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Who is hot, not ahead of Xfinity race at Road America

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When it comes to road courses in the Xfinity Series there’s just no consistency.

In the last seven events held at road courses, all of them have been won by a different driver.

This weekend at Road America in the Johnsonville 180, chances are there will be a new face in victory lane or one that hasn’t been to it in a long time. The only road course winner from the last three seasons that’s entered into Sunday’s race is Justin Marks, won last season at Mid-Ohio.

There’s also the chance the most successful team in Xfinity history, Joe Gibbs Racing, could win at Road America for the first time. Despite having 140 series wins, Road America is one of three tracks it has not won at, including Pocono and Mid-Ohio.

If Matt Tifft, James Davison or Christopher Bell win, it would be their first Xfinity Series win.

Here’s a look at who is hot and not ahead of the Johnsonville 180, which airs at 3 p.m. ET on Sunday on NBC.

Who is hot

Elliott Sadler
• Seventeen top-10 finishes and nine top-five finishes, leads all drivers.
• Five stage wins and 30 stage finishes in the top 10.
•Clinched playoff spot at Bristol.
• Leads all drivers at Road America with four top-10 finishes.
• Finished in top 10 in 13 of the last 15 road course races.
Brennan Poole
• Finished in top 10 in five of the last six races, 10 times total.
• Finished 17th (Watkins Glen) and eighth (Mid-Ohio) in the two races on road courses this season.
• Finished Xfinity best third at Road America last year in his only start there.
• Four top-10 finishes in five Xfinity road course starts
Daniel Hemric
• Finished in top 10 in 10 of his 22 starts with a best finish of second at Mid-Ohio.
• Finished in top 10 in four of the last five races.
• Three DNFs in 2017, all three were accidents on restrictor-plate tracks.
• Finished 11th at Watkins Glen and second at Mid-Ohio in his two Xfinity road course starts.

Who is not

Michael Annett
• Finished 12th or worse in 12 of the last 13 races (sixth at Iowa I)
• Finished seventh at Road America in 2011, his only top-10 finish in 16Xfinity road course starts
Spencer Gallagher
• Finished 10th at Richmond, his second career top-10 finish, but has only three top-15 finishes this
season.
• Finished 28th or worse in the last six races.
• Finished 22nd or worse in all three Xfinity road course starts. Has never raced at Road America.
Brandon Jones
• Only three top-10 finishes in 2017 and none in the last three races.
• Had nine top-10 finishes after 22 races in 2017.
• Best Xfinity road course finish of 13th came at Watkins Glen in 2016.
• Finished 16th in this race last year in his only Road America start.

Multiple playoff drivers involved in late Stage 2 crash at Talladega

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A 10-car wreck involving multiple playoff drivers occurred with four laps left in the Stage 2 of Monday’s rain-delayed Cup race at Talladega.

The wreck began in Turn 3 when Joey Logano, running in second and receiving a push from Clint Bowyer, made contact with the rear bumper of leader Alex Bowman and turned him around.

The resulting crash involved Bowman, Chase Elliott, Dover winner Kyle Larson, Martin Truex Jr., Denny Hamlin, Kevin Harvick, Ryan Preece, Kurt Busch, Michael McDowell and Jimmie Johnson.

Bowman, Johnson and Larson were eliminated

Bowyer won Stage 2.

 

Cup playoff race at Talladega to resume at 2 p.m. ET Monday on NBCSN

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Let’s try this again.

Stage 1 was finished when rain came Sunday and prevented the Cup playoff race from continuing at Talladega Superspeedway. NBCSN’s coverage begins at 2 p.m. ET today. The engines will be fired at 2:02 p.m.

Fifty-seven of 188 laps have been completed. The race will resume with stage 2. That stage will end at Lap 110.

The wunderground.com forecast calls for partly cloudy skies with a high of 72 degrees and 0% chance of rain when the race resumes. There is no chance of rain in the afternoon.

William Byron, who won stage 1, was the leader when the race was stopped Sunday. He is followed by Joey Logano, Alex Bowman, Ricky Stenhouse Jr. and Brad Keselowski.

Matt Crafton has replaced Paul Menard in the No. 21 car and will take over driving duties when the race resumes.

After the race was stopped, Chevrolet summoned its drivers, crew chiefs and competition directors to a meeting that lasted about 25 minutes. Chevrolet has been adamant about its teams working together at Talladega and Daytona since the April race at Talladega. Chevrolet has won the past two races at those tracks with Elliott winning at Talladega in April and Justin Haley winning at Daytona in July.

Asked about Chevy’s tactics, Jimmie Johnson told NBC Sports: “Every year the sport changes. It doesn’t matter if it’s how we race each other on track or how strategies play out. The sport is ever-evolving and you’ve got to be on your toes and ready to adjust or the sport is going to pass you up.”

 

Rain postpones Cup race at Talladega until Monday at 2 p.m. ET on NBCSN

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The Cup Series playoff race at Talladega has been postponed due to rain. The race will resume Monday at 2 p.m. ET on NBCSN.

The race was put under a rain delay after the completion of Stage 1.

57 of 188 laps have been completed. The race is not official until the end of Stage 2 (Lap 110).

William Byron won the first stage.

The top 10 is Byron, Joey Logano, Alex Bowman, Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Brad Keselowski, Kyle Larson, Jimmie Johnson, Daniel Suarez, Kurt Busch and Ryan Blaney.

Blocking a key issue at Talladega for drivers

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TALLADEGA, Ala. — The question isn’t who to race with at Talladega, manufacturers have dictated that, but it is where to race.

Run at the front and hope the wreck is behind? Run at the back and hope to avoid the carnage?

The package used at Talladega and Daytona this season punches such a big hole that drivers say the closing rate between cars is quicker than before. That gives cars trying to block less time to make their move. Be late and it can lead to a wreck.

As it has at Talladega and Daytona this year.

“There’s been many evolutions in racing and blocking is one for me that I’ve had to evolve with, but blocking is a part of our sport now on a weekly basis,” Kevin Harvick said. “It’s not just here. I mean, you see it at the mile-and-a-half race tracks. 

“You’re just going to have wrecks blocking. Sometimes you’re going to make a bad move. It’s just something that’s a little bit newer in the pace of the car that’s approaching you and the style of block and how you throw it, but we’re going to wreck from a block because it’s just become part of what we do.”

Three wrecks this year at Talladega and Daytona can be traced to blocking at the front of the field.

“When you have the smaller spoiler, you’re able to get in front of them, that lead car would get the push before that (trailing) car would actually get to the back bumper of the lead car,” Joey Logano said. “Now, it seems like the trailing car can get to the back bumper and then some (with the larger spoiler), so the blocks have to be quicker and have to be precise. Even once you block them it doesn’t mean it’s over because now they’re still on your bumper and they’re pushing you around. It’s more challenging from that standpoint.”

The late April race at Talladega debuted this package and saw a crash at the front of the field early in the event. Bubba Wallace was third when he and Ryan Blaney, running second, got out of shape and triggered a crash that damaged six cars. Wallace said the accident was a result of “the amount of runs and the force of it. All I was trying to do was just some wreck avoidance.”

The Daytona race in July saw two crashes that started at the front of the field because of blocking.

Ricky Stenhouse Jr. was leading when he was late on a block on Kurt Busch and they made contact, spinning Stenhouse.

Late in the race, Austin Dillon, in the lead, blocked as Clint Bowyer went low to try pass. They made contact, triggering an 18-car crash.

Dillon notes that blocking is a part of speedway racing.

“You’re going to do it,” he said. “Somebody has got a run at you at the end of the race. There’s not much else you can do. You can give up certain times of the race, but if it’s a last-lap situation you’re going to be held accountable for the actions you make and you’re going to feel bad if you go home not making the block that could win you the race … or you’re going to feel bad if you’re wrecked. I’ve been on both sides of it. It’s speedway racing. That’s all I have to say about it.”

Blocking, to Ryan Newman, is nothing new.

“What was it ’08 when (Tony) Stewart won blocking Regan Smith?” Newman said of the fall 2008 Talladega race where Smith crossed the finish line first but Stewart was given the win because Smith went below the yellow line. “Stewart got the win and blocked Regan and everything was fine. Here we are 11 years later still talking about the same thing. Does it do any good to talk about it?”

Harvick was encouraged how NASCAR reacted at the end of Saturday’s Gander Outdoors Truck Series race. NASCAR penalized leader Johnny Sauter for forcing Riley Herbst below the yellow line on the final lap. Spencer Boyd was declared the winner.

“I can’t stand blocking,” Harvick said. “We didn’t use to penalize the blockers  very much. It was always the guy that was trying to make the move. So, you know, the guy had a lane … Johnny was trying to win the race. You can’t blame for him for trying to block. I like when the blockers get called. I don’t like it for Johnny Sauter. You’ve got to have a lane to race.”