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Stewart-Haas Racing to make 1,000th Cup start in Texas race

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Stewart-Haas Racing continues to hit historic milestones in its 10th season of Cup competition.

Through just six races it boasts four wins with two of its drivers, including three consecutive for Kevin Harvick (a first in his career).

At Phoenix, the team put all four of its cars in the top 10 for the first time since becoming a four-car operation in 2014.

Entering this weekend’s race at Texas Motor Speedway, SHR has four wins, six top-five finishes and 11 top 10s.

When the engines are fired on the Fords of Harvick, Clint Bowyer, Kurt Busch and Aric Almirola for the O’Reilly Auto Parts 500, they will give SHR 1,000 Cup starts. That number does not include the 284 starts from 2002-08 when the team was known as Haas-CNC.

“That makes me feel really, really old,” SHR competition director Greg Zipadelli said in a press release. “Seriously, a thousand starts is a sign of longevity and that’s an accomplishment. It helps in keeping good people and recruiting good people.”

After Tony Stewart became co-owner of the team founded by Gene Haas, the first start for SHR was the 2009 Daytona 500.

Stewart and Ryan Newman rolled off the grid for the team. Stewart started fifth and finished eighth, while Newman started and finished 36th.

Stewart earned the first of the team’s 43 wins that June at Pocono Raceway. Bowyer claimed the most recent win last weekend at Martinsville Speedway. It was Bowyer’s first win in 190 starts and his first with SHR after joining the team in 2017.

“Make no mistake, all four Stewart-Haas cars have been good all year-long,” Bowyer said in a press release. “Kevin led that charge when he won three races in a row, but we’ve been ‘Steady Eddie’ with our 14 car and the things that I’ve always been accustomed to. Consistency and things like that I’m starting to see, knowing our strengths, knowing our weaknesses from last year, focusing on those weaknesses and then, all of a sudden, it starts to click in and putting things together, and you have those conversations. You feel confidence.”

Since 2009, SHR has also fielded cars for Danica Patrick, Mark Martin, Jeff Burton, Brian Vickers, Regan Smith, Ty Dillon, Austin Dillon and Max Papis.

In 996 starts, SHR has 199 top fives, 378 top 10s, 35 poles and two championships in 2011 (Stewart) and 2014 (Harvick).

SHR has won on every active Cup track except for Kentucky Speedway and Talladega Superspeedway.

Most starts among active Cup wins

Hendrick Motorsports – 3,867

Roush Fenway Racing – 3,533

Richard Childress Racing – 2,857

Joe Gibbs Racing – 2,188

Team Penske – 1,957

Wood Brothers Racing – 1,516

Chip Ganassi Racing – 1,075 (does not include the five years and 367 starts when the team was known as Earnhardt Ganassi Racing)

Stewart-Haas Racing – 996

 

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Here’s your primer heading into second half of NASCAR Cup playoffs

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If you thought the first five races of the NASCAR Cup playoffs were intense, you haven’t seen nothing yet.

As the 10-race playoffs move into their second half, the final five races will likely be more competitive than the first five.

That’s particularly true in Sunday’s cut-off race at Kansas, where the current field of 12 remaining playoff contenders will be cut to eight after the checkered flag falls.

And then there will be the Round of 8 cut-off race at Phoenix in four weeks that will set the four-driver field for the championship race in the season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

Thanks to our friends at RacingInsights.com, here’s some of the top playoff insights that will help fans better understand where we are in the playoffs heading into Kansas:

  • Playoff drivers have won all five races in the 2017 playoffs.
  • The last time a driver who didn’t make it into the playoffs won a playoff race was Denny Hamlin at Homestead in 2013.
  • The last playoff race won by a playoff driver who was previously eliminated from the playoffs was Dale Earnhardt Jr. at Phoenix in 2015.
  • Tony Stewart in 2005 is the only driver to go on to win the championship without winning a race during the playoffs.
  • Four of five playoff races so far this season have been won from a qualifying position of sixth or better.
  • Brad Keselowski won at Talladega driving a Ford, ending a four-race playoff winning streak by Toyotas. Also, prior to Talladega, Toyota drivers had won all four poles and all four races in the 2017 playoffs. Dale Earnhardt Jr. took the pole at Talladega, but finished seventh.
  • Brad Keselowski won at Talladega with a last lap pass for the win, it was the eighth playoff race won with a last lap pass and the only one in the last 29 races.
  • There were 11 cautions at Talladega, the most cautions in the last 18 playoff races.
  • There were a combined 21 cautions in the last two playoff races, the same number as the previous four playoff races combined.
  • Talladega last week: 14 cars running at the finish, 26 total DNFs (including 24 DNFs due to wrecks), three red flags and only two playoff drivers finished in the top 10 – all records for a playoff race.
  • A Chevrolet driver has finished runner-up in each of this season’s first five playoff races.
  • Chase Elliott has finished runner-up three times so far in the playoffs. The record for most runner-up finishes in the playoffs in a season was four by Jeff Gordon in 2014 and Jimmie Johnson in 2006. Elliott has also finished runner-up at both 1.5-mile tracks so far, with three more 1.5-mile tracks still left in the final five races (Kansas, Texas and Homestead-Miami).
  • Kevin Harvick, Denny Hamlin and Kyle Busch are the only drivers still playoff-eligible that have scored stage points in every playoff race.
  • The best average finish by a driver in all 10 races of the playoffs is 4.9 by Carl Edwards in 2011. Edwards tied Tony Stewart for the championship, but Stewart won on the first tiebreaker – more wins (five to Edwards’ one).
  • Martin Truex Jr. has led the playoff standings through the first five races of the playoffs, tying Matt Kenseth in 2013 for the most races led by a driver to start the playoffs. Truex also won at Kansas in May.
  • Three drivers have won races during the playoffs in all three years of the elimination format entering 2017: Kevin Harvick, Joey Logano and Jimmie Johnson all three drivers have yet to win in 2017.
  • Only two of the 135 playoff races were won by drivers getting their first NASCAR Cup win: Clint Bowyer in 2007 at New Hampshire and Brian Vickers in 2006 at Talladega.
  • Jimmie Johnson is the only driver to win a race in every season of the playoffs entering 2017. Entering Kansas, Johnson remains winless in the 2017 playoffs.

NASCAR America: Does Dale Earnhardt Jr. have 1 more ‘Dega win in him? (video)

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Of all the racetracks he’s won at, none has been more special to Dale Earnhardt Jr. than Talladega Superspeedway.

Earnhardt has a career-best six wins at the 2.66-mile, high-banked oval.

Sunday’s Alabama 500 will be Earnhardt’s final race as a full-time competitor at ‘Dega. Will he be able to earn a seventh and final win there, beating  the 12 remaining playoff drivers?

We discussed that during Thursday’s edition of NASCAR America. Here’s what our experts had to say about Junior’s chances for one last run at glory at ‘Dega:

Nate Ryan: “I’m going to say better than 50-50. If you look at Dale Jr.’s career, he has a penchant for seizing the moment at these really opportune times, like the first race at Daytona after his father’s death, the first race after 9/11. He has a knack of coming out and winning when the stage is at its biggest. But I’ll add the caveat he only has one win at Talladega since 2004. I haven’t seen him race at this track with the same confidence and the same car he had during the 2001-2003 era at DEI. They were unbeatable. I don’t know if he has that type of car at Hendrick. If he has it and can regain some of that confidence, I think he could win.”

Kyle Petty: “I give him 50-50, I’m sorry. There’s that stupid saying that to run up front, you have to run up front. And he hasn’t run up front. … He’s not raced with these guys on a restrictor plate track up front enough for these guys to know what he does or for him to know what some of these knew guys do like Chase Elliott, Ryan Blaney and Kyle Larson. It’s new to Junior when he gets up into that rare air.” … This year, I just don’t see it happening (winning at ‘Dega).”

Brian Vickers: “Junior and Hendrick Motorsports are not firing on all cylinders, they’re not performing at their best. But this track is different and I think you can make things happen. Like Nate pointed out, Junior has an ability to deliver when the pressure is on, and the pressure’s on. He really wants to win in his last season, and there’s no question that he and everyone else knows that this is his best chance at it. It doesn’t mean he can’t win any of the other races, but with his performance, no one is going to hang his hat on that. … Regardless of the way he’s performed the last few years, he’s still an excellent plate racer.”

NASCAR America, 5-6 p.m. ET on NBCSN: Talladega, Dale Jr., Truex

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Today’s episode of NASCAR America airs from 5-6 p.m. ET on NBCSN.

Carolyn Manno and Brian Vickers host from our Stamford studios, while Kyle Petty and Nate Ryan join the show from Charlotte.

Among the topics on today’s show:

  • Last year, Talladega was an elimination race, but that has changed this year. Will this simple move lead to more desperation from the Playoff drivers? Brian, Kyle, and Nate will discuss.
  • Dale Earnhardt, Jr. has 6 wins at Talladega, which leads all active drivers. But does he have a chance to beat the Playoff leaders in his final ‘Dega start as a full-time competitor?
  • Going into Talladega, Martin Truex, Jr. is safely into the Round of 8. But there’s playoff points on the line – and an 0-for-50 record on restrictor plate tracks he’d really like to snap. Will Truex take the opportunity to be more aggressive this weekend? And if so, could he make enemies that can make his Race to Miami tougher?
  • Yesterday, Texas Motor Speedway hosted the Tony Stewart Smoke Show: an all-day fantasy driving camp, where fans got to drive Cup Series cars and ride laps with the 3-time champ himself. Find out the good cause behind the event, and why Stewart’s bullish about his driver Kevin Harvick’s chances to keep advancing in the playoffs.
  • And, we’ll reveal the three new nominees for the NBC Pit Crew All-Stars!

If you can’t catch today’s show on TV, you can also watch it via the online stream at http:/nascarstream.nbcsports.com. If you plan to stream the show on your laptop or portable device, be sure to have your username and password from your cable/satellite/telco provider handy so your subscription can be verified.

Once you enter that information, you’ll have access to the stream.

Click here at 5 p.m. ET to watch live via the stream.

NASCAR America 5-6 p.m. ET on NBCSN: Dover recap, Newman-Gordon tiff

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Today’s episode of NASCAR America airs from 5-6 p.m. ET on NBCSN and recaps Sunday’s first playoff cutoff race at Dover.

Carolyn Manno hosts with Parker Kligerman and Brian Vickers from Stamford, Connecticut. Steve Letarte joins them from Burton’s Garage.

Here’s some of the topics on today’s show:

  • Kyle Busch made a “Monster” steal yesterday at Dover to claim his second win of the playoffs, passing Chase Elliott for the lead with 2 laps to go. We’ll recap Busch’s victory and another near-miss for Elliott, whose advancement into the Round of 12 didn’t change his disappointment.
  • In the closing laps, Elliott was unable to pass playoff driver Ryan Newman, who was trying to avoid elimination. After the race, Newman defended himself in an exchange with 4-time champion Jeff Gordon. Who was in the right? Gordon’s former crew chief, Steve Letarte, gives his insights.
  • Newman came up two points short of advancing to the second round, while it was Ricky Stenhouse Jr. who claimed the final spot. We’ll break down the strategy calls that helped Stenhouse keep his race for a championship going.

If you can’t catch today’s show on TV, you can also watch it via the online stream at http:/nascarstream.nbcsports.com. If you plan to stream the show on your laptop or portable device, be sure to have your username and password from your cable/satellite/telco provider handy so your subscription can be verified.

Once you enter that information, you’ll have access to the stream.

Click here at 5 p.m. ET to watch live via the stream.