Hornaday, Bodine, Crafton and Buescher comment on their top-five finishes at Darlington.
The GarageCam gang tries to tackle a place that has been called 'The Track Too Tough to Tame .'
Richard Petty Motorsports' newest driver, Sam Hornish Jr., talks about his return to the Sprint Cup Series.
Tony Stewart, Kevin Harvick and Brian Vickers talk about being ready for the 2015 NASCAR season to begin.
All-star lineup of talent includes Jeff Burton and Hall of Famer Dale Jarrett CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- In the time since it was announced in July 2013 that NBC Sports would be returning to its coverage of NASCAR, a snowball effect-type buzz has been building around the media group's Stamford, Connecticut, studios that would make Winter Storm Juno jealous. With its first season of Sprint Cup Series coverage in nearly a decade barreling towards us, the buzz reached a paramount on Tuesday when the incoming, all-star team was introduced during the Charlotte Motor Speedway Media Tour. "Everybody at NBC Sports is thrilled to be back in the sport," said Jeff Behnke, NBC Sports Vice President, NASCAR. "It's been eight and a half long years and I can tell you that the buzz around all of our production people, our engineers and our talent, sales, marketing; every group. We are absolutely thrilled to be back in the sport." Following Behnke's introduction, an eye-popping promo video for NBC's coverage (which begins Fourth of July weekend with the Coke Zero 400 at Daytona International Speedway ) was played, featuring enough high-throttle footage of raucous racing and wrecking to get the heart pumping -- and the season hasn't even started yet. "I wish you could go up to Stamford, Connecticut, and walk through the halls," said Kyle Petty, former driver and NBC newcomer. "They are truly excited to have this property; it's crazy. With the Premier League, with NHL, with NFL, some of the other properties that they have, the whole building there's a buzz, and there was a buzz building all last year. "That's the exciting part for me. Sometimes when you drove a race car, all it took was a different paint job on the car and you got excited when you showed up at the race track. Or you put on a different uniform, a different sponsor and you were excited. It was like being a kid again. This group is excited to come back. It's a new look, it's a different feel and I think they're going to bring some stuff this year that hopefully will excite (the media) but I know it's going to excite the fans." Of course, live racing on television can only take you so far without a group of highly talented individuals to call the action, so NBC has arranged a star-studded crew to bring it all home. Media veteran Rick Allen will helm the lap-by-lap duties while 21-time Sprint Cup Series winner Jeff Burton and former Hendrick Motorsports No. 88 crew chief Steve Letarte will join him for color commentary. Other on-air talent includes Marty Snider -- who was part of the original NBC coverage from 2001 to 2006 -- NASCAR Hall of Famer Dale Jarrett, Krista Voda, Kelli Stavast, Mike Massaro, Dave Burns and Rutledge Wood. Motorsports journalists Nate Ryan and Dustin Long have also signed on for editorial coverage. For Burton, who was in the car for four races just a season ago with Michael Waltrip Racing and Stewart-Haas Racing , this whole "being a media member" thing is a completely new, heavier experience. "I've put on some weight," Burton said. "The media gets fed well, so that's been an issue for me. Jeff has done an incredible job of putting a group of people together. This is just like building a team, it really is. It's the same as being part of a race team. We have a goal that's different than winning races, but it's about doing the best broadcast we can and it's really been fun to get to know everybody." In addition to the studio in Stamford where the flagship show "NASCAR America" will be broadcast from, additional support will come from an NBC Sports studio in Charlotte, along with a smaller studio at Burton's own late model garage -- appropriately titled "Burton's Garage." While the long-time driver is more focused on the culinary aspects of being a member of the media, Letarte -- an employee of Hendrick for two decades -- may find that his biggest obstacle is objectivity. Even so, it's an aspect that he's looking forward to . "For 20 years, I've basically looked at one car and one car only,” Letarte, most recently crew chief for Dale Earnhardt Jr ., said. "…You're looking at one car and that car is your whole day. The opportunity to step back and see the entire race unfold, all 43 competitors, the different strategies; it's going to be nice to not have to cheer for one car but to cheer for a good race and to see what competitor can bring his best game that day. That's a big difference for me." The commitment to NASCAR that NBC is making cannot be understated, and it really began last year. The outlet found ways to marry motorsports into its coverage of other sports and entertainment, whether it’s seeing Jimmie Johnson race Jimmy Fallon on "The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon," Snider doing a piece with Johnson and his love of bicycles for the Tour de France or Carl Edwards teaming with Kentucky Speedway for a Triple Crown promotion. Dale Jarrett will also have an upcoming segment on the Golf Channel to showcase his links knowledge. WATCH: Johnson race Fallon in a Cooler Scooter Race On Friday, we’ll see the newest installment of cross-promotion when the NASCAR Gridiron Challenge airs at 10 p.m. ET on NBCSN, pairing drivers with former NFL players for a 20-lap race and an NFL skills-type challenge. FULL SERIES COVERAGE • Latest news • Standings • Schedule
Driver of the No. 3 Chevrolet on second season: 'We need to be in the Chase' Play: NASCAR Fantasy Live CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Around this time last year, Austin Dillon 's blood pressure was rising. The then-defending NASCAR XFINITY Series champion was a few short weeks away from beginning his rookie season in the Sprint Cup Series -- the big leagues -- but even more cold-sweat-inducing was the car number that would be adorned on the side of his Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet: NASCAR Hall of Famer Dale Earnhardt's legendary No. 3. With his second season upon him and his rookie stripe removed, Dillon exuded an aura of confidence, put-togetherness and relaxation on Thursday at the Charlotte Motor Speedway Media Tour presented by Technocom -- at least for now. "There's a lot of pressure any time you move to a new series," said Dillon, who immediately backed off the naysayers by winning the Coors Light Pole Award ahead of the 2014 Daytona 500 . "Having the 3, there's so many fans behind it and it was a great year to go through. Nothing crazy happened. This year, I think we've got to start getting crazy. We've got to start making things happen. "When I say that, we need to be in the Chase; we need to be part of the chaos at the end of the year. I want to put more pressure on (myself) and you can more focus on the competition side of things. … People know how we approached that first year; I think we did it right. Now it's time to make fire and go fast." A big part of how Dillon and returning crew chief Gil Martin are trying to improve is in preparation, not only physically -- which he's determined to stay on top of -- but also mentally. "Mentally, it's having more days at the shop. … Knowing what we're going to do when we go through practices so we can be more organized with practices," Dillon said. "We were able to really scramble at certain points through the year and make our cars good when we struggled in practice. I think preparation this year, we want to be ready for those changes. We don't want to be behind where we have to make a long shot or a Hail Mary at something. ... I think that's one thing that I've really told Gil and my guys. I want them to stay on me to stay focused and push me." Dillon mentioned that a number of sponsorship appearances and NASCAR events having to do with the famous car number pulled him away from the health-conscious steps he took last offseason to get ready for his rookie year. He and his team have taken this into consideration, working diligently to keep Dillon and the No. 3 team on a more even-keeled schedule throughout November. It should allow Dillon to maintain his consistency -- his average finish of 17.5 ranked 15th in the series among full-time drivers, ahead of Chase drivers Kyle Busch , Kasey Kahne , Kurt Busch , AJ Allmendinger and Aric Almirola -- the same consistency that projected Ryan Newman to the Championship 4, 50 yards shy of a title. That consistency also came in the form of completing 10,488 of 10,541 laps (99.5 percent), the second-most in the series. The 24-year-old is also scheduled to run 20 XFINITY Series races in 2015, which he believes will help him figure out the ins-and-outs of his Cup ride. The new technical packages for Sprint Cup cars in 2015 is much more closely aligned with NASCAR's second series than in years past. There's a lot for Dillon to build on for 2015 and a Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup berth is not out of the question. With the initial attention around the No. 3 car's return now mostly a thing of the past, it should allow the RCR driver to stay steady throughout the year and keep his head down. "The good thing is, we had a decent year last year, but when you can find places to improve, and you know where those are, you should be able to take those and make them better," Dillon said. "I think that's what I've been able to do the last couple of years when we go from say, rookie year in Trucks or ( XFINITY ), then second year and you win a championship." "I'm not saying we're going to go out there and win a championship, but that's our goal. I think we can, and what Ryan and Luke (Lambert, No. 31 crew chief) were able to do, I think me and Gil want to accomplish that -- have a shot at the end of the year." MORE: Newman eager to build on last season's gains FULL SERIES COVERAGE • Latest news • Standings • Schedule
After rejecting 'easy' decision to leave, veteran embraces team's new outlook Play: NASCAR Fantasy Live CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- For all the change that Roush Fenway Racing has undergone entering the 2015 NASCAR season, Greg Biffle remains the organization's constant, a cornerstone driver who first started his career with team owner Jack Roush in the Camping World Truck Series in 1998. But with the team firmly in rebuilding mode after its recent slide toward substandard performance, Biffle shed light on just how close he came to following the path of two prominent former teammates out the door. Biffle plumbed the depths of the company's recent low points Wednesday during the annual Charlotte Motor Speedway Media Tour presented by Technocom, saying that he had fielded offers from "great teams" to drive elsewhere. Ultimately, the 45-year-old driver made the choice to stay, in an effort to help lead the team out of its dark days. "You know, loyalty in this world only goes so far," Biffle said. "… I felt like I had to wrestle with the decision on whether I leave or not. It makes it easy to leave, it's easy to kick a guy when he's down, right? So we were having tremendous trouble last year, and I've been there through three of these cycles, and we're not going to sugar-coat it -- last year, we were at the bottom of the heap compared to the teams. We just were, and no light at the end of the tunnel, and so it would've been an easy way for me to leave at that point. "But knowing that the stock is at the lowest price that it's been at, sometimes that's the opportunity. It's going to go up. It doesn't have to , but logic says it's going to go up, and so I wrestled with it and sat long and hard about it and said, 'I want to be the guy that brings this organization back out of where we're at. We're in a bad place. I could jump ship right now.' And I decided I didn't want to do that. I was going to give it another opportunity." Biffle's tenure with Roush Fenway includes an enviable collection of career highlights -- 19 victories in the top-level Sprint Cup Series and championships in both the XFINITY Series (2002) and the truck circuit (2000). Even though he managed to qualify for last season's Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup playoffs, his losing streak stretched to 57 -- nearing the longest dry spell of his career. Only Carl Edwards won races at the Sprint Cup level for RFR last year, and he departed in the offseason to restart his career at Joe Gibbs Racing . That move followed a similar career shift by Matt Kenseth -- another longtime Roush Fenway competitor -- just two years earlier. Biffle could've been the third domino to fall, but even with all the frayed emotions, the connections he'd established over the years kept him from severing those ties. "I stayed for relationships and things that I had built for a long period of time that I really cared about, and that was one of my decisions that really weighed on me to stay," Biffle said. "After I elected to stay, other people didn't and so I was left holding the bag a little bit, but I can't say enough about the partnerships that we've created since then. "I can talk forever about what's gone on, and I hate to keep -- so to speak, the cliché -- beat the dead horse. We all recognized the position we were in last year. We were drowning and we were trying to get to the surface, and it was difficult on all of us. All the relationships were all taxed, between me and my crew chief, the other drivers, the team engineers, the simulation group, and then fabrication, the guys hanging the (car) bodies. We were all taxed because we were not performing." Roush Fenway president Steve Newmark admitted that the offseason mission of rebuilding the team's stature in the sport had come with some soul searching. The organization has made plenty of offseason strides to meet the goals -- primarily through digging to the root cause of what went wrong in 2014 and closing the gap on its rivals in the technology department. But it's also revamped its mindset in more subtle ways, freshening the look of the shop and bringing it up to more state-of-the-art standards. Even though the overhaul has been dramatic, Newmark said losing Biffle was a change the team couldn't afford to withstand. "It was critical," Newmark said. "Greg and I spent a lot of time talking. He was solicited by a lot of teams, which I would expect with a driver of that caliber. After a lot of the discussions, I think he felt like Roush was the right fit for him and the right place, and he and Jack had some unfinished business. But he brings an element that we wouldn't have had without him. We have a lot of other talented drivers, but none of them has had the history with both our organization and the championships, so he's been fantastic." Though Biffle cracked in his opening remarks that Jack Roush, 72, had been racing Ford products since 1901, it's clear the team has begun to skew younger as it enters its 28th year in NASCAR. Biffle will race alongside third-year driver Ricky Stenhouse Jr ., 27, and 23-year-old Trevor Bayne , promoted to his first full season in the Sprint Cup Series. Change isn't all bad, as Biffle was quick to mention the championship fruits of the first-year partnership between Kevin Harvick and Stewart-Haas Racing last season. Taken a step further, Biffle said Roush Fenway's expectations equal those of the title-winning No. 4 team. "We're all that confident," Biffle said. "We all feel that good that that's the position we're in now. Everyone's so excited about the way our company looks, about how everybody's getting along and how excited everybody is to work together again, and on a common goal. We all feel really good." FULL SERIES COVERAGE • Latest news • Standings • Schedule
Richard Childress Racing driver finished second in 2014's final standings Play: NASCAR Fantasy Live CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- His team "stepped up" in 2014 and Ryan Newman said Thursday that he sees no reason the Richard Childress Racing No. 31 team can't continue to not only improve, but challenge for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series championship. "There was a point right around May when we got caught looking in the wrong direction and just were behind," Newman said during the fourth and final day of this year's Charlotte Motor Speedway Media Tour presented by Technocom. "They did an awesome job of continually stepping up, bringing better and more competitive pieces to the race track. Everyone at RCR stepped up. … It was an awesome thing to be a part of." While he did not win a race in '14, thus ending a four-year run of making the trip to Victory Lane once each season, consistency throughout the bulk of the year helped Newman qualify for the 10-race Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup and he was one of only four drivers to advance into the final, championship-determining round at Homestead-Miami Speedway . Although he came up just short of the title, eventually finishing second to Stewart-Haas Racing ’s Kevin Harvick , the effort further convinced the 37-year-old that the move to RCR prior to the '14 season had been the right one. And the team, led by crew chief Luke Lambert, should only get better. "No reason for it not to ," said Newman. "Even though there were no (wins) in the win column, we achieved some amazing things for a first-year organization … no reason we can’t keep that incline going." The potential for success, he said, was there from the beginning, "but I didn't think it would explode the way it did. "I think we all saw gunpowder laying on the floor, but we didn't know who was going to light it, when it was going to light and how much of it was going to go off. I think every bit of it went off, and then some." Changes to the rules package for 2015, the use of new technology to officiate pit road and a lack of testing have raised questions about how the upcoming NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season will play out. That being the case, Lambert said RCR, as well as teams across the board, will be relying heavily on the in-house tools and technology at their disposal to get a base for the new year. "From what we're seeing, the speeds aren't going to be dramatically different," he said. "We're expecting to see really good racing, but that's what we'll have to wait until Atlanta (where the rules package will first come into play) to see." Having less horsepower and downforce won't exactly be new, Newman said, but instead will be "a return to where we were a few years ago." The difference now, he said, will come from the static ride height rule that was put into play in '14. "Now I think the cars will be more competitive in dirty air whereas they weren't then," Newman said. "They had less downforce but they had (higher) static heights so whenever you got them in dirty air, they wanted to come up and disconnect themselves from the race track. Every comment was 'the car is out of the race track, all four tires aren’t working for me.' I think as we get back to that level of downforce with the static ride height and the amount of underbody downforce, the racing will be … better. "Goodyear still has to provide the ultimate tire for every situation. And that's not easy because those situations can change. …That is a huge task for them, but that's the ultimate answer. "I've always said the tires are the only thing that touches the race track from my car, so it has to be the connecting device to make the racing as great as it can possibly be." FULL SERIES COVERAGE • Latest news • Standings • Schedule
22-year-old did not compete in any NASCAR national series in 2014 Play: NASCAR Fantasy Live Mike Affarano Motorsports announced Wednesday that Johanna Long will drive for the team in select NASCAR XFINITY and Camping World Truck Series events this season. Long is scheduled to make her debut in the No. 03 Chevrolet in the XFINITY Series opener, the Alert Today Florida 300 at Daytona International Speedway on Feb. 21 (3:30 p.m. ET, FOX Sports 1). "I'm grateful for the opportunity to race this season with Mike Affarano Motorsports," Long said in a statement provided by the team. "In a time when drivers are pressured to bring sponsorship money to teams in order to race, it was great to have my phone ring and be approached because of my talent." Long, a 22-year-old native of Pensacola, Florida, last competed in a NASCAR national series in 2013 with a 20-race schedule in what was then the NASCAR Nationwide (now XFINITY ) Series. Her best effort in her 41-race XFINITY career -- all spent with team owner Mary Louise Miller -- was 12th place on three occasions. Affarano's team will be making its first steps into the XFINITY ranks. The team added equipment from the former Turner Scott Motorsports organization in the offseason. "We are thrilled to have Johanna behind the wheel for 2015," Affarano stated. "She has such drive and determination that will represent our team well on and off the track, and we know she's great with attracting sponsors and fans. We're looking forward to growing and progressing as a company together this season." FULL SERIES COVERAGE • Latest news • Standings • Schedule FULL SERIES COVERAGE • Latest news • Standings • Schedule
Three-time NASCAR champion will become sole owner of organization CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Three-time NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion Tony Stewart has entered into an agreement to purchase the All Star Circuit of Champions Sprint Car Series. The announcement, made Wednesday, stated that Stewart has agreed to terms with series owner Guy Webb to become the sole owner of the organization. "My passion for sprint car racing is well known," Stewart said in a release, "and the All Star Circuit of Champions ... series has been a pillar of the sport for a long time. "Racing is my business and I look forward to building the series' already impressive legacy by taking it to a new level of success and sustainability." Stewart, co-owner of the four-car Stewart-Haas Racing NASCAR Sprint Cup Series organization, has continued to compete in sprint cars throughout his NASCAR career. Incidents in the past two seasons, however, have left many wondering if his extracurricular racing activities should be either curtailed or stopped entirely. In 2013, Stewart suffered a broken right leg in an accident while competing at a sprint car race in Iowa. The injury forced Stewart to miss the final 15 races of the '13 NASCAR season. Last August, Stewart was again competing in a sprint car race when his entry struck and killed a fellow driver, Kevin Ward Jr. Stewart sat out three NASCAR races while dealing with the emotional and legal turmoil. Although he was cleared of any wrongdoing in the incident, Stewart said the fatality was something that would stay with him "forever." Dirt track racing makes up a large part of Stewart's business endeavors, and includes ownership of Eldora Speedway in Rossburg, Ohio as well as Tony Stewart Racing, a successful World of Outlaws race team. Webb said he had put his "heart and soul" into the All Star Circuit, "and it gives me great peace of mind to hand over the reins ... to Tony Stewart . "Tony is dirt track racing's biggest advocate, and he's always working in the best interest of sprint car racing." The series, which is not tied to one specific sanctioning organization, has a 50-race schedule in store for the 2015 season. The first event of the new year is scheduled for Feb. 5-7 at Bubba Raceway Park in Ocala, Florida.