- Did you mean:
Growth, new pairing lead to big gains for Bayne
CONCORD, N.C. -- In the closing lap of the opening segment of last week's Sprint Showdown, Trevor Bayne saw an opening just after the restart and went for it. With a spot on the line in the Sprint All-Star Race where $1 million would be at stake, there was no hesitation. "I guess I've always kind of driven that way but it doesn't get talked about it because it's like for 25th and sometimes it doesn't work because it doesn't stick," Bayne told NASCAR.com at Charlotte Motor Speedway , site of Sunday's Coca-Cola 600 (6 p.m. ET, FOX, PRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio). "Right now, when I've got cars that are capable of doing that and when it's for the win, it just looks a lot different. It's kind of always been my style on late-race restarts being able to go for it." That aggression came out in the Sprint All-Star Race as well where Bayne battled and traded paint with Kurt Busch en route to the Roush Fenway Racing driver ending up with a seventh-place result. And while that seemed to open some eyes at the track, Bayne has quietly been making strides in his second full-time season in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series. Thanks to a new rules package that caters to his driving style, his growth behind the wheel and a burgeoning partnership with new crew chief Matt Puccia, Bayne sits 18th in the point standings. That is the highest spot for the three-car Roush organization heading into Sunday's race. The pairing with Puccia, who replaced Bob Osborne atop the No. 6 pit box ahead of this season, has been just the tonic for Bayne in a solid bounce-back campaign. Puccia had been atop the No. 16 pit box for Bayne's Roush teammate, Greg Biffle for the prior four-and-a-half-seasons. The two have come to a quick understanding and that has paid off on the track. "We've known each other for a long time ever since I came to Roush really, we've been buddies," Bayne said. "I think that relationship from the past and kind of going through the same struggles last year and coming back together and both of us needing to revamp everything. He was going to end up being a XFINITY crew chief and that's not what he wanted to do. Things weren't looking up on the 6 team over here, so we were both kind of what each other needed to revitalize our careers." Part of the bond between the duo comes in the form of becoming new fathers in the past year. Last December, Bayne and his wife Ashton, welcomed their first child, Elizabeth Kate, into the world. Puccia and his wife, Alyssa, welcomed their first child, Kennedy Harper in October. "Matt's daughter is two months older than ours. We'll talk on the plane and he will show me a video of her doing something new and I'm like, 'oh boy, this is what I got to deal with in two months,' " Bayne said. "Now, Kennedy, his daughter is crawling around so I'm cherishing the moments while Ellie's still immobile and lays still and I can keep up with her." He may only be 25 years old, but Bayne has already had a career full of peaks and valleys. In just his second career Sprint Cup start; he won the sport's biggest race, the Daytona 500 in 2011 at the age of 20 years old. He was sidelined for two months in 2011 and was later diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in 2013. Last season in his first full-time season in the sport's top level, Bayne finished 29th in the point standings (and was no higher than 22nd during the course of the season) with just two top 10s in 36 races. "When you are struggling, you are super analytical about everything," Bayne said. "You look at everything you are doing. You analyze it. You try to make it better and sometimes that hinders you. I actually feel like I worked way harder at it last year than I'm having to this year. Sometimes that's what it takes. It's got to come naturally. "I'm not saying I’m not working at it because I am. There's a lot of things I learned last year that I implemented whether its post-race notes or spending time with the simulator. … I can't really say it's anything I'm doing, but when things are clicking it just makes it easier on everybody." This year, Bayne already has three top 10s in the season's first 12 races and is looking for a spot in the 16-driver Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup . The cutoff to the Chase is roughly three-and-a-half months away with 14 races to go. At present, Bayne sits eight points out of the 16th and final Chase Grid spot held by AJ Allmendinger . The driver of the No. 6 Ford views consistency as his ticket into the Chase. "Right now, our goals are to finish top 15 every week, be on the lead lap. Don't dig ourselves a hole," Bayne said. "Kansas, we blew a left rear tire and maybe could have avoided losing some of those laps had we pitted sooner when we knew we had a rub. We can't make mistakes. If you minimize that, you've got a good shot at it. … People are going to have bad days. You look at July in Daytona, you got to get through that race. You got to have a solid finish there like we did at Talladega (10th-place in May). "When the opportunity strikes to get a win or to run top five, you got to make those points up when you can, so you got to be pretty aggressive. I think our best chance is to points-race in right now, so those top 15s, top 10s we got to keep clicking them off like we've been doing."
Truex Jr. earns Coors Light Pole for Coca-Cola 600
RELATED: Lineup " See each car in Sunday's race CONCORD, N.C. – Martin Truex Jr . crashed a Ford party on Thursday night, winning the pole for Sunday's Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway (6 p.m. ET, FOX, PRN, Sirius XM NASCAR Radio). With his team making adjustments to the No. 78 Furniture Row Racing Toyota throughout the qualifying session, Truex saved his best lap for the round that counted, covering the 1.5-mile distance in 28.077 seconds (192.328 mph) to edge Team Penske Ford driver Joey Logano (192.007 mph) by .047 seconds for the top starting spot in NASCAR's longest race. The Coors Light Pole Award was Truex's second of the season and the ninth of his career. Both of the New Jersey driver's poles this year have come on 1.5-mile tracks, the previous one at Kansas Speedway earlier this month. "We really had to work pretty hard for it today," said Truex, whose lap in the final round of qualifying was .27 seconds faster than his fastest practice lap. "It was just one of those Charlotte deals where the track was continuously changing. "We were just chasing the race track and changing the car and really never got it close to right until that last run. I'm really just proud of the effort and proud of all my guys for that. It feels good – 600 miles, that first pit stall (the pole winner's prerogative) … We're going to be on pit road a lot on Sunday night, and that's certainly going to be an advantage. "Hopefully, we can take advantage of it and make it work for us." Logano led both the first and second rounds but couldn’t match Truex’s top speed in the third and final session. "I got a little bit tight landing in (Turn) 1 and then a little bit free off (the corner)," Logano said. "It wasn't much. And then (Turns) 3 and 4, I actually thought was a pretty good corner. "So I would say most of it was down in 1 and 2 – probably at landing and through the center is where I lost most of my momentum. It's not much. Half-a-tenth of a second doesn't take long." Logano was the best of the Ford drivers, who held three of the four top spots in the first round of knockout qualifying and swept the top four in the second. In the final round, Fords were second, third and fifth. Ricky Stenhouse Jr . qualified third at 191.428 mph, followed by Denny Hamlin (191.388 mph) and Brad Keselowski (190.968 mph). Joining Stenhouse in the top 10 were his Roush Fenway Racing teammates Greg Biffle (sixth) and Trevor Bayne (10th), marking the first time since the April race at Texas in 2014 that three RFR cars have made the final round of knockout qualifying. Dale Earnhardt Jr . will start 25th after failing to advance past the first round by .014 seconds. Matt Kenseth (27th), Austin Dillon (28th) and Kasey Kahne (29th) also will have to come from deep in the field after disappointing efforts in time trials. Kurt Busch , who topped the speed chart in opening practice with the fastest lap of the day (192.843 mph), will start 13th after failing to make the final round by .08 seconds.
Problematic practice for Dale Jr.
Dale Earnhardt Jr. has problems during practice for the Coca-Cola 600 as the No. 88 starts smoking due to power steering issues.
Dillon, Kahne for Forde's Charlotte sleepers
The 'Loop Dog', Mike Forde, joins SiriusXM NASCAR Radio to give his fantasy advice for the upcoming Sprint Cup Series race at Charlotte Motor Speedway.
Relive the first Drive for Diversity pit crew combine
Following a national talent search, 18 multicultural and female athletes earned invitations to compete in the first-ever national NASCAR Drive For Diversity® (D4D) Crew Member Development Combine May 27 in Concord, North Carolina. Relive the day in tweets. What's the #NASCARD4D pit-crew member combine? Learn all about what's happening today: https://t.co/f6rpATsS3f pic.twitter.com/dTXIyO0fe2 — NASCAR (@NASCAR) May 27, 2016 . @VSUTrojans bball player Kasuela Cooper talking to @myfox8 at the @NASCAR National Pit Crew Combine! #NASCARD4D pic.twitter.com/9zR3j5FFPt — Rev Racing (@RevRacin) May 27, 2016 Supporting the participants at the pit crew combine @NASCARDiversity #NASCARD4D #revracing pic.twitter.com/1rXy00SgcB — Collin Cabre (@CollinCabre12) May 27, 2016 #NASCARD4D Alum, now @roushfenway Jackman, @NascarQB giving tips to prospects pic.twitter.com/HCAXTjXeyQ — Brandon Thompson (@BThompson_36) May 27, 2016 THREE Spartans are representing at the #NASCARD4D combine! pic.twitter.com/RBQUL1bbil — NSU Strength (@NSU_Strength) May 27, 2016 more than thankful to be apart of this. tune in to our press conference at 3:45pm https://t.co/oHchQPF9pc #NASCARD4D pic.twitter.com/r2VT5u2pRB — Bree〽ich (@Mindless_BMD) May 26, 2016 Met the National Pit Crew Combine folks #NASCARD4D Cool group..showed them the @SiriusXMNASCAR at track studio!! pic.twitter.com/FBC586HjAm — Claire B Lang (@ClaireBLang) May 26, 2016
Truex, Pollex host 'Catwalk for a Cause' for seventh year
MOORESVILLE, N.C. -- It's not every day that dozens of Sprint Cup Series drivers enter a room and aren't the ones creating the spectacle, but that was the case for 2016's "Catwalk for a Cause" hosted by the Martin Truex Jr . Foundation on Wednesday night. Who were the stars, then? Davis, Chloe, Braylon, Natalia, Sam, BreeLee, Ava, Leland and Brynn were, of course. The fashion show's guests of honor -- all children -- are battling cancer, something that hits home for Truex and his longtime girlfriend Sherry Pollex, who just completed chemotherapy in January after being diagnosed with ovarian cancer in August 2014. @MTJFoundation pic.twitter.com/JMG8rjHS0b — Maggie MacKenzie (@Maggie_MKenzie) May 18, 2016 The Martin Truex Jr . Foundation, along with its partnernship with Levine Children's Hospital , hosts "Catwalk" each year to affirm its commitment to finding a cure for pediatric cancer. Before the seventh annual fashion show began, Pollex got up on stage, with Truex beside her, to mention that the night was also one to remember four of the heroes from last year's show who had lost their battles with cancer between the 2015 and 2016 events. "We lost four of our kids this year. ... We are going to honor them," Pollex said. Elijah Aschbrenner's presence was felt with several audience members sporting the bright red hair with which he lit up the 2015 event. Elijah passed away November 10. Once the 2016 event got underway, Dale Earnhardt Jr ., Clint Bowyer , Joey Logano and Danica Patrick were among the drivers who swapped their firesuits for cocktail attire and waltzed down the runway, each holding the hand of one of the nine children battling cancer. Although seeing Junior dancing on stage was easily a highlight of the night, the infectious smiles of the children stole the show. One of the night's most special moments occurred when Pollex took off her long, blonde wig and walked down the stage with her natural, short pixie cut -- her hair returning after the treatments she just completed -- with the utmost confidence. The entire room applauded. The night included a pre-show raffle as well as a live auction when drivers tried to outbid one another. To top it all off, the event raised $370,000 (compared to last year's $253,000), according to Sandy Plemmons, director of the Martin Truex Jr . Foundation. This is how @MartinTruex_Jr and I feel about Catwalk & this amazing life we get to live! Inspire someone today!! ❤️ pic.twitter.com/4PdKci9fX0 — Sherry Pollex (@SherryPollex) May 19, 2016
NASCAR tweaks rules for Kentucky, Michigan races
RELATED: 2016 Cup schedule " Memorial Day weekend schedule Changes to the rear spoiler, front splitter and rear deck fin will be put into play for two upcoming NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races as the sanctioning body continues to reduce aerodynamic downforce and sideforce in an effort to promote closer competition on the race track. The changes, announced Thursday morning, will be in effect only for upcoming races at Michigan International Speedway (June 12) and Kentucky Speedway (July 9) and are in addition to previous adjustments made by the officials in recent weeks. Initial moves implemented before the start of the season combined with a Goodyear tire matched more closely to the lower downforce package have resulted in closer competition through the season's first 12 races. Why, then, continue to make adjustments in the overall package? "I think we look at it as a never-ending journey; if we can improve we're going to do that," Steve O'Donnell, executive vice president of competition and chief racing development officer, told NASCAR.com. "We wanted to go the direction of low downforce, see how that worked, not kind of go all the way in and hope that we are directionally right. And we are seeing that play out. We've seen some great racing at the beginning of the year. "But we also knew that we had some more levers that we could pull if the direction kind of proved out, so we've tried some of those things. We've tested it and what we've also wanted to do is lower some of the corner speeds to allow for even more passing. That was one of the areas where we've seen minimal change, but there are some levers we can pull to really drive that down." The changes for those races consist of a reduction in spoiler height from 3.5 inches to 2.5 inches, a splitter reduction of two inches and a re-sizing of the rear deck fin to complement the spoiler change. Beginning with this year's race at Kansas Speedway , NASCAR required teams to weld truck arm mounts; for the recently completed Sprint All-Star Race at Charlotte Motor Speedway , downforce-generating electric fans were removed and the rear toe alignment was reset to zero to reduce sideforce. The changes to truck arm mounts and fans are to remain in place for the remainder of the 2016 season. The rear toe adjustment was initially only in play for the All-Star event but now will be incorporated into the June Michigan and July Kentucky races. Downforce is the pressure created across the surface of a vehicle at speed. Likewise, sideforce is generated by the flow of air along the sides of the vehicle. O'Donnell said limiting the latest changes to two upcoming races is beneficial in two ways: Teams have spent plenty of time in development of setups with the initial base package and that information will still be relevant; and focusing on two tracks will give teams and officials much-needed information as they look ahead to 2017. "We have worked collectively on some directions we want to go in, but to do that right we think the final step is to let that play out on one or two tracks," he said. "And these are the two -- Kentucky and Michigan -- that we've played out and let the teams concentrate really on what they've done to prepare for the year. We think that's manageable and that'll give us enough data to look at for 2017." Four teams recently tested the aero changes while taking part in a one-day Goodyear tire test at Michigan. Kentucky, which just completed a re-pave and redesign of its 1.5-mile layout, remains an unknown. It is expected to be fast with the additional grip provided by the new pavement. Ray Evernham, winner of three premier series titles as crew chief for Jeff Gordon and currently in a competition role with Hendrick Motorsports , said rule changes don't necessarily create more work for teams, but rather redefines the focus of what's being worked on. "Everybody works on something, no matter what," Evernham told NASCAR.com. "… It just changes that focus because any of the good teams are working to the maximum on something all the time." Evernham said he had been impressed with how the previous changes had affected the racing this season. The All-Star Race, he said, provided "the best racing we've seen at Charlotte in awhile. "That's what's coming around the corner. That's exactly what everybody has been asking for -- the drivers, fans, everybody," he said. "That was some darn good racing in the daytime and in the nighttime. That's what I'm focused on. I think that NASCAR and Goodyear and the teams are getting to a place now where the cars are competitive like they want them, but it gives the drivers, crew chiefs and teams a lot more options to have passing." All races with the rules package, with the exception of this year's stop at Auto Club Speedway , have been contested on 1.5-mile or smaller venues. The package is not in play for restrictor-plate races at Daytona and Talladega. Will the base package provide similar results at the larger venues? Pocono (2.5 miles), Michigan (2 miles) and Indianapolis (2.5 miles) loom ahead. O'Donnell believes that will be the case. "I think one of the biggest things we've seen from Goodyear is the ability to match the tire up now with where we're going, the tire wear we're seeing producing much better racing," O'Donnell said. "If you take a Michigan for instance, one of the things with low downforce, if you don't do anything to the tire, you're going to go in and the speeds are going to continue to increase. We know that's a challenge for us. How do we balance that with the corner speeds? "By tweaking the package a little bit, it's really going to keep what we've seen from the positive play out and then really lower that corner speed which should produce the best of both worlds." Buy Tickets: Michigan " Kentucky
Gordon's love for Charlotte lasting, 22 years after first win
Photo credit: Charlotte Motor Speedway CONCORD, N.C. – With its close proximity to race shops, Charlotte Motor Speedway is known as the home track for most of the NASCAR community. But Tuesday's gathering at the 1.5-mile speedway had more of a tourist feel, as fans hailed from places near and far. There was the man from Bakersfield, California, – "Harvick country," he states proudly – the fan from Switzerland, the Canadian couple and everyone in between. They wore different numbers on their shirts and spoke with different accents, but they were all there to see one man. Mr. Jeff Gordon . The FOX Sports analyst and four-time NASCAR champion helped celebrate the 10 Days of NASCAR Thunder leading up to Sunday's Coca-Cola 600 (6 p.m. ET, FOX, PRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio) by taking photos with 100 Charlotte ticketholders. Despite Gordon's retirement following his championship run last season, the fandom was as feverous as ever, as each visitor itched to exchange a few words with the former No. 24 driver. "It's slightly different (now) because many of them say a lot of the same things, 'I wish you were out there,' (or) 'I miss you being out there,'" Gordon said of the fans. "But I'm getting a lot of great comments about being up in the booth, so it's nice. I'm enjoying myself, so I think it comes across in the broadcast and interacting with the fans, I get to hear that from them as well." Gordon and the fans stood on the roof of the infield's Champion's Pavilion, the spot providing the group a birds-eye view of the quad oval. The track is impressive; a feeling Gordon reciprocates, as he recalls the first time he laid eyes on it. "I think it doesn't mean the same to everybody," Gordon said, "but for me, the very first time I ever came to North Carolina … when I drove by this facility, I was blown away. I'd seen Indianapolis Motor Speedway , but beyond that, I'd never seen anything that looked like this. Just the appearance of it put me in awe." Gordon found success at Charlotte early in his career, earning a runner-up result in his first race at the North Carolina track in 1993. And on Sunday, he'll broadcast his first Coca-Cola 600 ; 22 years after he earned his first-ever win in the Cup Series in the '94 running of the 600-mile event. The win put Gordon on the racing map and made folks wonder about this young "kid" from California who was driving nose-to-nose with Dale Earnhardt. RELATED: See all the winners of the longest race in NASCAR But Gordon's love affair with Charlotte began before the Victory Lane celebration. "When I drove a stock car here for the first time, I just fell in love with it," Gordon said. "I love the way the track flows, the banking, the grip level, bumps and everything that comes along with it. And of course, winning my first race, having it happen in the 600." The longest race on the Cup circuit, the Coca-Cola 600 has long been revered as one of NASCAR's biggest races – one of the sport's "Majors," as Gordon says. "Daytona, here, Brickyard, maybe a Southern 500, some would also say Talladega." Gordon said, rattling off a list of stock car racing's biggest events. "But this is a big, big deal to win this race. To me, it's probably second or third ranking in our series as far as most prestigious events." Winning the coveted Coca-Cola 600 trophy is no easy feat – the man who has won three of those races can tell you that. With the cars being more advanced today and eliminating some of the physical aspect, Gordon emphasizes the continued need for mental toughness. "You're talking about a minimum of four hours being in the car," Gordon said. "Pit crews, crew chiefs, everyone's on edge, not just the drivers … (They're) pushing the limits every single lap, which is not the way it used to be. You used to pace yourself and be able to manage the tires and your car and you could still be competitive at the end of the day – if you were in one piece. "That's not the case anymore – it's just all out. So, that mentally drains you by pushing that hard for that period of time." RELATED: Gordon embraces new career with 'contagious' energy The task of taming a 600-mile monster is daunting, especially for younger drivers. Gordon's No. 24 replacement Chase Elliott will attempt the feat, as he prepares to make his second Coca-Cola 600 start. Elliott, now in his rookie season, started 28th and finished 18th in the 2015 Coca-Cola 600 , then driving the No. 25 for Hendrick Motorsports . As for any advice from the former boss of the No. 24? Gordon said his 20-year-old successor doesn't need it. "I haven't had to give him much advice on the race track," Gordon said. "He's a natural … He gets better every weekend. "I'm excited for that 24 team. I had to defend a lot with fans being upset about them keeping the No. 24 and I said, 'Just wait, just wait, I think you're going to be proud of the results.' And now, I'm starting to see everybody's now saying, 'What a great replacement for the 24!' " Gordon's statement was validated by fans sporting Elliott-themed shirts earlier, one young boy in particular wearing a blue No. 24 NAPA hat. This fan will likely grow up knowing Elliott -- rather than Gordon -- as the driver of the legendary No. 24 Chevrolet. It's a mark of a racing transition, a generational shift. And Gordon loves it. "Listen, I love seeing the sport grow," he said. "I'm still heavily involved in the sport, not just from the FOX side, but from Hendrick Motorsports . And I think the sport is amazing right now. The racing is as good as it's ever been. We have some great young talents. Not to mention veterans that are doing great things … I'm all for bringing new fans and seeing fans get excited about it, people like Chase or Ryan Blaney or Kyle Larson . "I support it 100 percent."
'Hero' moment for Ty Dillon as Richard Childress makes NASCAR Hall
CONCORD, N.C. -- Richard Childress has many titles to Ty Dillon : Team owner, hunting buddy, grandfather. And now NASCAR Hall of Famer, thanks to a moment that Dillon and his family -- including brother and fellow driver Austin -- weren't expecting Wednesday. "I was actually standing with my mom when I got a text message, 'Congratulations to your grandfather,'" Dillon said on Thursday during a media availability at Charlotte Motor Speedway . "We were like, 'No way!' We weren't even expecting this year. I'm so happy for him." Childress is part of the five-person 2017 NASCAR Hall of Fame class that was unveiled Wednesday. Joining Childress in the Hall will be Rick Hendrick, Mark Martin , Raymond Parks and Benny Parsons. H. Clay Earles was named the recipient of the Landmark Award for Outstanding Contributions to NASCAR. "I think at first, I called him probably five minutes after I found out -- I'm sure he was getting all kinds of calls -- it seemed like it hadn't set in for him yet," Dillon said of his first communication with his grandfather after learning Childress had made the Hall of Fame. "He's a hard worker so he's always thinking about what's going on next. "I saw him this morning (at an appearance at Bass Pro Shops). First thing I did was just give him a big hug because I was proud of him. He's very happy today and excited, and it's well-deserved." Childress, 70, began his career as a driver, making his first NASCAR start in 1969, and he went on to score six top-five finishes and 76 top-10 finishes over 12 years and 285 starts. He formed Richard Childress Racing in 1969 and eventually teamed with NASCAR Hall of Famer Dale Earnhardt for six championships. In his storied history as an owner, Childress is the first to have owner championships in all three NASCAR national series, and his 11 driver championships are second all-time. RCR has 212 NASCAR national series victories: 105 wins in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, 76 wins in the NASCAR XFINITY Series and 31 wins in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series. The bond Dillon and Childress share is much more than that of your typical grandfather and grandson. "He's my hero and glad that I get to spend time with him not only in our sport but every day at the shop and away from it, when we're hunting and hanging out with family," Dillon said. RCR currently fields Chevrolets for three full-time teams in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series ( Austin Dillon in the No. 3, Paul Menard in the No. 27 and Ryan Newman in the No. 31) and four full-time teams in the NASCAR XFINITY Series (Menard/Dillon primarily in the No. 2, Ty Dillon in the No. 3, Brandon Jones in the No. 33 and Brendan Gaughan in the No. 62). "He's such a focused individual about making this race team great again." Ty Dillon said. "I think this is a moment that is going to be big for him for feeling like he's finally made it. He's the first one at the shop every single day and the last one to leave. Working hard like he did way back when he had a $20 race car. I think it's finally a moment for him to sit back and realize what he's accomplished and hopefully it continues to set in for the rest of the week."
NASCAR Drive for Diversity Crew Member Development Program
Check out the NASCAR and Rev Racing program that scouts former collegiate athletes to pit for your favorite race teams.