Who is hot and cold entering the AAA Texas 500

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The second race of Round of 8 begins this weekend in the Lone Star State at Texas Motor Speedway (3 p.m. ET Sunday on NBCSN).

Three slots remain in the championship finale after Joey Logano’s dramatic win last week on the short track.

Here is who is hot and cold entering the 1.5-mile track.

Who is Hot

Joey Logano

Round of 8 – Red Hot
• Led the most laps last week and won at Martinsville to become the only driver locked into the championship battle
• Bumped Martin Truex Jr. out of the lead exiting Turn 4
2018 Season – Red Hot
• Is currently riding a five-race, top-10 streak that includes his Martinsville victory and two other top fives
• Advances to the Championship 4 for the third time in his career (2014, 2016 and 2018)
• Has six top fives in his last 10 races
Texas – Very Good
• Scored top 10s in his last five races. Finished sixth in April
• Finished in the top 10 in nine of his last 11 Texas races
• Started 36th last year, was 15th in Stage 1, 21st in Stage 2, led one lap and finished seventh. Was penalized for speeding entering the pits on Lap 141
1.5-mile tracks – Very Good
• Finished in the top 10 in 10 of the last 11 races. 

 

Chase Elliott

Round of 8 – Hot
• Finished seventh at Martinsville (11th in Stage 1 and seventh in Stage 2)
2018 Season – Red Hot
• Won two of the last four races and three of the last 12; it took 99 starts before earning his first win
• Finished top 10 in five of the last six races and in 11 of the last 14
Texas – Very Good
• Top 10s in four of five starts at Texas; was 11th in April
• Swept the top five at Texas as a rookie
• Started 34th last year, was 11th in Stage 1, fifth in Stage 2, led one lap and finished eighth.
1.5-mile tracks – Hot and Very Cold
• Won the last 1.5-mile race at Kansas in the Round of 12
• Finished outside the top 10 in seven of the last eight races on 1.5-mile tracks.

 

Kyle Busch

Round of 8 – Great
• Finished fourth at Martinsville (third in Stage 1, third in Stage 2, and led 100 laps)
• Won the Martinsville pole
2018 Season – Great
• Finished in the top five in the last two races
• Finished in the top 10 in seven of the last nine races and 12 of the last 15
• Won seven races in 2018
• Finished in the top five in 20 of 33 races this season

Texas – Red Hot
• Won two of the last five Texas races including this April
• Finished in the top five in six of the last eight Texas races
• Started fifth, was 30th in Stage 1, 25th in Stage 2, led seven laps and finished 19th in this race last year. Forced to pit for damage to his right front fender after contact with Brad Keselowski on Lap 1. Pitted from 13th on Lap 275 with a flat left rear tire
1.5-mile tracks – Red Hot
• Won three of the last seven races on 1.5-mile tracks
• Finished in the top 10 in the last 10 races on 1.5-mile track including every race of 2018
• Along with Kevin Harvick and Truex, combined to win 13 of the last 15 races on 1.5-mile tracks

 

Martin Truex Jr.

Round of 8 – Great
• Finished third at Martinsville (seventh in Stage 1, fourth in Stage 2 and led 18 laps) after coming from the back of the pack (33rd) when his qualification time was disallowed
• Bumped out of the lead exiting Turn 4 on the final lap
2018 Season – Streaking
• Finished in the top five in the last two races
• Last seven races: four top fives and three finishes of 14th or worse
• Finished in the top five in 14 of the last 23 races
Texas – Very Good
• Finished in the top 10 in six of his last seven Texas races (37th in April)
• This is one of only two 1.5-mile tracks on which he has not won (Atlanta is the other)
• Started seventh, was second in Stage 1, fourth in Stage 2, led 107 laps and finished second in this race last year.
1.5-mile tracks – Red Hot
• Won eight of the last 19 races on 1.5-mile tracks
• Finished in the top five in the last six races on 1.5-mile tracks
• Along with Harvick and Kyle Busch, combined to win 13 of the last 15 races on 1.5-mile tracks

 

Kevin Harvick

Round of 8 – Warm
• Finished 10th Martinsville (ninth in Stage 1, 15th in Stage 2)
2018 Season – Great
• Finished 10th or worse in three straight races, which is his worst three-race stretch of 2018
• Finished in the top 10 in 12 of last 15 races
• Finished in the top five in 11 of the last 20 races
• Won seven races in 2018
• In 33 races this season, finished 10th or better 26 times and 12th or worse seven times
Texas – Red Hot
• Finished in the top 10 in eight consecutive races (second in April)
• Eight consecutive top 10s at Texas is the second longest streak at the track
• Finished in the top five in six of the last eight Texas races
• Started third, won Stage 1, second in Stage 2, led 38 laps and won this race last year.
1.5-mile tracks – Hot
• Won four of the last 11 races on 1.5-mile tracks
• Finished in the top 10 in 15 of the last 18 races on 1.5-mile tracks; failed to finish in two of the last five
• Along with Truex and Kyle Busch, combined to win 13 of the last 15 races on 1.5-mile tracks

 

Aric Almirola

Round of 8 – Good
• Finished 11th Martinsville (10th in Stage 1, 12th in Stage 2)
2018 Season – Good
• Four top 10s in the last seven races
Texas – Very Bad
• Finished outside the top 10 in 10 straight Texas races (32nd in April)
• One top 10 in 15 stars at Texas (seventh in April 2013)
• Started 18th, 21st in Stage 1, 16th in Stage 2 and finished 15th in this race last year.
1.5-mile tracks – Hot and Cold (trending Hot)
• Finished in the top 10 in three consecutive 1.5-mile races and five of the last six
• In nine 1.5-mile races with Stewart-Haas Racing: five top 10s and four finishes of 13th or worse

 

Kurt Busch

Round of 8 – Great
• Finished sixth at Martinsville (fifth in Stage 1, fifth in Stage 2)
2018 Season – Good
• Three top 10s and four results of 14th or worse in the last seven races
• Finished in the top 10 in 11 of the last 15 races
Texas – Pretty Good
• Finished in the top 10 in three straight Texas races (seventh in April)
• Finished in the top 10 in six of the last eight Texas races
• Won the pole for the last two Texas races
• Started first, fifth in Stage 1, seventh in Stage 2 and finished ninth in this race last year. Had to pit for a second time for a possible loose wheel on Lap 231
1.5-mile tracks – Cold
• Finished 17th or worse in three of the last four 1.5-mile races

 

Clint Bowyer

Round of 8 – Not Good
• Finished 21st at Martinsville (fourth in Stage 1, eighth in Stage 2 and led one lap)
• Damaged his right front fender after contact with William Byron on pit road on Lap 133; spun after contact with Jimmie Johnson on Lap 457 while running 10th
2018 Season – Hot and Cold
• Finished outside the top 20 in two of the last four races and outside the top 10 in three of the last four
Last 10 races: five top 10s and five results of 13th or worse (2 DNFs)
Texas – Not Good
Finished outside the top 10 in seven of last the last eight Texas races (ninth in April)
Finished outside top 20 in five of the last eight Texas races
Started 20th, 16th in Stage 1, 11th in Stage 2, finished 36th in this race last year
1.5-mile tracks – Cold
Finished outside the top 10 in 13 of last 16 1.5-mile races
• Finished 12th or worse in the last three 1.5-mile races

Short-track ace Sam Ard shares Xfinity record with Noah Gragson

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Former two-time Xfinity Series champion Sam Ard’s name returned to the forefront in the past week as Noah Gragson tied Ard’s series record for consecutive victories at four.

Although Ard has been nominated for the NASCAR Hall of Fame, his exploits generally aren’t well-known among many who follow the modern sport of stock car racing. He was on the Hall voting list for the 2023 class but was not elected.

In the 1970s and ’80s, Ard was a short-track master in the vein of stars like Jack Ingram, Harry Gant and Butch Lindley, drivers who could show up at virtually any half-mile track across the country and take home the trophy.

He won the NASCAR Late Model (now the Xfinity Series) championship in 1983 and 1984, scoring 18 wins across those two seasons. He put together four victories in a row late in the 1983 season, winning at South Boston, Virginia; Martinsville, Virginia; Rougemont, North Carolina and Charlotte.

Ard was so dominant in 1984 that he had wrapped up the seasonal championship with two races remaining. In 28 series starts that year, he had 24 top-five finishes and 26 top-10 runs. He won eight times.

In the next-to-last race of the 1984 season, at North Carolina Speedway in Rockingham, Ard suffered critical head injuries when his car slid in fluid from another vehicle and hit the track’s outside wall.

That crash effectively ended Ard’s career and impacted the rest of his life. Ard often talked of learning to walk again as part of his recovery. He said he would use a walker in a pile of sawdust in his backyard so that the landing would be softer when he fell.

Ard eventually was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease. In 2006, responding to Ard’s financial problems, drivers Kyle Busch, Kevin Harvick and Dale Earnhardt Jr., among others, launched a drive to raise funds for his family.

Ard, a native of Scranton, S.C., died in April 2017. He was 78.

 

 

 

 

 

Drivers to watch in Cup Series race at Talladega Superspeedway

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The NASCAR Cup Series playoffs will reach a critical point Sunday in a 500-mile chase at treacherous Talladega Superspeedway.

The overriding factor in any race at Talladega, NASCAR’s biggest track, is the unknown. With cars running so fast and so close together, multi-car accidents are not only possible but expected, and it’s easy to become the innocent victim of someone else’s mistake.

MORE: NASCAR penalizes William Byron for spinning Denny Hamlin

The tension is doubled for the 12 playoff drivers. A bad finish at Talladega could open the door for a probable playoff exit at the end of the round Oct. 9 at the Charlotte Motor Speedway Roval.

The playoffs to date have seen four wins by non-playoff drivers, an unprecedented result. Tyler Reddick was the most recent to join that list with a win last Sunday at Texas Motor Speedway.

A look at drivers to watch at Talladega:

FRONTRUNNERS

Denny Hamlin

  • Points position: 6th
  • Last three races: 10th at Texas, 9th at Bristol, 2nd at Kansas
  • Past at Talladega: 2 career wins

Although he hasn’t won, Hamlin has finished in the top 10 in all four playoff races. In the past six races at Talladega, he has four finishes of seventh or better. Now if he can just keep people from running into him…

William Byron

  • Points position: 3rd
  • Last three races: 7th at Texas, 3rd at Bristol, 6th at Kansas
  • Past at Talladega: Best career finish is a second

Byron stands alone as the only playoff driver who has been able to avoid major crashes and trouble in the pits, and he has finished in the top 10 in all four playoff races. After Tuesday’s penalty for his incident with Denny Hamlin at Texas, he sits below the cutline entering Sunday’s race.

Brad Keselowski

  • Points position: 24th
  • Last three races: 8th at Texas, 13th at Bristol, 25th at Kansas
  • Past at Talladega: 6 wins, the active leader

Even in trying times, Keselowski is a threat at Talladega, where he last won in April 2021 (his last Cup victory). He has led 268 laps there in the past 13 races.

QUESTIONS TO ANSWER

Kyle Busch

  • Points position: 15th
  • Last three races: 36th at Texas, 34th at Bristol, 26th at Kansas
  • Past at Talladega: 1 career win, in 2008

Is Busch going to steadily disappear into the mist as he rides out the final weeks of his final year with Joe Gibbs Racing? His best finish in the past four races is 26th. On the positive side this week, he’s the only driver to finish in the top 10 in this year’s three races at Daytona and Talladega.

Chase Elliott

  • Points position: 8th
  • Last three races: 32nd at Texas, 2nd at Bristol, 11th at Kansas
  • Past at Talladega: 1 career win, in 2019

Can Elliott rebound from a fiery finish and a 32nd-place run at Texas? Playoff points give him some comfort, but a second career win at Talladega would be greatly appreciated in the Hendrick camp.

Martin Truex Jr.

  • Points position: 17th
  • Last three races: 31st at Texas, 36th at Bristol, 5th at Kansas
  • Past at Talladega: Best career finish is 5th

Will one of the sport’s most enduring mysteries continue at Talladega? In 70 career starts at Daytona and Talladega, Truex, a former champion and a smooth driver, has zero wins. At Talladega, he has only three top-five finishes in 35 starts.

 

 

 

NBC will broadcast final six NASCAR Cup Series playoff races

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The final six races in the chase for the NASCAR Cup Series championship will be televised by NBC.

The races remaining on the schedule are at Talladega Superspeedway (Oct. 2), the Charlotte Motor Speedway Roval (Oct. 9), Las Vegas Motor Speedway (Oct. 16), Homestead-Miami Speedway (Oct. 23), Martinsville Speedway (Oct. 30) and Phoenix Raceway (Nov. 6).

NBC’s broadcasting team will be on hand Sunday for what is typically a seasonal highlight — a 500-mile race at Talladega Superspeedway. The next week the playoffs move on to Charlotte for a cutoff race. The lowest four drivers in the playoff point standings will be eliminated from championship competition.

The Round of 8 is scheduled at Las Vegas, Homestead and Martinsville, with the tiny Martinsville track serving as the final cutoff race. The four drivers who advance from Martinsville will race for the title at Phoenix Nov. 6.

The high drama of the Phoenix race, in which the championship will go to the highest finisher of the four competing drivers, will be carried by both NBC and Peacock.

Post-race commentary and analysis for all six remaining Cup races will be carried on Peacock.

Kyle Larson is the series defending champion. Joey Logano carries the point lead into Sunday’s race at Talladega.

NASCAR viewer’s guide for Talladega Superspeedway

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After a messy Sunday at Texas Motor Speedway, the NASCAR Cup Series playoffs move on this weekend to another potentially messy spot — Talladega Superspeedway.

Home to the Big One — an almost certain multi-car crash, Talladega also occasionally produces unexpected winners, including Richard Brickhouse, James Hylton, Lennie Pond, Ron Bouchard and Brad Keselowski.

The mix of tight drafting, the Next Gen car and general playoff tension should make Sunday’s 500-mile run quite the adventure.

On Sunday at Texas, Tyler Reddick became the second driver (after Chase Elliott) to score three wins this season.

Joey Logano enters Talladega with the playoff point lead.

Playoff rookies roll on

The four drivers participating in the Cup playoffs for the first time remain factors approaching the second race in the second round.

Ross Chastain is second in the standings, 18 points above the cutline entering Talladega.

MORE: NBC NASCAR rankings put Denny Hamlin first

Daniel Suarez, Chastain’s Trackhouse Racing teammate, is seventh. He’s four points above the cutline.

Two other playoff rookies — Chase Briscoe and Austin Cindric — will start Talladega below the cutline. Briscoe is four points below the cutline. Cindric is 11 points below the cutline.

Looking for wins

Only six of the remaining 12 playoff drivers have won races at the two remaining tracks in the second round (Talladega and Charlotte Roval).

Among the six, Joey Logano has the best win record at Talladega, having finished first there in 2015, 2016 and 2018.

Other Talladega winners in the group: Ryan Blaney (two), Denny Hamlin (two), Chase Elliott (one), Ross Chastain (one).

The Charlotte Roval is relatively new, of course, but Chase Elliott already owns two wins there. Ryan Blaney and Kyle Larson also have won at the Roval.

An opening for Brad?

Few people who watched it will forget the first Cup Series victory scored by Brad Keselowski.

It occurred at this week’s tour stop — Talladega Superspeedway — in April 2009. Keselowski and Carl Edwards made contact approaching the finish line and notched the win, even as Edwards’ car flew into the frontstretch fence, spraying car parts into the grandstands.

Thirteen years later, Keselowski returns to NASCAR’s biggest track having recorded six Talladega wins. No other active drive has more than three.

Keselowski’s refurbished team — Roush Fenway Keselowski Racing — has new fire with Chris Buescher winning at Bristol and Keselowski winning the pole and finishing eighth at Texas.

RFK Racing has led 309 laps in the past two races, more than the team had led in the prior 105 races combined.

Although he hasn’t won a Cup race since scoring a victory in a Team Penske Ford in April 2021 at Talladega, Keselowski must be considered a threat Sunday.

Entry lists

Thirty-seven drivers, including Xfinity Series star Noah Gragson and reigning Xfinity champion Daniel Hemric, are entered for Sunday’s Cup race.

Talladega Cup entry list

The Xfinity entry list includes 41 drivers for 38 spots. Among those joining the series regulars are Trevor Bayne, Parker Kligerman, Timmy Hill and Jeffrey Earnhardt.

Talladega Xfinity entry list

Forty-one drivers are entered for Saturday’s Camping World Truck Series race. Included are Kaz Grala, Ryan Preece, Natalie Decker, Jennifer Jo Cobb and Parker Kligerman.

Talladega Truck entry list

This week’s schedule and forecast

(All times Eastern)

Friday, Sept. 30

Forecast: Partly cloudy. High of 77. (Weather note: There is the possibility that Hurricane Ian could impact the race weekend, depending on its path).

  • 3:30 – 5 p.m. — Truck Series qualifying
  • 5:30 – 7 p.m. — Xfinity Series qualifying (USA Network)

Saturday, Oct. 1

Forecast: Overcast with showers at times. Potential for heavy rainfall. High of 73. 60% chance of rain.

  • 10:30 a.m. – Noon — Cup Series qualifying (NBC Sports app, Motor Racing Network, Sirius XM NASCAR Radio)
  • 12:30 p.m. — Truck Series race (94 laps, 250 miles; FS1, Motor Racing Network, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio)
  • 4 p.m. — Xfinity Series race (113 laps, 300 miles; USA Network, Motor Racing Network, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio)

Sunday, Oct. 2

Forecast: Sun in the morning, increasing clouds in the afternoon. Slight chance of a shower. High of 74.

  • 2 p.m. — Cup Series race (188 laps, 500 miles; NBC, Motor Racing Network, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio)