GarageCam host Matthew Dillner takes you through the NASCAR XFINITY Series garage at Charlotte Motor Speedway and picks up a sweet gift.
Jeff Gordon will make his 46th and likely final NASCAR Sprint Cup Series start at Charlotte Motor Speedway on Saturday. Take a look at his career highlights at the 1.5-mile track.
CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- That high-pitched whir unique to Joe Gibbs Racing 's air wrenches could be coming to the pit boxes of one of the Toyota organization's closest rivals in the near future. Hendrick Motorsports ' motivations for hiring front-tire changer Nick Odell to Jeff Gordon 's No. 24 team last week came into clearer focus Tuesday at the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Contender Round Media Day. Odell, Gordon said, wasn't merely brought in for his nimble work during pit stops, but also for his institutional and technical skill, which helped in the development of JGR's enhanced air guns. "That was an opportunity to get someone that is highly regarded on pit road, very knowledgeable about more than just changing tires," Gordon said during media rotations at the NASCAR Hall of Fame. "He was somebody that a lot of people wanted to get their hands on, and Nick had to make his own choice and decision where he was going to end up going. I'm very proud that he came to our organization. I think it's going to pick our program up, which I feel like we've been off. "I mean, we train guys, we have very talented individuals, but it goes further than that. Now we're starting to see where these pit guns are a crucial part of pit stops. It's something we've been working on, and now it helps us take it to the next level." RELATED: Pit crew changes for Gordon, Earnhardt Jr. Odell's move came at the expense of specifically the No. 18 team with driver Kyle Busch , who lost a seven-year veteran from his over-the-wall crew, but generally for Joe Gibbs Racing , which unveiled the high-speed air guns -- known for their distinctively shrill whine -- during the 2014 season. The upgrade in equipment, combined with JGR's already quick personnel, has helped the team shave precious tenths of a second off its pit stops. Busch said he anticipated a similar air wrench design making its debut at Hendrick Motorsports ' four-car outfit in "six, seven, eight months," and that JGR will face even tighter competition on pit road next season. "I feel like Nick Odell, he's one of my best friends. I'm friends with all my guys, and if any of them left, I'd be hurt about it," Busch said. "I didn't want to see Nick go, but things happen for a reason I guess in this business. Certainly being a part of Joe Gibbs Racing and the development work and everything that we've done into those air guns, obviously Nick was a part of that and knows some of that stuff, so he's a guy who does have some of that knowledge and will share it, I'm sure, with the Hendrick Motorsports group." If Busch's timetable for air-gun development is accurate, Gordon won't have an opportunity to directly feel the impact. The four-time champion will be ceding his seat to defending XFINITY champion Chase Elliott at season's end, and changes to the 2016 rules package may reduce the premium on gaining spots during pit-stop exchanges. Gordon said that doesn't mean that teams will place lesser emphasis on seeking every advantage possible to speed up pit-road service. "I think you're just always trying to find out where you need more strength and what can make you better," Gordon said. "Track position has become so important. I think next year it'll be less important because of the aerodynamics, and I think that's great for the sport, but we're never going to stop trying to figure out how to find time on pit road if it's possible and to do it consistently. Right now, I think it's so crucial. The aerodynamic and power combination we have this year, it is so difficult to pass once you get the green flag and get strung out. Very, very difficult."
RELATED: Where does No. 88 team stack up in this week's pit crew rankings? CHARLOTTE, N.C. – Dale Earnhardt Jr . said he doesn't anticipate any further changes to his pit crew even though teammate Jimmie Johnson has been knocked out of this year’s Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup . Earnhardt and fellow Hendrick Motorsports teammate Jeff Gordon advanced into the Contender Round of the Chase, which begins this weekend at Charlotte Motor Speedway . Johnson, a six-time NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion, did not secure one of the 12 Chase positions, falling by the wayside when a rear axle seal failed during Sunday's AAA 400 at Dover International Speedway . RELATED: Johnson's dream of seventh title in 2015 washed away at Dover Speaking to the media Tuesday at the NASCAR Hall of Fame, Earnhardt couldn't guarantee that there would be no changes in his over-the-wall crew, "but I would like to keep my guys," he said. Earnhardt's last win came in July at Daytona. His pass of Jamie McMurray in the closing laps at Dover vaulted him into the Contender Round, but he and his team had to overcome a loose wheel during the race to put themselves back in contention. A caution allowed Earnhardt to pit and correct the problem and kept him from having to come to pit road under green -flag conditions. "I'll be honest with you. … I don't know what's going to happen. You might find out tomorrow that somebody got changed," he said. "I don't think you build a guy's trust … he needs to know that you believe in him; the same for the driver. The driver needs to know the team believes he can do it. "I think the (tire) carrier, the (tire) changer, all those guys want to think that the driver and everyone involved believes in them when they go over the wall. "If I take the 48 guys because I think they're better, then what am I going to do next year when we have to start from scratch again? All those guys that are on my car now are going to be pissed off because I don't believe in them because I took the 48 guys when the going got tough. "So I don't believe in doing that. I think that my guys can do it; I think we will find the combination that works for us to get to the end of the season and beyond." RELATED: Change made to No. 88 pit crew Earnhardt's No. 88 crew has been retooled in recent weeks, most recently for Dover as front-tire changer Scott Brzozowski replaced David Mayo, who had earlier been replaced by Kevin Novak but had been brought back onto the main crew. The addition of Brzozowski can possibly be a game-changer for the team, according to Earnhardt. "I hope that Scott wants to stick around beyond this season," he said. "I actually talked to him today. "It's not like we need two new (tire) changers. We just need one key guy that can come in and kind of elevate the standard and push everyone. Over the past couple of years when we've had great pit crews, a lot of the guys that we've been working with this year were on those teams. "If you get one guy in there that’s kind of a key player … like a wide receiver or a quarterback is to a football team, he can really elevate the play of everybody around him and boost the entire crew; just the confidence that those guys have going over the wall when he's a part of it changes the whole consistency of the team." Gordon's No. 24 team picked up the services of tire changer Nick Odell recently, which freed up the move for Brzozowski to the 88. Gordon, a four-time champion in his final full-time season, is still searching for his first win in 2015. "We really want Scott to try to wrap his brain around sticking with us," Earnhardt said. "We could really use a guy like him on the 88 car to bring some stability to the rest of the group. I've got a lot of faith in our guys; it's not like we need to go crazy and blow it up, go looking outside our system." Any crew changes for his team, he said, would be orchestrated by crew chief Greg Ives and Hendrick Motorsports General Manager Doug Duchardt. Swapping individual crew members heading into the Chase isn't unusual. There have even been cases of swapping entire crews, in the middle of a race no less, as Johnson and Gordon did in 2010. "I know teams have done that before but I just feel like, yeah you might get somewhere in the short term and get some stability but over the long term you basically have just destroyed the integrity of the team you have," Earnhardt said. "Having those guys back at the beginning of next season is not going to be an option. They're not going to want to work for you once you take them off the car during the Chase."
Jeff Green , who is subbing for Eric McClure, crashes hard into the wall after a tire blows on the No. 14 car.
After a mechanical failure of some sort, Jeff Green's day ends with a hard hit in the tire barrier.
Below is a breakdown of how the full 43-car field fared at Dover International Speedway . 1. Kevin Harvick , No. 4 Chevrolet, Stewart-Haas Racing . Harvick scored his spot in the Round of 12 in dramatic fashion by leading a career-best 355 laps and notching the 750th victory for manufacturer Chevrolet. 2. Kyle Busch , No. 18 Toyota, Joe Gibbs Racing . Post-race, Busch said he was pleased with where his team finished, citing it had a second-place car, but also adding it had quite a bit of ground to make up to catch the "lightning-fast" No. 4 team. 3. Dale Earnhardt Jr ., No. 88 Chevrolet, Hendrick Motorsports . The final caution flag was a lucky break for Earnhardt, who took the opportunity to address a loose wheel. He then used a solid restart to slip past fellow Chase contender Jamie McMurray and punch his ticket to the next round. 4. Jamie McMurray , No. 1 Chevrolet, Chip Ganassi Racing . "Nice work guys. Nothing to be ashamed of," McMurray radioed his team after just missing the cut for Round 2. For more in-car audio, sign up for RaceView . 5. Aric Almirola , No. 43 Ford, Richard Petty Motorsports . Almirola was posting top-five lap times with 55 laps to go, but needed those remaining circuits to pick up seven spots and match his best Dover result. 6. Kasey Kahne , No. 5 Chevrolet, Hendrick Motorsports . The decision to stop twice during the fifth caution period to ensure the No. 5 was full of fuel didn't hurt Kahne, who earned his seventh Dover top 10. 7. Matt Kenseth , No. 20 Toyota, Joe Gibbs Racing . Kenseth, already a Round 2 contender thanks to his Loudon victory, spent the remaining 125 laps on Sunday looking for more corner speed. 8. Ricky Stenhouse Jr ., No. 17, Roush Fenway Racing . Stenhouse restarted 10th after the fifth caution flag, and he held on for his best Dover finish. 9 . Kyle Larson , No. 42 Chevrolet, Chip Ganassi Racing . Larson looked to play the spoiler when he moved into the top three in the final 100 laps, but a decision to stay out during the final caution flag hurt his chances. 10. Joey Logano , No. 22 Ford, Team Penske . Logano advances to the next round of the Chase with his ninth Dover top 10. 11. Martin Truex Jr ., No. 78 Chevrolet, Furniture Row Racing . Truex, a Round 2 contender, climbed through the field after starting from the rear when NASCAR had a post-inspection issue with the flare on his side skirt. 12. Jeff Gordon , No. 24 Chevrolet, Hendrick Motorsports . " Man, it's never easy," Gordon told his team after a rough final restart. "I know that wasn't easy," spotter Eddie D'Hondt said. "But we did what we needed to" (to advance). For more in-car audio, sign up for RaceView . 13. Greg Biffle , No. 16 Ford, Roush-Fenway Racing. Biffle got sideways with 11 laps to go, but saved his car while running 15th . 14. Clint Bowyer , No. 15, Michael Waltrip Racing . Bowyer recovered after dropping from eighth to 25th when he made an unscheduled stop on Lap 175 for a loose wheel. 15. Carl Edwards , No. 19 Toyota, Joe Gibbs Racing . Crew chief Darian Grubb didn't want to risk the No. 19's spot in the next round of the Chase so he called his driver back down pit road during the sixth caution flag for a right-front tire issue. 16. Brad Keselowski , No. 2 Ford, Team Penske . Around Lap 60, Keselowski was running 16th when he reported that his engine temperatures were dropping. He maintained and will compete in the second round of the Chase. 17. Kurt Busch , No. 41 Chevrolet, Stewart-Haas Racing . An issue with the left-front jack bolt caused Busch to lose ride height late in the race. The team corrected the issue but still had to make additional repairs during the Lap 374 stop under caution. 18. Denny Hamlin , No. 11 Toyota, Joe Gibbs Racing . Hamlin won the race off pit road after a four-tire stop during the competition caution, but his forward momentum was stalled because he was tagged for speeding. A second penalty sealed the deal, but he still advanced because he won Chicagoland. 19. Ryan Newman , No. 31 Chevrolet, Richard Childress Racing . Newman earned the beneficiary pass after the third caution flag and managed to stay only one lap down as the race progressed. He advanced to the second round of the Chase. 20. Sam Hornish Jr ., No. 9 Ford, Richard Petty Motorsports . Hornish and his team chased the handling of his No. 9 Ford all day, even as the track took on rubber. 21. Danica Patrick , No. 10 Chevrolet, Stewart-Haas Racing . Patrick worked with her team to help her No. 10 Chevy take off better around Dover's 1-mile oval. 22. David Ragan , No. 55 Toyota, Michael Waltrip Racing . Ragan, who fell off the lead lap by Lap 105, had previously told his team he was "too free on exit and pretty snug in the center." 23. Austin Dillon , No. 3 Chevrolet, Richard Childress Racing . Dillon's team made several chassis adjustments during the second half of the race to help him get into the corner better. 24. Casey Mears , No. 13 Chevrolet, Germain Racing . Mears was running 25th during the first half of Sunday's race when he was hooked in the right rear and saved his car from spinning on-track. 25. Paul Menard , No. 27 Chevrolet, Richard Childress Racing . Menard rolled off the grid 14th and almost immediately went backward as he watched his first Chase run fade. 26. Tony Stewart , No. 14 Chevrolet, Stewart-Haas Racing . Stewart recently announced he'd retire from driving after 2016 to focus on ownership. But on Sunday, the driver of the No. 14 focused on pit strategy to improve his track position. 27. Justin Allgaier , No. 51 Chevrolet, HScott Motorsports . Allgaier received the beneficiary pass during the competition caution, but spent much of the race looking for mid-corner grip. 28. Cole Whitt , No. 35 Ford, Front Row Motorsports . Like his teammate Brett Moffitt , Whitt discovered that his car improved around Dover as the 1-mile concrete oval took on rubber. 29. AJ Allmendinger , No. 47 Chevrolet, JTG-Daugherty Racing. Allmendinger was going too fast trying to get onto pit road when he spun up the track on Lap 311. 30. David Gilliland , No. 38 Ford, Front Row Motorsports . Gilliland reported a tight-handling condition during the final 60 laps of Sunday's race, which his team worked to address. 31. Trevor Bayne , No. 6 Ford, Roush Fenway Racing . Halfway through a fuel run when the fifth caution flag was waved, Bayne elected to take the wave-around like most cars one or more laps down. 32. Alex Bowman , No. 7 Chevrolet, Tommy Baldwin Racing . Bowman and his team continually made adjustments on the No. 7 Chevy throughout Sunday's race trying to find balance. 33. Reed Sorenson , No. 98 Ford, Phil Parsons Racing. Already three laps down and in 36th, Sorenson told his team that he was "just racing the track right now" when they informed him leader Kevin Harvick was bearing down. 34. Matt DiBenedetto , No. 83 Toyota, BK Racing . "Holy crap," DiBenedetto said while running 37th on Lap 101 when he learned leader Kevin Harvick was on his bumper -- again. 35. J.J. Yeley, No. 26 Toyota, BK Racing . Long green -flag runs were a struggle Sunday for Yeley. 36. Josh Wise , No. 32 Ford, Go FAS Racing. Wise sustained minimal nose damage after making contact with Jeb Burton on Lap 3. 37. Michael Annett , No. 46 Chevrolet, HScott Motorsports . During the fifth caution flag, Annett reported that his entry was neutral and he couldn't pick up the gas when he wanted to. 38. Alex Kennedy , No. 33 Chevrolet, Circle Sport . Kennedy rolled off the grid 36th in his Dover debut. 39. Timmy Hill , No. 62 Chevrolet, Premium Motorsports . Starting 43rd at the fast 1-mile oval made forward progress an immediate issue for Hill in his fourth Dover appearance. 40. Landon Cassill , No. 40 Chevrolet, Hillman Smith Motorsports. Cassill's fear that his engine was "letting go" was realized on Lap 372 and prompted the eighth caution flag. 41. Jimmie Johnson , No. 48 Chevrolet, Hendrick Motorsports . A torn rear axle seal sidelined Johnson in his 500th Cup start and ended his quest for a seventh championship. 42. Brett Moffitt , No. 34 Ford, Front Row Motorsports . Moffitt's lap times were improving as the track picked up rubber, but his car was "killed" when he blew a right-front and made hard contact with the wall to bring out the seventh caution flag. 43. Jeb Burton , No. 23 Toyota, BK Racing . Burton spun on Lap 3 and cut a tire on Lap 192 to bring out the caution flag twice on Sunday.
RELATED: Johnson's post-race reaction to being eliminated DOVER, Del. -- Once the crowd cleared, Jimmie Johnson walked around to each member of his crew on pit road, giving them a pat on the back and "good job," following his 41st-place finish in Sunday's AAA 400 at Dover International Speedway . His dreams of a seventh title in the 2015 season had been washed away, his finish eliminated the No. 48 team from the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup -- coincidentally in what was his 500th premier series start. The result marked Johnson's worst finish in his career at Dover, a track that he's dominated in years past, reaching Victory Lane a series-best 10 times. "It just wasn't meant to be," Johnson said on pit road after the race. "It's unfortunate. I feel for my team, I feel for Hendrick Motorsports , Lowe's, Chevrolet." Trouble began stirring around Lap 104 when Johnson felt something breaking in his car while running 16th. "It was instantaneous for me," Johnson recalled. "I was coming down the frontstretch and it just started vibrating, the right rear hub I guess started seizing up because the fluid was out of it. It was just metal on metal shaking." A broken rear axle seal was revealed as the culprit of Johnson's Monster Mile misfortune -- a part that Johnson said retails for around $5. "It's really horrible, it's a simple piece," Johnson said. "We're always very cautious, these axles come in and out of the car. I think I had one go in practice earlier this year. Maybe five in my whole career have ever gone." The faulty part sent Johnson behind the wall for nearly 30 minutes, as every member of the No. 48 team -- and even a few No. 88 crew members -- feverishly worked to get the car back on track. They returned to the track in last place, 37 laps down. But as the race continued, Johnson's daunting task became an uphill battle -- a monster that even "Six-Time" couldn't tame. "I really didn't have anything to fight for," Johnson said. "It was completely out of my control with how many laps we were down. Just a matter of what went on. "But then 20-30 minutes of being back on the track, I could see the flow of the race. Guys were minding their manners pretty well on the track, a lot of green flag runs, so I kind of felt like we were in big trouble." Mechanical issues have been few and far between for the No. 48 team in the past. Johnson's six championship titles prove that, his cars under guidance of crew chief Chad Knaus and his notoriously meticulous nature. But as Johnson showed today, even something as simple as an axle failure can happen to anyone. "As I worry about things, I worry about a flat, I worry about a pit call, I worry about hard racing, something going on -- I don't worry about an axle seal failing," Johnson said. "It's just not on your radar. "You just take things for granted. There's so many parts and pieces on these cars and you take for granted what they all do." No. 4 crew chief Rodney Childers, who won Sunday's race at Dover with driver Kevin Harvick , attested to that after the race. "Honestly, it's one of the things that is the scariest of everything that race teams deal with," Childers said in the post-race press conference. "... You think that race teams worry about engine trouble or things like that. But these axle seal problems, they happen all the time, and a lot of times you don't hear about them." With a win at Dover, Childers and Harvick will continue on to the Contender Round in the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup , vying for a second straight title for the No. 4 team. But while the hunt for a seventh championship title is over for Johnson this season, the chance remains for his Hendrick Motorsports teammates Jeff Gordon and Dale Earnhardt Jr ., who advanced to the next round. And Johnson's own desire to win races remains furiously intact. "We had a very, very fast race car today, the past three or four weeks we've had very competitive cars," Johnson said. "We want to win races, that's what the rest of the season is for us. "Help our teammates advance, help our teammates win the championship."
Jeff Green gets heavy damage in a hard hit at Atlanta.
RELATED: Tonight's complete lineup " Chase-clinching scenarios for Richmond RICHMOND, Va. – Jeff Gordon can clinch a spot in this year's Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup with a finish of 17th or better in Saturday night's Federated Auto Parts 400 (7:30 p.m. ET, NBCSN, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio) at Richmond International Raceway . But take nothing for granted. While 17th doesn't seem to be too daunting of a task, the Hendrick Motorsports driver has failed to do that in three of his last six starts. Maybe that's why Gordon said he doesn't choose to focus on a specific position, particularly 17th. He's been in similar situations. It's certainly not his first rodeo, or race. "I am just coming here like every other member of my team," Gordon, a four-time series champion, said Friday at Richmond, "and focused on doing our job to try and win the race and get a solid night and finish. "I really believe if we can execute, which has been one of our challenges this year, then I don't think that is an issue." Eleven of this year's 16 Chase spots are spoken for, and Jamie McMurray 's first appearance in the 10-race playoff will be secured as soon as the Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates driver takes the green flag. Should Gordon lead a lap, his required finishing position falls to 18th; should he lead the most laps, he could finish 19th and clinch. He line up 23rd for Saturday night's race. "Throughout my career, every time I went into a race and someone said that I have to finish 17th or better, we usually hovered around 18th all night," Gordon, 44, said. That being the case, the focus is on a somewhat better finish, "top-five, top-10. "And if we execute we can be a solid enough of a team to where we don't have to worry about that." Forty-five of Gordon's 786 career starts in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series have come on Richmond's .75-mile layout. He's a two-time Richmond winner, but the last victory came 15 years ago. And the track isn't one of his strongest – among active tracks it's No. 17 on the list in terms of average finishing position. Gordon has finished second in two of his last three Richmond starts. Saturday night, he'll suit up for the final time for an event here – his career shifts from the car to the television booth beginning in 2016. On the line is a berth in the Chase. Gordon has made 10 of 11, second to only teammate Jimmie Johnson and his 11-for-11 perfect record. "It's a great short track, and ... one that I have always enjoyed," Gordon said. "I haven't always had great runs here, but some years we just nail it, really dominate and run up front. Others years we struggle a little bit. "It's just the challenging nature of a short track ... and the competition."