Furniture Row's Martin Truex Jr., Erik Jones top Richmond practice
BUY TICKETS: See the races at Richmond RELATED: Practice 1 results " Top 10-lap times Furniture Row Racing came to play at Richmond International Raceway, as Martin Truex Jr.'s No. 78 Toyota topped the leaderboard at 124.178 mph in Friday's opening Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series practice. He was followed by teammate and rookie Erik Jones, whose No. 77 Toyota notched a top speed of 123.035 mph. Wood Brothers Racing's Ryan Blaney was third-fastest, his No. 21 Ford clocking in at 122.772 mph. Roush Fenway Racing's Trevor Bayne (122.084 mph) and Joe Gibbs Racing's Denny Hamlin (121.726 mph) rounded out the top five, respectively. Hamlin won the most recent race at Richmond (September 2016) in his No. 11 Toyota. Despite notching the second-fastest speed, Jones spun with 74 minutes left in the opening session, his No. 77 Furniture Row Racing Toyota making slight contact with the wall. With rain impacting on-track activity last weekend at Bristol, NASCAR deferred several holds and penalties coming out of Texas Motor Speedway to this weekend. The following teams sat out the first 15 minutes of practice, as they failed race inspection at Texas: No. 11 of Hamlin, No. 17 of Ricky Stenhouse Jr., No. 37 of Chris Buescher, No. 48 of Jimmie Johnson and No. 88 of Dale Earnhardt Jr. There were several holds and penalties out of Bristol as well that were enforced in this session: Ty Dillon's No. 13 team, AJ Allmendinger's No. 47 team and Austin Dillon's No. 3 team also abided by 15 minute-holds for failing LIS race inspection, as well as Aric Almirola's No. 43 group (failing race inspection, templates x 2, T1-T2 and T1). Dillon also will start Sunday's race from the rear. Joey Logano (No. 22 team) and Matt Kenseth (No. 20 team) were held for 30 minutes for swerving at Bristol. The Nos. 6 and 23 XFINITY Series teams of Darrell Wallace Jr. and Spencer Gallagher, respectively, will also have 15 minute holds. The Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series is back on track at 4:45 p.m. ET for Coors Light Pole Qualifying (FS1). &amp;lt;/p&amp;gt;
2017 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Owner Standings
MORE: XFINITY owner standings " Camping World owner standings Pos. Owner Car # Points Ldr Nxt Race Wins Stage Wins Playoff Pts Attempts 1 Chip Ganassi Racing 42 398 0 0 1 2 7 9 2 Furniture Row Racing 78 358 -40 -40 1 5 10 9 3 Hendrick Motorsports 24 346 -52 -12 0 2 2 9 4 Team Penske 22 333 -65 -13 1 1 6 9 5 Team Penske 2 327 -71 -6 2 1 11 9 6 Stewart-Haas Racing 4 286 -112 -41 0 3 3 9 7 Chip Ganassi Racing 1 282 -116 -4 0 0 0 9 8 Hendrick Motorsports 48 270 -128 -12 2 0 10 9 9 Stewart-Haas Racing 14 266 -132 -4 0 0 0 9 10 Joe Gibbs Racing 18 235 -163 -31 0 1 1 9 11 Joe Gibbs Racing 11 231 -167 -4 0 0 0 9 12 Wood Brothers Racing 21 229 -169 -2 0 2 2 9 13 Richard Childress Racing 31 225 -173 -4 1 0 5 9 14 Roush Fenway Racing 6 216 -182 -9 0 0 0 9 15 Roush Fenway Racing 17 201 -197 -15 0 0 0 9 16 Furniture Row Racing 77 193 -205 -8 0 0 0 9 17 Stewart-Haas Racing 41 192 -206 -1 1 0 5 9 18 Joe Gibbs Racing 20 192 -206 0 0 1 1 9 19 Richard Petty Motorsports 43 189 -209 -3 0 0 0 9 20 Hendrick Motorsports 5 179 -219 -10 0 0 0 9 21 Richard Childress Racing 3 171 -227 -8 0 0 0 9 22 Joe Gibbs Racing 19 169 -229 -2 0 0 0 9 23 Germain Racing 13 157 -241 -12 0 0 0 9 24 Hendrick Motorsports 88 141 -257 -16 0 0 0 9 25 Richard Childress Racing 27 139 -259 -2 0 0 0 9 26 JTG Daugherty Racing 47 117 -281 -22 0 0 0 9 27 JTG Daugherty Racing 37 114 -284 -3 0 0 0 9 28 Leavine Family Racing 95 110 -288 -4 0 0 0 9 29 Stewart-Haas Racing 10 110 -288 0 0 0 0 9 30 Front Row Motorsports 34 104 -294 -6 0 0 0 9 31 TriStar Motorsports 72 104 -294 0 0 0 0 9 32 GO FAS Racing 32 99 -299 -5 0 0 0 9 33 Front Row Motorsports 38 97 -301 -2 0 0 0 9 34 Premium Motorsports 15 72 -326 -25 0 0 0 9 35 BK Racing 83 57 -341 -15 0 0 0 9 36 BK Racing 23 45 -353 -12 0 0 0 9 37 Circle Sport / TMG 33 36 -362 -9 0 0 0 9 38 Tommy Baldwin Racing 7 27 -371 -9 0 0 0 2 39 Beard Motorsports 175 26 -372 -1 0 0 0 1 40 Rick Ware Racing 51 18 -380 -8 0 0 0 9 41 Premium Motorsports 55 15 -383 -3 0 0 0 7 42 Gaunt Brothers Racing 96 1 -397 -14 0 0 0 1
Hamlin: JGR's slump means team's working 'extra hard'
MORE: Starting lineup " Photos: Richmond weekend RICHMOND, Va. -- Daniel Suarez is still a newbie in stock-car racing's major leagues, just eight races into his Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series career. But even without the benefit of gobs of top-level experience, he has clear perception about the difference in his Joe Gibbs Racing team. "If you think about it, by this point last year, I think we had already a few wins and right now we have zero," Suarez said, accurately recalling that JGR had won half of the first eight races of the 2016 campaign. "Definitely there is some speed missing as an organization, but maybe we have one more step left as a team." If there's increased reason for optimism in the JGR camp this weekend, it may help that Richmond International Raceway -- the venue for Sunday's Toyota Owners 400 (2 p.m. ET, FOX, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio) -- ranks as friendly territory for the Coach Joe Gibbs-owned team. Matt Kenseth gave that notion some heft Friday by winning the Coors Light Pole Award, leading a qualifying effort where three JGR cars -- including Kyle Busch in seventh and Suarez in 11th -- made the final cut in eliminations. The only Gibbs Toyota outside the top 12 belonged to Denny Hamlin, who qualified 16th but has a resume that includes three Richmond wins. Joe Gibbs Racing placed all four of its entries among the top-10 finishers in this race last year, memorably going 1-2 with Carl Edwards' bump-and-run maneuver past Busch on the final lap. That victory clinched a JGR sweep of 2016's early short-track swing and was a key cog of the season-long push, in which Gibbs entries and the JGR-affiliated Furniture Row Racing won 16 of 36 points-paying events. This year has been a different tune, with no Joe Gibbs Racing cars among the top 10 in the standings as victories and top-five finishes have proven difficult to attain. Hamlin speculated that rules changes have played at least a partial role in the power shift, but that the competition has also been making its own gains to put faster cars on the grid. "That makes their job a whole lot easier," said Hamlin, 15th in the series standings. "But these are the trying times, you could say, that defines your character. It makes you work hard. We were on top for probably a year and a half, every week having four out of five of the fastest cars each week. Sometimes we won, sometimes we didn't. But we're going to get better. We're not on top right now, so we've got to work extra hard to get there." JGR's performance has run in contrast to a relatively quick start to the season for its Toyota ally, Denver-based Furniture Row . The team has thrived in the first year of its expansion to a two-car operation, with Martin Truex Jr. leading the way with a Las Vegas victory, a series-high five stage wins and a third-place ranking in the standings. His teammate, rookie Erik Jones, has also shown speed as he makes his first steps into premier-series competition. He is currently 12th in the standings. Truex said no single factor was to account for the early disparity, but echoed a hopeful sentiment that JGR -- Toyota's flagship organization -- would make a speedy turnaround. "It's hard to find when you don't have it, but those guys have been competitive," Truex said. "I know a lot of their finishes haven't really showed how well they've ran at times. … It'll come. Those guys are really, really good, and they'll figure it out pretty quick." &amp;lt;/p&amp;gt;
Larson, Jones lead final practices at Richmond
BUY TICKETS: See the races at Richmond FINAL PRACTICE: Full results " Top 10-lap times A fast lap of 119.074 mph put Kyle Larson's No. 42 Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet at the top of the leaderboard in Saturday's final practice at Richmond International Raceway. The Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series points leader turned 84 laps in the 50-minute session, more than any other driver in the field. Furniture Row Racing teammates Martin Truex Jr. (119.016 mph) and Erik Jones (118.702 mph) were second- and fourth-fastest, respectively. Both drivers have recorded top-five speeds in all three practices (Truex's No. 78 Toyota led the opening practice, while Jones' No. 77 Toyota topped the second session). Sandwiched between the Furniture Row wheelmen in third was Hendrick Motorsports' Jimmie Johnson, whose No. 48 Chevrolet clocked in at 118.801 mph. Johnson's teammate Chase Elliott rounded out the top five with a fast lap of 118.452 mph in his No. 24 Chevrolet. After battling a car issue in Saturday's opening session and coming up 31st on the leaderboard, Kurt Busch nabbed the sixth-fastest speed in the field in his No. 41 Stewart-Haas Racing Ford during final practice. The XFINITY Series is on track at Richmond next for the ToyotaCare 250 race (1 p.m. ET, FS1). PRACTICE 2: Full results " Top 10-lap times Earlier in the day, Erik Jones wheeled his No. 77 Furniture Row Racing Toyota at 120.714 mph, nabbing the top spot on the speed charts during Saturday morning's opening practice at Richmond International Raceway. The Monster Energy Series rookie, who topped the leaderboard early in the 55-minute session, was second-fastest in Friday's lone practice to his teammate Martin Truex Jr. Stewart-Haas Racing's Kevin Harvick was second on the leaderboard Saturday, his No. 4 Ford clocking a fast lap of 120.048 mph. Richard Childress Racing's Paul Menard was third-fastest (120.005 mph) in his No. 27 Chevrolet, while JTG Daugherty Racing's Chris Buescher ranked fourth in the field (119.973 mph from his No. 37 Chevrolet). Friday's practice leader Truex Jr. completed the top five with a 119.941-mph lap in his No. 78 Toyota. Pole-sitter Matt Kenseth was 11th-fastest in the field in his No. 20 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota. Dale Earnhardt Jr., who announced his retirement from full-time racing after 2017 on Tuesday, was 10th on the leaderboard. In the middle of the 55-minute session, Kurt Busch radioed his team that he thought his No. 41 Ford was "on seven cylinders" and brought the car into the garage for examination. He returned to the track a little over 20 minutes later and told his team that he thought they "fixed it, whatever it was," ending the session 31st on the leaderboard. The following teams were held for the first 15 minutes of Saturday's opening session due to infractions: No. 1 of Jamie McMurray (failing LIS twice), No. 17 of Ricky Stenhouse Jr. (failing LIS second time through) and No. 21 of Ryan Blaney (failing template twice). &lt;/p&gt;
Kenseth, Keselowski win Stages 1, 2 at Richmond
RELATED: FAQ for race format " Updated stage points STAGE 2: Brad Keselowski nabbed his first stage win of the year on Sunday afternoon at Richmond International Raceway, winning Stage 2 of the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series' Toyota Owners 400. The driver of the No. 2 Team Penske Ford led 37 laps in the caution-free stage. Pole-sitter and Stage 1 victor Matt Kenseth, who led all 100 laps of Stage 1, placed second in Stage 2 in his No. 20 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota, leading 63 laps. Stewart-Haas Racing's Kevin Harvick was third in his No. 4 Ford, while Denny Hamlin's No. 11 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota was fourth. Kyle Larson and his No. 42 Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet completed Stage 2's top-five finishers. Both Keselowski and Kenseth received race points and the race winner will earn 40 points and five playoff points at the race's conclusion. STAGE 1: Pole-sitter Matt Kenseth led all 100 opening laps of Sunday's Toyota Owners 400 at Richmond International Raceway, giving his No. 20 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota the Stage 1 win. This marks Kenseth's first stage win of the season. Kyle Larson and Martin Truex Jr. drag-raced to the start-finish line for the runner-up spot in Stage 1, with Larson's No. 42 Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet prevailing by .006 seconds. Truex Jr.'s No. 78 Furniture Row Racing Toyota ended up third. Stewart-Haas Racing's Kevin Harvick and Joe Gibbs Racing's Denny Hamlin rounded out the top five, respectively. The top 10 finishers in both Stage 1 and Stage 2 receive race points. The race winner will receive 40 points and five playoff points at the conclusion of the Final Stage.
Truex: 'I feel like I've got my best years ahead of me'
BUY TICKETS: See the races at Richmond RICHMOND, Va. -- Naturally enough, Dale Earnhardt Jr.'s bombshell announcement that he will retire from Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series racing at the end of the year shifted focus to the 20-somethings who might take the reigns of the sport. But that doesn't mean we should forget the veterans who will still be around. "I’m only 36," Martin Truex Jr. said plaintively before leading Friday's opening practice at Richmond International Raceway with a lap at 124.178 mph. "I don't feel old, so that's good. That's the most important part I guess, but, yeah, there's definitely a lot of young guys coming up. "But I feel like I've got my best years ahead of me. They can keep talking about who's retiring and who's going to fill their shoes, and hopefully I'll be here to take a bunch of checkered flags home." Not that Truex minds staying in the background and winning races for his No. 78 Furniture Row Racing team, while relative newcomers such as Kyle Larson, Chase Elliott and Ryan Blaney get the lion's share of attention. "I can tell you I don't mind being that guy," Truex said of his low profile. </p>
Cowabunga! Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles to sponsor Chicagoland race
BUY TICKETS: See the races at Chicagoland Raphael, Leonardo, Michelangelo and Donatello are back! Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and Nickelodeon return to Chicagoland Speedway this September as entitlement sponsor for the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series playoff opener. This marks Nickelodeon's second consecutive year wearing the sponsor hat at the Illinois track. The pair made the Nickelodeon Tales of the Turtles 400 announcement Friday, coming off a wildly successful 2016 partnership and campaign. The news coincided nicely with National Superhero Day. "We're thrilled that Nickelodeon is coming back with their Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle franchise as the entitlement partner of our playoff kickoff on Sunday, Sept. 17," Chicagoland track president Scott Paddock told NASCAR.com. Nickelodeon also joined NASCAR in 2015's SpongeBob SquarePants 400, which saw Jimmie Johnson collect his third win at Kansas Speedway. Last year's Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 400 -- which Furniture Row Racing's Martin Truex Jr. won -- sparked cross-generational pizazz thanks to Nickelodeon's revamp and ownership of the franchise. "Brands like Nickelodeon attract a younger audience," Paddock furthered. "We saw impact last year with about a 12 percent increase on kids that came to the race. And what's really fascinating about the 'Turtles' franchise is it's got cross-generational appeal so it was hot back in the '90s and (now) you've got this whole generation that grew up with it and now their kids are following Nickelodeon." It appears that this is a two-way relationship built on a foundation of deep admiration and appreciation. "This is Year 2 of our partnership with Chicagoland. We're thrilled to be coming back," Anthony Di Cosmo, senior vice president of sports marketing and content development for Nickelodeon, told NASCAR.com. "I think when we carried out this partnership it was really to kind of build a platform of something long term that we can really engage kids and family in the sport in a way that felt very authentic to Nickelodeon." Building off 2016's successful weekend, Nickelodeon plans to have its characters prominently displayed at the speedway as well as driver and team involvement with special paint schemes paying tribute to the network's cartoon. Last year, Monster Energy Series drivers such as Danica Patrick, Michael McDowell and David Ragan rocked Turtle-related schemes for the 400-miler. Although it is, as of yet, uncertain who will partake in the themed paint jobs this year, some of the characters -- as well as Nickelodeon stars -- are scheduled to be prominent during the September weekend with many activities for the entire family. Cowabunga, indeed. &amp;amp;amp;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;amp;amp;amp;gt;
Kenseth nabs first pole of season at Richmond
BUY TICKETS: See the races at Richmond RELATED: Full results RICHMOND, Va. – Matt Kenseth won't have to come from the middle of nowhere, as he did Monday at Bristol Motor Speedway, where he started 22nd, charged toward the front in the closing laps and finished fourth. Quite the contrary. In Sunday's Toyota Owners 400 (on FOX at 2 p.m. ET) at Richmond International Raceway, Kenseth will lead the field to the green flag in the ninth Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series race of the season after winning the pole during Friday's knockout qualifying session. Kenseth posted a lap at 121.076 mph (22.300 seconds) to edge Ryan Blaney (120.854 mph) for the top starting spot by .041 seconds. The driver of the No. 20 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota claimed his first Coors Light Pole Award of the season, his second at Richmond and the 19th of his career. Kenseth was fast enough to make the cut for the first two rounds despite running a single lap in each, and the tire conservation paid off in the money round. "We had enough speed in our Circle K Toyota Camry that we only had to do one lap each of the first two rounds to get us into the third round, and we improved a little bit the second lap (in the final round). It was a good qualifying effort for us. Feels good to be on the pole. Kenseth is 20th in points after bottom-five finishes at Daytona, Phoenix and Fontana, and qualifying rainouts hurt him at Bristol and Martinsville, where he had to start mid-pack on owner points. "This year has not been a good year for us, obviously, so far," Kenseth said. "We finished strong at Bristol, but we didn't get to qualify because of the rain, and that put us in the middle of the pack – there and Martinsville. "We haven't been getting any stage points. We're buried in the points back there and we finally got a decent finish last week, so hopefully this week we can start up front, stay up front and hopefully collect some of the stage points. But most importantly we're in the mix for a win at the end of the day." Martin Truex Jr. (120.681 mph) will start third, followed by Ricky Stenhouse Jr. (120.471 mph) and Joey Logano (120.380 mph). It was the third second-place qualifying effort of the season for Blaney, who also put the No. 21 Wood Brothers Ford on the front row at Phoenix and Texas. "We weren't great the first round but kept getting steps better each round, which we've done a really good job of this year," Blaney said. "I thought that's where we struggled a lot last year. We didn't improve last year, we would go backwards. This year we're improving round-to-round. "It's just communication and knowing what we need to change in our car. That's something to be proud of. That's a lot of second starts now. I really want to race the Clash at Daytona (the season-opening exhibition race primarily for pole winners). That's my biggest thing right now. It's upsetting me that we can't get a pole. I think our Motorcraft/Quick Lane Ford Fusion is good—we'll find out in race trim." WATCH: Dillon makes ... interesting ... qualifying lap Both Kenseth and Blaney saved their fastest laps for the final round. The same couldn't be said of Logano, who ran the fastest lap of the afternoon (121.468 mph) in the second round but couldn't sustain his speed in the third. "We just lost a little bit there the last run," said Logano who tied Kevin Harvick for the fastest lap in the opening round at 120.870 mph. "We got loose into (Turns) 3 and 4, missed it the first lap and did the same exact thing the second lap. "It's so frustrating when you win the first two rounds and the one that pays the money, you're not there. That's always frustrating. I guess we have decent speed in our car… it is just frustrating. I don't know what else to say. It just sucks." &amp;amp;amp;lt;/p&amp;amp;amp;gt;
Furniture Row No. 77 hauler damaged in accident
Two Furniture Row Racing hauler drivers were uninjured after the No. 77 team's transporter was involved in a hit-and-run highway crash early Thursday morning. The No. 77 hauler was damaged on Interstate 15 on the way to Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, California, site of this weekend's NASCAR races for the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series and XFINITY Series. Driver Travis Watts and co-driver David Shano escaped injury. According to the Denver, Colorado-based team, a car pulled off to the road's shoulder then back onto the interstate directly in the hauler's path. There was no damage reported to the trailer, race cars and equipment, but the team has rented a replacement truck to complete the trip to the 2-mile California track. "We're all very relieved no one was injured in the incident," team president Joe Garone said in a release provided by the team. "There was substantial damage to the tractor but everything in the trailer was checked out thoroughly and is OK. We've rented a tractor and the No. 77 hauler is on schedule to arrive at Auto Club Speedway later today." The car and its two occupants left the scene of the accident, approximately 15 miles north of Las Vegas Motor Speedway. Both were later located and arrested by the Nevada Highway Patrol. Sunoco Rookie of the Year candidate Erik Jones is in his first year driving the No. 77 Toyota for Furniture Row . He sits 18th in the series standings ahead of Sunday's Auto Club 400 (3:30 p.m. ET, FOX, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio), the fifth race of the season.
Auto-Owners Insurance expands sponsorship pact with Furniture Row Racing
RELATED: New looks for 2017 DENVER, Colo. (Jan. 16, 2017) -- Furniture Row Racing announced that Auto-Owners Insurance has agreed to a multiyear primary sponsorship for Martin Truex Jr .'s No. 78 Toyota Camry in the NASCAR Cup Series. The Fortune 500 company, which joined Furniture Row Racing in 2016 as a primary sponsor for three races, will double that amount in both 2017 and 2018. The six races the Auto-Owners Insurance paint scheme will adorn Truex's No. 78 Camry in 2017 will be at Kansas Speedway (May 13), Michigan International Speedway (June 18), Indianapolis Motor Speedway (July 23), Richmond International Raceway (Sept. 9), Charlotte Motor Speedway (Oct. 7) and Phoenix International Raceway (Nov. 12). Auto-Owners Insurance, which celebrated its 100th anniversary in 2016, provides auto, home, life and business coverage for NASCAR fans and customers through local, independent agents in 26 states. The company is based in Lansing, Michigan. "Teaming up with Furniture Row Racing has been an outstanding fit for Auto-Owners, and we are excited to continue our partnership for the 2017 and 2018 seasons," said Mary Pierce, senior vice president of marketing and sales at Auto-Owners. "Martin and the No. 78 team have pioneered their way to excellence at the highest level of NASCAR. We truly admire their hard work and consistency, and look forward to being a part of their continued success." The Auto-Owners Insurance blue hue shared a competitive experience with Furniture Row Racing in 2016. In the three races that Auto-Owners Insurance was the primary sponsor, Truex won the prestigious Southern 500 in Darlington, South Carolina, finished seventh at the fall race in Martinsville, Virginia, and was eighth at the Brickyard 400 in Indianapolis. "There was indeed something special about the success of the blue Auto-Owners Insurance Toyota Camry last year and we are more than thrilled that the company is expanding its partnership with Furniture Row Racing for the next two seasons," said Furniture Row Racing team president Joe Garone. "Auto-Owners Insurance has been a winning company for a century and we are humbled that they have placed their confidence in our race team." Truex was equally excited to hear about the new sponsorship agreement. "Winning the Southern 500 -- a triple crown race -- with the blue Auto-Owners Insurance paint scheme was without a doubt one of the main highlights of my racing career," said Truex. "We want to give Auto-Owners Insurance more success as we look forward to the 2017 season. I was able to visit the Auto-Owners Insurance headquarters in Lansing and came away feeling proud to be associated with a company that has had 100 years of success."
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