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NBC Sports NASCAR Power Rankings heading into All-Star Race

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For the first time since after the Atlanta race, Kyle Busch is no longer atop the NBC Sports NASCAR Power Rankings.

Busch is out (and drops to third) and Chase Elliott is in as the unanimous pick of NBC Sports’ NASCAR writers for this week’s No. 1 spot. Elliott moves up from third place in last week’s rankings.

Clint Bowyer makes the biggest gain, going from outside the top 10 last week to a solid No. 4 this week. Also making a big jump: Alex Bowman from sixth last week to second this week.

Conversely, Dover winner Martin Truex Jr. suffered the biggest drop, falling from second last week to ninth this week. Also, Kyle Larson and Denny Hamlin both dropped out of the rankings entirely.

Here’s how this week’s Power Rankings look heading into this weekend’s All-Star Race at Charlotte:

1. Chase Elliott (40 points): Has led 235 laps over the last three races and finished in the top five in each. Last week: 3rd.

2. Alex Bowman (30 points): Three 2s (runner-up finishes) for the double-8 car. That’s a full house poker hand but still leaves him short of winning. Last week: 6th.

3. Kyle Busch (29 points): It’s tough to lose the top spot in the rankings, but just like his disappointing finish at Kansas, Busch will bounce back and be a man on a mission in the Coca-Cola 600. Last week: 1st.

4. Clint Bowyer (27 points): Almost finally got that first elusive Cup win at his home track in Kansas. Is on a roll of late, with six top 10s in his last seven starts. One of the most underrated drivers out there right now. Last week: 11th (others receiving votes).

5. Brad Keselowski (24 points): Lost somewhat in all the post-race celebration is Keselowski is now tied with Kyle Busch for most wins (three each) this season. Who will wind up with the most wins by season’s end? Last week: (tie) 7th.

6. Kurt Busch (21 points): Earned his eighth top 10 of the season. Has not had consecutive finishes outside the top 10 through 12 races. Consistency has become his middle name in 2019. Just a matter of time before that consistency pays off with a win. Last week: (tie) 7th.

7. Kevin Harvick (16 points): Does Harvick have a black cloud following him? The guy can’t seem to catch a break when it comes to winning this year. But there is a silver lining to that cloud with his consistency (including five fourth-place finishes). Last week: (tie) 4th.

8. Joey Logano (13 points): Damage to car early hurt him at Kansas and had him falling down the running order and these standings. Last week: (tie) 4th.

9. Martin Truex Jr. (11 points): Followed Richmond win by finishing 20th at Talladega. Followed Dover win by placing 19th at Dover. Can you say roller coaster ride? Last week: 2nd.

10. Erik Jones (8 points): Making a strong push for a signed extension at Joe Gibbs Racing. His strong finish at Kansas will help his job security, but he needs a lot more finishes like that. Last week: 14th (others receiving votes).

Others receiving votes: Ross Chastain (3 points), Jimmie Johnson (1 point).

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.

 

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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.