Thursday, May 26, 2016

TV Schedule: May 26-29

Charlotte Motor Speedway. Credit: Rainier Ehrhardt/Getty Images
By Rebecca Kivak

NASCAR revs up for its longest race of the season, the Coca-Cola 600, at Charlotte Motor Speedway. The 600-miler is a test of endurance in the heart of NASCAR country.

The XFINITY Series takes to the track Saturday while Sprint Cup gets in gear for the 600 on Sunday night.

The following is a handy guide to track events and television coverage this weekend at Charlotte Motor Speedway. All times are in Eastern Standard Time.

Thursday, May 26:
2 p.m. Sprint Cup Series practice, FS1
3:30 p.m. XFINITY Series practice, FS1
5:30 p.m. XFINITY Series final practice, FS1
7 p.m. Sprint Cup Series Qualifying, FS1
11 p.m. K&N Pro Series Race: Orange Show Speedway (re-air), NBCSN

Friday, May 27:
2 a.m. K&N Pro Series Race: Orange Show Speedway (re-air), NBCSN
4 a.m. Sprint Cup Series practice (re-air), FS1
5:30 a.m. XFINITY Series practice (re-air), FS1
6:30 a.m. XFINITY Series final practice (re-air), FS1
8 a.m. Sprint Cup Series Qualifying (re-air), FS1

Saturday, May 28:
10 a.m. Sprint Cup Series practice, FS1
11 a.m. XFINITY Series Qualifying, FS1
1 p.m. Sprint Cup Series final practice, FS1
2:30 p.m. XFINITY Series Hisense 4K TV 300, FS1

Sunday, May 29:
1:30 a.m. XFINITY Series Hisense 4K TV 300 (re-air), FS1
4 a.m. Sprint Cup Series practice (re-air), FS1
5 a.m. Sprint Cup Series final practice (re-air), FS1
4 p.m., NASCAR RaceDay, FS1
5:30 p.m. Sprint Cup Series FOX Pre-Race Show, FOX
6 p.m. Sprint Cup Series: Coca-Cola 600, FOX
3 a.m. (Monday) NASCAR Victory Lane, FS1

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Rookie Stripe: Flying High: The Eight Flags of NASCAR and What They Mean

Photo Credit: Debbie Ross for Skirts and Scuffs
When I was little, one of my favorite children's books was P.D. Eastman’s Go, Dog. Go! A clan of dogs driving cars is on the go, fast and furiously, headed towards a mysterious destination. You don’t know where they’re going, but their journey is ruled by a traffic light. The dogs go. The dogs stop. Then they go some more.

Like the traffic lights in the book, NASCAR’s hallmark flags dictate stop, go and more on the track. They are NASCAR's silent language at powerful speeds. A flying flag can indicate that a driver has won, but another may mean that he or she is in trouble. But if you're a rookie fan, they might be new to you. Here are the eight flags and what they mean:

Green: Go! The green flag is waved to start a race or to restart a race after another flag. Other drivers can’t pass the lead driver until the green flag has been waved.

Yellow: Caution. A yellow flag cautions drivers to slow due to dangerous conditions, often resulting from debris on the track or something else that makes the racing unsafe, such as rain or a wreck.

Red: Stop. A flag that teams usually don’t like to see, a red flag means that drivers and teams have to cease racing and pit crew work immediately. During a red flag, cars come to a halt on a clear part of the track. A red flag occurs for an emergency, such as a big wreck requiring lots of clean-up.

Black: Normally a black flag happens when there's a rule violation and a driver must respond to NASCAR within five laps. This flag is also called the "consultation flag" and personally when I think about it, I just can’t help but think of a misbehaving kid called up to the front of the class to talk to the teacher. Black flags are often used for speeding on pit road or other car issues that could cause hazards..

Black with White Stripe:
 When a driver fails to respond to a black flag within five laps, they get the black flag with white diagonal stripe, and won’t be scored until they're cleared by NASCAR. If the black flag is trouble with the teacher, the black-and-white-striped flag is detention.

Blue with Yellow Stripe: This flag is somewhat of a courtesy indicator and is waved to drivers not on the lead lap to signal that they should allow faster cars to pass. It’s kind of like your mother telling you to mind your manners. The cars don’t always obey it.

White Flag: The white flag flies when the lead driver is on the last lap of the race. It signals drivers that there's only one lap to go.

Checkered flag:  The waving of the checkered flag means that a race is over because someone has just crossed the finish line and won. You’ll often hear the expression that a race winner “took the checkered flag.”

Amidst burnout smoke, Erik Jones grabs his checkered flag after winning the Xfinity race at Dover on May 14, 2016.
Credit: Beth Reinke for Skirts and Scuffs  
Even though it’s only used once during a race, the checkered flag is one of the most recognized symbols in racing. You can read more about its history on NASCAR.com. NASCAR also offers its own guide to the flags of NASCAR.

Being a NASCAR flagman is actually a really tough job, and it means staying perched in the flag stand for the duration of the race. Flagmen are close to the track, meaning they get pelted in the face with dirt, rubber and other debris, and must wear eye protection. According to this article, bathroom breaks aren’t part of the job, so they plan carefully. While the heat and wind gust around them, flagmen wave their flags like giant sirens above a roaring track of cars, sometimes traveling close to 200 miles per hour. For them it's just a normal day at work.

And because everyone wants to know the ending of a great story, back to my favorite book, Go, Dog. Go! The dogs’ destination? I hate to spoil an ending, but it turns out to be a dog party in a tree. That’s not too far off from Victory Lane, if you ask me.


A NASCAR flagman awaits the start of a race.
Credit: Beth Reinke for Skirts and Scuffs



Tuesday, May 24, 2016

NASCAR Fantasy Fusion: Coca-Cola 600 Picks for the Season's Longest Race



Track Classification: Intermediate
Similar Tracks: Atlanta Motor Speedway • Chicagoland Speedway • Darlington Raceway
Homestead-Miami Speedway • Kansas Speedway • Kentucky Speedway 
Las Vegas Motor Speedway •  New Hampshire Motor Speedway • Texas Motor Speedway
Distance: 1.5 Miles

Drivers with Most Top 10s (Last 5 Years):
By Race
Kevin Harvick - 5
Denny Hamlin - 4
All with 3 - Carl Edwards, Matt Kenseth, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Brad Keselowski and Kurt Busch 

By Track
All with 7 - Kevin Harvick, Carl Edwards and Denny Hamlin  
All with 5  - Kasey Kahne, Brad Keselowski and Kyle Busch
All with 4 - Joey Logano, Ryan Newman, Martin Truex Jr. and Matt Kenseth

Recent Pole Winners:  
2015 Matt Kenseth
2014 Jimmie Johnson

2015 Race Winner: Carl Edwards

Likely Suspects: As the season's longest race, the Coca-Cola 600 allows the cream rise to the top. This race favors drivers who are in the best physical shape and the pit crews who are fast and flawless. Look for these drivers to run well this week: Kevin Harvick, Carl Edwards, Matt Kenneth, Denny Hamlin, Jimmie Johnson, Brad Keselowski, Kasey Kahne, Kyle Busch and Martin Truex Jr. Heads up though, we're at a 1.5-mile track this week, so don't overlook Joey Logano, last week'sAll-Star Race winner.

My 2 Cents: This week's no-brainer pick is a three-way tie among Kevin Harvick, Matt Kenneth and the ultra-physically-fit Carl Edwards. My next picks are Martin Truex Jr., Austin Dillon and Ryan Newman. I will complete my team with Regan Smith and Chase Elliott.

My Final Four: Kevin Harvick, Carl Edwards, Kasey Kahne and Chase Elliott.

Points to Ponder:
  • 87 of the 114 (76.3%) Sprint Cup races at Charlotte have been won from a top-10 starting position.
  • 48 different drivers have won at Charlotte Motor Speedway, led by Jimmie Johnson with seven wins. 
  • Eight different manufacturers have won in the Cup Series at Charlotte, led by Chevrolet with 43 victories, followed by Ford (30), Dodge (15), Pontiac (8), Mercury (7), Buick (4), Plymouth (4) and Toyota (3).
  • Hendrick Motorsports leads the series in wins at Charlotte in the Cup Series with 18: Jimmie Johnson (seven), Jeff Gordon (five), Darrell Waltrip (two), Ken Schrader (one), Terry Labonte (one), Casey Mears (one) and Kasey Kahne (one). 
  • Ryan Newman leads all active drivers in poles at Charlotte Motor Speedway with nine, followed by Jimmie Johnson with four.
  • Jimmie Johnson leads all active drivers in the Cup Series in average starting position at Charlotte with a 7.793.
Enjoy the race! Post your comments here or follow me on Twitter @purplecatpr.

Fast Facts: 2016-17 NASCAR Next Class

Matt Tifft is one of the 11 drivers selected to the NASCAR Next class
Credit: NASCAR via Getty Images/Sarah Crabill  
The 2016-17 NASCAR Next class is a diverse group of young drivers hailing from three countries and varying backgrounds. These 11 drivers were selected because NASCAR officials believe they are primed for success and will impact the sport in the future. Learn a little more about these drivers in this week’s Fast Facts.
  • Harrison Burton – The 15-year-old second-generation driver from Huntersville, NC, is the son of former Cup Series driver and currently broadcaster Jeff Burton. Burton is currently competing in the NASCAR K&N Pro Series after setting the record last year as the youngest Division I race winner in NASCAR Whelen All-American Series history.
  • Collin Cabre – A NASCAR Drive for Diversity driver as well, the 22-year-old from Tampa, FL is in his second season with Rev Racing in the NASCAR K&N Pro Series. He captured his first career win last October after making the successful move from racing sprint cars.
  • Spencer Davis – The 17-year-old Dawsonville, GA, driver was named the Sunoco Rookie of the Year last season in the NASCAR Whelen Southern Modified Tour and has now moved to the NASCAR K&N Pro Series, where he has established himself as a championship contender with top six finishes in his first seven series starts dating back to last season.
  • Alon Day – One of two international drivers on the list, Day is the first NASCAR Whelen Euro Series driver to earn NASCAR Next recognition. The 24-year-old is from Ashdod, Israel, and completed his first full season in the Whelen Euro Series as championship runner-up. Including the final two rounds of 2015, Day has won four of the last eight Elite 1 races.
  • Tyler Dippel – The 16-year-old from Wallkill, NY, scored his first NASCAR K&N Pro Series East victory in March. Dippel previously competed in the DIRTcar Racing Series in the northeast, earning the rookie of the year title and becoming the youngest race winner in that series.
  • Todd Gilliland – A third-generation driver, Gilliland is the son of Cup Series veteran David Gilliland and grandson of 1997 Winston West Series champ Butch Gilliland. The 16-year-old from Sherrills Ford, NC, made NASCAR history by winning his first four career NASCAR K&N Pro Series starts. He became the youngest winner in series history with his victory last fall, and has followed it up with wins in both the K&N Pro Series East and West season openers this year.
  • Noah Gragson – The 17-year-old Las Vegas native finished second in the championship standings last year in the NASCAR K&N Pro Series West and earned the Sunoco Rookie of the Year Award. Gragson learned his trade in the Legends and Bandolero Divisions at The Bullring at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, and earned a pair of K&N Pro Series West wins in 2015.
  • Gary Klutt – The second Canadian to be named to the program and the first full-time driver from the NASCAR Pinty’s Series, the 23-year-old from Halton Hills, Ontario, earned his first career pole and win last year en route to being named the Jostens Rookie of the Year and finishing fifth in series points. 
  • Julia Landauer – Landauer, 24, from New York City, got her start racing a variety of cars – from Formula BMW to Ford Focus Midgets to stock cars. The versatile driver was also a contestant on the hit reality show ‘Survivor’ before graduating from Stanford in 2014 with a Bachelor of Science degree in Science, Technology, and Society. She became the first female to win a Limited Late Model division championship at Motor Mile Speedway in Radford, VA, last year before graduating to the K&N Pro Series West this season.
  • Ty Majeski – The 21-year-old from Seymour, WI, collected three wins and earned the 2016 Super Late Model championship in the 50th Annual World Series of Stock Car Racing at Florida’s New Smyrna Speedway in February. Majeski added a NASCAR Whelen All-American Series Late Model track record and victory in the FrostBuster at Wisconsin’s LaCrosse Fairgrounds Speedway in April.
  • Matt Tifft – A development driver for Joe Gibbs Racing, the 19-year-old from Hinckley, OH, is driving part-time in the Xfinity Series for JGL Racing and JGR, and racing in the Camping World Truck Series for Red Horse Racing. He earned his first career pole in the Xfinity Series at Talladega earlier this month.
Learn more about the program and the drivers at next.nascar.com

More on the NASCAR Next drivers:











Monday, May 23, 2016

Travel Tips: Charlotte Motor Speedway – Coca Cola 600 edition - May 26-29, 2016

credit: NASCAR Media
We’re in the midst of “10 Days of Speed” in the heart of NASCAR country, Charlotte, North Carolina. The action at Charlotte Motor Speedway continues with this weekend’s big races -- the Xfinity Series Hisense 4K TV 300 and the longest race of the Sprint Cup Series season, the Coca-Cola 600 -- which go green on Saturday, May 28 and Sunday, May 29, respectively.


If you’re heading down to Charlotte for the action, you’ll have a few days and evenings to explore the area. Here are a few things to check out:
Check out the World of Outlaws Craftsman Sprint Car Series on Friday night, May 27 at the neighboring Dirt Track at Charlotte Motor Speedway. Find out more about the NOS Energy Circle K Showdown here.

credit: NASCAR Media
Key on-track times:

Thursday, May 26 –
  • Sprint Cup Series practice – 2:30 p.m. ET
  • Xfinity Series practice – 4 and 5:30 p.m. ET
  • Sprint Cup Series qualifying – 7:15 p.m. ET
Friday, May 27 –
 
  • World of Outlaws Sprint Car Series at The Dirt Track at Charlotte Motor Speedway – opening ceremonies begin at 7:15 p.m. ET
Saturday, May 28
 
  • Sprint Cup Series practice – 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. ET
  • Xfinity Series qualifying – 11:15 a.m. ET
  • Xfinity Series Hisense 300 – 2:45 p.m. ET
Sunday, May 29
 
  • Lee Brice pre-race concert – 3:55 p.m. ET
  • Sprint Cup Series Coca Cola 600 – 6:15 p.m. ET
Find out about different ticket packages and single-day tickets at http://www.charlottemotorspeedway.com/.

Thursday, May 19, 2016

TV Schedule: May 19-22


By Rebecca Kivak

It's NASCAR's homecoming. For the next two weeks, NASCAR returns home to Charlotte, the heart of the sport. During Sprint All-Star Race weekend at Charlotte Motor Speedway, bragging rights and prize money are on the line.

The Camping World Truck Series also races under the lights Friday, after the Sprint Showdown.

After Saturday's Sprint All-Star race, the rest of the week leads up to the longest race on the circuit, the Coca-Cola 600.

The following is a handy guide to track events and television coverage this weekend at Charlotte. All times are in Eastern Standard Time.

Thursday, May 19:
4:30 p.m. Camping World Truck Series final practice, FS1

Friday, May 20:
11 a.m. Camping World Truck Series final practice (re-air), FS1
1:30 p.m. Sprint Cup Series Sprint Showdown final practice, FS1
3 p.m. Sprint Cup Series NASCAR Sprint All-Star Race final practice, FS1
5:30 p.m. Camping World Truck Series Qualifying, FS1
7 p.m. Sprint Cup Series: Sprint Showdown, FS1
8 p.m. Camping World Truck Series SetUp, FS1
8:30 p.m. Camping World Truck Series: NC Education Lottery 200, FS1

Saturday, May 21:
5:30 a.m. Sprint Cup Series: Sprint Showdown (re-air), FS1
7 a.m. Camping World Truck Series: NC Education Lottery 200 (re-air), FS1
11 a.m. Sprint Cup Series: Sprint Showdown (re-air), FS1
7 p.m. Sprint Cup Series Qualifying, FS1
8:30 p.m. NASCAR RaceDay - All-Star, FS1
9 p.m. Sprint All-Star Race, FS1

Sunday, May 22:
9:30 a.m. Sprint All-Star Race (re-air), FS1

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Faith on the Frontstretch: NASCAR Drivers Make Special Moments That Bless Fans

Children's names on Carl Edward's No. 19 car at Dover.
Credit: Beth Reinke for Skirts and Scuffs  
by Beth Reinke

“ ... and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.” ~ Hebrews 12:1b

Carl Edwards had a million reasons to win Sunday’s Cup race at Dover. His sponsor, STANLEY, pledged to donate $1 million to Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals through the Ace Hardware Foundation – if Edwards finished the day in Victory Lane.

The No. 19 car ran a special paint scheme featuring the names of young patients and their respective diagnoses. Four of those kids served as “Honorary Crew Members” of the team throughout the Dover race weekend, getting to do all kinds of fun stuff.

His JGR Toyota ran in the top 10 for most of the race, and even led 27 laps, so it looked like Edwards might pull off the win. But after restarting third late in the event, a little tap from Kyle Larson sent Edwards hard into the inside wall, dashing his hopes of winning the payout for the kids.

“We’ll just chalk it up to racing, but the hard part is we felt like we were going to win that million bucks for those kids, and I felt like we could win this race,” Edwards said.

The kids were still winners though, as Edwards and representatives from STANLEY and the Ace Hardware Foundation presented a $100,000 donation to the CMN Hospitals. And last week, Edwards and his crew spent a day with sick children at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, playing games and giving the kids and staff a pit stop demonstration.
This is just one example of how NASCAR drivers, teams and sponsors use their time and funds to help people.

Most NASCAR drivers bless others with snippets of their time during the week, and even on race weekends. If you’ve ever watched a driver walk through the garage area, it’s normally not a smooth process. He or she is interrupted over and over again by fans asking for autographs or photos. What takes a driver a few seconds to do – sign a cap and pose for a snapshot – becomes a lifelong memory for a fan.

While serving as photographer for Skirts and Scuffs at Dover last weekend, I enjoyed watching this process over and over. Erik Jones posed for a photo with a young girl attending her first race. Matt DiBenedetto bent down to sign an autograph for a little boy. Edwards chatted with an elderly veteran, then had his picture taken with him.

Even retired legends, like Bobby Allison, still serve the race fans. Caught in a downpour, I ducked into a tent in the Truck garage to wait out the deluge. Allison had taken cover there, too, and was talking with four fans ranging in ages from a teen to a senior. They took turns taking selfies with him, so I snapped a shot of all five men to email to them later. Watching the joyful grins on the fellows’ faces, it warmed my heart to see what Allison’s small gesture meant to these guys. And Mr. Allison seemed to enjoy it just as much.

Bobby Allison chats with a fan at Dover, May 2016.
Credit: Beth Reinke for Skirts and Scuffs
We may not be celebrities who can give autographs, and we may not have oodles of money to dole out to deserving charities, but you and I can still do small things that bring joy to others. And if we’re Jesus followers, the desire to do good deeds isn’t an option; it’s a natural extension of our faith.

Don’t worry about the size of your good deeds though. Just like a driver's autograph and a quick selfie mean a lot to a fan, your kind words spoken in passing can lift up someone who’s feeling rotten. What seems like a small, insignificant deed to you may be a huge blessing to the recipient.

As Galatians 6:9 says, let’s not become weary in doing good. So, how can you bless someone today?

What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but has no deeds? Faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead. ~ James 2:14a, 17 (NIV)
---------------------------------

“Faith on the Frontstretch” explores the role of faith in motorsports and runs every 1st & 3rd Wednesday of the month during the NASCAR season. Follow Beth on twitter at @bbreinke.

Want more racing devotions? When you donate $25 to Skirts and Scuffs, we’ll send you a complimentary copy of Beth’s book, Race Fans’ Devotions to Go, a month-long, pocket-sized devotional book for NASCAR fans. Or you can purchase the book in paperback & ebook here.

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Fast Facts: Harrison Burton

credit: NASCAR Media
Harrison Burton is one of the many young, talented “next generation” stars that is making NASCAR’s future look very bright. The second-generation driver is just 15, and not yet eligible to compete in NASCAR’s upper levels, but he’s got quite a birthday present waiting for him in October. Learn more about this youngster in this week’s Fast Facts.
  • Harrison Brian Burton was born Oct. 9, 2000 in Huntersville, NC. Burton’s father is former Cup Series driver and television broadcaster Jeff Burton, his uncle former Daytona 500 winner Ward Burton, and his cousin is current Cup and Xfinity Series driver Jeb Burton.
  • Burton’s racing career began in quarter midgets, and he was a three-time USAC Quarter Midget national champ before moving into Late Models at age 11. At age12, he moved up to Pro-Late Models and won twice at Dillon Motor Speedway (SC).
  • In 2015, at age 14, Burton visited victory lane twice during the World Series of Asphalt Stock Car Racing at New Smyrna in Florida, becoming the youngest driver to win a NASCAR Whelen Super Late Model race. He made his K&N Pro Series West debut in Oct. 2015, becoming the youngest driver to compete in the series at age 15 years and eight days.
  • For the 2016 season, Burton will compete full-time in the K&N Pro Series East for HScott Motorsports with Justin Marks and compete in a number of Super Late Model races for his family’s team. It was also announced that Burton will make his top-tier NASCAR debut at Martinsville Speedway on Oct. 29, driving a Toyota Tundra in the Camping World Truck Series for Kyle Busch Motorsports.
  • Follow Burton on Twitter: @HBurtonRacing.


Monday, May 16, 2016

Travel Tips: Charlotte Motor Speedway – All-Star edition - May 19-21, 2016

credit: NASCAR Media
Get ready for “10 days of speed” in the heart of NASCAR country, as all three of NASCAR’s top series – Sprint Cup, Xfinity and Camping World Truck Series – invade Charlotte Motor Speedway over the next two weeks. Festivities kick off this weekend with the Camping World Truck Series and the Sprint All-Star Race, Thursday through Saturday, May 19-21. These races are a predecessor to the following weekend’s big races, the Xfinity Series Hisense 300 and the longest race of the Sprint Cup Series season, the Coca Cola 600, on Saturday and Sunday, May 28-29.

If you’re heading down to Charlotte for all of the action, you’ll have a few days and evenings to explore the area. Here are a few things to check out:
credit: NASCAR Media
Key on-track times:

Thursday, May 19 –
  • Camping World Truck Series practice – 12:30, 2:30 and 4:30 p.m. ET
  • Sprint Cup Series hauler parade – 6:30 p.m. (expected arrival at track)
Friday, May 20 –
  • Sprint Showdown practice/qualifying – 1:30 p.m. ET
  • Sprint All-Star Race practice – 3 p.m. ET
  • Sprint All-Star Race pit road practice – 4:45 p.m. ET
  • Camping World Truck Series qualifying – 5:30 p.m. ET
  • Sprint Showdown – 7:15 p.m. ET
  • Camping World Truck Series NC Education Lottery 200 – 8:30 p.m. ET (approximate)
Saturday, May 21
  • Pre-race concert featuring Andy Grammer – 3:15 p.m. ET
  • Sprint All-Star Race qualifying – 7:10 p.m. ET
  • Sprint All-Star Race – 9 p.m. ET (approximate)
Find the complete schedule for the All-Star weekend here.

Find out about different ticket packages and single-day tickets at www.charlottemotorspeedway.com

Right Sides Only: Notes from the AAA 400 Drive for Autism Winning Crew Chief, Jason Ratcliff


It only took 12 weeks for Joe Gibbs Racing to get all four of their drivers to Victory Lane. Now all four JGR teams have a Chase berth. Will that slow them down going into the All-Star break? Don't hold your breath.

Kenseth fans may been holding their collective breath waiting for their driver to find his way to the checkered flag, and the wheelman of the No. 20 Dollar General Toyota didn't disappoint at the Monster Mile. And he may owe much of his Dover success to the changes his crew chief made throughout the weekend.

Credit: Beth Reinke for Skirts and Scuffs
Ratcliff addressed the track conditions following the rain that fell earlier in the weekend.

"Most of the day it seemed like the track was fairly consistent. We changed a lot of stuff yesterday in practice. I mean, we were in qualifying trim on Friday. We didn't really know what we had until Saturday. Completely changed the setup in the second practice."
   
Once they'd changed the setup, they dealt with the car getting away from them during the race.
 
"We felt like we had a good car all day. We were a top-two, top-three car, in contention, then when we would lose track position, not so much.
            
"We saw that for a lot of teams. At the end, I'm surprised more guys didn't do two tires at the end. But it worked out for us. Earlier we had done four and lost our track position. It was a good opportunity for us to get that back. We felt like with clean air, the car had good speed. But it wouldn't have worked out, I mean, but that Matt drove the wheels off of it at the end. Did a good job. Good show for the fans," Ratcliff said.

The team was impressed with more than just their win. For much of the afternoon, it looked like Kyle Larson may have been on his way to Victory Lane for the first time. Rookie Chase Elliott also ran a great race. Larson and Elliott finished second and third, respectively, behind Kenseth.

"Kyle ran a nice clean race. Him and Chase. A good race to watch and obviously a good race to win," Ratcliff said.

Credit: Beth Reinke for Skirts and Scuffs
How frustrating was it for the No. 20 team to watch their teammates celebrate week after week, starting with Hamlin's win at the Daytona 500? Ratcliff summed it up this way.
"It's a character builder, that's for sure. It will test your patience," he said. "I've said this a lot of times, the core group that's on the 20 team, most of them, if not all of them, have been in this sport for a long time. They understand. They thrive on how well we perform each week, not necessarily where we finish.
            
"But eventually, you know, that wears on you. So last week to get a top five and then to come in this week and get a victory, it's definitely what we've been waiting for. I couldn't ask for a better group of guys. Most of the time, I think it's my responsibility to keep them motivated, but more times than not they keep me motivated. Great group, hard workers, they'll take this one and be chomping at the bit to get another one next week."

Next week is the All-Star Race at Charlotte Motor Speedway. There are no points at stake, and there's no Chase spot available, but the prize is huge nonetheless: a million dollar payday. That's reason enough to carry momentum forward to the next race.
 
-------------------------

   Stacey Owens lives just outside Music City USA. She's always wanted to be a NASCAR writer, so working as a columnist and support editor for Skirts and Scuffs allows her to live that dream every single weekend.
    The sole NASCAR enthusiast in her home, she's hopeful that one of her three daughters might also harbor an appreciation for NASCAR, but it isn't looking good so far.
    This self-admitted grammar nerd also loves country music, though she can't carry a tune; collegiate football, though she needs a lot of work on her spiral; and Kentucky basketball, even though at 6' tall, she's never played a day in her life.