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Race Report: Texas, Eliminator 8 Round 2

Kyle Busch rebounded from early race struggles to earn an impressive fourth-place finish and lead Joe Gibbs Racing in today’s NASCAR Sprint Cup Series AAA Texas 500 at Texas Motor Speedway. Meanwhile Denny Hamlin and Matt Kenseth battled through a long afternoon in their fight to advance to the Championship round earning 10th and 25th-place finishes respectively.

Busch started the No. 18 M&Ms Toyota from the ninth position and dropped back early on the opening run to 15th, before working his way back to 11th prior to a caution on lap 45. Busch would struggle with the handling on his M&Ms Camry over the next couple of runs and eventually he would go a lap down to the leader after brushing the outside wall. The M&Ms crew would take time on pit road under the day’s second caution to make the needed adjustments and Busch lined up 22nd for a lap 183 restart. A right rear tire would go flat on the M&Ms Camry and as it began to come apart on the track a caution would come out on lap 205. Another debris caution would follow just 13 laps into the next run and Busch would restart 20th on lap 227. A couple additional cautions would follow quickly but the M&Ms Camry was not in a position to get back on the lead lap and would continue to run outside the top 20 for a restart on lap 259. He would get back on the lead lap and restart 23rd with 44 laps to go. The 18 team would make the decision to stay out when another caution with just over 35 laps remaining came out allowing him to restart inside the top 10. He would drop back to run just inside the top 10 when another caution came out and this time the No. 18 Camry would come down pit road for four tires with 20 laps remaining. He would restart 21st with 17 to go and amazingly drove his way into the top ten before another caution set up a restart with nine to go. Busch would go three wide from 10th and was up to sixth when another caution came out with four setting up a green-white-checkered finish. Another incredible restart high along the outside wall allowed Busch to jump all the way into third before a spin by the 24 car brought out yet another caution and set up a second attempt at a green-white-checkered finish. He would go on to earn an impressive fourth-place finish.

Hamlin started his No. 11 FedEx Office Toyota from the 20th position and was able to make early gains over the course of the opening green flag run driving up to 15th before a caution brought everyone down pit road for the first time on lap 45. Quick work by the FedEx crew allowed Hamlin to gain a few spots on pit road and he would settle in to run just outside the top ten in 11th through the halfway point of the race. The FedEx crew would deliver again under the day’s second caution and Hamlin would enter the top ten for the first time to restart ninth on lap 183. Hamlin would report that the car that was too tight early in the race had moved to handling on the loose side and he dropped back to run 13th at lap 200. He would line up 13th for a restart on lap 212 following another round of stops. Another debris caution would follow just 13 laps into the next run and the leaders would come back down pit road. Crew chief Darian Grubb would call for a two-tire change to improve Hamlin’s track position which allowed him to restart as the leader on lap 227. Unfortunately the need for all fresh tires proved too great and Hamlin dropped back quickly to run outside the top ten. Two quick cautions followed and he brought the FedEx Camry down pit road each time for four tires. He would restart 11th on lap 259. Hamlin would continue to battle in the top 15 and a four-tire stop would leave him to restart 17th with 44 laps to go. The FedEx team would make the call to remain on the track when a caution with just over 35 laps to go came out allowing Hamlin to restart fourth. He would drop back to run just inside the top 10 when another caution came out and this time the No. 11 Camry would come down pit road for four tires with 20 laps remaining. He would restart 11th with 17 to go and was able to work his way into the top ten before another caution placed him seventh for a restart with nine to go. He would hold that seventh position before another caution came out with four to go setting up a green-white-checkered finish. A crazy restart left Hamlin eighth before a spin by the 24 set up a second attempt at a green-white-checkered finish. He would go on to finish 10th over the final two lap sprint to the finish.

Kenseth started the No. 20 Dollar General Toyota on the pole after a stellar performance during Friday afternoon’s qualifying session. Kenseth would maintain the top spot through the opening green flag run and the first round of pit stops under caution. He would finally give way to the 48 on lap 54 but remained racing inside the top five through the halfway point. Kenseth lined up fifth for a lap 183 restart after a round of pit stops following just the second caution of the day. The Dollar General crew would gain Kenseth two spots the next time down pit road under caution which allowed him to restart second on lap 212. Another debris caution would follow just 13 laps into the next run and the No. 20 Camry would come back down pit road for another four fresh tires. Kenseth would restart sixth on lap 227 and managed to jump up into second before settling in to run fourth as the race reached 100 laps to go. The Dollar General Camry would hit a piece of debris on the track resulting in NASCAR throwing another caution on lap 240 and the crew would pick up another couple of spots allowing him to restart third. Another quick caution brought the leaders down pit road yet again on lap 253 and a problem with a lugnut on the right front tire created a long stop that forced him to restart back in 18th on lap 259. The pit crew would deliver on the next trip down pit road gaining eight spots with a four-tire stop allowing Kenseth to restart eighth with 44 laps to go. The Dollar General team would make the call to remain on the track when a caution with just over 35 laps remaining came out and Kenseth was able to restart in the top spot. He would drop back to run fourth when another caution came out and this time the Dollar General Camry would come down pit road for four tires with 20 laps remaining. He would restart 10th behind others that made the decision to remain out on the track. Kenseth would get shuffled back in a four-wide situation on the restart with the 31 car coming down and causing contact on both the right and left side of the 20. That cost him several spots and when another caution came out he would come down pit road yet again for tires. He would line up 25th for the restart with nine laps to go and managed to pick up a couple spots before another caution with four to go set up a green-white-checkered finish. He lined up 23rd and a spin by the 24 set up a second attempt at a green-white-checkered finish. Kenseth would pit a final time and restarted 27th and managed to pick up two spots to finish 25th.

Jimmie Johnson won the race followed by Kevin Harvick, Brad Keselowski, Kyle Busch, and Jamie McMurray rounded out the top five. There were 13 cautions for a total of 61 laps and 23 lead changes among seven different drivers. The race was extended seven laps for two green-white-checkered attempts.

Today’s race was the second of three races in the Eliminator Round of 8 under the new NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Chase for the Championship format. The win by Johnson means at least three of the final four spots for the Championship round in two weeks at Homestead-Miami Speedway will be decided by points. Hamlin is currently tied for lead in points with the 22 team, while Kenseth is fifth, but just one point out of the fourth and final position heading into next week’s race at Phoenix International Raceway.

The third and final round of the Eliminator Round will be next Sunday at Phoenix International Raceway. Live coverage from Phoenix will begin on ESPN Sunday, November 9 at 2 PM ET (race begins at 3 PM ET). The race will also be carried on Sirius NASCAR radio channel 90.

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Race Report: Martinsville, Eliminator 8 Round One

Matt Kenseth and Denny Hamlin opened the NASCAR Chase for the Championship Eliminator Round of 8 with sixth and eighth-place finishes respectively in today’s Goody’s Headache Relief Shot 500 at Martinsville Speedway. Meanwhile, Kyle Busch raced solidly inside the top ten all day before finishing 11th.

Kenseth qualified the No. 20 Dollar General Toyota in the third position and was able to race his way into second through the early going. Kenseth was running fifth at lap 100 and he remained in the top five and was back up to second for a restart just past the 200-lap mark. He was running sixth following a lap 226 restart when he got loose and the Dollar General Camry jumped to the outside making contact with the No. 4 car which sent both vehicles spinning into the outside wall. The 20 team worked hard on pit road to keep Kenseth on the lead lap while making repairs to the body of the car. He would restart 28th on lap 240 and was up to 25th at the halfway mark. He would stay out under the next caution to gain track position and restarted fourth on lap 260. Restarting on the outside lane with old tires proved difficult and he would drop back outside the top 10 before the next caution. A caution on lap 277 would allow Kenseth to come down pit road for fresh tires and he restarted 29th on lap 283. Several cautions shuffled the field with various pit strategies at play and he would run 16th with just under 200 laps to go. Kenseth would climb his way back through the field on the next run and was running 11th by lap 345. After losing several spots on a long green flag run, he would line up 19th for a restart following a round of pit stops under caution on lap 390. He would line up 12th for a restart with 68 laps to go after another round of pit stops under caution. Kenseth patiently attempted to work his way back toward the front. A late caution would bring him down pit road one final time for a two-tire change and fortunately for the 20 team he would have the opportunity to restart on the bottom lane which had proven advantageous all afternoon. Kenseth was able to gain three spots from ninth and earn a solid sixth-place finish in the opening round of the three-race Eliminator Round.

Hamlin started his No. 11 FedEx Freight Toyota from the fifth position and was able to race his way into third through the early portion of the race. He would remain inside the top ten over the first 100 laps and drove his way up to seventh by lap 120. Hamlin would work his way back inside the top five for a restart just past the 200-lap mark and was running second at the halfway mark. A great pit stop by the FedEx team on lap 257 would allow the 11 to come off pit road first, but he would line up sixth for the restart when several other teams elected not to pit. He would drive up to second before the next caution on lap 277. Shortly after the restart he would drive by the 22 to take his first lead of the day on lap 290. He would give up the lead to pit under caution and the FedEx crew got him off pit road first but many others remained out leaving him to restart 17th. He would make an impressive run through the field to race third by lap 330, regained second on lap 350 and earned his way back to the front on lap 360. On the day he would lead twice for a total of 68 laps. A caution would bring the field back down pit road and Hamlin would remain the leader following a four-tire stop on lap 390. He would hold the lead over the next green flag run and came down pit road for four tires with 80 laps to go. Hamlin would line up fourth for the restart with 72 laps remaining. A late-race caution would bring Hamlin down pit road one final time as the team made the decision for a two-tire stop. Several teams elected not to pit which jumbled the lineup once more. Unfortunately Hamlin had to line up on the outside lane, which was slow to restart all day long and then was trapped by those in front of him that were on the older tires. He would go on to finish eighth.

Busch started the No. 18 M&Ms Halloween Toyota from the eighth position and was able to race his way into the top five through the early portion of the race. He would run third at lap 125. The M&Ms Camry would remain in the top ten and restarted ninth on lap 215. A caution would follow shortly after that restart and Busch would be the first to pit from the 10th position. He would restart 17th on lap 226 and was running 13th at the midpoint of the race. He would stay out on the track following a lap 277 pit stop to restart fifth. More cautions shuffled the field with several different strategies at play and Busch was back outside the top 15 at lap 300. He would drive his way back into the top ten and was running seventh by lap 340. He would drop back to run 10th by lap 360. Busch would bring the M&Ms Camry back down pit road on lap 390 while under caution and lined up 15th for the restart. He would come back down pit road with 80 to go and lined up 10th for the restart. A late caution would shuffle the field one last time with several teams electing to remain out on track while others, including Busch and his teammates came down for tires. Busch managed to pilot his M&Ms Halloween Camry to an 11th-place finish over the final five-lap shootout to the checkered flag.

Dale Earnhardt, Jr. won the race followed by Jeff Gordon, Ryan Newman, Tony Stewart, and Joey Logano rounded out the top five. There were 15 cautions for a total of 105 laps and 24 lead changes among 11 different drivers.

Today’s race was the first of three races in the Eliminator Round of 8 under the new NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Chase for the Championship format. Earnhardt did not qualify for the Eliminator Round and his victory today means there can only be a maximum of two automatic qualifiers for the Championship Round of four which will compete at Homestead-Miami Speedway in the season finale. Kenseth is currently fourth in those standings just five points behind the leader Jeff Gordon, while Hamlin is just outside of the cut-off line in fifth, but only seven points out of the lead.

Round two of the Eliminator Round will be next Sunday at Texas Motor Speedway. Live coverage from Texas will begin on ESPN Sunday, November 2 at 2 PM ET (race begins at 3 PM ET). The race will also be carried on Sirius NASCAR radio channel 90.

Darrell Wallace, Jr. Wins at Martinsville Speedway

Race Highlights

  • Returning to the site of his first-career NASCAR Camping World Truck Series (NCWTS) win, Darrell Wallace, Jr. entered the weekend at Martinsville (Va.) Speedway looking to defend his 2013 win of the Kroger 200, piloting the No. 34 (54) 2015 NASCAR Hall of Fame Inductee Wendell Scott Toyota Tundra.
  • With a fast Toyota Tundra from the time the team unloaded, Wallace secured his second pole of the season to lead the 36-truck field to the green-flag Saturday afternoon in Martinsville, Virginia.
  • Solidifying his place at the front of the field, Wallace maintained his position in the top five for the majority of race, slipping to ninth at the halfway mark during a round of pit stops.
  • Reporting to the team throughout the race that he had a good, solid Toyota Tundra, Wallace was able to lead the race for a total of four times for a race high of 97 laps.
  • When the checkered flag waved after 200 action-packed laps around the half-mile Martinsville Speedway, Wallace and the No. 34 (54) 2015 NASCAR Hall of Fame Inductee Wendell Scott Tribute Toyota Tundra team emerged victorious for Wallace’s fourth-career NCWTS win and third win of the season.
  • Wallace was followed across the finish line by Timothy Peters, Matt Crafton, Erik Jones and Ryan Blaney.

Darrell Wallace, Jr.’s Post-Race Thoughts:

“This win is a touch sweeter having the tribute truck — the No. 34 Wendell Scott Hall of Fame inductee on our Toyota Tundra — you couldn’t ask for a better weekend. I continue to say that. Qualified on the pole, had a great clean race for the most part and we were able to come away with another clock. Having the Wendell Scott family here, having my family here, having my Mom here, my girlfriend here and getting them their first win — this is special. Special for myself, my family, my team, sponsors and everybody involved. The whole sport of NASCAR — this is a big moment and excited to see what the future holds.”

Race Report: Talladega, Final Contender 12 Race

It was the race that had been discussed since the new NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Chase format was announced. Today’s Geico 500 at Talladega Superspeedway, a track known for its hold your breath style of racing and large accidents, represented the cut-off race of the second round with only the top eight teams advancing into the Eliminator Round.

Joe Gibbs Racing entered the day with all three teams still competing for a spot in the final eight. Kyle Busch was second in points entering the day but contact from behind on lap 103 sent him hard into the wall and although his M&Ms team worked valiantly to put him back out on the track he finished 40th and narrowly missed the cutoff. Teammates Matt Kenseth and Denny Hamlin managed to avoid any major accidents and finished second and 18th respectively to advance into the Eliminator round of eight.

Kenseth qualified the No. 20 Home Depot Toyota in the 13th position but an engine change resulted in having to drop to the back of the field for the start of the race. Kenseth was content running toward the back of the field through the early portion of the race but eventually moved toward the front of the field and managed to lead lap 63 to pick up an important bonus point. The Home Depot Camry would move toward the back of the field once again following a lap 103 caution for an accident that claimed his teammate Kyle Busch among several others. A restart with nine laps to go allowed Kenseth to move forward and he was quickly racing in the top ten while driving in the middle lane of a three wide situation before a caution for debris came out with five to go. He would line up 11th for a green-white-checkered finish. A wreck behind him would bring out another caution and he was eighth for the restart on a second attempt at the green-white-checkered finish. He would drive his way up to finish second and claim his spot into the next round.

Hamlin started his No. 11 FedEx One Rate Deliverminator Toyota from the 38th position was largely content to race at the back of the field through the early going. Hamlin would find an opening to make his way to the front of the field about 30 laps into the race and he claimed the lead on lap 39. He managed to avoid the day’s first two accidents including one major wreck on lap 103 that claimed his teammate Kyle Busch. When the race restarted a few laps later Hamlin made the decision to once again move to the back of the field in an attempt to clear any wrecks in front of him. A restart with nine to go saw Hamlin racing just inside the top 30 before a caution came out with five to go. He would line up 25th for a green-white-checkered finish. A wreck set up a second GWC finish and this time he lined up in 20th. He would go on to finish 18th and secure his position into the Eliminator round of eight.

Busch started the No. 18 M&Ms Halloween Toyota from the 41st position and was content running toward the back of the field in hopes of avoiding the big accident. It appeared that strategy would pay off when Busch managed to avoid any major damage in the day’s first accident on lap 61. The No. 18 Camry would get minor damage to the nose of his car but the M&Ms crew would make the necessary repairs on pit road and Busch remained on the lead lap. Unfortunately Busch wasn’t as fortunate on lap 103 when several cars spun in front of the M&Ms Toyota. He was well back of the initial wreck and slowed to avoid the spinning cars in front of him, but the 3 car hit Busch hard from behind and sent him spinning into the inside wall. The wreck caused major damage to the No. 18 but he managed to drive straight to the garage where the M&Ms team went to work in hopes of getting him back out on the track to make up enough points to secure his spot in the next round of the Chase. A tremendous team effort put Busch and the M&Ms Halloween Camry back on the track with 36 laps remaining. The valiant effort nearly paid off, but unfortunately Busch narrowly missed the cutoff and was eliminated from the Chase. The margin was so narrow that Busch was actually just one point out of the eighth position for the restart on a second attempt at a green-white-checkered finish, but the win by the 2 car took away his opportunity to advance.

Brad Keselowski won the race followed by Kenseth, Clint Bowyer, Landon Cassill, and Ryan Newman rounded out the top five. There were six cautions for a total of 25 laps and 38 lead changes among 19 different drivers.

The points once again reset with Denny Hamlin and Matt Kenseth advancing into the Eliminator round of eight in the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Championship. Ultimately four teams will advance into the Championship round at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

The Eliminator Round of 8 under the new Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Championship format will start next Sunday at Martinsville Speedway. Live coverage from Martinsville will begin on ESPN Sunday, October 26 at 1 PM ET (race begins at 2 PM ET). The race will also be carried on Sirius NASCAR radio channel 90.

Nate Bolling Has Surgery for Torn Triceps

Jackman for Joe Gibbs Racing No. 11 Sprint Cup Series Team
Expected to Return for 2015 Daytona 500

Nate Bolling, the jackman on the No. 11 FedEx Sprint Cup Series race team had successful surgery on a torn right triceps this morning and is expected to make a full recovery in time for the 2015 Daytona 500.

Bolling suffered a torn triceps on the second pit stop Saturday night during the Bank of America 500 at Charlotte Motor Speedway. The surgery was performed by Dr. Patrick Connor of OrthoCarolina.

JGR backup jackman Kenneth Purcell filled in Saturday night for Bolling and will serve as the jackman for the No. 11 FedEx team for the remainder of the season. Purcell is a veteran in the sport and was part of four championship seasons with the No. 48 team.