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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
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.”
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.
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.
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