B.J. McLeod

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Rain ends, Sunday Cup race at Pocono back underway

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UPDATE 3: 

The rain has stopped and the NASCAR Cup race at Pocono Raceway is back underway.

The rain delay lasted 51 minutes under red flag stoppage conditions and an additional 12 minutes under yellow caution before the green flag waved again.

Kurt Busch has led the first six laps of the scheduled 140-lap race before it was paused due to rain falling, primarily in turns 2 and 3.

Ryan Blaney is second, followed by Cole Custer, Chris Buescher and Austin Dillon.

UPDATE 2: 

Rain has begun to fall at Pocono Raceway and has brought out a red flag race stoppage for Sunday’s NASCAR Cup event.

The race has run just six laps into the scheduled 140 laps. The red flag came out at 5:12 p.m. ET. Drivers have exited their cars and covers have been placed atop the cars. Pocono Raceway does not have lights.

Kurt Busch has led all six laps, the first Chevrolet driver to lead even one lap both Sunday as well as Saturday’s front half of the first Cup doubleheader weekend at the same track in the modern era.

UPDATE 1:

Sunday’s NASCAR Cup race at Pocono Raceway — the back half of the first modern-day Cup weekend doubleheader at the same racetrack — is underway.

The start of the race had been delayed by more than 30 minutes. Lightning had been detected within eight miles of the 2.5-mile Tricky Triangle. NASCAR rules call for a 30-minute delay whenever lightning is detected.

Cars were already on-track for parade laps but were brought back to the pits and drivers exited their vehicles during the delay.

Wunderground.com’s forecast called for a temperature of 75 degrees at the drop of the green flag with a 40 percent chance of scattered thunderstorms, most likely to occur in the evening, which would be after the race.

ORIGINAL STORY:

NASCAR has placed the start of Sunday’s Cup Series race at Pocono Raceway on hold due to lightning in the area.

NASCAR has a rule that races are stopped or put on hold if lightning within eight miles of a racetrack. As a result, the race start or restart is on hold for the following 30 minutes, provided weather doesn’t become a further impediment.

After Jimmie Johnson gave the command to start engines (see photo), cars took to the 2.5-mile Tricky Triangle and were engaged in pace laps when they were called back to pit road due to the lightning.

Ryan Preece was slated to start on the pole, but he’s been sent to the back of the field due to an engine change (see more below). Kurt Busch and Austin Dillon are now on the front row. Saturday’s race winner, Kevin Harvick, starts 20th after the top 20 finishers from yesterday’s race were inverted for Sunday’s event.

Nine cars have been sent to the back of the field:

Chase Elliott and B.J. McLeod — transmission change

William Byron and Ryan Preece — engine change

Quin Houff, Erik Jones, Tyler Reddick, Joey Logano and Alex Bowman — back-up car

We’ll update you with more information as it becomes available.

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Entry lists for NASCAR’s doubleheader weekend at Pocono

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This weekend marks the first time the NASCAR Cup Series has held a doubleheader weekend at one track.

The premier series will compete in two races at Pocono Raceway, the 2.5-mile triangle speedway in Pennsylvania.

It will be preceded by the Truck Series on Saturday and the Xfinity Series on Sunday.

Here are the entry lists for both days.

Saturday

Cup – Pocono Organics 325 (3:30 p.m. ET on Fox; 130 laps/325 miles)

Forty car are entered.

Josh Bilicki is entered in Tommy Baldwin Racing’s No. 7 Chevrolet.

JJ Yeley is entered in Rick Ware Racing’s No. 27 Ford.

James Davison is entered in Spire Motorsports’ No. 77 Chevrolet for both Cup races. Saturday will be his Cup debut.

Click here for the entry list.

 

Trucks – Pocono Organics 150 (12:30 p.m. ET on FS1; 60 laps/150 miles)

Forty trucks are entered.

Defending race winner Ross Chastain is entered in Niece Motorsports’ No. 40 Chevrolet.

NBC Sports analyst Parker Kligerman is entered in Henderson Motorsports’ No. 75 Chevrolet.

Brandon Jones is entered in Kyle Busch Motorsports’ No. 51 Toyota.

Josh Reaume is entered in Reaume Brothers Racing’s No. 00 truck. Angela Ruch is not in the truck due to a lack of sponsorship.

Click here for the entry list.

 

Sunday

Cup – Pocono 350 (4 p.m. ET on FS1; 140 laps/350 miles)

Forty cars are entered. All 40 drivers/cars are the same as for Saturday.

Click here for the entry list.

 

Xfinity Series – Pocono Green 225 (12:30 p.m. ET on FS1; 90 laps/225 miles)

Thirty-six cars are entered.

Brett Moffitt is entered in Our Motorsports’ No. 02 Chevrolet.

Ryan Vargas is entered in JD Motorsports’ No. 15 Chevrolet.

No drivers is listed for DGM Racing’s No. 36 Chevrolet.

No driver is listed for B.J. McLeod Motorsports’ No. 99 Toyota.

Click here for the entry list.

Brendan Gaughan ready to mix it up with big teams at Talladega

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Brendan Gaughan hasn’t been competed in a NASCAR race since the Daytona 500 in February, but that doesn’t have him worried for today’s Cup race at Talladega Superspeedway (3 p.m. ET on Fox).

“I’m no rustier than anybody else,” Gaughan said this week ahead of his start for Beard Motorsports.

The 44-year-old Gaughan, who hasn’t competed full-time since 2017, noted that “nobody has raced a superspeedway race since the last time I raced one.”

That race saw Gaughan pilot the No. 62 Chevrolet to a seventh-place finish as he earned 30 owner points for Beard Motorsports. It was enough to ensure Gaughan would be able to sttart today’s race in a time when the COVID-19 pandemic has eliminated qualifying for races.

“We’re excited that we were able to stay in the top 40 in points,” Gaughan said. “We were sweating that for a bit, especially after Bristol (on May 31). I said earlier that I love Tommy Baldwin and B.J. McLeod – they’re my buddies and I like them a lot. After Bristol, I started to go ‘uh-oh’. … Who would have thought we’d be sitting here in the world the way it is now and that seventh-place finish at Daytona for the No. 62 pays dividends yet again, and kept us locked in for Talladega.”

Sunday’s race will be Gaughan’s 14th for Beard Motorsports. The part-time team, which gets chassis from Richard Childress Racing and engines from ECR, has just one full-time employee, crew chief Darren Shaw, one part-time employee, car chief Drew Mickey, and two mechanics who help out on race weekends.

Despite the lack of man power, Gaughan is not to be overlooked on superspeedways.

“When we show up, we’re not some team that everybody goes, ‘Oh boy, watch out for that one,'” Gaughan said in a media release. “When we walk in that place, people want to work with us. Now, our first year and even our second year a little bit – I had to go up to people and remind them a bit and say, ‘Hey, hey, Jimmie (Johnson), don’t forget, I’ve got a big-thumping ECR motor and a good RCR-built Chevrolet. Remember, I’ve got good stuff.’ Now, we show up to the racetrack and I’ve got guys from other manufacturers going, ‘Hey, do you have to play in the Chevy games or are you a free agent?’

“Then I’ve got Chevy inviting us to play in their reindeer games and say, ‘Hey, you’re a Chevy, you’re here with us.’ It feels great to know that this little bitty team, when we show up now, people come and find us and say, ‘Hey, we’ll work with you. We know how good you are.’”

Unlike his previous starts for Beard Motorsports, the team hasn’t had a practice to help dial-in the car before Gaughan rolls off the grid from 39th.

“It affects us probably more than most teams,” Gaughan said. “Most teams at least have some sort of an engineering staff, at least have some sort of equipment to pull that race car down repeatedly to make sure they’re going to hit their travels. Our race team does not. It’s difficult, also, to get time in other peoples’ shops right now with the way NASCAR has the teams sequestered. … I do know that it got pulled down, I do know they were able to get some time on the pull down rig. But not as much as others or other races we’ve had. …

“But thankfully, for us, the equalizer is that there is going to be a competition caution and I have a feeling the No. 62 team will be very graciously looking forward to that competition caution if we happen to miss our travels, hit the splitter too hard or anything like that.”

Gaughan believes the early stages of the 188-lap race will see many drivers, including him, “practicing” moves to see what their cars are capable of.

“The way this thing is now with the organizations that all work so well together, I think you’ll be able to see people probably practice those together, maybe even orchestrate some of them during the race if they get a calm setting to maybe say ‘Hey, can I see what mine looks like in the front versus the back’,” Gaughan said. “Maybe some teams will work with each other to do that. I think you’re going to see maybe a little bit of coordinated effort team-wise and some people will get it faster than others, just like anything else in life. You’ll have a lot of laps to be able to try and practice a few things if you put yourself in the right situation.”

B.J. McLeod replaces James Davison in No. 77 car at Talladega

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Spire Motorsports announced Thursday that it has replaced James Davison with B.J. McLeod in its No. 77 Chevrolet for Sunday’s Cup race at Talladega Superspeedway (3 p.m. ET on Fox) after NASCAR reconsidered its approval of Davison for the race.

Sunday’s race would have been Davison’s Cup debut and his first start on an oval track in NASCAR. Davison, who is a veteran of the Indianapolis 500, has made four Xfinity Series starts on road courses.

Davison is now set to make his oval track debut in NASCAR next weekend at Pocono Raceway.

“I have been contacted by NASCAR and informed that although I was previously approved to race, they had to reconsider their position on Superspeedways, given there won’t be practice or qualifying prior to Sunday’s race at Talladega,” Davison said in a press release. “I was pumped about the opportunity to take the green flag, but I fully understand and appreciate NASCAR’s position. I’m approved to race next weekend at Pocono and equally thrilled to make my series debut there.”

Garrett Smithley will now drive McLeod’s No. 78 car.

NASCAR to move location of car numbers for All-Star Race

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NASCAR will use the July 15 All-Star Race at Bristol Motor Speedway to experiment with the location of numbers on race cars.

Instead of the traditional location of numbers on car doors, those numbers will be pushed back toward the rear wheel. All teams competing in the All-Star Race and All-Star Open are required to have the car number in this location. The move allocates more space on car sides for sponsors, something teams have requested.

On Wednesday’s Motor Racing Network’s Crew Call, NASCAR president Steve Phelps explained the reason for the change to show host Mike Bagley:

“I think the All-Star (Race) historically has been an opportunity for us to test things, and I think that’s exactly what we’re doing with this,” Phelps said. “Teams have asked us to take a look at this, provide some additional visibility for sponsors, so that’s what we’ll test.”

The change will be for the All-Star Race and All-Star Open only.

“We’ll evaluate it,” Phelps said. “Is it the right thing to do? Is it not the right thing to do? I  know some folks that came out and said ‘this is not for me, I don’t like it,’ so we’ll take that all under consideration and as we move past the All-Star (Race) we’ll see what it looks like moving forward.”

In addition to having another option to increase sponsor visibility on cars, the move of the car number is also seen as a combination of catering to tradition and existing fans along with attracting new fans.

“I think not in every instance, but there are instances where you actually can do both,” Phelps told Bagley. “I don’t think you have to have the two at odds with each other. Sometimes that’s going to happen, but for us, we’ve talked about hearing from the core fans and we do.

“We want to hear from the core fans and what they think, traditional fans. There are certain things we want to try out or we believe is in the best interest in the sport after collaborating with the industry and saying this is something we should test. This is one of those opportunities.

“I don’t know if it appeals to a newer fan vs. a fan for 40 years, the changes in the paint schemes. But again, it’s one race, the All-Star Race, what better time to test it?”

This would not be the first time where car numbers have been placed on areas other than the door. It was a practice for some teams in the early 1950s, according to NASCAR historian Ken Martin, per a story on NASCAR.com.

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Fifteen drivers are locked into the All-Star Race by virtue of wins in 2019 and 2020 (to date): Kurt Busch, Brad Keselowski, Kevin Harvick, Ryan Newman, Chase Elliott, Denny Hamlin, Ryan Blaney, Kyle Busch, Martin Truex Jr., Erik Jones, Joey Logano, Jimmie Johnson, Alex Bowman, Justin Haley and Matt Kenseth.

There are five opportunities remaining for other drivers to get automatic berths in the All-Star Race field by virtue of winning at any of the five races still to be held prior to the All-Star Race: Talladega, the Pocono doubleheader, Indianapolis and Kentucky.

Several other drivers are eligible to be voted in as part of the NASCAR Fan Vote, currently under way through noon ET July 14. Click here to vote. Drivers are eligible for the Fan Vote by having attempted to qualify for the 2020 Daytona 500.

Those drivers are: Quin Houff, Austin Dillon, Tyler Reddick, Aric Almirola, Ty Dillon, Clint Bowyer, Brennan Poole, Chris Buescher, Matt DiBenedetto, William Byron, Reed Sorenson, Corey LaJoie, Michael McDowell, David Ragan, Ryan Preece, John Hunter Nemechek, Cole Custer, Bubba Wallace, Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Chad Finchum, Joey Gase, B.J. McLeod, JJ Yeley, Brendan Gaughan, Timmy Hill, Ross Chastain, Christopher Bell and Daniel Suarez.

If any of those drivers win a stage in the NASCAR Open qualifying race prior to the All-Star Race, that driver will be locked into the field and not eligible to be the Fan Vote winner.

One Fan Vote winner has gone on to win the All-Star Race in the event’s history: Kasey Kahne in 2008.

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