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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."
Bruce: Honor the unfamiliar names on Sprint Cup windshields
RELATED: Learn about the troops being honored this weekend CONCORD, N.C. -- For the second consecutive year, the names displayed across the windshields of the cars that will take the green flag in Sunday's Coca-Cola 600 (6 p.m. ET, FOX) will be unfamiliar to most race fans. Gone are the names of Earnhardt Jr., Keselowski and Kenseth emblazoned across the tops of the vehicles. There is no Stewart, Busch or Logano. They have been replaced on this Memorial Day weekend with the names of Lynch, Taylor, Massarelli and Miranda. Carter, Jablonsky, Ramseyer and Gonzales. It's a long list. It's too long of a list. Including grand marshal vehicles and two pace cars, 44 of the vehicles here at Charlotte Motor Speedway will carry the names of fallen members of the United States military. Army. Navy. Marines. Air Force. Pilot. Gunner. Seal. Ranger. Their ranks varied. Their job did not. They were soldiers. They made the ultimate sacrifice. It's 600 Miles of Remembrance in the eyes of the NASCAR community. It's a lifetime of memories to those who knew them. RELATED: Every car in the field, plus fallen military member's name NASCAR officials worked with the Honor and Remember organization to pair fallen servicemen and women and their families with teams where no direct affiliations existed. But most of those we honor today at CMS had ties to NASCAR, through relationships with drivers or crewmen, sponsors or owners. Graham Molatch, the jack man for Chip Ganassi Racing 's No. 42 Chevrolet with driver Kyle Larson , is a former Navy Seal. Larson's car carries the name of fellow Seal Denis Miranda. The two were roommates serving in Kabul, Afghanistan in 2010 when Miranda died in a helicopter crash. "Denis was just a great person and I'm really, really honored to have a chance to have (him) on our car," Molatch said Saturday at CMS. "It means a lot to me. I think it means a lot to the guys on the team that we get to support Denis' name and his family. … "They should be acknowledged more than just once a year but it is great … to display their names. It's an honor for me personally, and a great honor for his family." Jimmy Woolard was a childhood friend of team co-owner Jack Roush. Woolard, whose name is carried on the No. 17 Ford of driver Ricky Stenhouse Jr . this weekend, was killed in action during the Vietnam War. Master Sergeant Paul Karpowich was a family friend of Mike Bugarewicz, crew chief of the Stewart-Haas Racing No. 14 Chevrolet for driver Tony Stewart . PFC John Borbonus was a classmate of driver Brian Scott ( Richard Petty Motorsports ) in Boise, Idaho. There are others. Too many others. Their photos are strikingly similar, most showing vibrant, smiling faces, full of life. Some were on their first mission; many had been a part of multiple deployments. There are those who left behind wives and young children. For others, family life would have come later. Later never arrived. There are those who left behind mothers and fathers, brothers and sisters. We honor them today every bit as much as we do those who are no longer with us. You may not recognize their names. But you should know why those names are there. It's the very least we can do.
The Rundown: Charlotte driver grades
RELATED: Full race results " Updated series standings Breaking down the full field for the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway : 1. Martin Truex Jr ., No. 78 Toyota, Furniture Row Racing . A historic win. Truex set so many records, we can’t list them all. So we’ll settle for this one: He led a Sprint Cup -record 588 miles. Oh, and his 392 laps led … taken alone, they would rank 121st all time in series history. Grade: AAA+ (and that might be a tad low) 2. Kevin Harvick , No. 4 Chevrolet, Stewart-Haas Racing . Another second-place finish for Harvick (47th of his career). One more and he ties Lee Petty for 10th all time. Grade: A 3. Jimmie Johnson , No. 48 Chevrolet, Hendrick Motorsports . Johnson sniffed the lead after the final restart, but Superman said no. Instead, Johnson will be the answer to the trivia question: Who led the second-most laps (five) of the 2016 Coca-Cola 600 ? Sort of like: Who was the second-leading scorer the night Wilt Chamberlain scored 100 points in a game? And, no, I don’t know. Grade: A 4. Denny Hamlin , No. 11 Toyota, Joe Gibbs Racing . Hamlin picked up 5 seconds on leader Martin Truex Jr . on the night’s second pit stop … and still lost by 6.4 seconds. That’ll happen in a 600-mile race. Grade: A 5. Brad Keselowski , No. 2 Ford, Team Penske . Keselowski and Kevin Harvick raced so close to each other for the first half of the race, you’d have thought a big ol’ magnet in one of the cars was keeping them side by side. Grade: A 6. Kurt Busch , No. 41 Chevrolet, Stewart-Haas Racing . Busch increased his series-leading top-10 finishes to 11 and also moved up a spot to second in the standings behind Kevin Harvick . Grade: A 7. Matt Kenseth , No. 20 Toyota, Joe Gibbs Racing . Disaster came knocking on a green-flag pit stop late in the first half of the race when Austin Dillon fired out of his pit stall and went way wide into Kenseth. Fortunately the impact was minimal. Grade: A 8. Chase Elliott , No. 24 Chevrolet, Hendrick Motorsports . Elliott was running eighth when he was hit with a speeding penalty on the first pit stop; 373 laps later he finished eighth. Nice job. Grade: A 9. Joey Logano , No. 22 Ford, Team Penske . Not that Logano would have been able to run down Martin Truex Jr ., but any chance at the win went away during green-flag pit stops around Lap 254 when a crew member was over the wall too soon. After serving the penalty, Logano was 21st, one lap down, which effectively ended his night. The team battled back, but that’s a mistake that can’t be made, especially with your driver running so well in such a big race. Grade: D 10. Ryan Newman , No. 31 Chevrolet, Richard Childress Racing . Newman was penalized for speeding on pit road during the third caution but battled back to post his fourth top 10 of the season and move up a spot to 16th in the standings. Grade: B 11. Greg Biffle , No. 16 Ford, Roush Fenway Racing . Biffle posted his best finish of the season but couldn’t end his drought of top-10 finishes. His previous top 10 was last September at New Hampshire Motor Speedway when he finished fourth. Grade: B 12. Austin Dillon , No. 3 Chevrolet, Richard Childress Racing . Dillon started 28th and needed all 400 laps to claw his way up. Grade: B 13. Kyle Larson , No. 42 Chevrolet, Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates. Larson made a lot of noise early and was running fourth at the halfway point before fading. Grade: B 14. Dale Earnhardt Jr ., No. 88 Chevrolet, Hendrick Motorsports . Junior was on pit road when the final yellow flag came out, and he took the wave-around to return to the lead lap … albeit a little deeper in the field for the final restart with 56 laps to go. He was never vying for a win, but that cost him a higher finish. Grade: B 15. Ricky Stenhouse Jr ., No. 17 Ford, Roush Fenway Racing . Stenhouse was the lucky dog on the final caution, enabling him to score his sixth finish in the teens (13th through 16th) in the past seven races. Grade: B 16. AJ Allmendinger , No. 47 Chevrolet, JTG Daugherty Racing . Allmendinger’s 19.3 average running position was highest among drivers finishing in the top 20 and his 10 laps in the top 15 were the lowest. Grade: C 17. Paul Menard , No. 27 Chevrolet, Richard Childress Racing . Menard’s 11th-place-finish at Dover coupled with his 17th Sunday gave him his second-best back-to-back finishes of the season, behind his 15th-8th at Auto Club and Martinsville. Grade: C 18. Carl Edwards , No. 19 Toyota, Joe Gibbs Racing . Edwards was a fixture in the top 10 and running third when he was hit with two green-flag pit-road speeding penalties. The first came when he was too fast entering the pits on Lap 298. The second came when he was too fast entering pit road to do his pass-through penalty, which required him to do a stop-and-go on the next lap. That put a fork in any chance for a decent finish: Grade: D 19. Jamie McMurray , No. 1 Chevrolet, Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates. McMurray’s average running position was 19.1, and that’s exactly where he finished. Grade: C 20. Ryan Blaney , No. 21 Ford, Wood Brothers Racing . Not a bad finish considering Blaney was hit with his first pit-road speeding penalty of the season on the competition caution, had to return to pit road because of a loose wheel during the third caution and had his right rear tire go down with three laps to go. Grade: C 21. Danica Patrick , No. 10 Chevrolet, Stewart-Haas Racing . Danica’s consistent: Sunday’s finish was her eighth in the 20s this season. Grade: C 22. Kasey Kahne , No. 5 Chevrolet, Hendrick Motorsports . Kahne’s right front tire went down early putting him two laps back, and he spent the rest of the night slowly making up ground. Grade: C 23. Clint Bowyer , No. 15 Chevrolet, HScott Motorsports . Bowyer was never a factor and saw his string of top-20 finishes end at three. Grade: C 24. Tony Stewart , No. 14 Chevrolet, Stewart-Haas Racing . Stewart qualified 21st but rolled off the grid 39th when NASCAR caught a crew member making an unauthorized change to the car on pit road before the race. A pit-road penalty for speeding during the third caution didn’t help things, either. Grade: D 25. Trevor Bayne , No. 6 Ford, Roush Fenway Racing . Since getting his first top 10 of the season at Bristol, Bayne has had a top-10 finish every other race. If the pattern holds, he’ll get his first top 10 at Pocono next week. Grade: C 26. Aric Almirola , No. 43 Ford, Richard Petty Motorsports . Almirola finished outside the top 10 for the 14th consecutive race, the fourth-longest such streak of his Cup career. Grade: C 27. Landon Cassill , No. 38 Ford, Front Row Motorsports . Of the season’s 13 races, Cassill has finished 25th, 26th, 27th or 28th six times. Grade: C 28. Regan Smith , No. 7 Chevrolet, Tommy Baldwin Racing . Smith posted his second-best finish in his past eight races. Grade: C 29. Brian Scott , No. 44 Ford, Richard Petty Motorsports . Scott finished in the top 30 for the fourth race in a row. Grade: C- 30. Casey Mears , No. 13 Chevrolet, Germain Racing . Mears’ finish is his worst in the 600 since a 33rd-place finish in the rain-shortened 2009 race while driving for Richard Childress Racing . Grade: D 31. David Ragan , No. 23 Toyota, BK Racing . Ragan finished seven laps back but was running at the finish; he had DNFs in both Charlotte races last year. Grade: D 32. Matt DiBenedetto , No. 83 Toyota, BK Racing . Although he finished 32nd, DiBenedetto was running at the finish, unlike in two of the previous three races. Grade: D 33. Kyle Busch , No. 18 Toyota, Joe Gibbs Racing . Busch was running 10th and flirting with a top-10 finish when he cut a tire with seven laps to go and smacked the outside wall hard. Instead, he finished with his second straight DNF. Grade: B- 34. Michael McDowell , No. 95 Chevrolet, Circle Sport- Leavine Family Racing . McDowell posted his worst finish of the season. Grade: D 35. Cole Whitt , No. 98 Chevrolet, Premium Motorsports. Whitt was running at the finish, nine laps back. Grade: D 36. Michael Annett , No. 46 Chevrolet, HScott Motorsports . Annett finished 10 laps back. Grade: F 37. Chris Buescher , No. 34 Ford, Front Row Motorsports . Buescher could not build on his career-best 18th-place finish at Dover. Grade: F 38. Josh Wise , No. 30 Chevrolet, The Motorsports Group. Wise finished 13 laps back but was running at the finish for the fourth time in the past five races. Grade: F 39. Jeffrey Earnhardt , No. 32 Ford, Go Fas Racing . Earnhardt’s finish was a season low. Grade: F 40. Reed Sorenson , No. 55 Chevrolet, Premium Motorsports. Sorenson completed 200 laps before clutch issues ended his night. Grade: F
Polesitter Truex Jr. leads final practice at Charlotte
PRACTICE 3: Results Martin Truex Jr . topped the leaderboard in Saturday's final Sprint Cup Series practice at Charlotte Motor Speedway at 186.387 mph in the No. 78 Furniture Row Racing Toyota. Truex holds the pole for Sunday’s Coca-Cola 600 (6 p.m. ET, FOX, PRN, Sirius XM NASCAR Radio). Kurt Busch , who led the practice session earlier in the day, was right behind him in the No. 41 Stewart-Haas Racing Chevrolet at 185.733 mph. Rounding out the top five in the 50-minute session were Jimmie Johnson in the No. 48 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet (185.401 mph), Joey Logano in the No. 22 Team Penske Ford (185.109 mph) and Greg Biffle in the No. 16 Roush Fenway Racing Ford (184.938 mph). PRACTICE 2: Results Earlier in the day, Busch led the pack at 191.002 mph. Busch, who holds the record for the fastest lap around the 1.5-mile North Carolina oval, will roll off the grid 13th Sunday. In that same session, seven-time Charlotte winner Johnson was second-fastest, propelling his No. 48 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet at 190.617 mph. Sunday's pole-sitter Truex Jr . recorded the third-fastest lap (190.061 mph) in his No. 78 Furniture Row Racing Toyota, while Joe Gibbs Racing 's Carl Edwards (189.887 mph) and Roush Fenway Racing 's Ricky Stenhouse Jr . (189.414 mph) rounded out the top five. Series points leader Kevin Harvick ranked seventh on the speed charts (189.301 mph) in morning session and 24th in the final session (183.150 mph). The red flag flew late in the first 55-minute session, after smoke began blowing for the left front of Dale Earnhardt Jr .'s No. 88 ride. The track returned to green shortly after Earnhardt's Chevrolet -- which was later determined to be an issue with the seal on the power steering box -- made it to the garage.
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