Coca-Cola 600

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William Byron looking to sweep poles for ‘Crown Jewel’ races

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On Sunday morning, William Byron will have the opportunity to make a little bit of NASCAR history.

Byron will attempt to put his No. 24 Chevrolet on the pole for the Brickyard 400 (2 p.m. ET Sunday on NBC).

While it would be his fifth pole of the year, Byron would be able to say he’s the only driver to sit on the pole of all four “Crown Jewel” races in the same year.

Byron has been really fast this season.

The Hendrick Motorsports driver has started on the front row of a Cup Series race nine times, including his four poles.

Three of those poles have been when the spotlight was the brightest.

When Byron claimed the pole for last weekend’s Southern 500 at Darlington, he became just the third driver in Cup history to sit on the pole for the Daytona 500, Coca-Cola 600 and Southern 500 in the same year.

He joined Fireball Roberts (1962) and Bill Elliott (1985) in the accomplishment.

Unlike Roberts and Elliott, Byron didn’t go on to win the Daytona 500, or even the Southern 500, which Bill Elliott did.

Byron is still looking for his first career Cup Series win entering Sunday’s race, which will be his 62nd start.

Byron is one of four drivers – including Kyle Larson, Clint Bowyer and Matt DiBenedetto – who have finished second this season but have yet to win.

With 180 laps led through 25 races, Byron has the third most laps led among winless drivers.

Luckily, Byron has some winning experience already at Indianapolis.

In 2017, the then 19-year-old won the Xfinity Series race at IMS to become the youngest driver to ever win a NASCAR race at the track.

NBC Sports Power Rankings heading into Pocono

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Martin Truex Jr. is in and Kyle Busch is out as No. 1 in this week’s NBC Sports Power Rankings.

Truex has been riding a hot hand of late. His Coca-Cola 600 victory was his third in the last five points races.

Truex makes the biggest jump from last week, going from ninth to No. 1 this week. Conversely, Kevin Harvick makes the biggest drop from last week, going from No. 2 to a tie for ninth this week.

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

1. Martin Truex Jr. (39 points): Was like a mail delivery man at Charlotte: Didn’t let heat, nor gloom of night nor a blown tire or contact with another car keep him from his appointed rounds and into victory lane. Three wins in the last five races makes you the sport’s top dog. Last week: 9th.

(tie) 2. Kyle Busch (33 points): Too little, too late in Sunday’s race. But he shouldn’t be too disappointed. He earned his seventh top five and 12th top-10 finish in the first 13 races of the season. Nobody else comes close. Still, with Truex’s success, Busch is no longer No. 1 within his own organization. Last week: 1st.

(tie) 2. Chase Elliott (33 points): Best Chevrolet driver of the bunch. Led a Hendrick Motorsports juggernaut that placed all four of its drivers in the top 10. Remains the only HMS (and Chevrolet) driver with a win this season. Has not finished outside the top five since winning at Talladega. That’s four top fives in a row. Last week: 5th.

4. Joey Logano (30 points): Maybe, just maybe, if the race would have gone into overtime, he might have had a chance of overtaking Truex for the win. Nonetheless, it was his third runner-up of the season and seventh top-five (including his win earlier in the year at Las Vegas). Things are looking very good for the defending series champion. Last week: 4th.

5. Alex Bowman (22 points): Failed to make it four runner-up finishes in a row in points races, but a seventh in the longest race of the season is nothing to be ashamed about. Last week: 6th.

6. Jimmie Johnson (14 points): The seven-time Cup champ is slowly getting back into his old form. We may sound like a broken record, but it’s just a matter of time before Johnson finally breaks the longest winless streak of his career (which has reached 72 races, dating back to spring 2017 at Dover). Last week: Not ranked.

7. Chris Buescher (14 points): Has earned back-to-back top-10 finishes in his last two points races. Still has a way to go – he’s 22nd in the standings this week, 55 points behind 16th-ranked Kyle Larson – but the little team that could is getting it done. Last week: Not ranked.

8. Ricky Stenhouse Jr. (10 points): Earned his first top-five of the season and first since last fall’s playoff race at Talladega. If you’re looking for a dark horse pairing to make the playoffs this season, keep your eye on Stenhouse and Roush Fenway Racing teammate Ryan Newman. Last week: Not ranked.

(tie) 9. William Byron (7 points): Earned his second pole of the season and third top-10 finish of the season at Charlotte. Is starting to click with crew chief Chad Knaus. Last week: 8th.

(tie) 9. Kevin Harvick (7 points): Some drivers would take a 15-race winless streak but for Kevin Harvick such a streak seems long. Last week: 2nd.

Others receiving votes: Tyler Reddick (5 points), Brad Keselowski (5 points), Justin Allgaier (4 points).

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NASCAR America: Corey LaJoie, David Ragan impress in Coke 600

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At the end of a very long night at Charlotte Motor Speedway, a few drivers that don’t normally get talked about had raised a few eyebrows, including Go Fas Racing’s Corey LaJoie.

Thanks to late-race cautions and a chaotic final restart, LaJoie was able to pilot his No. 32 Ford to a 12th-place finish.

It is LaJoie’s best finish on a non-superspeedway track and came in his 70th Cup start.

On NASCAR America, Kyle Petty, Dale Jarrett and Parker Kligerman discussed his run as well the performances of David Ragan and Chris Buescher.

“That is an incredible day,” Kligerman said of LaJoie’s day. “He’s off to honestly an incredible last few weeks.”

LaJoie finished 11th at Talladega three races prior to the Coke 600.

“We still had 25th-place speed,” LaJoie said Sunday. “Maybe a little bit better at times. But we just put ourselves in the right position and there’s that last restart where you can get up on the wheel and make some stuff happen. … A win is like three wins for us. Anytime we finish 22nd we’re slapping hands and smiling and all that. 12th is like an anomaly. But we’ll take it. I’m just pretty pumped up. This is the best I’ve ever ran at a mile-and-a-half by far. It just goes to show … (Go Fas Racing) believes in me as a driver and we’re making a lot of guys on the other end of the garage pretty pissed when the 32 car drives around them.”

Watch the above video for more.

NASCAR America at 5 p.m. ET: Coca-Cola 600 recap

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Today’s episode of NASCAR America airs from 5-6 p.m. ET on NBCSN and will look back at both the Coke 600 and Indy 500

Parker Kligerman, Kyle Petty, Dale Jarrett and Nate Ryan will discuss both races.

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.

Chris Buescher completes ‘epic comeback’ to finish sixth in Coke 600

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CONCORD, N.C. — Roughly 15 minutes after the end of Sunday’s Coca-Cola 600, Chris Buescher was the last Cup driver to arrive at the pit road media bullpen to discuss his experience in the 400-lap race at Charlotte Motor Speedway.

He had a lot to talk about.

“That was a really fun race,” Buescher said. “The most fun I’ve had at one of these 600s.”

That’s not the tone you’d expect from a driver who got into the wall on Lap 116, fell from 11th to 17th and then cut a tire 12 laps later to bring out the caution.

But it is the tone you expect from a driver who came back from being a lap down to finish sixth in NASCAR’s longest race.

As a result, the JTG-Daugherty Racing driver has consecutive top-10 finishes for the first time in his Cup career. Sunday’s finish follows a 10th at Kansas two weeks ago.

“Had great speed from the drop of the green,” said Buescher, who started 22nd. “Second stage just tried to get a little too high and got up in the fence. It’s on me. … We knew we had speed still, but this group did a terrific job repairing. Came in prepared. Worked really hard after practice, made a lot of changes as well. Just a great all around effort. The pit crew did a terrific job.”

Buescher thought his contact with the wall was “going to hurt us for sure.”

“I felt like it probably knocked a bunch of camber into it and was worried about blowing a tire with just wearing out the inside edge,” Buescher said. “(His team) sure made it look good. Tire wear looked good throughout the night. After we got that going we just kept digging harder and harder and stopped worrying about it and there at the end we didn’t have to worry about a thing.”

In five previous starts on Charlotte’s 1.5-mile oval, Buescher’s best finish was 16th in the fall 2016 race.

But Buescher had to survive a “wild” five-lap shootout to end the race, with his car restarting 12th after all but one lead-lap car pitted and Daniel Suarez was penalized for pitting outside his box.

“I need to rewatch the replay to understand what happened,” Buescher said. “I got ran into probably three times. Got ran into the fence at on point when we were four wide. And nobody lifted. Honestly, it’s kind of what we expected all of these races to be like this year. I think it got hot enough, slick enough we finally had one of those nights tonight. It made for some wild racing. Made it frustrating at times trying to get by on the bottom. You had options, you were able to move around. What a great time.”

Buescher’s result comes in the wake of other impressive runs for his team in the previous 12 races that didn’t end as well.

At Bristol he placed seventh in Stage 2 but had to pit from ninth with 41 laps to go due to a loose wheel. He finished 25th.

A week later at Richmond he placed in the top 10 in both stages but finished 22nd.

The Kansas race saw his most consistent run as he placed sixth in both stages before finishing 10th for his first top 10 since Atlanta.

Buescher credited “continuity” and “chemistry” on his team and working “extremely hard through the offseason” to be ready for the new rules package.

“What a terrific finish for us in the JTG-Daugherty Racing group,” Buescher said. “For us to have great runs this season that have been right round top fives and not quite get the finishes out of it, this is a good night to have a pretty epic comeback.”