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How Matt Kenseth helped John Krasinski land role of 'Jim' on 'The Office'
It's nearly impossible to think an actor besides John Krasinski playing the role of 'Jim Halpert' on the American version of "The Office," but it may not have happened without the help of Matt Kenseth . Did that just blow your mind? It should have. Back in 2002 -- a full three years before the NBC premiere of inarguably the greatest comedy series of all time, in my opinion, at least -- a fresh-faced Krasinski appeared in a commercial with Kenseth that caught the eye of future "Office" executive producer, Greg Daniels. The back-and-forth dialogue between last fall's grand marshal at Texas Motor Speedway and Kenseth (more back than forth, knowing the stoic Joe Gibbs Racing driver) and wild antics by the now-36-year-old led to an audition and before long, "Jim" was born. Krasinski recently spoke about it on NPR's Fresh Air podcast with Dave Davies . "I haven't seen or heard that since the time I did it. That is a real send back to memory lane," Krasinski said. " … That was a huge performance and I remember we had a little bit of script and Matt Kenseth had said he doesn't want to have a line in the script. He was very shy and he didn't want ... he just wanted to walk through the commercial. "At the end of the day, they just asked 'Would you just improv and have fun? Let's see what we get' and we just kept going and I think they just watched the dog go off the leash, just improving all this stuff. By the end, Matt said 'Well, now I do want to say some stuff.' So he came in and we were joking around all day. It was probably one of the more fun times I've had, certainly before I got 'The Office . ' " The commercial worked wonders for both men, as Krasinski is now a household name and Kenseth won five races that year, following it up with his only premier series title the following season. Watch the full commercial below.
Despite loss of Byron, Toyota pipeline deep, talented
RELATED: Byron inks deal with Hendrick. scores JRM XFINITY ride for '17 BRISTOL, Tenn. -- The only thing more stunning than William Byron's signing with Hendrick Motorsports was the swiftness with how competitive the youngster became after taking a ride with Kyle Busch Motorsports for 2016. Byron, 18, had only one career start in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series prior to this season. Through this year's first 13 races, he leads the series in wins with five and sits atop the points standings. "He's taken that garage by storm," David Wilson, President and General Manager, Toyota Racing Development, USA, said Friday at Bristol Motor Speedway . "We thought he was talented; he won a K&N championship. But that's not the end-all. But what he's done the first half of the season has taken all of us kind of by surprise. I don't think we were anticipating the next step this soon; I don't think William was anticipating it this soon." That "next step" is a full-time ride with JR Motorsports, the XFINITY Series arm of Hendrick Motorsports co-owned by driver Dale Earnhardt Jr ., Kelley Earnhardt Miller and Hendrick Motorsports owner Rick Hendrick. Hendrick officials announced the signing of Byron Thursday. JRM currently fields two full-time entries in the XFINITY Series with drivers Justin Allgaier and Elliott Sadler , as well as a third full-time entry driven by an assortment of competitors. KBM, owned by defending Sprint Cup Series champion Kyle Busch , fields full-time entries in the Camping World Truck Series for drivers Byron and Christopher Bell as well as a third that's featured Cody Coughlin , Erik Jones and Daniel Suarez behind the wheel. The organization is affiliated with Joe Gibbs Racing , for whom Busch and Suarez compete. There's no anger, only disappointment in the Byron move, Wilson said. "We feel so fortunate and grateful that we have such a deep bench … this sounds overly magnanimous but the sport still wins, right?" he said. "William is such a good kid, a nice young man. Hendrick and JRM are going to benefit from it and the sport is going to benefit from it. "I have to be gracious about it. One of the things that people don't perhaps realize and accept is that he’s been with Toyota for a few months. He's been in a Chevy, he’s been with JRM, his first full-bodied car was a JRM Late Model. "We knew that going into it." RELATED: Furniture Row expands to two cars for 2017 The Toyota driver pipeline is deep and talented. Furniture Row Racing officials recently announced the addition of a second Sprint Cup Series team that will feature Jones as its driver, joining current driver Martin Truex Jr . Bell and Suarez are also expected to continue to move up the ladder while others in lower series, such as K&N, are being groomed for possible advancement. "This isn't going to dissuade us," Wilson said. "We know that this won't be the last time we lose a driver from our 'stable.' But in the end the sport benefits and we will endeavor to try and do the best job we can with these young kids."
Tifft has renewed driving passion -- and sense of smell -- after brain surgery
BRISTOL, Tenn. – Matt Tifft remembers waking up in the middle of the night in the Intensive Care Unit following his brain surgery. The television was on and the XFINITY Series race at Daytona was playing. Tifft went right back to sleep that night — but getting back to the track hasn't been far from his mind since then. "It's great to see everyone," Tifft said Friday at Bristol Motor Speedway . "I can't tell you how much I've missed being at the race track … I don't know that I've ever stayed away from a race track that long." The 20-year-old developmental XFINITY driver for Joe Gibbs Racing underwent surgery July 1 to remove a low-grade, benign brain tumor, and has been sidelined from the race track since. Poised and in good spirits, Tifft thoroughly explained the difficult recovery he's endured for the past month and a half. "I got this nice scar over here," Tifft said, gesturing to a long scar on his head. "They got as much ( of the tumor) as they could out. The way they best describe it is a wet cotton ball in a cup of water, basically. So, they can pull out as much as they can but there's always going to be a couple strands left in. … But they were able to go in and do a fairly aggressive surgery and get the most out as possible. "But one of the most shocking things to me was apparently with a brain tumor, one of the symptoms is a loss of smell. So, I came downstairs the Monday after I had my surgery and my mom, she was washing something with Murphy's Oil (Soap). I guess I couldn't smell things for years and it just hit me and it made me nauseous and all of a sudden I just started smelling everything. I was like, 'My goodness, I can't believe this.' " Scent wasn't the only sense regained following Tifft's recovery. He quickly realized how much the tumor had affected details of every day life on many levels. "The first couple weeks getting back, I could do 30 minutes more of activity without getting too worn out," Tifft recalled. "What I would figure out, though, is every day I had new experiences -- going to the mall, walking around, things that you think are just so normal to everybody – all of a sudden, those things were stressful situations. … It was just fascinating getting to learn about that. And every day I got stronger and better and to the point where I was able to start driving a street car again, get back to normal life, basically. After that, I was able to get back to a normal physical activity level." While the process has been wearisome at times, it also has afforded Tifft the opportunity to connect with others who either have gone through brain surgery, themselves, or have children who have undergone a similar process. "It really puts things in perspective," Tifft said. "I think sometimes we get lost in this world of NASCAR, sometimes we get trapped in a bubble a little bit with that, and you get hit with something like this and it's shocking but then you realize with other people, there's a whole lot more that could be going wrong. It just makes you appreciate things a lot more." With a new outlook — and regained sense of smell -- Tifft finally climbs behind the wheel Sunday with doctor's approval for the first time since his procedure, as he tests a late model at Hickory Speedway. "I think I will be smiling from ear to ear," Tifft said. "I can't tell you how excited I am to strap back in the seat. It will be a really great feeling." But perhaps a better feeling will be eventually getting back into a stock car, the thought that has kept Tifft going since July. "You get that realization that this is not going to be tomorrow that I'm going to be OK, this is going to take some time and in the beginning that took a while to really understand that," Tifft said. "There were definitely some times where you’re bummed out and you just want things to go back to normal. Then you just have to keep telling yourself that you have to do everything necessary to get back to that point. "My goal from the get-go is to get back in the race car. … The reason I was able to stay so positive and so driven was the one goal of getting back in the car."
NASCAR, Nickelodeon wave green flag for third season of 'Hammer Down'
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Aug. 24, 2016) -- NASCAR and Nickelodeon are joining forces again to take viewers inside the world of NASCAR racing with the return NASCAR Hammer Down . Premiering Friday, Sept. 23 at 9:30 p.m. (ET/PT) on Nicktoons, the third season of NASCAR Hammer Down features eight, 15-minute episodes hosted by Karsyn Elledge, granddaughter of Dale Earnhardt and daughter of Kelley Earnhardt Miller. This season, Elledge will be joined by her sister, Kennedy Elledge, for driver interviews, goofy antics and behind-the-scenes insight into the technology and people that propel more than 90 annual NASCAR national series events. Ryan Blaney , driver of the No. 21 Ford for Wood Brothers Racing , and Bubba Wallace Jr., driver of the No. 6 Ford for Roush Fenway Racing , also return as series regulars for the popular "Bubba & Blaney" segment. Produced by NASCAR Productions, season three premieres with back-to-back episodes, the first of which emanates from the NASCAR Hall of Fame. The subsequent "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 400 Special" gives viewers an inside look at the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 400 taking place on Sunday, Sept. 18 at Chicagoland Speedway . NASCAR Hammer Down will air regularly on Fridays at 9:30 p.m. (ET/PT) during Nicktoons’ NickSports TV block. "Kids are a huge part of our sport, and we are excited to deliver a program like NASCAR Hammer Down to a very important audience for NASCAR," said Zane Stoddard, NASCAR vice president of entertainment marketing and content development. "The personalities of Karsyn, Kennedy and our drivers combined with the NickSports audience, creates the perfect avenue for us to connect with a new generation of potential NASCAR fans." The return of NASCAR Hammer Down is announced as the sport celebrates Kids Drive NASCAR, a week-long youth initiative leading up to Sunday’s NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Michigan International Speedway . Karsyn Elledge helped kick off the special campaign on Monday during a kids-only press conference at the NASCAR Hall of Fame, broadcast live by NASCAR via Facebook Live. All week the NASCAR industry is hosting events and activities designed to introduce young fans to the sport. As part of Kids Drive NASCAR, NASCAR is also launching the first-ever NASCAR Acceleration Nation mobile app, a digital experience created just for kids.
Weather delays re-start of Bristol Sprint Cup race
RELATED: Live radar updates " Channel finder for CNBC BRISTOL, Tenn. -- The start of Sunday's rain-delayed Bass Pro Shops NRA Night Race, postponed from Saturday night, went green at approximately 4:45 p.m. ET, nearly four hours after the scheduled 1 p.m. ET start. Teams completed 48 laps before rain halted Saturday night's NASCAR Sprint Cup Series event, forcing officials to reschedule the continuation of the race for Sunday. Morning rain in northeast Tennessee kept NASCAR and track officials busy trying to dry the track between frequent cloud bursts. The race can be seen on CNBC while radio networks PRN and SiriusXM NASCAR are also providing coverage. Kyle Busch ( Joe Gibbs Racing No. 18 Toyota) restart today's race out front, with Sunoco Rookie of the Year contenders Chase Elliott ( Hendrick Motorsports ) and Ryan Blaney ( Wood Brothers Racing ) in second and third. JGR teammates Denny Hamlin and Matt Kenseth complete the top five. Records indicate this is the first time the annual night race at BMS has been run the following day since the track moved the event under the lights in 1978. NASCAR Hall of Fame member Cale Yarborough won that event, then known as the Volunteer 500. It is the third time this season a race has been delayed one day due to rain, with the other two both coming at Pocono Raceway . &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;gt;
The children of MRO sing the National Anthem
It is a yearly tradition for the children of Motor Racing Outreach to sing the U.S. National Anthem at Bristol Motor Speedway.
SMI to offer select $10 kids tickets for Sprint Cup races
CONCORD, N.C. (Aug. 29, 2016) – In conjunction with a NASCAR industry-wide effort to offer free NASCAR Camping World Truck Series and XFINITY Series tickets for children 12 and under next season, Speedway Motorsports, Inc. (NYSE: TRK) announced a company-wide Fans First initiative Monday to price select children's tickets at just $10 each to Cup Series events at its eight premier speedways beginning in 2017. "Coming to the races should be about fun, not finances," said Speedway Motorsports' President and Chief Executive Officer Marcus Smith. "Now a parent can get his or her child through the gates for an entire weekend of NASCAR events -- including pole night, a Camping World Truck or XFINITY Series race and a Sprint Cup Series race -- for just $10. This is one of the best, if not THE best, family values in all professional sports. "NASCAR fans have passed down their passion for motorsports from generation to generation for decades, and through this new Fans First initiative, we'll continue that legacy by introducing young fans to the sport and engaging them for years to come." With an adult ticket purchase, fans can buy up to two $10 tickets for children ages 12 and under to that same event in select seating sections. This offer is available at all of the 13 Sprint Cup Series events shown below next season. Tickets for many of Speedway Motorsports' 2017 events are already on sale. A complete schedule of the company's Sprint Cup Series races is below: March 5 : Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500 , Atlanta Motor Speedway March 12: Kobalt 400, Las Vegas Motor Speedway April 9: O'Reilly Auto Parts 500, Texas Motor Speedway April 23 : Food City 500, Bristol Motor Speedway May 20 : NASCAR All-Star Race, Charlotte Motor Speedway May 28: Coca-Cola 600 , Charlotte Motor Speedway June 25 : Toyota/Save Mart 350, Sonoma Raceway July 8 : Quaker State 400, Kentucky Speedway July 16 : New Hampshire 301, New Hampshire Motor Speedway Aug. 19 : Bass Pro Shops NRA Night Race, Bristol Motor Speedway Sept. 24 : New England 300 , New Hampshire Motor Speedway Oct. 7 : Bank of America 500 , Charlotte Motor Speedway Nov. 5: AAA Texas 500 , Texas Motor Speedway Fans can obtain tickets to any Speedway Motorsports event by visiting www.ticketmaster.com or the individual Speedway Motorsports subsidiary facility websites.
Full schedule for Darlington and Canadian Tire
RELATED: Find NBCSN in your area " Watch live online at NBCSports.com The NASCAR Sprint Cup and XFINITY Series will gather for a doubleheader showing at Darlington Raceway this weekend while the Camping World Truck Series makes a stop at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park . Check out the full schedule below. Note: All times are ET FRIDAY, SEPT. 2: ON TRACK: DARLINGTON -- noon-1:25 p.m.: NASCAR XFINITY Series first practice, NBCSN/NBC Sports App ( Follow live ) -- 1:30-2:25 p.m.: NASCAR Sprint Cup Series first practice, NBCSN/NBC Sports App ( Follow live ) -- 2:30-3:25 p.m.: NASCAR XFINITY Series final practice, NBCSN/NBC Sports App ( Follow live ) -- 3:30-4:55 p.m.: NASCAR Sprint Cup Series final practice, NBCSN/NBC Sports App ( Follow live ) GARAGECAM ( Watch live ) -- 11:30 a.m.: NASCAR XFINITY Series -- 1 p.m.: NASCAR Sprint Cup Series SATURDAY, SEPT. 3: ON TRACK: DARLINGTON -- 11:45 a.m.: NASCAR XFINITY Series Coors Light Pole Qualifying, NBCSN/NBC Sports App ( Follow live ) -- 1:45 p.m.: NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Coors Light Pole Qualifying, NBCSN/NBC Sports App ( Follow live ) -- 3:30 p.m.: NASCAR XFINITY Series VFW Sport Clips Help a Hero 200 (147 laps, 200.8 miles ), NBC/NBC Sports App ( Follow live ) ON TRACK: CANADIAN TIRE -- 9:30-10:25 a.m.: NASCAR Camping World Truck Series first practice ( Follow live ) -- 11:35 a.m.-12:55 p.m.: NASCAR Camping World Truck Series final practice ( Follow live ) -- 5:45 p.m.: NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Keystone Light Pole Qualifying, FS2 ( Follow live ) SUNDAY, SEPT. 4: ON TRACK: DARLINGTON -- 6 p.m.: NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Bojangles' Southern 500 (367 laps, 501.3 miles ), NBC/NBC Sports App ( Follow live ) ON TRACK: CANADIAN TIRE -- 2:30 p.m.: NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Chevrolet Silverado 250 (64 laps, 157.37 miles ), FS1 ( Follow live )
Betty Jane France passes away
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Aug. 30, 2016) -- Betty Jane France, a philanthropist in support of children's health causes, passed away Monday evening. France is the mother of NASCAR Chairman and CEO Brian France and International Speedway Corporation CEO Lesa France Kennedy. A native of Winston-Salem, North Carolina, the former Betty Jane Zachary was the widow of the late NASCAR Chairman and CEO William C. France, who passed away in 2007. Betty Jane France was executive vice president and assistant treasurer of NASCAR and the chairwoman emeritus of the NASCAR Foundation. "Last night, the NASCAR family lost a mother, a grandmother, a friend and the light that guided the sport's charitable arm," said Brian France. "My mother taught us incredible values, that of love, patience, compassion and joy. She embraced life every day, and nothing fueled her passion more than children. Her unmatched efforts in building The NASCAR Foundation improved the lives of millions of children throughout this country. And because of that, her legacy will live forever. "My father leaned on my mother throughout his life, relying on her wisdom and calming demeanor to help grow the sport of NASCAR. She was there, every step of the way. When we lost my father, her positive presence remained, as she used her immense skill to grow NASCAR's heart and soul, The NASCAR Foundation. "Our family thanks you for all of your thoughts, prayers and well wishes. My mother was a special woman, and an impressive person, and she will be dearly missed." France became chairwoman of The NASCAR Foundation upon the foundation's inception in 2004. Headquartered in Daytona Beach, the foundation is an entity that embodies the compassion of the NASCAR Family and its commitment to serving communities. MORE: Learn more about the NASCAR Foundation The Betty Jane France Humanitarian Award Presented by Nationwide, recognizing outstanding charitable and volunteer efforts of NASCAR fans, was created in her honor in 2011. France was a longtime community leader in Daytona Beach, Florida and best known as a steadfast champion of health care for children. She assisted in the establishment of "Speediatrics" children's care unit at Halifax Health in Daytona Beach and at Homestead Hospital in Homestead, Florida. In 2003, France was presented the Halifax Medical Center Foundation’s Humanitarian Award in recognition of her advocacy, commitment, support and advancement of numerous area community service organizations including the Volusia/Flagler chapter of the American Red Cross. She was a member of the Junior League of Daytona Beach serving on boards of numerous area community service organizations. In July 2008, she was named as an honorary co-chairperson for the Childress Institute for Pediatric Trauma, a project headed by longtime NASCAR team owner Richard Childress in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. Funeral arrangements will be forthcoming.
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