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Martin Truex Jr. thinks his luck is about to turn around

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When Martin Truex Jr. sustained crash damage last week at Talladega Superspeedway and finished 26th, it marked the first time since the spring 2016 that he finished outside the top 10 in four consecutive races.

Truex sustained crash damage in three of the last four races (Texas Motor Speedway, Bristol Motor Speedway, and Talladega) and had a problem in the pits at Richmond Raceway.

But Truex has a reason to be hopeful. All except one of the next seven tracks are ones on which he has won – and the other is a track where he might have won on multiple occasions.

First on the calendar is Dover International Speedway and this week’s AAA 400.

Truex scored his first career victory there in 2007. He earned a second victory in 2016. Last year, he swept the top five with a third in the spring and fourth in the fall.

“I just like the race track a lot,” Truex said in a press release. “The first time I went there, I fell in love with the place. Enjoy the challenge of it – it is so different than anywhere else we go. I feel if you like it, you have an advantage. It’s been good to me over the years and I enjoy going there. The banking, the concrete, the surface and the way you land in the corners there – it’s just crazy.”

Along with Dover, Truex has two wins at Kansas Speedway (both races last  year), Charlotte Motor Speedway (2016 Coke 600 and last fall’s Bank of America 500) and Chicagoland Speedway (2016 and 2017).

He has single wins at Pocono Raceway (2015) and Sonoma Raceway (2013).

“The upcoming seven tracks have been good to us and we obviously would like to get some wins during this stretch,” said Truex. “We’ve had a rough few weeks – not from a performance standpoint but from a finishing standpoint. We need to make up some points.”

That leaves only Michigan International Speedway as a track on which he has not yet won among the next seven races. Truex has come close on several occasions, however, with second- or third-place finishes. In 2007, he finished in the runner-up position in both races. In 2015, he was third both times NASCAR visited the track – and he added one more third in 2013.

Truex’s most recent effort at Michigan netted a second-place finish to Kyle Larson last summer.

“I know we’re capable of winning any of the next seven races, but a couple of wins is a realistic goal,” he said. “Michigan for sure is one place that we should have won by now, just haven’t been able to put the finishes together at the end of the race.”

And while Truex does not have a victory at Michigan, it is notable that his only win so far this year came at Auto Club Speedway – a track similar to Michigan.

On the next seven tracks combined, Truex has amassed 10 of his 16 Cup wins, along with 29 total top fives and 53 top 10s in 140 starts. Thirteen of these top 10s have come at Dover.

All-Star Race, Open entry lists

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It’s officially All-Star Race week.

For the first time the annual exhibition event that awards $1 million will be held at Bristol Motor Speedway (7 p.m. ET Wednesday on FS1).

Twenty drivers will compete in the 140-lap, four-stage main event. Sixteen drivers currently make up the field following Cole Custer’s win Sunday at Kentucky Speedway.

Three drivers will qualify for the main event via the All-Star Open, the 85-lap preliminary race that’s divided into three stages. The winners of all three stages will advance. The remaining driver will advance via a fan vote.

Here are the entry lists for each race.

All-Star Race 

Drivers who automatically qualified for the All-Star Race: Those who won points races in 2019-20, past All-Star Race winners and previous Cup champions.

Drivers who have clinched an All-Star Race spot: Ryan Blaney, Alex Bowman, Kurt Busch, Kyle Busch, Cole Custer, Chase Elliott, Justin Haley, Denny Hamlin, Kevin Harvick, Jimmie Johnson, Erik Jones, Matt Kenseth, Brad Keselowski, Joey Logano, Ryan Newman and Martin Truex Jr.

Click here for the entry list.

All-Star Open

Twenty-two drivers are entered in the preliminary race.

Notable drivers include Clint Bowyer, Matt DiBenedetto, William Byron, rookies Tyler Reddick, William Byron and John Hunter Nemechek, as well as Bubba Wallace.

Click here for the entry list.

NASCAR in ‘good place’ with Harrison Burton, Noah Gragson after fight

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Scott Miller, NASCAR senior vice president of competition, says that series officials will keep an eye on Harrison Burton and Noah Gragson moving forward but that the sanctioning body feels it is in a “good place” with those drivers after their fight last weekend at Kentucky Speedway.

Gragson punched 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. A NASCAR spokesperson said Friday night that no penalties were anticipated.

Asked about where matters stood between NASCAR and the two drivers, Miller told “The Morning Drive” on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio on Monday morning:

“I personally wasn’t in the post-race conversations. (NASCAR Xfinity Series Managing Director) Wayne Auton does a great job with that and the report that I got from him is he talked to some of the crew members that were involved and obviously both of the drivers. I think we got to a good place. They’re going to have some words this week and try to make sure we’re in a good spot when we start the weekend next weekend in Texas. We feel like we’re OK.

“This is an emotional sport and there’s going to be things like that that crop up. It’s not a great situation for us to deal with as a sanctioning body, but we also want the emotion in the sport. That’s what makes it so special. Those things are unfortunate, but we do know from time to time those are going to happen. If we feel good about the conversations we’ve had, in a lot of cases we’re going to move on from that and keep an eye on those individuals moving forward.”

Race and Sports in America: Conversations to air at 8 p.m. ET Monday

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Damon Hack will host two roundtables with athletes and former athletes for a conversation on race and sports in America. The show airs at 8 p.m. ET Monday on NBCSN, Golf Channel, Olympic Channel and the NBC Sports Regional Networks.

Appearing with Hack will be Los Angeles Chargers coach Anthony Lynn, NBA superstar Steph Curry, NBA Hall of Famer Charles Barkley, NFL player Kyle Rudolph, pro golfer Troy Mullins, former tennis player James Blake, Major League Baseball player James Rollins and Baseball Hall of Famer Ozzie Smith.

Among the topics discussed are: The conversations they’ve had with family in the last few months, what they hope things will be like in a year’s time, the level of optimism vs. pessimism and their experiences.

 

 

Winners and losers from Kentucky

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WINNERS

Cole CusterHe entered Sunday’s race well out of a playoff spot at 25th in the points. He took advantage of a series of events in the final laps to score a dramatic victory and earn a playoff spot.

Martin Truex Jr.Lost the lead on the last lap but recorded his first top-five finish since his Martinsville win last month.

Matt DiBenedetto He was 18th with 14 laps to go and finished third.

Christopher BellSeventh-place finish was his fourth finish of 12th or better in the last six races.

Austin Cindric Had not won on an oval in the Xfinity Series before sweeping both series races at Kentucky Speedway.

LOSERS

Matt KensethA week after finishing runner-up at Indianapolis, he spun twice and finished 25th at Kentucky.

Ryan PreeceFinished last for the second race in a row. He was eliminated in a pit road accident at Indy and by transmission issues at Kentucky. He has failed to finish five of 17 races this season (29.4%).

Jimmie JohnsonWas third on a late restart when contact with Brad Keselowski spun him. Instead of contending for his first victory since 2017, Johnson finished 18th and had a little warning for Keselowski.