Who’s Hot and Who’s Not heading into Sunday’s race at Texas

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Three races remain in the Cup season: Sunday at Texas Motor Speedway, Nov. 12 at Phoenix Raceway and Nov. 19 at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

Two of those races are on 1.5-mile tracks, which Martin Truex Jr. has dominated this season. Six of Truex’s seven races this year have been on 1.5-mile tracks.

Let’s check out Who’s Hot and Who’s Not heading to Texas:


No. 78 Martin Truex Jr. (Hot)

  • Finished second at Martinsville, spent all but six laps in the top 10
  • Finished top five in six of the seven playoff races
  • 2nd in the standings, +67 to the cutline and 38 ahead of 3rd place Brad Keselowski
  • Seven wins in 2017, the most by a driver since Matt Kenseth had seven in 2013
  • Finished in the top 5 16 times and the top 10 23 times this season, both are the most
  • Won 19 stages this season, the most
  • 69 Playoff Points this season, the most
  • Led a series-high 2,068 laps in 2017, led the most laps in eight races
  • Winless at Texas in 24 starts, runner up in Spring 2013
  • Finished top 10 in the last five races at Texas, led in the last four
  • Six wins on 1.5-mile tracks in 2017, most ever in a season, won the last four
  • Finished top five in all nine 1.5-mile races this season
  • Martin Truex Jr. Look ahead to Phoenix:
  • Best Phoenix finish is fifth in 2009
  • Only one top-10 finish in the last seven Phoenix races
  • Finished 11th at Phoenix in March

No. 18 Kyle Busch (HOT)

  • Won at Martinsville on last-lap pass, his third win of the playoffs
  • Advances to compete for the championship at Miami for the third time in the elimination format
  • Five wins this season, all in the last 13 races
  • Led laps in the last 16 races this season, a personal best and the best streak ever among the active 
  • Two-time Texas winner, both came in his last eight starts there
  • Finished top 15 in his last 10 Texas starts (seven top fives)
  • Finished 15th at Texas in April
  • Led laps in the last six 1.5-mile races
  • Finished top 10 in four of the last six 1.5-mile races
  • Kyle Busch Look ahead to Phoenix:
  • One Phoenix win, this race in 2005
  • Finished top five in the last four Phoenix races, including leading 114 laps finishing 3rd in March

No. 11 Denny Hamlin (Hot)

  • Finished fourth at Charlotte, sixth at Talladega, fifth at Kansas, seventh at Martinsville
  • Finished top 10 in eight of the last 10 races
  • Won both races at Texas in 2010, his only wins there in 23 starts, but has only three top-10 finishes 
there in the 12 races since with no top fives
  • Finished 25th at Texas in April
  • Top-five finishes in the last five 1.5-mile races, his longest streak ever
  • Denny Hamlin Look ahead to Phoenix:
  • Finished top 10 in each of the last four races at Phoenix including a 10th in March
  • Won at Phoenix in Spring 2012

No. 2 Brad Keselowski (Good)

  • Finished fourth at Martinsville, led 108 laps after winning both stages, lost the lead with five laps to go
  • Third in points, +29 to the cutline
  • Advanced to the Round of 8 with his win at Talladega
  • Winless at Texas in 18 starts, best finish of second in this race in 2015 after leading 312 of 334 laps
  • Finished top 10 in seven of the last 10 races at Texas (sixth there in April)
  • Only one top 10 in the last five 1.5-mile races (sixth at Chicagoland)
  • Brad Keselowski Look Ahead to Phoenix:
  • Winless at Phoenix in 16 starts, best finish of third in 2014
  • Finished top 10 in five of the last seven races at Phoenix, including 5th in March

No. 4 Kevin Harvick (Decent)

  • Finished fifth at Martinsville, fifth was the highest he ran all day
  • Four top-10 finishes in the playoffs and three finishes of 17th or worse
  • Currently fourth in points, +3 to the cutline
  • Winless at Texas in 29 starts, two-time runner up
  • Finished in the top 10 in the last six races at Texas (fourth in April)
  • Top 10 finishes in eight of the nine 1.5-mile races this season, second most of all drivers
  • Kevin Harvick Look ahead to Phoenix:
  • Won six of the last 10 races at Phoenix, eight total
  • Finished top six in the last eight Phoenix races
  • Failed to lead in the last two Phoenix races

No. 21 Ryan Blaney (Solid runs lately)

  • Finished eighth at Martinsville, scored points in both stages
  • Finished top 10 in four of the last six races
  • Sixth in points, -6 to the cutline
  • Five Texas starts with a best finish of 12th in each of the last two races there
  • Led 148 laps at Texas in April but finished 12th after sliding through his pit box from eighth on his last 
  • Only two finishes outside the top 12 on 1.5-mile tracks this season
  • Ryan Blaney Look ahead to Phoenix:
  • Top 10 finishes in two of his three Phoenix starts, best of eighth in this race last year
  • Finished 23rd in March after starting second

No. 24 Chase Elliott (His time is coming)

  • Finished 27th at Martinsville after late-race wreck with Denny Hamlin while leading. He led 123 laps.
  • Four top-five finishes in the playoffs rank second to Martin Truex Jr. (six)
  • Eighth in points, -26 to the cutline
  • Finished top 10 in all three of his Cup Texas starts with a best of fourth in October 2016
  • Got his first Xfinity win at Texas in April 2014
  • Finished top four in the last four 1.5-mile races
  • Chase Elliott Look ahead to Phoenix:
  • Best Phoenix finish is eighth, worst is 12th in three races
  • Finished 12th in March at Phoenix, led 106 laps

No. 88 Dale Earnhardt Jr. (Best streak of season and is good at Texas)

  • Finished 11th at Martinsville
  • Finished top 12 in the last five races, best streak this season, including three top 10s
  • One Texas win, his first career win in 2000
  • Finished top six in his last five races at Texas
  • Finished top 10 in 10 of his last 12 Texas starts


No. 48 Jimmie Johnson (Just doesn’t seem to have it lately)

  • Finished 12th at Martinsville after starting at the rear, just didn’t have that normal Martinsville look
  • Only one top-five finish in the last 20 races
  • Top 10 finishes in four of the last eight races
  • Four top-five finishes this season, three were wins
  • Seven-time winner at Texas, most of all drivers
  • Won six of the last 10 Texas races including the race there in April
  • Only three top 10s in the nine races on 1.5-mile tracks this season, one top five (Texas win)
  • Jimmie Johnson Look ahead to Phoenix:
  • Four time Phoenix winner but none since 2009
  • Only two top-10 finishes at Phoenix in the last six races there
  • Finished ninth at Phoenix in March

No. 1 Jamie McMurray (Not – eliminated in Round of 12)

  • Finished 29th at Martinsville, third straight finish of 29th or worse
  • Left the round of 12 in 12th place -48
  • 16 top-10 finishes this season, five more than this point last year
  • Five DNF accidents in 2017
  • Best Texas finish is second in 2005
  • Finished top 10 in four of the last six Texas starts including seventh in April
  • Top-10 finishes in seven of the nine 1.5-mile races this season

No. 17 Ricky Stenhouse Jr. (Not)

  • Finished 10th at Martinsville, first top-10 finish since Daytona in July
  • Left the round of 12 in 11th place, -46
  • Best finish of 14th at Texas came in April in nine starts
  • Only two career top-10 finishes on 1.5-mile tracks in 56 starts, less than 4 percent

No. 20 Matt Kenseth (Unlucky)

  • Finished ninth at Martinsville, ran around 10th all day, was first top 10 in the last five races
  • Left the round of 12 in 10th place, -30
  • Two Texas wins, last was 2011
  • Only one top-10 finish in the last five races
  • Only four top-10s in nine 1.5-mile starts this season

No. 42 Kyle Larson (Hot in 2017, Bad last two races)

  • Finished 39th at Kansas and 37th at Martinsville, his worst two finishes in consecutive races since his first two Cup starts
  • Left the round of 12 in 9th place, -9
  • Eight runner-up finishes this season
  • Four wins in 2017, had one entering this season
  • Finished Texas-best second in April
  • Only three top-10 finishes at Texas in eight starts
  • Has yet to lead a lap at Texas
  • Finished runner-up in five of the last 10 1.5-mile races
  • Zero for 45 on 1.5-mile tracks

No. 3 Austin Dillon (Not hot – eliminated in Round of 16)

  • Finished 13th at Martinsville, best finish in the last eight races
  • Only four top-15 finishes in the last 14 races
  • Finished 14th in the first round, -4
  • Only four top-10 finishes this season, had 13 at this point last year
  • Won on fuel mileage at Charlotte earlier this year
  • Best Texas finish is 11th, Fall 2015
  • Finished 33rd at Texas in April

No. 5 Kasey Kahne (Not)

  • Finished 16th at Martinsville, his worst finish in the last five races
  • Only three top-10 finishes in the last 23 races
  • Finished 15th in the first round, -23 to the cut line
  • Six DNFs due to accidents this season
  • Won at Indianapolis ending a 102-race winless streak
  • One Texas win, 2006
  • Finished eighth in three of the last five Texas races, 38th in April (flat tire, contact with wall)

No. 31 Ryan Newman (Not good lately)

  • Finished 14th at Martinsville
  • DNF accident in two of the last four races (40th at Charlotte, 33rd at Kansas)
  • Finished round one 13th in the standings, -2 to the cut line
  • One Texas win, 2003, his second start at Texas
  • Only three top-10 finishes at Texas in the last 18 races there, 26th in April

No. 41 Kurt Busch (Not Hot)

  • Finished 22nd at Martinsville, finished 19th or worse in six of the seven playoff races
  • Finished 16th in the first round, 25 points below the cut line
  • One Texas win, this race in 2009 driving for Team Penske
  • Finished top 10 in four of the last six races at Texas including 10th in April

No. 14 Clint Bowyer (Disappointing 2017)

  • Finished third at Martinsville, first top five finish since Watkins Glen
  • Was 88 points out of a Playoff spot
  • Finished runner-up three times in 2017
  • 13 top-10 finishes in 2017, had three in all of 2016
  • Best Texas finish is second in 2011
  • Finished 11th at Texas in April, best finish in the last six races there

No. 22 Joey Logano (Disappointing season)

  • Finished 24th at Martinsville, flat tire after contact with Kyle Busch in final laps
  • Thirteen finishes outside the top 20 in the last 24 races
  • Won at Richmond after starting in the rear due to a transmission change, but win was ruled 
encumbered due to illegal suspension
  • First time he missed the playoffs with Team Penske
  • Finished top five in seven of the last nine Texas starts including a win in Spring 2014
  • Finished top three in the last three Texas races

Short-track ace Sam Ard shares Xfinity record with Noah Gragson


Former two-time Xfinity Series champion Sam Ard’s name returned to the forefront in the past week as Noah Gragson tied Ard’s series record for consecutive victories at four.

Although Ard has been nominated for the NASCAR Hall of Fame, his exploits generally aren’t well-known among many who follow the modern sport of stock car racing. He was on the Hall voting list for the 2023 class but was not elected.

In the 1970s and ’80s, Ard was a short-track master in the vein of stars like Jack Ingram, Harry Gant and Butch Lindley, drivers who could show up at virtually any half-mile track across the country and take home the trophy.

He won the NASCAR Late Model (now the Xfinity Series) championship in 1983 and 1984, scoring 18 wins across those two seasons. He put together four victories in a row late in the 1983 season, winning at South Boston, Virginia; Martinsville, Virginia; Rougemont, North Carolina and Charlotte.

Ard was so dominant in 1984 that he had wrapped up the seasonal championship with two races remaining. In 28 series starts that year, he had 24 top-five finishes and 26 top-10 runs. He won eight times.

In the next-to-last race of the 1984 season, at North Carolina Speedway in Rockingham, Ard suffered critical head injuries when his car slid in fluid from another vehicle and hit the track’s outside wall.

That crash effectively ended Ard’s career and impacted the rest of his life. Ard often talked of learning to walk again as part of his recovery. He said he would use a walker in a pile of sawdust in his backyard so that the landing would be softer when he fell.

Ard eventually was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease. In 2006, responding to Ard’s financial problems, drivers Kyle Busch, Kevin Harvick and Dale Earnhardt Jr., among others, launched a drive to raise funds for his family.

Ard, a native of Scranton, S.C., died in April 2017. He was 78.






Drivers to watch in Cup Series race at Talladega Superspeedway


The NASCAR Cup Series playoffs will reach a critical point Sunday in a 500-mile chase at treacherous Talladega Superspeedway.

The overriding factor in any race at Talladega, NASCAR’s biggest track, is the unknown. With cars running so fast and so close together, multi-car accidents are not only possible but expected, and it’s easy to become the innocent victim of someone else’s mistake.

MORE: NASCAR penalizes William Byron for spinning Denny Hamlin

The tension is doubled for the 12 playoff drivers. A bad finish at Talladega could open the door for a probable playoff exit at the end of the round Oct. 9 at the Charlotte Motor Speedway Roval.

The playoffs to date have seen four wins by non-playoff drivers, an unprecedented result. Tyler Reddick was the most recent to join that list with a win last Sunday at Texas Motor Speedway.

A look at drivers to watch at Talladega:


Denny Hamlin

  • Points position: 6th
  • Last three races: 10th at Texas, 9th at Bristol, 2nd at Kansas
  • Past at Talladega: 2 career wins

Although he hasn’t won, Hamlin has finished in the top 10 in all four playoff races. In the past six races at Talladega, he has four finishes of seventh or better. Now if he can just keep people from running into him…

William Byron

  • Points position: 3rd
  • Last three races: 7th at Texas, 3rd at Bristol, 6th at Kansas
  • Past at Talladega: Best career finish is a second

Byron stands alone as the only playoff driver who has been able to avoid major crashes and trouble in the pits, and he has finished in the top 10 in all four playoff races. After Tuesday’s penalty for his incident with Denny Hamlin at Texas, he sits below the cutline entering Sunday’s race.

Brad Keselowski

  • Points position: 24th
  • Last three races: 8th at Texas, 13th at Bristol, 25th at Kansas
  • Past at Talladega: 6 wins, the active leader

Even in trying times, Keselowski is a threat at Talladega, where he last won in April 2021 (his last Cup victory). He has led 268 laps there in the past 13 races.


Kyle Busch

  • Points position: 15th
  • Last three races: 36th at Texas, 34th at Bristol, 26th at Kansas
  • Past at Talladega: 1 career win, in 2008

Is Busch going to steadily disappear into the mist as he rides out the final weeks of his final year with Joe Gibbs Racing? His best finish in the past four races is 26th. On the positive side this week, he’s the only driver to finish in the top 10 in this year’s three races at Daytona and Talladega.

Chase Elliott

  • Points position: 8th
  • Last three races: 32nd at Texas, 2nd at Bristol, 11th at Kansas
  • Past at Talladega: 1 career win, in 2019

Can Elliott rebound from a fiery finish and a 32nd-place run at Texas? Playoff points give him some comfort, but a second career win at Talladega would be greatly appreciated in the Hendrick camp.

Martin Truex Jr.

  • Points position: 17th
  • Last three races: 31st at Texas, 36th at Bristol, 5th at Kansas
  • Past at Talladega: Best career finish is 5th

Will one of the sport’s most enduring mysteries continue at Talladega? In 70 career starts at Daytona and Talladega, Truex, a former champion and a smooth driver, has zero wins. At Talladega, he has only three top-five finishes in 35 starts.




NBC will broadcast final six NASCAR Cup Series playoff races


The final six races in the chase for the NASCAR Cup Series championship will be televised by NBC.

The races remaining on the schedule are at Talladega Superspeedway (Oct. 2), the Charlotte Motor Speedway Roval (Oct. 9), Las Vegas Motor Speedway (Oct. 16), Homestead-Miami Speedway (Oct. 23), Martinsville Speedway (Oct. 30) and Phoenix Raceway (Nov. 6).

NBC’s broadcasting team will be on hand Sunday for what is typically a seasonal highlight — a 500-mile race at Talladega Superspeedway. The next week the playoffs move on to Charlotte for a cutoff race. The lowest four drivers in the playoff point standings will be eliminated from championship competition.

The Round of 8 is scheduled at Las Vegas, Homestead and Martinsville, with the tiny Martinsville track serving as the final cutoff race. The four drivers who advance from Martinsville will race for the title at Phoenix Nov. 6.

The high drama of the Phoenix race, in which the championship will go to the highest finisher of the four competing drivers, will be carried by both NBC and Peacock.

Post-race commentary and analysis for all six remaining Cup races will be carried on Peacock.

Kyle Larson is the series defending champion. Joey Logano carries the point lead into Sunday’s race at Talladega.

NASCAR viewer’s guide for Talladega Superspeedway


After a messy Sunday at Texas Motor Speedway, the NASCAR Cup Series playoffs move on this weekend to another potentially messy spot — Talladega Superspeedway.

Home to the Big One — an almost certain multi-car crash, Talladega also occasionally produces unexpected winners, including Richard Brickhouse, James Hylton, Lennie Pond, Ron Bouchard and Brad Keselowski.

The mix of tight drafting, the Next Gen car and general playoff tension should make Sunday’s 500-mile run quite the adventure.

On Sunday at Texas, Tyler Reddick became the second driver (after Chase Elliott) to score three wins this season.

Joey Logano enters Talladega with the playoff point lead.

Playoff rookies roll on

The four drivers participating in the Cup playoffs for the first time remain factors approaching the second race in the second round.

Ross Chastain is second in the standings, 18 points above the cutline entering Talladega.

MORE: NBC NASCAR rankings put Denny Hamlin first

Daniel Suarez, Chastain’s Trackhouse Racing teammate, is seventh. He’s four points above the cutline.

Two other playoff rookies — Chase Briscoe and Austin Cindric — will start Talladega below the cutline. Briscoe is four points below the cutline. Cindric is 11 points below the cutline.

Looking for wins

Only six of the remaining 12 playoff drivers have won races at the two remaining tracks in the second round (Talladega and Charlotte Roval).

Among the six, Joey Logano has the best win record at Talladega, having finished first there in 2015, 2016 and 2018.

Other Talladega winners in the group: Ryan Blaney (two), Denny Hamlin (two), Chase Elliott (one), Ross Chastain (one).

The Charlotte Roval is relatively new, of course, but Chase Elliott already owns two wins there. Ryan Blaney and Kyle Larson also have won at the Roval.

An opening for Brad?

Few people who watched it will forget the first Cup Series victory scored by Brad Keselowski.

It occurred at this week’s tour stop — Talladega Superspeedway — in April 2009. Keselowski and Carl Edwards made contact approaching the finish line and notched the win, even as Edwards’ car flew into the frontstretch fence, spraying car parts into the grandstands.

Thirteen years later, Keselowski returns to NASCAR’s biggest track having recorded six Talladega wins. No other active drive has more than three.

Keselowski’s refurbished team — Roush Fenway Keselowski Racing — has new fire with Chris Buescher winning at Bristol and Keselowski winning the pole and finishing eighth at Texas.

RFK Racing has led 309 laps in the past two races, more than the team had led in the prior 105 races combined.

Although he hasn’t won a Cup race since scoring a victory in a Team Penske Ford in April 2021 at Talladega, Keselowski must be considered a threat Sunday.

Entry lists

Thirty-seven drivers, including Xfinity Series star Noah Gragson and reigning Xfinity champion Daniel Hemric, are entered for Sunday’s Cup race.

Talladega Cup entry list

The Xfinity entry list includes 41 drivers for 38 spots. Among those joining the series regulars are Trevor Bayne, Parker Kligerman, Timmy Hill and Jeffrey Earnhardt.

Talladega Xfinity entry list

Forty-one drivers are entered for Saturday’s Camping World Truck Series race. Included are Kaz Grala, Ryan Preece, Natalie Decker, Jennifer Jo Cobb and Parker Kligerman.

Talladega Truck entry list

This week’s schedule and forecast

(All times Eastern)

Friday, Sept. 30

Forecast: Partly cloudy. High of 77. (Weather note: There is the possibility that Hurricane Ian could impact the race weekend, depending on its path).

  • 3:30 – 5 p.m. — Truck Series qualifying
  • 5:30 – 7 p.m. — Xfinity Series qualifying (USA Network)

Saturday, Oct. 1

Forecast: Overcast with showers at times. Potential for heavy rainfall. High of 73. 60% chance of rain.

  • 10:30 a.m. – Noon — Cup Series qualifying (NBC Sports app, Motor Racing Network, Sirius XM NASCAR Radio)
  • 12:30 p.m. — Truck Series race (94 laps, 250 miles; FS1, Motor Racing Network, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio)
  • 4 p.m. — Xfinity Series race (113 laps, 300 miles; USA Network, Motor Racing Network, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio)

Sunday, Oct. 2

Forecast: Sun in the morning, increasing clouds in the afternoon. Slight chance of a shower. High of 74.

  • 2 p.m. — Cup Series race (188 laps, 500 miles; NBC, Motor Racing Network, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio)