Wood Brothers

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Today’s Cup race at Pocono: Start time, lineup and more

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Joe Gibbs Racing and Team Penske have combined to win 12 of the first 13 points races of the season, leading to the question of if anyone can beat them and will it happen today at Pocono Raceway.

Joe Gibbs Racing drivers have won the past three Pocono races. Kyle Busch has two wins and Martin Truex Jr. won this race a year ago when he was at Furniture Row Racing. Team Penske driver Ryan Blaney won this race in 2017 while driving for the Wood Brothers.

Here’s all the info you need for today’s event:

(All times are Eastern)

START: Lt. General Giovanni Tuck, U S Air Force Joint Staff, Lt. General Todd Semonite Commander Army Corp of Engineers & Major General Andrew Schafer, Commanding General 28th Infantry, PA National Guard will give the command to start engines at 1:49 p.m. The green flag is scheduled to wave at 2 p.m.

PRERACE: Garage opens at 9 a.m. The driver/crew chief meeting is at noon. Driver introductions begin at 1:15 p.m. The invocation will be given by Monty Self of Motor Racing Outreach at 1:42 p.m. Technical Sergeant Chris Whiting, USAF, Security Forces, Dover AFB, Delaware, will perform the National Anthem at 1:43 p.m.

DISTANCE: The race is 160 laps (400 miles) around the 2.5-mile track.

STAGES: Stage 1 ends on Lap 50. Stage 2 ends on Lap 100

COMPETITION CAUTION: Lap 20

TV/RADIO: FS1 will broadcast the race at 2 p.m. Coverage begins at 12:30 p.m. with NASCAR RaceDay. Motor Racing Network will broadcast the race. MRN’s coverage begins at 1 p.m. SiriusXM NASCAR Radio will carry MRN’s broadcast, which is also available at mrn.com.

FORECAST: wunderground.com calls for cloudy skies with a high of 68 degrees and a 15% chance of isolated thunderstorms for the start of the race. The threat of thunderstorms increases as the race progresses.

LAST TIME: Martin Truex Jr. won this race a year ago, finishing ahead of Kyle Larson and Kyle Busch. In the July race, Kyle Busch won and was followed by Daniel Suarez and Alex Bowman.

TO THE REAR: Matt DiBenedetto (engine change)

STARTING LINEUP: Click here for starting lineup

NASCAR takes six cars to wind tunnel for evaluation

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FORT WORTH, Texas – NASCAR announced after Sunday’s race that it will take six cars to the wind tunnel.

Two cars were taken from each manufacturer for evaluation.

From Toyota, NASCAR took Martin Truex Jr.‘s No. 19 of Joe Gibbs Racing (finished 12th) and Erik Jones‘ No. 20 of JGR (fourth).

From Chevrolet, NASCAR took William Byron‘s No. 24 of Hendrick Motorsports (sixth) and Kurt Busch‘s No. 1 of Chip Ganassi Racing (ninth).

From Ford, NASCAR took Kevin Harvick‘s No. 4 of Stewart-Haas Racing (eighth) and Paul Menard‘s No. 21 of the Wood Brothers (19th).

NASCAR did not take Denny Hamlin‘s winning JGR Toyota, which was torn down as part of the postrace inspection. A key factor for NASCAR was picking cars with limited damage to provide more accurate readings in the wind tunnel.

NASCAR did the same thing after this race last year, taking six cars (two from each manufacturer).

The cars taken last year were the No. 1 of Chip Ganassi Racing (finished third), the No. 9 of Hendrick Motorsports (11th), the No. 4 of Stewart-Haas Racing (second), the No. 22 of Team Penske (sixth), the No. 18 of Joe Gibbs Racing (first) and the No. 20 of Joe Gibbs Racing (fourth).

New Cup driver, spotter combinations set for 2019

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A number of Cup drivers will have new spotters this season, including former champion Brad Keselowski.

Coleman Pressley will be Keselowski’s spotter this season, Team Penske confirmed.

Pressley replaces Joey Meier, who had been Keselowski’s spotter since 2006. Meier announced in November that he would no longer be Keselowski’s spotter.

Meier will spot for Paul Menard this season, a team official confirmed to NBC Sports.

Pressley, the son of former NASCAR Cup driver Robert Pressley, had been the spotter for AJ Allmendinger at JTG Daugherty Racing from 2015-18.

With rookie Ryan Preece taking over the No. 47 car for Allmendinger this season, Preece will have Stevie Reeves as his spotter, a spokesperson with JTG Daugherty confirmed to NBC Sports. Reeves had previously been the spotter for Menard at the Wood Brothers.

Former champion Kurt Busch also will have a new spotter this year. He’s moving from Stewart-Haas Racing to Chip Ganassi Racing. Tyler Green, who had been the spotter for Jamie McMurray, will remain with the team and work with Busch this season.

Michael McDowell also will have a new spotter this year. He’ll work with Frank Deiny Jr. Rookie Matt Tifft will have Chris Monez as his spotter. Monez worked with multiple drivers in the Xfinity Series last year.

Matt DiBenedetto moves to Leavine Family Racing this season and will be paired with Doug Campbell, who was the team’s spotter last season.

Racing community reacts to David Pearson passing

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David Pearson’s passing at the age of 83 was marked by homages and condolences from around the racing world.

While Pearson ran his last race at Michigan in August, 1986 – scoring his 366th top 10 in the process – he continued to touch the lives of the racing community until his final days.

Friday 5: Martinsville finish sets mark for most last-lap lead changes since 1981

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FORT WORTH, Texas — When Joey Logano bumped his way by Martin Truex Jr. on the final lap to win last weekend at Martinsville Speedway, it marked something that hadn’t been seen in Cup since 1981.

Logano’s move was the fifth time this season that the lead changed on the final lap of a Cup points race.

And that doesn’t include the duel between Kyle Busch and Kyle Larson at Chicagoland Speedway this summer since there was not an official lead change at the start/finish line (although Larson passed Busch down the backstretch before he was bumped out of the lead in Turn 3).

Bumps played a role in three of the five last-lap lead changes this season. Austin Dillon hit Aric Almirola and sent Almirola into the wall while Dillon passed to win the Daytona 500. Jimmie Johnson spun into Martin Truex Jr. at the Charlotte Roval, helping Ryan Blaney win. And there’s Logano’s bump.

The other two races this season where the lead changed on the last lap was Daytona in July when Erik Jones won and at Talladega last month when Aric Almirola passed Kurt Busch as Busch ran out of fuel.

Nine of the last 69 Cup races (13 percent), dating back to the start of last season, have ended with a lead change on the last lap. Six of those races came at Daytona and Talladega. The other three were the Charlotte Roval and the fall Martinsville playoff race each of the past two years.

Since 2009, Brad Keselowski has won five races on last-lap passes, most in that period. Kyle Busch, Matt Kenseth, Kevin Harvick and Logano have each won three races on last-lap passes in that span.

On the other side, Busch has lost five races in the last decade on last-lap passes. Truex and Kurt Busch are next with three such defeats.

2. Early prep work for Miami

Joey Logano’s Martinsville victory gives his team a couple of extra weeks to focus on the championship finale in Miami. Crew chief Todd Gordon said that could be helpful.

“It allows you to just not be so focused on Texas, what we’ve got to do at Texas to win,” Gordon said. “In our situation, you look at (Martinsville) and Texas both being great racetracks for us, Phoenix probably has been a struggle for us the last year or so.

“It allows us to kind of turn one eye towards Homestead, work on the preparation for what we have to have there, knowing we’re in a position that we can be at least broadly looking forward to that.”

Since 2014, the winner of Martinsville, the first race in the third round, has gone on to win the championship once. Jimmie Johnson won at Martinsville in 2016 to make it to Miami and captured his record-tying seventh championship that year.

3. Return to dominance?

It has been five races since either Kevin Harvick, Kyle Busch or Martin Truex Jr. has won a race — the longest drought of the season for the Big 3.

If they fail to win this weekend at Texas, it could mean that one of the three won’t make it to the championship race in Miami. Joey Logano secured one of the four spots in the championship field with his Martinsville win. If another playoff driver wins Sunday, that would leave two spots left heading into next weekend’s race at Phoenix.

The odds are good, though, of a Harvick, Busch or Truex win at Texas.

Harvick has a series-high eight consecutive top-10 finishes at Texas. Busch has scored a top-10 finish in 10 consecutive races on 1.5-mile tracks, which includes Texas. Truex and Kyle Larson are next with six consecutive top 10s at 1.5-mile tracks.

4. A new sensation

Jimmie Johnson was at the Atlanta Goodyear tire test on Tuesday driving a Chevrolet wheel-force car. He was asked about what’s different from inside the car with the 2019 rules package

“This is unlike anything I’ve experienced over my years in Cup,” Johnson said. “I had only a couple of years in the Busch Series and even there we had more power. I had very, very few starts in a Late Model stock, and in some respects with the size of the track and throttle response, it reminds me of that. So it is a far different power curve and acceleration sensation inside the car.

“We’re used to having the horsepower underneath our foot to accelerate up off the turn and you can’t even feel the accel now. You’re at a high speed. You lift to half throttle and you put it back down, you don’t feel the car pick up.”

5. One last ride 

Trevor Bayne makes his final Cup start of the season for Roush Fenway Racing. Matt Kenseth will drive the No. 6 the final two races. Bayne’s last start for Roush comes at the site of his first career start. He made his first Cup start in Nov. 2010, placing 17th for the Wood Brothers. In his second career Cup start, Bayne won the 2011 Daytona 500.

Bayne continues to look for a ride for next season.