Analyzing Sprint Cup’s 11th to 20th ranked drivers after first 5 races of 2016 season

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While NASCAR enjoys its first off-weekend of the season, we here at NASCAR Talk thought it would be a good time to analyze how the top 30 drivers have fared in the first five races.

Friday, we gave you the top 10 drivers.

Today, we’ll feature drivers ranked from 11th through 20th: Martin Truex Jr., Jamie McMurray, Aric Almirola, Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Matt Kenseth, Chase Elliott, Ryan Blaney, Kasey Kahne, A.J. Allmendinger and Ryan Newman

We’ll wrap things up with drivers ranked 21st through 30th on Sunday.

Here’s how those ranked 11th through 20th have fared thus far in 2016:


Auto Club Speedway - Auto Club 400 practice

Martin Truex Jr.

Points position: 11th (-68 points behind series leader Kevin Harvick)

Best finish: 2nd (Daytona)

Worst finish: 32nd (Auto Club)

Laps led: 57 

Nate Ryan’s analysis: The transition to Toyota has been bumpy but not in ways that would have been expected. Roof flap violations at Atlanta and Daytona were distractions, as was crew chief Cole Pearn’s Twitter. Time to settle it down, kids.

Dustin Long’s analysis: Has four finishes in the top 15 and was running in the top five before incident with Joey Logano at Fontana is an impressive start considering the work in the offseason to switch from Chevrolet to Toyota. Also has done it without his crew chief for one race. Expect even better results as the season progresses.


NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Daytona 500 - Practice

Jamie McMurray

Points position: 12th (-70 points)

Best finish: 10th (Auto Club)

Worst finish: 21st (Atlanta)

Laps led: 0 

Nate Ryan’s analysis: Candid to a fault, McMurray plaintively has noted the team’s lack of speed this season. Fontana (starting and finishing 10th) might be a step in the right direction toward regaining the Chase for the Sprint Cup form of 2015.

Dustin Long’s analysis: Chip Ganassi Racing has been among the most disappointing teams so far this season. Lack of speed on the big tracks is evident but there’s time turn it around.


Daytona 500 - Practice

Aric Almirola

Points position: 13th (-75 points)

Best finish: 12th (Daytona)

Worst finish: 24th (Las Vegas)

Laps led: 0 

Nate Ryan’s analysis: Seems to be maximizing what he has with no finish worse than 24th or better than 12th so far in five starts. That’s good enough for now, but Richard Petty Motorsports needs to give Almirola better cars for a realistic shot at winning.

Dustin Long’s analysis: Key for this team is to maximize its performance. Pit road penalties have not helped. Fix those issues and this team can get back into the Chase.



Ricky Stenhouse Jr.

Points position: 14th (-76 points)

Best finish: 5th (Auto Club)

Worst finish: 37th (Phoenix)

Laps led: 0 

Nate Ryan’s analysis: That he has nearly as many top 10s (two) in five races as in all of 2015 (three) reveals how much better the No. 17 Ford is and how far Roush Fenway Racing has to go. At least the two-time Xfinity champion still has his edge.

Dustin Long’s analysis: Fontana was a step in the right direction and this team has shown progress this season.


Matt Kenseth

Matt Kenseth

Points position: 15th (-82 points)

Best finish: 7th (Phoenix)

Worst finish: 37th (Las Vegas)

Laps led: 99

Nate Ryan’s analysis: The most underperforming car in Sprint Cup, a confluence of mistakes by driver and team have negated several strong showings by Kenseth, who has only one top 10. A win would help, but the team just needs consistency first.

Dustin Long’s analysis: Should have at least one, if not two win  but results have not matched performance because of various miscues. Entire team needs to just have solid races and results will come.


Auto Club Speedway - Auto Club 400 practice

Chase Elliott

Points position: 16th (-85 points)

Best finish: 6th (Auto Club)

Worst finish: 38th (Las Vegas)

Laps led: 4

Nate Ryan’s analysis: If not for mistakes at Daytona and Las Vegas, this would be one of the most impressive rookie debuts in recent memory. Replacing a four-time champion is a virtually untenable situation, but Elliott has shown no signs of strain.

Dustin Long’s analysis: For all that he’s accomplished along the way, he continues to impress. Yes, there will be peaks and valleys but who would have predicted three top-10 finishes in the first five races this season?


NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Good Sam 500 - Practice

Ryan Blaney

Points position: 17th (-85 points)

Best finish: 6th (Las Vegas)

Worst finish: 35th (Auto Club)

Laps led: 0

Nate Ryan’s analysis: He is justifying Wood Brother Racing’s return to full-time competition. A late tire problem at Fontana prevented Blaney from notching three consecutive top 10s. the playoffs are a realistic possibility for the 22-year-old.

Dustin Long’s analysis: Been fun to watch on the track this season but even more so on social media. He’s helping take the Wood Brothers back to a level of prominence they haven’t been at in years.


Auto Club Speedway - Auto Club 400 practice

Kasey Kahne

Points position: 18th (-86 points)

Best finish: 10th (Las Vegas

Worst finish: 28th (Auto Club)

Laps led: 0 

Nate Ryan’s analysis: This is a make-or-break year for Kahne at Hendrick Motorsports, and there already has been too much of the latter. The Fontana error that enraged Danica Patrick was inexplicably amateurish for a driver as accomplished as Kahne.

Dustin Long’s analysis: Pressure mounting on this team and driver to perform when his teammates are doing so at Hendrick Motorsports. If things don’t improve, how soon before changes take place?


Daytona 500 - Practice

A.J. Allmendinger

Points position: 19th (-108 points)

Best finish: 8th (Auto Club)

Worst finish: 27th (Atlanta)

Laps led: 0 

Nate Ryan’s analysis: As he can with a good car, Allmendinger has punched above his weight so far. It’s all about holding serve for this team until Sonoma and Watkins Glen, but pace of current results could earn a playoff berth by points.

Dustin Long’s analysis: He was the top car in the Richard Childress Racing alliance at Fontana and second best among the group at Phoenix. Still has work to do, though.


NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500 - Qualifying

Ryan Newman

Points position: 20th (-100 points)

Best finish: 11th (Daytona)

Worst finish: 39th (Phoenix)

Laps led: 1

Nate Ryan’s analysis: There’ll be no points pathway into the playoffs for the third consecutive season if Newman continues to perform at this rate. He might need a win to contend for a championship – and to keep a firm hold on his ride at RCR.

Dustin Long’s analysis: Has one top-10 finish in his last 13 starts, dating back to last fall at Dover. No longer the fastest car at RCR.


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Alpha Prime Racing’s road woes don’t keep team from competing


SONOMA, Calif. — Alpha Prime Racing owner Tommy Joe Martins laughs. He can. His Xfinity Series cars all are here at Sonoma Raceway.

At one point last week, it was not certain if his team’s cars would make it to Portland International Raceway.

“It was probably the toughest professional week I’ve had of my NASCAR career,” Martins told NBC Sports on Friday at Sonoma.

MORE: Kyle Larson leads Xfinity practice at Sonoma

The Alpha Prime Racing team had both its trucks break down and one of its haulers have mechanical issues last week on the way to the Pacific Northwest.

“We basically sent four pieces of equipment on the road and three of them broke,” Martins said.

For a time, the car Sage Karam is driving this weekend at Sonoma was left in a hauler in Kansas City because there wasn’t room in the dually Martins sent. It had room only for the car that was needed at Portland and other equipment. Karam’s car, which was to be a backup at Portland, was left behind.

“It’s a very helpless feeling when you feel like your stuff is stuck on the side of the road,” Martins said.

He still has one truck still in St. Louis and another in Oregon. Martins estimates the mechanical issues will cost his team about $50,000 when everything is totaled.

Trouble started well before the team left its Mooresville, North Carolina, race shop for Portland.

The Xfinity Series race at Charlotte was scheduled to run May 27. Rain forced that event to be rescheduled to May 29. Martins said the team had planned to send its trucks to Portland on May 28. With the race pushed back to the 29th, the travel schedule tightened.

It got worse.

After the Xfinity race started, rain came. With the Coca-Cola 600 scheduled for 3 p.m. ET that day – after being delayed by rain from Sunday – the rest of the Xfinity race was pushed back until after the 600. That further tightened the window on Xfinity teams to make it to Portland.

The Xfinity race ended around 11:30 p.m. ET on May 29. Alpha Prime Racing’s haulers left the shop around 6 a.m. ET on May 30.

The two trucks traveled together until issues in St. Louis.

The truck hauling the Nos. 44 and 45 cars had engine issues in St. Louis. The other truck kept going until it had mechanical issues with its hauler in Kansas City. The air bags on the hauler failed.

So, Alpha Prime Racing had a truck that worked in Kansas City with a hauler that didn’t and a truck that didn’t work in St. Louis with a hauler that did.

The truck in Kansas City went back to St. Louis to attach to the hauler and take those cars and equipment to Portland. Martins then had to find something to haul the stranded equipment in Kansas City and a driver. He eventually did. A dually left North Carolina for Kansas City. Once there, what fit in the dually was taken to Portland and what didn’t, including Karam’s Sonoma car stayed behind.

Yet, more trouble was headed for Martins and his team.

The truck that had gone back from Kansas City to St. Louis to take hauler that worked then broke down about 200 miles from Portland.

“I laugh knowing that we’re on the other side of it,” Martins said Friday of all the issues his team had transporting cars and equipment across the country.

“We’ve started to make plans and corrections for it not happening again,” he said.

That hauler that was left in Kansas City? It was repaired and transported to Sonoma, arriving earlier this week.

“Our guys are troopers,” Martins said. “Both of our (truck) drivers were just awesome about the whole thing. … They went through hell week as far as driving somewhere, fly back and pick something up, drive again and now are going to have to do the same thing getting back.”

When the garage opened Friday at Sonoma, Alpha Prime Racing had all its cars.

“I don’t think we had any major issues here, so that was good,” Martins said.

The focus is back on the track. Karam was 24th on the speed chart in Friday’s practice, leading Alpha Prime Racing’s effort. Dylan Lupton was 32nd. Jeffrey Earnhardt was last among 41 cars.

After Saturday night’s race, the team heads back to North Carolina for a well-earned weekend off.

Kyle Larson leads Xfinity practice at Sonoma


SONOMA, Calif. — Kyle Larson posted the fastest lap in Friday’s Xfinity Series practice at Sonoma Raceway.

This is the first time the series has raced at the 1.99-mile road course in Northern California. Teams got 50 minutes of practice Friday.

Larson led the way with a lap of 90.392 mph. He was more than a second faster than the rest of the field.

MORE: Xfinity practice results Sonoma

Sheldon Creed was second on the speed chart with a lap of 89.066 mph. He was followed by AJ Allmendinger (89.052 mph), Cole Custer (89.020) and Ty Gibbs (88.989).

Larson, Allmendinger and Gibbs are among seven Cup drivers are entered in the Xfinity race. Aric Almirola was seventh on the speed chart with a lap of 88.750 mph. Ross Chastain was ninth with a lap of 88.625 mph. Daniel Suarez was 16th with a lap of 88.300 mph. Ty Dillon was 33rd with a lap of 86.828 mph.

Anthony Alfredo will go to a backup car after a crash in practice. He was uninjured in the incident that damaged the right side of his car.

Qualifying is scheduled for 3 p.m. ET Saturday. The race is scheduled to begin at 8:20 p.m. ET Saturday.

Anthony Alfredo’s car after a crash in Xfinity practice Friday at Sonoma Raceway. He was uninjured. (Photo: Dustin Long)

Saturday Sonoma Xfinity race: Start time, TV info, weather


The Xfinity Series will compete for the first time at Sonoma Raceway this weekend. This is one of eight road course events on the Xfinity schedule this season.

Seven Cup drivers are scheduled to compete in Saturday’s race, including AJ Allmendinger, Kyle Larson and Daniel Suarez, who won last year’s Cup race at this track Allmendinger has won 11 of 25 career road course starts in the Xfinity Series.

Details for Saturday’s Xfinity race at Sonoma Raceway

(All times Eastern)

START: Golden State Warrior Patrick Baldwin Jr. will give the command to start engines at 8:08 p.m. … The green flag is scheduled to wave at 8:20 p.m.

PRERACE: Xfinity garage opens at 1 p.m. … Qualifying begins at 3 p.m. … Driver introductions begin at 7:35 p.m. … The invocation will be given by Earl Smith, team pastor for the Golden State Warriors and San Francisco 49ers, at 8 p.m. … The national anthem will be performed by 9-year-old Isis Mikayle Castillo at 8:01 p.m.

DISTANCE: The race is 79 laps (156.95 miles) on the 1.99-mile road course.

STAGES: Stage 1 ends at Lap 20. Stage 2 ends at Lap 45.

STARTING LINEUP: Qualifying begins at 3 p.m. Saturday

TV/RADIO: FS1 will broadcast the race at 8 p.m. ... Coverage begins at 7:30 p.m. … Performance Racing Network coverage begins at 7:30 p.m. and can be heard on … SiriusXN NASCAR Radio will carry the PRN broadcast.

FORECAST: Weather Underground — Mostly cloudy with a high of 72 degrees and a zero percent chance of rain at the start of the race.

LAST TIME: This is the first time the Xfinity Series has raced at Sonoma.


NASCAR Friday schedule at Sonoma Raceway


The Xfinity Series makes its first appearance Friday at Sonoma Raceway.

Xfinity teams, coming off last weekend’s race at Portland International Raceway, get 50 minutes of practice Friday because Sonoma is a new venue for the series.

Seven Cup drivers, including Kyle Larson and Daniel Suarez, are among those entered in the Xfinity race. Suarez won the Cup race at Sonoma last year.

Xfinity teams will qualify and race Saturday at the 1.99-mile road course.

Sonoma Raceway


Friday: Mostly cloudy with a high of 69 degrees.

Friday, June 9

(All times Eastern)

Garage open

  • 11 a.m. — ARCA Menards Series West
  • 1 – 10 p.m. — Xfinity Series

Track activity

  • 2 – 3 p.m. — ARCA West practice
  • 3:10 – 3:30 p.m. — ARCA West qualifying
  • 4:05 – 4:55 p.m. — Xfinity practice (FS1)
  • 6:30 p.m. — ARCA West race (64 laps, 127.36 miles; live on FloRacing, will air on CNBC at 11:30 a.m. ET on June 18)