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Analyzing Sprint Cup’s 21st to 30th 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.

Saturday, we gave you drivers ranked from 11th through 20th.

Today, we wrap things up by featuring drivers ranked from 21st through 30th.

Here’s how those ranked 21st through 30th have fared thus far in 2016:


NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Daytona 500 - Practice

Trevor Bayne

Points position: 21st (-100 points)

Best finish: 17th (Las Vegas)

Worst finish: 28th (Daytona)

Laps led: 0 

Nate Ryan’s analysis: There have been glimpses of improvement in qualifying, but the Roush Fenway Racing driver is being outrun by teammate Ricky Stenhouse Jr. on a weekly basis. Bayne needs to prove he can finish in the top 15 with regularity.

Dustin Long’s analysis: Still has plenty of work to do for this team to become more competitive. Best finish this season of 17th is best result he’s had in his last 13 races.


Las Vegas Motor Speedway -  Kobalt 400 Qualifying

Paul Menard

Points position: 22nd (-104 points)

Best finish: 15th (Las Vegas, Auto Club)

Worst finish: 38th (Phoenix)

Laps led: 0 

Nate Ryan’s analysis: Even though he made the Chase for the first time last year, Menard actually regressed in top fives, top 10s and laps led. The downward slide is continuing in 2016, and it’s brought into sharper contrast by Austin Dillon’s results.

Dustin Long’s analysis: Has shown little more than being slightly better than a mid-pack car at this point.


NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Daytona 500 - Qualifying

Regan Smith

Points position: 23rd (-107 points)

Best finish: 8th (Daytona)

Worst finish: 34th (Atlanta)

Laps led: 1 

Nate Ryan’s analysis: Since an eighth in the Daytona 500, the results have regressed to what would be expected from this caliber of team. But if Smith can maintain, it’ll be considered a decent building block for a driver hastily added in the preseason.

Dustin Long’s analysis: About what was expected from this team. Key for this group is finishes in superspeedway races.


Auto Club Speedway - Auto Club 400 practice

Kyle Larson

Points position: 24th (-108 points)

Best finish: 7th (Daytona)

Worst finish: 39th (Auto Club)

Laps led: 0 

Nate Ryan’s analysis: The sophomore slump has stretched into the third season, which is stunning given how close he was to winning so many times as a rookie. The turnaround might not be entirely within his power, though, with Chip Ganassi Racing lacking speed.

Dustin Long’s analysis: This break comes at the right time for Larson and his team. Gives them a chance to regroup after a disappointing start of the season.


Daytona 500 - Practice

Brian Scott

Points position: 25th (-110 points)

Best finish: 12th (Auto Club)

Worst finish: 31st (Atlanta)

Laps led: 1 

Nate Ryan’s analysis: The No. 44 Ford isn’t setting the world on fire, but it’s marginally better than its previous incarnation with Sam Hornish Jr. behind the wheel. Fontana proved that Scott can deliver a top-15 finish on a tough track.

Dustin Long’s analysis: The second car at Richard Petty Motorsports hasn’t had much success in recent years. Scott looks to turn that around, but it will take time.



Casey Mears

Points position: 26th (-111 points)

Best finish: 14th (Atlanta)

Worst finish: 35th (Phoenix)

Laps led: 0 

Nate Ryan’s analysis: In the first three races, Mears finished within one spot of where he started each time – indicating the team can maintain its spot. But having qualified in the top 20 only once, Mears will need to improve his starting positions.

Dustin Long’s analysis: Not been the best start for this team with two finishes of 30th or worse. Let’s see what this group can do in the upcoming short track events.


NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Good Sam 500 - Qualifying

Greg Biffle

Points position: 27th (-115 points)

Best finish: 13th (Atlanta)

Worst finish: 37th (Auto Club)

Laps led: 0 

Nate Ryan’s analysis: Biffle surprisingly has been the weakest performer in the tiny glimmers of Roush Fenway Racing’s reclamation project. Atlanta was a solid start, but it’s been trending in the wrong direction since then for the 46-year-old.

Dustin Long’s analysis: One of the more disappointing teams. Maybe it is just taking a bit more time with Biffle’s pairing with new crew chief Brian Pattie, but this team has struggled.


NASCAR XFINITY Series Virginia529 College Savings 250 - Qualifying

Landon Cassill

Points position: 28th (-118 points)

Best finish: 16th (Auto Club)

Worst finish: 36th (Atlanta)

Laps led: 0 

Nate Ryan’s analysis: Veterans have spoken glowingly of Cassill’s performance in second-tier cars the past three seasons. The 26-year-old has been steady in his first season with Front Row Motorsports, producing roughly the results expected.

Dustin Long’s analysis: Three top-25 finishes in the first five races isn’t something many teams would crow about, but it’s steps like these that may lead to better results later in the season.


Las Vegas Motor Speedway - Day 1

Danica Patrick

Points position: 29th (-123 points)

Best finish: 19th (Phoenix)

Worst finish: 38th (Auto Club)

Laps led: 0 

Nate Ryan’s analysis: Subtract the crashes at Daytona and Fontana (which wasn’t her fault), and Patrick probably would be averaging a 20th-place finish in 2016. Far from impressive but still a slight improvement from her first three seasons.

Dustin Long’s analysis: Has better finishes in two races compared to the first five last year and maybe could have made it three had it not been for the contact with Kasey Kahne at Auto Club Speedway. Still, she has not had a top-15 finish this season.


NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Daytona 500 - Practice

David Ragan

Points position: 30th (-128 points)

Best finish: 22nd (Auto Club)

Worst finish: 32nd (Atlanta, Las Vegas)

Laps led: 1 

Nate Ryan’s analysis: This is a career reboot for Ragan, whose objectives are measured and realistic. A 30th-place points ranking isn’t great for a 10-year veteran, but it hasn’t exactly been a disastrous start with BK Racing, either.

Dustin Long’s analysis: Two top-25 finishes in the past two weeks is along the lines for what this team is capable as it seeks to build.


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Carson Hocevar to run full Truck schedule in 2021

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Niece Motorsports has signed Carson Hocevar to run the full NASCAR Truck schedule in 2021, the team announced Thursday.

Hocevar, who turns 18 in January, has run five races for the team this season. His best finish this year is 12th at Dover. He’s scheduled to run at Martinsville on Oct. 30.

“I’m so excited to get the opportunity to race fulltime next year with the Niece Motorsports group,” said Hocevar in a statement. “We’ve had some really strong runs in the few starts that we’ve had this season and I am grateful for the chance to continue that next year. I’ve learned so much already this year and know that we will keep improving next year too.”

“Carson has really impressed us this season,” said team owner Al Niece in a statement. “He’s proven his talent – getting into the truck with no track time and really holding his own. We’re thrilled to have him with us fulltime next season and look forward to contending for wins together.”

TikTok to sponsor Ryan Vargas in six Xfinity races

JD Motorsports
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TikTok is coming to NASCAR.

The popular video sharing app will break into the sport next month as a sponsor of Ryan Vargas in the Xfinity Series.

TikTok has partnered with JD Motorsports to sponsor the 20-year-old Vargas in the final six races of the season, beginning with the Oct. 3 race at Talladega Superspeedway.

“TikTok has provided me with an incredible outlet to reach new fans and demographics through fun and creative content, and I’ve seen the highest growth in followers on TikTok over my other social channels,” Vargas said in a press release. “The opportunity to run the No. 6 TikTok Chevrolet Camaro in the NASCAR Xfinity Series for the rest of the season is an absolute dream come true. Johnny Davis and the whole JD Motorsports with Gary Keller team took a chance on me last year and I’m excited to bring this amazing TikTok partnership their way. I wouldn’t want to make this partnership a reality anywhere else.”

Vargas has made three Xfinity Series starts this year. His best finish was 13th at Pocono.

The sponsor deal is part of TikTok’s Latinx Heritage Month programming.

A native of La Mirada, California, Vargas joined TikTok last year. He is a former member of NASCAR’s Drive 4 Diversity programming and a winner of the Wendell Scott Trailblazer award, which is given to a minority or female driver who displays exceptional on-track performance, sportsmanship, and community service.

The partnership and paint scheme were inspired by a concept scheme by graphic designer Ryan Pistana, a friend of Vargas’.

“Creators of all sizes and backgrounds show up to TikTok with their genuine, authentic selves,” Nick Tran, TikTok’s Head of Global Marketing, said in a press release. “Partnering with an iconic brand like NASCAR to sponsor Ryan Vargas on his racing journey is a way for us to continue to support, celebrate and elevate the diverse creators that make our TikTok community what it is today. Ryan is an incredible athlete, and we’re looking forward to cheering him on alongside the rest of the TikTok community!”

According to CNBC in August, TikTok has roughly 100 million monthly users, up nearly 800% from January 2018.

TikTok, a Chinese-owned company, has been in national headlines recently after President Donald Trump threatened to ban the app in the United States for national security reasons if it was not sold to an American company. On Sept. 19 he approved a deal for its U.S operations to be operated by Oracle and Walmart.

Las Vegas weekend schedule

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NASCAR’s postseason continues with the Las Vegas weekend schedule, as the Cup Series begins the Round of 12.

In addition to Cup, Las Vegas Motor Speedway will host the Xfinity Series’ playoff opener and the second race of the Truck Series’ opening round.

More: Kevin Harvick on pole for Cup race

Here is the Las Vegas weekend schedule:

(All times Eastern)

Friday, Sept. 25

Noon – 2 p.m. ET – Truck Series haulers enter (screening and equipment unload)

2 p.m. – Truck Series garage opens

2 – 8 p.m. – Truck Series garage access screening in progress

2:30 – 3 p.m. – Truck Series rookie meeting (electronic communication)

5 p.m. – Xfinity rookie meeting (electronic communication)

5:30 p.m.  – Xfinity driver-crew chief meeting (electronic communication)

8:50 p.m. – Truck Series drivers report to vehicles

9 p.m.- Truck Series race; 134 laps/201 miles (FS1, Motor Racing Network, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio)

11:30 p.m. – Truck Series haulers exit


Saturday, Sept 26.

11 a.m. – 1 p.m. – Xfinity haulers enter (screening and equipment unload)

1 p.m. – Xfinity garage opens

1 – 6:30 p.m. – Xfinity garage access screening in progress

5 p.m. – Cup rookie meeting (electronic communication)

5:30 p.m. – Cup driver-crew chief meeting (electronic communication)

7:20 p.m. – Xfinity drivers report to cars

7:30 p.m. – Xfinity race; 200 laps/300 miles (NBCSN, Performance Racing Network, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio)

9:30 p.m. – Xfinity haulers exit

10:30 p.m. – 12:30 a.m. – Cup haulers enter


Sunday, Sept. 27

Noon – Cup garage opens

Noon – 6 p.m.  – Cup garage access screening in progress

6:50 p.m. – Cup drivers report to cars

7 p.m. – Cup race; 267 laps/400.5 miles (NBCSN, PRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio)

11:30 p.m. – Cup haulers exit

NTSB releases final report on Dale Jr. plane crash

Photo: Dustin Long
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Pilot error played a key role in the August 2019 crash of a plane carrying Dale Earnhardt Jr. and his family, a final report by the National Transportation Safety Board stated Wednesday.

Earnhardt, wife Amy and daughter Isla were on board the plane, which crashed after a hard landing at Elizabethton (Tennessee) Municipal Airport on Aug. 15, 2019. The report stated all three suffered minor injuries. 

The NTSB listed the probable causes of the accident as: “The pilot’s continuation of an unstabilized approach despite recognizing associated cues and the flight crew’s decision not to initiate a go-around before touchdown, which resulted in a bounced landing, a loss of airplane control, a landing gear collapse, and a runway excursion. Contributing to the accident was the pilot’s failure to deploy the speedbrakes during the initial touchdown, which may have prevented the runway excursion, and the pilot’s attempt to go around after deployment of the thrust reversers.”

A “go-around” occurs when a pilot pulls out of a landing and gains altitude to make another landing attempt.

The report stated that “the flight crew made several comments about the airplane flying too fast and allowed the airspeed to increase well above the reference speed for the approach.”

The report stated that “the pilot did not extend the speedbrakes upon touchdown, which landing checklist required, but instead attempted to deploy the thrust reversers immediately after touchdown, which was a later item on the landing checklist.”

Earnhardt’s Cessna 680A Citation Latitude bounced twice upon landing as it traversed the 5,001-foot runaway.

After the fourth touchdown, the right main landing gear collapsed. The plane went off the road and through a 400-foot long area of grass. It went down an embankment, through a creek and a chain-link fence. It continued up an embankment. The plane came to rest about 600 feet beyond the runway at the edge of a four-lane highway.

The passengers and two pilots escaped as the plane burned.

The full report can be read here.