NASCAR Next driver hoping to get more seat time in XFINITY Series Ryan Preece came up just shy in his pursuit of a second consecutive NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour championship this year, but his strong closing kick may translate to bigger things as he prepares for an offseason of transition. Preece locked down his third runner-up finish in the last six seasons this year, completing a three-year run in team owner Eric Sanderson's No. 16 with back-to-back victories in the tour's final two races of the year. One day after the dust settled on the season, Preece announced he'd join car owner Eddie Partridge's No. 6 team full-time in the northern-based series in 2015 With the track championship from Thompson Speedway in his home state of Connecticut in hand, the NASCAR Next driver extended his hot streak by winning the non-points North-South Shootout at Caraway Speedway in North Carolina, making his first start for Partridge. But before he continues his career in the ground-pounders from NASCAR's oldest division, he's still getting his feet wet on the national-series stage. "It was really good," Preece said of his season over the weekend at Homestead-Miami Speedway . "To end it with the 16 and then start it with the 6, it started really well. Obviously I hope we carry momentum into next year with the Modified stuff, but this is definitely something different here." Something different came in the form of his third career start in the NASCAR Nationwide Series in last Saturday's Ford EcoBoost 300 . Though Preece started 33rd and finished 28th in the scrappy Tommy Baldwin Racing No. 36, he emerged with a lead-lap finish in his first Nationwide start outside of New Hampshire Motor Speedway . The race marked Preece's first start on a track that size, all in a series -- which will be called the XFINITY Series starting in 2015 -- that the 24-year-old driver hopes to spend more time in next year. His Modified schedule is set, but Preece said he has "some other stuff in the works" as his complete plans for 2015 take shape. Until then, he's been reaping the benefits of participating in the NASCAR Next youth initiative for the second straight year. While Preece enjoyed the exposure from championship weekend festivities in the Miami area, he said he's eager to get back on track to keep the good vibes of 2014 going. "They bring me different places, they've put me in front of certain people," Preece said, "and now it's just up to me to get seat time and get out there." 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
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RELATED: Full race results " Updated series standings BRISTOL, Tenn. -- It's a familiar scenario facing Ryan Newman as the Richard Childress Racing driver prepares for a two-race journey to lock in one of the 16 spots in this year's Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup field. At this same point in the season last year, Newman sat ninth in points and was winless with two top-five and eight top-10 finishes. He eventually earned a Chase bid based on his points position, then parlayed the consistency that got him a berth into a ticket into the Championship Round, where he nearly became the series' first winless champion. Following his 10th-place finish in Saturday night's Irwin Tools Night Race at Bristol Motor Speedway, Newman finds himself 11th in points, with four top-five and 12 top-10 finishes thus far this season. He's also still searching for that first win, which would guarantee his status as a Chase participant. At Bristol, Newman and his No. 31 team, led by crew chief Luke Lambert, once again did what they have become nearly the best in the series at doing -- taking a car that wasn't particularly fast and earning a top-10 finish with it. "We weren't the best car all day," Newman said while standing beside the No. 31 Chevrolet on pit road after the race. "We kind of finished where we ran, if not just a little bit better. "It was a good run for the team. We took a 20th-place car in practice and qualifying and turned it into a top-10 (in the race). We were not the best car and we didn't win the race, but the guys did a good job in the pits and we made the race car better." Newman and the team hadn't shown speed on Friday, working their way to 26th- and 18th-place positions during the first and second practice sessions, respectively. At the end of the day, Newman logged the 18th-fastest time in qualifying for the series' 24th race of the season. Saturday night, Newman slowly made his way through the field, eventually cracking the top 10 well into the second half of the 500-lap race. Not having that initial speed when arriving at the track has been a problem, Newman admitted, but added that it's kept the team close as they battle to secure a Chase spot. "Yeah it's better when you start off the weekend better," he said, "but that's what makes us pull together as a team, find speed and … fight strong at the end." Newman, RCR teammate Paul Menard , Jamie McMurray ( Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates), Jeff Gordon ( Hendrick Motorsports ) and Clint Bowyer ( Michael Waltrip Racing ) currently hold the five final Chase positions with two races remaining -- at Darlington Raceway and Richmond International Raceway -- before the postseason starts. Newman, 37, is a six-time qualifier for the Chase, with last season's runner-up finish to Kevin Harvick a career-best points finish.
NASCAR Next driver looking to build off successful 2013 Whelen campaign
Becomes youngest champion in 29-year history of the tour
RELATED: Complete race results " Updated standings BRISTOL, Tenn -- A spin with four laps to go in Wednesday night's UNOH 200 at Bristol Motor Speedway proved to be the saving grace for Brad Keselowski Racing's Ryan Blaney , who grabbed the lead on a green-white-checkered restart to win his first race of the 2015 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series season. Blaney recovered from an early race penalty for jumping a restart to find himself closing on leader Matt Crafton with five laps remaining. When Ty Dillon spun on Lap 196, it triggered the final caution of the night and the opportunity for Blaney to steal Crafton's thunder. On the final restart, Crafton's truck sputtered, failing to come up to speed, allowing Blaney to take off and seal his fourth career NCWTS victory. "It feels really good," Blaney said. "I'm proud of everyone on this No. 29 team. I've had a chance to drive this truck four times this year and we've come really, really close every single time and to finally get it to Victory Lane, my last start of the year for this truck, it really means a lot to get Chad (Kendrick, crew chief) and Brad (Keselowski, team owner) back to Victory Lane. "To do that in that fashion coming from a lap down and being able to drive through the field like that says a lot about our race team and a lot about what as an organization we can do." Keystone Light Pole Award winner Kyle Busch 's slow start allowed outside pole-sitter Blaney to steal the lead early by the exit of Turn 1, controlling the field through the first caution on Lap 31 for a spin in Turn 2. On the restart, Blaney roared away from the field, but a few laps later, NASCAR black-flagged him on Lap 37 for jumping the restart, forcing a pass-through penalty, giving the lead to Cole Custer . Busch, who restarted fifth, methodically worked his way forward and attempted to take the lead away from the young NASCAR Camping World Truck Series winner, but Custer kept Busch at bay through the race's second caution on Lap 79 for debris in Turn 1. Busch and Johnny Sauter would trade the lead following the caution, before Custer returned to the top spot on lap 90. A more than 1.5-second lead for Custer would be erased when Ray Black Jr . and Caleb Holman crashed in Turn 4 on lap 112. With darkening skies overhead and the threat of rain approaching the World's Fastest Half-Mile, a majority of the teams elected to stay out. Despite his best efforts, Crafton tried to snatch the lead away from the JR Motorsports driver, but to no avail. Custer slowly saw Crafton become a diminishing factor in his rear-view mirror until he hit heavy lap traffic with 50 laps remaining. That's when Spencer Gallagher spun in Turns 3 and 4, and Custer found himself trapped in the high-line and collided with Gallagher. Heavy front-end damage sent the No. 00 Chevrolet to pit road for repairs, eliminating the NASCAR Next driver from competition. As the accident happened, Crafton slipped by on the inside and took the lead -- which he held until the green-white-checkered restart that lost him the race. While under yellow for the fourth time of the night, heavy rain began to fall, causing a red flag for 45 minutes, 50 seconds while the track was dried. Next up for the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series is the Aug. 30 race at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park for the third-annual Chevrolet Silverado 250 . Blaney is the defending champion. MORE: Nemechek gets career-best finish
Almost two full years after the rule was amended, NASCAR drivers are still voicing concerns about the policing of restarts during races. The subject came up during the Sprint Cup Series' pre-race drivers' meeting Saturday at Bristol Motor Speedway , three days after Ryan Blaney was penalized for jumping the restart during the Aug. 19 Camping World Truck Series race at BMS. Prior to the beginning of the Chase for the Sprint Cup in 2013, NASCAR eliminated the rule that stated the second-place car could not cross the start/finish line before the race leader on a restart. However, the race leader is still the "control car," meaning the second-place car can't take off before the leader in the restart zone located before the start/finish line. "We wanted to really put it in the driver's hands where the leader starts the race," Steve O'Donnell, Executive Vice President and Chief Racing Development Officer, told NASCAR.com Monday. "The second-place car in this case, if we don't believe they've jumped the restart, can beat the leader to the start/finish line. "Obviously, some questions have come up. We've reviewed each of the calls we've made and feel confident based on the technology we've used to make those calls that they were the right calls. But anytime there's dialogue with the industry, we'll continue to monitor that. If we don't have to change it, we'd like to keep it consistent throughout the year, but we always review each and every call for each race." RELATED: Restarts a hot topic at Bristol drivers' meeting In the NCWTS event, Blaney was penalized for jumping the start on Lap 38. Although he was the race leader, officials ruled Blaney re-started before he was in the restart zone. The subsequent pass-through penalty put the Brad Keselowski Racing driver one lap down. Blaney managed to bounce back from the penalty, however, and won the race. "I had to kind of compose myself there," crew chief Chad Kendrick admitted afterward. "I was trying to tell ( Ryan ) on the radio, 'Don't worry about it, alright, it's done, over.' I was pretty upset about the call." Blaney said Cole Custer , running second and lined up to his inside on the restart, "didn't maintain caution car speed at all. "As soon as the caution car pulled off, he stopped pretty much," said Blaney. "And I maintained (my) speed. He was going to try to get a run, just like everyone tries to do, which is what you have to do on the bottom if you want to have a shot at it. And I wasn't going to give him that run; I wasn't going to let him start creeping forward. So I went as soon as I got to the mark, maybe a half a car length early. It made it look worse than it was with him being so slow for sure. "But I'm pretty sure you have to have a warning. From every restart I've seen with people maybe going a little bit early I've seen 'em get a warning. That honestly shocked me when they black-flagged us with no warning. When it wasn't five car lengths before the line or anything, when it was something really small like that, it kind of surprised me. Luckily it worked out for us." Two Sprint Cup teams have been penalized this season for either jumping the start or passing before crossing the start/finish line on a restart. Two penalties have also been handed down in the XFINITY Series for similar infractions while the penalty has been called seven times in the NCWTS. MORE: Herman Unplugged: Talking restarts, quiet Harvick Joey Logano , winner of Saturday night's Irwin Tools Night Race at BMS, said he had spent "a lot of time" with officials recently, "trying to understand what I can and can't do ... understand where their head is at and what they're thinking when you look at a restart." "You've got to understand the rules," the Team Penske driver said. If it Ain't Broke ... NASCAR XFINITY Series teams competing this weekend at Road America will run the same tire code used at the road course since 2013. The tire was previously used this season at Watkins Glen and Mid-Ohio. Wet weather tires will also be available should conditions require their use, which was the case during last year's event. Likewise, NASCAR Camping World Truck Series teams will run the same tire code used since '13 for the series' stop at Canadian Tire Motorsports Park . The tire has previously been run on the right side at Martinsville in '13 and '14. MORE: Complete schedule for Road America and Canada Testing, 1-2-3 NASCAR Sprint Cup teams wrap up their 12th open test of the season Wednesday at Homestead-Miami Speedway . According to HMS officials, 10 teams are set to take part in the test -- Joey Logano ( Team Penske ), Dale Earnhardt Jr . ( Hendrick Motorsports ), Kyle Larson ( Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates), Kevin Harvick ( Stewart-Haas Racing ), Clint Bowyer ( Michael Waltrip Racing ), Martin Truex Jr . ( Furniture Row Racing ), Trevor Bayne ( Roush Fenway Racing ), Ty Dillon ( Richard Childress Racing ), Denny Hamlin ( Joe Gibbs Racing ) and Ryan Blaney ( Wood Brothers Racing ). Dillon, Larson, Bayne and Bowyer were slated to take part in a two-day Goodyear tire test at the 1.5-mile track, site of the season-ending race, on Monday and Tuesday. Three tests are scheduled for remainder of year, at Kansas (Sept. 14-16), Phoenix (Oct. 12-14) and Auto Club Speedway (Oct. 27-29).
RELATED: Homestead-Miami hosting Goodyear tire test HOMESTEAD, Fla. – Waiting out a morning shower in the Homestead-Miami Speedway garage on Wednesday, reigning NASCAR Sprint Cup champion Kevin Harvick was dressed casually but clearly at work, talking with his Stewart-Haas Racing crew as they hovered over laptop computers and gestured toward his plain gray No. 4 Chevrolet SS. The last time this group was at this track, they were getting showered in champagne, not rain, celebrating Harvick's 2014 Sprint Cup Series championship title, thanks to a victory in the season finale here. But it was all business for Harvick Wednesday as he and nine other drivers came to the 1.5-mile track for a one-day open test for Sprint Cup teams, attended by three of last year's four championship contenders, also including last week's winner Joey Logano ( Team Penske ) and Denny Hamlin ( Joe Gibbs Racing ). RELATED: Anheuser-Busch to change look of SHR's No. 4 car in 2016 "You know, I actually hadn't even thought about it to tell you the truth," a smiling Harvick said of his first time back at Homestead since his title-winning performance last November. "I know that doesn't make for a great story, but no one [on the team] has even mentioned it. Everything happens so fast in this sport from a week-to-week basis and you get so caught up in what you need to do the next week. "We're always trying to look forward so I really hadn't thought about everything that happened last year. We're so focused on being in position, to hopefully have a chance to do that again and get back here." Harvick's primary championship challengers were of similar mindset. And like all of the 10 drivers here -- also including Dale Earnhardt Jr ., Kyle Larson , Martin Truex Jr ., Ty Dillon , Ryan Blaney , Clint Bowyer and Trevor Bayne -- the lone opportunity to turn some extra test laps at Homestead is something not to be missed, even if track time boiled down to a couple late morning hours before heavier rains interrupted the schedule. With the elimination-style format of the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup playoffs heading into its second year, the importance of the Ford EcoBoost 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway has increased exponentially. When the Sprint Cup Series arrives in South Florida in three months, four drivers will be eligible for the title – the highest finisher in this race will be crowned champion. Last year, Harvick won the race and therefore, the season trophy. Logano, who collected his third win in the No. 22 Team Penske Ford last weekend at Bristol, also spoke about the emphasis teams now place specifically on being prepared for Homestead. MORE: Logano victorious in Bristol night race "Hopefully this test is very important for us," Logano said with a slight laugh. "You hope it is [because that means you're in the championship hunt.] Just getting to here (season finale) is a challenge. "If we do, then this test today will be the most important test of the year. So we definitely want to put a lot into it and make sure we get a lot out of it and really understand what we learned out of it." Logano's three wins would rank him right behind the season's four-time winners Jimmie Johnson and Kyle Busch for the start of the Chase on Sept. 20 at Chicagoland Speedway and like Harvick, Logano believes his team is right where it needs to be at this point in the season. "Right now, we're peaking at the right spot, and getting a couple wins in the last three weeks is what we need to do heading into the Chase," said Logano, who finished 16th in the 2014 Homestead race. "Winning the Bristol night race last year kind of propelled us into the Chase, I thought, and gave us good momentum into the Chase. Getting all the way to here [Homestead] was a heck of an accomplishment. And we just need to focus on what we need to do. I feel like as a team we learned a lot in terms of how to execute a championship weekend." RELATED: Harvick scores another runner-up finish It looks like everyone will have to raise their game to dethrone Harvick, however, who has a pair of wins and a series-best 17 top-five finishes highlighted by 10 runner-up showings already this season. "We've struck a pretty good course in terms of being able to have a plan in place for the Chase, and everyone has done a good job in terms of being prepared when it comes time for Chicago," Harvick said. "We've been ready every week. We've just got to keep doing those things. ... No different than last year when we made it happen when it counted." WATCH: Harvick chases Logano in the closing laps at Bristol
Photo credit -- Chase Elliott 's Instagram @chaseelliott9 RELATED: Series standings At only 19 years old, Chase Elliott already has a NASCAR XFINITY Series championship, is currently contending for a second one and has a pretty sweet job lined up next year taking over the iconic No. 24 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet for retiring four-time Sprint Cup Series champ Jeff Gordon . Not only has Elliott's racing career taken off, he has too -- literally -- having just earned his private pilot license on July 23. And the view from above is something he's wanted his whole life. It seems Elliott got more than the racing gene from his father, NASCAR Hall of Famer Bill Elliott , as he has inherited the flying bug from his dad, an accomplished and avid aviator. "He's been flying a long time so I've always been around it since I was little," Elliott said of his father. "I've watched him fly for years and years and been fortunate enough to have access to his planes and sit up front and watch him fly them so I've always definitely interested in it. "It's one of those things where the more you do it, the more you become interested in it. And the more you get into it, the more intriguing it becomes. I learn something new every time I fly. "It's definitely tough to (master all the necessary lessons). A lot of things come along with it. But flying is a privilege and something you can't take lightly ever." A lot of the same traits -- discipline, smarts and dedication -- Elliott put into his burgeoning racing career he used to earn the pilot license. He actually started taking lessons while still in high school but it was such a busy time between school, racing and flying lessons that Elliott put off finishing his license until a few months ago with the support of his dad. "It's something you work hard for to achieve," Bill Elliott said. "I see so many people who have gone through a lot of the flying part and the learning curve but never went on and got their pilot licenses and they always regretted it. I told Chase, 'You need to go on and get this done.' "I'm glad he did. That's something he'll carry with him regardless of where racing takes him." The Elliotts join an impressive list of NASCAR drivers who have secured private pilot licenses including Carl Edwards , Greg Biffle , Matt Kenseth and retired drivers Mark Martin , Rusty Wallace, Cale Yarborough and Ricky Rudd. Ryan Newman 's wife Krissie flies helicopters. Similarly, Elliott figures having the ability to pilot an airplane can be as much a practicality as it is a luxury. His father helped secure him a Cessna 182 single-engine, four-seater to use and Elliott is eager to start flying to races closer than home. Last week, he flew to Bristol. He has also posted a photo of himself practicing grass landings on Instagram. "Absolutely, it's a major convenience if you need to go somewhere, you can turn a four-hour drive into an hour-and-a-half flight," Elliott said. "Time is valuable for anybody and any chance to make up time like that is great." Elliott wasn't sure if he would fly himself to this weekend's XFINITY Series race at Road America , but he is looking forward to the stand-alone road race regardless. It's the third road course race in the last four weeks for the series and Elliott is one of the series regulars who embraces the opportunity to turn right. He is on a six-race run of top-10 finishes in his No. 9 NAPA Chevy and currently trails championship leader Chris Buescher by 23 points in the standings. He has finishes of seventh (Watkins Glen) and fifth (Mid-Ohio) in the two road races this year and finished fourth at Road America last season. "I thought last year was a good learning experience," Elliott said. "I was really pleased with Watkins Glen. I'm still learning on my end, but thought we had good cars this year and that's a big step in right direction." For Elliott, that direction is up.
Roush Fenway Racing drivers Darrell "Bubba" Wallace and Ryan Reed have exchanged crew chiefs as well as crews and will being working with their new personnel beginning with this weekend’s NASCAR XFINITY Series race at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Complex. Chad Norris, previously crew chief for Reed, will move over to head up Wallace's effort in the No. 6 entry while Seth Barbour, formerly with Wallace, will take over the reins of the No. 16 Ford team. Roush Fenway Racing , co-owned by Jack Roush and Boston Red Sox owner John Henry, fields four full-time NASCAR XFINITY Series teams, as well as three full-time NASCAR Sprint Cup Series teams. Chris Buescher , the organization's third NXS driver, currently leads the series points standings after 20 events. His group, led by crew chief Scott Graves, was not affected by Tuesday’s moves. Wallace, competing for Sunoco Rookie of the Year Award honors, is sixth in points with one top-five and seven top-10 finishes this season. He is a five-time winner in the Camping World Truck Series and has 26 starts in the XFINITY Series. Barbour has one career win as a crew chief in the series, with he and Reed going to victory lane in the season-opening event at Daytona International Raceway. Norris has three career wins in NXS competition -- with drivers Matt Kenseth (2005), Marcos Ambrose ('11) and Bayne ('11). The 2015 season is the second full-time effort for Reed, who has 59 career starts and one victory. He is currently 10th in points. Norris "has a successful history working with several different drivers of all experience levels and we are excited to see Ryan … continue to develop under his guidance," RFR President Steve Newmark said. "At the same time Seth Barbour provides tremendous engineering experience to all of our XFINITY Series programs and will bring great leadership to Bubba Wallace." Newmark said team co-owner Jack Roush "has a history of similar moves, and we have experienced a great deal of success in the past with these types of adjustments. We feel this will provide both teams with renewed energy as we enter the stretch run of the season." Sprint Cup drivers for the RFR group are veteran Greg Biffle , 2011 Daytona 500 champion Trevor Bayne and two-time XFINITY Series champion Ricky Stenhouse Jr . Saturday's Nationwide Children's Hospital 200 (NBCSN, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR) is scheduled for a 3:30 p.m. ET start.