Getty Images

Who is Hot and Not ahead of the Bristol night race

Leave a comment

When Jimmie Johnson won at Bristol Motor Speedway last April, he accomplished something unusual in the recent history at “Thunder Valley.”

His win came with his pit stop on the backstretch of the half-mile track. That was the only time in the last six Bristol races a driver has won while pitting on the backstretch.

Johnson’s win was also just the fourth time in the last 14 Bristol starts that a driver not associated with Team Penske or Joe Gibbs Racing won. It was the second straight after Kevin Harvick won last August’s race. The only other instances were Kasey Kahne in the spring 2013 race and Carl Edwards (then at Roush Fenway Racing) in the spring of 2014.

Going further, Joe Gibbs Racing (eight wins) and Team Penske (four wins) combined to win 12 of the last 17 Bristol races. Four different drivers won for JGR and two different drivers won for Team Penske.

Here is a look at who is hot and not ahead of Saturday’s night race at Bristol Motor Speedway.

Who is Hot

Erik Jones

• Finished third at Michigan to tie his best-career finish
• Finished top 10 in the last three races, best streak of his career.
• Finished 17th at Bristol in April.
• Two Xfinity wins at Bristol.

Kyle Busch

• Finished 10th at Michigan after being penalized for pitting before pit road was open.
• Finished top 10 in the last three races to tie his best streak this season.
• Won from the pole at Pocono for only win of 2017. Had four wins at this point in 2016.
• Five Bristol wins, but last was in 2011.
• Finished 29th or worse in five of the last six races at Bristol (DNF after Accident in last three).

Kevin Harvick

• Finished 13th at Michigan
• Finished top 10 in 12 of the last 17 races.
• Won this race last year, one of two Bristol wins
• Finished top 10 in the last four Bristol races including three top threes.

Brad Keselowski

• Finished 17th at Michigan after winning the pole, worst finish in the last five races.
• Series-leading 11 top-fives this season.
• Two-time Bristol winner, in 2011 and 2012.
• Finished 18th or worse in four of the last five races at Bristol including 34th in April.

Who is Not

Kurt Busch

• Finished 11th at Michigan. Only two top-10 finishes in the last seven races.
• Three DNFs in the last seven races.
• Just 10 top-10 finishes this season after having 16 through 23 races in 2016.
• Has not had back-to-back top 10s since Richmond and Talladega.
• Five Bristol wins but last was in 2006. Four of the five wins came in the Spring race.
• Only three finishes better than 14th in the last 12 races at Bristol.

Austin Dillon

• Finished seventh at Michigan for first top-10 finish since winning at Charlotte in May.
• Only three top-10 finishes this season. Had 10 at this point last year.
• Five top-15 finishes in seven Bristol starts. Best finish of fourth in this race last year.

Dale Earnhardt Jr.

• Finished 14th at Michigan. Last top-10 finish was at Sonoma in June.
• Only two top 10s in the last 11 races.
• One Bristol win in 2004 night race.
• Finished 38th with DNF after accident in April.

Joey Logano

• Finished 28th at Michigan. Tenth finish outside the top 20 in the last 14 races.
• Won at Richmond but was encumbered for failing post-race inspection.
• Now 98 points outside the bubble, must win to make the playoffs.
• Finished top 10 in five of the last six races at Bristol including two wins.

Results, point standings after second Xfinity race at Kentucky

Getty Images
Leave a comment

Austin Cindric dominated to win Friday night’s Xfinity race at Kentucky Speedway, leading 130 of 200 laps.

He completed a sweep of the series’ doubleheader races at the 1.5-mile track.

The top five was completed by Chase Briscoe, Justin Haley, Ross Chastain and Justin Allgaier.

Click here for the results.

Check back for the point standings.

Noah Gragson, Harrison Burton fight after Xfinity race

Leave a comment

Noah Gragson punched Harrison Burton after Burton repeatedly shoved him in the garage area as they discussed their contact on the track late in Friday night’s Xfinity Series race at Kentucky Speedway.

Gragson and Burton were battling for fourth on Lap 188 of the 200-lap race when Gragson, on in the inside of Burton, drifted up the track into Burton’s car. Both cars hit the wall. There was no caution and both fell back. Gragson finished seventh. Burton finished 12th. Austin Cindric won for the second consecutive night.

FS1 cameras caught Burton and Gragson having a discussion after the race. The cameras caught Burton pushing Gragson away. They continued to talk when Burton shoved Gragson again and Gragson punched Burton. Crew members jumped in. NASCAR officials broke up the fight.

A NASCAR spokesperson told NBC Sports that series officials spoke with both drivers and that no penalties are anticipated.

Burton told FS1: “Just frustrated. That’s two times since we’ve come back after the COVID-19 pandemic on restarts, same situation. We rallied all night to get … (into) fourth place and (Gragson) happens to start in third and just, I don’t know, forgets what racetrack we’re at or what. Both times puts us in the fence, Charlotte and now here. I had a lot of people coming up to me afterwards saying that was a long time coming, so I guess that was a popular move. But honestly, it’s about these guys that work on these racecars and give me fast racecars.”

Gragson told FS1: “This track is so much about track position and restarts. … We’ll go on to Texas and rebound.”

FS1’s Jamie Little told Gragson that Burton noted their incident at Charlotte and asked if he saw what happened Friday coming: “Not really. We’re all racing hard. Us teammates are beating and banging for the finishes at the end and whatnot. I really don’t have a comment.”

Austin Cindric completes Xfinity sweep at Kentucky

Leave a comment

A night after claiming his first oval track win in NASCAR, Austin Cindric followed it up with a victory in Friday night’s Xfinity Series race at Kentucky Speedway.

The Team Penske driver completed a sweep of the series’ doubleheader races on the 1.5-mile track, dominating with a stage win and leading 130 of 200 laps.

Cindric crossed the finish line with a 2.2-second advantage over runner-up Chase Briscoe.

The top five was completed by Justin Haley, Ross Chastain and Justin Allgaier.

Unlike Thursday night, Cindric celebrated with a burnout on the frontstretch.

“I hope I laid enough rubber down to make up for Watkins Glen last year, that was pathetic,” Cindric told FS1. “I’m just so excited. … what we did tonight was really impressive. Because we ran one setup last night and won the race. We came with another setup and won the race again. That happens at the shop, that happens with the guys on the (pit box).”

Later in his press conference, Cindric said a change in setup was in part due to the tracks that are coming up, at Texas Motor Speedway and Kansas Speedway.

“Obviously with mile-and-half-tracks being really important in the second round of our playoffs with Texas and Kansas, our next two races being Texas and Kansas, and the question of having practice or not is looming very big for me,” Cindric said. “Obviously, Phoenix (site of the championship race) is the most important race of the year, but you’ve got to get there first. I feel like those are two really important steps other than Martinsville to get there. So deciding on what we want to run at those race tracks given those characteristics and more … that’s why we decided to change the game tonight.”

After the race, Harrison Burton and Noah Gragson got into a scuffle. They had made contact on a restart with 13 laps to go. Gragson finished seventh and and Burton placed 12th.

STAGE 1: Noah Gragson

STAGE 2: Austin Cindric

WHO HAD A GOOD RACE: Chase Briscoe finished in the top two for the seventh time in 15 races this season … Justin Allgaier finished in the top five after he spent just 33 of 200 laps on the lead lap after a flat tire brought him to pit road early in the race and put him a lap down … Ross Chastain placed fourth for his 13th top-10 finish of 2020, most of all drivers.

WHO HAD A BAD RACE: Ryan Sieg spun in Turn 2 on Lap 3. He finished 35th … Riley Herbst finished 10th after he was caught speeding on pit road with 52 laps to go … Brandon Jones spun and wrecked with 22 laps to go while racing for second with Daniel Hemric. It’s his fourth consecutive DNF.

NOTABLE: Cindric is the first driver since Richard Petty in July 1971 in Cup to win races in the same series in consecutive days.

WHAT’S NEXT: Race at Texas Motor Speedway at 3 p.m. ET July 18 on NBCSN

NASCAR to teams: Address ‘complacency’ to COVID-19 mask protocols

NASCAR
Getty Images
Leave a comment

NASCAR sent a memo to teams earlier this week advising them to address “pockets of complacency” toward its COVID-19 mask protocols.

The memo was first reported by WCNC, NBC’s Charlotte affiliate.

In the memo, NASCAR said it was “seeing more and more van loads of crew members rolling up to the track without masks on, and people wearing their mask down around their chin.”

The memo stated that further flouting of the protocols “will threaten our ability to continue racing.”

“More people in our industry are going to contract the virus,” the memo added. “The key is limiting it.”

“It is important for everyone to do their part ALL THE TIME. One cluster outbreak can derail our season.”

In May, NASCAR issued a bulletin stating failure to comply with COVID-19 rules could result in a $50,000 fine.

The memo comes after seven-time champion Jimmie Johnson tested positive for COVID-19 last week, forcing him to miss the Brickyard 400. Earlier this week Johnson had two negative tests, allowing him to be cleared for Sunday’s race at Kentucky Speedway.

Previously, Stewart-Haas Racing had two employees test positive for virus and Team Penske had one employee test positive.

In North Carolina, where most NASCAR teams are based, the state now has 81,000 cases and it has reached 1,000 hospitalizations for the first time.

The Cup Series is scheduled to hold its All-Star Race on Wednesday at Bristol Motor Speedway in Northeast Tennessee. Tennessee has just over 59,000 confirmed cases and has had 86 deaths since Sunday, a single-week record.

NASCAR is scheduled to compete next weekend at Texas Motor Speedway. Texas has more than 235,000 cases and almost 3,000 deaths. On Thursday, it recorded 10,000 new daily cases for the second time.