Sam Hornish Jr. wants a win for RCR
RELATED: Meet the XFINITY Chase field SPARTA, Ky. – Sam Hornish may not be a threat in the NASCAR XFINITY Series inaugural Chase, but that doesn't mean the Richard Childress Racing driver isn't a concern. Saturday night's VisitMyrtleBeach.com 300 at Kentucky Speedway (8 p.m. ET, NBCSN, PRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio) officially kicks off the series' seven-race Chase. Hornish is making just his fourth start of the season, therefore he was not eligible for the 12-team Chase field. That hasn't keep him out of the winner's circle, however as he wheeled the No. 18 Toyota for Joe Gibbs Racing to the win at Iowa. And in two subsequent starts with the No. 2 team for RCR, Hornish has finished sixth and second. He's making start No. 3 in the No. 2 Chevrolet for RCR here at Kentucky. And the 37-year-old was once again fast here Friday, clocking the third-fastest lap in each of the day's two practice sessions. Qualifying is scheduled for 4:45 p.m. ET on Saturday. Joe Gibbs Racing driver Erik Jones was quickest in both practice sessions. "It was pretty good," Hornish said of the results at day's end. "The car started off a little bit free in the afternoon, but it was so hot. I felt like we got just a little bit behind there in the last practice but our car is good, it's got decent balance; we just need a little bit to be able to run with the JGR cars." Hornish has four top-10 finishes in five XFINITY Series starts at the 1.5-mile Kentucky track. His racing career, which includes three IndyCar championships, got a major boost here in 2000 when he finished ninth after running out of fuel late in the race. That effort opened eyes and doors, and soon his open-wheel career was off and running. His NASCAR career has included stints in Sprint Cup and the XFINITY Series; he also has one start in the Camping World Truck Series. "Right now this is the last (race) I have scheduled ... we've had a good run," he said of the RCR arrangement. "It's a good car, they've got some wins and they continue to build momentum. I'd like to go to Victory Lane for them for sure. "They're running for an owners' championship so we have to be smart about everything we do as well." JGR teammates Jones and Daniel Suarez are seeded first and third in the Chase, respectively, with veteran Elliott Sadler (JR Motorsports) wedged in between. Ty Dillon , teammate to Hornish, is seeded fourth while Justin Allgaier (JRM) is fifth. Darrell Wallace ( Roush Fenway Racing ), Brendan Gaughan (RCR), Brennan Poole ( Chip Ganassi Racing ), Ryan Sieg (RSS Racing), Ryan Reed (RFR), Brandon Jones (RCR) and Blake Koch (Kaulig Racing) round out the 12-team Chase field. "We were able to make some good gains mostly in race conditions," said Jones, who will be seeking his fifth win of the season on Saturday. "It wasn't so much that we needed the speed, we needed to find some drivability in it and I think we (did). ... "It's going to change a lot once it cools all the way down and we get into race conditions but I feel pretty good about it." Except for the number of races, the XFINITY Series Chase mirrors that of NASCAR's Sprint Cup Series, with three-race segments leading up to a one-race finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway .
Drivers respond to social unrest in Charlotte
LOUDON, N.H. -- NASCAR returns to the business of postseason Chases in all three of its top series this weekend. Two of those tours have landed in New England, greeted by crisp weather and the changing of the seasons. But thoughts continue to focus on the news of this week's social unrest nearly 900 miles away in Charlotte, North Carolina -- stock-car racing's hub and one of the sanctioning body's primary headquarters. Protests have gripped Charlotte's Uptown area in the wake of the fatal police-involved shooting of Keith Lamont Scott on Tuesday. Relatively few drivers claim North Carolina as their home state, but the proximity to home bases for both drivers and teams makes the connection to Charlotte a part of their fabric. It's what has made this week's turmoil difficult. "Obviously, we're trying to do things here today, but, yeah, there's an emotional reaction," Joey Logano -- a Middletown, Connecticut native -- said Friday from New Hampshire Motor Speedway . "A lot of times when you see things like this happen, it's in a different city and you don't recognize where it's at, but when you see the NASCAR building getting vandalized and you see areas of the city that you know very well with just crazy things happening it makes you sick to your gut. You don't know what to do, and you kind of feel helpless. "All we can do really is just say some prayers and hope that eventually everything calms down and everyone is able to come to some kind of peace at the end of this thing, and we can move on and move forward and make our world better." Logano also said he understands the role professional athletes play when it comes to social issues. "I think any athlete or public figure takes on a responsibility," he said. "There's a lot of people that you can influence in good ways or bad ways, and I feel like you should know that. There are a lot of athletes and public figures that don't realize that about the reaction they can make across the country or the world in a lot of cases by just a couple of words. ... I personally believe when I sit down here I know the influence that I can have on young eyes watching us that are very fragile at the time that they could go a lot of different ways. You want to be a positive member of society." North Carolina Governor Pat McCrory declared a state of emergency late Wednesday night as the protests took violent turns. Windows were broken at the NASCAR Hall of Fame and adjacent NASCAR Plaza offices, and several other businesses were vandalized in the city's central business district, escalating Charlotte to the lead in national news broadcasts. "You can't really ignore it," said Austin Dillon , who -- like his Richard Childress Racing team -- calls Welcome, North Carolina home. "It's on all the news stations, but for me it's sad that our country is at this point in time. I just hope everybody can look at everything and gather their thoughts and figure out the right way to fix the problems we have. Hopefully, with the way things are the right people will come together and fix these problems that are going on. It's just sad, really." Said Matt Kenseth , a Cambridge, Wisconsin, native: "You just hope it stops. I don't know enough about what actually happened to start it all. Obviously, I think that we're very, very, very fortunate to live in a free country and peaceful protest and demonstrations are OK. I mean certainly the violence and the vandalism and the theft and stuff isn't -- isn't really a way to I think prove a point or try to make things better. It’s definitely not making things better in that sense, so hopefully we'll get it all figured out and go from there."
Drivers rally from pre-qualifying hang-ups
RELATED: Qualifying results " Edwards earns sixth Coors Light Pole of 2016 Multiple drivers, including three Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup competitors, were left sweating it out in the garage when their cars did not pass pre-qualifying inspection by the start of NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Coors Light Pole Qualifying at New Hampshire Motor Speedway . Qualifying began on time at 4:45 p.m. ET, with a long line of cars still waiting to be cleared. Those that did not initially pass included the No. 3 Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet of Austin Dillon , the No. 4 Stewart-Haas Racing Chevrolet of Kevin Harvick and the No. 14 SHR Chevrolet of Tony Stewart , all Chase drivers. Despite the backlog, all 40 cars eventually posted a qualifying time for Sunday's Bad Boy Off Road 300 (2 p.m. ET, NBCSN, PRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio), with Regan Smith the last to clear inspection as he headed to pit road with 3 minutes, 15 seconds left in the opening 20-minute knockout round. "We feel like what is going on is that the stakes are higher now that we're at the Chase," NASCAR Senior Vice President of Competition Scott Miller said on the NBCSN broadcast. "I think all of our competitors are trying to push the envelope. ... If someone doesn't make it out there, it's not our process, it's them pushing the envelope." In other technical-related news, the Hendrick Motorsports No. 24 team for rookie Chase Elliott received its fourth written warning for issues in inspection. Elliott's team will be relegated to the final pick in pit-stall selection ahead of the second race of the 10-race postseason. Dillon and Harvick were eventually cleared with less than 12 minutes to go in the opening 20-minute round of group qualifying, and Harvick got on the track with seven minutes to spare. The final latecomers were granted a slight time cushion when Clint Bowyer spun out in Turn 4 during a qualifying pass, stopping the clock with 11:39 remaining. Harvick eventually posted the seventh-fastest time of the round, with Stewart in 17th and Dillon 29th in his backup car after a crash in opening practice damaged his primary No. 3 Chevrolet. "It's different," Dillon said of the logjam outside of the inspection bay. "I see NASCAR just trying to keep everybody on the same playing field." Harvick will start 19th. His team owner and SHR teammate, Stewart, will start 22nd in what's expected to be his final New Hampshire start. The full list of cars not cleared from inspection when the green flag dropped: the No. 10 of Danica Patrick , the No. 47 of AJ Allmendinger , the No. 7 of Smith, the No. 83 of Matt DiBenedetto , the No. 5 of Kasey Kahne , the No. 16 of Greg Biffle and the No. 17 of Ricky Stenhouse Jr. , in addition to the Nos. 3, 4 and 14. &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;gt;
Chase Bubble Watch: Harvick, Stewart head in opposite directions
RELATED: Full race results " Updated Chase Grid SHOP: Chase gear Two races into the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup and several drivers are in jeopardy of not advancing past the Round of 16, which ends next Sunday at Dover International Speedway (2 p.m. ET, NBCSN, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio). Let's find out which drivers are resting comfortably following Sunday's Bad Boy Off Road 300 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway . Who's hot: Kevin Harvick . Harvick came into Loudon one point shy of advancement after a dismal showing (20th) in the Chase opener in Chicago. The 2014 champion and the man nicknamed "The Closer" came on strong on the final restart to take the lead on Lap 295 and nab a win and a locked-in spot in the Round of 12. The victory, in which he only led eight laps, has to erase a little bit of the bitter taste from last fall's race at New Hampshire, where Harvick led 216 laps but ran out of fuel with two to go. Matt Kenseth . Kenseth came into this race with two straight wins at the "Magic Mile" and looked to be closing in on his third-straight win before Harvick surged on a late restart. The 2003 champion led 105 laps en route to a runner-up finish and moved up to fourth in the standings, 25 points to the good of transferring into the next round. Adding to his good karma: Kenseth is the most recent winner at Dover, the series' next stop before four drivers are eliminated from the Chase. Who's not: Tony Stewart : The three-time champion was stuck a lap down for much of the second half of the race and finished 23rd, the second-lowest finish among the Chase field. The result had to be disappointing for "Smoke" after a runner-up showing at New Hampshire in July. Following a summer surge thanks to his Sonoma win, Stewart has not notched a top-10 finish in six races and is on the wrong side of the Chase cut line heading to Dover. Austin Dillon . The weekend started rough when a wreck in the latter stages of the opening practice forced the Richard Childress Racing No. 3 team to pull out a backup car. Dillon's 16th-place finish was aided by a few late cautions to get him back on the lead lap, but he is still five points behind the cutoff line. On top of that, his overall numbers at Dover (see below) have the Chase rookie in a very tough spot to advance. Four in, four out: Here's a look at the Chase bubble, with four drivers being eliminated after the third race of this round, at Dover International Speedway .
Late wreck hinders Chase position for Jones, Dillon
RELATED: Results " Chase Grid " Standings MORE: Watch the incident " Dillon talks about the wreck SPARTA, Ky. -- Erik Jones looked every bit the part of a pre-Chase favorite Saturday at Kentucky Speedway until a crash with barely more than 10 laps remaining took the Joe Gibbs Racing driver out of contention. Jones led exactly one-half of the 200 laps that made up the VisitMyrtleBeach.com 300 . But the field had barely gone back to green-flag racing on Lap 188 when the back end of Jones' No. 20 Toyota came around as he found himself three-wide in Turn 3 with Ty Dillon ( Richard Childress Racing ) on his outside and JGR teammate Daniel Suarez underneath. "I got sucked around," a disappointed Jones said after exiting the infield care center. "I slammed on the brakes trying to slow down but Ty had been holding me really tight there on the restart, slamming doors in (Turns) 1 and 2. He was on me pretty tight down there. "It was my fault, but it's tough when you're in that situation." The pole winner for the NASCAR XFINITY Series' inaugural opening Chase race, Jones came into the race as the No. 1 seed thanks to four wins during the regular season. The 28th-place finish dropped him from first to ninth in the standings with two races remaining in the opening Chase segment. "It definitely looks like we're going to have to run really well at Dover and Charlotte, if not get a win," jones said. "Getting knocked out there is not a good situation for us. I thought we could probably get a win tonight and get locked in (to the next round), but we'll have to do pretty good here the next two (races) to move on." The race, won by JR Motorsports driver Elliott Sadler , was slowed by a track-record 12 cautions for 64 laps. Aggressive maneuvers saw the field flare out three-and four-wide on numerous restarts. "I was definitely playing more defense on restarts than I ever have been in my career, just trying to guard and make sure I was in one piece," Jones said, "but there's only so much you can do before one of those times you run out of luck." Dillon, who led 47 laps around the 1.5-mile track, finished one positon ahead of Jones in 27th and fell eight spots, from fourth to 12th in points, with the setback. Only eight of the 12 Chase drivers will advance to the second round. "I had a pretty good restart there and had a good run on the 20," Dillon said of the incident with Jones. "I heard him get loose and he had to lift and there was nowhere I can go. "It just sucks to start off the Chase like that we're in a hole but we had speed tonight so we can win races. It just hurts and then you see the 1 (Sadler) win; we were better than him all night." "It's so fast around here but one groove and things like that are going to happen, especially when everybody is trying to get locked into that Chase." Jones and Dillon weren't the only Chase drivers to find themselves involved in on-track incidents -- toss Justin Allgaier (P9), Ryan Sieg (P16), runner-up Daniel Suarez (P2) into the mix as well. Most, if not all, were able to recover, however. "I think we can win anytime we come to the race track," Jones said, "but we beat ourselves a lot this year and we did it again tonight and that's unfortunate."
Gaughan trying to revisit title that got away
RELATED: XFINITY Chase Grid " Get to know the field CHARLOTTE, N.C. — It may not be a quintessential case of déjà vu, but Brendan Gaughan has been to Homestead-Miami Speedway before, under similar circumstances. Now, as one of 12 drivers to qualify for the inaugural NASCAR XFINITY Series Chase that begins Saturday night at Kentucky Speedway (8 p.m. ET on NBCSN, PRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio), Gaughan hopes he'll have a chance to claim a prize that eluded him 13 years ago—a title in one of NASCAR's top three touring series. In 2003, Gaughan entered the final NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race at Homestead as the points leader in a four-driver race for the championship. In addition to Gaughan, Ted Musgrave, Travis Kvapil and Dennis Setzer had a shot at the title. Musgrave's truck owner, Jim Smith, had five entries in the final event, and one of those drivers, Marty Houston, tangled with Gaughan in a violent crash on Lap 100. After Musgrave was penalized for jumping a subsequent restart, Kvapil claimed the championship with a sixth-place finish. Though Gaughan says he spends little time regretting the missed opportunity, he does crave another opportunity to compete for a title in the final race of the season, albeit under a different format in another series. "I've been in a Homestead race where four drivers were racing for the championship, and sadly, I was not the one who won it—sadly for me, not for Travis (Kvapil)," Gaughan said on Tuesday during XFINITY Series Chase Media Day at the NASCAR Hall of Fame. "I would love to have all that pressure again and be in that situation again, and my goal is to get back to Homestead to be one of those four. "I've always said to this day, that race that we ran at Homestead that day, we were the fastest truck on the race track that day. We were brilliant. One second of life—couldn't have done anything different. It was just one second that you couldn’t change. "And I would love a chance, not to change that one second, but to make a new one second and end up getting by that wreck and standing on that podium. ... I would love to go back to Homestead and finish what I was trying to do 13 years ago and put a great cherry on top of a career for me." Not that Gaughan's career is about to be over. The driver of the No. 62 Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet said he'll be back for another season next year, and the Chase format is a strong reason he'll continue to compete. "What made me want to keep racing was this Chase format, this excitement around this," Gaughan said. "Now, instead of battling for fifth place, and we're 89 points out of this championship—and we can get to maybe second or third if a guy has a bad race and we have a good ones, and you're just watching points and going 'Oh, man, let’s see how far we can get'—we're racing for the championship." </p>
NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Owner Standings
After Race 28 of the 2016 season at New Hampshire Motor Speedway Pos Owner Car # Points Ldr Nxt PPos G/L Wins Attempts 1 Team Penske 2 2,087 0 0 2 1 4 28 2 Furniture Row Racing 78 2,086 -1 -1 1 -1 3 28 3 Joe Gibbs Racing 18 2,085 -2 -1 3 0 4 28 4 Joe Gibbs Racing 20 2,078 -9 -7 7 3 2 28 5 Team Penske 22 2,073 -14 -5 5 0 1 28 6 Stewart-Haas Racing 4 2,071 -16 -2 14 8 3 28 7 Joe Gibbs Racing 11 2,071 -16 0 4 -3 3 28 8 Hendrick Motorsports 48 2,070 -17 -1 8 0 2 28 9 Hendrick Motorsports 24 2,068 -19 -2 6 -3 0 28 10 Joe Gibbs Racing 19 2,068 -19 0 9 -1 2 28 11 Stewart-Haas Racing 41 2,067 -20 -1 10 -1 1 28 12 Chip Ganassi Racing 42 2,057 -30 -10 15 3 1 28 13 Chip Ganassi Racing 1 2,052 -35 -5 11 -2 0 28 14 Richard Childress Racing 3 2,052 -35 0 13 -1 0 28 15 Stewart-Haas Racing 14 2,046 -41 -6 12 -3 1 28 16 Front Row Motorsports 34 2,027 -60 -19 16 0 1 28 17 Hendrick Motorsports 5 699 -1,388 -1,328 18 1 0 28 18 Hendrick Motorsports 88 697 -1,390 -2 17 -1 0 28 19 Richard Childress Racing 31 676 -1,411 -21 19 0 0 28 20 Wood Brothers Racing 21 642 -1,445 -34 20 0 0 28 21 JTG Daugherty Racing 47 627 -1,460 -15 21 0 0 28 22 Roush Fenway Racing 17 607 -1,480 -20 23 1 0 28 23 Roush Fenway Racing 6 607 -1,480 0 22 -1 0 28 24 Stewart-Haas Racing 10 534 -1,553 -73 25 1 0 28 25 Roush Fenway Racing 16 518 -1,569 -16 24 -1 0 28 26 Richard Childress Racing 27 516 -1,571 -2 26 0 0 28 27 Richard Petty Motorsports 43 488 -1,599 -28 28 1 0 28 28 HScott Motorsports 15 484 -1,603 -4 27 -1 0 28 29 Germain Racing 13 451 -1,636 -33 29 0 0 28 30 Circle Sport-Leavine Family 95 416 -1,671 -35 30 0 0 28 31 Front Row Motorsports 38 397 -1,690 -19 31 0 0 28 32 BK Racing 23 369 -1,718 -28 32 0 0 28 33 Tommy Baldwin Racing 7 364 -1,723 -5 33 0 0 28 34 Richard Petty Motorsports 44 332 -1,755 -32 34 0 0 28 35 BK Racing 83 309 -1,778 -23 35 0 0 28 36 Premium Motorsports 98 256 -1,831 -53 36 0 0 28 37 HScott Motorsports 46 243 -1,844 -13 37 0 0 28 38 GO FAS Racing 32 222 -1,865 -21 38 0 0 28 39 Premium Motorsports 55 182 -1,905 -40 39 0 0 23 40 The Motorsports Group 30 151 -1,936 -31 40 0 0 28 41 Front Row Motorsports 35 46 -2,041 -105 41 0 0 3 42 Circle Sport - Leavine Family 59 26 -2,061 -20 42 0 0 1 43 BK Racing 93 15 -2,072 -11 43 0 0 5 44 BK Racing 26 3 -2,084 -12 44 0 0 1 45 Hillman Racing 40 0 -2,087 -3 45 0 0 1
XFINITY race winners carrying extra Chase confidence
RELATED: See the XFINITY Chase Grid " Every '16 winner " Get to know the field CHARLOTTE, N.C. – Of the 12 drivers that make up this year's NASCAR XFINITY Series Chase field, only three won races during the "regular" season, so the fact that the three appeared to be feeling pretty good about their chances Tuesday during media day activities at the NASCAR Hall of Fame came as no surprise. Erik Jones , 20, won more races than anyone not named Kyle Busch , four to be exact, and most folks here seemed to agree, some more grudgingly than others, that the Joe Gibbs Racing No. 20 team is the one to beat. Veteran Elliott Sadler won twice, and the Emporia, Virginia native has been around the track a few times. His career, in fact, was already underway when the Jones family welcomed young Erik into the world. Sadler's wins in the No. 1 Chevrolet for JR Motorsports came this year at Talladega and Darlington and Sadler is the only guy in the field who can say he was in the inaugural Chase for both the premier series and the XFINITY Series. Daniel Suarez , Jones' teammate, earned his first series victory at Michigan. He enters the seven-race playoff, which begins with this weekend’s VisitMyrtleBeach.com 300 at Kentucky Speedway (Saturday, 8 p.m. ET on NBCSN, PRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio), with three top-five finishes in his last four starts. The other result was a top-10 so Suarez and the No. 19 team appear to be on top of their game as well. No one is conceding anything just yet however. Not the Richard Childress Racing trio of Ty Dillon , Brendan Gaughan or Brandon Jones ; Sadler’s JRM teammate Justin Allgaier or Roush Fenway Racing ’s Darrell Wallace Jr . and Ryan Reed . Even single-team entrants Brennan Poole ( Chip Ganassi Racing ), Ryan Sieg (RSS Racing), and Blake Koch (Kaulig Racing) spoke of the potential for advancing from one round to the next and keeping title hopes alive. "I don't know if that's good or bad," a grinning Sadler said of his dual Chase experience. "I do remember being part of the first ever (Sprint) Cup Chase and now this one. It's pretty cool." The benefits of that 2004 experience are limited, but useful nonetheless. "It's not like I'm a seasoned quarterback that can read the defense better than a rookie quarterback," Sadler said. "I think that's when experience plays a part. Now it's just about which teams can get their cars the fastest, what driver can give the best information and not make mistakes on the track. Everybody that's part of this Chase can do just as good of a job as anybody else, no matter their age or where they are from or how many years they've raced. I don't think that's a big part of it. "The only thing I think I know is the difference in the intensity level; that's the biggest thing I remember about being a part of the ( Sprint Cup ) Chase. The next week it was like 'holy cow, it's flipped the switch.' Not only racing other guys but your team, what they are going through, the driver, the communication. It's like everything is set to fast forward … and you have to understand how to communicate at such a different level." Jones is coming off a 2015 season that saw the Byron, Michigan native win the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series title, and he’s headed for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series in ’17 as a teammate with Martin Truex Jr . at Furniture Row Racing . Six times this season, he and Suarez have finished a race with both cars in the top five. In 13 other races, at least one of the two have finished fifth or higher. The teammate tag doesn't go out the window with the Chase now at hand. But both, along with 10 others, are racing for a shot at a single prize. "It's tough; the teammate deal is always tough in racing," Jones said. "… There are times when you have to race like teammates and times your race as competitors. It's a tough balance for sure, but it's also nice when you go to the race track and you have other drivers to lean on, you can get information from and better each other. "Hopefully we're both in Homestead chasing the championship." Suarez also understands the benefits that come with a competitive teammate and agreed that "it's hard to balance out because both of us want to race hard for wins. "I think we're going to be in good shape," he said. "Both of us have a good shot to be competitive every single weekend for the Chase." </p>
RCR names Hemric to full-time XFINITY ride
Richard Childress Racing announced Saturday at Chicagoland Speedway that Daniel Hemric will drive an entry in their NASCAR XFINITY Series program in 2017. "This is such a great opportunity for me," said Hemric in a team release. "There aren't words that can describe what racing for RCR means to me, especially considering everything they have done as an organization for our sport. I'm excited to now officially be a small part of the company and am looking forward to working with everyone in Welcome, North Carolina. "We will hit the ground running in February at Daytona. With all the talent and experience RCR has in the XFINITY Series, I'm confident we can compete for wins and contend for the championship." The deal is a multi-year agreement. Hemric's sponsor, crew chief and team will be named at a later date. "He's won championships in everything he's raced in," Childress told NBCSN. "... We're really excited to have him." Hemric is battling for a NASCAR Camping World Truck Series title in 2016 in the No. 19 Brad Keselowski Racing Ford. In 16 starts, he has 13 top-10 finishes. "We are very happy for Daniel and I'm really proud of what he's accomplished with Brad Keselowski Racing in 2016," Keselowski said. "One of the things we wanted to do at BKR is give talented young drivers an opportunity to take the next step in their career. He has proven to me that he's capable of being an elite level guy at the top of this sport. We hope to finish off this season with our first NASCAR Camping World Truck Series championship." </p>
Drivers talk fallout from chippy Richmond race
RELATED: O'Donnell discusses contact between Newman, Stewart CHICAGO -- Sometimes putting the regular season to rest also means burying the bygone grudges, clearing the decks of any lingering hard feelings as the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup playoffs becomes the prime focus. For the 16 playoff-eligible drivers, some differences have been aired out -- and some not -- after an especially chippy regular-season finale last weekend at Richmond International Raceway that left both teammates and old rivals at odds with each other. For all concerned, it's back to business this weekend with another brand of intensity in Sunday's Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 400 (2:30 p.m. ET, NBCSN, MRN, SiriusXM), the first event of the 10-race Chase for the championship at Chicagoland Speedway . One on-track altercation that bubbled into post-race bitterness in televised interviews will require NASCAR competition officials to mediate the disagreement to make sure it goes no further. NASCAR Executive Vice President and Chief Racing Development Officer Steve O'Donnell said Monday that he expects to consult with Tony Stewart and Ryan Newman regarding their late-race run-in last Saturday night. RELATED: Photos of the big wreck at Richmond Stewart said Thursday from the annual Ready. Set. Chase. launch events at Chicago's Bridgeport Art Center that he expected the meeting to be preemptive in nature, to keep any animosity from festering after Newman questioned Stewart's anger management and composure in post-race interviews at Richmond. "I haven't heard anything from him," Stewart said of his former teammate as he enters the final Chase of his Sprint Cup driving career, "but it's like I said, it would be easy to take it personal. But I mean, that was the deciding factor in his season whether he was going to make the Chase or not. So we've been friends a long time, we've been teammates and I respect him a lot. "It's a high-pressure moment, and I've been in those, too, and I've said things. Whether he meant to say it or not or whether he still believes it or not, that's up to him, but that moment is a hard moment for any of us. It's tough in that scenario." Newman, who was the highest-ranking driver to miss the Chase field, also played a role in a small but curious dust-up between Hendrick Motorsports teammates. Newman forced his way into a three-wide battle early on at Richmond, nudging Jeff Gordon -- Dale Earnhardt Jr .'s substitute in the No. 88 Chevrolet -- into rookie Chase Elliott , Gordon's successor in the No. 24 Chevy. WATCH: Elliott finds the wall after contact with Gordon That slight issue, Elliott indicated, appears to be resolved. "He sent me a text after the race. I knew it wasn't his fault," Elliott said. "I wasn't concerned with it at all. It was a racing deal and you hate, of course, it had to be two teammates and it had to be myself and Jeff, but at the end of the day, we both get it and our teams get it. ... He did give me an apology, but it was not necessary whatsoever." One on-again, off-again conflict among Matt Kenseth and Team Penske 's Brad Keselowski and Joey Logano also resurfaced at Richmond. Kenseth and Keselowski have been involved in far bigger rhubarbs than the contact that flared up last weekend, but a certain testy tinge laced Kenseth's post-race interview. Each shared common ground in Thursday's pre-Chase media rounds, focusing on securing their second premier-series championship and minimizing any potential bad blood between the two. "I don't want to play the conversation game," Keselowski said. "I don't think I need to have a whole media discussion about any time there's a small bump on the race track, whether it's me or somebody else. It's just how racing's going to be. When it's egregious and there's things that happen, that's one thing. (Expletive) just happens, (expletive) just happens and we don't have to play drama queen for everything. That's kind of how I feel about it." WATCH: Kenseth frustrated with Keselowski at Richmond Kenseth offered a flat "no" when asked if Team Penske 's two-driver stable was successfully playing mind games with him. "We didn't really talk about it and I didn't really re-watch any of that, so I don't know," Kenseth said in response to Keselowski's post-race remarks. "We didn't really talk about it." RELATED: Meet all 16 Chase drivers Two more teammates -- Richard Childress Racing 's Austin Dillon and Paul Menard -- had a chance to settle their squabble by sharing a ride back to North Carolina on the team plane. Dillon, who had on-track clashes for running room with Menard in successive weeks, found an empty seat on the plane beside his teammate and took it. "Well, I'm learning a lot about relationships -- I'm engaged," said Dillon, who is prepping for his first Chase this season. "And communication is everything, and communicating with him was a good start to it. I've always had a good relationship with Paul. We both love a lot of the same things -- we love the outdoors, we love racing. "I just wanted to tell him, 'Hey, I'm not doing this on purpose or any certain way. I'm just racing hard,' and he said the same thing." The hard racing -- and potentially the tensions that accompany it -- are expected to continue over the next 10 weeks, starting this weekend in Chicagoland. &amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;lt;/p&amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;gt;