Who is Hot, Not going into final Cup elimination race at Phoenix

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Maybe it’s the track or maybe it’s the playoffs.

Either way, Phoenix Raceway is a place that’s kind to drivers no matter where they start.

The 1-mile track, which hosts the final elimination race of the Cup playoffs on Sunday (2:30 p.m. ET on NBC), has seen seven of its last 13 winners start outside the top 10.

The most recent and lowest starting winner was Ryan Newman, who won in March in an overtime finish thanks to pit strategy after starting 22nd.

Only two of the last six Phoenix winners have started outside the top 10. Kevin Harvick, who has eight Phoenix victories, started outside the top 10 times and 15th or lower in three of them.

From the spring 2010 to spring 2014 races, six of nine winners started from outside the top 10.

The lowest-starting winner in Phoenix history is Ricky Rudd in 1995, when he started 29th.

Here’s who is hot and not entering Sunday’s race, courtesy of Racing Insights.

Who is Hot

Brad Keselowski
• Finished fourth at Martinsville, fifth at Texas.
• Currently fourth in points, +19 to the cutline.
• Advanced to the Round of 8 with his win at Talladega.
• Winless at Phoenix in 16 starts, best finish of third in 2014.
• Finished top 10 in five of the last seven races at Phoenix including fifth in March

Kevin Harvick

• Won at Texas to advance to the Championship four at Homestead-Miami Speedway for the third time in the last four years.
• Five top-10 finishes in the playoffs and three finishes of 17th or worse.
• Won six of the last 10 races at Phoenix. Has eight total wins.
• Finished top six in the last eight Phoenix races.
• Failed to lead in the last two Phoenix races.

Martin Truex Jr.

• Finished second at Martinsville and Texas.
• Finished top five in seven of the eight playoff races.
• Has already advanced to championship race based on points.
• Seven wins in 2017, the most by a driver since Matt Kenseth had seven in 2013.
• Led a series-high 2,175 laps in 2017 and has led the most laps in nine races.
• Best Phoenix finish is fifth in 2009.
• Only one top-10 finish in the last seven Phoenix races.

Kyle Busch
• Won at Martinsville on last-lap pass for his third win of the playoffs
• Five wins this season have all come in the last 14 races.
• Led laps in the last 17 races this season, a personal best and the best streak ever among active
drivers.
• Finished 19th at Texas after Lap 1 contact with Keselowski.
• One Phoenix win in 2005.
• Finished top five in the last four Phoenix races including leading 114 laps before finishing third in March.

Who is Not

Jimmie Johnson
• Finished 12th at Martinsville and 27th at Texas.
• Only one top-five finish in the last 21 races.
• Finished outside the top 10 in the last four races.
• Four top-five finishes this season, three were wins.
• Four-time Phoenix winner but none since 2009.
• Only two top-10 finishes at Phoenix in the last six races there.
• Finished ninth at Phoenix in March.

Kyle Larson

• Finished 39th at Kansas, 37th at Martinsville and Texas, his worst three consecutive starts in his
career.
• Eight runner-up finishes this season.
• Four wins in 2017, had one before this season.
• Finished top three in last two Phoenix races including runner-up in March

Kurt Busch

• Finished ninth at Texas after winning the pole. Only his second top 10 of the playoffs.
• Finished 16th in the first round, 25 points below the cut line.
• One Phoenix win in 2005.
• Finished top 10 in five of the last six Phoenix races. Finished 25th in March.

Kasey Kahne

• Finished 11th at Texas. His worst finish in the last six races is 16th.
• Only three top-10 finishes in the last 24 races.
• Six DNFs for accidents this season.
• One Phoenix win in fall 2011.
• Only one top-10 finish in the last seven Phoenix races.

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Watkins Glen, Michigan announce multi-year sponsor deals

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Watkins Glen International and Michigan International Speedway announced multi-year sponsorship deals for their Cup Series races Thursday.

WGI announced the Aug. 5 race at the road course will be sponsored by GoBowling.com. The 90-lap race will be called “Go Bowling at the Glen.”

This is not the first time the bowling brand has sponsored a Cup event. It sponsored the spring race at Kansas Speedway from 2016-17 and the August event at Pocono Raceway from 2013-14.

As part of the deal, Go Bowling will have two bowling lanes at the track for the race weekend.

Michigan has renewed its sponsorship deal with FireKeepers Casino Hotel for its June Cup race for “many years.”

The hotel in Battle Creek, Michigan, began its relationship with MIS by sponsoring pole day in 2014. It began sponsoring the June race in 2016.

TheFireKeepers Casino 400 is scheduled for June 10.

ISM Raceway (Phoenix) also announced the title sponsor for its March 11 Cup race.

The event will called the TicketGuardian 500.

TicketGuardian is a mobile ticketing insurance provider. When fans purchase tickets to events at ISM Raceway, they will be given the option to add TicketGuardian’s ticket protection coverage. This allows fans to have insurance on the tickets they’ve purchased in advance.

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Hendrick, Kelley Blue Book extend relationship through 2020

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Hendrick Motorsports and Kelley Blue Book have extended their sponsorship deal three years through 2020, the team announced Thursday.

The car pricing, research and valuation guide will be a primary sponsor on Chase Elliott‘s N0. 9 Chevrolet in two races each year.

This season it will be on the No. 9 for the Aug. 18 race at Bristol Motor Speedway and the November playoff race at Texas Motor Speedway.

Kelley Blue Book has been partnered with Hendrick since 2014 when it had a one-race deal to sponsor Dale Earnhardt Jr.

It went to a two-race deal beginning in 2016.

MORE: Driving the No. 9 feels like going home for Chase Elliott

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Danica Patrick has Daytona 500, Indy 500 sponsor; now needs ride

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GoDaddy will return to be Danica Patrick‘s sponsor for the Daytona 500 and Indianapolis 500, the company announced Thursday.

Patrick said in November that she would retire from racing after competing in those two events. She has yet to secure a ride for either race but that was slowed by the lack of sponsorship until Thursday’s announcement.

A Chip Ganassi Racing executive said last week that the team was no longer in discussions with Patrick for her to drive for the team in either race. Steve Lauletta, president of Chip Ganassi Racing, told SiriusXM NASCAR Radio that the team would stay focused on its current operations instead of adding another car for those races: “We’re going to stay focused on that rather than put another temporary effort together and not doing it up to the standards that we would want to, so I don’t think you’ll see that happening with us in 2018.”

MORE: Danica Patrick confirms she is dating NFL quarterback

GoDaddy signed Patrick in 2006 when she was in IndyCar and followed her to NASCAR, ending its sponsorship after the 2015 season. While together, Patrick was the face of the company, appearing in 13 GoDaddy Super Bowl ads – the most Super Bowl commercial appearances by a celebrity.

“You could say, ‘we’re getting the band back together,” said GoDaddy Chief Marketing Officer Barb Rechterman. “It makes sense in that our goals are so well-aligned – she’s passionate, tenacious and creative just like so many of our customers who are also looking to leverage the power of the Internet and turn their ‘side hustle’ into a full-time business. Danica absolutely epitomizes the heart of our GoDaddy customers. We love it.”

Said Patrick in a statement: “This is definitely the way I want to finish my racing career – at these two iconic races, backed by my iconic, long-time sponsor. GoDaddy was there for me when my career was just really starting so it’s exciting to be getting back in the GoDaddy ‘green’ for my final two races. Our brands have always been powerful together, and I think it’s awesome to have them at my side when I go ‘all in’ with my businesses after racing.”

Patrick has made six starts in the Daytona 500. She won the pole for the 2013 race. She finished eighth that year, her best finish in the season-opening Cup race. She finished fourth in last year’s Advance Auto Parts Clash. She is eligible for that race this year. Patrick has made seven starts in the Indianapolis 500 from 2005-11. She finished a career-best fourth in her first race there, leading 19 laps. She has two top-five and five top-10 finishes in the Indy 500.

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Atlanta Motor Speedway accepting lucky charms to help Chase Elliott earn first Cup win

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The president of Atlanta Motor Speedway is hoping history will repeat.

Ed Clark is doing whatever he can to get Georgia-native Chase Elliott to Victory Lane for the first time in the Cup Series.

To do that, he’s using the same marketing scheme he executed in 1983 in the weeks before Bill Elliott’s first Cup victory.

AMS is asking for fans to send lucky charms to the track, which will be presented to Chase Elliott during a special event there Feb. 13.

There’s no restrictions on what can be sent.

The Hendrick Motorsports driver is winless after 77 starts in NASCAR’s premier series.

Bill Elliott in 1983. (Atlanta Motor Speedway).

His father went winless in his first 155 starts from 1976-83.

Clark put together the original lucky charm drive ahead of the October race at Charlotte Motor Speedway, where he served as public relations director.

“The promotion we came up with for Bill in ’83 created an amazing amount of interest and support from fans all over the country,” said Clark in a press release. “We received package after package full of good-luck charms, and it seemed like everybody was pulling for him to get that first win.”

Three races later, in the season finale at Riverside International Raceway, the 28-year-old Bill Elliott claimed his first of 44 Cup victories.

Fans can send their lucky charms to Elliott by shipping them to AMS at 1500 Highway 19/41, Hampton, GA 30228, with attention to “Good Luck, Chase.” Fans can also participate by using the hashtag #GoodLuckChase across the various social media platforms with pictures and messages to Elliott.

The Cup season begins Feb. 18 with the 60th Daytona 500. The following weekend, the series visits Atlanta Motor Speedway.

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