The Rundown: Charlotte driver grades
RELATED: Full race results " Updated series standings Breaking down the full field for the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway : 1. Martin Truex Jr ., No. 78 Toyota, Furniture Row Racing . A historic win. Truex set so many records, we can’t list them all. So we’ll settle for this one: He led a Sprint Cup -record 588 miles. Oh, and his 392 laps led … taken alone, they would rank 121st all time in series history. Grade: AAA+ (and that might be a tad low) 2. Kevin Harvick , No. 4 Chevrolet, Stewart-Haas Racing . Another second-place finish for Harvick (47th of his career). One more and he ties Lee Petty for 10th all time. Grade: A 3. Jimmie Johnson , No. 48 Chevrolet, Hendrick Motorsports . Johnson sniffed the lead after the final restart, but Superman said no. Instead, Johnson will be the answer to the trivia question: Who led the second-most laps (five) of the 2016 Coca-Cola 600 ? Sort of like: Who was the second-leading scorer the night Wilt Chamberlain scored 100 points in a game? And, no, I don’t know. Grade: A 4. Denny Hamlin , No. 11 Toyota, Joe Gibbs Racing . Hamlin picked up 5 seconds on leader Martin Truex Jr . on the night’s second pit stop … and still lost by 6.4 seconds. That’ll happen in a 600-mile race. Grade: A 5. Brad Keselowski , No. 2 Ford, Team Penske . Keselowski and Kevin Harvick raced so close to each other for the first half of the race, you’d have thought a big ol’ magnet in one of the cars was keeping them side by side. Grade: A 6. Kurt Busch , No. 41 Chevrolet, Stewart-Haas Racing . Busch increased his series-leading top-10 finishes to 11 and also moved up a spot to second in the standings behind Kevin Harvick . Grade: A 7. Matt Kenseth , No. 20 Toyota, Joe Gibbs Racing . Disaster came knocking on a green-flag pit stop late in the first half of the race when Austin Dillon fired out of his pit stall and went way wide into Kenseth. Fortunately the impact was minimal. Grade: A 8. Chase Elliott , No. 24 Chevrolet, Hendrick Motorsports . Elliott was running eighth when he was hit with a speeding penalty on the first pit stop; 373 laps later he finished eighth. Nice job. Grade: A 9. Joey Logano , No. 22 Ford, Team Penske . Not that Logano would have been able to run down Martin Truex Jr ., but any chance at the win went away during green-flag pit stops around Lap 254 when a crew member was over the wall too soon. After serving the penalty, Logano was 21st, one lap down, which effectively ended his night. The team battled back, but that’s a mistake that can’t be made, especially with your driver running so well in such a big race. Grade: D 10. Ryan Newman , No. 31 Chevrolet, Richard Childress Racing . Newman was penalized for speeding on pit road during the third caution but battled back to post his fourth top 10 of the season and move up a spot to 16th in the standings. Grade: B 11. Greg Biffle , No. 16 Ford, Roush Fenway Racing . Biffle posted his best finish of the season but couldn’t end his drought of top-10 finishes. His previous top 10 was last September at New Hampshire Motor Speedway when he finished fourth. Grade: B 12. Austin Dillon , No. 3 Chevrolet, Richard Childress Racing . Dillon started 28th and needed all 400 laps to claw his way up. Grade: B 13. Kyle Larson , No. 42 Chevrolet, Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates. Larson made a lot of noise early and was running fourth at the halfway point before fading. Grade: B 14. Dale Earnhardt Jr ., No. 88 Chevrolet, Hendrick Motorsports . Junior was on pit road when the final yellow flag came out, and he took the wave-around to return to the lead lap … albeit a little deeper in the field for the final restart with 56 laps to go. He was never vying for a win, but that cost him a higher finish. Grade: B 15. Ricky Stenhouse Jr ., No. 17 Ford, Roush Fenway Racing . Stenhouse was the lucky dog on the final caution, enabling him to score his sixth finish in the teens (13th through 16th) in the past seven races. Grade: B 16. AJ Allmendinger , No. 47 Chevrolet, JTG Daugherty Racing . Allmendinger’s 19.3 average running position was highest among drivers finishing in the top 20 and his 10 laps in the top 15 were the lowest. Grade: C 17. Paul Menard , No. 27 Chevrolet, Richard Childress Racing . Menard’s 11th-place-finish at Dover coupled with his 17th Sunday gave him his second-best back-to-back finishes of the season, behind his 15th-8th at Auto Club and Martinsville. Grade: C 18. Carl Edwards , No. 19 Toyota, Joe Gibbs Racing . Edwards was a fixture in the top 10 and running third when he was hit with two green-flag pit-road speeding penalties. The first came when he was too fast entering the pits on Lap 298. The second came when he was too fast entering pit road to do his pass-through penalty, which required him to do a stop-and-go on the next lap. That put a fork in any chance for a decent finish: Grade: D 19. Jamie McMurray , No. 1 Chevrolet, Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates. McMurray’s average running position was 19.1, and that’s exactly where he finished. Grade: C 20. Ryan Blaney , No. 21 Ford, Wood Brothers Racing . Not a bad finish considering Blaney was hit with his first pit-road speeding penalty of the season on the competition caution, had to return to pit road because of a loose wheel during the third caution and had his right rear tire go down with three laps to go. Grade: C 21. Danica Patrick , No. 10 Chevrolet, Stewart-Haas Racing . Danica’s consistent: Sunday’s finish was her eighth in the 20s this season. Grade: C 22. Kasey Kahne , No. 5 Chevrolet, Hendrick Motorsports . Kahne’s right front tire went down early putting him two laps back, and he spent the rest of the night slowly making up ground. Grade: C 23. Clint Bowyer , No. 15 Chevrolet, HScott Motorsports . Bowyer was never a factor and saw his string of top-20 finishes end at three. Grade: C 24. Tony Stewart , No. 14 Chevrolet, Stewart-Haas Racing . Stewart qualified 21st but rolled off the grid 39th when NASCAR caught a crew member making an unauthorized change to the car on pit road before the race. A pit-road penalty for speeding during the third caution didn’t help things, either. Grade: D 25. Trevor Bayne , No. 6 Ford, Roush Fenway Racing . Since getting his first top 10 of the season at Bristol, Bayne has had a top-10 finish every other race. If the pattern holds, he’ll get his first top 10 at Pocono next week. Grade: C 26. Aric Almirola , No. 43 Ford, Richard Petty Motorsports . Almirola finished outside the top 10 for the 14th consecutive race, the fourth-longest such streak of his Cup career. Grade: C 27. Landon Cassill , No. 38 Ford, Front Row Motorsports . Of the season’s 13 races, Cassill has finished 25th, 26th, 27th or 28th six times. Grade: C 28. Regan Smith , No. 7 Chevrolet, Tommy Baldwin Racing . Smith posted his second-best finish in his past eight races. Grade: C 29. Brian Scott , No. 44 Ford, Richard Petty Motorsports . Scott finished in the top 30 for the fourth race in a row. Grade: C- 30. Casey Mears , No. 13 Chevrolet, Germain Racing . Mears’ finish is his worst in the 600 since a 33rd-place finish in the rain-shortened 2009 race while driving for Richard Childress Racing . Grade: D 31. David Ragan , No. 23 Toyota, BK Racing . Ragan finished seven laps back but was running at the finish; he had DNFs in both Charlotte races last year. Grade: D 32. Matt DiBenedetto , No. 83 Toyota, BK Racing . Although he finished 32nd, DiBenedetto was running at the finish, unlike in two of the previous three races. Grade: D 33. Kyle Busch , No. 18 Toyota, Joe Gibbs Racing . Busch was running 10th and flirting with a top-10 finish when he cut a tire with seven laps to go and smacked the outside wall hard. Instead, he finished with his second straight DNF. Grade: B- 34. Michael McDowell , No. 95 Chevrolet, Circle Sport- Leavine Family Racing . McDowell posted his worst finish of the season. Grade: D 35. Cole Whitt , No. 98 Chevrolet, Premium Motorsports. Whitt was running at the finish, nine laps back. Grade: D 36. Michael Annett , No. 46 Chevrolet, HScott Motorsports . Annett finished 10 laps back. Grade: F 37. Chris Buescher , No. 34 Ford, Front Row Motorsports . Buescher could not build on his career-best 18th-place finish at Dover. Grade: F 38. Josh Wise , No. 30 Chevrolet, The Motorsports Group. Wise finished 13 laps back but was running at the finish for the fourth time in the past five races. Grade: F 39. Jeffrey Earnhardt , No. 32 Ford, Go Fas Racing . Earnhardt’s finish was a season low. Grade: F 40. Reed Sorenson , No. 55 Chevrolet, Premium Motorsports. Sorenson completed 200 laps before clutch issues ended his night. Grade: F
O'Reilly Auto Parts to sponsor Texas spring Sprint Cup race
FORT WORTH, Texas (May 16, 2016) - O'Reilly Auto Parts and Texas Motor Speedway have signed a multi-year agreement for the national automotive aftermarket retailing leader to serve as the race entitlement sponsor for the annual April NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at the world-renowned motorsports facility beginning in 2017. O'Reilly Auto Parts will be linking its brand to the state's best-attended, single-day sporting event and the Sprint Cup Series' third-highest paying race in the newly named O'Reilly Auto Parts 500 that will be held Sunday, April 9, 2017. The O'Reilly Auto Parts 500 will be the signature race entitlement of the deal, but the company also will continue its title sponsorship of the annual November XFINITY Series race at Texas Motor Speedway to ensure a year-round presence in a top-five metropolitan market. The current O'Reilly Auto Parts Challenge XFINITY Series race that is part of a NASCAR tripleheader in November will be rebranded the O'Reilly Auto Parts 300 beginning in 2017. The O'Reilly Auto Parts 300 XFINITY Series race is scheduled for Nov. 4, 2017. In addition to the traditional branding assets in race entitlement agreements, O'Reilly Auto Parts will continue as the "Official Auto Parts Supplier of Texas Motor Speedway " and own exclusive status in the auto parts store category. No financial terms or specific length of the contract were disclosed. "Expanding our partnership with Texas Motor Speedway helps us deepen our connection with loyal NASCAR fans and build the O'Reilly brand on a national stage," O'Reilly Auto Parts Vice President of Marketing Doug Ruble said. "The O'Reilly Auto Parts 500 sponsorship gives us new ways to promote our stores, engage our customers and reinforce our commitment to motorsports." The agreement is O'Reilly Auto Parts' initial race sponsorship venture on the Sprint Cup Series level at Texas Motor Speedway , but the publicly traded Fortune 500 company boasts an expansive NASCAR race entitlement portfolio at this venue. Beginning with the O'Reilly 300 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race in the fall of 1999, O'Reilly Auto Parts has been the title sponsor of six truck series races (1999-2004) and 27 XFINITY Series races (2002 through '16 season) at Texas Motor Speedway . That total includes sponsoring both the spring and fall XFINITY Series races annually since 2005 when Texas Motor Speedway added an annual fall NASCAR national series weekend. Under the new agreement, O'Reilly Auto Parts will relinquish its entitlement of the spring XFINITY Series race. The multi-year deal includes an expansive, multi-pronged promotional plan for the Sprint Cup Series race in O'Reilly Auto Parts' largest metropolitan market. The Springfield, Missouri-based company has more than 150 stores in the Dallas/Fort Worth Designated Market Area among its 4,600 in 44 states. O'Reilly Auto Parts and Texas Motor Speedway will be working in close cooperation to build this NASCAR race on a local, regional and national basis, engage race fans, increase attendance and attract race fans to its stores for all of their automotive needs. "We had a great meeting with the O'Reilly management team in Missouri a few months ago, and the thing that excites me the most about the partnership is this is going to be the promotion they are going to hang their hat on companywide all year long," Texas Motor Speedway President Eddie Gossage said. "That's exciting because it helps spread the word about the O'Reilly Auto Parts 500, Texas Motor Speedway and the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series to all of their customers across the country. It helps build this event up and makes it bigger. This is a perfect fit for each other and I don't know how we could have done any better."
NASCAR tweaks rules for Kentucky, Michigan races
RELATED: 2016 Cup schedule " Memorial Day weekend schedule Changes to the rear spoiler, front splitter and rear deck fin will be put into play for two upcoming NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races as the sanctioning body continues to reduce aerodynamic downforce and sideforce in an effort to promote closer competition on the race track. The changes, announced Thursday morning, will be in effect only for upcoming races at Michigan International Speedway (June 12) and Kentucky Speedway (July 9) and are in addition to previous adjustments made by the officials in recent weeks. Initial moves implemented before the start of the season combined with a Goodyear tire matched more closely to the lower downforce package have resulted in closer competition through the season's first 12 races. Why, then, continue to make adjustments in the overall package? "I think we look at it as a never-ending journey; if we can improve we're going to do that," Steve O'Donnell, executive vice president of competition and chief racing development officer, told NASCAR.com. "We wanted to go the direction of low downforce, see how that worked, not kind of go all the way in and hope that we are directionally right. And we are seeing that play out. We've seen some great racing at the beginning of the year. "But we also knew that we had some more levers that we could pull if the direction kind of proved out, so we've tried some of those things. We've tested it and what we've also wanted to do is lower some of the corner speeds to allow for even more passing. That was one of the areas where we've seen minimal change, but there are some levers we can pull to really drive that down." The changes for those races consist of a reduction in spoiler height from 3.5 inches to 2.5 inches, a splitter reduction of two inches and a re-sizing of the rear deck fin to complement the spoiler change. Beginning with this year's race at Kansas Speedway , NASCAR required teams to weld truck arm mounts; for the recently completed Sprint All-Star Race at Charlotte Motor Speedway , downforce-generating electric fans were removed and the rear toe alignment was reset to zero to reduce sideforce. The changes to truck arm mounts and fans are to remain in place for the remainder of the 2016 season. The rear toe adjustment was initially only in play for the All-Star event but now will be incorporated into the June Michigan and July Kentucky races. Downforce is the pressure created across the surface of a vehicle at speed. Likewise, sideforce is generated by the flow of air along the sides of the vehicle. O'Donnell said limiting the latest changes to two upcoming races is beneficial in two ways: Teams have spent plenty of time in development of setups with the initial base package and that information will still be relevant; and focusing on two tracks will give teams and officials much-needed information as they look ahead to 2017. "We have worked collectively on some directions we want to go in, but to do that right we think the final step is to let that play out on one or two tracks," he said. "And these are the two -- Kentucky and Michigan -- that we've played out and let the teams concentrate really on what they've done to prepare for the year. We think that's manageable and that'll give us enough data to look at for 2017." Four teams recently tested the aero changes while taking part in a one-day Goodyear tire test at Michigan. Kentucky, which just completed a re-pave and redesign of its 1.5-mile layout, remains an unknown. It is expected to be fast with the additional grip provided by the new pavement. Ray Evernham, winner of three premier series titles as crew chief for Jeff Gordon and currently in a competition role with Hendrick Motorsports , said rule changes don't necessarily create more work for teams, but rather redefines the focus of what's being worked on. "Everybody works on something, no matter what," Evernham told NASCAR.com. "… It just changes that focus because any of the good teams are working to the maximum on something all the time." Evernham said he had been impressed with how the previous changes had affected the racing this season. The All-Star Race, he said, provided "the best racing we've seen at Charlotte in awhile. "That's what's coming around the corner. That's exactly what everybody has been asking for -- the drivers, fans, everybody," he said. "That was some darn good racing in the daytime and in the nighttime. That's what I'm focused on. I think that NASCAR and Goodyear and the teams are getting to a place now where the cars are competitive like they want them, but it gives the drivers, crew chiefs and teams a lot more options to have passing." All races with the rules package, with the exception of this year's stop at Auto Club Speedway , have been contested on 1.5-mile or smaller venues. The package is not in play for restrictor-plate races at Daytona and Talladega. Will the base package provide similar results at the larger venues? Pocono (2.5 miles), Michigan (2 miles) and Indianapolis (2.5 miles) loom ahead. O'Donnell believes that will be the case. "I think one of the biggest things we've seen from Goodyear is the ability to match the tire up now with where we're going, the tire wear we're seeing producing much better racing," O'Donnell said. "If you take a Michigan for instance, one of the things with low downforce, if you don't do anything to the tire, you're going to go in and the speeds are going to continue to increase. We know that's a challenge for us. How do we balance that with the corner speeds? "By tweaking the package a little bit, it's really going to keep what we've seen from the positive play out and then really lower that corner speed which should produce the best of both worlds." Buy Tickets: Michigan " Kentucky
Five legends unveiled as 2017 NASCAR Hall Of Fame Class
RELATED: See all of the nominees DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (May 25, 2016) – NASCAR announced today the inductees who will comprise the NASCAR Hall of Fame Class of 2017. The five-person group -- the eighth since the inception of the NASCAR Hall of Fame in 2010 -- consists of Richard Childress, Rick Hendrick, Mark Martin, Raymond Parks and Benny Parsons. In addition, NASCAR announced that Martinsville Speedway founder H. Clay Earles won the Landmark Award for Outstanding Contributions to NASCAR. The NASCAR Hall of Fame Voting Panel met today in a closed session at the Charlotte Convention Center to debate and vote upon the 20 nominees for the induction class of 2017 and the five nominees for the Landmark Award. NASCAR Chairman and CEO Brian France and NASCAR Vice Chairman Mike Helton announced the class and Landmark Award winner, respectively, this evening in the NASCAR Hall of Fame's "Great Hall." The Class of 2017 was determined by votes cast by the Voting Panel, including representatives from NASCAR, the NASCAR Hall of Fame, track owners from major facilities and historic short tracks, media members, manufacturer representatives, retired competitors (drivers, owners, crew chiefs), recognized industry leaders, a nationwide fan vote conducted through NASCAR.com and, for the third year, the reigning NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion ( Kyle Busch ). In all, 54 votes were cast, with four additional Voting Panel members recused from voting as potential nominees for induction (Ricky Rudd, Robert Yates, Waddell Wilson and Ken Squier). The accounting firm of EY presided over the tabulation of the votes. Voting was as follows: Benny Parsons (85%), Rick Hendrick (62%), Mark Martin (57%), Raymond Parks (53%) and Richard Childress (43%). The next top vote-getters were Robert Yates, Red Byron and Alan Kulwicki. Results for the NASCAR.com Fan Vote, in alphabetical order, were Buddy Baker, Alan Kulwicki, Mark Martin, Benny Parsons and Larry Phillips. The five inductees came from a group of 20 nominees that included, in addition to the five inductees chosen: Buddy Baker, Red Byron, Ray Evernham, Ray Fox, Ron Hornaday Jr., Harry Hyde, Alan Kulwicki, Hershel McGriff, Larry Phillips, Jack Roush, Ricky Rudd, Ken Squier, Mike Stefanik, Waddell Wilson and Robert Yates. Nominees for the Landmark Award included Earles, Janet Guthrie, Raymond Parks, Ralph Seagraves and Ken Squier. Class of 2017 Inductees: Richard Childress Long before he became one of the preeminent car owners in NASCAR history, Richard Childress was a race car driver with limited means. Childress, the consummate self-made racer, was respectable behind the wheel. Between 1969-81 he had six top-five finishes and 76 top 10s in 285 starts, finishing fifth in the NASCAR premier series standings in 1975. Having formed Richard Childress Racing in 1972, Childress retired from driving in 1981. He owned the cars that NASCAR Hall of Famer Dale Earnhardt drove to six championships and 67 wins between 1984-2000. In addition to Earnhardt’s championships, Childress drivers have given him five others. Childress was the first NASCAR owner to win owner championships in all three of NASCAR’s national series, and his 11 owner titles are second all-time. Childress also owned the vehicles driven by NASCAR XFINITY Series driver champions Clint Bowyer (2008) and Austin Dillon (2013), as the 2011 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series driver champion Austin Dillon . Rick Hendrick The founder and owner of Hendrick Motorsports , Rick Hendrick’s organization is recognized as one of NASCAR’s most successful. Hendrick Motorsports owns an all-time record 11 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series car owner championship titles -- six with Jimmie Johnson , four with Jeff Gordon and one with NASCAR Hall of Famer Terry Labonte . Hendrick also has 14 total NASCAR national series owner championships, most in NASCAR history. Gordon and Labonte combined to win four consecutive titles from 1995-98. In 2010, Johnson won a record-extending fifth consecutive championship. Hendrick also owned the car driven by 2003 NASCAR XFINITY Series driver champion Brian Vickers . Hendrick’s 242 owner wins in the premier series rank second all-time. Mark Martin He is often described as the "greatest driver to never to win a championship," but Mark Martin 's legendary career is so much more than that. He came incredibly close to that elusive title many times -- finishing second in the championship standings five times. Over the course of his 31-year premier series career, Martin compiled 40 wins (17th all time) and 56 poles (seventh all time). Martin saw success at every level of NASCAR. He won 49 times in the NASCAR XFINITY Series, holding the series wins record for 14 years. He retired with 96 wins across NASCAR’s three national series, seventh on the all-time list. In 1998, Martin was named one of NASCAR’s 50 Greatest Drivers. Raymond Parks Raymond Parks is one of stock-car racing’s earliest -- and most successful -- team owners. Funded by successful business and real estate ventures in Atlanta, Parks began his career as a stock-car owner in 1938 with drivers Lloyd Seay and Roy Hall. His pairing with another Atlantan, mechanic Red Vogt, produced equipment good enough to dominate the sport in the late 1940s and early 1950s. Red Byron won the first NASCAR title (modified, 1948) and first premier series title (1949) in a Parks-owned car. Parks’ team produced two premier series wins, two poles, 11 top fives and 12 top 10s in 18 events. Benny Parsons Benny Parsons won the 1973 NASCAR premier series championship and could be called an everyman champion: winning enough to be called one of the sport’s stars but nearly always finishing well when he wasn’t able to reach Victory Lane. He won 21 times in 526 career starts but finished among the top 10 283 times -- a 54 percent ratio. One of Parsons’ biggest victories came in the 1975 Daytona 500 . He was named one of NASCAR’s 50 Greatest Drivers in 1998. Parsons also was known as a voice of the sport making a seamless transition to television following his NASCAR career. He was a commentator for NBC and TNT until his passing in 2007, at the age of 65. Landmark Award for Outstanding Contributions to NASCAR: H. Clay Earles One of the original pioneers of stock car auto racing, H. Clay Earles played an integral role in the early years of NASCAR's development. Earles built and opened Martinsville Speedway in 1947, and the short track remains the only facility to host NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races every year since the series’ inception in 1949. The speedway held its first race on Sept. 7, 1947 -- three months before the creation of NASCAR. That initial race drew more than 6,000 fans to the track, which had just 750 seats ready. In 1964, Earles decided it was time for a "different" type of trophy for his race winners. He gave winners grandfather clocks, a tradition that continues today.
Hall's call: 2017 NASCAR Hall of Fame class revealed
RELATED: More on the Hall of Fame " See all of the nominees CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Two phenomenally successful contemporary car owners, a champion driver-turned-beloved-broadcaster, a driver with a prolific winning history and the man described as NASCAR racing's "original car owner" are the newly elected members of the 2017 NASCAR Hall of Fame class. NASCAR Chairman and CEO Brian France introduced the new inductees on Wednesday at the NASCAR Hall of Fame, calling this group of five perhaps "the greatest class yet." The new members, selected from a group of 20 nominees, include 1973 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion and 1975 Daytona 500 winner Benny Parsons, who later became one of the most revered television broadcasters in the sport's history; team owner Rick Hendrick, who has notched a record 11 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series titles; driver Mark Martin, whose 96 career victories across NASCAR's three national touring series are sixth all-time; car owner Raymond Parks, whose cars won the first NASCAR modified title in 1948 and NASCAR's first premier series title a year later; and car owner Richard Childress, whose pairing with Hall of Fame driver Dale Earnhardt produced six championships and 67 victories in NASCAR's top division. Martinsville Speedway founder H. Clay Earles is this year's recipient of the Landmark Award for Outstanding Contributions to NASCAR. MORE: Hall of Fame reaction pours in Parsons, who succumbed to lung cancer on Jan. 16, 2007, was named on 85 percent of ballots cast by the NASCAR Hall of Fame Voting Committee. Parsons had been on the ballot for eight years. "This is the biggest honor of Benny's life," said Terri Parsons, his widow. "It summarizes everything he has ever worked toward. Every job he has ever had, be it as a race car driver in all divisions, host of NASCAR radio shows, NASCAR color commentator for TV networks each were just as important to him as the next. "He lived his life for NASCAR fans and helping to make the sport of auto racing a better sport for them to enjoy. I know he is smiling his big smile tonight saying, 'Unbelievable!' " In a career that spanned 25 years, Parsons won 21 Sprint Cup races in 526 starts, but he was a top-10 machine, recording 283 for a staggering percentage of 53.8. Hendrick, who received 62 percent of the vote, has won car owner titles in the Sprint Cup Series with three different drivers -- six with Jimmie Johnson , four with Jeff Gordon and one with fellow Hall of Famer Terry Labonte . Hendrick's 242 owner wins in the premier series rank second all-time. "I'm extremely proud to go in with Benny Parsons and Mark Martin , who drove for me, and then Richard Childress, who's one of my closest friends in the sport," Hendrick said. "Parks… I watched the video on him, and he kind of helped the sport get started. "So I'm really humbled to be in the position I'm in. I've been doing it now for 33 years, and I hope that we've got some more things to accomplish, but I'm very, very appreciative of the fact that I got voted in while I’m still racing." Martin, who garnered 57 percent of the vote, boasts the highest Sprint Cup victory total (40) of any eligible driver not already inducted into the NASCAR Hall of Fame. In addition, Martin has 49 NASCAR XFINITY Series wins to his credit (second all-time), along with seven wins in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series. His 56 Sprint Cup poles rank seventh on the all-time list. PHOTOS: Martin, other inductees through the years Martin, who was runner-up in the final Sprint Cup standings on five occasions, most recently in 2009 at age 50, described his selection to the Hall of Fame as the "crown jewel of my career." "I didn't expect it," Martin said. "And I'm so grateful to the people who helped me get there… I have so many great memories of the sport. The class that I'm being inducted in, I’m humbled to no end." Parks, named on 53 percent of the ballots, funded his racing operations through his successful real estate ventures in Atlanta. With mechanic Red Vogt tuning his cars, Parks dominated stock car racing in the 1940s and 1950s, teaming with Red Byron to win the inaugural modified title in 1948 and the first premier series championship in 1949. Also included on Parks' roster of drivers over the years were Bob Flock, Roy Hall, Fonty Flock and NASCAR Hall of Famer Curtis Turner. Park, who has been on the Hall of Fame ballot for eight years, passed away in 2010 at age 96. Childress, who was included on 43 percent of voting panel ballots, started his career as a driver but found considerably more success in the sport as an owner. In addition to the races and titles he won with Earnhardt, Childress holds 11 owner's championship trophies in NASCAR's top three series, second only to Hendrick's 14. Childress performed the posthumous induction of close friend and driver Dale Earnhardt into the first NASCAR Hall of Fame Class. "I was really, really honored and proud that day," Childress said. "I didn't really expect to get in because I was told that the only way you were going to get in was to retire or be deceased -- and I sure liked the first one better, and I haven't got plans to retire yet either." Landmark Award winner Earles had a simple business philosophy that made Martinsville Speedway one of the most pre-eminent short tracks in the country. "The secret to success in our business is giving the customer what he wants," Earles said before his death in 1999. "When a man plunks down his money, he deserves the best. You try to make him comfortable, give him a great show and make sure he gets his money's worth. And we've always tried to do just that. "Your customers are your greatest assets, and that will never change. You actually sell the customer a memory as much as a race. If their memories are good, they’ll keep coming back." Note: Hendrick and Childress will field a combined seven cars in Sunday's Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway (6 p.m. ET on FOX).
Chase Elliott reveals Darlington paint scheme
RELATED: Buy Darlington tickets " '16 throwback schemes " SHOP: No. 24 gear Chase Elliott became the latest driver to reveal his throwback paint scheme for the Bojangles' Southern 500 at Darlington Raceway (Sept. 4, 6 p.m. ET, NBC, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio) via Race Hub on Friday. . @ChaseElliott unveils his @NAPARacing @TooToughToTame throwback paint scheme on @FS1 's #NASCAR #RaceHub . https://t.co/VA17ixUToP — FS1 (@FS1) May 27, 2016 The Sunoco Rookie of the Year contender's No. 24 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet will feature a yellow and black paint scheme honoring Elliott's primary sponsor NAPA Auto Parts and its delivery truck logo from the 1960s. The bottom half of the Chevrolet is a sleek black with the current NAPA design atop the quarter panels. The rear television panel includes white script reading "90 Years Strong" to celebrate the company's 90 years in business. Hendrick Motorsports posted a live teaser video minutes before the unveiling with Kenny Wallace at the organization's Concord, North Carolina-based shop. "We appreciate the support of our throwback program by Chase Elliott and Hendrick Motorsports," Darlington Raceway President Chip Wile said in a release. "Chase's special paint scheme for the Bojangles' Southern 500 is one that fans won't want to miss on Labor Day weekend." This marks Darlington's second straight year -- in a five-year plan -- hosting a throwback-themed event for the famed Southern 500 event.
Larson on winning: 'I want to do it the right way'
Two days after the fact, Kyle Larson didn't sound as if he looked back on his latest runner-up finish with any regrets. Disappointed, sure, but regretting nothing about how he handled the closing laps of Sunday's AAA 400 Drive for Autism at Dover International Speedway Second for a fourth time in his still-blossoming NASCAR Sprint Cup Series career, the Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates driver was unable to overtake Matt Kenseth in the waning laps, eventually stopping his No. 42 Chevrolet on pit road instead of victory lane. The "should he or shouldn't he" question was inevitable. Contact with Kenseth might have made Larson a winner for the first time since stepping up to the premier series in 2013. But it was a price the 23-year-old said he wasn't willing to pay. "I felt like I did everything I could do to get by him without getting into him," Larson said during a break in Tuesday's Goodyear tire test at Michigan International Speedway . "I've always felt like Matt's raced me with a ton of respect so I wanted to do my part, racing him with a lot of respect as well. It was a fun battle. … "I did have a couple of chances to get into him but that's not really how I want to win my first one. I want to do it the right way. I don't regret it; maybe it could come back to haunt me, but you never know." CGR fields two Sprint Cup teams, the No. 42 for Larson and the No. 1 for teammate Jamie McMurray , a seven-time winner in the series. From a statistical standpoint, the Dover finish was the closest yet for Larson, who trailed the Joe Gibbs Racing winner by .187 seconds at the line. Two years ago, it was Kyle Busch throwing a final-lap block at Auto Club Speedway that foiled Larson's advances. Later that season, it was Joey Logano driving away on a green-white-checkered finish at New Hampshire Motor Speedway . Again in '14, this time at Kansas in The Chase, Larson was unable to reel in Logano during a final 26-lap green-flag run. Others have weathered similar storms: Kasey Kahne finished second six times before his first Sprint Cup win and NASCAR Hall of Fame member Bill Elliott was a bridesmaid eight times before winning. The record for near-misses before victory belongs to former driver Lennie Pond, who was second on 12 occasions. Tabbed as a can't-miss prospect by veterans such as three-time champion Tony Stewart , Larson scored eight top-fives and 17 top-10 finishes during his rookie season -- more than several of those who finished ahead of him in the points battle. But '15 wasn't as kind, his numbers dropped and even through the beginning of the current season his results seemed to lag. More recent efforts, however, have been encouraging. "Our cars just haven't been quite as fast as they were in 2014," Larson said. "We'd kind of fallen behind a little bit on building the bodies the way they need to be and maybe chassis stuff a little bit. But we brought in some smart people over the offseason." The addition of crew chief Chad Johnston and engineer Phil Surgen "has really brought a lot of influence to (both) our race teams," he said. Larson heads into Friday night's Sprint Showdown at Charlotte Motor Speedway (7:10 p.m. ET, FS1) as one of the favorites to earn one of the transfer spots into Saturday's annual Sprint All-Star Race. "I definitely feel like I'm a smarter racer now, a better race car driver," he said. "I feel like over the last several years I've kept that same aggressiveness, but gotten my patience a little bit better. "To be a championship driver, I think you have to put the whole package together and patience is a big part of that."
Auto Club a homecoming for Harvick, Mears, Reed
RELATED: Paint Scheme Preview for Auto Club " Power Rankings post-Phoenix BAKERSFIELD, Calif. -- As the colorful and massive NASCAR haulers roll into the California hustle and bustle this week for the Auto Club 400 at Auto Club Speedway , the small town of Bakersfield -- about a two-and-half hour Interstate drive northwest -- will proudly perk up too. Its own racing contributions will be on full display in the NASCAR garages, its latest crop of high-talent exports ready to roll at the speedway. The 2014 Sprint Cup Series champion Kevin Harvick , veteran Cup driver Casey Mears and XFINTY driver Ryan Reed -- all Bakersfield bred -- will suit up to compete this weekend. And of course, most of Casey Mears ' famous racing family -- including his dad, Roger, a Baja 1000 and Pikes Peak Hill Climb multi-champion and uncle Rick, a four-time Indy 500 winner -- hail from this humble hamlet, too. NASCAR Hall of Fame nominee Ron Hornaday's hometown, Palmdale, is an hour southeast of Bakersfield's oil fields and almond orchards. He raced in the area, too. This is a blue collar, hard-working and weekend-loving region. It's the West Coast's down-home version of "middle America" -- hours from the glitz of Hollywood, the tech heads of San Francisco and the famous beaches of San Diego. And yet it is ironic how the slow pace of Bakersfield daily life is eclipsed by the high-speed distinctions of its many racing natives. They have won a Daytona 500 , a NASCAR Sprint Cup championship, Indy 500 rings, IndyCar championships, a Rolex 24 watch, Pikes Peak Hill Climb titles and various USAC crowns. There may not be a higher concentration of this wide-range of racing success in another single hometown in the country. "For years, Bakersfield was kind of the butt of the jokes in L.A. on television with the late night shows," Rick Mears said. "It was a running joke, so that always made it a little sweeter when you put it (Bakersfield) on the map a little bit and could kind of rub it in and say, 'Hey, what are you talking about? Bakersfield's not so bad.' "There is a sense of pride to be able to accomplish those kinds of things and being from there. And now Kevin Harvick doing a similar deal in NASCAR, it's really cool." While surfing -- the water or the Web -- may characterize other parts of the Golden State, racing is the definitive brand here. Go-kart tracks, short tracks, Kern County Raceway Park, Bakersfield Speedway. They are typically packed with spectators, and as history has proven, perhaps the "next great thing" behind a wheel. The former -- and famous -- Mesa Marin Speedway track here has only recently been leveled and used as foundation for a modern sports complex of softball fields. For decades, the birthplace of NASCAR's truck series was a West Coast hub and showcase for the region's racing talent. "I wouldn't say the racing community is huge in Bakersfield, but for some reason it's definitely developed quite a few racers that have gone on to be successful," said Casey Mears , driver of the No. 13 Geico Chevrolet in the Cup Series. "I think everybody in Bakersfield is aware of motorsports and aware of what my family has done, and with Harvick winning the championship [in 2014], I'm sure that was huge. "There's definitely a following but I wouldn't say the racing community itself is large. It's just those that are involved are passionate about it." The first family of Bakersfield Bakersfield residents certainly know Casey Mears grandparents, Bill and Mae Mears, as "beloved regulars." The two ride their scooters around the downtown riverfront on their way to a nice lunch at one of their favorite haunts. The actual food is truly the least of their pursuits. This is social exercise. The Mears are easy to spot because of their wide smiles, friendly handshakes and all the people eager to greet them -- either to share some stories or listen to better ones. The couple is bona fide Bakersfield celebrity -- their offspring some of racing's greatest talents. So it is oh-so perfect that these two -- married 70 years now -- get all around town via scooters. And every so often, Bill says with a laugh, Mae will make a run right by him, speeding along the way just to keep things interesting. Their celebrated racing offspring definitely get their competitive edge and need for speed honestly. The Mears' loved Bakersfield from the moment they came upon it in 1955 -- only a couple years after a major earthquake in the region. "We came out here and saw how nice it was, so we went back home (to Kansas) and sold everything and came back," Bill Mears explained, still today a little amused by the adventure of his own story. "My wife's aunt sent her mom some money to buy gas for us. We brought them out here to see it and just liked it so well, we said, 'We'll go home, give ourselves a couple weeks and we're coming back.' And so we did." They sold most of their belongings in Kansas and motored West to set up home. Racing was not necessarily any grand vision for this couple that ultimately raised some of the country's most celebrated champions in Roger and Rick. "I came out here and I started racing out here and when I quit, the kids started doing it," Bill Mears explained. "We always did everything to be together. We did it for family, never expected to do it for racing. That's why they called it the 'Mears Gang.' We were always together, rode motorcycles together, just grew up in the mountains on the weekends. We had a family deal and it just worked out to be unbelievable," he explained, his voice becoming a little emotional. "It's just been unbelievable. "We would go to L.A. and Rick raced motorcycles, but my wife didn't like him riding. He was winning and everything, but we were afraid he'd get hurt. We went to L.A. and saw a (dune)buggy race, Volkswagens. We watched them race and said to the boys, 'We'll build you one of these if you'll quit racing motorcycles.' So that's how it got started." He remembers his then-teenage sons working hard during the week to raise money for their weekend racing passion -- their fantastic legacies still to be set. "We were all just racers and went out to local tracks on weekends with friends," Bill Mears said. "Harvick's dad came out to our shop and helped us on our first NASCAR pick-up we built. Harvick was just a little kid standing back there watching his dad work on our car. "Just a group that everybody likes racing. We'd just meet at local tracks on weekends and race. I can't believe how many local drivers have made it. And Ryan Reed now. It just shows there's a lot of talent around here." Harvick, Reed welcomed back with open arms A year ago, then-reigning Cup champion Harvick stopped by his hometown to dedicate a YMCA, film a biographical feature for TV, dine with his old friends and supporters, and bask in the love and pride showered upon him by all those fans who remember him when. People stood in front of the brick YMCA building for hours waiting for a handshake or autograph, eager to cheer his entrance. Many wore "vintage" t-shirts from Harvick's late-model days. They remember watching him "when." And yet for many waiting in line, this was yet another chance to see Harvick, who comes back to town several times a year. His mom, father and sister still live in Bakersfield's "Oildale" community, or as Harvick said in accepting one of his early NASCAR trophies, "Not bad for an 08-er," referring to the 93308 zip code for the area. Harvick, Mears and Reed all went to different high schools and are just different enough in age to represent three distinct Bakersfield eras. Reed, 22, who drives the No. 16 Ford Mustang for Roush Fenway Racing in the XFINITY Series, considers himself fortunate to have grown up in the town and pursued racing -- and to have the Mears and Harvick to look up to. "For sure this is a racing town," Reed said of Bakersfield. "And it's just a really cool thing. The newspaper, the sports writers, it doesn't matter. In (2014), we finished ninth in the points and they were still doing stories on us. It doesn't matter if you've had a horrible year and they want to know how you'll get better, or you have a great year and they want to brag about it. "They are there to support you, and when I go home I always have people coming up to me and saying, 'Good going.' They're just so proud of me. To hear that is really cool. "And it definitely motivates you." Marion Collins, who used to run Mesa Marin where Reed’s father and later, Harvick raced, is still sentimental about what the track meant to the area and how it contributed to the sport. "We feel really good about all the people that's come through here," Collins said. "Kevin (Harvick), (Ron) Hornaday and just a ton of guys from this part of the country. "At one time, we had the best race track in this part of the country and everyone wanted to come here. Kinda nice to have people come here and then do good things on down the road." Harvick couldn't agree more. And as the Stewart-Haas Racing driver interacts with old friends and former influences in Bakersfield, his pride -- their pride -- couldn't be more apparent. Everyone worked in a large confluence to help racing careers. And it's been an undeniable success. "That's just this town and really the way it's been since I started racing," Harvick said. "You develop the relationships through the years. "That network of people is what made our race teams function well. Getting out there and talking to people, you create friendships and partnerships. You have to put the effort in to make it work. "I come back here all the time and it would be the same type of turnout whether I was winning or losing. These people have supported me through the years, win lose or draw. "That's the type of community it is."
Austin Dillon zips atop first Auto Club practice
RELATED: Practice 1 results Austin Dillon rose to the top of the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series leaderboard in Friday's opening practice at Auto Club Speedway . Dillon drove the Richard Childress Racing No. 3 Chevrolet to a best lap of 188.511 mph on the 2-mile California track. His speed was slightly better than the track qualifying record of 188.425 mph, a benchmark established by Kyle Busch in February 2005. Martin Truex Jr ., piloting the Furniture Row Racing No. 78 Toyota, landed the second-fastest lap in early preparation for Sunday's Auto Club 400 (3:30 p.m. ET, FOX, MRN, SiriusXM). Home-state favorite Kevin Harvick , last week's winner by inches at Phoenix, pushed the Stewart-Haas Racing No. 4 Chevrolet to the third-fastest lap at 188.304 mph. Ricky Stenhouse Jr . (188.289 mph) and Chris Buescher (187.829) completed the top five in a pair of Fords. Kasey Kahne and Jimmie Johnson , Hendrick Motorsports teammates, were sixth- and seventh-fastest, respectively. Defending race winner Brad Keselowski registered the 14th-fastest lap in the Team Penske No. 2 Ford. No driver ran more than 10 consecutive laps in the opening 85-minute session. RELATED: See at-track photos from Friday's action Opening practice was slowed once by debris in Turns 1 and 2. Stenhouse's Roush Fenway Racing No. 17 Ford was held 15 minutes at the start of the session as punishment for difficulties passing through the laser inspection station last week at Phoenix. Friday's Coors Light Pole Qualifying for the Sprint Cup Series is scheduled for 7:45 p.m. ET (FS1).
Truex, Logano at odds at Auto Club; Pearn peeved
RELATED: Johnson rolls to Auto Club victory " See photos from Sunday's race A late run-in between Joey Logano and Martin Truex Jr . led to some pointed post-race discussion Sunday at Auto Club Speedway . The fallout: A warning from Truex that the two will race against each other on different terms from now on, and a jolting insult from the Twitter account of Truex's crew chief Cole Pearn, who would later issue an apology. Truex, who led 21 laps and spent most of the day among the top five, was in a close contest with Logano in the 150th of 205 laps. Both ran the high groove entering Turn 1 on the 2-mile track, and Truex's Furniture Row Racing No. 78 Toyota wiggled into the outside retaining wall -- the driver claiming contact from Logano's Team Penske No. 22 Ford. Truex drove on, but faded before making a pit stop four laps later. A caution flag emerged while he was on pit road, catching him out of cycle. After absorbing a pit road-speeding penalty and damage to his No. 78 entry, Truex limped to a 32nd-place finish, one lap down. "How did the air get taken off if he was behind me? He just ran me over," Truex told Motor Racing Network in his post-race interview. "It's ridiculous. We had a great car all day and (I) hate for my guys we've got nothing to show for it. I don't know why he was trying to fake me out. Just pass me. He just screwed up. He knows he screwed up, and I'm going to race him differently from now on." Logano finished fourth, leading twice for three laps. During the race, Logano's spotter apologized to Truex's spotter; afterward, Logano accepted his share of the blame, though he claimed the two cars did not make contact. "It was completely my fault," Logano said. "I was gonna go in on the outside of him and he was gonna go in on the top, as well, and I just ended up being right on him. We never touched each other, but just taking the air off these cars makes them uncontrollable. I didn't mean to do that. I was gonna try to go to the top and I just got a little bit close to him and got him free, so I'm taking the hit on that one." The post-race discussion between the two drivers didn't escalate further, but the debate took a scalding upturn after a tweet from Pearn, the No. 78 crew chief. Pearn returned to the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series garage this weekend after serving a one-race suspension for technical infractions. Well I guess you shouldn't tweet when you're mad. My apologies for being over the line. — Cole Pearn (@colepearn) March 21, 2016