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Ryan Newman fastest in second Cup practice in Las Vegas

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Ryan Newman, a non-playoff driver, was fastest in the first of two Cup practice sessions Saturday morning at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

Newman posted a top speed of 183.892 mph around the 1.5-mile track.

The Richard Childress Racing driver was followed by Ryan Blaney (playoffs, 183.268 mph), Aric Almirola (playoffs, 183.194), William Byron (183.107) and Daniel Suarez (182.822).

The top 10 was completed by Erik Jones (playoffs, 182.692), Jimmie Johnson (playoffs, 182.513), Regan Smith (182.476), Paul Menard (182.346) and AJ Allmendinger (182.235).

Clint Bowyer (playoffs) had the best 10-lap average at 181.010 mph.

Byron recorded the most laps in the session with 39.

Final practice is scheduled for 3:30-4:20 p.m. ET on NBCSN.

Click here for the practice report.

Three Cup teams docked practice Saturday at Las Vegas

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LAS VEGAS – The teams of Paul Menard, AJ Allmendinger and Reed Sorenson will each be penalized 15 minutes of practice in Saturday’s final session at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

All three teams are being penalized for failing pre-qualifying inspection twice.

Final Cup practice is from 3:30 – 4:20 p.m. ET on NBCSN.

 

NASCAR America Fantasy League: 10 Best at Las Vegas in last three seasons

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NASCAR Fantasy Live will undergo some changes with the playoffs. Leagues will reset and with only 10 races remaining in the season, players do not need to worry about maximum usage.

The biggest curveball is that players must maintain a balance between the number of playoff contending drivers and those outside that mark. In the Round 1 of the playoffs, the challenge is going to be in finding the right two non-playoff contenders to compliment the favorites.

This week, in addition to the 10-best drivers based on their three-year average finishes, a couple of notable non-playoff drivers have been added to the bottom on the list. That should help set the NASCAR America Fantasy Live roster.

Since it first appeared on the NASCAR Cup schedule in 1998, Las Vegas has hosted 21 races in early spring. There have been a few warm days in the mix, but nothing like the triple digit forecast that is expected for this week’s South Point 400. For all intents and purposes, this will behave like a brand new racetrack and players can toss their notebook out the window.

1. Brad Keselowski (three-year average: 4.00) Playoff
Keselowski is hitting his stride at the right time. Back-to-back marquee wins in the Southern 500 and Brickyard 400 gives him momentum entering the playoffs. Most importantly, Vegas is a track on which he’s won two of the last five races and where he has a current six-race streak of finishes seventh or better.

2. Joey Logano (three-year average: 4.33) Playoff
One good gauge of a team’s strength is when they have multiple drivers at the top of the average finish chart. Logano joins Keselowski with Ryan Blaney in fourth. The Penske Pals need to get off to a strong start on the 1.5-mile course to insure they do not have to worry about the Charlotte Roval that will close out Round 1.

3. Martin Truex Jr. (three-year average: 5.33) Playoff
With the announcement that the No. 78 will shut down at the end of 2018 and a last-place finish in the regular season finale, people have been quick to discount Truex’s odds of continuing as part of the Big 3. The only way to quiet the critics is to challenge for the South Point 400 win and score a top-five finish.

4. Ryan Blaney (three-year average: 6.00) Playoff
Blaney enters the weekend with three consecutive top 10s at Vegas. A sixth in 2016 and seventh in 2017 says a lot about his ability to find the handle on this track quickly. He finished ahead of his two Penske teammates this spring and they should all be in contention again.

5. Jimmie Johnson (three-year average: 8.67) Playoff
About the best thing Johnson could say about making the playoffs in 2018 was that he was happy to be the only driver to have accomplished the feat every year since its inception. That is not a glowing recommendation for fantasy owners to place him on their roster. Neither is the fact that he has gone winless as a playoff contender in three of the last four years.

6. Kyle Busch (three-year average: 9.33) Playoff
Kyle Busch is aware that the Big 3 have become a little quiet in recent weeks and that it’s time to make some noise. No one is better suited to do so on 1.5-mile tracks. He is the only driver to sweep the top 10 on them in seven races this year with victories at Texas, Charlotte and Chicagoland.

7. Erik Jones (three-year average: 11.50 in two starts) Playoff
Jones is currently one of the hottest drivers on the circuit. He has a three-race, top-10 streak and finished that well in nine of the last 11 races. When he misses, it is not by much with a worst result of 16th in that span. This is his first time in the playoffs and that could be his Achilles’ Heel. He deserves notice based on his record.

8. Kyle Larson (three-year average: 13.00) Playoff
If not for an accident in 2016, Larson would probably enter this weekend with one of the best average finishes at Vegas and a four-race streak of top 10s. Ignore his 34th-place finish from that season and concentrate on back-to-back top threes. Larson is going to earn major points this week.

9. Ryan Newman (three-year average: 13.67) Non-Playoff
A surge in the final regular season races gave Newman fans hope that he would make the playoffs with a win at either Darlington or Indy. That did not happen, but a seven-race streak of top-20 finishes elevated him to 17th in the standings. With pressure off his shoulders, Newman could thrive in the role of spoiler to the playoff contenders in the next 10 weeks.

10. Denny Hamlin (three-year average: 14.00) Playoff
Hamlin makes this week’s top 10 with a modest average of 14th. This is a track on which he has been hit or miss during his career with only three top 10s in his last 10 Vegas races. None of those have come in back-to-back attempts. In the past five years, he has alternated a single-digit result with one outside the top 10 and if that pattern holds, he should be in good shape this week.

Other Notable non-Playoff Drivers

11. Paul Menard (three-year average: 14.33) Non-Playoff
Menard was the only driver to finish in the top 10 this spring at Vegas who failed to make the playoffs. His ninth-place finish in that race was the fourth time in the last seven Vegas races that he scored a top 10 and it’s part of a nine-race streak of top 20s.

15. Trevor Bayne (three-year average: 16.67) Non-Playoff
Bayne is back behind the wheel of the No. 6 this week. It marks only his second attempt on a 1.5-mile track since he began sharing the ride with Matt Kenseth. His last attempt on this course type was inauspicious with a 26th at Chicagoland. With this week’s announcement that he will not return to Roush Fenway Racing in 2019, he has limited opportunities to showcase his talent.

17. Ricky Stenhouse Jr. (three-year average: 19.67) Non-Playoff
In the past several weeks, the No. 17 has scored inconsistent results as they went for broke trying to make the playoffs. Now that they are on the outside looking in, they can focus on trying to find some consistency as preparations for 2019 begin.

Bonus Picks

Pole Winner: Blaney won the pole this spring at Vegas; Keselowski earned it last year. With the momentum being gained by Team Penske in the past few weeks, they will ride that wave and one of their three drivers will lead the field to green.

Segment Winners: Last year, Truex won both segments of the Las Vegas race on his way to victory lane. This year, Kevin Harvick did the same thing, which allowed both drivers to earn maximum points in the game. The odds of that happening a third time are relatively low with volatile track conditions, but fantasy players will want to pick one of the Big 3 based on their practice speeds.

For more Fantasy NASCAR coverage, check out Rotoworld.com and follow Dan Beaver (@FantasyRace) on Twitter.

Today’s Xfinity race at Indianapolis: Start time, lineup and more

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After being rained out Saturday, the Xfinity Series will be on track today at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Just like the Cup Series, the race will be the first time Xfinity cars have been on track at Indianapolis after practices and qualifying were rained out.

Here is all the info for today’s race:

(All times are Eastern)

START: The command to start engines will be given at 9:54 a.m. The green flag is scheduled to wave at 10:05 a.m.

DISTANCE: The race is scheduled for 100 laps (250 miles) around the 2.5-mile speedway.

STAGES: Stage 1 ends on Lap 30. Stage 2 ends on Lap 60.

COMPETITION CAUTION: Lap 10

PRERACE SCHEDULE: Garage opens at 8 a.m. Driver/crew chief meeting is at 8:30 a.m. Driver introductions are at 9:30 a.m.

NATIONAL ANTHEM: Jillian Jacqueline will perform the anthem at 9:47 a.m.

TV/RADIO: NBCSN will broadcast the race beginning at 10 a.m.The race also is available on the NBC Sports App: http://stream.nbcsports.com/nascar/xfinity-series. Indianapolis Motor Speedway Radio Network’s radio broadcast begins at 9:30 a.m. SiriusXM NASCAR Radio will have the radio broadcast.

FORECAST: wunderground.com calls for partly cloudy skies with a high of 60 degrees and a 5 percent chance of rain at the start of the race.

LAST TIME: William Byron won and was followed across the finish line by Paul Menard and Joey Logano.

STARTING LINEUP: Click here for starting lineup

Cup regular-season finale: What’s at stake at Indy

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SPEEDWAY, Ind. — With the final regular-season race for the Cup Series at Indianapolis, here’s a look at what is at stake:

PLAYOFF PICTURE

Fourteen of the 16 playoff spots have been filled. Already securing playoff spots are Kyle Busch, Kevin Harvick, Martin Truex Jr., Kurt Busch, Joey Logano, Brad Keselowski, Clint Bowyer, Chase Elliott, Erik Jones, Austin Dillon, Kyle Larson, Ryan Blaney, Denny Hamlin and Aric Almirola.

Jimmie Johnson (605 points) and Alex Bowman (19 points behind Johnson) hold the final two playoff spots. If a playoff driver wins, both Johnson and Bowman make it.

If there is a first-time winner, then that person will knock either Johnson or Bowman — whoever has the fewest points — out of the playoffs.

It’s a pretty vulnerable spot coming to Indy with three guys (Ryan Newman, Jamie McMurray and Paul Menard) who have won here behind you in points that haven’t won yet, but you know, I think we can get the job done just as good as they can,” said Bowman, seeking his first playoff spot.

Among those trying to race their way in with a victory is Ricky Stenhouse Jr., who was in the playoffs last year.

“It’s clear-cut what we’ve got to do, so throughout the race we’re not really worried about each stage,” Stenhouse said. “We’re only worried about setting ourselves up for the end of the race because that’s all that really matters for us in this particular race.”

REGULAR-SEASON TITLE

Kyle Busch has a 39-point lead over Kevin Harvick for the regular-season title. No one else can overtake Busch.

Last year was the first time since the elimination format was created in 2014 that the regular-season won the championship. Martin Truex Jr. accomplished the feat.

“Being the regular-season champion … that’s kind of what we set out to do after about week eight or nine,” Kyle Busch said. “Earlier on in the season, we had a rough start to kind of fire off with Daytona not being so great and some other races not being so great. Once we got to the lead and … we started winning some races, then it kind of became a reality and that’s what we set our (goal) for the rest of the regular season. Hopefully we can see that through.”

The winner of the regular season collects 15 playoff points. Second place in the regular gets 10 playoff points, third gets eight playoff points and on down to 10th place in the regular-season standings getting one playoff point.