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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).

AP Report: Felix Sabates ends tenure as NASCAR owner

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Felix Sabates, who has been a NASCAR owner in some form since starting SABCO Racing in 1989, is retiring according to a story by the Associated Press.

Sabates, 74, is leaving his role as a co-owner of Chip Ganassi Racing, which he sold controlling interest of SABCO Racing to in 2001.

The Cuba-native has experienced health problems in recent years. In 2016, he suffered from an illness that put him in intensive care for 73 days and in a coma for 29 days.

Sabates told the AP his heart “has never been in the team as much” after he sold 80% of his remaining shares to Rob Kauffman and “with Felix Sabates” was removed from the team name.

“I have had a great friendship with Chip for almost 20 years and other than who was to pay for a bottle of wine, we have not have many disagreements,” Sabates told the AP. “I don’t have to worry about anything anymore other than to pull hard for Kurt (Busch) and Kyle (Larson), as well as the team to do well and for Chip to enjoy financial success and win. He works hard and put his heart and soul into his race teams and he deserves it.”

Read the full AP story here.

 

Natalie Decker recovering from gallbladder surgery

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Natalie Decker, a Gander RV & Outdoors Truck Series driver, is recovering after undergoing surgery to have her gallbladder removed.

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Decker, who raced for DGR-Crosley in 2019, posted on Instagram Wednesday about what led to the surgery, including problems with her gallbladder the kept her from taking arthritis medication.

“Hi everyone now that I have had the surgery to remove my gallbladder I will share the whole story!” Decker said. “I have been not being able to eat much food and have been in so much pain every time I eat we went through lots of testing like upper endoscopy and gallbladder function test! They finally figured it out and my gallbladder wasn’t functioning right! I had to get my gallbladder removed before I could go back on my Arthritis medication. I’m so thankful everything went very well!”

Decker, 22, made 19 starts in 2019. Her best finish was 13th in the spring Las Vegas race.

John Hunter Nemechek joins Front Row Motorsports’ 2020 driver lineup

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John Hunter Nemechek will join Michael McDowell as a full-time driver at Front Row Motorsports for the 2020 Cup season, the team announced Thursday, confirming it will retract to two cars.

Nemechek will drive the No. 38 Ford, taking over the seat held by David Ragan before his retirement. He will work with crew chief Seth Barbour.

McDowell will continue to drive the No. 34 Ford.

Nemechek competed in the final three Cup races of 2019, substituting for Matt Tifft in the No. 36 Ford following his seizure at Martinsville Speedway in October. Tifft parted ways with the team in order to focus on his health.

Nemechek, the son of Joe Nemechek, joins a rookie class that includes Christopher Bell, Tyler Reddick, Cole Custer and Brennan Poole.

“I’m thrilled for the opportunity to drive for Bob Jenkins and Front Row Motorsports,” Nemechek said in a press release. “Having driven the last three races with this team in 2019, I feel like we already have a foundation to start the 2020 season. I’m looking forward to continuing to build FRM.”

Nemechek, 22, competed full-time in the Xfinity Series in 2019 driving for GMS Racing. He finished seventh in the standings after earning six top fives and 19 top-10 finishes. He has six Truck Series wins in 99 starts since 2013.

McDowell returns for his third full-time season with Front Row.

“As an organization, we have made a lot of strides with the help of all our partners of our program,” McDowell said in the press release. “I’m ready to build on that momentum with (crew chief) Drew (Blickensderfer). and the rest of our team. We’ve always had steady growth and I think we’re going to continue to see that next season.”

Said team owner Bob Jenkins: “We are looking to the future with a young talent like John Hunter Nemechek. John Hunter impressed us at the end of last season, he comes from a racing family, and he’s a winning driver. We believe that we can grow with him in the years to come.”

 

Nashville Fairgrounds in negotiations with new race promoter

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While the city of Nashville reviews a new proposal from Speedway Motorsports, Inc, the Nashville Fairgrounds have entered negotiations with a potential track promoter for Fairground Speedway’s 2020 season, The Tennessean reported Wednesday.

The newspaper reported that the Fairgrounds is negotiating with Track Enterprises to promote at least three races at short track.

The development comes a month after the Fair Board voted to terminate its contract with Formosa Productions over outstanding debt.

Fairgrounds spokesperson Holly McCall told The Tennessean that it was approached by Track Enterprises’ Bob Sargent about being involved in races on the short track next year.

Sargent has a history with the track, having promoted ARCA races there for roughly five years, according to The Tennessean.

Speedway Motorsports, which had previously struck a deal with Formosa Productions looking to bring NASCAR racing back to the track, had announced a $60 million renovation proposal in May.

A spokesperson for Nashville Mayor John Cooper, who was elected in September, told The Tennessean it was reviewing a new proposal from SMI.

McCall told The Tennessean the Fairgrounds had not yet received a new plan from SMI.

Jerry Caldwell, executive vice president and general manager of Bristol Motor Speedway, continues to lead the efforts for Speedway Motorsports to return NASCAR racing to the historic track.

“We understand that it’s a new administration,” Caldwell told NBC Sports about Mayor Cooper during NASCAR’s Champion’s Week in Nashville. “We’re encouraged with the conversations that we’ve had with them and look forward to continuing those. I think we all see a bright future there.

“We all see that there’s a ton of potential at Nashville Fairgrounds Speedway to create something that the city can be proud of, race fans can embrace and love, we can protect the heritage and celebrate that but also turn it into a venue that can be used 365 days a year.”