Richard Childress Racing driver finished second in 2014's final standings Play: NASCAR Fantasy Live CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- His team "stepped up" in 2014 and Ryan Newman said Thursday that he sees no reason the Richard Childress Racing No. 31 team can't continue to not only improve, but challenge for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series championship. "There was a point right around May when we got caught looking in the wrong direction and just were behind," Newman said during the fourth and final day of this year's Charlotte Motor Speedway Media Tour presented by Technocom. "They did an awesome job of continually stepping up, bringing better and more competitive pieces to the race track. Everyone at RCR stepped up. … It was an awesome thing to be a part of." While he did not win a race in '14, thus ending a four-year run of making the trip to Victory Lane once each season, consistency throughout the bulk of the year helped Newman qualify for the 10-race Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup and he was one of only four drivers to advance into the final, championship-determining round at Homestead-Miami Speedway . Although he came up just short of the title, eventually finishing second to Stewart-Haas Racing ’s Kevin Harvick , the effort further convinced the 37-year-old that the move to RCR prior to the '14 season had been the right one. And the team, led by crew chief Luke Lambert, should only get better. "No reason for it not to," said Newman. "Even though there were no (wins) in the win column, we achieved some amazing things for a first-year organization … no reason we can’t keep that incline going." The potential for success, he said, was there from the beginning, "but I didn't think it would explode the way it did. "I think we all saw gunpowder laying on the floor, but we didn't know who was going to light it, when it was going to light and how much of it was going to go off. I think every bit of it went off, and then some." Changes to the rules package for 2015, the use of new technology to officiate pit road and a lack of testing have raised questions about how the upcoming NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season will play out. That being the case, Lambert said RCR, as well as teams across the board, will be relying heavily on the in-house tools and technology at their disposal to get a base for the new year. "From what we're seeing, the speeds aren't going to be dramatically different," he said. "We're expecting to see really good racing, but that's what we'll have to wait until Atlanta (where the rules package will first come into play) to see." Having less horsepower and downforce won't exactly be new, Newman said, but instead will be "a return to where we were a few years ago." The difference now, he said, will come from the static ride height rule that was put into play in '14. "Now I think the cars will be more competitive in dirty air whereas they weren't then," Newman said. "They had less downforce but they had (higher) static heights so whenever you got them in dirty air, they wanted to come up and disconnect themselves from the race track. Every comment was 'the car is out of the race track, all four tires aren’t working for me.' I think as we get back to that level of downforce with the static ride height and the amount of underbody downforce, the racing will be … better. "Goodyear still has to provide the ultimate tire for every situation. And that's not easy because those situations can change. …That is a huge task for them, but that's the ultimate answer. "I've always said the tires are the only thing that touches the race track from my car, so it has to be the connecting device to make the racing as great as it can possibly be." FULL SERIES COVERAGE • Latest news • Standings • Schedule
Miss Sprint Cup Kim Coon follows the No. 17 crew as they compete in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Pit Crew Challenge .
Furniture Row Racing general manager Joe Garone and crew chief Cole Pearn talk about how Pearn is prepared for his new position in the 2015 season.
Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Kasey Kahne discuss their new crew chiefs headed into the 2015 season.
Jackman Nate Bolling out for the year after injury at Charlotte RELATED: Follow your picks in the Perfect Chase Grid Challenge for chance at $100,000 prize Denny Hamlin 's pit crew , which consistently ranks among the swiftest on the circuit, will be without jackman Nate Bolling for the rest of the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup. Bolling had surgery earlier this week to repair the torn right tricep he suffered on the second pit stop in Saturday's Bank of America 500 . He is expected to make a full recovery and be available for the 2015 Daytona 500 . The No. 11 team will turn to backup jackman Kenneth Purcell. Purcell was a part of four championship-winning seasons with the No. 48 team of Jimmie Johnson . Hamlin, who won the spring race at Talladega, is seventh in the standings. Sunday's GEICO 500 (2 p.m. ET, ESPN) at the 2.66-mile superspeedway is the final of three races in the Contender Round of the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup. Eight drivers will advance into the three-race Eliminator Round. MORE: READ: Latest Chase news PLAY: Monitor your Chase Grid Game picks WATCH: Latest NASCAR video FOLLOW LIVE: Get RaceView FULL CHASE COVERAGE • Chase hub page • Chase Grid games • #MyChaseNation
NASCAR debuted the new pit -road officiating technology during the NASCAR Sprint Media Tour.
Veteran has 92 career wins, four premier series titles MORE: NASCAR Chairman and CEO Brian France statement on Gordon " Gordon hub page RELATED: Drivers react to Gordon's announcement " Fans share favorite Gordon memories Hendrick Motorsports announced Thursday morning that this will be Jeff Gordon 's final season competing for a NASCAR Sprint Cup Series championship. The four-time champion announced the news to his No. 24 team Thursday, saying he hesitated using the word "retirement" as he enters his 23rd and final full-time season. Letting team know this will be my final year competing for a championship. pic.twitter.com/s7aH8OpGQZ — Jeff Gordon (@JeffGordonWeb) January 22, 2015 "As a race car driver, much of what I've done throughout my life has been based on following my instincts and trying to make good decisions," Gordon said in a release provided by the team. "I thought long and hard about my future this past year and during the offseason, and I've decided 2015 will be the last time I compete for a championship. I won't use the 'R-word' because I plan to stay extremely busy in the years ahead, and there's always the possibility I'll compete in selected events, although I currently have no plans to do that." Gordon, 43, signed a lifetime contract in 1999 with team owner Rick Hendrick, who first brought him into stock-car racing's big leagues at the end of the 1992 season. He scored four victories in last season's resurgent campaign, bringing his career victory total to 92, third-most on NASCAR's all-time list. The rest of his stellar portfolio -- including three Daytona 500 wins and a record five Brickyard 400 victories -- boasts all the credentials for automatic first-ballot induction into the NASCAR Hall of Fame. In a statement, NASCAR Chairman and CEO Brian France said, " Jeff Gordon transcends NASCAR and will be celebrated as one of the greatest drivers to ever race. We have all enjoyed watching his legend grow for more than two decades, and will continue to do so during his final full-time season. His prolonged excellence and unmatched class continue to earn him the admiration of fans across the globe. Today's announcement is a bittersweet one. I'll miss his competitive fire on a weekly basis, but I am also happy for Jeff and his family as they start a new chapter. On behalf of the entire NASCAR family, I thank Jeff for his years of dedication and genuine love for this sport, and wish him the very best in his final season." RELATED: How Gordon fared in 2014 with different paint schemes Gordon had joked ahead of the 2014 season that he would retire on the spot if he were to claim his fifth title, but his rejuvenating run deep into the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup playoffs seemed to quell any retirement buzz. On Thursday, Gordon said that while his driving days may be coming to a close, he'll continue to stay active in the sport. "I don't foresee a day when I'll ever step away from racing," said Gordon, who is a part-owner of Hendrick's No. 48 team driven by teammate Jimmie Johnson . "I'm a fan of all forms of motor sports, but particularly NASCAR. We have a tremendous product, and I'm passionate about the business and its future success. As an equity owner in Hendrick Motorsports , I'm a partner with Rick (Hendrick) and will remain heavily involved with the company for many years to come. "It means so much to have the chance to continue working with the owner who took a chance on me and the incredible team that's stood behind me every step of the way." Gordon first caught Hendrick's eye in what is now the NASCAR XFINITY Series in March 1992 at Atlanta Motor Speedway , with the veteran team owner marveling about the young driver's car control, even as he seemed on the brink of losing control. Eight months later, Gordon made his debut for Hendrick at the same Georgia track in what signaled a passing of the torch in the NASCAR driver ranks. King Richard Petty said farewell in his final NASCAR start, and Gordon -- who cut his teeth through the sprint-car circuit -- said hello to the world of stock-car racing, paving the way for what became a dynasty for the rest of the decade. "There's simply no way to quantify Jeff's impact," Hendrick said in the team release. "He's one of the biggest sports stars of a generation, and his contributions to the success and growth of NASCAR are unsurpassed. There's been no better ambassador for stock car racing and no greater representation of what a champion should be. I will never be able to properly express the respect and admiration I have for Jeff and how meaningful our relationship is to me. I'm so grateful for everything he's done for our company and my family, and I look forward to many more years together as friends and business partners." RELATED: Gordon strives for five in 2015 Gordon's decision creates a high-profile vacancy for 2016 on one of the sport's most powerful teams. The most likely candidate to replace the four-time champ is reigning XFINITY Series champion Chase Elliott , the 19-year-old wunderkind who remains under contract to Hendrick as he campaigns full-time for JR Motorsports, co-owned by Hendrick teammate Dale Earnhardt Jr . Earnhardt and Hendrick both indicated last year that Elliott was primed to make his first steps into the Sprint Cup Series in 2015, with the possibility of a full-time ride the following season. Though his days of full-time competition in the No. 24 Chevrolet are drawing to a close, Gordon said his desire for a fifth crown hasn't waned. "I'll explore opportunities for the next phase of my career, but my primary focus now and throughout 2015 will be my performance in the No. 24 Chevrolet," Gordon said. "I'm going to pour everything I have into this season and look forward to the challenge of competing for one last championship." International Speedway Corporation CEO Lesa France Kennedy credited Gordon with raising the sport's popularity. In a statement she said, " Jeff Gordon 's significance to our sport cannot be overstated. He is an incredible competitor, and a favorite of millions of fans. His contributions throughout his career to NASCAR have elevated our sport's popularity worldwide. On behalf of the France family and ISC, I thank him for those contributions and wish him the best as he embarks on this next chapter of his career – and his life. We all look forward to watching him take the green flag for his last full-time season, beginning with the DAYTONA 500." That was far from the only statement of support and appreciation of Gordon. Mark Reuss, General Motors executive vice president of global product development, purchasing and supply chain, said the organization was proud of its association with Gordon. " Jeff Gordon is an incredible competitor, leader and ambassador for Chevrolet and motorsports. He has contributed so much – not only on the track with his 92 wins and four championships, but also away from the track as a businessman, with the Jeff Gordon Children's Foundation, and more importantly, as a husband and father. He is a champion, and he has been a great friend. We are proud of our relationship with Jeff, and, just like all of his fans, we look forward to watching him compete for one more championship. We wish Jeff and his family -- Ingrid, Ella and Leo -- all of the best." Gordon began his motorsports career at the early age of 5 in quarter-midget cars, progressing up the ladder of open-wheel racing on dirt and asphalt. As a teenager, he moved with his family from his Vallejo, California, hometown to Indiana in an effort to further his sprint-car career. After notching championships in two U.S. Auto Club divisions, he got his first taste of the XFINITY Series with one race for car owner Hugh Connerty in 1990 before going full-time with team owner Bill Davis the following year. Gordon's solid first season was merely a prelude to his eye-popping 1992 campaign, where he steered Davis' No. 1 Baby Ruth-sponsored Ford to three wins and 11 pole positions. From there, his stock-car career gained momentum and cemented his future as a star when he joined Hendrick's operation. Gordon's rise also marked a career-changing move for a young mechanic named Ray Evernham, a former modified driver from New Jersey who was paired to be his crew chief on the start-up No. 24 team. Evernham helped transform the makeup of the modern pit crew , bringing in a group of professional athletes to service the car, forging what would become known as the "Rainbow Warriors" in a nod to the DuPont-sponsored team's colorful paint scheme. Gordon endured a rough-and-tumble rookie season, going winless with a high number of early exits -- 11 DNFs -- that left him 14th in the final 1993 standings. In 1994, he broke through for his first premier series triumph in the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway , sparking a tearful celebration in Victory Lane. His other win that season came in the inaugural stock-car race at Indianapolis Motor Speedway . RELATED: See Gordon's memorable celebration at Charlotte following his first win From there, the floodgates opened for a dominant rest of the decade. From 1995 to 2001, Gordon landed all four of his championships -- including three in a four-year span from '95 to '98. Over the same seven-year stretch, Gordon amassed 56 victories -- including two Daytona 500 wins -- and established himself as one of the sport's elite drivers. Even with just five full seasons under his belt, he was named one of NASCAR's 50 Greatest Drivers before the 1998 season. Though Gordon picked up a new generation of fans enamored with his on-track success and matinee-idol good looks, some of the older guard of fans were slow to warm to the hotshot from the Midwest. Seven-time champion Dale Earnhardt widened the divide by playfully tweaking Gordon with the nickname of "Wonder Boy." Gordon tweaked right back, toasting his first championship with milk instead of champagne at Earnhardt's suggestion, creating a competitive relationship borne of mutual respect. While Gordon's racing prowess made him a fan favorite, his comfort level in front of the camera brought him and the sport in front of new audiences. His roles as an adept TV host and guest, plus guest appearances on television series and feature films helped make him a household name among non-racing fans. Gordon's second decade in the sport continued his roll with major victories, including the 2005 Daytona 500 , but his bids for a fifth championship came up just short. He finished second to Johnson in 2007 and wound up third on two other occasions. Last year, Gordon maintained that he was still seeking his first Sprint Cup championship, since his four titles came during the later years of the series' sponsorship by R.J. Reynolds. While his goals for 2015 are for nothing short of a championship, Gordon is also poised to break the sport's all-time longevity streak. He is scheduled to tie the all-time record of 788 consecutive starts set by Ricky Rudd next season at Chicagoland Speedway , site of the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup playoffs opener on Sept. 20. Gordon would break the mark the following weekend at New Hampshire Motor Speedway . RELATED: Gordon in fold for 2015, discusses past back woes Gordon's staying power has been largely free of medical issues, though the streak faced a threat last season. Gordon -- who underwent a procedure to help relieve chronic back pain in May 2009 -- battled through a flare-up ahead of the 2014 Coca-Cola 600 , completing all 600 miles in NASCAR's longest race a day after sitting out practice because of the ailment. The healing powers of four wins last season, though, had Gordon enthused about keeping his career going. "I just feel so competitive out there, and that makes me feel young again," Gordon said after posting his fifth Indy victory last July. "When the cars are that good, my back just doesn't seem to hurt as much ... Man, if 43 is like this, I can't wait for 50." Gordon's celebrations last year took on greater meaning as his 7-year-old daughter, Ella, and 4-year-old son, Leo, were regular visitors to Victory Lane with their father and proud mom Ingrid Vandebosch. While Gordon's title aspirations took deep root, he reflected on how important it was for his children and wife to experience a championship, a motivator that sharpened his career goals. As Gordon welcomed his growth as a family man as he headed toward the twilight of his racing career, he also transitioned into the role of philanthropist. Since establishing the Jeff Gordon Children's Foundation in 1999, his reach has included the opening of a children's hospital in Concord, North Carolina in 2006, and his co-founding of the Athletes for Hope non-profit organization the following year. Gordon said last month at the end of NASCAR Champions' Week festivities that he never intended to retire after the 2014 season if he'd claimed championship No. 5. Now with one final full season, Gordon -- who offered grateful words to the NASCAR industry and fans Thursday morning -- has a chance to drive into the next chapter of his life with a championship ring for the thumb. "To everyone at NASCAR, my teammates, sponsors, competitors, friends, family, members of the media and especially our incredible fans, all I can say is thank you," Gordon said.
Change between No. 4, No. 14 teams effective immediately RELATED: Play Perfect Chase Grid Challenge and Chase Battle Grid Presented by Toyota Stewart-Haas Racing officials announced major changes to the pit crew of the organization's No. 4 Chevrolet with driver Kevin Harvick as the team prepares for this year's Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup. According to SHR officials, Harvick will be paired with the over-the-wall crew previously teamed with three-time champion and SHR co-owner Tony Stewart . Stewart, who did not qualify for the Chase, will compete in the season's final 10 races with what is now Harvick's former crew . "We made this change in the best interests of the entire organization," SHR Vice President of Competition Greg Zipadelli said. "Our primary goal is to win races and championships, and this pit crew swap provides championship experience to the No. 4 team and continued race-winning experience to the No. 14 team." With the 10-race Chase kicking off this weekend as Chicagoland Speedway hosts the MyAFibStory.com 400 (ESPN, 2 p.m. ET), Harvick could be in the best position to capture his first Sprint Cup title. Mechanical issues that kept the 38-year-old outside the top 20 in points through the first eight races have been addressed and his team continues to bring one of the fastest cars to the track each weekend. If there has been a soft spot in the system, it might be found on pit road. Harvick raced his way into the lead twice during the early stages of Saturday night's race at Richmond, only to lose the position during subsequent pit stops. "I can't fix them, but it's probably the biggest thing that we have to fix in order to contend for the championship," he said afterward. "I think our cars are as fast as they need to be. The guys do a great job of bringing fast cars every week. It's just one mistake after another every week on pit road." Harvick is making his eighth Chase appearance and his fifth in a row. His best points finish has been third, which he accomplished in 2010, '11 and '13 while competing for Richard Childress Racing . He enters this year's Chase seeded sixth among the 16 drivers in the field. He was the first to win multiple races this season in NASCAR's Sprint Cup Series , making him the first to all but officially lock himself into the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup. But Harvick's No. 4 Chevrolet hasn't been to Victory Lane since his victory at Darlington Raceway in April. Not that the team hasn’t been close. Harvick has finished second five times through this year's first 26 races, the most of any driver. He also was the runner-up in the Sprint All-Star Race, a non-points event. NASCAR measures how long teams spend on pit road during each race, and race winners typically are among the top five in the least amount of time. When he won at Phoenix, Harvick spent less time on pit road than any of the 43 drivers in the field. At Darlington, his total time was sixth best. Sometimes a loss of track position on pit road, whether due to a driver or crew -induced penalty or simply a slow stop, can be overcome on the race track. Often, however, it creates a frustrating scenario in which a driver has to maneuver around other cars he or she had already worked around previously, or it puts the driver in greater danger of getting swept up in someone else's troubles. Such was the case for Harvick earlier this year at Sonoma Raceway . After leading twice for 23 laps, a slow stop in the second half of the race dropped him outside the top 10. A chain-reaction incident at Lap 82 collected the No. 4 entry, and Harvick was left to hobble home with a 20th-place finish. He was dominant at Atlanta, leading 195 of 335 laps, but repeatedly lost the lead on pit road. And although he rolls into this weekend's race on the heels of a fifth-place finish at Richmond, he said at Richmond that the problems on pit road needed to be addressed before the Chase got under way. "Hopefully they have a plan as to what they think they need to do in the shop with the two teams in the Chase, but that's not my department," he said. Now, it seems, that plan has been put into place. The No. 4 team pit crew will now be: Front Tire Changer: Ira Jo Hussey " Hometown: Manchester, New Hampshire Front Tire Carrier: Todd Drakulich " Hometown: Tucson, Arizona Jackman: Mike Casto " Hometown: Proctor, West Virginia Rear Tire Changer: Daniel Smith " Hometown: Concord, North Carolina Rear Tire Carrier: Mike Morneau " Hometown: Oxford, Maine All were members Stewart’s pit crew when he captured the 2011 Sprint Cup championship. Moving over to the No. 14 team: Front Tire Changer: Bryan Jacobsen " Hometown: Honesdale, Pennsylvania Front Tire Carrier: Brett Morrell " Hometown: Windham, Maine Rear Tire Changer: Jonathan Sherman " Hometown: Monroe, Louisiana Jackman: Getty Cavitt, Jr. " Hometown: Owensboro, Kentucky Rear Tire Carrier: Josh Sobecki " Hometown: New Kensington, Pennsylvania Harvick will be joined in the Chase by SHR teammate Kurt Busch , the 2004 Sprint Cup champion and a winner at Martinsville Speedway earlier this year. In addition to Stewart, SHR's Danica Patrick also failed to qualify for the 16-driver postseason field. MORE: READ: Latest Chase news PLAY: NASCAR Chase Grid games WATCH: Latest NASCAR video FOLLOW LIVE: Get RaceView FULL CHASE COVERAGE • Chase hub page • Chase Grid games • #MyChaseNation
Groundbreaking system will change landscape of sport MORE: Go inside the new pit road technology " Data rules, but human element still key CONCORD, N.C. -- NASCAR officials will no longer be standing alongside crewmen to police pit stops in 2015, but that doesn’t mean the sanctioning body won’t be watching what takes place. A new, technologically driven system that incorporates the use of 45 cameras will feed video of every stop made by every team to a central location, where eight officials will log pertinent information and report any violations. "This is a great new innovation," Shawn Rogers, Managing Director of Business Operations for NASCAR, said as he previewed the system for members of the media. "I think it will probably change our sport, put us finally at the tip of the spear with technology. "Paramount to us, we always want to increase our safety when possible, increase our accuracy ... be consistent and above all these days, be transparent." How will it work? Each of the cameras will display two specific pit stalls. Once a car is on pit road, the individual cameras will record its progress as it moves through each area. The use of tracking software and pit road scoring loops identifies and verifies each car. That same system software tracking its movement will indicate any infractions, such as too many men over the wall or driving through too many pit boxes when entering or exiting the pits based on information ingested before the event. If there are no infractions logged by the system, one of the eight officials will still monitor the stop, noting the number of tires taken, whether fuel was added and whether any changes (chassis adjustments or repair to a damaged area, for example) to the car were made. Infractions fall into three groups -- vehicle (such as pitting outside pit box), equipment (leaving pit box with gas can still attached, etc.) and personnel/ crew (too many men over the wall; over the wall too soon, etc.). When the software picks up an infraction, it will be displayed on the monitor where an official will quickly view the stop and either confirm the issue (and subsequently notify the tower) or clear it if it can be determined that no infraction took place. As an example, Rogers provided video of a driver that stopped just beyond his pit box last year when pitting, and the system flagged the infraction. However, crewmen quickly pushed the car back into its box before beginning to service it. Therefore, there was no penalty, and under the new system, an official has the ability to remove and clear the infraction notation. Although it was in place during the final portion of the ’14 season, the system was tested, but not used for official purposes. "We ran the system, full parallel testing, the final 11 races," Rogers said. "Our focus was to test out our hardware and software ... train our officials and give them lots of reps with the system … and train our (operations) group." The expectation is for each pit stop to be viewed and cleared in no more than eight seconds and stops are prioritized -- those that are flagged as infractions are moved to the top of the list for immediate attention. The eight officials work through each stop until all have been cleared, reported when necessary and logged. Teams will be notified of any penalties that occur once a stop has been completed. "We’re not going to tell anyone of any violations until they leave pit road," Rodgers said. "That's how we do speeding violations now. So we don't get into this person found out a little bit sooner than that person. That could be different depending on circumstances, he said. "If 35 cars pit at once on the third lap of the Daytona 500 , some ... could be told sooner than others." The use of the technology will change the number of officials along pit road. Instead of the approximately two dozen that policed pit stops last year, only 10 will be in the pits this year. And Rogers said they would be stationed behind pit wall where they can respond to any team inquiries and monitor actions from that side of the car when necessary. The officiating system will not be used at stand-alone events for the NASCAR XFINITY and Camping World Truck Series, according to Rogers. FULL SERIES COVERAGE • Latest news • Standings • Schedule