Post-Race Reactions: Great Clips - Grit Chips 300
Hear from all the top finishers talking about their run in Atlanta.
Final Laps: Harvick fights off Busch
Kevin Harvick fights off Kyle Busch to win the Great Clips Grit Chips 300 in Atlanta.
Backed by Junior Nation, Alex Bowman sees opportunity at Talladega
RELATED: Ailing Bowman presses on, nabs career-best finish With Dale Earnhardt Jr . slated to miss his first Sprint Cup Series race at Talladega Superspeedway since he broke into the big leagues full time as a rookie in 2000, many wonder which driver will replace the superspeedway ace as the one to beat in Sunday's Hellmann's 500 (2 p.m. ET, NBCSN/NBC Sports App). How about, you know, the guy actually replacing him? Fresh off a seventh-place showing at Kansas Speedway on Sunday, Alex Bowman is set to drive Earnhardt's No. 88 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet for the third consecutive week and the seventh time this season as the driver recovers from concussion-related symptoms. This weekend is perhaps Bowman's most significant start of the year. Because it's at Earnhardt's own Talladega. RELATED: Earnhardt-Talladega streak to continue Sunday "He's got a couple fans out there," Bowman told NASCAR.com at Kansas. "Man, I'm excited about (racing at Talladega). Speedway racing is always stressful, but … ( Hendrick Motorsports ) brings such fast race cars to the race track and their speedway stuff is amazing. Always fast. Especially the 88. So, just really looking forward to having a chance to win. "I'm going to sit Dale down and have a couple-hour conversation with him about speedway racing. If there's a speedway racer left in this garage, it's him, for sure." The man's got a point. From a wins standpoint, Talladega ranks as Junior's best track with six, only closely followed by four wins at Daytona, another Earnhardt cornerstone -- and another superspeedway. Bowman's 'Dega stats don't match Junior's, of course, but he did pilot the No. 7 Tommy Baldwin Racing Chevrolet to a 16th-place finish just last year. And while it's almost jarring to hear a driver say that he is "excited" for Talladega, it's unsurprising coming from Bowman, who'll have the roar of the crowd on his side -- a fanbase that has named the man he's replacing NASCAR's Most Popular Driver for 13 years running. "Junior Nation has been great ," said Bowman, 23. "It's been really cool; they've just been really supportive. Every now and then there's one fan that hates me, but for the most part they've been awesome. Casey Mears fans hate me after (Charlotte), because apparently it was my fault that we blew a tire and wrecked him, but Junior Nation has been awesome." RELATED: Dale Jr. to join broadcasts for Talladega, Martinsville Not only does Bowman have full access to Earnhardt's Talladega insight, a wealth of knowledge so deep it likely needs its own Dewey Decimal System, he's sharing substitute driving duties with a four-time Sprint Cup champ and six-time 'Dega winner in Jeff Gordon . "It’s been really cool (to share a ride with Gordon). Jeff was my favorite driver growing up when I was a kid," Bowman said. "It's been really good to learn from him. He's an open book. All five of my teammates are complete open books. It's great to lean on them and learn as much as I can, but Jeff just has so much experience and has a really interesting view on a lot of things. "It's been a great time just listening and observing and learning everything I can from him." The lessons taken at "Gordon Drivers Ed, Inc." appear to be working, too. While the final results might not show the whole picture, Bowman, at times, has looked like the more competitive driver behind the wheel of the No. 88, and owns the car's best finish -- seventh -- since Earnhardt placed second at Pocono way back in June. Bowman says that some people joke with him and say "Oh, I'm glad to see you've finally learned how to drive." He's always known how to drive, it's just been more about opportunities. And if luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity, "Bad Luck Bowman" -- a driver that once learned he'd been fired via Twitter -- knows the magnitude of the opportunity presented to him this weekend and in his remaining races. And you can be sure he'll be prepared. "I hope (this opportunity has put my name out there)," Bowman said. "We've talked to a lot of people and it always comes back to money. It's always 'Well, do you have any sponsorship?' 'Do you have any funding?' I don't, so it's just … the sport's such a business at this point that it really kind of limits what I can and can't get into and that's what's limited what I can and can't get into for the last four years. "I don't have anything lined up (for next year yet). I think my role that I had at Hendrick Motorsports before all this happened is still going to be the same. Still being a part of the team, still doing all the simulator stuff and helping as much as I can. I don't think that will change. Obviously, when Dale comes back and all that, I don't really know what that leaves for me as far as driving anything. "I don't know what the future holds there. I don't have anything going forward, really." In the short-term, at least, he'll have the full support of Junior Nation at Talladega. </p>
Dale Jr. backs Bowman, will tackle Talladega on the air
RELATED: Alex Bowman's time to shine TALLADEGA, Ala. -- Talladega's favorite son, Dale Earnhardt Jr ., won't be racing this weekend but much to the pleasure of his massive fandom, he will be trackside helping his Hendrick Motorsports team and even working in the MRN radio and NBCSN television booth during Sunday's Hellmann's 500. Earnhardt, who is sidelined for the remainder of the season while he recovers from concussion-like symptoms, was a popular sight in Talladega's garage Friday afternoon. He shared his thoughts in an impromptu interview outside his team's hauler just before opening Sprint Cup Series practice. Earnhardt seemed eager to return to the announcing booth during the race -- something he'll do on both radio and television. "It gives me an opportunity to see the racing from a different perspective and that's an opportunity to learn something about the sport," Earnhardt said. "It'll be fun. It'll be a neat experience. "I've been in the booth before and had a great time at Michigan this year for the XFINITY race. I won't be doing the whole race [Sunday], but … I'm glad I have the opportunity and to be able to still kinda be around and be a witness to what's happening at the race track. It's better than sitting at home. "I don't really get nervous any more," Earnhardt added with a smile. "The only thing that ever made me nervous was driving race cars. I don't feel nervous. I feel good about going up there. What's the worst thing that could happen, right?" Earnhardt was very complimentary of Alex Bowman , who along with veteran Jeff Gordon , has been filling in for him in the No. 88 Mountain Dew Chevrolet. In six starts for Earnhardt, Bowman has a pair of top-10 finishes. He scored his best showing of seventh place last week at Kansas -- while suffering from a stomach bug that made him so sick, the 23-year-old was on a stretcher getting an IV after the race. "The night before [the race] was a terrible evening as far as how he felt even getting a good night's sleep," Earnhardt said. "I was very surprised he was as competitive as he was, as bad as he felt. He was very nauseous throughout the race. He was a real trouper. Most of those guys on track have that grit and determination. "But he can do it. And he's capable and belongs out there." This weekend's race at Talladega will be a new challenge for Bowman. However, Earnhardt has high expectations. "I think he's going to do great ," Earnhardt said. "He's going to have fun and he's going to really enjoy the car because it's going to be competitive. We'll sit down and talk a lot and give him all the opportunities and understanding he can. He's already had some experience so some of the things we'll talk about will already make sense to him. "I'm looking forward to sharing what I can throughout the weekend to help him. I've told him from the start, now that's he's getting more opportunities and I'm out of the car for the rest of the year, he's able to kind of relax and realize he doesn't have to bottle up lightning for one particular weekend. He'll have a lot of opportunities this year to show what he can do. "He did that last weekend and pretty much every time he's been in the car he's shown he's fast and very capable and I expect that this weekend."
Meet Eddie D'Hondt, Chase Elliott's spotter
Editor's note: This is the first in a series of interviews with NASCAR Sprint Cup Series spotters. Eddie D'Hondt, Spotter for Chase Elliott , No. 24, Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet HOW DID YOU GET STARTED SPOTTING? "I was the GM at Evernham Motorsports when Bill Elliott was driving. I actually started spotting for Bill -- I guess about 16 years ago. I had been managing teams up until that point. I just sort of fell into it. I used to drive Modifieds. It just worked. I've been doing it ever since." WHAT OTHER DUTIES DO YOU HAVE WITH THE TEAM? "We have a team meeting on Tuesdays, the driver, the crew chief and all the engineers. I have two reports I'm responsible for putting together for that meeting. That takes up most of my Monday, it's a lot of video work and some other technical work, but that's the other part of my job." DO YOU SPOT IN OTHER SERIES? "I spot in every series every weekend. I do 105 races a year; Rolex, Modifieds, Truck, XFINITY , Cup. In depends on the series as far as who I'm spotting for each weekend. I did all of Chase's XFINITY races, Cole Custer 's XFINITY races; I do Ryan Preece when I'm not doing the 88 XFINITY car. I do Cole's Truck races. The Ferrari team in Rolex." HOW LONG HAVE YOU BEEN WITH CHASE? "Just this year. For four or five years I was with Jeff (Gordon); three years with Kyle (Busch) before that." WHAT WAS YOUR FIRST RACE AS A SPOTTER? "It was with Bill. I guess the (2001) Daytona 500 , the race that Dale (Earnhardt) passed away." WHAT'S THE MOST BIZARRE THING YOU'VE SEEN WHILE SPOTTING? "Oh my gosh. I've lived up here all weekend for 16 years so I've seen a lot of stuff. There have been so many things. It's a great vantage point. Every single weekend we get to see a lot of what no one else gets to see." WHAT'S BEEN YOUR MOST MEMORABLE EXPERIENCE AS A SPOTTER? "Homestead with Jeff last year and (the win at) Martinsville. I'd have to say those two. Jeff was just special. He is a special guy. He got in the trenches with you, he became your friend. You wanted to fight with him. I was working with Kyle Busch when Alan Gustafson (Gordon's crew chief at the time) came and got me, sat down and struck a deal and five years later, here I am." WHAT'S THE MOST DIFFICULT PART OF YOUR JOB? "Probably the travel. I’ve been on this circuit since 1996, prior to that I raced on my own. Being away from your family is difficult. Both my boys are working in the garage, so if I want to see them I have to go find them in the garage somewhere. The rest of my family is always home, so that's the hard part." WHAT CURRENT DRIVER WOULD MAKE A GOOD SPOTTER? "That's a good question. Maybe Carl Edwards . He likes to talk." WHICH TRACK IS YOUR FAVORITE? "Bristol and Martinsville. Probably those two. I grew up on the short tracks. The thrill of the short track, anything can happen at any moment. The flow you get into in those races, I enjoy that." WHAT IS ONE THING ABOUT WHAT YOUR JOB ENTAILS THAT THE AVERAGE FAN MIGHT NOT KNOW? "Today, it's become way more intricate than what people realize. We're providing information that we never did before. You have all engineers now on top of all these pit boxes, not guys that grew up short-track racing. These guys are all engineers now. So they talk to the drivers less and it's fallen into our laps now to provide more and more information on things like rubber buildup, lanes that are working, braking, backing up corners. We're talking more about driving than safety. Most of the guys up here, just go down the line, used to drive. They have some kind of wisdom about what it feels line so you're able to talk about it. And the guys that didn't drive have educated themselves. Those guys on the pit boxes, they're looking at data."
Keselowski preps for Junior-less 'Dega with motivation, fast car
CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Brad Keselowski 's winning Coke Zero 400 Ford was lightning fast. The Team Penske driver led 115 of the 161 laps around Daytona International Speedway to win the July event at the famed superspeedway. But he won't be unloading that hot rod this weekend at Talladega. "The car that we won Daytona with I saw it the other day," Keselowski said Oct. 7 during a Team Penske luncheon at Charlotte Motor Speedway . "It's sitting in the back and completely torn down. The body and everything is still just like it finished at Daytona. I asked the guys, 'Are we really gonna let that car sit? Are we not gonna run that at Talladega?' "And they said, 'No, we've got a car better than that for Talladega.'" Given Keselowski's current circumstances heading down to Alabama for the elimination race this Sunday (Hellmann's 500, 2 p.m. ET, NBCSN, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio), a fast car is a must. His 38th-place finish last week at Kansas Speedway put the No. 2 driver in a precarious position on the Chase Grid, as he sits 11th of 12 drivers and seven points behind the cut-off spot. RELATED: Keselowski, Elliott lowest on Chase Grid But if anyone can climb out of the hole holding the checkered flag, it's Keselowski. The 32-year-old veteran has a field-high four wins at Talladega, including the spring race earlier this season. For Keselowski, his past success paves the way for future conquest. "There's a self-fulfilling prophecy to plate racing to when you have confidence it transcends, not just through yourself, but to the cars you're running around, other drivers that work with you more, but also to your team, to where your team puts extra emphasis on those race and the drivers year-round cut you a little more slack because they just think you're going to pass them anyway," Keselowski mused. "And that creates a snowballing effect of momentum at plate tracks. So when you can have consecutive quality runs at a plate race, it almost gets easier. "It's kind of hard to explain and funny to explain, but I would say the success we've had this year on the plate tracks has put my team in a spot to where they almost put more effort on those races and developing the car and developing strategy and so forth because they have confidence that we can perform well at those tracks. And that they're not so much of a roll of a roulette wheel." Keselowski isn't the only current driver with a flair for plate racing. Six-time Talladega winner Dale Earnhardt Jr . is always considered a favorite heading down to the Deep South. But Earnhardt, who is out for the remainder of the season due to concussion-like symptoms, will be watching the Talladega chaos unfold from the sidelines -- something that hasn't happened there since Junior began racing in the Sprint Cup Series full-time in 2000. The absence of a veteran plate racer like Earnhardt Jr. is a big deal, Keselowski says. "There's no doubt about it that Dale Jr. at Talladega is one of the best," Keselowski said. "Without kind of putting in how the field feels about Dale himself in the moment, just losing one of the best drivers at the track is going to change the race. When you add in those other components and elements, I think it reduces the likelihood that you'll kinda see the field line up single-file against the wall. "And that itself means that the race is more taxing and an opportunity for incidents goes up dramatically." Multi-car incidents, tagged the "Big One" at restrictor plate tracks, are definitely no-go zones for Keselowski, who likely needs a win to advance to the next round of the Chase. There's no room for mistakes, no room for wrecks -- and likely no room for even just "safe" finishes. "Even being good at Talladega, it still doesn't feel good going there with no win," Keselowski said. "But you know you have an opportunity, especially when you have a great team and all those things. It can be tough -- I think it’s tougher on the guys that go there and don't enjoy that style of racing already. "But for me, I look forward to it."
Versatile pit crews help save points after wrecks
RELATED: Keselowski's Chase chances take hit after Hamlin contact Despite the specializing of today's pit crew members to be bigger, stronger and faster, they still need the ability and skill to help during a wreck situation. The points are tight this year and every position counts. Teams that can get their driver back on the track after a wreck have a chance to gain a few more points during a race weekend, and that could be the difference between advancing or going home. And it's not always a major crash that crews have to be ready for. This past weekend in Kansas, both Chase Elliott and Denny Hamlin had issues that could be fixed on the track, and their pit crews were called on to help. Simple stuff like a flat tire or nose damage can cause all kind of trouble, and it's up to the pit crew to fix it and keep the laps lost to a minimum. So you might be asking, isn't that the job of the mechanics? Yes, yes it is. In most cases the best people to be working on a car are the mechanics. No pit crew member will argue that. The mechanics in NASCAR are some of the best in the world, and working under pressure is what they do best. So if the issue is bad enough to bring the car behind the wall, then mechanics usually handle the job. When it comes to doing repairs on pit road and trying not to lose a lap, having a pit crew that can pit and then fix saves time. And pit crews practice these situations just like they would a four-tire change. Heading to Talladega there are many teams on the bubble. You never know when advancing or not comes down to just a few points, and those are the points that can be saved by savvy pit crew members and great mechanics. For more pit crew news, visit PitTalks.com . &amp;amp;amp;lt;/p&amp;amp;amp;gt;
Keselowski on Chase pressure: I feel quiet and confident
RELATED: See the Chase grid " Chase Bubble Watch HOMESTEAD, Fla. -- Brad Keselowski downplayed any sense of panic or urgency in his Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup hopes during a Tuesday test session at Homestead-Miami Speedway . Judging by the easygoing body language and quiet assurance he brought to a lunchtime question-and-answer period, Keselowski seemed calm and ready for the big race at Talladega Superspeedway this weekend. The Hellmann's 500 (Sunday, 2 p.m. ET, NBCSN, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio) will decide which eight of the current 12 Chase-eligible drivers will advance to the next round of the championship. And Keselowski is ranked 11th heading into the race. He trails his Penske Racing teammate Joey Logano by seven points. Logano sits in the eighth place cut-off position now, tied in points with Austin Dillon . Keselowski had a string of seven top-10 finishes end Sunday at Kansas. His No. 2 Miller Lite Ford was hit by Denny Hamlin and Keselowski ended up finishing a season-low 38th-place. MORE: Frame-by-frame of the Keselowski, Hamlin wreck "I haven't honestly thought very much about it,'' Keselowski told reporters Tuesday. "I took Monday off and cleared my head. We came here this morning and all I thought about was how I could be the fastest here in Homestead. "I want to do the best I can at Talladega, but I like to live day-to-day." Later, however, the 2012 Sprint Cup Series champion and restrictor-plate guru smiled and conceded about his chances at Talladega, "There are worse places." MORE: Keselowski: 'We will win Talladega' "I feel kinda quiet and confident and when you have those moments, if you have to talk about it, it's like you have to sell yourself,'' Keselowski said. "I don't feel like I have to sell myself.'' That's in part because Keselowski has a reassuring track record on the Talladega high banks. Many would place the 32-year-old among the tops on the list of restrictor-plate talents. He certainly tops the series this year -- with victories this spring at Talladega and this summer at Daytona Beach. He has four career victories at Talladega -- including his first career Sprint Cup win in 2009. And he won this October race to stave off Chase elimination back in 2014. "Tactics change, cars change and I'm a few years older so I've probably changed, too,'' Keselowski said. "I think any success at the Cup level no matter what track, the keys are doing everything right. You have to have a great team, you have to make the right moves, and the strategies have to change and you have to have a little bit of good fortune. I don't think there is one key. "That track, I've been very fortunate to win at a handful of times and each time there was probably one moment that was more important than another moment and they aren't shared between the races." &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;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;amp;gt;
Ailing Bowman presses on, nabs career-best finish
RELATED: Harvick closes out Kansas win Alex Bowman secured his career-best finish in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series on Sunday, pushing to a seventh-place run as Dale Earnhardt Jr .'s substitute in the Hendrick Motorsports No. 88 Chevrolet. And he did so while battling a severe stomach bug made the feat all the more remarkable. Earnhardt posted a picture to his Twitter account Sunday after the Hollywood Casino 400 , showing his interim driver on a gurney in Kansas Speedway 's infield care center -- an intravenous drip hung over his head and a cold compress on his forehead. Bowman, who said last weekend that he currently doesn't have any 2017 plans in place, gave it his all Sunday, ending the 400-miler as the top finisher outside the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup playoffs. It's just his second top-10 result in 77 career starts. While he wasn't dicing amongst the victory contenders after an early brush with the wall, his gutsy performance on a sunny Sunday afternoon made a lasting impression. The Showman @AlexBRacing did good today. Top 10 with a stomach bug. @nationwide88 guys gave him a great car. pic.twitter.com/ct6VTbZ8xB — Dale Earnhardt Jr . (@DaleJr) October 16, 2016
Tweets to the winner: Kevin Harvick at Kansas
When the checkered flag flew Sunday at Kansas, Kevin Harvick rebounded from a disastrous race last week at Charlotte to lock himself in the Round of 8 and further advance himself in the Chase. Fans of Harvick are excited to see their driver race for title number two, inching a step closer to the the Championship 4 race at Homestead (or Phoenix, the second-to-last race, depending on who you ask). @KevinHarvick great job driver can't wait to see you drive for the championship in Phoenix — Larry Roberts (@BakoEMT47) October 16, 2016 Harvick's been on fire this season, but not enough to wrap up the title in the Round of 8, no matter how much fans show up to pull for their driver. @KevinHarvick here to toot you on #4thewin pic.twitter.com/LSJpf2WkXe — Shawn Belt (@ShawnBelt) October 16, 2016 Prior to the Chase’s start, Harvick tweeted a GIF of a raging bull to illustrate his attitude toward the 2016 championship battle, earning himself the nickname "The Bull." As I was reminded after the race, "The Bull" is just one of many, many nicknames Harvick's earned in his career. @KevinHarvick Happy Harvick's new name is "The Bull"! Congratulations Kevin!! — Jeff Morris (@Jeffmorrissings) October 16, 2016 @KevinHarvick @DeLanaHarvick Go Happy!!! #TheChase — Donna K. (@DonnaK93) October 16, 2016 @KevinHarvick = closer. — Tim S. (@spottertim) October 16, 2016 Mr where did he come from! Sweet!!! @Milfy_B @KevinHarvick @DeLanaHarvick — Jeanette Giffey (@Netters08) October 16, 2016 @KevinHarvick great win!!! El Toro!!! — TraciDenise (@tracidenise29) October 16, 2016 @KevinHarvick great job mr pressure man.. — Jay Cremeans (@jaysflrv) October 16, 2016 @KevinHarvick nickname is not happy anymore. It's 'Mr. Clutch' hell of a job today! @DeLanaHarvick @RodneyChilders4 @StewartHaasRcng — 'Mr Clutch' Frame (@Scottframe28) October 17, 2016 @KevinHarvick The Eliminator — TheILF (@_Terry_Bull_) October 16, 2016 @DeLanaHarvick congratulations Pops . Go win it all #4 — Lorri Jackson (@Laj2J) October 16, 2016 Never count out Cactus King. RT if you agree.! I say! #4TheWin — KH4 (@kh4) October 17, 2016 @KevinHarvick Congrats, WildMan... — G Cornelius (@gcorn_4theWin) October 16, 2016 @KevinHarvick @RodneyChilders4 @StewartHaasRcng WAY TO ROLL "HARV" That's what we know #4team can do!! #congrats to all #4 team❗️ — Chrissie Leeson (@ChrissieLeeson) October 16, 2016 That’s Kevin "The Bull" "Happy" "The Closer" "Mr. Where Did He Come From" "El Toro" "Mr. Pressure Man" "Mr. Clutch" "The Eliminator" "Pops" "Cactus King" "WildMan" "Harv" Harvick, if you're planning on a No. 4 tattoo to celebrate the big win at Kansas. Maybe leave some space for more nicknames, just in case. @KevinHarvick 's truly a great driver. Ta hell w goofy nicknames he's talented/competitive driver. Congrats @StewartHaasRcng #HC400 #TheChase — GraydonBunn (@GraydonJessica) October 16, 2016