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NASCAR National Series News & Notes – Sonoma and Gateway

Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series

Next Race: Toyota/Save Mart 350
The Place: Sonoma Raceway
The Date: Sunday, June 23
The Time: 3:00 p.m. ET
TV: FS1, 2:30 p.m. ET
Radio: PRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio
Distance: 226.8 miles (90 laps); Stage 1 (Ends on Lap 20), Stage 2 (Ends on Lap 40), Final Stage (Ends on Lap 90)
2018 Race Winner: Martin Truex Jr.

NASCAR Xfinity Series

Next Race: Camping World 300
The Place: Chicagoland Speedway
The Date: Saturday, June 29
The Time: 3:30 p.m. ET
TV: FS1, 3:00 p.m. ET
Radio: MRN, 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)
2018 Race Winner: Kyle Larson

NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series 

Next Race: CarShield 200 presented by CK Power
The Place: World Wide Technology Raceway
The Date: Saturday, June 22
The Time: 10 p.m. ET
TV: FS1, 9:30 p.m. ET
Radio: MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio
Distance: 200 miles (160 Laps); Stage 1 (Ends on Lap 35), Stage 2 (Ends on Lap 70), Final Stage (Ends on Lap 160)
2018 Race Winner: Justin Haley

Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series

Summertime and the winning is hot

Traditionally, summertime has been Truex-time in terms of a trophy haul for the 2017 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series champion. Ten of his 22 career wins have occurred on or after Memorial Day weekend in May through Labor Day weekend in September.

Truex is the defending winner of this Sunday’s Toyota/Save Mart 350 at Sonoma Raceway (3 p.m. ET on FS1, PRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio) and one of only two multi-time winners in this week’s field at the scenic 2.52-mile course in California’s famed Wine Country.

The driver of the No. 19 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota Camry earned his Sonoma wins in 2013 and 2018 – and led the most laps (25) in his 2017 championship year at the venue only to finish 37th of 38 cars due to engine failure.

Truex’s race days at the road course have typically been very good or very disappointing. He has two top-five finishes (including last year’s win) and two finishes of 37th or worse in the last four races at the track. Of his 154 career laps led at Sonoma, he’s led 87 of them (56.4 percent) of them in just the last two races.

Last season, Truex led the most combined laps (71) at the three road course venues – Sonoma, Watkins Glen, N.Y. and the Charlotte ROVAL.

Logano returns to the top of the points

Team Penske’s Joey Logano has retaken the championship points lead with his win at Michigan and would love to have that good mojo translate into a first career victory at Sonoma Raceway.

Logano holds a nine-point edge over two-time Sonoma winner Kyle Busch in the standings and would love nothing more than to accentuate his title defense with his first Sonoma Raceway win. The driver of the No. 22 Team Penske Ford Mustang has one pole, two top-fives and four top-10 finishes in 10 starts on the famed road course. His best showing is third in 2016 and both of his top-five finishes have come in the last four-race span.

Historically speaking, Sonoma has been challenging for Logano. His 18 laps led (over three races) at the facility is his third-lowest laps led mark of any track the Monster Energy Series currently visits. The only other tracks he’s led fewer laps at are the other road courses, Watkins Glen (N.Y.) International (nine laps led) and the Charlotte ROVAL (zero laps led). But keep in mind, he has a win at The Glen (2015).

Certainly, momentum is on Logano’s side this weekend. He has seven finishes of seventh place or better in the last eight series races this season – four of those are top-three efforts. In addition to his win at Michigan, Logano finished runner-up at both Richmond and Charlotte during that span. Only his Penske teammate Brad Keselowski (775) and Kyle Busch (763) have led more laps this season than Logano (549).

Kyle Busch’s road course skills shine at Sonoma

Kyle Busch and his Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Martin Truex Jr. are the only two-time winners at Sonoma Raceway this weekend.

Busch has four top-five and six top-10 finishes in 14 starts at the track. Furthermore, he’s finished seventh or better in the last four races including his victory in 2015.

That win was particularly important to Busch as it was the first victory for him after he returned from a serious injury that sidelined him for the season’s first 11 races. The Sonoma win ensured him a position in the championship Playoffs and Busch went on to earn four more race wins and eventually his first series title.

The Sonoma Raceway victory – on such a physically demanding venue – was a particular bright spot for Busch in that championship run. Busch acknowledges that perhaps his background racing on road courses (and Sonoma, in particular as a youth) made him more open to the discipline.

“It’s different, for sure,’’ Busch said. “There are a lot of guys out there who have the road racing background, who know a heck of a lot more about road racing and technique than we do. The neat thing about road racing is just being able to have – it’s like – a vacation weekend. You just go out there and have fun and do the best you can and you’ll either do really well or you’ll do really badly, and you just go on to the next one.

“We don’t have a lot of testing for it and you try to pick up on it but, with respect to who you’re racing, you can expect to race a little bit of a different crowd.

“I think the biggest thing you do for Sonoma is watch some film, look at things from the past few years that have worked and some things that haven’t, and look at what has made you better there. You always have to be mindful of what has made you good there and what you can improve on. Looking forward to heading out there and getting back in the M&M’S Hazelnut Spread Camry and having some fun.”

Statistically speaking, Kurt Busch is one to watch

Crunch the numbers at Sonoma Raceway and veteran Kurt Busch rises to the top in four of the six most important statistical loop categories. Using Loop Data since 2005, Busch leads the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series in Driving Rating (107.1), Average Running Position (9.863), Laps in the Top-15 (78.9 percent) and Laps Led (167) at Sonoma Raceway.

In the other two categories (Quality Passes) and (Fastest Laps Run) – Busch is ranked second and third best, respectively. He has 351 Quality Passes compared to Jimmie Johnson’s 419. And Busch has run 89 Fastest Laps, compared to leader Martin Truex Jr.’s 100.

In fact, Busch’s 198 laps led all-time is most among active drivers and second all-time only to NASCAR Hall of Famer and five-time Sonoma winner Jeff Gordon. And Busch’s average running position of 9.863 is especially impressive considering the second-best mark is Johnson’s 11.343.

Busch is tied with Clint Bowyer for most top-10s (10) among active drivers at Sonoma and his seven top-five finishes is second only to Bowyer’s mark of eight.  And not only are Busch’s finishes impressive, he swept the 2006 road course season scoring pole positions at both Sonoma and Watkins Glen, N.Y.

Coming to California, Busch is still looking for his first win in his first season driving the No. 1 Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet Camaro ZL1. He has four top fives and nine top 10s in the season’s opening 15 races and is ranked eighth in the series driver standings, six points behind seventh place Denny Hamlin and 14 points behind sixth place Martin Truex Jr. – drivers that have five wins on the year between them. Busch is the highest ranked driver without a victory or any stage points in 2019.

Will this be the week for Harvick?

Stewart-Haas Racing’s Kevin Harvick must surely be open to any home-state love he can muster this weekend at Sonoma Raceway. The Bakersfield, California, native is still looking for his first win of the 2019 season and the Sonoma 2.52-mile course has generally been a good venue for the 2014 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series champion.

Harvick has nine top-10 finishes in 18 starts on the track, including five of the last six races there. Harvick won at Sonoma in 2017 and has finished sixth or better in the last four consecutive races there. He was runner-up last year to Truex and led 35 laps in the No. 4 Stewart-Haas Racing Ford Mustang. In fact, he’s led 62 of his 95 career laps out front in just the last three races.

A victory would not only make him one of only three drivers to earn multiple trophies at Sonoma but would top off a season that’s been consistently good, if trophy-less. Harvick has 10 top-10 finishes through the opening 15 races and is ranked fourth in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup championship standings – ahead of race winners Chase Elliott, Martin Truex Jr. and Denny Hamlin.

Even without a victory yet, Harvick is only two points behind three-time race winner Brad Keselowski, who is third in the standings.

Sonoma is one of Clint Bowyer’s best tracks

Stewart-Haas Racing driver Clint Bowyer shows up at Sonoma Raceway this week one of only six drivers with a previous win on the road course and someone whose track record there makes him an absolute race day favorite.

The popular driver of the No. 14 Stewart-Haas Racing Ford Mustang boasts the best average finish in the field (10.077) – the third best mark all-time behind only Jeff Gordon (8.304) and the late Dale Earnhardt (8.583) – a pair of Hall of Famers.

Bowyer scored his victory in 2012 and has a series-best eight top-five finishes at Sonoma. He and Kurt Busch are tied for most top-10 finishes (10). And a victory Sunday would be a well-needed and well-timed boost for the SHR driver’s season.

He has three top-10 finishes and three finishes of 24th or worse in the last six races of the season; including a disappointing 35th- place finish at Michigan in the series’ last race before a Father’s Day off-weekend. Still, Bowyer is well inside the top-16 championship field – ranked 12th, 22-points behind his Stewart-Haas teammate Aric Almirola. A runner-up showing at Texas and third at Richmond highlight his five top-five finishes.

Bowyer has finished among the top-three in three of the last four Sonoma races – including a third-place finish in 2015, runner-up in 2017 and third place last year. The only foul mark in that run was a 40th-place finish in 2016 when an electrical problem sidelined him only five laps into the race.

“The summer stretch is everything and, looking back at our season last year, we’ve got to get better at it,’’ Bowyer said. “Everybody asks, ‘How are you going to improve from last year?’ And I say it’s that late-summer stretch. We started off great last year and then tapered off in the summer. We have to avoid that this year. You have to get on a roll, especially leading off into the Playoffs.”

The Carousel returns

The Sonoma Raceway course will have a distinct new – longer – look this weekend, at least for recent NASCAR fans. For the first time in 22 years, the course will again use the “The Carousel” turn – a tight, 200-degree plus turn that leads to the track’s long straightaway and hairpin turn.

Since 1998, NASCAR has bypassed “The Carousel” and used a 1.99-mile course. The addition of the turn makes the course layout 2.52-miles long.

The last driver to win at Sonoma with “The Carousel” is Mark Martin in 1997. Ricky Rudd is the only driver to win in both course layouts, earning the inaugural NASCAR race victory in 1989 and then winning a second time in 2002. All of NASCAR Hall of Famer Jeff Gordon’s historic five wins happened since 1998. Of the current roster of drivers entered this weekend only Kyle Busch and California natives Jimmie Johnson and Kevin Harvick have ever turned a lap  on The Carousel configuration – all getting time on track in other series earlier in their racing careers.

Defending race winner Martin Truex Jr. anticipates “The Carousel” has the potential to significantly impact the race.

“It’s going to be a game charger,’’ Truex said. “We’ll have a fast, left-hand turn that we’ve never had there before. In the past, you focused on turning right and kind of threw the left-hand turns away. I don’t think any current driver has ran on this course, so it’s kind of starting from scratch for everyone.

“I have it embedded in my mind the track we have ran and what we’ve been doing for as long as I’ve raced there. On the old layout, I feel like I could go there and get 99 percent out of my car on Lap 1. Now you throw in the different turns and I might just get lost and fly on by the turn into the carousel. It’s going to be fun to try to figure it out. It looks like a really neat course.”

Sunoco Rookie race continues

The Sunoco Rookie of the Year contest continues to thrive and thrill. Richard Childress Racing’s Daniel Hemric retook the rookie lead from Ryan Preece with a solid 12th-place finish at Michigan before the off-week. He’s had top-20 finishes in four of the last six races in the No. 8 Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 and Michigan’s result was his second best showing of the year after a fifth-place finish at Talladega last month.

Judging by his recent NASCAR resume, Hemric, 28, has reason to be optimistic heading into the summer road courses. He has three top-three finishes on road courses in the NASCAR Xfinity Series and two previous top-five showings in the NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series road course events. This will be his first time on the Sonoma course.

Preece, 28, is looking for his first top-20 since a third-place finish at Talladega. His best showing in the No. 47 JTG Daugherty Racing Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 in the five races since is 23rd at Pocono Raceway. After leading the rookie standings for much of the season, he now trails Hemric by nine points heading to Sonoma this weekend. His best NASCAR national series road course finishes are fourth place at both Watkins Glen, N.Y. and the Charlotte ROVAL course in the NASCAR Xfinity Series last year.

Matt Tifft, 23, is hoping this week’s fresh venue may offer an uptick in his rookie season. The Ohio native comes into the Sonoma race ranked 31st in the standings with five finishes of 25th or better – including a 24th place showing at Michigan.

He has been good on road courses, in particular, in the Xfinity Series with five top-10 finishes. He won the pole position and finished runner-up at Road America in last year’s Xfinity race there.

Parade Laps: Insights ahead of this week’s driver media rotations

Six drivers from the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series – Leavine Family Racing’s Matt DiBenedetto, Hendrick Motorsport’s William Byron, Wood Brothers Racing’s Paul Menard, Front Row Motorsports’ David Ragan, GO FAS Racing’s Corey LaJoie and Richard Petty Motorsport’s Bubba Wallace will be participating in this week’s media rotations at Sonoma (Calif.) Raceway in advance of Sunday’s Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series race the Toyota/Save Mart 350  at 3 p.m. ET on FS1, PRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio.

Matt DiBenedetto, 27, of Grass Valley, California, earned his best result so far this season – 17th at Pocono (Pa.) Raceway – three weeks ago in the No. 95 Leavine Family Racing Toyota Camry. He has five top-20 finishes and is ranked 26th in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup standings. The Californian returns to his home state this week looking to better his top career effort (17th in 2018) at the Sonoma Raceway road course.

William Byron, 21, of Charlotte, North Carolina, has shown plenty of statistical improvement in his second Monster Energy Series season driving the No. 24 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet Camaro ZL1. He has three top-10 finishes in the last five races – including back-to-back pole positions at Charlotte and Pocono and ninth-place finishes in both races. Byron already has as many top-10s (four) through 15 races as he did in all of his 2018 Cup rookie season and his 14th place in the series driver standings is a high mark as well. He’s led a career high 150 laps on the year and paced the field in the last five consecutive races. Byron started eighth and finished 25th at Sonoma as a rookie last year, leading one lap.

Paul Menard, 38, Eau Claire, Wisconsin, is coming off his best finish in months – a 13th place run at Michigan two weeks ago. He has a pair of top-10 finishes – including a season best of sixth at the Bristol short track in March. The series veteran is currently ranked 19th in the championship – in his second season driving the iconic No. 21 Wood Brothers Racing Ford Mustang. This week will be a good test for the team. Road courses have typically been challenging for Menard. He has one top-10 finish in 11 starts at Sonoma – a fifth place showing in 2014. He was 26th last year. Although he’s yet to hoist a trophy, Menard has completed all but two laps in the 11 races he’s started at Sonoma.

David Regan, 33, of Unadilla, Ga., posted his best finish of the season three races ago at Charlotte – a 15th place effort – and led three laps in the season’s longest race, the Coca-Cola 600. The driver of the No. 38 Front Row Motorsports Ford Mustang is looking for his first top-10 in a Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series road course event. His best finish in 12 Sonoma Raceway starts is 22nd and that came last summer

Corey LaJoie, 27, of Concord, N.C., is earning the best results of his three-year Cup career. He has five finishes of 25th or better in the No. 32 GO FAS Racing Ford Mustang, including a 23rd place effort in the series’ last race at Michigan. LaJoie’s 11th-place finish at Talladega in May ties his career-best series result scored at Daytona in July, 2018. This weekend marks LaJoie’s Sonoma Raceway debut. He’s only made one road course start in the Monster Energy Series, starting 36th and finishing 33rd at Watkins Glen International in 2017.

Bubba Wallace, 25, of Mobile, Ala, the popular driver of the No. 43 Richard Petty Motorsports Ford Mustang, has six top-25 finishes this season with a best 2019 effort of 17th at Martinsville Speedway in April. He was 28th at the series’ last stop at Michigan two weeks ago. Wallace has three top-10 finishes in road course races at the Xfinity Series level and a career best effort of fourth place in the 2013 Gander Trucks race at Bowmanville, Ontario. The second-year Cup driver is still looking for his first top-20 at the Cup road course venues. He started 35th and finished 29th in his Sonoma Raceway debut last season.

NASCAR Xfinity Series

Bell keeps on ringing

Joe Gibbs Racing’s Christopher Bell grabbed his fourth win of the 2019 NASCAR Xfinity Series season this past weekend at Iowa Speedway, and his 12th series career win. Bell is now tied with NASCAR Hall of Famer Dale Earnhardt for the second-most wins in series history by a driver in their first 55 starts. NASCAR Hall of Famer Darrell Waltrip is the only driver to win more than 12 times in his first 55 NASCAR Xfinity Series starts, tallying 13 victories.

Bell is currently second in the series standings, 51 points behind standings leader Tyler Reddick. In 14 starts this season, Bell has put up three poles, four wins (Atlanta, Bristol, Dover, Iowa), eight top fives, and nine top 10s. Plus, he has eight stage wins and has accumulated 28 Playoff points (both are series-most this season). He also leads the series in being out front with 760 laps led this year.

Playoff points are mounting

This season’s NASCAR Xfinity Series version of the ‘Big 3’ are not only racking up wins week-in-and-week-out, but they are also gobbling up most of the eligible Playoff points, which come postseason will be very beneficial when it’s time for them to advance through the different rounds. Currently, nine different drivers have won Playoff points this season.

Christopher Bell is coming off his fourth win of 2019 and now leads the series in wins (four) and stage wins (eight). As a result, Bell has amassed the series-most Playoff points (28) through the first 14 races of the year.

To put Bell’s Playoff points into perspective, in 2017 when the stage racing format was introduced, William Byron finished the regular season with the series-most Playoff points just 17. Then last season, Justin Allgaier and Bell finished the regular season tied with the series-most Playoff points and each only had 24.

Keep in mind, Bell isn’t the only driver soaking up the Playoff points this season; series standings leader Tyler Reddick has three race wins and three stage wins bringing his total to 18 Playoff points. Plus, Cole Custer, who is currently third in the series standings, has also hoisted three trophies this season and collected five stage wins, bringing his Playoff point total to 20. The next highest Playoff point total belongs to Michael Annett with his five Playoff points from winning the season opener in Daytona.

Bell (28), Custer (20) and Reddick (18) have won a combined total of 66 of the possible 98 Playoff points in the first 14 races of the season – that’s 67%.

Quick season recaps of the top 12 Playoff-eligible drivers of 2019

The NASCAR Xfinity Series is taking a break this weekend but will be back on track the following weekend at Chicagoland Speedway for the Camping World 300 (at 3:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN, MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio). Below are quick looks at the drivers currently in the top 12 in points and eligible for the Playoffs.

Richard Childress Racing’s Tyler Reddick currently holds the NASCAR Xfinity Series standings lead by 51 points over second place Christopher Bell. In 14 starts this season, Reddick has posted two poles, three wins, 11 top fives and 12 top 10s. In addition, he has three stage wins and 18 Playoff points. He also has led 321 laps this season and leads the series in average finish with a 4.7.

Joe Gibbs Racing’s Christopher Bell sits in second in the NASCAR Xfinity Series driver standings following Iowa. Bell has been stellar this season racking up three poles, four wins, eight top fives and nine top 10s. He also leads the series in laps led this season with 760 circuits out front. Plus, he has grabbed eight stage wins and 28 Playoff points (both series-most).

Stewart-Haas Racing’s Cole Custer ranks third in the NASCAR Xfinity Series drivers’ standings, 86 points behind the series standings leader. Custer has raised his level of performance this season, in 14 starts he has four poles, three wins, eight top fives and nine top 10s. Furthermore, he has led 543 laps and won five stages, accumulating 20 Playoff points this season.

JR Motorsport’s Justin Allgaier resides in fourth in the NASCAR Xfinity Series standings, 122 points behind Tyler Reddick in the lead. Allgaier is the highest ranked driver in the standings without a win this season, but he is comfortably ahead of the Playoff cutoff – 236 points ahead of 13th-place Gray Gaulding. In 14 starts this season, Allgaier has managed seven top fives and eight top 10s; including a series season-most three runner-up finishes. He has led 265 laps this season and has won four stages, accumulating four Playoff points.

Team Penske’s Austin Cindric is fifth in the NASCAR Xfinity Series driver standings following Iowa, 127 points behind Tyler Reddick in the standings lead. Cindric also is winless this season but has run well putting up four top fives and 11 top 10s in 14 starts; including a season-best runner-up finish at Richmond. On top of that, he has one stage win and 29 laps led. His performance this season has garnered him a 231-point cushion between himself and the Playoff cutoff.

Stewart-Haas Racing’s Chase Briscoe is ranked sixth in the NASCAR Xfinity Series driver standings and first in the 2019 Sunoco Rookie standings. In 14 starts this season, Briscoe has posted six top fives and 11 top 10s (both are career-highs); including a season-best finish of third at Pocono. His consistency this year has allowed him to build a cushion of 172 points between himself and the Playoff’s cutoff.

GMS Racing’s John Hunter Nemechek is currently in seventh in the NASCAR Xfinity Series driver standings following Iowa, 186 points behind the series standings lead. But only seven points back from sixth place Austin Cindric. He is also ranked second in the Sunoco Rookie of the Year standings. Nemechek, in his first year with GMS Racing, has put up two top fives and 10 top 10s; including a season-best runner-up finish at Las Vegas. He has also led eight laps this season.

JR Motorsport’s Noah Gragson resides in eighth in the NASCAR Xfinity Series driver standings, 188 points behind the series standings lead. Gragson is also ranked third in the Sunoco Rookie of the Year standings. In 14 starts this season, Gragson has logged three top fives and seven top 10s; including a season-best runner-up finish at Michigan. He also has one stage win and has led 46 laps this season.

JR Motorsport’s Michael Annett is currently ninth in series driver standings, 210 points behind the series standings lead, and only 22 points back from his JRM teammate Noah Gragson in eighth. Annett, by virtue of his season-opening win at Daytona, is locked into the NASCAR Xfinity Series Playoffs. In 14 starts this season, Annett has scored one pole, one win, three top fives and 10 top 10s. Plus, he has led 62 laps this season and, thanks to his win, has five Playoff points.

Kaulig Racing’s Justin Haley presently sits 10th in the NASCAR Xfinity Series driver standings following Iowa, 225 points behind Tyler Reddick in the series standings lead. Haley is the fourth rookie currently anchoring a Playoff spot; currently 133 points ahead of 13th-place Gray Gaulding. In 14 starts this season, Haley has bagged one top five and 10 top 10s; including a best finish of fifth at Charlotte.

RSS Racing’s Ryan Sieg is having one of the best seasons of his career. He is 11th in the NASCAR Xfinity Series driver standings; 96 points ahead of the Playoff cutoff. Sieg looks to be on schedule to make the Playoffs for the first time since 2016. In 14 starts this season, Sieg has posted two top fives and six top 10s; including a season-best finish of fourth at Daytona.

Joe Gibbs Racing’s Brandon Jones is 12th in the NASCAR Xfinity Series driver standings, the final transfer spot to the Playoffs, 91 points ahead of 13th place Gray Gaulding. In 14 starts this season, Jones has mustered two top fives and seven top 10s; including a season-best finish of  third at Daytona. This season, Jones is looking to make the Playoffs for the third time in four years (2016, 2018).

Most likely will need to win to get in

With the healthy points cushion (91 points) currently held by 12th-place Brandon Jones in the final Playoff transfer spot in the NASCAR Xfinity Series driver standings, a win looks like it might be the only way these drivers outside the top 12 can make the postseason. Problem for them is, of the drivers outside the Playoff’s cutoff, only Jeremy Clements has a previous series win (Road America, 2017). But the next five tracks have been known to give drivers their first Xfinity Series career win.

NASCAR Xfinity Series, Etc.

Haley to make second Cup start with Spire Motorsports – NASCAR Xfinity Series championship contender and Kaulig Racing driver Justin Haley will be making his second Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series start in the No. 77 Spire Motorsports Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 with crew chief Peter Sospenzo this weekend at Sonoma Raceway. Haley made his Cup debut with Spire Motorsports earlier this season at Talladega Superspeedway; where he started 38th and finished 32nd.

No Rest For Gragson & Custer – Sonoma Raceway will not only have the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series race this Sunday, but on Saturday it will also host the NASCAR K&N Pro Series West race and this time NASCAR Xfinity Series drivers Noah Gragson and Cole Custer will be participating. Gragson and Custer will be joined by Monster Energy Series drivers Daniel Hemric, Ryan Preece and Austin Dillon in Saturday’s event.

Looking To Chicago – Next week the NASCAR Xfinity Series will return to action at Chicagoland Speedway for the Camping World 300 on June 29, at 3:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN, MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio. Chicagoland Speedway has hosted the Xfinity Series 23 previous times producing 16 different poles winners and 15 different race winners. Kyle Larson is the defending race winner.

NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series

Triple Truck Challenge bonus heads to Gateway

For the third straight race weekend, the NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series Triple Truck Challenge is raising the bar with a $50,000 bonus on the line for series championship qualifying contenders. This weekend’s CarShield 200 presented by CK Power at World Wide Technology Raceway at Gateway (Saturday, June 22, at 10 p.m. ET on FS1, MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio) will be the final round of the challenge.

Two races ago, Greg Biffle won the first Triple Truck Challenge bonus with his victory at Texas Motor Speedway. It was his first series victory since 2004.

Then last weekend, hometown favorite Brett Moffitt took home the Triple Truck Challenge $50,000 bonus check with his victory at Iowa Speedway, scoring his first win of the season. Moffitt is the only driver in the field at Gateway eligible to capture an extra $150,000 for winning two of the three bonus races.

2019 Triple Truck Challenge Format Rundown:

  • The winner of each of the three events will receive an extra $50,000 bonus.
  • If a driver wins two of the three events, they are awarded an extra $50,000.
    • In addition, if a driver wins two of three races in the Triple Truck Challenge, Gander Outdoors will reward the team with an extra $150,000, with half of the earnings going to the crew.

The “Triple Truck Challenge” is new to the series in 2019, the special bonus program takes place at three consecutive races – Texas (June 7), Iowa (June 15) and World Wide Technology Raceway at Gateway (June 22). All drivers earning series points are eligible and drivers who win one of the three races receive a $50,000 bonus.

Moffitt looking to go back-to-back

Although he didn’t get the trophy the way he planned at Iowa Speedway, Brett Moffitt still took home the win at his home track and now enters Saturday night’s CarShield 200 (10 p.m. ET on FS1, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio) looking to win two in a row.

Since the NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series returned to the 1.25-mile track just outside of St. Louis in 2014 after a three-year hiatus, only one driver has pulled off the early-summer sweep of Iowa and World Wide Technology Raceway…John Hunter Nemechek in 2017.

The back-to-back wins were Nemechek’s only victories of the season but secured him his second straight Playoff appearance in the Gander Trucks and he advanced into the Round of 6 for the first time.

Moffitt, the defending series champion, finished 14th in his lone appearance at WWT Raceway last season, then driving for Hattori Racing Enterprises.

So far this season with his new GMS Racing Chevrolet team, he has tallied five top-five and six top-10 finishes in the 10 races – including his win last weekend at Iowa.

Ross Chastain still digging in the #MelonManChallenge

Things looked so sunny for Ross Chastain’s postseason hopes last weekend in Iowa as he crossed the finish line first and celebrated with his signature watermelon smash in Victory Lane.

But a cloud came over his chances when it was determined in post-race inspection that the front of his No. 44 Niece Motorsports Chevrolet Silverado truck was too low and the team was disqualified from the race, relegating him to a last-place finish and points.

That finish was officially his first outside the top 10 in the Gander Trucks this season, and adds to his challenge of climbing into the top 20 in points and securing a race win to advance to the Playoffs. He now sits 69 points out of 20th place in the points standings with six races to go in the regular season.

Chastain has made his series track debut at World Wide Technology Raceway last season – posting a 29th-place finish after only completing 43 laps.

But Chastain will be entering this weekend’s race knowing his No. 45 Niece Motorsports Chevrolet Silverado has some speed. He took this truck to the win at Kansas (a win that doesn’t qualify him for the Playoffs because it was before he declared for Gander Trucks points leading into the June Texas race) and has finished in the top 10 in every race he’s run that number.

A victory at World Wide Technology Raceway would make a significant dent in his points deficit and get him the win he needs for the automatic Playoff qualification should he make it into the top 20 in points.

Chandler Smith making a good first impression

He’s just 16-years-old and has made only one NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series start, but you’ll want to remember his name.

Chandler Smith wowed the fans at Iowa Speedway last weekend, leading the opening practice session in just his first time behind the wheel of a Gander Trucks entry. He went on to win the pole in the No. 51 Kyle Busch Motorsports Toyota Tundra, lead 55 laps, and were it not for a late-race speeding penalty on pit road, would have had a shot at the win. Instead, he was relegated to an eighth-place finish in his NASCAR national series debut.

And he did all of that just hours after winning his fourth ARCA Menards Series race of his career…in 14 starts.

Smith made his ARCA debut last year at Nashville, starting from the pole before finishing fifth. He would go on to tally four poles, two wins (Madison, Salem), six top-five and nine top-10 finishes while leading a total 763 laps. Of note – those 763 laps led were the most in the series for the season.

Most remarkable about all of that is he did that in only nine starts due to age limitations on drivers in the series – ARCA rules prohibit drivers under 18 years of age from racing on most tracks over one mile in length, with this weekend’s 1.25-mile circuit at World Wide Technology Raceway at Gateway being an exception.

So far in 2019, Smith has competed in five ARCA Menards Series races – starting on pole three times, winning twice (Toledo, Madison) and has twice recorded a worst finish of fourth. Yes, fourth.

This weekend, Smith will be going for the double-header sweep outside of St. Louis, competing in Saturday’s ARCA Menards Series Day to Day Coffee 150 (7:30 p.m. ET on MAVTV) then following it with the CarShield 200 (10 p.m. ET on FS1, MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio) for the Gander Trucks.

For his second career Gander Trucks start, he’s sticking with the Kyle Busch Motorsports stable, but will move over to the No. 46 Toyota.

And he’ll have the extra carrot on the line as he races for the Triple Truck Challenge bonus of $50,000 at the end of the night.

World Wide Technology Raceway Looks to Crown New Winner

This weekend, NASCAR Gander Outdoors Series racing returns to the newly named World Wide Technology Raceway at Gateway on Saturday, June 22 (10 p.m. ET on FS1, MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio) for the CarShield 200 presented by CK Power.

Last year, Justin Haley won at Gateway, making it his first Gander Trucks career win. The track has seen a lot of young rising stars in their Victory Lane. Before Haley, John Hunter Nemechek was the winner in 2017, Christopher Bell in 2016, Cole Custer in 2015 and Bubba Wallace in 2014.

Ted Musgrave is the only driver in history to win two times at World Wide Technology Raceway and 2006 and 2007 are the only years that a manufacturer won back-to-back.

Here are some quick facts you should know about the track:

  • Track Length: 1.25
  • Miles Race Length: 200 Miles (160 Laps)
  • Most Wins: 2 – Ted Musgrave
  • Most Poles: 2 – Greg Biffle, Ted Musgrave
  • Most Top Fives: 7 – Johnny Sauter
  • Greatest Margin of Victory: 10.428 Seconds – 5/6/01

*Margins of Victory under electronic timing since 1993

NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series etc.

Sauter suspended for WWT Raceway contest – Following an on-track incident between Johnny Sauter and Austin Hill on Sunday at Iowa Speedway, in which Sauter retaliated under caution for a previous incident between the two, NASCAR suspended the driver of the No. 13 ThorSport Ford F-150 for one race. As of Wednesday afternoon, ThorSport Racing had not announced their plans for the truck for WWT Raceway.

Harrison Burton in control of Sunoco Rookie standings – Coming off a third-place finish in the M&M’s 200 at Iowa Speedway, Kyle Busch Motorsports driver Harrison Burton holds a 43-point lead in the Sunoco Rookie standings over GMS Racing’s Sheldon Creed.

The duo have a tight hold on the top two spots in the standings, as their next closest competitor, Tyler Dippel, is 91 points behind Creed.

This weekend will mark the first trip to World Wide Technology Raceway at Gateway with the NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series for both drivers, but they did compete in the ARCA Menards Series at the track a year ago. Creed started on pole and won the race en route to the series championship last season. Burton started and finished third in that race.

Parade Laps: Insights ahead of this week’s driver media breakouts  

Four drivers from the NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series – GMS Racing driver Brett Moffitt, Young’s Motorsports driver Spencer Boyd, Sunoco Rookie contender and DGR-Crosley driver Natalie Decker, and Sunoco Rookie contender and GMS Racing driver Sheldon Creed – will be participating in this week’s media rotations at World Wide Technology Raceway at Gateway as these four drivers prepare for this weekend’s CarShield 200 presented by CK Power on Saturday, June 22, at 10 p.m. ET on FS1, MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio.

Natalie Decker (No. 54 DGR-Crosley Toyota Tundra)

Birthdate: June 25, 1997

Driver’s Age: 21

Hometown: Eagle River, WI

Crew Chief: Frank Kerr

NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series Career Highlights:

  • She made her NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck series debut in the 2019 season opener at Daytona International Speedway.
  • Has made eight starts in her career (all this season) with a best finish of 13th-place at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

2019 Season Highlights:

  • Has run a part-time schedule this season and is currently 19th in series driver championship standings as a rookie.
  • Has made eight starts, posting one top-15 and three top-20 finishes. Her average finish this season has been 18.8.
  • Her best finish this season was 13th at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

World Wide Technology Raceway Performance:

  • This weekend will be Decker’s series track debut at Gateway

Sheldon Creed (No. 2 GMS Racing Chevrolet Silverado)

Birthdate: September 30, 1997

Driver’s Age: 21

Hometown: Alpine, California

Hobbies: iRacing and country music

Crew Chief: Doug Randolph

NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series Career Highlights:

  • In 2018, made five series starts, posting a best finish of fifth at Homestead-Miami Speedway.
  • In 2016, he made his NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series debut, placing 16th at Eldora.

2019 Season Highlights:

  • Creed is currently 10th in the points standings.
  • He has three top-10 finishes this season – sixth at Las Vegas, Texas and Iowa

World Technology Raceway Performance:

  • Saturday night will be Creed’s Gander Trucks debut at Gateway.
  • He has one start at the track in the ARCA Menards Series, winning the race in 2018

Brett Moffitt (No. 24 GMS Racing Chevrolet Silverado)

Birthdate: August 7, 1992

Driver’s Age: 26

Hometown: Grimes, Iowa

Crew Chief: Jerry Baxter

NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series Career Highlights:

  • Last season, Moffitt drove Hattori Racing Enterprise’s No. 16 Toyota to six wins, leading the way for the first career NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series championship for both Moffitt and HRE.
  • Won his first NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series race in 2016, taking home the checkers at Michigan for Red Horse Racing.
  • Made the most of his six NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series starts in 2016, with three top-three finishes and four top 10s.
  • In 2013, entered the NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series scene with a pair of starts (Kentucky and Michigan).

2019 Season Highlights:

  • Won the NASCAR Ganders Outdoors series race at Iowa
  • Currently fourth in the NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series points.
  • In nine starts this season he has posted one victory, five top fives and an average finish of 9.5
  • Has led 125 laps this season.

World Wide Technology Raceway Performance:

  • He has one start at the track in the Gander Outdoors Truck Series, finishing 14th in 2018

Spencer Boyd (No. 20 Young’s Motorsports Chevrolet)

Birthdate: June 26, 1995

Driver’s Age: 23

Hometown: St. Louis, Missouri

NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series Career Highlights:

  • 2019 marks Boyd’s first full-time season in the NASCAR Gander Outdoors Trucks Series after running full-time for SS Green Light Racing in the NASCAR Xfinity Series in 2018.
  • He ran three Truck Series races in 2017 and again in 2018.

2019 Season Highlights:

  • Currently 13th in the NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series points standings.
  • Recorded his first career top-five finish in the series by placing fourth at the season-opener at Daytona.

World Wide Technology Raceway Performance:

  • Saturday night will be Boyd’s Gander Trucks debut at Gateway.

— NASCAR —