Home cooking: Paul Menard wins Xfinity race at Road America

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Wisconsin native Paul Menard held off a surge by Ryan Blaney in the closing laps to win Saturday’s Road America 180 Fired Up By Johnsonville NASCAR Xfinity Series race at Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin.

Menard didn’t let a last lap tap by runnerup Blaney to get past shake him and then pulled away to beat his opponent by about a five-car length margin.

Brian Scott finished third, followed by Chase Elliott and Darrell Wallace Jr.

Boris Said finished sixth, followed by Justin Marks, Regan Smith, Chris Buescher and Ty Dillon.

Menard becomes the sixth different winner in as many Xfinity races at Road America. It adds to his biggest career wins, including the Brickyard 400, at Milwaukee and now, Road America.

There have now been different winners in the last eight road course races in the Xfinity Series.

MORE: Results and winnings from Road America 180 Fired Up By Johnsonville Xfinity Series race

MORE: Chris Buescher remains atop tight Xfinity standings after Road America race

How Menard won: Menard led just nine laps over two separate times. He took the lead for good on Lap 40 and held on to the checkered flag despite a strong last-lap run by Ryan Blaney. Blaney tried to move Menard out of the way on the last lap, but the Wisconsin native would not let Blaney past and motored to a .572 second winning margin.

Who else had a good race: Chase Elliott dominated the first half of the race, leading 23 laps, but struggled in the second half of the event. That included making an uncharacteristic mistake on Lap 28 by running off the track and into the grass, costing him several seconds and dropping him to seventh place and eventually to 17th before rallying back to fourth in the final nine laps. Elliott also closed in to just 16 points behind Chris Buescher in the Xfinity driver standings. … Brian Scott had a strong race, finishing third. … In a pre-race interview, Boris Said indicated that Saturday’s race may be his last in NASCAR. Said finished sixth.

Who had a bad race: The race wasn’t even one lap old when the first caution flag came out when Tommy Drisi slid off turn five and became stuck in a gravel pit. Drissi had another issue on Lap 24 when he ran out of fuel at the furthest point from pit road. The caution came out again and Drissi had to have his car pushed all the way back to the pits. He finished 36th. … Pole-sitter Ben Rhodes had to head to the pits on Lap 7 when he flat-spotted a tire. Rhodes then spun out and got stuck in the gravel on Lap 35, bringing out the caution. Rhodes finished 32nd in his seventh career Xfinity start. … Regan Smith’s championship hopes took a hit when the battery in his car quit with eight laps to go due to a dead battery and he had to be pushed by a wrecker to pit road. But it could have been worse: Smith finished eighth. Still, he’s just 50 points behind Buescher in the standings.

Notable: Rain washed out qualifying, but other than a few minor sprinkles, the race was rain-free. … This was the sixth straight year that the Xfinity Series has raced at Road America. NASCAR’s top series has raced just once at the track, back in 1956 when Tim Flock won in what was then known as the NASCAR Grand National Series (now Sprint Cup Series).

Quote of the day: “Not at all. Zero percent. I absolutely failed today. Way too many mistakes on my part. I screwed it up for my guys. Absolutely unacceptable, cannot have that. I apologize to them. I had a great car. I just 100 percent screwed it up. I just fell out of sync, didn’t drive right. You name it, I did it.” – Chase Elliott, when asked how satisfying it was to rally back to finish fourth.

What’s next: VFW Sport Clips Help A Hero 200, Saturday, Sept. 5, 3:30 pm ET at Darlington Raceway.

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NASCAR America Presents MotorMouths at 5 p.m. ET on NBCSN with Kyle Busch

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This week’s episode of NASCAR America’s MotorMouths airs today from 5-6 p.m. ET on NBCSN and features 2015 Cup champion Kyle Busch.

The Joe Gibbs Racing driver joins Rutledge Wood and Kyle Petty to discuss this week’s news as well as take fan phone calls.

If you can’t catch today’s show on TV, watch online at http:/nascarstream.nbcsports.com. If you plan to stream the show on your laptop or portable device, be sure to have your username and password from your cable/satellite/telco provider handy so your subscription can be verified.

Once you enter that information, you’ll have access to the stream.

Click here at 5 p.m. ET to watch live via the stream.

Chevrolet boss happy with three-race Cup winning streak but wants more

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Even with a three-race Cup winning streak, the head of Chevrolet’s NASCAR program wants more victories as the playoffs near.

Jim Campbell, vice president of performance and motorsports for Chevrolet, made the comments Wednesday on “The Morning Drive” on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio.

In the last three races, Chevrolet has won with Alex Bowman (Chicagoland Speedway), Justin Haley (Daytona International Speedway) and Kurt Busch (Kentucky Speedway). Until that string, Chevrolet had won only once this year with Chase Elliott’s victory at Talladega Superspeedway.

Last year, Chevrolet had four Cup wins, its fewest victories in Cup since scoring three wins in 1982.

“We have really, really, I think, increased the collaboration (among Chevrolet teams) to another level, and I think we need to because we’ve got to put more wins on the board,” Campbell said on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio. “The Chevy camp is used to putting 10, 12, 15 wins on the board a year. Right now we’re at four. We expect more of ourselves. I know the teams are looking for more wins and I’ll call it top-five finishes. Talladega was kind of a turbocharger for us to get everyone really working at the next level.”

Chevrolet won at Talladega after an increased effort to have its teams work together throughout the weekend and during the race. Chevrolet made the effort after seeing how successful Toyota and Ford teams were at Daytona and Talladega by working together. Until then, Chevrolet had allowed its teams and drivers to go their own way at those tracks.

“Over the years, Chevy results were pretty doggone strong without a massive work-together effort,” Campbell said during the radio interview. “I think we go back to ’16 and Toyota put together an effort to get some of the (Joe) Gibbs (Racing) guys working together and I think in the fall, the Ford camp was doing that. So, it was time, it was time that we just pulled ourselves together and really worked across all of our teams.”

With seven races left until the Cup playoffs begin, Chevrolet has three drivers set for the playoffs via wins: Elliott, Bowman and Busch. Chevrolet also has three competitors who would qualify for the 16-driver playoffs as of today via points with William Byron 12th in the standings, Kyle Larson 13th and Jimmie Johnson 15th.

Johnson’s position is tenuous. He is 10 points ahead of Ford’s Ryan Newman, who holds the first spot outside a playoff position.

“I look at the trajectory,” Campbell said of Chevrolet’s progress. “Are we on the trajectory up or are we flat or are we down? I would say the momentum is going up, but it’s all performance based. We’ve got to put wins on the board, more top 10s.”

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AJ Allmendinger to drive in Watkins Glen Xfinity race for Kaulig Racing

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NASCAR On NBC analyst AJ Allmendinger will climb back behind the wheel for the August 3 NASCAR Xfinity Series race at Watkins Glen International.

Allmendinger will pilot the No. 10 Chevrolet for Kaulig Racing for the second time this season.

Allmendinger is a past winner at Watkins Glen, having won the 2014 Cup race there. He has 10 prior Cup starts at the upstate New York road course, with the win, three top-five and six top-10 finishes, plus one pole.

He also has competed in one Xfinity race at Watkins Glen, starting fourth and finishing second for GMS Racing last year.

It’s an honor to be able to compete for Kaulig Racing at one of my favorite tracks, Watkins Glen International,” Allmendinger said in a team release. “I’ve been fortunate enough to win there in the Cup Series and had a strong run finishing second last season in my only Xfinity start there.

Matt Kaulig, Chris Rice and all of the guys made Daytona so enjoyable and fun, I can’t wait to get to The Glen.”

Allmendinger raced for Kaulig Racing two weeks ago in the Circle K Firecracker 250 at Daytona International Speedway on July 5, leading 33 laps and finishing third before the car was disqualified for failing post-race inspection, leaving Allmendinger with a last-place finish in the 38-car field.

Allmendinger has three additional Xfinity road course races scheduled with Kaulig Racing this season: Mid-Ohio (August 10), Road America (August 24) and Charlotte Motor Speedway’s Roval race (September 28).

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NBC Sports Power Rankings: Kyle Busch back to No. 1; Kurt Busch to No. 3

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When it comes to this week’s NBC Sports NASCAR Power Rankings, all we can say is, “Oh brother” … as in siblings Kyle and Kurt Busch.

Younger brother Kyle once again regained the top spot in this week’s rankings, knocking Joey Logano from the No. 1 perch after Logano held it the last two weeks.

And after not being ranked in the top 10 last week, older bro Kurt rockets up the rankings to No. 3 by virtue of his come-from-behind win last Saturday at Kentucky Speedway.

Also making a big move is Erik Jones, who goes from unranked last week to No. 4 this week. By contrast, six drivers from last week’s rankings dropped out of this week’s tabulations.

Here’s how this week’s rankings shape up:

1. Kyle Busch (39 points): Tenacious performance at Kentucky puts him back atop the rankings. Last week: 2nd.

2. Joey Logano (36 points): Car wasn’t wide enough to block all those behind him on the final restart. In his last three races on a 1.5-mile speedway, he’s finished seventh (Kentucky), third (Chicagoland) and second (Charlotte). Last week: 1st.

3. Kurt Busch (32 points): What a difference a win makes. But Busch’s ranking isn’t a total surprise. He’s been knocking at the door all season. Had he not pitted at Daytona two weeks ago, he may be riding a two-race win streak now. Last week: Unranked.

4. Erik Jones (23 points): Returns to playoff territory and seems to have momentum for a finishing kick. Third-place finish was his fourth top 10 in the last five races on a 1.5-mile speedway. That includes a third at Kansas and Kentucky and a fourth at Texas. Last week: Unranked.

5. Denny Hamlin (22 points): His pit crew has been called for an uncontrolled tire violation five times this year, tying the series high. That’s unacceptable. Despite the penalty at Kentucky, Hamlin finished fifth. Last week: 7th.

6. Kyle Larson (20 points): Top 10s in three of last four races – including a second (Chicagoland) and fourth (Kentucky) – have solidified his standing for the playoffs. Last week: Unranked.

7. Ryan Newman (16 points): Is in full grind-it-out mode for solid finishes exactly when he needs them. Finished ninth at Kentucky after starting at the rear because his car failed inspection. While he fell out of a playoff spot, he’s only two points away after scoring his fourth top-10 finish in the last five races. Last week: 8th.

8. Cole Custer (9 points): Kentucky victory in the Xfinity Series was his series-high fifth win of the year. Last week: Unranked.

9. Clint Bowyer (7 points): Ends four-race tailspin but still needs to work on amassing stage points. Last week: Unranked.

10. Chris Buescher (5 points): If all the tracks on the circuit were 1.5-milers, he’d likely be ranked higher. All four of his top 10s this year have come at 1.5-mile tracks. He’s been sixth at Charlotte, ninth  at Atlanta and 10th at Kansas and Kentucky. Last week: Unranked.

Others receiving votes: Christopher Bell (4 points), Martin Truex Jr. (4 points), Tyler Ankrum (3 points).