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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."
Fantasy Fastlane: Coke Zero 400 Powered by Coca-Cola
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Stats advance: Analyzing the Coke Zero 400
A statistical look ahead to the 17th race of the Sprint Cup season DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (June 29, 2015) – Below is a look at some of the top statistical performers at Daytona International Speedway in Daytona Beach, Florida going into the Coke Zero 400 Powered by Coca-Cola on July 5 (7:45 p.m. ET on NBC). DAYTONA-SPECIFIC STATISTICS Greg Biffle (No. 16 CHEEZ-IT Ford) · One win, three top fives, eight top 10s; one pole · Average finish of 19.2 · Average Running Position of 17.1, 10th-best · Driver Rating of 81.8, 12th-best · 85 Fastest Laps Run, third-most · 4,132 Green Flag Passes, seventh-most · Average Green Flag Speed of 190.161 mph, sixth-fastest · 1,978 Laps in the Top 15 (52.7%), ninth-most · 2,382 Quality Passes (passes of cars in the top 15 under green), 12th-most Clint Bowyer (No. 15 5-hour ENERGY Toyota) · Three top fives, nine top 10s · Average finish of 15.5 · Average Running Position of 17.5, 11th-best · Driver Rating of 84.0, 10th-best · 82 Fastest Laps Run, fifth-most · 3,939 Green Flag Passes, 11th-most · Average Green Flag Speed of 190.212 mph, second-fastest Kurt Busch (No. 41 Haas Automation Chevrolet) · 11 top fives, 14 top 10s · Average finish of 17.5 · Average Running Position of 15.8, seventh-best · Driver Rating of 90.5, third-best · 71 Fastest Laps Run, 12th-most · 3,864 Green Flag Passes, 12th-most · 2,161 Laps in the Top 15 (60.9%), sixth-most · 2,724 Quality Passes, seventh-most Kyle Busch (No. 18 Interstate Batteries Toyota) · One win, five top fives, six top 10s; one pole · Average finish of 19.1 · Series-best Average Running Position of 12.8 · Series-best Driver Rating of 96.2 · 85 Fastest Laps Run, third-most · 4,023 Green Flag Passes, ninth-most · Average Green Flag Speed of 190.207 mph, third-fastest · Series-high 2,488 Laps in the Top 15 (70.1%) · 2,869 Quality Passes, fourth-most Dale Earnhardt Jr. (No. 88 Nationwide Stars and Stripes Chevrolet) · Three wins, 12 top fives, 18 top 10s; one pole · Average finish of 13.1 · Average Running Position of 14.1, second-best · Driver Rating of 91.9, second-best · 89 Fastest Laps Run, second-most · 4,353 Green Flag Passes, fourth-most · Average Green Flag Speed of 190.086 mph, 10th-fastest · 2,475 Laps in the Top 15 (66.0%), second-most · 2,968 Quality Passes, second-most Jeff Gordon (No. 24 AXALTA Chevrolet) · Six wins, 13 top fives, 20 top 10s; four poles · Average finish of 16.6 · Average Running Position of 14.3, third-best · Driver Rating of 88.0, fifth-best · 4,157 Green Flag Passes, sixth-most · 2,274 Laps in the Top 15 (60.6%), fifth-most · 2,709 Quality Passes, eighth-most Denny Hamlin (No. 11 FedEx Ground Toyota) · Four top fives, five top 10s · Average finish of 18.7 · Average Running Position of 15.4, sixth-best · Driver Rating of 87.7, seventh-best · 82 Fastest Laps Run, fifth-most · 4,018 Green Flag Passes, 10th-most · Average Green Flag Speed of 190.154 mph, seventh-fastest · 1,901 Laps in the Top 15 (56.1%), 12th-most · 2,444 Quality Passes, 11th-most Jimmie Johnson (No. 48 Lowe's Patriotic Chevrolet) · Three wins, 10 top fives, 13 top 10s; two poles · Average finish of 17.5 · Average Running Position of 14.6, fourth-best · Driver Rating of 87.9, sixth-best · Average Green Flag Speed of 190.067 mph, 12th-fastest · 2,378 Laps in the Top 15 (63.4%), third-most · 2,753 Quality Passes, sixth-most Kasey Kahne (No. 5 Great Clips-Shark Week Chevrolet) · Two top fives, eight top 10s · Average finish of 19.4 · Average Running Position of 16.6, ninth-best · Driver Rating of 83.3, 11th-best · 71 Fastest Laps Run, 12th-most · 4,572 Green Flag Passes, second-most · 2,001 Laps in the Top 15 (53.3%), seventh-most · 2,825 Quality Passes, fifth-most Matt Kenseth (No. 20 DeWalt Made In The USA Toyota) · Two wins, six top fives, 14 top 10s; one pole · Average finish of 17.8 · Average Running Position of 15.3, fifth-best · Driver Rating of 89.9, fourth-best · 80 Fastest Laps Run, seventh-most · 2,277 Laps in the Top 15 (60.7%), fourth-most · 2,556 Quality Passes, ninth-most Joey Logano (No. 22 Shell Pennzoil Ford) · One win, three top fives, four top 10s · Average finish of 18.3 · Average Running Position of 16.5, eighth-best · Driver Rating of 85.8, ninth-best · Average Green Flag Speed of 190.144 mph, eighth-fastest Tony Stewart (No. 14 Bass Pro Shops Chevrolet) · Four wins, nine top fives, 14 top 10s; one pole · Average finish of 18.5 · Driver Rating of 86.6, eighth-best · 76 Fastest Laps Run, 10th-most · 1,958 Laps in the Top 15 (52.2%), 10th-most The NASCAR Sprint Cup Series 2015 Top 10 at Daytona International Speedway Driver Races Poles Wins Top Fives Top 10s DNFs Average Finish Driver Rating 1 Kevin Harvick 28 1 2 7 12 3 16.2 81.6 2 Martin Truex Jr. 20 1 0 0 2 4 22.5 76.7 3 Joey Logano 13 0 1 3 4 2 18.3 85.8 4 Jimmie Johnson 27 2 3 10 13 6 17.5 87.9 5 Dale Earnhardt Jr. 31 1 3 12 18 3 13.1 91.9 6 Brad Keselowski 12 0 0 2 3 4 21.8 75.5 7 Jamie McMurray 25 0 2 3 5 8 23.7 79.5 8 Kasey Kahne 23 0 0 2 8 5 19.4 83.3 9 Matt Kenseth 31 1 2 6 14 5 17.8 89.9 10 Kurt Busch 28 0 0 11 14 1 17.5 90.5 * – Based on last 21 races at Daytona International Speedway. Daytona International Speedway Data Season Race #: 17 of 36 (07-05-15) Track Size : 2.5-mile Banking/Turns 1 & 2 : 31 degrees Banking/Turns 3 & 4 : 31 degrees Banking/Straights : 3 degrees Banking/Tri-Oval : 18 degrees Frontstretch Length : 3,800 feet Backstretch Length : 3,000 feet Race Length : 160 laps / 400 miles Top 10 Driver Ratings at Daytona Kyle Busch ................................. 96.2 Dale Earnhardt Jr ........................ 91.9 Kurt Busch. ................................. 90.5 Matt Kenseth .............................. 89.9 Jeff Gordon ................................ 88.0 Jimmie Johnson .......................... 87.9 Denny Hamlin ............................. 87.7 Tony Stewart ............................... 86.6 Joey Logano .............................. 85.8 Clint Bowyer ............................... 84.0 Note: Driver Ratings compiled from 2005-2015 races (21 total) among active drivers at Daytona International Speedway. Qualifying/Race Data 2014 pole winner : David Gilliland, Ford 199.322 mph, 45.153 secs 07-04-14 2014 race winner : Aric Almirola, Ford 130.014 mph, (02:09:13), 07-06-14 Track qualifying record (July race): Cale Yarborough, Ford 203.519 mph, 44.222 secs 07-02-86 Track race record (July race): Bobby Allison, Mercury 173.473 mph, (02:18:21), 07-04-80 AT DAYTONA INTERNATIONAL SPEEDWAY: History · Groundbreaking for Daytona International Speedway was Nov. 25, 1957. The soil underneath the banked corners was dug from the infield of the track and the hole filled with water. It is now known as Lake Lloyd. · The first NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Daytona was a 100-mile qualifying race for the Daytona 500 on Feb. 20, 1959 – won by Bob Welborn . · The first summer race at Daytona International Speedway was held on July 4, 1959 – won by Fireball Roberts (140.581 mph). · NASCAR Hall of Famer Richard Petty won his 200th career race on July 4, 1984 at Daytona. · Lights were installed in the spring of 1998. However, the July race was delayed until October that year due to thick smoke from wildfires. The second Daytona race has been held under the lights ever since. · The track underwent a repave in 2010. Starts · There have been 136 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races at Daytona International Speedway since the track hosted its first race in 1959: 57 have been 500 miles, 52 were 400 miles and four 250 miles. There were also 23 qualifier races that were point races. · 445 drivers have competed in at least one NASCAR Sprint Cup Series July race at Daytona International Speedway; 277 in more than one. · Richard Petty leads the series in July race starts at Daytona with 32. Jeff Gordon leads all active drivers with 22 starts – this weekend will be Gordon’s final start at Daytona. · Four NASCAR Sprint Cup Series active drivers have made their first career start at Daytona International Speedway, though none were during the July race: Tony Stewart (2/14/99), Casey Mears (2/16/03), Kasey Kahne (2/15/04), Brendan Gaughan (2/15/04) Danica Patrick (2/27/12), Alex Bowman (2/23/14), Michael Annett (2/23/14). Poles · Fireball Roberts won the inaugural Coors Light pole for the July race at Daytona in 1959 with a speed of 144.997 mph. · 38 drivers have Coors Light poles at Daytona for the July event, led by NASCAR Hall of Famer Cale Yarborough with eight. · Jeff Gordon leads all active drivers in Daytona July race poles, with two. Gordon started first in 2007 due to qualifying being cancelled as well. · Three drivers have won consecutive Coors Light poles for the July race at Daytona: Cale Yarborough (1970-’71; 1980-’81, 1983-’84), Sterling Marlin (1991-’92) and Dale Earnhardt (1994-’95). · Youngest Daytona July race pole winner: Jeff Gordon (07/06/1996 - 24 years, 11 months, 2 days); all-time track record belongs to Austin Dillon (02/23/2014 – 23 years, 9 months, 27 days). · Oldest Daytona pole winner: Mark Martin (07/02/2011 – 52 years, 5 months, 23 days). · Six active drivers have posted their first career NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Coors Light pole at Daytona International Speedway: Greg Biffle (2/15/04), Kevin Harvick (7/6/02), Jimmie Johnson (2/17/02), Paul Menard (7/5/08), Danica Patrick (2/24/13) and Austin Dillon (2/23/2014). Wins Drivers who have swept both races (Daytona 500 and the July race) at Daytona: Fireball Roberts – 1962 (Daytona 500, Firecracker 250) Cale Yarborough – 1968 (Daytona 500, Firecracker 400) LeeRoy Yarborough – 1969 (Daytona 500, Firecracker 400) Bobbie Allison – 1982 (Daytona 500, Firecracker 400) Jimmie Johnson – 2013 (Daytona 500, Coke Zero 400 powered by Coca-Cola) 35 different drivers have won the July race at Daytona International Speedway, led by NASCAR Hall of Famer David Pearson with five wins. Tony Stewart leads all active drivers with four; followed by Jeff Gordon with three. · Five drivers have posted consecutive wins in the July race at Daytona International Speedway, including three consecutive by David Pearson (1972 - 1974). · Tony Stewart (2005-’06) is the only active driver to win consecutive July races at Daytona. · Youngest Daytona July race winner: Kyle Busch (07/01/2008 – 23 years, 2 months, 3 days); all-time track record - Trevor Bayne (02/20/2011 – 20 years, 0 months, 1 day). · Oldest Daytona July race winner: Bobby Allison (07/04/1987 – 49 years, 7 months, 1 day); all-time track record - Bobby Allison (02/14/1988 – 50 years, 5 months, 23 days). · The Wood Brothers have the most wins at Daytona in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series with 15; followed by Hendrick Motorsports with 13. · Seven different manufacturers have won the July NSCS race at Daytona: Manufacturer Daytona July Race Wins Chevrolet 18 Ford 17 Mercury 7 Dodge 5 Pontiac 5 Buick 3 Toyota 1 Eight of the 56 (14.2%) July NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races at Daytona have been won from the Coors Light pole; the most recent was Kevin Harvick in 2010. · The Coors Light pole is the most proficient starting position in the field, producing more winners (eight) than any other starting position in the July race at Daytona International Speedway. · 15 of the 56 (26.7%) July NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races at Daytona have been won from the front row: eight from the pole and seven from second-place. · 41 of the 56 (73.2%) July NASCAR Sprint Cup races at Daytona have been won from a top-10 starting position. · Four of the 56 (7.1%) July NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races at Daytona have been won from a starting position outside the top 20. · The deepest in the field that a race winner has started at Daytona is 42nd, by Tony Stewart in the 2012 July race. · Four active NASCAR Sprint Cup Series drivers have posted their first career win at Daytona International Speedway; two were during the July race: Trevor Bayne (2/20/11), Greg Biffle (7/5/03), David Ragan (7/2/11) and Michael Waltrip (2/18/01). · Greg Biffle won the July race at Daytona in his first appearance. · Jeff Gordon leads all active drivers in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series in laps led at Daytona with 710 laps led in 45 starts. · Tony Stewart leads the series among active drivers in laps led in the July race at Daytona with 369; followed by Jeff Gordon with 318 and Dale Earnhardt Jr. with 243. · Fewest laps led by a July race winner at Daytona are one lap led by Jimmy Spencer in 1994. The fewest laps led by an active July race winner at Daytona are three laps led by Jamie McMurray in 2007. Additional Finishing Position Stats · Buddy Baker leads the series in runner-up finishes in the July race at Daytona with five; followed by Richard Petty and Sterling Marlin with four. Jimmie Johnson and Kyle Busch lead all active drivers with two each. · NASCAR Hall of Famer David Pearson leads the series in top-five finishes in the July race at Daytona with 13; followed by Richard Petty with 12. Jeff Gordon leads all active drivers with seven. Additional Finishing Position Stats · David Pearson leads the series in top-10 finishes in the July race at Daytona with 19; followed by Dale Earnhardt with 18. Jeff Gordon leads all active drivers with 11. · Jimmie Johnson leads all active drivers in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series in average starting position at Daytona with a 9.926. · Dale Earnhardt Jr. leads all active drivers in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series in average finishing position at Daytona with a 13.065. · Kurt Busch leads the series among active drivers with the most NASCAR Sprint Cup Series starts at Daytona without visiting Victory Lane at 28. Female Competitor Stats · Five female drivers have competed in the July event at Daytona International Speedway in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series: Janet Guthrie, Christine Beckers, Lella Lombardi, Patty Moise and Shawna Robinson. Below they are ordered by best finish: Driver Starting Position Finishing Position Date Danica Patrick 29 8 7/6/2014 Danica Patrick 11 14 7/6/2013 Shawna Robinson 27 40 7/6/2002 Patty Moise 35 39 7/1/1989 Patty Moise 33 26 7/2/1988 Janet Guthrie 36 11 7/4/1978 Christine Beckers 37 37 7/4/1977 Janet Guthrie 20 40 7/4/1977 Lella Lombardi 29 31 7/4/1977 Janet Guthrie 33 15 7/4/1976 Track Event Stats · Since the advent of electronic scoring the closest margin of victory (MOV) in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series at Daytona International Speedway for the July race was the July 7, 2007 race won by Jamie McMurray over
The Rundown: Michigan driver grades
RELATED: Full race results " Standings " Chase Grid Breaking down the full field for the Pure Michigan 400 at Michigan International Speedway : 1. Kyle Larson , No. 42 Chevrolet, Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates. Twice, Larson had to overcome problems on pit road. Twice, Larson beat Chase Elliott on restarts from the front row. The second one, with 10 laps to go, was the difference. Larson gets his first Sprint Cup win in his 99th start and his ticket punched to the Chase. Well done. Grade: A 2. Chase Elliott , No. 24 Chevrolet, Hendrick Motorsports . Restarts, restarts, restarts. Elliott lost the first race at Michigan because of poor restarts and it happened again Sunday. And just like in June, Elliott finished second. Grade : A- 3. Brad Keselowski , No. 2 Ford, Team Penske . The native of Michigan posted his sixth straight top 10 at his home track but to his chagrin remained winless in the Irish Hills. Grade: A 4. Ryan Blaney , No. 21 Ford, Wood Brothers Racing . Blaney needs a win to make the Chase, and he drove like it Sunday, posting his first top 10 in 10 races. Grade: A 5. Kevin Harvick , No. 4 Chevrolet, Stewart-Haas Racing . Harvick led 33 laps, and his 3.56 averaging running position topped the field. Grade: A 6. Jimmie Johnson , No. 48 Chevrolet, Hendrick Motorsports . Johnson was a factor -- and the leader -- until his green-flag pit stop on Lap 109. But his gas man had trouble refueling the No. 48, and from that point forward Johnson was playing catchup. His 37 laps led were second to Kyle Larson ’s 41. Grade: A- 7. Carl Edwards , No. 19 Toyota, Joe Gibbs Racing . Edwards now has two wins, seven top fives and 15 top 10s in 2016. That’s what he had all of last season. Grade: A 8. Jamie McMurray , No. 1 Chevrolet, Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates. McMurray finished eighth for the third consecutive week. He holds the last spot in the Chase standings by 15 points over Ryan Newman with two races to go before the field is set. Grade: A 9. Denny Hamlin , No. 11 Toyota, Joe Gibbs Racing . Hamlin’s sixth straight top-10 finish is the longest active streak. Grade: A 10. Joey Logano , No. 22 Ford, Team Penske . All of the polesitter’s strength came at the start of the race. A slow final pit stop left him 17th on the last restart. Grade: A- 11. Greg Biffle , No. 16 Ford, Roush Fenway Racing . Biffle had a nice finish, but he was never a factor. Only Kyle Busch ’s 26 laps in the top 15 were fewer than Biffle’s 44 among drivers who finished in the top 20. Grade: B 12. Kurt Busch , No. 41 Chevrolet, Stewart-Haas Racing . Borrowing a page from Greg Biffle … Busch was not a factor, either, and only his brother’s 24.84 average running position was worse than his 17.34 among drivers who finished in the top 20. Grade: B 13. Matt Kenseth , No. 20 Toyota, Joe Gibbs Racing . In the first 12 races of the season, Kenseth led 398 laps. In the next 12, 79 laps, including eight Sunday, his first laps led since his victory last month at New Hampshire. Grade: B 14. Kasey Kahne , No. 5 Chevrolet, Hendrick Motorsports . Kahne is going to need a win -- or a miracle -- to make the Chase field. He trails Jamie McMurray by 52 points for the final Chase-eligible spot after finishing outside the top 10 for the eighth straight race. Grade: B 15. AJ Allmendinger , No. 47 Chevrolet, JTG Daugherty Racing . Allmendinger finished in the top 15 in four consecutive races for the first time since the end of the 2011 season. Grade: B 16. Austin Dillon , No. 3 Chevrolet, Richard Childress Racing . Dillon is 15th in the Chase standings with a 21-point cushion over Ryan Newman in 17th. Grade: B 17. Ryan Newman , No. 31 Chevrolet, Richard Childress Racing . Newman should consider himself fortunate to be only 15 points out of 16th with two races to go for the Chase field is set -- he hasn’t had a top-10 finish in his past five races. Grade: B- 18. Paul Menard , No. 27 Chevrolet, Richard Childress Racing . Regular readers of The Rundown know we have been enthralled by Menard’s propensity to finish 18th. He racked up his sixth of the season Sunday. Grade: C 19. Kyle Busch , No. 18 Toyota, Joe Gibbs Racing . Busch's troubles at Michigan continued when he got loose in Turn 4 on the 26th lap and went for a spin. His average finish in his past seven starts at Michigan is 32.0 with one finish on the lead lap -- and it wasn't Sunday. Grade: C 20. Martin Truex Jr ., No. 78 Toyota, Furniture Row Racing . Truex's shot at winning or having a top finish ended on Lap 66 when the jack man lowered the car before the left rear tire was changed. The damaged left-rear quarter panel was an issue the rest of the day. Grade: C- 21. Tony Stewart , No. 14 Chevrolet, Stewart-Haas Racing . The driver with a win and five top fives in a seven-race stretch has finished 30th and 21st in his past two races. Is the mojo gone? Grade: C 22. Casey Mears , No. 13 Chevrolet, Germain Racing . Mears finished outside the top 10 at Michigan for the 13th consecutive race. Grade: C 23. Danica Patrick , No. 10 Chevrolet, Stewart-Haas Racing . This marks the first time in Patrick's four full-time Sprint Cup seasons she has not finished in the top 20 in at least one of the two Michigan races. She finished 21st in June. Grade: C 24. Trevor Bayne , No. 6 Ford, Roush Fenway Racing . Bayne went into last week's race at Bristol eight points out of the final Chase spot. He leaves Michigan 58 points back. Grade: C 25. Aric Almirola , No. 43 Ford, Richard Petty Motorsports . Michigan is one of two tracks on which Almirola has made at least 10 starts and has yet to post a top 10. (The other is Pocono.) Grade: C- 26. Regan Smith , No. 7 Chevrolet, Tommy Baldwin Racing . Smith posted his best finish at Michigan since a career-best 13th in August of 2011. Grade: C 27. Ricky Stenhouse Jr ., No. 17 Ford, Roush Fenway Racing . Since scoring a career-best 15th at Michigan in August 2014, Stenhouse's finishes at the 2-mile track are 25th, 26th, 29th and 27th. Grade: C- 28. Brian Scott , No. 44 Ford, Richard Petty Motorsports . Sunday’s race was something to build on: In his first race at Michigan in June, Scott left with a 36th-place finish and a DNF (crash). Grade: C 29. David Ragan , No. 23 Toyota, BK Racing . Because of Ragan's proximity to Chris Buescher in the standings, he will continue to be one of the most-watched drivers through Richmond. On Sunday, Ragan took a nibble out of Buescher's points lead and is now seven points behind Buescher for 30th in the standings. Grade: C 30. Alex Bowman , No. 88 Chevrolet, Hendrick Motorsports . Bowman started sixth and was running in the top five when the car’s ignition failed. A day of promise ended right there, and Dale Earnhardt Jr .’s replacement finished five laps back. Grade: D 31. Michael McDowell , No. 95 Chevrolet, Circle Sport- Leavine Family Racing . McDowell won Saturday’s NASCAR XFINITY Series race at Road America , but his string of top-20 Sprint Cup finishes ended at a season-best two. Grade: D 32. Matt DiBenedetto , No. 83 Toyota, BK Racing . DiBenedetto battled brake issues all day. Grade: D 33. Michael Annett , No. 46 Chevrolet, HScott Motorsports . A blown tire brought out the fourth and final caution, and Annett finished five laps back. Grade: D 34. Cole Whitt , No. 98 Chevrolet, Premium Motorsports. Whitt produced his worst finish in six starts at Michigan. Grade: D 35. Chris Buescher , No. 34 Ford, Front Row Motorsports . With so much at stake, the No. 34 team could not afford the engine woes that dumped Buescher to 35th -- he finished 20th at Michigan in June -- but at least he didn’t finish last. Those extra five points might make the difference between making the Chase and major disappointment. Another positive takeaway: David Ragan could muster only a 29th-place finish. Grade: F 36. Reed Sorenson , No. 55 Chevrolet, Premium Motorsports. Sorenson finished seven laps off the pace. Grade: D 37. Jeffrey Earnhardt , No. 32 Ford, Go Fas Racing . Earnhardt had an accident in practice and was in a backup car. He finished eight laps back. Grade: D 38. Josh Wise , No. 30 Chevrolet, The Motorsports Group. Wise's finish was his worst at Michigan since a 39th-place run in August 2013. Grade: F 39. Landon Cassill , No. 38 Ford, Front Row Motorsports . Suspension woes limited Cassill to 174 laps and left him with his first DNF of the season. Grade: F 40. Clint Bowyer , No. 15 Chevrolet, HScott Motorsports . Bowyer said before the race he had his best car of the year. Yikes! Vibrations sent the No. 15 behind the wall, but Bowyer avoided a DNF, although he did finish 40 laps off the pace. Grade: F
Kyle Larson's parents missed son's first Sprint Cup win, but eager to see more
Perhaps Mike and Janet Larson should have seen it coming as they proudly and nervously watched their television and computer screens while son Kyle led the field to the checkered flag in Sunday's Sprint Cup Series race at Michigan International Speedway . The Larsons attend a healthy dose of their 24-year-old son's NASCAR races, but somehow have missed each of Kyle's inaugural NASCAR victories from the K&N Series, to the Camping World Truck Series and XFINITY Series. They were at home in Elk Grove, California, on Sunday when Larson scored his first victory at the sport's premier Cup level, too. "That's OK though," Mike Larson said, his voice full of happiness and emotion. "As long as he wins, I don't have to be there. "Janet and I would have been in the grandstands anyway, that's where we go every time to watch him race. It would have taken us half the (victory) ceremony anyway just trying to get back over there (to Victory Lane)." Instead, the Larsons stood in front of their television sets, tears rolling, hearts full, taking it all in. The dedication, the sacrifices, the hope, the joy that was this family's "every weekend" for years had resulted in a big-time, clutch victory three weeks before NASCAR's playoffs, the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup . And while Mike and Janet might not have been trackside last weekend, they still had quite the view. "I was upstairs watching the end of the race, thinking 'Man, Janet is awful quiet today,'" Mike Larson said. "And then it got to be that last restart and Kyle gets the lead and I can hear her starting to stress. I don't hardly make a sound, but I thought, 'She's stressing me out.' "My heart, I'm telling you, it was just pumping over those last nine laps. I just kept thinking a yellow is going to come out, you think something is going to happen to derail this. I'm still very quiet watching, but then my arms went straight up in the air ... and I cried. I can admit that. "I get emotional about that." The Larsons can smile about their timing now. They took Kyle to his first race a week after he was born. Then, this close-knit family spent years together trekking around the West Coast watching Larson win and dominate races – karts and USAC features – from the time he was a little boy. From childhood, he loved this sport of racing so much he dressed up as NASCAR champion Jeff Gordon for Halloween – and still has the photo proof. The Larson's support has never wavered or waned even as their son earned his shot in NASCAR's big leagues and has quickly emerged as one of the most popular drivers on the circuit. Truth be told, the kind, funny, humble and extremely talented third-year Cup driver Larson has been one of the sport's bona fide stars even before hoisting his first Cup trophy. And now the Chip Ganassi Racing driver is a legitimate first-time title contender, too. And he should be quite optimistic about his chances at hoisting the big trophy. RELATED: Current stars' first Sprint Cup Series victory Larson's 2014 showing in Chase races – not as a Chase contender – was an incredible rookie effort and an enviable clutch performance. He boasted six top-10 finishes in the his No. 42 Target Chevrolet during the final 10 races that year. The Chase venues have been good for Larson. In the Chicago Chase-opener, Larson has finishes of third and seventh. His overall average finish at Dover is 6.2, and he's never fared worse than 11th there. He has a runner-up finish at Kansas (2014), was third at Martinsville in April and finished fifth at Homestead last year. He has at least one top-10 finish at every Chase track. "He thinks those are good tracks for him," his team owner Chip Ganassi said Sunday evening. "We think they're good tracks. He's shown before he knows his way around Miami [Homestead]. That's always good, to be good at the final track. "He's a shootout kind of guy. A lot of those races turn into shootouts. You're not so much racing the entire field in those races a lot of times. I look forward to it. ... I think he's the kind of driver that the Chase is made for, that format." After a throwback weekend at Darlington Raceway , NASCAR's newest Chase contender Larson will host his "Outlaw Kart Showcase" at hometown Cycleland Speedway in Chico, California. Less than two weeks later, Larson will begin his first Chase run thanks to that emotional, hard-fought victory Sunday. "This feels different because it's taken me a lot longer than it took me in any of the other stuff to get a win," Larson said Sunday. "It took me a couple months to win my first sprint car race, four days after my 15th birthday. Took me a few months to win when I got into USAC. Took me a few years to win an Outlaw race. "This, after the way my rookie season started, coming close a few times, not getting it done, you can visualize the win that early in your career. It's going to happen. It's going to happen. But it just never happened. "This one's different just cause of how long we had to wait and how much harder I've had to work for it. Like I said, it's special because all the hard work's paid off." And the good news for the Larson family is there will be plenty more wins to experience first-hand, and good odds they celebrate a championship sometime soon too.
Kyle Larson's win was worth the wait
RELATED: Chase bubble update " Results BROOKLYN, Mich. -- He lost the race off pit road, and in his mind, victory had slipped from his grasp once again. So often. So many close calls. "I thought that was the race right there," Kyle Larson admitted. But this time he said it from Victory Lane. Where Sunday at Michigan International Speedway fate chose to frown on someone else. Confetti flew, fans cheered and fellow competitors stopped by to offer congratulations. Kyle Busch , one of the first to pit road, was waiting for Larson when the young driver finally pulled in for the celebration. Greg Biffle and Brad Keselowski also dropped in. So, too, did Jamie McMurray , Larson's teammate. Larson, driver of the No. 42 Chevrolet for Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates, is 24. And he's now a first-time winner in NASCAR's Sprint Cup Series, capturing the Pure Michigan 400 in his 99th career start. The win secured one of the final playoff spots for this year's Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup . Championship dreams were rekindled for a driver and team that had ridden on the razor's edge almost since his arrival in NASCAR. There have been fuel-mileage plays that didn't pan out, late charges that ended with bent sheet metal and crushed hopes. But not this time. "No question the kid has talent; the kid can drive," Ganassi said. "We just have to put a weekend together." Ganassi knows. He's won in six different series in which his various teams compete. If it has wheels and goes fast, Ganassi has likely fielded a winner. Sunday's outcome was still in question when the late-race battle between Larson and Chase Elliott began to unfold. When the two drivers -- both young, eager and winless -- hit pit road for green-flag stops on Lap 158, Larson was the race leader. When they exited just seconds later, Elliott, after all others had stopped for service, was out front. Larson charged, trimming the deficit to Elliott in half. Lapped traffic erased the gains. And then the caution flag, this one for debris, appeared for a final time. While crew chief Chad Johnston said he thought the team's final stop "was a little bit slow," he refused to change the team's game plan. "It's hard to talk yourself into staying out two more laps or three more laps when you know those guys are gaining ... track position with each lap, but the worst thing you can do is let them force your hand and then run it out of fuel at the end," Johnston said. "So we stood our ground and pitted when we needed to pit, just lost a lot of ground through lapped traffic. ... "We needed that last restart, and Kyle did everything he needed to do to have the lead off (Turn 2)." Second at Fontana and Loudon and Kansas two years ago; second at Dover this year. Larson's been third, fourth and fifth several times as well. Often enough that some have questioned how badly he wanted to win, but they've never questioned his talent. "There have been a couple where I could have done things differently to get the win," Larson, flanked by son Owen and Johnston, said afterward. "For a few months you guys keep asking, 'What if?' ... Now I've won so we don't have to talk about that anymore." Winning races isn't new for the Elk Grove, California, native. Winning quickly hadn't been either. Until he got to NASCAR's top level. Even then, he showed flashes of potential, but potential didn't outrun everyone. "This feels different for me because it's taken me a lot longer than in any of the other stuff to get a win," Larson said. "It took me a couple of months to win my first sprint car race ... a few months to win when I got into USAC. I guess it took me a few years to win an Outlaw race, but I'd still been winning sprint car races. "But this, after the way my rookie season started, coming close a few times, not getting it done, you can visualize the win that early in your career. It's going to happen. It's going to happen. But it just never happened. "This one's different just because of how long we had to wait and how much harder I've had to work for it. It's special because all the hard work's paid off." Ganassi brought Larson up to Sprint Cup when he was only 20. Too soon, some said. He'll be gone elsewhere, others speculated, where he can be with a winning team. "That wasn't the case at all," Ganassi said, recalling how he once asked his young driver about other teams expressing interest. "I'll never forget his answer," Ganassi said. "He said, 'They all had a shot at me the first time around and they passed.' " They'll celebrate throwbacks next weekend at Darlington Raceway when the Bojangles' Southern 500 weekend gets underway. On Sunday at Michigan they were throwing it forward. There's a new Sprint Cup winner in town. &amp;amp;amp;lt;/p&amp;amp;amp;gt;
History at forefront for Darlington, Bojangles'
RELATED: See all the throwback schemes " Full throwback coverage CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- It took only one trip to Darlington Raceway in 2014 to convince Bojangles' CEO Clifton Rutledge that the popular restaurant chain needed to remain affiliated with the legendary NASCAR track. That was before the track's lone Sprint Cup Series race returned to the Labor Day weekend date it had held for decades -- and before track officials unveiled the "throwback weekend" format that was such a huge hit in its debut last season. "My first year here, after the race was over I came back and met with our senior VP of marketing … they were already starting to talk about things for the following year and I said, 'Well, let's just go ahead and renew now,' " Rutledge told NASCAR.com Tuesday. So they did. In September of '14, officials announced a five-year extension that would keep Bojangles' as the race entitlement sponsor through 2019. The company had begun sponsorship of the race in 2012. Sunday, the track will host the 67th running of the annual Bojangles' Southern 500 (6 p.m. ET, NBC, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio). Obviously Rutledge saw something he liked on his first visit to the historic venue. "I did," he said. "First of all, it's the Southern 500; it's one of those races that goes back to when I was a kid, and then for it to be moved back to Labor Day weekend was a great thing. But the passion that I saw there -- it's not one of the larger tracks but the passion is there. The fans that are there -- those fans are our fans. They're our customers and there's just a connection between that race. Being in the Carolinas, two iconic brands, it just made sense to keep it as long as we can keep it." The throwback-themed weekend garnered plenty of attention, and the International Speedway Corp.-owned facility was a finalist for the "Sports Event of the Year" award presented by the Street & Smith's Sports Business Journal. "To be able to help support Darlington in that, it was just wonderful," Rutledge said. "The fans loved it. We had Grand Funk Railroad (play a pre-race concert) last year; we have Kansas this year." Rutledge also noted that former "Brady Bunch" star Barry Williams, who played Greg Brady, will be singing the national anthem before this year's event. "Last year it was a wonderful, wonderful event and this year I think even more of the drivers and teams have gotten involved with the paint schemes and things like that," he said. The association with Bojangles' "means everything," Kerry Tharp, president of Darlington Raceway , said. "It's two iconic brands in my mind," he said. "Darlington in NASCAR and Bojangles' in the restaurant business. And for where we are, location-wise, I think it's a great fit. I couldn't be more excited about it. They do a great job with their marketing and activation for this event. Their ability to get the word out and raise awareness for our event is tremendous. In my mind it's the best partnership there is in sports." &amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;lt;/p&amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;gt;
NBC Sports, NASCAR Productions present Darlington historical
RELATED: Full Darlington coverage DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Aug. 31, 2016) -- Leading up to this weekend's live NASCAR action from Darlington Raceway , NBC Sports presents a new one-hour documentary created to take fans inside the storied history of "The Track Too Tough To Tame." Produced in partnership with NASCAR Productions, "Southern Speed: The Legend of Darlington" premieres tonight at 9 p.m. ET on NBCSN. Multi-platinum recording artist Darius Rucker narrates the special in tribute to his South Carolina roots. Current NASCAR drivers Carl Edwards , Jimmie Johnson and Kurt Busch are joined by Ken Squier and racing legends Dale Jarrett, Kyle Petty and Jeff Burton , who reflect on how the Southern 500 became a stock car racing tradition. Premiering during a week dedicated to honoring the rich history of NASCAR, the original program will also be available via live stream on the NBC Sports App and NBCSports.com. A preview of tonight's special is available here. Below are excerpts from "Southern Speed: The Legend of Darlington." Kyle Petty, former driver and NASCAR on NBC analyst: "Bill France was there and Raymond Parks was there. So many Hall of Famers were there for that first race and that speaks volumes to what Darlington was, even in the beginning." Buz McKim, NASCAR Hall of Fame Historian: "Darlington never has been a normal track and it never will be. There is too much folklore, there is too much history and there are too many great spots and low spots. It is totally the track of the unexpected." Dale Jarrett, Hall of Fame driver and NASCAR on NBC analyst: "The idea to go back to Labor Day and run the Southern 500 is something that our sport really needed." Harold Brasington III, grandson of Darlington Raceway founder: "I have to admit I felt pretty special knowing that my granddad built this place. I can remember the first time he drove me up into the infield through that tunnel it was like a portal into another world. I saw these structures coming out of the beds of pickup trucks. The crowd was overwhelming." Tune in to watch the Bojangles' Southern 500 this Sunday, Sept. 4, at 6 p.m. ET on NBC, or listen live on MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio. Fans can also purchase tickets to catch all the on-track action in person by visiting www.nascar.com/tickets .
NXS drivers switch to rain tires at Mid-Ohio
As rain continues to fall at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course, NASCAR XFINITY Series drivers make the switch to rain tires.
Mike Helton warns drivers about blocking
Vice Chairman: XFINITY race 'example of unintended consequences' NASCAR Vice Chairman Mike Helton warned drivers about blocking in Sunday's Coke Zero 400 (7:45 p.m. ET, NBC, MRN, SiriusXM), addressing the 43 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series pilots during the drivers' meeting at Daytona International Speedway. Following a video highlighting the rules for the 160-lap, 400-mile race, Helton discussed the evolution of the double yellow stripe, which is in place at Daytona and Talladega Superspeedway. "The rationale behind that came from the evolution of actions and the equipment on the race track gave you the ability to move around," Helton said. "It got to a point where the drivers , you, were comfortable enough to make moves that ended up putting the rest of the field or many other cars in jeopardy. "So those actions, over time, we tried to figure out how NASCAR would respond to that, and we created that double yellow line that's only in Daytona and Talladega. "And I point to that because blocking is kind of creeping that way here and in Talladega. Last night's race, I think, was an example of the unintended consequences that can come from a blocking move." Late in Saturday's Subway Firecracker 250 , leader Brian Scott moved down the track to block Elliott Sadler , sending both cars into the outside wall on the backstretch and leading to a 10-car pileup. "We were definitely in the catbird seat there going down the back straightaway there; we had Joey Logano pushing us and had a lot of momentum coming off Turn 2 and were making our way to the front," Sadler said. "I think either Brian or his spotter made the block too late; I was already up to his right rear tire. He made the block to late and wrecked us. It was nothing intentional, it's just racing." RELATED: Scott blocks Sadler in Saturday's race Ryan Newman asked Sprint Cup Series Managing Director Richard Buck what constituted going below the double yellow line, and Buck responded left-side tires on the inside of the inside line. Helton noted he was "not telling you how to drive the race cars ... but drivers , be conscious about the moves that you're making on the race track, particularly when it comes to what we call blocking. So just think about that tonight in the race." FULL SERIES COVERAGE • Latest news • Standings • Schedule