NASCAR offers review, clarity of pit-road rule
LOUDON, N.H. -- NASCAR officials reiterated their policing of the sanctioning body's pit road policy during the drivers' meeting prior to Sunday's New Hampshire 301 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race (1:30 p.m. ET, NBCSN, PRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio), stressing that cars remain single file when coming onto pit road , that passing is allowed "only to the right" and that passing is officiated as "front bumper to front bumper." The issue arose following last weekend’s race at Kentucky Speedway when driver Martin Truex Jr. was penalized for passing on entry to pit road as he passed race leader Kevin Harvick on the left side while on pit road during a round of pit stops under caution. Truex (Furniture Row Racing) was second behind Harvick when he pulled his No. 78 Toyota to the inside and shot forward into his pit box, momentarily pulling ahead of the Stewart-Haas Racing driver. First off pit road after the pit stop, Truex restarted 22nd as a result of the penalty. Language included in Sunday's drivers' meeting video presentation outlined various race processes and included remaining single file, with passing only on the right. "There's been a lot of discussion and dialogue this week regarding pit- road rules," Sprint Cup Series Managing Director Richard Buck said. "I want to take a moment review the rules and explain how we will officiate those rules. … "Under caution, as mentioned in the video, no pulling up to pit. Remain in line, single-file, behind the caution car and maintain your position. Vehicles must maintain a reasonable speed behind the caution car. Reasonable speed is a judgement call and will be made by the NASCAR officials. You must enter pit road single-file, nose to tail, bumper to bumper and maintain pit road speed. "Passing is only to the right once the car in front of you commits to his pit stall. Passing is defined and will be officiated in the same way as we do during the race on the race track -- front bumper to front bumper." Drivers had previously noted there have been many instances of drivers pulling ahead of other competitors when pulling into their pit boxes on pit road . "I saw him gas up after the timing line and make a pass," Paul Menard , driver of the No. 27 Chevrolet for Richard Childress Racing, said of the Truex incident during a test earlier this week at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. "He had a really good pit box where he could really accelerate hard. At some of these tracks you can't be as aggressive as that." On Friday at New Hampshire Motor Speedway, defending Sprint Cup Series champion Kyle Busch said he had "seen those moves being made before on pit road " without officials calling a penalty. "That's why I think more and more guys have gone into that have been trying to do that," he said. "We play the timing lines way too much and so that was just some that was out there for (Truex) to play with and try … he did and they busted him for it." NASCAR uses timing lines embedded underneath pit road to monitor the speed of cars as they enter and exit the pits and pass through each section. The system uses measurements of distance over time to determine how fast cars are traveling when on pit road . Drivers typically increase their speed after passing the first timing line in which their pit stall is located, since stopping for service will increase the overall time spent in that section. Truex was not judged to be speeding when he made the move. There were no questions from drivers about the process following Buck's comments.
Gordon gets comfortable, keeps expectations 'realistic'
SPEEDWAY, Ind. -- Jeff Gordon was all smiles walking on Indianapolis Motor Speedway's pit road following qualifying for Sunday's Brickyard 400. The crowd cheered its approval of his 21st-place qualifying effort. Mostly they were happy for the opportunity to see the four-time NASCAR champion at work again. Gordon advanced to the second round of qualifying driving Dale Earnhardt Jr. 's No. 88 Axalta Chevrolet. And the five-time Indy winner will start his final race here from the 11th row filling in for Earnhardt, who is recovering from concussion-like symptoms. "I felt really comfortable right there," said Gordon, 44, who was asked by team owner Rick Hendrick to come out of retirement and take the wheel for Earnhardt at Indy and at Pocono Raceway next week. "I feel like today I am much calmer than I was yesterday," Gordon said. "Usually my heart's beating more for qualifying than for practice, but that wasn't the case today. "So today, I feel more relaxed and comfortable in the car and I hope to feel the same way tomorrow. Tomorrow's challenge is going to be being around traffic and trying to get the balance of the car right and do that when you're by yourself as well as around other cars." Gordon hasn't driven a Sprint Cup Series car since retiring at the end of the 2015 season and only had a pair of practice sessions Friday to prepare for qualifying and the race. The team used his old seat and steering wheel in the car and Gordon only arrived from a family vacation in France mid-week. "For the most part, all the work is done," Gordon said. "We did our practice yesterday, we did our de-brief with drivers and crew chiefs last night and we qualified today. "Every time we're on track we're gathering information and learning. We'll continue to talk about it, but that's about all we can do moving forward. Those guys will be working hard on pit strategy for the race. But for the most part, the work is done for me other than thinking of some things I could tell Greg. "The work all begins when the green flag drops." While this will be the first time in Gordon's celebrated career he won't be steering the No. 24 Chevrolet for Hendrick, there was an unmistakable sense of excitement about the weekend's opportunity. In what was originally his final Indy start -- last year -- Gordon scored his worst-ever finish of 42nd. In a sense, this time filling in for his good friend and former teammate Earnhardt also affords him the chance to improve that career note, too. "My expectations are very realistic," Gordon said. "I'm approaching this the same way I've approached any race I've ever been in. I drive the car into the corner and the car gives me feedback and if it feels good , I drive it harder. If it doesn't feel good I find a way to manage it until we can make adjustments. "My goal is to make the car go as fast as it can go. Each time on track I feel like I'm getting better. This is a steep learning curve, to be off the track this long and then just jump in here. But luckily, I have a great race car and a great race team that's going to help me get through it." </p>
Drivers look for clarity after Truex's pit-road passing penalty
SPEEDWAY, Ind. -- When Martin Truex Jr. was penalized for a pit- road infraction during Saturday night's Quaker State 400 Presented by Advance Auto Parts at Kentucky Speedway, the penalty cost him a shot at the lead and a possible victory. The penalty, for passing a car or cars on the left when on pit road , is often referred to as "pulling up to pit" and is made by NASCAR officials in the control tower. According to the post-race infraction report, the infraction on Truex was called a "safety violation" for passing on entry to pit road . It's not one of the more common infractions among NASCAR Sprint Cup Series drivers. According to pit road statistics, Truex was the third driver in the series flagged for the infraction this season. Records show it was called only three times in the series in 2015. "I understand that it’s always been a rule, you can't pass to the left coming into the pits," 2003 series champion Matt Kenseth said Tuesday during a break in testing at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. "You can (pass) leaving them … (that) has always been my understanding of it. I think it's always tough. Personally, I haven't seen it. … but it's just something that they haven't really called, either very much or not at all, in years and years and years. "I think it's one of those things that, probably the letter of the law … again I haven't seen it, but if you pass to the left, it's technically against the rules; it's just one that they haven't called in a long time." Truex was running second to race leader Harvick when the field pitted under the final caution flag of the race at Lap 195 of the 267-lap race. As the field made its way down pit road , Truex pulled to the inside of Harvick's Stewart-Haas Racing entry and shot forward into his pit box. After taking right-side tires and fuel, Truex was first off pit road in his No. 78 Toyota. After returning to pit road to serve the penalty, Truex restarted 22nd and made it back to 10th by the end of the race. "I think everyone knows, or think they know, the rules there," Kenseth said. "It's just that there's something not being called and you're trying to get every advantage you can and the cars are all so incredibly close to the same speed right now and the rules are so tight. Pit road is as competitive as the race track; you're always trying to get any advantage you can with speed lines or what have you." Kenseth said the size of the track likely often plays a role in the maneuver as well, with shorter venues being where drivers are more likely to try and gain an advantage. "There are some places where there have been some pretty questionable situations … like a Martinsville or somewhere like that," he said. "You've got a speed line, people pull left and pass five cars coming to their pit stall. Places like that, they probably need to get it calmed down. "Now when you have places like Kentucky … typically when you're pulling into your pit stall you just gas it up, pull in there and stop. You really don't think much of it. I didn't really think that's a track where typically you see that." Earlier this week, NASCAR Executive Vice President and Chief Racing Development Officer Steve O’Donnell told SiriusXM NASCAR Radio that in addition to the rulebook stating it is illegal to pass to the left when pitting, the matter is "brought up in every drivers' meeting. "Has there been some driver pulling off just as they pull into their pits that kind of pull up alongside a car? Sure that's happened," he said. O’Donnell said officials saw a "trend that's getting bigger and bigger." Richard Childress Racing driver Paul Menard said the location of the pit box allowed Truex to accelerate once he passed the first of two timing lines in his section. "He had a really good pit box where he could really accelerate hard," Menard, who was also among the 12 drivers testing at Indy, said. "At some of these tracks you can't be as aggressive as that. I was surprised at the penalty for sure. I always thought you couldn't pull up … on the access road before you get to the commitment line, that's kind of what we're always told every week. But as far as on pit road , if you're within your timing lines and you're not speeding, I always thought that was fair game so I guess we need some clarification on that." &amp;amp;amp;lt;/p&amp;amp;amp;gt;
Stewart talks special moment with Gordon post-Indy
RELATED: Race results " Standings " Chase Grid " See the moment SPEEDWAY, Ind. -- With the field lined up for the first of what turned out to be two overtime restarts Sunday at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, Tony Stewart clicked his radio and made a request. "Tell (the 88) after this is over let's go around the track one more time together," Stewart, co-owner of Stewart-Haas Racing and driver of the organization's No. 14 Chevrolet, said. Stewart, a three-time NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion and twice a winner of the The Combat Wounded Coalition 400, wanted to slow down instead of go fast, and soak in the moment with a familiar foe and friend, regardless of how his final race at IMS ended. Jeff Gordon , driving the Hendrick Motorsports entry in relief of Dale Earnhardt Jr. , was more than willing to oblige. Hours earlier, Gordon had paid tribute to Stewart, acknowledging him and what he has meant to NASCAR during the morning drivers' meeting. RELATED: Gordon talks return, Dale Jr. " WATCH: Gordon climbs in No. 88 So before race winner Kyle Busch made it to Victory Lane, prior to he and his Joe Gibbs Racing teammates gathering to kiss the bricks on the finish line, Stewart and Gordon, two old warhorses with a combined seven championships and 142 Sprint Cup Series wins between them, slowly circled the 2.5-mile track one final time to the cheers of the fans and many of those still on pit road . MORE: Relive 'Smoke's' 49 career victories Afterward, Gordon climbed from his car and approached Stewart; the two hugged on pit road amid a throng of reporters. "I can say that just ranks in the top-three coolest moments of my 18 years in this series," said Stewart, who will retire from Sprint Cup racing at season's end. "To share that moment with Jeff here at Indianapolis, I don't know. I don't even have the words for it. That is a moment that I will remember for the rest of my life." For the record, Stewart finished 11th in his final Sprint Cup start at the famed Brickyard. It was a hard-fought 11th with the 45-year-old rallying from a lap down after running strong in the first half of the 170-lap race. Gordon, scheduled to make at least one more start next week at Pocono's Pennsylvania 400 in relief of Earnhardt Jr., rallied, too, to finish 13th. "Tony and I have gone through a lot over the years," he said. "But he and I have become really good friends. ... I'm just so proud that I was able to be here and race with him in his final race (at Indy)." Stewart ran as high as second early, moving up from his No. 3 starting position in spite of a slow takeoff when the race went green. Crew chief Mike Bugarewicz and the pit crew continued to make adjustments throughout the first half of the race, keeping Stewart inside the top 10, but at one point admitted to his driver, "We're just barely keeping up with the track." Stewart hit pit road at Lap 119 under green, and when the caution came out for an incident involving David Ragan , it appeared the move might work in the team’s favor -- others that hadn't pitted would come to pit road , allowing Stewart to gain track position. But a speeding penalty negated any advantage, and Stewart instead found himself in 31st and one lap down. By then, it was too late to change game plans, according to Bugarewicz. "Normally you would say yes when it's early in the race," he said. "When it's late in the race like that, your fate's almost ... you just have to race for the (free pass) and hope you get it like we did. That's all you've got. "Nobody was going to pit again if it stayed green because they're already in the last fuel window so at that point it was just ... banking on getting a caution and being the best car out of the cars that were a lap down to get the lucky dog, which is what we did. "We got fortunate with a few more cautions to let us line back up at the tail of the field and start picking them off." On Lap 140, Stewart passed Kasey Kahne (Hendrick Motorsports) to be in positon for the free pass, and when the caution flag waved for debris moments later, he was back on the lead lap. Three more cautions unfolded before the finish, including one that involved Stewart, Jamie McMurray (Chip Ganassi Racing), Ryan Newman (Richard Childress Racing) and Brian Scott (Richard Petty Motorsports). WATCH: Big wreck claims multiple cars at Indy "That last one probably hurt us in one sense -- with the nose damage we had, the car was really tight," Bugarewicz said. "But ... we're not going to complain, we're just going to take what we've got and be happy for it." The finish moved Stewart up one spot, to 27th, in points. With a win earlier at California's Sonoma Raceway, he continues to improve his chances at earning a berth in this year's Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup. But with Indy in his rearview, Stewart wasn't in a hurry to look too far down the road . "It was an awesome weekend," he said. "Everything went the way we wanted it to, we just came up short today. "I had fun all day and had fun all weekend. ... Everybody tried to make my weekend as easy as possible. It really gave me the opportunity to savor the moment and enjoy it." MORE: 'Smoke' receives unique gift from Indy
Kyle Busch holds off Harvick for third straight XFINITY win
RELATED: Full race results " Series standings " Every winner in 2016 SHOP: Busch gear SPEEDWAY, Ind. -- About the only thing Kyle Busch didn't win on Saturday was the one prize he wasn't eligible for. But the driver of the No. 18 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota won everything else, capping a phenomenal day at Indianapolis Motor Speedway with a victory in the Lilly Diabetes 250 NASCAR XFINITY Series race -- and he did so with tires that were 23 laps older than those of his pursuers. Busch led 62 of 63 laps but had to hold off Kevin Harvick on a two lap dash in overtime to win for the third time at the Brickyard, the seventh time in 11 starts this season and the 83rd time in his career, extending his series record. The XFINITY race was actually the fourth competition Busch won on Saturday. First, he won the top starting spot for the Lilly Diabetes 250, the 54th pole of his career. Next, he won the pole position for Sunday's Crown Royal 400 (3 p.m. ET on NBCSN), one of the marquee NASCAR Sprint Cup Series events of the season. After that Busch led all 20 laps and took the checkered flag in the first heat race under the XFINITY Series' final Dash 4 Cash event of the season. Busch didn't win the $100,000 Dash 4 Cash bonus, a prize available only to series regulars. That check went to Justin Allgaier , who rolled home in fifth place, the highest finisher among the four drivers who earned eligibility in the heat races. Busch, however, has one more mountain to climb. On Sunday, he'll attempt to complete his second straight weekend sweep at the vaunted Brickyard. Busch held off Harvick, third-place finisher Paul Menard and fourth-place Kyle Larson even though Busch had stayed out on old rubber while those behind him pitted for new tires under the first caution on Lap 50. "The new tires for those guys were good for them but not so good for us," Busch said. "I just dug in deep and gave it everything I had. I knew I had to get really good restarts. On the second-to-last one (on Lap 54), I got a really good one, and then the last one (on lap 62 in overtime), it was OK. "I got an OK one, and I saw Harvick pull out… but he never got alongside of me. I never felt him close enough that he was going to pull alongside. ... It's a pretty awesome feeling to be able to go back to Victory Lane here this year. We're sitting on the pole tomorrow, and hopefully we can have another sweep here." Busch had a lead of more than eight seconds on Lap 48 of a scheduled 60 when JGR teammate Erik Jones , the wire-to-wire winner of the second heat race, blew a right rear tire entering Turn 1 and spun, causing the afternoon's first caution. While Busch and series leader Daniel Suarez stayed out on old tires, the remaining eight lead-lap cars came to pit road . Busch survived the restart on lap 54, but a lap later, ay Black Jr. and Harrison Rhodes wrecked off Turn 2 to bring put the second yellow and force the overtime. On the Lap 62 restart, Harvick pushed Larson, then ducked to the inside but was reluctant to take a bad angle into the first corner. As Harvick and Larson battled briefly for second, Busch pulled away and ultimately crossed the finish line .411 seconds ahead of Harvick's No. 88 JR Motorsports Chevrolet. "I really thought I could beat him down the backstretch if I got off of (Turn) 2 well and could clear the 42 (Larson)," Harvick said. "I got to the inside and kind of hit the chip and decided to hold the line up a little bit and try to get a run, and the 42 got stuck on the outside and that ruined my plan. "But our goal was to overachieve today, and we did that and capitalized on some situations and had a couple of good restarts and wound up second. All in all, it wasn't a bad day." Just nowhere near as good as the one Busch had.
Kyle Busch dominates for back-to-back Indianapolis sweep
RELATED: Results " Standings " Chase Grid SHOP: Busch gear SPEEDWAY, Ind. -- Mission accomplished, a record set, and a torch passed to the next generation. Kyle Busch set a Brickyard record for laps led and became the first driver to sweep both a NASCAR Sprint Cup Series and NASCAR XFINITY Series race from the pole in the same weekend, but the real symbolism of Sunday's Crown Royal 400 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway didn't come until the event was over. As Busch spun his No. 18 Toyota in a celebratory burnout and took his customary bows near the yard of bricks, Tony Stewart and Jeff Gordon slowly circled the track, driving side by side, waving to fans acknowledging their career accomplishments after what is expected to be their respective last appearances at the Brickyard. In heat that reached 130 degrees on the asphalt, Stewart recovered from a pit road speeding penalty to finish 11th in his retirement year, and Gordon ran 13th in what was an unanticipated substitute role for ailing Dale Earnhardt Jr. But Busch received his share of the applause, too, as fans have begun to acknowledge his ascent, at age 31, to the small group of elite drivers in NASCAR's history. To say he accomplished his second straight weekend sweep of the Indy races emphatically is to understate the case. In a race that went 25 miles beyond its scheduled distance, thanks to a rash of late cautions, Busch led 149 of 170 laps, a record for the event. In the two-lap overtime shootout that decided the issue, Busch crossed the finish line an astounding 2.126 seconds ahead of Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Matt Kenseth , who ran second. "This Toyota was awesome today," said Busch, who won his second Sprint Cup race at Indianapolis, his fourth of the season and the 38th of his career. "It was just so fast and able to get out front and stay out front. Not even some of my teammates could challenge. This was hooked up and on rails. "Adam Stevens (crew chief) and these guys are a phenomenal group, and I'm proud to be with them. It's fun to come out here and have such a dominant piece at Indy. They don't come along often, so I was just hoping I didn't screw it up." Busch is acutely aware of the history of the sport, and completing a weekend sweep by winning both races from the pole was high on his bucket list. "It's so cool because it hasn't been done before," said the defending Sprint Cup champion, who is the second driver to win back-to-back races at the Brickyard -- the other being Jimmie Johnson in 2008 and 2009. "I've tried and been successful at being able to do a lot of things that others haven't been able to do before. I guess I give myself more chances than others because I run more of those (XFINITY) races. "It helps you, and when it helps you win on Sunday, that's what makes everything so worthwhile on those Saturday races. The guys on Saturday do a good job, too, helping prepare me and being able to do this stuff on Sunday." Busch was on cruise control, heading toward an easy victory, when NASCAR called a debris caution on Lap 150 to remove a piece of sheet metal near the exit from Turn 2. One of six drivers who stayed out on older tires, Busch led the field to green on Lap 154. Moments later, the No. 19 Toyota of Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Carl Edwards tightened up in the inside lane, twitched out of control and ignited a five-car wreck that necessitated a stoppage that lasted 7 minutes, 25 seconds. "It felt like I just got tight down there," Edwards said. "I had a little trouble there on the starts, and I got down there, we were fighting really hard for the bottom, and it felt like I got tight with whoever was on the outside of me. "If indeed that is what happened, I apologize. That's pretty frustrating. ... It felt like I got in there and just scrubbed that right front." The following two restarts also brought cautions, the eighth and final one coming when Jamie McMurray made an ill-advised lane change in front of Stewart near the end of pit road and spun sideways off the front bumper of Stewart's No. 14 Chevrolet, also collecting Ryan Newman and Brian Scott . When the race restarted on Lap 169, Busch cleared Joey Logano and Kenseth off Turn 1 and pulled away relentlessly until the finish. Johnson overcame a pass-through penalty for speeding on pit road to run third, followed by Denny Hamlin , another speeding penalty victim and the third JGR driver in the top four. Kyle Larson came home fifth, posting his fourth top five of the season. But the story of the day was the long good -bye from Stewart and Gordon, juxtaposed against the backdrop of Busch's emphatic hello to greatness at the flag stand. </p>
NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Owner Standings
After Race 20 of the 2016 season at Indianapolis Motor Speedway Pos Owner Car # Points Ldr Nxt PPos G/L Attempts 1 Stewart-Haas Racing 4 671 0 -- 1 0 20 2 Team Penske 2 647 -24 -24 2 0 20 3 Stewart-Haas Racing 41 627 -44 -20 3 0 20 4 Team Penske 22 606 -65 -21 5 1 20 5 Joe Gibbs Racing 18 601 -70 -5 6 1 20 6 Joe Gibbs Racing 19 593 -78 -8 4 -2 20 7 Furniture Row Racing 78 573 -98 -20 7 0 20 8 Hendrick Motorsports 48 552 -119 -21 8 0 20 9 Joe Gibbs Racing 20 545 -126 -7 9 0 20 10 Joe Gibbs Racing 11 542 -129 -3 10 0 20 11 Hendrick Motorsports 24 525 -146 -17 11 0 20 12 Richard Childress Racing 3 520 -151 -5 13 1 20 13 Richard Childress Racing 31 507 -164 -13 12 -1 20 14 Hendrick Motorsports 88 504 -167 -3 14 0 20 15 Chip Ganassi Racing 1 496 -175 -8 15 0 20 16 Chip Ganassi Racing 42 472 -199 -24 20 4 20 17 Stewart-Haas Racing 14 469 -202 -3 18 1 20 18 Hendrick Motorsports 5 462 -209 -7 19 1 20 19 Roush Fenway Racing 6 458 -213 -4 16 -3 20 20 Wood Brothers Racing 21 450 -221 -8 17 -3 20 21 Roush Fenway Racing 17 449 -222 -1 21 0 20 22 JTG Daugherty Racing 47 421 -250 -28 22 0 20 23 Roush Fenway Racing 16 397 -274 -24 23 0 20 24 Richard Childress Racing 27 397 -274 0 24 0 20 25 Stewart-Haas Racing 10 373 -298 -24 25 0 20 26 Richard Petty Motorsports 43 363 -308 -10 26 0 20 27 HScott Motorsports 15 359 -312 -4 27 0 20 28 Germain Racing 13 310 -361 -49 28 0 20 29 Front Row Motorsports 38 305 -366 -5 29 0 20 30 Circle Sport-Leavine Family 95 280 -391 -25 31 1 20 31 BK Racing 23 278 -393 -2 30 -1 20 32 Front Row Motorsports 34 237 -434 -41 34 2 20 33 Tommy Baldwin Racing 7 234 -437 -3 33 0 20 34 Richard Petty Motorsports 44 234 -437 0 32 -2 20 35 Premium Motorsports 98 204 -467 -30 36 1 20 36 BK Racing 83 201 -470 -3 35 -1 20 37 HScott Motorsports 46 186 -485 -15 37 0 20 38 GO FAS Racing 32 161 -510 -25 38 0 20 39 Premium Motorsports 55 125 -546 -36 39 0 15 40 The Motorsports Group 30 93 -578 -32 40 0 20 41 Front Row Motorsports 35 46 -625 -47 41 0 3 42 Circle Sport - Leavine Family 59 26 -645 -20 42 0 1 43 BK Racing 93 11 -660 -15 43 0 4 44 BK Racing 26 3 -668 -8 44 0 1 45 Hillman Racing 40 0 -671 -3 45 0 1
Strong starting spot at Indy a 'big deal' for Stewart
RELATED: Full starting lineup " See every car in the field SPEEDWAY, Ind. -- Tony Stewart wrapped up day two of his final NASCAR Sprint Cup Series start at Indianapolis Motor Speedway by qualifying third-best for the 40-car field that makes up Sunday’s Crown Royal presents the Combat Wounded Coalition 400 at the Brickyard. It will be Stewart's best starting berth at Indy since winning the pole for the annual race at the legendary 2.5-mile track in 2002. It also equaled his best qualifying effort of what’s been an abbreviated season, matching his third-place start earlier this year at Michigan International Speedway. He announced last September that the 2016 season would be his last as a competitor in the Sprint Cup Series. Stewart put up the sixth-fastest lap in Saturday's opening round, enabling him to advance to the second round where he posted the second-fastest lap overall. In the final round of 12, his 184.328 mph lap was bettered only by Joe Gibbs Racing teammates Kyle Busch (184.634 mph) and Carl Edwards (184.547 mph). Stewart, 45, credited crew chief Mike Bugarewicz with making the appropriate changes between Friday's two practices and Saturday’s qualifying attempts. "I just wish I could do a lap … one more time and not clip the apron in (Turn) 4; I think we could have been on the pole," Stewart said after climbing from his No. 14 Stewart-Haas Racing Chevrolet. "What we learned today for qualifying, we are going to have to take some of that and try to make a car a little better for tomorrow." Starting position can be crucial -- the benefits ranging from optimum track position to a clear entry into and out of one's pit stall during the race. To start third, Stewart said, "is a big deal here. It always has been." The rules package in place for this year's race is 180 degrees from the high drag package implemented at Indy a year ago. Stewart said the difference is evident and positive. "It seems like the more downforce they take off these cars, the easier it is to race around each other," he said. "That is what you need, but it always helps when you can start up front. When you can get up there and really get working on your car in cleaner air and plan for the end of the race, that is really an advantage." Stewart sat out the first eight races of the 2016 season while recovering from injuries sustained in an off- road accident on Jan. 31. A victory last month at Sonoma Raceway and his ascension into the top-30 in points have put him in line for one of the 16 positions that will make up this year's Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup. "We just have been plugging away," he said. "Everybody thinks Sonoma was the game changer and it wasn't. I mean it was Pocono, it was Michigan -- those two races leading up to Sonoma were probably as big if not bigger than what we did at Sonoma. "Sonoma just gave us the opportunity to hopefully use what we are doing to get going in the Chase now." With his final start at Indy less than 24 hours away, Stewart, who has 49 career wins in NASCAR's premier series, was ready to turn his attention elsewhere. "Tonight I'm going to go to Kokomo Speedway for our All-Stars race and go to work there," he said. "Then come here tomorrow and have fun with our friends." Sunday’s race is scheduled to get underway at 3 p.m. ET. TV and radio coverage will be provided by NBCSN, the IMS Radio Network and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio. </p>
Who's in the No. 48? Flub gives 'Six-Time' extra drive
Jimmy Jimmie Johnson found some extra motivation for the Crown Royal Presents the Combat Wounded Coalition 400 at the Brickyard (3:30 p.m. ET, NBCSN, IMS, Sirius XM NASCAR Radio) Sunday morning. The six-time NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion saw something amiss during a morning check of his pit stall. Morning motivation @rpatton22 pic.twitter.com/4TDoLM1bRf — Jimmie Johnson (@JimmieJohnson) July 24, 2016 Oops. A little credit, though. The fact that Indianapolis puts driver names on the pit road wall and above the garage stalls is immeasurably cool. And it looks like everything is fast at Indy, including the speed of folks in charge of the signage. Boo pic.twitter.com/yuOWY07Wzq — Jimmie Johnson (@JimmieJohnson) July 24, 2016
Gordon: SHR reached out before Daytona 500
RELATED: Full schedule for Indianapolis " Gordon through the years SPEEDWAY, Ind. -- Jeff Gordon 's "un-retirement" from competing in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series began in earnest Friday at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. The four-time Sprint Cup Series champion is filling in for Hendrick Motorsports teammate Dale Earnhardt Jr. at Indianapolis and next weekend at Pocono Raceway while Earnhardt recovers from concussion-like symptoms. Almost as surprising as Gordon's return to the driver's seat -- he retired from full-time competition after the 2015 season -- was his disclosure that he had been approached about filling in for the injured Tony Stewart in this year's Daytona 500 . Stewart, driver of the No. 14 Chevrolet and co-owner of the four-car organization, missed the first eight races after suffering a broken back in an off- road driving incident prior to the start of the 2016 season. Gordon's role as a FOX NASCAR analyst (the network provides coverage of the season's first 16 points races) prohibited him from returning to competition. "The crazy thing about all of this (is) I was asked to drive Tony Stewart 's car in Daytona to start the season," Gordon said Friday. "I wasn't able to do it because of my commitments to FOX. Now Rick (Hendrick, team owner) has some amazing ways to convince people into things that the average person might not be able to. I don't know, maybe he could have called Eric Shanks or something, but no, I don't think so." Shanks is President, COO and Executive Producer of FOX Sports. Stewart is competing in his final season as a driver. Sunday's Crown Royal Presents the Combat Wounded Coalition 400 at the Brickyard will be his final appearance at the famed 2.5-mile track, where he has earned two of his 49 career victories. That Gordon was asked about filling in earlier this season was news to Stewart. "I wasn't (aware)," Stewart said, "but that would have been awesome. That probably would have been one of the coolest things to happen this season. If that happened, I would have been all for it. … "I wasn't aware of that, but that would have been a really cool deal for us." MORE: Dale Jr. out, Gordon in No. 88 at Indianapolis, Pocono