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Custer earns top-five result in second XFINITY start
RELATED: Full results " Relive the day in photos CONCORD, N.C. -- After a career-best fourth-place finish in the NASCAR XFINITY Series Hisense 4K TV 300 , Cole Custer emerged from his No. 88 Chevrolet beet-red but satisfied with his result at Charlotte Motor Speedway . The 18-year-old earned a fist bump and congratulations from JR Motorsports teammate Justin Allgaier , among others. "Really happy with where we ended up there," Custer said. "Good call there at the end taking two tires and catching a little more track position. We were just able to make some things happen there on that last restart. "Day didn't start out that great. We got some damage on pit road but we were able to work our way back up there and ended up pretty well." Custer spent much of the latter half of the race running in the top 10, even leading a lap (his first in the series) and spent some time in the top five before starting to fade back to seventh. A late caution from an accident involving Erik Jones on Lap 198 opened the door for some pit strategy to get back some track position. Crew chief Dave Elenz told NASCAR.com there was no doubt what call he had to make. "We were doing two," Elenz said on pit road after the race. "We were set on that. We had to get ahead of the 18 (eventual race winner Denny Hamlin , who restarted sixth on four fresh tires), so that was the only way we were going to do that. We actually were going to stay out if we could have gotten the front row, but that didn’t happen." Custer restarted in fifth on the third row with Hamlin, and the California native was able to gain one spot in the overtime finish. The result builds off a sixth-place showing Custer had last month at Richmond International Raceway in his series debut. Custer has three more starts slated to come for JRM at Kentucky Speedway in the No. 88 (July 8), before returning to the No. 5 at Charlotte (Oct. 7) and Homestead-Miami Speedway (Nov. 19). JR Motorsports teammate Allgaier has noticed what a quick study Custer is, and Custer admitted that he has picked the brain of veteran teammate Elliott Sadler a little bit. Allgaier said he enjoys having a rotating cast of drivers in the No. 88 Chevrolet that already has included Chase Elliott , Kevin Harvick , Dale Earnhardt Jr . and Alex Bowman . "I told Cole as soon as the race was over, he did a great job today," said Allgaier, who finished fifth. "He was on it, no question, and those guys did a great job. "I think as a company, when you get into that grind of going every week and pushing each other each and every week, it can be sometimes hard to race every week and to not get stale or stagnate. Having those guys come in and push us and we learn from them, I think it definitely helps the whole organization." And with two strong results on the board in the XFINITY Series, Custer is optimistic that the results and speed will carry over to his run at a NASCAR Camping World Truck Series championship. The two-time winner in the series is in the midst of his first full-time season in the sport and sits 15th in the standings. "We've definitely struggled some in the truck and we thought we were having more speed," Custer said. "I think we are going to have some speed here coming up. I think we are working real hard on it with Joe (Shear Jr., crew chief of the No. 00 Chevrolet) and everybody, so I think we will definitely have some speed, but it definitely means a lot to know that I can still do it."
NASCAR.com's Holly Cain wins NMPA Spirit Award
DARLINGTON, S.C. -- Veteran motorsports writer Holly Cain has been chosen as the recipient of the National Motorsports Press Association’s annual Spirit Award for 2015. A resident of Lakeland, Fla., Cain has covered motorsports for more than 25 years during which time she has worked for numerous publications, including the Tampa Tribune, Dallas Morning News, Seattle Post-Intelligencer as well as AOL.com and FOXSports.com. Currently a senior writer for NASCAR.com, she has been recognized for her reporting on multiple occasions, earning awards from the Associated Press Sports Editors (APSE) and the Society of Professional Journalists (SPJ) as well as the NMPA. Diagnosed with breast cancer in July of 2014, Cain has shown tremendous courage and an incredibly positive attitude while engaged in her difficult battle. She has been a long-time supporter of the Susan B. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation and continues to participate in fundraising and other efforts to bring awareness to the fight against breast cancer. The NMPA Spirit Award is designed to recognize character and achievement in the face of adversity, sportsmanship and contributions to motorsports. Each year, the NMPA membership selects four quarterly winners, with an overall winner chosen from the four candidates. Cain was the second quarter recipient of the award. Others recognized with quarterly awards this past year were NASCAR television broadcaster Steve Byrnes (first quarter), IndyCar driver Justin Wilson (third quarter) and four-time premier series champion Jeff Gordon . Cain was presented the award Jan. 17 during the NMPA’s annual convention and awards dinner in Concord, N.C. Overall winners of the NMPA Spirit Award: Year – Recipient 2015 – Holly Cain 2014 – Lynda Petty 2013 – Marcy Scott 2012 – Andy Hillenburg 2011 – Jeff Gordon 2010 – Jim Hunter 2009 – David Poole 2008 – T. Taylor Warren 2007 – Bill France Jr. 2006 – Benny Parsons 2005 – Morgan Shepherd 2004 – Kyle and Pattie Petty 2003 – Bob Latford 2002 – Larry Hicks 2001 – Ricky Craven 2000 – Kyle Petty 1999 – Clay Earles 1998 – Mark Martin 1997 – Dave Marcis 1996 – Dale Earnhardt 1995 – Ernie Irvan 1994 – Ernie Irvan 1993 – Davey Allison and Alan Kulwicki 1992 – Davey Allison Family
Part 3: The Intimidator's Day at Talladega
MORE: READ PART 1 HERE " READ PART 2 HERE The Race "Historically, just the mere mention of the word 'Talladega' has been enough to give the drivers chills and the fans thrills." -- Dr. Jerry Punch, ESPN pre-race, Oct. 15, 2001. ESPN's pre-race show wrapped, having covered the major stories entering the race: the restrictor-plate change, Hamlin's injury and the championship race. Once the green flag flew, few clear favorites emerged. Pole winner Joe Nemechek was shuffled back at the start and failed to lead any of the 188 laps; 59-year-old Dave Marcis jumped up to lead Lap 2, the final lap that he led in his 35-year career; and 21 drivers set the pace for at least one lap. But four drivers -- Dale Earnhardt, Dale Earnhardt Jr ., Bill Elliott and Jeff Gordon -- spent the most time out front, each leading more than 25 laps. The thrills lived up to their billing, even as drivers became more familiar with the race's aerodynamic traits. Dale Jarrett: We were all learning as we went along and it made for great racing, entertaining. I really quite honestly don't know why we didn't do more of it. Helton: It's a typical 500-mile superspeedway race where early in the day, particularly with something new like that package, you'd see drivers -- I wouldn't call it experimenting -- but getting used to it and figuring out what they could do later in the day. And then in the middle, it settles down and then toward the end, it picks back up and everybody starts moving around, but the best I remember from that race that year, it never stopped. Punch: I think I made some comment, 'I don't know why they sold tickets, sold seats that day at Talladega because no one has used them. They've been standing since they waved the green flag. That's how good it is.' Dave Marcis (owner/driver, Marcis Auto Racing No. 71 Chevrolet): I remember running up front that day a little bit. I think I remember Tony Stewart was running second at that one time when I got the lead. I got by Tony and really was clear. I should have gone down and blocked that inside lane when I got by him, but I didn't and then he got a push from some other people and he got back by me. Elliott: My biggest goal was to get to the end of the race, regardless of what you had to do. The problem back then was you had so many guys that were like the bull in the china closet syndrome that thought it was the last lap just 10 laps into the race. You just had to deal with it. Lawrence: I remember that day, (Earnhardt) said, 'My car's really fast, it just won't lead.' So I think his whole plan was the whole time to do exactly what he did, to kind of ride around then and then take the lead right at the last. … He had a plan, I guess you could say. With the jumble for positions in full swing, several drivers spent the early stages trying to steer clear of the fray up front. It marked one of the earliest uses of a strategy that's now fairly common at Talladega -- running at the back. Jeff Burton: I remember having that conversation with Rusty saying, 'Hey look, I think I'm gonna go ride around in the back,' and Rusty saying, 'Hell no. You can't do that. That's crazy.' But, again, the whole thing about the closing rate was so fast. There were a lot of things going on that me and many other people believed there was gonna be a big wreck and just try to stay the hell out of it. Rusty Wallace: I'm not the type of guy nowadays and late in my career where I would want to go to the back. I don't like that. I've watched it many times and seen 'em wreck in the back, the middle and up front. And so going to the back, to me, doesn't make a lot of sense. McReynolds: That's one thing (Earnhardt and Skinner) did have in common -- they never believed in laying back. Their goal was to go up there and lead every lap that they possibly could. I know when I worked with Dale I would always try to encourage him in practice at Daytona or Talladega, 'Hey, how about getting back in the pack a little bit. Let's see what this car will do in a pack.' And his response was, 'Nope, because I don't plan on being back there.'
Stats advance: Analyzing the Daytona 500
Breaking down the numbers ahead of the season-opening race Play: NASCAR Fantasy Live " Vote: Ultimate Daytona Challenge DAYTONA BEACH, Fla.-- Below is a statistical look at some of the top performers at Daytona International Speedway, including both the Daytona 500 and the annual July race. Daytona International Speedway Data Race #: 1 of 36 (2-22-15) Track Size : 2.5 miles Race Length: 500 miles (200 laps) Banking/Corners : 31 degrees Banking/Straights : 3 degrees Banking/Tri-Oval : 18 degrees Top 10 Driver Ratings at Daytona Kyle Busch 96.2 Matt Kenseth 91.6 Kurt Busch 90.5 Dale Earnhardt Jr. 90.3 Tony Stewart 87.9 Jeff Gordon 87.1 Jimmie Johnson 87.0 Denny Hamlin 86.4 Clint Bowyer 83.7 Joey Logano 82.5 Note: Driver Ratings are compiled from 2005-2014 races (18 total) at Daytona (active drivers only). Qualifying/Race Data 2014 pole winner : Austin Dillon (196.019 mph, 45.914 seconds) 2014 race winner : Dale Earnhardt Jr. (145.290 mph , 2-23-14) Qualifying record : Bill Elliott (210.364 mph, 42.783 secs. 2-9-87) Race record : Buddy Baker (177.602 mph, 2-17-80) Clint Bowyer (No. 15 5-hour ENERGY Toyota) · Three top fives, eight top 10s · Average finish of 15.9 · Driver Rating of 83.7, ninth-best · 78 Fastest Laps Run, fifth-most · Average Green Flag Speed of 189.828 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 · 3,864 Green Flag Passes, seventh-most · 2,161 Laps in the Top 15 (60.9%), fifth-most · 2,724 Quality Passes, third-most Kyle Busch (No. 18 M&M's Crispy 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 · Average Green Flag Speed of 189.827 mph, third-fastest · Series-high 2,488 Laps in the Top 15 (70.1%) · Series-high 2,869 Quality Passes Dale Earnhardt Jr. (No. 88 Nationwide Chevrolet) · Three wins, 11 top fives, 17 top 10s; one pole · Average finish of 13.4 · Average Running Position of 14.6, third-best · Driver Rating of 90.3, fourth-best · Series-high 87 Fastest Laps Run · 4,108 Green Flag Passes, second-most · 2,279 Laps in the Top 15 (64.2%), second-most · 2,772 Quality Passes, second-most Jeff Gordon (No. 24 Drive To End Hunger Chevrolet) · Six wins, 13 top fives, 20 top 10s; three poles · Average finish of 16.2 · Average Running Position of 14.8, fourth-best · Driver Rating of 87.1, sixth-best · 3,818 Green Flag Passes, eighth-most · 2,074 Laps in the Top 15 (58.4%), sixth-most · 2,407 Quality Passes, ninth-most Denny Hamlin (No. 11 FedEx Express Toyota) · Three top fives, four top 10s · Average finish of 19.6 · Average Running Position of 15.8, sixth-best · Driver Rating of 86.4, eighth-best · 81 Fastest Laps Run, fourth-most · Average Green Flag Speed of 189.765 mph, sixth-fastest · 1,703 Laps in the Top 15 (53.5%), 12th-most Jimmie Johnson (No. 48 Lowe's Chevrolet) · Three wins, nine top fives, 12 top 10s; two poles · Average finish of 18.0 · Average Running Position of 14.9, fifth-best · Driver Rating of 87.0, seventh-best · 2,214 Laps in the Top 15 (62.4%), fourth-most · 2,425 Quality Passes, eighth-most Kasey Kahne (No. 5 Farmers Insurance Chevrolet) · Two top fives, seven top 10s · Average finish of 19.9 · Average Running Position of 17.0, ninth-best · Driver Rating of 82.2, 12th-best · 71 Fastest Laps Run, 10th-most · 4,093 Green Flag Passes, third-most · 1,818 Laps in the Top 15 (51.2%), 10th-most · 2,446 Quality Passes, seventh-most Matt Kenseth (No. 20 Dollar General Toyota) · Two wins, six top fives, 14 top 10s; one pole · Average finish of 17.2 · Average Running Position of 14.4, second-best · Driver Rating of 91.6, second-best · 78 Fastest Laps Run, fifth-most · 2,247 Laps in the Top 15 (63.3%), third-most · 2,473 Quality Passes, sixth-most Joey Logano (No. 22 Shell Pennzoil Ford) · Two top fives, three top 10s · Average finish of 19.8 · Average Running Position of 17.5, 12th-best · Driver Rating of 82.5, 11th-best · Average Green Flag Speed of 189.750 mph, seventh-fastest Tony Stewart (No. 14 Bass Pro Shops/Bass Pro Shops Chevrolet) · Four wins, nine top fives, 14 top 10s; one pole · Average finish of 17.8 · Average Running Position of 17.4, 11th-best · Driver Rating of 87.9, fifth-best · 76 Fastest Laps Run, eighth-most · 1,917 Laps in the Top 15 (54.0%), seventh-most The NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Final 2014 Top 16 at Daytona International Speedway Driver Races Poles Wins Top Fives Top 10s DNFs Average Finish Driver Rating 1 Kevin Harvick 27 1 2 6 11 3 16.7 79.9 2 Ryan Newman 26 0 1 4 6 5 20.3 79.6 3 Denny Hamlin 18 0 0 3 4 1 19.6 86.4 4 Joey Logano 12 0 0 2 3 2 19.8 82.5 5 Brad Keselowski 11 0 0 2 3 3 20.0 75.4 6 Jeff Gordon 44 3 6 13 20 6 16.2 87.1 7 Matt Kenseth 30 1 2 6 14 5 17.2 91.6 8 Dale Earnhardt Jr. 30 1 3 11 17 3 13.4 90.3 9 Carl Edwards 20 1 0 4 8 2 19.1 79.8 10 Kyle Busch 20 1 1 5 6 5 19.1 96.2 11 Jimmie Johnson 26 2 3 9 12 6 18.0 87.0 12 Kurt Busch 28 0 0 11 14 1 17.5 90.5 13 AJ Allmendinger 11 0 0 1 2 2 26.3 61.1 14 Greg Biffle 24 1 1 3 7 3 19.6 81.3 15 Kasey Kahne 22 0 0 2 7 5 19.9 82.2 16 Aric Almirola 7 0 1 1 1 3 24.7 72.9 Note: Driver Rating from races at Daytona International Speedway from 2005-2014. Daytona 500 Tidbits · The 2015 edition will be the 57th running of the Daytona 500. · Although the first Daytona 500 was held in 1959, it has been the season-opener only since 1982. · 530 drivers have competed in at least one Daytona 500; 314 in more than one. · 35 drivers have won a Daytona 500. · Youngest Daytona 500 winner: Trevor Bayne (02/20/2011 - 20 years, 0 months, 1 days) · Oldest Daytona 500 winner: Bobby Allison (02/14/1988 - 50 years, 2 months, 11 days) · 11 drivers have won more than one Daytona 500, led by Richard Petty with seven victories. · The 11 drivers who have won the Daytona 500 more than once: Richard Petty (seven), Cale Yarborough (four), Bobby Allison (three), Dale Jarrett (three), Jeff Gordon (three), Bill Elliott (two), Matt Kenseth (two), Jimmie Johnson (two), Sterling Marlin (two), Michael Waltrip (two) and Dale Earnhardt Jr. (two). · A driver has won back-to-back Daytona 500s three times. Richard Petty (1973-74), Cale Yarborough (1983-84) and Sterling Marlin (1994-95). · Seven drivers posted their career-first victory with a win in the Daytona 500: Tiny Lund (1963), Mario Andretti (1967), Pete Hamilton (1970), Derrike Cope (1990), Sterling Marlin (1994), Michael Waltrip (2001) and Trevor Bayne (2011). · Three other drivers posted their career-first victory in (points-paying) qualifying races: Johnny Rutherford (1963), Bobby Isaac (1964) and Earl Balmer (1966). · Lee Petty, who won the inaugural Daytona 500, and Trevor Bayne, 2011 Daytona 500 champion, are the only two drivers to win the Daytona 500 in their first appearance. · Active Daytona 500 winners and the number of NSCS starts in their careers when they won: o Jeff Gordon won his first Daytona 500 on his 125 th career start (1997). His second Daytona 500 win was on his 190 th career start (1999) and the third Daytona 500 was on his 402 nd career start (2005). o Jimmie Johnson won his first on his 148 th (2006) start and posted his second Daytona 500 win on his 400 th career start (2013). o Matt Kenseth won his first on his 329 th start (2009) and his second Daytona 500 on his 437 th career start (2012). o Dale Earnhardt Jr. won his first Daytona 500 on 148 th start (2004) and his second on his 506 th (2014). o Kevin Harvick posted his Daytona 500 win on his 215 th career start (2007). o Ryan Newman posted his Daytona 500 win on his 225 th career start (2008). o Jamie McMurray posted his Daytona 500 win on his 259 th career start (2011). o Michael Waltrip won his first on his 463 rd start (2001) and posted his second Daytona 500 win on his 535 th career start (2003). · Dale Earnhardt leads the series in runner-up finishes in the Daytona 500 with five; Dale Earnhardt Jr. leads all active drivers with four (Earnhardt Jr. is tied with NASCAR Hall of Famer Cale Yarborough for second all-time with four). · Dale Earnhardt had 12 top fives in his 23 Daytona 500 starts, more than any other driver. Dale Earnhardt Jr. leads all active drivers in Daytona 500 top-five finishes with seven (eighth most all-time). · Dale Earnhardt and Richard Petty each posted a series leading 16 top 10s in the Daytona 500. · Jeff Gordon, Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Michael Waltrip lead all active drivers in Daytona 500 top-10 finishes with nine. · Only 10 drivers have an average finish of 10th or better in the Daytona 500, five of those competed in the Daytona 500 only once. · Dale Earnhardt Jr. has a 12.7 average finish in 15 appearances, the best of the active drivers who have competed in more than one Daytona 500. · 28 of the 35 drivers, who have won, participated in at least two Daytona 500s before visiting Victory Lane. · Six drivers made 10 or more attempts before their first Daytona 500 victory: Dale Earnhardt (19), Buddy Baker (18), Darrell Waltrip (16), Bobby Allison (14), Michael Waltrip (14) and Sterling Marlin (12). · The driver with the all-time most Daytona 500 starts without a victory is Dave Marcis with 33 races; the active drivers with the most starts without a Daytona 500 win is Joe Nemechek (19) and Tony Stewart (16). · Kevin Harvick’s 0.020-second margin of victory over Mark Martin in the 2007 Daytona 500 is the 12th-closest overall since the advent of electronic scoring in 1993, and the closest in a Daytona 500. · Nine of the 56 Daytona 500s (16.3%) have been won from the Coors Light pole. The last to do so was Dale Jarrett in 2000. Jeff Gordon is the only active driver to accomplish the feat (1999). · Cale Yarborough (1968, 1984) and Bill Elliott (1985, 1987) are the only two drivers to win the Daytona 500 from the Coors Light pole more than once. · 16 of the 56 Daytona 500s (28.5%) have been won from the front row. · 27 of the 56 Daytona 500s (48.2%) have been won from a top-five starting position. · 41 of the 56 Daytona 500s (73.2%) have been won from a top 10 starting position · Matt Kenseth won the Daytona 500 from the 39th starting position in 2009, the deepest a race winner has started. · Five reigning NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champions have gone on to win the Daytona 500 the following season: Lee Petty (1959), Richard Petty (1973), Cale Yarborough (1977), Jeff Gordon (1999) and Dale Jarrett (2000). · Five drivers have won the Daytona 500 and the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series championship in the same season, Richard Petty has done it four times: Jimmie Johnson (2006, 2013), Jeff Gordon (1997), Richard Petty (1964, 1971, 1974, 1979), Cale Yarborough (1977) and Lee Petty (1959). · Danica Patrick on Sunday, Feb. 19, 2013 became the first female in NASCAR Sprint Cup Series history to win a Coors Light pole for the Daytona 500 posting a speed of 196.434 mph. · Janet Guthrie previously held the record for top starting position by a female NASCAR Sprint Cup Series driver, starting ninth twice in 1977 - at Talladega Superspeedway on Aug. 7, 1977 and at Bristol Motor Speedway on Aug. 28, 1977. · In 2012, Danica Patrick became the third female driver to compete in a Daytona 500 joining Janet Guthrie and Shawna Robinson. Below are the previous female driver performances in the Daytona 500. Race Season Driver Start Finish Daytona 500 1977 Janet Guthrie 39 12 Daytona 500 1980 Janet Guthrie 18 11 Daytona 500 2002 Shawna Robinson 36 24 Daytona 500 2012 Danica Patrick 29 38 Daytona 500 2013 Danica Patrick 1 8 Daytona 500 2014 Danica Patrick 27 40 · Driver Ratings for Winners – Pre-Race Daytona 500 Driver Ratings heading into 2014 for past Daytona 500 winners (past 7 years) Driver – Year – Driver Rating o Dale Earnhardt Jr – 2014 – 89.7 o Jimmie Johnson – 2013 – 82.8 o Matt Kenseth – 2012 – 89.0 o Trevor Bayne – 2011 – 68.9 o Jamie McMurray – 2010 – 80.2 o Matt Kenseth – 2009 – 89.0 o Ryan Newman – 2008 – 82.9 o Kevin Harvick – 2007 – 86.3 o Jimmie Johnson – 2006 – 87.5 · Drivers who have won the Daytona 500 in more than one car manufacturer: Driver – Manufacturer (Number of wins in that manufacturer) o Richard Petty – Plymouth (3), Dodge (2), Oldsmobile (1) and Buick (1) o Cale Yarborough – Chevrolet (2), Mercury (1) and Pontiac (1) o Bobby Allison – Buick (2) and Ford (1) o Dale Jarrett – Ford (2) and Chevrolet (1) · Drivers who have won The Sprint Unlimited and the Daytona 500 in the same season: Driver – (Year) o Bobby Allison (1982) o Bill Elliott (1987) o Dale Jarrett (1996 and 2000) o Jeff Gordon (1997) Car Numbers that have produced three or more Daytona 500 victories: Car Number – Drivers – (Years) o No. 43 – Richard Petty (1964, ’66, ’71, ’73, ’74, ’79, ‘81) o No. 21 – Tiny Lund (1963), Cale Yarborough (1968), A.J. Foyt (1972), David Pearson (1976) and Trevor Bayne (2011) o No. 28 – Fred Lorenzen (1965), Buddy Baker (1980), Cale Yarborough (1983 and 1984) and Davey Allison (1992) o No. 4 – Ernie Irvan (1991), Sterling Marlin (1994 and 1995) o No. 15 – Bobby Allison (1978), Michael Waltrip (2001 and 2003) o No. 17 – Darrell Waltrip (1989), Matt Kenseth (2009 and 2012) o No. 88 – Bobby Allison (1982), Dale Jarrett (1996 and 2000) and Dale Earnhardt Jr. (2014) o No. 24 – Jeff Gordon (1997, 1999 and 2005) 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
Get caught up quickly before the GEICO 500 (2 p.m. ET, ESPN) RELATED: Follow your picks in the Perfect Chase Grid Challenge for chance at $100,000 prize What: 46th annual GEICO 500 Where: Talladega Superspeedway, Talladega, Alabama When: Sunday, Oct. 19, 2014 TV/Radio: ESPN, Motor Racing Network Time: 2:00 p.m. ET Distance: 188 laps (500.08 miles) Pit road speed: 55 mph Caution car speed: 70 mph On the front row " Starting lineup 1. Brian Vickers , Michael Waltrip Racing No. 55 Toyota (196.129 mph) 2. Jimmie Johnson , Hendrick Motorsports No. 48 Chevrolet (195.732 mph) Failed to qualify Ricky Stenhouse Jr. ( Roush Fenway Racing No. 17 Ford); Justin Allgaier (HScott Motorsports No. 51 Chevrolet); Joe Nemechek (RAB Racing No. 29 Toyota) To the rear Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup drivers Matt Kenseth and Brad Keselowski will drop to the rear of the field prior to the start of today's race. Kenseth's Joe Gibbs Racing team changed engines in the No. 20 Toyota Saturday morning while Keselowski's Team Penske group made an alternator change before qualifying. Kenseth qualified 13th while Keselowski was fifth fastest. Going out in style Two-time NASCAR premier series champion Terry Labonte will make his final Sprint Cup start today, driving the No. 32 Ford fielded by Go FAS Racing. It will be the 61st start at Talladega for Labonte, tying the mark currently held by Dave Marcis , and Labonte’s 890th career Cup start. The decklid of the car features artwork depicting his first Cup entry, as well as the two in which he won championships in '84 and '96. Fastest in practice First Practice: Clint Bowyer , Michael Waltrip Racing No. 15 Toyota (200.385 mph) Final Practice: Kyle Busch , Joe Gibbs Racing No. 18 Toyota (195.205 mph) Defending GEICO 500 Champion Jamie McMurray , Chip Ganassi Racing No. 1 Chevrolet Driver rating (Best driver rating average at Talladega Superspeedway based on past nine years) Kyle Larson , Chip Ganassi Racing No. 42 Chevrolet (94.8*) Matt Kenseth , Joe Gibbs Racing No. 20 Toyota (90.9) Dale Earnhardt Jr. , Hendrick Motorsports No 88 Chevrolet (90.3) *Based on one career start Former Talladega winners in the field Jeff Gordon (6); Dale Earnhardt Jr . (5); Clint Bowyer , Jimmie Johnson , Terry Labonte , Jamie McMurray , Brad Keselowski (2); David Ragan , Tony Stewart , Brian Vickers , Michael Waltrip , Matt Kenseth , Kevin Harvick , Kyle Busch , Denny Hamlin (1). MORE: READ: Latest Chase news PLAY: Monitor your Chase Grid Game picks WATCH: Latest NASCAR video FOLLOW LIVE: Get RaceView FULL CHASE COVERAGE • Chase hub page • Chase Grid games • #MyChaseNation
Former NASCAR driver Jim Sauter dies at 71
Father of Johnny Sauter made 76 career starts in premier series Jim Sauter, a racer and father of four drivers including NASCAR Camping World Truck Series driver Johnny Sauter , died on Friday night shortly before the conclusion of the Truck event at Texas Motor Speedway , according to ThorSport Racing. He was 71. Sauter competed in 82 NASCAR national series races from 1980 to 2004, including 76 premier series starts. The native of Necedah, Wisconsin, made his final NASCAR Nationwide Series start at the Milwaukee Mile in 2002, racing against his sons Jay, Johnny and Tim. Jim Jr. followed in his father's footsteps as well. In addition to these four sons, Sauter is survived by his wife, Debbie, eight additional children, 51 grandchildren, nine great-grandchildren and two sisters. A two-time champion in the ARTGO Racing Series in the Midwest, Sauter tested International Race of Champions cars with fellow Wisconsin racers Dave Marcis and Dick Trickle. His son, Johnny, learned of his father's passing following Friday's Winstar World Casino & Resort 350. His lone win of 2014 came at Michigan International Speedway , and he acknowledged it was a special victory in his post-race comments that recalled his dad's recollections of the track. "I'm just going to relish in this win because this has been a tough, tough race track for me throughout my career," Johnny said. "My Dad always said, 'That place is easy.' But, I never felt that way. Until today, I mean when you have a truck like this -- it was just awesome." NASCAR issued the following statement on Jim Sauter's passing: "NASCAR offers its deepest condolences to the family and friends of Jim Sauter. A true racer, Jim passed on his passion and competitive spirit to his children and grandchildren. A driver himself with roots in the Midwest, his reach and impact extend across the entire sport." The racing community expressed condolences on social media with a sample included below from Sauter's former competitor Mark Martin ; fellow Wisconsin racer Roy Kenseth, father of Matt; crew chief and former IROC chassis specialist Ray Evernham and NASCAR Senior Vice President, Racing Operations Jim Cassidy. Sorry to hear Jim Sauter died. He was a really good man and a great racer. — Mark Martin (@markmartin) November 1, 2014 Thoughts and prayers go out to the Jim Sauter family today. pic.twitter.com/ydHNAQcXQT — Roy Kenseth (@roykenseth) November 1, 2014 Really sorry to hear about passing of Jim Sauter. Worked with him for many years at IROC. Crew chiefed for him at Pocono 1990 #RIP — ray evernham (@RayEvernham) November 1, 2014 Thinking about the Sauter family. Jim Sauter's contribution to stock car racing and NASCAR will be felt for many generations. Good man. — Jim Cassidy (@jfcassidy) November 1, 2014 MORE: READ: Latest Chase news PLAY: Monitor your Chase Grid Game picks WATCH: Latest NASCAR video FOLLOW LIVE: Get RaceView
Stats advance: Analyzing the GEICO 500
A statistical look ahead to the final race of the Contender Round RELATED: Track your picks in the Perfect Chase Grid Challenge and Chase Battle Grid Presented by Toyota DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – Below is a look at the 12 Chase Contenders – and beyond – at Talladega Superspeedway in Talladega, Alabama going into the GEICO 500 on October 19 (2 p.m. ET on ESPN). TALLADEGA-SPECIFIC STATISTICS 1 - Joey Logano (No. 22 Shell Pennzoil Ford) · Season-to-Date Driver Rating: 107.2 2014 Rundown · Five wins, 15 top fives, 20 top 10s; one pole · Average finish of 11.5 · Led 20 races for 916 laps Talladega Superspeedway Outlook: · Two top fives, four top 10s · Average finish of 20.7 in 11 races · Average Running Position of 16.5, eighth-best · Driver Rating of 81.7, 11th-best · Average Green Flag Speed of 193.205 mph, 10th-fastest 2 - Kyle Busch (No. 18 M&M’s Halloween Toyota) · Season-to-Date Driver Rating: 91.9 2014 Rundown · One win, eight top fives, 14 top 10s; three poles · Average finish of 16.3 · Led 15 races for 453 laps Talladega Superspeedway Outlook: · One win, four top fives, five top 10s · Average finish of 21.4 in 19 races · Average Running Position of 18.8, 19th-best · Driver Rating of 81.1, 13th-best · 88 Fastest Laps Run, third-most · 6,094 Green Flag Passes, eighth-most · 1,782 Laps in the Top 15 (49.3%), sixth-most · 3,705 Quality Passes, sixth-most 3 - Kevin Harvick (No. 4 Budweiser Chevrolet) · Season-to-Date Driver Rating: 110.2 2014 Rundown · Three wins, 11 top fives, 16 top 10s; eight poles · Average finish of 13.5 · Led 23 races for 1,815 laps Talladega Superspeedway Outlook: · One win, six top fives, 11 top 10s; one pole · Average finish of 15.9 in 27 races · Average Running Position of 18.9, 21st-best · Driver Rating of 78.0, 21st-best · 80 Fastest Laps Run, fourth-most · 6,423 Green Flag Passes, fifth-most · 1,594 Laps in the Top 15 (44.1%), 10th-most · 3,382 Quality Passes, ninth-most 4 - Ryan Newman (No. 31 Caterpillar Chevrolet) · Season-to-Date Driver Rating: 85.9 2014 Rundown · Two top fives, 13 top 10s · Average finish of 13.5 · Led 6 races for 31 laps Talladega Superspeedway Outlook: · Four top fives, nine top 10s · Average finish of 21.5 in 25 races · Average Running Position of 22.2, 34th-best · Driver Rating of 69.1, 30th-best 5 - Carl Edwards (No. 99 Subway Ford) · Season-to-Date Driver Rating: 82.8 2014 Rundown · Two wins, seven top fives, 13 top 10s · Average finish of 14.3 · Led 11 races for 135 laps Talladega Superspeedway Outlook: · Two top fives, five top 10s · Average finish of 21.1 in 20 races · Average Running Position of 23.7, 40th-best · Driver Rating of 67.3, 32nd-best · 77 Fastest Laps Run, seventh-most 6 - Jeff Gordon (No. 24 Axalta Chevrolet) · Season-to-Date Driver Rating: 110.3 2014 Rundown · Four wins, 12 top fives, 20 top 10s; two poles · Average finish of 9.8 · Led 22 races for 740 laps Talladega Superspeedway Outlook: · Six wins, 15 top fives, 19 top 10s; three poles · Average finish of 16.7 in 43 races · Average Running Position of 18.9, 20th-best · Driver Rating of 80.6, 15th-best · 1,644 Laps in the Top 15 (45.5%), ninth-most 7 - Denny Hamlin (No. 11 FedEx One Rate/Deliverminator Toyota) · Season-to-Date Driver Rating: 90.9 2014 Rundown · One win, six top fives, 14 top 10s; two poles · Average finish of 15.0 · Led 13 races for 217 laps Talladega Superspeedway Outlook: · One win, four top fives, six top 10s · Average finish of 19.1 in 17 races · Average Running Position of 17.7, 12th-best · Driver Rating of 83.1, ninth-best · 70 Fastest Laps Run, 11th-most · 5,604 Green Flag Passes, 12th-most · 1,543 Laps in the Top 15 (47.8%), 11th-most · 3,443 Quality Passes, eighth-most 8 - Kasey Kahne (No. 5 Farmers Insurance Chevrolet) · Season-to-Date Driver Rating: 88.6 2014 Rundown · One win, three top fives, 11 top 10s · Average finish of 16.5 · Led 11 races for 206 laps Talladega Superspeedway Outlook: · Three top fives, five top 10s; one pole · Average finish of 21.5 in 21 races · Average Running Position of 21.7, 32nd-best · Driver Rating of 70.0, 29th-best · 5,877 Green Flag Passes, ninth-most · 3,170 Quality Passes, 12th-most 9 - Matt Kenseth (No. 20 Home Depot Husky Toyota) · Season-to-Date Driver Rating: 92.2 2014 Rundown · 11 top fives, 18 top 10s; one pole · Average finish of 13.9 · Led 17 races for 467 laps Talladega Superspeedway Outlook: · One win, five top fives, nine top 10s · Average finish of 18.3 in 29 races · Series-best Average Running Position of 14.0 · Driver Rating of 90.9, second-best · 6,129 Green Flag Passes, seventh-most · Series-high 2,361 Laps in the Top 15 (65.4%) · 4,531 Quality Passes, third-most 10 - Brad Keselowski (No. 2 Wicked Apple Ale Ford) · Season-to-Date Driver Rating: 103.9 2014 Rundown · Five wins, 13 top fives, 16 top 10s; five poles · Average finish of 13.3 · Led 25 races for 1,506 laps Talladega Superspeedway Outlook: · Two wins, three top fives, six top 10s · Average finish of 16.4 in 11 races · Average Running Position of 20.1, 24th-best · Driver Rating of 79.7, 17th-best 11 - Jimmie Johnson (No. 48 Lowe's Chevrolet) · Season-to-Date Driver Rating: 98.6 2014 Rundown · Three wins, 10 top fives, 18 top 10s; one pole · Average finish of 14.4 · Led 15 races for 1,035 laps Talladega Superspeedway Outlook: · Two wins, six top fives, 10 top 10s; one pole · Average finish of 17.2 in 25 races · Average Running Position of 16.6, ninth-best · Driver Rating of 85.9, seventh-best · 1,881 Laps in the Top 15 (52.1%), fifth-most · 3,768 Quality Passes, fifth-most 12 - Dale Earnhardt Jr . (No. 88 Diet Mountain Dew Chevrolet) · Season-to-Date Driver Rating: 96.6 2014 Rundown · Three wins, 11 top fives, 17 top 10s · Average finish of 12.2 · Led 14 races for 269 laps Talladega Superspeedway Outlook: · Five wins, 10 top fives, 14 top 10s · Average finish of 15.0 in 29 races · Average Running Position of 14.8, third-best · Driver Rating of 90.3, third-best · 78 Fastest Laps Run, fifth-most · 6,487 Green Flag Passes, fourth-most · Average Green Flag Speed of 193.225 mph, ninth-fastest · 2,155 Laps in the Top 15 (59.7%), third-most · 4,160 Quality Passes, fourth-most 13 - AJ Allmendinger (No. 47 JTG Daugherty Racing Chevrolet) · Season-to-Date Driver Rating: 70.8 2014 Rundown · One win, two top fives, four top 10s · Average finish of 20.1 · Led 5 races for 68 laps Talladega Superspeedway Outlook: · One top five, one top 10 · Average finish of 23.4 in nine races · Average Running Position of 24.1, 44th-best · Driver Rating of 61.5, 42nd-best 14 - Greg Biffle (No. 16 3M Ford) · Season-to-Date Driver Rating: 79.0 2014 Rundown · Three top fives, 10 top 10s · Average finish of 15.8 · Led 6 races for 109 laps Talladega Superspeedway Outlook: · Three top fives, six top 10s · Average finish of 18.7 in 23 races · Average Running Position of 20.3, 25th-best · Driver Rating of 76.8, 22nd-best · 74 Fastest Laps Run, eighth-most 15 - Kurt Busch (No. 41 HAAS Automation Chevrolet) · Season-to-Date Driver Rating: 85.7 2014 Rundown · One win, six top fives, eight top 10s · Average finish of 19.8 · Led 12 races for 183 laps Talladega Superspeedway Outlook: · Six top fives, 13 top 10s · Average finish of 17.3 in 27 races · Average Running Position of 14.9, fourth-best · Driver Rating of 87.1, fifth-best · 7,181 Green Flag Passes, second-most · 2,262 Laps in the Top 15 (62.6%), second-most · Series-high 4,905 Quality Passes 16 - Aric Almirola (No. 43 Smithfield Ford) · Season-to-Date Driver Rating: 72.9 2014 Rundown · One win, two top fives, seven top 10s · Average finish of 21.0 · Led 5 races for 23 laps Talladega Superspeedway Outlook: · One top 10 · Average finish of 19.1 in nine races · Average Running Position of 18.6, 17th-best · Driver Rating of 81.7, 12th-best The 12 Contenders at Talladega Superspeedway Driver Races Poles Wins Top Fives Top 10s DNFs Average Finish Driver Rating 1 Joey Logano 11 0 0 2 4 4 20.7 81.7 2 Kyle Busch 19 0 1 4 5 5 21.4 81.1 3 Kevin Harvick 27 1 1 6 11 2 15.9 78.0 4 Ryan Newman 25 0 0 4 9 8 21.5 69.1 5 Carl Edwards 20 0 0 2 5 6 21.1 67.3 6 Jeff Gordon 43 3 6 15 19 9 16.7 80.6 7 Denny Hamlin 17 0 1 4 6 3 19.1 83.1 8 Kasey Kahne 21 1 0 3 5 3 21.5 70.0 9 Matt Kenseth 29 0 1 5 9 4 18.3 90.9 10 Brad Keselowski 11 0 2 3 6 1 16.4 79.7 11 Jimmie Johnson 25 1 2 6 10 8 17.2 85.9 12 Dale Earnhardt Jr. 29 0 5 10 14 5 15.0 90.3 * – Based on last 19 races at Talladega Superspeedway (2005 – 2014). Talladega Superspeedway: History · Construction began on what was then known as the Alabama International Motor Speedway on May 23, 1968. · The first NASCAR Sprint Cup race was held on Sept. 14, 1969 – won by Richard Brickhouse . · The name changed to Talladega Superspeedway in 1989. · Fourth repaving completed on Sept. 19, 2006. Notebook · There have been 90 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races at Talladega Superspeedway , one NSCS event in 1969 and two races per year since 1970. · Talladega Superspeedway is tied with Michigan International Speedway for holding the ninth most NASCAR Sprint Cup Series points paying races (90). · 438 drivers have competed in at least one NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Talladega; 299 in more than one. · Dave Marcis leads the series in starts at Talladega with 61. Jeff Gordon leads all active drivers with 43 starts; followed by Joe Nemechek with 38. · Bobby Isaac won the inaugural Coors Light pole at Talladega in 1969 with a speed of 199.466 mph. Isaac won the first three poles at the 2.66-mile superspeedway. · 37 drivers have Coors Light poles at Talladega, led by Bill Elliott with eight. Joe Nemechek leads all active drivers with four; followed by Jeff Gordon with three. · 10 drivers have won consecutive Coors Light poles at Talladega. Bill Elliott holds the record for most consecutive poles at Talladega with six (1985 - 1987). · Youngest Talladega pole winner: Brian Scott (05/04/2014 – 26 years, 3 months, 22 days). · Oldest Talladega pole winner: Mark Martin (10/23/2011 – 52 years, 9 months, 14 days). · 44 different drivers have won at Talladega Superspeedway , led by Dale Earnhardt with 10. Jeff Gordon leads all active drivers with six. · Richard Childress Racing has the most wins at Talladega in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series with 12; followed by Hendrick Motorsports with 11. · Nine different manufacturers have won in the NSCS at Talladega; led by Chevrolet with 39 victories; followed by Ford with 20 and Toyota with three. · 13 of the 90 (14.4%) NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races at Talladega have been won from the Coors Light pole. Jeff Gordon (2007) is the only active driver to be able to accomplish the feat. · The outside front row (second-place) starting position is the most proficient starting position in the field, producing more winners (20) than any other starting position at Talladega. · 33 of the 90 (36.6%) NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races at Talladega have been won from the front row: 13 from the pole and 20 from second-place. · 62 of the 90 (68.8%) NASCAR Sprint Cup races at Talladega have been won from a top-10 starting position. · 8 of the 90 (8.8%) NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races at Talladega have been won from a starting position outside the top 20. · The deepest in the field that a race winner has started at Talladega was 36th, by Jeff Gordon in the spring of 2000. · Youngest Talladega winner: Bobby Hillin Jr. (07/27/1986 – 22 years, 1 month, 22 days). · Oldest Talladega winner: Harry Gant (05/06/1991 – 51 years, 3 months, 26 days). · Buddy Baker and Tony Stewart are tied for the series’ most runner-up finishes at Talladega with six each. · NASCAR Hall of Famer Dale Earnhardt leads the series in top-five finishes at Talladega with 23. Jeff Gordon leads all active drivers with 15. · Dale Earnhardt leads the series in top-10 finishes at Talladega with 27. Jeff Gordon leads all active drivers with 19. · Jimmie Johnson leads all active drivers in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series in average starting position at Talladega with a 10.520. · Dale Earnhardt Jr. leads all active drivers in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series in average finishing position at Talladega with a 15.000. · There have been seven NSCS races resulting with a green-white-checkered finish at Talladega Superspeedway : spring of 2005 (188/194), fall of 2005 (188/190), spring of 2007 (188/192), fall of 2008 (188/190) spring of 2010 (188/200), fall of 2012 (188/189) and spring of 2013 (188/192). · Only two of the 90 races at Talladega Superspeedway have been shortened due to weather conditions: spring of 1987 and fall of 1996. · Qualifying has been cancelled due to weather conditions in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series at Talladega Superspeedway five times; most recently fall of 2013. · Jamie McMurray (10/06/2002) made his series debut at Talladega Superspeedway . · Brian Scott (05/04/2014), David Gilliland (10/08/2006) and Travis Kvapil (10/05/2008) posted their first NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Coors Light poles at Talladega. · 2012 series champion Brad Keselowski (04/26/2009) and Brian Vickers (10/08/2006) posted their first NASCAR Sprint Cup Series wins at Talladega. · Nine drivers in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series have posted consecutive wins at Talladega; Dale Earnhardt Jr. leads the series in consecutive wins at Talladega after posting four straight from the fall of 2001 – 2003. · Brad Keselowski is the only active series driver to win at Talladega in his first appearance. · Matt Kenseth competed at Talladega Superspeedway 25 times before winning the fall of 2012; the longest span of any the 12 active NASCAR Sprint Cup Series winners. · Matt Kenseth (25), Tony Stewart (19), Kevin Harvick (18), and David Ragan (12) all made 10 or more attempts before their first win at Talladega. · Joe Nemechek leads the series among active drivers with the most NASCAR Sprint Cup Series starts at Talladega without visiting Victory Lane at 38; followed by Kurt Busch with 27. · Since the advent of electronic scoring the closest margin of victory in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series at Talladega Superspeedway was the (04/17/2011) race won by Jimmie Johnson with a MOV of 0.002 second – the MOV is tied with the 2003 Darlington race as the closest finishes in the NSCS using electronic scoring. · Jeff Gordon leads all active drivers in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series in laps led at Talladega with 844 laps led in 43 starts. · Three female drivers have competed at Talladega in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series: Janet Guthrie, Patty Moise and Danica Patrick. Driver Starting Position Finishing Position Date Danica Patrick 7 22 5/4/2014 Danica Patrick 23 33 10/20/2013 Danica Patrick 23 33 5/5/2013 Patty Moise 36 33 7/30/1989 Janet Guthrie 12 29 8/6/1978 Janet Guthrie 9 34 8/7/1977 Janet Guthrie 13 32 5/1/1977 NASCAR in Alabama · There have been 109 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races among seven different tracks in Alabama. Track Name City NSCS Talladega Superspeedway Talladega 90 Birmingham International Raceway Birmingham 8 Montgomery Motor Speedway Montgomery 6 Lakeview Speedway Mobile 2 Chisholm Speedway Montgomery 1 Dixie Speedway Birmingham 1 Huntsville Speedway Huntsville 1 · 70 drivers in NASCAR national series history have their home state recorded as Alabama. · Nine drivers from Alabama have won at least one race in NASCAR’s three national series; five have won in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series. Driver NSCS NNS NCWTS Bobby Allison 84 2 0 Davey Allison 19 0 0 Neil Bonnett 18 1 0 Donnie Allison 10 0 0 Red Byron 2 0 0 Steve Grissom 0 11 0 Rick Crawford 0 0 5 Darrell Wallace Jr 0 0 3 Cale Gale 0 0 1 MORE: READ: Latest Chase news PLAY: Monitor your Chase Grid Game picks WATCH: Latest NASCAR video FOLLOW LIVE: Get RaceVie FULL CHASE COVERAGE • Chase hub page • Chase Grid games • #MyChaseNation
Dave Blaney released from hospital after Eldora wreck
Sprint car superstar Dave Blaney , father of NASCAR Sprint Cup Series driver Ryan Blaney , was injured during Friday's qualifying for a World of Outlaws event at Eldora Speedway in Rossburg, Ohio. Blaney's car flipped multiple times, and after he was extracted from the vehicle, Blaney was transported to a local hospital where CT scans proved negative. He was released shortly after 12 midnight ET. Ryan Blaney , along with sister Emma, provided updates via Twitter. Dad is alright, got his bell rung pretty good but is up and being himself. Thanks for all the support. — Ryan Blaney (@Blaney) May 7, 2016 Thank you for all the prayers. My dad is one tough guy. He is a little sore but going to be okay probably already watching dirtvision — Emma Blaney (@EmmaBlaney) May 7, 2016 Though Dave Blaney is best known for a phenomenal career in the open-wheel ranks, he also has a combined 597 NASCAR national series starts to his credit, including 473 in Sprint Cup . His lone national series win came in the fall 2006 XFINITY Series race at Charlotte.
Carl Edwards rallies from miscues for top-five spot
RELATED: Full race results CONCORD, N.C. -- A missed pit-road entry, a snag by the dreaded lug-nut check, and Carl Edwards still wound up on the cover of a video game. Despite a stinging penalty just before the final 13-lap segment of the NASCAR Sprint All-Star Race, Edwards manufactured a fourth-place finish with a heavy-duty rally in the Joe Gibbs Racing No. 19 at Charlotte Motor Speedway . He led three times for just four of the 113 laps, but made a bigger mark with how he threaded traffic in the final dash to the checkered flag. It was enough to lay claim to his spot as the top-finishing Toyota driver, landing him on the cover of the NASCAR Heat Evolution game that debuts in September. "We didn't really have the fastest car and we tried to screw it up about four different times," Edwards said with a sheepish grin. Edwards then explained how missing the entrance to pit road during the second of three segments cost the No. 19 team valuable track position, putting extra pressure on the mandatory final stop. That stop was a fast one, helping Edwards gain four spots among those pitting. But the check for lug-nut tightness led to a thumbs-down from the NASCAR official checking the drivers' side of the car. "I put my guys in a box, they had to do the fastest pit stop basically you could ever do," Edwards said afterward on pit road. "One lug nut was not all the way up, but we got it done and went to the back. We made it back up to fourth, and really after all the dust settled, if we had one more caution, I think we would've had a shot at it. It's crazy, just a crazy night." Edwards was rewarded for his final charge after lining up in the seventh row for the final restart. The 36-year-old driver won the All-Star Race in 2011 and had more recent Charlotte history on his side with his Coca-Cola 600 victory here last May. But he's also had a consistently solid pit crew all year, a track record that made it hard for crew chief Dave Rogers to assign blame. "The one thing we got going for us, we've got a bunch of tough guys," Rogers said. "We've got a real tough driver, real tough pit crew, and nobody on this race team gives up. We didn't do a very good job executing today, we just had a couple things go against us. That's not the norm for us. Usually, we're spot-on with our execution, so I'm not too worried about it, but even despite that, everyone battled down, got everything we could get, finished fourth. "If it wasn't the All-Star Race, you'd go home with fourth really pleased, but here it's winner-take-all. We'll go home and regroup for the 600 and we'll be back next week."
Science of a crew chief: Randolph takes unusual path to racing
Doug Randolph graduated from the University of Tennessee with a degree in Wildlife and Fisheries Biology. So it was only natural that the Morristown, Tennessee, native eventually found employment in racing. "I use it every day," Randolph said, grinning. If you think he's kidding, think again. "The definition of wildlife biology is it's a science and it's an art, manipulating habitat for animals. To me, racing is the same way," said Randolph, crew chief for driver Tyler Reddick and the No. 29 Cooper Standard Ford for Brad Keselowski Racing in NASCAR's Camping World Truck Series. "If you go into it 100 percent engineering driven, and you forget the art of it, the pumping your driver up, assessing where his head is, you might not be able to pull off the success you want. For sure, that definition plays a huge role in racing I think." Reddick is eighth in points following two straight top 10s -- a seventh-place finish at Dover and a fourth-place showing at Charlotte. Teammate Daniel Hemric is third in the standings. Randolph didn't set out to become a crew chief, but he did hope to be involved in racing in some capacity. And not just videotaping local races from the top of a press box in an effort to lure fans to the local pizza join for viewing and a meal later. Yeah, he really did that. "One of my best friends worked for Mr. Gatti's Pizza and we went around to softball games, local races and videotaped them," Randolph said. "Then we'd try to convince people at the games or races to eat at Mr. Gatti's and watch the replays. "He and I would get on top of the press box. He would video and I would sit there and drink beer, to be honest. But those were good times." Randolph has served as crew chief in all three of NASCAR's national series, winning in the NASCAR XFINITY Series with drivers Scott Riggs and Clint Bowyer , as well as the Camping World Truck Series with Ryan Blaney , Keselowski and Reddick. There were near-wins in Sprint Cup , second-place finishes at Bristol (with Jimmy Spencer) and Talladega (with Paul Menard ). But his start came with a local standout, L.D. Ottinger, a Newport, Tennessee-based driver. Randolph was on the crew in 1990 when Ottinger won an event in what is now known as the XFINITY Series at Bristol Motor Speedway . It was in that race that Michael Waltrip survived one of the most devastating crashes in NASCAR, his car exploding after striking the exposed corner of the outside wall. "Nobody will ever remember who won the race; they'll always remember the wreck," Randolph said. "L.D. wasn't the first one by the wreck, but he took everyone down pit road. And when he did, he said 'He's dead.' He said it three times. "They red-flagged the race … it was hard." Incredibly, Waltrip was not injured. The time spent working for Ottinger helped lay the foundation for what was to come. "Probably one of the best people for somebody that didn't know anything about racing to learn from," Randolph said, "because his attention to detail. I'd be putting the fender decals on and one might be just a little crooked. He'd say, 'You've got to fix that' and I'd say, 'They can't see it from the stands.' He'd say, 'Yeah but I'll be driving around the race track worried that that thing's crooked.' " Understanding professors helped Randolph complete his college education while still heading to the race tracks each weekend. Eventually, he made the decision to "do this racing gig for a year or two. "L.D.'s led into going to Junior Johnson's and, man, once you're there, how do you leave racing?," Randolph said. Johnson, an inaugural member of the NASCAR Hall of Fame and one of the sport's legendary figures, won 50 times as a driver, and nearly three times that often as an owner (132 all told). Randolph's first job as crew chief came in 2001, at Bill Davis Racing with driver Dave Blaney . Eleven years later, he helped guide Blaney's son, Ryan, to the win in a Truck Series race at Iowa. He's found a home in the series, and a home at Brad Keselowski Racing. "When you're Cup racing, that is your life," Randolph said. "You have no (other) life. I've got a wonderful wife, wonderful kids. Truck racing came for me at a point in my life when my daughter was in high school playing every sport imaginable. I missed a lot of that with my son. It was great to experience it with my daughter. … "We're very lucky here that Brad has given us an organization with a definite vision that's different. He wants to give back to the sport and he's given us the freedom to go and do it. We have a great group of guys that support each other. It's a lot of fun. If you're Cup racing and you're not one of those first five guys, you're not having any fun." But there's stress at every level of racing, and that's "what you hope for," he admitted. "You hope there is a stressful situation and you and your driver and your team can get through it better than the next guy."