Saturday, August 18, 2018

Trackin’ Trucks: Johnny Sauter wins at Bristol; Playoff Grid set

Bristol2 NCWTS BurnOut 081618
Johhny Sauter celebrates his win at Bristol with a burnout.
Credit: Sarah Crabill

by Courtney Horn

Johnny Sauter clinched the 2018 Camping World Truck Series regular-season championship with a win Thursday night at Bristol Motor Speedway, the GMS driver’s first at the .533-mile track and his fifth of the year.

Sauter led 58 laps before claiming the victory. He battled with runner-up Stewart Friesen for second in the closing laps, before Stage 1 and Stage 2 winner John Hunter Nemechek dropped off the pace with fuel pickup issues.

“I’ve never won at Bristol before, so I was pumped,” Sauter said. “I’m so lucky I’ve got this group of guys. We won at Bristol—this is the ultimate. For a short track guy, and I consider myself a short-track guy, to get a win at a place like this is so special. 

“I’m just pumped, and I can’t wait to start our championship run.”

Sauter battled with Friesen through lapped traffic for position, ultimately making the winning move by going through the middle of two trucks.

A few laps later, Nemechek was forced to hand over the lead. He finished third after dominating the UNOH 200, leading a race-high 104 laps. Parker Kligerman and Todd Gilliland rounded out the top five.

The CWTS Playoff grid of eight was set on Thursday, with three drivers making it to the post season on points.

Friesen earned the fifth playoff spot after finishing second for the third time in 2018. Grant Enfinger held enough points to clinch his position just by starting the race, while former champion Matt Crafton earned the eighth and final playoff position.  

Sauter holds the series lead with 42 playoff points over four-time winner this season Brett Moffitt, who has 27 playoff points to his credit. Noah Gragson is third, while Ben Rhodes is fourth. 

Justin Haley, who won at Gateway in late June, sits seventh. 

A Look Ahead (Into The Playoffs)

The CWTS kicks off the 2018 Playoffs on August 26th for the Chevrolet Silverado 250 at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park. 

Austin Cindric won his first career series victory at the track one year ago over Noah Gragson. Can Friesen find victory lane for his first or will another driver punch their ticket to the next round of the playoffs? 

Find out on Sunday, August 26, 2018 for, the CWTS stand-alone event at 2:30 PM/ET on Fox Sports 1.

Thursday, August 16, 2018

NASCAR Fantasy Fusion: Bass Pro Shops NRA Night Race

By Carol D'Agostino

Drivers with Most Top 10s (Last 5 Years):
By Race
Joey Logano - 4
All with 3 - Kevin Harvick, Jimmie Johnson, Denny Hamlin, and Matt Kenseth

By Track
Joey Logano - 6
All with 5 - Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Jimmie Johnson, Ryan Newman, and Kevin Harvick 

Recent Pole Winners: 
2017 Erik Jones
2016 Carl Edwards
2015 Denny Hamlin
2014 Kevin Harvick

Last Year's Race Winner: Kyle Busch

The Likely Suspects:  It's time for some night racing on the high banks of "The Last Great Colosseum," Bristol Motor Speedway. I will attend as a fan and will be looking for these drivers to run well: Kevin Harvick, Jimmie Johnson, Joey Logano, Ricky Stenhouse Jr. and Kyle Busch.

My 2 Cents: Remarkably (or not) the top three drivers in the Top 16 at Bristol from 2005 to 2018 are  Kyle Busch, Kevin Harvick, and Martin Truex Jr.  My no-brainer pick is Kyle Busch, who has the best driver rating at Bristol and is feeling extra motivated after his third-place finish at Michigan. My next choices are Kevin Harvick, Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Ryan Newman, Erik Jones and Clint Bowyer, who holds a respectful fifth place in the driver ratings here at Bristol with seven top fives and 12 top 10s. I will complete my team with Alex Bowman and Bubba Wallace Jr.

My Final Four: Kyle Busch, Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Ryan Newman, and Alex Bowman.

Second-Look Driver: This week's second-look driver is William Byron. William made his Cup debut this past spring and finished 15th. His two Xfinity races last year earned him 12th and 22nd, but he's got a lot more experience under his belt. Last week's second-look driver Ryan Blaney finished in fifth place after starting from eighth place on the grid.

Points to Ponder:
  • The race winner has started from the pole 25 times (21.7%) - the most productive starting position in the field. The last driver to win from the pole was Kyle Busch (Spring 2018).
  • Denny Hamlin and Ryan Newman lead all active drivers in Busch poles at Bristol with three each.
  • Roger Penske leads the series among active car owners with the most wins at Bristol with 12; followed by Jack Roush and Rick Hendrick with 11 each.
  • Kyle Busch leads the series among active drivers in wins at Bristol with seven (Spring 2007, 2009 sweep, Fall 2010, Spring 2011, Fall 2017, Spring 2018).
  • Kevin Harvick leads all active drivers in runner-up finishes at Bristol with five; followed by Kyle Busch with three.
  • Jimmie Johnson leads the series among active drivers in top-10 finishes at Bristol with 19; followed by Kevin Harvick and Ryan Newman with 18 each.
  • Ricky Stenhouse Jr. leads the series among active drivers in average finishing position at Bristol with a 10.2 in 11 series starts.
Remember, if you're playing Driver Group Game, make your picks by 8 a.m. EDT on Friday, August 17th, and your final picks by 7:30 p.m. EDT on race day Saturday, August 18th.

Enjoy the race! Post your comments here or follow me on Twitter at @purplecatpr.

Monday, August 13, 2018

Travel Tips: Bristol Motor Speedway – Aug. 16-18, 2018

credit: NASCAR Media

NASCAR’s top three national series – the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series, Xfinity Series and Camping World Truck Series – are joined by the Whelen Modified Tour at “Thunder Valley” – Bristol Motor Speedway, the quintessential Saturday night short track – for the three-day Bass Pro Shops NRA Night Race event, Thursday through Saturday, Aug. 16-18.

There is plenty going on away from the track as well, including the “Red, White & Bristol” block party on Wednesday, Aug. 15 beginning at 5 p.m. ET. The event will feature three bands – Borderline, Wyldeheart and Shooter – as well as a cornhole tournament. Find out more here.

Key on-track times:

Thursday, Aug. 16
  • Camping World Truck Series practice – 9 and 11:05 a.m. ET
  • Xfinity Series practice – 10:05 a.m. and 1:35 p.m. ET
  • Whelen Modified Tour practice –12:05 p.m. ET
  • Whelen Modified Tour qualifying – 3:15 p.m. ET
  • Camping World Truck Series qualifying – 4:10 p.m. ET
  • Whelen Modified Tour Bush’s Beans 150– 6:05 p.m. ET
  • Camping World Truck Series UNOH 200 – 8:30 p.m. ET
Friday, Aug. 17
  • Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series practice – 10:35 a.m. and 12:40 p.m. ET
  • Xfinity Series qualifying – 3:40 p.m. ET
  • Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series qualifying – 5:40 p.m. ET
  • Xfinity Series Food City 300 – 7:30 p.m. ET
Saturday, Aug. 18 –
  • Joe Nichols pre-race concert – 5:45 p.m. ET
  • Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Bass Pro Shops NRA Night Race – 7:30 p.m. ET
Find a full weekend schedule here.

Find Fan FAQs here and First-Time Fans information here.

Get tickets and more information about this week’s races at www.bristolmotorspeedway.com.

Right Sides Only: Notes from the Consumers Energy 400 Winning Crew Chief, Rodney Childers

by Stacey Owens


Some football players wear the same socks during every game; some baseball players elect to wear the same pants after they've won a game in a certain pair; NASCAR drivers just drive the same winning car again and again. Kevin Harvick, for instance, drove the same car to Victory Lane this weekend at Michigan International Speedway that he drove there in June.

Crew chief Rodney Childers, who has now led Harvick to the checkered flag seven times this season, talked about the car after the win.

"Yeah, this car, I think it ran at Fontana first, and then we ended up wadding it up a little too early in the race, but it was fast there, and we brought it to Michigan and it was fast, and then we rebuilt it and brought it back again," Childers said.

That isn't his entire philosophy on running the same car at the same track. Childers explained how he decides which cars he'll run at which tracks.

"I think a lot of people do their stuff differently. I set my schedule up in my cars in January, and then I know where they're going, and there's this much amount of time between them, and this is what we're going to do to them between each race. Trying to run the same car over and over again without making it better, you're not going to win races. 
            
"I almost shed a tear the other day, we got back from Pocono after having a car that was completely dominant, and I walked by the tear-down area and it was nothing but a chassis with no body on it.  That's part of this sport. That's what we do. We try to make our cars better, and you can't sit on your hands," Childers said.
Harvick had some ground to make up after making his final pit stop on Lap 171 and dropping to 20th. Childers was asked whether he had any concerns that maybe some unknown factors could happen, and Harvick couldn't make it back to the front. 

"No, I mean, all those other guys couldn't make it on fuel from there, so they were going to have to pit. The key was coming out of the pits and getting by the three cars as fast as you can so you're back on the lead lap, and then if the caution came out everybody in front of you is going to pit and you're the leader again. That wasn't really any concern at all," Childers explained.

Credit: 357279Jerry Markland/Getty Images
Even though the No. 4 team won the race, it seemed like the car was faster during the first two stages, which they won, than in the closing laps. Childers talked about the changes he made during the team's final pit stop of the afternoon.

"Yeah, before the last pit stop we were a little bit too tight, and these cars are so sensitive these days, and we put a quarter of a round in the right rear and it was way too loose there at the end. Sometimes you just don't know if you should mess with it or not. But that's just part of it. I think a lot of racetracks we're always a little bit freer pitting under green than we are pitting under caution. We went a little bit too far there and definitely got too loose at the end," Childers explained.

As Childers and the rest of the crew on the No. 4 team work toward making a championship run when the playoffs begin in September, they'll spend some time working on pit stops. There seemed to be one stop at Michigan in which the team may have lost a few points. When the name of the game is accumulating as many points as possible, a championship-caliber team doesn't want or need to lose points on a pit stop. Childers discussed their pit strategy.

"We've moved some things around, and those guys have done a good job lately. It's not perfect, but I think it only shows up a little bit more on our car. It really does. But if you look at those reports we get every week, even Pocono, the 18 looked good because he had the fastest stop the last stop of the race and just killed everybody off pit road. But if you look at the rest of the day, they really weren't very good. Sometimes we have ours at the wrong moment and it makes it look bad, but they have worked their tails off, and hopefully we can keep getting better and better, and it's really about confidence. It's not about the players that jump over the wall. It's about having the confidence that something is not going to go wrong; lug nuts aren't going to fall on the ground and you're not going to drop the gun. It's just all that stuff, and it's the same whether you're a crew chief, whether you're a driver or whether you're a pit crew member, you have to have that confidence every single week.  That's the biggest thing we're working on. It showed after the first one that they were able to put it away and do a good job the rest of the day, so hopefully we can keep that up," Childers explained.

What the No. 4 team has been keeping up is consistency. With seven wins, Harvick, along with Kyle Busch and Martin Truex Jr., has been the car to beat all season. It's a trend that will likely continue all the way to Miami in November.

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- 
  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; Kentucky basketball, even though at 6' tall, she's never played a day in her life; and her husband who's supportive of her NASCAR obsession... as long as she allows him to obsess over college football every fall.


Friday, August 10, 2018

TV Schedule: Aug. 10-12



By Rebecca Kivak

NASCAR splits its time amid an oval and a road course this weekend.

The Monster Energy Cup Series and Camping World Truck Series head to Michigan International Speedway, a 2-mile D-shaped oval, while the Xfinity Series turns left and right at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course.

The following is a handy guide to track events and television coverage at Michigan and Mid-Ohio. All times are in Eastern Standard Time.

Friday, Aug. 10:
Noon Monster Energy Cup Series practice, NBCSN/NBC Sports App (Canada: TSN3)
1 p.m. Camping World Truck Series practice, FS1
1:35 p.m. Xfinity Series practice, NBC Sports App (Canada: TSN GO)
3 p.m. Camping World Truck Series practice, FS1
4:05 p.m. Xfinity Series final practice, NBC Sports App (Canada: TSN GO)
5 p.m.: Monster Energy Cup Series qualifying, NBCSN/NBC Sports App (Canada: TSN GO)

Saturday, Aug. 11:
2:30 a.m. Camping World Truck Series practice, FS1
3:30 a.m. Camping World Truck Series practice, FS1
8:30 a.m. Monster Energy Cup Series practice, CNBC/NBC Sports App (Canada: TSN GO)
9:30 a.m. Camping World Truck Series qualifying, FS1
11:30 a.m. Monster Energy Cup Series final practice, NBC Sports App (Canada: TSN GO)
11:30 a.m. Xfinity Series qualifying, NBC Sports App (Canada: TSN GO)
1 p.m. Camping World Truck Series: Corrigan Oil 200, FS1
2:30 p.m. Xfinity Series Countdown to Green, NBCSN/NBC Sports App
3 p.m. Xfinity Series: Mid-Ohio Challenge, NBCSN/NBC Sports App (Canada: TSN3)

Sunday, Aug. 12:
12:30 p.m. NASCAR Race Day, FS1
1:30 p.m. NASCAR America Live, NBCSN/NBC Sports App
2 p.m. Countdown to Green, NBCSN/NBC Sports App
2:30 p.m. Monster Energy Cup Series: Consumers Energy 200, NBCSN/NBC Sports App (Canada: TSN5)
5:30 p.m. Monster Energy Cup Post Show, NBCSN/NBC Sports App
6 p.m. NASCAR Victory Lap, NBCSN/NBC Sports App

Thursday, August 9, 2018

NASCAR Fantasy Fusion: Consumers Energy 400 at Michigan

By Carol D'Agostino
Drivers with Most Top 10s (Last Five Years):
By Race
Both with 4 - Kevin Harvick and Joey Logano
Both with  3 - Brad Keselowski and Denny Hamlin

By Track
Joey Logano -9
Kevin Harvick -7
Brad Keselowski -6
All with 5 - Kyle Larson, Jamie McMurray, and Martin Truex Jr.   

Recent Pole Winners:
2017 Kyle Larson
2016 Joey Logano

Last Year's Race Winner: Kyle Larson

The Likely Suspects: Michigan may not be a road course, but you can expect some fast action in the Irish Hills this weekend. These drivers are Michigan masters: Kevin Harvick, Joey Logano, Kyle Larson, Brad Keselowski and Martin Truex Jr. And coincidentally, last week's feel-good winner Chase Elliott, is pretty stout here in Michigan holding the series-best average finish of 4.6. His father Bill Elliott was also a Michigan elite driver. 

My 2 Cents: My no-brainer pick this week is Chase Elliott. My next choices are Kevin Harvick, Joey Logano, Erik Jones, Jamie McMurray, Austin Dillon. I'll complete my team with Alex Bowman and William Byron. 

My Final Four: Kevin Harvick, Erik Jones, Chase Elliott and William Byron.

Second-Look Driver: This week's second-look driver is Ryan Blaney. Ryan has 11th best average finish at Michigan with one top five, two top 10s. He has been kicking on the door for a win. This could be his weekend. Last week's second-look driver Chris Buescher finished where he started in 20th place.

Points to Ponder:
  • The top six winning MENCS organizations at Michigan are Roush Fenway Racing (13), Wood Brothers Racing (11), Joe Gibbs Racing (eight), Hendrick Motorsports (eight) and Team Penske (eight).
  • The first starting position is the most prolific starting position in the field, producing more winners (21) than any other starting position at Michigan International Speedway – 20 from the Busch Pole and one from the first starting position due to qualifying being canceled. 
  • Kurt Busch, Kasey Kahne, and Joey Logano lead all active drivers in poles at Michigan with three each.
  • Kyle Larson, Kurt Busch, and Matt Kenseth lead all active MENCS drivers with three wins each.
  • Ryan Newman (2003-2004) and Kyle Larson (2016-2017 sweep) are the only two active drivers to win consecutive series races at Michigan.
Remember, if you're playing Driver Group Game, make your picks by 8 a.m. EDT on Friday, August 10th, and your final picks by 2:30 p.m. EDT on race day Sunday, August 12th.

Enjoy the race! Post your comments here or follow me on Twitter at @purplecatpr.

Tuesday, August 7, 2018

Fast Facts: Chase Elliott’s First Cup Series Win

Chase Elliott celebrates on the frontstretch at WGI
credit: Getty Images/Jeff Zelevansky

 “Finally!” was a commonly-said phrase on Sunday evening following Chase Elliott’s first win in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series, coming at Watkins Glen International in New York. The win was special in many ways, for both the Elliott family and Hendrick Motorsports – here’s a quick rundown of its significance.
  • Chase’s Cup Series career thus far has somewhat mirrored his father Bill’s Hall of Fame career: Bill’s first win – after eight second-place finishes – came 124 races into his Cup Series career; Chase’s first win – also after eight second-place finishes – came in 99 races…of course, “99” being significant since both he and his father won that first race in the No. 9.
  • Also significant to the Elliotts: both father and son won their first races on road courses, Bill at the now-defunct Riverside International Raceway in California, Chase at The Glen.  Chase also won his first top-tier NASCAR race on a road course, winning the Camping World Truck Series race at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park in Ontario, Canada in Sept. 2013.
  • Bill’s only Xfinity Series win came at The Glen 25 years ago, in June 1993. This past weekend, Bill was serving as a spotter for his son at The Glen.
  • For Hendrick Motorsports, Chase’s win marked the organization’s 250th win in the Cup Series. It also snapped a 37-race winless streak for the organization – the second-longest streak in Hendrick Motorsports’ history.
  • The win also marked a very happy 43rd birthday for Chase’s crew chief, Alan Gustafson.

  • Chase celebrates with his Hall of Fame father Bill
    credit: Getty Images/Chris Trotman
Learn more about Chase Elliott at www.chaseelliott.com.


Monday, August 6, 2018

Travel Tips: Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course – Aug. 10-11, 2018

credit: NASCAR Media

The Xfinity Series visits Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course in Lexington, OH, this weekend, Friday and Saturday, Aug. 10-11, for the Rock n Roll Tequila 170 Presented by Amethyst Beverage. The Trans-Am Series and Formula 3 Series are also on the schedule for the weekend.

Key on-track event times for the Xfinity Series:

Friday, August 10 –
  • Xfinity Series practice – 1:35 and 4:05 p.m. ET
Saturday, August 11 –
  • Xfinity Series qualifying – 11:30 a.m. ET
  • Xfinity Series Rock n Roll Tequila 170 Presented by Amethyst Beverage – 3 p.m. ET
Find a complete schedule, including times for the Trans-Am Series and Formula 3 Series, here.

Find the Fan Guide to Mid-Ohio here, and a facility map here.

Find out more about the track and purchase tickets for the Rock n Roll Tequila 170 weekend at midohio.com.

Travel Tips: Michigan International Speedway – Aug. 10-12, 2018

credit: NASCAR Media

Michigan International Speedway hosts the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series and Camping World Truck Series this weekend, Friday through Sunday, Aug. 10-12. There will be plenty of action on and off the track this weekend at MIS with live entertainment, driver appearances and more.

In celebration of the track’s 50th anniversary, MIS will host the 50 Years of Racing Exhibit presented by Consumers Energy throughout the weekend. 12 cars will be showcased during the event, including Bill Elliott’s 1987 Ford T-Bird, Dale Earnhardt’s 1990 Chevy Lumina and 1995 IROC Championship car, David Pearson’s 1969 Ford Torino and Richard Petty’s 1971 Plymouth Roadrunner. Find out more here.

Key on-track event times:

Friday, Aug. 10 –
  • Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series practice – 12:05 p.m. ET
  • Camping World Truck Series practice – 1:05 and 3:05 p.m. ET
  • Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series qualifying – 5:05 p.m. ET
Saturday, Aug. 11 –
  • Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series practice – 8:35 and 11:30 a.m. ET
  • Camping World Truck Series qualifying – 9:30 a.m. ET
  • Camping World Truck Series Corrigan Oil 200 – 1 p.m. ET
Sunday, Aug. 12 –
  • Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Consumers Energy 400 – 2:30 p.m. ET
Find a complete schedule here.

Get tickets and more information about the race weekend at www.mispeedway.com.

Right Sides Only: Notes from the Go Bowling at The Glen Winning Crew Chief, Alan Gustafson

by Stacey Owens

After more than a few races that probably should've ended in victories, Chase Elliott can finally cross his first win off his bucket list. Elliott conquered The Glen to give Hendrick Motorsports their 250th win overall.

Crew chief Alan Gustafson, who celebrated his birthday on Sunday, was back in Victory Lane for the first time since 2015 when he last won with 2019 Hall of Famer, Jeff Gordon. Was the road course win a relief for the veteran crew chief?

"Yeah, I don't know if I'd choose the word relieved. You feel satisfied in the work and effort you put in and getting back to Victory Lane is a huge deal, something we want to do much more frequently than we have, obviously, recently. But yeah, I think I just feel satisfied.

"It's not been the easiest year for us, and we just kept battling through it and battling through it and getting closer and closer and closer and closer and closer and finally got it done," Gustafson said.

In a race that looked like it could have been a repeat of Dover, Gustafson talked about what he thinks his driver has learned, having had so many races not go his way.

"Yeah, you just never give up, and I think at the end of the day, you do everything you can do with inside your capabilities. We all strive for greatness, and everybody wants to do the best things possible, and you want to win the race or hit the three-pointer at the buzzer or catch a touchdown, whatever it is. And when it doesn't go your way and you have those opportunities, sometimes that can be deflating.  But at the end of the day, you've got to take some solace in what you do, and the fact that you gave it your best and learned from it and moved on, and certainly he has and will continue to do that.

"If you learn and you move forward, you don't lose. You've just got to keep going," Gustafson explained. 

Charlotte Bray for Skirts and Scuffs
The road to 250 wins for Hendrick Motorsports has been stalled at 249 for a long time: 37 races to be exact. In what many consider to be an off-year, the team's senior driver, seven-time champion Jimmie Johnson, has yet to log a win in 2018. Gustafson discussed how this win is a culmination of a lot of hard work by everyone at HMS.

"We've been stuck on 249 for a while, and certainly very aware of that. I know personally, I wanted to get that win for Mr. Hendrick. Was really close to getting the 250th there at Martinsville with Jeff and unfortunately had a late caution and that one kind of stung. We're going through these opportunities to win and not getting that 250, so that was always in the back of my mind.
            
"But I'm glad to get that for him. It's a huge honor to be the crew chief on the car that wins that 250th for HMS. It's absolutely a culmination of a lot of hard work. We haven't been -- I told the guys before the race today, if you go back five months, we were struggling to run 15th, and then we were struggling to run 10th and then 12th and just battling through it, and the last month or so, we've been able to contend for wins and win stages, and that's the culmination of hard work.
            
"I don't think it's a fluke. It's not like we just came off winning 25th. We had a shot to win last week, too. Really proud of the guys and the effort to get us back to this point. I know we're not where we want to be. We've got to get better. But we certainly were the best today," Gustafson said.

Gustafson also talked about the point when he saw Elliott turn a corner in terms of his confidence and reach the point where he knew wins, instead of second-place finishes, were in sight.

"I mean, to be honest with you, I thought -- Daytona, the very first race we worked together at Daytona, we kind of sucked, but past that, I felt like he could win right away. I felt like he could win every race. I never doubted or thought that he needed to go through any maturation process or any experience to win a race.  I thought he could win a race right away.
            
"You look back, and certainly we've had lots of opportunities to do it, and hindsight is always 20/20, and sure, we should have, but there was never any question to me. There was never a pinnacle moment that he turned or learned something or went through something. I thought he was pretty equipped to win from the start.
            
"And you know, I do think not making it -- he can comment on it. It certainly adds a little -- seems to raise the hurdle a little bit. Like it makes it slightly tougher, by it was never what I felt like was insurmountable or something that we couldn't overcome. I just knew we had to fight through it and it was going to go our way, and there was countless races it didn't.
            
"But on my experience, those odds -- the statistics end up evening out, and there's going to probably be some races that we may get that we shouldn't get, right, so you've just got to stay after it," Gustafson explained.

Staying after it helped cement Elliott's place in the playoffs for this season. He came up short last year but will get the chance to race for the big prize when the playoffs begin the 10-race runoff next month.

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- 
  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; Kentucky basketball, even though at 6' tall, she's never played a day in her life; and her husband who's supportive of her NASCAR obsession... as long as she allows him to obsess over college football every fall.