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The Rundown: Michigan driver grades
RELATED: Full race results " Standings " Chase Grid Breaking down the full field for the Pure Michigan 400 at Michigan International Speedway : 1. Kyle Larson , No. 42 Chevrolet, Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates. Twice, Larson had to overcome problems on pit road. Twice, Larson beat Chase Elliott on restarts from the front row. The second one, with 10 laps to go, was the difference. Larson gets his first Sprint Cup win in his 99th start and his ticket punched to the Chase. Well done. Grade: A 2. Chase Elliott , No. 24 Chevrolet, Hendrick Motorsports . Restarts, restarts, restarts. Elliott lost the first race at Michigan because of poor restarts and it happened again Sunday. And just like in June, Elliott finished second. Grade : A- 3. Brad Keselowski , No. 2 Ford, Team Penske . The native of Michigan posted his sixth straight top 10 at his home track but to his chagrin remained winless in the Irish Hills. Grade: A 4. Ryan Blaney , No. 21 Ford, Wood Brothers Racing . Blaney needs a win to make the Chase, and he drove like it Sunday, posting his first top 10 in 10 races. Grade: A 5. Kevin Harvick , No. 4 Chevrolet, Stewart-Haas Racing . Harvick led 33 laps, and his 3.56 averaging running position topped the field. Grade: A 6. Jimmie Johnson , No. 48 Chevrolet, Hendrick Motorsports . Johnson was a factor -- and the leader -- until his green-flag pit stop on Lap 109. But his gas man had trouble refueling the No. 48, and from that point forward Johnson was playing catchup. His 37 laps led were second to Kyle Larson ’s 41. Grade: A- 7. Carl Edwards , No. 19 Toyota, Joe Gibbs Racing . Edwards now has two wins, seven top fives and 15 top 10s in 2016. That’s what he had all of last season. Grade: A 8. Jamie McMurray , No. 1 Chevrolet, Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates. McMurray finished eighth for the third consecutive week. He holds the last spot in the Chase standings by 15 points over Ryan Newman with two races to go before the field is set. Grade: A 9. Denny Hamlin , No. 11 Toyota, Joe Gibbs Racing . Hamlin’s sixth straight top-10 finish is the longest active streak. Grade: A 10. Joey Logano , No. 22 Ford, Team Penske . All of the polesitter’s strength came at the start of the race. A slow final pit stop left him 17th on the last restart. Grade: A- 11. Greg Biffle , No. 16 Ford, Roush Fenway Racing . Biffle had a nice finish, but he was never a factor. Only Kyle Busch ’s 26 laps in the top 15 were fewer than Biffle’s 44 among drivers who finished in the top 20. Grade: B 12. Kurt Busch , No. 41 Chevrolet, Stewart-Haas Racing . Borrowing a page from Greg Biffle … Busch was not a factor, either, and only his brother’s 24.84 average running position was worse than his 17.34 among drivers who finished in the top 20. Grade: B 13. Matt Kenseth , No. 20 Toyota, Joe Gibbs Racing . In the first 12 races of the season, Kenseth led 398 laps. In the next 12, 79 laps, including eight Sunday, his first laps led since his victory last month at New Hampshire. Grade: B 14. Kasey Kahne , No. 5 Chevrolet, Hendrick Motorsports . Kahne is going to need a win -- or a miracle -- to make the Chase field. He trails Jamie McMurray by 52 points for the final Chase-eligible spot after finishing outside the top 10 for the eighth straight race. Grade: B 15. AJ Allmendinger , No. 47 Chevrolet, JTG Daugherty Racing . Allmendinger finished in the top 15 in four consecutive races for the first time since the end of the 2011 season. Grade: B 16. Austin Dillon , No. 3 Chevrolet, Richard Childress Racing . Dillon is 15th in the Chase standings with a 21-point cushion over Ryan Newman in 17th. Grade: B 17. Ryan Newman , No. 31 Chevrolet, Richard Childress Racing . Newman should consider himself fortunate to be only 15 points out of 16th with two races to go for the Chase field is set -- he hasn’t had a top-10 finish in his past five races. Grade: B- 18. Paul Menard , No. 27 Chevrolet, Richard Childress Racing . Regular readers of The Rundown know we have been enthralled by Menard’s propensity to finish 18th. He racked up his sixth of the season Sunday. Grade: C 19. Kyle Busch , No. 18 Toyota, Joe Gibbs Racing . Busch's troubles at Michigan continued when he got loose in Turn 4 on the 26th lap and went for a spin. His average finish in his past seven starts at Michigan is 32.0 with one finish on the lead lap -- and it wasn't Sunday. Grade: C 20. Martin Truex Jr ., No. 78 Toyota, Furniture Row Racing . Truex's shot at winning or having a top finish ended on Lap 66 when the jack man lowered the car before the left rear tire was changed. The damaged left-rear quarter panel was an issue the rest of the day. Grade: C- 21. Tony Stewart , No. 14 Chevrolet, Stewart-Haas Racing . The driver with a win and five top fives in a seven-race stretch has finished 30th and 21st in his past two races. Is the mojo gone? Grade: C 22. Casey Mears , No. 13 Chevrolet, Germain Racing . Mears finished outside the top 10 at Michigan for the 13th consecutive race. Grade: C 23. Danica Patrick , No. 10 Chevrolet, Stewart-Haas Racing . This marks the first time in Patrick's four full-time Sprint Cup seasons she has not finished in the top 20 in at least one of the two Michigan races. She finished 21st in June. Grade: C 24. Trevor Bayne , No. 6 Ford, Roush Fenway Racing . Bayne went into last week's race at Bristol eight points out of the final Chase spot. He leaves Michigan 58 points back. Grade: C 25. Aric Almirola , No. 43 Ford, Richard Petty Motorsports . Michigan is one of two tracks on which Almirola has made at least 10 starts and has yet to post a top 10. (The other is Pocono.) Grade: C- 26. Regan Smith , No. 7 Chevrolet, Tommy Baldwin Racing . Smith posted his best finish at Michigan since a career-best 13th in August of 2011. Grade: C 27. Ricky Stenhouse Jr ., No. 17 Ford, Roush Fenway Racing . Since scoring a career-best 15th at Michigan in August 2014, Stenhouse's finishes at the 2-mile track are 25th, 26th, 29th and 27th. Grade: C- 28. Brian Scott , No. 44 Ford, Richard Petty Motorsports . Sunday’s race was something to build on: In his first race at Michigan in June, Scott left with a 36th-place finish and a DNF (crash). Grade: C 29. David Ragan , No. 23 Toyota, BK Racing . Because of Ragan's proximity to Chris Buescher in the standings, he will continue to be one of the most-watched drivers through Richmond. On Sunday, Ragan took a nibble out of Buescher's points lead and is now seven points behind Buescher for 30th in the standings. Grade: C 30. Alex Bowman , No. 88 Chevrolet, Hendrick Motorsports . Bowman started sixth and was running in the top five when the car’s ignition failed. A day of promise ended right there, and Dale Earnhardt Jr .’s replacement finished five laps back. Grade: D 31. Michael McDowell , No. 95 Chevrolet, Circle Sport- Leavine Family Racing . McDowell won Saturday’s NASCAR XFINITY Series race at Road America , but his string of top-20 Sprint Cup finishes ended at a season-best two. Grade: D 32. Matt DiBenedetto , No. 83 Toyota, BK Racing . DiBenedetto battled brake issues all day. Grade: D 33. Michael Annett , No. 46 Chevrolet, HScott Motorsports . A blown tire brought out the fourth and final caution, and Annett finished five laps back. Grade: D 34. Cole Whitt , No. 98 Chevrolet, Premium Motorsports. Whitt produced his worst finish in six starts at Michigan. Grade: D 35. Chris Buescher , No. 34 Ford, Front Row Motorsports . With so much at stake, the No. 34 team could not afford the engine woes that dumped Buescher to 35th -- he finished 20th at Michigan in June -- but at least he didn’t finish last. Those extra five points might make the difference between making the Chase and major disappointment. Another positive takeaway: David Ragan could muster only a 29th-place finish. Grade: F 36. Reed Sorenson , No. 55 Chevrolet, Premium Motorsports. Sorenson finished seven laps off the pace. Grade: D 37. Jeffrey Earnhardt , No. 32 Ford, Go Fas Racing . Earnhardt had an accident in practice and was in a backup car. He finished eight laps back. Grade: D 38. Josh Wise , No. 30 Chevrolet, The Motorsports Group. Wise's finish was his worst at Michigan since a 39th-place run in August 2013. Grade: F 39. Landon Cassill , No. 38 Ford, Front Row Motorsports . Suspension woes limited Cassill to 174 laps and left him with his first DNF of the season. Grade: F 40. Clint Bowyer , No. 15 Chevrolet, HScott Motorsports . Bowyer said before the race he had his best car of the year. Yikes! Vibrations sent the No. 15 behind the wall, but Bowyer avoided a DNF, although he did finish 40 laps off the pace. Grade: F
Junior: Jimmie wanted to wear dad's fire suit
RELATED: Instagram post causes PR freak-out Dale Earnhardt Jr . said Monday that Jimmie Johnson had asked him to borrow one of his father's old uniforms to complete his retro look for this weekend's NASCAR throwback weekend at Darlington Raceway . Earnhardt Jr.'s remarks came on Monday's edition of the "Dale Jr. Download," a 70-minute episode that he co-hosted on his Dirty Mo Radio network. Earnhardt did not provide a health update on the concussion-related symptoms that have forced him to miss the last six NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races, but offered an anecdote about his Hendrick Motorsports teammate, who will be running a blue-and-yellow paint scheme on his No. 48 Chevrolet that pays tribute to Earnhardt's father and the legendary David Pearson -- both NASCAR Hall of Famers. "He's texting me, he's like, 'You got one of your dad's old uniforms and all that stuff?' " Earnhardt said of a recent exchange with Johnson. "He wanted to actually wear it to intros, and it would fit probably. It smells like … every bit of 40 years old." Earnhardt Jr. clarified that Johnson had asked about a different uniform than the one from the 1982 season that he recently modeled on social media. He also had to clarify for Johnson the level of Lowe's involvement with stock-car racing back in 1979, the elder Earnhardt's rookie season. "He sends me a picture of this car, and I said 'David Pearson ran second in that car at Talladega in relief for my father,' " Earnhardt Jr. said. "My father was out four weeks with broken collarbones (from a crash at Pocono), and David drove that car, ran second. That was the only race Lowe's was on the hood. I don't know why. Must've been a local chain, but they had Lowe's on the hood for that race, and that race only. "And so, it's kind of unique, kind of weird. Jimmie gets excited about it and then I have to tell him the story. He's like, 'Man, I'm going to run one of your Dad's throwbacks,' and I'm like, 'Well, David Pearson drove that car and Lowe's was on the hood for just that race,' but it's still really cool. I've always wondered what that paint scheme would look like on one of the modern cars." Earnhardt will be replaced by interim driver Jeff Gordon in this Sunday's Bojangles' Southern 500 (6 p.m. ET, NBC/NBC Sports App, MRN, SiriusXM) as his recovery from concussion-related issues continues. Earnhardt said he was "real sad" he won't be driving his own throwback paint scheme, a No. 88 Chevrolet that pays homage to Buddy Baker's "Gray Ghost" look from the early 1980s. Alex Bowman made his second substitute start last weekend at Michigan International Speedway , placing 30th after slowing early with engine trouble. Still, Earnhardt Jr. gave him a vote of confidence. "That was disappointing. I know Alex was upset," Earnhardt Jr. said. "He doesn't know how many opportunities like that he'll get to show he's capable. I believe in him, and I know he's got the ability to do it, to be in the Cup Series and to be in a competitive car and do a good job behind the wheel. It was a shame because I think he could've shown again -- like he did at New Hampshire -- that he belongs." Though Earnhardt Jr. will sit out Sunday's event at Darlington, co-host Mike Davis -- brand and communications director for Earnhardt and his JR Motorsports team -- teed up what's scheduled to be a busy week for the 41-year-old driver. Earnhardt Jr. is scheduled to participate in competition meetings Tuesday, before traveling to a Wal-Mart in Lewistown, Pennsylvania, for a Wednesday driver appearance. Wednesday's schedule also includes an interview on Nickelodeon's "NASCAR Hammer Down" program, hosted by Karsyn Elledge, Earnhardt Jr.'s niece. Earnhardt's JR Motorsports organization in the NASCAR XFINITY Series also has a busy week on tap. Davis said JRM planned to unveil nostalgic paint schemes for its three Darlington entries, which will be piloted by XFINITY regulars Justin Allgaier and Elliott Sadler , plus Sprint Cup star Kevin Harvick . &amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;lt;/p&amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;gt;
Chase Bubble: Stewart in; Larson sparks shake-up
RELATED: Provisional Chase Grid Here's a breakdown of the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Grid and bubble picture after Sunday's Pure Michigan 400 at Michigan International Speedway . NEW WINNER, NEW SHAKE-UP Kyle Larson 's victory in Sunday's Pure Michigan 400 altered the complexion of the provisional Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup playoff grid, securing another postseason berth for a first-time winner. The result means one less postseason berth for drivers hoping to qualify for the Chase on points, knocking Ryan Newman out of the provisional field of 16. Jamie McMurray , Larson's Chip Ganassi Racing teammate, currently clings to the final Chase berth with two regular-season events (Darlington, Richmond) remaining. FORMALLY WIN AND IN Tony Stewart wound up 21st in his final Michigan race, two laps off the leader's pace. It was enough to formally clinch a postseason spot, pairing his Sonoma victory in June with a steady hold on 26th in the driver standings. Stewart missed the first eight races of his final championship campaign with a back injury. BUESCHER'S STANDING Chris Buescher limped to a 35th-place finish, slightly weakening his grasp on a postseason slot. Buescher prevailed at Pocono Raceway earlier this month to check one requirement for Chase eligibility; the second is a place among the top 30 in the Sprint Cup driver standings. Buescher remains 30th in the standings, but his margin over 31st-place David Ragan shrank from 13 to seven points. LOCKED IN Drivers who have clinched a spot in the Chase are: Brad Keselowski , Carl Edwards , Kyle Busch , Matt Kenseth , Jimmie Johnson , Kevin Harvick and Denny Hamlin (all with multiple wins), along with one-win drivers Kurt Busch , Kyle Larson , Joey Logano , Tony Stewart and Martin Truex Jr . Chris Buescher is currently in the Chase Grid, but has not clinched a spot. After Sunday's 400-miler, just two regular-season races (Darlington, Richmond) remain before the 16-driver postseason field is settled. BUBBLE WATCH With 24 of 26 regular-season races complete, just three at-large spots (at present) for non-winners remain available. Here's how that picture looks post-Michigan. Editor's note: The standings below are the Chase Grid standings, not the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series drivers' standings.
Pit road contact hinders Dillon's shot for a win
Contact on pit road between Ty Dillon and David Mayhew cuts down the left-front tire on the No. 3, sending him to pit road for repairs.
ThorSport draws strength to keep trucking after devastating fire
RELATED: Exclusive look at the ThorSport shop in Ohio SANDUSKY, Ohio -- No matter what happens from here on out, win or lose, championship or bust, ThorSport Racing officials likely will look back on the 2016 season as something of a rebirth. It's been a year in which the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series organization has literally risen from the ashes. Cut short just seven races into the season by a raging fire that damaged much of the team's race shop, the company marched on, spent weeks working piecemeal out of everything from the parking lot of a former grocery store to a section of bays inside a custom trailer manufacturing facility. Each off-site venue was within roughly a five-mile radius of the team's 100,000-square-foot home base. Each was also an example of a small, tight-knit community reaching out to help in any way possible. ThorSport, owned by Duke and Rhonda Thorson, has fielded entries in the Camping World Truck Series since 1996, the second year of the series' existence. Today, four teams run out of the large cream-colored building -- the No. 88 Toyota Tundra of two-time series champion Matt Crafton , the No. 13 of Cameron Hayley , the No. 41 of Ben Rhodes and the No. 98 of Rico Abreu. Rhodes and Abreu are Sunoco Rookie of the Year candidates. But for six weeks, the four teams and approximately 85 employees worked "old school," minus many of the technological necessities prevalent throughout all three of NASCAR's national series. They did so while traveling to and competing at Iowa and St. Louis, Kentucky and Eldora. Walk into the shop today and you might not realize the place had been filled with smoke "so thick you couldn't see your hand in front of your face," one first responder recalled on Thursday, or that water was "up to our knees in most places, and running out of the hauler bays in back like a river," said another. But the smell tells another story. "There were times," said Jim Johnson, captain of the Perkins Township Fire Department, "I thought we were going to lose the entire building." Johnson was the first to arrive on the scene, just after midnight on Monday, June 13. Assuming it was nothing more than a small brush fire out back of the team's headquarters, he said he quickly realized the severity of the situation and alerted departments from nearby townships as well as Sandusky. Three other localities and 47 firefighters quickly responded. The fire, which began outside behind the main building, had spread up the rear wall and then began moving beneath the rubber-sealed roof. The rear portion, which housed a fabrication area and machine shop, had to be knocked down in order for firemen to get to the blaze. Johnson said it took approximately 500,000 gallons of water to finally extinguish the fire. Most equipment was quickly removed from the shop -- a large grassy area outside was soon filled with race trucks, pit boxes and assorted tools. There were no injuries and, surprisingly, no race vehicles were damaged to the extent that they had to be discarded. While ThorSport teams regrouped and continued to focus on racing, workers began the process of renovating the shop. Walls, blackened by smoke and damaged by water, were torn down to the studs and rebuilt. New wiring was installed. Eventually, equipment was brought back in. And what little remained of the destroyed rear portion, about 25,000 square feet of shop space, was hauled away. The organization was slowed, perhaps, but not stopped. "We can't use (the fire) as an excuse to under-achieve," ThorSport General Manager David Pepper said. Today, trucks in various states of assembly sit on the pristine shop floor. Work has resumed in a building, a former slaughterhouse that was first put into use by the group in 2011. "Duke and Rhonda have given us our biggest, best resource you could possibly ask for to win races, and we've proven we can do that from here," Carl "Junior" Joiner, crew chief for Crafton, said. "Not having it, you were lost. "At this level, you need resources like this to win and we didn't have that for a long time." The smell, less strong now, still lingers inside the shop. Inside some of the trucks, too. "We still have to put air fresheners in some of them because of the stench," he said. It is not only a reminder of what happened, but how far the organization has come in such a short period of time. "When something bad happens, my father always told me, 'Well kid, it builds character.' And I know that we're going to be stronger from it," Joiner said. "I know we will." &amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;lt;/p&amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;gt;
Logano leaps to Coors Light Pole Award at Michigan
RELATED: Qualifying results " See every car, team rosters BROOKLYN, Mich. – If Joey Logano was looking for a good omen for Sunday, he found it on Friday afternoon at Michigan International Speedway . Touring the two-mile track in 35.697 seconds (201.698 mph) during the final round of knockout qualifying for Sunday's Pure Michigan 400 (2 p.m. ET on NBCSN), Logano edged Jimmie Johnson (201.523 mph) for the top starting spot by .031 seconds. The Coors Light Pole Award was Logano's third at MIS. On the previous two occasions the driver of the No. 22 Team Penske Ford started first on the grid—in August 2013 and June 2016—he won the subsequent NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race. Should Logano win form the pole on Sunday, he would be the third driver to win three or more Michigan races from the top starting spot, joining NASCAR Hall of Famers David Pearson and Bill Elliott . "Any time you put your name with a Hall of Famer of any sort, it would be really special for me," said Logano, who has collected three poles this season and 16 in his career. "That's crazy—that's a really, really neat stat. "We've got to do it though. But, obviously, starting up front here is an advantage, for sure. We talk about track position. We talk about safety on restart, being how crazy it is with the low-downforce package. And the first pit stall—probably the most important thing of all is keeping the track position through the race." And, of course, when Logano is fast in qualifying trim at MIS, he usually races well, too. "I'm excited about it," he said. "I thought our car was really fast in race trim earlier (in practice). ... I didn't think we were going to make it happen today (in qualifying), but (crew chief) Todd (Gordon) made some good adjustments, and he gave me a little pep talk, and I was ready to go. I was going to drive the heck out of that thing." Denny Hamlin (201.406 mph) qualified third, followed by Kevin Harvick (201.382 mph) and Chase Elliott (201.303 mph). Johnson's second-place start led a resurgence by Hendrick Motorsports , which placed all four cars in the top 12 during qualifying for only the second time this season, the first coming in May at Talladega, a restrictor-plate track. "It was just an awesome day for this Lowe's race car and this Lowe's race team," Johnson said. "We keep stacking pennies and making this car better and better. "My hat's off to everyone at Hendrick Motorsports and all the hard work they're putting into things. Great practice and great qualifying. We need some more practice sessions (Saturday) and roll them into a good race." Johnson participated in a NASCAR organization test (one car per team) on Tuesday at Chicagoland Speedway and found the session helpful in finding speed. Indeed, the Hendrick cars more than held their own against the four entries from Joe Gibbs Racing , which have been the dominant force in Cup qualifying this season. Hamlin and Carl Edwards (ninth), were the only two JGR drivers to make the top 12, with Matt Kenseth qualifying 13th and Kyle Busch 16th. &amp;lt;/p&amp;gt;
Dale Jr. educates Jimmie on Darlington throwback
Dale Earnhardt Jr. talks on the Dirty Mo Radio about how he had to educate Jimmie Johnson about his upcoming throwback Darlington paint scheme.
No. 21 Darlington throwback a tribute to David Pearson
The Wood Brothers unveil their throwback paint scheme for Ryan Blaney at Darlington Raceway, honoring David Pearson's 1976 season where he won the Daytona 500, World 600 and Southern 500 that season.
The Rundown: Bristol driver grades
RELATED: Full race results " Driver standings " Chase Grid Breaking down the full field for the Bass Pro Shops NRA Night Race at Bristol Motor Speedway : 1. Kevin Harvick , No. 4 Chevrolet, Stewart-Haas Racing . This says it all about Harvick's second win at Bristol: In 112 Cup races at the track, only four winners started farther back in the field than Harvick's 24th ( Elliott Sadler , 38th, 2001; Dale Earnhardt Jr ., 30th, 2004; Kurt Busch , 27th, 2002; Dale Earnhardt, 26th, 1999). Grade: A++ 2. Ricky Stenhouse Jr ., No. 17 Ford, Roush Fenway Racing . Stenhouse overcame a pit-road speeding penalty to tie his career-best finish, which also came at Bristol (2014). In fact, half of Stenhouse's six career top-five finishes have come at Bristol. Grade: A+ 3. Denny Hamlin , No. 11 Toyota, Joe Gibbs Racing . It was a day of eighths for Hamlin: His eighth top five of the season and his eighth pit-road speeding penalty. He also had to make an unscheduled stop for a loose wheel that put him two laps down. Nice recovery, but he absolutely has to stick a fork in those pit-road speeding penalties before the Chase begins. Grade: A- 4. Austin Dillon , No. 3 Chevrolet, Richard Childress Racing . Dillon just avoided the big wreck on Lap 373 to post his first top five since Talladega in May. Also important: Dillon moved up two spots in the Chase standings to 13th, passing Ryan Newman and Chase Elliott . Grade: A 5. Chris Buescher , No. 34 Ford, Front Row Motorsports . Huge day for Buescher, who gets his second career top five -- both in the past three races -- and moves into the top 30 in points for the first time this season. Grade: A+ 6. Carl Edwards , No. 19 Toyota, Joe Gibbs Racing . Debris piercing the right front of his car couldn't stop Edwards from getting his 14th top 10 of the season, one fewer than he had all of 2015. Grade: A 7. Jimmie Johnson , No. 48 Chevrolet, Hendrick Motorsports . Hard to believe, but Johnson's finish was only his second top 10 in the past 10 races. Grade: A 8. Jamie McMurray , No. 1 Chevrolet, Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates. McMurray's Chase radar is on max. He's 15th in the Chase standings after his fourth top 10 in the past six races. Grade: A 9. AJ Allmendinger , No. 47 Chevrolet, JTG Daugherty Racing . Allmendinger posts back-to-back top 10s for the second time this season, the first time he has had multiple back-to-back top-10 finishes in a season in his Sprint Cup career. Grade: A 10. Joey Logano , No. 22 Ford, Team Penske . We don't have the space to list all the issues Logano and the No. 22 had to overcome Sunday. This top 10 was hard earned and well deserved. Grade: A 11. Jeff Gordon , No. 88 Chevrolet, Hendrick Motorsports . In the 801st and possibly final start of his career, Gordon gets his best finish in his fourth race as Dale Earnhardt Jr .'s sub. Grade: B 12. Trevor Bayne , No. 6 Ford, Roush Fenway Racing . Bayne jumped over Kyle Larson in the standings and picked up ground on Ryan Newman , who leads Bayne by 35 points for the last spot in the Chase with three races to go before the field is set. Grade: B 13. Kasey Kahne , No. 5 Chevrolet, Hendrick Motorsports . With Chris Buescher entering the top 30, Kahne went from 11 points behind 16th place in the Chase standings to 39 points back. Grade: B 14. Aric Almirola , No. 43 Ford, Richard Petty Motorsports . Almirola posted his best finish of the season since finishing 13th in Week 4 at Phoenix. Grade: B 15. Chase Elliott , No. 24 Chevrolet, Hendrick Motorsports . Elliott's promising day took a hit when he was collected in the big wreck on Lap 373. On the flip side, he led 14 laps, his first laps led since Week 15 at Michigan. Grade: B 16. Greg Biffle , No. 16 Ford, Roush Fenway Racing . A miscommunication over the radio that resulted in an unscheduled green-flag pit stop didn't help matters. Grade: B- 17. Matt DiBenedetto , No. 83 Toyota, BK Racing . DiBenedetto posted the second-best finish of his young career despite being down three laps at one point because of a tire issue. His best finish? Sixth at Bristol in April. Grade: A 18. Brian Scott , No. 44 Ford, Richard Petty Motorsports . Scott turned in his second-best finish of the season (12th at Fontana in Week 5). Grade: A 19. Michael McDowell , No. 95 Chevrolet, Circle Sport- Leavine Family Racing . McDowell finishes in the top 20 in consecutive races for the first time in his 201-race Cup career. Grade: A 20. Landon Cassill , No. 38 Ford, Front Row Motorsports . Cassill finished 22nd in April to tie his best finish at Bristol. Sunday, he topped that. Grade: A 21. David Ragan , No. 23 Toyota, BK Racing . Ragan avoided disaster with a great evasive maneuver down low to avoid a spinning Kyle Busch on Lap 358. Grade: B 22. Danica Patrick , No. 10 Chevrolet, Stewart-Haas Racing . Patrick finished 22nd for the third time in the past four races. Her other finish in that stretch: 21st two weeks ago at Watkins Glen. Grade: C 23. Martin Truex Jr ., No. 78 Toyota, Furniture Row Racing . Bad luck found Truex again. He was running third on Lap 358 when he was collected in a wreck caused by Kyle Bush's spin and the No. 78 suffered heavy damage. His average running position of 9.6 was fifth best. Grade: A- 24. Kyle Larson , No. 42 Chevrolet, Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates. Larson had an eventful day, and that’s not code for a great day. A pit-road speeding penalty, cut oil line, three on-track incidents (neither his fault) and untimely tire rub totally erased the benefit of having a super-fast car. Grade: B- 25. Casey Mears , No. 13 Chevrolet, Germain Racing . Mears has one top 10 in 28 starts at Bristol giving him the lowest top-10 percentage among active drivers with at least 15 Cup starts at the track. Grade: C 26. Regan Smith , No. 7 Chevrolet, Tommy Baldwin Racing . Smith brought out the third caution when he got into the wall on Lap 157; attrition enabled him to post a top-30 finish. Grade: C- 27. Reed Sorenson , No. 55 Chevrolet, Premium Motorsports. Sorenson tied Regan Smith for the fewest green-flag passes with six. Grade: C- 28. Ryan Newman , No. 31 Chevrolet, Richard Childress Racing . Pit-road penalties and tire problems carried (dropped?) the day. Still, Newman is 16th in the Chase standings with a 35-point cushion over Trevor Bayne with three races to go. Grade: D 29. Jeffrey Earnhardt , No. 32, Go Fas Racing Ford. Earnhardt improved three spots from his debut at Bristol in April. Grade: C- 30. Tony Stewart , No. 14 Chevrolet, Stewart-Haas Racing . We'll let Tony sum up his final start at Bristol: "We had a wheel that was loose, and that messed our whole day up." Perhaps, but owner Tony got a win and was part of a double burnout with winner Kevin Harvick . Grade: D 31. Clint Bowyer , No. 15 Chevrolet, HScott Motorsports . A broken brake rotor put Bowyer into the wall on Lap 416. Grade D 32. Paul Menard , No. 27 Chevrolet, Richard Childress Racing . Menard was running in the top 10 when he got caught up in the aftermath of Kurt Busch 's spin and his car sustained a punctured radiator when he ran into Chase Elliott . That's Bristol. Grade: C- 33. Brad Keselowski , No. 2 Ford, Team Penske . Keselowski was running third when Kurt Busch got loose in front of him, turned and Keselowski hit him hard. Keselowski had run among the leaders until the accident on Lap 373. Grade: C 34. Cole Whitt , No. 98 Chevrolet, Premium Motorsports. The No. 98 spent time in the garage, and Whitt finished 58 laps off the pace. Grade: D 35. Ryan Blaney , No. 21 Ford, Wood Brothers Racing . Blaney was caught up in the Kurt Busch wreck. As cars checked up, Blaney slammed into Matt Kenseth , who had been turned by Chase Elliott . Blaney returned to the track, but when the day ended he had little to show for a top-five starting spot. Grade: C 36. Josh Wise , No. 30 Chevrolet, The Motorsports Group. Wise completed 416 laps, his fewest at Bristol since 2012, his rookie season. Grade: F 37. Matt Kenseth , No. 20 Toyota, Joe Gibbs Racing . A so-so day at Bristol became a no-no day when Kenseth was collected in the Kurt Busch wreck. Since a four-race run of 1st, 13th, 3rd and 1st, Kenseth has now gone 42nd, 36th and 37th. That's Bristol, too. Grade: C 38. Kurt Busch , No. 41 Chevrolet, Stewart-Haas Racing . Finally we come to the driver who miscalculated his move "by a few inches"and ignited the wreck on Lap 373 that collected 10 other cars. Busch later tweeted, "Tasted the checkers, pushed too hard too soon." No argument here. Busch had completed every lap run this season until Sunday. Grade: F 39. Kyle Busch , No. 18 Toyota, Joe Gibbs Racing . Busch led a race-high 256 laps and owned the day until something broke in his car (his team will hear about that on Tuesday, he said). The No. 18 went into a soft spin, but it was met with a hard hit by Justin Allgaier that left Busch with his third DNF in his past four races at Bristol, all for crashes. Grade: C- 40. Justin Allgaier , No. 46 Chevrolet, HScott Motorsports . Subbing for Michael Annett (flu-like symptoms), Allgaier made his first Sprint Cup start of the season one day after finishing second in the XFINITY Series race at Bristol. Two days later he earned the wrath of Kyle Busch for plowing into him when Busch spun out on Lap 358. That's the high and lows of Bristol. Grade: F </p>
Ready for points 'battle' to Richmond, Buescher stepping up aggression
BRISTOL, Tenn. -- NASCAR Sprint Cup Series driver Chris Buescher has a victory but remains outside the top 30 in points, a situation that the Front Row Motorsports rookie driver hopes to remedy in the coming weeks as he seeks a berth in this year's Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup . For the third consecutive season, NASCAR's Chase field will consist of drivers in the top 30 in points who have one or more wins, with any remaining positons in the 16-team field determined via points. Buescher earned his first career Sprint Cup victory at Pocono Raceway , and trails 30th place David Ragan ( BK Racing ) by only three points heading into Saturday night's Bass Pro Shops NRA 500 at Bristol Motor Speedway (8 p.m. NBCSN, PRN, SiriusXM NASCAR). But it's not just Ragan and the seemingly slim deficit that Buescher said he and his Front Row Motorsports team have their sights set on. "I think anyone will tell you that it's not necessarily just three points," said Buescher. "It's going to be constantly changing. There are four drivers in this window that can basically upset the balance or change it each and every weekend. "For us right now, yeah, it's three points to David Ragan , but after Bristol it could be a completely different story. We could gain points on David , but get passed by the one behind us. It's a balance, but we've got to take it week by week. … We have to capitalize on our weekends as much as possible. That's what is going to be important for us -- to do the best we can and let everything else fall the way it's going to." Regan Smith trails Buescher by 14 points; Brian Scott sits 11 behind Smith. Ten drivers have clinched one of the 16 Chase berths based on wins and their current points positions, including defending series champion Kyle Busch and 2012 champ Brad Keselowski . Tony Stewart has a victory, but has yet to officially clinch a spot since the three-time series champ sits 26th in points and could fall out of the top 30. Eleventh through 16th in points but winless this season are Ryan Newman , Chase Elliott , Austin Dillon , Jamie McMurray , Kyle Larson and Trevor Bayne . Should Stewart remain in the top 30 and Buescher advance, only four positons would be set based on points. Just outside the top 16 are Kasey Kahne and Ryan Blaney . "Right now, we've got to get all we can get and be aggressive with it to gain points and that's more fun racing," Buescher, one of four drivers competing for Sunoco Rookie of the Year honors, said. "We can enjoy these weekends and not be too worried about giving it up, just knowing that we've got to do everything we can do to run as well as possible. "That's not necessarily saying we've got to try and get ourselves in a fuel window and run out of gas and lose a bunch of spots. It's saying we've got to be aggressive on track, take passes whenever we can get them, and make sure that we can drive forward so that we're earning points versus losing them each of these next four weekends." Buescher finished 21st at Bristol in the spring race, and said it's "probably one of our better race tracks this year for speed … and this should be a place where we can gain a lot of those points." But, he added, "the guys that we're racing also run really well here, so it's going be a battle right up to the end of Richmond."