Which Cup drivers can keep parity alive at Pocono?

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Entering this weekend’s race at Pocono Raceway (3 p.m. ET Sunday on NBCSN), the series has seen seven different winners over the last seven races.

The stretch began with the last visit to Pocono on June 2 when Kyle Busch claimed his most recent victory. The streak was continued last weekend by Kevin Harvick when he earned his first win of the season.

During that stretch:

  • Four drivers – Alex Bowman, Justin Haley, Kurt Busch and Harvick – earned their first wins of the season
  • Bowman and Haley earned their first career Cup wins.
  • The last six races were won by six different organizations

Which drivers are the best candidates to continue that streak of parity this weekend on the “Tricky Triangle”?

A look at the top-10 finishers from the June race provides plenty of candidates. Eight of the drivers in the top 10 have not been part of the seven-race stretch of winners.

Of those eight, only two – Brad Keselowski and Denny Hamlin – have previously won at Pocono.

Two of the eight – William Byron and Daniel Suarez – still seek their first Cup wins.

Here’s a closer look at the eight drivers.

Brad Keselowski (finished second in June)

The Team Penske driver already has three wins this year, but none since he claimed the May 11 race at Kansas Speedway.

Keselowski is prolific at Pocono despite only one win (2011) in 19 starts there. In the last eight Pocono races, Keselowski has finished outside the top five once, in last July’s race (38th, crash).

He enters Sunday’s race with one top five since the June visit to Pocono.

Erik Jones (finished third in June)

The Joe Gibbs Racing driver is knocking on the door of earning his second career Cup win.

He enters this weekend with two straight third-place finishes and five top 10s dating back to the June race. In five career Pocono starts, Jones has three top fives and an eighth-place finish.

Also working in Jones’ favor: Toyota has won the last four Pocono races.

“Pocono has been good to us in the past. It’s not necessarily one of my favorite places, but we always seem to run well there and be in contention at the end,” Jones said in a media release. “Hopefully we can put it all together this weekend and get that first win of the year. We’ve had fast cars, just have to keep plugging along and have a mistake-free weekend.”

Chase Elliott (finished fourth in June)

The Hendrick Motorsports driver hasn’t had much to brag about since the last Pocono visit.

He’s failed to finish in the top 10 in the six races since, which included engine problems at Sonoma, a crash at Daytona and mechanical problems at New Hampshire.

In seven Pocono starts he’s finished outside the top 10 only once.

Clint Bowyer (finished fifth in June)

Like Keselowski and Elliott, Bowyer’s fortunes have been in a freefall since the last Pocono race.

Outside a sixth at Kentucky, he has finished 11th or worse in the other five races, including three DNFs for crashes. He was in a crash with Martin Truex Jr. at New Hampshire and finished a lap down in 20th.

His fifth-place finish in June was just his third Pocono top five in 27 starts.

“Pocono is a really tough track with three different turns,” Bowyer said in a media release. “I want to make sure we qualify well so we can get a good starting position and pit stall. As we saw in June, passing is pretty tough there, so track position is everything. We had a good car there last time and I expect we will again. Where we are in points (16th), we need to score as many bonus points as we can.”

Denny Hamlin (finished sixth in June)

A week after almost coming away with his fourth New Hampshire win, Hamlin will try to make up for it with his fifth career victory at Pocono.

Hamlin, the No. 1 driver in this week’s NBC Sports Power Rankings, heads to Pocono with only one top five in his last 10 starts there. He has three top fives since the June race.

Daniel Suarez (finished eighth in June)

Suarez returns to the track where he came the closest to winning in the Cup Series. He led 29 laps and finished second in this race last year in his final season with Joe Gibbs Racing.

His best finish since then was third earlier this year at Texas Motor Speedway. His best result since the June Pocono race was a fourth the following race at Michigan.

Suarez will look to join Chris Buescher (2016), Ryan Blaney (2017) and Hamlin (2006) among the drivers who have earned their first Cup wins at Pocono.

William Byron (finished ninth in June)

The Hendrick Motorsports driver will seek to build on the good outing he had in June, where he led 25 laps and finished third in the second stage.

Since the June race he has one top five, a runner-up finish in the rain-shortened race at Daytona.

“We had a really good car at Pocono Raceway earlier this year and I felt like we were really close,” Byron said in a media release. “We just didn’t have the winning strategy; we went more for the stage points last race. I think this time, going back, we’ll be able to control our race a little bit differently. I was honestly a couple moves away from getting a better finish last time so I’m really optimistic for this weekend.”

Aric Almirola (finished 10th in June)

Before joining Stewart-Haas Racing last year, Almirola had never finished better than 18th at Pocono. His last two efforts have resulted in top 10s.

Almirola enters Pocono with one top five all season (Phoenix) and two top 10s since the June race at Pocono.

He claimed his first stage win of the year last weekend.

“They’re putting down some of the traction compound on all three corners and that’s going to change the racing, for sure,” Almirola said in a media release. “We’ve seen it change the dynamic at many of the other tracks. I think that will be interesting and it will put on a great race. The restarts are already wild and crazy and now, with the outer groove being more of an option, that is really going to open up a lot of opportunities on restarts and being able to run side by side.”

Daytona road course entry lists

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NASCAR’s national series will make their debuts on the Daytona road course this weekend. The Cup, Xfinity and Truck events will be held without any practice or qualifying.

NASCAR is prohibiting drivers from competing in more than one series this weekend on the Daytona road course in an effort to get extra track time. NASCAR states that is to make the event fair for everyone.

Sunday’s Cup race will be broadcast on NBC.

Here are the preliminary entry lists for the races at the Daytona road course 

Cup – Go Bowling 235 (3 p.m. ET Sunday on NBC)

Thirty-nine drivers are entered for the race at the Daytona road course.

JJ Yeley is in the No. 27 for Rick Ware Racing.

Joey Gase is in the No. 51 for Petty Ware Racing.

Gray Gaulding is in the No. 53 for Rick Ware Racing.

Brendan Gaughan is in the No. 62 for Beard Motorsports.

Timmy Hill is in the No. 66 for Motorsports Business Management.

Reed Sorenson is in the No. 77 for Spire Motorsports.

Click here for Cup entry list


Xfinity – UNOH 188 (3 p.m. ET Saturday on NBCSN)

Thirty-eight cars are entered.

Andy Lally is back in the No. 02 Our Motorsports car after finishing fifth last week at Road America.

AJ Allmendinger, who finished second last week at Road America, is in the No. 16 for Kaulig Racing.

IMSA driver Earl Bamber will make his Xfinity debut this weekend in the No. 21 for Richard Childress Racing.

Brandon Gdovic will make his second start of the season, driving the No. 26 for Sam Hunt Racing.

Click here for Xfinity entry list


Truck – Sunoco 159 (Noon ET Sunday on FS1)

Thirty-nine trucks are entered in the race that will be held before the Cup event on Sunday on the Daytona road course.

Alex Tagliani will drive the No. 51 for Kyle Busch Motorsports.

Click here for Truck entry list

Silly Season Scorecard: Christopher Bell moves back to JGR

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No surprise that Christopher Bell moves over to the No. 20 at Joe Gibbs Racing next season with Leavine Family Racing being sold and Erik Jones not remaining with JGR beyond this season. Joe Gibbs Racing made the announcement Monday.

While JGR lets the 24-year-old Jones, who has 133 Cup starts go, it brings in the 25-year-old Bell who has made 22 career Cup starts. Jones said before Sunday’s race he was “blindsided a little bit” by JGR’s move.

It’s part of the building momentum of Silly Season. In the last week, Team Penske signed Brad Keselowski to a reported one-year extension and Bubba Wallace said he has an offer for next year not only from Richard Petty Motorsports but also Chip Ganassi Racing.

Here’s how the Cup Silly Season scorecard looks as of Aug. 10.


No. 00: Quin Houff enters the second year of his two-year deal with StarCom Racing.

No. 1: Kurt Busch enters the second year of a multi-year contract that Chip Ganassi Racing announced last season.

No. 2: Brad Keselowski and Team Penske announced a contract extension Aug. 3.

No. 4: Kevin Harvick signed a contract extension in February that will keep him at Stewart-Haas Racing through the 2023 season.

No. 8: Tyler Reddick said in a press conference Aug. 7 that he will be back with Richard Childress Racing next season.

No. 9: Chase Elliott is under contract with Hendrick Motorsports through the 2022 season.

No. 11: Denny Hamlin is signed with Joe Gibbs Racing through at least next year.

No. 12: Ryan Blaney and Team Penske announced a multi-year extension earlier this season.

No. 18: Kyle Busch is signed with Joe Gibbs Racing through at least next year.

No. 19: Martin Truex Jr. is signed with Joe Gibbs Racing through at least next year.

No. 20: Christopher Bell moves from Leavine Family Racing to take over this ride in 2021.

No. 22: Joey Logano is tied to Team Penske “through the 2022 season and beyond.”

No. 24: William Byron is under contact with Hendrick Motorsports through at least 2021.

No. 47: Ricky Stenhouse Jr. enters the second year of a multi-year deal with JTG Daugherty Racing.

No. 88: Alex Bowman will race for Hendrick Motorsports under a one-year contract extension announced earlier this year.


Available/possibly available rides

No. 10: Aric Almirola is in a contract year at Stewart-Haas Racing.

No. 13: Ty Dillon is in a contract year at Germain Racing.

No. 14: Clint Bowyer is in a contract year to drive for Stewart-Haas Racing.

No. 21: Matt DiBenedetto is in a contract year at Wood Brothers Racing. He said after the Aug. 9 Michigan race: “I haven’t really talked about that stuff for next year yet, but we’ve just been so focused and head down on digging and trying to make the playoffs and run well. We haven’t even really talked about it, so, hopefully, I stay here for a very long time to come and that’s what they had expressed to me when I came over here.”

No. 32: Corey LaJoie is in a contract year at Go Fas Racing.

No. 42: Matt Kenseth told NBC Sports on Aug. 8 in regards to talks with Chip Ganassi Racing for next year: “We really haven’t had any very meaningful discussions really about any of that to be honest with you.

No. 43: Bubba Wallace said Aug. 9 he has an offer from Richard Petty Motorsports and an offer from Chip Ganassi Racing to drive the No. 42 car next season.

No. 48: With Jimmie Johnson retiring from full-time competition, Hendrick Motorsports has this seat to fill.

No. 95: Leavine Family Racing announced it was selling its assets earlier this week. The buyer has not been announced. Christopher Bell will move to the No. 20 Joe Gibbs Racing team for 2021.

Christopher Bell to drive for Joe Gibbs Racing in 2021


Christopher Bell will drive for the No. 20 next season for Joe Gibbs Racing, the team announced Monday, a decision that was expected with Erik Jones’ contract expiring after this season and it not being renewed. 

“I’m so appreciative of the opportunity I have this year with LFR and I want to finish this season strong for Bob (Leavine) and everyone there,” Bell said in a statement from the team. “At the same time, I’m extremely excited to return to Joe Gibbs Racing starting in 2021. It’s an organization I’m very comfortable with and have had a lot of success with.”

Said car owner Joe Gibbs: “We are excited to bring Christopher into our Cup Series program starting in 2021. He obviously had tremendous success in the Xfinity Series with us and we look forward to his return to JGR.”

Bell drove for JGR in in the Xfinity Series in 2018 and 2019, winning 15 races, before moving to the Cup Series and Leavine Family Racing this season. Leavine Family Racing announced last week that it has been sold.

Entering Sunday’s race at the Daytona International Speedway road course (3 p.m. ET on NBC), Bell is 19th in points. His best finish this season is fourth at the first Pocono race in late June.

Xfinity playoff grid after Road America

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Brandon Brown extended his hold on the final spot in the Xfinity playoff grid last weekend at Road America after struggles early in the race.

Brown needed to be pushed back to pit road before the field took the green because of a mechanical issue. He fell a lap down as his crew diagnosed the issue, got his lap back, scored four stage points in the second stage and finished 12th, one spot off his best career finish on a road course.

MORE: Brandon Brown wants to reward father with a special celebration

MORE: Austin Cindric wins at Road America 

Brown’s effort and Jeremy Clements misfortune in being collected in a crash to finish 29th led to Brown extending his lead on Clements for the final spot in the Xfinity playoff grid to 53 points. Myatt Snider is 73 points behind Brown. Eight races remain until the Xfinity playoffs begin Sept. 26 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

Here is a look at the playoff grid. Drivers shaded in green are locked in the playoffs. Those shaded in yellow are in a playoff spot based on their point total. Drivers shaded in red are outside a spot in the Xfinity playoff grid.