Where Cup playoff drivers stand heading to Talladega

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Cup drivers are about to enter the unknown.

Or as most call it … Talladega Superspeedway. Drivers know that they are as likely to be in a crash as to finish Sunday’s playoff race at Talladega (2 p.m. ET on NBC).

“There’s going to be carnage like there always is,” said William Byron, who holds the final transfer spot to the next round by a tiebreaker. “It’s probably going to be more than normal though with how fast we’re going.”

Of course, no one knows who will make it out of Talladega unscathed and who might see their title hopes diminish.

Talladega doesn’t care where a driver enters its playoff race in the standings. In 2014, Kyle Busch entered second in points, ran in the back to be safe yet was still in a wreck and failed to advance to the next round back when Talladega was an elimination race.

So yes, anything can happen.

Here’s where things stand for drivers entering the middle race of the Round of 12:

 

DRIVERS WHO ARE SAFE

Are you kidding? Other than Kyle Larson, whose Dover win put him into the next round, no one is safe regardless of their standing in the points. Everyone will be on edge this weekend. There are just degrees of feeling good.

 

FEELING GROOVY

Martin Truex Jr. is 63 points — more than a full race — ahead of Joey Logano, the first driver outside a transfer spot. So Truex knows he won’t fall out of a transfer spot heading into the round’s elimination race at Kansas the following weekend.

 

GLAD TO BE ANYWHERE OTHER THAN DOVER

Joe Gibbs Racing teammates Denny Hamlin and Kyle Busch are both 48 points ahead of Logano.

Wouldn’t you know there’s a way to tie Logano and Hamlin, who expressed his displeasure with how Logano raced him late in stage 2 at Dover while Logano was more than 20 laps down and Hamlin was trying to stay in the lead to win the stage. Instead, Hamlin lost the stage and a playoff point and then lost control of the race and a chance to win.

As for Busch, he’s made it clear he didn’t like the racing at Dover in May and also wasn’t pleased with his car’s performance there. Busch was never a factor at Dover last weekend but scored a sixth-place finish despite a speeding penalty. It helped that so many other playoff drivers had problems and Busch took advantage.

 

IT’S ALL GOOD

Kevin Harvick is 42 points ahead of Logano. Harvick is in a good spot. Or at least seems to be. Everything can change in a moment at Talladega.

 

LITTLE ROOM FOR ERROR

Brad Keselowski is sixth in the standings, 20 points ahead of Logano. Alex Bowman is seventh in the standings, 17 points ahead of Logano.

Keselowski is one of the sport’s premier racers at Talladega, having won there three times since 2014, matching teammate Joey Logano’s total in the same period. Bowman finished second at Talladega in May.

 

NO HOLDING BACK

William Byron, Joey Logano, Clint Bowyer, Chase Elliott and Ryan Blaney. Byron holds the final transfer spot via a tiebreaker on Logano. Any of these drivers could win and change the dynamics heading into the elimination race at Kansas. Elliott won there in April.

 

POINTS STANDINGS

3095 – Martin Truex Jr.

3080 – Denny Hamlin

3080 – Kyle Busch

3074 – Kevin Harvick

3063 – Kyle Larson (Dover win moves him to next round)

3052 – Brad Keselowski

3049 – Alex Bowman

3032 – William Byron

3032 – Joey Logano

3028 – Clint Bowyer

3025 – Chase Elliott

3010 – Ryan Blaney

 

 

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?

Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images
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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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Cup champion’s celebration painful to those who didn’t win title

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NASHVILLE, Tenn. — A year after being feted for his first NASCAR Cup title, Joey Logano returned to Champion’s Week with a different feeling.

“These banquets aren’t really the same after you’ve won it and you know what it’s like to see your car plastered everywhere and your team and everyone is having fun together,” Logano said. “Don’t get me wrong, I’m glad we’re in Nashville, there’s a lot of really cool things, but it really stinks for the competitor to come to the banquet because it’s just like another reminder that you got beat. That’s not much fun. I don’t really like that part.

“When you leave the banquet that night, you really wish you could race the next day because that’s about the most motivating thing you could do is go to a banquet that you didn’t win because all you want to do is change that. And you want to do it as quickly as possible but you’ve got to wait until Daytona to get going again.”

The sport celebrates Kyle Busch’s championship at 8 p.m. ET today on NBCSN. This marks the first year the NASCAR Awards Show has been in Nashville. Busch was a part of the WWE event in the city on Monday, was honored by the Nashville Predators before Tuesday’s NHL game and took part in the Burnouts on Broadway on Wednesday with many other playoff drivers.

While Busch basks in the celebration, teammate Martin Truex Jr. deals with the pain of finishing second in the championship for a second consecutive year. Logano passed Truex late to win last year’s championship. Truex’s title run this season was derailed, in part, by his crew putting the wrong tires on the wrong side of the car in last month’s championship race in Miami.

Had things gone a little differently, Truex could have won three consecutive championships, matching Cale Yarborough’s accomplishment from 1976-78.

“I’ll tell you when I get over it,” Truex said of the pain of finishing second again for the title. “It’s a  big deal. Work all year long to put yourself in that position. When it doesn’t turn out the way you hope, it’s tough.

“A lot of people put a lot of effort into it. It’s not something that goes away. It takes time. Honestly, I’m still sour about finishing second last year, too. Two years in a row finishing second hurts. you have to learn from it and move on, but you never forget it.”