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NASCAR's spotters: Drivers' eyes in the sky and so much more
Editor's note: Above photo of T.J . Majors courtesy of Nigel Kinrade. T.J . Majors and Kevin Hamlin walk from the garage to the spotters' stand at Michigan International Speedway this summer. As they approach the tunnel that goes under the track, a 20-something man shouts " T.J .!" and asks for his autograph. Majors -- arguably NASCAR's most well-known spotter, given that he works for Dale Earnhardt Jr . -- hands what he is carrying to Hamlin ( Kasey Kahne 's spotter) and calls him his secretary, which draws a laughing rebuke of, "Shut up." Now Majors steps off an elevator into a lobby above the track's grandstands and sees fellow spotters sitting on couches and on the floor. He greets them by pointing down the line, "He's cool, he's not cool, he's cool ..." The atmosphere among the two dozen or so spotters gathered in the lobby before a Saturday NASCAR Sprint Cup Series practice is like the locker room in a stick-and-ball sport, only thank heavens everybody remains fully clothed the entire time. You can tell how much these guys like each other by how terribly they treat each other. The spotter community is not for the thin of skin or the faint of heart. If you see a snake at your feet, it's probably rubber, and Majors probably threw it there. If the skin around your eyes feel funny, check your binoculars for shoe polish. If you don't walk by and turn the volume on somebody's radio way up at least once in your spotting career, you're doing it wrong. As the banter continues, Tab Boyd, Joey Logano 's spotter, leans over and says, "This is all off the record," which in a journalistic sense is not true because this is a public place. But it doesn't matter anyway, because little of what transpires is repeatable in a "you would not say that in front of your mom" sense.
Meet Chris Lambert, Denny Hamlin's spotter
Related: Meet Elliott's spotter Editor's note: This is the second in a series of interviews with NASCAR Sprint Cup Series spotters. Chris Lambert, Spotter for Denny Hamlin , No. 11 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota HOW DID YOU GET STARTED SPOTTING? "In 1996, I worked for Mike Herman Jr., who actually spots for (Ricky) Stenhouse Jr. now at the Sprint Cup level. We went to school together and he was racing Late Models around North and South Carolina, Virginia, Tennessee area. I worked for him fulltime in the shop, keeping up his cars. One night his cousin, who had done all the spotting, we ran on a Friday night, he coached high school football so he couldn't be there. Me being a full-time employee, I basically got thrown into the fire. We won that night. I started spotting Late Models after that." WHAT OTHER DUTIES DO YOU HAVE WITH THE TEAM? "Here at Gibbs I don't do anything else but spot for Denny." DO YOU SPOT IN OTHER SERIES? "I do Erik Jones in the XFINITY Series car, and Timothy Peters (Red Horse Racing) in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series. I have a pretty full schedule, doing about 106-110 races a year. I do a lot of Modified stuff and ARCA stuff for Venturini Motorsports; I do the No. 25 car for them. I do the 24 Hour race at Daytona every year with Action Express Racing. I do the Snowball Derby. I stay busy. If somebody calls and wants me to come do something and it fits, this is how I make my living. There are a few of us fortunate enough to just spot. When I was at Red Bull Racing, I worked in the shop building cars and spotting. When I came to JGR, I just focused on spotting." HOW LONG HAVE YOU BEEN WITH DENNY? "I started with Denny in 2012 so this is year five. It was Darian's (Grubb, crew chief) first year. I've spotted for Erik this year; I did some with him last year because the 20 ( XFINITY ) car was split last year with him, Denny, Matt (Kenseth). I was doing Jason Leffler when the drove the 18 Truck for Kyle Busch Motorsports (in 2012). When they let him go mid-year, (Tony) Hirschman, who spots for Kyle now, went to do that. He was spotting for Timothy so basically we just swapped. I’ve been with him ever since." WHAT WAS YOUR FIRST RACE AS A SPOTTER? "The first actual points race would have been at Chicago in '07. I got out of the sport for a while full-time but got back in at the end of '06, the start of '07. I went to MB2 when (former owner) Bobby Ginn bought in to that deal. Doug Randolph hired me; I was doing all the races with Regan Smith , the XFINITY stuff. I was doing Kraig Kinser in the Trucks at Morgan-Dollar (Motorsports). Sometime around the end of June, first of July they let T.J . Majors, who was spotting for Sterling Marlin, go. I did Sterling's stuff for two weeks -- that's when they shut down and had the merger with DEI and all of that. I did the 150s in '07 at Daytona; we were trying to get Regan in the Daytona 500 in a fourth car for Ginn. It was a little different, just working with Slugger (Labbe), who was the crew chief at the time, and Sterling. Here it was my first race. What do you tell Sterling? A lot of good stories there. … "That year I went to Daytona for testing and I was like a deer in the headlights. I had never done a plate race. I'd done a few mile-and-a-halves, some ARCA stuff, but I was just in awe of what you had to do in a plate race." WHAT'S THE MOST BIZARRE THING YOU’VE SEEN WHILE SPOTTING? "On track or off? Honestly, probably the truck that caught fire in the parking lot at Kentucky earlier this year. We see the smoke but we're under green, so we can't do anything. When the caution comes out we all make a beeline over there to see what it is and you see a truck with a grille in the back and the truck is just engulfed. There was a fire either at Kansas or Chicago one year down in Turn 1, the grass had caught fire. And you obviously see a few things with people in the crowd that are feeling pretty good about themselves. The tops come off and stuff like that. But the truck fire at Kentucky? Even the guys in the cars were commenting on it, they could see the smoke." WATCH: Truck fire behind track at Kentucky WHAT’S BEEN YOUR MOST MEMORABLE EXPERIENCE AS A SPOTTER? "Definitely the (Daytona) 500 this year. Being born in Kannapolis, right in the heart of Earnhardt country, stock car country. I was at the race track when I was three months old. My mom passed away, she had cancer, when I was three so I lived with my aunt for a while. I was in and out with my grandfather and my aunt. Her son raced dirt cars so I was at the shop all the time. To grow up in the heart of the sport, to know Dale Jr. and Dale Sr., winning the 500, on a professional level, was the top. "First getting with Denny, getting with a top-tier driver and having success right out of the box with him. When you get in this sport, you obviously want to win a championship but there are certain races you want to win. The All-Star race, which we won last year, Daytona, Indy. Having that 500 ring and trophy at the house (is special). Especially if you're a spotter because you feel like you have more involvement in the plate races. We’re never driving the race cars obviously, but you feel like you have your hand on the cars. … Winning a plate race is fulfilling itself, but winning the 500 and the way we did it … outside of getting married and having my two boys, it was probably my most memorable day in my entire life. You have little things you go through, you strive for … to know you've just won the biggest race in your industry and to know you had a hand in it, it was pure elation. … Once everything settled down and he got into Victory Lane, I just took my radios off and just sat there for a minute taking it all in. It was like 'wow.' As a Cannon Mills lint head from Kannapolis, that's just won the biggest race in our sport … I look at the ring now and all that and tears still well up. It's just 'wow, it really happened.' " WHAT'S THE MOST DIFFICULT PART OF YOUR JOB? "The long days. Not really for the race itself. Just the practice days on Friday and Saturday, doing all the series. There are certain times, at Richmond for instance on Friday when they'd run XFINITY and (Sprint) Cup. You get up there at 8 in the morning and you won't get a break until 4 in the afternoon. Even though we're just standing around or sitting around, you're in the sun, you're in the elements; it's hot. And a lot of us don’t just spot anymore. I’m up there with a stop watch and I’ll do split times. I’ll pick a spot on entry to Turn 1 to the center and get a split time, then center out. So I'm always working, trying to figure out who is fast, where we might be getting beat. … So I'm constantly working, doing something whether it's watching cars and their lines or whatever. Then you do qualifying and then the race at night. So it's long days, no shade, a lot of times we have to go down two or three flights of stairs just to go to the bathroom. "And during the race there is so much going on in our headsets, listening to NASCAR, having a second radio, scanning myself to make sure that I'm transmitting correctly and I don't have a problem. Having that much going on and having to concentrate on what I'm doing. There will be times when Wheels (crew chief Mike Wheeler) will be talking to me on Channel 2, I'm spotting and we're in the middle of three wide and he's telling me something. As soon as I get Denny cleared, I'm '10-4, I heard you.' It might be a lap later but just trying to keep up with everything that's going on. "When I first started, I never listened to myself. They said 'hey, you really need to do that. That way you'll know if you have a radio issue.' I hated it. I would just turn it down very faint. Now, I don't know that I could go do a race without scanning myself." WHAT CURRENT DRIVER WOULD MAKE A GOOD SPOTTER? "Honestly, I don't know. Every time I think of somebody, I remember a comment that they made where they've been on the spotters' stand and either tried it, whether it was Jimmie (Johnson) spotting for his brother in an off-road race or something, Denny spotting for Jordan in the Better Half Dash … when I worked for Brian Vickers at Red Bull and he was out the first time for (health problems), I had Casey Mears and Reed Sorenson in the car. BV came up to the roof with me a lot of times. I always think it's great for them to come see my vantage point. See what I see, especially under racing conditions with binoculars and everything else. Then you'll get a better idea of why when you know you're clear by a foot and I'm still saying 'inside;' you're going away from me and the angle is bad. And I'm going to be sure you're clear before I clear you. "Probably somebody like Matt (Kenseth) would be good. I did a handful of XFINITY Series races with Matt and then he talked me into going to Chicago last year for the stand-alone race when Ross (Kenseth) ran the 20 car. … I know he's spotted for Ross some in the Late Model car. Somebody like him; David Ragan probably has experience doing short track stuff." WHICH TRACK IS YOUR FAVORITE? "Darlington, just because of the history. That's another race that's on my bucket list that I want to win. And any track that I can sleep in my own bed is great. The plate races -- I used to hate them when I started because I didn't feel like was giving the driver everything that he needed. Now that I come here with Denny and we've had so much success in the plate races. Whether it's me, the car or the way you have to race those races now, I really enjoy feeling like I'm that involved and that on top of things. Daytona obviously is the pinnacle of our sport so that's one, but Darlington is by far my favorite." WHAT IS ONE THING ABOUT WHAT YOUR JOB ENTAILS THAT THE AVERAGE FAN MIGHT NOT KNOW? "Just how involved we are now. I think the TV, the media exposure over the years has brought it to light some. When I tell people that don't know anything about the sport what I do, that I'm in the driver's ear, getting him through wrecks and all that, they think it's pretty cool. It used to be that you just threw a body up there, and it would be the last person on the team that wasn't doing anything. They'd just throw them up there to make sure somebody was there. But with the full-containment seats and headrests, their peripheral vision is next to nothing. When we ran the cars jacked up in the rear, they couldn’t see out of the back. So we're really their second set of eyes, know what's going on and see everything that’s around them. "It used to be that we just showed up and if we could get them through the wrecks then we were fine. But then it got to the point where if you weren't giving them a competitive advantage, you weren't going to have a job. … If I'm not feeding him information about what I see when guys pick up time or whatever, then he's not going to keep me around. "Ultimately our job is still, at the end of the day, to make sure the car rolls on the hauler in one piece and our driver is safe. That's our main goal. But if you're not giving them what they feel like is a competitive advantage, you're not going to have a job here."
NASCAR T. J . Bell | Drivers : NASCAR Drivers, Race Standings & News | NASCAR.com
Get the latest T. J . Bell news, media, stats, and standings for the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series driver only on the official site of NASCAR.
The Rundown: Darlington
RELATED: Full race results " Series standings " Chase Grid standings Below is a breakdown of how the full 43-car field fared at Darlington Raceway 1. Carl Edwards , No. 19 Toyota, Joe Gibbs Racing : Edwards battled back from an early pit road miscue, flat tire and track position two laps down to take the checkered in the longest race of the season thus far. His No. 19 pit crew was his saving grace, as the team performed a dynamic 12-second pit stop that won Edwards the race off pit road for the night's final restart. " RELATED: Edwards discusses winning the Southern 500 2. Brad Keselowski , No. 2 Ford, Team Penske : Pole-sitter Keselowski was blisteringly fast through the night, leading a race-high 196 laps around the storied raceway, wheeling the race's fastest lap of 176.587 mph and contending for the win. But his crew didn't match his speed, as Keselowski came up .902 seconds behind Edwards in the final race off pit road. " RELATED: Keselowski breaks down his night 3. Denny Hamlin , No. 11 Toyota, Joe Gibbs Racing : The trend of strong pit crews for Joe Gibbs Racing held strong with Hamlin, as he consistently gained multiple spots on pit road throughout the night, helping him pace the field for 57 laps. 4. Joey Logano , No. 22 Ford, Team Penske : Pacing the field twice for 29 laps, Logano earned his first top-five result at the "Track Too Tough to Tame" in his seven starts. 5. Kevin Harvick , No. 4 Chevrolet, Stewart-Haas Racing : Pacing the field for 44 laps, Harvick was a heavy contender for the win throughout the night, fighting Edwards and Keselowski for the checked in the final laps. 6. Kurt Busch , No. 41 Chevrolet, Stewart-Haas Racing : Busch overcame a setback at Lap 307, when Martin Truex Jr . accidently hit his No. 41 Chevrolet from behind, sending it spinning across the track. 7. Kyle Busch , No. 18 Toyota, Joe Gibbs Racing : Persevering through a late-race collision with Greg Biffle , Busch's seventh-place finish allowed him to officially clinch a spot in the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup . " RELATED: Busch makes the Chase 8. Dale Earnhardt Jr ., No. 88 Chevrolet, Hendrick Motorsports : Junior's post-race description of Sunday's race as "challenging" but "very rewarding" was fitting, as the No. 88 team took a while to find their groove throughout the weekend, eventually finishing 18 spots ahead of their 26th-place starting position. 9. Martin Truex Jr ., No. 78 Chevrolet, Furniture Row Racing : Truex Jr. earned his 17th top-10 finish of the season at Darlington, setting a record with his Furniture Row Racing team for its most top-10s in a season. 10. Kyle Larson , No. 42 Chevrolet, Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates: Wheeling the fan-favorite Kyle Petty throwback car, Larson ran with NASCAR's elite throughout the evening, earning a second-straight top 10 in his sophomore year at the "Lady in Black." " RELATED: See all the throwback paint schemes 11. Aric Almirola , No. 43 Ford, Richard Petty Motorsports : Sitting precariously on one of the Chase bubble positions, Almirola's steady 11th-place result shaved off six points in the standings from Clint Bowyer -- the last driver in the Chase Grid as of today. " RELATED: Who is on the Chase bubble? 12. Kasey Kahne , No. 5 Chevrolet, Hendrick Motorsports : Crew chief Keith Rodden rolled the dice early with a speedy two-tire stop that allowed Kahne to gain 13 positions and pace the field for two laps before getting passed by cars with four fresh Goodyears. 13. Ryan Newman , No. 31 Chevrolet, Richard Childress Racing After going completely sideways early in the race, Newman's No. 31 had minimal damage, which allowed him to finish in the top 15 for the fourth consecutive race. 14. Jamie McMurray , No. 1 Chevrolet, Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates: The No. 1 crew fought radio communication troubles through the night, forcing the team to communicate in three-word spurts with McMurray. 15. Tony Stewart , No. 14 Chevrolet, Stewart-Haas Racing : "Smoke" stayed on the track during a cycle of yellow-flag pit stops to lead 10 laps on older tires after beating Larson on the restart at Lap 212. 16. Jeff Gordon , No. 24 Chevrolet, Hendrick Motorsports : Equipped with a car that was better handling in the shorter runs, the frequent cautions allowed Gordon to run in the top 10 for much of the night. 17. Clint Bowyer , No. 15 Toyota, Michael Waltrip Racing : Spotter Brett Griffin advised Bowyer during the race to "just race the track and stay out of that (expletive) wall" -- which he accomplished, but still earned his worst result at Darlington since 2011. 18. Greg Biffle , No. 16 Ford, Roush Fenway Racing : A flat right-front tire and collision with Kyle Busch provided plenty of typical Darlington obstacles for Biffle, whose 18th-place finish was somewhat disappointing after his impressive practice speeds. 19. Jimmie Johnson , No. 48 Chevrolet, Hendrick Motorsports : Called out by teammate Gordon over the radio, Johnson was issued a warning after accelerating too quickly prior to entering pit road at Lap 128 – but the "Lady in Black" awarded the No. 48 a penalty of her own less than five laps later when Johnson spun out after making contact with Logano. " RELATED: Gordon calls out Johnson 20. Landon Cassill , No. 40 Chevrolet, Hillman Smith Motorsports: Wheeling the "Proud to be an American" scheme driven by Sterling Martin, Cassill earned his best finish since Pocono in August. 21. Matt Kenseth , No. 20 Toyota, Joe Gibbs Racing : The "Lady in Black" proved she shows mercy to no one, even an established driver like Kenseth, who smacked the wall at Lap 20 and damaged his No. 20 ride. 22. Austin Dillon , No. 3 Chevrolet, Richard Childress Racing : His throwback Chevy sporting a Darlington stripe that was earned in opening practice, Dillon was the first driver to pilot the No. 3 ride on Labor Day weekend at Darlington since Dale Earnhardt did in 2000. 23. AJ Allmendinger , No. 47 Chevrolet, JTG Daugherty Racing : From a collision with Justin Allgaier early in the race to a penalty for jumping the restart at Lap 124, Allmendinger's 23rd-place finish on Sunday didn't come easy. 24. Alex Bowman , No. 7 Chevrolet, Tommy Baldwin Racing : Bowman overcame an early brush with the wall, flat left rear and right rear tires and a collision with T.J . Bell for a career-best finish at Darlington. 25. Matt DiBenedetto , No. 83 Toyota, BK Racing : Making his first Sprint Cup Series start at the "Lady in Black," DiBenedetto’s 25th-place result earned him the Sunoco Rookie of the Race award. 26. Paul Menard , No. 27 Chevrolet, Richard Childress Racing : Aggressive driving caused Menard to hit the back of David Ragan at Lap 279, sending the No. 55 spinning and leaving Menard still without a career top-10 finish at Darlington. " RELATED: See the contact 27. David Gilliland , No. 38 Ford, Front Row Motorsports : Gilliland took the wave around to lead Lap 303, managing to end the race on the lead lap. 28. Sam Hornish Jr ., No. 9 Ford, Richard Petty Motorsports : Turning laps in a Mark Martin -themed throwback car, Hornish Jr. spun at Lap 299, but saved it and continued racing. 29. Casey Mears , No. 13 Chevrolet, Germain Racing : His car sporting a pink decal honoring team owner Bob Germain’s late wife, Gracie, and her battle with breast cancer, Mears faced string of issues -- vibration, no second or third gear and low volts -- at the "Track Too Tough to Tame." 30. Ryan Blaney , No. 21 Ford, Wood Brothers Racing : In his first Sprint Cup Series start at Darlington, Blaney earned his initiation-style stripes at Lap 95 when he hit the wall while running 16th. 31. Jeb Burton , No. 23 Toyota, BK Racing : Burton brought out the record-setting 18th caution in Sunday night's Southern 500, when his No. 23 Toyota spun out between Turns 1 and 2. 32. Mike Bliss , No. 33 Chevrolet, Circle Sport: After bringing out the fifth caution at Lap 120 following a brush with the wall, a collision between Bliss' No. 33 and J.J. Yeley's No. 26 signaled another caution just five laps later. 33. Justin Allgaier , No. 51 Chevrolet, HScott Motorsports : Shortly after a radio conversation with his team where Allgaier said, "The 47 is all over us," he and AJ Allmendinger collided, sending the No. 51 limping down pit road with heavy right-side damage. 34. J.J. Yeley, No. 26 Toyota, BK Racing : A wreck at Lap 125 with Bliss and Michael Annett sent the No. 26 to the garage for repairs. 35. Trevor Bayne , No. 6 Ford, Roush Fenway Racing : Bayne went for a spin at Lap 166 only to spin out again at Lap 247, sending him to the garage for repairs. 36. Brett Moffitt , No. 34 Ford, Front Row Motorsports : The No. 34 incurred early damage and made an early trip the garage, when it was caught up in a wreck with Chase Elliott and Cole Whitt at Lap 7. 37. T.J . Bell , No. 98 Ford, Premium Motorsports: As the caution flag flew for Ricky Stenhouse Jr .'s spin at Lap 198, Bell and Bowman made contact, leaving both vehicles with plenty of damage. 38. Ricky Stenhouse Jr ., No. 17 Ford, Roush Fenway Racing : While racing hard with Bowyer, Stenhouse Jr. hit the fronstretch wall hard at Lap 198, forcing his No. 17 to the garage momentarily for repairs. 39. Michael Annett , No. 46 Chevrolet, HScott Motorsports : The No. 46 incurred heavy left-side damage that required garage-time, after getting caught up in a wreck between Yeley and Bliss at Lap 125. 40. David Ragan , No. 55 Toyota, Michael Waltrip Racing : A pair of back-to-back cautions brought out by the No. 55 car marred Ragan’s day, as his Michael Waltrip Racing ride ultimately went up in flames -- and to the garage. " RELATED: Contact leads to hard hit for Ragan 41. Chase Elliott , No. 25 Chevrolet, Hendrick Motorsports : Making his fifth and final Sprint Cup Series start of 2015, Elliott battled from an early-race incident with Cole Whitt to race inside the top 20. Unfortunately, the Hendrick Motorsports part-time rookie went for a hard spin at Lap 228, his No. 25 ride suffering day-ending damage. " RELATED: Early damage for Elliott 42. Danica Patrick , No. 10 Chevrolet, Stewart-Haas Racing : "Sorry, I just got loose," Patrick speculated via her team radio following heavy contact with the wall at Lap 189 that sent her No. 10 down pit road for extensive repairs. She returned to the track later in the race, but left soon after with a smoking car. " RELATED: Tough night for Danica 43. Cole Whitt , No. 35 Ford, Front Row Motorsports : Whitt's third Sprint Cup Series start at Darlington came to a close early in the race, when his No. 35 ride was collected in Brett Moffitt 's brush with the wall and did not return to the track.
Trouble knocks Nemechek, Hemric from Chase hunt
RELATED: Chase Grid " Race results TALLADEGA, Ala. -- It was high drama for both NASCAR Camping World Truck Series drivers contending for a spot to advance in the series' Chase on Saturday at Talladega Superspeedway . For John Hunter Nemechek , it was an abbreviated fate; for Daniel Hemric , the action went right to the wire. Neither was able to race into the six-driver next phase of the title Chase, however, which will include William Byron, Christopher Bell , Timothy Peters , Matt Crafton , Ben Kennedy and Johnny Sauter . The motor on Nemechek's No. 8 Fire Alarm Services Chevrolet blew only 13 laps into Saturday's 94-lap elimination race. And he was scored in last place in the 32-truck field. Hemric, 25, was caught up in three incidents -- two of them multi-truck crashes including "The Big One" with 36 laps remaining that essentially sealed his fate, leaving his No. 19 DrawTite Ford with heavy damage to the rear and left side. But still drivable. He spun out again with 12 laps remaining and pitted for repairs. And despite all the drama, he still finished 11th and on the lead lap. "Today was another statement of what we've done all year, battle to the end," Hemric said, adding, "It was a matter of keep fighting, because you never know. We were trying to put ourselves in the best situation. I promise we made the most out of what was presented to us." In fact, with six laps remaining, Hemric's closest competitor in the Chase, Matt Crafton , went behind the wall, his truck smoking when the crew lifted the hood. But even by that point, pulling out a victory remained Hemric's best option to move on. "Honestly, we were hoping to be in a points battle moving forward, but with knowing that situation was you still need to win races," Hemric said. "… We're going to go down swinging. I hate coming up short, but now we have nothing to lose to make that situation a reality." The first multi-truck crash happened with 51 laps remaining. Hemric's teammate Tyler Reddick drove into the rear of his Ford while they both were trying to avoid an accident in front of them. Hemric had to make an extended pit stop for repairs, going a lap down at the time but got back on the lead lap a handful of laps later as a result of another accident. "A busy day to say the least. We didn't qualify where we wanted to but I was around our teammates. I thought we would be OK. We knew coming here the variables of superspeedway racing. … I hate we got caught up in what we did but we did everything we could. "The effort from this team was second to none. We were just a part of a lot of very unfortunate situations there that we couldn't avoid, couldn't miss. One, you can rebound from, two, you can probably rebound from, but the third one definitely put us in a bad situation. Hate we couldn't win a race earlier and get locked in." The disappointment was also palpable for the 19-year-old second-generation driver Nemechek, whose family-owned team had positioned him for his first try at the series title. Nemechek qualified for the series' first version of the Chase thanks to wins at Atlanta and again in a controversial close finish on the Bowmanville, Canada, road course. But he hardly even got a shot to race into the next round after his motor let go on the Talladega high banks minutes into the race. "All my temps were fine, I haven't seen a big blow-up like that in a while," said Nemechek. "We didn't even really have a shot to race our way in. But that's kind of how our last three weeks have been. I haven't seen a motor blow up like that in a while. Bad stuff can happen at Talladega and unfortunately we got the bad side. "We'll go back and regroup. I'm very proud of all our guys and now our focus will be on just getting some wins." Nemechek has a pair of runner-up finishes (2015 and 2016) at next week's short-track stop, Martinsville Speedway .
Grant Enfinger earns first win in Talladega truck thriller
RELATED: Race results " Updated Truck Series Chase Grid TALLADEGA, Ala. – In the race that decided the lineup for the Round of 6 in the inaugural NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Chase, Alabama native Grant Enfinger stole the thunder from the playoff drivers in Saturday's fred's 250 Powered by Coca-Cola at Talladega Superspeedway . With a strong push from GMS Racing teammate and Chase driver Ben Kennedy after a restart on Lap 93 of 94, Enfinger surged to the front and stayed there in the face of a last-lap challenger from another teammate, Spencer Gallagher , who came home second, .108 seconds behind the winner. The victory was Enfinger's first in 13 career starts in the series. "It's unbelievable," said Enfinger, who led the first-ever 1-2 finish for GMS. "It's my home track. It's just so special." RELATED: 'Big One' shakes up Trucks Chase The race reduced the NCWTS Chase field from eight drivers to six. Third-place finisher Timothy Peters was the highest finisher among those who advanced, followed by Kennedy in fifth place, as GMS drivers claimed four of the top seven positions. "I got behind Grant Enfinger and tried to push him as much as I could," said Kennedy, who shoved his teammate's No. 24 Chevrolet to the front in the outside lane. "I knew the outside line had a little bit of something. I pushed him as much as I could, and once he got out to the lead, that truck was so fast out there. "I thought about trying to make it three-wide, but I didn't really have the momentum to carry it around him." Also moving on to the Round of 6 were sixth-place finisher Christopher Bell , GMS driver Johnny Sauter (seventh on Saturday), 10th-place finisher William Byron (who already had clinched a spot with a victory in the opening Chase race at New Hampshire) and Matt Crafton (who came home 22nd after his blown engine caused the seventh and final caution on Lap 89). WATCH: Nemechek out after his engine expires John Hunter Nemechek was eliminated from the Chase early in the race. The engine in his No. 8 Chevrolet expired on Lap 13, and Nemechek retired in 32nd place. Daniel Hemric , who entered the race below the Chase cut line, remained there thanks to three separate incidents on Saturday, the most costly a 14-car wreck on Lap 59 that severely damaged his No. 19 Ford. Hemric finished 11th, but fell 13 points short of Crafton, whose engine problems occurred too late to be of help to Hemric, given that 10 other trucks already were in the garage when Crafton’s motor blew. "Today was completely full of trials and trying to overcome things," Hemric said. "All we can do now is try to win races. It wasn’t for lack of effort. We got involved in three or four different situations there and never had the opportunity to get back to the front." Sunoco Rookie Rico Abreu finished fourth, his second top-five of the season and his best result in the series on pavement. Byron is the top seed in the Round of 6, followed by Bell , Peters, Crafton, Kennedy and Sauter. All six drivers start the Round of 6 with points reset to 3,000. &amp;lt;/p&amp;gt;
Ty Dillon, Daniel Suarez top Friday practices
Dillon, Suarez both looking for first Iowa win RELATED: Practice 2 results After running fourth in Friday's first practice, Ty Dillon topped the leaderboard in the second practice with an impressive fastest lap of 133.012 mph in 23.682 seconds. The No. 3 Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet completed a total of 67 laps for the session. NASCAR XFINITY Series veteran Brendan Gaughan was second on the leaderboard for Friday's final practice session with his No. 62 Chevrolet coming in hot with a fastest lap of 132.704 mph in 23.737 seconds. T.J . Bell rounded out the top three with a lap of 131.871 mph (23.887 seconds). This weekend will mark the first time Bell has lined up for a NASCAR XFINITY Series race since 2012's AAA 400 at Dover International Speedway. Next on the leaderboard was Drew Herring in his No. 6 Ford. Herring had a fastest lap of 131.519 mph (23.951). This will be his first NASCAR XFINITY appearance since 2013's Ford EcoBoost 300 at Homestead-Miami Speedway. And completing the top five for this session was Brian Scott in his No. 2 Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet with a lap of 131.403 mph. Daniel Suarez , who topped the first practice, finished ninth in the Friday night's practice (131.026 mph). The No. 18 Joe Gibbs Racing driver will be on the lookout for his fourth consecutive top-five finish this weekend at Iowa Speedway. Kenny Wallace , who will be competing in his last race in the series this weekend at Iowa, finished 15th. Wallace is looking for his 10th career win at Saturday's U.S. Cellular Presented by New Holland (8 p.m. ET, NBCSN, SiriusXM). NXS action continues Saturday with the Coors Light Pole Qualifying at 4:45 p.m. ET. RELATED: Practice 1 results Daniel Suarez topped the leaderboard in the NASCAR XFINITY Series opening practice on Friday at Iowa Speedway. The driver of the No. 18 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota posted a fastest lap of 133.367 mph. Next was fellow rookie Brandon Jones in his No. 33 Chevrolet with a fastest lap of 131.965 mph. Saturday's U.S. Cellular 250 Presented by New Holland marks Jones' second start in the XFINITY Series. His first race was at Iowa’s May race, the 3M 250 , where he finished eighth. Rounding out the first session's top three was Ben Rhodes . Rhodes had a fastest lap of 131.744 mph. Ty Dillon (131.546 mph) and Darrell Wallace Jr . (131.486 mph) came in fourth and fifth, respectively. XFINITY Series points leader, Chris Buescher finished practice in the seventh spot, posting a fastest lap of 130.332 mph. Johanna Long , finished 30th in the first session. This is Long's first 2015 appearance as she hasn't raced since 2013's Ford EcoBoost 300 at Homestead-Miami Speedway. On-track action continues at 7 p.m. ET with the NASCAR XFINITY Series final practice on NBCSN. FULL SERIES COVERAGE • Latest news • Standings • Schedule
Bell comes up just short in Loudon
Christopher Bell talks about his second-place finish at New Hampshire Motor Speedway and how he was close to catching his teammate William Byron in the final laps.
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."
See who'll be battling on the 2.66-mile track this weekend 101814-NCWTS-Talladega-9thAnnualfreds250PoweredbyCoca-Cola Entry # Driver Owner Manufacturer Sponsor 1 1 Milka Duno(i) Tracy Lowe 14 Chevrolet TBA 2 02 Tyler Young Randy Young 14 Chevrolet AKL Insurance Group/Randco/Young's Building Systems 3 103 Michael Affarano Michael Affarano 14 Chevrolet Won-N-Done 4 005 Cody Ware(i) Rick Ware 14 Chevrolet RWR 5 05 John Wes Townley Tony Townley 14 Toyota Zaxby's 6 6 Norm Benning Norm Benning 14 Chevrolet TBA 7 07 B J McLeod Ken Smith 14 Chevrolet McNair,McLemore Midlebrooks & Co, LLC 8 08 Jimmy Weller Bobby Dotter 14 Chevrolet Liberty Steel 9 8 Joe Nemechek Sidney Mauldin 14 Toyota Bully Hill Vineyards 10 9 Ron Hornaday Jr Joe Denette 14 Chevrolet Armour Vienna Sausages/Bad Boy Buggies 11 10 Jennifer Jo Cobb Jennifer Jo Cobb 14 Chevrolet VG Pride Group/Oohrah! Hydration Drink 12 13 Jeb Burton Duke Thorson 14 Toyota Estes-Carolina Nut Company 13 115 Mason Mingus Billy Boat 14 Chevrolet 811 Call Before You Dig 14 17 Timothy Peters Tom Deloach 14 Toyota Red Horse Racing 15 19 Tyler Reddick Brad Keselowski 14 Ford DrawTite 16 20 Brennan Newberry Bob Newberry 14 Chevrolet Qore-24 17 21 Joey Coulter Maurice Gallagher Jr 14 Chevrolet Allegiant Travel 18 23 Spencer Gallagher Maurice Gallagher Jr 14 Chevrolet Allegiant Travel 19 28 Ryan Ellis(i) Jim Rosenblum 14 Chevrolet TBA 20 29 Ryan Blaney Brad Keselowski 14 Ford Cooper Standard 21 31 Ben Kennedy Steve Turner 14 Chevrolet Heater.com 22 32 Tayler Malsam Harry Scott Jr 14 Chevrolet Outerwall 23 35 Daniel Suarez Garza(i) Kevin Cywinski 14 Toyota Arris 24 136 Justin Jennings Beverly Mittler 14 Chevrolet Mitler Bros/LG Seeds/Ski Soda 25 50 Derek White(i) Mark Beaver 14 Chevrolet Grafoid-Braille Batteries 26 51 Erik Jones Kyle Busch 14 Toyota ToyotaCare 27 54 Darrell Wallace Jr Kyle Busch 14 Toyota ToyotaCare 28 156 T J Bell Raymond Terczak Jr 14 Chevrolet TBA 29 63 Scott Stenzel Michael Mittler 14 Chevrolet TBA 30 68 Clay Greenfield Clay Greenfield 14 RAM 1-800-PAVEMENT 31 74 Mike Harmon(i) Mike Harmon 14 Chevrolet MHR 32 77 German Quiroga Tom Deloach 14 Toyota NET10 Wireless 33 84 Chris Fontaine Chris Fontaine 14 Toyota Glenden Enterprises 34 88 Matt Crafton Rhonda Thorson 14 Toyota Menards/Fishers Nuts 35 98 Johnny Sauter Mike Curb 14 Toyota Nextant/Curb Records 36 99 Bryan Silas Chris Baluch 14 Chevrolet TBA (i) equals ineligible for driver championship points Text goes here MORE: READ: Latest Chase news PLAY: Monitor your Chase Grid Game picks WATCH: Latest NASCAR video FOLLOW LIVE: Get RaceView