Noah Gragson

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Entry lists for NASCAR at Kansas

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With Mother’s Day on Sunday, NASCAR goes back under the lights this weekend at Kansas Speedway for both the Gander Outdoors Truck Series race on Friday night and the Cup Series race on Saturday evening.

The Xfinity Series is off this weekend and does not return to action until May 25 at Charlotte Motor Speedway.

Here are the preliminary entry lists for each race:

Cup – Digital Ally 400 (7:30 p.m. ET Saturday on Fox Sports 1)

There will be a 40-car field in Saturday’s main event of the weekend.

Tyler Reddick will make his second career Cup start for Richard Childress Racing. Reddick’s previous Cup start was in this year’s season-opening Daytona 500, where he started 39th and finished 27th.

Jeb Burton will make his third Cup start of the season for Rick Ware Racing, driving the No. 51 Chevy. 

Kevin Harvick won this race last year, leading 79 of 267 laps and beating Martin Truex Jr. Chase Elliott won last fall’s playoff race, beating Kyle Busch.

Click here for the preliminary entry list.

Trucks – Digital Ally 250 (8:30 p.m. ET Friday on Fox Sports 1)

There are 27 Trucks entered for this race. 

Josh Bilicki will make his series debut driving the No. 34 Chevrolet for Reaume Brothers Racing.

The No. 30 of Brennan Poole has been withdrawn from the race due to a lack of sponsorship.

Noah Gragson won this race last year, beating Kyle Busch by 1.558 seconds. Stewart Friesen finished third.

Click here for the preliminary entry list.

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Cole Custer takes pole for this afternoon’s Xfinity race at Dover

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Cole Custer earned his second Xfinity Series pole of the season and will lead the field to the green in this afternoon’s Allied Steel Buildings 200 at Dover International Speedway.

Driving the No. 00 Stewart-Haas Racing Ford Mustang, Custer covered the 1-mile, concrete track at 157.329 mph. It was his eighth pole of his Xfinity career.

“I think (single car qualifying) is exciting, but it’s stressful as a driver, at least for me,” Custer told Fox Sports 1. “You’re going down that long pit road, especially if you’re going out late, and you’re just psyching yourself out the whole time, should I drive in this deep or this deep.

“You just have to stay focused with what you’re doing. I think there’s going to be some good guys out there, but we definitely have a good car that could be here for a win.”

Justin Allgaier, who failed pre-qualifying inspection three times, leading to the ejection from the speedway of his car chief, bounced back to join Custer on the front row with a speed of 157.219 mph.

Third through 10th were Austin Cindric (157.054 mph), Christopher Bell (157.048), Tyler Reddick (157.034), Zane Smith (156.461), Chase Briscoe (156.386), Brandon Jones (156.162), Noah Gragson (156.114) and Ross Chastain (156.074).

The race is slated to begin later this afternoon at 1:30 p.m. ET.

Click here for the full qualifying report.

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Tyler Reddick, Austin Cindric are fastest in two Xfinity practices at Dover

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Austin Cindric was fastest in Friday’s second and final Xfinity Series practice at Dover International Speedway.

Cindric was one of only two Ford-powered drivers in the top seven, with a best speed 152.749 mph, tops among the 33 cars that took to the track for the session. However, Cindric’s speed was more than 3 mph slower than Tyler Reddick‘s field-leading speed in the first practice session earlier in the day.

Riley Herbst was second fastest (152.698 mph), followed by Justin Haley (152.659 mph), Tyler Reddick (152.297 mph), who was fastest in the first practice earlier in the day, and Zane Smith (152.233 mph).

Sixth through 10th were Cole Custer (152.033 mph), Noah Gragson (151.515), Justin Allgaier (151.496), John Hunter Nemechek (151.330) and Brandon Brown (151.286).

Qualifying takes place Saturday, prior to the Allied Steel Buildings 200 Xfinity Series race.

Click here for the full speed chart.

FIRST PRACTICE SESSION:

Tyler Reddick was fastest in the first of Friday’s two Xfinity Series practices at Dover International Speedway.

Reddick, in a Chevrolet, was the only driver over 155 mph, covering the one-mile concrete oval at 155.918 mph, hitting that speed in the closing minutes of the session.

Cole Custer and his Ford were second fastest (154.579 mph), followed by Kaz Grala’s Chevrolet (154.540 mph), Zane Smith’s Chevy (154.222) and Austin Cindric’s Ford (153.899 mph)

Sixth through 10th were Justin Allgaier (153.715 mph), Chase Briscoe (153.636), Christopher Bell (153.309), Michael Annett (152.834) and Noah Gragson (152.672).

A total of 33 drivers took to the track. A 34th driver, Tommy Joe Martins, did not record a speed.

Click here for the speed chart from Friday’s first practice.

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Friday 5: Is time running out for Cup playoff hopefuls?

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While the Cup playoff field won’t be set for another four months, there is a shrinking window for those not already in the top 16 in points as the series heads this weekend to Dover International Speedway.

Since 2017 — when stage racing and stage points were added — 84.3 percent of the drivers who were in a playoff spot after 10 races made the playoffs that year.

Take out those who already had wins to be playoff eligible at this point in the season and 81.8 percent of the remaining drivers in a playoff spot after 10 races made it to NASCAR’s postseason the previous two years.

That’s good news for the drivers in the top 16 in points now. Last weekend’s race at Talladega Superspeedway was the 10th of the Cup season.

What’s also telling is that 13 of last year’s 16 playoff drivers are in the top 16 at this point in the season. That’s despite rule changes intended to make the racing tighter and possibly give more drivers chances for better finishes or wins.

The three drivers in a playoff spot this year who were not in that position at this time last year are Chase Elliott (seventh in points this season), Daniel Suarez (12th) and Austin Dillon (14th). They replace Kyle Larson, Erik Jones and Ricky Stenhouse Jr., who were all in a playoff spot at this time last year.

So far, those who have earned a playoff spot with a win this season (provided they start every race) are Denny Hamlin, Kyle Busch, Joey Logano, Brad Keselowski, Martin Truex Jr. and Elliott.

With NASCAR’s system of win and you’re in the playoffs, anything can happen. A fuel-mileage race can create a surprise winner or a pit gamble can help someone score an unexpected victory. Maybe a rain-shortened race leads to a new winner.

But it doesn’t always work that way. Last season, no driver outside a playoff spot won any of the final 16 regular-season races.

In 2017, two drivers outside playoff spots won in the final 16 regular-season races to make the postseason. Dillon was 22nd in points entering the Coca-Cola 600 and won that race on a fuel-mileage gamble. Kasey Kahne was 22nd in points later that season entering the Brickyard 400. He won that race in the second overtime.

The question becomes how much will those not in a playoff spot now gamble to score a win and secure a spot instead of having to rely on points to make it? This will be worth watching in the coming weeks.

2. A year later

Talladega winner Chase Elliott has made the biggest jump in the standings compared to where he was after 10 races last year.

A year ago, Elliott was 18th. He is seventh this year, moving up 11 spots. Other big gainers among the top 30 from last year are: Daniel Suarez (up nine spots to 12th this year), Ty Dillon (up five spots to 22nd), Denny Hamlin (up four spots to third) and Austin Dillon (up three spots to 14th).

Those who have fallen the most this year from this point last season: Kyle Larson (dropped 11 spots to 21st), Clint Bowyer (down six spots to 10th this year), Bubba Wallace (down six spots to 28th this year), Erik Jones (down five spots to 18th this season) and Ricky Stenhouse Jr. (down five spots to 20th this season).

3. Familiar ground

It has been nearly two years since Jimmie Johnson last won a Cup race, but he’s back this weekend at Dover International Speedway, the site of his most recent victory.

Jimmie Johnson winning at Dover in 2017. (Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images)

Johnson won his 83rd career Cup race June 4, 2017, at Dover to tie him with Cale Yarborough for sixth on the career victory list. That win was Johnson’s 11th at Dover, most of any driver.

In the 69 races since, Johnson has four top-five finishes and 21 top-10 finishes. He’s led 149 laps during that time. His best finish since that last win is third. He placed third at the fall Dover race in 2017 and third at the spring Bristol race last year. His best finish this season is fifth at Texas. He has four top-10 finishes in the first 10 races of this year.

“The first couple of downforce races we were not where we needed to be,” Johnson said of this season. “I think we’ve kind of rallied back and put some speed in our cars and are going the right way. Based on performance, I would say we are at a ‘C’ but I know the distance we’ve made up here recently.

“If there’s an effort score, I want to score my team really high because we’re working really hard to get there. But at the end of the day, the results are results and we know we’ve got to get better. I feel like we’re headed into ‘B’ territory right now.”

4. Tight rookie battle 

In the Xfinity Series, the rookie race features a tie for first. John Hunter Nemechek and Chase Briscoe are tied for first with 295 points each. Noah Gragson is third with 284 points. Justin Haley is next with 273 points. Brandon Brown completes the top five with 180 points.

5. All for some popcorn?

According to LehighValleyLive.com, two eighth graders have been accused of arson after lighting an abandoned building at Nazareth Speedway on fire last weekend.

Nazareth Speedway hosted what is now the Xfinity Series from 1988-2004 but has sat abandoned since. Martin Truex Jr. won the last NASCAR race there.

Police said that the boys, one age 14 and the other 15, showed up on Snapchat recorded by one of the boys at the scene as the fire burned. According to police, the story says that before the fire, one of the boys stole lighter fluid, a lighter and Jiffy Pop popcorn from a nearby supermarket. According to police, the boys attempted to heat the Jiffy Pop from the fire.

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Tyler Reddick wins Talladega Xfinity race

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Tyler Reddick won Saturday’s Xfinity Series race at Talladega Superspeedway in a battered No. 2 Chevrolet, beating Gray Gaulding and Christopher Bell in a two-lap shootout.

The win is the first of the season for the defending series champion and his first with Richard Childress Racing. Reddick also claimed the $100,000 Dash 4 Cash bonus.

Reddick won despite significant damage to his right side from contact with the wall in the middle of the race and a speeding penalty on Lap 27 and a penalty for removing equipment (jack stand) from his pit on Lap 52.

Reddick was saved from going a lap down on Lap 67 thanks to a debris caution.

“I was just a wild day,” Reddick said. “The day kept getting crazier as we were working (on the car). It took us longer than we planned. We came out way behind the leaders and we were two laps from getting lapped and somehow got lucky and the caution came out and saved us and threw us right back in the mix.”

It’s the fourth Xfinity win of Reddick’s career. He led three times for 34 laps, including the final 11.

The top five was completed by Chase Briscoe and Austin Cindric.

Pole-sitter Michael Annett, who won the season opener at Daytona, was involved in a seven-car wreck with 19 laps to go that also involved teammate Justin Allgaier, Cole Custer and Ryan Sieg.

The final shootout was set up by a multi-car wreck with five laps to go that involved Jeffrey Earnhardt, Allgaier, Alex Labbe, Timmy Hill and Jeremy Clements. It resulted in a 14 minute and 8 second red flag period.

Reddick, Gaulding, Bell and Briscoe will compete for the final Dash 4 Cash bonus next weekend at Dover.

Gaulding’s result is his best finish in 17 career Xfinity starts.

“This is freaking awesome,” Gaulding said. “This is what every driver wants to have is that last-lap chance to win a race and we did. Just came up a little short.”

STAGE 1 WINNER: Tyler Reddick

STAGE 2 WINNER: Noah Gragson

Click here for race results.

Click here for the point standings.

NOTABLE: Reddick picked up his seventh top five of the year. He had seven top fives in his entire championship campaign last season … Reddick’s win is the first for Richard Childress Racing at Talladega in the Xfinity Series … The win is also the first by a RCR series regular since Brendan Gaughan at Kentucky in 2014.

WHAT’S NEXT: Allied Steel Buildings 200 at Dover International Speedway at 1:30 p.m. ET on May 4 on Fox Sports 1