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Longtime partner renews with JTG Daugherty Racing
AJ Allmendinger announced Friday morning at Bristol Motor Speedway that Bush's Beans renewed its longtime partnership with his JTG Daugherty Racing No. 47 team. "Earlier this year we announced Kroger, just here to announce that Bush's Beans is coming back for a multiyear deal," Allmendinger said. "They've been with the company for over a decade. It's one of the best sponsors we have, especially when it comes to being family-oriented. They've been a family-oriented company for almost 107 years now." The NASCAR Sprint Cup Series driver, seeking his second consecutive Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup berth, will be driving his Bush's Grillin' Beans Chevrolet SS in Saturday's Irwin Tools Night Race (7:30 p.m. ET, NBCSN, PRN, SiriusXM) in his sponsor's home state. "Just to be able to announce that for another multiyear deal with them, especially in this day and age of sponsorship and continually keep trying to find sponsors to have such great sponsors like we do and to have them pumped up about our race team and come back for more years and hopefully a lot of great years to come, it's great for us," Allmendinger said. Bush Brothers & Company, a family business for over 100 years ago in Chestnut Hill, Tennessee, considers his NASCAR partners to be part of the family. "We are very excited to extend and expand our long-standing relationship with JTG Daugherty Racing ," Tom Ferriter, President and CEO, Bush Brothers & Company, said in a statement. "After 13 years, we think of Jodi (Geschickter), Tad, Brad ( Daugherty ), AJ and all of the No. 47 team as part of our family. "We look forward to continuing to work with JTG Daugherty Racing for many more years to come. We are especially proud to make this announcement at Bristol Motor Speedway since East Tennessee has been home to Bush Brothers & Company since our company's founding in 1908." Allmendinger will make his 15th career start in Thunder Valley, where he's led 54 laps with a 25.4 average finish. His best result was 12th in the 2011 spring race. He sits 22nd in the standings and likely needs to win his way into the Chase with three races left in the regular season.
NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Owner Standings
After Race 28 of the 2016 season at New Hampshire Motor Speedway Pos Owner Car # Points Ldr Nxt PPos G/L Wins Attempts 1 Team Penske 2 2,087 0 0 2 1 4 28 2 Furniture Row Racing 78 2,086 -1 -1 1 -1 3 28 3 Joe Gibbs Racing 18 2,085 -2 -1 3 0 4 28 4 Joe Gibbs Racing 20 2,078 -9 -7 7 3 2 28 5 Team Penske 22 2,073 -14 -5 5 0 1 28 6 Stewart-Haas Racing 4 2,071 -16 -2 14 8 3 28 7 Joe Gibbs Racing 11 2,071 -16 0 4 -3 3 28 8 Hendrick Motorsports 48 2,070 -17 -1 8 0 2 28 9 Hendrick Motorsports 24 2,068 -19 -2 6 -3 0 28 10 Joe Gibbs Racing 19 2,068 -19 0 9 -1 2 28 11 Stewart-Haas Racing 41 2,067 -20 -1 10 -1 1 28 12 Chip Ganassi Racing 42 2,057 -30 -10 15 3 1 28 13 Chip Ganassi Racing 1 2,052 -35 -5 11 -2 0 28 14 Richard Childress Racing 3 2,052 -35 0 13 -1 0 28 15 Stewart-Haas Racing 14 2,046 -41 -6 12 -3 1 28 16 Front Row Motorsports 34 2,027 -60 -19 16 0 1 28 17 Hendrick Motorsports 5 699 -1,388 -1,328 18 1 0 28 18 Hendrick Motorsports 88 697 -1,390 -2 17 -1 0 28 19 Richard Childress Racing 31 676 -1,411 -21 19 0 0 28 20 Wood Brothers Racing 21 642 -1,445 -34 20 0 0 28 21 JTG Daugherty Racing 47 627 -1,460 -15 21 0 0 28 22 Roush Fenway Racing 17 607 -1,480 -20 23 1 0 28 23 Roush Fenway Racing 6 607 -1,480 0 22 -1 0 28 24 Stewart-Haas Racing 10 534 -1,553 -73 25 1 0 28 25 Roush Fenway Racing 16 518 -1,569 -16 24 -1 0 28 26 Richard Childress Racing 27 516 -1,571 -2 26 0 0 28 27 Richard Petty Motorsports 43 488 -1,599 -28 28 1 0 28 28 HScott Motorsports 15 484 -1,603 -4 27 -1 0 28 29 Germain Racing 13 451 -1,636 -33 29 0 0 28 30 Circle Sport-Leavine Family 95 416 -1,671 -35 30 0 0 28 31 Front Row Motorsports 38 397 -1,690 -19 31 0 0 28 32 BK Racing 23 369 -1,718 -28 32 0 0 28 33 Tommy Baldwin Racing 7 364 -1,723 -5 33 0 0 28 34 Richard Petty Motorsports 44 332 -1,755 -32 34 0 0 28 35 BK Racing 83 309 -1,778 -23 35 0 0 28 36 Premium Motorsports 98 256 -1,831 -53 36 0 0 28 37 HScott Motorsports 46 243 -1,844 -13 37 0 0 28 38 GO FAS Racing 32 222 -1,865 -21 38 0 0 28 39 Premium Motorsports 55 182 -1,905 -40 39 0 0 23 40 The Motorsports Group 30 151 -1,936 -31 40 0 0 28 41 Front Row Motorsports 35 46 -2,041 -105 41 0 0 3 42 Circle Sport - Leavine Family 59 26 -2,061 -20 42 0 0 1 43 BK Racing 93 15 -2,072 -11 43 0 0 5 44 BK Racing 26 3 -2,084 -12 44 0 0 1 45 Hillman Racing 40 0 -2,087 -3 45 0 0 1
'Dinger paving road to success for JTG Daugherty
Driver credits RCR alliance with early 2015 gains Play: NASCAR Fantasy Live FONTANA, Calif. -- It's not hard to get lost in the long roster of drivers when you're on a single-car team. But when a single-car team driver like AJ Allmendinger is racing up front with NASCAR champions, he's on everyone's radar. The California native comes to Auto Club Speedway for Sunday's Auto Club 400 (3:30 p.m. ET, FOX) sitting in the top five in driver standings with two top-10s already under his belt and looking to score another this weekend. But the No. 47 team isn't paving the way to single-car success on its own. Martin Truex Jr . and Casey Mears join Allmendinger's company. Truex Jr., driver of the No. 78 Furniture Row Racing Chevrolet, sits third in the driver standings and has started his 2015 season scoring nothing but top-10s. Mears, the driver of the No. 13 Germain Racing Chevrolet, is currently 12th in the standings with a top-10 finish in the Daytona 500 . All three are in a technical alliance with Richard Childress Racing and from last year to now the gains the organizations have made are astounding. For Mears, the refining of the alliance has mostly come from understanding the specifics of what goes into a successful race car. "Just improving communication, it is one thing to get a sheet of paper that says, 'Hey, here is the setup,' " Mears said on Saturday. "But when you actually go up and put your arm around the guy that is actually setting that car up and looking at his procedure and understanding how he does it there are a lot nuances. The devil is in the details. I think that we have paid closer attention to a lot of those details, and it is starting to pay off." "I think we're working well together," Allmendinger said. "It's hard when you make an alliance, trying to fit in and see where you fit in and see how much data you truly get ... I think a lot last year we were just behind because we did the alliance basically right before 2014. So we were trying to catch up on cars and everything. We didn't maximize the tools we had, which RCR really allowed us to have pretty much everything we needed." After a slow churn in the alliance, Allmendinger and the No. 47 team are finally getting their footing and it shows. "Going into this year, we just looked at 'OK, how do we make ourselves better,' " Allmendinger said. "We just started a lot further ahead this year than we were last year. This weekend and last weekend we have a brand new car. It's one of the first brand new cars from top to bottom we've had since the team was with Toyota. Just being ahead has really helped us." Allmendinger might have gotten a slow start last year before making the 2014 Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup field, but he scored his first top-10 of the season at the Fontana track. Looking ahead, Allmendinger recognizes that hard work equals success. "I'm happy with our team and where it's going," Allmendinger said. "We've got a lot of work to go to be one of those No. 48s and No. 4s and all those teams every weekend, but I can see the hard work is paying off and that's what's great from inside the race car and outside of it." MORE: READ: Latest NASCAR news PLAY: Sign up for Fantasy Live WATCH: Latest NASCAR video FOLLOW LIVE: Get RaceView today FULL SERIES COVERAGE • Latest news • Standings • Schedule
The Rundown: Richmond driver grades
RELATED: Full race results " Standings " Chase Grid Breaking down the full field for the Federated Auto Parts 400 at Richmond International Raceway : 1. Denny Hamlin , No. 11 Toyota, Joe Gibbs Racing . Hamlin was awesome on restarts and just plain fast Saturday night at his home track. He now has four top-five finishes in his past five starts, including two wins. What’s more, he heads into the Chase with a series-best eight consecutive top-10 finishes. Hamlin is smokin’. Grade: A++ 2. Kyle Larson , No. 42 Chevrolet, Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates. Larson enters his first Chase riding finishes of first, third and second in the past three races. The No. 42 team is oozing confidence. Grade: A 3. Martin Truex Jr ., No. 78 Toyota, Furniture Row Racing . Not even a pit-road speeding penalty could hold back Truex, who led a race-high 193 laps. Surprising fact No. 1: This is the first time Truex has had back-to-back top-five finishes in more than a year. Grade: A+ 4. Brad Keselowski , No. 2 Ford, Team Penske . Keselowski had a pit-road speeding penalty, missed a shift on a late restart that resulted in Matt Kenseth wrecking out of the race ... and still finished in the top five for the ninth time in the past 14 races. Top fives, by the way, are dynamite in the Chase. Grade: A- 5. Kevin Harvick , No. 4 Chevrolet, Stewart-Haas Racing . Harvick’s pit-road speeding penalty came on the sixth caution. Notice how it didn’t torpedo his night? Or Truex’s, Keselowski’s or (as you’ll read next) Kasey Kahne ’s? That’s what happens when a race has a record 16 cautions. Also worth noting: The top-five finish was Harvick’s fourth in a row. Grade: A 6. Kasey Kahne , No. 5 Chevrolet, Hendrick Motorsports . Kahne’s only ticket into the Chase was with a win, and he fell short. Kahne finished seventh last week at Darlington and has put together back-to-back top 10s for the first time in almost a year. And to close the book on speeding penalties (for now), Kahne’s came during the second caution. Grade: A 7. Jamie McMurray , No. 1 Chevrolet, Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates. Ryan Newman ’s 15-point penalty after last week’s race made life a lot easier for McMurray, as did Newman's run-in late with Tony Stewart . Bottom line: McMurray turned in his fourth top-10 finish in the past five races and raced his way into the Chase with room to spare. Grade A 8. Kurt Busch , No. 41 Chevrolet, Stewart-Haas Racing . Busch didn’t get a speeding penalty, but penalized himself making sure he didn’t speed. How? He missed his pit stall during the second caution because he was looking down at his instruments to ensure he didn’t speed and had to come down pit road a second time for service. By Lap 229 he was back in the lead. Grade: A- 9. Kyle Busch , No. 18 Toyota, Joe Gibbs Racing . Busch’s 6.0 average running position trailed only Denny Hamlin and Martin Truex Jr ., but a final pit stop before overtime didn’t bear fruit. Grade: A 10. Joey Logano , No. 22 Ford, Team Penske . Logano heads into the Chase with 12 top-10 finishes in the past 14 races. Last year, it was 11 of 14 and he began the Chase with six top 10s, including three wins. Grade: A 11. Jimmie Johnson , No. 48 Chevrolet, Hendrick Motorsports . Let’s see … two pit-road penalties and one meeting with the wall. Not exactly heading into the Chase with any momentum, are we? Surprising fact No. 2: Johnson has 10 top 10s this season. Unless he finishes in the top 10 in each of the final 10 races, he will fall short of at least 20 top 10s in a season for the first time in his career. Grade: C 12. Michael McDowell , No. 95 Chevrolet, Circle Sport- Leavine Family Racing . In his 204th Cup start, McDowell produced the fourth-best finish of his career and his best finish on a non-restrictor plate track. All three of his career top 10s have come at Daytona. Grade: A 13. Austin Dillon , No. 3 Chevrolet, Richard Childress Racing . On a night filled with mistakes, drama and a track-record for cautions, you won’t find Dillon’s name associated with any of it. Mission accomplished. Welcome to the Chase. Grade: A 14. Trevor Bayne , No. 6 Ford, Roush Fenway Racing . Bayne is making progress, albeit incrementally. Saturday’s finish was his 11th top 15 in his past 20 starts. He had nine top 15s in his first 100 starts. Grade: B 15. Danica Patrick , No. 10 Chevrolet, Stewart-Haas Racing . Patrick almost was collected in the wreck that caused the eighth caution. Instead, her night ended with her third-best finish of the season. Grade: B 16. Jeff Gordon , No. 88 Chevrolet, Hendrick Motorsports . Gordon was involved in the third caution that resulted in Chase Elliott hitting the wall. Later, he somehow made it through the big Tony Stewart - Ryan Newman carnage unscathed. Gordon also spent some quality time in the top 10. Pretty eventful night for a retired guy. Grade: B 17. Aric Almirola , No. 43 Ford, Richard Petty Motorsports . A flat tire and a pit-road penalty contributed to Almirola’s 26.1 average running position. To his credit, though, that’s nowhere near where he finished. Grade: B 18. Ricky Stenhouse Jr ., No. 17 Ford, Roush Fenway Racing . Stenhouse was party to the seventh caution, and the No. 17 team got in on the pit-road penalty action en route to Stenhouse’s second straight 18th-place finish. Grade: B- 19. Chase Elliott , No. 24 Chevrolet, Hendrick Motorsports . Problems and penalties on pit road plus a brush with the wall are footnotes on a night Elliott where was one of two rookies to make the Chase ( Chris Buescher was the other). Grade: B- 20. AJ Allmendinger , No. 47 Chevrolet, JTG Daugherty Racing . Two words that seemingly were attached Saturday night: "caution" and "Allmendinger." We also could add "spins," "penalties," and "damage to the 47." And somehow, despite all that, AJ finished 20th. Must be the Mr. Tickles Effect. Grade: C 21. Casey Mears , No. 13 Chevrolet, Germain Racing . Without his great save from the contact that brought out the eighth caution, there is no 21st-place finish. Grade: C+ 22. Clint Bowyer , No. 15 Chevrolet, HScott Motorsports . Bowyer picked up only his 12th lead-lap finish of the season and is in jeopardy of having his fewest LLFs since his rookie season in 2006 (19). Grade: C 23. Greg Biffle , No. 16 Ford, Roush Fenway Racing . Biffle’s 500th career start might be remembered for what didn’t happen. Biffle spun in overtime, but because he was able to save his car and not hit anything, there was no caution. Would the outcome have been different? We’ll never know but Denny Hamlin should thank Biffle. Grade: C 24. Chris Buescher , No. 34 Ford, Front Row Motorsports . Buescher was in and out of dangerous situations all night -- situations he never should have been in. All he had to do was protect his spot in the top 30 and instead he was getting "racy." Yes, he finished 24th. Yes, David Ragan ’s crash cemented Buescher’s spot in the Chase. But Buescher’s night easily -- and needlessly -- could have ended earlier. Thus, his low mark. Grade: D 25. Dylan Lupton , No. 83 Toyota, BK Racing . In only his second Sprint Cup start, Lupton ended up on top of Ryan Newman ’s car in the big wreck on Lap 363 -- and still finished 25th. Grade: A 26. Reed Sorenson , No. 55 Chevrolet, Premium Motorsports. With four laps to go in regulation, Sorenson was hit by Kyle Larson and made a great save to keep from going into the wall. He was rewarded with his second-best finish over the past two seasons. Grade: A- 27. Jeffrey Earnhardt , No. 32 Ford, Go Fas Racing . Two Sprint Cup milestones for Earnhardt: His first laps led (two, during the first caution) and his best finish (in 16 starts over two seasons). Congrats. Grade: A 28. Ryan Newman , No. 31 Chevrolet, Richard Childress Racing . Newman needed a Hail Mary to make the Chase. It didn’t happen. Instead, his incident with Tony Stewart will become part of NASCAR lore. Not because of the wreck itself, but because of what Newman said afterward. When he looked right into the NBC camera and called out Stewart, it was like watching professional wrestling on Saturday mornings when I was in junior high. Great stuff. Grade: WWE 29. Regan Smith , No. 7 Chevrolet, Tommy Baldwin Racing . Despite losing a tire and crashing out of the race with two laps to go in regulation, Smith scored a top-30 finish for the fourth straight week. Grade: C- 30. Josh Wise , No. 30 Chevrolet, The Motorsports Group. Wise put together back-to-back top-30 finishes for the second time this season. Grade: C 31. Michael Annett , No. 46 Chevrolet, HScott Motorsports . Annett brought out the ninth caution when a flat tire sent him right into the wall on Lap 291. He finished 17 laps back. Grade: D 32. Carl Edwards , No. 19 Toyota, Joe Gibbs Racing . Edwards was involved in two incidents, including the big wreck on Lap 363. The result was his career-worst fifth DNF of the season. Grade: D 33. Tony Stewart , No. 14 Chevrolet, Stewart-Haas Racing . For the second race in a row, Stewart wrecked an opponent. Although you have to admire his candor for admitting it, the collateral damage from the incident with Ryan Newman was unacceptable. Grade: F 34. David Ragan , No. 23 Toyota, BK Racing . Ragan and his destroyed car easily qualified as collateral damage from the Stewart-Newman incident. Until that point, the Ragan- Chris Buescher points battle was a key element of the evening. Grade: D 35. Brian Scott , No. 44 Ford, Richard Petty Motorsports . Scott, who was the subject of Tony Stewart ’s wrath at Darlington, got the short end of a Stewart revenge run again when his No. 44 plowed into David Ragan ’s car and then was hit from behind by AJ Allmendinger . Grade: D 36. Landon Cassill , No. 38 Ford, Front Row Motorsports . A brakes issue sent the No. 38 to the garage early. Cassill finished the race 49 laps back. Grade: F 37. Matt DiBenedetto , No. 93 Toyota, BK Racing . DiBenedetto’s night ended when a tire went down and he hit the wall hard with less than 50 laps to go in regulation. Grade: F 38. Matt Kenseth , No. 20 Toyota, Joe Gibbs Racing . Brad Keselowski ’s missed shift on a late restart set off a chain of events that left Kenseth in the wall and through for the night. Kenseth was not pleased with Keselowski, who took responsibility for the mishap after the race. Grade: C 39. Ryan Blaney , No. 21 Ford, Wood Brothers Racing . Blaney’s shot at a good night ended right after the flyover. Well, almost. In the first five laps Blaney suffered tire damage while battling with Trevor Bayne . On Lap 11 the tire went down, and Blaney went into the wall. "Two guys going for the same spot. It was a shame it happened so early. … Maybe a little stubborn-headed on both of our parts, but I should know better than that." Yes, you should. To get into a bad spot in the first five laps of a 400-lap race? Even a rookie knows better than that. Grade: F 40. Paul Menard , No. 27 Chevrolet, Richard Childress Racing . Menard was running in the top 15 on Lap 265 when a tire rub turned into a blowout, contact with the wall and then Ricky Stenhouse Jr . He finished last for the second time in the past 16 races, which equals his last-place finishes in his first 337 Cup starts. Grade: F
The Rundown: Darlington driver grades
RELATED: Full race results " Standings " Chase Grid Breaking down the full field for the Bojangles' Southern 500 at Darlington Raceway : 1. Martin Truex Jr ., No. 78 Toyota, Furniture Row Racing . Truex’s two victories this season are the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte and now the Southern 500 ... and he finished second in the Daytona 500 . Even with all the bad luck he has had, Truex is having a monster year. Grade: A+ 2. Kevin Harvick , No. 4 Chevrolet, Stewart-Haas Racing . This is word-for-word -- except for the number of laps led Sunday night -- from the race at Dover in May when Harvick finished 15th: Harvick led a race-high 214 laps, and who knows how well he would have done if his pit crew had done its job. Harvick’s grade is an average of his A and his crew’s F. Grade: C 3. Kyle Larson , No. 42 Chevrolet, Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates. Larson led 45 laps and was in contention to win for the second week in a row. Larson and his team are hitting their stride at the exact right time. Grade: A 4. Denny Hamlin , No. 11 Toyota, Joe Gibbs Racing . Breaking news: No pit-road penalties for Hamlin or his crew ... just their seventh consecutive top-10 finish (5.3 average finish in the streak). Grade: A 5. Joey Logano , No. 22 Ford, Team Penske . Logano doesn’t have a streak to rival Hamlin's, but he now has top-10 finishes in 11 of his past 13 starts. Grade: A 6. Matt Kenseth , No. 20 Toyota, Joe Gibbs Racing . Kenseth was running 14th when he stayed out during the sixth caution and restarted with the lead. He was a fixture in the top 10 the rest of the night. Grade: A 7. Kasey Kahne , No. 5 Chevrolet, Hendrick Motorsports . Kahne’s first top-10 finish since Sonoma in June is too little too late. Unless he wins at Richmond, he likely won’t make the Chase. Grade: A 8. Ryan Newman , No. 31 Chevrolet, Richard Childress Racing . Huge night for Newman. Despite having to start from the back of the field (unapproved adjustments), Newman scored a must-have top 10 and is sitting seven points behind Jamie McMurray for the final spot in the Chase. He came into the race 15 points back. Grade: A+ 9. Brad Keselowski , No. 2 Ford, Team Penske . An early vibration and two loose wheels couldn’t keep Keselowski from his 16th top 10 of the season, tying him with Kurt Busch for third most behind Kevin Harvick (20) and Joey Logano (17). Grade: A 10. Chase Elliott , No. 24 Chevrolet, Hendrick Motorsports . Elliott did much better on restarts Sunday night, but he lost spots on pit road. Another good run at Richmond should net him a spot in the Chase. He is 24 points ahead of Ryan Newman and 17 ahead of Jamie McMurray . Grade: A- 11. Kyle Busch , No. 18 Toyota, Joe Gibbs Racing . Busch missed a top-10 finish at Darlington for the first time since 2011 (also an 11th-place finish). Grade: B 12. Austin Dillon , No. 3 Chevrolet, Richard Childress Racing . An early pit-road speeding penalty had no bearing on his finish. He is nine points ahead of Jamie McMurray and 16 ahead of Ryan Newman . A good finish at Richmond should clinch a spot in the Chase. But ... in five starts at Richmond, Dillion has finished 27th three times and 20th twice. If he runs to form, that might not be good enough. Grade: B - 13. Ryan Blaney , No. 21 Ford, Wood Brothers Racing . Blaney had multiple visits with the wall, had to pit under green for a flat and had a pit-road penalty (for a crew violation) ... and still finished 13th. Busy night. Grade: B- 14. Jeff Gordon , No. 88 Chevrolet, Hendrick Motorsports . Gordon scored his fourth top-15 finish in five starts for Dale Earnhardt Jr . Grade: B- 15. Jamie McMurray , No. 1 Chevrolet, Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates. If McMurray misses the Chase by a handful of points, an extra pit stop Sunday night might turn out to be the difference. McMurray had to pit for a second time under caution on Lap 354 for a loose lug nut. Instead of restarting 13th, 13 points to the good on Ryan Newman , McMurray restarted 18th, the last car on the lead lap. Newman finished seven spots better than McMurray and trails McMurray by seven points for the final Chase-eligible spot. Grade: B- 16. Paul Menard , No. 27 Chevrolet, Richard Childress Racing . Menard did a nice job of moving through the field after starting from the back for unapproved adjustments. But a tire rub late in the race resulted in a flat left rear and Menard losing control of the No. 27 and wiping out Kurt Busch on Lap 327. Still, Menard’s 16th-place finish was his second best in his past nine starts. Grade: B- 17. Chris Buescher , No. 34 Ford, Front Row Motorsports . Buescher is not out of the woods yet. He is 11 points ahead of David Ragan for 30th in the points standings and a spot in the Chase. His task at Richmond is simple: Stay ahead of Ragan or close to him all night. It didn’t happen in the April race at Richmond, however, when Ragan finished 23rd and Buescher 34th, an 11-point difference. How’s that for coincidence? Saturday night should be fun. Grade: B 18. Ricky Stenhouse Jr ., No. 17 Ford, Roush Fenway Racing . Stenhouse was the final car on the lead lap. Grade: B 19. Carl Edwards , No. 19 Toyota, Joe Gibbs Racing . Edwards finished 19th in the JGR No. 19 Toyota for the third time, the first time this season. That’s three more times than Edwards finished 99th in No. 99 Ford in 11 seasons driving for Jack Roush. Grade: B- 20. Regan Smith , No. 7 Chevrolet, Tommy Baldwin Racing . Smith scored his third-best finish of the season. The other two are top 10s (eighth in the Daytona 500 , third last month at Pocono). Grade: B 21. David Ragan , No. 23 Toyota, BK Racing . Despite having to start from the rear of the field because of an engine change, Ragan equaled his third-best finish of the season. Grade: B 22. Clint Bowyer , No. 15 Chevrolet, HScott Motorsports . Contact with Aric Almirola brought out the 10th and final caution. Fortunately for Bowyer, Almirola’s car got the worst of the encounter. Grade: C 23. AJ Allmendinger , No. 47 Chevrolet, JTG Daugherty Racing . Allmendinger’s run of top-15 finishes ended at four on a night when he completed no laps in the top 15 for the second time this season (Week 4 at Phoenix). Grade: C 24. Danica Patrick , No. 10 Chevrolet, Stewart-Haas Racing . For the third time this season, and second time in three weeks, Patrick had the second-best finish among the four Stewart-Haas Racing cars. Grade: C 25. Casey Mears , No. 13 Chevrolet, Germain Racing . GEICO's "It’s What You Do" fact of the night: RAF, as in "running at the finish." Did you know only two Sprint Cup drivers who have started all 25 races this season have been running at the finish of each race this season? One is Brad Keselowski . The other is GEICO’s very own Casey Mears . It's what he does. Grade: C 26. Matt DiBenedetto , No. 83 Toyota, BK Racing . DiBenedetto scored his fourth-best finish of the season, his best at a track more than a mile long. Grade: B+ 27. Michael McDowell , No. 95 Chevrolet, Circle Sport- Leavine Family Racing . Despite an early pit-road speeding penalty on his first stop, McDowell posted his best finish at Darlington in five starts. Grade: C 28. Michael Annett , No. 46 Chevrolet, HScott Motorsports . Annett equaled his fourth-best finish of the season. Grade: C 29. Josh Wise , No. 30 Chevrolet, The Motorsports Group. The theme of the backmarkers continues: Wise also equaled his fourth-best finish of the season. Grade: C 30. Landon Cassill , No. 38 Ford, Front Row Motorsports . Cassill matched his lowest finish at Darlington in six starts. Grade: C 31. Reed Sorenson , No. 55 Chevrolet, Premium Motorsports. Sorenson finished nine laps off the pace. Grade: C 32. Aric Almirola , No. 43 Ford, Richard Petty Motorsports . Almirola was running 20th with 18 laps to go when he got into Clint Bowyer and then Bowyer hit Almirola, sending the No. 43 hard into the wall. Grade: C- 33. Jimmie Johnson , No. 48 Chevrolet, Hendrick Motorsports . The lowlight of Johnson’s night came when he lost control off of Turn 4 on Lap 214 and went for a spin. He ultimately finished 39 laps off the pace and with his 77th finish of 30th of worse in his illustrious Sprint Cup career -- which also equals his Cup wins. Who knew? Well, you do now. Grade: F 34. Kurt Busch , No. 41 Chevrolet, Stewart-Haas Racing . Busch called it a "tough, tough night." We call it being in the wrong place at the wrong time. Paul Menard was nursing a tire going down, and Busch was next to him when it finally did. The No. 41 suffered major damage, and Busch was left with his second DNF for crashes in three weeks. Grade: C 35. Tony Stewart , No. 14 Chevrolet, Stewart-Haas Racing . Score one for karma in Stewart’s final race at "The Lady in Black". In a move few will dispute, Stewart wrecked Brian Scott to bring out the third caution. Then, after battling a cooling issue for a good chunk of the night, Stewart’s engine expired a shade more than 100 laps later. Grade: F 36. Greg Biffle , No. 16 Ford, Roush Fenway Racing . Biffle got loose in Turns 3 and 4 and hit the wall to bring out the sixth caution. The No. 16 returned to the track but was through after 295 laps run, giving Biffle his sixth DNF, tying a season high with 11 races remaining in 2016. Grade: F 37. Cole Whitt , No. 98 Chevrolet, Premium Motorsports. Electrical issues cut short Whitt’s night after 250 laps run. Grade: F 38. Jeffrey Earnhardt , No. 32 Ford, Go Fas Racing . Earnhardt hit the wall literally and figuratively on Lap 250. Grade: F 39. Brian Scott , No. 44 Ford, Richard Petty Motorsports . Scott was running 24th on Lap 204 when Tony Stewart took exception to something Scott did or was doing and turned the No. 44, sending it crashing into the inside wall. Maybe Scott wasn’t handling his car as well as 'Smoke' thought he should. But no one will dispute how well Scott handled himself in his interview on NBC afterward. Grade: B 40. Trevor Bayne , No. 6 Ford, Roush Fenway Racing . Bayne brought out the first caution when he went for a spin trying to get to pit road on Lap 95. But it was his engine that ended his night after 161 laps, leaving Bayne with his first DNF of the season. Grade: F
Roush Fenway Racing names new pit crew coach
Roush Fenway Racing has decided to reassign longtime pit crew coach Andy Ward, replacing him with Scott Bowen, a current RFR employee and an ex-pit crew member. Ward has been at RFR for many years and has produced some very good pit crews. The Jack Roush-owned organization did not have any drivers qualify for the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup this year. Roush Fenway Racing released the following statement regarding the move: "We continuously evaluate our race team operations at Roush Fenway, and as part of a mid-season restructuring we have implemented a change in the department structure with our pit crew teams. We have placed Scott Bowen, who previously was our head of purchasing, in charge of our pit crew operations. Scott is a longtime employee of Roush Fenway, and worked as an over-the-wall pit crew member for several years. We believe this change will prove beneficial in our continued effort to improve on-track performance." For more pit crew news, visit PitTalks.com .
The Rundown: Bristol driver grades
RELATED: Full race results " Driver standings " Chase Grid Breaking down the full field for the Bass Pro Shops NRA Night Race at Bristol Motor Speedway : 1. Kevin Harvick , No. 4 Chevrolet, Stewart-Haas Racing . This says it all about Harvick's second win at Bristol: In 112 Cup races at the track, only four winners started farther back in the field than Harvick's 24th ( Elliott Sadler , 38th, 2001; Dale Earnhardt Jr ., 30th, 2004; Kurt Busch , 27th, 2002; Dale Earnhardt, 26th, 1999). Grade: A++ 2. Ricky Stenhouse Jr ., No. 17 Ford, Roush Fenway Racing . Stenhouse overcame a pit-road speeding penalty to tie his career-best finish, which also came at Bristol (2014). In fact, half of Stenhouse's six career top-five finishes have come at Bristol. Grade: A+ 3. Denny Hamlin , No. 11 Toyota, Joe Gibbs Racing . It was a day of eighths for Hamlin: His eighth top five of the season and his eighth pit-road speeding penalty. He also had to make an unscheduled stop for a loose wheel that put him two laps down. Nice recovery, but he absolutely has to stick a fork in those pit-road speeding penalties before the Chase begins. Grade: A- 4. Austin Dillon , No. 3 Chevrolet, Richard Childress Racing . Dillon just avoided the big wreck on Lap 373 to post his first top five since Talladega in May. Also important: Dillon moved up two spots in the Chase standings to 13th, passing Ryan Newman and Chase Elliott . Grade: A 5. Chris Buescher , No. 34 Ford, Front Row Motorsports . Huge day for Buescher, who gets his second career top five -- both in the past three races -- and moves into the top 30 in points for the first time this season. Grade: A+ 6. Carl Edwards , No. 19 Toyota, Joe Gibbs Racing . Debris piercing the right front of his car couldn't stop Edwards from getting his 14th top 10 of the season, one fewer than he had all of 2015. Grade: A 7. Jimmie Johnson , No. 48 Chevrolet, Hendrick Motorsports . Hard to believe, but Johnson's finish was only his second top 10 in the past 10 races. Grade: A 8. Jamie McMurray , No. 1 Chevrolet, Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates. McMurray's Chase radar is on max. He's 15th in the Chase standings after his fourth top 10 in the past six races. Grade: A 9. AJ Allmendinger , No. 47 Chevrolet, JTG Daugherty Racing . Allmendinger posts back-to-back top 10s for the second time this season, the first time he has had multiple back-to-back top-10 finishes in a season in his Sprint Cup career. Grade: A 10. Joey Logano , No. 22 Ford, Team Penske . We don't have the space to list all the issues Logano and the No. 22 had to overcome Sunday. This top 10 was hard earned and well deserved. Grade: A 11. Jeff Gordon , No. 88 Chevrolet, Hendrick Motorsports . In the 801st and possibly final start of his career, Gordon gets his best finish in his fourth race as Dale Earnhardt Jr .'s sub. Grade: B 12. Trevor Bayne , No. 6 Ford, Roush Fenway Racing . Bayne jumped over Kyle Larson in the standings and picked up ground on Ryan Newman , who leads Bayne by 35 points for the last spot in the Chase with three races to go before the field is set. Grade: B 13. Kasey Kahne , No. 5 Chevrolet, Hendrick Motorsports . With Chris Buescher entering the top 30, Kahne went from 11 points behind 16th place in the Chase standings to 39 points back. Grade: B 14. Aric Almirola , No. 43 Ford, Richard Petty Motorsports . Almirola posted his best finish of the season since finishing 13th in Week 4 at Phoenix. Grade: B 15. Chase Elliott , No. 24 Chevrolet, Hendrick Motorsports . Elliott's promising day took a hit when he was collected in the big wreck on Lap 373. On the flip side, he led 14 laps, his first laps led since Week 15 at Michigan. Grade: B 16. Greg Biffle , No. 16 Ford, Roush Fenway Racing . A miscommunication over the radio that resulted in an unscheduled green-flag pit stop didn't help matters. Grade: B- 17. Matt DiBenedetto , No. 83 Toyota, BK Racing . DiBenedetto posted the second-best finish of his young career despite being down three laps at one point because of a tire issue. His best finish? Sixth at Bristol in April. Grade: A 18. Brian Scott , No. 44 Ford, Richard Petty Motorsports . Scott turned in his second-best finish of the season (12th at Fontana in Week 5). Grade: A 19. Michael McDowell , No. 95 Chevrolet, Circle Sport- Leavine Family Racing . McDowell finishes in the top 20 in consecutive races for the first time in his 201-race Cup career. Grade: A 20. Landon Cassill , No. 38 Ford, Front Row Motorsports . Cassill finished 22nd in April to tie his best finish at Bristol. Sunday, he topped that. Grade: A 21. David Ragan , No. 23 Toyota, BK Racing . Ragan avoided disaster with a great evasive maneuver down low to avoid a spinning Kyle Busch on Lap 358. Grade: B 22. Danica Patrick , No. 10 Chevrolet, Stewart-Haas Racing . Patrick finished 22nd for the third time in the past four races. Her other finish in that stretch: 21st two weeks ago at Watkins Glen. Grade: C 23. Martin Truex Jr ., No. 78 Toyota, Furniture Row Racing . Bad luck found Truex again. He was running third on Lap 358 when he was collected in a wreck caused by Kyle Bush's spin and the No. 78 suffered heavy damage. His average running position of 9.6 was fifth best. Grade: A- 24. Kyle Larson , No. 42 Chevrolet, Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates. Larson had an eventful day, and that’s not code for a great day. A pit-road speeding penalty, cut oil line, three on-track incidents (neither his fault) and untimely tire rub totally erased the benefit of having a super-fast car. Grade: B- 25. Casey Mears , No. 13 Chevrolet, Germain Racing . Mears has one top 10 in 28 starts at Bristol giving him the lowest top-10 percentage among active drivers with at least 15 Cup starts at the track. Grade: C 26. Regan Smith , No. 7 Chevrolet, Tommy Baldwin Racing . Smith brought out the third caution when he got into the wall on Lap 157; attrition enabled him to post a top-30 finish. Grade: C- 27. Reed Sorenson , No. 55 Chevrolet, Premium Motorsports. Sorenson tied Regan Smith for the fewest green-flag passes with six. Grade: C- 28. Ryan Newman , No. 31 Chevrolet, Richard Childress Racing . Pit-road penalties and tire problems carried (dropped?) the day. Still, Newman is 16th in the Chase standings with a 35-point cushion over Trevor Bayne with three races to go. Grade: D 29. Jeffrey Earnhardt , No. 32, Go Fas Racing Ford. Earnhardt improved three spots from his debut at Bristol in April. Grade: C- 30. Tony Stewart , No. 14 Chevrolet, Stewart-Haas Racing . We'll let Tony sum up his final start at Bristol: "We had a wheel that was loose, and that messed our whole day up." Perhaps, but owner Tony got a win and was part of a double burnout with winner Kevin Harvick . Grade: D 31. Clint Bowyer , No. 15 Chevrolet, HScott Motorsports . A broken brake rotor put Bowyer into the wall on Lap 416. Grade D 32. Paul Menard , No. 27 Chevrolet, Richard Childress Racing . Menard was running in the top 10 when he got caught up in the aftermath of Kurt Busch 's spin and his car sustained a punctured radiator when he ran into Chase Elliott . That's Bristol. Grade: C- 33. Brad Keselowski , No. 2 Ford, Team Penske . Keselowski was running third when Kurt Busch got loose in front of him, turned and Keselowski hit him hard. Keselowski had run among the leaders until the accident on Lap 373. Grade: C 34. Cole Whitt , No. 98 Chevrolet, Premium Motorsports. The No. 98 spent time in the garage, and Whitt finished 58 laps off the pace. Grade: D 35. Ryan Blaney , No. 21 Ford, Wood Brothers Racing . Blaney was caught up in the Kurt Busch wreck. As cars checked up, Blaney slammed into Matt Kenseth , who had been turned by Chase Elliott . Blaney returned to the track, but when the day ended he had little to show for a top-five starting spot. Grade: C 36. Josh Wise , No. 30 Chevrolet, The Motorsports Group. Wise completed 416 laps, his fewest at Bristol since 2012, his rookie season. Grade: F 37. Matt Kenseth , No. 20 Toyota, Joe Gibbs Racing . A so-so day at Bristol became a no-no day when Kenseth was collected in the Kurt Busch wreck. Since a four-race run of 1st, 13th, 3rd and 1st, Kenseth has now gone 42nd, 36th and 37th. That's Bristol, too. Grade: C 38. Kurt Busch , No. 41 Chevrolet, Stewart-Haas Racing . Finally we come to the driver who miscalculated his move "by a few inches"and ignited the wreck on Lap 373 that collected 10 other cars. Busch later tweeted, "Tasted the checkers, pushed too hard too soon." No argument here. Busch had completed every lap run this season until Sunday. Grade: F 39. Kyle Busch , No. 18 Toyota, Joe Gibbs Racing . Busch led a race-high 256 laps and owned the day until something broke in his car (his team will hear about that on Tuesday, he said). The No. 18 went into a soft spin, but it was met with a hard hit by Justin Allgaier that left Busch with his third DNF in his past four races at Bristol, all for crashes. Grade: C- 40. Justin Allgaier , No. 46 Chevrolet, HScott Motorsports . Subbing for Michael Annett (flu-like symptoms), Allgaier made his first Sprint Cup start of the season one day after finishing second in the XFINITY Series race at Bristol. Two days later he earned the wrath of Kyle Busch for plowing into him when Busch spun out on Lap 358. That's the high and lows of Bristol. Grade: F </p>
The Rundown: Michigan driver grades
RELATED: Full race results " Standings " Chase Grid Breaking down the full field for the Pure Michigan 400 at Michigan International Speedway : 1. Kyle Larson , No. 42 Chevrolet, Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates. Twice, Larson had to overcome problems on pit road. Twice, Larson beat Chase Elliott on restarts from the front row. The second one, with 10 laps to go, was the difference. Larson gets his first Sprint Cup win in his 99th start and his ticket punched to the Chase. Well done. Grade: A 2. Chase Elliott , No. 24 Chevrolet, Hendrick Motorsports . Restarts, restarts, restarts. Elliott lost the first race at Michigan because of poor restarts and it happened again Sunday. And just like in June, Elliott finished second. Grade : A- 3. Brad Keselowski , No. 2 Ford, Team Penske . The native of Michigan posted his sixth straight top 10 at his home track but to his chagrin remained winless in the Irish Hills. Grade: A 4. Ryan Blaney , No. 21 Ford, Wood Brothers Racing . Blaney needs a win to make the Chase, and he drove like it Sunday, posting his first top 10 in 10 races. Grade: A 5. Kevin Harvick , No. 4 Chevrolet, Stewart-Haas Racing . Harvick led 33 laps, and his 3.56 averaging running position topped the field. Grade: A 6. Jimmie Johnson , No. 48 Chevrolet, Hendrick Motorsports . Johnson was a factor -- and the leader -- until his green-flag pit stop on Lap 109. But his gas man had trouble refueling the No. 48, and from that point forward Johnson was playing catchup. His 37 laps led were second to Kyle Larson ’s 41. Grade: A- 7. Carl Edwards , No. 19 Toyota, Joe Gibbs Racing . Edwards now has two wins, seven top fives and 15 top 10s in 2016. That’s what he had all of last season. Grade: A 8. Jamie McMurray , No. 1 Chevrolet, Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates. McMurray finished eighth for the third consecutive week. He holds the last spot in the Chase standings by 15 points over Ryan Newman with two races to go before the field is set. Grade: A 9. Denny Hamlin , No. 11 Toyota, Joe Gibbs Racing . Hamlin’s sixth straight top-10 finish is the longest active streak. Grade: A 10. Joey Logano , No. 22 Ford, Team Penske . All of the polesitter’s strength came at the start of the race. A slow final pit stop left him 17th on the last restart. Grade: A- 11. Greg Biffle , No. 16 Ford, Roush Fenway Racing . Biffle had a nice finish, but he was never a factor. Only Kyle Busch ’s 26 laps in the top 15 were fewer than Biffle’s 44 among drivers who finished in the top 20. Grade: B 12. Kurt Busch , No. 41 Chevrolet, Stewart-Haas Racing . Borrowing a page from Greg Biffle … Busch was not a factor, either, and only his brother’s 24.84 average running position was worse than his 17.34 among drivers who finished in the top 20. Grade: B 13. Matt Kenseth , No. 20 Toyota, Joe Gibbs Racing . In the first 12 races of the season, Kenseth led 398 laps. In the next 12, 79 laps, including eight Sunday, his first laps led since his victory last month at New Hampshire. Grade: B 14. Kasey Kahne , No. 5 Chevrolet, Hendrick Motorsports . Kahne is going to need a win -- or a miracle -- to make the Chase field. He trails Jamie McMurray by 52 points for the final Chase-eligible spot after finishing outside the top 10 for the eighth straight race. Grade: B 15. AJ Allmendinger , No. 47 Chevrolet, JTG Daugherty Racing . Allmendinger finished in the top 15 in four consecutive races for the first time since the end of the 2011 season. Grade: B 16. Austin Dillon , No. 3 Chevrolet, Richard Childress Racing . Dillon is 15th in the Chase standings with a 21-point cushion over Ryan Newman in 17th. Grade: B 17. Ryan Newman , No. 31 Chevrolet, Richard Childress Racing . Newman should consider himself fortunate to be only 15 points out of 16th with two races to go for the Chase field is set -- he hasn’t had a top-10 finish in his past five races. Grade: B- 18. Paul Menard , No. 27 Chevrolet, Richard Childress Racing . Regular readers of The Rundown know we have been enthralled by Menard’s propensity to finish 18th. He racked up his sixth of the season Sunday. Grade: C 19. Kyle Busch , No. 18 Toyota, Joe Gibbs Racing . Busch's troubles at Michigan continued when he got loose in Turn 4 on the 26th lap and went for a spin. His average finish in his past seven starts at Michigan is 32.0 with one finish on the lead lap -- and it wasn't Sunday. Grade: C 20. Martin Truex Jr ., No. 78 Toyota, Furniture Row Racing . Truex's shot at winning or having a top finish ended on Lap 66 when the jack man lowered the car before the left rear tire was changed. The damaged left-rear quarter panel was an issue the rest of the day. Grade: C- 21. Tony Stewart , No. 14 Chevrolet, Stewart-Haas Racing . The driver with a win and five top fives in a seven-race stretch has finished 30th and 21st in his past two races. Is the mojo gone? Grade: C 22. Casey Mears , No. 13 Chevrolet, Germain Racing . Mears finished outside the top 10 at Michigan for the 13th consecutive race. Grade: C 23. Danica Patrick , No. 10 Chevrolet, Stewart-Haas Racing . This marks the first time in Patrick's four full-time Sprint Cup seasons she has not finished in the top 20 in at least one of the two Michigan races. She finished 21st in June. Grade: C 24. Trevor Bayne , No. 6 Ford, Roush Fenway Racing . Bayne went into last week's race at Bristol eight points out of the final Chase spot. He leaves Michigan 58 points back. Grade: C 25. Aric Almirola , No. 43 Ford, Richard Petty Motorsports . Michigan is one of two tracks on which Almirola has made at least 10 starts and has yet to post a top 10. (The other is Pocono.) Grade: C- 26. Regan Smith , No. 7 Chevrolet, Tommy Baldwin Racing . Smith posted his best finish at Michigan since a career-best 13th in August of 2011. Grade: C 27. Ricky Stenhouse Jr ., No. 17 Ford, Roush Fenway Racing . Since scoring a career-best 15th at Michigan in August 2014, Stenhouse's finishes at the 2-mile track are 25th, 26th, 29th and 27th. Grade: C- 28. Brian Scott , No. 44 Ford, Richard Petty Motorsports . Sunday’s race was something to build on: In his first race at Michigan in June, Scott left with a 36th-place finish and a DNF (crash). Grade: C 29. David Ragan , No. 23 Toyota, BK Racing . Because of Ragan's proximity to Chris Buescher in the standings, he will continue to be one of the most-watched drivers through Richmond. On Sunday, Ragan took a nibble out of Buescher's points lead and is now seven points behind Buescher for 30th in the standings. Grade: C 30. Alex Bowman , No. 88 Chevrolet, Hendrick Motorsports . Bowman started sixth and was running in the top five when the car’s ignition failed. A day of promise ended right there, and Dale Earnhardt Jr .’s replacement finished five laps back. Grade: D 31. Michael McDowell , No. 95 Chevrolet, Circle Sport- Leavine Family Racing . McDowell won Saturday’s NASCAR XFINITY Series race at Road America , but his string of top-20 Sprint Cup finishes ended at a season-best two. Grade: D 32. Matt DiBenedetto , No. 83 Toyota, BK Racing . DiBenedetto battled brake issues all day. Grade: D 33. Michael Annett , No. 46 Chevrolet, HScott Motorsports . A blown tire brought out the fourth and final caution, and Annett finished five laps back. Grade: D 34. Cole Whitt , No. 98 Chevrolet, Premium Motorsports. Whitt produced his worst finish in six starts at Michigan. Grade: D 35. Chris Buescher , No. 34 Ford, Front Row Motorsports . With so much at stake, the No. 34 team could not afford the engine woes that dumped Buescher to 35th -- he finished 20th at Michigan in June -- but at least he didn’t finish last. Those extra five points might make the difference between making the Chase and major disappointment. Another positive takeaway: David Ragan could muster only a 29th-place finish. Grade: F 36. Reed Sorenson , No. 55 Chevrolet, Premium Motorsports. Sorenson finished seven laps off the pace. Grade: D 37. Jeffrey Earnhardt , No. 32 Ford, Go Fas Racing . Earnhardt had an accident in practice and was in a backup car. He finished eight laps back. Grade: D 38. Josh Wise , No. 30 Chevrolet, The Motorsports Group. Wise's finish was his worst at Michigan since a 39th-place run in August 2013. Grade: F 39. Landon Cassill , No. 38 Ford, Front Row Motorsports . Suspension woes limited Cassill to 174 laps and left him with his first DNF of the season. Grade: F 40. Clint Bowyer , No. 15 Chevrolet, HScott Motorsports . Bowyer said before the race he had his best car of the year. Yikes! Vibrations sent the No. 15 behind the wall, but Bowyer avoided a DNF, although he did finish 40 laps off the pace. Grade: F
Danica finds 'authentic' fit with sponsor, boosts brand
CARROLLTON, Ky. -- Halfway into her first season with Nature's Bakery's backing, Danica Patrick already has run the gamut of sponsorship appearance variety. Yoga with the media, rock-climbing, zip-lining -- Patrick already has checked all of those boxes. Her most recent sponsor obligation Thursday morning was a mix of something familiar and something different. Before a traditional autograph session with a line of fans at a Kroger store just a 15-minute drive from Kentucky Speedway, Patrick went cart-to-cart in challenging local dignitaries -- a tourism director, a local Baptist pastor and an overall-clad county judge executive among them -- to a grocery race through the aisles. "No, I've never done this before. But again, I watched 'Supermarket Sweep' when I was a kid," Patrick said of the long-running grocery game show, making a statement analogous to Cole Trickle proving himself early on in "Days of Thunder" because he learned from watching NASCAR on TV. "We continue as a group, between Nature's Bakery and all the people involved, to make every event just a little bit unique," Patrick said. So it's gone for the 34-year-old and the Nevada-based maker of health-conscious snack foods and fig bars, which signed on as primary sponsor of Stewart-Haas Racing's No. 10 Chevrolet for 28 of 38 Sprint Cup Series races (including two non-points events). That announcement last August dovetailed with news of a contract extension that kept Patrick in SHR's four-driver fold. Nature's Bakery has served as Patrick's primary sponsor in 13 of 17 races so far this year, and the business' now-familiar pale blue and white colors will be on display this weekend for Saturday's Quaker State 400 (7:30 p.m. ET, NBCSN, PRN, SiriusXM). It's been a full-fledged, both-feet jump for company founder Dave Marson, who said that Nature's Bakery's overall sales had grown more than 50 percent since it entered into a partnership with Patrick and Stewart-Haas. "Even better than we ever thought," Marson said, touting Patrick's natural tie-ins to the company's ideals. "… She's really into an active, healthy lifestyle. She lives it, so it's not forced. It's very authentic. So, very easy to promote our brand through her at any venue that we choose because we align really, really well." The location for Thursday's appearance was also a natural fit. Marson said Kroger, which also partners with JTG Daugherty Racing's No. 47 team and driver AJ Allmendinger, was one of Nature's Bakery's earliest supporters. Its products are now sold in every store operated by the supermarket chain, which is based in nearby Cincinnati. "Every time I hear about expected projections for the year and how it's gone, it's exceeded that," said Patrick, who helped present a $1,000 donation from the store to the Carroll County Food Bank. "I have to imagine that the program is working. I know that they were already on an upward trajectory, but my goal for Nature's Bakery was to exceed their expectations and be blown away by how it's gone. From everything I understand, it's going really well and all I know is I see Nature's Bakery fig bars everywhere." Though the business relationship has flourished, Patrick is still seeking the proverbial express lane to on-track growth in 2016. She's mired in 26th in the Sprint Cup drivers' standings, with eight laps led and no top-10 finishes. Meanwhile, her Stewart-Haas teammates -- points leader Kevin Harvick , Kurt Busch and team co-owner Tony Stewart -- have all secured victories this season, virtually paving their way into the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup playoffs. Patrick said she doesn't view the disparity as a pressure-building negative, but that she can benefit from the organization's overarching strength. "For the health of the team, it's great to have cars that have wins that are in the Chase. I know that's just a great thing overall," Patrick said. "Kevin and Kurt won last year and it's Tony's last year. I want to see him do well like so many others; I was so happy for him at Sonoma. But for me, it's only really an upside. "The fact that all your teammates win, there's potential sitting there. We've got to figure it out and you just never know when that day could come. I feel like you just have to be ready and I don't know when that day is going to come. I don't feel confident enough in how it's gone that we've been so fast that the win's around the corner, but you just never know what can happen. There are all kinds of things that can happen in a race, and someday you might show up like it's happened to me over the last couple of years where you're just good and that might be the day, so you have to be ready and you have to be focused." By his own admission, Marson said he's still learning the racing end of things halfway home through the first season of their partnership. While he said he'd love to have Patrick's No. 10 among SHR's Chase-eligible roster, the performance thus far hasn't detracted from the sponsorship's boon. "We can use her and her popularity and what she believes in with our brand," Marson said. "Do we want her to be better in the race car? If you're competitive, anybody wants to be. You look at the challenges within a race team, Stewart-Haas Racing is looking at it and saying how can we get her up there. She's looking at it, she's very driven, so they'll do their work to become more competitive but it doesn't really affect us from a branding side."
Dale Jr. looks to recharge, discusses Michigan wreck
RELATED: Rough day for Junior, others at Michigan " Race results The NASCAR Sprint Cup Series off weekend could not have come at a better time for Dale Earnhardt Jr . after a 39th-place wreck-induced finish in the FireKeepers Casino 400 at Michigan International Speedway . "Damn, I needed one," Earnhardt said on Dirty Mo Radio's "The Dale Jr. Download." "I'm going to have some fun. Get my battery recharged for the rest of the year because we don't have another off week until August. This break couldn't have come at a better time. I was cooked. All the bad luck we've had, racing hasn't been a whole lot of fun lately. "We took off at the start of the year, having such a good time and really enjoying everything that was going on. This break, hopefully, will give us a chance to reset, come back with a good attitude. Get some points back, get some good finishes back in the bank." After five top-eight finishes in the season's first nine races, Dale Jr. has had three finishes of 32nd-or-worse in the past six races. The latest a result of a three-car incident involving Chris Buescher (No. 34 Front Row Motorsports Ford) and AJ Allmendinger (No. 47 JTG Daugherty Racing Chevrolet) on Lap 61 with a No. 88 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet that Junior believed to be a "solid top 10 car." On the podcast, Junior explained what happened and why he took issue with Buescher's role in it. "Went down the front straightaway going into (Turn) 1, the 47 ( AJ Allmendinger ) got loose and went real high. I went underneath him in the middle lane to try and challenge the position shortly after a restart. The 34 ( Chris Buescher ) was underneath me on the bottom and he got pretty loose. I seen him coming and he clipped a car and I couldn't keep it out of the fence. We got hooked up with the 47 I think and got into the wall pretty hard. "I was real mad and I'm mad at Chris because you know, you try to take care of each other there. I know when I drive my car I try to think when I'm going into the corner, 'Am I going to bust my ass and take this guy out?' I mentally have concern for not only my well-being but his. You don't want to ruin anybody's race. I know Chris didn't want to ruin my race and Chris probably is disappointed it happened. And I know that I made mistakes and everybody does but it doesn't mean that I can't have an opinion about it when it happens. If anybody wants to give me any (expletive) about being upset, you'd be singing my tune if you was riding shotgun when that car hit the fence. "It's easy to sit on the couch and play armchair quarterback. I'm not going to hold it against Chris. I like the guy. I've talked to him several times. He's a nice guy. He's a good racer and just made a mistake and cost us a big chunk of points. I still think we're a good team. We're going to be OK. We can't have a lot of bad luck but things like this are out of our control. Can't help getting taken out, wadded up. We just got to do what we can in the races we can run good at and take care of ourselves." WATCH: Junior wrecks amid contact with Buesher, Allmendinger Crew chief Greg Ives took to Twitter on Sunday night to shoulder the blame for the team's qualifying woes. The 88 team started Sunday's race 27th on the grid and Earnhardt's 16.8 average starting position is his worst since 2011. "Greg is going to put that on his shoulders and take a lot of the blame for that but ... I don't quite agree with it." Earnhardt later added that " Greg and those guys are working their guts out. They are a good team, full of good guys and they deserve a lot of respect." Junior is heading out of town for the off weekend as evidenced by a Twitter photo of he and fiancee Amy Reimann at the airport. Last year's June off weekend saw the pair get engaged. Gotta get that buffalo chicken wedge before lift off. @WhiskyRiverCLT #AirportFood pic.twitter.com/WK9JIKH6YB — Dale Earnhardt Jr . (@DaleJr) June 13, 2016 And when the 41-year-old returns, he knows the task at hand as he sits 11th in points and winless after back-to-back seasons of four and three wins, respectively. "Richmond (site of the regular-season finale and the season's 26th race) is going to be here before we know it and we don't want be sitting at Richmond having to run, having to finish X to make the Chase. I mean that's crazy for a team like us, I just feel like that's insane. We are definitely a top-10 team easy, maybe even a top-five team. We can run with them when we put it all together so I got good confidence that things are going to work out."