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 .
Austin Dillon's success continues to hold true to form
MORE: Gifts from Gordon's final season " SHOP: Gordon Rainbow Warrior gear Jeff Gordon 's iconic No. 24 rainbow paint scheme is back for this Saturday's IRWIN Tools Night Race at Bristol Motor Speedway (7:30 p.m. ET, NBCSN, PRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio). The four-time champion has five career wins at Bristol, and a win on Saturday would lock him into the Chase Grid for the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup . How exactly did it all come together? Check it out with this video of the No. 24 paint scheme being wrapped, courtesy of Hendrick Motorsports . Bristol Motor Speedway also unveiled on Friday that the track in 2016 will have the " Jeff Gordon Terrace," a backstretch grandstand named after the legendary driver. Charlotte Motor Speedway also announced Friday its upcoming tribute to Gordon. Leading up to the Oct. 10 Bank of America 500 , the speedway is rolling out " Jeff's Last Ride: A 24-Day Salute." NASCAR licensed artist Sam Bass will create original artwork for the Bank of America 500 souvenir program as part of the salute, which also includes a 24-day social media campaign. Another highlight is a collection of iconic No. 24 race cars on display during the Charlotte Auto Fair Sept. 24-27.
The Joe Gibbs Racing teams of Kyle Busch and Matt Kenseth , which combined to win six of the last nine NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races, will each lose 15 minutes of practice time next weekend when the series heads to Darlington Raceway . The two were among 11 teams issued warnings arising from pre-qualifying and pre-race inspection issues at Bristol Motor Speedway , site of the Aug. 22 Irwin Tools Night Race . Busch's No. 18 team failed pre-race inspection four times on Saturday. Busch finished eighth in the race. Kenseth's No. 20 team was penalized for failing pre-race inspection on its first two attempts, as well as failing to get to inspection at the allotted time. Kenseth finished 42nd after when an engine issue sidelined the 2003 Sprint Cup champion after 110 laps of the 500-lap race. NASCAR's Sprint Cup Series is not competing this weekend. The Bojangles' Southern 500 is scheduled for Sept. 6 at Darlington (7 p.m., NBC, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio). The 15-minute penalties will be enforced when opening practice gets underway on Friday, Sept. 4 at 11 a.m. Kenseth is currently fourth in the Chase Grid and has a spot in the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup playoff locked up. Busch, who missed the first 11 races of the season due to injuries sustained in a crash at Daytona International Speedway in February, is currently second in the Chase Grid, but needs to clinch a top 30 position in the point standings over the final two regular-season races before he officially locks his spot in the Chase up. Warnings may be issued to teams for a variety of minor infractions. For every fourth warning issued to a team, whether during a championship (points) or non-championship (non-points) event, the loss of pit stall selection will be enforced. Others teams receiving warnings at Bristol for failing pre-qualifying inspection twice were: No. 22 ( Joey Logano / Team Penske ), No. 24 ( Jeff Gordon / Hendrick Motorsports ), No. 7 ( Alex Bowman / Tommy Baldwin Racing ), No. 30 ( Travis Kvapil /TMG) and the No. 98 ( Timmy Hill /Premium Motorsports) Also penalized for being late to inspection were the following teams: No. 40 ( Landon Cassill /Hillman Racing), No. 83 ( Matt DiBenedetto / BK Racing , No. 15 ( Clint Bowyer / Michael Waltrip Racing ) and the No. 11 ( Denny Hamlin / Joe Gibbs Racing ).
RELATED: Chase Grid " Chase bubble watch " Chase Fest details A year ago, it was Kasey Kahne . Only two races remained before the start of the 2014 Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup , and the Hendrick Motorsports driver was 13th in points. Unfortunately, he was outside the top 16 in the Chase standings. Kyle Busch , Denny Hamlin , AJ Allmendinger , Kurt Busch and Aric Almirola trailed Kahne in points. But they were among those that had wins. They had invitations to the dance. At the time, Kahne had managed only two top-five finishes. His average finishing position was 16.8. He hadn't been to the victory lane since midway through the previous season. So he and his team went out and won at Atlanta Motor Speedway . It earned Kahne one of the final Chase spots and the No. 5 team a second chance. It wasn't quite as easy as it sounds. Kevin Harvick , as was often the case, was dominant at AMS. Kahne fell a lap down early. The team battled back. He didn't take the lead for the first time until Lap 303 of the scheduled 325-lap race. Suddenly, he seemed to be on his way to the win. Then cautions appeared, forcing two late restarts. Green, white, checkered late. Kahne's lead was lost on pit road. Yet somehow he muscled his way past Matt Kenseth coming to the white flag, holding on for the win and a spot in the Chase. It's a similar position for the 35-year-old this year. Two races remain -- stops at Darlington Raceway and Richmond International Raceway -- before the field is finalized for this year's 10-race run to determine the Sprint Cup champion. Kahne is once again winless. He is not alone. Teammate Jeff Gordon has finished inside the top five only three times this year. The four-time champion is ahead of Clint Bowyer in the playoff picture, with a wider margin back to folks such as Aric Almirola and Greg Biffle . A year ago Gordon had three wins and a vise-like grip on first place in the points. Bowyer's got a pair of top-fives, but much of the attention around the No. 15 team of Michael Waltrip Racing centers on where Bowyer will call home next season. Paul Menard has a razor-thin lead on Gordon in points, but taking nothing for granted. Can anyone? Matt Kenseth 's blown engine at Bristol last week, leaving the Joe Gibbs driver 42nd in the final rundown, didn't go unnoticed. Things not only can happen, they often do. With 10 drivers already secure -- 11 if you go ahead and give Kyle Busch one of the spots although he's close enough to the fault line that a misstep could make things interesting -- and two races remaining, at least three of this year's Chase spots will be filled based on the points standings after Richmond. It could be five, if no new winner emerges in the next two weeks. Few on the fringes, though, have shown signs of contending for wins. Almirola? One top five and only three laps led this season. Biffle? It's shaping up to be the wrong type of career year for the Roush Fenway Racing driver, with just two top-fives and an average finish of 20th. Austin Dillon ? Kyle Larson ? Both have shown potential. Both are winless. Kahne? Well, who knows? The question isn't can it be done. Kahne's already proven that it's possible. The question is who among those can pull it off?
RELATED: Homestead tire test " Updated Chase Grid As Dale Earnhardt Jr . enters the final idle weekend for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season, he acknowledges that his Hendrick Motorsports team needs to do some homework to improve their chances in the postseason Chase. But on a personal level, he's also going to take time to do his own homework, gathering ideas for how his upcoming wedding might unfold. Earnhardt recounted an eventful night at Bristol Motor Speedway , assessed his team's playoff hopes and talked nuptials during this Tuesday's edition of the "Dale Jr. Download" podcast on Dirty Mo Radio. Earnhardt Jr.'s playoff eligibility is safe, thanks to two regular-season victories that have sealed his spot on the 16-driver Chase Grid. But the 40-year-old driver said his No. 88 team needs to make headway against its rivals in the performance department. Joe Gibbs Racing has won six of the last nine Sprint Cup events, and Team Penske 's Joey Logano has captured two of the last three checkered flags. "We've got to work on this Chase. We've got to get ready for that," Earnhardt said. "We've got a couple of races left before that happens, so we'll try to learn as much as we can. I think that it's been commented on in the media, and Jeff (Gordon) and myself and ( Hendrick Motorsports GM Doug) Duchardt and all the people at Hendrick are certainly aware that we need to make some gains and work real hard to try to improve to put ourselves in a more comfortable position going into the Chase so we're more confident about our opportunity to win a championship because we're definitely seeing some teams perform really well right now and just trying to figure out where we need to improve to give them a hell of a run for it. "Not too concerned. You know the sport can cycle pretty quickly, and hopefully we'll peak at the right time." Before joining the Sprint Cup circuit in taking a rare weekend off, Earnhardt said he would participate in an open test at Homestead-Miami Speedway , site of the championship finale race Nov. 22. Then it's off to be a part of a friend's wedding, which he said could prepare him for the planning stages with fiancée Amy Reimann. "Looking forward to that. Maybe I'll take some notes and try to recharge our batteries this last off weekend for the rest of the season. This season went by pretty fast and I think the end of it's going to go by just as quick."
Photo credit -- Chase Elliott 's Instagram @chaseelliott9 RELATED: Series standings At only 19 years old, Chase Elliott already has a NASCAR XFINITY Series championship, is currently contending for a second one and has a pretty sweet job lined up next year taking over the iconic No. 24 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet for retiring four-time Sprint Cup Series champ Jeff Gordon . Not only has Elliott's racing career taken off, he has too -- literally -- having just earned his private pilot license on July 23. And the view from above is something he's wanted his whole life. It seems Elliott got more than the racing gene from his father, NASCAR Hall of Famer Bill Elliott , as he has inherited the flying bug from his dad, an accomplished and avid aviator. "He's been flying a long time so I've always been around it since I was little," Elliott said of his father. "I've watched him fly for years and years and been fortunate enough to have access to his planes and sit up front and watch him fly them so I've always definitely interested in it. "It's one of those things where the more you do it, the more you become interested in it. And the more you get into it, the more intriguing it becomes. I learn something new every time I fly. "It's definitely tough to (master all the necessary lessons). A lot of things come along with it. But flying is a privilege and something you can't take lightly ever." A lot of the same traits -- discipline, smarts and dedication -- Elliott put into his burgeoning racing career he used to earn the pilot license. He actually started taking lessons while still in high school but it was such a busy time between school, racing and flying lessons that Elliott put off finishing his license until a few months ago with the support of his dad. "It's something you work hard for to achieve," Bill Elliott said. "I see so many people who have gone through a lot of the flying part and the learning curve but never went on and got their pilot licenses and they always regretted it. I told Chase, 'You need to go on and get this done.' "I'm glad he did. That's something he'll carry with him regardless of where racing takes him." The Elliotts join an impressive list of NASCAR drivers who have secured private pilot licenses including Carl Edwards , Greg Biffle , Matt Kenseth and retired drivers Mark Martin , Rusty Wallace, Cale Yarborough and Ricky Rudd. Ryan Newman 's wife Krissie flies helicopters. Similarly, Elliott figures having the ability to pilot an airplane can be as much a practicality as it is a luxury. His father helped secure him a Cessna 182 single-engine, four-seater to use and Elliott is eager to start flying to races closer than home. Last week, he flew to Bristol. He has also posted a photo of himself practicing grass landings on Instagram. "Absolutely, it's a major convenience if you need to go somewhere, you can turn a four-hour drive into an hour-and-a-half flight," Elliott said. "Time is valuable for anybody and any chance to make up time like that is great." Elliott wasn't sure if he would fly himself to this weekend's XFINITY Series race at Road America , but he is looking forward to the stand-alone road race regardless. It's the third road course race in the last four weeks for the series and Elliott is one of the series regulars who embraces the opportunity to turn right. He is on a six-race run of top-10 finishes in his No. 9 NAPA Chevy and currently trails championship leader Chris Buescher by 23 points in the standings. He has finishes of seventh (Watkins Glen) and fifth (Mid-Ohio) in the two road races this year and finished fourth at Road America last season. "I thought last year was a good learning experience," Elliott said. "I was really pleased with Watkins Glen. I'm still learning on my end, but thought we had good cars this year and that's a big step in right direction." For Elliott, that direction is up.
Eldredge's Pre-Race Concert Will Take Place On Sunday, Sept. 20 Joliet, Ill. -- Country music sensation and Illinois Native, Brett Eldredge, as the pre-race concert act for the myAFibRisk.com 400 -- the first race in the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup on Sunday, Sept. 20. Eldredge hails from Paris, Ill., approximately 180 miles south of Chicago, and released his new single, "Lose My Mind," last Tuesday. The CMA New Artist of the Year plans to release his sophomore album later this year. His debut album, Bring You Back, yielded the No. 1 hits "Don’t Ya," "Beat of the Music," and "Mean to Me." The 29-year-old Eldredge was a student at Elmhurst College in Elmhurst before moving to Nashville to chase his dreams. "Over the past several years we've had an opportunity to host some of the premier performers within the country music industry, and we're looking forward to Brett Eldredge continuing that tradition," said Scott Paddock, president of Chicagoland Speedway . "Including an artist of Brett's caliber as part of our weekend festivities is an exciting addition for our track, NASCAR and particularly our fans, and the fact that he's from our own backyard makes it even more special as we kick off the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup ." Special packages are available for Eldredge’s biggest fans, including a $99 ticket upgrade which guarantees a place in the front row for Brett's concert and also includes a Fan Zone Pit Pass (grandstand ticket not included). The Fan Zone Pit Pass is required to enter the infield for the concert. For $75, fans can purchase a grandstand ticket and Fan Zone Pit Pass, which puts them in close proximity to the concert and provides access to driver introductions, a red carpet walk and the Infield Fan Zone. All fans with grandstand tickets will have the ability to view the concert from their grandstand seat. Tickets can be purchased online at ChicagolandSpeedway.com , by calling 888-629-RACE, through the Chicagoland Speedway mobile app, or by visiting the Chicagoland Speedway Administrative office Monday-Friday 8:30 a.m. - 5 p.m. The Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup weekend at Chicagoland Speedway , Sept. 18-20, will begin with the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series American Ethanol e15 225 under the lights on Friday night. On Saturday, Sept. 19, the NASCAR XFINITY Series will hit the track with the Furious 7 300 as the precursor to Sunday's NASCAR Sprint Cup Series showdown, the first race in the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup . In addition to the racing action, fans can enjoy live musical entertainment, Champions Park, tailgating and more. Tickets start at just $25 with kids tickets (12 and under) $25 OFF, and parking is always free at Chicagoland Speedway . Buy Chicagoland Tickets
RELATED: Updated standings Chris Buescher gambled at Bristol and almost came up big. The key word in the previous sentence: 'Almost.' The 22-year-old Roush Fenway Racing driver took the lead at the .533-mile track after electing not to pit on Lap 192 of 300 . Buescher paced the field for the next 106 laps, but a fuel pick-up issue on the penultimate go-around of the race ended any hopes of triumph. Buescher was relegated to 11th, while Ty Dillon finished third, cutting Buescher's NASCAR XFINITY Series points lead to 19. If Buescher didn't go for the win, he wouldn't have lost as many points to Dillon. "We had the speed, but it wasn't meant to be," Buescher said. "I'm glad we took the chance. I wouldn't change it if we could do it over again, but unfortunately it knocked us right out of a top-10 and out of a win." RELATED: Buescher: 'I'm glad we took the chance' Buescher and Dillon will continue to battle for the points lead in Saturday's Road America 180 Fired Up by Johnsonville at Road America in Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin (3 p.m. on NBCSN) -- the third and final XFINITY Series road course race of the season. The two drivers are the only competitors who finished in the top five of the previous two road course races. A natural on road courses, Buescher won at Mid-Ohio last year in addition to his two top fives while turning left and right this year. He placed 18th in his lone start at Road America last season. " Road America is a very difficult and unique road course," Buescher said. "I love road racing and look forward to the challenge." Dillon finished 19th in his first-ever series start at Road America last year. He enters Saturday's race riding a streak of four top-five finishes. "Our team is looking at the big picture and sometimes we have to take a step back and realize that this is a long season; to take it little by little," Dillon said. "This past weekend in Bristol was a perfect example -- we struggled the first part of practice but (Crew Chief) Nick (Harrison), (Race Engineer) Danny (Efland) and the team just took a step back and reevaluated. We have a championship to win here and it won't be easy. "We have 11 races to go and we're not going to let up."
Driver voices role for Disney TV show Jeff Gordon has lent his voice to Disney, and the four-time premier series champion is a clown for doing so. No, seriously. Gordon's voice is used for a clown character that calls a race on Disney XD’s "Penn Zero: Part Time Hero." His work includes this gem of a line: " … outgoing lame duck mayor Mayor Lame Duck -- quack, quack, quack -- will fire the starting pistol." The episode airs at 8 p.m. ET on Monday, but watch the sneak peek above. Don't you see the resemblance?