Hear from all the top finishers talking about their run in Atlanta.
Kevin Harvick fights off Kyle Busch to win the Great Clips Grit Chips 300 in Atlanta.
A stats-based look ahead to the second race of the Chase RELATED: Track your picks in the Perfect Chase Grid Challenge and Chase Battle Grid Presented by Toyota DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (September 15, 2014) –Below is a look at the 16 Challengers at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Loudon, New Hampshire going into the SYLVANIA 300 on Sept. 21. ESPN’s coverage begins at 1 p.m. ET and the race is scheduled for 2 p.m. ET. 2014 Chase Grid Pos. Drivers Season Wins Chase Points 1 Brad Keselowski 5 2,059 2 Jeff Gordon 3 2,052 3 Joey Logano 3 2,049 4 Kevin Harvick 2 2,047 5 Dale Earnhardt Jr. 3 2,042 6 Denny Hamlin 1 2,041 7 Kyle Busch 1 2,041 8 Jimmie Johnson 3 2,041 9 Kurt Busch 1 2,039 10 Matt Kenseth 0 2,034 11 Kasey Kahne 1 2,034 12 Carl Edwards 2 2,030 13 Ryan Newman 0 2,029 14 AJ Allmendinger 1 2,025 15 Greg Biffle 0 2,021 16 Aric Almirola 1 2,007 Green = In position to move to the next round of the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Orange = In position to possibly be eliminated from the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Challenger Round Red = Eliminated from the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup NEW HAMPSHIRE-SPECIFIC STATISTICS 1 - Brad Keselowski (No. 2 Miller Lite Ford) · Season-to-Date Driver Rating: 103.8 2014 Rundown · Five wins, 12 top fives, 14 top 10s; four poles · Average finish of 13.0 · Led 21 races for 1,340 laps New Hampshire Motor Speedway Outlook: · One win, four top fives, six top 10s; two poles · Average finish of 11.4 in 10 races · Average Running Position of 13.6, 12th-best · Driver Rating of 93.8, ninth-best 2 - Jeff Gordon (No. 24 Drive to End Hunger Chevrolet) · Season-to-Date Driver Rating: 109.9 2014 Rundown · Three wins, 10 top fives, 18 top 10s; two poles · Average finish of 9.7 · Led 19 races for 571 laps New Hampshire Motor Speedway Outlook: · Three wins, 16 top fives, 22 top 10s; four poles · Average finish of 11.0 in 39 races · Series-best Average Running Position of 7.7 · Driver Rating of 107.7, second-best · Series-high 437 Fastest Laps Run · 944 Green Flag Passes, 12th-most · Series-best Average Green Flag Speed of 125.153 mph · Series-high 4,989 Laps in the Top 15 (87.9%) · Series-high 638 Quality Passes 3 - Joey Logano (No. 22 Shell Pennzoil Ford) · Season-to-Date Driver Rating: 105.9 2014 Rundown · Three wins, 11 top fives, 16 top 10s; one pole · Average finish of 12.9 · Led 18 races for 721 laps New Hampshire Motor Speedway Outlook: · One win, two top fives, four top 10s · Average finish of 19.3 in 12 races · Average Running Position of 21.1, 22nd-best · Driver Rating of 72.8, 21st-best 4 - Kevin Harvick (No. 4 Budweiser Designate A Driver Chevrolet) · Season-to-Date Driver Rating: 107.5 2014 Rundown · Two wins, nine top fives, 14 top 10s; six poles · Average finish of 14.4 · Led 19 races for 1,265 laps New Hampshire Motor Speedway Outlook: · One win, five top fives, 13 top 10s; one pole · Average finish of 14.3 in 27 races · Average Running Position of 12.8, eighth-best · Driver Rating of 91.0, 13th-best · 178 Fastest Laps Run, 11th-most · 970 Green Flag Passes, eighth-most · Average Green Flag Speed of 124.716 mph, ninth-fastest · 3,700 Laps in the Top 15 (65.2%), ninth-most 5 - Dale Earnhardt Jr. (No. 88 Diet Mountain Dew Chevrolet) · Season-to-Date Driver Rating: 98.3 2014 Rundown · Three wins, 11 top fives, 16 top 10s · Average finish of 10.9 · Led 12 races for 220 laps New Hampshire Motor Speedway Outlook: · Seven top fives, 13 top 10s · Average finish of 15.5 in 30 races · Average Running Position of 11.6, sixth-best · Driver Rating of 97.3, sixth-best · 1,061 Green Flag Passes, third-most · Average Green Flag Speed of 124.987 mph, fifth-fastest · 4,255 Laps in the Top 15 (75.0%), fourth-most · 596 Quality Passes, third-most 6 - Denny Hamlin (No. 11 FedEx Ground Toyota) · Season-to-Date Driver Rating: 90.2 2014 Rundown · One win, six top fives, 12 top 10s; two poles · Average finish of 14.8 · Led 11 races for 163 laps New Hampshire Motor Speedway Outlook: · Two wins, seven top fives, 11 top 10s · Average finish of 8.9 in 17 races · Average Running Position of 10.5, third-best · Driver Rating of 103.6, third-best · 302 Fastest Laps Run, fifth-most · Average Green Flag Speed of 124.973 mph, sixth-fastest · 3,843 Laps in the Top 15 (75.7%), sixth-most · 569 Quality Passes, fourth-most 7 - Kyle Busch (No. 18 M&M's Toyota) · Season-to-Date Driver Rating: 89.8 2014 Rundown · One win, six top fives, 10 top 10s; two poles · Average finish of 17.7 · Led 13 races for 411 laps New Hampshire Motor Speedway Outlook: · One win, seven top fives, nine top 10s; two poles · Average finish of 14.4 in 19 races · Average Running Position of 13.5, 11th-best · Driver Rating of 94.7, eighth-best · 232 Fastest Laps Run, eighth-most · Average Green Flag Speed of 124.693 mph, 10th-fastest · 3,768 Laps in the Top 15 (66.4%), seventh-most · 504 Quality Passes, eighth-most 8 - Jimmie Johnson (No. 48 Lowe's Chevrolet) · Season-to-Date Driver Rating: 100.0 2014 Rundown · Three wins, eight top fives, 16 top 10s; one pole · Average finish of 14.1 · Led 15 races for 1,035 laps New Hampshire Motor Speedway Outlook: · Three wins, nine top fives, 17 top 10s · Average finish of 10.5 in 25 races · Average Running Position of 11.3, fifth-best · Driver Rating of 102.1, fourth-best · 431 Fastest Laps Run, second-most · Average Green Flag Speed of 125.077 mph, second-fastest · 4,459 Laps in the Top 15 (78.6%), second-most · 602 Quality Passes, second-most 9 - Kurt Busch (No. 41 Haas Automation Chevrolet) · Season-to-Date Driver Rating: 87.7 2014 Rundown · One win, six top fives, eight top 10s · Average finish of 18.7 · Led 11 races for 181 laps New Hampshire Motor Speedway Outlook: · Three wins, seven top fives, 11 top 10s · Average finish of 15.4 in 27 races · Average Running Position of 13.9, 14th-best · Driver Rating of 89.5, 14th-best · 187 Fastest Laps Run, 10th-most · 1,002 Green Flag Passes, fifth-most · Average Green Flag Speed of 124.664 mph, 12th-fastest · 3,448 Laps in the Top 15 (60.8%), 12th-most · 531 Quality Passes, sixth-most 10 - Kasey Kahne (No. 5 Time Warner Cable Chevrolet) · Season-to-Date Driver Rating: 89.4 2014 Rundown · One win, three top fives, 10 top 10s · Average finish of 16.1 · Led 10 races for 204 laps New Hampshire Motor Speedway Outlook: · One win, three top fives, eight top 10s · Average finish of 16.7 in 21 races · Average Running Position of 13.9, 15th-best · Driver Rating of 92.6, 10th-best · 340 Fastest Laps Run, fourth-most · 1,000 Green Flag Passes, sixth-most · Average Green Flag Speed of 124.828 mph, eighth-fastest · 3,709 Laps in the Top 15 (65.4%), eighth-most · 528 Quality Passes, seventh-most 11 - Matt Kenseth (No. 20 Dollar General Toyota) · Season-to-Date Driver Rating: 93.1 2014 Rundown · 10 top fives, 17 top 10s; one pole · Average finish of 13.9 · Led 16 races for 465 laps New Hampshire Motor Speedway Outlook: · One win, seven top fives, 15 top 10s · Average finish of 13.0 in 29 races · Average Running Position of 15.5, 18th-best · Driver Rating of 85.5, 18th-best · Series-high 1,140 Green Flag Passes · 471 Quality Passes, 12th-most 12 - Carl Edwards (No. 99 Aflac Ford) · Season-to-Date Driver Rating: 82.4 2014 Rundown · Two wins, six top fives, 11 top 10s · Average finish of 14.9 · Led 9 races for 133 laps New Hampshire Motor Speedway Outlook: · Two top fives, five top 10s · Average finish of 13.8 in 20 races · Average Running Position of 14.5, 16th-best · Driver Rating of 86.1, 17th-best · 972 Green Flag Passes, seventh-most 13 - Ryan Newman (No. 31 Quicken Loans Chevrolet) · Season-to-Date Driver Rating: 84.9 2014 Rundown · Two top fives, 10 top 10s · Average finish of 14.1 · Led 4 races for 24 laps New Hampshire Motor Speedway Outlook: · Three wins, seven top fives, 16 top 10s; seven poles · Average finish of 13.6 in 25 races · Average Running Position of 13.1, ninth-best · Driver Rating of 92.3, 11th-best · 4,131 Laps in the Top 15 (72.8%), fifth-most · 490 Quality Passes, ninth-most 14 - AJ Allmendinger (No. 47 Bush’s Beans Chevrolet) · Season-to-Date Driver Rating: 70.4 2014 Rundown · One win, two top fives, four top 10s · Average finish of 20.9 · Led 5 races for 68 laps New Hampshire Motor Speedway Outlook: · One top 10 · Average finish of 24.2 in 11 races · Average Running Position of 23.6, 28th-best · Driver Rating of 63.8, 28th-best 15 - Greg Biffle (No. 16 Ortho Ford) · Season-to-Date Driver Rating: 80.5 2014 Rundown · Three top fives, 10 top 10s · Average finish of 15.6 · Led 6 races for 109 laps New Hampshire Motor Speedway Outlook: · One win, six top fives, nine top 10s · Average finish of 15.7 in 24 races · Average Running Position of 14.9, 17th-best · Driver Rating of 86.6, 16th-best · 1,109 Green Flag Passes, second-most · 480 Quality Passes, 10th-most 16 - Aric Almirola (No. 43 Smithfield Ford) · Season-to-Date Driver Rating: 73.6 2014 Rundown · One win, two top fives, six top 10s · Average finish of 20.9 · Led 5 races for 23 laps New Hampshire Motor Speedway Outlook: · One top five, one top 10 · Average finish of 21.3 in eight races · Average Running Position of 24.3, 32nd-best · Driver Rating of 61.9, 31st-best New Hampshire Motor Speedway Data Season Race #: 28 of 36 (09-21-14) Track Size : 1.058-mile Banking/Turn 1 & 2 : 2 to 7 degrees Banking/Turn 3 & 4 : 2 to 7 degrees Banking/Frontstretch : 1 degree Banking/Backstretch : 1 degree Frontstretch Length : 1,500 feet Backstretch Length : 1,500 feet Race Length : 300 laps / 317.4 miles Top 10 Driver Rating at New Hampshire Tony Stewart............................. 110.0 Jeff Gordon.............................. 107.7 Denny Hamlin............................ 103.6 Jimmie Johnson........................ 102.1 Kyle Larson................................ 99.1 Dale Earnhardt Jr........................ 97.3 Clint Bowyer............................... 95.9 Kyle Busch................................. 94.7 Brad Keselowski......................... 93.8 Kasey Kahne.............................. 92.6 Note: Driver Ratings compiled from 2005-2014 races (19 total) among active drivers at New Hampshire Motor Speedway. Qualifying/Race Data 2013 Coors Light Pole winner : Ryan Newman, Chevrolet 136.497 mph, 27.904 secs. 09-20-13 2013 race winner : Matt Kenseth, Toyota 107.573 mph, (02:57:02), 09-22-13 Track qualifying record: Kyle Busch, Toyota 138.130 mph, 27.574 secs. 07-13-14 Track race record: Jeff Burton, Ford 117.134 mph, (02:42:35), 07-13-97 New Hampshire Motor Speedway: History · Groundbreaking for New Hampshire International Speedway, as New Hampshire Motor Speedway was originally named, was Aug. 13, 1989. · The 1.058-mile oval is located on approximately 1,200 acres; the multi-use complex is the largest sports facility in New England. · The first NASCAR Sprint Cup race was on July 11, 1993 – won by NASCAR Hall of Famer Rusty Wallace . · Speedway Motorsports, Inc. agreed to purchase New Hampshire International Speedway from Bob and Gary Bahre on January 11, 2008 and then renamed the track New Hampshire Motor Speedway. Notebook · There have been 39 NASCAR Sprint Cup races at New Hampshire Motor Speedway; one per year from 1993 through 1996 and two per year since. · 158 drivers have competed in at least one NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at New Hampshire Motor Speedway; 123 in more than one. · Two drivers have competed in all 39 races at New Hampshire: Jeff Burton and Jeff Gordon. · Mark Martin won the inaugural Coors Light pole at New Hampshire in 1993 with a speed of 126.871 mph. · 18 drivers have Coors Light poles at New Hampshire, led by Ryan Newman with seven. · Five drivers have won consecutive Coors Light poles at New Hampshire: Ken Schrader (1997 sweep); Jeff Gordon (1998-1999); Rusty Wallace (1999-2000); Ryan Newman (twice – 2003-2004 and 2011 sweep); Juan Pablo Montoya (2009-2010). · Youngest
See the entry list for the Nationwide Series' final standalone of the season RELATED: Play NASCAR Fantasy Live " Sign up for RaceView today Entry No. Driver Owner Crew chief Vehicle Sponsor 1 01 Landon Cassill Johnny Davis Dave Fuge 14 Chevrolet TeamJDMotorsports.com 2 2 Brian Scott Richard Childress Phil Gould 14 Chevrolet Shore Lodge 3 3 Ty Dillon Richard Childress Danny Stockman Jr 14 Chevrolet Bass Pro Shops 4 4 Jeffrey Earnhardt Gary Keller Gary Cogswell 14 Chevrolet Bandit 5 5 Austin Theriault Rick Hendrick Ernie Cope 14 Chevrolet Maine Open for Business 6 6 Trevor Bayne Jack Roush Chad Norris 14 Ford AdvoCare 7 7 Regan Smith Kelley Earnhardt-Miller Ryan Pemberton 14 Chevrolet TaxSlayer.com 8 9 Chase Elliott Dale Earnhardt Jr Greg Ives 14 Chevrolet NAPA AUTO PARTS 9 10 Jeff Green Mark Smith Todd Myers 14 Toyota Supportmilitary.org 10 11 Elliott Sadler J D Gibbs Chris Gayle 14 Toyota OneMain Financial 11 13 Carl Long Derek White Kevin Eagle 13 Dodge OCR GAZ BAR 12 14 Eric McClure Mark Smith Wes Ward 14 Toyota Hefty Ultimate / Reynolds Wrap 13 16 Ryan Reed Jack Roush Seth Barbour 14 Ford ADA Drive to Stop Diabetes presented by Lilly Diabetes 14 17 Tanner Berryhill Adrian Berryhill Daniel Stillman 14 Dodge NationalCashLenders.com 15 19 Mike Bliss Mark Smith Paul Clapprood 14 Toyota TriStar Motorsports 16 20 Justin Boston(i) Joe Gibbs Kevin Kidd 14 Toyota Zloop 17 22 Michael McDowell(i) Roger Penske Jeremy Bullins 14 Ford Discount Tire 18 23 Carlos Contreras Robert Richardson Sr George Church 14 Chevrolet 28 Special/Vol 19 28 J J Yeley James Whitener Steve Plattenberger 13 Dodge Texas 28 Spirits Stage 20 31 Chase Pistone(i) Steve Turner Shannon Rursch 14 Chevrolet TDB 21 33 Cale Conley(i) Richard Childress Nick Harrison 14 Chevrolet IAVA 22 39 Ryan Sieg Rod Sieg Kevin Starland 14 Chevrolet RSS Racing 23 40 Matt Dibenedetto Curtis Key Sr Gary Showalter 14 Chevrolet Curtis Key Plumbing 24 42 Dylan Kwasniewski Harry Scott Jr Scott Zipadelli 14 Chevrolet Up & Up 25 43 Dakoda Armstrong Richard Petty Philippe Lopez 14 Ford WinField 26 44 Blake Koch Mark Smith Greg Conner 14 Toyota Centershot 27 46 Josh Wise(i) Curtis Key Sr Gary Showalter 14 Chevrolet Curtis Key Plumbing 28 51 Jeremy Clements Tony Clements Ricky Pearson 14 Chevrolet Allsouthelectric.com/Value Lighting 29 52 Joey Gase Jimmy Means Tim Brown 14 Chevrolet TBA 30 54 Sam Hornish Jr J D Gibbs Adam Stevens 14 Toyota Monster Energy 31 55 Jamie Dick Jimmy Dick Mark Setzer 14 Chevrolet Viva Auto Group 32 60 Chris Buescher Jack Roush Scott Graves 14 Ford Roush Performance Parts 33 62 Brendan Gaughan Richard Childress Shane Wilson 14 Chevrolet South Point 34 70 Derrike Cope Mary Louise Miller Bobby Burrell 14 Chevrolet YOUTHEORY 35 172 John Jackson James Carter Richard Garcia 14 Chevrolet Crash Claims R US 36 74 TBA Mike Harmon Scott Stolzenberg 12 Dodge TBA 37 180 Ross Chastain(i) Shigeaki Hattori Bruce Cook 14 Toyota ADVICS/CMW 38 87 Joe Nemechek(i) Andrea Nemechek Steven Gray 14 Ford TBD 39 89 Morgan Shepherd Morgan Shepherd Kevyn Rebolledo 14 Chevrolet Courtney Construction 40 93 Mike Wallace Gregg Mixon David Goulet 13 Dodge JGL Racing 41 99 James Buescher Robby Benton Matthew Lucas 14 Toyota TBA (i) equals ineligible for driver championship points MORE: READ: Latest Chase news PLAY: Monitor your Chase Grid Game picks WATCH: Latest NASCAR video FOLLOW LIVE: Get RaceView
Brendan Gaughan manages to make a great save after being bumped by Dylan Kwasniewski.
Veteran: Saturday at Chicagoland 'was awful,' must improve as Chase goes on RELATED: Track your picks in the Perfect Chase Grid Challenge and Chase Battle Grid Presented by Toyota Dale Earnhardt Jr. got off to a solid, but not spectacular start in the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup's Challenger Round at Chicagoland Speedway . Earnhardt spent most of the afternoon in the top 10, ran some of the day in the top five but came away with an 11th-place finish. The finish itself may have left a little to be desired, but what bugged Junior was the No. 88 team's struggles in practice. Talking on "The Dale Jr. Download" as part of Dirty Mo Radio , Earnhardt lamented the fact the team couldn't find a rhythm in practice. "To be honest, Saturday was awful," Earnhardt said. "We weren't anywhere we needed to be. We were about two-tenths off of the guys that I thought were going to run well. Two-tenths is a chunk of time, so I was getting very worried." Junior finished in ninth in the second practice, but dropped to 26th in final practice. "The third and final practice we had all kinds of problems with the engine and the spark plug. And then we went out there and preceded to stink it up and run all kinds of terrible laps." For the owner of three wins in 2014, Earnhardt sounded a bit frustrated with the practice struggles. "We don't practice well. We never do but we always race well. Even if we practice decent, I know it's going to be a great race. Because we always race just fine. We just don't practice, don't qualify well. I don't know why that is. Wish I had an answer for you but trust me, it's an unpleasant experience to have to struggle through practice and worry whether that's a reflection of how the race is going to go." Earnhardt praised crew chief Steve Letarte and the team's engineers for the work they did from the end of Saturday's final practice to the start of Sunday's MyAFibStory.com 400 and is hopeful he can have a good feeling all weekend long next time out. "I want it to be good on Saturday. I want to run Saturday and go, 'Man we got a nice car, we got a good car.' " Earnhardt will enter this weekend's second race of the Challenger Round, the Sylvania 300 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway (2 p.m. ET, ESPN), in fifth place in the standings. In 30 starts at the Magic Mile, Earnhardt has seven top-five finishes and 13 top-10 finishes. In the summer race at Loudon, Earnhardt earned a 10th-place finish. That type of result would serve Junior well in the Challenger Round, but he knows more is needed as the Chase goes on. "Maybe this first round we can get by with finishing 11th, but Round 2 you are not going to make it. I know that. We need to improve a little bit there." MORE: READ: Latest Chase news PLAY: Monitor your Chase Grid Game picks WATCH: Latest NASCAR video FOLLOW LIVE: Get RaceView FULL CHASE COVERAGE • Chase hub page • Chase Grid games • #MyChaseNation
Rookie finishes seventh but gains little on Chase Elliott, Regan Smith RELATED: Play NASCAR Fantasy Live " Sign up for RaceView today JOLIET, Ill. – Ty Dillon closed the gap on the two drivers in front of him in the NASCAR Nationwide Series standings, but the Richard Childress Racing driver knows the gain was a slim one. With only seven races remaining, the opportunities are dwindling. The series returns to action Saturday, Sept. 20 with the VisitMyrtleBeach.com 300 at Kentucky Speedway (7:30 p.m, ESPNEWS). "Technically, we did what we needed to do, (we) beat the guys that are ahead of us in points, but we've got to do a lot better to get up there in the championship," Dillon said after finishing seventh in Saturday's Jimmy John’s Freaky Fast 300 at Chicagoland Speedway . Points leader Chase Elliott (JR Motorsports) finished 10th and now leads teammate Regan Smith , who finished eighth, by 18 points. Dillon trails the leader by 40. Elliott Sadler ( Joe Gibbs Racing ) and Brian Scott (RCR) both finished in the top-10 Saturday and remain fourth and fifth, respectively, in the standings. "We had speed all day, especially on restarts," Dillon said. "We could really go on restarts. But at the start of the race, our splitter kind of detached from the fascia on our front end and had a really bad flutter. Any time it would flutter (the car) would get really tight, so we had to come in and fix that and restart at the back I guess about 70 laps into the race. From there on, it was kind of a battle." Dillon worked his way back inside the top 10 and was running eighth following a restart on Lap 140. When Jeremy Clements brought out the caution at Lap 153, Dillon and his team, led by crew chief Danny Stockman Jr., opted for a fuel-only stop. As a result, he gained four positions to restart fourth. "(We) tried to hold everybody off," Dillon said. "I don't know if we finished sixth or seventh, we were side by side with (Sadler) at the line. ... Not a bad day for the adversity we had to come through." Trevor Bayne finished fifth, highest among the series' regulars. Sprint Cup Series drivers and a part-time Nationwide Series driver in Ryan Blaney swept the top four spots, with Kevin Harvick scoring the victory. It was the 19th top-10 of the season for Dillon, who earned his first career NNS win earlier this year at Indianapolis Motor Speedway . But Elliott, like Dillon a Sunoco Rookie of the Year contender, has three wins and 20 top-10s, while Smith has one win and 22 top-10s. Neither of the JR Motorsports drivers has shown any indication of faltering down the stretch. "We've been kind of battling from behind all year," Dillon admitted. "... Getting behind early in the race is nothing new to us; we're used to fighting from behind. "Hopefully things will start going our way and we run to our full potential." Text goes here MORE: READ: Latest Chase news PLAY: Monitor your Chase Grid Game picks WATCH: Latest NASCAR video FOLLOW LIVE: Get RaceView FULL SERIES COVERAGE • Latest news • Standings • Schedule
Driver talks past, future in interview RELATED: Subscribe to NASCAR Illustrated AJ Allmendinger has seen his share of adversity during nearly a decade in NASCAR. Two years ago, he hit the lowest point in his career after a failed drug test led him out of Team Penske and into NASCAR's Road to Recovery program. Chastened, the 32-year-old driver kick-started the second chapter of his career by winning two Nationwide races last year for Roger Penske. Allmendinger is now back in the Cup Series trying to push JTG Daugherty's program and his career to the next level. We caught up with Allmendinger a day after the No. 47 was swept up in an early wreck at Daytona. Just two weeks earlier, he'd led a race-high 34 laps at Sonoma before contact with Dale Earnhardt Jr . derailed his shot at for a first Cup victory and the Chase berth that would've come with it. NI: You're known as a strong road racer but what are your thoughts on plate racing? Allmendinger: Out of all the racing we do, it's my least favorite. There's just so much that goes into it. A lot of it's luck, being in the right place at the right time and missing the "big one." The racing can be exciting at times for sure. As a driver, you definitely have to be at full concentration the whole time you're out there when you're in the pack just because one 2-inch mistake can be a big, big crash. Especially if you're the one making that mistake, you feel bad because you wrecked yourself and you've got a lot of competitors that you feel bad about because they're probably pissed off at you. NI: You had a car that could have won at Sonoma before you were taken out. Does it take long to get over that? Allmendinger: I don't know if you ever fully get over it. To a certain degree, in this sport, you gotta be ready to go the next weekend. You can't let a bad weekend carry over into the next weekend. It's tough because I thought we had a shot to win. We were up front, top two cars every practice session and qualifying, led the most laps, played the strategy to what ours was and we just got into an incident. It is what it is. You can't fix it. NI: If you can get that first win, you're all but in the Chase. No added pressure there? Allmendinger: Honestly, I look at it two different ways. The Chase would be great for the fact that our sponsors and this race team being such a small team, to be able to promote that we won a race and are in the Chase, that would be fantastic. But when it comes to, "Do we have to make the Chase for it to be a successful season?" No. We're not a championship-winning team right now. There's no doubt about it. We're a small team, we're trying to grow to that at some point and it's going to be a long process to get there and a lot of hard work. I think with the right effort we can actually get there. NI: It might sound like a strange question but are you almost glad things played out the way they did back in 2012? Allmendinger: Except for the mere fact of having to put Roger Penske through that. Other than that, I'm way happier now than I have ever been when it comes to a lot of things. I still put a lot of pressure on myself racing, so I still have those ups and downs, but it's a different kind of pressure now. The ownership just makes this team such a family. I want to take this team to a new level. That's the pressure I put on myself, to put this team on my back and take it to another level. I feel like they deserve it down from ownership and the team because they work so hard. NI: How has your perspective changed in the past couple of years? Allmendinger: It's a different perspective now. It's not the only thing in the world, you know? There are other things that are important and in the grand scheme probably a lot more important than racing. But obviously when you make your life and you put your heart and soul into it, it feels like the most important thing. I wouldn't change anything that I've had to go through for anything except for disappointing Roger Penske. Hopefully, last year, winning the Nationwide races and having a shot to win Indy made up for it. NI: It's our tailgate issue, so I have to ask about your abilities on the grill. Can we call you a grilling master? Allmendinger: No (laughs). We can lie to everybody and tell them I can grill anything up. Only problem is hopefully I won't get called out on it. I really enjoy grilling because it is so healthy to be able to do that and I'm real health conscious when it comes to what I eat. The sponsors we have on our team are great when it comes to all that. So it makes it a lot easier because we’re stocked with a lot of great things to eat. I live in an apartment right now so it's hard to grill in the corner without a balcony. My girlfriend is really good at grilling so she's shown me some stuff. Hopefully, in the near future, I can have a house and practice up but right now it'd be a stretch to say grilling master. I'd like to be. Let's put it that way. NI: It's hard to believe you've been in NASCAR for almost a decade now. What's been your personal highlight so far? Allmendinger: The Nationwide wins were something I'll never forget, especially with what led to those. I remember making my first race at Bristol -- it took me four tries to finally make a race -- back in 2007 when there were 50 or 60 cars trying to qualify each weekend. Making our first Daytona 500 in 2009 and almost winning the thing. (Allmendinger finished third in the No. 44 Richard Petty Motorsports Dodge.) But I think the highlight is still being here really. This sport is tough. It will bring some guys in, especially with the open-wheel side of it, and spit them back out pretty quick. So to have the commitment level and just the do-or-die work ethic trying to stay in when things were bad and things got better and things got bad again, and keep coming back, I feel very fortunate that people believe in me. Whether it's the "King" or the "Captain" or Tad (Geschickter) to give me another shot to jump in this race car and feel like I can get the job done now. More than anything, just being able to still be a part of it through thick and thin is something that's probably the most special. SUBSCRIBE NOW!
Danica: 'I really like Mark and I wish it would have worked out' RELATED: Subscribe to NASCAR Illustrated Danica Patrick recently sat down with NASCAR ILLUSTRATED to talk breast cancer awareness and the Go Pink campaign that she and sponsor GoDaddy have championed the past couple years. At the end of our interview, though, the conversation steered toward Mark Martin. Martin, who will serve in a driver development role next year at Roush Fenway Racing , was poised to play a part in Patrick's professional growth in 2014. "He was supposed to be my driver coach this year and he wasn't," she said with a laugh. Let the record reflect that Martin didn’t back away from the challenge, according to Patrick, who revealed it was a back injury the fitness enthusiast suffered that kept him out. "He was supposed to do it and then he got hurt, and I was like, 'Is Mark gonna come to the track?' " Patrick said. "…His back hurt. I feel bad for him, obviously racing and working out is everything to him and then to be hurt and not be able to do…to retire and not be able to do the other, I know it's been a tough 2014 for him. "I really like Mark and I wish it would have worked out but it was circumstantial. But he was up for the job." Patrick had some involvement -- "not a ton," she said -- with Martin acting in a mentoring role. Asked to describe Martin's coaching style based on the limited interaction she had with him, Patrick detailed the plan devised for her at Stewart-Haas Racing . "Our sort of motivation and mission together was a lot less about turn in earlier or brake harder or deeper, it was more about the communication side of things, just how to translate the information from me to the crew chief in a beneficial way, in a productive way," she said. "And then kind of be the eyes and ears around a little bit and maybe (see) his side of things of what needs to be worked on to make things go better." Martin, whose legendary driving career included 96 wins across all three of NASCAR's major touring series, will tutor Patrick's boyfriend Ricky Stenhouse Jr. , among others, next season. "I think he has a good understanding that every driver is a little different and you can't just go tell him what to do," Patrick said. "We had a good plan. Just didn't see it through the way that I thought, but Mark is great guy and I know he would have done a good job." SUBSCRIBE NOW!
Jeff Burton demonstrates how new features of the Generation Six NASCAR Sprint Cup Series car will create great racing and improved driver safety.