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Dover President honored as Comcast Community Champion of the Year

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Comcast has announced that Dover International Speedway President & CEO Mike Tatoian as the fifth annual Comcast Community Champion of the Year. Comcast established the prestigious award in 2015 to honor NASCAR industry members for their philanthropic efforts and with this year’s contributions, Comcast has donated more than a half million dollars ($600,000) to charitable organizations in the NASCAR community through the program.

Tatoian has been a staple of the Delaware and mid-Atlantic charitable communities, particularly with local military organizations at Dover (Del.) Air Force Base, since he began his tenure at the “Monster Mile” in 2007. One of his longest commitments has been with United Service Organizations. Established during World War II, the USO supports U.S. service members wherever they are, including on-base, deployed abroad, passing through an airport or in local communities at more than 200 locations around the world.

“We’re all fortunate to be involved in this great sport and privileged to give back as well; the spirit we recognize throughout NASCAR is the same spirit behind our community impact programs at Comcast,”  said Matt Lederer, Comcast Vice President of Brand Partnerships. “It’s an honor to recognize Mike Tatoian as the 2019 Comcast Community Champion of the Year, he has leveraged his platform within the sport to bring awareness to his genuine passion of supporting the military community.”

MORE: A soldier he never knew inspired track president to do more

One particular duty that distinguishes USO Delaware is it’s the only USO in the world that shares the responsibility of bringing home fallen service members, working alongside other units such as the Air Force Mortuary Affairs, Armed Forces Medical Examiner System, the Joint Personal Effects Depot and the Families of the Fallen. For 13 years, Tatoian has assisted USO Delaware with countless programs and currently serves as the Chairman of the Advisory Council for the organization.

Tatoian was chosen by a panel comprised of Comcast and NASCAR executives, as well as defending NASCAR Cup Series champion, Joey Logano, who won the award in 2018. NASCAR on FOX Coordinating Director, Artie Kempner, and NASCAR driver, David Ragan, nominated as finalists for the award, were each awarded $30,000 toward the amazing work they do with Autism Delaware and Shriners Hospital for Children, respectively.

Kempner started Autism Delaware out of his living room in 1998 after his son, Ethan, had been diagnosed with autism a year earlier, and 20+ years later it’s a statewide service agency offering lifespan services, as well as social and recreational program for families in a safe and welcoming environment. Ragan has been dedicated to supporting Shriners Hospital for Children as a part of their ambassador program since 2012. Ragan spends much of his off-time visiting hospitals, fundraising, as well as inviting patients to the race track for once-in-a-lifetime experiences at NASCAR events.

Comcast has a long track record of community service, aiding in the advancement of local organizations, developing programs and partnerships, mobilizing resources to connect people and inspiring positive and substantive change. To learn more about the Comcast Community Champion of the Year Award, please visit ComcastCommunityChampion.com.

NASCAR America at 5 p.m. ET: NASCAR president Steve Phelps guests, Dover recap

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Today’s episode of NASCAR America airs from 5-6 p.m. ET on NBCSN and looks back at Sunday’s Cup race at Dover International Speedway, won by Kyle Larson.

Steve Letarte is joined by Dale Jarrett and Nate Ryan, with special guest NASCAR President Steve Phelps joining by phone.

If you can’t catch today’s show 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.

Kyle Larson latest Cup playoff driver to get first win of season in playoffs

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Kyle Larson has to be feeling good.

He finally ended a two-year winless streak (75 races) Sunday at Dover International Speedway. On top of that, it was in the playoffs.

The victory sends him and Chip Ganassi Racing to the third round of the postseason for the first time.

Now what?

“You know, depending on who makes it out of this round, I’m still going to be a ways back on points to Martin (Truex Jr.), Kyle (Busch), Kevin (Harvick and) Joey (Logano) to start the next round,” Larson said Sunday. “To start today, I was (eighth in the standings) like 18 points back from Keselowski (in seventh), so like that’s still a lot to overcome. It’s going to be even bigger probably to start the next round.”

Larson’s win puts him at fifth in the standings overall, but he only has 11 playoff points. That trails the totals of Busch (46 playoff points), Truex (42), Hamlin (31), Logano (29), Harvick (28), Chase Elliott and Keselowski (24).

Larson gave his assessment of the three tracks awaiting him in the Round of 8.

“Texas we could go there and win,” Larson said. “We could go to Phoenix and have a good shot to win, Martinsville, hopefully we can go have a good run there.  But we’ll see.  It’s just nice to get a win, get some playoff points and just kind of chip away at our deficit …. compared to those guys.”

Larson’s win Sunday is the 15th time a Cup playoff driver has earned their first win of the season in the playoffs.

It first happened in 2005 with Ryan Newman at New Hampshire and Mark Martin at Kansas Speedway. Since then it’s occurred at least once in all but four seasons.

But…

Only once out of those 15 occurrences has the first-time winner gone on to win the championship.

That distinction belongs to Tony Stewart, who did it in spectacular fashion in 2011.

After winning the playoff-opener at Chicagoland Speedway, Stewart then reeled off five wins in the 10-race playoff, including winning consecutive races twice and then claiming the race win and title at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

Further, since the elimination format began only one first-time winner in the playoffs has wound up in the Championship 4. That was Jeff Gordon after he earned the last win of his Cup career in the Round of 8 at Martinsville Speedway in 2015.

If Larson can stay relatively mistake free over the next five races and possibly grab another win in the Round of 8, he’d get the chance to match Stewart’s feat.

“To move on to the next round is special, but we’re not just satisfied with being in the Round of 8,” Larson said.  “We want to go and make it into that final round of (Miami), where it’s my best track. It’s the final year for the championship race to be at (Miami), so I’ve looked at this ever since they released next year’s schedule as this is my best opportunity to win the championship. I’ve got to take advantage of that.”

Here’s every instance of a playoff driver earning their first win of the season in the playoffs.

Event Date         Track                   Race Winner
10/6/2019          Dover                   Kyle Larson
10/14/2018        Talladega             Aric Almirola
9/30/2018         Roval                     Ryan Blaney
11/1/2015           Martinsville          Jeff Gordon (advanced to championship race)
10/27/2013        Martinsville          Jeff Gordon
11/11/2012         ISM                        Kevin Harvick
9/19/2011         Chicago                 Tony Stewart (went on to win championship)
11/14/2010        Phoenix                 Carl Edwards
9/19/2010         New Hampshire    Clint Bowyer
10/5/2008        Talladega               Tony Stewart
9/14/2008        New Hampshire    Greg Biffle
9/16/2007        New Hampshire    Clint Bowyer
9/24/2006       Dover                      Jeff Burton
10/9/2005       Kansas                     Mark Martin
9/18/2005       New Hampshire      Ryan Newman

Joey Logano’s crew chief: ‘Really fortunate’ Talladega is next race

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Anyone expecting crew chief Todd Gordon and Joey Logano‘s No. 22 team to throw in the towel on their playoff hopes after Sunday’s pre-race mechanical issue that led to 34th-place finish is in for a shock.

Gordon admitted Monday on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio’s “The Morning Drive” his team sees the second race of the Round of 12 playoff round at Talladega Superspeedway through what others would consider “backwards logic.”

“Really, really fortunate we got Talladega coming up,” said Gordon, who has three wins at the superspeedway with Logano since 2015.

“With Roush Yates horsepower and the cars we build here at Team Penske and Joey and (spotter) TJ (Majors) do a phenomenal job at that place,” Gordon said. “If you look at the speedways this year, we’ve been in contention to win in two of three of them and we were running up front at Daytona (in July) when we got damaged and then the rain delay. I feel good about going speedway racing and executing a great race.”

Logano heads to Talladega tied with William Byron in points for the last transfer spot but Byron owns the tiebreaker (best finish in this round). Logano’s car experienced a gear issue during the warmup laps, which forced him to the garage for the first 23 laps of the race.

Gordon said even if Dover hadn’t been an impound weekend he’s not sure the gear issue could’ve been caught.

“We haven’t delved through everything that happened here,” Gordon. “I don’t know that we get to the point that even on a non-impound event, we’ve only got three-and-half-hours to get our cars ready from practice to presenting them in the (inspection) line. You do what you can and we do a great job, the gear shop does a great job here. Obviously, this is an outlier for our organization to have an issue. I don’t know if we were parked on pit road a little funky, backed up the hill. It shouldn’t be an issue. I don’t know what happened. Something broke.”

Gordon explained to SiriusXM NASCAR Radio the team’s approach for the rest of the event after Logano returned to the race. He finished 25 laps down, with Garrett Smithley the next car in front of him by two laps.

“You never know in those situations,” Gordon said. “Every position’s a point and every point matters. … We just put ourselves into making every lap we could, because at the end of the day as we kept going it almost became the carrot to dangle there were a couple of those cars that were off the pace and losing laps and we just kept trying to catch them. We needed about 50 more laps, I think we could’ve passed another car.”

Chasing that carrot would lead Logano to receive criticism from Denny Hamlin for the way he raced him while Hamlin led late in Stage 2.

Gordon pointed to Logano’s narrow points position heading to Talladega as a defense for Logano.

“It’s no different than chasing for a stage win because it’s a bonus point,” Gordon told SiriusXM NASCAR Radio. “Any point you can gather in this round is going to make a big difference. If you look at the points right now, if you just said the round ended yesterday, we’d be out by one point. Because we’re tied with William Byron and they out finished us. That’s what the tiebreaker goes to, the best finish within that round.”

With the chaos of Talladega looming, Gordon doesn’t expect to change his team’s approach to the superspeedway.

“The best way that I know to avoid being caught up in the wreck at Talladega is be in front of it,” Gordon said. “If you start playing your game differently that’s when you make mistakes, because it’s not doing the things you’re used to doing. I think we’ll go to Talladega and race the way we’ve raced (all) along. Race hard, race smart and get ourselves into position.”

Dover winners and losers

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WINNERS

Kyle Larson Ends a 75-race winless streak and doesn’t have to worry about what happens to him at Talladega since his victory advances him to the third round. That’s a special victory.

Martin Truex Jr.Runner-up result gives him finishes of seventh or better, including two wins, in the first four races of the playoffs.

Matt DiBenedetto Was top non-playoff driver, placing seventh. That’s his best finish since his second-place run in the Bristol night race.

Alex Bowman Backed up his runner-up finish at Dover in May with a third-place finish Sunday to move into the top eight in points.

LOSERS

Chase Elliott A week after his win at the Roval, he finishes last because of a blown engine and is outside a transfer spot to the third round.

William Byron Speeding penalty cost him a top-10 finish, possibly a top-five finish. Along with the points he possibly lost in the second stage, the penalty could have cost him 12-15 points total Sunday. That could be important when the second round ends.

Joey Logano Problems before the green flag ended his hopes for any type of good finish. And Denny Hamlin was critical of how Logano raced while more than 20 laps down after Logano returned to the track.

Team Penske – Along with Joey Logano’s 34th-place finish, a suspension issue led to Ryan Blaney placing 35th and Brad Keselowski was 11th, never showing the type of speed to compete for a win. A forgettable weekend.