NASCAR knew that rain was in the forecast for the entire weekend before cars got on track for opening Sprint Cup Series practice on Friday. The session started 19 minutes behind the scheduled time due to fog. 

Fog remained a factor for what turned into be just a 20 minute practice when rain came and halted cars from working on qualifying setup. 28 cars participated in practice, so if qualifying is rained out in the afternoon the starting lineup will be set by owner standings. 

Carl Edwards posted the fastest single lap speed at 179.802 mph, which was over one mph faster than Kevin Harvick, who recorded the second fastest lap. If rain cancels qualifying, the No. 4 Chevrolet would start from the pole on Sunday. 

Last year's pole-sitter for this event, Kurt Busch was third on the leader board at 178.649 mph. Paul Menard was fourth at 178.250 mph and defending Cup Series champion Kyle Busch rounded out the top five. 

Jimmie Johnson, Casey Mears, Joey Logano, Greg Bffle and Tony Stewart rounded out the top 10. 

Three drivers were tied for most laps ran in the practice session at seven. Cup Series rookie Chris Buescher led the way in that category at 23rd. Michael Annett and Brian Scott also completed seven laps and were the two slowest cars on one lap speed. 

Notable drivers who didn't complete a lap were August winner, Matt Kenseth, Ryan Newman and Austin Dillon. 

Qualifying is set to role at 4:15 p.m. ET if rain moves out of the Pocono Mountains.
The theme of the NASCAR XFINITY Series race at Charlotte was hot and slick. Denny Hamlin outlasted all the chaos to record his first victory of 2016. 

With less than 40 laps to go Hamlin had to go to the rear for an uncontrolled tire during a pit stop under caution. 
It took the No. 18 car just over 30 laps to get up to third after restarting 14th.

Then a caution flew with under two laps to go and changed the entire outcome of the 300-mile race. 

Hamlin's JGR teammate and pole-sitter Erik Jones brought out a caution when he cut down a right front tire, pounding the outside wall. The No. 18 team decided to come down and put four tires on their machine, while the two race leaders stayed out. 

On the green-white-checkered finish, Hamlin grabbed the lead coming to the white flag where he wouldn't look back en route to JGR's seventh win of the season in the series. 

"It was a second opportunity," Hamlin said of his victory. "I was hoping  for that caution there and the end and we got it. We were able to get four tires and took off. It was a little closer than I thought, we were just really right in those last couple of laps."

Austin Dillon was the first off pit road taking just two tires after the final caution. He gained one position in the final two laps, finishing in the runner-up position.

After leading 58 laps and being one of two drivers to stay out under the late race caution, Joey Logano came home third. This is his second top-five finish in five races this season in the No. 22 car, which is still looking for its first victory as a team.

"We had a car that was capable of winning if circumstances were right," Logano said of his third-place effort. "I thought I was going to have a good restart next to [Kyle] and I thought if we cleared him, like we did, we would have a shot. It was just really hard to hold off those four tires." 

In his second career start Cole Custer came home with a fourth-place finish. His JR Motorsports teammate, Justin Allgaier rounded out the top five. 

Kyle Larson made a bold move in Turn 3 of the final lap going for the win, but came up short and hit the outside wall. It cost him dearly as he finished sixth after leading 46 laps. 

Larson was the leader of the race when the final caution flag flew and the No. 42 team decided to stay out. Going into the final set of corners he had a shot at the victory, but came up short of his third career XFINITY Series triumph. 

"I didn't get a great take-off and Joey [Logano] got around me and was sucking on my door," Larson said of the final restart. "Denny [Hamlin] gave me a shot and i was surprised at how much grip I had. It's pretty hard to beat four tires." 

Rookie Brandon Jones finish seventh, with RCR teammate Ty Dillon eighth, Brennan Poole ninth and Brendan Gaughan rounded out the top 10. 

There were eight cautions in the race for 54 laps. In the two races combined at Charlotte in 2015, there were just six cautions total in 600 miles of competition. 

On Lap 25, a caution flew and took out three of the first six drivers in the running order after they slid through some oil on the track in Turn 3. 

It started when pole-sitter, Jones was making a move on race leader Hamlin, but slid in the oil and made contact with the wall. From there his JGR teammate, Daniel Suarez slid and had his car saved until coming back up the track into the wall where he was met by Elliott Sadler. All three drivers went at least one lap down

Suarez rebounded to finish 12th, while Sadler came home 28th and Jones 31st. 

Next weekend, the XFINITY Series will tackle Pocono Raceway for the first time in series history. 
Like they have done numerous times in 2016, Joe Gibbs Racing swept the front three positions in qualifying at Charlotte led by Erik Jones.

In the third round of qualifying, Jones posted a lap of 184.546 mph, just edging out his teammate Daniel Suarez. The No. 20 team is coming off a victory in the XFINITY Series last event in Dover two weeks ago.

With a speed of 184.470 mph, Suarez was runner-up in qualifying for the fourth time this year. This time it was just .012 seconds behind his JGR teammate.

Out of the 11 races, the No. 19 car has begun the race in the top three positions 11 times.

In his first XFINITY Series race of 2016, Denny Hamlin was over two-tenths of a second off the top time in the final round of qualifying. He recorded a lap at 183.219 mph, which improved from practice on Thursday.

Austin Dillon sat on the pole and swept both races at Charlotte last year will start from fourth on Saturday afternoon. His hot lap was over three-tenths of a second off the pole winning time at 182.636 mph.

2014 winner of this race Kyle Larson rounded out the top five at 182.451 mph.

XFINITY Series points leader, Elliott Sadler will start just outside the top five in sixth. This marks the No. 1 team second best qualifying effort of the year, just behind a fifth in California.

The highest starting rookie is Cole Custer in 11th with Brandon Jones alongside in 12th.

Jeb Burton will have to start from the rear after getting into the wall in Round 1. He had the 27th quickest lap.

TJ Bell and Morgan Shepherd are the two drivers who failed to qualify for the 40-car field.
In a race that was filled with controversy, Matt Kenseth put an end to his rough start to the year and wound up in Victory Lane.

The No. 20 car took the lead after a big crash with 46 laps to go involving 10-time Dover winner, Jimmie Johnson. From there the crafty veteran didn't look back as he led the final the remaining laps and stamped his name into the Chase.

"At time we were on and at times we were off," Kenseth said after his victory. "It just kind of depended on track position. We had one good where we were really good and then we never quite got it there again. It was one of those days where everything lined up for us at the end of the race and we were the only one left out there with two [tires]. We got a couple short runs to cycle everyone else's tires."

This is Kenseth's third win at the Monster Mile and his first triumph since the second Chase race in 2015. Joe Gibbs Racing recorded its 135th win as an organization, tying Roush Fenway Racing for third most all-time.

After going a lap down in the first long stint of the event, Kyle Larson rebounded to lead 85 laps, coming up just short of his first career victory. Going back to last week in Kansas, Larson has ran in the top five the majority of both races. Acknowledging that Chip Ganassi Racing has struggled over the last season or so, he believes that the team has begun to turn the corner.

"I wouldn't say it was a complete 180," Larson said post-race. "I definitely think we are moving in the right direction. The performances we've has the last few weeks have showed. We just got to keep working hard and never get content with where we are. In my third year I've learned that a lot."

With the second-place finish, Larson has now been the runner-up four times in his Cup career without heading to Victory Lane.

For a while it looked like Chase Elliott was going to pass both Kenseth and Larson as they raced hard for the victory. He began to fade in the later stages, but then rebounded to finish a half-second off the top two. The way that the 20-year-old has ran the past month or so it would seem like a victory is right around the corner.

"You hope your close," Elliott said. "For me I feel like I have a team capable of winning. The way I see it today is we had our shot and had a chance to do it today and I didn't do it. It's as simple as that, you either do or you don't."

Recording another top-10 finish for the No. 24 team, Elliott now leads Hendrick Motorsports in top 10 finishes in 2016 with eight.

Kasey Kahne rebounded from a car in which hovered around 10th for the majority of the race to finish fourth. It marks his second top-five finish of the year, the other coming at Richmond three weeks ago. Kurt Busch rounded out the top five, picking up his fourth of 2016. 

On Lap 354, the race took a turn when Johnson's car got stuck in gear. The No. 48 machine was the leader on a restart when there was more than a 10-car pileup. Other drivers in the incident included Kevin Harvick whom led 117 laps early in the race, but finished 15th and Martin Truex, Jr. who was the leader prior to that restart, but after taking four tires under caution restarted fourth, right behind the six-time champion. The No. 78 car came back to finish ninth.

Brad Keselowski finished sixth after having contact with Austin Dillon while running in second on Lap 282. Having to repair the entire right front fender, the No. 2 crew fought back to get it's seventh top 10 of the season.
 
One of the bigger incidents of the time came with 40 laps to go when Larson tagged the left rear of Carl Edwards sending him into the inside wall on the backstretch. Up to that point of the race, the No. 19 car had been out front for 27 laps, but came home 28th.

The Cup Series heads into it's All-Star break next week in Charlotte. Through the first 12 events, Harvick has a 21 point lead on Kyle Busch.


With speculation that Ryan Newman might be out of a ride at Richard Childress Racing following the 2016 season, he is ecstatic to be with the team.

In the third and final year of his current contract with RCR, Newman has experienced the ups and downs of a race team. This is something that he has welcomed in the past, making him an established veteran of the sport.

“Tying it all together, that’s the toughest part of our whole sport,” Newman told Speedway Digest. “One bad pit stop, one bad moment, one bad strategy call, one bad move as a driver, one bad restart can take you out of the race. There was a time in our sport that I think you had to be the best at everything, but now you need to damn near be the best at everything.”

In his 15th year in the Sprint Cup Series, Newman currently sits 17th in the standings, two points shy of the Chase cutoff after 11 races. As the halfway point of the race to the Chase approaches, the 38-year-old feels the pressure to perform.

”We’ve performed better than we’ve finished,” Newman elaborated. “We’ve had three tire failures in 11 races. Some of it has been self-inflicted, some of it hasn’t. But in the end, it’s part of racing and hopefully we got it out of the way.”

The Indiana native has raced for his livelihood several different times. In 2013, a week after being informed that he would not be back with Stewart-Haas Racing, he won the Brickyard 400.

But this year is different.

Over the span of his first two seasons with RCR, Newman was known for consistency, accumulating 31 top 10 finishes and making the Chase both years. He made it to the championship race with a shot at the title in 2014, his first year with the organization. Finishing second at Homestead that evening has been his best result in the No. 31 machine.

Heading into the summer months, the circuit is heading to some of Newman’s better tracks. He has nine career poles at Charlotte, with a best result of second. In a couple of months, the Cup Series heads to New Hampshire, which is arguably the best track for him with three career wins, 17 top 10 finishes and an average finish of 13.5.

“I think our cars are better than they were at this time last year hands down,” Newman said. “You’ve got to put everything together in this series. The competition level is so tough. You can’t afford to have one mistake.”

Through 11 races in 2016, the No. 31 car has qualified three top five starts. That is the same number that he had in all of 2015.

The chemistry within the organization is something that Newman is proud to be a part of and would seemingly be tough for him to leave.   Crew chief Luke Lambert and he have adapted to each other’s preferences, but the NASCAR veteran knows that the performance needs to improve.

“I’ve never been a part of an organization that worked more closely together like this,” Newman said. “To me, it’s as good as it can get. Once we can get the success it will get better yet.”

RCR is in a current slump of 84 races without going to Victory Lane. Ever since Kevin Harvick left the team at the end of 2013 season, the organization has struggled to find its groove back.

However, this season there is more to be proud of.

Newman’s teammate Austin Dillon currently sits eighth in points. Though he admits he can’t learn much from the third-year driver, the two work closely together and just recently began putting all eight cylinders together.

“I think it’s been in a rebuilding process,” he said. “I think our cars have been competitive. I think that at one point in 2014 our engines were our weak point. I think last year we started missing it a little on the car side and I think we are in the process of putting it all back together.”

As 2016 progresses, Newman is essentially driving for his life. With Richard Childress’ grandson, Ty Dillon waiting in the helm for a ride in the Cup Series, it’s more than likely that one of the current drivers at RCR has to go. Paul Menard has sponsorship from his father and the older Dillon is having the best year of his tenure with the team.

Newman is one of the older statesmen in the garage and has no plans of retiring as long as he has a competitive car.

“As long as they will have me drive the racecar and it’s a good racecar and it’s fun to do it then I’ll do it as long as it makes sense,” he said.

With his future in question, Newman admits that he wants to figure out where he stands quickly. The further that it progresses into the season, the harder it will be to find a competitive ride for the following campaign.

“We are so focused on this year and winning races to get ourselves a Chase birth,” Newman said. “There’s a time to talk about it and you always want to get it done sooner rather than later. I just hope it’s not later.”

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