Petty family announces 10-month celebration for 'The King's 80th birthday
MOORESVILLE, N.C. (September 3, 2016) - The Petty family and its brand of companies today announced a 10-month long campaign to celebrate NASCAR Hall of Fame driver and owner, "The King" Richard Petty turning 80. Petty may not be celebrating his 80th birthday until July 2, 2017, but the Petty brand of companies including, Richard Petty Motorsports , Petty's Garage, Petty Family Foundation, Petty Museum and Victory Junction, plan to celebrate for the next 10 months. The Petty family, who are well known for giving back to local communities and race fans, is now turning the table, allowing fans to give their thanks of 80 years with "The King." The Petty family introduced a celebration calendar this week, www.KINGs80th.com , where fans can follow the various activities planned leading to the Petty's birthday celebration in Daytona Beach, Fla.in 2017. To kick off the activities, Petty's children, Kyle , Lisa, Rebecca and Sharon, Petty's Garage and Ford Motor Company partnered to surprise the American Icon with the 43rd and last build of the 2017 Petty's Garage "King Edition" Ford Mustang GT. The car is colored silver and is one of now only 26 left available to the public through your local Ford dealer. The family presented the keys to the car today at the prestigious and popular Mustang Club Car Show in Indianapolis, Indiana. "We are so proud to celebrate Daddy's birthday with all his fans over the course of the next year," said Rebecca Petty -Moffitt. "There is no better way to kick it off than with Ford Motor Company and Petty's Garage allowing us to give Dad the 43rd build of the 'King Edition' Ford Mustang GT. Ford is a huge supporter of all of the Petty brands with strong partnerships with Richard Petty Motorsports , Petty's Garage, Victory Junction and more, and even provided support for Dad during his career. We have so much more planned for our fans; today is just the start." In addition to today's car giveaway, the Petty Museum announced its newest offering to fans. The Petty Museum is now offering shirts that replicate the first racing tee Petty wore. The shirt features the 1964 Plymouth that Petty raced. The shirt will be available at the Petty Museum and on their website until July 2017. All of the Petty brands will get in on the action. Richard Petty Motorsports (RPM) will engage fans with special promotions, including special packages from its sponsors. Petty's Garage will continue their celebration during their mobile tour stops throughout the country. The Petty Museum will soon announce special apparel along with additional merchandise throughout the celebration. Petty Museum will culminate their celebration with the opening of the Petty -Toomes Homestead historical landmark in Level Cross, N.C., the birthplace for Petty . Petty Family Foundation, Victory Junction and the Kyle Petty Charity Ride will also join the celebration during various events throughout the year, including special donations to the charities throughout the year. Stay tuned to www.KINGs80th.com as all brands continue to expand the celebration through licensing partners and other special celebration promotions. Fans are welcome to join in the conversation through social media using the hashtag, #KINGs80th across all Petty entities.
Kyle Busch tops both Bristol Sprint Cup practices
RELATED: First session results " Second session results Kyle Busch captured the top spot on the leaderboard in both NASCAR Sprint Cup Series practices Friday at Bristol Motor Speedway , clocking in at 129.684 mph in the No. 18 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota in the final session. Right behind him in Friday's second session was Martin Truex Jr . in the No. 78 Furniture Row Racing Toyota at 129.587 mph. Rounding out the top five were Matt Kenseth in the No. 20 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota (129.386 mph), Ryan Blaney in the No. 21 Wood Brothers Racing Ford (129.334 mph) and Denny Hamlin in the No. 11 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota (129.256 mph.) Series points leader Brad Keselowski was 10th in the final session at 128.142 mph in the No. 2 Team Penske Ford. The caution flag came out twice in the final session: first, when Greg Biffle spun, though there was no contact, and a second time when Josh Wise lost a right front tire and slammed into the outside wall. -- In the earlier session, Kyle Busch led the way at 128.969 mph in the No. 18 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota. Right behind him was teammate Denny Hamlin in the No. 11 JGR Toyota at 128.649 mph. Hamlin also logged the most laps in the 80-minute session at 99. Rounding out the top five were Kyle Larson in the No. 42 Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet (128.597 mph), Chase Elliott in the No. 24 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet (128.511 mph) and Aric Almirola in the No. 43 Richard Petty Motorsports Ford (128.503 mph). Series points leader Brad Keselowski was sixth fastest with a speed of 128.468 mph in the No. 2 Team Penske Ford. The session got underway five minutes late as crews worked to dry a wet track from morning rain. Practice was extended a few minutes to compensate for the late start. RELATED: Follow Bristol weather updates here </p>
Petty family prepares for Ride Across America
LEVEL CROSS, N.C. (April 21, 2016) -- For the first time in its history, Kyle Petty will be joined by his three sisters and legendary father during the Kyle Petty Charity Ride Across America, one of the most successful and popular charity rides in the country, for its 22nd annual motorcycle trek. Petty will ride alongside his sisters, Sharon, Lisa, Rebecca and father, "The King" Richard during the ride presented by Manheim. The ride engages celebrities, motorcycle enthusiasts, fans, and local communities to raise funds and awareness for Victory Junction, a camp for kids with serious health care needs. Petty will lead his wife, father, sisters and his extended "charity ride family" of approximately 200 riders on a route starting in Palm Springs, California on April 30 and ending in Biloxi, Mississippi on May 6. "We've been doing this for over 20 years and I've never had all my sisters and father with me on the ride," said Petty . "So, that makes this ride even more special for our family. We've all been busy doing different things, but this year we were all able to get this on everyone's calendar. Family, friends, having a good time together and making memories is what this ride is all about and having all my sisters and father with us will make the experience that much better. I'm really looking forward to it." The ride will be supported through social media channels by Richard Petty Motorsports , Richard Petty Museum, Petty Family Foundation and Petty's Garage. Fans can visit these respective Facebook, Twitter and Instagram sites for photos of the ride along its route. Twenty two years ago, Petty combined his passion for helping others with his love of motorcycles to create the Ride. Since 1995, more than 7,750 riders have logged 11.4 million cumulative motorcycle miles and raised $16.5 million for Victory Junction and other children's charities. "The Ride continues to be an overwhelming success thanks to the passion and commitment of our riders and sponsors, a majority of which join in the Ride and support the cause year over year," said Petty . "Thanks to their continued support, the Ride has been able to send more than 7,880 children to Victory Junction at no cost their families." Since its inception by Petty and his family in 2004, in honor of his son Adam Petty , Victory Junction has served as the Ride's primary beneficiary. Located on 84 acres in Randleman, North Carolina, Victory Junction exists to enrich the lives of children with chronic or life-threatening illnesses by creating camping experiences that are memorable, fun, empowering, physically safe and medically sound. Fans and spectators along the Ride's route may contribute to the "Small Change. Big Impact." program, which accepts donations at local stops. To keep up with Petty and the riders live, follow the Ride and Petty on social media: Facebook: www.facebook.com/kpcharityride and www.facebook.com/kylepetty45 Instagram: www.instagram.com/kpcharityride and www.instagram.com/kylepetty Twitter: www.twitter.com/kpcharityride and www.twitter.com/kylepetty For more information about the 22nd Anniversary Kyle Petty Charity Ride Across America or to make a contribution, please visit www.kylepettycharityride.com .
NASCAR Foundation to donate $1 million to NYU Langone Medical Center
NEW YORK -- The NASCAR Foundation will donate $1 million to NYU Langone Medical Center, as part of a multi-year partnership to benefit hospitalized children. Through this partnership, The NASCAR Foundation will enhance the Child Life Program at the Hassenfeld Children's Hospital of New York at NYU Langone. The partnership will be commemorated at the first-ever NASCAR Foundation Honors Gala taking place at The Marriott Marquis in New York on Sept. 27. This is The NASCAR Foundation's first multi-year partnership with a New York area hospital and marks its commitment to reach more kids nationally. NASCAR’s charitable arm has donated $25 million and impacted more than one million children since its inception in 2006. "This is an important partnership for The NASCAR Foundation," said NASCAR Vice Chairman Mike Helton. "The work being done by the NYU Langone Medical Center is changing lives, each and every day. The NASCAR Foundation is proud to have an opportunity to support that important work and expand our commitment to improving the lives of children in need." Through this partnership, the Child Life Program will ease the anxiety of children and their families during their hospital stay, which is essential to recovery. The NASCAR Foundation will support an enhanced child and family experience, fund two Child Life specialists, and provide resources, equipment and supplies to complement the wide-range of supportive and therapeutic activities currently offered at Hassenfeld Children’s Hospital at no charge to patients. This marks an expansion of The NASCAR Foundation's commitment to supporting children with Child Life programming as part of its signature Speediatrics program, which has provided more than 500,000 children with state-of-the-art medical care. "As leaders in the field of pediatrics, we're proud to partner with The NASCAR Foundation whose generous philanthropic support provides extensive and meaningful programs to help children and their families," said Catherine S. Manno, MD, the Pat and John Rosenwald Professor and Chair of the Department of Pediatrics at NYU Langone. "This sponsorship, in concert with our Sala Institute for Child and Family Centered Care, will strengthen our national exemplar model of care for children and their families." The NASCAR Foundation Honors Gala, which was planned to celebrate "10 Years of Giving," has taken on additional significance following the unexpected passing of its Founder and Chairwoman Emeritus Betty Jane France last month. The Gala will be a tribute to Betty Jane France's life and is being hosted by the France family including NASCAR Chairman and CEO Brian France (son) and his wife Amy France, International Speedway Corporation CEO Lesa France Kennedy (daughter) and NASCAR Vice Chairman and International Speedway Corporation Chairman Jim France (brother-in-law). At the Honors Gala, various awards will be bestowed, including: -- Betty Jane France Humanitarian Award presented by Nationwide : One of four finalists will be announced as the winner following a fan vote which has taken place since July 13. The NASCAR Foundation will donate a total of $175,000 to the charities represented by the finalists -- with the winner's charity receiving a $100,000 donation. This year's finalists include Jim Giaccone of Bayville, New York, representing Tuesday's Children; Andy Hoffman of Atkinson, Nebraska, founder of the Team Jack Foundation; Logan Houptley of Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, a founding member of Mikayla's Voice; and Parker White of Greensboro, North Carolina, founder of BackPack Beginnings. Since the award's inception, nearly $900,000 has been contributed to charities represented by the finalists . -- Children's Champion Award: Dr. Howard B. Ginsburg : The William F. and Virginia Connolly Mitty Associate Professor of Pediatric Surgery, Department of Surgery, Associate Professor, Department of Pediatrics, and Division Chief, Pediatric Surgery at NYU Langone, will receive the award recognizing his commitment to children. -- Founder's Award: NBC Sports Group Chairman Mark Lazarus will receive the award recognizing his contributions to philanthropy. The Honors Gala will be headlined by Grammy® and Tony® nominated singer Sara Bareilles . The following NASCAR champions and rising stars will be in attendance: six-time NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Champion Jimmie Johnson , seven-time NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Champion Richard Petty , reigning NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Champion Kyle Busch , NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Champion, NASCAR Hall of Famer Rusty Wallace, two-time NASCAR XFINITY Series Champions Martin Truex Jr . and Ricky Stenhouse Jr ., Danica Patrick , Kyle Larson , Kasey Kahne , Ben Kennedy and Julia Landauer. This event builds on NASCAR's long history in New York. The racing organization opened its first office in Manhattan in 1996 and is based out of the newly renovated New York headquarters at 590 Madison Avenue. This partnership also marks further collaboration between NYU and NASCAR. In March, Brian France participated in NYU's first Social Responsibility of Sports Conference where he pledged NASCAR's support to improve social responsibility in sports. For ticket information or table sponsorships, please visit www.nascarfoundation.org/honors-gala .
Kyle Larson, Kevin Harvick to start from the rear
RELATED: Full starting lineup Kyle Larson was forced to start his No. 42 Chevrolet from the rear of the field in today's Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup opener at Chicagoland Speedway (2:30 p.m. ET, NBCSN, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio), and Kevin Harvick joined him in the back just before the race started. Larson's Chip Ganassi Racing team had to change the transmission in his Chevy early Sunday morning, which sends him to the back of the pack. That news came early in the day; Harvick's move to the rear, due to unapproved adjustments, wasn't confirmed until approximately 2:25 p.m. ET, about 20 minutes before the green flag. Larson led both practice sessions on Saturday, and he will be credited with an official starting position of 10th, where he would have lined up had the car change not been needed. Harvick was slated to start fourth. &amp;amp;lt;/p&amp;amp;gt;
NBC Sports throws it back at Darlington with Southern 500 coverage
STAMFORD, Conn. -- August 31, 2016 -- NBC Sports gears up for a throwback weekend of racing from Darlington highlighted by the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Bojangles' Southern 500 Sunday at 6 p.m. ET on NBC and the XFINITY Series race Saturday at 3:30 p.m. ET on NBC. NBC Sports joins Darlington Raceway in celebrating the sights and sounds of the 1975-1984 era with throwback themes integrated into this weekend's coverage. In addition to traditional graphics and historic logos, NASCAR on NBC's on-air team will dress in their best time period apparel. Throughout the weekend, NASCAR on NBC's pre-race set will be flanked by a series of old school cars from the decade. Music and footage from the era will also bring viewers in and out of commercial breaks. Race day coverage kicks off with a revamped version of Blake Shelton's NASCAR on NBC "Bringing Back the Sunshine" Open, full of racing moments spanning the track's incredible history. Legendary NASCAR broadcasters Ken Squier and Ned Jarrett return to the booth, alongside Dale Jarrett, to call a portion of the race. Squier adds his voice to a special pre-race feature on the storied Raceway. Pre-race coverage also includes a special three-car on-track preview of Darlington Raceway . In addition to Jeff Burton in the Toyota Camry on-track car, Kyle Petty will drive his father's famed 1979 No. 43 Championship race car alongside Dale Jarrett in fellow Hall of Famer Benny Parsons' No. 72 car. NBC SPORTS PRESENTS NASCAR SPRINT CUP RACING FROM DARLINGTON SUNDAY AT 6 P.M. ET NBC Sports begins its Sprint Cup coverage from "The Lady in Black" Friday with practice at 1:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN, followed by final practice at 3:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN. An on-site edition of "NASCAR America" wraps up the day at 5 p.m. ET on NBCSN. Saturday's coverage from Darlington Raceway includes "NASCAR America" at 1 p.m. ET followed by qualifying at 1:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN. Sunday's race day coverage kicks off on NBCSN with NASCAR America at 5 p.m. ET. NBC's coverage begins with "Countdown to Green" at 5:30 p.m. ET followed by race coverage at 6 p.m. ET. "NASCAR Victory Lap" at 11 p.m. ET wraps up the day. Race announcer Rick Allen calls this weekend's action alongside analysts Steve Letarte and Jeff Burton . Pre- and post-race coverage is handled by host Krista Voda, and analysts Kyle Petty and Dale Jarrett. Marty Snider, Mike Massaro, Dave Burns and Kelli Stavast report from pit road. Rutledge Wood, fresh off his journey to the Olympic Games in Rio, returns to bring viewers closer to the sights and sounds of the original paved superspeedway. XFINITY SERIES RACING RETURNS TO NBC SATURDAY AT 3:30 P.M. ET NBC Sports XFINITY coverage from "The Track Too Tough To Tame" begins Friday with practice at 12 p.m. ET on NBCSN, followed by final practice at 2:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN. Race day coverage begins with qualifying on 11:30 a.m. ET on NBCSN. NBC's XFINITY coverage begins with Countdown to Green at 3 p.m. ET followed by race coverage at 3:30 p.m. ET. NBC SPORTS PRESENTS "SOUTHERN SPEED: THE LEGEND OF DARLINGTON" TONIGHT AT 9 P.M. ET ON NBCSN Leading up to this weekend's live NASCAR action from Darlington Raceway , NBC Sports presents a new one-hour special created to take fans inside the storied history of "The Track Too Tough To Tame." Produced in partnership with NASCAR productions, "Southern Speed: The Legend of Darlington" premieres tonight at 9 p.m. ET on NBCSN, following a special 8 p.m. ET presentation of "NASCAR America." This morning's release previewing the special is available here . ARIC ALMIROLA & "THE KING" STAR IN THIS WEEK'S "PHONE A FAN" SOCIAL WEB VIDEO Aric Almirola and Richard Petty star in this week's new NASCAR on NBC "Phone a Fan" web video, where unsuspecting fans receive calls from their favorite NASCAR drivers. In the video released today on the NASCAR on NBC Facebook page and Twitter accounts, Barry from Egg Harbor, N.J., grills Almirola and Petty on when the No. 43 is going to make its way back Victory Lane. Check out the full video here . Ben Kennedy joins Ryan on this week's NASCAR on NBC podcast to discuss his first Camping World Truck Series victory at Bristol Motor Speedway and the outpouring of support he received from some NASCAR luminaries. Available on NASCAR Talk, iTunes, AudioBoom, Google Play, Spotify, Stitcher and podcasting apps, the NASCAR on NBC podcast discusses the latest NASCAR news each week with the major players in the sport. UPCOMING NASCAR PROGRAMMING Date Coverage Time (ET) Network Wed., Aug. 31 NASCAR America 8:00 PM NBCSN Southern Speed: The Legend of Darlington 9:00 PM NBCSN Thurs., Sept. 1 NASCAR America 6:00 PM NBCSN NASCAR Whelen Modified Series – Riverhead 7:00 PM NBCSN Fri., Sept. 2 NASCAR XFINITY Series Practice – Darlington 12:00 PM NBCSN NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Practice – Darlington 1:30 PM NBCSN NASCAR XFINITY Series Final Practice – Darlington 2:30 PM NBCSN NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Final Practice – Darlington 3:30 PM NBCSN NASCAR America 5:00 PM NBCSN NASCAR K&N Pro Series West – Douglas County 7:00 PM NBCSN Sat., Sept. 3 NASCAR XFINITY Series Qualifying – Darlington 11:30 AM NBCSN NASCAR America 1:00 PM NBCSN NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Qualifying – Darlington 1:30 PM NBCSN NASCAR XFINITY Series Countdown to Green 3:00 PM NBC NASCAR XFINITY Series Racing – Darlington 3:30 PM NBC Sun., Sept. 4 NASCAR America Sunday 5:00 PM NBCSN NASCAR Sprint Cup Countdown to Green 5:30 PM NBCSN NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Racing – Darlington 6:00 PM NBC NASCAR Victory Lap 11:00 PM NBCSN All of NBC Sports Group's NASCAR coverage is available to stream on NBCSports.com and via the NBC Sports app. The NBC Sports app is powered by Playmaker Media, and is available on the iTunes App Store, Google Play, Windows Store, Roku Channel Store, Apple TV and Amazon Fire. NASCARTalk on NBCSports.com brings racing fans up-to-the-minute news, video and information on NASCAR drivers, teams and industry news. For all the latest NASCAR content socially, fans can follow @NASCARonNBC and @NASCARTalkNBC on twitter and like the NASCAR on NBC Facebook page. For more information about NBC Sports Group shows and properties, including press releases, photos, talent and executive bios and headshots, please visit NBCSportsGroupPressBox.com .
NBC Sports, NASCAR Productions present Darlington historical
RELATED: Full Darlington coverage DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Aug. 31, 2016) -- Leading up to this weekend's live NASCAR action from Darlington Raceway , NBC Sports presents a new one-hour documentary created to take fans inside the storied history of "The Track Too Tough To Tame." Produced in partnership with NASCAR Productions, "Southern Speed: The Legend of Darlington" premieres tonight at 9 p.m. ET on NBCSN. Multi-platinum recording artist Darius Rucker narrates the special in tribute to his South Carolina roots. Current NASCAR drivers Carl Edwards , Jimmie Johnson and Kurt Busch are joined by Ken Squier and racing legends Dale Jarrett, Kyle Petty and Jeff Burton , who reflect on how the Southern 500 became a stock car racing tradition. Premiering during a week dedicated to honoring the rich history of NASCAR, the original program will also be available via live stream on the NBC Sports App and NBCSports.com. A preview of tonight's special is available here . Below are excerpts from "Southern Speed: The Legend of Darlington." Kyle Petty , former driver and NASCAR on NBC analyst: "Bill France was there and Raymond Parks was there. So many Hall of Famers were there for that first race and that speaks volumes to what Darlington was, even in the beginning." Buz McKim, NASCAR Hall of Fame Historian: "Darlington never has been a normal track and it never will be. There is too much folklore, there is too much history and there are too many great spots and low spots. It is totally the track of the unexpected." Dale Jarrett, Hall of Fame driver and NASCAR on NBC analyst: "The idea to go back to Labor Day and run the Southern 500 is something that our sport really needed." Harold Brasington III, grandson of Darlington Raceway founder: "I have to admit I felt pretty special knowing that my granddad built this place. I can remember the first time he drove me up into the infield through that tunnel it was like a portal into another world. I saw these structures coming out of the beds of pickup trucks. The crowd was overwhelming." Tune in to watch the Bojangles' Southern 500 this Sunday, Sept. 4, at 6 p.m. ET on NBC, or listen live on MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio. Fans can also purchase tickets to catch all the on-track action in person by visiting www.nascar.com/tickets .
Richard Petty adjusting to life alone, says son
Kyle Petty says 'it's been a lot harder and a lot tougher' for his father
NBC preps for 'first day of school' with Daytona broadcast
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. -- There's a distinct "first day of school" vibe for NBC Sports' broadcast crew as it arrives at Daytona International Speedway this week for its first live race telecast of the 2016 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season. And after last year's rain-delayed, action-packed, Dale Earnhardt Jr .-victory in the early morning hours at the network's Coke Zero 400 -- the 2015 opening telecast in Daytona Beach -- much of the on-air talent understandably feels prepared for anything as they begin their season two work this weekend. "It was challenging for sure," former NASCAR driver-turned NBC analyst Jeff Burton allowed with a laugh. "But looking back on it (Daytona), it was probably good for us to kind of get thrown right into the fire. It kind of presented us some challenges that would be hard to duplicate and kind of laid the ground work that 'this isn't going to be easy.' "It kind of showed us right off the bat, you have to be prepared for everything. You don't know what's going to happen. It was challenging, but it was fun. We had a good time." Krista Voda, who hosts the pre-race show, felt like she'd wandered into a surreal first day of school a year ago. "The best way I can describe it is that it's the first day of school, and for us it was the first day of school in a new building, with new classmates and then it's like you have a tornado drill and fire drill then, 'Hey, everyone stay late because there's construction,' " Voda said. "You had everything you could throw at it and at the end of the day, or night, or early morning we all looked at each other and said, 'Gosh, if we can do that, in those conditions you sort of feel like, 'Hey, we've got this.' ' You feel like we can do anything." RELATED: Behind the scenes photos from Year 1 of NBC Booth Again this season, Voda, former Cup champion Dale Jarrett and former Cup driver Kyle Petty will handle the popular pre-race NASCAR show to set the tone and deliver perspective. Veteran broadcaster Rick Allen again will team with second-year color commentators Burton and former Hendrick Motorsports crew chief Steve Letarte in the booth to bring insight and play-by-play. And as the network takes over its portion of the 2016 NASCAR broadcast schedule this week, its on-air talent realizes the timing couldn't be better. There is plenty of compelling content and high expectation. "Our storylines just increased a thousand percent by Tony Stewart winning the race (at Sonoma , Calif. last week)," Jarrett said. "Who is going to be that next one to step up? We've got a lot of young talent and it's going to be very interesting to watch their progression. And as we get closer to the cutoff for the Chase, who is going to still be trying to get that win and who is close enough in points that they're going to be driving in maybe a way we haven't seen in that situation and scenario?" To a person, the NBC broadcast team echoes the feeling most NASCAR fans have that a first-time winner would add a strong element to the network's second half of the season and Chase for the Sprint Cup . There are high expectations, in particular, for four drivers: rookies Chase Elliott and Ryan Blaney , and third-year drivers Kyle Larson and Austin Dillon -- all of whom seem so close to claiming their first Cup trophies. Those drivers are among a large group still vying for the final Chase playoff positions. So far, there are 10 winners and 16 Chase berths available, which means the intensity likely will increase as the schedule gets closer to that Sept. 10 regular-season finale at Richmond, Virginia. "There are probably 10 teams when I sit down and analyze them I don't know how one is better than the other," Burton said. "They all look really similar. And then who's the surprise winner in the next 10 weeks? "Those are things that immediately strike me. But you know what's so cool about this sport is, who he heck knows where it's going to go? You just don't know." The high levels of suspense are exactly what energize the NBC Sports crew as they take the race broadcast hand-off this week. Along with Chase contenders, NBC Sports is prepared for storylines such as the technical aspects of the cars' rules packages and which drivers make the playoff field based not on wins but gutsy drives and high points-days. And NBC Sports has some of the most accomplished, most outspoken and most entertaining personalities to share perspective and bring the sport into people's homes. "I have two of the best storytellers in Kyle ( Petty ) and Dale (Jarrett), and it is so much fun sometimes to sit back and just let them go," Voda said. "The conversations the three of us have when the camera isn't on is some of the best stuff, and we hope to bring that to the viewers." Last year, NBC Sports' portion of the schedule included Kyle Busch 's amazing comeback from injury to claim his first Sprint Cup title in a hard-fought playoff push, and a grand farewell to four-time Cup champion Jeff Gordon completing his final season of competition. NBC Sports knows this season will include another moving goodbye to yet another future Hall of Fame champion Tony Stewart . But the unknown of what else might happen is what energizes the group at NBC Sports. "Ultimately, sports fans hook into stories and people and there's no better group of athletes than these NASCAR drivers," NBC Sports executive producer Sam Flood said. "You think about the beauty of it, every week the best go against the best. You wait for that special match-up in another sport where your two elite teams play each other. Well, every single Cup race has the elite guys face-to-face. So you don't have to wait for that special match-up. "It's one of those unique sports that every weekend, every race, they're head-to-head."
The Rundown: Darlington driver grades
RELATED: Full race results " Standings " Chase Grid Breaking down the full field for the Bojangles' Southern 500 at Darlington Raceway : 1. Martin Truex Jr ., No. 78 Toyota, Furniture Row Racing . Truex’s two victories this season are the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte and now the Southern 500 ... and he finished second in the Daytona 500 . Even with all the bad luck he has had, Truex is having a monster year. Grade: A+ 2. Kevin Harvick , No. 4 Chevrolet, Stewart-Haas Racing . This is word-for-word -- except for the number of laps led Sunday night -- from the race at Dover in May when Harvick finished 15th: Harvick led a race-high 214 laps, and who knows how well he would have done if his pit crew had done its job. Harvick’s grade is an average of his A and his crew’s F. Grade: C 3. Kyle Larson , No. 42 Chevrolet, Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates. Larson led 45 laps and was in contention to win for the second week in a row. Larson and his team are hitting their stride at the exact right time. Grade: A 4. Denny Hamlin , No. 11 Toyota, Joe Gibbs Racing . Breaking news: No pit-road penalties for Hamlin or his crew ... just their seventh consecutive top-10 finish (5.3 average finish in the streak). Grade: A 5. Joey Logano , No. 22 Ford, Team Penske . Logano doesn’t have a streak to rival Hamlin's, but he now has top-10 finishes in 11 of his past 13 starts. Grade: A 6. Matt Kenseth , No. 20 Toyota, Joe Gibbs Racing . Kenseth was running 14th when he stayed out during the sixth caution and restarted with the lead. He was a fixture in the top 10 the rest of the night. Grade: A 7. Kasey Kahne , No. 5 Chevrolet, Hendrick Motorsports . Kahne’s first top-10 finish since Sonoma in June is too little too late. Unless he wins at Richmond, he likely won’t make the Chase. Grade: A 8. Ryan Newman , No. 31 Chevrolet, Richard Childress Racing . Huge night for Newman. Despite having to start from the back of the field (unapproved adjustments), Newman scored a must-have top 10 and is sitting seven points behind Jamie McMurray for the final spot in the Chase. He came into the race 15 points back. Grade: A+ 9. Brad Keselowski , No. 2 Ford, Team Penske . An early vibration and two loose wheels couldn’t keep Keselowski from his 16th top 10 of the season, tying him with Kurt Busch for third most behind Kevin Harvick (20) and Joey Logano (17). Grade: A 10. Chase Elliott , No. 24 Chevrolet, Hendrick Motorsports . Elliott did much better on restarts Sunday night, but he lost spots on pit road. Another good run at Richmond should net him a spot in the Chase. He is 24 points ahead of Ryan Newman and 17 ahead of Jamie McMurray . Grade: A- 11. Kyle Busch , No. 18 Toyota, Joe Gibbs Racing . Busch missed a top-10 finish at Darlington for the first time since 2011 (also an 11th-place finish). Grade: B 12. Austin Dillon , No. 3 Chevrolet, Richard Childress Racing . An early pit-road speeding penalty had no bearing on his finish. He is nine points ahead of Jamie McMurray and 16 ahead of Ryan Newman . A good finish at Richmond should clinch a spot in the Chase. But ... in five starts at Richmond, Dillion has finished 27th three times and 20th twice. If he runs to form, that might not be good enough. Grade: B - 13. Ryan Blaney , No. 21 Ford, Wood Brothers Racing . Blaney had multiple visits with the wall, had to pit under green for a flat and had a pit-road penalty (for a crew violation) ... and still finished 13th. Busy night. Grade: B- 14. Jeff Gordon , No. 88 Chevrolet, Hendrick Motorsports . Gordon scored his fourth top-15 finish in five starts for Dale Earnhardt Jr . Grade: B- 15. Jamie McMurray , No. 1 Chevrolet, Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates. If McMurray misses the Chase by a handful of points, an extra pit stop Sunday night might turn out to be the difference. McMurray had to pit for a second time under caution on Lap 354 for a loose lug nut. Instead of restarting 13th, 13 points to the good on Ryan Newman , McMurray restarted 18th, the last car on the lead lap. Newman finished seven spots better than McMurray and trails McMurray by seven points for the final Chase-eligible spot. Grade: B- 16. Paul Menard , No. 27 Chevrolet, Richard Childress Racing . Menard did a nice job of moving through the field after starting from the back for unapproved adjustments. But a tire rub late in the race resulted in a flat left rear and Menard losing control of the No. 27 and wiping out Kurt Busch on Lap 327. Still, Menard’s 16th-place finish was his second best in his past nine starts. Grade: B- 17. Chris Buescher , No. 34 Ford, Front Row Motorsports . Buescher is not out of the woods yet. He is 11 points ahead of David Ragan for 30th in the points standings and a spot in the Chase. His task at Richmond is simple: Stay ahead of Ragan or close to him all night. It didn’t happen in the April race at Richmond, however, when Ragan finished 23rd and Buescher 34th, an 11-point difference. How’s that for coincidence? Saturday night should be fun. Grade: B 18. Ricky Stenhouse Jr ., No. 17 Ford, Roush Fenway Racing . Stenhouse was the final car on the lead lap. Grade: B 19. Carl Edwards , No. 19 Toyota, Joe Gibbs Racing . Edwards finished 19th in the JGR No. 19 Toyota for the third time, the first time this season. That’s three more times than Edwards finished 99th in No. 99 Ford in 11 seasons driving for Jack Roush. Grade: B- 20. Regan Smith , No. 7 Chevrolet, Tommy Baldwin Racing . Smith scored his third-best finish of the season. The other two are top 10s (eighth in the Daytona 500 , third last month at Pocono). Grade: B 21. David Ragan , No. 23 Toyota, BK Racing . Despite having to start from the rear of the field because of an engine change, Ragan equaled his third-best finish of the season. Grade: B 22. Clint Bowyer , No. 15 Chevrolet, HScott Motorsports . Contact with Aric Almirola brought out the 10th and final caution. Fortunately for Bowyer, Almirola’s car got the worst of the encounter. Grade: C 23. AJ Allmendinger , No. 47 Chevrolet, JTG Daugherty Racing . Allmendinger’s run of top-15 finishes ended at four on a night when he completed no laps in the top 15 for the second time this season (Week 4 at Phoenix). Grade: C 24. Danica Patrick , No. 10 Chevrolet, Stewart-Haas Racing . For the third time this season, and second time in three weeks, Patrick had the second-best finish among the four Stewart-Haas Racing cars. Grade: C 25. Casey Mears , No. 13 Chevrolet, Germain Racing . GEICO's "It’s What You Do" fact of the night: RAF, as in "running at the finish." Did you know only two Sprint Cup drivers who have started all 25 races this season have been running at the finish of each race this season? One is Brad Keselowski . The other is GEICO’s very own Casey Mears . It's what he does. Grade: C 26. Matt DiBenedetto , No. 83 Toyota, BK Racing . DiBenedetto scored his fourth-best finish of the season, his best at a track more than a mile long. Grade: B+ 27. Michael McDowell , No. 95 Chevrolet, Circle Sport- Leavine Family Racing . Despite an early pit-road speeding penalty on his first stop, McDowell posted his best finish at Darlington in five starts. Grade: C 28. Michael Annett , No. 46 Chevrolet, HScott Motorsports . Annett equaled his fourth-best finish of the season. Grade: C 29. Josh Wise , No. 30 Chevrolet, The Motorsports Group. The theme of the backmarkers continues: Wise also equaled his fourth-best finish of the season. Grade: C 30. Landon Cassill , No. 38 Ford, Front Row Motorsports . Cassill matched his lowest finish at Darlington in six starts. Grade: C 31. Reed Sorenson , No. 55 Chevrolet, Premium Motorsports. Sorenson finished nine laps off the pace. Grade: C 32. Aric Almirola , No. 43 Ford, Richard Petty Motorsports . Almirola was running 20th with 18 laps to go when he got into Clint Bowyer and then Bowyer hit Almirola, sending the No. 43 hard into the wall. Grade: C- 33. Jimmie Johnson , No. 48 Chevrolet, Hendrick Motorsports . The lowlight of Johnson’s night came when he lost control off of Turn 4 on Lap 214 and went for a spin. He ultimately finished 39 laps off the pace and with his 77th finish of 30th of worse in his illustrious Sprint Cup career -- which also equals his Cup wins. Who knew? Well, you do now. Grade: F 34. Kurt Busch , No. 41 Chevrolet, Stewart-Haas Racing . Busch called it a "tough, tough night." We call it being in the wrong place at the wrong time. Paul Menard was nursing a tire going down, and Busch was next to him when it finally did. The No. 41 suffered major damage, and Busch was left with his second DNF for crashes in three weeks. Grade: C 35. Tony Stewart , No. 14 Chevrolet, Stewart-Haas Racing . Score one for karma in Stewart’s final race at "The Lady in Black". In a move few will dispute, Stewart wrecked Brian Scott to bring out the third caution. Then, after battling a cooling issue for a good chunk of the night, Stewart’s engine expired a shade more than 100 laps later. Grade: F 36. Greg Biffle , No. 16 Ford, Roush Fenway Racing . Biffle got loose in Turns 3 and 4 and hit the wall to bring out the sixth caution. The No. 16 returned to the track but was through after 295 laps run, giving Biffle his sixth DNF, tying a season high with 11 races remaining in 2016. Grade: F 37. Cole Whitt , No. 98 Chevrolet, Premium Motorsports. Electrical issues cut short Whitt’s night after 250 laps run. Grade: F 38. Jeffrey Earnhardt , No. 32 Ford, Go Fas Racing . Earnhardt hit the wall literally and figuratively on Lap 250. Grade: F 39. Brian Scott , No. 44 Ford, Richard Petty Motorsports . Scott was running 24th on Lap 204 when Tony Stewart took exception to something Scott did or was doing and turned the No. 44, sending it crashing into the inside wall. Maybe Scott wasn’t handling his car as well as 'Smoke' thought he should. But no one will dispute how well Scott handled himself in his interview on NBC afterward. Grade: B 40. Trevor Bayne , No. 6 Ford, Roush Fenway Racing . Bayne brought out the first caution when he went for a spin trying to get to pit road on Lap 95. But it was his engine that ended his night after 161 laps, leaving Bayne with his first DNF of the season. Grade: F