Meet @nascartireguy and learn how he landed a job in the sport he loves FOLLOW: @nascartireguy on Twitter CONCORD, N.C. -- David Groseclose carefully takes the 27-year-old photograph out of its frame for closer examination, making it easier to marvel at its full-circle nature. Back then, a 10-year-old David and his older brother, Jeff -- both wearing Scouts uniforms -- sidled up to an aspiring rookie driver named Brett Bodine to pose for a photograph at the boys' home track, Bristol Motor Speedway. When their father took that snapshot in 1988, none of the parties could have imagined that the younger Groseclose would one day report to Bodine. That day came in January 2014, when Groseclose, now 37, showed up for work at the NASCAR Research & Development Center as the sanctioning body's lead tire engineer. For Groseclose -- who appropriately tweets from the handle @nascartireguy -- the position was the realization of a childhood dream, which took root from years of attending races at the Bristol track, just 10 minutes from his hometown of Blountville, Tennessee. When Groseclose stumbled upon the job listing, the enthusiasm was palpable. "Tire engineer? What could be better?" he recalled telling his wife, Susan. "She said, 'if you don't apply for that job, I'm going to divorce you.' " It never came to that, Groseclose laughed. After an initial callback, Groseclose was on the phone with Bodine, leading to an interview with both him and Gene Stefanyshyn, NASCAR's senior vice president of innovation and racing development. RELATED: Go inside the NASCAR R&D Center "David was exactly what we wanted; he had a passion for the sport," Bodine said last weekend at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. "As you know, to survive the work schedule and the workload of this sport, you've got to have a passion for it. You can't treat this like a 9-to-5 job. During the interview process, I realized that. That's what really made myself and Gene Stefanyshyn feel really good about hiring David." Plenty of Groseclose's passion stems from his long-running association with NASCAR as a fan, attending his first Bristol race at age 5 and -- as best as he can recall -- falling asleep by the halfway point, overwhelmed by the sights and sounds. He'll be back Wednesday, overseeing an open test for Sprint Cup teams on the .533-mile track but also taking time to savor the homecoming in the Tennessee hills. MORE: Teams get ready for Bristol test In a year and a half on the job, Groseclose's responsibilities have included scheduling and supervising all Goodyear tire tests, analyzing data and driver feedback to help fellow engineers make informed choices for selecting the right compound for a given track. Groseclose said he meets with Goodyear officials on a weekly basis, but that open communication with NASCAR's tire partner is a daily process. He is also responsible for all sections of the NASCAR Rule Book regarding wheels and tires. Groseclose's diverse background includes seven years in the U.S. Navy, studies in the field of nuclear power and time spent on the aircraft carrier USS Harry S. Truman, but his current duties are a natural extension of his seven-year stint with Bridgestone, where he served as the lead development coordinator and engineer for street tires. "Actually a lot of it transfers. Even though it's a racing tire, the construction, the basics are the same," Groseclose said. "Every tire's got a bead, every tire's got body-ply, every tire's got some type of belt. Now, passenger tires are steel belts and here they're not. The tread's a lot thicker on passenger tires because they've got to last a lot longer, but you can't have that thick of a tread on a racing tire because it heats up too much. If it gets too hot, it'll start coming apart. "A lot of it's the same, but parts of it are different because of the extreme conditions that racing tires have to go through." In addition to his work experience, Groseclose continues to draw upon his upbringing as a NASCAR enthusiast in the R&D setting, with Stefanyshyn often asking him to put on his "fan hat" in discussions about improving competition. That role goes even further back; Groseclose's actual fan hat from his youth was one loaded with souvenir pins, proudly displaying his status as a card-carrying member of the Harry Gant Fan Club. Groseclose's father attended Bristol's second-ever race in its inaugural season with his father, watching Joe Weatherly edge Rex White in a battle of NASCAR Hall of Famers in the 1961 Southeastern 500. His parents remain season-ticket holders. Now Groseclose shares his love of the sport with the next generation, his three young boys -- ages 8, 5 and 3, with a fourth child on the way, due in December. The only difference is that now it's not just a pastime for Groseclose, it's part of his life's work. "I loved the job I had before. I worked with really good people and it was a great job," Groseclose said. "I had no inclination of changing jobs, but when your dream job comes up, you've got to do something, right?" FULL SERIES COVERAGE • Latest news • Standings • Schedule
Cautions foiled the No. 88 team's strategy in the Brickyard 400 RELATED: Power Rankings after Indianapolis " How all 43 drivers fared at the Brickyard Sunday's annual NASCAR stop at Indianapolis Motor Speedway had a Murphy's Law quality to it for Dale Earnhardt Jr . But the 40-year-old driver, while frustrated, said that in the grand scheme of the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup points system, the run of Brickyard bad luck barely matters. Earnhardt described the set of circumstances that led to an unsavory 22nd-place finish at Indy in a sigh-filled Tuesday edition of the "Dale Jr. Download" podcast on Dirty Mo Radio. "Not a lot of fun out there," was the sentiment after a late pit- road mishap then a spin after contact with Hendrick Motorsports teammate Kasey Kahne -- all with less than 20 laps remaining. "With several laps to go, we were sitting out there in 16th or so and we were going to come down pit road and get four tires," Earnhardt told Dirty Mo Radio. "I don't know, we didn't. The reason is because who the hell cares where we finish if we can't win the race. I mean, we were going to come down pit road in 16th place. A lot of guys around us pitted and we were going to get four tires and come out probably ... we might beat two guys, we might lose two spots, what the hell ever. So it was a wash in my opinion." Earnhardt did enter pit road in 16th place, but left in 22nd after an air-gun failure slowed his stop for service , leaving his No. 88 Chevrolet team only able to change two tires instead of four. Earnhardt recovered from that and his slight brush with the Turn 1 wall to stay on the lead lap. With two regular-season victories in hand and his spot in the Chase playoffs assured thanks to the points format instituted ahead of the 2014 season, Earnhardt was able to shrug off the disappointment more easily ahead of Sunday's Windows 10 400 (1:30 p.m. ET, NBCSN, MRN, SiriusXM) at Pocono Raceway. "With the old system, you would do everything you could to get the best finish you could," Earnhardt said, "and that might mean forgoing the win and (saying), 'Hey man, if we do everything X, Y and Z and get lucky on the restarts, we might run 10th or we might finish eighth,' like some of those guys that we were racing with. But who damn cares about that? I'm sitting in 16th with 20-some laps to go, a lot of guys behind me are coming for tires. Do I want to be the last guy on old tires? No. I don't want to get eaten up by new tires, get in the wrong line on the restart and get screwed and not be competitive and not be on the offense. "We've got two wins, we're in the Chase, so what the hell's it matter between 10th and 20th? Who cares? If we do everything right, we finish 10th. If we don't do everything right, we finish 20th, but it's a wash either way. Doesn't even matter with this points system." Earnhardt bemoaned the sequence of yellow flags at Indianapolis and how the No. 88 team's strategy was adversely affected. Still, he championed the power of creative thinking from atop the pit box -- a resource that crew chief Greg Ives will have to employ this weekend at Pocono, where short-pitting, targeting fuel windows and other pit strategies frequently come into play. "The way this system works, you just go win, and if you can't win, do what everybody else ain't doing," Earnhardt said. "Do something different. Try something different. The same-ol', same-ol' is just going to get you the same boring-ass result." FULL SERIES COVERAGE • Latest news • Standings • Schedule
Eldora puts on another winner of a Trucks Series show Last week's visit to Eldora Speedway was the third consecutive year in which the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series raced on the half-mile dirt track. The 2015 event, which saw Christopher Bell hold off Bobby Pierce for the win, may have been the best race of the three. A good time is had by all each year, if Twitter reaction and turnout of stars is any indication. And we know Tony Stewart , owner of the Ohio facility, is interested in having stock cars grace his track. But is it a good idea? Should the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series or the NASCAR XFINITY Series host a race on dirt? Join NASCAR.com's Kathy Sheldon and Brad Norman in this debate, and leave your thoughts in the comments section below. Sheldon: Brad, you went to Eldora last week and have a first-hand account to share, but as someone watching on TV with most of NASCAR's fan base, I have two words: Heck yeah! Sliding, mud-slinging, back-to-our-roots racing at its finest came through again in the Wednesday night Truck Series race. At a time when tension flares between NASCAR's old guard fans and emerging generations and locations, dirt racing is an opportunity to showcase racing at its core, stripped down from all the rules packages and NASA-level tech that makes speedway racing thrilling to some old fashioned bumping, banging and racing that rewards the bold and brave drivers. Norman: You want a firsthand account of Eldora? I'll return your two words with two of my own: Awe. Some. Seriously, Eldora is a wonderful facility and the event was captivating. Magical, almost. That's why this should stay a once-a-year type of deal, Kathy. Drivers are split on this issue as well, but I agree with those like Austin Dillon (the event's first winner, mind you) that oversaturation is bad for the sport. Why make Eldora and the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series event less special? Why make it seem common? It's special, and there's nothing wrong with having a special event once a year. Sheldon: It's a good thought to keep things special, Brad, but I think we can have one dirt race a year in each series and still keep it special. We only have two road course races a year in Sprint Cup , and up until the latest Chase format, road course specialists often were brought in for those because they were so unique. Now many people are clamoring for a road race in the Chase. A dirt track sure would mix things up in the schedule, perhaps even giving a driver outside the usual suspects a shot at a Chase berth. Norman: I'm all for mixing things up, and you make some good points Kathy -- but I think the biggest follow-up question to your argument is also the biggest unknown. OK, let's have Sprint Cup and XFINITY on dirt. Where would the race be? Eldora? Hey, it's one of the best dirt track facilities in the region, probably the nation, and there's just no way it could support a Sprint Cup race. The infrastructure is simply not there, not to mention the seats. What about the haulers? The roads? If those are huge issues for Eldora -- one of the best -- then I don't think there's a dirt track in the world that could handle the crush. Sheldon: I have a venue suggestion: Birmingham International Raceway. It's been a horse track, a one-mile dirt oval, a half-mile dirt oval, a quarter-mile dirt oval and a five-eighths mile paved oval. NASCAR's premier series ran there in 1958 and 1961-68. The list of winners there: Fireball Roberts, Ned Jarrett, Jim Paschal, Richard Petty, Bobby Allison. It was home track to the Alabama Gang. Alas, the track was torn down in 2008-09, and a natatorium and track-and-field complex sits on the site now. But if Daytona can get a $400 million makeover, a big ol' track renovation is possible, too. If you build it, they will come! Norman: Sounds great! Now … who gets to tell a track president they are losing their date on the Sprint Cup calendar? I'd like to stay as far away from that one as possible. Because I think that's the final fallout piece. If NASCAR adds a race on dirt for the Sprint Cup Series or XFINITY Series, somewhere else has to go. Unless, of course, the sanctioning body is interested in adding more races to its calendar … in a time in which drivers think the number of races should scale back slightly. FULL SERIES COVERAGE • Latest news • Standings • Schedule
Drivers debate aero rules while at open test at Bristol Motor Speedway Maybe they aren’t completely sold on the high drag package that debuted this past weekend at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, but after a couple of days to chew on the results, drivers seemed a bit less vocal in their level of disappointment with the platform. "I applaud NASCAR for trying, doing everything they can," Joe Gibbs Racing driver Carl Edwards said during a break in Wednesday's open test at Bristol Motor Speedway. "They're trying all these different things to produce the best racing they can." Not exactly an endorsement for the Indy package, which will also be used in August when the Sprint Cup Series returns to Michigan International Speedway, but an understanding of what NASCAR officials are hoping to develop. However, Edwards, who finished 13th at Indy after winning the pole, remains steadfast in his belief that the continued reduction in downforce is the best route. "I believe the racing as we lose aero dependency, as they take downforce away, you're just going to see better and better racing," he said. "… I really think the more we go back toward that, the better off we're going to be." The high drag package featured a 9-inch spoiler (a 3-inch increase) as well as other aero changes. Downforce was impacted, but only slightly. Instead, the taller spoiler created a larger wake of air behind the cars. Ryan Blaney , 12th at Indy, said he thought the high drag package "showed promise." "There are good things and bad things you can take away from each package," the Wood Brothers Racing driver said. "That's what it's always going to be no matter what package you bring; there's always going to be positives and negatives and drivers are going to have different feedback about every one. "I thought the high drag package really helped us get big runs down the straightaways behind other cars and you could make a move getting in the corner. But Indy being a single-lane race track it was hard to kind of make a move in the corner. You had to kind of set yourself up for the straightaway." Michael Waltrip Racing driver David Ragan agreed that the taller spoiler and other configurations made for a better closing rate on others when coming off the corners and onto the long straightaways at Indy. "But once you got to their back bumper, once you pulled out, you really couldn't do anything with that run," Ragan, who finished 21st, said. "It was real easy to stall out. I'm not an aero specialist so I don't know if we could tweak on that … I thought the cars changed balance a lot behind other cars. … When I could run by myself, my car would be a little on the tight side and when I would catch a car, or if I caught two cars side-by-side in front of me, my car would shift to really, really loose really quick. "I think just all the air off of their cars was disruptive and I didn't have any consistent air on mine. You had to be on the wheel and on top of it making adjustments certainly when you were in traffic or by yourself." While Indy's 2.5-mile course is tight, one-groove and without much banking, Michigan should be a better barometer for the package. "I think you will see some bigger packs at Michigan," Ragan said. "You’ve got a little more grip in the race track, you've got a little more banking, definitely more grooves so I think you've got more options to run two- and three-wide in the corners. "But I think my big concern is the handling for those guys that are in the middle of the pack. The cars in the top four or five are going to have a very good advantage just from the fact of having clean air. Those guys running 20th are going to have to fight a different fight because of handling. "It will definitely be, in my opinion, a little better going to Michigan just because the race track will promote a little better racing." Tire Chatter Sprint Cup and Camping World Truck Series teams competing at Pocono (Pa.) Raceway this weekend will run the same Goodyear tire codes and a combination that's been used at the 2.5-mile, three-turn track since 2012. According to Goodyear, the tire combination is used only at Pocono. Meanwhile, XFINITY Series teams competing this weekend at Iowa Speedway will use the same combination used there earlier this season. Indy Violations There were 31 pit- road penalties handed down during Sunday's Crown Royal presents the Jeff Kyle 400 at the Brickyard, nearly half of which were due to team pitting before pit road was open. NASCAR officials announced a P3-level penalty Wednesday levied against the No. 98 Premium Motorsports team for an unattached weight that fell of the car during practice at IMS. FULL SERIES COVERAGE • Latest news • Standings • Schedule
Cole Whitt runs into the back of Sam Hornish Jr. when Hornish stops abruptly to avoid contact with Danica Patrick on pit road during practice at Kentucky Speedway.
Crew chief suspended for a race; team owner docked 15 points RELATED: NASCAR's official release NASCAR handed down a P3-level penalty Wednesday to the Premium Motorsports No. 98 Ford team for failure to properly attach weight during last weekend's Sprint Cup Series event at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. The No. 98 car, driven by Timmy Hill for the second straight week in last Sunday's Crown Royal Presents the Jeff Kyle 400, lost a piece of tungsten during Friday practice near the pit- road exit on the 2.5-mile track. The dropped weight was a violation of three sections of the 2015 NASCAR Rule Book (Sections 12:1; 126.96.36.199.1; 20.3.5). NASCAR officials suspended crew chief Scott Eggleston for one Sprint Cup Series race and fined him $25,000. NASCAR also suspended car chief Kevin Eagle for one race. Both were placed on probation through Dec. 31. Mike Curb, the listed team owner for the Premium No. 98, was also docked 15 championship points in the car owner standings. The No. 98 began the year under the Phil Parsons Racing umbrella before Premium Motorsports took ownership in the spring. Josh Wise failed to qualify the car for the season-opening Daytona 500 , but competed in the next 17 races before announcing that he had parted ways with the team. Hill has driven for the team the last two weekends. FULL SERIES COVERAGE • Latest news • Standings • Schedule
Keep tabs on this week's national series activity The NASCAR Sprint Cup Series and NASCAR Camping World Truck Series head to Pocono Raceway, while the NASCAR XFINITY Series travels to Iowa Speedway. Here's more info on how you can follow along all weekend. RACES Sprint Cup Series: Windows 10 400 (Sunday, Aug. 2, 1:30 p.m. ET, NBC Sports Network, MRN Radio, SiriusXM) XFINITY Series: U.S. Cellular 250 presented by New Holland (Saturday, Aug. 1, 8 p.m. ET, NBC Sports Network, MRN Radio, SiriusXM) Camping World Truck Series: Pocono Mountains 150 (Saturday, Aug. 1, 1 p.m. ET, FOX Sports 1, MRN Radio, SiriusXM) &amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;nbsp; WEEKEND SCHEDULE Click here for on-track times, press conferences, leaderboards and GarageCam. RACE DAY • NSCS leaderboard • NXS leaderboard • NCWTS leaderboard • NSCS Lap-by-Lap • NXS Lap-by-Lap • NCWTS Lap-by-Lap • NSCS live standings PRODUCTS • RaceBuddy: Through the remainder of the season, NASCAR RaceBuddy will feature two (2) alternate live action camera angles, along with up to six (6) in-car cameras with different driver selections for each Sprint Cup race. • RaceView: Watch virtual video of cars on track and listen to the scanner. • RaceView Mobile: On your phone? Try RaceView here. • Scanner: In-car audio only. • Mobile Apps: Follow the leaderboards live from your device. NBC SPORTS LIVE EXTRA Web stream: NBC Sports Live Extra Mobile app: iOS/Android NBC Sports Group’s live streaming product for desktops, mobile devices, tablets, and connected TVs will provide racing fans with unparalleled interactive digital access to every NASCAR Sprint Cup series race, including exclusive camera angles, custom diver information, and insider track information. • Multi-view options that bring fans inside the race, combining NBC Sports Group’s race simulcast and alternative camera angles, ranging from in-car views to various key track locations. For the Quaker State 400 Presented by Advance Auto Parts NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race on July 11, one specialty camera will offer an innovative speed shot from Turn 4, capturing the cars as they speed by. • Dedicated full-view, on-board alternate cameras. • Additional features on the desktop/laptop experience, bringing fans comprehensive race-day information to their fingertips, including: • Driver updates, cup standings, and biographies • Track infographics with key facts and history NBC Sports Live Extra will stream NASCAR coverage on NBC and NBCSN via "TV Everywhere", giving consumers additional value to for their subscription service , and making high quality content available to MVPD customers both in and out of the home and on multiple platforms. The NBC Sports Live Extra app is available on the iTunes App Store, Google Play, Windows Store, Roku Channel Store and Apple TV. For desktops, NBC Sports Live Extra can be accessed at NBCSports.com/liveextra . FOX SPORTS GO The Camping World Truck Series Pocono Mountains 150 will be available through FOX Sports GO; which is an online and mobile streaming product that allows subscribers of participating TV providers to watch live sports and shows from FOX, FOX Sports 1, FOX Sports 2 and FOX Deportes. FOX Sports GO is currently available for download on iTunes for iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch devices or can be accessed online at FOXSportsGO.com . The app is also available via Google Play, Kindle Fire and from the Windows Store. Access to programming in FOX Sports GO requires a pay TV subscription of FOX Sports 1 with a participating TV provider. Login credentials are the same username and password used to access online accounts with your TV provider. FANTASY • NASCAR Fantasy Live: Set your lineups, check your progress • Streak to the Finish: Play in all three national series LIVE INTERVIEWS PressPass: Watch exclusive post-race interviews. Stay tuned to NASCAR.com throughout the weekend for the latest news.
Edwards: "This is like the first practice session" BRISTOL, Tenn. -- More than one dozen NASCAR Sprint Cup Series teams spent Wednesday testing at Bristol Motor Speedway, preparing for next month's return when the high-banked, half-mile track hosts the Irwin Tools Night Race . "The surface here doesn't change a lot, but the groove changes a lot," Joe Gibbs Racing 's Carl Edwards said of the concrete racing surface during a break in the eight-hour session. "People end up racing right up against the fence. "We're not really able to do that today. Basically, this is like the first practice session (of a race weekend) -- when we show up (in August), the race track will be like this." Still, with only six races remaining before the field is officially set for this year's Chase for the Sprint Cup , any opportunity to improve one's chances for one of the six events isn't taken lightly. "Seventy-five percent (of what we do today) is relevant," Edwards said. "We're just not really able to run up there to that high groove." Edwards, a winner in this year's Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway, hasn't officially locked in a spot in the 16-team Chase field, but for he and a handful of others that have already won this year, it's a formality. Three of Edwards' 24 career wins in Sprint Cup have come at BMS and he was fast here on Wednesday. He also cut a tire down during the afternoon session, and contact with the wall did a bit of cosmetic damage to the No. 19 Toyota. "We know exactly what we were lacking when we came here the last race," he said, "so it gives us the opportunity to work on some things." In addition to Edwards, other teams taking part in the test were Ryan Blaney ( Wood Brothers Racing ), Joey Logano ( Team Penske ), Aric Almirola ( Richard Petty Motorsports ), Ricky Stenhouse Jr . ( Roush Fenway Racing ), Paul Menard ( Richard Childress Racing ), David Ragan ( Michael Waltrip Racing ), Jamie McMurray ( Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates), Danica Patrick ( Stewart-Haas Racing ), Travis Kvapil (TMG), Kasey Kahne ( Hendrick Motorsports ) and Landon Cassill (Mike Hillman Racing). Logano and Kahne are also previous winners at Bristol. Stenhouse is still searching for his first Sprint Cup win; the fast BMS track seems to suit his driving style. The 27-year-old has finished sixth or higher in his last three starts here. "It's just fun," Stenhouse Jr. said. "I like running the top, it kind of reminds me of a dirt track the way you can really kind of turn to the right getting into the corner once we get some rubber down on the top lane. We haven't gotten it quite high enough today, but we've worked pretty far up there." The RFR driver is 27th in points, and his fourth-place finish here earlier this year has been his only top 10. "Honestly, being 18th or 19th in points or where we are, if you don't have a win, you're still outside (the Chase)," he said. "I could be eight spots better and it really wouldn't do me any good other than obviously we're getting better finishes, better results." A two-time XFINITY Series champion, Stenhouse said the No. 17 team has improved -- "I think we're getting better," he said -- but the gap between his group and the leaders is still a wide one. "That's why we really kind of embraced coming to this test," he said. "It's been a good race for us in the past. Out of the races that are left, it's probably our best shot to catch a break. "We've been close (here); we know we're not exactly there yet. But we know if we make the right adjustments and get the car a little better, then we'll have the opportunity. And really, that's all you can ask for." The Irwin Tools Night Race is scheduled for Aug. 22 (7:30 p.m. ET, NBCSN, PRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio). FULL SERIES COVERAGE • Latest news • Standings • Schedule
No. 18 team is clicking, winning four of last five races RELATED: Where Busch's streak ranks " Kyle's post-Indy Facebook page Two days after a dramatic and dazzling victory at Indianapolis Motor Speedway -- his third consecutive NASCAR Sprint Cup win and fourth in five weeks -- Kyle Busch still sounded awed and amazed. The 30-year-old confessed Tuesday in a national teleconference with reporters that there was a time when he thought his season was over before it started and insisted the guiding force in his recent historic high performance was as much because of the people around him -- doctors, his wife Samantha and crew chief Adam Stevens -- as it was something he's been doing differently. "It was a natural reaction initially," Busch conceded, thinking he wouldn't race again in 2015 after suffering serious injuries -- broken leg and foot -- in the Feb. 21 season-opening XFINITY Series race at Daytona International Speedway. "Fortunately, everything came to plan actually quicker than we all anticipated, and for me, once I started listening to doctors and understanding what all was going on and what all I was going to go through, I realized, 'OK, I'm going to be back this year.' " "They didn't want to rush me coming back too soon and take a chance of reinjuring something. We made the right decisions. I think everything just kind of came together and fell nicely." And that's the understatement of the season. Busch said he will be having further offseason surgery to have plates taken out of his left foot and screws removed from his right leg. And if he responds to that surgery and recovery like he has this season, the competition should be very worried. The Joe Gibbs Racing driver is on a rare and impressive run that seldom happens in NASCAR's most competitive ranks. After missing the first 11 races of the season, Busch has won four times in the nine events he's started. By winning Sunday's Brickyard 400 -- the first victory ever for Toyota in the race -- Busch cut a 58-point deficit to 30th place in the standings to 23 points with six races remaining to decide the 16-driver Chase for the Sprint Cup playoff field. When Busch received a Chase eligibility waiver from NASCAR upon his return, it came with two conditions: that he win a race and be ranked among the top 30 in the drivers standings. When Busch returned to competition in May, he was 179 points behind then 30th place driver Tony Stewart . He's made up 156 points in nine races. Asked on Tuesday if he credits his current win streak and ability to overcome the setbacks to a more mature mentality or extra motivation, the new father Busch had a much simpler answer: people. "I think I would point more so towards the relationship with Adam Stevens and myself," Busch said thoughtfully. "There was never a time and there was never a weekend that we weren't able to speak to one another (when Busch was recovering from injury). "I think that really helps fortify a relationship as much as we could without me being in the race. Then since I've been in the car, just trusting what he's doing and giving him all the feedback I possibly can and letting him go to work. "He's done a really good job -- the whole team (has) of everything that they've put together for me. "Maybe it was a little bit of other stuff, too, studying the racing and seeing what was going on and being hungry for it and wanting it and knowing that this is what I want to do. I don't have anything else in life that interests me as much as driving race cars." The result has been nothing short of amazing -- to watch, to cheer, to chronicle and understandably to take part in. "I definitely think the whole company is really jacked up," Busch said. "Everybody at Joe Gibbs Racing feels everything going and coming together as a whole. Even my teammates, we went to lunch the other day and everybody is just kind of gelling and happy. "Everyone is smiling and they're happy for me and the success that we've had at the 18-car but also the success that the company is starting to put together as well with a bunch of us finishing in the top 10 each and every week. "It's a lot of hard work, a lot of dedication. Adam Stevens and his group of guys on the 18 have really come together and come full circle. It actually started out real tough with them and they were down in the dumps maybe and really weren't sure what was going to happen or who the driver was going to be week-to-week. But Matt Crafton , David Ragan and Erik Jones did a fantastic job filling in for me. And once I've gotten back maybe it took a couple weeks to kind of knock the rust off a little bit, but since then it seems like we're running on all eight cylinders and just have done a fantastic job being able to get our M&Ms Crispy as well as our Skittles Camry into Victory Lane." FULL SERIES COVERAGE • Latest news • Standings • Schedule
Interim driver hoping to continue in No. 55 ride RELATED: Toyota not sure what MWR will do BRISTOL, Tenn. -- David Ragan , 10 starts into his role as driver of the Michael Waltrip Racing No. 55 Toyota, said he's yet to speak with MWR officials, or anyone else, about his future role with the organization. Ragan joined MWR earlier this season after a nine-race stint with Joe Gibbs Racing as interim driver for the No. 18 team of Kyle Busch . His first start of the year, the Daytona 500 in February, came with Front Row Motorsports . "I haven't talked about next year with anybody for anything," Ragan said before the start of an open test on Wednesday at Bristol Motor Speedway. "In regards to some of the rumors that are out there, I've read just like everybody else has online, but all I can do is the best I can do week in and week out and hopefully everything will take care of themselves." Ragan qualified third for the second consecutive race this past weekend at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. It was his fourth top-10 start in the past five races. However, he has only two finishes inside the top 15 since joining the team in a relief role for driver Brian Vickers , who remains sidelined due to medical issues. Aaron's, a long-time MWR sponsor and currently the primary sponsor for the No. 55 entry, has yet to announce its plans beyond the 2015 season. In addition to the No. 55, MWR also fields the No. 15 Sprint Cup entry with driver Clint Bowyer . Sponsorship is provided by 5-hour ENERGY and both Bowyer and the sponsor are in the first year of multi-year agreements with the organization. Ragan, 29, is a two-time winner in the Sprint Cup Series. His first win came in July of 2011 at Daytona with Roush Fenway Racing . In 2013, he put Front Row Motorsports in Victory Lane for the first time when he won at Talladega (Ala.) Superspeedway. MWR is said to be considering a split from Toyota, which has provided engines and technical support to the organization since the automaker moved into Sprint Cup in 2007. Dave Wilson, President & General Manager, Toyota Racing Development, USA, told NASCAR.com that he did not know if the relationship with MWR would continue beyond 2015. In the meantime, Ragan said he would like to remain at MWR going forward if that is an option. "I like everyone at MWR and the Aaron's folks have been great to work with," he said. "We've got a good thing going ... hopefully we can keep it going. That'd be fun." FULL SERIES COVERAGE • Latest news • Standings • Schedule