Denny Hamlin wins for fifth time in his Cup career at Pocono

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Familiarity is supposed to breed contempt, but for Denny Hamlin, familiarity breeds success when it comes to Pocono Raceway.

Hamlin needed three laps of overtime but held on to capture his fifth career win at the Tricky Triangle in Sunday’s Gander RV 400. It was a 1-2-3 finish for Joe Gibbs Racing, as Hamlin took the checkered flag followed by teammates Erik Jones and Martin Truex Jr.

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The Virginia native becomes the eighth different winner in the last eight Cup races.

“I was really worried (about low fuel),” Hamlin told NBCSN. “Once we lost the track position to (Truex) an (Jones), I thought it’s over. We weren’t able to pass them.”

But Hamlin did pass them and never looked back.

“I was in fuel-save mode and still trying to get around those guys,” Hamlin said. “Once I got around them, then I really went into conservation mode instead of stretching the lead out there.”

Hamlin was so excited that after his interview on the frontstretch with NBCSN, he yelled out “five” and held his five fingers up, prompting cheers from the crowd. His five wins at Pocono now equal his other most successful track (five wins at Martinsville)

“Man, we’re on a roll,” Hamlin said. “We’re running our best right now, there’s no doubt about it. We’ll just keep plugging along and doing the best we can.”

Hamlin took the lead from Jones, who was also was low on fuel 17 laps from the scheduled end. Hamlin then held on during two late restarts and sailed to his fifth win and 11th top-five finish in 28 career starts at the 2.5-mile track.

William Byron finished fourth followed by Kyle Larson. Both started at the rear after Byron’s car failed inspection and Larson went to a backup this weekend. Kevin Harvick, Daniel Hemric, Brad Keselowski, Kyle Busch and Ryan Blaney completed the top 10.

Stage 1 winner: Kyle Busch (8th stage win of season)

Stage 2 winner: Jimmie Johnson under caution (second career stage win)

Who had a good race: Kyle Larson bounced back from a Saturday wreck in practice and challenged momentarily in the final three laps before finishing fifth. … William Byron also rallied late for a strong fourth-place finish. … Daniel Hemric finished seventh, the second-best finish of his Cup career.

Who had a bad race: Chase Elliott suffered a hard wreck exiting Turn 3 during Stage 2 when a tire blew out on him. Elliott was driving a backup car after wrecking during practice Saturday morning. Elliott finished last in the 38-car field, marking his fifth finish in the last seven races outside the top 20. “It just popped,” Elliott told NBCSN. “It’s been really rough over a month. Just a rough patch. Hopefully, we can get past it. The good news is we’re still in the summer months so the stuff that really matters is still ahead. … We just move on.”

Notable: This is the second 1-2-3 finish for Joe Gibbs Racing this season. The other was in the season-opening Daytona 500, which Hamlin won, followed by Kyle Busch and Erik Jones.

What’s next: Sunday, August 4, GoBowling at The Glen, Watkins Glen International (3 p.m. ET, NBCSN)

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Chase Elliott wins Cup Most Popular Driver award

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NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Chase Elliott was selected as the NMPA Most Popular Driver in a fan vote announced during Thursday’s NASCAR Awards show.

It is the second consecutive victory for Elliott in the category.

“Honored to have two,” Elliott said. “It’s really more than a trophy or award. It is about the people you see at the race track.”

It is the 29th consecutive year that either an Elliott or Earnhardt has won the award.

The last driver not named Elliott or Earnhardt to win this award was Darrell Waltrip in 1990.

Other award winners included:

The Bill France Award of Excellence, an award that is not given every year, was presented to car owner Joe Gibbs for his signifiant contribution to the sport.

The NMPA Myers Brothers Award for outstanding contribution to the sport was presented to Darrell Waltrip.

The Betty Jane France Humanitarian Award is Joe Vaughn, who has volunteered for nearly two decades, raising both awareness and funds on behalf of the Project HOPE Foundation, based in Greenville, South Carolina. The foundation’s mission is to provide a lifespan of services to the autism community to help families, open minds, promote inclusion and expand potential.

Watch NASCAR Cup Awards Show at 8 p.m. ET on NBCSN

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Get settled into your favorite easy chair, make sure you have plenty of snacks and beverages on hand and get ready for the last big event of 2019 on the NASCAR schedule: tonight’s NASCAR Awards Show.

The show will be broadcast on NBCSN from 8-10:30 p.m. ET from Nashville, Tennessee, for the first time. And if you miss some of the show, don’t worry, there’ll be a replay immediately afterward, also on NBCSN.

Kyle Busch will be the main attraction for tonight’s show, being celebrated for winning his second NASCAR Cup championship this past season.

Also, the 2019 NASCAR Cup Most Popular Driver award winner will be revealed. Will it be defending winner Chase Elliott, reigning champion Kyle Busch, Ryan Blaney, Martin Truex Jr., Matt DiBenedetto … or someone else? You definitely need to tune in to find out.

And to get you in the mood, we’ll replay Wednesday’s Burnouts on Broadway at 7 p.m. ET, also on NBCSN.

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Will Daniel Suarez race for Richard Childress Racing in 2020?

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NASHVILLE, Tenn. — The president of Richard Childress Racing said it is a “longshot” that Daniel Suarez will drive a third Cup entry for the organization in 2020 but said RCR would like to have Suarez drive its No. 2 Xfinity car next year.

Suarez has not decided where he’ll race in 2020 after losing his ride with Stewart-Haas Racing this year.

Suarez has been linked with RCR. A third Cup entry would require RCR to acquire another charter for that car. It also could mean that the organization would need to hire additional people if they expanded to three full-time cars.

“I think that would be a long shot in a Cup program,” Torrey Galida told NBC Sports about Suarez in a third RCR Cup entry. “We’ve talked to him about an Xfinity program. We’d love to have him in an Xfinity car, and we think we could win another championship next year with Daniel. He’s a very talented young man.”

Richard Childress Racing’s No. 21 Xfinity car will run the full season with multiple drivers in 2020. Myatt Snider and Anthony Alfredo have been announced to drive that car. Galida said the team is looking at Kaz Grala, Austin Dillon and possibly two-time series champ Tyler Reddick driving that car in select races.

RCR ran the No. 21 car in nine of 33 Xfinity races this past season. It ran the No. 2 car in every race.

If Suarez, the 2016 Xfinity champion, drove for RCR in the Xfinity Series next year, it would be with the organization’s No. 2 car.

“We could still do that and we would do that,” Galida said of a full-time Xfinity effort for Suarez. “That’s the kind of opportunity we would be interested in.”

Galida said it just is a matter of hearing what Suarez decides.

“I think he knows what we’ve got to offer, and I think he’s just weighing his alternatives and trying to determine what is best for him,” Galida told NBC Sports. “I’m sure that going back to the Xfinity Series is not his first choice. I think in the right equipment it could be a really good move for him.”

Galida said they could go into January before hearing from Suarez but noted that “the sooner the better. People are your biggest issue. You want to put the right people around him.”

Next April’s Xfinity race at Bristol to have new sponsor

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Bristol Motor Speedway announced Thursday that partner Alsco, along with Darden Restaurants and its Cheddar’s Scratch Kitchen brand, will sponsor next April’s Xfinity Series race there.

The Cheddar’s 300 presented by Alsco will take place on Saturday, April 4, 2020.

Alsco is a global leader in uniform and linen rental services. In addition to its entitlement at Bristol Motor Speedway, Alsco will take part in Xfinity Series entitlements at three other Speedway Motorsports Inc. racetracks: Kentucky Speedway, Charlotte Motor Speedway and Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

Alsco’s initial entitlement at BMS came this past April with the Alsco 300 Xfinity Series race, won by Christopher Bell, who earned a $100,000 bonus through Xfinity’s Dash 4 Cash program.

Alsco is also a sponsor for Richard Childress Racing, Richard Petty Motorsports and JR Motorsports.

“Bristol is the place for historic finishes and close, hard-knock racing action,” said Jerry Caldwell, executive vice president and general manager at Bristol Motor Speedway. “Alsco and our new friends at Cheddar’s Scratch Kitchen understand the reputation of racing at The Last Great Colosseum and we’re ready to show them an incredible experience. The Cheddar’s 300 presented by Alsco is a must-see event on the NASCAR Xfinity Series schedule.”

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