Quin Houff

Stage is set for Cup teams in race for points

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With 10 races left in the Cup regular season, the push for stage points is starting to play a key role in strategy and the results are showing in the standings.

Austin Dillon holds what would be the 16th and final playoff heading into Sunday’s race at Kentucky Speedway (2:30 p.m. ET on FS1). But as Matt Kenseth nearly showed last weekend at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, a victory by a driver outside the top 16 will take a playoff spot away from one hoping to make it by points.

Teams also are mindful that the regular season finale will be at Daytona International Speedway, which could lead to a surprise winner. Three of the last five Cup points races at Daytona saw a driver score either their first or second career Cup win: Dillon, Erik Jones and Justin Haley.

Teams already are trying different strategies to get away from 16th in the standings or climb into a potential playoff spot.

Matt DiBenedetto entered the Pocono doubleheader weekend 15th in the standings. Focusing on stage results, he scored 17 stage points in the two races that weekend and added 11 stage points last weekend at Indy.

Stage points can just make such a huge difference, especially this point in the year when the point stuff is really starting to settle out a little bit,” DiBenedetto said after the Pocono weekend. “People are settling in place, so you’ve got to take everything you can get because that makes a big difference as far as securing a solid spot in the playoffs.”

Those 28 stage points he’s earned the past three races helped DiBenedetto climb to 12th in the standings heading to Kentucky. He’s scored 26 more stage points than Clint Bowyer the past three races. That 26-point advantage helped put DiBenedetto three points ahead of Bowyer in standings.

William Byron‘s stage win at Indy proved key in helping him climb the points standings. (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)

William Byron won the first stage last weekend at Indy and collected 10 stage points (and one playoff point) after crew chief Chad Knaus had Byron stay on track under caution when most of the leaders did pit with eight laps left in the stage. Byron restarted in the lead and held that position for the final four laps of the stage under green.

Those 10 points helped Byron pass Hendrick Motorsports teammate Jimmie Johnson for 14th in the standings. Byron leads Johnson, who sat out Indy because he had tested positive for COVID-19, by two points. Johnson has since had two negative tests for the coronavirus and been reinstated for this weekend.

Another driver who has benefitted from a strategy focused on stage points is Dillon. He’s scored 18 stage points the past three races to nine stage points by Jones. Dillon holds what would be the final playoff spot by six points on Jones.

2. Will this be Kyle Busch’s weekend?

The reigning series champion has one win in the last 38 races but heads to a Kentucky Speedway that has been good to him, even though Kurt Busch nipped his younger brother for the win in last year’s race.

Kyle Busch has two wins in nine starts at Kentucky and leads all drivers in top-five finishes (seven), top-10 finishes (eight) and laps led (621) at the track.

Busch’s lone victory in the last 38 races came in last year’s championship race in Miami. In that same span, his Joe Gibbs Racing teammates have combined to win 14 races.

Also during that 38-race stretch, Denny Hamlin and Kevin Harvick have combined to win 16 races (42.1%). Each has eight wins in that time.

3. Speeding on pit road

Here’s a look at the number of pit road speeding penalties drivers have had in the first 16 races of the Cup season:

6 – Quin Houff

5 – Ryan Newman, Bubba Wallace

4 – Corey LaJoie, Garrett Smithley, Daniel Suarez

3 – Ty Dillon, Ricky Stenhouse Jr., JJ Yeley,

2 – Christopher Bell, Clint Bowyer, Kyle Busch, Matt DiBenedetto, Austin Dillon, Denny Hamlin, Timmy Hill, Brad Keselowski, Joey Logano, Michael McDowell, Brennan Poole, Ryan Preece.

1 – Chris Buescher, William Byron, Chase Elliott, Joey Gase, Erik Jones, Matt Kenseth, John Hunter Nemechek, Tyler Reddick,

0 – Aric Almirola, Ryan Blaney, Alex Bowman, Kurt Busch, Cole Custer, Kevin Harvick, Jimmie Johnson, Martin Truex Jr.

4. Streakin’

With Jimmie Johnson missing last weekend’s race at Indianapolis after testing positive for COVID-19, his consecutive starts streak ended at 663, ranking fifth on the all-time list. Johnson has since been cleared to race this weekend at Kentucky Speedway.

Kevin Harvick ranks sixth on the list of longest consecutive starts streak with 656 consecutive starts heading into Sunday’s race at Kentucky Speedway.

Here is the top 6 in longest consecutive streaks:

797 — Jeff Gordon

788 — Ricky Rudd

704 — Bobby Labonte

697 — Rusty Wallace

663 — Jimmie Johnson

656 — Kevin Harvick

5. More of the same for Chevy teams?

Chevrolet teams are winless in their last eight Cup races and the manufacturer has one win in nine races at Kentucky. That victory came last year with Kurt Busch beating Kyle Busch at the finish.

Since Chase Elliott won the second Charlotte race in late May, Chevy drivers have not won. Elliott finished second in Miami, Ricky Stenhouse Jr. was second at Talladega and Matt Kenseth was second at Indianapolis.

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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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Several cars to go to the rear for Sunday’s Cup race

Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images
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Ryan Preece, who was to have led the field to the green flag for Sunday’s Cup race at Pocono Raceway, will be among several cars that will drop to the rear before the start, NASCAR announced Sunday morning.

Here is who will move to the rear before the beginning of the race and why:

# Preece (engine change)

# William Byron (engine change) was to have started seventh

# Chase Elliott (transmission change) was to have started 25th

# Alex Bowman (backup car) was to have started 27th

# Tyler Reddick (backup car) was to have started 30th

# Joey Logano (backup car) was to have started 36th

# Erik Jones (backup car) was to have started 38th

# BJ McLeod (transmission change) was to have started 39th

# Quin Houff (backup car) was to have started 40th

Sunday’s Cup race at Pocono: Start time, forecast and more

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The second part of the NASCAR Cup Series’ Pocono Raceway doubleheader weekend will be held Sunday afternoon with a 350-mile race around the “Tricky Triangle.”

The race will wrap up the first tripleheader in NASCAR history at one track. The day starts with Sunday morning’s Truck Series race (rescheduled after Saturday’s rain), the Xfinity Series race at 12:30 p.m. ET and the Cup Series race at 4 p.m. ET.

The top-20 finishers from Saturday’s Cup race will be inverted for Sunday’s starting lineup.

Here are the details for Sunday’s race:

(All times are Eastern)

START: The command to start engines will be given by James Mascaro, director of special projects for J.P. Mascaro & Sons at 4:13 p.m. The green flag is scheduled to wave at 4:24 p.m.

PRERACE: Garage access health screening begins at 7 a.m. (teams are assigned specific times). Engine prime and final adjustments are at 1:30 p.m. Drivers report to their cars at 3:50 p.m. The invocation will be given at 4:05 p.m. by Billy Mauldin of Motor Racing Outreach. The national anthem will be performed by saxophonist Mike Phillips at 4:06 p.m.

DISTANCE: The race is 140 laps (350 miles) around the 2.5-mile track.

STAGES: Stage 1 ends on Lap 30. Stage 2 ends on Lap 85.

TV/RADIO: FS1 will televise the race. Its coverage begins at 4 p.m. Motor Racing Network will broadcast the race. Its broadcast begins at 3 p.m. and also can be heard at mrn.com and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio.

FORECAST: The wunderground.com forecast calls for scattered thunderstorms with a high of 79 degrees and a 50% chance of rain at the race’s start.

LAST RACE: Saturday’s Cup race at Pocono Raceway, won by Kevin Harvick. Denny Hamlin finished second followed by Aric Almirola, Christopher Bell and Kyle Busch

LAST RACE AT POCONO: Kevin Harvick snapped a 38-race winless streak at Pocono Raceway, earning his first career win there on Saturday. He’s been close several times before, including four runner-up finishes there before Saturday’s triumph.

TO THE REAR: Ryan Preece (engine change), William Byron (engine change), Chase Elliott (transmission change), Alex Bowman (backup car), Tyler Reddick (backup car), Joey Logano (backup car), Erik Jones (backup car), BJ McLeod (transmission change), Quin Houff (backup car).

STARTING LINEUP: Click here for the starting lineup

Catch up on NBC Sports’ coverage:

Kevin Harvick wins for first time at Pocono in Saturday Cup race

What drivers said after Saturday Cup race at Pocono

Results, standings after Saturday’s Cup race at Pocono

NASCAR to run three races Sunday at Pocono

Bubba Wallace fans at Talladega: “We were there for him”

Friday 5: Ford boss reaffirms commitment to motorsports

Aug. 2 Cup race at New Hampshire to allow roughly 19,000 fans

Brad Daugherty: ‘It’s incumbent upon us at NASCAR to do better’

NASCAR releases image of noose but cannot determine who did it

FBI says no federal crime committed at Talladega

After 38 starts, will Kevin Harvick finally earn first Pocono win?

Pocono gives Kyle Busch two chances to end winless streak

Power Rankings after Talladega: Ryan Blaney unanimous No. 1

Bubba Wallace shares with Dale Jr. behind scene stories from Talladega

Martin Truex Jr. to start on pole Sunday at Talladega

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Martin Truex Jr., who is seeking his first Cup points win on a superspeedway, will start on the pole for Sunday’s race at Talladega Superspeedway after a random draw.

Truex will be joined on the front row by Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Denny Hamlin. Truex (Martinsville) and Hamlin (Miami) have combined to win the past two Cup races.

Kyle Busch starts third and is followed by Jimmie Johnson and Kevin Harvick.

Click here for Cup starting lineup

The field was determined through a random draw of the following groups:

  • Positions 1-12: Random draw from charter teams in those positions in owner points
  • Positions 13-24: Random draw from charter teams in those positions in owner points
  • Positions 25-36: Random draw from charter teams in those positions in owner points
  • Positions 37-40: Open teams in order of owners points

NASCAR Cup Series at Talladega

Race Time: 3 p.m. ET Sunday

Track: Talladega Superspeedway; Talladega, Alabama (2.66-mile speedway)

Length: 188 laps, 500 miles

Stages: Stage 1 ends on Lap 60. Stage 2 ends on Lap 120.

TV coverage: Fox

Radio: Motor Racing Network (also SiriusXM NASCAR Radio)

Streaming: Fox Sports app (subscription required); mrn.com and SiriusXM for audio (subscription required)

Next Xfinity race: Saturday at Talladega (113 laps, 300.5 miles), 5:30 p.m. ET on FS1

Next Truck Series race: June 27 at Pocono (60 laps, 150 miles), 12:30 p.m. ET on FS1