NASCAR America: Some of sport’s top names still in search of a win this year

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Combined, they won half of the Cup races last season, but those same nine drivers remain winless this season as the series heads to Darlington Raceway for Sunday’s Southern 500.

Kyle Larson, Brad Keselowski, Jimmie Johnson, Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Denny Hamlin, Matt Kenseth, Kasey Kahne, Ryan Newman and Ryan Blaney continue to search for their first win of the year with less than three months left in the season.

One name stands out in that list to Steve Letarte.

“He’s won 83 races, seven championships in multiple different formats and at every type of race track you can imagine, with different styles of race cars, with different styles of tires, with different rule packages, so, yes, Jimmie Johnson, when I look at this list, has surprised me the most just because of the career-long resume he brings to this list,” Letarte said on Tuesday’s NASCAR America.

It’s a sign of how dominant the Big 3 — Kevin Harvick, Kyle Busch and Martin Truex Jr. — has been this year. Harvick, Busch and Truex have combined to win 17 of the 24 points races this season.

Of those nine who won races last year but have yet to do so this season, only three have won the Southern 500 at Darlington — Johnson (2004, ’12), Hamlin (2010, ’17) and Kenseth (2013).

“It’s just like the weirdest thing to me is that we’re so far into the season and we’re still talking about these drivers in terms of not getting to Victory Lane,” Parker Kligerman said on NASCAR America. “I just find it odd. When I was looking at these numbers, I was almost started.”

For more on what Letarte, Kligerman and Landon Cassill said about this group, check out the video above.

Here’s a look at how those drivers who won last year have fared this year with two races left in the regular season:

Kyle Larson

2017 wins: 4

2018 best finish: 2nd (Auto Club, Bristol I, Pocono I, Chicagoland, Bristol II)

2017 points finish: 8th

2018 points standing: 9th

2017 laps led: 1,352

2018 laps led: 382

2017 top 10s: 20

2018 top 10s: 13

 

Brad Keselowski

2017 wins: 3

2018 best finish: 2nd (Atlanta, Michigan II)

2017 points finish: 4th

2018 points standing: 8th

2017 laps led: 778

2018 laps led: 323

2017 top 10s: 21

2018 top 10s: 12

 

Jimmie Johnson

2017 wins: 3

2018 best finish: 3rd (Bristol I)

2017 points finish: 10th

2018 points standing: 14th

2017 laps led: 217

2018 laps led: 29

2017 top 10s: 11

2018 top 10s: 8

 

Ricky Stenhouse Jr.

2017 wins: 2

2018 best finish: 4th (Bristol I)

2017 points finish: 13th

2018 points standing: 16th

2017 laps led: 56

2018 laps led: 121

2017 top 10s: 9

2018 top 10s: 3

 

Denny Hamlin

2017 wins: 2

2018 best finish: 3rd (Daytona 500, Richmond, Coca-Cola 600)

2017 points finish: 6th

2018 points standing: 10th

2017 laps led: 710

2018 laps led: 259

2017 top 10s: 22

2018 top 10s: 12

 

Matt Kenseth

2017 wins: 1

2018 best finish: 13th (Pocono I)

2017 points finish: 7th

2018 points standing: 34th

2017 laps led: 421

2018 laps led: 0

2017 top 10s: 18

2018 top 10s: 0

 

Kasey Kahne

2017 wins: 1

2018 best finish: 4th (Daytona II)

2017 points finish: 15th

2018 points standing: 27th

2017 laps led: 41

2018 laps led: 30

2017 top 10s: 6

2018 top 10s: 1

 

Ryan Newman

2017 wins: 1

2018 best finish: 6th (New Hampshire)

2017 points finish: 16th

2018 points standing: 17th

2017 laps led: 46

2018 laps led: 57

2017 top 10s: 13

2018 top 10s: 6

 

Ryan Blaney

2017 wins: 1

2018 best finish: 2nd (Kentucky)

2017 points finish: 9th

2018 points standing: 7th

2017 laps led: 301

2018 laps led: 585

2017 top 10s: 14

2018 top 10s: 12

Tyler Ankrum joins DGR-Crosley to contend for Rookie Truck honors

Photo by Adam Glanzman/Getty Images for NASCAR
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Tyler Ankrum will move to the Gander Outdoors Truck Series in 2019 to compete for Rookie of the Year honors with DGR-Crosley, the driver and team announced on Twitter.

In 2018, Ankrum won the K&N East Championship with DGR-Crosley through four wins, nine top fives and 12 top 10s in 14 starts. Ankrum won three consecutive races at Thompson (CT) Speedway, New Hampshire Motor Speedway and Iowa Speedway during the summer. His other victory came in May at South Boston (VA) Speedway.

Ankrum made two starts in the Truck series last year – scoring a top 10 in one of those races. He finished sixth at ISM Raceway.

“Taking the next step of my racing career is mind blowing,” Ankrum said in a tweet. “And I’m lucky enough to do it again with DGR-Crosley and Toyota Racing in 2019.”

Last year’s K&N Championship came in his rookie campaign in that series.

 

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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