Showing posts with label RIR. Show all posts
Showing posts with label RIR. Show all posts
Bubble Drivers at Richmond International Raceway

20 Ride

Kick-off your Saturday night NASCAR party on a high-note with 20 RIDE! Making their first appearance at RIR, 20 RIDE will get the show started on the Pre-Race stage prior to the Federated Auto Parts 400 on Saturday, September 12th at 5:50 p.m.

From southern rock, to Caribbean rhythm and sultry bedroom ballads, 20 RIDE talents offer something for everyone, and these good ol' boys from upstate Carolina definitely know how to entertain. We can't wait to see these guys hit the stage and get the fans ready before their favorite drivers walk across the Pre-Race stage.

We were glad to have NASCAR Sprint Cup driver Kasey Kahne visit Richmond today, helping get the word out about Fan Appreciation Weekend and lending out a helping hand in our community. The No. 5 Hendrick driver spent the early afternoon helping out at a Habitat for Humanity site over in Newtowne, hammering and sawing away at a new shed for the property.

Afterwards Kasey took his handyman talents track side, and with the help of some fans put the finishing touches on the "Fan Appreciation Restart Zone" at RIR. The new-look track wall will be just one of the many things fans can expect to see this September for our inaugural Fan Appreciation Weekend.

Even after a day's worth of hard work, Kahne took the time to answer some fan questions with RIR President Dennis Bickmeier on the track. You can check out the it out here below. 

Double Burnout
Even Mother Nature was no match for Kevin Harvick, who raced his way to his second win on the season in the rain-delayed Bass Pro Shops NRA Night Race at Bristol. "We should have won a lot of races this year, but things did not go our way," Harvick said. "We made mistakes or whatever the case may be, (so) to get back into Victory Lane feels good." Apparently it was good enough to share too. After the race, Harvick encouraged fellow driver and team owner Tony Stewart to celebrate Stewart's final race at Bristol. The result? A synchronized burnout to remember. "I really wanted him to ride around that track with me, but that's why he's the boss," said Harvick.

Chris Buescher

After shocking the NASCAR world with a win at Pocono two weeks ago, Chris Buescher continued his meteoric rise into the Chase conversation with a fifth place showing at Bristol. "We're out here to get a championship and to get wins, " Buescher said. "We come to these next handful of races with a great opportunity to make the Chase." The finish put him inside the top-30 in points, and should he protect that standing through Michigan, Darlington and Richmond - we'll see this rookie standing among the field of 16 following the Federated Auto Parts 400 checkered flag.

Elliott Sadler

There's something to be said for stability, and that's exactly what JR Motorsports and XFINITY Series driver Elliott Sadler established Wednesday. Longtime sponsor One Main financial inked a multi-year deal to return with Sadler and the team owned by Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Kelley Earnhardt Miller.  "We are thrilled to continue our partnership with Elliott Sadler and JR Motorsports," said OneMain Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer Bob Hurzeler. "Elliott has been an outstanding ambassador for OneMain and we look forward to our continued success with Elliott and JRM, on and off the track." The Emporia, VA native currently sits atop the XFINITY Series points standings, 51 points ahead of second place Daniel Suarez.

Alex Bowman

Jeff Gordon is out, Alex Bowman is in. With Dale Earnhardt Jr. still working his way back onto the track, Alex Bowman will fill in behind the wheel of the No. 88 this weekend in Michigan. Gordon has filled in for the past four races, while Bowman subbed for Junior at New Hampshire Motor Speedway earlier this season.

If the season ended today, Austin Dillon, Chase Elliott, Jamie McMurray and Ryan Newman would be in, leaving the likes of Trevor Bayne and Kyle Larson on the outside. But with three races left, there's a chance someone could win their way into the Chase. Guess you'll just have to be there to find out.
Ah, the final stretch. Only three races remain before the regular season finale at Richmond, and the Chase bubble grows smaller and smaller as we approach the Federated Auto Parts 400. Less than 20 points separate Kyle Larson (No. 15) from Ryan Blaney (No. 18) in the standings, while Chris Buescher needs to gain one spot in the standings for his win at Pocono to vault him into the Chase. Click the link to look at five drivers whose Chase Bubble is at risk of popping.

A Nice Problem to Have
Furniture Row Racing made headlines a couple weeks ago when they announced their addition of Erik Jones to the Sprint Cup lineup on a one-year deal in 2017, marking the first time the team has fielded more than a single driver (currently home to Martin Truex Jr.). Jones is the reigning NCWTS Champ and sits fourth in the XFINITY Series standing as a rookie for Joe Gibbs Racing. His three wins on the year tops all other XFINITY Series regulars, so it won't come as a surprise that Coach Gibbs already has his eye on a spot for the talented young driver. Also lurking in the wings is Daniel Suarez - who sits second in XFINITY points in his second season in the series. The future is undoubtedly bright for the JGR team, but so is the present. Kyle Busch (four wins), Carl Edwards (two wins), Matt Kenseth (two wins) and Denny Hamlin (two wins) are all locked into the Chase while sitting within the top nine in points. What happens when an unstoppable force meets an immovable object? We can't wait to find out.

Have we mentioned there's only four races left in the NASCAR regular season? And with Bristol and Richmond on the calendar, half of the remaining races will be battled on short tracks. As we head into this weekend's Bass Pro Shops NRA Night Race, FOX Sport's
Whether we’re on your track bucket list, or you’ve been coming here for twenty years, it’s always fun to see the track from a different perspective. Below are a few shots taken from different grandstands, sections, and rows around the track. We’re lucky that you can see pretty much the entire race from anywhere around our ¾ mile D-shaped oval – although we typically recommend above row 10 for the very best view.

Find your perfect seat below:

Old Dominion, Section C Row 16
Old Dominion, Section A Row 28
Starting off in turn 3, the Old Dominion and Colonial sections provide a great view of the backstretch and turns 3 and 4. If you want the best view to watch the cars come off the only straightaway on the track, then this is the area for you. (Plus, the entrance to pit road!) Head in through Gate 70 off the midway for the closest route to your seats.

Colonial, Section A Row 28

Colonial, Section E Row 28
Colonial, section E, is the Family Section presented by Virginia529. No alcohol is permitted in this section, providing the most family-friendly experience for even our littlest NASCAR fans

Sprint, Section E Row 5
Sprint, Section I Row 12

Sprint, Commonwealth, and the Commonwealth Tower all provide an excellent view of the frontstretch, pit road, and start/finish line. These sections are easily accessible through the fronstretch gate or Gate 40, and are the closest to the free parking in Lot D.

Commonwealth, Section B Row 20

Commonwealth, Section H Row 10
Commonwealth, Section H Row 10
Commonwealth Tower, Section O Row 10
If you want to see everything, the best view is from the Commonwealth Tower. (Tip: you can even see the Richmond city skyline if you turn around, away from the track…but only check this out during a caution. You don’t want to miss any in-race action!) 

Veranda, Section C Row 30

Dogwood, Section AA Row 2

Continuing our route clock-wise around the track, the Veranda, Dogwood, and Dogwood Tower grandstands run from the pit road exit to turn 2. Get a perfect view of the race off pit road and turns 1 and 2, where the cars are going the fastest after hauling down the frontstretch. These seats are closest to the Lot F RV lot and tram drop-off from Lots H and J – right through Gate 50 or Gate 40. An insider tip: you can see the whole track from even the lowest rows, as these sections sit up a little higher than the others (roughly ten rows or so).

Dogwood, Section H Row 28

Dogwood, Section L Row 12
Dogwood Tower, Section Q Row 5

Dogwood, Section S Row 15
Denny Hamlin

With his victory in the Cheez-It 355 on Sunday, Hamlin picked up his second trip to Gatorade Victory Lane this season and the first road course win of his 12-year career. Sitting P1 after the race was red-flagged with five laps remaining, the Joe Gibbs driver managed to stave off a run for Martin Truex Jr to earn the checkered flag despite driving through the some of the worst pain he'd ever felt. “We worked on (my back) all day to try to make it better. We really didn’t make it much better,” said Hamlin. “If it was Friday or Saturday, no question I wouldn’t have turned one lap today. This was by far the worst pain‑wise I’ve had to go through.” Yikes, and this is coming from the guy who's raced through ACL tears, previous back problems and knee surgeries.

Joe Gibbs Racing

With Hamlin's win at the Glen, Joe Gibbs Racing has won 10 of the 22 races in 2016. Just how dominant has that been? That win total is the same as the number of wins earned by Penske (five), Stewart-Haas (three) and Hendrick (two) combined. Here's a look back at what has undoubtedly been the summer of JGR.

Kyle Busch is back at it again. After his early exit from the Zippo 200 on Saturday, Busch and his wife Samantha toured the Watkins Glen campgrounds and left a surprise for a couple of his fans. The defending Sprint Cup Champion signed a No. 18 decal a couple of campers had on the side of their RV. "They're not home right now, but they'll have quite a surprise when they come back," Samantha says of the RV owners in the video post. Earlier this year Busch surprised a fan while in traffic leaving Martinsville Speedway, and in the spirit of Fan Appreciation we can definitely get on board with this.
Ashley Miller won a fly away trip to the Federated Auto Parts 400 thanks to RIR and Sprint

My mom, Susan, and I have been watching NASCAR races for the past 15 years. We've been going to Daytona International Speedway in February and July for the past 11 years. We consider our Daytona weekends our mother/daughter time, and always look forward to spending the weekend with each other no matter what it holds -- rain or shine! We also have been to Homestead-Miami Speedway several times, and sat in the rain to watch Tony Stewart win the 2011 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Championship. However, this race season has been a difficult one for us with Tony announcing his retirement. I wanted to go to as many tracks as I could to see him one last time before he puts up his helmet.

I asked my mom last Christmas for tickets to see Tony at another track this year and tried again last month for my birthday. My mom is fighting blood and bone cancer, so she reluctantly told me she couldn't handle it right now because she is much weaker. I understood, but I couldn't pass up the opportunity to see Smoke in his last race of his career. So, I bought her tickets to Homestead-Miami Speedway for Mother's Day. After all we have been through, between the ups and downs, we have remained Smoke fans to the very end. It just wouldn't be right for us to not be there when he takes his final checkered flag of his NASCAR career.

No matter what occurs at the track, we have always built the most wonderful memories. However, I don't think this past Daytona trip will ever be topped! We started the Coke Zero 400 weekend like we normally do, hanging around the Sprint FanZone watching everything from practice to qualifying on Friday. We were on the FanDeck when Tony walked by the garage just underneath us. I screamed "We Love You, Tony" and he looked up, smiled and waved. My day was made. I told my friends and even said to my mom, "OK, we can go back to the hotel now!" Of course, we stuck around and continued our day shopping and watching the NASCAR XFINITY Series race.

Fast forward to Saturday afternoon. We arrived early to sign up for one of the garage tours that fill up so quickly, and then we had some time to kill in the Sprint FanZone. Two Richmond International Raceway staff members approached us there and asked if we had ever been to Richmond before, and if we would like to participate in the first-ever Fan Appreciation contest to win an ultimate trip to RIR in the fall. Of course, I said yes.

We had a couple come sit with us and we talked as the rain continued to fall. That's the great thing about NASCAR fans, they are like long-lost friends you haven't met yet! My mom was worried I wasn't going to be back in time from the garage tour and suggested we give the tickets to our new friends. They were ecstatic as they had tried to sign up and it was already full. They wished us luck and told us we hope you win, and off we went to find the RIR staff.

Well, they must have been good luck because we won! We met Dennis Bickmeier, the President of Richmond International Raceway, who told us we were the Grand Prize winners, and it was an "Oh my gosh, are you really serious right now?" moment followed by some tears and hugs. Dennis was headed to the Daytona Media Center to announce Fan Appreciation Weekend at Richmond and invited us to join him on stage.

It was a bit nerve-wracking looking out at a group of people who had no idea who I was, but were about to tell my story. One question that stuck out was when a man asked me, "Why do you like Tony? What is it about him that makes you like him?" My initial response was, "Do you really want the real story?" I explained to him that in my junior or senior year of high school, I had a group of friends who were into NASCAR. They would come over on the weekends and watch the race at our house, and they told me I had to pick a driver to root for. At that time, I had a big crush on a guy named Tony, so when I heard the name Tony Stewart it stuck with me. From that moment on, I have been a Tony Stewart fan.

Kimberly Meesters with Sprint also was on hand, and she asked me if they were keeping us from doing anything. In my head, I thought "Absolutely nothing!" because this was the coolest thing ever; but I told her we actually have an area we go to every Daytona race to see the drivers en route to the Drivers’ Meeting. Kimberly asked if we had ever attended a Drivers’ Meeting, and I told her we hadn’t. To our surprise, she then invited us to attend the Drivers’ Meeting — and with a great big smile I said, “Sure!”

Before I knew it, the meeting was over and Kimberly flew up out of her chair to grab Tony to come over and meet my mom and me. Dennis and Kimberly explained to him I had won the first Fan Appreciation giveaway, and was excited to see him at the track where he had gotten his first NASCAR Sprint Cup Series win. Tony told us Richmond was his favorite track. We also chatted about the Coke Zero 400 race that night, and how he needed to play it smart to get those nine points. He signed my winning case and our hats, and it was the greatest moment for my mom and me to talk to him and have his undivided attention.

After wishing Tony good luck, we went back to the media center and Kimberly had one more surprise for us. On behalf of Sprint, she told us, our tickets were upgraded to the Daytona 500 Club. This is one of those things my mom and I have said we were going to do one day, just to say we did it. We very graciously accepted, and with a great deal of thanks, we headed to the Daytona 500 Club.

As we settled in at the Club, I assume we looked like we didn't have any idea what we were doing, but the staff was very accommodating and made sure we knew all the ins and outs. We finally had a minute of downtime when I could call my husband and my mom could call my dad, and then we sat back and just enjoyed a Coke. My mom's Coke can had the song lyrics, "A moment like this," and it truly was a moment some people wait a lifetime for. A moment that we just had that might never have been, but everything aligned and it was our moment. We went to the top of the Daytona 500 building to listen to the national anthem and watch the flyover and then took our seats on the start/finish line inside the Daytona 500 Club. We watched the cars race by, pit stops so close it felt like we were in the box with the crew, and a beautiful sunset over the track.

The craziest part is I still get to take another amazing trip to a state and racetrack I've never been. I have a countdown clock going on my phone to let me know how far away our trip is. I can't wait to have another amazing experience with my husband, but I'll probably be just as excited to call my mom and tell her all about it! For now, my awesome fan experiences are coming to a pause, but will soon pick back up again when my husband and I get on a plane to Richmond in September. No matter what happens in Richmond or who wins the 2016 NASCAR Sprint Cup Championship, we will be NASCAR fans. We will probably never have a connection to another drive like we do to Tony, and it will take some time to get used to not seeing him on the track. But we will continue to spend our weekends watching races, and making memories as a mother/daughter racing duo for as many years as we can!

Thank you again from the bottom of my heart to all the staff at Richmond International Raceway and Sprint who made the most amazing weekend for my mother and me. You have no idea how much it meant to us!
Chris Buescher

Mother Nature thowing us an occasional curveball is no surprise, who was leading the field when a heavy fog descended upon Monday's Pennsylvania 400 might be a shock to some. NASCAR rookie Chris Buescher outlasted other cars to take the top spot just before the red flag waved the field to pit roac. It was the first Cup win by a NASCAR rookie since Joey Logano took home the Lenox Industrial Tools 301 trophy in 2009. "It was stressful," said Buescher, who lost a lap because of a pit road speeding penalty on Lap 94 and regained it as the highest-scored lapped car under caution on Lap 109. “I tried not to get my hopes up because I know how these things can play out." But the fog hasn't completely lifted for Buescher yet. The rookie is still on the outside looking in the top 30 in points, sitting six behind David Ragan. "We're in a good spot, and we can definitely make up those six points," Buescher said. "We're going to try and get a lot more than that and be ready when the Chase does start to make sure we can advance as it goes through."

NASCAR Trading Cards

NASCAR and Panini America have collaborated together to release the first line of officially licensed trading cards, which will include stars from the NASCAR Sprint Cup, XFINITY and Camping World Truck Series. "We are excited to bring NASCAR trading cards back into the marketplace," said Mark Warsop, CEO of Panini America. "NASCAR fans are some of the most passionate in all of sport, and we look forward to delivering an assortment of products across a broad range of price points that meet the needs of collectors and race fans alike." You said it Mark, our fans are pretty awesome. So much so we'll be celebrating them all weekend long this September.

Tony Stewart

We remember another driver who missed time early in the season last year, and by all accounts it ended pretty well for him. This season, Tony Stewart is doing his best Kyle Busch impression with a mid-summer tear that's reminded us all he is a three-time Sprint Cup Champion. Going back to his win at Sonoma in late June, Stewart has four top-five finishes in his last six starts. He also is up to 27th in the Sprint Cup point standings. Considering he has five career wins at Watkins Glen International, there's a good chance he'll make another jump in the standings this weekend.

AJ Allmendinger

The Glen's 2.45-mile road course has been a unique twist in the midst of NASCAR's end of season stretch. Throw in the track's recent repave, and there's a chance the Chase point's scramble becomes even more intense after this weekend. Stewart is the track's all-time victories leader, and though his last win came in 2009 - his victory at Sonoma earlier this season shows he's still a threat.  AJ Allmendinger took advantage of his road course background in 2014, when his victory over Marcos Ambrose vaulted him into the only win and Chase berth of his 10-year Cup career. Even Jeff Gordon, who will continue to run the No. 88 in Dale Earnhardt Jr.'s absence, has four career wins at the New York track.  With only three repeat winners in the last decade,  there's a chance this weekend could be one of the most exciting stops on the Road to Richmond.

We're taking look at a pair of teammates who clinched in mid-July after the New Hampshire 301, Kyle Busch and Carl Edwards. There's been some impressive racing by these two members of the Joe Gibbs Racing family, who also had a little sibling rivalry back at Richmond's TOYOTA OWNERS 400. Congrats on the job guys, and we'll look forward to seeing you at Gridside Live! in September.

2016 Rearview
Kyle Busch wasted little time proving his 2015 Sprint Cup Championship was no fluke. Through the season's first 21 races, the reigning champ has four wins, a top-5 finish in over half of his races while leading laps in all but six. How's that for an encore?
2015 Chase
The 2016 Chase didn't exactly start smooth for Busch (37th place finish at Loudon, 20th at Charlotte within first four races). But the ending couldn't have been any sweeter. Four straight top-5's to finish out the Chase, punctuated by taking the checkered flag in Homestead for his first Sprint Cup Championship.

Cup Career at Richmond
Four Wins  |  16 Top-10's  |  6.9 Avg. Finish (best track with min. 10 races)

2016 Rearview
There's something to be said for consistency, and Carl's performance in 2016 is on par with what he's done almost his entire career. In fact, he's already matched his 2015 numbers in wins (two), top-5 finishes (seven) and poles (three) with still 15 races left on the schedule. A good deal of Edward's success can be attributed to the remarkable job he's done in qualifying, posting an average starting position of 7.3 (the best of his career).

2015 Chase
Though he was close on several occasions, Edwards could quite break into the winner's circle during the 2015 Chase. Six top-10 finishes were enough to keep him in contention through Phoenix, but was left on the outside looking in at the Championship Four for the Championship.

Cup Career at Richmond
Two Wins (Including 2015 TOYOTA OWNERS 400)  | 12 Top-10's  |  12.8 Avg. Finish

As the 2016 NASCAR regular season hits the final stretch, eyes turn towards who'll be racing for a NASCAR Sprint Cup Championship come November. We're hoping back on the Road to Richmond to paint the complete Chase picture, examining each driver as they clinch their spot in the 2016 Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup.

Brad Keselowski
Brad Keselowski was the first driver to clinch his spot in the 2016 Chase following his July win at Kentucky.
2016 Rearview
After winning just one race all of last season, Brad's 2016 campaign might be one of the best of his career. With four wins through 20 races, the No. 2 driver is averaging a top-10 finish every time he rolls out onto the track - a testament to his ability considering the number of driver's who've fallen prey to wrecks this season. He's been a spokesman for the new downforce package since it's roll out last season in Darlington, and with the success he's had it's easy to see why.

2015 Chase
Keselowski was half of the Penske equation that dominated most of the 2015 Chase, but a wreck in the Goody's Headache Relief Shot 500 dampened his chances to advance past the round of eight. But that still didn't stop him from leaving his mark on the Championship race in Homestead, leading a race-high 86 laps. 

Cup Career at Richmond
One Win (2014 Federared Auto Parts 400)  |  Five Top-10's  |  15.9 Avg. Finish
Kyle Busch Back at it again

And he's back at it again. It's hard to forget Kyle's scorching 2015 campaign, the one that saw him return from an 11-race absence to pick up five wins and a Sprint Cup Championship. But what he's done through the first 20 races this season might be even more impressive, punctuated by a dominating weekend at the Brickyard - two poles awards, two trips to Gatorade Victory Lane. The sweep means the Joe Gibbs driver has taken the last four NASCAR races at Indy. “It’s so cool because it hasn’t been done before," Busch said of the streak. "I’ve tried and been successful at being able to do a lot of things that others haven’t been able to do before. It helps you and when it helps you win on Sunday, that’s what makes everything so worthwhile on those Saturday races."

Jeff Gordon and Tony Stewart

"I know you want to keep (your last year) on the low down, but I'm sorry buddy - we're in your home state," Jeff Gordon said to fellow NASCAR Champion Tony Stewart at the driver's meeting. "As we've gotten to know each other as friends and competitors over the years, I know what (Indianapolis) means to you...and I think that this is a year not about saying goodbye, but a year about celebrating what you've done." On a weekend where Kyle Busch dominated the competition, these two might've stolen the show. With Gordon filling in for Dale Earnhardt Jr. in the 88 and Tony Stewart returning to his hometown track in his final season, Sunday's race was very important to two of NASCAR's biggest stars. The future Hall of Famers also hooked up for a final lap run after the checkered flag."I knew when we got the checkered you didn't want to come in just yet," Stewart said. "I wanted to run one more lap and Jeff was around us. I couldn't think of a better guy to share that moment with."

Stewart Haas

As the saying goes, there's no time like the present. Turns out the folks over at Setwart-Haas have taken that heart with their decision to field an XFINITY Series team beginning in 2017. “An XFINITY Series team has always been something we would consider when the time was right, and that time is now,” said Stewart, who co-owns SHR with Gene Haas, founder of Haas Automation. “Staying successful in this sport means staying ahead of the curve, and having an XFINITY Series team provides a positive impact with our race team.” Cheers guys! And we're looking forward to watching them whip around the Action Track in next year's ToyotaCare 250 and Virginia529 College Savings 250.

Matt Kenseth Pocono

Mid-Summer Awakening
After a "mini-funk" that saw Joe Gibbs Racing go over two months without sending a driver to Victory Lane, they've now done so in back-to-back weeks for the fourth time this season. We're not necessarily saying history repeats itself, but it's hard not to consider this the beginning of something big for Coach's squad. Consider just a year ago when a JGR driver took home the checkered flag 10 times in a 13-race stretch spanning from late June to September. The upcoming Pennsylvania 400 in Pocono was one of those races, dominated by JGR's Matt Kenseth.
Tony Stewart at Indianapolis Motor Speedway

Alright, alright. We dragged our feet a little bit to embrace this whole Pokemon Go thing, but we've been hooked since checking out our very own PokeStop. While out catching 'em all, it was hard not to notice a few similarities to some guys we're a little more familiar with... 

Carl Edwards - Machoke

It's only logical that NASCAR's preeminent gym rat would draw comparisons to the bodybuilding Pokemon Machoke. Whether he's one-upping Jay Glaser in the gym or speaking for the "Eat Smart, Move More" campaign, a healthy lifestyle has always been important for Edwards. We're not sure who'd win between these two in an arm wrestling competition, but smart money is on Carl when it comes to back flips.

Joey Logano - Jolteon

Starting out as a common Eevee, the right trainer - or team - can quickly evolve this Pokemon into the hardcore Jolteon; one guy you don't want to mess with, if you can help it. Similarly, Joey Logano's work with Team Penske makes him a formidable opponent on the track. While only capturing one (points-eligible) W this year, last year's Chase run was nothing short of intimidating. Bottom line: don't underestimate these two.

Tony Stewart - Charizard

You know what they say, where there's "Smoke" there's fire - so it's easy to see the parallels between Tony Stewart and the fire-breathing Charizard. The future NASCAR Hall of Famer is a legend on and off the track, and well-known for his fiery personality and driving style.

Chase Elliott - Squirtle

One of the most popular rookie drivers, meet one of the most popular "rookie" Pokemon. Aside from Pikachu (don't worry, we'll get to him), Squirtle is a top choice for both new and veteran Pokemon players. Elliott's popularity spans generations, too: NASCAR fans looking for a new driver after Jeff Gordon's retirement were quick choose the new caretaker of the 24 - a strong driver from day one and possibly the best new talent out there.

Dale Earnhardt Jr. - Pikachu

What better comparison for the 13-time reigning "Most Popular Driver" award winner than the Pokemon that everyone chooses? Pikachu is the face of Pokemon, just like Dale Earnhardt Jr. really is the face of NASCAR. This little guy is lightning-quick, loyal, and is the only Pokemon famous enough to have his own brand. Need we say more?

Any other suggestions? Comment below and let us know what you think!

Matt Kenseth

Boom, called it. In last week's Victory Lap, we named Matt Kenseth as the one to watch in New Hampshire, and he sure delivered. The Joe Gibbs driver picked up his second win of the season while also adding to his aquarium with his second straight Loudon the Lobster. “You’re always pleased to be in Victory Lane,” Kenseth said. “The farther down the road you get, the better they feel for sure. Thanks to everybody at Joe Gibbs Racing – I’ve said it a million times, but I’m blessed with this opportunity to be over here with the guys I get to work with and my great sponsors.”

New Hampshire

 The Richmond Times Dispatch's Chris Wilbers made the trek up to Loudon, N.H. for Sunday's race, and color him impressed. The folks hosting the New Hampshire 301 treated Richmond's own to some first-rate, New England hospitality, but while he notes "you can’t go wrong with a road trip to Loudon in late September," he also mentioned there's still a certain short track that gives you a bit more bang for your buck. Click the link above to find out.

Carl Edwards and Kyle Busch

Sunday's action saw quite a bit of movement inside the Chase Grid, including JGR teammates Kyle Busch and Carl Edwards locking in their spot in the field of 16. "With NASCAR, it's our playoff. That's what it's all about," said Coach Joe Gibbs. "It's a thrill for us to be in there. I think the key is, as you continue to work during the year, try and keep your performance up and try and point towards the playoffs." So far 11 drivers have wins on the season, leaving just five playoff spots available on points. Tony Stewart, one of those with a 2016 win, continued his rapid climb in the standings with a second-place finish. It was the future Hall of Famer's fourth top-10 in last five races.

Jeff Gordon

Heeeeeee's Bacccckkkkkk?
Late last week Hendrick Motorsports announced that should Dale Earnhardt Jr. be forced to miss this weekend's race in Indianapolis, the recently retired Jeff Gordon would suit up behind the wheel of the No. 88 in his stead. "I think a lot of us on the team have worked for Jeff throughout his illustrious career at Hendrick Motorsports," said crew chief Greg Ives. "To be able to be part of that one more time would be pretty cool for those who have worked with him in the past, but also for those who've never worked with him." It'd definitely be a new look for the NASCAR legend, who spent his career tied with the now-iconic 24. But if you saw him in the booth at all this season, you know he can sport a "new suit" pretty well. 
Brad Keselowski wins back to back

Back-to-Back Brad
For the third time this season we've seen a driver make back-to-back trips to Gatorade Victory Lane. Brad Keselowski followed up his Coke Zero 400 victory with a win at Kentucky this season, marking the fourth win in 2016 for the Penske driver. "These cars were tough to drive today, but a good tough. This was a hard-fought battle, and I'm really proud of everybody on the 2 crew to get win number four and take that first place." With the victory, the 2014 Federeated Auto Parts winner became the first driver to officially clinch a spot in the 2016 Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup.

Dale Earnhardt Jr and Kasey Kahne

As the weeks keep ticking away, so do the opportunities for drivers to race their way into The Chase. Only eight races remain in the regular season, and with eleven different winners just five Chase spots open through the point system. MRN's Pete Pistone takes a look at some drivers who might be feeling a little extra heat under the summer sun.

Jeb Burton

Richmond-based Estes Express Lines is teaming up with local driver Jeb Burton for two NASCAR XFINITY Series races in 2016. Burton will pilot the No. 98 Estes Ford at Indianapolis Motor Speedway on July 23 and Richmond International Raceway September 9. Estes President and CEO Rob Estes weighed in on the sponsorship. "We're proud of our association with this Virginia native who has gone on to gain national recognition. It's exciting to once again support him as he takes to the track in the No. 98 Estes Ford in Indianapolis and Richmond."

Matt Kenseth

It's been a tumultuous season for Matt Kenseth, who has more laps led (431) than four-time race winner Keselowski (329) - but just two top-5 finishes to show for it. It's been a far cry from his 2015 campaign where only Joey Logano had more wins than his five. However, this weekends contest in New Hampshire might be as good an opportunity as any for the Joe Gibbs Racing driver to even the ship. With two wins and an average finish of 12.7, Loudon is one of Kenseth's stronger tracks on the circuit. Look for the reigning Federated Auto Parts 400 champ to find some stability heading into the season's final stretch.