Wednesday, October 16, 2019

Truex is feeling the good vibes

Martin Truex Jr. swept 2017 season at Kansas.
After another so-so outing at the Talladega big track on Monday, Martin Truex Jr. must be eager to head West. The 2017 champion is the only driver in history to sweep a season’s races at Kansas Speedway (2017) and then he finished runner-up in the very next race – a three-race streak of excellence unmatched in the track’s 19-year history.

Eight of his nine top-10 finishes have been fifth-place or better. He was fifth in this Playoff race last year and 19th here at Kansas this May.

Truex is already the winningest driver of the 2019 season with six victories – including two in the Playoffs (at Las Vegas and Richmond, Va.). He’s second in the championship standings – eight points behind Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Denny Hamlin.

He salvaged a 26th-place finish at Talladega after his No. 19 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota suffered crash damage. Prior to that his worst finish in four Playoff races was a seventh place at the Charlotte ROVAL. He was runner-up at Dover. a week ago.

Truex won the 2017 title with a career best eight-wins and finished runner-up to Joey Logano last year. Seven-time Cup champion Jimmie Johnson is the only active driver to earn more than one title.

“We’re pretty happy where we are in the Playoffs now that we’re through Talladega,’’ Truex said. “We knew that would be a wild card for us, but we’re confident we can go everywhere else and be competitive and have a shot to win.

“That starts this week in Kansas. We know what we need to do to move on to the next round, but we’d also like to add more Playoff points if that opportunity presents itself.’’

Hamlin’s luck has changed quickly

Denny Hamlin is 5/1 to win 2019 Cup Title.
Denny Hamlin’s measured and motivated run to a career first Monster Energy NASCAR Cup title remains on course after a dramatic but satisfying third-place finish on the unpredictable Talladega Superspeedway high banks Monday. It was his third top five in five Playoff races this season and was especially impressive considering Hamlin started last in the Talladega field after an engine problem in qualifying.

It brings Hamlin’s top-five total this season to 16 – a career-high mark. He has 20 top-10 finishes meaning 80 percent of the time he’s in the top 10, it’s a top-five performance.

His place atop the series points standings – eight points up on his Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Martin Truex Jr. – is his best standing of the season and undoubtedly has fed the confidence of this popular driver, who is an annual championship favorite. Seven times in his 14-year fulltime Cup career, Hamlin has finished sixth or better in the title chase. He was a career best runner-up to Jimmie Johnson in 2010 and twice has finished third in the championship, including a headline-making 2006 rookie campaign.

The driver of the No. 11 JGR Toyota is a former Kansas Speedway winner, earning the trophy in Spring, 2012. Since then he’s been especially good in the Fall Playoff races – finishing runner-up in 2015 and fifth in 2017. The track has been hit-or-miss statistic-wise for Hamlin. He has two top 10s – both fifth-place finishes – in the last seven races. He was 16th this May and 14th in this race last October.

Elliott needs a strong performance at Kansas

Chase Elliott is 6/1 to win at Kansas.
Chase Elliott arrives at Kansas Speedway this weekend as defending winner of Sunday’s Hollywood Casino 400 (2:30 p.m. ET on NBC, MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio) and all the good juju that past achievement conjures will be welcomed with wide-open arms.

Thanks to an impressive rally through an afternoon of multi-car crashes and tough luck that targeted every Playoff driver, Elliott finished a solid eighth-place at Talladega (Ala.) Superspeedway’s rain-delayed finish on Monday. It wasn’t quite enough points-wise to overcome an engine failure and 38th-place finish at Dover a week earlier, so the sport’s reigning Most Popular Driver remains in a precarious points position heading to one of his best tracks this week.

After two races of the three races making up this Playoff round, Elliott is ranked 10th among the 12 Playoff drivers. Only the top eight advance with championship eligibility after Sunday’s checkered flag. Elliott trails eighth-place Joey Logano by 22 points.

The good news for Elliott is that Kansas has traditionally been one of his better tracks. He has four top-10 and three top-five finishes in seven starts there including the win last year. He’s finished fourth or better in three of the last four races – leading a combined 89 laps in the last two races.

Although glad to rally for a top-10 finish in Monday’s Talladega race, Elliott fully recognizes that his 2019 championship aspirations ultimately depend on how he fares at Kansas.

“You have to have the mindset to go out there and control what we can control and do everything we can to get a win,’’ Elliott said. “That’s all we can do.’’

Kevin Harvick is 9/2 co-favorite to win at Kansas

$3 Little John with a Side of Victory and Playoff Advancement

Kevin Harvick led the most laps in the May Kansas race.
KANNAPOLIS, North Carolina (Oct. 16, 2019) – There are 36 points-paying races on the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series calendar, and there are four that are heavy on importance – the fall races at the Charlotte (N.C.) Motor Speedway roval, Kansas Speedway in Kansas City, ISM Raceway near Phoenix, and Homestead-Miami Speedway.

There first three are the cutoff races as the NASCAR playoffs go from 16 drivers down to 12, then to eight and finally four at Homestead.

Currently, there are 12 drivers left in playoffs contention and, this week, the series hits Kansas Speedway for the second cutoff race where, at its conclusion, only eight drivers will still be in the playoffs. Kyle Larson and Ryan Blaney are locked into the final eight via their wins at Dover (Del.) International Speedway and Talladega (Ala.) Superspeedway the past two weekends.

Kevin Harvick, driver of the No. 4 Jimmy John’s 3 Dollar Little John Ford Mustang for Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR), is sixth in points with 3,094 markers, 36 ahead of the eighth-place cutoff. All that said, Harvick would prefer just to win Kansas to lock himself in and give the team a little momentum. And he is good at Kansas.

In the spring of 2018, Harvick started on the pole, led 79 laps and went on to win the 400-mile race. He has a series-high five poles, three wins, three second-place finishes, eight top-threes, 14 top-10s and has led a total of 855 laps in his 27 career NASCAR Cup Series starts at Kansas.

His lap of 27.304 seconds at 197.773 mph on Oct. 3, 2014 during qualifying for the Hollywood Casino 400 set the Kansas track record that has yet to be broken. In fact, it was his own track record he broke at the 1.5-mile oval that day, bettering his previous mark of 27.799 seconds at 194.658 mph set on May 9, 2014.

He’ll also have the support of longtime sponsor Jimmy John’s, one of America’s fastest-growing sandwich franchises, which has introduced the Little John – a skinny mini version of any of its seven Original sandwiches, including the Vito®, the Turkey Tom®, and the J.J.B.L.T.® – for just $3.

The $3 Little John is an unrivaled value option and is made the same Freaky Fresh® way as all Jimmy John’s sandwiches, with all-natural meats, hand-sliced veggies, and fresh-baked bread, just a little “littler.” Its price, quality, and size make it the perfect sandwich for just about anything, from feeding a car full of hungry kids to a lighter work lunch, to a mid-afternoon snack, or even fueling a late-night gaming session.

The $3 Little John is available at participating Jimmy John’s locations across the country and for delivery by a Jimmy John’s delivery driver or rider and will be supported by a national advertising campaign featuring Grammy-winning recording artist, Lil Jon – for obvious reasons.

Harvick is hoping he can take the 3 Dollar Little John to victory lane – and also lock himself into the Round of 8.
KEVIN HARVICK, Driver of the No. 4 Jimmy John’s 3 Dollar Little John Ford Mustang for Stewart-Haas Racing: 
Kurt Busch, Ryan Newman and you are the only drivers to start all 27 races at Kansas Speedway. You’ve been racing there since 2001. Can you talk about the track as it approaches its 20-year anniversary?

“It makes you feel old (laughs). I did one of the first PR days at Kansas Speedway when it first opened and there was not one single thing around that racetrack other than the highway. So to see what’s been built has been neat to see and how it’s all developed and how it’s all changed. It’s a fun racetrack because there is just so much to do around the racetrack and it’s been a successful racetrack for us.”

Why have you been so successful there recently?

“I don’t really know. It’s a racetrack where I’ve won a couple races at and for whatever reason it just kind of fits my style and what we do with the cars. We’ve had a lot of good racecars there to capitalize on the good characteristics that fall into my driving style and we’ve been able to have some good results with it.”

Take us on a lap around Kansas.

“It’s definitely a little bit different just for the fact the (corner) entries are a little different than at most places. Turns three and four remind me of turns three and four at Chicagoland Speedway, but there’s a lot more grip and fresher asphalt than what Chicagoland has nowadays. It’s a very high-speed racetrack. You run the middle to the bottom of the racetrack. But I’m sure, as time goes on, that the groove will move back up. But, for right now, it’s very fast and very sensitive to your line and, with all the speed and how tricky the entrance is into turn one, you can miss your line easily. So, you have to be very specific about where you put your car and pay attention to what you’re doing.”

Kyle Busch is 5/1 to win 2019 Hollywood Casino 400 at Kansas

One Sweet Costume at Kansas

HUNTERSVILLE, North Carolina (Oct. 16, 2019) – It’s October and, as usual this time of year, M&M’S has brought back its Halloween-themed No. 18 M&M’S Toyota for driver Kyle Busch during the next two Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series races – this weekend at Kansas Speedway in Kansas City and the following weekend at Martinsville (Va.) Speedway – during one of M&M’S busiest seasons.

Busch and his two-race M&M’S themed Halloween costume head to this weekend’s Hollywood Casino 400 at Kansas hoping to lock in his spot to the Round of 8 of this year’s NASCAR Cup Series playoffs. And for his part, Kansas hasn’t been nearly as spooky over the course of the last 10 races, as opposed to a vastly stark record over the course of his first 13 starts at the 1.5-mile oval, where he had eight finishes of 20th or worse.
With those finishes earlier in this career at Kansas in mind, Busch and his M&M’S Halloween team can look to the turning point being in April 2014 race there where they started from scratch with a brand new car. They attacked the track in the Heartland of America with hope that a fresh outlook would produce vastly different results. While a pit-road speeding penalty cost them precious track position and an even better finish in the race, the result of 15th was still much different than the three previous trips. They began to turn the corner in terms of competitiveness and results.

Starting with the October 2014 Kansas Cup Series race, Busch brought home his first-ever top-five finish at the track. Anyone who has ever followed Busch’s career knows the 2015 Cup Series champion never cared much for moral victories. However, the momentum carried over from the October 2014 top-five to his next Kansas race in October 2015, when he finished a solid third. It was a finish that helped vault him through to the next round of the Cup Series playoffs and eventually to the championship stage.

Busch has kept making strides each time he goes back to Kansas. He broke through for his first Cup Series win at the 1.5-mile oval in May 2016 as the surface finally started to wear and become more agreeable to Busch’s driving style. He now has eight top-10 finishes over the course of his last 10 starts there, a streak that at one point included five consecutive top-five finishes.

Sunday afternoon in Kansas, Busch and the M&M’S Halloween team will look to tackle the final race of the Round of 12 of the 2019 playoffs. Busch has a 41-point advantage over the all-important cutoff spot for the Round of 8, a gap he hopes to keep in order to make it through to the next round. The Las Vegas native hopes for two strong finishes in the first two stages, along with a solid result in Sunday’s Hollywood Casino 400 to make his advancement to the next round.

So, as the Cup Series heads to the Heartland of America Sunday, another solid finish at Kansas could be just what Busch needs to move on to the next playoff round. With Halloween fast approaching, Busch and his colorful M&M’S Halloween Toyota hope to take their costume to victory lane at Kansas.
KYLE BUSCH, Driver of the No. 18 M&M'S  Halloween Toyota Camry for Joe Gibbs Racing: 
Are you looking forward to racing at Kansas more now that you’ve won there?

“I am. Also, it was – even the last few times before we won there a few years ago, we’ve had some really strong runs there. We finished in the top-10 a lot there over the last 10 races or so. We seem to have gotten a setup or a hold of this place I’d say and hopefully we don’t screw that up this time around and we can continue our strong runs and our fast pace of being able to have a shot to win. Looking forward to getting back in our M&M’S Halloween scheme and get them a win in a car that always look great every year.”

Do you expect to see more aggression in the Playoffs as it gets closer to the end of the season?

“Yeah, I guess I would imagine some of that, sure. Everybody goes for broke and tries to move people out of the way and get what they can get on restarts. It’s always kind of chaotic in that regard. It is because as soon as the restarts are done and you kind of get three, four, five, six laps gone after a restart then that’s kind of where you ride. It’s really tough to pass for the next 40 until cars start to fall off and tires start to wear out a little bit. It’s certainly a different game then what it’s been in years past. In years past, you could kind of take it easy on restarts a little bit and let everything kind of formulate and single-file out some and then you could pick your way up through there.”

Talk about this weekend at Kansas Speedway and your expectations on the track.

“Kansas has been a good place to come for our sport. You know the crowd, the reception, the racetrack, the community has really built up around the racetrack there over the last 10 years, or so. It’s been a lot of fun to see all that happen and I’m looking forward to the race. It’s been a great racetrack for us, lately. We’ve had some good runs there once the track aged. We’ve kind of seemed to maybe have figured out the place a little bit better. And, you know, we’re looking forward to the opportunity of being able to go out there and hopefully get ourselves with our M&M’s Halloween Camry in victory lane."

How much does the racetrack at Kansas change from the night race in the spring to the day race in the fall? 

“For me, it behaved a lot the last couple of years, but we’ll see with what this package brings as far as changes from the night race this year. The night race, it just seemed like you had grip the entire run. You could really abuse the car and abuse the tires and everything just kind of stayed with you. But then, in the fall race when it was sunny and warmer out, you really had to take care of your tires and kind of keep the heat out of them so you weren’t sliding around as much and then falling back on the longer run.”

Kansas had been a frustrating place for you during your career, but have you and your team turned the corner there?

“I think so. We ran third there in the fall of 2014. I wasn’t there in the spring race of 2015 since that was the last race I was recovering from my injury, but (Erik) Jones ran up front until he ended up wrecking. The last several races there, the track really has started to change and the groove is starting to spread out, and it makes me more comfortable when a track gets worn in. Adam and the guys have been bringing really good racecars to the track every weekend and, when you have great cars and run up front, good things are going to happen.”

Daniel Suarez is 80/1 to win 2019 Hollywood Casino 400

A Return to the Midwest

KANNAPOLIS, North Carolina (Oct. 16, 2019) – Daniel Suárez and the No. 41 ARRIS Mustang team for Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR) venture to Kansas Speedway in Kansas for Sunday’s Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Hollywood Casino 400. Suárez will pilot the orange-and-black ARRIS colors for this weekend’s event, the final race of the season with ARRIS as the primary livery.
ARRIS has been involved with NASCAR since 2014 and is responsible for the most comprehensive Wi-Fi deployment in series history at Daytona (Fla.) International Speedway. The company announced the first CBRS Private LTE network deployment at the newly renovated ISM Raceway near Phoenix. ARRIS also powers the communication between NASCAR drivers and their teams through its SURFboard SB6183® modem and E600® Converged Edge Router with integration and support from its global services team.
Suárez goes to Kansas after finishing 32nd Monday at Talladega (Ala.) Superspeedway. The rain-delayed event was completed Monday after it was halted Sunday with only one stage complete. Suárez was able to dodge all accidents until late in the race. Unfortunately, his day ended prematurely after damage to the No. 41 machine forced him to pull into the garage with 20 laps remaining.
The Mexico native has five Cup Series starts at Kansas with a best finish of seventh earned in his first start – May 2017. He has an average start of 15.2 and an average finish of 21.8 at the 1.5-mile track. In this year’s May race at Kansas, the 27-year-old ended up with a 14th-place result.  

In addition to his Cup Series starts, the Ford driver has two starts in the NASCAR Xfinity Series with top-10 finishes in both. He’s also made one NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series start in May 2015 and earned a sixth-place finish along with leading one lap. Finally, he made an ARCA Racing Series start from the pole position in October 2015 and led 15 laps before an accident ended his day prematurely.
A new addition on Suárez’s No. 41 Mustang for this weekend is Hy-Vee as an associate sponsor. Hy-Vee is an employee-owned company that operates more than 260 retail stores across eight Midwestern states. The supermarket chain is known for its quality, variety, convenience, culinary expertise and superior customer service. The company’s more than 83,000 employees will be pulling for Suárez as he chases his first Cup Series win Sunday.
At Kansas, SHR has three wins with Kevin Harvick earning two – May 2018 and October 2016 –  and team co-owner Tony Stewart winning in October 2009.
The ARRIS driver is 18th in the driver standings with 744 points and has three top-fives and 10 top-10s this season, along with 135 laps led. He has an average start of 14.7 and an average finish of 16.0. He earned his second career Cup Series pole, first with the No. 41 team, in July at Kentucky Speedway in Sparta.

Daniel Suárez: Driver of the No. 41 ARRIS Ford Mustang for Stewart-Haas Racing:
How has your adjustment been so far this year? You’ve been behind the wheel of the Mustang for almost the whole season now.
“It has been very good, but it has definitely been a transition. So many things changed – engineers, crew chief.  We’ve had some very good races and a couple of not-so-good races. We have very high expectations, though. I feel like the team is working very hard to bring very fast cars to the track, but we have to keep pushing. We still have to work extremely hard to try and make things happen.”
Do you have any thoughts on the Next Gen car?
“I don’t, yet. I saw that Austin Dillon tested it last week. I have so much to focus on here with the current Cup Series car and finishing the season out strong that I haven’t put much thought into the new car.”

Tuesday, October 15, 2019

Clint Bowyer is 30/1 to at home track in Kansas

Hoping Kansas Home Cooking Helps Continue Playoff Run

KANNAPOLIS, North Carolina (Oct. 15, 2019) – If fan support is any advantage, then No. 14 DEKALB Mustang Ford for Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR) driver Clint Bowyer has a strong chance to be one of the eight drivers to advance to the next round of the NASCAR Monster Energy Cup Series playoffs after Sunday’s 400-mile race at Kansas Speedway in Kansas City.

Bowyer is a native of Emporia, Kansas, a town of 25,000 people about 110 miles from Kansas Speedway. He rightly calls the 1.5-mile oval his home track. Many in the stands will cheer for the SHR driver.

“This is where is all began for me,” said Bowyer, who made his 500th Cup Series start in Talladega (Ala.) Superspeedway last Sunday. “These people in the stands are the people who saw me race at Lakeside and I-70 Speedways growing up. A lot of them were the ones who helped me get my start. Back then, I was out there with them at Kansas Speedway watching the NASCAR race.”

Between family, friends and sponsor commitments, Bowyer has his typically full agenda when he returns to Kansas this weekend.

“It’s always fun to go home,” he said. “It’s always busy to go home. Going back to Kansas Speedway, you have so many people who have made a difference and got you to where you are, you owe it to them, just like you did when they were helping you on that racecar, to go see them. To see how they’re doing, see their kids, now. Things have changed a lot since I’ve moved away and moved to North Carolina and got into this Cup racing. But, to be able to go back and see family, friends, peers, people I used to race with, businesses that used to sponsor you, it’s important to me to go back and see all of those.”

Bowyer has work to do this weekend after winning Stage 2 and finishing 23rd Monday at Talladega. The performance put Bowyer in 11th place, just 24 points behind the eighth and final cutoff position for those drivers advancing out of the Round of 12 that ends Sunday in Kansas.  

“We know what we have to do this weekend,” he said. “We need to get stage points, a great finish and maybe even a win. We finished fifth here in May, we just have to do a few spots better this weekend.”

Like last year, Bowyer will drive the No. 14 DEKALB Ford in Kansas. DEKALB has been helping farmers ensure a future of performance with industry-leading corn seed products for more than 100 years.

Bowyer and DEKALB® brand corn are teaming up to help students cross their “finish line” with the new Left Turns for Learning agricultural scholarship. The scholarship amount will be determined by the number of laps Bowyer completes in the No. 14 DEKALB Ford. The Left Turns for Learning Scholarship was created by DEKALB and Asgrow to help students achieve their goals and advance the agriculture industry by focusing on performance. And while driving a purpose-built racecar that puts out more than 850 horsepower is his day job, Bowyer is also a farmer in North Carolina who understands the importance of agriculture in America.

“There’s nothing better than taking the No. 14 DEKALB Ford Mustang to the track to directly benefit ag students,” Bowyer said. “DEKALB is a consistently high-performing brand, so it’s an honor to work with category leaders dedicated to performance, technology and helping current and future farmers succeed.”

Eligible FFA high school seniors and college freshmen, sophomores or juniors pursuing an ag-related degree can apply for the scholarship November 1, 2019 through January 15, 2020 by visiting the National FFA website at The scholarship winner will be notified by FFA in April 2020. Visit for more info and follow the conversation with #LeftTurns4Learning #GoClintGo.

Bowyer wouldn’t mind a good showing in front of the home folks in Kansas that boosts himself into the Round of 8, as well as adding to the coffers of a worthy scholarship fund.

Clint Bowyer, Driver of the No. 14 DEKALB Ford Mustang for Stewart-Haas Racing:
It seems like you have been on the bubble for 10 weeks. How do you keep it from becoming overwhelming?
“Everybody has strong suits and I know that. I know that’s one good thing I have – you can keep it serious and keep it down to business and stay focused, but you’ve got to make sure you keep it light-hearted and make sure the people around you are having fun and not freaking out because nobody can make sound decisions, whether it’s in the car or on the box or in the pit stall changing those tires as fast as those guys have to do it. Nobody can work under that pressure if they’re mentally not in a good place and on the positive side of that.”

Do you enjoy the playoffs? 
“I like this time of year. It comes at a good time for me, not that I’m burned out, but I’m just tired of chasing that same old rabbit. The rabbit is damn near dead. We need a new rabbit and, when the playoffs start, you’ve got a new rabbit and it’s shiny and healthy and runs like hell.”

Do people avoid you when you are on the bubble?
“If you’re out, they do. If you’re out, it’s funny. When you suck, nobody wants to hang out with you. When you run better, everybody wants to hang out with you. That is life.”

Do you enjoy weekends when everything is on the line? 
“I don’t know. I think everybody’s personality is different. I actually work better under that because I focus more and not that you don’t otherwise, but it just keeps you sharp, it keeps you honed it. I like that adrenaline rush. I like knowing that it’s all on the line. It’s do-or-die time. It’s fun to get up in the morning.”

Did you think you would ever make 500 starts in NASCAR?
“No. I didn’t even know. You read that and you’re like, “Hmmm, I’ll be damned.’ Five hundred starts, that’s a lot of them, and then you read, like I think Kevin (Havick) just had his 600th or something, so it’s not that bad. It’s a long time, though – a lot of races, and it’s something to be proud of, to stay relevant enough and to stay in equipment for that long for 500 races is something that any driver or any individual who’s in a sport for that long. Compared to about any other sport, that’s a long time to be in a professional sport.”

Odds to win 2019 Hollywood Casino 400 at Kansas

Kevin Harvick has 3 Kansas wins.
SUNDAY, OCTOBER 20, 2019 - 2:45 PM ET 

Martin TRUEX JR 9/2
Kevin HARVICK 9/2
Kyle BUSCH 5/1
Chase ELLIOTT 6/1
Joey LOGANO 8/1
Kyle LARSON 10/1
Denny HAMLIN 18/1
Erik JONES 30/1
Ryan BLANEY 25/1
Alex BOWMAN 30/1
Kurt BUSCH 30/1
William BYRON 30/1
Clint BOWYER 30/1
Jimmie JOHNSON 40/1
Daniel SUAREZ 80/1
Aric ALMIROLA 80/1
Ryan NEWMAN 100/1
Austin DILLON 100/1
Ricky STENHOUSE JR 100/1
Paul MENARD 100/1
Chris BUESCHER 100/1
Matt DiBENEDETTO 300/1
Daniel HEMRIC 500/1
Darrell WALLACE JR 1000/1
Michael McDOWELL 2000/1
Ty DILLON 2000/1
Ryan PREECE 2000/1
David RAGAN 2000/1
Matt TIFFT 5000/1
Corey LAJOIE 5000/1
Landon CASSILL 5000/1
Reed SORENSON 5000/1
FIELD (all others) 1000/1

Updated odds to win 2019 NASCAR Cup Championship (after Talladega)

Ryan Blaney is 20/1 to win Cup title.

Kevin HARVICK 9/2
Kyle BUSCH 4/1
Martin TRUEX JR 7/2
Chase ELLIOTT 30/1
Kyle LARSON 7/1
Ryan BLANEY 20/1
Joey LOGANO 10/1
Clint BOWYER 200/1
Denny HAMLIN 5/1
Alex BOWMAN 80/1
William BYRON 200/1

Monday, October 14, 2019

Ryan Blaney wins wild Talladega race


“It’s a photo finish at the line! Blaney and Newman were side-by-side at the line! Blaney by just a foot is going to get the win over Newman!” – Rick Allen
“Seven one-thousandths of a second that may have saved Ryan Blaney’s season.” – Marty Snider
“It was just wild; two-, three-wide action all day long. You couldn’t ask for more action.” – Dale Earnhardt Jr.
“It’s Talladega. You never know what to expect.” – Jeff Burton
“They put in $50 million rebuilding this place. I should have thrown in $50 to move the start-finish line.” – Newman on losing by .007 seconds.
TALLADEGA, Ala. – October 14, 2019 – NASCAR’s biggest and baddest track lived up to its name on Monday afternoon on NBCSN, as Ryan Blaney defeated Ryan Newman by just seven one-thousandths of a second – the sixth closest finish in NASCAR history – to win the wreck-filled NASCAR Monster Energy Cup Series 500 at Talladega Superspeedway, and advance to the Round of 8 in the Playoffs. The race began on Sunday, but was postponed after Stage 1 due to rain.
NBC Sports’ Rick Allen called the action alongside racing legend and two-time Daytona 500-winner Dale Earnhardt Jr., 21-time Cup Series race winner Jeff Burton and Daytona 500 winning crew chief Steve Letarte. Marty Snider, Kelli Stavast, and Dave Burns reported from pit road and the grandstands.
Krista Voda hosted Sunday’s pre-race and rain delay coverage alongside analysts Kyle Petty and Dale Jarrett. Pre-race coverage on Sunday on NBC included a feature on the Earnhardt legacy at Talladega voiced by Dale Earnhardt Jr.  
1Ryan Blaney12
2Ryan Newman6
3Denny Hamlin11
4Aric Almirola10
5Michael McDowell34
The following are highlights from this afternoon’s Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series race coverage on NBCSN:
Snider: “Seven one-thousandths of a second that may have saved Ryan Blaney’s season.”
Blaney: “There was no blocking the No. 6 and the No. 11…he kind of pushed me below the yellow line…this was a huge, huge race for us.”
Newman to Stavast on losing by .007 seconds: “They put in $50 million rebuilding this place. I should have thrown in $50 to move the start-finish line.”
Burton: “It’s Talladega. You never know what to expect.”
Earnhardt Jr.: “I’m just really impressed with how active and how hard the drivers raced today. Typically, when there’s so much on the line, they don’t quite race that intensely throughout the entire event. From Stage 1, 2, 3, it was just wild; two-, three-wide action all day long. You couldn’t ask for more action.”
Letarte on Blaney on the final lap: “I really like that call by NASCAR. Two left-side tires barely below (the yellow line), saving his race car, no intent to go down there. That’s what racing at Talladega is all about.”
Letarte on talk of manufacturers’ alliances: “There was all this conversation coming in about manufacturers and alliances. In the end, I saw a bunch of selfish race car drivers doing what they do best, which is score points for themselves, try to score the win for themselves, which is what makes racing great.”
Allen on Blaney winning by a foot: “Here they come! They make contact! It’s a photo finish at the line! Blaney and Newman were side-by-side at the line! Blaney by just a foot is going to get the win over Newman!”
Letarte: “How many times has that start-finish line come into play, later, out past the tri-oval? In the tri-oval, it was definitely the No. 6 leading, but the No. 12 still had time and made that move.”
Earnhardt Jr: “I just don’t know that I’ve seen guys race this hard, this much, through each stage – we rarely, if ever, have seen the teams race two, three-wide the entire day.”
Earnhardt Jr. on wreck with 7 laps to go: “I think the air is so compressed coming off of the noses of these cars that getting next to the No. 18 car shoved it to the right, upsetting that car just enough. Or maybe the No. 18 saw the No. 17 coming and turned the steering wheel ever so slightly, and you can’t turn the car while you’re being pushed.”
Burton on wreck with 7 laps to go: “You cannot discount the shape of that Chevrolet nose to have an effect – with that air pushing on the side of the car, being pushed off of a pointed nose, the combination of those two things, you just can’t separate them. I think they’re connected.”
Letarte on wreck involving Brendan Gaughan’s flipped car: “It looks like a toy car. It doesn’t look real.”
Burton on racing at Talladega: “That is why drivers’ heart rates are through the roof on these late race restarts.”
Earnhardt Jr. on the new packages: “Something about this new rule package has these spoilers, allows that inside line to remain competitive and battle back. And keep this field two or three wide all race.”
Steve Letarte on non-playoff drivers: “They don’t want to hear about points or Playoffs, they could care less. They’re trying to win a race.”
Dale Earnhardt Jr. on the new package: “I don’t know what it is about the new rule package. It’s something about it that is allowing that inside line not to be dominated by the top. I love it!”
Alex Bowman on wreck on lap 108: “He (Logano) had a bigger run than I realized. I should have let him go instead of blocked it. I apologize that got torn up, that’s on me. Talladega happens.”
Burton on wreck on lap 108 involving Alex Bowman and Joey Logano: “Blocking is one of the things you have to do. You also have to know when you can't do it. But if you don't block, you're not going to win this race...I'm not going to fault Alex Bowman. I've been in that situation…it’s not an easy decision to make.”
Letarte on wreck on lap 108: “Huge playoff implications. We knew it was going to happen at Talladega. We knew it was going to stir up the Playoffs. We didn’t know when, we didn’t know how, but we were sure there was going to be a moment.”

Wednesday, October 9, 2019

Talladega Betting Preview: 2019 500

Lots of fun always at Talladega.
It’s time to play NASCAR super-lotto roulette at the sportsbooks because it's Talladega Superspeedway week where the cars are equal, the racing is tight at 200 mph, and 35 of the 40 drivers have a legitimate chance to win. It’s where the usual weekly 1,000-to-1 longshots are dropped down to 100-to-1 and the usual 7-to-2 favorites are raised to 25-to-1.

The randomness of Talladega races makes betting on it like picking a number to win on a roulette wheel or craps table. I lower my weekly bankroll down considerably mostly because I don’t bet driver vs. driver match-ups unless I get baited at +125 on anyone. I’ll bet six or seven drivers with staggered bet amounts with two favorites, a few middle of the road guys and one or two longshots and then watch the race on the edge of my seat for three hours waiting for “The Big One” to happen and hoping all six of my drivers escape the wrath of this monstrous 2.66-mile tri-oval with 33 degrees of banking. Sometimes “The Big One” takes out half the field, and I’ll usually feel the wrath among two or three of my drivers allowing me to rip up those bet tickets.

Sometimes I don’t win any of the six drivers and then I’ll say I’m never betting a Talladega race again, but I can’t stay away. It’s too much fun. There are so many thrilling moments throughout the race rooting my drivers to the front of the pack and the wagers take the excitement to next level stuff. And then when I win and show a decent profit for the day, it’s an epic feeling of accomplishment -- Talladega more so than other tracks because of the luck and randomness involved. It’s kind of like horse racing when my adrenaline rush kicks in rooting in my tri-box, but instead of 2 minutes, it’s three hours of drama.

So let’s take a look at my six darts (drivers) I’ll bet this week to throw at the dartboard with hopes of getting lucky and hitting the bullseye and we’ll get started with the 8-to-1 favorite to win Sunday’s 500, Joey Logano.

Logano has a couple of things going for him this week that like beginning with drafting skills, Ford, and Team Penske strength on these tracks. Ford has won seven of the last eight Talladega races and Logano has three of those wins. He almost got his fourth win in the April Talladega race but got passed with four laps to go. He also had the best car at Daytona’s rain-shortened race in July. Between the two races using this race package with aero ducts on the cars, taller spoilers and engines producing 550 horsepower, Logano has looked the best.

Another reason I’m investing the largest portion of my bankroll on Logano to win this week is his playoff situation. In the first race of the Round of 12 last week at Dover, he finished 34th and is now outside looking in with two races to go until four more drivers are chopped and he doesn’t want to be one of them.

“We definitely used our mulligan,” Logano said. “We used the Playoff points we accumulated, we just have to be perfect now. We have two really good race tracks coming up though. Talladega is arguably one of our best race tracks and I would say Kansas as well. We just have to be perfect from here.”

I like betting on guys that are desperate for a win on any track, and I’m still mulling over another one who fell outside the top-8 in points last week. Chase Elliott blew an engine after 8 laps and finished 38th. He won the first Talladega race this season and is being offered at 10-to-1.

“I assume we’ll have to win one of these next few weeks,” Elliott said Sunday after his race was over. “If you ever make it to (Championship Race) at Homestead (Fla.), you’re going to have to win down there. I guess it’s a good opportunity to practice here these next few weeks.”

A driver I’m still looking for high odds with is Elliott’s Hendrick Motorsports teammate Alex Bowman who the sharp guys at the Westgate Las Vegas Superbook are offering at 16-to-1 odds. I want 25-to-1 odds. His performance in the first April race opened my eyes on a few fronts; the first being how fast all the Hendrick cars were in the draft. The second was Bowman finishing second in the first and second stages and then finishing second in the race. But now he has playoff pressure currently inside the cut-line in seventh.

“Honestly, it is probably just a little more stressful this go around,” Bowman said .”I feel like we’ve obviously done a good job as a company and Chevrolet to run well at these tracks. Our superspeedway cars are always really good, but we’re still at the mercy of everyone else. It is really just the unknown of what can happen on the track. We just have to be smart in a stressful environment. I think the easiest thing to do is stay out front all day. There isn’t really anywhere to hide, but you always have guys that try to run in the back and there is still a chance to get taken out anyway.”

Another driver I have on my shopping list is Aric Almirola who has quietly turned into one of the better superspeedway drivers on the circuit and it all started when he was with Richard Petty Motorsports.

“I always had to go to these races and be aggressive because, back then, they were our only realistic options to win races,” Almirola said. “It was the only way I could make it into the playoffs and we were able to do that in 2014 (Daytona win). They’ve been good to me. I’ve always gone into those races with that mindset.”

Almirola’s last three starts at Talladega with RPM saw him finish eighth, fourth, and fifth. When taking over Danica Patrick’s No. 10 for Stewart-Haas Racing last season he continued his great Talladega run with seventh in the spring and then winning in the fall where his only lap led was the last one. He was ninth in the April race.

NASCAR Talladega Track Facts: 2019 500

"The Big One" always happens at Talladega Superspeedway. 
Monster Energy Series Playoff Fast Facts Race No. 5: Talladega Superspeedway
·        This is the third year in a row the fifth race in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs will be held at Talladega Superspeedway (2017-2019).
·        Talladega is the third track to host the fifth race in the Monster Energy Series Playoffs; joining Charlotte Motor Speedway (2004 – 2014) and Kansas Speedway (2015 and 2016).
·        Prior to 2017, Talladega was the third race of the Playoffs from 2004 – 2005; it then moved to the fourth race of the Playoffs from 2006 – 2008; it then moved to the seventh race of the Playoffs from 2009 – 2010; then moved to the sixth Playoff race in 2011; then back to the fourth race of the Playoffs in 2012 and then from 2013 to 2016, Talladega was the sixth race of the Playoffs.
·        A total of 11 different drivers have won the Talladega Playoff races, led by Brad KeselowskiClint Bowyer, Jamie McMurray and Joey Logano with two wins each. 
·        The winner of the Talladega Superspeedway Playoff race has never gone on to win the title in the same season in the Playoff era (2004-Present).
·        Twice the winner of the fifth race in the Playoffs has gone on to win the title later that season; both happening at Charlotte Motor Speedway: 
o   In 2009, Jimmie Johnson won from the pole at Charlotte then the fifth race in the Playoffs and went on to win his fourth consecutive Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series title.
o   In 2014, Kevin Harvick won from the seventh starting position at Charlotte then the fifth race in the Playoffs and went on to win his first career Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series title.
·       The worst finish in a Playoff race at Talladega by a driver that went on to win the title was 24th by Jimmie Johnson (2006). Last season’s champ, Joey Logano finished fifth.
·       Five times a non-Playoff driver has won the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Playoff race at Talladega Superspeedway:
o   2005 – Dale Jarrett won the Playoff race at Talladega; he was 14th in points at the time of his win.
o   2006 – Brian Vickers won the Playoff race at Talladega; he was 16th in points at the time of his win.
o   2009 – Jamie McMurray won the Playoff race at Talladega; he was 22nd in points at the time of his win.
o   2011 – Clint Bowyer won the Playoff race at Talladega; he was 13th in points at the time of his win.
o   2013 – Jamie McMurray won the Playoff race at Talladega; he was 14th in points at the time of his win.