Zach Sturniolo

Drivers to watch in NASCAR Cup Series race at Gateway


NASCAR’s premier series goes to Worldwide Technology Raceway at Gateway for the first time this weekend.

Although Cup teams have never competed on the flat, 1.25-mile oval, there are some drivers to keep an eye on Sunday (3:30 p.m. ET, FS1).


Kyle Busch

  • Points position: 3rd
  • Last three races: 33rd — Darlington; 3rd — Kansas; 2nd — Charlotte
  • Past at Gateway: Won Xfinity race in 2009

Busch is on a bit of a hot streak, notching three podium finishes in his last five races to climb to No. 1 in the NBC Sports NASCAR Power Rankings. The two-time Cup champion has experience at Gateway, claiming an Xfinity Series win in 2009. In three Xfinity starts, Busch never finished worse than eighth there.

The No. 18 team has momentum on its side. Despite an early spin while battling at the head of the pack, Busch scored a runner-up finish Sunday at Charlotte for his second straight finish inside the top three. With 60 career Cup wins, Busch seems like a safe bet at nearly any track on the circuit.

Ross Chastain

  • Points position: 2nd
  • Last three races: 30th — Darlington; 7th — Kansas; 15th — Charlotte
  • Past at Gateway: Won Truck race in 2019

Chastain has remained fast at seemingly every track on the Cup schedule this season. Heading to a facility where he’s already won bodes well for Chastain, who has already won twice this season at Circuit of the Americas and Talladega.

Chastain wheeled a Niece Motorsports truck to victory at Gateway in 2019 during a three-win season. He has also laps led in each of his last five Cup starts, including a race-high 153 circuits in last weekend’s Coca-Cola 600.

Christopher Bell

  • Points position: 9th
  • Last three races: 6th — Darlington; 5th — Kansas; 5th — Charlotte
  • Past at Gateway: Won Truck race in 2016

Bell is stringing together an impressive stretch of good finishes, taking the checkered flag sixth or better in each of the last four races. The No. 20 team has had speed much of the season but execution lagged. That’s changed. His eight top-10 finishes is tied for fourth this season with reigning Cup champion Kyle Larson and Ross Chastain.



Tyler Reddick

  • Points position: 12th
  • Last three races: 2nd — Darlington; 30th — Kansas; 6th — Charlotte
  • Past at Gateway: Had one top-10 finish in three Xfinity starts.

Reddick has led laps in each of the last three Cup races. Even so, he’s had a roller-coaster run lately. In his last six races, the Richard Childress Racing driver has three top-10 finishes and three finishes of 30th or worse. Reddick enters this weekend’s race holding what would be the final playoff spot. He has an eight-point lead on Aric Almirola and a 22-point lead on teammate Austin Dillon.

Joey Logano 

  • Points position: 6th
  • Last three races: WON — Darlington; 17th — Kansas; 20th — Charlotte
  • Past at Gateway: Finished second in 2008 Xfinity race

Logano has fared well in inaugural events on ovals. He won the Clash at the Coliseum exhibition race in February. He also won the inaugural Bristol Dirt race last season. He could use some momentum. His Darlington win is his only top-15 finish in the last five races.

William Byron

  • Points position: 7th
  • Last three races: 13th — Darlington; 16th — Kansas; 32nd — Charlotte
  • Past at Gateway: Finished 17th in lone Truck start in 2016.

Byron is one of three drivers with a series-high two wins this season, but has struggled lately. He has failed to finish better than 13th in the six points races since his last win, which came at Martinsville. Byron has failed to score points in five of the last nine stages.


NASCAR viewer’s guide: Worldwide Technology Raceway at Gateway


This weekend, the NASCAR Cup Series heads to Worldwide Technology Raceway at Gateway for its inaugural trip to the track near St. Louis.

While Cup has never raced at the 1.25-mile oval, both the Xfinity Series and Camping World Truck Series have done so. The Xfinity Series competed from 1997-2010. The trucks have visited annually since 1998 — with the exception of 2011-13 as the track’s ownership changed.

Experience where it matters

While the Cup Series has never raced at Gateway, most of its drivers have.

Twenty-two of the 36 drivers listed on this week’s Cup entry list have made at least one Xfinity or Truck start at Gateway. Nine of them have wins at the flat oval:

Whether that translates to on-track success this weekend remains to be seen. Cup teams have no prior notes to utilize, and even if they did, the notes likely would be rendered irrelevant thanks to the Next Gen car, which is in its first season.

But with laps come experience and with experience comes confidence. Perhaps that confidence leads one of the sport’s past Gateway winners back to victory lane Sunday (3:30 p.m. ET on FS1).

Succeeds leads to more success

Remember how parity has been a key discussion point this season?

While there is truth to that — 11 different winners in 14 races — take a look at who’s actually winning over the past seven races:

That list includes four former champions. The three exceptions — Byron, Chastain and Hamlin — lead the series in wins this year with two apiece. The drivers you expect to take home the checkered flag are starting to do so more regularly.

Sure, Chastain and Kurt Busch getting respective wins for Trackhouse Racing and 23XI Racing is a big feat for the upstart teams in their second seasons. But experience is starting to reign supreme again despite the continued unknowns of the Next Gen car.

Maybe that’s because drivers are learning more after 14 races. Their teams certainly are. The big dogs are beginning to make themselves known once again.

Team Penske continues to struggle

Team Penske’s only top-10 finish in the past five points races is Joey Logano’s win at Darlington on May 8.

The last month has marked a dismal stretch for the perennial powerhouse, which also fields entries for Ryan Blaney and rookie Austin Cindric.

Cindric is already locked into the playoffs thanks to his upset win in the Daytona 500, and Blaney won the exhibition All-Star Race on May 22 at Texas, so the organization doesn’t need to slam the panic button yet.

But there is reason to be alarmed. All three drivers crashed out of last week’s Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte and the next two weeks provide general unknowns at Gateway and Sonoma. Good performances in Gateway could go a long way to reset positive expectations at Team Penske.

Entry lists

Thirty-six cars line the Cup entry list for the inaugural Gateway race.

AJ Allmendinger will have a busy weekend. He will pilot the No. 16 Chevrolet for Kaulig Racing in the Cup Series Sunday but will also compete in his full-time Xfinity ride in the series’ inaugural trip to Portland International Raceway. Reigning Truck Series champion Ben Rhodes will drive Allmendinger’s car in practice and qualifying while Allmendinger is at Portland for the Xfinity race. In Cup, Josh Bilicki will drive the No. 77 Chevrolet for Spire Motorsports.

NASCAR Cup Series Entry List — Worldwide Technology Raceway at Gateway

In the Xfinity Series, 38 cars will compete at Portland International Raceway, the first time the series has visited the 1.97-mile road course in Oregon. None will fail to qualify.

Driving the No. 18 Toyota for Joe Gibbs Racing will be Connor Mosack, a 23-year-old Trans Am racer making his NASCAR debut. Parker Chase will drive the No. 26 Toyota for Sam Hunt Racing. Gray Gaulding will drive the No. 6 Chevrolet for JD Motorsports this weekend. Ryan Vargas, the No. 6 car’s usual driver, will instead drive the No. 47 car for Mike Harmon Racing.

NASCAR Xfinity Series Entry List — Portland International Raceway

Forty trucks are listed on this week’s Camping World Truck Series entry list at Gateway. Four will fail to qualify for the 36-truck field.

NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Entry List — Worldwide Technology Raceway at Gateway

This weekend’s schedule and forecast

(All times Eastern)

Friday, June 3

Gateway forecast: Mainly sunny, high of 79 degrees, winds north-northwest at 5-10 mph

Portland forecast: AM rain followed by overcast skies, high of 68 degrees, 40% chance of rain

  • 1:05 – 1:55 p.m. — Xfinity practice at Portland (no TV)
  • 5:05 – 5:55 p.m. — Cup practice at Gateway (FS1, Motor Racing Network, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio)
  • 6:05 – 6:35 p.m. — Truck practice at Gateway (FS1)
  • 6:35 – 7:30 p.m. — Truck qualifying at Gateway (FS1)
  • 8:05 – 9 p.m. — Xfinity qualifying at Portland (FS1)

Saturday, June 4

Gateway forecastPartly to mostly cloudy, high 81 degrees, winds southeast at 10-15 mph

Portland forecast: Cloudy leading to PM showers, 20% chance of rain for start of Xfinity race, high of 66 degrees

  • 11 a.m. – 12:30 p.m. — Cup qualifying at Gateway (FS1, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio)
  • 1:30 p.m. — Truck race at Gateway (160 laps/200 miles; FS1, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio)
  • 2:30 – 3:45 p.m. — ARCA West practice at Portland
  • 4:30 p.m. — Xfinity race at Portland (75 laps/147.75 miles; FS1, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio)
  • 7:30 p.m. — ARCA West race at Portland (57 laps/112.29 miles; FloRacing, MRN)

Sunday, June 5

Gateway forecastPartly to mostly cloudy, high of 82 degrees, winds south-southeast at 5-10 mph

  • 3:30 p.m. — Cup race at Gateway (240 laps/300 miles; FS1, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio)

NASCAR Power Rankings: Kyle Busch cruises to top spot

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This year’s Coca-Cola 600 marked NASCAR’s longest race.

While Denny Hamlin celebrated his first win at Charlotte Motor Speedway, all the action behind him provided another shake up to the NBC Sports Power Rankings, including a new driver on top.

NASCAR Power Rankings

1. Kyle Busch (Last week: No. 2) Consistency and strength are beginning to play into the two-time Cup Series champion’s hands. The No. 18 Toyota has four top 10s and three top-three finishes in his last five starts and led 36 laps in Sunday night’s race at Charlotte. With a series-best 11.2 average finish, Busch has been Toyota’s best weapon all year as contract discussions persist, despite his teammate Hamlin leading the manufacturer’s entries with two wins this year.

2. Ross Chastain (Last week: No. 3) What a drive Chastain displayed in NASCAR’s longest race. The No. 1 Chevrolet paced the field for a race-high 153 laps and was in the hunt for the win in overtime. Heavy nose damage relegated Chastain to a 15th-place finish, but his performance was a good reminder of his early-season success. A two-time Cup winner this year, Chastain has led laps in each of the past five races, notching significant totals at Dover (86 laps led), Darlington (26) and Charlotte (153).

3. Chase Elliott (Last week: No. 1) Elliott’s day went sour after contacting the wall in a battle for second with Daniel Suarez. The series points leader won Stage 1 and was competitive to start the race, leading 86 circuits. But the damage proved too significant as time expired on the damaged vehicle policy’s six-minute clock. Elliott finished 33rd, his second straight finish outside the top 25.

4. Christopher Bell (Last week: No. 5) The No. 20 Toyota is showing speed much more regularly, and Bell is getting results to match. Despite some late wall contact, Bell rallied to a fifth-place finish at the 1.5-mile oval, his fifth top-seven finish in the past six races.

5. Denny Hamlin (Last week: No. 10) Hamlin’s luck really has changed. Yes, it’s only a two-race stretch, but finishing fourth at Kansas ahead of a Coca-Cola 600 victory in consecutive points events is one heck of a turnaround given Hamlin’s miserable first dozen races of the year. Career win No. 48 suddenly ties him for the series lead in victories this season (two) and follows a runner-up effort in the NASCAR All-Star Race. The recent sample size is small, but it is impressive nonetheless.

6. Kyle Larson (Last week: No. 7) Larson crossed the start/finish line as the leader on Lap 400, but that wasn’t when the checkered flag waved Sunday night. The No. 5 Chevrolet wound up ninth after a late charge from Chase Briscoe resulted in a spin, sending the race to overtime. Larson was then collected in a multi-car mess for the lead on the first overtime attempt, eliminating his chances to win. But Larson has led at least 19 laps in each of the last six races, including a season-high 51 Sunday.

7. Ryan Blaney (Last week: No. 4) The high from the All-Star Race win returned to a disappointing low at Lap 192 Sunday when Blaney clipped the Turn 1 apron, sending his No. 12 spinning in front of half the field and collecting 11 others in a Turn 2 melee. Blaney’s 29th-place finish is his fifth straight outside the top 10 and marked his second results outside the top 25 in that stretch.

8. Joey Logano (Last week: No. 6) Thanks to Briscoe’s spin, Logano found himself hunting for a win — or at least a potential top five — late in the going at Charlotte. But his No. 22 Ford was instead sent driver-side into the frontstretch wall, shipping Logano to a 20th-place finish. That marks Logano’s fourth finish of 17th or worse in the past five races. The exception is the win he scored at Darlington on May 8.

9. Alex Bowman (Last week: No. 8) Bowman moves in silence, a trend that continued at Charlotte, where he scored a 10th-place finish for his fifth top 10 in the last six races. The No. 48 car isn’t going out and dominating races — Bowman has led a total of 18 laps this year — but his 11.7 average finish ranks second in Cup this season.

10. William Byron (Last week: No. 9) Eventually, the results will start righting themselves for Byron. That time hasn’t come yet. After getting swept up in the massive multi-car accident triggered by Blaney’s spin, Byron finished 32nd, his sixth straight finish of 13th or worse since winning at Martinsville. Sunday marked his first DNF since February, when he crashed out of both the Daytona 500 and the race at Auto Club Speedway.

Dropped out: None.

Coca-Cola 600 winners and losers


Take a look at the winners and losers following a wild Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway:


Denny Hamlin — After miserable luck to start the season, Hamlin escaped the multiple melees Sunday night to score his first win in the crown jewel event and second victory of the season. His No. 11 Toyota was on the bottom of a four-wide battle for the lead coming to the white flag in the first overtime. And while the other three drivers crashed, Hamlin scooted away and held on for the victory. Suddenly, Hamlin joins Ross Chastain and William Byron as the only multi-time winners in 2022. There remain 11 different winners after 14 points races this year. Hamlin has two straight top-five finishes following a fourth-place finish at Kansas.

Kyle Busch — Another driver who avoided chaos — despite a Lap 47 spin. He barely avoided the crashing leaders in that first overtime session. Busch lined up behind Hamlin on the final restart and drove to Hamlin’s outside, but Hamlin’s charge into Turn 1 pinned Busch back in second place. Busch notched his third top-three finish in the past five races and fourth top 10 following a third-place finish two weeks ago in Kansas.

Kevin Harvick — Harvick scored his second top five in the past three races with a third-place finish. The day began as a struggle for the No. 4 team, which went under the hood for an adjustment early in the race and saw its car bring out the caution at Lap 221. His winless streak extends to 57 races, but the 2014 champion is starting to post better results again.

Ricky Stenhouse Jr. — The top-10 finishes keep rolling. He scored his fourth consecutive top 10 Sunday night by finishing seventh. JTG Daugherty Racing had never strung four straight top-10 results together before this span by Stenhouse and crew chief Brian Pattie. Stenhouse has five top-10 finishes on the year, his most since scoring five in 2018 at what was then called Roush Fenway Racing.

Cliff Daniels — The defending Cup champion crew chief for Kyle Larson gave perhaps the best in-race speech a crew chief could deliver after a miserable start to Larson’s race. The team’s first 300 miles included three pit-road penalties, wall contact, a spin at Lap 167 and a fire at the fuel receptor that quickly extinguished itself. With his driver lamenting his performance, Daniels chimed in and put any worries to rest:


Kyle Larson — While his crew chief kept him in the game, Larson left Charlotte a loser with a ninth-place finish. Larson, the defending race winner did a phenomenal job to recover from his earlier woes and led 50 of the final 60 circuits around the 1.5-mile oval. But Briscoe’s late pass attempt sent the race into overtime, which led to another crash that wiped Larson from winning contention. The No. 5 team has five top 10s in its last six starts, including Sunday’s performance, but a win that could have been — and perhaps should have been — before it was wiped away instead.

Bubba Wallace — A bizarre series of events led to the elimination of Wallace’s No. 23 team in the Coca-Cola 600. Wallace was involved in the Lap 193 pileup that collected 12 cars in Turns 1 and 2 after running inside the top 10 for most of the opening half of Sunday’s race. But the team elected to put scuffed tires on for the final dash to end Stage 2 and failed to meet minimum speed over the course of three laps. Because their time on the damaged vehicle policy clock expired, NASCAR forced Wallace to retire from the race. He finished 28th with 200 laps completed.

Daniel Suarez — What a night Suarez had going. The Stage 2 winner, Suarez led four times for 36 laps and was running fourth inside of the final 60 scheduled laps. But on a restart with 55 laps remaining, Suarez thought he was clear for fourth ahead of Chase Briscoe. He wasn’t and was instead sent spinning in front of the field, getting clobbered by Todd Gilliland and Chris Buescher, who tumbled down the frontstretch after his impact. Suarez had the speed but not the result, finishing 25th. The No. 99 car has finished 25th or worse in three of the last five races

Chase Briscoe — Briscoe finished fourth for his best finish since Martinsville (ninth), but that still felt like a disappointment after contending for the win late with Kyle Larson. Briscoe hunted down Larson on a 48-lap green flag stretch to fight for the lead. But his move to Larson’s left with two laps left in regulation sent the No. 14 Ford sideways and spinning, watching a crown jewel win slip out of his grasp. He already scored his first win this year at Phoenix, but Charlotte now joins Bristol dirt as races Briscoe could have finished second at worst and instead wiped out.

Chris Buescher — It’s hard to roll over multiple times down the Charlotte front straightaway without feeling like you lost the day. Buescher’s crash was violent as his No. 17 Ford tumbled quickly and viciously down the turf and pavement at pit exit. Buescher was trying to salvage a long day and appeared en route to his fourth straight top 10 in the Coca-Cola 600. Instead, he was forced to settle for his second straight finish outside the top 25 this year with a 26th-place finish.

Denny Hamlin wins Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte in double OT

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Denny Hamlin won an attrition-filled Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway on Sunday night.

Hamlin secured his first win in the crown jewel event in double overtime after two late crashes at the front of the field pushed the race late.

The final restart saw Hamlin fire off to the left of Ross Chastain‘s battered No. 1 Chevrolet. Hamlin shot to the lead while his teammate, Kyle Busch, charged to Hamlin’s right.

On the last lap, Hamlin cleared Busch in Turn 2 after forcing Busch high, sending the No. 11 Toyota to its second win of the year. Sam McAuley was atop the pit box serving as the team’s interim crew chief while Chris Gabehart served the first of a four-race suspension following a loose wheel that detached at Dover on May 2.

MORE: Coca-Cola 600 results, points

MORE: What drivers said

The first overtime period began when Chase Briscoe, running second to leader Kyle Larson‘, lost control of his No. 14 Ford, sliding through Turn 2 and bringing out the final caution.

On the penultimate restart, Austin Dillon rocketed from sixth at the start/finish line to Larson’s left for the lead in Turn 3. He slid high, both drivers lost momentum. Dillon crashed with Larson, Chastain and Joey Logano.

Hamlin scooted through with Busch in tow, putting themselves in prime position to capitalize on the final overtime.

Seventeen of 37 cars failed to finish, 16 due to crash damage. The yellow flag waved 18 times Sunday night, the most cautions at the Charlotte oval since a record 22 yellows in the 2005 rendition of the race.

A vicious crash at Lap 346 brought the race to a halt after Chris Buescher tumbled through the turf on the front straightaway in the 16th caution period of the night.

Daniel Suarez, the Stage 2 winner, was running fourth when he came up in front of Chase Briscoe at the exit of Turn 4. Contact sent Suarez spinning in front of the field. Rookie Todd Gilliland hit Suarez’s left rear. Buescher was hit from behind by rookie Harrison Burton, sending the right front of his No. 17 Ford into Suarez’s car.

The right front suspension broke on Buescher’s car as he slid through the turf and the wheel caught beneath his car, launching it. Both Buescher and Suarez exited their vehicles unharmed.

The 10th caution collected 12 cars. On a Lap 192 restart, Ryan Blaney entered Turn 1 too low and clipped the apron, sending his No. 12 spinning in the middle of traffic and collecting 11 other cars. Included were Kurt Busch, Bubba Wallace, Chase Elliott, William Byron, and Brad Keselowski. Each of those drivers retired from the race.

Green flag racing was dotted with frequent yellows. The longest span of racing lasted 48 laps between Lap 352 and Lap 400. Ryan Preece was the race’s first victim at Lap 18 when he spun with Buescher and Noah Gragson in Turns 3 and 4.

Josh Bilicki and Corey LaJoie, each driving for Spire Motorsports, suffered left rear tire failures and crashed early in Sunday’s race. LaJoie was driving a backup car and crashed nearly identically in Saturday’s practice session.

Other drivers involved in accidents Sunday were Kyle Busch, Kevin Harvick, Austin Cindric, Cole Custer and Ricky Stenhouse Jr.

Completing the top five behind Hamlin and Busch were Harvick, Briscoe and Christopher Bell. Tyler Reddick, Stenhouse, Michael McDowell, Kyle Larson and Alex Bowman rounded out the top 10. Bell and Reddick also contacted the wall but rebounded for top-six finishes.

There were no issues in post-race inspection, confirming Hamlin as the race winner. The Nos. 4 (Harvick), 5 (Larson), 8 (Reddick) and 20 (Bell) cars will be taken to NASCAR’s R&D Center for further inspection.

Stage 1 winner: Chase Elliott

Stage 2 winner: Daniel Suarez

Stage 3 winner: Ross Chastain

Who had a good race: Chase Briscoe rallied to a fourth-place finish despite his spin with two laps to go in regulation. This marks Briscoe’s first top-10 finish since placing ninth at Martinsville in April and first top five since winning at Phoenix in March. … Kevin Harvick’s third-place finish is his second top five in the past three races. … Ricky Stenhouse Jr.’s seventh-place finish was his fourth top 10 in a row, the longest streak for JTG Daugherty Racing.

Who had a bad race: The 16 drivers eliminated from Sunday’s race due to crashes. On-track calamity threw competitors into melees often not of their own doing, highlighted by Buescher’s late-race barrel roll. … Kyle Larson had a miserable first half of the race, including early wall contact, three pit-road penalties, and a Lap 167 spin. He escaped with a ninth-place finish but had two chances to win it late, leading 50 of the final 60 circuits.

Notable: At 619.5 miles, Sunday’s race was the longest race in NASCAR history. The previous mark was set in 2020 at 608 miles. … Kevin Harvick scored his 11th top-10 finish in the past 12 Coca-Cola 600s.

Next race: The series heads to Worldwide Technology Raceway at Gateway for its inaugural trip on June 5 (3:30 p.m., FS1).