NASCAR America: NASCAR’s game of musical chairs will see fresh drivers in 2019

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AJ Allmendinger is the latest of more than a half-dozen drivers with uncertain futures in NASCAR.

Martin Truex Jr., Kurt Busch, Jamie McMurray, Ryan Newman, Trevor Bayne, Daniel Suarez and Matt DiBenedetto will leave their current ride to seek fortunes elsewhere – either in Cup or elsewhere. The game of musical chairs may leave some drivers without a seat.

Other drivers may find an opportunity of a lifetime.

On Wednesday, NASCAR America’s analysts detailed the changes they believe may be in the offing.

“The rumor is Ryan Preece is possibly going in the 47 car,” Dale Earnhardt Jr. said.

What about the No. 95 Leavine Family ride that is being vacated by Kasey Kahne?

“That’s tough, because I thought Suarez would be going there,” Earnhardt said. “But now I’m hearing the possibility of him having conversations with the 41 team.”

MORE: Silly Season Scorecard

And if Suarez does not end up in the No. 95, that becomes a potential landing place for DiBenedetto – who earlier this year said he would gamble on finding a stronger ride than the one he currently has.

“(DiBenedetto) is literally cold calling these teams and setting up meetings with them,” Earnhardt said.

Earnhardt believes the game of musical chairs will leave Allmendinger, McMurray, Bayne and Matt Kenseth without a team next year. Kahne has announced his retirement from full-time Cup racing, which leaves several notable rides open.

“You’ve got guys like Ross Chastain out there who are putting themselves in these conversations,” Earnhardt said. “There’s a number of guys … that have been able to go out there and compete, run up front and make a name for themselves. … And so when the 1 car is looking for a driver are they now possibly considering putting Ross Chastain in that car?”

When hypothetically looking for a driver, Kyle Petty said he would choose Suarez.

“He’s got a lot of upside … that’s not even been tapped into yet,” Petty said.

Earnhardt would reach into his Xfinity stable and promote Justin Allgaier.

“He has a great relationship with his sponsor at Brandt and I believe he never got that opportunity to prove that he belongs in the Cup series.”

For more, watch the video above.

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NASCAR All-Star Race paint schemes

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When the field takes to Bristol Motor Speedway tonight for the All-Star Open (7 p.m. ET on FS1) and the All-Star Race (8:30 p.m. ET on FS1), the cars will look a little bit different.

Each car will have a special scheme that sees the numbers on the sides slid back to make room for a sponsor logo. Drivers who automatically qualified for the event will have underglow lights.

Here are the paint schemes for Wednesday’s event:

Kurt Busch, No. 1 Chevrolet

Ryan Newman, No. 6 Ford

Chase Elliott, No. 9 Chevrolet

Brennan Poole, No. 15 Chevrolet

Chris Buescher, No. 17 Ford

Matt DiBenedetto, No. 21 Ford

William Bryon, No. 24 Chevrolet

Michael McDowell, No. 34 Chevrolet

Ryan Preece, No. 37 Chevrolet

John Hunter Nemechek, No. 38 Ford

 

Matt Kenseth, No. 42 Chevrolet

Bubba Wallace, No. 43 Chevrolet

Ricky Stenhouse Jr., No. 47 Chevrolet

Jimmie Johnson, No. 48 Chevrolet

Justin Haley, No. 77 Chevrolet

Alex Bowman, No. 88 Chevrolet

Christopher Bell, No. 95 Toyota

Daniel Suarez, No. 96 Toyota

Richard Childress Racing

Joe Gibbs Racing

Team Penske

Stewart-Haas Racing

Rick Ware Racing

Power Rankings: Kevin Harvick reigns going into All-Star Race

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Kevin Harvick‘s dominance of his Cup competitors continues in this week’s NBC Sports power rankings, as the Stewart-Haas Racing driver is the unanimous No. 1 driver for the second week in a row.

That comes after Harvick placed fourth at Kentucky Speedway in a race won by rookie Cole Custer.

Fourteen drivers earned votes this week following a weekend of four NASCAR races, including two Xfinity Series events.

Here is this week’s top 10:

 1. Kevin Harvick (30 points): Fourth-place finish is his fourth consecutive top-five finish. Last week: First.

 2. Aric Almirola (22 points): While Almirola finished eighth, he led a career-best 128 laps, won Stage 1 and earned his sixth consecutive top-10 finish. Last Week: Second.

(Tie) 3. Cole Custer (19 points): Custer became the first rookie of the year candidate to win a Cup race since 2016 and the first 2020 rookie to score consecutive top fives with his win. Last week: Ninth.

(Tie) 3. Matt DiBenedetto (19 points): Earned his second top five of the year and his second top 10 in three races. DiBenedetto has earned points in the last eight stages. Last week: Unranked.

(Tie) 5. Brad Keselowski (16 points): His ninth-place finish was his 10th top 10 in the last 12 races, but he didn’t earn any applause from Jimmie Johnson after contact spun Johnson. Last week: Third.

(Tie) 5. Martin Truex Jr. (16 points): Runner-up finish marked his fifth top 10 in the last eight races. Last week: Unranked.

 7. Austin Cindric (12 points): The Xfinity driver dominated his series’ doubleheader in Kentucky and came away with his first oval track wins in NASCAR. Last Week: Unranked.

 8. Kurt Busch (8 points): Placed fifth for his first top five since the second Charlotte race in May. Last Week: Unranked.

 9. Denny Hamlin (7 points): Forgettable day at Kentucky. On to the All-Star race at Bristol. Last week: Fourth.

 10. Tyler Reddick (6 points): Placed 10th to earn his first consecutive top 10 of his Cup career. Last Week: Unranked

Others receiving votes: Chase Briscoe (3 points), Ryan Blaney (3 points), Christopher Bell (3 points), Sheldon Creed (1 point)

NASCAR video explains Choose Rule for All-Star Race at Bristol

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NASCAR detailed in its drivers meeting video how the Choose Rule will be used for restarts in Wednesday night’s NASCAR All-Star Race (8:30 p.m. ET on FS1).

The non-points race marks the first time Choose Rule — which allows drivers to determine what lane they restart — will be used in a NASCAR Cup event. Drivers have been vocal about trying the rule since May.

The Choose Rule will be used for restarts only. It will not be used for the start of the All-Star Race, which is being held for the first time at Bristol Motor Speedway.

The video states that drivers must be single file under caution when crossing the start/finish line at the time to choose their restart lane. The video states that a V shaped painted mark on the track will show where drivers must decide what lane they wish to restart.

To restart in the inside lane, drivers must have their right side tires on or below the painted line at the V shaped mark.

To restart in the outside lane, drivers must have their left side tires on or above the painted line at the V shaped mark on the track.

If in NASCAR’s discretion, a driver has not chosen a lane at the V shaped mark on the track, changes lanes, tires touch the painted box after the V shaped mark or impedes the process, that driver will have to restart at the tail end of the field in the longest line of cars.

Xfinity team owner fined for violating COVID-19 protocol at Kentucky

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NASCAR announced on Tuesday the first fine for a violation of its COVID-19 protocols.

Anthony Clements, owner of Jeremy Clements Racing, was fined $10,000 for violating section 12.8.1.b of the Member Conduct Guidelines and section 7.7.2.j Team Event Roster Guidelines in the rulebook.

Among the potential violations in Section 12.8.1.b is that a member can be fined $5,000-$25,000 for: “Failure to comply with NASCAR’s COVID-19 Event Protocol Guidelines and/or instructions from NASCAR including screenings, social distancing, compartmentalization, and use of required personal protective equipment, etc.”

Last week, NASCAR issued a memo to teams requesting them to address “complacency” regarding its COVID-19 mask policy.

Section 7.7.2.j says “If a team is not in compliance with the Team Event Roster Rules and guidelines, that team will be subject to a Penalty as outlined in Section 12 Violations and Disciplinary Action.”

NASCAR also issued a $5,000 fine to crew chief Dave Rogers for one unsecured lug nut on Riley Herbst‘s No. 18 Toyota.

NASCAR did not issue any penalties for Friday’s post-race fight between Noah Gragson and Harrison Burton.

Last Saturday, NASCAR announced L1 level penalties for three Truck Series teams that failed pre-race inspection.