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Who is hot, who is not in Cup heading to Michigan

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The Cup Series heads to Michigan International Speedway for Sunday’s race (2:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN). Here is a look at the drivers who are hot and who are not (courtesy of Racing Insights) heading into the 23rd race of the season.

WHO IS HOT

Kevin Harvick

  • Finished 10th at Watkins Glen (25th in Stage 1, 7th in Stage 2)
  • Won 6 of last 21 races
  • Won 10 stages in 2018 (had 6 in all of 2017)
  • Finished in Top 5 in 7 of last 9 races 
  • In 22 races in 2018, 18 finishes of 10th or better (including 6 wins) & 4 finishes of 19th or worse
  • Finished in Top 5 in 8 of last 11 Michigan races (2nd in June)

Chase Elliott

  • Won at Watkins Glen (18th in Stage 1, 1st in Stage 2, 52 laps led)
  • Finished 7th or better in 3 straight races
  • Finished in Top 10 in 6 of last 9 races
  • Won a stage in 3 straight races
  • 3 stage wins in 2018 tied his season total for 2017
  • Top 10 in all five Michigan races, including three runner-up finishes
  • Michigan is 1 of 2 tracks where he’s never finished outside Top 10 (Atlanta)

Kyle Busch

  • Finished 3rd at Watkins Glen (14th in Stage 1, 2nd in Stage 2, 31 laps led); team did not get car full of fuel on lap 55 (came out first and had to pit for a second time), drove from 31st to third in the final stage
  • Won 6 of last 16 races
  • Finished in Top 5 in 9 of last 10 races
  • Won at Watkins Glen (18th in Stage 1, 1st in Stage 2, 52 laps led)
  • Finished in the Top 10 in 10 of last 11 races
  • Finished in the Top 5 in 16 of 22 races this season

Daniel Suarez

  • Finished 4th at Watkins Glen (28th in Stage 1, 10th in Stage 2)
  • Finished top 5 in the last two races of 2018
  • Has not finished better than 24th in three career starts at Michigan

Erik Jones

  • Finished 5th at Watkins Glen (22nd in Stage 1, 4th in Stage 2); ran out of fuel on last lap while 3rd
  • Finished 5th in 2 straight races and top 10 in six of the last seven in 2018
  • Finished 13th or worse in 2 of 3 career starts at Michigan (15th in June)

William Byron

  • Finished 8th at Watkins Glen (3rd in Stage 1, 12th in Stage 2)
  • Three top 10s in 2018, two have come in the last two races
  • Back-to-back top 10s for first time in career

Kurt Busch

  • Finished 9th at Watkins Glen (30th in Stage 1, 32nd in Stage 2); started 36th after failing post-qualifying inspection; had flat RR tire under caution on lap 54
  • Finished top 10 in the last four races of 2018

Martin Truex Jr.

  • Finished 2nd at Watkins Glen (1st in Stage 1, 5th in Stage 2, 4 laps led); ran out of fuel on last lap
  • Finished top 5 in 6 of last 7 races
  • Won 3 of last 9 races
  • Finished in the top 5 in 10 of last 12 races
  • Finished 6th or better in 4 of last 7 Michigan races (18th in June)

WHO IS NOT HOT

  • Finished 17th at Watkins Glen (5th in Stage 1, 15th in Stage 2)
  • Finished 17th or worse in 3 straight races and 4 of last 5
  • Finished 16th or worse in 2 of last 3 Michigan races, but top 10 in 7 of last 9 (6th in June)
  • Started 1st, 1st in Stage 1, 2nd in Stage 2, 105 laps led, finished 17th in this race one year ago
  • Finished 9th or better in 11 of last 13 races on 2.0-mile tracks

Austin Dillon

  • Finished 27th at Watkins Glen (11th in Stage 1, 23rd in Stage 2); ran off track in turn 6 on lap 84 while running 25th
  • Finished 13th or worse in 4 straight races
  • Finished 12th or worse in 16 of last 17 races
  • Finished outside Top 10 in 19 of 21 races since Daytona 500 win
  • Finished 14th or worse in 3 of last 4 Michigan races (14th in June)

Aric Almirola

  • Finished 22nd at Watkins Glen (32nd in Stage 1, 24th in Stage 2); spun in turn 7 and made contact with wall on lap 3 while running 7th after contact with #12
  • Finished 22nd or worse in last 2 races and 4 of last 6 (1 finish outside Top 20 in first 16 races of 2018)
  • Has dropped from 11th in Playoff standings in Chicagoland to now 14th in Playoff Standings following Watkins Glen
  • Has never finished in the top 10 in 12 Michigan races

Denny Hamlin

  • Finished 13th at Watkins Glen (17th in Stage 1, 3rd in Stage 2, 2 laps led); penalized for removing equipment from pit box on lap 55 (air gun got wrapped around LR tire and pulled out of box)
  • Finished 13th or worse in 4 of last 5 races
  • Finished 12th or worse in 6 of last 9 races
  • Finished 12th or worse in the last two Michigan races, but top-1o in 4 of last 8 (12th in June)
  • Finished 12th at Watkins Glen (26th in Stage 1, 9th in Stage 2)
  • Finished 12th in last 2 races
  • Top-10 in two of the last four races of 2018
  • Finished top-10 in 2 of last 4 Michigan races, but 15th or worse in 5 of 7 career starts at Michigan (8th in June)

Vote for best 2018 Cup paint schemes

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It’s time to take stock of the 2018 Cup season.

That means voting in the best paint schemes of the year tournament.

The NBC Sports tournament has now reached its final four.

Here’s the bracket so far.

Bubba Wallace, RPM reinlist US Air Force as two-race sponsor

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Richard Petty Motorsports will continue to receive support from the United States military. On Friday, they announced the US Air Force will continue as a primary sponsor in 2019 as well as a major associate sponsor throughout the season on Bubba Wallace’s No. 43.

The two races for which the Air Force will be the primary sponsor are Saturday, July 6 at Daytona International Speedway (4th of July weekend) and Sunday, Nov. 10 (Veteran’s Day weekend) at ISM Raceway. Last year during his rookie campaign, Wallace finished in the top 15 in both of those races. He was 14th in the Coke Zero Sugar 400 at Daytona and 10th at ISM.

“The Air Force continues to see benefits from our partnership with Richard Petty Motorsports and driver, Bubba Wallace,” said Major Ross McKnight, Chief, Air Force National Events Branch at Air Force Recruiting Service in a press release. “Wallace Jr. and his personality align well with our target audience’s interests and the Air Force’s commitment to teamwork and technology. The combination of Bubba Wallace and the iconic No. 43 provides a continuing sponsorship opportunity that reflects our Air Force core values of Integrity, Service and Excellence, as well as has a positive impact on generating public awareness about the U.S. Air Force, our people and our mission.

“Like NASCAR, much of our work is based on science, technology, engineering and math principles combined with teamwork and training. This sponsorship is a great way to highlight that connection.”

Last year, Wallace visited four Air Force bases. He participated in drills at each and flew in an F-16 with the 77th Fighter Squadron “Gamblers” at Shaw AFB in South Carolina.

“I was really impressed with all the different aspects of the Air Force, and the different opportunities they offer,” said Wallace Jr. “I was able to visit different bases and see the Airmen in action and actually participate myself. That gets me excited and then I’m able to talk to inspiring students who are looking at a career in the Air Force. I’m pretty humbled to represent the Air Force.”

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John Hunter Nemechek, Chase Briscoe approved to run for Xfinity Rookie of the Year

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NASCAR has approved John Hunter Nemechek and Chase Briscoe to compete for the Xfinity Series Rookie of the Year title in 2019, NBC Sports has confirmed.

Nemechek made 18 Xfinity starts in 2018 with Chip Ganassi Racing while Briscoe made 17 with Stewart-Haas Racing and Roush Fenway Racing.

Nemechek will compete for GMS Racing in the No. 23 Chevrolet. Briscoe will drive the No. 98 Ford for Stewart-Haas Racing.

When Nemechek was announced on Dec. 6 as joining GMS Racing, a team press release said he would compete for Rookie of the Year. But a NASCAR spokesperson said his eligibility had not been decided on at the time.

The Rookie of the Year title was not mentioned in SHR’s Nov. 27 press release about Briscoe going full-time.

The Xfinity rookie field next year will include Nemechek, Briscoe, Noah Gragson in JR Motorsports’ No. 1 Chevrolet and Justin Haley in Kaulig Racing’s No. 11 Chevrolet.

Briscoe said in an Q&A on Reddit he was “honestly surprised” he was approved.

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Richard Childress Racing reveals Daytona 500 cars, sponsors and Xfinity details

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WELCOME, N.C. – Richard Childress Racing kicked off its 50th anniversary Friday at its headquarters in Welcome, North Carolina, with announcements about the 2019 season.

RCR announced Daniel Hemric will drive the No. 8 Chevrolet in his rookie Cup season. Hemric had originally been announced as driving the No. 31.

Hemric, who moves up after two years in Xfinity, drove the No. 8 in his two Cup starts in 2018.

Richard Childress Racing

Hemric will be sponsored by Caterpillar, Bass Pro Shops, Liberty National Life Insurance, Cessna and VF Workwear.

Cessna is also a sponsor at Chip Ganassi Racing.

“Growing up in Kannapolis, it was all about racing,” Hemric said in a press release. “I always dreamed of having the opportunity to drive for RCR and for Richard himself. Now, two iconic numbers, the 3 and the 8, are going to be under one roof. I know it makes Richard happier than anybody, just understanding what that means for the sport of NASCAR and how our fans are going to be able to connect with that.”

RCR also confirmed NBC Sports’ report that Luke Lambert would be the crew chief for Hemric.

Photo by Daniel McFadin

The team revealed gold-themed cars Hemric and teammate Austin Dillon will drive during Speedweeks in Daytona to celebrate the team’s 50th anniversary.

Dillon’s No. 3 Chevrolet will be sponsored by Bass Pro Shops in the Advance Auto Parts Clash.

The scheme for the exhibition race is based on the car Dale Earnhardt Sr. drove in the 1998 All-Star Race.

Xfinity Series

Team owner Richard Childress confirmed Tyler Reddick would be the organization’s only full-time Xfinity Series driver in 2019.

The defending series champion will drive the No. 2 Chevrolet and be paired with crew chief Randall Burnett, who worked with Matt Tifft on the No. 2 in 2018.

Childress said its second Xfinity car will be the No. 21 “more than likely.”

Technical Alliance

Childress confirmed the teams that will be full members of a technical alliance with RCR in 2019.

In Cup, RCR will be joined by StarCom Racing (No. 00), Germain Racing (No. 13) and Richard Petty Motorsports (No. 43).

Kaulig Racing in the Xfinity Series (No. 11 Chevrolet) will also be a part of the alliance.

Childress said ECR engines would be provided for all those teams.

Charter

Childress said the team would sell a team charter to StarCom Racing that had been leased to the team in 2018.

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