NASCAR America: Kevin Harvick, Kyle Busch top 2018 class in midterm grades


Very little discussion was necessary to give Kevin Harvick and Kyle Busch A+ grades in the first half of the regular season. They have combined to win nine of 13 races and are building a treasure trove of playoff points that could make getting to the final round of the playoffs an easy task.

“Look at what Kyle Busch has done,” NASCAR America analyst Kyle Petty said. “All of the second and third-place finishes. You look at the wins, but let’s look at how he has run – how competitive he’s been. We’ve heard Kevin Harvick’s name. You don’t go to the race track without ‘Kevin Harvick’s at the top of the board’, ‘Kevin Harvick’s the guy’, ‘Kevin Harvick’s freaky fast’, ‘Kevin Harvick’s this’. So those two guys have separated themselves from the rest of the pack. So, for me it was a no brainer. Maybe they have not done everything right, but they have done enough right to have A+’s.”

And while Harvick and Busch required little debate, the same could not be said about the remainder of the playoff contenders.

“Truex, you have to put him as the other driver that you look at that right now is competing at a high enough level,” NASCAR America analyst Dale Jarrett said. “If we want to compare it to last year – it seems like he is having an off season in not leading a lot of laps, not getting the stage points and wins and all that stuff – but when you have two drivers dominating, like what we have with Kyle Busch and Kevin Harvick, has made it more difficult.”

Truex earned an A from Jarrett and Petty. NASCAR America analyst Steve Letarte gave him an A-.

For more on Truex, Joey Logano, Clint Bowyer, Austin Dillon, Brad Keselowski, Kurt Busch, Denny Hamlin and Kyle Larson, watch the video above.

“I gave a B- because (Ryan Blaney) is not getting the results,” Jarrett said. “I expected better results from him right here. He is so very talented. I just want to see more here.”

Perhaps the most controversial grade was handed out to Jimmie Johnson. The difficulties faced by Chevrolet drew C’s from Jarrett and Petty, but Letarte, a former Hendrick Motorsports’ employee, handed out a D.

“I grade on expectation,” Letarte said. “And here is the one stat I’ll tell you. The man has won seven championships. The man has all these stats: He hasn’t led a single lap this yet. Not one lap in 13 races.”

Blaney, Aric Almirola, Johnson, Alex Bowman and Chase Elliott are discussed in the following video.

The panel graded the remainder of the most likely playoff contenders. Erik Jones earned a B- from Jarrett and Petty. He received a C+ from Letarte.

“I gave Erik Jones a C+ because I feel like his equipment is proving that it can go out and dominate when you look at what Kyle Busch is doing,” Letarte said. “I know he has yet to get that career win. I guess I just have high expectations – probably too high for the amount of experience he has.”

Jones, Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Paul Menard, Daniel Suarez and Jamie McMurray are discussed in the following video.

COTA Xfinity starting lineup: AJ Allmendinger takes pole


AJ Allmendinger, who won this race a year ago, will start on the pole for Saturday’s Xfinity race at Circuit of the Americas.

Allmendinger earned the pole with a lap of 92.173 mph Friday on the 20-turn, 3.41-mile road course.

MORE: COTA Xfinity starting lineup

He will be joined on the front row Sammy Smith (91.827 mph).
Ty Gibbs (91.665) will start third. Sheldon Creed (91.652) qualified fourth. Parker Kligerman (91.195) will start fifth.

Cup driver William Byron will start ninth. Byron’s time was disallowed for cutting the esses. Cole Custer, who will start 10th, didn’t make a lap in the final round of qualifying.

Cup driver Aric Almirola (91.269) qualified 13th. Truck Series racer Carson Hocevar (90.669) will start 17th. Alex Labbe (90.476) will start 23rd. He’s filling in for Josh Williams, who is serving a one-race suspension for parking his car at the start/finish line of last weekend’s race at Atlanta.

COTA Truck starting lineup: Ross Chastain wins pole


Ross Chastain will start on the pole for Saturday’s Craftsman Truck Series race at Circuit of the Americas.

Chastain earned the top starting spot in Friday’s qualifying with a lap of 91.877 mph. He’ll be joined on the front row by Kyle Busch (91.490 mph).

More: COTA Truck starting lineup

Ty Majeski qualified third with a lap of 91.225 mph. Rookie Nick Sanchez (90.993) will start fourth, and Christian Eckes (90.937) will complete the top five.

Alex Bowman failed to make the race. Bowman had a flat right front on his qualifying lap.

Tyler Reddick leads Cup practice at COTA


Tyler Reddick posted the fastest lap in Friday’s Cup practice at Circuit of the Americas.

Reddick, who won two road course races last season, topped the field in his 23XI Racing Toyota with a lap of 92.989 mph. Kyle Larson was next, posting a lap of 92.618 mph around the 3.41-mile road course.

MORE: COTA Cup practice results

Ross Chastain, who won this race a year ago, was third on the speed chart in practice with a lap of 92.520 mph. He was followed by Kyle Busch (92.498 mph) and Daniel Suarez (92.461 mph).

Jordan Taylor, subbing for the injured Chase Elliott in the No. 9 car for Hendrick Motorsports, was 10th on the speed chart in practice after a lap of 92.404 mph.

Former world champion Jenson Button, driving for Rick Ware Racing, was 28th in practice with a lap of 91.759 mph. Former world champion Kimi Raikkonen, driving the Project 91 car for Trackhouse Racing, was 32nd in practice after a lap of 91.413 mph.

Seven-time Cup champion Jimmie Johnson, driving in his first race for Legacy Motor Club since the Daytona 500, was 36th in practice after a lap of 91.072 mph. IndyCar driver Conor Daly was last among the 39 cars in practice with a lap of 90.095 mph.

Cup qualifying is Saturday. The series races Sunday.


Saturday COTA Xfinity race: Start time, TV info, weather


Austin Hill, the dominant driver in the NASCAR Xfinity Series through the early weeks of the season, will be looking for his first Xfinity road course win Saturday.

Hill has won three of the season’s first five races, scoring victories at Daytona, Las Vegas and Atlanta.

Hill has been close in previous road course runs. He has a second at COTA, a third at Portland, a fourth at Road America and a ninth at Indianapolis.

MORE: Dr. Diandra takes a look at top Cup road course drivers

Kyle Busch and AJ Allmendinger own wins in the previous Xfinity races at COTA.

Allmendinger and three other Cup Series regulars — Aric Almirola, William Byron and Ty Gibbs — are scheduled to race in the Xfinity event.

Details for Saturday’s Xfinity race at Circuit of the Americas

(All times Eastern)

START: The command to start engines will be given at 5:08 p.m. … The green flag is scheduled at 5:19 p.m.

PRERACE: Xfinity garage opens at 2 p.m. … The invocation will be given by Jordan Thiessen of Pit Boss Grills at 5 p.m. … The national anthem will be performed by recording artist Payton Keller at 5:01 p.m.

DISTANCE: The race is 46 laps (156 miles) on the 3.41-mile track.

STAGES: Stage 1 ends at Lap 14. Stage 2 ends at Lap 30.

TV/RADIO: FS1 will broadcast the race at 5 p.m. … NASCAR RaceDay airs at 4 p.m. on FS1. … Performance Racing Network coverage begins at 4:30 p.m. and can be heard at …SiriusXM NASCAR Radio will carry the PRN broadcast.

FORECAST: Weather Underground — Mainly sunny. Temperature of 82 at race time. No chance of rain.

LAST TIME: AJ Allmendinger won last March’s Xfinity race at COTA. Austin Hill was two seconds behind in second place. Cole Custer finished third.