Jeff Burton

Matt DiBenedetto, Ryan Blaney seek NASCAR history to advance

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Matt DiBenedetto and Ryan Blaney need to make NASCAR history Saturday night to move on to the second round of the playoffs.

It’s that simple.

Never has a Cup driver advanced after being as far back from a transfer spot entering a cutoff race as either.

DiBenedetto goes into Bristol 25 points behind Clint Bowyer, who holds the final transfer spot. Blaney trails Bowyer by 27 points.

MORE: NASCAR Power Rankings 

“It definitely stinks going to Bristol being so far back and probably having to win the race,” Blaney told NBCSN after last weekend’s Richmond race.

But there is hope for Blaney and DiBenedetto heading into this weekend’s race (7:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN).

Three times since the elimination-style format debuted in 2014 a driver at least 20 points behind entering a cutoff race advanced.

Kevin Harvick went into the 2015 first-round elimination race at Dover 23 points out of a transfer spot. He won. Harvick went on to make it to the championship race.

Chase Elliott entered last year’s second-round elimination race at Kansas 22 points behind the last transfer spot. He finished second. Aided by 15 stage points, he advanced. Elliott’s playoffs, though, ended in the following round.

Denny Hamlin entered last year’s third-round elimination race at Phoenix 20 points behind the last transfer spot. He won to advance to the championship race.

 

Blaney has a checkered past at Bristol Motor Speedway. He’s led 439 laps there, most of any track. But his average finish is 20.7, worse than every track but Richmond and the Daytona road course.

Blaney has led more than 100 laps in three of the last five Bristol races. He’s scored three top 10s in that stretch.

In April 2018, Blaney led 100 of the first 117 laps before he was collected in a crash. He led 121 laps and won stage 1 in the 2018 night race, but his chances of winning ended with a loose wheel in the last stage. He led 158 laps before finishing fourth in the 2019 spring race there.

Blaney led 60 laps in May and was second to teammate Brad Keselowski when Blaney’s car got out of the high groove and bounced off the wall. His car spun and came to stop. Ty Dillon couldn’t avoid him and hit Blaney’s car, ripping off the nose. Blaney finished last.

“I don’t really think that he is going to be able to point himself in, but I think he can win himself in,” NASCAR on NBC analyst Jeff Burton said on this week’s Splash and Go (video above). “Of everybody that we’re talking about, he is the guy that I think has enough speed and has shown me at Bristol to have enough speed where he can win this race and advance into the next round. … I think this is an opportunity for Ryan and his team to step up to the plate and find a way in a big moment on a big stage to move themselves forward.”

NASCAR on NBC analyst Kyle Petty raises questions about if Blaney can overcome his deficit.

“What concerns me about Ryan Blaney and that team is exactly some of the points you brought up,” Petty told Burton. “They’ve had speed. They’ve led races. They’ve run up front and they’ve given it away in stage three almost every time. They should be sitting here, I feel, with at least three to four wins on regular race tracks. … And they won a (superspeedway race) by about a half inch and that’s all they have to show for their regular season.”

DiBenedetto seeks his first career Cup win. It nearly came at Bristol last year when he finished second to Hamlin that night.

“If there is one track to be in a must-win situation that I would choose it would definitely be Bristol,” DiBenedetto said after Richmond. “I think we have a good shot at it.”

Retro Rundown 2020: Southern 500 paint schemes

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It’s officially Southern 500 week.

NASCAR will make its third visit of the year to Darlington Raceway this weekend, capped off by Sunday’s Southern 500 (6 p.m. ET on NBCSN) and the start of the Cup Series playoffs.

Since 2015, the Southern 500 Throwback Weekend has played host to various retro paint schemes that pay tribute to NASCAR’s past.

More: Up to 8,000 fans approved for Southern 500

Here’s the Retro Rundown for this year as we catalogue the throwback schemes Cup, Xfinity and Truck teams will bring to the track “Too Tough to Tame.”

Cup Series

Quin Houff, No. 00 Chevrolet

Brad Keselowski, No. 2 Ford

The Team Penske driver will have the Discount Tire scheme he had in the Xfinity Series 10 years ago.

Austin Dillon, No. 3 Chevrolet

The Richard Childress Racing driver’s car will be a tribute to NASCAR Hall of Famer Junior Johnson, who died last year at the age of 88.

Austin Dillon Southern 500

 

Kevin Harvick, No. 4 Ford

Harvick will drive a paint scheme based on the 1997 NASCAR-themed Busch Beer cans.

 

Ryan Newman, No. 6 Ford

The Roush Fenway Racing driver will pilot a scheme based on the 1999 scheme from the USAC Silver Crown Series, where he won the national championship.

Ryan Newman Darlington

 

 

Josh Bilicki, No. 7 Chevrolet

Tommy Baldwin Racing will honor Tommy Baldwin Sr.’s racing career.

 

Tyler Reddick, No. 8 Chevrolet

The Richard Childress rookie will throw back to the paint scheme NASCAR on NBC’s Jeff Burton had in 1994 when Burton won Cup rookie of the year honors.

 

Chase Elliott, No. 9 Chevrolet

Elliott will pay tribute to Jimmie Johnson with his 2009 championship scheme.

Chase Elliott Southern 500

 

Aric Almirola, No. 10 Ford

 

Denny Hamlin, No. 11 Toyota

Hamlin’s scheme is a throwback to when FedEx was first founded at Federal Express in 1973. The design of the No. 11 is based based on Cale Yarborough’s number that year when he won at Darlington.

Denny Hamlin Darlington

 

Ryan Blaney, No. 12 Ford

The Team Penske driver will sport the Menards paint scheme that Paul Menard had when he competed in the ARCA Menards Series in 2003.

Ryan Blaney Darlington

 

Ty Dillon, No. 13 Chevrolet

Clint Bowyer, No. 14 Ford

The Stewart-Haas Racing driver will honor NBC Sports analyst Kyle Petty. Bowyer’s car will have the Peak Antifreeze scheme Petty drove for SABCO Racing in 1990 and won at Rockingham in.

 

Brennan Poole, No. 15 Chevrolet

Kyle Busch, No. 18 Toyota

Busch will pilot a paint scheme based on the M&M’s car driven by Elliott Sadler in 2004 at Robert Yates Racing.

Kyle Busch Southern 500

 

Martin Truex Jr., No. 19 Toyota

 

Matt DiBenedetto, No. 21 Ford

DiBenedetto will arrive in Darlington with a tribute to the Wood Brothers’ 1963 Ford Galaxie. That’s the car Tiny Lund won the 1963 Daytona 500 with. It’s also the car Glen Wood won his final Cup Series race in at Bowman Gray Stadium on July 13, 1963.

Matt DiBenedetto

 

Joey Logano, No. 22 Ford

Logano will drive a scheme inspired by the No. 22 Miller car that Bobby Allison raced in 1985.

Joey Logano

 

William Byron, No. 24 Chevrolet

Byron will honor Jimmie Johnson with his 2013 All-Star Race winning scheme.

William Byron Southern 500

 

J.J. Yeley, No. 27 Ford.

 

John Hunter Nemechek, No. 38 Ford

The rookie driver’s scheme is based on Elliott Sadler’s CITGO scheme from 1999 and 2000.

 

Cole Custer, No. 41 Ford.

 

Bubba Wallace, No. 43 Chevrolet

Jimmie Johnson, No. 48 Chevrolet

For his final Southern 500, Johnson will pay tribute to his fellow seven time Cup champions, Richard Petty and Dale Earnhardt.

Jimmie Johnson Southern 500

 

Joey Gase, No. 51 Chevrolet

Gase will drive a tribute to Bobby Allison’s 1971 win in the Southern 500 and the Coca-Cola scheme he had that year. It’s the same Allison tribute Tony Stewart had in the 2016 Southern 500.

Joey Gase

 

James Davison, No. 53 Chevrolet

Timmy Hill, No. 66 Toyota

Ross Chastain, No. 77 Chevrolet

Chastain will drive a paint scheme that honors the scheme Dale Earnhardt drove early in his career.

Alex Bowman, No. 88 Chevrolet

Bowman will honor Jimmie Johnson by racing his 2006 championship scheme, his first of five Cup titles in a row.

Alex Bowman Southern 500

 

Christopher Bell, No. 95 Toyota

Bell will drive the scheme he had when he won the Truck Series title in 2017.

 

Daniel Suarez, No. 96 Toyota

 

Xfinity Series

 

Jeffrey Earnhardt, No. 0 Chevrolet

 

Brett Moffitt, No. 02 Chevrolet

 

Michael Annett, No. 1 Chevrolet

With sponsorship from Oreo, the JR Motorsports driver will honor his team owner, Dale Earnhardt Jr., with driving the scheme Earnhardt drove to a win in the 2002 Xfinity Series season opener at Daytona International Speedway.

Michael Annett Darlington
Top: JR Motorsports/Bottom: Getty Images

 

Ryan Vargas, No. 7 Chevrolet

 

Justin Allgaier, No. 7 Chevrolet

 

Daniel Hemric, No. 8 Chevrolet

The JR Motorsports driver will pilot a John Andretti tribute scheme. The scheme is based on the K Mart/Little Caesars car that the late Andretti raced in the 1995 and 1996 Cup seasons. 

Daniel Hemric Darlington

 

Joe Graf Jr., No. 08 Chevrolet

Chad Finchum, No. 13 Toyota

Harrison Burton, No. 20 Toyota

The son of NASCAR on NBC analyst Jeff Burton will honor his farther with one of his past schemes.

 

Anthony Alfredo, No. 21 Chevrolet

 

Tommy Joe Martins, No. 44 Chevrolet

 

Kyle Weatherman, No. 47 Chevrolet

Jeremy Clements, No. 51 Chevrolet

Clements, a South Carolina native, will drive a scheme that pays tribute to NASCAR champions from his home state. Drivers who will be honored include:

Cup Series: Buck Baker (Richburg, SC – C 1957-58), David Pearson (Spartanburg, SC – 1966, 1968-69) and Cale Yarborough (Timmonsville, SC –  1976-78)

Xfinity Series: Sam Ard (Pamplico, SC – 1983-84) and Larry Pearson (Spartanburg, SC – 1986-87)

Jeremy Clements Darlington

 

Stephen Leicht, No. 68 Toyota

Brandon Brown, No. 68 Chevrolet

 

Myatt Snider, No. 93 Chevrolet

 

Chase Briscoe, No. 98 Ford

The Stewart-Haas Racing driver will pay tribute to team owner Tony Stewart by driving his 2011 Cup championship scheme.

DGM Racing: Alex Labbe and Josh Williams

Truck Series

 

Derek Kraus, No. 19 Toyota

 

Spencer Boyd, No. 20 Chevrolet

Stewart Friesen, No. 52 Toyota

 

Timmy Hill, No. 56 Chevrolet

 

Clay Greenfield, No. 68 Toyota

 

GMS Racing

Winners and losers at Texas

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A look at the winners and losers at Texas Motor Speedway.

WINNERS

Surprise winners — Who really saw Cole Custer winning his first Cup race last weekend at Kentucky and Austin Dillon winning Sunday at Texas except for family and dedicated fans? The wins by Custer and Dillon meant two drivers outside the top 16 in points before their trips to Victory Lane each grabbed a playoff spot. That puts pressure on those at or near the cutoff line.

Richard Childress Racing — Winner Austin Dillon and runner-up Tyler Reddick gave RCR its first 1-2 Cup finish since Clint Bowyer and Jeff Burton did it at Talladega in 2011. Reddick was 15 years old when that happened.

Joey Logano His third-place finish was his best result since he won at Phoenix, the last race before NASCAR suspended the season for 10 weeks because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Christopher Bell His 21st-place finish doesn’t seem like much but he climbed from 25th to 23rd in car owner points. That’s important because the starting lineup draw is based on car owner points. Those in positions 1-12 are eligible for the pole, those in positions 13-24 can draw for those spots and those in positions 25-36 draw for those spots. Bell had been stuck in the 25-36 group and had drawn 32nd of worse in the last seven races that had a random draw. Now, he knows he can start no worse than 24th on Thursday at Kansas.

Kyle BuschHe drove through the grass in that multi-car crash and rebounded to finish fourth. Busch said going through the grass “killed the front end” and that the car was “definitely not right after that.” Asked by NBCSN’s Dave Burns how he drove his car to a top-five finish after that damage, Busch responded: “KFB.”

 

LOSERS

Quin Houff Trying to head to pit road from the middle lane in Turn 4 led to contact with Christopher Bell and Matt DiBenedetto and created a late caution that changed the race’s complexion. Houff took blame for the mistake. The incident led to Brad Keselowski, responding to a reporter’s question about that caution, to note that NASCAR should consider demoting drivers when they’re involved in numerous on-track issues.

Jimmie Johnson Hit the wall early and then was penalized two laps for too many crew members servicing the car while under the Damaged Vehicle Policy. He placed 26th, finishing 12 laps behind the leaders. Worse for him, he holds what would be the final playoff spot by two points on teammate William Byron.

Ryan PreeceHe has finished 40th, 38th and 40th in his last three races.

Ryan Blaney Led 150 laps and won both stages but didn’t come up with the race win. The caution for the incident involving Houff, Bell and DiBenedetto impacted his team’s strategy and left him deep in the pack. Blaney finished seventh.

Myrtle Beach Speedway moves one step closer to shutting down

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One of the oldest and longest operating tracks in NASCAR and other racing series is one step closer to shutting its doors forever.

The Horry County Council in South Carolina passed the first reading of a rezoning request Tuesday night that will likely lead to Myrtle Beach Speedway being redeveloped into a commercial and residential development, per a story by the Myrtle Beach Sun News/MyrtleBeachOnline.com.

The rezoning request needs two more readings in front of the Council before approval would be given to complete the sale of the speedway property. Including the track, the overall size of the property is about 45.5 acres and worth about $2.17 million, per the Sun News.

The .538-mile paved oval was built in 1958 and has operated for the past 62 years. Because its rezoning and sale are expected to be approved, the track has set August 15 as its “farewell race,” according to the Sun News. However, the track’s web site still lists events into early December.

This past February, track owner Bob Lutz, who purchased the property in 2012, said operating the facility continues to be a money losing proposition, according to the Sun News.

“(Closing the track) isn’t an easy decision to do that but the problem is it’s getting harder and harder for short tracks to survive, and the reason why is because we’re just not getting the attendance that they used to years ago,” Lutz told the Sun News in February. “It makes it hard, because you struggle and do everything you can. I think me and my team have shown that we have put 100 percent effort into building the speedway and making it successful and making it a great place for people to race at, and even though we’ve put in all the effort it still continues to lose money.”

NASCAR has a long history with the track, including holding events in Cup (1958-65) and the Xfinity Series (1988-2000). Since then, the facility has hosted a number of races across a variety of racing series.

Drivers who have raced at Myrtle Beach over the years include NASCAR On NBC and 2021 NASCAR Hall of Fame inductee Dale Earnhardt Jr. (see video above of his race there in 1999); NASCAR Hall of Famers Dale Earnhardt, Tony Stewart, Jeff Gordon, Mark Martin and Ned Jarrett and Dale Jarrett; Matt Kenseth, Elliott Sadler and NASCAR On NBC analyst Jeff Burton.

Speedway general manager Steve Zacharias, who has been at the track for nearly a decade, had previously told the Sun News that he and two partners have agreed to purchase Florence (S.C.) Motor Speedway and essentially move racing operations to there from Myrtle Beach Speedway.

Plans are for the new ownership group to hold its first race at Florence Motor Speedway on September 4, according to the Sun News.

As for Myrtle Beach Speedway, it’s a bittersweet ending for Lutz.

“It is so expensive to operate a facility like that, we continue losing money year after year and just at some point you have to say we tried with everything we possibly could and realize that without people in the stands you’re never going to be able to survive,” Lutz told the Sun News in February. “So the people that say, ‘Why is it going away?’ and ‘We wish it would stay,’ I wish those people would support us week after week and we wouldn’t have to do this.”

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NASCAR Hall of Fame 2021 class reveal at 5 p.m. ET on NASCAR America

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The NASCAR Hall of Fame’s 2021 class, as well as the next recipient of the Landmark Award, will be announced today at 5 p.m. ET on NBCSN during a special episode of NASCAR America.

The 2021 class is the first with the Hall of Fame’s revamped selection process that reduces the number of people in each class from five to three.

Two Hall of Fame inductees will be selected among 10 nominees in the Modern Era ballot. One inductee will be selected among five nominees on the Pioneer ballot. The Landmark Award recipient will be chosen from a list of five nominees.

Two of the nominees on the Modern Era ballot are NBC Sports analysts Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Jeff Burton.

The NASCAR Hall of Fame Voting Panel met virtually on June 9 to determine the class.

Here are the nominees:

Modern era (10): Neil Bonnett, Jeff Burton, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Carl Edwards, Harry Gant, Harry Hyde, Larry Phillips, Ricky Rudd, Kirk Shelmerdine and Mike Stefanik.

Pioneer (5): Jake Elder, Red Farmer, Banjo Matthews, Hershel McGriff and Ralph Moody.

Landmark (5): Janet Guthrie, Alvin Hawkins, Mike Helton, Dr. Joseph Mattioli, Ralph Seagraves.

MORE: Original story of Hall of Fame nominees.