Who’s Hot and Cold at the start of the Chase for the Sprint Cup

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Once the Chase for the Sprint Cup starts, only two tracks remain on the schedule that teams haven’t competed at yet – Chicagoland Speedway and Homestead-Miami Speedway.

Homestead closes out the postseason while Chicagoland has kicked off the Chase since 2011.

At Chicagoland, one of five 1.5-mile tracks in the Chase, qualifying has had little bearing on who finishes the day in victory lane.

Fifteen race have been held at Chicagoland since 2001. Only once has a winner started in the top five (Kyle Busch, 2008). That year, qualifying was canceled. Just five Chicagoland winners have come from the top 10 and there’s only been one (Matt Kenseth, 10th in 2013) in the last five races.

In 2015, Denny Hamlin won from 29th. Brad Keselowski‘s two wins, in 2014 and 2012, came from 25th and 13th. Qualifying has been canceled the last two years.

Of the 16 drivers in the Chase, six have won at Chicagoland and two have won twice (Kevin Harvick and Keselowski). Tony Stewart is the all-time leader with three wins.

Here’s a look at who is hot and cold going into the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 400.

Who’s Hot

Denny Hamlin: Won at Richmond, third win of season (second in the last five races). Eighth straight top-10 finishes, the longest streak of his career. Won this race last year after leading just nine laps. Only two top fives in 10 Chicago starts.

Kevin Harvick: Finished fifth at Richmond, fourth consecutive top-five finish (matches longest streak of top-five finishes by a driver this season). Finished top 10 in 12 of the last 14 races. Has  21 top-10 finishes in 2016, most by three. Only three finishes in 2016 worst than 15th. Two-time Chicago winner (2001-2002). Top fives in two of the last three races at Chicago.

Brad Keselowski: Finished fourth at Richmond, finished in the top 10 in 13 of the last 17 races, including three wins. Top 10s in the last five races at Chicago, including two wins (2012 and 2014). Finished top 10 in 18 of the last 19 races on 1.5-mile tracks, including wins in two of the last five.

Kyle Larson: Finished second at Richmond, top-three three finishes in the last three races (longest streak of career), including a win at Michigan. Finished top six in five of the last seven races. Two starts at Chicago, finished third and seventh.

Who’s Cold

Matt Kenseth: Finished 38th, DNF accident while running in top five at Richmond last week. Has only five top-10 finishes in last 12 races. Two wins this season, Dover and New Hampshire (two of the three races in round one). Top-10 finishes including a win in three races at Chicago with Joe Gibbs Racing.

Carl Edwards: Finished in top 10 in only seven of the last 17 races after having eight top 10s and two wins in the first nine races of 2016. Five poles this season, most of 2016 and his most ever in a season. Last top-five finish was second at Kentucky in the lower downforce package for 2017. Best finish at Chicago in 11 starts is second, twice, including last year.

Tony Stewart: Finished 21st or worse in the last four races. Five top-five finishes this season, only had three total in the previous two seasons combined. Three-time Chicago winner with top-10 finishes in 10 of his 14 starts. Finished 18th and 25th in the last two Chicago races.

Kurt Busch: Finished eighth at Richmond, only third top-10 finish in the last 10 races; finished top 10 in 14 of the first 16 races of 2016. Top-10 finishes in the last three races at Chicago, including his best finish of third last year.

Other notes of interesting entering Sunday’s races

  • The driver leading the most laps won only one of the last six races at Chicagoland (Matt Kenseth in 2013).
  • Chicagoland is one of three active tracks that Roush Fenway Racing has not won at (Indianapolis and Kentucky are the other two).
  • Four drivers have won the six races on 1.5-mile tracks in 2016: Kyle Busch and Brad Keselowski have two wins
    each; Jimmie Johnson and Martin Truex Jr have one win each.
  • Kurt Busch and Kevin Harvick are the only drivers that have finished in the top 10 in all six races at 1.5-mile tracks in 2016.
  • Kyle Larson and Chris Buescher are only Chase drivers without a top-10 finish at a 1.5-mile track this season.

Kevin Harvick wins Bristol night race

Kevin Harvick Bristol
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Kevin Harvick held off Kyle Busch to win Saturday’s Cup night race at Bristol Motor Speedway.

Harvick came out on top after a spirited battle with Busch over the last forty laps of the race. Harvick claimed his ninth win of the season, a career-best mark. He previous high was eight wins in 2018.

The top five was completed by Erik Jones, Tyler Reddick and Aric Almirola. Clint Bowyer finished sixth and was the last car on the lead lap.

Harvick’s nine victories has him on pace to become the first driver to win at least 10 Cup races in a season in more than a decade and only the third driver to reach that mark in the past quarter century.

Jimmie Johnson is the last driver to accomplish the feat. He won 10 races in 2007. The only other driver to reach that mark in the last 25 years is Jeff Gordon. He won 13 races in 1998 and 10 races each in 1996 and ’97.

The last driver not from Hendrick Motorsports to reach at least 10 wins in a season was Rusty Wallace. He won 10 times in 1993 for car owner Roger Penske.

STAGE 1 WINNER: Chase Elliott

STAGE 2 WINNER: Kyle Busch

WHO HAD A BAD RACE: Ricky Stenhouse Jr. finished last after he was eliminated in a crash on Lap 29 after he made contact with Jimmie Johnson … Matt DiBenedetto‘s chances of advancing in the playoffs were dashed when he had to pit for loose right-rear tire on Lap 187 and then was caught speeding on pit road after returning to the lead lap. He finished 19th …. Martin Truex Jr. finished 24th after he had to pit for a tire issue on Lap 214 … Denny Hamlin finished 21st after he rammed into the back of Truex moments after he exited pit road following his stop … William Byron was eliminated from the race and playoff contention late in Stage 2 after he ran into the back of Christopher Bell … Pole-sitter Brad Keselowski placed 34th after he lost power steering early in the final stage and was black flagged for not meeting minimum speeding. After a lengthy stay in the garage, Keselowski returned to the race with about 105 laps left in the race.

WHAT’S NEXT: Round of 12 opener at Las Vegas Motor Speedway at 7 p.m. ET Sept. 27 on NBCSN.

Check back for more.

William Byron’s title hopes end in Bristol incident

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William Byron‘s playoffs ended when he ran into the back of a car shortly before halfway in Saturday night’s Cup playoff race at Bristol Motor Speedway.

Byron was running 10th and in position to advance to the second round after Saturday’s elimination race before the incident.

Byron told NBCSN’s Marty Snider that Joey Gase‘s car slowed on a straightaway and Byron ran into the back of Christopher Bell‘s car.

“I literally had nowhere to go,” Byron said. “Just ridiculous that’s what takes us out.”

Byron said he was running behind Bell, who was behind Gase, on the high side. Byron said he had Aric Almirola on his inside and could not move down there.

Byron entered the race the first driver outside the final transfer spot to the second round. He entered the race trailing Clint Bowyer by three points.

 

 

 

Three Joe Gibbs Racing cars going to rear for inspection violations

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The cars of Denny Hamlin, Kyle Busch and Erik Jones will start at the rear after each car failed inspection twice before Saturday’s race at Bristol Motor Speedway.

Busch enters the race 18 points above the cutline to transfer to the second round of the Cup playoffs. Saturday’s race (7:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN). Busch was to have started ninth.

This is the second playoff race in a row that Busch’s team has failed inspection twice before the race and had to start at the rear. Busch started at the rear last weekend at Richmond. He finished sixth.

Hamlin has already advanced to the second round via points. He was to have started seventh.

“We’ve got 500 laps,” he said. “If we’re good enough, we’ll get to the front. Not really too worried about it in that sense.”

Jones is not in the playoffs. He would have started 20th.

NASCAR also announced that the cars of Corey LaJoie and Bubba Wallace will start at the rear for unapproved adjustments. JJ Yeley will go to the rear for a driver change since he was not listed on the preliminary entry list for the No. 15 car.

Wallace was to have started 27th. LaJoie was to have started 30th. The No. 15 was to have started 32nd with Brennan Poole as the driver.

 

Saturday Cup race at Bristol: Start time, TV channel

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Four drivers will be eliminated from the Cup playoffs after Saturday night’s race at Bristol Motor Speedway.

This marks the first time the track has been in the playoffs. The Saturday Cup race at Bristol will end the first round. The 16-driver field will be cut to 12.

William Byron (3 points behind the cutline), Cole Custer (-8), Matt DiBenedetto (-25) and Ryan Blaney (-27) are the four drivers out of a playoff spot. Clint Bowyer holds the final transfer spot.

Here is all the info for the Saturday Cup race at Bristol:

(All times are Eastern)

START: The command to start engines is at 7:38 p.m. The green flag waves at 7:45 p.m.

PRERACE: Cup haulers enter the garage (screening and equipment unload) at 10:30 a.m. Garage access health screening begins at 12:30 p.m. Garage opens at 12:30 p.m. Drivers report to their cars at 7:10 p.m. Driver introductions will be at 7:15 p.m. The invocation is at 7:30 p.m. The national anthem will be performed by Joe Nichols, three-time Grammy nominee, at 7:31 p.m.

DISTANCE: The race is 500 laps (266.5 miles) around the .533-mile track.

STAGES: Stage 1 ends on Lap 125. Stage 2 ends on Lap 250

TV/RADIO: NBCSN will televise the race. Coverage begins at 6:30 p.m with NASCAR America, followed by Countdown to Green at 7 p.m. Race coverage begins at 7:30 p.m. Performance Racing Network’s radio coverage will begin at 6:30 p.m. and also can be heard at goprn.com. SiriusXM NASCAR Radio will carry the broadcast.

STREAMING: Watch the race on the NBC Sports App

FORECAST: The wunderground.com forecast calls for partly cloudy skies with a high of 62 degrees and a 3% chance of rain at the start of the race.

LAST RACE: Brad Keselowski won at Richmond. Martin Truex Jr. finished second. Joey Logano placed third for the second race in a row.

LAST POINTS RACE AT BRISTOL: Brad Keselowski won in May after Denny Hamlin lost the lead when he hit the wall. Chase Elliott ran into Joey Logano as they battled for the lead late in the event.

TO THE REAR: Denny Hamlin (two inspection failures), Kyle Busch (two inspection failures), Erik Jones (two inspection failures), Corey LaJoie (unapproved adjustments), Bubba Wallace (unapproved adjustments), JJ Yeley (driver change).

STARTING LINEUP: Click here for Cup starting lineup

CATCH UP ON NBC SPORTS’ COVERAGE:

Three Joe Gibbs Racing cars going to the rear for inspection violations

Bubble drivers brace for Bristol battle

Pit crew change for teams of Alex Bowman and Jimmie Johnson

Friday 5: The thin line between aggressive and dirty driving

Matt DiBenedetto, Ryan Blaney seek NASCAR history to advance

What upcoming Cup playoff races NASCAR fans can attend

Trevor Bayne says the fire remains to run more races