Friday 5: Those with best shot to win their way into playoffs at Daytona


Thirteen drivers outside a playoff spot could win their way into the playoff field Saturday night at Daytona International Speedway (7 p.m. ET on NBC and Peacock). 

Ryan Blaney and Martin Truex Jr. are the only winless drivers in a playoff spot after Kurt Busch withdrew his playoff waiver. If there’s a new winner Saturday — and they are in the top 30 in points — Blaney or Truex would be eliminated from title contention.

Seven of those 13 drivers who could move into a playoff spot have won a Cup race at Daytona: Erik JonesAric AlmirolaAustin DillonJustin HaleyMichael McDowellRicky Stenhouse Jr. and Brad Keselowski.

Of the six remaining playoff-eligible drivers who have not won at Daytona, Bubba Wallace has finished second there three times, including the last two races, and Chris Buescher’s best finish is third. Others who could make the playoffs with a win Saturday night are Cole CusterHarrison BurtonTy Dillon and Todd Gilliland.

Here’s a look at five drivers outside a playoff spot who could win their way into the postseason and knock either Blaney or Truex out:

1. Brad Keselowski

Keselowski started the year, his first as co-owner of RFK Racing, with the goal of having both cars make the playoffs. Neither car is in a playoff spot with one race left in the regular season. 

But Daytona is one of the team’s best tracks.

Keselowski and teammate Chris Buescher each won their qualifying race at Daytona in February. Keselowski led a race-high 67 laps in the Daytona 500, but he also triggered two accidents. 

Drivers and teams were trying to figure out the car and what they could and couldn’t do in February. They now have a better understanding of the car. Keselowski’s pushes and driving style could work better this weekend. 

Keselowski has one win at Daytona and six at Talladega. Those seven superspeedway victories are the most among active drivers. Denny Hamlin is next with five superspeedway wins. 

Also at stake for Keselowski is keeping his winning streak going. He has won at least one Cup race 11 consecutive seasons. The last time he went winless in a Cup season was 2010 — the final year of Jimmie Johnson’s five consecutive series titles. 

NASCAR Cup Series Bluegreen Vacations Duel #1 at Daytona
Brad Keselowski won his qualifying race at Daytona in February and led the most laps in the Daytona 500. (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)

2. Bubba Wallace

He won at Talladega in the playoffs last year and finished second in this year’s Daytona 500, the second time he’s been the runner-up at Daytona.

Wallace enters Saturday confident. He had four top-10 finishes before a 13th at Richmond and a 35th at Watkins Glen. The Richmond finish was one spot off his career-best Cup result at that track. He failed to finish at Watkins Glen because of a mechanical issue. 

After coming so close before at Daytona, Wallace has the road map on what it takes to get to the front.

“We just have to make sure we are there at the end, whatever that race may provide,” he said. “If you’re inside the top five with two or three (laps) to go, then you have a really good shot at winning. That’s our goal. Let’s get to three to go and make sure we’re in that spot, and then we go and fight.”

Bubba Wallace
Bubba Wallace after his second-place finish in the 2022 Daytona 500. (Photo: Dustin Long)

3. Michael McDowell 

The 2021 Daytona 500 winner has a good track record on the superspeedways. 

He is one of three drivers with top-10 finishes at both Daytona and Talladega this season. The other two drivers are points leader Chase Elliott and Kyle Busch. 

McDowell has five top 10s in his last 10 Daytona starts. Only twice during that time has he failed to finish.

A win to earn a playoff spot would add to what has been McDowell’s best season in his Cup career, which began in 2008. He has a career-high 10 top 10s. That figure is one more top 10 than he earned in 2020 and ’21 combined. 

Daytona 500 Michael McDowell
Michael McDowell celebrating his 2021 Daytona 500 win. (Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)

4. Ricky Stenhouse Jr.

He was running toward the front late in this year’s Daytona 500 before a push from Brad Keselowski turned him and ended his race. 

Stenhouse’s two career Cup victories came on superspeedways in 2017. He won at Daytona and Talladega that year to make the playoffs, racing for what was then known as Roush Fenway Racing.

Since winning at Daytona in 2017, Stenhouse has failed to finish in the top 10 there in nine races. He’s led laps in six of those events. 

So how can he avoid trouble and have a chance to win Saturday?

“A lot of the times, I feel like, when you ride around (at the back), you can get a really good finish, but I feel like nobody that rides around generally wins,” he said. “I feel like you’ve kind of got to be in the mix all day, so that when you get down to the end, you know what moves to make.” 

Ricky Stenhouse Jr. celebrates his Daytona win in 2017. (Photo by Brian Lawdermilk/Getty Images)

5. Austin Dillon 

Since his 2018 Daytona 500 win, Dillon has had only two top-10 finishes at that track, but he knows how to get to the front.

Dillon anticipates getting his share of help Saturday but also knows it only goes so far.

“Getting the 3 car in (the playoffs) would be a huge feat for RCR right now,” Dillon said. “I think I’ll definitely have a lot of help from (teammate Tyler Reddick) and some of our Chevy affiliates, but when someone has the opportunity to win, they don’t blink on it.”

Austin Dillion after winning the 2018 Daytona 500. (Photo by Sarah Crabill/Getty Images)

NASCAR Saturday schedule at WWT Raceway, Portland


Saturday is a busy day for NASCAR. The Cup and Craftsman Truck Series are at World Wide Technology Raceway. The Xfinity Series is at Portland International Raceway.

Cup teams will practice and qualify ahead of Saturday’s Truck race at WWT Raceway. The Xfinity Series has practice, qualifying and its race Saturday at Portland.

World Wide Technology Raceway at Gateway (Cup and Trucks)


Saturday: Sunny. Temperatures will be around 80 degrees for the start of Cup practice and climb to 89 degrees by the end of Cup qualifying. Forecast calls for sunny skies and a high of 92 degrees around the start of the Truck race.

Saturday, June 3

Garage open

  • 8 a.m. – 12:30 p.m.  — Cup Series
  • 10:30 a.m. — Truck Series

Track activity

  • 10 – 10:45 a.m. — Cup practice (FS1, Motor Racing Network, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio)
  • 10:45 a.m. – 12 p.m. — Cup qualifying  (FS1, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio)
  • 1:30 p.m. — Truck race (160 laps, 200 miles; FS1, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio)

Portland International Raceway (Xfinity Series)


Saturday: Mostly sunny with a high of 74 degrees and no chance of rain around the start of the Xfinity race.

Saturday, June 3

Garage open

  • 10 a.m.  — Xfinity Series

Track activity

  • 11:30 a.m. – 12 p.m. — Xfinity practice (No TV)
  • 12 – 1 p.m. — Xfinity qualifying (FS1)
  • 4:30 p.m. — Xfinity race (75 laps, 147.75 miles; FS1, Motor Racing Network, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio)

Truck starting lineup at WWT Raceway: Ty Majeski wins pole


Ty Majeski will lead the Craftsman Truck starting lineup to the green flag Saturday at World Wide Technology Raceway after winning the pole Friday night.

Majeski claimed his fourth career series pole and first of the season with a lap of 138.168 mph around the 1.25-mile speedway.

MORE: Truck starting lineup at WWT Raceway

Ben Rhodes, who won last week at Charlotte, qualified second with a lap of 137.771 mph. He was followed by Christian Eckes (137.716 mph), Carson Hocevar (137.057) and Stewart Friesen (137.007).

The series races at 1:30 p.m. ET Saturday on FS1.

Saturday Portland Xfinity race: Start time, TV info, weather


There have been different winners in each of the last nine Xfinity Series races this season. Will the streak continue Saturday at Portland International Raceway?

Those nine different winners have been: Sammy Smith (Phoenix), Austin Hill (Atlanta), AJ Allmendinger (Circuit of the Americas), Chandler Smith (Richmond), John Hunter Nemechek (Martinsville), Jeb Burton (Talladega), Ryan Truex (Dover), Kyle Larson (Darlington) and Justin Allgaier (Charlotte).

Details for Saturday’s Xfinity race at Portland International Raceway

(All times Eastern)

START: The command to start engines will be given at 4:38 p.m. … The green flag is scheduled to wave at 4:46 p.m.

PRERACE: Xfinity garage opens at 10 a.m. … Practice begins at 11:30 a.m. … Qualifying begins at 12 p.m. … Driver introductions begin at 4:15 p.m. … The invocation will be given by Donnie Floyd of Motor Racing Outreach at 4:30 p.m. … The national anthem will be performed at 4:31 p.m.

DISTANCE: The race is 75 laps (147.75 miles) on the 1.97-mile road course.

STAGES: Stage 1 ends at Lap 25. Stage 2 ends at Lap 50.

STARTING LINEUP: Qualifying begins at 12 p.m. Saturday

TV/RADIO: FS1 will broadcast the race at 4:30 p.m. ... Coverage begins at 4 p.m. … Motor Racing Network coverage begins at 4 p.m. and can be heard on … SiriusXN NASCAR Radio will carry the MRN broadcast.

FORECAST: Weather Underground — Sunny with a high of 73 degrees and a zero percent chance of rain at the start of the race.

LAST TIME: AJ Allmendinger won last year’s inaugural Xfinity race at Portland by 2.8 seconds. Myatt Snider finished second. Austin Hill placed third.

NASCAR Friday schedule at WWT Raceway, Portland


Craftsman Truck Series teams will be on track Friday at World Wide Technology Raceway to prepare for Saturday’s race. Cup teams will go through inspection before getting on track Saturday.

Xfinity Series teams will go through inspection Friday in preparation for their race Saturday at Portland International Raceway.

Here is Friday’s schedule:

World Wide Technology Raceway at Gateway (Cup and Trucks)


Friday: Partly cloudy with a high in the low 90s.

Friday, June 2

(All times Eastern)

Garage open

  • 1 – 8 p.m. Craftsman Truck Series
  • 4 – 9 p.m. Cup Series

Track activity

  • 6 – 6:30 p.m. — Truck practice (FS1)
  • 6:30 – 7:30 p.m. — Truck qualifying (FS1)

Portland International Raceway (Xfinity Series)

Weekend weather

Friday: Mostly sunny with a high of 77 degrees.

Friday, June 2

(All times Eastern)

Garage open

  • 6-11 p.m. Xfinity Series (no track activity on Friday)