Matt Dillner leads you through the NNS garage as they prepare for Final Practice giving you an inside look at your favorite drivers preparing for the Jeff Foxworthy's Grit Chips 300.
Jeff Kyle talks about his experience at Indianapolis Motor Speedway after being recognized as the Crown Royal Presents "Your Hero's Name Here" winner.
No. 24 Hendrick driver races at Pocono one last time; talks Chase chances RELATED: Complete lineup for Sunday's race " See all 43 paint schemes Sunday's Windows 10 400 (1:30 p.m. ET, NBCSN, MRN, SiriusXM) will be Jeff Gordon 's final start at Pocono Raceway. While he appreciates the support Pennsylvania fans have given him over the years, he won't be sentimental about his last trip to the Tricky Triangle because he's still a win away from making the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup . "I'm so focused on the competition and trying to compete at a high level, trying to get ourselves in a position to win the race, win the pole, be in the Chase, I just can't and haven't been able to allow it to sink in," Gordon said. "It might not happen until the race is over at Homestead. I have no idea when that's going to impact or sink in." The reality of his current points position hit hard when he finished 42nd last week at Indianapolis and his margin over Clint Bowyer , the last driver currently in the Chase on points, narrowed to 37 points. Just a week earlier, he enjoyed a 71-point cushion over the final provisional Chase position. RELATED: See updated series standings In his final full-time season, Gordon wants to do more than just make the Chase; he wants to compete for his fifth championship. "Obviously having a bad finish like that, it can shake things up in a hurry," Gordon said. "I think our team is very capable of getting ourselves in the Chase, but we want more than that. We want to be battling for wins, and we're fighting extremely hard to do that. We know what a win can do in securing that spot, but we're also a strong team that has overcome adversity in the past. We're going to fight all the way through Richmond to make sure no matter what, whether it's by points or with a win, that we get ourselves in there." The six-time winner at Pocono stands atop the all-time leaderboard at the track, and Hendrick Motorsports ' 17 victories are nearly twice as many as the next closest teams on the list. Joe Gibbs Racing and Roger Penske have nine apiece. Gordon also enjoys racing on the unique three-sided surface. "I love the challenge that this race track presents on track," Gordon said. "I've been driving for a team that has great performance on tracks like this as well. We've been known to get down the straightaways pretty good. This place has a lot of straightaway, but I also like the shifting and the unique corners that are here as well." Gordon acknowledged how the negative side of the fast straightaways figured into the single moment that stands out from his 23 years of racing at the facility. "I wrecked really bad in Turn 1, that stands out," Gordon said, referring to a 2006 crash. "It's funny those types of incidents stand out to you as much as some of the good moments that you have. You never forget moments like that. Let's put it that way. "I can remember coming here early, early on and maybe even watching a race here or an IndyCar race here on TV prior to me ever racing here and just in awe of how long the front straightaway was, how fast the cars are going into Turn 1. And I always said, 'You don't ever want to have a brake problem going into Turn 1 at Pocono,' and I had one and experienced it so that stands out to me." But the people of Pocono Raceway have left a lasting impression as well. On Friday, track president Brandon Igdalsky presented Gordon with a $24,000 check for the Jeff Gordon Foundation to go with nearly $58,000 raised Thursday night for Gordon's foundation and The NASCAR Foundation at a charity poker tournament. In addition to the funds, Igdalsky's team painted "Gordon" on the track, which didn't go unnoticed by the driver of the No. 24 car. RELATED: Gordon, Wallace cash in chips for a good cause "This track has been really special to me over the years," Gordon said. "I thought it was enough that you put my name at the start/finish line but what we did last night at the event and this (check) is above and beyond." The fans of the area welcomed Gordon as a young racer, even before he joined NASCAR's premier series, and he's continued to benefit from their support throughout his racing career. "I go back to when I raced dirt around Pennsylvania and Ohio and Indiana in sprint car racing and how big racing is in this state," Gordon said. "And I think that was very evident to me immediately when I got in the Cup Series and started flying into the airports here, and it was always the biggest crowds of fans that we had, anywhere we went, standing there waiting for the teams and the drivers to arrive, wanting to get a glimpse, a picture, an autograph. "That's been maintained throughout all the years, and when I put a fan club together, our largest number of members were from Pennsylvania, if you took it by state. This is a big racing part of the country, and I think that's why the track has continued to do so well through the years because they have people that love racing, that love NASCAR racing." The four-time champion's love for Pocono would grow with a win this weekend that would keep alive his drive for five titles. FULL SERIES COVERAGE • Latest news • Standings • Schedule
Driver of No. 24 was trying to avoid spinning Clint Bowyer RELATED: Gordon says goodbye to the Brickyard Jeff Gordon ran into trouble on Lap 50 in his final appearance as a full-time NASCAR Sprint Cup Series driver at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Gordon damaged the left-front side of his No. 24 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet when he hit the wall at the 2.5-mile superspeedway while trying to avoid a spinning Clint Bowyer . Gordon made light contact with teammate Kasey Kahne 's No. 5 Chevrolet as he veered right to avoid Bowyer. The driver of the Michael Waltrip Racing No. 15 Toyota was racing alongside Kevin Harvick when his car appeared to get loose and went into a spin. "I was underneath Kasey Kahne and we were just racing for position," Gordon said. "I saw (Clint) Bowyer get sideways. I don't know what caused it. Me and Kasey were trying to check up to avoid it. I don't know if he got loose or we just both got loose together. Then I just lost control and got in the wall." Gordon, a five-time winner at Indianapolis who spent time racing as a teenager while living in Pittsboro, Indiana, went to pit road twice to get significant repairs. The second time, NBCSN reported that the crew had to cut away part of the left-front fender to prevent it from rubbing the tire, and he was penalized for speeding on pit road. RELATED: Gordon goes home to Pittsboro Gordon returned to the track but, by Lap 66, was scored five laps down. The NASCAR tower asked Gordon to pick up his speed as he was having trouble meeting the minimum 58.11-second lap required of cars in the race. When Gordon couldn't meet the speed, he brought the No. 24 to the garage. "Yeah, we're never going to give up," Gordon said. "We got back out there as fast as we could. The splitter was too torn up on the front and creating lift. The car didn’t have any front downforce and was pushing bad. We're probably going to cut the nose off, put a new nose on and get back out there." Gordon got back out on the track eventually and was scored 42nd in his final run at the Brickyard. FULL SERIES COVERAGE • Latest news • Standings • Schedule
Pittsboro, Indiana honored one of its favorite sons, Jeff Gordon, prior to this weekend's race at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
Daughter Brittany reveals a special helmet for Iowa race RELATED: Grand marshal added to Wallace's Iowa duties " Racing with nephew Matt NEWTON, Iowa -- Until Friday, Kenny Wallace 's plans to hang up his NASCAR driving helmet this weekend at Iowa Speedway were only missing one small detail -- the helmet itself. His former team kept deflecting his phone calls, telling him not to worry and that his helmet would be there for the 905th start of his long, storied NASCAR career. The smokescreen was effective -- it bought his daughter Brittany enough time to have it professionally painted with a commemorative collage of snapshots and memories from his 26 years in the sport. While Wallace's time behind the wheel in NASCAR will end with Saturday's U.S. Cellular 250 presented by New Holland (8 p.m. ET, NBCSN, MRN, SiriusXM), the sport won't be saying goodbye to one of its most charismatic characters, who will remain a presence both in TV broadcasting and at local dirt tracks. Though there will be some finality after he steps away Saturday night, Wallace said he'll do his best to keep his emotions in check along the way. "I think there's going to be moments and I hope that it happens after the race, but I've done a pretty good job at my career to really focus in on what I have to do," said Wallace, who will carry backing from the race's title sponsor on his Joe Gibbs Racing No. 20 Toyota. "I remember when Ernie Irvan got hurt (in 1994) and I was in that Texaco/Havoline car in the Cup Series, I was shifting the gears getting on the high banks there at Bristol and I could hear the roar of the crowd, and I was like, 'No. Focus.' "I've learned a lot along the way. I've watched Jeff Gordon this year; I don't even know how he can go. I've learned a lot. I'm ready to race, and then we'll deal with everything after the race and when I get out of the car." That theory held true for about 30 minutes after his arrival at the .875-mile track, when Brittany Wallace handed over the special surprise to her father in front of a group of friends and family. Short of choking up, the 51-year-old Wallace said he had sworn he would not be emotional, but was genuinely moved by the gift. Wallace joked that he hopes to amend the helmet's graphics Saturday night, changing his nine career XFINITY wins to an even 10. But the joke belied his ever-sharper focus with top-shelf JGR equipment underneath him for this weekend's swan song. "If he's saying he's blocking it out, he's way better at doing something like that than I am," said older brother Mike Wallace , like his sibling a nine-time winner in NASCAR national competition. "He said he's happy with it, content. All I can say is more power to him. It's outstanding. I just ran into him over there and he's got his family and friends, he's the grand marshal for a (K&N Series) race tonight, he's got a suite here. He seems to be having fun right now. He said, 'I've got to go sign some hats,' and I was like, 'Go be famous. That's what you're good at.'" The nature of the family-affair weekend has even more ties. Kenny Wallace will share the track with his nephew, Matt, who is scheduled to make his second career XFINITY Series start Saturday night. His farewell race will also take place on a short track designed by oldest brother Rusty Wallace, a NASCAR Hall of Famer. The eldest Wallace ended his driving career in 2005, but like his brother, he remained active in the sport with broadcasting stints in television and radio. It's why both Wallaces have shied away from calling the occasion "retirement" with a capital R. "I wish him all the luck in the world," said Rusty Wallace, speaking Thursday at a charity event in Pennsylvania for The NASCAR Foundation and the Jeff Gordon 's Children's Foundation. "I told him the other day, do not use that word retirement. You don't need to do that. They'll label you with that. I said notice Jeff Gordon said he's quitting, but he's not retiring, but he's never going to race again. So he's kind of retiring but he's not going to use that word. He learned that from me and Mark Martin . I told Kenny, you didn't need to do that. He'll be fine." So if anyone was hoping to get rid of Kenny Wallace after this weekend, tough luck. The driver known for his boundless energy, his grace with racing fans, his social media presence, his extracurricular dirt-racing travels and his broadcasting moxie isn't going anywhere. After 900-plus starts dating back to a 1988 debut at Martinsville Speedway, driving the No. 8 ride owned by Dale Earnhardt in what is now the XFINITY Series, Wallace said simply that "there needs to be a line in the sand" for his driving career. Staying power in NASCAR can often be fleeting and rare, a fact that has made Wallace even prouder of his long run in the sport's highest levels. Wallace's helmet is anchored by the words "Life is a journey," a well-worn adage he said he always tells his three daughters. Wallace's own journey will enter its next phase after Saturday night. "My mom, Judy, she said to me, 'Kenny, hon. You keep reinventing yourself,' " Wallace said. "I'm like 'really, Mom?' It's not a plan, it's just that I want to stay in the sport. I think longevity and persistence is what I'm so proud of, because let's face it, I was never an 'A' driver. To me, I feel proud saying I was a 'B-plus' driver. I won nine XFINITY races, 177 top-10s -- I mean, that counts for something. When I should've been down and out, I stayed digging." Contributing: RJ Kraft from Pocono Raceway FULL SERIES COVERAGE • Latest news • Standings • Schedule
Bruce: Never count 'Smoke' out, but he needs a win RELATED: Chase-clinching scenarios for Pocono It's been three years since Tony Stewart qualified for the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup . And it's beginning to look as if the three-time series champion might miss this year's field of 16 as well. Stewart, 44, is 26th in points heading into this weekend's Windows 10 400 at Pocono Raceway. With only six races remaining before the field is set, it's unlikely that the co-owner/driver at Stewart-Haas Racing will qualify for one of the 16 positions based on points. To earn a chance to compete for this year's championship, Stewart needs nothing less than a victory in the coming weeks. Defending series champion Kevin Harvick , six-time champion Jimmie Johnson , '04 champ Kurt Busch and Dale Earnhardt Jr . have officially clinched Chase berths. Joey Logano , Martin Truex Jr ., Brad Keselowski , Matt Kenseth , Denny Hamlin and Carl Edwards are 2015 race winners and are currently 16th or higher in the points standings. Kyle Busch , riding a white-hot streak that has seen the Joe Gibbs Racing driver win three consecutive Sprint Cup events, and four of the last five, is on the doorstep of the top 30 in points (another Chase eligibility requirement). Non-winners, but those somewhat safely inside the top 16 in points include Jamie McMurray and Jeff Gordon . On less stable ground are Ryan Newman , Paul Menard and Kasey Kahne , currently 12th through 14th, respectively, in points. Unless he can advance his points position, Clint Bowyer , who sits 15th, would fall outside the Chase as soon as Kyle Busch cracks the top 30. Stewart is trying to climb into contention. Those on the periphery are likewise trying to advance -- or hold on -- to what they've earned thus far. A win in the coming weeks by anyone else, AJ Allmendinger (23rd) at Watkins Glen for example, would trump the points position of a non-winner inside the top 16. It's unlikely that someone such as Kahne, Menard or Bowyer is resting too comfortably these days. Kahne has made three consecutive appearances in the Chase, but isn't taking anything for granted; Menard's still chasing that first playoff opportunity; Bowyer, meanwhile, is attempting to return after missing the field a year ago. Aric Almirola (17th) and Greg Biffle (18th) made last year's Chase. Austin Dillon (19th) and Kyle Larson (20th) are still looking for that first career win and first Chase appearance. Would it be unwise to look past any of those drivers given the uncertain nature of racing? Rules package changes and a variety of tracks -- large, small and a road course to boot -- only serve to muddy the racing waters. Stewart's Chase absence has been well documented. A broken leg in 2013 sidelined the No. 14 driver for the season's final 15 races. A year ago, he missed three races prior to the start of the Chase, and while he was given a NASCAR exemption, Stewart failed to produce the necessary win or points position to qualify. Perhaps it would be just as unwise to look past Stewart, given what he has been able to accomplish in previous years. But the road ahead won't be an easy one for him or any of those looking to go from Chase hopeful to Chase qualifier. The calendar is starting to take an ugly turn. FULL SERIES COVERAGE • Latest news • Standings • Schedule
This week the guys debate their favorite racing movies, recap Kyle Busch's historic run and what it will take to capture glory at Pocono Raceway. Other topics include Jeff Gordon, weight loss and balloons.
Pocono Raceway President and CEO Brandon Igdalsky makes a $24,000 donation to the Jeff Gordon Children's Foundation.
Hendrick driver gives honest assessment of where organization is right now RELATED: Complete lineup for Sunday's race " See all 43 paint schemes LONG POND, Pa. -- Dale Earnhardt Jr . is the only driver other than Kyle Busch to win one of the past five NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races. However, the driver of the No. 88 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet is aware that the four-team organization he calls home has been a bit off in recent weeks, especially compared to that of Joe Gibbs Racing , in its first year of fielding four cars. "I think you got to be honest with yourself," Earnhardt Jr. said Friday at Pocono. "The Gibbs guys have found more speed. They look like over the last couple of weeks to be a lot stronger and that we're not on top of the mountain anymore, by ourselves anymore at least. They found some speed and we need to combat that with speed of our own." In the past five races, JGR has four wins (all by Busch) and nine top fives. During that same stretch, Hendrick has just one win and three top fives (Earnhardt won at Daytona and has another top-five finish). And since that win at Daytona, Hendrick Motorsports as an organization has led just two laps in the past three races, while JGR has led 330. "It's business as usual as far as I can see," Earnhardt said. "We definitely understand when we don't perform well. Last week was frustrating. I don't think we've been too thrilled over the last month about how things have gone for us. From Rick (Hendrick) on down, you get the impression that things need to be better and everyone needs to work harder. "We have meetings every Tuesday. We had that meeting with the team and then we have a meeting that all the drivers and the crew chiefs are together, Rick's there. We have that meeting every Tuesday and everybody, whether we are all running great, we talk about how to get better. And if we aren't running well at all, we talk about how to get better. Even when things are going good, you see areas where you need to keep working. Because you know it cycles in this sport." Things do indeed cycle around. Last season, Hendrick won 13 races to JGR's two. And this season both organizations have six wins. As things stand now, if Busch can get into the top 30 in points by the regular-season finale at Richmond, JGR will likely send all four of its drivers into the Chase. And while Jimmie Johnson and Earnhardt have clinched spots in the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup , Jeff Gordon and Kasey Kahne are still looking for that elusive win, although each hold spots in the provisional Chase Grid based on their point positions. "It's a never-ending pursuit to build the fastest race car week in, week out," Earnhardt said. "And it looks like right now it's a mad scramble to get ready for the Chase. I'd love to be sitting here three-tenths faster than everybody and fighting only my teammates for the win. We need to work a little harder to get a little more and be ready for the Chase to be able to get out there and compete. "It definitely looks like our competition has improved and so I think we can be honest with ourselves. We definitely aren't where we want to be. But I've seen it before. These guys are working on it every single day trying to find that speed and make that difference back up and put ourselves back to have the advantage on the straightaways and in the corners. I'm not too worried about it. We got the best resources. We got the best bossman, and he doesn't quit and he doesn't settle for second. He's in there pushing everybody everyday." The sport's most popular driver will look to turn the recent fortunes of the organization around on Sunday in the Windows 10 400 (1:30 p.m. ET, NBCSN, MRN, SiriusXM) at Pocono Raceway where he qualified 15th. Junior has a favorable history in recent years at Pocono, completing the season sweep of both NASCAR Sprint Cup Series events last year, and has four top fives in his past five races here. In June, he finished 11th in a race won by Martin Truex Jr , which snapped a five-race win streak at Pocono for Hendrick. After finishing the opening practice session in 14th place, Earnhardt was a bit disappointed but said the team learned what was needed for race trim. "We will see what we have (Saturday)," said Earnhardt. "I'm really anxious to get ourselves back into race trim for those practices (Saturday) and see how we can sort our stuff out and see where we really are. We've always run good here, there shouldn't be any issues. We showed up with some issues. I'm anxious to get to work on the car and see where we can figure out where we are going to be and be competitive." FULL SERIES COVERAGE • Latest news • Standings • Schedule