31, 2016 Thoughts and prayers to Ryan Shea and his family — Jeff Burton (@JeffBurton) March 31, 2016 It takes days like today to remember just how fragile life is. Shea was a great teammate and he is already deeply missed. — Ashley Parlett (@Just_AP) March 31, 2016 Thoughts and Prayers for Ryan Shea, his wife and kids! Such sad news. — Chris Osborne (@crazy_spotter) March 31, 2016
Brennan Poole to drive full-time for Chip Ganassi Racing in XFINITY Series
Brennan Poole will compete full-time in the NASCAR XFINITY Series for Chip Ganassi Racing this season, an opportunity that the Woodlands, Texas, native called "a dream come true." "It's emotional; you really can't put it into words," the 24-year-old told NASCAR.com. "To run for a championship at the NASCAR level is something I've wanted to do for as long as I can remember." CGR will field two XFINITY Series entries this year, the No. 48 Chevrolet for Poole with funding from DC Solar, and the No. 42 that will feature Sprint Cup driver Kyle Larson for 17 races. A second driver has yet to be named for the No. 42 for the remaining 16 races. Former Roush Fenway Racing crew chief Chad Norris, paired with drivers Darrell Wallace Jr . (20 races) and Ryan Reed (13) last season, will serve as crew chief. "I'm confident that in our renewed partnership with Chip Ganassi , 2016 is going to be a winning season, and that DC Solar will continue to successfully engage and educate the NASCAR audience on solar energy and the DC Solar brand," Jeff Carpoff, president and CEO of DC Solar, said. "We couldn't be more excited to return to the track with Brennan and competing for a championship." Poole ran a limited schedule in '15, splitting seat time with Larson in the No. 42 entry when the organization ran under the HScott Motorsports with Chip Ganassi Racing banner. In 17 starts, he finished in the top 15 on 10 occasions with a best result of ninth at Las Vegas Motor Speedway . The Las Vegas start was his very first in the series. Much of the previous two seasons was spent as a spotter and working with Dartfish, a video software analysis program, "and just trying to get in a car whenever I could," Poole said. In spite of the limited seat time, Poole said he felt the team had "some great runs" last year. "Obviously we still want to improve on them and be better," he said. "I feel like we've shown at times we've been capable of really having not just a good weekend but a great weekend. As long as we continue to build on that and keep moving in the right direction, I'm really excited about what we can do." Poole, who has one career start in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series, is a six-time winner in the ARCA Series. The full-time opportunity with Ganassi , which fields Sprint Cup entries for Larson and Jamie McMurray , is the latest step in what he hopes will be a long career behind the wheel. "I can't put into words what it means to be part of such a great team," Poole said. "There are only so many owners in the garage and I'm with one of the best. To have someone like that believe in you, it's crazy."
The Rundown: Indianapolis driver grades
RELATED: Complete race results " Updated Chase Grid Breaking down the full field for the Crown Royal Presents The Combat Wounded Coalition 400 At The Brickyard at Indianapolis Motor Speedway: 1. Kyle Busch, No. 18 Toyota, Joe Gibbs Racing . Total domination. Busch won Saturday's and Sunday's races from the pole and led a record 149 laps Sunday. His average running position Sunday was 1.2, and his lowest position was third. Seriously? Busch's hammerlock on the field was on par with what Martin Truex Jr. did in the Coca-Cola 600 . Thus the same mark. Grade: AAA+ 2. Matt Kenseth , No. 20 Toyota, Joe Gibbs Racing . Kenseth is still winless at the Brickyard but has now finished second three times. More numbers: In Kenseth's first four starts at Indianapolis for JGR, his finishes are 5th, 4th, 7th and 2nd. Grade: A 3. Jimmie Johnson , No. 48 Chevrolet, Hendrick Motorsports. Johnson had to do a pass-through on Lap 86 for a pit-road speeding penalty, dropping him to 23rd. Attrition and persistence led to Johnson's first top 10 since he finished third at Charlotte two months ago. Nice finish, but this team still needs to clean up its mistakes. Grade: A- 4. Denny Hamlin , No. 11 Toyota, Joe Gibbs Racing . Ditto the No. 11 team. Hamlin was assessed his seventh pit-road speeding penalty of the season one lap after Jimmie Johnson (same round of green-flag stops). Hamlin was running third at the time and fell back to 18th. Nice recovery, but … Grade: A- 5. Kyle Larson , No. 42 Chevrolet, Chip Ganassi Racing . Larson was the second-biggest winner of the afternoon, moving up four spots in the standings to 15th. Grade: A 6. Kevin Harvick , No. 4 Chevrolet, Stewart-Haas Racing . Harvick upped his points lead to 24. Two races ago it was down to four. If you don't think that's important, remember this: If qualifying is rained out, the field is set by the standings -- as is the order of selecting a pit stall. So, yes, the standings still matter. Grade: A 7. Joey Logano , No. 22 Ford, Team Penske. Logano restarted second on the final restart but couldn't hold the position or make a run at Kyle Busch. Logano, by the way, finished second to Busch in last year's Brickyard. Grade: A 8. Martin Truex Jr. , No. 78 Toyota, Furniture Row Racing . Truex was strong all afternoon – his 5.6 average running position was second to Kyle Busch's – but he was no match for the winner. Grade: A 9. Austin Dillon , No. 3 Chevrolet, Richard Childress Racing . Sunday's top 10 was Dillon's ninth of the season (20 starts), equaling his total for the first 85 starts of his Sprint Cup career. Grade: A 10. Paul Menard , No. 27 Chevrolet, Richard Childress Racing . Menard benefited from accidents in front of him that he was able to avoid to score his second top 10 of the season. Grade: A- 11. Tony Stewart , No. 14 Chevrolet, Stewart-Haas Racing . Stewart started third and was running with the leaders when he was caught speeding on pit road just before the third caution and had to restart at the tail end of the field, one lap down. He was still back in the pack (20th) with 25 laps to go in regulation. But then came all the cautions. "Smoke" finally got his lap back with a free pass on the fifth caution, survived contact with Jamie McMurray on Lap 166 and salvaged a decent finish on his last go-round at Indy. Grade: B 12. Ricky Stenhouse Jr. , No. 17 Ford, Roush Fenway Racing . Stenhouse survived the big Carl Edwards - Ryan Newman wreck that brought out the red flag to get a finish that belied his day. He turned 14 laps in the top 15 and had an average running positon of 20.1. Grade: B- 13. Jeff Gordon , No. 88 Chevrolet, Hendrick Motorsports. Despite problems with restarts, Gordon was able to post his best finish of the season and overcome the incredible pressure of replacing Alex Bowman in the No. 88. ... Yes, I'm kidding. Except for the restarts part. Vive Monsieur Gordon! Grade: A 14. Chris Buescher , No. 34 Ford, Front Row Motorsports. Buescher recorded the best finish of his Sprint Cup career on a day in which he turned all of two laps in the top 15 and had a 23.7 average running position. Grade: B 15. Chase Elliott , No. 24 Chevrolet, Hendrick Motorsports. Elliott registered his best finish since a second-place finish at Michigan more than a month ago. Grade: B 16. Kurt Busch, No. 41 Chevrolet, Stewart-Haas Racing . For only the second time this season, Busch failed to finish in the top 10 in back-to-back races. Grade: B- 17. Brad Keselowski , No. 2 Ford, Team Penske. Keselowski was the rage early on with his team's bold pit strategy, but the second half of the race bore zero resemblance to the first half. Getting caught up in the Carl Edwards - Ryan Newman wreck didn't help, either. Grade: B 18. Kasey Kahne , No. 5 Chevrolet, Hendrick Motorsports. Despite a fourth-straight finish outside the top 10, Kahne moved up two spots in the standings to 16th, 10 points behind Kyle Larson . He jumped one driver who missed the race ( Dale Earnhardt Jr. ) and one who didn't use the best judgment and crashed with 10 laps to go ( Trevor Bayne ). Grade: C 19. Jamie McMurray , No. 1 Chevrolet, Chip Ganassi Racing . McMurray's nice run came to a screeching halt on the restart on Lap 165 when he moved down in front of Tony Stewart but hadn't cleared the No. 14. Stewart wasn't about to lift, and the No. 1 went for a slide onto the access road before returning to the track and smacking Ryan Newman . Worse, the caution gave the free pass to Chase-cutoff competitor Kasey Kahne . Grade: B- 20. Landon Cassill , No. 38 Ford, Front Row Motorsports. Cassill avoided calamity to get his fourth-best finish of the season. Grade: B 21. Clint Bowyer, No. 15 Chevrolet, HScott Motorsports. Bowyer contributed to the caution-fest at the end of the race when he got into the back of Trevor Bayne , who inexplicably went for the block with so much on the line (Chase standings) and running so far back in the field. Grade: C 22. Danica Patrick , No. 10 Chevrolet, Stewart-Haas Racing . Wrong place, wrong time. Again. Patrick had nothing to do with the Carl Edwards - Ryan Newman wreck but still ended up a part of it. On the other hand, she finished right where she spent most of the race. Grade: C 23. Michael McDowell , No. 95 Chevrolet, Circle Sport-Leavine Family. McDowell posted his best finish at the Brickyard in seven starts. Grade: B- 24. Casey Mears , No. 13 Chevrolet, Germain Racing . Mears finished in the top 25 for the 10th time this season. Grade: C 25. Aric Almirola , No. 43 Ford, Richard Petty Motorsports. Almirola, who is still looking for his first top 10 of the year, is on pace to have his worst season with RPM, for which he has been driving full time since 2010. Grade: C 26. Regan Smith , No. 7 Chevrolet, Tommy Baldwin Racing . Smith posted his best finish since a 22nd at Pocono in early June. Grade: C 27. Brian Scott , No. 44 Ford, Richard Petty Motorsports. Despite being collected in the last wreck of the day, Scott picked up his best finish in his past eight starts. Grade: C 28. Michael Annett , No. 46 Chevrolet, HScott Motorsports . After posting four top-30 finishes in his first 14 starts, Annett has four in his past six. Grade: C 29. Cole Whitt , No. 98 Chevrolet, Premium Motorsports. Since a 37.3 average finish in his first three starts of the season, Whitt has an average finish of 27.5 over his next 14 races. Grade: C 30. Trevor Bayne , No. 6 Ford, Roush Fenway Racing . Bayne's move to block Clint Bowyer on the backstretch on Lap 158 was as costly as it was ill-advised. Bayne spun all the way to his worst finish of the season and to 18th in the standings, 14 points behind 15th-place Kyle Larson . Grade: D 31. Ryan Newman , No. 31 Chevrolet, Richard Childress Racing . Newman's day began to unravel on the restart on Lap 154. He restarted sixth, outside of Carl Edwards . On the first turn, Edwards drifted up into Newman and the No. 31 suffered major damage. With Newman sitting near the Chase cut-off line, it was important for him to coax the car home. He returned to the track but couldn't make it to the finish when Jamie McMurray ran up the track into him on the Lap 165 restart after contact with Tony Stewart . Bottom line: Valiant effort but a DNF and 10-point day. Grade: C 32. Ryan Ellis , No. 93 Toyota, BK Racing . Ellis picked up a career-best finish in his fourth Sprint Cup Series start. Grade: C 33. Reed Sorenson , No. 55 Chevrolet, Premium Motorsports. Sorenson ran to form, and his 33.8 average finish is third-worst in the Sprint Cup Series among drivers with at least 10 starts. Grade: D 34. Patrick Carpentier, No. 32 Ford, GO FAS Racing . After not starting a Sprint Cup Series race since 2011, Carpentier made his second start of 2016. He finished 37th last month at Sonoma. Grade: D 35. Carl Edwards , No. 19 Toyota, Joe Gibbs Racing . Edwards was part of the strong JGR contingent all afternoon – 6.6 averaging running position – until his mishap on Lap 154. Whether it was a tight car or dirty tires, the outcome was costly as he dropped two spots in the standings. Grade: F 36. Ryan Blaney , No. 21 Ford, Wood Brothers Racing . Blaney was collected and knocked out of the race in the Carl Edwards -initiated wreckage that resulted in a red flag. Blaney dropped two spots in the standings to 19th, and is now 22 points behind 15th-place Kyle Larson . Blaney began the day nine points ahead of Larson. Grade: C 37. David Ragan , No. 23 Toyota, BK Racing . Ragan brought out the third caution on Lap 120 when his left-rear tire went down and he slammed the wall. It was his third DNF and second-worst finish of the season. Grade: F 38. AJ Allmendinger, No. 47 Chevrolet, JTG Daugherty Racing . Allmendinger was running 11th when his car lost water pressure. Moments later it overheated with less than 100 laps to go. It was Allmendinger's second DNF in the past three races. Grade: F 39. Greg Biffle, No. 16 Ford, Roush Fenway Racing . Biffle's day ended after 53 laps when his right-front tire went down and he slammed into the outside wall. His streak of top 10s – three – ended as well. Grade: F 40. Matt DiBenedetto, No. 83 Toyota, BK Racing . His engine didn't even make through five laps, leaving DiBenedetto with his seventh DNF of the season. "How is that even possible?" DiBenedetto tweeted. "Who has the voodoo doll of me that severely dislikes me?" Grade: F
Teams set to participate in Watkins Glen test
NASCAR Sprint Cup Series teams will receive extra track time this week at newly repaved Watkins Glen International, site of the final road-course race on this year's schedule. A total of 16 teams are scheduled to converge on the New York circuit for a two-day organizational test Tuesday and Wednesday in advance of the Aug. 7 Cheez-It 355 at The Glen (2:30 p.m. ET, USA, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio). The $12 million offseason repaving project marks the first full resurfacing at the facility since 1989. The new asphalt includes the 2.45-mile layout used in NASCAR competition and the longer 3.4-mile configuration used by other series. Five Sprint Cup teams received their first taste of the new pavement in Goodyear tire testing May 10-11. Drivers helping the tire manufacturer select the proper rubber compound for the race were Trevor Bayne , Carl Edwards , Kevin Harvick , Kasey Kahne and Joey Logano . Drivers (in alphabetical order) scheduled to participate this week: -- AJ Allmendinger (JTG Daugherty Racing ) -- Ryan Blaney (Wood Brothers Racing ) -- Clint Bowyer (HScott Motorsports) -- Chris Buescher (Front Row Motorsports) -- Kurt Busch (Stewart-Haas Racing ) -- Kyle Busch (Joe Gibbs Racing ) -- Matt DiBenedetto (BK Racing ) -- Austin Dillon (Richard Childress Racing ) -- Chase Elliott (Hendrick Motorsports) -- Brad Keselowski (Team Penske) -- Michael McDowell (Circle Sport-Leavine Family Racing ) -- Jamie McMurray ( Chip Ganassi Racing ) -- Casey Mears (Germain Racing ) -- Brian Scott (Richard Petty Motorsports) -- Ricky Stenhouse Jr. (Roush Fenway Racing ) -- Martin Truex Jr. (Furniture Row Racing ) The on-track schedule will feature two sessions each day -- 9 a.m.-noon ET and 1-5 p.m. ET. The garage will open both days at 7 a.m. ET. Other new details greeting drivers this week will be new concrete on pit road and on the rumble strips bordering the turns. The track also completed grading and landscaping work in the runoff areas. NASCAR XFINITY Series teams will get extra practice time on the new surface during an expanded race weekend. The schedule was extended from three days to four this year with the addition of two XFINITY practice sessions on Thursday, Aug. 4. The organizational test is the third of five scheduled this season for the Sprint Cup Series. It follows two-day tests at Kentucky Speedway (June 13-14) and Indianapolis Motor Speedway (July 12-13). The two-day Watkins Glen stop precedes organizational tests at Chicagoland Speedway (Aug. 23-24) and Homestead-Miami Speedway (Oct. 18-19), sites for the opening race and the finale for this year's Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup playoffs. </p>
Tune-in: Watch Chip Ganassi Racing's 'Sound Garage'
Chip Ganassi Racing will host its second annual Sound Garage event on Monday evening at the team shop -- and you can watch the action on NASCAR.com. Following the success of last year's event, which is geared toward millenials, the 2015 outing will feature recording artist A Thousand Horses as well as Ganassi's diverse stable of young drivers. That list includes Kyle Larson , Sage Karam, Dylan Kwasniewski , Sebastian Saavedra and Brennan Poole . Tonight's stream will run from 8 to 9 p.m. ET. Come back then to watch the action.
Chip Ganassi has surgery for broken clavicle
NASCAR team owner Chip Ganassi had surgery Sunday to repair a broken clavicle – the injury sustained while Ganassi was cycling in his hometown of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania on Saturday. The team said the surgery was successful and Ganassi is expected to be in Richmond, Virginia, this weekend for the final race to set the 16-driver Chase for the Sprint Cup playoff field at Richmond International Raceway . Ganassi sent out the following message on social media: "Ok ok. I fell off my bicycle Saturday. Thank you Dr Jim Bradley for putting me back together!" Ganassi driver Jamie McMurray is currently the top-ranked driver without a win and sits 12th in the Chase Grid. Should he qualify for the Chase and he just needs to start the event at Richmond to do that, he would be the first Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates post-season entry since Juan Pablo Montoya made the Chase in 2009. The team's other driver, Kyle Larson , is ranked 19th but could earn an automatic Chase berth with a win in Saturday night's Federated Auto Parts 400 (7:30 p.m. ET, NBCSN, MRN, SiriusXM)