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Who’s Hot, Who’s Not entering Chicagoland — NASCAR Cup playoff edition

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As the 10-race NASCAR Cup playoffs begin, attention turns to the 16 playoff drivers and what type of momentum they have going into this weekend at Chicagoland Speedway.

Martin Truex Jr. is the defending winner of this race. Brad Keselowski and Kevin Harvick are both two-time winners there, while Ryan Newman, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Kyle Busch, Matt Kenseth and Denny Hamlin have single wins there.

Cup – Who Is Hot

No. 78 Martin Truex Jr. (Hot)

  • Finished 20th at Richmond, wrecked in OT while running top 5, led 198 laps
  • Passed for the win within 3 to go in three of the last four races
  • Finished in the top-10 17 times this season, the most
  • Won 18 stages this season, the most
  • 53 Playoff Points this season, includes 15 points for clinching the regular season
  • Wins at Las Vegas, Kansas, Kentucky and Watkins Glen
  • Led a series high 1646 laps in 2017, led the most laps in eight races
  • Won this race last year, only finish better than ninth in 11 races
  • Only driver to finish top 10 in all six 1.5 mile races this season, winning three of them

No. 42 Kyle Larson (Hot in 2017, Decent at Chicago)

  • Won at Richmond, first win NOT on a 2.0 mile track
  • Four wins in 2017, had one entering this season
  • Finished second in seven races this year
  • Finished top 10 in two of his three starts at Chicago, best of third in 2014

No. 18 Kyle Busch (Hot)

  • Finished ninth at Richmond, sixth straight top 10 finish
  • Two wins this season, both came in the last six races (Wins at Pocono and Bristol)
  • Won at least one stage in six of the last eight races of 2017
  • One Chicago win, 2008
  • Finished top 10 in the last five races at Chicago
  • Finished top five in the last three 1.5 mile races

No. 20 Matt Kenseth (Hot)

  • Finished 38th at Richmond, six top-10 finishes in the last eight races, all but Michigan, flat tire in OT 
while running 3rd and an ambulance problem at Richmond
  • One Chicago win, 2013
  • Finished top 10 in the last four races at Chicago (his only starts there with JGR)

No. 2 Brad Keselowski (Warm, Great at Chicago)

  • Finished 11th at Richmond, fifth straight result outside the top 10
  • 11 top fives, tied for the most in 2017
  • Two Chicago wins, 2012 and 2014
  • Finished top 10 in the last six races at Chicago

No. 48 Jimmie Johnson (All about the wins)

  • 8th at Richmond, broke a streak of six races without a top 10 finish
  • Two top 10s in his last 11 races (10th at New Hampshire, 8th at Richmond)
  • Three top 5 finishes this season, all wins
  • Best Chicago finish is second, three times
  • One of three active winless tracks (Kentucky and Watkins Glen)
  • Only two finishes worse than 12th in 15 Chicago starts

No. 77 Erik Jones (Hot, Good in NXS at Chicago)

  • Finished 6th at Richmond
  • Finished top 10 in the last six races, best streak of his career
  • First Cup start at Chicago
  • Two NXS wins at Chicago

No. 11 Denny Hamlin (Hot, Good at Chicago)

  • Finished fifth at Richmond, third straight top-five finish (longest ever streak of top-fives is four races)
  • Top-five finishes in nine of the last 12 races, including two wins
  • One Chicago win, 2015
  • Finished top 6 in the last three Chicago races

No. 4 Kevin Harvick (Hot, struggled lately at Chicago)

  • Finished 15th at Richmond
  • Five fewer top fives and top 10s in the regular season this year compared to last year
  • Two Chicago wins, the first two races in 20o1 and 2002
  • Finished 20th and 42nd the last two years at Chicago

No. 41 Kurt Busch (Hot, Ok at Chicago)

  • Finished 4th at Richmond, third straight top five finish
  • First time he has scored three straight top 5s since 2015 (career longest streak if four races)
  • Best Chicago finish in 16 races is third in 2015, finished top 10 in three of the last four races there

No. 17 Ricky Stenhouse Jr. (Has two wins this season)

  • 19th at Richmond, last top 10 was his win at Daytona
  • Zero wins in first 157 starts, two wins in last 17 starts
  • Only one finish better than 17th at Chicago, eighth in 2013

No. 31 Ryan Newman (Pretty Good lately)

  • Third at Richmond, top-10 finishes in the last four races, his best streak since Spring 2015
  • One Chicago win, 2003
  • Top-10 finishes in four of the last six at Chicago

No. 24 Chase Elliott (Starting to turn things back around)

  • Finished 10th at Richmond, only three top 10s in the last six races
  • One series start at Chicago, finished 3rd last year
  • Won Xfinity race at Chicago in 2014

 

Cup – Who Is Not

No. 3 Austin Dillon (Has a win but is NOT HOT)

  • Finished 21st at Richmond
  • Won on fuel mileage at Charlotte
  • Only four top-10 finishes this season, had 10 at this point last year
  • Best Chicago finish is 14th in three starts

No. 5 Kasey Kahne (Not, Not, Not… won)

  • Finished 12th at Richmond, only one top-10 finish in the last 16 races, win at Indy
  • Six DNFs because of accidents this season
  • Won at Indianapolis, ending a 102-race winless streak
  • Best Chicago finish is third, twice
  • Finished seventh at Chicago last year, only top 10 in the last four years there

No. 21 Ryan Blaney (Mixed)

  • Finished 18th at Richmond
  • Nine top-10 finishes this season but none have come in back-to-back races
  • Only two top-10 finishes in the last eight races
  • One Cup start at Chicago, finished fourth last year

No. 1 Jamie McMurray (Decent)

  • 14th at Richmond, fifth straight top-15 finish
  • 13 top-10 finishes this season, four more than this point last year
  • One top 10-finish in the last six races at Chicago

Even though they failed to make the playoffs, there are three other drivers that fans will likely be watching as potential playoff spoilers:

No. 14 Clint Bowyer (Disappointing 2017)

  • Finished 24th at Richmond, contact behind an ambulance
  • Was 88 points out of a playoff spot
  • Finished runner-up three times in 2017
  • 10 top-10s in 2017, had only three in all of 2016
  • 11 Chicago starts, best of fourth in 2010

No. 88 Dale Earnhardt Jr. (Not)

  • 13th at Richmond, last top 10 was Sonoma in June (sixth)
  • Only two top 10s in the last 14 races
  • One Chicago win, 2005
  • Did not run at Chicago last year (concussion symptoms)

No. 22 Joey Logano (Disappointing season, good at Chicago)

  • Second at Richmond, only fourth top-10 finish since encumbered win at Richmond in April
  • 10 finishes outside the top 20 in the last 17 races
  • First time he missed the playoffs with Team Penske
  • Top-10 finishes in four of the last five races at Chicago including Chicago best 2nd last year

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NASCAR America: Erik Jones on why he doesn’t make friends with his competitors

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Back in April Erik Jones told reporters at Daytona International Speedway that when it comes to friends, he brings his to the track. He doesn’t get too close to his fellow drivers in the garage.

On NASCAR America, Jones talked with Steve Letarte and Dale Jarrett about the origins of that mindset.

“My dad was always big on it, because at first when I started out my racing career in go karts I just wasn’t that aggressive,” Jones said. “He was like, ‘we bring our friends to the race track. You need to go out there and get aggressive. If you’ve to move someone out-of-the-way, do it.'”

Since then, Jones said his philosophy “never changed.”

“We show up, it’s a late-model team, it’s me a three guys so it’s like, ‘I’ve got all my buddies I need right here,'” Jones said.

Watch the above video for more.

NASCAR America: Erik Jones’ racing roots in Byron, Michigan

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After a feature looking at his upbringing in Byron, Michigan, Furniture Row Racing driver Erik Jones spoke with NASCAR America’s Steve Letarte, Dale Jarrett and Marty Snider about the early years of his racing career.

The journey to his NASCAR career began with a yard cart that his late father, Dave Jones, brought home one day when he was 3.

“I rode that all day long around the yard,” Jones said. “Winter time would and we had like a gravel circle driveway in front of our house. When it would snow over I would get the kart out and ride it around in the snow because I could slide and I thought that was pretty cool. I would get it stuck about every five minutes out in the snow.”

Jones would then get out of the kart and find his dad in their barn to come out get him out.

Now 21, Jones also discussed how much his dad was involved in his career until his death in June 2016 after a battle with cancer.

He also explains how he’s never stayed in any series for more than one year in his career.

Watch the video above for the full discussion.

NASCAR America: Scan All from Cup playoff opener at Chicagoland

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“I sure as (expletive) hope that’s all out of our system.”

That’s what Kyle Busch had to say over his radio after he finished 15th, a lap down in the Cup playoff opener at Chicagoland Speedway.

Busch’s day went south after the first stage thanks to two pit miscues the sent him two laps down.

Meanwhile, Martin Truex Jr. dominate the field to win his fifth race of the year and advance to the second round of the playoffs.

In the latest “Scan All,” True and crew chief Cole Pearn recap their day, which saw them bounce back from their own pit road mistakes.

Here are other highlights from this week’s “Scan All.”

  • “Can’t drive in a straight line. Something’s not right with the front end.” – Ricky Stenhouse Jr. just before he made contact with the outside wall. A commitment line violation resulted in Stenhouse finish multiple laps off the lead.
  • “Tell the 1 (Jamie McMurray) I don’t know what happened there but we both got the short end of the stick.” – Ryan Newman after contact between him and McMurray sent McMurray spinning on a restart.
  • (Expletive), that 24 (Chase Elliott) can be so much (expletive) faster than us.” – Kasey Kahne after being told he was two laps down.

Watch the above video for more.

NASCAR America: Erik Jones recounts rookie Cup season, being taught by Kyle Busch

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Erik Jones, the rookie driver for Furniture Row Racing in the No. 77 Toyota, joined NASCAR America Wednesday for a special show from the NASCAR Hall of Fame.

The 21-year-old driver won the 2015 Camping World Truck Series title and is teammates with Martin Truex Jr.

With Marty Snider, Dale Jarrett and Steve Letarte, Jones discussed the challenges and lessons he’s faced in his first full-time season in the Cup Series.

“The biggest (milestones) for me were trying to win a race and making the playoffs,” Jones said. “Obviously, making the playoffs didn’t happen. … I look back at the last few seasons and rookies that have been in the sport and it’s so hard to win races now. You just don’t see rookies do it a lot.”

Jones also discussed finishing second to Kyle Busch in the Bristol night race and his relationship with the driver who brought him into NASCAR beginning with the Truck Series.

“A lot of times when I was racing in Trucks and Xfinity and Kyle would come to race I’d always run second to him,” Jones said. “I’m like, ‘you know what the problem is? This is the guy who taught me how to race these cars. So I’m good at all the same tracks he’s good at. Except he’s been doing about 10 more years than I have.”

Watch the video for more.