NASCAR Nationwide Series Dover 200 entry list
See which drivers will compete as the series returns to Dover RELATED: Play NASCAR Fantasy Live " Sign up for RaceView today Entry # Driver Owner Crew chief Manufacturer Sponsor 1 01 Landon Cassill Johnny Davis Dave Fuge 14 Chevrolet TeamJDMotorsports.com 2 2 Brian Scott Richard Childress Phil Gould 14 Chevrolet Shore Lodge 3 3 Ty Dillon Richard Childress Danny Stockman Jr 14 Chevrolet Yuengling Light Lager 4 4 Jeffrey Earnhardt Gary Keller Gary Cogswell 14 Chevrolet TeamJDMotorsports.com 5 6 Trevor Bayne Jack Roush Chad Norris 14 Ford AdvoCare 6 7 Regan Smith Kelley Earnhardt-Miller Ryan Pemberton 14 Chevrolet TaxSlayer.com 7 9 Chase Elliott Dale Earnhardt Jr Greg Ives 14 Chevrolet NAPA AUTO PARTS 8 10 Kevin Lepage Mark Smith Todd Myers 14 Toyota Supportmilitary.org 9 11 Elliott Sadler J D Gibbs Chris Gayle 14 Toyota SportClips 10 14 Jeff Green Mark Smith Wes Ward 14 Toyota Hefty Ultimate / Reynolds Wrap 11 16 Ryan Reed Jack Roush Seth Barbour 14 Ford ADA Drive to Stop Diabetes presented by Lilly Diabetes 12 17 Tanner Berryhill Adrian Berryhill Daniel Stillman 14 Dodge NationalCashLenders.com 13 19 Mike Bliss Mark Smith Paul Clapprood 14 Toyota Tweaker Energy Shot 14 20 Justin Boston(i) Joe Gibbs Kevin Kidd 14 Toyota Zloop 15 22 Joey Logano(i) Roger Penske Jeremy Bullins 14 Ford Hertz 16 23 Robert Richardson Jr Robert Richardson Sr George Church 14 Chevrolet Lilly Trucking 17 28 J J Yeley James Whitener Steve Plattenberger 13 Dodge Texas 28 Spirits Stage 18 29 Milka Duno Robby Benton Keith Hinkein 14 Toyota CanTV 19 31 Dylan Kwasniewski Steve Turner Shannon Rursch 14 Chevrolet Rockstar 20 33 Cale Conley(i) Richard Childress Nick Harrison 14 Chevrolet IAVA 21 39 Ryan Sieg Rod Sieg Kevin Starland 14 Chevrolet RSS Racing 22 40 Matt Dibenedetto Curtis Key Sr Kyle Symington 14 Chevrolet Curtis Key Plumbing 23 42 Kyle Larson(i) Harry Scott Jr Scott Zipadelli 14 Chevrolet Cartwheel by Target 24 43 Dakoda Armstrong Richard Petty Philippe Lopez 14 Ford WinField 25 44 Blake Koch Mark Smith Greg Conner 14 Toyota TriStar Motorsports 26 46 Ryan Ellis Curtis Key Sr Gary Showalter 14 Chevrolet Curtis Key Plumbing 27 51 Jeremy Clements Tony Clements Ricky Pearson 14 Chevrolet Allsouthelectric.com/Repairable Vehicals 28 52 Joey Gase Jimmy Means Tim Brown 14 Chevrolet TBA 29 54 Kyle Busch(i) J D Gibbs Adam Stevens 14 Toyota Monster Energy 30 55 Jamie Dick Jimmy Dick Jimmy Dick 14 Chevrolet Qore24 31 60 Chris Buescher Jack Roush Scott Graves 14 Ford Roush Performance Parts 32 62 Brendan Gaughan Richard Childress Shane Wilson 14 Chevrolet South Point 33 70 Derrike Cope Mary Louise Miller Bobby Burrell 14 Chevrolet YOUTHEORY 34 172 Harrison Rhodes James Carter Richard Garcia 14 Chevrolet Crash Claims R US 35 180 Alex Bowman(i) Shigeaki Hattori Bruce Cook 14 Toyota CHIBA TOYOPET 36 87 Josh Reaume Andrea Nemechek Steven Gray 14 Ford Rick Ware Racing 37 89 Morgan Shepherd Morgan Shepherd TBA 14 Chevrolet Courtney Construction 38 93 Kevin Swindell Gregg Mixon Gregg Mixon 13 Dodge JGL Racing 39 98 Aric Almirola(i) Fred Biagi Jon Hanson 14 Ford Smithfield Foods 40 99 James Buescher Robby Benton Matthew Lucas 14 Toyota Rheem MORE: READ: Latest Chase news PLAY: Monitor your Chase Grid Game picks WATCH: Latest NASCAR video FOLLOW LIVE: Get RaceView
Chase Elliott earns 21 Means 21 Pole Award at Talladega
RELATED: Lineup " See all 40 cars TALLADEGA, Ala. – Numerologists doubtless will have a field day with the front row for Sunday’s GEICO 500 at Talladega Superspeedway (on FOX at 1 p.m. ET, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio). Touring the 2.66-mile race track in 49.704 seconds (192.661 mph) during Saturday's time trials, Chase Elliott put the No. 24 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet on the pole, making the 20-year-old rookie driver two-for-two at restrictor-plate superspeedways. In his first qualifying run as a full-time NASCAR Sprint Cup Series driver, Elliott won the pole for the season-opening Daytona 500 . The pole was the sixth at Talladega for the No. 24, the first five having been recorded by Jeff Gordon , who retired after the 2015 season and turned the car over to Elliott. And the pole run came roughly 30 years after Elliott's father, Bill Elliott , earned the top starting spot for the spring Talladega race with a lap at 212.229 mph, before restrictor plates were introduced at the superspeedways. Coincidentally, Bill Elliott also won the pole for the Daytona 500 in 1986. "This is definitely a special place," Chase Elliott said after his pole-winning run. "It's cool to get it done today. This is a team effort, and those guys and everybody at the No. 5 and No. 24 shop, in particular, and everybody at Hendrick Motorsports and the Hendrick engine department and obviously (sponsor) NAPA Auto parts . "But, man, this is cool. Those guys do such a good job. And as I said in Daytona, this had nothing to do with me. This is the car that we had. This is the same car we had in Daytona. They brought another fast one here." The car Elliott beat for the pole, the No. 3 Chevrolet driven by Austin Dillon (192.424 mph), also has a noteworthy history at Talladega. Driving the No. 3 for owner Richard Childress, Dillon’s grandfather, the late Dale Earnhardt collected nine of his 10 Talladega victories and all three of his Talladega poles. "There's a lot of history here with Dale and RCR," Dillon said. "A lot of good stuff happened with RCR here, so hopefully we can continue that streak of good runs for RCR here. We’ve got a car capable of doing that, obviously, with the qualifying effort, and I'd love for it to be my first Cup win." Dale Earnhardt Jr ., who has never won a pole at NASCAR's biggest oval track but has six race wins on his resume here, qualified third at 192.293 mph. Matt Kenseth (192.181 mph) claimed the fourth position on the grid, followed by Jimmie Johnson (192.116 mph) and Ricky Stenhouse Jr . (192.089 mph). The only other driver to top 192 mph was seventh-place starter Brad Keselowski (192.008 mph), a three-time Talladega winner. Ty Dillon qualified the No. 14 Chevrolet for Tony Stewart and earned the 14th starting spot, but Stewart will start Sunday’s race and will have to drop to the rear for the green flag because of the driver change. The plan is for Stewart, who returned to action last Sunday at Richmond after injuring his back during the offseason, to turn the car over to Dillon during the first caution of the race. Note: Josh Wise failed to make the 40-car field.
DAV 200 entry list
See which drivers will look to compete at Phoenix RELATED: Play NASCAR Fantasy Live " Sign up for RaceView today Entry # Driver Owner Crew chief Manufacturer Sponsor 1 01 Landon Cassill Johnny Davis Dave Fuge 14 Chevrolet TeamJDMotorsports.com 2 2 Brian Scott Richard Childress Phil Gould 14 Chevrolet Whitetail 3 3 Ty Dillon Richard Childress Danny Stockman Jr 14 Chevrolet Bass Pro Shops 4 4 Jeffrey Earnhardt Gary Keller Gary Cogswell 14 Chevrolet teamjdmotorsports.com 5 5 Alex Bowman(i) Rick Hendrick Ernie Cope 14 Chevrolet LINE-X Protective Coatings 6 6 Trevor Bayne Jack Roush Chad Norris 14 Ford AdvoCare 7 7 Regan Smith Kelley Earnhardt-Miller Ryan Pemberton 14 Chevrolet Fire Alarm Services 8 9 Chase Elliott Dale Earnhardt Jr Greg Ives 14 Chevrolet NAPA AUTO PARTS 9 10 Jeff Green Mark Smith Todd Myers 14 Toyota SupportMilitary.org 10 11 Elliott Sadler J D Gibbs Chris Gayle 14 Toyota SportClips 11 14 Eric McClure Mark Smith Wes Ward 14 Toyota Hefty Ultimate / Reynolds Wrap 12 16 Ryan Reed Jack Roush Seth Barbour 14 Ford ADA Drive to Stop Diabetes presented by Lilly Diabetes 13 19 Mike Bliss Mark Smith Paul Clapprood 14 Toyota TriStar Motorsports 14 20 Erik Jones(i) Joe Gibbs Kevin Kidd 14 Toyota GameStop 15 22 Brad Keselowski(i) Roger Penske Jeremy Bullins 14 Ford Discount Tire 16 23 Robert Richardson Jr Robert Richardson Sr George Church 14 Chevrolet TBD 17 25 John Wes Townley(i) Tony Townley Mike Ford 14 Toyota No. 25 Zaxby's Toyota 18 28 J J Yeley James Whitener Steve Plattenberger 13 Dodge Texas 28 Spirits Stage 19 29 Kelly Admiraal Robby Benton Keith Hinkein 14 Toyota Swan Rentals, LTD 20 31 Dylan Kwasniewski Steve Turner Shannon Rursch 14 Chevrolet Rockstar / FOE.com 21 39 Ryan Sieg Rod Sieg Kevin Starland 14 Chevrolet RSS Racing 22 40 Matt Dibenedetto Curtis Key Sr Kyle Symington 14 Chevrolet Curtis Key Plumbing 23 42 Kyle Larson(i) Harry Scott Jr Scott Zipadelli 14 Chevrolet Cartwheel by Target 24 43 Dakoda Armstrong Richard Petty Philippe Lopez 14 Ford WinField 25 44 Blake Koch Mark Smith Greg Conner 14 Toyota Ingersoll Rand 26 46 Ryan Ellis Curtis Key Sr Gary Showalter 14 Chevrolet Curtis Key Plumbing 27 51 Jeremy Clements Tony Clements Ricky Pearson 14 Chevrolet All South Electric- Repairable Vehicles 28 52 Joey Gase Jimmy Means Tim Brown 14 Chevrolet TBA 29 54 Kyle Busch(i) J D Gibbs Adam Stevens 14 Toyota Monster Energy 30 55 Jamie Dick Jimmy Dick Mark Setzer 14 Chevrolet Viva Auto Group 31 60 Chris Buescher Jack Roush Scott Graves 14 Ford Roush Performance Parts 32 62 Brendan Gaughan Richard Childress Shane Wilson 14 Chevrolet South Point 33 70 Derrike Cope Mary Louise Miller Bobby Burrell 14 Chevrolet YOUTHEORY 34 74 Mike Harmon Mike Harmon Gary Ritter 12 Dodge TBA 35 177 Brennan Newberry(i) Jimmy Dick Jason Miller 14 Chevrolet Qore24 36 184 Chad Boat Billy Boat Dan Deeringhoff 14 Chevrolet Vektor Vodka Chevrolet 37 87 Carl Long Andrea Nemechek Steven Gray 14 Chevrolet Rick Ware Racing 38 93 Kevin Swindell Gregg Mixon Ken Evans 13 Dodge JGL Racing 39 99 James Buescher Robby Benton Matthew Lucas 14 Toyota Rheem MORE: READ: Latest Chase news PLAY: Monitor your Chase Grid Game picks WATCH: Latest NASCAR video FOLLOW LIVE: Get RaceView
Sprint Cup qualifying order for Talladega
# Car Driver Team 1 7 Regan Smith Golden Corral Chevrolet 2 47 AJ Allmendinger Kroger/Hungry Jack/Crisco Chevrolet 3 48 Jimmie Johnson Lowe's Chevrolet 4 31 Ryan Newman Caterpillar Chevrolet 5 83 Matt DiBenedetto Dustless Blasting Toyota 6 46 Michael Annett Pilot Flying J Chevrolet 7 30 * Josh Wise Curtis Key Plumbing Chevrolet 8 32 Bobby Labonte Rimrock Devlin Ford 9 23 David Ragan Schluter Systems Toyota 10 88 Dale Earnhardt Jr Nationwide Chevrolet 11 2 Brad Keselowski Miller Lite Ford 12 43 Aric Almirola Fresh From Florida Ford 13 14 Ty Dillon (i) Bass Pro Shops Chevrolet 14 15 Clint Bowyer AccuDoc Solutions Chevrolet 15 5 Kasey Kahne Farmers Insurance Chevrolet 16 34 Chris Buescher # Love's Travel Stops/CSX-Play it Safe Ford 17 17 Ricky Stenhouse Jr Fifth Third Bank Ford 18 11 Denny Hamlin FedEx Express Toyota 19 19 Carl Edwards ARRIS Toyota 20 78 Martin Truex Jr Bass Pro Shops/TRACKER Boats Toyota 21 20 Matt Kenseth Dollar General Toyota 22 44 Brian Scott # Twisted Tea Ford 23 38 Landon Cassill FR8Auctions Ford 24 3 Austin Dillon Dow - Energy & Water/Intellifresh Chevrolet 25 98 * Cole Whitt RticCoolers.com Toyota 26 27 Paul Menard Moen/Menards Chevrolet 27 18 Kyle Busch Skittles Marvel Toyota 28 35 * David Gilliland Shaw's Southern Belle Seafood Ford 29 21 * Ryan Blaney # Motorcraft/Quick Lane Tire & Auto Center Ford 30 55 * Michael Waltrip Peak & BlueDEF Toyota 31 16 Greg Biffle Ford EcoBoost Ford 32 95 Michael McDowell Thrivent Financial Chevrolet 33 42 Kyle Larson Target Chevrolet 34 22 Joey Logano Shell Pennzoil Ford 35 13 Casey Mears GEICO Chevrolet 36 4 Kevin Harvick Busch Fishing Chevrolet 37 6 Trevor Bayne AdvoCare Ford 38 10 Danica Patrick Aspen Dental Chevrolet 39 41 Kurt Busch Monster Energy Chevrolet 40 24 Chase Elliott # NAPA Auto Parts Chevrolet 41 1 Jamie McMurray McDonald's Chevrolet * Required to qualify on time, (i) Ineligible for driver points in this series
NAPA reveals its 24 races for Chase Elliott in '16
RELATED: See Chase's 2016 NAPA paint scheme " Buy tickets to 2016 races Chase Elliott 's No. 24 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet for his rookie season in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series will carry primary sponsorship from NAPA Auto Parts for 24 races in 2016. On Friday, those 24 races were revealed by NAPA . The company had sponsored Elliott the past two series in his NASCAR XFINITY Series ride with JR Motorsports. Here are NAPA's 24 races in 2016 with Elliott: Feb. 21: Daytona International Speedway Feb. 28: Atlanta Motor Speedway Mar. 6: Las Vegas Motor Speedway Mar. 13: Phoenix International Raceway Mar. 20: Auto Club Speedway Apr. 9: Texas Motor Speedway May 1: Talladega Superspeedway May 7: Kansas Speedway May 15: Dover International Speedway May 29: Charlotte Motor Speedway June 5: Pocono Raceway June 12: Michigan International Speedway July 9: Kentucky Speedway July 17: New Hampshire Motor Speedway July 24: Indianapolis Motor Speedway July 31: Pocono Raceway Aug. 20: Bristol Motor Speedway Aug. 28: Michigan International Speedway Sept. 4: Darlington Raceway Sept. 18: Chicagoland Speedway Sept. 25: New Hampshire Motor Speedway Oct. 23: Talladega Superspeedway Oct. 30: Martinsville Speedway Nov. 20: Homestead-Miami Speedway
Getting by with a little help from our friends
After taking inspiration from Tony Stewart and Ty Dillon, NASCAR.com's Chuck Bush describes a new way to promote teamwork at the track.
O'Reilly Auto Parts Challenge entry list
The Nationwide Series returns to action at Texas RELATED: Play NASCAR Fantasy Live " Sign up for RaceView today Entry # Driver Owner Crew chief Manufacturer Sponsor 1 01 Landon Cassill Johnny Davis Dave Fuge 14 Chevrolet TeamJDMotorsports.com 2 2 Brian Scott Richard Childress Phil Gould 14 Chevrolet Country Bob's Sauce 3 3 Ty Dillon Richard Childress Danny Stockman Jr 14 Chevrolet Bass Pro Shops 4 4 Jeffrey Earnhardt Gary Keller Gary Cogswell 14 Chevrolet teamjdmotorsports.com 5 5 Kevin Harvick(i) Rick Hendrick Ernie Cope 14 Chevrolet Hunt Brothers Pizza 6 6 Trevor Bayne Jack Roush Chad Norris 14 Ford AdvoCare 7 7 Regan Smith Kelley Earnhardt-Miller Ryan Pemberton 14 Chevrolet TaxSlayer.com 8 9 Chase Elliott Dale Earnhardt Jr Greg Ives 14 Chevrolet NAPA AUTO PARTS 9 10 Blake Koch Mark Smith Todd Myers 14 Toyota SupportMilitary.org 10 11 Elliott Sadler J D Gibbs Chris Gayle 14 Toyota OneMain Financial 11 12 Ryan Blaney(i) Roger Penske Greg Erwin 14 Ford Snap-On 12 14 Eric McClure Mark Smith Wes Ward 14 Toyota Hefty Ultimate / Reynolds Wrap 13 16 Ryan Reed Jack Roush Seth Barbour 14 Ford ADA Drive to Stop Diabetes presented by Lilly Diabetes 14 19 Mike Bliss Mark Smith Paul Clapprood 14 Toyota Tweaker Energy Shot 15 20 Matt Kenseth(i) Joe Gibbs Kevin Kidd 14 Toyota GameStop 16 22 Joey Logano(i) Roger Penske Jeremy Bullins 14 Ford Discount Tire 17 23 Robert Richardson Jr Robert Richardson Sr George Church 14 Chevrolet Willbros 18 25 John Wes Townley(i) Tony Townley Mike Ford 14 Toyota Zaxby's 19 28 J J Yeley James Whitener Steve Plattenberger 13 Dodge Texas 28 Spirits Stage 20 31 Dylan Kwasniewski Steve Turner Shannon Rursch 14 Chevrolet AccuDoc / Rockstar 21 33 Austin Dillon(i) Richard Childress Nick Harrison 14 Chevrolet TBD 22 39 Ryan Sieg Rod Sieg Kevin Starland 14 Chevrolet RSS Racing 23 40 Matt Dibenedetto Curtis Key Sr Kyle Symington 14 Chevrolet Curtis Key Plumbing 24 42 Kyle Larson(i) Harry Scott Jr Scott Zipadelli 14 Chevrolet Phillips Norelco 25 43 Dakoda Armstrong Richard Petty Philippe Lopez 14 Ford WinField 26 44 David Starr Mark Smith Greg Conner 14 Toyota Whataburger 27 46 Ryan Ellis Curtis Key Sr Gary Showalter 14 Chevrolet Curtis Key Plumbing 28 51 Jeremy Clements Tony Clements Ricky Pearson 14 Chevrolet Crescent Companies 29 52 Joey Gase Jimmy Means Tim Brown 14 Chevrolet TBA 30 54 Kyle Busch(i) J D Gibbs Adam Stevens 14 Toyota Monster Energy 31 55 Jamie Dick Jimmy Dick Mark Setzer 14 Chevrolet Viva Auto Group 32 60 Chris Buescher Jack Roush Scott Graves 14 Ford Bit O Honey Mustang 33 62 Brendan Gaughan Richard Childress Shane Wilson 14 Chevrolet Smokey Mountain Snuff 34 70 Derrike Cope Mary Louise Miller Bobby Burrell 14 Chevrolet YOUTHEORY 35 74 Mike Harmon Mike Harmon Gary Ritter 12 Dodge John II Concrete Const. 36 184 Chad Boat Billy Boat Dan Deeringhoff 14 Chevrolet Corvetteparts.net 37 87 Carlos Contreras Andrea Nemechek Steven Gray 14 Chevrolet RACETRAC Convenience Stores 38 89 Morgan Shepherd Morgan Shepherd Kevyn Rebolledo 14 Chevrolet Courtney Construction 39 190 Martin Roy Michelle Gosselin Mario Gosselin 14 Chevrolet TBA 40 93 Kevin Swindell Gregg Mixon Ken Evans 13 Dodge JGL Racing 41 98 Corey LaJoie(i) Fred Biagi Jon Hanson 14 Ford Medallion Financial/Smithfield 42 99 James Buescher Robby Benton Matthew Lucas 14 Toyota Rheem MORE: READ: Latest Chase news PLAY: Monitor your Chase Grid Game picks WATCH: Latest NASCAR video FOLLOW LIVE: Get RaceView
Stewart preps for relief driver switch at Talladega
RELATED: Weekend schedule " Dillon ready for action TALLADEGA, Ala. -- A week after returning to NASCAR Sprint Cup Series competition, Tony Stewart becomes a start-and-park driver. In a manner of speaking. Start-and-watch might be more appropriate. The three-time premier series champion missed the season's first eight points races after suffering a back injury during the offseason. RELATED: Full timeline of Stewart's injury, comeback Stewart is scheduled to start his No. 14 Stewart-Haas Racing Chevrolet in Sunday's GEICO 500 (1 p.m. ET, FOX, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio) at Talladega Superspeedway before turning over the wheel to XFINITY Series driver Ty Dillon . It's an infrequent turn of events, but something that does happen from time to time in NASCAR. Last season, Erik Jones stepped in for Denny Hamlin at Bristol Motor Speedway after the Joe Gibbs Racing driver developed a neck spasm during a rain delay. Jones finished 26th. Hamlin was also involved in a driver swap at Talladega in 2013. Injured in an accident at Auto Club Speedway , Hamlin started the Aaron's 499 but eventually gave up the seat to Brian Vickers . J.J. Yeley replaced Bill Elliott during a race here in 2011; he also replaced Stewart in '08 during the summer race at Daytona. Stewart, speaking to the media Friday at Talladega, said he expects to do "what I always do around here at the beginning of the race … just ride around in the back until we get to the first caution." It won't be "glamorous," he said, but it meets his doctors' request. Well, almost. According to Stewart, his doctors didn't want him competing at all this weekend. "We need the points and so we talked them into letting us to at least start the race," said Stewart, who sits 101 points out of 30th. MORE: Standings pre-Talladega "I told them it normally doesn't go more than two or three laps at the beginning of the race before a caution. It might go 82 or 83 laps, who knows? But, we'll run until it gets there." Unofficially, the last time a relief driver won a NASCAR premier series race was 1977, and it occurred at Talladega as well. Donnie Allison started what was then a July race but eventually turned the driving over to Darrell Waltrip due to illness. Waltrip replaced Allison with 23 laps remaining and took the lead with six to go when race leader Skip Manning's car suffered mechanical problems. According to NASCAR rules, points earned by an entry are awarded to the driver starting the race, meaning Stewart will be credited with those earned Sunday by Dillon.
Stewart embraced, supported by drivers in return
RELATED: Full Stewart coverage " Drivers react to Stewart's return RICHMOND, Va. -- The feeling around the NASCAR garage at Richmond International Raceway on Friday was both unanimous and magnanimous. Tony Stewart 's return to Sprint Cup Series competition this weekend was the big news of the week, possibly the year and he was greeted by welcome text messages, friendly pats on the back, and lots of smiles and goodwill. NASCAR legend Richard Petty, whose team's car was parked in the garage stall next to Stewart's, sought Stewart out and embraced him. By the time Stewart, 44, climbed into his No. 14 Mobil 1 Chevrolet for Friday morning's opening practice, many of his competitors had stopped by to shake the three-time champ's hand or wish him well in his first racing weekend since the 2015 season finale. Doctors cleared Stewart to compete this weekend after an eight-race absence while his body healed from a broken back -- an injury he suffered during an all-terrain vehicle (ATV) accident just before the season began. RELATED: Stewart's return is the talk of the garage Stewart broke the news of his return himself on Twitter Thursday saying, "Well the long wait is over. I'll be back in my @Mobil1 Chevy this weekend at Richmond. I can't wait to race again." Then he added, "The Dr's said my scans ‘looked much better than they thought they would after 3 months.' So they cleared me." He will start Sunday's Toyota Owners 400 from the 18th-place on the grid -- his position in the only practice on a day shortened because of rain. But the weather was the only downer on a day dominated by a warm and enthusiastic welcome back for Stewart. "I don't know about from the NASCAR standpoint, but from a competitor's standpoint Tony is one of the fiercest competitors in the sport so to have him there and have someone to battle against is fun," Carl Edwards said. Stewart's Stewart-Haas Racing teammate Kevin Harvick won the pole for Sunday's race thanks to a chart-topping run in Friday's only practice and it certainly sets the stage for a grand return of the team's namesake. Stewart's team confirmed their leader is re-energized and enjoying the positive reinforcement throughout the garage and in the grandstands. "It's been interesting just for the fact that I came to Stewart-Haas Racing to race with Tony, and obviously it's been an in-and-out of the car situation for the last two and a half years," Harvick said. "So, to see where he was from a personal standpoint over the time from when he got hurt and everything that happened, and see his interaction from the owner's standpoint over the last several weeks has been very interesting to me, just to see how engaged he was and how excited he was and how relaxed and into what was going on." And his fellow competitors want to see "Smoke" go out strong. "This is a retirement season for him and it was a little bit delayed, but he's now going to some of the these race tracks for the final time and I know just in general, Tony has been around and traveling each week to the race and tracks and been very hands on with his race team," Daytona 500 winner Denny Hamlin said Friday. "It's a great season and I would love to see him make a Chase push if he can and end on a good note."
Keselowski and Hendrick: What might have been
On April 18, 2009, Mark Martin won the Subway Fresh Fit 500 at Phoenix International Raceway . It was the 36th NASCAR premier series win for the 50-year-old driver and his first with team owner Rick Hendrick. A week and a day later, Brad Keselowski won the Aaron's 499 at Talladega Superspeedway . It was the first career win for the 25-year-old, and the first premier series victory for independent car owner James Finch. Two distinctly different races won by two distinctly different drivers. Martin's NASCAR career was beginning to wind down; Keselowski's, on the other hand, appeared to have only just begun. But there was one string that tied the two together -- Hendrick Motorsports . HMS was home to Martin, Jimmie Johnson , Jeff Gordon and Dale Earnhardt Jr . And it was expected by many to be the future home of the up-and-coming kid from Rochester Hills, Michigan. But a collection of factors that came together throughout the course of that season altered the racing landscape as well as the career path of Keselowski. It would be nearly three years before the next driver change at HMS. By then Keselowski had not only found a new home, but he was also on his way to winning the Sprint Cup championship. 'I WAS NOT GOING TO LOSE' The sun was out and the grandstands were packed when the 2009 Aaron's 499, the season's ninth Sprint Cup race, went green for the final time. As race leader Ryan Newman tried to keep Earnhardt Jr., the crowd favorite, in check, Keselowski darted to the inside behind Carl Edwards on the track's massive backstretch. It was a move that didn’t seem to mean much at the time. But at the start-finish line with two laps remaining, Edwards and Keselowski shot to the outside entering Turn 1. "Here they come; look at the 99 and ..." NASCAR on FOX analyst Darrell Waltrip began. " Brad Keselowski ," lead announcer Mike Joy and co-analyst Larry McReynolds chimed in. When the white flag appeared, Edwards and Keselowski had caught and were beginning to pull away from Newman and Earnhardt Jr. Racing back through the tri-oval, Keselowski turned his No. 09 Chevrolet to the outside, and then quickly dropped to the bottom as Edwards moved up to block. Realizing the bottom lane was now open, Edwards reacted quickly -- but not quickly enough. Contact sent the No. 99 Ford spinning. Edwards' car came off the track briefly and was beginning to settle back onto the track it was struck by Newman's Chevrolet. The impact sent Edwards roof-first into the frontstretch catch fence. Meanwhile, Keselowski kept his foot in the gas, racing across the finish line for the win just ahead of Earnhardt Jr. "I was not going to lose," Keselowski said in his post-race winner's interview. "I was not going to lift and (I was going to) hold my ground and consequences be damned." A full-time competitor at the time for JR Motorsports (which, coincidentally, counts Earnhardt Jr. and Hendrick among its ownership group) in what is now the NASCAR XFINITY Series, Keselowski said he didn't know what the future held after his first premier series win. "I know I don't have anything locked in," he said. "That's really all I can say ... I don't have a job secured for next year, and everything to this point has been wait-and-see. I know this certainly can't hurt." But behind the scenes, moves were already underway. Finch's Phoenix Racing, which purchased it engines from HMS, had put Keselowski in the car at the suggestion of Hendrick. And the JRM/Hendrick pipeline, which grooms talent in the lower series to help restock the Sprint Cup program, was taking root. Keselowski had made two starts for Hendrick the previous year, and would make seven all together in '09, in addition to five races with Finch. Perhaps his future wasn't as cloudy as it appeared. "Rick had come out and told me, actually had made it a point to say to the media that he thought I was a future driver at Hendrick," Keselowski told NASCAR.com recently. There was only one problem. SWAN SONG? On July 4, 2008, HMS officials announced that Martin had signed a two-year agreement to drive the organization's No. 5 Chevrolet. According to the news release, Martin, who would run a full schedule in 2009, would "run a partial Sprint Cup schedule ... in 2010, sharing the No. 5 Chevy with a to-be-determined second driver.” By most accounts, that driver was expected to be Keselowski. But in May of '09, less than three weeks after Martin's Phoenix victory, HMS officials announced a revision to the '08 agreement. The veteran driver would return in 2010 to once again run the entire season. With Keselowski waiting in the wings and Martin winning and agreeing to return the following year, "Rick was kind of half pregnant," Keselowski said. "He (was) stuck. "My feeling was, after I had won Talladega, I'm going to get this 5 car ride partially next year, pair it with something else, let's go. I didn't know what it was going to be. We'll figure it out; let's go." A phone call and subsequent meeting with Hendrick, however, changed all that. "I was kind of expecting more of a 'Hey, we're going to expedite the process of clearing out the rest of this,' " Keselowski said of the meeting, "And instead I got a 'Hey, I don't have a ride for you. You need to figure something else out. I'll try to help.' "That was late April, early May of that year. My intent ... was to give him that time to kind of make right on it somehow, find a ride because he had made me the promise that I would have that car. It didn't sit all that well, but I understood the circumstances and so forth." Months passed and Keselowski busied himself with his full-time XFINITY Series effort at JRM while making a handful of Sprint Cup starts for Hendrick and Finch. Hendrick, in the meantime, was exploring the various avenues that might keep Keselowski in the HMS camp. Possible scenarios included Stewart-Haas Racing , at the time a two-team effort, and Red Bull Racing. Consideration was even given to fielding a Sprint Cup entry out of the JR Motorsports shop, according to the owner. But the pieces didn't fit and as the summer wore on, Keselowski's future remained uncertain. "I wanted him to wait a year," Hendrick told NASCAR.com. "... I don't remember all the details, but I do remember that Mark had done so well, and I had tried to talk (Mark) into staying. "I've told all our guys, the first time I sat down with Brad he impressed me because he was so intense about the whole car and wanted to be involved in everything. He was just so committed. I told our guys he's got the right attitude about racing and driving. I just needed him to wait." Waiting, though, wasn't part of Keselowski's plan. "My perception is a driver is a lot like a perishable fruit," Keselowski said. "You've got so much time, then he spoils and goes bad. There are a lot of variables, much like anything." PENSKE COMES CALLING The Keselowski family has always been involved in racing. Brad's father Bob was an ARCA Series standout and a former winner in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series. Ron Keselowski, an uncle, scored two top-five finishes in 68 premier series starts while older brother Brian Keselowski has one or more starts in all three of NASCAR's national series. "We knew the Keselowski name from being here in Detroit," Walt Czarnecki, an executive vice president at Penske Corp., said. "His dad, his uncle, all that. They would run out at MIS ( Michigan International Speedway ) when (Penske) owned the track." But it was a business associate, lawyer/agent John Caponigro, who brought up the young driver's name during a conversation in 2009. "We thought he was committed to Hendrick," Czarnecki said. "He'd been on loan to James Finch to run several races. But some things were changing." Conversations with Keselowski ensued, in Michigan as well as Mooresville, North Carolina, where Team Penske is headquartered. "All this time," Czarnecki said, "Still having this somewhat uncertain situation with Mr. Hendrick." Team Penske had grown from a two-team to a three-team organization in '08, fielding cars for drivers Kurt Busch , Ryan Newman and Sam Hornish Jr . In '09 Newman departed to join owner/driver Tony Stewart at Stewart-Haas Racing and 32-year-old David Stremme was brought on board to fill the open seat. But the Keselowski opportunity was intriguing, according to Czarnecki. "We've tried to sign on what we consider to be the best available young drivers with a great deal of potential that we could mold and have them grow in our organization," he said. "And I think that Brad certainly fit that description. "But above and beyond that, he had a bigger vision as to what role he wanted to play in terms of the development of the team. ... Just how he saw different things coming together ... "Some of it may have been a little unrealistic; some of it was certainly the enthusiasm of a young man who had a goal in mind. ... But he had this great enthusiasm and he had this great desire and this great commitment. And that appealed to us." With the Hendrick effort seemingly stalled, Keselowski went back to Penske with a request -- to compete full-time in both the Sprint Cup and XFINITY Series. In addition to its Sprint Cup effort, Team Penske was fielding one full-time XFINITY Series team with driver Justin Allgaier . Expanding that program to two teams running all the races was problematic, given the economy at the time. Told such a scenario was unlikely, Keselowski was left to consider his few available options. But Penske officials continued to work until enough of the appropriate pieces were in place. "Sure enough, Roger called me one night and said 'Alright, I've got it put together,' " Keselowski said. "It kind of caught me off guard. I was sold. That's it; he made it happen." "I couldn't sit around and wait. ... Roger had gone above and beyond to put something together that I felt like was the opportunity I needed. ... The economy was on its way down fast; Roger (through his various businesses) had a lot of immunities to the economy. Rick made it very clear to me that he was not going to invest himself without having a sponsor, and the economy was not in a spot where he could facilitate that." Hendrick had been aware of the Penske interest from the beginning, having had conversations with his fellow team owner about Keselowski's status. "Roger called me and asked me could he talk to him," Hendrick said. "I didn't want to stand in his way. Brad's a hell of a talent. It was a timing issue. "It's worked out for him. At his age it would have been nice if we could have kept him. ... If I got a call from Roger and I was in his spot I would have done exactly what he did." POSTSCRIPT On Sept. 1, 2009, Team Penske officials announced that the organization had signed Keselowski to compete full-time in both the Sprint Cup and XFINITY Series beginning the following season. Since then, Keselowski has won 17 Sprint Cup races, 28 XFINITY Series races and championships in both series. "I don't want to sound mercenary but he brought us our first Sprint Cup championship (in 2012)," Czarnecki said. "Because that vision that he outlined, we tried to work with him and bring people along, bring people into the organization, have him work with people like (crew chief) Paul Wolfe, it was really the realization of that vision. That's what it (has) meant. "And his intensity hasn't changed." Former teammates Busch and Hornish have departed, and fellow driver AJ Allmendinger has come and gone. Keselowski, now 32, is the veteran of a Penske group that now includes 25-year-old teammate Joey Logano . "I wasn’t looking to switch," Keselowski said. "If things would have gone the way they were supposed to go before Mark won that race at Phoenix, I would still be there."