Ford looks to continue 2017 success as well as at Las Vegas

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This weekend’s racing action at Las Vegas Motor Speedway could be pivotal for Ford in both the NASCAR Cup and Xfinity series.

In the NASCAR Cup ranks, Ford will be going for its third consecutive win to start a season for the first time since 1992, when it won the first nine races of the season.

Davey Allison won the 1992 Daytona 500, and then NASCAR Hall of Famer Bill Elliott would win the next four races.

1992 SEASON-OPENING NINE-RACE WIN STREAK

Davey Allison, Daytona International Speedway (Feb. 16)

Bill Elliott, North Carolina Motor Speedway (Mar. 1)

Bill Elliott, Richmond International Raceway (Mar. 8)

Bill Elliott, Atlanta Motor Speedway (Mar. 15)

Bill Elliott, Darlington Raceway (Mar. 29)

Alan Kulwicki, Bristol Motor Speedway (Apr. 5)

Davey Allison, North Wilkesboro Speedway (Apr. 12)

Mark Martin, Martinsville Speedway (Apr. 26)

Davey Allison, Talladega Superspeedway (May 3)

Las Vegas native Kurt Busch earned the first win with Ford power for Stewart-Haas Racing when he won this year’s season-opening Daytona 500. Brad Keselowski put the blue oval back in victory lane one week later when he won at Atlanta.

That marks the first time since 2009 that Fords have won the first two races in NASCAR’s premier series to start a season (Matt Kenseth won at Daytona and Fontana that year for Roush Fenway Racing).

Keselowski will not only be looking for his second consecutive Cup win this season at Las Vegas, he’ll also be looking for his second straight triumph and third in the last four Cup races at the 1.5-mile LVMS oval (2014 and 2016).

Keselowski also swept the 2014 Las Vegas weekend, winning both the Cup and Xfinity races there.

Also of note, Ford is the most successful manufacturer at LVMS, with nine wins in 19 Cup races there. It’s the second-most successful in the Xfinity Series there, with eight wins in 20 races (Chevrolet has the most Xfinity wins with 10).

FORD NASCAR CUP SERIES WINNERS AT LAS VEGAS

1998 – Mark Martin

1999 – Jeff Burton

2000 – Jeff Burton

2003 – Matt Kenseth

2004 – Matt Kenseth

2008 – Carl Edwards

2011 – Carl Edwards

2014 – Brad Keselowski

2016 – Brad Keselowski

FORD NASCAR XFINITY SERIES WINNERS AT LAS VEGAS

1999 – Mark Martin

2000 – Jeff Burton

2002 – Jeff Burton

2005 – Mark Martin

2009 – Greg Biffle

2012 – Ricky Stenhouse Jr.

2013 – Sam Hornish Jr.

2014 – Brad Keselowski

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Denny Hamlin hopes teams don’t shoot selves in feet with pit guns

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Denny Hamlin is the hottest driver on the Cup circuit. He has two wins – including Saturday night at Bristol – as well as two runner-ups, and a third- and fifth-place finish in the last six races. He’s also moved up to third in the rankings in that string.

But Hamlin isn’t taking anything to chance, particularly some of the smallest details – such as loose lug nuts and wheels.

Hamlin appeared Monday on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio’s “On-Track” show and was asked about how not only his team, but also other Cup teams, can overcome the loose lug nuts and wheels issues.

Hamlin said a significant part of the problem – particularly at a place like Bristol Motor Speedway – is pit guns, which are allocated and issued in a pre-race lottery by NASCAR, rather than have teams use their own guns.

MORE: Denny Hamlin earns hard-fought win over Matt DiBenedetto at Bristol

Hamlin does not like that system and explained why:

“(Bristol) puts probably some of the biggest loads we have on our tires. Truth be told, over the last two years since we’ve had these guns issued to us, they’re not capable of getting all the wheels tight, they really aren’t.

“It’s a lottery whether you get a gun that’s good enough to get ‘em tight. Through JGR, Stewart-Haas and other teams that have documented it, in the spring race there were over 20 loose wheels. This is not just a team thing. It’s just that the equipment is not quite up to par as far as what it’s capable of.

“We keep track of all the guns and how good they are and how bad they are. It’s a lottery system of whether you’re going to get (a good or bad one). It doesn’t matter how fast you go, you can hold the gun on there and it’s just not going to get the torque quite tight enough.”

Hamlin experienced a loose wheel that forced him to pit under green on Lap 186 of Saturday night’s race at Bristol, leaving him two laps behind the leaders. Hamlin had another loose wheel on Lap 374 and pitted while running 10th.

Thus far this season, in addition to several loose wheels in races, Hamlin’s team has also been penalized four times for loose lug nuts after races: Fontana, Bristol spring race, Chicagoland and the July race at Pocono.

This isn’t the first time Hamlin has publicly complained about pit guns and loose lug nuts and wheels.

NBC Sports has reached out to NASCAR for comment.

Check out what Hamlin said about that after Saturday night’s race in the video above (Hamlin talks about this issue starting around the 6:00 mark).

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Preliminary entry lists for Xfinity, Trucks this weekend

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While the NASCAR Cup Series will be off this weekend, that doesn’t mean there won’t be any racing.

On the contrary, the Xfinity Series will be racing Saturday at Road America and the Truck Series will compete Sunday at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park.

Here are the entry lists for both series:

Xfinity – CTECH Manufacturing 180 (3 p.m. ET on NBCSN)

There are 39 cars entered.

Regan Smith will be in the No. 8 J.R. Motorsports Chevrolet.

A.J. Allmendinger will drive the No. 10 Kaulig Racing Chevrolet.

Saturday’s Cup runner-up, Matt DiBenedetto, will drive the No. 18 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota.

There is no driver listed yet for the No. 117 Rick Ware Racing Chevrolet.

Click here for the entry list.

Trucks – Chevrolet Silverado 250 (2:30 p.m. ET FS1)

There are only 28 Trucks listed for the entry list.

All seats are filled.

Click here for the entry list.

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Dale Earnhardt Jr. thanks all who have ‘lifted us up’ since plane crash

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Dale Earnhardt Jr. issued his first public comments Monday since he and his family survived a plane crash last Thursday afternoon at Elizabethton (Tennessee) Municipal Airport.

Earnhardt offered thanks to “everyone who has lifted us up with phone calls, messages and prayer since last Thursday. We are truly blessed that all on board escaped with no serious injuries, including our daughter, our two pilots and our dog Gus.”

Earnhardt also thanked the pilots, emergency personnel, law enforcement and hospital staff.

He stated that wife “Amy and I continue to be very appreciative of the privacy extended to us to process everything. It has been important to do that together and on our own time.”

Earnhardt stated that because of the ongoing investigation “we will not be speculating or discussing the cause of the accident.”

A preliminary report from the National Transportation Safety Board is expected this week. Ralph Hicks, a senior investigator for the NTSB said in a briefing last Friday that “the airplane basically bounced at least twice before coming down hard on the right wing landing gear. You can actually see the right wing landing gear collapsing on the video (from nearby buildings). The airplane continued down the runway, off to the end, through a fence and came to a stop … on highway 91.”

Both pilots have been interviewed and Hicks stated that what they said was “very consistent” with what the video showed. Hicks also said investigators had talked to the Earnhardt family.

NASCAR America 6-7 p.m. ET on NBCSN: Recapping Hamlin’s Bristol win

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Today’s episode of NASCAR America airs on NBCSN at a special time, from 6-7 p.m. ET, and will recap Denny Hamlin’s win at Bristol.

Steve Letarte will be joined by NASCAR Hall of Famer Dale Jarrett and A.J. Allmendinger to discuss Hamlin’s win and other storylines.

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 for the special start time at 6 p.m. ET to watch live via the stream.