Stewart talks special moment with Gordon post-Indy
RELATED: Race results " Standings " Chase Grid " See the moment SPEEDWAY, Ind. -- With the field lined up for the first of what turned out to be two overtime restarts Sunday at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, Tony Stewart clicked his radio and made a request. "Tell (the 88) after this is over let's go around the track one more time together," Stewart, co-owner of Stewart-Haas Racing and driver of the organization's No. 14 Chevrolet, said. Stewart, a three-time NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion and twice a winner of the The Combat Wounded Coalition 400, wanted to slow down instead of go fast, and soak in the moment with a familiar foe and friend, regardless of how his final race at IMS ended. Jeff Gordon , driving the Hendrick Motorsports entry in relief of Dale Earnhardt Jr. , was more than willing to oblige. Hours earlier, Gordon had paid tribute to Stewart, acknowledging him and what he has meant to NASCAR during the morning drivers' meeting. RELATED: Gordon talks return, Dale Jr. " WATCH: Gordon climbs in No. 88 So before race winner Kyle Busch made it to Victory Lane, prior to he and his Joe Gibbs Racing teammates gathering to kiss the bricks on the finish line, Stewart and Gordon, two old warhorses with a combined seven championships and 142 Sprint Cup Series wins between them, slowly circled the 2.5-mile track one final time to the cheers of the fans and many of those still on pit road. MORE: Relive 'Smoke's' 49 career victories Afterward, Gordon climbed from his car and approached Stewart; the two hugged on pit road amid a throng of reporters. "I can say that just ranks in the top-three coolest moments of my 18 years in this series," said Stewart, who will retire from Sprint Cup racing at season's end. "To share that moment with Jeff here at Indianapolis, I don't know. I don't even have the words for it. That is a moment that I will remember for the rest of my life." For the record, Stewart finished 11th in his final Sprint Cup start at the famed Brickyard. It was a hard-fought 11th with the 45-year-old rallying from a lap down after running strong in the first half of the 170-lap race. Gordon, scheduled to make at least one more start next week at Pocono's Pennsylvania 400 in relief of Earnhardt Jr., rallied, too, to finish 13th. "Tony and I have gone through a lot over the years," he said. "But he and I have become really good friends. ... I'm just so proud that I was able to be here and race with him in his final race (at Indy)." Stewart ran as high as second early, moving up from his No. 3 starting position in spite of a slow takeoff when the race went green. Crew chief Mike Bugarewicz and the pit crew continued to make adjustments throughout the first half of the race, keeping Stewart inside the top 10, but at one point admitted to his driver, "We're just barely keeping up with the track." Stewart hit pit road at Lap 119 under green, and when the caution came out for an incident involving David Ragan , it appeared the move might work in the team’s favor -- others that hadn't pitted would come to pit road, allowing Stewart to gain track position. But a speeding penalty negated any advantage, and Stewart instead found himself in 31st and one lap down. By then, it was too late to change game plans, according to Bugarewicz. "Normally you would say yes when it's early in the race," he said. "When it's late in the race like that, your fate's almost ... you just have to race for the (free pass) and hope you get it like we did. That's all you've got. "Nobody was going to pit again if it stayed green because they're already in the last fuel window so at that point it was just ... banking on getting a caution and being the best car out of the cars that were a lap down to get the lucky dog, which is what we did. "We got fortunate with a few more cautions to let us line back up at the tail of the field and start picking them off." On Lap 140, Stewart passed Kasey Kahne (Hendrick Motorsports) to be in positon for the free pass, and when the caution flag waved for debris moments later, he was back on the lead lap. Three more cautions unfolded before the finish, including one that involved Stewart, Jamie McMurray (Chip Ganassi Racing), Ryan Newman (Richard Childress Racing) and Brian Scott (Richard Petty Motorsports). WATCH: Big wreck claims multiple cars at Indy "That last one probably hurt us in one sense -- with the nose damage we had, the car was really tight," Bugarewicz said. "But ... we're not going to complain, we're just going to take what we've got and be happy for it." The finish moved Stewart up one spot, to 27th, in points. With a win earlier at California's Sonoma Raceway, he continues to improve his chances at earning a berth in this year's Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup. But with Indy in his rearview, Stewart wasn't in a hurry to look too far down the road. "It was an awesome weekend," he said. "Everything went the way we wanted it to, we just came up short today. "I had fun all day and had fun all weekend. ... Everybody tried to make my weekend as easy as possible. It really gave me the opportunity to savor the moment and enjoy it." MORE: 'Smoke' receives unique gift from Indy
Results from Indianapolis heat races
Heat 1 Finish Car Driver Team 1 18 Kyle Busch (i) NOS Energy Drink Toyota 2 42 Kyle Larson (i) ParkerStore Chevrolet 3 22 Joey Logano (i) Discount Tire Ford 4 19 Daniel Suarez Juniper Networks Toyota 5 1 Elliott Sadler OneMain Chevrolet 6 98 Jeb Burton Estes Ford 7 33 Brandon Jones # Jeld-Wen/Menards Chevrolet 8 16 Ryan Reed Lilly Diabetes/American Diabetes Association Ford 9 11 Blake Koch LeafFilter Gutter Protection Chevrolet 10 51 Jeremy Clements RepairableVehicles.com/SDD Chevrolet 11 44 J.J. Yeley Zachry Toyota 12 14 Jeff Green Toyota 13 0 Garrett Smithley # teamjdmotorsports.com Chevrolet 14 01 Ryan Preece # teamjdmotorsports.com Chevrolet 15 13 Harrison Rhodes TredWear.com/Masters Properties Toyota 16 25 Stanton Barrett KeensBuildings.com Chevrolet 17 74 Mike Harmon truckersfinalmile.org Dodge 18 89 Morgan Shepherd Chevrolet 19 40 Timmy Hill (i) CrashClaimsR.Us/Icard Merrill Dodge 20 10 Matt DiBenedetto (i) Toyota * -- Daniel Suarez and Elliott Sadler are eligible to run for the Dash 4 Cash in the main race. Heat 2 Finish Car Driver Team 1 20 Erik Jones # Hisense USA Toyota 2 88 Kevin Harvick (i) Hunt Brothers Pizza Chevrolet 3 7 Justin Allgaier BRANDT Chevrolet 4 2 Paul Menard (i) Richmond/Menards Chevrolet 5 48 Brennan Poole # DC Solar Chevrolet 6 3 Ty Dillon Rheem/Nidec/US Motors Chevrolet 7 6 Darrell Wallace Jr. Ford EcoBoost Ford 8 62 Brendan Gaughan South Point Chevrolet 9 39 Ryan Sieg NiceTargets Chevrolet 10 28 Dakoda Armstrong WinField Toyota 11 4 Ross Chastain Dream Water Chevrolet 12 07 Ray Black Jr. # Scuba Life Chevrolet 13 46 Brandon Gdovic TCC Culture of Good Chevrolet 14 78 BJ McLeod # Safecraft Safety Equipment Ford 15 93 David Starr Massimo Motors Chevrolet 16 90 Mario Gosselin BuckedUp Apparel Chevrolet 17 97 Ryan Ellis VroomBrands Chevrolet 18 70 Derrike Cope E-hydrate/Circle Track Warehouse Chevrolet 19 52 Joey Gase Donate Life Chevrolet 20 15 Todd Peck Carport Empire/Lilly Trucking Ford * -- Erik Jones and Justin Allgaier are eligible to run for the Dash 4 Cash in the main race.
David McGrath looks to make mark at New Hampshire
RELATED: Buy tickets for New Hampshire If you happen to be a track promoter or a race fan, there is a pretty good chance you believe there is no such thing as too much racing. At least that's the case for New Hampshire Motor Speedway Executive Vice President and General Manager David McGrath and the fan base that fills the grandstands two weekends a year at the 1-mile track located in Loudon, New Hampshire. "The crowds tell you no," McGrath told NASCAR.com. "Those stands don't empty. "They get it twice a year (at our facility) and they live for it. Like any other part of the country, the Northeast race fan is a rabid fan of our sport. They love it; they can't wait to get up to New Hampshire. They plan their summers and early fall around those races." McGrath, a native New Englander, understands the region's race fans, the bulk of whom arrive from in-state, with nearby Massachusetts and those making the trek from across the Canadian border making up a sizable chunk as well. Named to oversee the Speedway Motorsports Inc. track in October of '15, McGrath has quickly become acquainted with the intricacies and aspects of running such a facility. "Yeah, jack of all trades, master of none," he said. "You have to work at state level, local level, know your governor, senators, representatives and local selectmen. ... We care a great deal about our municipalities and our towns we work with, because we are all in the same boat together. We are the largest driver of economic revenue (in the state), but we don't do that with a swagger. "You are always trying to be understanding, tolerable and work together to figure out solutions. But make no mistake, the vision of the speedway is to be able to utilize that 1,100 acres with the team we've got and find new, cool events, create things for fans to come and experience." The typical race weekend at New Hampshire will see anywhere from three to four series competing during the course of three days. A Sprint Cup/XFINITY Series doubleheader in the summer and a Sprint Cup/Camping World Truck Series doubleheader in the fall headline programs that also include events from the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East, Whelen Modified Tour and American Canadian Tour. It's rare to wander into the facility during a race weekend and not hear cars of one sort or another on the track, either practicing, qualifying or racing. Competing at New Hampshire is a big, big deal, especially for the grassroots circuits. "Certainly in the case of the Modifieds it is, no question," McGrath said. "They are a touring series that travels all over the Northeast and they look at New Hampshire as their big, big event. Their Daytona, if you will." The track has played host to the Whelen Modified Series since 1990, three years before Sprint Cup came calling, and the list of previous winners includes such standouts as Mike McLaughlin, Steve Park, Reggie Ruggiero, Mike Stefanik, Tony Hirschman and Ted Christopher. "Saturday on either race weekend at our track, whether it's July or September, I think is one of the best deals in all of motorsports as far as for the race fans," McGrath said. "Absolutely. You get three great races. In July you've got the K&N race to end the day, you've got XFINITY and then you've got Modifieds. And then in September, you've got Modifieds, Trucks, and the ACT. That's just a great day." In addition to hosting two Sprint Cup Series races, including one that falls in the Round of 16 of the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup, the fall Truck Series race will serve as that series' opener for its inaugural seven-race Chase. Off the track, McGrath said his vision is to continue to develop those things that track ownership -- the facility is one of eight operated by Speedway Motorsports Inc. -- has already undertaken. "We work for the fans," he said. "One of my visions is to continually improve the facility to make it more fan friendly than it already is. Our company has invested a lot of money since we purchased the track back in 2007 going into 2008. We're going to continue to do those things as it makes sense. "We will continue to evaluate areas where we can improve the fan experience. We've built bath/shower houses, increased and improved site drainage ... and have new paving areas all over the campgrounds and the facility. "But the vision would really be to evolve and improve the track and think about new ways to increase the fan experience."
Steer Clear: Danica, Dale, David and Tony avoid Kentucky cautions
Watch as Dale Earnhardt Jr., Danica Patrick, David Ragan and Tony Stewart steer clear of some big cautions in Kentucky.
Regan Smith tees up Brickyard golf challenge
Regan Smith challenges several NASCAR drivers to some off-track golf challenges during the annual Chevrolet golf tournament at the Brickyard Crossing at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
Kyle Busch dominates for back-to-back Indianapolis sweep
RELATED: Results " Standings " Chase Grid SHOP: Busch gear SPEEDWAY, Ind. -- Mission accomplished, a record set, and a torch passed to the next generation. Kyle Busch set a Brickyard record for laps led and became the first driver to sweep both a NASCAR Sprint Cup Series and NASCAR XFINITY Series race from the pole in the same weekend, but the real symbolism of Sunday's Crown Royal 400 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway didn't come until the event was over. As Busch spun his No. 18 Toyota in a celebratory burnout and took his customary bows near the yard of bricks, Tony Stewart and Jeff Gordon slowly circled the track, driving side by side, waving to fans acknowledging their career accomplishments after what is expected to be their respective last appearances at the Brickyard. In heat that reached 130 degrees on the asphalt, Stewart recovered from a pit road speeding penalty to finish 11th in his retirement year, and Gordon ran 13th in what was an unanticipated substitute role for ailing Dale Earnhardt Jr. But Busch received his share of the applause, too, as fans have begun to acknowledge his ascent, at age 31, to the small group of elite drivers in NASCAR's history. To say he accomplished his second straight weekend sweep of the Indy races emphatically is to understate the case. In a race that went 25 miles beyond its scheduled distance, thanks to a rash of late cautions, Busch led 149 of 170 laps, a record for the event. In the two-lap overtime shootout that decided the issue, Busch crossed the finish line an astounding 2.126 seconds ahead of Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Matt Kenseth , who ran second. "This Toyota was awesome today," said Busch, who won his second Sprint Cup race at Indianapolis, his fourth of the season and the 38th of his career. "It was just so fast and able to get out front and stay out front. Not even some of my teammates could challenge. This was hooked up and on rails. "Adam Stevens (crew chief) and these guys are a phenomenal group, and I'm proud to be with them. It's fun to come out here and have such a dominant piece at Indy. They don't come along often, so I was just hoping I didn't screw it up." Busch is acutely aware of the history of the sport, and completing a weekend sweep by winning both races from the pole was high on his bucket list. "It's so cool because it hasn't been done before," said the defending Sprint Cup champion, who is the second driver to win back-to-back races at the Brickyard -- the other being Jimmie Johnson in 2008 and 2009. "I've tried and been successful at being able to do a lot of things that others haven't been able to do before. I guess I give myself more chances than others because I run more of those (XFINITY) races. "It helps you, and when it helps you win on Sunday, that's what makes everything so worthwhile on those Saturday races. The guys on Saturday do a good job, too, helping prepare me and being able to do this stuff on Sunday." Busch was on cruise control, heading toward an easy victory, when NASCAR called a debris caution on Lap 150 to remove a piece of sheet metal near the exit from Turn 2. One of six drivers who stayed out on older tires, Busch led the field to green on Lap 154. Moments later, the No. 19 Toyota of Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Carl Edwards tightened up in the inside lane, twitched out of control and ignited a five-car wreck that necessitated a stoppage that lasted 7 minutes, 25 seconds. "It felt like I just got tight down there," Edwards said. "I had a little trouble there on the starts, and I got down there, we were fighting really hard for the bottom, and it felt like I got tight with whoever was on the outside of me. "If indeed that is what happened, I apologize. That's pretty frustrating. ... It felt like I got in there and just scrubbed that right front." The following two restarts also brought cautions, the eighth and final one coming when Jamie McMurray made an ill-advised lane change in front of Stewart near the end of pit road and spun sideways off the front bumper of Stewart's No. 14 Chevrolet, also collecting Ryan Newman and Brian Scott . When the race restarted on Lap 169, Busch cleared Joey Logano and Kenseth off Turn 1 and pulled away relentlessly until the finish. Johnson overcame a pass-through penalty for speeding on pit road to run third, followed by Denny Hamlin , another speeding penalty victim and the third JGR driver in the top four. Kyle Larson came home fifth, posting his fourth top five of the season. But the story of the day was the long good-bye from Stewart and Gordon, juxtaposed against the backdrop of Busch's emphatic hello to greatness at the flag stand. </p>
Report: Lorenzen joins Junior with brain pledge
RELATED: See photos of Lorenzen's career Moved by Dale Earnhardt Jr. 's advocacy on the issue of concussions, NASCAR Hall of Famer Fred Lorenzen will donate his brain to the Concussion Legacy Foundation upon his death, the driver's daughter Amanda told the Associated Press. "As a family, we decided we wanted to support Dale Jr. and all work together toward a healthy future for these drivers," Amanda Lorenzen Gardstrom told the AP in a story published Saturday. Earlier this week Hendrick Motorsports announced that Earnhardt Jr. would miss Sunday's race at New Hampshire due to concussion-like symptoms. The driver thought he had a severe sinus infection, according to the team, and sought treatment from a doctor who delivered that diagnosis. Lorenzen was inducted into the NASCAR Hall of Fame as a member of the Class of 2015. He made just 158 premier series starts in his career, but the "Golden Boy" won 26 times from 1961-67, topping both Richard Petty and David Pearson during that span. Now 81, Lorenzen has fought the effects of dementia for years. NASCAR.com previously documented his battle in a 2014 feature. MORE: Dale Jr. pledges to donate brain to science
The Rundown: New Hampshire driver grades
RELATED: Complete race results " Updated Chase Grid Breaking down the full field for the New Hampshire 301 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway: 1. Matt Kenseth , No. 20 Toyota, Joe Gibbs Racing . Not even a hiccup on pit road during the second caution could derail the No. 20 team. Remember this for when the Sprint Cup Series returns to Loudon for the second Chase race: Kenseth has won two in a row at New Hampshire and three of the past six. Grade: A 2. Tony Stewart , No. 14 Chevrolet, Stewart-Haas Racing. Smoke's third top five in the past four races gives him 185 for his career, tying Hall of Famer Ned Jarrett for 16th all time. And to think that just a few weeks ago the discussion was whether Stewart would crack the top 30. Grade: A+ 3. Joey Logano , No. 22 Ford, Team Penske. The No. 22 team used the race as a test for the September race at Loudon and still finished in the top five for the fifth time in the past six weeks. Grade: A 4. Kevin Harvick , No. 4 Chevrolet, Stewart-Haas Racing. Great finish, but the continued woes on pit road are troubling -- especially this late into the season. Grade: A- 5. Greg Biffle, No. 16 Ford, Roush Fenway Racing. Fact 1: Taking a wave around followed by another caution enabled Biffle (and others, as you will see) to post a great finish, despite running only 20 laps in the top 15. Fact 2: In racing, you're ultimately judged by where you finish. And Biffle has his first top five since last September at Loudon. Grade: B+ 6. Jamie McMurray , No. 1 Chevrolet, Chip Ganassi Racing. McMurray said his goal was to minimize mistakes to keep alive his Chase chances, yet he found himself jousting side-by-side with Denny Hamlin with 21 laps to go. Fortunately for McMurray, they traded only paint, and McMurray was able to post his second-consecutive top 10 and take advantage of Dale Earnhardt Jr. 's absence to move up a spot to 14th in the standings. Grade: A 7. Ryan Newman , No. 31 Chevrolet, Richard Childress Racing. Newman was part of the wave-around gang and left Loudon a solid 12th in the standings. Sometimes, timing is everything: Newman's average running position for the day, 21.0, was the worst among top-10 finishers, just below Greg Biffle's 20.4. Grade: B 8. Kyle Busch, No. 18 Toyota, Joe Gibbs Racing. Busch led a race-high 133 laps, the first time since last September at Chicagoland he has led the most laps and not won. Grade: A 9. Denny Hamlin , No. 11 Toyota, Joe Gibbs Racing. Hamlin ran with the leaders all afternoon. He stayed out on the fourth caution and restarted with the lead on Lap 269. He held it one more lap before Matt Kenseth passed him. But his dust-up with Jamie McMurray caused a tire rub on the No. 11 and a pit stop on the sixth caution. Grade: A 10. Ricky Stenhouse Jr. , No. 17 Ford, Roush Fenway Racing. Stenhouse spent all of 30 laps in the top 15 but was one of the drivers who parlayed the wave around on the fifth caution into a good finish. Grade: B 11. Ryan Blaney , No. 21 Ford, Wood Brothers Racing. Blaney fell from 11th to 25th after serving a pit road speeding penalty on Lap 184. He was able to avoid a points calamity with a wave around on the fifth caution. He's 17th in the standings, two points behind Trevor Bayne and 16 behind 15th-place Dale Earnhardt Jr. Grade: B- 12. Jimmie Johnson , No. 48 Chevrolet, Hendrick Motorsports. The polesitter led the first lap, and that was it. He did, however, post his best finish since coming home third at Charlotte in May. Grade: B 13. Austin Dillon , No. 3 Chevrolet, Richard Childress Racing. A solid finish enabled Dillon to take advantage of Dale Earnhardt Jr. 's absence and move up a spot to 13th in the standings. Grade: B 14. Danica Patrick , No. 10 Chevrolet, Stewart-Haas Racing. Danica also was a wave-around winner Sunday, finishing well ahead of her 23.7 average running position. It was her second-best finish of the season. Grade: B- 15. Brad Keselowski , No. 2 Ford, Team Penske. Keselowski was having a great day until he found himself sandwiched between teammate Joey Logano low and Kurt Busch high with fewer than 20 laps to go. Keselowski made contact with both and cut a tire, ending any chances for a better finish. Grade: B 16. Martin Truex Jr. , No. 78 Toyota, Furniture Row Racing. Truex had a great car and led 123 laps until ... his gear shift broke with fewer than 50 laps to go and then his clutch went, meaning he had trouble leaving pit road and trouble on restarts. Pit road was Truex's problem, restarts was everyone else's. Grade: C 17. Kyle Larson , No. 42 Chevrolet, Chip Ganassi Racing. Running seventh, Larson's fate was sealed with 15 laps to go when Ryan Newman got into the back of Carl Edwards , who hit Larson and sent him spinning. It could have been a lot worse. Grade: B 18. Paul Menard , No. 27 Chevrolet, Richard Childress Racing. Menard finished 18th for the second week in a row and fifth time this season. If you think I'm counting, you're right. Grade: C 19. Aric Almirola , No. 43 Ford, Richard Petty Motorsports. Almirola's streak without a top-10 finish hit 20 races. Grade: C 20. Carl Edwards , No. 19 Toyota, Joe Gibbs Racing. It was unintentional, but Ryan Newman got into the back of Edwards with 15 laps to go, touching off the final caution. Edwards had a top-10 car and was running eighth when it happened. Grade: B 21. AJ Allmendinger, No. 47 Chevrolet, JTG Daugherty Racing. Allmendinger rolled off the grid 10th but couldn't convert his best start at Loudon since September 2010 into a quality finish. A penalty for his crew over the wall too soon on Lap 222 didn't help. Grade: C 22. Kurt Busch, No. 41 Chevrolet, Stewart-Haas Racing. Running in the top 10, Busch was up top on a three-wide with Joey Logano low and Brad Keselowski in the middle. Contact with Keselowski resulted in a tire rub and a couple of laps later a blown left-rear tire. It is only the fourth time this season Busch has finished outside the top 10. Even with the blowout, he still had an average running position of 7.0. Grade: B 23. Trevor Bayne , No. 6 Ford, Roush Fenway Racing. 'Twas not Bayne's day. He completed zero laps in the top 15, and if it weren't for the lucky dog on Lap 277, his finish would have been worse. He also benefitted from Dale Earnhardt Jr. absence. Bayne is 16th in points, 14 behind Junior. Grade: C- 24. Clint Bowyer, No. 15 Chevrolet, HScott Motorsports. This was not the same Clint Bowyer who has two wins and seven top 10s at New Hampshire. Maybe next year. Grade: C 25. Kasey Kahne , No. 5 Chevrolet, Hendrick Motorsports. Kahne was one of the bigger losers Sunday. He had a solid top-15 car and was vying for a top-10 finish when he was collected in the Ryan Newman - Carl Edwards - Kyle Larson wreck and his promising day went south with 15 laps to go. He dropped a spot to 18th in the standings. Grade: B- 26. Alex Bowman , No. 88 Chevrolet, Hendrick Motorsports. Bowman was the story of the day, subbing for Dale Earnhardt Jr. , who missed the race because of concussion-like symptoms. He was staring at the best finish of his young Sprint Cup career when a tire went down and he hit the wall on Lap 273 while running eighth. Grade: B 27. Casey Mears , No. 13 Chevrolet, Germain Racing. Mears improved his finish a handful of spots thanks to the lucky dog on the final caution. Grade: C- 28. Landon Cassill , No. 38 Ford, Front Row Motorsports. Cassill posted his second-best finish at New Hampshire in his past seven starts at the track. Grade: C 29. Chris Buescher , No. 34 Ford, Front Row Motorsports. Buescher brought out the second caution when he spun on Lap 100 trying to avoid Josh Wise , who had slowed just ahead of him. He finished two laps down. Grade: C 30. David Ragan , No. 23 Toyota, BK Racing. An unscheduled pit stop under green on Lap 130 for a vibration costs Ragan a better finish. He was running in the top 25 at the time. Grade: C 31. Matt DiBenedetto, No. 83 Toyota, BK Racing. DiBenedetto's finish tied for his best since a 30th-place run at Kansas in May. Grade: D 32. Regan Smith , No. 7 Chevrolet, Tommy Baldwin Racing. Smith was making his first start at New Hampshire since September 2012 when he finished 16th. Grade: D 33. Michael Annett , No. 46 Chevrolet, HScott Motorsports. Annett's run of top-30 finishes ended at two (20th at Daytona, 26th at Kentucky). Grade: D 34. Chase Elliott , No. 24 Chevrolet, Hendrick Motorsports. Elliott sustained a tire rub as cars made contact behind the hobbled car of Martin Truex Jr. on the restart on Lap 269. Four laps later, while running in the top 10, the tire blew. Even with the poor finish, Elliott still had an average running position of 10.2. Grade: C 35. Reed Sorenson , No. 55 Chevrolet, Premium Motorsports. Just like Michael Annett , Sorenson's run of top-30 finishes ended at two (22nd at Daytona, 27th at Kentucky). Grade: D 36. Eddie MacDonald , No. 32 Ford, GO FAS Racing. MacDonald, a K&N Pro Series East veteran from Massachusetts, made his third Sprint Cup Series start, all in the No. 32 Ford at New Hampshire. Last July he finished 37th and the year before 35th. Grade: C- 37. Ryan Ellis , No. 98 Chevrolet, Premium Motorsports. Ellis also made his third Sprint Cup Series start but first at New Hampshire. He finished nine laps back Sunday. Grade C- 38. Brian Scott , No. 44 Ford, Richard Petty Motorsports. A fluid leak caused Scott's brakes to fail. He finished 23 laps back. Grade: F 39. Michael McDowell , No. 95 Chevrolet, Circle Sport-Leavine Family. Electrical issues doomed McDowell to his second DNF of the season, all in his past three starts. Grade: F 40. Josh Wise , No. 30 Chevrolet, The Motorsports Group. One week after his best finish of the season (24th at Kentucky), Wise got his fifth DNF (accident). Grade: F &amp;lt;/p&amp;gt;
Junior's health news was unexpected, Hendrick official says
RELATED: Drivers react to Junior's news LOUDON, N.H. – Doug Duchardt, general manager for Hendrick Motorsports, says there was no indication that driver Dale Earnhardt Jr. was dealing with concussion-like symptoms during the organization's weekly competition meeting earlier this week. Two days after that meeting, Duchardt and others were informed that the 41-year-old would not be competing in this weekend's NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at New Hampshire Motor Speedway. "Tuesdays we have our competition meeting and he shows up and he's just normal Dale," Duchardt said during a press conference Friday morning at NHMS. "It was Mexican day, so he was in a good mood. … It was just a normal day. If you sat down and listened to him discuss the Kentucky race … you would just think he was no different." On Thursday, HMS officials announced that Earnhardt had not been cleared by doctors to compete this weekend, and that Alex Bowman would replace Earnhardt in the team's No. 88 Chevrolet. In Thursday's statement from the team announcing the driver change, Earnhardt said he was not feeling well going into last weekend's race at Kentucky Speedway. After returning from the race, he saw doctors for what he initially thought was a severe sinus infection. "When that didn't help, I decided to dig a little deeper," Earnhardt said. "Because of my symptoms and my history with concussions, and after my recent wrecks at Michigan and Daytona, I reached out and met with a neurological specialist. After further evaluation, they felt it was best for me to sit out." His timeline for returning to competition is unknown and Earnhardt is expected to see doctors again next week for an update on his condition. Duchardt said if Earnhardt is unable to return for next week's race at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, former HMS driver Jeff Gordon , a four-time series champion who retired from driving at the end of 2015, would be his replacement in the No. 88 entry. Duchardt would not speculate on any potential replacements beyond next weekend's event. "We will obviously be thinking about contingency plans, but we don't have anything formalized for sure past Indy," he said. This weekend's race will mark the second time Earnhardt has been sidelined by a concussion or concussion-like symptoms. In 2012, he missed two races late in the season following a hard crash during a test at Kansas Speedway. According to David Higdon, Chief Communications Officer for the sanctioning body, NASCAR "requires drivers to submit a baseline neurocognitive assessment, such as an impact test … as a prerequisite for being licensed to compete." The requirement became mandatory in 2013 following "comprehensive, industry-wide education process," Higdon said. "Additionally, NASCAR's medical advisory group, a team of consulting physicians who work directly with the league on policy development while regularly meeting with drivers to continue the education process, includes many leaders in the neurological field. … "Another important element worth noting is the active role our drivers and teams take in monitoring their health. Drivers approach this responsibility very seriously and that ultimately benefits their entire team, the sport and their fellow competitors. "We applaud Dale Earnhardt Jr. for being a great example dating back to 2012 where he chose not to race in Charlotte and in Kansas during the Chase and has made that decision this weekend as well." At Michigan last month, Earnhardt was involved in an incident with fellow drivers Chris Buescher and AJ Allmendinger, but was able to drive his car back to the garage. At the time he told FS1 that the impact "wasn't too bad, actually." Barely one month later, Earnhardt was one of 22 competitors caught up in a crash at Daytona. Duchardt said there was no advance warning that something was amiss following the incidents at MIS or Daytona. "We didn't know of anything until he started talking to Greg (Ives, crew chief) about not feeling quite right in Kentucky," he said. "I think this weekend he is just, per doctor's orders, laying low like most people in these situations – minimum stimulation and just work to get better and keep activities down." Higdon said officials would "need to receive a notice from an independent board-certified neurologist" before Earnhardt, or any driver diagnosed with a similar injury, would be allowed to return. "That would be our expectation that the driver is prepared and able to compete in our sport," he said. Earnhardt is 13th i n points and has yet to win this season. His eligibility for one of the 16 positions in this year's Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup upon his return, should he be in position to qualify for a spot, would be determined by NASCAR. Attempting to compete in all races is one of the Chase eligibility requirements, although NASCAR can award an exemption based on each individual situation. Defending series champion Kyle Busch was provided a waiver last season after missing the first 11 points races due to injury; three-time series champion Tony Stewart has also received a waiver after missing this year's first eight races due to injury. Because of Earnhardt's initial concerns of potential sinus issues, Bowman was already on standby with the plan to replace the veteran once Earnhardt started Sunday's race at New Hampshire, according to Duchardt. When Earnhardt wasn't cleared to return to competition, the team moved forward with Bowman as the replacement. "The most important thing in this whole process is for Dale to get better and feel better," Duchardt said, "and we're going to let that happen on the timeline it's going to happen on. "And so, basically, less than 24 hours ago we found out that Dale couldn't run. We had Alex lined up to be in the car. It made perfect sense. And I have confidence that he and Greg will go a good job this weekend."
Hendrick GM: Jeff Gordon to drive at Indy if Dale Jr. can't
RELATED: Drivers react, offer thoughts on Earnhardt Jr. news Hendrick Motorsports indicated that Jeff Gordon would return to NASCAR Sprint Cup Series competition in place of Dale Earnhardt Jr. next weekend at Indianapolis Motor Speedway if Earnhardt has not fully recovered from concussion-like symptoms. Gordon, a four-time champion in NASCAR's premier series, ended his full-time driving career last season. All of his 93 victories and 797 starts came during his 23-year career with Hendrick Motorsports, which fields four cars including the No. 88 Chevrolet driven by Earnhardt Jr. Hendrick Motorsports announced Thursday that Earnhardt would miss this Sunday's New Hampshire 301 (1:30 p.m. ET, NBCSN, PRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio) with concussion-like symptoms. Earnhardt also missed time in the 2012 season, sitting out two races after sustaining two concussions in a stretch of six weeks. Doug Duchardt, Hendrick Motorsports' general manager, revealed the striking news of Gordon's possible Indy return on July 24 in the Crown Royal Presents the Combat Wounded Coalition 400 at the Brickyard during a press conference Friday morning at New Hampshire. Gordon is NASCAR's all-time winningest driver at the historic Brickyard with five Indianapolis victories on his Hall of Fame-worthy resume. Duchardt said that there was no timetable for Earnhardt's return to competition, reiterating the organization's stance from Thursday's announcement. "I really don't want to speculate past Indy," Duchardt said. "I think we just want to take it one race at a time here. I think putting any speculation past that is assuming that Dale is not going to be ready for that amount of time. We will obviously be thinking about contingency plans, but we don't have anything formalized for sure past Indy." Alex Bowman will be making his first NASCAR Sprint Cup Series start of the season in the Hendrick No. 88 Chevrolet. Bowman, 23, is also a part-time competitor for JR Motorsports in the NASCAR XFINITY Series. Duchardt indicated that Gordon was not strongly considered for this weekend's duty at New Hampshire because before Thursday, all indications were that Earnhardt potentially needed only a relief driver instead of a full-fledged replacement. Additionally, Gordon revealed Thursday that he was currently in France, which would have made for a tight turnaround to prepare for competition in New England this weekend. NASCAR spokesperson David Higdon said that for Earnhardt to return to racing, competition officials would need notice of medical clearance from an independent, board-certified neurologist. Duchardt said that the team would make a determination by the middle of next week for the driver of the No. 88 Chevrolet at Indianapolis. "For (crew chief) Greg (Ives) and the team, certainly the way Jeff sits in the car and what we have to do to prepare the car for Jeff they have to get ready for that," Duchardt said. But, I think I would be looking around Wednesday time frame." Ryan Newman , a 15th-year veteran with Richard Childress Racing, said that a driver of Gordon's caliber would likely be capable of competitively rejoining the series without signs of rust. "Yeah, just because you go to the nude beach for a couple of months doesn't mean you don't know how to put your underwear back on," Newman said, prompting laughter in the NHMS media center. </p>