NBC Sports Staff

Bump & Run: Who really needs this weekend off in Cup?

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Who needs this upcoming weekend off the most in Cup?

Nate Ryan: Kevin Harvick’s No. 4 team has the opportunity to regroup of 15 races of frustration.

Dustin Long: Austin Dillon. He’s made the playoffs each of the past three years but is 21st in the standings, 58 points out of the last playoff spot. His last three races have gone 34th, 37th and 26th.

Daniel McFadin: Kyle Larson. The three weeks that have followed the elation of winning the All-Star Race have been miserable for the Chip Ganassi Racing driver. He’s finished 33rd (Coke 600, crash), 26th at Pocono after winning both stages and 14th (Michigan). The No. 42 team is just not on the same page as Kurt Busch‘s crew through 15 races. Larson has one top five and four top 10s to Busch’s four top fives and nine top 10s.

Jerry Bonkowski: No doubt about it, Stewart-Haas Racing. How can the same organization that won 12 races last season still be winless through the first 15 races of 2019? SHR needs to rest and retool this weekend and prepare for the 11-race stretch leading up to the playoffs. In a perfect world, maybe Kevin Harvick, Clint Bowyer, Aric Almirola and Daniel Suarez can combine for several victories in the upcoming 11 races.

Who is the driver in any of NASCAR’s national series who has impressed you the most this season?

Nate Ryan: Tyler Reddick has proven the 2018 championship was no fluke. In six months, he has gone from Xfinity title underdog to destined for a full-time Cup ride.

Dustin Long: What Tyler Reddick and his Richard Childress Racing team have done has been impressive.

Daniel McFadin: Tyler Reddick. It’s kind of bizarre to call the defending Xfinity Series champion the most improved driver, but that’s what he is. A year after he won twice – in the first and last races of the season – and had seven top fives, the Richard Childress Racing driver has surpassed those totals through 13 races and has finished fourth or better in the last 10 races.

Jerry Bonkowski: While a lot can be said about Kyle Busch and his Cup Series-leading four wins, the driver who has impressed me the most in 2019 is Xfinity Series points leader Tyler Reddick. Not only has he dominated the points (he’s been ranked No. 1 for the last 10 races), Reddick has 11 top five finishes – including three wins – in the first 13 races (84.6%). And add to that he’s only finished outside the top-10 just once. Another stat of note: he’s completed all but five laps 2,332 of 2,337 for 99.8 % this season.

 

What team without a win is one that you think could be on the rise and challenge for multiple victories?

Nate Ryan: It’s an obvious choice, but Harvick’s No. 4 Ford will win again soon.

Dustin Long: Kevin Harvick’s team. Once they overcome their gremlins, they have the speed to go on a run. Just need to clean up their races.

Daniel McFadin: I’m going with Chip Ganassi Racing via Kurt Busch. While the teams at Stewart-Haas Racing start out strong or peak mid-race, they can’t seem to close the deal, while Busch tends to surge at the right times or consistently run near the front. 

Jerry Bonkowski: It would be easy to say Stewart-Haas Racing, particularly Kevin Harvick. But I’m going to go with Chip Ganassi Racing and Kurt Busch. With his runner-up finish at Michigan, the elder Busch brother now has four top-five finishes (vs. six for all of 2018). I’ve been saying he’s a win waiting to happen. And once he gets that first win – it’s a matter of when, not if – I would not be surprised to see Kurt take three or even four checkered flags the rest of the season, including potentially capturing the Cup championship.

NASCAR America presents the Motorsports Hour at 5 p.m. ET

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NASCAR America presents the Motorsports Hour, which airs from 5-6 p.m. ET on NBCSN and will preview all the racing this weekend, including Cup in Michigan and IndyCar in Texas.

Krista Voda hosts and is joined by Parker Kligerman and AJ Allmendinger.

If you can’t catch either of today’s shows on TV, watch online at http:/nascarstream.nbcsports.com. If you plan to stream the show on your laptop or portable device, be sure to have your username and password from your cable/satellite/telco provider handy so your subscription can be verified.

Once you enter that information, you’ll have access to the stream.

Click here at 5 p.m. ET to watch live via the stream.

Truck Series practice report from Texas

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Johnny Sauter had the fastest lap in Thursday’s final practice session for the Gander Outdoors Truck Series at Texas Motor Speedway.

Sauter went 183.237 mph. He was followed by Matt Crafton (183,138 mph), Austin Hill (183.057), Tyler Dippel (182.902) and Anthony Alfredo (182.865).

Click here for report on final Truck practice

The series has qualifying and its race Friday.

2nd session

Johnny Sauter posted the fastest lap in Thursday’s second Gander Outdoors Truck Series practice at Texas Motor Speedway.

Sauter had a top lap of 184.168 mph. He was followed by Grant Enfinger (183.667 mph), Sheldon Creed (183.045), Matt Crafton (182.266) and Todd Gilliland (182.094).

Click here for practice 2 report

Stewart Friesen, who finished second at Texas in March, crashed late in the session. He was 11th on the speed chart with a top lap of 181.519 mph. He went to a backup.

Final Truck practice will be from 7-7:45 p.m. ET.

Session 1

Ben Rhodes turned the fastest lap (180.681 mph) in the first Gander Outdoors Truck Series practice Thursday at Texas Motor Speedway.

ThorSport Racing teammate Johnny Sauter was second, followed by Grant Enfinger, Sheldon Creed and Brett Moffitt.

Ross Chastain, who switched to earning 2019 truck points this week and became eligible for the race, was 10th fastest.

Click here for speeds from the first truck practice Thursday at Texas.

The second truck practice is at 5:05 p.m. ET, and the final session is at 7 p.m. ET. Check back for more speeds.

NASCAR also announced Thursday afternoon that the No. 45 Chevrolet of Kyle Benjamin will be held out of the final 30 minutes in the last practice for an unapproved splitter during inspection.

Qualifying is Friday at 5:35 p.m. ET (click here for the order), followed by the race at 9 p.m. ET on FS1.

NBC Sports Power Rankings after Pocono: Kyle Busch back to No. 1

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Well, that was a short stay atop the NBC Sports NASCAR Power Rankings for Martin Truex Jr.

Truex was No. 1 last week but plummets to a tie for eighth this week.

Pocono winner Kyle Busch is back atop this week’s rankings – by unanimous vote – followed by Chase Elliott and Brad Keselowski, who was not ranked last week.

Dropping out of this week’s rankings are Kevin Harvick, Jimmie Johnson and Ricky Stenhouse Jr.

Here’s how this week’s Power Rankings shape up:

1. Kyle Busch (40 points): Back where he belongs after his fourth win of the season. Last week: tied for 2nd.

2. Chase Elliott (35 points): On the best run of his Cup career with five consecutive top-five finishes. The No. 9 team has established championship-level consistency. Last week: tied for 2nd.

3. Brad Keselowski (29 points): Has a win and a runner-up within the past three points races. Only car to finish in the top five of every stage at Pocono. Last week: Not ranked.

4. Joey Logano (27 points): Six top 10s in the past seven races. May not be long before this team wins again. More wins would certainly help but can’t fault the No. 22 team’s title defense. Last week: 4th.

(tie) 5. Clint Bowyer (15 points): Turns 40 as he matures into Stewart-Haas’ most consistently good finisher. Has seven top 10s in the last nine points races. He also returns to a track this weekend where he won last year. Last week: Not ranked.

(tie) 5. Erik Jones (15 points): Three top 10s in the past four points races, including a third at Pocono. Is working hard to keep his ride at JGR. A win or two could cement the deal. Last week: Not ranked.

7. William Byron (11 points): Consecutive pole positions are the most impressive feat of his young Cup career. Also has three top 10s in the last four points races. Last week: tied for 9th.

(tie) 8. Martin Truex Jr. (7 points): Not his fault the engine didn’t last at Pocono. Just like last year, it’s been top five or bust (sometimes literally). Last week: 1st.

(tie) 8. Chris Buescher (7 points): Best three-race stretch of his JTG Daugherty Racing career. Last week: 7th.

10. Denny Hamlin (5 points): Nothing bad happened to him at Pocono and the result was a sixth-place finish, his best finish in the last five points races. Last week: Not ranked.

Others receiving votes: Daniel Suarez (4 points), Tyler Reddick (4 points), Alex Bowman (3 points), Cole Custer (3 points), Kurt Busch (1 point).

Bump & Run: Will winning ways of JGR, Team Penske continue?

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Where you do see the best chance for a team other than Joe Gibbs Racing or Team Penske to win this month? Will it be this weekend at Michigan? Sonoma? Chicagoland Speedway? Or will JGR and Team Penske combine to win all those races?

Nate Ryan: This year’s two powerhouses won’t sweep the rest of June. It’s been three years since Gibbs or Penske won at Michigan, so Sunday’s race presents opportunity. Given the strength of the road course aces (Martin Truex Jr., Kyle Busch, Brad Keselowski) across both teams, Sonoma seems unlikely. Hendrick Motorsports’ resurgence on 1.5-mile tracks makes Chicagoland Speedway a good bet for that team.

Dustin Long: Joe Gibbs Racing and Team Penske sweep June.

Daniel McFadin: I see Michigan as the best site for another team to win, likely a Chevrolet in Chase Elliott (who has never finished outside the top 10 there) or three-time winner Kyle Larson if he can have a clean race. Though, I think Alex Bowman could steal one.

Jerry Bonkowski: I would lean toward either Michigan or Sonoma. Chicago, being a 1.5-mile track, plays right into the wheelhouse for both JGR and Penske. Michigan is wide and should afford an opportunity to win for guys like Kyle Larson, Ricky Stenhouse Jr. or any of the Hendrick drivers. Sonoma is pretty much a wide-open affair that might favor someone like Kevin Harvick or another Stewart-Haas driver.

Who is the next Cup driver to score their first win of the season?

Nate Ryan: Even despite the execution problems by team and driver, it’s still only a matter of time for Kevin Harvick, perhaps as soon as Michigan.

Dustin Long: Kevin Harvick but it may not come until next month at New Hampshire.

Daniel McFadin: Erik Jones has been quietly consistent lately. Except for falling victim to a cut tire in the Coke 600, he’s finished sixth or better in three of the last four races with two finishes of third. He has one top 10 at each at the tracks remaining in June, with a best finish of third at Michigan.

Jerry Bonkowski: He’s looooonnnngggg overdue: Kevin Harvick is the next in line to take the checkered flag and lock himself into the playoffs. Also keep an eye on Chip Ganassi Racing teammates Kyle Larson and Kurt Busch.

Christopher Bell, Tyler Reddick and Cole Custer have combined to win the past five Xfinity races. Will they make it six in a row at Michigan this weekend or will you take the field?

Nate Ryan: Take the Xfinity Series’ Big Three.

Dustin Long: The win streak continues for the Xfinity Series’ Big Three.

Daniel McFadin: I’m going to take the field. There’s too much talent in the front half of the Xfinity garage this year for their stranglehold to last every week. Also, with defending race winner Austin Dillon not entered in the race, only four drivers who finished in the top 10 last year will be back: Custer (finished third), Paul Menard (finished fifth), Reddick (finished seventh) and Justin Allgaier (finished ninth).

Jerry Bonkowski: The odds appear to be in favor of that trio of drivers. But if Bell, Reddick or Custer don’t win, keep an eye out for either Chase Briscoe or Justin Allgaier. They’re overdue.