Dale Earnhardt-Wrangler deal risky, but paid off big for Richard Childress
GREENSBORO, N.C. -- Richard Childress went all in. He wagered everything -- his yesterday, his today and his tomorrow. He bet it on a late-season deal with a driver who was a maverick, and he bet it on nothing more than a sliver of a sponsorship. And at the end of that 1981 season, less than a dozen races after the relationships began, the driver and the sponsor departed. The story could have ended there. Driver gone, sponsor gone and Childress, who had tried to scratch out a living as a racer before going the ownership route, hopelessly broke and perhaps finished with NASCAR. But it didn't. Two years later, both Dale Earnhardt and Wrangler reunited with Childress. The union produced a pair of championships and a slew of wins, and set Childress and Earnhardt on a path of success rarely seen in NASCAR. "I borrowed everything I could on my home; I sold everything I had that I thought I could sell just to run Dale those 10 races," Childress said Wednesday during a celebration at Wrangler's headquarters here in Greensboro. "At the end of it, I was just in debt. I had borrowed money from some folks and everything just to run those 10 races." It's fitting that the celebration of the region's textile community, dubbed Jeansboro Day, took place this week, just as NASCAR's premier series prepares to return to Talladega Superspeedway this weekend. Because it was at Talladega in the summer of '81 that all the pieces first came together that would unite Childress, Earnhardt and Wrangler. "I had already talked to Dale at the track earlier that day," Childress said, "and put our deal together." Later, at the long-gone Anniston Inn just east of the track, he met with Phil Holmer of Goodyear, Wrangler officials and Joe Whitlock, who handled Earnhardt's public relations at the time. Earnhardt had won the 1980 title while driving for team owner Rod Osterlund, but when the team was sold mid-season to J.D. Stacy in '81, the driver wanted out. A deal to run the final 11 races of the season was struck, with Childress and Wrangler. By year's end, Earnhardt had managed six top-10 finishes, but the strong runs were offset by mechanical issues and parts breakage. "We ran good, but I knew we didn't have what it took to run him for a championship," Childress said. Dale Earnhardt talks with Richard Childress after the two reunited in 1984. Dale Earnhardt Jr . remembers that season, in particular his father's second start with Childress. "I remember the race at Bristol where you had the accident on pit road that second race that dad drove for you in 1981," Earnhardt Jr. said Wednesday. "I was there. I know that because one of my most favorite photos of me and my father, they basically had these two tires stacked on top of each other and I'm standing in the wheel to get a better perspective to watch the race. I must have been 7 years old. "But Dad is standing with me and we're both watching the rest of the race; the car is in the background too damaged to continue. But my favorite photo of me and my father actually happened that day at Bristol." At the suggestion of Childress, Earnhardt left at the end of the year, taking the Wrangler funding with him to sign with veteran team owner Bud Moore. Childress hired driver Ricky Rudd, and a late deal put Piedmont Airlines on the car and helped stabilize the organization. Wrangler officials, knowing his dire financial situation, had kicked in an extra $50,000 at year's end to help Childress keep his operation upright. "That really helped me going into the following year," Childress said. What would have he done without it? "It's hard to say," he said. "I never look back. I just look ahead and that was one of those deals that helped me look ahead. I don't know where we would have been without it." Before the '84 season began, Childress said Wrangler officials wanted to reunite, with Earnhardt once again driving the No. 3 Chevrolet. The Earnhardt/Moore union had produced just three wins over the course of two years. Childress was more than willing to agree. "I'll never forget Bud told me at Riverside, 'Boy, that boy will break you,'" Childress recalled Moore telling him of Earnhardt. Instead, the pair flourished. A Legacy Continues In 2010, Earnhardt brought the brand back to the race track for a one-off race, winning the XFINITY Series event that summer at Daytona International Speedway . The car, prepared by his own JR Motorsports group, sported the No. 3 and a paint scheme similar to his father's. He continues to serve as a spokesperson for the company, and says it is "amazing" that the relationship has endured for so long. "My father first had Wrangler on the side of his car at the end of the 1980 season; he won the championship with Wrangler on the quarter panel of his car racing at Ontario in 1980 for the final race of the season," Earnhardt Jr. said. "Then he went into 1981 with Wrangler as a full-time sponsor. And we're still working together today. "I'm very proud of that relationship, very proud that it spanned so many years. Typically, relationships just don't last that long. So it says a lot about Wrangler and what they get out of the sport itself; their connection to race fans and the legacy of the Earnhardt family and Richard , everything that Richard and Dad did together."
The Rundown: Talladega driver grades
RELATED: Full race results " Series standings " Chase Grid Breaking down the full field for the Hellmann's 500 at Talladega Superspeedway : 1. Joey Logano , No. 22 Ford, Team Penske . Not even dragging his jack around for one lap could keep Logano out of Victory Lane. Logano grabbed the lead five laps after the engine of teammate Brad Keselowski 's dominant No. 2 car expired and he didn't let it go, leading the final 45 laps. Grade: A 2. Brian Scott , No. 44 Ford, Richard Petty Motorsports . In his 49th start, Scott snagged the best finish of his career -- and first top 10 -- with a brilliant run. It also was the best finish for RPM since Marcos Ambrose placed second at Watkins Glen more than two years ago . Grade: A+ 3. Denny Hamlin , No. 11 Toyota, Joe Gibbs Racing . Hamlin was penalized for speeding on pit road (again) and advanced to the next round of the Chase by the slimmest of margins (about two feet). Hamlin didn't make it easy on himself, but he's moving on -- and his No. 1 track, Martinsville, is up next. Grade: A 4. Kurt Busch , No. 41 Chevrolet, Stewart-Haas Racing . Steady Busch flew under the radar into the Round of 8. Well, until his postrace dust-up with teammate Kevin Harvick . Grade: A 5. Ricky Stenhouse Jr ., No. 17 Ford, Roush Fenway Racing . Stenhouse's fourth top 10 in seven starts at Talladega is also his sixth this season, a personal best. In addition, it was his fourth top five this season, one more than in his previous three full-time seasons combined. Grade: A 6. Kyle Larson , No. 42 Chevrolet, Chip Ganassi Racing . Larson posted his best finish at Talladega since finishing ninth in his first race there in May 2014. Grade: A 7. Kevin Harvick , No. 4 Chevrolet, Stewart-Haas Racing . Harvick was running behind Joey Logano on Logano's "jack lap" and caught a huge break when the jack remained attached to Logano's car and didn't fly into him. Grade: A 8. Aric Almirola , No. 43 Ford, Richard Petty Motorsports . Finally! Almirola's streak of starts without a top-10 finish ends at a career-high 32. Grade: A 9. Austin Dillon , No. 3 Chevrolet, Richard Childress Racing . How close was Dillon to advancing in the Chase? The difference was the one point Denny Hamlin earned by finishing .006 seconds ahead of Kurt Busch . Grade: A 10. AJ Allmendinger , No. 47 Chevrolet, JTG Daugherty Racing . Allmendinger posts back-to-back top-10 finishes for the third time this season despite having an average running position Sunday of 25.8. Grade: A- 11. Ryan Blaney , No. 21 Ford, Wood Brothers Racing . Blaney ran with the leaders all afternoon, and his 7.6 average running position was third best. He also led laps for the second time this season. Grade: A 12. Chase Elliott , No. 24 Chevrolet, Hendrick Motorsports . Elliott needed a win to advance in the Chase and did everything he could -- his average running position of 7.3 was second to Kurt Busch 's 6.9 -- but he was hemmed in at the end and couldn't challenge the front-runners. Grade: A 13. Paul Menard , No. 27 Chevrolet, Richard Childress Racing . Menard posted his best finish since his last top 10, in July at Indianapolis. Grade: B 14. Ryan Newman , No. 31 Chevrolet, Richard Childress Racing . Newman, whose average running position of 27.3 was highest among drivers finishing in the top 20, ran one lap in the top 15 -- his last. Grade: B- 15. Greg Biffle , No. 16 Ford, Roush Fenway Racing . Biffle was strong early and led 13 laps, but his day took a negative turn when he brought out the second caution on Lap 114. A coming-together with Jeffrey Earnhardt and Casey Mears sent all three cars into the inside wall. Grade: C 16. Michael McDowell , No. 95 Chevrolet, Circle Sport- Leavine Family Racing . Three of McDowell's five best finishes this season have been on restrictor-plate tracks (10th and 15th at Daytona). Grade: A 17. Trevor Bayne , No. 6 Ford, Roush Fenway Racing . Bayne was two cars behind Kasey Kahne when Kahne spun on Lap 182. Bayne was able to check up and avoid running into the back of Jamie McMurray . Grade: B- 18. Clint Bowyer , No. 15 Chevrolet, HScott Motorsports . In a season of small victories, Bowyer posted his 10th top-20 finish of the season. Grade: B- 19. Jamie McMurray , No. 1 Chevrolet, Chip Ganassi Racing . McMurray's day was saved when he didn't plow into Kasey Kahne 's spinning car immediately in front of him on Lap 182. Grade: B- 20. Danica Patrick , No. 10 Chevrolet, Stewart-Haas Racing . Patrick now has finished 20th to 24th in half of this year's races (16 of 32). Grade: C 21. Landon Cassill , No. 38 Ford, Front Row Motorsports . Cassill made a great save with 20 laps to go when his car went veering down the track after he tried to fill a gap in front of David Ragan and received a nudge from behind. Grade: B 22. Chris Buescher , No. 34 Ford, Front Row Motorsports . That Buescher finished the race is the story here. He had DNFs for crashes in the season's first three restrictor-plate races. Grade: B 23. Jimmie Johnson , No. 48 Chevrolet, Hendrick Motorsports . Johnson did his best to help teammate Chase Elliott , but in the end, wherever the No. 48 finished was never an issue. Johnson's ticket into the next round of the Chase was punched two weeks ago. Grade: S (for Smart, Safe and Satisfactory) 24. David Ragan , No. 23 Toyota, BK Racing . Ragan posted his best finish at Talladega since finishing sixth in the fall race three years ago. Grade: C 25. Regan Smith , No. 7 Chevrolet, Tommy Baldwin Racing . Smith posted his second-best finish in restrictor-plate races this season. He finished eighth in the Daytona 500 . Grade: C 26. Ryan Reed , No. 99 Ford, Roush Fenway Racing . Nice Sprint Cup debut for the 23-year-old. Grade: B- 27. Matt DiBenedetto , No. 93 Toyota, BK Racing . Great effort by DiBenedetto, who raced even though he was in the throes of food poisoning. Grade: C+ 28. Matt Kenseth , No. 20 Toyota, Joe Gibbs Racing . If you are going to be critical of what Gibbs drivers Kenseth, Carl Edwards and Kyle Busch did Sunday -- playing it safe by driving together in the back of the field -- would you have been critical of any of the three if they had mixed it up in the peloton, crashed and failed to advance in the Chase? You can't have it both ways. Grade: S (as in See Jimmie Johnson ) 29. Carl Edwards , No. 19 Toyota, Joe Gibbs Racing . Ibid. Grade: S 30. Kyle Busch , No. 18 Toyota, Joe Gibbs Racing . Op cit. Grade: S 31. Bobby Labonte , No. 32 Ford, GO FAS Racing. Our TBJT (Throw Back to Junior Theme) Latin bibliography references end with Labonte, who completed his four-race, restrictor-plate run for the second consecutive year the same way he began the season – with a 31st-place finish. Grade: C- 32. Tony Stewart , No. 14 Chevrolet, Stewart-Haas Racing . Driver Tony's 70th superspeedway restrictor-plate race finished quietly. Can't say the same for Owner Tony. Grade: D 33. Michael Annett , No. 46 Chevrolet, HScott Motorsports . Annett stayed out during green-flag pit stops and led six laps, one fewer than he led in his first 101 Sprint Cup starts. Grade: C+ 34. Jeffrey Earnhardt , No. 83 Toyota, BK Racing . Earnhardt's Lap 114 tangle with Greg Biffle also collected Casey Mears . Despite significant damage, Earnhardt posted the first lead-lap finish of his career (20 starts). Grade: C 35. Kasey Kahne , No. 5 Chevrolet, Hendrick Motorsports . Kahne went for a spin on Lap 182, and his run of good finishes -- six top 10s in his previous seven races -- spun out, too. Grade: D 36. Alex Bowman , No. 88 Chevrolet, Hendrick Motorsports . Bowman's tweet said it all: "3rd with 5 to go and we finish 36th ... damn speedway racing." Grade: D 37. Reed Sorenson , No. 55 Chevrolet, Premium Motorsports. Sorenson finished 13 laps off the pace in his first start at Talladega in two years. Grade: F 38. Brad Keselowski , No. 2 Ford, Team Penske . Keselowski had the dominant car and led a race-high 90 laps, but he held the point for too long after debris blocked part of his grill. A slick, orchestrated move with Ryan Blaney removed the debris, but it was too late. Moments later, his engine started smoking and his day, and championship hopes, came to an end on Lap 145. Grade: F 39. Casey Mears , No. 13 Chevrolet, Germain Racing . Racing can be so cruel. For the second time in three weeks, something bad happened to Mears for no other reason than he was in the wrong place at the wrong time. This time, he was two lanes below Greg Biffle and having a beautiful day when Biffle turned into Jeffrey Earnhardt and also collected Mears. The three slammed into the inside wall, but only Mears could not continue and was gone after 113 laps. Two weeks ago, Mears received a "U" grade for Unfortunate. This week? Based on his grade at Charlotte -- and if you caught all four clues -- you know the answer. Grade: U2 40. Martin Truex Jr ., No. 78 Toyota, Furniture Row Racing . When Truex's engine blew on Lap 42, his championship hopes ended as well. It's a shame Truex won't be able to contend for the championship, but we haven't heard the last of Truex this season. Finishing with the most victories would be huge. Grade: F
NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Owner Standings
After Race 32 of the 2016 season at Talladega Superspeedway Pos Owner Car # Points Ldr Nxt PPos G/L Wins Attempts 1 Hendrick Motorsports 48 3,100 0 0 1 0 3 32 2 Stewart-Haas Racing 41 3,099 -1 -1 5 3 1 32 3 Team Penske 22 3,089 -11 -10 8 5 2 32 4 Joe Gibbs Racing 20 3,088 -12 -1 2 -2 2 32 5 Joe Gibbs Racing 18 3,084 -16 -4 3 -2 4 32 6 Stewart-Haas Racing 4 3,082 -18 -2 7 1 4 32 7 Joe Gibbs Racing 19 3,082 -18 0 4 -3 2 32 8 Joe Gibbs Racing 11 3,078 -22 -4 10 2 3 32 9 Richard Childress Racing 3 3,078 -22 0 9 0 0 32 10 Furniture Row Racing 78 3,060 -40 -18 6 -4 4 32 11 Hendrick Motorsports 24 3,050 -50 -10 12 1 0 32 12 Team Penske 2 3,043 -57 -7 11 -1 4 32 13 Chip Ganassi Racing 42 2,155 -945 -888 14 1 1 32 14 Stewart-Haas Racing 14 2,141 -959 -14 13 -1 1 32 15 Chip Ganassi Racing 1 2,110 -990 -31 16 1 0 32 16 Front Row Motorsports 34 2,109 -991 -1 15 -1 1 32 17 Hendrick Motorsports 5 803 -2,297 -1,306 17 0 0 32 18 Richard Childress Racing 31 794 -2,306 -9 18 0 0 32 19 Hendrick Motorsports 88 770 -2,330 -24 19 0 0 32 20 JTG Daugherty Racing 47 717 -2,383 -53 20 0 0 32 21 Roush Fenway Racing 17 717 -2,383 0 22 1 0 32 22 Wood Brothers Racing 21 713 -2,387 -4 21 -1 0 32 23 Roush Fenway Racing 6 699 -2,401 -14 23 0 0 32 24 Stewart-Haas Racing 10 621 -2,479 -78 24 0 0 32 25 Roush Fenway Racing 16 591 -2,509 -30 25 0 0 32 26 Richard Childress Racing 27 591 -2,509 0 26 0 0 32 27 Richard Petty Motorsports 43 573 -2,527 -18 28 1 0 32 28 HScott Motorsports 15 564 -2,536 -9 27 -1 0 32 29 Circle Sport-Leavine Family 95 496 -2,604 -68 30 1 0 32 30 Germain Racing 13 488 -2,612 -8 29 -1 0 32 31 Front Row Motorsports 38 465 -2,635 -23 31 0 0 32 32 Richard Petty Motorsports 44 423 -2,677 -42 34 2 0 32 33 Tommy Baldwin Racing 7 422 -2,678 -1 32 -1 0 32 34 BK Racing 23 420 -2,680 -2 33 -1 0 32 35 BK Racing 83 363 -2,737 -57 35 0 0 32 36 HScott Motorsports 46 286 -2,814 -77 37 1 0 32 37 Premium Motorsports 98 284 -2,816 -2 36 -1 0 31 38 GO FAS Racing 32 258 -2,842 -26 38 0 0 32 39 Premium Motorsports 55 213 -2,887 -45 39 0 0 27 40 The Motorsports Group 30 167 -2,933 -46 40 0 0 31 41 Front Row Motorsports 35 46 -3,054 -121 41 0 0 4 42 BK Racing 93 29 -3,071 -17 43 1 0 6 43 Circle Sport - Leavine Family 59 26 -3,074 -3 42 -1 0 1 44 Roush Fenway Racing 99 15 -3,085 -11 46 2 0 1 45 BK Racing 26 3 -3,097 -12 44 -1 0 1 46 Hillman Racing 40 0 -3,100 -3 45 -1 0 1
Hamlin edges in, bold Talladega strategy pays off for JGR
RELATED: Full race results " Standings " Chase Grid SHOP: Chase gear TALLADEGA, Ala. -- Denny Hamlin stood by his No. 11 FedEx Toyota on Talladega Superspeedway pit road Sunday afternoon looking as relieved as he did happy with his third-place finish. It was among the most important third-place finishes this year's Daytona 500 winner has ever secured – and a mere .006 seconds ahead of fourth-place Kurt Busch . It was the difference in Hamlin advancing to the next round of the Chase -- and he secured the playoff pass by virtue of winning a tiebreaker with Richard Childress Racing 's Austin Dillon . "We had something go our way," Hamlin said smiling. "One time something went our way and we battled at the line with the 41 ( Kurt Busch ). I'm just so happy. I just never really had good Chase fortune to be honest with you. I've been doing this 11 years and very, very few times has the dice fallen well for us. Today was one of those times. "Today, we didn't back in with a 15th- place finish. We had to root and gouge against guys absolutely committed to each other. That's what I'm most proud of -- getting a good finish when the odds were really stacked against us." Although Hamlin ran among the front half of the field for much of the race, his three Joe Gibbs Racing teammates, Carl Edwards , Matt Kenseth and Kyle Busch , spent the vast majority of the race in a three-car nose-to-tail draft at the back of the 40-car field. In fact, they finished 28th (Kenseth), 29th (Edwards) and 30th (Busch). Hamlin was left very much a man on his own mission. "There's a certain level of strategy and being smart that goes with any race," Edwards said. "And this is not the most fun way to race. But our mission is simple here. If it required that we go up to the front and try to win the race, we would do that. You have to balance everything. This is not my first time here. I'm really proud of my group. "This is the format and we have to do what it takes to get there. ... It would have been a lot more fun to have won that race in Kansas and then go up there and push Denny to the win all day. That would have been a lot of fun. But this is a really tough format. And don't mistake what we did today as being simple or easy. That's really tough to do and actually, at the end we were at a very high risk." Team owner Joe Gibbs said following the race that there was some confusion after the checkered flag and he briefly -- albeit mistakenly -- thought that Dillon had advanced instead of Hamlin. "It was nerve-wracking for us, and at the end, it flipped the other way on our board and I thought we came in ninth," Gibbs said. "I about panicked until I knew what the tiebreaker was. We lost two of our cars in this round last year. The farther you go in this format, everybody’s geared up. You've got to try to win a race." And, Gibbs reiterated, he was fully committed to the team's strategy Sunday. "Everybody talked it over, crew chiefs and everything," Gibbs said. "I think it was just a strategy we needed to start off with and really depended on how it would go. "Denny is a great restrictor-plate racer and he got everything he could out of it today." Hamlin certainly proved that in his dramatic Daytona 500 victory to start the season. After sub-par showings at Charlotte (30th place) and Kansas (15th place) in this elimination round of NASCAR's playoffs, he came to Talladega absolutely needing a top-shelf finish. For much of the day, the points difference between Hamlin and Dillon was negligible. And after all the tough and tight racing, it still was decided on a tiebreaker. "You know, it's heartbreaking obviously," said Dillon, who finished ninth. "You need a spot, and it comes down to three one‑thousandths I think between (us) and the (eighth place) 43-car ( Aric Almirola ). "I'm just proud of this team. We made it a full 'nother round. Thought we were going to make it another one, but it didn't work out for us. ... I don't think we had it today to really mix it up up front. Might have waited a little too long. We tried to get track position one time, but it didn't work out. I put my car in the places I thought it would work the best in that last lap and a half. My teammates stuck with me. I'm proud and thankful for them. Just missed it by a spot." Hamlin, meanwhile, heads to next week's race in Martinsville feeling like a very real contender to hoist the season trophy. He's won five times on the Martinsville short track, including last spring. He was third in the 2015 Chase race there. He has a pair of wins at Texas, sweeping the 2010 season there. And Hamlin has a win (2012) and two pole-position starts at Phoenix, with a third place effort there this spring. Should he be among the four drivers deciding the Sprint Cup in the Homestead-Miami Speedway season finale, he also goes there with an enviable record. He was the polesitter there last November and is a two-time winner (2009 and 2013). He has finished among the top 10 in four of the last five races. "We all know that Martinsville is where I've made my career for the most part," Hamlin said, sizing up his championship chances. "I feel very confident we can go there and do great things. My teammates are all going to be strong there. They were in the spring. "So, it's new life for us. We're on house money at this point. Honestly, the cards were stacked against us before we entered the day, but now we're moving on and we have a clean slate."
Newman, Richard Childress Racing announce extension
Ryan Newman and Richard Childress Racing announced Monday that they had agreed on a multi-year contract extension to keep the veteran in the No. 31 Chevrolet. Newman is wrapping up his third full-time season with Childress, and he's notched 12 top-five finishes -- including a fourth-place effort Sunday at Charlotte -- and 40 top-10s during that time span. "Ryan's consistency on the track has been a benefit to our organization and this extension solidifies the future of our racing program," said Richard Childress, Chairman and CEO of RCR. "Ryan proved the first year he was here that we could contend for championships and with this continuation, I believe we can fulfill our commitment to winning races and a championship. Ryan has worked hard to represent many of our partners, especially the primary sponsors Caterpillar, Grainger and WIX Filters, helping them to get the most out of their respective racing programs." While Newman and Childress have not won together, the driver advanced to the Championship 4 in 2014 and raced Kevin Harvick for the win -- and championship -- in the closing laps before finishing second. "I am pleased to continue driving for Richard Childress Racing ," said Newman. "Our goal to win a championship all but turned into a reality during our first year together. I feel like since then, we have some unfinished business to complete. I'm fortunate to have forged a great relationship with my crew chief Luke Lambert, and I very much want to not only help him reach our goal of winning a Cup championship but also getting him his first Cup victory." RCR's three-team lineup also includes Austin Dillon in the No. 3 and Paul Menard in the No. 27. Newman's return likely means Ty Dillon will not drive full time for the Richard Childress Racing contingent in 2017. Previously, Ty Dillon said he planned on being in the Sprint Cup Series full time in 2017. "We've got a lot of options on the table," Dillon said in July at Iowa Speedway . " … I had talks with other teams in the past couple years and had opportunities, but it's always been my dream to drive for RCR and be teammates with my brother."
Stats advance: Analyzing the Bank of America 500
A statistical look ahead to the second race of the Contender Round RELATED: Track your picks in the Perfect Chase Grid Challenge and Chase Battle Grid Presented by Toyota DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – Below is a look at the 12 Contenders and beyond, at Charlotte Motor Speedway in Charlotte, North Carolina going into the Bank of America 500 on Saturday night October 11. Coverage begins at 7 p.m. ET on ABC, with the race start scheduled for 7:30 p.m. ET. CHARLOTTE-SPECIFIC STATISTICS 1 - Joey Logano (No. 22 Pennzoil Platinum Ford) • Season-to-Date Driver Rating: 107.7 2014 Rundown • Five wins, 14 top fives, 19 top 10s; one pole • Average finish of 11.8 • Led 20 races for 916 laps Charlotte Motor Speedway Outlook: • Three top fives, six top 10s • Average finish of 10.5 in 11 races • Average Running Position of 14.1, sixth- best • Driver Rating of 88.0, ninth-best 2 - Kyle Busch (No. 18 Doublemint Toyota) • Season-to-Date Driver Rating: 91.1 2014 Rundown • One win, seven top fives, 13 top 10s; two poles • Average finish of 16.7 • Led 14 races for 412 laps Charlotte Motor Speedway Outlook: • Nine top fives, 13 top 10s; one pole • Average finish of 15.6 in 21 races • Average Running Position of 10.0, second- best • Driver Rating of 106.3, second-best • 460 Fastest Laps Run, third-most • 5,291 Laps in the Top 15 (77.4%), second- most • Series-high 973 Quality Passes 3 - Carl Edwards (No. 99 Fastenal Ford) • Season-to-Date Driver Rating: 82.8 2014 Rundown • Two wins, seven top fives, 12 top 10s • Average finish of 14.5 • Led 10 races for 134 laps Charlotte Motor Speedway Outlook: • Six top fives, 12 top 10s • Average finish of 11.4 in 19 races • Average Running Position of 14.6, seventh-best • Driver Rating of 89.8, seventh-best • 1,592 Green Flag Passes, second-most • Average Green Flag Speed of 176.106 mph, 11th-fastest • 4,280 Laps in the Top 15 (62.6%), sixth-most • 806 Quality Passes, fifth-most 4 - Ryan Newman (No. 31 Caterpillar Chevrolet) • Season-to-Date Driver Rating: 85.6 2014 Rundown • Two top fives, 12 top 10s • Average finish of 13.8 • Led 5 races for 30 laps Charlotte Motor Speedway Outlook: • Four top fives, 10 top 10s; nine poles • Average finish of 19.0 in 27 races • Average Running Position of 17.5, 18th-best • Driver Rating of 78.1, 19th-best • 1,379 Green Flag Passes, 12th-most 5 - Denny Hamlin (No. 11 FedEx Ground Toyota) • Season-to-Date Driver Rating: 90.7 2014 Rundown • One win, six top fives, 13 top 10s; two poles • Average finish of 15.2 • Led 12 races for 195 laps Charlotte Motor Speedway Outlook: • Four top fives, 10 top 10s; one pole • Average finish of 13.7 in 18 races • Average Running Position of 12.7, fourth-best • Driver Rating of 92.6, fifth-best • 235 Fastest Laps Run, seventh-most • Average Green Flag Speed of 176.222 mph, seventh-fastest • 4,586 Laps in the Top 15 (71.2%), fourth-most • 749 Quality Passes, seventh-most 6 - Kevin Harvick (No. 4 Budweiser Chevrolet) • Season-to-Date Driver Rating: 109.0 2014 Rundown • Two wins, 10 top fives, 15 top 10s; eight poles • Average finish of 13.9 • Led 22 races for 1,653 laps Charlotte Motor Speedway Outlook: • Two wins, four top fives, 10 top 10s • Average finish of 16.3 in 27 races • Average Running Position of 17.2, 16th-best • Driver Rating of 81.5, 15th-best • 1,534 Green Flag Passes, fourth-most • 3,923 Laps in the Top 15 (57.4%), eighth-most • 699 Quality Passes, eighth-most 7 - Matt Kenseth (No. 20 Dollar General Toyota) • Season-to-Date Driver Rating: 93.1 2014 Rundown • 11 top fives, 18 top 10s; one pole • Average finish of 13.8 • Led 17 races for 467 laps Charlotte Motor Speedway Outlook: • Two wins, nine top fives, 16 top 10s • Average finish of 13.5 in 30 races • Average Running Position of 13.5, fifth-best • Driver Rating of 97.1, fourth-best • 376 Fastest Laps Run, fourth-most • 1,448 Green Flag Passes, seventh-most • Average Green Flag Speed of 176.413 mph, fourth-fastest • 4,649 Laps in the Top 15 (68.0%), third-most • 842 Quality Passes, third-most 8 - Jeff Gordon (No. 24 Drive to End Hunger Chevrolet) • Season-to-Date Driver Rating: 109.7 2014 Rundown • Four wins, 11 top fives, 19 top 10s; two poles • Average finish of 10.1 • Led 21 races for 666 laps Charlotte Motor Speedway Outlook: • Five wins, 16 top fives, 23 top 10s; nine poles • Average finish of 15.8 in 43 races • Average Running Position of 14.7, eighth-best • Driver Rating of 89.7, eighth-best • 243 Fastest Laps Run, sixth-most • 4,228 Laps in the Top 15 (61.8%), seventh-most • 777 Quality Passes, sixth-most 9 - Kasey Kahne (No. 5 Pepsi Chevrolet) • Season-to-Date Driver Rating: 88.7 2014 Rundown • One win, three top fives, 10 top 10s • Average finish of 16.7 • Led 11 races for 206 laps Charlotte Motor Speedway Outlook: • Four wins, nine top fives, 12 top 10s • Average finish of 11.5 in 21 races • Average Running Position of 11.6, third-best • Driver Rating of 101.7, third-best • 665 Fastest Laps Run, second-most • 1,549 Green Flag Passes, third-most • Average Green Flag Speed of 176.430 mph, third-fastest • 4,564 Laps in the Top 15 (66.7%), fifth-most • 833 Quality Passes, fourth-most 10 - Brad Keselowski (No. 2 Detroit Genuine Parts Ford) • Season-to-Date Driver Rating: 104.1 2014 Rundown • Five wins, 13 top fives, 16 top 10s; five poles • Average finish of 13.2 • Led 24 races for 1,498 laps Charlotte Motor Speedway Outlook: • One win, two top fives, three top 10s; one pole • Average finish of 15.7 in 10 races • Average Running Position of 15.2, 10th-best • Driver Rating of 85.4, 10th-best • Average Green Flag Speed of 176.125 mph, 10th-fastest 11 - Dale Earnhardt Jr . (No. 88 Diet Mountain Dew Chevrolet) • Season-to-Date Driver Rating: 96.9 2014 Rundown • Three wins, 11 top fives, 17 top 10s • Average finish of 12.0 • Led 13 races for 265 laps Charlotte Motor Speedway Outlook: • Five top fives, 11 top 10s; one pole • Average finish of 19.4 in 29 races • Average Running Position of 19.0, 22nd-best • Driver Rating of 80.9, 16th-best • 183 Fastest Laps Run, 11th-most • 1,435 Green Flag Passes, eighth-most • 623 Quality Passes, 11th-most 12 - Jimmie Johnson (No. 48 Lowe's Chevrolet) • Season-to-Date Driver Rating: 98.8 2014 Rundown • Three wins, 10 top fives, 18 top 10s; one pole • Average finish of 14.3 • Led 15 races for 1,035 laps Charlotte Motor Speedway Outlook: • Seven wins, 13 top fives, 17 top 10s; four poles • Average finish of 11.2 in 26 races • Series-best Average Running Position of 7.5 • Series-best Driver Rating of 112.7 • Series-high 683 Fastest Laps Run • Series-best Average Green Flag Speed of 177.132 mph • Series-high 5,988 Laps in the Top 15 (87.5%) • 968 Quality Passes, second-most 13 - AJ Allmendinger (No. 47 Scott Products Chevrolet) • Season-to-Date Driver Rating: 70.5 2014 Rundown • One win, two top fives, four top 10s • Average finish of 20.4 • Led 5 races for 68 laps Charlotte Motor Speedway Outlook: • One top five, two top 10s • Average finish of 22.7 in 13 races • Average Running Position of 23.2, 31st-best • Driver Rating of 65.8, 31st-best 14 - Greg Biffle (No. 16 3M Bondo Ford) • Season-to-Date Driver Rating: 79.4 2014 Rundown • Three top fives, 10 top 10s • Average finish of 15.8 • Led 6 races for 109 laps Charlotte Motor Speedway Outlook: • Five top fives, eight top 10s; one pole • Average finish of 17.2 in 23 races • Average Running Position of 15.0, ninth-best • Driver Rating of 89.9, sixth-best • 303 Fastest Laps Run, fifth-most • 1,393 Green Flag Passes, 11th-most • Average Green Flag Speed of 176.250 mph, sixth-fastest • 3,891 Laps in the Top 15 (56.9%), ninth-most • 690 Quality Passes, ninth-most 15 - Kurt Busch (No. 41 State Water Heaters Chevrolet) • Season-to-Date Driver Rating: 84.8 2014 Rundown • One win, six top fives, eight top 10s • Average finish of 20.1 • Led 11 races for 181 laps Charlotte Motor Speedway Outlook: • One win, six top fives, seven top 10s • Average finish of 19.7 in 28 races • Average Running Position of 17.4, 17th-best • Driver Rating of 83.0, 13th-best • 204 Fastest Laps Run, eighth-most • 3,502 Laps in the Top 15 (51.2%), 10th-most 16 - Aric Almirola (No. 43 Smithfield / Waffle House Ford) • Season-to-Date Driver Rating: 73.3 2014 Rundown • One win, two top fives, seven top 10s • Average finish of 21.0 • Led 5 races for 23 laps Charlotte Motor Speedway Outlook: • One pole • Average finish of 19.0 in five races • Average Running Position of 16.6, 14th-best • Driver Rating of 76.5, 21st-best The 12 Contenders at Charlotte Motor Speedway Driver Races Poles Wins Top Fives Top 10s DNFs Average Finish Driver Rating 1 Joey Logano 11 0 0 3 6 0 10.5 88.0 2 Kyle Busch 21 1 0 9 13 5 15.6 106.3 3 Carl Edwards 19 0 0 6 12 1 11.4 89.8 4 Ryan Newman 27 9 0 4 10 5 19.0 78.1 5 Denny Hamlin 18 1 0 4 10 1 13.7 92.6 6 Kevin Harvick 27 0 2 4 10 1 16.3 81.5 7 Matt Kenseth 30 0 2 9 16 5 13.5 97.1 8 Jeff Gordon 43 9 5 16 23 10 15.8 89.7 9 Kasey Kahne 21 0 4 9 12 1 11.5 101.7 10 Brad Keselowski 10 1 1 2 3 1 15.7 85.4 11 Dale Earnhardt Jr. 29 1 0 5 11 4 19.4 80.9 12 Jimmie Johnson 26 4 7 13 17 4 11.2 112.7 History • Construction began on Charlotte Motor Speedway (CMS) in 1959. • The track’s first NASCAR Sprint Cup race was held on June 19, 1960 – won by Joe Lee Johnson. • The track was repaved midseason in 1994. • The track name changed from Charlotte Motor Speedway to Lowe’s Motor Speedway in 1999. It changed back to Charlotte Motor Speedway for the 2010 season. • The track was re-paved again before the 2006 season. Notebook • There have been 111 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series points races at Charlotte Motor Speedway , two races per year since the track opened in 1960. In 1961, there were two 100-mile qualifying points races held the week before the May race. The first six fall races at Charlotte were 400-mile events (1960-65). • 525 drivers have competed in at least one NASCAR Sprint Cup Series points paying race at Charlotte Motor Speedway ; 374 in more than one. • NASCAR Hall of Famer Richard Petty leads the series in starts at Charlotte with 64. Jeff Gordon leads all active drivers with 43 starts; followed by Joe Nemechek with 36. • Fireball Roberts won the inaugural Coors Light pole at Charlotte Motor Speedway (World 600) in 1960 with a speed of 133.904 mph. • 42 drivers have Coors Light poles at Charlotte, led by David Pearson with 14. Ryan Newman and Jeff Gordon lead all active drivers in poles at CMS with nine. • 12 drivers have won consecutive Coors Light poles at Charlotte. David Pearson holds the record for most consecutive poles at Charlotte with 11; from the fall of 1973 through 1978. • Youngest Charlotte pole winner: Jeff Gordon (10/10/1993 – 22 years, 2 months, 6 days). • Oldest Charlotte pole winner: Bobby Allison (10/11/1987 – 49 years, 10 months, 8 days). Charlotte Motor Speedway Data Season Race #: 31 of 36 (10-11-14) Track Size: 1.5-miles Banking/Turns 1 & 2: 24 degrees Banking/Turns 3 & 4: 24 degrees Banking/Frontstretch: 5 degrees Banking/Backstretch: 5 degrees Frontstretch Length: 1,980 feet Backstretch Length: 1,500 feet Race Length: 334 laps / 500 miles Top 10 Driver Ratings at Charlotte Jimmie Johnson ..........................112.7 Kyle Busch ..................................106.3 Kasey Kahne ...............................101.7 Matt Kenseth .................................97.1 Denny Hamlin................................92.6 Greg Biffle .....................................89.9 Carl Edwards.................................89.8 Jeff Gordon ...................................89.7 Joey Logano..................................88.0 Brad Keselowski............................85.4 Note: Driver Ratings compiled from 2005-2014 races (19 total) among active drivers at Charlotte Motor Speedway . Qualifying/Race Data 2013 pole winner: Jeff Gordon, Chevrolet 194.308 mph, 27.791 secs. 10-10-13 2013 race winner: Brad Keselowski , Ford 158.308 mph, (03:09:53), 10-12-13 Track qualifying record: Denny Hamlin , Toyota 195.624 mph, 27.604 secs. 05-24-13 Track race (500 miles) record: Jeff Gordon , Chevrolet 160.306 mph, (03:07:31), 10-11-99 STATISTICAL ADVANCE • 46 different drivers have won at Charlotte Motor Speedway , led by Jimmie Johnson with seven wins. • Nine drivers have posted consecutive wins at Charlotte Motor Speedway , including three consecutive by Fred Lorenzen (fall 1964 and both 1965) and four straight by Jimmie Johnson (both in 2004 and 2005). • A season sweep at Charlotte has occurred eight times, including each season from 2004-2007. • Youngest Charlotte winner: Jeff Gordon (05/29/1994 – 22 years, 9 months, 25 days). • Oldest Charlotte winner: Cale Yarborough (10/06/1985 – 46 years, 6 months, 9 days). • Hendrick Motorsports has the most wins at Charlotte in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series with 18: Jimmie Johnson (seven), Jeff Gordon (five), Darrell Waltrip (two), Ken Schrader (one), Terry Labonte (one), Casey Mears (one) and Kasey Kahne (one). • Eight different manufacturers have won in the NSCS at Charlotte; led by Chevrolet with 42 victories; followed by Ford with 29. Toyota has two wins at CMS. • 15 of the 111 (13.5%) NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races at Charlotte have been won from the Coors Light pole; the three most recent were Jimmie Johnson in 2014 (Coca-Cola 600), 2009 (Chase race event) and 2004 (Coca-Cola 600). • The second-place starting position is the most proficient starting position in the field, producing more winners (17) than any other starting position at Charlotte Motor Speedway (15.3% winning percentage). • 32 of the 111 (28.8%) NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races at Charlotte have been won from the front row: 15 from the pole and 17 from second-place. • 84 of the 111 (75.6%) NASCAR Sprint Cup races at Charlotte have been won from a top-10 starting position. • Nine of the 111 (8.1%) NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races at Charlotte have been won from a starting position outside the top 20. • The deepest in the field that a race winner has started at Charlotte is 37th, by Jimmie Johnson in the Coca-Cola 600 of 2003. • Richard Petty leads the series in runner-up finishes at Charlotte with nine. Kasey Kahne and Matt Kenseth lead all active drivers with three. • NASCAR Hall of Famers Richard Petty and Bobby Allison are tied for the series most top-five finishes at Charlotte with 23. Jeff Gordon leads all active drivers with 16. • Richard Petty leads the series in top-10 finishes at Charlotte with 31. Jeff Gordon leads all active drivers with 23. • Jimmie Johnson leads all active drivers in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series in average starting position at Charlotte with a 7.115. • Joey Logano leads all active drivers in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series in average finishing position at Charlotte with a 10.545. • Joe Nemechek leads the series among active drivers with the most NASCAR Sprint Cup Series starts at Charlotte without visiting Victory Lane at 36; followed by Dale Earnhardt Jr . with 29. • Since the advent of electronic scoring the closest margin of victory (MOV) in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series at Charlotte Motor Speedway was the May 29, 2005 race won by Jimmie Johnson over Bobby Labonte with a MOV of 0.027 second. • There have been three NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races resulting with a Green-White-Checkered finish at Charlotte Motor Speedway , but only once for the Coca-Cola 600 (Scheduled No. of Laps/Actual No. of Laps): Chase race of 2005 (334/336), Chase race of 2007 (334/337) and the 2011 Coca-Cola 600 (400/402). • Five of the 111 races at Charlotte Motor Speedway have been shortened due to weather conditions; the most recent was the 2009 Coca-Cola 600 won by David Reutimann and Michael Waltrip Racing. Four of the five races shortened were the 600-mile events (1968, 1997, 2003 and 2009). • Qualifying has been cancelled due to weather conditions in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series at Charlotte Motor Speedway twice; the fall race of 2002 and the fall race of 2008. • Five active NASCAR Sprint Cup Series drivers have made their first career start at Charlotte Motor Speedway : Dale Earnhardt Jr . (5/30/99), Jimmie Johnson (10/7/01), Brian Vickers (10/11/03), Ricky Stenhouse Jr . (5/29/11) and Kyle Larson (10/12/2013). • Four active drivers have posted their first career NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Coors Light pole at Charlotte Motor Speedway : Jeff Gordon (10/10/93), Dale Earnhardt Jr . (5/28/00), Ryan Newman (5/27/01) and Aric Almirola (5/27/12). • Four active NASCAR Sprint Cup Series drivers have posted their first career win at Charlotte Motor Speedway : Jeff Gordon (5/29/94), Matt Kenseth (5/28/00), Jamie McMurray (10/13/02) and Casey Mears (5/27/07). • Jimmie Johnson leads all active drivers in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series in laps led at Charlotte with 1,733 laps led in 26 starts. • Two female drivers have competed at Charlotte Motor Speedway in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series: Janet Guthrie and Danica Patrick . Driver Starting Position Finishing Position Date of race Danica Patrick 4 39 5/25/2014 Danica Patrick 35 20 10/12/2013 Danica Patrick 24 29 5/26/2013 Danica Patrick 40 30 5/27/2012 Janet Guthrie 31 35 10/8/1978 Janet Guthrie 27 9 10/9/1977 Janet Guthrie 26 22 10/10/1976 Janet Guthrie 27 15 5/30/1976 NASCAR in North Carolina • There have been 519 NASCAR Sprint Cup races among 28 tracks in North Carolina. Track Name/City/NSCS Charlotte Motor Speedway/Concord/111 North Wilkesboro Speedway/North/93 Rockingham Speedway/Rockingham/78 Hickory Speedway/Hickory/35 Asheville-Weaverville Speedway/Weaverville/34 Occoneechee Speedway/Hillsboro/32 Bowman-Gray Stadium/Winston-Salem/29 Southern States Fairgrounds/Charlotte/17 Charlotte Speedway/Charlotte/12 Concord Speedway/Concord/12 Wilson Speedway/Wilson/12 New Asheville Speedway/Asheville/8 Dog Track Speedway/Moyock/7 Raleigh Speedway/Raleigh/7 Cleveland County Fairgrounds/Shelby/6 Champion Speedway/Fayetteville/4 Greensboro Agriculture Fairgrounds/Greensboro/3 North Carolina State Fairgrounds/Raleigh/3 Tar Heel Speedway/Randleman/3 Forsyth County Fairgrounds/Winston-Salem/2 Harris Speedway/Harris/2 Jacksonville Speedway/Jacksonville/2 Tri-City Speedway/High Point/2 Gastonia Fairgrounds/Gastonia/1 Harnett Speedway/Spring Lake/1 McCormick Field/Asheville/1 Salisbury Super Speedway/Salisbury/1 Star Lite Speedway/Monroe/1 NASCAR in North Carolina • 433 drivers in NASCAR national series history have their home state recorded as North Carolina. • 46 drivers from North Carolina have won at least one race in NASCAR’s three national series; 29 have won in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series. Driver NSCS NNS NCWTS Richard Petty 200 0 0 Dale Earnhardt 76 21 0 Lee Petty 54 0 0 Ned Jarrett 50 0 0 Junior Johnson 50 0 0 Herb Thomas 48 0 0 Buck Baker 46 0 0 Bobby Isaac 37 0 0 Dale Jarrett 32 11 0 Rex White 28 0 0 Jim Paschal 25 0 0 Dale Earnhardt Jr 22 23 0 Benny Parsons 21 0 0 Speedy Thompson 20 0 0 Buddy Baker 19 0 0 Harry Gant 18 21 0 Bob Welborn 9 0 0 Kyle Petty 8 0 0 Morgan Shepherd 4 15 0 Bill Blair 3 0 0 Gwyn Staley 3 0 0 Brian Vickers 3 3 0 Billy Myers 2 0 0 Jimmy Pardue 2 0 0 Richard Brickhouse 1 0 0 Phil Parsons 1 2 0 Leon Sales 1 0 0 Buddy Shuman 1 0 0 Donald Thomas 1 0 0 Jack Ingram 0 31 0 Tommy Houston 0 24 0 Sam Ard 0 22 0 Robert Pressley 0 10 2 Scott Riggs 0 4 5 Ryan Blaney 0 2 3 Austin Dillon 0 2 6 Hank Parker Jr 0 2 0 Johnny Rumley 0 2 0 Dennis Setzer 0 2 18 Ed Berrier 0 1 0 Ty Dillon 0 1 3 Justin Labonte 0 1 0 Stephen Leicht 0 1 0 Timothy Peters 0 0 7 Andy Houston 0 0 3 Ricky Hendrick 0 0 1 Shane Hmiel 0 0 1 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
Junior: 'I just wanted to drive a Wrangler car one time'
Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Richard Childress took time during "Jeansboro Day" at Wrangler's headquarters in Greensboro, North Carolina to remember an iconic race car driver.
With uncertain future, Mears focused on '16 season
TALLADEGA, Ala. -- NASCAR Sprint Cup Series driver Casey Mears says he and the Germain Racing No. 13 team are concentrating their efforts only on the remaining five races of 2016 and can't speak about next year. "Not at the moment," Mears said Friday at Talladega Superspeedway . "Right now we're just focused on what we talked about at the beginning of the season. Focus on the remainder of this year first and foremost." Mears, 38, has one victory in 483 career starts at NASCAR's top level, capturing the 2007 Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway . He has a best points finish of 14th in 2006. Rumors have Germain opting to replace Mears next season, possibly with NASCAR XFINITY Series driver Ty Dillon . Dillon's Richard Childress Racing organization has a technical alliance with Germain. Geico, the No. 13 team's primary sponsor, is signed through 2018. In many cases, sponsor and driver contracts run concurrently. "As I know more, we can talk about it," Mears said. "But right now we're just focused on getting through this weekend." Mears enters Sunday's Hellmann’s 500 (2 p.m. ET, NBCSN, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio) 28th in points. He has five top-10 finishes in 26 careers starts at the 2.66-mile track.
XFINITY contenders to apply Round of 12 lessons at Kansas
RELATED: Chase Grid KANSAS CITY, Kan. – The first round of the first Chase for NASCAR's XFINITY Series trimmed the field of championship hopefuls from 12 to eight. The three-race subset also served as a learning tool for those who advanced to the second round, which begins Saturday with the Kansas Lottery 300 (3 p.m. ET, NBC, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio) here at Kansas Speedway . "I learned that in the first race of the first round the intensity level was very high," Daniel Suarez ( Joe Gibbs Racing No. 19 Toyota) said Friday. "It was definitely more high than what I was expecting." Elliott Sadler (JR Motorsports No. 1 Chevrolet) won the Chase opener held at Kentucky Speedway . Suarez was a close second, won the following week at Dover and finished third last weekend at Charlotte, unofficially taking the mantle of Chase favorite with four races remaining. "I thought everyone was going to go out there to try to be consistent and to try to make it for the next round and that wasn't the case," Suarez said. "Everyone was going for the win and everything got a little crazy in the first race in Kentucky. "But, honestly I'm very proud of everyone …. We had three races with three top-three finishes which I think is something really good for the first round. We have to do exactly the same thing for the second round and after that try to put ourselves in a good position for Homestead and pull everything we have for that last race and the most important race of the year." Sprint Cup Series regular Joey Logano won the Charlotte event, the only race not won by an XFINITY Series regular in the Round of 12. Suarez, 24, said he expects the level of intensity seen in that opening race to return here this weekend as drivers and teams try to knock out an early win and qualify for the Round of 8. "For some reason everyone – I thought everyone was going to be more relaxed in the first race but for some reason everyone was very, like I said, the intensity level was very high," he said. "And, then for the second race it was lower and everyone was more relaxed because everyone was a little bit too crazy in the first one. I wouldn't be surprised if it was the same in this second round. "I don't think that I was myself, I don't think I got super crazy in Kentucky and we ended up with a pretty good result. Actually I felt like we should've won that race, we just came up one lap short. "I felt like everything that we learned the whole year we are trying to put that in the most important part of the year in the Chase in the first round and second round in order to get to the last race at Homestead and so far it's been working out. So, hopefully we can keep it up and move forward." Justin Allgaier (JRM), Erik Jones (JGR), Brendan Gaughan ( Richard Childress Racing ), Ryan Reed ( Roush Fenway Racing ), Darrell Wallace Jr . (RFR) and Blake Koch (Kaulig Racing) complete the Round of 8 for the XFINITY Series Chase. Suarez, Sadler and Jones are the only drivers in the postseason with victories this season. Gaughan, who has 15 top 10s, including a season-best runner-up at Road America , said the first round taught his team that "organizationally, to make sure we are prepared. "Make sure … we have everything kind of set and ready. "Another thing Shane (Wilson, crew chief) and I learned was (we) still are clowns that do it our way. It works for us. We don't scream and yell. … He doesn't get down on me when I hit a wall twice at Kentucky. And I don't bark at him when I think he makes the wrong call on pit road or we unload and it doesn't handle quite the way I want. "We're going to do it the way we think it needs to be done, stay patient and stay on each other’s team. A lot of pressure comes on these guys … and a lot of people succumb to that pressure." NASCAR Sprint Cup Series drivers have won the last three XFINITY Series races at Kansas.
Kenseth, Menard pace Sprint Cup practices
FINAL PRACTICE " Full results " Best 10-lap averages 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;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;amp;amp;gt;