‘Big 3’ look to get groove back at Las Vegas

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Las Vegas Motor Speedway could awaken sleeping giants this weekend, giants called the “Big 3.”

Vegas, a 1.5-mile circuit, is the type of track Kevin Harvick, Martin Truex Jr. and Kyle Busch have held sway over for the last two years.

They’ve combined to win the last 13 races at 1.5-mile tracks, including this year’s seven races.

Harvick and Busch have combined to lead 1,171 laps on 1.5-mile tracks in 2018 (55 percent of laps).

But after the last month, all three drivers could use Vegas to get back in a championship groove as the playoffs begin on Sunday (3 p.m. ET on NBCSN).

Despite combining to win 17 of the season’s 26 races so far, the three have hit a rut of sorts.

Harvick’s (seven wins) last victory came on Aug. 12 at Michigan. Since then he’s placed 10th, fourth and fourth.

Busch, who won the regular-season title on the back of six victories, last won at Pocono on July 29. In the five races since he’s placed third, third, 20th, seventh and eighth.

Truex, who has four wins, enters Las Vegas following a last-place finish in Indianapolis (brake rotor). In the seven races since his last win (Kentucky), he has two top fives. But he has failed to place better than 11th in the four races since he finished runner-up at Watkins Glen.

Together, all three drivers have been unable to win a stage in the last three races.

The Cup Series will visit four 1.5-mile tracks in the playoffs: Las Vegas, Kansas, Texas and Miami.

Here’s what each of the “Big 3” has going for them ahead of Sunday’s race.

Kevin Harvick

  • Won the spring race at Las Vegas, leading 214 laps and sweeping every stage.
  • Finished in the top 10 in four of last six Las Vegas races, including two wins.
  • Finished in the top 10 in 19 of the last 21 races on 1.5-mile tracks.
  • Second all-time with 13 wins on the West Coast (Jimmie Johnson, 15)
  • Fourth all-time in wins on 1.5-mile track with 14, tied with Dale Earnhardt.

Kyle Busch

  • The only driver to finish in the top 10 in all seven races at 1.5-mile tracks this season.
  • Has an average finish of 3.7 on 1.5-mile tracks in 2018, the best of all drivers.
  • Tied with Harvick with 10 top-2 finishes this season.
  • Streak of eight consecutive top 10s on 1.5-mile tracks, dating back to 2017, is a career-best and is longest active streak among drivers.

Martin Truex Jr.

  • The most recent winner at a 1.5-mile track (Kentucky). Led 174 laps and swept every stage.
  • Won the last two playoff openers, which were held at Chicagoland Speedway, a 1.5-mile track.
  • In four West Coast races in 2018, has best avg finish of 2.8.
  • Series-leading six wins on 1.5-mile tracks since 2017 Coke 600

Penalty report from Bristol Motor Speedway

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NASCAR has issued three fines to Cup Series crew chiefs for unsecured lug nuts following Saturday’s race at Bristol Motor Speedway.

Paul Wolfe, crew chief on Brad Keselowski‘s No. 2 Ford, Alan Gustafson, crew chief on Chase Elliott‘s No. 9 Chevrolet and Michael Bugarewicz, crew chief on Clint Bowyer‘s No. 14 Ford, have each been fined $10,000 for having one unsecured lug nut.

Those fines are in addition to the points penalties against Tyler Reddick‘s Xfinity Series team (10 driver and owner points) for failing pre-qualifying inspection four times.

NASCAR also indefinitely suspended Bayley Currey for violating its substance abuse policy.

Michael McDowell to honor Jimmy Means with Darlington scheme

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Front Row Motorsports is changing things up on its No. 34 Ford for the Throwback Weekend at Darlington Raceway next week (6 p.m. Sept 1 on NBCSN).

After three years of using the same retro Love’s Travel Stops paint scheme, the team will show up in Darlington next weekend with Dockside Logistics as Michael McDowell‘s primary sponsor. With that sponsor comes a tribute to long-time NASCAR owner and former driver Jimmy Means.

McDowell’s car will be made to look like the No. 52 Alka-Seltzer Pontiac Means owned and drove part-time from 1989-91 in the Cup Series.

One of Means’ cars, which was driven by Mike Wallace, is located in Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s car graveyard.

More: Retro Rundown of Southern 500 paint schemes

Front Row Motorsports was originally known as Means-Jenkins Motorsports, based on a partnership between Means and current FRM team owner Bob Jenkins. Their relationship began with Jenkins sponsoring Means at Bristol with his local Taco Bell franchise, which led Jenkins to a partial ownership of Means’ race team. The team was active for one year before Jenkins separated and founded Front Row Motorsports.

“Throwback weekend at Darlington is one of my favorites of the whole year,” McDowell said in a press release. “It’s fun to recreate some of the most well-known paint schemes throughout the history of our sport. Our owner, Bob Jenkins, has always admired Jimmy Means, and the Alka-Seltzer car is definitely a favorite of his. I’m really excited that we can honor their friendship with our No. 34 Dockside Logistics Ford.”

Corey LaJoie to carry ‘Scooby Doo’ paint scheme at Martinsville

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Rut-roh.

Popular cartoon character Scooby Doo will be featured as the theme on Corey LaJoie’s No. 32 Go Fas Racing Ford Mustang for the First Data 500 on Oct. 27 at Martinsville Speedway.

Long-time team sponsor Keen Parts/CorvetteParts.net will transform the team’s usual paint scheme to what it’s calling “the Mystery Machine” for the Martinsville race, which will be four days before Halloween.

“Scooby Doo was my favorite cartoon growing up, so when Tom and TJ (team co-sponsors Tom and TJ Keen) asked what I wanted to do for Martinsville, there was no doubt that I wanted to be driving the Mystery Machine,” LaJoie said in a media release. “They always have really cool themes behind their Halloween-weekend schemes and I’m excited to be part of this one and thankful for all that they do for our team.”

For last year’s fall race at Martinsville the team and sponsor combined for a purple and black Peanuts scheme that featured Snoopy and quickly became a much-talked about fan favorite.

“We are super excited to present this paint scheme to Corey to run at Martinsville,” said lTJ Keen. “This cartoon was his favorite as a kid and I bet it still is today. We cannot thank the team enough for letting us do these schemes and we hope you fans will enjoy it.”

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Richard Childress resigns from National Rifle Association’s Board of Directors

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On Monday, Richard Childress submitted his resignation letter as a member of the Board of Directors for the National Rifle Association and a handful of the organization’s committees, NBC Sports has confirmed.

The resignation came two days after the owner of Richard Childress Racing helped give the command to start engines  for the Cup Series night race at Bristol Motor Speedway, which was co-sponsored by Bass Pro Shops and the NRA.

“At this time, it is necessary for me to fully focus on my businesses,” Childress said in his letter. “I owe that to my employees, our partners, my family, and myself. Since proudly agreeing to serve on the NRA Board, I have supported the organization and its important mission to preserve and protect our Constitutional rights. But when, as now, I am no longer able to be fully engaged in any commitment I have made, it becomes time for me to step down. I have reached that point in my ability to continue to serve the NRA. As such, I must resign.”

According to the Washington Post, Childress is the sixth member of the Board of Directors to resign since May. The Board of Directors totals more than 70 members.

Childress was elected as the NRA’s second vice president in 2015 and had also served as the first vice president until he stepped down in April of this year.

Childress will retain his NRA membership moving forward.