Who is hot and cold entering the First Data 500 at Martinsville

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The third round of the Cup playoffs begin this weekend on the oldest and shortest track on the circuit – Martinsville Speedway (2:30 p.m. ET on Sunday on NBCSN).

The next three races will determine the four drivers who will compete for the championship at the Homestead-Miami Speedway.

Here is who is hot and cold entering the final short track race of the season.

Who is Hot

Chase Elliott

Round of 12 – Red Hot
• Won at Kansas (10th in Stage 1, 4th in Stage 2, 44 laps led)
• Finished 31st at Talladega; pit from 7th after Stage 1 ended but before pit road was open after running out of fuel; involved in multi-car accident on final lap
• Won at Dover
2018 Season – Red Hot
• Advanced to Round of 8 for 2nd straight season
• Won 2 of last 3 races and 3 of last 11 (98 starts before 1st career win)
• Finished top 10 in 4 of last 5 races and 9th or better in 10 of last 13
Martinsville – Good
• Finished top 10 in 2 of last 3 Martinsville races (9th in March)
• Six career Martinsville starts: 2 top 10s and 4 finishes of 12th or worse
• Started 3rd, 6th in Stage 1, 5th in Stage 2, 123 laps led, finished 27th in this race one year ago; spun by Denny Hamlin in Turn 3 on Lap 498 while leading

 

Aric Almirola

Round of 12 – Very Good
• Finished 10th at Kansas (6th in Stage 1, 16th in Stage 2); penalized for uncontrolled tire on Lap 120
• Won at Talladega (4th in Stage 1, 4th in Stage 2, 1 lap led); passed Kurt Busch in Turn 4 on final lap
• Finished 13th at Dover; contact with Brad Keselowski on Lap 397 while battling for 4th, collected Martin Truex Jr. and Alex Bowman
2018 Season – Good
• Advanced to Round of 8 for first time in career
• Finished in Top 10 in 4 of last 6 races
Martinsville – Bad
• Finished 12th or worse in 8 straight Martinsville races
• Three top 10s in 19 Martinsville starts
• Started 10th, 19th in Stage 1, 20th in Stage 2, finished 18th in this race one year ago

 

Joey Logano

Round of 12 – Very Good
• Finished 8th at Kansas (1st in Stage 1, 3rd in Stage 2, 100 laps)
• Finished 5th at Talladega
• Finished 3rd at Dover; hit axle from Ross Chastain on Lap 339 while running 8th
2018 Season – Very Good
• Advanced to Round of 8 for 4th time in career (1st since 2016)
• Finished in top 10 in 4 straight races and 8 of last 10
• Finished in top 5 in 5 of last 9 races
Martinsville – Very Good
• Finished top 10 in 3 of last 4 Martinsville races and 6 of last 9 (6th in March)
• Scored stage points in every stage in the last two Martinsville races
• Started 1st, 3rd in Stage 1, 3rd in Stage 2, 59 laps led, finished 24th in this race one year ago; contact with frontstretch wall on Lap 259 while running 3rd after contact with Austin Dillon; big tire rub on Lap 487 after contact
with Kyle Busch while battling for 3rd; spun from 6th on Lap 492 after tire went flat

 

Erik Jones

• Finished 4th at Kansas (8th in Stage 1, 7th in Stage 2)
2018 Season – Very Good
• Finished top 10 in 3 straight races and 6 of last 9
Martinsville – Not Good
• Never finished better than 12th in 3 career Martinsville starts (17th in March)
• Started 8th, 18th in Stage 1, 16th in Stage 2, finished 26th in this race one year ago; spun from 27th on Lap 316

 

Who is Cold

Martin Truex Jr.

Round of 12 – Not Good
• Finished 5th at Kansas (12th in Stage 1, 10th in Stage 2)
• Finished 23rd at Talladega; reported rear end issue on Lap 100 while running 23rd; involved in multi-car accident on last lap
• Finished 15th at Dover; collected in multi-car accident on Lap 397 after Aric Almirola and Brad Keselowski made contact battling for 4th
2018 Season – Slumping
• Advanced to Round of 8 for 2nd straight season (3rd time in career)
• Kansas ended a streak of 3 straight finishes of 14th or worse
• Finished outside the top 10 in 7 of last 10 races
Martinsville – Good
• Finished top 5 in the last two Martinsville races and top 10 in 5 of last 7 (4th in March)
• Started 2nd, 5th in Stage 1, 4th in Stage 2, finished 2nd in this race one year ago

 

Ricky Stenhouse Jr.

• Finished 20th at Kansas (21st in Stage 1, 22nd in Stage 2); penalized for speeding in pits on Lap 120
2018 Season – Bad
• Kansas ended a streak of back-to-back finishes of 9th or better
• Finished 14th or worse in 24 of 32 races in 2018
Martinsville – Streaking
• Finished 10th in 2 of last 3 Martinsville races (37th in March)
• Finished 15th or worse in 9 of 11 career Martinsville starts
• Started 22nd, 27th in Stage 1, 19th in Stage 2, finished 10th in this race one year ago; spun on Lap 36 while running 27th after being clipped by Michael McDowell.

 

Kyle Larson

Round of 12 – Ok
• Finished 3rd at Kansas (11th in Stage 1, 6th in Stage 2); started in rear after going to back-up car
• Finished 11th at Talladega; started in the rear due to unapproved adjustments; spun from 11th on backstretch on Lap 104 with flat tire
• Finished 12th at Dover; penalized for speeding in pits on Lap 244 while running 15th
2018 Season – Hot and Cold
• Eliminated in Round of 12 for 2nd straight season
• Kansas ended a streak of 3 straight finishes outside the top 10
• Last 10 races: 5 top 10s and 5 finishes of 11th or worse
Martinsville – Terrible
• Finished 14th or worse in 4 straight Martinsville races (16th in March)
• Finished 14th or worse in 8 of 9 career Martinsville starts
• Started 9th, 16th in Stage 1, 22nd in Stage 2, finished 37th in this race one year ago; DNF – spun from 23rd on Lap 303 and hit inside backstretch wall

 

Alex Bowman

Round of 12 – Too Little, Too Late
• Finished 9th at Kansas (14th in Stage 1, 9th in Stage 2); made contact with Daniel Suarez on Lap 3 after Suarez hit wall; scraped wall in Turn 1 on Lap 25
• Finished 33rd at Talladega; got loose on Lap 186 and hit wall while running 10th, then got hit by J.J. Yeley
• Finished 28th at Dover; DNF – collected in multi-car accident on Lap 397 after Aric Almirola and Brad Keselowski made contact battling for 4th
2018 Season – Bad
• Kansas ended a streak of 2 finishes of 28th or worse
• Finished 12th or worse in 6 of last 8 races
Martinsville – Bad
• One finish better than 22nd in 5 career Martinsville starts (7th in March)

NASCAR America presents the Motorsports Hour, 5 p.m. ET on NBCSN

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This week’s episode of NASCAR America presents the Motorsports Hour airs from 5-6 p.m. ET on NBCSN.

Marty Snider, Danielle Trotta, Parker Kligerman and Steve Letarte will discuss multiple auto racing disciplines, including NASCAR and IndyCar.

If you can’t catch either of today’s shows on TV, watch online at http:/nascarstream.nbcsports.com. If you plan to stream the show on your laptop or portable device, be sure to have your username and password from your cable/satellite/telco provider handy so your subscription can be verified.

Once you enter that information, you’ll have access to the stream.

Click here at 5 p.m. ET to watch live via the stream.

Ricky Stenhouse Jr. throws perfect strike for Red Sox

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With the Boston Red Sox nearly 10 games behind their No. 1 rivals, the American League East-leading New York Yankees, they could use some additional pitching help.

A good southpaw would be a big help.

They got some help on Wednesday – for one pitch at least, that is – as Cup Series driver Ricky Stenhouse Jr. threw out the first pitch prior to the game vs. the Toronto Blue Jays at Fenway Park.

Scouts likely had a few raised eyebrows when Stenhouse threw a perfect strike.

 

I’ve thrown out first pitches at some minor league games, but Fenway Park puts it at a whole ‘nother level,” Stenhouse told NESN.com.

But Stenhouse, wearing a No. 17 jersey, delivered when it was his turn atop the mound. In a sense, it was a home game for Stenhouse, as Red Sox owner John Henry is a part-owner of Roush Fenway Racing.

Stenhouse and teammate Ryan Newman, who was also in uniform for the game, were in Boston on their way to this weekend’s Cup race at New Hampshire Motor Speedway. Stenhouse is currently 19th in the standings and with seven races left to make the playoffs, he knows how significant this weekend will be for him.

It’s very important,” Stenhouse told NESN. “New Hampshire could be one of those turning points. We’re 19th in points and need to get to 16th. Or we could win and just lock ourselves in that way, too.

Hopefully, we’ll have a fast enough car and play the right strategy to put ourselves in a position to win. These next few races are definitely critical to us to make sure we do our part. We’ll need somebody else to falter a little bit, but we’re going to go out and do our job and see how things play out.”

And if Stenhouse doesn’t make the playoffs, he might want to keep that pitching arm warm and loose, just in case the Red Sox really need him.

 

Follow @JerryBonkowski

Ryan Vargas set for Xfinity debut at Iowa Speedway

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Ryan Vargas, a member of the 2018-19 NASCAR Next class and 2019 Drive for Diversity program, is set to make his Xfinity Series debut next weekend at Iowa Speedway.

JD Motorsports announced Wednesday Vargas will drive its No. 15 Chevrolet in the July 27 U.S. Cellular 250, which will air on NBCSN.

Vargas, 18, competed full-time in the K&N Pro Series East last year for Rev Racing. Vargas was let go by Rev Racing in December and has spent this season racing late models and competing for the Irwindale Speedway track championship.

The race at Iowa will mark Vargas’ national NASCAR series debut. Vargas said making his Xfinity debut at Iowa “just makes sense” given his seventh-place finish there last year in the K&N Series.

“Last year, I felt that I was able to run my best race all year at the speedway, and to have the chance to drive for a well-respected team owner in Johnny Davis really adds to the excitement heading into the weekend,” Vargas said in a press release. “I think if we can keep all the fenders on my No. 15 Chevrolet and run as many laps as possible, the weekend will be a success. At this point in my career, I want to learn as much as I can so I can keep moving up the NASCAR ladder, so I am not necessarily worried about what the results show.”

Vargas will be sponsored by Cranio Care Bears, a non-profit organization dedicated to raising awareness of Craniosynostosis, a condition that causes problems with a child’s brain and skull growth. Vargas underwent surgery when he was 11 months old to correct issues from it.

“It means a lot to me to be able to help bring awareness to this great charity in Cranio Care Bears through the sport that I love so much,” Vargas said. “I know that I will have a lot of little supporters cheering me on that look up to me as a role model in the Cranio community, and I want to show them that anything is possible, even with the condition.”

 

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Updated entry lists for NASCAR at New Hampshire

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The NASCAR Cup and Xfinity Series will be in action this weekend at the 1-mile New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Loudon, N.H.

The Gander Outdoors Truck Series is off until July 27 at Pocono Raceway.

Here are the entry lists for the Cup and Xfinity races at New Hampshire:

Cup – Foxwoods Resort & Casino 301 (3 p.m. ET Sunday on NBCSN)

There are 37 cars entered.

Quin Houff will be back in the No. 77 Spire Motorsports Chevrolet.

Andy Seuss is entered in Rick Ware Racing’s No. 51 Ford and will make his Cup debut. Austin Theriault will also make his Cup debut in Rick Ware Racing’s No. 52 Chevrolet.

Click here for the full entry list.

Xfinity — Roxor 200 (4 p.m. ET Saturday on NBCSN)

There are 41 cars entered.

Cup regular Paul Menard will be driving the No. 12 Team Penske Ford Mustang.

Ryan Truex will be making his third Xfinity start of the season in the No. 8 JR Motorsports Chevrolet.

Tyler Matthews will make his third Xfinity start of 2019 in the No. 15 JD Motorsports Chevrolet.

Harrison Burton makes his third start of the season in the No. 18 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota.

Kaz Grala is entered in his fourth race of the year in Richard Childress Racing’s No. 21 Chevrolet.

Canadian driver Alex Labbe makes his third start of 2019 in the No. 90 DGM Racing Chevrolet.

CJ McLaughlin will make his Xfinity Series debut, driving the No. 93 RSS Racing Chevrolet.

Click here for the full entry list.