This episode of The Drive for Superior Performance presented by Goodyear takes an in-depth look at how pit crews prepare for the challenges of a pit stop during a NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race.
See how the 16 Chase Grid drivers stack up at Chicagoland, New Hampshire and Dover RELATED: Track your picks in the Perfect Chase Grid Challenge and Chase Battle Grid Presented by Toyota MORE: READ: Latest Chase news PLAY: Monitor your Chase Grid Game picks WATCH: Latest NASCAR video FOLLOW LIVE: Get RaceView
Keselowski tops Cup practice; Crafton, Jones, Custer top Truck sessions RELATED: Track your picks in the Perfect Chase Grid Challenge and Chase Battle Grid Presented by Toyota Sprint Cup Series Practice 1 " RESULTS Already in the hunt for his second straight win and a sweep of New Hampshire Motor Speedway for the season, Brad Keselowski topped opening Sprint Cup Series practice on Friday morning in Loudon, New Hampshire. The Team Penske driver ran just 12 laps, but found enough speed in his No. 2 Ford on his final run around the Magic Mile to best the field with a speed of 138.421 mph. The top 10 was chock-full of Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup drivers, save for Chip Ganassi Racing teammates Jamie McMurray (137.890 mph) and Kyle Larson (137.631 mph), who both ran well at Chicagoland last week and placed second and fifth, respectively, in Friday's opening session. After McMurray, 12 of the next 14 drivers on the chart were all postseason contenders, with the top five rounded out by Dale Earnhardt Jr . (3rd, 137.825 mph) and Kasey Kahne (4th, 137.661 mph). Reigning champion Jimmie Johnson was the slowest Chase driver, pulling in 29th with a speed of 135.699 mph. Just over 50 minutes into the session, practice was halted for debris on the track. Nationwide Series final practice " RESULTS A Richard Childress Racing driver led final NASCAR Nationwide Series practice at Kentucky Speedway , just not the one most would have expected. Rookie Cale Conley , on a part-time schedule this season, circled the 1.5-mile speedway at a clip of 175.404 mph to take top honors in the final 60-minute session. He also led the field with most laps run at 53. RCR's Brian Scott (175.075 mph), who drives the No. 2 Chevrolet, finished third in the standings after coming in second in the opening session. Scott is fifth in the standings, 56 points behind leader Chase Elliott . A late push from Trevor Bayne put his No. 6 Ford into second on the speed chart (175.239 mph). Sam Hornish Jr . (174.944 mph) and Chris Buescher (174.419) rounded out the top five, with RCR's Ty Dillon (174.323 mph) coming in sixth. Elliott finished eighth (174.087 mph) with his JR Motorsports teammate Regan Smith in 16th. Smith trails Elliott in the standings by 18 points. Next up is Coors Light Pole Qualifying, scheduled for 4:10 p.m. ET. The VisitMyrtleBeach.com 300 follows at 7:30 p.m. ET (ESPNEWS). Nationwide Series practice 1 " RESULTS Richard Childress Racing opened up the weekend strong, placing all three of its cars in the top four placers in opening Nationwide Series practice for the VisitMyrtleBeach.com 300 (Saturday, 7:30 p.m. ET, ESPNEWS) at Kentucky Speedway in Lexington, Kentucky. Brian Scott was at the helm, leading the charge with a best speed of 173.980 mph to finish second fiddle to practice topper Chris Buescher (174.701). Brendan Gaughan (173.210) and RCR rookie Ty Dillon (173.205) were right behind Scott. Sam Hornish Jr. , filling in for Kyle Busch in the No. 54 this weekend, placed fifth on the charts at 173.082. Nationwide Series points leader Chase Elliott was eighth overall at 172.629, while Michael McDowell , driving the defending race-winning No. 22 Ford, was 11th overall at 172.348. Camping World Truck Series Practice 1 " RESULTS Rookie driver Erik Jones paced the first of three Camping World Truck Series practices at New Hampshire Motor Speedway on Friday morning in Loudon, New Hampshire. The Kyle Busch Motorsports driver posted a best speed of 131.925 mph on his 35th of 36 laps around the Magic Mile. Jones ousted reigning champion Matt Crafton from the top of the leaderboard in the closing seconds of practice, besting the ThorSport driver's speed of 131.035 mph. Sixteen-year-old Cole Custer , set to make just his seventh NASCAR National Series start in Saturday's UNOH 175 (1 p.m. ET, FS1), was third on the leaderboard with a speed of 131.031 mph -- 0.001 seconds off Crafton's pace. Joey Coulter (130.999 mph) and Ryan Blaney (130.864 mph) rounded out the top five. Positions six through nine were occupied by Toyota drivers in Darrell Wallace Jr . (130.846 mph), Johnny Sauter (130.260 mph) and Red Horse Racing teammates Timothy Peters (129.754 mph) and German Quiroga (129.648 mph). Camping World Truck Series practice 2 " RESULTS In the second of three scheduled Camping World Truck Series practices, reigning champion Matt Crafton topped the leaderboard on Friday at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Loudon, New Hampshire. Crafton's late-session best speed of 132.347 mph shot him past Cameron Hayley , who placed second with a best speed of 131.433. Gray Gaulding (131.180 mph), Joey Coulter (131.044 mph) and Timothy Peters (130.815 mph) rounded out the top five. First session leader Erik Jones was ninth at 130.385 mph. Camping World Truck Series final practice " RESULTS LOUDON, N.H. -- NASCAR Next driver Cole Custer cruised to the top of the speed charts in final NASCAR Camping World Truck Series practice Friday afternoon at New Hampshire Motor Speedway . Custer, 16, turned a lap of 133.226 mph in the Haas Racing Development No. 00 Chevrolet in preparation for Saturday's UNOH 175 (1 p.m. ET, FOX Sports 1). Custer, who is scheduled to make just the seventh Truck Series start of his career here, also won the pole position in June at Gateway Motorsports Park, a track of similar length with similar short-track characteristics. Ryan Blaney, 20 years old and third in the series standings, was second-fastest in the Brad Keselowski Racing No. 29 Ford at 133.007 mph. Erik Jones , another NASCAR Next class member at age 18, ran the most laps (63) and was third-best at 132.924 mph, just ahead of Kyle Busch Motorsports teammate Darrell Wallace Jr ., a two-time winner this season. Tyler Reddick completed the top five in another Keselowski-owned truck. Points leader Matt Crafton , the defending series champion, was ninth-fastest of the 26 drivers who participated in the 85-minute finalsession. Saturday's Keystone Light Pole Qualifying is scheduled for a 10:10 a.m. ET start, broadcast on FOX Sports 1. The race is the 17th Truck Series event hosted by New Hampshire, but the first for the 1.058-mile track since 2011. -- Zack Albert 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
Second Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup race plays host to history RELATED: Track your picks in the Perfect Chase Grid Challenge and Chase Battle Grid Presented by Toyota Wendy Venturini will make her co-anchor debut of a NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at New Hampshire Motor Speedway during the Sylvania 300 (Sunday, 2 p.m. ET, ESPN, PRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio). The broadcaster will co-anchor with Doug Rice after working NASCAR Nationwide Series races with co-anchor Mark Garrow since 2012. "Wendy has an incredible knowledge of our sport and for the past two seasons has been co-anchoring multiple Nationwide Series races on PRN," Rice said. "She has steadily become more comfortable in that role and is ready for a Sprint Cup broadcast." It will mark the first time a woman will co-anchor a radio broadcast for NASCAR's premier series. She became the first female broadcaster to call an entire race on a national level during the July 2007 Sprint Cup Series race at Sonoma Raceway for DirecTV. "While I've never set out to be the first woman on a list of firsts in our sport, life has brought me to situations such as these," Venturini said. "Doug Rice believes in what I've contributed over the last decade in NASCAR, and I have a deep appreciation for the support given to me by the entire PRN team in this history-making moment." Venturini grew up around racing, following her father Bill, who has seven Sprint Cup starts, four Nationwide starts and two NASCAR Camping World Truck Series starts to his credit. She started her broadcasting career hosting "Race City Review," a local racing show, on the Adelphia Cable Network in 2001. Her career has included pit-road reporting for all three NASCAR national series, serving as a reporter since 2004 for SPEED and FOX Sports 1's "NASCAR Live," "NASCAR Race Day," "NASCAR Victory Lane" and practice and qualifying session as well. The Sylvania 300 will be broadcast on more than 380 affiliate stations nationwide and streamed live on NASCAR.com, the NASCAR Mobile app, GoPRN.com, the PRN mobile app and TuneIn. Fans at New Hampshire Motor Speedway can listen by tuning into 454.000 on their scanner. Broadcast coverage starts at 1 p.m. ET. 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
RPM driver shows gratitude to Ambrose for contributions to organization RELATED: Track your picks in the Perfect Chase Grid Challenge and Chase Battle Grid Presented by Toyota LOUDON, N.H. -- Aric Almirola has plenty of pressure to perform the next two weekends to keep his Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup postseason hopes alive. One thing he's scratched off the list of things to worry about -- the livelihood of his Richard Petty Motorsports team. Despite his last-place position in the 16-driver playoff, Almirola was almost all smiles Friday at New Hampshire Motor Speedway , two days after his team reaffirmed its commitment to remain a two-car operation in 2015. It's the sort of long-term vote of confidence in the wake of teammate Marcos Ambrose 's impending departure that can at least soothe some of the opening-round heartbreak that visited The King's famed No. 43 last weekend at Chicagoland. "It's really important," Almirola said. "You see most or all of the top teams in this sport are multi-car teams and that's important to have that resource of teammates and more information. I think any time you do things with just one person it becomes really easy to get stuck in your ways and not be able to see outside the box, but as soon as you get more information, more teammates, more heads thinking on the same thing, it opens your eyes to a lot of different opportunities as far as setups and people and ways to go about setting your cars up and processes in the shop. "So I think anytime something like this is going down, it's important for the guys and first and foremost for the guys at the race team to know that, 'Hey, you're OK, you're safe. We’re not shutting the car down. We're gonna have two cars and we're gonna go racing.' So that's first and foremost of the importance to let those guys know that they're OK, but on top of that for everything that we've built over the last four or five years to this point and being a winning race team and a Chase-contending race team, to let everybody know that's still our goal and we’re not backing down from that." Carrying over the status quo isn't necessarily the worst thing that could happen to a team that's seen its share of ownership changes over the years. Mergers and partnerships with principals such as Ray Evernham, Robert Yates and George Gillett made the team a cauldron of uncertainty throughout the previous decade as it shrank from a four-car conglomerate to a two-car stable, but the past three years have marked a period of relative stability in both the ownership and driver lineup. The smooth seas at RPM took on more than a ripple last weekend with Ambrose's announcement that he'd return to his native Australia, leaving Petty's No. 9 Ford with a prominent vacancy for 2015 in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series garage. While Almirola, who signed a three-year contract extension with RPM back in January, awaits the team's next chapter, he expressed his gratitude for Ambrose's legacy and lasting contributions. "He was there a year before me, so he was there at probably its darkest hour with the Gillett split and bankruptcy and Richard putting a lot of his own money to keep the team alive, and going from four cars down to two," Almirola said. "Marcos has seen a lot of that company and helped build it to where it is today, and I'm extremely appreciative of that because I get to reap the benefits of that. I feel like I was a big part of that, but I came in a year later. He's probably been one of the best teammates that I've ever worked with. He's such a fun guy and a lot of fun to be around, and he's an extremely good race car driver." For the shorter term, Almirola and Co. need to regroup -- and fast -- to make their imprint in the Contender Round, the next three-race cut in the new-look Chase. Reaching that goal means turning it on in this Sunday's Sylvania 300 (2 p.m. ET, ESPN) and following up strong the next weekend's race at Dover International Speedway. While Almirola said he didn't think he'd need a win-or-else approach over the next two races to advance, he also knows a repeat of the 41st-place finish outside the Windy City last weekend would be devastating. The Chicago setback hasn't stopped the 30-year-old from crunching the numbers to see how he'll avoid being one of the four eliminated drivers after Dover . "All the guys on my team and myself included know that we've got to go out and for our best shot -- without winning, for our best shot to transfer we have to run top-five the next two weeks," Almirola said. "There's no doubt about it and we've got to hope that the guys that are already down in points run 20th-25th. I think right now we're 23 points out of 12th, so if we run fifth and Carl (Edwards) runs 20th, that's 15 points and that puts us within seven going to Dover . That makes it a reality getting to Dover , but we've got to take a big chunk out here." While it's small consolation now, Almirola said that engine builder Doug Yates pinpointed the broken exhaust valve that caused his No. 43 car to go up in smoke just 37 laps from the finish last weekend, saying that similar trouble befell fellow Ford drivers Joey Logano at Kentucky and Ambrose at Atlanta earlier in the year. Almirola was heartened by the fact that it was just his first engine-related failure to finish in his three years with the Petty group, but that the timing of the misfortune could not have been worse. "Of all weekends for it to happen the first race of the Chase," Almirola said, "Why could it have not happened at Atlanta or Richmond or wherever else, but it is what it is. It just wasn't meant to be. The stars didn't line up right for us at Chicago, but we’ll rebound." 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
Michael Waltrip Racing driver is on baby watch at Loudon MORE: Bowyers to welcome son: 'It's got a dingy' RELATED: Track your picks in the Perfect Chase Grid Challenge and Chase Battle Grid Presented by Toyota Clint Bowyer is on baby watch as his wife Lorra is expecting the couple's first child. Bowyer is at New Hampshire for this weekend's Sprint Cup Series race, the Sylvania 300 (Sunday, 2 p.m. ET, ESPN) and was pra cticing in the his No. 15 Toyota for Michael Waltrip Racing in Friday's opening practice. Defending Camping World Truck Series champion and current series points leader Matt Crafton is on standby for Bowyer. @MRNRadio @ClintBowyer @dustinlong Crafton is technically on standby in case needed — K.C. (@KristineC15) September 19, 2014 Bowyer has a favorable history at the Magic Mile. He has two of his eight Sprint Cup wins at the track. It's a duty familiar to Crafton, as he was held on standby for Paul Menard as he and his wife were expecting the birth of a child at Las Vegas earlier this year. 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
Memories of 2012 conjured with trip to New Hampshire RELATED: Track your picks in the Perfect Chase Grid Challenge and Chase Battle Grid Presented by Toyota LOUDON, N.H. -- A visit to New Hampshire Motor Speedway two years ago still holds many fond memories for Denny Hamlin . That trip to the Magic Mile was a dominant performance where he guaranteed a victory on Twitter days earlier, slightly backtracked, but ultimately trounced the field with a "called shot" celebration in Victory Lane as the capper. But current events have somewhat clouded that memory. Brad Keselowski ruled at New Hampshire in July. His familiar Deuce rolled to victory in the regular-season finale at Richmond. The hot streak continued with Keselowski's fifth win of the season the following week at Chicagoland Speedway in the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup playoff opener. Sure enough, Keselowski's No. 2 was atop the leaderboard again Friday afternoon, leading opening Sprint Cup practice and then winning the Coors Light Pole Award. With all the talk about the hottest driver on the circuit, does 2012 still seem like recent history? "Well, somehow my car's disappeared and it's got a 2 on the side of it now," Hamlin quipped. Jokes aside this time around in New Hampshire, Hamlin seems convinced of one more guarantee -- that the string of 13 different winners at the 1.058-mile track will end with a repeat triumph in Sunday's Sylvania 300 (2 p.m. ET, ESPN). Hamlin just hopes he's the one snapping the streak and not Keselowski. Hoisting the lobster trophy come Sunday would give Hamlin a free pass into the Contender Round, the next three-race elimination phase in the redesigned Chase format. A little rekindling of the magic of 2012 from his Joe Gibbs Racing No. 11 team wouldn't hurt the cause. "You just show up and your car's just really fast and you can't do anything wrong," Hamlin said of that charmed performance here two years ago. "You're fastest in every practice and you just know what's going to happen. ... It's a good feeling to have a car that fast, and know that you would spend more time messing it up than you would making it better. As a driver, those days don't come around too often and I haven't seen it since." Hamlin opened the postseason with a convincing sixth-place effort last weekend as the top-finishing Toyota team at Chicagoland, potentially setting the tone for what could be a productive path through the Chase Grid. The nine-year veteran reiterated his view that the 10 playoff venues stack up favorably for his team's chances, but he's careful not to get ahead of himself as he searches for his first championship in NASCAR's premier series. "All my better race tracks are in the Chase. They really start getting good for me the last four races of the Chase," Hamlin said. "The key for us is to get eligible with four races to go and get to that final eight spots. If we can do that, then I feel on speed and our record on those second-to-last tracks, we can put ourselves in position to go to Homestead with a shot. That's looking so far ahead -- we have to concentrate on what we can do this weekend." 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
See the order the drivers will roll off in (Saturday, 4:10 p.m. ET) RELATED: Play NASCAR Fantasy Live " Sign up for RaceView today # Car Driver Team 1 22 Michael McDowell(i) Discount Tire Ford 2 54 Sam Hornish Jr. Monster Energy Toyota 3 40 Matt DiBenedetto Curtis Key Plumbing Chevrolet 4 72 * John Jackson CrashClaimsR.us Chevrolet 5 11 Elliott Sadler OneMain Financial Toyota 6 43 Dakoda Armstrong # WinField Ford 7 60 Chris Buescher # Roush Performance Parts Ford 8 28 JJ Yeley Texas 28 Spirits Stage Dodge 9 42 Dylan Kwasniewski # Up & Up Chevrolet 10 52 Joey Gase Chevrolet 11 31 Chase Pistone(i) Chevrolet 12 44 Blake Koch Centershot Toyota 13 55 Jamie Dick Viva Auto Group Chevrolet 14 33 * Cale Conley (i) IAVA Chevrolet 15 01 Landon Cassill G&K Services Chevrolet 16 46 * Ryan Ellis Curtis Key Plumbing Chevrolet 17 19 Mike Bliss TriStar Motorsports Toyota 18 17 * Tanner Berryhill # NationalCashLenders.com Dodge 19 4 Jeffrey Earnhardt Bandit Chevrolet 20 13 * Carl Long OCR Gaz Bar Dodge 21 80 * Ross Chastain (i) ADVICS/CMW Toyota 22 93 Kevin Swindell JGL Racing Dodge 23 62 Brendan Gaughan South Point Chevrolet 24 14 Eric McClure Hefty Ultimate/Reynolds Wrap Toyota 25 87 Josh Reaume Lilly Trucking Ford 26 51 Jeremy Clements RepairableVehicles.com/AllSouthElectric.com Chevrolet 27 20 Justin Boston(i) Zloop Toyota 28 5 * Austin Theriault Maine Open for Business Chevrolet 29 74 * Mike Harmon WCIParts.com Dodge 30 6 Trevor Bayne AdvoCare Ford 31 99 James Buescher ToyotaCare Toyota 32 7 Regan Smith TaxSlayer.com Chevrolet 33 3 Ty Dillon # Bass Pros Shops Chevrolet 34 23 Carlos Contreras 38 Special/Voli Chevrolet 35 10 * Jeff Green SupportMilitary.org Toyota 36 16 Ryan Reed # ADA Drive to Stop Diabetes presented by Lilly Ford 37 39 Ryan Sieg # RSS Racing Chevrolet 38 9 Chase Elliott # NAPA Auto Parts Chevrolet 39 2 Brian Scott Shore Lodge Chevrolet 40 70 * Derrike Cope youtheory Chevrolet 41 89 * Morgan Shepherd Courtney Construction Chevrolet MORE: READ: Latest Chase news PLAY: Monitor your Chase Grid Game picks WATCH: Latest NASCAR video FOLLOW LIVE: Get RaceView
This episode of The Drive for Superior Performance Presented by Goodyear takes a look at tire testing at Chicagoland Speedway prior to the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race.
Six-time champion knows there are no guarantees in postseason RELATED: Track your picks in the Perfect Chase Grid Challenge and Chase Battle Grid Presented by Toyota LOUDON, N.H. -- Jimmie Johnson knows the capabilities of his No. 48 Hendrick Motorsports team. And he knows its current status. The two are not the same. Often the yardstick by which others measure their own progress, Johnson and his team are currently showing more signs of vulnerability than dominance as the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup moves into week No. 2 of 10 here at New Hampshire Motor Speedway . No one's writing the team off, but neither is anyone conceding wins to the six-time Sprint Cup champion. "Truthfully, we're not the dominant car right now," Johnson said Friday at NHMS. "We're a good car. We still have nine weeks to get our act together; especially the way the Chase lays out, if we continue to get the most our of our good car and have a dominant car at Homestead, if we're in that position, then we can get seven (championships). "If" isn't typical for the team, which has normally been in more of a "when" mode by now. With the opening race out of the way (Johnson finished a pedestrian, for him, 12th at Chicagoland Speedway ), he enters this weekend's race eighth in points. Johnson and crew chief Chad Knaus haven't lost their way, but it's clear that others have improved. "This is a tough industry," said Johnson, who turned 39 earlier this week. “And we're working as hard as we can and I'm happy to see my teammates with speed. "And then there are a couple of guys out there that aren't in our camp that we're chasing and just trying to out-race them. But they're amazing race teams and drivers as well." Among them -- 2012 champion Brad Keselowski , winner of the last two Sprint Cup races. His Team Penske teammate, Joey Logano , has been no slouch, finishing fourth and sixth. Keselowski won here in July, and Johnson expects the No. 2 team to be no less of a threat this time around. Keselowski went on to finish first in the opening practice, while Johnson finished 29th. "I would expect him to be in a similar position for two reasons," said Johnson. "One, he had so much more pace than the rest of the field here in the spring race that it's hard to believe that everybody could cover that gap and get back to him. And then when we went to Richmond, which wasn't too long ago … and they had that form there, too. So I'd definitely say those guys are tough to handle." By themselves, Johnson's 24 Chase victories alone would rank in the top 10 among active drivers' total wins. And there are tracks ahead where Johnson will be expected to excel. Next week's stop at Dover ? He's won nine times there. Martinsville? Eight victories. Charlotte ? Seven career wins, including this year's Coca-Cola 600 . But he's taking nothing for granted. "It's awesome to have tracks that you love and tracks that you've had success at in the Chase," he said. "I feel like seven or eight of them have been historically awesome tracks for us. That part is great. "Stats are nice to look at, but you've got to live in the present. So just because we've been good at those tracks before doesn't guarantee us anything going back." A winner of three races in a four-race span earlier this season, Johnson hopes the team can rediscover the magic. "We've had one hot spot in the middle of the year … and we've kind of been lukewarm on the other sides," he said. "I'm hoping we heat up. I'm hoping we get to that hot spot again." 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