Bruce: Throwbacks or not, Darlington chock full of lasting memories
RELATED: Paint schemes, then and now DARLINGTON, S.C. -- What year was it, 1985? The season Bill Elliott captured the Winston Million bonus the very first season it was put up for grabs by then-series sponsor RJ Reynolds? Ol' Bill, who would finish the season with an amazing 11 victories but lose the championship battle to Darrell Waltrip. Recollections of Elliott smiling broadly as "Million Dollar Bills" floated through the air in Victory Lane. That was probably it, the first time I covered a NASCAR premier series race at Darlington Raceway . The backstretch today was the frontstretch then, the big red press box and suites sitting there just outside Turn 1. It provided a grand view, possibly one of the best of any stops on the circuit. Watching the field roar out of the fourth turn, so incredibly close to the wall. Then flying down the frontstretch, hammer down and into Turn 1 to start the process all over again. Just sitting there. Soaking it all in. Overlooking history in the making. More than three decades. Time does fly, I suppose. The track's hugely popular throwback program, now in its second season, rekindles a lot of racing memories. Paint schemes that we haven't seen in years suddenly re-appear, roll out of the garage and in a sense, roll back the calendar. But then again the memories always stir a bit when it comes to Darlington. No throwback program is necessary. Maybe it's because the track is an honest-to-goodness landmark, cut out of the sandy soil by Harold Brasington and opened for business in 1950. It was NASCAR's first paved oval of more than 1 mile in length. Brasington had a vision and wasn't shy about pursuing it. But more than that he was also a kind and caring soul to all of us and I never make the trek down here for a race without thinking about him. The action on the track? Yeah, that stands out, too. But it wasn't always the kind of things you hoped to be writing about -- hard crashes and injuries could, and did, happen other places as well but a couple that occurred here haven't been forgotten. Neil Bonnett's crash in the spring race of 1990 is one of them. The extremely personable Bonnett was one of 10 drivers collected in the Turn 4 incident during that year's spring race. Briefly knocked unconscious, Bonnett was eventually transferred to the local hospital and hours later it was reported that he was suffering from amnesia. More than a decade later, it was Steve Park . The Dale Earnhardt Inc. driver was competing in a Busch (now XFINITY ) Series event when, under caution, his Chevrolet suddenly veered left and into the path of Larry Foyt. The impact was tremendous to have happened under caution. But the sadness of such instances doesn't completely overshadow the good times. Jeff Gordon 's Winston Million victory in 1997, the final year of that format, was the perfect bookend to that program's 13-year run. His battle with Jeff Burton in the closing laps of that race was as memorable as any that have unfolded on the 1.366-mile track. Speaking of Burton, there are recollections of his 1999 Darlington sweep in a pair of rain-shortened races here; toss in Ricky Craven and Kurt Busch bringing the fans to their feet with an absolutely amazing finish in 2003; and Regan Smith rising up with the then-small Furniture Row Racing operation to slay the field, and Carl Edwards in 2011. This year's Bojangles' Southern 500 , scheduled to get underway Sunday (6 p.m. ET, NBC, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio) is the 67th running of the legendary classic. I've seen some of the cars and heard many of the stories from several of the men who were there when the legend of Darlington began. For a lot of others, I've been there to witness it firsthand. It's been worth every minute of it.
Heads up: Dover and Las Vegas weekend
Here are the hot topics, trending news and key story lines to get you ready for this weekend's races at Dover International Speedway and Las Vegas Motor Speedway . WEATHER The weekend forecast for Dover, Delaware, looks like there's a chance for rain. Friday for Sprint Cup Series Coors Light Pole qualifying there is a 60 percent chance for precipitation. For the XFINITY Series race on Saturday, there is an 50 percent chance for precipitation with a high of 76 degrees. And for the Sprint Cup race on Sunday, there's a 30 percent chance for precipitation and a high of 76 degrees. For Las Vegas, site of this weekend's Camping World Truck Series events, it will be clear and 70 degrees for the start of Saturday's practices. And on Saturday it will be clear and 90 degrees for the start of the race. KEY TIMES Sprint Cup Series: The Sprint Cup Series holds its first practice Friday at 10 a.m. ET (NBCSN/NBC Sports App) followed by Coors Light Pole qualifying at 3:40 p.m. ET (NBCSN/NBC Sports App). The Citizen Soldier 400 is at 2 p.m. ET Sunday (NBCSN/NBC Sports App, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio). XFINITY Series: The XFINITY Series opens practice on Friday at 11:30 a.m. ET (NBCSN/NBC Sports App) and qualifies Saturday at 11:45 a.m. ET (NBCSN/NBC Sports App). The Drive Sober 300 is on Saturday at 3 p.m. ET (NBCSN/NBC Sports App, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio). Camping World Truck Series: The Camping World Truck Series is scheduled for a Keystone Light Pole qualifying session Saturday at 6:10 p.m. ET on FS2, followed by the DC Solar 350 race at 8:30 p.m. ET (FS1, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio). CATCH DRIVERS LIVE We'll stream every driver press conference in the Dover media center at NASCAR.com/presspass. Click here for a full schedule. Click here to tune into the live stream . LAST TIME In September of 2015, Kevin Harvick punched his ticket to advance to the next round of the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup by leading 355 of 400 laps at Dover International Speedway , a career-best at any track. Harvick beat out eventual 2015 Sprint Cup Series champion Kyle Busch by 2.639 seconds for the victory. YOU SHOULD KNOW • Chris Buescher (-30 from 12th place), Tony Stewart (-11), Austin Dillon (-5) and Jamie McMurray (-5) are all on the outside looking in as far as the Chase Grid standings are concerned. Of those drivers, Stewart is the only one who has won at the "Monster Mile" -- three times to be exact. Stewart's most recent win came in 2013. • With 10 wins, six-time Sprint Cup Series champion Jimmie Johnson has been to Dover's Victory Lane more times than any NASCAR driver. Johnson is looking to punch his ticket to the next Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup round and a win at his best track could be in the cards. • Winning the opening XFINITY Series Chase race at Kentucky, Elliott Sadler continues his momentum to Dover where he has earned three top five and 10 top-10 finishes, two of which came in the last two XFINITY Series races at the 1-mile track. Sadler's experience in 17 starts at Dover could shine through on Saturday compared to the young guns he's competing against for the championship. • Of the Camping World Truck Series Chase drivers, only Johnny Sauter and Timothy Peters have wins at Las Vegas Motor Speedway . Canadian Tire Motorsport Park winner John Hunter Nemechek has the best average finish of 4.0 out of the Truck Series Chase drivers. Behind Nemechek is Ben Kennedy with 5.0. Nemechek has run just one Truck Series race at Dover, while Kennedy has experienced two. In 15 starts, two-time Camping World Truck Series champion Matt Crafton has an average finish of 11.9, but is still seeking a win.
David McGrath looks to make mark at New Hampshire
RELATED: Buy tickets for New Hampshire If you happen to be a track promoter or a race fan, there is a pretty good chance you believe there is no such thing as too much racing. At least that's the case for New Hampshire Motor Speedway Executive Vice President and General Manager David McGrath and the fan base that fills the grandstands two weekends a year at the 1-mile track located in Loudon, New Hampshire. "The crowds tell you no," McGrath told NASCAR.com. "Those stands don't empty. "They get it twice a year (at our facility) and they live for it. Like any other part of the country, the Northeast race fan is a rabid fan of our sport. They love it; they can't wait to get up to New Hampshire. They plan their summers and early fall around those races." McGrath, a native New Englander, understands the region's race fans, the bulk of whom arrive from in-state, with nearby Massachusetts and those making the trek from across the Canadian border making up a sizable chunk as well. Named to oversee the Speedway Motorsports Inc. track in October of '15, McGrath has quickly become acquainted with the intricacies and aspects of running such a facility. "Yeah, jack of all trades, master of none," he said. "You have to work at state level, local level, know your governor, senators, representatives and local selectmen. ... We care a great deal about our municipalities and our towns we work with, because we are all in the same boat together. We are the largest driver of economic revenue (in the state), but we don't do that with a swagger. "You are always trying to be understanding, tolerable and work together to figure out solutions. But make no mistake, the vision of the speedway is to be able to utilize that 1,100 acres with the team we've got and find new, cool events, create things for fans to come and experience." The typical race weekend at New Hampshire will see anywhere from three to four series competing during the course of three days. A Sprint Cup/XFINITY Series doubleheader in the summer and a Sprint Cup/Camping World Truck Series doubleheader in the fall headline programs that also include events from the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East, Whelen Modified Tour and American Canadian Tour. It's rare to wander into the facility during a race weekend and not hear cars of one sort or another on the track, either practicing, qualifying or racing. Competing at New Hampshire is a big, big deal, especially for the grassroots circuits. "Certainly in the case of the Modifieds it is, no question," McGrath said. "They are a touring series that travels all over the Northeast and they look at New Hampshire as their big, big event. Their Daytona, if you will." The track has played host to the Whelen Modified Series since 1990, three years before Sprint Cup came calling, and the list of previous winners includes such standouts as Mike McLaughlin, Steve Park , Reggie Ruggiero, Mike Stefanik, Tony Hirschman and Ted Christopher. "Saturday on either race weekend at our track, whether it's July or September, I think is one of the best deals in all of motorsports as far as for the race fans," McGrath said. "Absolutely. You get three great races. In July you've got the K&N race to end the day, you've got XFINITY and then you've got Modifieds. And then in September, you've got Modifieds, Trucks, and the ACT. That's just a great day." In addition to hosting two Sprint Cup Series races, including one that falls in the Round of 16 of the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup, the fall Truck Series race will serve as that series' opener for its inaugural seven-race Chase. Off the track, McGrath said his vision is to continue to develop those things that track ownership -- the facility is one of eight operated by Speedway Motorsports Inc. -- has already undertaken. "We work for the fans," he said. "One of my visions is to continually improve the facility to make it more fan friendly than it already is. Our company has invested a lot of money since we purchased the track back in 2007 going into 2008. We're going to continue to do those things as it makes sense. "We will continue to evaluate areas where we can improve the fan experience. We've built bath/shower houses, increased and improved site drainage ... and have new paving areas all over the campgrounds and the facility. "But the vision would really be to evolve and improve the track and think about new ways to increase the fan experience."
Dillon: 'There was nowhere I could go'
Ty Dillon talks about getting caught up in a late-race incident with Erik Jones and being told to park the No. 3 Chevrolet after the crew worked on the car on pit road and in the garage during a red flag.
Sprint Cup Series GarageCam takes over NHMS
GarageCam host, Matthew Dillner, takes you on an exclusive and interactive tour of the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series garage before teams hit the track at New Hampshire Motor Speedway.
Runner-up Bell: 'Just got to keep digging'
RELATED: Full race results " Series standings " Truck Chase Grid LOUDON, N.H. – Christopher Bell had what he described as a "good … no, great" truck after his second-place finish in Saturday's UNOH 175 Camping World Truck Chase opener at New Hampshire Motor Speedway . If Bell's No. 4 Toyota Tundra was "good … no, great," his Kyle Busch Motorsports teammate William Byron's race-winning No. 9 entry was great … no, incredible. "All day long, we couldn't run with him and we had 175 (laps) to get it done and we didn't," Byron told NASCAR.com on pit road after the race. "I think he was fading there at the end and lapped traffic was not doing him any favors, so open race track (I probably couldn't have caught him), but the way it was, I maybe had a shot at it." The dominant showing in which KBM trucks led every single lap -- 161 for Byron, 11 for Bell and three for Cody Coughlin 's No. 51, which ran out of gas late – may very well clue us into half the battle contestants we'll be looking at in less than two months at Homestead-Miami Speedway when four drivers compete for the inaugural Camping World Truck Series Chase crown. Based on what we saw Saturday, you'd be hard-pressed to find a reason to not include the streaking Byron and Bell tag-team among the quartet. Byron no longer has to sweat the Chase wild card that looms at Talladega next month in the Round of 8 as he's clinched his berth to the next series of races, while Bell's next-best result puts him in good position to move on should a rare – for him – hiccup occur. In the following Round of 6, it could be the No. 4 driver's time to land in Victory Lane for the second time this season. Bell picked up his second career Camping World Truck Series victory earlier this season at Gateway Motorsports Park and showed his strength at the "Magic Mile," two tracks similar in length and build to the penultimate race at Phoenix International Raceway . "(The similarities between here and Gateway) kind of, maybe (helped)," Bell said. "Gateway was not a race track that I had circled on my schedule that I thought I would have a possible win at, so to come here and be as good as we were, I think it's just a testimony to my crew chief, Jerry (Baxter). He does an awesome job, especially at these flat tracks where he has it all figured out." And don't expect the nerves to get in the way, as the 21-year-old was unfazed by any pressure that came along with Saturday marking the landmark first-ever Chase for the series, approaching it like any other race. "I think it was probably pretty similar (to what I was expecting). You just gotta treat these things the same," Bell said. "All these races are important; you never come out here to finish second. "Just gotta keep digging and pay attention and not make mistakes."
Snapshot: Watkins Glen
What : Cheez-It 355 at The Glen. Where : 2.454-mile road course in Watkins Glen, New York When : Sunday, Aug. 9; 2 p.m. ET. TV/Radio : NBCSN, MRN Radio Network, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio. Distance : 220.5 miles, 90 laps. Pit road speed : 40 mph. Caution car speed : 45 mph. Fuel window : 33 laps. On the front row " See the full lineup Defending race winner AJ Allmendinger (127.839 mph) won his first Watkins Glen pole position besting fellow Chevrolet driver Martin Truex Jr . The top 10 qualifiers were separated by less than six-tenths of a second. It's Allmendinger's fourth career Sprint Cup Series pole. He also was the top qualifier at the Sonoma, California, road course in June. Kyle Busch is the last driver to win at the Glen from the pole position (2008) Fastest in practice : Four-time race winner Jeff Gordon was fastest in final practice just ahead of second-year driver Kyle Larson , Greg Biffle and two-time Glen winner Kyle Busch . Another former road course winner Clint Bowyer (Sonoma, 2012) led opening practice ahead of defending race winner Allmendinger. Busch and Sam Hornish Jr . were the only drivers to post top-10 laps in both sessions. Last year's winner : Allmendinger's thrilling victory last year in this race was his first and still only one in his Sprint Cup career, earning him and the single-car JTG Daugherty organization its first championship berth. The former open-wheel star is always considered the pre-race favorite at the two Cup road courses and was second fastest in opening practice en route to claiming his first pole position here. This year he won't have his great nemesis Marcos Ambrose to battle with up front as Ambrose returned to his native Australia to race this season. However, there are a lot of hungry non-winners this week who are widely considered road course aces. Gordon, Bowyer, Kasey Kahne and the Glen's all-time winningest driver Tony Stewart lead that charge. On the line : Five races remain to set the 16-car Chase field and the intensity is noticeably amped in the garage. Jamie McMurray leads the list of non-winners still ranked safely among the top 16 in the standings. Bowyer and Kahne are ranked 15th and 16th with only a 25-point cushion for Kahne while Larson (19th) and Stewart (25th) are further behind in points and may need to rely on a victory to get in the Chase. Of those drivers currently ranked among the top 16, only Harvick and Gordon have ever won at Watkins Glen. Four-time 2015 winner Kyle Busch sits only 13 points out of 30th-place, the minimum points position a winner must be ranked to qualify for the Chase. Just own it : Joe Gibbs Racing and Hendrick Motorsports are currently tied with six wins apiece in this race -- double that of any other organization. However, JGR driver Kyle Busch 's win in 2013 is the only time that one of those two teams has won here in the last six years. A victory by one of the four Hendrick drivers would deliver Chevrolet its 750th Cup win. A victory by one of the four Gibbs drivers would give Toyota its 13th win in the last 17 NASCAR national series races. Road Course Masters " RELATED: Read more about Gordon's ascent Two of NASCAR's most celebrated champions -- Tony Stewart and Jeff Gordon -- also happen to be two of the sport's most accomplished road racers. Tony Stewart is Watkins Glen's all-time winningest driver with five victories, his seven top fives the most of any active driver. He'll start his No. 14 Bass Pro Shops/Mobil 1 Chevy a season-best third on Sunday. Gordon, NASCAR's most successful road course driver with nine career wins, has four at Watkins Glen and is the all-time leader in laps led (262) here. He'll start fifth in the Cheez-It 355 -- the final road course race in Gordon's final season of Cup competition. Nuts and Bolts : Dale Earnhardt Jr . is still looking for his first road course win and should it happen this weekend, it would be a big reversal of fortune for the sport's Most Popular Driver. His 22.4 average finish at the Glen is the worst among the top-16 drivers in points. He has only three top-10 finishes yet two DNFs in 15 starts here. Qualifying is hugely important at the Glen. Nine of the 32 races have been won by the pole sitter, 65 percent of race winners have come from a top-five starting position. Steve Park's 2000 victory from the 18th starting position is the farthest of any race winner. Brad Keselowski and retired driver Mark Martin hold the record for runner-up finishes at the Glen with three each. Earnhardt and Matt Kenseth hold the record for most starts (15) without a win. They said it : "We’re all road course ringers these days. It’s amazing how smart this garage is and how great these competitors are." -- Jimmie Johnson , driver of the No. 48 Lowe's Chevrolet. "I look forward to these races. I always do every year. It's kind of fun, a weekend 'off' from the oval stuff. Love the opportunity to turn right, turn left, and have some shifting going on. You try to make the most of it and have some fun with it and come out of here with some decent finishes. Over the years we've run real well here at Watkins Glen. I'm really optimistic about being here this weekend.'' -- Kyle Busch , driver of the No. 18 M&Ms Crispy Toyota and winner of the season's other road course race in Sonoma, California, in June.
Chase-clinching scenarios for Darlington, Canadian Tire Motorsport Park
With two races remaining in the regular season, 12 drivers have clinched a spot in the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup , assuming each driver starts the remaining races. The 12 clinchers: Brad Keselowski , Kyle Busch , Carl Edwards , Jimmie Johnson , Matt Kenseth , Kevin Harvick , Kurt Busch , Joey Logano , Martin Truex Jr ., Denny Hamlin , Kyle Larson and Tony Stewart Everyone who has a win this season is locked in -- except for Chris Buescher , who has yet to clinch a top-30 spot. A number of drivers who currently have no wins can clinch this weekend, but only if they win the Bojangles' Southern 500 (Sunday, 6 p.m. ET, NBC, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio). See the Sprint Cup standings here . Possible to Clinch: -- Chris Buescher (1 Win, 334 Points, +7 Points Ahead of 31st): Could clinch a top-30 spot with help; which would allow him to clinch a Chase spot on wins. The following drivers could clinch with a win or points: -- Chase Elliott (0 Wins, 628 Points, +301 Points Ahead of 31st) -- Austin Dillon (0 Wins, 622 Points, +295 Points Ahead of 31st) The following drivers could clinch with a win: -- Jamie McMurray (0 Wins, 616 Points, +289 Points Ahead of 31st) -- Ryan Newman (0 Wins, 601 Points, +274 Points Ahead of 31st) -- Kasey Kahne (0 Wins, 564 Points, +237 Points Ahead of 31st) -- Trevor Bayne (0 Wins, 558 Points, +231 Points Ahead of 31st) -- Ryan Blaney (0 Wins, 545 Points, +218 Points Ahead of 31st) -- AJ Allmendinger (0 Wins, 544 Points, +217 Points Ahead of 31st) -- Ricky Stenhouse Jr (0 Wins, 528 Points, +201 Points Ahead of 31st) -- Greg Biffle (0 Wins, 472 Points, +145 Points Ahead of 31st) -- Paul Menard (0 Wins, 454 Points, +127 Points Ahead of 31st) -- Danica Patrick (0 Wins, 450 Points, +123 Points Ahead of 31st) -- Aric Almirola (0 Wins, 422 Points, +95 Points Ahead of 31st) -- Clint Bowyer (0 Wins, 408 Points, +81 Points Ahead of 31st) -- Casey Mears (0 Wins, 394 Points, +67 Points Ahead of 31st) -- Landon Cassill (0 Wins, 357 Points, + 30 Points Ahead of 31st): With a win, he could clinch a Chase spot on wins if he gets help with clinching a top-30 spot. XFINITY Series Erik Jones , Daniel Suarez , Elliott Sadler , Justin Allgaier , Ty Dillon and Brendan Gaughan have already clinched a spot. The following drivers either need a win at Darlington (Saturday, 3:30 p.m. ET, NBC, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio) -- or an 83-point lead over the seventh winless driver if there is a new winner or that same lead over the eighth winless driver if there is a repeat winner: Brennan Poole , Brandon Jones , Darrell Wallace Jr ., Ryan Reed . The following drivers need a win to clinch: Blake Koch , Ryan Sieg , Dakoda Armstrong , Jeremy Clements , Ross Chastain , Ryan Preece , Ray Black Jr ., BJ McLeod and Joey Gase . Camping World Truck Series With a win at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park (Sunday, 2:30 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, 330 Points, +262 Points Ahead of 31st) -- Ben Kennedy (1 Win, 309 Points, +241 Points Ahead of 31st) -- Christopher Bell (1 Win, 305 Points, +237 Points Ahead of 31st) -- John Hunter Nemechek (1 Win, 288 Points, +220 Points Ahead of 31st) -- Daniel Hemric (0 Wins, 343 Points, +275 Points Ahead of 31st) -- With a win and help, he would clinch a Chase spot on wins. He could clinch on points with a repeat winner. -- Timothy Peters (0 Wins, 335 Points, +267 Points Ahead of 31st) -- With a win, he would clinch a Chase spot on wins. -- Cameron Hayley (0 Wins, 288 Points, +220 Points Ahead of 31st) -- With a win and help, he would clinch a Chase spot on wins. -- Cole Custer (0 Wins, 285 Points, + 217 Points Ahead of 31st) -- With a max points win and help, he would clinch a Chase spot on wins.
NASCAR solidifies post-race penalty procedures
NASCAR announced Wednesday that it will solidify its post-race inspection penalty structure for infractions stemming from the laser inspection station (LIS), eliminating the P2 and P3 levels for those violations. The P4 level for LIS infractions remains, and violations at this level will remain encumbered. NASCAR also announced that neither the No. 78 driven by Martin Truex Jr . nor the No. 48 driven by Jimmie Johnson will be penalized for failing post-race LIS following last Sunday's Chicagoland Speedway . "The use of the LIS platform in post-race was really driven by the industry," NASCAR Executive Vice President and Chief Racing Development Officer Steve O'Donnell said in a teleconference Wednesday evening. "We had everyone collaborating to create the appropriate deterrent penalties if there was a a violation. As we headed toward the Chase, we were asked to further develop an enhanced deterrent for the Chase. ... The important development was the new language surrounding the concept of an encumbered win." Martin Truex Jr . won the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 400, assuring the No. 78 Furniture Row Racing team of a berth in the Round of 12 in the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup . Jimmie Johnson finished Sunday's race in 12th place in the No. 48 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet. Both would have been assessed P2-level penalties for infractions discovered in post-race laser inspection. Those penalties were minor in nature, most people in the inudstry would agree, O'Donnell said. But assessing both teams penalties would be inherently unfair given the Chase structure. So NASCAR decided not to penalize either team and going forward will punish only P4-level post-race inspection infractions, which would be considered egregious. "This was the most fair decision we could get to," said O'Donnell, explaining that a points penalty assessed to a team still trying to get into the next round of the Chase would have dramatically different effects than on a team that is already locked into the Round of 12 with a win at Chicago. "Those penalties will not have the same impact on the competitors, based on the Chase format and the increased emphasis on win bonuses."
O'Donnell addresses updated post-race LIS procedures
NASCAR's Executive Vice President and Chief Racing Development Officer, Steve O'Donnell addresses recent updates to NASCAR's post-race laser inspection penalties.