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Post-Race Reactions: Good Sam Club 200
Clint Bowyer, Blake Feese, Kyle Busch, James Buescher and Ryan Newman comment on their Atlanta finishes.
Final Laps: Hornaday holds on in Atlanta
Ron Hornaday uses pit strategy to hold off a hard-charging Clint Bowyer and win the Good Sam Club 200 .
Victory Lane: Ron Hornaday
Ron Hornaday celebrates his 49th career NCWTS victory after the Good Sam Club 200 .
Almirola reflects on career, heritage as he makes 200th start
Aric Almirola insists he was absolutely prepared to climb into his No. 43 Smithfield Ford this Sunday for the Pennsylvania 400 at Pocono Raceway completely focused on nothing other than scoring a victory and working toward earning a position in the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup. But his public relations team brought up an important milestone that even he conceded was definitely worth noting, if not celebrating. This Sunday's race marks the 32-year old Almirola's 200th NASCAR Sprint Cup Series start -- a significant measure of his staying power and a testament to how far he's come. Literally. He is the son of a Cuban immigrant on his dad's side of the family and the grandson of one of Florida's most celebrated and accomplished racers -- Sam Rodriguez -- on his mom's side. That has created a unique background dynamic that gives Almirola motivation and pride. And makes this weekend a heartfelt measure of success. "I think here I am and my dad came over from Cuba and 50 years later I'm making my 200th start in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series for Richard Petty," Almirola said. "It's so crazy to me, what living in this country affords you and allows you to be able to do, and my grandparents made that decision to come over here and take this chance." The sheer number of starts represents a mark of opportunity for Almirola. Making it into NASCAR's big league was always the harder path, the road less travelled. But he has made it. And that's only the beginning. "I don't think anybody dreams about running two hundred races, they dream about 'a' race," Almirola said. "So as a kid I dreamed about driving 'a' Cup car, running 'a' race. So, now the fact I've had the opportunity to do it two hundred times, when you realize that, and the marketing department brings to your attention that, 'Hey, Pocono is going to be your 200th start,' it really makes you kind of reflect on everything that's led up to this. "From being a kid racing go-karts all the way up to all the opportunities I've had. I realize by reflecting on all that stuff how fortunate and blessed I am." The thing is, Almirola could have just as easily been a star baseball player as a winning NASCAR driver. His native city of Tampa, Florida is a ballplayer's town. It produced Wade Boggs and Lou Piniella. Both Dwight Gooden and Gary Sheffield graduated from Almirola's Hillsborough High School. A calendar year in this part of the country has traditionally been delineated by baseball and football seasons. That just makes Almirola's success climbing the NASCAR ranks even more impressive. "I was in somewhat of a hot bed there for athletes," Almirola said smiling. "But I had a really strong passion for racing and I know that made me somewhat of an outsider at school growing up. When friends would ask, 'Hey what are you doing this weekend?' I'd say, I was going racing. "That kind of separated me from a lot of kids at school -- not in a bad way, I wasn't an outcast in a negative way, but I didn't have as close a relationship with kids at school because I didn't go parties at their house Friday night after football games. I was always working on my race cars or go-karts and racing on the weekends. "I wasn't looking for something to do on the weekend. I already had it." "I was always going to be a NASCAR guy. My grandfather raced sprint cars, so obviously the open wheel path was there, too. He'd race at East Bay every Saturday night and occasionally travel around the country going to races. But every Sunday it was normal, to get up, eat breakfast, hang around the house and then watch the Cup race. That was routine around my parents and my grandparents. We love NASCAR." The result for Almirola has been a starring role driving his sport's most iconic car -- the No. 43 -- for the sport's biggest legend, Petty. NASCAR's crown jewel, Daytona International Speedway, is also Almirola's "home track" and fittingly the venue he won his first Sprint Cup Series race in 2014, the Coke Zero 400 -- exactly 30 years after his boss Petty scored his historic 200th victory at the track. Consider this: Petty's win total would be equivalent to Almirola winning every start he's made. RELATED: Almirola's Darlington scheme honors Petty " Darlington schemes Though that remains the only Cup victory so far for Almirola, it was enough to propel him into the 2014 Chase and make him only more eager to return. His team's best finish this year is a 12th-place in the season-opening Daytona 500. He's had four top-15 showings -- three in the season's opening four races. He ranks 25th in points entering Pocono, hopeful to score a win in one of the remaining six races to set the 16-driver Chase field. "I think the reality is we have struggled this season and you can tell by watching the race and looking at our results," Almirola said. "This year has been a struggle and we can't really put our finger on what's wrong. People often ask what's wrong and it sounds like a smart-aleck answer, but if I knew, we'd fix it. "There are a couple places looking ahead that have been strong for us. Bristol comes to top of mind. We had a chance to win there a couple years ago battling with Carl Edwards. And then there's (regular season finale) Richmond. Last year we went there kinda do or die to make the Chase and finished fourth, but had a really strong car and a legitimate chance to win that race, too. Those are kind of top of mind to me where we might go in and get a win." Listening to Almirola reflect on his first 200 races, there is both a fond memory of what it took to get to this point and a distinct urgency in his voice to succeed in a way worthy of the hard work already put in. "Making my 200th start really forces me to reflect and when I do that and think about doing it for Richard Petty, who is very much an American icon. And I can't help but reflect on my family, which has done so much and sacrificed so much to get me where I'm at," Almirola said. "It really is amazing."
Truex jokes about friendship with Stewart
Martin Truex Jr. jokes about his good friend, Tony Stewart, and a moment they had at Auto Club Speedway.
Ben-Hur's Jack Huston to drive pace car at The Glen
WATKINS GLEN, N.Y. (July 29, 2016) -- Jack Huston, star of the upcoming epic action adventure "BEN-HUR" from Paramount Pictures and Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Pictures, will drive a 2016 Toyota Camry pace car to kick off the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Cheez-It™ 355 at Watkins Glen International on Sunday, August 7. This will be Huston’s first time serving as an Official Pace Car drive at a NASCAR Sprint Cup Series event. He will also be recognized during pre-race ceremonies and will greet each NASCAR driver on stage during driver introductions. "I am excited to join NASCAR and get behind the wheel of today’s modern chariot," said Huston. "BEN-HUR" is the epic story of Judah Ben-Hur (Jack Huston), a prince falsely accused of treason by his adopted brother Messala (Toby Kebbell), an officer in the Roman army. Stripped of his title, separated from his family and the woman he loves (Nazanin Boniadi), Judah is forced into slavery. After years at sea, Judah returns to his homeland to seek revenge, but finds redemption. Based on Lew Wallace's timeless novel, Ben-Hur: A Tale of the Christ. The film also stars Rodrigo Santoro, Nazanin Boniadi, Ayelet Zurer, Pilou Asbaek, Sofia Black D’Elia and Morgan Freeman. Timur Bekmambetov directed the film from a screenplay by Keith Clarke and John Ridley. Sean Daniel, Joni Levin, and Duncan Henderson served as producers, with Mark Burnett, Roma Downey, Keith Clarke, John Ridley, and Jason F. Brown serving as executive producers. "BEN-HUR" will be released in theaters on August 19, 2016. Huston previously starred for four seasons in HBO's hit series, Boardwalk Empire, as the sniper with the horribly disfigured face, 'Richard Harrow.' In 2013, Huston appeared in the critically acclaimed and award-winning film American Hustle, where he played mobster 'Pete Musane.' Additionally, he starred as 'Young Ira' in George Tillman Jr.'s film adaption of the Nicholas Sparks novel, The Longest Ride. The NASCAR Sprint Cup Series returns to Watkins Glen International August 4-7 for the Cheez-It™ 355 race weekend, which also features the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East Bully Hill Vineyards 100, and the NASCAR XFINITY Series Zippo 200 at The Glen. Tickets for all of the action are available by calling 1-866-461-RACE or by logging on to www.theglen.com . Fans can also watch the Cheez-It™ 355 live on USA at 2:30 p.m. ET or listen on MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio. Located within five (5) hours (~300 miles) of 25 percent of the US population, Watkins Glen International is the premier road racing facility in North America, voted "Best NASCAR Track" by readers of USA Today. Keep up with The Glen on Facebook and Twitter. For tickets, call 866-461-RACE or visit www.theglen.com.
Chase-clinching scenarios at Pocono and Iowa
The Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup doesn't begin until September, but several drivers could officially clinch a spot in the postseason field this weekend at Pocono Raceway. So far, the five drivers who have clinched Chase berths are Brad Keselowski, Kyle Busch, Carl Edwards, Jimmie Johnson and Matt Kenseth. Below are Chase-clinching scenarios for this weekend's Sprint Cup Series race at Pocono: Possible to Clinch: Kevin Harvick (1 win, 671 points, +434 points ahead of 31st): Can clinch with a win. Kurt Busch (1 wins, 627 points, +390 points ahead of 31st): Can clinch with a win. Joey Logano (1 Win, 606 points, +369 points ahead of 31st): Can clinch with a win. Martin Truex Jr (1 win, 573 points, +336 points ahead of 31st): Can clinch with a win. Denny Hamlin (1 win, 542 points, +305 points ahead of 31st): Can clinch with a win. All of the above drivers have already clinched a position in the top 30 in the drivers points standings, but need to clear the multiple wins hurdle. It's possible that no drivers will clinch a Chase berth this weekend if a driver wins his first race of the season or an already-clinched driver wins. XFINITY Series The XFINITY Series Chase doesn't begin until September as well, but several drivers are looking to close their playoff position up with a win. At present, Erik Jones, Daniel Suarez and Elliott Sadler are locked into the postseason. Below are the Chase-clinching scenarios for XFINITY drivers at Iowa this weekend. Possible to clinch: Ty Dillon (0 Wins, 558 Points, +460 Points Ahead of 31st) – Can clinch with a win. Justin Allgaier (0 Wins, 542 Points, +444 Points Ahead of 31st) – Can clinch with a win. Brendan Gaughan (0 Wins, 535 Points, +437 Points Ahead of 31st) – Can clinch with a win. Brandon Jones (0 Wins, 520 Points, +422 Points Ahead of 31st) – Can clinch with a win. Brennan Poole (0 Wins, 519 Points, +421 Points Ahead of 31st) – Can clinch with a win. Darrell Wallace Jr. (0 Wins, 486 Points, +388 Points Ahead of 31st) – Can clinch with a win. Ryan Reed (0 Wins, 433 Points, +335 Points Ahead of 31st) – Can clinch with a win. Ryan Sieg (0 Wins, 420 Points, +322 Points Ahead of 31st) – Can clinch with a win. Blake Koch (0 Wins, 403 Points, +305 Points Ahead of 31st) – Can clinch with a win. Camping World Truck Series The Camping World Truck Series Chase doesn't begin until September, but several drivers are looking to firm up their playoff position up with a win. At present, only William Byron and Matt Crafton are locked into the postseason. Below are the Chase-clinching scenarios for Camping World Truck Series drivers at Pocono this weekend. Possible to clinch: Johnny Sauter (1 Win, 253 Points, +207 Points Ahead of 31st) – He has clinched a Top 30, but needs to join the multiple winners club in order to clinch a Chase berth, so he only clinches with a win. Christopher Bell (1 Win, 245 Points, +199 Points Ahead of 31st) – He has clinched a Top 30, but needs to join the multiple winners club in order to clinch a Chase berth, so he only clinches with a win. John Hunter Nemechek (1 Win, 232 Points, +186 Points Ahead of 31st) – He has clinched a Top 30, but needs to join the multiple winners club in order to clinch a Chase berth, so he only clinches with a win.
Byron checks off boxes one milestone at a time
Editor's note: This story originally ran July 12, prior to Byron's fifth series win of 2016 at Pocono Raceway. William Byron had one request for his father when he attended his first-ever NASCAR race at Martinsville Speedway on April 2, 2006. To see the ever-popular burnout. "My first race I went to, actually, Tony Stewart won and he climbed the fence at Martinsville," Byron told NASCAR.com at the Kyle Busch Motorsports shop in Mooresville, North Carolina earlier this month. "I told my dad when I went to my first race that we had to stay for the burnout, and now I get to do the burnouts, I get to do the cool celebrations, so that's a neat part for me." Now with four 2016 wins in just 11 career starts and an official lock in the Chase, the Camping World Truck Series Sunoco Rookie of the Year contender has left his own marks on the start/finish lines of Kansas Speedway , Texas Motor Speedway , Iowa Speedway and, most recently, Kentucky Speedway on July 7. For Byron -- who confessed he didn't even know how to do a burnout after his first win in Victory Lane -- the initial wave of success has taken the 18-year-old on a strong current that has left the NASCAR community wondering: where did this kid come from? Most recently, the hallways of Charlotte Country Day School in Charlotte, North Carolina. • • • It wasn't long ago that young Byron was living the life of an ordinary high school student in his hometown of Charlotte, North Carolina. Balancing classes, homework and the everyday tasks of high schoolers, he earned his first Camping World Truck Series win at Kansas Speedway just three weeks before donning a cap and gown for high school graduation. Diploma now in hand and atop the Camping World Truck Series point standings, he hasn't let off the gas since. "The first win was nerve-wracking and kind of got that out of the way so we could focus on the Chase," Byron said. "But then we kind of realized we had to get a second win to make sure we were locked into the Chase. When we got that second one at Texas, everything just started to roll after that." His success in a short period of time has surprised and impressed many. His mother, who was also at the race shop on Monday afternoon following a team win luncheon, showed off a picture of one of her son's early wins in racing, much like any proud mother would of her star high school football player, talented musician or stellar student. Several years ago, she wouldn't have anticipated William would be racing like he is today. Neither did William. "When I was a fan, I was a big fan of Jimmie Johnson ," Byron recalled. "… I just watched the races just like any young kid out there and aspired to be in racing. Not necessarily a driver, but now I've been able to drive and it's a dream come true." Byron kick-started his career later than most budding racers, purchasing his first Legends car at the age of 14, just four years ago. "When I was 12 or 13 … I started to understand racing and how I could drive a race car," Byron said. "I started to do iRacing and I was pretty good at it, so then I said, well if I can do that, maybe I can get into a Legend car or a real car and succeed in that. "Every step was kind of a new check off the list to see if I could do it." • • • As the 2016 season rolls on, Byron continues to check boxes off his list. His win at Kentucky marked the 51st win for Kyle Busch Motorsports, the most for any Camping World Truck Series team in series history. He matched Kurt Busch 's 2000 record in the Truck Series for the most wins in one season by a rookie with four trips to Victory Lane. Only difference between a young Busch and Byron? Busch recorded his final 2000 Truck Series win at the end of the season, while Byron has 13 more races to surpass that record and pencil his own name into the history books. "That's another incentive going down the road to try and get another win to break that record," Byron said of the potential milestone. "That's a personal incentive, but I like the team incentive that we set, just like getting the 51st win was really important to my guys and just really good for our team." With a humble and friendly demeanor, Byron gives credit to his team, both his own No. 9 crew as well as teammate and Gateway winner Christopher Bell , who he'll lean on for dirt experience in the upcoming race at Eldora Speedway . Bell won the race at the dirt track last year. And of course, there's team owner Kyle Busch , who has served as a mentor for several young drivers, including reigning Camping World Truck Series champion Erik Jones . Busch often refers to his young pupils jokingly as students in the " Kyle Busch School of Charm" -- but that charm dissipates slightly on the race track, as "Rowdy" transitions into often his students' fiercest competitor. "Kyle's competitive, obviously; he wants to win every week," Byron said of the boss man. "But at the same time, he doesn’t compromise the race team and helping us grow as young drivers to make sure we know what we need to do on the race track. So, he's a coach, a mentor and also a competitor. But when we get out there on the race track, he’s definitely trying to win and that's the cool part about it." Byron may be passing the School of Charm with flying colors but he'll become a student in a different facet in the fall, when he attends Liberty University as a business major. He's begun taking a couple courses now, but will start attending classes on campus when the new semester commences. Tack on the start of the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Chase in September, and the 18-year-old is looking at quite a hectic autumn. "The number one focus is the race team and that's what we’re making sure to do, is that we stay focused on what I need to do around the shop or how I need to manage that," Byron said. "But Liberty does a great job of managing my school around my racing. They know my schedule is busy, they see the races on T.V. and and they make sure that they’re following me, so they're going to know in the fall that there’s a lot going on but I think they really support it and they'll be able to work around it." As for the Chase? Byron & Co. have already started their homework. "The Chase races are races that we're, as a race team, are really good at," Byron said. "The mile-and-a-half races, we've won three of those of the four this year, and a couple short tracks we've done well on too. I think we're going to be really strong in Martinsville in the Chase and I've got a win at New Hampshire in the K&N car, so hopefully we can get a win there and solidify our spot in the next round and get to Martinsville to get to Homestead. "It's a tough challenge, but I'm just hoping that we have solid finishes and get a couple wins." Win by win, the column of checked boxes on Byron’s list seems to get longer and longer. While he focuses his target on the Camping World Truck Series championship for now, he aims higher later down the road. "Hopefully I can get to the (Sprint) Cup Series in the next four, five years," Byron said. "That's ultimately the goal to race at the top level of NASCAR. "I'm just trying to build those opportunities as they come and hopefully that's what lies ahead." &amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;lt;/p&amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;gt;
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;
Moffitt hopes third-place run opens more doors
RELATED: Full race results LONG POND, Pa. -- Brett Moffitt finished the 2015 season as the Sprint Cup Series Sunoco Rookie of the Year. He started the 2016 season without a ride -- in any national series. After completing his rookie campaign behind the wheel of the No. 34 Front Row Motorsports ride currently inhabited by reigning XFINITY Series champion Chris Buescher, Moffitt found himself seatless heading into this season with more questions than answers regarding his career trajectory. Fill-in duty came calling earlier this month as Red Horse Racing needed a driver for its No. 11 Toyota at Kentucky, with Matt Tifft sidelined following surgery to remove a low-grade brain tumor. After starting second, an engine failure while running in the top five relegated Moffitt to a 31st-place finish. RELATED: Tifft tweets upbeat video post-surgery The 23-year-old was again behind the wheel at Pocono Raceway for Saturday's Pocono Mountains 150, carving his way through the field -- and a wreck-heavy, race-record nine cautions -- to finish third after starting 15th. Despite the lack of seat time this season, it appears Moffitt hasn't forgotten what to do when his team gives him a machine capable of competing. "We didn't make a single adjustment on it during the race; we really had a good truck. (Crew chief) Scott (Zipadelli) called a great race; great strategy. Got us up front when it mattered," Moffitt said. " … We were actually really lucky (to stay out of the wrecks). It seemed like when it happened, it would happen right in front of us, so we were able to duck to the bottom and avoid before cars get stacked up three and four-wide trying to avoid it and you get forced into a lane. "It worked out alright for us, we just saw a lot of attrition right in front of us. Part of qualifying getting rained out was that we started mid-pack and we had to do what the leaders didn't. So that's why we went with that strategy and it ended up working out, but it was a little bit nerve-wracking through the middle section of the race there." With the finish -- his best across all NASCAR national series in 43 starts -- Moffitt is hoping it results in keeping his name fresh in people's minds, as he has no other opportunities lined up at the current moment. Regardless, he'll be ready at the drop of a hat should any team, Red Horse Racing included, call him up for a spot start or more. "(Red Horse) like to keep it last minute, so I found out about a week ago Friday," he said. "It's a little stressful during that week to get everything ready and it's hard on the guys at the shop, but they do a great job adjusting to multiple drivers this year and they continue to prove that. "I don't think I've had a clear path my whole career. I've kind of been riding each opportunity I get, you know? Last year it was in the 55 car when Brian (Vickers) was out and this year it's in the 11 truck with Matt Tifft being out. Not the way I want to get opportunities, by someone else's hard fortune, but it's good to make the most of them. "Hopefully this opens the door for some more races."