Post-Race Reactions: Too Tough to Tame 200
Hornaday, Bodine, Crafton and Buescher comment on their top-five finishes at Darlington.
Jones aims to contend at Dover, boost Chase standing
RELATED: Jones talks about wreck at Kentucky DOVER, Del. -- The XFINITY Series rewrote history books last weekend when it kicked off the series' inaugural 12-driver Chase at Kentucky Speedway . Points leader Elliott Sadler used a late pass to win in the Bluegrass State and simultaneously punch his ticket to the next round of the Chase. This Saturday's race at Dover International Speedway (3 p.m. NBCSN, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio) marks the second of three races in the opening round of the playoffs. May's Dover winner Erik Jones -- who dropped from first to ninth in the Chase standings after a late wreck at Kentucky -- hopes he's not one of those unlucky four. "It's been fun so far," Jones said of the format. "Obviously, only one race in, not the finish we wanted but had a really fast car and had one that could've won the race, but ended up being our own biggest enemy in that one. "Hopefully we can get it back on track here at Dover -- another really good race track for us." For these 12 championship contenders, the "win-and-you're-in" format lends itself to Victory Lane remaining the goal. Spectators saw championship hopes glimmer in the eyes of the Chasers last week, as aggression heated up on track . But with only two races to make up positions on the Chase Grid, it's a balance between staying out of trouble on track but not getting eliminated, either. "You've got to control what you can control and at Kentucky I didn't do a very good job of that. ... I put myself in a situation to make a mistake and ended up doing that and taking ourselves out," Jones said. "If we're caught up in something and it's something out of our control, that's nothing we can do about that. "We still need to put ourselves in a good position and one where we're running up front and hopefully in the mix for a win. If we can do that, I think we'll be just fine." Sadler enters Saturday's race at the Monster Mile atop the Chase Grid, followed by Daniel Suarez , Brendan Gaughan , Ryan Reed , Darrell Wallace Jr ., Justin Allgaier , Brennan Poole , Blake Koch , Jones, Ryan Sieg , Brandon Jones and Ty Dillon , who was also caught up in a late-race wreck at Kentucky. &amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;lt;/p&amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;gt;
Johnson: 'Excited to be back at my best race track'
Jimmie Johnson discusses coming to his best race track but knows from experience that you can't always count on a track to be kind to a driver.
Streak to the Finish picks for the Monster Mile
NASCAR.com's Jonathan Merryman and analyst Chris Rice give you the best Streak to the Finish picks heading into the NASCAR triple header weekend at Dover International Speedway and Las Vegas Motor Speedway.
Kyle Larson leaps to top of practice board late at Dover
RELATED: Full practice results " Top 10 consecutive lap averages Kyle Larson topped the speed charts in Friday's only NASCAR Sprint Cup Series practice at Dover International Speedway with a speed of 165.578 mph in his No. 42 Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates Chevrolet. Right behind him was Carl Edwards in the No. 19 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota at 165.122 mph. Rounding out the top five were Matt Kenseth in the No. 20 JGR Toyota, Ryan Newman in the No. 31 Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet and Jimmie Johnson in the No. 48 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet. Sprint Cup Series Chase points leader Brad Keselowski was 19th fastest with a speed of 162.177 mph in the No. 2 Team Penske Ford. The lowest Chase driver was Chris Buescher in 31st place with a speed of 160.100 mph in the Front Row Motorsports Ford. The start of the practice session was delayed 15 minutes in order to finish drying the 1-mile track after rain moved through the area earlier. &amp;lt;/p&amp;gt;
It's tough for Jimmie Johnson to make everybody happy
Jimmie Johnson comments on the intensity so far in the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup as the first elimination race approaches.
Ryan Reed to attempt Sprint Cup debut at Talladega
XFINITY Series regular Ryan Reed will attempt to make his Sprint Cup Series debut at Talladega Superspeedway on Oct. 23 (2 p.m. ET, NBCSN, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio), the team announced Wednesday afternoon. BREAKING: @driverRyanReed will attempt his Sprint Cup debut at @TalladegaSuperS in the @LillyDiabetes No. 99 Fusion https://t.co/vM2ogVNYsH pic.twitter.com/ETls7WJeFt — Roush Fenway Racing (@roushfenway) September 28, 2016 Reed, who pilots the No. 16 Roush Fenway Racing Ford in the XFINITY Series, will drive the No. 99 Lilly Diabetes Ford in his debut. Pretty unbelievable. 5 years ago thought I was done racing. Now getting ready to run my first Cup race. Thanks all for the support. — Ryan Reed (@driverRyanReed) September 28, 2016 The 2015 XFINITY Daytona winner has been racing in the XFINITY Series for three full seasons and has yet to attempt a Sprint Cup start in his racing career. He is currently one of the eight XFINITY drivers vying for the series championship in the inaugural Chase.
Bruce: Don't see drama? You're not looking hard enough
Editor's note: The views expressed in this column are solely those of the author. DOVER, Del. -- Where's the drama? If you mean the pushing and shoving, the name-calling, the on-track paybacks, then no, the start of this year's Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup has seemed tame by those standards. If you mean three- and four-wide battles for position from the drop of the green flag right up until the checkered flag, then no, that's not been the case either. (But seriously, how often does that happen?) But drama? It's still there. Maybe not to the scale some folks have come to expect, but it's been there nonetheless. Chase teams continue to battle in an effort to advance to the second round. Those outside the Chase haven't stopped trying to get back into Victory Lane. Both groups face issues every week. Some overcome. Some do not. In a series where every point matters, every lap does, too . Every decision on the track has consequences while the potential for disaster rides along with every trip to pit road. No altercations? No major disputes? That doesn't mean teams are mailing it in. The teams that are struggling continue to try to get better. The teams that run up front on a more regular basis aren't exactly resting on their laurels. Recall how strong the Joe Gibbs Racing teams were during the regular season? Those teams haven't been bad in the Chase by any means, but it certainly has been no cakewalk. And you can bet they are trying to regain any advantage they enjoyed earlier this year. "It's so hard to make everybody happy," Jimmie Johnson said Friday at Dover International Speedway . That some feel the action hasn't lived up to expectations doesn't sit well with the six-time series champion and driver of the No. 48 Chevrolet for Hendrick Motorsports . "It actually frustrates me to hear that," he said. Johnson opened this year's Chase with what would on the surface appear to be two very humdrum finishes of 12th at Chicago and eighth last weekend at New Hampshire. Far from it, according to Johnson, who called the opening race of the 10-race playoff "about as exciting as any Chicago (race) I've ever had." For the first time all season, he led more than 100 laps. He was in contention for the win, battling with teammate Chase Elliott in the latter stages of the race. But a mistake on pit road led to a speeding penalty during a late round of green-flag pit stops. And any chance at victory went out the window. Maybe that isn't spellbinding for some, but for Johnson and a host of others, the start of this year's Chase has been intense. Fellow driver Jamie McMurray compared the action in the first two races to "trying to have a good finish in every single race." "You're not going to have that, and that's what makes the exciting finishes so great," McMurray said, and that's about as spot-on as you're going to get. "I guess it's circumstantial. Normally (for) the restarts at (New Hampshire), somebody always gets tangled up, and the fact that it's one of the first Chase races there is usually some drama there. We just didn't have that this year." Dover, site of Sunday's Citizen Soldier 400 (2 p.m. ET, NBCSN, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR) is "one of those places where we could have that and we could shake it up a little bit," he said. Two races into this year's Chase and no one's car has gone flying through the air or burst into flames. No driver has rushed up pit road after the race to accost another competitor or used his car to exact a bit of vengeance out on the race track. Maybe that's become the expectation. But while bemoaning the lack of those things, folks are missing some pretty good competition out on the track, too . &amp;amp;lt;/p&amp;amp;gt;
How Darlington's distinctive design was made
RELATED: Buy tickets " See all the throwback paint schemes Editor's Note: This story first ran on NASCAR.com on September 2, 2015 ahead of last season's throwback race at Darlington Raceway . The unique, oblong layout of Darlington Raceway was made by design in 1949, a year before it welcomed NASCAR's big leagues for its first 500-mile race. How it happened is no small fish tale, in a manner of speaking. When Harold Brasington purchased 70 acres of land from farm owner Sherman Ramsey for the site of NASCAR's first superspeedway, there was one condition -- Ramsey requested that the minnow pond on his property not be disturbed. The result was a set of turns on one end of the track that was tighter than the opposite end, which gives the track its distinctive egg shape. The abstract layout continues to challenge NASCAR drivers and crew chiefs alike, some 65-plus years after its debut. Among the track’s many traditions is the "Darlington Stripe," a black tire mark created from cars’ frequent brushes along the outside retaining wall. RELATED: See the best Darlington Stripes in NASCAR history Kyle Petty -- who had a history of futility on the 1.366-mile track, with zero top-five finishes in 51 Cup starts at Darlington -- famously quipped in an ESPN interview after a crash that the track would be better served to be filled with water for bass fishing. Had that unlikely conversion ever happened, Petty would have had a ready source for bait in Ramsey's pond. The track, known as "The Lady in Black," has also been known as one that is " Too Tough to Tame " and is one of the more unique configurations in NASCAR and will provide quite the challenge for drivers in both the NASCAR XFINITY Series and the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series on Labor Day weekend. The XFINITY Series VFW Sports Clips Help A Hero 200 is on Sept. 3 (3:30 p.m. ET, NBC, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio). The Sprint Cup Series Bojangles' Southern 500 is on Sept. 4 (6 p.m. ET, NBC, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio). &amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;lt;/p&amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;gt;
Elliott: Hendrick's recent surge a group effort
RELATED: Dover on-track schedule " Chase Grid DOVER, Del. -- Chase Elliott 's average finish during the six-race stretch from Sonoma in late June to early August at Pocono was a sour 27.67. His past six races? 10.3. The Hendrick Motorsports rookie certainly appears to be over his summer slump. "I was really proud of the way we ran last weekend," Elliott said Friday at Dover International Speedway . "We ran inside the top five the majority of the day. That was a huge improvement for our group. Loudon is a terrible race track for me, so I was really happy with just the fact that we were able to be kind of in that group." Still in his freshman year in the Sprint Cup Series, this marks 20-year-old Elliott's first Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup appearance. He's joined in the 16-car playoffs by teammate Jimmie Johnson , who has been a part of each Chase since its inaugural run in 2004. Like Elliott, Johnson's No. 48 team also struggled throughout the summer, but appears to be back to its form of running in the top bracket. Even the non-Chase cars of Kasey Kahne (No. 5) and Alex Bowman (No. 88), fill-in driver for Dale Earnhardt Jr ., have shown speed in recent weeks. The teamwide improvements beg the question: Has the Hendrick Motorsports organization found something in time for the Chase? Elliott thinks it's bigger than that. "I know that our engine department has been working really hard," Elliott said. "I think that you see their improvements across the board, not just Hendrick cars, but I have a lot of respect for Mr. (Rick) Hendrick and everybody at the engine shop for making their engine program so fair … I think when you see an improvement in the engine shop you are going to see that across the board and I think we've seen that the past couple of weeks. I think there is definitely something there." The No. 24 shop individually has also done its part to put together the jigsaw that seemed to puzzle the Hendrick group in the summer weeks leading up to the Chase. "I know Alan (Gustafson, crew chief) and our group has been pushing really hard on that front trying to improve, trying to get the best stuff we can get pumped out of the shop and to the race track," Elliott said. "I think it's a little bit of both to be honest with you and I think we are moving in the right direction on some items that I think we’ve been missing. That is encouraging to me." An encouraged Elliott has elevated his team to ninth of 16 on the Chase Grid, 16 points ahead of the cutoff line. Sunday's race at Dover International Speedway (2 p.m. ET, NBCSN, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio) marks the first elimination race of the season that will narrow the field from 16 to 12. Based on recent trends, Elliott's chances at advancing to the next round are strong, provided he's able to tame the Monster Mile, a track where he finished third in May. And from there, the rookie could go all the way to the finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway . "I 100 percent think our group or Jimmie's group could make it," Elliott said on the possibility. "I feel confident in that. I think we've been fast enough these first two weeks to do it, but obviously you have to have some things go your way throughout this deal and you've got to execute your races and try to stay mistake free."