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Vickers fondly remembers time with 'great guy' Palmer
RELATED: Arnold Palmer's day at the track Brian Vickers was in Beijing, China on business when the phone messages started piling up with condolences and the news that his friend, golfing legend Arnold Palmer, 87, had died Sunday. Vickers, a former XFINITY Series champion and a three-time Sprint Cup Series race winner, appeared in multiple television commercials with Palmer to promote a medicine to help with blood clots -- a condition they both suffered from. But it was the time off-camera with Palmer that Vickers said he would remember most fondly. "He was so easy to work with, such a nice guy," Vickers told NASCAR.com late Monday from China. " The thing I enjoyed most was sitting around when we weren't shooting ( the commercial) -- at lunch, dinner or on the golf course just listening to some of his stories. "I wish only that I had more time to spend with him. I've gotten to know him over the past five years and he was so nice, just fantastic. He is great to work with. We had a lot of fun throughout the entire campaign and off of it as well. He even helped me fix my grip for golf." Vickers got the chance to interact with Palmer during their playful but educational television commercials for the Janssen Pharmaceuticals drug Xarelto. And he was still amazed at the four-time Masters champion's skill on the golf course even though he was well into his 80s. "When we shot that commercial -- the last one with Janssen just a couple years ago -- he was still smoking every single guy out there in putting," Vickers recalled. "He wasn't out-driving anybody anymore, but on the green he was literally draining putts one after another, 30-foot putts no one else could hit. "It was unbelievable, just amazing to see this guy just dropping putt after putt, 30-footers on oscillating greens. I can tell you, that's the way I want to go out." For Vickers, the opportunity to work with Palmer was a life-impacting turn of events. And he was extremely proud to carry the champion's "Arnie's Army" charitable foundation on his race cars at both Martinsville and Auto Club Speedway earlier this season while filling in for an injured Tony Stewart . "I'm obviously going to miss him, he was a great guy," Vickers said. "It's a sad day, but I look at the end of life as more of a celebration of what you accomplish in life. And he accomplished a lot. "I would say people should celebrate his life. He did a lot for the American people and the American dream throughout his career, he was an inspiration and in that regard he should be celebrated." And he will be.
Full practice recaps from Atlanta
Edwards tops Sprint Cup session, C. Buescher and Kenseth pace NNS practices RELATED: Play NASCAR Fantasy Live " Sign up for RaceView today NASCAR Sprint Cup Series practice 1 " Results Carl Edwards topped the opening NASCAR Sprint Cup Series practice on Friday at Atlanta Motor Speedway . Edwards posted a speed of 192.855 mph on his first lap at the Georgia track. The Roush Fenway Racing driver has earned three wins at the track, the most recent coming in 2008. Ryan Newman had the second-fastest speed at 191.628 mph. Marcos Ambrose (191.417 mph), Dale Earnhardt Jr. (191.199 mph) and rookie Kyle Larson (191.113 mph) rounded out the top five on the leaderboard. Defending race champion Kyle Busch circled the track at a top speed of 186.297 mph putting him at 31st on the speed chart. Tony Stewart , who returned to his No. 14 Chevrolet for the first time since the tragic sprint car accident that claimed the life of Kevin Ward Jr., posted a speed of 189.642 mph for 10th place. Stewart hasn't run at Atlanta since 2012 due to missing last year's race with a broken leg. There will be two more practice sessions for the Sprint Cup Series on Saturday. A 50-minute session will start at 3 p.m. ET and final practice will also run 50 minutes and begin at 6 p.m. ET. Both sessions will be televised on FOX Sports 2. NASCAR Nationwide Series practice 1 " Results Chris Buescher set the pace in opening practice for the NASCAR Nationwide Series on Friday at Atlanta Motor Speedway . The Roush Fenway Racing driver posted a top speed of 177.880 mph on his first lap of the first session. Buescher finished 13th last year in his only start at Atlanta. Buescher earned his first Nationwide Series win earlier this season at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course . Coming in second-fastest was Sprint Cup Series veteran Matt Kenseth at 177.357 mph. Rookie Ty Dillon , (176.313 mph), Sprint Cup regular Kyle Busch (175.927 mph) and Joey Logano (175.743 mph) completed the top five on the leaderboard. Defending race champion and Sprint Cup Series veteran Kevin Harvick came in as eighth-fastest, as he rounded the track at 175.354 mph. The practice had one caution flag in the closing minutes for debris in Turn 4. NASCAR Nationwide Series practice 2 " Results Matt Kenseth closed out Friday's Nationwide Series practices for Saturday's Great Clips 300 benefitting Feed the Children with the fastest lap of 177.738 mph. The Sprint Cup Series veteran was second-fastest in the opening practice earlier in the day. Ty Dillon came in as second-fastest at 176.201 mph. Dillon will make his Sprint Cup Series debut on Sunday at Atlanta for the Oral-B USA 500. Completing the top five on the leaderboard was Joey Logano (176.173 mph), Nationwide Series points leader and rookie Chase Elliott (175.755 mph) and Chris Buescher, who led opening practice (175.171 mph). There was just one caution that came at the start of practice for debris in Turn 4. The Nationwide Series returns to the track on Saturday at 4:10 p.m. ET for the Coors Light Pole Qualifying with TV coverage on FOX Sports 2. MORE: READ: Latest NASCAR news WATCH: Latest NASCAR video PLAY: NASCAR Fantasy Live FOLLOW LIVE: Get RaceView FULL SERIES COVERAGE • Latest news • Standings • Schedule
Thunder in the hills: North Wilkesboro, 20 years later
NORTH WILKESBORO, N.C. -- Paint peels and memories fade but the echoes of the past still ring off the hillsides here. Twenty years ago today, the checkered flag fell on the final NASCAR premier series race at North Wilkesboro Speedway. Bob Flock won the first race, in 1949 and on dirt. Jeff Gordon won the last, in 1996 and on asphalt. The two races serve as bookends for a track that even after 20 years of silence serves as a reminder of the sport's colorful past. For 48 years and 93 races, NASCAR teams made the trek to the secluded .625-mile track in the Brushy Mountains of northwestern North Carolina. "It's one of the sport's most historic tracks, one that really helped put NASCAR on the map," car owner Richard Childress said. "A lot of people overlook that. But a lot of great things happened there. (Former series sponsor) R.J. Reynolds really supported it; Holly Farms back in the day … all those things were important to building our sport to what it is today." Built by Wilkes County resident Enoch Staley and partners Lawson Curry and Jack and Charlie Combs, North Wilkesboro Speedway was a venue unlike any other -- in part because the front straightaway ran slightly downhill and the backstretch uphill. It opened in 1947, two years before the debut of NASCAR's Strictly Stock Series, and hosted its first NASCAR premier series event in October of '49. The Wilkes 200 featured a 22-car field and was the final race of the inaugural season for NASCAR's new featured series. Flock won the race but it was Red Byron, finishing 16th, who captured the series' first championship. RELATED: Veterans share fond memories of track
Chase Bubble Watch: Analyzing the playoff picture ahead of Dover
RELATED: Full race results " Updated Chase Grid SHOP: Chase gear Two races into the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup and several drivers are in jeopardy of not advancing past the Round of 16, which ends next Sunday at Dover International Speedway (2 p.m. ET, NBCSN, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio). Let's find out which drivers are resting comfortably following Sunday's Bad Boy Off Road 300 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway . Who's hot: Kevin Harvick . Harvick came into Loudon one point shy of advancement after a dismal showing (20th) in the Chase opener in Chicago. The 2014 champion and the man nicknamed " The Closer" came on strong on the final restart to take the lead on Lap 295 and nab a win and a locked-in spot in the Round of 12. The victory, in which he only led eight laps, has to erase a little bit of the bitter taste from last fall's race at New Hampshire, where Harvick led 216 laps but ran out of fuel with two to go. Matt Kenseth . Kenseth came into this race with two straight wins at the "Magic Mile" and looked to be closing in on his third-straight win before Harvick surged on a late restart. The 2003 champion led 105 laps en route to a runner-up finish and moved up to fourth in the standings, 25 points to the good of transferring into the next round. Kyle Larson . A top-10 finish at Loudon moved Larson from 15th in the standings (two points back of the last transfer spot) to 12th and five points to the good. It was an up-and-down weekend for the third-year driver, who didn't show the same speed in the race he had shown in practice. Still, he is on the right side of the bubble heading to Dover, where the Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates driver has an average finish of 6.2 and led 85 laps in the spring en route to a runner-up finish. Who's not: Tony Stewart : The three-time champion was stuck a lap down for much of the second half of the race and finished 23rd, the second-lowest finish among the Chase field. The result had to be disappointing for "Smoke" after a runner-up showing at New Hampshire in July. Following a summer surge thanks to his Sonoma win, Stewart has not notched a top-10 finish in six races and is on the wrong side of the Chase cut line heading to Dover. Austin Dillon . The weekend started rough when a wreck in the latter stages of the opening practice forced the Richard Childress Racing No. 3 team to pull out a backup car. Dillon's 16th-place finish was aided by a few late cautions to get him back on the lead lap, but he is still five points behind the cutoff line. On top of that, his overall numbers at Dover (see below) have the Chase rookie in a very tough spot to advance. Four in, four out: Here's a look at the Chase bubble, with four drivers being eliminated after the third race of this round, at Dover International Speedway .
Relive the last NSCS race at the historic North Wilkesboro Speedway
Take a look back as Jeff Gordon wins the last race at North Wilkesboro Speedway in the Sprint Cup Series on September 29th, 1996.
Who can keep their hopes alive at the Monster Mile?
Marty Snider and Chris Rice make their NASCAR Fantasy Live picks for a Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup driver who could advance out of the Round of 16 and into the Round of 12 with a win at Dover International Speedway
How the 'tire war' was won -- at North Wilkesboro
RELATED: North Wilkesboro, 20 years later MORE: Classic Dale Jr. story: Angry dad, purple gas jug In the late 1980s, NASCAR's twofold quest for speed and success took a sharp turn as tire supplier Goodyear introduced the radial tire to the sanctioning body's premier series. Bias-ply tires had been the standard for stock car competition from the very beginning. But radial tire technology had vastly improved, and major open-wheel series had already made the swap to radials. Off the track, radials had also begun replacing bias-ply as the tires of choice for passenger vehicles. But the bias-ply tires still used in NASCAR provided teams with another tool in the toolbox, a way to "tune" the car's setup through the use of air pressures and tire stagger ( the variation in the circumference of the car's tires), something radial tire technology couldn't duplicate at the time. Goodyear officials were working toward implementing radials in NASCAR when the company got an unexpected push from Hoosier Tire Company in 1988. The competition between the two was fierce, and not without consequences. "Softer" tires produced by both brands generated higher speeds, but durability faltered. The "fall-off" in the product led to numerous tire failures and hard crashes. The following year, Goodyear officials rolled out radial race tires in an effort to provide both speed and durability. It was an ongoing project -- problems before the season-opening Daytona 500 forced the company to withdraw its product for that event. It wasn't until the spring race of 1989 at North Wilkesboro that Goodyear debuted the radial tire that officials felt was far more durable and could provide the necessary consistency and speed. "We were going to step through it," said Greg Stucker, head of race tire sales for Goodyear. "We were going to introduce them at the short tracks and then slowly step into the other race tracks." Rusty Wallace, driving for team owner Raymond Beadle, won the pole after the Blue Max team made the switch to Hoosiers. "We knew the Hoosiers were quick," Stucker said. "We also knew that the radials were extremely good over the long run. We went the first 100-some odd laps under green, which you don't do at North Wilkesboro very often. And Rusty got lapped, I think, about Lap 70." Dale Earnhardt won the race, thanks in part to the Richard Childress team's use of the Goodyear radials. "I still have that car," Childress said. "That's one of my favorite cars I have on display because I didn't re-do the body on it. I made the rest of them look real nice, but that car is still beat up; it has the Dale Earnhardt look still left on it. All the fenders beat in, the sides, and a set of the very first radial tires. "That's why we kept that one. It was the first win anybody had on radial tires. And everybody said 'That's going to be the end of Dale Earnhardt; he won't be able to run on them radial tires.' Well, we went out there and won the first race on them." The tire war eventually ended – Hoosier pulled out of the sport in mid-1989, returned for the ’94 season with its own radial tire, but departed at year's end due to a lack of sales. "It couldn't have worked out better for us to demonstrate how strong and how consistent the radial was," Stucker said. " The race really played into our hands pretty well. I think it was a good demonstration to everybody that this was a good package. "You know they say you have good days and bad days in racing? That was definitely one of the best days I've had at the race track. It was a good one." &amp;amp;amp;amp;lt;/p&amp;amp;amp;amp;gt;
Looking for the lobstah' in the Rearview
NASCAR.com's Costner Merrifield takes a look back at an exciting weekend for all three of NASCAR's top touring series that included a few lobsters in the 'Live Free or Die' state.
Busch family, No. 18 team visit the White House
As part of his Sprint Cup championship duties, Kyle Busch had one more thing left on his to-do list: visit the White House. So that's exactly what he did on Wednesday with the entire No. 18 Joe Gibbs Racing team and wife, Samantha. And no, Brexton wasn't in attendance, but President Obama gave him a nice, little shout-out. Follow along on the crew's trip to Washington, D.C. Thank you @POTUS for having the @mmschocolate team visit the @WhiteHouse today. pic.twitter.com/2Np9tGTSF1 — Kyle Busch (@KyleBusch) September 28, 2016 Snapchatting my way thru the White House if u wanna follow along! Samantha.Busch — Samantha Busch (@SamanthaBusch) September 28, 2016 The No.18 crew is on the ground in DC! Next stop: The @WhiteHouse . #NASCAR #CHAMP18NS pic.twitter.com/32HzSof8ob — Joe Gibbs Racing (@JoeGibbsRacing) September 28, 2016 We're at the @WhiteHouse with @KyleBusch @samanthabusch and the No.18 team! #NASCAR #CHAMP18N pic.twitter.com/k6zaRI6GWL — Joe Gibbs Racing (@JoeGibbsRacing) September 28, 2016 Tune in at 11am ET as @POTUS honors @NASCAR champion @KyleBusch : https://t.co/rOls3Sio1L — The White House (@WhiteHouse) September 28, 2016 . RT @SaraBarnes8 : @SamanthaBusch what does one wear to the White House? pic.twitter.com/Y2JHJGMIaP — Samantha Busch (@SamanthaBusch) September 28, 2016 . @POTUS welcomes @KyleBusch , @SamanthaBusch and the @JoeGibbsRacing family to the @WhiteHouse ! pic.twitter.com/O0kqbP848C — NASCAR (@NASCAR) September 28, 2016 "Tell Brexton I said hello." - @POTUS https://t.co/ptDTddyaES — NASCAR (@NASCAR) September 28, 2016 Crispy lid! @KyleBusch gives @POTUS one of his helmets as a gift at today's visit to the @WhiteHouse . pic.twitter.com/NnUu6nEQyV — NASCAR (@NASCAR) September 28, 2016 . @POTUS honors @NASCAR champion @KyleBusch and the whole Number 18 team: https://t.co/MRvt4wLGCe — The White House (@WhiteHouse) September 28, 2016
Streak to the Finish picks for the Monster Mile
NASCAR.com's Jonathan Merryman and analyst Chris Rice give you the best Streak to the Finish picks heading into the NASCAR triple header weekend at Dover International Speedway and Las Vegas Motor Speedway.