The top 5 drivers along with an upset Dale Earnhardt Jr. give post-race comments.
Denny Darnell left lasting impression on those in the racing community
Panel of experts debates the hot topics in NASCAR 1. Now that the season has been completed, what do you think? What stands out about 2014? Alan Cavanna: The Chase and everything surrounding the Chase. It worked out better than expected and I think it's sent the sport in a good direction. Kenny Bruce: It's definitely a long list, some good and some not-so- good . Dale Earnhardt Jr . winning the Daytona 500 , Aric Almirola and AJ Allmendinger winning for the first time and making the Chase, the excitement of the new format and the intensity that it generated. You had must-win situations for Brad Keselowski and Kevin Harvick , and they came through. The whole situation surrounding Tony Stewart late in the season will be memorable for all the wrong reasons, unfortunately. But it's become a part of what the '14 season was all about. Zack Albert: So many storylines to choose from and not just with the new-look Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup. Five guys -- and there for a while, a sixth -- rose to fantastic heights: Kevin Harvick , Brad Keselowski , Joey Logano , Jeff Gordon and Dale Earnhardt Jr . all either enjoyed resurgences or breakout years. The sixth slight nod goes to Jimmie Johnson , who was hot as a firecracker heading into the summer, but wasn't quite up to his usual Chase standards. Cavanna: As a storyteller, I loved the emergence of Brad K. as the "black hat" to some. The only way to really earn that is through great performances. Fans love having someone to hate, and Brad gave them plenty of wins to hate on. Bruce: The more you think about it, the more things slide back into focus, Zack. The Johnson hot streak you mentioned, the post-race altercations at Charlotte and Texas that Alan alluded to. And we haven't even touched Nationwide or Trucks, which had incredible moments as well. A rookie wins the NNS title? The first back-to-back champ in the Truck Series? Albert: I distinctly remember sitting in the Atlanta Motor Speedway media center watching Ryan Blaney and German Quiroga duke it out on the final lap of the trucks' visit to Canadian Tire Motorsport Park . The whole room stopped what they were doing to watch. Between that and the whole aura of Eldora for the second straight year, many great Truck Series memories. Cavanna: I really believe people will be talking about this first Chase, and first championship race, for a long, long time. To have three contenders with three laps to go still racing for a title was unreal. Bruce: Safe to say the season gave us plenty to talk about. But you're probably correct Alan. When it was all over, the new format and the final race seemed to stand above the rest. Albert: Very true. It all played out with a great finish and all four drivers putting in a championship-worthy performance. And whether you love the new Chase or are one of its critics, the bottom line is: Was the racing good ? At Homestead and many other tracks week-in and week-out, the answer was yes. Bruce: Now the question is how do they top that, Zack? Albert: Always room for an encore, methinks. 2. Kevin Harvick semi-joked that the Chase format could shorten his career because of the intensity it generated. OK, maybe or maybe not. But will the format adversely impact opportunities for a team to win multiple titles? Will we see more guys in the hunt or domination by those who figure out the best approach? Expect Jimmie Johnson and Chad Knaus to be better in the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup next year, now that they have one year of experience under the format. Cavanna: It's so hard to say because we're dealing with such a small sample size. We all made predictions before knowing how this Chase would work, and we were generally all wrong. Bruce: Generally? How about specifically, Alan? I think I had four different winners in four different Chase brackets and "might" have picked Harvick in one of them. Cavanna: In the end, the most dominant car won. But we also saw how it all came down to one race, and really the final pit stop. That could easily swing a championship, and prevent repeat titles. Albert: The degree of difficulty certainly went up in 2014. But you also have to have the common denominator of performance, year over year, to form a dynasty. Does Harvick have a repeat in him? Absolutely, but some of the new format's nuances can make it tough sledding. It will be interesting to see how teams learn from this first go-round and what the strategies will be for the next Chase episode. Bruce: Listening to post-race comments, Zack, I think you're right. We didn't know what to expect and neither did the teams. I imagine they're already determining what they could have or should have done differently for next year. Albert: Let's hope they can enjoy a little bit of offseason down time before they start number crunching on Chase scenarios. Cavanna: With one Chase to study, I can easily see the No. 48 team planning its strategy for next year. I think teams will take a different approach to ensuring their spot in the final four. Bruce: As far as whether the format favors someone dominating in terms of winning titles, I doubt it. With the elimination races in place, we saw what can happen to even those that were perceived to be the "best" teams. Still, anyone not figuring on Harvick being an early-season favorite should turn in his or her hard card. Cavanna: Once teams "figure it out," I think we could see some teams get good at it. Bruce: Given the format, do we see more "Mark Martin" scenarios? Great drivers who never win a title? Cavanna: That's very possible, Kenny. I feel like every year we'll have a driver who has a Logano-like year, but then just miss it in Homestead. Albert: Not to mention making room for an underdog, a la Newman, in the Championship 4. Bruce: I guess it's a glass half-full or half-empty scenario. Maybe more guys having great seasons that don't win a title, or perhaps the opportunity for more drivers to win it. Albert: Alan's still waiting on his opportunity in a third Penske car. Talk about your Chase bracket buster … Cavanna: My pit crew is stellar! Put me in the race, Captain! 3. OK, we know how 2014 shook out. What’s the outlook for 2015? And by the way, the Daytona 500 is less than 100 days away. Our experts think Kyle Larson makes the postseason next year -- and he may even be a title contender. Albert: Wow. Let me dust off my dart set and start throwing. Bruce: Daytona's rising. That much we know. As for anything else? Lawn Darts, Zack. Go big or go home. Cavanna: The emergence of Kyle Larson will be fun to watch. As long as his team continues to improve, I think he's a lock for the Chase, and a deep run. Albert: A very safe bet that he'll visit Victory Lane on the Sprint Cup side in 2015, probably more than once. Bruce: At least he still has his crew chief, which is more than his teammate can say. Cavanna: I also think some drivers will look at Larson's 2014 season and be even more motivated to get that win. Remember, if Larson had just one regular-season win, it could've been him taking a title in Homestead. No driver will want to be saying "what if" after having a great Chase but not being in it. Bruce: Actually, I think the crew chief movement will play a bigger role in '15. A lot of guys on the box seem to be on the move -- McMurray and Earnhardt Jr. will have new guys in place, we're still waiting to see what unfolds over at Joe Gibbs Racing. Kahne and Kenny Francis are no longer together. Maybe the season-opening question should be, can change top the tried-and-true? Cavanna: Kenseth switched teams and won seven races (in '13); Harvick switched and won a championship. What's next for Carl Edwards ? Albert: Plenty of movement, even though this silly season seems to be sprinkled with less hilarity. I'll be very interested to see if Team Penske can keep it up after a banner season, and how Hendrick Motorsports regroups after going 0-for-4 on title-eligible drivers at Homestead last weekend. Will also be watching to see if Chase Elliott takes those first steps into Sprint Cup, as hinted. Cavanna: We haven't even mentioned the 2015 rules package. The no-ride height made for a big change this season. Next year will be another adjustment, hopefully for the better. Bruce: If that's the case, Alan, then we should probably play close attention to next month's anticipated test at Charlotte. I seem to recall one team being ahead of everyone at that point a year ago ... and look where they ended up. Albert: Who knew that simulated races in December would mean so much? Cavanna: I'm filling out my Chase bracket based on next month's test. MORE: READ: Latest Chase news PLAY: Monitor your Chase Grid Game picks WATCH: Latest NASCAR video FOLLOW LIVE: Get RaceView
Watkins Glen International schedule, news, media, tickets, and information for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series track only on the official site of NASCAR.
Watkins Glen International schedule, news, media, tickets, and information for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series track only on the official site of NASCAR.
Watch Marcos Ambrose capture his first Cup Series victory and the rest of the sights and sounds from Watkins Glen .
Matthew Dillner takes Miami by storm and joins Aric Almirola at a local Cuban specialty, Versailles to share stories of his Cuban heritage.
In addition to Elliott, Smith will also have new crew chief in 2015 DORAL, Fla. -- JR Motorsports just completed its most successful season, with drivers Chase Elliott and Regan Smith finishing 1-2 in the NASCAR Nationwide Series . But changes are ahead for the 10-year-old organization founded by Sprint Cup Series driver Dale Earnhardt Jr ., and capably run by Kelley Earnhardt Miller, co-owner of the team as well as the vice president and business manager of the organization. Ryan Pemberton, who as served in the dual role of competition director and crew chief for the No. 7 Chevrolet team fielded for Smith, will return to the singular role of competition director. Greg Ives, who guided Elliott and the No. 9 team to the championship, is moving to Hendrick Motorsports to replace Steve Letarte atop the pit box for Earnhardt in the Sprint Cup Series. Ives will be replaced by Ernie Cope, a veteran crew chief that has overseen the third team, the No. 5, at JRM that has featured several drivers, including Earnhardt Jr., Kasey Kahne and 2014 Sprint Cup champion Kevin Harvick , behind the wheel. That leaves a need for a crew chief for Smith as well someone for the No. 5 entry (which will be the No. 88 entry next season in the XFINITY Series), something Earnhardt said has been addressed and will be announced likely as soon as week's end. "Ryan has been the competition director ( at JRM) for years," Earnhardt said Monday evening. "He sort of did me a (favor) last year by dropping down and filling a hole for us when Greg moved over to Chase. "This is something we've been working on for several months. He's going back to competition director (only) role. I think he's got a lot of strengths to be able to fill the role a little better without having to be a crew chief at the same time. It's been a distraction for him. I need him in the competition director's role and that's where he wants to be. "We're bringing in someone for the No. 5; we've moved Ernie over to the No. 9, and going to bring a new guy for the No. 7 (of Smith)." Elliott, the talented 18-year-old from Dawsonville, Georgia, captured the series championship as well as Sunoco Rookie of the Year honors, accomplishments for which he was recognized here Monday evening during the annual Nationwide and Camping World Truck Series awards ceremony. He was also named the series' most popular driver. The son of 1988 NASCAR premier series champion Bill Elliott , the younger Elliott won three times, scoring his first series win at Texas Motor Speedway in April and following that up with a win a week later at Darlington Raceway . He also won at Chicago and ended the season with 16 top-five and 26 top-10 finishes. Smith, third in points in 2013, won the season-opener at Daytona International Speedway and also finished the season with 26 top-10 results for a career-best points finish. "To ask (Pemberton) to do two jobs is a lot to ask of anybody at this level," said Smith. "We're going to make some adjustments there and carry on into 2015." Otherwise, he said, his No. 7 group should have few changes in personnel for ’15. "You know some people move during the offseason and decide they want to do some different things or something like that," Smith said, "but what I know as of right now it should look very similar." 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
Kenny Francis expected to crew chief Nationwide champ's Cup starts in '15 RELATED: Elliott's path to a championship MORE: Play NASCAR Fantasy Live " Sign up for RaceView today While the date of Chase Elliott 's NASCAR Sprint Cup Series debut has not yet been set, Hendrick Motorsports revealed his expected crew chief Thursday. Appearing on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio, Hendrick Motorsports General Manager Doug Duchardt said Kenny Francis is expected to be atop the pit box for those efforts. Francis was previously Kasey Kahne 's crew chief at Hendrick and is now in the newly created position of vehicle technical director. "I went to the NASCAR Nationwide banquet and was reminded that Chase is 18 years old," Duchardt said. "He's going to run Nationwide again next year and we've announced that we're going to run some Cup races with him in 2015. I would expect that Kenny (Francis) is going to crew chief those races for him. I think that's going to be a fun aspect of next year to see how Chase does in that. We'll see how things are going in '15 and see what the right steps are in the future. Right now, we're just going to take 2015 and take a look at how things are progressing. " ... It's like having this prospect in Triple-A that's batting .380 and when is he coming up to big club and run? We'll work on that, we'll see where that all heads." As far back as August, team owner Rick Hendrick was open about trying to get Elliott into a Cup car for a handful of races in 2015. "I think you'll probably see him run a few races next year," Hendrick told the SiriusXM NASCAR Radio in August. "Before he ever won a Nationwide race, I watched him test Jimmie's car and Jeff's car at Nashville, and Jimmie and Jeff both commented to me, 'This kid is super smooth and super fast. He takes care of his equipment, and he doesn't get in a jam.' "I said before he ever ran a race, I would put him in a 600-mile race at Charlotte and think he'd finish in the top 15, top 10, because he's so smart," Hendrick added. "He just understands the car and takes care of it. I think he's going to do a super job whenever the time comes. I think we'll surely, probably the second half of next year, we'll probably see him in some races." Dale Earnhardt Jr. , the co-owner of JR Motorsports and owner of the No. 9 car, has repeatedly said that Hendrick has "a great plan" for Elliott. Elliott broke out in 2014, winning three races in the NASCAR Nationwide Series en route to becoming the youngest NASCAR national series champion. He is set to drive the No. 9 car for a second straight season with JR Motorsports in the NASCAR XFINITY Series. Elliott will have a new crew chief in Ernie Cope, with Greg Ives joining Earnhardt Jr. in the Sprint Cup Series ranks. 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
See and hear the triumph and tragedy of the deciding race in the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup from Homestead-Miami Speedway.