Almirola reflects on career, heritage as he makes 200th start
Aric Almirola insists he was absolutely prepared to climb into his No. 43 Smithfield Ford this Sunday for the Pennsylvania 400 at Pocono Raceway completely focused on nothing other than scoring a victory and working toward earning a position in the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup. But his public relations team brought up an important milestone that even he conceded was definitely worth noting, if not celebrating. This Sunday's race marks the 32-year old Almirola's 200th NASCAR Sprint Cup Series start -- a significant measure of his staying power and a testament to how far he's come. Literally. He is the son of a Cuban immigrant on his dad's side of the family and the grandson of one of Florida's most celebrated and accomplished racers -- Sam Rodriguez -- on his mom's side. That has created a unique background dynamic that gives Almirola motivation and pride. And makes this weekend a heartfelt measure of success. "I think here I am and my dad came over from Cuba and 50 years later I'm making my 200th start in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series for Richard Petty ," Almirola said. "It's so crazy to me, what living in this country affords you and allows you to be able to do, and my grandparents made that decision to come over here and take this chance." The sheer number of starts represents a mark of opportunity for Almirola. Making it into NASCAR's big league was always the harder path, the road less travelled. But he has made it. And that's only the beginning. "I don't think anybody dreams about running two hundred races, they dream about 'a' race," Almirola said. "So as a kid I dreamed about driving 'a' Cup car, running 'a' race. So, now the fact I've had the opportunity to do it two hundred times, when you realize that, and the marketing department brings to your attention that, 'Hey, Pocono is going to be your 200th start,' it really makes you kind of reflect on everything that's led up to this. "From being a kid racing go-karts all the way up to all the opportunities I've had. I realize by reflecting on all that stuff how fortunate and blessed I am." The thing is, Almirola could have just as easily been a star baseball player as a winning NASCAR driver. His native city of Tampa, Florida is a ballplayer's town. It produced Wade Boggs and Lou Piniella. Both Dwight Gooden and Gary Sheffield graduated from Almirola's Hillsborough High School. A calendar year in this part of the country has traditionally been delineated by baseball and football seasons. That just makes Almirola's success climbing the NASCAR ranks even more impressive. "I was in somewhat of a hot bed there for athletes," Almirola said smiling. "But I had a really strong passion for racing and I know that made me somewhat of an outsider at school growing up. When friends would ask, 'Hey what are you doing this weekend?' I'd say, I was going racing. "That kind of separated me from a lot of kids at school -- not in a bad way, I wasn't an outcast in a negative way, but I didn't have as close a relationship with kids at school because I didn't go parties at their house Friday night after football games. I was always working on my race cars or go-karts and racing on the weekends. "I wasn't looking for something to do on the weekend. I already had it." "I was always going to be a NASCAR guy. My grandfather raced sprint cars, so obviously the open wheel path was there, too. He'd race at East Bay every Saturday night and occasionally travel around the country going to races. But every Sunday it was normal, to get up, eat breakfast, hang around the house and then watch the Cup race. That was routine around my parents and my grandparents. We love NASCAR." The result for Almirola has been a starring role driving his sport's most iconic car -- the No. 43 -- for the sport's biggest legend, Petty . NASCAR's crown jewel, Daytona International Speedway, is also Almirola's "home track" and fittingly the venue he won his first Sprint Cup Series race in 2014, the Coke Zero 400 -- exactly 30 years after his boss Petty scored his historic 200th victory at the track. Consider this: Petty's win total would be equivalent to Almirola winning every start he's made. RELATED: Almirola's Darlington scheme honors Petty " Darlington schemes Though that remains the only Cup victory so far for Almirola, it was enough to propel him into the 2014 Chase and make him only more eager to return. His team's best finish this year is a 12th-place in the season-opening Daytona 500. He's had four top-15 showings -- three in the season's opening four races. He ranks 25th in points entering Pocono, hopeful to score a win in one of the remaining six races to set the 16-driver Chase field. "I think the reality is we have struggled this season and you can tell by watching the race and looking at our results," Almirola said. "This year has been a struggle and we can't really put our finger on what's wrong. People often ask what's wrong and it sounds like a smart-aleck answer, but if I knew, we'd fix it. "There are a couple places looking ahead that have been strong for us. Bristol comes to top of mind. We had a chance to win there a couple years ago battling with Carl Edwards. And then there's (regular season finale) Richmond. Last year we went there kinda do or die to make the Chase and finished fourth, but had a really strong car and a legitimate chance to win that race, too. Those are kind of top of mind to me where we might go in and get a win." Listening to Almirola reflect on his first 200 races, there is both a fond memory of what it took to get to this point and a distinct urgency in his voice to succeed in a way worthy of the hard work already put in. "Making my 200th start really forces me to reflect and when I do that and think about doing it for Richard Petty , who is very much an American icon. And I can't help but reflect on my family, which has done so much and sacrificed so much to get me where I'm at," Almirola said. "It really is amazing."
Hard tires, reworked curbing present challenges at repaved Watkins Glen
RELATED: Before and after: Watkins Glen repave WATKINS GLEN, N.Y. -- NASCAR Sprint Cup Series teams wrapped up a two-day organizational test Wednesday at newly repaved Watkins Glen International, emerging with better ideas of the challenges they'll face when the series returns for the Aug. 4-7 race weekend. Among those challenges: reworked curbing, a fast circuit and a harder-compound tire that has made grip elusive. A total of 16 Sprint Cup teams -- one permitted from each organization -- tried to unlock the novelty of the $12 million resurfacing project, using a Goodyear tire that emphasizes durability at the expense of traction and wear. The rubber compound chosen is similar to that used July 9 at Kentucky Speedway, site of the Sprint Cup Series' most recent race on a repaved track. At Kentucky, the tire selection made for treacherous conditions in certain spots and made passing a delicate process. Though road courses don't lend themselves to the multi-groove racing seen at several well-aged oval tracks, Watkins Glen might still be a tricky place to maneuver when the series reconvenes for the Cheez-It 355 at The Glen. "The main thing we've learned so far is how hard the tire is," said Jamie McMurray, driver of the Chip Ganassi Racing No. 1 Chevrolet. "It just seems to be no wear at all or lap time fall-off right now. This place didn't ever wear tires like Sonoma, but it seems like the tire is pretty hard." Sonoma, the other road course where the Sprint Cup Series races, is a much more intricate circuit with qualifying speeds roughly 30 mph slower than at Watkins Glen's open, free-wheeling layout. The Goodyear tire compound designated for both the Watkins Glen test and the race weekend is the same used for right-side tires in XFINITY Series competition at Iowa Speedway. Those Iowa right-sides will be used at all four corners for the Sprint Cup event at the 2.45-mile road course. Racing with a softer tire with more adhesion would potentially introduce the threat of excessive wear or blistering. It's a trade-off that Sunoco Rookie of the Year candidate Chase Elliott says he's willing to accept. "I think a lot of it is just having a fresh surface like this, you've got to have a tire that's pretty hard," said Elliott, Hendrick Motorsports' driver representative for the two-day test. "It's fast, and to ask a tire to hold up, you've got to bring something that's durable. It puts Goodyear in a tough spot, but I think they do a good job of trying to make the most of tough situations. There's been a lot of repaves here lately and I know they're working hard." David Groseclose, NASCAR's lead tire engineer, said Wednesday that the benefits of competing with a more rigid rubber compound outweighed the potential drawbacks. "As with all repaves -- same thing as Kentucky -- if you don't have a hard tire, you're going to blister them up," Groseclose said. "The way that works is if you've got a soft compound and you use it, the soft compounds tend to retain heat. It's just the nature of a soft compound. But on a repave, it's not going to wear so that heat's not going to be dissipated out of the tire. It has nowhere to go, so it stays in the tire, so that's why it blisters up. That's what we saw at Kentucky with the XFINITY and Truck Series." In addition to the surface itself, the track features new concrete for the rumble strips that border the circuit's turns and run-off areas. Some drivers found the differences barely noticeable, but Kurt Busch discovered a distinction the hard way with an early Tuesday spin as he bounded over the apex points in the backstretch chicane on one of his initial laps. "It's a lot different," said Tony Gibson, Busch's crew chief on the Stewart-Haas Racing No. 41 Chevrolet. "Kurt's like, 'I've got to learn all the curbs again.' The curbs over in the bus stop (chicane) are probably the biggest change. They're way more aggressive, and they've tightened up, so it's a lot tighter lane through there." Said Elliott, who will race here in Sprint Cup for the first time next weekend: "Some of the curbs may be a little different here or there, some a little rougher, a little smoother just depending on how they laid the asphalt in or however it worked. It's as close as you could make a track from an old surface to a repave, for sure." Five Sprint Cup teams participated in a Goodyear tire test May 10-11, and another 16 were present for this week's organizational test. For the remaining half of the field, the work toward finding the proper handle begins with opening practice on Friday, Aug. 5. "If you get your balance right, it'll be a no-drama," Gibson said. "Man, I told Kurt earlier, 'I'd hate to know I had to come here next Friday and hit the track for the first time and try to figure out these curbs and how much the race track has changed.' It'll be a handful in the short amount of time we get to practice. "It'll be interesting to see when we come back who has issues and who doesn't. But it's definitely going to be a plus to come and learn the race track, even if your car is not right or whatever, just getting here and getting behind the wheel and getting time on the race track is going to mean more." Pit notes: -- The full roster (in alphabetical order) of drivers and teams participating in the test: AJ Allmendinger (JTG Daugherty Racing), Ryan Blaney (Wood Brothers Racing), Clint Bowyer (HScott Motorsports), Chris Buescher (Front Row Motorsports), Kurt Busch (Stewart-Haas Racing), Kyle Busch (Joe Gibbs Racing), Austin Dillon ( Richard Childress Racing), Chase Elliott (Hendrick Motorsports), Brad Keselowski (Team Penske), Michael McDowell (Circle Sport-Leavine Family Racing), Jamie McMurray (Chip Ganassi Racing), Casey Mears (Germain Racing), Brian Scott ( Richard Petty Motorsports), Regan Smith (Tommy Baldwin Racing), Ricky Stenhouse Jr. (Roush Fenway Racing), Martin Truex Jr. (Furniture Row Racing). -- Casey Mears turned the fastest lap in the two-day test, which was divided into four sessions of four hours apiece. Mears pushed the Germain Racing No. 13 Chevrolet in the closing session to a best lap of 126.7 mph, a good bit slower than the track qualifying record of 129.491 mph set by Marcos Ambrose in August 2014. -- Brad Keselowski returned to the track Wednesday, one day after his severe, nearly head-on crash in Turn 1. He turned 74 laps over both sessions in a reserve Team Penske No. 2 Ford. -- Two teams -- Furniture Row Racing (driver Martin Truex Jr.) and Circle Sport-Leavine Family Racing (driver Michael McDowell) -- were absent from testing's opening day, arriving in the Watkins Glen garage Wednesday in time for the two closing sessions. -- Wednesday's final session was extended 30 minutes to a 5:30 p.m. ET close because of a nearly hour-long clean-up for fluid on the track. After Chase Elliott's No. 24 Chevrolet suffered a broken axle, Clint Bowyer's No. 15 Chevy ran over the part, damaging the car's transmission. -- NASCAR XFINITY Series teams are scheduled to turn their first laps on the new Watkins Glen surface next Thursday. The NASCAR K&N Pro Series East will stage a support race the following day on the 2.45-mile course.
Stewart talks special moment with Gordon post-Indy
RELATED: Race results " Standings " Chase Grid " See the moment SPEEDWAY, Ind. -- With the field lined up for the first of what turned out to be two overtime restarts Sunday at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, Tony Stewart clicked his radio and made a request. "Tell (the 88) after this is over let's go around the track one more time together," Stewart, co-owner of Stewart-Haas Racing and driver of the organization's No. 14 Chevrolet, said. Stewart, a three-time NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion and twice a winner of the The Combat Wounded Coalition 400, wanted to slow down instead of go fast, and soak in the moment with a familiar foe and friend, regardless of how his final race at IMS ended. Jeff Gordon , driving the Hendrick Motorsports entry in relief of Dale Earnhardt Jr. , was more than willing to oblige. Hours earlier, Gordon had paid tribute to Stewart, acknowledging him and what he has meant to NASCAR during the morning drivers' meeting. RELATED: Gordon talks return, Dale Jr. " WATCH: Gordon climbs in No. 88 So before race winner Kyle Busch made it to Victory Lane, prior to he and his Joe Gibbs Racing teammates gathering to kiss the bricks on the finish line, Stewart and Gordon, two old warhorses with a combined seven championships and 142 Sprint Cup Series wins between them, slowly circled the 2.5-mile track one final time to the cheers of the fans and many of those still on pit road. MORE: Relive 'Smoke's' 49 career victories Afterward, Gordon climbed from his car and approached Stewart; the two hugged on pit road amid a throng of reporters. "I can say that just ranks in the top-three coolest moments of my 18 years in this series," said Stewart, who will retire from Sprint Cup racing at season's end. "To share that moment with Jeff here at Indianapolis, I don't know. I don't even have the words for it. That is a moment that I will remember for the rest of my life." For the record, Stewart finished 11th in his final Sprint Cup start at the famed Brickyard. It was a hard-fought 11th with the 45-year-old rallying from a lap down after running strong in the first half of the 170-lap race. Gordon, scheduled to make at least one more start next week at Pocono's Pennsylvania 400 in relief of Earnhardt Jr., rallied, too, to finish 13th. "Tony and I have gone through a lot over the years," he said. "But he and I have become really good friends. ... I'm just so proud that I was able to be here and race with him in his final race (at Indy)." Stewart ran as high as second early, moving up from his No. 3 starting position in spite of a slow takeoff when the race went green. Crew chief Mike Bugarewicz and the pit crew continued to make adjustments throughout the first half of the race, keeping Stewart inside the top 10, but at one point admitted to his driver, "We're just barely keeping up with the track." Stewart hit pit road at Lap 119 under green, and when the caution came out for an incident involving David Ragan , it appeared the move might work in the team’s favor -- others that hadn't pitted would come to pit road, allowing Stewart to gain track position. But a speeding penalty negated any advantage, and Stewart instead found himself in 31st and one lap down. By then, it was too late to change game plans, according to Bugarewicz. "Normally you would say yes when it's early in the race," he said. "When it's late in the race like that, your fate's almost ... you just have to race for the (free pass) and hope you get it like we did. That's all you've got. "Nobody was going to pit again if it stayed green because they're already in the last fuel window so at that point it was just ... banking on getting a caution and being the best car out of the cars that were a lap down to get the lucky dog, which is what we did. "We got fortunate with a few more cautions to let us line back up at the tail of the field and start picking them off." On Lap 140, Stewart passed Kasey Kahne (Hendrick Motorsports) to be in positon for the free pass, and when the caution flag waved for debris moments later, he was back on the lead lap. Three more cautions unfolded before the finish, including one that involved Stewart, Jamie McMurray (Chip Ganassi Racing), Ryan Newman ( Richard Childress Racing) and Brian Scott ( Richard Petty Motorsports). WATCH: Big wreck claims multiple cars at Indy "That last one probably hurt us in one sense -- with the nose damage we had, the car was really tight," Bugarewicz said. "But ... we're not going to complain, we're just going to take what we've got and be happy for it." The finish moved Stewart up one spot, to 27th, in points. With a win earlier at California's Sonoma Raceway, he continues to improve his chances at earning a berth in this year's Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup. But with Indy in his rearview, Stewart wasn't in a hurry to look too far down the road. "It was an awesome weekend," he said. "Everything went the way we wanted it to, we just came up short today. "I had fun all day and had fun all weekend. ... Everybody tried to make my weekend as easy as possible. It really gave me the opportunity to savor the moment and enjoy it." MORE: 'Smoke' receives unique gift from Indy
Fire contained at Richard Petty Museum, Petty's Garage
A fire earlier Saturday at the longtime location of Petty Enterprises in Level Cross, North Carolina, did only minimal damage to the historical site, according to officials with the organization. The former race shop compound now houses the Richard Petty Museum and Petty's Garage, a high-performance speed and restoration shop. Richard Petty is NASCAR's all-time leader in premier series wins with 200 victories and is one of only two drivers to win seven championships. According to information from the team, the fire was contained to a portion of the building and was quickly under control by local fire responders. TV station WFMY reported on its web site that a call came in at approximately 12:40 p.m. ET. No injuries were reported at the facility, and no cause of the fire was provided. Three-time series champion Lee Petty started Petty Enterprises, originally Petty Engineering, as NASCAR, incorporated in 1948, was just appearing on the scene. As the family-owned Petty organization flourished, what was once nothing more than a single 800-square-foot structure grew as well. Before the organization stopped running its race teams out of the Level Cross location to move closer to Charlotte, North Carolina, the one-room shop had expanded to include 16 additions.
Richard Petty Motorsports
The history of Richard Petty Motorsports and full crews for Aric Almirola and Brian Scott.
Richard Petty Motorsports releases pit crew coach
Richard Petty Motorsports released longtime pit crew coach Gary Smith effective Monday. We have not heard what the future plans are for RPM's athletic department nor have we heard of another coach replacing Smith. ( UPDATE on 4/26: RPM hired Robb Rogers as Smith's replacement. Rogers has been a professional coach since 1980 and a national lecturer since 1985.) Coach Smith has been around pit road for many years and is very knowledgeable about pit stops. For more pit crew news, visit PitTalks.com .
The Rundown: Indianapolis driver grades
RELATED: Complete race results " Updated Chase Grid Breaking down the full field for the Crown Royal Presents The Combat Wounded Coalition 400 At The Brickyard at Indianapolis Motor Speedway: 1. Kyle Busch, No. 18 Toyota, Joe Gibbs Racing. Total domination. Busch won Saturday's and Sunday's races from the pole and led a record 149 laps Sunday. His average running position Sunday was 1.2, and his lowest position was third. Seriously? Busch's hammerlock on the field was on par with what Martin Truex Jr. did in the Coca-Cola 600 . Thus the same mark. Grade: AAA+ 2. Matt Kenseth , No. 20 Toyota, Joe Gibbs Racing. Kenseth is still winless at the Brickyard but has now finished second three times. More numbers: In Kenseth's first four starts at Indianapolis for JGR, his finishes are 5th, 4th, 7th and 2nd. Grade: A 3. Jimmie Johnson , No. 48 Chevrolet, Hendrick Motorsports. Johnson had to do a pass-through on Lap 86 for a pit-road speeding penalty, dropping him to 23rd. Attrition and persistence led to Johnson's first top 10 since he finished third at Charlotte two months ago. Nice finish, but this team still needs to clean up its mistakes. Grade: A- 4. Denny Hamlin , No. 11 Toyota, Joe Gibbs Racing. Ditto the No. 11 team. Hamlin was assessed his seventh pit-road speeding penalty of the season one lap after Jimmie Johnson (same round of green-flag stops). Hamlin was running third at the time and fell back to 18th. Nice recovery, but … Grade: A- 5. Kyle Larson , No. 42 Chevrolet, Chip Ganassi Racing. Larson was the second-biggest winner of the afternoon, moving up four spots in the standings to 15th. Grade: A 6. Kevin Harvick , No. 4 Chevrolet, Stewart-Haas Racing. Harvick upped his points lead to 24. Two races ago it was down to four. If you don't think that's important, remember this: If qualifying is rained out, the field is set by the standings -- as is the order of selecting a pit stall. So, yes, the standings still matter. Grade: A 7. Joey Logano , No. 22 Ford, Team Penske. Logano restarted second on the final restart but couldn't hold the position or make a run at Kyle Busch. Logano, by the way, finished second to Busch in last year's Brickyard. Grade: A 8. Martin Truex Jr. , No. 78 Toyota, Furniture Row Racing. Truex was strong all afternoon – his 5.6 average running position was second to Kyle Busch's – but he was no match for the winner. Grade: A 9. Austin Dillon , No. 3 Chevrolet, Richard Childress Racing. Sunday's top 10 was Dillon's ninth of the season (20 starts), equaling his total for the first 85 starts of his Sprint Cup career. Grade: A 10. Paul Menard , No. 27 Chevrolet, Richard Childress Racing. Menard benefited from accidents in front of him that he was able to avoid to score his second top 10 of the season. Grade: A- 11. Tony Stewart , No. 14 Chevrolet, Stewart-Haas Racing. Stewart started third and was running with the leaders when he was caught speeding on pit road just before the third caution and had to restart at the tail end of the field, one lap down. He was still back in the pack (20th) with 25 laps to go in regulation. But then came all the cautions. "Smoke" finally got his lap back with a free pass on the fifth caution, survived contact with Jamie McMurray on Lap 166 and salvaged a decent finish on his last go-round at Indy. Grade: B 12. Ricky Stenhouse Jr. , No. 17 Ford, Roush Fenway Racing. Stenhouse survived the big Carl Edwards - Ryan Newman wreck that brought out the red flag to get a finish that belied his day. He turned 14 laps in the top 15 and had an average running positon of 20.1. Grade: B- 13. Jeff Gordon , No. 88 Chevrolet, Hendrick Motorsports. Despite problems with restarts, Gordon was able to post his best finish of the season and overcome the incredible pressure of replacing Alex Bowman in the No. 88. ... Yes, I'm kidding. Except for the restarts part. Vive Monsieur Gordon! Grade: A 14. Chris Buescher , No. 34 Ford, Front Row Motorsports. Buescher recorded the best finish of his Sprint Cup career on a day in which he turned all of two laps in the top 15 and had a 23.7 average running position. Grade: B 15. Chase Elliott , No. 24 Chevrolet, Hendrick Motorsports. Elliott registered his best finish since a second-place finish at Michigan more than a month ago. Grade: B 16. Kurt Busch, No. 41 Chevrolet, Stewart-Haas Racing. For only the second time this season, Busch failed to finish in the top 10 in back-to-back races. Grade: B- 17. Brad Keselowski , No. 2 Ford, Team Penske. Keselowski was the rage early on with his team's bold pit strategy, but the second half of the race bore zero resemblance to the first half. Getting caught up in the Carl Edwards - Ryan Newman wreck didn't help, either. Grade: B 18. Kasey Kahne , No. 5 Chevrolet, Hendrick Motorsports. Despite a fourth-straight finish outside the top 10, Kahne moved up two spots in the standings to 16th, 10 points behind Kyle Larson . He jumped one driver who missed the race ( Dale Earnhardt Jr. ) and one who didn't use the best judgment and crashed with 10 laps to go ( Trevor Bayne ). Grade: C 19. Jamie McMurray , No. 1 Chevrolet, Chip Ganassi Racing. McMurray's nice run came to a screeching halt on the restart on Lap 165 when he moved down in front of Tony Stewart but hadn't cleared the No. 14. Stewart wasn't about to lift, and the No. 1 went for a slide onto the access road before returning to the track and smacking Ryan Newman . Worse, the caution gave the free pass to Chase-cutoff competitor Kasey Kahne . Grade: B- 20. Landon Cassill , No. 38 Ford, Front Row Motorsports. Cassill avoided calamity to get his fourth-best finish of the season. Grade: B 21. Clint Bowyer, No. 15 Chevrolet, HScott Motorsports. Bowyer contributed to the caution-fest at the end of the race when he got into the back of Trevor Bayne , who inexplicably went for the block with so much on the line (Chase standings) and running so far back in the field. Grade: C 22. Danica Patrick , No. 10 Chevrolet, Stewart-Haas Racing. Wrong place, wrong time. Again. Patrick had nothing to do with the Carl Edwards - Ryan Newman wreck but still ended up a part of it. On the other hand, she finished right where she spent most of the race. Grade: C 23. Michael McDowell , No. 95 Chevrolet, Circle Sport-Leavine Family. McDowell posted his best finish at the Brickyard in seven starts. Grade: B- 24. Casey Mears , No. 13 Chevrolet, Germain Racing. Mears finished in the top 25 for the 10th time this season. Grade: C 25. Aric Almirola , No. 43 Ford, Richard Petty Motorsports. Almirola, who is still looking for his first top 10 of the year, is on pace to have his worst season with RPM, for which he has been driving full time since 2010. Grade: C 26. Regan Smith , No. 7 Chevrolet, Tommy Baldwin Racing. Smith posted his best finish since a 22nd at Pocono in early June. Grade: C 27. Brian Scott , No. 44 Ford, Richard Petty Motorsports. Despite being collected in the last wreck of the day, Scott picked up his best finish in his past eight starts. Grade: C 28. Michael Annett , No. 46 Chevrolet, HScott Motorsports . After posting four top-30 finishes in his first 14 starts, Annett has four in his past six. Grade: C 29. Cole Whitt , No. 98 Chevrolet, Premium Motorsports. Since a 37.3 average finish in his first three starts of the season, Whitt has an average finish of 27.5 over his next 14 races. Grade: C 30. Trevor Bayne , No. 6 Ford, Roush Fenway Racing. Bayne's move to block Clint Bowyer on the backstretch on Lap 158 was as costly as it was ill-advised. Bayne spun all the way to his worst finish of the season and to 18th in the standings, 14 points behind 15th-place Kyle Larson . Grade: D 31. Ryan Newman , No. 31 Chevrolet, Richard Childress Racing. Newman's day began to unravel on the restart on Lap 154. He restarted sixth, outside of Carl Edwards . On the first turn, Edwards drifted up into Newman and the No. 31 suffered major damage. With Newman sitting near the Chase cut-off line, it was important for him to coax the car home. He returned to the track but couldn't make it to the finish when Jamie McMurray ran up the track into him on the Lap 165 restart after contact with Tony Stewart . Bottom line: Valiant effort but a DNF and 10-point day. Grade: C 32. Ryan Ellis , No. 93 Toyota, BK Racing. Ellis picked up a career-best finish in his fourth Sprint Cup Series start. Grade: C 33. Reed Sorenson , No. 55 Chevrolet, Premium Motorsports. Sorenson ran to form, and his 33.8 average finish is third-worst in the Sprint Cup Series among drivers with at least 10 starts. Grade: D 34. Patrick Carpentier, No. 32 Ford, GO FAS Racing . After not starting a Sprint Cup Series race since 2011, Carpentier made his second start of 2016. He finished 37th last month at Sonoma. Grade: D 35. Carl Edwards , No. 19 Toyota, Joe Gibbs Racing. Edwards was part of the strong JGR contingent all afternoon – 6.6 averaging running position – until his mishap on Lap 154. Whether it was a tight car or dirty tires, the outcome was costly as he dropped two spots in the standings. Grade: F 36. Ryan Blaney , No. 21 Ford, Wood Brothers Racing. Blaney was collected and knocked out of the race in the Carl Edwards -initiated wreckage that resulted in a red flag. Blaney dropped two spots in the standings to 19th, and is now 22 points behind 15th-place Kyle Larson . Blaney began the day nine points ahead of Larson. Grade: C 37. David Ragan , No. 23 Toyota, BK Racing. Ragan brought out the third caution on Lap 120 when his left-rear tire went down and he slammed the wall. It was his third DNF and second-worst finish of the season. Grade: F 38. AJ Allmendinger, No. 47 Chevrolet, JTG Daugherty Racing. Allmendinger was running 11th when his car lost water pressure. Moments later it overheated with less than 100 laps to go. It was Allmendinger's second DNF in the past three races. Grade: F 39. Greg Biffle, No. 16 Ford, Roush Fenway Racing. Biffle's day ended after 53 laps when his right-front tire went down and he slammed into the outside wall. His streak of top 10s – three – ended as well. Grade: F 40. Matt DiBenedetto, No. 83 Toyota, BK Racing. His engine didn't even make through five laps, leaving DiBenedetto with his seventh DNF of the season. "How is that even possible?" DiBenedetto tweeted. "Who has the voodoo doll of me that severely dislikes me?" Grade: F
Teams set to participate in Watkins Glen test
NASCAR Sprint Cup Series teams will receive extra track time this week at newly repaved Watkins Glen International, site of the final road-course race on this year's schedule. A total of 16 teams are scheduled to converge on the New York circuit for a two-day organizational test Tuesday and Wednesday in advance of the Aug. 7 Cheez-It 355 at The Glen (2:30 p.m. ET, USA, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio). The $12 million offseason repaving project marks the first full resurfacing at the facility since 1989. The new asphalt includes the 2.45-mile layout used in NASCAR competition and the longer 3.4-mile configuration used by other series. Five Sprint Cup teams received their first taste of the new pavement in Goodyear tire testing May 10-11. Drivers helping the tire manufacturer select the proper rubber compound for the race were Trevor Bayne , Carl Edwards , Kevin Harvick , Kasey Kahne and Joey Logano . Drivers (in alphabetical order) scheduled to participate this week: -- AJ Allmendinger (JTG Daugherty Racing) -- Ryan Blaney (Wood Brothers Racing) -- Clint Bowyer (HScott Motorsports) -- Chris Buescher (Front Row Motorsports) -- Kurt Busch (Stewart-Haas Racing) -- Kyle Busch (Joe Gibbs Racing) -- Matt DiBenedetto (BK Racing) -- Austin Dillon ( Richard Childress Racing) -- Chase Elliott (Hendrick Motorsports) -- Brad Keselowski (Team Penske) -- Michael McDowell (Circle Sport-Leavine Family Racing) -- Jamie McMurray (Chip Ganassi Racing) -- Casey Mears (Germain Racing) -- Brian Scott ( Richard Petty Motorsports) -- Ricky Stenhouse Jr. (Roush Fenway Racing) -- Martin Truex Jr. (Furniture Row Racing) The on-track schedule will feature two sessions each day -- 9 a.m.-noon ET and 1-5 p.m. ET. The garage will open both days at 7 a.m. ET. Other new details greeting drivers this week will be new concrete on pit road and on the rumble strips bordering the turns. The track also completed grading and landscaping work in the runoff areas. NASCAR XFINITY Series teams will get extra practice time on the new surface during an expanded race weekend. The schedule was extended from three days to four this year with the addition of two XFINITY practice sessions on Thursday, Aug. 4. The organizational test is the third of five scheduled this season for the Sprint Cup Series. It follows two-day tests at Kentucky Speedway (June 13-14) and Indianapolis Motor Speedway (July 12-13). The two-day Watkins Glen stop precedes organizational tests at Chicagoland Speedway (Aug. 23-24) and Homestead-Miami Speedway (Oct. 18-19), sites for the opening race and the finale for this year's Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup playoffs. </p>
NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Owner Standings
After Race 20 of the 2016 season at Indianapolis Motor Speedway Pos Owner Car # Points Ldr Nxt PPos G/L Attempts 1 Stewart-Haas Racing 4 671 0 -- 1 0 20 2 Team Penske 2 647 -24 -24 2 0 20 3 Stewart-Haas Racing 41 627 -44 -20 3 0 20 4 Team Penske 22 606 -65 -21 5 1 20 5 Joe Gibbs Racing 18 601 -70 -5 6 1 20 6 Joe Gibbs Racing 19 593 -78 -8 4 -2 20 7 Furniture Row Racing 78 573 -98 -20 7 0 20 8 Hendrick Motorsports 48 552 -119 -21 8 0 20 9 Joe Gibbs Racing 20 545 -126 -7 9 0 20 10 Joe Gibbs Racing 11 542 -129 -3 10 0 20 11 Hendrick Motorsports 24 525 -146 -17 11 0 20 12 Richard Childress Racing 3 520 -151 -5 13 1 20 13 Richard Childress Racing 31 507 -164 -13 12 -1 20 14 Hendrick Motorsports 88 504 -167 -3 14 0 20 15 Chip Ganassi Racing 1 496 -175 -8 15 0 20 16 Chip Ganassi Racing 42 472 -199 -24 20 4 20 17 Stewart-Haas Racing 14 469 -202 -3 18 1 20 18 Hendrick Motorsports 5 462 -209 -7 19 1 20 19 Roush Fenway Racing 6 458 -213 -4 16 -3 20 20 Wood Brothers Racing 21 450 -221 -8 17 -3 20 21 Roush Fenway Racing 17 449 -222 -1 21 0 20 22 JTG Daugherty Racing 47 421 -250 -28 22 0 20 23 Roush Fenway Racing 16 397 -274 -24 23 0 20 24 Richard Childress Racing 27 397 -274 0 24 0 20 25 Stewart-Haas Racing 10 373 -298 -24 25 0 20 26 Richard Petty Motorsports 43 363 -308 -10 26 0 20 27 HScott Motorsports 15 359 -312 -4 27 0 20 28 Germain Racing 13 310 -361 -49 28 0 20 29 Front Row Motorsports 38 305 -366 -5 29 0 20 30 Circle Sport-Leavine Family 95 280 -391 -25 31 1 20 31 BK Racing 23 278 -393 -2 30 -1 20 32 Front Row Motorsports 34 237 -434 -41 34 2 20 33 Tommy Baldwin Racing 7 234 -437 -3 33 0 20 34 Richard Petty Motorsports 44 234 -437 0 32 -2 20 35 Premium Motorsports 98 204 -467 -30 36 1 20 36 BK Racing 83 201 -470 -3 35 -1 20 37 HScott Motorsports 46 186 -485 -15 37 0 20 38 GO FAS Racing 32 161 -510 -25 38 0 20 39 Premium Motorsports 55 125 -546 -36 39 0 15 40 The Motorsports Group 30 93 -578 -32 40 0 20 41 Front Row Motorsports 35 46 -625 -47 41 0 3 42 Circle Sport - Leavine Family 59 26 -645 -20 42 0 1 43 BK Racing 93 11 -660 -15 43 0 4 44 BK Racing 26 3 -668 -8 44 0 1 45 Hillman Racing 40 0 -671 -3 45 0 1
Richard Petty Motorsports renumbers No. 9 to No. 44
One of Richard Petty Motorsports ' two NASCAR Sprint Cup Series teams will not only have a new driver and crew chief combination for 2016, but it will also feature a change in car number. Officials with the two-team organization announced Monday that it will change its No. 9 team to the No. 44 for the 2016 season. The team features former XFINITY Series driver Brian Scott and crew chief Chris Heroy, both new to the organization. "After the 2015 season, we had an opportunity to make some changes and get the No. 44 back. We felt that it was good timing. We really wanted to get that number back in the Petty family where it really belongs," Richard Petty said Monday. "Brian (Scott) is coming on board, and he really hasn't had a number in the Sprint Cup Series. Everything has just come together to really bring back a Petty tradition. "For us, the numbers are more than just a number, you could say. They really represent our family history, our legacy and everyone who has worked for us or raced for us. We take a lot of pride in that and are glad to have the 44 back home." The RPM lineup also includes driver Aric Almirola in the group's iconic No. 43 Ford. The Petty organization first used the No. 44 in 1954 for a single race with driver Bob Welborn. It wasn't used in a full-time capacity by the organization until '93, following the retirement of seven-time series champion Richard Petty . Petty's No. 43 was renumbered 44 for a single season with driver Rick Wilson behind the wheel. That team returned to its original number, 43, the following year. The last full season a Petty entry featured the No. 44 was 2009 with driver AJ Allmendinger . The group began using the No. 9 as well after merging with Gillett Evernham Motorsports in '09. Entries bearing the No. 44 have won 13 times in NASCAR's premier series, most recently by Terry Labonte (1986) when the NASCAR Hall of Fame driver was competing for car owner Billy Hagan. Cars featuring the No. 9 have won 53 times, including the final four times by RPM drivers Kasey Kahne (2009) and Marcos Ambrose ('11, '12).