Five things to watch in today’s Sprint Cup race at Michigan

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Regardless whether teams have the high-drag package figured out, they’ll race it today at Michigan International Speedway.

Drivers spent Saturday’s practice sessions trying to run near competitors to solve the riddle of this package, which debuted last month at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Some drivers reported that their car’s handling worsened when they approached the back of a leading car.

“There is a lot of turbulent air there,’’ Jeff Gordon said. “We are going to be fanned out and finding clean air and then trying to get that tow down the straightaway. It’s going to be a totally different Michigan I feel like than what we have ever had before.’’

The draft helps cars close, but the key will be how quickly the groove widens to allow cars to complete a pass.

Martin Truex Jr., who was fastest in Saturday’s final practice session, said there are challenges in the draft.

“It’s going to be tough to pass, but we passed some cars (Saturday),’’ he said. “Hopefully, we can do some more (Sunday), because we need to.”

How drivers handle the aero package – which won’t be run in the Chase – is among the storylines in today’s race:

Kyle Busch’s challenge. He was set to start sixth but will take the green flag at the rear in a backup car. Busch spun off Turn 4 in Saturday’s final practice and slid down into the infield grass, which damaged the nose of his primary car.

Busch climbed into the top 30 in points last week to become Chase eligible. A bad finish could drop him out of the top 30. Facing that issue and how cars handle in traffic, Busch could be in a for long day.

“Starting in the back, we’ll definitely tighten it up a heck of a lot more than we were planning on doing to start the race just being in that much traffic and then just try to work our way through as best we can,’’ Busch said. “If top 20 is it, then that’s it. It doesn’t matter, Michigan’s not a place I had circled on the list to go win at, so let’s just make it through tomorrow and carry on.”

Winless streaks grow. Roush Fenway Racing is on a 42-race winless streak. That’s nothing compared to some other teams. Richard Childress Racing is on a 59-race winless streak. Chip Ganassi Racing is on a 62-race winless streak. Michael Waltrip Racing is on a 75-race winless streak.

Roush’s top starting spot today is 20th with Greg Biffle. RCR’s top spot is 17th with Ryan Newman after Austin Dillon, who has to have started fourth, moves to the rear after an engine change. Ganassi’s top starting spot is 18th with Jamie McMurray. MWR’s top starting spot is 12th with Clint Bowyer.

Dominant teams. Joe Gibbs Racing and Team Penske have combined to finish first and second in each of the last five races. Can that streak continue?

Can Kasey Kahne recover? His Chase hopes are fading after finishing 43rd at Pocono two weeks ago and 42nd at Watkins Glen last weekend. He’s finished no better than 19th in the last six races to fall out of a Chase spot. Can he turn things around today or will he fall further behind?

Power Rankings: Kevin Harvick reigns going into All-Star Race

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Kevin Harvick‘s dominance of his Cup competitors continues in this week’s NBC Sports power rankings, as the Stewart-Haas Racing driver is the unanimous No. 1 driver for the second week in a row.

That comes after Harvick placed fourth at Kentucky Speedway in a race won by rookie Cole Custer.

Fourteen drivers earned votes this week following a weekend of four NASCAR races, including two Xfinity Series events.

Here is this week’s top 10:

 1. Kevin Harvick (30 points): Fourth-place finish is his fourth consecutive top-five finish. Last week: First.

 2. Aric Almirola (22 points): While Almirola finished eighth, he led a career-best 128 laps, won Stage 1 and earned his sixth consecutive top-10 finish. Last Week: Second.

(Tie) 3. Cole Custer (19 points): Custer became the first rookie of the year candidate to win a Cup race since 2016 and the first 2020 rookie to score consecutive top fives with his win. Last week: Ninth.

(Tie) 3. Matt DiBenedetto (19 points): Earned his second top five of the year and his second top 10 in three races. DiBenedetto has earned points in the last eight stages. Last week: Unranked.

(Tie) 5. Brad Keselowski (16 points): His ninth-place finish was his 10th top 10 in the last 12 races, but he didn’t earn any applause from Jimmie Johnson after contact spun Johnson. Last week: Third.

(Tie) 5. Martin Truex Jr. (16 points): Runner-up finish marked his fifth top 10 in the last eight races. Last week: Unranked.

 7. Austin Cindric (12 points): The Xfinity driver dominated his series’ doubleheader in Kentucky and came away with his first oval track wins in NASCAR. Last Week: Unranked.

 8. Kurt Busch (8 points): Placed fifth for his first top five since the second Charlotte race in May. Last Week: Unranked.

 9. Denny Hamlin (7 points): Forgettable day at Kentucky. On to the All-Star race at Bristol. Last week: Fourth.

 10. Tyler Reddick (6 points): Placed 10th to earn his first consecutive top 10 of his Cup career. Last Week: Unranked

Others receiving votes: Chase Briscoe (3 points), Ryan Blaney (3 points), Christopher Bell (3 points), Sheldon Creed (1 point)

NASCAR video explains Choose Rule for All-Star Race at Bristol

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NASCAR detailed in its drivers meeting video how the Choose Rule will be used for restarts in Wednesday night’s NASCAR All-Star Race (8:30 p.m. ET on FS1).

The non-points race marks the first time Choose Rule — which allows drivers to determine what lane they restart — will be used in a NASCAR Cup event. Drivers have been vocal about trying the rule since May.

The Choose Rule will be used for restarts only. It will not be used for the start of the All-Star Race, which is being held for the first time at Bristol Motor Speedway.

The video states that drivers must be single file under caution when crossing the start/finish line at the time to choose their restart lane. The video states that a V shaped painted mark on the track will show where drivers must decide what lane they wish to restart.

To restart in the inside lane, drivers must have their right side tires on or below the painted line at the V shaped mark.

To restart in the outside lane, drivers must have their left side tires on or above the painted line at the V shaped mark on the track.

If in NASCAR’s discretion, a driver has not chosen a lane at the V shaped mark on the track, changes lanes, tires touch the painted box after the V shaped mark or impedes the process, that driver will have to restart at the tail end of the field in the longest line of cars.

Xfinity team owner fined for violating COVID-19 protocol at Kentucky

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NASCAR announced on Tuesday the first fine for a violation of its COVID-19 protocols.

Anthony Clements, owner of Jeremy Clements Racing, was fined $10,000 for violating section 12.8.1.b of the Member Conduct Guidelines and section 7.7.2.j Team Event Roster Guidelines in the rulebook.

Among the potential violations in Section 12.8.1.b is that a member can be fined $5,000-$25,000 for: “Failure to comply with NASCAR’s COVID-19 Event Protocol Guidelines and/or instructions from NASCAR including screenings, social distancing, compartmentalization, and use of required personal protective equipment, etc.”

Last week, NASCAR issued a memo to teams requesting them to address “complacency” regarding its COVID-19 mask policy.

Section 7.7.2.j says “If a team is not in compliance with the Team Event Roster Rules and guidelines, that team will be subject to a Penalty as outlined in Section 12 Violations and Disciplinary Action.”

NASCAR also issued a $5,000 fine to crew chief Dave Rogers for one unsecured lug nut on Riley Herbst‘s No. 18 Toyota.

NASCAR did not issue any penalties for Friday’s post-race fight between Noah Gragson and Harrison Burton.

Last Saturday, NASCAR announced L1 level penalties for three Truck Series teams that failed pre-race inspection.

Wednesday’s Bristol All-Star Race: Start time, lineup and more

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History will be made Wednesday night when NASCAR holds the All-Star Race at Bristol Motor Speedway for the first time.

The night will be filled with many other firsts. Cars will have unique paint schemes centered around their sponsors. Drivers who automatically qualified for the All-Star race will have underglow lights on their cars. This will be the first national NASCAR event with the choose rule.

Here’s all you need to know ahead of Wednesday night’s event.

(All times are Eastern)

START: All-Star Open: Command to start engines is at 7:02 p.m. Green flag is scheduled for 7:10 p.m. All-Star Race: Command to start engines is at 8:56 p.m. Green flag is at 9:01 p.m.

PRERACE: Garage access health screening begins at Noon (teams are assigned specific times). All-Star Open: Driver introductions at 6:43 p.m. Drivers report to cars at 6:45 p.m. Invocation at 6:54 p.m. All-Star Race: Driver introductions at 8:35 p.m. Invocation at 8:47 p.m. National anthem at 8:49 p.m.

DISTANCES: All-Star Open: 85 laps around the half-mile track. All-Star Race: 140 laps.

SEGMENTS: All-Star Open: 35 laps / 35 laps / 15 laps. All-Star Race: 55 laps / 35 laps / 35 laps / 15 laps (only green-flag laps count in final segment)

CHOOSE RULE FOR ALL-STAR RACE: Competitors can choose which lane to restart. Rule is detailed here.

ADVANCING: The winners of each stage in the Open will advance to the All-Star Race. A fourth driver will advance through a fan vote.

TV/RADIO: FS1 will televise the race. Coverage begins at 7 p.m. Motor Racing Network’s radio coverage will begin at 6:30 p.m. and also can be heard at mrn.com. SiriusXM NASCAR Radio will carry the broadcast.

FORECAST: For the All-Star Open, wunderground.com forecasts partly cloudy skies, a high of 87 degrees and chance of rain at the start. For the All-Star Race, it forecasts a high of 81 degrees and no chance of rain.

LAST ALL-STAR RACE: Kyle Larson beat Kevin Harvick and Kyle Busch to claim his All-Star Race win.

ALL-STAR OPEN STARTING LINEUP: Click here for NASCAR Open starting lineup

ALL-STAR RACE STARTING LINEUP: Click here for All-Star Lineup

Catch up on NBC Sports’ coverage:

Bump and Run: All-Star Race picks, surprising wins, and more

Cash App to sponsor Bubba Wallace in multi-year deal

Xfinity team owner fined for violating COVID-19 protocol at Kentucky

Cup playoff grid after Kentucky Speedway

Cup rookies shine going into All-Star Race

NASCAR in ‘good place’ with Harrison Burton, Noah Gragson after fight