Cain: Martinsville holds promise for Danica Patrick
RELATED: Women racers pave new roads to success in NASCAR There is a bit of irony in Danica Patrick 's Martinsville Speedway resume. A racer who made international headlines and officially became a first-name only reference for nearly winning her Indianapolis 500 debut at one of the world's most famous and grand-sized tracks, Danica bolstered her track record in many eyes by scoring one of her best NASCAR finishes (seventh) on one of stock car racing's smallest (.526-mile), most challenging and endearingly iconic facilities: Martinsville Speedway . Patrick, who celebrated her 34th birthday during the off-week, returns to "The Paperclip" for Sunday's Sprint Cup Series' STP 500 (1 p.m. ET, FS1) -- site of a historic seventh-place finish for her only a year ago. The result tied her with the great Janet Guthrie for most NASCAR top-10 finishes (five) by a woman, and two weeks later Patrick made the mark her own, scoring her sixth top 10 -- a ninth-place showing at the sport's second smallest track (.53-mile) in Bristol, Tennessee. RELATED: Janet Guthrie's groundbreaking racing career In fact, Patrick's record at Martinsville makes this challenging shortest of tracks one of her best. She recorded a 12th-place debut in 2012 -- a better first try than some of the sport's greatest champions such as Hall of Famers Rusty Wallace (who finished 15th) and Dale Jarrett (14th) and even Patrick's team owner, three-time Cup champ Tony Stewart , who finished 20th in his first start there. "I came from a road-course racing background and at Martinsville, I feel like you have to set passes up a little bit like that," Patrick said. "I think it's also a track where you have to exercise a lot of discipline. It's easy to make mistakes. It's easy to overdrive and try to get a little bit more when you're passing somebody and make mistakes. Those are the two things I keep in mind when I'm there. I also think you really need a good car there, too, and Stewart-Haas Racing has always had good cars there." This time around Patrick's No. 10 TaxAct Chevy will have a new crew chief, Billy Scott. It's her third crew chief in four seasons as the team searches for the kind of good chemistry and juju to elevate Patrick into the post-season and give her a legitimate shot to score her first Sprint Cup victory. MORE: SHR names new crew chiefs for Danica, Stewart It's already been a challenging start to 2016 with Patrick crashing in two of the opening five races. She was handed a $20,000 fine from NASCAR last week for violating safety rules because she angrily approached and gestured toward Kasey Kahne 's car after they wrecked at California's Auto Club Speedway . Kahne's car hit hers while the two were racing close together. For Patrick, this week is a real opportunity to restore her preferred path to the postseason. By the fifth race in each of her full-time Cup seasons, she has been ranked 29th, 27th and 23rd in the standings and is now 29th again despite two top-20 finishes. The challenge in having another new crew chief is the early season get-to-know-you time. But the other tasks that have dominated Patrick's transition from Indycars to stock cars have become more manageable, giving her and the team great reason to be optimistic. MORE: Danica reacts to SHR move to Ford Especially here. Especially now. "I'm far more confident and comfortable," Patrick said coming into the season. "I'm understanding the car properly and able to help in making it better quickly on the race weekend. "Also the comfort of getting up to speed fast helps that learning curve, too. I remember there were lots of times in the very beginning when I wasn't able to drive the car to the very limit. We'd come in and make changes based on the way that I was driving it. Once I was driving it the way it needed to be, all of a sudden we ended up back where we started. We wasted all practice for me to learn how to do it. "I'm much better at getting up to speed. But always room to improve. I'm still working on doing a better job at that. I think as a driver, we all tend to have our general weak areas and general strong areas. I know mine." That this track has provided some of the most interesting story lines in NASCAR history is only another reason to expect better days. Morgan Shepherd won a pole position here at 45 years old in 1987 and Harry Gant famously won the race in 1991 at the age of 51 and a half. Eleven drivers scored their very first Cup wins at Martinsville -- the last being Ricky Craven in 2001. Notably, the majority of Patrick's top-10 finishes have come after sub-top-20 starts. Her very best Cup showing, for example, a seventh-place finish at Atlanta in 2014, came after starting 27th. "It's twice as hard as it used to be to get to Victory Lane," Patrick said. "It was hard to do it back when I was in IndyCar. I did it once in seven years. It's very challenging. There's lots of great drivers. Experience definitely helps. I'm working on getting that. "I mean, everybody wants to win. ... It's very hard to win in Cup, it just is. Everything's got to go your way and be right and be clicking. That's what also makes it so great when it happens. The blood, sweat and tears to get there. "It's always frustrating, but it's frustrating to just keep wanting to do better. But that's what drives you."
Hall of Fame preview: Mark Martin amongst contenders
RELATED: Meet 2017's nominees Mark Martin will be one of 20 people considered for induction into the NASCAR Hall of Fame when the Voting Panel convenes in Charlotte on Wednesday to determine the 2017 class. Three of those on the ballot are former premier series champions -- Red Byron, NASCAR's first Strictly Stock champion in 1949; Benny Parsons, the 1973 winner who went on to enjoy a successful second career in the broadcast booth; and Alan Kulwicki, killed in a plane crash just four-and-a-half months after capturing the 1992 crown. There was no championship trophy for Martin, who retired from competition at the end of the 2013 season. But that doesn't diminish the accomplishments the Batesville, Arkansas, native garnered during a career that spanned more than three decades. Martin, 57, won 40 times in the premier series, with victories coming at 21 different tracks. He finished 10th or better 453 times, in more than half of his 882 career starts. He also won 56 poles. RELATED: Live stream, 5 p.m. ET, Wednesday In the battle for the championship, Martin placed second five times, a mark he shares with current Hall of Fame member Bobby Allison, and he scored 17 top-10 points finishes during his career. "It makes me proud I was able to be as successful as I was and grateful for the opportunities I had," Martin told Little Rock, Arkansas, radio station KABZ-FM recently. "To be real honest I didn't enjoy a … significant part of my career because I was trying so hard to get that championship because I wanted it, and even more than that, the people who supported me wanted it for me so badly. I saw time running out. "I spent too much of my time focused on that and not enjoying the opportunities I had. Today, when I look back on it I wish I hadn't done that." Martin lost the 1990 title by 26 points to Dale Earnhardt and finished second to the Richard Childress Racing driver again four years later. Other runner-up finishes through the years came against Jeff Gordon , Tony Stewart and Jimmie Johnson . "My life would not be different one bit had I won one of those or not," Martin said. "I had a great career. … I don't think it would have changed a thing in my life had I won one of those trophies. I was very close. I got beat by only four of the greatest of all time in NASCAR in my opinion. … "I'm not embarrassed." Earnhardt was one of five members inducted into the Hall’s inaugural class in 2010. Gordon, a four-time series champion with 93 career victories, retired from driving at the end of 2015 and won't be eligible for Hall of Fame consideration until 2018 and possible induction until '19. Stewart, winner of three premier series titles and co-owner of Stewart-Haas Racing , will cease to compete full time in the series following the 2016 season. Johnson is a six-time champion and boasts 77 career wins, including two thus far this season. In addition to his premier series exploits, Martin held the XFINITY Series record for career wins for 14 years and is also a seven-time winner in the Camping World Truck Series. It is his second consecutive appearance on the Hall of Fame ballot. First-year nominees for the 2017 ballot are former Camping World Truck Series champion Ron Hornaday Jr ., team co-owner Jack Roush, driver Ricky Rudd, noted crew chief and engine builder Waddell Wilson and broadcaster Ken Squier. Rounding out the list of nominees are Buddy Baker, Richard Childress, Ray Evernham, Ray Fox, Rick Hendrick, Harry Hyde, Hershel McGriff, Raymond Parks, Larry Phillips, Mike Stefanik and Robert Yates. Also to be determined by the Voting Panel is the 2017 recipient of the Landmark Award, which recognizes outstanding contributions to NASCAR. The five nominees are Martinsville Speedway track founder H. Clay Earles, driver Janet Guthrie, team owner Raymond Parks, former RJ Reynolds executive Ralph Seagraves and Squier. The Voting Panel is scheduled to begin the selection process Wednesday at 12:30 p.m. ET at the Charlotte Convention Center. The announcement of those chosen will take place in the NASCAR Hall of Fame's Great Hall (5 p.m. ET, NBCSN). NASCAR.com will also live stream the event: You can watch it live here.
Top 10 closest Sprint Cup Series finishes
From Dale Earnhardt edging Bobby Labonte in 2000 to Ricky Craven battling Kurt Busch in 2003, count down the ten closest finishes in NASCAR Sprint Cup Series history.
Mixed reviews for Keselowski's restart
RELATED: NASCAR official: We believe we did our job today LOUDON, N.H. -- Race restarts have been a hot-button issue in NASCAR this season and ironically, one of the teams most vocal about restart officiating was penalized for an illegal start Sunday at New Hampshire Motor Speedway . Team Penske driver -- and Chase contender -- Brad Keselowski was ruled to have jumped the restart on Lap 242 and penalized with a pass-through penalty that dropped him from second place at the time to 25th. NASCAR officials say that video shows Keselowski's Ford accelerating through the marked restart area ahead of then race leader Greg Biffle 's Ford and called the decision to penalize Keselowski "very clear cut in our mind.'' "We did get 100 percent confirmation from our official that was on the ground as well as by all the data that was available to us,'' said Richard Buck, NASCAR's managing director of the Sprint Cup Series. The 2012 Cup champ Keselowski said he felt like NASCAR was making an example of him saying he was "the first person to ever be penalized for jumping a restart when I don't pass anyone, so that's a new one." "But we moved on and we made the most of a good day with the Miller Lite Ford and got a solid finish that hopefully will make our Dover (race) a little bit easier, so that was good," said Keselowski, who rallied to a 12th place finish. Biffle, for his part after the race, seemed a little puzzled by the call as well. "To be perfectly honest with you, I didn't notice," Biffle said. "I saw Brad kind of going a little bit and I waited until about the middle of the zone maybe. I didn't go right at the two marker, but I maintained my speed and I didn't speed up or slow down and I took off when I felt like it was time for me to go. "I wasn't really paying that close attention to the 2 (Keselowski) or what he was doing. We were pretty even getting down into (Turn) 1. I don't knew what they called him for, but I'll have to take a look back I guess. "I feel bad for Brad. I wasn't playing any games. I wasn't doing anything. I just went in between those two marks like we're supposed to.'' Keselowski recovered well from the penalty and is ranked eighth of the 16 Chase drivers with next week's elimination round after Dover cutting the field to 12. Still his team owner Roger Penske wondered what might have been on Sunday as Keselowski ran up front most of the afternoon. "I didn't see it, but his car was ahead of the 16 (Biffle) at the second line and I guess that's how they called it,'' Penske said. "He (Keselowski) didn't pass him, so I thought he was all right. I've got to go back and look at it. The race is over; there's nothing we can do about it. "I don't think he tried to jump it all. The way it looked in the box and they're going to call it when the first car doesn't cross the second line ahead. We'll just have to deal with it. Brad did a great job. The car ran well. We were running second at the time, with the 4 ( Kevin Harvick ) running out of fuel it would have been interesting. We're still in decent shape going into the next phase.'' WATCH: Keselowski black-flagged after restart Buck spoke with reporters after the race to further explain NASCAR's position on the restarts. He said there has been a lot of communication about the standard and the punishment. He said officials even warned teams on the radio during the race when it looked like the start was in position to be compromised. "We have made the rules very clear to everybody in the last couple drivers meetings and made sure everyone was informed,'' Buck said. "In fact today during the race, we reminded them before the race and during each restart of the rules. "If we saw something creeping toward the end we informed the spotter and crew chief so they knew what we were seeing and that's what brought us to the decision. "We're very clear and the drivers agree. The language is: there is a double red mark on the wall and a single red mark on the wall. The leader is the control car and has the right to restart the race and he must restart the race in that zone. The 16 was the leader at that point. The 2 car restarted before the 16 did." While NASCAR felt confident in its decision, it took some criticism from others on social media during the race. Ricky Craven , a NASCAR analyst for ESPN and a former Cup driver called the ruling "a horrible decision" because Keselowski did not ultimately pass Biffle on the start. A precedent was set today black flagging the highest running Chase driver @keselowski For gaining nothing ? 6:15p @SportsCenter — Ricky Craven (@RickyCravenESPN) September 27, 2015 Keselowski actually brought up the subject of restarts two weeks ago in the pre-Chase media availability. "I have said it before but I still view restarts as rock-paper-scissors and you have to counter the moves of the person next to you,'' Keselowski said prior to the Chicagoland Chase opener last week. "As has happened it starts with the leader and the zone not being allowed to dictate it. If the guy in second place is lagging back then the only defense to that is to go early, both of which are illegal by the definition. Neither of which have been consistently called as an infraction. If one guy lags back and beats you when you do everything legal, then you have to defend it. That is your job. "I felt like as the leader at Darlington, I probably had half a dozen or more attempts at controlling the restart and I kept the lead the majority but not 100 percent of the time. The few times where I lost the lead it was very obvious that the car next to me had lagged back significantly and there was no call made. That forces your hand the next time you have the lead to do something to react to it. In a sense it is kind of vigilante justice. That is just how you have to play it." This time, however, Keselowski overcame the penalty and is still in good shape for the postseason. "I'm really proud of my guys to come back and get a top-12 out of that without getting another yellow or catching any other breaks after the black flag,'' Keselowski said. "I'm really proud of my guys.''
NASCAR.com's Holly Cain wins NMPA Spirit Award
DARLINGTON, S.C. -- Veteran motorsports writer Holly Cain has been chosen as the recipient of the National Motorsports Press Association’s annual Spirit Award for 2015. A resident of Lakeland, Fla., Cain has covered motorsports for more than 25 years during which time she has worked for numerous publications, including the Tampa Tribune, Dallas Morning News, Seattle Post-Intelligencer as well as AOL.com and FOXSports.com. Currently a senior writer for NASCAR.com, she has been recognized for her reporting on multiple occasions, earning awards from the Associated Press Sports Editors (APSE) and the Society of Professional Journalists (SPJ) as well as the NMPA. Diagnosed with breast cancer in July of 2014, Cain has shown tremendous courage and an incredibly positive attitude while engaged in her difficult battle. She has been a long-time supporter of the Susan B. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation and continues to participate in fundraising and other efforts to bring awareness to the fight against breast cancer. The NMPA Spirit Award is designed to recognize character and achievement in the face of adversity, sportsmanship and contributions to motorsports. Each year, the NMPA membership selects four quarterly winners, with an overall winner chosen from the four candidates. Cain was the second quarter recipient of the award. Others recognized with quarterly awards this past year were NASCAR television broadcaster Steve Byrnes (first quarter), IndyCar driver Justin Wilson (third quarter) and four-time premier series champion Jeff Gordon . Cain was presented the award Jan. 17 during the NMPA’s annual convention and awards dinner in Concord, N.C. Overall winners of the NMPA Spirit Award: Year – Recipient 2015 – Holly Cain 2014 – Lynda Petty 2013 – Marcy Scott 2012 – Andy Hillenburg 2011 – Jeff Gordon 2010 – Jim Hunter 2009 – David Poole 2008 – T. Taylor Warren 2007 – Bill France Jr. 2006 – Benny Parsons 2005 – Morgan Shepherd 2004 – Kyle and Pattie Petty 2003 – Bob Latford 2002 – Larry Hicks 2001 – Ricky Craven 2000 – Kyle Petty 1999 – Clay Earles 1998 – Mark Martin 1997 – Dave Marcis 1996 – Dale Earnhardt 1995 – Ernie Irvan 1994 – Ernie Irvan 1993 – Davey Allison and Alan Kulwicki 1992 – Davey Allison Family
Stats advance: Analyzing the Bojangles' Southern 500
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (August 31, 2015) – Below is a look at some of the top statistical performers at Darlington Raceway in Darlington, South Carolina going into the Bojangles’ Southern 500 on September 6 (7 p.m. ET on NBC). DARLINGTON-SPECIFIC STATISTICS Greg Biffle (No. 16 Ortho Ford) · Two wins, three top fives, six top 10s; two poles · Average finish of 12.800, eighth-best · Average Running Position of 10.597, fifth-best · Driver Rating of 105.7, fifth-best · 296 Fastest Laps Run, sixth-best · Average Green Flag Speed of 160.175, fifth-fastest · 2642 Laps in the Top 15 (71.7), seventh-most · 326 Quality Passes, second-most Kyle Busch (No. 18 M&M’s Crispy Toyota) · One win, two top fives, six top 10s · Average finish of 13.600, 11th-best · Average Running Position of 8.995, third-best · Driver Rating of 106.1, fourth-best · 236 Fastest Laps Run, third-best · Average Green Flag Speed of 160.348, third-fastest · 3134 Laps in the Top 15 (85.1), third-most · 374 Quality Passes, series-most Dale Earnhardt Jr (No. 88 Valvoline Chevrolet) · Four top fives, nine top 10s · Average finish of 11.200, sixth-best · Average Running Position of 11.404, seventh-best · Driver Rating of 94.3, eighth-best · 110 Fastest Laps Run, eighth-best · Average Green Flag Speed of 159.954, ninth-fastest · 2650 Laps in the Top 15 (71.9), sixth-most · 312 Quality Passes, fourth-most Carl Edwards (No. 19 ARRIS Toyota) · Three top fives, seven top 10s · Average finish of 13.100, ninth-best · Average Running Position of 13.732, 11th-best · Driver Rating of 91.0, 12th-best · 151 Fastest Laps Run, fifth-best · Average Green Flag Speed of 159.807, 12th-fastest · 2262 Laps in the Top 15 (61.4), 12th-most · 287 Quality Passes, eighth-most Jeff Gordon (No. 24 3M Chevrolet) · Seven wins, 19 top fives, 23 top 10s; three poles · Average finish of 7.400, second-best · Average Running Position of 7.629, series-best · Driver Rating of 112.7, series-best · 262 Fastest Laps Run, 12th-best · Average Green Flag Speed of 160.593, series-fastest · 3356 Laps in the Top 15 (91.1), series-most · 314 Quality Passes, third-most Denny Hamlin (No. 11 Sport Clips Toyota) · One win, four top fives, seven top 10s · Average finish of 6.889, series-best · Average Running Position of 8.644, second-best · Driver Rating of 107.1, second-best · 186 Fastest Laps Run, 13th-best · Average Green Flag Speed of 160.315, fourth-fastest · 2849 Laps in the Top 15 (86.0), second-most · 303 Quality Passes, sixth-most Kevin Harvick (No. 4 Jimmy John's/ Budweiser Chevrolet) · One win, four top fives, seven top 10s; one pole · Average finish of 16.300, 12th-best · Average Running Position of 14.772, 12th-best · Driver Rating of 93.1, 10th-best · 167 Fastest Laps Run, second-best · Average Green Flag Speed of 159.885, 10th-fastest · 2531 Laps in the Top 15 (68.7), ninth-most · 267 Quality Passes, 10th-most Jimmie Johnson (No. 48 Lowe's Chevrolet) · Three wins, nine top fives, 12 top 10s · Average finish of 8.800, third-best · Average Running Position of 9.992, fourth-best · Driver Rating of 106.8, third-best · 256 Fastest Laps Run, 11th-best · Average Green Flag Speed of 160.443, second-fastest · 2789 Laps in the Top 15 (75.7), fourth-most · 291 Quality Passes, seventh-most Kasey Kahne (No. 5 HendrickRideAlong.com Chevrolet) · Three top fives, four top 10s; four poles · Average finish of 17.500, 13th-best · Average Running Position of 10.665, sixth-best · Driver Rating of 97.9, sixth-best · 230 Fastest Laps Run, series-best · Average Green Flag Speed of 160.069, seventh-fastest · 2597 Laps in the Top 15 (70.5), eighth-most · 233 Quality Passes, 13th-most Matt Kenseth (No. 20 Dollar General Toyota) · One win, three top fives, ten top 10s; one pole · Average finish of 10.100, fourth-best · Average Running Position of 13.487, 10th-best · Driver Rating of 93.2, ninth-best · 123 Fastest Laps Run, 10th-best · Average Green Flag Speed of 159.814, 11th-fastest · 2382 Laps in the Top 15 (64.7), 11th-most · 264 Quality Passes, 11th-most Ryan Newman (No. 31 Caterpillar Chevrolet) · Seven top fives, 11 top 10s; one pole · Average finish of 11.300, seventh-best · Average Running Position of 11.409, eighth-best · Driver Rating of 95.8, seventh-best · 64 Fastest Laps Run, seventh-best · Average Green Flag Speed of 160.086, sixth-fastest · 2778 Laps in the Top 15 (75.4), fifth-most · 259 Quality Passes, 12th-most Tony Stewart (No. 14 Bass Pro Shops / Mobil 1 Chevrolet) · Four top fives, 12 top 10s · Average finish of 10.900, fifth-best · Average Running Position of 14.805, 13th-best · Driver Rating of 88.1, 13th-best · 105 Fastest Laps Run, ninth-best · Average Green Flag Speed of 159.791, 13th-fastest · 2153 Laps in the Top 15 (58.4), 13th-most · 311 Quality Passes, fifth-most Martin Truex Jr (No. 78 Furniture Row/Visser Precision Chevrolet) · One top five, three top 10s · Average finish of 13.111, 10th-best · Average Running Position of 13.116, ninth-best · Driver Rating of 92.1, 11th-best · 127 Fastest Laps Run, fourth-best · Average Green Flag Speed of 159.992, eighth-fastest · 2153 Laps in the Top 15 (65.0), 10th-most · 278 Quality Passes, ninth-most The NASCAR Sprint Cup Series 2015 Top 10 at D arlington Raceway Rank Driver Races Poles Wins Top Fives Top 10s DNFs Average Finish Driver Rating 1 Kevin Harvick 18 1 1 4 7 1 17 93.1 2 Joey Logano 6 0 0 0 2 1 23 77.9 3 Dale Earnhardt Jr 20 0 0 4 9 1 14.3 94.3 4 Brad Keselowski 6 0 0 1 2 0 14.3 84.7 5 Jimmie Johnson 16 0 3 9 12 1 8.4 106.8 6 Martin Truex Jr 9 0 0 1 3 0 13.1 92.1 7 Matt Kenseth 21 1 1 3 10 1 16 93.2 8 Kurt Busch 18 2 0 2 5 1 17.9 81.6 9 Denny Hamlin 9 0 1 4 7 0 6.9 107.1 10 Jamie McMurray 14 1 0 3 5 1 16.1 82.6 * – Based on last 10 races at Darlington Raceway (2005 – 2014). Darlington Three Year Average Finishes Of Drivers Currently 17th – 30th In The Standings Points Pos. Driver 3 Yr. Average Finish (2012 - 2014) 17 Aric Almirola 21.0 18 Kasey Kahne 20.7 19 Greg Biffle 10.0 20 Austin Dillon 11.0 21 Kyle Larson 8.0 22 Danica Patrick 27.0 23 Casey Mears 25.7 24 AJ Allmendinger 24.0 25 David Ragan 33.0 26 Sam Hornish Jr . * 0.0 27 Tony Stewart 9.0 28 Trevor Bayne * 0.0 29 Ricky Stenhouse Jr . 19.0 30 Justin Allgaier 23.0 * Sam Hornish Jr . and Trevor Bayne have not made starts in the last three seasons at Darlington in the NSCS. Statistical Advance At Darlington Raceway : History · Darlington Raceway was built as a 1.25-mile paved superspeedway in 1949-1950. · Darlington Raceway hosted the first 500-mile race in NASCAR history and the first on asphalt on Sept. 4, 1950 – 75 cars competed in the event - Curtis Turner won the pole at 82.034 mph, and the race was won by Johnny Mantz (Plymouth, 75.250 mph, 6:38:40) . · The track was re-measured to 1.375 miles in 1953. · The track was re-configured to 1.366 miles following the spring race in 1970. · The track was repaved in 1995. · The 2005 race was the first Saturday night race at Darlington. · The track was repaved again prior to the 2008 season. Starts · There have been 111 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races at Darlington Raceway . The 1.366-mile track has hosted the fifth most NASCAR Sprint Cup Series points paying races. · 709 drivers have competed in at least one NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Darlington Raceway ; 428 in more than one. · NASCAR Hall of Famer Richard Petty leads the series in starts at Darlington with 65. Jeff Gordon leads all active drivers with 34 starts; followed by Tony Stewart with 22. · Jeff Gordon leads all active drivers in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series in average starting position at Darlington with a 6.824. · Jeff Gordon (6.8), Ryan Newman (8.6) and Kasey Kahne (9.1) are the only active three drivers with an average starting position in the top 10. · 125 different drivers have made NASCAR Sprint Cup Series career debut at Darlington Raceway . Poles · Curtis Turner won the inaugural Coors Light Pole Award at Darlington in 1950 in an Oldsmobile with a speed of 82.034 mph. · 48 drivers have Coors Light poles at Darlington, led by David Pearson with 12. Kasey Kahne leads all active drivers with four. · Nine drivers have won consecutive Coors Light poles at Darlington. Kasey Kahne is the only active driver with consecutive Coors Light poles (2005-2006). · David Pearson holds the record for most consecutive poles at Darlington with five (1975 - 1977). · Youngest Darlington pole winner: Kurt Busch (09/02/2001 – 23 years, 0 months, 29 days). · Oldest Darlington pole winner: David Pearson (09/06/1982 – 47 years, 8 months, 15 days). · Eight drivers have posted their first career NASCAR Sprint Cup pole at Darlington Raceway : Cotton Owens (1957), Fred Lorenzen (1961), Bill Elliott (1981), Ken Schrader (1987), John Andretti (1995), Kurt Busch (2001), Elliott Sadler (2003) and Clint Bowyer (2007). Wins · 47 different drivers have won at Darlington Raceway , led by David Pearson with 10. Jeff Gordon leads all active drivers with seven wins; followed by his HMS teammate Jimmie Johnson with three. · Six drivers have posted their first career NASCAR Sprint Cup Series win at Darlington Raceway : Johnny Mantz (1950), Nelson Stacy (1961), Larry Frank (1962), Terry Labonte (1980), Lake Speed (1988) and Regan Smith (2011). · Youngest Darlington winner: Kyle Busch (05/10/2008 – 23 years, 0 months, 8 days). · Oldest Darlington winner: Harry Gant (09/01/1991 – 51 years, 7 months, 22 days). · Hendrick Motorsports has the most wins at Darlington in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series with 14. Manufacturer Wins Chevrolet 41 Ford 28 Mercury 10 Oldsmobile 6 Dodge 5 Pontiac 5 Buick 4 Plymouth 4 Hudson 3 Toyota 3 American Motors Company 2 · 11 different manufacturers have won in the NSCS at Darlington; led by Chevrolet with 41 victories; followed by Ford with 28 and Toyota has three. · 20 of the 111 (18.02%) NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races at Darlington have been won from the Coors Light pole; the most recent was Kevin Harvick in last season’s event. · NASCAR Hall of Famer David Pearson has won from the pole four times at Darlington – the series’ most. · The Coors Light pole starting position is the most proficient starting position in the field, producing more winners (20) than any other starting position at Darlington. The outside front row (second-place) has produced the second-most wins (17). Wins · 37 of the 111 (33.3%) NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races at Darlington have been won from the front row: 20 from first-place and 17 from second-place. · 96 of the 111 (86.4%) NASCAR Sprint Cup races at Darlington have been won from a top-10 starting position. · Six of the 111 (5.4%) NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races at Darlington have been won from a starting position outside the top 20. · The deepest in the field that a race winner has started at Darlington is 43rd by Johnny Mantz in 1950 – the inaugural NSCS event. · 13 drivers in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series have posted consecutive wins at Darlington; Dale Earnhardt (1989-1990) and Jeff Gordon (1995-1996) are tied for the series-most in consecutive wins at Darlington with three each. · All seven active NASCAR Sprint Cup Series winners at Darlington Raceway participated in at least two or more races before visiting Victory Lane. Among active drivers, Kyle Busch won at Darlington in the fewest previous appearances (three). · Matt Kenseth competed at Darlington Raceway 19 times before winning last season; the longest span of any the six active NASCAR Sprint Cup Series winners. · Tony Stewart leads the series among active drivers with the most NASCAR Sprint Cup Series starts at Darlington without visiting Victory Lane at 22. Additional Finishing Position Stats · Darrell Waltrip and Richard Petty are tied for the series most runner-up finishes at Darlington with eight each. Jeff Gordon leads all active drivers in second-place finishes at Darlington with four. · Richard Petty leads the series in top-five finishes at Darlington with 25. Jeff Gordon leads all active drivers with 19; followed by Jimmie Johnson with nine. · Bill Elliott leads the series in top-10 finishes at Darlington with 35. Jeff Gordon leads all active drivers with 23; followed by Jimmie Johnson and Tony Stewart with 12 each. · Denny Hamlin leads all active drivers in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series in average finishing position at Darlington with a 6.889. · Three active NASCAR Sprint Cup drivers have an average finish in the top 10 at Darlington: Denny Hamlin (6.8), Kyle Larson (8.0) and Jimmie Johnson (8.4). Track/Event Specific Stats · Since the advent of electronic scoring the closest margin of victory in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series at Darlington Raceway is the (03/16/2003) race won by Ricky Craven with a MOV of 0.002 second over Kurt Busch . The MOV is tied with the 2011 Talladega race as the closest finish in the NSCS since the inception using electronic timing and scoring. · There have been four NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races resulting in a green-white-checkered finish at Darlington Raceway : 2005 (367/370), 2011 (367/370), 2012 (367/368) and 2014 (367/374). Additional Finishing Position Stats · Eight of the 111 races at Darlington Raceway have been shortened du
Time of transition for ESPN's NASCAR personalities
With network no longer televising races, some move on to other endeavors RELATED: Play NASCAR Fantasy Live " Sign up for RaceView today ESPN's affiliation with NASCAR, providing coverage of the second half of the season's Sprint Cup Series races as well as the entire 33-race Nationwide Series schedule, came to an end earlier this month at Homestead-Miami Speedway . ESPN had been a television partner for the sport since 2007 and overall, had been involved in NASCAR coverage for 28 years. The cable sports giant is not part of NASCAR's most recent broadcast package that officially begins in 2015. FOX Sports will air the first 16 Sprint Cup Series events while NBC Sports will handle live coverage of the final 20 races. Coverage of the XFINITY Series (previously Nationwide) will also be split between the two networks while FOX Sports will carry coverage of NASCAR's Camping World Truck Series . Many of the faces that fans have grown accustomed to seeing on ESPN during NASCAR events will still be seen next year. Some will still be affiliated with motorsports, others will not. "It'll be different," Allen Bestwick said during a conference call prior to the season finale at HMS. "You know, my life has been centered around daily involvement with this sport since 1986. It will be very different." Bestwick, 53, served as lead announcer for ESPN’s NASCAR Sprint Cup coverage. Hall of Fame driver Dale Jarrett and former crew chief Andy Petree served as analysts alongside Bestwick. Bestwick will remain in the booth, serving as the lead announcer for the Indianapolis 500 and ESPN's association with the IndyCar Series. He will also be involved in college football and basketball, pro tennis and golf coverage "They're a big deal to me," Bestwick said of the upcoming opportunities. "They're new, and I mean, I'm going to have a chance to be involved in and around the British Open at St. Andrews next summer. How could you not be excited about that? It'll be very different." Dave Burns, Jamie Little, Dr. Jerry Punch and Vince Welch served as pit reporters for ESPN. Burns will join NBC Sports next season when that network begins its Sprint Cup affiliation while Little will move over to FOX Sports as a pit reporter. Welch has worked the IndyCar series as well for ESPN and could possibly resume those duties. Jarrett, the 1999 premier series champion, Petree and Punch have not announced their plans for 2015 and beyond. Former driver Ricky Craven and reporter Marty Smith will remain entrenched with the Bristol, Connecticut-based network and tethered to NASCAR. Craven , lauded for his no-nonsense approach and knowledge of the sport, will continue to serve as the lead in-studio NASCAR analyst. Smith, based in Charlotte, will also report on the series, but also will be assigned to other sports such as college and pro football. Those out front for the pre-race NASCAR Countdown show included host Nicole Briscoe, Brad Daugherty and Rusty Wallace. Briscoe will move into the role of an anchor for SportsCenter starting in January and is expected to do other in-studio work as well. Daugherty, the former NBA standout who currently co-owns the JTG Daugherty Racing Sprint Cup Series team, will transition to ESPN's coverage of college and pro basketball. Wallace, like Jarrett a member of the NASCAR Hall of Fame, has not announced his plans for next season. "ESPN has allowed me to do a lot of different things," Wallace, the '89 series champion, said. "… All different kinds of platforms. I've learned so much. … ESPN has kept my name out there and kept me relevant and kept me going." NBC Sports will begin its portion of live NASCAR race coverage at Daytona International Speedway in July of 2015. In addition to Burns, former ESPN reporter Mike Massaro will join the group as a pit reporter, along with Marty Snider and Kelli Stavast. Krista Voda will serve as host of pre- and post-race shows for NBC; Rick Allen (lead announcer), Jeff Burton and Steve Letarte (analysts) will be in the booth. MORE: READ: Latest Chase news PLAY: Monitor your Chase Grid Game picks WATCH: Latest NASCAR video FOLLOW LIVE: Get RaceView FULL SERIES COVERAGE • Latest news • Standings • Schedule
Kurt Busch: 'I never wavered'
Stewart-Haas Racing driver ready to return to car after 'humbling experience' RELATED: Chase requirement waived " Official NASCAR release Sounding every bit resolved and resolute, Kurt Busch addressed the media on Wednesday for the first time since serving what ended up being a three-race suspension from NASCAR for off-track legal issues. The Stewart-Haas Racing driver told the national media he remains focused on his job as driver of the No. 41 Haas Automation Chevrolet for the team and has been "humbled" from the whole experience. "I understand why NASCAR needed to take the action that it did. This is a very serious issue,'' Busch said. "The important factor is that what I was accused of was a complete fabrication, and I never wavered through this whole process because of the confidence in the truth, and I had the support from Gene Haas and everybody at SHR, and that's where my focus has been. It's been on the racing side of it, and I never lost that confidence and that drive, and so it's a humbling experience, but it's made me more focused and determined." NASCAR suspended the 2004 Cup champion indefinitely on Feb. 20 after a Delaware judge issued a no-contact order for Busch, writing that Busch "likely" committed an act of domestic abuse against his former girlfriend Patricia Driscoll stemming from an incident Sept. 26, 2014 at Dover International Speedway . The Delaware Attorney General's office announced March 5 it would not pursue criminal charges against Busch. And on Wednesday, NASCAR reinstated Busch with the caveat that he is under indefinite probation and must adhere to any judicial requirements asked of him and remain in a treatment program as part of NASCAR's Road to Recovery. "I'm appreciative of the process, of the road to recovery,'' Busch said. "To me it's a roadmap that they laid out that I am respecting. It's created such a good foundation to utilize moving forward that I wish I would have done it sooner." The hardest part of the last two months? "Sitting out watching the 41 car go around the race track, especially at the Daytona 500 ,'' Busch said. "Atlanta is one of my favorite tracks, and Las Vegas is my hometown track. It's been torture sitting out of the car. "Being in that race car is a privilege, and it's a feeling that you can't describe when you go out there for practice each and every weekend. You drive down into the corner, the car sticks, you stand on the gas, and you drive out of the corner, it's an experience that not a lot of people get to do, and I get a chance to race against the best in the world in NASCAR." Busch also disclosed a recent insightful conversation he had with NASCAR Chairman and CEO Brian France. "Talking with Brian France and going through this road, he told me, 'Don't change,' '' Busch said. "(He told me) 'Don't be the person that's different in the car, but be a different person outside of the car,' and so Brian said, 'Go be yourself in that car. That's what we really love. We love Kurt Busch behind the wheel. Go out there, use that passion, go for those wins.' "And that's my focus is to be humble through this whole process, but let actions speak louder than words." Busch would not specify if he would pursue further legal action to clear his name or have the no-contact order rescinded, instead deferring that course of action to his attorneys. He did say, however, that his trademark "Outlaw" moniker that has ridden above the driver's side window of his race cars in competition would likely be replaced with his signature. "My reputation has always been what I've done behind the wheel, and it's moments that I hope to battle and put out on the track like I did with Ricky Craven in the closest finish in the history of NASCAR," Busch said. "It's to focus on the wins at the tracks that I haven't won on or to deliver for Gene Haas on the trophies that he signed me on for that he wants in his trophy room. "My reputation will iron itself out in whichever way that it is, but my focus is the race car, and as I move forward, I'm putting my signature above the door of the car, and I'm proud to have my signature on the side of a car that Gene Haas has and to carry his name into Victory Lane." MORE: READ: Latest NASCAR news PLAY: Sign up for Fantasy Live WATCH: Latest NASCAR video FOLLOW LIVE: Get RaceView today FULL SERIES COVERAGE • Latest news • Standings • Schedule
ESPN 'full-steam ahead' for future NASCAR coverage
Network has big plans despite not having TV rights after '14 RELATED: Play NASCAR Fantasy Live " Sign up for RaceView today Although ESPN will not televise NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races beginning next season, officials said Tuesday the network expects to continue to provide timely content to fans for 2015 and beyond. "I don't think you'll see much of a change," said Rich Feinberg, vice president, motorsports, production for the Bristol, Connecticut-based group. "We obviously won't be doing the races, but in terms of serving the interests of fans with our news and information coverage, we're full-steam ahead." ABC/ESPN ends an eight-year run of NASCAR race coverage at the close of 2014, during which time the company aired the second half of each season's races. FOX returns next year and will continue to air the first half of the season while NBC will replace ABC/ESPN. Races previously aired by TNT in the middle of the year will be split between FOX and NBC groups. With ESPN not a part of the TV package going forward, many have wondered how the network would handle NASCAR news, or if it would abandon the sport altogether. "I can assure those asking the question and all fans out there that we're going to continue to cover NASCAR across all our news and information platforms in a very significant way," Feinberg said. "We don't have rights agreements with many different sports out there, but SportsCenter has an obligation to their fans to cover all sports." Feinberg said recent announcements that will keep former driver Ricky Craven , now an analyst, and reporter Marty Smith in-house is a clear indication that NASCAR remains relevant to the network. "We obviously have a lot of outlets for all our content, both over the air, cable, digital, dot‑com, et cetera," he said. "Our plans are to fulfill the interests of NASCAR fans who watch all our news and information programming, and I can tell you I personally have already been involved in our planning for coverage for the Daytona 500 in 2015 next year." ESPN will air the season's last two races -- this weekend's event from Phoenix International Raceway that will determine the four drivers contending for the championship, as well as the Championship Round finale in Homestead-Miami Speedway on Nov. 16. "When we last left you Sunday night at Texas, all hell was breaking loose at the race track, and you know, no one knows what's going to happen this week going into Phoenix," Feinberg said. "But with eight drivers separated by only 18 points and none of the finalists determined yet, tune in … because I think it's going to be one heck of a show and one heck of a shootout. That's our focus and we're really, really looking forward to it." MORE: READ: Latest Chase news PLAY: Monitor your Chase Grid Game picks WATCH: Latest NASCAR video FOLLOW LIVE: Get RaceView FULL SERIES COVERAGE • Latest news • Standings • Schedule
Fast facts: Sunoco Rookie of the Year program
Who are the oldest and youngest winners in each series? RELATED: Evolution of rookie meeting " Labonte's crash still impacts rookies Sprint Cup Series Oldest ROY winner : Dick Trickle (48) Youngest ROY winner : Joey Logano (19) XFINITY Series Oldest ROY winner : Jeff Fuller (38) Youngest ROY winner: Timmy Hill (18) Camping World Truck Series Oldest ROY winner : Mike Stefanik (41) Youngest ROY winner(s) : Ty Dillon , Ryan Blaney , Colin Braun, Austin Dillon (20) Drivers winning multiple ROY titles Johnny Benson Jr.: 1996 Sprint Cup ; 1994 NXS Greg Biffle : 2001 NXS; 1998 Truck Kyle Busch : 2005 Sprint Cup ; 2004 NXS Ricky Craven : 1995 Sprint Cup ; 1992 NXS Austin Dillon : 2012 NXS; 2010 Truck Carl Edwards : 2005 Sprint Cup ; ’03 Truck Jeff Gordon : 1993 Sprint Cup ; 1991 NXS Kevin Harvick : 2001 Cup; 2000 NXS Kenny Irwin Jr.: 1998 Sprint Cup ; 1997 Truck Kyle Larson : 2014 Sprint Cup ; 2013 NXS Ricky Stenhouse Jr .: 2013 Sprint Cup ; 2010 NXS