NBC Sports Staff

Charlotte Motor Speedway
Atrium Health

Charlotte Motor Speedway complex repurposed for COVID-19 testing

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Charlotte Motor Speedway has become the latest front in North Carolina’s battle against the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

Atrium Health announced it was opening a COVID-19 testing center at zMax Dragway, which is adjacent to the 1.5-mile oval NASCAR races on.

There are 436 confirmed cases of the virus in North Carolina as of Tuesday morning. The speedway is located in Cabarrus County, which directly neighbors Mecklenburg County, the location of the state’s most virus cases with 127.

Click here to read more at Motorsports Talk.

Dale Jr. Download to replace NASCAR America this week

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With NASCAR America on hiatus because of the COVID-19 pandemic, NBCSN will show additional episodes of the Dale Jr. Download this week. All are shows that have aired previously.

Here is this week’s schedule:

Tuesday: Dale Jr. Download with guest Ken Schrader airs from 5-6 p.m. ET on NBCSN.

Wednesday: Dale Jr. Download with guest Kyle Larson airs from 5-6 p.m. ET on NBCSN.

Wednesday: Dale Jr. Download with guest Humpy Wheeler airs from 6-7 p.m. ET on NBCSN.

Thursday: Dale Jr. Download with guest Rick Mast airs from 5-6 p.m. ET on NBCSN.

 

NBC Sports Power Rankings: Joey Logano is unanimous No. 1

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Phoenix and Las Vegas winner Joey Logano rockets to the No. 1 spot in this week’s NBC Sports NASCAR Power Rankings.

Logano was a unanimous choice among NBC Sports’ writers, while Kevin Harvick was a close second in both the race and this week’s poll.

MORE: Ryan Newman tells Today show he wants to race “as soon as I possibly can”

Biggest drops from last week to this week: Fontana winner Alex Bowman (1st to 9th), Ryan Blaney (2nd to 8th) and Jimmie Johnson (3rd to unranked).

Fifteen drivers earned votes this week.

Here’s how this week’s power rankings look:

1. Joey Logano (40 points out of 40): Four races, two wins. May not have the fastest car but he keeps finding a way to win. Last week: 6th (tied).

2. Kevin Harvick (35 points): Has had a top 10 in each of the first four races this season – but he’s still looking for a win. Last week: 4th.

3. Kyle Busch (31 points): After a rough first two races, the defending series champ now has back-to-back top-five finishes. Last week: 6th (tied).

4. Chase Elliott (25 points): Has had excellent speed the last two races. Now he heads to his home track, where he’s never won a Cup, Xfinity or Truck race. Could this be the weekend to do so? And could he kick things off by winning the Kyle Busch bounty in Saturday’s Truck race? Last week: 6th (tied).

(tie) 5. Kyle Larson (19 points): Has been on a solid roll with three top 10s in first four races. Finally had a joint strong effort with teammate Kurt Busch for the first time this season. Last week: Unranked.

(tie) 5. Kurt Busch (19 points): After struggles in first two races, was third at Fontana and sixth at Phoenix. Not the fastest but making the most of the opportunities and finishing higher than the car runs in a race. Last week: 10th.

7. Brad Keselowski (15 points): With Logano and Ryan Blaney’s success, Keselowski may have been overlooked so far, but still has strong numbers: He has finished seventh, fifth and 11th in last three races. He’s likely licking his chops for Atlanta, where he has two wins and a runner-up in last three races. Last week: 5th.

8. Ryan Blaney (10 points): Even though he finished runner-up at Daytona, he’s had rough outings since with finishes of 11th (at Las Vegas due to pit call), 19th (tire issue with three laps to go at Fontana) and 37th at Phoenix due to a crash not of his making. Last week: 2nd.

9. Alex Bowman (6 points): Had a tough weekend with a car that was bad in practice, although it qualified eighth. In the race, finished 14th after winning the week before in Fontana. Last week: 1st.

10. Brandon Jones (5 points): It’s not every day you pass Kyle Busch to score a win in the Xfinity Series. Last week: Unranked.

Others receiving votes: Aric Almirola (4 points), Clint Bowyer (4), Jimmie Johnson (2), Martin Truex Jr. (1), Denny Hamlin (1).

Bump and Run: West Coast swing takeaways

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What are your takeaways from the West Coast swing?

Nate Ryan: Hendrick Motorsports is back. Paul Wolfe and Joey Logano are a winning combination. Joe Gibbs Racing needs to regroup but isn’t out of the ballgame by any stretch.

Dustin Long: How Goodyear’s ability to bring a tire that wears more is changing the game. Hendrick Motorsports’ performance. The speed of Martin Truex Jr.’s car and how he’ll be a factor once he avoids the various issues that plagued him. Harrison Burton’s performance in Xfinity, which included a win and three top fives during this swing.

Daniel McFadin: Despite Ford and Joey Logano winning two of the three races, it doesn’t feel like any team or manufacturer has an outright advantage over everyone else. The races at Phoenix and Auto Club had a distinct energy to them that they’ve lacked in general over the years. The season has a some momentum behind it, let’s hope it stays on track in Atlanta.

Jerry Bonkowski: First, we’re seeing Chevrolet teams starting to shake off the struggles of the new Camaro at Daytona and Las Vegas and are coming back to prominence quickly if Fontana and Phoenix are any indication. Second, Ford continues to show its mastery over Toyota and Chevy. This could be a huge season for Fords if the current trend continues. Lastly, Toyota is uncharacteristically struggling with little consistency between teams (other than perhaps Erik Jones and Denny Hamlin). 

 

Who scores their first career Cup win next: Matt DiBenedetto, William Byron, Tyler Reddick, Christopher Bell, Cole Custer or someone else?

Nate Ryan: William Byron.

Dustin Long: Matt DiBenedetto. He will give the Wood Brothers their 100th Cup victory.

Daniel McFadin: William Byron. While DiBenedetto is the most experienced in Cup of the group, Byron has more time in quality equipment, from the Truck Series up through Cup. DiBenedetto hasn’t shown us a complete race in the No. 21 yet as he re-calibrates his talent and knowledge to what he has to work with.

Jerry Bonkowski: This is a tough question because all of the drivers listed have the ability, they just need some luck. But if I had to pick one, it would probably be Tyler Reddick. Even though he had a disappointing outing at Phoenix, he still has been the best-performing rookie in Cup this season and has even outshined his veteran teammate, Austin Dillon, at times. 

Do you think anyone will beat Kyle Busch to collect any of the bounties in the Truck Series this weekend at Atlanta?

Nate Ryan: No. Kyle Busch knows best when he says Kyle Larson is his main threat at Homestead-Miami Speedway a week later.

Dustin Long: No. Kyle Busch wins this weekend.

Daniel McFadin: My heart says yes, but my gut says no. Chase Elliott will be the primary challenger, but this will be his first Truck Series start since 2017. Meanwhile, Busch has won in five of his 11 Truck Series starts at Atlanta since 2005. Regardless, this is the most excited I’ve been for a Truck Series race not held on dirt or a road course since … let me get back to you on that.

Jerry Bonkowski: Unless Busch wrecks or suffers mechanical problems, I don’t believe anyone takes the bounty in Atlanta. Rather, I believe Kyle Larson has the best chance to do so the following week in Miami.

NBC Sports Power Rankings: Alex Bowman rises to No. 1 after Auto Club win

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Alex Bowman is the big man on the Hendrick Motorsports’ campus, at least for this week, following his win Sunday at Auto Club Speedway.

The win also places him at No. 1 on this week’s edition of the NBC Sports Power Rankings. Bowman overthrows Joey Logano, who fell to a four-way tie for sixth.

Thirteen drivers earned votes this week.

Here’s this week’s power rankings:

1. Alex Bowman (38 points out of 40): Dominated Auto Club 400 from start to finish. Was fast in practice and carried it through the race. Last week: 10th

2. Ryan Blaney (32 points): It’s not often someone who has finished outside the top 10 in his last two races is this high in the power rankings, but Blaney’s overall performance through three races is undeniable. The No. 12 team just needs to close the deal. Last week: 3rd

3. Jimmie Johnson (31 points): When you weren’t looking, the seven-time champion posted top-10 finishes in every stage through three races (plus a runner-up in his Daytona 500 qualifying race). Can Johnson carry this momentum to the first race of the season on a flat track? Last week: 9th

4. Kevin Harvick (21 points): Through three races Harvick is the only driver to place in the top 10 in each event. Last week: 2nd

5. Brad Keselowski (20 points): After crashing out of the Daytona 500, Keselowski has posted finishes of seventh and fifth as Team Penske’s strong showing to open the season continues. Last week: unranked

(tie) 6. Chase Elliott (16 points): After winning three stages in the first two races, Elliott finally earned a top-10 finish Sunday when he placed fourth, one of three Chevys in the top five. Last week: 4th

(tie) 6. Kyle Busch (16 points): Finally placed inside the top 10 with his runner-up finish, a result of track position gained on the chaotic final restart of the race. Last week: unranked

(tie) 6. Joey Logano (16 points): Followed up his Las Vegas win with a 12th-place finish. Also placed seventh in Stage 1. Last week: 1st

(tie) 6. Denny Hamlin (16 points): After a less-than-stellar weekend in Las Vegas, the Daytona 500 winner drove his way to a sixth-place finish. Last week: 6th

10. Kurt Busch (9 points): Another driver who earned his first top 10 of the season with his third-place result. Last week: unranked

Others receiving votes: Martin Truex Jr. (five points), Harrison Burton (one point) and Tyler Reddick (one point)