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Road course domination hard to come by these days – unless you’re one of the ‘Big 3’

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It might be a total coincidence, but the drivers that make up the “Big 3” in Cup competition this season have one thing in common.

Kevin Harvick, Kyle Busch and Martin Truex Jr. enter this weekend’s race at Sonoma Raceway as the only active drivers to win at the track in the last five years.

They also are the only active drivers with multiple victories at either Sonoma or Watkins Glen International (the Charlotte Motor Speedway Roval makes its debut on Sept. 30).

Busch leads the way with four wins, with two at Sonoma (2008, 2015) and WGI (2008, 2013).

“There are a lot of guys out there who have the road-racing background, who know a heck of a lot more about road racing and technique than we do,” Busch said in a media release. “It’s definitely something you have to work on. With rule changes and tire changes, it’s something you work on every year. There’s always change that you have to work on to be competitive.

“When I was a kid back in Las Vegas in Legends cars, that’s where I was able to learn about shifting and turning left and turning right. I had the natural instincts for it and won a couple of championships in the winter series we had out there. We actually went to Sonoma back then and ran the national championship races two years in a row and finished third both times, so I had a little bit of experience on road courses as I came up through the ranks.”

Truex and Harvick follow Busch with two wins each, but they didn’t join this exclusive club until last year.

Harvick won his first race at Sonoma, 11 years after his lone victory at WGI.

Truex then won at WGI, four years after he claimed his second career Cup win in 2013 at Sonoma.

“I love the challenge of road racing,” Truex said in a media release. “I grew up racing go-karts on road courses (in New Jersey) and fell in love with that quickly. The excitement level definitely goes up a few notches when we compete at a road course.”

Truex led a race-high 25 laps last year at Sonoma before falling out with engine problems.

“Sonoma is more like a short track,” Truex said. “It has a lot of slower speed corners and a lot of elevation changes. The worn out pavement causes tires to wear out fast. It’s almost like Darlington on a road course. You have to be disciplined at Sonoma. One little hiccup can knock you off the course and most likely out of the race.”

Outside the “Big 3” there are seven active drivers who have a single road course win.

Denny Hamlin, Joey Logano and AJ Allmendinger have victories at Watkins Glen. Kurt Busch, Kasey Kahne, Jimmie Johnson and Clint Bowyer have won at Sonoma.

Gone are the days of Jeff Gordon (series-high nine road course wins) and Tony Stewart (eight wins, including five at WGI).

Why is it so hard for drivers to string together consistent success at road courses today? Why have there been nine different winners in the last nine Sonoma races?

Front Row Motorsports’ David Ragan shared his thoughts.

“I think the phrase of ‘just keep all four wheels on the track’ is a little outdated,” Ragan said in a media release. “I think the drivers have gotten so much better. You don’t have as many guys spinning out and making mistakes as we did 10 years ago. I feel like 25 guys are really good when we go to Sonoma. And when you see short track guys, like a Martin Truex or Kevin Harvick or Kyle Busch, they’re really good at Sonoma without having that road course background. I just think all the drivers have worked on their road racing skills.”

 

Results, Xfinity point standings after New Hampshire

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Christopher Bell triumphed over Brad Keselowski to win Saturday’s Xfinity race at New Hampshire Motor Speedway and claim his third win of the season.

The top five was rounded out by Ryan Preece, John Hunter Nemechek and Matt Tifft.

Click here for race results.

Points

Despite Christopher Bell claiming a stage win and the race victory, Daniel Hemric left the “Magic Mile” with the points leads.

Hemric has a six-point lead over Bell and a seven-point lead over Elliott Sadler, who had led the standings following 15 of the first 17 races of the season.

The top five is completed by Cole Custer (-13 points) and Justin Allgaier (-48).

Click here for the full standings.

Christopher Bell wins New Hampshire Xfinity race

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Christopher Bell held off Brad Keselowski and Ryan Preece over the final 18 laps to win Saturday’s Xfinity Series race at New Hampshire Motor Speedway.

Bell took the lead from Keselowski on the final restart with 18 laps to go. Bell was on four fresh tires while Keselowski was on two.

Keselowski hounded the rear bumper of Bell’s No. 20 Toyota for the last five laps but was unable to make a pass attempt.

“Man, the better tires, they didn’t hurt us, that’s for sure, ” Bell told NBCSN. “It worked out for us, we were able to take four tires (on the last pit stop). It was a big deal.”

It is Bell’s third win of the season and second in a row. He led 93 of 200 laps around the 1-mile track.

The top five was completed by John Hunter Nemechek and Matt Tifft.

STAGE 1 WINNER: Christopher Bell earned his third stage win of the year.

STAGE 2 WINNER: Brad Keselowski

More: Race results, point standings

WHO HAD A GOOD RACE: Keselowski led 72 laps and came in second after he had to start from the rear for being late to the driver-crew chief meeting … Matt Tifft earned his second top five of the season … Ryan Preece has finished in the top five in three of five starts this season.

WHO HAD A BAD RACE: Ross Chastain finished 26th after wrecking by himself on Lap 80 … Ryan Truex was spun by Ryan Reed with six laps to go in Stage 2. The incident also involved Justin Allgaier. Truex finished 13th and Allgaier placed seventh … A wreck involving Chad Finchum and Garrett Smithley caused a caution with 23 laps to go … Austin Cindric wrecked coming to the checkered flag. He finished 17th.

NOTABLE: There was a 7 minutes and 30 second red flag period to fix sand barrels knocked over by Jeremy Clements at the start of pit road with 34 laps to go … After contending up front for much of the race, Daniel Hemric placed 11th, ending a career-best streak of eight straight top 10s.

WHAT’S NEXT: U.S. Cellular 250 at Iowa Speedway at 3:30 p.m. ET on July 28 on NBCSN

Bid of $1.8 million submitted for BK Racing

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A bid of $1.8 million has been made for BK Racing, the trustee operating the team stated in court documents.

Trustee Matthew Smith stated in federal court documents that the $1.8 million bid is a stalking horse bid. That means that the bid sets the lowest price the team can be sold.

Should the stalking horse bid be the winning bid, $350,000 of the price will go to payment of priority wage claims.

The bid is from MRB LLC.

ESPN.com reported that Mike Beam, president of GMS Racing, has made the bid on the team. Beam told ESPN.com that if he becomes the owner of the team, it would be an affiliate of GMS Racing, which has previously considered moving to Cup.

Court documents state: “The Trustee believes that the Stalking Horse Bid will compel potential purchasers to come forward and otherwise generate additional interest in the Race Team Assets reasonably likely to facilitate an effective competitive sale of such assets.”

Smith stated in court documents that he has communicated with more than 25 separate parties interested in acquiring the team’s assets.

Court documents state that any qualified bidder must propose a bid at least $300,000 more than the original bid of $1.8 million.

A sale is scheduled for 9:30 a.m. ET on Aug. 20. A court hearing is set for Aug. 21 for the approval of the sale. The winner has three days after the court order approving the sale to complete the purchase.

A hearing is set for Tuesday on approving those sale procedures.

Also, in another court filing, Smith stated that he’s agreed to sell team assists to Obaika Racing for $265,000. Smith said in court documents the assets were valued at $382,000.

Among the items listed in the offer is a tractor trailer transporter, seven bare chassis and 12 other chassis in various forms of construction. Also on the list are two crash carts, pit road tool box and pit suite, pit tool cart and two golf carts.

BK Racing owner Ron Devine put the team in chapter 11 bankruptcy on Feb. 15 in an effort to retain his team. Union Bank & Trust claims that it is owed $9.475 million. Smith was approved as the trustee on March 28, relieving Devine of his owner duties. Others claiming to be owed money include the Internal Revenue Service.

Blake Jones is driving BK Racing’s No. 23 car this weekend at New Hampshire Motor Speedway. This will be Jones’ first Cup start. He qualified last in the 37-car field.

Xfinity pole-sitter Brad Keselowski to start race at rear after penalty

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LOUDON, N.H. – Xfinity pole-sitter Brad Keselowski will start at the rear of the field for today’s race (4 p.m. ET on NBCSN) after he was late to the drivers meeting.

Cup practice was to have ended at 1:25 p.m. ET but was extended to 1:30 p.m. ET because of incidents during the session. The Xfinity drivers meeting was scheduled to begin at 1:30 p.m. ET.

Section 10.3.2.f of the Xfinity Rule book states:

“Any driver(s) that is not present to answer the second roll call at the driver/crew chief meeting may be penalized by starting the Race with a “Tail of the Field” penalty.”

Keselowski arrived about 80 seconds after second call for him. BJ McLeod, who also was participating in Cup practice, was late to the meeting as well.

Austin Dillon and Ross Chastain both made it to the meeting in time despite taking part in Cup practice.