NASCAR simplifies manufacturer points system
Scoring will mirror system used for drivers for all three national series
Stewart would consider substitute role in '17
RELATED: Pictures of 'Smoke' through the years Tony Stewart said Friday that he's completely content with Jeff Gordon 's return taking away some of the spotlight on his final scheduled start at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. In fact, he said if the situation arose, he'd be open to a similar substitute role for his Stewart-Haas Racing team after his full-time career ends. Stewart, 45, is set for what should be his last race on the historic 2.5-mile track in Sunday's Crown Royal Presents The Combat Wounded Coalition 400 at the Brickyard (3 p.m. ET, NBCSN, IMS, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio). The event dovetails with Gordon emerging from retirement this weekend to substitute for Dale Earnhardt Jr. as he recovers from concussion-like symptoms. When Stewart was asked whether he and co-owner Gene Haas had discussed a similar contingency plan after his full-time driving days end this season, the three-time NASCAR champion said he was open to the idea. "We never thought of that, but actually it's something that I've thought about since the talk came about Jeff getting back in the car," said Stewart, a two-time Indy winner in NASCAR competition. "We don't have a feeder system , we don't have an XFINITY team, we don't have anybody who's in our system to bring up if that is the case. We'll talk about it, I'm sure, at some point. I'm definitely open to this scenario if it were to happen down the road and we needed somebody. I definitely would be open to what Jeff's doing this weekend." &lt;/p&gt;
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
Stewart open to being a fill-in driver after retirement
Tony Stewart talks about his willingness to be a substitute driver in the future after he has retired.
Gordon: 'I was asked to drive Tony Stewart's car in Daytona'
Jeff Gordon talks to the media at Indianapolis Motor Speedway about being asked to fill-in for an injured Tony Stewart for the DAYTONA 500.
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.
Chase Elliott tops final New Hampshire practice
RELATED: Final practice results " Practice 2 results Rookie Chase Elliott zipped to the top spot in final NASCAR Sprint Cup Series practice at New Hampshire Motor Speedway. Elliott guided the Hendrick Motorsports No. 24 Chevrolet to a best lap of 131.347 mph in the 55-minute final prep session for Sunday's New Hampshire 301 (1:30 p.m. ET, NBCSN, PRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio). The 20-year-old driver will be making his first Sprint Cup start Sunday on the 1.058-mile track. Denny Hamlin , a two-time New Hampshire winner, turned the second-fastest lap at 131.302 mph in the Joe Gibbs Racing No. 11 Toyota. He was just ahead of JGR teammate Matt Kenseth , another two-time winner in the Granite State who clocked the third-best lap at 131.044 mph in the No. 20 Toyota. Kevin Harvick , the top points-earner in the Sprint Cup Series this season, was fourth-fastest in final practice at 130.941 mph in the Stewart-Haas Racing No. 4 Chevy. Defending race winner Kyle Busch landed the fifth-fastest lap in the Joe Gibbs Racing No. 18 Toyota at 130.891 mph. Jimmie Johnson , who will start first in Sunday's 301-lapper after securing the Coors Light Pole Award in Friday qualifying, was seventh-fastest in the Hendrick Motorsports No. 48 Chevrolet. Alex Bowman , the replacement driver this weekend for Dale Earnhardt Jr. as he recovers from concussion-like symptoms, registered the 22nd-fastest lap in the Hendrick Motorsports No. 88 Chevrolet. Sunday's event, the first of two New Hampshire stops for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series this season, is the 19th of 36 points-paying races this year. Edwards edges ahead in second practice " Results It was a Joe Gibbs Racing parade at the top of the board with the race team taking the top three spots in the first of two Saturday practices for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series at New Hampshire Motor Speedway. Carl Edwards (No. 19 Toyota) paced the 55-minute session with a fast lap of 131.456 mph, with his JGR teammates Denny Hamlin (131.284 mph, No. 11 Toyota) and Matt Kenseth (131.193 mph, No. 20 Toyota) taking second and third in the session, respectively. Kevin Harvick (No. 4 Stewart-Haas Racing Chevrolet) and Sunoco Rookie of the Year contender Chase Elliott (No. 24 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet) completed the top five with fast laps of 130.914 mph and 130.855 mph, respectively. Defending race winner Kyle Busch (No. 18 Toyota) made it four-for-four for JGR cars in the top 10 as he posted the seventh-fastest lap. Jimmie Johnson (No. 48 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet) came in 14th in the session a day after scoring his first Coors Light Pole Award of 2016. Alex Bowman , who is filling in for Dale Earnhardt Jr. in the No. 88 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet this weekend, placed 24th. Earnhardt is out for Sunday's New Hampshire 301 (1:30 p.m. ET, NBCSN, PRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio) with concussion-like symptoms.
Bowman on replacing Junior: Chance of a lifetime
LOUDON, N.H. -- Alex Bowman recently got perhaps the most important phone call of his career. And he sent it to voicemail. It was No. 88 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet crew chief Greg Ives on the horn, calling to see if the 23-year-old could fill in for Dale Earnhardt Jr. -- battling concussion symptoms -- this weekend at New Hampshire Motor Speedway. "Yeah, it's been a crazy 12 hours for sure," Bowman said Friday at the track. "I think the first time Greg called me I was at work, so I didn't even answer. But it's definitely not the circumstances that I want to get an opportunity like this. "... Obviously I'm hoping Dale feels better, but at the same time it's the best opportunity I've ever had in my life. I'm ready to just plug into their program and do my job. I'll give them the best feedback I can and go from there. I'm really confident in the whole team. Obviously they bring great race cars to the track every weekend, so if I just do my job I feel like we would be good to plug into it." Bowman will take over the reins of the No. 88 in Sunday's New Hampshire 301 (1:30 p.m. ET, NBCSN, PRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio) for a one-race shot in the Sprint Cup Series, his first start of the year after back-to-back full slates in 2014 and 2015. Should Earnhardt need another week to recover, HMS officials noted that recently retired four-time champion Jeff Gordon would be behind the wheel at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. RELATED: Gordon in at Indy if Junior can't drive The young, talented Bowman is a part of Earnhardt's JR Motorsports stable, taking on a nine-race stint in the XFINITY Series in the No. 88 Camaro. His rapport with the organization -- his four straight top-10 finishes so far this year probably didn't hurt either -- made the decision a near lock. "Dale and Greg and I felt like Alex (Bowman) was the right person," said Doug Duchardt, Hendrick Motorsports General Manager. "He's run the XFINITY car. He's done a good job in that car. He is part of the JR Motorsports system and part of our system . And so, Greg reached out to Alex. Alex came in Tuesday night to get fitted for the car." For Bowman, the once highly touted prospect whose career took a detour after losing his Sprint Cup ride in January -- and finding out about it on Twitter, no less -- it's another positive opportunity that comes via Earnhardt, albeit in an unfortunate way this time around. After the Arizona native learned he was jobless in late January, Earnhardt stepped in to work with Bowman to come up with a partial XFINITY Series schedule for the driver after he ran two races for the organization in 2014. While those two races didn't result in spectacular finishes (12th at Charlotte, 17th at Phoenix in the No. 5), it paid off for JRM in 2016, as Bowman now sports a sterling 6.25 average finish through four races. "I think I can really thank Dale, Jr. for saving my career two years ago pretty much, with those two XFINITY races at Charlotte and Phoenix, and then for the opportunity to run nine races this year with him," said Bowman, who placed 13th in the first practice session Friday with a best speed of 132.172 mph. "Obviously, we have been knocking on the door to get some wins and it has been a lot of fun. "He has been a good friend to me. He has been somebody that I can lean on all the time. Obviously, I hate to see him not feeling well. That was my first thought, but he has done a lot for my career and I couldn't be any more thankful than I am. I owe him a lot. It's just been an honor to get the phone call to fill in for him." &lt;/p&gt;