Late cautions keep Martin Truex Jr. from Las Vegas victory

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LAS VEGAS — Martin Truex Jr. avoided the carnage Sunday at Las Vegas Motor Speedway but he still suffered the consequences.

With arguably the fastest car on a long run, Truex was undone by four cautions in the last 23 laps that helped Brad Keselowski score his third consecutive win. Truex finished third.

“Brad clearly found a horseshoe,” Truex said. “Three races in a row he’s won and he has not had the best car. I mean, if you want to really talk about the sport being what it is, you’ve got to look at that. I mean, obviously he hasn’t led the most laps in any of those races, and he showed up at the end with good pit stops and good short run speed. 

“I think clearly it’s pretty obvious how it worked out. He’s hot right now. He’s on a streak. That’s the way it goes.”

Truex leaves Las Vegas with the points lead after an afternoon that saw six of the 16 playoff drivers involved in accidents or spins and a few others who finished with crinkled and creased cars.

Truex leads Kyle Busch, who spun during the race, by two points heading into Saturday’s race at Richmond Raceway.

All the incidents toward the end were too much to overcome for Truex.

“Man, all those restarts at the end, they were wicked, they were crazy,” Truex said on pit road with a wet towel around his neck after a 3-hour, 28-minute race in temperatures that hovered around 100 degrees outside the car and much hotter inside it.

“Everybody was going for it. Unfortunately for us, it took a little bit too long to get rolling. Too many cautions at the end. It really, really took our chance away from winning.”

The issue for Truex was that he and crew chief Cole Pearn set the car up for long runs.

“Hindsight 20/20 we would have worked more on being a little better on the short run,” Truex said. “For most of day it was pretty clear who had the dominant car.

“I think we had the best handling car on the long run. You don’t know how these things are going to play out. We felt it was going to be a long-run kind of race just because the track is slick and there are so many multiple grooves. Typically, these are the ones that go green for a long time. We were kind of banking on that and for a while it was working for us. Obviously, at the end it was caution after caution. That really took any chance we had away.”

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

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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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