RELATED: Watkins Glen results " Watch the dramatic end unfold WATKINS GLEN , N.Y. – Defending series champion Kevin Harvick said he thought he'd "done a pretty good job of saving fuel" under one of the five caution flags that slowed Sunday's Cheez-It 355 at the Glen . According to crew chief Rodney Childers, Harvick was correct. Unfortunately, it wasn't quite enough. The Stewart-Haas Racing driver ran out of fuel with the checkered flag almost in sight in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series event at Watkins Glen International. He was unable to hold off the fast-closing race winner Joey Logano , and Kyle Busch motored past under power as well before Harvick coasted across the finish line to claim third place in the series' 22nd of 36 events. "I was just running as fast as I needed to, to protect the lead there as I was in front of the 20 (of Matt Kenseth )," Harvick said after his 15th top-five finish of the season and his 19th top-10. Once the Team Penske Ford of Logano began closing, however, "I had to pick up the pace just a little bit," he said. "But all in all, our ... team did a great job today and we were in position to have a win; two corners away. But that's just kind of how the middle of this season has gone. We've had really fast cars but the circumstances have just gotten the best of us. "So, hopefully we're saving that up for the last 10 weeks." Harvick, who started fourth, was able to move past Kenseth ( Joe Gibbs Racing ) on the 61st circuit of the 90-lap event, shortly after the day's fifth caution flag appeared. He remained on point for the next 29 laps. But with no additional cautions appearing, and his last trip to pit road having come several laps earlier, Harvick's crew knew their driver's chances were questionable. According to the team's calculations, Harvick's fuel cell was expected to hit empty with approximately one-half of a lap left on the 2.45-mile road course located in the Finger Lakes region of New York. "We were fortunate we were able to keep it running at least and get it all the way back around," Childers said. "...I'm still surprised we made it that far, though. We pitted with 40 to go and before the race we thought we could go 32 laps so we went eight more than we thought we could. Caution laps helped." Harvick already has secured one of the 16 positions in this year's Chase for the Sprint Cup field. He's a two-time winner this season (Las Vegas and Phoenix) and has been the series' points leader for 20 consecutive weeks. "You hate to give up any points," said Childers, "But on the other hand, it just got to the point halfway through the race where we were like 'Are we going to win it doing what we're doing?' No. 'Do we have a good enough car to win?' Yes. "So we need to try to do something different. So we did ... and it almost worked out. It just wasn't enough." WATCH: Weekend Top Five moments from Watkins Glen There may be disappointment at coming so close, but Sunday's effort confirms the strength of No. 4 team heading toward the Chase, which gets underway in September. "It tells me I have the best team on pit road," Harvick said. "Our cars are faster than pretty much everybody else's every week. " The circumstances have definitely bit us quite a few times. But all in all, if you have the fastest car and you keep running in the top five and leading laps, eventually you're going to wear them down." Childers agreed with that assessment. "I feel real good about everything," he said. "Every week when we show up at the race track I still feel like we've got the best team every week and the fastest car every week. The guys on pit road have just done a tremendous job all year, very consistent. I feel like we're going to be where we need to be. "We learned a lot last year. If everybody thinks we were strong last year, they're going to be in for it (this year)."
Jeff Gordon will make his 46th and likely final NASCAR Sprint Cup Series start at Charlotte Motor Speedway on Saturday. Take a look at his career highlights at the 1.5-mile track.
RELATED: Full practice results Wheeling his No. 4 Stewart-Haas Racing Chevrolet at 193.500 mph, Kevin Harvick surged to the top of the leaderboard during Thurday's opening Sprint Cup Series practice at Charlotte Motor Speedway . Matt Kenseth 's late lap of 192.892 mph sent his No. 20 Joe Gibbs Racing ride to the second spot on the leaderboard. Roush Fenway Racing 's Greg Biffle also made a late lap, his No. 16 ride clocking a third-best speed of 192.885 mph. Team Penske 's Joey Logano used a fast lap of 192.458 mph to snag the fourth spot, while Kasey Kahne propelled the No. 5 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet at 192.321 mph to round out the top five. Having paced the field for the majority of practice, Ryan Blaney settled into eighth by the session's end, rounding the 1.5-mile North Carolina track at 192.048 mph. Kyle Busch was the slowest among the 12 Chase Contenders, coming in at 21st-fastest with a top pace of 191.049 mph.
Recall all the twists and turns that accompanied a thrilling finish at Watkins Glen .
The importance of Jimmie's Chase dismissal, Junior's close call at Dover RELATED: Subscribe to NASCAR Illustrated " Harvick shoves Johnson post-race If you're a regular reader of Herman Unplugged, you know that clairvoyant Kenny Wallace called for Kevin Harvick to win in "walk-off" fashion once again at Dover. He was on the record early and this wasn't Phoenix, where Harvick has a habit of making victories look routine. He'd never won at the Monster Mile … until Sunday. Now? "I really feel that Harvick's gonna win Charlotte and lock himself in again," Herman said. "When you look at the last two races at Loudon and Dover, two completely different race tracks, this is speed we haven't seen since the Jimmie Johnson glory days. He has utterly dominated these last two races, so I don't know why that would stop going into Charlotte. " The only thing that's gonna stop him is a blown tire, wreck or parts failure." NASCAR ILLUSTRATED: Speaking of that, a faulty inexpensive axle seal felled Jimmie Johnson at Dover and dropped him from the Chase. That's a bad beat… HERMAN: "Some of the smallest items in the history of building a car have cost such big deals. An axle seal is a complete fluke. I don't think I've ever seen one go out of a passenger car much less a Sprint Cup car. One would think that with all the engineering and all the machinery at Hendrick, they're probably making their own axle seals, so it was probably the rubber that they used that was a freak deal. Who in the hell would have ever thought it would be an axle seal?" NI: Pretty riveting back and forth battle between McMurray and Junior at the end of Dover race. How important was that for the sport with Junior grabbing the final playoff spot in this next round? HERMAN: "It was bigger than big, no doubt. I was asked on the prerace show: 'Will Dale Jr. make it into the Contender Round?' And I said no because I thought Kyle Busch and Kevin Harvick would outrun him and they did. But what we did not see was Jimmie Johnson falling out of the race. Nine times out of 10, Dale Jr. is gonna outrun Jamie McMurray , right? These were two drivers that really wanted it bad and this incredible drama built and at the end it looks like Jamie is gonna do it. Even Dale Jr. said it was that caution. The caution came out and it changes our sport moving forward. If that last caution does not come out, 70% of our fan base remains depressed and sad. That was pretty incredible to see that last late race restart." NI: The other remaining Hendrick driver, Jeff Gordon , did what he needed to do as well but he's winless on the season. Do you have any problem if a winless driver claims the championship under this format like Ryan Newman nearly did a year ago? HERMAN: "I have never had a problem with someone scoring more points than the other person. Special things happen when things change sometimes. Every time you look up at the end of the year now, Ryan Newman is there without coming close to winning a race. If Jeff Gordon continues to run consistent and keeps getting better and buying himself more time, we still got seven races to go, and maybe that team can find him some speed. But how do you deny somebody scoring more points than the other person? I know people feel like you have to win but throughout our whole history as a sport it's never been based on wins, it's been based on points." NI: Logano would be leading Harvick by eight points under the old system with Junior in third 76 points back. Do you prefer one system over the other when it comes to crowning a champion? HERMAN: "I like this system; I don't like one race determining the champion and I'll tell you why. In baseball and football, we deal with human beings. In auto racing, we deal with parts and pieces that are made by machinery. To determine who is the greatest all year long on one race is brutal. That's the way I look at it. Last year, Joey Logano came down pit road and the jackman had the worst stop of his life and it took Joey out. I don't think he could have outrun Harvick anyway but it took him out of contending. I would like to see this system stay but give it something to add longevity in the end. Maybe we go 3-3-3 and let the last three determine a champion instead of one damn race." SUBSCRIBE NOW!
LEARN MORE: About Bing PLAY NOW: Play The Chase Grid Battle Game Powered by Bing The intensity in the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup is building as the competition moves to the Contender Round starting Saturday night in Charlotte and continuing the next two weeks at Kansas and Talladega. With the always unpredictable Talladega sitting at the end of this stretch of races, it's extra difficult to choose which eight of the remaining 12 drivers will advance to the Eliminator Round and get closer to a championship. But never fear, Bing is here to give you confidence in the picks you're about to make in The Chase Grid Battle Game Powered by Bing . With Bing Predicts , a methodology that has a history of producing accurate forecasts, you will be able to sort through these difficult times and come up with the winning choices. Bing Predicts accurately predicted the 16 drivers who would make the Chase this season, and it correctly picked 11 of the 12 drivers who advanced to the Contender Round. Check out the eight drivers Bing predicts will make it out of the Contender Round and into the Eliminator Round, then read at the bottom about an exciting opportunity to win a trip to Las Vegas for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series' Champion's Week. Bing Predicts : The eight drivers who will advance to the Eliminator Round Kevin Harvick , 96% chance Joey Logano , 86% Kyle Busch , 78% Denny Hamlin , 78% Brad Keselowski , 77% Matt Kenseth , 74% Carl Edwards , 64% Dale Earnhardt Jr ., 64% Kurt Busch , Jeff Gordon , Martin Truex Jr , and Ryan Newman are projected not to advance to the 'Final 8.' Note: Bing's models predicted that Earnhardt Jr. is actually more likely to be eliminated than Kurt Busch , but Junior's stellar record on restrictor-plate tracks, particularly at Talladega where he has six career Sprint Cup victories, makes him more likely to win the last race in this round at Talladega and advance -- similar to what Harvick did at Dover to get into the Contender Round. In addition to helping you win the NASCAR Chase Grid Battle game, Bing also wants to send you on a trip of a lifetime to celebrate the NASCAR Chase for the Sprint Cup champion. Now y ou can enter a sweepstakes through Bing Rewards for a chance to win a trip to Las Vegas for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Champion’s Week.
GarageCam host Matthew Dillner takes you through the NASCAR XFINITY Series garage at Charlotte Motor Speedway and picks up a sweet gift.
NASCAR officials will return to Michigan International Speedway on Tuesday, Oct. 20 to test a low downforce package similar to what was used in competition last month at Darlington Raceway . Drivers scheduled to take part in the test are defending NASCAR XFINITY Series champion Chase Elliott in the Hendrick Motorsports No. 25 Chevrolet, current XFINITY Series points leader Chris Buescher ( Roush Fenway Racing No. 17 Ford) and Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup contender Denny Hamlin ( Joe Gibbs Racing No. 11 Toyota). According to information provided to the teams on Wednesday, the test is to verify max and corner speeds with three different grip levels of tires. The schedule calls for individual 10- and 25-lap runs in the morning and afternoon sessions. The lower downforce package debuted at Kentucky Speedway this season before also being put into play at Darlington, where it featured a 3.5-inch spoiler, 25-inch splitter extension panel (radiator pan) and 6.63-inch by 25-inch splitter. The only change for the MIS test will be an increase in the splitter extension panel to 33 inches. Drivers and teams were pleased with the initial results of the package, particularly at Darlington where Goodyear was able to provide a specific tire based on data gained from testing there prior to the race. The MIS test will take place approximately two months after the Sprint Cup Series competed at the 2-mile facility with a high-drag aerodynamic configuration. A high-drag package was also used at Indianapolis Motor Speedway . JGR driver Matt Kenseth called the high-drag package "terrible." "You just can't pass," he said after finishing seventh in the Jeff Kyle 400 at the Brickyard. "Yeah, you can run up on the straightaway a little bit, but you can't run though the corner with anything." A month later, after his driver dominated at Michigan with the same rules package, Kenseth's crew chief Jason Ratcliff said " at the end of the straightaway (cars could) gain on others two or three car-lengths. But they just couldn't do much once they got there and they got down in the corner, they were kind of helpless." The high-drag rules included a 9-inch spoiler with a 1-inch wicker bill, a rear fascia extension panel (similar to those used for superspeedway events at Daytona and Talladega), a 2-inch leading edge on the splitter and a 43-inch splitter extension panel. "We know that high drag package is awful," four-time premier series champion Jeff Gordon said following the Darlington race. "We know that this (lower downforce) is definitely in the right direction. … I think when you look at the less horsepower we had coming in this year it's the package that should have been with this car that we have now. You can't take that kind of power away and not do something significant to the downforce as well." Homestead Test Slated for December NASCAR and Goodyear officials have added a post-season test scheduled for Dec. 14-15 at Homestead-Miami Speedway to continue preparations for the 2016 rules package. Organizations scheduled to participate in the test are Stewart-Haas Racing (Chevrolet), Hendrick Motorsports (Chevrolet), Richard Petty Motorsports (Ford) and Furniture Row Racing (Toyota). It is expected to be the first on-track testing for Furniture Row and driver Martin Truex Jr . with a Toyota entry. The Denver-based team is making the switch from Chevrolet to Toyota for '16. Because of the change, SHR was added to the test to replace Furniture Row for Chevrolet. "I think '16, we're not really even thinking about right now," Truex said earlier this week. "We know what we're doing next year, we'll worry about that after ( the final race at ) Homestead. "I think everybody in the Chase is probably in the same position -- you're worried about today and tomorrow and this coming weekend. No further ahead. Once you set your plans, it's real easy." Lineup Change for Atlanta Test The Toyota teams of Michael Waltrip Racing and BK Racing have declined to take part in the Goodyear tire test slated for Oct. 27-28 at Atlanta Motor Speedway . Joe Gibbs Racing has been added to the lineup to represent Toyota teams at the 1.54-mile track. MWR will not field a full-time Sprint Cup Series team next season. The two-day program is a confirmation test for Goodyear; an open team test is scheduled for Oct. 29 following the completion of the tire test. CMS Tire Info Sprint Cup and XFINITY Series teams will be running the same tire codes this weekend at Charlotte, according to Goodyear officials, and is unchanged from what was provided for the 1.5 mile track's May races. The left-side tire code has been used at CMS since 2012; the right side, which features a multi-zone tread, was used there for the first time in May.