Jamie McMurray matches 2016 top five total with Michigan finish

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While Kyle Larson was busy fighting for his second NASCAR Cup win of the year, Jamie McMurray was silently earning his second top five.

McMurray used three cautions in the last 20 laps of the FireKeepers Casino 400 and pit strategy to overcome a mid-pack day to finish fifth. With it he matched his top five total from 2016.

His other top five this season was finishing second at Talladega.

“At the beginning of the race it was weird,” McMurray told Fox Sports 1. “It seemed like you could run a couple of good laps and then I don’t know if you’d catch a gust of wind or what happened, but it would send the car up the race track. And it wasn’t just me. I saw the No. 88 (Dale Earnhardt Jr.) and the No. 2 car (Brad Keselowski) going through the same thing. But our guys did a really good job of adjusting on it.”

McMurray finished Stage 1 in 16th and only improved to 14th by the end of Stage 2. His average running spot was 12.88.

“We had great pit stops,” McMurray said. “And it’s a really good recovery from what happened to us last weekend.”

Last weekend at Pocono Raceway, McMurray crashed near the end of Stage 2 when his brakes gave out as he slowed to navigate Turn 1. The damage from the crash and the heat from the brakes caused the back of his No. 1 Chevrolet to catch fire as McMurray quickly exited the vehicle.

It was his third DNF of the year.

A week later, Chip Ganassi Racing put both of its cars in the top five for the first time since the 2016 finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

“I know Chip (Ganassi) is in France right now (for the 24 Hours of Le Mans) and probably thrilled,” McMurray said. “I hope he’s still awake. But overall, it was a great day for our organization.”

 

NASCAR America: Despite stage wins, Martin Truex Jr. still needs to close out races

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Martin Truex Jr. is having a really good year. But it could be even better.

After 16 races in the Cup Series season, Truex and his Furniture Row Racing team are second in the points standings after two race wins, at Kansas Speedway and Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

But they also have a vast lead over the competition when it comes to stage wins with 11, the latest coming in Stage 1 at Sonoma Raceway. But their race ended in the garage with less than 25 laps left after Truex’s No. 78 Toyota had engine problems.

NASCAR America analyst Jeff Burton discussed how Furniture Row Racing needs to be finishing out races after consistently dominating the early portions.

“When the playoffs start we’re going to see the advantage that Martin Truex Jr. and his team have built for themselves,” Burton said. “The one thing that concerns me is that they haven’t won the races they’ve been in position (to). Things have come up, had issues. They’re going to have to find a way later in the playoffs to fix that. … When you’re running this well, small things show up. When you’re running 15th, the problems they’re having finishing races, you don’t even notice them.”

Watch the above video for more on Truex.

NASCAR America: Dale Jr.’s aggressiveness at Sonoma pays off, will need it at Daytona

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Dale Earnhardt was very aggressive in his final Cup start at Sonoma Raceway, and while it may have resulted in his Lap 14 accident in Turn 11, it also helped produce his third top 10 of the year and his second in a row.

“I think being offensive is better than being passive on a road course, nothing wrong with that,” said NASCAR America analyst Max Papis, who also broke down what caused Earnhardt’s bizarre spin early in Sunday’s race that also involved Danica Patrick and Kyle Larson.

“You’ve got to commit, usually the pass has happened before you actually arrive at the corner,” Papis said. “He thought that was a good opportunity, (then) committed. ”

NASCAR America’s analysts also discussed Earnhardt’s upcoming start at Daytona, which likely will be his final Cup start there. The track may be his best shot to earn a win and a spot in the playoffs.

The analysts believe the aggressiveness that was on display at Sonoma will be necessary for Earnhardt to pull a win out at Daytona.

Earnhardt’s year got off to a rough start in the Daytona 500. He was leading the race when Kyle Busch lost a tire in Turn 3 on Lap 105, spun and collected Earnhardt, Matt Kenseth and Erik Jones.

Earnhardt was near the front at Talladega in May late in the race when he was forced to pit for a loose tire with less than 15 laps to go.

That leaves the 14-time most popular driver with just two more chances to win a restrictor-plate race, the format he’s earned 10 of his 26 Cup Series wins.

“They’ve got to find a way to give him a car where he can be aggressive Dale Jr.,” Jeff Burton said. “What makes him so good at Daytona and Talladega is that he doesn’t hesitate. He’s the guy setting the tempo, he’s the guy forcing the issue. … He can’t drive with caution, he can’t drive worried about if ‘is my car going to stick?’ He’s got to stick it in there and know it’s going to stick. He hasn’t had that the last several plate races.”

Watch the above video for the full discussion.

NASCAR’s preliminary entry lists for Daytona

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NASCAR returns to Daytona International Speedway this weekend with the Cup and Xfinity Series.

Cup teams will compete in the Coke Zero 400, which will air at 7:30 p.m. ET on Saturday on NBC and the Xfinity Series holds the Coca-Colca Firecracker 250, which will air at 7:30 p.m. ET on Friday on NBCSN.

Here are the entry lists for both races.

Cup – Coke Zero 400

Forty cars are entered into the 17th race of the Cup season. That would make it the sixth race this year to have the most possible cars in the field.

Darrell Wallace Jr. will be back in the No. 43 Ford for Richard Petty Motorsports. Brendan Gaughan will drive the No. 75 Chevrolet for Beard Motorsports.

Ryan Sieg will drive the No. 83 Toyota for BK Racing in his third start for the team.

Kurt Busch won the last trip to Daytona, leading only the last lap of the Daytona 500 after multiple leaders ran out of gas in the closing laps. Brad Keselowski won last year’s Coke Zero 400.

Click here for the entry list.

Xfinity – Coca-Cola Firecracker 250

There are 43 cars on the preliminary entry list for this race, including four full-time Cup drivers. They are Ty Dillon, Daniel Suarez, Erik Jones and Joey Logano.

There is no driver announced for the No. 93 Chevrolet owned by RSS racing.

Ryan Reed won the February Xfinity race at Daytona after being involved in two crashes and leading nine laps. Aric Almirola won last year’s July race after a caution on the last lap forced NASCAR to review video and loop data and determined him the winner over Justin Allgaier.

Click here for the entry list.

NASCAR America: Kyle Busch can afford to lose interim crew chief for Daytona

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Kyle Busch may have yet another view in his ear this weekend when he races in the Coke Zero 400.

Interim crew chief Ben Beshore may be suspended for the race after two unsecured lug nuts were found on the No. 18 Toyota after the Sonoma race.

The possible loss of Beshore comes after Busch’s usual crew chief, Adam Stevens, was suspended four races for a wheel falling off Busch’s car following a pit stop at Dover.

Daytona will be the fourth race of that suspension. NASCAR America’s analysts discussed the impact of the possible suspension for Busch, who is still looking for his first win since July of last year.

“They’re not making mistakes, they’re just finding themselves in difficult positions,” Dale Jarrett said. “This is certainly another one of those, going to a race track Kyle Busch can win at. But who you have on that pit box means a lot as for performing all through a race.”

Said Jeff Burton, “The frustration level is mounting, obviously. Kyle Busch is expecting to win races. … I think if you’re going to lose your crew chief, this is probably the race you want to lose it for. Going to Daytona, you pretty much have a plan going there. The pit strategy will be interesting with the stages, but if I was going to a race track, this would be the race I’d feel most comfortable without my crew chief.”

Watch the above video for the full segment.