Ryan: Three takeaways from Sunday’s Sprint Cup race at Phoenix International Raceway


1. Kevin Harvick could have a significant impact on whom he faces in defending his Sprint Cup championship: The hottest driver in NASCAR isn’t likely to slow down soon – Kevin Harvick has wins at the next two tracks on the circuit (Auto Club Speedway, Martinsville Speedway) and finished second in NASCAR’s last visit to Texas Motor Speedway in November. That started his No. 4 Chevrolet’s stretch of seven consecutive top-two finishes, which shows no signs of abating despite a new engine and aero configurations this season.

Harvick, who had five victories in 2014 but could have won twice that many if not for misfortunate and mistakes, could post double-digit victories in the regular season at this clip. That’s significant because the more he wins, the more he torpedoes his rivals’ golden tickets into the Chase for the Sprint Cup.

It isn’t inconceivable that Harvick’s performance could change the way teams approach races until the Chase begins. Last year, 13 of the 16 spots were awarded to race winners. If Harvick keeps snatching victories, many more Chase positions could be awarded on points, putting a larger premium on consistency over winning for the competition fighting for table scraps.

2. Tony Stewart is in trouble: Stewart seemed headed for a much-needed first top 10 of the season before losing control of his No. 14 Chevrolet while battling Justin Allgaier for position. The three-time series champion instead took 39th (his No. 14 Chevrolet crashed again and wasn’t running at the finish after completing 282 laps). It was his fourth straight 30th or worse to open 2015, and he has slipped to a dangerous 36th ranking in the points.

His bid to end a two-season absence from the Chase for the Sprint Cup is far from over, but Stewart drove Sunday with an air of desperation and impatience (booting aside Austin Dillon early in the race) that didn’t help his cause.

After missing significant time the past two seasons, he hasn’t seemed as comfortable in the cockpit this year, and next Sunday’s race at Auto Club Speedway – representative of the superspeedways that comprise the bulk of the schedule – will be a crucial test.

3. Martin Truex Jr. is for real: With his fourth straight top 10 to open the season, Truex made Furniture Row Racing history. The team’s previous record of three straight top 10s was set by Kurt Busch, who carried Furniture Row to its only Chase appearance in 2013 during his lone season with the team.

It’s early, but Truex is the runaway leader for comeback driver of the year, and making the Chase would complete an even greater career turnaround for the two-time Xfinity Series champion. Since being booted from the 2013 Chase and losing his ride at Michael Waltrip Racing because of NAPA’s pullout after a team orders scandal, little had gone right on the track for the Mayetta, N.J., native, who also has faced girlfriend Sherry Pollex’s battle with ovarian cancer. But after a 2014 season in which he managed only five top 10s, Truex has found magic with new crew chief Cole Pearn, whose engineering background seems to have righted the direction of the No. 78 Chevrolet.

If he can maintain the performance, Truex’s story could become the most heartwarming in NASCAR this season.

Follow @nateryan

Portland Xfinity race results, driver points

Portland Xfinity results
Photo by James Gilbert/Getty Images

Cole Custer went from fourth to first on the overtime restart when the top three cars made contact and went on to win Saturday’s Xfinity Series race at Portland International Raceway. Custer is the 10th different winner in 13 races this season.

MORE: Portland Xfinity race results

MORE: Driver points after Portland Xfinity race

JR Motorsports took the next three spots: Justin Allgaier placed second, Sam Mayer was third and Josh Berry was fourth. Austin Hill completed the top five.

John Hunter Nemechek remains the points leader after 13 races. He has a 14-point lead on Hill. Nemechek leads Allgaier by 44 points.

Cole Custer wins Xfinity race at Portland in overtime


Cole Custer held off Justin Allgaier at the finish to win Saturday’s Xfinity Series race in overtime at Portland International Raceway. It is Custer’s first victory of the season.

JR Motorsports placed second, third and fourth with Allgaier, Sam Mayer and Josh Berry. Austin Hill finished fifth.

MORE: Race results, driver points

Custer went from fourth to first on the overtime restart when Parker Kligerman, who restarted third, attempted to pass Allgaier, who was leading. Sheldon Creed was on the outside of Allgaier. All three cars made contact entering Turn 1, allowing Custer to slip by. Creed finished seventh. Kligerman placed 14th.

Custer won the second stage when John Hunter Nemechek made contact with Creed’s car while racing for the lead on the final lap of the stage. The contact spun Creed and Custer inched by Nemechek at the line.

Early in the final stage, Creed gained revenge with contact that spun Nemechek, who went on to finish 10th. A few laps later, Nemechek and Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Sammy Smith had issues. Smith spun Nemechek. After getting back around, Nemechek quickly caught Smith and turned into Smith’s car, damaging it.

STAGE 1 WINNER: Sheldon Creed

STAGE 2 WINNER: Cole Custer

WHO HAD A GOOD RACE: Despite the contact on the overtime restart, runner-up Justin Allgaier managed to score his fourth consecutive top-three finish. … Sam Mayer’s third-place finish is his best on a road course. … Austin Hill’s fifth-place finish gives him four consecutive top-five results.

WHO HAD A BAD RACE: Daniel Hemric finished 33rd after a fire in his car. … Riley Herbst placed 32nd after an engine issue. After opening the season with six top 10s in a row, Herbst has gone seven races in a row without a top 10.

NEXT: The series competes June 10 at Sonoma Raceway (8 p.m. ET on FS1).

Truck race results at WWT Raceway: Grant Enfinger wins


Grant Enfinger took the lead when the leaders wrecked in the final laps and held off the field in overtime to win Saturday’s Craftsman Truck Series race at World Wide Technology Raceway.

It is Enfinger’s second win in the last five races. He also collected a $50,000 bonus for winning the Triple Truck Challenge.

MORE: Truck race results

MORE: Driver points after WWT Raceway

Christian Eckes finished second and was followed by Stewart Friesen, Carson Hocevar and Chase Purdy.

Ty Majeski and Zane Smith wrecked while racing for the lead with six laps to go. Majeski, running on the inside of Smith, slid up the track and clipped Smith’s truck. Both hit the wall. That put Enfinger in the lead.

Smith finished 20th. Majeski placed 30th.

STAGE 1 WINNER: Grant Enfinger

STAGE 2 WINNER: Stewart Friesen

WHO HAD A GOOD RACE: Grant Enfinger’s victory is his fourth top 10 in the last five races. … Carson Hocevar’s fourth-place finish is his fourth consecutive top-five result. … Stewart Friesen’s third-place finish moved him into a playoff spot with four races left in the regular season. … Matt DiBenedetto‘s sixth-place finish is his third consecutive top 10. … Jesse Love finished ninth in his series debut.

WHO HAD A BAD RACE: Ty Majeski had a chance to take the points lead with series leader Corey Heim out because of illness, but Majeski’s 30th-place finish after running at the front most of the day, leaves him behind Heim. … Hailie Deegan finished 32nd after contact sent her truck into the wall hard. … After finishing a career-high third last week at Charlotte, Dean Thompson placed 34th Saturday due to an engine issue.

NEXT: The series races June 23 at Nashville Superspeedway (8 p.m. ET on FS1)

Xfinity starting lineup at Portland: Sheldon Creed wins pole


Sheldon Creed scored his first career Xfinity Series pole by taking the top spot for Saturday’s race at Portland International Raceway.

Creed, making his 50th career series start, earned the pole with a lap of 95.694 mph on the 1.97-mile road course.

MORE: Portland Xfinity starting lineup

Cole Custer will start second with a lap of 95.398 mph. He is followed by Josh Berry (94.242 mph), John Hunter Nemechek (95.127) and Charlotte winner Justin Allgaier (94.897). Road racing specialist Jordan Taylor, driving for Kaulig Racing, qualified sixth at 94.772 mph.

The green flag is scheduled to wave 4:46 p.m. ET Saturday on FS1.