Kenseth to continue Tide car's legacy at Darlington
RELATED: See all the schemes from 2016 " VOTE: Favorite Darlington scheme BUY TICKETS: Darlington When five drivers and an owner of the caliber of Ricky Craven , Ricky Rudd, Darrell Waltrip, Matt Kenseth and Joe Gibbs get in one room, race fans can't help just hoping they won't stop telling stories. Thank Tide and Darlington Raceway 's throwback weekend for bringing together this entertaining and endearing group of racing royalty. Kenseth's throwback scheme for Labor Day Weekend's Bojangles' Southern 500 (Sept. 4, 6 p.m. ET, NBC, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio) allows the orange, yellow and white Tide car to ride -- and contend for a win -- again. The Joe Gibbs Racing quartet, consisting of Kenseth, Kyle Busch , Denny Hamlin and Carl Edwards , has racked up 10 wins in the 2016 season's first 22 races -- the most successful organization, thus far, in 2016. The iconic scheme brings back memories of victories for Craven , Rudd and Waltrip. "Matt's the only one who hasn't won in the Tide car," Craven pointed out. "No pressure, Matt," the other racers chimed in. Kenseth, however, isn't feeling too much pressure on the track yet with two wins in 2016 -- at Dover and Loudon -- and his Chase berth secured. But the 2003 Sprint Cup Series champion did feel the gravitas of the racing greats gathered Tuesday at the NASCAR Hall of Fame for the unveiling of the No. 20 Tide Pods Toyota. "On a serious note, I really want to thank the three guys behind me, all legends in the sport," Kenseth said. "I've gotten to race with all three of them. "I'm a little concerned about Darlington, though. Not because of the track, but because of these guys. Ricky Rudd doesn't look like he's aged a day since he got out of the car. I know he can fit right in my seat and go drive the thing. So I'm a little worried about him at Darlington. Might have to bring security with me." "Does that mean we're just old?" Ricky Craven asked, referring to himself and Waltrip after Kenseth eliminated them as threats to steal his ride for the Southern 500. "I know Waltrip can't fit," Kenseth joked. Waltrip joined in the jostling but also got very sentimental. He recalled his victory in the Tide ride at Martinsville Speedway on Sept. 27, 1987, the day his daughter, Jessica, was born -- and the rose in a vase someone left in his car seat with a note that said, "Win for me, daddy." Gibbs joked that he's the perfect person to represent the sponsor because, "When I was 5 years old, Tide became a reality. You do the math." Tide is celebrating its 70th anniversary. The three retired racers worked the Tide brand representatives on hand, too, pushing hard to see the Tide car back on track full-time as a NASCAR Sprint Cup Series sponsor. Gibbs said for now it's a one-race deal, but JGR is honored to work with the brand that has been a part of racing for decades -- including being the detergent that goes in the Air Titans when they wash the tracks. Bringing back memories is the key to fans and race teams alike embracing the Darlington throwback weekends. The JGR and Tide team hopes the No. 20 will lead the pack in nostalgia as well as horsepower. "That orange car is going to make a splash at Darlington," Waltrip said. MORE: Reaction to paint scheme from the legends
Kenseth scheme paints picture of historic Darlington moment
VOTE: Favorite Darlington scheme " MORE: Relive the 'Tide Ride' making history BUY TICKETS: Darlington The final piece of the Joe Gibbs Racing Darlington throwback paint schemes puzzle fell into place Tuesday afternoon at the NASCAR Hall of Fame. The #TideRide Returns for @TooToughToTame ! @JoeGibbsRacing @mattkenseth @AllWaltrip @RickyCravenESPN pic.twitter.com/UxBhCAzcFn — NASCAR Hall of Fame (@NASCARHall) August 16, 2016 Matt Kenseth pulled back the cover of his No. 20 Toyota Camry to reveal a Tide-influenced scheme that he'll run on Sept. 4 in the Bojangles' Southern 500 (6 p.m. ET, NBC, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio). Tide has a rich history in NASCAR, including being on Darrell Waltrip's car for his 1989 Daytona 500 win, as well as a famous moment at Darlington -- in 2003, Ricky Craven , in his orange Tide car, beat Kurt Busch to the stripe by .002 seconds in a classic slam-bang finish. Ricky Rudd also ran the paint scheme for several seasons. In doing so, Kenseth will join Kyle Busch (No. 18, honoring Dale Jarrett), Denny Hamlin (No. 11, honoring Darrell Waltrip) and Carl Edwards (No. 19, honoring Tony Stewart ) in the JGR fleet of drivers. More than two dozen throwback paint schemes for this year's race have been announced. The throwback program launched last year and is expected to continue for the next several seasons. This year's theme honors the era of 1975-84. MORE: Legends banter about the scheme &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;gt;
Christopher Bell claims 2017 Chili Bowl victory
Photo: Toyota Racing Christopher Bell rang in the start of his 2017 season with perhaps the biggest win of his burgeoning racing career -- the 31st annual Chili Bowl. Bell, a full-time driver for Kyle Busch Motorsports in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series , won what many consider to be the world's most prestigious sprint car race after midnight ET on Sunday morning. Over the course of a week, he outlasted 364 other drivers who entered -- a Chili Bowl record -- and ended Rico Abreu's two-year reign as champion. Bell is regarded as one of the finer dirt racers in the country, and he was equally adept on pavement as well. The 22-year-old advanced to the Championship Round in the inaugural NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Chase as a full-time rookie in 2016. In 2015, he won at Eldora Speedway in his third career series start. Making the victory even sweeter is that Bell is an Oklahoma native -- he was born in Norman, about 125 miles southwest of the event site in Tulsa. "Oh my God, I just won the Chili Bowl," Bell said after climbing out of his machine. "This was a long time coming and a dream come true." C Bell up on the wheel tonight! #cbnationals @CBellRacing — Chase Elliott (@chaseelliott) January 15, 2017 Nice job C Bell! — William Byron (@WilliamByron) January 15, 2017 Daryn Pittman, a fellow Oklahoma native, finished second to Bell with Justin Grant, Tanner Thompson and Jake Swanson rounding out the top five. In all, four drivers with recent NASCAR experience qualified for the championship race. Abreu finished 11th after starting 25th in the 25-driver championship field, needing a champion's provisional to make the final field. Roush Fenway Racing 's Ricky Stenhouse Jr . finished 16th and Chase Briscoe, the newest full-time driver for Brad Keselowski Racing, was 22nd in the A-Main. The Chili Bowl is a week-long event with five days of practice and qualifying events to set the 25-car field for the main event. Saturday started with two O-Feature races -- the top four finishers from each O-Feature event advanced to the corresponding N-Feature races. Then the top four finishers from each N-Feature race advance into the M-Feature races. The format was used all the way up to the A-Main finale, although drivers also could qualify for the A-Main throughout the week. Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series driver Kyle Larson , who has stayed behind the wheel all offseason, including a racing trip to Australia -- failed to advance to the championship race after making the A-Main for five consecutive years. Abreu did not make it out of the F-Feature due to a tire issue, but he received a past champion's provisional. Stenhouse, another Chili Bowl veteran, won his B-Feature to advance into the championship race. Justin Allgaier , who will drive in the NASCAR XFINITY Series for JR Motorsports in 2017, was ousted after the C-Feature. His most eventful moment of the week, though, came Friday when his car flipped on the last lap of his race.
Bruce: Throwbacks or not, Darlington chock full of lasting memories
RELATED: Paint schemes, then and now DARLINGTON, S.C. -- What year was it, 1985? The season Bill Elliott captured the Winston Million bonus the very first season it was put up for grabs by then-series sponsor RJ Reynolds? Ol' Bill, who would finish the season with an amazing 11 victories but lose the championship battle to Darrell Waltrip. Recollections of Elliott smiling broadly as "Million Dollar Bills" floated through the air in Victory Lane. That was probably it, the first time I covered a NASCAR premier series race at Darlington Raceway . The backstretch today was the frontstretch then, the big red press box and suites sitting there just outside Turn 1. It provided a grand view, possibly one of the best of any stops on the circuit. Watching the field roar out of the fourth turn, so incredibly close to the wall. Then flying down the frontstretch, hammer down and into Turn 1 to start the process all over again. Just sitting there. Soaking it all in. Overlooking history in the making. More than three decades. Time does fly, I suppose. The track's hugely popular throwback program, now in its second season, rekindles a lot of racing memories. Paint schemes that we haven't seen in years suddenly re-appear, roll out of the garage and in a sense, roll back the calendar. But then again the memories always stir a bit when it comes to Darlington. No throwback program is necessary. Maybe it's because the track is an honest-to-goodness landmark, cut out of the sandy soil by Harold Brasington and opened for business in 1950. It was NASCAR's first paved oval of more than 1 mile in length. Brasington had a vision and wasn't shy about pursuing it. But more than that he was also a kind and caring soul to all of us and I never make the trek down here for a race without thinking about him. The action on the track? Yeah, that stands out, too. But it wasn't always the kind of things you hoped to be writing about -- hard crashes and injuries could, and did, happen other places as well but a couple that occurred here haven't been forgotten. Neil Bonnett's crash in the spring race of 1990 is one of them. The extremely personable Bonnett was one of 10 drivers collected in the Turn 4 incident during that year's spring race. Briefly knocked unconscious, Bonnett was eventually transferred to the local hospital and hours later it was reported that he was suffering from amnesia. More than a decade later, it was Steve Park. The Dale Earnhardt Inc. driver was competing in a Busch (now XFINITY ) Series event when, under caution, his Chevrolet suddenly veered left and into the path of Larry Foyt. The impact was tremendous to have happened under caution. But the sadness of such instances doesn't completely overshadow the good times. Jeff Gordon 's Winston Million victory in 1997, the final year of that format, was the perfect bookend to that program's 13-year run. His battle with Jeff Burton in the closing laps of that race was as memorable as any that have unfolded on the 1.366-mile track. Speaking of Burton, there are recollections of his 1999 Darlington sweep in a pair of rain-shortened races here; toss in Ricky Craven and Kurt Busch bringing the fans to their feet with an absolutely amazing finish in 2003; and Regan Smith rising up with the then-small Furniture Row Racing operation to slay the field, and Carl Edwards in 2011. This year's Bojangles' Southern 500 , scheduled to get underway Sunday (6 p.m. ET, NBC, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio) is the 67th running of the legendary classic. I've seen some of the cars and heard many of the stories from several of the men who were there when the legend of Darlington began. For a lot of others, I've been there to witness it firsthand. It's been worth every minute of it.
Relive the 'Tide Ride' making history
Relive the drama as Ricky Craven drives the 'Tide Ride' and battles Kurt Busch to the checkered flag at Darlington Raceway in 2003 to create the closest finish in NASCAR history.
Kenseth unveils throwback 'Tide Ride' for Darlington
Matt Kenseth, Ricky Rudd, Ricky Craven and Darrell Waltrip unveil the No. 20 Tide Ride throwback paint scheme for Darlington. Catch Kenseth on track at Darlington Raceway on Sunday, September 4th.
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.''
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."
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
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.