RELATED: Buy tickets for Homestead It's a primetime test time for NASCAR teams this week as many head to Homestead-Miami Speedway , site of the Nov. 20-22 season finale Ford Championship Weekend. Four drivers will participate in a Goodyear tire test at the 1.5-mile South Florida track Monday and Tuesday with an open test scheduled for Wednesday -- NASCAR allowing each Sprint Cup Series team to be represented by one car. Trevor Bayne ( Roush Fenway Racing ), Clint Bowyer ( Michael Waltrip Racing), Ryan Newman ( Richard Childress Racing ) and Kyle Larson ( Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates) are scheduled for the Goodyear test. With the increased importance on Homestead in the new Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup elimination format, as the track's host the final race that determines the series champion, teams will be taking advantage of the open test as well. Joey Logano ( Team Penske ), a winner last Saturday night at Bristol, is among those scheduled to test on Wednesday along with other Chase-qualified drivers Dale Earnhardt Jr . ( Hendrick Motorsports ), defending Homestead winner and series champ Kevin Harvick ( Stewart-Haas Racing ), Martin Truex Jr . ( Furniture Row Racing ) and Denny Hamlin ( Joe Gibbs Racing ). Ty Dillon ( Richard Childress Racing ) and Ryan Blaney ( Wood Brothers Racing ) will also participate. "It's an opportunity for the teams to really dial in the tire and the aero package for '15," NASCAR Executive Vice President and Chief Racing Development Officer Steve O'Donnell told SiriusXM NASCAR Radio Monday morning. "Certainly an important event for just about everybody in the series so they'll be going down there, working with Goodyear to make sure they've got the right package to be able to obviously share that data with the race teams and get ready for the final push that we see in November."
RELATED: Stewart through the years Watching Tony Stewart as he announced his plans to step out of full-time NASCAR competition in 2017 reminded me a whole lot of the Tony Stewart I first met in 1996 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway , a driver who always made the racing beat a little more interesting and lot more entertaining for the last two decades. On the track and off it. Stewart, 44, was cutting up, smiling and relaxed Wednesday afternoon sharing his news and holding court in front of a room of reporters -- easing at times, but sincere and authentic. His larger-than-life persona has always been in proportion with his talent. Like a lot of people, I have mixed emotions about not watching him race every week, but they are trumped by the idea that Stewart could now exhale and be at peace. He seems very much so. And he deserves it. I'd spoken with him in previous months about the possibility of his "don't call it retirement." He bounced the idea off plenty of people and admitted that most tried to talk him out of it. I noticed that Stewart was especially chipper last weekend at New Hampshire Motor Speedway , and after the race was feisty like I had long known him to be. He was smiling a lot more. There was a definite good vibe. Clearly, he was ready to make this career-impacting announcement -- to move on, not aside. RELATED: Stewart: 'Deep down you know when it's time' It's the rare exception that a racing driver possesses the talent of his heroes, and in Stewart's case, he also shares a good bit of their personality. He loved racing against Dale Earnhardt, who loved racing against Tony Stewart . And he took A.J. Foyt's famed No. 14 for his own Chevy when he moved to Stewart-Haas Racing . Stewart is deservedly and fittingly compared to those two legends in his racing accomplishments, and in what has become a time of polish, politeness and political correctness, there will probably not be another so similar out of the driver's seat, either. Sometimes, Stewart's temperament -- the sarcastic interviews or the pit road confrontations -- diverted our appreciation for what a remarkable racer he is. RELATED: Statement from Brian France on Stewart Stewart is still the only driver to win an IndyCar championship (1997) and NASCAR Sprint Cup Series titles (2002, 2005, 2011). He was the first to win three USAC national titles (Midget, Sprint Car and Silver Crown) in one season (1996) and his results in racing's Memorial Day "Double" (ninth in Indy 500 and fourth in Coca-Cola 600 ) are unmatched. Everything you need to know about Stewart's drive was evident in his 2011 Sprint Cup championship run when after going winless during the regular season he won five of the last 10 races -- including the season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway -- to claim his third title trophy in a tiebreaker over Carl Edwards . He promises a similarly motivated final season in 2016 with a Daytona 500 and Southern 500 trophy still on his to-do list. "I've been very fortunate to do what I've loved to do for 37 years up to this point, and next year it will be 38 and there's no period on it at the end of next year," Stewart said this week. "It's just a little change. I still plan on adding stats for years to come after 2016." Asked about his legacy, which surely includes a NASCAR Hall of Fame induction, Stewart was more reflective, even philosophic. RELATED: Quotes from Stewart's retirement announcement "I really haven't thought about it, to be honest because to me at the end of the day I'm happy with who I am,'' he said. "I look at myself in the mirror and I'm comfortable with who I am and what I've done and the path that I've been down." And who could ask for more than that? "I think everything that's happened in my life has happened for a reason,'' Stewart said. "I think there's things that I would have skipped in my life and things that have not happened, but I think everything in the big picture has happened for a reason and is part of something that's a lot bigger than what we are this room."
Alan Cavanna previews the weekend racing schedule with Homestead-Miami Speedway hosting the Camping World Truck Series, Sprint Cup Series and Nationwide Series.
Crafton locks up second straight NCWTS title MORE: Crafton wins back-to-back titles " Full race results " Season standings HOMESTEAD, Fla. -- After breathtaking, three-wide racing during the final 20-lap green-flag run, Darrell "Bubba" Wallace Jr. held off hard-charging Keystone Light Polesitter Kyle Larson to win Friday night's Ford EcoBoost 200 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race at Homestead-Miami Speedway . Behind the wild battle for the victory, Matt Crafton ran ninth and won an unprecedented second straight series title with room to spare -- by 21 points. Timothy Peters came home third, followed by Kyle Busch and Ryan Blaney , runner-up to Crafton for the series championship. Busch won the NCWTS owner’s championship in the No. 51 Toyota he drove on Friday night. "Toward the end, battling the two Kyles -- the (Sprint) Cup stars -- it was tough," Wallace said. "But I didn't get too excited, didn't get too down. I kept a cool head and stayed patient and was able to come out on top." Wallace won his fourth race of the season and fifth of his career in his final ride in the No. 54 Kyle Busch Motorsports Toyota, as the organization picked up its 14th victory in 22 races. Signed to Joe Gibbs Racing, Wallace is expected to move up to the NASCAR XFINITY Series next year. "It is going to be sad to see him go," Busch said, "but we've got another great shoe that’s going to be able to fit into that role really, really good with Erik Jones . It's not that I'm saying goodbye, but I'm wishing him the best next year in what he gets to do, and I'm excited about his growth and opportunity to move up to the (XFINITY) Series." Wallace said he hopes to get plans for 2015 settled soon. "I wish things were finalized," Wallace said. "We're continuing to work hard to find my future plans. For me, I'm just going to go play some golf while I'm down here in Miami and enjoy this win, enjoy the offseason. "But as far as plans, we're continuing to work hard." As he closed on Wallace in the final laps, Larson said he contemplated trying the same sort of banzai move Ryan Newman had used on Larson on the final lap of last Sunday's NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Phoenix, where Newman secured the final spot in Sunday's Championship Round at Homestead by a single point. "I thought about it -- very quickly," Larson said. "But I figured that would definitely be the wrong thing to do, especially in a Truck race where I'm just kind of out there to have fun, and Bubba's out there to try to gain points, or whatever, and get the win." Blaney's waning championship hopes suffered a blow when his shifter broke, causing him to stall his No. 29 Brad Keselowski Racing Ford exiting his pit stall on Lap 72. Blaney dropped to 14th for the subsequent restart on Lap 76 and quickly worked his way up to ninth, three positions behind Crafton in the running order. By then, only 21 trucks remained on the lead lap, providing Crafton with a comfortable margin of error, given that Crafton entered the race needing a finish of 21st or better to claim the series title. Using vise-grips to control the broken shifter, Blaney was fourth off pit road for a restart on Lap 104, after the fifth caution of the night. His hard-fought top-five wasn’t enough to overcome the 25-point lead Crafton held entering the race. During that same pit stop, Larson fell from first to third on pit road, after having led 96 laps to that point. Wallace grabbed the lead from Busch on Lap 119 of 134 and held it the rest of the way, as Larson charged into second place and closed the gap to .294 seconds at the finish. Note: Ben Kennedy won the Sunoco Rookie of the Year honors in the series. Kennedy and Tyler Reddick tied in the rookie standings, with Kennedy winning the title because of his higher position in driver championship points. 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
Additional tire tests are currently on the books for Homestead-Miami Speedway and Las Vegas Motor Speedway , according to Goodyear officials. Both tests are scheduled to take place after the completion of the 2015 season. The Homestead test is on tap for Dec. 14-15 and the Las Vegas test is slated for Jan. 12-13, 2016. Two final previously scheduled '15 tests will see Goodyear and teams travel to Phoenix International Raceway and Atlanta Motor Speedway next month. The AMS test replaces a test originally scheduled for Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, California. Whether an open team test will be included at Atlanta has yet to be determined. A single-day test has followed most of the Goodyear tire tests conducted this season. Because next season's Atlanta race likely would once again be held early in the season, there is a limited the window of opportunity for potential testing at the 1.5-mile track. NASCAR officials have yet to announce the 2016 race schedule for the Sprint Cup , XFINITY and Camping World Truck Series. "Atlanta is a recent addition," Stu Grant, Goodyear's General Manager for Global Race Tires, told NASCAR.com this past weekend at Chicagoland Speedway . "We’ve talked to NASCAR about 'hey do you want to make an open test for that? It's most likely that we'll end up with a different tire for the Atlanta race for 2016. … We want to test the 2016 rules package and you guys may want to have an open test.'" Grant said to his knowledge, an open team test following the Atlanta tire test had not been confirmed. Teams participating in the Goodyear tire tests at Homestead and Las Vegas have not been announced. Because Goodyear tested with the low downforce configuration being considered for 2016 at Darlington (South Carolina) Raceway, and teams raced with a similar package there earlier this month, Grant said it would be unlikely that Goodyear would return to Darlington for testing next year. "But we always have to leave that open just to kind of see how things evolve," he said. “Because the reality is in this sport you have a rules package and the car configuration and a tire setup, right? You run it and it may look good at the first event of the season; by the time you get to the second event, the cars may be a half a second faster. Things change. So I guess I'd say we’ll have to see how '16 plays out and see if there is a significant change in how the teams are approaching the car setups and things like that." NASCAR has also yet to announce its 2016 rules package, but is scheduled to meet with teams and others within the industry this weekend at New Hampshire Motor Speedway . Under this year's National Series Unified Testing policy, teams are no longer allowed to conduct private tests. The bulk of the on-track testing has come during scheduled Goodyear evaluations as well as open team tests held the following day. Because of a new rules package in use for '15, and the additional work toward development of the '16 package, Goodyear conducted more tests than normal this year, but Grant said he expects the company's '16 testing program to be more line with previous seasons. "So you can probably figure that Goodyear is probably going to test about 10 times in 2016 and if NASCAR has the same policy in 2016 then that's what (teams are) looking at," he said. “But I don't know if things are going to change … or not. We don't know what the race schedule is so consequently we haven’t really laid out a test program. I'm not sure where NASCAR is going to land on that open testing side." Overall, Grant said, the move to a lower downforce package has provided Goodyear a broader range of possibilities from which to work. "It's nice to design a tire for the low downforce package because when you take the aero off and the driver and the car is relying more on the tire for grip in the corner, it makes the tire more a part of the package," he said. "We're not just designing for wear and heat and durability to handle the load … it gives us a lot more freedom, a lot bigger window to design a tire in." Live Viewing of Final Inspection at NASCAR R&D Fans can now watch teams as their cars go through final post-race inspection at NASCAR’s Research and Development Center each Tuesday, thanks to live streaming of the process each week on NASCAR.com. First- and second-place finishers from the previous weekend's Sprint Cup Series race, as well as a random selection, are taken back to the center each week for a more detailed inspection. To watch the process, which begins promptly at 8 a.m. ET, fans can go to http://www.nascar.com/inspection.html.
Alan Cavanna gives you the latest information about the final weekend of racing in NASCAR's top three series season at Homestead-Miami Speedway .
Take a virtual hot lap around Homestead-Miami Speedway with Ryan Newman.
SPARTA, Ky. -- Coming to Kentucky Speedway is a homecoming of sorts for Louisville, Kentucky native Ben Rhodes . It's so much of one that there will be a big contingent of supporters -- the size of say, one's high school -- for the young driver in the stands. "I know we will have a lot of people in the stands coming out," Rhodes said during a media availability ahead of Saturday's NASCAR XFINITY Series VisitMyrtleBeach.com 300 (8 p.m. ET, NBCSN, PRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio). "I actually have my old high school coming, friends, family." In total, Rhodes estimated he will have roughly a 6,000-fan strong support section. Rhodes graduated from Holy Cross High School in May, although he missed that ceremony to make his XFINITY Series debut at Iowa Speedway . That finish, a seventh-place result, is his best this season. And while he hasn't yet run a NASCAR event at Kentucky, he did race in the ARCA Racing Series event last year and he hopes to pull from that previous experience at the 1.5-mile oval. The year as a whole has been quite the learning experience for Rhodes, who is piloting the JR Motorsports No. 88 Chevrolet this weekend. The 18-year-old has been soaking up information like a sponge from everyone around him. He has spent time on spotters' stands watching races and also picked the brain of JRM co-owner and NASCAR Sprint Cup Series star Dale Earnhardt Jr . Rhodes described meeting Dale Jr. as "very surreal at first because I've watched this guy on TV. I think everybody has if you are a fan of racing. "When I got to first meet him, it was overwhelming, but then I got to sit down and talk to him. I remember the first race I was at with Dale. We were just talking and we had about an hour talk, just kind of welcoming me into the family, the team. That was really cool for me because I have never associated or been around anyone in the Sprint Cup ranks before. So that was really neat. He has been very open with his knowledge, sharing everything and making sure I am picking everything up correctly." And driving the JRM No. 88 "All-Star" car as Earnhardt has described it in the past, can be a daunting task when the drivers include NASCAR Sprint Cup Series stars Earnhardt, Kevin Harvick and Kasey Kahne . "I feel the pressure when I am in it because of the other performances they've had," Rhodes said. The Kentucky race will mark his eighth start of the 2015 XFINITY Series season. Rhodes is also slated to be in the field next weekend at Dover International Speedway and in the season-finale event at Homestead-Miami Speedway . With each time out, Rhodes is looking to make strides. "The goal for the whole season has just been consistent top 10 finishes. We haven't got those consistently. We have some top-10 finishes, but not consistent. A top-10 finish would be great, but man, I'd love to get a win for the hometown crowd. That'd be great. I told Mr. Mark Simendinger ( Kentucky Speedway 's general manager) we might want to get the fire extinguishers ready. The crowd might go crazy." Competing in a NASCAR event here is a dream come true for Rhodes and a victory would potentially render the driver speechless. "I rode past this place when I was seven, eight years old going to go-kart races and didn't quite understand what it was about at the time but I dreamed about racing here. I did it last year in the ARCA race, but to do it in NASCAR, with a huge crowd, would be awesome. I don't know if there's words to describe it."
On Tuesday, Sept. 15, and Wednesday, Sept. 16, drivers will participate in the Chase Across North America, a multi-city media tour, crisscrossing the nation to make special appearances and build excitement for the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup . Markets include: Every Chase track market, Los Angeles, New York City and ESPN's headquarters in Bristol, Connecticut. Tuesday, Sept. 15 ESPN / Bristol, CT Headquarters Driver: Kyle Busch Event Time: Noon – 6 p.m. Event Overview: Kyle Busch will spend the day on campus at ESPN’s headquarters in Bristol, Connecticut. While onsite, he will appear live on SportsCenter at various times throughout the day and participate in interviews with ESPN.com, Marty and McGee, among others. Chicago Driver: Brad Keselowski Event Time: 10:15 a.m. – 1:15 p.m. Event Overview: Brad Keselowski will help Chicagoland Speedway announce a new Victory Lane tradition: A Chicago-style hot dog photo opportunity with the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race winner. Keselowski will visit three iconic hot dog locations and rank the Chicago-style hot dogs, with media invited to join at each stop along the way. New Hampshire Driver: Joey Logano Event Time: 11:30 a.m. – 3 p.m. Event Overview: Joey Logano will visit New Hampshire, home to the U.S. first presidential primary for the past 100 years, for a "campaign" stop in the Granite State. Logano will begin his quest for the title by “campaigning” throughout the southern New Hampshire area, visiting traditional key stops along the campaign trail. Dover Driver: Ryan Newman Event Time: 11:15 a.m. – 2:25 p.m. Event Overview: Newman will participate in a media luncheon with at the Dover Downs Hotel & Casino, followed by two large pep rallies at Fred Fifer III Middle School in nearby Camden, Delaware. Each pep rally will include over 400 students, a cheerleading squad, school band and more, and will be emceed by SiriusXM NASCAR Radio host and Delaware native Mike Bagley. Kansas Driver: Jimmie Johnson Event Time: 6 – 8 p.m. Event Overview: Jimmie Johnson and Kansas Speedway will visit the University of Kansas Hospital to visit with children in the Pediatric Wing. During his visit, Johnson will deliver Lowe’s Build & Grow kits and host an ice cream social with Blue Bunny for the children. On Wednesday, Johnson will participate in a media availability during the lunch break of the NASCAR open team test at Kansas Speedway . Charlotte/Greenville/Greensboro Driver: Matt Kenseth Event Time: 1 – 4 p.m. Event Overview: Matt Kenseth will travel from Charlotte to Greenville (SC) to Greensboro and back to Charlotte to kick off the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup . Throughout the day, he will participate in brief presentations, fan Q&As, autograph signings and media availabilities. Talladega Driver: Jamie McMurray Event: Time: 10:45 a.m. – 2 p.m. Event Overview: McMurray will spend the day at Talladega Superspeedway , participating in the final hour of "NBC Day" during which time he'll conduct a media Q&A over lunch. Following, McMurray will co-host an hour-long live radio show with WJOX and finish up the day painting a car is Tallaega's Victory Lane with local elementary school students. Martinsville Driver: Paul Menard Event Time: 3 – 6 p.m. Event Overview: Menard will help Martinsville Speedway celebrate the kickoff of the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup in the City of Martinsville. Menard will be presented with a key to the city by the mayor and participate in a celebratory parade around downtown Martinsville, followed by a "happy hour" event at 37 East (restaurant). Texas (Dallas) Driver: Clint Bowyer Event Time: 11:30 a.m. – 2:30 p.m. Event Overview: Clint Bowyer will make a surprise appearance to some of Texas Motor Speedway 's best season ticketholders as selected by the track. Following the surprise visits, Bowyer and the season ticket holders will participate in media availability. Homestead-Miami (Ft. Lauderdale) Driver: Denny Hamlin Event Time: 10:30 a.m. – 2 p.m. Event Overview: Denny Hamlin will team up with Homestead-Miami Speedway and the Museum of Discovery and Science to host students from Broward County High School, where Hamlin and the students will participate in a variety of activities and exhibits at the Ft. Lauderdale museum. Wednesday, Sept. 16 New York City Driver: Jeff Gordon Event Time: TBD Event Overview: Gordon will participate in a national media tour around New York City. Phoenix Driver: Kurt Busch Event Time: 8 – 11 a.m. Event Overview: Kurt Busch will participate in the second annual "Breakfast With Champions" event with Phoenix International Raceway and The Heard Museum. Emceed by veteran motorsports reporter Ralph Sheheen, Busch will break down his picks in the Chase Grid for the invite-only audience that will include Phoenix area media and PIR partners. Los Angeles Driver: Dale Earnhardt Jr . Event: Time: Noon – 6 p.m. Event Overview: Dale Earnhardt Jr . will participate in a media tour at the FOX Studios in Los Angeles, appearing on America's Pregame Show, FOX Sports Live, among others. Following the visit to FOX, he will appear on Jimmy Kimmel Live!.
Photo credit: Nigel Kinrade Photography courtesy of Joe Gibbs Racing SPARTA, Ky. -- Joe Gibbs knows how valuable a solid backup quarterback can be from his stints as the head coach for the NFL's Washington Redskins. And a solid fill-in and spot driver can be just about the same. Drew Herring was at Kentucky Speedway this weekend shaking down the No. 54 Toyota in practice and qualifying for Erik Jones ahead of Saturday night's NASCAR XFINITY Series VisitMyrtleBeach.com 300 (8 p.m. ET, NBCSN, PRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio). Jones competed in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series UNOH 175 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway before flying to Kentucky for the XFINITY race. Herring has played this role before in 2015. He practiced and qualified for Jones' in both Iowa events, even winning the pole in the No. 20 Toyota in May. He also practiced in the No. 54 Toyota at Chicagoland Speedway in June, helping to get the No. 54 setup for Jones' victory at the 1.5-mile track. So how does Herring prepare for his fill-in gig? "It helps that all of these guys (the JGR crew) are the best in the business and that we're driving good race cars, fast race cars and we unload close," Herring told NASCAR.com at Kentucky. "I'm not having to take our first run and really get acclimated and try and figure out what the car is doing because it's all so close. It really helps me out and then I just try to go back and watch races, talk with Erik (Jones), talk with Chris (Gayle, crew chief of the No. 54 Toyota in the XFINITY Series). "We've gone through things that happened the first race, what they looked for and what happened from practice to race. All those things just for me to download and to be as prepared as I can to give them the best read in the car and do the best job I can." On Friday, Herring showed off some speed and saving skills. He topped a rain-shortened final practice was a fast lap of 175.959 mph. He also made a great save in the latter minutes of final practice when he got loose coming off of Turn 4. "It's fun to get to drive these cars. It's not much fun getting out on race day but it's a whole lot better than sitting at home and watching." The 28-year-old North Carolina native has made 15 career XFINITY Series starts with the last start coming in the 2013 season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway . He has five top fives with his best result a fourth-place run at Kentucky in September of 2012. Herring remains on the lookout for an opportunity that can put him in a car on a consistent basis. "I want nothing more than to be behind the wheel of a race car every weekend as much as I can. This is what I love to do. I've been doing it since I was nine. It's a true passion of mine and I thoroughly enjoy coming to the racetrack. "We are working on it but it all comes down unfortunately to not the talent side as much it comes down to the funding and the monetary side. We are constantly on the lookout for sponsors and trying to get people to want to be involved. For me, its just trying to find someone that wants to win races and championships because I know if we can get somebody on board, we'll do that for them. It's tough. There's a lot of people that are doing the same thing I am."