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Teams beat the weather to test at Chicagoland
Weather concerns forced NASCAR Sprint Cup Series teams to cram two days of testing into a single day Tuesday at Chicagoland Speedway as they prepare for the upcoming Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup 's opening race next month. The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 400 is scheduled for Sunday, Sept. 18 (2:30 p.m. ET, NBCSN, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio). The organizational test, which permits one team per organization to participate, was originally scheduled for Tuesday and Wednesday. Stewart-Haas Racing driver Kevin Harvick , the 2014 series champion, recorded the top lap time during Tuesday's day-long test with the No. 4 Chevrolet circling the 1.5-mile track in 29.147 seconds (185 mph). Defending series champion Kyle Busch had the second best lap in No. 18 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota at 29.24 seconds (184.6 mph) while Ryan Blaney ( Wood Brothers Racing No. 21 Ford) and Ryan Newman ( Richard Childress Racing No. 31 Chevrolet) had the third and fourth quickest times, respectively. Fourteen teams took part in the test. Harvick completed 222 laps, most among those taking part in the test, while Busch logged 214 according to NASCAR timing and scoring data. "We haven't won here in a few years but I think the performance has been fine over the past two or three years," Harvick, winner of the first two Sprint Cup races hosted by the track," said Tuesday. "I'm looking forward to coming back; it's a fun race track just for the fact that you can move around and run all around the race track. That's really the hardest part about today, it's hard to gather a lot of … confirmed information (because) you have to get enough rubber from the bottom to the top of the track to see where everything actually is." Joey Logano finished sixth in last year's Chase opener at Chicago. It's a race that sets the tone for the 10-race playoff, the driver of the Team Penske No. 22 Ford said. "A lot on the line here and you always want to start off the Chase on a good note and have a lot of momentum leaving Chicago," Logano said. "So far so good. … "This is a great track; to me it almost acts like a small Fontana for us. You can run anywhere you want on the race track, its got a lot of speed and it's bumpy. Its got a ton of character." One more organizational test remains for NASCAR Sprint Cup Series teams, scheduled for Oct. 18-19 at Homestead Miami Speedway. While Sprint Cup teams were testing at Chicagoland, several Camping World Truck Series teams were busy at New Hampshire Motor Speedway Monday and Tuesday. Kyle Busch Motorsports teammates William Byron, Christopher Bell and Cody Coughlin , along with Kaz Grala (GMS Racing) and Stewart Friesen (Halmar Racing) were on hand to test in preparation for the Truck Series' opening Chase race, the UNOH 175 (Sept. 24, 1 p.m. ET, FS1, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio). "This is one of my favorite race tracks," Byron, the series' points leader and winner of five races this season, said. "I won here in the K&N Series last year so think I have a lot of confidence here. "It's good to come back with a truck; it handles totally different but it's the same race track. I'm trying to use some of the things I learned last year and hopefully make that apply for when we come back in the Chase." The inaugural Chase in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series begins at New Hampshire and will feature a field of eight drivers competing for the 2016 championship.
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."
Bell spins while leading
Christopher Bell spins while out front after a restart at Bristol Motor Speedway.
Weather delays Camping World Truck Series' Bristol event
RELATED: Live weather updates " Views from Wednesday at Bristol The NASCAR Camping World Truck Series' UNOH 200 (200 laps, 106.6 miles) is under delay following a burst of rain and thunderstorms that hit Bristol Motor Speedway and surrounding areas Wednesday. The event was scheduled for a 8:30 p.m. ET green flag, but NASCAR was unable to get the event underway on time as Air Titans continue to dry the .533-mile short track. Earlier, Tyler Reddick earned the 21 Means 21 Pole Award after posting the quickest lap during the three-round qualifying session. The No. 29 Brad Keselowski Racing wheelman will line up alongside Joe Gibbs Racing 's Daniel Suarez . Cameron Hayley , Ben Rhodes and Christopher Bell complete the starting top five while series points leader -- and five-time 2016 winner -- William Byron will start sixth.
Despite loss of Byron, Toyota pipeline deep, talented
RELATED: Byron inks deal with Hendrick. scores JRM XFINITY ride for '17 BRISTOL, Tenn. -- The only thing more stunning than William Byron's signing with Hendrick Motorsports was the swiftness with how competitive the youngster became after taking a ride with Kyle Busch Motorsports for 2016. Byron, 18, had only one career start in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series prior to this season. Through this year's first 13 races, he leads the series in wins with five and sits atop the points standings. "He's taken that garage by storm," David Wilson, President and General Manager, Toyota Racing Development, USA, said Friday at Bristol Motor Speedway . "We thought he was talented; he won a K&N championship. But that's not the end-all. But what he's done the first half of the season has taken all of us kind of by surprise. I don't think we were anticipating the next step this soon; I don't think William was anticipating it this soon." That "next step" is a full-time ride with JR Motorsports, the XFINITY Series arm of Hendrick Motorsports co-owned by driver Dale Earnhardt Jr ., Kelley Earnhardt Miller and Hendrick Motorsports owner Rick Hendrick. Hendrick officials announced the signing of Byron Thursday. JRM currently fields two full-time entries in the XFINITY Series with drivers Justin Allgaier and Elliott Sadler , as well as a third full-time entry driven by an assortment of competitors. KBM, owned by defending Sprint Cup Series champion Kyle Busch , fields full-time entries in the Camping World Truck Series for drivers Byron and Christopher Bell as well as a third that's featured Cody Coughlin , Erik Jones and Daniel Suarez behind the wheel. The organization is affiliated with Joe Gibbs Racing , for whom Busch and Suarez compete. There's no anger, only disappointment in the Byron move, Wilson said. "We feel so fortunate and grateful that we have such a deep bench … this sounds overly magnanimous but the sport still wins, right?" he said. "William is such a good kid, a nice young man. Hendrick and JRM are going to benefit from it and the sport is going to benefit from it. "I have to be gracious about it. One of the things that people don't perhaps realize and accept is that he’s been with Toyota for a few months. He's been in a Chevy, he’s been with JRM, his first full-bodied car was a JRM Late Model. "We knew that going into it." RELATED: Furniture Row expands to two cars for 2017 The Toyota driver pipeline is deep and talented. Furniture Row Racing officials recently announced the addition of a second Sprint Cup Series team that will feature Jones as its driver, joining current driver Martin Truex Jr . Bell and Suarez are also expected to continue to move up the ladder while others in lower series, such as K&N, are being groomed for possible advancement. "This isn't going to dissuade us," Wilson said. "We know that this won't be the last time we lose a driver from our 'stable.' But in the end the sport benefits and we will endeavor to try and do the best job we can with these young kids."
Drivers gear up for a night on dirt at Eldora
Dirt-track experience isn't a must for those competing in this week's NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race, the Aspen Dental Eldora Dirt Derby, at Eldora Speedway. But it certainly doesn't hurt. "I think that it's very beneficial to have dirt experience when you're running hot laps and when you're qualifying," Tyler Reddick , driver of the No. 29 Ford for Brad Keselowski Racing, told NASCAR.com. "And a little bit in the heat race, depending on which heat race you're in -- if you're in the first (heat), the track will be a little wetter than it will be in the sixth and it probably means more. "Definitely as you get into the feature, the dirt experience doesn't mean as much, but I'd hate to say it doesn't mean much because if you look at the top three at the end of the race last year, three of the dirt guys in that race (finished) 1-2-3. So I'd hate to tell you that it doesn't mean a lot." Christopher Bell ( Kyle Busch Motorsports), Bobby Pierce (MB Motorsports) and Reddick took the top three spots in last year's annual pilgrimage to the historic Rossburg, Ohio, venue. Bell came up through the USAC circuit, competing in sprints before making the transition to NASCAR and asphalt. Pierce went the Late Model route as did Reddick, each grooming himself for the next step. Reddick is currently seventh in points and seeking his first win of the season. He finished 11th at Eldora in 2014 before his third-place run a year ago. The 11th stop of the season for the series is scheduled to get underway at 9 p.m. ET (FS1, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio). Keeping up with the changing track conditions is crucial, Reddick said, but it's also easy to out-think oneself. "One of my mistakes last year was relying on what the old Eldora would have done," he said. "They watered the bottom pretty good last year in that race and I started up toward the front. I made the mistake of going to the top too soon. The bottom hung around for I felt like 20-25 laps. It may not have been that long but it felt that way because I was getting freight trained because I went to the top too soon and everyone was passing me on the bottom. "I guess that's the new Eldora, with less banking the bottom sticks around a bit longer." Two-time series champion Matt Crafton and John Hunter Nemechek , this year's Atlanta race winner, are among the few in the field that have run well consistently at the half-mile track, logging top-10 finishes each season. "Hopefully we break into that top five, maybe top three," Nemechek said. "I felt like we had a great truck last year; we got behind on a couple of adjustments on the first break, (then) we made our truck better." This year's 150-lap feature will be run in three segments of 40, 50 and 60 laps. There will be a competition caution between each segment. "I think that will play a major part in who gambles and who doesn't for track position, when to come take tires," Nemechek said of the format. "Do you take tires both times or stay out and come in for the last one? It's going to put a whole different perspective on it and a whole different strategy for each team." Reddick said he's a fan of the longer final segment but agreed with Nemechek's assessment of varying pit strategies. Track position will likely be key, he said, adding that "as much fun as it is to race there and as easy as you would think it would be to pass, it's actually pretty hard to pass there. "Track position is important. ... The tires are pretty bullet-proof but you can still wear them out I'm sure."
Larson cooks up Eldora confidence, targets Indy
RELATED: Eldora's big night in photos ROSSBURG, Ohio -- While the differences between Eldora Speedway, a dirt-based short track/slice of heaven, and Indianapolis Motor Speedway, a relatively flat, wide and paved 2.5 miles of paradise, couldn't be more stark in contrast, there could be something that Wednesday night's Aspen Dental Eldora Dirt Derby winner Kyle Larson will take with him two hours due west to "The Brickyard" -- c onfidence. "Any time you can win, it helps your confidence, for sure," Larson said after picking up his first NASCAR Camping World Truck Series victory since 2013 in his third attempt at capturing one of the series' crown-jewel races. "Obviously it's way different; a half-mile dirt track to a 2(.5)-mile paved track, but confidence is key for any athlete." Larson has shown flashes of on-track brilliance in the Sprint Cup Series at times this season -- when given a car capable of working with him, rather than against him -- but his third full-time campaign has largely been a disappointment for a phenom still in search of his first premier series victory. Wednesday's landmark win, coupled with a successful recent test at one of auto racing's handful of race track meccas have the young driver seemingly destined for a successful weekend at IMS, riding a wave of momentum and increased faith in himself and his No. 42 Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates Chevrolet team. His two top-10 finishes in two Brickyard starts don't hurt, either. "I tested Indy last week; really good test, I thought," said Larson, who is 19th in the Sprint Cup Series point standings. "Really excited about this weekend. I know our team and Hendrick engines, they have some good stuff coming in and we'll see how it goes. … "We've gotten a lot better on the Cup side since the beginning of the year. We struggled really bad; we were one of the worst cars on the race track the beginning of the year. The last few months, now, we've come close a couple times. Kansas we ran up front. About Kansas time we really turned it up and ran top five most of that race, (before we) got in a wreck. Shortly after Kansas, Larson came within an intentional move of race-winner Matt Kenseth for the victory at Dover. He chose not to -- which sparked plenty of hot takes on Twitter but was almost undeniably the right decision -- and it appeared the No. 42 squad was on the right path, but it has stumbled a bit of late. Wednesday's second-place finisher Christopher Bell called Larson "the most talented guy I've ever seen, hands down," so it's only a matter of time that his talent pushes him to Victory Lane, as long as his No. 42 Chevy has the kind of drive in it that he's looking for. According to the driver, it certainly sounds like it does. "We have speed now in our cars, our Chip Ganassi Racing cars, the past few weeks, just haven't had the luck, I guess," Larson said. "We've just gotta keep working hard. We have some good tracks coming up for us." And it all starts at Indy.
William Byron bracing for Eldora dirt debut
RELATED: Eight drivers to watch at Eldora This week's NASCAR Camping World Truck series stop, the Aspen Dental Eldora Dirt Derby at Eldora Speedway, will be the dirt debut for series points leader William Byron. The Kyle Busch Motorsports driver is in his first full season in the series and recently spent some time getting accustomed to making the transition from asphalt to dirt, shaking down a Late Model entry with teammate Christopher Bell. "That's really about it," Byron, 18, said of his dirt-track experience. "It went well; I liked it a lot. "It was a lot different, a lot of the things were the opposite way of how we do them on asphalt. It was interesting." Wednesday night's feature is scheduled for 9 p.m. ET (FS1, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio). The 150-lap race format will consist of three segments of 40, 50 and 60 laps. In spite of his limited non-asphalt experience, Byron hasn't tempered his expectations for this week's race. "I think it's going to be a lot of learning the first half of the race," he said. "The last half, if we can have the truck together and have good track position I think we can go for the win. "I think it's all about just getting yourself in the right position for the last 60 laps and being able to figure out which line to take, figure out where the grip is on the race track as it changes with the dirt." Winning appears to have come easily for Byron, who has scored victories this year at Kansas, Texas, Iowa and Kentucky. The Kansas win came in just his fifth start in the series. That quick adaptation to tracks he'd rarely seen and the surprising success have been the result of "having the right tools and the right focus going to the race track," he said. "I think our team is adapting well also. We've been able to bring something that's pretty close to the track. That we're able to fire off and get better in practice is the biggest key. I think we always end practice pretty happy this year, that's really the most important part. Just learning the track and getting up to speed as quickly as I can and then making adjustments to make sure we're ready to go come race time." Byron leads two-time series champion Matt Crafton (ThorSport Racing) by 13 points. The two are the only drivers thus far to have clinched spots in this year's inaugural Camping World Truck Series Chase. The seven-race, championship-determining playoff will feature eight teams competing through three rounds. It will kick off later this season at New Hampshire Motor Speedway.
Townley, Bell wreck at Pocono
John Wes Townley and Christopher Bell wreck at Pocono Raceway.
Larson to run Camping World Truck race at Eldora
NASCAR Sprint Cup Series driver Kyle Larson will return to the Camping World Truck Series, and to the dirt, when the Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates driver competes for GMS Racing in next week's stop at Eldora Speedway in Rossburg, Ohio. Excited to be running @EldoraSpeedway with @GMSRacingLLC and @DCSolar . Gonna try to not hit the wall as much!! pic.twitter.com/lc0t6gF5Az — Kyle Larson (@KyleLarsonRacin) July 14, 2016 The Aspen Dental Eldora Dirt Derby is scheduled for Wednesday, July 20th (9 p.m. ET, FS1, MRN, SiriusXM). It will be just the second Truck Series start this year for Larson, 23, and his 12th overall in the series. He finished fourth with the GMS team earlier this season at Martinsville Speedway . Larson has two previous Truck starts at Eldora, finishing second in 2013 and 26th the following year. The well-known dirt track was also the site of a record-equaling run by the Elk Grove, California, native. In 2011, Larson became only the second driver to win all three races on the same night in the Four Crown Nationals. "We ran three different types of cars there in one night -- Midget, non-wing Sprint cars and Silver Crown," he said. "That was my first time at Eldora. I won a Midget race the next year there and then I've crashed really hard there a couple of times. "It's a cool, historic race track with very prestigious races going on there. … If I could win a Truck race there it would be pretty special." His 26th-place finish in '14 is misleading. The young driver was battling with eventual race winner Darrell Wallace Jr . in the closing laps when he continued to make hard contact with the wall, damaging his truck and taking him out of contention. It likely played a role in his decision not to return to the event as a driver last season. "I don't know; I honestly didn't have a ton of fun" he said of the '14 effort. "It was slick and slow. I guess I made it exciting to watch on TV, hitting the wall and stuff. … This year with Rico (Abreu) running and ( Christopher ) Bell being in it, and I thought there would be some more of those guys in it, I just thought it'd be fun to get back out and run the race again. "I'm hoping it rains a lot before the race so the track can be wet and sticky and rough." GMS Racing fields fulltime entries for drivers Johnny Sauter and Spencer Gallagher as well as additional entries for a variety of drivers. Larson said talks earlier in the year enabled him to land the Martinsville ride and that at the time the group had "a few other races that were options I could run. I chose Eldora as one of them. "GMS is a really good team, they have really great trucks, great people there," he said, "and an awesome race shop." DC Solar, which sponsors Chip Ganassi Racing driver Brennan Poole in the NASCAR XFINITY Series, will sponsor the Larson entry at Eldora. The company also sponsored Poole in last year's Camping World Truck Series race at Las Vegas Motor Speedway . Larson is winless in Sprint Cup competition, but has four wins in the XFINITY Series and one victory in the Camping World Truck Series.