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
Pocono Raceway President and CEO Brandon Igdalsky makes a $24,000 donation to the Jeff Gordon Children's Foundation.
MWR co-owner not leaving team, 'taking anything' to CGR LONG POND, Pa. -- Michael Waltrip Racing co-owner Rob Kauffman said on Saturday at Pocono Raceway that he plans to integrate MWR and Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates, in which he has purchased an interest. Meeting with media for the first time since MWR issued a statement two days ago that the team and CGR would "operate separately and compete agains each other for the remainder of the 2015 season" while "evaluating ways to field the most competitive race teams possible" for 2016 and beyond, Kauffman emphasized that he continued to work with Waltrip. "First and foremost, I think it's important to realize that Michael and I own Michael Waltrip Racing ," Kauffman said. "We control Michael Waltrip Racing together. We're business partners. We're great personal friends. So any idea that like I'm leaving or taking anything is actually misplaced. "What we're really doing is integrating the businesses, trying to get the most competitive product on track, do the best for all of our partners and that's really our focus. It's a competitive business as everybody knows. It's competitive on track as well as off track." The timing of the statement was an attempt to keep both organizations focused on 2015, "getting hopefully one to two cars in the Chase and doing a great job for our partners," Kauffman said. "We've been very excited about the developments over the summer we've had with the teams," Kauffman continued. "They're running well. And there's hundreds of people working back in Charlotte. We want to keep them focused on what they need to do." Through the first 20 races, CGR's Jamie McMurray sits 11th in the provisional Chase Grid, the top winless driver in the points standings. MWR's Clint Bowyer holds the final spot in the Chase in 16th place. McMurray's teammate, Kyle Larson , is 20th, and MWR's David Ragan is 24th in points. With all four teams in the top 30 in the standings, each one is a victory away from making the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup . Looking to the future of the two race teams, Kauffman said those plans are still under consideration with their performance helping determine 2016 plans. "In terms of our plans, whether we have three cars, four cars; two roofs, one roof, that's all yet to be determined," Kauffman said. "And how we do in the 2015 season will help determine whether that happens. If we do a great job, that will be one outcome. If we do a less great job, probably another. I think it will be pretty obvious to people." FULL SERIES COVERAGE • Latest news • Standings • Schedule
No. 24 Hendrick driver races at Pocono one last time; talks Chase chances RELATED: Complete lineup for Sunday's race " See all 43 paint schemes Sunday's Windows 10 400 (1:30 p.m. ET, NBCSN, MRN, SiriusXM) will be Jeff Gordon 's final start at Pocono Raceway. While he appreciates the support Pennsylvania fans have given him over the years, he won't be sentimental about his last trip to the Tricky Triangle because he's still a win away from making the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup . "I'm so focused on the competition and trying to compete at a high level, trying to get ourselves in a position to win the race, win the pole, be in the Chase, I just can't and haven't been able to allow it to sink in," Gordon said. "It might not happen until the race is over at Homestead. I have no idea when that's going to impact or sink in." The reality of his current points position hit hard when he finished 42nd last week at Indianapolis and his margin over Clint Bowyer , the last driver currently in the Chase on points, narrowed to 37 points. Just a week earlier, he enjoyed a 71-point cushion over the final provisional Chase position. RELATED: See updated series standings In his final full-time season, Gordon wants to do more than just make the Chase; he wants to compete for his fifth championship. "Obviously having a bad finish like that, it can shake things up in a hurry," Gordon said. "I think our team is very capable of getting ourselves in the Chase, but we want more than that. We want to be battling for wins, and we're fighting extremely hard to do that. We know what a win can do in securing that spot, but we're also a strong team that has overcome adversity in the past. We're going to fight all the way through Richmond to make sure no matter what, whether it's by points or with a win, that we get ourselves in there." The six-time winner at Pocono stands atop the all-time leaderboard at the track, and Hendrick Motorsports ' 17 victories are nearly twice as many as the next closest teams on the list. Joe Gibbs Racing and Roger Penske have nine apiece. Gordon also enjoys racing on the unique three-sided surface. "I love the challenge that this race track presents on track," Gordon said. "I've been driving for a team that has great performance on tracks like this as well. We've been known to get down the straightaways pretty good. This place has a lot of straightaway, but I also like the shifting and the unique corners that are here as well." Gordon acknowledged how the negative side of the fast straightaways figured into the single moment that stands out from his 23 years of racing at the facility. "I wrecked really bad in Turn 1, that stands out," Gordon said, referring to a 2006 crash. "It's funny those types of incidents stand out to you as much as some of the good moments that you have. You never forget moments like that. Let's put it that way. "I can remember coming here early, early on and maybe even watching a race here or an IndyCar race here on TV prior to me ever racing here and just in awe of how long the front straightaway was, how fast the cars are going into Turn 1. And I always said, 'You don't ever want to have a brake problem going into Turn 1 at Pocono,' and I had one and experienced it so that stands out to me." But the people of Pocono Raceway have left a lasting impression as well. On Friday, track president Brandon Igdalsky presented Gordon with a $24,000 check for the Jeff Gordon Foundation to go with nearly $58,000 raised Thursday night for Gordon's foundation and The NASCAR Foundation at a charity poker tournament. In addition to the funds, Igdalsky's team painted "Gordon" on the track, which didn't go unnoticed by the driver of the No. 24 car. RELATED: Gordon, Wallace cash in chips for a good cause "This track has been really special to me over the years," Gordon said. "I thought it was enough that you put my name at the start/finish line but what we did last night at the event and this (check) is above and beyond." The fans of the area welcomed Gordon as a young racer, even before he joined NASCAR's premier series, and he's continued to benefit from their support throughout his racing career. "I go back to when I raced dirt around Pennsylvania and Ohio and Indiana in sprint car racing and how big racing is in this state," Gordon said. "And I think that was very evident to me immediately when I got in the Cup Series and started flying into the airports here, and it was always the biggest crowds of fans that we had, anywhere we went, standing there waiting for the teams and the drivers to arrive, wanting to get a glimpse, a picture, an autograph. "That's been maintained throughout all the years, and when I put a fan club together, our largest number of members were from Pennsylvania, if you took it by state. This is a big racing part of the country, and I think that's why the track has continued to do so well through the years because they have people that love racing, that love NASCAR racing." The four-time champion's love for Pocono would grow with a win this weekend that would keep alive his drive for five titles. FULL SERIES COVERAGE • Latest news • Standings • Schedule
Hendrick driver gives honest assessment of where organization is right now RELATED: Complete lineup for Sunday's race " See all 43 paint schemes LONG POND, Pa. -- Dale Earnhardt Jr . is the only driver other than Kyle Busch to win one of the past five NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races. However, the driver of the No. 88 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet is aware that the four-team organization he calls home has been a bit off in recent weeks, especially compared to that of Joe Gibbs Racing , in its first year of fielding four cars. "I think you got to be honest with yourself," Earnhardt Jr. said Friday at Pocono. " The Gibbs guys have found more speed. They look like over the last couple of weeks to be a lot stronger and that we're not on top of the mountain anymore, by ourselves anymore at least. They found some speed and we need to combat that with speed of our own." In the past five races, JGR has four wins (all by Busch) and nine top fives. During that same stretch, Hendrick has just one win and three top fives (Earnhardt won at Daytona and has another top-five finish). And since that win at Daytona, Hendrick Motorsports as an organization has led just two laps in the past three races, while JGR has led 330. "It's business as usual as far as I can see," Earnhardt said. "We definitely understand when we don't perform well. Last week was frustrating. I don't think we've been too thrilled over the last month about how things have gone for us. From Rick (Hendrick) on down, you get the impression that things need to be better and everyone needs to work harder. "We have meetings every Tuesday. We had that meeting with the team and then we have a meeting that all the drivers and the crew chiefs are together, Rick's there. We have that meeting every Tuesday and everybody, whether we are all running great , we talk about how to get better. And if we aren't running well at all, we talk about how to get better. Even when things are going good, you see areas where you need to keep working. Because you know it cycles in this sport." Things do indeed cycle around. Last season, Hendrick won 13 races to JGR's two. And this season both organizations have six wins. As things stand now, if Busch can get into the top 30 in points by the regular-season finale at Richmond, JGR will likely send all four of its drivers into the Chase. And while Jimmie Johnson and Earnhardt have clinched spots in the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup , Jeff Gordon and Kasey Kahne are still looking for that elusive win, although each hold spots in the provisional Chase Grid based on their point positions. "It's a never-ending pursuit to build the fastest race car week in, week out," Earnhardt said. "And it looks like right now it's a mad scramble to get ready for the Chase. I'd love to be sitting here three-tenths faster than everybody and fighting only my teammates for the win. We need to work a little harder to get a little more and be ready for the Chase to be able to get out there and compete. "It definitely looks like our competition has improved and so I think we can be honest with ourselves. We definitely aren't where we want to be. But I've seen it before. These guys are working on it every single day trying to find that speed and make that difference back up and put ourselves back to have the advantage on the straightaways and in the corners. I'm not too worried about it. We got the best resources. We got the best bossman, and he doesn't quit and he doesn't settle for second. He's in there pushing everybody everyday." The sport's most popular driver will look to turn the recent fortunes of the organization around on Sunday in the Windows 10 400 (1:30 p.m. ET, NBCSN, MRN, SiriusXM) at Pocono Raceway where he qualified 15th. Junior has a favorable history in recent years at Pocono, completing the season sweep of both NASCAR Sprint Cup Series events last year, and has four top fives in his past five races here. In June, he finished 11th in a race won by Martin Truex Jr , which snapped a five-race win streak at Pocono for Hendrick. After finishing the opening practice session in 14th place, Earnhardt was a bit disappointed but said the team learned what was needed for race trim. "We will see what we have (Saturday)," said Earnhardt. "I'm really anxious to get ourselves back into race trim for those practices (Saturday) and see how we can sort our stuff out and see where we really are. We've always run good here, there shouldn't be any issues. We showed up with some issues. I'm anxious to get to work on the car and see where we can figure out where we are going to be and be competitive." FULL SERIES COVERAGE • Latest news • Standings • Schedule
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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
Rookie takes NNS points lead into first national series start at Atlanta