AAA TEXAS 500: Carl Edwards applied the brakes to Joe Gibbs Racing’s post-season winless streak Sunday night at Texas Motor Speedway, getting a lightning-fast pit stop from his crew and a timely shower from “Mother Nature” to claim victory and secure a spot in the championship race later this month in Miami. As an organization, J-G-R’s four drivers – Edwards, Kyle Busch, Denny Hamlin and Matt Kenseth – combined to win eleven of the twenty-six regular-season races but were oh-for-seven in this year’s Chase heading into Sunday’s race. Rain delayed the start from afternoon to evening and then stopped the race forty-one laps short of its scheduled distance. In between, Joey Logano and Martin Truex Junior combined to lead 244 laps. But Edwards’ pit crew gave him four fresh tires and fuel in under twelve seconds on their final stop of the night less than forty laps from the finish. The Number-19 Toyota was the first car off pit road and it stayed in front the rest of the way to give Edwards his twenty-eighth career victory and fourth on the Fort Worth oval. Logano grabbed second place after leading a race-high 178 laps. Truex was third with rookie Chase Elliott and Busch – the Number-1 seed in the Chase – completing the top five. Pole sitter Austin Dillon led just six laps and was sidelined by an accident late in the race, finishing thirty-seventh in the forty-car field … With the victory, Edwards joins Jimmie Johnson as the first two drivers to clinch berths in The Championship Four. The six other title contenders will be vying for two remaining spots next weekend at Phoenix International Raceway.
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For 2014 Sprint Cup Series champion Kevin Harvick, this year’s post-season has been an up-and-down experience. Sunday afternoon at Kansas Speedway, Harvick was “UP” … charging past race leader Carl Edwards on the day’s final restart and driving off to victory – securing one of the eight spots in the next round of the 2016 Chase. Harvick opened the post-season with a twentieth-place finish last month at Chicagoland Speedway, followed by a victory in New Hampshire. But then, he was slowed by finishes of thirty-seventh and thirty-eighth before Sunday’s return to glory. Harvick now joins Jimmie Johnson as the only two drivers with guaranteed spots in the Round of Eight that opens in two weeks at Martinsville Speedway. Sunday’s margin of victory over runner-up Edwards was one-point-one seconds. Joey Logano … gunning for his second straight victory in the track’s fall Cup Series race … ran third. Johnson, last week’s winner in Charlotte, placed fourth. Kyle Busch, this year’s Number-1 seed in the post-season Chase, completed the top five in his bid for a season sweep on the Kansas City oval, having won there in early May … Pole sitter Matt Kenseth led a race-high 116 laps and finished ninth … Sunday’s race included sixteen lead changes among ten drivers … There were eight cautions for thirty-eight laps … With the 2016 Chase now at its halfway point, three different drivers have won the first five races. Harvick and Martin Truex Junior have two victories apiece with one for Johnson.
Next Stop Kansas Speedway as the post-season Chase hits the halfway mark with Sunday’s Hollywood Casino 400. The twelve remaining title contenders are traveling along a path that will ultimately lead to a championship for one with 1,976.58 “Miles-2-Miami” left before Ford Championship Weekend in November. Chase drivers have won the fall race at Kansas Speedway eight straight years. The last non-title contender to win there was Greg Biffle in 2007. Among full-time Sprint Cup Series drivers, Jimmie Johnson – the Number-8 seed who’s coming off a victory last weekend in Charlotte – tops Kansas Speedway’s win list with three victories, most recently in May 2015 … Entering this weekend, fourth-seeded Kevin Harvick finds himself last in post-season points. If he doesn’t win one of the next two races or climb in the standings, Harvick’s title hopes will end in nine days. He’s currently eight points below the eighth-place cutoff … Martin Truex Junior, the Number-6 seed entering the post-season, has won two of the four Chase races run so far and will be making his four hundredth Cup Series start on Sunday.
The 2016 Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup rolls on from Delaware to North Carolina for Saturday night’s Bank of America 500 at Charlotte Motor Speedway. It’s the opening race in the Round of Twelve, with the remaining drivers on The Chase Grid hoping to avoid elimination when the field is further reduced to eight in three weeks. All twelve drivers have had their championship points reset to three thousand, and any one of the twelve that wins a race in the next three weeks will automatically advance to the Round of Eight that opens October 30th at Martinsville Speedway … Chase drivers have won the fall race at Charlotte in ten of the twelve years the post-season title format has been in place. The only two non-chase drivers to win during that stretch are Jamie McMurray in 2010 and Brad Keselowski in 2013 … Kyle Busch, the top seed in this year’s Chase, has never won a points-paying Cup Series race in Charlotte. He’s been to Victory Lane there a combined fourteen times in the X-FINITY and Camping World Truck Series … Of the drivers still in contention for the 2016 Sprint Cup championship, Jimmie Johnson has the most wins at C-M-S: seven … Martin Truex Junior will roll into Charlotte with a full head of steam, having won two of the three post-season races so far. And, oh by the way … earlier this season, he won the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway after leading all but eight of the four hundred laps run … Truex entered this year’s Chase as the Number-6 seed but ended the first round Number-1.
Kevin Harvick was masterful on the day’s final restart Sunday at New Hampshire Motor Speedway, roaring past race leader Matt Kenseth to claim victory and advance to the next round of the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup. Harvick started nineteenth and led just eight laps all afternoon. But after dispatching Kenseth on the decisive restart, he kept his Number-4 Stewart-Haas Racing Chevrolet in front over the final six circuits to notch his third victory of the season and at the same time, deny Kenseth his third straight win on “The Magic Mile.” Harvick, the Number-4 seed, now joins Martin Truex Junior in the Round of Twelve that opens October 8th in Concord, North Carolina. Kenseth took second place on Sunday, a half-second behind Harvick. Kyle Busch, Brad Keselowski and Kurt Busch completed the top five. Chase drivers filled the top eight spots in the final running order with Kasey Kahne the highest-finishing non-title contender, in ninth place … Carl Edwards started from the pole, led the first thirty laps and finished sixth. Truex dominated the first half of the race, leading 141 of the first 178 laps en route to a seventh-place finish … Keselowski’s fourth-place finish was enough to lift him into the post-season points lead, by one over Truex and two over Kyle Busch … Toyota drivers dominated the day by leading all but twenty of the laps run on the one-mile oval … Sunday’s race included fourteen lead changes among eight drivers.
One week after announcing a new policy of levying potentially stiffer penalties for substantial violations of technical regulations found in post-race inspection, NASCAR officials said Wednesday that the sanctioning body will not penalize Sprint Cup teams for minor infractions discovered during routine post-race laser inspection. Last weekend at Chicagoland Speedway, the cars of race winner Martin Truex Junior and twelfth-place finisher Jimmie Johnson failed post-race inspection by small measurements that were slightly outside approved tolerances. NASCAR said yesterday that it will not penalize those teams, which were among the nine subjected to post-race laser inspection following the opening round of the 2016 Chase … Truex was not the only winning driver whose vehicle failed post-race inspection at Chicagoland. Kyle Busch won the Camping World Truck Series American Ethanol 225, but his Toyota lost in the inspection line afterwards. Laser inspection is not used in the Truck Series, where Busch’s Tundra was found to be too low. Minor penalties were handed down Wednesday, with crew chief Wes Ward fined six thousand dollars and the team docked ten championship points – dropping it from a tie for thirtieth into a tie for thirty-first in the owner standings.
Fans headed to New Hampshire Motor Speedway for this weekend’s Sprint Cup-Camping World Truck Series twin bill will be treated to a pair of post-season races as the title “Chase” picks up steam for twenty-four drivers. Martin Truex Junior won the opening race of the Sprint Cup Chase last weekend at Chicagoland Speedway while some familiar faces are at the bottom of the sixteen-driver field with just two weeks left to stave off elimination. Kevin Harvick, Kyle Larson and rookie Chris Buescher – all race winners during the regular season – hold the last three spots on The Chase Grid … In the Truck Series, eight drivers are poised to embark on the inaugural post-season Chase – with Kyle Busch Motorsports rookie William Byron the top seed. The title field will be trimmed to six following the third race of the opening round on October 22nd at Talladega Superspeedway.
Denny Hamlin took his final lead of the night with seventy-nine laps remaining Saturday at Richmond International Raceway and kept the Number-11 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota in front through six subsequent restarts, closing the regular season with his third victory of the year and securing the Number-3 seed in the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup that opens next weekend at Chicagoland Speedway. Hamlin’s margin of victory over runner-up Kyle Larson was six-tenths of a second. Martin Truex Junior led a race-high 193 laps and nabbed third place with Brad Keselowski and Kevin Harvick completing the top five. Hamlin started from the pole and led 189 laps to give J-G-R a season sweep on the three-quarter-mile Fairgrounds oval. Carl Edwards was victorious in April but finished thirty-second in his bid for back-to-back wins there … With The Chase Grid now filled, championship points have been reset. Keselowski and Kyle Busch are tied at the top by virtue of their four victories during the regular season. Busch gets the Number-1 seed by winning the tiebreaker, which is based on second-place finishes. He has three, Keselowski one. With two wins this year, Harvick – the regular-season points leader – holds the Number-4 seed … The four drivers who went into the weekend holding the final four provisional spots in the Chase – Chris Buescher, rookie Chase Elliott, Austin Dillon and Jamie McMurray – came out of the weekend with their post-season tickets punched after finishing among the top twenty-five in the forty-car field.
Next Stop… Richmond International Raceway for the Sprint Cup Series’ final race of the regular season, Saturday night’s Federated Auto Parts 400. Thirteen drivers have won races this season, led by Kyle Busch and Brad Keselowski – who have four victories apiece. Rookie Chase Elliott and Austin Dillon currently hold provisional Chase berths based on the regular-season standings with Jamie McMurray leading Ryan Newman by twenty-two points in the fight for the final “playoff” spot. The Chase opens September 18th at Chicagoland Speedway … Roush Fenway Racing’s Greg Biffle will be making his five hundredth career start in Saturday’s race. He’s winless in 2016 and needs a victory at Richmond to qualify for the post-season Chase … And Furniture Row Racing, expanding to two Sprint Cup teams in 2017, has named Chris Gayle crew chief for Erik Jones’ Number-77 Toyota. Gayle joins F-R-R after spending fourteen years as an engineer and crew chief at Joe Gibbs Racing. Jones will join Martin Truex Junior in the organization’s Sprint Cup lineup for next season.
With the final weekend of the regular season now looming at Richmond International Raceway, there are three spots still open on The Chase Grid for non-race winners to fill heading into Saturday night’s Federated Auto Parts 400 Sprint Cup Series race. Thirteen drivers have been victorious in 2016: Kyle Larson, Matt Kenseth, Kyle and Kurt Busch, Carl Edwards, Jimmie Johnson, Brad Keselowski, Joey Logano, Kevin Harvick, Martin Truex Junior, Denny Hamlin, Tony Stewart and Chris Buescher. All are within the requisite top thirty of the standings, which currently leaves a maximum of three post-season spots available based on the point standings. Four drivers are in the mix for those final three spots: rookie Chase Elliott, Austin Dillon, Jamie McMurray and Ryan Newman – who trails McMurray by seven points in the fight for the final “playoff” spot … Any driver who hasn’t yet won but reaches Victory Lane at Richmond would qualify for the post-season, provided that driver is among the top thirty in points, and would reduce the number of spots available based on the regular-season standings … With the post-season now right around the corner, the race for the Number-1 seed on The Chase Grid is coming down to a two-man battle between Kyle Busch (Joe Gibbs Racing) and Brad Keselowski (Team Penske). Each has four victories in 2016. Busch is a four-time winner in the Sprint Cup Series at R-I-R while Keselowski has one victory there. They finished second and eleventh, respectively, in this year’s first race at Richmond on April 24th.
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