‘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

Rain washes out Xfinity practices, Truck race at Iowa

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UPDATE AS OF 9:30 p.m. ET:

NASCAR officials tried but Mother Nature refused to cooperate in stopping rain around Iowa Speedway Saturday evening.

As a result, the M&Ms 200 NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series race has been postponed until Sunday. The green flag will drop shortly after Noon ET (to be televised on FS1 and on radio on Motor Racing Network and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio.

Qualifying for Sunday’s Xfinity Series race is slated for 2:35 p.m. ET (FS2, no radio), while the CircuitCity.com 250 Xfinity race will go off shortly after 5:30 p.m. ET (FS1, MRN/SiriusXM NASCAR Radio).

UPDATE AS OF 9 p.m. ET:

The start of tonight’s M&Ms 200 NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series race at Iowa Speedway has been delayed due to weather.

However, the heavy rain has stopped and track drying efforts are underway.

We will continue to monitor the situation and give you updates as they become available.

UPDATE AS OF 7:15 p.m. ET: 

After bad weather prompted NASCAR officials to shorten the first of two Xfinity Series practices at Iowa Speedway, the second and final Xfinity practice has now been cancelled.

NASCAR is still hoping the weather relents to get the scheduled M&Ms 200 NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series in tonight. The green flag is slated to fall at 8:30 p.m. ET (FS1 and MRN/SiriusXM).

Qualifying for Sunday’s CircuitCity.com 250 Xfinity race is still slated for tomorrow at 2 p.m. ET, with the green flag set for shortly after 5 p.m. ET. The weather forecast looks good, according to wunderground.com.

We’ll keep you updated with any changes as they become available.

ORIGINAL STORY:

For the second time today, weather has interrupted activities of both the NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series and the NASCAR Xfinity Series at Iowa Speedway.

Earlier this afternoon, rain forced the cancellation of qualifying for tonight’s M&Ms 200 Truck Series race. The weather also pushed back the start of the first of two Xfinity practices.

In addition to lightning being seen near the racetrack, the area in and around Newton, Iowa is under a thunderstorm watch. That prompted NASCAR officials to stop the first Xfinity practice, which had been already rescheduled once to go from 5:30 p.m. to 6:25 p.m. ET, to be shortened with 25 minutes of time remaining.

Harrison Burton was the fastest driver (130.192 mph) in the Xfinity pack before the session was stopped due to the approaching bad weather.

Second through 10th-fastest were Christopher Bell (130.112 mph), Austin Cindric (130.063), Noah Gragson (129.977), Cole Custer (129.817), Chase Briscoe (128.935), Zane Smith (128.892), Tyler Reddick (128.834), John Hunter Nemechek (128.687) and Justin Allgaier (128.629).

Click here for the results from the abbreviated first Xfinity practice.

A second Xfinity practice is due to take place from 7 to 7:50 p.m., followed by tonight’s main event, the Truck Series race at 8:30 p.m. ET (FS1 and MRN/SiriusXM). However, weather radar to the north and west of the track is not looking promising at this point.

We’ll update as more information on the conditions becomes available.

Rain cancels Truck qualifying at Iowa, delays Xfinity first practice

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Rain has forced the cancellation of today’s NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series qualifying at Iowa Speedway.

In addition, the first of two Xfinity Series practice sessions, slated to be held from 3:05 to 3:55 p.m. ET has been postponed until 5:30 p.m. ET, and will run until 6:25 p.m. ET. The second Xfinity practice is still set to go at its original scheduled time of 7 to 7:50 p.m. ET.

The 7/8-mile oval in Newton, Iowa is currently being dried and NASCAR hopes to get the remainder of today’s activities in, including tonight’s M&Ms 200 Truck Series race, slated to take the green flag at 8:30 p.m. ET.

The starting lineup for the Trucks race has been set by the NASCAR rule book. That means Chandler Smith — making his first-ever career start in a Truck, and who was fastest in the first of two practice sessions earlier today before the rain came — will start on the pole for tonight’s race. Smith (photo) is driving the No. 51 Toyota Tundra for Kyle Busch Motorsports.

Tonight’s race is also the second event in the three-race Triple Truck Challenge; the race winner will receive a $50,000 bonus.

Click here for the starting lineup for tonight’s Truck Series race (televised on FS1 and on radio on MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio).

Follow @JerryBonkowski

Kyle Larson dominates en route to Ohio Sprintweek feature win in Ohio

Photo courtesy All-Star Circuit of Champions
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It may be an off-weekend for the rest of the drivers in the NASCAR Cup Series, but not for Kyle Larson.

The Chip Ganassi Racing driver won the feature event Friday night in the Ohio Sprintweek race at Ohio’s Attica Raceway Park. Larson won the All-Star Circuit of Champions Series race by more than seven seconds, having lapped half the 25-car field by the time he took the checkered flag.

Dale Blaney, uncle of NASCAR Cup driver Ryan Blaney, finished second, followed by Buddy Kofoid.

Larson has now won his last three sprint car race starts. He goes for four in a row tonight as Sprintweek continues.

 

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Truck Series practice report from Iowa

Photo courtesy Kyle Busch Motorsports
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Sheldon Creed was fastest in the second and final Truck Series practice Saturday at Iowa Speedway.

Creed covered the 7/8-mile paved oval in Newton, Iowa, at 134.283 mph.

Raphael Lessard was second-fastest (133.588 mph), followed by Austin Hill (133.446), Harrison Burton (133.367) and Brett Moffitt (133.299).

Sixth through 10th were Ben Rhodes (133.237), Johnny Sauter (133.114), Riley Herbst (132.839), Stewart Friesen (132.788 mph) and Brennan Poole (132.743).

Chandler Smith, who was fastest in the first practice session earlier in the morning – and in his first-ever Truck Series practice – was 18th fastest in the second session (131.678 mph).

Qualifying takes place later this afternoon at 5:35 p.m., and the day’s main event, the M&Ms 200, takes place tonight at 8:30 p.m. ET (FS1 and MRN).

Click here for the full speed chart from the second practice session.

FIRST PRACTICE SESSION:

Just over 12 hours after winning the ARCA race at Madison International Speedway in Wisconsin, Chandler Smith kicked off his NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series debut in outstanding fashion Saturday morning, being the fastest of the 32 drivers that took to the 7/8-mile oval at Iowa Speedway in the first of two practice sessions.

Driving the No. 51 Kyle Busch Motorsports Toyota Tundra, the 16-year-old Georgia native topped the field with a best lap of 136.046 mph, more than 1.5 mph faster than second-fastest Brett Moffitt (134.506 mph).

Third-fastest was Raphael Lessard (134.380 mph), followed by Sheldon Creed (133.832 mph) and Harrison Burton (132.945 mph).

Sixth through 10th were Tyler Dippel (132.643 mph), Austin Hill (132.620), Matt Crafton (132.281), Stewart Friesen (132.253) and Todd Gilliland (132.220).

The second and final practice session of the day will go from 11:30 a.m. to 12:55 p.m. ET.

Click here for the full speed chart from the first Trucks practice session.

Follow @JerryBonkowski