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Post-Race Reactions: Heluva Good ! Sour Cream Dips 400
The top 5 drivers along with an upset Dale Earnhardt Jr. give post-race comments.
Sour string of finishes ends for Kenseth at Kansas
KANSAS CITY, Kan. -- Matt Kenseth led just three laps of Saturday's GoBowling 400 at Kansas Speedway , but the No. 20 spent much of the night knocking on the door. After two late restarts and a four-car crash that Kenseth's Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota avoided, he finished fourth behind winner Kyle Busch , Kevin Harvick and Kurt Busch , respectively. A fourth-place finish is Kenseth's best mark of the season -- a season sprinkled with bad luck and simply bizarre circumstances at times. "You always want the finishes," Kenseth said after the Saturday night race. "We've run up front, terrible finishes. A lot of races we haven't even finished this year. So you always want to get the finish. "I felt like we ran better than all three cars that finished in front of us so that part I guess is a little bit disappointing. The 78 ( Martin Truex Jr. ) had us covered but those other guys I felt like after 10 laps we were probably better than they were. Still didn't quite get the finish." Martin Truex Jr . and the No. 78 team know about bad luck. After dominating much of the race and leading 172 laps, a tire problem sent the Furniture Row Racing Toyota down pit road for an unscheduled stop that put them a lap down. "I don't know what the racing gods have against me," Truex radioed to his team after coming on Lap 216 in to fix a vibration after something got jammed up in a wheel. "Did everyone search their souls and figure out who's livin' wrong?" Truex's team radioed on a subsequent caution as Truex fought to a 14th-place finish. Kenseth has seen his share of rotten luck this season, but despite race-ending crashes at Las Vegas and Talladega and a tangled black-flag situation at Atlanta -- where he had dominated before a pit road violation and communication mixup -- Kenseth doesn't feel like dark forces are to blame. "All our problems we've had all year haven't necessarily been luck," Kenseth said. "I feel like everybody did a good job tonight. We executed everything good . We just weren't quite fast enough and weren't quite in the right positions. We got a decent finish so that was good ." Kenseth comes out of Kansas up one place in the drivers point standings to 14th, 121 points behind series leader Harvick. Kenny Bruce contributed to this report.
Best in-car audio from the AAA 400 Drive for Autism
Check out some of the best in-car audio from the AAA 400 Drive for Autism at Dover International Speedway as Martin Truex Jr.'s bad luck continues and Matt Kenseth gets his first win of the year.
H2H: Would 600 win mean more to Junior or Busch?
RELATED: Full 600 coverage A winner's trophy for the marathon, reputation-making Coca-Cola 600 is certainly one of the most prized possessions in all of NASCAR. The longest race (600 miles) on the NASCAR circuit is about so much more than just distance, too. There's the history of having such a contest at the 1.5-mile track just north of the Charlotte, North Carolina, NASCAR hub, not to mention this is the only race with three unique sets of elements: A race that starts under the sun, traverses to dusk and ends at night under the lights makes for three time frames with three unique sets of circumstances. Yes, it is truly a battle of man vs. machine. That's what makes it so difficult to win the Coca-Cola 600 , which both Kyle Busch and Dale Earnhardt Jr . have never done. In fact, neither has won a points-paying event at Charlotte Motor Speedway . So which driver would benefit most from a win Sunday? Brad Norman and George Winkler set out to answer the question. PHOTOS: All of Busch's victories " See Junior's patriotic scheme NORMAN: So sorry, Junior Nation, but Sunday's race is more important to Kyle Busch . "Rowdy" has been on an incredible hot streak since returning from a broken leg last season -- eight wins in 37 races in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series. Four of those victories were his first at the tracks in Indianapolis, Homestead, Martinsville and Kansas, respectively. There are only two tracks remaining on the circuit where Busch has not won a Cup race -- Charlotte and Pocono. The career-sweep is a mind-boggling feat, making Sunday's event a massive deal for the Joe Gibbs Racing driver. WINKLER: Sure, it would be impressive for Kyle Busch to add to his resume with a victory at Charlotte, but it would be an all-out celebration for Junior to win the Coca-Cola 600 . From downtown Kannapolis, North Carolina, (where Junior grew up) to Charlotte Motor Speedway is just a 25-minute drive, so one can only imagine the type of attention a victory like this would get. Plus, Junior has said repeatedly that winning the Coca-Cola 600 is a top priority of his and one of the gaps he'd most like to fill on his resume. NORMAN: Yeah, it's a big 'un for Junior on a personal level. History is at stake for Busch, though. Not just personal history, either -- team history. Check out some of the most historic races on the NASCAR circuit and their results over the past year -- 2015 Coca-Cola 600 ( Carl Edwards wins); 2015 Brickyard 400 ( Kyle Busch wins); 2015 Southern 500 ( Carl Edwards wins); Homestead finale ( Kyle Busch wins, and wins 2015 championship); 2016 Daytona 500 ( Denny Hamlin wins). JGR has a ridiculous streak at stake in these types of races, too. There's simply way more on the line for both "Rowdy" and the organization at large. WINKLER: See, I think the reverse is true. Because JGR has been so dominant this season, I think it's more important for Hendrick Motorsports , and particularly Junior, to re-establish their mojo. Earnhardt Jr. has wrecked in two of his last three points-paying races, has had some races where he qualified poorly but came through the field and others where he overcame in-race issues and the odds to post top fives. Considering how Junior has battled this season, I think he's tested and ready to fight for the whole 600 miles and be in a good position to win.
NASCAR partners with Steven Soderbergh on heist-themed film project
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (May 26, 2016) -- NASCAR ® is collaborating with Academy Award-winning director Steven Soderbergh on a feature film entitled Logan Lucky , starring Channing Tatum alongside Katherine Heigl, Daniel Craig, Riley Keough, Adam Driver and Seth MacFarlane. Depicting a theoretical heist at Charlotte Motor Speedway , the project will mark Soderbergh's first feature film since announcing his retirement from the film industry in 2013. Soderbergh, who also directed heist film Ocean's Eleven , is best known for his work on the critically acclaimed Traffic and Erin Brockovich , which garnered him two Oscar nominations and the accolade of Best Director. This will not be Tatum's first experience working with NASCAR or Soderbergh. He and 22 Jump Street co-star Jonah Hill served as grand marshals for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series™ Pocono 400 in 2014, while Tatum and Soderbergh previously teamed up for the Magic Mike films, Haywire and the 2013 thriller Side Effects , which was the most recent film project led by the acclaimed director. "We are excited to work with Steven, Channing and all of Logan Lucky's incredible cast and producers," said Zane Stoddard, NASCAR vice president of entertainment marketing and content development. "It's a big-hearted, fun story that showcases NASCAR and Charlotte Motor Speedway as the world-class sports entertainment property and venue that they are, much like the Bellagio in Steven's Ocean's Eleven ." Logan Lucky is tentatively scheduled for release in Fall 2017. Mark Johnson, Gregory Jacobs and Reid Carolin are producing. Zane Stoddard is executive producing for NASCAR. Pre-production filming will begin this weekend at the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Coca-Cola 600 , which airs live on FOX at 6 p.m. ET on Sunday, May 29.
Johnson, Earnhardt among teams to lose pit stall selection
RELATED: Sunday's full lineup CONCORD, N.C. -- Three NASCAR Sprint Cup Series teams picked up their fourth warnings for inspection issues Friday, meaning they will be the last three to select pit stalls Saturday for Sunday's Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway . Cited for inspection issues were the teams of six-time Sprint Cup Series champion Jimmie Johnson ( Hendrick Motorsports ), teammate Dale Earnhardt Jr . and Richard Petty Motorsports driver Aric Almirola . Johnson qualified seventh Friday, while Almirola was 20th and Earnhardt was 25th. The loss of pit stall selection does not affect the three drivers' starting position in the 40-car lineup for Sunday's 400 -lap event. NASCAR may issue warnings for minor infractions that occur during the pre-qualifying and pre-race inspection process. Once a team receives a fourth warning, the loss of pit stall selection is put into play. If the fourth warning is received prior to the pit selection process, it is enforced at that event. If the fourth warning comes after the pit stalls have been chosen, it will be enforced at the next scheduled race (or race in which that team participates). Johnson's team received its fourth warning after failing template inspection twice, thus requiring a third pass through that inspection station. Earnhardt Jr.'s No. 88 team also required three trips through template inspection resulting in a fourth warning. Almirola's team was tagged for requiring more than the allotted number of trips through the template and the laser inspection station. Once a team receives its fourth warning, its total is reset to zero. Warnings cannot be appealed.
NASCAR tweaks rules for Kentucky, Michigan races
RELATED: 2016 Cup schedule " Memorial Day weekend schedule Changes to the rear spoiler, front splitter and rear deck fin will be put into play for two upcoming NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races as the sanctioning body continues to reduce aerodynamic downforce and sideforce in an effort to promote closer competition on the race track. The changes, announced Thursday morning, will be in effect only for upcoming races at Michigan International Speedway (June 12) and Kentucky Speedway (July 9) and are in addition to previous adjustments made by the officials in recent weeks. Initial moves implemented before the start of the season combined with a Goodyear tire matched more closely to the lower downforce package have resulted in closer competition through the season's first 12 races. Why, then, continue to make adjustments in the overall package? "I think we look at it as a never-ending journey; if we can improve we're going to do that," Steve O'Donnell, executive vice president of competition and chief racing development officer, told NASCAR.com. "We wanted to go the direction of low downforce, see how that worked, not kind of go all the way in and hope that we are directionally right. And we are seeing that play out. We've seen some great racing at the beginning of the year. "But we also knew that we had some more levers that we could pull if the direction kind of proved out, so we've tried some of those things. We've tested it and what we've also wanted to do is lower some of the corner speeds to allow for even more passing. That was one of the areas where we've seen minimal change, but there are some levers we can pull to really drive that down." The changes for those races consist of a reduction in spoiler height from 3.5 inches to 2.5 inches, a splitter reduction of two inches and a re-sizing of the rear deck fin to complement the spoiler change. Beginning with this year's race at Kansas Speedway , NASCAR required teams to weld truck arm mounts; for the recently completed Sprint All-Star Race at Charlotte Motor Speedway , downforce-generating electric fans were removed and the rear toe alignment was reset to zero to reduce sideforce. The changes to truck arm mounts and fans are to remain in place for the remainder of the 2016 season. The rear toe adjustment was initially only in play for the All-Star event but now will be incorporated into the June Michigan and July Kentucky races. Downforce is the pressure created across the surface of a vehicle at speed. Likewise, sideforce is generated by the flow of air along the sides of the vehicle. O'Donnell said limiting the latest changes to two upcoming races is beneficial in two ways: Teams have spent plenty of time in development of setups with the initial base package and that information will still be relevant; and focusing on two tracks will give teams and officials much-needed information as they look ahead to 2017. "We have worked collectively on some directions we want to go in, but to do that right we think the final step is to let that play out on one or two tracks," he said. "And these are the two -- Kentucky and Michigan -- that we've played out and let the teams concentrate really on what they've done to prepare for the year. We think that's manageable and that'll give us enough data to look at for 2017." Four teams recently tested the aero changes while taking part in a one-day Goodyear tire test at Michigan. Kentucky, which just completed a re-pave and redesign of its 1.5-mile layout, remains an unknown. It is expected to be fast with the additional grip provided by the new pavement. Ray Evernham, winner of three premier series titles as crew chief for Jeff Gordon and currently in a competition role with Hendrick Motorsports , said rule changes don't necessarily create more work for teams, but rather redefines the focus of what's being worked on. "Everybody works on something, no matter what," Evernham told NASCAR.com. "… It just changes that focus because any of the good teams are working to the maximum on something all the time." Evernham said he had been impressed with how the previous changes had affected the racing this season. The All-Star Race, he said, provided "the best racing we've seen at Charlotte in awhile. "That's what's coming around the corner. That's exactly what everybody has been asking for -- the drivers, fans, everybody," he said. "That was some darn good racing in the daytime and in the nighttime. That's what I'm focused on. I think that NASCAR and Goodyear and the teams are getting to a place now where the cars are competitive like they want them, but it gives the drivers, crew chiefs and teams a lot more options to have passing." All races with the rules package, with the exception of this year's stop at Auto Club Speedway , have been contested on 1.5-mile or smaller venues. The package is not in play for restrictor-plate races at Daytona and Talladega. Will the base package provide similar results at the larger venues? Pocono (2.5 miles), Michigan (2 miles) and Indianapolis (2.5 miles) loom ahead. O'Donnell believes that will be the case. "I think one of the biggest things we've seen from Goodyear is the ability to match the tire up now with where we're going, the tire wear we're seeing producing much better racing," O'Donnell said. "If you take a Michigan for instance, one of the things with low downforce, if you don't do anything to the tire, you're going to go in and the speeds are going to continue to increase. We know that's a challenge for us. How do we balance that with the corner speeds? "By tweaking the package a little bit, it's really going to keep what we've seen from the positive play out and then really lower that corner speed which should produce the best of both worlds." Buy Tickets: Michigan " Kentucky
Junebug gets feisty with Junior, more tweets
Editor's note: Every Friday, "Tweets You Might Have Missed" will present eight of the best NASCAR-related tweets from the week. 1. Chillin to some @Alanis with Junebug. It was all good till last beer. pic.twitter.com/WWCC0Rr6Jy — Dale Earnhardt Jr . (@DaleJr) May 24, 2016 2. How about that #CoorsLightPole , @MartinTruex_Jr ?! #CocaCola600 #FurnitureRow pic.twitter.com/eY7LTyiQwF — Furniture Row Racing (@FR78Racing) May 27, 2016 3. Even Jack go into the fun at #RFRFanDay pic.twitter.com/QRyT23LAe0 — Roush Fenway Racing (@roushfenway) May 26, 2016 4. How do you celebrate getting into the @NASCARHall ? Take a cruise in your sweet convertible. Congrats, Mr. H pic.twitter.com/ST1czuSrFZ — Alan Cavanna (@CopaCavanna) May 26, 2016 5. Had the privilege to take Mr. Edsel Ford on a drive this morning in my 1924 Model T to kick off #CocaCola600 weekend pic.twitter.com/Htc5jrDvDm — Joey Logano (@joeylogano) May 27, 2016 6. Good time at @TeamJJF this morning for the 5k great to see so many people and everyone taking the wellness challenge pic.twitter.com/udSpSZ3spr — Ben Kennedy (@BenKennedy33) May 22, 2016 7. Taking some lessons today thanks to @mcboatcompany @cltskiboats & @ArodCltski This going to be a sweet summer! pic.twitter.com/aRBpVSSX3a — Brad Keselowski (@keselowski) May 24, 2016 8. . @RedNoseDayUS is tomorrow? Hope you have your #RedNose ! Tanner has his! pic.twitter.com/5qLmobv3yJ — KaseyKahneFoundation (@KaseyKahneFndn) May 25, 2016
Growth, new pairing lead to big gains for Bayne
CONCORD, N.C. -- In the closing lap of the opening segment of last week's Sprint Showdown, Trevor Bayne saw an opening just after the restart and went for it. With a spot on the line in the Sprint All-Star Race where $1 million would be at stake, there was no hesitation. "I guess I've always kind of driven that way but it doesn't get talked about it because it's like for 25th and sometimes it doesn't work because it doesn't stick," Bayne told NASCAR.com at Charlotte Motor Speedway , site of Sunday's Coca-Cola 600 (6 p.m. ET, FOX, PRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio). "Right now, when I've got cars that are capable of doing that and when it's for the win, it just looks a lot different. It's kind of always been my style on late-race restarts being able to go for it." That aggression came out in the Sprint All-Star Race as well where Bayne battled and traded paint with Kurt Busch en route to the Roush Fenway Racing driver ending up with a seventh-place result. And while that seemed to open some eyes at the track, Bayne has quietly been making strides in his second full-time season in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series. Thanks to a new rules package that caters to his driving style, his growth behind the wheel and a burgeoning partnership with new crew chief Matt Puccia, Bayne sits 18th in the point standings. That is the highest spot for the three-car Roush organization heading into Sunday's race. The pairing with Puccia, who replaced Bob Osborne atop the No. 6 pit box ahead of this season, has been just the tonic for Bayne in a solid bounce-back campaign. Puccia had been atop the No. 16 pit box for Bayne's Roush teammate, Greg Biffle for the prior four-and-a-half-seasons. The two have come to a quick understanding and that has paid off on the track. "We've known each other for a long time ever since I came to Roush really, we've been buddies," Bayne said. "I think that relationship from the past and kind of going through the same struggles last year and coming back together and both of us needing to revamp everything. He was going to end up being a XFINITY crew chief and that's not what he wanted to do. Things weren't looking up on the 6 team over here, so we were both kind of what each other needed to revitalize our careers." Part of the bond between the duo comes in the form of becoming new fathers in the past year. Last December, Bayne and his wife Ashton, welcomed their first child, Elizabeth Kate, into the world. Puccia and his wife, Alyssa, welcomed their first child, Kennedy Harper in October. "Matt's daughter is two months older than ours. We'll talk on the plane and he will show me a video of her doing something new and I'm like, 'oh boy, this is what I got to deal with in two months,' " Bayne said. "Now, Kennedy, his daughter is crawling around so I'm cherishing the moments while Ellie's still immobile and lays still and I can keep up with her." He may only be 25 years old, but Bayne has already had a career full of peaks and valleys. In just his second career Sprint Cup start; he won the sport's biggest race, the Daytona 500 in 2011 at the age of 20 years old. He was sidelined for two months in 2011 and was later diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in 2013. Last season in his first full-time season in the sport's top level, Bayne finished 29th in the point standings (and was no higher than 22nd during the course of the season) with just two top 10s in 36 races. "When you are struggling, you are super analytical about everything," Bayne said. "You look at everything you are doing. You analyze it. You try to make it better and sometimes that hinders you. I actually feel like I worked way harder at it last year than I'm having to this year. Sometimes that's what it takes. It's got to come naturally. "I'm not saying I’m not working at it because I am. There's a lot of things I learned last year that I implemented whether its post-race notes or spending time with the simulator. … I can't really say it's anything I'm doing, but when things are clicking it just makes it easier on everybody." This year, Bayne already has three top 10s in the season's first 12 races and is looking for a spot in the 16-driver Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup . The cutoff to the Chase is roughly three-and-a-half months away with 14 races to go. At present, Bayne sits eight points out of the 16th and final Chase Grid spot held by AJ Allmendinger . The driver of the No. 6 Ford views consistency as his ticket into the Chase. "Right now, our goals are to finish top 15 every week, be on the lead lap. Don't dig ourselves a hole," Bayne said. "Kansas, we blew a left rear tire and maybe could have avoided losing some of those laps had we pitted sooner when we knew we had a rub. We can't make mistakes. If you minimize that, you've got a good shot at it. … People are going to have bad days. You look at July in Daytona, you got to get through that race. You got to have a solid finish there like we did at Talladega (10th-place in May). "When the opportunity strikes to get a win or to run top five, you got to make those points up when you can, so you got to be pretty aggressive. I think our best chance is to points-race in right now, so those top 15s, top 10s we got to keep clicking them off like we've been doing."
Truex Jr. earns Coors Light Pole for Coca-Cola 600
RELATED: Lineup " See each car in Sunday's race CONCORD, N.C. – Martin Truex Jr . crashed a Ford party on Thursday night, winning the pole for Sunday's Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway (6 p.m. ET, FOX, PRN, Sirius XM NASCAR Radio). With his team making adjustments to the No. 78 Furniture Row Racing Toyota throughout the qualifying session, Truex saved his best lap for the round that counted, covering the 1.5-mile distance in 28.077 seconds (192.328 mph) to edge Team Penske Ford driver Joey Logano (192.007 mph) by .047 seconds for the top starting spot in NASCAR's longest race. The Coors Light Pole Award was Truex's second of the season and the ninth of his career. Both of the New Jersey driver's poles this year have come on 1.5-mile tracks, the previous one at Kansas Speedway earlier this month. "We really had to work pretty hard for it today," said Truex, whose lap in the final round of qualifying was .27 seconds faster than his fastest practice lap. "It was just one of those Charlotte deals where the track was continuously changing. "We were just chasing the race track and changing the car and really never got it close to right until that last run. I'm really just proud of the effort and proud of all my guys for that. It feels good – 600 miles, that first pit stall (the pole winner's prerogative) … We're going to be on pit road a lot on Sunday night, and that's certainly going to be an advantage. "Hopefully, we can take advantage of it and make it work for us." Logano led both the first and second rounds but couldn’t match Truex’s top speed in the third and final session. "I got a little bit tight landing in (Turn) 1 and then a little bit free off (the corner)," Logano said. "It wasn't much. And then (Turns) 3 and 4, I actually thought was a pretty good corner. "So I would say most of it was down in 1 and 2 – probably at landing and through the center is where I lost most of my momentum. It's not much. Half-a-tenth of a second doesn't take long." Logano was the best of the Ford drivers, who held three of the four top spots in the first round of knockout qualifying and swept the top four in the second. In the final round, Fords were second, third and fifth. Ricky Stenhouse Jr . qualified third at 191.428 mph, followed by Denny Hamlin (191.388 mph) and Brad Keselowski (190.968 mph). Joining Stenhouse in the top 10 were his Roush Fenway Racing teammates Greg Biffle (sixth) and Trevor Bayne (10th), marking the first time since the April race at Texas in 2014 that three RFR cars have made the final round of knockout qualifying. Dale Earnhardt Jr . will start 25th after failing to advance past the first round by .014 seconds. Matt Kenseth (27th), Austin Dillon (28th) and Kasey Kahne (29th) also will have to come from deep in the field after disappointing efforts in time trials. Kurt Busch , who topped the speed chart in opening practice with the fastest lap of the day (192.843 mph), will start 13th after failing to make the final round by .08 seconds.