Wednesday, October 29, 2014


Déjà 2: Keselowski Must Win At Texas or Phoenix
Less than two weeks ago, Brad Keselowski was the talk of the NASCAR world after he pulled out an improbable victory in a “win or go home” situation at Talladega that propelled him into the Eliminator Round of the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup.
Going into Sunday’s AAA Texas 500 at Texas Motor Speedway (3 p.m. ET on ESPN), Keselowski finds himself in a similar predicament. After finishing 31st in the opening Eliminator Round race at Martinsville, the No. 2 Miller Lite Ford driver is 26 points behind the Chase cutoff line and essentially needs to win one of the next two races at Texas or Phoenix to move on to the Championship final race at Homestead-Miami Speedway.
Fortunately for Keselowski, winning hasn’t been a problem for him this season. The 30-year-old Michigan native leads the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series with six victories and has captured a checkered flag in each of the first two rounds of the pressure-packed Chase.
Unfortunately, winning at Texas and Phoenix has been a problem for Keselowski in his career. In a combined 22 starts at the two tracks, Keselowski has yet to collect a victory.
Recent success at the pair of courses suggests Keselowski is on the verge of breaking through for his first win at either of them. In his last four starts at Texas, Keselowski claims three top-10 finishes, including a runner-up showing in the fall of his 2012 championship season. While Keselowski struggled in his first five career starts at Phoenix with no showing better than 15th, he has placed sixth or better in his last five races at the Arizona track, including a third-place result from the pole this spring.
Keselowski feels confident in his ability to pull off a victory, especially after coming through in the clutch at Talladega.
“Yeah, it’s still tough to do,” Keselowski said. “It’s not like we’re just gonna go and guarantee a win at Texas and Phoenix, but it’s also not impossible, and we’ve got the team … to pull it off.”

Edwards Looks To Rediscover Lone Star State Success; Harvick Needs Fort Worth Fortune
Carl Edwards was pretty bummed out after the first Eliminator Round race at Martinsville.
The No. 99 Ford driver finished 20th, falling 15 points behind the cutoff in the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup standings.  He now finds himself needing to win one of the next two races to qualify for the four-driver Championship race at Homestead.
“It’s not what we wanted,” Edwards said post-race. “We’ll go to Texas and go for the win.  We’ll go to Phoenix and go for the win there and that’s all we can do.”
No stranger to winning at Texas, Edwards ranks tied with Jimmie Johnson on its all-time victories list with three.
His problem? He hasn’t won at the Fort Worth track in 11 races.
Edwards will attempt to rediscover his winning ways at Texas Motor Speedway in Sunday’s AAA 500 (3 p.m. ET on ESPN). Despite his victory drought, he claims three top-three finishes in his last eight starts at the 1.5-mile track. Edwards has also sported a fast car there. He has started in the top 10 in seven of his last eight Texas races, including from the pole in last year’s fall event.
Needing a win as bad as Edwards is Kevin Harvick.
The Stewart-Haas Racing driver finished 33rd at Martinsville after he wrecked and was forced to the garage for a period of time. Harvick now finds himself 28 points behind the cutoff in the Chase standings.
His outlook for the next two races includes good and bad news.
The bad news: In 23 starts, Harvick has never won at Texas.
The good news: Harvick’s final opportunity to win to advance is at Phoenix – a track where he boasts a career-high five victories and has taken the checkered flag in three of the last four races.
Harvick’s start this weekend will be the 500th of his career. He will be the 36th NASCAR Sprint Cup Series driver to reach the milestone.

Pack Tight At Top Of Chase Standings
A mere seven points separate Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup leader Jeff Gordon and fifth-place Denny Hamlin, with three others – Ryan Newman  (-3), Joey Logano (-4) and Matt Kenseth (-5) – sandwiched in between.
The five will attempt to distance themselves from the pack in Sunday’s AAA Texas 500 at Texas Motor Speedway (3 p.m. ET on ESPN).
Here is the outlook for the drivers:
Jeff Gordon – The No. 24 Chevrolet driver finished second at Ft. Worth in the spring after coming home 38th in both 2013 races there. He claims one victory (2009), nine top fives and 12 top 10s in 27 starts at the 1.5-mile track.
Ryan Newman – Newman will attempt to extend his streak of top-10 finishes to five in this weekend’s race in the Lone Star State. His “lone” victory at Texas came over a decade ago in 2003.
Joey Logano – Arguably the story of the NASCAR’s playoffs, Logano will be going for his eighth top-five finish in nine Chase starts on Sunday. Also at stake is a sweep. The 24-year-old won the April race at Texas, and has already surpassed his career-highs in wins (five), top fives (15), top 10s (21) and laps led (976).
Matt Kenseth – Kenseth boasts the most top-five (13) and top-10 (17) finishes all-time at Texas. He also claims two victories at the 1.5 mile track – his last coming in spring of 2011.
Denny Hamlin – In 17 Texas starts, Hamlin has posted two victories, five top fives and nine top 10s. Since sweeping at Fort Worth in 2010, the No. 11 FedEx driver has only one top-10 finish in six races.

Earnhardt Jr. Can Play Spoiler Again At Texas; Larson Looms
One week after getting bounced from the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup, Dale Earnhardt Jr. took the checkered flag at Martinsville to become the first non-championship-qualifying driver to win a race in NASCAR’s playoffs this season.
The victory marked his first Martinsville triumph in 30 starts, and his first win during the Chase since November of 2004 at Phoenix. Earnhardt’s four first-place finishes this season are his most since 2004.
Despite winning one week too late, the victory was an emotional one for Earnhardt, who plans on racing for trophies the rest of the season.
“We love winning races,” Earnhardt said. “Winning races is the best thing. I’m trying to get trophies. I’ve wanted that grandfather clock ever since I was a little boy and I got it.”
The No. 88 Chevrolet driver will attempt to play spoiler again in Sunday’s AAA Texas 500 at Texas Motor Speedway (3 p.m. ET on ESPN). In 24 Lone Star State starts, Earnhardt has tallied one win, four top fives and 13 top 10s. In last fall’s Texas race, he finished second. His first career NASCAR Sprint Cup Series win came at Texas in 2000.
NASCAR’s 11-time most popular driver will pilot chassis No. 88-810 on Sunday, the same one he took to Victory Lane in both Pocono races and led with at Kansas before he hit the fence.
Another prime candidate to steal a victory from the Chase contenders is Sunoco Rookie of the Year front-runner Kyle Larson. He finished fifth at Texas in the spring and has posted six top-10 showings in his last nine starts. The 22-year-old is still hunting for his first NASCAR Sprint Cup Series win.

NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Etc.
Milestone Watch: As previously mentioned, Kevin Harvick will make NASCAR Sprint Cup Series start No. 500 on Sunday at Texas. … With another top-10 finish, both Kurt Busch and Ryan Newman can reach career top 10 No. 200. … Hendrick Motorsports is still aiming for its 200th Coors Light Pole. The organization has six poles at Texas Motor Speedway, the last coming in 2012 –by Jimmie Johnson, who also won the race.


Motorsports Host Brings More Than a Decade of Experience
to NBC Sports Group’s Multi-Platform Package, Starting in 2015 
 STAMFORD, Conn. — October 29, 2014 — NBC Sports Group announced today that Krista Voda has signed a multi-year agreement to serve as host of NBC Sports’ upcoming NASCAR Sprint Cup and XFINITY Series pre- and post-race coverage, beginning in 2015. Her on-air duties will also include regular appearances as host of NASCAR AMERICA on NBCSN, as well as a range of assignments across NBC Sports and NBC Olympics. The announcement was made today by Sam Flood, Executive Producer, NBC Sports and NBCSN.       
"Krista is a talented host that has established a strong connection with NASCAR viewers over the course of an already impressive career," said Flood. "Her passion for the sport and comprehensive grasp of its stars, personalities and history will provide for an engaging and informative race day experience for the fans."
Krista’s résumé is among the strongest in NASCAR broadcasting.  When she joins NBC Sports in 2015, it will mark her 14th continuous year covering the sport on network television.  She is the current host of the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series pre-race show for Fox Sports, and was the first female to ever host NASCAR’s Daytona Duels, as well as the NASCAR All-Star Race in Charlotte. She recently concluded her eighth season as a pit reporter for NASCAR Sprint Cup Series coverage on Fox and has hosted or co-hosted every NASCAR Hall of Fame Induction ceremony, many NASCAR Awards Banquets, and several Fox Sports studio shows.  Outside of motorsports, Krista has an impressive breadth of experience, including NFL sideline reporting, and on-air contributions to numerous major sporting events, including postseason MLB broadcasts, Bowl Championship Series coverage, the Kentucky Derby, multiple NCAA men’s basketball tournaments and the PGA Championship.        
"This role is a dream opportunity for me and I'm honored to be a part of NBC’s return to NASCAR," said Voda. "We say it often, but it's true: NASCAR is more than a sport, it’s a community. I’ve been blessed, for many years, to stand alongside colleagues who I also consider dear friends. I’m looking forward to this new chapter and the chance to share my knowledge and enthusiasm for storytelling."
On July 23, 2013, NASCAR and NBC Sports Group reached a comprehensive agreement that grants NBCUniversal exclusive rights to the final 20 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races, final 19 NASCAR XFINITY Series events, select NASCAR Regional & Touring Series events and other live content, beginning in 2015.
With this partnership, NBC’s 20 Sprint Cup race schedule includes a designation as the exclusive home to the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup, when the elite national series races through its final 10 events of the season.  The Chase culminates with the season-ending championship event, which returns to network television in 2015 for the first time since 2009. Of NBC Sports Group’s 20 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series events, seven will be carried on NBC annually, with 13 airing on NBCSN. Four of NBC Sports Group’s 19 NASCAR XFINITY Series races will air on NBC, with 15 airing on NBCSN. 
NASCAR AMERICA premiered in February, following Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s Daytona 500 victory and NBC Sports Group’s multi-platform coverage of the 2014 Olympic Winter Games in Sochi. The weekday 30-minute news and highlights program is hosted primarily by NASCAR on NBC lead race announcer Rick Allen and features regular appearances by NBC Sports NASCAR analyst Jeff Burton, reporters Marty Snider, Kelli Stavast and Nate Ryan, as well as guest analysts such as Kyle Petty, Bobby Labonte, Wally Dallenbach and Frank Stoddard.
In addition to NASCAR’s Sprint Cup and NASCAR XFINITY Series races, NBC also obtained exclusive rights to practice and qualifying sessions for NBC’s national series events during their portion of the season, as well as rights to broadcast the NASCAR K&N Series, NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour, NASCAR Toyota (Mexico) Series, the NASCAR Hall of Fame induction ceremony and NASCAR’s season-ending banquets. Further, NBC is granted Spanish-language rights, certain video-on-demand rights and exclusive TV Everywhere rights for its NASCAR Sprint Cup Series and NASCAR XFINITY Series events.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Tensions high in Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup

The First Reid: Tensions high in Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup
By Reid Spencer
NASCAR Wire Service

Which two Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup drivers better be watching their backs over the next few weeks?

Here’s a hint: The drivers of the two yellow cars in the Chase have a number of their fellow competitors seeing red.

Matt Kenseth is the obvious first choice. Admitting later he made a mistake in the yellow No. 20 Toyota, Kenseth spun on Lap 228 at Martinsville, knocking Kevin Harvick into the wall and into the cellar of the Chase standings.

“He won’t win this championship,” Harvick asserted after the race. “If we don’t, he won’t.”

Harvick has an excellent memory, and he’s just as good at keeping promises as he is at leading laps.

The driver of the other yellow car, Joey Logano, may have concerns on more than one front. Though Logano says he and Danica Patrick have settled their differences after a run-in at Charlotte, there are those in Patrick’s camp who aren’t so sure that’s the

Patrick and Logano were never close together on the track at Martinsville, but there are three races left.

Denny Hamlin, on the other hand, was close enough to give Logano a few strategic bumps at Martinsville, but Logano repeatedly frustrated Hamlin’s efforts to pass.

No doubt Hamlin remembers the hard ride he took into the concrete at Fontana after contact from Logano. That accident sidelined Hamlin for four races.

So don’t be shocked if Hamlin tries to sideline Logano’s title chances.

Maybe as soon as this Sunday at Texas (3 p.m. ET on ESPN).

Monday, October 27, 2014

Cool-Down Lap

Cool-Down Lap

Brad Keselowski back in the same hole he just escaped

Oct. 27, 2014

By Reid Spencer
NASCAR Wire Service

Apparently, Brad Keselowski can’t stand prosperity.

Or perhaps he’s just trying to extract every ounce of drama possible from the new Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup format.

A week after keeping his championship hopes alive with a storybook victory at Talladega Superspeedway, in a race he had to win to advance to the Chase’s Eliminator Round, Keselowski and his No. 2 Ford team are back on skid row.

And, once again, he has company on his quick trip from the penthouse to the outhouse heading into Sunday's race at Texas Motor Speedway (3 p.m. ET on ESPN).

At Talladega, Keselowski, Jimmie Johnson and Dale Earnhardt Jr. entered the GEICO 500 facing win-or-bust scenarios. Obviously, the trophy went to the Keselowski and No. 2 Team Penske squad, and the pink slips went to Johnson and Earnhardt.

After Martinsville, Keselowski can commiserate with fellow championship favorite Kevin Harvick, who met his own Waterloo on Sunday at Martinsville in the form of fellow Chase driver Matt Kenseth.

Keselowski and Harvick fell to the bottom of the Chase grid in very different, but equally precipitous ways.

Harvick was first to go. After starting 33rd thanks to an overly loose setup in his car for Friday’s qualifying session, Harvick had worked his way methodically into the top 10 before the halfway point of the Goody’s Headache Relief Shot 500.

But on Lap 228, the race went awry for the driver of the No. 4 Stewart-Haas Racing Chevrolet. Kenseth drove hard into Turn 1 in the bottom lane, ran up on teammate and fellow Chase driver Denny Hamlin, wheel-hopped in the corner and spun, knocking Harvick into the outside wall.

Harvick drove his smoking car to the garage, where his team performed masterful surgery over the course of 40 laps and sent Harvick back to the track to complete the race in a Chevy carcass that looked more like a modified than a Cup car.

Harvick finished 33rd, dropped 33 points behind race runner-up and Chase leader Jeff Gordon and left Martinsville with a chip on his shoulder and a promise to make sure Kenseth wouldn’t win the championship.

For most of the race, Harvick seemed likely to finish alone near the bottom of the running order, but Keselowski proved once again that misery loves company.

In a freakish failure after a restart on Lap 434 of 500, Keselowski broke a rear gear. Like Harvick, he took his car to the garage, where his crew replaced the gear within 28 laps and sent the No. 2 Ford back on track to complete the race.

Keselowski finished 31st, dropped 31 points behind Gordon and left Martinsville facing the same sort of challenge that confronted him at Talladega.

With the top five drivers bunched within a seven-point range, and with a cut from eight to four Chase drivers looming two weeks hence at Phoenix, both Keselowski and Harvick know the certain path to avoid elimination from the championship—and in all probability the only path—is to win one of the next two races.

That, of course, leaves us with a litany of intriguing unanswered questions as the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series heads for Texas and then Phoenix.

Can lightning strike twice for Keselowski?

Should Kenseth start looking over his shoulder now, or will Harvick wait to exact payback only if Kenseth makes the final four at Homestead, where the four remaining Chase drivers will battle for a title that goes to the highest finisher among the four?

Can Harvick live up to his nickname “The Closer” by winning one of the next two races in a car that has been the class of the field for most of the season? Harvick will be a heavy favorite at Phoenix, where he led 224 of 312 laps in a dominating win on March 2.  

Or, conversely, will two of the year’s best-performing cars, drivers and teams suffer elimination under a new Chase format that has no memory?

By the time we exit Phoenix, all those questions will be answered.

Except, perhaps, for the one about Kenseth. Harvick may save that surprise for the season finale.