Dillon on '17: 'Plan on being in the Sprint Cup Series'
NEWTON, Iowa -- The team is a question mark, the number is uncertain and the logistics are still behind closed doors. But one thing's for certain: If he has his way, Ty Dillon will be in a Sprint Cup Series ride next season. "I fully plan on being in the Sprint Cup Series next year full time," Dillon said Friday at Iowa Speedway. "We've got a lot of options on the table. A lot of chips still left to fall before we kind of get to that point, but hopefully we'll have something really close to getting done in a month or so." Dillon has made eight Sprint Cup starts this season, driving both the No. 95 Circle Sport -- Leavine Family Racing Chevrolet and filling in for then-injured Tony Stewart in the No. 14 Stewart-Haas Racing ride. He etched a season-best Cup result of 15th at Phoenix in the No. 14 Chevrolet. He also served as a relief driver for Stewart at Talladega. RELATED: Dillon subs for Stewart With No. 31 driver Ryan Newman's RCR contract up after this season, it looks to be seen whether or not Dillon will take his place as the driver of the team’s third car or if organization will add a fourth car. The possibility of driving for a different team also looms. "Talks have progressed a lot further than they have in past years," Dillon said. "I had talks with other teams in the past couple years and had opportunities, but it's always been my dream to drive for RCR and be teammates with my brother. "But now it seems like the time's more and more important. We've got some things going with RCR but we're still slowly working on other options. So, I have plenty of options and we're going to make sure it's the right decision because I want to be able to compete and win races and I want to be part of a team I know I can do that with." MORE: 'Hero' moment for Dillon as Richard Childress makes NASCAR Hall
Superspeedway cars will get safety enhancements in Sprint Cup and XFINITY series
NASCAR will implement structural enhancements to vehicles competing in the Sprint Cup and XFINITY Series next season for races at its two biggest facilities, Daytona International Speedway and Talladega Superspeedway, in an effort to provide additional protection to its competitors. A rules bulletin to teams Thursday detailed the safety measures which affect the front firewall and foot box areas, rear roll cage area behind the driver as well as along the left side door area of the driver's compartment. Referred to as anti-intrusion panels, the thickness of the pieces has been increased for additional strength and to allow each to be welded more significantly, according to officials. The structural changes, part of NASCAR's on-going comprehensive safety initiative, strengthen the interior area of the car surrounding the driver. "We've been doing a very significant body of work over the last year and a half," Gene Stefanyshyn, NASCAR Vice President of Innovation and Racing Development, said Thursday. "… We've done quite a bit of analysis, crash testing and we've come to the point now that we believe that the package is mature and we want to introduce it. The changes impact existing pieces already in use with one minor exception -- a new piece of material has been added behind the driver that extends from the existing anti-intrusion plating on the door bars into the rear sub frame. The changes are not expected to adversely affect the weight of the vehicle or change center of gravity, impacting balance. "Basically we are making the structure that encapsulates the driver more robust and susceptible to manage energy in a better way," Stefanyshyn said. "It's been implemented … with the teams so that it can be done in the most efficient, quickest and easiest way." By making the enhancements optional for 2016, they could be implemented for this year's Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Talladega, the only remaining event to be held on a superspeedway. The new pieces will be mandatory on superspeedways for 2017 and likely for all events in '18. Defending Sprint Cup Series champion Kyle Busch suffered a broken right leg and fractured left foot in February of 2015 when his Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota struck a wall front-end first during an XFINITY Series race at Daytona. Busch missed the first 11 points races of the season due to the injuries. The area of impact in the Busch crash was not protected by SAFER barrier at the time; it has since been added. SAFER barrier is a softer, energy-dissipating material mounted on the track wall. Earlier this year, driver Danica Patrick was involved in a similar crash at Talladega, however the wall was protected by SAFER barrier. Other than bruising and some soreness, the Stewart-Haas Racing driver was not injured. RELATED: Danica discusses Talladega wreck Even with the SAFER barrier, Patrick's impact bent the gas, brake and clutch pedals inside her No. 10 Chevrolet and according to Greg Zipadelli, Vice President of Competition for SHR, "the steering column was moved a ton. "But it was intact," he said a week after the incident. "They've been talking about doing some work in the foot box (area); I think this is the perfect case of what happened. Would that help? I think it probably would have. I think she's lucky she has short legs. Her feet got banged up but once she got going in that direction, she said she just kind of picked her feet up." Patrick underwent x-rays in the infield care center at Talladega and told FOX Sports 1 a week later when the series was at Kansas Speedway that she felt "totally fine." "I've got a couple of bruises; my arm came across and bent the steering wheel," she said. "My foot went past the clutch pedal and came back on (after hitting the wall) … I've got a couple of bruises but I feel really good." Zipadelli said the sport "has come a long way" in the area of safety. "You think about what happened a bunch of years ago, compare these cars," he said. "We're going faster; these guys are hauling the mail every place we go now. When they do wreck, knock on wood, there aren't many complaints. I think they've done a really good job."
Pocono Sprint Cup Series pit stall assignments
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NASCAR gives P3 penalty to No. 4 Sprint Cup team
Rodney Childers, crew chief of Kevin Harvick's No. 4 Stewart-Haas Racing Chevrolet, has been fined $20,000 and suspended through this weekend's race at Pocono Raceway after the No. 4 team was assessed a P3 penalty following last weekend's race at Indianapolis, NASCAR announced Wednesday. The penalty fell under section 12.1; section 10.11.3.4, lug nuts not properly installed. Other penalties assessed following the Crown Royal Presents the Combat Wounded Coalition 400 at The Brickyard at Indianapolis Motor Speedway included written warnings for twice failing LIS inspection pre-race to: No. 5 team of Kasey Kahne (first warning), No. 27 team of Paul Menard (third warning) and No. 83 team of Matt DiBenedetto (fourth warning). Written warnings also were given to the No. 41 team of Kurt Busch (second warning) and the No. 43 team of Aric Almirola (second warning) for failing template inspection twice, pre-qualifying. In the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series , the No. 22 team of Austin Wayne Self received a writing warning (third warning) on opening day inspection at the Aspen Dental Eldora Dirt Derby for truck trailing arms not meeting specifications.
Stewart makes 600th Sprint Cup start count
PHOTOS: Stewart through the years " All of 'Smoke's' wins Three-time champion Tony Stewart made his 600th NASCAR Sprint Cup Series start Saturday night, taking the green flag for the final time at Kentucky Speedway -- and he had a memorable showing in the Bluegrass State, notching a fifth-place finish to bolster his position in the Chase Grid. Stewart, 45, started his No. 14 Stewart-Haas Racing Chevrolet 22nd in the 40-car field for the Quaker State 400. He ranks 24th on NASCAR's all-time starts list, two behind James Hylton and just ahead of active drivers Matt Kenseth (596 starts) and Dale Earnhardt Jr. (595). Among active drivers, only part-time veterans Michael Waltrip (10th place at 783 starts) and Bobby Labonte (13th at 728) outrank Stewart. "Smoke" ran in the middle of the pack for most of the evening, but excelled at the end during a late-race strategy call. As drivers pitted late during the final fuel run, crew chief Mike Bugarewicz called for Stewart to save fuel aggressively. His driver complied, as Stewart climbed from just outside the top 15 to a fifth-place finish, behind teammate Kurt Busch. It was reminiscent of Stewart's win at Sonoma Raceway in June, when a late-race decision to pit also paid off beautifully. "With the way the first half of this race went, we got in survival mode there and still wanted to race hard, but you didn't want to do anything that was going to jeopardize finishing the race and capitalizing on the misfortune of the guys that are around us in points had," Stewart said. "You are not really going to race anywhere else the rest of the year like this, so I don't think it's an indication of what our season is going to be like, but we ran anywhere from 11th to 22nd, pretty much just stayed in that range all day (until the end)." Stewart's previous best finish on the 1.5-mile track was 11th, achieved in 2014. Zack Albert contributed to this report &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;gt;
Almirola reflects on career, heritage as he makes 200th start
Aric Almirola insists he was absolutely prepared to climb into his No. 43 Smithfield Ford this Sunday for the Pennsylvania 400 at Pocono Raceway completely focused on nothing other than scoring a victory and working toward earning a position in the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup . But his public relations team brought up an important milestone that even he conceded was definitely worth noting, if not celebrating. This Sunday's race marks the 32-year old Almirola's 200th NASCAR Sprint Cup Series start -- a significant measure of his staying power and a testament to how far he's come. Literally. He is the son of a Cuban immigrant on his dad's side of the family and the grandson of one of Florida's most celebrated and accomplished racers -- Sam Rodriguez -- on his mom's side. That has created a unique background dynamic that gives Almirola motivation and pride. And makes this weekend a heartfelt measure of success. "I think here I am and my dad came over from Cuba and 50 years later I'm making my 200th start in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series for Richard Petty," Almirola said. "It's so crazy to me, what living in this country affords you and allows you to be able to do, and my grandparents made that decision to come over here and take this chance." The sheer number of starts represents a mark of opportunity for Almirola. Making it into NASCAR's big league was always the harder path, the road less travelled. But he has made it. And that's only the beginning. "I don't think anybody dreams about running two hundred races, they dream about 'a' race," Almirola said. "So as a kid I dreamed about driving 'a' Cup car, running 'a' race. So, now the fact I've had the opportunity to do it two hundred times, when you realize that, and the marketing department brings to your attention that, 'Hey, Pocono is going to be your 200th start,' it really makes you kind of reflect on everything that's led up to this. "From being a kid racing go-karts all the way up to all the opportunities I've had. I realize by reflecting on all that stuff how fortunate and blessed I am." The thing is, Almirola could have just as easily been a star baseball player as a winning NASCAR driver. His native city of Tampa, Florida is a ballplayer's town. It produced Wade Boggs and Lou Piniella. Both Dwight Gooden and Gary Sheffield graduated from Almirola's Hillsborough High School. A calendar year in this part of the country has traditionally been delineated by baseball and football seasons. That just makes Almirola's success climbing the NASCAR ranks even more impressive. "I was in somewhat of a hot bed there for athletes," Almirola said smiling. "But I had a really strong passion for racing and I know that made me somewhat of an outsider at school growing up. When friends would ask, 'Hey what are you doing this weekend?' I'd say, I was going racing. "That kind of separated me from a lot of kids at school -- not in a bad way, I wasn't an outcast in a negative way, but I didn't have as close a relationship with kids at school because I didn't go parties at their house Friday night after football games. I was always working on my race cars or go-karts and racing on the weekends. "I wasn't looking for something to do on the weekend. I already had it." "I was always going to be a NASCAR guy. My grandfather raced sprint cars, so obviously the open wheel path was there, too. He'd race at East Bay every Saturday night and occasionally travel around the country going to races. But every Sunday it was normal, to get up, eat breakfast, hang around the house and then watch the Cup race. That was routine around my parents and my grandparents. We love NASCAR." The result for Almirola has been a starring role driving his sport's most iconic car -- the No. 43 -- for the sport's biggest legend, Petty. NASCAR's crown jewel, Daytona International Speedway, is also Almirola's "home track" and fittingly the venue he won his first Sprint Cup Series race in 2014, the Coke Zero 400 -- exactly 30 years after his boss Petty scored his historic 200th victory at the track. Consider this: Petty's win total would be equivalent to Almirola winning every start he's made. RELATED: Almirola's Darlington scheme honors Petty " Darlington schemes Though that remains the only Cup victory so far for Almirola, it was enough to propel him into the 2014 Chase and make him only more eager to return. His team's best finish this year is a 12th-place in the season-opening Daytona 500. He's had four top-15 showings -- three in the season's opening four races. He ranks 25th in points entering Pocono, hopeful to score a win in one of the remaining six races to set the 16-driver Chase field. "I think the reality is we have struggled this season and you can tell by watching the race and looking at our results," Almirola said. "This year has been a struggle and we can't really put our finger on what's wrong. People often ask what's wrong and it sounds like a smart-aleck answer, but if I knew, we'd fix it. "There are a couple places looking ahead that have been strong for us. Bristol comes to top of mind. We had a chance to win there a couple years ago battling with Carl Edwards. And then there's (regular season finale) Richmond. Last year we went there kinda do or die to make the Chase and finished fourth, but had a really strong car and a legitimate chance to win that race, too. Those are kind of top of mind to me where we might go in and get a win." Listening to Almirola reflect on his first 200 races, there is both a fond memory of what it took to get to this point and a distinct urgency in his voice to succeed in a way worthy of the hard work already put in. "Making my 200th start really forces me to reflect and when I do that and think about doing it for Richard Petty, who is very much an American icon. And I can't help but reflect on my family, which has done so much and sacrificed so much to get me where I'm at," Almirola said. "It really is amazing."
Ryan Newman plans to stick with RCR in 2017
LONG POND, Pa. -- Richard Childress Racing is expected to announce its 2017 Sprint Cup Series driver lineup in the coming weeks. Ryan Newman, in his third season as driver of the No. 31 RCR Chevrolet, isn't quite sure if he'll be a part of it. "We haven't talked about it in-depth yet, but we have talked about it," Newman, 13th in points, said Thursday at Kalahari Resort in Pocono Manor, Pennsylvania. "Hopefully, we'll get to sit down and talk about it soon." Newman has been arguably the organization's most successful driver during his tenure with the longtime Sprint Cup Series stable, coming within a straightaway of his first championship in 2014 at Homestead-Miami Speedway. His numbers are down slightly from the past two seasons (just one top-five finish and seven finishes in the top 10), but his team, winless since he started driving the No. 31 Chevrolet, employs a consistent points-racing strategy that focuses on solid finishes rather than gambling for a victory. It worked wonders in '14, and with 12 finishes inside the top 15 this season and several more on the cusp, appears to be working in 2016. He sits 13th in the drivers points standings coming into Pocono. That doesn't mean, however, that NASCAR's "Rocket Man" isn't looking to launch himself into Victory Lane. "We're kind of getting back into that zone of having better finishes, better runs," Newman said. "We had a great run going last week (at Indianapolis) and crashed out with seven laps to go or whatever. So we feel like we've turned the momentum back in our favor but in the end we still have to deliver that victory." While Newman offers consistent, above-average production week in and week out, RCR may be faced with a tough decision as Childress' grandson, Ty Dillon, appears ready for a full-time Sprint Cup Series ride with no clear path to a spot for him. RELATED: Dillon talks 2017 plans, aims to make move up Still, the team owner told NASCAR.com earlier this year at Michigan International Speedway that he's planning on having the '16 XFINITY Series title hopeful in a Sprint Cup car full-time in 2017, while the exact organization and ride has yet to be finalized. Dillon has made five starts in the No. 95 Circle Sport-Leavine Family Racing Chevrolet this season with a best finish of 20th (Texas). It's possible Dillon could slide over to that ride full-time, but it would leave veteran Michael McDowell without a seat. Dillon also ran three Sprint Cup Series races filling in for injured Tony Stewart in the No. 14 Stewart-Haas Racing Chevrolet, getting his season-best finish of 15th at Phoenix. His relief duty in the Talladega race was not credited as an official start for Dillon since Stewart began the race behind the wheel. In a report by NBC Sports' Dustin Long earlier this month, Childress said, "Right now, it's just a lot of things are hanging. We're trying to put together what's going to be the best for everybody, not just for RCR, but for the drivers and the sponsors; we're trying to put together good programs." Right now, Newman doesn't appear to be getting his ducks in order just yet on the off chance he finds himself ousted from his ride in favor of the younger Dillon. "I plan on (coming back)," he said. "If they'll have me back, I'll be there."
Michigan's August race will use provisional 2017 aero rules package
NASCAR competition officials announced Thursday morning that the Sprint Cup Series' Aug. 28 race at Michigan International Speedway will feature an additional, final test of the provisional 2017 aerodynamics rules package. The reduced downforce rules setup will be the same that was used in the series' June 12 stop at the 2-mile oval. NASCAR's top division also used forms of the package during the NASCAR Sprint All-Star Race at Charlotte Motor Speedway in May and the series' stop at Kentucky Speedway earlier this month. RELATED: How repave, aero package worked at Kentucky in July The most prominent visible changes from the current rules package are a smaller rear spoiler -- reduced 1 inch to a 2.5-inch height -- and the removal of rear-axle offset or "skew." Those adjustments -- combined with modifications to cooling fans, the front splitter and the rear-deck fin -- continue the trend in NASCAR's premier series of limiting the effects of downforce and sideforce on the cars. The effects have favored driver control over an overly stabilized car in an effort to promote passing and side-by-side racing. Before Thursday's announcement, the series' July 9 Quaker State 400 at newly repaved Kentucky was to be the final audition for the 2017 base package. Scott Miller, NASCAR Senior Vice President of Competition, said after that race that he wouldn't rule out an additional tryout, but indicated that the sanctioning body would likely avoid tinkering with aero rules for the final 10 races that make up the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup playoffs. "After tonight we'll go back and we'll sort of reconvene with the drivers and the owners and the OEMs (original equipment manufacturers) and decide where we're going," Miller said July 9. "We're open to a lot of different options, and if something like that bubbles up and we have industry support for it, nothing right now is out of the question." Miller added that the Kentucky race was originally intended to be the proposed package's final event to provide teams "the most runway" toward preparations for next season. But when asked, drivers said they supported one final demonstration, singling out Michigan as a possible venue. RELATED: New rules on display at Michigan 'a promising direction' "I think, obviously subject to change after this weekend is over, but my initial thought is I would like to see it back at Michigan with just a few subtle changes that can be ascertained from what we've learned over this weekend and the previous Michigan weekend," Brad Keselowski said July 7. "Maybe a small tweak from what we've learned and go again at Michigan in the second race would kind of be my initial thought, so I would say yes." Said Matt Kenseth, the defending race winner of Michigan's August 400-miler: "I think Michigan is a pretty good judge. I mean, there's only the one race on it, but that place is starting to wear in a little bit. They've been able to bring a little bit softer tire. The groove has been widening out because it's been a few years since the repave, so I think that's our fastest top-speed track we go to. I think that's a pretty good place to evaluate it." Next month's Pure Michigan 400 will mark the first time in three races that the 2-mile track has hosted consecutive Sprint Cup events with the same rules package. Last August, competition officials experimented with a high-drag aero configuration before trying out the potential 2017 package in June. The set-up was also used by four teams during a Goodyear tire test at Michigan on May 17. Michigan was last repaved ahead of the 2012 season.
Weather impacts Pocono on-track action
RELATED: Live radar, forecast updates for Pocono Overnight rain soaked the track at Pocono Raceway, and Saturday's schedule has been adjusted as drying efforts continue. NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Keystone Light Pole Qualifying was set for 9:05 a.m. ET on FS1 before wet weather canceled the event. The lineup for the Pocono Mountains 150 will be set by practice speeds; William Byron will start on the pole. RELATED: Full lineup for Trucks race at Pocono The lone NASCAR Sprint Cup Series activity of the day comes at 11 a.m. with an 80-minute practice session on NBCSN. The Camping World Truck Series' Pocono Mountains 150 is scheduled for Saturday (1 p.m. ET, FS1, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio) Water seeping upward through breaks in the 2.5-mile track's pavement briefly delayed the start of Friday morning's opening NASCAR Sprint Cup Series practice. This was the only delay in Friday's on-track schedule. The Sprint Cup Series' Pennsylvania 400 is set for Sunday (1:30 p.m. ET, NBCSN, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio).
Chase-clinching scenarios at Pocono and Iowa
The Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup doesn't begin until September, but several drivers could officially clinch a spot in the postseason field this weekend at Pocono Raceway. So far, the five drivers who have clinched Chase berths are Brad Keselowski, Kyle Busch, Carl Edwards, Jimmie Johnson and Matt Kenseth. Below are Chase-clinching scenarios for this weekend's Sprint Cup Series race at Pocono: Possible to Clinch: Kevin Harvick (1 win, 671 points, +434 points ahead of 31st): Can clinch with a win. Kurt Busch (1 wins, 627 points, +390 points ahead of 31st): Can clinch with a win. Joey Logano (1 Win, 606 points, +369 points ahead of 31st): Can clinch with a win. Martin Truex Jr (1 win, 573 points, +336 points ahead of 31st): Can clinch with a win. Denny Hamlin (1 win, 542 points, +305 points ahead of 31st): Can clinch with a win. All of the above drivers have already clinched a position in the top 30 in the drivers points standings, but need to clear the multiple wins hurdle. It's possible that no drivers will clinch a Chase berth this weekend if a driver wins his first race of the season or an already-clinched driver wins. XFINITY Series The XFINITY Series Chase doesn't begin until September as well, but several drivers are looking to close their playoff position up with a win. At present, Erik Jones, Daniel Suarez and Elliott Sadler are locked into the postseason. Below are the Chase-clinching scenarios for XFINITY drivers at Iowa this weekend. Possible to clinch: Ty Dillon (0 Wins, 558 Points, +460 Points Ahead of 31st) – Can clinch with a win. Justin Allgaier (0 Wins, 542 Points, +444 Points Ahead of 31st) – Can clinch with a win. Brendan Gaughan (0 Wins, 535 Points, +437 Points Ahead of 31st) – Can clinch with a win. Brandon Jones (0 Wins, 520 Points, +422 Points Ahead of 31st) – Can clinch with a win. Brennan Poole (0 Wins, 519 Points, +421 Points Ahead of 31st) – Can clinch with a win. Darrell Wallace Jr. (0 Wins, 486 Points, +388 Points Ahead of 31st) – Can clinch with a win. Ryan Reed (0 Wins, 433 Points, +335 Points Ahead of 31st) – Can clinch with a win. Ryan Sieg (0 Wins, 420 Points, +322 Points Ahead of 31st) – Can clinch with a win. Blake Koch (0 Wins, 403 Points, +305 Points Ahead of 31st) – Can clinch with a win. Camping World Truck Series The Camping World Truck Series Chase doesn't begin until September, but several drivers are looking to firm up their playoff position up with a win. At present, only William Byron and Matt Crafton are locked into the postseason. Below are the Chase-clinching scenarios for Camping World Truck Series drivers at Pocono this weekend. Possible to clinch: Johnny Sauter (1 Win, 253 Points, +207 Points Ahead of 31st) – He has clinched a Top 30, but needs to join the multiple winners club in order to clinch a Chase berth, so he only clinches with a win. Christopher Bell (1 Win, 245 Points, +199 Points Ahead of 31st) – He has clinched a Top 30, but needs to join the multiple winners club in order to clinch a Chase berth, so he only clinches with a win. John Hunter Nemechek (1 Win, 232 Points, +186 Points Ahead of 31st) – He has clinched a Top 30, but needs to join the multiple winners club in order to clinch a Chase berth, so he only clinches with a win.