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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:

WHO’S HOT:

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 
drivers
  • 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 
stop
  • 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

WHO’S NOT HOT:

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

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.

Erik Jones, Martin Truex Jr. benefitting from surviving Daytona

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It took until July, but it seems Erik Jones has finally found his footing at Joe Gibbs Racing.

And the 22-year-old driver is somewhat keeping pace with one of the members of the “Big Three.”

Thanks to them surviving the carnage at Daytona, Jones – who won the race – and Martin Truex Jr. are the only Cup drives enjoying active streaks of top-10 finishes.

With Truex’s win and Jones’ seventh-place finish on Saturday at Kentucky Speedway, they each have four consecutive top 10s.

The streaks began with the June 24 race at Sonoma, which Truex also won.

Jones’ Kentucky finish came after he radioed his team multiple times during the race about his concerns that his engine might blow up.

Jones needs two more top 10s to match his streak of six last season during his rookie campaign at Furniture Row Racing. That streak started at the July race at Pocono and ended with the regular-season finale at Richmond.

Here’s a look at the best top 10 streaks this season among drivers with nine or more top 10s (Jones and Ryan Blaney have nine).

Kyle Busch (15 top 10s) – Steaks of eight and six consecutive top 10s; current streak: one top 10

Kevin Harvick (15 top 10s) – Streaks of three, seven and four top 10s; current streak: one top 10

Joey Logano (14 top 10s)  – Streaks of three, six and two top 10s; Currents streak: one top 10

Martin Truex Jr. (13 top 10s) – Steaks of five and four (twice) top 10s; Current streak: four top 10s

Kyle Larson (11 tops 10s) – Streaks of four and two (twice) top 10s; Current streak: one top 10

Brad Keselowski (11 top 10s) – Steaks of three and two (twice) top 10s; Current streak: one top 10

Clint Bowyer (10 top 10s) – Streaks of four and three top 10s; Current streak: none

Kurt Busch (10 top 10s) – Streaks of four and two top 10s; Current streak: one top 10

Denny Hamlin (10 top 10s) – Streaks of three and two (three times) top 10; Current streak: none

Erik Jones (nine top 10s) – Streaks of four and three tops 10s; Current streak: four top 10s

Ryan Blaney (nine top 10s) – Streaks of three and two tops 10s; Current streak: one top 10.

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NASCAR America at 5 p.m. ET: Kentucky recap, Fantasy standings

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Today’s episode of NASCAR America airs from 5-6 p.m. ET on NBCSN and recaps the storylines from the weekend’s racing at Kentucky Speedway.

Carolyn Manno hosts with Steve Letarte from Stamford, Connecticut. Jeff Burton joins them from Burton’s Garage.

On today’s show:

  • We take a look back at Martin Truex Jr.’s dominant performance on Saturday night at Kentucky Speedway. Is Truex better now than in his 2017 championship season? Our experts weigh in.
  • We’ll also hear from Kyle Busch and Kevin Harvick, who both expressed frustration following top-five performances on Saturday. We’ll examine the ongoing competition between NASCAR’s Big Three with just seven races remaining until the playoffs.
  • Speaking of the playoffs, we’ll check in on the Bubble Boys. Paul Menard had a huge night points-wise, while Ricky Stenhouse Jr. drew even closer to Alex Bowman, who currently holds the final playoff spot.
  • We’ll take a look at Christopher Bell’s winning performance in Friday’s Xfinity Series race. Plus, we’ll find out who the big winners were among the NBC broadcasters in NASCAR Fantasy.
If can’t catch today’s show on TV, watch it 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 at 5 p.m. ET to watch live via the stream.

Martin Truex Jr: ‘I still pinch myself’ three years into dominance with Furniture Row

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As Martin Truex Jr. stood in the back of a truck riding around Kentucky Speedway before last Saturday’s Cup race, a fan called out to the 2017 champion.

“Let somebody else win!” he yelled.

After a beat, Truex responded with a chuckle, “No!”

Truex stayed true to his word. A few hours later, the Furniture Row Racing driver took the checkered flag to claim his fourth win of the season.

His triumph over Ryan Blaney and Brad Keselowski took his career win total to 19 – tying him on the all-time wins list with Joey Logano, 2019 Hall of Fame inductee Davey Allison, Greg Biffle, Hall of Famer Buddy Baker and Fonty Flock.

The victory is the 17th for the No. 78 team since 2015. Truex leads all drivers in wins since 2016 with 16.

For a driver who only won twice in his first nine full-time seasons, Truex said “I still pinch myself” over his dominance of the sport.

He doesn’t lead the series in wins after 19 races. That goes to Kevin Harvick and Kyle Busch, who are tied at five wins each.

This marks the first time since 1974 that three drivers have won four or more races at this point in a season.

“I think all three of us have great teams,” Truex said after his win. “Those two guys are great drivers. Obviously, I have a lot of respect for them. It’s pretty amazing to be a part of this group, honestly. I think when I was a kid and you (saw) Dale (Earnhardt) and Rusty (Wallace) and guys like that, Terry Labonte and you had guys that just dominated and won everything, and watching them, it was like, ‘Man, that’s so cool, they’re heroes and they’re such a big deal,’ and to think that I’m one of those guys this year and I guess last year, too, is just ‑‑ it’s amazing to me.”

Even after he won his first Cup title last November, it didn’t occur to him until almost a month later that he will one day be inducted into the NASCAR Hall of Fame alongside Earnhardt, Wallace and Labonte.

Truex joined Furniture Row Racing in 2014 after losing his ride at Michael Waltrip Racing, a casualty of the race manipulation scandal involving MWR in the 2013 regular season finale at Richmond Raceway.

That year, Truex went winless, led one lap and finished 24th in the standings.

The following season Truex was paired with rookie crew chief Cole Pearn. The duo won one race, earned eight top fives and made the Championship 4.

In their 126 races together, the duo has put together a record comparable to other great driver-crew chief parings in Cup history.

“Really the last three years have been just having the time of my life and just lucky to have great people around us, a great car owner (Barney Visser),” Truex said. “Just feel really lucky.  I’ve been on the other side of it before where teams were struggling and struggled to get in position to win races, and having a lot of things kind of going against you and kind of fighting that uphill battle.

“So it’s amazing to be on this side of it. I can’t tell you how proud I am of all the guys on our team and what they’ve done, and I honestly just enjoy every single one of these wins like it’s my first because you never know when they’re going to come to an end.  You never know when you’re going to have your last one. You never know what’s going to happen next. Just trying to ride the wave of momentum and enjoy it all, and my team is just so badass, I can’t even explain it.”

Truex, 38, “always felt” he “could get the job done” during the early years of his Cup career, spent with Dale Earnhardt Inc. and then MWR.

“I had enough glimpses of really good days or glimpses of greatness that I think it just kept me alive, kept me hungry enough to keep fighting for it,” said Truex, who won two Xfinity championships before moving to Cup. “I think through the years there was just ‑‑ for me personally, and I don’t know what everybody else thought, I know I had some people that probably didn’t think I was that good.

“That’s part of this deal.  You’re only as good as your last race. And if you’re not getting results now, people question your ability.  … For me personally, I always (felt) like I could be a good driver, be a great driver.  I never knew I’d get to where I was last year, and I never really knew I could go on a championship run and win (16) races in three years … That’s been amazing.”