Lupton, Carpentier lead new faces at Sonoma
RELATED: Updated entry list Two new faces -- one a complete first-timer and another a blast from the past -- will join the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series field when the tour resumes next weekend at Sonoma Raceway. Former NASCAR Next driver Dylan Lupton is scheduled to make his Sprint Cup debut in the June 26 Toyota/Save Mart 350 (3 p.m. ET, FS1, PRN, SiriusXM). And Patrick Carpentier is set to make his first premier series start since 2011 on the 1.99-mile road course. Lupton, a two-time winner in NASCAR K&N Pro Series competition, will attempt to qualify the BK Racing No. 93 Toyota. A preliminary entry list of 41 cars for 40 starting spots was released Friday. The No. 93 team will carry sponsorship from Elk Grove Toyota and Bell Bros. Lupton has 10 starts in the NASCAR XFINITY Series with a best finish of ninth at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course . Carpentier , a five-time winner in Champ Car competition, will drive the Go FAS Racing No. 32 Ford with sponsorship from Can-Am. The Quebec native is a veteran of 40 Sprint Cup starts and notched his career-best finish of 11th place at Sonoma in 2009. Carpentier also won the Coors Light Pole Award in June 2008 for a Sprint Cup event at New Hampshire Motor Speedway .
Carpentier adds two Sprint Cup races with Go Fas Racing
Go Fas Racing announced that Patrick Carpentier will pilot the No. 32 Can-Am, Kappa, Cyclops Ford Fusion at Sonoma Raceway in June, and at Indianapolis Motor Speedway in July. Carpentier has 40 starts in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series from 2007-2011. The Ville LaSalle, Quebec, native has two NSCS starts at Sonoma with a best finish of 11th in 2009, and one start at Indianapolis where he finished 18th. "Even if I say that I'm retired, I could not miss the opportunity to drive in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, especially on circuits as interesting as those of Sonoma and Indianapolis," Carpentier said. "I'm really happy to wear the colors of Can-Am, Kappa and Cyclops Gear because I love to use their products." "We are very happy with the choice of drivers made by our partner, Archie St.Hilaire of Go FAS Racing," said José Boisjoli, president and CEO of BRP. "The decision to entrust the wheel of the Can-Am/Kappa/Cyclops Gear Ford Fusion No.32 to Patrick Carpentier for the races in Sonoma and Indianapolis, pleases us very much. Patrick is a very talented driver and he is an avid fan of our products." "We look forward to working with Patrick at Sonoma and Indianapolis," said Go Fas Racing team owner Archie St. Hilaire. "The last time he ran at Sonoma he finished 11th, and we plan on giving him a car that can give him a top-10 this June."
Kyle Busch tops the heap in final Indy practice
RELATED: Practice 1 results " Final practice results Kyle Busch closed out final NASCAR Sprint Cup Series practice atop the leaderboard Friday afternoon, recovering from a spin earlier in the day and landing the fastest speed at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Busch, the defending race winner, lapped the track with a best speed of 184.619 mph in the Joe Gibbs Racing No. 18 Toyota as teams made mock qualifying runs ahead of Saturday's time trials. It marked an improvement over his 12th-best time during Friday's opening 85-minute session at the 2.5-mile track. During that opening session, Busch's No. 18 Camry slightly touched the car of Patrick Carpentier as they raced side-by-side in Turn 2. Busch, the defending series champion, spun out without making further contact. Former Brickyard winner Kevin Harvick registered the second-fastest lap, pushing the Stewart-Haas Racing No. 4 Chevrolet to a lap of 184.268 mph. Kyle Larson , Ryan Newman and Carl Edwards completed the top five in the final practice before Sunday's Crown Royal Presents The Combat Wounded Coalition 400 at the Brickyard (3 p.m. ET, NBCSN, IMS, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio). Jeff Gordon was 25th-fastest in his second stint of practice ahead of his first Sprint Cup start of the season. The four-time series champion notched a 180.375-mph lap in the Hendrick Motorsports No. 88 Chevrolet, filling in for Dale Earnhardt Jr. , who is sidelined for the second straight week by concussion-like symptoms. Tony Stewart , prepping for his final scheduled Sprint Cup start at his home-state track, was 24th-fastest (180.505 mph) in the Stewart-Haas Racing No. 14 Chevrolet. Coors Light Pole Qualifying is set Saturday at 1:45 p.m. ET (NBCSN). Sunday's race will be the 20th of 36 points-paying races this season. Johnson sets pace in opening Indy practice Jimmie Johnson soared to the top of the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series leaderboard Friday at Indianapolis Motor Speedway in an opening practice that featured the return of Jeff Gordon to competition. Johnson pushed the Hendrick Motorsports No. 48 Chevrolet to a best lap of 184.185 mph around the 2.5-mile track. He'll seek his fifth Indianapolis win in Sunday's Crown Royal Presents The Combat Wounded Coalition 400 at the Brickyard (3 p.m. ET, NBCSN, IMS, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio). Former Indy pole winner Denny Hamlin was second-fastest in the Joe Gibbs Racing No. 11 Toyota at 182.563 mph, a sizable .434 seconds off Johnson's pace. Casey Mears (180.346 mph), Kevin Harvick (179.845 mph) and Ryan Newman (179.784 mph) completed the top five in the 85-minute opening session. Gordon clocked the ninth-fastest speed, landing a 179.376 mph lap in the Hendrick Motorsports No. 88 Chevrolet. He's scheduled to make his first Sprint Cup start of the season Sunday as a replacement for Dale Earnhardt Jr. as he recovers from concussion-like symptoms. Tony Stewart , scheduled to make his final Brickyard start in what's to be his last full-time season, was eighth-fastest at 179.655 mph in the Stewart-Haas Racing No. 14 Chevrolet. The native Hoosier will be vying for his third Brickyard victory in Sunday's 400-miler. Defending Sprint Cup champion Kyle Busch, also the defending race winner, was 12th-fastest but recovered from a spin at the one-hour mark of the session. Busch's Joe Gibbs Racing No. 18 Toyota made a prolonged slide out of Turn 2 after making contact with the Go FAS Racing No. 32 Ford of Patrick Carpentier . Carpentier , 44, walked over to Busch's garage stall later in the session to issue an apology for crowding his pass attempt. Carpentier was 39th-fastest of the 41 drivers entered during first practice. &amp;amp;lt;/p&amp;amp;gt;
Busch spin leads to awkward exchange
Kyle Busch makes a great save during practice at Indianapolis Motor Speedway after making contact with Patrick Carpentier , leading to an interesting exchange in the garage.
The Rundown: Indianapolis driver grades
RELATED: Complete race results " Updated Chase Grid Breaking down the full field for the Crown Royal Presents The Combat Wounded Coalition 400 At The Brickyard at Indianapolis Motor Speedway: 1. Kyle Busch, No. 18 Toyota, Joe Gibbs Racing. Total domination. Busch won Saturday's and Sunday's races from the pole and led a record 149 laps Sunday. His average running position Sunday was 1.2, and his lowest position was third. Seriously? Busch's hammerlock on the field was on par with what Martin Truex Jr. did in the Coca-Cola 600 . Thus the same mark. Grade: AAA+ 2. Matt Kenseth , No. 20 Toyota, Joe Gibbs Racing. Kenseth is still winless at the Brickyard but has now finished second three times. More numbers: In Kenseth's first four starts at Indianapolis for JGR, his finishes are 5th, 4th, 7th and 2nd. Grade: A 3. Jimmie Johnson , No. 48 Chevrolet, Hendrick Motorsports. Johnson had to do a pass-through on Lap 86 for a pit-road speeding penalty, dropping him to 23rd. Attrition and persistence led to Johnson's first top 10 since he finished third at Charlotte two months ago. Nice finish, but this team still needs to clean up its mistakes. Grade: A- 4. Denny Hamlin , No. 11 Toyota, Joe Gibbs Racing. Ditto the No. 11 team. Hamlin was assessed his seventh pit-road speeding penalty of the season one lap after Jimmie Johnson (same round of green-flag stops). Hamlin was running third at the time and fell back to 18th. Nice recovery, but … Grade: A- 5. Kyle Larson , No. 42 Chevrolet, Chip Ganassi Racing. Larson was the second-biggest winner of the afternoon, moving up four spots in the standings to 15th. Grade: A 6. Kevin Harvick , No. 4 Chevrolet, Stewart-Haas Racing. Harvick upped his points lead to 24. Two races ago it was down to four. If you don't think that's important, remember this: If qualifying is rained out, the field is set by the standings -- as is the order of selecting a pit stall. So, yes, the standings still matter. Grade: A 7. Joey Logano , No. 22 Ford, Team Penske. Logano restarted second on the final restart but couldn't hold the position or make a run at Kyle Busch. Logano, by the way, finished second to Busch in last year's Brickyard. Grade: A 8. Martin Truex Jr. , No. 78 Toyota, Furniture Row Racing. Truex was strong all afternoon – his 5.6 average running position was second to Kyle Busch's – but he was no match for the winner. Grade: A 9. Austin Dillon , No. 3 Chevrolet, Richard Childress Racing. Sunday's top 10 was Dillon's ninth of the season (20 starts), equaling his total for the first 85 starts of his Sprint Cup career. Grade: A 10. Paul Menard , No. 27 Chevrolet, Richard Childress Racing. Menard benefited from accidents in front of him that he was able to avoid to score his second top 10 of the season. Grade: A- 11. Tony Stewart , No. 14 Chevrolet, Stewart-Haas Racing. Stewart started third and was running with the leaders when he was caught speeding on pit road just before the third caution and had to restart at the tail end of the field, one lap down. He was still back in the pack (20th) with 25 laps to go in regulation. But then came all the cautions. "Smoke" finally got his lap back with a free pass on the fifth caution, survived contact with Jamie McMurray on Lap 166 and salvaged a decent finish on his last go-round at Indy. Grade: B 12. Ricky Stenhouse Jr. , No. 17 Ford, Roush Fenway Racing. Stenhouse survived the big Carl Edwards - Ryan Newman wreck that brought out the red flag to get a finish that belied his day. He turned 14 laps in the top 15 and had an average running positon of 20.1. Grade: B- 13. Jeff Gordon , No. 88 Chevrolet, Hendrick Motorsports. Despite problems with restarts, Gordon was able to post his best finish of the season and overcome the incredible pressure of replacing Alex Bowman in the No. 88. ... Yes, I'm kidding. Except for the restarts part. Vive Monsieur Gordon! Grade: A 14. Chris Buescher , No. 34 Ford, Front Row Motorsports. Buescher recorded the best finish of his Sprint Cup career on a day in which he turned all of two laps in the top 15 and had a 23.7 average running position. Grade: B 15. Chase Elliott , No. 24 Chevrolet, Hendrick Motorsports. Elliott registered his best finish since a second-place finish at Michigan more than a month ago. Grade: B 16. Kurt Busch, No. 41 Chevrolet, Stewart-Haas Racing. For only the second time this season, Busch failed to finish in the top 10 in back-to-back races. Grade: B- 17. Brad Keselowski , No. 2 Ford, Team Penske. Keselowski was the rage early on with his team's bold pit strategy, but the second half of the race bore zero resemblance to the first half. Getting caught up in the Carl Edwards - Ryan Newman wreck didn't help, either. Grade: B 18. Kasey Kahne , No. 5 Chevrolet, Hendrick Motorsports. Despite a fourth-straight finish outside the top 10, Kahne moved up two spots in the standings to 16th, 10 points behind Kyle Larson . He jumped one driver who missed the race ( Dale Earnhardt Jr. ) and one who didn't use the best judgment and crashed with 10 laps to go ( Trevor Bayne ). Grade: C 19. Jamie McMurray , No. 1 Chevrolet, Chip Ganassi Racing. McMurray's nice run came to a screeching halt on the restart on Lap 165 when he moved down in front of Tony Stewart but hadn't cleared the No. 14. Stewart wasn't about to lift, and the No. 1 went for a slide onto the access road before returning to the track and smacking Ryan Newman . Worse, the caution gave the free pass to Chase-cutoff competitor Kasey Kahne . Grade: B- 20. Landon Cassill , No. 38 Ford, Front Row Motorsports. Cassill avoided calamity to get his fourth-best finish of the season. Grade: B 21. Clint Bowyer, No. 15 Chevrolet, HScott Motorsports. Bowyer contributed to the caution-fest at the end of the race when he got into the back of Trevor Bayne , who inexplicably went for the block with so much on the line (Chase standings) and running so far back in the field. Grade: C 22. Danica Patrick , No. 10 Chevrolet, Stewart-Haas Racing. Wrong place, wrong time. Again. Patrick had nothing to do with the Carl Edwards - Ryan Newman wreck but still ended up a part of it. On the other hand, she finished right where she spent most of the race. Grade: C 23. Michael McDowell , No. 95 Chevrolet, Circle Sport-Leavine Family. McDowell posted his best finish at the Brickyard in seven starts. Grade: B- 24. Casey Mears , No. 13 Chevrolet, Germain Racing. Mears finished in the top 25 for the 10th time this season. Grade: C 25. Aric Almirola , No. 43 Ford, Richard Petty Motorsports. Almirola, who is still looking for his first top 10 of the year, is on pace to have his worst season with RPM, for which he has been driving full time since 2010. Grade: C 26. Regan Smith , No. 7 Chevrolet, Tommy Baldwin Racing. Smith posted his best finish since a 22nd at Pocono in early June. Grade: C 27. Brian Scott , No. 44 Ford, Richard Petty Motorsports. Despite being collected in the last wreck of the day, Scott picked up his best finish in his past eight starts. Grade: C 28. Michael Annett , No. 46 Chevrolet, HScott Motorsports . After posting four top-30 finishes in his first 14 starts, Annett has four in his past six. Grade: C 29. Cole Whitt , No. 98 Chevrolet, Premium Motorsports. Since a 37.3 average finish in his first three starts of the season, Whitt has an average finish of 27.5 over his next 14 races. Grade: C 30. Trevor Bayne , No. 6 Ford, Roush Fenway Racing. Bayne's move to block Clint Bowyer on the backstretch on Lap 158 was as costly as it was ill-advised. Bayne spun all the way to his worst finish of the season and to 18th in the standings, 14 points behind 15th-place Kyle Larson . Grade: D 31. Ryan Newman , No. 31 Chevrolet, Richard Childress Racing. Newman's day began to unravel on the restart on Lap 154. He restarted sixth, outside of Carl Edwards . On the first turn, Edwards drifted up into Newman and the No. 31 suffered major damage. With Newman sitting near the Chase cut-off line, it was important for him to coax the car home. He returned to the track but couldn't make it to the finish when Jamie McMurray ran up the track into him on the Lap 165 restart after contact with Tony Stewart . Bottom line: Valiant effort but a DNF and 10-point day. Grade: C 32. Ryan Ellis , No. 93 Toyota, BK Racing. Ellis picked up a career-best finish in his fourth Sprint Cup Series start. Grade: C 33. Reed Sorenson , No. 55 Chevrolet, Premium Motorsports. Sorenson ran to form, and his 33.8 average finish is third-worst in the Sprint Cup Series among drivers with at least 10 starts. Grade: D 34. Patrick Carpentier , No. 32 Ford, GO FAS Racing . After not starting a Sprint Cup Series race since 2011, Carpentier made his second start of 2016. He finished 37th last month at Sonoma. Grade: D 35. Carl Edwards , No. 19 Toyota, Joe Gibbs Racing. Edwards was part of the strong JGR contingent all afternoon – 6.6 averaging running position – until his mishap on Lap 154. Whether it was a tight car or dirty tires, the outcome was costly as he dropped two spots in the standings. Grade: F 36. Ryan Blaney , No. 21 Ford, Wood Brothers Racing. Blaney was collected and knocked out of the race in the Carl Edwards -initiated wreckage that resulted in a red flag. Blaney dropped two spots in the standings to 19th, and is now 22 points behind 15th-place Kyle Larson . Blaney began the day nine points ahead of Larson. Grade: C 37. David Ragan , No. 23 Toyota, BK Racing. Ragan brought out the third caution on Lap 120 when his left-rear tire went down and he slammed the wall. It was his third DNF and second-worst finish of the season. Grade: F 38. AJ Allmendinger, No. 47 Chevrolet, JTG Daugherty Racing. Allmendinger was running 11th when his car lost water pressure. Moments later it overheated with less than 100 laps to go. It was Allmendinger's second DNF in the past three races. Grade: F 39. Greg Biffle, No. 16 Ford, Roush Fenway Racing. Biffle's day ended after 53 laps when his right-front tire went down and he slammed into the outside wall. His streak of top 10s – three – ended as well. Grade: F 40. Matt DiBenedetto, No. 83 Toyota, BK Racing. His engine didn't even make through five laps, leaving DiBenedetto with his seventh DNF of the season. "How is that even possible?" DiBenedetto tweeted. "Who has the voodoo doll of me that severely dislikes me?" Grade: F
Jimmie Johnson motivated by Sonoma's moving target
SONOMA, Calif. -- Jimmie Johnson is known for his California cool, but ask him about Sonoma Raceway and the six-time Sprint Cup Series champion becomes animated. He looks skyward for the right words to say, the body moves forward in the chair and the arms come up ever so slightly. Even after 77 victories in 16 years in the premier series, there are still proverbial dragons for Johnson to slay. One such dragon is the 1.99-mile road course here, where Johnson has won just once, back in 2010. The yearning for a victory in Sunday's Save Mart 350 (3 p.m. ET, FS1, PRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio) is clearly evident on Johnson's face as he explains why he's highly motivated for this weekend. "I still have a personal thing for me, coming here, The Glen and Bristol," Johnson said. "Those three tracks. With my driving style and my background, those should be my best tracks and they're not. And it drives me crazy that they're not." Not so crazy is the fact Johnson is pretty much locked in the 2016 Chase with wins at Atlanta and Fontana. A victory at Sonoma would give the California native a sweep of NASCAR's races in the Golden State this year. He won at Sonoma and Fontana in 2010, but that was when NASCAR staged two events in a season at the Southern California track. In order to pull off the California double, he'll need to tame not only the 12 turns of the track, but also what has been an unpredictable event. Sonoma has produced 10 different winners over the past 11 races. "It's a wild-card race," Johnson said. "… But I think we've seen a real interesting shift in the last 10 years where the road-course ringers have come in and they aren't taking the trophies home. ... I think it really shows the versatility we have as drivers and the teams as well." To Johnson's point there aren't many road-course ringers on the entry list this year. Besides AJ Allmendinger , a Sprint Cup regular who won in 2014 at Watkins Glen en route to the Chase, Patrick Carpentier (No. 32 Go Fas Racing ) is the only driver who would fit the road-course ringer description. And like 'Dinger, who is from Los Gatos, Johnson (El Cajon) also hails from California. They are part of nine California drivers set for Sunday's race, including Kevin Harvick and Casey Mears (both from Bakersfield), Kyle Larson (Elk Grove), Josh Wise (Riverside), Matthew DiBenedetto (Grass Valley), Dylan Lupton (Sacramento) and Cole Whitt (Alpine). Would another win in California be just the tonic for Johnson, who has just one top-five finish in the past six races? "Absolutely," Johnson said. "First of all, there's nothing quite like winning. Winning is very special and unique in our sport. And the road courses, I felt like coming into my Cup career, that with my off-road background I would just excel and take off on road courses. But coming in, I was good for a couple of laps and I'd melt the tires off the car and I really had to learn discipline where to make time and where to save the tires. It's a tough balance."
The Rundown: Michigan driver grades
RELATED: Full race results " Standings " Chase Grid Breaking down the full field for the Pure Michigan 400 at Michigan International Speedway : 1. Kyle Larson , No. 42 Chevrolet, Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates. Twice, Larson had to overcome problems on pit road. Twice, Larson beat Chase Elliott on restarts from the front row. The second one, with 10 laps to go, was the difference. Larson gets his first Sprint Cup win in his 99th start and his ticket punched to the Chase. Well done. Grade: A 2. Chase Elliott , No. 24 Chevrolet, Hendrick Motorsports . Restarts, restarts, restarts. Elliott lost the first race at Michigan because of poor restarts and it happened again Sunday. And just like in June, Elliott finished second. Grade : A- 3. Brad Keselowski , No. 2 Ford, Team Penske . The native of Michigan posted his sixth straight top 10 at his home track but to his chagrin remained winless in the Irish Hills. Grade: A 4. Ryan Blaney , No. 21 Ford, Wood Brothers Racing . Blaney needs a win to make the Chase, and he drove like it Sunday, posting his first top 10 in 10 races. Grade: A 5. Kevin Harvick , No. 4 Chevrolet, Stewart-Haas Racing . Harvick led 33 laps, and his 3.56 averaging running position topped the field. Grade: A 6. Jimmie Johnson , No. 48 Chevrolet, Hendrick Motorsports . Johnson was a factor -- and the leader -- until his green-flag pit stop on Lap 109. But his gas man had trouble refueling the No. 48, and from that point forward Johnson was playing catchup. His 37 laps led were second to Kyle Larson ’s 41. Grade: A- 7. Carl Edwards , No. 19 Toyota, Joe Gibbs Racing . Edwards now has two wins, seven top fives and 15 top 10s in 2016. That’s what he had all of last season. Grade: A 8. Jamie McMurray , No. 1 Chevrolet, Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates. McMurray finished eighth for the third consecutive week. He holds the last spot in the Chase standings by 15 points over Ryan Newman with two races to go before the field is set. Grade: A 9. Denny Hamlin , No. 11 Toyota, Joe Gibbs Racing . Hamlin’s sixth straight top-10 finish is the longest active streak. Grade: A 10. Joey Logano , No. 22 Ford, Team Penske . All of the polesitter’s strength came at the start of the race. A slow final pit stop left him 17th on the last restart. Grade: A- 11. Greg Biffle , No. 16 Ford, Roush Fenway Racing . Biffle had a nice finish, but he was never a factor. Only Kyle Busch ’s 26 laps in the top 15 were fewer than Biffle’s 44 among drivers who finished in the top 20. Grade: B 12. Kurt Busch , No. 41 Chevrolet, Stewart-Haas Racing . Borrowing a page from Greg Biffle … Busch was not a factor, either, and only his brother’s 24.84 average running position was worse than his 17.34 among drivers who finished in the top 20. Grade: B 13. Matt Kenseth , No. 20 Toyota, Joe Gibbs Racing . In the first 12 races of the season, Kenseth led 398 laps. In the next 12, 79 laps, including eight Sunday, his first laps led since his victory last month at New Hampshire. Grade: B 14. Kasey Kahne , No. 5 Chevrolet, Hendrick Motorsports . Kahne is going to need a win -- or a miracle -- to make the Chase field. He trails Jamie McMurray by 52 points for the final Chase-eligible spot after finishing outside the top 10 for the eighth straight race. Grade: B 15. AJ Allmendinger , No. 47 Chevrolet, JTG Daugherty Racing . Allmendinger finished in the top 15 in four consecutive races for the first time since the end of the 2011 season. Grade: B 16. Austin Dillon , No. 3 Chevrolet, Richard Childress Racing . Dillon is 15th in the Chase standings with a 21-point cushion over Ryan Newman in 17th. Grade: B 17. Ryan Newman , No. 31 Chevrolet, Richard Childress Racing . Newman should consider himself fortunate to be only 15 points out of 16th with two races to go for the Chase field is set -- he hasn’t had a top-10 finish in his past five races. Grade: B- 18. Paul Menard , No. 27 Chevrolet, Richard Childress Racing . Regular readers of The Rundown know we have been enthralled by Menard’s propensity to finish 18th. He racked up his sixth of the season Sunday. Grade: C 19. Kyle Busch , No. 18 Toyota, Joe Gibbs Racing . Busch's troubles at Michigan continued when he got loose in Turn 4 on the 26th lap and went for a spin. His average finish in his past seven starts at Michigan is 32.0 with one finish on the lead lap -- and it wasn't Sunday. Grade: C 20. Martin Truex Jr ., No. 78 Toyota, Furniture Row Racing . Truex's shot at winning or having a top finish ended on Lap 66 when the jack man lowered the car before the left rear tire was changed. The damaged left-rear quarter panel was an issue the rest of the day. Grade: C- 21. Tony Stewart , No. 14 Chevrolet, Stewart-Haas Racing . The driver with a win and five top fives in a seven-race stretch has finished 30th and 21st in his past two races. Is the mojo gone? Grade: C 22. Casey Mears , No. 13 Chevrolet, Germain Racing . Mears finished outside the top 10 at Michigan for the 13th consecutive race. Grade: C 23. Danica Patrick , No. 10 Chevrolet, Stewart-Haas Racing . This marks the first time in Patrick's four full-time Sprint Cup seasons she has not finished in the top 20 in at least one of the two Michigan races. She finished 21st in June. Grade: C 24. Trevor Bayne , No. 6 Ford, Roush Fenway Racing . Bayne went into last week's race at Bristol eight points out of the final Chase spot. He leaves Michigan 58 points back. Grade: C 25. Aric Almirola , No. 43 Ford, Richard Petty Motorsports . Michigan is one of two tracks on which Almirola has made at least 10 starts and has yet to post a top 10. (The other is Pocono.) Grade: C- 26. Regan Smith , No. 7 Chevrolet, Tommy Baldwin Racing . Smith posted his best finish at Michigan since a career-best 13th in August of 2011. Grade: C 27. Ricky Stenhouse Jr ., No. 17 Ford, Roush Fenway Racing . Since scoring a career-best 15th at Michigan in August 2014, Stenhouse's finishes at the 2-mile track are 25th, 26th, 29th and 27th. Grade: C- 28. Brian Scott , No. 44 Ford, Richard Petty Motorsports . Sunday’s race was something to build on: In his first race at Michigan in June, Scott left with a 36th-place finish and a DNF (crash). Grade: C 29. David Ragan , No. 23 Toyota, BK Racing . Because of Ragan's proximity to Chris Buescher in the standings, he will continue to be one of the most-watched drivers through Richmond. On Sunday, Ragan took a nibble out of Buescher's points lead and is now seven points behind Buescher for 30th in the standings. Grade: C 30. Alex Bowman , No. 88 Chevrolet, Hendrick Motorsports . Bowman started sixth and was running in the top five when the car’s ignition failed. A day of promise ended right there, and Dale Earnhardt Jr .’s replacement finished five laps back. Grade: D 31. Michael McDowell , No. 95 Chevrolet, Circle Sport- Leavine Family Racing . McDowell won Saturday’s NASCAR XFINITY Series race at Road America , but his string of top-20 Sprint Cup finishes ended at a season-best two. Grade: D 32. Matt DiBenedetto , No. 83 Toyota, BK Racing . DiBenedetto battled brake issues all day. Grade: D 33. Michael Annett , No. 46 Chevrolet, HScott Motorsports . A blown tire brought out the fourth and final caution, and Annett finished five laps back. Grade: D 34. Cole Whitt , No. 98 Chevrolet, Premium Motorsports. Whitt produced his worst finish in six starts at Michigan. Grade: D 35. Chris Buescher , No. 34 Ford, Front Row Motorsports . With so much at stake, the No. 34 team could not afford the engine woes that dumped Buescher to 35th -- he finished 20th at Michigan in June -- but at least he didn’t finish last. Those extra five points might make the difference between making the Chase and major disappointment. Another positive takeaway: David Ragan could muster only a 29th-place finish. Grade: F 36. Reed Sorenson , No. 55 Chevrolet, Premium Motorsports. Sorenson finished seven laps off the pace. Grade: D 37. Jeffrey Earnhardt , No. 32 Ford, Go Fas Racing . Earnhardt had an accident in practice and was in a backup car. He finished eight laps back. Grade: D 38. Josh Wise , No. 30 Chevrolet, The Motorsports Group. Wise's finish was his worst at Michigan since a 39th-place run in August 2013. Grade: F 39. Landon Cassill , No. 38 Ford, Front Row Motorsports . Suspension woes limited Cassill to 174 laps and left him with his first DNF of the season. Grade: F 40. Clint Bowyer , No. 15 Chevrolet, HScott Motorsports . Bowyer said before the race he had his best car of the year. Yikes! Vibrations sent the No. 15 behind the wall, but Bowyer avoided a DNF, although he did finish 40 laps off the pace. Grade: F
#TBT: Dale Jr. snaps pair of winless streaks
Two of Junior's most memorable wins came in the Irish Hills of Michigan Dale Earnhardt Jr . has a knack for ending winless streaks at Michigan International Speedway . While his current drought is only four races thanks to his win in May at Talladega Superspeedway , there was once a time when NASCAR's most popular driver ended a pair of glaring winless streaks at the 2-mile track located in the Irish Hills of Michigan. With the Sprint Cup Series heading to MIS for Sunday’s Quicken Loans 400 (1 p.m. ET, FOX Sports 1, MRN, SiriusXM), it's a good time to look back at 2008 and 2012, when the Hendrick Motorsports driver quieted the critics and brought roars from the stands. When Junior entered Victory Lane on June 15, 2008 after he took the LifeLock 400 checkered flag, it brought plenty of relief to Junior Nation, knowing that Earnhardt's decision to leave Dale Earnhardt Incorporated for Hendrick Motorsports could pay off. By picking up his first win since 2006 -- in just his 15th race with his new organization – it allowed his fan base to exhale a bit and focus on all the wins to come in the years ahead (more on that later). In the video above, you may have noticed the final lap lacked much drama, as Junior won the race after Patrick Carpentier spun on the white flag to bring out the yellow -- meaning all Earnhardt had to do was maintain speed as he came to the finish. It worked out because the No. 88 was running low on gas -- Junior didn't even have enough to do a victory burnout and needed to be pushed to Victory Lane -- so if the final lap had been run at full speed, it's possible he'd have run out. Besides, the slow lap just gave fans a chance to cheer louder and longer. Now, as for all of those "wins to come in the years ahead" -- they didn't. Following his landmark win in 2008, Junior then found himself mired in a 143-race winless streak, equating to just under four full seasons. Gas or no gas, after a streak like that, Earnhardt made sure he celebrated with one of the best burnouts we've seen in recent years after he took the Quicken Loans 400 checkered flag in 2012. Worth the wait. FULL SERIES COVERAGE • Latest news • Standings • Schedule
Breaking down the championship crew chiefs
In-depth look at men calling the shots for title contenders RELATED: Crew chiefs aim to keep it the same " Learn more about Newman's pit crew MORE: Follow your picks in the Chase Battle Grid Presented by Toyota Where did these four guys come from? What have they done in the past? A glance at the crew chiefs who will try to guide their respective teams to their first NASCAR Sprint Cup Series championship Sunday at Homestead-Miami Speedway : RODNEY CHILDERS Age: 38 " Hometown: Mooresville, North Carolina Team: Stewart-Haas Racing No. 4 Chevrolet Driver: Kevin Harvick Career crew chief wins: 7 Chase appearances: 1 Championships: 0 First premier series win as crew chief: 2009 Coca-Cola 600 , Charlotte Motor Speedway , with driver David Reutimann ( Michael Waltrip Racing No. 00 Toyota) Previous NASCAR racing experience • 2003: Mechanic, Penske-Jasper Racing No. 77 Dodge in NASCAR Sprint Cup Series with driver Dave Blaney • 2004: Car chief, Penske-Jasper Racing No. 77 Dodge with driver Brendan Gaughan • 2005: Replaced Doug Randolph after 14 races as crew chief of the MB2 Motorsports No. 10 Chevrolet with driver Scott Riggs • 2006: Crew chief for Riggs, MB2 Motorsports; finished 20th in points • 2007: Crew chief for Riggs, Patrick Carpentier and Elliott Sadler (MB2 Motorsports No. 10 Dodge) • 2008: Crew chief for Elliott Sadler (35 of 36 races) and Gillett Evernham Motorsports No. 19 Dodge; 24th-place points finish • 2009: Began three-year tenure as crew chief for driver David Reutimann , Michael Waltrip Racing No. 00 Toyota; 16th-place points finish, which was best of relationship. • 2012: Crew chief for No. 55 MWR Toyota with drivers Mark Martin , Brian Vickers and Michael Waltrip • 2013: Crew chief for No. 55 MWR Toyota with drivers Mark Martin , Brian Vickers and Michael Waltrip TODD GORDON Age: 45 " Hometown: Camden, New York Team: Team Penske No. 22 Ford Driver: Joey Logano Career crew chief wins: 6 Chase appearances: 2 Championships: 0 First premier series win as crew chief: 2013 Pure Michigan 400 , Michigan International Speedway with driver Joey Logano (Team Penske No. 22 Ford) Previous NASCAR racing experience • 2000-02: Fabricator, mechanic and race engineer with Joe Gibbs Racing • 2002: Joined ppc Racing in the NASCAR Nationwide Series • 2005: Named crew chief of ppc Racing No. 10 Ford with drivers Michel Jourdain and Brent Sherman • 2006: Crew chief for Jourdain, Todd Kluever, Kenny Wallace at ppc • 2007: Crew chief and general manager for CJM Racing and No. 10 Chevrolet with driver Jason Keller, Kyle Krisiloff, Marc Mitchell • 2008: Eleventh in points with Keller through 28 races before departing to join Baker Curb Racing; three races with Scott Lagasse as driver • 2009: Crew chief for Keller at Baker Curb Racing in No. 27 Ford; eighth-place points finish • 2010: Race engineer Diamond-Waltrip Racing • 2011: Scored six wins (five with Brad Keselowski , one with Kurt Busch ) as crew chief of Team Penske’s No. 22 NASCAR Nationwide Series Ford • 2012: Named crew chief of the Team Penske No. 22 Ford with driver AJ Allmendinger (subsequently replaced by Sam Hornish Jr . after 17 races) in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series • 2013: Guided Joey Logano to one win, eighth-place points finish in Chase for the Sprint Cup DARIAN GRUBB Age: 39 " Hometown: Floyd, Virginia Team: Joe Gibbs Racing No. 11 Toyota Driver: Denny Hamlin Career crew chief wins: 21 Chase appearances: 5 Championships: 1 First premier series win as crew chief: 2006 Daytona 500 , Daytona International Speedway with driver Jimmie Johnson (Hendrick Motorsports No. 48 Chevrolet) Previous NASCAR racing experience • 2006: Won twice in interim crew chief role for Hendrick Motorsports with driver Jimmie Johnson , including Daytona 500 • 2007: Won Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway with Hendrick Motorsports and driver Casey Mears ; 15th-place points finish • 2009: Moved to Stewart-Haas Racing to become crew chief for Tony Stewart and No. 14 SHR team. Won four points races, as well as Sprint-All Star race; sixth-place points finish • 2010: Two wins with Stewart at SHR; seventh-place points finish • 2011: Won five times, all in the Chase, with Stewart at SHR en route to series title after learning he would not be retained for 2012 • 2011: Named crew chief for Joe Gibbs Racing No. 11 team and driver Denny Hamlin on Dec. 9 • 2012: Guided Hamlin to five wins and sixth-place points finish • 2013: One win with Hamlin, who missed four races due to injury; 23rd-place points finish Note: Grubb was fined $125,000, suspended by NASCAR for six races and placed on six months probation earlier this season for a rules violation at Indianapolis Motor Speedway . LUKE LAMBERT Age: 32 " Hometown: Mount Airy, North Carolina Team: Richard Childress Racing No. 31 Chevrolet Driver: Ryan Newman Career crew chief wins: 0 Chase appearances: 1 Championships: 0 First premier series win as crew chief: None Previous NASCAR racing experience • 2005-08: Junior engineer at Richard Childress Racing • 2008-11: Lead engineer, Richard Childress Racing No. 31 Chevrolet • 2011: Replaced Todd Berrier as crew chief of Richard Childress Racing No. 31 Chevrolet with driver Jeff Burton for final 17 races of season; 20th-place points finish • 2012: Crew chief of Richard Childress Racing No. 2 Chevrolet in NASCAR Nationwide Series and driver Elliott Sadler ; led Sadler to four wins and second-place points finish. • 2013: Returned to Sprint Cup Series as crew chief of Richard Childress Racing No. 31 Chevrolet with driver Jeff Burton ; 20th-place points finish Note: Lambert and Newman are one of two first-year driver/crew chief pairings contending for the championship, along with Childers/Harvick. 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Chase-clinching scenarios for Michigan and Road America
With three races remaining in the regular season, 10 drivers have clinched a spot in the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup , assuming each driver starts the remaining races. The 10 clinchers: Brad Keselowski , Kyle Busch , Carl Edwards , Jimmie Johnson , Matt Kenseth , Kevin Harvick , Kurt Busch , Joey Logano , Martin Truex Jr . and Denny Hamlin . Everyone who has a win this season is locked in -- except for Tony Stewart and Chris Buescher , both of whom have yet to clinch a top-30 spot. Stewart can clinch a top 30 spot at Michigan with some help as he must be 91 points ahead of the 31st position in the standings. A number of drivers who currently have no wins can clinch this weekend, but only if they win the Pure Michigan 400 at Michigan International Speedway (Sunday, 2 p.m. ET, NBCSN, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio). Winless drivers in the standings from Austin Dillon all the way to Aric Almirola could lock in a spot with a victory. See the Sprint Cup standings here . Possible to Clinch: -- Tony Stewart (1 Win, 400 Points, +85 Points Ahead of 31st): Could Clinch a Top 30 spot with help (magic number is 91 points), which is all he needs to do to clinch on wins. The following drivers would clinch with a win: -- Austin Dillon (0 Wins, 596 Points, +281 Points Ahead of 31st) -- Chase Elliott (0 Wins, 588 Points, +273 Points Ahead of 31st) -- Jamie McMurray (0 Wins, 583 Points, +268 Points Ahead of 31st) -- Ryan Newman (0 Wins, 576 Points, +261 Points Ahead of 31st) -- Trevor Bayne (0 Wins, 541 Points, +226 Points Ahead of 31st) -- Kyle Larson (0 Wins, 537 Points, +222 Points Ahead of 31st) -- Kasey Kahne (0 Wins, 537 Points, +222 Points Ahead of 31st) -- AJ Allmendinger (0 Wins, 518 Points, +203 Points Ahead of 31st) -- Ricky Stenhouse Jr (0 Wins, 514 Points, +199 Points Ahead of 31st) -- Ryan Blaney (0 Wins, 508 Points, +193 Points Ahead of 31st) -- Dale Earnhardt Jr (0 Wins, 461 Points, +146 Points Ahead of 31st)** -- Greg Biffle (0 Wins, 441 Points, +126 Points Ahead of 31st) -- Danica Patrick (0 Wins, 432 Points, +117 Points Ahead of 31st) -- Paul Menard (0 Wins, 431 Points, +116 Points Ahead of 31st) -- Clint Bowyer (0 Wins, 407 Points, +92 Points Ahead of 31st) -- Aric Almirola (0 Wins, 406 Points, +91 Points Ahead of 31st) -- Casey Mears (0 Wins, 375 Points, +60 Points Ahead of 31st): With a win, he could clinch a Chase spot on wins if he got help with clinching a Top 30 spot. **Not entered at Michigan XFINITY The following drivers have already clinched a spot in the top 30 of the points standings, so a win at Road America (Saturday, 3 p.m. ET, NBCSN, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio) would lock them into the Chase field -- Justin Allgaier , Ty Dillon , Brendan Gaughan , Brennan Poole , Brandon Jones , Darrell Wallace Jr ., Ryan Reed , Blake Koch , Ryan Sieg , Ross Chastain , Dakoda Armstrong , Jeremy Clements , Ryan Preece , Ray Black Jr . and BJ McLeod . Joey Gase would also clinch a Chase spot with a win. Camping World Truck With a win at Michigan (Saturday, 1 p.m. ET, FS1, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio), any of the four drivers currently sitting with one win would clinch their Chase spot. -- Johnny Sauter (1 Win, 306 Points, +243 Points Ahead of 31st) -- Christopher Bell (1 Win, 296 Points, +233 Points Ahead of 31st) -- Ben Kennedy (1 Win, 287 Points, +224 Points Ahead of 31st) -- John Hunter Nemechek (1 Win, 281 Points, +218 Points Ahead of 31st) Daniel Hemric (0 Wins, 312 Points, +249 Points Ahead of 31st) -- With a win and help, he would clinch a Chase spot on wins. (The help would be in the form of all winless drivers being eliminated from leading the standings after Chicago.)