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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)

Kyle Busch has idea for NASCAR’s Xfinity, Truck limits

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MARTINSVILLE, Va. – Kyle Busch would entertain the opportunity to pursue the one NASCAR championship that has eluded him – in the Gander Outdoor Truck Series – when his Cup career is over.

But he’s got an idea that would allow him to run both series concurrently and address the limits on Cup drivers running in lower series.

“Why don’t you let us run as many races as we want to run and then once we miss one, we’re done?” Busch pondered after his victory Saturday in the TruNorth Global 250 truck race at Martinsville Speedway. “So if I go all the way to (the June 15 race at Iowa Speedway) in the trucks and run 10 races and can’t go to Iowa, I’m done.

“You can race for points or whatever and so if that ever came down to that, then maybe there’d be an opportunity years down the road that then you can run multiple series and try to go after a championship that way.”

What was NASCAR’s reaction to the plan?

“That’s probably the first time I’ve said that or thought about it,” Busch said with a laugh. “Now that it’s out there … there’s not a damn fan that’s ever going to let it happen.”

Indeed, Busch’s 201st career victory in a NASCAR national series drew the usual outrage on social media Saturday, both from his Rowdy Nation legion of fans and those who vehemently believe he should be limited beyond the NASCAR cap of five truck races and seven Xfinity races allowed for full-time Cup drivers.

Busch has won in seven of 11 starts in trucks, Xfinity and Cup this season.

“Could have been nine or 10 (victories) probably, that’s what the scary part is if it wasn’t for simple mistakes,” Busch said. “Overall, it’s been fun. It’s a damn shame I’m only allowed five and seven.”

Busch has two 2019 starts left in trucks: at Texas Motor Speedway next week and Charlotte Motor Speedway in May.

He said the chances are solid for going 5 for 5.

“I’d like to think Texas is a good place,” he said. “I think our guys have a good baseline. Charlotte is always one of my best tracks, favorite tracks and enjoy running there with the trucks, especially. There’s a good opportunity.

“It’s kind of an expectation (to win every race). We just go out, work hard and smart, and today we let the race play itself out and come to us.”

Busch won the 2009 Xfinity championship in the last season in which he ran full time in NASCAR’s top two series. He has focused solely on Cup full time since then, and NASCAR has changed rules over the past eight years limiting the ability to run for more than one title.

Despite 148 starts (and 54 victories), he is yet to run a full truck season, but the 2015 Cup champion has said he’d like to become the first driver to win a championship in each of NASCAR’s top three series.

Three Cup cars fail prerace inspection at Martinsville Speedway

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MARTINSVILLE, Va. — The cars of William Byron, DJ Kennington and Jeb Burton failed inspection Sunday morning at Martinsville Speedway.

Byron’s No. 24 Chevrolet failed mechanical measurements. His sixth-place qualifying time will be disallowed, and he will have to start from the rear.

Kennington failed the OSS. He qualified 34th.

Burton had qualified 33rd.

The three cars will officially start behind those that passed inspection. Cars that qualified behind them will move up one spot.

The No. 24 suffered a right-front tire problem in the opening minutes of first practice Saturday morning, and the team made repairs to put the car back on track.

Today’s Cup race at Martinsville Speedway: Start time, lineup, more

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MARTINSVILLE — High downforce could bring hot tempers to Martinsville Speedway, where today’s STP 500 will mark the first short track of the 2019 Cup schedule.

In the last visit to the 0.526-mile oval, Joey Logano bumped Martin Truex Jr. aside entering the last two corners in one of the most thrilling finishes of the 2018 season.

Here’s the pertinent information for today’s race:

(All times are Eastern)

START: Robert DeRidder, the senior vice president and general manager of Energizer Holdings Inc. (owners of STP), will give the command to start engines at 2:01 p.m. The green flag is scheduled for 2:07 p.m.

PRERACE: The crew chief and drivers meeting is at noon. Driver introductions will begin at 1:20 p.m. The invocation will be given by track chaplain Mike Hatfield at 1:54 p.m. The 380th Army Band will perform the national anthem at 1:55 p.m.

DISTANCE: The race is 500 laps (263 miles) around the 0.526-mile track.

STAGES: Stage 1 ends on Lap 130. Stage 2 ends on Lap 260.

TV/RADIO: FS1 will broadcast the race with coverage beginning at 12:30 p.m. Motor Racing Network will broadcast the race. MRN’s coverage begins at 1 p.m. SiriusXM NASCAR Radio will carry MRN’s broadcast, which is also available at MRN.com.

FORECAST: wunderground.com calls for partly cloudy skies with a high of 63 degrees and a zero percent chance of rain for the start of the race.

LAST TIME: In a race delayed to Monday by a snowstorm, Clint Bowyer scored his first victory for Stewart-Haas Racing. Kyle Busch finished second. Ryan Blaney placed third. Joey Logano won at Martinsville last fall. Denny Hamlin placed second. Martin Truex Jr. was third. 

TO THE REAR: William Byron (mechanical measurements), DJ Kennington (OSS) and Jeb Burton will start from the rear after failing inspection Sunday morning.

STARTING LINEUP: Click here for the starting lineup.

Cup starting lineup at Martinsville

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Fords flexed their muscle during Saturday’s qualifying, grabbing the first four spots and six of the first 11 for Sunday’s STP 500 at Martinsville Speedway.

Joey Logano will start from the pole, alongside Aric Almirola. Brad Keselowski will start in Row 2, alongside Kevin Harvick.

Row 3 will have Denny Hamlin and William Byron. Kyle Larson and Chase Elliott make up Row 4, while Martin Truex Jr. and Daniel Suarez will start from Row 5.

Click here for the full row-by-row Cup starting lineup.

Note that the starting lineup is provisional until Sunday morning’s pre-race inspection. Any car that fails inspection will lose its starting spot and move to the back of the field.

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