Long: Phoenix race proves tantalizing for title event

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AVONDALE, Ariz. — Shortly after he held off Kevin Harvick for an overtime win, was showered in drinks by his team in victory lane and cheered by fans standing a few feet away, Joey Logano still remained as fast as his final restart.

So when asked if he could have rebounded from a pit road penalty and a broken jack that slowed another stop without the lower downforce package used Sunday at Phoenix Raceway, Logano’s answer came before the question could be fully asked.

“No way,” he told NBC Sports. “No way. Not in a million years. I could have never passed that many cars.”

Logano passed 82 cars on the way to his second Cup win of the season. Thirteen drivers — more than a third of the field — passed more cars than Logano on Sunday.

The numbers were not inflated by the field pitting under green. This was passing on the track, what the sport sought after many of last year’s races on shorter tracks failed to excite fans. Last year, no driver passed more than 76 cars in either Phoenix race with a higher downforce package. Sunday, 16 cars topped that number.

The lower downforce setup used Sunday, which included a spoiler 5.25 inches shorter than last year’s, combined with a tire that wore and the use of the traction compound builds anticipation for the championship race in November at this track.

“I feel like it was a different Phoenix race than what we’ve seen the past couple of years,” winning crew chief Paul Wolfe told NBC Sports. “The tire Goodyear brought had a lot of grip but new tires meant a lot, so it kind of changed the whole race strategy.”

Logano, fourth-place finisher Kyle Larson and seventh-place finisher Chase Elliott all came back from issues on pit road or ill-handling cars to score top-10 results.

“It seemed like the cars that had some issues … and would go to the back could drive back to the front a lot easier,”  Larson told NBC Sports. “The package was a lot better than last year’s short track stuff.”

Kyle Busch, not afraid to criticize a race package, was complimentary of the racing after his third-place finish.

“You could follow a helluva lot closer than you could before,” Busch told NBC Sports. “You could actually get into the corner behind a guy and roll up to his left rear and try to make him a little bit loose and try to make some moves on a guy.

“I didn’t get hindered by following people into the corners as near as bad as the other (package).”

There were a number of times when cars at the front ran close together and even had contact, something that was not as frequent last year at Phoenix. That led to more passing.

Stewart-Haas Racing teammates Clint Bowyer, who finished fifth, and Aric Almirola, who placed eight, each passed a race-high 103 cars Sunday.

“I hope the downforce package sold well to the fans,” Bowyer told NBC Sports. “It certainly was a lot more of a handful and a lot harder to drive than it was last year.”

Drives like that because it allows talent to play a bigger role.

Even with the movement throughout the race, Logano admitted he wasn’t thinking about a victory when the jack broke during his final pit stop and Logano went from first to 18th on Lap 268 of the 316-lap race.

“Honestly, did I think a win was in the books? No,” he said. “I’m 18th, if I can get a top five that’s going to be pretty good. I got a lot of cars to pass in a short amount of time. Good restarts. Cautions at the right time and more cars pitted.”

After an overtime restart, Logano was celebrating and looking ahead to November.

Cup Series Thursday night racing factoids

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When it comes to 1.5-mile tracks like Charlotte Motor Speedway, no one driver is getting comfortable in Victory Lane.

Entering tonight’s 310-mile race at Charlotte (7 p.m. ET on FS1), the second Cup race in five days on the oval, the series has seen eight different winners in the last eight visits to a 1.5-mile track.

That streak dates back to June 2019 when Alex Bowman earned his first career Cup Series win in a race at Chicagoland Speedway.

Between that race and Brad Keselowski’s win in the Coca-Cola 600, winners on 1.5-mile tracks included: Kurt Busch (Kentucky), Martin Truex Jr. (Las Vegas), Denny Hamlin (Kansas), Kevin Harvick (Texas), Kyle Busch (Miami) and Joey Logano (Las Vegas).

The Cup Series hasn’t seen a stretch of parity like that on 1.5-mile tracks since 2011, when the last eight 1.5-mile races were won by a different driver.

Here are some other interesting tidbits heading into tonight’s race.

Jimmie Johnson is entering his 37th and likely final Cup Series points start on the Charlotte oval. His eight points race wins and four All-Star Race wins there lead all drivers.

– Johnson has led 1,936 laps on the Charlotte oval, second most all-time to Bobby Allison (2,338).

– Hendrick Motorsports has 19 points wins at Charlotte by seven different drivers. That number of drivers is tied for the most all-time. Hendrick has seven different winners at Pocono and Talladega. Wood Brothers Racing has seven different winners at Daytona.

– Joe Gibbs Racing has 21 Cup wins since the start of 2019, which is 49% of races. Denny Hamlin has eight of those wins, which leads all drivers. Team Penske is second with nine wins.

– Tonight’s Cup race at Charlotte is scheduled for 208 laps. Only two races at Charlotte were scheduled for less laps and both were qualifying races in 1961 at 67 laps each for the 1961 World 600.


Jeff Burton joins Mike Tirico on Lunch Talk Live on NBCSN

Lunch Talk Live
NBC Sports
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NASCAR on NBC analyst Jeff Burton will be on today’s Lunch Talk Live with host Mike Tirico. Today’s show airs at noon ET on NBCSN.

Also on Thursday’s show will be Supercross points leader Eli Tomac.

“Lunch Talk Live” focuses on the current state of the sports world and the impact of the coronavirus pandemic, providing guests with a platform to discuss the state of sports, voice their personal stories and detail how they are adapting their daily lives during this challenging time.

You can also watch the show online here.

Today’s scheduled guests are:

  • Noon – Robbie Earle, Premier League on NBC
  • 12:05 p.m. – Terry Francona, Cleveland Indians manager
  • 12:15 p.m. – Chris Simms, FNIA/PFT/Unbuttoned/Notre Dame
  • 12:30 p.m. – Jeff Burton, NASCAR on NBC
  • 12:40 p.m. – Chris Mullin, Basketball Hall of Famer
  • 12:50 p.m. – Eli Tomac, Supercross current points leader

NASCAR adjusts Xfinity Dash 4 Cash schedule

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NASCAR announced changes to the Xfinity Series Dash 4 Cash races on Thursday.

Here is the schedule:

June 1 – Bristol Motor Speedway (will determine four eligible drivers for first Dash 4 Cash event)

June 6 – Atlanta Motor Speedway (Dash 4 Cash event No. 1)

June 14 – Homestead-Miami Speedway (Dash 4 Cash event No. 2)

June 20 – Talladega Superspeedway (Dash 4 Cash event No. 3)

TBA – Next scheduled Xfinity series race after Talladega (Dash 4 Cash event No. 4)

Each Dash 4 Cash event will have four eligible drivers racing for the $100,000 bonus.

The driver who wins the bonus advances to the next Dash 4 Cash event. The next three-highest finishing Xfinity Series drivers eligible for the series title, qualify for the next Dash 4 Cash race.

Previously, Miami was to have served as the qualifying race and was to be followed by Dash 4 Cash races at Texas, Bristol, Talladega and Dover. All those events were postponed because of the COIVD-19 pandemic.

Cup, Xfinity entry lists for Bristol Motor Speedway

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Almost two months it was originally scheduled, NASCAR will finally hold its first Bristol Motor Speedway race weekend of the year.

The Cup and Xfinity Series continue their marathon of races this weekend. The Cup Series will race on Sunday and the Xfinity Series will compete Monday night.

Here are the entry lists for this weekend’s races.

Cup – Food City presents the Supermarket Heroes 500 (3:30 p.m. ET Sunday on Fox)

Forty cars are entered into the race.

JJ Yeley is entered in Tommy Baldwin Racing’s No. 7 Chevrolet.

Gray Gaulding is entered in Rick Ware Racing’s 27 Ford.

Kyle Busch won this race last year over his brother Kurt Busch.

Denny Hamlin won last year’s night race over Matt DiBenedetto.

Click here for the entry list.

Xfinity – Cheddar’s 300 (7 p.m. ET Monday on FS1)

There are 37 cars entered.

Modified driver Patrick Emerling will make his Xfinity Series debut in Our Motorsports’ No. 02 Chevrolet. Brett Moffitt drove the car in the first six races of the season.

Carson Ware makes his Xfinity Series debut driving SS Green Light Racing’s No. 07 Chevrolet.

A.J. Allmendinger is entered in Kaulig Racing’s No. 16 Chevrolet.

Myatt Snider is entered in Richard Childress Racing’s No. 21 Chevrolet.

Christopher Bell won this race last year over Tyler Reddick and Cole Custer. Chase Briscoe, who finished fourth, is the highest finishing returning driver from that race.

Reddick won last year’s night race over Briscoe and John Hunter Nemechek.

Click here for the entry list.