Post-Race Reactions: Showtime Southern 500
Edwards, Keselowski, Kahne and others congrat Regan Smith and comment on their race in Darlington.
What's in a name? We may find out for No. 78 ...
Dale Earnhardt Jr . had a tremendous superspeedway car. He named it "Amelia" after the trailblazing Amelia Earhart, and ol' Amelia became something of a cult legend on social media before the Daytona 500 . Now, like his buddy Dale, Martin Truex Jr . has perhaps the finest car of his career. The No. 78 Toyota that led 392 of 400 laps in the Coca-Cola 600 deserves a name. But what to name it? What's something that could honor both the car and Truex Jr.'s recent fight on both a personal and professional level? A fan wondered the same thing during a Twitter Q&A with @NASCAR . @NASCAR @MartinTruex_Jr that car was super fast!! Whatcha gonna name her? #asktruexjr — Chris Holbert (@ChrisHolbert6) May 30, 2016 "Sherry!" -- @MartinTruex_Jr #AskTruexJr https://t.co/Udzsv7QcSK — NASCAR (@NASCAR) May 30, 2016 All the feels.
Chase Elliott reveals Darlington paint scheme
RELATED: Buy Darlington tickets " '16 throwback schemes " SHOP: No. 24 gear Chase Elliott became the latest driver to reveal his throwback paint scheme for the Bojangles' Southern 500 at Darlington Raceway (Sept. 4, 6 p.m. ET, NBC, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio) via Race Hub on Friday. . @ChaseElliott unveils his @NAPARacing @TooToughToTame throwback paint scheme on @FS1 's #NASCAR #RaceHub . https://t.co/VA17ixUToP — FS1 (@FS1) May 27, 2016 The Sunoco Rookie of the Year contender's No. 24 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet will feature a yellow and black paint scheme honoring Elliott's primary sponsor NAPA Auto Parts and its delivery truck logo from the 1960s. The bottom half of the Chevrolet is a sleek black with the current NAPA design atop the quarter panels. The rear television panel includes white script reading "90 Years Strong" to celebrate the company's 90 years in business. Hendrick Motorsports posted a live teaser video minutes before the unveiling with Kenny Wallace at the organization's Concord, North Carolina-based shop. "We appreciate the support of our throwback program by Chase Elliott and Hendrick Motorsports," Darlington Raceway President Chip Wile said in a release. "Chase's special paint scheme for the Bojangles' Southern 500 is one that fans won't want to miss on Labor Day weekend." This marks Darlington's second straight year -- in a five-year plan -- hosting a throwback-themed event for the famed Southern 500 event.
H2H: Would 600 win mean more to Junior or Busch?
RELATED: Full 600 coverage A winner's trophy for the marathon, reputation-making Coca-Cola 600 is certainly one of the most prized possessions in all of NASCAR. The longest race (600 miles) on the NASCAR circuit is about so much more than just distance, too. There's the history of having such a contest at the 1.5-mile track just north of the Charlotte, North Carolina, NASCAR hub, not to mention this is the only race with three unique sets of elements: A race that starts under the sun, traverses to dusk and ends at night under the lights makes for three time frames with three unique sets of circumstances. Yes, it is truly a battle of man vs. machine. That's what makes it so difficult to win the Coca-Cola 600 , which both Kyle Busch and Dale Earnhardt Jr . have never done. In fact, neither has won a points-paying event at Charlotte Motor Speedway . So which driver would benefit most from a win Sunday? Brad Norman and George Winkler set out to answer the question. PHOTOS: All of Busch's victories " See Junior's patriotic scheme NORMAN: So sorry, Junior Nation, but Sunday's race is more important to Kyle Busch . "Rowdy" has been on an incredible hot streak since returning from a broken leg last season -- eight wins in 37 races in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series. Four of those victories were his first at the tracks in Indianapolis, Homestead, Martinsville and Kansas, respectively. There are only two tracks remaining on the circuit where Busch has not won a Cup race -- Charlotte and Pocono. The career-sweep is a mind-boggling feat, making Sunday's event a massive deal for the Joe Gibbs Racing driver. WINKLER: Sure, it would be impressive for Kyle Busch to add to his resume with a victory at Charlotte, but it would be an all-out celebration for Junior to win the Coca-Cola 600 . From downtown Kannapolis, North Carolina, (where Junior grew up) to Charlotte Motor Speedway is just a 25-minute drive, so one can only imagine the type of attention a victory like this would get. Plus, Junior has said repeatedly that winning the Coca-Cola 600 is a top priority of his and one of the gaps he'd most like to fill on his resume. NORMAN: Yeah, it's a big 'un for Junior on a personal level. History is at stake for Busch, though. Not just personal history, either -- team history. Check out some of the most historic races on the NASCAR circuit and their results over the past year -- 2015 Coca-Cola 600 ( Carl Edwards wins); 2015 Brickyard 400 ( Kyle Busch wins); 2015 Southern 500 ( Carl Edwards wins); Homestead finale ( Kyle Busch wins, and wins 2015 championship); 2016 Daytona 500 ( Denny Hamlin wins). JGR has a ridiculous streak at stake in these types of races, too. There's simply way more on the line for both "Rowdy" and the organization at large. WINKLER: See, I think the reverse is true. Because JGR has been so dominant this season, I think it's more important for Hendrick Motorsports , and particularly Junior, to re-establish their mojo. Earnhardt Jr. has wrecked in two of his last three points-paying races, has had some races where he qualified poorly but came through the field and others where he overcame in-race issues and the odds to post top fives. Considering how Junior has battled this season, I think he's tested and ready to fight for the whole 600 miles and be in a good position to win.
Gordon's love for Charlotte lasting, 22 years after first win
Photo credit: Charlotte Motor Speedway CONCORD, N.C. – With its close proximity to race shops, Charlotte Motor Speedway is known as the home track for most of the NASCAR community. But Tuesday's gathering at the 1.5-mile speedway had more of a tourist feel, as fans hailed from places near and far. There was the man from Bakersfield, California, – "Harvick country," he states proudly – the fan from Switzerland, the Canadian couple and everyone in between. They wore different numbers on their shirts and spoke with different accents, but they were all there to see one man. Mr. Jeff Gordon . The FOX Sports analyst and four-time NASCAR champion helped celebrate the 10 Days of NASCAR Thunder leading up to Sunday's Coca-Cola 600 (6 p.m. ET, FOX, PRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio) by taking photos with 100 Charlotte ticketholders. Despite Gordon's retirement following his championship run last season, the fandom was as feverous as ever, as each visitor itched to exchange a few words with the former No. 24 driver. "It's slightly different (now) because many of them say a lot of the same things, 'I wish you were out there,' (or) 'I miss you being out there,'" Gordon said of the fans. "But I'm getting a lot of great comments about being up in the booth, so it's nice. I'm enjoying myself, so I think it comes across in the broadcast and interacting with the fans, I get to hear that from them as well." Gordon and the fans stood on the roof of the infield's Champion's Pavilion, the spot providing the group a birds-eye view of the quad oval. The track is impressive; a feeling Gordon reciprocates, as he recalls the first time he laid eyes on it. "I think it doesn't mean the same to everybody," Gordon said, "but for me, the very first time I ever came to North Carolina … when I drove by this facility, I was blown away. I'd seen Indianapolis Motor Speedway , but beyond that, I'd never seen anything that looked like this. Just the appearance of it put me in awe." Gordon found success at Charlotte early in his career, earning a runner-up result in his first race at the North Carolina track in 1993. And on Sunday, he'll broadcast his first Coca-Cola 600 ; 22 years after he earned his first-ever win in the Cup Series in the '94 running of the 600-mile event. The win put Gordon on the racing map and made folks wonder about this young "kid" from California who was driving nose-to-nose with Dale Earnhardt. RELATED: See all the winners of the longest race in NASCAR But Gordon's love affair with Charlotte began before the Victory Lane celebration. "When I drove a stock car here for the first time, I just fell in love with it," Gordon said. "I love the way the track flows, the banking, the grip level, bumps and everything that comes along with it. And of course, winning my first race, having it happen in the 600." The longest race on the Cup circuit, the Coca-Cola 600 has long been revered as one of NASCAR's biggest races – one of the sport's "Majors," as Gordon says. "Daytona, here, Brickyard, maybe a Southern 500 , some would also say Talladega." Gordon said, rattling off a list of stock car racing's biggest events. "But this is a big, big deal to win this race. To me, it's probably second or third ranking in our series as far as most prestigious events." Winning the coveted Coca-Cola 600 trophy is no easy feat – the man who has won three of those races can tell you that. With the cars being more advanced today and eliminating some of the physical aspect, Gordon emphasizes the continued need for mental toughness. "You're talking about a minimum of four hours being in the car," Gordon said. "Pit crews, crew chiefs, everyone's on edge, not just the drivers … (They're) pushing the limits every single lap, which is not the way it used to be. You used to pace yourself and be able to manage the tires and your car and you could still be competitive at the end of the day – if you were in one piece. "That's not the case anymore – it's just all out. So, that mentally drains you by pushing that hard for that period of time." RELATED: Gordon embraces new career with 'contagious' energy The task of taming a 600-mile monster is daunting, especially for younger drivers. Gordon's No. 24 replacement Chase Elliott will attempt the feat, as he prepares to make his second Coca-Cola 600 start. Elliott, now in his rookie season, started 28th and finished 18th in the 2015 Coca-Cola 600 , then driving the No. 25 for Hendrick Motorsports . As for any advice from the former boss of the No. 24? Gordon said his 20-year-old successor doesn't need it. "I haven't had to give him much advice on the race track," Gordon said. "He's a natural … He gets better every weekend. "I'm excited for that 24 team. I had to defend a lot with fans being upset about them keeping the No. 24 and I said, 'Just wait, just wait, I think you're going to be proud of the results.' And now, I'm starting to see everybody's now saying, 'What a great replacement for the 24!' " Gordon's statement was validated by fans sporting Elliott-themed shirts earlier, one young boy in particular wearing a blue No. 24 NAPA hat. This fan will likely grow up knowing Elliott -- rather than Gordon -- as the driver of the legendary No. 24 Chevrolet. It's a mark of a racing transition, a generational shift. And Gordon loves it. "Listen, I love seeing the sport grow," he said. "I'm still heavily involved in the sport, not just from the FOX side, but from Hendrick Motorsports . And I think the sport is amazing right now. The racing is as good as it's ever been. We have some great young talents. Not to mention veterans that are doing great things … I'm all for bringing new fans and seeing fans get excited about it, people like Chase or Ryan Blaney or Kyle Larson . "I support it 100 percent."
Darlington releases throwback ticket design for Southern 500
RELATED: 2015 Darlington throwback paint schemes " Buy tickets Darlington Raceway on Thursday released its commemorative ticket design for the 2016 Southern 500 throwback weekend over the Labor Day holiday, Sept. 2-4. This year's commemorative ticket will hearken back to the ticket from the 1978 Southern 500 , featuring South Carolina native and Darlington Raceway legend David Pearson. It will be used for both the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series' Bojangles' Southern 500 and the NASCAR XFINITY Series' VFW Wport Clips Help a Hero 200 races. The design gives nods to the present and more recent past, as well, honoring the 2015 Souther 500 winner, Carl Edwards , and featuring more photos spanning the track's history. "The retro-style ticket was one of many touchpoints fans enjoyed during last season's throwback festivities," track President Chip Wile said. "We felt that it was important to continue to honor our rich history with a tremendous champion like David Pearson, while also celebrating last year's winner Carl Edwards , on the ticket." The 2015 throwback event was so popular that Darlington Raceway won the NMPA's Myers Brothers Award for the event. The 2016 theme focuses on the 1975-1984 era in NASCAR. MORE: Best photos from Darlington's throwback weekend
Bruce, Cain reveal NASCAR Hall of Fame ballots
RELATED: Photos of Voting Day, inductees NASCAR.com was privileged to have two ballots cast as part of NASCAR Hall of Fame Voting Day on Wednesday. Senior writers Kenny Bruce and Holly Cain each submitted their five nominations for induction in the Class of 2017 and a vote for the Landmark Award for Outstanding Contributions to NASCAR. A spirited discussion and voting process created one of the most intriguing classes in the stock-car shrine's history with Richard Childress, Rick Hendrick, Mark Martin, Raymond Parks and Benny Parsons selected as Hall of Fame members. Martinsville Speedway founder H. Clay Earles received the Landmark Award. Here are Holly's and Kenny's ballots cast Wednesday with their choices for induction: Kenny Bruce Ron Hornaday Jr. No one dominated NASCAR's Camping World Truck Series like Hornaday, the only four-time series champ. He remains the leader in career wins, top-five and top-10 finishes in Truck Series history. Mark Martin. The working man's racer; Martin finished second in the premier series points battle five times and earned 40 wins in 882 career starts. His XFINITY Series record wasn't too shabby, either. Benny Parsons. Folks who knew Benny the Broadcaster might not know just how talented Parsons was behind the wheel of a race car. The 1973 premier series champion, Parsons won 21 times, including victories in the Daytona 500 (1975) and World 600 ('80). Raymond Parks. The Atlanta-based businessman not only provided much-needed financial assistance as the newly formed NASCAR governing body got up and running, but Parks was a successful car owner as well. His career as an owner peaked in 1949 when driver Red Byron won NASCAR's first Strictly Stock crown. A year earlier, Byron had won the group's first Modified title in a Parks-backed entry. Robert Yates. As an engine builder, Yates helped power Bobby Allison, Darrell Waltrip and Cale Yarborough to 77 victories. As a car owner, his drivers won three Daytona 500 titles, 57 races and 48 poles. Landmark Award H. Clay Earles. His Martinsville Speedway was there from the beginning (actually before NASCAR was formed) and it remains a popular stop today as one of three short tracks on the premier series schedule. Keeping up with the changing landscape of the sport wasn't easy, and no one did it better than Mr. Earles. Holly Cain These are the Hall of Fame votes I considered the most worthy and timely, considering a ballot of 20 of the sport's most deserving people. I tried to decide on a well-balanced group of drivers, owners and technical people and considered time on the ballot, too. Some I did not vote for this year I feel like will be definite choices in the upcoming Hall of Fame votes. Red Byron. NASCAR's first champion should be in its Hall of Fame for historic reasons. He won NASCAR's very first race on Daytona Beach in 1948, won NASCAR's first "season" championship and then its first Strictly Stock title, which is the modern era Sprint Cup crown. Raymond Parks . He owned the first championship car driven by Red Byron and for many of the same reasons Bryon needs to be in the Hall, so does Parks. Even after the two early titles he fielded cars for greats such as Bob and Fonty Flock. He is the sport's heritage, its beginning. Benny Parsons . Many current NASCAR fans know Benny from his ease and skill behind the television microphone and camera once he retired from driving a race car, but he was an amazing competitor, too, winning NASCAR's two biggest trophies -- the 1973 Cup championship and the 1975 Daytona 500 . Perhaps most amazingly, he finished among the top 10 in 54 percent of the races he ran. Waddell Wilson. It is impressive Wilson was so successful both as an engine builder and a crew chief. He built the motors that David Pearson and Benny Parsons drove to titles and as a crew chief led Buddy Baker and Cale Yarborough (twice) to Daytona 500 wins. He built the first engine that broke 200 mph -- driven by Parsons in qualifying for the 1982 Winston 500 . Robert Yates. This is another example of the ultimate in successful multi-tasking. Similar to Wilson, he built championship-quality engines (1983 with Bobby Allison) and then Yates owned a championship team, fielding the car with which Dale Jarrett won a title in 1999. He owns three Daytona 500 wins as part of a 57-win legacy as a team owner and won 77 races as an engine builder. Landmark Award Ralph Seagraves. This was a tough category. My selection was based on his contribution really being a turning point for the entire sport. Under Seagraves' leadership, RJ Reynolds provided top-dollar, high-promotion sponsorship of the sport that lasted for more than 30 years. It thrust NASCAR into another stratosphere as far as the American sports landscape was concerned and absolutely created a foundation that is still enjoyed today.
Martin calls selection 'the crown jewel' of his career
RELATED: Photos from the induction day Mark Martin told the tale more than once on NASCAR Hall of Fame Voting Day this week, about his connection to fellow inductee Benny Parsons. Martin was a teenager -- "a nobody," as he termed it -- with racing dreams carved from his earliest days of wheeling cars on dirt. Parsons, in the prime of his driving career in the mid-1970s, took time for the Arkansas youngster and his father, sharing advice over lunch in his hometown of Ellerbe, North Carolina. Talk about a follow-through. Martin, 57, joined Parsons among the five chosen for induction in the NASCAR Hall of Fame's Class of 2017. "It hasn't soaked in yet," Martin said by telephone Wednesday after the Hall's announcement. "I didn't expect it. It is, by far, the crown jewel of my career and I'm so grateful for the people that helped me get there." Martin wasn't in Charlotte to hear his name called; instead, he was on his way to Indianapolis, reasoning that he wouldn't be among the five inductees this year. Martin was named on 57 percent of the voting panel's ballots, third-most among the 20 nominees. Still, he took the unexpected nature of being selected to heart, saying, "If I would've been on the voting panel, I would've probably voted another way." Martin's credentials -- both his success and his longevity across four decades in NASCAR competition -- eventually won out in just his second year on the ballot. Martin won 40 times in NASCAR's top division and combined for 56 more victories in its other two national series. But Martin acknowledged the gaps in his resume, those that he came heart-wrenchingly close to achieving. Among those were his five runner-up finishes in the championship standings and his 0-for-29 career streak in the Daytona 500 , the sport's most prestigious race. After Wednesday's accomplishment, Martin said that Hall of Fame induction fills any potential voids. "Look, I don't have a Daytona 500 trophy and I don't have a championship trophy, and I said many times that when people would complain about my not having one of those, I would ask the question: 'How would my life be different if I had one?' " Martin said. "And I truly believe that my life would not be very different. But my life will be different from now on because I'm in that Hall, because that is my crown jewel. "That speaks of not one year worth of success, not one great achievement, but a body of work, and that's what I'm proud of."
Growth, new pairing lead to big gains for Bayne
CONCORD, N.C. -- In the closing lap of the opening segment of last week's Sprint Showdown, Trevor Bayne saw an opening just after the restart and went for it. With a spot on the line in the Sprint All-Star Race where $1 million would be at stake, there was no hesitation. "I guess I've always kind of driven that way but it doesn't get talked about it because it's like for 25th and sometimes it doesn't work because it doesn't stick," Bayne told NASCAR.com at Charlotte Motor Speedway , site of Sunday's Coca-Cola 600 (6 p.m. ET, FOX, PRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio). "Right now, when I've got cars that are capable of doing that and when it's for the win, it just looks a lot different. It's kind of always been my style on late-race restarts being able to go for it." That aggression came out in the Sprint All-Star Race as well where Bayne battled and traded paint with Kurt Busch en route to the Roush Fenway Racing driver ending up with a seventh-place result. And while that seemed to open some eyes at the track, Bayne has quietly been making strides in his second full-time season in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series. Thanks to a new rules package that caters to his driving style, his growth behind the wheel and a burgeoning partnership with new crew chief Matt Puccia, Bayne sits 18th in the point standings. That is the highest spot for the three-car Roush organization heading into Sunday's race. The pairing with Puccia, who replaced Bob Osborne atop the No. 6 pit box ahead of this season, has been just the tonic for Bayne in a solid bounce-back campaign. Puccia had been atop the No. 16 pit box for Bayne's Roush teammate, Greg Biffle for the prior four-and-a-half-seasons. The two have come to a quick understanding and that has paid off on the track. "We've known each other for a long time ever since I came to Roush really, we've been buddies," Bayne said. "I think that relationship from the past and kind of going through the same struggles last year and coming back together and both of us needing to revamp everything. He was going to end up being a XFINITY crew chief and that's not what he wanted to do. Things weren't looking up on the 6 team over here, so we were both kind of what each other needed to revitalize our careers." Part of the bond between the duo comes in the form of becoming new fathers in the past year. Last December, Bayne and his wife Ashton, welcomed their first child, Elizabeth Kate, into the world. Puccia and his wife, Alyssa, welcomed their first child, Kennedy Harper in October. "Matt's daughter is two months older than ours. We'll talk on the plane and he will show me a video of her doing something new and I'm like, 'oh boy, this is what I got to deal with in two months,' " Bayne said. "Now, Kennedy, his daughter is crawling around so I'm cherishing the moments while Ellie's still immobile and lays still and I can keep up with her." He may only be 25 years old, but Bayne has already had a career full of peaks and valleys. In just his second career Sprint Cup start; he won the sport's biggest race, the Daytona 500 in 2011 at the age of 20 years old. He was sidelined for two months in 2011 and was later diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in 2013. Last season in his first full-time season in the sport's top level, Bayne finished 29th in the point standings (and was no higher than 22nd during the course of the season) with just two top 10s in 36 races. "When you are struggling, you are super analytical about everything," Bayne said. "You look at everything you are doing. You analyze it. You try to make it better and sometimes that hinders you. I actually feel like I worked way harder at it last year than I'm having to this year. Sometimes that's what it takes. It's got to come naturally. "I'm not saying I’m not working at it because I am. There's a lot of things I learned last year that I implemented whether its post-race notes or spending time with the simulator. … I can't really say it's anything I'm doing, but when things are clicking it just makes it easier on everybody." This year, Bayne already has three top 10s in the season's first 12 races and is looking for a spot in the 16-driver Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup . The cutoff to the Chase is roughly three-and-a-half months away with 14 races to go. At present, Bayne sits eight points out of the 16th and final Chase Grid spot held by AJ Allmendinger . The driver of the No. 6 Ford views consistency as his ticket into the Chase. "Right now, our goals are to finish top 15 every week, be on the lead lap. Don't dig ourselves a hole," Bayne said. "Kansas, we blew a left rear tire and maybe could have avoided losing some of those laps had we pitted sooner when we knew we had a rub. We can't make mistakes. If you minimize that, you've got a good shot at it. … People are going to have bad days. You look at July in Daytona, you got to get through that race. You got to have a solid finish there like we did at Talladega (10th-place in May). "When the opportunity strikes to get a win or to run top five, you got to make those points up when you can, so you got to be pretty aggressive. I think our best chance is to points-race in right now, so those top 15s, top 10s we got to keep clicking them off like we've been doing."
Ty Dillon, Erik Jones top Friday practices at Charlotte
PRACTICE 2: Results Richard Childress Racing 's Ty Dillon topped the board in the XFINITY Series' final practice at Charlotte Motor Speedway . Sitting behind the wheel of his No. 3 Chevrolet, Dillon laid down a field-fast lap of 181.342 mph. Landing in the runner-up spot was Joe Gibbs Racing 's Daniel Suarez in the No. 19 Toyota (181.056 mph) with his teammate Erik Jones -- who topped opening practice -- right behind him to take third in the No. 20 (180.379 mph). Defending race winner Austin Dillon , who is pulling double duty this weekend, was fourth-quickest on the speed charts at 180.210 mph. Rounding out the top five was the No. 48 Chevrolet of Brennan Poole , who wheeled his Chip Ganassi Racing entry around CMS at 179.958 mph. Next on the agenda for the XFINITY Series is Saturday's Coors Light Pole Qualifying (11:15 a.m. ET, FS1) for the Hisense 4K TV 300 (2:30 p.m. ET, FS1). PRACTICE 1: Results Two-time 2016 XFINITY Series winner Erik Jones scored the fastest lap during the series' opening practice at Charlotte Motor Speedway . The No. 20 Joe Gibbs Racing wheelman topped the leaderboard at 181.159 mph. Next on the speed charts was fellow JGR driver -- and Sprint Cup Series regular -- Denny Hamlin , driving the No. 18 Toyota at 180.584 mph. This weekend marks the first XFINITY Series start of the season for the Daytona 500 winner. Fellow Sprint Cup regular Ryan Blaney was third-quickest after propelling his No. 12 Team Penske Ford around the 1.5-mile track at 179.874 mph. Daniel Suarez 's No. 19 JGR entry (179.826 mph) and the No. 3 of Richard Childress Racing 's Ty Dillon (179.468 mph) were fourth and fifth, respectively. Defending race winner Austin Dillon was right behind his brother in sixth (179.378 mph).