Who is hot and not entering the Bristol night race

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The Cup Series heads to Bristol, Tennessee, for its annual night race at Bristol Motor Speedway (7:30p.m. ET on Saturday on NBCSN).

There are only three races left in the regular season and anything can happen on the half-mile track.

Here’s who is hot and not entering the race courtesy of Racing Insights.

Who is Hot

Kevin Harvick
• Won at Michigan (1st in Stage 1, 1st in Stage 2, 108 laps led)
• Won 7 of last 22 races
• Won 12 stages in 2018 (had 6 in all of 2017)
• Finished in Top 5 in 8 of last 10 races
• In 23 races in 2018, 19 top 10s (including 7 wins) & 4 finishes of 19th or worse
• Finished 8th or better in 6 straight Bristol races, including win in Aug. 2016 (7th in April)
• Started 29th, 11th in Stage 1, 3rd in Stage 2, finished 8th in this race one year ago
• Finished 7th or better, including 3 Top 5s, in the last 4 short track races
• Finished 8th or better in 7 of last 8 short track races

Chase Elliott
• Finished 9th at Michigan (34th in Stage 1, 13th in Stage 2); pit on Lap 37 due to vibration while running 20th
• Top 10 in the last four races
• Finished in Top 10 in 7 of last 10 races
• Finished 15th or worse in 3 of last 4 Bristol races (29th in April)
• Two top 10s in 5 career Bristol starts
• In last year’s race started 4th, 4th in Stage 1, 11th in Stage 2, 2 laps led, finished 18th; spun on
backstretch while running 6th on lap 396
• Top 10 in two of three short track starts in 2018

Kyle Busch
• Finished 3rd at Michigan (2nd in Stage 1, 2nd in Stage 2, 22 laps led)
• Won 6 of last 17 races
• Finished in top 5 in 10 of last 11 races
• Michigan was his 17th top-five finish in 2018, tying his most top 5s in a single season
• Finished in the Top 5 in 17 of 23 races this season
• Won last 2 Bristol races
• Finished 29th or worse in 5 of last 8 Bristol starts (4 DNFs)
• Leads active drivers with 7 wins and 2,233 laps led at Bristol
• Started 18th, 1st in Stage 1, 8th in Stage 2, 156 laps led, won this race one year ago
• Won 4 of last 6 short track races
• Top-two finishes in five of the last six short track races
• Average finish of 1.3 on short tracks in 2018

Kurt Busch
• Finished 6th at Michigan (4th in Stage 1, 4th in Stage 2)
• Top-10 in the last five races of 2018
• Finished 22nd or worse in 3 of last 4 Bristol races (22nd in April)
• Started 25th, 14th in Stage 1, 12th in Stage 2, finished 5th in this race one year ago; hit the wall on lap 276
while running 11th
• Finished 11th or worse in the last four short track races

 

Who is Not Hot

Jamie McMurray
• Finished 21st at Michigan (18th in Stage 1, 20th in Stage 2, 1 lap led)
• Finished outside the top 10 in 8 of the last 10 races of 2018
• Finished 15th or worse in 18 of 23 races this season
• Finished 12th or worse in 3 straight Bristol races and 11th or worse in 6 of last 7 Bristol races (19th in April)
• Started 11th, 17th in Stage 1, 15th in Stage 2, finished 12th in this race one year ago
• Has not had a top 10 in the last six short track races

Clint Bowyer
• Finished 12th at Michigan (13th in Stage 1, 7th in Stage 2)
• Finished outside the top-10 in the last six races of 2018
• Finished top 10 in 4 of last 6 Bristol races (8th in April)
• In last year’s race started 9th, 15th in Stage 1, 10th in Stage 2, finished 19th
• Top 10 in the last four short track races including a win at Martinsville in April

Ricky Stenhouse Jr.
• Finished 18th at Michigan (15th in Stage 1, 19th in Stage 2)
• Finished outside the top 10 in 10 straight races
• Finished 14th or worse in 19 of 23 races in 2018
• Top 10 in three of the last four Bristol races
• Six Top 10s in 11 career Bristol starts
• In last year’s race, started 14th, 12th in Stage 1, 21st in Stage 2, finished 14th; scraped wall on
lap 201 with flat right-front tire while running 9th; penalized for speeding exiting pits on Lap 418
• Finished 14th or worse in 4 of last 6 short track races

Paul Menard
• Finished 16th at Michigan (19th in Stage 1, 11th in Stage 2)
• Finished outside the top-10 in 8 straight races and 9 of last 10
• Finished outside the top-10 in 7 straight Bristol races (13th in April)
• In last year’s race started 27th, 26th in Stage 1, 9th in Stage 2, finished 16th
• No top 10s in 14 straight short track races

Bubba Wallace
• Finished 23rd at Michigan (25th in Stage 1, 23rd in Stage 2)
• Finished 14th or worse in 16 straight races
• Finished 20th or worse in 16 of 23 races in 2018
• Started 20th, 21st in Stage 1, 10th in Stage 2, 6 laps led, finished 16th at Bristol in April, his only start
at the track
• Finished 16th or worse in 3 career short track starts

NASCAR takes six Cup cars to wind tunnel after Michigan

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NASCAR has taken six Cup cars – two from each manufacturer – for wind tunnel and engine testing following Sunday’s race at Michigan won by Kevin Harvick.

The cars taken include the Fords of Harvick and Brad Keselowski (finished second); the Chevrolets of Austin Dillon (fourth) and Chase Elliott (ninth); and the Toyotas of Kyle Busch (third) and Denny Hamlin (eighth).

The location of the wind tunnel was not available from NASCAR.

Steve O’Donnell, NASCAR’s chief racing development officer, discussed the wind tunnel tests Monday on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio’s “The Morning Drive.”

“We try and find a track where obviously aero is going to play a bigger role,” O’Donnell said. “I think (the test) it’s actually Tuesday. We’ll have those results kind of going into Wednesday and our process is to share that with (manufacturers) and the race teams. It’s a good barometer for us for two things. To make sure we’re still within that box that we set for the current year and probably most importantly is we look to lock in 2019 (that) the baseline we’re using matches up with all the data that we believe we have in the system. It’s a good check on both for not only ’18 but future race packages as well.”

Six cars were taken for similar testing following the April race at Texas Motor Speedway. 

The cars of Harvick, Joey Logano, Elliott, Jamie McMurray, Busch and Erik Jones were taken.

Kurt Busch talking to other teams but ‘nothing that’s been signed’ for 2019

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BROOKLYN, Mich. – Kurt Busch, whose contract with Stewart-Haas Racing expires after 2018, confirmed he has explored other opportunities but denied signing a deal beyond this season.

“I’m talking to a bunch of teams out there,” he said. “There’s nothing that’s been signed and whatever has been reported is all hearsay.”

There were two reports Friday linking Busch to Jamie McMurray’s No. 1 Chevrolet at Chip Ganassi Racing. One said Ganassi could keep McMurray next year, while another said Busch would leave Stewart-Haas for Ganassi with primary sponsor Monster Energy.

Stewart-Haas Racing co-owner Gene Haas was asked about the report after Busch qualified 12th Friday. Haas said Busch’s return to the No. 41 Ford is possible, adding he believes Busch wants 2019 to be his last year in Cup “but obviously moving to another team is a learning process.

“I think everything is pretty straightforward about what would be best for everybody, but sometimes it takes a little while,” Haas said, adding he hasn’t been told Monster, which is exiting as NASCAR’s title sponsor in 2019, is leaving his team nor been given a timeframe for the company deciding on next year.

“Monster doesn’t really have deadlines,” said Haas, who does intend to field four cars in ‘19.

Last year, it took until December for Busch to re-sign a one-year deal after SHR declined to pick up his option in August. Busch said then that he also was exploring rides with other teams (and had offers).

Asked for a timeframe on signing Busch for next year, Haas asked, “When’s Daytona?”

Busch has said this year that his relationship with Ford is critical and has hinted that he might want to move to sports cars after his NASCAR career ends. Stewart-Haas Racing fields Fords in NASCAR. Ganassi has a Ford-powered sports car team.

Asked to comment on the reports after qualifying, McMurray said “I don’t talk about contracts.” Asked if he would return to Ganassi, he replied, “I just don’t discuss any of that kind of stuff.”

NASCAR America Fantasy League: 10 Best at Michigan in last three seasons

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NASCAR’s Big 3 have dominated every track type this season. Martin Truex Jr. won both stages of the Auto Club 400 en route to victory; Kevin Harvick won Segment 2 of the spring Michigan race and would likely have taken the checkers if the race had not been shortened by rain.

Kyle Busch has top-five finishes in both races on 2-mile tracks this year and a victory at Auto Club as recently as 2014. There is no reason to believe they will not dominate again and all three should be on this week’s NASCAR America Fantasy Live roster – even though Truex is ranked ninth in regard to his three-season average and Busch is all the way down in 16th (with an average of 16.0).

There will be some interesting challengers, however, and players looking to gain an advantage over the competition have a lot of choices.

1. Chase Elliott (three-year average: 4.60)
In five career races at Michigan, Elliott has a perfect record of top 10 finishes. His first three attempts ended in runner-up finishes and if not for some missteps on restarts, he would almost certainly have scored that first Cup victory in his rookie season. Coming off last week’s victory at Watkins Glen, he now knows how to win.

2. Kyle Larson (three-year average: 6.80)
Larson was Truex’s closest competition this spring at Auto Club. When the series came to Michigan in June, many believed he would challenge the Big 3 for the win. He might have been a bigger factor in the finish if he had not spun while trying a little too hard. He swept victory lane in 2017 as part of a three-race winning streak and should be part of this week’s battle for the top spot.

3. Kevin Harvick (three-year average: 7.80)
There are several reasons to expect Harvick to win this week, but perhaps the most compelling is that he is tired of finishing second at Michigan. When he crossed under the checkers behind Bowyer this spring, it was the sixth time in the last 11 races that he was the runner-up, so players can expect Harvick to do whatever it takes to get that final spot.

4. Jamie McMurray (three-year average: 8.20)
If a player is confident in his or her core roster, McMurray makes an excellent garage pick in this week’s NASCAR America Fantasy Live game. He is in the midst of an anemic season, but managed to finish 10th in this spring’s Michigan race. That was his fifth consecutive top 10 there and that makes him a safe pick in case one of the superstars experiences trouble in the first two segments.

5. Brad Keselowski (three-year average: 9.20)
In fantasy NASCAR, players constantly have to decide if a driver’s track record or his recent momentum during the season carries more weight. Keselowski has been struggling in recent weeks, but Michigan is a track on which he’s been nearly perfect in the past five seasons with seven top 10s in nine races.

MORE: Rotoworld Consumers Energy 400 Cheat Sheets

6. Kurt Busch (three-year average: 9.60)
Busch has a reputation for consistency on most tracks. Michigan is no exception with a current streak of five consecutive top-12 finishes to his credit. Only one of these was better than 10th, but he was one of the game’s best values this spring with a third-place finish.

7. Joey Logano (three-year average: 9.80)
Like his teammate Keselowski, Logano needs to be watched closely in practice. At the start of the year, Team Penske was expected to challenge the leaders on a regular basis and while its three drivers have swept the top 10 three times in the last nine races, they have only three top fives in 27 starts. None of those belong to Logano

8. Erik Jones (three-year average: 10.33 in 3 starts)
The season began with expectations that the young guns would challenge the old guard. Harvick, Busch and Truex insured that didn’t happen, but with recent wins by Jones at Daytona and Elliott at the Glen, they have begun to make a lot more noise. It remains to be seen if they can challenge on an unrestricted, intermediate speedway, however.

9. Martin Truex Jr. (three-year average: 11.60)
For all the talk about the Big 3, Truex was a little late to the party. He did not run all that well at Michigan this spring and finished 18th. If not for a sweep of the top 10 last year, he wouldn’t make the list. In the last four seasons, he has either finished in the top 10 in both races or outside that mark twice.

10. Ryan Newman (three-year average: 13.80)
Newman deserves some special attention this week in games other than NASCAR Fantasy Live. His consistency at Michigan has been among the best with top-20 finishes in every race for seven years leading up to this spring’s Firekeepers Casino 400. He slipped to 22nd in June but should be able to rebound and score another result in the teens.

10. Ryan Blaney (three-year average: 13.80)
Handicapping Blaney this week requires looking at his Auto Club effort as well as his success at Michigan. He finished eighth in the Auto Club 400 and again at Michigan. He also has a fourth-place finish in the second Michigan race of 2016, so he should be on the radar if he practices and qualifies well.

Bonus Picks

Pole Winner: The last three poles at Michigan were won by different drivers. Kurt Busch grabbed the top spot this spring with Larson and Keselowski showing success in 2017. Logano swept the pole in 2016, however, and there is a strong possibility that the driver of the No. 41 can do it this year. Kurt’s closest competitor may be his brother Kyle because they both have three poles so far in 2018.

Segment Winners: Martin Truex Jr. has won three of the five segments run at Michigan in the past two years and if he shows speed in practice, he should be this week’s selection for those bonus points. He failed to earn any bonus points in Segment 2 in June, however. Harvick, Larson, Keselowski and Kyle Busch have been in the top 10 at the end of every Michigan stage and they should also be considered.

For more Fantasy NASCAR coverage, check out Rotoworld.com and follow Dan Beaver (@FantasyRace) on Twitter.

What drivers said after Watkins Glen

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Chase Elliott — Winner: “Holy cow! What a thrill! I don’t know what to say. I’m just so thrilled and so emotional. There’s so much relief you know; it’s been working on three years and I hadn’t won a one and came here with a good opportunity today. I was able to get it done. But, just thanks to all the fans. I hope all my buddies are ready to get rowdy tonight because it’s going to be a good one.”

Martin Truex Jr. — Finished 2nd: “I gave it everything I had for our guys at Bass Pro Shops, 5-hour ENERGY and Toyota, and all of our partners. I gave it everything I had every single lap. I could catch him but right when I got close, I’d get loose and fall back. I was too loose all day. Traffic made it worse for sure. He had the upper hand there at the end. We were a little faster but hats off to him. He did a great job. He put his car exactly where I needed mine to be. I couldn’t get it and I was sideways. Congrats to him on his first win. We ran out of gas the last lap anyway, so I guess it wouldn’t have mattered. I’m proud of my guys. I am proud of the effort. I love coming to these road courses.”

 

Kyle Busch — Finished 3rd: “I think what impressed me the most was just that (Elliott) was hammer down and elbows up and flying – loose here, loose there and going through everything and doing everything right and really attacking the race course and not putting the wheel too far out of shape. He did a really good and he was really hustling it and keeping the car under him. He looked like a pro. That was cool to see. It’s pretty early for him – like what third year – to be able to come out here and run like that at Watkins Glen and to be able to win, so pretty impressive. Overall, wish we could’ve raced with him and certainly think we would’ve had a shot for him.”

Daniel Suarez — Finished 4th: “It was a decent race. I felt like we had a top five, top seven car or so. The car was good, but not extremely good. Definitely the 18 (Kyle Busch) and the 20 (Erik Jones) were better, but it was a good race. Solid effort for my team. We’re getting close. This is what we need – to run top five every week and if we continue to do this, I’m going to be a happy boy.”

ERIK JONES — Finished 5th: “That’s what we’ve got to keep doing. We’ve only had one bad race since Daytona and that was New Hampshire. Two top fives in a row for us, so we need to keep going that way and hopefully we can contend for a win at Michigan. That’s the goal. We want to win another race. I know we can do it. If we’re this close on a road course, I know we can do it on an oval, so we’ll keep working on it.”

Kyle Larson — Finished 6th: “Yeah, a lot better finish than I thought we would have. I always feel like I don’t race well at these places, but able to run a nice smooth race, so I was happy about that and I think we finished sixth or seventh, so yeah, pretty cool. … Today was a fun day, finally, on a road course.”

Jamie McMurray — Finished 7th: “Yeah, I think we finished sixth or seventh and that was about where we were when we unloaded and we had a really clean race, we had good fuel mileage.  Just a really good day for our GearWrench Chevy. “

William Byron — Finished 8th: “Yeah, it’s awesome. Good for those guys to get the win. I feel like we are just getting faster and it’s just being easier. I don’t know if we hit everything just right today, but it was easier to run where we were. It’s fun, it’s getting there. I’m excited.”

Kurt Busch — Finished 9th: “We had a surprise flat right-rear (tire) and that forced us into taking two tires and we had to improvise from there. It’s kind of a bummer, but we made the best we could with it and got a top 10. We want to win, but the car can’t quite steer from the rear and the front is chattering a little bit. We’re close, but we’re not quite there.”

Clint Bowyer — Finished 11th: “That was a tough day for the Rush Truck Centers Ford, but we fought hard. It was hard to pass out there. We were struggling to make grip. We tried to play the strategy game, and that got us a decent finish. It was a long weekend, but everyone worked hard.”

Ryan Blaney — Finished 12th: “It was a long day. We struggled all weekend, really, and just couldn’t really go anywhere. We’d fire off OK and then just fade terribly, so we’ve got some work to do here.” 

Alex Bowman — Finished 14th: “I really feel like the car was a little better than the driver all day. But it still wasn’t a terrible day for us. Just a little off of where we needed to be. Still a good points day and the pit crew was really good, they did a good job. We will move on and got to Michigan.”

AJ Allmendinger — Finished 15th:  “I was just kind of in the train of cars there just trying to be patient and they just stopped. I tried to get checked up and just got into the No. 22 (Joey Logano) and it just got the nose. Did decent amount of damage and took a lot of the front aero away and the car wasn’t the same, obviously. … The guys did a good job to kind of button it back up and at least make it somewhat drivable. It didn’t have the speed that it was going to have. I don’t think we had the pace all weekend to go win the race, but for how the car drove with that much damage, I thought we could have easily run in the top 10 and got a decent result out of it, but that is just the way it is.”

Ricky Stenhouse Jr. — Finished 16th: “All in all it was a decent weekend. Practice was good and qualifying not so good. The first quarter of the race we obviously had a lot of issues, but we were able to bounce back and get a good, decent finish. We had good, decent speed at the end of the race, so it’s something to build off of on the road course for sure. I look forward to getting to Michigan and hopefully keep improving.”

Ryan Newman — Finished 19th: “The start of our race went as planned. Our goal was to earn as many stage points as we could and we accomplished that in the first stage by finishing sixth. That’s a positive. But 20 laps into Stage 2, we got spun out by a competitor and it was costly to us, resulting in the 34th-place running spot. We regrouped and drove up into the top 20 but that’s all we could get by the time the checkered flag waved. We had a good run against the No. 2 car, but our handling needed a little more work. We just battled with Turns 5, 6 and 7 all weekend. I feel like our Lucas Oil Camaro ZL1 was an improvement from last year so we’ll take it and keep digging.”

Aric Almirola — Finished 22nd: “I don’t know what happened there. I’d have to see it, so it’s hard to say. The 12 (Blaney) diving inside of me, I guess, kind of dive-bombed in there. It’s really hard for the spotters to see over there because we’re coming out from behind the trees and I honestly didn’t know he was there. I guess he hit the curb and wiped us out, so it’s disappointing. I thought we had a car we could have run in the top 10 or top 12 with and just didn’t do it. This is a couple weeks of bad luck and we’ve got to battle back from this and rebound and get going before the Playoffs start.”

Ty Dillon — Finished 23rd: “Making the trip up to The Glen is always interesting. We only come to this track once a year, and we came this year with a new crew chief, a new body style and a new inspection system to adapt to. We had decent practice sessions with our GEICO Camaro ZL1, and I felt good going into the race today because I like road-course racing. We just struggled through the esses all weekend. I was loose all the way up the hill at the start of the race. We improved it a bit with air pressure adjustments, but then the front end was struggling to turn and we had to address that with changes too. We made the adjustments that we need to throughout the day to make it to the end of the race. I wish we could have cracked into the top 20, but this team worked hard. We’ll have all of these notes to build on next year.”

Austin Dillon — Finished 27th: “What a day for the Dow Racing team. Going into the weekend, I had high hopes for our team because I felt like our car was really good on the long run. We were challenged throughout the race, but we were able to run solidly in the top-20. When the caution flag was displayed with 53 laps remaining we decided to gamble and pitted for fuel only, which put us in the second spot for the restart. We fought hard for the remaining laps to keep track position on old tires, knowing that we would have a fresh set ready for a late-race caution. Our strategy proved challenging, though, because tires meant so much today and the late-race caution we gambled on never came. Oh well, it was worth a try. We have a lot to work on when it comes to road course racing, but we will get there as a team.”

Matt DiBenedetto — Finished 33rd: “I think we exploded a gear. I felt a drive line vibration for a little bit and it finally let go, so these places are tough on cars. Those kind of failures can happen, so we’ll see. We struggled with the car all weekend, so it was a tough weekend.”

JOEY LOGANO — Finished 37th: “We were just racing hard and I tried to make a run off the carousel. Pulled out on (Kyle) Larson and tried to keep the nose out going into the bus stop. I saw they were all racing in front of me hard and thought I could make a run and get some momentum off the carousel and I was right on Larson. I think they checked up in front of him. He lifted, and I was right there. I guess my bumper bar went underneath his bumper and just knocked into the radiator and punctured a whole in it. … I went from hero to zero pretty quick.”