Sweet dreams & nightmares: Cup playoff outlook for Talladega

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The Monster Mile is in the rearview mirror of Cup playoffs teams, but the real beast of the second round of the playoffs is in Talladega, Alabama.

The second race of the Round of 12 takes the Cup Series and the remaining playoff drivers to the 2.66-mile Talladega Superspeedway.

Here’s a look at the playoff grid and which drivers can sleep peacefully and those who are probably staring at the ceiling in despair ahead of the 1000Bulbs.com 500 (2 p.m. Sunday on NBC).

Who could sleep through 40 cars roaring by at Talladega?

Chase Elliott

Though he’s fifth in the point standings, the Hendrick Motorsports driver is in the green, advancing to the third round of the playoffs with his Dover win. He’ll look to improve on his third-place finish at Talladega in April.

Who is getting a full eight hours of sleep Saturday night?

Kevin Harvick (+68 points above cutoff) and Kyle Busch (+63)

Harvick earned himself two extra playoff points at Dover, giving him a total of 52. It would take an early catastrophe at Talladega for a dent to be put in his second-round plans.

The same goes for Busch, who finished eighth in Dover after a day filled with track bar problems. His Richmond win remains his only result better than seventh in the last seven races. In his last eight Talladega starts, his only finishes in the top 10 are second (spring 2016) and third (spring 2017).

Who is probably flinching at each mention of Talladega?

Martin Truex Jr. (+36)

The Furniture Row Racing driver hasn’t won in 11 races and has only three top fives in that span. He’d like a little boost heading into Kansas, but Talladega hasn’t been kind to him. He has DNFs in his last four starts there – three for wrecks – and the last of his two career top fives there came in the spring 2015 race.

Who is likely looking forward to Talladega?

Joey Logano (+31) and Brad Keselowski (+21)

After tying his career-best result at Dover (third), Logano is seeking to add to his career-best win total at Talladega (three). His only win this year came there and was his third in the last six Talladega races. Talladega is also the track Keselowski has won the most at (five times). He’s won three of the last eight races there, but crashed out in the spring.

Who will try to be his consistent self?

Kurt Busch (+21)

The Stewart-Haas Racing driver is winless in his 35 Talladega starts, but he came the closest to Victory Lane in the spring, finishing second to Logano. Entering this weekend, Busch has finished in the top 10 in 10 of the last 12 races.

Who is very, very nervous?

Ryan Blaney (+10)

Blaney stole a win on the Charlotte Roval to secure a spot in the Round of 12, but started the round with an 11th-place finish at Dover after only earning four stage points. He’s shown speed on restrictor-plate tracks, leading 118 laps in the Daytona 500 and 27 laps in this race last year, but he has wrecked out in four of the last six plate races.

Who will be haunted by Dover in their dreams all week?

Aric Almirola (-10), Clint Bowyer (-10), Kyle Larson (-12) and Alex Bowman (-34)

Almirola saw an almost guaranteed win disappear after his teammate, Bowyer, wrecked with less than 10 laps to go. Then Almirola started a multi-car wreck on the ensuing restart that eliminated Bowman.

Almirola and Bowyer have one thing going for them: They’ve won at Talladega before, Bowyer twice in Cup and Almirola once in Xfinity.

Not going for them: Bowyer’s wrecked in three of the last four plate races. Almirola has wrecked in both of this year’s Daytona races.

Larson enters Talladega having not earned any stage or playoff points at Dover and finishing 12th. He’s never finished in the top five in nine Talladega starts or 10 Daytona starts.

Bowman will need to keep his nose clean all day or simply go out and win to keep his playoffs chances alive.

Below is the full playoff grid.

Report: Justin Allgaier returning to JR Motorsports in 2020

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Justin Allgaier confirmed to Catchfence.com Friday that he will remain with JR Motorsports in 2020.

It will be Allgaier’s fifth season in the Xfinity Series with JRM.

“I will be back next year. Same deal,” Allgaier told Catchfence.com “Everything is good. We’re doing the same thing next that we are doing right now.”

Allgaier, 33, is fourth is the point standings entering this weekend’s race at Road America (3 p.m. Saturday on NBCSN).

Allgaier is the only driver in the top six in points without a win this year.


Xfinity Series practice report from Road America

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Christopher Bell was fastest in the final Xfinity Series practice Friday at Road America.

Bell posted a top speed of 108.562 mph around the road course.

The top five was completed by Matt DiBenedetto (108.106 mph), AJ Allmendinger (108.091), Justin Haley (107.927) and Cole Custer (107.895).

Chase Briscoe recorded the most laps in the session with 19.

The session was stopped with about 50 minutes left for a hard crash by Brandon Jones exiting Turn 11. Jones will go to a backup car for Saturday’s race.

Just before Jones’ wreck, the left-rear truck arm mount broke on Jeremy Clements‘ No. 51 Chevrolet and his car stalled on the track.

The red flag was brought out for the second time when Preston Pardus’ No. 43 Chevrolet stalled on the track. His car then stalled a second time in the final minute of the session.

The session had a third red flag when Josh Williams‘ car stalled on the track.

Click here for the practice report.

First Practice

Bell was fastest, posting a top speed of 108.559 mph around the road course.

The top five was completed by defending race winner Justin Allgaier (108.530 mph), Cindric (108.346), DiBenedetto (108.139) and Allmendinger (107.967).

Chase Briscoe recorded the most laps with 14.

The session was stopped once for debris with 35 minutes left in the session.

Minor incidents in the session included Noah Gragson briefly going off course and a spin by Dexter Bean.

Click here for the practice report.

Updated entry lists for Xfinity, Truck Series this weekend

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While the NASCAR Cup Series will be off this weekend, that doesn’t mean there won’t be any racing.

On the contrary, the Xfinity Series will be racing Saturday at Road America and the Truck Series will compete Sunday at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park.

Here are the entry lists for both series:

Xfinity – CTECH Manufacturing 180 (3 p.m. ET Saturday on NBCSN)

There are 38 cars entered.

Regan Smith will be in the No. 8 J.R. Motorsports Chevrolet.

A.J. Allmendinger will drive the No. 10 Kaulig Racing Chevrolet.

Saturday’s Cup runner-up, Matt DiBenedetto, will drive the No. 18 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota.

Ryan Vargas is entered in JD Motorsports’ No. 4 Chevrolet for his second start of the year.

Click here for the entry list.

Trucks – Chevrolet Silverado 250 (2:30 p.m. ET Sunday on FS1)

There are only 29 Trucks listed for the entry list. A full field would be 32 trucks.

Alex Tagliani is entered in Kyle Busch Motorsports’ No. 51 Toyota for his first start of the year.

Dylan Lupton is entered in Young’s Motorsports’ No. 20 Chevrolet.

Click here for the entry list.

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Friday schedule for Xfinity Series at Road America

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The NASCAR Xfinity Series hits the track today with two practices at Road America in preparation for Saturday’s race.

The wunderground.com forecast for Friday calls for partly cloudy skies with a high of 69 degrees and a 10% chance of rain during the day.

Here is today’s schedule at Road America:

(All times are Eastern)

10:30 a.m. – 7 p.m. – Xfinity garage open

1:35 – 2:25 p.m. – Xfinity practice (NBC Sports App)

3:35 – 4:55 – Final Xfinity practice (NBC Sports App)