Bump and Run: Key connection between recent Cup winners

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The first three races since Cup season resumed featured no practice and veterans Kevin Harvick, Denny Hamlin and Brad Keselowski winning. Is this coincidence or is there a connection?

Dustin Long: The key is that these drivers and teams have put themselves in position to win those races. Kevin Harvick had a fast car and took advantage of the No. 1 pit stall at Darlington. Denny Hamlin benefitted from a strong car and good strategy at Darlington. Brad Keselowski bettered Jimmie Johnson on a late restart when Johnson had control as the leader, and Keselowski kept Johnson from taking the lead from him on the final restart. You expect top teams to do well when there’s no practice.

Daniel McFadin: While I can see the advantage to being a long-term veteran during the current situation, I think it’s mostly coincidental. Alex Bowman has been very competitive in two of the three races and he has far less experience than the three drivers who have won so far. 

Jerry Bonkowski: Veterans are expected to do the best and be the best because of their overall experience. So, no, I’m not surprised that they’ve emerged victorious. It’s more a connection based upon experience rather than a coincidence, in my opinion.

 

How would you rate Hendrick Motorsports’ performance in the first three races since the Cup season resumed?

Dustin Long: Above average but there is a level of disappointment. While there’s nothing Chase Elliott can do about being wrecked late at Darlington, there are some issues for each team. For as fast as the Hendrick cars have been, the inability to finish off races stands out from Alex Bowman and his team not able to keep his car fast all night at Charlotte and Darlington to the decision to pit Elliott out of the lead before the overtime restart at the Coke 600 to William Byron not able to have a complete race since the season resumed to Jimmie Johnson losing a lead on a late restart in the Coke  600. There are enough areas for each team to address.

Daniel McFadin:  With three laps to go Sunday night I would have given Hendrick an 8 out of 10. But after Jimmie Johnson’s car was disqualified, I’d drop it down to a 6. While Byron has a stage win, he hasn’t finished better than 12th. Bowman has finished in the top 10 in seven stages, won two and led 205 laps but has finishes of second, 18th and 19th. Throw in Johnson’s DNF in the first Darlington race and Elliott’s problems in the last two races, and it’s a very mixed bag.

Jerry Bonkowski: Tough luck but with signs of promise, most notably for Chase Elliott and Jimmie Johnson. Yes, both have done well but also have had issues, but I also believe that they will be able to build upon the difficulties they’ve had – Elliott getting booted by Kyle Busch, Johnson spinning at the first Darlington and being DQ’d after the Coke 600 – and will both ultimately wind up in victory lane sooner rather than later.

 

After Simon Pagenaud won last year’s Indianapolis 500, car owner Roger Penske said the free agent “absolutely” would be back with the team. Brad Keselowski gave Penske his first Coca-Cola 600 win since 2010 and second overall. What do you believe are the chances that Keselowski, a free agent after this season, returns to Team Penske?

Dustin Long: It’s as Brad Keselowski said after his Coca-Cola 600 win when asked about his future: “It’s not all up to me. A lot of things have to come together, whether it’s sponsors or whatnot, management things. That hasn’t happened yet.”

Daniel McFadin: I’m skeptical of him returning to drive the No. 2. Penske almost instantly committed to bringing Pagenaud back after he swept the Month of May following a winless year. Keselowski’s won three races in each of the last three seasons (including Penske’s first Darlington win since 1975 and his first Brickyard 400), plus his win Sunday night. The fact Keselowski’s future is still up in the air at this point when Penske has already re-signed Ryan Blaney (who has won once in each of the last three years) is a truly odd situation.

Jerry Bonkowski: I’d like to say Keselowski will remain a Team Penske driver for the rest of his Cup career. But on the flip side, can Keselowski potentially enjoy greater on-track success – and earn more money – if he goes to another team, most notably Hendrick Motorsports with Jimmie Johnson retiring at the end of this season? Keselowski could be the most valuable free agent since Kevin Harvick when he left Richard Childress Racing. But Keselowski is also known for his loyalty, much like Roger Penske is loyal to his drivers, so I won’t be surprised if Keselowski stays with the No. 2 team going forward.

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.

ANNOUNCED CUP RIDES FOR 2021

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

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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.