Larson sweeps all three Sprint Cup practices at New Hampshire
RELATED: Full results for final practice Kyle Larson made it a perfect sweep of NASCAR Sprint Cup Series practices, as his No. 42 Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates Chevrolet flew to the top of the leaderboard at 132.577 mph in Saturday's final practice session at New Hampshire Motor Speedway . Larson paced the field in Friday's lone session and tied Martin Truex Jr . for the fastest speed/time in Saturday's morning practice. Joe Gibbs Racing 's Denny Hamlin made a late surge to nab the second spot on the speed charts, wheeling his No. 11 Toyota at 132.549 mph. Hendrick Motorsports ' Kasey Kahne laid down the third-fastest speed, his No. 5 Chevrolet peaking at 132.489 mph. Kahne and teammate Alex Bowman (10th), who is driving the No. 88 Chevrolet for Dale Earnhardt Jr . this weekend, were the only non-Chase drivers to record top-15 speeds in the final session. Pole sitter Carl Edwards came up fourth in his No. 19 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota (132.420 mph), while Hendrick Motorsports ' Jimmie Johnson completed the top five with a fast speed of 132.255 mph from his No. 48 Chevrolet. Points leader Truex Jr. -- who tied Larson for the fastest speed in practice earlier today -- ranked sixth in the field this session, propelling his No. 78 Furniture Row Racing Toyota at 132.250 mph. Reigning race winner Matt Kenseth was seventh-fastest, his No. 20 JGR Toyota topping out at 132.222 mph. Jamie McMurray (18th), Austin Dillon (22nd) and Chris Buescher (28th) were the only Chase drivers to record practice speeds outside the top 15. The Sprint Cup Series returns to the track Sunday for the Bad Boy Off Road 300 (2 p.m. ET, NBCSN/NBC Sports App, PRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio). RELATED: Full results for Practice 2 Kyle Larson and Martin Truex Jr . both reached 132.186 mph early in the second Sprint Cup Series practice at New Hampshire Motor Speedway on Saturday morning. The Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates driver also paced the field during Friday's lone Sprint Cup practice session in his No. 42 Chevrolet. Last weekend's Chicagoland winner, Truex Jr. in his No. 78 Furniture Row Racing Toyota laid down the exact same speed (132.186 mph) and lap time (28.814 seconds) as Larson in the 55-minute session. Reigning race winner Matt Kenseth was third-fastest, his No. 20 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota reaching a top speed of 132.085 mph, while his JGR teammate Denny Hamlin came up fourth in the field (132.030 mph). Hendrick Motorsports ' Chase Elliott rounded out the top five with a top speed of 131.980 mph in his No. 24 Chevrolet. Coors Light Pole winner Carl Edwards was sixth-fastest in his No. 19 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota. The top-nine performers in the second session were all Chase drivers and Chasers made up 11 of the top-15; Brad Keselowski (18th), Tony Stewart (19th), Austin Dillon (23rd) and Chris Buescher (33rd) were the outlying Chase competitors.
Kyle Busch wins at Chicagoland; Chase field set
RELATED: Full race results " Series standings " Chase Grid JOLIET, Ill. – In a race punctuated by a record 10 cautions, Kyle Busch streaked away from Chase hopeful Cameron Hayley in overtime and won Friday night's American Ethanol e15 225 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race at Chicagoland Speedway . With Busch's victory over runner-up Daniel Hemric , who passed Hayley after the final restart on Lap 150, Hemric and Timothy Peters locked up the final two of eight spots in the inaugural NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Chase, which starts Sept. 24 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway . With a truck dialed in on Thursday by last year's series champion Erik Jones while Busch took care of Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup media day duties, Busch led 95 of the 151 laps en route to winning for the second time in four starts this season. It was his fifth win at Chicagoland and the 46th time in his career. Driving a Toyota Tundra built by Kyle Busch Motorsports, ThorSport Racing driver Hayley finished third but failed to make the Chase. Hayley was gaining ground on the race winner, when contact between the trucks of Tyler Reddick and John Wes Townley caused the ninth caution on Lap 144 and ultimately forced the race one lap past its scheduled distance. On the final restart, Busch chose the outside lane and pulled away from Hayley and Hemric before NASCAR called the final caution on the last lap for Rico Abreu's spin and froze the field, with Busch the winner. "This has just been a really good place for us and for KBM over the years," Busch said. "We've been really fast here, so it was really nice to come out here and keep that speed going… I really appreciate Erik Jones being out here (Thursday) and working it in for me and everything that he did." Two of Busch's KBM proteges, William Byron and Christopher Bell , already had qualified for the first NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Chase on the strength of regular-season victories. Byron, the top seed in the Chase with five wins as a rookie, had a tough night on Friday, getting loose underneath Ben Rhodes on Lap 3 and slamming the outside wall in Turn 2. Byron placed 30th, but the low finish had no effect on his Chase standing with the reset of points after the race. "It was really important, too, to see the 9 (Byron) and the 4 (Bell) make the Chase this year for KBM," Busch said. "They've got two opportunities there to go for the championship. And then the 13 (Hayley) there at the end, that's a brand new truck out of our KBM stable. "That thing was fast . It was hard to hold him off. He was right there at the end, and he was really quick." In fact, Hayley though he had the fastest truck but fell victim to Busch's vast experience in the series. "We definitely had the faster track there at the end, but he blocked my every move," said Hayley, who missed the playoff by one position in the standings. "But overall, it was all I could do. … We're not in the Chase, but you can't say we didn't try." Byron characterized his early accident as a learning experience. "It was learning what not to do for the Chase," he said. The eight Chase drivers in order of seeding are Byron, two-time champion Matt Crafton , John Hunter Nemechek , Bell, Johnny Sauter , Ben Kennedy , Hemric and Peters. Kennedy got the worst of a violent Lap 112 wreck that started when Sauter tagged Kennedy's Chevrolet and sent it spinning into the wall. Kennedy, who led twice for four laps, emerged from the infield care center with a bandaged hand. "I bruised up my hand a little bit," said Kennedy, who felt he had a truck capable of winning. &amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;lt;/p&amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;gt;JOLIET, Ill. – In a race punctuated by a record 10 cautions, &amp;amp;amp;lt;a href=&amp;amp;amp;quot;/en_us/sprint-cup-series/drivers/kyle-busch.html&amp;amp;amp;quot; _rte_href=&amp;amp;amp;quot;/en_us/sprint-cup-series/drivers/kyle-busch.html&amp;amp;amp;quot;&amp;amp;amp;gt;&amp;lt;a href=&amp;quot;/en_us/sprint-cup-series/drivers/kyle-busch.html&amp;quot; _rte_href=&amp;quot;/en_us/sprint-cup-series/drivers/kyle-busch.html&amp;quot;&amp;gt;<a href="/en_us/sprint-cup-series/drivers/kyle-busch.html" _rte_href="/en_us/sprint-cup-series/drivers/kyle-busch.html"> Kyle Busch </a>&amp;lt;/a&amp;gt;&amp;amp;amp;lt;/a&amp;amp;amp;gt; streaked away from Chase hopeful &amp;amp;amp;lt;a href=&amp;amp;amp;quot;/en_us/camping-world-truck-series/drivers/cameron-hayley.html&amp;amp;amp;quot; _rte_href=&amp;amp;amp;quot;/en_us/camping-world-truck-series/drivers/cameron-hayley.html&amp;amp;amp;quot;&amp;amp;amp;gt;&amp;lt;a href=&amp;quot;/en_us/camping-world-truck-series/drivers/cameron-hayley.html&amp;quot; _rte_href=&amp;quot;/en_us/camping-world-truck-series/drivers/cameron-hayley.html&amp;quot;&amp;gt;<a href="/en_us/camping-world-truck-series/drivers/cameron-hayley.html" _rte_href="/en_us/camping-world-truck-series/drivers/cameron-hayley.html"> Cameron Hayley </a>&amp;lt;/a&amp;gt;&amp;amp;amp;lt;/a&amp;amp;amp;gt; in overtime and won Friday night’s American Ethanol e15 225 NASCAR &amp;amp;amp;lt;a href=&amp;amp;amp;quot;/en_us/camping-world-truck-series.html&amp;amp;amp;quot; _rte_href=&amp;amp;amp;quot;/en_us/camping-world-truck-series.html&amp;amp;amp;quot;&amp;amp;amp;gt;&amp;lt;a href=&amp;quot;/en_us/camping-world-truck-series.html&amp;quot; _rte_href=&amp;quot;/en_us/camping-world-truck-series.html&amp;quot;&amp;gt;<a href="/en_us/camping-world-truck-series.html" _rte_href="/en_us/camping-world-truck-series.html"> Camping World Truck </a>&amp;lt;/a&amp;gt;&amp;amp;amp;lt;/a&amp;amp;amp;gt; Series race at &amp;amp;amp;lt;a href=&amp;amp;amp;quot;/en_us/nascar-tracks/chicagoland-speedway.html&amp;amp;amp;quot; _rte_href=&amp;amp;amp;quot;/en_us/nascar-tracks/chicagoland-speedway.html&amp;amp;amp;quot;&amp;amp;amp;gt;&amp;lt;a href=&amp;quot;/en_us/nascar-tracks/chicagoland-speedway.html&amp;quot; _rte_href=&amp;quot;/en_us/nascar-tracks/chicagoland-speedway.html&amp;quot;&amp;gt;<a href="/en_us/nascar-tracks/chicagoland-speedway.html" _rte_href="/en_us/nascar-tracks/chicagoland-speedway.html"> Chicagoland Speedway </a>&amp;lt;/a&amp;gt;&amp;amp;amp;lt;/a&amp;amp;amp;gt;.
Sam Hornish Jr. wants a win for RCR
RELATED: Meet the XFINITY Chase field SPARTA, Ky. – Sam Hornish may not be a threat in the NASCAR XFINITY Series inaugural Chase, but that doesn't mean the Richard Childress Racing driver isn't a concern. Saturday night's VisitMyrtleBeach.com 300 at Kentucky Speedway (8 p.m. ET, NBCSN, PRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio) officially kicks off the series' seven-race Chase. Hornish is making just his fourth start of the season, therefore he was not eligible for the 12-team Chase field. That hasn't keep him out of the winner's circle, however as he wheeled the No. 18 Toyota for Joe Gibbs Racing to the win at Iowa. And in two subsequent starts with the No. 2 team for RCR, Hornish has finished sixth and second. He's making start No. 3 in the No. 2 Chevrolet for RCR here at Kentucky. And the 37-year-old was once again fast here Friday, clocking the third-fastest lap in each of the day's two practice sessions. Qualifying is scheduled for 4:45 p.m. ET on Saturday. Joe Gibbs Racing driver Erik Jones was quickest in both practice sessions. "It was pretty good," Hornish said of the results at day's end. "The car started off a little bit free in the afternoon, but it was so hot. I felt like we got just a little bit behind there in the last practice but our car is good, it's got decent balance; we just need a little bit to be able to run with the JGR cars." Hornish has four top-10 finishes in five XFINITY Series starts at the 1.5-mile Kentucky track. His racing career, which includes three IndyCar championships, got a major boost here in 2000 when he finished ninth after running out of fuel late in the race. That effort opened eyes and doors, and soon his open-wheel career was off and running. His NASCAR career has included stints in Sprint Cup and the XFINITY Series; he also has one start in the Camping World Truck Series. "Right now this is the last (race) I have scheduled ... we've had a good run," he said of the RCR arrangement. "It's a good car, they've got some wins and they continue to build momentum. I'd like to go to Victory Lane for them for sure. "They're running for an owners' championship so we have to be smart about everything we do as well." JGR teammates Jones and Daniel Suarez are seeded first and third in the Chase, respectively, with veteran Elliott Sadler (JR Motorsports) wedged in between. Ty Dillon , teammate to Hornish, is seeded fourth while Justin Allgaier (JRM) is fifth. Darrell Wallace ( Roush Fenway Racing ), Brendan Gaughan (RCR), Brennan Poole ( Chip Ganassi Racing ), Ryan Sieg (RSS Racing), Ryan Reed (RFR), Brandon Jones (RCR) and Blake Koch (Kaulig Racing) round out the 12-team Chase field. "We were able to make some good gains mostly in race conditions," said Jones, who will be seeking his fifth win of the season on Saturday. "It wasn't so much that we needed the speed, we needed to find some drivability in it and I think we (did). ... "It's going to change a lot once it cools all the way down and we get into race conditions but I feel pretty good about it." Except for the number of races, the XFINITY Series Chase mirrors that of NASCAR's Sprint Cup Series, with three-race segments leading up to a one-race finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway .
Edwards to start from pole in New Hampshire once again
RELATED: Starting lineup " See the full field LOUDON, N.H. – Carl Edwards never had the reputation as a spectacular qualifier – until this year. On Friday at New Hampshire Motor Speedway , Edwards ran 135.453 mph (28.119 seconds) in the money round of knockout qualifying to earn the top start spot in Sunday’s Bad Boy Off Road 300 (2 p.m. ET on NBCSN, PRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio), the second race in the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup . The Coors Light Pole Award was Edwards sixth of the year, doubling his previous single-season best. It was his third at New Hampshire, all coming in the last four races at the Magic Mile, and the 22nd of his career. Edwards edged fellow Toyota driver and last week’s race winner, Martin Truex Jr . (135.212 mph) for the top starting spot by .05 seconds. During a qualifying session that started slowly because more than a dozen cars were late to the grid thanks to inspection issues, Chase drivers grabbed 10 of the top 12 starting spots for Sunday’s race. Non-Chaser Ryan Newman (134.896 mph) qualified third, followed by Jimmie Johnson (134.858 mph) and Denny Hamlin (134.796 mph). Chip Ganassi Racing teammates Kyle Larson and Jamie McMurray were sixth and seventh, respectively, with Matt Kenseth and non-Chaser Kasey Kahne eighth and ninth. Chase Elliott , Brad Keselowski and Kyle Busch completed the top 12. "These Toyotas are really fast ," said Edwards, who spent considerable time in qualifying trim earlier in the day. "It's a fun place to drive when your car's that good. (Crew chief) Dave (Rogers) made great changes. "That’s what we needed. We didn't run well at Chicago (a 15th-place finish). I was very frustrated. So to come here and start on the pole and get great pit stall, hopefully we can turn this into a good race." With his sixth pole of the year, Edwards won the Coors Light 6-Pack Award, worth $25,000 to the charity of the driver's choice. "Half of it's going to Speedway Children’s Charities and half to the NASCAR Foundation in honor of Betty Jane France," Edwards said. "It's really cool of MillerCoors to do that. It’s going to help a lot of people." With a long family history at the track, Truex covets a win at the Magic Mile and was delighted with his front-row starting spot. "I've been after this one a long time," said Truex, whose father, Martin Truex Sr., raced in both the Busch North and XFINITY Series at NHMS. "I feel like we’ve been close before, and there's no other track I'd rather win at right now." Notes: Elliott's No. 24 Chevrolet received its fourth written warning for failure of pre-qualifying inspection and will have the last choice of pit stalls… The No. 4 Chevrolet of Kevin Harvick , the 2014 series champion, also had inspection issues and qualified 19th after getting to the grid. Harvick is 14th in the standings after a 20th-place run at Chicagoland. The 13th-16th-place drivers will be eliminated from the Chase after the Oct. 2 race at Dover… Truex led the second round of qualifying at 135.236 mph, a session that saw the four fastest drivers all within .010 seconds of each other. </p>
Keselowski featured on Discovery's 'Fast N' Loud'
Brad Keselowski guest stars on an episode of the television show 'Fast N' Loud', airing Monday, September 19th at 9 p.m. ET on Discovery.
Second-best thrills Logano as he readies for Chase long haul
LOUDON, N.H. -- As the engines cooled from last weekend's Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup opener at Chicagoland Speedway , Joey Logano and his Team Penske No. 22 crew shared emphatic high-fives back at the team hauler. The celebration might have been unbefitting for a runner-up effort, but for Logano, the strength his over-the-wall outfit showed in a pressure-packed situation provided a window for added optimism. Logano's second-place finish last weekend kept him lodged in the top half of the Chase grid heading into Sunday's Bad Boy Off Road 300 (2 p.m. ET, NBCSN, PRN, SiriusXM) at New Hampshire Motor Speedway . He sits fifth in the Sprint Cup standings, just seven points back of series leader Martin Truex Jr ., last weekend's winner. As last week's race headed to overtime, Logano's No. 22 Ford benefited from speedy service and emerged from pit road ahead of Denny Hamlin 's No. 11 Toyota -- which happens to be the Joe Gibbs Racing team with one of the best pit-stop crews in the business. The fast stop allowed Logano to restart on the outside line, following Truex's charge through to the front in the two-lap dash to the checkers. "If it wasn't for that pit stop, we wouldn't have been in position for a great finish like we had," Logano said Friday at the 1.058-mile track in the cradle of the Connecticut native's New England stomping grounds. "That pressure and the way you handle it is, to me, the definition of a true athlete. There are a lot of athletes that can practice really well and when it becomes game time and you put the pressure on them, it goes the wrong way. And then there's an athlete that you put the pressure on and they get better, and that's what I saw in the 22 team last weekend, and I couldn't be more proud to be a part of that." The finish provides some needed breathing room for Logano, who's claimed two of his 15 Sprint Cup victories at New Hampshire. The cushion he obtained last weekend is hardly a failsafe, but it hasn't altered his team's tack in the Chase's Round of 16, the opening three-race series in the postseason. "We talk about this round as being base hits and don't have to do anything crazy," Logano said, taking a cue from the "small-ball" tactics of baseball strategy. "We did that exactly last week, so we'll just come up here and do the same exact thing. If something happens, something happens and we'll approach Dover in a different way, but, right now, let's go out here and if we can win the race, let's win the race. If not, let's try to top-5 it and that will give us a good sense of security heading into Dover. It's one race at a time, one step at a time." The pressure of the opening round may not drastically sway the game plan for either Logano or teammate Brad Keselowski , but there's already some incentive coming from within the walls of Team Penske 's Mooresville, North Carolina, headquarters. Simon Pagenaud locked up the IndyCar championship last weekend for team owner Roger Penske, leading a 1-2-3 sweep of Penske-owned cars in the series' final standings. The IndyCar title and podium monopoly have given Team Penske one crowning highlight to its 50th anniversary season. Your move, Joey and Brad. "It makes the NASCAR guys want to go out here and continue this awesome year that Team Penske has had so far, and Brad and I have a great shot at it," Logano said. "What if we finished 1-2 at Homestead? How cool would that be? We have an amazing opportunity to do that. We've got a long ways to go to get there, but we can do it."
Phone call changes Jimmie Johnson's Chase outlook
RELATED: See the Chase Grid LOUDON, N.H. -- Jimmie Johnson felt certain he'd be facing a much larger deficit in the second event of the 10-race Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup playoffs. A points penalty for his Hendrick Motorsports No. 48 Chevrolet failing its post-race pass through the Laser Inspection Station (LIS) platform last week likely would have dropped him into the bottom four of the 16-driver postseason field. But Johnson said he received a phone call Wednesday afternoon on his way back from his race shop that altered his outlook. NASCAR competition officials had just implemented a midweek update regarding minor LIS infractions, offering a reprieve for both himself and the Furniture Row Racing No. 78 team of last weekend's race winner, Martin Truex Jr . "I was just taking my lumps and going on with my business and then kind of Christmas showed up in September," Johnson said Friday after qualifying fourth for Sunday's Bad Boy Off Road 300 (2 p.m. ET, NBCSN, PRN, SiriusXM) at New Hampshire Motor Speedway . "Just unexpected, but happy." NASCAR's competition department announced Wednesday that P2 and P3-level penalties would be eliminated for lesser LIS violations found in post-race inspections, leaving the stricter P4-grade punishments in place for more egregious infractions. Truex, who automatically advanced to the Chase's next round with his victory at Chicagoland Speedway , and Johnson were not penalized in the points standings. Johnson said he was pleasantly surprised, though he knew his car was slightly outside of the allowable measurements for its rear axle offset, or "skew." "I really feel NASCAR was trying to create a penalty system that was more forgiving," Johnson said. "Stuff bends, stuff moves, and they set those tolerances up to really help the garage area and then to keep cars failing out of the headlines. But it's tough. There's a lot of moving parts in these cars and of course we're trying to get as much skew as we can and we failed. "I'm sure directionally, it was an advantage. Everybody will take every hundredth of an inch they can get. I think we were four thousandths over. I don't know how much of an advantage you can get in four thousandths. That's awfully, awfully small, but we're in a world now where it's black or white." The non-penalty kept Johnson in the heart of the Chase's opening round, slotted eighth with a 13-point spread behind series leader Truex. Four drivers will be eliminated from championship eligibility after next weekend's race at Dover International Speedway , where Johnson has won a record 10 times. Johnson's current ranking could be worse had the penalty taken effect, but it could have been better as well. Johnson was solidly on the verge of a top- five finish last week at Chicagoland, but a pit-road speeding penalty on his penultimate stop bumped him outside the top 10. Johnson said he began to accelerate just 2 feet too early at the pit-exit line, sending him over the speed limit for the final timing section and offsetting the performance strides the No. 48 team had made in recent weeks. "We've definitely been showing speed over the last month and a half," Johnson said. "That's been something that's very welcomed and it's been a lot of hard work to get to that point. Unfortunately, mistakes still are continuing to happen and last week was on me." RELATED: Hear Johnson's reaction on the scanner
Dillon wrecks in Larson-led first Sprint Cup practice
Related: Practice 1 results " Top 10 consecutive lap averages Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup driver Austin Dillon crashed into the outside wall of New Hampshire Motor Speedway 's Turn 1 late in Friday's first Sprint Cup Series practice session, and suffered significant damage to the right rear of the No. 3 Chevrolet that will require a move to a backup car. He finished the session 32nd (132.813 mph). WATCH: Dillon hit the wall The session was led by Kyle Larson , who topped the leaderboard at 135.941 mph in the No. 42 Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet. Right behind him was Chase Elliott in the No. 24 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet at 135.893 mph. Rounding out the top five were Kevin Harvick in the No. 4 Stewart-Haas Racing Chevrolet at 135.757 mph, Carl Edwards in the No. 19 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota at 135.738 mph and series points leader Martin Truex Jr . in the No. 78 Furniture Row Racing Toyota 135.709 mph. Sprint Cup drivers return to the track at 4:45 p.m. ET for Coors Light Qualifying (NBCSN, NBC Sports App). The next practice session is Saturday at 9 a.m. ET (CNBC, NBC Sports App).
Nemechek, Byron ready for anything in Truck Chase
RELATED: Truck Chase Grid " Learn more about the drivers in the Truck Chase LOUDON, N.H. -- The inaugural Camping World Truck Series Chase is upon us, which means the pressure, nerves and action that come along with it are set to rise to unparalleled levels over the next eight weeks. So is the tension. After John Hunter Nemechek and Cole Custer fought, quite literally, to the finish and beyond at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park last month -- rguably costing the JR Motorsports his spot in the Chase, as the driver of the No. 8 Chevrolet came away victorious in that one -- the consensus is that Custer will find a way to repay the favor to Nemechek at some point during the series' first playoff season. RELATED: Custer, Nemechek get physical at Canada The two-time 2016 winner doesn't see it that way. "I wouldn't say we have a target on our back; we're all racers," Nemechek said Friday at New Hampshire Motor Speedway , site of Saturday's Chase-opening UNOH 175 (1 p.m. ET, FS1, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio). " … You can't really worry about it. If it happens, it happens. If it doesn't, it doesn't. You just kind of have to take it race by race, lap by lap. And we're going to go out there and focus on our race and do everything we have to do to get another win." Custer narrowly missed out on the Chase cut, ending up tied with Cameron Hayley as the first drivers on the wrong side of the standings bubble. Taking that into consideration, along with how the future Stewart-Haas Racing XFINITY Series driver charged at Nemechek following the Mosport checkered flag, it may be a stretch to think that Nemechek won't be targeted for payback at some point during the Chase. William Byron didn’t cross too many drivers on his way to notching the top spot for the landmark CWTS Chase, but he did cross plenty of finish lines ahead of them -- five , in fact. RELATED: Byron checks off boxes one milestone at a time Unlike Nemechek, the Kyle Busch Motorsports driver sees the level of competitiveness rising -- potentially along with the tempers. "I think the competition and intensity is going to ramp up here in the last seven races," Byron said Friday at the "Magic Mile." "We've seen that in the (Sprint) Cup Series and so now we're going to be able to experience that here in the Truck Series, so I'm looking forward to it." Regardless of whether the threat of payback looms large or not, there's an incumbent sense of pressure and nerves that comes along with being among the youngest drivers -- not to mention title favorites -- in the first-ever Chase format for the series. The nerves haven't fully crept in yet, but that could change in a hurry. "We're going to take it race by race and we're not going to let the pressure or nerves get to us unless it's a pressure situation where we have a bad race," Nemechek said. "We're going to go out and do what we do best and that's to run our race, try and lead laps and run up front and hopefully get another win. If you can't do that, salvage a bad day into a good day. You just can't make mistakes. You have to make every day the best you possibly can. In reality, nobody really knows what to expect come Saturday. "I think a little bit of nerves just with the unexpected of what this format is going to be like for us, but honestly it's exciting and it's something new and it’s the new era of the playoff-type format, so I'm looking forward to it," said Byron. "It's something that we've been preparing for and I think we’re going to see what happens here in the next seven races."
Late wreck hinders Chase position for Jones, Dillon
RELATED: Results " Chase Grid " Standings MORE: Watch the incident " Dillon talks about the wreck SPARTA, Ky. -- Erik Jones looked every bit the part of a pre-Chase favorite Saturday at Kentucky Speedway until a crash with barely more than 10 laps remaining took the Joe Gibbs Racing driver out of contention. Jones led exactly one-half of the 200 laps that made up the VisitMyrtleBeach.com 300 . But the field had barely gone back to green-flag racing on Lap 188 when the back end of Jones' No. 20 Toyota came around as he found himself three-wide in Turn 3 with Ty Dillon ( Richard Childress Racing ) on his outside and JGR teammate Daniel Suarez underneath. "I got sucked around," a disappointed Jones said after exiting the infield care center. "I slammed on the brakes trying to slow down but Ty had been holding me really tight there on the restart, slamming doors in (Turns) 1 and 2. He was on me pretty tight down there. "It was my fault, but it's tough when you're in that situation." The pole winner for the NASCAR XFINITY Series' inaugural opening Chase race, Jones came into the race as the No. 1 seed thanks to four wins during the regular season. The 28th-place finish dropped him from first to ninth in the standings with two races remaining in the opening Chase segment. "It definitely looks like we're going to have to run really well at Dover and Charlotte, if not get a win," jones said. "Getting knocked out there is not a good situation for us. I thought we could probably get a win tonight and get locked in (to the next round), but we'll have to do pretty good here the next two (races) to move on." The race, won by JR Motorsports driver Elliott Sadler , was slowed by a track-record 12 cautions for 64 laps. Aggressive maneuvers saw the field flare out three-and four-wide on numerous restarts. "I was definitely playing more defense on restarts than I ever have been in my career, just trying to guard and make sure I was in one piece," Jones said, "but there's only so much you can do before one of those times you run out of luck." Dillon, who led 47 laps around the 1.5-mile track, finished one positon ahead of Jones in 27th and fell eight spots, from fourth to 12th in points, with the setback. Only eight of the 12 Chase drivers will advance to the second round. "I had a pretty good restart there and had a good run on the 20," Dillon said of the incident with Jones. "I heard him get loose and he had to lift and there was nowhere I can go. "It just sucks to start off the Chase like that we're in a hole but we had speed tonight so we can win races. It just hurts and then you see the 1 (Sadler) win; we were better than him all night." "It's so fast around here but one groove and things like that are going to happen, especially when everybody is trying to get locked into that Chase." Jones and Dillon weren't the only Chase drivers to find themselves involved in on-track incidents -- toss Justin Allgaier (P9), Ryan Sieg (P16), runner-up Daniel Suarez (P2) into the mix as well. Most, if not all, were able to recover, however. "I think we can win anytime we come to the race track," Jones said, "but we beat ourselves a lot this year and we did it again tonight and that's unfortunate."