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Post-Race Reactions: Ford EcoBoost 300
Runner-up Kasey Kahne and other discuss a calm, but exciting race in Bristol.
Kyle Busch wins XFINITY pole at Homestead
RELATED: Full race lineup Weather played a role in Saturday's XFINITY Series qualifying at Homestead-Miami Speedway , canceling the final round and handing the pole to second round leader Kyle Busch . The Joe Gibbs Racing driver wheeled his No. 54 Toyota at 168.140 mph to earn his fifth pole of the season. The middle round of qualifying became a race against weather for drivers, as rain drops decorated the windshields toward the end of the session. Qualifying was ultimately called at the end of the second session. Sunoco Rookie of the Year candidate and Busch's JGR teammate Daniel Suarez earned the outside pole position, piloting his No. 18 Toyota at 168.046 mph for the front row spot. Richard Childress Racing 's Austin Dillon (167.266 mph) and Brian Scott (167.219 mph) earned the third and fourth starting spots, respectively. Ryan Blaney rounded out the top five with a fast lap of 167.110 mph in his No. 22 Ford . Points leader and title contender Chris Buescher earned an 11th -place starting position, while fellow championship-contending driver Chase Elliott qualified 13th. The XFINITY Series is back on track for the Ford EcoBoost 300 (2:45 p.m. ET, NBC/Live Extra/MRN/SiriusXM).
Elliott, Dillon, Regan fall short in pursuit for title
RELATED: Full results " Final standings HOMESTEAD, Fla. -- Three contenders with outside chances at winning the season-long NASCAR XFINITY Series fight had their brush with taking the trophy away from eventual champ Chris Buescher . Unfortunately, the trio had another brush -- with the Homestead-Miami Speedway wall during Saturday's season finale. The latter brushes aside, title hopefuls Ty Dillon , Chase Elliott and Regan Smith finished seventh, eighth and ninth respectfully, coming up short in the season-ending Ford EcoBoost 300 . The results -- combined with Buescher's 11th-place effort Saturday -- left Elliott second (15 points back), Dillon third (-18) and Smith fourth (-22) in the final standings. All three emerged from scraped Chevrolets with wishes of what might've been. Elliott came closest, but was unable to take a repeat XFINITY championship with him as he moves to the Sprint Cup Series next year as Jeff Gordon 's replacement with Hendrick Motorsports . Elliott ranked either second or third for the majority of the season, closing the year with seven consecutive top-10 finishes. The 19-year-old notched one win (in September at Richmond), but said those opportunities were fleeting over the course of the 33-race season. "Yeah, chalk it up to we got beat and didn't win enough races. That's the bottom line," said Elliott, who won three times as a championship-winning rookie in 2014. "… The most important thing in this sport is being able to win and give yourself chances to win a race every weekend. We race from February to November, and we didn't give ourselves enough chances. I didn't do a good enough job to put ourselves in position to go and try to win races. "That's the most important thing, and like I said, that's what I chalk it up to is just not being in contention enough." Dillon led the standings for the majority of the spring and soldiered ahead after a midseason crew chief change. His biggest lament came in October at Dover International Speedway , where a blown tire and slap of the outside wall with his Richard Childress Racing No. 3 Chevrolet left him with a costly 28th-place finish. Dillon righted the ship slightly, closing out the year with five straight top-10 finishes to take third place away from Smith down the stretch. "It's a good year," Dillon said. "It's always a good thing to be disappointed with not winning the championship but having an opportunity, I feel like. Just proud of my guys' effort. We really turned it around the second half of the year and were a championship team. If Dover wouldn't have happened, there's always ifs and buts, but if Dover wouldn't have happened, we would've probably would've won this championship by about 15 points. So, I'm proud of what we did in the second half. … "We'll be back next year and we won't be sitting here third in points. Hopefully, we'll be lifting that trophy." Smith had the best closing kick of the four title hopefuls, coming in the face of job uncertainty as his three-year tenure at JR Motorsports drew to a close. The 32-year-old veteran won twice, with his first victory of the season at Mid-Ohio touching off a streak of 13 consecutive top-10 finishes to round out the year. The steady streak didn't unseat any of the three drivers ahead of him, but Smith said he hoped it was enough to draw interest from a prospective team owner for 2016. "I'm glad we were in the conversation," Smith said of his title campaign. "There's a couple points in the air that probably shouldn't have been and probably really weren't just because of common mistakes or other people's mistakes on the race track. So that's good. I'm frustrated today. I guess that's the only thing you focus on is how your night went tonight and we really struggled. … "We'll see how things play out for next year. I know what I'm capable of in a race car and I've still got some championships left in me, and we need to go get one."
Nationwide Series pit stall assignments
See where drivers will pit for the Ford EcoBoost 300 (4:30 p.m. ET, ESPN2) RELATED: Play NASCAR Fantasy Live " Sign up for RaceView today The NASCAR Nationwide Series pit stall assignments are out for Saturday's Ford EcoBoost 300 at Homestead-Miami Speedway . Coors Light Pole Award winner Brad Keselowski chose the first pit stall off pit road with an empty space in front of him for an easy departure. Kyle Larson, Ryan Blaney , Kyle Busch and Brendan Gaughan also have open stalls in front of them. Chase Elliott, who clinched the 2014 series title last week, chose the first pit stall onto pit road for an easy entrance. The Nationwide Series will take the track at 4:30 p.m. ET with TV coverage on ESPN2. MORE: READ: Latest Chase news PLAY: Monitor your Chase Grid Game picks WATCH: Latest NASCAR video FOLLOW LIVE: Get RaceView FULL SERIES COVERAGE • Latest news • Standings • Schedule
Subpar result can't ruin Chase's championship night
Rookie locked up title in Phoenix last weekend; coronation came in Florida MORE: Chase Elliott's championship timeline HOMESTEAD, Fla. -- It wasn't the way Chase Elliott had hoped to end the 2014 season. But with the NASCAR Nationwide Series title already in hand, Saturday night's 17th-place finish in the Ford EcoBoost 300 at Homestead-Miami Speedway stung only so much. "Definitely disappointed. It's my fault for sure," Elliott said long after being presented the 2014 championship trophy from NASCAR President Mike Helton. "We could have come home with a top-five (finish), maybe even a top-four. "Had I not put it in the fence there, on the race track and during my (celebratory) burnout, then it would have been a pretty good night." A rash of cautions during the second half of the scheduled 200-lap race and a gamble to stay out under yellow on one occasion didn't knock the JR Motorsports driver out of contention. But contact with the wall with less than 10 laps remaining proved to be a bit more difficult to overcome. "Lack of a driver there at the end," said Elliott, who had wrapped up the series championship a week earlier with a fifth-place finish at Phoenix International Raceway . "We had a really fast car tonight and we tried to do something different. It only takes one thing -- if that run goes green, then we are in a great position and everybody else is in a bad spot. When you're one of the only people on pit road that can work one of two ways, and unfortunately it didn't go our way. So we had to bite the bullet and stay out there toward the end on tires. "Lost a lot of track position, finally got back on equal tires and … drove back up to fight with Kyle (Busch) for fifth." NASCAR Sprint Cup Series regular Matt Kenseth won the season-ending race, with Busch and Kyle Larson taking second and third. Ryan Blaney and Chris Buescher completed the top five. JRM teammate Regan Smith , Elliott's chief competition for the title down the stretch, finished sixth in the race and second in points. With the last race run, he finished 42 points behind the Dawsonville, Georgia, native. Joe Gibbs Racing driver Elliott Sadler (-59) finished third in points while Richard Childress Racing drivers Brian Scott (-59) and fellow rookie Ty Dillon (-65) rounded out the top five in the final standings. The son of 1988 NASCAR premier series champion Bill Elliott , the 18-year-old Elliott became the first driver in a national NASCAR series to win the championship as well as rookie of the year honors in the same season. "We had a solid night," crew chief Greg Ives said. "We didn't finish where we wanted to. … When Chase gets back to 25th, 28th, whatever, that I put him there on those pit stops, it's an opportunity for him to grow and learn, and part of it is just keeping it together through the whole race. "That's a mental challenge on his part, mental challenge on the whole team's part, to make that happen. I couldn't be more proud of what he was able to do, to drive it back to contending for a top-five. … He's going to give it all he's got." It was the first owners' championship for JRM, owned by Dale Earnhardt Jr ., Kelley Earnhardt Miller and Rick Hendrick. JRM and Hendrick combined resources in 2008, with the goal of the collaborative effort being to groom talent and help employees progress up the ladder. "Dale and I talked about it … how we could use the company to grow young people, and Dale has always liked to give young drivers a chance, and I've always admired him for that," said Hendrick, owner of the Sprint Cup organization for which Earnhardt Jr. drives. "I've known these two since they were kids, and we've raced together, we've been together, and to see them get the championship really is rewarding to me inside. "To see Chase -- I said I wasn't going to do any more driver development, and then signed him when he was like 15, and boy, he's been unbelievable." MORE: READ: Latest Chase news PLAY: Monitor your Chase Grid Game picks WATCH: Latest NASCAR video FOLLOW LIVE: Get RaceView FULL SERIES COVERAGE • Latest news • Standings • Schedule
Scott Lagasse Jr. teams with RCR for Homestead
Veteran will drive No. 33 Chevrolet in season finale RELATED: Play NASCAR Fantasy Live " Sign up for RaceView today Richard Childress Racing announced Wednesday that it has signed second-generation driver Scott Lagasse Jr . to NASCAR Nationwide Series duty for the season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway . Lagasse, scheduled to make just his third Nationwide start of the year, will drive the team's No. 33 Chevrolet in the Nov. 15 Ford EcoBoost 300 (4:30 p.m. ET, ESPN2). "I'm honored for the opportunity to drive the RCR No. 33 Chevrolet," Lagasse said. "Mr. Childress runs a first-class organization, from his team all the way down to the equipment he provides for them." Nick Harrison will serve as crew chief for the No. 33 effort, which will carry sponsorship from the Florida Department of Transportation's "Alert Today Alive Tomorrow" program and the Boy Scouts of America. The car has run on a part-time basis alongside Childress' three full-time teams, fielded for drivers Ty Dillon , Brendan Gaughan and Brian Scott . Rookie Cale Conley has driven the No. 33 in 11 races, Paul Menard in seven (including a victory at Michigan in June), and defending NASCAR Camping World Truck Series champion Matt Crafton in one. The 33-year-old St. Augustine, Florida native is the son of former racer Scott Lagasse, who enjoyed his most successful stint in NASCAR as a full-time competitor in the truck series' inaugural season in 1995. MORE: READ: Latest Chase news PLAY: Monitor your Chase Grid Game picks WATCH: Latest NASCAR video FOLLOW LIVE: Get RaceView FULL SERIES COVERAGE • Latest news • Standings • Schedule
Preece eyes XFINITY Series as 2015 plans take shape
NASCAR Next driver hoping to get more seat time in XFINITY Series Ryan Preece came up just shy in his pursuit of a second consecutive NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour championship this year, but his strong closing kick may translate to bigger things as he prepares for an offseason of transition. Preece locked down his third runner-up finish in the last six seasons this year, completing a three-year run in team owner Eric Sanderson's No. 16 with back-to-back victories in the tour's final two races of the year. One day after the dust settled on the season, Preece announced he'd join car owner Eddie Partridge's No. 6 team full-time in the northern-based series in 2015 With the track championship from Thompson Speedway in his home state of Connecticut in hand, the NASCAR Next driver extended his hot streak by winning the non-points North-South Shootout at Caraway Speedway in North Carolina, making his first start for Partridge. But before he continues his career in the ground-pounders from NASCAR's oldest division, he's still getting his feet wet on the national-series stage. "It was really good," Preece said of his season over the weekend at Homestead-Miami Speedway . "To end it with the 16 and then start it with the 6, it started really well. Obviously I hope we carry momentum into next year with the Modified stuff, but this is definitely something different here." Something different came in the form of his third career start in the NASCAR Nationwide Series in last Saturday's Ford EcoBoost 300 . Though Preece started 33rd and finished 28th in the scrappy Tommy Baldwin Racing No. 36, he emerged with a lead-lap finish in his first Nationwide start outside of New Hampshire Motor Speedway . The race marked Preece's first start on a track that size, all in a series -- which will be called the XFINITY Series starting in 2015 -- that the 24-year-old driver hopes to spend more time in next year. His Modified schedule is set, but Preece said he has "some other stuff in the works" as his complete plans for 2015 take shape. Until then, he's been reaping the benefits of participating in the NASCAR Next youth initiative for the second straight year. While Preece enjoyed the exposure from championship weekend festivities in the Miami area, he said he's eager to get back on track to keep the good vibes of 2014 going. "They bring me different places, they've put me in front of certain people," Preece said, "and now it's just up to me to get seat time and get out there." MORE: READ: Latest Chase news PLAY: Monitor your Chase Grid Game picks WATCH: Latest NASCAR video FOLLOW LIVE: Get RaceView FULL SERIES COVERAGE • Latest news • Standings • Schedule
Keselowski hits home with Careers for Veterans
RELATED: Reddick tops final practice at Michigan BROOKLYN, Mich. -- As the owner of a two-truck organization, Brad Keselowski has more than a passing interest in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series. That interest increased exponentially this weekend as the series visits Michigan International Speedway . The 2-mile track hosts Saturday's Careers for Veterans 200 , a collaborative sponsorship effort between Cooper Standard and Keselowski's own Checkered Flag Foundation. Cooper Standard, which has been affiliated with Keselowski since 2011, is also the primary sponsor for the organization's No. 29 Ford driven by Tyler Reddick , one of two entries fielded by Brad Keselowski Racing. Teammate Daniel Hemric competes in the No. 19 Ford . The Careers for Veterans program, run by Cooper Standard, provides career opportunities for military veterans as well as those transitioning from active service. It's an endeavor embraced by Keselowski's Checkered Flag Foundation as well. "It started through my foundation, which has some similar efforts helping members of the community," Keselowski said of the sponsorship association. "Careers for Veterans is one of those examples. It kind of grew into this relationship -- 'Hey, we're both from Michigan, we both have the same goals and initiatives. What can we put together?' " Keselowski, the 2012 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion, hails from Rochester Hills, Michigan. Cooper Standard, based in Novi, Michigan, specializes in the production and marketing of various automotive components and systems. Keselowski competes for Team Penske and is used to dealing with a variety of sponsors and understands their various goals. The connection between Cooper Standard and his foundation, "is not your typical pact," he said. "Usually there are B-to-B (business-to-business) plays, marketing plays, but usually it's not foundation-related," he said. "The way Cooper Standard allows me to give back to the sport is two-fold. One, it's with the race team, the people that are on it that have a spot to work and hopefully grow and prosper whether it be for their families or their future career which is something I enjoy immensely. "But also I get the chance to connect the foundation to what I do which is very difficult. I think it's very important to show to others that we have a commitment to looking out to others who are less fortunate or have had some tough times. "I think that's an important part of the sport, the ability to realize and acknowledge how well off we have it and to try to ... be an example of that realization and efforts to do something with it." The race sponsorship at MIS has been in place since 2014. Keselowski said 3,000 guests of Cooper Standard will be on hand this weekend for the event. Reddick, 10th in points, said everyone in the organization understands the added importance of this weekend's race. "This is my first year of driving (with Cooper Standard sponsorship), but I've been a part of this team long enough to know how important it is to everybody," he said. "It goes unsaid. "Everyone understands and knows what this race means to Brad and Cooper Standard, all the veterans that will be here and all the ones watching at home. "We all understand what we have to do and hopefully we can go do just that."
Alex Tagliani wins XFINITY pole at Road America
RELATED: Starting lineup Alex Tagliani won the Coors Light Pole Award at Road America on Friday in Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin. Tagliani wheeled his No. 22 Team Penske Ford around the 4.05-mile road course at a top speed of 109.866 mph. That was better than Michael McDowell l, who finished second in his No. 2 Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet at 109.561 mph. For Tagliani, it was his fourth pole win in the NASCAR XFINITY Series and his second at Road America . Justin Marks (No. 42 Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet), Owen Kelly (No. 18 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota) and Daniel Suarez (No. 19 JGR Toyota) rounded out the top five qualifiers. Alon Day, who hails from Israel, is a NASCAR Next driver and is driving the MBM Motorsports No. 13 Dodge, found trouble in Round 1 of qualifying when he went into the sand trap off Turn 12 (of 14) with just over 16 minutes remaining in the opening session. The incident brought out a red flag. Another red flag came out during Round 1 when Josh Bilicki, who was driving the No. 77 Obaika Racing Chevrolet, spun coming off Turn 1, slid through the sand trap and impacted the tire barrier. The Road America 180 Fired Up by Johnsonville gets underway at 3 p.m. ET on Saturday (NBCSN, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio) and marks the third road-course race in four events for the series.
Hamlin tops chart, spins in final Michigan practice
RELATED: Full practice results " Top 10 consecutive lap averages Denny Hamlin set the pace in final NASCAR Sprint Cup Series practice Saturday at Michigan International Speedway , but damaged his Joe Gibbs Racing No. 11 Toyota in a spin midway through the session. Hamlin, who qualified third in Friday's Coors Light Pole Qualifying, clocked a lap of 197.878 mph in Saturday's final practice. The session, originally scheduled for 50 minutes, was halted with approximately 27 minutes left because of lightning in the area of the 2-mile track. Hamlin told NBCSN that the car got loose "out of the blue" as he navigated Turn 4. He avoided contact with the wall, but did slight damage when the nose of his car dug into the grass bordering the frontstretch. Hamlin indicated the team did not expect to deploy the reserve car. RELATED: All the cars at Michigan as they'll line up Rookie Chase Elliott was second-fastest at 197.786 mph in the Hendrick Motorsports No. 24 Chevrolet. He was followed by two Hendrick teammates on the leaderboard -- third-fastest Jimmie Johnson (197.694 mph) and fourth-best Kasey Kahne (197.455 mph). Michigan native Brad Keselowski completed the top five in the final prep for Sunday's Pure Michigan 400 (2 p.m. ET, NBCSN, MRN, SiriusXM). Team Penske teammate Joey Logano , who secured the Coors Light Pole Award in Friday qualifying, was seventh-fastest. Alex Bowman , subbing for Dale Earnhardt Jr . in the Hendrick Motorsports No. 88 Chevrolet, was 10th-fastest at 196.969 mph. Stewart atop Saturday's early practice Tony Stewart topped the speed chart in Saturday's morning NASCAR Sprint Cup Series practice session at Michigan International Speedway ahead of Sunday's Pure Michigan 400 (2 p.m. ET, NBCSN, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio). Stewart circled the 2-mile track in his No. 14 Stewart-Haas Racing Chevrolet with a fast time of 202.122 mph to pace the 55-minute practice session. "Smoke" has one win in the Irish Hills in 33 starts there. Sunoco Rookie of the Year contenders Ryan Blaney (No. 21 Wood Brothers Racing Ford , 201.427 mph) and Chase Elliott (No. 24 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet, 201.196 mph) came in second and third, respectively. Both drivers are in search of their first win in the sport's top series. Kurt Busch (No. 41 Stewart-Haas Racing Chevrolet, 201.089 mph) and Kyle Larson (No. 42 Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates Chevrolet, 200.932 mph) completed the top five. Alex Bowman , who will pilot the No. 88 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet for the sidelined Dale Earnhardt Jr . this weekend, placed eighth in practice. All told, 12 drivers crossed the 200 mph mark on their laps Saturday morning. Polesitter Joey Logano placed 16th in the session. &amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;lt;/p&amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;gt;