HOMESTEAD, Fla. -- As Carli Lloyd sat for an interview behind the XFINITY stage set-up just outside the Homestead-Miami Speedway Saturday morning, a long, committed and excited line of assorted people waited for her autograph, a chance to meet one of the United States' all-time most accomplished soccer players. Joking a bit about the extreme South Florida humidity, Lloyd, 33, was gracious and truly as interested in learning about NASCAR as sharing her incredible personal story as one of the world's greatest soccer players. "When the World Cup finished, my agent busy with a lot of requests, and my first big-time commercial was with XFINITY , and I thought it was so well done and I really enjoyed it," Lloyd said. "That was the start of the partnership between us. And then this came up and I was thrilled. I said I'd love to do this. "What's great about what happened from the World Cup is I've gotten to get out of the bubble of just soccer and gotten to experience so many different things, meet different people and go to different events. When would I have ever gotten the chance to see something like this?" Lloyd was surprised at the number of people waiting on the other side of our interview area for a chance to meet her and get an autograph. Minutes earlier, she played a little soccer with current XFINITY Series championship leader Chris Buescher -- part lesson, part shootout. In the end, Buescher beat her 4-1 -- kicking shots into a much larger goal. "It was really cool chatting with him about his preparation and how he trains and then kick it around with him," Lloyd said. "The first shot he used his toe and I was like, 'Hey, you've got to use the inside of your foot.' Then he started killing it. I was thinking, 'I shouldn't have given him any pointers.' "I said, 'Have you ever kicked a soccer ball?' He said, 'Yeah, when I was four.' " Lloyd said she mostly enjoyed the opportunity to talk with Buescher, who leads defending XFINITY Series champ Chase Elliott by 18 points entering Saturday's season finale. "You don't realize how cool these races are until you actually come and see these things, see the pits, how fast they change tires, see the drivers and their training and preparation," Lloyd said. "They are really fit and it takes a lot to drive the car around the track, you don't just hop in and go. It's been really cool, and I'm thrilled to have the opportunity to be here. "Just doing our Q&A, it's really fascinating to see the parallels, even though they are different sports. The mental aspect of his sport ... if he switches off, something terrible could happen on the track. It's the same thing with us. If you're not mentally prepared, you could risk being injured on the field." After finishing up her time at NASCAR's season finale -- she was Saturday's official starter, as well -- Lloyd and her team will return to the field for four more matches as part of the World Cup-winning team's U.S. Tour. Then in 2016 it's time to start preparing for the Olympics -- the nation solidly behind them "We're in November and the World Cup happened in July and people are still wanting to come see us and I think that speaks volumes," Lloyd said. "If something isn't going to be around and popular, it fizzles out in a month or so. That's not happening and that's a really good sign. "It's really cool people are here in their uniforms and want autographs on their soccer balls. I think it's great. I'm enjoying being able to do different things and be a part of this. "I think we captivated a nation and inspired not only young girls, but boys and even adults. That's just what it's all about. I want people to hear my story, the ups and downs. You can't pick things out of successful moments and get better. The moments people don't see, what they don't realize is it takes a lot of hard work, ups and downs and obstacles to get to this point. That's the message I'm trying to get out."
Michael Waltrip Racing will run its final NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race on Sunday at Homestead-Miami Speedway . The two-car team is shuttering its doors at the end of the season. Team owner Michael Waltrip was in a sentimental mood on Twitter late Thursday night and shared some thoughts: Ever built something really special? Where everyone involved in it was really proud to be part of it and then see it end? Happened to me — Michael Waltrip (@mw55) November 20, 2015 When from the beginning it was a struggle but you persevered, never taking no for an answer. Then you overcame the seemingly impossible.. — Michael Waltrip (@mw55) November 20, 2015 You provided jobs for 100s of families, you gave young racers a chance, you won, and contended for a @NASCAR Cup championship. — Michael Waltrip (@mw55) November 20, 2015 Sunday it'll be hard, but I'll choose to smile. We were underdogs who nearly survived in a grown ups world. Ultimately we didn't win it all — Michael Waltrip (@mw55) November 20, 2015 But what I will remember is more important to me than the statistics that @MWRteam will be judged by. People appreciate coming to work. — Michael Waltrip (@mw55) November 20, 2015 So don't feel sorry for me. I think we get more from what we give. And I gave it all I had. And that's all I have to say about that. ✌️ — Michael Waltrip (@mw55) November 20, 2015
Presenting NASCAR content from around the web Editor's note: On Wednesday at noon ET, "High 5" will present some of the best NASCAR-related content from around the web. 1. World champs Jeff Gordon 's win at Martinsville wasn't the only big event happening in sports this weekend. The Kansas City Royals won their second World Series title on Sunday, defeating the New York Mets four games to one in the series. Royals manager Ned Yost's connection to Dale Earnhardt and NASCAR has been well-documented over the past year. Here is one example. WE’RE #CROWNED !!! Your Kansas City Royals are WORLD CHAMPIONS!!!! pic.twitter.com/Ic8oL4aWu5 — Royals (@Royals) November 2, 2015 Happy for Ned Yost and the @Royals today. — Dale Earnhardt Jr . (@DaleJr) November 2, 2015 But if anyone in NASCAR is SUPER excited about this, it's Kansas-native Clint Bowyer . So excited that he's questioning next-morning commitments. That poor dentist. Been really fun to root for these guys we call our own. All I've seen on my timeline is #takethecrown . How bout #TookTheCrown Let's all — Clint Bowyer (@ClintBowyer) November 2, 2015 Gonna go ahead and apologize in advance for my 9am dentist appointment. We took the damn crown for crying out loud. @Royals — Clint Bowyer (@ClintBowyer) November 2, 2015 2. Buckeyes, Tigers & the Tide -- oh my! As the Championship Round between the final four drivers at Homestead approaches, another sport is gearing up for its four-team playoff of its own -- College football. The College Football Playoff Committee announced its first rankings of the season on Tuesday night. Making the cut were the Clemson Tigers, LSU Tigers, Ohio State Buckeyes and the Alabama Crimson Tide. 1. Clemson 2. LSU 3. Ohio State 4. Alabama pic.twitter.com/7FtqlrlmSl — CFBPlayoff (@CFBPlayoff) November 4, 2015 The first three teams hold unblemished records this season, while Alabama -- the unexpected pick of the lot -- has one loss against Ole Miss. But just as the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup has showed us, anything can happen when there are four coveted spots at the line. 3. 3-on-3 Several celebrities hit the court with Austin Dillon for his 3-on-3 Celebrity Baskeball Tournament on Tuesday night at High Point University. NASCAR’s Ty Dillon , Denny Hamlin and Brendan Gaughan , as well as country singer Colt Ford and MMA fighter Rashad Evans, were among the VIP guests who served as captains. He shoots...he scores!! @austindillon3 is king of the court today! -JW pic.twitter.com/HRLFZ3q6sT — Miss Sprint Cup (@MissSprintCup) November 3, 2015 Coach @dennyhamlin keeps an eye on his team...self-proclaimed the "Bad News Bears"! Ha! -JW pic.twitter.com/UjDVzZ4Km9 — Miss Sprint Cup (@MissSprintCup) November 3, 2015 The 16-team format resembled the bracket-style system that governs the NCAA basketball playoffs. Austin Dillon 's team, seeded 1 from the start, ultimately prevailed over Gaughan's squad. All proceeds from the night benefitted the Childress Institute for Pediatric Trauma. 4. Gordon's longtime fan He's been with Jeff Gordon since the beginning, watched him grow from a young racer into a championship-winner Cup driver. It's not team owner Rick Hendrick and it's not former crew chief Ray Evernham. Rather, it's Gordon's stepfather John Bickford. "Jeff ran with the bigger kids and the very best that was out there. He had a lot of skills then and it was one of those things that I probably knew that he could keep advancing," Bickford told Popular Speed in a recent article. One thing is for certain: he's hoping for a fifth title for his stepson. "I certainly hope Jeff takes that checkered flag in first place!" Bickford said. "I've never done this. It's been 39 years of continuous focus on this racing. So, I don't know how I'll feel. I guess I'm hoping for a bit of a sense of completion." Click here to read the entire story from Popular Speed. 5. Chase take-aways Sunday's race at Martinsville was highlighted by Gordon's Chase-clinching win and Matt Kenseth and Joey Logano 's ongoing drama, which ultimately resulted in Kenseth's two-race suspension . But the race's wild finish held many other implications for other drivers, especially those contending for a title. FOX Sports 1 breaks down the top five takeaways from Sunday's showdown here.
RELATED: Series standings " Chase Grid " Clinching scenarios for Phoenix AVONDALE, Ariz. -- Heading into the next-to-last race of the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup playoffs, Kyle Busch holds a second-place rung in the standings as the highest points-earner without an automatic berth in the championship round. When the green flag falls Sunday, his 10th-place starting spot -- combined with the relative starting positions of his Chase competition -- will instantly relegate him to the last driver in, his cushion above the cut line chopped from 11 points to five. Busch knew his plight just minutes after Friday's Coors Light Pole Qualifying at Phoenix International Raceway . In his snap assessment of the situation, the 30-year-old driver said he has a target in mind for where he'll need to be after 312 laps Sunday, determining if the closest brush with a premier series championship of his 11-year career will have a chance at coronation next weekend at Homestead-Miami Speedway . "Right now for us, our best scenario is to run hard and run strong and do what we know how to do and come out of here with a better than seventh-place finish. I think that'll get it done," Busch said. "We'll see how that goes. I think that we should be able to run that well and we're just going to race the race, race our own race right now until it gets down to about the last 100 laps, and we'll start seeing what we need to do to make up spots, but literally, man, I give it everything I got every lap anyway. I don't know that I'll be able to make up from if we're running 12th to get to that seventh mark. I don't know that I'll be able to make that up." Busch's improbable path to potentially snagging a seat at the title-eligible table -- from severe leg injuries in February, an 11-race absence, a Chase exemption, and a summertime winning spree -- reaches another crucial test in Sunday's Quicken Loans Race for Heroes 500 (2:30 p.m. ET, NBC, MRN, SiriusXM). Saturday's pair of Sprint Cup practices took on extra importance, as Busch's Joe Gibbs Racing crew searched for more speed out of his No. 18 Toyota, which hovered closer to the fringes of the top 10 than the top five in Friday's warm- ups . Though he has finishes of fifth (at Martinsville) and fourth (at Texas) in the bank for this three-race elimination series, Busch said he's not counting anything as a given. "We've gotta be … it's definitely going to have to be better than 10th," Busch said, acknowledging some of the benefits of teammate Matt Kenseth 's test here last month. "We'll see how we race, or how everybody else races, but according to qualifying and speeds from practice right now, we need to be smart about what we do (Saturday) and get a good race car going." Busch has plenty of history in Victory Lane at the 1-mile track with 11 NASCAR national series wins (one in Sprint Cup , eight in XFINITY and two in Camping World Truck Series competition). Racing for a Cup championship this late in the season, though, is a new experience. Busch has made strides by surviving the stages in the second year of the Chase's still-new format, but he'll need another scrappy effort Sunday to emerge from the jumble near the cutoff point, with just 11 points separating second through fifth -- in order: himself, Kevin Harvick , Martin Truex Jr . and Carl Edwards -- in the standings. His team had some of the numbers crunched shortly after his place on the starting grid was settled Friday. Will he want status updates in close to real time come Sunday? "Not till later in the game," Busch said. "Really, like I said before, I mean what am I going to do different? I don't know if I'm going to drive from 12th or 15th, if that's where we're running, I don't know if I can drive there from seventh. I give it everything I got anyway."
RELATED: Updated series standings " Full race results AVONDALE, Ariz. -- Track position was king, cautions were few and when it all shook out, Chase Elliott departed Phoenix International Raceway six points closer to Chris Buescher . Elliott, who clinched the 2014 NASCAR XFINITY Series title here at the 1-mile track a year ago, finished seventh in Saturday's DAV 200 Honoring America's Veterans. Buescher finished 13th, leaving the deficit between the two at 18 points. With only one race remaining, next weekend at Homestead-Miami Speedway , 18 points is a lot. But it's not impossible, Elliott said. "Certainly we still have a chance," Elliott noted. "18 points really isn't that much. That's one little mistake from being right back in it." Mistakes were few and far between in the series' penultimate event, there were only three cautions for 18 laps, and that had a big impact on the outcome, according to Elliott and crew chief Ernie Cope. In a race that was dominated by Sprint Cup Series driver Kyle Busch , Elliott said his team "gained on it all day." "Definitely made it better on the long run," he said, "Other guys did, too. "Track position was important as always; this race had green flag written all over it so it was hard to gain a big chunk of ground unless you could get it on pit road somehow. The guys had a really good pit stop that last one, and got us a couple of spots. It just took me too long to gain them on the race track." Elliott had qualified 12th earlier, and while not terrible, it didn't help according to Cope. "We just needed track position," Cope said. "We didn't qualify good; we had a little trouble getting out of the box and lost some positions on the first stop. He passed cars but it just took so long, the next one (in line) would be so far out. We had a top-five car we just never could get the track position." Buescher described his day as an "OK" one, but "not a good one." It was his worst finish since Iowa, 13 races ago, and only the fifth result of 10th or worse during that stretch. The gains made by others were slight -- Ty Dillon and Regan Smith , third and fourth in points, finished fifth and sixth, respectively. Buescher needs only to finish 13th or higher at Homestead to clinch the title, regardless of how others fare. "We've just got to go race," Cope said of the season-ending event. "The 60 (of Buescher) got to have (a problem). We can't make up 18 points or whatever we are behind … Even if we win he's going to run good enough to where we can't beat him unless he has an issue. "We're just going to go try and do our best, that's all we can do. You can't force bad luck, you don't want to wish them bad luck, you just want to go run the best you can, try to win the race. Wherever it falls, it falls." Elliott hasn't led the points at any time this season, but he's been third or higher since the year's fifth race. He's won only once, at Richmond. "The way I look at this year is it's definitely had its ups and downs and we've given it our best effort and I think that's all you can ask for," Elliott said. "There have been a lot of mistakes made by me that I wish I could go back and fix. "Like I said … just one small mistake can gain you a chunk of points just like that. Hopefully we're not the one; hopefully we don't make any mistakes so we can give ourselves a chance. That's all you can ask for."
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Smokey Mountain Herbal Snuff extends partnership with No. 98 entry Registration for NASCAR Fantasy Live is now open! Smokey Mountain Herbal Snuff and Pouches has extended their partnership with ThorSport Racing and Johnny Sauter for the 2015 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series, the team announced on Tuesday. The partnership is for eight races beginning with the season opener at Daytona International Speedway , the NextEra Energy Resources 250 on Friday, Feb. 20 (7:30 p.m. ET, FOX Sports 1). "Smokey Mountain has been a huge supporter of our series, and every year they are able to increase their presence in NASCAR," Sauter said in a team release. "I'm honored they have chosen not only to extend their partnership with myself and ThorSport Racing in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series, but to have also increased their presence in 2015. This kind of partnership is hard to find these days, so I'm honored to be carrying their colors and representing their brand again this season." In addition to the opener at Daytona, Smokey Mountain Herbal Snuff and Pouches will serve as the primary sponsor for both races at Martinsville Speedway (in March and October), the May races at Charlotte Motor Speedway and Dover International Speedway , the August race at Bristol Motor Speedway , the October race at Talladega Superspeedway and the November race at Texas Motor Speedway . Last season, Smokey Mountain Herbal Snuff was a primary sponsor for Sauter in six of the series' 22 races. In the 2014 season, Sauter scored a win at Michigan International Speedway and finished fourth in the final standings, driving the No. 98 Toyota Tundra for ThorSport Racing. FULL SERIES COVERAGE • Latest news • Standings • Schedule