NASCAR America Scan All: Two sides to every story

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In NASCAR, there are almost always two sides to every incident. This week’s Scan All features contact between Jamie McMurray and Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Jimmie Johnson and Clint Bowyer, as well as Michael McDowell and Austin Dillon.

“You got a granola bar or something down there you can give me?” Clint Bowyer asked crew chief Mike Bugarewicz during the Quaker State 400 at Kentucky Speedway. Unfortunately, all they could find was a mini peanut butter and jelly sandwich. When Bowyer’s spotter chimed in to note that there were granola bars in the goodie bags, it left Bugarewicz wondering why he didn’t get one.

The absence of a snack bar may have been just the thing that kept Bowyer from winning because he lost his composure after losing “three [expletive] spots every time we come down pit road” a little later in the race.

Other highlights included:

  • “The 1 door slammed me.” – Ricky Stenhouse Jr.
  • “Check the right side, the 17 turned into me on the backstretch.” – Jamie McMurray
  • “I see now. I had the wrong line. Two lines there; sorry about that.” – Brad Keselowski
  • “Yellow line to yellow line.” – Paul Wolfe, Keselowski’s crew chief
  • “I gotta know how far away he is from my door in the corner.” – Ryan Blaney
  • “Let the 43 know that I’m racing here; get the hell out of the way.” – Michael McDowell

For more, watch the video above.

Follow Dan Beaver on Twitter.

Who’s hot, who’s not heading into New Hampshire

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NASCAR heads to New Hampshire Motor Speedway for its only Cup race weekend of the year at the “Magic Mile.”

Thanks to Racing Insights, here’s a look at who is hot and not entering the 20th race of the season.

Who is Hot

Kevin Harvick
• Finished 5th at Kentucky (2nd in Stage 1, 4th in Stage 2)
• Finished in Top 5 in 5 of last 6 races
• In 19 races in 2018, 15 finishes of 7th or better (including 5 wins) & 4 finishes of 19th or worse
• Finished in the Top 5 in 18 of last 22 races, dating back to last season
• Finished in Top 5 in 5 of the last 7 New Hampshire races, including win in Sept. 2016
• In last year’s race: Started 12th, 13th in Stage 1, 3rd in Stage 2, finished 5th.

Kyle Busch
• Finished 4th at Kentucky (3rd in Stage 1, 2nd in Stage 2)
• Finished in top 5 in 6 of last 7 races
• Finished in the top 10 in 7 of last 8 races
• Finished in the top 5 in 13 of 19 races this season
• Finished 8th or better in 8 of last 10 New Hampshire races
• Finished in top 3 in 6 of last 10 New Hampshire races, including wins in July 2015 & Sept. 2017
• Led 749 laps in last 12 New Hampshire races
• Last year’s race: Started 7th, 5th in Stage 1, 1st in Stage 2, 95 laps led, finished 12th after two speeding penalties

Erik Jones
• Finished 7th at Kentucky (11th in Stage 1, 9th in Stage 2)
• Finished top 10 in 4 straight races
• Finished 39th (July) and 6th (Sept.) at New Hampshire in 2017, his only starts at the track
• Last year’s race: Started 6th, 39th in Stages 1 & 2, finished 39th: DNF – lost left-rear tire on restart on Lap
41 while running 7th (cut due to contact on pit road under caution)

Martin Truex Jr.
• Won at Kentucky (1st in Stage 1, 1st in Stage 2, 174 laps led)
• Won 3 of last 6 races
• Finished 4th or better in 4 straight races
• Finished in the top 5 in 8 of last 9 races
• Finished top 10 in 4 of last 5 New Hampshire races
• Led over 100 laps in the last four New Hampshire races
• Hasn’t finished worse than 17th in last 14 New Hampshire races
• Last year’s race: Started 1st, 1st in Stage 1, 6th in Stage 2; 137 laps led, finished 3rd in this race one year ago; pit from lead with flat right-front tire on lap 218

Who is Not

Jamie McMurray
• Finished 17th at Kentucky (12th in Stage 1, 20th in Stage 2)
• Finished 12th or worse in 4 straight races
• Finished 15th or worse in 15 of 19 races this season
• One finish better than 14th in last 6 New Hampshire races (6th – July 2016)
• Last year’s race: Started 4th, 4th in Stage 1, 14th in Stage 2, finished 17th

Austin Dillon
• Finished 22nd at Kentucky (22nd in Stage 1, 21st in Stage 2); pit on Lap 22 to address vibration
• Finished 12th or worse in 13 of last 14 races
• Finished outside top 10 in 16 of 18 races since Daytona 500 win
• One top 10 in 8 career starts at New Hampshire (8th – July 2015)
• Last year’s race: Started 26th, 23rd in Stage 1, 24th in Stage 2, finished 15th in this race one year ago; spun in Turn 4 after contact with Ricky Stenhouse Jr. on lap 88 while running 15th

Matt Kenseth
• Finished 19th at Kentucky (16th in Stage 1, 19th in Stage 2)
• Finished 13th or worse in 5 starts in 2018
• Finished 6th or better in 6 straight New Hampshire races, including wins in Sept. 2015 & July 2016
• Finished in top 10 in 9 of last 10 New Hampshire races (all with JGR)
• Last year’s race: Started 3rd, 2nd in Stage 1, 7th in Stage 2, 4 laps led, finished 4th.

Chase Elliott
• Finished 13th at Kentucky (10th in Stage 1, 13th in Stage 2)
• Finished 13th or worse in last 3 races
• Finished 11th or worse in 6 of last 9 races
• Never finished better than 11th in 4 career starts at New Hampshire
• Last year’s race: Started 11th, 10th in Stage 1, 12th in Stage 2, finished 11th.

Denny Hamlin
• Finished 16th at Kentucky (13th in Stage 1, 16th in Stage 2); started 36th after not making a qualifying
attempt (inspection issues); reported brake issues on Lap 30
• Finished 16th or worse in last two races
• Finished 12th or worse in 4 of last 6 races
• Finished 9th or better in 3 of last 5 New Hampshire races, including win in July 2017
• Finished in top 10 in 14 of 24 career starts at New Hampshire
• Last year’s race: Started 8th, 9th in Stage 1, 2nd in Stage 2, 54 laps led, won; went to a backup car after hitting inside wall in practice

Cup teams to test Charlotte road course today

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The second half of Cup tests on Charlotte’s road course will take place from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. ET today. It is open to the public.

Testing today are: Kyle Busch, Erik Jones, Clint Bowyer, Aric Almirola, Ryan Blaney, Joey Logano, Jamie McMurray, Alex Bowman, William Byron, Austin Dillon, AJ Allmendinger, Trevor Bayne and Ty Dillon. Chris Buescher is in a Chevy wheelforce car.

Last week, several Cup drivers tested on the course for a day. Bubba Wallace crashed early and left the test because his team did not have a backup car.

Jimmie Johnson had the fastest lap in last week’s session, according to NASCAR timing and scoring. Johnson had a lap at 1 minute, 17.4 seconds. Chase Elliott and Denny Hamlin each had a lap at 1:17.5 last week.

 

 

 

Race for final Cup playoff spot tightens at Kentucky

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SPARTA, Kentucky — Paul Menard’s 11th-place finish might be easy to overlook but it was one of the noteworthy performances Saturday night at Kentucky Speedway.

Menard’s finish — along with Alex Bowman placing last — allowed Menard to gain 32 points on Bowman in the race for the final playoff spot.

“We are right in the thick of the points stuff, so we can’t afford this,” Bowman said after his crash that left him with a 39th-place finish. “This will hurt us quite a bit.”

The result hurt him but maybe not as much as he feared.

Bowman has 427 points. Ricky Stenhouse Jr. is next at 418 and Menard has 404.

With seven winners this season and seven races left, at least two of the 16 playoff spots will be determined by points.

If the current domination by Kentucky winner Martin Truex Jr., Kevin Harvick and Kyle Busch continues, there could be a record number of drivers who make the playoffs by points. The most who made the playoffs via points was five in 2015. That seems likely to fall.

While Menard made up many points on Bowman, it still didn’t make up for all the ground Menard lost to Bowman the previous three races. Bowman finished in the top 10 at Sonoma, Chicagoland and Daytona and gained 51 more points than Menard in those races.

Stenhouse gained 10 points on Bowman at Kentucky. Stenhouse had contact with Jamie McMurary’s car that led to a tire rub and forced Stenhouse to pit on Lap 23 and then again on Lap 27 under green. Stenhouse fell three laps down. He gained two laps back and finished 26th on what could have been a bigger night for him with Bowman’s misfortune.

“I’m not really sure what happened, but the No. 1 got into us, which cut our left rear tire,” Stenhouse said. “We were able to cut our deficit in the point standings. We will focus on the next seven weekends and getting the No. 17 team in the playoffs.”

While Stenhouse gained 10 points on Bowman at Kentucky, it didn’t overcome what he had lost the three previous races to the Hendrick Motorsports driver. Bowman had scored 15 more points during that stretch.

With Bowman having problems, it created an opening for drivers further back but Richard Childress Racing teammates managed to make only modest gains.

Newman gained 15 points on Bowman and is 79 points back. Dillon gained 14 points on Bowman and is 65 points back. Both Dillon and Newman had vibrations early in the race and that forced them to pit in the first 31 laps under green. Newman was later penalized for removing equipment from the pit stall.

“We definitely improved our qualifying effort, but ultimately it comes down to where we finished and we still have some work to do,” Newman said. “Our car wasn’t that bad, but getting track position after that first run and a pit road penalty were too tough to overcome.”

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What drivers said after Kentucky

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Martin Truex Jr. — Winner: “It feels good, you know? You never know how these races are going to play out. You never know quite what is going to happen and we had such a strong Toyota tonight they weren’t going to beat us. You never know how they’re going to turn out, so we just keep our heads down. We don’t get too excited. We keep working on the race car and trying to stay calm and not get ahead of ourselves, so we had to make a lot of adjustments tonight on the car and had to battle back a from a few times getting passed for the lead and coming out of the pits second or third, but this Auto-Owners Toyota was amazing tonight, so just thanks to everybody for their support and making all this possible.”

Ryan Blaney — Finished 2nd: “It’s not a win. It’s a positive, that’s for sure. I hate it. I thought we were in a good spot there restarting fourth and Martin struggled a little bit the first couple laps and I thought I could get by him, but just couldn’t quite get a run on him. His car came in and mine kind of faded a little bit and he won the race. That stunk. I thought we had a shot at it tonight, but I’m really proud of the gains we made all race though, to be honest with you. I didn’t think we were a second-place car at the beginning of the race, and we got a lot better throughout the night so Jeremy Bullins and everybody did a great job. I can’t thank DEX Imaging and Ford and Menards enough for what they do. You said it, after the last few weeks we’ve had this is a very good positive for us. Hopefully, we can keep it going in the right direction.”

Brad Keselowski — Finished 3rd: “It was a good call from my crew chief, Paul Wolfe. We had better speed than we’ve had at the mile-and-a-halves, but not enough to run with the 78. He eventually got by us there and I thought we might have had a shot at it if we could have restarted fourth there, but we kind of cycled back to sixth and it wasn’t enough to be able to make something happen there. All in all, a decent day. I hate that I kind of dug a hole early in the race with the speeding on pit road. We were just racing the 18 off pit road and tried to get a little bit too much, but we’ll take this and hopefully build off of it for the mile-and-a-halves in the Playoffs. It’s gonna be really important and I’m looking forward to next week in Loudon. I think we’ll be really good there.”

Kyle Busch — Finished 4th: “We look at the same sheet of paper the 78 (Truex) does every week, and we just didn’t have anything for them tonight. I don’t know what we were missing, but the SNICKERS Intense Flavors Camry was good, it was a top-five car. I thought it was a top-two car there for awhile, but the 12 (Blaney) was really strong. It kind of depended where people lined up on a restart. But overall a decent night for us; we made a few points on the 4 (Harvick) and lost some of our lead to the 78. We’ll just keep plugging along and try to hold onto this points lead.”

Kevin Harvick — Finished 5th: “It’s just hard to pass. It’s hard to make anything happen. I think for us we got worse the last run and got loose into three and that really just killed everything, and then I hit the wall with 15 laps to go and that pretty much ended everything we had.”

Kurt Busch — Finished 6th: “I really enjoyed the way Billy Scott called the race because our lap times were really strong on the super-long runs, and that’s why he left me out there in Stage 1. We didn’t get points, but it put us in good position for Stage 2 and then we were ahead of the game to make a call again. It just kept us ahead the whole night. Even though we didn’t have the fastest car, we led a lot of laps tonight and it was fun to have the Monster Energy Ford out front. We probably would have ended up seventh and we finished sixth. It was a good battle.”

Erik Jones — Finished 7th: “Kind of a long day. Got our Freightliner Camry better pretty much every adjustment, so that was a positive. We moved our way forward and got a solid finish out of it.”

Aric Almirola — Finished 8th: “We had a good car. I messed up in qualifying, got greedy and tried to go for the pole and qualified 12th. This place is so track position dependent that we ran eighth to 12th all night. We just kind of got stuck in that area of track position and we just never could jump ahead. I’m mad at myself really for not executing qualifying better because we had a really fast car. We could have run top five easily.”

Kyle Larson — Finished 9th: “It’s hard to say if I would have had anything to win. I drove by the No. 78 and then right after that we had our trackbar issue there and went plowing tight. Then we had to crutch it with wedge there the last run and it drove okay, just built being back really tight at the last 25 laps or so. So, yeah, it’s hard to say if I would have won or not, but I would have at least liked to have had the shot.”

Joey Logano — Finished 10th: “Honestly, I thought at the beginning of the race we were probably better than we thought we’d be and were able to gain quite a few spots, and then the track was wider than we expected it to be. It rubbered out and the track was wide so it was harder to hold everybody off on the older tires. We tried. I don’t think we got the best gain out of it. We didn’t lose any, so it was kind of a wash, and then after that it seemed we just kind of lost the handle the last run. … We’ve got to keep pushing hard. We’re close in the points and we’re hanging in on that part of it, but we’ve got to figure out how to get more speed in our race cars.”

Chase Elliott — Finished 13th: “We were better than we started the day, but when the sun went down the track started gaining grip – everybody moved to the bottom and we needed more front turn.”

David Ragan — Finished 18th: “Our MDS team did a nice job on pit road and we made the car a little bit better throughout the night, so that’s important on these 400-mile races. You can’t get behind much and I felt like we were decent when they dropped the green flag and as the track changed Seth and Angela made good calls. We would have liked to finish in the top 15, but there were a few cars that were just a little better than us at the end, but I’m encouraged by the effort on the mile-and-a-half track to see some improvement and that will be good for later on in the year.”

William Byron — Finished 20th: “I felt like at certain times we would gain a little bit on adjustments, but just didn’t have a lot of potential to run any higher than really where we were. I felt like if other guys made mistakes we could run a couple of positions better than where we were, but we were just kind of right around that 15th to 20th range and it seems kind of like when the other guys hit their adjustments right we were already kind of maxed out to where we could adjust. I felt like we fought really hard and had some good pit stops that got us some track position. I felt like we were always gaining spots on restarts, we just couldn’t hold that.”

Ryan Newman — Finished 21st: “Track position was the name of the game tonight. We started off with a really bad vibration. Fortunately, it worked itself out after we bolted on new Goodyear tires. From there, we focused on improving our handling. My biggest issue all night was Turns 1 and 2. Everyone talks about Turn 3, but it was neutral for us.”

Austin Dillon — Finished 22nd: “I hate that we had problems early. We had a vibration as soon as we started the race and we had no option but to pit for four tires on the AAA Chevrolet Camaro ZL1. I actually started feeling it during the pace laps at the start of the race, but I thought it was just a cold set of tires. It must have been a bad set of tires. As soon as we pitted the vibration was gone and we were one of the fastest cars on the track. From there, it was a battle to earn the Lucky Dog, and then to keep up with changing track conditions with chassis adjustments during scheduled pit stops. Every position was hard-fought tonight. We have a lot of work to do.”

Alex Bowman — Finished 39th: “We are right in the thick of the points stuff, so we can’t afford this, this will hurt us quite a bit. It’s a big bummer for my guys and for Axalta and Nationwide and everybody that makes this deal happen. Really unfortunate, but it’s not something that we could prevent it’s nothing that we caused and there is not much you can do about it. You pop a right front and have a long time to star at the wall and then you hit it and then you’ve got to move on.”

MORE: Alex Bowman out of Kentucky race after Stage 2 incident