NASCAR Next: Meet Ryan Gifford
Drive for Diversity member Ryan Gifford shows the world that he is one of NASCAR's Next stars.
Gifford wins first K&N race at Richmond
After 43 K&N Series starts Ryan Gifford wins his first race at Richmond International Raceway
21 Questions with Ryan Blaney and Jack Huston
Ryan Blaney, driver of the No. 21 Ford, puts Jack Huston, star of the new upcoming movie Ben-Hur, on the clock with a rapid set of 21 questions.
Hamlin tops chart, spins in final Michigan practice
RELATED: Full practice results " Top 10 consecutive lap averages Denny Hamlin set the pace in final NASCAR Sprint Cup Series practice Saturday at Michigan International Speedway , but damaged his Joe Gibbs Racing No. 11 Toyota in a spin midway through the session. Hamlin, who qualified third in Friday's Coors Light Pole Qualifying, clocked a lap of 197.878 mph in Saturday's final practice. The session, originally scheduled for 50 minutes, was halted with approximately 27 minutes left because of lightning in the area of the 2-mile track. Hamlin told NBCSN that the car got loose "out of the blue" as he navigated Turn 4. He avoided contact with the wall, but did slight damage when the nose of his car dug into the grass bordering the frontstretch. Hamlin indicated the team did not expect to deploy the reserve car. RELATED: All the cars at Michigan as they'll line up Rookie Chase Elliott was second-fastest at 197.786 mph in the Hendrick Motorsports No. 24 Chevrolet. He was followed by two Hendrick teammates on the leaderboard -- third-fastest Jimmie Johnson (197.694 mph) and fourth-best Kasey Kahne (197.455 mph). Michigan native Brad Keselowski completed the top five in the final prep for Sunday's Pure Michigan 400 (2 p.m. ET, NBCSN, MRN, SiriusXM). Team Penske teammate Joey Logano , who secured the Coors Light Pole Award in Friday qualifying, was seventh-fastest. Alex Bowman , subbing for Dale Earnhardt Jr . in the Hendrick Motorsports No. 88 Chevrolet, was 10th-fastest at 196.969 mph. Stewart atop Saturday's early practice Tony Stewart topped the speed chart in Saturday's morning NASCAR Sprint Cup Series practice session at Michigan International Speedway ahead of Sunday's Pure Michigan 400 (2 p.m. ET, NBCSN, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio). Stewart circled the 2-mile track in his No. 14 Stewart-Haas Racing Chevrolet with a fast time of 202.122 mph to pace the 55-minute practice session. "Smoke" has one win in the Irish Hills in 33 starts there. Sunoco Rookie of the Year contenders Ryan Blaney (No. 21 Wood Brothers Racing Ford, 201.427 mph) and Chase Elliott (No. 24 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet, 201.196 mph) came in second and third, respectively. Both drivers are in search of their first win in the sport's top series. Kurt Busch (No. 41 Stewart-Haas Racing Chevrolet, 201.089 mph) and Kyle Larson (No. 42 Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates Chevrolet, 200.932 mph) completed the top five. Alex Bowman , who will pilot the No. 88 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet for the sidelined Dale Earnhardt Jr . this weekend, placed eighth in practice. All told, 12 drivers crossed the 200 mph mark on their laps Saturday morning. Polesitter Joey Logano placed 16th in the session. &amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;lt;/p&amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;gt;
Chase-clinching scenarios for Michigan and Road America
With three races remaining in the regular season, 10 drivers have clinched a spot in the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup , assuming each driver starts the remaining races. The 10 clinchers: Brad Keselowski , Kyle Busch , Carl Edwards , Jimmie Johnson , Matt Kenseth , Kevin Harvick , Kurt Busch , Joey Logano , Martin Truex Jr . and Denny Hamlin . Everyone who has a win this season is locked in -- except for Tony Stewart and Chris Buescher , both of whom have yet to clinch a top-30 spot. Stewart can clinch a top 30 spot at Michigan with some help as he must be 91 points ahead of the 31st position in the standings. A number of drivers who currently have no wins can clinch this weekend, but only if they win the Pure Michigan 400 at Michigan International Speedway (Sunday, 2 p.m. ET, NBCSN, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio). Winless drivers in the standings from Austin Dillon all the way to Aric Almirola could lock in a spot with a victory. See the Sprint Cup standings here . Possible to Clinch: -- Tony Stewart (1 Win, 400 Points, +85 Points Ahead of 31st): Could Clinch a Top 30 spot with help (magic number is 91 points), which is all he needs to do to clinch on wins. The following drivers would clinch with a win: -- Austin Dillon (0 Wins, 596 Points, +281 Points Ahead of 31st) -- Chase Elliott (0 Wins, 588 Points, +273 Points Ahead of 31st) -- Jamie McMurray (0 Wins, 583 Points, +268 Points Ahead of 31st) -- Ryan Newman (0 Wins, 576 Points, +261 Points Ahead of 31st) -- Trevor Bayne (0 Wins, 541 Points, +226 Points Ahead of 31st) -- Kyle Larson (0 Wins, 537 Points, +222 Points Ahead of 31st) -- Kasey Kahne (0 Wins, 537 Points, +222 Points Ahead of 31st) -- AJ Allmendinger (0 Wins, 518 Points, +203 Points Ahead of 31st) -- Ricky Stenhouse Jr (0 Wins, 514 Points, +199 Points Ahead of 31st) -- Ryan Blaney (0 Wins, 508 Points, +193 Points Ahead of 31st) -- Dale Earnhardt Jr (0 Wins, 461 Points, +146 Points Ahead of 31st)** -- Greg Biffle (0 Wins, 441 Points, +126 Points Ahead of 31st) -- Danica Patrick (0 Wins, 432 Points, +117 Points Ahead of 31st) -- Paul Menard (0 Wins, 431 Points, +116 Points Ahead of 31st) -- Clint Bowyer (0 Wins, 407 Points, +92 Points Ahead of 31st) -- Aric Almirola (0 Wins, 406 Points, +91 Points Ahead of 31st) -- Casey Mears (0 Wins, 375 Points, +60 Points Ahead of 31st): With a win, he could clinch a Chase spot on wins if he got help with clinching a Top 30 spot. **Not entered at Michigan XFINITY The following drivers have already clinched a spot in the top 30 of the points standings, so a win at Road America (Saturday, 3 p.m. ET, NBCSN, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio) would lock them into the Chase field -- Justin Allgaier , Ty Dillon , Brendan Gaughan , Brennan Poole , Brandon Jones , Darrell Wallace Jr ., Ryan Reed , Blake Koch , Ryan Sieg , Ross Chastain , Dakoda Armstrong , Jeremy Clements , Ryan Preece , Ray Black Jr . and BJ McLeod . Joey Gase would also clinch a Chase spot with a win. Camping World Truck With a win at Michigan (Saturday, 1 p.m. ET, FS1, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio), any of the four drivers currently sitting with one win would clinch their Chase spot. -- Johnny Sauter (1 Win, 306 Points, +243 Points Ahead of 31st) -- Christopher Bell (1 Win, 296 Points, +233 Points Ahead of 31st) -- Ben Kennedy (1 Win, 287 Points, +224 Points Ahead of 31st) -- John Hunter Nemechek (1 Win, 281 Points, +218 Points Ahead of 31st) Daniel Hemric (0 Wins, 312 Points, +249 Points Ahead of 31st) -- With a win and help, he would clinch a Chase spot on wins. (The help would be in the form of all winless drivers being eliminated from leading the standings after Chicago.)
Kahne seeks win while in familiar Chase bubble spot
RELATED: Standings heading into Sunday BROOKLYN, Mich. -- It's an unfortunate yet familiar position for Kasey Kahne , driver of the No. 5 Chevrolet for Hendrick Motorsports . Unfortunate because with only three races remaining before the 16-team field is set for this year's NASCAR Chase for the Sprint Cup , Kahne finds himself winless on the season and 17th in points. Familiar because the 36-year-old has been here before. Kahne slid into the Chase field in 2014, the inaugural season of the format awarding positions to full-time competitors that managed at least one victory through the season's first 26 races, with a late victory at Atlanta, just one stop from the cutoff event. Three races remain before this year's field is set, beginning with Sunday's Pure Michigan 400 here at Michigan International Speedway (2 p.m. ET, NBCSN, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio). Then it's on to Darlington and Richmond to determine the remainder of this year's Chase field before the playoff opener at Chicagoland Speedway . Two years ago, the final three-race run consisted of stops at Bristol, Atlanta and Richmond. "I don't think that was anything like this year; I think this is a lot different," Kahne said Saturday at Michigan. "That was a great night for us and we were right there all night, got in the right position on restarts … we were fast all night. I think restarts were big for us. I could run really fast for 15 laps. It's been a while since we've been like that." Indeed. The Atlanta win was Kahne's 17th but it was also his last. He enters Sunday's race shadowed by a 70-race winless streak. In the meantime, Kahne's Hendrick teammates have won 14 times since his Atlanta victory. "For us, I think it's been so many areas, so many little things that add up to being four-tenths (of a second) off per lap often," he said. "I don't think it's from a lack of effort because the effort is there. But it's maybe working in the right areas or trying to understand things that will make it easier for me to drive for my driving style. That's been a huge part of the last couple of years. "It doesn't matter what other guys are doing, (it's) 'what will help Kasey? What will help him with his car because he drives a little different?' I feel like this weekend we've kind of done our thing and it seems to be working pretty well so car." Ten Sprint Cup drivers have one or more wins this season and sit inside the top 16, virtually assuring themselves of a slot in the Chase. Tony Stewart and Chris Buescher also have one win each, and while further back in points, their status likely leaves only four Chase positions up for grabs. Seventeen others are still mathematically alive, should they earn a win in one of the next three races. If no different winners emerge, points will be used to determine the remaining spots. Kahne trails the holder of the last spot in the Chase Grid, Ryan Newman by 39 points, with Trevor Bayne and Kyle Larson sandwiched between the two and chasing one of the final playoff spots as well. Austin Dillon , Chase Elliott and Jamie McMurray and Newman are just on the right side of the Chase bubble as of now. Hendrick drivers qualified second (Johnson), fifth (Elliott), sixth ( Alex Bowman driving in place of Dale Earnhardt Jr .) and 11th (Kahne) at Michigan. It is the seventh time this season Kahne will start from the No. 11 spot on the 40-car grid. "We run 13th to 18th every week; we qualify there and we race there," Kahne said. "That's just the speed we have. And then we do the same thing the next week. It's nice to do something a little different this week and to have speed to show it's helping." Kahne, 10th in Saturday's morning practice and fourth in the weather-shortened final session, has qualified for the Chase five times, the last coming in '14.
Chase Bubble: Stewart in; Larson sparks shake-up
RELATED: Provisional Chase Grid Here's a breakdown of the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Grid and bubble picture after Sunday's Pure Michigan 400 at Michigan International Speedway . NEW WINNER, NEW SHAKE-UP Kyle Larson 's victory in Sunday's Pure Michigan 400 altered the complexion of the provisional Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup playoff grid, securing another postseason berth for a first-time winner. The result means one less postseason berth for drivers hoping to qualify for the Chase on points, knocking Ryan Newman out of the provisional field of 16. Jamie McMurray , Larson's Chip Ganassi Racing teammate, currently clings to the final Chase berth with two regular-season events (Darlington, Richmond) remaining. FORMALLY WIN AND IN Tony Stewart wound up 21st in his final Michigan race, two laps off the leader's pace. It was enough to formally clinch a postseason spot, pairing his Sonoma victory in June with a steady hold on 26th in the driver standings. Stewart missed the first eight races of his final championship campaign with a back injury. BUESCHER'S STANDING Chris Buescher limped to a 35th-place finish, slightly weakening his grasp on a postseason slot. Buescher prevailed at Pocono Raceway earlier this month to check one requirement for Chase eligibility; the second is a place among the top 30 in the Sprint Cup driver standings. Buescher remains 30th in the standings, but his margin over 31st-place David Ragan shrank from 13 to seven points. LOCKED IN Drivers who have clinched a spot in the Chase are: Brad Keselowski , Carl Edwards , Kyle Busch , Matt Kenseth , Jimmie Johnson , Kevin Harvick and Denny Hamlin (all with multiple wins), along with one-win drivers Kurt Busch , Kyle Larson , Joey Logano , Tony Stewart and Martin Truex Jr . Chris Buescher is currently in the Chase Grid, but has not clinched a spot. After Sunday's 400-miler, just two regular-season races (Darlington, Richmond) remain before the 16-driver postseason field is settled. BUBBLE WATCH With 24 of 26 regular-season races complete, just three at-large spots (at present) for non-winners remain available. Here's how that picture looks post-Michigan. Editor's note: The standings below are the Chase Grid standings, not the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series drivers' standings.
Truex leads speedsters in first practice at Michigan
RELATED: Practice 1 results " Top 10 consecutive lap averages Martin Truex Jr . flew to the top of the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series leaderboard Friday as soaring speeds dominated opening practice at Michigan International Speedway . Truex pushed the Furniture Row No. 78 Toyota to a best lap of 201.545 mph on the 2-mile track. He was the fastest of 10 drivers to break the 200-mph barrier. The clocking was well above the 199.557 mph lap that clinched the Coors Light Pole Award for Joey Logano in Michigan qualifying in June. Jimmie Johnson was second-fastest in opening preparation for Sunday's Pure Michigan 400 (2 p.m. ET, NBCSN, MRN, SiriusXM), recording a lap of 201.134 mph in the Hendrick Motorsports No. 48 Chevrolet. Logano (200.966 mph), rookie Ryan Blaney (200.775 mph) and Kyle Larson (200.730 mph) completed the top five. This weekend marks what is expected to be the final audition for the premier series' 2017 aerodynamic rules package, which is intended to reduce the effects of downforce and sideforce. The series also used the package in Michigan's 400-miler in June. Race officials also took measures to try to widen the racing groove, using a tire-dragging vehicle to build rubber into the asphalt. The "Tire Dragon" truck was used in the days leading up to Friday's on-track activity. Jeffrey Earnhardt brought out the practice's only stoppage with just less than 10 minutes remaining, scraping the outside retaining wall in Turn 2 and causing significant damage to his Go FAS Racing No. 32 Ford. Earnhardt indicated to NBCSN that the team would unload a reserve car before qualifying. Defending Sprint Cup champion Kyle Busch was sixth-fastest in the Joe Gibbs Racing No. 18 Toyota. Defending race winner Matt Kenseth , his JGR teammate in the No. 20 Toyota, was 18th-fastest in the 85-minute session. Four drivers were docked 15 minutes of practice time for minor infractions. Those were Joe Gibbs Racing teammates Denny Hamlin and Carl Edwards , Richard Childress Racing driver Paul Menard and BK Racing 's Matt DiBenedetto . Coors Light Pole Qualifying is scheduled for 5:15 p.m. ET (NBCSN). Two additional Sprint Cup practices are set Saturday (8:30-9:25 a.m. ET, 11:30 a.m.-12:20 p.m. ET). Both Saturday practices will be televised on CNBC.
Elliott foiled on final restart, takes second at Michigan
RELATED: Race results " Standings " Chase Grid BROOKLYN, Mich. -- Unable to park his No. 24 in Victory Lane for the first time in his young career, Chase Elliott stood on pit road Sunday at Michigan International Speedway visibly disappointed as he was comforted by the man who won three premier series championships in the very same Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet, Jeff Gordon . "We just talked about the race a little bit," the dejected Elliott said of his conversation with Gordon. "And some of the things we battled and just looking at the positives, I guess, and trying to get down the road." The Pure Michigan 400 was a familiar scene at the 2-mile track for the Sunoco Rookie of the Year Candidate, who walked away with a dominant car but earned a less-than-satisfying runner-up finish. During the June stop at MIS, Elliott led for 35 circuits but finished second, behind Joey Logano . Elliott battled 1-2 at the second Michigan stop with eventual race winner Kyle Larson , even leading 31 of 200 laps, but watched the No. 42 Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet take the lead following a Lap 191 restart; Larson never let go. "Once that guy (Larson) got out front, it was really hard to pass," Elliott said of the restart. "My guys did such a good job today of making the most of pit road. That was the only place you could make a large sum of ground in a short period of time. They did exactly what I asked them to do. I said, 'You guys are going to have to bail me out here, I messed up.' (And) they did. They got us the lead just like I asked and I gave it away again." Alan Gustafson, crew chief of the No. 24 team, saw other issues during the day's final restart. "(It's) just a huge factor getting into Turn 1," Gustafson explained while decompressing with the team, sans Elliott, in the garage area. "It's the push, obviously. The guys in (the) second row were pushing really hard and the 2 (of third-place finisher, Brad Keselowski ) and 42 (of Larson) did a little better than the 24 and the 21 (of Ryan Blaney , fourth)." The 20-year-old clocked in his seventh top-five finish and his first since the season's first race at the Irish Hills, breaking a stretch of nine consecutive results outside not only the top five, but the top 10. Elliott now sits 11th in standings -- six points ahead of Austin Dillon -- and 14th on 16-spot Chase Grid, the highest for anyone in the 2016 rookie class. The Sprint Cup Series field heads to Darlington Raceway for the Bojangles' Southern 500 (Sept. 4, 6 p.m. ET, NBC, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio) and Elliott only wishes for one thing. "Hopefully another fast car (which) is all you can ask for," he said. "Just trying to hunker down and keep everybody's head up." And Gustaftson promises, "We're gonna do everything we can to do that."
Top 10 consecutive lap averages at Michigan
RESULTS: Practice 1 " Practice 2 " Practice 3 Average speeds for drivers running 10 or more consecutive laps in NASCAR Sprint Cup Series practice at Michigan International Speedway : Practice 1 Pos Car Driver From Lap To Lap Avg Speed 1 42 Kyle Larson 1 10 194.178 2 14 Tony Stewart 1 10 193.710 Practice 2 Pos Car Driver From Lap To Lap Avg Speed 1 18 Kyle Busch 2 11 199.713 2 48 Jimmie Johnson 1 10 199.578 3 88 Alex Bowman (i) 2 11 199.403 4 5 Kasey Kahne 1 10 198.817 5 1 Jamie McMurray 10 19 198.165 6 19 Carl Edwards 10 19 198.115 7 24 Chase Elliott # 2 11 197.939 8 4 Kevin Harvick 10 19 197.802 9 2 Brad Keselowski 14 23 197.462 10 15 Clint Bowyer 1 10 197.177 11 83 Matt DiBenedetto 1 10 192.298 Practice 3 Pos Car Driver From Lap To Lap Avg Speed 1 42 Kyle Larson 1 10 196.346 2 24 Chase Elliott 1 10 196.015 3 48 Jimmie Johnson 1 10 195.995 4 5 Kasey Kahne 1 10 195.789 5 47 AJ Allmendinger 1 10 195.703 6 1 Jamie McMurray 1 10 195.514 7 41 Kurt Busch 1 10 195.442 8 31 Ryan Newman 1 10 195.322 9 20 Matt Kenseth 1 10 194.883 *Required to qualify on time, (i) Ineligible for driver points in this series, #Rookie