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


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
• 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
• 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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NASCAR America: The challenges of Martinsville Speedway

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What Martinsville Speedway lacks in size compared to other tracks it makes up in difficulty say drivers and NASCAR America’s analysts.

Landon Cassill joined Carolyn Manno, Parker Kligerman and Jeff Burton on Thursday’s show and discussed the challenges of the half-mile paperclip track.

“It can be fun when it’s going well,’’ said Cassill, who will make his Cup season debut this weekend in the No. 00 for StarCom Racing. “That place, if you’re car is not handling well, you can end up going backwards and just by the time you’ve got some clear race track the leader is right behind you. So it can be frustration. I tend to like Martinsville.’’

Kligerman calls racing in the pack at Martinsville Speedway “the most aggressive racing I’ve ever been a part of in my life.’’

Jeff Burton said: “It’s … one of the hardest race tracks we go to period because you have to do it lap after lap after lap and it’s so easy to get, quite simply, just really, really mad at the guy you’re racing with because he’s hitting you and he’s banging on you.’’

Cup drivers have their description of the track. See what NASCAR America’s analysts and Cup drivers have to say about the track that hosts Sunday’s Cup race in the video above.

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Richard Childress Racing reinstates Xfinity crew chief Nick Harrison

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Richard Childress Racing has reinstated Nick Harrison to crew chief  of the No. 3 Xfinity team after he served a five-race suspension for a violation at Daytona International Speedway. 

Harrison’s first race back will be April 8 at Texas.

Harrison was suspended after the No. 3 car of Austin Dillon had a rear suspension violation in pre-qualifying inspection. Harrison and the team’s car chief were ejected by NASCAR after the violation. RCR imposed the suspension.

“I’m looking forward to being back with my team and winning races after my five-race suspension,” Harrison said in a statement from the team.

Brandon Thomas served as the interim crew chief while Harrison was out. Austin Dillon finished a season-best fourth for the team last weekend at Auto Club Speedway.

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NASCAR America at 5 p.m. ET: Martinsville breakdown, Aric Almirola and Bubba Wallace

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Today’s episode of NASCAR America airs from 5-6 p.m. ET on NBCSN and features host Carolyn Manno and Parker Kligerman in Stamford, Connecticut, and Jeff Burton and Landon Cassill from Burton’s Garage.

Among the topics today:

  •  Prepare for paint swapping, bent fenders, and bruised egos. It’s time to go short-track racing at Martinsville Speedway! Jeff, Parker and Landon will tell you what to expect this weekend at the famous half-mile. We’ll also see what it takes to succeed there, as Parker takes us for some quick laps in the NBCSN iRacing Simulator.
  • After making the switch to Stewart-Haas Racing in the offseason, Aric Almirola is off to the best start of his Cup Series career. Currently 10th in the standings, he’ll tell Marty Snider about his early season success.
  • Since finishing second at the Daytona 500, rookie driver Bubba Wallace has cooled off. Now he faces his first Cup Series start at Martinsville in the iconic No. 43 car, and he’s feeling confident — it’s where Wallace scored his first truck series win nearly five years ago. We’ll examine the struggles he might have to work through this season and also hear his reflections on his early years of racing in the latest edition of “A Driver’s Drive.”

If you can’t catch today’s show on TV, you can also watch it via the online stream at http:/nascarstream.nbcsports.com. If you plan to stream the show on your laptop or portable device, be sure to have your username and password from your cable/satellite/telco provider handy so your subscription can be verified.

Once you enter that information, you’ll have access to the stream.

Click here at 5 p.m. ET to watch live via the stream.

Weekend schedule for NASCAR at Martinsville Speedway

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NASCAR returns to its backyard this weekend after the three week West Coast swing.

The Cup and Camping World Truck Series visit Martinsville Speedway in Southern Virginia.

The weekend is capped off by Sunday’s STP 500. It will be the first Cup race broadcast on Fox Sports 1 this year.

Here’s the full weekend schedule complete with TV and radio info.

(All times are Eastern)

Friday, March 23

8:30 a.m. – 6 p.m. — Truck garage opens

11:05 – 11:55 a.m. — Truck practice (No TV)

1:05 – 1:55 p.m. — Truck practice (Fox Sports 1)

3:05 – 3:55 p.m. — Final Truck practice (FS1)

Saturday, March 24

7 a.m. – 8 p.m. — Cup garage open

7:30 a.m. — Truck garage opens

10:05 – 10:55 a.m. — Cup practice (FS1, MRN)

11:05 a.m. — Truck qualifying; multi-truck/three rounds (FS1)

12:15 p.m. — Truck driver-crew chief meeting

12:30 – 1:20 p.m. — Final Cup practice (FS1, MRN)

1:30 p.m. — Truck driver introductions

2 p.m. — Alpha Energy Solutions 250; 250 laps/131.5 miles (FS1, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio)

5:10 p.m. — Cup qualifying; multi-car/three rounds (FS1, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio)

Sunday, March 25

9:30 a.m. — Cup garage opens

Noon — Driver-crew chief meeting

1:20 p.m. — Driver introductions

2 p.m. — STP 500; 500 laps/263 miles (FS1, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio)