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.
Driver currently sits second in points despite no trips to Victory Lane in 2014 RELATED: Follow your picks in the Chase Battle Grid Presented by Toyota Of the eight drivers who advanced to the Eliminator Round of the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup, three -- Jeff Gordon , Brad Keselowski and Matt Kenseth -- have won at least one NASCAR Sprint Cup Series championship. Among the five remaining drivers, two have multiple wins this year in Joey Logano (five) and Kevin Harvick (three). Out of the final three drivers, two have finished second in the final series standings before in Carl Edwards and Denny Hamlin . That leaves Ryan Newman . The 36-year-old may be the least flashy of the remaining competitors still in contention for this year's championship, but yet another timely performance last weekend at Martinsville Speedway has him second in the standings with two races remaining before the season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway . Newman finished third at the 0.526-mile track, tied for his best result of the year, behind the Hendrick Motorsports duo of Dale Earnhardt Jr . and Gordon. He's three points back of Gordon, the series points leader, and has five consecutive finishes of eighth place or better. "(The new format) has played to our advantage mathematically, no doubt," Newman said. "We were the 16th seed coming in without a win. We've not won yet. We were tied for the lead in the points with four races to go. So mathematically it has played to my advantage, as it has others, but probably mine mostly." Even a rare mistake can't ruin the momentum the No. 31 Richard Childress Racing team has generated. Following a caution on Lap 188, Newman was busted for speeding on pit road -- coincidentally, so was the No. 24 of Gordon. That sent the No. 31 back to 31st in the lineup, setting the stage for a rally that was more grit than glamour. Newman's progress through the field after that penalty Sunday was slow. He was 25th on a Lap 277 caution, 13th after a Lap 386 caution and finally back into the top 10 by Lap 400. On the final pit stop following a red flag on Lap 488, Newman's team gambled on two tires. He restarted eighth, and had never cracked the top five in the race until the final lap. "The strategy of two tires there at the end worked out good for us," he said. "It was the right number of laps with the guys that stayed out, and we kept the guys behind us that had four tires. It was a great team effort. I put our team in a hole when I sped on pit lane, which doesn't happen very often. It cost us a lot of track position." Perhaps equally as important as Newman's outstanding day was that Earnhardt won the race. Junior is no longer in the Chase, and those in the Eliminator Round automatically qualify for the four-driver championship round at Homestead with a victory this round. That means at least two of those four heralded spots will be determined by points. For a driver that hasn't won this year, but whose average finish (13.0) ranks fourth in all of the Sprint Cup Series, it's setting up to be an ideal scenario heading to Texas Motor Speedway . "I mean, it's played to our advantage the entire time as far as not having a win, not having bonus points," Newman said. "But that doesn't mean it's going to be from the drop of the green in Texas or from the drop of the green in Homestead." MORE: READ: Latest Chase news PLAY: Monitor your Chase Grid Game picks WATCH: Latest NASCAR video FOLLOW LIVE: Get RaceView FULL CHASE COVERAGE • Chase hub page • Chase Grid games • #MyChaseNation
'Smoke' sets Texas track record and makes NASCAR history in second round RELATED: Play NASCAR Fantasy Live " Sign up for RaceView today FORT WORTH, Texas -- For the first time in NASCAR history a driver topped 200 mph in a qualifying lap on a 1.5-mile track, and it was Tony Stewart who did the honors in the second of three rounds of qualifying on Friday night at Texas Motor Speedway . Stewart set the track qualifying record with a lap of 200 .111 mph, breaking the previous record of 198.282 mph set by Kevin Harvick in April of 2014. The man known as 'Smoke' lit up the leaderboard with the lap of 26.985 seconds and gained the attention of Chase drivers such as Coors Light Pole Award winner Matt Kenseth . "I never dreamed we'd see a lap time like that around here unless they paved it," Kenseth said. "It's incredibly fast." For Stewart it was a highlight in a difficult season, and it came on the heels of a top-five finish at Martinsville. That was Stewart's first top-five since March at Auto Club Speedway , and combined with the good qualifying run gives Stewart something to build on as he looks towards the 2015 season. Stewart was surprised when he broke the 200 -mph barrier, saying over the radio, "Didn't look that fast." Although he set the record in the second round, Stewart ended up qualifying sixth and will share Row 3 with teammate Kevin Harvick for the start of Sunday's AAA Texas 500 (3 p.m. ET, ESPN). He expressed some regret about not being able to hit the top speed in the third round of qualifying but was still pleased with the record. "It is always cool to be the first guy to be able to do anything," Stewart said. 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
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Stewart tops 200 -mph in second round, sets records RELATED: Starting Lineup " Follow your picks in the Chase Battle Grid Presented by Toyota FORT WORTH, Tex.—With three races left in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season, Matt Kenseth made a statement during Friday’s time trials at Texas Motor Speedway . After Tony Stewart set the fastest lap ever run on a 1.5-mile intermediate speedway at 200 .111 mph in the second round of knockout qualifying, Kenseth covered the distance in 27.095 seconds (199.299 mph) in the money round to win the pole for Sunday’s AAA Texas 500 . In winning his second Coors Light Pole Award of the season, his first at Texas and the 13th of his career, Kenseth edged Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup leader Jeff Gordon (199.291 mph) after Gordon ran what he described as an overly conservative lap. Jimmie Johnson (198.983 mph) will start third in the second race of the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup's Eliminator Round, followed by Kurt Busch (198.910 mph in his first qualifying session with new crew chief Tony Gibson) and Kevin Harvick (198.836 mph). Stewart was sixth fastest in the final round after leading a parade of drivers who bettered the previous track record of 198.282 mph Harvick had set in April. Having advanced to the Eliminator Round without winning a race this season, Kenseth tested during the week at Homestead-Miami Speedway , where his team found some additional speed that translated to Texas. "We've got to get in practice (Saturday) and hopefully get it driving as good as it drove tonight for the race," Kenseth said of his No. 20 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota, "because 500 miles is way different than qualifying. "But I thought we had a pretty good test at Homestead, and we stumbled on some things late that seemed to bring us up a step and bring us closer to the best guys. You never really know until you get through practice and get the race rolling and see what you've got." Stewart said his record lap, which took 26.985 seconds to complete, could have been even better. "We were going to be probably down to a 26.75 or 26.80 if I would have finished getting through (Turn) 4," Stewart said. "I got real tight and had to lift all the way out of the gas in the first round and still ran a 27.10, so it was going to be a big monster lap in the first round, but that's not the one that pays. "We hit it the second round, and I missed it in the third round--my fault." Likely needing a victory to advance to the season finale at Homestead, Brad Keselowski failed to advance to the second round and will start 26th on Sunday. Nevertheless, Keselowski was confident in the quality of his car in race trim. "I'm optimistic we can (win) in this round, and the reality is it will probably take that, said Keselowski, who is seventh in the Chase standings, 31 points behind Gordon. "I completely understand that and am ready for that challenge and hope we have the speed to make it happen. "The speed and execution… and I hope I don't screw it up if we do. When it comes down to moments like this, great teams have to step it up. I believe we are a great team, and I'm ready for the challenge." Other Chase drivers will start as follows: Ryan Newman , seventh; Joey Logano , 10th; Carl Edwards , 11th; and Denny Hamlin 20th. MORE: READ: Latest Chase news PLAY: Monitor your Chase Grid Game picks WATCH: Latest NASCAR video FOLLOW LIVE: Get RaceView FULL CHASE COVERAGE • Chase hub page • Chase Grid games • #MyChaseNation
Driver leads 97 laps on way to third victory of season MORE: Full Martinsville results MARTINSVILLE, Va. -- Driving a No. 34 Kyle Busch Motorsports Toyota painted and numbered as a tribute to NASCAR Hall of Fame nominee Wendell Scott -- and with Scott's family in attendance at Martinsville Speedway -- polesitter Darrell Wallace Jr . held off Timothy Peters to win Saturday's Kroger 200 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race. Last year at Martinsville, driving the No. 54 KBM Tundra, Wallace became the first African-American driver to win a race in one of NASCAR's top three touring series since Scott accomplished the feat in what is now the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series on Dec. 1, 1963 at Speedway Park in Jacksonville, Florida. Though his number was changed to 34 on Saturday, in honor of Scott’s traditional car number, the result was the same for Wallace, who grabbed the lead from Johnny Sauter in heavy traffic on Lap 188 of 200 , moments before the 11th caution slowed the race. Wallace pulled away after a restart with six laps left, beating Peters to the finish line by .495 seconds. Peters had bumped Sauter out of the way in the closing laps, also opening the door for reigning series champion Matt Crafton , who came home third and extended his series lead to 18 points over fifth-place finisher Ryan Blaney . "I wasn't worried about anybody, honestly," Wallace said. "They kept telling me where everybody was, and I said I didn't care. It's our weekend and we're going to come out and take this (grandfather) clock (trophy) home with us and we just did that. "That was so fun. Martinsville is my favorite place to come to. Without the support of NASCAR and Toyota… the whole Wendell Scott family is here and this is a special moment, just a perfect weekend for us. It's a true honor to have Wendell Scott on our Toyota Tundra and to be able to put it in Victory Lane. I know he (Scott) just said up there, 'Hell yeah.' This is cool." Wallace said Saturday's win surpassed his first victory in the series at Martinsville a year ago. "It means a lot -- I know I had a guardian angel looking over me this weekend," said Wallace, who took over third place in the series standings, 22 points behind Crafton. "To be able to put it in Victory Lane, you couldn't ask for a better weekend. You thought last year was special, but this definitely beats it." Upset with what he deemed roughhouse tactics from Peters, Sauter attempt to confront the runner-up on pit road after the race, but NASCAR officials and crew members kept the drivers apart. "It's Martinsville," Peters said. "If you're going to dish it out, you're going to need to be able to take it. Did I mean to run into him? Yeah. I'm not going to deny that -- maybe not as hard. "But it is what it is. I don't want to waste too much of my breath on that. We'll just focus on how well we ran today…" Wallace led 97 of the 200 laps. Second was the pace car, which was out front for a record 71 laps during a race that featured more rookies than veterans and six drivers competing in the series for the first time. Erik Jones ran fourth, followed by Blaney, Tyler Reddick , Sauter, Matt Tifft (a UNC-Charlotte freshman making his first start) Alex Guenette and German Quiroga, whose ill-fated attempt to take the lead in heavy traffic on Lap 188 caused his No. 77 Toyota to spin and brought out the 11th caution, solidifying Wallace in the lead. The series now heads to Texas Motor Speedway next weekend for Friday's Winstar World Casino and Resort 350 (8:30 p.m. ET, FS1). 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
Those who expected a Hendrick/Penske Chase find new format had other plans RELATED: Follow your picks in the Chase Battle Grid Presented by Toyota Remember concerns that the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup championship race at Homestead-Miami Speedway might consist of four teams from a single organization? Or the ones who predicted it would be a showdown between Hendrick Motorsports and Team Penske teams in the season's final race? It was easy enough to wonder "what if," and heading into the Chase it wasn't all that far-fetched to think either of those two possibilities would unfold. Both seemed much more plausible at the time than, say, a driver without a victory in the first 26 races advancing deep into the Chase. Or a six-time champion getting booted out with two rounds remaining. Neither of the first two predictions took place while both of the last two have come to pass. What happened? Well, to sum it up, the Chase happened. Things have certainly changed since the green flag dropped at Chicagoland in September. Today, as the Sprint Cup Series heads to Texas Motor Speedway for the second race of the Eliminator round, it appears more likely that next month's finale will consist of four teams from four separate organizations. With three races remaining, I'm no so sure that will be the case either, but the potential for such a scenario is building. That all-Hendrick Motorsports line of thinking went by the boards two weeks ago at Talladega, when three of the four drivers (Jimmie Johnson, Dale Earnhardt Jr . and Kasey Kahne ) fell by the wayside, leaving only Jeff Gordon to soldier on. The Talladega fallout also slammed the door shut on the suggestion of the Hendrick/Penske tag-team, losers-leave-the-country showdown. Both may be represented, but if that's the case, the best they can do is fill three of the four slots. Penske can still send both Joey Logano and Brad Keselowski to the final, but the latter suddenly finds himself playing catch-up for the second time since the 10-race playoff got underway. One round earlier, Keselowski need a victory to advance. Now seventh in points and 26 behind fourth-place Matt Kenseth , the driver of the No. 22 Ford will likely need a similar result this time around. Gordon, Logano and Kenseth, along with Ryan Newman , make up the top four heading into Sunday’s AAA Texas 500 at TMS (ESPN, 3 p.m. ET). Four drivers from four different organizations. The gap between Kenseth (fourth) and Denny Hamlin (fifth) isn't tremendous by any means -- only two points. But Carl Edwards , Keselowski and Kevin Harvick all sit 15 points or more behind the cutoff line. That might not sound like much, but from a points standpoint, it’s enough to keep a crew chief up at night. For those three, points are going to be helpful only if one or more of those up top have a bad race, either this weekend or next week when the series heads to Phoenix . The better solution remains the same as it has all season: Win a race, and let the others sort themselves out. Keselowski and Harvick have demonstrated the ability to do just that, winning a combined nine times this year. Edwards has won twice, but not since Sonoma and has advanced by simply outlasting the competition. For all eight, Texas represents the land of opportunity. With a non-Chase winner surfacing at Martinsville, who will advance is no more settled than before the round began. Everyone still has a shot and, at the same time, no one is truly safe. Gordon? Don't count on it. If someone such as Kyle Busch can tumble from second to "better luck next time" in the span of a single race, then Gordon, the points leader, and everyone else are just as vulnerable. Forget domination by one organization. Nice try HMS. Forget the Hendrick/Penske invitation-only affair. Maybe next year. With just three races remaining, this one's still wide open. MORE: READ: Latest Chase news PLAY: Monitor your Chase Grid Game picks WATCH: Latest NASCAR video FOLLOW LIVE: Get RaceView FULL CHASE COVERAGE • Chase hub page • Chase Grid games • #MyChaseNation