- Did you mean:
Bruce: XFINITY Chase intensity ratchets up aggression
RELATED: Full race results " Series standings " Chase Grid SPARTA, Ky. -- Was Saturday night's opening Chase race for NASCAR’s XFINITY Series an example of good, hard racing or a case of folks driving over their heads? That depends on who one asked afterward. Race winner Elliott Sadler wasn’t pointing fingers, and race winners have rarely been heard to utter a discouraging word. But the JR Motorsports driver said he did notice an uptick in intensity during the VisitMyrtleBeach.com 300 at Kentucky Speedway . "About halfway through the race, it was 'note to self; you can tell it's the Chase because it was caution after caution after caution," Sadler said afterward. "People were tense, eager, frustrated, nervous. A lot of different things going on with drivers right now ... trying to make it to the second (round). "I think people are giving each other less room. Restarts are crazy in the back." They were crazy up front, too. The race, which kicked off a seven-race, two-round elimination playoff for the series, saw the caution flag fly a track record 12 times. More than one-fourth of the race (64 laps) was run under the yellow. Yes, there was even a brief (5 min., 34 sec.) red-flag period. Erik Jones , the top seed and regular-season leader in race wins, got crossed up while racing with Ty Dillon and both the Joe Gibbs Racing No. 20 Toyota and the No. 3 Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet ended up in the wall. RELATED: See the wreck the caught two title contenders Each is now outside eighth place in points with two races to try and improve their standing; only the top eight (with the exception of a Chase race winner that might be 9th-12th ) advance to the second round. Not surprisingly, Jones wasn't particularly pleased with the early ending to his night and said later that the aggressive driving does cause one to approach the race differently. "Yeah, it makes me try to stay out of trouble," he said. "I didn't want to have something like that happen. ... You try to play defense some. I was for sure." Of course, there was the matter of a reconfigured track that sports new asphalt and distinctly different turns. That, too, played a role in the difficulties for some. And that was to be expected, said Brendan Gaughan , driver of the No. 62 Chevrolet for Richard Childress Racing . "It didn't seem like it was any more aggressive than normal," Gaughan said after finishing sixth. "It's a very narrow race track here right now. That Turn 3 is treacherous, man. There's no grip on the entry, there's no width on the entry. It's a treacherous, treacherous place at the moment. ... "It's still Kentucky. I love it." The fight to advance into the next round began early, but it's not the only battle going on and Saturday night's race brought some of that to light. In addition to the driver's championship, there's an owners title at stake and a couple of teams didn’t forget about that. At the end of the regular season, the No. 2 team of RCR was atop the owners' standings, followed by the No. 18 of Joe Gibbs Racing , the No. 1 of JRM with Sadler behind the wheel, and the No. 22 of Team Penske . Chevy, Toyota, Chevy and Ford. You think those folks aren't paying close attention? RCR brought in Sam Hornish Jr . to keep the No. 2 team in the hunt; Penske handed the reins to Sprint Cup driver Ryan Blaney . Sadler got the win, but a solid fifth-place run by Matt Tifft put the JGR No. 18 atop the owners' standings. JRM (No. 1) now sits second thanks to the victory while Hornish, who finished fourth, kept the RCR entry in the mix -- it's now third. Blaney did not fare badly but the way it all shook out left him third on the track and the team now fifth in the owners' battle. Dover, a fast, unforgiving mile of concrete, is up next. Some folks will be looking to rebound, some looking to continue to ride a hot start. If Kentucky was any indication, they better hope they can just hang on.
After racing in rain, Blaney looks to win his way into the Chase
LEXINGTON, Ohio--- Ryan Blaney qualified third and finished third in the NASCAR XFINITY Series Mid-Ohio Challenge at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course , but it was far from that simple or cut and dried on Saturday afternoon. "Not a bad day, lots of ups and downs and luckily it ended on a high note," Blaney said of his day at the 2.258-mile track. The downs of the day came early as the Team Penske driver had to start at the rear of the field for unapproved adjustments but he wasted no time navigating his way to towards the front. By Lap 30, he had cracked his way back into the top five. That was not the only adversity Blaney battled through. Wet weather came early at Mid-Ohio, bringing out a caution on the opening lap that allowed teams to put on rain tires. "It was such a weird race, starting fairly dry and then raining," Blaney said. "Everyone has to learn how to rain race right away and then it drying back out and trying to figure out when to put slicks back on or stay on the wets and then it started pouring again." While Blaney held his own in the rain, the No. 22 car was at its best when the track was drying out. The 22-year-old led six laps (Laps 48-53) just past the midway point of the 75-lap event. But then the rain began falling again and after restarting on the front row on Lap 56, Blaney had some contact with the No. 2 Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet of Sam Hornish Jr . After going off track briefly, Blaney was in 12th place on Lap 60. He made up some ground late in the event, gaining nine spots over the final 15 laps for his first top-five finish (in just his fourth start) of the season in the XFINITY Series. The rain and the constantly evolving strategies made for an interesting day for the young racer amid his first time racing in the rain. "There's some moments where it's fun and some moments where you're ready to rip the steering wheel off," Blaney said of of the task. "I had a handful at moments. At the end of the day, it was a lot of fun and you get to experience a race in the rain. "…There was some calamity at some points but I thought it was overall pretty fun. Just to get that experience and go back and forth between slick and rain (tires). That was really challenging, and drivers like challenges. Just nice to race in the rain finally. That's my first time." This start came on the final off weekend for the NASCAR Sprint Cup p Series, where Blaney pilots the No. 21 Wood Brothers Racing Ford. Blaney enters Saturday's night race at Bristol (8 p.m. ET, NBCSN, PRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio) outside of the 16-driver Chase Grid with just four regular-season races left before the postseason field gets set. He sits 18 points back of Kyle Larson for the last spot, with Trevor Bayne and Kasey Kahne between himself and Larson. Should Chris Buescher claim a spot in the top 30 in points by the end of the Richmond race on Sept. 30, Blaney would be in a deeper hole to make the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup . Entering the 0.533-mile track, Blaney's mindset is focused on joining Buescher as a rookie winner. "We are going to go into the last four races trying to win just like we always do every week," Blaney said of his pursuit of a Chase spot. A win over any of the final four regular-season Sprint Cup races (Bristol, Michigan, Darlington or Richmond) would essentially lock the Sunoco Rookie of the Year candidate into the postseason field.
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 .
Chase Bubble Watch: Analyzing the playoff picture ahead of Dover
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. Kyle Larson . A top-10 finish at Loudon moved Larson from 15th in the standings (two points back of the last transfer spot) to 12th and five points to the good. It was an up-and-down weekend for the third-year driver, who didn't show the same speed in the race he had shown in practice. Still, he is on the right side of the bubble heading to Dover, where the Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates driver has an average finish of 6.2 and led 85 laps in the spring en route to a runner-up finish. 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 .
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."
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>
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>
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;
RCR reveals sneak peek of 2017 paint scheme for No. 3
Richard Childress Racing revealed Austin Dillon 's primary 2017 paint scheme for his No. 3 Chevrolet on Tuesday. A new look for 2017! Pre-order your @AustinDillon3 @DowRacing @Lionel_Racing diecast: https://t.co/WD6D9onMGg pic.twitter.com/xF8myIVpXi — RCR (@RCRracing) September 27, 2016 Sponsor Dow returns to the No. 3 Chevrolet SS for the fourth consecutive year. The sponsor has been on Dillon's car since he reintroduced the iconic No. 3 to the Sprint Cup Series in 2014. This season has marked Dillon's most successful to date, as the 26-year-old driver qualified for the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup for the first time in his career and also has a career-high 10 top-10 finishes with eight races remaining in the season.
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>