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Friday 5: Chevrolet’s struggles harken back to 1982

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Ten races into the Cup season, the Chevrolet Camaro ZL1’s debut is starting to reach historic proportions.

Not since 1982 — before Kyle Larson, Chase Elliott and Austin Dillon were born — has Chevrolet failed to lead a lap in three races in the same season. It’s already happened this year. No Chevrolet paced the field at Las Vegas, Martinsville and Richmond.

Only 11 times in the 656 Cup races run since the beginning of the 2000 season has Chevrolet failed to lead at least a lap in a race.

A couple of other races nearly joined that list this season. Chevy teams led three of 200 laps at Auto Club Speedway and five of 334 laps at Texas Motor Speedway.

That Chevrolet didn’t lead a lap at Las Vegas and struggled to do so at Auto Club and Texas — tracks where aero plays a key role — is a concern.

The Camaro’s woes, though, are not surprising. There can be teething problems when working with a new car. Look back to last season when Toyota ran a new Camry body. Toyota won one of the first 10 races (same as Chevrolet this season with that victory by Dillon in the Daytona 500).

In the first 10 races of last season, Toyota teams won one race, had eight top-five finishes and 23 top 10s.

In the first 10 races this season, Chevrolet teams have won one race, had 12 top-five finishes and 28 top 10s.

Keep in mind that there are more Chevy teams than Toyota teams, so Chevy teams should have better numbers.

Take out the two restrictor-plate races, the Daytona 500 and the spring Talladega race, this year and last year and the numbers are closer between the models.

Toyota had one win, seven top-five finishes and 21 top 10s in the first eight non-plate races last year

Chevrolet has no wins, eight top-five finishes and 20 top 10s in those same events this year.

This doesn’t guarantee that Chevrolet will continue to struggle. Toyota won two of the first 17 races last year — both by Martin Truex Jr. — before winning 14 of the final 19 races.

One difference is that NASCAR employs the Optical Scanning Station this season to tech cars. The station has been credited with helping Ford, which has the oldest body among the manufacturers, remain competitive because of how closely the station can scan a car. More rigorous inspections can keep cars even. Of course, that also could make it more difficult for Chevrolet teams to find the speed in their cars to be more competitive.

The two Chevy drivers who have shown the most promise this season are Larson and Elliott.

Larson has been the top-finishing Chevy driver in four races and Elliott has held that honor three times.

Rookie Darrell Wallace Jr. finished second in the Daytona 500 and scored an eighth-place finish at Texas. He noted this week that his team has more work to do with refining his Chevrolet Camaro ZL1.

“We need more raw speed out of our car,’’ he said. “I think we’re heading in the right direction.

“We’re finding some things, for sure. We look back at Richmond. We weren’t really a big factor, but our car drove really good. So, we’re still trying to figure out where we were so far off, but we had the handling down to a T. I felt like we were the best car there handling-wise but speed-wise we were one of the slowest.’’

Said Dillon on Friday at Dover: “We’ve been decent all year long, we haven’t had the speed and there are reasons for the speed not being there. As far as Chevy as a whole right now, we’re working to find the speed.’’

Here’s a look at the Cup races since 2000 where Chevrolet did not lead a lap in the event:

April 21, 2018 — Richmond

March 26, 2018 — Martinsville

March 4, 2018 — Las Vegas

July 24, 2016 — Indianapolis

Sept. 12, 2015 — Richmond

August 22, 2015 — Bristol

June 28, 2014 — Kentucky

October 20, 2002 — Martinsville

October 28, 2001 — Phoenix

August 19, 2001 — Michigan

September 17, 2000 — New Hampshire

2. Learning the way

Paul Menard, in his first season with the Wood Brothers, scored the team’s first stage win of the season last weekend at Talladega.

The Wood Brothers are aligned with Team Penske, so that means Menard takes part in competition meetings with Penske drivers Brad Keselowski, Joey Logano, Ryan Blaney and their teams.

“We’re all very different people and we have different perspectives, which is interesting,’’ Menard said. “The way that Brad breaks down his car is much different than Joey and much different than Ryan.’’

Menard compares his time with the Wood Brothers with his early time at Richard Childress Racing.

“When I first went there, we had some really fast cars and then we got off,’’ said Menard, who drove for RCR from 2011-17. “So in the last couple of years, every week was trying to dig out of a hole basically. This year there’s really no hole to dig out of, kind of have a proven package and more fine-tuning than swinging for the fences.’’

3. Father vs. son

Today’s Camping World Truck Series race at Dover will pit David Gilliland against his son Todd in a race for only the second time.

The only other time they ran against each other was in July 2014 in a Super Late Model race at Irwindale Speedway. Also in that race was David’s father (Todd’s grandfather) Butch to make it a three-generation race.

David Gilliland said Thursday he’s excited about today’s race.

“I’ve got into a lot of races in my career,’’ David Gilliland said. “I’ve looked forward to a lot of them and nothing’s been like this.’’

Said Todd: “It’s cool. We’re hoping to beat each other, but also you just kind of focus on the real race out there. It’s going to be good.’’

4. A different driver each race

The Xfinity Series has had a different winner in each of the first nine races of the season.

Should there be a 10th different winner Saturday at Dover, it would tie the 1987 season for the second longest streak of different winners to open a season. The record for most different winners to start a season is 13 in 1988.

The winners this year have been: Tyler Reddick (Daytona), Kevin Harvick (Atlanta), Kyle Larson (Las Vegas), Brad Keselowski (Phoenix), Joey Logano (Auto Club), Ryan Blaney (Texas), Ryan Preece (Bristol), Christopher Bell (Richmond) and Spencer Gallagher (Talladega).

5. Soon …

A week from today Matt Kenseth will be back in a Cup car. He makes his return in Roush Fenway Racing’s No. 6 at Kansas Speedway in place of Trevor Bayne. Kenseth’s schedule hasn’t been released yet, but he will run at Kansas and the following week in the Monster Energy All-Star Race.

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Christopher Bell wins Xfinity race at Richmond

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Christopher Bell fended off teammate Noah Gragson to break through and win his first Xfinity race of the year Friday night at Richmond Raceway.

Bell led the final 79 laps around the .75-mile track to score his second career win. He had finished in the top five in four of the first seven races this season.

“That was pretty special there, buddy,” Bell told Fox Sports 1. “Had to work for it. My teammate was really good and I knew throughout both practices that both of our cars were going to be really strong. Joe Gibbs Racing has been producing really, really fast Camrys for last couple of weeks and it’s really shown.”

Gragson placed second in his first career Xfinity start. He bounced back from an uncontrolled tire penalty early in the race.

He hounded Bell for much of the last 15 laps, but could never pull even with him.

“I didn’t really know what to expect,” Gragson told FS1 of his first series start at the short track. “I found a little something in the track, a little speed there at the end of the second stage on old tires. I kept it in my memory bank until the end and I told me team, ‘I got something, when it’s time to go tell me when.’ About 18 to go, I told them, ‘Can’t wait any longer, I don’t have any more patience.”

Gragson, who drives full-time in the Camping World Truck Series, led 10 laps.

The top five was completed by Elliott Sadler, Matt Tifft and Austin Cindric.

With his third-place finish, Sadler won the $100,000 Dash 4 Cash bonus.

Bell, Sadler, Tifft and Cindric will be eligible for the third Dash 4 Cash bonus next week at Talladega.

STAGE 1 WINNER: Daniel Hemric

STAGE 2 WINNER: Elliott Sadler, first stage win of season

MORE: Race results, points

WHO HAD A GOOD RACE: Austin Cindric earned his first career top five after starting from the rear for an unapproved adjustment … Matt Tifft earned his fourth career top five … Ryan Truex placed seventh to give Kaulig Racing its fourth top 10 of the year. It earned five last year … Jeremy Clements placed eighth, earning his first top 10 since he won at Road America in August.

WHO HAD A BAD RACE: After winning Stage 1, Daniel Hemric lost his right front tire with three laps to go in Stage 2, but made it to the end. He finished 29th, four laps down … Justin Allgaier spun after ramming into the back of Spencer Gallagher with 86 laps to go. Chase Briscoe was also received damage in the incident. Allgaier finished 14th. Briscoe placed 26th.

QUOTE OF THE NIGHT: “My wife’s already spent it.” – Elliott Sadler to FS1 after winning the Dash 4 Cash bonus.

WHAT’S NEXT: Sparks Energy 300 at Talladega Superspeedway at 3 p.m. ET on April 28 on Fox.

Xfinity results, points report after Bristol race

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BRISTOL, Tenn. – Elliott Sadler remains the points leader. Sadler holds the lead after his seventh consecutive top-10 finish. He is the only driver in the series to place in the top 10 in each race this year.

Daniel Hemric is six points behind Sadler but faces the potential of additional penalties after his car failed inspection at Bristol. NASCAR stated that Hemric’s car had a “mechanical measurement” violation. NASCAR announced after the race that Hemric would lose his spot to compete for the $100,000 Dash 4 Cash bonus next week at Richmond.

Tyler Reddick is third in the standings, 14 points behind Sadler. Reddick is followed by Justin Allgaier (21 points behind Sadler) and Christopher Bell (35 points behind Sadler).

Click here for points report

Race Results

Ryan Preece took the lead with 10 laps to go and earned his first Xfinity win of the season and second of his career. He was followed by Justin Allgaier, Daniel Hemric, Elliott Sadler and Spencer Gallagher.

Click here for race results

 

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Ryan Preece wins Xfinity race at Bristol, $100,000 Dash 4 Cash bonus

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BRISTOL, Tenn. — Ryan Preece took the lead from Brandon Jones on a restart with 10 laps to go and went on to win Saturday’s Xfinity race at Bristol Motor Speedway.

Preece also collected the $100,000 Dash 4 Cash in collecting his second career series win.

“I’m going to be paid off with everything that I risked last year,” Preece said of what he borrowed to run two Xfinity races last year with Joe Gibbs Racing before having another race added.

MORE: Race results and points report 

Preece took advantage of having four fresh tires to two fresh tires for Jones on the restart. Once Preece pulled into the lead, he was not caught.

Justin Allgaier finished second. Hemric was third and followed by Elliott Sadler and Spencer Gallgaher. Jones finished sixth.

Allgaier, Sadler and Gallagher will compete for the Dash 4 Cash $100,000 bonus next week at Richmond. Hemric was to have filled out the Dash 4 Cash field but his car failed inspection after the race – mechanical measurement NASCAR stated – and will be replaced by Brandon Jones.

Preece wasn’t eligible for next week’s Dash 4 Cash race because he’s not entered in the event.

Christopher Bell’s chances for the Dash 4 Cash ended after a hard hit just before the halfway point in the 300-lap race. Vinnie Miller and Cody Ware crashed, and Bell’s car went into a slide when he applied the brakes and slammed Miller’s car.

Stage 1 winner: Christopher Bell

Stage 2 winner: Ryan Preece

Who had a good race: Anybody who made it through with all the cautions. … Shane Lee was impressive in his Xfinity debut, driving for Richard Childress Racing. He was headed for a top-10 finish before he got into the wall with less than 20 laps left. Still, he had a strong run and performed well throughout the race. He placed 14th. … Justin Allgaier’s runner-up finish marked his fourth topthree finish in the last five races. … Elliott Sadler is the only driver to finish in the top 10 in all seven races this season. … Ross Chastain finished ninth for his third top-10 finish of the year. He had two top 10s all last season. … Alex Labbe placed a career-best 11th.

Who had a bad race: Matt Tifft finished a season-worst 35th after he was involved in two incidents. It ended his streak of 15 consecutive top-20 finishes, dating to last season. … Kaz Grala was eliminated in an early crash and finished a season-worst 38th. … John Hunter Nemechek was running third when he had a tire go down and had to pit under green with 30 laps to go, ending his chances for a win. He finished 13th.

Notable: Spencer Gallagher, making his 47th series start, earned his first career top-five finish by placing fifth.

Quote of the day: “That’s the second time this weekend that I’ve crashed from guys going seconds off the pace. Can’t slow down whenever they spin out, and it’s frustrating,’’ Christopher Bell after being eliminated by a crash.

Next: The series races at Richmond at 7 p.m. ET on April 20.

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Xfinity Series practice report from Bristol

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Cole Custer was fastest in the final Xfinity practice at Bristol Motor Speedway.

Custer led the session with top speed of 123.570 mph.

He was followed by Daniel Hemric (123.182), Brandon Jones (123.118), Ryan Preece (122.968) and Christopher Bell (122.725).

Custer, Hemric, Preece and Bell are this week’s Dash 4 Cash drivers.

John Hunter Nemechek recorded the most laps in the session with 82.

Custer had the best 10-lap average at 121.830 mph

There were multiple accidents in the session. Tony Mrakovich, making his Xfinity debut, crashed for the second time today. Bell and Ross Chastain sustained damage trying to avoid him. Neither will go to a backup car.

BJ McLeod brought out the red flag for hitting the wall.  Tyler Reddick spun twice in the session.

“I was trying different things in the car to get more speed out of it, just kept finding the edge and crossing it and somehow not wrecking the car, which is a miracle,” Reddick told Fox Sports 1.

With about 10 minutes left, Ryan Reed made contact with the Turn 4 wall and spun.

“It’s ice once you get into the marbles,” Reed told FS1. Reed will not have to go to a backup car.

Click here for the final practice report.

First practice

Brandon Jones led the first practice, posting a top speed of 123.833 mph.

Jones led Justin Allgaier (123.515), Preece (123.499), Bell (123.491) and Austin Cindric (123.348).

Custer was sixth fastest and Hemric eighth.

Bell had the best 10-lap average at 122.385 mph.

Shane Lee, who is making his Xfinity debut driving the No. 3 Chevrolet for Richard Childress Racing, recorded the most laps with 72.

Click here for the practice No. 1 report.