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Clint Bowyer wins pole for Monster Energy Open

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CONCORD, N.C. — Clint Bowyer won the pole for Saturday night’s Monster Energy Open with a lap of 189.474 mph at Charlotte Motor Speedway.

He was followed by Ryan Blaney (188.009 mph), Chase Elliott (187.859), Austin Dillon (187.487) and AJ Allmendinger (187.285).

Twenty-four cars will star the race.

The Open, scheduled to begin at about 6 p.m. ET, will feature three stages. The first stage will be 20 laps. The second stage will be 20 laps. The final stage will be 10 laps. The winner of each stage advances to the All-Star Race provided they pass lug nut inspection.

The fan vote winner will be announced after the Open.

Click here for starting lineup

 

Ernie Cope takes over as crew chief for A.J. Allmendinger

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Ernie Cope is the new crew chief of the No. 47 Chevrolet driven by A.J. Allmendinger effective immediately, JTG Daugherty confirmed to NBC Sports.

Motorsport.com first reported the move.

Cope takes over for Randall Burnett, who will be reassigned within the organization. Burnett has been Allmendinger’s crew chief since the start of the 2016 season.

Cope, who led Chase Elliott to his 2014 Xfinity Series championship, had also joined the team as competition director at the start of 2016.

Allmendinger gets a new crew chief as he sits 30th in the point standings. He finished 19th in 2016.

Allmendinger’s best result through 11 races this year is third in the Daytona 500. His only other top 10 finish was sixth at Martinsville.

Burnett was suspended three races and fined $65,000 earlier this year for three unsecured lug nuts on the No. 47 after the Atlanta race. Cope filled in for a fourth race in addition to the races Burnett was suspended for.

Erik Jones, Clint Bowyer lead Monster Energy Open practice

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The only practice session for the Monster Energy Open was led by Erik Jones, who posted a top speed of 189.056 mph around Charlotte Motor Speedway.

The top five was filled out by Clint Bowyer (187.970), Chase Elliott (186.400), Ryan Blaney (186.021) and AJ Allmendinger (185.893).

Filling in for the injured Aric Almirola, Regan Smith and the No. 43 Ford were sixth fastest.

The Monster Energy Open will send three drivers to the All-Star Race. A fourth driver will advance via a fan vote.

Click here to see the full practice report.

Who will win the fan vote to race in the Monster Energy NASCAR All-Star Race? You decide

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The polls are open and waiting for your vote.

It’s time choose your favorite driver to run in next weekend’s 2017 Monster Energy NASCAR All Star Race at Charlotte Motor Speedway.

The race takes place May 20th and the single driver that earns the most fan votes will receive an automatic berth in the main event.

Voting is currently taking place.

Fans can vote once per day at NASCAR.com/fanvote, and votes shared on Facebook or Twitter count double. Also, don’t forget to use the hashtags #AllStarRace and #FanVote on social media.

Voting closes May 19 at 11:59 p.m. ET.

Here’s the list of eligible drivers that are on the Monster Energy NASCAR All-Star Race Fan Vote ballot:

AJ Allmendinger, Aric Almirola, Trevor Bayne, Ryan Blaney, Clint Bowyer, Landon Cassill, Matt DiBenedetto, Austin Dillon, Ty Dillon, Jeffrey Earnhardt, Chase Elliott, Timmy Hill, Erik Jones, Corey LaJoie, Michael McDowell, Paul Menard, Danica Patrick, David Ragan, Reed Sorenson, Daniel Suárez and Cole Whitt.

Bump & Run: Who is next driver to snap long winless drought?

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Dale Jarrett and Parker Kligerman, who appear on NASCAR America from 5:30 – 6:30 p.m. ET today, join Nate Ryan and Dustin Long, to answer this week’s questions.

This season has seen two drivers snap winless droughts of more than 90 races: Phoenix winner Ryan Newman (127-race winless drought) and Talladega winner Ricky Stenhouse Jr. (158-race drought). Who is next to win among drivers who have gone more than 90 starts without a Cup win? (* list below)

Parker Kligerman: Well the easiest answer here is Clint Bowyer. From the doldrums of outside top-30 equipment to now being a part of one of the top organizations in the sport, I can’t imagine a world in which Clint does not win. With that out of the way, I feel Austin Dillon could be a moderate shot of breaking a winless streak, but that may be better said as getting his first win. Lastly, Kasey Kahne is approaching 100 races winless at one of the largest, most successful race teams in the entire world. As Kyle Petty has said “Where is Kasey Kahne” I think Kasey has to be asking “Where is Victory Lane?” 

Dale Jarrett: The two that I look at are Clint Bowyer and Jamie McMurray. I think they are both performing well enough that it can happen, pretty much any place and any time. I really give the edge to Jamie McMurray. I think that team and that organization right now, with the way Kyle Larson has performed and Jamie has too, he’s performed and continued to get better. If I look at the two restrictor-plate races to this point, I think he maybe had the fastest car. I think there’s a good chance that he might win Daytona or Talladega, but I think he might win even before then. Bowyer, I believe, is going to win before the year is out.

Nate Ryan: Jamie McMurray. If they were rerunning the final 10 laps of Talladega today, he might be ending this streak now. Kansas Speedway would mark a nice homecoming of sorts, too, for the Joplin, Missouri, native who is providing confirmation that points leader Kyle Larson’s success is indicative of across-the-board improvement at Chip Ganassi Racing.

A close second for the next first-place finisher is Clint Bowyer, then Austin Dillon, Kasey Kahne, Trevor Bayne and Aric Almirola.

Dustin Long: Jamie McMurray has shown more speed and more consistency and is a good bet to be the next among this group to end a winless drought. He has six top-10 finishes in the first 10 races. Now it’s just a matter of turning those into more top fives as teammate Kyle Larson has done.

* DRIVERS WINLESS IN AT LEAST THE LAST 90 CUP RACES

Reed Sorenson (271)

Landon Cassill (233)

Michael McDowell (223)

Paul Menard (206)

Danica Patrick (164)

Clint Bowyer (159)

David Ragan (144)

Trevor Bayne (138)

Austin Dillon (131)

Jamie McMurray (122)

Cole Whitt (122)

Aric Almirola (100 races)

AJ Allmendinger (96 races)

Kasey Kahne (93 races)

NASCAR competes on 1.5-mile tracks the rest of the month with Saturday’s race at Kansas Speedway and the following two weeks at Charlotte Motor Speedway for the All-Star Race and Coca-Cola 600. What driver(s) and/or team(s) will you be watching close the rest of the month?

Parker Kligerman: This is a tough one as there are so many I will be keeping a close eye on. 

  • First would have to be Joe Gibbs Racing and seeing if they can finally get into victory lane. 
  • Second would be Ganassi. I want to see if this race team can continue to display the raw speed that they have early in this season, as the races get hotter and the tracks shift toward 1.5 miles in length. This will be the litmus test if they are truly championship material. 
  • Lastly, our newest winners in Roush Fenway Racing. Can this race team continue to show performances that warrant them being a part of the playoffs in what feels like a generation ago when they were a lock for such a berth. 

Dale Jarrett: I’m watching the drivers at Joe Gibbs Racing. What are they going to do? This has been their strong suit, especially over the six months at the end of 2015 and then all of last year, they performed at a high level at these types of tracks.

This is just in my mind thinking that it seems that they have been more to the conservative side with the skew and the rear end where others have been willing to take that chance, get their win and then maybe they back off a little from that. It just seems like they haven’t given that much to their drivers, and are they going to bite the bullet and say, ‘OK, this is what it is going to take, we’ve got to figure out a way to do this.’ I know they don’t like getting caught pushing the issue too much, but I really believe it’s going to take something like that. I’m going to keep my eye on them because Kansas and Charlotte are places that they perform well whenever their team is at their peak.

Nate Ryan: Joe Gibbs Racing. After Denny Hamlin predicted last week that Talladega would be his best chance at a win for “a few months” and identified 1.5-mile tracks as the team’s major Achilles’ heel, it naturally put some focus on how JGR does at the next three events and tracks that comprise two of the five 1.5-mile ovals in the playoffs (and two-thirds of the second round).

Kansas and Charlotte will serve as a barometer of how much teams need to improve their aerodynamics/horsepower combinations to be championship contenders four months from now.

Dustin Long: Naturally, Joe Gibbs Racing. I want to see how they perform, what kind of improvement they’ve shown on the 1.5-mile tracks. Another team I’ll keep an eye on is Hendrick Motorsports. Can Dale Earnhardt Jr. start to come back from his slow start? What about Kasey Kahne? Can Chase Elliott continue his strong runs on 1.5-mile tracks. Can Jimmie Johnson show more strength?

Watch Dale Jarrett and Parker Kligerman from 5:30 – 6:30 p.m. ET on NASCAR America on NBCSN.