RELATED: Bristol results " Chase Grid " By the numbers since Busch's return With only two races left until the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup playoffs, it's time to check in on Kyle Busch , driver of the No. 18 Toyota for Joe Gibbs Racing , as he tries to rebound from missing 11 races to early season injuries and make the Chase. He is currently the only driver with multiple wins who has yet to mathematically clinch a spot in the Chase. WHAT JUST HAPPENED: Busch started second in Saturday's Irwin Tools Night Race at Bristol Motor Speedway , sharing the front row with pole-sitting teammate Denny Hamlin 's No. 11 Toyota. He followed a win in Friday night's green-white-checkered finish in the XFINITY Series with an eighth-place finish in the Sprint Cup race. A green-flag stop for a loose wheel and a penalty for speeding on pit road cost Busch a shot at winning the race despite leading the most laps, 192 of 500. WHAT HE NEEDS: Staying out of trouble remains a priority. Busch must remain in the top 30 in the drivers points standings and is in 29th after Bristol, 46 points ahead of 31st-place driver Cole Whitt . But after Saturday's race, Busch is closer to 28th place, just one point behind Ricky Stenhouse Jr ., who finished 21st at Bristol. There is a good chance Busch could lock up his Chase spot at Darlington next week. WHAT'S NEXT: The Sprint Cup Series heads to Darlington Raceway for the Bojangles' Southern 500 on Sept. 6 (7:30 p.m. ET, NBC, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio). "The Lady in Black" is a tough track to tame, and the low downforce package that teams ran at Kentucky Speedway will also be used at Darlington. Busch won at Kentucky and was among the drivers who raved about the new aero package. He also has one win at Darlington, in 2008, and has an average finish there of 13.6.
NASCAR Chairman and CEO: 'Definitely an improvement' RELATED: What we learned from Kentucky race, rules package NASCAR Chairman and CEO Brian France said the sanctioning body "saw some things that we liked" during Saturday night's NASCAR Sprint Cup Series with a new rules package at Kentucky Speedway . He told SiriusXM NASCAR Radio on Monday that he's looking forward to the package being run at Indianapolis Motor Speedway this month as the sport seeks tighter racing for talented drivers. A lower downforce package at Kentucky led to a track-best 22 green-flag passes for the lead and more than double the green-flag passes throughout the field from last season, from 1,147 to 2,665. France credited the NASCAR Research and Development Center for taking risks by running a new package in a race as the series reached the halfway point of its season. RELATED: Inside the R&D Center "Our group at the R&D Center did a really good job, and they're taking some risks that are a little bit outside the box of NASCAR," France said. "We typically wouldn't be changing packages in mid-stream like this in the middle of our season. But we want to make sure that we're delivering the absolute best racing that we can. They felt -- and I agree with them -- the only way to sort that out is not to test it in sort of isolated tests but to do it in real racing time." Last week, NASCAR Executive Vice President and Chief Racing Development Officer Steve O'Donnell announced a high-drag package would be run at Indianapolis and Michigan International Speedway . France noted that this package will help solve for some of the other aspects of racing that weren't seen at Kentucky . RELATED: New rules package at Indianapolis, Michigan "We're going to try some things coming up here at Indy where we'll go the other way," France said. "I'll tell you what we didn't see (at Kentucky ) that we'd like to see more of is more drafting. (We) didn't see as much of that as we would have liked. And more pack racing. You saw that on the restarts but not quite as much as we wanted. So there were a lot of things that we liked. Definitely an improvement on races that have happened at Kentucky ." France credited NASCAR Senior Vice President of Innovation and Racing Development Gene Stefanyshyn with leading the charge at the R&D Center as NASCAR combines technology with traditional ways of evaluating racing to provide the best product for fans. "I said a couple of years ago that we were going to use science and stop everybody guessing," France said. "We use our institutional, been-at-this-60-years knowledge for sure. But you've got a group of people now that have filtered it all out. They'll come up with the right package that rewards the drivers that are working the hardest, have the most talent. "(Our fans) want tight racing. They want to see close finishes. They want to see multiple leaders, and they don't want to see a certain package that doesn't provide that. That's what we're striving for. It's hard to do. Hard to get right. But we're working at it every day." A driver who took advantage of the new package but also excelled on the road course at Sonoma Raceway was Kyle Busch , who has won two of the seven races he's run and has climbed to 35th place in the points standings since his return from a compound fracture of his right leg and a fracture of his left foot suffered in the season-opening XFINITY Series race at Daytona International Speedway . Sitting 87 points out of the 30th place, a requirement to be eligible for the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup , Busch has a fan in France. But he'll need to deliver on the track over the next eight races to make NASCAR's postseason. "His determination is quite amazing to already have two wins, especially on the road course where you knew that he had to be a warrior to get through that constant using your feet to break and all that," France said. "He's been impressive, and he'll be a story. "I would be surprised, frankly, if he doesn't get in the Chase. I think he might win some more. There's not many drivers out there that have as much talent as he has. So on the one hand, it's not even surprising, but given the mountain he's had to climb, that's pretty impressive. "I can personally root for all kinds of things to happen. I just can't do anything about it. I'm rooting for him, but at the end of the day, this is where the individual drivers and teams have to do it. But I'm rooting for him." FULL SERIES COVERAGE • Latest news • Standings • Schedule
Analyzing what happened and where things go from here RELATED: France: 'Definitely an improvement' " Drivers praise new rules package at Kentucky Saturday night's first NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race with a new, lower-downforce rules package prompted almost as many questions as it answered at Kentucky Speedway , but in a good way. Based on its early reviews, the opening act could lead to potentially much wider use later this season and beyond. The blight of frequent rain severely curtailed practice time on the 1.5-mile track, making a small sample size even smaller before the rules package's race-time application in the Quaker State 400. Despite the scheduling difficulties, the weekend was capped by the most compelling intermediate-track race of the season. What was learned? What's next? Who benefited the most? Measuring outcomes or making predictions from Saturday night's show isn't an easy task, one that would benefit from the help of a Magic 8-Ball to provide the answers. With that, let's give it a shake: It is decidedly so: Passing increased -- a lot. What the package yielded was the most competitive event in the track's history, based on the number of lead changes and widespread passing -- more than double that in the previous year's Kentucky race -- throughout the pack. Chalk some of the statistics up to a track-record 11 caution periods and the frantic restarts -- with three- and four-wide racing -- that followed, but the rules package deserves the bulk of the credit. You may rely on it: Separation was still prevalent once drivers settled into a green-flag run, but the advantages of undisturbed "clean air" for a leading car was not nearly as pronounced. The decreased downforce prevented cars from being glued to the race track, placing an emphasis on driver control. With that factor at a premium and perfectly consistent lap times not easy to achieve, overtaking came more into play. Ask again later: The next stop for the reduced-downforce package comes Sept. 6 at Darlington Raceway, but with what's expected to be a crucial variable -- a softer tire. Goodyear's production run of Kentucky tires was already complete by the time last weekend's rules change was announced, preventing a more exact match. By getting the downforce and tire compounds in sync for Labor Day weekend, the verdict on the rules package may be even more conclusive. MORE: Several tracks to see new rules packages in 2015 Cannot predict now: Are further changes coming? Could the package be used in the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup playoffs? Possibly. Some crew chiefs expressed that NASCAR could go even further in chopping downforce, but that more will be learned with the softer tire compound at Darlington. As for the Chase, NASCAR Executive Vice President and Chief Racing Development Officer Steve O'Donnell said last week that, "all options for us are still on the table." A rules change for the playoffs could be considered drastic, but the precedent for making bold moves has already been set midseason at Kentucky . RELATED: NASCAR executive discusses Kentucky rules package Outlook good: Two teams stood out from the rest in benefiting from the new package -- Joe Gibbs Racing and Team Penske . Their half-dozen cars made a clean sweep of the top six, leading all but five laps Saturday night. Race winner Kyle Busch was the most dominant, setting the pace for 163 of the 267 laps, but the show of strength didn't dampen the quality of the racing, both up front and in the pack. Reply hazy, try again: For whatever reason, Chevrolet teams in general struggled to find the right combination. Four-time series champion Jeff Gordon drove the top-finishing Chevy to seventh place in his last Kentucky start. Don't count on it: NASCAR innovation standing pat? Not in this new era, where the decision-makers in the sanctioning body's R&D center actively seek feedback from drivers, whether in an organized council or otherwise. Their willingness to adapt and change injected life into Saturday night's racing, and the promise of track-specific packages offers even more potential. Signs point to yes: Based on the reaction of most drivers and most fans through social media, Saturday's race may best be remembered as a key building block to an improved on-track product on intermediate-sized tracks. Third-place finisher Denny Hamlin may have stated it best: "This is what race car driving's all about. And I feel like now it's back in the driver and crew chief's hands to get their car handling like it's supposed to, not just an arms race of who builds the fastest cars in the shop." FULL SERIES COVERAGE • Latest news • Standings • Schedule
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
Joey Logano, Kyle Busch and Greg Biffle each talk about the success of the changes in the aero package at Kentucky Speedway and the continued tweaks toward better racing.
All three series were in action at Kentucky Speedway . Check out the top moments from the weekend, including a Danica/Dale Jr. dust-up and Kyle Busch's second win of 2015.
In episode two of The Dirty Air Podcast, Chuck Bush, Matthew Dillner and Jonathan Merryman review the racing at Kentucky , pick which songs would make their jukebox trophies and talk a little Loudon as NASCAR heads to New Hampshire.
Teams didn't appear to be enamored with it and NASCAR officials admit it didn't produce the desired results. The high drag aerodynamic package used this past weekend at Michigan International Speedway by Sprint Cup Series teams won't be rolled out again, in a competitive environment, until the 2016 season at the earliest. And by then, it's likely the platform will have undergone numerous changes. "We're really proud of the industry coming together, but we certainly would have liked to have seen some more out of the race package," Steve O’Donnell, NASCAR Executive Vice President and Chief Racing Development Officer, said Monday morning on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio's "The Morning Drive." "We've said repeatedly with each and every package we put together, we want to look at the ability to pass throughout the field and the ability to have multiple lead changes at the front, and we didn't get that on Sunday." Matt Kenseth ( Joe Gibbs Racing ) dominated Sunday's Pure Michigan 400 , leading 146 of the race's 200 laps. Teammate Kyle Busch won last month at Indianapolis Motor Speedway , where the high drag package debuted. Kenseth was "certainly the class of the field," according to O'Donnell, who added that officials "don't want to take anything away from what Matt and the team did." Kenseth was one of eight leaders at MIS in a race that saw the lead change hands 16 times. On the same track with a different rules package earlier this year, there were more leaders (11) and lead changes (17) in a race that was cut short after 138 laps due to rain. "You saw some ability to pass in the middle of the field and the ability to pull up," O'Donnell said of Sunday's race. "But certainly the challenge of the leader getting away out front was one we all see and the fans see as well so we'll look at that and what can we do to continue to get after it and improve the racing and make progress in that area." Kenseth's strong performance at Michigan hasn't been the only one to occur this year. Busch led 163 of 267 laps at Kentucky Speedway in a race that featured a new low downforce aero package and one that was hailed by the majority of the teams. A similar platform is scheduled for next month at Darlington Raceway. "Ultimately we've got to make a call on the rules package," O'Donnell said. "We did that so that's our call and we own that. It's one of those things, you go back and you look at what may have worked and what may not have worked. We've got to make adjustments there, and we'll do that. "I think we've shown that we're a pretty nimble industry in terms of being able to come into a race and try different things. Kentucky was certainly a success. Michigan, we've got work to do so we'll do that, and I have no doubt with the folks in this industry that we'll continue to improve upon things."
News and notes from around the garage RELATED: New rules for Darlington, 3 more tracks this season NASCAR Sprint Cup Series driver Dale Earnhardt Jr . said a lot will be learned from this weekend's race at Kentucky Speedway , but the Hendrick Motorsports driver doesn't expect the different aero package to "reveal a lot of obvious answers on the way we need to go." The Kentucky package will feature a shorter spoiler as well as changes to the splitter and splitter extension panel (radiator pan), moves that will lessen the amount of downforce on the cars by approximately 1,000 pounds, and, it is hoped, create an improved product on the track. Earnhardt, speaking Saturday at Daytona International Speedway , said not having a tire to match up with the low downforce package is the issue. Sprint Cup Series teams will compete in the Quaker State 400 Presented by Advance Auto Parts on Saturday night (7:30 p.m. ET, NBCSN, PRN, SiriusXM NASCAR). "The tire is a bit better, but not quite enough," he said. "I think that is understood amongst NASCAR, ourselves and Goodyear. The Kentucky weekend won't be a weekend we take a ton of stock in as far as what this package is really going to be able to lend us and if it would work somewhere else." Goodyear officials already had produced the 2,200 tires needed for Kentucky before the decision to use the low downforce package was finalized. The tire that will be used does have more grip but was not used specifically with this package when teams tested there in April. Steve O'Donnell, Executive Vice President and Chief Racing Development Officer for NASCAR, told SiriusXM NASCAR that officials believe the change will be effective for the 1.5-mile track. "We're going to look at the measurements we look at every day: were there more passes, who was able to compete, how did the field look throughout the race, obviously fan measurements post-race," he said. Goodyear Prepped for Darlington Goodyear officials returned to Darlington Raceway on June 30 for a one-day tire test featuring NASCAR Sprint Cup Series cars running a low downforce package related to that which is being used this weekend at Kentucky . Three drivers -- Tony Stewart ( Stewart-Haas Racing ), Brad Keselowski ( Team Penske ) and Matt Kenseth ( Joe Gibbs Racing ) -- took part in the test at the 1.366-mile track. "The goal was to evaluate the low downforce package, similar to what is going to be run at Kentucky , and see if we couldn't match a tire to that package," Greg Stucker, Director of Race Tire Sales for Goodyear, said Sunday at Daytona International Speedway . "When I say match, I mean replace aero grip with mechanical grip. Try to basically do it one for one and we feel like we did that. It was between three quarters of a second and a second slower just with aero downforce reduction and we feel like we gave about three-fourths to a second back. That was our goal, to do it one for one." Tuesday, NASCAR's Steve O'Donnell announced that a low-downforce package would indeed be used at Darlington. However, the changes doesn't mirror those being used this weekend at Kentucky -- the spoiler will be 3-1/2 inches instead of 3-inches and the splitter will have a 1/4-inch leading edge. The tire tested at Darlington features a softer compound as well as a construction change. Stucker said it was similar to the Kentucky right-side tire and the left-side tire used at Indianapolis. "I think the drivers felt like they had plenty of grip," Stucker said. "We got them together about noon and made sure that it seemed like we were moving in the right direction ... we left there feeling pretty good about our part of it. I think wear might be up a little bit with a softer package ... but you would expect that." Infractions Aplenty at Daytona There were a season-high 65 penalties doled out during Sunday night’s Coke Zero 400 at Daytona International Speedway , with the majority (35) for pitting before pit road was open. That infraction isn't unusual when multi-car crashes leave plenty of cars with damaged sheet metal, which definitely was the case at Daytona. The overall total eclipsed the previous high mark of 43 set earlier this year at Martinsville Speedway . FULL SERIES COVERAGE • Latest news • Standings • Schedule
Catch up before the start of Saturday's Quaker State 400 (7:30 p.m. ET) What: Fifth annual Quaker State 400 presented by Advance Auto Parts Where: Kentucky Speedway , 1.5-mile D-shaped oval in Sparta, Ky. When: Saturday, July 11, 2015 TV/Radio: NBC Sports Network, PRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio Distance: 267 laps (400.5 miles) Green Flag: 7:45 p.m. ET Competition Caution: Lap 25 Pit Road Speed: 45 mph Caution Car Speed: 55 mph Fuel Window: 50 laps On the front row " Complete lineup (Coors Light Pole Qualifying rained out; lineup set according to 2015 NASCAR Rule Book, based on opening practice speeds) 1. Kyle Larson , Chip Ganassi Racing No. 42 Chevrolet 2. Brad Keselowski , Team Penske No. 2 Ford Failed to qualify Ryan Blaney , Wood Brothers Racing No. 21 Ford; Michael McDowell , Leavine Family Racing No. 95 Ford; Travis Kvapil , The Motorsports Group No. 30 Chevrolet. Fastest in practice First Practice: Kyle Larson , Chip Ganassi Racing No. 42 Chevrolet (182.537 mph) Final Practice: Kyle Larson , Chip Ganassi Racing No. 42 Chevrolet (178.412 mph) Rules recap In case you missed it, Saturday's 400-miler will mark the first appearance of a new, lower-downforce rules package in race conditions. A shorter spoiler, a front splitter with less overhang, and a reduction in the length of the splitter extension panel (radiator pan) are expected to raise the demands on driver control. WATCH: Breaking down Kentucky's new rules package Dillon ready to return Austin Dillon proclaimed himself a little sore but in fine physical shape to race Friday afternoon, on the eve of his first event since his Richard Childress Racing No. 3 Chevrolet took a wild tumble into the Daytona catch fencing at the end of the Coke Zero 400 . Dillon emerged unhurt and will start 11th in the Quaker State 400. "I feel pretty comfortable," Dillon said after opening Sprint Cup practice. "I think when you take a crash like that and you're as healthy as I feel, you feel pretty confident in the safety equipment that you have around you that you're ready to go, and run fast." RELATED: No. 88 crew recalls frenzy to reach Dillon Keselowski's corral In just four NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races in Kentucky Speedway's history, Brad Keselowski has managed to win two, making him the only multiple winner at the 1.5-mile track. He was consistent in Friday's pair of practices, placing second on the leaderboard both times. And he won Friday night's XFINITY Series event. "So far, I think we're off to a good start," Keselowski said after opening practice. "Of course, that's a little self-serving because we're fast, but I'm looking forward to finding out fully when we get to race time." MORE: Keselowski wins XFINITY race, gets coveted jukebox Gordon's void Four-time premier series champion Jeff Gordon has won at 22 of the 23 tracks currently on the Sprint Cup calendar, save for Saturday's venue at Kentucky Speedway . With his last chance to convert a victory for a clean career sweep of the schedule, Gordon has some extra motivation as his farewell tour continues. "It would be pretty cool if we pulled it off," said Gordon, who will start third in his Kentucky finale. GORDON: Close miss would be a heartbreaker History lesson NASCAR's premier series began racing at Kentucky Speedway in 2011, when Kyle Busch captured the inaugural checkered flag from the pole position. The 1.5-mile track has been a regular stop for other NASCAR national series, hosting the XFINITY tour since 2001 and the Camping World Truck Series since 2000. Speedway Motorsports, Inc., took ownership of the facility in 2008. Driver Rating Best driver rating average at Kentucky based on past four years: 1. Kyle Busch , 124.3 2. Jimmie Johnson , 116.6 3. Brad Keselowski , 116.1 Defending race winner Brad Keselowski , Team Penske No. 2 Ford Former Kentucky winners in the field Brad Keselowski (2); Kyle Busch , Matt Kenseth (1). FULL SERIES COVERAGE • Latest news • Standings • Schedule