Smith, Wallace share fiery exchange on pit road
Smith loses his Nationwide Series points lead to Elliott Sadler
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Harvick wins Nationwide thriller at Kentucky
Veteran holds off Brad Keselowski, Kyle Busch for victory
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Plan your NASCAR weekend with these on-track, live interview times
Gaughan wins in thrilling finish at Road America
Gaughan earns first win in 98 Nationwide Series starts
Meet Eddie D'Hondt, Chase Elliott's spotter
Editor's note: This is the first in a series of interviews with NASCAR Sprint Cup Series spotters. Eddie D'Hondt, Spotter for Chase Elliott , No. 24, Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet HOW DID YOU GET STARTED SPOTTING? "I was the GM at Evernham Motorsports when Bill Elliott was driving. I actually started spotting for Bill -- I guess about 16 years ago. I had been managing teams up until that point. I just sort of fell into it. I used to drive Modifieds. It just worked. I've been doing it ever since." WHAT OTHER DUTIES DO YOU HAVE WITH THE TEAM? "We have a team meeting on Tuesdays, the driver, the crew chief and all the engineers. I have two reports I'm responsible for putting together for that meeting. That takes up most of my Monday, it's a lot of video work and some other technical work, but that's the other part of my job." DO YOU SPOT IN OTHER SERIES? "I spot in every series every weekend. I do 105 races a year; Rolex, Modifieds, Truck, XFINITY , Cup. In depends on the series as far as who I'm spotting for each weekend. I did all of Chase's XFINITY races, Cole Custer 's XFINITY races; I do Ryan Preece when I'm not doing the 88 XFINITY car. I do Cole's Truck races. The Ferrari team in Rolex." HOW LONG HAVE YOU BEEN WITH CHASE? "Just this year. For four or five years I was with Jeff (Gordon); three years with Kyle (Busch) before that." WHAT WAS YOUR FIRST RACE AS A SPOTTER? "It was with Bill. I guess the (2001) Daytona 500 , the race that Dale (Earnhardt) passed away." WHAT'S THE MOST BIZARRE THING YOU'VE SEEN WHILE SPOTTING? "Oh my gosh. I've lived up here all weekend for 16 years so I've seen a lot of stuff. There have been so many things. It's a great vantage point. Every single weekend we get to see a lot of what no one else gets to see." WHAT'S BEEN YOUR MOST MEMORABLE EXPERIENCE AS A SPOTTER? "Homestead with Jeff last year and (the win at) Martinsville. I'd have to say those two. Jeff was just special. He is a special guy. He got in the trenches with you, he became your friend. You wanted to fight with him. I was working with Kyle Busch when Alan Gustafson (Gordon's crew chief at the time) came and got me, sat down and struck a deal and five years later, here I am." WHAT'S THE MOST DIFFICULT PART OF YOUR JOB? "Probably the travel. I’ve been on this circuit since 1996, prior to that I raced on my own. Being away from your family is difficult. Both my boys are working in the garage, so if I want to see them I have to go find them in the garage somewhere. The rest of my family is always home, so that's the hard part." WHAT CURRENT DRIVER WOULD MAKE A GOOD SPOTTER? "That's a good question. Maybe Carl Edwards . He likes to talk." WHICH TRACK IS YOUR FAVORITE? "Bristol and Martinsville. Probably those two. I grew up on the short tracks. The thrill of the short track, anything can happen at any moment. The flow you get into in those races, I enjoy that." WHAT IS ONE THING ABOUT WHAT YOUR JOB ENTAILS THAT THE AVERAGE FAN MIGHT NOT KNOW? "Today, it's become way more intricate than what people realize. We're providing information that we never did before. You have all engineers now on top of all these pit boxes, not guys that grew up short-track racing. These guys are all engineers now. So they talk to the drivers less and it's fallen into our laps now to provide more and more information on things like rubber buildup, lanes that are working, braking, backing up corners. We're talking more about driving than safety. Most of the guys up here, just go down the line, used to drive . They have some kind of wisdom about what it feels line so you're able to talk about it. And the guys that didn't drive have educated themselves. Those guys on the pit boxes, they're looking at data."
Elliott : 'I without a doubt feel like we can be a contender'
Chase Elliott discusses trying to advance to the Round of 8 and thinks he can be a contender if his team makes it out of the Round of 12.
Backed by Junior Nation, Alex Bowman sees opportunity at Talladega
RELATED: Ailing Bowman presses on, nabs career-best finish With Dale Earnhardt Jr . slated to miss his first Sprint Cup Series race at Talladega Superspeedway since he broke into the big leagues full time as a rookie in 2000, many wonder which driver will replace the superspeedway ace as the one to beat in Sunday's Hellmann's 500 (2 p.m. ET, NBCSN/NBC Sports App). How about, you know, the guy actually replacing him? Fresh off a seventh-place showing at Kansas Speedway on Sunday, Alex Bowman is set to drive Earnhardt's No. 88 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet for the third consecutive week and the seventh time this season as the driver recovers from concussion-related symptoms. This weekend is perhaps Bowman's most significant start of the year. Because it's at Earnhardt's own Talladega. RELATED: Earnhardt-Talladega streak to continue Sunday "He's got a couple fans out there," Bowman told NASCAR.com at Kansas. "Man, I'm excited about (racing at Talladega). Speedway racing is always stressful, but … ( Hendrick Motorsports ) brings such fast race cars to the race track and their speedway stuff is amazing. Always fast. Especially the 88. So, just really looking forward to having a chance to win. "I'm going to sit Dale down and have a couple-hour conversation with him about speedway racing. If there's a speedway racer left in this garage, it's him, for sure." The man's got a point. From a wins standpoint, Talladega ranks as Junior's best track with six, only closely followed by four wins at Daytona, another Earnhardt cornerstone -- and another superspeedway. Bowman's 'Dega stats don't match Junior's, of course, but he did pilot the No. 7 Tommy Baldwin Racing Chevrolet to a 16th-place finish just last year. And while it's almost jarring to hear a driver say that he is "excited" for Talladega, it's unsurprising coming from Bowman, who'll have the roar of the crowd on his side -- a fanbase that has named the man he's replacing NASCAR's Most Popular Driver for 13 years running. "Junior Nation has been great," said Bowman, 23. "It's been really cool; they've just been really supportive. Every now and then there's one fan that hates me, but for the most part they've been awesome. Casey Mears fans hate me after (Charlotte), because apparently it was my fault that we blew a tire and wrecked him, but Junior Nation has been awesome." RELATED: Dale Jr. to join broadcasts for Talladega, Martinsville Not only does Bowman have full access to Earnhardt's Talladega insight, a wealth of knowledge so deep it likely needs its own Dewey Decimal System, he's sharing substitute driving duties with a four-time Sprint Cup champ and six-time 'Dega winner in Jeff Gordon . "It’s been really cool (to share a ride with Gordon). Jeff was my favorite driver growing up when I was a kid," Bowman said. "It's been really good to learn from him. He's an open book. All five of my teammates are complete open books. It's great to lean on them and learn as much as I can, but Jeff just has so much experience and has a really interesting view on a lot of things. "It's been a great time just listening and observing and learning everything I can from him." The lessons taken at "Gordon Drivers Ed, Inc." appear to be working, too. While the final results might not show the whole picture, Bowman, at times, has looked like the more competitive driver behind the wheel of the No. 88, and owns the car's best finish -- seventh -- since Earnhardt placed second at Pocono way back in June. Bowman says that some people joke with him and say "Oh, I'm glad to see you've finally learned how to drive ." He's always known how to drive , it's just been more about opportunities. And if luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity, "Bad Luck Bowman" -- a driver that once learned he'd been fired via Twitter -- knows the magnitude of the opportunity presented to him this weekend and in his remaining races. And you can be sure he'll be prepared. "I hope (this opportunity has put my name out there)," Bowman said. "We've talked to a lot of people and it always comes back to money. It's always 'Well, do you have any sponsorship?' 'Do you have any funding?' I don't, so it's just … the sport's such a business at this point that it really kind of limits what I can and can't get into and that's what's limited what I can and can't get into for the last four years. "I don't have anything lined up (for next year yet). I think my role that I had at Hendrick Motorsports before all this happened is still going to be the same. Still being a part of the team, still doing all the simulator stuff and helping as much as I can. I don't think that will change. Obviously, when Dale comes back and all that, I don't really know what that leaves for me as far as driving anything. "I don't know what the future holds there. I don't have anything going forward, really." In the short-term, at least, he'll have the full support of Junior Nation at Talladega. </p>
Cain: Don't count out Harvick, Logano, Elliott or Dillon at Kansas
RELATED: Chase Grid " Set your Fantasy lineup for Kansas With two races remaining to set the Round of 8 to contend for NASCAR's 2016 Sprint Cup title, the four most vulnerable drivers in the standings have vastly different histories at this week's venue, Kansas Speedway for the Hollywood Casino 400 (Sun., 2:15 p.m. ET, NBC, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio). And with the unpredictable nature of Talladega Superspeedway 's restrictor plate brand of racing coming up next week for the Round of 12's elimination race, the more traditional Kansas 1.5-mile venue offers a relatively calmer opportunity to climb the standings. Now. The four drivers hoping to race back inside the top eight are separated by only five points. Austin Dillon and Chase Elliott are tied, only three points behind eighth place Denny Hamlin , whose Toyota suffered a rare engine failure last week late in the Charlotte race. WATCH: Hamlin's engine blows late at Charlotte Joey Logano is six back and 2014 Cup champion Kevin Harvick trails Hamlin by eight points. The two veterans -- Harvick and Logano -- currently trying to race their way to a top-eight transfer position have historically fared well at Kansas. The younger competition -- Dillon and the rookie Elliott -- still don't have much of a track record to lean on. Harvick sits eight points out of the cutoff position after a 38th-place finish -- due to mechanical issues -- at Charlotte last weekend and a 37th-place result at Dover International Speedway the week before. Harvick, however, won the fall race at Kansas in 2013 and has three runner-up finishes there in the last five races. In the last six Kansas races, he has led the most laps (392) of the four drivers hoping to climb back into the top-eight in the standings. In the last three years, he has three pole positions (fall of 2013 and both 2014 races) and an average finish of 10.8 at Kansas. "The repave is definitely what changed and turned things around for us at Kansas," Harvick said. "Really, I liked the racetrack the way it was before with the asphalt really worn out and cars sliding all over . But, once the repave happened, we were able to really hit on some things and, for whatever reason, it kind of fits my driving style and we have gotten some good results out of it. "It has been a really good-performing racetrack for us and one that we look forward to going to and hopefully continue to get good results out of it because it's been so good for us in the past." Logano, who is currently ranked 11th of the 12 still-eligible Chase drivers, had five consecutive top-five finishes at Kansas until a crash this May, which resulted in a 38th-place showing. But most importantly -- and encouraging -- to Logano's Team Penske crew, he is the two-time defending winner of this week's Chase race. "Things happen," Logano said of his 36th-place showing at Charlotte. "It's part of racing, but we're not out. We're not gonna die. This team is resilient. "We've proved it before and we'll just have to go out and prove it again. We just have to have two flawless races. It's something we can make up." Dillon and Elliott , who are both three points behind the top-eight cutoff, don't have an extensive Kansas track record to examine. The 20-year old Elliott finished ninth in his only Sprint Cup race there this Spring. He also scored top-10 finishes in both XFINITY Series races he competed in at the track. He hasn't led a lap at Kansas previously in either series. However, his No. 24 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet has turned in impressive work out front during the Chase, with 176 laps led in four races -- more than half of his season-long total. Dillon, 26, has two top-10 finishes in six starts at Kansas, including a sixth-place effort this May. However, he also has three finishes of 20th or worse, including a 41st place showing in this race last year. "What we think of is,'What has made us faster in the past?' and 'What can we do to be faster?' Dillon said this week. "I look at everything I can as a driver, from the lines in the track to the history of the track -- what typically happens, who is good there? We're just going to do our best and try to not leave anything behind. This opportunity is so great. It doesn't happen often." Hamlin -- who currently sits in the final playoff transfer position -- won at Kansas in Spring of 2012, but has had an inconsistent record here. He crashed out of the spring races the last two seasons, taking finishes of 41st and 37th. He was, though, runner-up to Logano in this race last fall. "I think each race you're going to have a handful that are going to have issues -- Kansas I don’t think will be any different and Talladega we know will be crazy," Hamlin said. "That's why we're not out of it my any means, we just have a little hole we have to dig out of."