Hendrick: Move to ink Byron about future, not Dale Jr.
RELATED: Byron checks off boxes one milestone at a time BRISTOL, Tenn. -- NASCAR Sprint Cup Series team owner Rick Hendrick said this week's signing of Camping World Truck Series phenom William Byron has nothing to do with driver Dale Earnhardt Jr .'s recent battle with concussion-like symptoms, and he expects his driver to return to competition as soon as doctors will allow. "Dale looks great," Hendrick said Saturday night prior to the Bass Pro Shops NRA Night Race at Bristol Motor Speedway . "I had lunch with him and his road crew Wednesday. … We are taking extra effort with the doctors making sure he's going to be 100 percent. He's got a doctor's appointment next week. He's coming along great and he wants to get back in the car. "William has nothing to do with Dale at all. William has all to do with our future down the road, what's going to happen in 3-5 years from now? Nobody knows." Earnhardt has been sidelined since early July after being diagnosed with concussion like symptoms following the Quaker State 400 presented by Advance Auto Parts at Kentucky Speedway . In his absence, drivers Alex Bowman and four-time series champion Jeff Gordon have piloted the team's No. 88 Chevrolet. RELATED: Bowman to drive at Michigan -- not Gordon -- if Dale Jr. can't go Byron has won five times this season in the Truck Series while driving for Kyle Busch Motorsports. He will compete full-time for JR Motorsports, which is co-owned by Hendrick, Earnhardt Jr. and Kelley Earnhardt Miller, in the XFINITY Series beginning in 2017. Hendrick fields Sprint Cup entries for Earnhardt, six-time series champion Jimmie Johnson , Kasey Kahne and Sunoco Rookie of the Year contender Chase Elliott , son of former series champion Bill Elliott . Johnson and primary sponsor Lowe’s signed two-year contract extensions with Hendrick in September of 2015, meaning next season is his last under the current contract. "Jimmie plans to retire there; we plan for him to retire there," Hendrick said of Johnson, who has 77 career victories. "Beyond that, we're excited about (William) just like we were Chase. "If you don't get someone in the pipeline, when it's time for someone to retire then you don't have them. I'd rather bring someone like William along so that we know that we've got someone for the future in our company."
Starting lineup for Quaker State 400 Presented by Advance Auto Parts
See how the cars will lineup at Kentucky and get full team rosters
Weather Delays start of quaker State 400
Fourth NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race to be impacted by rain in 2014
Jimmie Johnson spins, wrecks early at Kentucky
Six-time NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion Jimmie Johnson spun and hit the wall in Turn 4 on Lap 31 of 267 in the Quaker State 400 Presented by Advance Auto Parts on Saturday at Kentucky Speedway, one of multiple wrecks in the race. For Johnson it was the second time during the race weekend that the No. 48 Chevrolet SS found the wall at the 1.5-mile track. Johnson wrecked during practice on Friday and had to go to a backup car for Saturday's race. Johnson has two victories this season, but they came early at Atlanta and Auto Club Speedway. He has just one top-10 finish in the past eight Sprint Cup races. His best finish at Kentucky came in the series' inaugural race in 2011, when he finished third. After heading to the garage, Johnson returned to the race on Lap 75, 42 laps down from the leaders. He finished in 32nd place. Johnson wasn't the only driver to experience trouble, either. Joey Logano (Lap 53) and Ricky Stenhouse Jr. (Lap 10) spent time in the garage after smacking the wall. Logano finished 39th and Stenhouse was 40th. "You're trying to slow down a lot and the brakes started going away and I don't know what happened after that, if a rotor blew up or what made the tire go down, but the right-front went flat and I was pretty much along for the ride after that," Logano said. Rookies Chase Elliott and Ryan Blaney ended up in the garage as well (Lap 87) after making contact, and the caution came out again on Lap 93 for a wreck on the backstretch involving the Nos. 7, 10, 34, 42, 44, 47, 95 and 98. Elliott finished in 31st place, and Blaney was 35th. Cautions also came out for wrecks involving the Nos. 83, 7, 10, 15, 47 and 38 cars. After his hard crash on Lap 170, AJ Allmendinger, driver of the JTG Daugherty Racing Chevrolet SS, emerged from the infield care center with a wrap on his left forearm/wrist. Allmendinger finished in 36th place.
Late miscues cost Truex, Harvick at Kentucky
RELATED: Full Kentucky race results SPARTA, Ky. -- It was the Kevin Harvick - Martin Truex Jr. show for approximately 200 laps on Saturday at Kentucky Speedway as the pair battled back-and-forth inside the top two until a couple of unrelated miscues stole their limelight. Misfortune began first for Martin Truex Jr. after Landon Cassill brought out the night's 11th and final yellow flag on Lap 195 -- matching Kentucky's caution record. During the cycle of pit stops that followed, Truex was penalized for passing on pit road entry, forcing him to line up 22nd for the Lap 200 restart. "Everybody does it," a visibly disappointed Truex said on pit road. "I've had people pass me the same way at Bristol and Martinsville. They'll drive right by you through the pit. Everybody does it, so I don't know why all of a sudden they're making an example out of me. "It's frustrating when you don't win. I feel like I've had a lot not go the right way the last couple years, especially. It is what it is. We'll move on." The Furniture Row Racing wheelman entered pit road second, behind Harvick, and won the race off pit road before receiving the infraction. Harvick's downfall came during the same restart where he lined up first and quickly fell to third as eventual race winner Brad Keselowski took first and Joe Gibbs Racing's Matt Kenseth went around him for second. At the time, the Stewart-Haas Racing driver told his crew, "I'm just trying not to wreck it's so loose." As the Quaker State 400 Presented by Advance Auto Parts hit its waning laps, Harvick was then forced to pit with 16 laps to go. "We just had to put left-side tires on there," the 2014 Sprint Cup champion explained. "(We) couldn't put rights on and then the car went away really bad. That was really kind of the straw that broke the camel's back. "All in all it just came down to fuel mileage and we couldn't make it till the end and some guys could and that's just part of it." Following Harvick's lead, Truex pitted -- for right-side tires and fuel -- with 10 laps to go. Truex had bounced back from 22nd to climb inside the top three before pitting. Harvick and Truex collectively led the Quaker State 400 Presented by Advance Auto Parts for 174 laps in the 267-lap event, but walked away ninth and 10th, respectively, with the SHR driver leading the series in points. Truex, meanwhile, is seventh in points.
Rookie stalwarts Chase Elliott, Ryan Blaney wreck
Sunoco Rookie of the Year candidates Chase Elliott and Ryan Blaney made contact with each other and spun in Turn 3 on Lap 87 of 267 in the Quaker State 400 Presented by Advance Auto Parts on Saturday at Kentucky Speedway. Both drivers were running in the top 10 shortly after a restart when the right front corner of Blaney's No. 21 Wood Brothers Ford made contact with the left rear of Elliott's No. 24 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet SS. "I got put in a bad spot on the restarts a few times," Blaney said on NBCSN. "We got in the middle of (Turn) 3, someone was on our bumper, and got loose, unfortunately. We took the 24 (of Elliott) out, which was not intentional. We both had really good cars." Elliott entered and ended the night eighth in the standings while Blaney, who came in 15th, dropped to 18th and was 24 points beneath the Chase cutoff line. "I tried to give as much room as possible," Elliott told NBCSN. "But hey, that's racing, I guess. We'll try to go get them next week." Elliott returned to the race on Lap 145, 57 laps down from the leaders. Blaney returned on Lap 204, 116 laps down. Elliott finished in 31st place while Blaney was 35th. Blaney aplogized for the wreck and to No. 24 fans on Twitter after the race, taking responsibility for the collision. Last guy I wanna get in an accident with is Chase. Unfortunate deal what happened, I'll take the blame. Sorry to all the 24 fans out there. — Ryan Blaney (@Blaney) July 10, 2016 Other side is we had a really good racecar and the 21 team is strong. Thanks to them for their hard work. — Ryan Blaney (@Blaney) July 10, 2016 &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;gt;
Carl Edwards paces final Kentucky practice
Final practice recap " Final practice speeds " See the full starting lineup For the second time on Friday, Carl Edwards ' No. 19 Toyota soared to the top of the leaderboard with a fast lap of 187.448 mph in the final practice at Kentucky Speedway. The Joe Gibbs Racing driver also paced the field in the previous practice and will roll off the grid fifth in Saturday's Quaker State 400 Presented by Advance Auto Parts (7:30 p.m. ET, NBCSN, PRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio). Martin Truex Jr. ranked second on the speed charts, his No. 78 Furniture Row Racing Toyota clocking in at 186.528 mph. Kyle Larson wheeled his No. 42 Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates Chevrolet at 186.387 mph to earn the third spot on the leaderboard, while Dale Earnhardt Jr. piloted his No. 88 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet fourth-fastest at 186.091 mph. Reigning race winner Kyle Busch rounded out the top five in his No. 18 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota, notching a fast lap of 185.989 mph. Denny Hamlin , who topped Friday's opening session, experienced a rough start to the final session when his No. 11 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota brushed the wall coming out of Turns 3 and 4. Kurt Busch's No. 41 Chevrolet spun and made contact with the wall toward the end of practice, bringing out the caution flag and forcing Busch to a backup -- and to the rear -- for Saturday's 400 -miler. The Sprint Cup Series is back on track Saturday for the Quaker State 400 Presented by Advance Auto Parts (7:30 p.m. ET, NBCSN, PRN, SiriusXM Radio). Practice 3 recap " Practice 3 results Carl Edwards led Friday's second NASCAR Sprint Cup Series practice after rain shortened the earlier scheduled run. The Joe Gibbs Racing driver set the pace for the field with a speed of 188.633 mph. The second session ran for approximately 40 minutes and followed a heavy downpour. Martin Truex Jr. was second-fastest to Edwards at 187.774 mph in his No. 78 Toyota. Kyle Larson was third-fastest (187.487 mph) in the second session after coming in as fifth-fastest in Friday's opening run. Kyle Busch, who was fourth on the speed chart (187.123 mph), had a close call after getting loose coming around a turn and nearly hit the wall, but the defending Sprint Cup Series champion saved his No. 18 Toyota from any damage. Austin Dillon was fifth on the leaderboard at 187.097 mph. Jimmie Johnson , who went to a backup No. 48 Chevrolet after damaging his first car in Friday's opening practice, finished eighth in the day's second session driving his alternate car (186.561 mph). Johnson was second-fastest in Friday's first practice. Practice 2 recap " Practice 2 results Propelled by a fast lap of 188.285 mph in his No. 11 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota, Denny Hamlin topped Friday's first of two scheduled NASCAR Sprint Cup Series practices at Kentucky Speedway in a session that was cut short due to inclement weather. The session was scheduled from 11 a.m.-12:25 p.m. ET, but cars were called to the garage just before 11:30 a.m. ET with severe thunderstorms in the area. Twenty minutes later it began to rain. MORE: Stay updated on the weather Next on the leaderboard was Hendrick Motorsports driver Jimmie Johnson , who posted the early fast speed of 188.121 mph before being overtaken by Hamlin. Johnson also hit the wall solidly during a later run, which led to crew chief Chad Knaus urging the crew to bring out the backup car. "I just got wide," Johnson said of the wreck. "I didn't have anything go wrong, I just got wide and the car just started going straight and it wouldn't turn. I was in the marbles. I couldn't see the line where the track was clean and dirty and it just kept going straight and straight and straight and hit the wall." Stewart-Haas Racing's Kevin Harvick was third on the speed charts with a fast lap of 188.088 mph in his No. 4 Chevrolet. Ty Dillon was fourth with a speed of 188.042 mph in the No. 95 Chevrolet while Kyle Larson rounded out the top five with a top speed of 187.963 mph in his No. 42 Chevrolet. One day after Toyotas posted the four fastest speeds in opening practice, Chevrolets held seven of the top eight fastest times Friday. Carl Edwards , who led Thursday's session, was ninth Friday (187.461 mph) in the No. 19 Toyota. Ricky Stenhouse Jr. posted the 10th-fastest time (187.007 mph) and was the top Ford on the board.
Full schedule for Kentucky
RELATED: Find NBCSN in your area " Watch live online at NBCSports.com The NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, NASCAR XFINITY Series and NASCAR Camping World Truck Series will gather for a tripleheader weekend at Kentucky Speedway this week. Check out the full weekend schedule below. Note: All times are ET SATURDAY, JULY 9: PRE-RACE SCHEDULE -- 5:30:00 p.m.: NSCS Driver/Crew Chief Meeting (Bluegrass Hall) -- 7:00:00 p.m.: NSCS Driver Introductions and NASCAR Special Awards -- 7:27:30 p.m.: Pledge of Allegiance: USAF New Enlistees -- 7:28:15 p.m.: Introduction of God Bless America * Local Boy & Girl Scouts from Kentucky will unfurl US Flag (Turn 1 side of S/F Line) -- 7:28:30 p.m.: God Bless America performed by : J.D. Shelburne, Kentucky Native and country Music Artist -- 7:30:00 p.m.: Presentation of Colors by : Kentucky National Guard -- 7:30:20 p.m.: Invocation by : Larry Campbell, Kentucky Raceway Ministries -- 7:31:00 p.m.: National Anthem by : Marlana VanHoose -- 7:32:30 p.m.: Flyover TOT by : 123rd Airlift Wing, Louisville, KY C-130H from the 165 Airlift Squadron -- 7:37:30 p.m.: "Drivers, Start Your Engines" by : George Sherman, President of Advance Auto Parts -- 7:45:30 p.m.: Green flag for Quaker State 400 Presented by Advance Auto Parts ON TRACK -- 7:30 p.m.: NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Quaker State 400 Presented by Advance Auto Parts (267 laps, 400 .5 miles), NBCSN ( Results ) PRESS CONFERENCES ( Watch live ) -- 11 p.m. (approx.): Sprint Cup post-race DAILY ROUNDUP -- Keselowski scores fuel mileage win at Kentucky -- Fourth win helps Keselowski clinch spot in Chase -- Stewart boosts hold on top-30 spot in standings -- Rookie stars Elliott, Blaney in wreck -- Johnson spins, wrecks early at Kentucky -- Stewart makes 600th career premier series start -- Logano hits wall, sees night come to early end -- Big crash impacts several early at Kentucky -- See photos from the day at the track &amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;lt;/p&amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;gt;
Albert: Drivers hope to help with healing, even if in a small way
SPARTA, Ky. -- Saturday night, two days removed and approximately 900 miles away from the bloodshed that shook the greater Dallas area but also our nation, NASCAR's traveling road show will stage its 18th Sprint Cup race of the year. After the details of the shooting that left five police officers dead and seven others wounded emerged Thursday night, all the anticipation and talk of new rules packages, a reconfigured race track and the home stretch for the sport's playoffs seem much less significant than they did 24 hours ago. Grappling with the world's struggles with violence -- most recently in Dallas, in Baton Rouge, in St. Paul and in Orlando last month, and in so many other datelines now etched in our minds -- carries far more weight outside the microcosm of hosting an automobile race. With so many instances of bad news gripping news network headlines, the chance to watch cars making laps at speed can serve as a temporary reprieve from the heartache. It's an opportunity that hits home -- perhaps this week more than others -- within the confines of the NASCAR garage. "This is definitely a distraction for a lot of people to get their minds off of things that have been affected or not affected or worried about something," said Kevin Harvick , who will start first in Saturday's 400 -miler, the Quaker State 400 Presented by Advance Auto Parts (7:30 p.m. ET, NBCSN, PRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio). "It's definitely something that we can play a big role in being positive impacts on a lot of people's lives. It's a daily reminder of a situation or somebody has cancer or just died or people in the situation that we just had in Dallas with everybody worried and frightened about the things that are going on in their city." The question of whether NASCAR drivers are athletes has surfaced periodically in recent years, but it's worth considering whether their star power can take on greater meaning. Harvick notices, whether it's from fans flocking to him at each whistle stop on the sport's nationwide crisscross or from occasions that carry more gravity. The former Sprint Cup champion says it's "not uncommon" to see pictures from fans of their loved ones "in the casket in your race gear." "At that particular point," Harvick says, "it's fairly obvious that you need to try to do the best you can to not take for granted what we do and realize exactly how much it means to a lot of people." The grind of the sports world's schedule ticks onward, but not without taking time to honor the fallen. Kentucky Speedway paused its daily activity for a five-minute moment of silence Friday afternoon, bringing a rare quiet to the 1.5-mile speedway. The remembrance coincided with an observed moment of silence in downtown Dallas and other parts of the country. Hackneyed sayings such as "the show must go on" seem trite in the face of national tragedy. There is mourning, to be sure. But sport also provides the opportunity for healing and the power to uplift. Watch the Saints' return to Katrina-ravaged New Orleans, or President Bush's ceremonial first pitch in the World Series at Yankee Stadium or Dale Earnhardt Jr. 's star-spangled celebration at Dover in the days and weeks after 9/11 for reference. "I think it's a balancing act," says Brad Keselowski , who will start second in the Quaker State 400 . "You don't want to be, maybe the right term is unworldly, and ignore what's going on. Of course we all want to know what's going on, and I'm as curious as anyone else, but I also understand that a lot of the attraction that our fans have to this sport and any sport is to help them get out of those moments or get out of that mental space. "I think, for me, I try to balance that with trying to be cognizant on my own, but also understanding that in some ways I am an entertainer as a race car driver and a lot of the role that I think I serve in the community with what I do is to help brighten people's day and make them smile." Harvick did his part Friday morning, tweeting out birthday wishes to his son, Keelan, who hammed it up for the camera on the day he turned 4. The funny photo was a small gesture, but one that corresponds with the larger-scale roles of the sport's stars -- their ability to thrill with driving talent, to engage with personal interactions and to give back with their greater contributions to society. "We have the opportunity to have big impacts on people's lives," Harvick said. "Every day you learn more and more about how much of an impact you have. Sometimes you can get so buried into what you are doing, but we are so fortunate to be sitting here doing what we are doing in this environment. Then you see all the real world things that are happening around you and sometimes it's easy to forget that you are pretty lucky to be sitting in the position that you are in."
Mixed reviews, but Kentucky looks to get better with age
All the question marks leading into the first NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race on the newly repaved Kentucky Speedway got answers in Saturday night's Quaker State 400 Presented by Advance Auto Parts . But the topsy-turvy event made some of the answers less clear-cut than most, with drivers' mixed reviews expressing their quibbles about the 1.5-mile track's treacherous conditions but their understanding about why the race played out the way it did. NASCAR used a reduced downforce package as a potential preview of 2017's aero rules for its top division, but did so on a freshly repaved and reconfigured layout. Competition and track officials took as many measures as possible to synthetically age the track, but the racing groove remained a narrow path for the duration of the 267-lap race, making passing a dicey proposition and contributing to 11 yellow flags, a figure that tied a track record. Tires also played a prominent role in altering the race's complexion. After some instances of blistering during a test last month, Goodyear changed course on the tire compound for the Kentucky race, trading grip and faster wear for more durable rubber. The harder compound became a lament for several drivers, though several acknowledged that safety was paramount in the decision. "It's really nobody's fault," said Tony Stewart , who secured his second top-five finish of the season in making his 600th career start Saturday night. "I mean, Goodyear's trying to do what they can to protect themselves and make sure they don't have tire problems. They didn't have to worry about that -- it was the hardest thing on the planet. NHL doesn't have anything on them on a hard puck, but like every other repave, as they get laps and more races on this track, it'll get to where they can come off the hardness of the tire and it'll be better for everybody. This is as bad as it's going to get; it'll get better from here. … "It's kind of hard when you have conditions like that, but the track's going to be fine, NASCAR did the right thing. It's easy to point the finger at Goodyear, but they had to do what they thought was right and what was conservative for them. It's just way too hard, and the wrecks kind of proved that." Dale Earnhardt Jr. , who faded to a 13th-place finish after his No. 88 Chevrolet sputtered out of fuel on the last lap, agreed. "It's a conservative tire. I understand why they did it because of the blistering they had in the test," Earnhardt said. "We can't come here and blister right-fronts (tires) and have guys pounding the fence at 190 miles an hour. And the low downforce -- I don't know if all that stuff is a great combination. … I mean, you couldn't hustle the car at all. You're just on pins and needles all the time on restarts, like 'uhhhh, I don't want to lose any ground.' Boy, if I have a big slip, I'm going to lose all kinds of track position, which happened over and over." Race winner Brad Keselowski had a more pressing issue with saving fuel over the final green-flag stretch, but acknowledged the challenges specifically posed by the track's new asymmetrical layout. With more banking in the speedier Turns 1 and 2 (17 degrees) than in Turns 3 and 4 (14 degrees), drivers required more brake and finesse on one end of the track than the other. "I'm not sure, but it took a lot discipline to run this track tonight," said Keselowski, who wrapped up his third Kentucky win in the Sprint Cup Series. "If you got into Turn 3 and 4 the least bit wrong, you wrecked. That's just the way the race was, and I think that's what we saw. There's arguments to be made good or bad for that. I think it's a good challenge. We're professional race car drivers. It shouldn't be easy. It wasn't tonight. It was very, very difficult. You had to certainly be very smart." Scott Miller, NASCAR Senior Vice President of Competition, said afterward that competition officials have no plans to try the rules package again this season as a possible prelude to 2017. He said that the aerodynamic setup performed as it should, while recognizing the challenges presented by Kentucky's new pavement. "We've known as an industry that the repaves are very, very difficult historically," Miller said. "This was no different. But really the action in all three of the events this weekend I thought for a repave, it turned out really well, and we had obviously tonight a lot of action, like Brad said, a little dicey getting down there in Turn 3 on the restarts especially. "I think the low, low downforce package, if that's what we're calling it now, helped at this race on the repave. I think the corner speeds would have been extremely high, and with the higher downforce stepping out of the groove might have even had more consequences than we had tonight." The onward march of time and weather will likely help the racing groove expand for future races. Other variables will remain moving targets, but much like the Bluegrass State's trademark bourbon, the Kentucky Speedway asphalt should only grow better with age. "I think this package will work great at some other tracks with a different tire, a different surface," Earnhardt said. "This was probably as good as they could've expected with a repave. They're always nasty races, you know."