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Chase Elliott in ‘tight spot’ with three races left before playoffs

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Chase Elliott doesn’t know his exact spot or the exact number, but he knows his No. 24 team is “certainly in a tight spot” on the Cup Series playoff grid with three races left before the playoffs.

“You are never comfortable,” Elliott said Friday at Bristol Motor Speedway. “We are there towards the back. I don’t exactly know 100 percent where we are, but I know we are one of the last few spots of non-winners that are still in.”

The spot Elliott finds himself in ahead of tonight’s Bristol night race on NBC is 14th on the playoff grid. He’s 68 points above the cutoff spot for the 16-driver field that will make the playoffs.

Elliott sits above Jamie McMurray (+52) and Matt Kenseth (+31) as the only three winless drivers in the top 16.

“That is not a comfortable position to be in because there is always an opportunity for a guy on the outside to win a race and bump you back another position,” Elliott said. “It’s tight for sure where we are at. We feel like we need a victory to feel good about it. I mean, heck, we are not many from having a full playoff list of winners. So, yeah, no, we aren’t real comfortable with it just because in that position you are not really guaranteed anything.”

If Elliott wins tonight, in two weeks at Darlington or Sept. 9 at Richmond, it would be the first Cup win for the son of NASCAR Hall of Famer Bill Elliott. The driver of the No. 24 Chevrolet is 64 races into his Cup career and has only visited victory lane in a Daytona 500 qualifying race earlier this year.

In the last two seasons, Kyle Larson, Chris Buescher, Austin Dillon, Ricky Stenhouse Jr. and Ryan Blaney have won their first Cup races.

This year, Elliott has six top fives through 23 races but none in the last six races.

“I don’t think it’s eating at us per se,” Elliott said. “I feel like we’re all in a good place mentally. I am. I think (crew chief) Alan (Gustafson) is. I think if we can get things rolling a little better and find some pace and find some consistency in running well each week, I think it’s easy to have everybody hyped-up and attitudes would be great when you’re running good. It’s the years and the weekends that you’re struggling to keep everybody’s morale high. I think Alan does a really good job of that.”

When it comes to gambling his way to a win or a good finish to solidify his points standing, Elliott says “a gamble is not so much a gamble anymore” when everyone is doing it.

“Now we see that every single weekend,” Elliott said. “Everybody knows all the tricks to track position and the pit strategy to move forward in a race or take a chance. Really the only time we see somebody have something weird work out for them is when a caution falls at the right time for them and none of us really know when that’s going to happen. So, I think we’re all gambling per se. We’re all just kind of doing it together instead of one person being on their own island.”

Right now, Elliott is one of three people on the island called “the bubble.”

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NASCAR, Twitter team up for on-board camera stream for Cup playoff races

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NASCAR and Twitter are joining together to give fans a unique view of the upcoming Cup Series playoffs.

Beginning with the Sept. 19 race at Chicagoland Speedway, the on-board camera of one car will be live streamed on Twitter in each of the 10 playoffs races.

The stream that can be accessed via NASCAR’s official Twitter handle — @NASCAR — and NASCAR.twitter.com.

The first race, the Tales of the Turtles 400 on NBCSN, will feature the on-board camera on a Toyota.

On the same screen with the live stream will be a real-time curated timeline of Tweets related to NASCAR.

“Through the in-car camera live stream on Twitter, our fans will have another compelling vantage point of the NASCAR Playoffs, where the energy and intensity of stage racing will be elevated to a whole new level,” said Steve Phelps, NASCAR’s executive vice president and chief global sales and marketing officer in a press release. “To provide this level of access on Twitter throughout the 10-week playoffs is a fantastic way to complement the viewing experience on NBC Sports and the NBC Sports app.”

The live stream will be accessible for free for logged-in and logged-out users in the United States via NASCAR’s official Twitter handle and connected devices. Real-time race highlights will also be available on @NASCAR, offering fans additional ways to follow the playoffs at home or on the go.

NASCAR will also debut emojis of all 16 drivers in the playoffs that can be used until each driver is eliminated from the playoffs.

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Retro Rundown 2017: Throwback paint schemes for the Southern 500

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It’s almost time for the annual Throwback Weekend at Darlington Raceway that is capped off by the Sept. 3 Southern 500 on NBCSN.

That means what was once old is new again and that goes with the latest parade of retro paint schemes.

Here’s your guide to all the paint schemes that will be driven in the Southern 500.

This post will be updated.

Brad Keselowski – Keselowski will pilot the “Midnight” paint scheme Rusty Wallace made famous in the mid-90s during his time in Team Penske’s No. 2 car. This isn’t the first time Keselowski has driven this look. It was on his No. 2 Ford in August 2015 at Michigan.

Austin Dillon – This year marks the 30th anniversary of Dale Earnhardt’s 1987 win in the Southern 500. Richard Childress Racing is honoring that achievement by putting Earnhardt’s Wrangler paint scheme from that year on Austin Dillon’s No. 3 Chevrolet and Ryan Newman‘s No. 31 Chevrolet.

Kevin Harvick – The No. 4 Busch Chevrolet will have a paint scheme that is based on the “Head for the mountains” commercials from the 1980s. Harvick won the 2014 Southern 500.

Kasey Kahne  Kahne’s No. 5 Chevrolet will pay tribute to Geoffrey Bodine, the first driver to win for Hendrick Motorsports in the Cup Series. The paint scheme is the same one Bodine had on the No. 5 in 1985 when it was sponsored by Levi Garrett.

Danica Patrick – The No. 10 Ford will have the paint scheme that Dale Jarrett used in his 1999 Cup Series championship year when he drove for Robert Yates Racing. Patrick also will be sponsored by Ford Credit, which was a sponsor on Jarrett’s No. 88 Ford that season.

Denny Hamlin – The Joe Gibbs Racing driver will pay tribute to famed modified driver Ray Hendrick (no relation to Rick Hendrick). “Mr. Modified” was named one of the 50 greatest NASCAR drivers in 1998.

Ty Dillon – Germain Racing’s No. 13 Chevrolet looks similar to the way it did in last season’s Southern 500. The car will yet again have a paint scheme that Smokey Yunick once used on the No. 13 car he owned in the 1960s.

Clint Bowyer – Bowyer’s No. 14 Ford will have the sponsor and paint scheme that NASCAR Hall of Famer Mark Martin drove in the Xfinity Series from 1988-1991. All three of the Southern 500 Throwback Weekends have featured Martin paint schemes.

 

Ryan Blaney – The Wood Brothers Racing car will have the same look as it did in 1987 when Kyle Petty drove for the team. That year Petty won the Coca-Cola 600 for one of his eight Cup victories.

Joey Logano – The No. 22 Ford will bear the paint scheme used by Jimmy Vasser in IndyCar in 2002, the year Shell and Pennzoil merged.

Team Penske

Corey LaJoie – The No. 23 Toyota will pay tribute to Davey Allison. LaJoie’s paint scheme will be the one used by Allison in 1984 when he drove a No. 23 Miller High Life Pontiac in the Busch Series (now Xfinity Series).

NASCAR

 

Chase Elliott – The Hendrick Motorsports’ driver will drive the light blue paint scheme his father Bill Elliott had in his first Cup start on Feb. 29, 1976 at Rockingham Speedway.

Ryan Newman – Like Austin Dillon, Newman’s No. 31 Chevrolet will evoke Dale Earnhardt’s 1987 Wrangler paint scheme.

Matt DiBenedetto – The Go Fas Racing driver will have the scheme used by Bobby Allison in 1988 when he won the Daytona 500 for his 84th and final NASCAR Cup Series victory.

Aric Almirola – Four months after Almirola was born in March 1984, Richard Petty won his 200th and final Cup race in the July 4 Firecracker 400 at Daytona. Almirola will sport the same paint scheme “The King” took to victory lane that day.

AJ Allmendinger – The JTG Daugherty Racing driver will have the paint scheme Terry Labonte drove in 1986 when his No. 44 car was sponsored by Piedmont Airlines.

Jimmie Johnson – The paint scheme for the No. 48 Lowe’s Chevrolet is inspired by the trucks Lowe’s used in 1986.

Hendrick Motorsports

Derrike Cope – The 1990 Daytona 500 winner will have his own throwback for the Southern 500. Cope will have his paint scheme and sponsor from the 1994 Cup season when he drove the Mane ‘n Tail No. 12 car for Bobby Allison Motorsports.

Dale Earnhardt Jr.  – In his final Southern 500 start, Earnhardt’s No. 88 Chevrolet will bear the paint scheme Earnhardt used during his two championship seasons in the Xfinity Series in 1998-99. Earnhardt drove the No. 3 AC Delco car for Dale Earnhardt Inc., winning 13 races over the course of the two seasons.

Michael McDowell – The No. 95 Chevrolet, owned by Leavine Family Racing, will bear the paint scheme 1992 Cup champion Alan Kulwicki drove in his Rookie of the Year season in 1986. LFR operates out of the same shop Kulwicki did until his death in a 1993 plane crash.

Other Throwback Weekend paint schemes:

Kevin Harvick (Xfinity) – Harvick will drive the original Hunt Brothers Pizza paint scheme that was first used in 2008 by Ken Schrader.

Matt Tifft (Xfinity) – The Joe Gibbs Racing driver will honor Dale Earnhardt Sr., driving the paint scheme Earnhardt used in one race in 1977 when he drove the No. 19 car at Charlotte Motor Speedway.

Erik Jones (Xfinity) – Jones will pay tribute to Davey Allison with his 1988 rookie paint scheme.

Jeremy Clements (Xfinity) – The No. 51 car will pay tribute to A.J. Foyt and his 1964 win in the Firecracker 400 at Daytona. Clements’ grandfather, Crawford, served as Foyt’s crew chief for the race.

Brad Keselowski Racing (Camping World Truck Series) – The two trucks owned by BKR, the No. 19 driven by Austin Cindric and the No. 29 of Chase Briscoe, will have paint schemes dedicated to the Keselowski family’s racing history for the Sept. 3 race at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park.

Austin Cindric – The purple and white paint scheme was used on cars driven by Keselowski’s uncle, Ron Keselowski, in both USAC and the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series. From 1970-74, he earned 11 top-10 finishes in 68 starts as a driver, including a pair of fifth-place finishes in back-to-back seasons at Michigan International Speedway.

Chase Briscoe – The No. 29 truck will bear the paint scheme driven by Brad Keselowski’s father, Bob, to victory lane in 1997 at Richmond. It was his only win in 86 Truck series starts.

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Who is Hot and Not ahead of the Bristol night race

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When Jimmie Johnson won at Bristol Motor Speedway last April, he accomplished something unusual in the recent history at “Thunder Valley.”

His win came with his pit stop on the backstretch of the half-mile track. That was the only time in the last six Bristol races a driver has won while pitting on the backstretch.

Johnson’s win was also just the fourth time in the last 14 Bristol starts that a driver not associated with Team Penske or Joe Gibbs Racing won. It was the second straight after Kevin Harvick won last August’s race. The only other instances were Kasey Kahne in the spring 2013 race and Carl Edwards (then at Roush Fenway Racing) in the spring of 2014.

Going further, Joe Gibbs Racing (eight wins) and Team Penske (four wins) combined to win 12 of the last 17 Bristol races. Four different drivers won for JGR and two different drivers won for Team Penske.

Here is a look at who is hot and not ahead of Saturday’s night race at Bristol Motor Speedway.

Who is Hot

Erik Jones

• Finished third at Michigan to tie his best-career finish
• Finished top 10 in the last three races, best streak of his career.
• Finished 17th at Bristol in April.
• Two Xfinity wins at Bristol.

Kyle Busch

• Finished 10th at Michigan after being penalized for pitting before pit road was open.
• Finished top 10 in the last three races to tie his best streak this season.
• Won from the pole at Pocono for only win of 2017. Had four wins at this point in 2016.
• Five Bristol wins, but last was in 2011.
• Finished 29th or worse in five of the last six races at Bristol (DNF after Accident in last three).

Kevin Harvick

• Finished 13th at Michigan
• Finished top 10 in 12 of the last 17 races.
• Won this race last year, one of two Bristol wins
• Finished top 10 in the last four Bristol races including three top threes.

Brad Keselowski

• Finished 17th at Michigan after winning the pole, worst finish in the last five races.
• Series-leading 11 top-fives this season.
• Two-time Bristol winner, in 2011 and 2012.
• Finished 18th or worse in four of the last five races at Bristol including 34th in April.

Who is Not

Kurt Busch

• Finished 11th at Michigan. Only two top-10 finishes in the last seven races.
• Three DNFs in the last seven races.
• Just 10 top-10 finishes this season after having 16 through 23 races in 2016.
• Has not had back-to-back top 10s since Richmond and Talladega.
• Five Bristol wins but last was in 2006. Four of the five wins came in the Spring race.
• Only three finishes better than 14th in the last 12 races at Bristol.

Austin Dillon

• Finished seventh at Michigan for first top-10 finish since winning at Charlotte in May.
• Only three top-10 finishes this season. Had 10 at this point last year.
• Five top-15 finishes in seven Bristol starts. Best finish of fourth in this race last year.

Dale Earnhardt Jr.

• Finished 14th at Michigan. Last top-10 finish was at Sonoma in June.
• Only two top 10s in the last 11 races.
• One Bristol win in 2004 night race.
• Finished 38th with DNF after accident in April.

Joey Logano

• Finished 28th at Michigan. Tenth finish outside the top 20 in the last 14 races.
• Won at Richmond but was encumbered for failing post-race inspection.
• Now 98 points outside the bubble, must win to make the playoffs.
• Finished top 10 in five of the last six races at Bristol including two wins.

Kyle Larson wins in overtime finish for third Michigan victory in a row

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In a dramatic overtime finish, Kyle Larson forced his way around Martin Truex Jr. on a restart, making contact with him in the process before streaking away to win the Pure Michigan 400.

It is Larson’s third consecutive win at Michigan International Speedway and his third win of the year.

Completing the top five were Larson, Truex, Erik Jones, Ryan Newman and Trevor Bayne.

Originally scheduled to be a 200-lap race, the overtime finish added two laps to the event.

When asked how he pulled off the winning move by NBCSN, the 25-year-old driver said “I have no idea.

‘”I was running a few options through my head of what to do if I got a good jump,” Larson said. “That was one of them and it worked out perfect. I can’t believe it happened. We were struggling all day. Definitely not as good as the last two times we won here. We persevered and had some good restarts at the end.”

Larson later said it was “the most perfect restart of my life.”

All four of Larson’s Cup wins have come at 2-mile speedways.

Owner Chip Ganassi joined Larson on the start-finish line to celebrate, giving him a hug and a slap on the back.

“I want to thank him for finding me in 2011, bringing me up from USAC racing to race for him,” Larson said. “I want to thank all my fans as well. This has been an incredible week for me. To be able go run the Knoxville Nationals yesterday, run second to Donny Schatz and then come here and win, beat Martin Truex, who is a Donny Schatz right now. Definitely a week I’ll never forget.”

The win comes after Larson finished 23rd or worse in five of the last seven races. He also had two second-place finishes.

STAGE 1 WINNER: Brad Keselowski

STAGE 2 WINNER: Martin Truex Jr.

MORE: Race results

MORE: Points standings

WHO HAD A GOOD DAY: Trevor Bayne’s top-five finish is his first of the year and just the fourth of his Cup career … Ryan Newman earned his fifth top-five finish of 2017 and first top five at Michigan since August 2011 … Chris Buescher finished sixth for his best result of the season and his third top 10 … Austin Dillon finished seventh for his first top 10 since winning the Coke 600 in May … Pole-sitter Brad Keselowski led a race-high 105 laps before finishing 17th.

WHO HAD A BAD DAY: Daniel Suarez and Kasey Kahne were involved in a hard crash on Lap 139 while exiting Turn 2. Kahne finished 38th and Suarez finished 37th. It is the first DNF for Suarez since the Daytona 500. … Clint Bowyer, one of the drivers on the playoff bubble, finished 23rd after losing a tire from a fender rub and having to pit on Lap 151. … Another bubble driver, Joey Logano lost his right-front tire with 15 to go and finished 28th, two laps down … After being in the top five on the final restart, Matt Kenseth dropped to 24th before the checkered flag after cutting a tire.

NOTABLE: The last driver to win three races in a row at Michigan was NASCAR Hall of Famer Bill Elliott. He won four straight from 1985-86.

QUOTE OF THE DAY: “If a guy screws up in front of you, you take advantage. So I screwed up and he took advantage, that’s the way it works.” – Martin Truex Jr after finishing second to Kyle Larson.

WHAT’S NEXT: Bass Pro Shops / NRA Night Race at Bristol Motor Speedway at 7:30 p.m. ET on Aug. 19 on NBC.