Sponsor extends deal with Tommy Baldwin Racing
Nikko RC/Toy State extended its partnership deal with Tommy Baldwin Racing on Tuesday for the No. 7 Chevrolet SS of Alex Bowman . The deal was for multiple seasons, and the team revealed a new paint scheme at the NASCAR Hall of Fame in Charlotte. Bowman is entering his third season in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series and his second with Tommy Baldwin Racing . . @AlexBRacing 's new @ToyState paint scheme is looking good! @TBR_Racing pic.twitter.com/TSjLujWkX3 — NASCAR Hall of Fame (@NASCARHall) December 15, 2015
Regan Smith to drive No. 7 for Tommy Baldwin Racing
RELATED: 2016 Cup Driver Tracker " Which drivers are on the move in 2016? Regan Smith picked up a NASCAR Sprint Cup Series ride for 2016 on Thursday -- he'll drive the No. 7 Nikko Chevrolet for Tommy Baldwin Racing . "This is a really great time for us," team owner Tommy Baldwin said in a press release. "Having a driver with Regan's credentials further elevates our program. He's a seasoned driver and a proven race winner. We're really looking forward to 2016." Smith had driven the No. 7 Chevrolet for JR Motorsports in the NASCAR XFINITY Series over the past three years, amassing five victories during that span. He finished third, second and fourth in the final standings in that time. "Seeing what they've done to take the program to the next level has been fun for me," Smith said on Sirius XM NASCAR Radio. " Tommy Baldwin is a competitive racer, and so am I, so I'm excited to see what we can do together." Nikko RC and Road Rippers brands will serve as the majority sponsor for the No. 7 car. The New York native announced in October that he would not return to JRM in 2016. Smith has 176 career starts in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, and he won the Southern 500 at Darlington Raceway in 2011. The 32-year-old drove four Sprint Cup races as a substitute driver in 2015 -- three for Kurt Busch and one for Kyle Larson . Earlier Thursday, Tommy Baldwin Racing announced that Alex Bowman would not return to the team.
Tommy Baldwin Racing , Bowman part ways
About seven months after picking up Alex Bowman 's 2016 contract option, Tommy Baldwin Racing has changed course and is parting ways with the driver of their No. 7 Chevrolet. The news was announced Thursday via a team press release "As NASCAR transitions to different business and competition models, teams have to make decisions accordingly," said team owner, Tommy Baldwin . "We appreciate what Alex contributed during 2015 and wish him the best in the future." Bowman qualified for 35 of 36 races last season and had a best finish of 16th place in the spring race at Talladega Superspeedway . In Bowman's only other Sprint Cup season he drove for BK Racing for 36 races in 2014.
Bray Pemberton joins Tommy Baldwin Racing
Son of NASCAR executive joins TBR as general manager, chief legal counsel Bray Pemberton has joined Tommy Baldwin Racing as general manager and chief legal counsel for the two-car NASCAR Sprint Cup Series organization, according to the team. Pemberton is the son of Robin Pemberton, NASCAR senior vice president of competition and racing development. He previously served as general manager with the now defunct Swan Racing as well as Randy Humphrey Racing . "While I am grateful for all of the opportunities I have had with race teams in NASCAR, I can honestly say I've never been so excited about the possibilities I now have working alongside Tommy Baldwin ," Pemberton said. "I have the utmost respect for what Tommy and Beth have done over the past few years in building this team, basically on their own. I see so many great opportunities to help continue to grow their dream and see TBR compete with the top teams in NASCAR." TBR, based in Mooresville, North Carolina, was formed in 2008 by the former premier series crew chief and has grown from a single-car team to a two-car organization. Michael Annett and Reed Sorenson drove for organization in 2014. "We are excited about bring Bray on board to manage the business and legal elements at Tommy Baldwin Racing ," Baldwin , president of TBR, said. "This will give me the opportunity to focus on the big picture and spend more time building TBR into a championship-caliber organization." FULL SERIES COVERAGE • Latest news • Standings • Schedule
Alex Bowman to drive for Tommy Baldwin Racing
Second-year Sprint Cup driver spent rookie year at BK Racing Play: NASCAR Fantasy Live Related: Who the 'F' is Alex Bowman ? Alex Bowman 's NASCAR Sprint Cup Series career will continue in 2015 with a new team in Tommy Baldwin Racing . The 21-year-old will drive the No. 7 Chevrolet this upcoming season, the team announced Friday. Bowman had a full-time ride with Swan Racing last year, the team that was eventually incorporated into BK Racing . He ended the year with a best finish of 13th at Daytona International Speedway in July. "I'm looking forward to working with TBR and the entire No. 7 team," Bowman said in a team release. "With Tommy's experience and his drive to run competitively, I feel like we can run well this year." Bowman made his NASCAR national series debut in 2012, with four starts in the NASCAR XFINITY Series. He drove full time for that series in 2013, netting six top-10s in 33 starts for RAB Racing . "Alex is the future of TBR, and he will be a great representative of our team," owner Tommy Baldwin Jr. said. "He is a young driver who displayed a great talent in both the XFINITY and Sprint Cup Series the past few years. We are pleased to give Alex the opportunity to further showcase his skills behind the wheel of the No. 7 Chevrolet this season." The team did not announce sponsorship or a crew chief. The team on Twitter promoted #TBR7in7, which promises seven team announcements in seven days. FULL SERIES COVERAGE • Latest news • Standings • Schedule
Hard tires, reworked curbing present challenges at repaved Watkins Glen
RELATED: Before and after: Watkins Glen repave WATKINS GLEN, N.Y. -- NASCAR Sprint Cup Series teams wrapped up a two-day organizational test Wednesday at newly repaved Watkins Glen International, emerging with better ideas of the challenges they'll face when the series returns for the Aug. 4-7 race weekend. Among those challenges: reworked curbing, a fast circuit and a harder-compound tire that has made grip elusive. A total of 16 Sprint Cup teams -- one permitted from each organization -- tried to unlock the novelty of the $12 million resurfacing project, using a Goodyear tire that emphasizes durability at the expense of traction and wear. The rubber compound chosen is similar to that used July 9 at Kentucky Speedway, site of the Sprint Cup Series' most recent race on a repaved track. At Kentucky, the tire selection made for treacherous conditions in certain spots and made passing a delicate process. Though road courses don't lend themselves to the multi-groove racing seen at several well-aged oval tracks, Watkins Glen might still be a tricky place to maneuver when the series reconvenes for the Cheez-It 355 at The Glen. "The main thing we've learned so far is how hard the tire is," said Jamie McMurray, driver of the Chip Ganassi Racing No. 1 Chevrolet. "It just seems to be no wear at all or lap time fall-off right now. This place didn't ever wear tires like Sonoma, but it seems like the tire is pretty hard." Sonoma, the other road course where the Sprint Cup Series races, is a much more intricate circuit with qualifying speeds roughly 30 mph slower than at Watkins Glen's open, free-wheeling layout. The Goodyear tire compound designated for both the Watkins Glen test and the race weekend is the same used for right-side tires in XFINITY Series competition at Iowa Speedway. Those Iowa right-sides will be used at all four corners for the Sprint Cup event at the 2.45-mile road course. Racing with a softer tire with more adhesion would potentially introduce the threat of excessive wear or blistering. It's a trade-off that Sunoco Rookie of the Year candidate Chase Elliott says he's willing to accept. "I think a lot of it is just having a fresh surface like this, you've got to have a tire that's pretty hard," said Elliott, Hendrick Motorsports' driver representative for the two-day test. "It's fast, and to ask a tire to hold up, you've got to bring something that's durable. It puts Goodyear in a tough spot, but I think they do a good job of trying to make the most of tough situations. There's been a lot of repaves here lately and I know they're working hard." David Groseclose, NASCAR's lead tire engineer, said Wednesday that the benefits of competing with a more rigid rubber compound outweighed the potential drawbacks. "As with all repaves -- same thing as Kentucky -- if you don't have a hard tire, you're going to blister them up," Groseclose said. "The way that works is if you've got a soft compound and you use it, the soft compounds tend to retain heat. It's just the nature of a soft compound. But on a repave, it's not going to wear so that heat's not going to be dissipated out of the tire. It has nowhere to go, so it stays in the tire, so that's why it blisters up. That's what we saw at Kentucky with the XFINITY and Truck Series." In addition to the surface itself, the track features new concrete for the rumble strips that border the circuit's turns and run-off areas. Some drivers found the differences barely noticeable, but Kurt Busch discovered a distinction the hard way with an early Tuesday spin as he bounded over the apex points in the backstretch chicane on one of his initial laps. "It's a lot different," said Tony Gibson, Busch's crew chief on the Stewart-Haas Racing No. 41 Chevrolet. "Kurt's like, 'I've got to learn all the curbs again.' The curbs over in the bus stop (chicane) are probably the biggest change. They're way more aggressive, and they've tightened up, so it's a lot tighter lane through there." Said Elliott, who will race here in Sprint Cup for the first time next weekend: "Some of the curbs may be a little different here or there, some a little rougher, a little smoother just depending on how they laid the asphalt in or however it worked. It's as close as you could make a track from an old surface to a repave, for sure." Five Sprint Cup teams participated in a Goodyear tire test May 10-11, and another 16 were present for this week's organizational test. For the remaining half of the field, the work toward finding the proper handle begins with opening practice on Friday, Aug. 5. "If you get your balance right, it'll be a no-drama," Gibson said. "Man, I told Kurt earlier, 'I'd hate to know I had to come here next Friday and hit the track for the first time and try to figure out these curbs and how much the race track has changed.' It'll be a handful in the short amount of time we get to practice. "It'll be interesting to see when we come back who has issues and who doesn't. But it's definitely going to be a plus to come and learn the race track, even if your car is not right or whatever, just getting here and getting behind the wheel and getting time on the race track is going to mean more." Pit notes: -- The full roster (in alphabetical order) of drivers and teams participating in the test: AJ Allmendinger (JTG Daugherty Racing ), Ryan Blaney (Wood Brothers Racing ), Clint Bowyer (HScott Motorsports), Chris Buescher (Front Row Motorsports), Kurt Busch (Stewart-Haas Racing ), Kyle Busch (Joe Gibbs Racing ), Austin Dillon (Richard Childress Racing ), Chase Elliott (Hendrick Motorsports), Brad Keselowski (Team Penske), Michael McDowell (Circle Sport-Leavine Family Racing ), Jamie McMurray (Chip Ganassi Racing ), Casey Mears (Germain Racing ), Brian Scott (Richard Petty Motorsports), Regan Smith ( Tommy Baldwin Racing ), Ricky Stenhouse Jr. (Roush Fenway Racing ), Martin Truex Jr. (Furniture Row Racing ). -- Casey Mears turned the fastest lap in the two-day test, which was divided into four sessions of four hours apiece. Mears pushed the Germain Racing No. 13 Chevrolet in the closing session to a best lap of 126.7 mph, a good bit slower than the track qualifying record of 129.491 mph set by Marcos Ambrose in August 2014. -- Brad Keselowski returned to the track Wednesday, one day after his severe, nearly head-on crash in Turn 1. He turned 74 laps over both sessions in a reserve Team Penske No. 2 Ford. -- Two teams -- Furniture Row Racing (driver Martin Truex Jr.) and Circle Sport-Leavine Family Racing (driver Michael McDowell) -- were absent from testing's opening day, arriving in the Watkins Glen garage Wednesday in time for the two closing sessions. -- Wednesday's final session was extended 30 minutes to a 5:30 p.m. ET close because of a nearly hour-long clean-up for fluid on the track. After Chase Elliott's No. 24 Chevrolet suffered a broken axle, Clint Bowyer's No. 15 Chevy ran over the part, damaging the car's transmission. -- NASCAR XFINITY Series teams are scheduled to turn their first laps on the new Watkins Glen surface next Thursday. The NASCAR K&N Pro Series East will stage a support race the following day on the 2.45-mile course.
NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Owner Standings
After Race 20 of the 2016 season at Indianapolis Motor Speedway Pos Owner Car # Points Ldr Nxt PPos G/L Attempts 1 Stewart-Haas Racing 4 671 0 -- 1 0 20 2 Team Penske 2 647 -24 -24 2 0 20 3 Stewart-Haas Racing 41 627 -44 -20 3 0 20 4 Team Penske 22 606 -65 -21 5 1 20 5 Joe Gibbs Racing 18 601 -70 -5 6 1 20 6 Joe Gibbs Racing 19 593 -78 -8 4 -2 20 7 Furniture Row Racing 78 573 -98 -20 7 0 20 8 Hendrick Motorsports 48 552 -119 -21 8 0 20 9 Joe Gibbs Racing 20 545 -126 -7 9 0 20 10 Joe Gibbs Racing 11 542 -129 -3 10 0 20 11 Hendrick Motorsports 24 525 -146 -17 11 0 20 12 Richard Childress Racing 3 520 -151 -5 13 1 20 13 Richard Childress Racing 31 507 -164 -13 12 -1 20 14 Hendrick Motorsports 88 504 -167 -3 14 0 20 15 Chip Ganassi Racing 1 496 -175 -8 15 0 20 16 Chip Ganassi Racing 42 472 -199 -24 20 4 20 17 Stewart-Haas Racing 14 469 -202 -3 18 1 20 18 Hendrick Motorsports 5 462 -209 -7 19 1 20 19 Roush Fenway Racing 6 458 -213 -4 16 -3 20 20 Wood Brothers Racing 21 450 -221 -8 17 -3 20 21 Roush Fenway Racing 17 449 -222 -1 21 0 20 22 JTG Daugherty Racing 47 421 -250 -28 22 0 20 23 Roush Fenway Racing 16 397 -274 -24 23 0 20 24 Richard Childress Racing 27 397 -274 0 24 0 20 25 Stewart-Haas Racing 10 373 -298 -24 25 0 20 26 Richard Petty Motorsports 43 363 -308 -10 26 0 20 27 HScott Motorsports 15 359 -312 -4 27 0 20 28 Germain Racing 13 310 -361 -49 28 0 20 29 Front Row Motorsports 38 305 -366 -5 29 0 20 30 Circle Sport-Leavine Family 95 280 -391 -25 31 1 20 31 BK Racing 23 278 -393 -2 30 -1 20 32 Front Row Motorsports 34 237 -434 -41 34 2 20 33 Tommy Baldwin Racing 7 234 -437 -3 33 0 20 34 Richard Petty Motorsports 44 234 -437 0 32 -2 20 35 Premium Motorsports 98 204 -467 -30 36 1 20 36 BK Racing 83 201 -470 -3 35 -1 20 37 HScott Motorsports 46 186 -485 -15 37 0 20 38 GO FAS Racing 32 161 -510 -25 38 0 20 39 Premium Motorsports 55 125 -546 -36 39 0 15 40 The Motorsports Group 30 93 -578 -32 40 0 20 41 Front Row Motorsports 35 46 -625 -47 41 0 3 42 Circle Sport - Leavine Family 59 26 -645 -20 42 0 1 43 BK Racing 93 11 -660 -15 43 0 4 44 BK Racing 26 3 -668 -8 44 0 1 45 Hillman Racing 40 0 -671 -3 45 0 1
The Rundown: Indianapolis driver grades
RELATED: Complete race results " Updated Chase Grid Breaking down the full field for the Crown Royal Presents The Combat Wounded Coalition 400 At The Brickyard at Indianapolis Motor Speedway: 1. Kyle Busch, No. 18 Toyota, Joe Gibbs Racing . Total domination. Busch won Saturday's and Sunday's races from the pole and led a record 149 laps Sunday. His average running position Sunday was 1.2, and his lowest position was third. Seriously? Busch's hammerlock on the field was on par with what Martin Truex Jr. did in the Coca-Cola 600 . Thus the same mark. Grade: AAA+ 2. Matt Kenseth , No. 20 Toyota, Joe Gibbs Racing . Kenseth is still winless at the Brickyard but has now finished second three times. More numbers: In Kenseth's first four starts at Indianapolis for JGR, his finishes are 5th, 4th, 7th and 2nd. Grade: A 3. Jimmie Johnson , No. 48 Chevrolet, Hendrick Motorsports. Johnson had to do a pass-through on Lap 86 for a pit-road speeding penalty, dropping him to 23rd. Attrition and persistence led to Johnson's first top 10 since he finished third at Charlotte two months ago. Nice finish, but this team still needs to clean up its mistakes. Grade: A- 4. Denny Hamlin , No. 11 Toyota, Joe Gibbs Racing . Ditto the No. 11 team. Hamlin was assessed his seventh pit-road speeding penalty of the season one lap after Jimmie Johnson (same round of green-flag stops). Hamlin was running third at the time and fell back to 18th. Nice recovery, but … Grade: A- 5. Kyle Larson , No. 42 Chevrolet, Chip Ganassi Racing . Larson was the second-biggest winner of the afternoon, moving up four spots in the standings to 15th. Grade: A 6. Kevin Harvick , No. 4 Chevrolet, Stewart-Haas Racing . Harvick upped his points lead to 24. Two races ago it was down to four. If you don't think that's important, remember this: If qualifying is rained out, the field is set by the standings -- as is the order of selecting a pit stall. So, yes, the standings still matter. Grade: A 7. Joey Logano , No. 22 Ford, Team Penske. Logano restarted second on the final restart but couldn't hold the position or make a run at Kyle Busch. Logano, by the way, finished second to Busch in last year's Brickyard. Grade: A 8. Martin Truex Jr. , No. 78 Toyota, Furniture Row Racing . Truex was strong all afternoon – his 5.6 average running position was second to Kyle Busch's – but he was no match for the winner. Grade: A 9. Austin Dillon , No. 3 Chevrolet, Richard Childress Racing . Sunday's top 10 was Dillon's ninth of the season (20 starts), equaling his total for the first 85 starts of his Sprint Cup career. Grade: A 10. Paul Menard , No. 27 Chevrolet, Richard Childress Racing . Menard benefited from accidents in front of him that he was able to avoid to score his second top 10 of the season. Grade: A- 11. Tony Stewart , No. 14 Chevrolet, Stewart-Haas Racing . Stewart started third and was running with the leaders when he was caught speeding on pit road just before the third caution and had to restart at the tail end of the field, one lap down. He was still back in the pack (20th) with 25 laps to go in regulation. But then came all the cautions. "Smoke" finally got his lap back with a free pass on the fifth caution, survived contact with Jamie McMurray on Lap 166 and salvaged a decent finish on his last go-round at Indy. Grade: B 12. Ricky Stenhouse Jr. , No. 17 Ford, Roush Fenway Racing . Stenhouse survived the big Carl Edwards - Ryan Newman wreck that brought out the red flag to get a finish that belied his day. He turned 14 laps in the top 15 and had an average running positon of 20.1. Grade: B- 13. Jeff Gordon , No. 88 Chevrolet, Hendrick Motorsports. Despite problems with restarts, Gordon was able to post his best finish of the season and overcome the incredible pressure of replacing Alex Bowman in the No. 88. ... Yes, I'm kidding. Except for the restarts part. Vive Monsieur Gordon! Grade: A 14. Chris Buescher , No. 34 Ford, Front Row Motorsports. Buescher recorded the best finish of his Sprint Cup career on a day in which he turned all of two laps in the top 15 and had a 23.7 average running position. Grade: B 15. Chase Elliott , No. 24 Chevrolet, Hendrick Motorsports. Elliott registered his best finish since a second-place finish at Michigan more than a month ago. Grade: B 16. Kurt Busch, No. 41 Chevrolet, Stewart-Haas Racing . For only the second time this season, Busch failed to finish in the top 10 in back-to-back races. Grade: B- 17. Brad Keselowski , No. 2 Ford, Team Penske. Keselowski was the rage early on with his team's bold pit strategy, but the second half of the race bore zero resemblance to the first half. Getting caught up in the Carl Edwards - Ryan Newman wreck didn't help, either. Grade: B 18. Kasey Kahne , No. 5 Chevrolet, Hendrick Motorsports. Despite a fourth-straight finish outside the top 10, Kahne moved up two spots in the standings to 16th, 10 points behind Kyle Larson . He jumped one driver who missed the race ( Dale Earnhardt Jr. ) and one who didn't use the best judgment and crashed with 10 laps to go ( Trevor Bayne ). Grade: C 19. Jamie McMurray , No. 1 Chevrolet, Chip Ganassi Racing . McMurray's nice run came to a screeching halt on the restart on Lap 165 when he moved down in front of Tony Stewart but hadn't cleared the No. 14. Stewart wasn't about to lift, and the No. 1 went for a slide onto the access road before returning to the track and smacking Ryan Newman . Worse, the caution gave the free pass to Chase-cutoff competitor Kasey Kahne . Grade: B- 20. Landon Cassill , No. 38 Ford, Front Row Motorsports. Cassill avoided calamity to get his fourth-best finish of the season. Grade: B 21. Clint Bowyer, No. 15 Chevrolet, HScott Motorsports. Bowyer contributed to the caution-fest at the end of the race when he got into the back of Trevor Bayne , who inexplicably went for the block with so much on the line (Chase standings) and running so far back in the field. Grade: C 22. Danica Patrick , No. 10 Chevrolet, Stewart-Haas Racing . Wrong place, wrong time. Again. Patrick had nothing to do with the Carl Edwards - Ryan Newman wreck but still ended up a part of it. On the other hand, she finished right where she spent most of the race. Grade: C 23. Michael McDowell , No. 95 Chevrolet, Circle Sport-Leavine Family. McDowell posted his best finish at the Brickyard in seven starts. Grade: B- 24. Casey Mears , No. 13 Chevrolet, Germain Racing . Mears finished in the top 25 for the 10th time this season. Grade: C 25. Aric Almirola , No. 43 Ford, Richard Petty Motorsports. Almirola, who is still looking for his first top 10 of the year, is on pace to have his worst season with RPM, for which he has been driving full time since 2010. Grade: C 26. Regan Smith , No. 7 Chevrolet, Tommy Baldwin Racing . Smith posted his best finish since a 22nd at Pocono in early June. Grade: C 27. Brian Scott , No. 44 Ford, Richard Petty Motorsports. Despite being collected in the last wreck of the day, Scott picked up his best finish in his past eight starts. Grade: C 28. Michael Annett , No. 46 Chevrolet, HScott Motorsports . After posting four top-30 finishes in his first 14 starts, Annett has four in his past six. Grade: C 29. Cole Whitt , No. 98 Chevrolet, Premium Motorsports. Since a 37.3 average finish in his first three starts of the season, Whitt has an average finish of 27.5 over his next 14 races. Grade: C 30. Trevor Bayne , No. 6 Ford, Roush Fenway Racing . Bayne's move to block Clint Bowyer on the backstretch on Lap 158 was as costly as it was ill-advised. Bayne spun all the way to his worst finish of the season and to 18th in the standings, 14 points behind 15th-place Kyle Larson . Grade: D 31. Ryan Newman , No. 31 Chevrolet, Richard Childress Racing . Newman's day began to unravel on the restart on Lap 154. He restarted sixth, outside of Carl Edwards . On the first turn, Edwards drifted up into Newman and the No. 31 suffered major damage. With Newman sitting near the Chase cut-off line, it was important for him to coax the car home. He returned to the track but couldn't make it to the finish when Jamie McMurray ran up the track into him on the Lap 165 restart after contact with Tony Stewart . Bottom line: Valiant effort but a DNF and 10-point day. Grade: C 32. Ryan Ellis , No. 93 Toyota, BK Racing . Ellis picked up a career-best finish in his fourth Sprint Cup Series start. Grade: C 33. Reed Sorenson , No. 55 Chevrolet, Premium Motorsports. Sorenson ran to form, and his 33.8 average finish is third-worst in the Sprint Cup Series among drivers with at least 10 starts. Grade: D 34. Patrick Carpentier, No. 32 Ford, GO FAS Racing . After not starting a Sprint Cup Series race since 2011, Carpentier made his second start of 2016. He finished 37th last month at Sonoma. Grade: D 35. Carl Edwards , No. 19 Toyota, Joe Gibbs Racing . Edwards was part of the strong JGR contingent all afternoon – 6.6 averaging running position – until his mishap on Lap 154. Whether it was a tight car or dirty tires, the outcome was costly as he dropped two spots in the standings. Grade: F 36. Ryan Blaney , No. 21 Ford, Wood Brothers Racing . Blaney was collected and knocked out of the race in the Carl Edwards -initiated wreckage that resulted in a red flag. Blaney dropped two spots in the standings to 19th, and is now 22 points behind 15th-place Kyle Larson . Blaney began the day nine points ahead of Larson. Grade: C 37. David Ragan , No. 23 Toyota, BK Racing . Ragan brought out the third caution on Lap 120 when his left-rear tire went down and he slammed the wall. It was his third DNF and second-worst finish of the season. Grade: F 38. AJ Allmendinger, No. 47 Chevrolet, JTG Daugherty Racing . Allmendinger was running 11th when his car lost water pressure. Moments later it overheated with less than 100 laps to go. It was Allmendinger's second DNF in the past three races. Grade: F 39. Greg Biffle, No. 16 Ford, Roush Fenway Racing . Biffle's day ended after 53 laps when his right-front tire went down and he slammed into the outside wall. His streak of top 10s – three – ended as well. Grade: F 40. Matt DiBenedetto, No. 83 Toyota, BK Racing . His engine didn't even make through five laps, leaving DiBenedetto with his seventh DNF of the season. "How is that even possible?" DiBenedetto tweeted. "Who has the voodoo doll of me that severely dislikes me?" Grade: F
The Rundown: Kentucky driver grades
Breaking down the full field for the Quaker State 400 at Kentucky Speedway: 1. Brad Keselowski , No. 2 Ford, Team Penske. Keselowski won on pure speed last week at Daytona and did the opposite Saturday night, stretching his last tank of fuel for 71 laps. Wonder what he's going to do next week at Loudon, where he finished second last July? Grade: A+ 2. Carl Edwards , No. 19 Toyota, Joe Gibbs Racing . Edwards almost won the fuel-mileage game. Instead he finished in the top five for the seventh time this season, equaling his top fives in each of the past two seasons -- with half a season to go. Grade: A 3. Ryan Newman , No. 31 Chevrolet, Richard Childress Racing . Newman snagged his first top five since last September at Chicagoland. Equally important, he moved up two spots to 12th in the standings and is now 40 points ahead of 17th-place Kasey Kahne . Grade: A 4. Kurt Busch, No. 41 Chevrolet, Stewart-Haas Racing . What a night for Busch. He had to start in the rear of the field because he was in a backup car and navigated his way to his 14th consecutive top 10 at a 1.5-mile track. It also gave him top-five finishes at every Cup track. Impressive. Grade: A 5. Tony Stewart , No. 14 Chevrolet, Stewart-Haas Racing . Big night for Stewart, too. Besides scoring a top five in his 600th start, he just missed the big wreck on Lap 93 and caught a big break when his three nearest competitors for 30th in the standings all wrecked and had DNFs. Stewart is still 30th, but he's now 31 points to the good, a pickup of a whopping 28 points. Grade: A 6. Greg Biffle, No. 16 Ford, Roush Fenway Racing . Biffle told NBC Sports before the race his team was an 11th- to 16th-place team and needed to figure out how to get better. That didn't take long. He has consecutive top 10s for the first time in nearly two years. Grade: A 7. Jamie McMurray , No. 1 Chevrolet, Chip Ganassi Racing . The top 10 moved McMurray up a spot in the standings to 15th, 16 points ahead of Kasey Kahne in 17th. Grade: A 8. Matt Kenseth , No. 20 Toyota, Joe Gibbs Racing . Kenseth's fuel didn't stretch as far as Brad Keselowski 's, but he contributed to the excitement at the end. Grade: A 9. Kevin Harvick , No. 4 Chevrolet, Stewart-Haas Racing . Harvick overshot his pit box on his final pit stop (under green) with 16 laps to go, but as it turned out, it only cost him a higher finish. He led a race-high 128 laps. Grade: A 10. Martin Truex Jr. , No. 78 Toyota, Furniture Row Racing . Truex was penalized for passing on entry to pit road and restarted 23rd on Lap 200 -- after he was first off pit road for the race's final restart. He wasn't happy. "Say what? I do that every week," he said when told of the penalty. He flew through the field and moved into the top five, but despite having packed his tank with fuel two laps after the leaders, he had to pit with 10 to go. What was unfortunate for Truex made for great theater. His blitz through the field was awesome. Grade: A- 11. Trevor Bayne , No. 6 Ford, Roush Fenway Racing . Bayne just avoided the big wreck on Lap 93 and moved back into the top 16 (16th) for the second time this season. Grade: B+ 12. Kyle Busch, No. 18 Toyota, Joe Gibbs Racing . Busch ran among the leaders all night -- his average running position was 6.4 -- he just didn't have a finish that reflected it. Grade: B 13. Dale Earnhardt Jr. , No. 88 Chevrolet, Hendrick Motorsports. Jimmie Johnson spun right in front of Earnhardt on Lap 32, and Junior emerged unscathed. Then he just missed getting collected in the big wreck on Lap 93. Considering what could have been, a top 15 wasn't bad. Grade: B 14. Kasey Kahne , No. 5 Chevrolet, Hendrick Motorsports. Kahne moved up a spot in the standings to 17th, but Trevor Bayne (16th) finished three spots better Saturday night. Inconsequential? Kahne missed the Chase last year by 16 points. Grade: B 15. Denny Hamlin , No. 11 Toyota, Joe Gibbs Racing . Hamlin finished a very quiet 15th. In the first six races on 1.5-mile tracks, Hamlin has one top 10 (fourth at Charlotte) and a 17.2 average finish. Five of the 10 Chase races are on 1.5-mile tracks. Grade: B 16. Austin Dillon , No. 3 Chevrolet, Richard Childress Racing . Dillon dropped two spots in the standings to 14th but has a 37-point cushion on 17th-place Kasey Kahne . Grade: B 17. Danica Patrick , No. 10 Chevrolet, Stewart-Haas Racing . Danica drove through the big wreck on Lap 93 and later just avoided getting hit by Clint Bowyer when he got loose to bring out the ninth caution -- which made Patrick the beneficiary. She parlayed those events into her third-best finish of the season. Grade B 18. Paul Menard , No. 27 Chevrolet, Richard Childress Racing . Obscure fact of the night: In the 18th race of the season, Menard finished 18th for the fourth time in 2016. Grade: C 19. Kyle Larson , No. 42 Chevrolet, Chip Ganassi Racing . Larson ran among the leaders early, but his car became very loose late and then fuel mileage took care of the rest. It was his worst finish since Kansas, two months ago. Grade: C 20. Aric Almirola , No. 43 Ford, Richard Petty Motorsports. The No. 43 team tried a little pit strategy, but the result was the same -- another mediocre finish. Almirola is one of eight drivers to start all 18 races who has yet to finish in the top 10. Grade: C 21. Cole Whitt , No. 98 Chevrolet, Premium Motorsports. Whitt squirted though the big wreck on Lap 93 and was rewarded with his third-best finish of the season. Grade: B 22. David Ragan , No. 23 Toyota, BK Racing . Ragan was right there with Cole Whitt in avoiding the Lap 93 mess. Later he escaped being collected when Clint Bowyer got loose. Grade: B- 23. Clint Bowyer, No. 15 Chevrolet, HScott Motorsports. Speaking of Bowyer … he was running 26th, one lap down, when the air was taken off his car and he got loose, bringing out the ninth caution. He finished two laps back. Grade: C 24. Josh Wise , No. 30 Chevrolet, The Motorsport Group. Wise posted his best finish of the season. In fact, his best three finishes of the season have come in his past four starts. Grade: B+ 25. Ty Dillon , No. 95 Chevrolet, Circle Sport-Leavine Family. Dillon was collected in the night's biggest wreck but sustained minimal damage after having nowhere to go and running into the back of AJ Allmendinger. The result: Dillon keeps his RAF streak alive. He's 15-for-15 in Cup races. Grade: B 26. Michael Annett , No. 46 Chevrolet, HScott Motorsports. Annett followed up a season-best 20th at Daytona with his second-best finish of 2016. Grade: B 27. Reed Sorenson , No. 55 Chevrolet, Premium Motorsports. Something must be in the water. Sorenson does the same as Annett. Sorenson finished 22nd at Daytona. Grade: B 28. Jeffrey Earnhardt , No. 32 Ford, GO FAS Racing . Hats off to Earnhardt, who posted the best finish of his Cup career (12 starts). Grade: B+ 29. Landon Cassill , No. 38 Ford, Front Row Motorsports. Moments after making a great save, Cassill was running 19th when he hit the outside wall on Lap 194 to bring out the final caution. Ruined a pretty good night. Grade: C 30. Casey Mears , No. 13 Chevrolet, Germain Racing . Mears went to the garage on Lap 29 with a brake issue. He returned to the track and finished 21 laps back. Grade: D 31. Chase Elliott , No. 24 Chevrolet, Hendrick Motorsports. Elliott was on the outside of a three-wide after the restart on Lap 88 when Ryan Blaney got loose and collected the No. 24, causing extensive damage. That's two wrecks in two weeks. Grade: C- 32. Jimmie Johnson , No. 48 Chevrolet, Hendrick Motorsports. Johnson lost the car on Lap 32 and slapped the wall, forcing him into the garage for repairs. Johnson returned to log 208 laps but still suffered his third DNF because of crashes in the past five races. Grade: F 33. Brian Scott , No. 44 Ford, Richard Petty Motorsports. Scott set off the biggest wreck in the race when he got loose on Lap 93, saved the car but was hit from behind by Kyle Larson . Scott swooped wide but turned back to the middle of the track, right in front of Chris Buescher who T-boned him. It was Scott's third DNF for crashes in the past four races Grade: F 34. Regan Smith , No. 7 Chevrolet, Tommy Baldwin Racing . Smith's night ended in an instant on Lap 152 when he crashed hard into the outside wall. Smith put his night into perspective on Twitter after the race: "Kentucky... I love your people, whiskey, horses, hell basically ur whole state. Your racetrack though, we're gonna have to work on that." Note to Regan: In Kentucky, it's bourbon. Grade: F 35. Ryan Blaney , No. 21 Ford, Wood Brothers Racing . Blaney's night began to go south during the fifth caution when he was leaving his pit stall as Cole Witt was entering his. They made contact, and Blaney's car suffered damage to the right front. He still restarted fifth on Lap 88, but moments later he was in the middle of a three-wide, got loose and collected Chase Elliott on the way to hitting the wall. Blaney lost three spots in the standings to 18th. Grade: F 36. AJ Allmendinger, No. 47 Chevrolet, JTG Daugherty Racing . Allmendinger got caught up in the Lap 93 wreck, running into the back of Chris Buescher . Allmendinger was 68 laps down when he returned to the track, but he crashed hard, ending his night and injuring his thumb. He was 16 points below the Chase cut line coming into the race. He's 31 back now. Grade: D 37. Chris Buescher , No. 34 Ford, Front Row Motorsports. Buescher was in the wrong place at the wrong time. His night was showing promise when his car was destroyed on impact with Brian Scott . Grade: C- 38. Matt DiBenedetto, No. 83 Toyota, BK Racing . DiBenedetto was running 29th when he hit the wall, bringing out the fifth caution and ending his night. Grade: F 39. Joey Logano , No. 22 Ford, Team Penske. Logano got loose on Lap 42 and hit the wall, damaging the right-rear quarter panel and deck lid. On Lap 54 he hit it even harder, ending his night. Logano was one of a number of drivers with brake and tire issues. Grade: F 40. Ricky Stenhouse Jr. , No. 17 Ford, Roush Fenway Racing . Stenhouse completed all of nine laps before he smacked the wall twice. His Chase hopes also took a big hit; he went from 17 points behind 16th to 40. Stenhouse tweeted the culprit was his mishandling of low downforce. He had plenty of company Saturday. Grade: F
The Rundown: New Hampshire driver grades
RELATED: Complete race results " Updated Chase Grid Breaking down the full field for the New Hampshire 301 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway: 1. Matt Kenseth , No. 20 Toyota, Joe Gibbs Racing . Not even a hiccup on pit road during the second caution could derail the No. 20 team. Remember this for when the Sprint Cup Series returns to Loudon for the second Chase race: Kenseth has won two in a row at New Hampshire and three of the past six. Grade: A 2. Tony Stewart , No. 14 Chevrolet, Stewart-Haas Racing . Smoke's third top five in the past four races gives him 185 for his career, tying Hall of Famer Ned Jarrett for 16th all time. And to think that just a few weeks ago the discussion was whether Stewart would crack the top 30. Grade: A+ 3. Joey Logano , No. 22 Ford, Team Penske. The No. 22 team used the race as a test for the September race at Loudon and still finished in the top five for the fifth time in the past six weeks. Grade: A 4. Kevin Harvick , No. 4 Chevrolet, Stewart-Haas Racing . Great finish, but the continued woes on pit road are troubling -- especially this late into the season. Grade: A- 5. Greg Biffle, No. 16 Ford, Roush Fenway Racing . Fact 1: Taking a wave around followed by another caution enabled Biffle (and others, as you will see) to post a great finish, despite running only 20 laps in the top 15. Fact 2: In racing , you're ultimately judged by where you finish. And Biffle has his first top five since last September at Loudon. Grade: B+ 6. Jamie McMurray , No. 1 Chevrolet, Chip Ganassi Racing . McMurray said his goal was to minimize mistakes to keep alive his Chase chances, yet he found himself jousting side-by-side with Denny Hamlin with 21 laps to go. Fortunately for McMurray, they traded only paint, and McMurray was able to post his second-consecutive top 10 and take advantage of Dale Earnhardt Jr. 's absence to move up a spot to 14th in the standings. Grade: A 7. Ryan Newman , No. 31 Chevrolet, Richard Childress Racing . Newman was part of the wave-around gang and left Loudon a solid 12th in the standings. Sometimes, timing is everything: Newman's average running position for the day, 21.0, was the worst among top-10 finishers, just below Greg Biffle's 20.4. Grade: B 8. Kyle Busch, No. 18 Toyota, Joe Gibbs Racing . Busch led a race-high 133 laps, the first time since last September at Chicagoland he has led the most laps and not won. Grade: A 9. Denny Hamlin , No. 11 Toyota, Joe Gibbs Racing . Hamlin ran with the leaders all afternoon. He stayed out on the fourth caution and restarted with the lead on Lap 269. He held it one more lap before Matt Kenseth passed him. But his dust-up with Jamie McMurray caused a tire rub on the No. 11 and a pit stop on the sixth caution. Grade: A 10. Ricky Stenhouse Jr. , No. 17 Ford, Roush Fenway Racing . Stenhouse spent all of 30 laps in the top 15 but was one of the drivers who parlayed the wave around on the fifth caution into a good finish. Grade: B 11. Ryan Blaney , No. 21 Ford, Wood Brothers Racing . Blaney fell from 11th to 25th after serving a pit road speeding penalty on Lap 184. He was able to avoid a points calamity with a wave around on the fifth caution. He's 17th in the standings, two points behind Trevor Bayne and 16 behind 15th-place Dale Earnhardt Jr. Grade: B- 12. Jimmie Johnson , No. 48 Chevrolet, Hendrick Motorsports. The polesitter led the first lap, and that was it. He did, however, post his best finish since coming home third at Charlotte in May. Grade: B 13. Austin Dillon , No. 3 Chevrolet, Richard Childress Racing . A solid finish enabled Dillon to take advantage of Dale Earnhardt Jr. 's absence and move up a spot to 13th in the standings. Grade: B 14. Danica Patrick , No. 10 Chevrolet, Stewart-Haas Racing . Danica also was a wave-around winner Sunday, finishing well ahead of her 23.7 average running position. It was her second-best finish of the season. Grade: B- 15. Brad Keselowski , No. 2 Ford, Team Penske. Keselowski was having a great day until he found himself sandwiched between teammate Joey Logano low and Kurt Busch high with fewer than 20 laps to go. Keselowski made contact with both and cut a tire, ending any chances for a better finish. Grade: B 16. Martin Truex Jr. , No. 78 Toyota, Furniture Row Racing . Truex had a great car and led 123 laps until ... his gear shift broke with fewer than 50 laps to go and then his clutch went, meaning he had trouble leaving pit road and trouble on restarts. Pit road was Truex's problem, restarts was everyone else's. Grade: C 17. Kyle Larson , No. 42 Chevrolet, Chip Ganassi Racing . Running seventh, Larson's fate was sealed with 15 laps to go when Ryan Newman got into the back of Carl Edwards , who hit Larson and sent him spinning. It could have been a lot worse. Grade: B 18. Paul Menard , No. 27 Chevrolet, Richard Childress Racing . Menard finished 18th for the second week in a row and fifth time this season. If you think I'm counting, you're right. Grade: C 19. Aric Almirola , No. 43 Ford, Richard Petty Motorsports. Almirola's streak without a top-10 finish hit 20 races. Grade: C 20. Carl Edwards , No. 19 Toyota, Joe Gibbs Racing . It was unintentional, but Ryan Newman got into the back of Edwards with 15 laps to go, touching off the final caution. Edwards had a top-10 car and was running eighth when it happened. Grade: B 21. AJ Allmendinger, No. 47 Chevrolet, JTG Daugherty Racing . Allmendinger rolled off the grid 10th but couldn't convert his best start at Loudon since September 2010 into a quality finish. A penalty for his crew over the wall too soon on Lap 222 didn't help. Grade: C 22. Kurt Busch, No. 41 Chevrolet, Stewart-Haas Racing . Running in the top 10, Busch was up top on a three-wide with Joey Logano low and Brad Keselowski in the middle. Contact with Keselowski resulted in a tire rub and a couple of laps later a blown left-rear tire. It is only the fourth time this season Busch has finished outside the top 10. Even with the blowout, he still had an average running position of 7.0. Grade: B 23. Trevor Bayne , No. 6 Ford, Roush Fenway Racing . 'Twas not Bayne's day. He completed zero laps in the top 15, and if it weren't for the lucky dog on Lap 277, his finish would have been worse. He also benefitted from Dale Earnhardt Jr. absence. Bayne is 16th in points, 14 behind Junior. Grade: C- 24. Clint Bowyer, No. 15 Chevrolet, HScott Motorsports. This was not the same Clint Bowyer who has two wins and seven top 10s at New Hampshire. Maybe next year. Grade: C 25. Kasey Kahne , No. 5 Chevrolet, Hendrick Motorsports. Kahne was one of the bigger losers Sunday. He had a solid top-15 car and was vying for a top-10 finish when he was collected in the Ryan Newman - Carl Edwards - Kyle Larson wreck and his promising day went south with 15 laps to go. He dropped a spot to 18th in the standings. Grade: B- 26. Alex Bowman , No. 88 Chevrolet, Hendrick Motorsports. Bowman was the story of the day, subbing for Dale Earnhardt Jr. , who missed the race because of concussion-like symptoms. He was staring at the best finish of his young Sprint Cup career when a tire went down and he hit the wall on Lap 273 while running eighth. Grade: B 27. Casey Mears , No. 13 Chevrolet, Germain Racing . Mears improved his finish a handful of spots thanks to the lucky dog on the final caution. Grade: C- 28. Landon Cassill , No. 38 Ford, Front Row Motorsports. Cassill posted his second-best finish at New Hampshire in his past seven starts at the track. Grade: C 29. Chris Buescher , No. 34 Ford, Front Row Motorsports. Buescher brought out the second caution when he spun on Lap 100 trying to avoid Josh Wise , who had slowed just ahead of him. He finished two laps down. Grade: C 30. David Ragan , No. 23 Toyota, BK Racing . An unscheduled pit stop under green on Lap 130 for a vibration costs Ragan a better finish. He was running in the top 25 at the time. Grade: C 31. Matt DiBenedetto, No. 83 Toyota, BK Racing . DiBenedetto's finish tied for his best since a 30th-place run at Kansas in May. Grade: D 32. Regan Smith , No. 7 Chevrolet, Tommy Baldwin Racing . Smith was making his first start at New Hampshire since September 2012 when he finished 16th. Grade: D 33. Michael Annett , No. 46 Chevrolet, HScott Motorsports. Annett's run of top-30 finishes ended at two (20th at Daytona, 26th at Kentucky). Grade: D 34. Chase Elliott , No. 24 Chevrolet, Hendrick Motorsports. Elliott sustained a tire rub as cars made contact behind the hobbled car of Martin Truex Jr. on the restart on Lap 269. Four laps later, while running in the top 10, the tire blew. Even with the poor finish, Elliott still had an average running position of 10.2. Grade: C 35. Reed Sorenson , No. 55 Chevrolet, Premium Motorsports. Just like Michael Annett , Sorenson's run of top-30 finishes ended at two (22nd at Daytona, 27th at Kentucky). Grade: D 36. Eddie MacDonald , No. 32 Ford, GO FAS Racing . MacDonald, a K&N Pro Series East veteran from Massachusetts, made his third Sprint Cup Series start, all in the No. 32 Ford at New Hampshire. Last July he finished 37th and the year before 35th. Grade: C- 37. Ryan Ellis , No. 98 Chevrolet, Premium Motorsports. Ellis also made his third Sprint Cup Series start but first at New Hampshire. He finished nine laps back Sunday. Grade C- 38. Brian Scott , No. 44 Ford, Richard Petty Motorsports. A fluid leak caused Scott's brakes to fail. He finished 23 laps back. Grade: F 39. Michael McDowell , No. 95 Chevrolet, Circle Sport-Leavine Family. Electrical issues doomed McDowell to his second DNF of the season, all in his past three starts. Grade: F 40. Josh Wise , No. 30 Chevrolet, The Motorsports Group. One week after his best finish of the season (24th at Kentucky), Wise got his fifth DNF (accident). Grade: F &amp;lt;/p&amp;gt;