Who’s hot, who’s not heading into New Hampshire

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NASCAR begins the second half of the 36-race 2017 season with Sunday’s Overton’s 301 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway.

But while 18 more races seem like a lot of time for teams that have struggled this season, that’s not truly accurate. Rather, we’re at a point in the season where teams have reached a sense of urgency: There are only eight races left to qualify for this year’s playoffs.

New Hampshire is also the last playoff track that teams will be able to gather data for the upcoming 10-race playoffs. Nine weeks later, New Hampshire will host the second race of the playoffs on Sept. 24.

Sunday’s race will be the 45th time the Cup series has raced at the one-mile short track. NHMS hosted one race per year from 1993 to 1996 and two races from 1997 through this season.

It will revert back to hosting just one race per season in 2018, as its annual second race date will move to Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

Here is a look at some of the drivers who are hot and those who are not heading into Sunday’s Overton’s 301, to be televised on NBCSN.

WHO IS HOT:

Martin Truex Jr.

Won at Kentucky, sweeping both stages

Finished in the top-10 12 times this season, most of all drivers

Won 13 stages this season

Wins at Las Vegas, Kansas, and Kentucky

Has led a series high 1,115 laps in 2017, including over 100 in four of the last eight

Best New Hampshire finish is third in 2007

Only one finish outside the top 12 at New Hampshire since joining Furniture Row Racing (six races)

Led 264 of the 601 laps raced at New Hampshire in 2016 (44 percent) finished 16th and 7th

Kyle Larson

Finished 2nd at Kentucky, sixth runner up finish this season

Two wins this season, ACS and Michigan, leads the points by one

Finished top 2 eight times this season

Finished top 3 in his first two starts at New Hampshire in 2014, best finish since is 10th last September

Brad Keselowski

Finished 39th at Kentucky, accident; has had DNFs in four of last seven races this season due to accidents (five total in 2017)

Has not had back-to-back top 10 finishes since Talladega and Kansas

Nine top-fives in 2017, the most of all drivers

Won this race in 2014

Worst finish in the last 11 races at NH is 15th with eight top 10 finishes

Led at least one lap in the last 11 NH races

Kyle Busch

Finished 5th at Kentucky; top 10 finishes in seven of the last nine races this season

Been passed for the win five times this season

Led the most laps four times this season but is still winless

858 laps led in 2017, second most

Had three wins at this point in 2016

Two time winner at New Hampshire, this race in 2006 and 2015

Finished top 3 five of the last eight races at New Hampshire including a win

Kevin Harvick

Finished 9th at Kentucky, top 10 finishes in six of the last eight races

Won at Sonoma

Two New Hampshire wins, Fall race in 2006 and Fall race in 2016

Led only eight laps in NH win last year

Finished top five in both NH races last year

WHO IS NOT:

Joey Logano

Finished 8th at Kentucky, only his second finish better than 12th in the last nine races

Six top five finishes in the first nine races this season, only one in the last nine

Finished better than 12th only twice in the last nine races of 2017

Won at Richmond but was encumbered

Two time winner at New Hampshire including his first career win in 2009

Finished top five in four of the last five New Hampshire races

Kurt Busch

Finished 28th at Daytona, accident and 30th at Kentucky (engine), the last time he had back-to-back DNFs was April 2014

Just eight top 10 finishes this season, had 15 after 18 races in 2016

Has not had back-to-back top 10 finishes since Richmond and Talladega

Three New Hampshire wins but last was in 2008

Finished fifth at New Hampshire last Fall, only his second top 10 in the last 11 races

Austin Dillon

Finished 19th at Kentucky, best finish since his Charlotte win (six races) is 13th

Won on fuel mileage at Charlotte

Only two top 10 finishes this season, had eight at this point last year

One top 10 finish in six starts at New Hampshire, eighth in 2015

Won truck race at New Hampshire in 2015

Kasey Kahne

Finished 38th at Kentucky, accident

DNF accident in five of the last seven races this season

Only one top 10 finish in the last 16 races

Won this race in 2012 at New Hampshire, it was his second of five wins while driving for HMS

Two top 10 finishes in the last eight NH races

AJ Allmendinger

Finished 20th at Kentucky; only one finish better than 18th in the last 12 races

Only one top 10 finish at New Hampshire, 10th in 2010 driving the #43

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Two crew chiefs fined for loose lug nuts at Kentucky

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NASCAR has issued two fines to crew chiefs for loose lug nuts last weekend at Kentucky Speedway.

Brian Wilson, crew chief for Paul Menard in the Xfinity race, was fined $5,000 for a loose lug nut. Menard finished ninth.

Kevin Bellicourt, crew chief for Justin Haley in the Camping World Truck Series, was fined $2,500 for a loose lug nut. Haley finished 10th.

There were no other penalties.

NASCAR America: ‘Big 3’ achieves mark not reached since 1974

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The drivers labelled the “Big 3” keep reaching new milestones as they tear through the 2018 Cup season.

Kevin Harvick, Kyle Busch and Martin Truex Jr. are the only drivers to win on 1.5-mile tracks this season, sweeping all seven so far.

They’ve combined to win 14 of the first 19 races this season, with Truex claiming the latest on Saturday at Kentucky Speedway.

Truex’s win gives him four this season while Busch and Harvick have five each.

With Truex’s victory, the “Big 3” are the first trio of drivers to win four or more races each through 19 races since 1974.

That year, the “Big 3” were Cale Yarborough (eight wins), Richard Petty (six) and David Pearson (four).

On NASCAR America, Steve Letarte said despite their dominance so far, he doesn’t believe all three members of the “Big 3” will make the Championship 4 in November.

“I don’t think the three in any way shape or form are guaranteed to make Miami,” Letarte said. “Everybody’s ready to put the ‘Big 3’ in Miami in the final four, I’m not. There’s way too many challenges along the way. I’m confident that all three won’t be at Homestead.”

Watch the videos above and below for more.

Cup teams to test Charlotte road course today

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The second half of Cup tests on Charlotte’s road course will take place from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. ET today. It is open to the public.

Testing today are: Kyle Busch, Erik Jones, Clint Bowyer, Aric Almirola, Ryan Blaney, Joey Logano, Jamie McMurray, Alex Bowman, William Byron, Austin Dillon, AJ Allmendinger, Trevor Bayne and Ty Dillon. Chris Buescher is in a Chevy wheelforce car.

Last week, several Cup drivers tested on the course for a day. Bubba Wallace crashed early and left the test because his team did not have a backup car.

Jimmie Johnson had the fastest lap in last week’s session, according to NASCAR timing and scoring. Johnson had a lap at 1 minute, 17.4 seconds. Chase Elliott and Denny Hamlin each had a lap at 1:17.5 last week.

 

 

 

NASCAR America: Paul Menard, Ricky Stenhouse Jr. among winners, losers at Kentucky

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On Monday’s NASCAR America, Steve Letarte and Jeff Burton discussed the winners and losers among drivers in Saturday’s Cup race at Kentucky Speedway.

Letarte singled out Ricky Stenhouse Jr. as one of the losers after he failed to overtake Alex Bowman in the playoff standings. Bowman entered the race as the last driver above the cutoff line for the 16 driver field in the playoffs.

Bowman earned his first DNF after he crashed from a flat tire and finished last.

Meanwhile, Stenhouse finished 26th, one lap down after he had to pit twice early in Stage 1, the first time for a cut tire. He is now nine points behind Bowman for the final playoff spot.

“To only gain 10 points on a driver who finished last in the field is a huge missed opportunity,” Letarte said. “When you look at drivers scoring 30, 40, 50 points each, Paul Menard picked up over 30. So the chance was there to gain (on) that bigger group and he just didn’t do it. So when I look at what Ricky Stenhouse did, he really missed probably 15 or 20 points. I know it was a flat tire, there’s always a reason. But in the end you have to make the playoffs, you have to go out there and take it from Alex Bowman, who has put him in that position.”

Burton picked Menard as a winner. The Wood Brothers Racing driver placed 11th Saturday after finishing fifth in Stage 1 and 10th in Stage 2.

He is now 18th in the standings, 23 points back from Bowman

“They performed well, got good stage finishes and did what they needed to do,” Burton said. “This team is starting to get a little bit better every single week. I find it very interesting that back there for that 16th spot it’s really a fight of mediocrity, to be honest with you, and who is going to not mess up.”

Watch the above video for more.