Regan Smith

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Justin Allgaier, Ross Chastain named Most Popular Driver in Xfinity, Trucks

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While the Most Popular Driver in the NASCAR Cup Series won’t be announced until Thursday, NASCAR on Wednesday revealed winners of the most popular drivers voting in the Xfinity and Gander RV & Outdoors Trucks Series.

In voting by NASCAR fans, Justin Allgaier earned Most Popular Driver honors in the Xfinity Series for the first time in his career.

Meanwhile, Ross Chastain was named Most Popular Driver in the Truck Series, also for the first time in his career, earning the honor on his 27th birthday.

Driver of the popular No. 7 Chevrolet, the 33-year-old Allgaier extends JR Motorsports’ domination of the Most Popular Driver award in the Xfinity Series to a record eight consecutive years. Elliott Sadler was the top vote-getter from 2016 through 2018, preceded by Chase Elliott (2014-15), Regan Smith (2013) and Danica Patrick (2012).

Allgaier reached the Championship 4 round for the third time in the last four years, including winning at Phoenix – the 11th win of his Xfinity career – to assure his spot in the championship race at Miami. Allgaier finished fourth this past season in the Xfinity standings behind Tyler Reddick, Christopher Bell and Cole Custer.

And then there was Chastain, who has the popular nickname of the “Melon Man” due to being part of his family’s watermelon farm business in his native Florida.

Chastain entered the 2019 season not even planning to run a full season in the Truck Series. But when it became apparent that he would have the best chance at a championship in a Truck, Chastain and Niece Motorsports announced in June he would switch and declare to earn championship points – and a bid for the Most Popular Driver – in the Truck Series.

Chastain ultimately finished second to series champion Matt Crafton.

Chastain wound up competing in a total of 77 overall NASCAR races in the 2019 season: 23 in the Truck Series, 19 Xfinity races and 35 Cup events. He won three races in the Truck Series and a fourth checkered flag in the Xfinity Series.

 

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Blocking a key issue at Talladega for drivers

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TALLADEGA, Ala. — The question isn’t who to race with at Talladega, manufacturers have dictated that, but it is where to race.

Run at the front and hope the wreck is behind? Run at the back and hope to avoid the carnage?

The package used at Talladega and Daytona this season punches such a big hole that drivers say the closing rate between cars is quicker than before. That gives cars trying to block less time to make their move. Be late and it can lead to a wreck.

As it has at Talladega and Daytona this year.

“There’s been many evolutions in racing and blocking is one for me that I’ve had to evolve with, but blocking is a part of our sport now on a weekly basis,” Kevin Harvick said. “It’s not just here. I mean, you see it at the mile-and-a-half race tracks. 

“You’re just going to have wrecks blocking. Sometimes you’re going to make a bad move. It’s just something that’s a little bit newer in the pace of the car that’s approaching you and the style of block and how you throw it, but we’re going to wreck from a block because it’s just become part of what we do.”

Three wrecks this year at Talladega and Daytona can be traced to blocking at the front of the field.

“When you have the smaller spoiler, you’re able to get in front of them, that lead car would get the push before that (trailing) car would actually get to the back bumper of the lead car,” Joey Logano said. “Now, it seems like the trailing car can get to the back bumper and then some (with the larger spoiler), so the blocks have to be quicker and have to be precise. Even once you block them it doesn’t mean it’s over because now they’re still on your bumper and they’re pushing you around. It’s more challenging from that standpoint.”

The late April race at Talladega debuted this package and saw a crash at the front of the field early in the event. Bubba Wallace was third when he and Ryan Blaney, running second, got out of shape and triggered a crash that damaged six cars. Wallace said the accident was a result of “the amount of runs and the force of it. All I was trying to do was just some wreck avoidance.”

The Daytona race in July saw two crashes that started at the front of the field because of blocking.

Ricky Stenhouse Jr. was leading when he was late on a block on Kurt Busch and they made contact, spinning Stenhouse.

Late in the race, Austin Dillon, in the lead, blocked as Clint Bowyer went low to try pass. They made contact, triggering an 18-car crash.

Dillon notes that blocking is a part of speedway racing.

“You’re going to do it,” he said. “Somebody has got a run at you at the end of the race. There’s not much else you can do. You can give up certain times of the race, but if it’s a last-lap situation you’re going to be held accountable for the actions you make and you’re going to feel bad if you go home not making the block that could win you the race … or you’re going to feel bad if you’re wrecked. I’ve been on both sides of it. It’s speedway racing. That’s all I have to say about it.”

Blocking, to Ryan Newman, is nothing new.

“What was it ’08 when (Tony) Stewart won blocking Regan Smith?” Newman said of the fall 2008 Talladega race where Smith crossed the finish line first but Stewart was given the win because Smith went below the yellow line. “Stewart got the win and blocked Regan and everything was fine. Here we are 11 years later still talking about the same thing. Does it do any good to talk about it?”

Harvick was encouraged how NASCAR reacted at the end of Saturday’s Gander Outdoors Truck Series race. NASCAR penalized leader Johnny Sauter for forcing Riley Herbst below the yellow line on the final lap. Spencer Boyd was declared the winner.

“I can’t stand blocking,” Harvick said. “We didn’t use to penalize the blockers  very much. It was always the guy that was trying to make the move. So, you know, the guy had a lane … Johnny was trying to win the race. You can’t blame for him for trying to block. I like when the blockers get called. I don’t like it for Johnny Sauter. You’ve got to have a lane to race.”

 

Matt DiBenedetto, Paul Menard news lights up social media

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Tuesday morning’s announcement that Paul Menard will retire after this season and Matt DiBenedetto will replace him next season in the No. 21 Wood Brothers Racing Ford certainly lit up the twitterverse.

MORE: Paul Menard to retire from NASCAR; Matt DiBenedetto will drive No. 21 in 2020

Here’s some of the top posts we found:

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Xfinity Series practice report from Mid-Ohio

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Jack Hawksworth, who will make his NASCAR and Xfinity Series debut this weekend, was fastest in Friday’s eventful final practice session at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car course.

Driving Joe Gibbs Racing’s No. 18 Toyota, Hawksworth posted a top speed of 95.204 mph around the round course.

He was followed by Austin Cindric (94.953 mph), Christopher Bell (94.948), Chase Briscoe (94.755) and Justin Allgaier (94.624).

Jeremy Clements was sixth fastest (94.600).

Hawksworth briefly went off course with 46 minutes left in the session. Shortly after that Regan Smith went off course and was briefly stuck in sand before he drove away. Smith told NBCSN there was a problem in his brake system.

Patrick Gallagher then went off track momentarily with 30 minutes left in the session. With 24 minutes left, Will Rodgers caused a lengthy red flag after he plowed into and got stuck in the sand, losing his splitter in the process.

Gray Gaulding ran out of fuel and stalled on the track with three minutes left, bringing out the red flag.

Click here for the speed chart.

First practice

Justin Haley was fastest with a top speed of 95.201 mph around the road course. He made 17 laps in the session and recorded his fast lap in the final minute.

The top five was completed by Christopher Bell (94.707 mph), Cole Custer (94.555), Austin Cindric (94.503) and Regan Smith (94.489). Smith is making his first start of the year in JR Motorsports’ No. 8 Chevrolet.

Jack Hawksworth, who is making his first career NASCAR start in Joe Gibbs Racing’s No. 18 Toyota, was 13th on the speed chart.

The session was stopped three times. The first was very early after Michael Annett slid off track and got stuck in sand. The second stoppage was after Vinnie Miller dropped a hose on the track. The last red flag was at the end of the session for Will Rodgers’ car going off track and experiencing a electrical fire.

The final practice session is scheduled for 4:05 – 4:55 p.m. ET on the NBC Sports App.

Click here for the practice report.

Updated entry lists for Michigan, Mid-Ohio

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NASCAR has another split weekend on tap with the Cup and Gander Outdoors Truck Series racing this weekend at Michigan International Speedway, while 175 miles south the Xfinity Series visits Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course, the second road course race in a four-race stretch.

Here’s the entry lists for each series:

CUP – Consumers Energy 400 (Sunday, 3 p.m. ET on NBCSN) at Michigan

There are 38 cars entered for this race.

Gander Outdoors Truck Series regular Spencer Boyd will make his Cup debut Rick Ware Racing’s No. 53 Chevrolet.

Click here for the entry list.

Xfinity– B&L Transport 170 (Saturday, 3 p.m. ET on NBCSN) at Mid-Ohio

There are 38 cars entered for the race.

Max Tullman is entered in the No. 53 Chevrolet owned by Means Motorsports. There is no driver attached to the No. 74 Chevrolet of Mike Harmon Racing.

NASCAR on NBC analyst and former Cup driver AJ Allmendinger will be behind the wheel of the No. 10 Chevrolet of Kaulig Racing.

Regan Smith makes his return to competition driving JR Motorsports’ No. 8 Chevrolet.

IMSA driver Jack Hawksworth will make his Xfinity Series debut in Joe Gibbs Racing’s No. 18 Toyota after Jeffrey Earnhardt cancelled his contract with sponsor iK9 and announced he wouldn’t be racing this weekend.

Click here for the entry list.

TRUCKS – Corrigan Oil 200 (Saturday, 1 p.m. ET on FS1) at Michigan

There are 31 trucks entered for the race.

Spencer Boyd is back in Young’s Motorsports’ No. 20 truck after missing one race due to a non-racing injury.

This is the last race of the regular season for the Truck Series.

Click here for the entry list.

 

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