Sam Hornish Jr . wants a win for RCR
RELATED: Meet the XFINITY Chase field SPARTA, Ky. – Sam Hornish may not be a threat in the NASCAR XFINITY Series inaugural Chase, but that doesn't mean the Richard Childress Racing driver isn't a concern. Saturday night's VisitMyrtleBeach.com 300 at Kentucky Speedway (8 p.m. ET, NBCSN, PRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio) officially kicks off the series' seven-race Chase. Hornish is making just his fourth start of the season, therefore he was not eligible for the 12-team Chase field. That hasn't keep him out of the winner's circle, however as he wheeled the No. 18 Toyota for Joe Gibbs Racing to the win at Iowa. And in two subsequent starts with the No. 2 team for RCR, Hornish has finished sixth and second. He's making start No. 3 in the No. 2 Chevrolet for RCR here at Kentucky. And the 37-year-old was once again fast here Friday, clocking the third-fastest lap in each of the day's two practice sessions. Qualifying is scheduled for 4:45 p.m. ET on Saturday. Joe Gibbs Racing driver Erik Jones was quickest in both practice sessions. "It was pretty good," Hornish said of the results at day's end. "The car started off a little bit free in the afternoon, but it was so hot. I felt like we got just a little bit behind there in the last practice but our car is good, it's got decent balance; we just need a little bit to be able to run with the JGR cars." Hornish has four top-10 finishes in five XFINITY Series starts at the 1.5-mile Kentucky track. His racing career, which includes three IndyCar championships, got a major boost here in 2000 when he finished ninth after running out of fuel late in the race. That effort opened eyes and doors, and soon his open-wheel career was off and running. His NASCAR career has included stints in Sprint Cup and the XFINITY Series; he also has one start in the Camping World Truck Series. "Right now this is the last (race) I have scheduled ... we've had a good run," he said of the RCR arrangement. "It's a good car, they've got some wins and they continue to build momentum. I'd like to go to Victory Lane for them for sure. "They're running for an owners' championship so we have to be smart about everything we do as well." JGR teammates Jones and Daniel Suarez are seeded first and third in the Chase, respectively, with veteran Elliott Sadler ( JR Motorsports) wedged in between. Ty Dillon , teammate to Hornish, is seeded fourth while Justin Allgaier (JRM) is fifth. Darrell Wallace ( Roush Fenway Racing ), Brendan Gaughan (RCR), Brennan Poole ( Chip Ganassi Racing ), Ryan Sieg (RSS Racing), Ryan Reed (RFR), Brandon Jones (RCR) and Blake Koch (Kaulig Racing) round out the 12-team Chase field. "We were able to make some good gains mostly in race conditions," said Jones, who will be seeking his fifth win of the season on Saturday. "It wasn't so much that we needed the speed, we needed to find some drivability in it and I think we (did). ... "It's going to change a lot once it cools all the way down and we get into race conditions but I feel pretty good about it." Except for the number of races, the XFINITY Series Chase mirrors that of NASCAR's Sprint Cup Series, with three-race segments leading up to a one-race finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway .
Dale Earnhardt Jr . leads final practice at Daytona
Dale Earnhardt Jr .'s No. 88 Chevrolet -- now affectionately dubbed "Amelia" -- showed no signs of slowing down in Saturday's final Sprint Cup practice at Daytona International Speedway . The Hendrick Motorsports driver topped the leaderboard with a fast lap of 197.131 mph around The World Center of Racing, bookending Daytona 500 practice sessions as he led opening practice earlier in this week. Earnhardt will start third in Sunday's Daytona 500 (1 p.m. ET, FOX, MRN, Sirius XM NASCAR Radio) beside teammate and pole-sitter Chase Elliott . RELATED: Earnhardt's 'Amelia' taking flight again at Daytona Team Penske teammates Joey Logano and Brad Keselowski and Wood Brothers Racing 's Ryan Blaney -- whose team has a technical alliance with Penske -- drafted together throughout the session, putting them at the top of the leaderboard behind Earnhardt. Logano was second-fastest in his No. 22 ride (196.369 mph), while Blaney came up third in the No. 21 (196.288 mph). Keselowski rounded out the Ford trio with a fast lap of 196.262 mph from his No. 2 machine. A pair of Stewart-Haas Racing cars -- Kurt Busch (196.061 mph) and Kevin Harvick (196.014 mph) -- completed the top six, respectively. Bush's No. 41 team made extensive repairs to his car after incurring damage during the last-lap wreck of Thursday's Duel No. 2. Jimmie Johnson (18th-fastest), Matt Kenseth (21st-fastest) and Brian Scott (23rd-fastest) were the drivers in today's practice now wheeling backup cars after wrecking in the Duels. Martin Truex Jr . and AJ Allmendinger , who did not turn a lap in the final session, will also come from the rear in backup rides. Only 25 of the 40-car field participated in Saturday's final practice. FULL PRACTICE RESULTS Pos Car Driver Speed 1 88 Dale Earnhardt Jr . 197.131 2 22 Joey Logano 196.369 3 *21 Ryan Blaney # 196.288 4 2 Brad Keselowski 196.262 5 41 Kurt Busch 196.061 6 4 Kevin Harvick 196.014 7 16 Greg Biffle 195.959 8 24 Chase Elliott # 195.839 9 14 Brian Vickers 195.814 10 15 Clint Bowyer 195.763 11 38 Landon Cassill 195.236 12 7 Regan Smith 195.135 13 5 Kasey Kahne 194.397 14 23 David Ragan 194.384 15 *26 Robert Richardson Jr . 194.342 16 6 Trevor Bayne 194.280 17 46 Michael Annett 194.221 18 48 Jimmie Johnson 193.719 19 1 Jamie McMurray 193.075 20 95 Ty Dillon (i) 192.951 21 20 Matt Kenseth 192.806 22 43 Aric Almirola 192.201 23 44 Brian Scott # 192.160 24 31 Ryan Newman 191.111 25 34 Chris Buescher # 190.392
Truex Jr . takes less, gives more to Furniture Row
RELATED: Inside the western rise of Furniture Row " Denver embraces its team JOLIET, Ill. -- How sincere was Martin Truex Jr . in his desire to stay with Furniture Row Racing during contract talks with team officials? Enough that the 36-year-old NASCAR Sprint Cup Series driver agreed to work for less than he likely could have earned elsewhere. "There were other opportunities that were out there," Truex said Sunday after winning the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 400 at Chicagoland Speedway . "I believe this is the best team I've ever had. This is my best opportunity to win races. We've proven that. It's my best opportunity, and really only my second opportunity, since last year, to go for a championship. That wasn't something I was willing to get rid of or throw away." While Furniture Row officials were in the midst of making the switch from Chevrolet to Toyota a year ago, a contract extension with Truex was also wrapping up. In late September, officials announced both agreements were in place. Then, in August of this year, the team announced a new, two-year extension for Truex. RELATED: Truex inks new deal at Furniture Row "I made the commitment to Barney we were going to do it, we were going to work together and make it work for everybody," Truex said of the arrangement. "Barney has put a lot into his race team over the years obviously. Seeing Furniture Row on that race car each and every year, that's Barney's race car and Barney is the one funding it. "He had to change some things in the way he was running his race team. He asked me if I would kind of, not take the hit but be the one that took a little bit of a hit for the team to make sure we could keep the competition up and make sure we could continue to get the things we needed to be competitive and win races and hopefully go after a championship." Visser started the Denver-based team from scratch in 2005, and has funded the single-car outfit for much of its existence through his own businesses. Others have come on board to help the cause and the switch from Chevrolet to Toyota has paid tremendous dividends. Sunday's victory was the third of the season for Truex and more importantly it came in the opening race of the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup . He and the No. 78 team, run by crew chief Cole Pearn, are guaranteed to advance to the Round of 12 in the Chase. Prior to this season, Truex had three career wins. Furniture Row had two. The organization, which now receives technical support from Joe Gibbs Racing , will expand in 2017 with the addition of a second team and driver Erik Jones . RELATED: Furniture Row adds Jones to growing team The rise from a struggling single-car outfit to a championship contender didn't happen overnight. "Yeah, I do feel like I'm living a dream," Visser, a Vietnam veteran, said. "But that's why we do it. Most of the other things that I've done in life have been a little bit like this, but nothing right to the very top of the best racing in the world here. (It's) very exciting. "I have to thank Toyota and Martin. Like I said, I think he's a pure athlete. He drove for a little bit less this year than I think a lot of the drivers in his class have, and he did it because he wanted to be here. I can't thank him enough for all that."
Chase Bubble Watch: Truex Jr . safe after Chicago; Harvick anything but
RELATED: Full race results " Updated Chase Grid SHOP: Chase gear One race into the 2016 Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup and already some drivers are in bubble trouble. Let's find out which drivers went into their shells during the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 400, and who is sitting back, relaxing and chomping on pizza before New Hampshire. Who's hot: Martin Truex Jr .: He overcame a lot to win his first Chase race in the opener at Chicago. First, there was a shredded right-front tire that forced him to come to pit road and fall a lap down before the race was 90 laps old. He jumped back on the lead lap after a caution on Lap 119 and overcame Ryan Blaney on a restart in an overtime finish to pull away for the win. It was critical for Truex to do well on the intermediate track since two short tracks (New Hampshire, Dover) are up next in the Round of 16. Truex advances. (Note: The No. 78 failed post-race inspection but not to the level of an encumbered finish. Read more ) ... Chase Elliott : The Sunoco Rookie of the Year candidate appeared to have his first Sprint Cup Series race in the bag before a caution on Lap 262 for an accident involving the No. 95 of Michael McDowell . In the ensuing pit stop, Truex beat Elliott off pit road, and after an overtime restart, the No. 24 finished third. Still, it's a great way to start the Chase, and with three top-10 finishes in his past four races, Elliott seems to have turned his season around at the right time. Who's not: Kevin Harvick : The 2014 champ charged up from the back after starting there for unapproved adjustments and was poised to contend for the victory. But bad luck struck when he pitted under green just before a caution flag came out on Lap 48. Harvick couldn't beat the leader to the start/finish line on pit road and fell a lap down. He had a good car but finished 20th (15th among the 16 Chase drivers). ... Kyle Larson : The first-time Chase participant got off to a bad start when he had to move to the back because of a transmission change prior to the race. However, Larson fought his way back into the top five late in the race before he reported the right side of the car feeling like it was about to go down. Crew chief Chad Johnston called him to pit road with seven laps to go and Larson finished 18th (14th among Chase drivers) and was 15th in the Chase standings heading to New Hampshire. Four in, four out: Here's a look at the Chase bubble, with four drivers being eliminated after the third race of this round, at Dover International Speedway .
Live-tweeting Dale Jr . is the best kind of Dale Jr .
Sassy Dale Earnhardt Jr . is the best Dale Earnhardt Jr . The No. 88 Hendrick Motorsports wheelman -- who is sitting out the remainder of 2016 to recover from a concussion -- chose to spend his downtime live-tweeting the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Federated Auto Parts 400 . And he didn't disappoint. NASCAR's Most Popular Driver left no topics off the table and talked everything from fast food joints to his woes with autocorrect. Don't have time to head over to Junior's Twitter timeline? NASCAR.com breaks it down, giving you the best of his best. @jeff_gluck calm down — Dale Earnhardt Jr . (@DaleJr) September 11, 2016 — Dale Earnhardt Jr . (@DaleJr) September 11, 2016 New @nationwide88 commercials are ok. ☺️ — Dale Earnhardt Jr . (@DaleJr) September 11, 2016 . @JeffBurton plenty happy with cup driver at the wheel of @NASCARonNBC turd. — Dale Earnhardt Jr . (@DaleJr) September 11, 2016 My phone autocorrect trd to turd. https://t.co/Ocn5HPoX6y — Dale Earnhardt Jr . (@DaleJr) September 11, 2016 Let me tell you @RickAllenracing . Do not be so surprised by the @AxaltaRacing 88 team on pit road. Been solid all season son. — Dale Earnhardt Jr . (@DaleJr) September 11, 2016 What happened the last time @RyanJNewman was desperate to make the Chase? @NASCARonNBC ⚡️ — Dale Earnhardt Jr . (@DaleJr) September 10, 2016 Anyone notice that old retired guy @JeffGordonWeb in the top 10 wheeling it?? — Dale Earnhardt Jr . (@DaleJr) September 11, 2016 . @NASCARonNBC non stop would be cool companioned with @pandora_radio — Dale Earnhardt Jr . (@DaleJr) September 11, 2016 This is @dennyhamlin home track. Well, accept @MartinsvilleSwy . I guess any track in the state he was born. — Dale Earnhardt Jr . (@DaleJr) September 11, 2016 I like @mattkenseth even tho he drives what he drives. Good dude. — Dale Earnhardt Jr . (@DaleJr) September 11, 2016 @DaleJr have you ever thought of stop tweeting — Gonzy (@imgonzy) September 11, 2016 I have a pretty good idea of how the @NASCAR overtime works if you need me next week @RickAllenracing — Dale Earnhardt Jr . (@DaleJr) September 11, 2016 One pulled groin and a chipped tooth. Average night for the over the wall guys. @NASCAR #athletes — Dale Earnhardt Jr . (@DaleJr) September 11, 2016 Brad so mad. He's either being so tough or doing this weird underbite thing. What's that about @keselowski ?? pic.twitter.com/0ddqkyykDr — Dale Earnhardt Jr . (@DaleJr) September 11, 2016 Fire the art department except the totally different art department that took @TonyStewart photo. pic.twitter.com/0ZylxCO5Hm — Dale Earnhardt Jr . (@DaleJr) September 11, 2016
Sadler on boss Dale Jr .: I'm 'honored ... to win for him'
RELATED: Saturday's at-track photos " Results " Standings DARLINGTON, S.C. -- Elliott Sadler said Friday that JR Motorsports team owner Dale Earnhardt Jr .'s announcement that he will not return to Sprint Cup racing this season gave his own No. 1 team "incentive to finish on a high note." That high note came sooner rather than later, as Sadler held off a fast-charging Joe Gibbs Racing duo of Denny Hamlin and Daniel Suarez to win Saturday's NASCAR XFINITY Series race at Darlington Raceway . Following the burnout, Sadler stood on the car across the start-finish line and let out a cheer, full of emotion. The past few weeks have been rough for the No. 1 Chevrolet driver, between his mother's illness and his uncertain future, with OneMain Financial only recently deciding to re-sign. And of course, his boss, friend and mentor Earnhardt Jr .'s tough situation that has been prevalent in his mind. "This is for Dale Earnhardt Jr .," Sadler said, looking into the camera and giving a thumbs-up in Victory Lane. "… This is for you, my man." Earnhardt Jr . also tweeted shortly after Sadler took the checkered flag, wishing his driver a huge congratulations. Fittingly, Sadler's first call came from the bossman himself shortly after, in the midst of victory celebrations. "To hear his voice and jubilation and yelling and screaming and saying a lot of the cool things he likes to say -- I can't really repeat a lot right now," Sadler said. "He and I have a special relationship and have for a long time." Junior's day continued on its upswing, as JRM's Cole Custer won the pole for the Camping World Truck Series Race at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park . 00 @colecuster00 on the pole for the @NASCAR_Trucks weekend keeps getting better — Dale Earnhardt Jr . (@DaleJr) September 3, 2016 For Sadler, this XFINITY win is about giving back to a friend who has afforded him so much. "Look, he's a real race car driver, guys," Sadler said. "He's a true-grit, blue-collar guy … he's one of the good guys. And to see him have to take a step back is really tough on him, but to see him handling it the way he is means a lot to me as driver, but also as a friend. He's given me a great opportunity to drive his cars this year and I think he 100 percent pays attention to what we do and how good we run. "And I think maybe he can feed some his excitement through us. Since he's not in a race car, to hear him talking on the telephone today -- it's neat to hear that excitement in his voice and give him something to be proud of, give him something to cheer about when he's had so much bad news as far as him being able to race. "… I'm very honored and humbled to be the one to be able to win for him."
Bruce: Perspective, patience weigh in Dale Jr .'s decision
RELATED: Timeline of Dale Jr . injury After weeks of rehabilitation, hope and determination, the end result is this -- Dale Earnhardt Jr . will not return to compete in NASCAR's Sprint Cup Series this season. Sidelined for the past six races after suffering a concussion-related injury earlier this season, Earnhardt will remain out of his Hendrick Motorsports No. 88 Chevrolet for the final 12 races of 2016. Instead, the 41-year-old will continue to focus on his recovery in hopes of returning to competition next season. On Friday, HMS officials announced that the sport's most popular driver "has not been medically cleared to compete" for the remainder of the season. Previously, Earnhardt has been visiting doctors every two weeks to evaluate his progress. It's obviously a disappointing development for Earnhardt, his fans, his team and the Hendrick Motorsports organization. But it's ultimately the best decision. Even if he were able to return to the driver's seat later this year, there is little to gain for Earnhardt and his team at this point. Out of Chase contention and with a rules package that will change during the brief offseason, there's no reason, from a competitive standpoint, for him to climb back in the car. There could be some residual benefits but overall there's too little to be gained and too much at stake to attempt a hasty return. From a health standpoint, the time away from the car and out of the limelight will allow Earnhardt to focus solely on his continued recovery. Work versus health? Weighed against one another, there's simply no compelling reason for his season to end in any other fashion. He isn't leaving HMS in a difficult position from a driver standpoint -- Alex Bowman and Jeff Gordon have filled in admirably during Earnhardt's absence and will no doubt continue to do so. While time out of the car might be a concern for a driver hoping to keep his ride, Earnhardt has no such worries. He is the winner of 26 premier series events, including a pair of Daytona 500 victories, and has reigned as the series' most popular driver for 13 consecutive years. He has qualified for NASCAR's Chase for the Sprint Cup eight times overall and each of the past five seasons. Even in difficult economic times, sponsors have been willing to align themselves with Earnhardt, understanding the immense impact and exposure doing so brings. This latest development has only spurred talk of how much longer Earnhardt will continue to compete. He'll turn 42 later this year and now sidelined for a second time in four years, some have suggested that it is perhaps time for him to close the door on his driving career entirely. Away from Hendrick Motorsports , he is a team co-owner, fielding three NASCAR XFINITY Series teams through his JR Motorsports operation. The group has been involved all the way down to the grassroots level as well, fielding Late Model entries for up-and-coming competitors. On the personal side, marriage to fiancée Amy Reimann awaits. All good, sound reasons, perhaps, to consider a future outside the car. Yet only Earnhardt knows if such a decision has been made. Throughout his lengthy rehabilitation process, he has continued to speak of returning to competition. All the way from the talk of a contract extension with HMS before the most recent incident right up until Friday's announcement, when he was quoted as saying "I plan to be healthy and ready to compete at Daytona in February." Only time will tell if that plan eventually becomes a reality. For now, though, that is the goal. From the day officials first announced he would not be in the car at New Hampshire earlier this season, everyone involved has stressed the importance of patience. His doctors, team owner Rick Hendrick and Earnhardt himself have placed his health as the top priority. Not his ability behind the wheel or his manner with sponsors or his relationship with his fans. As important as each might be, Earnhardt's health and well-being continue to be the focus. Patience. It's worth remembering as a driver's career hangs in the balance.
Dale Jr . update: 'Confident about the future'
RELATED: Full injury timeline " Junior out for 2016 DARLINGTON, S.C. -- Dale Earnhardt Jr . is continuing to make progress in his recovery from a concussion, and the Hendrick Motorsports driver says he has every intention of returning to competition once he receives medical clearance. That, in a nutshell, was Earnhardt's message during a visit to Darlington Raceway , site of Sunday night's Bojangles' Southern 500 . HMS officials announced the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series driver had not been cleared to compete for the rest of the 2016 season. A process that has involved daily rehabilitation and re-evaluations every two weeks will continue under the watch of Dr. Micky Collins, medical director of the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center Sports Medicine Concussion Program, and Charlotte neurosurgeon Dr. Jerry Petty. Sunday's race at Darlington marked the seventh missed race for Earnhardt since the initial diagnosis was made in mid-July. Earnhardt said the news that he wouldn't be cleared to race again this season did not come as a surprise. "I know how I feel and how I need to feel and how I'm supposed to feel so I'm not shocked," Earnhardt, 41, said. "I'm not hearing things from Micky that I don't already know about myself. ... (But) I am confident about the future." Earnhardt has been down this road before, having missed two races in 2012 after suffering a concussion in a wreck during a test at Kansas Speedway . That experience, he said, was reason enough to believe he would be back behind the wheel sooner rather than later. "When we first went to see Micky, I anticipated the experience to be similar to what I had in the past," he said. "That we would work on getting better and it would happen in a relatively short period of time and I would drive a car before the end of the season. "I think as we continued to go get evaluated we realized that it is going to be a bit more of a process ... I think it's the right decision considering how I feel personally and physically. I definitely don't belong in a race car today by any stretch of the imagination." Earnhardt's condition continues to improve, and Collins said it has accelerated since the decision to end his season now was made. "I don't think it's a coincidence that since we made that decision we are starting to see a lot of progress here that I'm excited about," Collins said. "We sat down and I feel very strongly the right decision was made to take Dale out of racing, so we can focus on getting him better and reduce the stress that is associated with that. Stress and concussions don't get along well and we see stress can really exacerbate and worsen things." In his absence, Earnhardt's No. 88 Chevrolet has been driven by Jeff Gordon and Alex Bowman . The two will continue in their respective fill-in roles for the rest of the season. Team owner Rick Hendrick has preached patience from the outset, and continued to stress that the driver's seat remains the property of Earnhardt for as long as he wishes to race. "We were talking before he had to get out of the car about (contract) extensions," Hendrick said. "I want him to race with me as long as he can and he wants to be there. The seat is his and I expect, we've got a lot of time between now and Daytona. "I saw him like two or three weeks ago and then I saw him last Monday and I saw him today; the improvements have been phenomenal and listening to the doctor we are excited about Dale Earnhardt Jr . being in the car at Daytona and we've got right much time. I'm excited about him racing beyond 2017." RELATED: Hendrick on Earnhardt's future It's a goal Earnhardt said he has every intention of reaching. Not returning isn't something he thinks about. "I have the passion and desire to drive; I enjoy it," he said. "I have an amazing team and owner. ... My heart is there to continue. "I'm only 41; I think I have some good years left." Collins had told him before, when he was injured in 2012, that he would recover and go on to win races. "And he was right," Earnhardt said. "We got well and I had some of the greatest years and greatest experiences of my career shortly after that. "He's telling me that this is possible again and I believe it." &amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;lt;/p&amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;gt;
Dale Earnhardt Jr . injury timeline
Dale Earnhardt Jr . will sit out the rest of the 2016 season, Hendrick Motorsports officials announced Friday. A crash at Michigan International Speedway in Junie is believed to be the cause of Junior's injury, and the ever-popular driver of the No. 88 Chevrolet said he is going to focus on being healthy and ready to compete at the 2017 season opening Daytona 500 . Jeff Gordon and Alex Bowman will split fill-in-duty for Hendrick Motorsports in the No. 88 car the rest of the 2016 season. Stay up-to-date on Dale Jr .'s injury and recovery through the timeline of events below.
ICYMI: Dale Jr's weekend at Darlington
In Case You Missed It, NASCAR.com's Jonathan Merryman catches you up on Dale Earnhardt Jr .'s weekend outside of the No. 88 at Darlington Raceway.