Drivers to watch in NASCAR Cup Series race at Daytona


The NASCAR Cup Series regular season will end Saturday night with a 400-mile race at Daytona International Speedway.

The race will set the field for the 16-driver Cup playoff grid. Ryan Blaney and Martin Truex Jr. hope to qualify for the playoffs via points or a race win, while 13 other drivers can make the playoffs by visiting victory lane Saturday night. With Kurt Busch‘s Thursday withdrawal from the playoffs, two playoff positions are available at Daytona.

Austin Cindric won the season-opening Daytona 500 and is among the drivers who will be racing for the seasonal championship beginning next week at Darlington Raceway in South Carolina.

Saturday’s race (7 p.m., ET) will be televised by NBC and Peacock.

Drivers to watch at Daytona:


Chase Elliott

  • Points position: 1st
  • Last three races: 4th at Watkins Glen, 5th at Richmond, 11th at Michigan
  • Past at Daytona: Four straight top 10s

Elliott hasn’t won at Daytona, but he has second-place runs in 2020 and 2021. He’ll be under a microscope of sorts this weekend because he’ll open the playoffs the following week as the championship favorite but also because of his run-in with Hendrick Motorsports teammate Kyle Larson last Sunday at Watkins Glen.

Kyle Larson

  • Points position: 2nd
  • Last three races: Won at Watkins Glen, 14th at Richmond, 7th at Michigan
  • Past at Daytona: Best finish 6th in 2016

Larson’s Daytona worksheet doesn’t shine. He has led only 18 laps in 16 Daytona starts and finished 20th in this race last year after being involved in a final-lap wreck. Winner last week at Watkins Glen, he’ll be watched Saturday night to see how he and teammate Chase Elliott share the track after the Watkins Glen brouhaha.

MORE: NBC Sports NASCAR Power Rankings

Michael McDowell

  • Points position: 24th
  • Last three races: 6th at Watkins Glen, 29th at Richmond, 28th at Michigan
  • Past at Daytona: Won the 500 in 2021

McDowell might be among the top drivers from the list of those who could slip into the playoffs with a last-minute win. He won the Daytona 500 in 2021 and has led laps in four of the past eight Daytona races. In the past five races this season, he has three finishes of eighth or better. He has 10 top-10 finishes this year, double his previous best, and the 52 laps he has led this year are his most ever.


Martin Truex Jr.

  • Points position: 6th
  • Last three races: 23rd at Watkins Glen, 7th at Richmond, 6th at Michigan
  • Past at Daytona: Best finish — second twice

NASCAR’s huge tracks at Daytona and Talladega have been tough for Truex. In 69 races at Daytona and Talladega, Truex owns no victories, and his last 12 starts at Daytona have produced no top-10 runs.

Ryan Blaney

  • Points position: 3rd
  • Last three races: 24th at Watkins Glen, 10th at Richmond, 5th at Michigan
  • Past at Daytona: Won this race last year

Of the relatively long list of drivers who can make a last-gasp entry onto the playoff list with a win Saturday night, Blaney stands at or near the top. He won Daytona’s summer race last year and has four finishes of sixth or better in the past five Daytona events.

Brad Keselowski

  • Points position: 27th
  • Last three races: 19th at Watkins Glen, 15th at Richmond, 15th at Michigan
  • Past at Daytona: Won in July 2016

Keselowski’s first year as a Cup driver-owner has been challenging. He needs a win Saturday to make the playoffs, and it’s not out of the question. He won at DIS in 2016 and has six victories at Talladega. On the down side, Keselowski has failed to finish eight of the past 11 Daytona races because of crashes.



NASCAR Power Rankings: William Byron, Kyle Busch rank 1-2


Kyle Busch moved closer to the top spot after his win Sunday at WWT Raceway, but William Byron keeps hold of No. 1 after another top-10 run.

The series heads to Sonoma Raceway this weekend, the second race of the season on a road course.


(Previous ranking in parenthesis)

1. William Byron (1) — He goes into Sonoma with six consecutive top-10 finishes after his eighth-place result at WWT Raceway. Byron has led a series-high 717 laps this season.

2. Kyle Busch (4) — Recorded his third win of the season Sunday. He is tied with Byron for most wins this year. Busch scored 59 of a maximum 60 points and won his first stage of the year Sunday. He has 16 playoff points. Only Byron has more with 17 this season.

3. Kyle Larson (3) — His fourth-place finish continued his up-and-down season. In the last nine races, Larson has two wins, four top fives, a 20th-place result and four finishes of 30th or worse. He has led 588 laps this season, which ranks second this year to Byron.

4. Martin Truex Jr. (2) — His fifth-place finish is his sixth top 10 in the last eight races. He ranks third in laps led this year with 383.

5. Denny Hamlin (7) — Runner-up result at WWT Raceway is his fourth top 10 in the last seven races.

6. Ryan Blaney (10) — Followed Coca-Cola 600 win with a sixth-place run at WWT Raceway. He had an average running position of 2.6 on Sunday, second only to winner Kyle Busch’s average running position of 1.9.

7. Joey Logano (9) — Third-place finish is his second top 10 in the last four races.

8. Kevin Harvick (NR) — His 10th-place finish is his fourth consecutive finish of 11th or better.

9. Ross Chastain (6) — Lost the points lead after placing 22nd, his third consecutive finish outside the top 20.

10. Ricky Stenhouse Jr. (NR) — Headed for his eighth top 15 in a row until he was collected in a crash after the contact between Austin Cindric and Austin Dillon late in Sunday’s race.

Dropped out: Chase Elliott (5th), Tyler Reddick (8th)

NASCAR will not penalize Austin Cindric for incident with Austin Dillon


Despite Richard Childress and Austin Dillon saying that Austin Cindric intentionally wrecked Dillon late in Sunday’s Cup race at WWT Raceway, NASCAR will not penalize Cindric.

Elton Sawyer, NASCAR senior vice president of competition, said Tuesday on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio that there would be no penalty to Cindric after reviewing the contact.

Dillon and Childress were upset about the incident, which brought out the caution on Lap 220 of the 243-lap race. Dillon said NASCAR should suspend Cindric for the contact, just as NASCAR suspended Chase Elliott one race for hooking Denny Hamlin in the Coca-Cola 600.

Contact between the left front of Cindric’s car and the right rear of Dillon’s car sent Dillon up the track into Ricky Stenhouse Jr. Dillon finished 31st. Cindric continued and placed 13th.

Dillon told “I was wrecked intentionally by (Cindric), hooked right just like Chase and Denny and Bubba’s deal (in wrecking Kyle Larson at Las Vegas in 2022). He better be suspended next week.”

Childress said: “(Dillon) had drove up to about 10th until (Cindric) wrecked him in there on purpose, sort of a payback.”

Sawyer said a review of the incident included viewing video and data.

“We didn’t see anything — and haven’t seen anything — that really would rise to a level that would be a suspension or a penalty,” Sawyer said. “It looked like hard racing. One car coming up a little bit and another car going down.

“As we said last week, we take these incidents very serious when we see cars that are turned head-on into another car or head-on into the wall. I spent a lot of time (Monday) looking at that, looking at all the data, looking at TV footage and just deemed this one really hard racing.”

Sawyer said NASCAR plans to talk to both Cindric and Dillon “to make sure we’re all in a good place as we move forward to Sonoma.”



Seven Cup drivers entered in Xfinity race at Sonoma


Kyle Larson is among seven Cup drivers entered in Saturday’s Xfinity Series race at Sonoma Raceway.

The race marks the first time the Xfinity Series has competed at the California road course. Teams will get 50 minutes of practice Friday because this is a new event on the schedule. That additional time will give those Cup drivers more laps on the 1.99-mile road course.

MORE: Sonoma Xfinity entry list

Here is a look at what Xfinity rides the Cup drivers will pilot this weekend:

The race is scheduled to start at 8 p.m. ET Saturday.

The ARCA Menards Series West also is competing this weekend at Sonoma Raceway. Cup driver Ryan Preece is entered in that event. Xfinity drivers Cole Custer, Riley Herbst, Sammy Smith and Parker Retzlaff also are entered in that race, which will be held at 6:30 p.m. ET Friday.


Winners and losers at WWT Raceway


Winners and losers from Sunday’s Cup race at WWT Raceway:


Kyle BuschWins the pole, leads the most laps and holds the field off over the last five restarts to win the race. He scored six playoff points, giving him 16 on the season, second only to William Byron’s 17. Busch left Joe Gibbs Racing after last season for Richard Childress Racing. Busch’s three wins this year equals what JGR has done so far.

Ryan BlaneyHis sixth-place finish moved him into the points lead. He last led the points after the spring 2022 Richmond race. Blaney also won a stage Sunday to collect another playoff point. He has seven this season.

Kyle LarsonFourth-place finish was a big turnaround after struggles earlier in the race. It has not been easy for this team the last few weeks. He has three top-five finishes and four finishes of 20th or worse in the last seven races.

Daniel SuarezHis seventh-place finish moved him up two spots to 16th in the standings, the final playoff transfer spot at this time.


Ross ChastainHe finished 22nd for his third consecutive result outside the top 20. He entered the weekend leading the points and fell to fifth afterward. He is 29 points behind new series leader Ryan Blaney with 11 races left in the regular season.

Tyler ReddickRebounded from an early spin to lead but had his race end after a brake rotor failed. He was one of four drivers eliminated by brake rotor failures. The others were Carson Hocevar, Bubba Wallace and Noah Gragson.