Post-Race Reactions: Too Tough to Tame 200
Hornaday, Bodine, Crafton and Buescher comment on their top-five finishes at Darlington.
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;
Alfalla retakes points lead on last-lap pass at Michigan
Ray Alfalla ( Slip Angle Motorsports ) captured his second victory of the 2016 NASCAR PEAK Antifreeze Series by passing Brad Davies off Turn 4 on the final lap at Michigan International Speedway on Tuesday evening. The finish marked the second-straight race that has been decided by a last-lap pass for the lead, although unlike one race earlier at Watkins Glen, there was no contact or controversy after the Michigan thriller. Davies played a good strategy to take the lead during the last round of pit stops and held the top spot for 20 laps due to repeated crashes and yellow flags. Alfalla had the better car and was on fresher tires, but never got a long enough run to challenge for the lead. His chance finally came on the final restart with two laps to the flag. When the green flew, Davies got a good jump on Alfalla, but the two-time series champion had closed up to the leader's bumper as the pair took the white flag. Alfalla was not close enough entering Turn One so instead of charging in over his head he was patient, backed up the corner, and got a great run on exit. Alfalla closed quickly down the backstretch and dove to the bottom entering Turn 3 as Davies protected the top. His fresh tires were too much for Davies as Alfalla passed uncontested off Turn 4 and took the checkered flag .05 of a second in the clear. Logan Clampitt ( High Performance Motorsports ) came home third, combining a solid pit strategy with a fast car and steady driving. Justin Bolton ( The TEAM ) was fourth, ahead of Andrew Fayash in his first top-five result. Alfalla started on pole and had the fastest car for much of the race but only led 46 of 125 laps, largely due to pit strategy. Instead of changing two tires and losing position on a subsequent long run, Alfalla opted for four fresh tires each time down pit road. This decision meant he had to fight through traffic on several occasions, but Alfalla used his experience to cleanly and effectively move through the field. During the middle segment of the race the field strung out and allowed some differing strategies to develop. Some sim racers chose a three-stop strategy in hopes fresh tires would make up for the extra trip down pit road, while others opted for a two-stop strategy. Alfalla chose the two-stop strategy and was helped out by a timely yellow flag on Lap 81 just before he was going to make his final pit stop. All but one car on the three-stop strategy also chose to pit, allowing Alfalla to keep nearly all of his track position, which put himself in prime position to win the race. From there, the race turned into a series of short sprints broken up by frequent caution flags. Seven of the nine cautions flew in the last 45 laps, making track position more important than a typical Michigan race. The win vaulted Alfalla back into the championship lead with three races remaining in the season. He now enjoys a 15-point advantage over PJ Stergios ( ineX Racing Team ) after Stergios struggled to a 14th-place finish at MIS. PJ's brother, Jake, is still hanging onto third, but his margin over Chris Overland shrunk to just four points after a Tuesday's disappointing 31st-place result. Dylan Duval is fifth, but is only seven points clear of Kenny Humpe after finishing 35th at Michigan. Only three weeks remain in the 2016 NASCAR PEAK Antifreeze season, and Darlington Raceway looms large as the next race on the schedule. Widely considered to be the toughest oval on the circuit, Darlington requires impeccable car control and patience to succeed. For Alfalla and Stergios, the goal is simple: get out front and stay there, away from potential carnage that can be common farther back in the field. Can Stergios close the gap on Alfalla, or is Alfalla primed to edge closer to his third world championship? Tune-in to iRacing Live in three weeks to catch the sim racing action from The Track Too Tough to Tame !
GarageCam tries to tame Darlington
The GarageCam gang tries to tackle a place that has been called 'The Track Too Tough to Tame .'
Cain: No need to panic about struggling Hendrick
Who's panicking? Not the Hendrick Motorsports team, as some have suggested. Working overtime, brainstorming, gritting their teeth and rolling up their sleeves? Perhaps. But this organization -- which hasn't celebrated a victory since March -- knows a little something about challenging for NASCAR's Sprint Cup Series championships, and it would be naïve and foolhardy to believe the team's summer doldrums are a definitive sign of playoff potential. At least that's what history has shown us. And what Jimmie Johnson tells us. And what team owner Rick Hendrick has assured. "A lot of hard work went on during the break that we had," Johnson said last weekend at Bristol, Tennessee. "Just judging by the excitement from (crew chief) Chad (Knaus) and all the way through to Mr. Hendrick, we're definitely turning over some stones and are hopeful to bring a little better product to the race track week in and week out. "We've been struggling at times, trying to produce speed and lap times of late and making mistakes in the process. We're still rallying with some decent finishes from time to time, but then again, still having some bad luck. I think Watkins Glen kind of speaks to that as well; and also self-inflicted mistakes. "I think come Chase time, in the middle of the Chase, the way things are looking back at the shop, and the excitement I see in all the departments, we're expecting a good late-season surge for Hendrick Motorsports ." Labor Day -- which traditionally marks the end of summer -- can't come soon enough for this team. Johnson is the only member of this Fab Four lineup to hoist a trophy this season, and the six-time champ did it twice right off the bat -- winning the second race of the year at Atlanta, then three weeks later in California. Chase Elliott opened his rookie campaign with 11 top-10 finishes in the first 15 races, including pole positions for the Daytona 500 and at Talladega Superspeedway . And he capped off that season-starting run with a career-best runner-up at Michigan International Speedway -- where the series returns this weekend. Kasey Kahne is also seeking his first trophy of the year, but already has six top 10s -- more than halfway to his entire total (10) from last year. And he has won at both Michigan (2006 from the pole position) and at Richmond, Virginia (2005), where the Chase field will be formally set on Sept. 10. As the Chase Grid stands now, Kahne is tied with Kyle Larson , three positions shy of qualifying. They trail 16th-place Ryan Newman by 39 points. With Dale Earnhardt Jr .'s return still unknown as he recovers from concussion-like symptoms, the feared Hendrick foursome realizes it is a threesome come title time. But it remains a championship threat. "Our guys have been working really hard these past few weeks," said Elliott, who is Chase-eligible by being ranked 12th in the standings. "Everybody is fired up at Hendrick Motorsports . Mr. Hendrick himself is fired up -- he has been around the shop a lot. We are all just trying to give it the best effort we can to try and make the most of these next 14 weeks. "We are all working hard, we are all in. Hopefully, Michigan will be a step in the right direction." In the past -- such as during Johnson's jaw-dropping six title runs in eight years – this team has made it look almost too easy. So Toyota has stepped it up, winning its first Cup championship last year with Kyle Busch and collecting 11 trophies already this year. Ford's been every bit a player, as well, with Team Penske drivers -- Brad Keselowski and Joey Logano -- earning enough trophies (five) between the two of them to keep the others honest this season. And Hendrick's Chevy "alliance" partner, the Stewart-Haas Racing team, has certainly come to the party with at least three Chase entrants including 2014 Sprint Cup champion Kevin Harvick , who won his second race Sunday at Bristol and leads the championship standings; team owner Tony Stewart , who won at Sonoma , California; and Kurt Busch , who is ranked third in points. And while Johnson's two wins and Elliott's poles seem like it's business as usual, there is a new sense of urgency to right the Hendrick ship heading into the Chase. Johnson has the two wins, but he has only three top 10s in the last 14 races, a stretch that also includes four finishes of 30th or worse. Similarly, Elliott hasn't had a top-10 since his runner-up at Michigan. And Kahne has only one top 10 in that time. "We have been struggling this year, have not been as good as we want or should be," Hendrick said over the weekend while admitting he's even gotten up at 4:30 am to go to the wind tunnel with his team. "We know we have the ingredients and we're not satisfied, and we're going to do whatever it takes. That's been our motto all these years. We're at, what, 242 wins in Cup series? And we're not done. "Nobody's satisfied. We've wrecked more cars. … Haven't led races like we usually do. Not making any excuses, we've got to get to work. That's the deal. We're all committed and we're all excited. Nobody stays on top forever but we're not happy where we are and we want to get back." "I'm accountable," Hendrick continued. "They're accountable. "When you're not doing well, you can walk away and point fingers or you can jump in it and say, 'Let's get with it. We know how to do it. Let's get better working together.' "I'm proud of our company and we're going to be better. I like the challenge."
ThorSport draws strength to keep trucking after devastating fire
RELATED: Exclusive look at the ThorSport shop in Ohio SANDUSKY, Ohio -- No matter what happens from here on out, win or lose, championship or bust, ThorSport Racing officials likely will look back on the 2016 season as something of a rebirth. It's been a year in which the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series organization has literally risen from the ashes. Cut short just seven races into the season by a raging fire that damaged much of the team's race shop, the company marched on, spent weeks working piecemeal out of everything from the parking lot of a former grocery store to a section of bays inside a custom trailer manufacturing facility. Each off-site venue was within roughly a five-mile radius of the team's 100,000-square-foot home base. Each was also an example of a small, tight-knit community reaching out to help in any way possible. ThorSport, owned by Duke and Rhonda Thorson, has fielded entries in the Camping World Truck Series since 1996, the second year of the series' existence. Today, four teams run out of the large cream-colored building -- the No. 88 Toyota Tundra of two-time series champion Matt Crafton , the No. 13 of Cameron Hayley , the No. 41 of Ben Rhodes and the No. 98 of Rico Abreu. Rhodes and Abreu are Sunoco Rookie of the Year candidates. But for six weeks, the four teams and approximately 85 employees worked "old school," minus many of the technological necessities prevalent throughout all three of NASCAR's national series. They did so while traveling to and competing at Iowa and St. Louis, Kentucky and Eldora. Walk into the shop today and you might not realize the place had been filled with smoke "so thick you couldn't see your hand in front of your face," one first responder recalled on Thursday, or that water was "up to our knees in most places, and running out of the hauler bays in back like a river," said another. But the smell tells another story. "There were times," said Jim Johnson, captain of the Perkins Township Fire Department, "I thought we were going to lose the entire building." Johnson was the first to arrive on the scene, just after midnight on Monday, June 13. Assuming it was nothing more than a small brush fire out back of the team's headquarters, he said he quickly realized the severity of the situation and alerted departments from nearby townships as well as Sandusky. Three other localities and 47 firefighters quickly responded. The fire, which began outside behind the main building, had spread up the rear wall and then began moving beneath the rubber-sealed roof. The rear portion, which housed a fabrication area and machine shop, had to be knocked down in order for firemen to get to the blaze. Johnson said it took approximately 500,000 gallons of water to finally extinguish the fire. Most equipment was quickly removed from the shop -- a large grassy area outside was soon filled with race trucks, pit boxes and assorted tools. There were no injuries and, surprisingly, no race vehicles were damaged to the extent that they had to be discarded. While ThorSport teams regrouped and continued to focus on racing, workers began the process of renovating the shop. Walls, blackened by smoke and damaged by water, were torn down to the studs and rebuilt. New wiring was installed. Eventually, equipment was brought back in. And what little remained of the destroyed rear portion, about 25,000 square feet of shop space, was hauled away. The organization was slowed, perhaps, but not stopped. "We can't use (the fire) as an excuse to under-achieve," ThorSport General Manager David Pepper said. Today, trucks in various states of assembly sit on the pristine shop floor. Work has resumed in a building, a former slaughterhouse that was first put into use by the group in 2011. "Duke and Rhonda have given us our biggest, best resource you could possibly ask for to win races, and we've proven we can do that from here," Carl "Junior" Joiner, crew chief for Crafton, said. "Not having it, you were lost. "At this level, you need resources like this to win and we didn't have that for a long time." The smell, less strong now, still lingers inside the shop. Inside some of the trucks, too . "We still have to put air fresheners in some of them because of the stench," he said. It is not only a reminder of what happened, but how far the organization has come in such a short period of time. "When something bad happens, my father always told me, 'Well kid, it builds character.' And I know that we're going to be stronger from it," Joiner said. "I know we will." &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;gt;
Streak to the Finish picks for Road America and Michigan
NASCAR.com's Chris Rice and Jonathan Merryman make their picks to finish in the top ten at Michigan International Speedway and Road America.
Teams beat the weather to test at Chicagoland
Weather concerns forced NASCAR Sprint Cup Series teams to cram two days of testing into a single day Tuesday at Chicagoland Speedway as they prepare for the upcoming Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup 's opening race next month. The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 400 is scheduled for Sunday, Sept. 18 (2:30 p.m. ET, NBCSN, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio). The organizational test, which permits one team per organization to participate, was originally scheduled for Tuesday and Wednesday. Stewart-Haas Racing driver Kevin Harvick , the 2014 series champion, recorded the top lap time during Tuesday's day-long test with the No. 4 Chevrolet circling the 1.5-mile track in 29.147 seconds (185 mph). Defending series champion Kyle Busch had the second best lap in No. 18 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota at 29.24 seconds (184.6 mph) while Ryan Blaney ( Wood Brothers Racing No. 21 Ford) and Ryan Newman ( Richard Childress Racing No. 31 Chevrolet) had the third and fourth quickest times, respectively. Fourteen teams took part in the test. Harvick completed 222 laps, most among those taking part in the test, while Busch logged 214 according to NASCAR timing and scoring data. "We haven't won here in a few years but I think the performance has been fine over the past two or three years," Harvick, winner of the first two Sprint Cup races hosted by the track," said Tuesday. "I'm looking forward to coming back; it's a fun race track just for the fact that you can move around and run all around the race track. That's really the hardest part about today, it's hard to gather a lot of … confirmed information (because) you have to get enough rubber from the bottom to the top of the track to see where everything actually is." Joey Logano finished sixth in last year's Chase opener at Chicago. It's a race that sets the tone for the 10-race playoff, the driver of the Team Penske No. 22 Ford said. "A lot on the line here and you always want to start off the Chase on a good note and have a lot of momentum leaving Chicago," Logano said. "So far so good. … "This is a great track; to me it almost acts like a small Fontana for us. You can run anywhere you want on the race track, its got a lot of speed and it's bumpy. Its got a ton of character." One more organizational test remains for NASCAR Sprint Cup Series teams, scheduled for Oct. 18-19 at Homestead Miami Speedway. While Sprint Cup teams were testing at Chicagoland, several Camping World Truck Series teams were busy at New Hampshire Motor Speedway Monday and Tuesday. Kyle Busch Motorsports teammates William Byron, Christopher Bell and Cody Coughlin , along with Kaz Grala (GMS Racing) and Stewart Friesen (Halmar Racing) were on hand to test in preparation for the Truck Series' opening Chase race, the UNOH 175 (Sept. 24, 1 p.m. ET, FS1, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio). "This is one of my favorite race tracks," Byron, the series' points leader and winner of five races this season, said. "I won here in the K&N Series last year so think I have a lot of confidence here. "It's good to come back with a truck; it handles totally different but it's the same race track. I'm trying to use some of the things I learned last year and hopefully make that apply for when we come back in the Chase." The inaugural Chase in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series begins at New Hampshire and will feature a field of eight drivers competing for the 2016 championship.
Kahne: 'If I haven't performed by 2018, I need to leave'
Kasey Kahne doesn't see Hendrick Motorsports ' hiring of William Byron to drive in the XFINITY Series as a threat to his current Sprint Cup ride in the No. 5 Chevrolet. But Kahne hasn't won since August 2014 at Atlanta Motor Speedway , and he does recognize that if he doesn't perform by 2018 -- the final year of his current contract -- a change is needed. "I didn't really think about the rest," Kahne told FOXSports.com . "If I haven't performed by 2018, I need to leave. It's pretty simple. That has nothing to do with William Byron or anyone else. "If I haven't performed by then, it's time to go do something different. That's just the way racing and life is." The 36-year-old driver also told FOXSports.com that he received a call from team owner Rick Hendrick prior to the Byron announcement giving him a heads-up on the hiring. Kahne joined Hendrick Motorsports in 2012, winning twice in his first year with the organization. He's won five Sprint Cup events all together under the Hendrick umbrella, but two winless seasons have caused him to miss the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup for two straight years. He currently is ranked 17th in the driver standings heading into Sunday's Pure Michigan 400 (2 p.m. ET, NBC, MRN, Sirius XM NASCAR radio).
Snapchat to bring live stories to Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Aug. 24, 2016) -- Snapchat is covering the 2016 Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup ™ this fall with Live Stories from Charlotte Motor Speedway and Homestead-Miami Speedway , NASCAR announced today. Fans will be able to share their race-day experiences with millions of Snapchat users from the Bank of America 500 in Concord, North Carolina, on Oct. 8, and the Ford EcoBoost 400 in Homestead, Florida, on Nov. 20, when NASCAR will crown its 2016 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series™ champion. "There's no experience in sports quite like attending a NASCAR race, especially during the Chase," said Jill Gregory, NASCAR senior vice president and chief marketing officer. "Snapchat's Live Story coverage provides young audiences with a unique, behind-the-scenes look at the real Chase race experience, through the lens of our fans and drivers." The announcement comes as the NASCAR industry celebrates Kids Drive NASCAR, a new initiative created to engage the sport's young fans and featuring kids-focused events and activities. All this week, the sport's rising stars, as well as drivers with young children, will be hosting driver takeovers on the NASCAR Snapchat account. Later this fall, Snapchat users at Charlotte Motor Speedway and Homestead-Miami Speedway will contribute their race-day perspectives through video and photo Snaps submitted to collective Live Stories, capturing the real NASCAR story, straight from the fans. The thousands of submitted Snaps from each event will be curated and packaged by Snapchat into a video stream that is shared globally with Snapchat's more than 100 million daily active users. Each NASCAR Live Story will be available to view on Snapchat for 24 hours. In February, NASCAR announced its first-ever partnership with Snapchat doubling the platform’s coverage of NASCAR premier race events in 2016. The 2016 Daytona 500 , which set records for NASCAR social media engagement, and May race at Talladega Superspeedway featured Live Stories this season. Snapchat is available on iOS and Android. The NASCAR Sprint Cup Series returns to Michigan International Speedway for the Pure Michigan 400 on Sunday, Aug. 28 at 2 p.m. ET on NBCSN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio and MRN.