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Who is hot and cold entering Richmond

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The Cup playoffs continue this weekend with the second race of the first round, Saturday’s Federated Auto Parts 400 at Richmond Raceway (7:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN).

It’s the first of two short tracks the series will visit during the playoffs, the second being Martinsville Speedway.

After a crash fest in the opener at Las Vegas impacted more than half of the playoff field, here’s who is hot and cold entering Richmond.

Who is Hot

Brad Keselowski
• Won at Las Vegas (13th in Stage 1, 1st in Stage 2, 75 laps led)
• Won three straight races for 1st time in career
• Finished in top 2 in 4 of last 5 races
• Advanced to Round of 12 for 5th consecutive season
• Finished 8th or better in 6 of last 9 Richmond races, 8th in April
• Started 15th, 21st stage 1, 5th stage 2. Finished 11th in this race one year ago
• Three top 10s in the last five short track races

Kyle Busch
• Finished 7th at Las Vegas (6th in Stage 1, 15th in Stage 2, 1 lap led); pit for a 2nd time on Lap 113 due to missing lugs on right-front tire; spun off Turn 4 on Lap 233 while running 18th and went through the grass
• Finished 8th or better in 3 straight races and 8 of last 9 races
• Won 6 of last 21 races
• Finished in top 5 in 10 of last 15 races
• Finished in the top 10 in 14 of last 16 races
• Finished in the top 5 in 17 of 27 races this season
• Finished top 10 in 6 of last 8 Richmond races, including win in April
• Started 7th, 1st in Stage 1, 10th in Stage 2, 38 laps led, finished 9th in this race one year ago
• Won 4 of last 7 short track races
• Top 10 six of the last seven short track races

Paul Menard
• Finished 10th at Las Vegas (22nd in Stage 1, 27th in Stage 2)
• Finished in Top 10 in the last two races, his first back-to-back top 10s this season
• Finished 15th or worse in 9 straight Richmond races, including 24th in April
• Started 26th, 22nd in Stage 1, 19th in Stage 2, finished 28th in this race one year ago
• No top 10s in the last 15 short track races, his last top 10 was at Martinsville in April 2016

Ryan Newman
• Finished 9th at Las Vegas (10th in Stage 1, 11th in Stage 2)
• Finished in top 10 in the last two races
• Top 10 in two of the last three Richmond races but finished outside the top 10 in five of the last seven
• Finished 3rd in this race one year ago
• One top 10 in the last five short track races

Who is Cold

Austin Dillon
• Finished 11th at Las Vegas (18th in Stage 1, 13th in Stage 2); started in the rear due to illegal body modifications
• Finished outside the top 10 in 8 of last 9 races
• Finished 12th or worse in 19 of last 22 races
• Finished outside top 10 in 23 of 26 races since Daytona 500 win
• Never finished better than 13th in 9 career Richmond starts, including 15th in April
• Started 31st, 16th in Stage 1, 21st in Stage 2, finished 21st in this race one year ago
• No top 10s in the last nine short track races, his last top 10 on a short track was at Martinsville in April of 2017

Chase Elliott
• Finished 36th at Las Vegas (5th in Stage 1, 7th in Stage 2); DNF – collected in wreck with Jamie McMurray on Lap 212 while running 6th.
• Finished 15th or worse in the last two races
• Finished in top 10 in 6 of last 8 races
• Top 10s in last 2 Richmond races, including 2nd in April
• Started 9th, 9th in Stage 1, 12th in Stage 2, finished 10th in this race one year ago
• Finished top 10 in 3 of last 4 short track races

Jimmie Johnson
• Finished 22nd at Las Vegas (17th in Stage 1, 4th in Stage 2); hit the wall on Lap 256 while running 7th
• Finished 16th or worse in six of the last seven races
• Finished outside the top 10 in 11 of last 13 races
• Currently on a 50-race winless streak (longest of career)
• Top 10 in six of the last eight Richmond races
• Started 20th, 15th in Stage 1, 13th in Stage 2, finished 8th in this race one year ago
• Top 10 in the last three short track races

Alex Bowman
• Finished 19th at Las Vegas (3rd in Stage 1, 9th in Stage 2); penalized for uncontrolled tire on Lap 162 while running 9th; hit the wall on lap 256 while running 9th
• Finished 19th or worse in 3 straight races and 14th or worse in 5 of last 6
• Never finished better than 18th in 5 career Richmond starts (18th in April)
• Finished top 10 in 3 of last 4 short track races

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.