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Kyle Busch wins at Kentucky in overtime finish
RELATED: Results " Standings SPARTA, Ky. – It was a race Kyle Busch won with a dramatic run around the outside lane at Kentucky Speedway. It was a race Erik Jones lost when he hit the wrong switch on his dashboard, killed the engine and slowed under caution late in the race. But, interestingly, it was a race where Jones showed Busch, the pole winner, the key to victory, demonstrating to his Joe Gibbs Racing teammate that the outside line was viable when racing side-by-side with an opponent. Clearing Austin Dillon off Turn 4 in the first lap in overtime in Friday night’s Alsco 300 NASCAR XFINITY Series race, after caution slowed the race for the fifth time, Busch pulled away to beat the Richard Childress Racing scion to the finish line by .455 seconds. Daniel Suarez finished third after chasing Busch to the final yellow flag, then losing the runner-up spot to Dillon on the last restart. Jones came home a disappointing fourth after outdueling Busch for the lead on Lap 175, only to give it up when his car wouldn’t refire under caution and failed to keep up with the pace car, costing Jones two positions. Busch led 185 of the 201 laps in winning for the fifth time in nine starts this season, the second time at Kentucky and the 81st time in his career, extending his own series record. But it was the run around the outside lane, after Dillon pulled even on the backstretch on lap 200, that proved decisive. And that’s exactly how Jones had passed Busch for the lead on Lap 175. “I didn’t think he’d be able to hold it through (Turns) 3 and 4 like that,” said Dillon, who thought he had the preferred position on the inside. “But he did a great job of holding me down. I wish we could have got it done for (sponsor) Rheem, but it was a really close race.” Busch was roughly a half-second ahead of Suarez and appeared to have the race in hand when caution flew on Lap 195 with smoke billowing from Mike Harmon ’s car. “We always get the Kyle Busch cautions,” Busch said. “Apparently this time it was true. There was some problems with another car smoking. You always have to make your money’s worth, I guess. Always have to give the show to the fans and their money’s worth. “Certainly means a lot to us to win here and bring our Camry home to Victory Lane again at Kentucky Speedway.” Jones said he hit the wrong button when he was rolling under caution and fell behind the pace car, allowing Busch to pass him. NASCAR rules require a driver to maintain pace car speed in order to keep his or her running position. “I think we had the fastest car here once we got out front,” Jones lamented. “It’s just hard to get back up to the front when you get back in traffic.” But before he fell back, Jones had already given Busch the road map to victory. “When Erik drove into Turn 3 with me, I started to roll out just a little bit, because I knew I needed to in order to run the bottom,” Busch said. “And he drove right on past me, and I was like, ‘Well, all righty then.’ “I was waiting for him to slip and to not be able to control his car in the black, in the rubber. And it stuck for him and he made it work. I definitely learned that there was a little bit of speed up there, at least for one lap, for one corner.” And that one corner made all the difference on Friday night.
Erik Jones left frustrated by late mistake at Kentucky
RELATED: Results " Standings SPARTA, Ky. -- Erik Jones had the best view from his office Friday night at Kentucky Speedway, leading in the closing stages, with only the pace car in front of him during a late caution period and with another NASCAR XFINITY Series win in sight. But the equivalent of knocking over a pencil holder or a box of paper clips spoiled both the office feng shui inside his car and his shot at a victory in the Alsco 300. While making adjustments inside the cockpit during the fourth of the race's five yellow flags, Jones accidentally hit the ignition kill switch, causing his Joe Gibbs Racing No. 20 Toyota to stall. NASCAR competition officials ruled that Jones failed to keep pace during his flight fade, forcing him to line up third on the next-to-last restart on Lap 180 of 201 laps. "I don't know. I fell back 20 feet from the pace car, no different than if you're saving fuel and they put me to third place, so I guess I gave it away," Jones said after finishing fourth in the 40-car field. "It's unfortunate. Good Reser's Camry and nothing to show for it." Jones, who led three laps, explained that his late-race gaffe wasn't a matter of purposely turning the car off and on to save fuel. "There's a lot of things obviously these drivers do in these car that the general fan doesn't realize," said Chris Gabehart, crew chief for Jones' JGR No. 20. "They're just as busy or busier under caution trying to manage a lot of things, and that's what Erik was doing. Moving from one switch to the other, he just accidentally hit the ignition switch and turned it off, and it only takes a few seconds before you can't maintain speed and that's all." Jones' frustration as he emerged from the car was evident late Friday night, but Gabehart said the miscue wasn't solely the responsibility of the driver, who is still in his first full season of XFINITY Series competition. "No one puts more pressure on him than he does on himself, like any great athlete or performer would," Gabehart said. "It's no different with him. But he's just 20. He's still making mistakes every day for the first time like we all are, but when you're younger, you make a lot more of them in a day and you've got to learn from them. "Just a simple mistake, but we made the mistake. That's what I want to stress is, it's not Erik we're talking about. Just like it wasn't my team we were talking about last week at Daytona or at Iowa, it's us as a race team no matter what, and that's the biggest lesson I want him to take from this. And he will. He's a smart kid." Jones said he was able to salvage some consolation from his ninth top-five effort of the year, the most of any full-time XFINITY Series driver so far this season. The Michigan native sits fourth in the standings heading to the series' next race, scheduled next weekend at New Hampshire Motor Speedway. "I mean, we had some good moments, we had a good race car, and it was a good team-building day for us," Jones said. "A lot of good changes, a lot of good gains and it's a pretty good run for a repave. Just unfortunate it didn't work out. I felt like we did have the fastest car here once we got out front, but it's just hard to get back up there once you get back in traffic, so not our night."
Post-Race Reactions: Kentucky 201
Championship contenders Kligerman, Coulter, Dillon, and Peters comment on their Kentucky runs along with Brian Scott.
Kentucky : The missing track for Chevrolet drivers
Of the 23 tracks that currently host one or more NASCAR Sprint Cup Series events, Kentucky Speedway remains the only venue that hasn't seen a Chevrolet driver celebrating in Victory Lane. The 1.5-mile track, which will host Saturday night's Quaker State 400 Presented (7:30 p.m. ET, NBCSN, PRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio) held its first Sprint Cup race in 2011. This weekend's race will be just the sixth premier series event at the facility, which is owned by Speedway Motorsports Inc. Kyle Busch (Joe Gibbs Racing No. 18 Toyota) has a pair of victories there, as does Brad Keselowski (Team Penske No. 2 Ford). Matt Kenseth (JGR No. 20 Toyota) is also a former Kentucky winner. Keselowski, last week's Coke Zero 400 Powered by Coca-Cola winner at Daytona International Speedway, won at Kentucky in a Dodge (in 2012) as well as a Ford (2014). The lack of success at the track isn't something Chevrolet officials and teams take lightly. "Our teams are very aware that we haven't won at this race track," said Alba Colon, program manager for Chevrolet in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series. "It's a big deal." Chevrolet drivers have finished second twice, Kasey Kahne (Hendrick Motorsports) in 2012 and Jamie McMurray (Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates) the following year. But perhaps the automaker's most difficult loss to swallow was the '13 race, one that saw Jimmie Johnson dominate only to lose the lead, and the race, following a late caution. Johnson (HMS) led 182 of 267 laps before a fuel-only stop by Kenseth put the JGR driver out front on a restart; Johnson's chances faded when the No. 48 entry spun moments later. There are tracks where Chevrolet teams have been dominant. They have won six straight at Phoenix International Raceway, for example, and 12 of the past 13 events at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Thus far, Kentucky has been a tougher nut to crack. “We have had only five races so far (at Kentucky )," Colon said, noting runnerup finishes by McMurray and Kahne. "We've won the pole three times. Top-five and top-10 finishes. We haven't been able to close it." That could change this weekend. For just the second, and final, time this season teams will be competing with a lower downforce aerodynamic package. The track has been repaved and Turns 1 and 2 have been reconfigured with the banking increased three degrees. "I really believe that with the new rules and everything being so equal right now … this is a great chance for us to do it," Colon said. Fourteen teams tested at Kentucky June 13-14. Fastest through the two days of practice was the Chevrolet entry of 2014 series champion Kevin Harvick and his No. 4 Stewart-Haas Racing team. Harvick has yet to lead a lap at the track, but has finished 10th or higher in his last three starts there. It's one of only four tracks, along with Pocono, Sonoma and Texas, where he has yet to win. Ditto for Johnson, who counts Kentucky , Watkins Glen, Homestead and Chicagoland as tracks where he has yet to visit Victory Lane. And three-time champ Tony Stewart is winless at only two current tracks – Kentucky and Darlington. The three-times series champion will close the book on his Sprint Cup Series career at season's end. Going out with a win at each track, he said, would make his departure all the more memorable. Chevrolet teams have 758 wins in NASCAR through the years, most of any automaker. "But it's a goal," Colon said, "to have a win at every track. "We have been very successful. And we still have one more track to win."
Kentucky's revamp, asymmetry provide racing unknowns
SPARTA, Ky. -- Considering its brief term as a host to NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races, Kentucky Speedway is still making modest gains at establishing a sense of heritage. Before last season, the 1.5-mile track's most momentous occasion was the crowd-choking traffic jam that snarled a large swath of nearby Interstate 71 for its premier-series debut in 2011. That changed last year, with Kentucky's most competitive race -- a 400-mile festival of passing that signaled a major shift in the sport's approach to aerodynamics. This year, the Bluegrass State track aims to enrich that sense of tradition in Saturday's Quaker State 400 (7:30 p.m. ET, NBCSN, PRN, SiriusXM) with a new chapter in its story -- a repaved surface that seems to have retained the venue's character, a reconfigured layout with mismatched banking at its opposite ends, and another big swing at aerodynamic nuances that likely will shape the 2017 rules package. "This is the big unknown with the new surface, the tire, the package -- all that stuff," said Carl Edwards , echoing words that his crew chief, Dave Rogers, shared with him before the race weekend. "And that's the kind of racing that's fun to go do. We don't know what to expect." RELATED: Ty's team gives his tires an ice bath NASCAR competition officials tinkered with aero setups at four tracks last season, deploying a reduced-downforce package first at Kentucky then Darlington, and then trying an ill-fated high-drag package at Michigan and Indianapolis. The Kentucky rollout delivered on its raised expectations, producing a track-record 22 green-flag passes for the lead and a total of 2,665 green-flag passes overall. The array of side-by-side racing served not only as a launching pad for further aero changes this season, but as the fulcrum for a closer working relationship between the series' drivers and its officials. "I would say this race a year ago was a huge landmark for our sport that maybe goes a little bit unnoticed, in terms of we had a collaborative effort for a rules package and we saw a significant increase, in my opinion, of the on-track product that we saw," said Brad Keselowski , a two-time Kentucky winner and last weekend's victor at Daytona International Speedway. "And I think that showcased a lot of hope for our abilities to work together as a sport that has kind of created a wave of momentum that we're carrying today." Edwards finished fourth at Kentucky last season as Joe Gibbs Racing placed its four cars among the top five. But instead of feeling dejection for a Victory Lane near-miss, Edwards was among a chorus of drivers finishing behind race winner Kyle Busch who reveled in the racing produced by downforce reduction. "I think it was a really big deal," Edwards said. "If you go back and watch the race, just watch the interviews, you know everyone's demeanor. Even guys that weren't in it for the win, everybody got out and said, 'Man, that was fun.' NASCAR did a really great job responding to that, implementing a lot of that stuff for this season. After some of these races, it's got a whole different feel to it. It really has been a good time. There's been some great races." The series makes its Kentucky return with even further restrictions on the effects of downforce and sideforce. Foremost among the changes is a smaller rear spoiler -- a 2.5-inch tall version that was also used at Michigan -- and the elimination of rear-axle offset or "skew" for a more neutral setup. That configuration -- the likely forerunner to the 2017 package -- was tested here June 13-14, immediately after it was used for the series' first Michigan stop of the season. The only change from then to now was a different right-side tire, designed to better adapt to the fresh surface. And what a surface it is. The track's trademark teeth-rattling bumps have been smoothed in certain places, but retained in others -- something drivers commonly refer to as "character." But in repaving, track officials traded one character trait for another by going asymmetrical with its banking -- Turns 1 and 2 were increased from 14 to 17 degrees with a narrowing of the racing groove; Turns 3 and 4 remain at their original 14 degrees. "I think anytime you have a track like that it lends itself to compromises with race car drivers, techniques and car setups, and all those things that tend to open up the box to allow for better racing because whenever there are those (banking) discrepancies, I think that’s when you see mistakes and when you see strengths and weaknesses that vary from car to car and driver to driver," said Keselowski, who plans double duty in Sprint Cup and the NASCAR XFINITY Series to become more familiar with the new layout. "I think that's a really good thing for our sport, so I'm interested to see how that is gonna play out this weekend."
Keselowski clinches Chase berth with win at Kentucky
SPRINT CUP SERIES Brad Keselowski officially clinched a berth in the 16-driver Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup on Saturday at Kentucky Speedway by having multiple wins and enough points to remain in the top 30 of the standings for the rest of the regular season. HOW IT HAPPENED Keselowski formally locked up his postseason berth with a win at Kentucky (his fourth this season and third career win at Kentucky ) and help from the rest of the field as his 595 driver points give him the needed 361-point cushion over the 31st-place driver in the standings, Brian Scott (217). No matter what happens the rest of the regular season, Keselowski can't fall below 30th in the standings. CAMPING WORLD TRUCK SERIES William Byron and Matt Crafton officially clinched berths this weekend in Kentucky in the inaugural eight-driver NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Chase. HOW IT HAPPENED William Byron: Byron won at Kentucky , his fourth victory of the season, and clinched a spot in the top 30 in points no matter what happens in the remainder of the regular season. Matt Crafton : Due to a tight points race around the 31st position, Crafton exited Kentucky guaranteed to finish in the top 30 in points by the end of the regular season. He also has two regular-season series wins, so there's no way he'll fall outside the top 30 in points. He's in. XFINITY SERIES No XFINITY Series drivers have clinched a Chase spot yet.
Mixed reviews, but Kentucky looks to get better with age
All the question marks leading into the first NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race on the newly repaved Kentucky Speedway got answers in Saturday night's Quaker State 400 Presented by Advance Auto Parts. But the topsy-turvy event made some of the answers less clear-cut than most, with drivers' mixed reviews expressing their quibbles about the 1.5-mile track's treacherous conditions but their understanding about why the race played out the way it did. NASCAR used a reduced downforce package as a potential preview of 2017's aero rules for its top division, but did so on a freshly repaved and reconfigured layout. Competition and track officials took as many measures as possible to synthetically age the track, but the racing groove remained a narrow path for the duration of the 267-lap race, making passing a dicey proposition and contributing to 11 yellow flags, a figure that tied a track record. Tires also played a prominent role in altering the race's complexion. After some instances of blistering during a test last month, Goodyear changed course on the tire compound for the Kentucky race, trading grip and faster wear for more durable rubber. The harder compound became a lament for several drivers, though several acknowledged that safety was paramount in the decision. "It's really nobody's fault," said Tony Stewart , who secured his second top-five finish of the season in making his 600th career start Saturday night. "I mean, Goodyear's trying to do what they can to protect themselves and make sure they don't have tire problems. They didn't have to worry about that -- it was the hardest thing on the planet. NHL doesn't have anything on them on a hard puck, but like every other repave, as they get laps and more races on this track, it'll get to where they can come off the hardness of the tire and it'll be better for everybody. This is as bad as it's going to get; it'll get better from here. … "It's kind of hard when you have conditions like that, but the track's going to be fine, NASCAR did the right thing. It's easy to point the finger at Goodyear, but they had to do what they thought was right and what was conservative for them. It's just way too hard, and the wrecks kind of proved that." Dale Earnhardt Jr. , who faded to a 13th-place finish after his No. 88 Chevrolet sputtered out of fuel on the last lap, agreed. "It's a conservative tire. I understand why they did it because of the blistering they had in the test," Earnhardt said. "We can't come here and blister right-fronts (tires) and have guys pounding the fence at 190 miles an hour. And the low downforce -- I don't know if all that stuff is a great combination. … I mean, you couldn't hustle the car at all. You're just on pins and needles all the time on restarts, like 'uhhhh, I don't want to lose any ground.' Boy, if I have a big slip, I'm going to lose all kinds of track position, which happened over and over." Race winner Brad Keselowski had a more pressing issue with saving fuel over the final green-flag stretch, but acknowledged the challenges specifically posed by the track's new asymmetrical layout. With more banking in the speedier Turns 1 and 2 (17 degrees) than in Turns 3 and 4 (14 degrees), drivers required more brake and finesse on one end of the track than the other. "I'm not sure, but it took a lot discipline to run this track tonight," said Keselowski, who wrapped up his third Kentucky win in the Sprint Cup Series. "If you got into Turn 3 and 4 the least bit wrong, you wrecked. That's just the way the race was, and I think that's what we saw. There's arguments to be made good or bad for that. I think it's a good challenge. We're professional race car drivers. It shouldn't be easy. It wasn't tonight. It was very, very difficult. You had to certainly be very smart." Scott Miller, NASCAR Senior Vice President of Competition, said afterward that competition officials have no plans to try the rules package again this season as a possible prelude to 2017. He said that the aerodynamic setup performed as it should, while recognizing the challenges presented by Kentucky's new pavement. "We've known as an industry that the repaves are very, very difficult historically," Miller said. "This was no different. But really the action in all three of the events this weekend I thought for a repave, it turned out really well, and we had obviously tonight a lot of action, like Brad said, a little dicey getting down there in Turn 3 on the restarts especially. "I think the low, low downforce package, if that's what we're calling it now, helped at this race on the repave. I think the corner speeds would have been extremely high, and with the higher downforce stepping out of the groove might have even had more consequences than we had tonight." The onward march of time and weather will likely help the racing groove expand for future races. Other variables will remain moving targets, but much like the Bluegrass State's trademark bourbon, the Kentucky Speedway asphalt should only grow better with age. "I think this package will work great at some other tracks with a different tire, a different surface," Earnhardt said. "This was probably as good as they could've expected with a repave. They're always nasty races, you know."
Hard tires, reworked curbing present challenges at repaved Watkins Glen
RELATED: Before and after: Watkins Glen repave WATKINS GLEN, N.Y. -- NASCAR Sprint Cup Series teams wrapped up a two-day organizational test Wednesday at newly repaved Watkins Glen International, emerging with better ideas of the challenges they'll face when the series returns for the Aug. 4-7 race weekend. Among those challenges: reworked curbing, a fast circuit and a harder-compound tire that has made grip elusive. A total of 16 Sprint Cup teams -- one permitted from each organization -- tried to unlock the novelty of the $12 million resurfacing project, using a Goodyear tire that emphasizes durability at the expense of traction and wear. The rubber compound chosen is similar to that used July 9 at Kentucky Speedway, site of the Sprint Cup Series' most recent race on a repaved track. At Kentucky , the tire selection made for treacherous conditions in certain spots and made passing a delicate process. Though road courses don't lend themselves to the multi-groove racing seen at several well-aged oval tracks, Watkins Glen might still be a tricky place to maneuver when the series reconvenes for the Cheez-It 355 at The Glen. "The main thing we've learned so far is how hard the tire is," said Jamie McMurray, driver of the Chip Ganassi Racing No. 1 Chevrolet. "It just seems to be no wear at all or lap time fall-off right now. This place didn't ever wear tires like Sonoma, but it seems like the tire is pretty hard." Sonoma, the other road course where the Sprint Cup Series races, is a much more intricate circuit with qualifying speeds roughly 30 mph slower than at Watkins Glen's open, free-wheeling layout. The Goodyear tire compound designated for both the Watkins Glen test and the race weekend is the same used for right-side tires in XFINITY Series competition at Iowa Speedway. Those Iowa right-sides will be used at all four corners for the Sprint Cup event at the 2.45-mile road course. Racing with a softer tire with more adhesion would potentially introduce the threat of excessive wear or blistering. It's a trade-off that Sunoco Rookie of the Year candidate Chase Elliott says he's willing to accept. "I think a lot of it is just having a fresh surface like this, you've got to have a tire that's pretty hard," said Elliott, Hendrick Motorsports' driver representative for the two-day test. "It's fast, and to ask a tire to hold up, you've got to bring something that's durable. It puts Goodyear in a tough spot, but I think they do a good job of trying to make the most of tough situations. There's been a lot of repaves here lately and I know they're working hard." David Groseclose, NASCAR's lead tire engineer, said Wednesday that the benefits of competing with a more rigid rubber compound outweighed the potential drawbacks. "As with all repaves -- same thing as Kentucky -- if you don't have a hard tire, you're going to blister them up," Groseclose said. "The way that works is if you've got a soft compound and you use it, the soft compounds tend to retain heat. It's just the nature of a soft compound. But on a repave, it's not going to wear so that heat's not going to be dissipated out of the tire. It has nowhere to go, so it stays in the tire, so that's why it blisters up. That's what we saw at Kentucky with the XFINITY and Truck Series." In addition to the surface itself, the track features new concrete for the rumble strips that border the circuit's turns and run-off areas. Some drivers found the differences barely noticeable, but Kurt Busch discovered a distinction the hard way with an early Tuesday spin as he bounded over the apex points in the backstretch chicane on one of his initial laps. "It's a lot different," said Tony Gibson, Busch's crew chief on the Stewart-Haas Racing No. 41 Chevrolet. "Kurt's like, 'I've got to learn all the curbs again.' The curbs over in the bus stop (chicane) are probably the biggest change. They're way more aggressive, and they've tightened up, so it's a lot tighter lane through there." Said Elliott, who will race here in Sprint Cup for the first time next weekend: "Some of the curbs may be a little different here or there, some a little rougher, a little smoother just depending on how they laid the asphalt in or however it worked. It's as close as you could make a track from an old surface to a repave, for sure." Five Sprint Cup teams participated in a Goodyear tire test May 10-11, and another 16 were present for this week's organizational test. For the remaining half of the field, the work toward finding the proper handle begins with opening practice on Friday, Aug. 5. "If you get your balance right, it'll be a no-drama," Gibson said. "Man, I told Kurt earlier, 'I'd hate to know I had to come here next Friday and hit the track for the first time and try to figure out these curbs and how much the race track has changed.' It'll be a handful in the short amount of time we get to practice. "It'll be interesting to see when we come back who has issues and who doesn't. But it's definitely going to be a plus to come and learn the race track, even if your car is not right or whatever, just getting here and getting behind the wheel and getting time on the race track is going to mean more." Pit notes: -- The full roster (in alphabetical order) of drivers and teams participating in the test: AJ Allmendinger (JTG Daugherty Racing), Ryan Blaney (Wood Brothers Racing), Clint Bowyer (HScott Motorsports), Chris Buescher (Front Row Motorsports), Kurt Busch (Stewart-Haas Racing), Kyle Busch (Joe Gibbs Racing), Austin Dillon (Richard Childress Racing), Chase Elliott (Hendrick Motorsports), Brad Keselowski (Team Penske), Michael McDowell (Circle Sport-Leavine Family Racing), Jamie McMurray (Chip Ganassi Racing), Casey Mears (Germain Racing), Brian Scott (Richard Petty Motorsports), Regan Smith (Tommy Baldwin Racing), Ricky Stenhouse Jr. (Roush Fenway Racing), Martin Truex Jr. (Furniture Row Racing). -- Casey Mears turned the fastest lap in the two-day test, which was divided into four sessions of four hours apiece. Mears pushed the Germain Racing No. 13 Chevrolet in the closing session to a best lap of 126.7 mph, a good bit slower than the track qualifying record of 129.491 mph set by Marcos Ambrose in August 2014. -- Brad Keselowski returned to the track Wednesday, one day after his severe, nearly head-on crash in Turn 1. He turned 74 laps over both sessions in a reserve Team Penske No. 2 Ford. -- Two teams -- Furniture Row Racing (driver Martin Truex Jr.) and Circle Sport-Leavine Family Racing (driver Michael McDowell) -- were absent from testing's opening day, arriving in the Watkins Glen garage Wednesday in time for the two closing sessions. -- Wednesday's final session was extended 30 minutes to a 5:30 p.m. ET close because of a nearly hour-long clean-up for fluid on the track. After Chase Elliott's No. 24 Chevrolet suffered a broken axle, Clint Bowyer's No. 15 Chevy ran over the part, damaging the car's transmission. -- NASCAR XFINITY Series teams are scheduled to turn their first laps on the new Watkins Glen surface next Thursday. The NASCAR K&N Pro Series East will stage a support race the following day on the 2.45-mile course.
Michigan's August race will use provisional 2017 aero rules package
NASCAR competition officials announced Thursday morning that the Sprint Cup Series' Aug. 28 race at Michigan International Speedway will feature an additional, final test of the provisional 2017 aerodynamics rules package. The reduced downforce rules setup will be the same that was used in the series' June 12 stop at the 2-mile oval. NASCAR's top division also used forms of the package during the NASCAR Sprint All-Star Race at Charlotte Motor Speedway in May and the series' stop at Kentucky Speedway earlier this month. RELATED: How repave, aero package worked at Kentucky in July The most prominent visible changes from the current rules package are a smaller rear spoiler -- reduced 1 inch to a 2.5-inch height -- and the removal of rear-axle offset or "skew." Those adjustments -- combined with modifications to cooling fans, the front splitter and the rear-deck fin -- continue the trend in NASCAR's premier series of limiting the effects of downforce and sideforce on the cars. The effects have favored driver control over an overly stabilized car in an effort to promote passing and side-by-side racing. Before Thursday's announcement, the series' July 9 Quaker State 400 at newly repaved Kentucky was to be the final audition for the 2017 base package. Scott Miller, NASCAR Senior Vice President of Competition, said after that race that he wouldn't rule out an additional tryout, but indicated that the sanctioning body would likely avoid tinkering with aero rules for the final 10 races that make up the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup playoffs. "After tonight we'll go back and we'll sort of reconvene with the drivers and the owners and the OEMs (original equipment manufacturers) and decide where we're going," Miller said July 9. "We're open to a lot of different options, and if something like that bubbles up and we have industry support for it, nothing right now is out of the question." Miller added that the Kentucky race was originally intended to be the proposed package's final event to provide teams "the most runway" toward preparations for next season. But when asked, drivers said they supported one final demonstration, singling out Michigan as a possible venue. RELATED: New rules on display at Michigan 'a promising direction' "I think, obviously subject to change after this weekend is over, but my initial thought is I would like to see it back at Michigan with just a few subtle changes that can be ascertained from what we've learned over this weekend and the previous Michigan weekend," Brad Keselowski said July 7. "Maybe a small tweak from what we've learned and go again at Michigan in the second race would kind of be my initial thought, so I would say yes." Said Matt Kenseth, the defending race winner of Michigan's August 400-miler: "I think Michigan is a pretty good judge. I mean, there's only the one race on it, but that place is starting to wear in a little bit. They've been able to bring a little bit softer tire. The groove has been widening out because it's been a few years since the repave, so I think that's our fastest top-speed track we go to. I think that's a pretty good place to evaluate it." Next month's Pure Michigan 400 will mark the first time in three races that the 2-mile track has hosted consecutive Sprint Cup events with the same rules package. Last August, competition officials experimented with a high-drag aero configuration before trying out the potential 2017 package in June. The set-up was also used by four teams during a Goodyear tire test at Michigan on May 17. Michigan was last repaved ahead of the 2012 season.
Brad Keselowski wins fuel-mileage game at Kentucky
RELATED: Full race results " Standings " Chase Grid SHOP: Keselowski gear SPARTA, Ky. – Brad Keselowski had his mojo working in Saturday night’s Quaker State 400 at Kentucky Speedway. Saving just enough fuel to get to the finish line, Keselowski eked out a heart-thumping victory over Carl Edwards to win his second consecutive NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race and his third at Kentucky Speedway. But this was not the same bumpy, abrasive Kentucky Speedway where Keselowski went to Victory Lane in 2012 and 2014. This was a repaved, reconfigured 1.5-mile intermediate track fraught with treachery, especially when combined with the lower-downforce aerodynamic package in use for the race. RELATED: Recap all of Keselowski's wins Keselowski got to the finish line .175 seconds ahead of Edwards, who made up a deficit of more than six seconds in the final 10 laps but couldn't quite get to Keselowski's rear bumper on the final lap. When Keselowski took the checkered flag, his fuel cell was dry. The driver of the No. 2 Team Penske Ford didn’t have enough gas to do a celebratory burnout, and he needed a push from a safety truck to get to Victory Lane. Keselowski took the lead from Kevin Harvick after a restart on Lap 200 and held it the rest of the way, except for Lap 261, when Matt Kenseth took the top spot and immediately came to pit road for fuel. By then, the die was cast for Keselowski, who was committed to finishing the race without another fuel stop. "We knew the fuel mileage," said Keselowski, who won for the fourth time this year, the 21st time in his career, and became the first driver to officially clinch a spot in the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup. "We went out and we set a really fast pace there on that restart and were just using fuel, and then it became obvious that you were going to have to save fuel at the end, but I already used so much. "It's a testament to our guys to have the fuel mileage that we did to be able to get back what I burnt early in the run and get the Miller Lite Ford in Victory Lane. Usually these repaves are kind of my Achilles heel, but to get a win here at Kentucky … I know it's been a good track for us in the past, but this isn't the same Kentucky , I can tell you that. "These cars were tough to drive today, but a good tough. This was a hard-fought battle, and I'm really proud of everybody on the 2 crew to get win number four and take that first place." When Keselowski slowed through Turn 4 on the next-to-last lap, Edwards thought he had the race won, but in retrospect, Edwards believed he had been beaten by a cunning opponent. "Yeah, I thought he was out of fuel coming off of (Turn) 4, but he actually did it very well," Edwards said of Keselowski, who indicated on his radio with more than a lap left that he was out of fuel. "If he didn't beat me, I'd be more impressed… "I guess I'm impressed that he did beat me, but I don't want to be. He waited. He basically shut the car off and went right off of 4 and matched it perfectly to where I couldn't get by him down the front straightaway, and then he ran like heck through 1 and 2, and then I thought maybe he'll run out down the back straight. Man, I dove it down in there trying to catch him into 3, and I couldn't even get to him." RELATED: Edwards discusses finish of race Keselowski, however, said he thought he was out of gas when his car sputtered off Turn 4. "I didn't think I was going to win the race," Keselowski said. Harvick and Martin Truex Jr. dominated the first two-thirds of the event, leading 128 and 46 laps, respectively. Truex had taken the lead off pit road on Lap 196, but NASCAR sent him to the rear of the field for passing Harvick, then the race leader, on the entry to pit road. For the last 68 laps, Truex drove like a madman, advancing from 23rd to as high as third before pitting for fuel and finishing 10th. "It wasn't my night on that deal," Truex said. "It's frustrating, we had the car to beat. We came out with the lead and they took it away from us. It's just the way it goes, I guess." Particularly perilous throughout the race were the flatter of the two corners —Turns 3 and 4 — with the entry to Turn 3 especially daunting. Ten laps into the race, Ricky Stenhouse Jr. pancaked the right side of his No. 17 Ford against the outside wall of the Turn 3 torture chamber. Nor were champions and frontrunners exempt from calamity. On Lap 32, Jimmie Johnson spun through Turn 4 and crumpled the left rear quarter of his No. 48 Chevrolet. On Lap 53, Joey slammed the Turn 3 wall after scraping it 10 laps earlier. On Lap 88, Ryan Blaney spun from the middle of a three-wide dilemma in Turn 3 and took the No. 24 Chevrolet of fellow Sunoco Rookie of the Year competitor Chase Elliott with him. On Lap 93, the cars of Brian Scott , Chris Buescher and AJ Allmendinger were mangled in an eight-car pileup. Lap 194 produced the 11th caution of the race, tying the record set last year, but from a restart on Lap 200 through the finish on Lap 267, the race ran green, and Keselowski was able to squeeze 68 laps out of his fuel cell. "We were totally out at the start/finish line," said Paul Wolfe, Keselowski's crew chief. "So it couldn't have timed out any better." Notes: Kurt Busch ran fourth, followed by Tony Stewart , who scored a top five in his 600th career start… Greg Biffle scored a season-best sixth-place finish… Harvick came home ninth and saw his series points lead shrink to four markers over Keselowski. &amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;lt;/p&amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;gt;