Blake Shelton is “Bringing Back the Sunshine” for NASCAR

Blake Shelton will once again star in the opening spot for NBC Sports’ coverage of NASCAR’s 2017 season.  The refreshed open, set to Blake’s song “Bringing Back the Sunshine,” will air for the first time this Saturday (7/1) at 7 PM ET, during the Coke Zero 400 from Daytona International Speedway. This will be Shelton’s third season starring in NBC’s opening spot, which features all-new scenes with more than 20 current NASCAR Cup Series drivers. Blake’s opening spot can be seen here.

Jimmy Johnson Claims His Record-Tying Seventh Crown

Ten years after winning his first Sprint Cup title, Jimmie Johnson claimed a record-tying seventh crown on Sunday with a victory in the season-ending Ford EcoBoost 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway. The 41-year-old Hendrick Motorsports driver has matched NASCAR Hall of Famers Dale Earnhardt and Richard Petty with seven championships in NASCAR’s top division. Sunday’s win didn’t come easy for Johnson, who started the race from the rear of the field after forfeiting his Number-14 starting position as the result of an unapproved modification to his Number-48 Chevrolet that was discovered in pre-race inspection.

Johnson stormed past race leader Kyle Larson on the final restart and pulled away from the field over the last three laps to notch his fifth victory of the season – three of which came during the Chase. He beat Larson to the checkered flag by a half-second. Kevin Harvick grabbed third place. Joey Logano, one of the four remaining drivers in title contention entering the weekend, finished fourth with Jamie McMurray completing the top five …

Top-seeded Kyle Busch finished sixth in his bid for back-to-back Sprint Cup championships. Carl Edwards, the other driver in The Championship Four, placed thirty-fourth after crashing late.

Ford Championship Weekend At Homestead-Miami Speedway

Next stop Ford Championship Weekend At Homestead-Miami Speedway which will feature Sunday’s season-ending Ford EcoBoost 400, where NASCAR will crown its sixty-eighth Cup Series champion. The 2016 Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup concludes with the four-hundred- mile event, in which The Championship Four – Kyle Busch, Carl Edwards, Jimmie Johnson and Joey Logano – will vie for the title that goes to the highest-finishing driver in that group … For Johnson, it’s a chance to win what would be a record-tying seventh Cup Series crown that would match Hall of Fame drivers Dale Earnhardt and Richard Petty.

Johnson entered the post-season as only the Number-8 seed but steered his way into title contention with victories in Charlotte and at Martinsville Speedway … Kyle Busch entered the post-season as the Number-1 seed and is bidding to become the first driver with back-to- back Cup Series titles since Johnson strung five in a row together from 2006 through 2010 … Edwards and Logano are still hunting for their first Cup Series crown.

Edwards has finished second twice, in 2008 and 2011. Logano’s best championship finish is fourth two seasons ago.

Next Up: Miami

The 2016 Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup is moving from the Desert Southwest to South Florida for Ford Championship Weekend at Homestead-Miami Speedway.  The season’s final race is here – Sunday’s Ford EcoBoost 400 – with defending series champion Kyle Busch, Carl Edwards, Jimmie Johnson and Joey Logano still in the hunt for the title.  Busch entered this year’s post-season as the Number-1 seed and is bidding to become the first driver with back-to-back Cup Series championships since Johnson put five in a row together from 2006 through 2010.   Busch is the only one of the four top seeds still in title contention.  Brad Keselowski, Denny Hamlin and 2014 champion Kevin Harvick have all been eliminated … Chase participants have won the season finale in Miami in nine of the twelve years it’s been run as part of NASCAR’s “post-season” format.  The non-title contenders to win the Homestead finale during that stretch are Greg Biffle in 2004 and 2006, and Hamlin in 2013.

Logano Advances To The Championship 4

Joey Logano outraced Kyle Busch and survived an overtime finish to win the Can-Am 500 at Phoenix International Raceway to advance to the Championship 4 at Homestead-Miami Speedway next Sunday. Logano and Busch will join Jimmie Johnson and Carl Edwards in Miami as the four divers that will race for the Sprint Cup Series Championship. Busch, Kyle Larson, Kevin Harvick and Kurt Busch rounded out the top five. Matt Kenseth looked as if he was on his way to Victory Lane and a Championship 4 berth when he spun into the wall after contact from Alex Bowman on the first overtime restart setting up the final battle between Logano and Busch. Bowman had the dominant car leading three times for 194 laps but was shuffled back during the incident with Kenseth on the overtime restart. Bowman would finish a disappointing sixth but showed he is capable of competing at the Sprint Cup level while substituting for the injured Dale Earnhardt Jr. this season. Denny Hamlin saw his hopes of getting to run for a title at Homestead go away when pit strategy to stay out late in the race backfired. A series of caution flags cycled Hamlin back and on older tires he wasn’t able to challenge once he dropped in the field. Kenseth, Hamlin, Harvick and Kurt Busch all failed to advance in the Chase. Bowman, Denny Hamlin, Ryan Blaney, Chase Elliott and Paul Menard completed the top 10 finishers. The race was slowed nine times for fifty-three laps and saw eight lead changes among five drivers.



Post-Season Tripleheader At PIR

There are more than one hundred drivers entered across NASCAR’s three national series for this coming weekend’s tripleheader at Phoenix International Raceway.  At this point of the post-season, just three are certain they’ll be racing for a championship the following weekend in Miami.  In the Sprint Cup Series, Carl Edwards and Jimmie Johnson have advanced by virtue of victories in the semifinal round of the Chase.  Six drivers remain in contention for the final two spots, with Kevin Harvick and Kurt Busch – both former champions – likely facing a must-win situation to move on.  In the inaugural Truck Series Chase, Johnny Sauter has swept the first two races in the Round of Six and will seek his first championship next week in Miami.  Five drivers are left to battle for the three other spots.  And in the X-FINITY Series, six drivers are currently in the mix for a berth in The Championship Four that will head to South Florida for the November 19th season finale.

Next Up: Phoenix Int’l Raceway

The 2016 Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup moves from Texas to Arizona, with the final race in the Round of Eight coming up Sunday at Phoenix International Raceway.  The eight-driver field will be trimmed to four following the Can-Am 500.  Chase participants have won this race in ten of the twelve years it’s been run as part of NASCAR’s “post-season” format.  The only non-Chase competitors to win the fall race at P-I-R during that stretch are Kyle Busch in 2005 and Kasey Kahne in 2011.

► Seven of the eight drivers remaining in the semifinal round of the Chase have won a Cup Series race at Phoenix International Raceway: Kurt and Kyle Busch, Carl Edwards, Denny Hamlin, Kevin Harvick, Jimmie Johnson and Matt Kenseth.  Joey Logano’s best finish there is third on two occasions, most recently in this race last year … Dating back to November 2012, Harvick has won six of the last eight races contested at P-I-R – including this year’s first stop on March 13th … So far this fall, all eight post-season races have been won by drivers on the original Chase Grid.  The best finish by a non-Chase competitor is Brian Scott’s runner-up effort at Talladega Superspeedway sixteen days ago, when he finished second to Logano.

Carl Edwards Breaks Joe Gibbs Racing’s Post-Season Winless Streak

AAA TEXAS 500: Carl Edwards applied the brakes to Joe Gibbs Racing’s post-season winless streak Sunday night at Texas Motor Speedway, getting a lightning-fast pit stop from his crew and a timely shower from “Mother Nature” to claim victory and secure a spot in the championship race later this month in Miami.  As an organization, J-G-R’s four drivers – Edwards, Kyle Busch, Denny Hamlin and Matt Kenseth – combined to win eleven of the twenty-six regular-season races but were oh-for-seven in this year’s Chase heading into Sunday’s race.  Rain delayed the start from afternoon to evening and then stopped the race forty-one laps short of its scheduled distance.  In between, Joey Logano and Martin Truex Junior combined to lead 244 laps.  But Edwards’ pit crew gave him four fresh tires and fuel in under twelve seconds on their final stop of the night less than forty laps from the finish.  The Number-19 Toyota was the first car off pit road and it stayed in front the rest of the way to give Edwards his twenty-eighth career victory and fourth on the Fort Worth oval.  Logano grabbed second place after leading a race-high 178 laps.  Truex was third with rookie Chase Elliott and Busch – the Number-1 seed in the Chase – completing the top five.  Pole sitter Austin Dillon led just six laps and was sidelined by an accident late in the race, finishing thirty-seventh in the forty-car field … With the victory, Edwards joins Jimmie Johnson as the first two drivers to clinch berths in The Championship Four.  The six other title contenders will be vying for two remaining spots next weekend at Phoenix International Raceway.

Next Up: Texas Motor Speedway

The 2016 Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup has rolled out of Martinsville, Va., for the twelve hundred-mile trek to Texas Motor Speedway in Fort Worth – site of Sunday’s Triple-A Texas 500.  It’s the second race of the three-week Round of Eight, during which the field of eight remaining title contenders will be trimmed to four.  Chase participants have won this race in ten of the eleven years it’s been run as part of NASCAR’s “post-season” format.  Tony Stewart, in 2006, is the only non-Chase competitor to claim victory in the fall race at T-M-S.

Next Stop Martinsville Speedway

Next stop Martinsville Speedway for Sunday’s Goody’s Fast Relief 500 as the semifinal round of the post-season Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup begins.  The eight remaining title contenders are traveling along a path that will ultimately lead to a championship for one with 1,076 “Miles-2-Miami” left before Ford Championship Weekend in November.   This will be the sixth and final short-track race of the year and the only Chase race to be run on an oval less than one mile in length.  Joe Gibbs Racing has dominated the 2016 short-track schedule with wins in four of the five races run thus far.  Carl Edwards has victories at Richmond International Raceway and Bristol.  Denny Hamlin won last month in Richmond and Kyle Busch was victorious in this year’s first visit to Martinsville on April 3rd.  All four of J-G-R’s Cup Series competitors, including Matt Kenseth, have advanced to the Chase’s Round of Eight … Busch is bidding to become the first driver to sweep both Martinsville races in a single season since Hamlin doubled up in 2010.


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