Next Stop is Pocono Raceway for Sunday’s Pennsylvania 400. With just six events remaining in the regular season, defending race winner Matt Kenseth is one of five drivers who’ve clinched spots on The Chase Grid – joining Kyle Busch, Carl Edwards, Jimmie Johnson and Brad Keselowski in the sixteen-driver title field. Those five account for fourteen wins through the first twenty races of the year … Kevin Harvick, Kurt Busch, Joey Logano, Martin Truex Junior, Denny Hamlin and Tony Stewart have one win apiece – leaving five post-season spots available based on the point standings. Kyle Larson currently holds a ten-point lead over Kasey Kahne in the fight for what would be the final “playoff” spot.
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Kyle Busch made NASCAR history with his dominating performance at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway winning the Crown Royal 400 at the Brickyard Sunday afternoon. Busch’s bid for history started Saturday when he won the NASCAR Xfinity Series Lilly Diabetes 250 from the pole leading all but one lap in the sixty-lap main event. Taking the green flag on the pole Sunday afternoon was the next step. History would be made three hours later when Kyle Busch took the checkered flag and became the first driver in NASCAR history to sweep a weekend’s races from the pole position. However, the win was not without a little late race drama as the Joe Gibbs Racing driver had to survive several late race restarts including the first double overtime since NASCAR’s new rules went into effect this year. Matt Kenseth restarted on the outside of Busch on the final restart but quickly settled into the runner-up position to give JGR a one-two finish. Jimmie Johnson battled back from an early speeding penalty to finish third. Denny Hamlin and Kyle Larson rounded out the top-5. In his final race at the speedway, Tony Stewart raced up front in the early portion of the race. A pit road speeding penalty that put him a lap down looked to spoil the Columbus, Indiana native’s last race at his “home track.” Stewart battled back to finish eleventh and took a special lap around the track with Jeff Gordon, who finished thirteenth filling in for Dale Earnhardt Jr., saluting the fans on their final race at the famed speedway together. The race featured four lead changes among three drivers and eight cautions for thirty-four laps.
Jimmie Johnson has joined Greg Biffle, Brad Keselowski, Martin Truex Junior, Carl Edwards, Joey Logano, Austin Dillon, Kyle and Kurt Busch, and rookie Chase Elliott on the list of drivers newly eligible for next year’s Sprint Unlimited non-points special event as a result of their qualifying efforts in 2016. The non-points special event features pole winners from the previous season and traditionally kicks off Speedweeks at Daytona International Speedway. Johnson earned the Number-1 starting spot for this past weekend’s race in New Hampshire with a lap of 133.971 miles per hour. He finished twelfth in Sunday’s race … Next stop in the Sprint Cup Series is this coming Sunday’s Crown Royal 400 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
A number of NASCAR Sprint Cup teams took part in a two-day organizational test at Indianapolis Motor Speedway on Tuesday and Wednesday. The test was in advance of the Crown Royal presents the Wounded Warrior Coalition 400 to be held on July 24. Jimmie Johnson, Kyle Larson, and Kevin Harvick were among those at the test that were consistently fast in each of the sessions. Two sessions were held on Tuesday, with teams working through the lunch break Wednesday due to a threat of weather in the area. Matt Kenseth who was second quickest in the opening session on Tuesday noted that the tire fall off was significant with the new lower downforce package being used this season and expected that fall off to translate to good racing. Others taking part in the test included Paul Menard, Joey Logano, Brian Scott, Chris Buescher, Trevor Bayne, Ryan Blaney and Martin Truex Jr. AJ Allmendinger and his No. 47 JTG Daugherty Racing team were originally scheduled to attend the test, but following two incidents on Saturday night in Kentucky that injured Allmendinger’s hand, the team passed on attending the test. Allmendinger has been cleared to return to NASCAR competition following an X-ray on Monday.
Brad Keselowski led a race-high 115 laps on Saturday night at Daytona International Speedway, including the final seventeen, to claim his twentieth career victory and third this season. The final caution period forced the race one lap past its scheduled distance. On the restart, Keselowski darted away from the field and beat runner-up Kyle Busch to the checkered flag by fifteen one-hundredths of a second. Trevor Bayne finished third with Joey Logano fourth and Ricky Stenhouse Junior fifth. Fords claimed four of the five top finishing positions with Busch’s Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota the only “outsider” among them. Pole sitter Greg Biffle led just one lap and finished eighth in the forty-car field.
Keselowski started fifth in his Number-2 Team Penske Ford, took his first lead nine laps into the race and ran steadily in the top five throughout the night. His three wins tie Busch for the series lead as drivers start thinking about seeding for the post-season Chase that begins in two-and-a-half months … Saturday’s race included five cautions, most notably for a massive crash that gobbled up half the field early in the second half of the race.
The twenty-two-car melee was triggered when Jamie McMurray brushed teammate Kyle Larson and then went up the track across the nose of Jimmie Johnson’s Chevrolet. Dale Earnhardt Junior and Kevin Harvick were among those victimized. Earnhardt was able to complete the race and finished twenty-first. Harvick could not and he placed thirty-ninth, watching his regular-season points lead shrink to fourteen over Keselowski – who advanced from fourth to second in the standings with nine races remaining before the Chase opens.
Three NASCAR Sprint Cup Series crew chiefs were fined and suspended with Brian Pattie getting hit the hardest with a two-race suspension and a $50,000 fine.
Pattie, crew chief for Greg Biffle and the No. 16 team, which was also assessed with the loss of 15 championship owner and 15 championship driver points, was issued a P3 penalty after violating sections 12-1; 20.4.1; 20.4.2 a,b,c; 220.127.116.11.1 c of the NASCAR Rule Book – illegal body measurements.
With the penalty, Biffle drops from 23rd to 24th in the standings.
Randall Burnett (crew chief for AJ Allmendinger) and Tony Gibson (crew chief for Kurt Busch) were each suspended one race (P3) and fined $20,000 after violating 10.11.3.4 a of the Rule Book, which states: “All tires, and wheels, and all five lug nuts must be installed in a safe and secure manner at all times during the Event.”
All three crew chiefs were placed on NASCAR probation through Dec. 31, including Tony Stewart’s crew chief Mike Bugarewicz after he was issued a P2 penalty for violating sections 20.4 b; 20. 4.2 a; 12.1; 18.104.22.168.2 d of the Rule Book in pre-race inspection – body design and surface conformance.
NASCAR also issued written warnings in Wednesday’s Penalty Report to the team’s of Paul Menard, Matt Kenseth, Aric Almirola, Jimmie Johnson and Dale Earnhardt Jr.
Menard will lose 15 minutes of practice time at Pocono Raceway after the team failed template inspection three times in pre-qualifying.
With his victory in Saturday night’s Sprint All-Star Race, Team Penske’s Joey Logano will now look to join a fairly exclusive group of NASCAR drivers with another victory this coming weekend in the Coca-Cola 600.
Since 1985, the first year of the All-Star Race, just seven drivers have won both events in the same season: Davey Allison, Dale Earnhardt, Jeff Gordon, Jimmie Johnson, Kasey Kahne, Darrell Waltrip and Kurt Busch – the last driver to do it, in 2010. Logano tops the preliminary entry list for NASCAR’s longest race that also includes defending winner Carl Edwards and regular-season points leader Kevin Harvick.
Last year, Denny Hamlin finished eighth in his bid to sweep the two May races at C-M- S.
Joey Logano chased race leader Kyle Larson down in the late stages of the final segment Saturday at Charlotte Motor Speedway, grabbing his final lead of the night just two laps from the finish and keeping the Number-22 Ford in front the rest of the way to notch his first victory in the annual non-points special event. Brad Keselowski finished second, giving Team Penske a one-two sweep in the race – which featured a new format that included mandatory pit stops within a prescribed period of time that left many competitors confused and uncertain of what was unfolding.
In a random draw before the night’s final thirteen-lap segment, it was revealed that the top eleven drivers would have to pit for four tires while the remainder of the field would remain on the track on old rubber. Kyle Busch and Jimmie Johnson restarted on the front row for the final segment but on worn tires, they were no match for competitors who clearly benefitted from the four-tire pit stop. Larson quickly moved into the lead and held the top spot until Logano’s late charge to victory. Larson brushed the outside wall while racing hard with Logano and slipped to sixteenth place at the finish.
Larson and Carl Edwards each won one of the two fifty-lap segments that preceded the final dash to the checkered flag, which netted Logano a one-million-dollar payday. Keselowski led a race-high thirty-nine laps en route to his runner-up finish. Dale Earnhardt Junior placed third with Edwards and Kurt Busch completing the top five.
Matt Kenseth held off a late charge from Kyle Larson on Sunday afternoon at Dover International Speedway to claim his first victory of the season, capping Toyota’s weekend sweep of all three races at “The Monster Mile.” Matt Crafton won Friday’s Camping World Truck Series race and Erik Jones followed with a victory in Saturday’s X-FINITY Series event. Kenseth led the final forty-seven laps on Sunday, nipping Larson at the checkered flag by eighteen one-hundredths of a second. It’s his thirty-seventh career victory and third at Dover. Kenseth’s last Cup Series win had come in New Hampshire last fall, twenty races ago. He started tenth on Sunday and led briefly during the first half of the race before taking control down the stretch.
The race was red-flagged for more than eleven minutes after Jimmie Johnson’s transmission failure triggered an eighteen-car accident along the frontstretch less than fifty laps from the finish. Johnson, at the front of the field on a restart, could not get his car into third gear and up to speed. Martin Truex Junior drove into the rear of Johnson’s Chevrolet and the contact sent cars spinning across the track. Attrition left just fourteen cars running on the lead lap at the finish, a season low in the Sprint Cup Series. Larson led eighty-five laps en route to his second-place finish.
Rookie Chase Elliott ran third with Kasey Kahne and Kurt Busch completing the top five. Pole sitter Kevin Harvick led a race-high 117 laps, all in the first half, before fading to fifteenth place – enough to keep him atop the regular-season point standings.
On the track, the next stop is Kansas Speedway for Saturday night’s Go Bowling 400, the eleventh race of the 2016 Sprint Cup Series. It’s the season’s fourth visit to a mile-and-a-half oval and there have been three different winners so far: Kyle Busch in Texas, Brad Keselowski at Las Vegas and Jimmie Johnson in Atlanta.
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