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Truex tames Pocono for Coors Light Pole Award
RELATED: Qualifying results " See every car in the field LONG POND, Pa. – Martin Truex Jr. found a lot more than light at the end of the Tunnel on Friday afternoon at Pocono Raceway. Gaining time on the rest of the field through Turn 2—the Tunnel Turn—at the 2.5-mile triangular race track, Truex put his No. 78 Furniture Row Racing Toyota on the pole for Sunday’s Pennsylvania 400 (on NBCSN at 1:30 p.m. ET; MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio), knocking fellow Toyota Camry driver Carl Edwards out of the top starting spot. It's not that Truex and his team made a special point of emphasis on that particularly tricky corner. It just worked out that way, earning Truex his third Coors Light Pole Award of the season, his first at Pocono and the 10th of his career. "For whatever reason, today—all day long—I felt comfortable there, more so than past times here," said Truex, who ran his fastest lap of the day (179.244 mph) in the third and final round of knockout qualifying for the 21st NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race of the season. "The first race here (in June) we really struggled in the Tunnel Turn. "We kind of focused on it a little bit coming back, as far as just making sure it was closer to Turn 1 and Turn 3 and not something that would really handcuff us so bad. So maybe that had something to do with it—I'm not sure—but it just kind of worked out that way, for whatever reason. "Each round I felt a little bit more comfortable and was able to gain a little more time there, and the third round I was able to just kind of sail off in there and get a little bit lucky and hit it right. It's one of those corners that, if you take a risk going in, nine out of 10 times it doesn’t pay off coming out of the corner. This time it did, and we were able to take advantage of it." On the strength of his run through the Tunnel Turn, Truex covered the distance in 50.211 seconds, .104 seconds faster than Edwards (178.873 mph), who thought he had the pole won when he completed his lap in the final round. "As I crossed the line, I felt like, 'That’s it'," said Edwards, who was a close second to Kyle Busch in pole qualifying last week at Indianapolis. "But after seeing what (Truex) ran, I thought 'Well, maybe I could go back and change this or that,' but that was a really good lap for me. It just was. "You can always go back and pick your lap apart, but the last two weeks, Indy and here, I was pretty proud of my lap, and they just got us." Paul Menard (178.671 mph) qualified third, the fastest of three Richard Childress Racing drivers in the top 12, with Ryan Newman placing fifth and Austin Dillon placing 12th. That's the first time all three RCR Chevrolets have cracked the top 12 for the same race since August of 2014 at Michigan. Denny Hamlin claimed the fourth spot on the grid. Tony Stewart, Brad Keselowski, Chase Elliott, Matt Kenseth and Joey Logano will start from positions six through 10, respectively. Subbing for ailing Dale Earnhardt Jr., six-time Pocono winner Jeff Gordon advanced to the second round but went no farther, qualifying 24th. Gordon made two runs in the first round to ensure he would make the second, and that eventually cost him. "The first time out, the car was pretty close, a little bit tight, but we should have been better that first time out, and then we wouldn't of had to gone out the second time," Gordon said. "But overall just too tight over the Tunnel (Turn). "The car is really good down in (Turn) 1. I picked up speed every time we went out. I think having to do that last run our third time on tires didn’t really give us a good chance to advance and get the lap that we wanted. It's still a work in progress." NASCAR competition officials delayed the start of qualifying by 20 minutes to allow teams extra time to make their way through the Laser Inspection Station (LIS). Scott Miller, NASCAR senior vice president of competition, said that a glitch early Friday forced the wait time in the inspection process. "I'm not exactly sure of the exact technical thing that happened (with the LIS), but it got back online really quick," Miller said. "One thing I want to make clear is, the reason we're moving this back is because we had a little bit of ownership in it with our equipment. On a regular weekend, if everything … if we had our time block and our equipment worked fine and this was a team issue getting through templates and they didn't get out there, we would be inclined not to extend qualifying and if they miss qualifying it's on them." Despite the delay, all teams made it through inspection in time for the first 20-minute round of qualifying. The last of those was the Joe Gibbs Racing No. 18 Toyota team for driver Kyle Busch, who cut it close but made his first qualifying pass with roughly five minutes left in the opening session. No. 18 crew chief Adam Stevens told NBCSN that the car was initially out of tolerance with the rear-axle toe. Busch will start 16th after missing out on the 12-driver cut after qualifying's Round 2. His brother Kurt, who won the Sprint Cup tour's most recent race at Pocono, was 15th-fastest and will start alongside him in the eighth row . Contributing: Staff reports &amp;amp;lt;/p&amp;amp;gt;
Auto-Owners Insurance partners with Furniture Row Racing
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Feb. 17, 2016) -- Furniture Row Racing announced today at Daytona International Speedway that it has formed a partnership with Auto-Owners Insurance. The Fortune 500 company will be a primary sponsor on Martin Truex Jr .'s No. 78 Toyota Camry for three NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races -- at Indianapolis (July 24), Darlington, South Carolina (Sept. 4) and Martinsville, Virginia (Oct. 30) -- and become the official insurance sponsor of Furniture Row Racing and Truex. Auto-Owners Insurance offers auto, home, life and business coverage for NASCAR fans and consumers through local, independent agents in 26 states. This year marks Auto-Owners Insurance 100th year in business with success based on the core values the company was built upon in 1916. " Furniture Row Racing and Martin had a tremendous 2015 season and we're looking forward to being on board for even more success this season," said Lee Janis, Vice President of Sales for Auto-Owners Insurance. "We often say, ‘It's not what you do, it's how you do it,' and Martin and the team have earned success by that same mantra. "We've been embraced by the NASCAR family and have greatly enjoyed the loyalty and passion we've experienced with the fans. To be a part of this dedicated community is a real privilege for all of us at Auto-Owners." Auto-Owners Insurance, based in Lansing, Michigan, joins Furniture Row and Bass Pro Shops as a primary sponsor on the No. 78 Toyota for the 2016 season. "When you have one of the nation's leading companies join your team as a partner it's not only a great day but also a great opportunity for Furniture Row Racing ," said team president Joe Garone. "As is the case with all of our partners, Auto-Owners Insurance is a winning company and we look forward to returning the confidence they placed in us with strong performances on the race track." Truex finished fourth in the Sprint Cup final standings last season after garnering a victory along with eight top-five and 22 top-10 finishes. "Anytime you have a major and successful company come on board it is definitely exciting for a driver because it tells me that we're doing something right," said Truex. "The three Auto-Owners Insurance primary races are good tracks for us and we look forward to competing for a victory with the Auto-Owners Insurance colors on the No. 78 Toyota." Truex and Furniture Row Racing kick off the 2016 Sprint Cup season Sunday in the Daytona 500 at Daytona International Speedway . The new @AutoOwnersIns #FurnitureRow 78! #NASCAR #ToyotaNation @ToyotaRacing pic.twitter.com/LA9FtzMBv9 — Furniture Row Racing (@FR78Racing) February 17, 2016
Furniture Row Racing
The history of Furniture Row Racing and full crew for Martin Truex Jr.
Furniture Row Racing to appeal penalty
Jonathan Merryman gets you Up To Speed from Las Vegas Motor Speedway after Furniture Row Racing announced that they would appeal the penalties handed out by NASCAR, following the race in Atlanta.
Cain: Kyle Busch, Toyota in driver's seat as Chase approaches
Kyle Busch's dominating performance at Indianapolis Motor Speedway Sunday afternoon spoke enough volumes to fill a small library: -- He joins Jimmie Johnson as the only NASCAR drivers to win back-to-back races at the historic track. -- Busch's 149 laps led in the caution-extended 170-lap race broke an event record and raised the mark all-time. -- He is the first driver to ever sweep both the XFINITY and Sprint Cup series races at Indy two seasons in a row . -- He is the first driver to win both of the weekend's races from the pole position. -- The victory now ties Busch with Brad Keselowski for the most victories this season (four). -- And no one has more top-five finishes (11) entering this week's stop at Pocono than the reigning Sprint Cup champ. "It's fun to come out here and have such a dominant piece at Indy," a grinning Busch, 31, said Sunday. "They don't come along often, so I was just hoping I didn't screw it up." Well, actually, they have come along -- more than normal -- this season. At least for the Camry camp. And perhaps most important to Busch and his Toyota teammates is that Toyota continues to set itself up as the power-keg to reckon with come Chase time -- which is only a little over a month away. The two most dominating performances of the season -- and frankly, recent seasons -- came from Furniture Row Racing driver Martin Truex, whose No. 78 Toyota led a record 392 of the 400 laps in May at Charlotte Motor Speedway and Busch, who contributed another history-maker over the weekend. Five Toyota drivers are among the top 10 in the points standings, and all of them have won this season -- from Denny Hamlin's dramatic photo finish over Truex in the Daytona 500 to Busch's most recent showing at Indy. In fact, three of the top-four finishers Sunday (Busch, runner-up Matt Kenseth and fourth-place finisher Hamlin) drove Toyotas. Toyota has had at least three drivers finish among the top 10 in the past three races. "I think any of us have a shot to win on any given week," Busch said. "We all have a great communication and camaraderie and are able to work together, and that's what makes this team so strong." The entire month of April races belonged to Toyota with Busch's back-to-back wins at Martinsville and Texas and Carl Edwards' two wins at Bristol and Richmond. As impressive as Toyota's 10 wins are, nine have come in the past 15 races. And the real statement is where the wins are: Chase tracks. Six of Toyota's victories have come among the 10 venues the series will visit during the Chase. Busch owns three of the wins (Martinsville, Texas and Kansas), Kenseth has two (Dover and New Hampshire) and Truex took the trophy at Charlotte. Indianapolis may not be a Chase race, but Busch's record-setting performance there shows Toyota is full-speed-ahead as the Chase approaches. "At this level of motorsports and the competition level across the field, you can't hit on one thing and beat people," Busch's crew chief Adam Stevens said after Sunday's race. "You have to hit on everything." &amp;amp;lt;/p&amp;amp;gt;
Hard tires, reworked curbing present challenges at repaved Watkins Glen
RELATED: Before and after: Watkins Glen repave WATKINS GLEN, N.Y. -- NASCAR Sprint Cup Series teams wrapped up a two-day organizational test Wednesday at newly repaved Watkins Glen International, emerging with better ideas of the challenges they'll face when the series returns for the Aug. 4-7 race weekend. Among those challenges: reworked curbing, a fast circuit and a harder-compound tire that has made grip elusive. A total of 16 Sprint Cup teams -- one permitted from each organization -- tried to unlock the novelty of the $12 million resurfacing project, using a Goodyear tire that emphasizes durability at the expense of traction and wear. The rubber compound chosen is similar to that used July 9 at Kentucky Speedway, site of the Sprint Cup Series' most recent race on a repaved track. At Kentucky, the tire selection made for treacherous conditions in certain spots and made passing a delicate process. Though road courses don't lend themselves to the multi-groove racing seen at several well-aged oval tracks, Watkins Glen might still be a tricky place to maneuver when the series reconvenes for the Cheez-It 355 at The Glen. "The main thing we've learned so far is how hard the tire is," said Jamie McMurray, driver of the Chip Ganassi Racing No. 1 Chevrolet. "It just seems to be no wear at all or lap time fall-off right now. This place didn't ever wear tires like Sonoma, but it seems like the tire is pretty hard." Sonoma, the other road course where the Sprint Cup Series races, is a much more intricate circuit with qualifying speeds roughly 30 mph slower than at Watkins Glen's open, free-wheeling layout. The Goodyear tire compound designated for both the Watkins Glen test and the race weekend is the same used for right-side tires in XFINITY Series competition at Iowa Speedway. Those Iowa right-sides will be used at all four corners for the Sprint Cup event at the 2.45-mile road course. Racing with a softer tire with more adhesion would potentially introduce the threat of excessive wear or blistering. It's a trade-off that Sunoco Rookie of the Year candidate Chase Elliott says he's willing to accept. "I think a lot of it is just having a fresh surface like this, you've got to have a tire that's pretty hard," said Elliott, Hendrick Motorsports' driver representative for the two-day test. "It's fast, and to ask a tire to hold up, you've got to bring something that's durable. It puts Goodyear in a tough spot, but I think they do a good job of trying to make the most of tough situations. There's been a lot of repaves here lately and I know they're working hard." David Groseclose, NASCAR's lead tire engineer, said Wednesday that the benefits of competing with a more rigid rubber compound outweighed the potential drawbacks. "As with all repaves -- same thing as Kentucky -- if you don't have a hard tire, you're going to blister them up," Groseclose said. "The way that works is if you've got a soft compound and you use it, the soft compounds tend to retain heat. It's just the nature of a soft compound. But on a repave, it's not going to wear so that heat's not going to be dissipated out of the tire. It has nowhere to go, so it stays in the tire, so that's why it blisters up. That's what we saw at Kentucky with the XFINITY and Truck Series." In addition to the surface itself, the track features new concrete for the rumble strips that border the circuit's turns and run-off areas. Some drivers found the differences barely noticeable, but Kurt Busch discovered a distinction the hard way with an early Tuesday spin as he bounded over the apex points in the backstretch chicane on one of his initial laps. "It's a lot different," said Tony Gibson, Busch's crew chief on the Stewart-Haas Racing No. 41 Chevrolet. "Kurt's like, 'I've got to learn all the curbs again.' The curbs over in the bus stop (chicane) are probably the biggest change. They're way more aggressive, and they've tightened up, so it's a lot tighter lane through there." Said Elliott, who will race here in Sprint Cup for the first time next weekend: "Some of the curbs may be a little different here or there, some a little rougher, a little smoother just depending on how they laid the asphalt in or however it worked. It's as close as you could make a track from an old surface to a repave, for sure." Five Sprint Cup teams participated in a Goodyear tire test May 10-11, and another 16 were present for this week's organizational test. For the remaining half of the field, the work toward finding the proper handle begins with opening practice on Friday, Aug. 5. "If you get your balance right, it'll be a no-drama," Gibson said. "Man, I told Kurt earlier, 'I'd hate to know I had to come here next Friday and hit the track for the first time and try to figure out these curbs and how much the race track has changed.' It'll be a handful in the short amount of time we get to practice. "It'll be interesting to see when we come back who has issues and who doesn't. But it's definitely going to be a plus to come and learn the race track, even if your car is not right or whatever, just getting here and getting behind the wheel and getting time on the race track is going to mean more." Pit notes: -- The full roster (in alphabetical order) of drivers and teams participating in the test: AJ Allmendinger (JTG Daugherty Racing ), Ryan Blaney (Wood Brothers Racing ), Clint Bowyer (HScott Motorsports), Chris Buescher (Front Row Motorsports), Kurt Busch (Stewart-Haas Racing ), Kyle Busch (Joe Gibbs Racing ), Austin Dillon (Richard Childress Racing ), Chase Elliott (Hendrick Motorsports), Brad Keselowski (Team Penske), Michael McDowell (Circle Sport-Leavine Family Racing ), Jamie McMurray (Chip Ganassi Racing ), Casey Mears (Germain Racing ), Brian Scott (Richard Petty Motorsports), Regan Smith (Tommy Baldwin Racing ), Ricky Stenhouse Jr. (Roush Fenway Racing ), Martin Truex Jr. ( Furniture Row Racing ). -- Casey Mears turned the fastest lap in the two-day test, which was divided into four sessions of four hours apiece. Mears pushed the Germain Racing No. 13 Chevrolet in the closing session to a best lap of 126.7 mph, a good bit slower than the track qualifying record of 129.491 mph set by Marcos Ambrose in August 2014. -- Brad Keselowski returned to the track Wednesday, one day after his severe, nearly head-on crash in Turn 1. He turned 74 laps over both sessions in a reserve Team Penske No. 2 Ford. -- Two teams -- Furniture Row Racing (driver Martin Truex Jr.) and Circle Sport-Leavine Family Racing (driver Michael McDowell) -- were absent from testing's opening day, arriving in the Watkins Glen garage Wednesday in time for the two closing sessions. -- Wednesday's final session was extended 30 minutes to a 5:30 p.m. ET close because of a nearly hour-long clean-up for fluid on the track. After Chase Elliott's No. 24 Chevrolet suffered a broken axle, Clint Bowyer's No. 15 Chevy ran over the part, damaging the car's transmission. -- NASCAR XFINITY Series teams are scheduled to turn their first laps on the new Watkins Glen surface next Thursday. The NASCAR K&N Pro Series East will stage a support race the following day on the 2.45-mile course.
Furniture Row Racing 2016 team preview
After a successful 2015 season, Martin Truex Jr. and Furniture Row Racing enter a technical alliance with Joe Gibbs Racing in hopes of a championship run in the 2016 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season.
Progress is evident for Truex Jr., Furniture Row
Martin Truex Jr . led a race-high 172 laps on Saturday night at Kansas Speedway , which serves as the "home" track for Denver-based Furniture Row Racing . A mechanical issue kept him out of Victory Lane, but his single-car team was the class of the field -- just ask race-winner Kyle Busch . "The 78 was probably the fastest car," Busch said of his Toyota teammate. It's something to get used to. Furniture Row Racing , owned by Barney Visser and stationed near the Rocky Mountains as opposed to "Race City USA," has developed into one of the premier teams in NASCAR while operating under the radar to the west of the Mississippi River. RELATED: Learn more about Furniture Row Coming off a year in which the single-car organization qualified for the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup for the second time in three years, and then promptly followed that with a berth in the Championship 4 Round at Homestead-Miami Speedway , the organization may be even better in 2016. This season's results prove last year's playoff push was no fluke. A manufacturer change from Chevrolet to Toyota brought alignment with Joe Gibbs Racing , and Truex is consistently one of the fastest cars every week. He and Furniture Row appear in excellent shape to qualify for the postseason for the second consecutive year, and perhaps another deep run is possible. Here's how driver and team got to this point. The past Visser began his career in the manufacturing business more than 40 years ago, starting the Furniture Row company in 1972 after growing up dreaming not of racing , but of business. That drive turned into a successful career in the west as the owner of several retailers -- but when Visser decided to cut back, he caught the NASCAR bug. Racing as a hobby at Colorado National Speedway led to his desire to start a NASCAR XFINITY Series team, which has evolved into the successful single-car Sprint Cup team. (The first year in Cup was 2005.) The organization earned its first win in 2011 when Regan Smith won the historic Southern 500 at Darlington Raceway . In 2013, Kurt Busch qualified for the postseason and would finish the season 10th in points, then the best standing in team history. That changed last year. Truex Jr. joined the company before the 2014 season after losing his ride at Michael Waltrip Racing when that organization went from three cars to two. In 2015, Truex and first-year crew chief Cole Pearn led Furniture Row to its second-ever win when he conquered the "Tricky Triangle" of Pocono. It capped a four-race stretch in which Truex led 454 laps and asserted Furniture Row as a premier series power. A technical alliance with Richard Childress Racing buoyed Furniture Row , then running Chevrolets, last year -- and Truex would advance deeper into the Chase than any of RCR's three drivers. The present Speed hasn't been a problem for Furniture Row Racing after the switch to Toyota. If anything, the team has been faster this year. "If we were going to run and be happy running in the middle of the field week in and week out, we would have been fine where we were," Furniture Row General Manager Joe Garone said before the season. "But Chevrolet has their hands full. They have plenty of teams and, as a new one coming in we were always going to be the bottom team. They can only spread themselves so thin. So, honestly, there wasn't the opportunity for us to get to the upper tier. "Toyota looked at it completely differently. They could see the benefits that we bring to the table as a single-car team partnered with one of their teams, and they jumped right on board." Truex has one top-five and four top-10 finishes through 11 races, but that doesn't fully tell the story. His 370 laps led are behind only Joe Gibbs Racing 's Kyle Busch and Carl Edwards and Stewart-Haas Racing 's Kevin Harvick . His average start (12.2) and average finish (12.7) both rank in the top 10 in NASCAR; only six other drivers can say the same. In short, there's been plenty of speed, just not finishes -- Kansas was shaping up to be one of the most dominant showings of the season until a fluke tire issue caused the No. 78 to pit from the lead late. "I couldn't believe it," Truex said after the race. "It's frustrating, but that's how it goes. We're going to win some races (this year), for sure. We keep bringing cars like that, we're going to win some. ... It's tough, but it happens. It's part of racing ." Watch: Truex Jr. stays positive after tough finish The future Truex Jr. and Furniture Row Racing have proven to be a good fit, and the addition of sponsors such as Bass Pro Shop and Auto Owners Insurance help the team move toward a reality of running two cars. In July of last year, Visser told SiriusXM NASCAR Radio: "We'd like to have (a second team) by '17. ... We think maybe '17 it's going to roll around the way we need it to. We're going to have to attract the sponsors. When we finally get the sponsors, we'll be able to do it." A technical alliance with Joe Gibbs Racing will likely prove fruitful for years, as the JGR Toyota Camrys appear to have a leg up on the field, and Truex himself sits above Denny Hamlin and Matt Kenseth in the points standings. "I don't like to look back, but I think it's safe to say that we had the opportunity to have two win stickers on our car at this point of the season," Truex said before Kansas, which could have been win No. 3. "We've gone through a major transition by switching to Toyota and having a new technical alliance with Joe Gibbs Racing . I truly feel that we've come a long way in a short period of time, and feel the rest of the season looks promising for our Furniture Row Racing team."
The Rundown: Indianapolis driver grades
RELATED: Complete race results " Updated Chase Grid Breaking down the full field for the Crown Royal Presents The Combat Wounded Coalition 400 At The Brickyard at Indianapolis Motor Speedway: 1. Kyle Busch, No. 18 Toyota, Joe Gibbs Racing . Total domination. Busch won Saturday's and Sunday's races from the pole and led a record 149 laps Sunday. His average running position Sunday was 1.2, and his lowest position was third. Seriously? Busch's hammerlock on the field was on par with what Martin Truex Jr. did in the Coca-Cola 600 . Thus the same mark. Grade: AAA+ 2. Matt Kenseth , No. 20 Toyota, Joe Gibbs Racing . Kenseth is still winless at the Brickyard but has now finished second three times. More numbers: In Kenseth's first four starts at Indianapolis for JGR, his finishes are 5th, 4th, 7th and 2nd. Grade: A 3. Jimmie Johnson , No. 48 Chevrolet, Hendrick Motorsports. Johnson had to do a pass-through on Lap 86 for a pit-road speeding penalty, dropping him to 23rd. Attrition and persistence led to Johnson's first top 10 since he finished third at Charlotte two months ago. Nice finish, but this team still needs to clean up its mistakes. Grade: A- 4. Denny Hamlin , No. 11 Toyota, Joe Gibbs Racing . Ditto the No. 11 team. Hamlin was assessed his seventh pit-road speeding penalty of the season one lap after Jimmie Johnson (same round of green-flag stops). Hamlin was running third at the time and fell back to 18th. Nice recovery, but … Grade: A- 5. Kyle Larson , No. 42 Chevrolet, Chip Ganassi Racing . Larson was the second-biggest winner of the afternoon, moving up four spots in the standings to 15th. Grade: A 6. Kevin Harvick , No. 4 Chevrolet, Stewart-Haas Racing . Harvick upped his points lead to 24. Two races ago it was down to four. If you don't think that's important, remember this: If qualifying is rained out, the field is set by the standings -- as is the order of selecting a pit stall. So, yes, the standings still matter. Grade: A 7. Joey Logano , No. 22 Ford, Team Penske. Logano restarted second on the final restart but couldn't hold the position or make a run at Kyle Busch. Logano, by the way, finished second to Busch in last year's Brickyard. Grade: A 8. Martin Truex Jr. , No. 78 Toyota, Furniture Row Racing . Truex was strong all afternoon – his 5.6 average running position was second to Kyle Busch's – but he was no match for the winner. Grade: A 9. Austin Dillon , No. 3 Chevrolet, Richard Childress Racing . Sunday's top 10 was Dillon's ninth of the season (20 starts), equaling his total for the first 85 starts of his Sprint Cup career. Grade: A 10. Paul Menard , No. 27 Chevrolet, Richard Childress Racing . Menard benefited from accidents in front of him that he was able to avoid to score his second top 10 of the season. Grade: A- 11. Tony Stewart , No. 14 Chevrolet, Stewart-Haas Racing . Stewart started third and was running with the leaders when he was caught speeding on pit road just before the third caution and had to restart at the tail end of the field, one lap down. He was still back in the pack (20th) with 25 laps to go in regulation. But then came all the cautions. "Smoke" finally got his lap back with a free pass on the fifth caution, survived contact with Jamie McMurray on Lap 166 and salvaged a decent finish on his last go-round at Indy. Grade: B 12. Ricky Stenhouse Jr. , No. 17 Ford, Roush Fenway Racing . Stenhouse survived the big Carl Edwards - Ryan Newman wreck that brought out the red flag to get a finish that belied his day. He turned 14 laps in the top 15 and had an average running positon of 20.1. Grade: B- 13. Jeff Gordon , No. 88 Chevrolet, Hendrick Motorsports. Despite problems with restarts, Gordon was able to post his best finish of the season and overcome the incredible pressure of replacing Alex Bowman in the No. 88. ... Yes, I'm kidding. Except for the restarts part. Vive Monsieur Gordon! Grade: A 14. Chris Buescher , No. 34 Ford, Front Row Motorsports. Buescher recorded the best finish of his Sprint Cup career on a day in which he turned all of two laps in the top 15 and had a 23.7 average running position. Grade: B 15. Chase Elliott , No. 24 Chevrolet, Hendrick Motorsports. Elliott registered his best finish since a second-place finish at Michigan more than a month ago. Grade: B 16. Kurt Busch, No. 41 Chevrolet, Stewart-Haas Racing . For only the second time this season, Busch failed to finish in the top 10 in back-to-back races. Grade: B- 17. Brad Keselowski , No. 2 Ford, Team Penske. Keselowski was the rage early on with his team's bold pit strategy, but the second half of the race bore zero resemblance to the first half. Getting caught up in the Carl Edwards - Ryan Newman wreck didn't help, either. Grade: B 18. Kasey Kahne , No. 5 Chevrolet, Hendrick Motorsports. Despite a fourth-straight finish outside the top 10, Kahne moved up two spots in the standings to 16th, 10 points behind Kyle Larson . He jumped one driver who missed the race ( Dale Earnhardt Jr. ) and one who didn't use the best judgment and crashed with 10 laps to go ( Trevor Bayne ). Grade: C 19. Jamie McMurray , No. 1 Chevrolet, Chip Ganassi Racing . McMurray's nice run came to a screeching halt on the restart on Lap 165 when he moved down in front of Tony Stewart but hadn't cleared the No. 14. Stewart wasn't about to lift, and the No. 1 went for a slide onto the access road before returning to the track and smacking Ryan Newman . Worse, the caution gave the free pass to Chase-cutoff competitor Kasey Kahne . Grade: B- 20. Landon Cassill , No. 38 Ford, Front Row Motorsports. Cassill avoided calamity to get his fourth-best finish of the season. Grade: B 21. Clint Bowyer, No. 15 Chevrolet, HScott Motorsports. Bowyer contributed to the caution-fest at the end of the race when he got into the back of Trevor Bayne , who inexplicably went for the block with so much on the line (Chase standings) and running so far back in the field. Grade: C 22. Danica Patrick , No. 10 Chevrolet, Stewart-Haas Racing . Wrong place, wrong time. Again. Patrick had nothing to do with the Carl Edwards - Ryan Newman wreck but still ended up a part of it. On the other hand, she finished right where she spent most of the race. Grade: C 23. Michael McDowell , No. 95 Chevrolet, Circle Sport-Leavine Family. McDowell posted his best finish at the Brickyard in seven starts. Grade: B- 24. Casey Mears , No. 13 Chevrolet, Germain Racing . Mears finished in the top 25 for the 10th time this season. Grade: C 25. Aric Almirola , No. 43 Ford, Richard Petty Motorsports. Almirola, who is still looking for his first top 10 of the year, is on pace to have his worst season with RPM, for which he has been driving full time since 2010. Grade: C 26. Regan Smith , No. 7 Chevrolet, Tommy Baldwin Racing . Smith posted his best finish since a 22nd at Pocono in early June. Grade: C 27. Brian Scott , No. 44 Ford, Richard Petty Motorsports. Despite being collected in the last wreck of the day, Scott picked up his best finish in his past eight starts. Grade: C 28. Michael Annett , No. 46 Chevrolet, HScott Motorsports . After posting four top-30 finishes in his first 14 starts, Annett has four in his past six. Grade: C 29. Cole Whitt , No. 98 Chevrolet, Premium Motorsports. Since a 37.3 average finish in his first three starts of the season, Whitt has an average finish of 27.5 over his next 14 races. Grade: C 30. Trevor Bayne , No. 6 Ford, Roush Fenway Racing . Bayne's move to block Clint Bowyer on the backstretch on Lap 158 was as costly as it was ill-advised. Bayne spun all the way to his worst finish of the season and to 18th in the standings, 14 points behind 15th-place Kyle Larson . Grade: D 31. Ryan Newman , No. 31 Chevrolet, Richard Childress Racing . Newman's day began to unravel on the restart on Lap 154. He restarted sixth, outside of Carl Edwards . On the first turn, Edwards drifted up into Newman and the No. 31 suffered major damage. With Newman sitting near the Chase cut-off line, it was important for him to coax the car home. He returned to the track but couldn't make it to the finish when Jamie McMurray ran up the track into him on the Lap 165 restart after contact with Tony Stewart . Bottom line: Valiant effort but a DNF and 10-point day. Grade: C 32. Ryan Ellis , No. 93 Toyota, BK Racing . Ellis picked up a career-best finish in his fourth Sprint Cup Series start. Grade: C 33. Reed Sorenson , No. 55 Chevrolet, Premium Motorsports. Sorenson ran to form, and his 33.8 average finish is third-worst in the Sprint Cup Series among drivers with at least 10 starts. Grade: D 34. Patrick Carpentier, No. 32 Ford, GO FAS Racing . After not starting a Sprint Cup Series race since 2011, Carpentier made his second start of 2016. He finished 37th last month at Sonoma. Grade: D 35. Carl Edwards , No. 19 Toyota, Joe Gibbs Racing . Edwards was part of the strong JGR contingent all afternoon – 6.6 averaging running position – until his mishap on Lap 154. Whether it was a tight car or dirty tires, the outcome was costly as he dropped two spots in the standings. Grade: F 36. Ryan Blaney , No. 21 Ford, Wood Brothers Racing . Blaney was collected and knocked out of the race in the Carl Edwards -initiated wreckage that resulted in a red flag. Blaney dropped two spots in the standings to 19th, and is now 22 points behind 15th-place Kyle Larson . Blaney began the day nine points ahead of Larson. Grade: C 37. David Ragan , No. 23 Toyota, BK Racing . Ragan brought out the third caution on Lap 120 when his left-rear tire went down and he slammed the wall. It was his third DNF and second-worst finish of the season. Grade: F 38. AJ Allmendinger, No. 47 Chevrolet, JTG Daugherty Racing . Allmendinger was running 11th when his car lost water pressure. Moments later it overheated with less than 100 laps to go. It was Allmendinger's second DNF in the past three races. Grade: F 39. Greg Biffle, No. 16 Ford, Roush Fenway Racing . Biffle's day ended after 53 laps when his right-front tire went down and he slammed into the outside wall. His streak of top 10s – three – ended as well. Grade: F 40. Matt DiBenedetto, No. 83 Toyota, BK Racing . His engine didn't even make through five laps, leaving DiBenedetto with his seventh DNF of the season. "How is that even possible?" DiBenedetto tweeted. "Who has the voodoo doll of me that severely dislikes me?" Grade: F
Teams set to participate in Watkins Glen test
NASCAR Sprint Cup Series teams will receive extra track time this week at newly repaved Watkins Glen International, site of the final road-course race on this year's schedule. A total of 16 teams are scheduled to converge on the New York circuit for a two-day organizational test Tuesday and Wednesday in advance of the Aug. 7 Cheez-It 355 at The Glen (2:30 p.m. ET, USA, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio). The $12 million offseason repaving project marks the first full resurfacing at the facility since 1989. The new asphalt includes the 2.45-mile layout used in NASCAR competition and the longer 3.4-mile configuration used by other series. Five Sprint Cup teams received their first taste of the new pavement in Goodyear tire testing May 10-11. Drivers helping the tire manufacturer select the proper rubber compound for the race were Trevor Bayne , Carl Edwards , Kevin Harvick , Kasey Kahne and Joey Logano . Drivers (in alphabetical order) scheduled to participate this week: -- AJ Allmendinger (JTG Daugherty Racing ) -- Ryan Blaney (Wood Brothers Racing ) -- Clint Bowyer (HScott Motorsports) -- Chris Buescher (Front Row Motorsports) -- Kurt Busch (Stewart-Haas Racing ) -- Kyle Busch (Joe Gibbs Racing ) -- Matt DiBenedetto (BK Racing ) -- Austin Dillon (Richard Childress Racing ) -- Chase Elliott (Hendrick Motorsports) -- Brad Keselowski (Team Penske) -- Michael McDowell (Circle Sport-Leavine Family Racing ) -- Jamie McMurray (Chip Ganassi Racing ) -- Casey Mears (Germain Racing ) -- Brian Scott (Richard Petty Motorsports) -- Ricky Stenhouse Jr. (Roush Fenway Racing ) -- Martin Truex Jr. ( Furniture Row Racing ) The on-track schedule will feature two sessions each day -- 9 a.m.-noon ET and 1-5 p.m. ET. The garage will open both days at 7 a.m. ET. Other new details greeting drivers this week will be new concrete on pit road and on the rumble strips bordering the turns. The track also completed grading and landscaping work in the runoff areas. NASCAR XFINITY Series teams will get extra practice time on the new surface during an expanded race weekend. The schedule was extended from three days to four this year with the addition of two XFINITY practice sessions on Thursday, Aug. 4. The organizational test is the third of five scheduled this season for the Sprint Cup Series. It follows two-day tests at Kentucky Speedway (June 13-14) and Indianapolis Motor Speedway (July 12-13). The two-day Watkins Glen stop precedes organizational tests at Chicagoland Speedway (Aug. 23-24) and Homestead-Miami Speedway (Oct. 18-19), sites for the opening race and the finale for this year's Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup playoffs. </p>