Pocono Raceway adds XFINITY race for '16
Pocono Raceway officials announced Tuesday the addition of a NASCAR XFINITY Series event to the track's 2016 racing schedule. The 250-mile race is scheduled for Saturday, June 4, and will be part of a three-race weekend at the 2.5-mile track. The Sprint Cup Series' Axalta "We Paint Winners" 400 is slated for Sunday, June 5 while the Pocono 200 ARCA Racing Series event will kick off the weekend's racing activities. It will be the first appearance for the XFINITY Series at Pocono, which has hosted NASCAR-sanctioned events since 1974. Track president and CEO Brandon Igdalsky said race fans "have been asking for this to happen for several years." Comcast, parent company of series sponsor XFINITY , is based in Philadelphia. "From Day 1 we've been focused on enhancing the way fans experience NASCAR and highlighting the competition and youth in the XFINITY Series," Matt Lederer, director of sports brand marketing for Comcast, said. "The addition of an event at Pocono Raceway in our home state ... will help carry the momentum built in the first year of our partnership into 2016." In addition to the June race weekend, the Pennsylvania 400 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race is scheduled for July 31 at Pocono, along with the Pocono Mountains 150 Camping World Truck Series race and Modspace 125 ARCA event. Camping World Truck Series teams have been competing at Pocono since 2010 while the ARCA Series began competing at the track in 1987. "Pocono is a very unique track," current XFINITY Series points leader Chris Buescher said. "I'm excited that we are adding a new track to the XFINITY Series schedule. I've raced there a considerable amount in the ARCA Series and have always enjoyed it. It will be a good challenge for the XFINITY teams."
Post-Race Reactions: Pocono Mountains 125
Listen to what all the top finishers ahd to say about today's Pocono Mountains 125 .
Hamlin recovers, paces final practice at Bristol
RELATED: Practice 2 results " Final practice results Denny Hamlin made a solid recovery from a collision in Saturday's earlier practice session, setting the pace in final NASCAR Sprint Cup Series practice at Bristol Motor Speedway . Hamlin, sporting repairs on the nose of his Joe Gibbs Racing No. 11 Toyota, logged a best lap of 126.129 mph on the .533-mile track. His car suffered slight right-front damage after making contact with Danica Patrick 's No. 10 Chevrolet in Saturday's earlier practice. Sunoco Rookie of the Year points leader Chase Elliott snuck in the second-fastest lap in the closing minute of practice, turning a 125 .823 mph speed in the Hendrick Motorsports No. 24 Chevrolet. Martin Truex Jr . landed the third-fastest lap ( 125 .749 mph) in the Furniture Row Racing No. 78 Toyota. Coors Light Pole winner Carl Edwards , Hamlin's JGR teammate in the No. 19 Toyota, was fourth-fastest at 125 .691 mph. Edwards, who topped Sprint Cup qualifying for the second straight week, will start first in Sunday's Food City 500 (1 p.m. ET, FOX, PRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio). Kyle Busch , winner of the last four NASCAR national series events, completed the top five in another Joe Gibbs-owned entry. His No. 18 Toyota was fifth-fastest at 125 .395 mph in the 55-minute session. Patrick, the other driver involved in the early-session altercation, also returned to the track after repairs, but brushed the outside wall in the early stages of final practice. She wound up 30th in the 40-car field on the final leaderboard. RELATED: Patrick, Hamlin collide in opening practice Kyle Busch fastest in early Saturday session Kyle Busch kept up his show of speed in Saturday morning practice for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, topping the leaderboard at Bristol Motor Speedway . Busch powered the Joe Gibbs Racing No. 18 Toyota to a best lap of 126.370 mph in the 55-minute session. The reigning Sprint Cup champ will start fifth in Sunday's Food City 500 (1 p.m. ET, FOX, PRN, SiriusXM), the eighth of 36 points-paying races for the series this year. Sunoco Rookie of the Year points leader Chase Elliott was second-fastest at 126.253 mph in the Hendrick Motorsports No. 24 Chevrolet. Kurt Busch wound up third-best (126.137 mph) in the Stewart-Haas Racing No. 41 Chevy. Aric Almirola ( 125 .988 mph) turned the fourth-fastest lap around the .533-mile track in the Richard Petty Motorsports No. 43 Ford. Coors Light Pole Award winner Carl Edwards and Joey Logano , a two-time Bristol winner, tied for the fifth-fastest lap at 125 .972 mph. Denny Hamlin and Danica Patrick made slight contact with approximately 12 minutes remaining in the 55-minute practice. Hamlin's No. 11 Toyota closed rapidly on Patrick's No. 10 Chevrolet entering Turn 1, with the right-front corner of Hamlin's car crunching into the left-rear fender of Patrick's. Defending race winner Matt Kenseth landed the eighth-fastest lap.
Sprint Cup practice results from Bristol
Pos Car Driver Team Time Speed 1 11 Denny Hamlin FedEx Freight Toyota 14.913 128.666 2 78 Martin Truex Jr . Furniture Row Toyota 14.944 128.399 3 2 Brad Keselowski Miller Lite Ford 14.947 128.374 4 48 Jimmie Johnson Lowe's Chevrolet 14.970 128.176 5 1 Jamie McMurray McDonald's Chevrolet 15.018 127.767 6 4 Kevin Harvick ditech Chevrolet 15.023 127.724 7 88 Dale Earnhardt Jr . Nationwide Chevrolet 15.052 127.478 8 18 Kyle Busch M&M's Toyota 15.052 127.478 9 47 AJ Allmendinger Bush's Beans Chevrolet 15.056 127.444 10 19 Carl Edwards Comcast Business Toyota 15.064 127.377 11 20 Matt Kenseth Dollar General Toyota 15.070 127.326 12 41 Kurt Busch Haas Automation/Monster Energy Chevrolet 15.072 127.309 13 31 Ryan Newman WIX Chevrolet 15.093 127.132 14 42 Kyle Larson Target Chevrolet 15.093 127.132 15 95 Michael McDowell KLove Radio Chevrolet 15.093 127.132 16 *21 Ryan Blaney # Motorcraft/Quick Lane Tire & Auto Center Ford 15.098 127.090 17 13 Casey Mears GEICO Chevrolet 15.105 127.031 18 24 Chase Elliott # Kelley Blue Book Chevrolet 15.114 126.955 19 22 Joey Logano Autotrader Ford 15.117 126.930 20 5 Kasey Kahne Great Clips Chevrolet 15.128 126.838 21 27 Paul Menard Tarkett/Menards Chevrolet 15.132 126.804 22 38 Landon Cassill Snap Fitness Ford 15.160 126.570 23 16 Greg Biffle Roush Performance Ford 15.168 126.503 24 7 Regan Smith APC Chevrolet 15.178 126.420 25 43 Aric Almirola Smithfield Ford 15.179 126.411 26 17 Ricky Stenhouse Jr . Zest Ford 15.186 126.353 27 6 Trevor Bayne AdvoCare Ford 15.188 126.337 28 23 David Ragan Dr Pepper Toyota 15.208 126.170 29 34 Chris Buescher # Love's Travel Stops Ford 15.212 126.137 30 44 Brian Scott # Shore Lodge Ford 15.218 126.088 31 3 Austin Dillon Bass Pro Shops/Ranger Boats Chevrolet 15.231 125 .980 32 15 Clint Bowyer 5-hour Energy Chevrolet 15.253 125 .798 33 83 Matt DiBenedetto Cosmo Motors Toyota 15.310 125 .330 34 14 Ty Dillon (i) Bass Pro Shops/TRACKER Boats 15.344 125 .052 35 32 Jeffrey Earnhardt # Keen Parts/Visone RV Ford 15.430 124.355 36 10 Danica Patrick Nature's Bakery Chevrolet 15.458 124.130 37 *30 Josh Wise Curtis Key Plumbing Chevrolet 15.649 122.615 38 *55 Reed Sorenson ChampionMachinery.com Chevrolet 15.791 121.512 39 46 Michael Annett Pilot Flying J Chevrolet 15.914 120.573 40 *98 Cole Whitt Chevrolet 16.113 119.084
Ryan Blaney asks 'American Idol' winner Trent Harmon 21 questions
NASCAR Sprint Cup Series driver Ryan Blaney caught up with the 2016 'American Idol' winner Trent Harmon at Richmond International Raceway to ask him 21 questions.
Post-Race Reactions: Pocono Mountains 150
Clint Bowyer and Johnny Sauter talk about their solid runs in the Pocono Mountains 150 at Pocono Raceway, a track Sauter describes as one he isn't particularly fond of.
Auto Club a homecoming for Harvick, Mears, Reed
RELATED: Paint Scheme Preview for Auto Club " Power Rankings post-Phoenix BAKERSFIELD, Calif. -- As the colorful and massive NASCAR haulers roll into the California hustle and bustle this week for the Auto Club 400 at Auto Club Speedway , the small town of Bakersfield -- about a two-and-half hour Interstate drive northwest -- will proudly perk up too. Its own racing contributions will be on full display in the NASCAR garages, its latest crop of high-talent exports ready to roll at the speedway. The 2014 Sprint Cup Series champion Kevin Harvick , veteran Cup driver Casey Mears and XFINTY driver Ryan Reed -- all Bakersfield bred -- will suit up to compete this weekend. And of course, most of Casey Mears ' famous racing family -- including his dad, Roger, a Baja 1000 and Pikes Peak Hill Climb multi-champion and uncle Rick, a four-time Indy 500 winner -- hail from this humble hamlet, too. NASCAR Hall of Fame nominee Ron Hornaday's hometown, Palmdale, is an hour southeast of Bakersfield's oil fields and almond orchards. He raced in the area, too. This is a blue collar, hard-working and weekend-loving region. It's the West Coast's down-home version of "middle America" -- hours from the glitz of Hollywood, the tech heads of San Francisco and the famous beaches of San Diego. And yet it is ironic how the slow pace of Bakersfield daily life is eclipsed by the high-speed distinctions of its many racing natives. They have won a Daytona 500 , a NASCAR Sprint Cup championship, Indy 500 rings, IndyCar championships, a Rolex 24 watch, Pikes Peak Hill Climb titles and various USAC crowns. There may not be a higher concentration of this wide-range of racing success in another single hometown in the country. "For years, Bakersfield was kind of the butt of the jokes in L.A. on television with the late night shows," Rick Mears said. "It was a running joke, so that always made it a little sweeter when you put it (Bakersfield) on the map a little bit and could kind of rub it in and say, 'Hey, what are you talking about? Bakersfield's not so bad.' "There is a sense of pride to be able to accomplish those kinds of things and being from there. And now Kevin Harvick doing a similar deal in NASCAR, it's really cool." While surfing -- the water or the Web -- may characterize other parts of the Golden State, racing is the definitive brand here. Go-kart tracks, short tracks, Kern County Raceway Park, Bakersfield Speedway. They are typically packed with spectators, and as history has proven, perhaps the "next great thing" behind a wheel. The former -- and famous -- Mesa Marin Speedway track here has only recently been leveled and used as foundation for a modern sports complex of softball fields. For decades, the birthplace of NASCAR's truck series was a West Coast hub and showcase for the region's racing talent. "I wouldn't say the racing community is huge in Bakersfield, but for some reason it's definitely developed quite a few racers that have gone on to be successful," said Casey Mears , driver of the No. 13 Geico Chevrolet in the Cup Series. "I think everybody in Bakersfield is aware of motorsports and aware of what my family has done, and with Harvick winning the championship [in 2014], I'm sure that was huge. "There's definitely a following but I wouldn't say the racing community itself is large. It's just those that are involved are passionate about it." The first family of Bakersfield Bakersfield residents certainly know Casey Mears grandparents, Bill and Mae Mears, as "beloved regulars." The two ride their scooters around the downtown riverfront on their way to a nice lunch at one of their favorite haunts. The actual food is truly the least of their pursuits. This is social exercise. The Mears are easy to spot because of their wide smiles, friendly handshakes and all the people eager to greet them -- either to share some stories or listen to better ones. The couple is bona fide Bakersfield celebrity -- their offspring some of racing's greatest talents. So it is oh-so perfect that these two -- married 70 years now -- get all around town via scooters. And every so often, Bill says with a laugh, Mae will make a run right by him, speeding along the way just to keep things interesting. Their celebrated racing offspring definitely get their competitive edge and need for speed honestly. The Mears' loved Bakersfield from the moment they came upon it in 1955 -- only a couple years after a major earthquake in the region. "We came out here and saw how nice it was, so we went back home (to Kansas) and sold everything and came back," Bill Mears explained, still today a little amused by the adventure of his own story. "My wife's aunt sent her mom some money to buy gas for us. We brought them out here to see it and just liked it so well, we said, 'We'll go home, give ourselves a couple weeks and we're coming back.' And so we did." They sold most of their belongings in Kansas and motored West to set up home. Racing was not necessarily any grand vision for this couple that ultimately raised some of the country's most celebrated champions in Roger and Rick. "I came out here and I started racing out here and when I quit, the kids started doing it," Bill Mears explained. "We always did everything to be together. We did it for family, never expected to do it for racing. That's why they called it the 'Mears Gang.' We were always together, rode motorcycles together, just grew up in the mountains on the weekends. We had a family deal and it just worked out to be unbelievable," he explained, his voice becoming a little emotional. "It's just been unbelievable. "We would go to L.A. and Rick raced motorcycles, but my wife didn't like him riding. He was winning and everything, but we were afraid he'd get hurt. We went to L.A. and saw a (dune)buggy race, Volkswagens. We watched them race and said to the boys, 'We'll build you one of these if you'll quit racing motorcycles.' So that's how it got started." He remembers his then-teenage sons working hard during the week to raise money for their weekend racing passion -- their fantastic legacies still to be set. "We were all just racers and went out to local tracks on weekends with friends," Bill Mears said. "Harvick's dad came out to our shop and helped us on our first NASCAR pick-up we built. Harvick was just a little kid standing back there watching his dad work on our car. "Just a group that everybody likes racing. We'd just meet at local tracks on weekends and race. I can't believe how many local drivers have made it. And Ryan Reed now. It just shows there's a lot of talent around here." Harvick, Reed welcomed back with open arms A year ago, then-reigning Cup champion Harvick stopped by his hometown to dedicate a YMCA, film a biographical feature for TV, dine with his old friends and supporters, and bask in the love and pride showered upon him by all those fans who remember him when. People stood in front of the brick YMCA building for hours waiting for a handshake or autograph, eager to cheer his entrance. Many wore "vintage" t-shirts from Harvick's late-model days. They remember watching him "when." And yet for many waiting in line, this was yet another chance to see Harvick, who comes back to town several times a year. His mom, father and sister still live in Bakersfield's "Oildale" community, or as Harvick said in accepting one of his early NASCAR trophies, "Not bad for an 08-er," referring to the 93308 zip code for the area. Harvick, Mears and Reed all went to different high schools and are just different enough in age to represent three distinct Bakersfield eras. Reed, 22, who drives the No. 16 Ford Mustang for Roush Fenway Racing in the XFINITY Series, considers himself fortunate to have grown up in the town and pursued racing -- and to have the Mears and Harvick to look up to. "For sure this is a racing town," Reed said of Bakersfield. "And it's just a really cool thing. The newspaper, the sports writers, it doesn't matter. In (2014), we finished ninth in the points and they were still doing stories on us. It doesn't matter if you've had a horrible year and they want to know how you'll get better, or you have a great year and they want to brag about it. "They are there to support you, and when I go home I always have people coming up to me and saying, 'Good going.' They're just so proud of me. To hear that is really cool. "And it definitely motivates you." Marion Collins, who used to run Mesa Marin where Reed’s father and later, Harvick raced, is still sentimental about what the track meant to the area and how it contributed to the sport. "We feel really good about all the people that's come through here," Collins said. "Kevin (Harvick), (Ron) Hornaday and just a ton of guys from this part of the country. "At one time, we had the best race track in this part of the country and everyone wanted to come here. Kinda nice to have people come here and then do good things on down the road." Harvick couldn't agree more. And as the Stewart-Haas Racing driver interacts with old friends and former influences in Bakersfield, his pride -- their pride -- couldn't be more apparent. Everyone worked in a large confluence to help racing careers. And it's been an undeniable success. "That's just this town and really the way it's been since I started racing," Harvick said. "You develop the relationships through the years. "That network of people is what made our race teams function well. Getting out there and talking to people, you create friendships and partnerships. You have to put the effort in to make it work. "I come back here all the time and it would be the same type of turnout whether I was winning or losing. These people have supported me through the years, win lose or draw. "That's the type of community it is."
The Rundown: Martinsville driver grades
RELATED: Full race results " Updated series standings " Chase Grid Below is a breakdown of how the 40-car field fared at Martinsville Speedway . 1. Kyle Busch , No. 18 Toyota, Joe Gibbs Racing . Busch earned his first career NASCAR win at Martinsville on Saturday and completed the weekend sweep with a dominating victory on Sunday. He took the lead for the first time on Lap 32 and led five times for a total of 352 laps. Earning his second grandfather clock trophy in as many days, the defending Sprint Cup champion also punched his ticket to the Chase. Grade: A+ 2. AJ Allmendinger , No. 47 Chevrolet, JTG Daugherty Racing . Allmendinger was impressive all weekend long, and was a factor in the top 10 for much of Sunday’s race. Using aggressive moves, ‘Dinger was able to work his way to third with 25 laps to go, but was not content with that. He moved to second with less than 10 laps to go and put the pressure on Kyle Busch . Grade: A+ 3. Kyle Larson , No. 42 Chevrolet, Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates. After struggling in his first four Martinsville starts, Larson was fast all weekend and was a factor in the top 10 for much of the day. Getting aggressive late in the going, Larson worked his way to a third-place finish. Grade: A 4. Austin Dillon , No. 3 Chevrolet, Richard Childress Racing . While his RCR teammates were fast all weekend, Dillon struggled mightily in practice and qualifying. However, the team made gains overnight and Dillon raced his way into the top 10 and was inside the top five when the checkered flag flew. He also grew frustrated with teammate Paul Menard for putting him on the high side, but the teammates put their differences aside after the race. Grade: B+ 5. Brad Keselowski , No. 2 Ford, Team Penske . Keselowski left pit road in second on the first stop of the day, but was forced to the rear for a speeding penalty, putting him in a hole early. By the halfway mark, Keselowski was back in the top five. With 125 laps to go he was in second. Fighting hard in the pack in the closing stages of the race, Keselowski came home fifth. Grade: B 6. Carl Edwards , No. 19 Toyota, Joe Gibbs Racing . While his JGR teammates spent the day at the front of the field, Edwards struggled throughout the first half of the race and fought for the free pass position for much of the afternoon. Once he got it, Edwards recovered nicely and was in the top 10 late in the going to finish sixth. Grade: B+ 7. Brian Vickers , No. 14 Chevrolet, Stewart-Haas Racing . Vickers was fast throughout the weekend and that speed showed up late in the race. After knocking on the door of the top five, Vickers was seventh when the checkered flag flew. Grade: B 8. Paul Menard , No. 27 Chevrolet, Richard Childress Racing . Fast all weekend, Menard took the lead for the first time on Lap 22. He had multiple run-ins with his teammate Austin Dillon , but the two shook hands after the race after RCR put all three cars in the top 10. Grade: B+ 9. Jimmie Johnson , No. 48 Chevrolet, Hendrick Motorsports . The eight-time Martinsville winner fought hard with multiple drivers throughout the day, and was a constant factor in the top 10. Once dominant at the short track, Johnson’s last win at "The Paperclip" came in 2013. Grade: B- 10. Ryan Newman , No. 31 Chevrolet, Richard Childress Racing . Newman had a strong car all weekend and in the opening stages of Sunday’s race. He fell outside the top 15 just past the 200-lap mark, fell a lap down on Lap 206, but eventually got his lap back. Charging hard, Newman fought to the top 10 at the end of the day. Grade: B 11. Joey Logano , No. 22 Ford, Team Penske . Blistering fast early, Logano slipped from the lead to outside the top 20 by Lap 70 on worn tires and was put a lap down by Kyle Busch on Lap 74. Overcoming the early setback, Logano was just outside the top 10 by the halfway mark. Logano’s crew drew a penalty for an uncontrolled tire under the sixth caution of the day, dropping him to the rear of the field with 110 laps to go. He raced back to 11th with debris blocking his view in the closing laps. Grade: B- 12. Greg Biffle , No. 16 Ford, Roush Fenway Racing . Running in the top 15 for much of the afternoon, Biffle told the team he used the brakes up just past the halfway mark. Despite the issue, he scored his best Martinsville finish since 2013. Grade: B 13. Kurt Busch , No. 41 Chevrolet, Stewart-Haas Racing . After a lackluster qualifying effort, Busch quietly made his way through the field and was a factor in the top 10. He slipped in the final stages of the event and ended the day 13th. Grade: B- 14. Dale Earnhardt Jr ., No. 88 Chevrolet, Hendrick Motorsports . Starting mid-pack, Earnhardt Jr. brought out the first caution of the day after contact with David Ragan on Lap 4. Junior spent much of the day a lap down, but got the free pass on Lap 313. With 150 laps to go, he was inside the top 15 and brought it home 14th. Grade: B 15. Matt Kenseth , No. 20 Toyota, Joe Gibbs Racing . Trying to put last fall’s wild race behind him, Kenseth was fast throughout the day and took the lead for the first time on Lap 132. Leading three times for 45 laps, Kenseth had one of the strongest cars in the field, but was hung on the high side on the final restart of the race and dropped to 15th. Grade: A- 16. Danica Patrick , No. 10 Chevrolet, Stewart-Haas Racing . Starting 28th, Patrick kept her nose clean and moved into the top 15 by the 100-lap mark. Patrick fell a lap down for the first time around Lap 210, fought with Ryan Newman for the lucky dog and got the free pass on the fourth caution of the day on Lap 221. With 100 laps to go, she was in the top 10 and fighting for more, but the handling went away. Grade: B+ 17. Kevin Harvick , No. 4 Chevrolet, Stewart-Haas Racing . Starting 19th, Harvick was inside the top 10 by Lap 50. He took the lead for the first time on Lap 101 and remained a factor at the front the remainder of the day. Despite leading 72 laps, Harvick struggled on the final set of tires and slipped to 17th on the final run of the day. Grade: B- 18. Ma rtin Truex Jr ., No. 78 Toyota, Furniture Row Racing . The driver of the No. 78 Toyota had a quiet day at the paperclip-shaped short track, starting 16th and finishing 18th. Grade: C+ 19. Ryan Blaney , No. 21 Ford, Wood Brothers Racing . Piloting the historic No. 21 Ford, Blaney was often caught in the high line and struggled with track position. He remained on the lead lap for much of the race, but was finally passed by the leader with 50 laps to go while running 18th. He got his lap back under the seventh caution of the day, and was the last car on the lead lap. Grade: B- 20. Chase Elliott , No. 24 Chevrolet, Hendrick Motorsports . His second Martinsville start went much better than his first, but the rookie driver still struggled a bit, running outside the top 20. He was hit with a pit road speeding penalty under the seventh caution of the day, but fought back to be the first car one lap down. Grade: C 21. David Ragan , No. 23 Toyota, BK Racing . Ragan was involved in the first caution of the day when contact sent Dale Jr. spinning. The BK Racing driver ran as high as 19th at one point and finished just outside the top 20. Grade: C 22. Kasey Kahne , No. 5 Chevrolet, Hendrick Motorsports . Battling a free car early, Kahne was unable to maintain his position at the front of the field and fell to 14th by the 50-lap mark. The No. 5 Chevy was lapped by Kyle Busch on Lap 84 and was never a factor. Grade: C- 23. Jamie McMurray , No. 1 Chevrolet, Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates. Fighting for the free pass much of the day, McMurray got back on the lead lap late in the going, but had a bad tire rub with 25 laps to go after contact with another car. The tire eventually let go and he spun to bring out the eighth caution of the day with 15 laps to go. Grade: C- 24. Michael McDowell , No. 95 Chevrolet, Circle Sport- Leavine Family Racing . McDowell had a strong run going for much of the day, but fell a lap down and dropped outside the top 20. Still, a solid performance for the underdog team. Grade: B- 25. Clint Bowyer , No. 15 Toyota, HScott Motorsports . Early on it appeared it would be another rough weekend for Bowyer, but the No. 15 team fought hard and finished five spots ahead of where they started. Grade: C 26. Brian Scott , No. 44 Ford, Richard Petty Motorsports . Making his first Martinsville start, Scott spent much of the day fighting to race inside the top 30. When the checkered flag flew, the rookie contender finished exactly where he started. Grade: C 27. Trevor Bayne , No. 6 Ford, Roush Fenway Racing . The weekend got off to a rough start when Bayne wrecked in practice on Friday and went to a backup car. Despite the issues early in the weekend, Bayne avoided trouble on Sunday and finished 27th. Grade: C 28. Landon Cassill , No. 38 Ford, Front Row Motorsports . Cassil started 33rd and worked his way to 28th when the checkered flag flew. Grade: C 29. Matt DiBenedetto , No. 83 Toyota, BK Racing . Engine issues brought DiBenedetto to pit road with 200 laps remaining, but he continued on. The team recovered and DiBenedetto finished inside the top 30. Grade: C 30. Cole Whitt , No. 98 Chevrolet, Premium Motorsports. Whitt started 31st and ran around there for much of the afternoon. While he finished five laps down to the race leaders, he was able to gain one spot by the time the checkered flag flew. Grade: C- 31. Casey Mears , No. 13 Chevrolet, Germain Racing . Starting 18th, Mears and the No. 13 team had higher hopes for Sunday’s race at Martinsville. By Lap 50, however, he was outside the top 30 and unable to recover. Grade: D 32. Ricky Stenhouse Jr ., No. 17 Ford, Roush Fenway Racing . The No. 17 Ford was sent spinning after a hard-fought battle with Regan Smith to bring out the third caution of the race. That ruined the day for the RFR driver. Grade: C- 33. Chris Buescher , No. 34 Ford, Front Row Motorsports . Making his second Martinsville start, the 2015 XFINITY Series champion finished nine laps down, but still made gains on where he started (36th). Grade: C- 34. Regan Smith , No. 7 Chevrolet, Tommy Baldwin Racing . Smith had a wild day at the rough-and-tumble short track, rubbing fenders with a number of other drivers. The No. 7 had an issue with the left front that sent Smith into the wall with 43 laps to go. Grade: D 35. Michael Annett , No. 46 Chevrolet, HScott Motorsports . Put multiple laps down early in the going, Annett was hit by Brian Scott and sent spinning to bring out the second caution of the day on Lap 92. He also spun off Turn 2 on Lap 384 to bring out the sixth caution. Grade: D- 36. Joey Gase , No. 32 Ford, Go Fas Racing . Gase had a close call when hit from behind by Clint Bowyer , but the young driver was able to keep his car going in the right direction. That was really the highlight of his day, though. Grade: D+ 37. Reed Sorenson , No. 55 Chevrolet, Premium Motorsports. Piloting a second Premium Motorsports car, Sorenson did his best to stay out of the way of the lead lap car. Starting 40th, he finished the day 37th. Grade: D 38. Josh Wise , No. 30 Chevrolet, The Motorsports Group. Running 37th, Wise was ahead of a battle for 13th when Martin Truex Jr . sent him up the hill in Turn 2 to bring out the fifth caution of the day on Lap 313. He eventually took the car behind the wall. Grade: D 39. Denny Hamlin , No. 11 Toyota, Joe Gibbs Racing . The Martinsville master was hit with a speeding penalty on the first stop of the day, forcing him to the rear of the field. Hamlin was able to work his way back into the top five, but he hit the wall hard on Lap 221 causing heavy damage to the No. 11 Toyota. Pit road problems and a self-inflicted wreck capped off an uncharacteristic day for the JGR driver. Grade: D 40. Aric Almirola , No. 43 Ford, Richard Petty Motorsports . Almirola’s day went south just ahead of the Lap 175 mark that the engine was running on six cylinders. The engine continued to go sour, more cylinders failed and the No. 43 was forced behind the wall early. Grade: D
Alfalla takes share of championship lead with Auto Club win
Two-time champion Ray Alfalla ( Slip Angle Motorsports ) took his first checkered flag of the 2016 NASCAR PEAK Antifreeze Series in dominating fashion at Auto Club Speedway on March 29. Alfalla started on the outside pole and quickly asserted himself as the driver to beat by taking the lead on the opening lap from pole-sitter Cody Byus ( The TEAM ) and totaled a race-high 66 circuits at the front. PJ Stergios ( Last Row Motorsports ) finished second, five seconds behind Alfalla at the checkers for his fourth top-five finish in as many races. Kenny Humpe was third, his second top-five finish of the season. Allen Boes ( Deadzone ) finished fourth and David Rattler ( LockDown Racing ) played an alternate pit strategy to earn a fifth-place result. "This is one of my favorite tracks, and it feels nice to bring it home with the win," Alfalla said. Two weeks after a caution-free event at Phoenix, the caution flew twice in the first nine laps for a pair of incidents. First, Timmy Hill was sent spinning after contact with Justin Bolton. Hill was able to continue to a mediocre 23rd-place finish. Just a few laps later, Dillon Raffurty veered hard into the outside wall on the restart after experiencing technical difficulties. The crash would collect nearly a dozen cars and end the race for five sim racers, including Raffurty, who was credited with 42nd-place. After the two quick cautions, the rest of the 125 -lap race was run caution-free, giving drivers with speed on the long run an advantage while also allowing varying pit strategies to play out. With tire wear once again a huge factor, drivers near the front chose to pit well before fuel became an issue. On the first run Alfalla fired off quickly and built a gap to the rest of the field but slowly began losing his gap as the run wore on. Since Alfalla was on a three-stop strategy, his total time given up was quite minimal and after performing some adjustments to his car, his long run speed improved in later runs. Despite the early troubles on the long run, Alfalla was never seriously challenged on speed the rest of the race. With the race seemingly in hand, other drivers lacking the outright speed to keep up with Alfalla tried a riskier two-stop pit strategy. Rattler and Andrew Fayash were two drivers willing to try the counter-strategy and Rattler in particular found success with it. Although his car was not as fast as the leaders, his long run speed was competitive and one less trip down pit road than the leaders saved him nearly 40 seconds on track. Instead of being stuck mid-pack, Rattler wound up leading 34 laps and was leading as late as Lap 111 before Alfalla overtook him on fresher tires. Though he fell short on picking up his first NASCAR PEAK Antifreeze Series win, a top five was just what Rattler needed as he moved up to 12th in the series standings. With a quarter of the 2016 season in the books, a quintet of drivers is in position to battle for the series title. PJ Stergios and Alfalla are tied for the points lead, 11 points ahead of Boes. Jake Stergios is another three points adrift, followed by Chris Overland, who sits four markers behind the second Stergios brother. Consistent top-five finishes have separated the front five drivers from the pack. Nick Ottinger, who is sixth in the championship, is 25 points behind fifth and 48 points -- equal to a full race -- behind the leader. In two weeks, the rest of the field will look to close in on the front five as the series heads to Texas Motor Speedway . The fast 1.5-mile track is aero-dependent and notoriously tough to pass on, making qualifying and pit strategy of high importance. Can past champions Humpe and Tyler Hudson spoil the fun of the top five, or will Texas see familiar faces at the front once again? Find out in two weeks' time when the NASCAR PEAK Antifreeze Series takes to the Texas high-banks on iRacingLive!
Austin Dillon wins Pocono Mountains 150
Driver holds off field in green-white-checkered finish