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Dale Jr .'s Coca-Cola 600 paint scheme salutes hero
RELATED: 600 Miles of Remembrance: Drivers honor fallen military members Dale Earnhardt Jr .’s special patriotic scheme for his No. 88 Nationwide Chevrolet for Hendrick Motorsports was revealed after an overwhelming response on social media. The patriotic look for Sunday's Coca-Cola 600 (6 p.m. ET, FOX, PRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio) honors Lance Corporal Aaron Reed. Reed was killed in Iraq in 2005 while serving in the U.S. Marine Corps. Originally, the scheme was to be revealed at 4 p.m. ET on Tuesday, but the social media response of more than 2,600 retweets led to the company revealing the paint scheme at 2 p.m. ET on Monday. Earnhardt is winless in 32 points-paying starts at Charlotte Motor Speedway with 12 top 10s at his home track.
Dale Jr .: 'We got a lot of work to do'
In what could seemingly be called the State of the Union for the No. 88 team at the near-midway point of the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series regular season, Dale Earnhardt Jr . proclaimed that the team has "got a lot of work to do" on Dirty Mo Radio's "The Dale Jr . Download." Those words and more below came after Earnhardt's involvement in an 18-car wreck on Lap 355 in the AAA 400 Drive for Autism at Dover International Speedway left him with a 32nd-place finish, the fourth straight finish outside the top 10 for the Hendrick Motorsports driver. That stretch has also seen the sport's most popular driver drop from sixth to 11th in the driver point standings. "Last week, it was 'yeah, we finished 15th (at Kansas). We'll get it figured out.' This week, it's more we got a problem, Houston," Earnhardt said. "It's time to start understanding how severe this situation is and get to owning it. Try to figure something out. We got a long season, lot of racing left. "Not quite halfway to the Chase deadline (at Richmond) and I'm looking at this teams in the Chase and the teams that are not in the Chase and I know we're better than them. It ain't good enough to be just good enough to make it. In years past, we've won races, been locked in. We were up in the top five in points throughout the year. We definitely aren't the team we were the past few years. We’ve got to figure out what's going on. How we're getting beat." A 26-time winner in the sport's top series, Earnhardt is coming off seven wins in the past two seasons. In both of those seasons, Earnhardt had already registered a win by this point in the season (The Daytona 500 in 2014 and Talladega in May of 2015), which pretty much sewed up his postseason spot in the 16-driver Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup . This week's Sprint All-Star Race (Saturday, May 21, approx. 9 p.m. ET, FS1, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio) provides a bit of a real-time laboratory for the team to find some answers. "This All-Star Race weekend coming up ain't going to be the answer to all our problems, but it's an opportunity to work on some of them. I’ll be honest with you, I'd rather win that (Coca-Cola) 600 a 1,000 times more than I'd rather win the All-Star Race. Running good and running better the rest of the year is much more important to me than stumbling into a million bucks on this all-star weekend. "If we come out of the All-Star Race winners, but don't understand how to go into the (Coca-Cola) 600 and be competitive, it does us no good. I put us learning something, us understanding how to get better and us getting better as a team above anything else going forward." The team doing most of the winning in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series of late is the Joe Gibbs Racing stable of Kyle Busch (the defending series champion), Carl Edwards , Denny Hamlin and Matt Kenseth . Those four drivers have combined for seven wins through the first 12 races of the 2016 season. Last season, the foursome combined to win 14 races, including 11 of the final 21 races. This season, Hendrick Motorsports has recorded two wins through the first 12 races of the season, both by Jimmie Johnson , among its four-driver lineup of Earnhardt, Johnson, Chase Elliott and Kasey Kahne . "As a company, I think everybody agrees that we can be faster. I think with us all working toward that goal, sooner or later the company itself is going to find that extra gear and it's going to affect all four cars all at once. You see all the Gibbs guys, all quick — practice, qualifying, race. They are all together. That's because their smart, they figured it out, they got something going that's working for them and their sharing information. "Our team's do the same thing. Once we figure out what's going on, once we figure out what we need, I think the whole company will step up. I feel positive that will happen before the Chase. ... We got to go to work."
Dale Jr . shares throwback with baby Chase Elliott, more tweets
Editor's note: Every Friday, "Tweets You Might Have Missed" will present eight of the best NASCAR-related tweets from the week. 1. pic.twitter.com/zPcpHMO79n — Dale Earnhardt Jr . (@DaleJr) May 11, 2016 2. I've finally talked my wife into this cycling thing. pic.twitter.com/8OyxNistSY — Jimmie Johnson (@JimmieJohnson) May 12, 2016 3. #momlife pic.twitter.com/Eyt4fxycjn — Samantha Busch (@SamanthaBusch) May 11, 2016 4. My apple and @redbull pre weekend meal is a solid one. pic.twitter.com/fBxOn9RsZD — Ryan Blaney (@Blaney) May 12, 2016 5. Views from the fridge pic.twitter.com/AO7Tr0xQsf — landon cassill (@landoncassill) May 9, 2016 6. I don't usually like to post my family however, this video @epaigewhite took of Scarlett laughing is too much fun! pic.twitter.com/pQKcWfQgMH — Brad Keselowski (@keselowski) May 11, 2016 7. Little man's note he wrote before school gave specific instructions that NOBODY TOUCH HIS GOLF BALLS! pic.twitter.com/TbMWBKrcFD — DeLana Harvick (@DeLanaHarvick) May 11, 2016 8. Solid run in the QC tonight! Had some me peeps out, even a biker rode with us! pic.twitter.com/irN6bgR6bm — Darrell Wallace Jr (@BubbaWallace) May 11, 2016
NASCAR to honor fallen troops with 600 Miles of Remembrance
DAYTONA BEACH, FLA. (May 23, 2016) -- Continuing the sport's long-standing tradition of honoring the United States Armed Forces, all 40 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series drivers will bear the name of a fallen service member on their race car windshields during Sunday's Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway (6 p.m. ET on FOX, PRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio), NASCAR announced today. For the second consecutive year, "600 Miles of Remembrance" will pay tribute this Memorial Day Weekend to those who bravely served and died defending our country. Windshield headers normally reserved for drivers' last names will read "SGT HARVEY," "LCPL RAMIREZ," and "SPC BEAUDOIN," among other names of the fallen. The special tribute will commemorate the launch of NASCAR: An American Salute ™, the industry's collective expression of respect and gratitude for members of the U.S. Armed Forces, past and present. Fans can follow the conversation on social media using #NASCARsalutes. "Each of the names proudly displayed on these race cars tells a story of honor and sacrifice," said Brent Dewar, NASCAR chief operating officer. "As the NASCAR industry reflects on Memorial Day Weekend, we’re proud to honor these and all fallen service members in a way that helps ensure their stories and lives are never forgotten." Many of the service members whose names will be displayed on the race cars were chosen by the teams, and some have unique connections to the fallen. Navy SEAL Denis Miranda, who was killed in a helicopter crash in Kabul, Afghanistan in 2010, trained in BUD/S alongside Graham Molatch, jackman for the No. 42 Chip Ganassi Racing team. Miranda’s name will appear on Kyle Larson 's car during the Coca-Cola 600 . Lance Corporal Scott Lynch served in the United States Marine Corps with Mark Singleton, tire changer for Chip Ganassi Racing , and will be honored on Jamie McMurray 's No. 1 car. Furniture Row Racing employee John Parks served in the Marines with Jeffrey Bohr, Jr ., a gunnery sergeant who was killed during Operation Iraqi Freedom and whose name will be carried on Martin Truex Jr . 's No. 78 car. Toyota will also honor the names of fallen service members on its pace cars and grand marshal cars for the Coca-Cola 600 as part of 600 Miles of Remembrance. Many of the families of the service members being recognized will be in attendance at Charlotte Motor Speedway . The track will host more than 6,000 active military members at the Coca-Cola 600 in honor of Memorial Day. Throughout the week, NASCAR: An American Salute will feature various activities demonstrating the industry's support for the military, including: · During Saturday’s Hisense 4K TV 300 , NASCAR XFINITY Series drivers will display red, white and blue XFINITY windshield decals on their race cars. · Goodyear will replace the "Eagle" sidewall design with "Support Our Troops" messaging on all tires used during the Memorial Day Weekend races. · NASCAR, Coca-Cola and Mars, through the annual military support program, DeCA, will offer a sweepstakes to shoppers at more than 180 commissaries who will have a chance to win a trip for two to NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Champion’s Week in Las Vegas. The kickoff event will take place at Fort Bragg on May 25 and feature No. 11 Joe Gibbs Racing driver Denny Hamlin . The 2016 DAYTONA 500 winner will tour the Warrior Transition Battalion Unit and visit with families at the South Commissary. · In partnership with Operation Gratitude, Mars will invite race fans to help assemble care packages for the troops in the midway at Charlotte Motor Speedway . The care packages will include Mars candy and be shipped following the Coca-Cola 600 to deployed military members. · NASCAR and Honor and Remember, Inc. will display specially prepared Honor and Remember flags representing those who lost their life in service to our country from each of the 50 United States throughout the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series garage at Charlotte Motor Speedway . During the Coca Cola 600 pre-race broadcast (5:30 p.m. ET, FOX), FOX Sports will recognize all service members who have lost their lives in the past year by displaying their names and branch of service on a graphic scroll. This Sunday, NASCAR drivers will discuss 600 Miles of Remembrance on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio (channel 90) during a special military tribute show airing at 1 p.m. ET. The Dialed In Salute to the Troops special, hosted by Claire B. Lang, will feature interviews with several drivers as well as service men and service women from different branches of the military. The NASCAR Sprint Cup Series’ Coca-Cola 600 will be broadcast live from Charlotte Motor Speedway at 6 p.m. ET on FOX, PRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio. Additional live coverage can be found on NASCAR.com . To view an online gallery of the service members honored as part of 600 Miles of Remembrance, visit www.NASCAR.com/salute .
Dusenberry Martin Racing announces NASCAR Heat Evolution
Dusenberry Martin Racing (DMR), NASCAR's exclusive console simulation-style video game licensee, on Friday announced the future of NASCAR gaming in NASCAR Heat Evolution -- launching Sept. 13. Marking the debut of a NASCAR video game series on the PlayStation®4 computer entertainment system and Xbox One, and also arriving on Windows PC, this new title will provide fans with a brand-new and authentic racing experience. NASCAR Heat Evolution will immerse fans in the door-to-door excitement of stock car racing and allow users to live the experience of taking the checkered flag. Whether a casual or hardcore gaming fan, NASCAR Heat Evolution will dynamically adapt to any skill level and deliver a true-to-life racing experience. The new game will feature all of the top drivers, teams, and incredibly detailed tracks and environments, giving fans the opportunity to feel what it is like to be a racing legend. DMR also partnered with Toyota, an Official NASCAR Partner, in a unique video game cover athlete competition. On Friday it was announced the first Toyota driver to cross the start/finish line in the 2016 NASCAR Sprint All-Star Race at Charlotte Motor Speedway will be the cover athlete of NASCAR Heat Evolution . Choosing a cover athlete from an on-track competition is a first in video game history. That honor went to Carl Edwards of Joe Gibbs Racing . Edwards finished fourth in the 113-lap event, ahead of teammates Denny Hamlin (ninth) and Kyle Busch (10th). Martin Truex Jr . and Matt Kenseth were also eligible. NASCAR Heat Evolution will mark the first time Toyota or any of its eligible drivers will be the face of a NASCAR video game. Toyota and DMR are developing an innovative in-game branding partnership that will elevate the racing experience for video game fans. "Our company is a team of highly skilled gaming vertans with a proven record of success in NASCAR game development and publishing. Our commitment to the NASCAR community is to consistently deliver fun, engaging and high-quality NASCAR games to the market," said DMR Chief Executive Officer Tom Dusenberry. DMR, whose licensing agreement with NASCAR Team Properties runs through 2020, partnered with Monster Games to create NASCAR Heat Evolution , bringing more than 100 years of combined NASCAR games experience to the project. DMR President Ed Martin said, "To deliver an all-new NASCAR game experience, we assembled an all-star team of NASCAR game experts and started with a clean sheet of paper. What the DMR and Monster Games teams have come up with is going to amaze NASCAR fans." From the same legendary team that created the critically acclaimed NASCAR titles NASCAR Heat and NASCAR: Dirt to Daytona , Monster Games has a clear vision for NASCAR Heat Evolution . "The Monster Games team is thrilled to partner again with Tom, Ed and the Dusenberry Martin Racing team. We have been working on NASCAR Heat Evolution for 18 months and are excited about what we have created. From day one, our goal has been to deliver a fun, engaging and realistic racing game designed for NASCAR fans," said Monster Games President Richard Garcia. "The gaming space allows fans to consume our sport on a daily basis, ultimately helping grow and diversify our audience," said Blake Davidson, Vice President of Consumer Products and Licensing, NASCAR. "Our fans have eagerly anticipated the arrival of a new NASCAR game, and we expect that NASCAR Heat Evolution will be well worth the wait." Fans that are ready to strap in and feel the adrenaline of a NASCAR racing experience have the opportunity to pre-order NASCAR Heat Evolution now at NASCARHeat.com , GameStop, Target.com, Walmart.com and the PlayStation®Store. NASCAR Heat Evolution will take racing fans to a level of realism, excitement and authenticity that has never been seen on a console before. NASCAR Heat Evolution will be available on September 13, 2016 in North America for the PlayStation®4 system, Xbox One and Windows PC. More information can be found at NASCARHeat.com , with additional details to be released in the coming months. Fans can also follow NASCAR Heat Evolution on Twitter via @DMRNASCARHeat and @DMRacingGames .
NASCAR Diversity Internship Program Welcomes 2016 class
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (May 23, 2016) – Twenty-six of the best and brightest college students from across the country and abroad ventured to Charlotte Motor Speedway this past weekend as the sport introduced the 2016 NASCAR Diversity Internship Program (NDIP) class at the NASCAR Sprint All-Star Race Weekend. The 10-week, paid program exposes multicultural college students to employment opportunities within America’s number one motorsport, whether in departments within the sanctioning body or with organizations that NASCAR partners with to enhance the fan experience both on and off the race track. Through an all-inclusive orientation experience, the interns gain a behind-the-scenes look at the business of the sport and insight into prospective careers in motorsports. " The NASCAR Diversity Internship Program has grown to become one of the most popular and attractive internships in sports," said Jim Cassidy, NASCAR senior vice president of racing operations. "This program has given talented students an opportunity to gain relevant work experience and opportunities for careers in our industry since 2000." NDIP continues to grow in popularity year over year. The key to that growth is the ongoing support of industry partners. Companies such as International Speedway Corporation, Roush Fenway Racing , Rev Racing, Daytona International Speedway , Octagon and Taylor have been longstanding supporters of NDIP. Recent partners include Toyota, Switch and Pocono Raceway . These valued partners increase the number of internship opportunities for young talent and contribute to the program's overall success. Interns will work in multiple departments including in the areas of engineering, finance, marketing, licensing and public relations. In addition to receiving hand-on experience, the interns will also participate in professional development workshops, networking events and volunteer opportunities throughout their internship experience. Victoria Kim, a recent graduate of Penn State, participated in the program last summer. Kim also received the NASCAR Diversity Outstanding Intern Award at the 2016 NASCAR Diversity Awards and was recently hired at NASCAR. "The NASCAR Diversity Internship Program was an incredible opportunity to get a hands-on, behind-the-scenes look at NASCAR," Kim said. "NDIP was a stepping stone and helped me get to where I am today, a full-time employee in the Daytona office for the Touring Series Racing Operations. I am grateful to have been a part of the NDIP class of 2015 and am thankful for the opportunity to pursue my dreams." More than 300 interns have participated in the NDIP since its inception, and many secured full-time jobs in motorsports following their internships. Recent graduates have found roles at Phoenix International Raceway , Richard Petty Motorsports , event marketing agency Switch , and many other companies tied to the industry. Several NDIP alumni are now employed at NASCAR within multiple business units, including: Brandon Thompson, director, racing operations; Marvin Aylor Jr ., manager, marketing; Lauren Houston, senior account executive, multicultural development; Kathryn Lee, manager, events; Jusan Hamilton, senior account executive, industry operations; Ade Herbert, senior coordinator, social media; Jason Simmons, licensing account coordinator; Victoria Kim, coordinator touring series operations and Cameron McCarty, pit road technician. "The NASCAR Diversity Internship Program has proven to be an effective pipeline for hiring top talent across the industry," said Paula Miller, NASCAR senior vice president and chief human resources officer. "We have hired several former interns who are important contributors to the sport's continued growth." The 2016 class participated in NASCAR 101 and received guided tours of the NASCAR Research & Development Center, NASCAR Hall of Fame and Charlotte Motor Speedway before watching the NASCAR Sprint All-Star Race. The class includes the following students from colleges and universities across the country:
Whelen to sponsor Newman's Coca-Cola 600 car
WELCOME, N.C. (May 23, 2016) - Richard Childress Racing announced today that Whelen Engineering Co., the "Official Warning Lights of NASCAR", will serve as the primary sponsor on Ryan Newman 's No. 31 Chevrolet SS for the 57th running of the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway on May 29, 2016. "Whelen Engineering, the Official Warning Lights of NASCAR, is pleased to be the primary sponsor of the Whelen No. 31 Chevrolet for the Coca-Cola 600 ," said Phil Kurze, vice president of motorsports. "Ryan (Newman) is a familiar name to us since he has been in Victory Lane a number of times in the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour events at New Hampshire Motor Speedway and Bristol Motor Speedway . It is fitting to have a graduate engineer driving a race car sponsored by an engineering company. The familiar red and white Sam Bass paint scheme will be displayed on the car and we look forward to the excitement of the longest race on the Sprint Cup schedule." The red and white colors of the No. 31 Whelen Chevrolet will hit the track for the annual Memorial Day weekend event, in which Newman has three top-five and six top-10 finishes, in addition to five pole awards. "Whelen's commitment to motorsports is comprehensive, and we are proud to partner with them for the Coca-Cola 600 ," said Torrey Galida, president of Richard Childress Racing . "Their dedication to innovation and safety is in line with the philosophy here at RCR, and we look forward to seeing the No. 31 Whelen Chevrolet on the track this Memorial Day weekend." A company that now employs over 1,400 workers, Whelen began in 1952 when George W. Whelen invented the first rotating aircraft "anti-collision" beacon in his garage in Deep River, Connecticut. Over the years, Whelen grew out of the garage and into the mainstream, working with police, public works, and fire departments across the country. Today, Whelen has two manufacturing facilities totaling over 1,000,000 square feet, employs the largest staff of design engineers in the industry, and has partnered with OEMs on new vehicle design and product integration. While this is RCR's first partnership with Whelen in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, Whelen has an extensive history and presence in motorsports. As the "Official Warning Lights of NASCAR", Whelen provides all of the caution lights, pit road entrance, and pit road exit lights, "hot pit/garage area" warning lights, as well as all of the warning lights used on pace cars and safety vehicles across all three NASCAR national touring series. Whelen also serves as the title sponsor of the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series, the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour, the NASCAR Whelen Southern Modified Tour, and the NASCAR Whelen Euro-Series. This commitment to motorsports extends beyond NASCAR as well. Whelen is the primary sponsor on the Action Express No. 31 DP Corvette in the IMSA Weather Tech Championship Series. For additional information on today's announcement, and all that's happening at RCR, please visit rcrracing.com .
Junior looks to carry All-Star success to the 600
Dale Earnhardt Jr . hopes the success the No. 88 team had in the NASCAR Sprint All-Star Race follows to the Coca-Cola 600, stating he would like "to win the Coca-Cola 600 before he retires."
As executive producer, Dale Jr . excited about new series
MOORESVILLE, N.C. -- When Dale Earnhardt Jr . previewed the first installment of the upcoming three-part series "NASCAR: The Rise of American Speed," the Hendrick Motorsports driver said he was amazed at what he witnessed. "The first part I watched like a kid at Christmas," the Hendrick Motorsports driver said Tuesday, adding that he kept thinking, "This is cool; I love what I'm seeing. I didn't know it was like this; this is awesome." Earnhardt is an executive producer for the series, which debuts this Sunday at 9 p.m. ET on CMT. "You know about Red Byron (NASCAR's first premier series champion) and guys like that and what they've done but you've never actually had a window into what they might have been like," he said. "So that was really, really neat. "Watching that first episode, it's completely different from watching the other two. The other two I was there, or I remember it as a kid. You immediately go to sort of picking it apart and (asking) does it live up to the standard?" The series (episodes 2 and 3 will air on consecutive Sundays, May 15 and May 22) uses archival footage as well as reenactments and interviews to document the history of NASCAR from its beginning to modern day. Among those contributing on-air to the project were stars such as Jeff Gordon , Kevin Harvick , Tony Stewart and Darrell Waltrip. NASCAR Chairman and CEO Brian France and Lesa France Kennedy, Chief Executive Officer of International Speedway Corp., provide additional insights. NASCAR founder William Henry Getty France was their grandfather, Bill France Jr . their father. Episode 1 details stock car racing's rough, raw beginnings and the senior France's desire to pursue his dream of bringing acceptability and professionalism to the sport. Episode 2 features the continued rise of the sport and France's many battles to bring NASCAR to mainstream America. Episode 3 begins with the '79 Daytona 500 , a watershed moment for NASCAR, and focuses heavily on the career of France's son, Bill Jr ., and seven-time series champion Dale Earnhardt before closing with where NASCAR sits in today's sports landscape. But it was that first episode that Earnhardt Jr . said, "Intrigues me the most. "Because I wasn't there and didn't know much about that time," he said. "You know people's names and you match that name with an accomplishment. But you never really knew their personalities much. "I believe in this kind of film you're able to see maybe what this guy's attitude or personality was like. You see when Big Bill is trying to form NASCAR, some of the drivers are kind of grinding against the gears and pushing back a little bit. "We really don't know a lot about that and there aren't a lot of stories telling that part of it, that side of it. So that was real interesting."
Progress is evident for Truex Jr ., Furniture Row
Martin Truex Jr . led a race-high 172 laps on Saturday night at Kansas Speedway , which serves as the "home" track for Denver-based Furniture Row Racing . A mechanical issue kept him out of Victory Lane, but his single-car team was the class of the field -- just ask race-winner Kyle Busch . "The 78 was probably the fastest car," Busch said of his Toyota teammate. It's something to get used to. Furniture Row Racing , owned by Barney Visser and stationed near the Rocky Mountains as opposed to "Race City USA," has developed into one of the premier teams in NASCAR while operating under the radar to the west of the Mississippi River. RELATED: Learn more about Furniture Row Coming off a year in which the single-car organization qualified for the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup for the second time in three years, and then promptly followed that with a berth in the Championship 4 Round at Homestead-Miami Speedway , the organization may be even better in 2016. This season's results prove last year's playoff push was no fluke. A manufacturer change from Chevrolet to Toyota brought alignment with Joe Gibbs Racing , and Truex is consistently one of the fastest cars every week. He and Furniture Row appear in excellent shape to qualify for the postseason for the second consecutive year, and perhaps another deep run is possible. Here's how driver and team got to this point. The past Visser began his career in the manufacturing business more than 40 years ago, starting the Furniture Row company in 1972 after growing up dreaming not of racing, but of business. That drive turned into a successful career in the west as the owner of several retailers -- but when Visser decided to cut back, he caught the NASCAR bug. Racing as a hobby at Colorado National Speedway led to his desire to start a NASCAR XFINITY Series team, which has evolved into the successful single-car Sprint Cup team. (The first year in Cup was 2005.) The organization earned its first win in 2011 when Regan Smith won the historic Southern 500 at Darlington Raceway . In 2013, Kurt Busch qualified for the postseason and would finish the season 10th in points, then the best standing in team history. That changed last year. Truex Jr . joined the company before the 2014 season after losing his ride at Michael Waltrip Racing when that organization went from three cars to two. In 2015, Truex and first-year crew chief Cole Pearn led Furniture Row to its second-ever win when he conquered the "Tricky Triangle" of Pocono. It capped a four-race stretch in which Truex led 454 laps and asserted Furniture Row as a premier series power. A technical alliance with Richard Childress Racing buoyed Furniture Row, then running Chevrolets, last year -- and Truex would advance deeper into the Chase than any of RCR's three drivers. The present Speed hasn't been a problem for Furniture Row Racing after the switch to Toyota. If anything, the team has been faster this year. "If we were going to run and be happy running in the middle of the field week in and week out, we would have been fine where we were," Furniture Row General Manager Joe Garone said before the season. "But Chevrolet has their hands full. They have plenty of teams and, as a new one coming in we were always going to be the bottom team. They can only spread themselves so thin. So, honestly, there wasn't the opportunity for us to get to the upper tier. "Toyota looked at it completely differently. They could see the benefits that we bring to the table as a single-car team partnered with one of their teams, and they jumped right on board." Truex has one top-five and four top-10 finishes through 11 races, but that doesn't fully tell the story. His 370 laps led are behind only Joe Gibbs Racing 's Kyle Busch and Carl Edwards and Stewart-Haas Racing 's Kevin Harvick . His average start (12.2) and average finish (12.7) both rank in the top 10 in NASCAR; only six other drivers can say the same. In short, there's been plenty of speed, just not finishes -- Kansas was shaping up to be one of the most dominant showings of the season until a fluke tire issue caused the No. 78 to pit from the lead late. "I couldn't believe it," Truex said after the race. "It's frustrating, but that's how it goes. We're going to win some races (this year), for sure. We keep bringing cars like that, we're going to win some. ... It's tough, but it happens. It's part of racing." Watch: Truex Jr . stays positive after tough finish The future Truex Jr . and Furniture Row Racing have proven to be a good fit, and the addition of sponsors such as Bass Pro Shop and Auto Owners Insurance help the team move toward a reality of running two cars. In July of last year, Visser told SiriusXM NASCAR Radio: "We'd like to have (a second team) by '17. ... We think maybe '17 it's going to roll around the way we need it to. We're going to have to attract the sponsors. When we finally get the sponsors, we'll be able to do it." A technical alliance with Joe Gibbs Racing will likely prove fruitful for years, as the JGR Toyota Camrys appear to have a leg up on the field, and Truex himself sits above Denny Hamlin and Matt Kenseth in the points standings. "I don't like to look back, but I think it's safe to say that we had the opportunity to have two win stickers on our car at this point of the season," Truex said before Kansas, which could have been win No. 3. "We've gone through a major transition by switching to Toyota and having a new technical alliance with Joe Gibbs Racing . I truly feel that we've come a long way in a short period of time, and feel the rest of the season looks promising for our Furniture Row Racing team."