Jimmie Johnson leads Hendrick onslaught, holds off Kevin Harvick to win at Kansas

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In a show of Hendrick Motorsports muscle, Jimmie Johnson held off a strong last-lap charge by Kevin Harvick to win Saturday night’s SpongeBob SquarePants 400 at Kansas Speedway.

Harvick finished second, followed by two other HMS drivers, Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Jeff Gordon, as well as pole-sitter Joey Logano.

It was Johnson’s 73rd career win and third of the season. He also set a NASCAR record by recording his 23rd career victory on a 1.-5 mile track. It was also Johnson’s third career win at Kansas Speedway, tying him with Gordon for most wins there.

The key for the HMS onslaught was all three drivers (along with Kurt Busch) not pitting during the final caution of the race after Ricky Stenhouse Jr. wrecked with 12 laps left. The track position they maintained was the difference in allowing the three HMS drivers to finish in the top-5.

Finishing sixth through 10th were Matt Kenseth, Brad Keselowski, Kurt Busch, Martin Truex Jr. and Ryan Newman.

How Johnson won: With 12 laps left, Ricky Stenhouse Jr. blew a tire and wrecked. Johnson, Earnhardt Jr., Gordon and Kurt Busch all decided to stay out on track, while the majority of the other leaders came in for fuel and at least two tires, except for Truex, who came in just for fuel. That was the difference in the race. Johnson led just the final 10 laps of the 267-lap event. “It was a long hard night of racing and fighting for track position,” Johnson said. “Once we got up front, we were able to hang on for the final eight or nine laps, whatever it was.”

Who else had a good day: Martin Truex Jr. appeared headed for his first win of the season, leading a race-high 95 laps, but after pitting for fuel following Stenhouse’s wreck (did not take tires), trailed back in the closing laps. Still, he wound up with a top-10 finish (9th). “I hate fuel mileage racing,” Truex said. “Because of that, I’ve never come out once in my career on the right side of one of these deals. … We’re going to get one (win). We just need to keep digging.” … Other strong efforts came from Matt Kenseth (6th), Busch (8th) and Sam Hornish Jr. (16th), in his first race with new crew chief Kevin Manion.

Who had a bad day: Wrecks left Tony Stewart (39th), Erik Jones (40th) and Denny Hamlin (41st). Jones was making his Sprint Cup debut and drove smart until he lost control of his car and wrecked, ending his day early. Meanwhile, Stewart’s horrible season continues. … In his debut for Michael Waltrip Racing, David Ragan also was involved in a wreck that left him with a 33rd place finish.

Notables: Carl Edwards led 12 laps but couldn’t get quite enough forward drive, ending up 20th. … Brad Keselowski led 43 laps and at one point appeared poised to make it a 1-2 finish with teammate Joey Logano, but pitting on the final caution pushed Keselowski back to his eventual 7th place finish. Speaking of Logano, he led 29 laps. … The race was delayed by 2 hours, 16 minutes due to rain that started falling, bringing out a red flag race stoppage after the first 98 laps.

Quote of the day: “They didn’t throw a caution until like seven seconds after I wrecked. Luckily, nobody hit us in the door.” – Denny Hamlin, unhappy that it took NASCAR so long to throw a caution after his spin and wreck on Lap 208. Hamlin wrecked hard and his car suffered major damage.

What’s next: May 16, 7 pm ET, Sprint All-Star Race (non-points race), Charlotte Motor Speedway. The next points-paying race is the Coca-Cola 600, May 24, 6 pm ET, also at Charlotte Motor Speedway.

Follow @JerryBonkowski

What each Xfinity Championship 4 driver would accomplish with title

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The day before the Cup Series title is decided, the Xfinity Series will do the same with the Ford EcoBoost 300 at Homestead-Miami Speedway (3:30 p.m. ET Saturday on NBCSN).

The four drivers who make up the Xfinity Championship 4 are rookies Christopher Bell and Tyler Reddick and sophomore drivers Daniel Hemric and Cole Custer.

Regardless of who claims the title, the series will have its seventh different champion in as many years. They’ll also be the 13 different champion in 14 years.

Here’s a further breakdown of what would be accomplished by each driver should they emerge as the 2018 Xfinity champion.

YOUNG MAN’S SERIES

If Bell (23 years old), Reddick (22) or Custer (20) win, they’ll be the eighth consecutive champion 25 or younger.

Hemric (27) would be the first champion over 25 since Brad Keselowski (26) in 2010.

CALIFORNIA KIDS

If Reddick or Custer win, they’ll join Kevin Harvick as the second California natives to win the title.

Reddick hails from Corning while Custer is originally from Ladera Ranch. Harvick, who won the title in 2001 and 2006, is from Bakersfield.

ROOKIE ROYALTY

If Bell or Reddick claim the title, they’ll join Chase Elliott (2014) and William Byron (2017) as the only rookies to win the title.

Bell enters the race with a rookie record seven wins this season

CHAMPIONSHIP POTION No. 9

If Reddick wins the title – in his last race with JR Motorsports before moving to Richard Childress Racing next season – he would deliver JR Motorsports its third Xfinity title. All three  – Elliott in 2014 and Byron in 2017 – have come from the No. 9 team.

A Reddick title would also mean all three JRM titles have been with drivers in their first full-time year with the team.

Reddick won the pole for this race last year with Chip Ganassi Racing and placed fourth.

WINLESS CHAMPION?

Hemric will take part in his last Xfinity race as a full-time driver before departing for RCR’s No. 31 car in the Cup Series.

If he wins the race Saturday, it would not only be Hemric’s first career Xfinity win (in 66 starts), it would be his first career NASCAR win (in 118 starts across all three national series).

Should he not win the race but win the title, Hemric would join Austin Dillon (2013) as the second winless Xfinity champion.

He would also become the first Xfinity champion without any series wins to his name.

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NASCAR America Fantasy League: 10 best at Texas in last three seasons

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Last year’s championship finale was as predictable as any NASCAR race can be.

Seven of the top-10 finishers qualified among the top 10. Eight of them finished among the top 10 in both stages and only one – Ryan Newman in 10th – failed to finish that well at the two breaks.

The top-three finishers all led significant portions of the race with Martin Truex Jr. pacing the field four times for 78 laps, Kyle Busch leading four times for 43 laps and Kyle Larson up front four times for 145 laps.

For the most part, these were the same drivers who were fast in practice, so this week’s NASCAR America Fantasy Live roster should be heavily influenced by the drivers with the best 10-lap averages.

Qualifying will also be important, but there is no reason to automatically discount a driver who starts outside the top 10. Last year, Chase Elliott advance to fifth from 18th on the grid while Joey Logano finished sixth after starting 19th.

1. Kevin Harvick (three-year average: 3.00) Playoff
Harvick has been as close to perfect as possible at Miami. Since the track went to its current configuration in 2003, Harvick has missed the top 10 only once (2007). In the 10 races since then, he has seven top fives, including the last four. He won the championship on the strength of his 2014 victory and is one of the best bets to do so again.

1. Kyle Busch  (three-year average: 3.00) Playoff
There are many signs pointing to this week being a two-man battle between Harvick and Busch. Las Vegas odds makers have had them as co-favorites most of the week at 2/1, they’ve dominated the 1.5-mile tracks with Harvick winning four times and Busch three. Their three-year average at Homestead are identical. Unless something happens to slow one of them down, the race and championship will come down to these two. 

3. Kyle Larson (three-year average: 3.33) Non-Playoff
It is unfortunate that Larson failed to make the Championship 4 because he will be part of the battle for the win this weekend. He enters with three consecutive top fives including a second in 2016 and a third last year. In four years of NASCAR’s current knockout format, a non-playoff driver has never won this race, so history could be made this week.

4. Joey Logano (three-year average: 4.67) Playoff
Logano is this week’s dark horse to win the championship. He has not been nearly as dominant on 1.5-milers as Harvick, Busch or Truex but he does have a couple of things in his favor. 1) He has had the luxury of preparing for Miami for three weeks since winning at Martinsville and 2) he has not finished worse than sixth in his last three starts at Miami. 

5. Matt Kenseth (three-year average: 7.33) Non-Playoff
It has been easy to disregard Kenseth’s statistics in 2018. His most recent runs on a given track were with Joe Gibbs Racing and the No. 6 at Roush Fenway Racing has struggled with both him and Trevor Bayne behind the wheel. Last week’s seventh-place finish at Phoenix changed that. Now that he knows how to get to the top 10, his Miami record of five consecutive results of eighth or better is suddenly meaningful.

MORE: Rotoworld Fantasy Power Rankings

6. Chase Elliott (three-year average: 8.00 in two starts) Non-Playoff
There is a old adage in racing that states drivers must first lose races in order to win them. The same is true of championships – and under NASCAR’s current rules, that also applies to simply making the Championship 4. Elliott has been eliminated in the Round of 8 in the past two seasons. Elliott knows he has been one of the strongest performers during the playoffs and if not for the poor start that Chevrolet endured at the beginning of the season, he might be one of the challengers if he had started winning earlier in the year. 

7. Denny Hamlin (three-year average: 9.33) Non-Playoff
Hamlin will be on most fantasy radars because of his five race top-10 streak at Miami. He has not earned a top five there since 2013, but that year he won his second race on this track. His first came in 2009, so there is still some hope that he will keep his streak of winning every year since he was a rookie in 2006 alive.

8. Jamie McMurray (three-year average: 10.33) Non-Playoff
McMurray is another driver who would like to close the season on a high note. He has not announced his plans for 2019, but he knows he will not be with Chip Ganassi Racing next year and with most of the major rides spoken for, he may not have another opportunity to win. Two of his last four attempts on this track ended in fifth-place finishes. The other two were a pair of 13ths. 

9. Austin Dillon (three-year average: 12.33) Non-Playoff
Dillon has come on strong in the last two weeks. His 10th at Texas and eighth at Phoenix is the first time this year that he has earned back-to-back top 10s. At Miami, he has a current streak of three top 15s without a top 10. With a little luck and some track position, he could close out the year with three consecutive strong runs.

9. Jimmie Johnson (three-year average: 12.33) Non-Playoff
Johnson has already shown what he will do for a win. It didn’t matter that he might miss the playoffs when he sailed into the final chicane at the Charlotte Roval and it won’t matter that the Championship 4 are battling for the Cup this week. If Johnson can sniff the lead, he is going to do everything he can to get to the checkers first. 

14. Martin Truex Jr. (three-year average: 16.33) Playoff
Truex may have won last year, but he has not been overly impressive at Miami in recent years. That was his only top 10 in the past four seasons, which suggests he has his work cut out for him this week if he wants to beat Harvick and Busch.

Bonus Picks

Pole Winner: Hamlin has won two of the last three poles at Miami. He will not be front-of-mind for most fantasy players this week and that could be a blessing in disguise. While most of the competition makes a safe pick like Harvick, Kyle Busch or Truex, someone willing to take a little risk could reap a huge benefit.

Segment Winners: Last year, the top-four finishers each swept the top five at the end of the stages. Meanwhile, there were only two drivers who earned stage points before falling out of the top 10 at the checkers (Clint Bowyer was 10th in Stage 1 before finishing 12th; Kurt Busch was seventh in Stage 1 and sixth in Stage 2 before losing two laps in the final segment and finishing 22nd). That suggests this week’s stage winners will come from among the drivers who impress the analysts most in practice.

For more Fantasy NASCAR coverage, check out Rotoworld.com and follow Dan Beaver (@FantasyRace) on Twitter.

UPDATED: Entry lists for NASCAR weekend in Miami

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NASCAR heads to South Florida for the season finales for the Cup, Xfinity and Truck Series. Here are the preliminary entry lists for each series:

Cup – Ford EcoBoost 400 (3 p.m. ET Sunday on NBC)

Thirty-nine cars are on the entry list for this race, which will determine the Cup champion.

BJ McLeod will drive Rick Ware Racing’s No. 51 Ford.

Tanner Berryhill is entered in Obaika Racing’s No. 97 Toyota for the second week in a row.

Click here for the entry list.

 

Xfinity – Ford EcoBoost 300 (3:30 p.m. ET Saturday on NBCSN)

Forty-five cars are on the entry list for this event.

Click here for Xfinity entry list

 

Trucks – Ford EcoBoost 200 (8 p.m. ET Friday on Fox Sports 1)

Thirty-two trucks are on the entry list for this event.

Mike Harmon is now entered in Beaver Motorsports’ No. 50 Chevrolet

Click here for the Truck entry list.

Championship weekend schedule for Miami

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After 10 months, the NASCAR season comes to an end this weekend at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

The Cup, Xfinity and Camping World Truck Series all end their seasons on the 1.5-mile track.

Here’s the full weekend schedule with TV and radio info:

(All times are Eastern)

Friday, Nov. 16

7 a.m. – Truck Series garage opens

8:35 – 9:25 a.m. – Truck practice (No TV)

10 a.m. – 8 p.m. – Cup garage open

10:05 – 10:55 a.m. – Final Truck practice (No TV)

11 a.m. – 8 p.m. – Xfinity garage open

1 – 2:20 p.m. – Cup practice (NBCSN, Motor Racing Network)

2:35 – 3:25 p.m. – Xfinity practice (NBCSN)

3:45 p.m. – Truck Series qualifying; single truck/two rounds (Fox Sports 1)

5:05 – 5:55 p.m. – Final Xfinity practice (NBCSN)

6 p.m. – Truck Series driver-crew chief meeting

6:10 p.m. – Cup qualifying; multi-car/three rounds (NBCSN, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio)

7:30 p.m. – Truck Series driver introductions

8 p.m. – Ford EcoBoost 200; 134 laps/201 miles (FS1, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio)

Saturday, Nov. 17

8:30 a.m. –  Xfinity garage opens

10 a.m. – 5:30 p.m. – Cup garage open

11:35 – 12:25 p.m. – Cup practice (NBCSN, MRN)

12:35 p.m. – Xfinity qualifying; multi-car/three rounds (NBCSN)

1:40 p.m. – Xfinity driver-crew chief meeting

2 – 2:50 p.m. – Final Cup practice (NBCSN, MRN)

3 p.m. – Xfinity driver introductions

3:30 p.m. – Ford EcoBoost 300; 200 laps/300 miles (NBCSN, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio)

Sunday, Nov. 18

9 a.m. – Cup garage opens

12:30 p.m. – Driver-crew chief meeting

1:50 p.m. – Driver introductions

2:30 p.m. – Ford EcoBoost 400; 267 laps/400.5 miles (NBC, Championship 4 simulcast on NBCSN, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio)