LOUDON, NH - SEPTEMBER 23: Tony Stewart, driver of the #14 Mobil 1 / Office Depot Chevrolet, looks on from the garage during practice for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Sylvania 300 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway on September 23, 2011 in Loudon, New Hampshire. (Photo by Todd Warshaw/Getty Images)

NASCAR At New Hampshire Motor Speedway: Tony Stewart Wins Another Fuel-Mileage Race

Smoke made it two in a row on Sunday, kicking off the 2011 Chase in style.

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Dale Earnhardt Jr. Comments On Sunday's NASCAR New Hampshire Results (Transcript)

Here's what Dale Earnhardt Jr. had to say about his 17th-place finish at New Hampshire Motor Speedway on Sunday (after his televised comments to ESPN). Transcript courtesy of Chevrolet:

HOW FRUSTRATING IS THIS FOR YOU? "I had an awesome car all day. Just pretty frustrating. I want to win here. We've been so good here in a lot of races and would like to win. But, you've got to get up front and we really couldn't accomplish that all day long.

We had a good, quick car and am proud of how we worked on it. Happy about what my guys did. The car they brought and how they worked on the car, everything was seemingly going as planned until we got caught a lap down with Landon (Cassill's) flat tire. Then we had a couple flats ourselves that cost us a couple more spots there. It's frustrating but I was happy with how the car was driving. As a driver, we haven't had that all year."

EIGHTH IN POINTS RIGHT NOW, 26 POINTS BEHIND: "We'll take it right now. It could be worse. We could be sitting in Victory Lane, but we could be out of the Chase altogether. I think having two flat tires, we got pretty lucky today to get home in the top 20."

WERE THE FLAT TIRES A CAMBER ISSUE? "I think it was a camber issue. That is what Steve (Letarte, crew chief) thinks but he'll go back and look at it. I can definitely understand how that could possibly happen. The car got a little bit tighter as the race went on. Just a little bit too tight for the last two runs and pushed the right front off. The car was rolling and turning good but the right front just couldn't last."


What Did Tony Stewart Mean By 'Dead Weight' Comment After NASCAR New Hampshire Win?

Tony Stewart had just climbed from his car after winning Sunday's NASCAR Chase race at New Hampshire Motor Speedway when, out of the blue, he made a cryptic comment to ESPN reporter Vince Welch.

"We got rid of some dead weight earlier this week, so it's made it a lot easier," Stewart said of his team's sudden turnaround. "It's been a big weight lifted off our shoulders. Sometimes you've got to make adjustments in your life, and we did that, and it's definitely helped this weekend for sure."

Clearly, Stewart wasn't just referring to something that happened on the racetrack (like his first win of the season last week at Chicago).

And according to crew chief Darian Grubb, Stewart wasn't talking about any personnel moves related to his Stewart-Haas Racing team, either.

"Not that I know of," Grubb said, then added with a chuckle: "Maybe he's talking about (firing) me and I just don't know it yet."

So what exactly did Stewart mean with his "dead weight" comment?

Don't ask him. He had no intentions of elaborating on his remarks despite bringing up the subject – unprompted – on national television.

"We're just going to leave at that," he said.

When ESPN.com reporter Ed Hinton bravely tried to follow up with Stewart, the driver declined.

"No, you can't ask anything," Stewart said. "It is what it is. That's all it was, is what I said. And that's where we're going to leave it."


NASCAR At New Hampshire: Jimmie Johnson's Struggles Lead To Lowest-Ever Chase Position

There is no doubt defending series champion Jimmie Johnson has been the class of the field over the last 10 races in each of the past five years. Despite the No. 48's struggles throughout the regular season, Johnson and his Chad Knaus-led team have always been able to perform at their best in the Chase and emerge on top. 

Yet this Chase has seen a different side of the No. 48 team in the first two races. After running out of fuel at the end the Chase opener at Chicagoland, Johnson sat eighth in points. Now, after a disappointing day at New Hampshire Motor Speedway, Johnson is 10th in points – the lowest he has ever been in the Chase. 

"We didn't have a car like we thought we would," Johnson said after his 18th-place finish. "Today it just didn't have the speed and track position was so important. Some pit calls didn't work out our way. We'll take this one on the chin and go on to the next one."

Throughout the day, Johnson was aggressive on the track and even confrontational with Knaus on the radio, saying at one point his cheer leading was "annoying" and not helpful.

That aggressiveness almost bit the defending champion late in the race when he made contact multiple times with fellow Chase driver Kyle Busch. Running underneath the No. 18 car, Johnson damaged the right front fender and lost a number of spots in the closing laps.

Johnson believed Busch should have given him a bit more room on the bottom, but said he was "not trying to wreck me, he was just being kind of stubborn" at the end of the race.

"I think track position was really important and he was just racing really hard, which is what he's supposed to do," Johnson said of the incident with Busch, which he called "the end of a bad day." 

Now facing a 29-point deficit to Tony Stewart, Johnson is relying on his team's experience at winning five consecutive championships to get back in contention for his sixth. 

"You've just got to take every race as they come. You never know what's going to happen," he said. "We lost the points lead due to a wreck on the last lap at Talladega and still came back and won. Anything can happen, but things like this aren't what you hope for."


2011 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Standings: Tony Stewart Leads Chase After New Hampshire

No surprise here, but the guy who has won the first two Chase races is atop the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series point standings after Sunday's race at New Hampshire Motor Speedway.

Tony Stewart took over the Chase points lead from Kevin Harvick and now leads Harvick by seven points.

Brad Keselowski continued his late-season success with a runner-up finish and moved up three spots to third in the standings. Carl Edwards and Jeff Gordon round out the top five.

The biggest loser of Sunday's race? Kurt Busch, who fell five spots to ninth.

Here are the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series point standings after two Chase races:

  1. Tony Stewart (up one spot)
  2. Kevin Harvick -7 (down one spot)
  3. Brad Keselowski -11 (up three spots)
  4. Carl Edwards -14 (down one spot)
  5. Jeff Gordon -23 (up six spots)
  6. Kyle Busch -26 (up three spots)
  7. Matt Kenseth -26 (up three spots)
  8. Dale Earnhardt Jr. -26 (down three spots)
  9. Kurt Busch -28 (down five spots)
  10. Jimmie Johnson -29 (down two spots)
  11. Ryan Newman -34 (down four spots)
  12. Denny Hamlin -66 (no change)

NASCAR At New Hampshire Race Results: Tony Stewart Scores Second-Straight Chase Win

In a reversal of last year's Chase race at New Hampshire Motor Speedway, Tony Stewart was able to save enough fuel and capitalize as race leader Clint Bowyer ran out of gas with two laps to go.

"You can take a breath, I've got this," Stewart said on the final lap coming to the win. 

"I know exactly how he feels right now," Stewart said of Bowyer running out of gas. "That's not how you want to win it for sure, but we're in the Chase right now and we'll take them any way we can right now."

Taking the checkered flag for the second week in a row, Stewart opened the 2011 Chase with back-to-back wins to become the points leader – the first driver to do so since Greg Biffle in 2008.

After an impressive performance in the spring, Stewart said he felt this weekend was "a good opportunity" to make gains in the Chase, but admitted "it's way too early to count your chickens."

Here is how they finished (Chase drivers in bold):

  1. Tony Stewart
  2. Brad Keselowski
  3. Greg Biffle
  4. Jeff Gordon
  5. Brian Vickers
  6. Matt Kenseth
  7. David Ragan
  8. Carl Edwards
  9. Juan Pablo Montoya
  10. Regan Smith
  11. Kyle Busch
  12. Kevin Harvick
  13. Jeff Burton
  14. Joey Logano
  15. Kasey Kahne
  16. Martin Truex Jr.
  17. Dale Earnhardt Jr.
  18. Jimmie Johnson
  19. Bobby Labonte
  20. Paul Menard
  21. AJ Allmendinger
  22. Kurt Busch
  23. Jamie McMurray
  24. Mark Martin
  25. Ryan Newman
  26. Clint Bowyer
  27. J.J. Yeley
  28. David Reutiman
  29. Denny Hamlin
  30. Marcos Ambrose
  31. Mike Bliss 
  32. David Gillilandf
  33. Landon Cassill
  34. Andy Lally
  35. Dave Blaney
  36. Joe Nemechek
  37. Michael McDowell
  38. David Stremme
  39. Josh Wise
  40. Robby Gordon
  41. Scott Speed
  42. Casey Mears
  43. Travis Kvapil

NASCAR At New Hampshire: 2011 Start Time, Starting Lineup, TV/Radio Listings And More

It's NASCAR race day at New Hampshire Motor Speedway, and we've got the actual race start time, the starting lineup and some other facts about the Sylvania 300 for you below.

Start time: The command to start engines will be given by a representative from NAFTA at 2:10 p.m. Eastern time. After a few pace laps, the green flag will wave at 2:18 p.m. Eastern. So if you want to skip the pre-race show and just tune in for the race, flip on your TV set at 2:10.

Race name/distance: You'd think the Sylvania 300 would be pretty straightforward – 300 laps around the 1-mile New Hampshire Motor Speedway for a total of 300 miles. But that's not quite the case. Impress your friends by telling them the "Magic Mile" is actually 1.058 miles in length, which means today's race is 317.4 miles – not 300.

TV and radio: ESPN is your place to find the race today and throughout most of the Chase. If you aren't near a TV or can't watch, the radio broadcast can be found on your local Performance Racing Network (PRN) affiliate. Click here to see a list of PRN stations where you can listen.

National anthem: We don't know if this is a good thing or not, but someone named Natalie from the Loudon-based "Natalie Turgeon Band" is singing the national anthem today. Does that sound promising?

Tickets: There are tickets still available for today's race if you want to make a last-minute trip.

Weather: Better than last week – we hope. The unofficial NASCAR weatherman calls the forecast "promising" and says temperatures should be around 81 degrees – and dry! – at the green flag.

Last time: Ryan Newman won the July race at New Hampshire Motor Speedway ahead of team owner Tony Stewart, providing a 1-2 finish for Stewart-Haas Racing. One year ago, Clint Bowyer infamously won the race but was then penalized in the days following.

Starting lineup for today's NASCAR race at New Hampshire Motor Speedway:

  1. Ryan Newman
  2. Kasey Kahne
  3. Brian Vickers
  4. Greg Biffle
  5. Kurt Busch
  6. Kevin Harvick
  7. Jeff Gordon
  8. Kyle Busch
  9. Martin Truex Jr.
  10. Jimmie Johnson
  11. Clint Bowyer
  12. Dale Earnhardt Jr.
  13. AJ Allmendinger
  14. Paul Menard
  15. Bobby Labonte
  16. Regan Smith
  17. Brad Keselowski
  18. Jeff Burton
  19. David Reutimann
  20. Tony Stewart
  21. Dave Blaney
  22. Mark Martin
  23. Carl Edwards
  24. Joey Logano
  25. Jamie McMurray
  26. David Ragan
  27. Matt Kenseth
  28. Denny Hamlin
  29. Marcos Ambrose
  30. Landon Cassill
  31. Juan Pablo Montoya
  32. JJ Yeley
  33. David Gilliland
  34. David Stremme
  35. Michael McDowell
  36. Robby Gordon
  37. Casey Mears
  38. Travis Kvapil
  39. Joe Nemechek
  40. Mike Bliss
  41. Josh Wise
  42. Scott Speed
  43. Andy Lally

NASCAR New Hampshire Starting Lineup: Ryan Newman Wins Pole In Unusual Qualifying Session

Ryan Newman won the pole for Sunday's NASCAR Chase race at New Hampshire Motor Speedway, but did so in one of the most unusual Sprint Cup Series qualifying sessions in memory.

"It was a little dramatic," Newman said with a chuckle. "It's a tough situation, it's a tough call."

Boy, was it ever.

With five cars to go in the session, there was enough drizzle that NASCAR momentarily held up qualifying. A NASCAR official asked Juan Pablo Montoya – the next driver in line – if he wanted to make his lap, but Montoya declined and suggested Jimmie Johnson (who was on deck) go instead.

Johnson refused and said it was Montoya's turn. NASCAR reportedly couldn't find anyone among the five remaining cars willing to give it a try – nor did NASCAR officials put anyone on the five-minute clock – so they brought the jet driers out onto the track.

"Don't blame it on me," Montoya told his team on the radio. "I don't want to be the guinea pig and wreck the car because they think it's dry enough."

With NASCAR's new qualifying rules, those five drivers who hadn't gone had much to lose by attempting a lap. If qualifying was rained out, they'd start in the Nos. 1-5 positions due to speeds in the first practice; make a lap on a slick track, and they might lose 20 or 30 spots.

Therefore, there was no incentive for them to willingly make a lap – though some other drivers wished they would.

Kurt Busch, for example, was sitting third during the rain delay but would have had to start 32nd if qualifying was canceled. He called the situation "quite a predicament."

"Really?" he said. "It's not raining at all. "We need to be qualifying cars."

Countered Johnson during the delay: "You just want a dry racetrack to run on. ... That's all I'm really after."

After seven jet driers took to the track in order to get the racing surface back in favorable conditions, NASCAR sent Montoya out to make his lap.

It didn't go well.

"They know the track is in bad condition," an angry Montoya said afterward. "We got a car that's fast enough to be on the pole, and we're like 27th. It's a frickin' joke!"

Johnson then pulled out to take his lap, but immediately returned to pit road without recording a time because he said it was raining.

NASCAR waited until the sprinkles went away, and then finally sent Johnson out. The five-time champ recorded the seventh-fastest speed at the time.

"I've always wondered what would happen if the drivers didn't think the track was dry enough," Johnson said. "I learned a lot through this process today."

Jeff Gordon, Kasey Kahne and Newman all then went in succession, with Kahne and Newman each recording the fastest times at that point.

"The track conditions were not that bad," Gordon said. "I still wouldn't have wanted to be Juan Pablo (and have to go first after the delay)."

Newman and Kahne will start on the front row for Sunday's race, followed by Brian Vickers, Greg Biffle and Kurt Busch.

Here is the NASCAR starting lineup for New Hampshire Motor Speedway (with where each driver WOULD HAVE had to start if the qualifying session was rained out in parentheses):

  1. Ryan Newman (1)
  2. Kasey Kahne (2)
  3. Brian Vickers (17)
  4. Greg Biffle (13)
  5. Kurt Busch (32)
  6. Kevin Harvick (11)
  7. Jeff Gordon (3)
  8. Kyle Busch (23)
  9. Martin Truex Jr. (16)
  10. Jimmie Johnson (4)
  11. Clint Bowyer (7)
  12. Dale Earnhardt Jr. (20)
  13. AJ Allmendinger (12)
  14. Paul Menard (6)
  15. Bobby Labonte (24)
  16. Regan Smith (18)
  17. Brad Keselowski (15)
  18. Jeff Burton (9)
  19. David Reutimann (10)
  20. Tony Stewart (14)
  21. Dave Blaney (29)
  22. Mark Martin (8)
  23. Carl Edwards (26)
  24. Joey Logano (21)
  25. Jamie McMurray (22)
  26. David Ragan (27)
  27. Matt Kenseth (25)
  28. Denny Hamlin (19)
  29. Marcos Ambrose (39)
  30. Landon Cassill (33)
  31. Juan Pablo Montoya (5)
  32. JJ Yeley (31)
  33. David Gilliland (28)
  34. David Stremme (35)
  35. Michael McDowell (34)
  36. Robby Gordon (41)
  37. Casey Mears (37)
  38. Travis Kvapil (would have failed to qualify)
  39. Joe Nemechek (38)
  40. Mike Bliss (42)
  41. Josh Wise (40)
  42. Scott Speed (36)
  43. Andy Lally (43)
DNQ: Steve Park, T.J. Bell (would have made race)

Denny Hamlin: I'm Still Alive In Chase For The NASCAR Sprint Cup

Denny Hamlin suffered through what he called a "nightmare-type race" on Monday at Chicagoland Speedway and is 12th in points after the first week of the Chase.

Are his championship hopes on life support already?

"Not at this point," he said Friday at New Hampshire Motor Speedway. "I think if we had another bad finish this weekend, I'd say that's probably the case. There's still a lot of crazy racetracks ahead of us where everyone is going to have a bad finish here and there.

"We still have a shot if we get just consistent and find the consistency that we had last year, we'll be fine. We'll run fine."

But therein lies the problem: Hamlin and his No. 11 Joe Gibbs Racing team haven't been anywhere near as consistent as they were last year, when he looked like the championship favorite.

With occasional struggles on pit road, on the track and on restarts, Hamlin is looking for more reliability in every area.

"We've searched for it all year long, to be honest, to try to figure out what it is," he said, "But it's a new thing every two-to-three weeks. When something goes wrong, it's a new problem. It's not something that's reoccurred. I think that we do a good job of correcting our problems, but not necessarily stopping the new ones from coming up."

Going forward, Hamlin said his goal is to "manage expectations." He admitted it was painful knowing his team has "underachieved quite a bit," but he said it was time to man up and not worry about what could go wrong.

"I don't think anyone has huge expectations for us this Chase," he said. "I personally do – and still do."


Tony Stewart At New Hampshire: My Team Never Gave Up Despite Summer Slide

Tony Stewart said his NASCAR team's winning performance at Chicagoland Speedway last week proves "they don't give up."

"We never have," he said Friday in New Hampshire. "We've got a group of guys that no matter how bad it's been this year and how low I've got with it, they've never given up. They've never quit. It defines our organization as far as what our group of people are capable of and they fight to the end."

Stewart didn't share in that belief during portions of the summer – he said at one point that his team would just be taking up a spot in the Chase if they made it – but he regained his confidence in the final weeks leading into the 10-race playoff.

"You feel like unless you've been doing it and been good at it every week, you never feel like you are in the right spot," he said. "I still think we're taking it a week at a time. I don't know that I look at it any further than that. We've had days where we were really good and the next week totally terrible. It shows that you have to take it a week at a time."

But despite his sudden emergence among the title contenders, Stewart said he is's "not worried about how big of a threat (to win the title) I think I am or anybody else thinks we are."

He's simply focused on New Hampshire, and determined to look at the Chase as pieces of a greater puzzle.

For example: What did his performance in Friday's practice tell him?

"We're 14th," he said. "It tells me we aren't quite quick enough to get to 13th and just good enough to be ahead of 15th."


Matt Kenseth Still Bummed About Chicagoland Finish, Penalty From JJ Yeley Push

Matt Kenseth said his penalty for being pushed to the Chicagoland Speedway finish line by JJ Yeley last week was unfortunate, but not unexpected.

NASCAR dropped Kenseth to 21st place (the first car one lap down) because it is against the rules to be pushed by another car on the last lap – even though Kenseth didn't ask to be pushed.

"As soon as you run out (of fuel), the first thing I said on the radio was, ‘Get somebody to push me, get somebody to push me,'" Kenseth said. "And (crew chief) Jimmy (Fennig) is like, ‘You can't be pushed on the last lap.' I was like, ‘Oh yeah, make sure nobody pushes me.'

"So I don't think anybody even got to JJ to ask him. He was just trying to do me a favor, which is really nice of him. A lot of people wouldn't do that."

But the move backfired. Even though Yeley pushed Kenseth on his own, Kenseth was the one who got penalized. And Kenseth said that should be cause for concern.

"What's to stop you at the last race of the year and the guy leading the points runs out of gas, and you get one of your teammates to go push him quick?" Kenseth wondered.

If the points leader was pushed, a penalty might cost that driver the championship. Though NASCAR could penalize the pusher (it didn't in Yeley's case), such a penalty probably wouldn't matter to a non-contender in the last race of the season.

The other complicating factor in the rule is it's legal to push cars around under any other lap except for the final one. So that could help drivers on multi-car teams save fuel under yellow.

"There are a lot of things with this style of racing that could happen," Kenseth said. "I know we don't need more rules now; I don't like more regulations or more rules either, but that's probably something they should think about because it does change the outcome of the race somewhat unfairly."

Kenseth is 10th in points after Chicagoland, but could have been as high as third had he coasted to the finish on his own (Jimmie Johnson ran out of fuel at the white flag and still had enough momentum to finish 10th).

"It's hard, but I guess you just have to forget about it because there's nothing we can do about it now," he said.


NASCAR At New Hampshire: Jimmie Johnson Says Team Needs To Get Better At Fuel-Mileage Races

Five-time defending NASCAR Sprint Cup series champion Jimmie Johnson thought he was good to go to the end of Monday's race at Chicagoland Speedway. Told he would be one lap short of the finish, Johnson was confident he had saved enough gas to make it to the checkered flag. 

That did not happen, however, as Johnson ran out on the final lap and coasted to a disappointing 10th-place finish

"Fuel mileage has never really been a strong suit for us, and it's something we know we need to be better with," he said Friday at New Hampshire Motor Speedway.

"Tires don't fall off like we used to. We don't have cautions like we used to. All of that means two tires, no tires, no cautions and you pit as you can," he continued. "The game certainly has changed over the last year, year-and-a-half, and we need to get a little bit better in those situations."

Despite his marked areas for improvement, Johnson is confident knowing the team is "strong and fast" throughout the course of the race. 

"There is nothing worse than thinking you're in the good, and I come off of (Turn) 4 and I'm like, ‘You've got to be kidding me,'" he said.

Johnson described saving fuel as an "odd situation" but said it becomes more of a "relaxed situation" when other teams are doing the same. The uncertainty arises due to the fact teams do not dedicate large chunks of time in test sessions to fuel mileage.

"Maybe that's an area we should focus on," Johnson said. 

While drivers are not eager to give away their secrets on saving gas, Johnson explained there are a few philosophies on how to conserve fuel inside the cockpit. Johnson said he has about three levels of saving fuel inside the car, based on how animated crew chief Chad Knaus is on the radio.

"Once you get to certain places with the throttle pedal, it's dumping a ton of fuel," he said. "So some say, 'Wide open is short as possible, shut the engine off.' Others say 'Leave the engine on, run half throttle, never get to wide open.' It's tough to science it out."

With fuel-mileage races and strategy becoming more and more prevalent, Johnson believes they will be a factor in determining who will win this year's championship. 

"We'll see fuel mileage play a larger role in the championship than we have in years past," he said, pointing to New Hampshire, Phoenix and Talladega. "We have a lot of tracks with very low tire wear, which will promote fuel saving and fuel-mileage races."


NASCAR At New Hampshire: Dale Earnhardt Jr. Says Team's Qualifying Results Must Improve In Chase

Before he qualified for last week's NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Chicagoland, Dale Earnhardt Jr. pulled out a piece of paper and a pen.

He looked up each of his qualifying results for the 2011 season, and wrote them down all on one sheet. And it was ugly.

With the exception of the restrictor-plate tracks and two good runs at Michigan, every one of Earnhardt Jr.'s qualifying efforts for this year has been outside the top 15. And many have been outside the top 25.

"That's terrible," Earnhardt Jr. said.

So why'd he write all of his qualifying results down? For motivation.

"Just to get 'em right there in front of me," he said. "Just to see how poor we'd been doing."

The way Earnhardt Jr. sees it, qualifying is the "most important" factor keeping him from being one of the top championship contenders right now. Stats back that up: His average starting position of 21.3 is worse than non-Chase drivers like Brian Vickers, Marcos Ambrose and David Reutimann.

Just look at the Chicagoland race, for example: Earnhardt Jr. qualified 19th and worked all race to get toward the front. But at the end of the race, the No. 88 car was really good.

"As good as we ran that last run at Chicago, if we'd had track position all day long, who knows? We might have been able to win that race," Earnhardt Jr. said Friday at New Hampshire Motor Speedway. "Those are opportunities we're letting get by us by how we struggle in qualifying."

Earnhardt Jr. noted there are fundamental changes teams make when they switch from race setup to qualifying trim, including dropping the track bar and adding some wedge.

But in his team's case, the driver said "we don't change a whole lot from the race setup." And that's likely the problem.

"Our approach to that has got to change to get where we can find the speed," he said. "We're not going far enough to try to find the speed in the car. We're lacking...some variable. We need to do something different with one of the variables on the setup. It's probably a really, really simple thing."

During the races themselves, Earnhardt Jr. and crew chief Steve Letarte seemed to lose their touch on getting the cars right throughout the summer, as NASCAR's most popular driver said the feel and comfort he desired from the No. 88 seemed to slip away.

But the comfort level from earlier in the season returned at Chicagoland, which gave Earnhardt Jr. a boost in confidence about his team.

"I'm happy about that," he said. "I trust in Steve and believe in the team. I never have any doubts about what they want to do. ... I'm on board with what we're doing and feel confident that we're all the right pieces of puzzle to make this thing work."


Kyle Busch: Increase In NASCAR Fuel-Mileage Races Because New Car Harder To Spin

Kyle Busch ran out of fuel at Chicagoland and finished 22nd, which was only his third finish outside the top 15 since the Coca-Cola 600.

For a driver who had come into the Chase as the No. 1 seed and one of the favorites to win the title, it was clearly a "disappointing finish," as Busch called it Friday at New Hampshire Motor Speedway.

"Guys were upset," he said. "It's not indicative of how we ran. We just went back to the shop and tried to work on everything that caused us problems."

The Joe Gibbs Racing driver said the team worked on refueling procedures – perhaps a hint the gas tank wasn't as full as it should have been at Chicagoland – and was encouraged by a recent test at the Milwaukee Mile (which is a flat track similar to New Hampshire).

Busch also said the piece of debris that hit his car during the race caused significant damage. He didn't know what it was, he said, but it was "heavy."

"We're ready to get back at it," he said.

Busch, who dropped to ninth in points, was asked if fuel-mileage races such as the one that provided a setback to his Chase hopes at Chicagoland were good for the sport and if there was anything NASCAR could do about them.

His response was the new model Cup cars are "just harder to spin out." Thus, a lack of cautions and more long green-flag runs toward the end of the race.

"The old cars were a lot easier to spin out sometimes, or you'd get underneath the back of somebody and jack 'em up," Busch said. "Unless you want to see more debris cautions at the end of races, really there's no way to fix it. It is what it is. It's just a product of what you got."

Busch noted that even at short-track races, he's seen 125-lap events go green the whole way.

"People say, 'Oh, well, that was a boring race because there was no wrecks,'" he said. "Well, what do you want to see? Do you want to see wrecking or do you want to see racing?"


NASCAR At New Hampshire Motor Speedway: 2011 Chase Weekend Schedule

The first of 10 Chase races is in the books and the series returns to New Hampshire Motor Speedway this weekend for the Sylvania 300. 

While the Sprint Cup Series race will be the main event, the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series will also be hitting the track, while the NASCAR Nationwide Series enjoys a weekend off.

Here is the NASCAR New Hampshire Motor Speedway 2011 Chase weekend schedule (all times Eastern): 


10 a.m. - NASCAR Camping World Truck Series practice (1 hour, 20 minutes)

11:30 a.m. - NASCAR Sprint Cup Series practice (1 hour, 30 minutes)

1:15 p.m. - NASCAR Camping World Truck Series final practice (1 hour, 15 minutes)

3:10 p.m. - NASCAR Sprint Cup Series qualifying (2 laps)


9:40 a.m. - NASCAR Sprint Cup Series practice (50 minutes)

10:40 a.m. - NASCAR Camping World Truck Series qualifying (2 laps)

11:30 a.m. - NASCAR Sprint Cup Series final practice (1 hour)

3 p.m. - NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race (175 laps, 185.15 miles)


2 p.m. - NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race (300 laps, 317.4 miles)

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Please choose a new SB Nation username and password

As part of the new SB Nation launch, prior MT authors will need to choose a new username and password.

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