NBC Sports Power Rankings heading to Bristol


Kyle Busch’s reign as unanimous No. 1 pick in four of the previous five weeks in the NBC Sports NASCAR Power Rankings came to an end this week – but it was close. Busch fell one point short of another sweep as voted by NBC sports writers. Denny Hamlin was the only other driver to be voted for the top spot.

Still, Busch remains No. 1 in the rankings as the Cup series heads to Bristol Motor Speedway this weekend, where he’s the defending winner of the Food City 500.

Making the biggest jump this week is Clint Bowyer (from outside last week’s top 10 to No. 7 this week), and Jimmie Johnson moves into the rankings for the first time this season at No. 10. The biggest drop in the rankings was Ryan Blaney, who fell from No. 5 last week to outside the top 10 this week.

Here’s how this week’s Power Rankings look:

1. Kyle Busch (39 points): He slipped up late in the Texas Cup race, but still managed to bring his car home 10th. No one else has finished in the top 10 in every race this year. He’s yet to have an outright bad race. Oh, and he won on Friday and Saturday, again. Last week: 1st.

2. Denny Hamlin (37 points): It was beyond impressive Hamlin was able to win in Texas after a multitude of issues on pit road, including two penalties. His win gives him three top fives in the last four races and he’s yet to finish worse than 11th. Last week: 4th.

(tie) 3. Kevin Harvick (23 points): He may have seemed dismal after finishing eighth at Texas, but he remains one of the most consistent drivers on the circuit this season: he hasn’t finished outside the top 10 since Daytona. That elusive win he’s been searching for will come soon enough – and many more are likely to follow. Last week: 3rd.

(tie) 3. Brad Keselowski (23 points): After an Xfinity DNF and Sunday’s mechanical issues, Keselowski probably wanted to leave Texas quickly. Regardless, he’s still one of the strongest drivers so far this year. Last week: 2nd.

5. Aric Almirola (19 points): Gets a bump up after earning a career-best sixth straight top 10 and doing so while fighting a stomach bug that had him vomiting all night before the race. Could the No. 10 Ford become the lead car for Stewart-Haas Racing? Last week: (tie) 7th.

6. Joey Logano (18 points): Won Stage 1 at Texas before being taken out of contention by a penalty and a bizarre hood malfunction. It’s now on to Bristol, where he has two wins. Last week: 6th.

7. Clint Bowyer (17 points): After starting 25th thanks to Friday’s qualifying controversy, Bowyer had a chance at the win late before his final pit stop. He placed a season-best second and now has consecutive top 10s. Last week: not in top 10

8. Kurt Busch (15 points): Bounced back from a 30th starting spot to place ninth for his fifth top 10 through seven races. Didn’t reach five top 10s in 2018 until race No. 11 at Dover. Is carrying the banner even more for Chip Ganassi Racing with Kyle Larson’s struggles. Last week: 10th.

(tie) 9. Martin Truex Jr. (10 points): Led 10 laps, his most this season, before placing 12th, his first finish outside the top 10 since Daytona. A notch below where he’s been lately, but a top 15 is still solid. Last week: (tie) 7th.

(tie) 9. Jimmie Johnson (10 points): Led most of the first stage and more laps than in his entire 2018 season. Johnson isn’t “back” yet, but he showed a good first step toward it with his first top five in 10 months. Rebounded so well from Martinsville, he gets the nod as this week’s top Hendrick driver. Last week: not in top 10.

Others receiving votes: Ryan Blaney (3 points), Daniel Suarez (3), Chase Elliott (2), William Byron (1).

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Alpha Prime Racing’s road woes don’t keep team from competing


SONOMA, Calif. — Alpha Prime Racing owner Tommy Joe Martins laughs. He can. His Xfinity Series cars all are here at Sonoma Raceway.

At one point last week, it was not certain if his team’s cars would make it to Portland International Raceway.

“It was probably the toughest professional week I’ve had of my NASCAR career,” Martins told NBC Sports on Friday at Sonoma.

MORE: Kyle Larson leads Xfinity practice at Sonoma

The Alpha Prime Racing team had both its trucks break down and one of its haulers have mechanical issues last week on the way to the Pacific Northwest.

“We basically sent four pieces of equipment on the road and three of them broke,” Martins said.

For a time, the car Sage Karam is driving this weekend at Sonoma was left in a hauler in Kansas City because there wasn’t room in the dually Martins sent. It had room only for the car that was needed at Portland and other equipment. Karam’s car, which was to be a backup at Portland, was left behind.

“It’s a very helpless feeling when you feel like your stuff is stuck on the side of the road,” Martins said.

He still has one truck still in St. Louis and another in Oregon. Martins estimates the mechanical issues will cost his team about $50,000 when everything is totaled.

Trouble started well before the team left its Mooresville, North Carolina, race shop for Portland.

The Xfinity Series race at Charlotte was scheduled to run May 27. Rain forced that event to be rescheduled to May 29. Martins said the team had planned to send its trucks to Portland on May 28. With the race pushed back to the 29th, the travel schedule tightened.

It got worse.

After the Xfinity race started, rain came. With the Coca-Cola 600 scheduled for 3 p.m. ET that day – after being delayed by rain from Sunday – the rest of the Xfinity race was pushed back until after the 600. That further tightened the window on Xfinity teams to make it to Portland.

The Xfinity race ended around 11:30 p.m. ET on May 29. Alpha Prime Racing’s haulers left the shop around 6 a.m. ET on May 30.

The two trucks traveled together until issues in St. Louis.

The truck hauling the Nos. 44 and 45 cars had engine issues in St. Louis. The other truck kept going until it had mechanical issues with its hauler in Kansas City. The air bags on the hauler failed.

So, Alpha Prime Racing had a truck that worked in Kansas City with a hauler that didn’t and a truck that didn’t work in St. Louis with a hauler that did.

The truck in Kansas City went back to St. Louis to attach to the hauler and take those cars and equipment to Portland. Martins then had to find something to haul the stranded equipment in Kansas City and a driver. He eventually did. A dually left North Carolina for Kansas City. Once there, what fit in the dually was taken to Portland and what didn’t, including Karam’s Sonoma car stayed behind.

Yet, more trouble was headed for Martins and his team.

The truck that had gone back from Kansas City to St. Louis to take hauler that worked then broke down about 200 miles from Portland.

“I laugh knowing that we’re on the other side of it,” Martins said Friday of all the issues his team had transporting cars and equipment across the country.

“We’ve started to make plans and corrections for it not happening again,” he said.

That hauler that was left in Kansas City? It was repaired and transported to Sonoma, arriving earlier this week.

“Our guys are troopers,” Martins said. “Both of our (truck) drivers were just awesome about the whole thing. … They went through hell week as far as driving somewhere, fly back and pick something up, drive again and now are going to have to do the same thing getting back.”

When the garage opened Friday at Sonoma, Alpha Prime Racing had all its cars.

“I don’t think we had any major issues here, so that was good,” Martins said.

The focus is back on the track. Karam was 24th on the speed chart in Friday’s practice, leading Alpha Prime Racing’s effort. Dylan Lupton was 32nd. Jeffrey Earnhardt was last among 41 cars.

After Saturday night’s race, the team heads back to North Carolina for a well-earned weekend off.

Kyle Larson leads Xfinity practice at Sonoma


SONOMA, Calif. — Kyle Larson posted the fastest lap in Friday’s Xfinity Series practice at Sonoma Raceway.

This is the first time the series has raced at the 1.99-mile road course in Northern California. Teams got 50 minutes of practice Friday.

Larson led the way with a lap of 90.392 mph. He was more than a second faster than the rest of the field.

MORE: Xfinity practice results Sonoma

Sheldon Creed was second on the speed chart with a lap of 89.066 mph. He was followed by AJ Allmendinger (89.052 mph), Cole Custer (89.020) and Ty Gibbs (88.989).

Larson, Allmendinger and Gibbs are among seven Cup drivers are entered in the Xfinity race. Aric Almirola was seventh on the speed chart with a lap of 88.750 mph. Ross Chastain was ninth with a lap of 88.625 mph. Daniel Suarez was 16th with a lap of 88.300 mph. Ty Dillon was 33rd with a lap of 86.828 mph.

Anthony Alfredo will go to a backup car after a crash in practice. He was uninjured in the incident that damaged the right side of his car.

Qualifying is scheduled for 3 p.m. ET Saturday. The race is scheduled to begin at 8:20 p.m. ET Saturday.

Anthony Alfredo’s car after a crash in Xfinity practice Friday at Sonoma Raceway. He was uninjured. (Photo: Dustin Long)

Saturday Sonoma Xfinity race: Start time, TV info, weather


The Xfinity Series will compete for the first time at Sonoma Raceway this weekend. This is one of eight road course events on the Xfinity schedule this season.

Seven Cup drivers are scheduled to compete in Saturday’s race, including AJ Allmendinger, Kyle Larson and Daniel Suarez, who won last year’s Cup race at this track Allmendinger has won 11 of 25 career road course starts in the Xfinity Series.

Details for Saturday’s Xfinity race at Sonoma Raceway

(All times Eastern)

START: Golden State Warrior Patrick Baldwin Jr. will give the command to start engines at 8:08 p.m. … The green flag is scheduled to wave at 8:20 p.m.

PRERACE: Xfinity garage opens at 1 p.m. … Qualifying begins at 3 p.m. … Driver introductions begin at 7:35 p.m. … The invocation will be given by Earl Smith, team pastor for the Golden State Warriors and San Francisco 49ers, at 8 p.m. … The national anthem will be performed by 9-year-old Isis Mikayle Castillo at 8:01 p.m.

DISTANCE: The race is 79 laps (156.95 miles) on the 1.99-mile road course.

STAGES: Stage 1 ends at Lap 20. Stage 2 ends at Lap 45.

STARTING LINEUP: Qualifying begins at 3 p.m. Saturday

TV/RADIO: FS1 will broadcast the race at 8 p.m. ... Coverage begins at 7:30 p.m. … Performance Racing Network coverage begins at 7:30 p.m. and can be heard on goprn.com. … SiriusXN NASCAR Radio will carry the PRN broadcast.

FORECAST: Weather Underground — Mostly cloudy with a high of 72 degrees and a zero percent chance of rain at the start of the race.

LAST TIME: This is the first time the Xfinity Series has raced at Sonoma.


NASCAR Friday schedule at Sonoma Raceway


The Xfinity Series makes its first appearance Friday at Sonoma Raceway.

Xfinity teams, coming off last weekend’s race at Portland International Raceway, get 50 minutes of practice Friday because Sonoma is a new venue for the series.

Seven Cup drivers, including Kyle Larson and Daniel Suarez, are among those entered in the Xfinity race. Suarez won the Cup race at Sonoma last year.

Xfinity teams will qualify and race Saturday at the 1.99-mile road course.

Sonoma Raceway


Friday: Mostly cloudy with a high of 69 degrees.

Friday, June 9

(All times Eastern)

Garage open

  • 11 a.m. — ARCA Menards Series West
  • 1 – 10 p.m. — Xfinity Series

Track activity

  • 2 – 3 p.m. — ARCA West practice
  • 3:10 – 3:30 p.m. — ARCA West qualifying
  • 4:05 – 4:55 p.m. — Xfinity practice (FS1)
  • 6:30 p.m. — ARCA West race (64 laps, 127.36 miles; live on FloRacing, will air on CNBC at 11:30 a.m. ET on June 18)