Teams beat the weather to test at Chicagoland
Weather concerns forced NASCAR Sprint Cup Series teams to cram two days of testing into a single day Tuesday at Chicagoland Speedway as they prepare for the upcoming Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup 's opening race next month. The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 400 is scheduled for Sunday, Sept. 18 (2:30 p.m. ET, NBCSN, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio). The organizational test, which permits one team per organization to participate, was originally scheduled for Tuesday and Wednesday. Stewart-Haas Racing driver Kevin Harvick , the 2014 series champion, recorded the top lap time during Tuesday's day-long test with the No. 4 Chevrolet circling the 1.5-mile track in 29.147 seconds (185 mph). Defending series champion Kyle Busch had the second best lap in No. 18 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota at 29.24 seconds (184.6 mph) while Ryan Blaney ( Wood Brothers Racing No. 21 Ford) and Ryan Newman ( Richard Childress Racing No. 31 Chevrolet) had the third and fourth quickest times, respectively. Fourteen teams took part in the test. Harvick completed 222 laps, most among those taking part in the test, while Busch logged 214 according to NASCAR timing and scoring data. "We haven't won here in a few years but I think the performance has been fine over the past two or three years," Harvick, winner of the first two Sprint Cup races hosted by the track," said Tuesday. "I'm looking forward to coming back; it's a fun race track just for the fact that you can move around and run all around the race track. That's really the hardest part about today, it's hard to gather a lot of … confirmed information (because) you have to get enough rubber from the bottom to the top of the track to see where everything actually is." Joey Logano finished sixth in last year's Chase opener at Chicago. It's a race that sets the tone for the 10-race playoff, the driver of the Team Penske No. 22 Ford said. "A lot on the line here and you always want to start off the Chase on a good note and have a lot of momentum leaving Chicago," Logano said. "So far so good. … "This is a great track; to me it almost acts like a small Fontana for us. You can run anywhere you want on the race track, its got a lot of speed and it's bumpy. Its got a ton of character." One more organizational test remains for NASCAR Sprint Cup Series teams, scheduled for Oct. 18-19 at Homestead Miami Speedway. While Sprint Cup teams were testing at Chicagoland, several Camping World Truck Series teams were busy at New Hampshire Motor Speedway Monday and Tuesday. Kyle Busch Motorsports teammates William Byron, Christopher Bell and Cody Coughlin , along with Kaz Grala (GMS Racing) and Stewart Friesen (Halmar Racing) were on hand to test in preparation for the Truck Series' opening Chase race, the UNOH 175 (Sept. 24, 1 p.m. ET, FS1, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio). "This is one of my favorite race tracks," Byron, the series' points leader and winner of five races this season, said. "I won here in the K&N Series last year so think I have a lot of confidence here. "It's good to come back with a truck; it handles totally different but it's the same race track. I'm trying to use some of the things I learned last year and hopefully make that apply for when we come back in the Chase." The inaugural Chase in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series begins at New Hampshire and will feature a field of eight drivers competing for the 2016 championship.
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."
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
NASCAR, Microsoft unveil new race management app
SONOMA, Calif. -- What better place to talk technology than Sonoma Raceway, which is nestled in wine country less than 100 miles from Silicon Valley and the epicenter for many of the country's top minds in the field of computer sciences. So perhaps it was no coincidence that NASCAR and Microsoft debuted their first race management app on Friday and that it will be in use this weekend for the Toyota - Save Mart 350 (Sunday, 3 p.m. ET, FS1, PRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio). Steve O'Donnell, NASCAR executive vice president and chief racing development officer, and Microsoft's Mike Downey, the principle architect of the app, were on hand to unveil the new technology during a presentation that lasted about 30 minutes. It's the latest in an ongoing relationship between the sport and the technology leader that has grown steadily in recent years. "NASCAR has really put an emphasis, especially over the last 18 months, on technology and new technology and how we can bring things more quickly to the fans, really put them inside the driver's seat," O'Donnell said. "But equally as important is how we can work together to be more efficient from a governing standpoint, especially when it comes to race control." By bringing six different data categories, such as historical data, timing and scoring , pit road officiating, video replay and car positioning, into one app, O'Donnell said it would allow race directors to relay messages to teams more quickly than the current system where data is analyzed on multiple screens from multiple feeds. Information can be gleaned during the race as well as immediately afterward, so the goal, at least from a competition standpoint, is that the decisions in what is perhaps the fastest of fast-moving sports can be made more quickly. For example, if there's a violation on pit road, NASCAR officials will be able to cut video and send it to the teams, along with a message. This would replace today's method of relaying the message over the airwaves. NASCAR is counting on this being a more accurate and efficient way to deliver their in-race messages. The Microsoft Race Management App was built with Windows 10 leveraging the Microsoft Azure platform and the technology giant worked with NASCAR in order to get the look and feel, and practical usage, right. As with most technology, this is version 1.0 and both NASCAR and Microsoft expect improvements to be made after the app takes its opening laps at Sonoma . "This first phase is around consolidating operations and systems like this, collecting more information," Downey said. "As we go forward, we want to help NASCAR better utilize that information that we are helping them collect. … So this is really the first of a multi-staged approach to use data to better inform how NASCAR both runs their races and how they tune their races to create an even better product for their fans." Microsoft and NASCAR introduced a mobile inspection application in late 2014 that took that process from being paper-driven into the digital age. And now the race management app is taking the sport's technology to the next level.
NASCAR Next's Alon Day has strong showing at Mid-Ohio
RELATED: Mid-Ohio results LEXINGTON, Ohio -- For Alon Day, sitting next to race runner-up Sam Hornish Jr . in a post-race press conference was a thrill. Day received congratulations from one of his "childhood heroes" after a 13th-place finish in his NASCAR national series debut in the XFINITY Series' Mid-Ohio Challenge Saturday at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course . The NASCAR Next driver was the first Israeli driver to make a NASCAR national series start as well. The 24-year-old turned plenty of heads with a lengthy amount of time in the top 10 during a wet race at Mid-Ohio. The No. 40 MBM Motorsports Dodge had a best finish of 30th this year at Talladega coming into Mid-Ohio, something that was not lost on Day. "When the deal came, they told me you were going to drive the No. 40 car," Day said. " ... My expectation wasn't that high to be honest. I said if I would finish like 25th, I'd be super happy with that and to find myself fighting for the lead, that's not bad." In road racing, it's been said that rain is the great equalizer. Day, for one, was excited by that prospect -- so much so that it came in conversation with Hornish earlier in the week. "He said the other day, 'I want it to rain,' " Hornish shared. "I said, " 'Be careful what you wish for.' " The wet weather, though, proved beneficial for Day, who started 22nd. A caution for weather came out quickly, leading teams to pit for rain tires on Lap 3. "The moment the rain hit, I realized we were going to change to rain tires," Day said. "I knew I had the speed to attack as soon as possible. Just on the first restart, I began attacking immediately. "I knew some guys would be a bit slow on the rain. I have some experience in the rain in Europe, we're used to driving in the rain all the time. I'm really happy. (You) can't imagine how excited I am sitting here." Day has honed his skills in the NASCAR Whelen Euro Series, scoring a second-place overall in the championship run for the 2015 season. He has raised his game in 2016 in that series with two wins and four top-fives, en route to becoming the first driver outside of North America to be selected to NASCAR Next. Day is set to drive for MBM again at another road course, Road America , on Aug. 27 (3 p.m. ET, NBCSN, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio) and hopes to do more beyond that. "We expect to do five more races but it all depends on sponsorship and finding the budget," Day said.
Justin Marks nabs first XFINITY win at rainy Mid-Ohio
RELATED: Full race results " Chase Grid " Updated standings LEXINGTON, Ohio -- Not even a caution with four laps remaining in Saturday's Mid-Ohio Challenge could detour road course expert Justin Marks from scoring his first career NASCAR XFINITY Series victory at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course . Marks, driver of the No. 42 Katerra Chevrolet Camaro, withstood a rain-soaked challenge from Sam Hornish Jr on the final restart, but Marks showcased his road racing skills when it counted most and stretched his lead to 3.7 seconds when the checkered flag flew. "These are as tough conditions as you can put drivers in," said Marks from a makeshift Victory Lane. "It's just really hard on everybody when it's dry and wet and you don't really know what to do, so strategy plays a big role in it. You know, my specialty is road racing in the rain in these stock cars and I don't get much of an opportunity to do it so when that opportunity presents itself, you have to really take advantage of it and I about threw it away today. "I knew if the race ended in the rain that we would have a real shot at winning it. I wish my family was here. I'm just really happy." Marks dedicated the win to former Chip Ganassi Racing driver Bryan Clauson who passed away last Sunday night from injuries in a sprint car accident during the Belleville Midget Nationals in Kansas. "Bryan's short career in stock car racing came with Chip Ganassi Racing , so it's great to be able to put this thing in Victory Lane to honor him and think about him," added Marks. "He's a real American hero race car driver. Bryan was. They don't make them like that anymore." RELATED: Drivers share thoughts, memories of Bryan Clauson Hornish in a limited schedule driving the No. 2 Rheem Chevrolet Camaro for Richard Childress Racing settled for second. "All in all, a good day for the Rheem Chevrolet," he said. "My hat's off to Justin Marks . I generally held myself as a pretty decent rain racer and even given the opportunity there at the end, I couldn't do anything with him. I would have had to take massive chances with our car to be able to do anything and you still gotta pass him to keep up with him. "I'm proud of what the guys gave me on the No. 2 car today. I wish we would have gotten a little more out of it. In the dry, I feel like we could win, but Justin just went out there and was just a monster in the wet." Hornish won the pole on Friday in dry conditions, but as the field took the green at the 2.258-mile, 13-turn road course, Mother Nature moved in and sent the team to pit road for an optional change of tires from slicks to wets on Lap 3. Joe Gibbs Racing 's Owen Kelly , in his XFINITY Series return, took the lead on the restart, but spun shortly thereafter in Turn 6 sending Hornish back to the top spot. Hornish, however, would get his first glimpse of Marks on Lap 12 when the Chip Ganassi Racing driver took the lead for the first time. The Rocklin, California, native would maintain the lead through the halfway point where he pitted from the lead, cycling the top spot through a variety of drivers during green flag pit stops, as the race track began to transition back to dry. A Lap 50 caution for debris, however, would be the starting point where the race would set the tone for the closing laps. While under the yellow, the skies opened up, soaking the road course and sending almost all the competitors back to pit road for wet tires and fuel for the end. When the race restarted with 14 laps to go, Darrell Wallace Jr . found himself at the top. But with 12 laps to go, he went off course, giving the lead to Ty Dillon with a stalking Marks behind. With rain continuing to fall, Marks used his experience to close the distance between Dillon and took advantage as Dillon himself went off course on Lap 65, giving the lead back to Marks on Lap 66 and never relinquishing. Next up for the XFINITY Series is its annual summer trip to Bristol Motor Speedway for the running of the Food City 300 (7:30 p.m. ET, USA, PRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio) on Aug. 19. Kyle Busch is the defending champion. Note: NASCAR Next driver Alon Day made his NASCAR XFINITY Series debut on Saturday, finishing 13th. With the start, Day -- who ran as high as third -- became the first driver from Israel to make a NASCAR national series start.
Furniture Row adds Erik Jones to growing team
WATKINS GLEN, N.Y. -- Furniture Row Racing formally introduced young NASCAR star Erik Jones as driver of a second Sprint Cup Series car the team will field in 2017. Jones, 20, spoke with reporters at Watkins Glen International on Sunday morning before the Cheez-It 355 (2:30 p.m. ET, USA, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio). Jones will drive the No. 77 Toyota with sponsorship from 5-hour Energy, and the car was unveiled in the Watkins Glen infield. First look at @erik_jones with the @5hourenergy 77 Toyota Camry! #FurnitureRow #NASCAR #ToyotaNation pic.twitter.com/i8v5Xpc6xV — Furniture Row Racing (@FR78Racing) August 7, 2016 "It's hard to say I'm not excited, but anxious at the same time," Jones said. "Anxious for this day, and excited to be here,. It's pretty cool for me to be partnered up with Furniture Row and be part of them growing and part of 5‑hour, too. To have such a big company like that be partnered with me is pretty cool this early in my racing career and something I've always wanted. Just a good fit all around. "I've had the chance to kind of meet with everybody, get everything lined up, to see it all come together here over the past month or so has been a pretty cool experience for me. Got a lot to do this year yet, but definitely excited for next year." Team owner Barney Visser said that Jones' contract is for one year, and that the team is actively pursuing a Charter for 2017. MORE: Fast facts on Charter system The reigning NASCAR Camping World Truck Series champion, Jones is currently fourth in the XFINITY Series points standings with three victories. He sits first in the NASCAR XFINITY Series Chase Grid. He has three previous Cup starts -- all in Joe Gibbs Racing Toyotas. He filled in one race (Kansas) for an injured Kyle Busch in 2015 and then substituted for a suspended Matt Kenseth at both Texas and Phoenix later in the season. He scored a career best 12th place in Kenseth's No. 20 Toyota at Texas. "I think a day like today, you have to put in perspective," said Toyota Racing Development's General Manager David Wilson. "Think about this. It was less than four years ago that Erik Jones, famously now, beat Kyle Busch in the Snowball Derby super late model race. Last year Erik won his first NASCAR championship with Kyle Busch Motorsports. This year obviously Erik is fighting for an XFINITY Series championship with Joe Gibbs Racing. "So next year for him to ascend to the Cup Series with Furniture Row Racing is a spectacular story. Three different teams in three consecutive years. Toyota is the fortunate and grateful common denominator in that equation." Wilson said he expected Jones to begin sitting in at Toyota Sprint Cup racing briefings this year while the young driver continues to race for the XFINITY Series title. It was a big weekend of news for the Denver-based Furniture Row Racing. The team announced Friday it had re-signed its current driver Martin Truex Jr. to an additional two-year contract that will cover 2018-2019 seasons. Truex advanced to the four-driver championship race at Homestead-Miami Speedway last season, finishing fourth in the final standings. He had a dominating victory from the pole position at Charlotte Motor Speedway this year for the Coca-Cola 600 -- leading 392 of 400 laps -- and is currently ranked eighth in the standings as he prepares for a second championship run. "Obviously they've been working on it for quite a while," Truex said. "I think for us, and the long-term future of our company it's a good thing. It's stability. It's more people, more money coming in. You could probably race two cars cheaper than one as far as per car. Bringing in more sponsorship will help. "I think short term it might be a little more challenging. Our shop isn't real big, not a lot of space. We need to make sure when bringing in more people it doesn't upset the chemistry we've got going on. But Joe (Garone) and (Truex's crew chief) Cole (Pearn) and those guys will make sure they have people who fit into their system and way they do things and won’t upset the apple cart, so to speak. "From Toyota side and JGR side, obviously it's really good for that relationship and anything we can do to keep that going, make that stronger, build that through is going to be good."
Cain: Expansion an important step for Jones, Furniture Row
WATKINS GLEN, N.Y. -- The weekend announcement that up-and-coming star Erik Jones will drive a second Furniture Row Racing car in 2017 was one of the worst-kept secrets in recent big-time NASCAR news. And that's a real compliment to Jones and to the organization. People are intently interested in the championship-worthy team's expansion. All the buzz and grins speak largely about the team's firm place among Sprint Cup Series top shelf. Expansion is a logical next step. And looking around at team executives, its drivers and Toyota bigwigs last weekend at Watkins Glen International when Jones' new No. 77 5-hour Energy Camry was unveiled, there are both high hopes and high expectations. "Today has been a long time coming for Furniture Row Racing ," team owner Barney Visser acknowledged over the weekend. Jones, the 20-year-old reigning Camping World Truck Series champion, currently is contending for the XFINITY Series title with three wins this season while driving a Toyota for Joe Gibbs Racing . His ticket to the Sprint Cup was inevitable. This will be an important step for the young Jones, but also for the Denver-based Furniture Row Racing team that already is hard at work preparing its shop to house and operate a second team -- which, Visser said Wednesday night on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio, may only house Jones for one season. "With how we're running, we will get a very, very good driver after he leaves, if he leaves, and I’m fairly certain he will," Visser said. "We will attract one of the best drivers in the garage for that second slot, I am confident. The cars are just going to be running too well." When asked again about the likelihood of Jones leaving after one year, Visser said: "I think that’s most likely. We're working on that. What I am saying is the team will go on no matter what and people need to understand that when they come looking for jobs." From Toyota's standpoint, at least for 2017, this is as natural an evolution as possible. Jones has been "their guy." Pairing him with veteran Martin Truex Jr ., driver of the team's current No. 78 Toyota, is the right development right now for manufacturer, team and driver. From Toyota's perspective, Jones also is truly the first driver the manufacturer has groomed from development series to big league. "I think it's a great story for Toyota, but probably a greater story for NASCAR and the future of our sport," Toyota Racing Development President David Wilson said at Watkins Glen. "We're all really proud of Erik and think a lot of him not just as a talent, but as a person. "With Erik, obviously he's a rookie and we like the chemistry of having the veteran Martin Truex side-by-side. And the other great thing is we have the Gibbs drivers to lean on. Our intention is Erik will sit in the competition meetings as early as this season and observe and learn. "The point we really wanted to make was for Toyota and for Furniture Row adding an additional team, this isn't a one-year deal. My intention is to run at least six Toyotas in the (Sprint) Cup Series from 2017 running forward." And while initially the expectations will be tightly controlled, below the surface, a real feeling of progress and hope appeared after speaking with the team's executives, and its current championship caliber driver, Truex. "This goes into the very beginning when we started Furniture Row," team president Joe Garone said. "We just gradually have ramped it up and built the relationships that we felt we've needed to be successful. That comes back to Barney's commitment to invest in the team and our sponsors that Barney brought to the team, Denver Mattress and Furniture Row. … To finally get to a platform that will support multiple cars. "It's huge. It's at the sacrifice of a lot of hours and a lot of hard work from a lot of people. We're just really excited to be at this platform right now." Truex, who has qualified for this year's Chase courtesy of one of the most dominating performances in recent years -- he led all but eight laps of the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte -- acknowledged the change in logistics and said, " It's going to be a little more work getting off the ground, but fortunately it's early enough this season to get the cars built and ready for next year." Truex signed a two-year contract extension with the team earlier last week, as well. "The biggest thing is I'm excited for Barney and Furniture Row to grow the program," he said. "It's nice to see the success and him having fun with it and able to expand. Two teams should be a more efficient way of doing business and it should make sure we're around for a long time. "This is no different than the JGR guys welcoming us into the system . We'll all work as one to make our team the best it can be. Erik seems like a great kid and obviously has a lot of talent."
Following Pocono 'big moment,' Buescher steadies Chase focus
RELATED: Standings post-Pocono WATKINS GLEN, N.Y. -- Chris Buescher has seemingly embraced the spoiler role of his upset victory last weekend at Pocono Raceway , saying he's "throwing a wrench at a lot of people's brackets" in the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup playoffs. In the five remaining races that will determine the 16-driver postseason field, though, the 23-year-old rookie has work to do -- namely making up the six-point deficit to reach the required top-30 threshold in the series standings. Before Friday's on-track activity at Watkins Glen International , Buescher said he was confident that he and his Front Row Motorsports No. 34 Ford team could cross the points portion off the checklist. "They are hustling and working extremely hard to make sure we make this Chase," Buescher said about his team's efforts to make the tight turn from weather-delayed Pocono to Watkins Glen ahead of Sunday's Cheez-It 355 at the Glen (2:30 p.m. ET, USA, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio). "We are going to get there. I have a ton of confidence in these guys. I love where our program was heading previous to Pocono. We have been on the right path and we will make up those points." Buescher, last year's XFINITY Series champion, said he hasn't had much chance to celebrate last Monday's surprise win in the Pennsylvania 400, saying that the short week between Pocono and Watkins Glen was consumed by road-racing practice in Utah on Tuesday and making the media rounds with a full schedule of phone interviews the last two days. "It is a really good problem to have," Buescher said. "I killed my phone battery twice in one day, which is a new record for me. It has been wild how everything has played out and I haven't had time for it to settle in and feel like we won a race. It has been so crazy." Though Buescher's performance has lagged behind fellow first-year drivers Chase Elliott and Ryan Blaney this season, his Pocono breakthrough has given him a feather in his cap that his fellow rookies can't claim on their portfolios. His first victory came in his 27th Sprint Cup start, making him the first rookie winner since Joey Logano converted the feat in 2009. Buescher's first full season in NASCAR's premier series coincides with the first year of a technical alliance between Roush Fenway Racing and the Bob Jenkins-owned Front Row organization, a partnership that he hopes pays dividends in the push to the playoffs. In the meantime, the momentum from a maiden trip to Victory Lane can't hurt. "It is just a matter of getting the team jacked up and everybody on the same idea going forward that this is for real, a big moment," Buescher said. "This win with the Chase being the way it is and the point system different from last year in XFINITY , a win basically turns our whole season around. It changes everything. It is no longer one win and you move up a spot or two in points. It is one win and you potentially have a spot in the playoffs of our sport. "We are not there yet because we have to get into that top 30, but with that win it gets everybody excited to get to that point."