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Sprint Cup Race Report: Chicago

Denny Hamlin led Joe Gibbs Racing with a sixth-place finish in this afternoon’s NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 400 at Chicagoland Speedway. Meanwhile, teammates Kyle Busch, Matt Kenseth, and Carl Edwards finished eighth, ninth and 15th respectively.

This was the first race of the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Championship. Four teams will be eliminated from the Chase after the first three-race segment which follows the next two races at New Hampshire and Dover respectively. All four JGR teams remain in the top 10 in points after today’s race. The current point standings are: 1. Truex (2050), 2. Keselowski (-1) 3. Kyle Busch (-4), 4. Hamlin (-5), 5. Logano (-7), 6. Elliott (-11), 7. Kenseth (-12), 8. Johnson (-13), 9. Edwards (-18), 10. Kurt Busch (-19), 11. McMurray (-20), 12. Stewart (-22), 13. Dillon (-23), 14. Harvick (-23), 15. Larson (-23), 16. Buescher (-34). The victory today by Martin Truex, Jr. automatically advances him into the next round of the Chase.

Hamlin started the No. 11 FedEx Express Toyota in third and jumped up to second on the opening lap, but debris on the front grill of his car would cause him to drop back a spot to shake it loose. Hamlin would run sixth prior to the first round of pit stops. A caution would come out just as the field was starting a round of green flag pit stops and the 11 would cycle through to restart sixth on lap 57. He was running ninth at lap 100. A caution on lap 119 would bring the leaders down pit road and Hamlin would line up sixth for the restart on lap 125 and held the position through the halfway point. A round of green flag stops at lap 172 would cycle Hamlin through in fourth. A caution on lap 192 would bring the leaders back down pit road and he would restart third on lap 198. Hamlin was running fourth with 50 laps remaining. He would make a green flag pit stop from fifth with 30 laps to go and cycled through to hold the fourth position. Hamlin was running third when a final caution came out with five laps to go. Crew chief Mike Wheeler would make the call to bring the FedEx Camry down pit road and he would restart seventh for a green-white-checkered finish after several cars stayed out on the track. He would go on to finish sixth.

Busch started the No. 18 Skittles Toyota from the pole position and led the opening 21 laps before finally relinquishing the lead and falling back to run third prior to the first round of pit stops. A caution on lap 49 would come out just as the field was starting a round of green flag pit stops. Busch would bring his Skittles Camry down pit road under caution and once all everyone had cycled through he would restart third on lap 57. He was running fourth at lap 100. A caution on lap 119 would bring the leaders down pit road and Busch would hold onto the fourth position for the restart at lap 125 and continued to hold that position at the halfway mark. NASCAR would rule that the Skittles Camry was too fast on pit road during a round of green flag pit stops on lap 172 resulting in a pass through penalty. He would cycle back in a lap down in 20th but managed to drive his way around the leader to get back on the lead lap. A caution on lap 192 would bring the leaders back down pit road and he would restart 12th. Busch was running 13th with 50 laps remaining. A final round of green flag pit stops would see Busch cycle through back in 12th. He would drive his way into the top ten and was running ninth when a final caution came out with five laps to go. Crew chief Adam Stevens would bring the Skittles Camry down pit road one final time and Busch would restart 10th after several cars remained out on the track. He would gain two positions over the two-lap green-white-checkered finish to come home in eighth.

Kenseth started the No. 20 DEWALT FLEXVOLT Toyota in the seventh position and dropped back to run 10th during the opening green flag run while battling an extremely tight handling racecar. A caution on lap 49 would come out just as the No. 20 Camry was making its way onto pit road. Kenseth would cycle through to restart 14th on lap 57. He was running 11th at lap 100. A caution on lap 119 would bring the leaders down pit road and Kenseth was hit with a speeding penalty that sent him back to 19th for the restart on lap 125. The tight handling conditions on his DEWALT FLEXVOLT Camry would continue while racing back in traffic as he held on to 19th position. A round of green flag pit stops would cycle Kenseth through in 13th at lap 180. A caution on lap 192 would bring the leaders back down pit road and he would restart 10th and continued to hold that position with 50 laps remaining. A final round of green flag pit stops would cycle Kenseth through in 10th. He would race his way into sixth before a final caution with five laps remaining. Crew Chief Jason Ratcliff would bring the 20 down pit road and he would restart eighth with two laps remaining after several cars remained out on the track. He would go on to finish ninth.

Edwards started the No. 19 STANLEY Toyota from the fifth position and settled in to run seventh through the opening green flag while battling tight handling conditions. A caution on lap 49 would come out just as the field was starting a round of green flag pit stops. Edwards would bring the STANLEY Camry down pit road under yellow and once all was sorted out he would restart ninth on lap 57. He was running ninth at lap 100. A caution on lap 119 would bring the leaders down pit road and he would restart 12th on lap 125. Edwards was running 14th at the halfway mark. A round of green flag pit stops would cycle Edwards through in 16th at lap 180. A caution on lap 192 would bring the leaders back down pit road and he would restart 17th. He would gain one spot to run 16th with 50 remaining. A final round of green flag pit stops would cycle Edwards through to run 16th. He was up to 11th when a final caution came out with five laps to go. Crew chief Dave Rogers would make the call to remain out on the track allowing Edwards to restart third for a green-white-checkered finish. With everyone racing behind him on fresher tires the 19 would fall back to finish 15th.

Martin Truex, Jr. captured the win, followed by Joey Logano, Chase Elliott, Ryan Blaney, and Brad Keselowski rounded out the top five. There were four cautions for a total of 22 laps and 17 lead changes among nine different drivers.

The NASCAR Sprint Cup Series heads to New Hampshire Motor Speedway next Sunday for the second race in the opening three-race segment in the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Championship. Live coverage on NBCSN will start Sunday, September 25 at 1:30 PM (race starts at 2 PM ET). The race will also be carried on Sirius NASCAR radio channel 90.

Erik Jones Wins the Chicago Xfinity Race!

Unloading at Chicagoland Speedway for the final regular season race to set the field for the inaugural NASCAR XFINITY Series Chase, Erik Jones and the No. 20 Hisense USA team qualified in the fifth position and led 10 laps on the way to capturing their fourth win of the season. Rolling off the grid in the fifth position, Jones quickly slipped to ninth on the opening laps and reported to the team that he was too tight and didn’t have the speed he needed on the straightaways. The first caution waved on lap five for the 70 car and the team opted to stay on track. The race restarted on lap 10 with Jones ninth. NASCAR waved a Competition Caution on lap 25 due to rain moving through the area over night and Crew Chief Chris Gabehart called Jones to pit road for four tires, fuel and a round of adjustments to help with the tight-handling conditions. With a solid stop on pit road, the race restarted on lap 31 with Jones in the sixth position. Focused on the leaders and with coaching from Gabehart and spotter Chris Lambert, Jones was able to move up to fifth on lap 42 where he remained when the field started making green-flag stops on lap 80. Gabehart called Jones to pit road from the second position on lap 81 for four tires, fuel and another round of adjustments. As the field cycled through stops, a competitor spun on the track to bring out the caution. Jones remained on the track and restarted the race on lap 88 from the fifth position. Following multiple cautions, Jones worked his way up to second on lap 117. As the race continued under green-flag conditions, teams were forced to make a second round of green-flag stops. Jones reported that he was happier with the handling of the No. 20 Camry and made his green-flag stop on lap 154 for four tires, fuel and another round of adjustments. Once the field cycled through stops, Jones returned to the second position with his focus on leader Busch as he began closing the gap between first and second. With two more late-race cautions, including one involving leader Busch, Jones was able to take the lead for the final time on lap 191 and hold off a hard charging Kyle Larson to secure his second win at Chicagoland Speedway in just his third start at the track.

Daniel Suárez, driver of the No. 19 ARRIS Toyota Camry for Joe Gibbs Racing, finished fourth during the 200-lap event after battling back from damage suffered on pit road. During the only practice session on Friday due to rain in the area, Suárez unloaded fast and maintained his speed throughout the day, finishing third on the time charts with a speed of 176.887 MPH in the ARRIS Camry. Suárez then went out on Saturday morning and qualified his No 19 ARRIS Toyota second for the 200-lap event, turning a lap time of 29.884 seconds at 180.699 MPH around the 1.5-mile speedway. Following the drop of the green flag under a perfect Saturday afternoon night in Joliet, IL, Suárez took the lead on lap two and would be scored in the second position when the first caution of the afternoon waved on lap six. Staying out under the caution, Suárez restarted in second and maintained his position inside the top five until the NASCAR mandated competition caution waved on lap 25. During the caution, crew chief Scott Graves called Suárez down pit road for four fresh Goodyear Tires, Fuel and a round of adjustments. Unfortunately, as Suárez was leaving pit road following his stop, he suffered left and right side damage to his ARRIS Camry after multiple cars hit him on pit road. The damage was severe enough that Suárez came back down pit road to fix the damage and restarted in 29th on lap 31. Despite the setback, Suárez wasted no time working his way to the front, and cracked the top 10 by the time he made a scheduled green-flag pit stop on lap 80 for four tires, fuel and another round of adjustments. Once pit stops cycled through, Suárez would be scored in the eighth position. Suárez would continue his march towards the front following the pit stop, and would be scored in fourth at the halfway point of the race. The 24-year-old from Monterrey, Mexico would continue to be a mainstay inside the top five for the remaining portion of the race, ultimately crossing the finish line in the fourth position for Joe Gibbs Racing.

Joe Gibbs Racing (JGR) veteran Kyle Busch and the No. 18 NOS Energy Drink Toyota team started from row one, a first-place qualifying lap at 180.735 mph captured in 29.878 seconds. Busch led the field nine times over 154 event circuits and was in strong contention for another checkered-flag capture, his ninth of the year, when late in the race, car damage from a wall scrape caused tire damage and a subsequent spin. The No. 18 NOS Energy Drink Camry came home in 13th place while teammate Erik Jones proceeded to grab the checkered flag.
The top-15 finish added to the team’s strong season performance that has documented 10 wins, 16 top-five finishes, 18 top-10 finishes eight poles and 1,905 laps led this year. Busch’s next No. 18 NOS Energy Drink competition will be October 1 at Dover International Speedway for the Drive Sober 200 XFINITY Series event.
In two practice sessions on Friday over the 1.5-mile Illinois racetrack, Busch and team had a difficult time initially with their Toyota Camry. In the first practice session that afternoon, they blew a motor and lost the remainder of that practice session to make the fix. In practice two later on Friday the No. 18 Toyota started to come to life, still needing adjustments, but by the end of the final practice time they were posted fastest on the board.

Qualifying was successful for the No. 18 Toyota team when Saturday morning with a speed of 180.735 mph Busch posted the fastest lap of the field, earning the team their ninth pole of the season, Busch’s seventh first-place start. It was the veteran driver’s 55th pole in 326 XFINITY series races – a series high. At green flag start and from the pole-starting position the NOS Energy Drink Toyota battled initially among traffic, with teammate Daniel Suarez, and dropped to the second-place position. By lap five, however, Busch had regained the top spot and started to pull away from the field when the first race caution appeared. Another restart and again the No. 19 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota of Suarez battled hard for position with Busch – taking the lead once more. Busch passed his teammate back once more and again maintained the top position when the competition caution appeared by NASCAR. Busch noted a ‘vibration’ and the team came to their pit box for four new Goodyear tires and Sunoco Racing fuel. They remained in first place with the restart on lap 29 of 200 scheduled event laps. The vibration feeling went away but Busch advised his crew chief Chris Gayle that his Toyota Camry was now beginning to feel tight in the center of the turns. “Exit of one and two is our only problem,” Busch relayed to Gayle. A green-flag pit stop ensued and the team didn’t feel they needed to make any car adjustments. At race halfway, Busch and the NOS Energy Drink team were still leaders. Past the mid-race mark, Busch relayed further to his team about a loose condition with turning in the front and center of the turns. Another pit-road visit and while the No. 18 team elected to replenish four Goodyear tires, other competitors either stayed on the race track or took only two new tires. The No. 18 team restarted in the fourth position but eventually regained the race lead. When asked if he liked the car handling after the last pit stop Busch remarked, “It’s turning better, but it’s not the adjustment I wanted. We’ll be good for short runs but we’ll see how restarts go.” The race momentum changed for the No. 18 team when on lap 148 Busch tried to give room to a lapped car and got pushed up towards, and into the wall, which caused damage to the right rear of the NOS Energy Drink Toyota. “The car will probably go tight now, so don’t make any changes to it. Geez I barely touched it, but it must have really damaged the car, all the rivets are popped out,” Busch relayed to Gayle. Pit road visits occurred at lap 153 and again at lap 161 but the damage forced further issues for the team when on lap 180 they blew a tire. Forced to visit pit road one more time, the No. 18 team replenished tires once more. With the last pit stop at lap 186 NASCAR advised the No. 18 team their crew members made car adjustments by jumping over the wall “too soon.” The penalty was for Busch to restart the final race green flag at the tail end of the line. With only 11 laps remaining to complete the race, Busch didn’t have time to recover and brought his NOS Energy Drink Camry home with a top-15 result, in 13th place.
Saturday’s XFINITY Series event recorded an average speed of 120.576 mph and saw 22 lead changes across 11 drivers. Busch led the field nine times for a race-high 154 laps. There were eight caution periods for 38 laps of the 300-mile event. With Saturday’s 13th-place finish the No. 18 NOS Energy Drink team moves to second place in the series Owner’s Championship competition, now two markers behind the No. 02 Richard Childress Racing team.

Xfinity Race Report: Darlington

The NASCAR XFINITY Series (NXS) rolled into Darlington Raceway on Saturday afternoon for their first and only stop of the 2016 season at the 1.33-mile historic raceway known as the “Lady In Black.” Daniel Suárez, driver of the No. 19 ARRIS Toyota Camry for Joe Gibbs Racing, finished third during the 147-lap event, securing his 11th top-five finish of 2016.

Denny Hamlin made his second and final NASCAR XFINITY Series (NXS) start of the 2016 season on Saturday afternoon in the VFW Sport Clips Help A Hero 200 at Darlington Raceway behind the wheel of the No. 18 Sport Clips Toyota Camry “Throwback Edition”, inspired by the No. 11 car driven by NASCAR Hall-of-Famer Darrell Waltrip in the 1980’s.

Despite a solid effort by Hamlin and the No. 18 Sport Clips team, they came up short as the checkered flag waved, ultimately settling for a second-place finish at the track where they were victorious just one year prior. Hamlin led a total of 47 laps throughout the 147-lap event and was the top-finishing Toyota driver of the race.

For Erik Jones, it was his first trip to the track known on the circuit as “Too Tough To Tame” and the rookie didn’t have much practice time to learn the ropes since Hurricane Hermine forced officials to cancel on-track activities for Friday. Jones and his No. 20 DEWALT FLEXVOLT™ team only had one 55-minute session to shake down the car before the race on Saturday. Jones started from 10th, and despite some handling challenges, went on to earn a sixth-place finish in his first start at the challenging 1.37-mile track.

Sprint Cup Race Report: Bristol

The night race at Bristol ended nearly 24 hours after it was scheduled to start.

What was supposed to be a night race suddenly became a day race again as rain became the dominating story line at NASCAR’s Sprint Cup Series Bass Pro Shops NRA Night Race at Bristol Motor Speedway.

The start of the race was delayed an hour from its scheduled start time on Saturday night and then the field would race for less than 50 laps before the rain returned forcing a red flag. After another lengthy delay the field began to roll again, but before the green flag could drop a heavy downpour would follow once again and NASCAR officials made the call to suspend the race until Sunday afternoon. The wet story line would continue into Sunday afternoon delaying the restart of the race nearly four hours until just before 5 PM.

When it was over Denny Hamlin would lead Joe Gibbs Racing with a third-place finish after rebounding from being two-laps down, while Carl Edwards finished sixth and separate accidents left Matt Kenseth and Kyle Busch back in 37th and 39th respectively.

Hamlin started the No. 11 FedEx Express Toyota from the second position and was able to jump to the lead for the opening eight laps. He would run fourth when the rain ended racing for Saturday night. When racing finally restarted late Sunday afternoon, Hamlin would restart fourth but quickly jumped into second. He would drop back again a bit during the ensuing green flag run and restarted fifth following a lap 86 competition caution. Hamlin would drop back to 10th battling a tight handling FedEx Camry when a caution on a lap 158 brought the field back down pit road once again. He would restart sixth on lap 165 and made his way into third behind only his teammates Edwards and Busch. Hamlin would continue to battle tight handling conditions but was able to get a good restart on lap 262 to run third at lap 275. He was running sixth when a caution came out on lap 308 bringing the leaders down pit road. NASCAR would rule that Hamlin was speeding on pit road resulting in a penalty and leaving the FedEx Camry to restart 22nd on lap 317. He would report a loose wheel a few laps into the next green flag run forcing him to come to pit road under the green flag for an unscheduled stop. That would drop the 11 two laps down back in 25th. A series of cautions would allow Hamlin to get back to the lead lap and crew chief Mike Wheeler would make the call for a two-tire stop on the final trip down pit road that allowed him restart first on lap 423. The strategy would prove a success as Hamlin would manage to remain in the top three over the final green flag run to the finish.

Edwards started the No. 19 STANLEY Toyota on the pole position but dropped outside the top five during the opening green flag laps of the race. He was running seventh when the rain returned to end racing for Saturday night. He would restart seventh when the race resumed late Sunday afternoon but would drop back just outside the top ten. He would restart ninth following a competition caution and quickly maneuvered his way back to the front of the field. Edwards was funning second at lap 150. He would restart first on lap 165 following a round of pit stops under caution. Edwards continued to run second and lined up for a restart on the inside of his teammate Busch on lap 262. The inside lane was not the preferred lane however once the top of the track had enough tire rubber built up and the 19 would fall back to run fifth. Edwards was running eighth at lap 300 and would restart seventh on lap 317. He would restart fifth on lap 372. Edwards would race inside the top ten over the course of the final 100 laps before taking the checkered flag in sixth.

Kenseth started the No. 20 Dollar General Toyota in the fifth position and was able to hold that spot when rain ended the racing for Saturday night. He would restart fifth when the race resumed on lap 49 late Sunday afternoon. The Dollar General Camry was loose into the turns and tight coming out of them over the next portion of the race and Kenseth dropped back outside the top ten prior to a caution on lap 158. He would restart 10th on lap 165 but the handling conditions would continue and the No. 20 dropped back to run 15th. Kenseth would line up 20th for a restart on lap 317 following a round of pit stops and climbed back up into the top 15 on the next green flag run. He was running 13th with 150 laps to go. Kenseth would be collected in a multi-car accident on lap 373 that caused major damage forcing the Dollar General Camry to the garage. He would officially finish 37th.

Busch started the No. 18 M&M’S 75th Anniversary Toyota from the third position and was able to work his way to the lead on lap 23 before the rains would officially ended the racing for Saturday night. When the race restarted late Sunday afternoon he remained on point. He held the lead until a competition caution on lap 86. Busch would restart third after two cars made the decision to remain out on the track, but the M&M’s Camry was back on point just a few laps later. He would restart second on lap 165 to his teammate Edwards, but once again put the 18 back in the lead at lap 191. He would continue to lead when a lap 256 caution would bring the leaders back down pit road. He would restart first alongside his teammate Edwards on lap 262 and held the lead until giving way to the 4 car on lap 290. The M&M’s crew would put him back on point with a great pit stop Busch lined up first for the restart on lap 317. Busch would report that he felt something had broken shortly after the restart but still managed to lead for the next 30 laps. He was in second when something in the back of the car finally gave way causing the 18 to spin across the track. As the M&M’S Camry came to a stop in the center of the track the 46 car would make contact with the right front causing major damage to the 18. Busch would take his car to the garage and his day would be over. Despite leading a race-high 256 laps he would finish 39th.
Kevin Harvick captured the win, followed by Ricky Stenhouse, Jr. in second, Hamlin third, Austin Dillon fourth and Chris Buescher rounded out the top five. There were nine cautions for a total of 106 laps and 20 lead changes among eight different drivers.

The NASCAR Sprint Cup Series heads to Michigan International Speedway next Sunday for an afternoon race. Live coverage on NBCSN will start Sunday, August 28 at 1:30 PM (race starts at 2 PM ET). The race will also be carried on Sirius NASCAR radio channel 90.

Xfinity Race Report: Bristol

The NASCAR XFINITY Series (NXS) returned to action on Friday night at Bristol Motor Speedway (BMS) for their second and final stop of the 2016 season at the half-mile speedway. Daniel Suárez, driver of the No. 19 ARRIS Toyota Camry for Joe Gibbs Racing, finished 30th during the 300-lap event after a late-race accident severely damaged his ARRIS Camry.

Earning his seventh pole of the season, Erik Jones and the No. 20 Reser’s Main St. Bistro team led the field to green on Friday night under the lights at Bristol Motor Speedway for the Food City 300. Jones led 31 laps and looked poised for a solid finish before a late-race accident relegated the team to a 33rd-place finish.

Kyle Busch and the No. 18 Tunity Toyota team, qualified in row one, intended to be a second-place start when a post qualifying part failed, and with repair, the team would start from the back of the 40-person field. Busch grabbed spots quickly and drove towards the front of the field, despite a few hindered pit stops. After aggressively passing frontrunners, the No. 18 team did see the race lead at one point, before a late-race pass caused the Tunity Toyota to be involved in a an accident, and forced veteran Busch to drive back to the garage early. The nine-time JGR XFINITY Series team’s hopes of grabbing another 2016 season victory ended early with a 24th-place result.

Austin Dillon won the race followed by Justin Allgaier, Kyle Larson, Elliott Sadler and Brendan Gaughan.

The NASCAR XFINITY Series now heads to Road America on Saturday, August 27, for the Road America 180. The race can be viewed on NBCSN at 3:00 p.m. ET.