It was announced Wednesday morning that Ryan Blaney would move to the No. 12 Team Penske car in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series in 2018, and Paul Menard would take over the wheel for the No. 21 Wood Brothers Ford.
Paul Menard's race ended early in the XFINITY Series event at Kentucky after a jarring hit from a solo spin. Three of Richard Childress Racing's cars were involved in incidents on Saturday.
NASCAR gave warnings to several Sprint Cup Series teams for failing either laser inspection station or template inspection during last weekend's on-track action at Charlotte Motor Speedway for the Bank of America 500 , including the No. 27 Richard Childress Racing team for driver Paul Menard . The No. 27 team failed pre-qualifying LIS three times, resulting in a written warning and a loss of 15 minutes of practice time for this weekend at Kansas Speedway for the Hollywood Casino 400 (2:15 p.m. ET, NBC, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio). The No. 30 team of Josh Wise received a written warning and 15-minute loss of practice time, as well, after failing pre-qualifying template inspection three times. The No. 6 Roush Fenway Racing team of Trevor Bayne , the No. 7 Tommy Baldwin Racing team of Regan Smith , the No. 20 Joe Gibbs Racing team of Matt Kenseth , the No. 41 Stewart-Haas Racing team of Kurt Busch , the No. 42 Chip Ganassi Racing team of Kyle Larson , the No. 78 Furniture Row Racing team of Martin Truex Jr ., and the No. 88 Hendrick Motorsports team of Alex Bowman all received written warnings for failing pre-race template inspection twice. The No. 17 Roush Fenway Racing team of Ricky Stenhouse Jr ., the No. 20 of Kenseth, the No. 23 BK Racing team of David Ragan , the No. 24 Hendrick Motorsports team of Chase Elliott , the No. 31 RCR team of Ryan Newman , the No. 34 Front Row Motorsports team of Chris Buescher and the No. 43 Richard Petty Motorsports team of Aric Almirola all received written warnings after failing pre-qualifying LIS inspection twice. Stewart Haas Racing's Nos. 4, 10 and 14 teams -- wheeled by Kevin Harvick , Danica Patrick , and Tony Stewart , respectively -- failed pre-qualifying template inspection twice and received written warnings along with the No. 88 HMS team -- driven Charlotte weekend by Alex Bowman . Both Newman and Patrick served their respective penalties in Charlotte. The No. 3 RCR team of Ty Dillon was the sole XFINITY Series team to receive a written warning after failing pre-race LIS twice.
On the final lap of Stage 2 in Saturday's XFINITY Series race at Pocono Raceway, Paul Menard spins out as Brad Keselowski takes the checkered flag.
AJ Allmendinger and Paul Menard receive major damage after colliding and hitting the wall at Kansas Speedway.
Erik Jones makes contact with Paul Menard , whose No. 2 Chevrolet hits the wall hard and erupts in flames during Saturday's XFINITY race at Auto Club Speedway.
BROOKLYN, Mich. -- The rolling Irish Hills of Brooklyn, Michigan, offer the sort of charm that the Midwestern United States promises in storybooks. Simple and calm, the area is decorated with restaurants, antique stores and ice cream shops that offer local flavors to NASCAR tourists in town for the race. For Midwestern native and driver of the No. 27 Chevrolet, Paul Menard , racing at Michigan International Speedway brings a sense of nostalgia, as his hometown of Eau Claire, Wisconsin, is a little over eight hours west of the two-mile track. "We always like coming to Michigan because it's fairly close to home," Menard said in his hauler Friday morning. "... Looking forward to going to the Friday night fish fry tonight. That's something I miss from Wisconsin is the Friday night fish frys and Michigan has them, so I'm going back to my roots a little bit." The return to his Midwestern roots also seems to transition to the race track: In Menard's last five Sprint Cup starts at Michigan, he has recorded four top-10 results, with three fourth-place finishes in that stretch. The Richard Childress Racing driver credits his team for the strong finishes. "(We bring) good cars for one, our aero program is pretty strong," Menard said. "ECR brings good horsepower. We just balance out the cars around that. Michigan is a groove-and-a-half track, so the line doesn't change much since the repave. But it's getting older and it's weathering, you can start to search around a little bit, but it still all comes down to fast cars and track position." The extra laps in the XFINITY Series car don't hurt, either. Menard also ran Saturday afternoon's Menards 250 presented by Valvoline in the NASCAR XFINITY Series, a race sponsored by his primary backer Menards and Grand Marshaled by his father/Menards founder John Menard . Menard ultimately finished third, but will the additional seat time help for Sunday's FireKeepers Casino 400 (1 p.m. ET, FS1, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio) – and ultimately the rest of the season? The members of the Paul Menard Empire certainly hope so. A force to reckon with "Determined. Resilient. Focused. Ridiculously good looking. All proper descriptors of who the Empire is," The Paul Menard Empire Twitter handle tweeted out Friday evening. "This weekend in Michigan is where we start to claim what is ours. To find that edge, push beyond it and claim the success on the other side. "When you have the power of neon you can do anything. And we will do everything." The Paul Menard Empire: A quirky and eccentric Twitter handle dedicated to Twitter-less Menard . Started in 2010 by pharmacist Jory Fleischauer, the account offers a gathering pond for the eclectic No. 27 fans to express their neon pride. "(When I first started this) someone was like, this is like a movement and I was like no, it's not a movement -- it's an empire," Fleischauer said in an interview on Saturday morning. "I initially started a Facebook page ... and for the longest time it was just kind of our circle of friends, people we knew here and there. And then when he went to RCR the next year and really started running well ... We all support him now, mainly because what's happened over the last few years, but it's weird, it's weird to explain to people." A fellow Wisconsin native, Fleischauer's daily tweets pick up on all the attributes that No. 27 fans cherish: His car's bright neon coloring, his quiet nature, that full beard. Goodness, they love that beard. " Paul Menard may have won the trophy for the race but he really deserves one for that beard," said one NASCAR fan via Twitter after Menard's Road America win in 2015. Their neon knight With more than 2,000 followers now, the Paul Menard Empire seems to have encouraged the Menard brand in recent years. Fleischauer attends races, passes out lanyards to fans and even had shirts made for the No. 27 pit crew, reading " Paul Menard is my homeboy." "I think it might have had a small part in it," Fleischauer said, regarding his impact on the growth and shaping of the fans. "( Menard ) doesn't do any social media things, Menards in general doesn't do any social media things ... so it's kind of like a vacuum out there compared to most drivers and most sponsors where they're heavily involved in stuff. When I started doing my thing, I kind of stepped into that vacuum and filled that void a little bit. "My thing is, I try to have as much fun with stuff as I can ... Paul's a good guy for something like this because he is so quiet and you can play with it and you have so many different angles you can go off. Prior to that, I don't think there was any centralized place for fans to unite over him and his abilities and his success. From a small scale, I kind of started putting that together and giving people something to gravitate to." While Menard himself -- whom Fleischauer calls the Empire Emperor -- doesn't partake in any social media himself, he's well aware of the Empire and its impact. "They're dedicated, I dig it," Menard said. "They like the neon, they like the facial hair. I'm kind of clean-shaven right now for me anyway. But it's a loyal fan base and (I'll) try to get them some results." And when he does put together another win, the Empire will be ready for a celebration rivaling Mardi Gras. "Whenever Paul wins, we have a Menard -i Gras celebration," Fleischauer said. "They usually last a whole week." Call the Empire eclectic, call it strange – but you can't call it dispassionate. Call it neon pride.
FINAL PRACTICE " Full results Polesitter Matt Kenseth showcased the speed of his No. 20 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota once again, as he topped the leaderboard at 186.361 mph during the final Sprint Cup Series practice Saturday at Kansas Speedway . A pair of Stewart-Haas Racing drivers had some misfortune in final practice. While Kurt Busch 's No. 41 Chevrolet showed speed early and he finished the session third (185.797 mph), he found trouble at the end of the session, as a right-front flat tire caused him to drive through the grass out of Turn 4 with just seconds left in practice. Kevin Harvick , who was second-fastest in practice earlier this morning, briefly brought out the caution late in the 50-minute session, as his No. 4 SHR Chevrolet grazed the wall. After tending to the damage, Harvick made another run and ended the session 13th-fastest (184.780 mph). Kyle Larson was second-quickest, his No. 42 Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates Chevrolet the fastest among non-Chase drivers with a top speed of 185.842 mph. Rounding out the top five were two Chase drivers: Hendrick Motorsports ' Chase Elliott (185.752 mph) and Joe Gibbs Racing 's Kyle Busch (185.535 mph), respectively. Charlotte winner Jimmie Johnson (23rd-fastest) was the slowest driver among the 12 Chase competitors, clocking in a best lap of 183.880 mph. Johnson was also the slowest Chaser during morning practice and Friday's Coors Light Pole qualifying session. The Sprint Cup Series is back on track Sunday for the Hollywood Casino 400 (2:15 p.m. ET, NBC/NBC Sports App, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio). PRACTICE 2 " Practice 2 results " 10-lap averages Paul Menard topped the speed charts in Saturday's opening Sprint Cup practice at Kansas Speedway with a speed of 184.672 mph in his No. 27 Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet. Right behind him was Kevin Harvick in the No. 4 Stewart-Haas Racing Chevrolet at 184.376 mph. Rounding out the top five were Kyle Larson in the No. 42 Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates Chevrolet, Chase Elliott in the No. 24 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet and Matt Kenseth in the No. 20 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota. Sprint Cup Series points leader Jimmie Johnson was 25th-fastest with a speed of 181.714 mph in the No. 48 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet. Johnson was the slowest Chase driver in this session. &amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;lt;/p&amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;gt;
Greg Biffle will start on front row for Friday's night event RELATED: Learn more about the Sprint All-Star Race MORE: Full qualifying results Paul Menard took the pole for Friday night's Sprint Showdown (7 p.m. ET, FOX Sports 1, MRN, SiriusXM) at Charlotte Motor Speedway . Menard used a fast lap of 189.673 mph in the second of two round of group qualifying to take the top spot. Joining Menard on the front row will be Greg Biffle (189.660 mph). The Roush Fenway Racing driver topped the opening round at 189.960 mph. The second row will be made up of Michael Waltrip Racing teammates David Ragan (189.049 mph) and Clint Bowyer (188.298 mph). Bowyer won last year's Sprint Showdown. Second-year drivers Austin Dillon and Kyle Larson will make up the second row. Starting in the first three rows has been a theme of success in recent Sprint Showdowns. Eight of the past 11 winners of this event have started in the top six. The lone exceptions being Martin Truex Jr . (started 11th in 2007 win and started 20th in 2010 win) and Sam Hornish Jr . (started 8th in 2009 win). Truex will start seventh while Hornish will be starting 13th on Friday night. Danica Patrick will start 8th as she looks to race her way into the Sprint All-Star Race. Chase Elliott will start 11th as he attempts to get a fifth Hendrick Motorsports car into the field for the Sprint All-Star Race. Should he make the race, it will be a busy weekend for the defending XFINITY Series champion as that series competes at Iowa Speedway with practice and qualifying on Saturday and the 3M 250 on Sunday (2 p.m. ET, FOX Sports 1, MRN, SiriusXM). The Sprint Showdown will be on Friday night at 7 p.m. ET (FOX Sports 1, MRN, SiriusXM). The two winners of each 20-lap segment will advance to Saturday night's Sprint All-Star Race (9 p.m. ET, FOX Sports 1, MRN, SiriusXM). The winner of the first segment will report directly to the garage at the conclusion of the first segment. The Sprint Fan Vote winner will round out the field for the Sprint All-Star Race.
RELATED: Buy Darlington tickets " '16 throwback schemes CONCORD, N.C. -- When Valvoline officials queried NASCAR Sprint Cup Series driver Paul Menard about his racing heroes, the first name on the list was Al Unser Jr. So Menard couldn't be more pleased that the Valvoline-themed throwback paint scheme he will run in this year's Bojangles' Southern 500 pays tribute to Unser Jr.'s lone NASCAR premier series start. Menard's Richard Childress Racing No. 27 Chevrolet will carry the gray, orange and black color scheme used by Unser Jr. for the 1993 Daytona 500 with sponsor Valvoline featured on the hood when the series travels to Darlington Raceway for the annual Labor Day weekend classic. "Little Al's first NASCAR race was the Daytona 500 in 1993," Menard said earlier this week as preparations for the unveiling of the paint scheme got underway. "The partnership with Valvoline this year -- we got to talking earlier about who some of my racing heroes were and Al Jr. was right away, even without the Valvoline relationship. I've always been a huge fan of his. He was the guy in IndyCar that I always pulled for." Menard said he met the former open-wheel champion and two-time winner of the Indianapolis 500 "when I was probably 12." "I remember; he probably doesn't," Menard continued. "But I pulled up (this morning) … and he was standing out in the parking lot. We were out there talking probably 10 or 15 minutes, just about the '93 (Daytona) 500, his autocross stuff that he's doing now, just talking about a little bit of racing." Unser Jr. was carrying the Valvoline colors in 1992 when he won his first Indy 500 title. Already a NASCAR sponsor, Valvoline wanted additional branding in '93 to promote its line of synthetic products, particularly for that year's Daytona 500. And the Daytona 500 just happened to be on Unser Jr.'s bucket list. "There were special races that I wanted to race in my career," Unser Jr. said. "The Indy 500, the Daytona 500, the Daytona 24 Hours and Le Mans. Those are the ones that I really wanted to run as a kid. "The Indy 500 is really where my heart is so we'd been doing that. But yeah, I wanted to run the Daytona 500 sometime during my career and it was just a blessing when Valvoline called me up and said, 'You know, we'd like to do this down in Daytona. Would you like to do it?' "I said, 'Of course I would. It's got to be with a great team.' "They said, 'We've contacted Hendrick Motorsports,' and I go, 'Awesome.' " At that time, the Hendrick organization consisted of three teams with drivers Ken Schrader, Ricky Rudd and rookie Jeff Gordon. The addition of Unser Jr. made it a four-team effort for the series' most notable race. A crash during the second of two twin qualifying races three days before the 500, however, cost Unser Jr. his primary entry and he wound up racing Schrader's backup Chevrolet Lumina. Instead of a gray, orange and black paint scheme, Unser Jr.'s race-day car was white with the Valvoline branding on the hood and across the rear quarter panels. A crash with less that 50 laps remaining took Unser Jr. out of contention, and he finished 36th. When told that Menard and Valvoline were bringing the original paint scheme back to the track for the Darlington throwback weekend, Unser said he was "just overwhelmed." "Mainly because this was just a one off," he said, "not a traditional kind of car with a lot of running behind it, a lot of heritage to it. So when they contacted me and said they were thinking about doing this throwback at Darlington … it was a true blessing." Menard praised Valvoline for not only bringing back the paint scheme, but for the company's long involvement in auto racing. "The brand is iconic in our sport," he said. "You pick out right away where that Valvoline car is on the race track, whether it's a stock car race or IndyCar races, NHRA. They're always around the sport. They have a huge racing legacy and I'm proud to be a part of it." &amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;lt;/p&amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;gt;