Post-Race Reactions: Too Tough to Tame 200
Hornaday, Bodine, Crafton and Buescher comment on their top-five finishes at Darlington.
GarageCam tries to tame Darlington
The GarageCam gang tries to tackle a place that has been called 'The Track Too Tough to Tame .'
No. 27 crew chief change made to 'spark results'
CONCORD, N.C. -- NASCAR Sprint Cup Series driver Paul Menard hopes this week's crew chief change for his No. 27 Richard Childress Racing team can provide a "spark" as the team battles to get into this year's Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup field. With only six races remaining before the start of the Chase, RCR officials announced Monday that veteran Danny Stockman has assumed the crew chief duties, replacing Justin Alexander. Stockman's first race with the team will be this weekend's Pennsylvania 400 at Pocono Raceway. Alexander had been Menard's crew chief since joining the team with five races remaining in the 2014 season. "Justin is a great guy and extremely smart," Menard told NASCAR.com Tuesday, adding that he expects his former crew chief to "remain within RCR in some role." "The biggest thing is we just haven't run very good this year. We felt we had to do something to try and spark some results." Menard, who is closing in on his 350th career start in NASCAR's Sprint Cup Series, qualified for the Chase last season and finished a career-best 14th. But he's yet to earn a top-five finish this year, has only two-top 10s and sits 23rd in points. He was 13th in points after 20 races last season, and 15th at this time two years ago. The 16-team Chase field consist of drivers inside the top-30 in points that have one or more wins; if fewer than 16 drivers have won through this year's cutoff race at Richmond International Raceway in September, those 16th or higher in points without a win or wins will be awarded any remaining available spots in the field. Thus far, 11 drivers have one or more wins, meaning only five spots are currently available via points. Menard trails Kyle Larson by 75 points for the final spot in the Chase Grid. "At this point, we have to win a race to get in the Chase," Menard said. "We're going to shake things up and try to make that happen." Stockman guided Austin Dillon to the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series championship in 2011 and the XFINITY Series championship in '13 at RCR. He also served as crew chief for Menard for a victory at Road America in the XFINITY Series last year. This season, he has overseen the No. 2 XFINITY Series team for RCR, which has featured drivers Dillon, Menard and Ben Kennedy. Gil Martin, RCR XFINITY Series director, will fill Stockton's role. Menard is coming off a 10th-place finish this past weekend at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, where he scored his lone Sprint Cup victory in 2011. "Danny has had a lot of success in the Truck and XFINITY Series," Menard said. "We're trying to get a spark for the team. We're consistently in the top 20, top 15 but we just haven't knocked out those top-10 and top-five finishes this season." In addition to Menard, RCR also fields Sprint Cup entries for drivers Dillon and Ryan Newman. Full-time XFINITY Series teams for the organization feature drivers Ty Dillon, Brandon Jones and Brendan Gaughan, as well as the fourth now spearheaded by Martin.
Menard's Darlington scheme gives honor to Al Unser Jr.
RELATED: Buy Darlington tickets " '16 throwback schemes CONCORD, N.C. -- When Valvoline officials queried NASCAR Sprint Cup Series driver Paul Menard about his racing heroes, the first name on the list was Al Unser Jr. So Menard couldn't be more pleased that the Valvoline-themed throwback paint scheme he will run in this year's Bojangles' Southern 500 pays tribute to Unser Jr.'s lone NASCAR premier series start. Menard's Richard Childress Racing No. 27 Chevrolet will carry the gray, orange and black color scheme used by Unser Jr. for the 1993 Daytona 500 with sponsor Valvoline featured on the hood when the series travels to Darlington Raceway for the annual Labor Day weekend classic. "Little Al's first NASCAR race was the Daytona 500 in 1993," Menard said earlier this week as preparations for the unveiling of the paint scheme got underway. "The partnership with Valvoline this year -- we got to talking earlier about who some of my racing heroes were and Al Jr. was right away, even without the Valvoline relationship. I've always been a huge fan of his. He was the guy in IndyCar that I always pulled for." Menard said he met the former open-wheel champion and two-time winner of the Indianapolis 500 "when I was probably 12." "I remember; he probably doesn't," Menard continued. "But I pulled up (this morning) … and he was standing out in the parking lot. We were out there talking probably 10 or 15 minutes, just about the '93 (Daytona) 500, his autocross stuff that he's doing now, just talking about a little bit of racing." Unser Jr. was carrying the Valvoline colors in 1992 when he won his first Indy 500 title. Already a NASCAR sponsor, Valvoline wanted additional branding in '93 to promote its line of synthetic products, particularly for that year's Daytona 500. And the Daytona 500 just happened to be on Unser Jr.'s bucket list. "There were special races that I wanted to race in my career," Unser Jr. said. "The Indy 500, the Daytona 500, the Daytona 24 Hours and Le Mans. Those are the ones that I really wanted to run as a kid. "The Indy 500 is really where my heart is so we'd been doing that. But yeah, I wanted to run the Daytona 500 sometime during my career and it was just a blessing when Valvoline called me up and said, 'You know, we'd like to do this down in Daytona. Would you like to do it?' "I said, 'Of course I would. It's got to be with a great team.' "They said, 'We've contacted Hendrick Motorsports,' and I go, 'Awesome.' " At that time, the Hendrick organization consisted of three teams with drivers Ken Schrader, Ricky Rudd and rookie Jeff Gordon. The addition of Unser Jr. made it a four-team effort for the series' most notable race. A crash during the second of two twin qualifying races three days before the 500, however, cost Unser Jr. his primary entry and he wound up racing Schrader's backup Chevrolet Lumina. Instead of a gray, orange and black paint scheme, Unser Jr.'s race-day car was white with the Valvoline branding on the hood and across the rear quarter panels. A crash with less that 50 laps remaining took Unser Jr. out of contention, and he finished 36th. When told that Menard and Valvoline were bringing the original paint scheme back to the track for the Darlington throwback weekend, Unser said he was "just overwhelmed." "Mainly because this was just a one off," he said, "not a traditional kind of car with a lot of running behind it, a lot of heritage to it. So when they contacted me and said they were thinking about doing this throwback at Darlington … it was a true blessing." Menard praised Valvoline for not only bringing back the paint scheme, but for the company's long involvement in auto racing. "The brand is iconic in our sport," he said. "You pick out right away where that Valvoline car is on the race track, whether it's a stock car race or IndyCar races, NHRA. They're always around the sport. They have a huge racing legacy and I'm proud to be a part of it." &amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;lt;/p&amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;gt;
Who will rise to the top at Pocono and Iowa?
NASCAR.com's Jonathan Merryman and Chris Rice give you top picks for Streak to the Finish heading into the weekend at Pocono Raceway and Iowa Speedway.
John Wes Townley cleared to compete at Pocono Raceway
Concord, N.C. (July 26, 2016) – John Wes Townley received medical clearance earlier today to resume racing in NASCAR and ARCA. He will compete in this weekend's NASCAR Camping World Truck Series and ARCA events at Pocono Raceway. Townley had been sidelined for the past four weeks while being treated for mild concussion-like symptoms. "I'd like to thank Parker Kligerman, Cole Custer and Brady Boswell for filling in for me," Townley said. "I feel great and I’m looking forward to racing at Pocono this week."
NASCAR gives P3 penalty to No. 4 Sprint Cup team
Rodney Childers, crew chief of Kevin Harvick's No. 4 Stewart-Haas Racing Chevrolet, has been fined $20,000 and suspended through this weekend's race at Pocono Raceway after the No. 4 team was assessed a P3 penalty following last weekend's race at Indianapolis, NASCAR announced Wednesday. The penalty fell under section 12.1; section 10.11.3.4, lug nuts not properly installed. Other penalties assessed following the Crown Royal Presents the Combat Wounded Coalition 400 at The Brickyard at Indianapolis Motor Speedway included written warnings for twice failing LIS inspection pre-race to : No. 5 team of Kasey Kahne (first warning), No. 27 team of Paul Menard (third warning) and No. 83 team of Matt DiBenedetto (fourth warning). Written warnings also were given to the No. 41 team of Kurt Busch (second warning) and the No. 43 team of Aric Almirola (second warning) for failing template inspection twice, pre-qualifying. In the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series, the No. 22 team of Austin Wayne Self received a writing warning (third warning) on opening day inspection at the Aspen Dental Eldora Dirt Derby for truck trailing arms not meeting specifications.
Five to Watch: Potential XFINITY drivers for Stewart-Haas Racing
Who might Stewart-Haas Racing turn to drive its XFINITY Series car in 2017? NASCAR.com has a few ideas.
Johnson looks to cure cold spell at the Brickyard
RELATED: Johnson through the years " See all the winners at the Brickyard SPEEDWAY, Ind. – Jimmie Johnson looked comfortable and calm taking questions from the media Friday morning at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. The six-time Sprint Cup Series champion's No. 48 Lowe’s Red Vest Chevrolet was fastest in the day's opening practice here and seventh quickest in final practice. The historically tough 2.5-mile track has been a positive outlet for Johnson. His success at Indianapolis – four wins – is undeniable, but it is also sporadic. And overdue. Johnson won three times at Indy in four years between 2006-2009 – a mark both unmatched and highly impressive. He added a fourth victory in 2012 and then nearly a fifth in 2013 when he finished runner-up. Only Jeff Gordon (five wins) has won more here. The flip side of the success is that three times Johnson has finished 36th or worse. He was 14th and 15th in his last two races at Indy. And his need to add another win here in Sunday's Crown Royal presents the Combat Wounded Coalition 400 at the Brickyard (NBCSN, IMS, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio) is as much about turning his season around in pursuit of a record-tying seventh NASCAR Sprint Cup Series title as it is attaining Indianapolis-specific glory. "We love big events, that's one thing about Hendrick Motorsports,’" Johnson allowed, smiling. "We look at the 500 and the 400 and all big races as an opportunity; and are excited for it." Johnson was the first driver in 2016 to collect multiple trophies winning the second week of the season at Atlanta and then again three weeks later at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, California. But in the last 10 races, he's crashed out three times and had only a single top-10 finish – a third-place finish at Charlotte in the Coca-Cola 600 . In fact, four of his finishes in this stretch have been 25th or worse. Before a 12th- place finish from the pole position at New Hampshire last week, Johnson uncharacteristically crashed out in back- to -back races with a 35th- place showing at Daytona and 32nd at Kentucky. He's currently eighth in the points standings, however, he is fourth on the Chase Grid because of his multiple wins. "I guess last week is kind of a good example of some of the difficulties we've had," Johnson said of New Hampshire. "We had competitive cars all running in the top 11 and in one corner we lose two of them. "It's been tough , but I think we have a good foundation to build from. We have respectable finishes in our cars, but nobody wants to be a decent finisher or a respectable finisher. We all want to dominate. And, we're working real hard on all fronts; from our engine shop, chassis shop, aero, teams, pit stops, and all of it." Contrary to what other teams may be experiencing, Johnson said it's not that his team isn't trying hard enough to return to form. It may be they are trying too hard. "And that's the problem," Johnson said. "I've been at 110 percent and you make too many mistakes there. And I think our team has, too . So, that's one thing we have recognized and we're going to really try to dial back and make sure that we run where we should. "If we have a fifth place car that week, let's be sure that we at least finish fifth. Maybe there's some opportunities to give us a chance to win, but stop making mistakes. And, I've got to do that, first and foremost." Johnson said he was even open to having the team’s "new driver" Jeff Gordon give feedback on the cars since Gordon – who retired last year – is filling in for Dale Earnhardt Jr. this week at Indianapolis and next week at Pocono while Earnhardt continues to recover from concussion-like symptoms. "We're months in, and I feel like all the drivers have expressed where we could be stronger and what we might need, but a fresh set of eyes and I guess it is kind of biased, but versus the four drivers in unbiased evaluation of the car and where we stack-up and how the engine feels compared to others," Johnson said of possibly getting Gordon's opinion. "And Jeff has had a unique opportunity to see the sport from a totally different angle; and certainly watching cars and I know he's formed some opinions watching other race cars and where the Toyotas might beat us. So, to be able to sit in the car and look for those opportunities and moments, I think will be helpful for us, for sure." The recent struggles are certainly an unfamiliar position for team owner Rick Hendrick, who was just selected for the 2017 NASCAR Hall of Fame class. He's grown much more accustomed to winning championships or at the very least challenging for titles. Recently his team has been challenging simply to finish a race. But righting the course is something everyone expects. And the trick is doing it sooner than later. "It seems like when it rains, it pours," Hendrick said. "I think at Daytona we wrecked three or four cars. And then we went to Kentucky and wrecked again. We were in good shape in New Hampshire, but wrecked again. I've been doing this long enough that you can't stay on top forever. You have to work hard to get back. And I think we've made a lot of improvements. "I think we'll see some, hopefully, this weekend. But, you never like having a curveball. This is kind of one of the toughest things you have to go through as one of your star drivers can't drive. And so, the encouraging news is that everybody just stepped up and is working harder. "We're determined to work in every area from the engine to the chassis and aero and everything. And the teams are excited. It's kind of our 'refuse to lose' belief. But we didn't need this, for sure. We didn't need the wrecks we've gone through. Our place looks like a salvage yard where all of the cars have been tore up. But that just makes us dig harder." And Johnson appears ready to lead the charge. "We're all highly inspired to get back on top of the mountain, that is where we feel we should be at Hendrick Motorsports," Johnson said. "We've just got to clean it up on all fronts. Hopefully we have it all together here and can win."
Ryan Reed's Darlington scheme honors Allison
RELATED: See the Sprint Cup Series throwback schemes CONCORD, N.C. -- Ryan Reed and Roush Fenway Racing today unveiled the throwback paint scheme that the No. 16 Lilly Diabetes/American Diabetes Association Ford Mustang will carry this September in the NASCAR XFINITY Series (NXS) race at Darlington Raceway . The No. 16 Ford Mustang will feature a design similar to the No. 16 driven by Bobby Allison in 1975, on his way to three victories, including one at Darlington Raceway . "Bobby Allison is a true icon in this sport," said team co-owner Jack Roush. "I'm beyond honored to have one of our cars carry a paint scheme that Bobby ran. I look forward to making him proud at Darlington Raceway later this season." In a NASCAR Sprint Cup Series (NSCS) career that spanned 25 years, Allison, the 1983 NSCS champion, earned 84 victories, 58 poles and 335 top-five finishes. In addition, Allison led more than 27,000 laps in NSCS competition. For his success, Allison was nominated to the NASCAR Hall of Fame in 2011. "I can't wait for Darlington this year," said Allison. "It will bring back a lot of memories seeing that car out on the race track. I'm just so happy to be a part of this throwback weekend, and I wish Ryan and his Roush Fenway team luck heading into Darlington." Reed and Allison were at Roush Fenway on Monday to make the announcement, along with Sam Bass, who helped create the throwback adaptation of Allison's 1975 scheme. Like Reed, Bass lives with type 1 diabetes and has been a part of the Drive to Stop Diabetes program since its inception in 2013. Bass, the first officially-licensed NASCAR artist, will also play a special role for the team at Darlington Raceway . After inspection is complete on Friday of the race weekend, Bass will paint the Lilly Diabetes 140th Anniversary logo on the decklid of Reed's No. 16 Ford. "I've been honored to do some pretty amazing things during my time in NASCAR, but painting a logo "Old School" on a racecar at the track is new for me," said Bass. "What Ryan and his team are doing in the diabetes community is really special to me and I'm honored to be included with two things I'm so passionate about -- NASCAR history and diabetes awareness." Through the first 14 races of the NXS season, Reed has eight top-15 finishes and has led eight laps. He currently ranks 10th in the NXS point standings. In two starts at Darlington Raceway , Reed's best finish is 13th. "This is a really special paint scheme to me for a variety of reasons," said Reed. "First off, it's awesome to honor Bobby Allison -- someone who's done so much for NASCAR. But it's also special to have Sam [Bass] as a part of the program. I'm glad they have him painting the decklid, and not me." Catch complete coverage of the unveil on NBC's NASCAR America tonight, Monday June 20 at 6 p.m. ET. Darlington Raceway 's award-winning throwback event celebrates the history and heritage of NASCAR racing at one of the sport's most iconic tracks. The campaign focuses on specific eras, plus the historic moments and drivers that made impacts at the track Too Tough to Tame . The Tradition Continues throwback celebration will take place on Labor Day weekend as the NASCAR XFINITY Series VFW Sport Clips Help a Hero 200 is set for Saturday, Sept. 3, 2016, airing on NBC.