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NASCAR National Series News & Notes – Texas

Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series
Next Race: O’Reilly Auto Parts 500
The Place: Texas Motor Speedway
The Date: Sunday, April 8
The Time: 2 p.m. ET
TV: FS1, 2 p.m. ET
Radio: PRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio
Distance: 501 miles (334 laps); Stage 1 (Ends on Lap 85),
Stage 2 (Ends on Lap 170), Final Stage (Ends on Lap 334)

NASCAR Xfinity Series
Next Race: My Bariatric Solutions 300
The Place: Texas Motor Speedway
The Date: Saturday, April 7
The Time: 3 p.m. ET
TV: FOX, 2:30 p.m. ET
Radio: PRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio
Distance: 300 miles (200 laps); Stage 1 (Ends on Lap 45),
Stage 2 (Ends on Lap 90), Final Stage (Ends on Lap 200)

NASCAR Camping World Truck Series
Next Race: JEGS 200
The Place: Dover International Speedway
The Date: Friday, May 4
The Time: 5 p.m. ET
TV: FS1, 4:30 p.m. ET
Radio: MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio
Distance: 200 miles (200 laps); Stage 1 (Ends on Lap 45),
Stage 2 (Ends on Lap 90), Final Stage (Ends on Lap 200)

Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series

So Close, Yet So Far Away

Kyle Busch may not be wholly satisfied in his fantastic run of three runner-up finishes in the opening six races of the season, but historians – and fans – can certainly appreciate his effort in the No. 18 Toyota for Joe Gibbs Racing.

It’s been outstanding enough to give Busch the points lead – by eight points over fellow Toyota driver and reigning Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series champion Martin Truex Jr. and statistically, Busch becomes only the 10th driver in series history to finish second in three or more of the first six races. He joins Kyle Larson (2017), Kevin Harvick (2015) and his older brother Kurt Busch (2003) as the only active drivers to post such a fast start.

NASCAR Hall of Famer Buck Baker set the all-time mark with four runner-up finishes in the opening six races. His son, Buddy Baker, finished second in three of the opening six races in 1971 – and remarkably, was only running part-time that season.

The late Dale Earnhardt posted three runner-up finishes in the opening six races – and he accomplished that twice. He did it in 1993 and 1995. Plus, Jeff Gordon grabbed three runner-up finishes in the first six races of the 2007 season.

Harvick collected five runner-up finishes through the first nine starts in 2015. He finished second 10 times that season – the most in the regular season since the inception of NASCAR’s Playoffs in 2004.

Three drivers have finished runner-up four times during the 10-race Playoff stretch, including Chase Elliott (2017), Jeff Gordon (2014) and Jimmie Johnson (2006).

Freaky Fast Start

Should Kevin Harvick win Sunday’s race, he would become only the fourth driver in NASCAR’s modern era to earn four trophies within the first seven races of the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series season.

A win at Texas – where Harvick has only one trophy in 30 previous starts – would tie him with NASCAR Hall of Famers Bill Elliott and Richard Petty, who accomplished the feat in 1992 and 1975, respectively.

The late seven-time Cup champion Dale Earnhardt set the standard for fast starts, winning five of the first seven events in 1987. His six wins through the opening 10 races that year is the all-time best mark. Jimmie Johnson won four of the season’s first 10 races in 2007.

Harvick’s lone win at Texas came in the Monster Energy Series Playoff race there last November. He won the Busch Pole position for the spring race in 2017. He has top-10 finishes in the last seven races at the track – including back-to-back runner-up showings in 2014-15.

Johnson Hopeful In Texas

Jimmie Johnson and his No. 48 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet team have made a real effort not to press the panic button this season in looking to restore the operation to a more familiar front-of-the-pack existence and to snap Johnson’s career longest 29-race streak without a victory.

Johnson is the defending winner of Sunday’s O’Reilly Auto Parts 500 and also of next week’s Food City 500 at Bristol Motor Speedway.

If statistics can provide promise, then Johnson may find some solace in Fort Worth.

His seven race wins is the all-time best mark. In 29 starts he has 15 top-five and 21 top-10 finishes. Five times he’s finished second. He’s the all-time leader in laps led (1,041) and boasts a top-10 career average in both finish (8.8) and starting position (9.4).

Bowyer’s Back

Clint Bowyer’s victory at Martinsville Speedway two weeks ago wasn’t just a major career reset for the veteran, but a popular win throughout the NASCAR garage. Jimmie Johnson, Kyle Larson and Ricky Stenhouse Jr. joined Bowyer’s Stewart-Haas Racing teammates in congratulating the well-liked competitor before he’d even had a chance to raise his newest trophy.

And while it was Bowyer’s first win of the season at Martinsville, the 39-year old has looked competitive all season. He moves up to eighth in the points standings and is now poised to make his first NASCAR Playoff run since 2013.

Bowyer’s success is indicative of the entire SHR team. Bowyer’s teammate Kevin Harvick won three times in the opening four races. Kurt Busch has two stage wins, has led laps in three of the first six races and has three top-11 finishes. And SHR’s newest addition, Aric Almirola, came within a lap of winning the season-opening Daytona 500.

All four drivers are ranked among the top 11 in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series points standings. Harvick is seventh, followed by Bowyer in eighth. Busch is 10th in points and Almirola is 11th.

On the Verge of Victory

Team Penske has certainly positioned itself well atop the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup championship standings. Team newcomer Ryan Blaney is third, 23-points behind leader Kyle Busch, while his teammates Joey Logano and Brad Keselowski are fourth and fifth, respectively. The whole team is separated by five points.

Now, for that first victory of 2018.

Texas Motor Speedway has historically proven itself to be a challenge for the three Penske drivers. Only Logano has a Monster Energy Series win here – becoming the youngest driver ever to hoist a trophy back in 2014 at the age of 23. His average finish is 15.3.

Keselowski has five top-fives and a Busch Pole Awards at Texas, but it is one of the venues the former Monster Energy Series champion still hasn’t earned a Cup trophy. And the 24-year old Blaney has just one top 10 in six starts here.

Sunoco Rookie Outlook

Hendrick Motorsports driver William Byron, 20, is ranked 20th in the standings – 11 points over the series’ other Sunoco Rookie of the Year contender, Darrell “Bubba” Wallace Jr. in 23rd position. Both will be making their first Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series start at Texas this weekend.

It has, however, historically been a good venue for Byron and he likely considers it a prime track at which to score his first top-10 finish of the year in the No. 24 Chevrolet.

Byron won in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series there in 2016 in only his eighth series start. And he had a pair of top-10s (seventh and ninth) there in the NASCAR Xfinity Series last year.

Wallace, driver of the Richard Petty Motorsports No. 43 Chevrolet, has six NASCAR Xfinity Series starts at Texas, earning a pair of top 10s. His best showing is a sixth-place finish in the April race last year. He has a pair of top 10s in the Camping World Truck Series as well, with a best of sixth place in 2013.

Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Etc.

Starting Third May Be Best: Only three of the 34 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series races at Texas Motor Speedway have been won from the Busch Pole position. The most victory-friendly starting position is third, the grid spot race winner Kevin Harvick started from last November. Seven times the race winner has started third.

Select Company: Denny Hamlin (two), Kyle Busch (two) and Jimmie Johnson (seven) are the only multi-time Texas winners in the field this weekend.

For Whom Texas Victory Has Been Elusive: Reigning Cup champion Martin Truex Jr. is among a threesome sporting the longest active winless streaks at TMS. Truex is winless in 25 starts in the Lone Star State. Jamie McMurray is 0-for-28 and Clint Bowyer hasn’t won in 24 tries at Texas.

Fun Fact: Kurt Busch needs to lead only 49 laps to become the 20th driver in NASCAR history to lead at least 9,000 laps in his career.

NASCAR Xfinity Series

Xfinity’s Dash 4 Cash Makes 2018 Debut With Qualifier In The Lone Star State

Everyone loves a bonus, and this weekend at Texas Motor Speedway in the My Bariatric Solutions 300 on Saturday, April 7 (3 p.m. ET on FOX, PRN and SiriusXM), Comcast will be holding the qualifier for the 2018 NASCAR Xfinity Series Dash 4 Cash program. The Dash 4 Cash provides four talented drivers with the opportunity to compete for an additional $100,000 prize at select races.

Here is the format for this season’s Dash 4 Cash program:

· Full-time NASCAR Xfinity Series drivers will compete for four positions in consecutive Dash 4 Cash events:

o Bristol Motor Speedway (April 14)

o Richmond Raceway (April 21)

o Talladega Superspeedway (April 28)

o Dover International Speedway (May 5)

· The top four NASCAR Xfinity Series drivers at Texas Motor Speedway will qualify for the first Dash 4 Cash event at Bristol Motor Speedway.

· Of the four competing for Dash 4 Cash, the highest finisher wins the $100,000 prize. That winner and the three highest finishing full-time NASCAR Xfinity Series drivers, for a total of four contenders, will qualify for the next week’s event.

For 2018, Comcast is adding a new element to the NASCAR Xfinity Series Dash 4 Cash program. In addition to the $100,000 awarded to each Dash 4 Cash winner, Comcast will also donate a total of $40,000 to local organizations within race markets on behalf of the Internet Essentials program. Comcast’s Internet Essentials is the nation’s largest program for getting low-income households online, having connected 4 million low-income Americans since 2011.

The Dash 4 Cash program began back in 2009 and has become a driver – and fan – favorite over the years. Last season Justin Allgaier captured two Dash 4 Cash wins while Daniel Hemric and William Byron each took home one of the extra-large checks awarded to the Dash 4 Cash winners.

Here are the top 10 NASCAR Xfinity Series championship contending drivers in average finish at Texas Motor Speedway heading into this weekend – Cole Custer (5.0), Christopher Bell (6.0), Elliott Sadler (11.3), Matt Tifft (11.5), Justin Allgaier (12.3), Spencer Gallagher (14.5), Ryan Reed (15.9), Michael Annett (16.1), Ryan Sieg (18.0) and Brandon Jones (19.5).

Biagi-DenBeste Racing Saddles Up Stewart-Haas’ Big Shot Kevin Harvick At Texas

One of the hottest drivers in NASCAR at the moment is Stewart-Haas Racing’s Kevin Harvick. In fact, he is so hot this season he is the only driver in any of the three NASCAR national series to post multiple wins (three MENCS wins, one NXS). In his only NASCAR Xfinity Series start this season (Atlanta), he won with Biagi-DenBeste Racing in the No. 98 Ford Mustang, the same rocket he will strap into this weekend at Texas Motor Speedway thanks to an alliance formed in the off-season between Biagi DenBeste Racing and Stewart-Haas Racing.

It shouldn’t surprise you the two-time NASCAR Xfinity Series champion and Bakersfield, California, native is one of the favorites for this weekend’s My Bariatric Solution 300 at Texas Motor Speedway. Harvick has the second-most series wins all-time at the famed 1.5-mile track with five victories (2001, 2005, 2006, 2007 and 2012). In total, he has made 20 series starts at Texas, posting the third-most top fives (11), the most top 10s (17) and an average finish of 7.3; including a third-place finish in this event last season.

Harvick will not be the only Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series title contender competing in the Xfinity Series race on Saturday, April 7 (3 p.m. ET on FOX, PRN and SiriusXM). He will also be joined by Richard Childress Racing’s Ty Dillon in the No. 3 Chevrolet Camaro, Team Penske’s Ryan Blaney in the No. 22 Ford Mustang and Chip Ganassi Racing’s Jamie McMurray in the No. 42 Chevrolet Camaro.

Texas Native Bayley Currey To Attempt Xfinity Series Debut At Home Track

NASCAR Camping World Truck Series part-time driver Bayley Currey from Dixieland, Texas, will be attempting to make his NASCAR Xfinity Series debut this weekend at Texas Motor Speedway in the B.J McLeod Motorsports No. 8 Chevrolet Camaro. Currey will become the 13th different driver to make his series debut at Texas this weekend, joining current Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series drivers Kurt Busch, Clint Bowyer and Michael McDowell.

Currey has four NASCAR national series starts to his name, all in the Camping World Truck Series. He ran three NCWTS races in 2017, posting one top 10 and an average finish of 21.0. He also made one NCWTS start this season at Las Vegas, starting 23rd and finishing 20th.

The 21-year-old Currey is the third different driver to wheel the B.J. McLeod Motorsports No. 8 this season, Caesar Bacarella kicked the season off at Daytona, finishing a career-best 13th. The next four races Tommy Joe Martins climbed into the No. 8, posting an average finish of 27.2.

No Signs Of JR Motorsports Slowing Down

Just five points separate the top three in the championship standings after five NASCAR Xfinity Series races this season, and the JR Motorsports trio at the top, Elliott Sadler (standings leader), Tyler Reddick (second-place, -4 points) and Justin Allgaier (third-place, -5 points), show no signs of slowing up as the series returns to action this weekend at Texas Motor Speedway.

Elliott Sadler holds the points lead after posting the series-most top fives (four) and top 10s (five) through the first five races of the season. He also leads the series in average finish with a solid 4.8. – the only series title contender with an average finish inside the top five. Sadler took home the NASCAR Xfinity Series regular season championship last season on his way to the Playoffs and looks poised to do it again this season.

But one driver not letting Sadler relax atop the standings is his JRM teammate Tyler Reddick, who sits in second, four-points back and virtually locked into the Playoffs with a season-opening win at Daytona. Now Reddick, the Sunoco Rookie of the Year contender who has proven to be a quick study, is on the fast track to learning what it takes to put together a series title run in the wake of his veteran teammates Sadler and Allgaier. Through five races this season, Reddick has posted one win, four top 10s and an average finish of 9.0 – third-best among title contenders.

Lurking just one point behind Reddick in the standings is his teammate Justin Allgaier, who has posted two runner-ups, three top fives, and four top 10s in the first five races of the season. Allgaier’s average finish this season (8.0) is second only to points leader Elliott Sadler (4.8).

Heading into Texas this weekend, their nearest competitor in the championship standings is Joe Gibbs Racing’s Christopher Bell (fourth), 22 points behind third-place Allgaier. None of the four active JR Motorsports drivers have won at Texas before. Chase Elliott brought home the JRM organization’s first Xfinity Series Texas trophy in 2014. This weekend, Elliott Sadler (11.3) leads Justin Allgaier (12.3) and Tyler Reddick (33.0) in average finish at the famed 1.5-mile facility.

Xfinity Series Youth Movement Has A Lasso Around 2018

In recent years, the NASCAR Xfinity Series has been a big stage for up-and-coming young stars in NASCAR to show off their talents, and this season is no different. Through the first five races, the top 10 in driver points is besieged with youngsters looking to make a name for themselves. So much so, the average age of the series’ top 10 following Auto Club Speedway is a youthful 26.0.

Eight of the top 10 in the NASCAR Xfinity Series championship driver standings are in their 20s; with the youngest being Cole Custer at the age of 20. The two elders of the group are Elliott Sadler at the age of 42 and Justin Allgaier at 31.

To put in perspective how young some of these drivers are, current standings leader Elliott Sadler is twice the age of three of his top 10 competitors – Cole Custer (20), Brandon Jones (21) and Matt Tifft (21).

Ryan Blaney Jumps In The Team Penske No. 22 To Keep The Win Streak Alive

Team Penske’s No. 22 Ford Mustang team, led by crew chief Brian Wilson, has been off to a fast start this season, winning the last two consecutive races (ISM Raceway and Auto Club Speedway) and taking the owner standings lead by 19-points over JR Motorsport’s No. 1 Chevrolet Camaro team. This weekend, Ryan Blaney will pilot the No. 22 at Texas Motor Speedway and is looking to keep the win streak alive to make it three in a row.

Since the series’ inception in 1982, a single car/team has only won three or more consecutive races 13 times. The last time a team in the NASCAR Xfinity Series won three races in a row was in 2016; when the series’ winningest driver, Kyle Busch, won at Kentucky (7/8), New Hampshire (7/16) and Indianapolis (7/23) in the Joe Gibbs Racing No. 18 Toyota Camry.

The most consecutive series wins by a single car/team is four and it has happened twice – Sam Ard Racing’s No. 0 Oldsmobile team was the first to accomplish the feat with driver Sam Ard winning four straight in 1983 at South Boston (9/17), Martinsville (9/24), Rougemont (10/1) and Charlotte (10/8). The second team to accomplish the record was Joe Gibbs Racing’s No. 20 Toyota team in 2008, when drivers Kyle Busch won at Mexico City (4/20), Tony Stewart won at Talladega (4/26), Denny Hamlin won at Richmond (5/2) and then Stewart again at Darlington (5/9).

Team Penske is no stranger to putting together a trio of wins in a row. The No. 22 Ford team won three straight in 2013 with Brad Keselowski grabbing the victory at Iowa (8/3) and Watkins Glen (8/10) and then AJ Allmendinger winning at Mid-Ohio (8/17).
Ryan Blaney has made has made five series starts at Texas Motor Speedway, posting four top fives, five top 10s and an impressive average finish of 3.4. He finished runner-up in both Texas races last season.

Xfinity Track Facts: Texas Motor Speedway

This weekend the NASCAR Xfinity Series will be at Texas Motor Speedway for the My Bariatric Solutions 300 on Saturday, April 7 at 3 p.m. ET on FOX, PRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio. Below are some quick facts to get you ready for the weekend:

~ The NASCAR Xfinity Series has run 34 races at Texas Motor Speedway.
~ The first race was run on April 5, 1997. Jeff Green won the pole for the race and Mark Martin won the event.
~ Since the inaugural event in 1997, a total of 323 different drivers have competed in at least one NASCAR Xfinity Series race at Texas Motor Speedway, led by Mike Bliss with 21 series starts at TMS.
~ There have been 21 different pole winners in the series at Texas, led by Kyle Busch with four.
~ There have been 16 different series race winners at Texas, led by Kyle Busch with eight.
~ The youngest series Texas pole winner is Erik Jones (4/10/2015 – 18 years, 9 months, 11 days)
~ The youngest series Texas race winner is Chase Elliott (4/4/2014 – 18 years, 4 months, 7 days)
~ Erik Jones holds the series record for the best average start at 1.8 and average finish at 2.2. He swept both races last season.

Additional NASCAR Xfinity Series Texas Event Stats:

~ Lead Changes – Most: 22 (4/12/2013) and Least: 3 (4/6/2002)
~ Leaders – Most: 11 (4/12/2013) and Least: 3 (4/8/2016)
~ Cautions – Most: 10 (3/29/2003) and Least: 3 (4/8/2011)
~ Laps Led (Winner) – Most: 179 (11/7/2009) and Least: 6 (three times, most recently 11/5/2011)
~ Margin of Victory – Largest: 3.485 seconds (11/3/2007) and Least: 0.128 second (4/14/2007)

NASCAR Xfinity Series Etc.

Sunoco Rookie Standings Update – NASCAR Xfinity Series Sunoco Rookie of the Year standings leader Tyler Reddick took advantage of second-place Christopher Bell’s misfortunes two weeks ago at Auto Club Speedway by opening a 22-point lead in the rookie points after Bell finished outside the top 20. The Sunoco Rookie of the Year standings following Auto Club Speedway: Tyler Reddick (195), Christopher Bell (-23 points behind the leader), Kaz Grala (-76), Alex Labbe (-110), Austin Cindric (-124), Vinnie Miller (-145), Spencer Boyd (-160), Josh Bilicki (-176), Chad Finchum (-177) and Matt Mills (-182).

NASCAR Camping World Truck Series

Taking a Break

The NASCAR Camping World Truck Series heads into a four-week hiatus while the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series and NASCAR Xfinity Series go to Texas, Bristol, Richmond and Talladega.

The trucks will return to the track at Dover International Speedway for the JEGS 200 on Friday, May 4 (5 p.m. ET on FS1, MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio).

Looking back on the last 10 seasons and the first race back after the early month-long hiatus in April/May, 2011 was the lone year in that time frame in which the trucks returned from break at Dover. Kyle Busch was the race winner that year.

Here’s a look at the last 10 seasons and the race winners of the first race back on track after the spring break:

2017 – Kansas: Kyle Busch
2016 – Kansas: William Byron
2015 – Kansas: Matt Crafton
2014 – Kansas: Kyle Busch
2013 – Charlotte: Kyle Busch
2012 – Charlotte: Justin Lofton
2011 – Dover: Kyle Busch
2010 – Kansas: Johnny Sauter
2009 – Kansas: Mike Skinner
2008 – Kansas: Ron Hornaday Jr.

Brett Moffitt Cruisin’ Along

After a crash at Daytona took him out before the halfway point of the season-opener, Brett Moffitt has finished no worse the third in 2018.

The 2015 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Sunoco Rookie of the Year won the second race of the season at Atlanta and then placed third at both Las Vegas and Martinsville. His 2018 race results account for half of his career top-five (six) and one-third of his career top-10 (nine) finishes in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series.

Now the driver of the No. 16 Toyota Tundra for Hattori Racing Enterprises finds himself virtually locked into the Playoffs with his win and sitting third in the points standings heading into the month-long break.

Heating Up At Martinsville

John Hunter Nemechek’s part-time 2018 campaign in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series got off to a rough start as he finished 25th and 21st at Daytona and Las Vegas, respectively.

But he brought out the sunshine at Martinsville, winning in his third outing of the season in a race that was delayed until Monday due to snow. He took the lead on a restart with 31 laps to go and held off Kyle Benjamin, who was making his series debut, for the win.

The win brought his career win total to six in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series, and he’s now won at least one race each season for the past four years, starting in 2015.

NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Etc.

Impressive Debut: Kyle Benjamin doesn’t just ease in when he makes a series debut in NASCAR, he crashes the party. The 20-year-old started on the front row in each of his five NASCAR Xfinity Series races in his debut season last year. He then brought home a second-place finish at Martinsville in his NASCAR Camping World Truck Series debut in the No. 54 DGR-Crosley Toyota.

Sunoco Rookie Standings Update: Myatt Snider, who finished sixth as the top rookie of the race at Martinsville, is tied atop the Sunoco Rookie of the Year standings with Dalton Sargeant. Sargeant finished 11th at “The Paperclip” and Todd Gilliland, making his season debut, was the third-highest finishing rookie in 14th.