On the track, it’s on to Talladega Superspeedway, as the second half of the post-season Chase kicks off with Sunday’s Hellmann’s 400. The twelve remaining title contenders are traveling along a path that will ultimately lead to a championship for one with 1,576.08 “Miles-2-Miami” left before Ford Championship Weekend in November … and elimination for four others after Sunday’s race. Recent wins by Chevrolet drivers Jimmie Johnson and Kevin Harvick have moved them into the next round. Joey Logano and Austin Dillon are presently tied for the final transfer spot into the Round of Eight that opens October 30th at Martinsville Speedway.
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Next stop, Charlotte Motor Speedway for Sunday night’s Coca-Cola 600, which marks the halfway point of the 2016 regular season. Martin Truex Junior will start the four hundred-lap marathon from the pole position after topping Thursday night’s qualifying session with a lap of 192.328 miles per hour in the Number-78 Furniture Row Racing Toyota. He’ll share the front row with Joey Logano, who was second-quick at 192.007 miles per hour. Ricky Stenhouse Junior qualified third with Denny Hamlin and Brad Keselowski – Logano’s Team Penske teammate – rounding out the top five. Defending race winner Carl Edwards will start ninth. It’s Truex’s ninth career pole and second this season. He qualified Number-1 at Kansas Speedway earlier this month and finished fourteenth in the Go Bowling 400.
The pole sitter has won the “Six Hundred” just twice over the last seventeen years, both times by Jimmie Johnson – in 2004 and 2014 … Earlier on Thursday, Kurt Busch led opening practice with Johnson, Edwards, Kevin Harvick and Kyle Larson filling positions two through five. Kyle Busch had the best average speed over ten consecutive laps at 185.465 miles per hour … Logano is hoping to complete a sweep of the May events in Charlotte. He won last weekend’s All-Star Race.
The last driver to win both in the same season is Kurt Busch in 2010.
Kyle Busch stormed past race leader Martin Truex Junior thirty-three laps from the finish and kept his Number-18 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota in front the rest of the way to claim his second victory of the season on Saturday night at Texas Motor Speedway. Busch led only thirty-four laps, but that included the ones that counted most as he beat runner-up Dale Earnhardt Junior to the checkered flag by four seconds. Joey Logano finished third with Jimmie Johnson and Hendrick Motorsports rookie Chase Elliott completing the top five.
Truex faded to sixth after his crew elected to bypass a final pit stop for fresh tires while other contenders – Busch included – got new rubber. Truex started third and led a race-high 141 laps in his failed bid for victory Number-1 of 2016. Carl Edwards started from the pole and was strong throughout the first half of the race, leading a total of 124 laps en route to a seventh-place finish.
With the win, Busch assures himself of a spot in this year’s Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup with an opportunity to defend his 2015 championship. It was the second straight weekend sweep for Busch, who won Friday night’s X-FINITY Series race on the Fort Worth oval after claiming Sprint Cup and Camping World Truck Series victories at Martinsville Speedway one weekend earlier. Saturday’s win lifted Busch from third to first in the Cup Series standings, now six points ahead of Johnson and seven up on Kevin Harvick.
Busch’s victory gave Toyota its first Sprint Cup win at T-M-S since he was victorious in this event in 2013 … The race included seventeen lead changes among eight drivers. There were seven cautions for forty-one laps, including a thirteen-car accident along the backstretch less than forty laps from the finish.
The Jimmie Johnson Foundation announced Wednesday that it has raised nine hundred thousand dollars through its annual golf tournament and related
events held this week at Torrey Pines Golf Course in La Jolla, California. Tuesday night’s dinner and auction preceded Wednesday’s golf outing. In nine years, the tournament has raised more than five-point-six million dollars for the “Champion’s Grant” program – a partnership between Johnson’s foundation and long-time NASCAR sponsor Lowe’s.
Grants range from twenty-five thousand to one hundred thousand dollars and are distributed to public schools in Chandra and Jimmie Johnson’s respective hometowns in Oklahoma and California, in addition to North Carolina – where they currently reside.
Jimmie Johnson easily managed three late restarts that helped send the race past its scheduled distance Sunday afternoon at Dover International Speedway, driving away to his series-leading fourth win of the season. It’s also the six-time champion’s tenth victory on “The Monster Mile,” easily topping the track’s all-time win list. Among active drivers, Jeff Gordon is second with five.
Johnson beat runner-up Kevin Harvick to the checkered flag by a half-second with Kyle Larson, Kasey Kahne and Aric Almirola completing the top five. Johnson started fourteenth and led just once all day – the final twenty-three laps in the Number-48 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet. Johnson’s seventy-fourth career Cup Series victory lifted him from fifth to third in the 2015 regular-season standings. He trails leader Harvick by seventy-six points.
Martin Truex Junior led a race-high 131 laps and finished sixth to maintain his hold on second place. He’s forty-four points off the pace heading into the next race next weekend in Pocono, Pennsylvania … With the win, Johnson becomes the first driver with back-to-back victories in Dover’s springtime Cup Series race since Hall of Famer Bobby Allison won two straight in 1982 and 1983.
Chevrolet claimed the top four finishing positions in Sunday’s race and eight of the top ten. The only non-Chevy cars in the top ten were Almirola’s Ford and Clint Bowyer’s Toyota, which placed ninth.
Sunday’s race included fifteen lead changes among nine drivers. There were seven cautions for forty laps.
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