Johnny Sauter and others comment on their runs in the Music City.
RELATED: Darlington's throwback paint schemes Some people might call it sky blue or even Carolina blue, but in racing it's Petty Blue, and with Day-Glo Red and white it creates the iconic No. 43 paint scheme that will dress up Aric Almirola 's No. 43 STP Ford for the Sept. 6 Bojangles' Southern 500 (7 p.m. ET, NBC, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio). Almirola's throwback paint scheme honors Richard Petty's 1972 Plymouth Roadrunner, the first time The King's car featured sponsor STP with the Petty Blue and Day-Glo Red on the quarter panels. "STP has been a proud partner of Richard Petty for nearly 44 years now, and all of that started with this 1972 paint scheme," said Jamie Kistner, vice president of marketing for STP. "To be able to bring that first year back to the track through this paint scheme and with Aric Almirola has been a lot of fun and has brought back some great memories of STP's storied history in NASCAR for our fans. Darlington Raceway is hosting a great throwback event that's produced a lot of excitement and we're honored to be a part of it." STP Racing announced the throwback paint scheme on Twitter with a video honoring the No. 43's history and showing the painting of the Darlington car. Petty, a seven-time NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion, raced with the STP logo on the hood of his No. 43 car for 21 years. The King has 200 career wins, and 60 of them came with STP aboard. "It will be neat to see the car that started our partnership with STP 43 years ago back on track at Darlington," said Petty. "It will be fun to see all the throwback schemes racing at Darlington and on Labor Day Weekend. It just feels right to have the Southern 500 back to Labor Day Weekend and is fitting that we celebrate tradition there with throwback paint schemes." Several members of the 1972 championship-winning team will be with Richard Petty Motorsports at Darlington: crew chief Dale Inman, as well as crew members Richie Barsz, fabricator; Tex Powell, mechanic and jackman; Les Barsz, mechanic and transporter driver; Billy Biscoe, mechanic and gas man; Jimmy "Zoomer" Kovalchik, fabricator and tire carrier; and Barry Dodson, painter. MORE: Hall of Fame driver Labonte to be grand marshal for race
RELATED: Complete race results Wisconsin native Paul Menard won the NASCAR XFINITY Series' Road America 180 Fired Up by Johnsonville on Saturday in Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin. For Menard it was his third victory in the XFINITY Series and his first victory at the 4.048-mile road course. Menard held off a hard-charging Ryan Blaney in the final laps, pulling away after Turn 6 in the 14-turn road course that winds through his home state. Brian Scott , Chase Elliott and Darrell Wallace Jr . rounded out the top five. Series points leader Chris Buescher finished ninth and now holds a 16-point lead over Elliott, who leap-frogged Ty Dillon , who finished 10th. Blake Koch contended for the win in the final laps but ran out of fuel during the final caution, which was brought on when pole winner Ben Rhodes went off the course. The XFINITY Series returns to the track on Sept. 5 for the VFW Sport Clips Help a Hero 200 at 3:30 p.m. ET at Darlington Raceway (NBC, MRN, Sirius XM).
Anheuser-Busch confirmed Tuesday that it will be shifting its brand on reigning Sprint Cup Champion Kevin Harvick 's No. 4 Chevy from Budweiser to Busch for the 2016 season. "NASCAR continues to be a priority platform for our beer portfolio," said Lucas Herscovici, vice president of consumer connections at Anheuser-Busch. "We are committed to the sport of racing, the fans and the Stewart-Haas Racing team we support -- specifically the No. 4 car of Kevin Harvick . "To that point, and given we evaluate all of our sports properties on an annual basis, we will be shifting our brand equity in Harvick's car and team from Budweiser to our Busch beer portfolio for the 2016 NASCAR season. "The Busch brand is well positioned for this partnership given the brand's storied history with the sport. We have a lot of exciting plans in development with SHR for 2016 and will share those details once finalized." Harvick's Stewart-Haas Racing team similarly celebrated the decision to bring one of the sport's iconic brands back to the spotlight. "Anheuser-Busch and specifically the Budweiser team has been a valuable team partner for the No. 4 car driven by Kevin Harvick ," SHR Executive Vice President Brett Frood said. "We've had tremendous successes with their logo donning our car and look for that to continue as we close out the 2015 racing season. With that said, we are excited to celebrate the Busch brand not only returning to NASCAR, but returning to the sport on our team." Busch beer was the longtime sponsor (1984-2007) of what is now called the XFINITY Series.
MORE: Buy tickets for Darlington SHOP: Darlington gear " Dale Jr. Valvoline gear DARLINGTON, S.C. -- One of the former drivers Dale Earnhardt Jr . has said he respected as a youngster was NASCAR Hall of Fame member and three-time premier series champion Cale Yarborough. When the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series heads to Darlington for this year’s Bojangles' Southern 500 , scheduled for Sunday, Sept. 6 (7 p.m. ET, NBC, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio), Earnhardt and his Hendrick Motorsports team will pay homage to the five-time winner of the series’ oldest superspeedway event. Earnhardt's No. 88 Chevrolet will feature a paint scheme reminiscent of the Valvoline look run by Yarborough in 1981-82 while competing for car owner M.C. Anderson. It will also honor others who ran the familiar red, blue and white colors such as Buddy Baker and Neil Bonnett. The endeavor is part of Darlington Raceway's throwback celebration surrounding the return of the Bojangles' Southern 500 to the Labor Day weekend race date, as well as a kick-off for Valvoline's upcoming Legacy celebration of the brand's 150th anniversary next season. RELATED: See more throwback paint schemes for Darlington "I've always been a fan of Cale's and the car that we run on the Sprint Cup side right now with the Nationwide colors is sort of inspired by his 1977 paint scheme," Earnhardt Jr. said during a recent video shoot at the legendary facility. "I admired his style and how he approached driving, definitely admired the accomplishments he had in the sport." Earnhardt, Yarborough and former championship-winning crew chief Ray Evernham took part in the day-long process at the 1.366-mile track. Yarborough, inducted into the NASCAR Hall of Fame in 2012, was the first driver to win three consecutive premier series titles. He is sixth on the all-time win list with 83 career victories. Earnhardt was involved in the development of the car's paint scheme as well as his fire suit, which also pays tribute to the former drivers that sported Valvoline colors. Even the shoes to be worn by Earnhardt have a throwback tie-in, specifically to those used by Yarborough. "The suit is just like his," said Earnhardt. "And he had this (blue) color shoes. There's a picture of him with his car at Daytona in the grass before the 500 and he's wearing Carolina blue (shoes) -- he doesn't call 'em Carolina blue, being from Timmonsville -- but they sort of match this part of the V (in the Valvoline logo); I think that's what they were going for." RELATED: Junior shares influence on Michigan look Valvoline has been a major associate sponsor of Hendrick Motorsports , which fields four full-time entries in the Sprint Cup Series, since 2014. Next month's race will be its first as a primary sponsor since aligning with Hendrick, but it has a deep history in auto racing. "A lot of it came together, actually, at the urging of Dale," Jamal Muashsher, Director Brand Marketing for Valvoline, said of the program. "He obviously knows the history of the brand and the legacy that Valvoline has had in the sport. He approached us about trying to come back with a paint scheme, especially with this special race that Darlington has coming up next month. "Obviously we were very interested. It was a great opportunity … as we get ready for our 150th anniversary. It's a great way to celebrate our history as well as pay homage to the legacy of the brand over that time." According to Muashsher, the special paint scheme will be just one part of the program celebrating the company’s rich auto racing history. A series of videos featuring Earnhardt, Yarborough and three-time championship winning crew chief Ray Evernham will be located on the Valvoline YouTube channel. Limited-edition die-casts of the No. 88 Chevrolet entry featuring the paint scheme will be available in participating Walmart stores beginning Aug. 31. "There is a lot of great history there," Muashsher said, "and a lot of great imagery from an amazing group of drivers that Valvoline has had the opportunity to work with." Yarborough said his association with Valvoline actually began in 1966, when he competed in the Indianapolis 500 as a rookie. RELATED: Learn more about Cale Yarborough "When I came back to NASCAR, I brought them with me," he said. "They were a part of my career for almost the entire time. They were a good company to work with, good people and a good product and I just enjoyed my association with them. "It's an honor to have Dale Jr. driving the Valvoline car." Earnhardt said initial talks about Valvoline coming on board as a primary sponsor began late last season. The announcement of the Darlington throwback program was a bonus that helped put the idea on the fast track. "The car looks great and it's awesome to be able to include Cale," Earnhardt said. "I hope that he is enjoying being a part of it. "It's good to have Ray here. He's sort of the glue that holds it all together. … It's been fun. I've been really surprised that this came together so well." Photo credit: Dale Earnhardt Jr .'s Twitter account, @DaleJr
Ray Alfalla from Slipangle Motorsports held off a late charge from Gale Force Racing 's Nick Ottinger at Phoenix International Raceway en route to his second victory in the 2015 NASCAR PEAK Antifreeze Series Powered by iRacing. Ottinger had to settle for second, less than one tenth of a second behind and a single position short in his quest for a third straight win. Polesitter Casey Tucker ( Last Row Motorsports ) finished third, followed by series championship leader Kenny Humpe ( The TEAM ) and PJ Stergios. Alfalla, who led a race-high 86 of 156 laps, took advantage of some timely cautions and a solid pit strategy and found the winner's circle for the first time since the season opener at Daytona. Ottinger appeared to have a slightly better car than anyone else on the long run but a decision to short-pit cost him when a caution flew for a wreck before the rest of the front runners made their stops. The untimely yellow trapped Ottinger back in traffic with just 45 laps to go which, later, lead him to remark that his second place finish "felt like a win." The night got underway with Humpe taking the lead on Lap Three and quickly opening a one second margin over the field. Humpe held the lead until the first yellow flew on Lap 29 and the field pitted for fresh tires and fuel. Humpe's crew was sluggish, losing him three positions in the pits and handing the lead back to Tucker. On the restart Ottinger jumped to the lead but, after a flurry of cautions, Alfalla went to the point as he raced hard for the clean air out front. After a few laps it was Ottinger who prevailed and the race settled into the longest green flag run of the night. With nobody able to make it on fuel to the end, Ottinger decided to play some pit strategy and short-pitted as soon as his fuel window opened. The move was risky as it put him a lap down but if the pit stop cycle completed he would own a massive lead thanks to his fresh tires. Unfortunately for Ottinger, a crash on the frontstretch on Lap 104 trapped him a lap down as Alfalla and a handful of other cars had yet to make their stops. Ottinger would get back on the lead lap by taking the wave around but now had older tires than Alfalla and the rest of the frontrunners. Ottinger received some help by way of another caution just 11 laps after taking the wave around which allowed him to pit for tires. When the race restarted with 31 laps remaining Ottinger was in fifteenth but now had fresher tires than the leaders and began charging back to the front. In just seven laps Ottinger was already up to eighth and yet another caution bunched the field up, playing right into his favor. As so often happens at short tracks, cautions breed cautions and the frequent yellows at the end of the race enabled Ottinger to maximize the benefit of his fresh tires. After going from fifteenth to eighth, he picked up two more spots on the next restart and three additional places on the next before the ninth and final yellow flag of the night flew, setting-up a five lap shootout for the win. Alfalla still led, Tucker was second, and Ottinger was behind the front row in third as the race went green. Ottinger made quick work of Tucker and started reeling-in Alfalla. By the time the white flag flew Alfalla had a mirror full of the 05 car but would not be denied as he calmly negotiated Turns Three and Four a final time to take the checkered flag with Ottinger right on his bumper. The win allowed Alfalla to slightly close on Humpe in the championship standings but Humpe still enjoys a massive 109-point advantage. Alfalla also distanced himself from Stergios, who is now 39 points adrift in third. Bryan Blackford and Matt Bussa are tied for fifth, 23 points behind Stergios and three points in front of Chris Overland who fell in the standings due to last night's disappointing 30th place finish. With just three races remaining in the 2015 NASCAR PEAK Antifreeze Series the series shifts to Darlington Raceway , one of the toughest tracks on the circuit. Humpe will have a chance to officially clinch the championship if he can leave "The Lady in Black" with a 97 point lead, leaving Alfalla with some work to do if he hopes to keep the pressure on an additional week. Darlington generally favors the veteran sim racers so it would be no surprise to see Alfalla, Ottinger, and Humpe battling for the win once again. Can anyone else break up the dominant threesome? Tune into iRacingLive in two weeks' time to find out!
Kyle Busch will lead off the start of the Lucas Oil 200 at Dover
RELATED: Bristol schedule " Paint schemes for Bristol It's no longer the pits, figuratively speaking, when setting up shop in a pit stall on the backstretch at Bristol Motor Speedway. Because it is the only track that still features pit stalls on the front (Nos. 1-22) and back (Nos. 23-43) of the track, teams forced to pit on the backside of the tiny, half-mile bullring often found themselves at a competitive disadvantage, hitting pit road only after those stopping on the frontstretch had already been in for service. Teams pitting on the frontstretch entered pit road at the exit of Turn 4 while those pitting on the back remained behind the pace car until they reached the exit of Turn 2 and were allowed to drop down onto the backstretch of pit road. That changed in 2002 when track officials began requiring all cars to enter pit road in Turn 2, regardless of where their pit stall was located. Now, teams pitting on the frontstretch must maintain pit road speed all the way around to their respective pit stalls before returning to the track in Turn 1. Those pitting on the backstretch get service first, but must also maintain pit road speed all the way back around to Turn 1, still utilizing pit road, before returning to the track as well. It hasn't lessened the advantage of qualifying on the pole and choosing the first pit stall closest to the pit-out area in Turn 1 – that remains a prime piece of real estate regardless of track location. Matt Kenseth , winner of the spring race at BMS, started on the pole and was pitted in pit stall No. 1. But Kenseth also won from a backstretch pit stall (in the 2013 night race at BMS) as did Kasey Kahne (in the spring race of '13). Four of those finishing in the top 10 in this year's spring race at Bristol pitted on the backstretch. When under green, teams pitting on the frontstretch enter pit road off of Turn 4 while those pitting on the backside of the track enter at Turn 2. BMS hosts the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series on Wednesday night with the running of the UNOH 200 . The Food City 300 NASCAR XFINITY Series race is set for Friday night and on Saturday the track hosts the annual Irwin Tools Night Race (7:30 p.m. ET, NBCSN, PRN, SiriusXM). Split Decision NASCAR officials took no action beyond obtaining the splitters from the Team Penske No. 2 and 22 entries prior to last weekend's NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Michigan International Speedway, leaving most folks to wonder what all the fuss was about. On Sunday morning, officials said the splitters on the cars of Brad Keselowski (No. 2) and teammate Joey Logano (22) were "so close ... we just asked the team to err on the safe side and asked them to switch to a clean splitter." The two pieces were evaluated this week at the NASCAR Research and Development Center in Concord, N.C. A Reason for Increase in Violations There number of violations on pit road this past weekend at Michigan tripled compared to the series' visit there in June. However, the June race was cut short by rain, with only 138 of the scheduled 200 laps completed. This past weekend's race saw 24 penalties handed down for pit road miscues compared with eight in the series' first stop at the 2-mile track. Tires Good to Go The tire codes for this weekend's Sprint Cup , XFINITY and Camping World Truck Series races at Bristol are unchanged from recent combinations used at the concrete half-mile, according to Goodyear officials. It is the only track where this particular set of tire codes are currently used.
NASCAR fans, check your calendars. Sure, it’s hot and humid outside -- it is August, after all -- but this week feels a lot like Christmas, doesn't it? Saturday marks one of the premier days of each year in motorsports -- we'll be runnin' 'em under the lights at Bristol Motor Speedway in the Irwin Tools Night Race (7:30 p.m. ET, NBCSN, MRN, SiriusXM). For many, the night race at Bristol is the most-anticipated event of the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season, even ranking ahead of the Daytona 500 . Seeing that race live is something special, something sure to be on every fan's ultimate bucket list. So that has us wondering -- what's on your bucket list? NASCAR.com's Pat DeCola and Jessica Ruffin offer their personal ones, and you should feel free to list your own down in the comments section. DeCola: My NASCAR bucket list? Man, that's a tough one. The sport has so much history at so many different tracks for so many different reasons, it's hard to narrow it down. For starters, I think I'd want to knock the Brickyard 400 at Indy off my list. The Brickyard is arguably the most famous track in the world -- certainly in the United States -- and I have a sneaking feeling the history runs so deep there that you can breathe it in just as easily as the exhaust from 43 cars running around a 2.5-mile rectangle at 200 mph. Indy's an obvious bucket list item. RELATED: Busch wins Indy for third straight victory Ruffin: Stepping on those celebrated bricks and looking up at the famed pagoda is nothing short of a NASCAR dream, Pat. Indy definitely makes my list, too. And while it's much smaller and less glamorous than Indianapolis Motor Speedway, I'm going to throw Martinsville Speedway on my NASCAR bucket list. As the oldest track on the circuit, Martinsville takes you back in time to the roots of racing. All the greats from Fireball Roberts to Junior Johnson to Richard Petty to Dale Earnhardt have wheeled race cars around the paperclip oval. Watching old-school short-track racing from the grandstands -- which all have a spectacular view -- while munching on a legendary Martinsville hot dog is a must-do for any diehard fan. DeCola: Tell me about it. Much to my cholesterol-level's dismay, Martinsville probably makes my bucket list for the hot dog, alone. Continuing down the history trail here, another one any fan would be thrilled to cross off their list is Darlington Raceway, especially for this year's Labor Day Throwback race. Sure, the summer trips to Myrtle Beach are great, but driving along the outside of the landmark track along the way only makes me wish I could be standing in the infield, watching those killer throwback schemes race to take home the biscuit race for one of NASCAR's majors -- the Bojangles' Southern 500 . RELATED: NASCAR.com names NASCAR's Majors Ruffin: This year's throwback schemes at Darlington are going to be incredible -- fans can bet they'll be transported back to another age of racing when they watch Kevin Harvick 's old-school Budweiser scheme turning laps around the speedway Labor Day weekend from the infield. Another place that makes my bucket list possibly for the infield alone is a "Big One" -- good ole Talladega. Located in the heart of Dixie, the larger-than-life tailgating -- which includes everything from mud wrestling to weddings -- and passionate fans make 'Dega a must-stop on the circuit. The racing's pretty awesome, too, with the superspeedway-style drafting, high speeds and crazy, multi-car pile-ups. And if someone like Junior -- the 'Dega fan favorite -- takes the checkered, the contagious post-race excitement is bound to leave you singing "Sweet Home Alabama" all the way home. DeCola: Home, you say, eh? Well, there's no better place to call home than Daytona International Speedway, which may as well consider itself the flagship track of our entire sport. Sure, I've been there before, but guess what -- the annual season-opening Daytona 500 should be on every NASCAR fan's bucket list … every year. One of the most unpredictable, enthralling races of the entire season, there's no reason to "cross it off" if you've been there before. Once is surely not enough. Ruffin: Daytona International Speedway isn't called the World Center of Racing for nothing, that's for certain. It's an iconic track and the Daytona 500 -- NASCAR's Super Bowl -- is the perfect way to open up the NASCAR season. Let's fast forward from the first race to the last race now: The season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway. While it's not considered a NASCAR Major in everyone's book (see what we do consider the four NASCAR Majors here ), the final race of the season is a bucket list item simply for the sake of it being the race that ultimately decides the NASCAR Sprint Cup champion. Judging by the exciting, nail-biting atmosphere it created last season with four drivers all vying for the title, Homestead's popularity and hype is bound to increase. Not to mention its located in beautiful south Florida -- so why not make a vacation out of it?
Kyle Busch holds off Matt Crafton to win the Lucas Oil 200 at Dover International Speedway.