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NBC Sports Power Rankings heading to Las Vegas

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Denny Hamlin is out, and Kyle Busch is in – in first place for this week’s NBC Sports NASCAR Power Rankings, that is – heading into Sunday’s race at Busch’s home track, Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

Busch was unanimously selected by NBC Sports’ NASCAR Talk writers for the top spot, while Daytona 500 winner Hamlin dropped to fifth.

Brad Keselowski, who didn’t receive any votes in last week’s Power Rankings, vaults to the No. 2 spot after winning the Folds of Honor QuikTrip 400 at Atlanta Motor Speedway — and while battling flu-like symptoms, no less.

Other notable jumps: Kevin Harvick (from ninth to third this week), Kyle Larson (zero votes last week to fourth) and Martin Truex Jr. (zero votes to sixth this week).

Dropping out of this week’s Power Rankings: Jimmie Johnson, Matt DiBenedetto, Ryan Preece, Ross Chastain and William Byron.

Here are this week’s Power Rankings:

1. Kyle Busch (40 points): One of two drivers to finish in the top 10 in this season’s first two races. At Atlanta, he overcame a cut tire and had to navigate through the field in the new rules package to finish sixth.

2. Brad Keselowski (33 points): Racing while sick is one thing; winning while sick – particularly with having to race 500 miles – is a major accomplishment.

3. Kevin Harvick (26 points): Take away a wreck that wasn’t his fault at Daytona, and the Stewart-Haas Racing driver would be in the top two.

4. Kyle Larson (25 points): Having the strongest car at Atlanta could bode well for the future, but Las Vegas will be a better indicator of his speed.

5. Denny Hamlin (21 points): With a win at Daytona and 11th at Atlanta, he’s off to a strong start for 2019. Can he continue his success during the three-race West Coast swing?

6. Martin Truex Jr. (19 points): In his second race with Joe Gibbs Racing, Truex and crew chief Cole Pearn showed they haven’t lost a step, at least when it comes to 1.5-mile tracks, placing second to Keselowski. Without lapped cars, maybe Truex is higher on this list.

7. Erik Jones (17 points): One of only two drivers (Kyle Busch is the other) to finish in the top 10 in each of the first two races: third at Daytona and seventh at Atlanta.

(tie) 8. Christopher Bell (10 points): With Daytona behind him, Bell picked up where he left off in 2018, leading all but 21 laps in the Xfinity race and sweeping every stage on his way to the win.

(tie) 8. Joey Logano (10 points): Mistakes and miscalculations held this team back at Atlanta.

10. Aric Almirola (8 points): Earned his first pole since 2012 and led 36 laps in the first stage before a speeding penalty dropped him deep into the field. Unlike Kyle Larson, he was able to get back into the top 10 before the end of the race, placing eighth.

Others receiving votes: Clint Bowyer (6 points), Chris Buescher (3 points), Kurt Busch (2 points) and Chase Elliott (1 point).

Former NASCAR Chairman Brian France defends leadership style in interview

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Former NASCAR Chairman Brian France defended his leadership style when running the stock-car series and said in an interview with Sports Business Journal that he was working on leaving the sport before he was ousted after his DWI arrest in August 2018.

The interview with Sports Business Journal marked France’s first public comments since his arrest.

France became NASCAR Chairman and Chief Executive Officer in September 2003, assuming the position from his father, Bill France Jr.

Brian France held that position until Aug. 6, 2018, when he took a leave of absence after his arrest for driving while intoxicated in Sag Harbor, New York. He was replaced by Jim France and did not return to NASCAR.

Brian France pleaded guilty to driving while intoxicated in June 2019. As part of the agreement, he was required to complete 100 hours of community service and undergo alcohol counseling. If he completes those and does not run afoul of the law, his misdemeanor charge will be reduced to a non-criminal infraction in June 2020.

France told Sports Business Journal that he was actively talking to and identifying potential replacements before his arrest but did not go into detail.

France, who oversaw the TV deal with NBC and Fox that goes through 2024 and created what the Chase/playoff format, defended his absence from the track during his reign. France did not attend every race and that became an issue in the garage, raising questions about how involved he was with the sport.

“I understand that kind of criticism, but there is no other sports league that gets any criticism like that,” France told Sports Business Journal of the time he spent at the track. “I’ve always found that a bit interesting that no one else asks another commissioner how many football games or practices he made.”

Jim France is at the track nearly every weekend. Brian France told Sports Business Journal that while his uncle attends more races to match his objective, “(it) didn’t match up with mine, so I had to take the criticism on my way to managing the commercial side.”

France, who endorsed Donald Trump for president at a Feb. 29, 2016 rally at Valdosta State University in Georgia, accompanied President Trump on Air Force One to Daytona International Speedway on Sunday, according to the pool media report.

Monday’s Daytona 500: Restart time, weather and more

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DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – Let’s try this again.

After rain postponed Sunday’s race, Cup drivers will get back on track Monday at Daytona International Speedway to complete the Daytona 500. And the forecast looks very good for Monday’s race.

The race was halted after 20 of 180 laps with Ricky Stenhouse Jr. leading.

Here are today’s details:

(All times are Eastern)

RESTART: Command to fire engines at 4:05 p.m. The green flag is scheduled to wave at 4:12 p.m. 

DISTANCE: 180 of the scheduled 200 laps remain to be run on the 2.5-mile speedway.

STAGES: Stage 1 ends on Lap 65. Stage 2 ends on Lap 130.

TV/RADIO: Fox’s broadcast begins at 4 p.m. Motor Racing Network’s broadcast begins at 4 p.m. and also can be heard on mrn.com. SiriusXM NASCAR Radio will carry MRN’s broadcast.

FORECAST: The wunderground.com forecast calls for partly cloudy skies with a high of 73 degrees and a 3% chance of rain when the race resumes.

RUNNING ORDER:

  1. Ricky Stenhouse Jr.
  2. Joey Logano
  3. Aric Almirola
  4. Ryan Newman
  5. Kevin Harvick
  6. Brad Keselowski
  7. William Byron
  8. Jimmie Johnson
  9. Ty Dillon
  10. Timmy Hill
  11. David Ragan
  12. Chris Buescher
  13. Matt DiBenedetto
  14. Chase Elliott
  15. Ross Chastain
  16. Alex Bowman
  17. Kyle Larson
  18. Kurt Busch
  19. Austin Dillon
  20. Cole Custer
  21. Michael McDowell
  22. Tyler Reddick
  23. Ryan Blaney
  24. Bubba Wallace
  25. Reed Sorenson
  26. BJ McLeod
  27. Corey LaJoie
  28. Brendan Gaughan
  29. Ryan Preece
  30. Justin Haley
  31. Martin Truex Jr.
  32. Kyle Busch
  33. Erik Jones
  34. Christopher Bell
  35. Denny Hamlin
  36. Clint Bowyer
  37. John Hunter Nemechek
  38. Quin Houff
  39. Joey Gase
  40. Brennan Poole

Daytona 500 postponed to Monday

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The Daytona 500 has been postponed until Monday, NASCAR announced Sunday evening.

The race is scheduled to take the green flag at 4:05 p.m. ET Monday. The garage will open at 1:30 p.m. The race will air on Fox.

The wunderground.com forecast calls for partly cloudy skies with a high of 72 degrees and an 11% chance of rain when the race is scheduled to resume.

The race was scheduled to take the green flag Sunday at 3:18 p.m. ET but that was pushed back because of President Donald Trump’s participation in ceremonies before the race. He gave the command to start engines and his motorcade led the field on a pace lap. An extra pace lap was done to honor Jimmie Johnson, who is making his final Daytona 500 start.

As the field was set to take the green flag at 3:29 p.m. ET, rain in Turns 1 and 2 prevented the start. Rain fell throughout the track and led to a 51-minute delay.

When the race resumed, the field completed 20 laps before rain led to a caution at 4:36 p.m. ET. The field again was brought to pit road and the race was stopped. NASCAR told teams they could uncover cars on pit road at 6:18 p.m. ET but almost immediately there were reports of rain drops around the track. Drivers were called to their cars but never got in them. It began to pour around 6:44 p.m. ET. The race was called at 6:50 p.m. ET

Ricky Stenhouse Jr. led the opening 20 laps. He is followed by Joey Logano, Aric Almirola, Ryan Newman and Kevin Harvick.

Sixth through 10th is Brad Keselowski, William Byron, Jimmie Johnson, Ty Dillon and Timmy Hill.

This is the second time the Daytona 500 has been postponed by rain. It happened in 2012.

Daytona 500 once again under rain delay

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Rain has once again put a damper on the 62nd Daytona 500.

The race got through the first 20 laps of the scheduled 200-lap event before the yellow flag came out, sending cars back to the pits.

Pole Sitter Ricky Stenhouse Jr. and his Chevrolet has led all laps since the green flag fell. Fords make up the next five spots (Joey Logano, Aric Almirola, Ryan Newman, Kevin Harvick and Brad Keselowski), while the highest Toyota’s driver — Martin Truex Jr. — is back in 31st place.

It was the second time rain has impacted the event. After seven pace laps, the start of the race was delayed for 51 minutes due to rain. Engines were re-fired at 4:14 p.m. ET

The race is airing on Fox.

We will keep you updated on the status of the race and when it resumes.