NASCAR simplifies manufacturer points system
Scoring will mirror system used for drivers for all three national series
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."
Dusenberry Martin Racing announces NASCAR Heat Evolution
Dusenberry Martin Racing (DMR), NASCAR's exclusive console simulation-style video game licensee, on Friday announced the future of NASCAR gaming in NASCAR Heat Evolution -- launching Sept. 13. Marking the debut of a NASCAR video game series on the PlayStation®4 computer entertainment system and Xbox One, and also arriving on Windows PC, this new title will provide fans with a brand-new and authentic racing experience. NASCAR Heat Evolution will immerse fans in the door-to-door excitement of stock car racing and allow users to live the experience of taking the checkered flag. Whether a casual or hardcore gaming fan, NASCAR Heat Evolution will dynamically adapt to any skill level and deliver a true-to-life racing experience. The new game will feature all of the top drivers, teams, and incredibly detailed tracks and environments, giving fans the opportunity to feel what it is like to be a racing legend. DMR also partnered with Toyota, an Official NASCAR Partner, in a unique video game cover athlete competition. On Friday it was announced the first Toyota driver to cross the start/finish line in the 2016 NASCAR Sprint All-Star Race at Charlotte Motor Speedway will be the cover athlete of NASCAR Heat Evolution . Choosing a cover athlete from an on-track competition is a first in video game history. That honor went to Carl Edwards of Joe Gibbs Racing . Edwards finished fourth in the 113-lap event, ahead of teammates Denny Hamlin (ninth) and Kyle Busch (10th). Martin Truex Jr . and Matt Kenseth were also eligible. NASCAR Heat Evolution will mark the first time Toyota or any of its eligible drivers will be the face of a NASCAR video game. Toyota and DMR are developing an innovative in-game branding partnership that will elevate the racing experience for video game fans. "Our company is a team of highly skilled gaming vertans with a proven record of success in NASCAR game development and publishing. Our commitment to the NASCAR community is to consistently deliver fun, engaging and high-quality NASCAR games to the market," said DMR Chief Executive Officer Tom Dusenberry. DMR, whose licensing agreement with NASCAR Team Properties runs through 2020, partnered with Monster Games to create NASCAR Heat Evolution , bringing more than 100 years of combined NASCAR games experience to the project. DMR President Ed Martin said, "To deliver an all-new NASCAR game experience, we assembled an all-star team of NASCAR game experts and started with a clean sheet of paper. What the DMR and Monster Games teams have come up with is going to amaze NASCAR fans." From the same legendary team that created the critically acclaimed NASCAR titles NASCAR Heat and NASCAR: Dirt to Daytona , Monster Games has a clear vision for NASCAR Heat Evolution . "The Monster Games team is thrilled to partner again with Tom, Ed and the Dusenberry Martin Racing team. We have been working on NASCAR Heat Evolution for 18 months and are excited about what we have created. From day one, our goal has been to deliver a fun, engaging and realistic racing game designed for NASCAR fans," said Monster Games President Richard Garcia. "The gaming space allows fans to consume our sport on a daily basis, ultimately helping grow and diversify our audience," said Blake Davidson, Vice President of Consumer Products and Licensing, NASCAR. "Our fans have eagerly anticipated the arrival of a new NASCAR game, and we expect that NASCAR Heat Evolution will be well worth the wait." Fans that are ready to strap in and feel the adrenaline of a NASCAR racing experience have the opportunity to pre-order NASCAR Heat Evolution now at NASCARHeat.com , GameStop, Target.com, Walmart.com and the PlayStation®Store. NASCAR Heat Evolution will take racing fans to a level of realism, excitement and authenticity that has never been seen on a console before. NASCAR Heat Evolution will be available on September 13, 2016 in North America for the PlayStation®4 system , Xbox One and Windows PC. More information can be found at NASCARHeat.com , with additional details to be released in the coming months. Fans can also follow NASCAR Heat Evolution on Twitter via @DMRNASCARHeat and @DMRacingGames .
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
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."
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."
Albert: A true win-win in Charter system
RELATED: NASCAR announces landmark new ownership structure If there was ever a perfect anecdote to illustrate how hard NASCAR executives and the alliance of Sprint Cup team owners worked to reach their historic Charter agreement this offseason, it's the one provided by Brian France himself. The NASCAR Chairman and CEO offered a glimpse with his Tuesday remarks, providing visions of working the phones on Christmas Eve against the backdrop of gift wrap, trimmed trees and mulled cider. In addition to pushing through the typically sacrosanct time around the holidays, France also navigated around offseason knee surgery to help broker the deal. But a more evident, powerful visual from both sides came during Tuesday's groundbreaking announcement. When the eight representatives -- four from NASCAR's executive board and four from the team ownership group -- took the stage, each sat intermingled across company ranks. No divisions. When the Race Team Alliance formed in July 2014 with the hopes of providing owners a unified voice and a path to a better financial model, France was among the early skeptics, telling SiriusXM NASCAR Radio that he didn't think such a coalition was necessary. A year and a half later and with any battle lines erased, the eight reps sat on stage in harmony -- loose, amiable, and with both sides sharing smiles and the feeling of mutual benefit. "To me, this is the second-most important thing that's ever happened in NASCAR, because now the drivers and owners and stuff now can really work across the aisle," said King Richard Petty, who ranked Tuesday's landmark announcement behind only the meetings that set the foundation for NASCAR's formation in 1947 and '48. "I was telling him a while ago, it's sort of like the Democrats and Republicans, they've been doing their thing, we've been doing our thing, meeting in the middle a little bit. We're getting rid of that. We're all going to be in the middle of the deal now." Based on the newfound collegiality, the Congressional halls in Washington could take a cue from the boardrooms of Charlotte and Daytona Beach. Though both sides had to yield on certain points to reach a compromise, each emerged with a considerable number of positives to create a true win-win scenario from the nine-year agreement. For team owners, the plusses include stability and palpable value for their Charters, an enticing selling point for sponsors. The agreement also provides a share of revenue, which may conceivably help smaller-budget teams reinvest and make modest performance gains on their well-heeled competitors within the Charter system . For NASCAR, the premier stock-car series stands to benefit from seeing its current Charter members thrive, but also in seeing value build for prospective new sponsors and owners. The sanctioning body will retain a firm grasp on its governance of the on-track product, but the newly forged bonds of cooperation and open communication with its team owners should buoy the sport for many years. WATCH: France calls Tuesday a 'historic day in NASCAR' "It's not surprising there were a lot of different opinions, lots of different perspectives expressed during the process," said Roush Fenway Racing president Steve Newmark. "You expect that with the diversity in our sport that we have. There was always an unwavering commitment to a single goal, a single mission. That was to make our sport better and stronger for our fans and partners. That commitment translated into a willingness of everyone involved to pursue and explore a complete paradigm shift in how we operate and to create a much stronger and stable foundation going forward. "If you poll everyone involved in this process, the prevailing sentiment would be the collaborative precedent we set during this process bodes very well for our future." The spirit of collaboration -- with team owners, with tracks in reaching a five-year sanctioning deal last October, and with the drivers' council that was created just last season -- represents a major advancement for NASCAR's brass. It's a reason why France, when asked what his father and predecessor, Bill France Jr., would think about the Charter agreement, politely joked that he'd expect a largely conservative approach. But this isn't your father's NASCAR, or even France's father's NASCAR. That both sides drew inspiration from the ownership models of other professional sports such as the NFL, European soccer and cricket -- cricket! -- rams that point home. NASCAR has long operated under a system with its participants acting as independent contractors. Now team owners can claim a degree of equity for their investment in an expensive sport. "We always have said, because we mean it, that our owners and their success and their viability is very important to us," France said. "That remains true yesterday; it remains true today. But these agreements and this new course that we're on today gives us a chance to really back that up. We get to align our interests in a way we never thought we could. I'm excited about that. We're going to be partners in a different way going forward. I couldn't be more thrilled." France and the team owners may have interrupted their holidays to keep hammering away at negotiations in the face of a hard deadline -- the season-opening Daytona 500 -- looming just several weeks off. The culmination of those efforts made a historic holiday all its own, turning an otherwise ordinary Tuesday in February into a turning point for stock-car racing.
Fast facts about NASCAR's team owner Charter system
RELATED: NASCAR announces landmark new ownership structure NASCAR Chairman & CEO Brian France joined with NASCAR Sprint Cup Series team owners on Tuesday in Charlotte, North Carolina, to announce a landmark long-term agreement on an owner Charter system . The agreement provides teams with an increased business certainty and the ability to work more closely with NASCAR to continue to produce best-in-class racing. Below are fast facts about the comprehensive agreement. • This long-term agreement is for nine years. • There are 36 Charter teams, currently from among 19 organizations. The number 36 was not pre-determined -- NASCAR analyzed which teams showed a long-term commitment to the sport by attempting to qualify every week for the past three years. That criteria yielded 36 Charters. • Because of the above criteria, the following teams do not have Charters: the No. 19 of Joe Gibbs Racing , the No. 21 of Wood Brothers Racing , the No. 41 of Stewart-Haas Racing and the No. 46 of HScott Motorsports . • A Charter guarantees entry into the field of every Sprint Cup Series points race. Qualifying speeds still determine the lineup. • Sprint Cup Series fields will shift from 43 cars to 40 cars. That means 36 Charter teams are guaranteed to make every points race, and four non-Charter (or "open") teams will complete the rest of the field. • Charter owners may transfer their Charter to another team, for one full season, once over the first five years of the agreement. • Charter teams are held to a minimum performance standard. If a Charter team finishes in the bottom three of the owner standings among all 36 Charter teams for three consecutive years, NASCAR has a right to remove the charter. • Teams may sell their Charters on the open market. • Organizations now have a hard cap of four cars; there will be no fifth car for rookie drivers.
Dover extends SAFER barriers, lengthens pit stalls
Photo credit: Dover International Speedway Dover International Speedway announced Monday that it has completed track enhancement projects ahead of this weekend's NASCAR tripleheader, including expanded use of energy-absorbing barriers. The 1-mile Delaware track said that it has added 479 feet of the SAFER (Steel and Foam Energy Reduction) barrier system along the inside retaining wall on the backstretch and into Turn 3. Of that distance, 78 feet was placed along the existing concrete wall with the remaining 401 feet extending a new steel-post wall into the third-turn entrance. The Monster Mile also lengthened pit boxes, removing three stalls to adjust to the new 40-car maximum field size in NASCAR's top two divisions. The alterations expand each pit stall by 2 feet to a length of 34 feet. The stalls remain 16-feet wide. Dover also added 550 feet of new asphalt in the area behind pit road, leading from the start-finish line to the entrance of the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series garage. The track hosts all three NASCAR national series this weekend -- the Camping World Truck Series on Friday, the XFINITY Series on Saturday and the Sprint Cup Series on Sunday.