Chevrolet seeks elusive Kentucky Cup win

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Chevrolet has won a lot in the Cup Series.

In fact, Chevy cars have gone to victory lane 781 times in Cup competition, most recently with Alex Bowman at Chicagoland Speedway.

But among all the active tracks the Cup Series has visited multiple times, there is one that continues to elude the bow tie: Kentucky Speedway, which the series returns to this weekend (7:30 p.m. ET Saturday on NBCSN).

The Cup Series has visited the 1.5-mile track in Sparta, Kentucky, eight times since 2011. Each time Chevrolet came up empty.

The winners of those eight races have been divided among Team Penske, Joe Gibbs Racing and the now defunct Furniture Row Racing, which won the last two races.

Two facts put Chevy’s lack of Kentucky win in perspective.

The Cup Series has been going to Kentucky long enough that three manufacturers have won there. That would be Toyota (five wins), Ford (two wins) and … Dodge.

Yes, Dodge claimed a win at Kentucky in 2012 with Brad Keselowski. That was its final year of competition before leaving NASCAR.

Also, remember Jeff Gordon? The four-time champion and winner of 93 races won at least once on every track he raced on in Cup competition … except Kentucky. Gordon never led a lap on the oval and his best result in five starts was fifth in 2012.

How close has Chevy come to winning in Kentucky?

It’s finished second three times, with Kasey Kahne in 2012, Jamie McMurray in 2013 and Kyle Larson in 2017. None of them led a lap in their efforts.

The most promising efforts came from Jimmie Johnson in 2013 and Kevin Harvick in 2016.

Johnson 182 laps in 2013, but finished ninth after he spun on a restart on Lap 248 while defending second place from Joey Logano.

Three years later, Harvick started from the pole and led 128 laps but he lost the lead to Keselowski on a Lap 200 restart. Keselowski went the final 67 laps without pitting and won. Like Johnson, Harvick finished ninth.

Only three Chevrolet drivers in the field for Saturday’s race have won at Kentucky: Ty and Austin Dillon and William Byron.

Austin Dillon in victory lane at Kentucky Speedway in 2012. (Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images for NASCAR)

Austin Dillon swept the Xfinity Series races there in 2012.

“Kentucky is one of those places I’ve always been pretty decent at, going back to the NASCAR Truck Series and the NASCAR Xfinity Series days,” Austin Dillon said in a media release. “We were able to win there, and any time that you head into a track that you’ve been successful at in the past you go in with some confidence.

“The repave is a few years old now (2016) so it should be fun to see how that’s shaping up. We will look forward to Kentucky as one of those places that we feel like we can run well at. At this point, we need a win in order to make it into the playoffs and that is our goal.”

Ty Dillon and Byron have one win each there in the Gander Outdoor Truck Series. Dillon won in 2013 and Byron in 2016.

“Kentucky has lost a lot of grip quickly,” Byron said in a media release. “They repaved it less than five years ago and it has really gotten grayer and grayer each year. I’m sure it’s going to be even more slick this year when we go back. It’s one of those tracks that takes a while to get rubber, so you just have to almost wait for that process to happen and make sure you tune your car to the rubber and not the clean track. That’s really all I’m worried about is once the rubber lays down you know it’s going to be a different race track.”

While Chevy hasn’t found victory lane in Kentucky, its drought comes up short of Ford and Toyota and the tracks those two manufacturers took the longest to win at.

Ford’s longest stretch occurred at Martinsville Speedway.

From the track’s opening in 1949, it took 24 races before the blue oval finally won on the short track with Fred Lorenzen in April 1961.

For Toyota, which debuted in the Cup Series in 2007, the track that plagued it the most was Auto Club Speedway.

It took 11 races on the 2-mile speedway before Kyle Busch won there in March 2013. The race total before his win was helped by Auto Club hosting two races a year from 2004-2010.

Here are the tracks Chevrolet has its fewest Cup wins at courtesy of Racing Insights.

Rain postpones Cup race at Talladega until Monday at 2 p.m. ET on NBCSN

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The Cup Series playoff race at Talladega has been postponed due to rain. The race will resume Monday at 2 p.m. ET on NBCSN.

The race was put under a rain delay after the completion of Stage 1.

57 of 188 laps have been completed. The race is not official until the end of Stage 2 (Lap 110).

William Byron won the first stage.

The top 10 is Byron, Joey Logano, Alex Bowman, Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Brad Keselowski, Kyle Larson, Jimmie Johnson, Daniel Suarez, Kurt Busch and Ryan Blaney.

Blocking a key issue at Talladega for drivers

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TALLADEGA, Ala. — The question isn’t who to race with at Talladega, manufacturers have dictated that, but it is where to race.

Run at the front and hope the wreck is behind? Run at the back and hope to avoid the carnage?

The package used at Talladega and Daytona this season punches such a big hole that drivers say the closing rate between cars is quicker than before. That gives cars trying to block less time to make their move. Be late and it can lead to a wreck.

As it has at Talladega and Daytona this year.

“There’s been many evolutions in racing and blocking is one for me that I’ve had to evolve with, but blocking is a part of our sport now on a weekly basis,” Kevin Harvick said. “It’s not just here. I mean, you see it at the mile-and-a-half race tracks. 

“You’re just going to have wrecks blocking. Sometimes you’re going to make a bad move. It’s just something that’s a little bit newer in the pace of the car that’s approaching you and the style of block and how you throw it, but we’re going to wreck from a block because it’s just become part of what we do.”

Three wrecks this year at Talladega and Daytona can be traced to blocking at the front of the field.

“When you have the smaller spoiler, you’re able to get in front of them, that lead car would get the push before that (trailing) car would actually get to the back bumper of the lead car,” Joey Logano said. “Now, it seems like the trailing car can get to the back bumper and then some (with the larger spoiler), so the blocks have to be quicker and have to be precise. Even once you block them it doesn’t mean it’s over because now they’re still on your bumper and they’re pushing you around. It’s more challenging from that standpoint.”

The late April race at Talladega debuted this package and saw a crash at the front of the field early in the event. Bubba Wallace was third when he and Ryan Blaney, running second, got out of shape and triggered a crash that damaged six cars. Wallace said the accident was a result of “the amount of runs and the force of it. All I was trying to do was just some wreck avoidance.”

The Daytona race in July saw two crashes that started at the front of the field because of blocking.

Ricky Stenhouse Jr. was leading when he was late on a block on Kurt Busch and they made contact, spinning Stenhouse.

Late in the race, Austin Dillon, in the lead, blocked as Clint Bowyer went low to try pass. They made contact, triggering an 18-car crash.

Dillon notes that blocking is a part of speedway racing.

“You’re going to do it,” he said. “Somebody has got a run at you at the end of the race. There’s not much else you can do. You can give up certain times of the race, but if it’s a last-lap situation you’re going to be held accountable for the actions you make and you’re going to feel bad if you go home not making the block that could win you the race … or you’re going to feel bad if you’re wrecked. I’ve been on both sides of it. It’s speedway racing. That’s all I have to say about it.”

Blocking, to Ryan Newman, is nothing new.

“What was it ’08 when (Tony) Stewart won blocking Regan Smith?” Newman said of the fall 2008 Talladega race where Smith crossed the finish line first but Stewart was given the win because Smith went below the yellow line. “Stewart got the win and blocked Regan and everything was fine. Here we are 11 years later still talking about the same thing. Does it do any good to talk about it?”

Harvick was encouraged how NASCAR reacted at the end of Saturday’s Gander Outdoors Truck Series race. NASCAR penalized leader Johnny Sauter for forcing Riley Herbst below the yellow line on the final lap. Spencer Boyd was declared the winner.

“I can’t stand blocking,” Harvick said. “We didn’t use to penalize the blockers  very much. It was always the guy that was trying to make the move. So, you know, the guy had a lane … Johnny was trying to win the race. You can’t blame for him for trying to block. I like when the blockers get called. I don’t like it for Johnny Sauter. You’ve got to have a lane to race.”

 

Sunday’s Cup race at Talladega: Start time, lineup and more

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One of the first things Kyle Larson said after winning last weekend at Dover was that “everybody in this playoff field is going to be stressing at Talladega … except me.”

Talladega is here and it’s time for many drivers to stress. Except Larson, of course.

The playoff standings could be jumbled by the time the 500-mile journey at Talladega Superspeedway ends. Who will be collected in a crash? Who will get through the carnage and contend for the win?

Here is all the info for today’s race:

(All times are Eastern)

START: Edward Graham, assistant VP of Operation Christmas Child for Samaritan’s Purse, will give the command to start engines at 1:48 p.m. The green flag is scheduled to wave at 2:03 p.m.

PRERACE: The Cup garage opens at 10 a.m. Driver/crew chief meeting is at noon. Driver introductions are at 1:15 p.m. The invocation will be given at 1:41 p.m. by Dr. Robert Jeffress, senior pastor of First Baptist Church of Dallas. The National Anthem will be performed at 1:42 p.m. by the 313th United States Army Band out of Birmingham, Alabama.

DISTANCE: The race is 188 laps (500.08 miles) around the 2.66-mile track.

STAGES: Stage 1 ends on Lap 55. Stage 2 ends on Lap 110.

TV/RADIO: NBC will televise the race at 2 p.m. Coverage begins with NASCAR America at 1 p.m. on NBC. Countdown to Green follows at 1:30 p.m. on NBC, leading into race coverage. Motor Racing Network’s radio broadcast begins at 1 p.m. and also can be heard on mrn.com. SiriusXM NASCAR Radio will carry MRN’s broadcast.

STREAMING ONLINE: Click here for NBC’s live stream of the race.

FORECAST: Wunderground.com forecasts mostly cloudy conditions with a temperature of 68 degrees and a 0% chance of rain at the start of the race.

LAST TIME: Chase Elliott led a 1-2-3 Chevrolet sweep in late April, finishing ahead of Alex Bowman and Ryan Preece. Aric Almirola won this playoff race a year ago, giving Ford a 1-2-3 sweep with Clint Bowyer second and Ricky Stenhouse Jr. third. 

STARTING LINEUP: Click here for the starting lineup.

Jagger Jones, grandson of Parnelli Jones, scores first NASCAR win

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Jagger Jones, the 17-year-old grandson of famed racer Parnelli Jones, scored his first NASCAR victory, taking the checkered flag in Saturday night’s K&N Pro Series West race at All American Speedway in Roseville, California.

In a statement to NBC Sports, the 86-year-old Parnelli Jones, who won the 1963 Indianapolis 500, said of his grandson’s achievement: “I just knew it was a matter of time until Jagger rose to the top and won at this level. I’m very proud of him. Jagger has worked hard on his racing skills this year and continues to improve and learn.

“Not only is Jagger a good driver but he’s a very good student. I’ve been impressed by both Jagger and Jace (his younger brother) – they continue to work hard and balance their driving with their work in the classroom. They’re outstanding young men on and off the track and I’m truly a very proud grandfather. Jagger and his team earned this win after a successful season and hopefully it’s a building block for the future.”

Hailie Deegan, who started on the pole, overcame an early spin and finished second.

This is Jones’ first season in the series. He had finished runner-up twice, scoring those finishes in his first career series race at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway Dirt Track in March and at Douglas County Speedway in Roseburg, Oregon, in June.

Trevor Huddleston placed third Saturday night, points leader Derek Kraus was fourth and Todd Souza was fifth.

Race results