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Sights and Sounds: Party in the Poconos 400
Get a behind the scenes look at the sights and sounds of Sunday's Party in the Poconos 400 at Pocono Raceway.
Stewart not interested in playing numbers game
RELATED: Updated Chase Grid " Who's on the bubble? " Series standings CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Crunch the numbers. Do the math. But don't bother telling Tony Stewart the potential scenarios required for him to advance to the Round of 12 in this year's Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup . You'd be wasting your time and his time, too. The only scenario Stewart, 45 and three times a Sprint Cup Series champion, cares about is the one that ends with him and his No. 14 Stewart-Haas Racing team celebrating in Victory Lane this weekend at Dover International Speedway . "All we can do is go out and do the best we can this weekend," Stewart said Wednesday during a daylong media stop in downtown Charlotte, North Carolina. "It still amazes me how people can take something that's so simple and make it so complicated. 'Will we be watching where everybody else is?' "Well yeah, I can waste my time and do that but … I've got to focus on winning the race. Because if I win the race I don't have to worry about where they're at. But if I go and do everything I can to try and win the race and I finish second, then wherever they are is wherever they are. I can't control those guys on the race track so why focus your attention on it? It's a waste of time." The 2016 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season is the final one for Stewart. He'll remain involved in the series as co-owner of Stewart-Haas Racing , which fields four Sprint Cup teams and one that will debut a NASCAR XFINITY Series entry next year. He's a track owner, team owner and competitor in other series -- some NASCAR-affiliated, some not -- as well. But his quest for a fourth title rests solely on the outcome of Sunday's Citizen Soldier 400 at Dover (2 p.m. ET, NBCSN, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio). A 16-driver field that began the Chase two weeks ago will be trimmed to 12 after Dover, and Stewart will arrive Friday 15th on the Chase Grid. His approach to what could be his final race as a title contender will be no different than any other weekend. "There is no mindset to it," he said. " The most realistic mindset to go into it with is the same approach you go into it with every weekend of the year and that's to go try to win the race. If you don't, get the best finish you can get out of it. That's not glamorous and that's not what you want to hear … but it's literally that simple. Go try to win the race. Do everything you can to win the race. If you can't win the race, try to finish second. If you can't finish second, try to finish third. It is as simple as it can possibly get." That Stewart is in this predicament is something of a surprise, given the strong summer run that saw him collect six top-10 finishes, including a win at Sonoma , in eight races. The No. 14 team, headed up by crew chief Mike Bugarewicz, seemed primed for a possible run at yet another title. RELATED: See all of Stewart's victories But the results of the most recent six races weren't nearly as impressive, with no finish higher than 16th. "These things are such science projects," Stewart said of today's cars, "and pretty much the whole (SHR) organization fights the same thing. It's whichever one can find the solution first." Teammate Kevin Harvick has guaranteed himself a spot in the Round of 12 with a win this past weekend at New Hampshire and Kurt Busch can advance either by points, depending on his finish, or with a victory. Teammate Danica Patrick is the only SHR entry not in the Chase field. RELATED: Harvick surges late for Loudon win "We're going to have to rely on Kevin and Rodney (Childers, crew chief), Kurt and (Tony) Gibson (crew chief) for sure and do the best we can," Stewart said. "We weren't totally terrible at the spring race but definitely have to be better than we were to get done what we need to get done." Scenarios? Talk to Stewart at Homestead, if he happens to be one of the championship four. That's when he'll be more aware of such things. "When you get to the last race of the year and you're racing for a championship and you've got enough of a lead that no matter what, if you finish from here on up, then yeah, you think about that," he said. "But that’s not the scenario we're in ." &amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;lt;/p&amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;gt;
Thunder in the hills: North Wilkesboro, 20 years later
NORTH WILKESBORO, N.C. -- Paint peels and memories fade but the echoes of the past still ring off the hillsides here. Twenty years ago today, the checkered flag fell on the final NASCAR premier series race at North Wilkesboro Speedway. Bob Flock won the first race, in 1949 and on dirt. Jeff Gordon won the last, in 1996 and on asphalt. The two races serve as bookends for a track that even after 20 years of silence serves as a reminder of the sport's colorful past. For 48 years and 93 races, NASCAR teams made the trek to the secluded .625-mile track in the Brushy Mountains of northwestern North Carolina. "It's one of the sport's most historic tracks, one that really helped put NASCAR on the map," car owner Richard Childress said. "A lot of people overlook that. But a lot of great things happened there. (Former series sponsor) R.J. Reynolds really supported it; Holly Farms back in the day … all those things were important to building our sport to what it is today." Built by Wilkes County resident Enoch Staley and partners Lawson Curry and Jack and Charlie Combs, North Wilkesboro Speedway was a venue unlike any other -- in part because the front straightaway ran slightly downhill and the backstretch uphill. It opened in 1947, two years before the debut of NASCAR's Strictly Stock Series, and hosted its first NASCAR premier series event in October of '49. The Wilkes 200 featured a 22-car field and was the final race of the inaugural season for NASCAR's new featured series. Flock won the race but it was Red Byron, finishing 16th, who captured the series' first championship. RELATED: Veterans share fond memories of track
How the 'tire war' was won -- at North Wilkesboro
RELATED: North Wilkesboro, 20 years later MORE: Classic Dale Jr. story: Angry dad, purple gas jug In the late 1980s, NASCAR's twofold quest for speed and success took a sharp turn as tire supplier Goodyear introduced the radial tire to the sanctioning body's premier series. Bias-ply tires had been the standard for stock car competition from the very beginning. But radial tire technology had vastly improved, and major open-wheel series had already made the swap to radials. Off the track, radials had also begun replacing bias-ply as the tires of choice for passenger vehicles. But the bias-ply tires still used in NASCAR provided teams with another tool in the toolbox, a way to "tune" the car's setup through the use of air pressures and tire stagger ( the variation in the circumference of the car's tires), something radial tire technology couldn't duplicate at the time. Goodyear officials were working toward implementing radials in NASCAR when the company got an unexpected push from Hoosier Tire Company in 1988. The competition between the two was fierce, and not without consequences. "Softer" tires produced by both brands generated higher speeds, but durability faltered. The "fall-off" in the product led to numerous tire failures and hard crashes. The following year, Goodyear officials rolled out radial race tires in an effort to provide both speed and durability. It was an ongoing project -- problems before the season-opening Daytona 500 forced the company to withdraw its product for that event. It wasn't until the spring race of 1989 at North Wilkesboro that Goodyear debuted the radial tire that officials felt was far more durable and could provide the necessary consistency and speed. "We were going to step through it," said Greg Stucker, head of race tire sales for Goodyear. "We were going to introduce them at the short tracks and then slowly step into the other race tracks." Rusty Wallace, driving for team owner Raymond Beadle, won the pole after the Blue Max team made the switch to Hoosiers. "We knew the Hoosiers were quick," Stucker said. "We also knew that the radials were extremely good over the long run. We went the first 100-some odd laps under green, which you don't do at North Wilkesboro very often. And Rusty got lapped, I think, about Lap 70." Dale Earnhardt won the race, thanks in part to the Richard Childress team's use of the Goodyear radials. "I still have that car," Childress said. "That's one of my favorite cars I have on display because I didn't re-do the body on it. I made the rest of them look real nice, but that car is still beat up; it has the Dale Earnhardt look still left on it. All the fenders beat in , the sides, and a set of the very first radial tires. "That's why we kept that one. It was the first win anybody had on radial tires. And everybody said 'That's going to be the end of Dale Earnhardt; he won't be able to run on them radial tires.' Well, we went out there and won the first race on them." The tire war eventually ended – Hoosier pulled out of the sport in mid-1989, returned for the ’94 season with its own radial tire, but departed at year's end due to a lack of sales. "It couldn't have worked out better for us to demonstrate how strong and how consistent the radial was," Stucker said. " The race really played into our hands pretty well. I think it was a good demonstration to everybody that this was a good package. "You know they say you have good days and bad days in racing? That was definitely one of the best days I've had at the race track. It was a good one." &amp;amp;amp;amp;lt;/p&amp;amp;amp;amp;gt;
Multicultural, female drivers eye spot in diversity developmental program
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Sept. 29, 2016) -- Seventeen drivers from across the country will compete for spots in the top driver development program in motorsports, NASCAR Drive for Diversity, during a national tryout at Florida's New Smyrna Speedway from Oct. 10-12. The 13th annual NASCAR Drive for Diversity Combine invites promising ethnically diverse and female drivers from across North and South America to test their skills over a three-day period as NASCAR evaluates talent for the NASCAR Drive for Diversity Class of 2017. "This year's NASCAR Drive for Diversity Combine will feature some incredible talent and we’re excited to watch these young drivers compete," said Dawn Harris, NASCAR director, multicultural development. "NASCAR's first-class development program has produced the likes of Kyle Larson , Daniel Suárez and Darrell Wallace Jr ., so it will be fun to see who rises to the top at New Smyrna." In partnership with Rev Racing, NASCAR Drive for Diversity offers racing opportunities in the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East and NASCAR Whelen All-American Series for one full season, providing drivers with equipment, mentoring, and competition experience. "This is an unbelievable opportunity for these up-and-coming drivers; something I am very proud to be a part of for the sixth-consecutive year," said Jefferson Hodges, Rev Racing director of competition. "To see past Drive for Diversity participants compete across all three NASCAR national series speaks volumes for the solid foundation Rev Racing provides these drivers in their budding careers." This year, there are 13 female drivers competing for spots with Rev Racing. Returning this fall is Macy Causey, who at 14 years old was the youngest combine participant in NASCAR Drive for Diversity history in 2015. Also participating is Hailie Deegan, daughter of Brian Deegan, the most decorated athlete in freestyle motocross history, and Hope Hornish, the niece of 2006 Indianapolis 500 winner and current NASCAR XFINITY Series driver Sam Hornish Jr . Drivers under consideration to return to the team in 2017, but who will not compete at the NASCAR Drive for Diversity Combine, include current NASCAR K&N Pro Series East and NASCAR Whelen All-American Series drivers: Jairo Avila, Enrique Baca, Collin Cabre, Madeline Crane, Ruben Garcia Jr, and Ali Kern. Collin’s brother, Chase Cabre, is also among the drivers selected to compete in this year's combine. Driver combine participants will be evaluated on their driving skills and take part in a physical fitness assessment and receive additional training at Bethune-Cookman University. The NASCAR Drive for Diversity Combine has proven successful in identifying and developing future stars of the sport. Current NASCAR Driver for Diversity members have garnered four Top-5's and 13 Top-10's combined in the NASCAR K&N East and NASCAR Whelen All-American Series this season and are looking to repeat last year’s season ending victory at Dover International Speedway . Program graduate, Kyle Larson , earned his first victory in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series this year at Michigan International Speedway . Fellow graduate and NASCAR XFINITY Series driver Daniel Suárez this year became the first Mexican-born driver to win a NASCAR national series race. Suárez and fellow NASCAR XFINITY driver Darrell Wallace Jr ., another NASCAR Drive for Diversity alumnus, are currently competing in the first NASCAR XFINITY Series Chase. Fans can follow the Combine live on Twitter at @NASCARDiversity and @RevRacing. Below are the invitees to the 2016 NASCAR Drive for Diversity Combine: First Last Age City State/Country Ali Kern* 23 Fremont Ohio Amber Balcaen 24 Winnipeg Canada Ariel Biggs 22 Castaic California Armani Williams 16 Grosse Point Michigan Chase Cabre 19 Tampa Florida Collin Cabre* 23 Tampa Florida Enrique Baca* 25 Monterrey Mexico Hailie Deegan 15 Temecula California Hannah Newhouse 19 Twin Falls Idaho Hope Hornish 19 Defiance Ohio Jairo Avila* 21 Alhambra California Jay Beasley 24 Las Vegas Nevada Kayli Barker 19 Las Vegas Nevada Luis Rodriguez 22 Miami Florida Macy Causey 15 Yorktown Virginia Madeline Crane* 18 Meansville Georgia McKenna Haase 19 Carlisle Iowa Nicole Behar 18 Otis Orchards Washington Reegan May 22 De Pere Wisconsin Ruben Garcia Jr.* 20 Mexico City Mexico Santiago Tovar 23 Mexico City Mexico Taylor Jorgensen 20 Stockbridge Georgia Walter Thomas III 18 Indianapolis Indiana * Current NASCAR Drive for Diversity drivers eligible for 2017 program; will attend but not compete in Combine
Penalties hamper Nemechek, NEMCO team in Chase
NASCAR issued penalties Thursday to the No. 8 NEMCO Motorsports team and Camping World Truck Series driver John Hunter Nemechek for P2 infractions found last weekend at New Hampshire Motor Speedway . Nemechek's No. 8 Chevrolet failed to meet the minimum ride height during an inspection after last Saturday's UNOH 175 , the opening race of the Camping World Truck Series Chase playoffs. Competition officials docked the team 10 championship points in both the owners' and drivers' standings. The penalty dropped Nemechek, who rallied from an early spin to finish ninth last weekend, from fourth to seventh on the Chase Grid with two races remaining before cuts are made to the championship-eligible field. NASCAR officials also fined crew chief Gere Kennon $6,000 and NASCAR probation for the crew chief continues through Dec. 31, 2016. It's the second such violation this season for the NEMCO team, which also failed the ride-height minimum at Iowa Speedway in June for a P2-grade infraction. NASCAR abandoned ride-height rules for its Sprint Cup Series ahead of the 2014 season. Those restrictions remain in effect for its other two national series. This week's penalty report for the Sprint Cup and XFINITY Series was marked by written warnings and lesser violations. From the Sprint Cup Series race weekend in New Hampshire, the following teams were cited: -- The No. 7 Tommy Baldwin Racing team of driver Regan Smith received written warnings for failing pre-race LIS twice and pre-qualifying LIS twice. -- The No. 4 Stewart-Haas Racing team of driver Kevin Harvick , No. 5 Hendrick Motorsports team of driver Kasey Kahne , No. 16 Roush Fenway Racing team of driver Greg Biffle and No. 83 BK Racing team of driver Matt DiBenedetto all received written warnings for failing pre-qualifying LIS twice. -- The No. 11 Joe Gibbs Racing team for driver Denny Hamlin received a written warning for failing pre-qualifying template inspection twice. The pre-qualifying LIS failures of Nos. 4, 5, 7 and 16 teams were each their third infractions, meaning the next such infraction will see those teams penalized with the last selection of a pit stall on the weekend that violation occurs. Of those cars, only the 4 of Harvick is in the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup . Warnings from the XFINITY Series' event at Kentucky Speedway : -- The No. 18 Joe Gibbs Racing team and No. 51 Jeremy Clements Racing team of driver Jeremy Clements received written warnings for failing pre-race LIS twice. Warnings from the Camping World Truck Series' event at New Hampshire Motor Speedway : -- The No. 50 MAKE Motorsports team of driver Travis Kvapil received a written warning for failing pre-race template inspection four times and also a loss of 15 minutes of practice time this weekend at Las Vegas Motor Speedway .
Relive the last NSCS race at the historic North Wilkesboro Speedway
Take a look back as Jeff Gordon wins the last race at North Wilkesboro Speedway in the Sprint Cup Series on September 29th, 1996.
Busch family, No. 18 team visit the White House
As part of his Sprint Cup championship duties, Kyle Busch had one more thing left on his to-do list: visit the White House. So that's exactly what he did on Wednesday with the entire No. 18 Joe Gibbs Racing team and wife, Samantha. And no, Brexton wasn't in attendance, but President Obama gave him a nice, little shout-out. Follow along on the crew's trip to Washington, D.C. Thank you @POTUS for having the @mmschocolate team visit the @WhiteHouse today. pic.twitter.com/2Np9tGTSF1 — Kyle Busch (@KyleBusch) September 28, 2016 Snapchatting my way thru the White House if u wanna follow along! Samantha.Busch — Samantha Busch (@SamanthaBusch) September 28, 2016 The No.18 crew is on the ground in DC! Next stop: The @WhiteHouse . #NASCAR #CHAMP18NS pic.twitter.com/32HzSof8ob — Joe Gibbs Racing (@JoeGibbsRacing) September 28, 2016 We're at the @WhiteHouse with @KyleBusch @samanthabusch and the No.18 team! #NASCAR #CHAMP18N pic.twitter.com/k6zaRI6GWL — Joe Gibbs Racing (@JoeGibbsRacing) September 28, 2016 Tune in at 11am ET as @POTUS honors @NASCAR champion @KyleBusch : https://t.co/rOls3Sio1L — The White House (@WhiteHouse) September 28, 2016 . RT @SaraBarnes8 : @SamanthaBusch what does one wear to the White House? pic.twitter.com/Y2JHJGMIaP — Samantha Busch (@SamanthaBusch) September 28, 2016 . @POTUS welcomes @KyleBusch , @SamanthaBusch and the @JoeGibbsRacing family to the @WhiteHouse ! pic.twitter.com/O0kqbP848C — NASCAR (@NASCAR) September 28, 2016 "Tell Brexton I said hello." - @POTUS https://t.co/ptDTddyaES — NASCAR (@NASCAR) September 28, 2016 Crispy lid! @KyleBusch gives @POTUS one of his helmets as a gift at today's visit to the @WhiteHouse . pic.twitter.com/NnUu6nEQyV — NASCAR (@NASCAR) September 28, 2016 . @POTUS honors @NASCAR champion @KyleBusch and the whole Number 18 team: https://t.co/MRvt4wLGCe — The White House (@WhiteHouse) September 28, 2016
Chase by the Numbers: Dover
Here's all the info you need to know for the first cutoff race in the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup, including some surprising statistics for two of the first-time Chase competitors.
A day in the life of a NASCAR interior specialist
In this edition of 'Our Normal Drives', check out what happens on race day for the interior specialists of the No. 10 and No. 14 teams.