Jonathan Merryman recaps a busy Friday at Dover International Speedway, despite cars being unable to hit the track due to weather, with Clint Bowyer announcing his plans for 2016 and Dale Earnhardt Jr. welcoming Elliott Sadler to JR Motorsports.
RELATED: Photos of Stewart through the years " Bowyer tabbed as replacement Three-time premier series champion Tony Stewart smiled and conceded it was a "formality at this point" in announcing Wednesday afternoon that he would step away from full-time NASCAR Sprint Cup Series competition following the 2016 season. "It was a choice that is 100 percent mine, no pressure from anybody," Stewart said of his decision not to compete full-time anymore. "If anything, it's been the opposite, more people trying to talk me out of it. "Everyone in their career makes a decision when it's time for a change. I think deep down you know when it's time to do something different and make a change like this." Appearing jovial and without a hint of second-thought about his career decision, Stewart joked he was bringing Harry Gant out of retirement to drive the the Stewart-Haas Racing No. 14 Chevy in 2017, then confirmed that actually Clint Bowyer would be taking over his seat. The news confirmed months of speculation and rumor about Stewart's future and solidified Bowyer's career path as well with Bowyer's Michael Waltrip Racing team closing operations at the end of 2015. "It's all about people, all about culture for me, and I don't think the fit factor could be any better," said Bowyer, acknowledging the SHR ride was "one of the biggest powerhouses in the sport" and said an announcement is coming later this week about his 2016 plans. Wednesday was clearly more about "the people's champion" as Stewart is often referred. One of the most popular and accomplished champions to ever compete in NASCAR's marquee series, Stewart, 44, has won three premier series titles as a driver (2002, 2005, 2011) and two as an owner (2011, 2014), accumulated 48 victories and won over countless hearts as a kind of extreme throw-back talent garnering comparisons to racing's all-time greats such as A.J. Foyt and Dale Earnhardt. Quite simply, Stewart won in every car he drove. And NASCAR fans always appreciated that about the driver known by his nickname, "Smoke." RELATED: Drivers react to Stewart's announcement Stewart won a NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race in 15 straight seasons from his 1999 rookie year through 2013, and he has 11 NASCAR XFINITY Series wins in 94 starts -- roughly winning once every 10 times he tried. He won twice in six NASCAR Camping World Truck Series starts and had five top-10 finishes. "When I think of Tony Stewart , unmatched passion and a pure love of the sport come to mind," NASCAR Chairman and CEO Brian France said in a release. "He has won championships and millions of fans. But he has given back so much more, and that's what I admire most. Today's news was bittersweet for all, but we know Tony will continue to be a big part of our sport in his roles as a team and track owner. On behalf of the entire NASCAR family, I thank Tony for his many years of excellence and competitiveness, and wish him nothing but the best in his final season as a driver in the Sprint Cup Series." The 1997 IndyCar champion -- and 1996 Indy 500 Rookie of the Race -- proved his mettle against motorsports' best drivers, winning four times in IROC competition, earning the 2006 IROC championship and finishing runner-up in 2001. In 1999 he completed racing's Memorial Day "Double," finishing ninth in the Indianapolis 500 and fourth in NASCAR's Coca-Cola 600 later that same day in North Carolina. Stewart was the first driver in history to win all three major United States Auto Club national championships -- Midget, Sprint and Silver Crown -- in a single season. So after essentially four decades behind the wheel fulltime, Stewart said he contemplated this decision for a while and said this week, he is completely at peace. "I've learned a lot about myself," Stewart said. You run through the range of emotions. There's days you're like, I can't wait, and then there's days that are like, man, do I ‑‑ you battle back and forth. "I'm not leaving the sport I love. I'm not walking away from something I'm passionate about, I'm just changing roles, which it's like just moving to a different position in a company. "I'm not really retiring, I'm just changing positions." RELATED: Best quotes from Stewart's press conference It's been an admittedly uphill climb for the champ after the last three seasons of horrible injury and extreme heartbreak. He missed the last 15 races in the 2013 season after suffering a compound leg fracture while competing in a sprint car race. Then last year, while still mending from that injury, Stewart was involved in another sprint car accident. This time, another competitor, Kevin Ward Jr., was killed when, after approaching Stewart's car on track during a caution period, the car struck Ward. Stewart sat out three Sprint Cup races immediately after. No criminal charges were found to be justified against Stewart; the Ward family filed a civil lawsuit against him a year later. On Wednesday Stewart stressed that his decision to stop driving in the Cup series full-time had "zero percent to with (the Ward situation)" and that physically, "my leg feels fine, there's nothing wrong with my leg." He said he may even compete in Sprint cars again. He listed the Rolex 24 at Daytona as a possibility and mentioned racing modifieds and making sporadic starts in the XFINITY and Camping World Truck Series -- all things he plans to do without the stress and full schedule of racing full-time in the Sprint Cup ranks. RELATED: Tony talks toll on leg, life In the past two seasons, Stewart has struggled to post the kind of top-shelf results both he and his fans had grown accustomed to seeing. But he has consistently insisted that was more to do with the current rules package than his off-track distractions. He said earlier this year that NASCAR's new high downforce, low horsepower car does not suit his style and is actually "the opposite of everything I've ever driven. "It's like I'm in the middle of a calculus equation and I didn't take pre-calculus,'' Stewart told NASCAR.com this May. He is currently 25th in the Sprint Cup Series driver standings with a sub-standard two top-10 finishes in his No. 14 Bass Pro Shops/Mobil 1 Chevrolet this year. But he was adamant that he would not be coasting in his final season and that this decision was not "performance based." Stepping away from his NASCAR driving duties, Stewart's focus shifts to running his beloved Eldora Speedway in Ohio and to being a team owner. His resume out of the car is already as impressive as his work behind the steering wheel. "It's just time to do what we're doing," Stewart said. "I still fully anticipate we're going to get things turned around. If I didn't feel that way, I wouldn't waste my time next year for anybody. I'm not a guy that's going to get in a car and ride. We're full steam ahead. "We're going to keep working and try to win as many races as we can next year, and that goal is going to be ‑‑ when you guys get to February, go ahead and write this down, what our goals are for the year, we're going to try to win races, try to win the Daytona 500 , then the Brickyard 400, the Southern 500, and try to win a championship." Ultimately, stepping away from his NASCAR driving duties, Stewart's focus shifts to running his beloved Eldora Speedway in Ohio and to being a team owner. His effort out of the car is already as impressive as his work behind the steering wheel. His namesake Stewart-Haas Racing No. 4 team is the reigning Sprint Cup owner champion thanks to Kevin Harvick 's 2014 championship run, and two of his team's four drivers -- Harvick and Kurt Busch -- are in this year's Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup . This summer Stewart collected his 10th Knoxville Nationals trophy in the World of Outlaws Sprint Car Series fielding a car for driver Donny Schatz, who has also delivered five World of Outlaw championships for Stewart. He has 23 national titles as a team owner. "I've won more car championships as an owner than a driver," Stewart said "I'm definitely as competitive as an owner as I am a driver. …That fire's still there and that's what makes this transition easier." While his success driving and fielding cars is partly responsible for Stewart's incredible popularity over the years, he is also one of the sport's most robust personalities. RELATED: 'Smoke' still the people's champion He's not afraid to express his displeasure at his competitors' blunders, and the other drivers have come to expect either face time or bumper time with him after on track run-ins. And Stewart's "no-fools" tolerance policy extends to the media covering his career. There are highlight reels devoted to showcasing him sparring with reporters in press conferences and on pit road -- his wit and sarcasm legendary with the media corps. He grinned broadly and warned the room of reporters on Wednesday that he will not follow the guide of four-time champ Jeff Gordon who has met with the press nearly every week during this -- his last -- year of NASCAR competition. "Let's establish this right now: I will not be coming to the media center every week to talk about it,'" Stewart said smiling and shaking his head. "You can save your gifts. I've got enough rocking chairs at home as it is. I bought those when I wanted to go sit on my own rocking chair. You don't have to give me one. "I'm content to go race and be around the racing community and the racing family and be around our fans," he continued. "They can just send me a note from the track president and say, hey, thank you, and that'll be sufficient for me. "I think it's been very fitting for Jeff [Gordon]. I don't think I'm worthy of that kind of admiration because I think Jeff has really done so much for the sport that nobody will ever be able to do again. I think that kind of celebration is reserved for somebody like Jeff." One thing Stewart has across the board is respect -- from his competitors, to the fans and to the media who will be watching closely to see how this next chapter in his career and life plays out. He gave a couple hints on Wednesday afternoon. When it's time to drop the green flag for the 2017 Daytona 500 – the first one run without Tony Stewart on the grid since 1999 – the champ says he hasn't figured out quite yet where he'll be, but spoke about one possibility. "I'll probably be on some fan's motor home on the back stretch promoting our sponsors," Stewart said laughing. "I have no idea where I'm supposed to be yet. I've got a whole year to figure that out."
RELATED: Harvick confronts, shoves Johnson after race LOUDON, N.H. --- Joey Logano and Matt Kenseth shook off reporters' questions. Both Logano and Kenseth downplayed the post-race confrontation between Jimmie Johnson and Kevin Harvick . The incident took place after last week's opener for the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup at Chicagoland. "Didn't see it, don't know,'' Kenseth said, referring to a video clip that showed Harvick shoving Johnson in the garage. RELATED: Watch: Harvick shoves Johnson after the race Logano, who has previously had his own post-race confrontation with Harvick, was equally unwilling to offer an opinion. "I really don't have much of a reaction to be honest with you, I'm focused on my own thing,'' Logano said Friday morning before opening practice for Sunday's Sylvania 300 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway . "It is what it is. That's what seems to happen in the Chase. Emotions seem to get fired up pretty quick and I don't really have a reaction. I'm not surprised. I'm not anything. It is what it is.'' Logano was actually in the catbird seat for the Johnson and Harvick on-track collision that precipitated the off-track situation. Johnson said his car was hit from behind by Logano on a re-start and that sent him down onto the track apron three-wide with Harvick. Johnson tried to get that bottom lane on-track back and that's when his and Harvick's Chevrolets touched just briefly, leaving Harvick with a smoking tire. A few laps later Harvick's car hit the wall, suffering significant damage and leaving him with a 42nd-place finish. Harvick took issue with what he thought was Johnson forcing his way back on track. Logano told SiriusXM NASCAR Radio on pit road after the race that he did not touch Johnson and wasn't involved in any way. After the race, the six-time Cup champ Johnson, still dressed in his driver's suit, waited outside Harvick's motorcoach to speak with the reigning champ about the incident. A video replay shows Harvick push Johnson in the chest and then him being restrained as Johnson calmly walked away from the situation. Neither Logano nor Kenseth is willing to count Harvick out of the championship picture despite the fact his Chicagoland afternoon puts the champ on the outside looking in with two races left to determine the top 12 drivers who advance to the next Chase round (the Contender Round). Harvick is in 15th position in the standings -- 22 points behind Gordon in 12th place. He was ranked 16th until Clint Bowyer received a hefty 25-point penalty from NASCAR this week dropping him behind Harvick in points. RELATED: Bowyer drops to 16th in Chase standings after penalty The defending race winner Logano, meanwhile, is ranked sixth in the standings and was very confident in his Team Penske squad, keeping Kenseth's Joe Gibbs Racing team honest. Since Kyle Busch 's victory July 19 at the New Hampshire mile, every Cup race has been won by Gibbs' four-car Toyota organization or Penske's two-car Ford effort. But both Logano and Kenseth noted Harvick's speed at Chicago. "I wouldn't consider them out at this point by no means,'' Logano said of Harvick. "They're still a very strong team and they'll be up there racing hard and trying to get to the next round. "If you look at the big picture, obviously you want the fastest cars out because it gives you the best chance when you get to (the championship finale at) Homestead. But I'm not gonna change or do anything different out there. I've still got to get myself there. That's Priority 1, getting our team to Homestead.''
Debating restarts, Chase package and Denny's off-track activity RELATED: Subscribe to NASCAR Illustrated " Kenseth unapologetic about Richmond The Chase is here and Joe Gibbs Racing heads into the 10-race postseason with a head of steam -- much like this week's installment of "Herman Unplugged." Onward, we roll! NASCAR ILLUSTRATED: We had some more restart controversy coming out of Richmond. Any problem with what Matt Kenseth did there en route to the win? HERMAN: "Absolutely not. I'm consistent. And if I'm wrong, I'll tell you I'm wrong. Matt Kenseth did what he needed to do to win that race and that's the game we played. When I was racing short tracks, my crew chief Steve Bird told people, 'You better watch Kenny Wallace , he plays games on restarts.' This theory where everybody comes to the start-finish line beautifully and takes off, that would really be boring. We don't need that; we need games on restarts." NI: Why have restarts have been such an issue lately? HERMAN: "These drivers are over the top mad about this because with the high downforce package it's so hard to pass, so they feel like the restart is the only chance they have to pass. I get that but I think all of this will go away next year with the low downforce. I don't think you'll have to take these chances next year on the restarts. It will be a case of I'll just pass that guy around the next corner or so." NI: Speaking of the low downforce package, would you like to see it used in the Chase particularly with five 1.5-mile tracks left on the schedule -- or is NASCAR doing the right thing using the conventional package? HERMAN: "In reality, they are making the right decision because 98 percent of the year this championship is based on the high downforce package. So to change the rules in the middle of the game, I'd say they would be changing the game." NI: Given how well the package performed at Kentucky and Darlington, it provides a spark heading into next year but it'd be nice to start riding that wave into the Chase, too. HERMAN: "It was unprecedented what they did in changing the rules at Kentucky and Darlington. They got away with it because the racing was so extremely good and it gave the fans a glimpse into next year and gave everybody a lot of hope. I think there are a lot of fans excited about next year because of the preview we saw this year. Even though they are doing the right thing, I would love to see them go to the low downforce package now at the start of the Chase because everybody would be on the same playing field. But that's wishful thinking." NI: Denny Hamlin 's ACL injury playing basketball brought to mind Smoke's injury in the dirt car. Hamlin said he had no real contractual restrictions on extracurricular activities. Should drivers have the freedom to do anything they want outside the race car? HERMAN: "I look at it this way: Denny's a young man, he's not a kid anymore and I think that's important. He is of age and then you have a lot more responsibilities. In your 20s, you're just having a good old time and you are invincible. Denny has proven that he's very fragile. He could be walking with a cane in the future. He's blown both knees out, ACLs, and with this knowledge going forward there's 500 employees over there at Joe Gibbs Racing . He has a lot of responsibility now. I think the only thing he can do now is play H-O-R-S-E. It makes me nervous every time he plays golf or picks up a ball because he gets hurt all the time. What happens if the next one really takes him out?" SUBSCRIBE NOW!
RELATED: CMS plans '24-day salute' for Gordon There will be a slightly different look to the frontstretch when NASCAR teams travel to Charlotte Motor Speedway in October for Sprint Cup and XFINITY Series events. Track engineers and turf specialists began the process this week of installing a 6-foot wide "transition barrier" between the pavement and the grass area that separates the racing surface from pit road. The border, which consists of a sand/soil mix with rye grass and will be the same level as the asphalt, is expected to decrease the likelihood of damage to a car should it travel off the racing surface and onto the infield grass. "The goal is to create something similar to a fairway to rough transition you might see on a golf course," Scott Cooper, Vice President of Communications for CMS, told NASCAR.com. "If a driver gets pinched down, he or she should have a good opportunity to get back on the track without suffering too much damage to the car." Current ride-height rules have Sprint Cup cars much lower than in previous years, and damage to splitters and other front-end pieces of the cars often occur after nothing more than a spin through the grass at some facilities. Crews will put down approximately 140 tons of the sand/soil mix to complete the project. Only the grass transition barrier will be lower – the infield grass beyond the 6-foot area where sponsor and track logos normally appear -- will be unchanged. "Hopefully, this will create another 'Pass in the Grass' opportunity," Cooper said, referencing Dale Earnhardt's brief run through the infield grass en route to winning the series' 1997 All-Star Race. Contact between Earnhardt and Bill Elliott as the two battled for the lead sent Earnhardt's blue-and-yellow No. 3 briefly off-track ; Earnhardt maintained control of his car and remained the leader as he shot back up onto the racing surface. CMS will host the Bank of America Sprint Cup Series race Saturday, Oct. 10. It is the first race of the Contender Round in this year's Chase for the Sprint Cup . The Drive for the Cure 300 NASCAR XFINITY Series race is scheduled for Friday, Oct. 9.
Alan Cavanna keeps you Up to Speed from Martinsville, where Jimmie Johnson and Matt Kenseth were near each other everywhere from the media center, to the garage and even on the scoring pylon Friday.
Second-year driver will start sixth in Sunday's Axalta 'We Paint Winners' 400 LONG POND, Pa. -- Halfway through the 2015 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series regular season, Austin Dillon admits the results aren't where the No. 3 Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet team wants them in his second season in the sport's top series. "It'd be like a C-minus on our finishes," Dillon told NASCAR.com at Pocono Raceway , site of Sunday's Axalta 'We Paint Winners' 400 (1 p.m. ET, FOX Sports 1, MRN, SiriusXM). "As far as on speed compared to last year, we're better. We haven't had the finishes that we want. I think my driving style is fine. We just could be better on the last couple restarts. Our points aren't there because of motor issues and failures. Hopefully, we can get rid of some of those failures." Those issues Dillon speaks of are an electrical problem in March at Martinsville that led to a 41st-place finish and an engine failure in May at Talladega that resulted in a 35th-place finish. "I think we'd be in the top 14, 13 in points if you take away two engine failures, a blown tire in Atlanta. A couple of different things that didn't go our way that we could have back would really benefit where we should be." One of the hallmarks of his rookie campaign was Dillon's ability to log laps and stay on track. In 2014, he missed logging only 53 laps of the 10,541 circuits. Keeping his car clean and out of trouble had him 15th in points this time last year. This season, he has already been off track for 259 laps of the 4,321 laps run in large part due to engine woes he simply didn't have last year. Dillon comes into Sunday's race at Pocono 24th in the points standings with one top-10 finish (a 10th-place result at Bristol). With the exception of a 16th-place showing last month at Charlotte, Dillon has finished outside the top 20 in four of the past five races. On the plus side, Dillon's average starting spot is 17.2 (counting Pocono), an improvement from the 19.9 mark he averaged last season. That mark was further improved as Dillon backed up his fifth-fastest time in Friday's opening practice (176.561 mph), with a fast lap of 176.526 mph in the final round of qualifying. He will start Sunday's race sixth. This is his third straight start in the top 12 and his best starting spot in 2015. The two-time national series champion (2011 in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series and 2013 in the NASCAR XFINITY Series) has been spending some time in the XFINITY ranks, running the No. 33 Chevrolet for RCR. Dillon has scored two wins (at Las Vegas Motor Speedway in March and Charlotte Motor Speedway in May) and seven top fives in 10 starts in that series. The 25-year-old sees great value in the prepaation the extra seat time allows him. "It's definitely been more beneficial having the laps (in XFINITY ) on Saturdays to be prepared for Sundays, the start of the race especially," Dillon said. "We take off a lot better knowing what the track is going to do. We have two wins in the XFINITY cars, so the confidence has been really high. It's been great to have the XFINITY car." Dillon's two Sprint Cup starts at Pocono produced an average finish of 16.0 and starting positions of 11th in both races. But the driver is ready for what the Tricky Triangle has to offer and has a Camping World Truck Series win (in 2014) at the 2.5-mile track to boot. "Last year, both (Cup) races were pretty solid for us. We had one stint where we were really fast in the race last year and we took a similar package here. "Track position's always big. And if we can keep that, that would be beneficial." FULL SERIES COVERAGE • Latest news • Standings • Schedule
Sport to honor fallen service members with windshield tribute at Coca-Cola 600 DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (May 18, 2015) — When NASCAR® drivers start their engines for Sunday’s Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway , fans will see familiar names like "Harvick," "Kenseth" and "Almirola" replaced on car windshields with "SGT Mracek," "HM3 Layton" and "CPT Argel" -- United States Armed Forces members who have fallen in service to their country. All 43 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series drivers will participate in "600 Miles of Remembrance" on Memorial Day Weekend to honor military service members and their families, and commemorate the launch of NASCAR: An American Salute ™, the industry's collective expression of reverence, respect and gratitude for those who have served and continue to defend our nation today. Fans can follow stories around the seven-week platform and share their personal expressions of thanks to the military using #NASCARSalutes on social media. "The NASCAR community rallying to honor the U.S. Armed Forces, past and present, has long been part of our sport's heritage," said Brent Dewar, Chief Operating Officer, NASCAR. "As part of NASCAR: An American Salute , 600 Miles of Remembrance represents a special moment in time as we pay tribute to service members who have sacrificed dearly for our freedom." Many of the service members whose names will be displayed on the race cars were chosen by the teams, and some have unique connections to the fallen. Private Dean Van Dyke, who was killed in the Vietnam War, was a relative of No. 16 Roush Fenway Racing driver Greg Biffle . Army First Lieutenant Daniel Hyde, killed during Operation Iraqi Freedom, served alongside Chris Clayton, tire changer on the No. 83 BK Racing team. Many of the families of the service members being recognized will be in attendance on Sunday, and will be introduced alongside the drivers during driver introductions. In addition, Charlotte Motor Speedway will host more than 6,000 active military members at the Coca-Cola 600 in honor of Memorial Day. NASCAR: An American Salute will feature various on- and off-track activities from tracks, teams and partners that show appreciation and support for the troops, and will culminate Independence Day Weekend with the Coke Zero 400 at Daytona International Speedway . This weekend, NASCAR together with Honor and Remember, Inc., will display specially prepared Honor and Remember flags representing those who have died in service to our country from each of the 50 United States throughout the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series garage at Charlotte Motor Speedway . Throughout the campaign, NASCAR will host military families at each NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race as part of NASCAR Troops to the Track™ Presented by Bank of America. Toyota will also honor the names of fallen service members on its pace cars for the Coca-Cola 600 as part of 600 Miles of Remembrance. Later in the program, both Chevrolet and Ford will feature patriotic branding on the pace cars for races at Pocono and Michigan, respectively. Many NASCAR Official Partners have mobilized to support NASCAR: An American Salute with military-themed activations, including: • For the sixth straight year, Goodyear is rallying NASCAR fans to support members of the U.S. Armed Forces through its "Goodyear Gives Back" charitable program benefiting the Support Our Troops® organization. To kick off the program, Goodyear will once again transform its NASCAR race tires by replacing the "Eagle" sidewall design with "Support Our Troops" messaging on all tires used during Memorial Day weekend at Charlotte Motor Speedway . This effort coincides with the May 21 launch of Goodyear's charity auction at www.Goodyear.com/GivesBack , which features autographed NASCAR memorabilia, VIP race experiences and rides on the Goodyear Blimp. • Bank of America is the presenting partner of NASCAR Troops to the Track -- a season-long program that honors members of the military and their families for their services, and treats them to a NASCAR race experience. This program is an extension of Bank of America's long-standing commitment to the military, focused on helping veterans and service members’ transition to civilian life. • NASCAR, Coca-Cola, Mars Chocolate North America, and 3M have collaborated to engage shoppers in over 180 military commissaries. On Tuesday, May 19, there will be all-day activation at Fort Bragg Commissary South featuring an appearance by Coca-Cola Racing Family Member Joey Logano , who will be giving away tickets to the Coca-Cola 600 . From May 18 to July 8, commissary shoppers can enter the 2015 Champion's Week Sweepstakes for a chance to win a trip to Las Vegas for NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Champion’s Week by texting "NASCARSALUTE" to 313131 or by visiting www.championsweek2015.com . • M&M's will introduce a national letter-writing campaign, in partnership with Operation Gratitude, encouraging fans to send messages of thanks and appreciation to military members. The notes will be included in more than 100,000 Operation Gratitude Care Packages which will be assembled and shipped to Troops deployed in harm’s way and to New Recruits upon their graduation from Boot Camp. • During Daytona International Speedway ’s Coke Zero 400 , all active duty military, veterans and their families can enjoy the Troops Welcome Center Presented by M&M’s. The center, which will be located in the midway, will be fully equipped with food and beverages, allowing service members to take a break and meet NASCAR drivers throughout the weekend. • In honor of the military, Miss Sprint Cup will wear NASCAR: An American Salute fire suits at the Coca-Cola 600 and Coke Zero 400 . This Sunday, NASCAR drivers will discuss 600 Miles of Remembrance on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio (channel 90) during a special military tribute show airing at 1 p.m. ET. The Dialed In Salute to the Troops special, hosted by Claire B. Lang, will feature interviews with several drivers as well as service men and service women from different branches of the military. During the Coca Cola 600 pre-race broadcast (5:30 p.m. ET, FOX), FOX Sports will recognize all service members who have lost their lives in the past year by displaying their names and branch of service on a graphic scroll. This will be FOX’s fifth year in a row dedicating the pre-race show to service members that have fallen in the line of duty. The NASCAR Sprint Cup Series’ Coca-Cola 600 will be broadcast live from Charlotte Motor Speedway at 6 p.m. ET on FOX, PRN and SiriusXM Radio. Additional live coverage can be found on NASCAR.com. To learn more about NASCAR: An American Salute , visit www.NASCAR.com/Salute .
MWR co-owner not leaving team, 'taking anything' to CGR LONG POND, Pa. -- Michael Waltrip Racing co-owner Rob Kauffman said on Saturday at Pocono Raceway that he plans to integrate MWR and Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates, in which he has purchased an interest. Meeting with media for the first time since MWR issued a statement two days ago that the team and CGR would "operate separately and compete agains each other for the remainder of the 2015 season" while "evaluating ways to field the most competitive race teams possible" for 2016 and beyond, Kauffman emphasized that he continued to work with Waltrip. "First and foremost, I think it's important to realize that Michael and I own Michael Waltrip Racing ," Kauffman said. "We control Michael Waltrip Racing together. We're business partners. We're great personal friends. So any idea that like I'm leaving or taking anything is actually misplaced. "What we're really doing is integrating the businesses, trying to get the most competitive product on track, do the best for all of our partners and that's really our focus. It's a competitive business as everybody knows. It's competitive on track as well as off track." The timing of the statement was an attempt to keep both organizations focused on 2015, "getting hopefully one to two cars in the Chase and doing a great job for our partners," Kauffman said. "We've been very excited about the developments over the summer we've had with the teams," Kauffman continued. "They're running well. And there's hundreds of people working back in Charlotte. We want to keep them focused on what they need to do." Through the first 20 races, CGR's Jamie McMurray sits 11th in the provisional Chase Grid, the top winless driver in the points standings. MWR's Clint Bowyer holds the final spot in the Chase in 16th place. McMurray's teammate, Kyle Larson , is 20th, and MWR's David Ragan is 24th in points. With all four teams in the top 30 in the standings, each one is a victory away from making the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup . Looking to the future of the two race teams, Kauffman said those plans are still under consideration with their performance helping determine 2016 plans. "In terms of our plans, whether we have three cars, four cars; two roofs, one roof, that's all yet to be determined," Kauffman said. "And how we do in the 2015 season will help determine whether that happens. If we do a great job, that will be one outcome. If we do a less great job, probably another. I think it will be pretty obvious to people." FULL SERIES COVERAGE • Latest news • Standings • Schedule
Dale Jr. was more concerned about Dillon than celebrating his win RELATED: Dale Jr.: 'That was terrifying to watch' Dale Earnhardt Jr . is NASCAR's perennial Most Popular Driver for many reasons. He's a winner on track, he's hip and engaging, he appeals to old-school and new generation fans and he's got one of the most beloved pedigrees in the sport. Here's another reason, Earnhardt's actions after winning the rain-delayed Coke Zero 400 at Daytona International Speedway speak to the kind of compassion and perspective fans want their cherished heroes to have. Dale does. Even as Earnhardt claimed the checkered flag for his milestone 25th Sprint Cup Series victory in the early hours of Monday morning, there was no celebratory cheering on his radio -- only raw fear and genuine concern as he watched a frightening wreck transpire in his rearview mirror. "Oh my God. ... that looked awful,'' Earnhardt screamed into his team radio, his voice shaking. "Oh no. Oh no. Did you see that?'' He asked in disbelief watching Austin Dillon 's car launch into the front-stretch catch fence, land back on track upside down and take another hard hit from Brad Keselowski 's spinning car. The impact was so severe Dillon's engine separated from the car and was still smoking yards away. Earnhardt's team assured him that help was on the way for Dillon and that included some of Earnhardt's pit crew since they were close to the scene. "Is everybody all right? Is everybody in the grandstands OK?'' Earnhardt continued to press. Told that Dillon was out of the car and gave a thumbs-up, Earnhardt was still concerned. "So all the drivers are good and everybody's good in the grandstands?" he asked, still shaken. "Man, that looked scary." Reassured again, that it looked like everyone was OK, Earnhardt finally praised his team for the win, but insisted, "I'm going to wait (on any victory celebration). I want to make sure everyone is good.'' It's hard to listen to Earnhardt's emotional radio transmission at the time of the accident. It's moments like this when you find out the true character of someone. And for Earnhardt there was an immediate, instinctual priority shift. The trophy could wait. Nearly an hour after the race had finished -- long after Dillon and the other drivers had been checked and released from the infield car center -- Earnhardt came into the Daytona media center still looking preoccupied and subdued, not like someone that had just earned a major victory. "You're just on the verge of tears, to be honest with you, because I think that the first thing that goes through your mind is -- and I saw everything in the mirror pretty clearly -- that car really went up in the air pretty high and I could just see that it was a black object that hit the fence and I'm assuming I'm looking at the undercarriage of the car,'' Earnhardt said. "I've never really seen a roll cage handle those catch fences very well and I just was very scared for whoever that was. I didn't even know what car it was, so I was just very scared for that person. "I didn't care about anything except for just figuring out who was OK. We pulled down to pit road there and (teammate) Jimmie (Johnson) got out of his car, come around that's the first thing we talked about. He was frightened as well and ... we just really wanted some information about everybody. "You imagine the news from the grandstands is going to come in a little slower, so you start thinking about that, waiting on that, seeing if everybody is OK there. "I mean the racing doesn't matter anymore.'' Although he didn't specifically say as much, you have to imagine this kind of incident at Daytona is especially hard for Earnhardt. He lost his father and namesake, seven-time champion Dale Earnhardt, in a fatal crash here on the last lap of the 2001 Daytona 500 . Earnhardt Senior drove a black No. 3 for Richard Childress Racing , as Dillon does now. Although, in situations like this, it doesn't matter if you have a special connection to the driver. Earnhardt explained how times are different now. As the sport has evolved and modernized, drivers actually spend more off-track time together now whether it's promoting sponsors or sharing a barbeque in the motor coach lot. "It's an awful feeling,'' Earnhardt said of watching a competitor be involved in such a serious crash. "We sit in those bus lots together, we all have become closer friends, I think, because of the environment. "It aint' like the old days where everybody is at different hotels and you never saw each other and you come to the track and run over each other and fight each other and not like each other. "We all sort of live in this community and you may not like everybody, but you damn sure grow to respect them and don't want to see anybody get hurt.'' And yes, Earnhardt conceded, this is the kind of thing that does cause you to question your mortality. This sport is like no other. "I questioned it when I got my concussions and I'm sure I went through something when Daddy died,'' Earnhardt reflected. "I think when I got injured a couple years ago I realized how close I came to not racing anymore and how quickly this can be taken away from you. "I think turning 40 also helped me learn to appreciate this a lot more and try to really enjoy the opportunity I have because I've got such an amazing opportunity. I hate to go on about it but to be in these cars that I've got, to be with the team I've got, I feel so lucky and so blessed. When you get older, you definitely start to realize how fragile things are and how lucky you are to be able to be a part of it.'' Dillon's crash and Earnhardt's reaction to it is a not-so-gentle reminder that this sport is really much more about the people than it is the racing or the cars. 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