Byron nabs top five in his first race at Auto Club
XFINITY rookie William Byron reflects on his first trip to Auto Club Speedway that led to a fifth-place result in Saturday's Service King 300 .
Rookie William Byron impresses with second straight top -five day
BUY TICKETS: See the races at Auto Club RELATED: Full race results FONTANA, Calif. – Kyle Larson won the race, but William Byron bested the field of XFINITY Series regulars in one of the most competitive, hard-fought XFINITY Series events of the year at Auto Club Speedway on Saturday. It wasn't a win, but it was a well-timed boost of confidence for the rookie. Byron finished fifth in the No. 24 Axalta Chevrolet, the top finishing XFINITY Series regular, just ahead of Roush Fenway Racing's Darrell Wallace Jr. and JR Motorsports teammate Elliott Sadler. It was his second consecutive top -five finish and places the rookie second in the series standings, 17 points behind his veteran teammate Sadler. A week ago Byron won the pole position at Phoenix and scored a career-best fourth place in the race – the showing buoying him for his debut on California's two-mile oval. "Been good lately to get some top -fives," said the 19-year old Byron, allowing a smile. "We were able to make some good adjustments during the race today. I felt like we kinda struggled some in traffic getting the car to handle right. Ultimately, we got it to handle right, the guys did a great job on pit road, led a lap and got a good finish." Byron started the race from the sixth position and ran among the lead cars early on. Battling a rough handling car midway through the race, he praised his team for good pit stops and timely adjustments and was able to join in the dramatic final laps of tight racing. "It was really fun," Byron said. "It was a blast out there. I'd never been here before. You have a lot of options, so many places to run your car. It makes the hard work pay off." </p>
Post-Race Reactions: Top Gear 300
Roush teammates Carl Edwards and Ricky Stenhouse and others comment on a hot and long day in Charlotte.
Keselowski grinds out top five on 'so-so day'
RELATED: Full race results " Series standings " Chase Grid SHOP: Keselowski gear " Chase gear LOUDON, N.H. -- As one of the resident wizards of the "Magic Mile" over the past five years, it was a little curious to see Brad Keselowski -- who sports a 6.27 average finish at the track since the fall race of 2011 – come out a little flat in Sunday's Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup race at New Hampshire Motor Speedway. For his latest trick, the Team Penske driver entered the top 10 for good at Lap 270 of 300 and continued to rise from there, sticking the landing with a fourth-place finish that was nearly a third, save for a late pass from Kyle Busch. "We caught a couple breaks on the restarts that helped out. Pleasantly surprised (at how this race turned out)," Keselowski said on pit road following the race. " … It was just a good call there towards the end to put tires on and then just being smooth and keeping it in one piece driving through traffic. … Sometimes you catch some good breaks in this sport. … It was just a really great finish to kind of just a so-so day." While the recovery portends well for Keselowski's hopes of advancing into the Round of 12, the speed that his car lacked at New Hampshire should be of some concern for the 2 team as the Chase continues. The 2012 champ pins it on this week's rules update for post-race inspection that eliminated P2 and P3-level penalties for infractions resulting from the laser inspection system. "I think that rules change at the last minute was certainly not very favorable to our team," said Keselowski, in search of his first win since early July at Kentucky. "We've got to work to find a little more speed for sure." The No. 2 crew chief, Paul Wolfe, pins the lack of performance on a swing-and-a-miss setup after they couldn't quite nail down what they were looking for in Saturday's practice sessions. "The car never drove like what we've had here in the past. We were kind of on the fence about where we wanted to be today as far as set-up wise. There were a couple things we went through in practice yesterday and we picked a direction that obviously wasn't good," Wolfe told NASCAR.com. "So we just really struggled to get any speed out of the car all day. Just tried to stay calm, get what we could and not get in trouble. Brad was doing a good job of that. There at the end, the position we were in I felt it was worth putting tires on it and it was really the new tires and a couple of good restarts that got us to the front. "Definitely not the performance or the speed in the car that we were hoping for today, but we were able to get a good finish out of it and at this point of the Chase, that's obviously the important part." Keselowski now heads to the Dover International Speedway with a little more of a cushion -- he's the overall points leader, though second and sixth-place (in the point standings) drivers Martin Truex Jr. and Kevin Harvick, respectively, have clinched their Round of 12 berths -- than it looked like he'd have for most of the race, and should be a lock to advance save for a major, catastrophic mishap. "It feels good to go to Dover and be able to sleep easy knowing that if you have a part failure or get caught up in a wreck or any of those silly things that can happen that aren't you fault, you don’t have to worry about them so that's good," he said. "But we still have some work to do to get a little faster.”
Jones scores first top -10 finish in Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series
RELATED: Full race results " Updated standings " Detailed breakdown AVONDALE, Ariz. -- Erik Jones’ No. 77 Furniture Row Racing team did everything right in Sunday's Camping World 500 at Phoenix Raceway -- except for predicting how many cars would take two tires versus four on the final pit stop before overtime. Jones was running fifth when a melted bead caused Joey Logano's right front tire to explode and sent the No. 22 Ford of the polesitter into the Turn 1 wall on Lap 307 of a scheduled 312. Jones took four tires under the ensuing caution and restarted 14th. He was able to regain six positions in the two-lap overtime that took the race to Lap 314, but for the third straight week, Jones finished lower than where he had run for much of a Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series race. The eighth-place finish nevertheless was the first top -10 of Jones' fledgling Monster Energy Series career. "When you feel like you have a fifth-place car, you want to run fifth, but it just didn't work out at the end," Jones said. "We had a lot of guys take two (tires). A lot more than I thought would. A lot more, obviously, than (crew chief) Chris (Gayle) thought would. "We had a great restart and were able to get back up to eighth. Not too much gain, not too much loss. A solid day for us. Definitely the best day overall for the 5-Hour Energy Camry. Just well put together. We got better all day, had good pit stops, good on pit road, executed well and did everything we needed to do to run in the top 10." Jones was one of two Sunoco rookies to get a maiden top 10 on Sunday. Fellow Toyota driver Daniel Suarez finished seventh, gaining five positions after the final restart. &amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;lt;/p&amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;gt;
Larson hangs on for XFINITY triumph at Auto Club
RELATED: Results " Larson on pole for Sunday's race " Detailed breakdown FONTANA, Calif. -- Kyle Larson kept pole-sitter Joey Logano at bay after a restart with four laps left in Saturday's Service King 300 NASCAR XFINITY Series race at Auto Club Speedway and held on to win by .127 seconds. Larson and Logano had swapped the lead on three successive laps before Brandon Jones plowed into the outside wall on Lap 142 to bring out the seventh and final caution of the afternoon. The lead cars pitted for fresh tires under the yellow flag, with Larson exiting pit road first and Spencer Gallagher grabbing the second spot with a two-tire stop. That proved Logano's undoing, as his No. 22 Team Penske Ford was pinned behind Gallagher's GMS Racing Chevrolet for the restart on Lap 147 of 150. Logano chased Larson to the checkered flag but couldn't prevent the driver of the No. 42 Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet from scoring his first victory of the season, his second at Fontana and the sixth of his career. "The racing there at the end with Joey was awesome," said Larson, a California native who got his first NASCAR XFINITY Series victory at the 2-mile track. "I had just a couple-lap fresher tires than he did, and I was able to chase him down. That was a lot of fun. WATCH: Larson overcomes speeding penalty to win "I wish that last caution wouldn't have come out, because it would have been easier for me to win, I think. But a heck of a race. I honestly didn't think we would be here yesterday. I was struggling bad in practice. Fought the balance a lot throughout the race, too. Finally, the last few runs, we hit on it and it felt good for the short run and throughout the long run." MORE: Larson fast, atop Monster Energy Series standings Both the winner and the runner-up had obstacles to overcome. Larson recovered from a pit road speeding penalty to win the race. Logano sped on pit road and subsequently fell to the back of the field when the jack on the left side of his Ford dropped prematurely during an extended stay on pit road. But Logano -- who led six times for a race-high 70 laps -- was in prime position at the end, though he acknowledged that Gallagher's two-tire call deprived him of the chance to overtake Larson. "What's his number? 23?" Logano asked. "Yeah, I don't know about that move. That wasn't a good move. I don't know what they were thinking, but that maybe wasn't the best play at this race track. I knew he was going to spin them (his tires). There's no way he couldn't. It wasn't his fault. "He was a sitting duck and I was a sitting duck behind him that lost too much track position on that restart being too far behind Kyle. If not for that, we would have probably been door-to-door across the line bumping and banging or something. We were able to catch Larson the last few laps. We were definitely faster, but I needed another lap, maybe two." Kyle Busch led 55 laps and finished third after scraping the wall on Lap 122 while in pursuit of Logano, who was leading at the time. Erik Jones ran fourth and Sunoco rookie William Byron fifth as the highest-finishing series regular. The action-filled race wasn't without a number of hard crashes. Paul Menard's Chevrolet nosed hard into the outside wall after contact from Jones, who appeared to misjudge his Turn 4 exit on Lap 94. WATCH: Fiery hit for Menard at Auto Club "I don't know if he tried to push me or if he was just crossing over," Menard said after leaving the infield care center. "Definitely had a brain fart." Cole Custer took a wild ride when he clobbered the Turn 1 wall with an assist from Ryan Sieg -- and was upset when he exited the car. "I just got hooked going into the corner," Custer said. "I think I hit him (Sieg) a tick just on my side-draft going off of (Turn) 4, and then he decided just to hook us going into Turn 1 and wreck us. I thought we could have competed for a win there. We had a bad pit stop. We were going to work our way back up there, but just got our day ended by a clown move." The incident left him with a wrecked car for the second straight week. "Last week it was all my fault and I'll take that all on me," said Custer, who finished 35th. "Today it was just a clown. I don't understand what his reasoning was to pay us back that much, but that's just a joke." Notes: Byron is second in the series standings, 17 points behind seventh-place finisher Elliott Sadler… Darrell Wallace Jr. finished sixth for the fourth-straight race… Busch won both the first and second stages of the race, earning a total of two playoff points toward the owner's championship. Contributing: Staff reports </p>
Johnson relishes Auto Club legacy but isn't done making history
BUY TICKETS: Celebrate Auto Club's 20th anniversary RELATED: No. 48 team opts out of qualifying " Lineup FONTANA, Calif. -- More than once while meeting with reporters in the Auto Club Speedway media room Friday, Jimmie Johnson motioned to a framed poster showing a 15-years-younger version of himself celebrating his first-ever Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series victory here at his "home" track in 2002. That was 79 victories, seven championships ago -- a definitive day in his career and life. And still, Johnson smiled -- even bristled just a bit -- receiving immediate questions about when he might win a race this season after only one top -10 finish through the first four races. "Sixteen years, 80 wins, and seven championships and people want to question us? I mean come on," Johnson said. "You can't be on top forever. I think that we do have some work to do, especially on the short run. We haven't executed as cleanly as we need to. "Daytona, we are running second or third and get crashed. Last week we were a good top -five -- maybe top -three -- car on the long run, but finished with some short restarts that was our weak point. Yeah, sure, absolutely we have work to do, but nobody should panic." Johnson certainly is not in panic mode, and certainly not here. He left the press conference to be enshrined in the track's Hall of Fame. He is the defending winner of this race and has six victories here in all. This is home for the California native. And even for one of the sport's biggest champions, that feeling is warm and distinctive. Listening to Johnson recall the importance of that inaugural win on this particular venue, on a warm spring afternoon, it's easy to see the difference it made for him. And, ultimately, for NASCAR.
Five cool Dale Jr. stats in addition to 600 starts
BUY TICKETS: Celebrate Auto Club's 20th anniversary As Dale Earnhardt Jr. prepares to make start No. 600 in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series on Sunday at Auto Club Speedway (3:30 p.m. ET, FOX, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio), we thought it'd be fun to find five other interesting stats about Junior, courtesy of RacingReference.com : 170,689 Matt Kenseth (176,372) is the only active driver with more laps than Earnhardt Jr., who ranks 21st on the all-time list with 170,689 laps. Dale Earnhardt Sr. is 15th with 202,288 laps, and Richard Petty is tops with 307,836. Earnhardt Jr. has averaged about 9,000 laps per season, so it's conceivable he could catch his dad in about three to four years. .1752 Junior is third in winning percentage in the NASCAR XFINITY Series at .1752 (17 percent). He's behind only Kyle Busch (.2636) and Mark Martin (.2076). Earnhardt Jr. has 24 wins in 137 career XFINITY Series races, with 13 of those victories coming in 1998 and '99 when he won back-to-back series championships. 94 Earnhardt Jr. has 94 podium finishes (first, second or third place) in the Monster Energy Series, which puts him 25th all-time in this category. He's four behind Matt Kenseth and five back of Kyle Busch. Richard Petty is tops with 461 on a list that reads like the head table lineup at a NASCAR Hall of Fame banquet. 412 Junior has 412 lead-lap finishes in the Monster Energy Series, which puts him in eighth place all-time. That's a testament to his longevity and consistency, and puts him just eight behind his Hendrick Motorsports teammate Jimmie Johnson. Former teammate Jeff Gordon sits atop this list with 588. 148 Earnhardt Jr. has 148 top -five finishes in the Monster Energy Series, tying him with Kyle Busch for 24th place all-time heading into Auto Club. Kevin Harvick, Matt Kenseth and Jimmie Johnson are the only active drivers ahead of Junior on this list. Richard Petty is on top of the mountain with 555 top -five finishes. Junior has 26 career Cup wins, but he's been in contention for wins many times. Do your own stats query on RacingReference.com . &<span _rtetemp="spchk" style="background-color: #ffffaa;" _rtespchksugg="Lt"alt"ult"flt"let"lit"lat"lot"ltd"t">am</span>p;lt;/p&amp;gt;
Custer, Dillon meet with NASCAR officials after Phoenix incident
BUY TICKETS: See the races at Auto Club FONTANA, Calif. -- A week after an on-track run-in with Austin Dillon, NASCAR XFINITY Series rookie Cole Custer, 19, maintained the two had found a version of racing Kumbaya. The two drivers met with NASCAR officials early Friday morning at Auto Club Speedway, spoke their minds and shook hands, both ready to move on and race. Custer acknowledged he mistakenly hit Dillon, 26, last week during the Phoenix race, which resulted in on-track retaliation by Dillon. NASCAR did not feel Dillon's retaliatory move warranted a penalty this week, instead calling the two drivers in for a meeting and detente. "I got into the corner way too deep," Custer acknowledged. "It was a mistake and I wish I didn't do it. "I probably got in a half-car length too deep. ... Took him out and it was a mistake and I wish I didn't do it. I didn't have much anxiety (going into NASCAR meeting with Dillon) because I didn't think we were on bad terms. I wasn't too nervous. It went fairly well." And he added with a slight smile, "I've been in the NASCAR hauler before. It's not a new thing." WATCH: Custer sends Dillon into wall, Dillon bumps back The Ladera Ranch, California, native has two top -11 finishes in four XFINITY races this year driving the No. 00 Haas Automation Ford for Stewart-Haas Racing and appeared eager to put the Phoenix incident behind him as he prepared to race at his "home" track Saturday. "Cost us and the 2 (Dillon) a good finish, 100 percent my fault. Happy with how much better we got our car, pretty good there at the end," Custer tweeted earlier in the week before meeting up with Dillon at Auto Club. Mostly, Custer is looking forward to his "home track" racing debut. "I'm really excited. I've never raced here, just excited to get on track," Custer said. "We've had some pretty solid finishes, had good enough cars for top -10. Hopefully we can start out the weekend good. "A lot of things translate from track to track. We're looking forward to seeing what we have unloading here. We should be pretty good. I'm confident. It's just me getting used to the track since I've never been here before."
Larson leaps atop first practice at Auto Club
RELATED: Practice 1 results " Buy tickets for Auto Club Kyle Larson put his name atop the early speed charts at Auto Club Speedway, topping the first Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series practice. Larson powered to a best lap of 189.071 mph on the 2-mile track, setting the early pace in the Chip Ganassi Racing No. 42 Chevrolet. The unofficial lap was better than the track qualifying record of 188.511 mph, set by Denny Hamlin in Coors Light Pole Qualifying last year. Hamlin continued his show of California speed, logging the second-fastest lap in the 85-minute session, posting a lap of 188.462 mph in the Joe Gibbs Racing No. 11 Toyota. Kevin Harvick (188.344 mph), Jamie McMurray (187.94 mph) and Joey Logano (187.588 mph) completed the top five in preparation for Sunday's Auto Club 400 (3:30 p.m. ET, FOX, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio), the final event of the three-race NASCAR Goes West swing. The opening practice was an eventful one with three stoppages -- including one for an incident involving seven-time series champ Jimmie Johnson, a six-time Auto Club winner. Johnson spun his Hendrick Motorsports No. 48 Chevrolet off Turn 4, narrowly avoiding the car of Kurt Busch on the apron before his car's body plowed into the infield grass. The damage was not major, but significant enough that the crew opted to unload and prep its reserve car for the balance of the race weekend. "We just showed up at the track swinging hard and trying to get all that we can," Johnson said, noting to FS1 that the team was focused on improving its qualifying efforts. "We crossed the line there for sure and the car came around on me." The session's other interruptions were varied. The opening of practice was delayed for sweepers and blowers to clean off the backstretch. Shortly after practice began, an owl planted itself on the race track, halting the cars until safety workers were able to remove it. RELATED: Owl disrupts opening practice Ryan Newman, last week's winner at Phoenix Raceway, was 15th-fastest at 188.921 mph in the Richard Childress Racing No. 31 Chevrolet. Several drivers served penalties at the start of practice for their teams' tardiness to inspection last weekend at Phoenix. The following drivers were held 15 minutes for being late to qualifying inspection: Trevor Bayne, Daniel Suarez, Chase Elliott, Jeffrey Earnhardt, Chris Buescher, David Ragan, AJ Allmendinger, Timmy Hill, Derrike Cope, Corey LaJoie and Michael McDowell. The cars for Erik Jones and Matt DiBenedetto were held 30 minutes for being late to pre-qualifying and pre-race inspection. </p>
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