After a late race charge and a last lap, Brad Keselowski was the victor in the Pocono Green 250 from Pocono Raceway.
“Hell of a race. Really happy for the 22 team. It's been a while. I think it's been well documented that they haven't been in victory lane. Discount Tire has been a part of this program for a long time. They deserve it. Without them I probably wouldn't have a career in NASCAR. They're on the car today...SKF...proud of them guys. It's good for Ford and everybody. It feels good for me, the team. They deserve it,” said Keselowski post-race.
This is Keselowski’s first victory in 2017. This is his 35th career victory in 245 NASCAR Xfinity Series starts.
On the final restart with 17 laps to go, Keselowski was the race leader, but dropped all the way back to 12th after Elliott Sadler pushed his tires in the air. Keselowski dropped all the way to 12th. Once he regained the momentum, Keselowski worked his way back through the field. Keselowski was able to pass Kyle Larson in the first run on the last lap as Larson was battling tight conditions on corner exit. Keselowski went below Larson to gain the lead and the victory.
Allgaier was a dark horse through much of the race. However, pit strategy brought Allgaier towards the front of the field and ultimately to a second place finish after passing Larson when he lost momentum from the bump and run from Keselowski.
“We knew we had speed in out Chevy. We knew it was fast. We just needed track position. We got behind early, but when we made that call and able to cycle back through, a good restart helped, but fresh tires were what it was all about at the end. Unfortunately, we tried to make it interesting, but didn’t have the speed to pass the 22, but all in all, a good day,” said Allgaier post race.
Larson was the leader on the white flag lap, but lost momentum in the first turn to drop to third. Larson also used pit strategy to work his towards the front of the field to finish in the third position.
“I thought I was a third to fifth place car at best. The 22, by far, was better than anybody else. Disappointed I didnt get the win, but great day for everyone on the Enos team. They did a good job, good pit stops. They made the car better throughout the race. Just not good enough there at the end, but still a good run for us,” said Larson post race.
Sadler, Daniel Suarez, Brendan Gaughan Cole Custer, Ty Dillon, Daniel Hemric, and Matt Tiff rounded out the top-10.
Allgaier holds a one point lead over Sadler. Byron is third in points, 62 points behind Allgaier. Darrell Wallace Jr. sis fourth in points 88 points behind Allgaier. Hemric rounds out the top-five in points 95 points behind Allgaier.
The Xfinity Series will head to Michigan International Raceway on Saturday, June 7th. The race will be on Fox Sports 1 and Motor Racing Network shortly after 1:30 p.m. EDT.
Chip Ganassi Racing had a subpar season in 2015. For the second consecutive season neither Jamie McMurray or Kyle Larson were victorious in the 36-race season. There were flashes of bright spots for both teams, but each wants to pick up the performance in 2016.
It would be normal to think that McMurray was satisfied in making the cutoff for the Chase for the Sprint Cup for the first time in his career. The No. 1 team showed instances in which it could contend for the win with two second-place finishes at Phoenix in the spring to Kevin Harvick and Martinsville in the fall to Jeff Gordon.
The short tracks are where the team has excelled in the past few seasons. One area in which the team decreased from 2014 was at the 1.5-mile racetracks. Throughout his career, McMurray has been solid on the mile-and-a-half tracks, but last year was an exception.
It was just two years ago that the No. 1 car won the Sprint All-Star Race and McMurray left Charlotte Motor Speedway $1 million dollars richer. Last season was a struggle, which is why in 2016 one of the team’s main goals is to re-establish itself on those tracks.
“Ultimately, it’s just about better cars and better setups,” McMurray told Speedway Digest last month at the NASCAR Media Tour. “I’ve been able to win at some mile-and-a-half racetracks in the past. In 2014, we were just really good at those tracks and in 2015 we weren’t as good.”
McMurray, 39, is coming off a season in which he posted four top fives and 10 top-10 finishes, down from the 13 that he posted a year prior. However, the Missouri native was consistent with a career-best 14.9 average finish, but finished with a career-low in laps led, 14.
In the 11 1.5-mile tracks that were on the Sprint Cup schedule, McMurray averaged a 15.8 average finish, leading nine laps at Texas back in April. Based on the fact that he accumulated just two top-10 finishes in those 11 races, he knows that he needs to improve in 2016.
“I didn’t particularly do anything different,” McMurray said. “Ultimately, it’s just about being able to have the right car and the right setup underneath you.”
Compared to 2014, McMurray had had a better average finish on the 1.5-mile racetracks, but didn’t run up nearly as much. In the previous season, he had two finishes outside of the top 35 at Kansas and Kentucky, but ended the season with three-consecutive top-five finishes at Charlotte, Texas and Homestead. The No. 1 car finished inside of the top five in both races in NASCAR’s hub in 2014.
All year long, Larson struggled in 2015. The driver that had so much animosity behind him due to his remarkable rookie season ended up with a disappointing 2015 season.
In his first year of competition at the Sprint Cup level, Larson exceeded expectations, though he didn’t go to Victory Lane. It could be argued that it was the best rookie season since Jimmie Johnson in 2002. The results were different last season.
The No. 42 car is notoriously known for riding within an inch of the wall at the majority of the 1.5-mile tracks. The closer to the wall, the more grip there is. But if you get too close to the wall, it will come and grab you, ultimately damaging the car.
“I think just as an organization we want to be better on the mile-and-a-halves,” Larson said. “That’s the majority of our schedule, so we kind of need to focus the most on that. 1.5-mile tracks are my favorite tracks too. I definitely look forward to going to them every week and I feel like we got better on them throughout the year last year.”
Last season, Larson earned just two top fives and 10 top-10 finishes, down from eight top fives and 17 top 10s in his rookie year. The mile-and-a-halves were tracks that the he really struggled on.
With the exception of the season finale at Homestead, Larson recorded zero top-five finishes. He had six finishes of 25th or worse on the 11 1.5-mile racetracks that marked his average finish down to a disappointing 21.1. With a fifth-place finish at Homestead, in a race that looked like he was going to track down race leader Brad Keselowski before a late-race caution, there is reason for optimism heading into 2016.
If the team could go back to the way it performed in the 2014 season, Larson could qualify for his first Chase this season.
The new aerodynamic package for the 2016 season could play into Larson’s hands. The way that the new setup will be plays into a dirt racers hand, with the way that the car slides around. This is something that he normally runs well in as he has had a lot of experience on dirt. In the two races that it was raced in last year at Kentucky and Darlington, the overall racing was some of the best racing all year long.
“I think the aero package will probably help the mile and-a-half racing the most to which will hopefully help our race team,” Larson said. “I would love to be better on mile-and-a-halves than we were last year.”
The team has made multiple changes over the off-season including the addition of crew chief Chad Johnson. He has been atop the pit box for three-time Cup champion Tony Stewart in the last two seasons which were two of Stewart’s worst years to date. Prior to that, Johnston was the leader for Martin Truex, Jr. at Michael Waltrip Racing, where the two accumulated a lot of success, resulting in only one victory at Sonoma in 2013.
In order for this year to be a success, both cars will need to make the Chase and potentially complete for the first Sprint Cup championship in team history.
Prior to last season, Felix Sabates, co-owner of Chip Ganassi Racing guaranteed that both of his drivers would make the Chase. Though he was wrong, there is reason to believe that this could be the year, especially with the money and resources that Rob Kauffman is bringing in from MWR.
The Energizer Bunny was all charged up on Sunday afternoon.
Entering Richmond International Raceway 11th in points, Jamie McMurray was set to continue the momentum at one of his best tracks since he rejoined Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates. Starting ninth for the Toyota Owners 400 on Sunday afternoon, the No. 1 team stayed inside the top 10 for the entire race.
McMurray’s Chevrolet cracked the top five early in the going, but failed to show enough speed to make ground within the first half of the race. However, after a caution on Lap 170, his car excelled on the long run. Taking the lead momentarily over Kurt Busch a mere 60 laps after the halfway point, he showed how powerful his car was after restarting 30th following a loose lug nut during the competition caution on Lap 50.
“Well, this Energizer Chevy was just good on the long runs,” McMurray said following the race. “It wouldn’t take off real quick, but after 30 laps it was about the same as the leaders. It was so much fun at the end to be that much quicker than those guys. So, it was a lot of fun to get to be the guy that had the speed at the end.”
Finishing fourth, McMurray now has three fourth-place results in the last four races at Richmond. He now sits ninth in the championship standings, which currently gives him a spot inside the Chase for the Sprint Cup.
Working with rookie crew chief Matt McCall, the two have been off to a fast start. Leaving Richmond in 2014, McMurray was 18th in points with Keith Rodden leading the way. Moreover, the chemistry has continued for the new tandem.
Heading into Talladega, McMurray has a pair of top fives, with four top 10s through nine races.
2014 can be summed up in one phrase for Chip Ganassi’s organization: the best of the rest. After missing the Chase for the Sprint Cup with Kyle Larson and Jamie McMurray, they finished 17th and 18th in points, respectively. However, the sub-par finish in the standings certainly does not show the progress this Chevrolet team made in 2014.
After Juan Pablo Montoya announced he was leaving Ganassi for Team Penske’s IndyCar Series team, there were multiple candidates to replace the vacant seat. While plenty of veteran drivers were available, Ganassi selected Larson to pilot the No. 42 car with backing from Target. Although plenty of media members, including myself, had plenty of doubts of Larson’s capabilities in a Sprint Cup Series ride considering he wasn’t able to win a Nationwide Series race in his rookie year in that division, he proved us all wrong in 2014.
The NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Sunoco Rookie of the Year was on pace to make the Chase for the Sprint Cup, and would have finished the year inside of the top-13 in points if it weren’t for the new format. However, that cannot take away from his impressive results, which included a runner-up finish at Auto Club Speedway during the fifth race of the season. He had another second-place finish at Loudon in the fall, but failed to win a race in his first year. With eight top-fives and 17 top-10s, Larson was the strongest Rookie of the Year since Denny Hamlin in 2006.
Getting adjusted to the Cup Series was tough for Larson. But compared to the large rookie class in 2014, he did rather well. Austin Dillon, who brought back the No. 3 car for Richard Childress Racing, entered the season as the favorite to win Rookie of the Year after taking over Kevin Harvick’s ride. Moreover, Larson and crew chief Chris Heroy clicked better than expected, which led to him leading 53 laps, including a season-high of 20 at Chicagoland Speedway in the summer.
McMurray showed just as much, if not more speed than Larson, throughout the 36-race season. The 13-year Sprint Cup Series veteran had seven top-fives and 13 top-10s in 2014, but he led 368 laps. With a best finish of third at Charlotte in October, the No. 1 team was not able to get the job done. They had plenty of speed, and had a solid shot at winning multiple races in 2014, yet his car just lost the handle to it late in events.
A common pattern from McMurray’s cars over the course of the year saw this team start our poorly in a race, then start running top-five laps times, but they fell off in the last 50 or so laps. This was shown at Martinsville, Bristol, Kansas, Chicago and Charlotte. But McMurray just couldn’t seal the deal, and that gave him an average finish of 16.2 on the year.
Crew chief Keith Rodden clearly made a difference for this team. Moving over from Hendrick Motorsports, he took the job at Ganassi after McMurray struggled in 2013 with just nine top-10s. After the team swapped to Hendrick Motorsports engines in 2013, they didn’t have the right aerodynamic package to go along with the upgrade in horse power. However, Rodden brought experience from Hendrick, which ended up being a key difference maker in McMurray’s season.
There is a lot of change going on at Ganassi. Target has opted to put an end to their funding of Tony Kanaan’s IndyCar ride and instead – they are enumerating their money to Larson’s program. This will evidently give a boost to the Cup Series team as a whole, especially since they’ll be receiving a few extra bucks to develop more competitive cars.
The team lost LiftMaster to Kasey Kahne’s No. 5 team, but that’s not all they lost to Hendrick.
After rumors had Kenny Francis moving away from the pit box in 2015, Hendrick recently announced that Rodden will take over as Kahne’s crew chief. The change could have been drastic for the No. 1 team, but Ganassi has signed formed Robert Yates Racing developmental driver Matt McCall to become McMurray’s crew chief. McCall has been racing at the short track level for the past few years, but he became an engineer within Richard Childress Racing.
Although this will be McMurray’s third crew chief in as many years, he is looking to build on the momentum he had from the 2014 season. He’s expected to have one of his strongest years since he joined the team, yet he’s going to have to get a victory early in the year in order to build more confidence, which he was fortunate to have with Heroy.
As for Larson, there is nothing stopping him from getting at least one or two wins in 2015. The soon-to-be father is moving into a new house, and his prestige is on the rise. There won’t be any major changes to his team, and if he makes the Chase, he should be a top contender for the championship.
After rubbing fenders with Carl Edwards, the Mac is back. Jamie McMurray has won his first career NASCAR Sprint All-Star Race on Saturday evening, holding off an extremely hard charging Kevin Harvick.
McMuray led 31 laps en route to his third race at Charlotte (two points paying races and now the All-Star Race). The win is Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates’ first win at the Sprint All-Star Race.
Kyle Busch won the first segment after pole sitter, Carl Edwards, led the first nine laps. Busch was under heat from Jeff Gordon, but was able to hold him off by a half of a second.
Denny Hamlin stayed out after the first round of pit stops while Keselowski, Newman and Kurt Busch took two-tires only, trying to advance from the middle of the pack.
Kasey Kahne won the second segment after Denny Hamlin stacked up the field with a tire going down due to making contact with Greg Biffle while going three-wide on the front stretch.
Strategy came into play as four drivers opted to stay out after the second segment, but only had seven laps on their tires as they attempted to improve their total average finish. However, Kahne was able to win the third segment as well after maneuvering through traffic. Kahne hit the wall in the fourth segment, and said on his radio “"I hit it hard. I blew it bad.” Then, Kahne hit the wall hard at the conclusion of that segment.
“I can’t believe that happened…we had a great car. I blew a right front getting into one,” Kahne radioed into his No. 5 team after the second incident.
Jeff Gordon had “something break” during segment four, causing a fire to erupt from his No. 24 Chevrolet. Martin Truex Jr. had nowhere to go as Greg Biffle and he slammed into one another, ending both of their evenings.
Harvick won the fourth segment after having a hard fought battle with Jamie McMurray, who led 15 laps in that sector of the All-Star Race.
Here are the unofficial results from the Sprint All-Star Race:
1). Jamie McMurray
2). Kevin Harvick
3). Matt Kenseth
4). Dale Earnhardt Jr.
5). Carl Edwards
6). Jimmie Johnson
7). Clint Bowyer
8). Brian Vickers
9). Denny Hamlin
10). Brad Keselowski
11). Kurt Busch
12). Tony Stewart
13). David Ragan
14). Kasey Kahne
15). Josh Wise
16). Ryan Newman
17). Jeff Gordon
18). Martin Truex Jr.
19). Greg Biffle
20). A.J. Allmendinger
21). Kyle Busch
22). Joey Logano