Drivers respond to social unrest in Charlotte
LOUDON, N.H. -- NASCAR returns to the business of postseason Chases in all three of its top series this weekend. Two of those tours have landed in New England, greeted by crisp weather and the changing of the seasons. But thoughts continue to focus on the news of this week's social unrest nearly 900 miles away in Charlotte, North Carolina -- stock-car racing's hub and one of the sanctioning body's primary headquarters. Protests have gripped Charlotte's Uptown area in the wake of the fatal police-involved shooting of Keith Lamont Scott on Tuesday. Relatively few drivers claim North Carolina as their home state, but the proximity to home bases for both drivers and teams makes the connection to Charlotte a part of their fabric. It's what has made this week's turmoil difficult. "Obviously, we're trying to do things here today, but, yeah, there's an emotional reaction," Joey Logano -- a Middletown, Connecticut native -- said Friday from New Hampshire Motor Speedway . "A lot of times when you see things like this happen, it's in a different city and you don't recognize where it's at, but when you see the NASCAR building getting vandalized and you see areas of the city that you know very well with just crazy things happening it makes you sick to your gut. You don't know what to do, and you kind of feel helpless. "All we can do really is just say some prayers and hope that eventually everything calms down and everyone is able to come to some kind of peace at the end of this thing, and we can move on and move forward and make our world better." Logano also said he understands the role professional athletes play when it comes to social issues. "I think any athlete or public figure takes on a responsibility," he said. "There's a lot of people that you can influence in good ways or bad ways, and I feel like you should know that. There are a lot of athletes and public figures that don't realize that about the reaction they can make across the country or the world in a lot of cases by just a couple of words. ... I personally believe when I sit down here I know the influence that I can have on young eyes watching us that are very fragile at the time that they could go a lot of different ways. You want to be a positive member of society." North Carolina Governor Pat McCrory declared a state of emergency late Wednesday night as the protests took violent turns. Windows were broken at the NASCAR Hall of Fame and adjacent NASCAR Plaza offices, and several other businesses were vandalized in the city's central business district, escalating Charlotte to the lead in national news broadcasts. "You can't really ignore it," said Austin Dillon , who -- like his Richard Childress Racing team -- calls Welcome, North Carolina home. "It's on all the news stations, but for me it's sad that our country is at this point in time. I just hope everybody can look at everything and gather their thoughts and figure out the right way to fix the problems we have. Hopefully, with the way things are the right people will come together and fix these problems that are going on. It's just sad, really." Said Matt Kenseth , a Cambridge, Wisconsin, native: "You just hope it stops. I don't know enough about what actually happened to start it all. Obviously, I think that we're very, very, very fortunate to live in a free country and peaceful protest and demonstrations are OK. I mean certainly the violence and the vandalism and the theft and stuff isn't -- isn't really a way to I think prove a point or try to make things better. It’s definitely not making things better in that sense, so hopefully we'll get it all figured out and go from there."
Drivers rally from pre-qualifying hang-ups
RELATED: Qualifying results " Edwards earns sixth Coors Light Pole of 2016 Multiple drivers , including three Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup competitors, were left sweating it out in the garage when their cars did not pass pre-qualifying inspection by the start of NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Coors Light Pole Qualifying at New Hampshire Motor Speedway . Qualifying began on time at 4:45 p.m. ET, with a long line of cars still waiting to be cleared. Those that did not initially pass included the No. 3 Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet of Austin Dillon , the No. 4 Stewart-Haas Racing Chevrolet of Kevin Harvick and the No. 14 SHR Chevrolet of Tony Stewart , all Chase drivers . Despite the backlog, all 40 cars eventually posted a qualifying time for Sunday's Bad Boy Off Road 300 (2 p.m. ET, NBCSN, PRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio), with Regan Smith the last to clear inspection as he headed to pit road with 3 minutes, 15 seconds left in the opening 20-minute knockout round. "We feel like what is going on is that the stakes are higher now that we're at the Chase," NASCAR Senior Vice President of Competition Scott Miller said on the NBCSN broadcast. "I think all of our competitors are trying to push the envelope. ... If someone doesn't make it out there, it's not our process, it's them pushing the envelope." In other technical-related news, the Hendrick Motorsports No. 24 team for rookie Chase Elliott received its fourth written warning for issues in inspection. Elliott's team will be relegated to the final pick in pit-stall selection ahead of the second race of the 10-race postseason. Dillon and Harvick were eventually cleared with less than 12 minutes to go in the opening 20-minute round of group qualifying, and Harvick got on the track with seven minutes to spare. The final latecomers were granted a slight time cushion when Clint Bowyer spun out in Turn 4 during a qualifying pass, stopping the clock with 11:39 remaining. Harvick eventually posted the seventh-fastest time of the round, with Stewart in 17th and Dillon 29th in his backup car after a crash in opening practice damaged his primary No. 3 Chevrolet. "It's different," Dillon said of the logjam outside of the inspection bay. "I see NASCAR just trying to keep everybody on the same playing field." Harvick will start 19th. His team owner and SHR teammate, Stewart, will start 22nd in what's expected to be his final New Hampshire start. The full list of cars not cleared from inspection when the green flag dropped: the No. 10 of Danica Patrick , the No. 47 of AJ Allmendinger , the No. 7 of Smith, the No. 83 of Matt DiBenedetto , the No. 5 of Kasey Kahne , the No. 16 of Greg Biffle and the No. 17 of Ricky Stenhouse Jr. , in addition to the Nos. 3, 4 and 14. &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;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;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;gt;
Intense restart leads to wild racing among Chase drivers
The NASCAR XFINITY Series Chase drivers go three and almost four-wide on a restart just before halfway, creating some great racing at Kentucky Speedway.
Kentucky: The missing track for Chevrolet drivers
Of the 23 tracks that currently host one or more NASCAR Sprint Cup Series events, Kentucky Speedway remains the only venue that hasn't seen a Chevrolet driver celebrating in Victory Lane. The 1.5-mile track, which will host Saturday night's Quaker State 400 Presented (7:30 p.m. ET, NBCSN, PRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio) held its first Sprint Cup race in 2011. This weekend's race will be just the sixth premier series event at the facility, which is owned by Speedway Motorsports Inc. Kyle Busch (Joe Gibbs Racing No. 18 Toyota) has a pair of victories there, as does Brad Keselowski (Team Penske No. 2 Ford). Matt Kenseth (JGR No. 20 Toyota) is also a former Kentucky winner. Keselowski, last week's Coke Zero 400 Powered by Coca-Cola winner at Daytona International Speedway, won at Kentucky in a Dodge (in 2012) as well as a Ford (2014). The lack of success at the track isn't something Chevrolet officials and teams take lightly. "Our teams are very aware that we haven't won at this race track," said Alba Colon, program manager for Chevrolet in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series. "It's a big deal." Chevrolet drivers have finished second twice, Kasey Kahne (Hendrick Motorsports) in 2012 and Jamie McMurray (Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates) the following year. But perhaps the automaker's most difficult loss to swallow was the '13 race, one that saw Jimmie Johnson dominate only to lose the lead, and the race, following a late caution. Johnson (HMS) led 182 of 267 laps before a fuel-only stop by Kenseth put the JGR driver out front on a restart; Johnson's chances faded when the No. 48 entry spun moments later. There are tracks where Chevrolet teams have been dominant. They have won six straight at Phoenix International Raceway, for example, and 12 of the past 13 events at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Thus far, Kentucky has been a tougher nut to crack. “We have had only five races so far (at Kentucky)," Colon said, noting runnerup finishes by McMurray and Kahne. "We've won the pole three times. Top-five and top-10 finishes. We haven't been able to close it." That could change this weekend. For just the second, and final, time this season teams will be competing with a lower downforce aerodynamic package. The track has been repaved and Turns 1 and 2 have been reconfigured with the banking increased three degrees. "I really believe that with the new rules and everything being so equal right now … this is a great chance for us to do it," Colon said. Fourteen teams tested at Kentucky June 13-14. Fastest through the two days of practice was the Chevrolet entry of 2014 series champion Kevin Harvick and his No. 4 Stewart-Haas Racing team. Harvick has yet to lead a lap at the track, but has finished 10th or higher in his last three starts there. It's one of only four tracks, along with Pocono, Sonoma and Texas, where he has yet to win. Ditto for Johnson, who counts Kentucky, Watkins Glen, Homestead and Chicagoland as tracks where he has yet to visit Victory Lane. And three-time champ Tony Stewart is winless at only two current tracks – Kentucky and Darlington. The three-times series champion will close the book on his Sprint Cup Series career at season's end. Going out with a win at each track, he said, would make his departure all the more memorable. Chevrolet teams have 758 wins in NASCAR through the years, most of any automaker. "But it's a goal," Colon said, "to have a win at every track. "We have been very successful. And we still have one more track to win."
Drivers talk fallout from chippy Richmond race
RELATED: O'Donnell discusses contact between Newman, Stewart CHICAGO -- Sometimes putting the regular season to rest also means burying the bygone grudges, clearing the decks of any lingering hard feelings as the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup playoffs becomes the prime focus. For the 16 playoff-eligible drivers , some differences have been aired out -- and some not -- after an especially chippy regular-season finale last weekend at Richmond International Raceway that left both teammates and old rivals at odds with each other. For all concerned, it's back to business this weekend with another brand of intensity in Sunday's Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 400 (2:30 p.m. ET, NBCSN, MRN, SiriusXM), the first event of the 10-race Chase for the championship at Chicagoland Speedway . One on-track altercation that bubbled into post-race bitterness in televised interviews will require NASCAR competition officials to mediate the disagreement to make sure it goes no further. NASCAR Executive Vice President and Chief Racing Development Officer Steve O'Donnell said Monday that he expects to consult with Tony Stewart and Ryan Newman regarding their late-race run-in last Saturday night. RELATED: Photos of the big wreck at Richmond Stewart said Thursday from the annual Ready. Set. Chase. launch events at Chicago's Bridgeport Art Center that he expected the meeting to be preemptive in nature, to keep any animosity from festering after Newman questioned Stewart's anger management and composure in post-race interviews at Richmond. "I haven't heard anything from him," Stewart said of his former teammate as he enters the final Chase of his Sprint Cup driving career, "but it's like I said, it would be easy to take it personal. But I mean, that was the deciding factor in his season whether he was going to make the Chase or not. So we've been friends a long time, we've been teammates and I respect him a lot. "It's a high-pressure moment, and I've been in those, too, and I've said things. Whether he meant to say it or not or whether he still believes it or not, that's up to him, but that moment is a hard moment for any of us. It's tough in that scenario." Newman, who was the highest-ranking driver to miss the Chase field, also played a role in a small but curious dust-up between Hendrick Motorsports teammates. Newman forced his way into a three-wide battle early on at Richmond, nudging Jeff Gordon -- Dale Earnhardt Jr .'s substitute in the No. 88 Chevrolet -- into rookie Chase Elliott , Gordon's successor in the No. 24 Chevy. WATCH: Elliott finds the wall after contact with Gordon That slight issue, Elliott indicated, appears to be resolved. "He sent me a text after the race. I knew it wasn't his fault," Elliott said. "I wasn't concerned with it at all. It was a racing deal and you hate, of course, it had to be two teammates and it had to be myself and Jeff, but at the end of the day, we both get it and our teams get it. ... He did give me an apology, but it was not necessary whatsoever." One on-again, off-again conflict among Matt Kenseth and Team Penske 's Brad Keselowski and Joey Logano also resurfaced at Richmond. Kenseth and Keselowski have been involved in far bigger rhubarbs than the contact that flared up last weekend, but a certain testy tinge laced Kenseth's post-race interview. Each shared common ground in Thursday's pre-Chase media rounds, focusing on securing their second premier-series championship and minimizing any potential bad blood between the two. "I don't want to play the conversation game," Keselowski said. "I don't think I need to have a whole media discussion about any time there's a small bump on the race track, whether it's me or somebody else. It's just how racing's going to be. When it's egregious and there's things that happen, that's one thing. (Expletive) just happens, (expletive) just happens and we don't have to play drama queen for everything. That's kind of how I feel about it." WATCH: Kenseth frustrated with Keselowski at Richmond Kenseth offered a flat "no" when asked if Team Penske 's two-driver stable was successfully playing mind games with him. "We didn't really talk about it and I didn't really re-watch any of that, so I don't know," Kenseth said in response to Keselowski's post-race remarks. "We didn't really talk about it." RELATED: Meet all 16 Chase drivers Two more teammates -- Richard Childress Racing 's Austin Dillon and Paul Menard -- had a chance to settle their squabble by sharing a ride back to North Carolina on the team plane. Dillon, who had on-track clashes for running room with Menard in successive weeks, found an empty seat on the plane beside his teammate and took it. "Well, I'm learning a lot about relationships -- I'm engaged," said Dillon, who is prepping for his first Chase this season. "And communication is everything, and communicating with him was a good start to it. I've always had a good relationship with Paul. We both love a lot of the same things -- we love the outdoors, we love racing. "I just wanted to tell him, 'Hey, I'm not doing this on purpose or any certain way. I'm just racing hard,' and he said the same thing." The hard racing -- and potentially the tensions that accompany it -- are expected to continue over the next 10 weeks, starting this weekend in Chicagoland. &amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;lt;/p&amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;gt;
Chevrolet drivers are not fans of fanny packs
Chevrolet Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup drivers gather in Chicago for a Facebook Live event with fans and NBC announcers to answer questions before the Chase.
Meet the XFINITY Series Chase drivers
Get to know the 12 drivers that make up the playoff field
Drivers make four-wide salute to thank fans
Drivers go four-wide during pace laps at Richmond International Raceway as a salute to the fans during NASCAR's Fan Appreciation Weekend.
NASCAR drivers and teams offer 9/11 remembrances
NASCAR drivers , teams and personalities offered tributes and memorial messages on Sunday in remembrance of 9/11. On this day and every day, #NeverForget pic.twitter.com/DbJHVZ5v9w — Kurt Busch (@KurtBusch) September 11, 2016 #NeverForget — Jimmie Johnson (@JimmieJohnson) September 11, 2016 We will always remember and honor those we lost on 9/11 " #NeverForget pic.twitter.com/EgW6RXB0dw — JR Motorsports (@JRMotorsports) September 11, 2016 Most of us can remember exactly where we were on this day 15 years ago. Still very sad all the… https://t.co/Ror4irgYvA — Ricky Stenhouse Jr . (@StenhouseJr) September 11, 2016 Thoughts and prayers to all the families that lost loved ones on that horrific day.. God bless you all. #NeverForget pic.twitter.com/GBWRGwMDx1 — Elliott Sadler (@Elliott_Sadler) September 11, 2016 #NeverForget pic.twitter.com/ejCGswz9cz — Jeb Burton (@JebBurtonRacing) September 11, 2016 We vow to #NeverForget those lost 15 years ago today. We join with the rest of the #NASCAR community in remembrance pic.twitter.com/xWrQrfIYeV — Team Penske (@Team_Penske) September 11, 2016 #NeverForget pic.twitter.com/YNH8oHTJBQ — RPMotorsports (@RPMotorsports) September 11, 2016 #NeverForget pic.twitter.com/YGhW4sGfWK — RCR (@RCRracing) September 11, 2016 #NeverForget pic.twitter.com/kcKvd9cTFp — Red Horse Racing (@RedHorseRacing) September 11, 2016
A Challenging day for XFINITY Series Chase drivers
NASCAR XFINITY Series drivers paired up with members of the media for a special XFINITY Series Chase styled simulator challenge at the NASCAR Hall of Fame.