Sprint Cup Series News

Sprint Cup Series News (10648)

As the 2015 NASCAR Sprint Cup Season came to a close this past Sunday night in Homestead, Florida, Richard Petty Motorsports (RPM) ended a season that showed progress on the track.
Aric Almirola and the No. 43 Smithfield Foods/U.S. Air Force/STP Ford team had an average finish of 17.9 this season, one of the best in RPM's history.  The team finished 17th in points, the best possible under the current points system.  The team collected enough points to finish 15th throughout the year.  
Sam Hornish and the No. 9 team was supported by various partners in 2015 including Twisted Tea, Medallion Bank, Jacob Companies, SHOP.com, Slim Fast, Blue-Emu SONIC, and others. The team proved again to be one of the best on road courses with a pair of Top-10 finishes.
The organization is poised to return to Victory Lane in 2016 and earn their spot back into The Chase for the Sprint Cup.
 A recap of Sunday's race follows:
Aric Almirola, No. 43 Smithfield Ford

A consistently solid season for Aric Almirola and the No. 43 Smithfield Ford team was spoiled by a mid-race accident that relegated the team to a 41st-place finish. Despite the finish, the team's consistency prevailed, and they finished the season in the 17th spot in the Championship Point Standings, the top non-Chase spot. Throughout the season, they tallied three Top-Five, six Top-10 and 18 Top-15 finishes.
Almirola started the Ford Ecoboost 400 from the 14th spot. The No. 43 Smithfield Ford started off too tight but got better as the run went on. Fluid on the track brought out the first caution on Lap 15. With a pending Competition Caution, the No. 43 team elected to stay out and restarted third. Unfortunately, fresher tires were significantly faster, and Almirola fell back to 22nd by the Competition Caution on Lap 30.
Since the car improved on the long run, Crew Chief Trent Owens called for a four-tire pit stop with no adjustments. A quick pit stop gave the team the 21st spot for the restart. Almirola quickly radioed that the Smithfield Ford was out of control loose.
A caution for an accident on Lap 41 allowed the team to change four tires to see if it was the set of tires that made the car way too loose. Most of the field didn't pit, so Almirola restarted in the 33rd spot. Almirola had a great restart and picked up seven spots to put the No. 43 Smithfield Ford in the 26th position. Unfortunately, contact on Lap 46 sent the No. 15 spinning in front of the No. 43, and Almirola had nowhere to go. The Smithfield Ford smashed into the side of the No. 15 and received hefty damage to the front, right of the Fusion.
The No. 43 Smithfield team went to work to repair the Ford and get back on track. Knowing they had a points battle, they got to work putting a new nose and hood on the car. By Lap 103, Almirola returned to the track. The only car 56 laps down, all Almirola could do was stay on track and log laps until the checkered flag dropped. The team continued to make four tire pit stops as Almirola posted lap times still comparable to the field.
In the end, Almirola crossed the finishline in the 41st spot, 56 laps down. Despite the finish, he held onto the 17th spot in the Championship Point Standings by one point. His most consistent finish of his Sprint Cup Career, Almirola tallied three Top-Five finishes, a career-best, and six Top-10 finishes. Almirola and team finished half the races in the Top-15 and just two DNFs.
"I'm really proud of our team this year," said Almirola. "Our number one goal going into the season was to be more consistent, and we did that. Even on the days where we had issues, we were running in the Top-15. We finished in the top, non-Chase points spot and finished half the races in the Top-15. That's a big jump from last year. Now, we need to regroup in the off-season and make more strides. Our goals will be higher next year, and hopefully, we can use the improvement we had this year to propel us to the next level."
 Sam Hornish, No. 9 Cheney Brothers Ford

Defining what their season has been all about, Sam Hornish and the No. 9 Cheney Brothers Ford team overcame adversity and improved their performance during Sunday's Ford EcoBoost 400 at the Homestead-Miami (Fla.) Speedway- NASCAR's final race of the 2015 season..  The team finished 25th.
Hornish and the No. 9 team finished the season with three Top-10 finishes and 26th in the championship run.
After starting the race in the 28th position, Hornish and the No. 9 Cheney Brothers Ford team faced adversity early.  Within the first 20 laps, oil was laid down and Hornish scraped the wall bringing out the first caution of the race.  Hornish was forced down pit road with right-side damage to the car. The crew quickly changed tires and began repairs to the body of the car.  The team lost one lap in the accident, but a Competition Caution on Lap 30 put the Cheney Brothers Ford back on the Lead Lap.  It also allowed the team to continue to work on the car.
Hornish was quickly able to use the next caution to not pit and leap frog to the 22nd position. But, shortly after, on a Lap 44 restart, a car turned sideways in front of the field.  Not only was Almirola caught in the accident, but Hornish was as well.  The car only suffered slight contact and the team went back to work on pit road to work on the body.
Not losing a lap, Hornish restarted 37th and started to move forward again.  On Lap 85 he was racing in the 31st position and came to pit road on Lap 96 for fuel, tires and chassis adjustments.  Hornish had just previously fallen one lap down.
The damage to the car had lifted the splitter and made the handling difficult for Hornish.  However, Hornish was still posting good lap times with the repaired car. On Lap 125 he was running 30th.
A Lap 149 caution allowed the team to stay only one lap down and improve their position. The team made chassis adjustments to the car and it was getting better as the sun set.  Hornish restarted 26th and on Lap 200 was up to 24th.  The team had made tremendous progress.

The remaining of the race, Hornish held onto the 25th position where he finished.
"I just have to thank everyone for all their support and hard work this year," said Hornish. "This team is a great crew and they have a lot of passion to do well.  We didn't get all the results we hoped for this season, but nobody ever quit or gave up.  We all kept fighting and tonight was no different.  Everyone should be proud of the effort all year."


The celebration will continue after the trophy is lifted at Homestead-Miami Speedway as NASCAR® presents the 2015 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Awards™ hosted by actor and comedian Drew Carey. Live from Wynn Las Vegas on Friday, Dec. 4, fans can tune-in to watch as the 2015 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Champion™ is honored with red carpet coverage beginning at 8 p.m. ET on NBCSN, Motor Racing Network (MRN) and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio, followed by the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Awards™ broadcast on NBCSN at 9 p.m. ET.

This year’s show will also feature a lineup of performances from award-winning musical artists Andy Grammer, Sam Hunt, Rachel Platten, and Sabrina Carpenter.

As the current host of The Price is Right and former host of Whose Line is it Anyway?, Drew Carey will bring a seasoned air of entertainment and comedy to the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Awards stage. Best known for his self-portrayal on The Drew Carey Show, which garnered seven Emmy nominations, Carey has received numerous accolades throughout his career, including three People’s Choice Awards, an Editor’s Choice TV Guide Award and a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

“This has been a tremendous year for NASCAR, and I’m honored to host this headlining event as fans all across the country tune-in to pay homage to the accomplishments of the 2015 champion,” said Carey. “I look forward to rounding out the 2015 NASCAR® racing season with a night of epic proportions alongside some of the greatest names in sports and entertainment.”

Triple-platinum selling recording artist Andy Grammer will perform at the 2015 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Awards. The pop singer best known for hits such as “Keep Your Head Up” and “Back Home” took America by storm in 2015 with his smash single, “Honey, I’m Good” turning it into one of the year’s catchiest songs. A deluxe edition of his sophomore album, Magazines Or Novels was released on Nov. 20 featuring Andy’s brand new single, "Good To Be Alive (Hallelujah.)"

The evening’s musical lineup will also feature country star Sam Hunt, who took home the honor of New Artist of the Year at Sunday night’s American Music Awards. His critically-acclaimed debut album Montevallo has so far produced three consecutive No. 1 platinum-selling singles with “Leave the Night On,” “House Party” and the double-platinum “Take Your Time,” plus his current platinum-selling Top 15, “Break Up In A Small Town.”

Rachel Platten, one of this year’s breakout artists with her double platinum No. 1 hit single, “Fight Song”, will also grace the awards stage. Her current chart-climbing single, “Stand By You” will be released on her highly-anticipated forthcoming album, Wildfire.

Rounding out the night’s performances will be multi-talented singer / songwriter Sabina Carpenter, who currently stars on the Disney Channel original series Girl Meets World. Carpenter released her debut album, Eyes Wide Open earlier this year, which features “We’ll be the Stars” and its namesake single, “Eyes Wide Open.”

“The NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Awards marks the pinnacle of our season as we have the opportunity to commend the drivers and teams for all of their hard work and dedication throughout the year,” said Zane Stoddard, NASCAR vice president of entertainment marketing and content development. “With Drew Carey at the wheel and a lineup of performances from some of the most celebrated entertainers in the music industry, it will certainly be a finale to remember for everyone joining us in Las Vegas and the NASCAR fans watching at home.”

This year’s artists will join a star-studded group of actors and musicians who have previously performed at NASCAR’s championship celebration, including Lady Antebellum, Sara Bareilles, Dierks Bentley, and Kid Rock. Part of the annual NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Champion’s Week™ in Las Vegas, the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Awards is the headlining experience in a series of events that also includes the Las Vegas Motor Speedway Fanfest, NASCAR After The Lap™ and NASCAR Victory Lap™, where fans get a front row seat as the 16 Challengers™ roar down Las Vegas Boulevard. Visit www.NASCAR.com/ChampionsWeek to view the full NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Champion’s Week schedule.  


Martin Truex Jr. had many moments all throughout the 2015 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season. One of those moments for the New Jersey native was the opportunity to compete in the final four at the Homestead-Miami Speedway and ending one of his biggest seasons in NASCAR yet.

Truex has overcome many struggles over the last two years. The driver was let go from Michael Waltrip Racing after NAPA left the team at the end of the 2013 Sprint Cup Series season because of the Richmond fiasco. After moving to Furniture Row Racing, Truex finished the 2014 season 24th in points while he went through some personal struggles outside of racing involving his girlfriend Sherry Pollex. While she battled with ovarian cancer, Truex was having a battle of his own on the track.

The 2015 season would turn around even more for the driver. Truex started out the season strong and eventually captured his first win since 2013 at the Pocono Raceway. The win also led Truex into the Chase and eventually into the final four at the Homestead-Miami Speedway. Truex would later become the Cinderella story of the year, joining Jeff Gordon’s last ride and Kyle Busch’s comeback story.

Despite being seen as the Underdog throughout the Chase, Truex not only found retribution for incidents that occurred over the last two seasons, but also took Furniture Row Racing -- a one car organization -- into the Chase and competing against some of the “powerhouse” teams in the Cup Series.

“Super proud of our season and really proud to come this far to come from 24th in points last year to 4th this year is a pretty big step, and I don't think most people realize just how big of a deal it is and how hard it was for us to get that far,” said Truex.

While most teams operate within the vicinity of Charlotte, Furniture Row Racing operates out of Denver, Colorado. Although the team had an alliance with the Richard Childress Racing organization, the team doesn’t necessarily operate the same way as RCR. With a single-car organization, Truex doesn't have teammates to rely on for information or to compare race strategies like some of his competitors.

“I mean, we were definitely up against a lot here.  The odds were against us for sure.  You know, obviously really proud of everybody, like I said, and you know, we didn't come here saying we were going to be okay finishing fourth.  We came here and really tried everything in our power, everything we knew how to do, to put together our best performance. It just wasn't in the cards for us,” Truex said.

While Truex and the Furniture Row Racing team found the speed and consistency in 2015 under Chevrolet, the team will flip the switch to Toyota and form a new technical alliance with Joe Gibbs Racing. All four JGR drivers won races in 2015 and went on to score the championship with Kyle Busch this past weekend. Forming the new alliance will give the small team even more motivation going into 2016.

“I think this is great motivation for us for next year.  I think that with the things we have coming and going to Toyota and teaming up with JGR and all that stuff, I think the future is bright for this team, and we're keeping all our guys together, and hopefully this is our first season battling for a championship but not our last.  I really feel strong that this is a special group of guys, and if we can keep that together for hopefully the rest of my career, I'd love to drive for them,” Truex said.

Harvick's 2015 Theme

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Published in Sprint Cup Series News
Monday, 23 November 2015 17:19
Last year's championship experience taught Kevin Harvick that he'd likely have to win at Homestead-Miami Speedway to claim back-to-back Sprint Cup titles.

His car was strong enough to lead 46 laps, but didn't have enough to catch Busch on the final restart.

"The 18 car just had us beat all night, for the most part," Harvick said. "We kept throwing stuff at it but never really found anything that helped the car. As the night went on, it seemed the 18 got better and we never got any better.

"It's been a great couple of years. After last year, when we had everything go our way, I've learned not to be greedy. I know we're disappointed about finishing second tonight, but that's been kind of the theme of the year -- finishing second."

Although he set career highs in top-fives (23), top-10s (28) and laps led, Harvick also settled for second place in 13 races this season.

Truex on Fire

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Published in Sprint Cup Series News
Monday, 23 November 2015 17:17
The left rear quarter of the Furniture Row Chevrolet was on fire when Martin Truex Jr. left the pits after his pit stop on Lap 138. Other than not getting a full tank of fuel, this was not Truex's problem.

After qualifying 11th, Truex knew that crew chief Cole Pearn was going to have to take a big swing in making adjustments to make his car competitive. In the end, the adjustments were never quite enough. Although able to run in the top 10, Truex had faded to ninth, 15.9 seconds off the pace, by Lap 125.

That didn't stop Pearn from taking his shots. The No. 78 team rolled the dice, taking only two tries to take the lead with 96 laps to go. Unfortunately for
Truex, Brad Keselowski powered by him on the restart, Kyle Busch and Kevin Harvick soon followed, and 15 laps later, Truex was back in 11th place, 7.5 seconds off the pace and last among the Championship 4 contenders.

"We never could quite hit on anything to get the car to do the things we needed it to," Truex said. "But I'm super-proud of the season. We came here and really tried everything we knew to put out our best performance. It just wasn't in the cards."

Finishing strong

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Published in Sprint Cup Series News
Monday, 23 November 2015 17:16
Pole-sitter Denny Hamlin, a two-time winner at HMS, began leaking rear-end grease from a faulty clamp on Lap 13, forcing him to the garage. Although Hamlin went three laps down, fought his way back to the lead lap. He finished 10th in the race and ninth in series points.

Seven-time Sprint Cup champ Jimmie Johnson dropped to 35th after being ordered by NASCAR to repair illegal alterations to his right rear quarter panel on Lap 58. Johnson battled back to fifth with 100 laps to go and finished ninth.

Brett Moffitt earned Sunoco Rookie of the Year honors. Moffitt, 23, finished 31st Sunday in his 31st race of the season. He finished eighth for Michael Waltrip Racing at Atlanta but spent the bulk of his season gaining experience with Front Row Motorsports and ended up 34th in points.

Waltrip bids farewell

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Published in Sprint Cup Series News
Monday, 23 November 2015 17:15
Gordon wasn't the only NASCAR veteran dealing with the melancholy feelings of farewell Sunday. At the far end of the Sprint Cup garage sat the blue and white Aaron's Dream Machine, emblematic of owner/driver Michael Waltrip's decade-long quest for success. Michael Waltrip Racing which began competing full-time in 2007, is closing its doors.

On the surface, it seemed like business as usual, with Waltrip, in his bright blue polo greeting fans, posing for pictures and signing autographs as his cars rolled through inspection.

"Business as usual on the outside," Waltrip mused. "But today's been a lot of hugs and thank-yous and (about) appreciating what we built and what we did for a long time."

MWR won seven Sprint Cup events and guided Clint Bowyer to a second-place finish in the 2012 series standings. MWR fielded cars for David Ragan and Bowyer this season.

"We stumbled and tripped and we won and we nearly won a championship," Waltrip said. "You think about all that stuff. It's a different (kind of) day -- a little hard. You reflect on the beginning and how special it was to have the ability to start something from nothing and be the custodian of Toyota's (effort) -- coming to the sport and helping them with that. Not only helping them on the track but helping fans understand that Toyota was great for NASCAR.

NBC Sports Group presented the NASCAR Sprint Cup Championship last night, featuring the primary broadcast on NBC and spotlight coverage of the four drivers racing for the 2015 title on NBCSN.  After the smoke cleared from Kyle Busch’s victory burnouts and fans witnessed the final bow of Jeff Gordon’s iconic career, fast national data provided by The Nielsen Company shows that the event was the most-watched NASCAR Championship in a decade.

The 2015 NASCAR Sprint Cup Championship on NBC and NBCSN averaged 7.64 million viewers and posted a combined 4.42 national HH rating, marking increases of +46% (vs. 5.22 million) and +41% (vs. 3.14 HH), respectively, over last year’s presentation on ESPN.  The 7.64 million viewers make last night’s event the most-watched NASCAR season finale since NBC presented the championship event in 2005 (9.46 million). 

Additional highlights surrounding last night’s NASCAR Sprint Cup Championship include:  

Jeff Gordon, whose NASCAR career started 23 years ago at Atlanta Motor Speedway, took the checkered flag for the final time on Sunday at Homestead. His stellar career, in which he won 93 events, and took home the Winston Cup 4 times, ended as he drove his his No. 24 Axalta Chevrolet SS to a sixth-place effort.

"It has been the most amazing experience," Jeff Gordon said. "I am a little disappointed, I'll be honest. I thought going into today's race we had something for them. But I love the effort and we showed them what we are made of right there at the end by climbing our way back up to sixth. I am proud of everything. It is a happy, good day."

Behind him, Jimmie Johnson and his No. 48 Lowe’s Chevrolet SS finished the last race of the season in ninth.

The entire day had a  special aura about it, as many of the drivers in the garage, as well as a vast majority of the fans, sported their favorite Jeff Gordon gear. His day was like many others in this farewell season, where competitors and fans wished him the best of luck. His car was surrounded anywhere it went in the garage area and on pit road. As he exited the stage for the final time following driver introductions, it was as if every professional photographer in the world surrounded him. It was surreal.

The track got in on the action as well. Fans sitting in grandstand sections 206 through 254 were be asked to perform two card stunts prior to the Ford EcoBoost 400 Cards were attached to the seats prior to gates opening on Sunday, and card stunt leaders at the base of each section will hold up cue cards when it is time to perform each stunt, and PA announcements as well as cues on Sprint Vision screens will also let fans know when it is time to perform the stunt. 

There were two card stunts during the pace laps of the Ford EcoBoost 400. The first will be a special message to Jeff Gordon, and the second will showcase the Championship 4 drivers.

Early on in the race, it seemed as though everyone's wildest dreams were going to come true, as Gordon took the lead. The crowd roared in excitement; a roar so loud it could probably be heard in Key West! Alas, it was not to be, as Kyle Busch went on to win his first championship, perhaps the first of several.

As the tributes to "Wonder Boy" continue to pile up, one thing is certain. The sport will never be the same without Jeff Gordon in the field, and Daytona won't feel right without him in the race. Chase Elliott will soon pilot the No.24, and perhaps one day people will look back on him as another multi-time champion who drove to prominence. Still, there will never be another group like the Rainbow Warriors. 

Fans are encouraged to share their photos and memories of Jeff Gordon via social media, using the hashtag #24ever.

I first saw Jeff Gordon race in November of 1992, but I barely noticed him.

My eyes were glued to the television for the final race of the season, but my interest had nothing to do with Gordon's debut in NASCAR's premier series.

No, the primary focus was the three-way battle for the championship between Bill Elliott, Davey Allison and privateer Alan Kulwicki.

And, oh, yes, there was the small matter of King Richard Petty taking the green flag in a Cup race for the final time.

A wreck took Allison out of contention, leaving Kulwicki to battle Elliott for the title, with Kulwicki earning the crown by leading one more lap than Elliott did -- even though Elliott won the race.

A crash on Lap 96 took Petty out of the race in 35th place, hardly a fitting end for a driver who had accumulated 200 victories and seven championships while rewriting the NASCAR record books.

No one can be blamed for paying no attention when a crash knocked Gordon out of the event after 164 laps of his maiden race in the Cup series.

But, in retrospect, no one can deny that the 1992 season finale was perhaps the most important watershed event in the history of the sport. It was the only time all three titans of NASCAR racing -- Gordon, Petty and Dale Earnhardt -- ever competed against each other in the same event.

At the time, no one would have dreamed that the 1992 finale would be the jumping-off point for a career that would see Gordon start a record 797 straight Cup races over 23 years, win 93 events -- third-most all-time -- and four championships.

And on Sunday at Homestead-Miami Speedway, Gordon's career ended with considerably more fanfare and attention than it had begun.

The day started with an emotional meeting with his mother and continued with a throng of fans who followed Gordon's every move as he worked his way through the garage.

IndyCar legend Mario Andretti, who also has a Daytona 500 win and a Formula One championship to his credit, was basking in Gordon's limelight. At the start of the Ford EcoBoost 400, Gordon's team owner, Rick Hendrick, relinquished his seat on Gordon's pit box so Andretti could get an up-close view of the start of the race.

Megastar Lewis Hamilton, who recently wrapped up his third F1 championship, made the rounds with Gordon after driver introductions, as Gordon paused for a seemingly endless succession of last-race photos with the famous and not-so-famous.

Former President of the United States Bill Clinton, who shares some of Gordon's charitable interests, wished the driver good luck in a post on Twitter.

At long last, after a rain delay of approximately 90 minutes, Gordon brought a hiatus to the hoopla when he strapped into the No. 24 Chevrolet and took the green flag. In the early going, the No. 24 car was strong. And when Gordon passed eventual race winner Kyle
Busch for the lead on Lap 36, the enthusiastic din from the grandstand was audible above the roar of the engines.

But when the sun went away in the late afternoon, so did Gordon's title chances.

"I actually felt like, when I got ahead of Kyle, that we actually pulled away from him," Gordon said. "I kind of got excited and got my hopes up there, but then Kevin started coming on pretty strong, and then we had that restart (on Lap 54, where Gordon lost five spots).

"I knew when those guys got by me I just didn't quite have what they had. I was just lacking a couple little things. And then the sun started going down, and (the track) really started changing and we lost a bunch of positions and just couldn't gain them back."

After dropping out of the top 10, Gordon fought his way back to sixth at the finish and ended his last season third in the final standings, still without a championship under the Chase format.

But there is no shame in Gordon not going out on top of the sport.

Because he did.
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