The top 5 drivers along with an upset Dale Earnhardt Jr. give post-race comments.
Race debuted in 2013 on temporary oval layout of backstretch Daytona International Speedway will discontinue the UNOH Battle at the Beach in 2015. The event, an invitational showcase for NASCAR's regional touring and weekly series, enjoyed a successful two-year run using a temporary oval layout on the 2.5-mile speedway's backstretch. This year, a mix of the NASCAR K&N Pro Series, Whelen Modified Tour and Whelen All-American Series will focus on near-nightly racing at nearby New Smyrna Speedway. In a statement, DIS track president Joie Chitwood III said the decision came "after much consideration." "It was necessary for us to make this difficult decision given that we will open 40,000 new seats during Budweiser Speedweeks 2015 as part of the Daytona Rising redevelopment project and will remove the backstretch grandstands prior to 2016 racing season," Chitwood said. "We are pleased to see the NASCAR K&N Pro Series and the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series will remain in Central Florida during Budweiser Speedweeks at New Smyrna Speedway and encourage fans to attend those exciting races." Track officials broke ground on the $400 million Daytona Rising project in July 2013. The redevelopment, which will feature a modernized 101,000-seat grandstand as the centerpiece, is scheduled for completion by the season-opening Speedweeks in February 2016. The Battle at the Beach debuted in 2013 with close-quarters racing and last-lap contact deciding the outcome of all three events in its opening year. The inaugural running was noteworthy not only for Kyle Larson 's victory in the Whelen All-American Series race, but for Mike Stefanik's grumpy post-race interview with Ray Dunlap, a video that went viral after Steve Park bumped aside the seven-time modified champion on the final lap. Daniel Suarez (K&N) and Doug Coby (Modified) prevailed in the Battle at the Beach in 2014. Chitwood said the track looked forward to continuing its relationship with the University of Northwestern Ohio, which sponsored the event in each year of its existence. 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 .
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
Denny Darnell left lasting impression on those in the racing community
Cain: Three-time premier series champ battered, but not defeated Tony Stewart had just returned to his motor coach after debriefing with crew chief Chad Johnston following opening practice at Homestead-Miami Speedway . The upside of practice was that three of the four Stewart-Haas Racin g team cars were among the top 10 fastest on the speed chart. The downside: Stewart was not one of them. So the face of the team, a beloved three-time champion of the sport, ran his hands through his noticeably longer, noticeably grayer hair and sighed -- managing just a slight corner-of- the -mouth smile. "I didn't have this gray hair two years ago,'' he said, shaking his head and allowing just a trace of his trademark dry wit to appear. During this rare late season interview Stewart's voice was soft and subdued. His body language spoke more loudly, his emotions still tangible and heavy. Stewart has spent much of the last two seasons broken in body and in heart, his strong spirit battered. In August 2013 Stewart suffered a broken right leg in a sprint car accident, the fractures to his tibia and fibula forcing him out of his No. 14 Bass Pro Shops/Mobil 1 Chevrolet for the remaining 15 races of NASCAR's Sprint Cup season. Still recovering from that injury and walking with a noticeable limp, Stewart started out 2014 assuring everyone that he was ready to race, insisting that his leg hurt more out of the race car than in it. The Stewart-like results weren't immediate, but he reminded people that there was a new rules package for which he had to adjust and a new crew chief with whom to get in sync. He preached patience, not panic. This summer, by the one-year anniversary of his leg injury, Stewart had already begun entering sprint car races again sporadically, in a low-key manner. It was an important personal milestone -- both physically and emotionally. Racing sprint cars is where Stewart is happiest. No pressure, just fun. It's his golf game, his family, his joy. When he shows up -- mostly unannounced -- for one of the Friday or Saturday night shows at some random, small-town dirt track, he is the first to offer financial assistance to the struggling young racer in the pits next to him. Stewart well remembers what it was like to need that one break. Just as often, it's a piece of advice or a supporting pat on the back from Stewart that will make that racer's night and provide a rocking chair moment in 50 years. That passion is what makes the Aug. 9, 2014, incident so hard to endure -- then and now. While competing on a Saturday night in upstate New York during the Sprint Cup race weekend at Watkins Glen , New York, Stewart was involved in a bizarre and tragic accident. Another driver upset after crashing out of the race, 20-year-old Kevin Ward Jr., got out of his sprint car and walked down the track toward the racing line to confront Stewart as he drove by. Stewart's car struck Ward, who died of his injuries. Stewart took most of the next month off from NASCAR out of respect to the Ward family, and to collect himself and grieve after an unimaginable turn in life while doing the one thing that had always been his steady source of happiness. Almost immediately after the accident television pundits joined sudden racing experts -- many of whom had never covered a race before, and many more who had never even met Stewart -- to offer loud and often misinformed opinions in the aftermath. A grand jury heard all the evidence and thoroughly contemplated the hard facts (witness accounts and video footage) and decided there was no evidence of criminal wrongdoing and on Sept. 24 formally cleared Stewart. The experience has obviously altered Stewart's perspective and changed his life. In unanticipated ways, too. The outpouring of support he received from fans, his corporate partners and fellow drivers in all forms of motorsports was humbling and strengthening. Stewart found out that so often, it's in the darkest and harshest times that you realize true friendship and the importance of the big picture. It was evident that weekend in Homestead, where despite the difficulties and turmoil of the season, Stewart intently focused on what he had to be thankful for, even as he still grappled with the tragic circumstances of the previous months and disappointments on-track. Here was Stewart about to have his first winless Cup season in his Hall of Fame 16-year career. "If that streak doesn't continue, it's not going to make my year any worse, by any means. It might have been something to help salvage it,'' Stewart said after a long, thoughtful pause. As it turned out, there was another thing that at least made the season more bearable. And on the last NASCAR race weekend of the year -- at a track where in 2011 Stewart put double exclamation points on one of the single most impressive NASCAR championship runs in the sport's history -- his good friend and teammate Kevin Harvick was less than 48 hours away from delivering the team its second title in four years, in similar style. "I think winning this championship with Kevin, it would be more gratifying to me from the standpoint, we've won it as an owner/driver, but to win it with a guy that's a good friend of yours, to win this year with all the adversity that I went through, I think it solidifies what Stewart-Haas Racing is all about and shows the depth in our organization,'' Stewart said. "That's what it will prove if we can win this championship, how solid our program is to have done it with two different drivers and have so many people make the Chase each year. This is what will really put us on the map." In what could be a microcosm of Stewart's year, he finished 43rd at Homestead after being collected in an early-race accident -- but he was still able to enjoy watching Harvick win the race and hoist the Sprint Cup trophy. The hugs, handshakes, high-fives and pure emotions of it all during the victory celebration had to be a great release for Stewart, who considers the friendship part of the relationship equally as important as the business success. "You know, there's a lot of things I would love to change about the last 18 months of my life, but tonight is not one of them,'' Stewart said after the race. "I'm going to enjoy this moment, and I'm going to enjoy it with this group and this young man. "We're going to go celebrate and enjoy this because this group of people here have deserved it, and this is a great family and this is a great group of people to lean on." It echoed what Stewart said two days earlier in his motor coach, the great solace friendships have given him in times of despair -- a comforting asset he takes as he tries to move forward. Stewart will spend what little downtime he has after the season with friends like SHR crew chief Tony Gibson and World of Outlaws legend Steve Kinser. He'll attend the Chili Bowl as a spectator, cheering on those he would normally compete against. Just being in that atmosphere, surrounded by friends and supporters, will have to be enough for now. "That's one thing that hasn't changed no matter what's gone on,'' Stewart said, his voice perking up to make the point. "It's the one consistency in my life. And I'm so grateful." 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
Four-time winner in 2014 endorses Gordon's suggested tweak of new format DORAL, Fla. -- Dale Earnhardt Jr . didn't exactly have a front-row seat for the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup finale's championship battle, finishing 14th in the season-ending race at Homestead-Miami Speedway . But a day later and having had some time to reflect on the new playoff format's conclusion, NASCAR's most popular driver said he thought it was an invigorating success. "I thought it couldn't have gone any better for NASCAR," Earnhardt Jr. said Monday at the Trump National Doral, site of the NASCAR Nationwide and Camping World Truck Series awards banquet later that night. "I always go back to thinking about how I ran and what I could've done, but looking at the event as a whole, I thought it was great for NASCAR. I thought the right guy won the championship and I thought it was good to have a mix of different seasons, if you will -- you had the guy with no wins and all the consistency, you had the guy with one win, a couple of guys with multiple wins, youth and experience. Everything across the board was represented and we got to see it play out." Kevin Harvick stormed to the front on fresher tires at the end of the Ford EcoBoost 400 , denying runner-up Ryan Newman for the victory and the championship, as Denny Hamlin and Joey Logano also faded late in their bids for the title. But all four hopefuls spent time contending for the lead, and the rash of yellow flags at the end forced their crew chiefs into varying pit-road gambles down the stretch. "I thought those cautions at the end changed the strategy, but they were all legit," Earnhardt said. "There was a lot of stuff happening on the race track and it was an exciting race even without the championship battle involved, but I loved the way it played out. I think that NASCAR has got to be really pleased." Earnhardt's own path in this year's Chase ended in the Contender Round elimination race at Talladega Superspeedway , but he made the most of his ousting with his first Martinsville Speedway victory the following week. While he wasn't able to race for the title, he said that the system provided plenty of memorable moments, culminating in Sunday night's finale. Jeff Gordon , Earnhardt's Hendrick Motorsports teammate and a four-time series champion, said he would like to see tweaks adopted for future postseasons, including a separate points system for Chase drivers that wouldn't penalize mistakes relative to the balance of the field, potentially awarding points for the rounds of 16, 12, 8 and 4 on a scale that equals the amount of title-eligible drivers remaining (16 points for first, 15 for second, 14 for third and so on). Earnhardt said that such a proposal might prompt even more intensity, a tough task after a season full of high-pressure moments. "I like his idea as far as us racing under a separate points system where you have 16 drivers and you get 16 to 1 point regardless of your finishing position, you're just graded against the drivers in the Chase," Earnhardt said. "I think that's fair and I think that would be easy and simple for the fans. I don't particularly know that it would've played out any differently, but I believe yes, it'd be simpler and not so challenging for the drivers. It would allow us a little freedom to race a bit more aggressively, knowing that well, I'm just going to cost myself a couple of points versus 20. Much different scope and you can definitely race with more freedom because I felt, at times, stymied a little bit, by my ability to go out there and be aggressive. I felt sort of hog-tied and racing with too much caution, just trying to do X instead of thinking about Y and Z. "I like that idea a ton, and I think you still maintain the integrity of the system we have and the excitement of it." MORE: READ: Latest Chase news PLAY: Monitor your Chase Grid Game picks WATCH: Latest NASCAR video FOLLOW LIVE: Get RaceView
Writer offers thanks to those that help make NASCAR part of her world RELATED: Subscribe to NASCAR Illustrated I can't remember if I was grumbling about a commercial break, a caution period or a drive-through penalty. The point is, I was grumbling. If cautions breed cautions, then complaints breed pure, unadulterated whining. I don't ever want to be thought of as a cynical or jaded NASCAR fan, but sometimes it's just way too easy to pick apart anything or anyone. After all, complaining is the art of making something out of nothing just to have a reason to speak. And, in addition to being wholly unattractive, it is generally fruitless. When I find myself whining about minutiae (especially something so good as NASCAR), I take a breath and look at the big picture with a fresh appreciation. So, in the spirit of gratitude and thanksgiving, I want to take a moment to appreciate those who make this sport a part of my world for 10 months of the year. I am thankful to the families that share their dads, husbands, wives, brothers and sisters every weekend. As pit crew, officials, PR representatives, or people driving around in golf carts looking important, these folks spend time away from their families for jobs that help facilitate my addiction to NASCAR. I am thankful for commercials -- even the one with older couples holding hands while soaking in bathtubs out in the middle of a dock. You help pay for the broadcast. I am thankful for the drivers whose personalities and driving styles irritate the rest of the field. You give us someone to root against. I appreciate members of the media, who work tirelessly to bring me news and information. I am grateful for scanner headsets with microphones. You keep me from pulling the ear pad off and yelling, "What?" I am thankful to get a reminder postcard in the mail six months ahead of a race asking if I'd like to purchase tickets. I'm not too proud to admit, I can use a good reminder for any aspect of my life. And, yes, I do want those tickets. I am grateful to NASCAR for introducing and tweaking the Chase. I gained a ton of "street cred" after explaining it to several guys who weren't sure how to structure the office betting pool. Not to mention, I actually like the new system -- and that's coming from someone who is slow to embrace change (I'm still using Windows 7). I appreciate my husband and kids, who now know instinctively not to ask to change the channel until after the post-race interviews. And, lastly, I am appreciative that "NASCAR Nation" is full of folks who can tolerate a little of my whining. I wish you all the joys of being thankful. SUBSCRIBE NOW!