Cain: Bigger and more memorable at Texas
RELATED: Gallery of memorable moments at Texas " Full weekend schedule FORT WORTH -- From track "weepers" and multicar inaugural-lap pileups to a winner's circle confrontation between two Indianapolis 500 champs, Texas Motor Speedway has been the site of some of the most remarkable, memorable and bizarre story lines of any circuit on the NASCAR circuit. The 1.5-mile oval outside Fort Worth celebrates its 20th year hosting a NASCAR race this week with Saturday night's Duck Commander 500 (7:30 p.m. ET, FOX, PRN, Sirius XM NASCAR Radio.) And for those of us around at the very beginning, it seems a fitting time to reminisce a bit about the facility's famously storied early history. As they like to remind you in Texas, everything is "bigger" there. And it has been. The track's early trials and tribulations have only contributed to its great character and esteem. In my 25 years of sports journalism, the opening races at Texas Motor Speedway still remain among the most unforgettable times of my career. Never before and never since have I covered a specific beat that provided as much sensation, controversy and must-see-TV as TMS in the early years. Two decades later, the track located at the intersection of an interstate and two major Texas highways has evolved into one of the sport's most prestigious venues. It boasts the largest HD screen, named "Big Hoss," fantastic spectator seating and the most condominiums of any track on the circuit. Plus really great racing. Nearly 195,000 people showed up for the inaugural Texas race in 1997 and most of those who were ticket holders then still are, two decades later proving they are as faithful and optimistic as they were devoted. It turns out those have been good traits for this endeavor. MORE: Paint scheme preview for Texas I had just started work at The Dallas Morning News newspaper in the spring of 1997 a few weeks after Jeff Burton took the checkered flag for NASCAR's first Cup series race at Texas in April. The new facility was considered the "home track" to cover. After reporting on the Indianapolis 500 in May, I was immediately back home in Dallas, ready for the Indy Racing League's night-time debut at TMS the next week. There, a 26-year old future three-time NASCAR Cup champion Tony Stewart put on an open-wheel show for the ages, racing wheel-to-wheel lap-after-lap with Buddy Lazier. Stewart -- who went on to win two Cup races at Texas (2006 and 2011) -- led a race-high 100 of the 208 laps only to suffer an engine failure that night. But toward the end of the race there were questions regarding the scoring shown on the monitor in the press box. And soon after making my way down to the infield to prepare for a super-tight Saturday night newspaper deadline, the real craziness began. While trying to get post-race quotes from the apparent first-time winner Billy Boat ( XFINITY Series driver Chad's dad) and Boat's team owner, Texan A.J. Foyt, I was standing a few feet away when driver Arie Luyendyk confronted Foyt in Victory Lane. After questioning the results, challenging Foyt and suggesting he was actually the legitimate race winner, Luyendyk tumbled into the victory flowers. Boat and Foyt hoisted the trophy. It was surreal. I was on a crazy tight deadline. But the next day in a hastily called press conference, Luyendyk was declared the winner after USAC conceded a scoring error. After USAC officials suggested problems with the track's scoring system , TMS President Eddie Gossage took the press conference podium and strongly reminded that the speedway wasn't responsible for the scoring . "I got home at 3 in the morning knowing we gave the trophy to the wrong winner and had a press conference for 8 in the morning," said Gossage. "I go in to the press conference with two hours of sleep and I'm sitting in the back row and the head scorer for USAC says that the speedway's timing and scoring equipment didn't work. "He says it again and then a third time so I just walked up on stage and stepped up to the podium and eased him to the side and said, " Texas Motor Speedway doesn't own a stop watch. ... People have a right to know when they leave the race track who the winner is and we all didn't get what we paid for." Then after a dramatic exit and door slam, Gossage recalls, "My dad called from Tennessee and said, 'You were raised better, acting like an idiot on television for all the world to see, embarrassing me and your mom.' I said, 'What?' He said, 'You didn't know it was live on ESPN?' "I didn't. And then I was like, 'You're right, sir. I'm sorry. I know better.' " Gossage has a good laugh recalling the whole ordeal now. Foyt, who still disputes the result, kept the trophy and Luyendyk was given another one. A year later, Boat recalled of the evening, "We went into Victory Circle knowing nothing about a scoring error, only that someone was talking derogatory about our race team. You don't do that in a big Texan's Victory Circle." Luyendyk, of Holland, said the incident -- replayed repeatedly all over the world at the time -- actually made him and the Texas Motor Speedway more famous overseas. MORE: Gossage and drivers try to draw state of Texas And then in 1998 came NASCAR's second Cup try. After two multi-car accidents in the inaugural race, conventional wisdom promised this one just had to go down more smoothly. NASCAR's biggest stars such as Rusty Wallace, Ernie Irvan, Dale Earnhardt and Mark Martin were among those who crashed in the opening race. Darrell Waltrip finished last after being involved in a 13-car wreck on the very first turn of the very first lap of Cup competition there. And Burton ended up winning by 4 seconds. Surely, everyone figured, the second race would be smoother. It wasn't. "Weepers" became a familiar word. The water seeping through the track caused qualifying to be completed a day late. And of all things, there was a huge 10-car accident on the second lap of the race. Jeff Gordon and yes, Waltrip, were collected in that melee. Mark Martin won the race by a half-second over Chad Little and Robert Pressley. Shortly after, TMS went through a re-paving and re-fitting, track owner Bruton Smith and Gossage committed to correction. "The first year it was just terrible and everything seemed to go wrong," Gossage conceded this week. "And the second year, obviously you try to improve so all of a sudden here's these weepers that came through. "I remember driving into the infield and in the rearview mirror saw Lake Speed knock the wall down in Turn 1 in qualifying. I thought, 'Oh no.' "I'm always the worst critic," Gossage said, logging the long hours readying for the weekend's big events. "There are things other people might not have noticed but I did. For some reason things worked really well in 1999 when Terry Labonte won and it's been better since then. That's the way a race weekend was supposed to go." Not only has it been better, it's typically a discussion point in every season review. In 2005, Texas finally got the second date it had longed for since I worked at the Dallas paper nearly a decade earlier. And the facility -- big enough to fit every Texas sporting stadium in its infield -- is also a big-time player in the Chase for the Sprint Cup . It's still providing those jaw-dropping, television highlight moments seemingly born with the track. Dale Earnhardt Jr . scored his first Cup win at TMS in April 2000. And Chase Elliott got his first XFINITY Series win here in 2014 driving for Junior at JR Motorsports. Gordon, who won this race in 2009, has starred in a couple TMS highlight reels, too. He was involved in a pair of high profile skirmishes from taking on Burton on-track after a wreck in 2010 to a crazy pit road scuffle with Brad Keselowski in 2014. "You have to be honest," Gossage said. "And looking back, it's just how things occurred. I wouldn't trade any of it, if it is what got us where we are. I'll take where we stand in our success as the most successful major market speedway in the history of this sport. I'll take that. "I won't trade my job with the guy running any other race track because I'm just so proud of what's been accomplished here."
NASCAR simplifies manufacturer points system
Scoring will mirror system used for drivers for all three national series
Carl Edwards rides pole position to checkered flag in Bristol
RELATED: Full race results " Updated series standings " SHOP: Edwards gear BRISTOL, Tenn. – The record will show that polesitter Carl Edwards won Sunday's Food City 500 at Bristol Motor Speedway in dominating fashion, leading 276 of 500 laps and beating runner-up Dale Earnhardt Jr . to the finish line by .766 seconds. But while Edwards cruised to victory with the fastest car in the eighth NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race of the season, drivers behind him suffered a litany of troubles, populating the top 10 with the most unlikely array of competitors this season. Consider that: Sunoco Rookie of the Year candidate Chase Elliott posted a career-best fourth-place result a week after recording a career-best fifth at Texas. Trevor Bayne ran fifth, scoring his first top five since his surprise victory in the 2011 season-opening Daytona 500 . Matt DiBenedetto came home sixth, scoring a best-ever finish (and only the second top 10) for BK Racing . Clint Bowyer rallied from laps down to run eighth, his first top-10 and third lead-lap finish of the season. RELATED: See all of Edwards' career Cup wins All Joe Gibbs Racing drivers other than Edwards had serious issues on Sunday. Kyle Busch , trying for his third straight Sprint Cup win, blew two right front tires, hit the wall twice and retired from the race in 38th place. Matt Kenseth and Denny Hamlin suffered similar issues with right fronts and finished 36th and 20th, respectively. Kevin Harvick , who had arguably the fastest car in the closing stages of the race, never got a chance to show it, because he kept drawing the inside lane for every restart. The speed at Bristol is in the outside lane, and Harvick ultimately ran seventh with a No. 4 Chevrolet that was much better than its finishing position. Simply put, it was another wild, action-filled afternoon at Thunder Valley, but for Edwards, it was simply an extension of what he and the No. 19 Toyota team have been accomplishing this season. Edwards posted his seventh top 10 in eight races, climbed to second in the series standings (one point behind Harvick) and, first and foremost, all but assured himself of a spot in the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup . RELATED: See the best photos from Sunday at the track "It was a really great race for us," said Edwards, who won for the first time this season, the fourth time at Bristol and the 26th time in his career. "It started on Friday well, started this winter building these cars. But the car was really fast in qualifying, got the first pit stall, and that meant a lot to the guys. They were just flawless on pit road. The car was really fast, and (crew chief) Dave (Rogers) did a good job of managing everything. "We didn't have any trouble, and really it's just a testament to everybody at the shop and our whole team. Really awesome to have a win so now we can really have some fun and focus on this championship." If Edwards' race was problem-free, hardly anything else was ordinary. Even Earnhardt's second-place finish was an anomaly. The driver of the No. 88 Chevrolet inadvertently activated the "kill" switch on his car at the start of the race by applying too much brake pressure. Earnhardt rolled onto pit road and lost two laps while his team rebooted the electronic control unit (ECU) that governs the electronic fuel injection. Two wave-arounds under caution in the first half of the race put the 88 back on the lead lap, and Earnhardt parlayed his good fortune into a better-than-expected run. Unlike Harvick, Earnhardt benefited from restarts in the outside lane, and on the final restart with five laps left, he rocketed from fourth to second and held off third-place finisher Kurt Busch . "Just warming the brakes up, I engaged that system to kill the throttle," Earnhardt said of the early trouble. "I was warming the brakes up like I always do, and apparently I applied too much pressure and it killed the motor. "We'll work on that and maybe raise that threshold a little bit, because I wasn't really using the brake that much." Earnhardt acknowledged he stole a runner-up finish with a car that wasn't that good. "We had about a 10th-place car," Earnhardt said. "We weren't really that good all day. We tried a setup that we've never really ran here before, just trying to learn a little something going forward, and we'll go home and science it out a little bit. "We got real lucky the last three restarts to be on the outside line. We restarted 10th, sixth and fourth, and when you restart fourth, you're typically going to come out in second place after that. I was hoping we didn't have any more cautions after that. So it was good. We'll take it."
No. 17 Sprint Cup team hit with P3 penalty
The No. 17 Roush Fenway Racing team of Ricky Stenhouse Jr . was assessed a P3 penalty for a violation at Richmond International Raceway , a punishment that includes the suspension of crew chief Nick Sandler. During opening day inspection, the No. 17 did not meet vehicle safety specifications. According to the penalty report, the steering wheel coupling did not meet the SFI 42.1 specification, which relates to the steering wheel quick disconnect/release. Sandler has been suspended from NASCAR Sprint Cup Series points events through May 4, which entails one race -- this weekend's GEICO 500 at Talladega Superspeedway . Additionally, he was fined $20,000 and is on probation until Dec. 31. Stenhouse, who finished 26th at Richmond, currently sits 19th in the points standings. In addition to the penalty on the No. 17 team, two other teams were issued written warnings for failing pre-race inspection. The No. 48 of Jimmie Johnson failed twice at the template inspection and the No. 14 of Tony Stewart failed twice at the LIS (laser inspection system ) station. Both received a written warning as it was the first offense for each.
Colossus formally takes center stage at Bristol
BRISTOL, Tenn. -- The unveiling of Colossus, the world's largest outdoor, center-hung, four-sided video screen, is the latest addition in amenities race fans can enjoy when attending NASCAR-sanctioned events at Bristol Motor Speedway . "To be able to unveil Colossus today is a neat experience and definitely one for the history books at Bristol Motor Speedway ," BMS General Manager Jerry Caldwell said Thursday during a private unveiling of the engineering marvel. The entire piece weighs approximately 700 tons and is suspended by cables attached to towers located outside the track. The screens on each side measure 68 feet wide by 30 feet high. Construction, which began last fall, was completed earlier this month. Unveiling Colossus at Bristol Motor Speedway . #gamechanger pic.twitter.com/488jeyJCBK — Jeff Wohlschlaeger (@JeffWohlschlaeg) April 14, 2016 "What Bruton and Marcus (Smith) continue to do with this place and re-invest, I mean look at this, look at the sound system ," Caldwell said. "They didn't have to do that. But they wanted to do that because it's the right thing to do for the fans. They want it to be great." Officials said there are no concerns outside of those that existed for the previous scoring pylon that was anchored in the center of the .533-mile track's infield. "This thing is so over-engineered that … all those questions were asked when we were going through this process," Caldwell said. "We've had engineers from all over the world study this and peer reviews upon peer reviews of that. So we feel good about everything that's up there and having Colossus is going to be a great experience for all of us." Steve Smith , CEO of race sponsor Food City, said the new video screen "is just another of those pillars that Bristol Motor Speedway does for the race fans." BMS will host the Fitzgerald Glider Kits 300 NASCAR XFINITY Series race Saturday (first heat race at 12:30 p.m. ET, FS1, PRN) and the Food City 500 on Sunday (1 p.m. ET, FOX, PRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio). RELATED: Full weekend schedule at Bristol "What it does even more so than during the races is (enhance) our pre-race shows," Caldwell said. "Our pre-race shows are amazing. There have been times when it's been hard for the race fans to hear the pre-race show, to hear from the drivers and what they're saying. And we've heard from the race fans; this sound system came from the race fans. They said they wanted new speakers. Of course Marcus and Bruton answered their call. We'll see what happens with the races but I know it's going to enhance the pre-race experience tremendously." The idea for Colossus came about as officials began preparations for hosting this year's inaugural Battle at Bristol college football game between the University of Tennessee and Virginia Tech. Other similar non-racing events are being considered; Caldwell wouldn't confirm anything beyond this fall's football game, scheduled for Sept. 10. "We've had some really good conversations," he said. "No question, Bristol is already on the map for hosting world-class NASCAR events, but this is for other sporting events and entertainment events. Look at this place; it really is a colosseum. What else can we do? Colossus is the start of that."
Kahne and able: With recent success, Hendrick driver poised for career revival
RICHMOND, Va. -- For the second time in three weeks, Kasey Kahne finished among the top 10 in Sprint Cup Series competition. There was a time in his career that would have been par for the course. Right now, it’s an extremely encouraging sign of renewal. Kahne is coming off his best finish of the still-early 2016 season -- a fourth-place run at Richmond International Raceway on Sunday. And it already equals his top effort of 2015 (three fourth-place showings) and puts him in reasonable position to better the mark of three top-five finishes he scored in both the 2014 and 2015 seasons. Simply put, it appears that Kahne, the 2004 Rookie of the Year, is back on track. His team regained the mojo that he regularly demonstrated just a few years ago with double-digit top-five runs (in 2012 and 2013) and multi-win seasons. It’s the kind of can-do that resulted in him being hired by the esteemed Hendrick Motorsports organization to compete under its banner for the 2012 season. And it’s meeting the high expectations that this powerhouse team has, considering Kahne’s teammates include six-time Cup champion Jimmie Johnson , perennial winner and the sport’s Most Popular Driver Dale Earnhardt Jr . and the sport’s newest whiz kid, Chase Elliott , who replaced retired four-time champion Jeff Gordon ahead of this season. Listen to Kahne speak about the uptick in his finishing order and you might be surprised to hear the driver talk as much about the importance of good kumbaya as the comfort of having the best equipment in the garage. It’s the people that Kahne thinks make the difference. And while that may be a popular catchphrase, Kahne is convinced the belief in his team -- and second-year crew chief Keith Rodden -- truly has restored his course and energized the crew. "It just starts with the attitudes of everybody, from myself to the team," Kahne said. "How we all appreciate each other, work together, know that each particular person is there for a reason and is really good at what each one of us does. I think it’s more being together, being a group, a solid team. To me that started three, four weeks ago, and each week it seems to get better from the previous week. We’re going to keep heading in that direction. "I think the closer you get as a group, the closer you get with your crew chief, your engineers, the guys on pit road, the car chief, the guys building the race car, all of that is communication to me. All of that kind of makes the whole race on Sunday better when you are better in those areas." Judging by the results of Kahne’s No. 5 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet team of late, it would be hard to argue with the philosophy. And while next week’s race at Talladega Superspeedway is typically considered a roll of the dice, Kahne has run well there -- even scoring runner-up finishes in 2006 and 2009. And he is even better at Kansas and Charlotte, where the series heads after Talladega. Kahne has four wins at Charlotte -- including a sweep of the 2006 season there -- and Kansas was one of his three top-five finishes in 2015. He has three pole positions in Kansas and five top-five finishes in his last nine races there. Although Kahne is hardly saying his team has "arrived," he does like the direction it has taken. This past weekend at Richmond, for example, Kahne qualified eighth and was second-fastest in final practice -- so the race result was not an anomaly. "When you have each other’s backs, you work together as a team and you keep getting better," Kahne said. "That’s where we’ve been. That’s where we’ve been excelling at. "I think there’s kind of consistency on the whole weekend. There’s more times I look at the scoring pylon and I’m at the top half rather than the bottom half -- whether it’s one of the practices, qualifying or race. "I think it’s a slow process, really. We were so far gone there for a little while, it takes time to start getting back to where we need to be. "We’re heading in that direction now, so it’s really nice.’"
Rules update: NASCAR reinforces five lug nuts
NASCAR teams hoping to shave time off pit stops by replacing only four lug nuts on wheels will now face penalties from the sanctioning body, according to a memo sent to organizations Monday. The memo states that all tires, wheels and all five lug nuts "must be installed in a safe and secure manner at all times during the event." Failure to comply can result in penalties ranging from a written warning for pre-race violations (wheels not having five lug nuts glued in place) to a minimum $20,000 fine, one-race suspension and probation for the responsible crew chief if a post-race inspection turns up a car that does not have five lug nuts in place on each wheel. If found during pre-race, the infraction is considered an unapproved adjustment, and the violator will be required to correct the issue and drop to the rear of the field before the start of the event. Multiple offenses for infractions will result in escalating penalties. NASCAR stopped policing how many lug nuts teams were installing during pit stops after the 2014 season. In 2015, the sanctioning body debuted its Pit Road Officiating (PRO) system that utilizes cameras to regulate pit road. According to Monday's memo, updated methods for officiating the new rules will be introduced at a later date. "That process will continue to evolve over time and we will provide further updates as that model progresses." By tightening, or in some cases installing, only four lug nuts on each wheel, teams have often gained an advantage during pit stops. But the practice has led to a rise in the number of loose wheels this season, often sending a driver back to pit road to correct the problem. While at least one NASCAR crew chief has noted that there have been occasions when a car would end the race with fewer than five lug nuts in place, NASCAR Chairman & CEO Brian France said Monday that the inspection process would be no different than it has been for other areas of the vehicles that are examined each week. "When things are altered we have to deal with that," France said during an appearance on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio. "There's no difference in that. ... Really what you're hearing is just how close and tight competition is across the board. And that's why the crew chiefs, and rightfully so, are worried about every millisecond; they don't want to get one of these ... penalties and understandably so. They're trying to get it right and we're trying to get it right. "And by the way, we will. We have for 60 years and we will always sort it out, especially when it comes to safety. We will get to the right place as fast as we can. That's Job 1 for us." Last week, three-time premier series champion Tony Stewart expressed concerns that the safety of competitors was being overlooked by not mandating all five lug nuts be properly installed on wheels. A day later, when Stewart announced he would return to competition after missing the season's first eight races, NASCAR announced it had fined the co-owner/driver $35,000. "It wasn't (a case of) saying they're not doing their job," Stewart told FOX Sports during Sunday's pre-race show. "I just felt like this is one thing they dropped the ball on. So, they're doing a good job. They're looking at it. They're going to address it and make it right, and down the road we won't have to worry about this again, hopefully." France said Stewart is "very aware of how we approach criticism ... of the sport and the product of the racing itself, and safety is paramount of that. Tony is very aware of how we look at that. We allow them to criticize and give their point of view way more than any other sport. ... We're thick-skinned; we get it. "It's when you go into the area of denigrating the racing product. That's all we have in NASCAR, the highest quality of competition. When you start working against that in any way, we're going to have to deal with that. And everybody understands that."
The Rundown: Las Vegas
Analysis of all 43 cars in Sunday's Kobalt 400 Play: NASCAR Fantasy Live RELATED: Full race results " Updated series standings 1. Kevin Harvick , No. 4 Chevrolet, Stewart-Haas Racing . An 18th-place start was only a temporary stall for the defending NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion, who surged to take the lead on Lap 91. He paced the field for a race-high 142 laps and persevered through "an uncomfortable last run" to earn his first Cup win at the 1.5-mile desert oval and his third straight top-two result of the 2015 season. Harvick, now the points leader, has won his past three contests at Phoenix International Raceway , the next stop on the Cup circuit. " WATCH: Harvick discusses the win in Victory Lane 2. Martin Truex Jr ., No. 78 Chevrolet, Furniture Row Racing . Truex overcame a loose-handling condition midway through the race to record his best LVMS result and earn his third straight top-10 of the year. " READ: Truex's inspirational drive 3. Ryan Newman , No. 31 Chevrolet, Richard Childress Racing . As the temperatures increased on the 1.5-mile desert track, the handling of Newman's Chevrolet initially disappeared. He rallied to finish third and capture his best career LVMS result. " WATCH: Newman discusses Vegas finish 4. Dale Earnhardt Jr ., No. 88 Chevrolet, Hendrick Motorsports . Junior showed strength driving the high line, but his late-race lead was cut short by a hard-charging Harvick. "Second, fifth, fourth -- it don't matter (where you finish) if you don't win," said Earnhardt, who now ranks second in the points standings. " WATCH: Junior weighs in on late-race gamble 5. Denny Hamlin , No. 11 Toyota, Joe Gibbs Racing . The left-front of Hamlin's Toyota sustained damage early while he tried to navigate a congested pit road. The impact was enough to affect his initial speed but not his overall performance. He is the biggest mover from the race weekend, improving 11 spots to eighth in the standings. 6. AJ Allmendinger , No. 47 Chevrolet, JTG-Daugherty Racing. The single-car outfit continues its ascent after Allmendinger wheeled his way to his second straight top-10 result. Allmendinger picked up three spots and now ranks fifth in the standings. 7. Brad Keselowski , No. 2 Ford, Team Penske . A tire vibration and subsequent pit road violation could have spelled doom for Keselowski, but he caught a break in both cases. First, the competition caution gave his team a chance to address the vibration. Much later, Jimmie Johnson blew a tire, which prompted the caution and enabled then-beneficiary of the free pass Keselowski to return to the lead lap. The 2012 Champion picks up six spots in the standings, improving to 16th. 8. Kyle Larson , No. 42 Chevrolet, Chip Ganassi Racing . Larson's pit crew performed well, helping the Cup sophomore nab his first top 10 of the season. 9. Matt Kenseth , No. 20 Toyota, Joe Gibbs Racing . Kenseth scored his second top-10 of the year after working with his team to solve a loose-handling condition. Another big mover, Kenseth improves eight spots to now rank 10th in the points standings. " See the full Sprint Cup Series standings 10. Joey Logano , No. 22 Ford, Team Penske . Two pit road speeding penalties couldn't keep Logano down, as the driver led the opening 27 laps prior through the competition caution. The Daytona 500 champion rallied to post his third straight top-10 of the year and ranks third in the points standings. 11. Jamie McMurray , No. 1 Chevrolet, Chip Ganassi Racing . McMurray just missed recording his first top-10 of the season and improves seven positions to 25th in the driver standings. 12. Paul Menard , No. 27 Chevrolet, Richard Childress Racing . Menard, who narrowly avoided being collected by Carl Edwards ’ incident on Lap 195, improves four spots in the points standings to 13th. 13. Brian Scott , No. 33 Chevrolet, Circle Sport Racing. Scott benefited from the beneficiary of the free pass after a caution on Lap 187 and went on to claim his best career Cup finish. 14. Greg Biffle , No. 16 Ford, Roush-Fenway Racing. Biffle started strong, but encountered a loose-handing condition that hindered his forward progress. Still, he improved two spots in the points standings to 11th. 15. Brian Vickers , No. 55 Toyota, Michael Waltrip Racing . Vickers, in his first race back since open heart surgery, began Sunday's race by thanking his team for not giving up on him. He surged quickly through the field after starting 28th. 16. Regan Smith , No. 41 Chevrolet, Stewart-Haas Racing . Smith weathered an early pit road penalty and returned to the lead lap as the beneficiary of the free pass after Carl Edwards ’ accident on Lap 195. Smith was running fourth with 17 laps to go and was among the leaders trying to hold out for a late-race caution during the long green-flag stretch. 17. Kasey Kahne , No. 5 Chevrolet, Hendrick Motorsports . Kahne could seemingly run any line he wanted at Vegas on Sunday and spent the first half of the event racing inside the top five. His luck faded, though, on Lap 195 when he was traveling the high line and Carl Edwards forced him into the wall. " MORE: Kahne, Edwards clash in Kobalt 400 18. Jeff Gordon , No. 24 Chevrolet, Hendrick Motorsports . Gordon, the Coors Light Pole Award winner, had to start from the rear of the field after being involved in an accident with Danica Patrick during final practice. The highs and lows continued for the veteran in his final Vegas race. He improved to crack the top 10 by Lap 143, but sustained critical damage to the nose of his car after bumping Jeb Burton 29 laps later. Burton was trying to avoid being collected when Jimmie Johnson blew a tire. " MORE: Tough day for Gordon in Las Vegas 19. Ryan Blaney , No. 21 Ford, Wood Brothers Racing . Blaney recovered from early issues to find speed late in the race and post his best result so far of the 2015 Sprint Cup Series season. 20. Austin Dillon , No. 3 Chevrolet, Richard Childress Racing . Dillon improved 15 spots to crack the top 10 on Lap 75, but later was dealt a pit road penalty that impacted his team's forward march. 21. Clint Bowyer , No. 15 Toyota, Michael Waltrip Racing . Rear grip was a problem for Bowyer in practice and on Sunday, he constantly reported a tight-handling race car. His team gambled on pit strategy by staying out during late-race, green-flag stops, but Bowyer ultimately had to stop to make it to the end. 22. David Ragan , No. 18 Toyota, Joe Gibbs Racing . Despite qualifying 13th, Ragan started from the rear of the field after slapping the wall during final practice. The team made consistent gains and ran steadily inside the top 25. 23. David Gilliland , No. 38 Ford, Front Row Motorsports . Crew chief Donnie Wingo reminded Gilliland that Las Vegas had a history of getting looser as the race continued and encouraged Gilliland to use the driver-adjustable track bar feature. 24. Sam Hornish Jr ., No. 9 Ford, Richard Petty Motorsports . Late-race gains improved the handling of the No. 9 Ford, and he held on to score his best result at LVMS since 2009. 25. Casey Mears , No. 13 Chevrolet, Germain Racing . Although handling was an ongoing issue, Mears' top-25 result keeps him inside the top 10 of the points standings. He is ranked ninth going into next week at Phoenix International Raceway . 26. Aric Almirola , No. 43 Ford, Richard Petty Motorsports . Almirola ran as high as ninth on Sunday and raced inside the top 20 until he was clocked going too fast entering pit road at Lap 197. 27. Danica Patrick , No. 10 Chevrolet, Stewart-Haas Racing . Patrick's team salvaged her starting spot after she was involved in a last-minute accident in final practice. She reported aero issues on Sunday, which she said made her car easy to turn sideways in traffic. 28. Trevor Bayne , No. 6 Ford, Roush Fenway Racing . Bayne struggled to find balance all race long in his Ford, which shifted from a tight- to loose-handling condition as the race unfolded. 29. Ricky Stenhouse Jr ., No. 17, Roush Fenway Racing . Stenhouse's Vegas run was complicated after he made contact with the wall and then hit a loose tire on pit road. He worked with his team to persevere through the damage. 30. Michael McDowell , No. 95 Ford, Leavine Family Racing . McDowell narrowly avoided colliding with Michael Annett , when Annett lost the handle on his car around Lap 150. Still, McDowell held on to earn his best LVMS finish. 31. Justin Allgaier , No. 51 Chevrolet, HScott Motorsports . Allgaier struggled to make forward progress after being penalized three times throughout the race by the new pit road scoring system . " MORE: Allgaier's car too light in post-race inspection 32. Cole Whitt , No. 35 Ford, Front Row Motorsports . Although Whitt's team struggled to find the right combination, he held on to achieve his best Las Vegas result. 33. Tony Stewart , No. 14 Chevrolet, Stewart-Haas Racing . A steering box issue compounded initial handling woes for Stewart, who also was dealt an uncontrolled tire violation during a Lap 84 pit stop. 34. Josh Wise , No. 98 Ford, Phil Parsons Racing. Wise kept his nose clean during Sunday's race and quietly steered the No. 98 machine to his best result at the 1.5-mile desert track. 35. Landon Cassill , No. 40 Chevrolet, Hillman Smith Motorsports. An early pit road violation wasn't insurmountable for Cassill, who went on to post his best Vegas finish. 36. J.J. Yeley, No. 23 Toyota, BK Racing . Yeley finished 16th in Saturday's NASCAR XFINITY Series race, but struggled to carry that momentum over into the Cup scene. 37. Brett Moffitt , No. 34 Ford, Front Row Motorsports . Moffitt opened the race with promise after posting an eighth-place finish last weekend at the intermediate track of Atlanta Motor Speedway . He qualified 36th and struggled to make up much ground, ultimately brushing the wall as he concluded his first outing at Las Vegas. 38. Brendan Gaughan , No. 62 Chevrolet, Premium Motorsports. The only Las Vegas native in the race -- given the absence of the Busch brothers -- was clocked too fast entering pit road on Lap 76 during green flag stops. 39. Michael Annett , No. 46 Chevrolet, HScott Motorsports . Early in Sunday's contest, Annett wiggled exiting Turn 4 and made hard contact with the wall. Tire smoke prompted him to make an unscheduled pit stop. 40. Jeb Burton , No. 26 Toyota, BK Racing . The lone Sunoco Rookie of the Year candidate in the field, Burton slowed to avoid Jimmie Johnson 's first incident when he received an inadvertent nudge from behind by veteran Jeff Gordon . 41. Jimmie Johnson , No. 48 Chevrolet, Hendrick Motorsports . Johnson led 45 laps during the first half of Sunday's race and appeared poised to contend for his fifth Las Vegas victory when tire issues arose. Two blown tires within 14 laps of one another sent Johnson to the garage at Lap 186. " MORE: Tire trouble ruins Johnson's day at Vegas 42. Carl Edwards , No. 19 Toyota, Joe Gibbs Racing . Edwards' promising run was cut short Sunday when his car slid up the track and made contact with Kahne. Edwards almost saved his car from a subsequent spin, but ultimately retreated to the garage with a busted oil cooler. " MORE: Edwards, Kahne clash at Las Vegas 43. Alex Bowman , No. 7 Chevrolet, Tommy Baldwin Racing . An engine issue on Lap 28 dashed Bowman's hopes of continuing the momentum he started last week at Atlanta Motor Speedway . 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
Gordon: Win in finale would be bittersweet
Driver offers idea for tweak to Chase scoring system
Dash 4 Cash returns for second week at Richmond
RELATED: Heat races lineup " Full schedule RICHMOND, Va. -- The first brush with qualifying heats and a feature in a revamped Dash 4 Cash race format brought a new wrinkle to the NASCAR XFINITY Series last weekend. With the newfangled system ready for Round 2, many in the garage are bracing for the encore. Dual heats make their return in Saturday's ToyotaCare 250 (12:30 p.m. ET, FS1, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio), the second of four races this season for the Dash 4 Cash incentive program. One of four eligible drivers -- determined through the two heats -- will make their bid for a $100,000 bonus at Richmond International Raceway . Last weekend's Dash 4 Cash opener at Bristol Motor Speedway was marked by a pair of wire-to-wire winners in the heats, but some frantic lead-swapping in the shorter 200-lap main. This weekend, the total distance of the feature event (106.6 miles at Bristol vs. a scheduled 105 at Richmond) is comparable, but the difference in lap count (Bristol's 200 vs. Richmond's 140) is far wider. "That's a pretty narrow window to make yourself better if you're not where you want to be," said Erik Jones , last week's winner of both the Bristol race and the Dash 4 Cash prize. "I think it's cool. I think it's a neat thing to do. I think the shorter races is something we as drivers enjoy. I think fans enjoy it as well. And just that dash to the finish running as hard as you can is pretty neat. "Bristol was a part of that -- tire wear at Bristol isn't that great so you can run pretty hard for the majority of the race and not have to worry about fall-off and really dash like that for the whole race. But, I think you'll see a lot of the same here at Richmond with an only 140-lap main as well." Roush Fenway Racing 's Ryan Reed said Friday that the shorter format placed a premium on executing a mistake-free race, for both driver and crew. But the 22-year-old also said that the sanctioning body could discover enhancements as the Dash 4 Cash system continues to evolve. "With 140 laps at Richmond, you're going to have no time to mess around," Reed said. "I think it's good. Everyone's talked about shortening races up, and I think this is a great way to do it without taking away from total laps. You're still running the same amount of miles in the weekend, but you're breaking it up. I'm a pretty big fan of it. I think that they'll continue to improve on it and learn from this year and then be able to apply more things to it." Last weekend's event at Bristol helped fuel discussion about potentially reducing the number of scheduled laps in the hopes of creating more intense racing -- not just on the XFINITY circuit but in all three NASCAR national series. JR Motorsports' Justin Allgaier , who was one of four eligible Dash 4 Cash drivers last weekend, said he saw some validity to that theory, but that he expected more to be learned as the four-race series unfolds. "Obviously as racers, we're competitive, we want to win races and we'll run as many laps as the sanctioning body or the fans will allow us to run. If you told us it was 1,000 laps, we'd go run it. But at the same time to keep our fans engaged and to keep us moving forward as a sport, is this the right philosophy? Did we do a good job? I think that as we get through these four races, we're going to see a lot clearer picture of it. But I definitely give kudos to NASCAR, to Comcast XFINITY , everybody here. There was a lot of give and take to make sure these came off well, and I think so far we've done a good job of that."