Wednesday, Feb 08
Speedway Digest Staff

Speedway Digest Staff

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Emphasis on Intermediate: Settling into his new home at Red Horse Racing, Parker Kligerman will travel with his No. 7 Red Horse Racing team to Atlanta Motor Speedway this Friday for the Jeff Foxworthy's Grit Chips 200. Moving up yet another spot in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series point standings after an impressive runner-up finish to teammate Timothy Peters at Bristol, Kligerman is motivated to keep the momentum rolling.

Still searching for his first NASCAR Camping World Truck Series victory, Kligerman is optimistic about his chances at one of his favorite tracks on the circuit. Favoring the high speeds the Georgia-based track provides, Kligerman plans to put his successful intermediate track resume to good use.

"My record is probably the best on mile and half tracks," Kligerman noted. "I've put a lot of emphasis on these types of tracks just because it makes up a lot of the NASCAR schedules, no matter what series you run. I feel like I can really continue that success this weekend with the equipment Toyota and Red Horse Racing have put together. It's a great chance for us to go out and not only win, but I feel like we have a great chance to dominate too."

Weekend Appearances: Parker Kligerman will join his Red Horse Racing teammates Todd Bodine and Timothy Peters at the Atlanta Motor Speedway Fan Stage on Friday night at 6:45 pm. The drivers will be available to answer questions and greet fans in attendance.

Previous Race Recap:In just his second start driving under the Red Horse Racing banner in the No. 7 Red Horse Racing Toyota Tundra, Parker Kligerman made an impressive march through the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series field Wednesday night at Bristol Motor Speedway. From his ninth place starting position, Kligerman and crew chief Chad Kendrick improved on the handling conditions of his Tundra with just one pit stop in the UNOH 200. Keeping his equipment spotless, Kligerman maneuvered his way to his career best finish at the half-mile track, crossing the stripe in second place.

Chassis History: Reverting to the same Toyota Tundra that took Kligerman to a fourth place finish at Michigan International Speedway just two weeks ago, crew chief Chad Kendrick and the No. 7 Red Horse Racing crew have prepared chassis number 001 for battle this weekend at Atlanta.

RHR PR

Health and wellness company AdvoCare will power the No. 43 Ford Fusion on Labor Day weekend, sponsoring Aric Almirola at the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Atlanta (Ga.) Motor Speedway.  The award-winning company, which offers energy, weight-loss, nutrition, and sports performance products, will also be the title sponsor of the September 2 Sprint Cup race, the AdvoCare 500, for the second consecutive year.

The event will mark the 2012 debut of the AdvoCare blue and white colors on Richard Petty Motorsports' No. 43 Ford Fusion.  But the company is no stranger to Almirola.  The 28-year-old driver is a regular user of AdvoCare products in his nutrition and fitness regimen.

"Everything in racing is about having a competitive edge, and I feel AdvoCare products give me a competitive edge," Almirola said. "But you don't have to be a professional athlete to benefit from their products.  Anyone who wants to get more out of their workouts or sports activities can benefit.  I've used AdvoCare products for a while, and now it will be cool to have the company on my No. 43 Ford, too."

Almirola has a top-five finish and two top-10 finishes collectively in the NASCAR Nationwide Series and Camping World Truck Series at Atlanta.  The AdvoCare 500 will be his second Sprint Cup Series start at the 1.54-mile oval.

"We're excited to be back on the No. 43 Ford this season in Atlanta," said AdvoCare Director of Sponsorships Mike Vaught. "The way the Petty family has done business over the years shows a lot of the same principles that we abide by in our own company - maintaining a standard of excellence, committing to honor and integrity, and putting a focus on family. We're proud to partner with the team and with Aric for the AdvoCare 500."

RPM PR

Shell-Pennzoil Dodge driver Sam Hornish Jr. started 29th in the Irwin Tools Night Race here at Bristol Motor Speedway and charged quickly up into the top 20 after only 60 laps.  He and his Todd Gordon-led No. 22 Penske Racing Team saw their luck change for the worse, however, when impatience by another driver triggered an incident that damaged their car so badly they had to take it behind the wall for repairs after only 120 laps.  Hornish would return to complete 343 laps and be credited with a 34th-place finish.

“It was tough tonight for sure,” Hornish told Dodge Motorsports’ Jimmy White after tonight’s race had concluded.  “After seeing how the race played out, you know, I could have just got away from all the guys that I was worried about and running around. We got pushed from the middle of three and four all the way to the exit until we got wrecked. There’s only so much you can do about that. I guess the only thing that I could’ve done different was not been in that position with that car behind me.

“Outside of that, even after they put a whole new rear end housing in it and a bunch of new parts on the front end; we could run decent lap times and run with guys that finished 16th and 17th. I feel like we had a good car and we should have rode around the back a little bit more in the early part of the race when everybody was right up at the top beating the heck out of each other. That wasn’t a good spot to be in. I wish I could redo it.

“Everybody thinks at Bristol you’ve got to get to the front,” Hornish added.  “If we’d have just waited we’d have been fine. I saw a car out there that ran in the back, was laps down multiple times and got back on the lead lap right at the end of the race and finished top 20. You’ve just got to be smart about it and if these people are racing too hard and beating each other up too much, get away from ‘em and try it different. It’ll probably suit you a little bit better in the end anyhow.”

Hornish started tonight’s 500-lap battle from the inside of the 15th row and made steady progress during the early portion of the race.  He was up to 26th on Lap 20 and had climbed to 23rd on Lap 40.  He reported that his Dodge was a little tight in the center and free off.  The biggest concern in the early laps was the water temperature that had climbed to almost 300 degrees.  Spotter Chris Osborne has also alerted Hornish that his right-front brake rotors were “cherry red.” 

The “Double-Deuce” Dodge had moved solidly into the top 20 when the second caution flag of the race flew on Lap 82 for debris.  Hornish had already been getting contact from the rear by David Ragan and from the side by Kurt Busch.  Crew chief Gordon called his driver down pit road on Lap 85.  The team changed four tires, added fuel and straightened out the bent sheet metal from all the contact.  They also removed a substantial amount of tape off the grill area to counter the high water temperature.

Hornish’s Dodge was still “pushing water” when he lined up 24th for the Lap 90 restart, but it gradually cooled down and did not cause any further problems.

However, additional contact from Ragan on Lap 120 saw Hornish fishtail and he wound up getting hard into the outside wall.  The damage was severe enough that he was relegated to behind the wall for repairs.  Body damage was addressed all the way around and Hornish returned to the action on Lap 151.

Only a few laps had been run when it was determined that the rear end housing had been damaged and needed changing.  Hornish pulled behind the wall again for the repairs and joined the action again on Lap 228.  Only nine laps later, a left-side control arm broke and the 22 car darted up the track in Turn 2.  Hornish returned to the same area behind the wall for further repairs and returned to the track when the leaders were completing Lap 273.

Hornish was able to complete the remainder of the race incident-free and was turning top-15 lap times during much of the final fifth of the race.

The modifications done to the track since the spring race did not eliminate multiple groove racing, but it definitely made the outside line the fastest way around the track.  Fans who were longing for the old-style Bristol, known for beating and banging, contact and plenty of spins certainly got just that here tonight.

“You know, I kept thinking that people would be running up there and that somebody was going to make it work on the bottom in practice,” Hornish said of the fact that the fastest and preferred groove was up on the high side almost against the wall.  “Then once the race started it was like man, you can make it work but it’s kind of like Daytona or Talladega. You have a set period of time when you pull out until you get around that car or else everybody else is going to file in behind you and you’re going to be stuck and hung out to dry. There were guys that would just muscle their way back up into the top and it was all about you being patient enough to let ‘em go. And there are certain people that can get away with it and certain people that can’t. That’s racing.”

Up front there were several drivers who controlled the tempo during the race.  Joey Logano had led for 139 laps and Martin Truex Jr. paced the field for 44 circuits before Denny Hamlin took the lead on Lap 409.  After swapping the point with Carl Edwards and Brian Vickers several times, Hamlin regained the lead for good on Lap 462 and never looked back. 

Hamlin came home the winner by 1.103 seconds over Jimmie Johnson.  Jeff Gordon finished third with Vickers fourth and Marcos Ambrose fifth.  Kyle Busch, Clint Bowyer, Logano, Kasey Kahne and Paul Menard rounded out tonight’s top-10 finishers.  Penske Racing teammate Brad Keselowski was also the victim of a rough-driving incident here tonight.  After spending time behind the wall for repairs, he returned to complete 434 laps and was credited with a 30th-place finish.

The results here tonight shuffled the Sprint Cup points around with only two races until the cutoff for the final 10-race “Chase” to the 2012 series championship.  While Hamlin’s win saw him climb two spots in the standings to eighth, Keselowski dropped two spots to seventh.  Kevin Harvick fell to ninth and Tony Stewart dropped to 10th.  Ryan Newman, who crashed out of the race, was the biggest loser here tonight, dropping from 13th to 15th in the standings.

Penske Racing PR

In an exciting night at Bristol Motor Speedway that featured 13 cautions, the most at the reconfigured short track since 2007, Hendrick Motorsports teammates Jimmie Johnson and Dale Earnhardt Jr. secured spots inside the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup.

With just two races left before the playoff field is set, Jeff Gordon and Kasey Kahne improved their cases for a wild card spot finishing third and ninth, respectively.

After the action at Bristol, Johnson now ranks second in the driver standings, while Earnhardt is third. Kahne is the only wild card contender with multiple wins and ranks 11th, while Gordon is 15th.

Here is a breakdown of how each Hendrick Motorsports team fared at Bristol:

Kasey Kahne’s No. 5 Hendrickcars.com Chevrolet:
Bristol finish: Ninth.
Points ranking: 11th.
Gearing up: Kahne kicked off night racing at Bristol Motor Speedway by greeting fans with the song “Some Nights” by Fun during driver introductions at the .533-mile oval. The driver of the No. 5 Hendrickcars.com Chevrolet lined up 12th at Bristol based on his final practice speed after rain washed out the Cup qualifying session on Friday.
Race recap: Kahne took the lead at Bristol Motor Speedway for the first time since his career best finish of second in 2007. After opening the 500-lap race from 12th, Kahne quickly moved through the field to take the lead on Lap 108. He was able to lead 41 laps before the No. 5 Hendrickcars.com Chevrolet slipped in oil on the track from an incident that caused the fourth of 13 cautions at Bristol. Crew chief Kenny Francis took advantage of the caution period to have Kahne pit twice to asses and repair the damage to the Chevrolet. While the repairs caused Kahne to drop to 33rd, he was the Lucky Dog recipient on Lap 200 and rejoined his teammates on the lead lap. The driver of the No. 5 Hendrickcars.com Chevrolet continued to climb through the field and was able recover to finish ninth. He now ranks 11th in the driver standings and is a Chase Wild Card contender with two wins.

Jeff Gordon’s No. 24 Drive to End Hunger Chevrolet:
Bristol finish: Third.
Points ranking: 15th
Gearing up: In honor of the partnership between AARP Drive to End Hunger and Zynga, the driver of the No. 24 Chevrolet chose “International Harvester” by Eric Church as his song during driver introductions at Bristol. Gordon rolled off 11th at the .533-mile oval based on his final practice speed after rain washed out the Cup qualifying session on Friday.
Race recap: Gordon continued his progress toward a Chase wild card spot with his performance at Bristol Motor Speedway. The driver of the No. 24 Drive to End Hunger Chevrolet wasted no time at the .533-mile track, cracking the top-10 within the first five laps of the 500 lap event. Despite reporting a tight No. 24 Chevrolet, Gordon maintained his hold in the top 10 and ran as high as second at the short track before ultimately finishing third. It marked his fifth top-five finish of the season. He now ranks 15th in the driver standings and continues to battle for a spot in the Chase.
Outside the lines:  At Bristol, Gordon’s No. 24 Chevrolet sported a special paint scheme featuring FarmVille characters through a partnership between AARP Drive to End Hunger and social gaming leader Zynga. Today through Sept. 7, FarmVille players can purchase exclusive, limited edition Drive to End Hunger in-game virtual goods to enhance their farming experience while giving back. Click here for images of the No. 24 Chevy.
Social Media Timeou: “Jeff Gordon – ‘Good job guys. Hate we didn’t get that win. Had a car capable of it.’ Alan Gustafson: ‘10-4 we gotta keep bringing it.’ #NASCAR  #Team24” from @JeffGordonWeb

Jimmie Johnson’s No. 48 Lowe’s Dover White Chevrolet:
Bristol finish: Second.
Points ranking: Second.
Gearing up: Johnson greeted fans to “Howlin’ For You” by The Black Keys during driver introductions at Bristol. He then lined up in 37th to start the night race, a position based on his final practice speed after rain washed out the Cup qualifying session on Friday.
Race recap: Johnson continued his strong season, earning his 12th top-five finish of the season. The driver of the No. 48 Lowe’s Dover White Chevrolet climbed from 37th-place starting position to take over the lead on Lap 276. Johnson was caught in a multi-car incident at the beginning of the race with minimal damaged to the No. 48 Chevrolet. Despite the early race issue, Johnson held off teammate Gordon to lead 51 laps total at the short track. He ultimately finished second, locking a spot in the Chase for the ninth time and now ranks second in the driver standings.
Outside the lines: The No. 48 Chevrolet sported a special Dover White paint scheme for the second time this season. Previously, Johnson raced this at Kentucky Speedway on June 30 where he picked up his first career pole at the 1.5-mile track.
Post-race thoughts: “Great night. I wish we could have been one spot better but very solid effort for this team. We had a great strategy and a great car and made a strong show today. Now it’s time to get to work and focus on the 10 weeks.”

Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s No. 88 Diet Mountain Dew/National Guard Chevrolet:
Bristol finish: 12th.
Points ranking: Third.
Gearing up: Earnhardt greeted fans during driver introductions at Bristol by walking out to “Momma Said Knock You Out” by LL Cool J. The No. 88 Diet Mountain Dew/National Guard Chevrolet started 16th at the short track based on his speed during final practice after rain washed out the Cup qualifying session on Friday.
Race recap: Earnhardt overcame pit road penalties to hold on for a 12-place finish at Bristol Motor Speedway, locking himself into the Chase. Earnhardt started from 16th and was running in the top 20 when he was hit with a pit road speeding penalty on Lap 97. He recovered to take the lead on Lap 200 and continued to pace the field for 12 laps. Earnhardt was hit with another pit road penalty on Lap 348 when crew chief Steve Letarte called the No. 88 Chevrolet down a closed pit road. The No. 88 team recovered and Earnhardt raced back for the 12-place finish. He now ranks third in the driver standings and is guaranteed a spot in the Chase.
Post-race thoughts: “We had a fast car; the car was so fast starting the race. We made some mistakes that we can’t afford to make often. But I had fun though. I don’t know what the fans thought about the race, but I really enjoyed the race.”

HMS PR

There is no quit in the American Majority No. 81 team.  Week-in and week-out, Jason Bowles and hiscrew battle right to the last lap, and Bristol Friday night was nodifferent.  After sustaining damage tothe rear end from an early spin and contact with the wall, Bowles and the teammade the necessary repairs and clawed their way back into the top-20, recordingan 18th place finish at the “World’s Fastest Half-Mile.”

“The car was much better in race trim thanqualifying,” explained Bowles.  “We movedup quickly early on until I got loose under the 01 car and scraped the wall.  The guys did an excellent job getting the carback together and we were able to make our way back towards the front.  I really have to thank them and AmericanMajority for all of their support.  Wecouldn’t do it without them.”

After qualifying 26th, Bowlesquickly moved up to 18th place by lap 30.  On lap 46, Jason got loose under the 01 ofMike Wallace and got into the inside wall, sustaining some damage to the rearend.  After making the repairs, Bowlesslowly moved back towards the front, moving into the top-20 with just 20 lapsto go.  Even with the damage, theAmerican Majority No. 81 was fast and Jason was able to move into 18thplace before the checkered flag.

In the points, Jason was able to advance oneposition to 14th in the driver standings.  The MacDonald Motorsports No. 81 also movedup one spot in the owner standings, into 22nd.

MMPR

Race Highlights:

  • Richard Childress Racing teammates finished 10th (Paul Menard), 15th (Kevin Harvick) and 33rd (Jeff Burton).
  • Harvick ranks ninth in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series driver championship point standings, trailing point leader Greg Biffle by 82 points with three races remaining until the Chase for the Sprint Cup. Menard ranks 17th, 72 markers outside of the final Chase position, while Burton ranks 20th, 169 points out.
  • According to NASCAR's Loop Data Statistics, Menard made 26 Green Flag Passes and ranked 11th in Quality Passes.
  • Menard spent 74.8 percent of the contested Laps in the Top 15 (374 of 500), ranking ninth in the respective NASCAR Loop Data Statistics category.
  • Harvick averaged a Green Flag Speed of 117.087 mph and spent 384 Laps in the Top 15, ranking him seventh in both categories.
  • Burton ran as high as second position and scored the fastest lap of the race seven times.
  • The RCR drivers collectively logged 16 of the Fastest Laps Run in the 500-lap race with Burton contributing seven circuits, Menard with six and Harvick with three.
  • Denny Hamlin earned his third Sprint Cup Series victory of the season and was followed to the finish line by Jimmie Johnson, Jeff Gordon, Brian Vickers and Marcos Ambrose. 
  • The next scheduled Sprint Cup Series race is the AdvoCare 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway on Sunday, Sept. 2. The 25th race of the 2012 season is scheduled to be televised live on ESPN beginning at 6:30 p.m. Eastern Time and broadcast live on the Performance Racing Network and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio.
2011 CC Team Icon 27 NSCS Menards  

Paul Menard and the No. 27 Schrock/Menard Team Earn Hard-Fought Top-10 Finish at Bristol Motor Speedway

 

Paul Menard started the No. 27 Schrock/Menards Chevrolet from the seventh position in the Saturday night NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race under the lights of Bristol Motor Speedway and overcame a number of challenges to earn a top-10 finish in the IRWIN Tools Night Race. Starting from the seventh position after rain caused NASCAR officials to cancel Friday's qualifying session and set the starting lineup based off of practice speeds, the Richard Childress Racing driver reported handling issues early in the 500-lap event but still competed in the top 15 for the first 148 laps before visiting pit road for routine service on lap 149. Assessed a penalty for speeding while exiting pit road, Menard was forced to restart at the tail end of the longest line and climb back from the 28th position. Crew chief Slugger Labbe instructed Menard to remain on the race track during the next caution period on lap 190, placing the No. 27 Chevrolet team on a different pit cycle than the majority of the field and gaining much needed track position. Battling a tight-handling condition on the neon yellow machine while running the inside groove, the Labbe-led team made minor adjustments on subsequent pit stops while under yellow-flag conditions to assist the Eau Claire, Wis., driver. Menard was a fixture in the top 15 for the final 130 laps, finally breaking back into the top 10 on lap 345 and ultimately crossing the finish line in the 10th position.

 

Start - 7                   Finish - 10                   Laps Led - 0                    Points - 17

 

PAUL MENARD QUOTE:

"The No. 27 Schrock/Menards team did a great job tonight and the pit crew was just awesome on pit road. I'm proud of all of these guys. We fought hard for this top-10 finish."

 

  

29 Rheem CC    

 

Kevin Harvick and the Rheem Team Bring Home 15th-Place Finish at Bristol Motor Speedway

 

Kevin Harvick drove Richard Childress Racing's No. 29 Rheem Chevrolet to a 15th-place finish Saturday night in the IRWIN Tools Night Race under the lights of Bristol Motor Speedway. After rain showers cancelled qualifying Friday evening and NASCAR officials set the starting lineup according to practice speeds, Harvick started the 500-lap event from the 13th position and worked his way into the top 10 by lap 52. Harvick maintained a position in the top 10 until crew chief Gil Martin called him to pit road on lap 149 under caution for right-side tires and fuel. The remaining top-15 cars elected to stay on track during the yellow-flag laps, placing the No. 29 Chevrolet in the 18th position for the ensuing restart. The Bakersfield, Calif., native worked his way back toward the front of the field settling into the top five on lap 193. The Rheem Chevrolet remained a fixture near the front of the field until making a final pit stop under caution on lap 415 in order to avoid running short on fuel at the end of the race. Harvick returned to the track in the 11th position for the lap-419 restart and was shuffled back in the pack after being held on the bottom line, ultimately crossing the finish line in the 15th position. Following the 24th points paying event of the 2012 season, Harvick fell one position in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series driver championship point standings, to ninth, 82 points behind the leader.

 

Start - 13                Finish - 15                 Laps Led - 0                Points - 9

 

KEVIN HARVICK QUOTE:

"The Rheem crew did a great job tonight. The car was good all weekend long, it just came down to fuel mileage. We couldn't make it until the end and were forced to make an extra pit stop."  

 

2011 CC Team Logo NSCS 31 CAT

On-Track Incident Foils Jeff Burton's Top-Five Effort at Bristol Motor Speedway

 

A multi-car accident on lap 192 collected Jeff Burton's No. 31 CAT Global Mining Chevrolet in the IRWIN Tools Night Race and spoiled a solid effort from the Richard Childress Racing driver under the lights at Bristol Motor Speedway. The South Boston Va., native started the race from the sixth position as rain on Friday evening forced NASCAR officials to cancel NASCAR Sprint Cup Series qualifying and set the field according to first practice speeds. From the beginning of the 500-lap race, the No. 31 Chevrolet showed speed with Burton immediately entering the top five, where he was a mainstay for the first 150 laps of the event, running as high as second place. Under a caution-flag period on lap 151, many competitors decided to stay on track, but Burton and crew chief Drew Blickensderfer made the call to come down pit road for a two-tire pit stop. The No. 31 CAT Global Mining Chevrolet was scored in the 17th position on the ensuing restart, but as Burton climbed his way back into the top 15, disaster struck on lap 192 in the form an unavoidable multi-car incident for the 21-time Sprint Cup Series race winner. The damage to the black and gold machine was heavy enough to force the team to make repairs in the garage area for an extended period of time, with Burton eventually returning to the race track on lap 327. The team completed the remainder of the race and gained one position in the process, finishing in the 33rd position. Burton now sits 20th in the Sprint Cup Series driver championship point standings.

 

Start-6                   Finish-33                   Laps Led-0              Points-20

 

JEFF BURTON QUOTE:

"I saw Ryan Newman get in trouble and he started spinning. He looked like he was going to stay against the wall so I committed to the bottom line and then he started to slide down the track and I couldn't get turned back to the right to avoid him. It was pretty disappointing. We had a really fast car tonight. The CAT Global Mining Chevrolet was really good and we needed a good run. We had a good enough car tonight to make that happen. It's just been one of those years."

 

RCR

What was shaping up to be a solid run for Ryan Newman and the No. 39 Outback Steakhouse Racing team in the Irwin Tools Night Race on Saturday at Bristol (Tenn.) Motor Speedway came to a disappointing and sudden end. Newman’s left rear tire went flat on lap 189, sending the No. 39 Chevy spinning off of turn four and crashing into the outside retaining wall before being hit by another car as he came back across the racetrack.

Newman walked away from the incident unharmed, but the racecar and the No. 39 Stewart-Haas Racing team’s chances at earning a third berth in the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup championship in four seasons took a beating.

Newman’s car was heavily damaged in the crash, and he was unable to return to the racetrack. That resulted in a 36th-place finish, dropping Newman to 15th in points and out of the wild-card spot with two races to go before the Chase begins Sept. 16 at Chicagoland Speedway in Joliet, Ill.

“The crash drove the frame into the motor, and the Outback Steakhouse Chevy was just too far gone to get it back out there,” crew chief Tony Gibson said after examining the wrecked racecar. “Ryan just said somebody got into the left rear of him and cut the left-rear tire. The lap before that he started getting really loose, and then the very next lap, it just turned around on him. By the time we saw it, he had already spun. It’s a shame.

“The Outback Steakhouse is a great sponsor. We had finally gotten some track position to do something with it and we were a little bit tight, but we thought we’d be OK. It’s just misfortune. But we can’t let this get us down. We’ve seen how one race can change this whole deal on who makes the Chase. We’re not giving up. We’ll fight to the bitter end.”

Only the top-10 in points are locked into the 12-driver, 10-race Chase. Positions 11 and 12 in the Chase are wild cards, awarded to the two drivers between 11th and 20th in points with the most wins. In the event of multiple drivers having the same number of wins, a driver’s point standing serves as the tiebreaker.

Kasey Kahne holds the 11th-place wild-card spot thanks to his two victories, the most of any driver outside the top-10. Kyle Busch vaulted into the 12th-place wild-card spot after Bristol due to his victory April 28 at Richmond (Va.) International Raceway, combined with his 13th position in the point standings, which is higher than his fellow single-race winners in the top-20 in points – Jeff Gordon, Newman, Marcos Ambrose and Joey Logano.

After qualifying was rained out Friday, Newman started 19th based on the fastest lap he posted during the day’s practice session, per the NASCAR rulebook. Early in the running of the 500-lap race, Newman fought a tight-handling racecar.

But following a series of adjustments under caution – a wedge adjustment at lap 85 and track bar adjustment at lap 124 – Newman told his crew that his racecar was much better.

When the caution waved at lap 148, Gibson told Newman to stay out, which helped the Outback Chevy gain track position. Newman moved up from 22nd- to 10th-place thanks to varying pit strategies. South Bend, Ind., native Newman told his crew chief he believed he had a fast racecar, and good track position would help him showcase the strength of their Outback Chevy.

But Newman didn’t get that chance. At lap 187, Newman radioed his crew that he thought the rubber building up on the racetrack was making him loose. Two laps later, Newman asserted again that his car was suddenly loose.

Within seconds, Gibson told his driver that a deflating left-rear tire was causing the loose handling condition. Gibson had barely finished those words when Newman’s maroon-and-cream Outback Chevy spun in front of them exiting turn four and careened into the outside wall. As he came back across the track, Newman was tagged by Juan Pablo Montoya.

The incident ended Newman’s night.

Tony Stewart, driver of the No. 14 Mobil 1/Office Depot Chevrolet, finished 27th. Stewart was involved in an accident with Matt Kenseth on lap 334 and went on to complete only 471 laps.

SHR driver Danica Patrick, who is driving the No. 10 GoDaddy.com Chevrolet for Tommy Baldwin Racing via a collaborative agreement with SHR, finished 29th after an accident with Regan Smith on lap 434 that damaged her car too extensively to continue.

Denny Hamlin won the Irwin Tools Night Race to score his 20th career Sprint Cup victory, his third of the season and his first at Bristol.

Jimmie Johnson finished 1.103 seconds behind Hamlin in the runner-up spot, while Gordon, Brian Vickers and Ambrose rounded out the top-five. Busch, Clint Bowyer, Logano, Kahne and Paul Menard comprised the remainder of the top-10.

There were 13 caution periods for 87 laps, with 11 drivers failing to finish the 500-lap race.

With round 24 of 36 complete, Stewart continues to lead the SHR duo in the championship point standings. He fell one spot to 10th and has 746 points, 103 back of series leader Greg Biffle and 16 points ahead of 11th-place Kahne. Newman fell two positions to 15th and has 688 points, 161 behind Biffle and 58 behind 10th-place Stewart.

TSC

The revamped Bristol (Tenn.) Motor Speedway, where the banking in the upper groove of the racetrack was reduced to the same degree as the middle of the track surface, gave the .533-mile concrete bullring its luster of yesteryear with plenty of bent sheet metal that left plenty of drivers bent with one another.

Count Tony Stewart among them, as the driver of the No. 14 Mobil 1/Office Depot Chevrolet for Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR) finished 27th in the Irwin Tools Night Race after tangling with Matt Kenseth for the lead on lap 333.

Stewart was none too pleased with Kenseth’s driving tactics, and the 14-year NASCAR Sprint Cup Series veteran showed his displeasure to Kenseth when after climbing from his battered racecar, he threw his helmet at Kenseth. Stewart was as precise with his throw as he was with his words afterward, as the helmet struck Kenseth’s Ford square in the nose.

“I checked-up twice to not run over him, and I learned my lesson there,” said Stewart of Kenseth. “I’m going to run over him every chance I’ve got from now ‘til the end of the year – every chance I’ve got.

“We ran on the restart faster than him each lap, so we just learned our lesson that next time – just drive through him, not even be patient by him. We’re not going to give him that chance again.”

The helmet toss was retro Stewart, as the three-time and reigning Sprint Cup champion was combustible in his early years on the circuit. However, experience and team ownership, as Stewart is a driver-owner at SHR, mellowed him in recent years. Nonetheless, the dustup with Kenseth, where Stewart was vying for the win, left him seething over what might’ve been.

That Stewart was even in contention for the win was amazing. He went a lap down to leader Joey Logano on lap 74 with a racecar that plowed through the track’s high-banked corners. Stewart dropped to as low as 34th in the 43-car field, but smart chassis adjustments by crew chief Steve Addington brought the Mobil 1/Office Depot Chevy around.

When the caution came out on lap 149, Stewart earned his lap back. With further chassis adjustments, Stewart climbed the leaderboard, cracking the top-10 on lap 270.

When the caution came out again on lap 323, Addington kept Stewart out on the track to gain valuable track position. It worked, as Stewart lined up second to leader Kenseth for the restart on lap 329.

“We weren’t that great of a race car,” Stewart said, “but we were definitely faster than that after that restart.”

Stewart doggedly pursued Kenseth, edging ahead of the 2004 Sprint Cup champion before the two drivers slapped doors coming off turn four and spun into the retaining wall separating the track from pit road.

Stewart’s car wouldn’t restart and he climbed from it, scanning the track for Kenseth. When Stewart found Kenseth and his No. 17 Ford ambling down pit road, Stewart the southpaw unleashed his helmet, and as it caromed off the nose of Kenseth’s car, the crowd roared in approval.

After his mandatory evaluation inside the infield care center, Stewart returned to his Mobil 1/Office Depot Chevy and completed the remainder of the race, avoiding a dreaded DNF (Did Not Finish).

Stewart’s SHR counterparts were not so lucky.

Danica Patrick, who is driving the No. 10 GoDaddy.com Chevrolet for Tommy Baldwin Racing via a collaborative agreement with SHR, finished 29th after an accident with Regan Smith on lap 434 damaged her car too extensively to continue.

Ryan Newman, driver of the No. 39 Outback Steakhouse Chevrolet for SHR, finished 36th after being involved in an accident with Juan Pablo Montoya on lap 189. Newman’s car suffered heavy damage and was unable to continue. The finish also dropped him out of the wild-card spot for the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup with two races to go before the Chase begins Sept. 16 at Chicagoland Speedway in Joliet, Ill.

Only the top-10 in points are locked into the 12-driver, 10-race Chase. Positions 11 and 12 in the Chase are wild cards, awarded to the two drivers between 11th and 20th in points with the most wins. In the event of multiple drivers having the same number of wins, a driver’s point standing serves as the tiebreaker.

Kasey Kahne holds the 11th-place wild-card spot thanks to his two victories, the most of any driver outside the top-10. Kyle Busch vaulted into the 12th-place wild-card spot after Bristol due to his victory April 28 at Richmond (Va.) International Raceway, combined with his 13th position in the point standings, which is higher than his fellow single-race winners in the top-20 in points – Jeff Gordon, Newman, Marcos Ambrose and Logano.

With round 24 of 36 complete, Stewart continues to lead the SHR duo in the championship point standings. He fell one spot to 10th and has 746 points, 103 back of series leader Greg Biffle and 16 points ahead of 11th-place Kahne. Newman fell two positions to 15th and has 688 points, 161 behind Biffle and 58 behind 10th-place Stewart.

Denny Hamlin won the Irwin Tools Night Race to score his 20th career Sprint Cup victory, his third of the season and his first at Bristol.

Jimmie Johnson finished 1.103 seconds behind Hamlin in the runner-up spot, while Gordon, Brian Vickers and Ambrose rounded out the top-five. Busch, Clint Bowyer, Logano, Kahne and Paul Menard comprised the remainder of the top-10.

There were 13 caution periods for 87 laps, with 11 drivers failing to finish the 500-lap race.

The next event on the Sprint Cup schedule is the AdvoCare 500 on Sunday, Sept. 2 at Atlanta Motor Speedway. The race starts at 7:30 p.m. EDT, with live coverage provided by ESPN beginning with its pre-race show at 6:30 p.m.

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Danica Patrick saw a potential top-20 finish end in a heartbreaking accident less than 70 laps from the finish in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Irwin Tools Night Race Saturday at Bristol (Tenn.) Motor Speedway.

Patrick, who drives the No. 10 GoDaddy.com Chevrolet for Tommy Baldwin Racing via a collaborative agreement with Stewart-Haas Racing, was running 20th on lap 434 when the right front of Regan Smith’s car hit the left rear of her machine.

The contact sent Patrick out of control, and the nose of her GoDaddy.com Chevrolet slammed into the SAFER Barrier on the inside retaining wall.

The damage was too extensive for the GoDaddy team to fix with so few laps left in the race, and Patrick’s night was done.

It was a tough end to what had been a positive outing for Patrick, who was making just her fourth career Sprint Cup Series start and her first at the .533-mile oval.

After starting 43rd, Patrick stayed out of trouble and, with the help of spotter Tab Boyd, methodically climbed the standings while learning how to compete at one of NASCAR’s toughest tracks. She was as high as 17th on lap 325 and was in the top-20 and on the lead lap in the closing portion of the race. A solid finish was within reach until the contact with Smith ended her day.

“I haven’t seen the replay,” said Patrick, who finished ninth in the Food City 250 NASCAR Nationwide Series race Friday night at Bristol. “We’re all racing hard. This is Bristol, and this is why people love this track is because you see a lot of that, and you see tempers flare. It’s usually part of the broadcast and when they describe what’s going to happen. It was just a bummer because I really felt like the GoDaddy Chevrolet was going to get a solid, maybe a top-20, finish and on the lead lap. And that wouldn’t have been something that I thought would happen tonight. The team did a great job, and everything was running really smoothly. So it’s a shame that we lost that. But you know, Bristol is a place where you find out who’s playing fair and who’s not.”

Patrick’s race strategist, Greg Zipadelli, was impressed with her continued education in NASCAR’s top division.

“Every place we’ve gone – when she gets around people, she really learns what she needs to do, and we’re able to adjust on the car and get her better,” Zipadelli said. “She gained a lot of speed. I would say by far this is her best effort.”

Denny Hamlin won the Irwin Tools Night Race to score his 20th career Sprint Cup victory, his third of the season and his first at Bristol.

Jimmie Johnson finished 1.103 seconds behind Hamlin in the runner-up spot, while Jeff Gordon, Brian Vickers, and Marcos Ambrose rounded out the top-five. Kyle Busch, Clint Bowyer, Joey Logano, Kasey Kahne and Paul Menard comprised the remainder of the top-10.

There were 13 caution periods for 87 laps, with 11 drivers failing to finish the 500-lap race.

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Regan Smith brought home a battered race car to a 16th-place finish in Saturday night's Irwin Tools 500 Sprint Cup race at Bristol Motor Speedway. 

The entertaining 500-lap event, which saw numerous spins and crashes, was reminiscent of the old Bristol races as the beating and banging along with plenty of sheet metal carnage returned to the high-banked, half-mile oval. 

"It was a rough night," said Smith, who started the race from the 14th position. "It was difficult to pass and that's why you saw so many incidents and cautions. We took our share of licks, but managed to keep our car in one piece and finish on the lead lap."

Though Smith was pleased with how his Furniture Row Racing team overcame adversity, he was not happy with himself for unintentionally wrecking Danica Patrick late in the race.

"It was my fault, no excuses on my end," said Smith about the incident with Patrick. "After I made contact with Danica's car I radioed my spotter to relay a message to her spotter that I was sorry and know the apology doesn't make it any better. She was running a great race and I don't blame her for being madder than a hornet because I was in the same position a week ago in Michigan. I was just as frustrated in Michigan as she is right now."

Smith's MIchigan reference was about how he got wrecked in last week's Sprint Cup Series race at  Michigan International Speedway while running in the top-12.

After what happened at Michigan, Smith was looking for a strong result at Bristol, but three different times during the race his momentum stalled. He got tangled in a racing incident with Kurt Busch on Lap 323. He then suffered more car damage when he made contact with Casey Mears' spinning car on Lap 419. A few laps later, Smith's Chevrolet got rear-ended by the No. 16 car (Greg Biffle) which knocked out the bumper bar.  

"Our Furniture Row/Farm American Chevy took a beating tonight and our guys did a great job in the pits, fixing the problems that we had," explained Smith, who remained 23rd in driver points. "Our car was fragile at the end and I was really happy to see the checkered flag."

The race winner was Denny Hamlin. Rounding out the top-10 in order were: Jimmie Johnson, Jeff Gordon, Brian Vickers, Marcos Ambrose, Kyle Busch, Clint Bowyer, Joey Logano, Kasey Kahne and Paul Menard. 

There were 22 lead changes among 13 drivers and 13 cautions for 87 laps. 

The next Sprint Cup race is Sunday night (Sept. 2) at Atlanta Motor Speedway.
 
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