Monday, September 05, 2016

The Frontstretch Newsletter: Happy Labor Day! Martin Truex, Jr. Wins on Throwback Weekend

Presented by
The Best Seat at the Track, The Best View on the Net!
Sep. 5, 2016
Volume X, Edition CLIII

What to Watch: Monday

- Its Labor Day, meaning that many of us will be firing up the BBQ, cooking out, or just watching marathons on TV.  For race teams, not so much.  They'll be hard at work prepping for Richmond this weekend.  If anything of note breaks, we'll have it for you at Frontstretch.

Monday's TV Schedule can be found here.
Top News
by the Frontstretch Staff

Martin Truex, Jr. Pulls Away For Southern 500 Win

Kevin Harvick dominated Sunday night's Bojangles' Southern 500 at Darlington Raceway only for the pit crew to hurt him once again. Poor performances costing Harvick 16 spots over the final five pit stops allowed Martin Truex, Jr. to eke out front. From there, Truex took control, claiming his second win of the year and Furniture Row Racing's second Southern 500 victory.  Harvick fought back to second, followed by Kyle Larson, Denny Hamlin and Joey Logano.  Read more

Dale Earnhardt, Jr.: My Heart Wants Me to Continue

Sunday afternoon, Dale Earnhardt, Jr. held a press conference at Darlington Raceway to talk about his concussion recovery.  Earnhardt revealed that he now feels comfortable driving in a street car, but he still has a ways to go, saying there's "no way" he should be racing in any series right now.  Earnhardt, whose contract with Hendrick Motorsports runs out after 2017 also has no intention of retiring.  Read more

Jamie McMurray Pleased With Direction of Chip Ganassi Racing

Currently, things seem to be going well for Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates.  Kyle Larson just picked up his first career win in Michigan and Jamie McMurray, despite his 15th-place finish Sunday night, is still in position to earn a Chase berth.  Read more

Elliott Sadler Outlasts Denny Hamlin for First Darlington Victory

Elliott Sadler led 75 laps on Saturday, but barely held off Denny Hamlin after a late-race meeting with the wall to win the VFW Sport Clips Help A Hero 200.  It is Sadler's second win of 2016.  Hamlin was second, followed by Daniel Suarez, Kyle Larson and Brennan Poole.  Read more

John Hunter Nemechek Wrecks Cole Custer For Canada Win

Sunday's Chevrolet Silverado 250k at Canadian Tire Motorsports Park came down to the last lap.  John Hunter Nemechek pushed Cole Custer off the road in the final corner, then rode him to victory to claim his second win of 2016.  Custer was incensed and went after Nemechek afterwards; the move may have cost the young driver a spot in the Chase.  Daniel Hemric was third, followed by Matt Crafton and Christopher Bell.  Read more

Magnus Racing Disputes VIR Exclusion

Magnus Racing finished third in GT Daytona at VIR on Aug. 28.  However, a minute ride height violation resulted in the team being excluded from the weekend.  Magnus Racing officially responded on Friday, and they were not pleased with series officials' decision to penalize them.  Read more

WeatherTech Racing to Field PWC Entries in Final Two Events

On Friday, Alex Job Racing announced they will field two cars for Cooper MacNeil and Gunnar Jeannette in the final two Pirelli World Challenge weekends of the season, held at Sonoma Raceway and Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca.  WeatherTech will continue to sponsor both cars.  Read more

Have news for The Frontstretch?  Don't hesitate to let us know; email us at with a promising lead or tip.

Chasing the Chase: Harvick Makes Gains at Darlington
by Phil Allaway

Kevin Harvick had a dominant night Sunday at Darlington Raceway.  He just couldn't close the deal...again.  But another second-place finish, combined with a ninth-place run for Brad Keselowski allowed Harvick to extend his points lead to 43 heading to Richmond.  Joey Logano, having a solid summer along with his Team Penske teammate is up two places to third after finishing fifth Sunday night.  This trio long ago clinched their spots in NASCAR's 16-driver postseason format.

Darlington pole sitter Carl Edwards led early, but ran into some issues, including an unscheduled stop under green.  He would eventually finish a lap down in 19th, suffering damage late in the race and drop one place to fourth in points. Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Denny Hamlin, meanwhile is up two places to fifth after finishing fourth last night.  Hamlin is one point ahead of Kurt Busch, who has now wrecked in two of the last three races, losing his laps completed streak to start the season.  He finished 34th at Darlington.  

Kurt's younger brother Kyle Busch is just one more point back in seventh.  Kyle lost one position in the standings despite finishing 11th; he remains one of the Chase's top seeds, though with Keselowski.  Behind him, Martin Truex, Jr. made only the slightest of gains despite winning.  He closed three points on Harvick, but gained a fair amount on those immediately in front of him.  Truex has a healthy cushion on Matt Kenseth, who moves up one place to ninth after finishing sixth. The JGR-supported Toyotas are now an impressive 4-5-7-8-9 in the standings and all have easily secured spots in the Chase.

Chase Elliott is up to tenth in points after finishing tenth.  However, Elliott is part of the "bubble" group of four drivers that could drop out of the Chase at Richmond if they suffer misfortune. Jimmie Johnson is down two places to 11th following a penalty for body modification and a crash relegated him to 33rd.  Austin Dillon, on the bubble along with Elliott is five points back of Johnson in 12th, holding steady in the regular season points after starting and finishing 12th Sunday night.

Jamie McMurray had to pit with loose lugnuts during the final yellow, which relegated him to a 15th-place finish.  He's the last man into the Chase on points at the moment.  Ryan Newman is seven points back of McMurray, sitting 14th in the regular season standings after finishing eighth.  

Kyle Larson is still 15th, but made some gains after finishing third and has also clinched a spot in the postseason.  Kasey Kahne, 16th in points is all but mathematically eliminated from the Chase unless he wins Richmond.

Here are the drivers still not "locked" into the Chase that currently sit in the field: Elliott, Dillon, McMurray.
Here are the drivers that are currently out but can still earn entrance to the Chase on points: Newman, Kahne (if Chris Buescher drops outside the top 30).
Here are the drivers that would be eligible to make the Chase Saturday night if they won: The four drivers above plus Kahne, Ryan Blaney, AJ Allmendinger, Trevor Bayne, Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Greg Biffle, Paul Menard, Danica Patrick, Aric Almirola, Clint Bowyer, Casey Mears, Landon Cassill, David Ragan (would need help), Regan Smith (would need help)

Point Standings (1-16): 1) Kevin Harvick 840, 2) Brad Keselowski -43, 3) Joey Logano -88, 4) Carl Edwards -94, 5) Denny Hamlin -111, 6) Kurt Busch -112, 7) Kyle Busch -113, 8) Martin Truex, Jr. -144, 9) Matt Kenseth -171, 10) Chase Elliott -181, 11) Jimmie Johnson -184, 12) Austin Dillon -189, 13) Jamie McMurray -198, 14) Ryan Newman -205, 15) Kyle Larson -219, 16) Kasey Kahne -242.

Outside the top 16, but Chase-eligible: 27) Tony Stewart -414, 30) Chris Buescher -482.

Race Winners: Denny Hamlin (Daytona-1, Watkins Glen), Jimmie Johnson (Atlanta, Auto Club), Brad Keselowski (Las Vegas, Talladega, Daytona-2, Kentucky), Kevin Harvick (Phoenix, Bristol-2), Kyle Busch (Martinsville, Texas, Kansas, Indianapolis), Carl Edwards (Bristol-1, Richmond), Matt Kenseth (Dover, Loudon), Martin Truex, Jr. (Charlotte, Darlington), Kurt Busch (Pocono-1), Joey Logano (Michigan-1), Tony Stewart (Sonoma), Chris Buescher (Pocono-2), Kyle Larson (Michigan-2)
Phil Allaway is the Newsletter Manager and a Senior Writer for  He can be reached via e-mail at

Letter of the Race: Sunday's Bojangles' Southern 500 was brought to you by the letter S, for "Stripes." Darlington Raceway is well-known for the wall always being in just the right position to bite you.  Kevin Harvick just might have won Sunday night's Bojangles' Southern 500 if he didn't smack the wall late.  While Harvick still finished second, the contact likely hurt his car enough that he couldn't get to Martin Truex, Jr. - Phil Allaway


Quotes to Remember: Bojangles' Southern 500
compiled by Phil Allaway

"Well, it just was frustrating to lead laps here throughout my career and even in years when we didn't run that well at teams I was on, we seemed to run well here and felt like we let a few slip away. It was worth the wait for sure, so we'll do some celebrating tonight and just can't thank everybody enough again – everybody at (Joe) Gibbs (Racing), all those guys, great teammates – just so many people I need to thank. The pit crew – man, I can't say it enough, what a job they did tonight. I appreciate them." - Martin Truex, Jr., race winner

"Just the car [helped me to pull away from Kevin Harvick]. We just made adjustments and once you get our front there it's hard to beat, so the guys just did a great job. They did all the right things tonight. They listened to me all night long about what we needed and just made the right adjustments. Just proud of them like I said. It's an honor to drive this car every weekend. They bring such great race cars to the racetrack and we've got to thank Barney Visser, our owner, for putting what he does into this program and Auto-Owners Insurance for coming on. This is their second race with us this year and one more at Martinsville, so really proud to get them in victory lane. Hopefully, they're pumped up about it and do some more races next year and Toyota and TRD (Toyota Racing Development) and everybody that makes this thing happen – it's just an amazing partnership, amazing teammates over at (Joe) Gibbs (Racing) that we share information with and it's just been one of those years that I feel like we can have eight or 10 wins and hopefully we'll be able to get them all in the Chase." - Truex on the win and his playoff prospects

"Oh, it's just the same old thing. You get in position where you bring a dominant car. The guys in the shop and the guys in the garage are doing a great job, and the guys on pit road are doing a terrible job. You get in a position to win races, and they continually step on their toes and don't make it happen. You're not going to win races like that. I'm really proud of the car that we brought tonight and the things that we've done on the racetrack, but you can only make so many excuses for pit road." - Kevin Harvick, finished second

"It was long.  My spotter said we were halfway and I was like 'are you kidding me, we still have however many to go?'  But it was a good night.  We had to fight pretty hard to get to the top four or five.  Our pit stops weren't great there in the beginning, but they rebounded and we had some good stops there at the end to maintain.  The last probably five or six stops I thought were pretty good.  We were able to get past Denny (Hamlin) and get to the lead and lead some laps.  We had a really good car out front.  In traffic, I was just too tight for a little while and as we went I would get too loose on exit, but I found some lines that worked for me and that helped, but a tough race.  It is good to come back after the win last week and finish third.  I'm really happy with everybody on this Target team for working so hard and digging deep there throughout the race to get us in position." - Kyle Larson, finished third

"Proud of the top-5 run that we got going on, but [Darlington has] definitely been a great a track for us. Just want more wins obviously, but we needed long runs really for that to try to materialize. Our car was very good when the track was rubbered up and really slick. Just didn't go on restarts. Didn't go on the short run and that was probably our Achilles' Heel tonight." - Denny Hamlin, finished fourth

"It was an up and down night for us out there tonight with the Miller Lite Fusion. We fought real hard but didn't get the finish out of it that we wanted. We had to fight through a lot of adversity out there tonight. Darlington will do that to you. I am proud of my team for that. They never stop fighting." - Brad Keselowski, finished ninth

"That's a long race to begin with and we made it longer by having bad racing luck with that caution early in the race, which put us down two laps. Then I got into the wall in (turns) three and four that caused a flat tire, then got together with the 47 (AJ Allmendinger) and we were down two laps. At about the halfway part of the race there wasn't much to feel positive about but the team kept working and battling and we ended up with a decent finish." - Ryan Blaney, finished 13th

"We had a tough night. You've got to be ready for battle on these restarts. Just not enough give. Too much take. For me, we had a tough night. We were trying to get the loose and tight worked out. He's [Paul Menard] just sideways. He just pushed too hard. That's what happens when I didn't give him enough room. He overdrove. I was right there on our limit. It's the end of our night. It was just a tough night for all the hard work that goes into it. All these races come down to the restarts at the end. There's no such thing as a long green-flag run anymore. And you've got to be ready to battle on these restarts. The problem is that everybody's got good give and take early in the race but nobody has it at the end." - Kurt Busch, finished 34th (crashed out)

"Yeah, overheating was the first part of it, and it finally grenaded. It was 375 degrees on water temperature. There's a screen in there that keeps all the trash from getting into the radiator and it got separated from its mount, so all the trash was getting underneath it and going up inside the radiator and it just kept blocking it until we finally lost the motor." - Tony Stewart, finished 35th (blown engine)

"I was trying to let those guys go that had newer, fresher tires. I was trying to let Tony (Stewart) go there and I think he got inside of me and got loose there. I was pointing him to the inside to let him go. Apparently, he got mad at me. I want to thank Twisted Tea, Ford, Albertson's, Shore Lodge and everyone that came on board. I have a lot of respect for Tony. He has always raced me really clean. I am not sure what he thought was going on there. I am not sure if he thought I was trying to hold him up there, I wasn't. I was trying to let him go. I even pointed him to the inside. Maybe he thought I was giving him the finger or something. I will talk with him. We will figure it out. It is a tough race. The Southern 500 is a tough race. Everybody is slipping and sliding a lot. It is getting to the point where people's tempers are getting short." - Brian Scott, finished 39th (crashed out)

"I really hate that happened. Matt (Puccia) made some great adjustments that got our AdvoCare Ford to handle great but we were in a tough position because we were down a cylinder. I'm proud of all of my guys' effort this weekend. We'll give it everything we can next weekend and go for the win to get into the Chase." - Trevor Bayne, finished 40th (blown engine)

Phil Allaway is the Newsletter Manager and a Senior Writer for  He can be reached via e-mail at



by Mike Neff

by Bryan Gable

by Joseph Wolkin

Q: 2004 was the inaugural year for the then-Chase for the NEXTEL Cup.  Jeremy Mayfield qualified by winning at Richmond, but there was a surprise inside the top 5 behind him when looking at the race results.  Who was it and who was he driving for?

Check back Tuesday for the answer, here in the Frontstretch Newsletter!

Friday's Answer:

Q:  Darlington Raceway has had more than its share of unusual crashes over the years.  Steve Park getting injured because the steering wheel came off in his hands in 2001 is just one example.  Tommy Houston was the victim of a strange crash after the Gatorade 200 Busch Grand National race in 1988.  What happened?

A: Tommy Houston finished the race (which ended under caution) a lap down in 11th.  Afterwards, Houston was coming down pit road in order to head to the gas pumps on the backstretch when the pace car turned off the track directly in front and left Houston with nowhere to go.  Houston locked up and hit the pace car in the drivers' side door.  Aftermath footage, including an interview with Houston, can be seen here.

Houston was OK but his Buick was thrashed.  The pace car was heavily damaged; however, the driver was essentially OK.  He did make a trip to the hospital for a check-up, though.


In The Frontstretch Newsletter:
We'll have breaking news from Monday, Tom Bowles returns with Numbers Game and S.D. Grady is back with Sitting In The Stands: A Fan's View.

Amy Henderson takes a closer look at how some of the sport's smaller teams fared at Darlington in Underdog House.
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