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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Kevin Harvick penalized time in final Cup practice

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HOMESTEAD, Florida — Title contender Kevin Harvick will miss 15 minutes of Saturday’s final practice because of inspection issues last weekend at Phoenix.

Harvick is the only one among the four title contenders who will miss practice time Saturday.

Final practice is from 1 – 1:50 p.m. ET on NBCSN.

David Starr is the only driver who missed time in Saturday’s first practice. He missed 15 minutes because his team was late to qualifying inspection Friday.

Jimmie Johnson, David Ragan and Michael McDowell will each miss 30 minutes of final practice because their cars failed qualifying inspection three times Friday.

Harvick, Chase Elliott, Cole Whitt and Starr each will miss 15 minutes of final practice because their cars failed inspection twice before last weekend’s Phoenix race.

Austin Dillon and Matt DiBenedetto each will miss 15 minutes of final practice because their cars failed inspection before qualifying twice Friday.

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Justin Allgaier ‘in the best place mentally’ a year after disappointing title finish

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The biggest disappointment of Justin Allgaier‘s NASCAR career has turned into “the best thing that’s ever happened” to it.

It only took “about a week” for the 31-year-old driver to accept that.

The JR Motorsports’ driver is one of the four competing for the Xfinity Series title in today’s Ford EcoBoost 300 at Homestead-Miami Speedway (3:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN).

It was in this race a year ago that Allgaier was within arm’s reach of a possible championship, his first in NASCAR.

But it was snatched away on the final restart.

With three laps to go, Allgaier restarted in the third row on the outside. In front of him was fellow championship driver Erik Jones. In front of Jones was Cole Whitt in a car normally found toward the back of the pack. Whitt had not pit under the caution because his team had used up its tire allotment.

Elliott Sadler (far right) and Daniel Suarez pull away on the final restart of last year’s Xfinity race at Homestead as Justin Allgaier (red car, middle) boxed in. (Photo by Chris Trotman/Getty Images)

At the green flag, Whitt spun his tires and backed-up the outside lane. That allowed Elliott Sadler and Daniel Suarez to get separation from Allgaier and Jones and race each other for the win and championship, which Suarez claimed.

“We’re sitting here and not standing on that (championship) stage over there like I think all of us would have liked to have been,” Allgaier said after he finished sixth.

Before Allgaier could come to terms with anything positive from the experience, he spent the following week just wanting to be left alone.

“If I could have locked myself in a dark room and not talk(ed) to anyone, I’d have been perfectly okay with that,” Allgaier said Thursday during the NASCAR championship media day in Miami Beach, Florida.

Allgaier got back in touch with those year-old feelings this week when he watched a replay of the race while flying to Florida.

“It still bugs me that we didn’t have a shot because of somebody else’s decision,” Allgaier said.

But Allgaier views the end of the 2016 race through a wiser lens. One where he accepts there’s only so much he can do in a 200-lap race against 39 other drivers.

“What if I had broken a transmission or run into the wall a little bit too hard on one of those times that I got (into) the wall like 37 times in the race last year and cut a tire?” Allgaier said. “What if a meteor fell out of the sky? … There’s so many things that, when you have 40 competitors on the racetrack every week, there’s so many things that can happen that are out of your control.”

His attitude has been helped by the best year of his career. Allgaier enters the championship race with a career-best two wins – including at his home track Chicagoland Speedway.

Allgaier also leads all Xfinity regulars with 497 laps led.

 “I look at 2017 as we have done everything we can do up to this point,” Allgaier said. “We’ve had the best race cars I’ve ever had. We’ve had great pit stops. We’ve got guys that work together on the race team that are incredible. I feel like for me personally I’m in the best shape of my life, on and off the track. I’m in the best place mentally.

“And at the end of the day, no matter what happens on Saturday night, I know that we have the best product on the racetrack and we’re in the best position we can be. And if it doesn’t work, it’s not because we weren’t in the right spot or because we didn’t do things right. It’s because circumstances are out of our control. And that’s taken so much pressure off of me this year.”

MORE: Previewing the Xfinity championship drivers

 

Goodyear signs extension with NASCAR

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HOMESTEAD, Florida — NASCAR announced Saturday a multi-year renewal with Goodyear for the company to be the series’ sole tire supplier. The deal goes through the 2022 season.

The move wasn’t in doubt with NASCAR and Goodyear having previously done tests for the 2018 season. Goodyear has been the exclusive tire supplier for all three of NASCAR’s top series since 1997. Goodyear has been a race tire supplier for NASCAR since 1954.

“We proudly join Goodyear in celebrating our renewed and longstanding partnership,” said Brent Dewar, NASCAR president, in a statement. “For more than half a century, NASCAR and our teams have trusted Goodyear tires. Our partners’ commitment to innovation and excellence plays a key role in our unyielding pursuit to deliver the best racing product in the world.”

Goodyear’s current five-year deal was set to expire after this season.

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Today’s Xfinity race at Miami: Start time, weather, TV/radio info

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The Xfinity season comes to an end this afternoon with the Ford EcoBoost 300 at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

Elliott Sadler, Justin Allgaier, Daniel Hemric and William Byron will race for title in the 200-lap race, which concludes the 33-race season that began in February at Daytona.

Below is all the vital info you need prior to the race.

(All times are Eastern)

START: Wild Bill Wichrowski from Discovery Channel’s “Deadliest Catch” will give the command to start engines at 3:37 p.m. Green flag is scheduled for 3:45 p.m.

DISTANCE: The race is scheduled for 200 laps (300 miles) around the 1.5-mile oval.

STAGES: Stage 1 ends at Lap 45. Stage 2 ends at Lap 90.

PRERACE SCHEDULE: Garage opens at 7:30 a.m. Qualifying is slated for 11:15 a.m. Driver/crew chief meeting is 12:45 p.m. Driver introductions are at 3:05 p.m.

NATIONAL ANTHEM: Jacqie Rivers wil perform the anthem at 3:31 p.m.

TV/RADIO:  Countdown to Green begins at 3 p.m. on NBCSN. NBCSN will air the race at 3:30 p.m. Motor Racing Network will broadcast the race on radio and at mrn.com, starting with its pre-race show at 3 p.m. SiriusXM NASCAR Radio will carry the MRN broadcast.

FORECAST: The wunderground.com site predicts a temperature of 79 degrees and a four percent chance of rain at race time.

LAST TIME: Daniel Suarez won the race and clinched the series title, beating Ty Dillon and Elliott Sadler. Suarez led 133 laps from the pole to become the first foreign-born driver to win a national NASCAR title.

STARTING LINEUP: Qualifying is scheduled for 11:15 a.m.