Truex gets another tease of victory at New Hampshire
LOUDON, N.H. -- Martin Truex Jr. was counting the positives and trying to ignore the negatives when he climbed out of his Furniture Row Racing entry Sunday at New Hampshire Motor Speedway. For the fourth time this season, the 36-year-old led more than 100 laps and he was out front with less than 40 laps remaining in the New Hampshire 301 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race. The performance bodes well for the series' fall return, when the track hosts the second race in this year's Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup. But a broken shifter left him with a lame No. 78 Toyota down the stretch. Visions of victory were replaced with thoughts of merely making it to the end. He did, finishing 16th, despite numerous late restarts that left him perfect for the picking. "It's not tough, it's just that you're a sitting duck and there's nothing you can do to get going," Truex said. "Unfortunately we got passed by a lot of cars and we pitted for tires on that last stop because we were starting all the way in the back ... and we wanted to get some momentum going ... make sure we didn't destroy the race car getting in a wreck. "We passed 10 cars in the last 10 laps so we had a good race car, just nothing to show for it today." Toyotas were dominant on a mostly sunny day here at the 1.058-mile track, leading all but two of the 301 laps. And the Toyota of Truex was, for most of the day, as strong as any. He led 83 consecutive laps early (from Lap 89-171) and 37 circuits a bit later (from Lap 221-257). His team was quick and efficient on pit road. Mistake-free. "I think looking forward to the Chase and what we're trying to do with this team, this is a big relief to come here and be able to run well," said Truex, who won earlier this year with a dominant performance in the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte. "We knew this was one of our tough tracks and if we could come here and get through here good in September then we'll be set up to start pretty good in the Chase. "All in all, couldn't be more proud of everybody at Furniture Row Racing and everybody on this Toyota. We weren't that good yesterday ... but the guys went to work last night and we had some good ideas, we talked about it and some things stuck out to Cole (Pearn, crew chief) and the guys and things that they thought we needed to work on just based on what I felt yesterday." Truex led 141 laps earlier this year at Texas and 172 at Kansas, in addition to his Charlotte effort. All three tracks will host Chase races. Sunday's result was credited to "total team effort," he said, "and the pit crew was great today, the best they've been all year by far. "We're doing everything right, but we're taking some on the chin here, but this isn't when it counts so we'll just keep our heads up and keep working. Our race cars are fast and everyone is doing a great job. Sooner or later we'll get everything straight."
Dale Jr.: Recovery is going to take 'a lot of patience'
RELATED: Latest updates, timeline on Dale Jr. Dale Earnhardt Jr. said problems with balance and nausea prevented him from driving in Sunday's New Hampshire 301 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway, and he is encouraged by concussion test results that match his baseline test. Earnhardt Jr. spoke for about three minutes in "The Dale Jr. Download" on his weekly audio update on Dirty Mo Radio, providing his first comments on his condition since Hendrick Motorsports announced Thursday that he would miss the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at New Hampshire race for concussion-like symptoms. PHOTOS: Junior in Victory Lane through the years "The symptoms that I have are balance and nausea," Earnhardt Jr. said in the episode recorded Sunday night. "I've struggled with my balance over the last 4-5 days, and I definitely wouldn't be able to drive a race car this weekend. Making the right decision really was out of the question; I made the decision I had to make." Earnhardt Jr. said he was encouraged by the results of concussion tests he took, however. "My mind feels real sharp," Earnhardt Jr. said. "I took the ImPACT tests, which measures thought process and the speed of your thought process, and memory and retaining memory, and my results matched my baseline -- which made me feel confident that my brain was pretty sharp. It feels good." RELATED: O'Donnell outlines what Junior has to do to return Earnhardt Jr. repeated that there remains no timeline for his return to the No. 88 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet. If he cannot race this weekend at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, Jeff Gordon already has been tapped to be his replacement. Alex Bowman replaced Earnhardt Jr. in the New Hampshire 301 and finished 26th. "I'm going to continue to work with my doctors to understand more about the injury and how to treat it," Earnhardt Jr. said. "They can give me a lot of exercises that will retrain my brain to handle what I need to handle. It's just going to take a lot of patience. I put my health and quality of life as a top priority. I'll always do that. I'm going to take this slow and strictly follow the advice of my doctors and try to learn as much as I can to be smarter and wiser." RELATED: Ives discusses possibility of Gordon in the No. 88 Earnhardt Jr. also praised the performance of Bowman in filling in for him in New Hampshire, and thanked fans and fellow drivers for the supportive messages he's received. "It's always been a real experience going through this kind of stuff because you learn so much through the experience," he said. "I've got some great doctors to learn from. I miss everybody. I really appreciate all the support I've got. It's really unnecessary, but it really does make me feel good, I have to be honest. To hear everybody wishing me well really does my heart good. This kind of thing can beat you down and get you sad, but I've got a lot of good people around me and a lot of people supporting me." The full audio recording can be found here. MORE: Hendrick, others offer opinions
Ives talks possibility of Gordon driving No. 88 at Indy
RELATED: Latest updates, timeline on Dale Jr. LOUDON, N.H. -- Hendrick Motorsports sent the stock car racing world into a frenzy on Friday morning at New Hampshire Motor Speedway, announcing that recently retired, four-time NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion Jeff Gordon would make a start at his beloved Indianapolis Motor Speedway this Sunday in the No. 88 Chevrolet, should driver Dale Earnhardt Jr. need more time to recover from his concussion-related symptoms. Nothing is official yet, but a tentative plan is in place for Gordon to return from a vacation in France in time to get to the track and get plenty of practice in to shake off any rust acquired since hanging up the fire suit in November. The team is expecting to get a medical update on Earnhardt early this week, with a decision to be reached shortly thereafter. That doesn't mean the No. 88 crew isn't already preparing for having a legend behind the wheel. "I think a lot of us on the team have worked for Jeff throughout his illustrious career at Hendrick Motorsports. To be able to be part of that one more time would be pretty cool for those who have worked with him in the past, but also for those who've never worked with him," crew chief Greg Ives told NASCAR.com after Sunday's New Hampshire 301. "He's such an iconic member of the NASCAR world, fan base and people in the sport working around it for so long that I guess you look at it as a cool opportunity, but I'm not looking at that opportunity as something that I would want anything different than with Dale. I want him to be back in the car, but I don't want him to rush things." While it's neat to think about Gordon back behind the wheel -- at arguably his best track, no less -- Ives and Co. are maintaining perspective and hope for a speedy-yet-full recovery for their full-time driver. "The main, important thing is for (Dale's) health and also for the health of the race team to come back when he's ready. "I think if we do that, we're going to have better performance overall rather than maybe coming back a little too soon."
1-on-1: Kenseth capitalizes on restarts, grabs second win of 2016
NASCAR.com's Costner Merrifield talks with Matt Kenseth, who capitalized on multiple late-race restarts to grab the checkered at New Hampshire Motor Speedway for his second win of the 2016 season.
Abreu: 'I just gotta win one of these damn things'
A disappointed Rico Abreu talks about how he needs to be more consistent after his third place finish at Eldora Speedway.
Bowman on replacing Junior: Chance of a lifetime
LOUDON, N.H. -- Alex Bowman recently got perhaps the most important phone call of his career. And he sent it to voicemail. It was No. 88 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet crew chief Greg Ives on the horn, calling to see if the 23-year-old could fill in for Dale Earnhardt Jr. -- battling concussion symptoms -- this weekend at New Hampshire Motor Speedway. "Yeah, it's been a crazy 12 hours for sure," Bowman said Friday at the track. "I think the first time Greg called me I was at work, so I didn't even answer. But it's definitely not the circumstances that I want to get an opportunity like this. "... Obviously I'm hoping Dale feels better, but at the same time it's the best opportunity I've ever had in my life. I'm ready to just plug into their program and do my job. I'll give them the best feedback I can and go from there. I'm really confident in the whole team. Obviously they bring great race cars to the track every weekend, so if I just do my job I feel like we would be good to plug into it." Bowman will take over the reins of the No. 88 in Sunday's New Hampshire 301 (1:30 p.m. ET, NBCSN, PRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio) for a one-race shot in the Sprint Cup Series, his first start of the year after back-to-back full slates in 2014 and 2015. Should Earnhardt need another week to recover, HMS officials noted that recently retired four-time champion Jeff Gordon would be behind the wheel at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. RELATED: Gordon in at Indy if Junior can't drive The young, talented Bowman is a part of Earnhardt's JR Motorsports stable, taking on a nine-race stint in the XFINITY Series in the No. 88 Camaro. His rapport with the organization -- his four straight top-10 finishes so far this year probably didn't hurt either -- made the decision a near lock. "Dale and Greg and I felt like Alex (Bowman) was the right person," said Doug Duchardt, Hendrick Motorsports General Manager. "He's run the XFINITY car. He's done a good job in that car. He is part of the JR Motorsports system and part of our system. And so, Greg reached out to Alex. Alex came in Tuesday night to get fitted for the car." For Bowman, the once highly touted prospect whose career took a detour after losing his Sprint Cup ride in January -- and finding out about it on Twitter, no less -- it's another positive opportunity that comes via Earnhardt, albeit in an unfortunate way this time around. After the Arizona native learned he was jobless in late January, Earnhardt stepped in to work with Bowman to come up with a partial XFINITY Series schedule for the driver after he ran two races for the organization in 2014. While those two races didn't result in spectacular finishes (12th at Charlotte, 17th at Phoenix in the No. 5), it paid off for JRM in 2016, as Bowman now sports a sterling 6.25 average finish through four races. "I think I can really thank Dale, Jr. for saving my career two years ago pretty much, with those two XFINITY races at Charlotte and Phoenix, and then for the opportunity to run nine races this year with him," said Bowman, who placed 13th in the first practice session Friday with a best speed of 132.172 mph. "Obviously, we have been knocking on the door to get some wins and it has been a lot of fun. "He has been a good friend to me. He has been somebody that I can lean on all the time. Obviously, I hate to see him not feeling well. That was my first thought, but he has done a lot for my career and I couldn't be any more thankful than I am. I owe him a lot. It's just been an honor to get the phone call to fill in for him." &lt;/p&gt;
NASCAR, Chevrolet launch diversity scholarship contest
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (July 23, 2016) — NASCAR and Chevrolet today announced the launch of the second annual NASCAR Chevrolet Diversity Scholarship Contest during a press conference at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Through this initiative, NASCAR and Chevrolet continue their longstanding commitment to Science, Technology, Engineering & Math (STEM) education and promoting opportunities for college students pursuing technology related careers. The contest challenges students to identify a technology or innovation within NASCAR and explain how STEM professionals came to its design in 90-second videos submitted on www.chevy.nascardiversity.com . Four winners will receive a total of $20,000 in scholarships and a VIP experience at Texas Motor Speedway during the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup race on November 6, 2016. In what has quickly become an important component of NASCAR's diversity and inclusion platform, the scholarship program helps both organizations attract young, diverse talent to the world of motorsports. "STEM professionals are invaluable to our sport," said Jim Cassidy, NASCAR senior vice president of racing operations. "We're proud to partner again with Chevrolet in supporting talented students who we hope one day will play an important role in our industry." Video submissions will be judged on technical accuracy, creativity and production quality. Examples of science and technology in NASCAR include, but are not limited to: track banking and construction, race car design, SAFER barrier walls, drafting, gas mileage, tire wear, ethanol fuel, pit road officiating and solar energy. Ken Barrett, chief diversity officer for General Motors, announced the scholarship contest today at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. "At General Motors, diversity is our strength and we seek unique perspectives to infuse new ideas into all we do - keeping us on the cutting edge of technological innovation," said Barrett. "Attracting and employing the best and brightest STEM talent from around the world places GM and Chevy in the position to win in the marketplace and the race track." Winners will be awarded a scholarship and an exclusive, behind-the-scenes race experience in Texas, including a tour of the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series garage, pace car rides and meet-and-greets with Team Chevy drivers and Chevrolet NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Program Manager, Alba Colon. "We're thrilled to once again offer this scholarship opportunity for talented students," said Colon. "NASCAR is such an innovative sport and this is a great way to get students excited about science and technology." To be eligible for the contest, students must be currently enrolled, at least part-time, in an accredited college or university within the United States, be between the ages of 18 and 25 at the time of entry and submit a YouTube link through the scholarship website. The deadline to enter is October 15, 2016. For more information on the NASCAR Chevrolet Diversity Scholarship Contest, please visit www.chevy.nascardiversity.com .
Bobby Pierce making a name for himself at Eldora despite faltering in the end
RELATED: Results " Standings " Updated Chase Grid ROSSBURG, Ohio -- Kyle Larson had never heard of Bobby Pierce until last year's running of this event, when the dirt track standout earned the pole, led 39 laps and finished second. After Wednesday night's Aspen Dental Eldora Dirt Derby Camping World Truck Series race at Eldora Speedway, won by Larson, there's a good chance the Sprint Cup Series driver -- and NASCAR fans in general -- won't be forgetting his name any time soon. Pierce, in just his seventh career truck start, stomped the field to a tune of 102 of 150 laps led, sometimes approaching a full 5-second lead on the half-mile short track. But the 19-year-old had his shifter stuck in fourth gear and was unable to get it unstuck before an impending restart with less than 30 laps to go. The issue relegated him to a disappointing 25th-place finish after wrecking and slowly landing against the inside wall. "Kind of what bit me there was I couldn't get it out of fourth gear on the caution, so I was riding around there just beating it, just trying to get it out," Pierce told NASCAR.com after he was cleared and released from the infield care center. "I was restarting in second or third and I'm sure that's what Larson was doing, too, but on the restart I just couldn't get going. "I got to second (place) and I caught him there and just kind of drove it in a little too hard. Kinda hit the baby powder or whatever it was. The baby powder made it a little slick getting in, and that was all she wrote. Hit the wall, knocked the right rear off the rim." Pierce was unable to get his truck moving after hitting the wall and, despite his pleas to get pushed back on the track, was required to exit his vehicle and make a trip to the care center even though he "only hit the wall going about 1 mile per hour." Even if he'd been able to get it going again, it was unlikely that his team could've fixed the shifter, patched up any body damage and gotten him back out on the track in time to compete for the win. That's just how racing goes, sometimes. "Heck, it's always gotta be something. If you're going to win the race, you've gotta have luck and be good at the same time," said Pierce, whose best CWTS finish of the season came at Kansas (23rd). "Larson had a flat there early on and he charged back through there, but unfortunately our deal was later on so we couldn't come in and get it fixed. Even if it did, I don't think they could've gotten the tranny fixed getting it out of fourth because I tried every single trick in the book to get it out and it just would not go." Pierce said he's planning on running the event again next year, and likely has to be the odds-on favorite at this point, whether or not Larson aims to repeat his win. While no more national series events are on his schedule for the season, Pierce isn't ruling them out for the future. "Heck, the two years I've done (Eldora) have been really good so far," Pierce said. "(MB Motorsports team owner) Mike Mittler has treated me really well so far; planning on doing it again next year. As far as asphalt goes, just gotta find sponsorship if I'm going to do it. "(I'm pursuing more races) a little. Our dirt late model year and the previous years have been so good that even if I don't get sponsorship to try it a couple more times or whatever, then I'll be all right. It's good to run these deals. It's good to run pavement, too, because it makes you a better driver, going back to the late model and trying to pick up sponsorship." People noticed. Some of whom are undoubtedly sponsors. Feel free to do a quick Twitter search. Race fans knew Bobby Pierce was there, and race fans know Bobby Pierce is a driver to watch after these thrilling performances. "Well, hey. If I can't win," he said. "At least I put on a good show, I guess."
At scene of historic win, Menard yearns for repeat
SPEEDWAY, Ind. -- Paul Menard won the Brickyard 400 in 2011, but the Richard Childress Racing driver says he doesn't dwell much on his lone victory in NASCAR's Sprint Cup Series. "I'll reminisce about it more when I'm retired I guess," the 35-year-old said Tuesday during an organizational test for Sprint Cup teams at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. "I was actually thinking about it this morning. I've got to get a picture of the yard of bricks (on the start/finish line) because I'm going to build a house here in the next few years and I want to put a yard of bricks in my driveway, so I've got to get the specs of it right, how many bricks specifically, and make it right." Menard was one of a dozen drivers testing with their teams Tuesday at the legendary 2.5-mile track. A second day of testing is scheduled for Wednesday as teams prepare for the July 24th running of the Crown Royal Presents The Combat Wounded Coalition 400 at the Brickyard (3 p.m. ET, NBCSN, SiriusXM NASCAR). RELATED: Inside Menard's Empire Unlike 2015 when NASCAR officials brought out a high drag rules package for Indy and one of two stops at Michigan International Speedway, teams will compete this year with a low downforce aerodynamic package. Last year's package "definitely changed the handling of the car," Menard said, noting increased temperatures in the driver's compartment as well. "I always enjoy racing at Indianapolis but the rules package we had last year ... ot was a little bit of a shot in the dark," Menard said. "… Internal cockpit temperatures were at least 10, maybe 15 degrees hotter so we were getting cooked for one (thing) and the cars were just really unstable in traffic so it was really hard to make passes." Menard is 23rd in points, 86 behind 16th-place Trevor Bayne . Although he made the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup last season, he said his team's current mindset is that a win will be necessary to return to the 10-race, championship determining playoff. "What better place than Indianapolis?," he said. "It's a special place for a lot of people, myself even more so than some because of all the time I spent here as a kid watching Indy Car races and I was here for the inaugural Brickyard 400. … "We've got a couple of more opportunities before the Chase starts and Indy is definitely circled." &amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;lt;/p&amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;gt;
Bowman finds confidence behind wheel of the No. 88
RELATED: Bowman grateful for opportunity LOUDON, N.H. -- Dale Earnhardt Jr. summed it up best on Twitter following the New Hampshire 301 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at New Hampshire Motor Speedway on Sunday. Don't be fooled by Alex Bowman 's 26th-place finish at the "Magic Mile" -- the young driver made an impression on the race track while filling the seat of NASCAR's most popular driver before a little bad luck hit. The result will not show what a great job @AlexBRacing and the @nationwide88 gang did this weekend. Proud of them guys. — Dale Earnhardt Jr. (@DaleJr) July 17, 2016 After qualifying 20th, Bowman -- subbing for Earnhardt this weekend as the veteran battles concussion-like symptoms -- sliced and diced his way through the field at a track notorious for difficult passing, settling as high as eighth with 30 to go before contact on pit road and more during a jumbled restart left the No. 88 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet with a tire rub. When the rubber finally gave way, Bowman's entry made contact with the outside retaining wall in Turn 1, bringing out the race's fifth caution period on the 272nd of 301 laps. Prior to that, the 23-year-old appeared poised for his first career top-10 finish in NASCAR Sprint Cup Series competition in his first start of the season. His previous best in two Sprint Cup seasons was a 13th-place result at Daytona in July 2014. "I think the No. 19 ( of Carl Edwards ) was backing up because he was blocked in as I was leaving the pit box," Bowman said on pit road following the race. "My left-rear hit his right-rear as I was leaving. It caved it in enough, we thought we would be fine, but obviously, when I got into the No. 41 ( of Kurt Busch) it was already going down. I got really loose, got up the race track and got into him. It is really unfortunate. I think the worst we would've finished would've been seventh or eighth. "They knew we were here for sure, and I had a blast." Though he mentioned he "hate(s) the circumstances," of how it came together, the opportunity to drive one of NASCAR's premier cars came at a critical point in Bowman's career. Having lost his full-time Sprint Cup ride a month before the season started, Bowman has been grinding to make a name for himself in the NASCAR XFINITY Series with Earnhardt's JR Motorsports team on a part-time basis, itching to get another shot in the premier series. Sunday's performance should go a long way toward continuing in that direction. "I've raced with a lot of these guys for a long time; I raced around them but I've never got to actually race with guys like Jimmie Johnson , Tony Stewart , Kurt Busch, all those guys," Bowman said. " … I've never had a day where I could just race with them. And today I was finally able to do that." Not having Earnhardt in the car for the first time in second-year crew chief Greg Ives' Sprint Cup career certainly offered a unique challenge for the No. 88 crew, but Bowman met the team's expectations and before his tire went down was in position to pull out a top-10 finish -- something the struggling squad hasn't had since finishing runner-up at Pocono more than a month ago. "I thought he did well," Ives said of his interim driver. "I thought this weekend was a good learning weekend for the whole team. Obviously for him, but having a different driver makes you communicate differently and I think something that we can pick up and improve on for when Dale comes back for us to communicate better. Alex has run Cup cars before and around the competition but for him to … he felt to be able to run with those guys and learn from them really helped him out today. "Definitely (we'd be comfortable with him in the car again), if needed. … Circumstances will play out how they play out. For sure, it's definitely an option in the future." While Bowman won't be back in Junior's car next week at Indianapolis -- that nod goes to recently-retired four-time champion Jeff Gordon , should Earnhardt need more time to recover -- it was clear that Sunday marked a milestone for the up-and-comer, who won't be forgetting his magical weekend at Loudon any time soon. "I don't think I've gotten out of a Cup car with a smile on my face in a while," he said. "It's just so much fun to be able to run up front like that. I've spent two years of my career wondering if I can really do this at the Cup level and today I answered that for myself."