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NASCAR America Fantasy League: 10 Best at Bristol in last three seasons

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Is Bristol Motor Speedway a wild card?

An argument can be made either way with one driver exemplifying both.

Kyle Busch is arguably the best driver to ever compete at Bristol. In 2010 and 2011, he scored five consecutive wins in NASCAR’s three national series. Last August, he swept Bristol again – winning the Truck, Xfinity and Cup races. He won this spring’s Food City 500 and enters this weekend with back-to-back victories in Cup.

But he doesn’t have one of the 10 best average finishes during the past three years because he was involved in three consecutive accidents in 2016-17 – finishing 35th or worse each time.

Bristol is a rhythm track. That is one of the reasons Busch is so great, but the opposite side of that coin is that when a driver loses his rhythm, it can be difficult to get back.

NASCAR’s parity among most teams – prior to this season’s dominance of the Big 3 – has kept all but four drivers from accumulating a three-year average of better than 10th and that could make setting this week’s NASCAR America Fantasy Live roster a little tricky.

1. Kevin Harvick (three-year average: 5.20)
Bristol has not always been one of Harvick’s better tracks. After getting off to a strong start in the early 2000s, he struggled through 13 races from 2009 through 2015 with only a single top 10. He finished second to Joey Logano in the 2015 night race and has not been outside the top 10 since.

2. Jimmie Johnson (three-year average: 9.00)
While this team fought to find the right setup on most tracks this spring, Johnson scored a solid third-place finish at Bristol. Except for one poor showing in spring 2016, he has finished 11th or better since the 2014 night race including a victory in the 2017 Food City 500.

2. Ricky Stenhouse Jr. (three-year average: 9.00)
Bristol may be Stenhouse’s final opportunity to score a victory and lock the No. 17 team in the playoffs. He has not yet won on the half-mile bullring, but has a pair of second-place finishes in 2014 and 2016 to indicate he is capable of doing so if the strategy plays out just right.

4. Joey Logano (three-year average: 9.40)
With a six-race streak of results 13th or better, Logano has been one of the most consistent drivers at Bristol in recent years. Only two of these were top-fives, but one earned maximum points when he won the 2015 night race. He won that same event in 2014, which suggests he has a great setup under the lights.

5. Denny Hamlin (three-year average: 10.00)
If one had to venture a guess, it would be that Hamlin will finish third this weekend. That is where he’s finished in each of the last three years during the August race, so the 14th earned by the No. 11 this spring at Bristol is less predictive than it otherwise might be.

6. Trevor Bayne (three-year average: 11.80)
Bayne is anything but a safe choice this week, but for fantasy NASCAR players who need to take a big risk, he could be the best differentiator. Entering this spring’s Food City 500, he had a four-race streak of results 12th or better. He was involved in a crash this spring and finished five laps off the pace in 24th, so he’s going to need a little luck this weekend.

7. Jamie McMurray (three-year average: 12.80)
McMurray will not be a good choice for this week’s Fantasy Live game, but he is a great utility driver in other games. In the last eight Bristol races, his best finish was an eighth, but before this spring, he had a perfect record of top-15s. He missed that mark in the Food City 500, but still finished in the middle of the pack with a 19th. He won’t earn maximum points, but he’s not going to cost a lot either.

8. Ryan Newman (three-year average: 13.40)
Newman is another great dark horse pick. He is not going to get a lot of attention before the race begins and is unlikely to get a top five, but the odds are in his favor that a top 10 is in the offing. In the last 18 races at Bristol, he has finished in the top 10 in 55.6 percent of the races and earned a top 15 72.2 percent of the time.

9. Clint Bowyer (three-year average: 13.60)
Bowyer has been stronger in the spring than fall in recent years. His last three attempts in that race ended in top 10s, while his August races under the lights have netted only one top 10 in the past five years. His overall average since 2011 has been 11.3 with only three results outside the top 15 in 13 races, so he should be on fantasy owners’ radar screens when practice begins.

10. Chase Elliott (three-year average: 14.60)
Elliott deserves attention less for his Bristol record than the recent momentum he brings to the weekend. In five starts on the bullring, he has only one top five and another top 10. Meanwhile, his last two attempts have ended in results outside the top 15. He has momentum on his side, however, with a four-race, top-10 streak to his credit that includes his first Cup win at Watkins Glen two weeks ago.

Bonus Picks

Pole Winner: Joe Gibbs Racing or an affiliated driver has won the last six Bristol races for which time trials were run. Kyle Larson took the top spot in spring 2017 based on NASCAR’s rule book. JGR’s strength is a good indication that they will lead the field to green again this weekend. Busch has the advantage. If he shows speed in practice, last summer’s pole winner Erik Jones is also a good choice.

Segment Winners: In three races at Bristol since the advent of segment points, Brad Keselowski is the only driver to win a stage more than once. He swept the segments this spring. Those were the only times that Keselowski finished among the top 10 at the end of a segment, however, so it is difficult to make him a top choice to sweep the stages again this week. Larson and Johnson are the only drivers to score points in all six stages. The Gibbs’ guys Busch (earning points in 4 stages) and Jones (5) are not far behind and they have a lot more momentum on their side this week.

For more Fantasy NASCAR coverage, check out Rotoworld.com and follow Dan Beaver (@FantasyRace) on Twitter.

Ryan Blaney thankful for support after Daytona 500 incident

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Ryan Blaney said he didn’t want to talk to many people the night of the Daytona 500 after contact with Ryan Newman triggered Newman’s horrific last-lap crash.

But when Blaney got home, his parents were there.

“That was nice of them to be there,” Blaney said Friday at Auto Club Speedway, the first time he’s talked to the media about the Daytona 500 since that night.  

Blaney was ashen when he spoke briefly to the media after the season-opening Daytona 500. As he spoke, an ambulance drove by on the frontstretch, taking Newman to the hospital.

Blaney was intent on pushing Newman, a fellow Ford driver, to the victory when it became clear to Blaney he could not win the race. But as he pushed Newman coming to the finish, the contact unsettled Newman’s car and it turned right into the outside wall. Newman’s car went airborne and was slammed in the driver side area while upside down by Corey LaJoie.

Newman walked out of a Daytona Beach hospital two days later. Newman said last weekend in a statement that he suffered a head injury but did not disclose any details. He has since been to Roush Fenway Racing to see team members and also did a video for one of the team’s sponsors that day. Newman will not race this weekend, missing his second consecutive race but said in his statement he looks forward to racing again.

MORE: Ryan Blaney talks to Ryan Newman, looks forward to seeing him at track

Blaney said several people helped him in the aftermath of Newman’s accident. All that was known the night of the race was that Newman was in serious condition with a non-life-threatening injury.

Blaney said close friend Bubba Wallace spent time with him the day after the Daytona 500.

“We talked about some stuff,” Blaney said Friday of what he and Wallace did. “I stayed off social media and all that stuff. You have people that aren’t even involved and have never even watched the sport that have their own opinion on bad things.

“The outreach I got from the calls from former drivers and current drivers that week was pretty remarkable. Their support was good. Even though it is unintentional and it is racing, it still takes a toll on you when it is off of your nose. You never want to see anyone get hurt in this sport. We are all competitors, but we are also a big family.

“Ryan and I have gotten along really well and that was just a bad circumstance and it is great that it worked out for the best. It was nice to have the friends and family and drivers and teams (offer their) support. That really helped me out.”

Blaney cited a couple of former drivers whose calls were impactful.

Jeff Burton and Bobby Labonte called me, people that I looked up to a lot as a kid,” Blaney said. “It was neat that they called me and gave me their peace of mind. That was good.”

Friday also marked the first time for Blaney to speak publicly since last weekend’s race at Las Vegas. Blaney led but a late caution changed the race. He and Alex Bowman, running second, were among drivers who pitted. Joey Logano, running third, did not pit, inherited the lead and went on to win. Blaney finished 11th.

Blaney said Friday it took him 10 minutes to get over how that race ended.

“Yeah, it was over,” Blaney said. “Moving on. I went and stayed in a teepee and forgot about it.”

About his experience staying in a teepee, Blaney said:

“I already had that planned no matter what happened. I like camping. I was out on a ranch in the middle of the desert for a couple days and just hanging out and all that stuff. It was fun.”

As for what he did, Blaney said: “Go hiking a little bit. Cook by the fire. Clear your head. It is just relaxing. I have always kind of been that way. It was nice to get out there. I was out there. I had to be out there for Tuesday night anyway and figured I would stay somewhere other than the (Las Vegas) Strip. I can’t do the strip for very long. I wanted to stay somewhere opposite to the Strip.”

Alex Bowman fastest in final Cup practice at Auto Club Speedway

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Alex Bowman completed a sweep of Friday’s Cup Series practice sessions at Auto Club Speedway by posting the top speed in final practice. He was also fastest in first practice.

Bowman’s top speed was 176.626 mph. He recorded 32 laps in the session.

The top five was completed by Ryan Blaney (176.186 mph), Bubba Wallace (176.177), Kurt Busch (175.816) and Christopher Bell (175.695).

Bowman also had the best 10-lap average at 175.317 mph.

Kurt Busch recorded the most laps with 47.

The only incident in the session was defending race winner Kyle Busch brushing the wall in Turn 3 after his car got away from him on the bumps in the corner. Repairs were made to the car and Busch returned to the track with 17 minutes left in the session.

Click here for the speed chart.

 

Alex Bowman tops field in opening Cup practice at Auto Club

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Alex Bowman posted the fastest lap in opening Cup practice Friday at Auto Club Speedway. Bowman ran a top lap of 179.439 mph.

Bowman was followed by Kyle Larson (177.703 mph), Tyler Reddick (177.607), Kurt Busch (177.375) and Matt DiBenedetto (176.609).

Click here for full practice report

There were no incidents in the session.

Final Cup practice is scheduled from 5:35-6:25 p.m. ET today. Qualifying will be Saturday.

Xfinity practice report at Auto Club Speedway

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Harrison Burton was fastest in the final Xfinity Series practice session Friday at Auto Club Speedway.

The Joe Gibbs Racing driver recorded 22 laps and posted a top speed of 174.474 mph in the 25-minute session.

The top five was completed by Noah Gragson (173.779 mph), Austin Cindric (173.775), Chase Briscoe (173.578) and Brandon Jones (173.578).

Burton also had the best 10-lap average at 170.422 mph.

Gragson recorded the most laps in the session with 25.

There were no incidents in the session.

Click here for the practice report.

First practice

Noah Gragson led the way for the Xfinity Series in the opening practice session that saw more than half the 50-minute period under caution at Auto Club Speedway

Gragson ran a top lap of 177.139 mph. He was followed by Austin Cindric (176.022), Daniel Hemric (175.400), Brandon Jones (175.366) and Harrison Burton (175.187).

Click here for full practice report

Alex Labbe brought out the caution when an oil line came loose and he put oil down on the track. The cleanup took about 20 minutes.

Tommy Joe Martins brought out the caution late in the session with smoke coming from the car and then a small fire in the right front of the car.