The top finishers and title contenders comment on the beating and banging at Martinsville Speedway.
Jimmie Johnson talks about capturing his third Martinsville pole, a track where he has won six times.
Late model champion will drive No. 5 at Homestead Josh Berry has picked up his second NASCAR Nationwide Series race for JR Motorsports, team co-owner Kelley Earnhardt Miller announced Wednesday on her podcast. On " Fast Lane Family," a radio show Earnhardt Miller hosts as part of Dirty Mo Radio, she announced that Berry would drive the No. 5 Ragu Chevrolet in the season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway . "We have worked really hard (for that sponsorship), and we're still working. We'd love to put Josh in more races," Earnhardt Miller said. Berry, who won the track championship at Hickory Motor Speedway this year driving a late model for JRM, finished 12th in his Nationwide Series debut at Iowa Speedway in August. "It's so exciting for me and I'm very thankful that Ragu came on board and everyone at JRM worked as hard as they did," Berry said on the radio show. "It's so cool to see happen." The No. 5 vehicle has been split among Berry, Kevin Harvick , Kasey Kahne and Austin Theriault this season. The team's two full-time drivers, Chase Elliott and Regan Smith , are currently first and second in the points standings. That's not lost on Berry. "I have a pretty good feeling it's going to be a real exciting weekend for all of JR Motorsports that weekend," he said. Click here to listen to this week's episode of Fast Lane Family. MORE: READ: Latest Chase news PLAY: Monitor your Chase Grid Game picks WATCH: Latest NASCAR video FOLLOW LIVE: Get RaceView FULL SERIES COVERAGE • Latest news • Standings • Schedule
Driver talks past, future in interview RELATED: Subscribe to NASCAR Illustrated AJ Allmendinger has seen his share of adversity during nearly a decade in NASCAR. Two years ago, he hit the lowest point in his career after a failed drug test led him out of Team Penske and into NASCAR's Road to Recovery program. Chastened, the 32-year-old driver kick-started the second chapter of his career by winning two Nationwide races last year for Roger Penske. Allmendinger is now back in the Cup Series trying to push JTG Daugherty's program and his career to the next level. We caught up with Allmendinger a day after the No. 47 was swept up in an early wreck at Daytona. Just two weeks earlier, he'd led a race-high 34 laps at Sonoma before contact with Dale Earnhardt Jr . derailed his shot at for a first Cup victory and the Chase berth that would've come with it. NI: You're known as a strong road racer but what are your thoughts on plate racing? Allmendinger: Out of all the racing we do, it's my least favorite. There's just so much that goes into it. A lot of it's luck, being in the right place at the right time and missing the "big one." The racing can be exciting at times for sure. As a driver, you definitely have to be at full concentration the whole time you're out there when you're in the pack just because one 2-inch mistake can be a big, big crash. Especially if you're the one making that mistake, you feel bad because you wrecked yourself and you've got a lot of competitors that you feel bad about because they're probably pissed off at you. NI: You had a car that could have won at Sonoma before you were taken out. Does it take long to get over that? Allmendinger: I don't know if you ever fully get over it. To a certain degree, in this sport, you gotta be ready to go the next weekend. You can't let a bad weekend carry over into the next weekend. It's tough because I thought we had a shot to win. We were up front, top two cars every practice session and qualifying, led the most laps, played the strategy to what ours was and we just got into an incident. It is what it is. You can't fix it. NI: If you can get that first win, you're all but in the Chase. No added pressure there? Allmendinger: Honestly, I look at it two different ways. The Chase would be great for the fact that our sponsors and this race team being such a small team, to be able to promote that we won a race and are in the Chase, that would be fantastic. But when it comes to, "Do we have to make the Chase for it to be a successful season?" No. We're not a championship-winning team right now. There's no doubt about it. We're a small team, we're trying to grow to that at some point and it's going to be a long process to get there and a lot of hard work. I think with the right effort we can actually get there. NI: It might sound like a strange question but are you almost glad things played out the way they did back in 2012? Allmendinger: Except for the mere fact of having to put Roger Penske through that. Other than that, I'm way happier now than I have ever been when it comes to a lot of things. I still put a lot of pressure on myself racing, so I still have those ups and downs, but it's a different kind of pressure now. The ownership just makes this team such a family. I want to take this team to a new level. That's the pressure I put on myself, to put this team on my back and take it to another level. I feel like they deserve it down from ownership and the team because they work so hard. NI: How has your perspective changed in the past couple of years? Allmendinger: It's a different perspective now. It's not the only thing in the world, you know? There are other things that are important and in the grand scheme probably a lot more important than racing. But obviously when you make your life and you put your heart and soul into it, it feels like the most important thing. I wouldn't change anything that I've had to go through for anything except for disappointing Roger Penske. Hopefully, last year, winning the Nationwide races and having a shot to win Indy made up for it. NI: It's our tailgate issue, so I have to ask about your abilities on the grill. Can we call you a grilling master? Allmendinger: No (laughs). We can lie to everybody and tell them I can grill anything up. Only problem is hopefully I won't get called out on it. I really enjoy grilling because it is so healthy to be able to do that and I'm real health conscious when it comes to what I eat. The sponsors we have on our team are great when it comes to all that. So it makes it a lot easier because we’re stocked with a lot of great things to eat. I live in an apartment right now so it's hard to grill in the corner without a balcony. My girlfriend is really good at grilling so she's shown me some stuff. Hopefully, in the near future, I can have a house and practice up but right now it'd be a stretch to say grilling master. I'd like to be. Let's put it that way. NI: It's hard to believe you've been in NASCAR for almost a decade now. What's been your personal highlight so far? Allmendinger: The Nationwide wins were something I'll never forget, especially with what led to those. I remember making my first race at Bristol -- it took me four tries to finally make a race -- back in 2007 when there were 50 or 60 cars trying to qualify each weekend. Making our first Daytona 500 in 2009 and almost winning the thing. (Allmendinger finished third in the No. 44 Richard Petty Motorsports Dodge.) But I think the highlight is still being here really. This sport is tough. It will bring some guys in, especially with the open-wheel side of it, and spit them back out pretty quick. So to have the commitment level and just the do-or-die work ethic trying to stay in when things were bad and things got better and things got bad again, and keep coming back, I feel very fortunate that people believe in me. Whether it's the "King" or the "Captain" or Tad (Geschickter) to give me another shot to jump in this race car and feel like I can get the job done now. More than anything, just being able to still be a part of it through thick and thin is something that's probably the most special. SUBSCRIBE NOW!
Cain: Don't expect these guys to lay off in the postseason RELATED: Track your picks in the Perfect Chase Grid Challenge and Chase Battle Grid Presented by Toyota As Kyle Larson juked and jived his No. 42 Target Chevrolet to a near victory at Chicagoland Speedway on Sunday afternoon, his ultra-determined effort served as NASCAR's ultimate spoiler alert. Even in a season featuring 16 title contenders -- the largest Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup championship field ever -- it should surprise no one if one of the super talented, highly motivated non-Chase drivers hoists a trophy in the remaining nine races, stealing a Chaser's fast pass to the title round. After all, non-Chase drivers have won races in four of the last five postseasons. And not only is the rookie Larson a leading candidate to win before the season winds down, his Chip Ganassi Racing teammate Jamie McMurray has earned his late season television time, too. His No. 1 McDonald's Chevrolet has led 180 total laps in the last four races and is keeping the Chasers honest. A couple other veterans, Clint Bowyer and three-time Cup champ Tony Stewart , boast resumes that absolutely make them favorites in the season's final races as well. For the 22-year-old Larson, it's been simply about "when" he'll score his maiden Sprint Cup victory. His third-place effort in a back-up car that started last in the Chicago field is proof of how driven he and that team are to win. Far from backing off and letting the Chase drivers settle the checkered flag in Chicago, Larson demonstrated exactly the kind of grit and gumption that makes this Chase portion of the season so exciting and potentially the most competitive in history. Nearly half the field has something to prove, whether it be a championship run or scoring a season- or career-first victory. There are sponsors to attract and scores to settle. No one is backing off or playing it safe. It's go time from the front to back of the grid. "(People might think) those guys might be a little bit more cautious, won't race you as hard,'' Larson said. "I didn't feel that way at all. I felt everybody was racing as hard as they do all season long. "We definitely have to be a little bit more careful around those guys, too, because we don't want to hurt their chances of advancing. "(But) like I said, I had a lot of fun racing Kev (Harvick), Jeff (Gordon), Brad (Keselowski) and Junior (Dale Earnhardt Jr.) at some points in the race. I didn't feel like anybody was holding back at all." As good as Larson was Sunday, his teammate McMurray also furthered his case as someone who will have to be dealt with each week. In fact, McMurray is definitively the champion Chase spoiler of the last five years -- winning more Chase races (three) than any non-Chase eligible driver during that time. Four of McMurray's seven career Cup wins have come at Chase tracks. He's won twice at Charlotte and twice at Talladega, where he is the defending winner of the upcoming Oct. 19 race at NASCAR's biggest track. Bowyer, a preseason Chase favorite who like Larson just missed making the field, is another driver who has proven himself a contender at the 10 Chase tracks, venues where he has recorded five of his eight career Cup victories. He has a pair of wins at this week's stop, New Hampshire Motor Speedway , a pair of wins at Talladega and also a victory at Charlotte . Perhaps the biggest unknown in all this is the most accomplished racer not to earn a Chase berth -- three-time champ Stewart, who may view the race track as a focus for his off-track distractions and heavy heart. He has won in all 15 previous seasons competing in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, but is still looking for his first in 2014. He has victories at all nine of the remaining Chase venues and 19 of his 48 career wins have come at these venues. He has three victories apiece at New Hampshire, Dover , Martinsville, and Homestead. Certainly this week's venue -- the notoriously tight and tough 1.058-mile Loudon oval -- is a prime opportunity to shake up the Chase order. But it's not just the championship contenders that see the opportunity, which makes the 2014 version of the Chase that much more compelling in ways that weren't even anticipated. MORE: READ: Latest Chase news PLAY: Monitor your Chase Grid Game picks WATCH: Latest NASCAR video FOLLOW LIVE: Get RaceView FULL CHASE COVERAGE • Chase hub page • Chase Grid games • #MyChaseNation
We figure out where Waldo is, Dale Earnhardt Jr. is back in his car and some drivers are reluctant to eat a Martinsville hot dog whereas this week's CamGuy isn't.
Kahne earns first victory -- and Chase berth -- with thrilling finish RELATED: Complete results " Updated standings " Current Chase Grid HAMPTON, Ga. -- It was Tony Stewart's return to racing that dominated the headlines before Sunday night's Oral-B USA 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway , but it was Kasey Kahne who stole the show -- and a berth in the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup . In a race that went 10 laps beyond its scheduled distance of 325 laps, Kahne surged past Matt Kenseth on the second attempt at a green-white-checkered-flag finish to win for the first time this year and the third time at the 1.54-mile speedway. Kenseth finished second and clinched a Chase spot on points, leaving just two of 16 positions in NASCAR's 10-race playoff available in Saturday's regular-season finale at Richmond International Raceway . After streaking into the lead on a restart with 24 laps left, Kahne held the top spot until a caution for a fracas between Kyle Busch and Martin Truex Jr. slowed the field with less than two laps left. On the first attempt at overtime, a multicar wreck in Turn 1 wiped out the dominant car of polesitter Kevin Harvick, requiring a second attempt at a two-lap shootout. With four fresh tires to Kenseth's two, Kahne overtook the No. 20 Toyota after he and Kenseth battled for a lap after the restart and pulled away to win the 17th race of his career by .574 seconds. "We were all over the place during the race, but the guys stayed with me and worked hard," Kahne said. "On those restarts -- I didn't know what would happen, because I had great restarts all night, and I struggle with restarts a lot. "That's big, because that is one of the things you have to be good at, and it worked really well tonight." It also took a huge weight off Kahne's shoulders, as the end of the regular season approached. "Yeah, we are locked in, and I hate that it comes down to this Atlanta or Richmond just about every year for me," Kahne said of the pressure to make the Chase. "Sometimes we are in, sometimes we are out. But thankful that now at HMS ( Hendrick Motorsports ), I've been in all three years now. We have the pressure all the way to Richmond, but we made it again--thankful for that." Denny Hamlin ran third, followed by Jimmie Johnson and Carl Edwards . Danica Patrick finished sixth, beating by four positions the best previous finish by a female driver at Atlanta (Janet Guthrie was 10th in 1978). The race that turned the season around for Kahne provided little solace for Stewart. Starting a Cup race for the first time since his involvement in the fatal sprint car accident that took the life of Kevin Ward Jr. on Aug. 9 at Canandaigua (N.Y.) Speedway, Stewart charged forward from his 12th-place starting position and ran as high as fourth in the early going. But Stewart's race came undone moments after a restart on Lap 123, when Kyle Busch's Toyota pinched Stewart's Chevy into the outside wall off Turn 2, significantly damaging both cars. On Lap 160 Matt Kenseth, then the leader, passed Stewart to put the No. 14 a lap down. Twelve laps later, a blown right front tire sent Stewart hard into the Turn 2 wall, forcing him to the garage and out of the race. Credited with a 41st-place finish, Stewart has one more chance—on Saturday at Richmond—to take advantage of a NASCAR dispensation that kept him eligible for the Chase. Having missed three races, Stewart must win at the .75-mile short track to qualify for NASCAR's 10-race playoff. After exiting his car, Stewart declined requests for interviews, but crew chief Chad Johnston spoke to reporters in the garage. "I went into today with some pretty high hopes of finishing well and possibly coming out of here with a win, but it just didn't work out in our favor," Johnston said. "We got into a little trouble with the 18 (Busch) and got into the outside wall, knocked the toe out of it, and a lot of heavy right side damage. "We were just trying to fix that and salvage what we could out of the day but then we blew a right front there right before that caution came out." If Stewart had issues on the track, so did one prominent driver on the Chase bubble. The shifter on Clint Bowyer' s No. 15 Toyota broke, preventing him from getting the car into high gear. Bowyer lost 22 laps in the garage as his team made repairs. He finished 38th, leaving his chances to make the Chase on points in dire jeopardy. MORE: READ: Latest NASCAR news WATCH: Latest NASCAR video PLAY: NASCAR Fantasy Live FOLLOW LIVE: Get RaceView FULL SERIES COVERAGE • Latest news • Standings • Schedule