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Keselowski preps for Junior-less 'Dega with motivation, fast car
CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Brad Keselowski 's winning Coke Zero 400 Ford was lightning fast. The Team Penske driver led 115 of the 161 laps around Daytona International Speedway to win the July event at the famed superspeedway. But he won't be unloading that hot rod this weekend at Talladega. "The car that we won Daytona with I saw it the other day," Keselowski said Oct. 7 during a Team Penske luncheon at Charlotte Motor Speedway . "It's sitting in the back and completely torn down. The body and everything is still just like it finished at Daytona. I asked the guys, 'Are we really gonna let that car sit? Are we not gonna run that at Talladega?' "And they said, 'No, we've got a car better than that for Talladega.'" Given Keselowski's current circumstances heading down to Alabama for the elimination race this Sunday (Hellmann's 500, 2 p.m. ET, NBCSN, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio), a fast car is a must. His 38th-place finish last week at Kansas Speedway put the No. 2 driver in a precarious position on the Chase Grid, as he sits 11th of 12 drivers and seven points behind the cut-off spot. RELATED: Keselowski, Elliott lowest on Chase Grid But if anyone can climb out of the hole holding the checkered flag, it's Keselowski. The 32-year-old veteran has a field-high four wins at Talladega, including the spring race earlier this season. For Keselowski, his past success paves the way for future conquest. "There's a self-fulfilling prophecy to plate racing to when you have confidence it transcends, not just through yourself, but to the cars you're running around, other drivers that work with you more, but also to your team, to where your team puts extra emphasis on those race and the drivers year-round cut you a little more slack because they just think you're going to pass them anyway," Keselowski mused. "And that creates a snowballing effect of momentum at plate tracks. So when you can have consecutive quality runs at a plate race, it almost gets easier. "It's kind of hard to explain and funny to explain, but I would say the success we've had this year on the plate tracks has put my team in a spot to where they almost put more effort on those races and developing the car and developing strategy and so forth because they have confidence that we can perform well at those tracks. And that they're not so much of a roll of a roulette wheel." Keselowski isn't the only current driver with a flair for plate racing. Six-time Talladega winner Dale Earnhardt Jr . is always considered a favorite heading down to the Deep South. But Earnhardt, who is out for the remainder of the season due to concussion-like symptoms, will be watching the Talladega chaos unfold from the sidelines -- something that hasn't happened there since Junior began racing in the Sprint Cup Series full-time in 2000. The absence of a veteran plate racer like Earnhardt Jr. is a big deal, Keselowski says. "There's no doubt about it that Dale Jr. at Talladega is one of the best," Keselowski said. "Without kind of putting in how the field feels about Dale himself in the moment, just losing one of the best drivers at the track is going to change the race. When you add in those other components and elements, I think it reduces the likelihood that you'll kinda see the field line up single-file against the wall. "And that itself means that the race is more taxing and an opportunity for incidents goes up dramatically." Multi-car incidents, tagged the "Big One" at restrictor plate tracks, are definitely no-go zones for Keselowski, who likely needs a win to advance to the next round of the Chase. There's no room for mistakes, no room for wrecks -- and likely no room for even just "safe" finishes. "Even being good at Talladega, it still doesn't feel good going there with no win," Keselowski said. "But you know you have an opportunity, especially when you have a great team and all those things. It can be tough -- I think it’s tougher on the guys that go there and don't enjoy that style of racing already. "But for me, I look forward to it."
Chase cutoff in Talladega means drivers swinging for the fences
TALLADEGA, Ala. -- Put into a position with nothing to lose and everything to gain, NASCAR Camping World Truck Series drivers Daniel Hemric and John Hunter Nemechek have a simple plan for this weekend. Swing for the fences, they both said. Saturday's fred's 250 Powered by Coca-Cola at Talladega Superspeedway is the final race of the opening round of the inaugural Camping World Truck Series Chase. Only one Chase participant, William Byron, scored a win in the previous two races, thus earning an automatic berth in the Round of 6 that begins next weekend at Martinsville Speedway . Hemric, driver of the No. 19 Ford for Brad Keselowski Racing, is seventh in points, 15 points outside Johnny Sauter in sixth. Nemechek, driver of the No. 8 Nemco Motorsports Chevrolet, is eighth, tied with Hemric for points and also 15 points outside the cutoff. "Everything here is kind of out of your hands," Nemechek, twice a winner this season, said Friday. "Being at Talladega in the spot that we're in … being 15 points out, I think it's way better for me to be able to come here … where anything can happen. "If we finish top five and someone else got caught up in somebody else's wreck and we didn't, we'd have a shot to make it compared to a mile-and-a-half track or short track where they can ride around all day and kind of salvage a finish where they make sure they make it. "I haven't quite called in any favors or anything like that. If we were able to qualify up front and run up front all day, as long as we put ourselves in a position to be top four in, where you can make a move coming to the start/finish line, I think you'll be all right. But who knows?" Christopher Bell , two-time series champion Matt Crafton , Ben Kennedy and Timothy Peters are second through fifth in points. All have won at least once this year, except for Peters. But he's won here at Talladega the last two times the series visited the 2.66-mile track. "In order to win now, we've just got to keep doing what we're doing and not change anything at this point," Hemric said. "All we can do here is control what we can control, go into it approaching every situation that way, whether it's practice, qualifying or the race. If we execute on all ends, I see no reason why we shouldn't have a shot at it. "At the end of the day … I think I would rather be on the end we're on. Obviously if you've won, that's even better. But the situation where we can go down swinging and not playing defense all day, I think, is going to be a good thing for (Nemechek) and I, both."
Meet all the drivers in the Round of 8
Learn more about each driver who has made the postseason field
Gaughan: 'I want to race against the best race car drivers'
Brendan Gaughan says he likes having NASCAR Sprint Cup Series drivers race in the NASCAR XFINITY Series and always wants to race against the best of the best.
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."
O'Donnell addresses Sprint Cup Series drivers racing in XFINITY Series
NASCAR Executive Vice President and Chief Racing Development Officer Steve O'Donnell joined SiriusXM NASCAR Radio to talk about NASCAR Sprint Cup Series drivers racing in the NASCAR XFINITY Series.
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
Logano lands victory in Talladega overtime
RELATED: Race results " Standings " Chase Grid SHOP: Logano gear " Chase gear TALLADEGA, Ala. -- If Joey Logano 's victory in Sunday's Hellman's 500 at Talladega Superspeedway was decisive -- in relative terms -- the race between Denny Hamlin and Austin Dillon for the final spot in the Chase for the Sprint Cup 's Round of 8 was anything but. In an overtime race that went four laps past its scheduled distance, Logano surged ahead after a restart on Lap 191 at the 2.66-mile track and beat runner-up Brian Scott to the finish line by .124 seconds. Hamlin's margin over Dillon for the eighth spot in the Round of 8 was much smaller. At the end of 510.72 miles, Hamlin outraced Kurt Busch for third place by .006 seconds -- roughly two feet -- to score the exact number of points he needed to eliminate Dillon from the Chase on a tiebreaker. Logano, who won for the second time this season, the second time at Talladega and the 16th time in his career, entered the race on the Chase bubble but settled the issue by leading the final 45 of 192 laps -- after Chase hopefuls Martin Truex Jr . and Brad Keselowski fell out with blown engines and failed to survive the Round of 12. "It's never a layup here at Talladega," Logano said. "It's always close. You never get a big lead. (Crew chief) Todd (Gordon) made some good adjustments during the race and found some speed in the car, so that was pretty neat to see some of that. "We got that track position and just hung onto it. I was able to stay on the bottom and try to run the bottom and keep everyone in line, and that worked out really well." Hamlin's success completed a perfect round for Joe Gibbs Racing , which placed all four of its drivers in the Round of 8. Matt Kenseth , Carl Edwards and Kyle Busch spent all 192 laps riding around at the back of the field and finished 28th, 29th and 30th, respectively, but had sufficient margins entering the race to afford the luxury of a strategy that could be summed up in two words -- "Don't wreck." "We needed some things to fall our way if we didn't win the race," Hamlin said. "Today things fell our way. The last lap, we went out and earned it. I think back all the years that I've been doing this, honestly, 11 years. "For me, I really truly believe this is the first really great fortune that we had in a Chase in my 11-year career. Things just happened well for us. We went out there and we did our jobs. It was very tough to be able to run against guys that had a lot of teammates up front. I knew that was going to be a problem for us all day. But we were able to have just enough there at the end to get past the 41 ( Kurt Busch ) and get in." Seventh-place finisher Kevin Harvick and 23rd-place Jimmie Johnson already had secured spots in the Round of eight, thanks to their respective victories at Kansas and Charlotte. Kurt Busch completed the Round of 8 field comfortably with his fourth-place result. Joining Dillon, Truex and Keselowski on the sidelines was Chase Elliott , who came to Talladega 25 points below the cut line and finished 12th after leading nine laps. &amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;lt;/p&amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;gt;
Hamlin edges in, bold Talladega strategy pays off for JGR
RELATED: Full race results " Standings " Chase Grid SHOP: Chase gear TALLADEGA, Ala. -- Denny Hamlin stood by his No. 11 FedEx Toyota on Talladega Superspeedway pit road Sunday afternoon looking as relieved as he did happy with his third-place finish. It was among the most important third-place finishes this year's Daytona 500 winner has ever secured – and a mere .006 seconds ahead of fourth-place Kurt Busch . It was the difference in Hamlin advancing to the next round of the Chase -- and he secured the playoff pass by virtue of winning a tiebreaker with Richard Childress Racing 's Austin Dillon . "We had something go our way," Hamlin said smiling. "One time something went our way and we battled at the line with the 41 ( Kurt Busch ). I'm just so happy. I just never really had good Chase fortune to be honest with you. I've been doing this 11 years and very, very few times has the dice fallen well for us. Today was one of those times. "Today, we didn't back in with a 15th- place finish. We had to root and gouge against guys absolutely committed to each other. That's what I'm most proud of -- getting a good finish when the odds were really stacked against us." Although Hamlin ran among the front half of the field for much of the race, his three Joe Gibbs Racing teammates, Carl Edwards , Matt Kenseth and Kyle Busch , spent the vast majority of the race in a three-car nose-to-tail draft at the back of the 40-car field. In fact, they finished 28th (Kenseth), 29th (Edwards) and 30th (Busch). Hamlin was left very much a man on his own mission. "There's a certain level of strategy and being smart that goes with any race," Edwards said. "And this is not the most fun way to race. But our mission is simple here. If it required that we go up to the front and try to win the race, we would do that. You have to balance everything. This is not my first time here. I'm really proud of my group. "This is the format and we have to do what it takes to get there. ... It would have been a lot more fun to have won that race in Kansas and then go up there and push Denny to the win all day. That would have been a lot of fun. But this is a really tough format. And don't mistake what we did today as being simple or easy. That's really tough to do and actually, at the end we were at a very high risk." Team owner Joe Gibbs said following the race that there was some confusion after the checkered flag and he briefly -- albeit mistakenly -- thought that Dillon had advanced instead of Hamlin. "It was nerve-wracking for us, and at the end, it flipped the other way on our board and I thought we came in ninth," Gibbs said. "I about panicked until I knew what the tiebreaker was. We lost two of our cars in this round last year. The farther you go in this format, everybody’s geared up. You've got to try to win a race." And, Gibbs reiterated, he was fully committed to the team's strategy Sunday. "Everybody talked it over, crew chiefs and everything," Gibbs said. "I think it was just a strategy we needed to start off with and really depended on how it would go. "Denny is a great restrictor-plate racer and he got everything he could out of it today." Hamlin certainly proved that in his dramatic Daytona 500 victory to start the season. After sub-par showings at Charlotte (30th place) and Kansas (15th place) in this elimination round of NASCAR's playoffs, he came to Talladega absolutely needing a top-shelf finish. For much of the day, the points difference between Hamlin and Dillon was negligible. And after all the tough and tight racing, it still was decided on a tiebreaker. "You know, it's heartbreaking obviously," said Dillon, who finished ninth. "You need a spot, and it comes down to three one‑thousandths I think between (us) and the (eighth place) 43-car ( Aric Almirola ). "I'm just proud of this team. We made it a full 'nother round. Thought we were going to make it another one, but it didn't work out for us. ... I don't think we had it today to really mix it up up front. Might have waited a little too long. We tried to get track position one time, but it didn't work out. I put my car in the places I thought it would work the best in that last lap and a half. My teammates stuck with me. I'm proud and thankful for them. Just missed it by a spot." Hamlin, meanwhile, heads to next week's race in Martinsville feeling like a very real contender to hoist the season trophy. He's won five times on the Martinsville short track, including last spring. He was third in the 2015 Chase race there. He has a pair of wins at Texas, sweeping the 2010 season there. And Hamlin has a win (2012) and two pole-position starts at Phoenix, with a third place effort there this spring. Should he be among the four drivers deciding the Sprint Cup in the Homestead-Miami Speedway season finale, he also goes there with an enviable record. He was the polesitter there last November and is a two-time winner (2009 and 2013). He has finished among the top 10 in four of the last five races. "We all know that Martinsville is where I've made my career for the most part," Hamlin said, sizing up his championship chances. "I feel very confident we can go there and do great things. My teammates are all going to be strong there. They were in the spring. "So, it's new life for us. We're on house money at this point. Honestly, the cards were stacked against us before we entered the day, but now we're moving on and we have a clean slate."
Behind the scenes in TV booth with Dale Jr.
TALLADEGA, Ala. -- An NBC assistant in the broadcast booth had an urgent message to deliver, one of huge importance. As 40 drivers barreled around Talladega Superspeedway at 200 mph a few hundred feet below him, he grabbed a marker and started writing on a dry erase board. "17-13," he wrote. "Final 5th straight win." He showed this to Dale Earnhardt Jr ., a guest analyst for NBC's coverage of the race. Upon reading it, Earnhardt Jr. turned around, away from the track, and smiled broadly at Tyler Overstreet, his road manager, and pumped his fist. The handwritten note purported to report the score of the Washington Redskins, of whom Earnhardt Jr. is a big fan. Alas, that news was premature. A few minutes later, the same assistant showed him another dry erase board, this one apologizing for the first and reporting that the Lions had come back to win the game. Junior half smiled, half grimaced and turned his attention back to the race track, where he wished he could be on this sun-kissed fall day. Earnhardt Jr. has missed the last 14 races, and he will miss the rest of the season, with concussion-related symptoms. But talking about the race was the next best thing, and the hour-plus he spent in the booth was vintage Earnhardt -- funny, insightful and candid. Wearing dark-framed glasses, sneakers, jeans and a blue and gray plaid shirt, he sat atop a stool between NBC analysts Steve Letarte, his former crew chief, and Jeff Burton , against whom he raced hundreds of times. They lapsed into a conversation like old friends. His eyes darted from the track to the TV screen in front of him to Letarte to Burton. His body language was almost exuberant. He smiled often and at one point raised his hand excitedly when he wanted to interject a point. He seemed relaxed and at ease with Letarte, Burton, play-by-play announcer Rick Allen and the race's producers. "Has he got in the top 10 yet?" Earnhardt Jr. joked off camera about his replacement, Alex Bowman . "Damn, I told him everything I know." As his appearance wound down, NBC announced Junior would return to the booth at next week's race at Martinsville Speedway . Producer Matt Marvin, who was just outside the track in the production truck, keyed the microphone that allows him to talk with the broadcasters off air and told Junior what a great job he had done. He paused for just a second and said, "Next time, if you're not as good, we'll kick you out early." Junior laughed at that. This was the Earnhardt Jr. that fans have loved for more than a decade -- living and dying with the Redskins, offering transparent insight into his life and breaking down racing like few others. Consider this exchange with Burton at Lap 68, when Earnhardt Jr. discussed his drafting philosophy: "I look at the air coming off of the front of the car as a boat wake. And it's very dense coming off of around the headlights of that car that you're trying to side draft. So you don't want to continue to be beside that guy as you get toward the front, or pretty much dead even, because you run into that dense air coming off of the lead car. So you have to 'jump' that wake, much like if you were water skiing. You also have to get away from him so that he cannot side-draft you, because then you're both sort of bouncing back and forth. That's why it's so much easier to side-draft on the outside, because you can pin the guy on the bottom, side-draft him, drive up the race track and take the lead." Burton: "Now, you know all the drivers are going to play this race back and listen to all of this, right?" Earnhardt Jr.: "From what I've seen, these guys have got it all figured out." After months of his public appearances being focused almost exclusively on his health, it was refreshing to see him confident and comfortable. At least for this hour, the pensiveness that saturated so much of what he has said lately was gone. And on the topic of his health, he sounded upbeat. The simple fact he was able to make the appearance was a sign of improvement. In previous comments he has said large crowds sometimes trigger his symptoms, and it's hard to imagine a larger crowd than Talladega. His doctors have encouraged him to challenge himself, and certainly being on live TV would accomplish that. "I'm feeling great and all of the progress that we've made over the last several months has been really good," he said. "Obviously, I'm able to get out and do things. I'm having so much fun at the race track, and to be able to come up to the booth has been a lot of fun for me." &amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;lt;/p&amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;gt;