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In a wreck-filled Sylvania 300 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway, Joey Logano was able to come out on top for the fourth time in the 2014 season for Team Penske. The Connecticut-native, who won his first career NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Loudon, has now locked himself into the Contender Round of the Chase for the Sprint Cup.

During the Sylvania 300, there were 15 cautions as nine of the 16 drivers in the Chase were involved in incidents. However, Logano was able to survive after taking four tires during his final pit stop as his No. 22 Ford worked through traffic as five yellow flags were thrown within the final 50 laps. The victory marks the seventh in 211 career starts for the 24-year-old. Combined with his teammate Brad Keselowski, the Team Penske organization now has eight wins on the year; the first time they have amassed that many triumphs since Ryan Newman won eight races in 2003.

"This is my home race track, the coolest place to win for me," Logano said. "I could never pick a better race track to win.  I watched my first Cup race here when I was five and I won that other Cup race here, but I just felt like I had to win one the right way here, and this means so much.  I’ve got to thank all the boys at Team Penske.  We’re doing what we’ve got to do to win this thing right now – both teams are – and I’m proud of that.  This is my home track so it means so much to me.”

Keselowski had the fastest car throughout the race, and led the first 37 laps after starting from the pole. However, during the competition caution period, crew chief Paul Wolfe and he elected to take four tires – contrary to what everyone else did inside of the top 15. Keselowski dropped to 15th on the restart, and fell as far back as 22nd. With a drop more than 100 laps remaining, Matt Kenseth and he got together. Keselowski spun, but didn’t sustain any damage to his car. On Lap 228, the No. 2 Ford was back out front until Lap 268, but wasn’t able to hold onto the lead with a hard-charging Kevin Harvick taking over for a few laps until Logano set sail as he led the final 29 laps.

Jeff Gordon, who was in position to lock himself into Round 2 of the Chase, blew a tire with nine laps remaining in the race. The orange-soaked No. 24 Chevrolet raced inside of the top five throughout the 300-lap event, but finished the day with a 26th-place result. He now sits seventh in points, but is ahead of 12th-place driver Kasey Kahne by 15 markers.

Denny Hamlin finished 37th in the No. 11 Toyota after a wild day for Joe Gibbs Racing. His car was experiencing trouble getting his fuel tank full. During the caution flag on Lap 104, he brought his car down pit road to get the issue fixed. With a lack of comprehension for what was occurring, Hamlin began to scream at his crew chief Darian Grubb. He ended up getting collected in a multi-car wreck on Lap 179, which collected Cole Whitt, Martin Truex Jr. and David Ragan.

Kyle Larson finished in the runner-up position for Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates. He came on strong late in the race after running outside of the top 20 during the first half of the event. Larson recorded his seventh top-five finish of 2014. His teammate Jamie McMurray had a strong showing at Loudon. The No. 1 car was inside of the top five for the duration of the Sylvania 300. Although he was not able to lead a lap, McMurray was the strongest non-Chase driver in the race. Larson currently holds a 39-point advantage over McMurray for the 17th position in the standings, which is the highest a driver can finish if they did not make the Chase.

Aric Almirola closed the gap to 12th-place in points with a sixth-place result in the No. 43 Ford. He is just 10 points behind Kahne, and is within four markers of the three drivers in front of him. Kurt Busch fell to 15th in the standings as he blew a tire on Lap 221. The finish dropped him back from ninth in points and is now behind Hamlin and Greg Biffle, who finished 16th after being multiple laps down on Sunday afternoon.

Five of the 16 drivers in the Chase finished outside of the top 20. Harvick is now locked into Round 2 of the Chase after finishing in third-place. He is 45 points ahead of Kahne, which is more than a full race advantage. 

Brad Keselowski didn’t exactly burn up the track in his first practice laps on Saturday at New Hampshire Motor Speedway.

That’s because he was taking a conservative approach, trying to get some “burn” into his tires.

Keselowski spent his first lap of NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Happy Hour scrubbing his tires, trying to warm the Goodyears up to racing temperature on a September morning that was unusually crisp, even for the Granite State. As a result, Keselowski’s opening lap was clocked at roughly 93 mph.

Just as he had done during opening practice—in even cooler conditions—Keselowski soon vaulted to the top of the speed chart at 135.256 mph, leap-frogging over Jimmie Johnson (135.040 mph), who briefly owned the best lap in final practice.

“It’s really hard to get the tires up to temperature and get going,” Keselowski said between the two sessions, the last two practices before Sunday's Sylvania 300 (2 p.m. ET on ESPN). “Goodyear brings a great tire here that’s made to run in heat with all the brake heat and all those things, so when the track is really cold like this, the first few laps are really dangerous.

“Everybody is kind of fighting that, but the temperatures should be up for tomorrow’s race, and even for the next practice session that shouldn’t be an issue.”

It was enough of an issue, however, for Keselowski to play it close to the vest in Happy Hour before he got some heat into the tires.

But Keselowski’s top speed didn’t stand up. Jeff Gordon, who finished second to the No. 2 Team Penske Ford in last Sunday’s Chase opener at Chicagoland, rocketed to the top of the speed chart with a lap at 135.357 mph late in the session, a clear indication the four-time champ isn’t quite ready to concede a New Hampshire sweep to the Chase leader.

Johnson celebrates birthday

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Published in Sprint Cup Series News
Saturday, 20 September 2014 18:47

Jimmie Johnson says he didn’t do much on his 39th birthday, which he celebrated with his family on Wednesday, Sept. 17.

“It was really a mild day,” Johnson said. “With it being my 39th, I asked the family to just kind of chill out, and we’ll save up for next year. So, I had a fun day and hung out with the kids a bunch.

“I picked (daughter) Genevieve up from school and went and had some ice cream. She was excited about that. I picked her up early and we celebrated together. So, just some fun little moments like that; nothing too over-the-top.”

Even though he’s a year away from a milestone birthday, Johnson says he doesn’t feel his age—but he sees it reflected in some of the younger drivers who are starting to excel in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series.

“No, I don’t feel 39,” said the six-time champion. “And the number is getting bigger. It wasn’t long ago I was the rookie, the up-and-coming. And I just watched Kyle (Larson) walk out (of the media center), and it looks like he could still be in high school. So, time does fly. And certainly, time flies in this industry.

“It seems like it’s on fast-forward ... and then those parents out there know that, once you have kids, man, it really goes fast. And then it’s hard to believe four years have gone by and Genevieve is four now. I think I’m in the best shape I’ve ever been in my life. I’m the most balanced and happy and all those things are there, but the odometer is getting some miles on it.”

You couldn’t script a better beginning to Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup for Brad Keselowski, who showed no sign of stopping his relentless run toward a second championship on Friday at New Hampshire Motor Speedway.

Fresh from a dramatic victory in last Sunday’s first Chase race at Chicagoland Speedway, Keselowski blew away the track record in winning the pole for Sunday’s Sylvania 300 at the Magic Mile (2 p.m. ET on ESPN). The Coors Light pole award was Keselowski’s fifth of the season, the eight of his career and his third in 11 starts at the 1.058-mile flat track.

In the second and final round of knockout qualifying, Keselowski covered the distance in 27.090 seconds (140.598 mph) to edge Jamie McMurray (140.437 mph) for the top starting spot by .031 seconds. Kevin Harvick qualified third for the second Chase race at 140.065 mph.

“The kind of track is kind of right in my wheelhouse, right in our team’s wheelhouse,” said Keselowski, who won the July race at New Hampshire in dominating fashion. “We had this race circled before the Chase started, and we felt decent about Chicago, but we really felt like this was a race of emphasis for us to get a win and get out of the first bracket (three-race elimination round).

“It’s good, right? We just want to keep it going.”

Despite the excellent performances of the first two weeks, Keselowski isn’t ready to claim ownership of the title just yet.

“With the resets (after each round), the success of today really means nothing come Homestead (where the four remaining eligible drivers will race for the title, with the highest finisher among the four claiming the prize),” Keselowski said. “It’s great. It’s positive momentum. It’s everything you want to do, and it’s everything you think you should do.

“But when it resets, it resets, and nothing that you’ve done in the past really matters, as long as you’re eligible for the bracket. I’m a long, long way from using the word favorite or feeling overly confident.”

McMurray, who did not make the Chase field, was pleased with his effort in qualifying.

“I felt like, in my first run, I didn’t get everything out of the car and maybe left a little bit on the table,” McMurray said. “The first run I didn’t think I got it all, but the second run out (in the final round), the second lap was really good.

“Honestly, I came off Turn 4 and tried to run three laps and tried to just drive a little bit harder, but the tires just wouldn’t hold up for another quick lap.”

Chase drivers who will start in the top 12 on Sunday include Denny Hamlin (fourth), Kyle Busch (fifth), Jimmie Johnson (sixth), Joey Logano (seventh), Carl Edwards (eighth), Ryan Newman (ninth) and Dale Earnhardt Jr. (11th)

Keselowski led the first of the two qualifying sessions with a lap at 139.614 mph (27.281 seconds), a scant .005 seconds faster than the No. 99 of fellow Ford driver Edwards.

All told, 26 drivers in the 30-minute first round broke the track qualifying record of 138.130 mph (27.574 seconds) set by Kyle Busch on July 11, 2014. Earnhardt Jr. was the 12th and last driver to advance to the second session with a lap at 138.987 mph (27.404 mph).

Chase drivers Jeff Gordon (13th), Kurt Busch (15th), Matt Kenseth (16th), Kasey Kahne (17th), Aric Almirola (21st), Greg Biffle (26th) and AJ Allmendinger (27th) failed to advance to the 10-minute final round.

Notes: The track qualifying record was the 19th set this year in Sprint Cup Series time trials, in the first year of the knockout format. ... Keselowski has accounted for four of those records. ... The last two times Keselowski has won a pole for a Sprint Cup race (at Kentucky and Richmond), he has also won the race.

It may not be the expression of gratitude Jeff Gordon had in mind, but Kyle Larson knows one way he can pay Gordon back for all the kind words he’s said about the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series rookie.

Larson would like nothing more than to whip Gordon on the race track.

“Before I even raced the K&N Series, Jeff Gordon had a lot of respect for me and talked very highly of me,” Larson said Friday before opening Sprint Cup practice in preparation for Sunday's race at New Hampshire Motor Speedway (2 p.m. ET on ESPN). “It seems like Jeff’s my biggest fan over the last couple of years.

“It’s awesome to see a guy who has been racing in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series as long as I've been alive to talk so highly of me. I don’t even know if he’s really ever even talked about another driver like he has with me. That makes it feel really special for me.”

And the way to live up to Gordon’s high praise?

"Now I just want to go out there and beat him more often,” Larson said.

In last week’s opening Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Chicagoland Speedway, Larson finished third behind race winner Brad Keselowski and Gordon after leading 20 laps. Almost everyone in the garage expects Larson to achieve a breakthrough win sooner rather than later, and Larson seems ready to fulfill that expectation.

“Every race I will sit in the motorhome and watch TV and flip to Twitter,” Larson said. “Everybody always says ‘This is your weekend.’ I believe them, but it kind of sucks when you don’t win. But I definitely feel like we’re really close. We’ve been close a couple of times this year. Heck, we were just a little bit off of winning at Fontana. Then I thought we had the first or second best car last week.

“If I could have done things right we could have two wins this season. I think it’s coming. I hope it’s before the end of this year. But, if not, we won’t be too disappointed, because we’ve been running well all season long. I didn’t win any Nationwide races last year, and then I feel like I’ve been really competitive this year in Nationwide. I’m sure, starting next year, we will be really good in the Cup series.”

If winning early in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series was a long-term liberating experience for Brad Keselowski, winning last week’s Chase opener at Chicagoland Speedway is more like a hall pass—good for two races until the start of the next elimination round.

After winning the third race of the season, at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, Keselowski expressed sentiments similar to those voiced by the year’s first two winners, Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Kevin Harvick—namely that winning, and thereby all but assuring a Chase berth, gave them the freedom to race without fear of trying out-of-the-box strategies.

That was the mind-set Keselowski brought to Richmond in the final regular-season race, and he won in dominating fashion. By then, of course, he had been every bit as dominant in winning at Kentucky and at New Hampshire in July.

“I kind of feel exactly like we did at Richmond,” Keselowski said Friday, after an announcement that his primary sponsor, Miller Lite, also had extended its partnership agreement with New Hampshire Motor Speedway for three years. “We’ve got two races to—I don’t want to say goof off—but with no consequences, and that’s enjoyable.

“Everybody loves it when all you can do it win. It’s like getting a free lottery ticket. If you lose, it doesn’t matter, and you have the potential to win something big. We’re going to have fun with it, and I think we have the ability to capitalize with it with strong cars and a great team, and hopefully we can pull off a sweep here.”

In three seasons with Richard Petty Motorsports, Aric Almirola had never exited a race because of an engine failure—until last week at Chicagoland.

The blown engine couldn’t have come at a worse time. Almirola was running sixth, 30 laps away from making a statement in the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup. Instead, he finished 41st and plummeted from potential Chase surprise to the longest of long shots to survive to first elimination round.

The culprit? A broken exhaust valve.

“It was the same thing that happened to the 22 (Joey Logano) at Kentucky and the same thing that happened to the 9 car (Marcos Ambrose) at Atlanta,” Almirola told the NASCAR Wire Service. “They’ve had a couple issues already this year, and they thought they had it fixed. They changed the way the valves were designed and thought that it wasn’t going be an issue any more, and I guess it was again.

“I talked to Doug Yates (president and CEO of Roush Yates Racing Engines), and he was heartbroken for us. He was extremely apologetic.” Almirola said the team didn’t employ a more aggressive engine package for the Chicago race and that the failure was mere happenstance.

“It was nothing different than what we’ve been running the past couple months,” he explained. “My hat goes off to Doug Yates. He builds awesome horsepower for us. We went back and looked, and it’s the first time we have not finished a race because of an engine failure in the three years I’ve been at Richard Petty Motorsports.

“Of all weekends for it to happen, the first race of the Chase--why could it have not happened at Atlanta or Richmond or wherever else, but it is what it is. It just wasn’t meant to be. The stars didn’t line up right for us at Chicago, but we’ll rebound.”

Cole Whitt will race the No. 26 Rinnai Tankless Water Heaters Toyota Camry team car at NASCAR's Osram Sylvania 300 in Loudon, New Hampshire. Rinnai, the number-one selling brand of tankless water heaters in North America, began a partnership in June with BK Racing and Cole Whitt, who has raced the Rinnai-sponsored car in several other races throughout the 2014 racing season.

Whitt continues his push toward 2014 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Rookie of the Year as the #26 Rinnai Team heads to New Hampshire.  Cole currently sits in 5th place in the 2014 NSCS ROY standings and is only one point out of 4th.  After successful primary runs at Sonoma Raceway and Atlanta Motor Speedway, Rinnai completes their primary partnership with Whitt in New Hampshire this weekend.  Rinnai will continue the partnership with Cole Whitt and serve as an associate sponsor for the remainder of the 2014 NASCAR Sprint Cup season.

 

"We are very proud to showcase the Rinnai brand at New Hampshire Motor Speedway," said Anthony Marlowe co-owner of BK Racing. "The innovative design behind Rinnai Tankless Water Heaters provides hot water only when you need it, which is unbelievably efficient and saves on your energy bill. What's more impressive, you get an unlimited supply of hot water. We are excited that Cole will enable us to grow our sponsorship with the No. 1 selling brand of tankless gas water heaters in North America."

 

"Rinnai Tankless Water Heaters has been a long-standing sponsor in the sport for the many years and to have them on-board the No.26 is an honor," said Whitt. "We hope to continue our momentum with another good run."

 

BK Racing PR

Two racing machines with tinges of light blue -- one car and one truck -- will carry the familiar red-outlined No. 34 at the end of October at NASCAR's oldest track, Martinsville Speedway.

It's all part of a three-day celebration honoring NASCAR Hall of Fame Class of 2015 Inductee Wendell Scott at his home track of Martinsville from Oct. 24-26. Scott, the trailblazing winner of more than 100 races throughout NASCAR's ranks, will be officially enshrined into the NASCAR Hall of Fame next January.

The car driven by David Ragan for Front Row Motorsports in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series and the truck driven by Darrell Wallace Jr. for Kyle Busch Motorsports in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series will each sport special "throw back" paint schemes to honor Scott, the first African-American to win a race in NASCAR's premier series.

Ragan's No. 34 will be wrapped in a scheme reminiscent of the one Scott drove to victory at Jacksonville Speedway on Dec. 1, 1963 in what is today known as the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series.

“It’s going to be cool to honor Wendell Scott at his home track with his family,” said Ragan, one of three drivers to in the No. 34 in NASCAR's top series. “I got to drive a tribute scheme for Ned Jarrett a while back, and it’s a tribute to the history of our sport that I get to honor Mr. Scott as an inductee, the last driver to win in the No. 34 before I did. I’m a fan of our sport’s history and have a real appreciation for it, so it’s special to be able to bring that paint scheme back for a weekend.”

Driving the No. 54 last October at Martinsville, Wallace became the first African-American driver since Scott to win in one of NASCAR's three national series. This time around, Wallace's truck will be affixed with the No. 34, a nod to Scott's legacy.

"It's an honor to run the No. 34 Toyota Tundra at Martinsville,” said Wallace, who has added wins this season at Eldora Speedway and Gateway Motorsports Park to his victory total. “I got my first win at Martinsville and the historical significance of that win and to be so close to Wendell Scott's hometown was a really cool bonus to getting my first win. The Scott family has followed my career since I ran the NASCAR Drive for Diversity program for Rev Racing and I've kept a relationship with the family over the years. Thanks to Joe Gibbs Racing, Kyle Busch Motorsports, Toyota and NASCAR for allowing me to run the No. 34 at Martinsville. I'm pumped to get back there and hope to get another victory."

Adding to the celebration, Martinsville Speedway and the NHOF will host members of the Scott family during the race weekend and offer special Q&A opportunities for fans on-site.

“Wendell Scott faced numerous adversities throughout his racing career. At the end of the day though, he persevered and overcame all odds,” said Clay Campbell, president of Martinsville Speedway. “That perseverance serves as an inspiration today and as a testament to that, he was inducted to the NASCAR Hall of Fame.”

Scott was the 1959 NASCAR Virginia Sportsman champion and won over 100 races at local tracks prior to starting his NASCAR premier series career. The Danville, Virginia native served three years in the U.S. Army during World War II where he honed his skills in the motor pool. In 13 years of NASCAR premier series competition, Scott made 495 starts (35th on the all-time list), accumulating 20 top-five and 147 top-10 finishes. He passed away in 1990, at the age of 69.

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