Round of 8

Kevin Harvick, Stewart-Haas Racing roar to 1-2-3 finish at Texas

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There’s something about Texas Motor Speedway that has brought out the best in Kevin Harvick of late.

For the third consecutive fall playoff race at the 1.5-mile oval in Fort Worth, Harvick took the checkered flag in the middle playoff race of the Round of 8. He joins Martin Truex Jr. in advancing to the NASCAR Cup championship race two weeks from now in Miami.

Two other drivers will have to race their way either with a win or on points to round out Miami’s championship field of four in next week’s penultimate race at Phoenix.

MORE: Results, playoff standings after Cup playoff race at Texas

Harvick, who came into the day fifth in the points and below the cutline, started on the pole and led 119 laps to earn his fourth win of the season and assured he’ll race for the championship for the fifth time in the last six seasons. Harvick won the first championship under the current format in 2014.

“Texas has always been great for us and what a race track it has been for us the last few years,” Harvick told NBCSN. “There was a lot of work put into this race. We knew this was a good racetrack for us, felt like it fit that style of our cars and man, did it. It was a fast car.”

Harvick also led a huge Stewart-Haas Racing effort as teammates Aric Almirola and Daniel Suarez finished second and third, respectively. Harvick earned his 49th career Cup win, tying him with SHR co-owner Tony Stewart for 14th on NASCAR’s all-time Cup wins list.

It wasn’t exactly easy for Harvick, though. He suffered what was essentially a double penalty while pitting on Lap 190. According to a NASCAR official, “Harvick was penalized for a combination of two rules. Since the dual service crew member is the only one who can stage wheels in a pit box, he must perform dual service. If he doesn’t perform two roles (they didn’t change tires on that stop), he can’t be considered dual service and can’t stage tires in the pit box.”

Harvick was sent to the back of the lead lap but was able to mount a strong comeback that led to his win.

Joey Logano finished fourth while Alex Bowman rounded out the top five.

On the flip side, two drivers in particular suffered issues that will force them to potentially have to drive the race of their careers next week in the final championship qualifying race at Phoenix if they hope to keep their title hopes alive.

Chase Elliott (solo crash nine laps into the race, finished 32nd) and Denny Hamlin (incurred front end damage after spinning onto infield grass on Lap 81, finished 28th) suffered incidents in Sunday’s race, leaving them in peril heading to Phoenix. At 78 points below the cutline and ranked last of the eight remaining playoff drivers, Elliott is in a must-win situation to make it to the championship race at Miami.

Hamlin, meanwhile, went from 24 points above the cut line coming into Sunday’s race, only to suffer a 44-point swing, dropping  to fifth place, 20 points below the cutoff line afterward.

“I just lost control, that’s all there was to it,” Hamlin told NBCSN about what happened to his car. “We did the best we could and we’ll try to go to Phoenix and try to win. The car and the effort will be there. There’s no doubt in my mind we can go there and win.”

In addition to Logano, who earned his first top five of this year’s playoffs, as well as Harvick, Elliott and Hamlin, here’s how the other remaining playoff drivers finished: Martin Truex Jr. (6th), Kyle Busch (7th), Ryan Blaney (8th), Kyle Larson (12th).

As for the overall playoff picture, Truex and Harvick are locked into Miami, Kyle Busch is 22 points above the cutline and Logano is fourth, 20 points ahead of the cutline. Ironically, these are the same four drivers that were in the top four in the standings heading to Phoenix last year.

Below the cutline are Hamlin (-20), Ryan Blaney (-23), Kyle Larson (-23) and Elliott (-78).

Stage 1 winner: Kevin Harvick

Stage 2 winner: Aric Almirola

MORE: Denny Hamlin brings out caution late in Stage 1 at Texas

MORE: Chase Elliott wrecks on Lap 9 at Texas

WHO ELSE HAD A GOOD RACE: Joey Logano earned his first top five of this season’s playoffs. … Alex Bowman (fifth) and Kurt Busch (ninth) were the only Chevy drivers to earn top-10 showings.

WHO HAD A BAD RACE: Brad Keselowski and Ricky Stenhouse Jr. both spun coming out of Turn 4 on Lap 53. Keselowski hit the outer wall and then Stenhouse (finished 40th) piled hard into the rear of Keselowski (39th), ending both their days. … Corey LaJoie was involved in two incidents in Stage 1, including slamming into the wall late in the stage in a single-car incident. LaJoie finished 38th in the 40-car field.

NOTABLE: There were six cautions in Stage 1, the most cautions in an opening stage in a race this season. … John Hunter Nemechek finished 21st in his first career Cup start (filled in for Matt Tifft). In addition, father Joe Nemechek finished 29th. … Jimmie Johnson came into the race having led a total of just 91 laps all season (the most being 60 at Texas in the spring race). He led 40 laps Sunday (equaling the number of laps he led all of the 2018 season), but ended up with a 34th-place finish, retiring shortly after a solo wreck on Lap 186.

WHAT’S NEXT: Sunday, Nov. 10, Bluegreen Vacations 500 at ISM Raceway in suburban Phoenix (2:30 p.m. ET on NBC).

Follow @JerryBonkowski

Round of 8 playoff drivers by the numbers at Martinsville and more

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Then there were eight.

That’s how many playoff drivers are left after Sunday’s Cup elimination race at Kansas Speedway.

Eights drivers – Chase Elliott, Kevin Harvick, Kyle Busch, Joey Logano, Kurt Busch, Clint Bowyer, Aric Almirola and Martin Truex Jr. – will compete in the next three races for a spot among the championship four.

Here’s a look at some interesting numbers for the remaining playoff drivers ahead of this weekend’s race at Martinsville Speedway.

0 – Career wins on short tracks by Martin Truex Jr.

1 – The number of wins in the first six playoffs races by the “Big 3” of Kyle Busch, Martin Truex Jr. and Kevin Harvick.

2 – Wins by Chase Elliott through the first six playoff races. He’s the only driver with multiple wins in the playoffs this season.

3 – Top fives Kurt Busch has in 36 Martinsville starts, two are wins.

4 – How many Stewart-Haas Racing drivers remain in the playoff field: Harvick, Almirola, Busch and Bowyer.

5 – Martinsville races since Matt Kenseth intentionally wrecked Joey Logano in 2015.

8 – Different winners in last nine Martinsville races.

20 – Times in the last 22 playoff races the driver who led the most laps failed to win. Kyle Busch was the most recent driver to lead the most laps and win, doing it last year at Martinsville.

22 – Aric Almirola’s average finish at Martinsville in 19 starts.

190 – The race winless streak Clint Bowyer snapped in the spring at Martinsville Speedway.

Here’s your Cup Round of 8 and Martinsville history primer

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Martinsville Speedway may be the smallest track on the NASCAR Cup circuit, but it’s one of the biggest and most important tracks in the Cup playoffs.

Sunday’s First Data 500 kicks off the Round of 8 semifinal round of the playoffs. Sunday’s race is followed by races at Texas Motor Speedway next week and Phoenix Raceway in two weeks.

Thanks to Racing Insights, here’s everything you need to know about NASCAR’s oldest track:

NASCAR Cup 2017 Season Breakdown:

  • Different Winners: 14.
  • Most Wins: 7 – Martin Truex Jr.
  • Most Poles: 8 – Kyle Busch.
  • Most Runner Ups: 8 – Kyle Larson.
  • Most Top-fives: 15 – Martin Truex Jr.
  • Most Top-10s: 22 – Marin Truex Jr.
  • Most Laps Led: 2068– Martin Truex Jr.
  • Stage Wins: 19 – Martin Truex Jr.
  • Stage Top-5s: 42 – Martin Truex Jr.
  • Stage Top-10s: 51 – Kyle Larson
  • Playoff Points: 69 – Martin Truex Jr.

2017 NASCAR Cup Season Highlights:

  • Joe Gibbs Racing (six), Furniture Row (five) and Chip Ganassi Racing (two) won 13 of the last 15 races.
  • The pole winner has won six times in 2017: Kyle Larson ACS, Ricky Stenhouse Jr. Talladega-1, Kyle Larson MIS-1, Kyle Busch POC-2, Kyle Busch NH-2, Martin Truex Jr. KS-2.
  • The final lead change came in the last 10 laps in 17 of 32 races in 2017, the final three laps in 12 races and on the last lap in three races.
  • Either Martin Truex Jr. or Kyle Busch have won a stage in 23 of 32 races in 2017.
  • Martin Truex Jr. has won at least one stage in 14 of 32 races in 2017 but has not won a stage in the last four races which is tied for his longest stretch of races without a stage win.
  • Martin Truex Jr. is the only driver to win both stage 1&2 and go on to win the race (Las Vegas, Kentucky).
  • Five drivers have won a race but have not won a stage in 2017.
  • Four drivers have won a stage but have not won a race in 2017.
  • Atlanta, Pocono-1, Michigan-2 and Chicagoland are the only races without a caution before the end of stage 1.
  • Atlanta, Michigan-2 and Chicagoland are the only races to not have a caution other than stage breaks in the first two stages of the race.
  • Three cautions at Watkins Glen are the fewest in a race in 2017.
  • 15 cautions at Kansas-1 and Dover-1 are the most in a race in 2017.
  • The last three races all had 10 or more cautions, there were less than 10 cautions per race in the prior nine races of 2017.
  • Three times a driver has won after going to the rear: Jimmie Johnson Texas-1 (unapproved tire change), Joey Logano Richmond-1 (transmission change), Jimmie Johnson Dover-1 (rear gear change).
  • Denny Hamlin won in New Hampshire-1 after going to a backup car prior to qualifying.
  • Three times in 2017 a driver has gone on to win after a speeding penalty: Kurt Busch Daytona-1, Brad Keselowski Martinsville-1 and Martin Truex Jr. Chicagoland.
  • Martin Truex Jr. won at Kansas after a restart violation on lap 36, it was the fourth time in 2017 a driver has recovered from a in race infraction to win and the second time by Martin Truex Jr.
  • Three drivers got their first career win in 2017: Ricky Stenhouse Jr. Talladega-1, Austin Dillon Charlotte-1, Ryan Blaney Pocono-1, Ricky Stenhouse Jr. is the first first-time winner to get his second win in 2017.
  • There has been one track record set in 2017: Kyle Busch (Kentucky).
  • Three races were won with a last lap pass: Daytona-1 Kurt Busch passed Kyle Larson, Talladega-1 Ricky Stenhouse Jr. passed Kyle Busch, Talladega-2 Brad Keselowski passed Ryan Newman.
  • Three drivers ended the longest winless streaks of their career in 2017: Ryan Newman 127 races, Kasey Kahne 102 races, Kyle Busch 36 races.

Martinsville recent race history:

  • October 2016 ended a six race Martinsville winless streak for Johnson, tied for his longest drought at the track.
  • The last seven Martinsville races were won by seven different drivers, the previous 19 races were won by six different drivers.
  • In April Brad Keselowski became just the sixth first time Martinsville winner in the last 25 Martinsville races.
  • The race winner has started seventh or better in the last four Martinsville races.
  • Joe Gibbs Racing drivers were passed for the win in four of the last five Martinsville races, Kyle Busch was passed by Brad Keselowski with 43 laps to go in April.
  • The winner of five of the last eight Martinsville races got his only win of the season.
  • Only once in the last eight Martinsville races has the driver who led the most laps gone on to win (Kyle Busch in April 2016).
  • The Martinsville race winner led less than 100 laps in six of the last eight Martinsville races.
  • Since caution data has been available there has never been a Martinsville race that went caution free for the first 130 laps (length of stage 1.
  • Last October at Martinsville the final 114 laps went green, the longest green flag stretch to end a race at Martinsville in the last 54 races.
  • There were 14 cautions at Martinsville in April, more than both races at Martinsville in 2016 combined.
  • Although there were 14 cautions in April there was still a green flag stretch of 120 laps.
  • There have been five overtime finishes at Martinsville, the most recent was April 2012.
  • There was one last lap pass for the win at Martinsville, Darrell Waltrip passed Dale Earnhardt on lap 500 in September 1987 after Earnhardt and Terry Labonte made contact in turn three and Waltrip took the lead from third.
  • 12 Drivers got their first Cup win at Martinsville but only one has done so in the last 33 years, Ricky Craven in 2001.
  • 11 of the last 14 Martinsville races were won from a top-10 starting position.
  • Brad Keselowski won at Martinsville in April, Ford’s only Martinsville win in the last 29 races at the track before April they had not won at Martinsville since October 2002.
  • Chevrolet drivers won 10 of the last 13 Martinsville races, Chevrolet has not gone more than one Martinsville race without a win since 2010.
  • 28 of the last 29 Martinsville races were won by four organizations: Hendrick Motorsports (16 wins), Joe Gibbs Racing (7 wins), Stewart-Haas Racing (3 wins), Team Penske (2 wins) (RCR won the other race).
  • Hendrick Motorsports has 24 Martinsville wins, including the organization’s first win by Geoff Bodine in 1984, the most wins at a single track by an organization in Cup Series history.
  • Five different drivers won a race at Martinsville driving for Hendrick Motorsports, tied with Junior Johnson for the greatest number of different winners by an organization at Martinsville.
  • Jimmie Johnson won at Martinsville last October, it was his ninth win at the track again tying Jeff Gordon for third in Martinsville wins.
  • The all time Martinsville wins leader is Richard Petty with 15, Darrell Waltrip is second with 11, Jeff Gordon and Jimmie Johnson are third with nine.

Martinsville Playoff Highlights:

  • Martinsville has been a playoff race in all 14 years of the playoffs.
  • 11 of the 13 playoff races held at Martinsville have been won by a playoff eligible driver.
  • Chevrolet has won 11 of the 13 playoff races held at Martinsville including the last six straight.
  • Hendrick Motorsports drivers won the last five playoff races at Martinsville.
  • Ford has never won a playoff race at Martinsville.
  • Jimmie Johnson has won six of the playoff races held at Martinsville, the most of all drivers.
  • Johnsons six Martinsville playoff race wins are the most by a driver at a track.
  • Only five drivers won the 13 Playoff Races at Martinsville: Jimmie Johnson (6 wins), Jeff Gordon (3 wins), Denny Hamlin (2 wins), Tony Stewart and Dale Earnhardt Jr. (1 win each).
  • Three organizations have won the 13 playoff races at Martinsville: Hendrick Motorsports (10 wins), Joe Gibbs Racing (2 wins), Stewart-Haas Racing (1 win).
  • In the three years of the elimination format (since 2014), Jimmie Johnson in 2016 is the only driver to win at Martinsville and go on to win the championship.
  • Five cautions in the 2016 Martinsville playoff race, the fewest in the 13 playoff races at the track and the only race with less than 11 cautions.
  • There was a caution in the first 50 laps in all 13 playoff races at Martinsville Short Track Highlights.

Short Track Highlights:

  • Jimmie Johnson’s 14 short track wins are the most of all active drivers, Kyle Busch ranks second with 11.
  • Five different drivers won the five short track races in 2017, the last time six different drivers won the six short track races in a year was 2013.
  • Three drivers finished in the top-10 in four of five short track races in 2017: Denny Hamlin, Joey Logano and Ryan Newman.
  • Six drivers led 84% (1,937 of 2,304) of the laps raced on short tracks in 2017: Kyle Busch (469), Martin Truex Jr. (356), Kyle Larson (353), Matt Kenseth (264), Erik Jones (260) and Brad Keselowski (235).
  • Joey Logano has an average finish of 5.0 on short tracks in 2017 the best of all drivers and is the only driver to finish in the top-five in four of the five races on short tracks this season.
  • Six drivers finished on the lead lap in all five short track races in 2017: Kevin Harvick, Jimmie Johnson, Kyle Larson, Joey Logano, Ryan Newman and Ricky Stenhouse Jr.
  • Six different drivers won a stage on a short track in 2017, Martin Truex Jr.’s three stage wins on short tracks are the most.
  • Kyle Larson’s 61 stage points on short tracks are the most of all drivers.

Martinsville Track History and Fast Facts: 

  • Henry Clay Earles was the owner of The Spot service station and several houses in Martinsville. After attending a few races in 1947 with his friend Sam Rice, the budding entrepreneur thought that racing would be a profitable business. With partner’s Sam Rice and Henry Lawrence, a site for a racetrack was located at an overgrown 30 acre cornfield just outside Martinsville. The track was soon underway and ended up costing $60,000. The first race was for modified stock cars on September 7, 1947 (pre-NASCAR). William H. G. France had persuaded Earles that stock cars were the future of racing and he helped to promote the event for a percentage. The total purse was $2,000. Only 750 of the planned 5,000 seats were ready and parking capacity was 1,400 cars. The crowd was overwhelming. Earles said that nearly 10,000 fans attended, 3,000 unpaid. Red Byron won the race and $500.
  • The first NASCAR sanctioned race was for Modified stock cars won by Fonty Flock on July 4, 1948. The eighth place finisher was Bill France.
  • The first NASCAR Cup (Grand National) race on September 25th, 1949, won by Red Byron over Lee Petty. Byron drove the No. 22 Raymond Parks owned Oldsmobile led by crew chief Red Vogt, the race consisted of a 15 car field.
  • The track surface was dirt for the first 12 Cup races.
  • In 1964 Earles decided it was time for a different type of trophy for race winners. His choice was a grandfather clock produced by nearby Ridgeway Clock Company. On September 27, 1964, Earles awarded the first Clock trophy to Fred Lorenzen, the winner of the Old Dominion 500 that afternoon.
  • Richard Petty has the most clocks with 12 (he won three times at Martinsville prior to the introduction of the clock. Darrell Waltrip won 11 Jeff Gordon and Jimmie Johnson each have 9 clocks.
  • In 1976 the corners were resurfaced in concrete. The track was completely resurfaced following the spring 2004 race when Jeff Gordon ran over a chunk of concrete that had come loose in turn 3.
  • International Speedway Corporation (ISC) purchased privately owned Martinsville Speedway in 2004 for $192 million.
  • Starting in March of 2015 the Iconic Martinsville Hot Dog has been provided by Valleydale Hot Dogs, a subsidiary of Smithfield Foods. Valleydale provides a dog that closely resembles the Jesse Jones Southern Style hot dog in taste and color and will continue to cost $2. The change ended a relationship with Jesse Jones that dated back to 1947. South Boston Speedway and Ace Speedway in Altamahaw, N.C. continue to sell Jesse Jones dogs.
  • On October 12, 2016 Martinsville track president Clay Campbell announced that the track would have an LED lighting system in place for the 2017 season, which would coincide with Martinsville’s 70th anniversary. The project cost an estimated $5 million and is described as more of an “insurance policy” against late after noon finishes like the one in October 2015. No night races are scheduled for 2017 at Martinsville.
  • Martinsville has become the 15th of 23 tracks on the Cup circuit with permanent lights in place. The only tracks that now remain without lights: Dover, Indy, Michigan, New Hampshire, Pocono, Sonoma, Talladega and Watkins Glen.
  • October 29th will be the 138th race at Martinsville, every season since 1949 and multiple races a year every year since 1950.
  • Martinsville is the only track to host a race in every season of NASCAR’s existence, and is the only remaining active “Charter Track” on the schedule.
  • At 0.526 miles in length Martinsville is the shortest track on the Cup schedule.

Logano wins at Talladega; Keselowski, Truex, Elliott, Dillon out of Chase

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With teammate Brad Keselowski’s day done early due to a blown engine, Joey Logano roared back to carry the torch for Team Penske, winning Sunday’s Hellmann’s 500 at Talladega Superspeedway.

Logano earned the 16th win of his career and second of 2016. It also was Logano’s second straight Chase win at the 2.66-mile superspeedway, having won there last October.

The race, which went four laps into overtime, four more than the scheduled 188, was the elimination race of the Round of 12.

Drivers who were eliminated from the Round of 8 in the Chase that begins next week at Martinsville Speedway are Martin Truex Jr. (engine blew up on Lap 41) and Brad Keselowski (engine failure, Lap 144), while Austin Dillon and Chase Elliott fell short on points.

“It’s definitely disappointing, but what else can you say,” Truex told NBCSN. “We had a team capable of competing for the championship and unfortunately we’re not going to be able to show that.”

Moving on to the Round of 8 are Logano, Jimmie Johnson, Kevin Harvick, Denny Hamlin, Kurt Busch, Kyle Busch, Matt Kenseth and Carl Edwards.

MORE: Race results of Hellmann’s 500 at Talladega

MORE: Chase for Sprint Cup points after Sunday’s race

After race winner Logano, Brian Scott finished second (his best career Sprint Cup showing), followed by Hamlin, Kurt Busch, Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Kyle Larson, Harvick, Aric Almirola, Dillon and AJ Allmendinger.

Surprisingly, there was no “Big One” in the race, although there were a few minor mishaps:

  • On Lap 114, Greg Biffle, Jeffrey Earnhardt and Casey Mears were involved in the first wreck of the race. Biffle and Earnhardt suffered minor damage to their cars and were able to return to the track, but damage was heavier on Mears’ car and he never returned to the race.
  • With six laps remaining in the race, Kasey Kahne spun in front of Jamie McMurray and Trevor Bayne, bringing out the caution.
  • Then, Alex Bowman, driving for Dale Earnhardt Jr., spun into the grass with two laps left in regulation, sending the event into overtime.

HOW LOGANO WON: When teammate Brad Keselowski went out with an engine failure, Logano moved to the front, took over the lead for good on Lap 148 and held on for the remaining 44 laps. Logano, who led a total of 45 laps, overcame an earlier issue when the jack became stuck underneath his car and he went one whole lap around the track with it attached before returning to pit road to have it detached.

WHO ELSE HAD A GOOD RACE: Denny Hamlin needed a finish of at least fifth place and did so by finishing third, tying Austin Dillon but advanced to the Round of 8 over Dillon because of a better overall round performance.

WHO HAD A BAD RACE: Martin Truex Jr. saw the best season of his career and his championship hopes go up in smoke when his engine expired on Lap 41, ending his chances to advance to the Round of 8 in the Chase … Brad Keselowski led a race-high 90 laps, but like Truex, saw his day and Chase advancement hopes come to an end due to an engine failure. It marked the second straight DNF in the Chase (he finished 38th last week at Kansas) for the first time in Keselowski’s career.

NOTABLE: It’s probably not much consolation, but this was the third consecutive restrictor plate race that Keselowski has led the most laps in … A Joe Gibbs Racing pre-race strategy call to have Carl Edwards, Matt Kenseth and defending series champion Kyle Busch drop to the back of the field protected all three as they advanced to the Round of 8. Kenseth finished 28th, Edwards 29th and Busch 30th.

QUOTE OF THE DAY: “We came here to win, we’re doing what we needed to do, but it didn’t play out. It’s a frustrating way to go out. I want to finish the season with the most wins and we have a great shot at that.” – Brad Keselowski on NBCSN after his day and Chase hopes ended early due to engine failure.

WHAT’S NEXT: The start of the Round of 8 begins on Sunday, Oct. 30, in the Goody’s Fast Relief 500 at Martinsville Speedway (green flag 1 pm ET on NBCSN).

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Keselowski leads at midpoint of Chase cutoff race at Talladega; Truex out

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Brad Keselowski is the leader at the halfway point – Lap 94 of the scheduled 188 laps – in Sunday’s Hellmann’s 500 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Talladega Superspeedway.

Keselowski, who is seeking his fifth career win at Talladega, has led 53 laps.

Ryan Blaney is second, followed by Kurt Busch, Denny Hamlin and Kyle Larson.

One of the 12 Chase drivers fighting to move on to the Round of 8 after today’s race will not do so, as the engine on pole sitter Martin Truex Jr.’s Furniture Row Racing Toyota Camry blew up on Lap 41.

Truex’s engine issue brought out the only caution thus far in the race (for five laps). Truex will finish last in the 40-car field and will join three other drivers to be eliminated from the Chase.

Other issues that have occurred that could impact Chase drivers:

* On Lap 39, Joey Logano left pit road with the jack still under his car and drove one full lap around the track before coming back to have it removed and serve his penalty. But Logano has regained the lost time and is on the lead lap.

* Also on Lap 39, Denny Hamlin was caught speeding entering pit road.

* Other drivers who have led laps: Greg Biffle (13 laps), Chase Elliott (9 laps), Ricky Stenhouse Jr. and Michael Annett (6 laps apiece), Truex and Hamlin (2 laps apiece), and one lap each by Kyle Busch, Carl Edwards and Matt Kenseth.

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