Who is hot and cold entering the Gander Outdoors 400 at Dover

Getty Images

The Cup Series begins the second round of its playoffs this weekend with the Gander Outdoors 400 at Dover International Speedway.

Teams take to the 1-mile track coming off Ryan Blaney‘s dramatic win in the inaugural race on the Charlotte Motor Speedway Roval.

Here’s a look the drivers who are on hot and cold streaks enters this weekend’s race (2 p.m. ET on Sunday on NBCSN).

Who is Hot

Kevin Harvick
• Finished 9th at Charlotte Roval (12th in Stage 1, 14th in Stage 2)
• Advanced to Round of 12 for 5th consecutive season
• Finished in top 10 in 10 of last 11 races
• Won 7 of last 28 races
• Twenty-nine races in 2018: 24 top 10s (including 7 wins) & 5 finishes of 19th or worse
• Last 7 Dover races: 4 top 10s (2 wins, including in May) and 3 finishes of 15th or worse
• Started 9th, 8th in Stage 1, 23rd in Stage 2, finished 17th in this race one year ago

Chase Elliott
• Finished 6th at Charlotte Roval (5th in Stage 1, 6th in Stage 2)
• Advanced to Round of 12 for 3rd consecutive season
• Finished 6th or better in last two races
• Finished in top 10 in 8 of last 10 races
• Finished in top 5 in 4 of 5 career Dover starts (12th in May)
• Started 12th, 7th in Stage 1, 3rd in Stage 2, 138 laps led, finished 2nd in this race one year ago

Ryan Blaney
• Won at Charlotte Roval (10th in Stage 1, 1st in Stage 2, 16 laps led); damaged in multi-car accident in Turn 1 on Lap 104; took lead in final corner after Jimmie Johnson and Martin Truex Jr spun racing for lead.
• Advanced to Round of 12 for 2nd consecutive season
• Finished in top 5 in 2 of last 3 races
• Five career Dover starts: 2 finishes of 8th and 3 finishes of 23rd or worse (8th in May)
• Started 11th, 21st in Stage 1, 24th in Stage 2, finished 23rd in this race one year ago; trapped 2 laps down when caution came out during green flag stops on Lap 88

Clint Bowyer
• Finished 3rd at Charlotte Roval (3rd in Stage 1, 5th in Stage 2)
• Advanced to Round of 12 for first time in career
• Finished in top 10 in last two races and 3 of last 4
• Last 6 races: 4 top 10s and 2 finishes of 23rd or worse
• Finished outside the top 10 in 8 of last 12 races
• Finished 6th or better in the last 2 Dover races and in Top 10 in 11 of last 15 (2nd in May)
• Started 19th, 14th in Stage 1, 10th in Stage 2, finished 6th in this race one year ago

Who is Cold

Austin Dillon
• Finished 39th at Charlotte Roval (35th in Stage 1, 7th in Stage 2); DNF – hit wall in oval Turn 4 on Lap 58 to avoid Chris Buescher while running 24th; hit front stretch wall on Lap 65 and destroyed car
• Eliminated in Round of 16 for 2nd straight year
• Finished outside the top 10 in 5 of last 6 races
• Finished outside top 10 in 24 of 28 races since Daytona 500 win
• One finish better than 13th in 10 career Dover starts (8th – Oct. 2016)
• Started 23rd, 24th in Stage 1, 20th in Stage 2, finished 16th in this race one year ago; trapped 2 laps down on Lap 88 after caution came out during green flag pit stops

Denny Hamlin
• Finished 12th at Charlotte Roval (19th in Stage 1, 17th in Stage 2); started in rear after going to a backup car; pit for flat left-front tire on Lap 5; wheel hopped into Turn 1 on Lap 16 and made contact with Erik Jones
• Eliminated in Round of 16 for first time in career
• Finished 12th or worse in 3 straight races
• Last 8 races: 3 top 10s and 5 finishes of 12th or worse
• Finished top 10 in 4 of last 5 Dover races (7th in May)
• Started 6th, 10th in Stage 1, 6th in Stage 2, finished 35th in this race one year ago; DNF – broke axle on Lap 374 while running 17th

Ricky Stenhouse Jr
• Finished 37th at Charlotte Roval (18th in Stage 1, 29th in Stage 2, 2 laps led); DNF – went off course in Turn 4 from the lead on Lap 72; missed Turn 17 on Lap 81 while running 11th and had to stop on frontstretch; spun in Turn 1 on Lap 101 and hit wall hard
• Finished outside the top 10 in 18 of last 19 races
• Finished 14th or worse in 23 of 29 races in 2018
• Finished outside the top 10 in 5 straight Dover races (15th in May)
• Started 15th, 4th in Stage 1, 18th in Stage 2, finished 19th in this race one year ago

Daniel Suárez
• Finished 21st at Charlotte Roval (20th in Stage 1, 28th in Stage 2); damaged left-front fender on Lap 2
battling Michael McDowell for 16th
• Finished 17th or worse in 2 straight races and 5 of last 6
• Finished top 10 in all 3 career Dover starts (3rd in May)
• Started 5th, 15th in Stage 1, 13th in Stage 2, finished 8th in this race one year ago

Charlotte Cup race postponed to Monday by weather


CONCORD, N.C. — All-day rain Sunday forced the postponement of the Coca-Cola 600 NASCAR Cup Series race to Monday.

The postponement means that Charlotte Motor Speedway is scheduled to host 900 miles of stock car racing Monday. A 300-mile Xfinity Series race, originally scheduled Saturday and first postponed to noon Monday, has been rescheduled for 11 a.m. ET Monday (FS1, Performance Racing Network, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio). The Cup race is scheduled to start at 3 p.m. (Fox, Performance Racing Network, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio).

Sunday’s Cup race was scheduled to start at 6:21 p.m. ET, but light rain was still falling at that time in the speedway area near Charlotte. Rain intensified a few minutes later and, despite an evening forecast that showed slight improvement, officials decided at 6:30 p.m. to postpone the race.

Monday’s forecast calls for a 34% chance of rain at the start of the Xfinity race and a 30% chance at the start of the Cup race.

William Byron will start the race from the pole after qualifying was washed out Saturday night.

RFK Racing gains sponsorship from submarine recruiting group


CONCORD, N.C. — NASCAR racing and submarines? Yes.

RFK Racing announced Sunday at Charlotte Motor Speedway that it has entered a partnership with BlueForge Alliance, which is involved in securing workers for the U.S. Navy’s Submarine Industrial Base (SIB) program. BuildSubmarines.com will be a primary sponsor for RFK drivers Brad Keselowski and Chris Buescher in 10 Cup Series races this year and in 18 races per season beginning in 2024.

The sponsorship will showcase the careers related to the submarine-building program across the nation.

MORE: Jimmie Johnson on his NASCAR team and his approach to Le Mans

MORE: Alex Bowman confident as he returns from injury

“I’m proud to support a cause of such vital significance to our country with this new partnership,” Keselowski said. “The synergies between a NASCAR team and our military’s needs to stay on track fast are countless. We hope to inspire the workforce of the next generation across the country when they see RFK race and hear our message.”

The sponsorship will support the mission to recruit, hire, train, develop and retain the SIB workforce that will build the Navy’s next generation of submarines, the team said.

“We are excited and grateful to be teaming with RFK Racing to drive awareness of the thousands of steady, well-paying manufacturing jobs available across the nation. Innovation, working with purpose and service to others are hallmarks of both of our organizations,” said Kiley Wren, BlueForge chief executive. “Together, we aim to inspire NASCAR fans and all Americans to pursue career opportunities that will support our national defense.”

Kyle Larson visits Indianapolis Motor Speedway to survey the scene


Former NASCAR champion Kyle Larson, who is scheduled to run the Indianapolis 500 in 2024 as part of an Indy-Charlotte “double,” visited the Indianapolis Motor Speedway garage area Sunday on Indianapolis 500 race day.

Larson said he wanted to familiarize himself with the Indy race-day landscape before he becomes immersed in the process next year.

MORE: Jimmie Johnson is building a team and pointing to Le Mans

Larson later returned to Charlotte, where was scheduled to drive in the Coca-Cola 600 Sunday night. Next year, he’s scheduled to run both races.

“I love racing,” Larson told NBC Sports. “I love competing in the biggest races. In my opinion, this is the biggest race in the world. I wanted to be a part of it for a long time, and I finally feel like the timing is right. It’s pretty cool to have a dream come true.

“I wanted to come here and kind of experience it again and get to experience how crazy it is again before I’m in the middle of it next year. I kind of want as little surprise as possible next year.”

In the 2024 500, Larson will be one of four drivers with the Arrow McLaren team.

Earlier this month, Larson and Hendrick Motorsports vice chairman Jeff Gordon attended an Indy 500 practice day.

Larson said Sunday he hasn’t tested an Indy car.

“I don’t know exactly when I’ll get in the car,” he said. “I’ve had no sim (simulator) time yet. I’ve kind of stayed back. I didn’t want to ask too many questions and take any focus on what they have going on for these couple of weeks. I’m sure that will pick up after today.

“I look forward to the challenge. No matter how this experience goes, I’m going to come out of it a better race car driver.”




Jimmie Johnson: Building a team and pointing toward Le Mans


CONCORD, N.C. — These are busy days in the life of former NASCAR champion Jimmie Johnson.

Johnson is a co-owner of Legacy Motor Club, the Cup Series team that has struggled through a difficult first half of the season while it also is preparing for a switch from Chevrolet to Toyota next year.

Johnson is driving a very limited schedule for Legacy as he seeks to not only satisfy his passion for racing but also to gain knowledge as he tries to lift Legacy to another level. As part of that endeavor, he’ll race in the Coca-Cola 600 in Legacy’s No. 84 car, making his third appearance of the season.

MORE: Alex Bowman confident as he returns to track

MORE: Dr. Diandra: 600 tests man more than machine

And, perhaps the biggest immediate to-do item on Johnson’s list: He’ll race June 10-11 in the 24 Hours of Le Mans, the world’s biggest endurance race and another of the bucket list races the 47-year-old Johnson will check off his list.

“I’m excited, invigorated, exhausted — all of it,” Johnson said. “It has been a really exciting adventure that I’ve embarked on here — to learn from (Legacy co-owner) Maury Gallagher, to be a part of this great team and learn from everyone that I’m surrounded by. I’m in a whole new element here and it’s very exciting to be in a new element.

“At the same time, there are some foundational pieces coming together, decisions that we’re making, that will really help the team grow in the future. And then we have our job at hand – the situation and environment that we have at hand to deal with in the 2023 season. Depends on the hat that I’m wearing, in some respects. There’s been a lot of work, but a lot of excitement and a lot of fun. I truly feel like I’m a part of something that’s really going to be a force in the future of NASCAR.”

Johnson is scheduled to fly to Paris Monday or Tuesday to continue preparations for the Le Mans race. He, Jenson Button and Mike Rockenfeller will be driving a Hendrick Motorsports-prepared Chevrolet as part of Le Mans’ Garage 56 program, which is designed to offer a Le Mans starting spot for a team testing new technologies.

“For me, it’s really been about identifying marquee races around the world and trying to figure out how to run in them,” Johnson said. “Le Mans is a great example of that. Daytona 500, Coca-Cola 600 — these are the marquee events.”

He said his biggest concerns approaching the 24-hour race are being overtaken by faster prototypes in corners and racing at night  while dealing with the very bright lights of cars approaching in his rear view mirrors.

At Legacy, Johnson has work to do. Erik Jones has a top finish of sixth (and one other top 10) this season, and Noah Gragson is still looking for his first top-10 run. He has a best finish of 12th – at Atlanta.

“I think Erik (Jones) continues to show me just how good he is,” Johnson said. “He’s been in some challenging circumstances this year and keeps his head on — focuses, executes and gets the job done. I’ve really been impressed with his ability to stay calm and execute and just how good he is.

“With Noah, from watching him before, I wasn’t sure how serious he took his job in the sport. I knew that he was fast, and I knew that he liked to have fun. I can say in the short time that I’ve really worked with him closely, he still has those two elements, but his desire to be as good as he can in this sport has really impressed me. So I guess ultimately, his commitment to his craft is what’s impressed me the most.”