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Here’s your primer for Sunday’s Can-Am 500 Cup elimination race at Phoenix

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The penultimate race of the 2017 NASCAR Cup playoffs takes place this Sunday with the Can-Am 500 at Phoenix Raceway.

This is the final elimination race of the playoffs, with five drivers still eligible for the one remaining position to advance to next week’s season-ending and championship-deciding Ford EcoBoost 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

Or, as NBCSN’s Kyle Petty so succinctly put it, “party of five, table of one.”

Thanks to Racing Insights, here’s all you need to know about Sunday’s race and racetrack:

NASCAR Cup 2017 Season Breakdown

  • Different Winners: 14
  • Most Wins: 7- Martin Truex Jr.
  • Most Poles: 8- Kyle Busch
  • Most Runner Ups: 8 – Kyle Larson
  • Most Top-fives: 17 – Martin Truex Jr.
  • Most Top-10s: 24 – Marin Truex Jr.
  • Most Laps Led: 2175– Martin Truex Jr.
  • Stage Wins: 19 – Martin Truex Jr.
  • Stage Top-5s: 46 – Martin Truex Jr.
  • Stage Top-10s: 53 – Kyle Larson
  • Playoff Points: 69 – Martin Truex Jr.

Phoenix recent race history:

  • The last seven Phoenix races had seven different pole winners, Alex Bowman got his first career MENCS pole driving the No. 88 in November 2016.
  • Ryan Newman won at Phoenix in March ending a 127 race winless streak and a 112 race winless streak for Richard Childress Racing.
  • Ryan Newman stayed out from seventh on the final lap 308 stop and kept the lead during the final two lap overtime finish, he went the final 56 laps on the same set of tires.
  • Ryan Newman led only six laps in his Phoenix win in March, all six came after lap 308. It was the second fewest laps led by a Phoenix winner, the fewest was four laps by Ryan Newman in April of 2010.
  • Chevrolet won seven of the last eight Phoenix races, Joey Logano’s win in a Ford in the fall of 2016 is the only non-Chevrolet win in the last eight Phoenix races.
  • Kevin Harvick has eight Phoenix wins the most of all drivers by four wins.
  • Kevin Harvick won six of the last 10 Phoenix races but failed to lead a single lap in the last two races.
  • Jimmie Johnson and Kevin Harvick are the only active drivers who have reached eight wins at a track, 
Johnson (11 wins Dover, 9 wins Martinsville, 8 wins Charlotte), Harvick (8 wins Phoenix).
  • 22 of the last 28 Phoenix races were won by drivers who currently compete for four organizations: Stewart-Haas Racing active drivers have 9 wins, Hendrick Motorsports active drivers have 8 wins, Joe Gibbs Racing active drivers have three wins and Richard Childress Racing active drivers have 2 wins. Five of those 28 races were won by drivers that no longer compete in the Cup series (Jeff Gordon 2 wins, Carl Edwards 2 wins and Mark Martin 1 win).
  • Neither stage winner finished in the top-10 in the March race at Phoenix.
  • Kyle Busch was passed for the win at Phoenix in March, it was the third straight race that a Joe Gibbs 
Racing driver was passed for the win at Phoenix and the second straight that a JGR driver was passed in 
the final eight laps there.
  • There have been zero DNFs for engine failure in the last six Phoenix races.
  • Six DNFs for accident in the race last March is tied for the most in the last nine Phoenix races.
  • 15 Lead changes in March at Phoenix, the most in the last seven races.
  • Kevin Harvick led the most laps in six of the last eight Phoenix races but failed to lead a single lap in the 
last two.
  • Kevin Harvick currently has an eight race streak of top-10 finishes at Phoenix, it is the third longest 
streak at the track and the longest active streak.
  • The last 14 Phoenix races were completed in less than 3 hours and nine minutes.
  • November 12th will be the 43rd race held at Phoenix Raceway.
  • Phoenix has hosted a Cup race every year since 1988 and two races a year every year since 2005.
  • Phoenix has been the penultimate race of the season since 2005.
  • Phoenix has hosted a race in every year of the playoffs and has been the final cut race before Miami in 
every season of the elimination style format.
  • 238 days between the Spring and Fall Phoenix races is the longest time between two events at one 
track in the same season.
  • 119 days between the November 2017 and March 2018 races at Phoenix.
  • Stage lengths at Phoenix: Lap 75 (75 laps), Lap 150 (75 laps), Lap 312 (162 laps).
  • Seven of the last 13 Phoenix winners started outside the top-10, Ryan Newman started 22nd in March.
  • There were seven or more cautions in 11 of the last 12 Phoenix races that were not rain shortened.
  • Eight Phoenix races had an overtime finish, including the last three.
  • The final green flag stretch was two laps or less in the last four races and 12 laps or less in the last seven r The driver leading the most laps failed to win in thee of the last four races at Phoenix.
  • Joey Logano, who won this race in 2016, is the only driver to win at Phoenix in the last 10 races who had 
not won there prior.

Phoenix Playoff Highlights:

  • 10 of 13 Phoenix playoff races were won by playoff eligible drivers.
  • 10 Phoenix playoff races were won by Chevrolet drivers.
  • Hendrick Motorsports leads all organizations with five Phoenix Playoff race wins.
  • Joe Gibbs Racing has won twice at Phoenix but neither win came in the Playoffs.
  • 10 of 13 Phoenix race winners started inside the top-10, including 10 of the last 11.
  • Four Phoenix playoff races had an overtime finish, the race in 2016 went to 324 laps (12 over the 
scheduled 312).
  • Phoenix was the penultimate race in 12 of 13 years of the playoffs (since 2005).
  • Hendrick Motorsports (3 poles) and Joe Gibbs Racing (2 poles) have won the last five poles in Phoenix 
playoff races.
  • Kevin Harvick in 2014 and Joey Logano 2016 clinched a birth in the final four at Miami with a Phoenix playoff race win.

2017 NASCAR Cup Season Highlights:

  • Joe Gibbs Racing (7), Furniture Row (5) and Chip Ganassi Racing (2) won 14 of the last 17 races.
  • The pole winner won six times in 2017: Kyle Larson ACS, Ricky Stenhouse Jr. Talladega-1, Kyle Larson 
MIS-1, Kyle Busch POC-2, Kyle Busch NH-2, Martin Truex Jr. KS-2.
  • The final lead change came in the last 10 laps in 19 of 34 races in 2017, the final three laps in 13 races 
and on the last lap in four races.
  • Either Martin Truex Jr. or Kyle Busch won a stage in 23 of 34 races in 2017.
  • Martin Truex Jr. has won at least one stage in 14 of 34 races in 2017 but has not won a stage in the last 
six races which is his longest stretch of races without a stage win in 2017.
  • Martin Truex Jr. is the only driver to win both Stage 1 & 2 and go on to win the race (Las Vegas, Kentucky).
  • Five drivers won a race but have not won a stage in 2017.
  • Four drivers have won a stage but have not won a race in 2017.
  • Atlanta, Pocono-1, Michigan-2 and Chicagoland are the only races without a caution before the end of Stage 1.
  • Atlanta, Michigan-2 and Chicagoland are the only races to not have a caution other than stage 
breaks in the first two stages of the race.
  • Three Cautions at Watkins Glen the fewest in a race in 2017.
  • 15 cautions at Kansas-1 and Dover-1 are the most in a race in 2017.
  • Three times a driver has won after going to the rear: Jimmie Johnson Texas-1 (unapproved tire 
change), Joey Logano Richmond-1 (transmission change), Jimmie Johnson Dover-1 (rear gear change).
  • Denny Hamlin won in New Hampshire-1 after going to a backup car prior to qualifying.
  • Three times in 2017 a driver has gone on to win after a speeding penalty: Kurt Busch Daytona-1, Brad 
Keselowski Martinsville-1 and Martin Truex Jr. Chicagoland.
  • Martin Truex Jr. won at Kansas after a restart violation on lap 36, it was the fourth time in 2017 a driver has recovered from a in race infraction to win and the second time by Martin Truex Jr.
  • Three drivers got their first career win in 2017: Ricky Stenhouse Jr. Talladega-1, Austin Dillon Charlotte- 1, Ryan Blaney Pocono-1, Ricky Stenhouse Jr. is the first first-time winner to get his second win in 2017.
  • There have been two track records set in 2017: Kyle Busch (Kentucky), Kurt Busch (Texas-2).
  • Eight times driver has swept all three rounds of qualifying: Kevin Harvick- IMS 2014, MIS 6/14 and TX 
4/17, DAR 2017; Joey Logano MART 4/16 10/17; Brad Keselowski TX 11/15; Kyle Busch CHI 2017.
  • Kurt Busch’s pole at Texas was the fastest ever on a 1.5 mile track at 200.915 mph.
  • Qualifying was cancelled twice in 2017: Martinsville-1, Bristol-1.
  • 11 races had an overtime finish in 2017: PHX-1, ACS, TAL-1, Dover-1, Daytona-2, KY, Indy, MIS-2, 
RICH-2, CLT-2, MART-2.
  • Four races were won with a last lap pass: Daytona-1 Kurt Busch passed Kyle Larson, Talladega-1 Ricky 
Stenhouse Jr. passed Kyle Busch, Talladega-2 Brad Keselowski passed Ryan Newman, Martinsville-2 
Kyle Busch passed Denny Hamlin.
  • Three races were affected by rain in 2017: Bristol-1 (postponed until Monday), Charlotte-1 (delayed 90 
minutes lap 145), Indianapolis (Delayed on Lap 12 for 2 hours).
  • Three drivers ended the longest winless streaks of their career in 2017: Ryan Newman 127 races, Kasey Kahne 102 races, Kyle Busch 36 races.

Phoenix Raceway Track History

  • The track was built in 1964 with the goal of becoming the western location of open wheel racing. The first race at PR was on the road course. AJ Foyt won the first oval track race in March 1964.
  • Richard Petty won the first NASCAR race, a 1978 Winston West Series event. Over the years the track has hosted most professional classes of racecars.
  • In 1985 Buddy Jobe purchased the then 10,000 seat track from Dennis Wood. Jobe soon initiated a massive improvement program with the goal of landing a NASCAR Cup race.
  • The first Cup race, held on November 6th, 1988, was won by Alan Kulwicki in his No. 7 ZEREX Ford Kulwicki celebrated by performing the first ever “Polish Victory Lap.”

NASCAR America at 5 p.m. ET: Scan All, Xfinity, Truck championship recaps

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Today’s episode of NASCAR America airs from 5-6 p.m. ET on NBCSN and continues to recap the end of the NASCAR season.

Carolyn Manno hosts with Parker Kligerman in Stamford, Connecticut. Dale Jarrett, Steve Letarte and Kyle Petty join them from NBC Charlotte.

What to expect from today’s show:

  • Martin Truex Jr. capped off a dream season, earning the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Championship with a victory at Homestead-Miami Speedway. We’ll take a listen back on all the action between the drivers, crew chiefs and spotters with “Scan All: Miami.”
  • This past weekend two other NASCAR titles were decided. Christopher Bell won the Camping World Truck Series title, while William Byron captured the 2017 Xfinity Series title. We’ll discuss the rapid surge of Byron as he prepares for his transition to the Cup Series next year.
  • Furniture Row Racing had a season filled with triumphs and heartache but it ended in celebration, as they won the 2017 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Championship. Martin Truex Jr. dominated all season long while he and his team overcame obstacles on and off the track. Nate Ryan tells their story.

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.

Bump & Run: 2017 NASCAR accolades

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Who is your driver of the year?

Dustin Long: William Byron. While Martin Truex Jr. had the best season, I’m just amazed at what Byron has done with such little experience. Yes, he’s been in top equipment but he’s still had to wheel the car. What Byron already has done makes me wonder just what is to come.

Jerry Bonkowski: Martin Truex Jr. No other driver came close. One of best feel-good stories in NASCAR since Alan Kulwicki won the Cup championship in 1992.

Daniel McFadin: Martin Truex Jr.. Eight wins, his first Cup title and too many career-best stats to list in the most memorable driver campaign over a full season in recent years.

Nate Ryan: Martin Truex Jr. His 2017 ranks with Jimmie Johnson‘s 2007 as the best season of the 21st century in the Cup Series. From start to finish, it’s the best since Jeff Gordon‘s 1998 masterpiece.

 

Who is your rookie of the year?

Dustin Long: William Byron. See previous answer.

Jerry Bonkowski: William Byron. Has made it look easy thus far in his career. Now comes the real test with his promotion next season to Cup racing and Hendrick Motorsports.

Daniel McFadin: William Byron. Won the Xfinity title with four wins, the most among series regulars and once again proved how quickly he can adept to a new level of racing.

Nate Ryan: William Byron. Shows signs of being the most adaptive and talented driver of his generation. When Kyle Busch is praising your “race craft” at the tender age of 19, you are special.

 

Who is your crew chief of the year?

Dustin Long: Cole Pearn. Was strong throughout the season and finished it with a split-second pit call that put Martin Truex Jr. in position to win the championship and close out a fantastic season.

Jerry Bonkowski: Cole Pearn. Overcame adversity several times, kept his cool most of the time, planned strategy methodically and if he or team made a mistake, admitted it and moved on. I truly believe he and Martin Truex Jr. have another one or two more championships in them. 

Daniel McFadin: Cole Pearn. In the first year of the stage format, he figured it out quicker than anyone and schooled the field all season long with Martin Truex Jr.

Nate Ryan: Cole Pearn. For his mastery of stages alone, he earned this crown. But for many other reasons — from his low-key and unthreatening affability that allows him to work seamlessly with Joe Gibbs Racing with a disarming ease … to his disdain for hierarchy that grants his co-workers empowering autonomy that other crew chiefs refuse to cede … to his simple choice of T-shirt over firesuit (“I don’t plan on getting on fire.”) as anti-establishment crew chief attire — he is changing the paradigm of being a team leader in NASCAR.

 

After seeing this playoff format for the first time, is there anything with it or related to it you’d consider changing for next year? Why?

Dustin Long: I’m fine with how it went. Let’s be careful of changing things for change’s sake.

Jerry Bonkowski: While I like the stages format, I feel that each race should be broken down into three stages of equal length. In other words, if it’s a 267-lap race, it should be divided equally to where each stage is 89 laps. Also, I’d like to see lap counting stop after each of the first two stages and resume on the ensuing restart, unlike what we see now where the second and final stages oftentimes log six or seven laps under caution before a restart for the next stage. 

Daniel McFadin: I like this format immensely after just one season. The only change I would like to see is making sure caution laps after stage conclusions don’t count. Starting a stage with four to five laps already ticked off takes away from the fan experience and gives less race for drivers and teams to work with.

Nate Ryan: A minor quibble: The “format” for selecting a champion didn’t change, just the manner in which points were accrued to determine one. That said, the addition of playoff points and stages worked well, producing the most worthy field of championship contenders yet and a deserving champion whose bona fides were tested as much or more than any other since NASCAR switched to a playoff-style structure in 2004.

Virginia’s Motor Mile Speedway to end short track racing, drops NASCAR sanction

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Motor Mile Speedway has decided to not renew its NASCAR sanction for 2018, ending its reign as a circle track.

The .416-mile paved oval track in Fairlawn, Virginia, will undergo a significant transformation starting next year which does not include short track racing. A NASCAR Home Track, it has hosted the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series for a number of years and hosted a number of then-Busch Series races nearly 30 years ago.

While it may return to host some select racing events in the future, track officials in a news release announced it will soon host “a variety of entertainment and sporting events.”

“We have tried to make the speedway successful, but with a downturn in interest, it’s increasingly difficult to make it work,” Speedway co-owner David Hagan said in a media release. “We are looking at a variety of events to bring new life and excitement to the property.

“The schedule could include everything from concerts, mud runs, festivals, camping, and even new racing events at some point.  You name it and it’s probably come up at our table.”

Located about an hour southwest of Roanoke, Virginia, the speedway sits on a 170-acre parcel of land. While the speedway will cease holding races, it’s adjacent drag strip will continue to operate for sportsman racing.

Click here for the full media release from the speedway.

NASCAR issues three lug nut penalties in final penalty report of season

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NASCAR has issued three penalties to crew chiefs for unsecured lug nuts following the championship weekend at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

Jason Ratcliff, crew chief on the No. 20 Toyota driven by Matt Kenseth, has been fined $20,000 and suspended one Cup points race for two unsecured lug nuts.

Ratcliff will be moving to the Xfinity Series to serve as Christopher Bell’s crew chief next season. The suspension is series specific. So he will be available to crew chief Bell in the season-opening race at Daytona.

Paul Wolfe, crew chief on Brad Keselowski‘s No. 2 Ford, was fined $10,000 for one unsecured lug nut.

In the Camping World Truck Series, Phil Gould, crew chief on Ryan Truex‘s No. 16 Toyota, was fined $5,000 for an unsecured lug nut.