Wednesday, August 26, 2015

NASCAR National Series Notes during off Sprint Cup Weekend

Denny Hamlin has fared extremely well at Darlington over career.  
NASCAR Sprint Cup Series
Next Race: Bojangles’ Southern 500
The Place: Darlington Raceway
The Date: Sunday, Sept. 6
The Time: 7 p.m. (ET)
TV: NBC, 7 p.m. (ET)
Radio: MRN, SiriusXM Ch. 90
Distance: 501.3 miles (367 laps)

NASCAR XFINITY Series
Next Race: Road America 180 Fired Up by Johnsonville
The Place: Road America
The Date: Saturday, Aug. 29
The Time: 3 p.m. (ET)
TV: NBCSN, 2:30 p.m. (ET)
Radio: MRN, SiriusXM Ch. 90
Distance: 182.16 miles (45 laps)

NASCAR Camping World Truck Series
Next Race: Chevrolet Silverado 250
The Place: Canadian Tire Motorsport Park
The Date: Sunday, Aug. 30
The Time: 1:30 p.m. (ET)
TV: FOX Sports 1, 1 p.m. (ET)
Radio: MRN, SiriusXM Ch. 90
Distance: 157.37 miles (64 laps)

NASCAR SPRINT CUP SERIES

Logano Wins Bristol Night Race For Second Straight Year
The No. 22 Team Penske driver successfully defended his August 2014 Bristol Motor Speedway win, leading 176 laps on his way to Victory Lane in Saturday’s IRWIN Tools Night Race at “The Last Great Colosseum.”

Logano seems to have Bristol figured out. In addition to his two wins at the Tennessee short track, he produced a dominant NASCAR XFINITY Series victory there in March when he led all 300 laps and logged a perfect 150.0 driver rating.

Logano’s win on Sunday was his third of the season and second in three weeks. He is third on the Chase Grid and ranks second to Kevin Harvick in top fives (14) and top 10s (18).

Parallels can be drawn from Logano’s performance right now to the same period of time last year. In 2014, he logged four consecutive top-six finishes going into his win at Bristol and took the momentum into the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup where he won two races and posted a 6.4 average finish on his way to a Championship 4 Round final showing. This season, the 25-year-old Middletown, Connecticut native registered four top-five results in six races prior to his win at Bristol, a stretch that included two runner-ups and a win.

Harvick First Driver Since 1972 With Double-Digit Runner-Up Finishes
As the great Rickie Bobby once said, “If you ain’t first, you’re last.”

Hopefully Kevin Harvick doesn’t agree with the fictitious Wonder Bread car driver’s logic.

The No. 4 Stewart-Haas Racing driver overcame two pit road penalties to log his 10th runner-up showing of the year.  It is only the 10th time a driver amassed double-digit runner-up finishes in a season and the first since Bobby Allison in 1972.

Harvick ranks tied for fifth in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series with two wins, but has dominated every other statistical category. He leads the NSCS in top fives (17) top 10s (21), driver rating (119.7), laps led (1,406/21.4%), average running position (7.5) and average finish (7.5).

Last season, Harvick topped the list in nearly every statistical category except wins entering the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup. Once in NASCAR’s playoffs, he turned his statistical production into victories, winning three races – including the last two events – to walk off with his first career NSCS championship.

2 To Go Until Chase For The NASCAR Sprint Cup
Drivers have just two races left to qualify for the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup – Darlington and Richmond.

As of now, 11 drivers are qualified for NASCAR’s playoffs with wins as long as they start the next two races and remain in the top 30 in points: Jimmie Johnson, Kyle Busch, Matt Kenseth, Kevin Harvick, Joey Logano, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Kurt Busch, Martin Truex Jr., Brad Keselowski, Denny Hamlin and Carl Edwards.

The five remaining drivers on the Chase Grid have to either visit Victory Lane or stay high enough in the points standings where they don’t get bumped by a new winner outside the top 16.

These drivers are Jamie McMurray (76 points above the cutoff line), Ryan Newman (+63), Paul Menard (+54), Jeff Gordon (+52) and Clint Bowyer (+35).

The winless drivers who have won at Darlington in the past and have yet to earn Chase berths this season are Gordon and Greg Biffle.

The winless drivers who have won at Richmond in the past and have yet to earn Chase berths this season are Gordon, Clint Bowyer, Ryan Newman and Tony Stewart.

For the first time, a winless CAN clinch a spot in the Chase. If a repeat driver wins at Darlington, a winless driver would need to have a 45 point lead on the fifth-highest of the winless drivers (or 44 points, depending on tie-breakers).  If there is a new winner, a winless driver would need to lead the fourth-highest winless driver by 45 points (or 44, depending on tie-breakers).

Loop Mania: A Sampling Of The Recent Statistical Leaders
Dating back to Kentucky Speedway in July, Joe Gibbs Racing has won five of the last seven races. The other two were won by Team Penske’s Joey Logano. While the JGR drivers (Kyle Busch, Matt Kenseth, Carl Edwards and Denny Hamlin), Logano and Kevin Harvick have been getting the majority of the hype lately, a closer look at the stats shows that Logano’s Team Penske shopmate Brad Keselowski might be ready to break out.

Laps Led
1.         Kyle Busch | 502
2.         Joey Logano | 337
3.         Brad Keselowski | 213
4.         Kevin Harvick | 181
5.         Matt Kenseth |150

Driver Rating
1.         Kyle Busch | 122.3
2.         Joey Logano | 121.0
3.         Brad Keselowski | 110.8
4.         Kevin Harvick | 110.6
5.         Carl Edwards | 107.5

Average Finish
1.         Joey Logano | 5.3
2.         Brad Keselowski | 6.0
3.         Kyle Busch | 6.4
4.         Carl Edwards | 7.9
5.         Kevin Harvick | 9.0

While he only ranks 14th in points gained all season (666), Carl Edwards looks to be gaining momentum as well.

Hamlin Heating Up At Right Time?
With top-five finishes in his last two starts, Denny Hamlin could be on the verge of a strong run.

The No. 11 Toyota driver proved his ability to navigate through the new Chase format by making the Championship 4 Round last season. Also, he has a track in every round at which he is historically strong. Hamlin has two wins at Loudon (Challenger Round), owns a win at Talladega (Challenger Round) along with the sixth-best driver rating among active drivers at Superspeedways (92.7), boasts five victories at Martinsville (Eliminator 8 Round) and claims two checkered flags at Homestead (Championship 4 Round).

NASCAR XFINITY SERIES

Points Tighten As Dillon Capitalizes On Buescher’s Fuel Mileage Mistake At Bristol
When Chris Buescher’s Roush Fenway Racing Ford faltered on the front row of the green-white-checkered restart last weekend at Bristol Motor Speedway, the points leader faded to an 11th-place finish, as championship contender Ty Dillon motored to a third-place showing, closing the standings lead gap between first and second to 19 points.

Buescher was visibly upset about his finish outside the top 10; his sixth in the last eight races.

“It’s unfortunate. I’m really upset,” Buescher said. “We had the speed, but it wasn’t meant to be.  I’m glad we took the chance. I wouldn’t change it if we could do it over again, but unfortunately it (gamble on fuel) knocked us right out of a top-10 and out of a win.”

Dillon who jumped to second in the standings and closed the points lead gap to 19 sang a different tune.

“This race was an overall great points day for us,” said Ty Dillon after posting his seventh top five of the season and qualifying for the final round of the NASCAR XFINITY Series Dash 4 Cash next week at Darlington.

On Saturday, the series heads to Road America (Plymouth, Wisc.) for the Road America 180 Fired Up by Johnsonville (3 p.m. on NBCSN) - the third and final road course race on the XFINITY Series schedule. Buescher’s slide could continue as he struggled in his only start at Road America last season. He started ninth but finished 18th. Dillon also had a negative place differential at Road America in his series track debut last season starting seventh but finishing 19th.

“Road America is a very difficult and unique road course,” Buescher said. “I love road racing and look forward to the challenge.”

On a high note, Dillon and Buescher are the only two drivers who have top-five finishes in the previous two road course races this season.

Wisconsin Native Paul Menard Moonlighting In XFINITY Series This Weekend
While most of the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series drivers are enjoying their last off weekend of the 2015 season, Eau Claire, Wisconsin native Paul Menard will be strapping into the Richard Childress Racing No. 33 Chevrolet for the Road America 180 Fired Up by Johnsonville on Saturday. 

Menard has made five series starts this season in the No. 33 RCR Chevrolet posting one top five, four top 10s and an average finish of 8.6. His season-to-date driver rating is 107.7.

Menard has made one series start at Road America in 2010, driving for car owner Jack Roush; he started eighth and finished 16th.

Menard’s hometown of Eau Claire is almost four hours (232 miles) northwest from where Road America is located in Plymouth, Wisconsin. 

Odds Are Road America’s Streak Of Different Winners Continues 
In the last five NASCAR XFINITY Series races at Road America there have been five different winners, and since only one of the former winners (Brendan Gaughan) is entered, odds are we will see a sixth this weekend in the Road America 180 Fired Up by Johnsonville.  The odds of a repeat winner this weekend are a 1 in 40 chance or 2.5%-meaning there is a 97.5% chance for a sixth different winner. 

The five former Road America winners are Carl Edwards (2010), Reed Sorenson (2011), Nelson Piquet Jr. (2012), AJ Allmendinger (2013) and Brendan Gaughan (2014).

Two drivers to watch this weekend who might become the sixth different winner at Road America are Chase Elliott and Elliott Sadler.

Chase Elliott is currently third in points and looking for his first win of the season. Elliott has only made one start at Road America (2014), starting 12th and finishing fourth. In 2015, Elliott has an average finish of sixth on road courses – third-best among championship contenders.

Sadler is currently fifth in the points and also looking for his first win of the season. Sadler (9.2) and Gaughan are the only two drivers with more than one start at Road America with an average finish inside the top 10. He has finished ninth at Road America the last two seasons.

Though the odds are against him, don’t count out Gaughan just yet, he can become the first driver to be a repeat winner at Road America this weekend. Among active drivers with more than one start at Road America he has the best average finish (5.0). In three starts at Road America, Gaughan has posted one win (his first XFINITY Series victory) and two top fives.

Sunoco Rookie Update: Suarez’s Hot Streak Continues With Dash 4 Cash Prize
Daniel Suarez is so hot he sizzles these days. Not only does the Monterrey, Mexico native lead the Sunoco Rookie of the Year standings by 27 points over second-place Darrell Wallace Jr., but he also padded his wallet this past weekend when he took home the $100,000 cash prize from the third round of the NASCAR XFINITY Series Dash 4 Cash program. The Dash 4 Cash win automatically qualifies Suarez to compete in the final round of the program at Darlington as well. 

“I didn’t win it (Dash 4 Cash prize), we won it,” Suarez said. “We are a great team. Everyone at Joe Gibbs Racing – all these guys who help to put this program together, I’m very, very thankful for them. All the hard work looks like it’s paying off. I’m very happy.”

In 22 starts this season, Suarez has posted two Coors Light poles, five top fives, 10 top 10s and an average finish of 12.6.

This will be Suarez’s series track debut at Road America this weekend.

Sunoco Rookie of the Year standings following Bristol: Daniel Suarez (232), Darrell Wallace Jr (205), Ross Chastain (159), Cale Conley (141), Harrison Rhodes (125), Peyton Sellers (97), Josh Reaume (55).

Dylan Kwasniewski Making Most Of Obaika Racing Opportunity
The first year team, Obaika Racing, owned by African businessman Victor Obaika has fielded the No. 97 Chevrolet this season with four different drivers – Peyton Sellers, Johanna Long, Josh Reaume and this weekend Dylan Kwasniewski. 

Kwasniewski competed full-time last season for Turner Motorsports but was not resigned for the 2015 season.  Kwasniewski earned his chance at a seat last season with Turner after he became the first driver to win the NASCAR K&N Pro Series West (2012) and East (2013) championships.

Kwasniewski has made two previous starts for Obaika Racing this season posting a best finish of 32nd last weekend at Bristol. He has made one XFINITY Series career start at Road America (last season); he started second but finished 26th. 

Third Time’s A Charm: Road America, Site Of Final Road Course On The Schedule
The third and final road course on the NASCAR XFINITY Series schedule is upon us. The four-mile multi-elevation track holds fourteen turns to challenge the drivers this weekend in the Road America 180 Fired Up by Johnsonville.

The first two road courses have brought lots of action and this weekend is expected to be more of the same. In one lap a driver will experience around 171 feet in elevation changes.

Road America is a track of firsts. Three drivers have posted their first XFINITY Series career Coors Light pole at Road America: Michael McDowell (2011), Nelson Piquet Jr. (2012), and AJ Allmendinger (2013). Three drivers have also posted their first XFINITY Series career win at Road America: Nelson Piquet Jr. (2012), AJ Allmendinger (2013) and Brendan Gaughan (2014).

Qualifying will be very important for the competitors this weekend because three of the five NXS Road America races (60%) have been won from the Coors Light pole. The deepest a Road America winner has started is 12th-place (Reed Sorenson, 2011).  

Road America has a streak of five different winners, as well as five different NXS Coors Light pole winners: Carl Edwards (2010), Michael McDowell (2011), Nelson Piquet Jr. (2012), AJ Allmendinger (2013) and Alex Tagliani (2014).  None of the previous five pole winners are entered this weekend.

NASCAR XFINITY Series Etc.:
NASCAR In Wisconsin – There have been 40 NASCAR national series races (NSCS 1, NXS 24, NCWTS 15) among two tracks (Road America, six races; Milwaukee Mile, 34 races) in the state of Wisconsin. The first time NASCAR competed in Wisconsin was the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Road America in 1956, the event was won by Tim Flock (73.858 mph, 03:29:50). The first NASCAR XFINITY Series race held in Wisconsin was at the Milwaukee Mile in 1984, the event was won by Sam Ard (97.206 mph, 02:03:26). The first race at Road America for the NASCAR XFINITY Series was in 2010 and won by Carl Edwards (68.501 mph, 02:57:17). One-hundred fourteen different drivers have competed in the NASCAR XFINITY Series at Road America, and 52 have participated in more than one race. Brian Scott, Eric McClure and Mike Bliss are the only three drivers who have competed in all five XFINITY Series races at Road America.

Drivers From Wisconsin – A total of 49 drivers have competed in a NASCAR national series race with their home state recorded as Wisconsin. Of the 49 Wisconsin drivers, 30 have competed in the NASCAR XFINITY Series. Of the 30, only five have won in the NASCAR XFINITY Series: Matt Kenseth (29), Scott Wimmer (6), Johnny Sauter (3), Paul Menard (2) and Dick Trickle (2).

Said and Habul Return For JGR – They’re back and ready for Road America. For the third time this season Joe Gibbs Racing has called on the road course skills of veterans Boris Said and Kenny Habul. Said will pilot the No. 54 Toyota and Habul take the wheel of No. 20 Toyota.

Milestones: Chase Elliott will attempt to post his 25th career top-five XFINITY Series finish this weekend. Elliott is currently tied with Dick Trickle, Rob Moroso and Trevor Bayne for 68th on the all-time XFINITY Series top fives list.

NASCAR CAMPING WORLD TRUCK SERIES

Canadian Cruiser: Tagliani To Run Second Career Truck Race At Canadian Tire Motorsport Park
Alex Tagliani – a native of Montreal, Quebec, Canada – hopes to keep the trophy in his home country after he competes in Sunday’s Chevrolet Silverado 250 at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park (1:30 p.m. ET on FOX Sports 1).

Tagliani will pilot the No. 29 Brad Keselowski Racing Ford F-150. Last season’s race at CTMP marked the first and only other time Tagliani drove in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series. He won the Keystone Light Pole Award and finished 16th.

A regular competitor in the NASCAR Canadian Tire Series, Tagliani has one win, four top-five and seven top-10 finishes in seven starts on the northern circuit. The 41-year-old driver took the wheel of Team Penske’s No. 22 in this year’s NASCAR XFINITY Series race at Mid-Ohio and looked to win the event from the pole until Regan Smith bumped him out of the way on the final lap. Tagliani placed second.

Hayley Heads Home
NASCAR draws new international competitors every year. Drivers from outside the United States who have competed in the sanctioning body’s three national touring series this year include Anthony Kumpen (Belgium), Daniel Suarez (Mexico) and Alex Tagliani (Canada). One driver from outside the U.S. racing exclusively in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series is Sunoco Rookie of the Year candidate Cameron Hayley from Calgary, Alberta, Canada.

Hayley, who runs for ThorSport Racing out of Sandusky, Ohio, ranks sixth in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series standings. He will make his second career NCWTS start in Canada when he takes the wheel of his ThorSport Racing Toyota Tundra in Sunday’s Chevrolet Silverado 250 at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park. He placed 11th at CTMP last year.

On the season, Hayley owns three top-five and five top-10 showings in 14 starts with a best finish of fourth (Pocono).

Championship Points Race ‘Jam-Packed’ Entering Great White North
As if it couldn’t get any tighter, the top of the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series championship points standings became jam-packed after last Wednesday’s race at Bristol. Tyler Reddick continues to lead Matt Crafton and Erik Jones, but only by six and seven points, respectively. Jones finished sixth and Crafton placed seventh to slightly close the gap on Reddick who came in eighth at The Last Great Colosseum.

Reddick has never raced at a road course.  Jones started and finished third in his lone start at CTMP, last season. Crafton has finishes of sixth (2014) and 10th (2013) in his two starts at CTMP.

If Reddick or Jones, both 19, were to win the championship, the individual would become the youngest NCWTS title winner in its history, supplanting Austin Dillon, who accomplished the feat in 2011 at the age of 21 years, 6 months and 22 days.

Crafton is chasing his third consecutive NCWTS championship. Last year, he became the first driver to successfully defend a NCWTS title.

Gaulding Gets In Saddle For Kyle Busch Motorsports
NASCAR Next alum Gray Gaulding will pilot the No. 54 Krispy Kreme Toyota in his debut for KBM in Sunday’s Chevrolet Silverado 250 at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park.

Gaulding, 17, posted his career-best start and finish at CTMP last season when he placed fourth from the second position. He has made 10 previous NCWTS starts (one in 2015, nine in 2014). The Colonial Heights, Virginia native is a regular in the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East where he has four top-five and five top-10 finishes in 8 starts this season.

"I'm very excited to be a part of KBM," Gaulding said. "It's a dream as a driver because I remember growing up watching Kyle and how much I wanted to drive for him when he started his own team. I know his mentality is to go out every weekend and win races. It's a championship organization with great people and I know I'll be able to go to the race track and have an opportunity to win at each race."

Wong To Make Camping World Truck Series Debut
Brian Wong will make his NASCAR Camping World Truck Series debut in Sunday’s Chevrolet Silverado 250 at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park, competing for Venturini Motorsports. The 26-year-old Californian is the first-ever Chinese American to score a podium finish in both the TUDOR United Sports Car Series as well as the ARCA Series. Wong has competed in the past in both the NASCAR K&N Pro Series West and NASCAR K&N Pro Series East. In 22 NASCAR K&N Pro Series West/East starts, Wong claims two top-five and six top-10 finishes.

Will Another NASCAR Next Member/Alum Win At Canadian Tire Motorsport Park?
NASCAR Next drivers have taken a liking to Canadian Tire Motorsport Park. Both NASCAR Camping World Truck Series races have been won by NASCAR Next members / alumni (Chase Elliott, 2013; Ryan Blaney, 2014).

Since drivers under 18 years old can compete on road courses and tracks of 1.25 miles or less, NASCAR Next member Cole Custer and NASCAR Next alum Gray Gaulding (both 17) join current NASCAR Next member John Hunter Nemechek and NASCAR Next alumni Erik Jones, Cameron Hayley and Ben Kennedy as Chevrolet Silverado 250 entrants.

All six drivers raced at CTMP for the first time last season: Jones (third-place finish), Gaulding (fourth), Custer (ninth), Hayley (11th), Kennedy (15th), Nemechek (25th).

Nemechek is coming off a career-best third-place finish at Bristol.

Daniel Hemric – Truck Series’ Model Of Consistency
A light bulb must’ve clicked on for Daniel Hemric at Dover. Beginning at the Monster Mile, Hemric has logged top-10 finishes in eight of the last nine NASCAR Camping World Truck Series races. Bookending the span are two fourth-place showings – Hemric’s two career-best finishes. Prior to his current run, Hemric had just one top-10 finish (10 at Kansas) in the first eight races. The 24-year-old Kannapolis, North Carolina native has ascended from 10th in the NCWTS standings prior to the Dover race all the way up to fifth. Hemric will go for his fifth consecutive top 10 in Sunday’s Chevrolet Silverado 250 at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park. He has never competed on a road course in a NASCAR national series, but showed adaptability by finishing fifth at Eldora in his first time racing on dirt.

Dramatic Finishes Highlight First Two Truck Races In Canada
It’s not “Guiding Light” or “As the World Turns” but fans are more than likely to witness high-octane drama in Sunday’s Chevrolet Silverado 250 at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park.

Both of the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series races at CTMP (2013-14) have featured dramatic finishes. In 2013, Chase Elliott became the youngest winner in NASCAR national series history (a record that has since been broken twice) when he dumped Ty Dillon on the final lap to visit Victory Lane. Last year, Ryan Blaney and German Quiroga each passed each other on the final lap as Blaney edged out Quiroga by a mere 0.49 seconds.

- NASCAR

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