Who’s hot, who’s not in Cup Series heading to Daytona

Photo by Jerry Markland/Getty Images
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A look at some of the drivers who are streaking or reeling heading into Saturday’s Cup race at Daytona International Speedway (7 p.m. ET on NBC).

HOT

• Finished 3rd at Chicagoland (5th in Stage 1, 1st in Stage 2, 39 laps led)

• Finished 4th or better in four straight races

• In 17 races in 2018, 14 finishes of 7th or better (including five wins) & three finishes of 31st or worse

• Finished in the top five in 16 of the last 21 races, dating back to last season

• Finished 22nd or worse in four straight Daytona races

• DNF accident in three of the last four Daytona races

Denny Hamlin

• Finished 7th at Chicagoland (11th in Stage 1, 9th in Stage 2); started 37th after qualifying time disallowed in post-qualifying inspection; spun off Turn 2 on lap 177 while running 9th

• Finished in the Top 10 in five of the last seven races, including the last two 

• Finished 6th or better in six of last nine Daytona races, including win in 2016 Daytona 500

• Only two DNFs for accident in 25 career Daytona starts

Clint Bowyer

• Finished 5th at Chicagoland (30th in Stage 1, 8th in Stage 2, 21 laps led); penalized for speeding in pits on Lap 39 (was leading before stops); penalized for speeding in pits on lap 43 while serving previous penalty; came in to serve stop-and-go penalty on lap 48, but did not stop and had to pit again

• Finished in the yop five in the last three races

• Led 329 laps in 2018, more than he had in the previous 4 seasons combined (145)

• Finished in the top 10 in six of the last 10 Daytona races

Kyle Busch

• Won at Chicagoland (12th in Stage 1, 11th in Stage 2, 59 laps led); made contact with Kyle Larson twice on final lap while battling for lead

• Won five of the last 11 races

• Finished in the top five in five straight races and in the Top 10 in six straight races

• Finished in the top five in 12 of 17 races this season

• Two top fives in the last 12 Daytona races, all other finishes have been 12th or worse

Erik Jones

• Finished 6th at Chicagoland (10th in Stage 1, 12th in Stage 2)

• Top 10 in the last two races of 2018

• Finished 7th or better in three of the last six races, but 13th or worse in seven of the last 10

• One top 10 in three career Daytona starts and two finishes of 36th or worse (two DNFs)

NOT

Jamie McMurray

• Finished 12th at Chicagoland (15th in Stage 1, 15th in Stage 2)

• Finished 15th or worse in 13 of 17 races this season

• 14th or worse in the last nine Daytona races

• One Top 10 in the last 16 Daytona races (7th – July 2013)

• DNF accident in two of the last four Daytona races

Austin Dillon

• Finished 37th at Chicagoland (19th in Stage 1, 20th in Stage 2, 13 laps led); DNF (wheel hub) – pit from 26th with brakes smoking on lap 190

• Finished 12th or worse in 12 straight races

• Finished outside Top 10 in 15 of 16 races since Daytona 500 win

• Won the Daytona 500 in February

• Finished in the Top 10 in six of 10 career starts at Daytona

Ryan Blaney

• Finished 18th at Chicagoland (7th in Stage 1, 5th in Stage 2, 19 laps led); pit from 14th with a loose wheel on lap 194

• Finished 18th or worse in last two races

• Won four stages in 17 races in 2018, one more than he had all of 2017

• Led 463 laps in 2018, more than he led from 2014-2017 combined (332)

• Top 10 in two of the last three Daytona races

• Led laps in three straight Daytona races, including 118 of 200 in the Daytona 500 this year

Ricky Stenhouse Jr.

• Finished 16th at Chicagoland (18th in Stage 1, 21st in Stage 2); started in the rear due to unapproved adjustments before the race

• Finished 11th or worse in six of the last seven races

• Has finished 14th or worse in 13 of 17 races in 2018

• Three top 10s in 12 career Daytona starts, two have come in the last four races

Saturday NASCAR schedule at Talladega Superspeedway

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Both the Xfinity Series and Camping World Truck Series will race Saturday at Talladega Superspeedway.

Cup cars will start the day’s action by qualifying for Sunday’s playoff race, followed by the Truck playoff race and then the Xfinity playoff race.

Talladega Superspeedway (Cup, Xfinity and Truck)

Weekend weather

Saturday: Sunny. High of 78.

Saturday, Oct. 1

(All times Eastern)

Garage open

  • 8:30 a.m. – 12:30 p.m. — Cup Series
  • 9:30 a.m. — Truck Series
  • 1 p.m. — Xfinity Series

Track activity

  • 10:30 a.m. – Noon — Cup Series qualifying (NBC Sports app, Motor Racing Network, Sirius XM NASCAR Radio)
  • 12:30 p.m. — Truck Series race (94 laps, 250 miles; FS1, Motor Racing Network, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio)
  • 4 p.m. — Xfinity Series race (113 laps, 300 miles; USA Network, Motor Racing Network, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio)

Talladega Xfinity starting lineup: Austin Hill wins pole

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TALLADEGA, Ala. — Austin Hill will lead the field to the green flag Saturday at Talladega Superspeedway after scoring his first career Xfinity Series pole.

Hill won the pole Friday with a lap of 182.036 mph. He will be joined on the front row by fellow playoff contender Ty Gibbs (181.981 mph).

MORE: Talladega Xfinity starting lineup

Playoff drivers will start in seven of the top eight spots. The exception is Sheldon Creed, who will start third after a lap of 181.870 mph. Hill and Creed give Richard Childress Racing the first and third starting spots.

Justin Allgaier (181.529) qualified fourth and Brandon Jones (181.305) completed the top five. Noah Gragson, who has won four races in a row, starts sixth after a lap of 181.134 mph and is followed by playoff drivers Josh Berry (181.052) and AJ Allmendinger (180.932).

The Xfinity Series race is scheduled for 4 p.m. ET Saturday on USA Network.

Talladega Truck starting lineup: John Hunter Nemechek wins pole

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TALLADEGA, Ala. — John Hunter Nemechek will start on the pole for Saturday’s Camping World Truck Series race.

Nemechek earned the pole with a lap of 178.767 mph.

Nemechek is one of four playoff drivers starting in the top six: Chandler Smith (second, 177.732 mph), Zane Smith (fourth, 177.061) and Ty Majeski (sixth, 176.744). Majeski clinched a spot in next month’s championship race at Phoenix with his Bristol win.

MORE: Talladega Truck starting lineup

Also qualifying in the top five were Carson Hocevar (177.068) in third and Matt Crafton (176.960) in fifth.

Failing to qualify are Tim Viens, Spencer Boyd, Jason White and Natalie Decker.

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

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The second race of the opening round of the Xfinity playoffs takes drivers to Talladega Superspeedway.

Noah Gragson secured his spot in the next round by winning last weekend at Texas. Ryan Sieg holds the final transfer spot. Riley Herbst is the first driver below the cutline, one point behind Sieg. Also below the cutline are reigning series champion Daniel Hemric (-8 points), Brandon Jones (-12) and Jeremy Clements (-28).

Details for Saturday’s Xfinity race at Talladega Superspeedway

(All times Eastern)

START: The command to start engines will be given at 4:09 p.m. … Green flag is scheduled to wave at 4:21 p.m.

PRERACE: Xfinity garage opens at 1 p.m. … Driver introductions are at 3:30 p.m. … The invocation will be given at 4 p.m. … The Brookwood High School choir will perform the anthem at 4:02 p.m.

DISTANCE: The race is 113 laps (300.58 miles) on the 2.66-mile speedway.

STAGES: Stage 1 ends at Lap 25. Stage 2 ends at Lap 50.

TV/RADIO: USA Network will broadcast the race at 4 p.m. Countdown to Green begins at 3:30 p.m. on USA Network. … Motor Racing Network coverage begins at 3:30 p.m. and also will stream at mrn.com. SiriusXM NASCAR Radio will carry the MRN broadcast.

STREAMING: NBCsports.com

FORECAST: Weather Underground — Sunny with a high of 78 degrees and no chance of rain at the start of the race.

LAST TIME: Noah Gragson won and was followed by Jeffrey Earnhardt and AJ Allmendinger.