Sprint Cup Series News (7647)
As the 2014 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season moves along, Casey Mears and the Germain Racing team arrived in a steaming hot Atlanta looking to turn in a solid performance and continue their strong season.
Mears and his No. 13 GEICO Chevrolet SS opened the weekend 28th on the board at the close of the first practice. Despite residing on the bottom half of the chart, his position was not indicative of the speed of his racecar. After a few laps, the GEICO Chevy was fast in race trim and solid in qualifying trim. When qualifying got underway, Mears waited until late in the opening round to go out, looking for an ally in a cooler racetrack that would increase his chances of a fast lap. It proved a wise move, as he ultimately advanced to the second round after a quick trip around the high-speed 1.54-mile paved oval. When qualifying concluded, Mears was credited with the 24th starting position.
The Oral-B USA 500 rounded out a busy Labor Day weekend when hot temperatures welcomed an anxious Sprint Cup Series field for 325 laps of racing. Armed with a strong racecar, Mears took the green flag with his sights set on chasing down the leaders. Aside from some minor handling issues, all seemed to be going well until lap 38. Crew chief Bootie Barker radioed to Mears that they would be pitting in five laps, but almost immediately Mears reported that he had a tire coming apart. He made a quick dive down pit road, doing a masterful job of collecting his racecar as it started to spin. Unfortunately, no sooner than the No. 13 GEICO Chevy hit pit road, the caution flag flew. While Barker aggressively petitioned NASCAR for the opportunity to take the wave-around, they declined his request and sent Mears to the rear of the field, leaving him two laps down to the leaders. He would restart 40th and Barker would begin using strategy to help his driver begin a trek to the front.
As the race wore on, Mears' GEICO Chevy seemed to improve with each pit stop. In particular, the wedge adjustments were helpful, but at times still left him too loose to throttle off of the corners. He slowly made headway and as the race began to wind down, the GEICO Chevy was in the top-25 and moving forward. After two attempts at a green-white-checker finish, the field calmed long enough to complete the final laps. After the lap 36 setback, a hard-charging Mears collected 18-positions after restarting 40th and recorded a 22nd place finish. More significantly, Mears now stands among just four drivers (Jeff Gordon, Paul Menard and Austin Dillon) that have completed every race this season, a feat not easily accomplished in NASCAR racing.
"We had a pretty good car throughout the weekend and I thought we'd be able to put the No. 13 GEICO Chevy up front, but that tire that came apart on us put us behind early in the race," Mears said. "We worked hard all night to regain ground and Bootie (Barker, crew chief) made some good calls that helped get us in position to get back up front. We were fortunate to be able to squeeze out a 22nd place finish. We're looking forward to getting back to Richmond. We were strong there in the spring, so we hope to do well next weekend."
Mears and his GEICO team will now head to Richmond, VA, to do some racing under the lights just 100-miles removed from the Gecko's stomping grounds.
Casey Mears and the No. 13 GEICO Chevrolet SS will hit the track at Richmond International Raceway for the weekend's opening practice session on Friday, September 5th, at 9:00 AM (EDT). Qualifying will follow at 5:40 PM (EDT) and will air live on ESPN2.
With his win at Atlanta Motor Speedway on Sunday night, Kasey Kahne became the 13th winner of the 2014 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season – and the 13th member of the 2014 Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup.
Matt Kenseth finished second at Atlanta, and though winless, has accumulated enough points throughout the regular season to guarantee himself a spot in the Chase.
Fourteen Chase spots are now taken, assuming those 14 drivers all attempt to qualify at Richmond.
Two berths remain.
Here are the Chase clinch scenarios for Saturday night’s race at Richmond International Raceway, the regular season finale (7:30 p.m. ET on ABC, MRN Radio and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio).
If there is a repeat winner, three winless drivers would make the Chase – one of which would be Kenseth. If there is a new winner, two winless drivers would make the Chase – one would be Kenseth (if Kenseth is not the new winner).
Any current winless driver who wins at Richmond, and is in the top 30 in the NASCAR Sprint Cup driver points standings, clinches a spot in the Chase.
Only Ryan Newman controls his own destiny, no matter who wins at Richmond. If there is a repeat 2014 winner (or a Kenseth victory), Newman is guaranteed a spot in the Chase if he finishes 41st or better; or 42nd with at least one lap led; or 43rd and the most laps led. If there is a new winner (that is not Kenseth), Newman is guaranteed a Chase spot with a finish of 18th or better; 19th and at least one lap led; or 20th and the most laps led.
Greg Biffle controls his own destiny if there is a repeat winner.If there is a repeat 2014 winner (or if Kenseth or Newman win), Biffle is guaranteed a spot in the Chase if he finishes 22nd or better; or 23rd with at least one lap led; or 24th and the most laps led. If there is a new winner (that is not Kenseth or Newman), Biffle needs to out-point Newman by 19 points and stay ahead of Clint Bowyer and Kyle Larson.
Clint Bowyer and Kyle Larson are the only other two drivers who can clinch a spot in the Chase without a victory.
The following drivers can only make the Chase with a win at Richmond (and a top-30 spot in the standings): Paul Menard, Austin Dillon, Jamie McMurray, Brian Vickers, Marcos Ambrose, Casey Mears, Martin Truex Jr., Tony Stewart, Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Danica Patrick, Justin Allgaier, Michael Annett, David Gilliland, David Ragan and Cole Whitt.
NASCAR’s 10-race postseason kicks off Sept. 14 at Chicagoland Speedway (2 p.m. ET on ESPN).
Strong track position and some late-race restart expertise helped NASCAR Sprint Cup Series rookie Michael Annett finish 21st in his first career series start Sunday night at the 1.5-mile Atlanta Motor Speedway.
After qualifying 25th, Annett kept a steady pace in his Pilot Flying J / St. Jude Children's Research Hospital Chevrolet SS while fighting a loose-handling condition that also saw the car over rotating in the center of turns. A caution on lap 39 allowed Annett's Tommy Baldwin Racing crew to make adjustments in the track bar and in the tires' air pressures. With the handling more neutralized, Annett began experimenting with different lines around the track, eventually settling on one that allowed him to pull away from marquee competitors.
A pair of closely placed pit stops on laps 117 and 130 kept Annett in 25th after crew chief Kevin Manion adjusted air pressures in anticipation of cooler track temperatures as nighttime skies emerged. Though the splitter on Annett's Chevrolet SS was hitting the track, he felt comfortable with the handling.
The driver's only real adversity came on lap 150, when one of Annett's contact lenses fell out of his eye. Though not a race-ending occurrence, the rookie completed the rest of the race with just one contact lens. It didn't affect his driving ability, as he passed his way to 23rd place and gained another spot, to 22nd, following a pit stop on lap 297.
The conclusion of the race was interrupted by two accidents across the final 10 laps. For Annett, the caution flags gave him opportunities to gain more positions. After getting shuffled to 24th, the final restart of the race provided a boost for the rookie, who overtook three competitors in the final two laps to finish 21st.
MICHAEL ANNETT QUOTE:
"Our speedway program has improved all year long, and tonight was a result of that. The car was certainly fast and those last few cautions let us pick off a few more positions on restarts. I'm proud of the TBR guys for their effort this weekend. It was a solid night for all of us."
Rising Star PR
Kurt Busch, driver of the No. 41 Haas Automation Chevrolet SS for Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR), experienced an up-and-down day in Sunday’s Oral-B USA 500 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Atlanta Motor Speedway.
Busch entered the race looking for his fourth Sprint Cup Series win at the 1.54-mile oval. It appeared for the first half of the race that he was on his way to accomplishing his goal, before a right-rear tire failure on lap 170 saw his black-and-red machine suffer heavy damage to the right side. Despite the setback, Busch and his Daniel Knost-led team’s never-quit attitude afforded Busch the opportunity to contend for a top-five finish in the late stages of the event.
Even with a handling condition that made his Haas Automation Chevrolet tight into the track’s corners and loose on exit, Busch was able to steadily advance from his 22nd starting position. Consistently running lap times faster than the race leaders, the No. 41 first cracked the top-10 on lap 85. Busch advanced to the seventh position following a caution period on lap 116, then made a daring move on the ensuing restart to pick off four competitors and advance to the third spot. Busch was able to keep that momentum going, and he overtook Matt Kenseth for the race lead on lap 136. He would hold the spot for 22 laps before dropping back to the third position.
As Knost informed Busch that he was moments away from making a scheduled green-flag pit stop, the Las Vegas native keyed his radio to inform the team that he’d lost his right-rear tire. Busch made contact with the outside retaining wall as a result, but he was able to drive the car to pit road without incurring any additional damage.
The team brought Busch to pit road several times to fix the damage, and their diligent efforts were rewarded as they were able to keep Busch on the lead lap. The 36-year-old driver continued to keep his Haas Automation team informed of handling issues and additional repairs that would be required, and he steadily progressed toward the front of the field despite the heavy damage sustained.
Busch worked his way up to seventh with just 15 laps remaining and appeared on his way to claiming that position in the final running order; however, an incident just before the initial white flag was thrown brought out the caution, setting up a green-white-checkered finish. On the first overtime attempt, a multicar incident proved unavoidable for Busch, causing heavy left-side damage to his Haas Automation Chevrolet. Knost, spotter Rick Carelli and Busch discussed their options and agreed that the No. 41 machine would be fine for two laps. They stayed on the racetrack for the second attempt at the finish, where Busch was forced to race in a four-wide battle for position for the entire two-lap shootout. When the checkered flag waved, he had fallen back to the 13th position.
- Richard Childress Racing teammates Ryan Newman, Paul Menard and Austin Dillon finished seventh, 18th and 24th, respectively.
- Newman ranks ninth in the Sprint Cup Series championship point standings, trailing current leader Jeff Gordon by 125 points, while Menard ranks 14th and Dillon ranks 15th.
- Kasey Kahne earned his first victory of the 2014 season and was followed to the finish line by Matt Kenseth, Denny Hamlin, Jimmie Johnson and Carl Edwards.
- The next Sprint Cup Series race is the Federated Auto Parts 400 at Richmond International Raceway on Saturday, Sept. 6 which is scheduled to be televised live on ESPN beginning at 7:30 p.m. Eastern Time and broadcast live on the Motor Racing Network and SiriusXM NASCAR Satellite Radio, channel 90.
Austin Dillon Finishes 24th in the No. 3 Dow Chevrolet at Atlanta Motor Speedway
Austin Dillon earned a 24th-place finish in the No. 3 Dow Chevrolet at Atlanta Motor Speedway on Sunday evening after starting the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series event from the 13th position. The Richard Childress Racing driver noted a lack of forward drive from the start of the event, an issue the 24-year-old driver struggled with throughout the course of the race. He fell one lap down during a long, green-flag run during the first half of the race. A pit stop on lap 175 under caution provided the Gil Martin-led team an opportunity to make a big swing at the handling issues that Dillon was facing. Restarting 22nd on lap 179, Dillon put himself in position to earn the "Lucky Dog" to get back on the lead lap, but cautions did not fall in his favor. On lap 259 the caution flag was displayed as Dillon came down pit road, pinning him another lap down. He earned one lap back by taking the wave around following a lap-323 caution, and restarted 21st as the field took the green flag for an exciting finale that extended the race past it's advertised distance. However, with several teams opting to pit for tires while the RCR team gambled to stay out on old rubber, Dillon lost track position on the last lap and ultimately finished 24th.
Start - 13th Finish - 24th Laps Led - 0 Points - 15th
"We just can't catch a break this year. It's been rough the last few weeks, but this team is resilient and I want to thank Gil Martin and everyone on this No. 3 team for working so hard. We've got a lot of racing to go."
Paul Menard Finishes 18th in the No. 27 Duracell/Menards Chevrolet at Atlanta Motor Speedway
Paul Menard drove Richard Childress Racing's No. 27 Duracell/Menards Chevrolet SS to an 18th-place finish in Sunday night's 335-lap event at Atlanta Motor Speedway. The RCR driver started 33rd and slowly made his way up through the field and was scored in the 16th position by lap 122. Menard radioed to crew chief Slugger Labbe that he needed "drive off" the corners throughout the event. The Duracell/Menards Chevrolet team visited pit road nine times to fine tune the team's Chevrolet. Menard gained 31 spots throughout the night and raced as high as the second position before ultimately finishing in 18th place. Next up for the No. 27 team is Saturday night's NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Richmond International Raceway.
Start - 33rd Finish - 18th Laps Led - 0 Points - 14th
PAUL MENARD QUOTE:
"Our Duracell/Menards Chevy was pretty good tonight. What we lacked most was "drive off" but the handling was overall pretty good. This was definitely not the finish we were hoping for, but we will give it one more go at Richmond."
Newman Closes in on Chase Berth With Seventh-Place Finish at Atlanta Motor Speedway
Ryan Newman drove Richard Childress Racing's No. 31 Caterpillar Chevrolet SS to a seventh-place finish in Sunday night's NASCAR Sprint Cup Series event at Atlanta Motor Speedway. The South Bend, Ind., driver started fourth and in the first 100 laps of 335, battled a tight in and loose off the corners condition. Crew chief Luke Lambert used a series of pit stops under caution to enable Newman to maintain a top-10 spot by the halfway mark. Then, just 20 laps later, the No. 31 drove into the top five with times as fast as the leaders. With less than 70 laps to go, the caution flag flew while Newman was on pit road. It caused the Cat team to go a lap down and scored in 19th position. Relief came on lap 296 when the caution flag waved. Newman raced back onto the lead lap and in contention of earning back all the track position lost on the previous run. When the race restarted with 24 circuits remaining, the No. 31 Caterpillar Chevy was in 10th position before another yellow flag waved on lap 324. The race went into overtime with Newman in 11th. However on the restart, several cars made contact to set up a second green-white-checkered finish. The final green flag waved with Newman lined up eighth and when all was said and done, he recorded the team's ninth top-10 of the season with a seventh-place finish. Next week, the No. 31 team heads to Richmond International Raceway on Saturday night in hopes of clinching a spot in The Chase for the Championship. Earlier this season at Richmond, Newman drove to a hard-fought, eighth-place finish.
Start - 4th Finish - 7th Laps Led - 0 Points - 9th
"It was a really good rebound for the Caterpillar race team. We put on a set of tires that made our car way too loose. It cost us pretty big there because we were better than the No. 5 car and several other cars. Fortunately, we were able to rebound. It was a good day, just not the day we needed it to be. I like Richmond, but right now I am not sure what we need to do to lock ourselves in. We are close, it should be a lot of fun."
Start - 29th Finish -25th Laps Led - 0 Points - N/A
TY DILLON QUOTE:
Danica Patrick twice rallied from being a lap down to finish sixth and score her best career finish in Sunday night’s Oral-B USA 500 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Atlanta Motor Speedway.
Patrick was fourth on the final restart, dropped to sixth, but managed to come home with her fourth career top-10 and third this season.
“It was a long night,” Patrick said. “Man, that race felt like it was 700 miles. Sometimes when you are running well they feel like that because you are hoping it stays there, keeps going well, and you keep improving and don’t lose it. There were definitely a couple of times late in the race when we fell back. In the middle of the race the GoDaddy car was very good. We took a little step back, and then it came back in the end.”
Patrick’s sixth-place finish is the highest finish by a female at Atlanta. The previous record was held by Janet Guthrie (10th on March 19, 1978). Only a fifth-place result by Sara Christian in a Sprint Cup race on Oct. 2, 1949 at Heidelberg (Pa.) Raceway tops Patrick’s finish. Christian also finished sixth at Langhorn (Pa.) Speedway on Sept. 11, 1949 and Guthrie finished sixth at Bristol (Tenn.) Motor Speedway on Aug. 28, 1977.
Patrick’s good result came with work and a bit of good fortune. She started 27th and got up to 23rd by lap 38, but the leader, Patrick’s SHR teammate Kevin Harvick, was setting such a fast pace that she went a lap down. As soon as she lost the lap, however, the caution came out and, because she was the first car one lap down, she got the lap back via the “Lucky Dog” rule.
She worked her way up to 21st and went down a lap again, but she passed Austin Dillion for 20th on lap 112 to become the first car one lap down. On lap 116 the caution came out and, once again, she got her lap back via the Lucky Dog.
By the halfway point of the race, Patrick worked her way into the top-15 and would stay there for the rest of the night. Her lap times kept getting better, and by the 300-lap mark she was solidly in the top-10.
On lap 324 of the race’s scheduled 325 laps, Kyle Busch and Martin Truex Jr. wrecked in turn two, creating a green-white-checkered situation and setting the stage for everyone to pit for fresh tires for the restart.
Patrick’s crew changed four tires and fueled her car in just 11 seconds, allowing her to restart seventh on lap 330. But the field didn’t even get to turn one before an accident involving Harvick, Joey Lagano, Paul Menard and Jimmie Johnson would bring out yet another caution. Patrick slipped by the accident and was fourth for the second green-white-checkered restart on lap 333. But she dropped to sixth before the checkered flag waved, just 1.5 seconds from her first career victory.
“Tony Gibson just reset everything to where we were when we were running well,” Patrick said. “Obviously the pit stop at the end that was 11 seconds was so good. There were a couple of rough ones in the beginning, but that one made up for it because it put us seventh on that restart, and we had a good line on the inside and didn’t get caught up on the outside. I am just so happy for the team. We have had pretty fast cars for quite a while now and not really great finishes for it. So this is for everybody and GoDaddy.”
Having a “Freaky Fast” racecar is typically a good thing and leads to positive results. But Kevin Harvick, driver of the No. 4 Jimmy John’s Chevrolet SS for Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR), encountered one costly instance when it doesn’t in the closing moments of Sunday night’s marathon Oral-B USA 500 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Atlanta Motor Speedway.
Harvick started from the pole and turned in a thoroughly dominating performance by leading seven times for a race-high 195 laps. But his domination went all for naught when, during the night’s first of two attempts at a green-white-checkered finish, two cars that lined up side by side ahead of him were anything but Freaky Fast, leading to a three-car pileup and contact by the No. 4 with the outside SAFER Barrier, relegating Harvick to a 19th-place finish.
Just moments earlier, Harvick and eventual race-winner Kasey Kahne were far ahead of the rest of the field, two laps from completing the scheduled 325-lap race distance around the 1.54-mile Atlanta Motor Speedway quad oval. But the caution flag flew for an accident behind them, and the field made its way down pit road for fresh tires in preparation for the green-white-checkered finish. Denny Hamlin and Harvick were the first two competitors off pit road who took on four tires. Matt Kenseth and Paul Menard, however, each rolled the dice with just a two-tire stop and emerged first and second off pit road, ahead of the third- and fourth-place Hamlin and Harvick.
When the green flag flew, Kenseth made a somewhat clean getaway. But Menard spun his tires and bunched up the outside line of cars being led but Harvick’s Jimmy John’s Chevrolet. Joey Logano quickly came up behind Harvick and Menard and, with nowhere else to go, Harvick was squeezed into the SAFER Barrier. The contact caused heavy suspension damage that required several trips down pit road to repair before the final green-white-checkered finish. Harvick restarted 19th – the final car on the lead lap – and was able to maintain that position to the end.
“Obviously, the 27 (Menard) and 20 (Kenseth) took just two tires, and we knew they were going to have a bad restart,” Harvick said. “I tried to time it to where I could get on the outside (of Menard) but he kept coming up, and I think the 22 (Logano) was still on our outside and it just got crazy there and we all wrecked. I think we all could have given each other more room, but we just wrecked. It’s just everybody going as hard as they could at the end.”
The incident ruined a potential sweep of this weekend’s NASCAR Nationwide Series and Sprint Cup events for Harvick, who breezed to victory Saturday night in the No. 5 JR Motorsports Nationwide Series Chevrolet. He picked up right where he left off at the start of tonight’s 500-mile Sprint Cup event, leading handily over the race’s first 80 laps. He lost the lead temporarily over the next several rounds of pit stops but always seemed to find his way back to the front – until tonight’s fateful first attempt at a green-white-checkered finish.
“You can’t control all the circumstances out there like tonight,” Harvick said. “It’s just unfortunate for everyone on our Jimmy John’s Chevy that everything went the way that it did, but what do you do? Everyone was on the gas at that point, and that’s kind of the nature of the beast, I guess. I hate it for all of our Jimmy John’s guys, but we’ve got some things we need to work on. Our cars are ‘Freaky Fast’ and we’re doing all the things we need to do to keep it that way. We had a hard time getting off pit road tonight ahead of the 11 (Hamlin) and the 20 (Kenseth). Those guys have been really good all year, and that’s one area we just need to fix some things.”
Despite blowing a right rear tire in the last 100 laps, Ricky Stenhouse Jr. gained two positions on the final green-white-checkered attempt taking the checkered flag in the 20thposition in Sunday’s Oral-B 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway.
“We went down a lap down early in the race and could never catch the break to get the lucky dog,” Stenhouse said. “I really wish we could have gotten on the lead lap because I think we could have finished top-15 tonight. We have one more race to make the Chase so we will go to Richmond and try to go for the win.”
After battling a loose Fifth-Third Bank Ford during his qualifying laps on Friday, the Olive Branch, Miss. native started the 325-lap race in the 26th position and maintained his position to conserve tire wear as tire wear was an issue during practice sessions earlier in the weekend.
With a less than 100 laps remaining, the two-time NASCAR champion was forced to bring his No. 17 Fifth-Third Bank Ford to pit road during a green flag run after blowing a right rear tire causing him to go one more lap down.
When the yellow flag was displayed setting up the first green-white-checkered attempt, crew chief Mike Kelley told Stenhouse to take the wave around to get one of his laps back in hopes of a quick caution to get back on the lead lap.
On the final restart of the race, the 2013 Sprint Cup Rookie of the Year lined up in the 22nd position and quickly bullied his way up through the field to gain two more positions in the closing laps to take the checkered flag in the 20th position.