Bump and Run: Who will be next to win?

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Martin Truex Jr., Ryan Blaney, Kyle Busch, Kurt Busch, Jimmie Johnson and Aric Almirola, Clint Bowyer and Erik Jones have yet to win this season. Who is next to win?

Dustin Long: Based on performance at Auto Club Speedway, which had high tire wear, Jimmie Johnson wins this weekend at Atlanta Motor Speedway, which has high tire wear. Johnson’s teammate, Alex Bowman dominated the weekend, so Hendrick Motorsports may have found something on tracks with high tire wear. Remember, Johnson was strong early in the first Darlington race before crashing less than a lap from winning the first stage.

Daniel McFadin: My gut says Kyle Busch, but I can’t help but think Jimmie Johnson is on the verge of his first victory since 2017. He’s fast, Kyle Busch is getting faster. Whoever can have a flawless race first will be in Victory Lane.

Jerry Bonkowski: I’m most surprised that defending Cup champ Kyle Busch has yet to win this season, with Truex another anomaly. I also thought Jimmie Johnson would finally break his winless streak by now — albeit he has shown some good signs — so I believe it will only be a period of time for that to happen.

NASCAR has had two midweek Cup races and has another scheduled June 10 at Martinsville, what are your thoughts on the concept?

Dustin Long: I liked the previous midweek races because of the shorter distances. That put a greater emphasis on running a mistake-free race. Last Sunday’s Bristol race featured some drivers recovering from penalties or issues to score top-10 finishes in a full-length race and that’s fine, but I also like to see a race where you can’t afford a mistake because there’s little time for recovery. I think the midweek races provide a change of pace that is good for the sport.

Daniel McFadin: Can it please not rain on June 10? For the most part I think the midweek races have been successful. Had rain and lightning not impacted both races, I can’t help but feel they’d have had bigger impacts. While the Martinsville race will be of normal length, shorter races ramp up tension and results in more exciting competition. I’m looking forward to June 10 … if it doesn’t rain.

Jerry Bonkowski: I’ve long advocated midweek, primetime races. I’ve definitely enjoyed what I’ve seen so far. The key is to have midweek races only in major markets to minimize the losses that invariably would come from races in smaller markets. If the NFL can have Monday Night Football, why can’t we have Wednesday (or Thursday) Night NASCAR?

The Cup series has run nine of 36 races, meaning a quarter of the season is gone. What do you make of the season’s first quarter?

Dustin Long: The return of Hendrick Motorsports. Aided by the new Camaro, Hendrick cars have been fast and been in position to win a majority of the races this season. Other Chevy teams also are benefitting. Chip Ganassi Racing and Richard Childress Racing also have had some top-10 finishes. Chevy teams have bypassed the Toyota brigade, which dominated last year. But this is only the first quarter. Let’s see what happens in the coming weeks.

Daniel McFadin: It’s been wildly unpredictable, especially the five Cup races since the break. While drivers have dominated individual races, Kevin Harvick‘s win at Darlington is the only one that seemed like a relatively runaway victory. The others have essentially seen each winner have the victory fall into their lap. It’s had a chaotic feel and given the world we’ve been living in since March, that’s appropriate.

Jerry Bonkowski: It has been a most unusual first quarter, for sure, what with the pandemic, the hiatus and return among other things. I’m surprised that Toyota has struggled, with only two wins to date (as has Chevrolet), while Ford has dominated with five wins, including two wins each from Team Penske drivers Brad Keselowski and Joey Logano. Defending champ Kyle Busch has also uncharacteristically struggled at times.

All-Star Race, Open entry lists

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It’s officially All-Star Race week.

For the first time the annual exhibition event that awards $1 million will be held at Bristol Motor Speedway (7 p.m. ET Wednesday on FS1).

Twenty drivers will compete in the 140-lap, four-stage main event. Sixteen drivers currently make up the field following Cole Custer’s win Sunday at Kentucky Speedway.

Three drivers will qualify for the main event via the All-Star Open, the 85-lap preliminary race that’s divided into three stages. The winners of all three stages will advance. The remaining driver will advance via a fan vote.

Here are the entry lists for each race.

All-Star Race 

Drivers who automatically qualified for the All-Star Race: Those who won points races in 2019-20, past All-Star Race winners and previous Cup champions.

Drivers who have clinched an All-Star Race spot: Ryan Blaney, Alex Bowman, Kurt Busch, Kyle Busch, Cole Custer, Chase Elliott, Justin Haley, Denny Hamlin, Kevin Harvick, Jimmie Johnson, Erik Jones, Matt Kenseth, Brad Keselowski, Joey Logano, Ryan Newman and Martin Truex Jr.

Click here for the entry list.

All-Star Open

Twenty-two drivers are entered in the preliminary race.

Notable drivers include Clint Bowyer, Matt DiBenedetto, William Byron, rookies Tyler Reddick, William Byron and John Hunter Nemechek, as well as Bubba Wallace.

Click here for the entry list.

NASCAR in ‘good place’ with Harrison Burton, Noah Gragson after fight

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Scott Miller, NASCAR senior vice president of competition, says that series officials will keep an eye on Harrison Burton and Noah Gragson moving forward but that the sanctioning body feels it is in a “good place” with those drivers after their fight last weekend at Kentucky Speedway.

Gragson punched Burton after Burton repeatedly shoved him in the garage area as they discussed their contact on the track late in Friday night’s Xfinity Series race at Kentucky Speedway. A NASCAR spokesperson said Friday night that no penalties were anticipated.

Asked about where matters stood between NASCAR and the two drivers, Miller told “The Morning Drive” on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio on Monday morning:

“I personally wasn’t in the post-race conversations. (NASCAR Xfinity Series Managing Director) Wayne Auton does a great job with that and the report that I got from him is he talked to some of the crew members that were involved and obviously both of the drivers. I think we got to a good place. They’re going to have some words this week and try to make sure we’re in a good spot when we start the weekend next weekend in Texas. We feel like we’re OK.

“This is an emotional sport and there’s going to be things like that that crop up. It’s not a great situation for us to deal with as a sanctioning body, but we also want the emotion in the sport. That’s what makes it so special. Those things are unfortunate, but we do know from time to time those are going to happen. If we feel good about the conversations we’ve had, in a lot of cases we’re going to move on from that and keep an eye on those individuals moving forward.”

Race and Sports in America: Conversations to air at 8 p.m. ET Monday

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Damon Hack will host two roundtables with athletes and former athletes for a conversation on race and sports in America. The show airs at 8 p.m. ET Monday on NBCSN, Golf Channel, Olympic Channel and the NBC Sports Regional Networks.

Appearing with Hack will be Los Angeles Chargers coach Anthony Lynn, NBA superstar Steph Curry, NBA Hall of Famer Charles Barkley, NFL player Kyle Rudolph, pro golfer Troy Mullins, former tennis player James Blake, Major League Baseball player James Rollins and Baseball Hall of Famer Ozzie Smith.

Among the topics discussed are: The conversations they’ve had with family in the last few months, what they hope things will be like in a year’s time, the level of optimism vs. pessimism and their experiences.

 

 

Winners and losers from Kentucky

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WINNERS

Cole CusterHe entered Sunday’s race well out of a playoff spot at 25th in the points. He took advantage of a series of events in the final laps to score a dramatic victory and earn a playoff spot.

Martin Truex Jr.Lost the lead on the last lap but recorded his first top-five finish since his Martinsville win last month.

Matt DiBenedetto He was 18th with 14 laps to go and finished third.

Christopher BellSeventh-place finish was his fourth finish of 12th or better in the last six races.

Austin Cindric Had not won on an oval in the Xfinity Series before sweeping both series races at Kentucky Speedway.

LOSERS

Matt KensethA week after finishing runner-up at Indianapolis, he spun twice and finished 25th at Kentucky.

Ryan PreeceFinished last for the second race in a row. He was eliminated in a pit road accident at Indy and by transmission issues at Kentucky. He has failed to finish five of 17 races this season (29.4%).

Jimmie JohnsonWas third on a late restart when contact with Brad Keselowski spun him. Instead of contending for his first victory since 2017, Johnson finished 18th and had a little warning for Keselowski.