Martin Truex Jr. scores Pocono victory

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Martin Truex Jr. held off Kyle Larson on a restart with seven laps to go to win Sunday’s Cup race at Pocono Raceway and collect his second victory of the season.

Larson placed second and was followed by Kyle Busch, Kevin Harvick and Brad Keselowski.

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“We’re back baby, we’re back!” Truex shouted on his radio after the race.

Truex had finished second in each of the past two races.

Truex, Harvick and Busch have combined to win 11 of the first 14 races this season. The trio ran at the front for much of the day and were 1-2-3 for periods of the event.

“It’s always fun to win but especially when you beat the best guys out there,” Truex told Fox Sports 1 of Busch and Harvick. “Honestly, we were all really equal. It was a matter of who could get out front. (Harvick) and I stayed out on tires. We felt like in practice we were really fast on scuffs. Cole (Pearn, crew chief) made a good call to stay out. Once we got clean air, this thing was a rocket ship.”

Truex and Harvick stayed out during a caution with 20 laps to go. Busch pitted, giving up the lead. Truex, who was second, moved into the lead. Truex and Harvick were among four drivers who stayed out. Three cars took two tires and Busch restarted eighth, the first car with four fresh tires.

“Once I got back there, I just couldn’t pass those guys,” Busch told FS1. “I was just stuck where I was at.”

Busch climbed to fourth before a caution for an incident between Denny Hamlin and Alex Bowman with 13 laps to go. On the ensuring restart, Erik Jones was hit and crashed on the frontstretch. NASCAR ruled that Busch had moved up to third before the caution came back out. That meant for what was the final restart Busch would be on the inside lane. The outside lane was the preferred lane. Busch could only manage to get by Harvick after the restart and never came close to making a run at Truex.

Stage 1 winner: Martin Truex Jr.

Stage 2 winner: Kevin Harvick

How Truex won the race: He didn’t pit during a caution with 20 laps to go and moved into the lead. Truex held off the field on the final three restarts to earn the victory.

Who had a good race: Kyle Larson earned his third runner-up finish of the season. … Kyle Busch earned his ninth top-three finish of the year. … Brad Keselowski’s fifth-place finish marked his sixth consecutive top-five finish at Pocono. Ryan Blaney’s sixth-place result was his second top-10 finish in the last seven races. … Jimmie Johnson’s eighth-place run is his fifth top-12 result in the last six races.

Who had a bad race: Denny Hamlin was involved in an incident with Alex Bowman late in the race and placed 35th, snapping a streak of three consecutive top-10 finishes. … Bubba Wallace blew an engine and finished last in the 38-car field.

Notable: Jimmie Johnson led his first lap of the season, taking the lead in the first stage during a cycle of green-flag pit stops.

Quote of the day: “There wasn’t a whole lot of conversation. Cole said stay out and I stayed out. I put a lot of faith in him and making those pit calls,” winner Martin Truex Jr. on the winning strategy to not pit with 20 laps to go.

Next: The series races at 2 p.m. ET on June 10 at Michigan International Speedway.

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NASCAR releases Cup rules packages for 2021

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NASCAR announced Thursday its rules package slate for the 2021 Cup Series season, a day after next year’s schedule was unveiled.

For returning tracks to the 36-race schedule, the rules are largely unchanged save for Darlington Raceway.

Cup teams will use the 750 horsepower, low downforce race package at the 1.366-mile track. It’s the package that’s been used this season on road courses and short tracks. Nashville Superspeedway, the 1.333-mile track being added in 2021, will use the same package.

The packages for the other new race tracks – Road America, Circuit of the Americas and the Indy road course – have not been decided on.

“We constantly review the race packages to try to put on the best possible racing for our fans,” John Probst, NASCAR’s Senior Vice Presiden of Innovation and Racing Development said in a media release. “When he brought in the short track / road course package this season, Darlington was not part of it due to its unique size. We’ve been evaluating data from both race packages, as well as feedback from drivers, teams and OEMs and feel that the 750 hp / low downforce package best fits the track.”

Other rule changes include:

  • Teams are restricted to 150 restricted computational fluid dynamics runs per calendar month.
  • Teams must compete in a minimum of 16 points events with a short block sealed engine (up from 13).

Click here for the rule packages for each Cup race in 2021.

Team Penske looks to extend Talladega dominance amid 2020 woes

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If there’s one thing Talladega Superspeedway is known for, it’s chaos.

But for as much chaos as the 2.66-mile track can provide, Talladega has another quality it produces: consistency in Victory Lane.

In the 2010s and up through the June Cup race, the consistency has been produced by Team Penske.

Since May 2012, Penske drivers have won nine of 17 races. Brad Keselowski has four of his five Talladega wins, Joey Logano has three and Ryan Blaney has won each of the last two races by .007 seconds.

The other eight races were won by Roush Fenway Racing (two wins), Hendrick Motorsports (two), Front Row Motorsports (one), Chip Ganassi Racing (one), Stewart-Haas Racing (one) and Joe Gibbs Racing (one).

When it comes to races like this weekend’s playoff event (2 p.m. ET Sunday on NBC), one would expect even more chaos and less consistency among winners.

You’d be wrong on the latter.

Penske’s three drivers have combined to win five of the last six Talladega playoff races. The winner of the sixth race was Aric Almirola in the 2018 playoff race.

Last week Keselowski observed how races at superspeedways have “ebbs and flows” with them currently resembling “a MAVTV demo derby just a little faster.”

On Thursday, the 2012 Cup champion credited Team Penske having a “great” driver lineup with its ability to win in a form of racing that’s constantly evolving.

“I think we have the strongest driver lineup in Cup right now,” Keselowski said. “I know that’s probably arguable and it’s completely subjective. That’s played to our favorite tracks like the plate tracks and we’re going to continue to try and leverage it.”

While Blaney has enjoyed recent success at Talladega with his two victories, Keselowski looks to re-establish his winning ways at the track he has five victories, the most among active drivers.

After winning the 2017 playoff race, he has five consecutive finishes of 13th or worse, including two DNFs for wrecks.

“It’s been up and down for me,” Keselowski said. “The last few races have probably been down. Last fall I thought we were going to win the race with two or three (laps) to go. We were making the pass for the lead and the next thing I know we’re all wrecked. It’s a love-hate affair with that track for sure and hopefully we’ll love it. I feel like we’re due for a good finish there.”

Keselowski enters Sunday’s race after miserable outings in the last two playoff races. He finished 34th at Bristol (power steering problems) and 13th at Las Vegas.

Talladega could be the relief Keselowski’s teammates are looking for as well.

Blaney, who was eliminated from the playoffs after the Round of 16, hasn’t had a top-five finish in the last nine races. Logano, while he has two top fives in the playoffs (third at Darlington and Richmond), hasn’t won since the March race at Phoenix. That was the last race before the COVID-19 shutdown.

Keselowski said “it is a bit strange” that Team Penske can view Talladega as a track where it can turn its season around.

“We haven’t been where we want to be on the mile-and-a-halfs, there’s no doubt about that,” Keselowski said. “The mile-and-a-halfs and road courses have been a weak spot for us. The superspeedways and short tracks have been a strong spot for us. Thankfully we have the superspeedway this weekend and couple of short tracks coming up in the next round (Martinsville).

“We need to kind of maximize out strengths and minimize our weaknesses. This weekend is certainly looking like a strength for us. We have high expectations.”

Kaz Grala subs for Natalie Decker in Talladega Truck race

Kaz Grala
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Natalie Decker has not been medically cleared to compete in Saturday’s Truck Series race at Talladega (1 p.m. ET on FS1) and will be replaced by Kaz Grala in Niece Motorsports’ No. 44 Chevrolet the team announced Thursday.

Decker withdrew from last weekend’s race at Las Vegas after she was not medically cleared shortly before the race. She was credited with a last-place finish.

Decker tweeted Saturday that she was flying home where “more tests (would be) run so they can further evaluate and diagnose.”

No further details about Decker’s condition have been announced.

“We are thankful that Kaz is able to fill in for Natalie this weekend and appreciate him working with our team,” team general manager Cody Efaw said in a press release. “We wish Natalie the best as she works to be as healthy as possible to return to racing.”

Grala will make his first Truck Series start since 2017. He has 32 career starts in the series, including one win in the 2017 season-opening race at Daytona.

He drove in Austin Dillon’s place earlier this year in the Cup race on the Daytona road course after Dillon tested positive for COVID-19.

“My thoughts will be with Natalie this weekend as I wish her a quick recovery,” Grala said in a press release. “I know she loves the restrictor-plate races, so I feel bad that she’ll have to miss this one, but I hope I can give her something to cheer for on Saturday. 

“It’s been a few years since I’ve been in a Truck, but the superspeedway races have been very good to me in the past, so I’m really hoping to be able to go grab a win for Niece Motorsports at Talladega.”

FanVision closes due to impact of COVID-19 pandemic

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FanVision Entertainment, the company that produces video devices used by race fans at NASCAR events, has ceased operations due to the financial impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The news was announced in a statement from Racing Electronics, the company which sold and supported FanVision devices at NASCAR tracks through a license with FanVision Entertainment.

Racing Electronics, which is owned by NASCAR, can no longer sell or support the devices.

“We recognize this news will be met with disappointment by motorsports fans across the country who utilized FanVision’s products as part of their at-track experience,” Racing Electronics president Chad Willis said in a statement.

“To help fans and industry members transition to Racing Electronics products, we are working with existing FanVision device owners to solve their race day needs. When Racing Electronics returns to the track, fans and industry members will have access to all the sounds that make racing so special.”