Monday, September 30, 2013

Travel Tips: Kansas Speedway – Oct. 4-6, 2013

The fourth race of the 2013 Chase for the Sprint Cup is this weekend’s Hollywood Casino 400 at Kansas Speedway in Kansas City, Kansas, with action taking place Friday through Sunday, Oct. 4-6. Also on the race card for the weekend: the Nationwide Series and the ARCA Racing Series.

On Thursday, Oct. 3, Sprint Cup Series cars will be testing at the speedway from noon to 4 p.m. CT – admission is $10.

There will be two concerts at the Kansas Speedway this weekend. Following the ARCA race on Friday night, Sevendust will perform in the Turn One area south of the grandstands – the concert is included with Friday’s $9.89 ticket. On Sunday at 11:20 a.m. CT, Everclear will perform a pre-race concert on the infield tri-oval – the concert is included with Sunday admission.

Key on-track times:

Friday, Oct. 4 –
  • ARCA Racing Series practice – 9 a.m. CT
  • Sprint Cup Series practice – 11:30 a.m. CT
  • Nationwide Series practice – 1:10 and 2:40 p.m. CT
  • Sprint Cup Series qualifying – 4:10 p.m. CT
  • ARCA Racing Series qualifying – 5:35 p.m. CT
  • ARCA Kansas Lottery 98.9 – 7:30 p.m. CT

Saturday, Oct. 5 –
  • Sprint Cup Series practice – 10 a.m. and 12:50 p.m. CT
  • Nationwide Series qualifying – 11:05 a.m. CT
  • Nationwide Series Kansas Lottery 300 – 2:30 p.m. CT

Sunday, Oct. 6 –
  • Sprint Cup Series Hollywood Casino 400 – 1 p.m. CT

First-time visitors to Kansas Speedway can click here for the First-Time Visitor Guide.

Find out more about the race and purchase tickets at

Saturday, September 28, 2013

The gift from within: NASCAR drivers give back

Kevin Harvick gives back by honoring veterans.
Credit: Debbie Ross for Skirts and Scuffs  
If you look into the eyes of any NASCAR driver you will probably see an array of things - 
determination, strength, willpower - qualities that could describe any given driver on any given Sunday.

But look a little deeper. Look past the grit that powers the two-ton racecar around the track, the emotional strength that deals with the heartbreak of slamming a winning car into a wall or the armor that lets thousands of haters roll off their back with a smile.

If you look hard enough, you'll find it. The gift from within.

What is the gift from within, you may ask. In our sport, it is the unwavering ability of our heroes, our drivers, to give back. It's the gift of not being asked to do it, but being moved to. It's the gift of seeing a child's face light up, it's the gift of helping a family with an ill child pay their heating bill. It's the gift of having a good soul.

All too often in sports, we see the bad side of things. Players getting arrested for fights or drugs. Players making racial slurs or players jailed for murder. Sports media does a lot to try to turn the images of these players around, writing stories about them at camp and making commercials about the leagues giving back. I'll bet a lot of those featured players are giving back because they have to.

This week, without a lot of fanfare from the mainstream media, Martin Truex Jr. realized a dream four years in the making. One twitter follower called it the biggest thing Truex Jr. has ever done. He was there to witness the grand opening of the Martin Truex Jr. Pediatric Care Center at Southern Ocean Medical Center in Manahawkin, NJ.

The Martin Truex Jr. Foundation exists to better the lives of children stricken by illness, poverty or neglect. Over the years, they have contributed over $1 million to various programs and initiatives to help those very children. Martin didn't have to start a foundation, but he did.

After all he has been through in the past month - making the Chase and then being knocked out, driving with a broken wrist, watching his full-time sponsor walk away from his car leaving his future uncertain - Truex Jr. didn't give up his commitment to his community. He gave them a gift, and in turn, his gift will give to children for years to come.

Credit: Charlotte Bray for Skirts and Scuffs
He's not the only one.

Our heroes give gifts all the time, and without being asked. They do it because they know they have been given a tremendous opportunity. They do it because some of them come from communities that need help. They do it so no child or family will go hungry, or be alone in the hospital. They do it so kids can have a chance. A chance is sometimes all someone needs to take that next step in life.

Thursday night, Denny Hamlin received the March of Dimes "Champion for Babies" award, reserved only for those who do the most special work for the organization. He was recognized for his continuous efforts in raising awareness about the March of Dimes' signature fundraiser, March for Babies, and his efforts to host March of Dimes families at races throughout the season, encouraging them to share their stories, and encouraging fans to either donate to the cause or sign up for a walk themselves. Hamlin became only the fourth recipient of the prestigious award, joining Joe Namath, Greg Gumbel and Arnold Palmer.
Credit: Charlotte Bray for Skirts and Scuffs

Kevin Harvick awards athletic scholarships to deserving children through his foundation. He also helped rebuild the wrestling program at the high school he attended in Bakersfield, Calif., giving hundreds of teens the opportunity to experience the sport he says helped him grow into the mentally and physically strong person he is today.

Kyle Busch and his foundation support children's homes both in and out of N.C. His wife Samantha collects dresses and accessories so underprivileged girls are able to attend their proms.

Credit: Debbie Ross for Skirts and Scuffs

There are many more stories of drivers and the gifts they give and the chances they create for people. Every driver gives back, whether it be through a namesake foundation or hours spent at Victory Junction Gang Camp. They're some of the busiest people in the world taking time to make sure a child eats, or sleeps comfortably in a hospital or children's home. But most likely you already know. Unlike other sports, we don't have to publicize the fact that our heroes give back.

The look in their eyes gives it away.

"Caption This" winner: @DaytonaDon1

Matt, I hear Jack misses you and Robbie wants to be your crew chief again,
tee hee hee.

Congratulations to @DaytonaDon1 who contributed the winning caption for this photo of Matt Kenseth and Jason Ratcliff.

Please send your full name and mailing address to to receive your prize, a copy of the devotional book Race Fans' Devotions to Go.

Thanks to everyone who played "Caption this!" Check back next Tuesday for a new photo and your next chance to submit a caption.

Friday, September 27, 2013

Chasing the Championship: Previewing the AAA 400 at Dover

Scoring pylon

Dover International Speedway plays host to the Sprint Cup Series this weekend for the third race in The Chase. Matt Kenseth has a 14-point advantage over teammate Kyle Busch and an 18-point lead over Jimmie Johnson.

The Monster Mile can be treacherous and can bite when least expected. Look for excitement this weekend and a possible shake-up in the standings.

Here’s how the Chasers stack up as they go against Miles.

1. Matt Kenseth (points leader)
by: Stephanie Stuart

Some may say it's lonely at the top, but not for Matt Kenseth. He seems to be holding onto the top position in the Chase for Sprint Cup just fine, thank you very much. He has the support of his family and a team owner and crew chief who believe in him. I'd say that's a pretty good place to be heading to Dover International Speedway this weekend, a track that has been good to Kenseth in the past.

After winning the first two Chase races at Chicago and New Hampshire, Kenseth comes into the weekend with a 14 point lead over Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Kyle Busch. Many are wondering if he can be stopped. Those who said it would take a while for this new team to come together are eating their words, after Kenseth has won a career high seven races. After the wining at New Hampshire last weekend, where a normally statuesque Kenseth got out of the car and gave an almost teary interview, he was asked later about the emotion in his voice. He said he wasn't emotional at all, just happy.

He should be. In 29 starts at the Monster Mile, which he considers one of his favorite tracks, Kenseth has won twice. He has also amassed 13 top fives, 18 top 10s and one pole. He has led 775 laps, and has an average finish of 13.6. Comparably, the Chaser with the best average finish at Dover is Carl Edwards, who averages 8.6, but has only 18 starts at the track.

Kenseth has a lot of momentum coming into this weekend, and looks to keep it going. The 2003 Sprint Cup Champion says he isn't doing anything differently this year. "I don't think there's a magic formula," said Matt earlier this week. "You just have to have more points than whoever finishes second. That's how you win (the title)."

Calm, cool and collected, Kenseth and the 20 team roll into Dover ready to keep their perch atop the leaderboard. And the naysayers will keep eating their words.

2. Kyle Busch (-14)AA Matt Kenseth & Kyle Busch on pit road 6-1-13
By: Rebecca Kivak

To say Kyle Busch is hungry for a win is an understatement. After back-to-back runner-up finishes behind teammate Matt Kenseth, Busch is ready for his turn as the Joe Gibbs Racing driver in Victory Lane. Considering his impressive track record at Dover, Busch could very well find his way there when the checkered flag flies Sunday.

The driver of the No. 18 Interstate Batteries Toyota boasts two wins, eight top fives, 11 tops 10s and an average finish of 13.3 in 17 starts at the Monster Mile. In his last seven races, Busch has finished in the top 10 six times, including seventh one year ago and fourth in the spring.

Busch knows his way up front at the one-mile concrete track – he led a combined 452 laps in the last two races.

With the championship well within his reach, a win at Dover could help Busch eat into Kenseth’s points lead and even supplant his teammate atop the standings.

But it’s the friendly competition that also fuels Busch. He said after New Hampshire he relishes having a teammate like Kenseth who not only pushes him to be better, but together they can push back against the championship field.

“Certainly it's nice to get a strong start,” Busch said at New Hampshire. “There's no doubt about it. You'd rather finish first both weeks than 43rd and get yourself up there and get a strong foundation built to where you can continue on down the road and maybe not have so much pressure on yourself to have to perform to catch up. But that's good that we're both up there like that, that we're able to do that and that we're pushing each other hard and that we're pushing the competition, as well, too.”

3. Jimmie Johnson (-18)
by: Katy Lindamood

Jimmie Johnson has opened The Chase with two top-five finishes, but if he wants to earn his six-pack he’ll have to do better than that. As luck would have it, Dover comes at the perfect time.

Johnson and “Miles the Monster” are old buddies. They’ve been spotted together in victory lane seven times since 2002 including two Chase wins, once in 2009 and again in 2010. Coincidentally, Johnson won the title both years.

In 23 starts at Dover, Team 48 has earned 16 top-10 finishes, three poles and led a total of 2461 laps. Johnson does have two DNF’s at the track, but those came early in his career. His worst finish since 2004 came in this year’s June race, where he finished 17th. Hopefully with the restart rules more clearly defined Johnson won’t find himself in the same position on Sunday.

“I’m not putting my guard down. We still have Talladega and a lot of these tracks can take out multiple cars. You have that risk here if something happens you usually take a car or two with you. I don’t know. I’m certainly looking forward and there are only two guys that I’m paying attention to right now, so in that mindset, sure you can call it a three man race. It’s still way too early to count many out yet,” said Johnson on Friday morning at Dover.  

Only 18 points separate Johnson and leader Matt Kenseth heading into race three. Eighteen points can be made up quickly if Kenseth or Busch falter, so don’t count five-time out of the hunt yet. It’s still very much a three man battle and Johnson has Miles on his side.

AAA Love that Carl Edwards smile 6-2-134. Carl Edwards (-36)
by: Lacy Keyser

Carl Edwards is off to a good start in the Chase for the Sprint Cup. He’s fourth in the standings and he’s heading to Dover,  a track where his nickname “Concrete Carl” comes in handy

Edwards has the third best average running position among Cup drivers of 10.3, plus eight top fives, 12 top 10s and one win.  He has an average finish of 8.6 in 18 races. Concrete tracks are his strong point and he could very well be the one to take the checkered flag. 

On the other hand, Edwards hasn't won at Dover since 2007. Maybe Miles has finally got the best of the Roush-Fenway driver.

Edwards started 18th, and finished 14th in the spring Dover race. It is finishes like that the No.99 driver doesn't need with a championship on the line. I’m not counting the No.99 out but I’m also not putting all my eggs in one basket. Edwards needs to up his game and put a win in the books. He already has two victories this season, why not add a third?

5. Greg Biffle, (-38 points)
by: Carol D'Agostino

Although Greg Biffle did not win last Sunday’s Chase race number two in New Hampshire, his third place finish was more than respectable. During the closing laps he gave a primer on blocking against no other than five-time champion Jimmie Johnson. Biffle finished the race third, advancing six spots in the standings.

Dover International Speedway has been a good track for Biffle over the years. This weekend should be no exception. His stats at the Monster Mile in 22 career starts include six top fives, 10 top 10s and two wins.

6. Kevin Harvick (-39)
by: Stephanie Stuart

After a disappointing weekend in New Hampshire that saw the 29 team finish 20th, Kevin Harvick needs to turn things around this weekend in Dover. He comes into Dover International Speedway seeded sixth in points, two slots down from where he started in New Hampshire and 39 behind Chase leader Matt Kenseth.

Harvick knows he has some work ahead of him if he is to take the title, but he prefers not to dissect the numbers. "I honestly hadn't looked and seen the points deficit and paid attention to it," he said earlier this week. "For us, it's really about just going out and doing what you can week in and week out, and where you fall is where you fall, and that's the cards you were dealt."

The goal is to win every week, but Harvick knows that's not feasible, so he hopes to put his team in the best position possible every weekend. He says the No. 29 team works off that same strategy, Chase or no Chase.

Harvick and the rest of his team will have to put their nose to the grind this weekend if he is to begin making up that points deficit quickly. In 25 starts at the Monster Mile, Harvick has three top fives and 11 top-10 finishes. His average finish is 15.6, which fares a little worse than some other Chase contenders.

"I think Dover is a fun track to go to," said Harvick. "You can be very aggressive with your driving style there compared to most other places. We'll go there this weekend and run as hard as we can, just like we do every other weekend."

Look for Harvick to drive hard in attempts to have a rebound race this Sunday. He promised that he would leave the 29 team in better shape than he found it when he departs Richard Childress Racing at the end of this season to drive for Stewart-Haas Racing in 2014, and a championship would taste oh-so-sweet. It would be the fairytale ending in one storybook, and the perfect beginning to another.
AAA Kurt and Patricia smile for the cameras 6-2-13
7. Kurt Busch (-42)
by: Katy Lindamood

Regardless of where Kurt Busch finishes the 2013 season, he can hold his head high. He’s taken a young team to new heights and has started to rebuild the career that was in shambles just two years ago. He may not have a win at Furniture Row, but he’s proven that with the right driver, the single car outfit could be a real contender.

Don’t put your drinking money on Busch this weekend though, save it for Talladega or Charlotte, because Dover hasn’t been kind to the 2004 Champion. In 28 starts at “The Monster Mile” Busch has one win which came in 2011 while driving for Penske Racing. He’s failed to finish the race six times and has 13 finishes outside the top 15.

“We had speed and ran up front. However, we convinced ourselves to stick to a strategy that we thought would deliver the best finish and we ended up putting ourselves in a box,” said Busch regarding the 12th place finish the No. 78 earned in June at Dover.

8. Jeff Gordon (-42)
by: Stephanie Stuart

Gordon enters the Dover race weekend one spot lower in the standings than last week, due to a 15th place finish at New Hampshire. Gordon blames the sub-par finish mostly on himself, after a pit road miscue led to him sliding through the pit box while he was leading the race, costing the team precious time. He is disappointed in himself for the mistake, but says the team will learn from it and move on. Ever the strategist, Gordon has a plan: "We're only a couple points out of fourth, so that's a realistic goal for us right now."

He's moving on to a good place. In 41 starts at Dover International Speedway Gordon has won four times. He also has four poles, 16 top-fives, and 23 top 10s. Dover has been kind to the No. 24 over the years.

"I enjoy racing here because of the high speeds and the high-banked corners and the high-banked straightaways," said Gordon. "But you are constantly on the edge and can find yourself in trouble quickly, whether it be by yourself or in a group of cars."

Lately they see the fire again in Jeff Gordon, and that may be true. Moving up five spots in the points after the first two races is a pretty good start, and Gordon doesn't see it ending there. He is driving hard towards Championship number five and momentum just may be on his side.

Pit stop on No. 39 of Ryan Newman 6-2-139. Ryan Newman (-47)
by: Beth Bence Reinke

The Monster Mile is one of Ryan Newman’s favorite tracks. The short straightaways, steep banking and fast pace are a challenge and he relishes that.

“To me, the characteristics of the track make it both demanding and fun,” Newman said. “It’s really unique how you drop off into the corners and then climb up the hills onto the straightaways. At Dover, the entry into the corners is the toughest part. If you don’t get a good entry, you’re not going to have a good middle or a good exit. You have narrow straightaways and then the track opens a lot in the corners, so there’s a good bit of give-and-take.”

Newman has another reason to like Dover – his three wins at the track. Interestingly, the trio of victories came within two years when he won three of four back-to-back races, in June and September 2003 and September 2004. Historically, Newman has finished in the top 10 almost half the time, in 11 out of 23 career starts. Four poles and 6 top-five finishes round out his stats, and with an average finish of 13.1, he could be a threat on the concrete this weekend.

Sitting ninth in the Chase standings isn’t where Newman wants to be as autumn begins. To have a decent chance at the championship, he needs to move up in points, and quickly. Getting a second win in 2013 with his No. 39 State Water Heater Chevy could catapult him up the rankings and be a boost to his Stewart-Haas Racing team in his last year with them.

Before the race, Newman will get up close and personal with Miles - the 46-foot tall statue, that is - as he answers fan questions in a free Q&A session at the Monster Monument in Victory Plaza on Sunday morning.

Who knows, maybe Miles will whisper the secret to victory in Newman’s ear.

10. Clint Bowyer (-48)
By: Rebecca Kivak

After a lackluster start to the Chase, Clint Bowyer is hoping to turn things around at Dover. Although the one-mile concrete raceway is not considered one of his best tracks, Bowyer’s recent performances here show he’s found a handle on the Monster Mile.

The driver of the No. 15 Raspberry 5-Hour ENERGY Toyota has one top five and eight top 10s in 15 starts at Dover. Upon closer look, Bowyer has finished in the top 10 his last five races here, buoying his average finish to 12.7. Bowyer finished ninth at Dover one year ago and sixth in the spring.

After finishing ninth at Chicagoland and 17th at Loudon, Bowyer is relying on his recent success at Dover to keep alive his title chances.

“This is a big weekend for the 5-hour ENERGY team,” Bowyer said. “We’ve stubbed our toe a little the last couple weeks and haven’t finished as well as we’ve needed to. We have run well at Dover in the past couple years and we are bringing a good car this weekend that dominated at Atlanta but had an engine issue, so hopefully the car will be as good, but with a little better luck at the end.”

Bowyer sits 10th in the standings, 48 points behind leader Matt Kenseth.

It was announced Friday morning that sponsor 5-hour ENERGY will stay with Bowyer and MWR after 2013, putting to rest rumors they would exit.

11. Dale Earnhardt Jr. (-62)
By: Rebecca Kivak

Dale Earnhardt Jr. enters Dover after a sixth-place run at New Hampshire lifted the No. 88 National Guard team out of the bottom of the point standings. To get back into the championship hunt, Earnhardt Jr. and his crew chief Steve Letarte are focused on winning races.

The Monster Mile could be a good place to start. Earnhardt Jr. is a past winner here, claiming a memorable victory in the September 2001 race just after the Sept. 11 tragedy. Though Earnhardt Jr.’s record at Dover is less than stellar - five top fives, nine top 10s and an average finish of 17th in 27 starts – his recent finishes show improvement. He has finished fourth, 11th and 10th respectively in his last three races here.

But for Earnhardt Jr., top-10 finishes won’t be good enough to try for the title, and he knows it. Sitting 11th in the championship standings, Earnhardt Jr. is more than a race behind points leader Matt Kenseth. For these last eight races, the No. 88 is in prime position to take chances and go all out for race wins.

“You look at your position in the Chase and you see, all right, we’re way behind,” Earnhardt Jr. said in a teleconference this week. “We’ve got ourselves off to a terrible start in Chicago. So we don’t really need to try to string together decent finishes. That’s not going to do much for us. We’re behind so far that trying to be consistent and just rattle off top 10s if we can, there is no moral victory there. We can gamble on tire strategy and get off-sequence in the race and try to make it work for you and get to Victory Lane.”
Joey Logano being interviewed 5-31-13

12. Joey Logano (-69)
by: Jessica Tow

With two races in the books, Joey Logano has had a less-than-pleasing start to this year’s Chase. After blowing an engine at Chicagoland and finishing in 14th place at Loudon last weekend, Logano currently sits 12th in the points standings and is almost on the outside looking in.

Now if this was the Chase for the Nationwide Series championship, there is no question that Logano would be a top contender going into race number three at the Monster Mile. With three consecutive wins at Dover in the Nationwide Series, he has yet to win a race in the Sprint Cup Series. His only promising Sprint Cup statistic: three consecutive top-10 finishes.

While Dover has not always been Logano’s favorite track, it has grown on him over recent years.

“One of the questions I get asked a lot when we do question and answer sessions is what is your favorite track. Dover would be very high on my list. It’s just a track I feel like I can get around well. I love the speed and the sensation of the banking. It’s really cool to just run around there, especially in qualifying trim. I’m excited to go back with a race in the books between me and (crew chief) Todd (Gordon). I think we are going to be really fast this weekend,” Logano said.

Bottom line: Logano must perform well this weekend in order to stay afloat in the Chase. Anything less than a top-10 finish could do more harm than good. A top five finish would be exponentially beneficial. With a brand new chassis this weekend, anything can happen for Logano and the No. 22 Shell Pennzoil team.

13. Kasey Kahne (-71)
by: Lisa Janine Cloud

Despite having more wins than seven of the drivers ahead of him, Kasey Kahne sits at the bottom of the Chase. He followed a lackluster 12th at Chicagoland with a heartbreaking 37th at Loudon.   

Carl Edwards and Kevin Harvick, both two-race winners, are poised within striking distance of the points lead should the Gibbs drivers and Jimmie Johnson have any trouble. Kahne not only needs a Tony Stewart-like run through the next eight races, but he needs Miles the Monster to lay the smackdown on the leaders.

Kahne’s record at Dover isn’t exactly enviable: one top five, five top 10s in 19 starts. And although he has those two wins, along with eight top fives and 11 top 10s thus far this season, he also has three DNFs and only 19 lead-lap finishes in 28 races. 

Can you say rollercoaster

There’s a possibility that Kahne and crew chief Kenny Francis will be able to turn things around. A good top-two or top-three finish at the Monster Mile could push the pendulum of momentum the other direction. If Kahne can avoid getting wrecked again, he might be able to gain some ground in the points. 

But I wouldn’t count on it.

5-Hour ENERGY to return as sponsor of Bowyer, Michael Waltrip Racing

5-Hour ENERGY will remain Clint Bowyer's sponsor in 2014.
Credit: Beth Bence Reinke for Skirts and Scuffs

After NAPA Auto Parts' decision last week to sever ties with Michael Waltrip Racing in the wake of the organization's efforts to alter the outcome of the Richmond race, all eyes turned to 5-Hour ENERGY to see if the primary sponsor of Clint Bowyer's No. 15 Toyota would follow suit.

5-Hour ENERGY is staying on board. The energy drink company released a statement Friday announcing it will return as a sponsor with Bowyer and MWR in 2014.

Company officials had said they would make a decision at the end of the season, but they decided to move up the timetable, meeting after Sunday's Sylvania 300 at New Hampshire.

5-Hour ENERGY released the following statement:

"This week the 5-hour ENERGY team met after the New Hampshire race to discuss our future with Michael Waltrip Racing. While our original plan was to announce the status of our sponsorship at the end of the year, this timeframe left many concerned about their future. There are scores of passionate fans, numerous charitable organizations, and hundreds of hard-working MWR employees and their families who are directly impacted by 5-hour ENERGY’s NASCAR sponsorship. After several internal discussions and meetings with MWR, we are prepared to announce our decision ahead of schedule. 5-hour ENERGY will be back as a sponsor of MWR and Clint Bowyer for 2014. We look forward to another great year of competitive racing. Go 15!"

Longtime sponsor NAPA announced Sept. 19 it would cut ties with MWR after NASCAR penalized the organization for manipulating the outcome of the Sept. 7 Richmond race to aid its driver, Martin Truex Jr., in making the Chase. As a result of the penalties, the NAPA-sponsored Truex was booted from the 10-race playoffs.

With seven laps to go at Richmond, Truex's teammate Bowyer spun and brought out a caution, a move that appeared intentional. Bowyer, sponsored by 5-Hour ENERGY, was not penalized for the spin, but was penalized along with teammate Brian Vickers for pitting late in a move to help Joey Logano gain position on the track, allowing Logano to make the top 10 in points and enabling Truex to claim a wild card Chase berth.

5-Hour ENERGY is the second major sponsor of Michael Waltrip Racing to stay with the organization after the Richmond scandal. On the same day NAPA made its decision to cut ties, Aaron's announced it will continue its longstanding relationship with MWR.

The furniture rental store said in a statement Sept. 19 on its Facebook page:

"Aaron’s would like to thank NASCAR fans for their continued loyalty during this time of uncertainty. We became a sponsor of MWR 14 years ago and remain dedicated to MWR, to NASCAR and to the fans."

NASCAR needs Dover: Five Questions for the Monster Mile

NASCAR needs racing. Whose winning car will Miles the Monster
hoist after this weekend? Credit: Jerry Markland/Getty Images
This weekend, I won’t be writing an intro. I won’t talk about love or defeat or anything like that.

I’m going to get right to the point: we’re racing at Dover International Speedway this weekend, and it’s a great thing. Why? Because it’s needed.

NASCAR needs racing badly. It needs a race that will darken all the things that have happened over the past few weeks. It needs something positive that will make headlines.

It needs Dover.

Although I’m taking a direct approach this weekend, I still have questions. I’m talking Ricky Bobby, Carl Edwards, the Chase and more in Five Questions.

Will people be cheering for “Ricky Bobby” this weekend? The “Talladega Nights” character is coming back to NASCAR later this year. Kurt Busch will don a Wonder Bread paint scheme at Talladega Superspeedway, continuing with the theme that began with Phoenix Racing. It’s ironic that this light piece of NASCAR news is being delivered by a previously pessimistic driver, but it’s also a great thing. Right now, those in and around the sport need something to cheer for, a life boat to rescue them from a Sea of Despair. I wrote before that all of us are becoming Busch fans, and this is even more proof that he’s one to support. As long as he doesn’t strip down to his briefs and scream for Tom Cruise to get the fire off his body, I’m all for it.

Who’s down and out of the Chase? We are only two races into the Chase, and there is a distinct gap between the top three in points and the rest of the field. However, it isn’t safe to count anyone out just yet. I believe that someone’s Chase is over when winning the championship is a statistical impossibility. With that in mind, nobody is down and out, though some drivers have more work to do than others. It’s early in the playoffs, and there’s no way to tell how the rest of the journey will go.

When did Joe Gibbs Racing land on top? Remember when the headlines were talking about the engine problems that plagued JGR? Well, those days are long gone, and the organization has put two cars at the top of the heap. The upswing came after a month of being downsized on power, and it’s been smooth sailing ever since. Both Matt Kenseth and Kyle Busch are poised to strike at the championship. Now, it’s figuring out which one comes out on top.

Should we expect a charge from Carl Edwards? The Monster Mile is a concrete track, and that means Edwards will be fast. He also has momentum on his side; he’s in the Chase, he has some great runs under his belt, and confidence is radiating from his smile. Going into Dover, it’s a strong possibility that he can gain some playoff ground. The whole dynamic at the No. 99 team has shifted with the addition of Jimmy Fennig. We’ll see if Edwards will charge while he can.

Is it time for a fuel mileage race? No, this question doesn’t have a positive ring to it, but hear me out. We haven’t seen a fuel mileage race for a while, and Dover is known for bringing those about. Although having an outside factor affect the outcome is VERY frowned upon, it would be a lovely twist in the Chase saga. What happens if someone on the No. 20 team forgets to carry a one in their calculations? How about Chad Knaus making a rare mistake? History shows that running on fumes is a common theme at this track, so it wouldn’t be a shock to see it rear its ugly head.

TV Schedule: Sept. 27-29

Dover International Speedway. Credit: Tom Pennington/Getty Images
NASCAR occupies both coasts this weekend. The Sprint Cup Series and Nationwide Series take over Dover International Speedway while the Camping World Truck Series descends upon Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

The following is a handy guide to track activities and TV coverage at Dover and Las Vegas. All times are in Eastern Standard Time. Events without a channel listed will not be televised.

Friday, Sept. 27:
11 a.m. NSCS Practice, FS1
12:30 p.m. NNS Final Practice, FS1
3 p.m. NSCS Qualifying, ESPN2

Saturday, Sept. 28:
11 a.m. NSCS Practice, FS2
12 noon NNS Qualifying, FS2
12 noon NCWTS Practice
1:45 p.m. NCWTS Final Practice
3:30 p.m. NNS: OneMain Financial 200, ESPN. Green flag: 3:46 p.m.
6:15 p.m. NCWTS Qualifying
8 p.m. NCWTS SetUp, FS1
8:30 p.m. NCWTS: Smith's 350, FS1. Green flag: 8:49 p.m.

Sunday, Sept. 29:
12 a.m. NSCS Final Practice, FS2. Tape-delayed from 2 p.m. Saturday.
10 a.m. NASCAR RaceDay, FS1
1 p.m. NSCS Countdown, ESPN
2 p.m. NSCS: AAA 400, ESPN. Green flag: 2:15 p.m. Re-airs at 2:30 a.m. Monday on ESPN2.
7 p.m. NASCAR Victory Lane, FS1
11:30 p.m. NASCAR Now, ESPN2

Thursday, September 26, 2013

NASCAR Fantasy Fusion: The Monster Mile redux

Track Classification: Short Track
Similar Tracks: Bristol Raceway • Martinsville Speedway
Phoenix International Raceway •  Richmond International Raceway
Distance: 1 mile

Drivers with Most Top 10s (Last 5 Years):
By Race
Jimmie Johnson - 5 
Carl Edwards - 4
All with 3 - Jeff Gordon, Mark Martin, A.J. Allmendinger, Matt Kenseth, Clint Bowyer, Kurt Busch and Kyle Busch

By Track
Jimmie Johnson - 7
All with 6 - Carl Edwards, Kyle Busch and Matt Kenseth
All with 5 - Mark Martin, Kevin Harvick, Clint Bowyer and Joey Logano

Recent Pole Winners:
2012 Denny Hamlin
2011 Martin Truex Jr.

The Likely Suspects: Dover International Speedway is my hometrack, and one of those places where racing is equally exciting for the drivers as well as the fans. Look for fast speeds and awesome racing with these drivers performing well: Jimmie Johnson, Matt Kenseth, Mark Martin, Kyle Busch, Clint Bowyer, Joey Logano, Carl Edwards (aka Concrete Carl) and Greg Biffle.

My 2 Cents: Jimmie Johnson and Matt Kenseth take the coveted no-brainer picks this week. Alas, I have no Johnson picks left, so I am struggling between Jeff Gordon and Brad Keselowki. Kevin Harvick and Clint Bowyer are also worthy of your consideration.

My next picks are Carl Edwards, Ryan Newman, Mark Martin and Greg Biffle. Note that if you have Busch brothers starts left, go with Kyle and pull Greg Biffle. I will round out my team with A.J. Allmendinger and Ricky Stenhouse Jr. Good luck with your team and enjoy the race!

Post your comments here or email me at

Checkered Past: Rookie of the Year Battles of the Past, Present and Future

This year’s Rookie of the Year battle is one of the most high-profile contests in many years, thanks to the off-track status of top contenders Ricky Stenhouse Jr. and Danica Patrick. But can you name the last three Sprint Cup Rookies of the Year? Don’t be upset or surprised if you can’t – none of them are competing in the Cup Series on a regular basis these days.

Kevin Conway (2010), Andy Lally (2011) and Stephen Leicht (2012) were the last three rookie award winners. Conway hasn’t competed in NASCAR since 2011, Lally returned to sports car racing in 2012, and Leicht has yet to compete in 2013.

Richard Petty
Credit: NASCAR via Getty Images/Rainier Ehrhart
Going back to the early days of NASCAR, it’s sometimes shocking who was and who wasn’t named Rookie of the Year: Hall of Famers Richard Petty (1959) and David Pearson (1960) were, but 2012 inductee Cale Yarborough was not – he lost to Thomas Cox in 1962. Darrell Waltrip lost the award to Lennie Pond in 1973, and Neil Bonnett and Bill Elliott lost the 1976 award to Skip Manning. The 1979 winner, Dale Earnhardt Sr., had tough competition in his class from Terry Labonte and Harry Gant, and the 1993 class included winner Jeff Gordon and contenders from three famous racing families: Bobby Labonte, Kenny Wallace and Todd Bodine.

Jeff Gordon
Credit: Getty Images/Jeff Zelevansky
Seven of this year’s Chase contenders are former Rookies of the Year: Gordon (1993), Matt Kenseth (2000), Kevin Harvick (2001), Ryan Newman (2002), Kasey Kahne (2004), Kyle Busch (2005) and Joey Logano (2009). That’s right: the most successful driver in the last 10 years, Jimmie Johnson, was not a Rookie of the Year – he finished second to Newman in 2002.

A few of the recent ROTY classes have produced multiple stars. 2003’s rookie class included winner Jamie McMurray as well as Greg Biffle, Casey Mears and Tony Raines, and the 2004 class included Kahne, Brendan Gaughan, Brian Vickers and Scott Riggs.

The classes of 2006, 2007 and 2008 gave us 14 stars currently competing in the Cup or Nationwide Series on a regular basis. 2006 winner Denny Hamlin had competition from Clint Bowyer, Martin Truex Jr., Reed Sorenson, J.J. Yeley and David Stremme, and while 2007 winner Juan Pablo Montoya beat out David Ragan, Paul Menard, David Reutimann and A.J. Allmendinger for the honors. The 2008 winner, Regan Smith, sees a couple of his chief competitors from that season quite often in the Nationwide Series: Sam Hornish Jr. and Michael McDowell. Road course ringers Patrick Carpentier and Jacques Villeneuve were also part of that class.

As high-profile as this year’s ROTY battle is, next year’s might be even higher-profile: Kyle Larson makes his debut for Earnhardt-Ganassi Racing, while 2011 Truck Series champ Austin Dillon makes the jump to the big league with Richard Childress Racing.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Fast Facts: Tony Raines

credit: Getty Images for NASCAR/
Sam Greenwood
NASCAR driver Tony Raines has competed in all three of NASCAR’s top series, and even has a few wins for his efforts in the Camping World Truck Series. Learn more about Raines’ career through the years in this week’s Fast Facts.
  • Floyd Anthony Raines was born April 14, 1964 in La Porte, Indiana. In 1988, Raines competed in five American Speed Association (ASA) races, racing full-time in the series in 1989. After a season in the NASCAR All Pro Series, where he won Rookie of the Year and finished fourth in points in 1990, Raines returned to the ASA.
  • Following his ASA championship in 1996, Raines made the jump to NASCAR’s Truck Series in 1997, winning his first race at I-70 Speedway in Missouri and finishing 15th in points. He returned to victory lane at I-70 Speedway in 1998, adding two more wins at Louisville Motor Speedway in Kentucky and Ft. Worth’s Texas Motor Speedway on his way to a fifth-place finish in points.
  • A sponsorship loss in the Truck Series moved Raines up to the Busch Series (now Nationwide) in 1999. He raced the unsponsored No. 74 for BACE Motorsports, finishing 12th in points with a best finish of fourth on his way to Busch Series Rookie of the Year honors. Raines remained with BACE Motorsports for the next several years, including a stint in the Cup Series in 2003; in 2001, he finished sixth in Busch Series points with BACE.
  • Raines has driven for numerous teams over the years in all three top NASCAR series, including Phoenix Racing, Haas CNC Racing, Kevin Harvick Inc., Bill Davis Racing and Front Row Motorsports. In 2006, Raines split driving duties with Terry Labonte at Hall of Fame Racing, where he also spent the 2007 season.
  • Raines currently competes part-time in both the Nationwide and Sprint Cup Series. In the Nationwide Series, he races the No. 70 for NEMCO-Jay Robinson Racing when ML Motorsports isn’t scheduled to compete, and in the Cup Series, he drives the No. 33 for Circle Sport on a part-time basis.
  • Raines’ four wins in the Truck Series are his only NASCAR wins to date; he also earned a pole in the Truck Series, and has a Nationwide Series pole as well.

Caption this: Matt Kenseth and Jason Ratcliff

Here is your points leader sharing a smile with his crew chief.

Leave your caption in the comment section below. One entry per person and please leave your name or twitter handle. Anonymous posts and those with crass or vulgar content will not be eligible to win. Remember, this is all in good fun, so show us your creative, witty side.

We'll take captions until Thursday evening, then the Skirts and Scuffs staff will vote to choose a winner. Check back this Saturday to read the winning caption.

And yes, there is a PRIZE! The "Caption this" winner will receive a copy of the book, Race Fans' Devotions to Go. The winner must follow instructions for sending us his or her contact info, as specified in the winning caption post.

Bring on your funnies. We look forward to reading them! :o)

Monday, September 23, 2013

Texas Motor Speedway, Panasonic creating world's largest sporting venue HD video board for 2014 season

Big Hoss image courtesy Texas Motor Speedway
  • Video Board To Feature More Than 20,000 Square Feet Of HD Display
  • "Big Hoss" Video Board To Debut At April 3-6 Texas 500 NASCAR Doubleheader
  • Speedway Motorsports, Inc. Will Now Own The Two Largest Sports Facility Video Boards In The World 
FORT WORTH, Texas (Sept. 23, 2013) - Texas Motor Speedway announced Mondaythat the world-renown motorsports facility is partnering with Panasonic to create the world's largest high-definition video board and enhance another major aspect of the overall fan experience beginning in 2014.

In a state that already boasts seven of the world's 50 largest HD video boards, Texas Motor Speedway will vault to the No. 1 position for a sporting venue in not only Texas but the world with this behemoth creation by Panasonic.

The video board display, which will be located in the center of the backstretch, will feature a staggering 20,633.64 square feet of HD display - nearly a half-acre - with dimensions of 218 feet wide and 94.6 feet tall. The entire structure will stand nearly 125 feet above ground level and weigh more than 108 tons.

The display size will allow Texas Motor Speedway to succeed its fellow Speedway Motorsports, Inc. facility - Charlotte Motor Speedway (16,000 sf) - as the owner of the world's largest sporting venue hi-definition screen as well as wrestle the state title away from the Houston Texans' Reliant Stadium that recently upgraded its facility with 14,549 square feet of HD video displays. Locally, it will be 79 percent larger than the video board at AT&T Stadium (11,520 sf), home of the Dallas Cowboys.

The video board, nicknamed "Big Hoss TV" by speedway officials, will debut April 3-6at the Texas 500 NASCAR doubleheader weekend. No financial terms of the agreement between Texas Motor Speedway and Panasonic were disclosed.

"We are extremely proud to have the world's largest video board coming to Texas Motor Speedway as well as now having the top two largest in the world at our facilities," Speedway Motorsports, Inc. Chairman & Chief Executive Officer Bruton Smith said. "This continues to show our company's commitment to our great race fans and our efforts to remain at the forefront of our industry. (Texas Motor Speedway President) Eddie (Gossage) always tells me everything is bigger in Texas, so I wanted to make this video board fit his motto."

The 1080p screen will consist of nearly 4.8 million pixels, display 281 trillion colors and feature a 140-degree horizontal viewing radius to provide rich, high-definition imagery for race fans in every frontstretch seat and suite of the state's largest sporting facility. For those fans in backstretch seating, Panasonic also will be installing an 18'x24,' 1080p HD video board on the infield side of the backstretch for their viewing pleasure.

During race weekends, the video board will feature live race coverage, leaderboard information, driver and race statistics, instant replays, interactive entertainment and more. Speedway officials also are examining a variety of options to utilize the video board during non-race weekends as well.

Construction will begin following theOct. 31-Nov. 3 AAA Texas 500 NASCAR tripleheader weekend and the project is scheduled for completion by March 2014.

As a principal player in the Large-Scale LED market, Panasonic is a pioneer in the design and installation of many of the most monumental video boards in sports and entertainment, including three of the world's largest screens in professional sports and in college football. With its extensive history and experience in providing large screens, Panasonic offers customers innovative and custom-made complete solutions that drive social interaction and provide a versatile digital platform that engages viewers and operators.

"We pride ourselves on the quality of our LED solutions and are pleased to partner with Texas Motor Speedway to provide this record-breaking video display that's a perfect fit to an already spectacular speedway," said Richard Ballard, Vice President of Sales and Marketing for Panasonic Eco Solutions North America. "We all know that things are always bigger in Texas, and Texas racing fans should get ready for an experience of a lifetime as their senses will be heightened by the amazing graphics and content that the board will provide."

For a sneak preview of the Big Hoss TV promotional trailer, click here.

About Texas Motor Speedway: Texas Motor Speedway, with a crowd capacity in excess of 190,000, is among the largest sports stadiums in America and features an array of amenities that make it one of the premier venues in the world of sports. Known as "The Great American Speedway!," the 1.5-mile superspeedway located in Fort Worth plays host to two races in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, Nationwide Series and Camping World Truck Series as well as one in the IndyCar Series. The attendances for the NASCAR Sprint Cup events since the facility opened in 1997 annually rank among the largest sporting events in the United States and also are the largest-attended, single-day sporting events in the state of Texas. Texas Motor Speedway is owned and operated by Speedway Motorsports, Inc., a publicly traded company that is a leading marketer and promoter of motorsports entertainment in the United States.

About Panasonic Eco Solutions North America: Panasonic Eco Solutions North America is a division of Panasonic Corporation of North America, the principal North American subsidiary of Panasonic Corporation. Panasonic Corporation was recently ranked number four in Interbrand's "Best Global Green Brands 2013", moving up two spots from number six, becoming the highest ranked electronics brand in the report. Panasonic Eco Solutions develops and provides customized and integrated technology-based system solutions for enterprise customers in a variety of industries such as sports, entertainment and digital outdoor. Additionally, the company supplies renewable energy and energy-efficiency solutions to corporate and public sector organizations. For more information visit:

Chasing the Championship: Recapping the Sylvania 300 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway

Credit: Chris Trotman/NASCAR via Getty Images  
New Hampshire Motor Speedway played host to the Sylvania 300 on Sunday afternoon. At the end of the day Matt Kenseth stood in victory lane as the points leader and race winner. Dale Earnhardt Jr. clawed his way up the standings after a disappointing finish in race one, while his teammate Kasey Kahne fell to the bottom after an accident forced him to the garage for repairs.

For the second week pit road played a role in the outcome of the race and six of the 13 Chase contenders finished inside the top 10.

1. Matt Kenseth - Race winner and points leader (2097)
by: Katy Lindamood

Over the years Matt Kenseth has earned the name "Mr. Consistency" and in 2013 he's been consistently at the top. Sunday afternoon at New Hampshire Motor Speedway, Kenseth added his name to a very short list - drivers to win in their 500th Sprint Cup Series start. The only other name on the list? Seven-time champion Richard Petty.

Loudon was the big question mark in the Chase for Kenseth. "Certainly if I had to pick all the races, this is probably one that I had probably more anxiety over than most just because I really feel like I'm the weak link here," the Joe Gibbs Racing driver said after his victory.

Sporting a special paint scheme in honor of his 500th start, Kenseth’s day began from the ninth position. By Lap 106 he had moved up to second and to the lead just after halfway. Kenseth went on to lead a four times for a total of 106 laps, taking his seventh victory of the season.

“It's just been an amazing blessing to be part of this group, and happy to have the success we're having. But even without that, honestly I've just made a lot of friendships. I really feel at home there. I just really enjoy being part of it. When you can have success on top of it obviously that makes it even more fun,” said Kenseth in regards to his relationship with his team and his emotional victory lane interview.

The 2003 champion is having a banner year at JGR and maintains his points lead as the series moves to Dover.

Kenseth joins Greg Biffle and Tony Stewart as the only drivers to open the Chase with consecutive victories. Stewart’s wins at Chicagoland and New Hampshire in 2011 led to his third series title.

Credit: Jared Wickerham/Getty Images
2. Kyle Busch (-14)
by: Lisa Janine Cloud

Kyle Busch finished second to teammate Matt Kenseth to give Joe Gibbs Racing its second straight one-two finish.

While that sounds like a great start to the Chase, especially considering he didn’t even make the Chase last season, Busch is anything but satisfied with his results so far. He’s been polite in post-race interviews but it’s obvious he wants to win.

“I can't say enough about the race we ran today. The guys did a great job of working on it for me and getting me better each and every run. I felt like we were making gains,” said Busch.

“All in all, though, there, those last couple restarts just making some spots, trying to keep spots there on the last one when I spun my tires too much. But just frustrating sometimes when you feel like you're getting beat on restarts too much. Other than that, second.” 

As dominant as Busch has been in the Truck and Nationwide Series, he’s been outrun by the No. 20 team this season. But there’s still a lot of racing to do, so it’s still too early to hand Matt Kenseth the trophy. 

When asked about trying to beat Kenseth, Busch said, “I don't think you do anything differently than you've done all year long. I think the organization is going to give the equipment to the both of us. I don't think any one of us is going to get better stuff. It's just going to come down to better communication between myself and the crew chief in that way, because those are certainly the ways that you win these things.” 

Busch still holds a grudge over the final restart last week. “I think the 20 lucked into one last weekend. I just didn't get a good enough restart and he got a better one, got a push, got by us. And then here this weekend he got a good restart there. I spun my tires a little bit so I didn't get a chance to race him at all, and then I had to fend off everybody else and get stretched out and try to run him down.” 

At just 14 points back, Busch certainly has the best chance to catch Kenseth. Busch said, “It doesn't matter if it's your teammate or anybody else. You've still got to work hard and persevere. It's eight more weeks.”

3. Jimmie Johnson (-18)
by: Beth Bence Reinke

Jimmie Johnson’s No. 48 team brought a different setup to Loudon, making changes, trying different things and getting it “dialed in.” He said his goal this week was simply to just stay in the hunt with a top five or top-10 finish, and he succeeded.

"It was better than we thought it would be. I felt like we were really going to have to scrap for a top 10, maybe a top five. I truthfully feel like we had a shot to win this race, if not run second or third.”

Overall, the No. 48 crew had an uneventful race with smooth pit stops including several chassis adjustments. Johnson started 11th, but steadily crept forward and ran in the top five from around Lap 173 until the end.

The only vexing moments for Johnson occurred on restarts. He lined up as the second car on the inside for two late-race restarts, and the inside leader just didn’t get going, keeping him from gaining track position.

“Those last couple of restarts lining up on the inside lane just didn't work for anyone. I'd lose a couple of spots and have to get them back.”

After Greg Biffle sneaked up into the top five on the final restart, Johnson spent the final 40 laps of the race battling him for third place. The No. 48 Lowe’s Chevy just didn’t have enough oomph to make the pass, leaving Johnson with a respectable 4th-place finish.

“Great start to the Chase, you know, our five, four isn’t too bad,” Johnson said. “It’s hard to beat a one, one that Matt (Kenseth) has right now, but we will keep plugging along.”

4. Carl Edwards (-36)
By Carol D’Agostino

Carl Edwards' weekend at New Hampshire Motor Speedway was uneventful, but successful, as he gained a spot in the championship standings moving from fifth to fourth. He now trails leader Matt Kenseth by 36 points and third-place Jimmie Johnson by 20 points.

The No. 99 car spent most of the weekend running in the teens from practice to throughout the race. Edwards was able to make up for a poor qualifying effort - 26th place - and stayed out of trouble on pit lane and the track.

Edwards summed it up best, “Overall, it was a pretty fun race.”

Fortunately, Concrete Carl has Dover International Speedway to contend with this weekend. The only driver who has tamed the Monster Mile better than Carl is Jimmie Johnson.

5. Greg Biffle (-38)
by: Lacy Keyser

It was an up-and-down day for Greg Biffle in New Hampshire. His day was mostly spent in the top 15 battling his way and trying to gain as many spots as he possibly could.

On the final restart Biffle went from sixth to third, going three-wide and securing the position.

“I was doing all I could do to try and gain spots," said Biffle on his three-wide move.” And I was three-wide on the bottom and got that to work a couple times, and then the last bit of that, the outside really worked well for me.”

On the remaining laps Biffle kept Jimmie Johnson at bay as Johnson kept riding his bumper trying to steal the position. Biffle was able to pull away and secured his third-place finish, a turnaround from being in the top 15 all day.

Biffle's strong finish moves him up six positions to fifth in the standings, 38 points out of the lead.

6. Kevin Harvick (-39)
by: Stephanie Stuart

Sunday was definitely not the day that Kevin Harvick was looking for after his strong start to the Chase in Chicago. A 20th-place finish dropped Harvick from fourth in the points to sixth, down two places from the previous week and 39 points behind Chase leader Matt Kenseth. 

While Harvick didn't encounter any major on-track issues, he did have an ill-handling race car that he battled all afternoon. After starting eighth, he slipped back to 11th in the early stages of the race when the Budweiser Chevrolet became tight in the corners. Harvick battled the handling issues all day, but they persisted and the No. 29 fell back to the 20th spot on Lap 213.

Crew Chief Gil Martin called Harvick to pit road once more on lap 247 making air pressure adjustments along with four tires and fuel. Harvick restarted 23rd after the stop, and fell as far back as 25th. He was able to work his way back to 20th, where he would finish the race.

When asked about the disappointing day, Harvick stated, "We dealt with handling issues all day and never could get it figured out. Even though we didn't get the finish we were looking for today, we're not going to let it get us down. Next week is another race and we'll look for better results going into Dover."

Ever-confident Harvick will need to remain in control of the No. 29 team as they head into the next seven races and try to close the championship.

7. Kurt Busch (-40)
by: Rebecca Kivak

Kurt Busch’s day at New Hampshire could be summed up in one word: frustrating. The driver of the No. 78 Furniture Row Racing Chevrolet complained on his team radio all day about his ill-handling racecar. Despite their struggles, Busch and his team salvaged a 13th-place finish.

Busch started a promising fourth in Sunday’s Sylvania 300, but he never contended for the win. Busch and his crew were unable to hit on the right adjustments and endured some slow pit stops, dropping the No. 78 as far back as 26th. But Busch found some speed toward the end of the race, clawing his way to finish 13th.

"We didn't hit it right on the adjustments today," Busch said. "It was nobody's fault, we all agreed what adjustments to make and it just didn't work out. We struggled with the handling and couldn't make a move to the front."

"While we aren't pleased with where we finished, we fought for every position and gave it our best effort," Busch added. "But we know we can do much better and we'll keep on plugging away."

The 2004 Sprint Cup champion fell one position to seventh in the point standings, 40 points behind leader Matt Kenseth, but just four points out of fourth place.

Credit: Todd Warshaw/Getty Images
8. Jeff Gordon (-42)
by: Rebecca Kivak

After New Hampshire, Jeff Gordon was left with the question of “what if.” The four-time Sprint Cup champion had a shot at the win at the 1.058-mile track until a late-race mistake cost him.

Starting third, Gordon ran solidly in the top five for most of Sunday’s Sylvania 300. The driver of the No. 24 Drive to End Hunger Chevrolet looked sporty as he led the race twice for 36 laps. On Lap 196, he had built a 1.269-second lead over teammate Dale Earnhardt Jr.

But after a caution came out for debris on Lap 200, Gordon slid into his pits, losing precious time as he backed up into his pit box. The driver error forced Gordon to restart back in 22nd. With fewer than 100 laps to go, Gordon only had enough time to work his way up to a 15th-place finish.

“I’m highly disappointed in myself,” Gordon said after the race. “The team put me in a great position. We had a decent car and then track position made it into a great car. So it was obviously important to maintain that. I just came in and slid through. I hadn’t come close to sliding through all day and I guess just leading, I carried a little bit more speed in there and crossed the splitter over the line by an inch and that’s all it takes to make a difference between a chance at winning and finishing 15th.”

After his finish at New Hampshire, Gordon lost more ground to points leader Matt Kenseth in the championship standings, falling one spot to eighth and 42 points out of the lead.

9. Ryan Newman (-47)
by: Lacy Keyser

Starting on the pole in New Hampshire, Ryan Newman was once again the Rocketman. Newman led the first two laps, but quickly started to fall through the field. His day was spent fighting an ill-handling car that just wasn’t running the way he had hoped.

Newman suffered a pit road mistake on Lap 200. The crew made the wrong adjustments on the No. 39 and the handling issues got worse instead of better.

“I still don’t understand what happened with the car," said Newman on the day he had. “It just never drove the same after we won the pole on Friday afternoon. Even in practice on Saturday. Glad we got back up to 16th after the deal on pit road, but I don’t know. We’ll head to Dover and see what we can get.”

Despite the issues, Newman managed to bring home a 16th-place finish, but went from eighth to ninth in the standings.

10. Clint Bowyer (-48)
by: Katy Lindamood

Races are often won and lost on pit road. The decision to take two tires as opposed to four, failing to get enough fuel, speeding penalties, loose lug nuts and malfunctioning equipment can turn a solid run into an uphill battle. On Sunday afternoon Clint Bowyer’s team gambled to get the lead by staying out when most of the field pitted. Unfortunately an error on the final stop left the 5-hour ENERGY team with a 17th-place finish and a loss of one position in the standings.

Half-way through the race weekend Bowyer’s team did a 180 and completely changed the setup they had planned to run. The change didn’t show immediate on-track results. After an early incident on pit road put the No. 15 outside the top 36, they had no other choice but to gamble and gain valuable track position during a later round of stops.

The gamble paid off, allowing Bowyer to lead five laps. At a disadvantage to those who had taken tires, Bowyer lost the lead to eventual race winner Matt Kenseth on Lap 208. The final nail in the day came during the last caution of the race, which was brought out by Kahne’s impact with the inside wall. While taking left side tires the jack was let down before the front tire changer had completed his duties.

Bowyer fell to 10th in the standings, 48 points behind.

11. Dale Earnhardt Jr. (-62)
by: Lisa Janine Cloud

"Our Chase will be over without some wins so we are going for trophies.” -- Steve Letarte 

Dale Earnhardt Jr. clawed his way up two spots in the Chase standings with a sixth-place finish in the Sylvania 300 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway. A fumble on pit road with the first pit stop forced the crew chief to turn to pit strategy to try to compete for the win.

Under the steady guidance of Letarte, the crew didn't panic. They went to work. And Earnhardt Jr. got his lap back the hard way - he drove back through the field.

Leading twice for 17 laps, Earnhardt Jr. remained near the front of the field for most of the remainder of the race and almost scored a top-five finish. He couldn’t quite hold off Jamie McMurray in the closing laps. 

“I run out of rear tires trying to hold him off. Couldn’t get the power down just off the corner and he was a pretty fast car to begin with. I knew it was going to be difficult to hold him off, but we had a good car yesterday. Almost as good as it was today,” said Earnhardt. 

“Just real happy to be able to rebound from earlier on pit road and get a good finish. The car was fast as heck yesterday, one of the top three cars I thought. Glad we were able to get a decent finish out of it. Just want to win one. I’m trying hard.” 

With eight races to go, Junior sits 11th in points, 62 in back of leader and race winner Matt Kenseth. As motivated as the team is, they’ll need more than skill to contend for the Cup. They’ll need some folks to have some bad luck, and some to make mistakes. 

And they’ll need to win some of those trophies Letarte mentioned.

12. Joey Logano (-69)
by: Stephanie Stuart

Joey Logano rebounded from his dismal day at Chicago to finish 14th at New Hampshire. While the finish did not move Logano up in the points standings, he did maintain his current position of 12th.

Logano started the race from the sixth position, where he ran in and out of the top 10 all day. The No. 22 team never found the set of adjustments they wanted, and Joey battled the handling all day on the car. Precious clean air was hard to find, which made the car loose off. The team did find that the car responded better to four tires than two, so they changed all four on the final pit stop, but still could not find the clean air to get the car out in front. They would settle for a 14th-place finish.

A lot of people question Logano about New Hampshire, since this is the track where he scored his first Cup victory back in 2009 at the age of 19. He said even though this was the place where he first won, he doesn't consider it one of his favorite tracks. He said he has always struggled here, and that if you don't hit the setup just right, you can end up having a long day.

When asked about the Chase and how he feels about his chances going forward, Logano says he thinks that there are two or three really good tracks left on the schedule where the team has a shot at winning. He continues to say that the team needs to keep working hard, and knows that even though they are not a part of the Chase, they can still go out and compete for wins.

Interesting thought from Logano. Is he already counting himself out of the hunt for the title? I guess we'll see in the weeks to come.

Credit: Todd Warshaw/Getty Images
13. Kasey Kahne (-71)
by: Katy Lindamood

A day that started out with hope ended with a wrecked race car, a terse interview and a 37th-place finish for Kasey Kahne.

On Saturday Kahne qualified his Farmer’s Insurance Chevy on the front row alongside Ryan Newman. It didn’t take long for the No. 5 to move into the top spot, passing the No. 39 on the third lap of the Sylvania 300.

After leading 31 laps the car fell back slightly. On the fourth caution the team took four tires, which put them in 10th position exiting the pits. Kahne made up two positions on the track and had moved up to eighth before bringing out the final caution of the day.

Exiting Turn 4 while making a pass, the rear of the Kahne’s car snapped loose, sending him into the inside retaining wall. Kahne was able to exit the car under his own power before being transported to the infield care center. After being evaluated and released, Kahne spoke to ESPN saying that he didn’t know what happened, but they had hit the inside wall.

Although the team was able to make repairs and get the car back out on the track, Kahne was the lowest Chase finisher and fell three spots in the standings.

On Monday @kaseykahne tweeted: “Sore today but you'll have that when you hit walls. Was racing hard with the 55 and lost it. Feel bad for my guys, will be ready for Dover.”

Check back with Skirts and Scuffs on Friday for our Dover preview.