NASCAR.com's Jonathan Merryman and Zack Albert discuss the nuances of Sonoma Raceway and what it will take to win the Toyota/Save Mart 350.
See what's coming this week to NASCAR.com Here's what you'll see on NASCAR.com this week: MONDAY: Martin Truex Jr . didn't win at Michigan, but he accomplished something last done by Richard Petty in 1969. Zack Albert will have more on that story from the Irish Hills. ... @nascarcasm recaps the race in pictures, as only he can. ... The Rundown covers where every driver finished, and why. TUESDAY: Earnhardt Jr. finished second at Michigan and talks to senior writer Kenny Bruce about his plans for the Chase. ... With the off-week upon us, we're starting to look ahead to project the Chase field. ... Wonder what Kurt Busch 's Facebook page might look like after a win? @nascarcasm has you covered. WEDNESDAY: Check out which paint schemes will be on display at this weekend at Iowa and Chicagoland, which host the Camping World Truck Series and XFINITY Series, respectively. ... Senior writer Kenny Bruce gets you caught up on all competition aspects of the sport with his weekly Tech Talk story. THURSDAY: The U.S. Open begins today, which got us at NASCAR.com thinking ... if NASCAR had four majors, which races would make up that grouping? We'll have more on this concept. ... Senior writer Holly Cain previews the NBC race coverage team in advance of the network's return to covering the sport at Daytona. FRIDAY: There are five on-track events, and we'll cover them all, starting at 11 a.m. ET with Camping World Truck Series practice and culminating later in the evening with the Truck Series race at 8:30 p.m. ET. We'll also have eight of the best tweets that you may have missed from the previous week. Also coming this week: We'll recap the entire Michigan weekend in GIF form, a fun way to look back at the top moments from the track. ... How do Kyle Busch 's Chase chances look? We'll update our Chase Watcher for the Joe Gibbs Racing driver. ... Father's Day is Sunday, which means we'll have plenty of pictures of drivers with their dads ... and drivers with their kids.
NASCAR.com's Matthew Dillner and Zack Albert discuss the tunnel turn at Pocono Raceway and the bumps that have plagued drivers all weekend. They also make their picks as to who will win the Axalta "We Paint Winners" 400.
See what's coming this week to NASCAR.com Here's what you'll see on NASCAR.com this week: MONDAY: Continued coverage of Dale Earnhardt Jr .'s Talladega win, plus reaction from Jeff Gordon after another speeding penalty ruined his day. And on "Star Wars Day" @nascarcasm combines the iconic film franchise with NASCAR. TUESDAY: Expect Power Rankings presented by John Deere to get another shakeup this week -- how high will Junior rise? Plus, check out Dale Jr.'s imaginary Facebook page created by @nascarcasm, as well as fake texts between Junior and Tony Stewart following their Richmond run-in. Senior writer Kenny Bruce will report from Charlotte at an event with Jimmie Johnson , Chad Knaus, Rusty Wallace and Michael Waltrip . WEDNESDAY: Check out which paint schemes will be on display at Kansas Speedway . Senior writer Kenny Bruce will be at the NASCAR R&D Center for Richard Childress Racing 's final appeal. THURSDAY: In advance of the SpongeBob SquarePants 400, we take a look at what would happen if SpongeBob and NASCAR collided. Senior writer Holly Cain, who has covered both Dale Earnhardt Jr . and his father, has a column on Sunday's remarkable win. And to get you ready for Kansas, Driver Reports has a full breakdown on how the 16 drivers currently in the Chase Grid do at that track. FRIDAY: Get all the on-track action slated for Kansas throughout the day and evening, including a Truck Series race under the lights. We'll also catch you up on eight tweets you might have missed. Also coming this week: On Tuesday, Zack Albert will be on hand when the new NASCAR Next class is announced. Holly Cain writes about Carl Edwards ' frustrating Talladega finish. ... Check out a photo gallery Wednesday of NASCAR drivers and their mothers, in advance of Mother's Day. ... We'll preview Erik Jones first career Sprint Cup start, and look back on Joey Gase 's career-best XFINITY Series finish.
See what's coming this week to NASCAR.com Play: NASCAR Fantasy Live Here's what you'll see on NASCAR.com this week: MONDAY: Dale Earnhardt Jr . finished in the top 10 after a last-place effort last week. How'd he bounce back? Taylor Starer reports from Fontana. Plus, recap the Auto Club weekend in GIF form, and read a note on every driver in the 43-car field in The Rundown. TUESDAY: Kevin Harvick has eight consecutive finishes of second or better dating back to last season. No. 1 in the Power Rankings? For sure. But who's behind him in No. 2? Plus our weekly video of the best sounds from the scanner. WEDNESDAY: Check out the new paint schemes for this weekend's action at Martinsville Speedway . THURSDAY: Have you been bitten by the March Madness bug? Stay tuned as NASCAR.com presents its own version of March Madness, complete with fan voting. We'll be in the semifinal round Thursday. Zack Albert will write on Danville Speedway and its link to NASCAR and Wendell Scott, and @nascarcasm also chimes in on something historic -- the Martinsville hot dog. FRIDAY: Cars are on track in Martinsville. Visit us for live leaderboards throughout the day, plus the best tweets of the week. Also coming this week: Holly Cain previews Chase Elliott 's first scheduled Sprint Cup Series start ... How is Kurt Busch holding up after a near-miss at Fontana? Cain has that story, too ... Senior writer Kenny Bruce takes a deep dive on Martinsville, the original NASCAR facility.
See who our staff members pick to take the checkered flag Play: NASCAR Fantasy Live Members of the NASCAR.com editorial team make their picks for the Great American Race below. Who do you have? Let us know in the comments section. Zack Albert Denny Hamlin . Joe Gibbs Racing cars have shown plenty of oomph so far in Speedweeks, making Matt Kenseth another Daytona favorite. Sunday, it should be Hamlin's turn in Victory Lane. Kenny Bruce Dale Earnhardt Jr. Strong all week, and probably as pumped as he's ever been about his team and his car. Holly Cain Jimmie Johnson. Pat DeCola Jimmie Johnson. The Hendrick Motorsports driver has been unstoppable thus far at Speedweeks, but he's coming off one of his worst seasons to date -- making Johnson the rare "dark horse favorite." The No. 48 Chevrolet swept both Daytona races in his 2013 championship season but hadn't finished higher than 20th in the six Daytona races prior to that. Still, I've got a feeling. Stu Hothem Dale Earnhardt Jr. After last Saturday's first practice, the defending Daytona 500 champion said he had the fastest car in the field. On the 20th anniversary of the last back-to-back winner (Sterling Marlin) going to Victory Lane, Earnhardt will join Hendrick Motorsports teammate Jeff Gordon and NASCAR Hall of Famers Bobby Allison, Dale Jarrett, Richard Petty and Cale Yarborough with three or more wins in the Great American Race. RJ Kraft Carl Edwards. The Joe Gibbs Racing stable has been as strong as the Hendrick Motorsports fleet during Speedweeks, with the veteran showing plenty of speed. It will be the organization's newest driver that brings Joe Gibbs his first trip to Victory Lane in the Daytona 500 since 1993. Brad Norman Tony Stewart. His car is fast, and Stewart seems more like the 'Smoke' of old than at any other point over the past two years. Plus, he's just due for a good break at Daytona. Jessica Ruffin Jeff Gordon. The three-time Daytona 500 champion is starting from the pole position, has a dynamic duo of Hendrick Motorsports teammates helping him in the front and his No. 24 Chevrolet SS has showcased its speed the entire week. But above all, with this event marking his final Daytona 500, Gordon has plenty of motivation to take the checkered one last time in the Great American Race. Taylor Starer Jeff Gordon. The four-time Cup champion is starting his final Great American Race as a full-time driver from the pole — what more motivation does he need to do well? Three previous Daytona 500 wins under his belt doesn't hurt, either. George Winkler Dale Earnhardt Jr. He becomes the first back-to-back winner of the Daytona 500 since Sterling Marlin in 1995. Junior's car has looked fast all week -- he won in the Daytona Duels -- and he has a strong history in this race (series-best 99.6 driver rating, two previous Daytona 500 wins). MORE: READ: Latest NASCAR news PLAY: Sign up for Fantasy Live WATCH: Latest NASCAR video FOLLOW LIVE: Get RaceView today
Veteran to drive for JGR starting with Atlanta Sprint Cup race Play: NASCAR Fantasy Live Joe Gibbs Racing announced Tuesday that David Ragan will serve as interim driver in place of injured Kyle Busch for the next several weeks beginning this weekend at Atlanta Motor Speedway. The team said in a statement that Ragan, a NASCAR Sprint Cup Series veteran, will run JGR's No. 18 Toyota as Busch recovers from multiple lower-leg injuries suffered in a crash Saturday at Daytona International Speedway. Matt Crafton, champion in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series the last two seasons, finished 18th as a last-minute fill-in for the season-opening Daytona 500. Front Row Motorsports and sponsor CSX accommodated Ragan's move, according to JGR. Ragan is expected to return to the team later this season. A spokesperson for Front Row Motorsports said there was "no announcement yet" regarding their plans for the No. 34 Ford at Atlanta. Erik Jones will pilot the No. 54 Toyota at Atlanta in the NASCAR XFINITY Series for JGR. Busch was expected to compete in the XFINITY Series' Hisense 250 (Saturday, 2 p.m. ET, FOX Sports 1) at Atlanta in JGR's No. 54 Toyota. An announcement on who will drive the No. 54 following the Atlanta race will be made at a later date, according to the team. "We appreciate being able to work with Front Row Motorsports and CSX for David's (Ragan) availability," said Joe Gibbs, owner of Joe Gibbs Racing. "We are fortunate to be able to have someone of David's caliber behind the wheel while Kyle recovers. Erik is a big part of our future at JGR and we will be increasing his schedule in the XFINITY Series beginning this weekend in Atlanta and seeking the earliest opportunity to provide him Cup experience. We appreciate all the support we have received from the NASCAR community including our fans and we look forward to getting Kyle back in the car as soon as possible." Kyle Busch's wife, Samantha, wished David Ragan luck on Twitter after the news was announced. Thx to David 4 filling in for Kyle. @JacquelynRagan is 1 of my best friends n they r the nicest ppl in the world,wishing them much success! — Samantha Busch (@SamanthaBusch) February 24, 2015 Ragan, 29, drove the Front Row Motorsports' No. 34 Ford in Sunday's Daytona 500 and has competed in the last three NASCAR Sprint Cup Series seasons, bringing the Statesville, North Carolina-based team its only premier series victory in May 2013 at Talladega Superspeedway. Before his tenure at Front Row, Ragan raced for Roush Fenway Racing from 2007-2011. Interesting enough, Ragan was teammates with current JGR drivers Matt Kenseth and Carl Edwards as recently as the 2011 Sprint Cup Series season, while all three were at Roush Fenway. Jones, a three-time winner in Truck Series competition last year and a four-time winner in his career, was in consideration for the ride in Sunday's Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500 (1 p.m. ET, FOX), which would have made him the first active NASCAR Next driver to make a Sprint Cup start. Ultimately, JGR went with Ragan, a driver with eight full seasons of top-division experience and home-state ties, having grown up in Unadilla, Georgia, roughly 100 miles south of the Atlanta track. Busch, also 29, was released from a Florida hospital Tuesday for further treatment at a facility near his North Carolina home. The move came three days after the NASCAR XFINITY Series opener at Daytona, where Busch suffered a compound fracture of his lower right leg and a broken left foot, indefinitely placing him on the sidelines. Ragan's transition to the Gibbs team marks an abrupt shift in manufacturers, as his 291 career starts in the Sprint Cup Series have all come in Fords. It also creates a domino-effect vacancy at the Bob Jenkins-owned Front Row organization, which expanded to three full-time teams in the offseason with David Gilliland and Cole Whitt filling the other two seats. Ragan finished 17th in Sunday's Daytona 500, placing him 16th and in the final spot in the provisional Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup postseason grid after the season's first race. Per NASCAR rules, if one driver switches teams during the 26-race regular season, the driver remains eligible for Chase consideration as long as he remains in the top 30 in points. Jones ranks second in the Camping World Truck Series points after his runner-up finish in the Daytona opener. He's scheduled to compete in the full truck season for Kyle Busch Motorsports, and was expected to race in 10 XFINITY events for Joe Gibbs Racing. NASCAR.com's Zack Albert contributed to this report MORE: READ: Latest NASCAR news PLAY: Sign up for Fantasy Live WATCH: Latest NASCAR video FOLLOW LIVE: Get RaceView today FULL SERIES COVERAGE • Latest news • Standings • Schedule
Stewart-Haas Racing driver must maintain distance from ex-girlfriend Patricia Driscoll Play: NASCAR Fantasy Live " Vote: Ultimate Daytona Challenge Kurt Busch has been ordered to stay away from his ex-girlfriend Patricia Driscoll, according to court documents. The order, which is good until Feb. 16, 2016, states that Busch must stay 100 yards away from Driscoll's home and workplace, must maintain a "practicable" distance and not attempt to contact Driscoll at NASCAR events. Busch will also be evaluated for mental health problems in regard to anger control and impulse control, and it may be unlawful for Busch to purchase or possess firearms or ammunition. Driscoll sought a no-contact order in court related to her claim of an alleged physical confrontation at Dover International Speedway last September. The Delaware state attorney general's office has yet to rule on the alleged altercation and whether any charges will be handed down. The two parties spent several days in a Delaware court in December and January. NASCAR released a statement on the matter that read: NASCAR has been closely following the civil proceedings in Kent County (Del.) Family Court regarding driver Kurt Busch and therefore is aware of the court order issued today. We now await the full findings of the Commissioner and any actions by the Attorney General of Delaware related to the allegations against Busch. "As we stated earlier, NASCAR fully recognizes the serious nature of this specific situation and the broader issue of domestic violence. We will continue to gather information and monitor this situation very closely, and we expect our members to conduct themselves properly." Stewart-Haas Racing Executive Vice President Joe Custer said the following in a team release: "These are serious allegations and we do not take them lightly. We are relying on the authorities in Delaware and their collective experience to identify all the facts. They are the experts in these matters and their decision, specifically the one that will be made by the Attorney General, will determine our course of action." Busch spoke at length about the legal proceedings last Thursday at the annual NASCAR Media Day at Daytona International Speedway, expressing at the time some mild frustration that the case entered its third month. Allegations of domestic assault brought by Busch's ex-girlfriend, Driscoll, first surfaced over 90 days ago. "The days in court, and now that we're going close to Day 100 as far as all of the proceedings go, normal situations that happen around these type of situations take 30 minutes, so sometimes preferential treatment can go the wrong way," Busch said last week. "… So we all have to be patient, we all have to understand that there's a process that we have to respect." "... And with the team and their support -- they've been fantastic, (team co-owner) Gene Haas especially -- it's amazing to have the comfort level that I have, as well as to have told them the truth and understanding of everything." Team co-owner Tony Stewart -- like Busch, a former Sprint Cup Series champion -- said last week that his Stewart-Haas Racing team has prepared a backup plan in case the legal proceedings involving Kurt Busch have an unfavorable outcome. Neither NASCAR nor the team have made movement toward removing Busch from his role as full-time driver of the Stewart-Haas No. 41 Chevrolet, opting to let the legal process play out before taking any action. Stewart said that while the team has a contingency plan, he hopes it doesn't come to that. "We do, but we're kind of waiting to see, and I'm very hopeful that we won't have to worry about it," Stewart said. "I feel bad that he's in that situation right now -- that they're both in that situation -- so we have to be smart and we have to have a plan in place if it doesn't work out for whatever reason." Busch first spoke publicly about the case late last month at the Charlotte Motor Speedway Media Tour presented by Technocom. Contributing: Zack Albert MORE: READ: Latest NASCAR news PLAY: Sign up for Fantasy Live WATCH: Latest NASCAR video FOLLOW LIVE: Get RaceView today FULL SERIES COVERAGE • Latest news • Standings • Schedule
Panel of experts debate the hot topics in NASCAR RELATED: Follow your picks in the Chase Battle Grid Presented by Toyota 1. Before we put last week's race in the rear-view, which win was bigger for Dale Earnhardt Jr . this year -- the Daytona 500 or Sunday’s victory at Martinsville? Kenny Bruce: From an appearance standpoint, it certainly seemed as if the Martinsville win meant a lot to Dale Jr. He's one of a very few folks in the sport today who understands and values the history of the sport, and there's no denying Martinsville's place. It's the only track still on the schedule since the very beginning. Had he still been in Chase contention, the importance of that win would have been even bigger. But ... Daytona 500 wins are still cherished, and by the way, that track has a bit of history as well. And when Hall of Fame talk comes up, a win or wins in the D500 carry a lot of weight. Holly Cain: While Junior seemed nearly as emotional for the grandfather clock on Sunday, I think becoming a rare multi-winner of the Daytona 500 always be the highlight of his career. .... until and unless he gets a championship trophy, that is. Zack Albert : Maybe I'm speaking as someone still full of Martinsville hot dogs, but it was quite the reaction that Junior had coming across the finish line and in the infield media center afterward. Crowd reaction was super-loud, too. Cain: Seems like I recall a pretty loud reaction in Daytona too, though. I just feel that second Daytona 500 victory is what will elevate him as a driver. Bruce: Were they cheering in the press box, Zack ? Not to dismiss the importance of his other wins this year, but were the Pocono wins as memorable? As monumental? I think you're right Holly, a multi-time winner of the D500 carries a lot of clout. But singling out this year's win ... he already had one win in the 500. He had never won at Martinsville. For him personally, it seemed like this last win was the bigger deal. Albert : Our media corps cheering in the press box? Heresy! Honestly, the Pocono wins, to me, are what elevated crew chief Steve Letarte as a savvy pit strategist. Dale Jr. can't do it alone and he's had a crew chief on top of his game as well this year. Plus, he got a clock. They also gave him two hot dogs after he got out of Victory Lane on Sunday. When he saw they were plain, he left them in the media center. I haven't seen them show up on eBay just yet ... Cain: Are you kidding Zack , two hot dogs unattended in the media center were definitely eaten by a reporter at some point. Bruce: Give 'em time, Zack . Albert : Here again, you know our media corps. 2. At least two drivers are guaranteed to advance into the season-finale at Homestead based on points earned. Could we see a return to "points racing" in the final two races of the Eliminator Round? Albert : Not if your name is Harvick or Keselowski. Maybe the drivers ahead of them in the Chase standings will lean toward being more conservative in these next two, but those two will be going for it. Cain: Maybe it's just me but it feels like points racing is a scary and uncertain proposition. These guys are getting crashed out up front and in back. However, I agree with Zack and think that will be an easier tactic for those higher in the standings this week. Albert : Is it like football? Will a prevent defense prevent you from winning? Bruce: I don't know that we will. Maybe when the Chase began and there were 16 "Nations" involved, a team could look a little more at the points situation. But now, with wins being guaranteed tickets to advance, I think those left are more focused on winning that ever, if that's possible. In reality, they might end up with a "good points day" but that's just the result of a day spent trying to get to the front. Not a goal. Cain: And certainly these two tracks -- Texas and Phoenix -- can be tough on the best of "points" strategies. Bruce: Right, Holly. And how many times have we seen drivers try to play it safe only to have it wind up biting them? Albert : Plus, I still think these guys still set the goal to win every week. If that's not in the cards, we may see more risk-takers than usual, depending on the standings. I should've "points raced" when it came to hot dogs last weekend. Cain: Let's face it, there are only so many times a season when you have THE winning car and you typically know that pretty early on in a race, so making the best of a situation -- points racing -- is always Plan B. But especially at these tracks, you are easily the victim of others mistakes, Zack . Bruce: You were going for the win, Zack . Giving 100 percent. Cain: Glad I DNQ'ed on that one. 3. Both Ryan Newman and Matt Kenseth remain winless yet also remain very much in the title picture. How realistic are their chances at advancing and perhaps even winning the series title without winning a race? Cain: I didn't think I'd be saying this a few weeks ago, but I could totally see either Newman or Kenseth advancing on points. But that Homestead race is going to be crazy aggressive so I'm not ready to give them a trophy yet. Albert : There is something to be said for keeping fenders on the car, isn't there? I know that a win comes with all kind of incentives, glitz and extras, but there's still a reward for being consistent. Bruce: I don't think they've over-achieved, or been more fortunate than most. It's more just the way the system is set up. You don't have to win to advance, but it certainly helps. And with at least two spots in the final race now based on points, their chances look even better. I don't see them all of a sudden going out and dominating a race and winning, they've had 30-plus races to accomplish that and it hasn't happened. But advance? Sure. Cain: It's been amazing … just when you think Kenseth is out of if, he crosses the line just where he needs to be. Homestead is just going to be unlike anything we've ever seen. Albert : Kenseth is as good a pick as any to win Texas, but as Kenny says, I think it's going to be tough to make too many inroads into converting so-far-elusive victories this late in the season. Bruce: Kenseth's Texas stats? Two wins and the best average finish in the field. So maybe this is his week after all. But I wouldn't wager two Martinsville hot dogs on it, Zack . Cain: Kevin Harvick only said Kenseth wouldn't win a championship. He didn't say anything about winning races! Albert : If they continue to mess with each other, perhaps neither will be in the final four -- wins or not. And there it all comes full circle. Enjoy a Texas sirloin while you're down in the Lone Star State. Bruce: Everything's bigger in Texas, Zack . Including the sirloins. 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