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Xfinity Series Championship 4 clinching scenarios

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Christopher Bell planted his flag in the Xfinity Series’ Championship 4 last weekend with his sweep of the playoff race at Texas Motor Speedway.

He’ll get his second shot at a Xfinity championship Nov. 16 at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

That leaves three spots to be filled Saturday at ISM Raceway (3:30 p.m. ET on NBC) by seven hopeful drivers.

Here’s your guide to how each driver can clinch a spot in the Championship 4 other than winning.

Cole Custer (+52 points above cutline): The Stewart-Haas Racing driver can clinch on points if he earns 22 points and there is a new winner. If there is a repeat winner (or a win by Tyler Reddick or Justin Allgaier), he could clinch on points with four points earned.

Custer has finished in the top 10 in four of his five career Xfinity starts at ISM Raceway.

“Fifty-two points is a great gap as we head into this weekend but it’s not something we can be comfortable with,” Custer said in a press release. “If one of the guys below the cut line ends up grabbing a win, then I think we only sit 16 points ahead of Tyler Reddick and if we have a bad day or something happens early in the race, that could knock us out of contention. Our best bet is to just go into this race and get the Haas Automation car back into Victory Lane and control our own destiny. We had a really good car here in the spring  (finished fourth), one I think we were capable of winning with, so that is what our goal is for this weekend.”

Tyler Reddick (+36 points):  The Richard Childress Racing driver can clinch on points by earning 38 points and a new winner. If there is a repeat winner (or a win by Cole Custer or Justin Allgaier), he could clinch by earning 20 points.

Reddick finished third at ISM Raceway in the spring.

“We know going into this weekend we need to keep our No. 2 myblu Chevrolet Camaro clean in order to advance … so we’ll be paying really close attention to what’s happening on the restarts throughout the race,” Reddick said in a media release. “With the starting line being at the end of the new Turns 3 and 4, there is endless amounts of race track for people to play with. It’s so wide but narrows up so fast. That makes it very interesting going into Turn 1. As a driver, you have to be on your toes and understand you could be on top of four or three-wide, or on the bottom of the same situation.”

Justin Allgaier (+18 points): The JR Motorsports driver can clinch on points if there is a repeat winner (or a win by Cole Custer or Tyler Reddick) and he earns 38 points. He could also clinch on points with a new winner and help.

Allgaier won the spring 2017 event at ISM Raceway and has six top fives in 18 career starts on the 1-mile track.

“There is a lot on the line this weekend at Phoenix,” said in a media release. “Right now we’re in a good position sitting fourth in points, but I know there are a lot of guys behind us that are battling for that same spot. Phoenix is a good track for us though and everyone on this BRANDT Professional Agriculture team is prepared and focused on what we need to do

Chase Briscoe (-18 points), Michael Annett (-28) and Austin Cindric (-31) can all clinch a spot in the Championship 4 on points with help.

Briscoe finished sixth in the spring race, while Annett placed eighth and Cindric finished fifth.

Due to inspection issues at Texas, Briscoe will lose 30 minutes of practice time this weekend.

“It’s essentially a must-win situation for us this weekend after the luck we had at Texas,” Briscoe said in a media release of his 22nd-place finish after he had to pit for a cut tire. “Honestly, Phoenix isn’t one of my best racetracks, but we learned a lot back in the spring and were able to get the car where I needed it to be towards the end of the race. Hopefully, we will have good speed right out of the box and set ourselves up to battle for the win, so we can be one of the four cars battling for a championship. We won’t go down without a fight that’s for sure – I believe in my guys and think we can make it happen.”

Noah Gragson (-47) could also clinch on points with a repeat winner and help.

Gragson placed 11th in the spring race and he’s coming off his first DNF of the season last weekend at Texas Motor Speedway. Gragson finished second in the 2018 Truck Series race at ISM Raceway.

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Chase Elliott, Kyle Larson to pursue $100K bounty in Truck Series

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The $100,000 bounty on Kyle Busch has its first contenders.

Chase Elliott and Kyle Larson each confirmed Thursday evening on Twitter that they’ll take a shot at the bounty placed by Kevin Harvick and Marcus Lemonis last week.

Elliott will compete in the March 14 Truck Series race at Atlanta Motor Speedway and the May 30 race at Kansas Speedway with GMS Racing. Larson will compete with GMS Racing in the March 20 event at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

Elliott will be sponsored by Hooters for the Atlanta race.

The declarations by the two drivers came the same day that Busch said he didn’t believe any full-time Cup Series drivers would go after the bounty.

Elliott has 12 career Truck Series starts. His last two, at Atlanta and Martinsville in 2017, came with GMS Racing. Elliott won the Martinsville race. Busch was not in that race.

“Once the word got out about the challenge, we were able to put this together with Mike Beam at GMS in just a couple of days,” Elliott said in a press release. “Atlanta is one of my favorite tracks, so I’m really looking forward to getting back into a GMS truck there with Hooters on the truck and make a run for a win.”

Larson has 13 career starts and his last three, including a win at Eldora and top five at Homestead in 2016, came with GMS Racing.

“When I heard about the $100,000 bounty I wanted in!” Larson said in a press release. “I’m thankful for GMS and Chevy giving me this opportunity, Homestead is one of my favorite tracks so looking for to the challenge!”

There’s a potential third bounty hunter waiting in the wings.

Not long after Larson’s announcement, Denny Hamlin, Busch’s Joe Gibbs Racing teammate, tweeted that he’s acquired the funding to field a ride. There’s just one hangup, and it’s Kyle Busch Motorsports:

The $100,000 bounty against Busch was proposed by Harvick and Lemonis, CEO of Gander RV & Outdoors, last week. It will go to any full-time Cup Series driver who beats Busch in any of his remaining four Truck Series starts this year. Busch has won the last seven Truck Series races he’s entered.

If Elliott or no other Cup driver beats Busch in those four races, the bounty will go to the Bundle of Joy Fund, the organization founded by Kyle and Samantha Busch that helps couples who require fertility treatments to conceive.

“We are blessed with this opportunity. To have an owner that is up for the challenge and a manufacturer that will support the extra effort necessary is really special,” said Mike Beam, President of GMS Racing, in a press release. “It’s great to have these two talented young men back behind the wheel for us and to have the extra attention on the Truck series is great.”

Kyle Busch: $100K Truck Series bounty is a losing proposition

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Kyle Busch doesn’t believe any full-time Cup Series driver will attempt to claim the $100,000 bounty placed on him last week by Kevin Harvick and Marcus Lemonis.

Harvick and Lemonis, the CEO of Truck Series sponsor Gander RV & Outdoors, said they’d award that bounty to any full-time Cup Series driver who is able to beat Busch in any of his four remaining Truck Series starts this year.

Busch, who has won the last seven Truck races he’s entered, sees the challenge as a losing investment, especially if someone attempted it in one of Kyle Busch Motorsports’ Toyotas.

Thursday on the Barstool Sports’ “Rubbin’ is Racing” podcast, Busch said it costs $140,000 to rent one of his Trucks for a race.

“Right off the bat (it’s a losing proposition),” Busch said. “It’s not going to happen. Nobody is going to pay the 140 grand to rent a truck, whether it’s from me or from somebody else. (Show co-host Clint) Bowyer didn’t tell you the fact he can’t even rent a truck from me because I’m a Toyota team and he drives for a Ford team. So he has to go find a Ford truck in order to drive. So there’s those complications that fit into all of this, too.”

Denny Hamlin, Busch’s teammate at Joe Gibbs Racing, expressed his interest in the bounty, as well Richard Childress Racing’s Austin Dillon, who said he was “working on” a deal.

After his win last Friday at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, Busch’s four remaining Truck Series starts are:

March 14 at Atlanta Motor Speedway

March 20 at Homestead-Miami Speedway

March 27 at Texas Motor Speedway

May 30 at Kansas Speedway.

If no one beats Busch, the bounty will go to the Bundle of Joy Fund, the organization founded by Kyle and Samantha Busch that helps couples who require fertility treatments to conceive.

NASCAR America presents MotorMouths at 5 p.m. ET

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Today’s episode of NASCAR America’s MotorMouths airs from 5-6 p.m. ET on NBCSN.

Marty Snider hosts and is joined by Kyle Petty, Steve Letarte and Nate Ryan.

James Hinchliffe will call into the show to discuss his new role as an analyst for NBC’s coverage of IndyCar, Indy Lights, IMSA and NASCAR.

You can call into the show via 844-NASCAR-NBC or submit your questions/comments via Twitter using #LetMeSayThis.

If you can’t catch today’s show on TV, watch online at http:/nascarstream.nbcsports.com. If you plan to stream the show on your laptop or portable device, be sure to have your username and password from your cable/satellite/telco provider handy so your subscription can be verified.

Once you enter that information, you’ll have access to the stream.

Click here at 5 p.m. ET to watch live via the stream.

Auto Club Speedway’s old surface provides ‘moving target’ for drivers

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Auto Club Speedway has a lot of character.

It’s a character that comes from the 2-mile track’s racing surface being among the oldest on the NASCAR circuit.

The surface hasn’t been repaved since the track first opened in 1997. That’s the same year that the surface for Atlanta Motor Speedway was last resurfaced (a planned repave was put on hold indefinitely in 2017 after outcry from drivers).

In the 23 years since, races at the track in Fontana, California, have turned into producers of multi-groove spectacles (especially on restarts) that come at the cost of high levels of tire wear.

The aged surface provides a “moving target” to drivers throughout the race weekend, according to Tyler Reddick.

“During the start of the weekend, you have to watch for the seams since it’s so slick out there,” the rookie Cup driver said in a media release. “Normally, the Xfinity cars are the first ones on the track, so I’m normally very careful. Now that I’m in the Cup Series, it may be a little different. I think this weekend will be fairly similar to Las Vegas where we started out running wide open, and I’ll have to run like that until the handling starts to go away in our No. 8 I Am Second Chevrolet (and) you have to start lifting. Then it’ll be important to assess why the handling is changing and how to adjust our car correctly to battle that.”

Cup and Xfinity teams only visit Auto Club Speedway once a year and this will be the second year they’ll do so with the high downforce aero package.

Joe Gibbs Racing’s Erik Jones believes Sunday’s Auto Club 400 (3:30 p.m. ET on Fox) will be a “different race” from the one seen last year.

“Going into Fontana last year, no one really knew what we needed car-wise, balance-wise and this year we have a whole notebook to look back on to try to get better,” Jones, who finished 19th in last year’s race, said in a media release.

“I think there will be a lot more lifting, the cars will be faster. Everybody has just gotten their cars better and more efficient and faster on the straightaways and that makes for more lifting in the corners. It will probably be a little different race, but Fontana is always a good show.”

But that show depends on where a driver chooses to run around the track.

Racing along the top of the track compared to running in the bottom lane proves for “two completely different types of racing” according to defending race winner Kyle Busch.

“You can run from the top to the bottom but, when you run the bottom, you really feel like you’re puttering around the racetrack,” Busch said in a media release. “You feel like you aren’t making up any time on the bottom. But when you are running the top groove, you feel like you’re getting the job done. The guys who run the bottom have a little bit more patience and handle it better than the guys who are on the gas on top.”

When it comes to how rough the track is, Matt DiBenedetto cites how bumpy Turns 3 and 4 are, but said in a media release that traversing the “back straightaway is like going over jumps.”

But just like with the old surface at Atlanta Motor Speedway, there are those who never want to see Auto Club’s surface actually improve.

“I did an appearance at Auto Club Speedway not too long ago and I told the track officials, ‘Whatever you do, don’t repave it!'” Austin Dillon said in a media release. “Or, wait to repave it until you can figure out how to make an asphalt that is very similar to what is on the track now.”

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