Who is hot and not entering the Bristol night race

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The Cup Series heads to Bristol, Tennessee, for its annual night race at Bristol Motor Speedway (7:30p.m. ET on Saturday on NBCSN).

There are only three races left in the regular season and anything can happen on the half-mile track.

Here’s who is hot and not entering the race courtesy of Racing Insights.

Who is Hot

Kevin Harvick
• Won at Michigan (1st in Stage 1, 1st in Stage 2, 108 laps led)
• Won 7 of last 22 races
• Won 12 stages in 2018 (had 6 in all of 2017)
• Finished in Top 5 in 8 of last 10 races
• In 23 races in 2018, 19 top 10s (including 7 wins) & 4 finishes of 19th or worse
• Finished 8th or better in 6 straight Bristol races, including win in Aug. 2016 (7th in April)
• Started 29th, 11th in Stage 1, 3rd in Stage 2, finished 8th in this race one year ago
• Finished 7th or better, including 3 Top 5s, in the last 4 short track races
• Finished 8th or better in 7 of last 8 short track races

Chase Elliott
• Finished 9th at Michigan (34th in Stage 1, 13th in Stage 2); pit on Lap 37 due to vibration while running 20th
• Top 10 in the last four races
• Finished in Top 10 in 7 of last 10 races
• Finished 15th or worse in 3 of last 4 Bristol races (29th in April)
• Two top 10s in 5 career Bristol starts
• In last year’s race started 4th, 4th in Stage 1, 11th in Stage 2, 2 laps led, finished 18th; spun on
backstretch while running 6th on lap 396
• Top 10 in two of three short track starts in 2018

Kyle Busch
• Finished 3rd at Michigan (2nd in Stage 1, 2nd in Stage 2, 22 laps led)
• Won 6 of last 17 races
• Finished in top 5 in 10 of last 11 races
• Michigan was his 17th top-five finish in 2018, tying his most top 5s in a single season
• Finished in the Top 5 in 17 of 23 races this season
• Won last 2 Bristol races
• Finished 29th or worse in 5 of last 8 Bristol starts (4 DNFs)
• Leads active drivers with 7 wins and 2,233 laps led at Bristol
• Started 18th, 1st in Stage 1, 8th in Stage 2, 156 laps led, won this race one year ago
• Won 4 of last 6 short track races
• Top-two finishes in five of the last six short track races
• Average finish of 1.3 on short tracks in 2018

Kurt Busch
• Finished 6th at Michigan (4th in Stage 1, 4th in Stage 2)
• Top-10 in the last five races of 2018
• Finished 22nd or worse in 3 of last 4 Bristol races (22nd in April)
• Started 25th, 14th in Stage 1, 12th in Stage 2, finished 5th in this race one year ago; hit the wall on lap 276
while running 11th
• Finished 11th or worse in the last four short track races

 

Who is Not Hot

Jamie McMurray
• Finished 21st at Michigan (18th in Stage 1, 20th in Stage 2, 1 lap led)
• Finished outside the top 10 in 8 of the last 10 races of 2018
• Finished 15th or worse in 18 of 23 races this season
• Finished 12th or worse in 3 straight Bristol races and 11th or worse in 6 of last 7 Bristol races (19th in April)
• Started 11th, 17th in Stage 1, 15th in Stage 2, finished 12th in this race one year ago
• Has not had a top 10 in the last six short track races

Clint Bowyer
• Finished 12th at Michigan (13th in Stage 1, 7th in Stage 2)
• Finished outside the top-10 in the last six races of 2018
• Finished top 10 in 4 of last 6 Bristol races (8th in April)
• In last year’s race started 9th, 15th in Stage 1, 10th in Stage 2, finished 19th
• Top 10 in the last four short track races including a win at Martinsville in April

Ricky Stenhouse Jr.
• Finished 18th at Michigan (15th in Stage 1, 19th in Stage 2)
• Finished outside the top 10 in 10 straight races
• Finished 14th or worse in 19 of 23 races in 2018
• Top 10 in three of the last four Bristol races
• Six Top 10s in 11 career Bristol starts
• In last year’s race, started 14th, 12th in Stage 1, 21st in Stage 2, finished 14th; scraped wall on
lap 201 with flat right-front tire while running 9th; penalized for speeding exiting pits on Lap 418
• Finished 14th or worse in 4 of last 6 short track races

Paul Menard
• Finished 16th at Michigan (19th in Stage 1, 11th in Stage 2)
• Finished outside the top-10 in 8 straight races and 9 of last 10
• Finished outside the top-10 in 7 straight Bristol races (13th in April)
• In last year’s race started 27th, 26th in Stage 1, 9th in Stage 2, finished 16th
• No top 10s in 14 straight short track races

Bubba Wallace
• Finished 23rd at Michigan (25th in Stage 1, 23rd in Stage 2)
• Finished 14th or worse in 16 straight races
• Finished 20th or worse in 16 of 23 races in 2018
• Started 20th, 21st in Stage 1, 10th in Stage 2, 6 laps led, finished 16th at Bristol in April, his only start
at the track
• Finished 16th or worse in 3 career short track starts

NASCAR fines Ty Gibbs $75,000 for pit road incident at Texas

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NASCAR fined Ty Gibbs $75,000 and docked him 25 points for door-slamming Ty Dillon on pit road during last weekend’s Cup race at Texas Motor Speedway.

Crew members from other teams were nearby when Gibbs hit Dillon’s car, causing it to swerve. No crew members or officials were hit.

NASCAR has made it a priority that drivers are not to cause contact that could injured crew members or officials on pit road. NASCAR also penalized Gibbs 25 Cup driver points and docked 23XI Racing 25 car owner points for the No. 23 Cup car that Gibbs drives.

NASCAR penalizes William Byron for spinning Denny Hamlin

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NASCAR has docked William Byron 25 points and fined him $50,000 for spinning Denny Hamlin under caution in last weekend’s Cup race at Texas Motor Speedway.

Byron drops from third in the playoff standings to below the cutline heading into Sunday’s Cup race at Talladega Superspeedway (2 p.m. ET on NBC).

Chase Briscoe moves up to hold the final transfer spot with 3,041 points. Austin Cindric is the first driver outside a transfer spot with 3,034 points. Byron is next at 3,033 points.

Hendrick Motorsports was docked 25 owner points as well.

Hendrick Motorsports stated it would appeal the penalty.

The caution waved at Lap 269 for Martin Truex Jr.’s crash. As Hamlin slowed, Byron closed and hit him in the rear. 

Byron admitted after the race the contact was intentional, although he didn’t mean to wreck Hamlin. Byron was upset with how Hamlin raced him on Lap 262. Byron felt Hamlin forced him into the wall as they exited Turn 2 side-by-side. Byron expressed his displeasure during the caution.

“I felt like he ran me out of race track off of (Turn) 2 and had really hard contact with the wall,” Byron said. “Felt like the toe link was definitely bent, luckily not fully broken. We were able to continue.

“A lot of times that kind of damage is going to ruin your race, especially that hard. I totally understand running somebody close and making a little bit of contact, but that was pretty massive.”

On the retaliatory hit, Byron said: “I didn’t mean to spin him out. That definitely wasn’t what I intended to do. I meant to bump him a little bit and show my displeasure and unfortunately, it happened the way it did. Obviously, when he was spinning out, I was like ‘I didn’t mean to do this,’ but I was definitely frustrated.”

Hamlin and crew chief Chris Gabehart argued and questioned NASCAR for not putting Hamlin back in second place — where he was before Byron hit him — and also questioned Byron not being penalized.

“I guess we can just wreck each other under caution,” Hamlin said after the race.

Scott Miller, NASCAR senior vice president of competition, told reporters after the race that series officials did not penalize Byron because they did not see the incident. 

“When we were in the tower, we were paying more attention to the actual cause of the caution up there and dispatching our equipment,” Miller said. “The William Byron-Denny Hamlin thing, we had no eyes on. We saw Denny go through the grass.

“By the time we got a replay that showed the incident well enough to do anything to it, we had gone back to green.”

Kurt Busch ‘hopeful’ he can return from concussion this year

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CONCORD, N.C. — Kurt Busch said Tuesday he remains “hopeful” he will recover from a concussion in time to race again before the end of the NASCAR Cup season.

The 2004 Cup champion has been sidelined since he crashed July 23 during qualifying at Pocono Raceway. He’s so far missed 10 races – both Ty Gibbs and Bubba Wallace have driven the No. 45 Toyota for 23XI Racing since Busch was injured – and withdrew his eligibility to participate in the playoffs.

“I’m doing good. Each week is better progress and I feel good and I don’t know when I will be back, but time has been the challenge. Father Time is the one in charge on this one,” Busch said.

There are six races remaining this season and 23XI co-owner Denny Hamlin said the team has contingency plans for Busch’s recovery and is not pressuring the 44-year-old to get back in the car. Busch is under contract at 23XI through next season with an option for 2024.

Hamlin said this past weekend at Texas that Busch has a doctor’s visit scheduled in early October that could reveal more about if Busch can return this season.

Busch has attended a variety of events to stimulate his recovery and enjoyed an evening at the rodeo over the weekend. But his visit to Charlotte Motor Speedway on Tuesday for its 10th annual honoring of Breast Cancer Awareness Month was Busch’s first official appearance as a NASCAR driver since his injury.

He attended for the second consecutive year as part of his “Window of Hope” program in which all the window nets on the Cup cars will be pink meshing in next week’s race on The Roval at Charlotte. Busch credited the Toyota Performance Center at TRD’s North Carolina headquarters for helping his recovery and getting him out to events again.

“I feel hopeful. I know I have more doctor visits and distance to go, and I keep pushing each week,” Busch said. “And TPC, Toyota Performance Center, has been a group of angels with the workouts and the vestibular workouts, different nutrition as well and different supplements and things to help everything rebalance with my vision, my hearing. Just my overall balance in general.”

He said his vision is nearly 20/20 in one eye, but his other eye has been lagging behind in recovery. Busch also said he wasn’t sure why he was injured in what appeared to be a routine backing of his car into the wall during a spin in qualifying.

NASCAR this year introduced its Next Gen car that was designed to cut costs and level the playing field, but the safety of the spec car has been under fire since Busch’s crash. Drivers have complained they feel the impact much more in crashes than they did in the old car, and a rash of blown tires and broken parts has plagued the first four races of the playoffs.

Busch said his concussion “is something I never knew would happen, as far as injury” and likened his health battle to that of the breast cancer survivors who aided him in painting the pit road walls at Charlotte pink for next week’s race.

“Each situation is different. It’s similar to a breast cancer survivor. Not every story is the same, not every injury is the same,” Busch said. “It’s not like a broken arm and then you get the cast taken off and can go bench press 300 pounds. It’s a process. I don’t know what journey I’m on, but I’m going to keep pushing.”

NASCAR Power Rankings: Denny Hamlin returns to first place

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Four races into the NASCAR Cup Series playoffs and drivers who are eligible to win the championship remain 0-for-4 in pursuit of race wins.

Tyler Reddick became winner No. 4 on that list Sunday night at Texas Motor Speedway.

And now we go to Talladega Superspeedway, where there is potential for drivers from the far back end of the field to emerge victorious, given the impact of drafting and, more significantly, wrecking.

Sunday’s tire-exploding, wall-banging, car-wrestling craziness at Texas Motor Speedway jumbled the playoff standings again, and the same is true for the NBC Sports NASCAR Power Rankings, which see a new leader in Denny Hamlin.

MORE: Winners and losers at Texas

Hamlin could be a busy guy the rest of the season. His potential retaliation list grew Sunday with the addition of William Byron after they had a major disagreement.

Here’s how the rankings look in the middle of the Round of 12:

NBC Sports NASCAR Power Rankings

1. Denny Hamlin (No. 3 last week) — Despite everything — the tires, the wrecks, the hassle, the weather and a brouhaha with William Byron, Hamlin finished 10th Sunday and is sixth in the playoff standings entering Talladega. He has the best average finish — 5.75 — in the playoff races. Unless his “list” gets in the way, Hamlin might be ready to seriously challenge for his first championship.

2. Kyle Larson (No. 4 last week) — Larson led 19 laps at Texas and probably should have led more with one of the race’s best cars. Now fourth in points, he figures to be a factor over the final two weeks of the round.

3. Chase Elliott (No. 2 last week) — Elliott was not a happy camper after smashing the wall because of a tire issue and riding a flaming car to a halt. He finished 32nd.

4. Joey Logano (No. 6 last week) — Logano was chasing down winner Tyler Reddick in the closing laps at Texas. He jumps to first in the playoff standings and gains two spots in NBC’s rankings.

5. William Byron (No. 5 last week) — Byron might be No. 1 on Denny Hamlin’s list; here he slides in at No. 5.

6. Christopher Bell (No. 1 last week) — Bell had a rotten Sunday in Texas, crashing not once but twice with tire issues and finishing 34th, causing a precipitous drop on the rankings list.

7. Ross Chastain (No. 7 last week) — Chastain’s team played the tires and the cautions right and probably deserved better than a 13th-place finish Sunday.

8. Ryan Blaney (No. 8 last week) — Mr. Winless (except in All-Star dress) rolls on. A fourth-place run (and 29 laps led) Sunday keeps him relevant.

9. Chase Briscoe (No. 9 last week) — Briscoe’s Texas run started poorly but ended nicely with a fifth-place run.

10. Tyler Reddick (unranked last week) — Reddick Sunday became the only driver not named Chase Elliott with more than two race wins this year. Now totaling three victories, he got his first oval win at Texas.

Dropped out: Alex Bowman (No. 10 last week).