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Why Kansas Cup qualifying is more important than usual

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Friday’s NASCAR Cup qualifying not only set pit selection for Sunday’s Hollywood Casino 400, it also set the pit stall selection for next week’s race at Martinsville Speedway.

That means Martin Truex Jr.’s pole will give him the No. 1 pit stall at Martinsville and aid his chances in winning at the historic track for the first time.

The reason for this is because qualifying takes place about three hours before next weekend’s race at Martinsville. This is the same thing that was done at Pocono (pit stall was based on qualifying at Indianapolis the week before)) and at Watkins Glen (based on Pocono qualifying).

Jimmie Johnson, who has not earned a pole this season – and just three poles since 2014 – knows the significance of the No. 1 pit stall at Martinsville. Three of Johnson’s nine wins there have come when he had the No. 1 pit stall.

“For Martinsville, yeah, this is huge,” said Johnson said, who qualified 13th Friday. “We all know how important that first pit box is.”

Pit selection at Martinsville is important because pit road there is tight and it’s easy to get boxed in by another team. Only a few pit stalls have an opening before or after them, making them more valuable. By having the No. 1 stall at the end of pit road, a driver can fire out of their stall instead of having to possibly go around somebody.

“The few times I have been in that (No. 1) pit box, I mean you just need an okay pit stop and you roll off ahead of everybody,” Johnson said. “I mean, it is a big advantage and everybody is aware that today counts for that pit box.”

 

Here’s your primer heading into second half of NASCAR Cup playoffs

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If you thought the first five races of the NASCAR Cup playoffs were intense, you haven’t seen nothing yet.

As the 10-race playoffs move into their second half, the final five races will likely be more competitive than the first five.

That’s particularly true in Sunday’s cut-off race at Kansas, where the current field of 12 remaining playoff contenders will be cut to eight after the checkered flag falls.

And then there will be the Round of 8 cut-off race at Phoenix in four weeks that will set the four-driver field for the championship race in the season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

Thanks to our friends at RacingInsights.com, here’s some of the top playoff insights that will help fans better understand where we are in the playoffs heading into Kansas:

  • Playoff drivers have won all five races in the 2017 playoffs.
  • The last time a driver who didn’t make it into the playoffs won a playoff race was Denny Hamlin at Homestead in 2013.
  • The last playoff race won by a playoff driver who was previously eliminated from the playoffs was Dale Earnhardt Jr. at Phoenix in 2015.
  • Tony Stewart in 2005 is the only driver to go on to win the championship without winning a race during the playoffs.
  • Four of five playoff races so far this season have been won from a qualifying position of sixth or better.
  • Brad Keselowski won at Talladega driving a Ford, ending a four-race playoff winning streak by Toyotas. Also, prior to Talladega, Toyota drivers had won all four poles and all four races in the 2017 playoffs. Dale Earnhardt Jr. took the pole at Talladega, but finished seventh.
  • Brad Keselowski won at Talladega with a last lap pass for the win, it was the eighth playoff race won with a last lap pass and the only one in the last 29 races.
  • There were 11 cautions at Talladega, the most cautions in the last 18 playoff races.
  • There were a combined 21 cautions in the last two playoff races, the same number as the previous four playoff races combined.
  • Talladega last week: 14 cars running at the finish, 26 total DNFs (including 24 DNFs due to wrecks), three red flags and only two playoff drivers finished in the top 10 – all records for a playoff race.
  • A Chevrolet driver has finished runner-up in each of this season’s first five playoff races.
  • Chase Elliott has finished runner-up three times so far in the playoffs. The record for most runner-up finishes in the playoffs in a season was four by Jeff Gordon in 2014 and Jimmie Johnson in 2006. Elliott has also finished runner-up at both 1.5-mile tracks so far, with three more 1.5-mile tracks still left in the final five races (Kansas, Texas and Homestead-Miami).
  • Kevin Harvick, Denny Hamlin and Kyle Busch are the only drivers still playoff-eligible that have scored stage points in every playoff race.
  • The best average finish by a driver in all 10 races of the playoffs is 4.9 by Carl Edwards in 2011. Edwards tied Tony Stewart for the championship, but Stewart won on the first tiebreaker – more wins (five to Edwards’ one).
  • Martin Truex Jr. has led the playoff standings through the first five races of the playoffs, tying Matt Kenseth in 2013 for the most races led by a driver to start the playoffs. Truex also won at Kansas in May.
  • Three drivers have won races during the playoffs in all three years of the elimination format entering 2017: Kevin Harvick, Joey Logano and Jimmie Johnson all three drivers have yet to win in 2017.
  • Only two of the 135 playoff races were won by drivers getting their first NASCAR Cup win: Clint Bowyer in 2007 at New Hampshire and Brian Vickers in 2006 at Talladega.
  • Jimmie Johnson is the only driver to win a race in every season of the playoffs entering 2017. Entering Kansas, Johnson remains winless in the 2017 playoffs.

Today’s Cup race at Charlotte: Start time, weather, TV/radio info

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The second round of the NASCAR Cup playoffs begins with today’s Bank of America 500 at Charlotte Motor Speedway.

The field still in contention for the NASCAR Cup championship was cut from 16 to 12 drivers after last weekend’s race at Dover International Speedway.

Here are the details for today’s race:

(All times are Eastern):

START: Charles Bowman, Charlotte and North Carolina Market President, Bank of America; Karen Calder, Executive Director – Classroom Central; and three teachers will give the command to start engines at 12:52 p.m. Green flag is set for 1 p.m.

DISTANCE: The race is scheduled for 334 laps (500 miles) around the 1.5-mile oval.

STAGES: Stage 1 ends on Lap 90. Stage 2 ends on Lap 180.

PRERACE SCHEDULE: The Cup garage opens at 10 a.m. The driver/crew chief meeting is at 11 a.m. Driver introductions are at 12:10 p.m.

NATIONAL ANTHEM: Carly Pearce will perform the anthem at 12:45 p.m., followed by a flyover by one C-130 from the 145th Airlift Wing in Charlotte, N.C.

TV/RADIO: NBC will broadcast the race at 1 p.m. Coverage begins at 11 a.m. on NBCSN with NASCAR America, followed by Countdown to Green at noon on NBC. The Performance Racing Network radio broadcast begins at noon on goprn.com and affiliates. SiriusXM NASCAR Radio will carry the PRN broadcast.

FORECAST: The wunderground.com site predicts a temperature of 79 degrees and a 54 percent chance of rain at race time.

LAST TIME: Jimmie Johnson won last fall’s race, leading a race-high 155 of 334 laps. Matt Kenseth finished second and Kasey Kahne was third. Austin Dillon won this year’s Coca-Cola 600 at CMS on May 28.

STARTING LINEUP: Click here for the starting lineup.

Entry lists for NASCAR Cup and Xfinity races this weekend at Charlotte

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In baseball terms, the NASCAR Cup and Xfinity Series will both play home games this weekend.

Both series will race at Charlotte Motor Speedway.

This will be the fourth race and the start of the second round in the 10-race Cup playoffs, while it will be the third race and the first cut-off race of the seven-race Xfinity playoffs.

The Camping World Truck Series is off this weekend.

Here are the preliminary entry lists for all three races.

Cup – Bank of America 500

There are 40 cars entered for Sunday’s race.

There is currently one unfilled driver spot, that being on the No. 51 Chevrolet of Rick Ware Racing.

Jimmie Johnson won this race last year for his eighth career Cup win at the 1.5-mile track. Johnson dominated, leading 155 of the 334 laps. Matt Kenseth finished second, while Kasey Kahne was third.

In the Coca-Cola 600 in May, Austin Dillon won his first career Cup race.

Click here for the entry list.

Xfinity – Drive For The Cure 300

There are 42 cars entered for Saturday’s race.

Angela Ruch, daughter of Derrike Cope, will drive the No. 78 Chevrolet for B.J. McLeod Motorsports.

There are no drivers listed for the No. 38 Chevrolet owned by Susan Bates and the No. 77 Chevrolet owned by Victor Obaika

Also, the No. 96 Chevrolet of GMS Racing has withdrawn. Ben Kennedy had been slated to drive that car.

Sam Hornish Jr. is back for his fifth Xfinity race of the season, driving the No. 12 Ford Mustang for Team Penske.

Among the NASCAR Cup drivers entered in the race are Austin Dillon, Ty Dillon, Daniel Suarez, Erik Jones and Ryan Blaney.

Randall Burnett will serve as crew chief on the No. 21 Chevrolet of Daniel Hemric after the four-race suspension of Danny Stockman Jr.

Joey Logano won this race last year, leading the last 12 laps to take the checkered flag. Elliott Sadler finished second, while Daniel Suarez was third. Kyle Larson led 165 laps and finished fourth.

Blaney won May’s Xfinity race at Charlotte.

Click here for the entry list.

 

Starting lineup for Sunday’s ISM Connect 300 NASCAR Cup race at Loudon

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Up until this season, Kyle Busch wasn’t necessarily looked upon as a prolific qualifier.

He earned a career-best three poles in 2013 and 2014.

But that’s nothing compared to 2017, as Busch earned a career-best eighth pole Friday for Sunday’s ISM Connect 300 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway.

It’s also his second consecutive pole, having won the pole for last weekend’s playoff-opening race at Chicagoland Speedway.

Kyle Larson was next and will join Busch on the front row Sunday.

As for the other 14 NASCAR Cup playoff contenders: Denny Hamlin (134.763) was third, followed by Ryan Blaney (134.720), Chicagoland winner Martin Truex Jr. (134.188), Kevin Harvick (134.108), Kurt Busch (133.985), Kasey Kahne (133.966), Matt Kenseth (133.589), Jamie McMurray (133.680) and Jimmie Johnson (131.989).

Of the top 12 qualifiers, 11 are playoff drivers. The only non-playoff driver was Erik Jones (eighth, 133.971).

As for the other five playoff contenders, Brad Keselowski was 13th (133.422), Chase Elliott (133.357) was 14th, Austin Dillon was 17th (133.133), Ryan Newman was 18th (133.007) and Ricky Stenhouse Jr. qualified 24th (131.628).

Click here for the starting lineup.