Five drivers to watch in Miami

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Here are five drivers to keep an eye in Sunday’s Sprint Cup season finale on NBC at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

Jimmie Johnson

Should Johnson make history by capturing a record-tying seventh Sprint Cup title, it’ll be one of those “Where were you when …” moments for every NASCAR fan. But we shouldn’t forget that this is the first time he’s faced Miami in a one-race, winner-take-all situation. Johnson has won twice on 1.5-milers this season, but has never won at Miami and has never led more than 28 laps in a single Cup start there.

 Joey Logano

The Miami tire combination has been used three times earlier this season, at both Texas races and the Chase opener at Chicagoland. With that in mind, Logano may have an edge over his Championship rivals on Sunday. He finished third, second, and second in those previous three races with the Miami tires. Furthermore, he led 178 laps at Texas two weeks ago with an average running position of 1.8. To see how the other three Championship drivers have done with the Miami tires, check out Dustin Long’s article from Tuesday.

 Carl Edwards

Title heartbreak in 2011 aside, Miami has been a solid track for Edwards. He’s the only one of the Championship 4 with multiple wins there (2008, 2010) and he has the best average finish there (9.2) among the group. He also may have another thing going for him: He’s the only Championship 4 driver who took part in the October test session at Miami. How much will that help Edwards, and perhaps to a point, his Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Kyle Busch? We’ll have to see.

KYLE BUSCH

In 2015, Kyle Busch’s last win entering the Chase came at Indianapolis – and during the Chase, he didn’t win until the Championship race at Miami. Guess where his last pre-Chase win was this year? You guessed it: Indy. And Busch has gone winless in this year’s Chase as well. The difference is that this year, he’s had better performance in the playoffs. He’s figured out how to work the Chase and he knows how to perform with everything on the line. Expect a strong effort from him and the 18 team on Sunday.

 Martin Truex Jr.

In 2015, Truex was racing for a championship at Miami but handling woes kept him from being a real factor. This year, he can just go for a win, and he stands a good chance of doing it. Let’s go back to the Miami tire combination and the previous three races where it was used: Truex finished sixth and third at Texas, and between those races, he won the Chase opener at Chicagoland. If that form holds on Sunday, Truex may have the race he was hoping to have a year ago.

NASCAR America: Ricky Stenhouse Jr. talks Phoenix finish, racing roots

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Ricky Stenhouse Jr. joins NASCAR America to go over his fourth-place finish at Phoenix Raceway.

The Roush Fenway Racing driver also shares his racing origins in Mississippi and the hobbies he and girlfriend Danica Patrick share with each other.

Stenhouse is in his fifth full-time year competing in the NASCAR Cup Series with Roush Fenway Racing.

NASCAR America: 50 States in 50 Shows: Alaska

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NASCAR America continues its journey through the United States with the second chapter in “50 States in 50 Shows.”

Following South Alabama Speedway, the show features Capitol Speedway and Alaska Raceway Park in Alaska.

Owned by Nancy and Wes Wallace, Capitol Speedway is a 3/8th-mile oval and features sprint car racing and demolition derbies.

 

Kevin Harvick crew chief fined, suspended one race for encumbered finish

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Kevin Harvick‘s crew chief, Rodney Childers, has been suspended for one NASCAR Cup Series race and fined $25,000 for an unapproved track bar slider assembly last weekend at Phoenix Raceway.

The penalty, a L1 infraction, results in an encumbered finish. Harvick placed sixth in the Camping World 500.

The No. 4 team has also been docked 10 driver and owner points. Harvick was seventh in the standings after four races. He trailed leader Kyle Larson by 61 points. The loss of points drops Harvick one spot to eighth behind Jamie McMurray.

Harvick has not won a race yet, which would qualify him for the playoffs.

MORE: Brad Keselowski closes crew chief for three races, team docked 35 driver points

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NASCAR docks Brad Keselowski, Team Penske 35 points; suspends crew chief Paul Wolfe

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NASCAR docked Brad Keselowski 35 points, suspended crew chief Paul Wolfe three races and fined Wolfe $65,000 because Keselowski’s car failed inspection after finishing fifth in last weekend’s race at Phoenix Raceway.

NASCAR also docked the team 35 owner points for the L1 infraction. NASCAR stated that Keselowski’s result is an encumbered finish.

NASCAR cited Keselowski’s car for failing weights and measurements on the laser platform. NASCAR stated in Wednesday’s penalty report that the team failed the rear wheel steer on the Laser Inspection Station. 

MORE: NASCAR suspends crew chief Rodney Childers one race

Team Penske issued a statement Wednesday:

“We have acknowledged the penalties levied against the No. 2 team following last weekend’s Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series race at Phoenix International Raceway.  The race cars returned to the race shop today and we are in the process of evaluating the area in question. In the meantime, we have decided Brian Wilson will serve as Brad Keselowski’s crew chief at Auto Club Speedway while we evaluate our approach relative to today’s penalties.”

The penalty drops Keselowski from second in the standings to fourth heading into this weekend’s race at Auto Club Speedway.

The more significant issue is how this could impact Keselowski, who already has a win, in the playoffs.

The top 10 in points before the playoffs begin earn additional points. The points leader earns 15 playoff points. The driver second in the standings earns 10 playoff points, the driver third in the standings earns eight playoff points, the driver fourth in the standings earns seven playoff points. It goes down to the driver 10th in the standings earning one playoff point.

Those playoff points carry through the first three rounds, which is different from last year. Falling behind in the regular season – or losing points because of a penalty – could have ramifications in the playoffs. 

“I think it’s real important to explain why points matter this year,” Keselowski said on Fox Sports 1’s “Race Hub” on Wednesday night. “Last year, you got a win and you locked in and you got to the next round. This year with points, you still lock in with wins. The difference is there’s a huge points bonus for having the most points at the end of the season that carries all the way through the playoffs, and you only get that bonus if you’re one of the best cars and leading up front at the end of the regular season, which requires having a lot of points. Thirty-five points is a pretty big deal, and so is 10 points for Kevin (Harvick) and his team.”

 

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