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Sam Hornish Jr. sets track record, earns Coors Light Pole at Mid-Ohio
RELATED: Results Sam Hornish Jr . won the Coors Light Pole Award Friday at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course , setting a track speed record as well. Hornish Jr. wheeled his No. 2 Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet around the 2.258-mile, 13-turn road course in Lexington, Ohio, at a track record-setting 96.755 mph in the opening session of qualifying. In the second and final session, with a fast lap of 96.374 mph, he sealed the first starting spot in the Mid-Ohio Challenge (3:30 p.m. ET, USA Network, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio). "The fact that we're here. We're as good as we have been really is hats off to RCR and all the people that work on the Rheem No. 2 car," the polesitter said post-qualifying. "Right off the bat, this morning I was kind of worried about it being a little bit rusty. It's been a little while since I've been on a road course." This marks Hornish's eighth career pole and first of 2016. Sharing the front row will be Owen Kelly , a road specialist who reached 95.877 mph in the No. 18 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota. Ryan Blaney , (95.739 mph in No. 22 Team Penske Ford), Elliott Sadler (95.675 mph, No. 1 JR Motorsports Chevrolet) and Daniel Suarez (95.613 mph, No. 19 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota) completed the top five, respectively.
Elliott foiled on final restart, takes second at Michigan
RELATED: Race results " Standings " Chase Grid BROOKLYN, Mich. -- Unable to park his No. 24 in Victory Lane for the first time in his young career, Chase Elliott stood on pit road Sunday at Michigan International Speedway visibly disappointed as he was comforted by the man who won three premier series championships in the very same Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet, Jeff Gordon . "We just talked about the race a little bit," the dejected Elliott said of his conversation with Gordon. "And some of the things we battled and just looking at the positives, I guess, and trying to get down the road." The Pure Michigan 400 was a familiar scene at the 2-mile track for the Sunoco Rookie of the Year Candidate, who walked away with a dominant car but earned a less-than-satisfying runner-up finish. During the June stop at MIS, Elliott led for 35 circuits but finished second, behind Joey Logano . Elliott battled 1-2 at the second Michigan stop with eventual race winner Kyle Larson , even leading 31 of 200 laps, but watched the No. 42 Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet take the lead following a Lap 191 restart; Larson never let go. "Once that guy (Larson) got out front, it was really hard to pass," Elliott said of the restart. "My guys did such a good job today of making the most of pit road. That was the only place you could make a large sum of ground in a short period of time. They did exactly what I asked them to do. I said, 'You guys are going to have to bail me out here, I messed up.' (And) they did. They got us the lead just like I asked and I gave it away again." Alan Gustafson, crew chief of the No. 24 team, saw other issues during the day's final restart. "(It's) just a huge factor getting into Turn 1," Gustafson explained while decompressing with the team, sans Elliott, in the garage area. "It's the push, obviously. The guys in (the) second row were pushing really hard and the 2 (of third-place finisher, Brad Keselowski ) and 42 (of Larson) did a little better than the 24 and the 21 (of Ryan Blaney , fourth)." The 20-year-old clocked in his seventh top-five finish and his first since the season's first race at the Irish Hills, breaking a stretch of nine consecutive results outside not only the top five, but the top 10. Elliott now sits 11th in standings -- six points ahead of Austin Dillon -- and 14th on 16-spot Chase Grid, the highest for anyone in the 2016 rookie class. The Sprint Cup Series field heads to Darlington Raceway for the Bojangles' Southern 500 (Sept. 4, 6 p.m. ET, NBC, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio) and Elliott only wishes for one thing. "Hopefully another fast car (which) is all you can ask for," he said. "Just trying to hunker down and keep everybody's head up." And Gustaftson promises, "We're gonna do everything we can to do that."
Bowyer's Darlington scheme honors Benny Parsons
RELATED: All the 2016 throwback paint schemes " Buy tickets " Vote now HScott Motorsports unveiled the throwback paint schemes that Clint Bowyer (No. 15 Chevrolet) and Michael Annett (No. 46 Chevrolet) will sport at Darlington Raceway for next week's Bojangles' Southern 500 (Sept. 4, 6 p.m. ET, NBC, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio). Bowyer's car honors 2017 NASCAR Hall of Fame inductee Benny Parsons. The paint scheme sponsored by 5-hour Energy features Parsons' name just below the net opening and photos of the racer on the hood. The scheme itself is a tribute to the L.G. DeWitt deep-orange with blue wheels ride from Parsons' championship season of 1973. Parsons compiled 21 premier series wins over a 21-year career. Parsons was named one of NASCAR's 50 Greatest Drivers in 1998. Parsons also transitioned into television work following his NASCAR career, commentating for NBC and TNT until his passing in 2007, at the age of 65. Here it is! @ClintBowyer 's @5hourenergy throwback scheme for @TooToughToTame honoring Benny Parsons! #NASCAR pic.twitter.com/xDa9ugeiD9 — HScott Motorsports (@Team_HSM) August 27, 2016 Annett's car pays tribute to the logos of sponsor Pilot Flying J. Michael's No. 46 Chevrolet is throwing back to the 1970’s era @PilotFlyingJ logos and livery @TooToughToTame . pic.twitter.com/0wuBLJQVO8 — Michael Annett (@MichaelAnnett) August 26, 2016 &amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;lt;/p&amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;gt;
Kyle Larson's win was worth the wait
RELATED: Chase bubble update " Results BROOKLYN, Mich. -- He lost the race off pit road, and in his mind, victory had slipped from his grasp once again. So often. So many close calls. "I thought that was the race right there," Kyle Larson admitted. But this time he said it from Victory Lane. Where Sunday at Michigan International Speedway fate chose to frown on someone else. Confetti flew, fans cheered and fellow competitors stopped by to offer congratulations. Kyle Busch , one of the first to pit road, was waiting for Larson when the young driver finally pulled in for the celebration. Greg Biffle and Brad Keselowski also dropped in. So, too, did Jamie McMurray , Larson's teammate. Larson, driver of the No. 42 Chevrolet for Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates, is 24. And he's now a first-time winner in NASCAR's Sprint Cup Series, capturing the Pure Michigan 400 in his 99th career start. The win secured one of the final playoff spots for this year's Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup . Championship dreams were rekindled for a driver and team that had ridden on the razor's edge almost since his arrival in NASCAR. There have been fuel-mileage plays that didn't pan out, late charges that ended with bent sheet metal and crushed hopes. But not this time. "No question the kid has talent; the kid can drive," Ganassi said. "We just have to put a weekend together." Ganassi knows. He's won in six different series in which his various teams compete. If it has wheels and goes fast, Ganassi has likely fielded a winner. Sunday's outcome was still in question when the late-race battle between Larson and Chase Elliott began to unfold. When the two drivers -- both young, eager and winless -- hit pit road for green-flag stops on Lap 158, Larson was the race leader. When they exited just seconds later, Elliott, after all others had stopped for service, was out front. Larson charged, trimming the deficit to Elliott in half. Lapped traffic erased the gains. And then the caution flag, this one for debris, appeared for a final time. While crew chief Chad Johnston said he thought the team's final stop "was a little bit slow," he refused to change the team's game plan. "It's hard to talk yourself into staying out two more laps or three more laps when you know those guys are gaining ... track position with each lap, but the worst thing you can do is let them force your hand and then run it out of fuel at the end," Johnston said. "So we stood our ground and pitted when we needed to pit, just lost a lot of ground through lapped traffic. ... "We needed that last restart, and Kyle did everything he needed to do to have the lead off (Turn 2)." Second at Fontana and Loudon and Kansas two years ago; second at Dover this year. Larson's been third, fourth and fifth several times as well. Often enough that some have questioned how badly he wanted to win, but they've never questioned his talent. "There have been a couple where I could have done things differently to get the win," Larson, flanked by son Owen and Johnston, said afterward. "For a few months you guys keep asking, 'What if?' ... Now I've won so we don't have to talk about that anymore." Winning races isn't new for the Elk Grove, California, native. Winning quickly hadn't been either. Until he got to NASCAR's top level. Even then, he showed flashes of potential, but potential didn't outrun everyone. "This feels different for me because it's taken me a lot longer than in any of the other stuff to get a win," Larson said. "It took me a couple of months to win my first sprint car race ... a few months to win when I got into USAC. I guess it took me a few years to win an Outlaw race, but I'd still been winning sprint car races. "But this, after the way my rookie season started, coming close a few times, not getting it done, you can visualize the win that early in your career. It's going to happen. It's going to happen. But it just never happened. "This one's different just because of how long we had to wait and how much harder I've had to work for it. It's special because all the hard work's paid off." Ganassi brought Larson up to Sprint Cup when he was only 20. Too soon, some said. He'll be gone elsewhere, others speculated, where he can be with a winning team. "That wasn't the case at all," Ganassi said, recalling how he once asked his young driver about other teams expressing interest. "I'll never forget his answer," Ganassi said. "He said, 'They all had a shot at me the first time around and they passed.' " They'll celebrate throwbacks next weekend at Darlington Raceway when the Bojangles' Southern 500 weekend gets underway. On Sunday at Michigan they were throwing it forward. There's a new Sprint Cup winner in town. &amp;amp;amp;lt;/p&amp;amp;amp;gt;
ThorSport draws strength to keep trucking after devastating fire
RELATED: Exclusive look at the ThorSport shop in Ohio SANDUSKY, Ohio -- No matter what happens from here on out, win or lose, championship or bust, ThorSport Racing officials likely will look back on the 2016 season as something of a rebirth. It's been a year in which the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series organization has literally risen from the ashes. Cut short just seven races into the season by a raging fire that damaged much of the team's race shop, the company marched on, spent weeks working piecemeal out of everything from the parking lot of a former grocery store to a section of bays inside a custom trailer manufacturing facility. Each off-site venue was within roughly a five-mile radius of the team's 100,000-square-foot home base. Each was also an example of a small, tight-knit community reaching out to help in any way possible. ThorSport, owned by Duke and Rhonda Thorson, has fielded entries in the Camping World Truck Series since 1996, the second year of the series' existence. Today, four teams run out of the large cream-colored building -- the No. 88 Toyota Tundra of two-time series champion Matt Crafton , the No. 13 of Cameron Hayley , the No. 41 of Ben Rhodes and the No. 98 of Rico Abreu. Rhodes and Abreu are Sunoco Rookie of the Year candidates. But for six weeks, the four teams and approximately 85 employees worked "old school," minus many of the technological necessities prevalent throughout all three of NASCAR's national series. They did so while traveling to and competing at Iowa and St. Louis, Kentucky and Eldora. Walk into the shop today and you might not realize the place had been filled with smoke "so thick you couldn't see your hand in front of your face," one first responder recalled on Thursday, or that water was "up to our knees in most places, and running out of the hauler bays in back like a river," said another. But the smell tells another story. "There were times," said Jim Johnson, captain of the Perkins Township Fire Department, "I thought we were going to lose the entire building." Johnson was the first to arrive on the scene, just after midnight on Monday, June 13. Assuming it was nothing more than a small brush fire out back of the team's headquarters, he said he quickly realized the severity of the situation and alerted departments from nearby townships as well as Sandusky. Three other localities and 47 firefighters quickly responded. The fire, which began outside behind the main building, had spread up the rear wall and then began moving beneath the rubber-sealed roof. The rear portion, which housed a fabrication area and machine shop, had to be knocked down in order for firemen to get to the blaze. Johnson said it took approximately 500 ,000 gallons of water to finally extinguish the fire. Most equipment was quickly removed from the shop -- a large grassy area outside was soon filled with race trucks, pit boxes and assorted tools. There were no injuries and, surprisingly, no race vehicles were damaged to the extent that they had to be discarded. While ThorSport teams regrouped and continued to focus on racing, workers began the process of renovating the shop. Walls, blackened by smoke and damaged by water, were torn down to the studs and rebuilt. New wiring was installed. Eventually, equipment was brought back in. And what little remained of the destroyed rear portion, about 25,000 square feet of shop space, was hauled away. The organization was slowed, perhaps, but not stopped. "We can't use (the fire) as an excuse to under-achieve," ThorSport General Manager David Pepper said. Today, trucks in various states of assembly sit on the pristine shop floor. Work has resumed in a building, a former slaughterhouse that was first put into use by the group in 2011. "Duke and Rhonda have given us our biggest, best resource you could possibly ask for to win races, and we've proven we can do that from here," Carl "Junior" Joiner, crew chief for Crafton, said. "Not having it, you were lost. "At this level, you need resources like this to win and we didn't have that for a long time." The smell, less strong now, still lingers inside the shop. Inside some of the trucks, too. "We still have to put air fresheners in some of them because of the stench," he said. It is not only a reminder of what happened, but how far the organization has come in such a short period of time. "When something bad happens, my father always told me, 'Well kid, it builds character.' And I know that we're going to be stronger from it," Joiner said. "I know we will." &amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;lt;/p&amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;gt;
Employer grants Bowman time off to drive No. 88
RELATED: Full timeline of Junior's injury BROOKLYN, Mich. -- Alex Bowman is just like every 23 year old, balancing the ins and outs of a new career as a young adult. He was pulled away from his day job this week when he was asked to fill in for Dale Earnhardt Jr . -- who continues to recover from concussion-like symptoms -- for Sunday's Pure Michigan 400 (2 p.m. ET, NBCSN, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio). And where is his day job? Bowman said Friday during his media availability at Michigan International Speedway that he spends his Tuesdays and Thursdays at Hendrick Motorsports working in the simulation department. Half day at work today so I can make the flight. Ready for @MISpeedway — Alex Bowman (@AlexBRacing) August 25, 2016 "They're pretty flexible when you tell them that you've got to drive the No. 88 car and that you need to leave a couple of hours early to get to the airport, Bowman said with a laugh. "… And (the job) kind of keeps me relevant at HMS and I get to learn a lot and still be part of a race team even though I'm not driving every week. So, it's been really cool and I'm just as thankful for that opportunity as I am for this." This weekend marks the second time Bowman will wheel the No. 88 Chevrolet in place of Earnhardt. He made his debut at July's New Hampshire Motor Speedway Sprint Cup Series event, where he finished 26th after a late tire rub. He will lineup for the weekend's main event in the sixth position -- the best starting position of his career -- following Friday afternoon's three-round qualifying session. It is unclear whether Bowman will be back in the HMS entry for a third time this year with Jeff Gordon taking over driver responsibilities for next weekend's Bojangles' Southern 500 , but he's there if his employer needs him. "We'll just have to see Dale's timeline, but I'm definitely happy to get in the car whenever needed," said. &amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;&amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;lt;span _rtespchksugg=&amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;quot;Lt"alt"ult"flt"let"lit"lat"lot"ltd"t&amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;quot; style=&amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;quot;background-color: #ffffaa;&amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;quot; _rtetemp=&amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;quot;spchk&amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;quot;&amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;gt;am&amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;lt;/span&amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;gt;p;lt;/p&amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;gt;
Full schedule for Darlington and Canadian Tire
RELATED: Find NBCSN in your area " Watch live online at NBCSports.com The NASCAR Sprint Cup and XFINITY Series will gather for a doubleheader showing at Darlington Raceway this weekend while the Camping World Truck Series makes a stop at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park . Check out the full schedule below. Note: All times are ET FRIDAY, SEPT. 2: ON TRACK: DARLINGTON -- noon-1:25 p.m.: NASCAR XFINITY Series first practice, NBCSN/NBC Sports App ( Follow live ) -- 1:30-2:25 p.m.: NASCAR Sprint Cup Series first practice, NBCSN/NBC Sports App ( Follow live ) -- 2:30-3:25 p.m.: NASCAR XFINITY Series final practice, NBCSN/NBC Sports App ( Follow live ) -- 3:30-4:55 p.m.: NASCAR Sprint Cup Series final practice, NBCSN/NBC Sports App ( Follow live ) GARAGECAM ( Watch live ) -- 11:30 a.m.: NASCAR XFINITY Series -- 1 p.m.: NASCAR Sprint Cup Series SATURDAY, SEPT. 3: ON TRACK: DARLINGTON -- 11:45 a.m.: NASCAR XFINITY Series Coors Light Pole Qualifying, NBCSN/NBC Sports App ( Follow live ) -- 1:45 p.m.: NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Coors Light Pole Qualifying, NBCSN/NBC Sports App ( Follow live ) -- 3:30 p.m.: NASCAR XFINITY Series VFW Sport Clips Help a Hero 200 (147 laps, 200.8 miles), NBC/NBC Sports App ( Follow live ) ON TRACK: CANADIAN TIRE -- 9:30-10:25 a.m.: NASCAR Camping World Truck Series first practice ( Follow live ) -- 11:35 a.m.-12:55 p.m.: NASCAR Camping World Truck Series final practice ( Follow live ) -- 5:45 p.m.: NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Keystone Light Pole Qualifying, FS2 ( Follow live ) SUNDAY, SEPT. 4: ON TRACK: DARLINGTON -- 6 p.m.: NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Bojangles' Southern 500 (367 laps, 501.3 miles), NBC/NBC Sports App ( Follow live ) ON TRACK: CANADIAN TIRE -- 2:30 p.m.: NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Chevrolet Silverado 250 (64 laps, 157.37 miles), FS1 ( Follow live )
Engine issue hinders Bowman, No. 88 early
RELATED: Michigan results The Hendrick Motorsports No. 88 Chevrolet team encountered early trouble Sunday at Michigan International Speedway , going to the garage with engine issues that would ruin any chance at victory. Alex Bowman , subbing for Dale Earnhardt Jr . this weekend as he recovers from concussion-related symptoms, radioed his crew just short of the 50-lap mark of the Pure Michigan 400 to report a sour engine. Bowman -- who started sixth in the 40-car field -- steadily lost ground, eventually falling off the lead lap on the 54th of 200 laps. Bowman made the hard turn toward the garage for repairs, returning to the race five laps down. Crew chief Greg Ives told Bowman that the malady was "just a wire," and the car returned to a competitive pace despite the deficit. Bowman finished 30th, five laps down. Bowman -- a NASCAR XFINITY Series regular for JR Motorsports -- made his second fill-in start for Earnhardt, who has missed the last six NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races. Jeff Gordon , an Earnhardt substitute for four races this season, will return to the wheel of the No. 88 for this weekend's Bojangles' Southern 500 (Sunday, 6 p.m. ET, NBC/NBC Sports App, MRN, SiriusXM) at Darlington Raceway . Gordon, a four-time premier series champ who emerged from retirement to fill in, is a seven-time winner at the historic 1.366-mile track. The Hendrick Motorsports No. 88 will carry a "Gray Ghost" throwback paint scheme at Darlington in a tribute to NASCAR Hall of Fame nominee Buddy Baker.
NASCAR TV schedule: August 29 - September 4
RELATED: Find NBCSN in your area All times ET Monday, August 29 1:30 a.m., NASCAR Victory Lane (re-air), FS1 9 a.m., NASCAR Victory Lane (re-air), FS1 9:30 a.m., NASCAR Camping World Truck Series: Careers for Veterans 200 presented by Cooper Standard and Brad Keselowski 's Checkered Flag Foundation (re-air), FS1 2 p.m., NASCAR: The List - Texas Motor Speedway (re-air), NBCSN 2:30 p.m., NASCAR: The List - Daytona Memories (re-air), NBCSN 3 p.m., NASCAR 120, NBCSN 5 p.m., NASCAR Race Hub, FS1 6 p.m., NASCAR America, NBCSN Tuesday, August 30 6:30 a.m., WeatherTech SportsCar Championship: Virginia International Raceway (re-air), FS1 5 p.m., NASCAR Race Hub, FS1 5:30 p.m., NASCAR Scan All Special: Charlotte, Pocono, Michigan, NBCSN 6 p.m., NASCAR America, NBCSN Wednesday, August 31 5 p.m., NASCAR Race Hub, FS1 8 p.m., NASCAR America, NBCSN 9 p.m., NASCAR Southern Speed: Legend of Darlington, NBCSN 9:30 p.m., NASCAR Camping World Truck Series: Careers for Veterans 200 presented by Cooper Standard and Brad Keselowski 's Checkered Flag Foundation (re-air), FS2 Thursday, Sept. 1 6 p.m., NASCAR America, NBCSN 7 p.m., NASCAR Whelen Modified Series: Riverhead Raceway (taped), NBCSN Friday, Sept. 2 7 a.m., NASCAR America (re-air), NBCSN 10 a.m., NASCAR Southern Speed: Legend of Darlington (re-air), NBCSN Noon, NASCAR XFINITY Series practice, NBCSN 1:30 p.m., NASCAR Sprint Cup Series practice, NBCSN 2:30 p.m., NASCAR XFINITY Series final practice, NBCSN 3:30 p.m., NASCAR Sprint Cup Series final practice, NBCSN 5 p.m., NASCAR America, NBCSN 7 p.m., NASCAR K&N Pro Series Race: Douglas County Speedway (taped), NBCSN 8 p.m., NASCAR Sprint Cup Series practice (re-air), NBCSN 9 p.m., NASCAR Sprint Cup Series final practice (re-air), NBCSN Saturday, Sept. 3 Midnight, NASCAR K&N Pro Series Race: Douglas County Speedway (re-air), NBCSN 11:30 a.m., NASCAR XFINITY Series Coors Light Pole Qualifying, NBCSN 1:30 p.m., NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Coors Light Pole Qualifying, NBCSN 3 p.m., NASCAR XFINITY Series Countdown to Green, NBC 3:30 p.m., NASCAR XFINITY Series VFW Sport Clips Help A Hero 200 , NBC 5:30 p.m., NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Keystone Light Pole Qualifying, FS2 11 p.m., NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Coors Light Pole Qualifying (re-air), NBCSN Sunday, Sept. 4 12:30 a.m., NASCAR Southern Speed: Legend of Darlington (re-air), NBCSN 2 p.m., NASCAR Camping World Truck Series SetUp, FS1 2:30 p.m., NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Chevrolet Silverado 250 , FS1 5 p.m., NASCAR America Sunday, NBCSN 6 p.m., NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Bojangles' Southern 500 , NBC 11 p.m., NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Post-Race Show, NBCSN Midnight, NASCAR Victory Lane, FS1 Midnight, NASCAR Southern Speed: Legend of Darlington (re-air), NBCSN &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;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;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;
'Humbled' Sadler puts team, sponsor limbo behind him
RELATED: OneMain extends pact with JRM, Sadler ELKHART LAKE, Wis. -- In the span of less than two months, NASCAR XFINITY Series points leader Elliott Sadler had a secure ride and sponsor, lost a secure ride and sponsor then gained a secure ride and sponsor, all with the same team … and sponsor. Dizzy? Don't blame you. OneMain Financial had sponsored the NASCAR veteran for several years, following him from team to team, but informed Sadler and JR Motorsports earlier this summer that after an executive shakeup following a merger with Springleaf Holdings that they would be exiting the sport at the conclusion of the 2016 season. The news was shocking, given their status as the longest-running XFINITY Series primary sponsor and Sadler being on pace for his most successful campaign since he started racing in the series full-time in 2011. It was equally as stunning when JRM General Manager Kelley Earnhardt Miller announced a multiyear extension with OneMain and Sadler on Wednesday, a complete 180 from where things were headed. "We were ecstatic when we found out that they had come back and had started talking to Kelley and Dale (Earnhardt Jr., JRM owner) to maybe further this relationship," Sadler told NASCAR.com Friday at Road America , site of Saturday's Road America 180 Fired Up by Johnsonville (2 p.m. ET, NBCSN/NBC Sports App). " … This all came together really quick and really late, like just here in the past couple days. It's neat how it's all come together pretty fast. " … I was proud when I found out that they were deciding to come back and they really wanted me to be their spokesperson and their head guy for racing. Man, I'm humbled by that. OneMain's a great sponsor. I've been with them over a decade. All that put together, I'm humbled that they still want me to be a part of their brand and still be a part of their company. I think definitely it's a no-brainer to be a part of JR Motorsports in this particular division." While Wednesday's announcement was a welcome sight for the industry -- nobody likes to see a sponsor leave the sport, let alone one with such a long-standing, visible relationship with a single driver -- it was certainly an unprecedented head-scratcher. What, exactly, had happened in the past month-plus to have OneMain change their minds? "One thing I've learned, and the most important thing I've learned, is in a merger, there's a lot going on, man," Sadler said. "There's only so many hours in a day and there's only so many things that you can look at; charts and stats and information. I think once they got all the merger stuff straight and they could really take a good , deep look into the racing program, into NASCAR, into the demographics between their customers and NASCAR, I think they really started to kind of see that 'Hey, this is maybe … this looks pretty good .' "NASCAR is a pretty wide sport. I think they learned they had customers in California that were race fans, they had customers in Michigan and Pennsylvania and Texas and Florida and everywhere in between and it's going to be, 'Wow, maybe this is a direct correlation between the two. We might need to look at this.' " Being the points leader, a favorite in the first-ever XFINITY Series Chase and an employee of NASCAR's most popular driver definitely wasn't a hindrance, either. RELATED: Series Chase Grid "I think it doesn't hurt the way we're running. I think that's a big part of it. It 100 percent doesn't hurt to be associated with JR Motorsports and Junior Nation. Kelley and Dale and (JRM Brand Director & Communications) Mike Davis and their staff; what they do in digital consumption and stuff off the track … there's no other team even close in the garage. I think once you throw all that together and seeing the response and the people you're reaching is why the reconsideration was done and why they decided to stay here for a couple more years." Had this all not come together, however, Sadler indicated that in terms of a backup plan, he "never really messed with (looking at) other options." In fact, retirement was starting to creep into the 41-year-old's thoughts, ever so slightly. "I just kind of was looking at … 'This might be it.' I didn't know, but I didn't want to take away from what we were doing here. It's the best chance I've had in a long time to make a great run to Homestead. We're leading in the points and we're running good and we've got a good string of finishes going and we've been fast every week. I didn't want to … you can only control what you can control. I've been a part of the sport long enough that I didn't want to go off and start fishing and doing other things and taking away from what my job is, and that's showing up prepared every week. I'm not going to tell you that it hasn't been hard. The last month and a half, I haven't slept much, I'll be honest with you. It's been tough and priorities have been shifted some and wondering what's going to happen.” Sleep should come a bit easier now for the veteran, at least until the Chase starts at Kentucky later this year. Gratitude does, as well. " … For all of that to come together and be able to be the lucky one to stand here and talk to you about it … " said Sadler, " … it's pretty humbling and I'm pretty thankful to have that opportunity."