For the second week in a row, the NASCAR Xfinity Series will run a race without any drivers who score points in the Cup series.
Cup regulars are barred from competing in Dash 4 Cash races, which pay $100,000 to the top Xfinity drivers in each of four events.
The result last weekend at Bristol was a race where Xfinity drivers battled for the win and to be eligible for the Dash 4 Cash bonus tonight at Richmond Raceway. Ryan Preece won the race and the bonus at Bristol. He isn’t entered for tonight’s race. Competing for the Dash 4 Cash bonus will be Justin Allgaier, Elliott Sadler, Spencer Gallagher and Daniel Hemric.
Along with Dash 4 Cash races, any driver who scores Cup points is barred from competing in the final eight races of the Xfinity season (regular-season finale and seven playoff races). Cup drivers with more than five years of experience are limited to seven Xfinity races in a season.
Steve O’Donnell, NASCAR’s chief racing development officer, hinted earlier this week on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio that more changes could be made to limit Cup driver participations in Xfinity races.
“We’ll continue to monitor what do our fans think, what do our partners think in terms of what they’re seeing on the race track and the storylines,’’ O’Donnell said.
“It’s one thing to say we like this, but fans need to turn out, ratings need to be there and those sorts of things. Only one race, but we saw some really good indictions in terms of the TV rating for that event. That’s something that we’ll continue to monitor, but our gut tells us that’s the direction we want to continue to go, even more so in 2019 and beyond.’’
Kyle Busch and Kevin Harvick have ruled the beginning of the season, combining to win five of the first eight races and finishing runner-up four times.
The two also have combined to lead 37.2 percent of the 2,645 laps run this season.
Busch heads into Saturday night’s race at Richmond having scored six consecutive top-three finishes, including back-to-back wins at Texas and Bristol.
The last time two drivers won three Cup races in a row in the same season was 2015 when Busch won Daytona, New Hampshire and Indianapolis, and Joey Logano won Charlotte, Kansas and Talladega in the playoffs.
3. The race within the race
While multi-car teams garner much attention, single-car teams shouldn’t be ignored.
Here’s a look at how single-car teams have performed relative to each other in the first eight races of the season.
Not surprisingly, Furniture Row Racing and Martin Truex Jr. have been the top-finishing single-car team in five of the first eight races. Darrell Wallace Jr.’s Richard Petty Motorsports team has been the top finishing single-car team twice, and the Wood Brothers and Paul Menard have been the top-finishing car in class once.
Menard has finished second among single-car teams five times. Wallace, Leavine Family Racing’s Kasey Kahne and Germain Racing’s Ty Dillon have each finished second in class once.
The last two races have been good to single-car teams. Nine single-car teams finished in the top 22 at Texas, led by Wallace’s eighth-place finish, Dillon’s 13th-place finish and Matt DiBenedetto placing 16th for Go Fas Racing.
Three single-car teams placed in the top 20 at Bristol — Menard was 13th, Wallace 16th and Landon Cassill gave StarCom Racing its best career finish at 20th.
4. No need for announcement
When teams announce long-term sponsor extensions, it can come with news of an extension to the driver’s contract to match that time.
The news this week that Roush Fenway Racing had extended sponsor deals through 2021 with Fastenal, Fifth Third Bank and Sunny D didn’t include any news about Stenhouse’s contract.
Didn’t need to.
“Ricky’s contract was already extended that far and we didn’t need to do anything else on that front,’’ Steve Newmark, president of Roush Fenway Racing, told NBC Sports.
5. HUGE news!
Matt Tifft wrote those words in a tweet this week followed not by a sponsor announcement or anything related to racing but that doctors say the area of his brain where a low-grade tumor was removed in July 2016 is stable. He now only needs to have an MRI checkup every six months instead of sooner.
Tifft enters tonight’s Xfinity race at Richmond 11th in the points.