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NASCAR National Series News & Notes – Daytona

Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series
Next Race: Coke Zero Sugar 400
The Date: Saturday, July 6
The Time: 7:30 p.m. ET
TV: NBC, 7:00 p.m. ET
Radio: MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio
Distance: 400 miles (160 laps); Stage 1 (Ends on Lap 50),
Stage 2 (Ends on Lap 100), Final Stage (Ends on Lap 160)
2018 Race Winner: Erik Jones

NASCAR Xfinity Series
Next Race: Circle K Firecracker 250 presented by Coca-Cola
The Place: Daytona International Speedway
The Date: Friday, July 5
The Time: 7:30 p.m. ET
TV: NBCSN, 7:00 p.m. ET
Radio: MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio
Distance: 250 miles (100 Laps); Stage 1 (Ends on Lap 30),
Stage 2 (Ends on Lap 60), Final Stage (Ends on Lap 100)
2018 Race Winner: Kyle Larson

NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series
Next Race: Buckle Up In Your Truck 225
The Place: Kentucky Speedway
The Date: Thursday, July 11
The Time: 7:30 p.m. ET
TV: FS1, 7:00 p.m. ET
Radio: MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio
Distance: 225 miles (150 Laps); Stage 1 (Ends on Lap 35),
Stage 2 (Ends on Lap 70), Final Stage (Ends on Lap 150)
2018 Race Winner: Ben Rhodes

Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series

Logano looking good atop the points standings

Joey Logano rallied to a third-place finish in Sunday night at Chicagoland Speedway and that effort was good enough to keep the Team Penske driver atop the points standings as the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series arrives in Daytona Beach for Saturday’s Coke Zero Sugar 400 (7:30 p.m. ET on NBC, MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio).

It was inspired driving by the reigning Monster Energy Series champion, who had not earned any stage points on the day but still managed to collect his ninth top five of the season and third top-three run in the last five races. He’s won twice on the year (at Las Vegas and Michigan) and his work at Chicago was good enough to extend his championship lead to 18 points over Kyle Busch.

Daytona International Speedway has been hit-or-miss for the driver of the No. 22 Team Penske Ford. He won the Daytona 500 in 2015 and led 11 laps and finished fourth in the season opener this year.

The Daytona summer race, however, has been more challenging for the team of late. Logano has crashed out of the last two 400-milers but finished fourth in the last two Daytona 500s. He has six top-10 finishes in the last nine races at the track, but only led 74 laps (in 21 starts) and posted an average finish of 17.0 in his career there.

Back to defend for the first time

For the first time in his brief Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series career, Joe Gibbs Racing driver Erik Jones returns to Daytona International Speedway as a defending race winner. The driver of the No. 20 JGR Toyota earned the win in only his fifth Cup start at the track.

And while the 2.5-mile Daytona high banks have typically proven tough for many competitors, the 23-year old Jones seems to have taken to the style of fast, tight competition rather well. He has three top-10 and a pair of top-five finishes in five starts, including a third place in this season’s Daytona 500 as an impressive follow-up to last year’s summer victory.

He has only two Coke Zero Sugar 400 Cup starts, but his 5.00 average finish in the race is still tops statistically.

Jones has been strong especially as of late. He has three top-10 finishes in the last four races and five in the last seven. He’s scored a season-best third place, three times – at Daytona, Texas and Pocono. He comes to Daytona ranked 17th in the championship hunt, only 15 points behind 16th place Clint Bowyer in the Playoff cutoff position.

“I’m looking forward to getting back to Daytona,’’ Jones said. “It’s always cool coming back to a track where you are the defending race winner. Looking forward to the race and defending our win from last year.

“It’s always fun to get down there on the 4th of July. It’s usually a great crowd, a great turnout and great atmosphere for the race. Looking forward to getting out there and hopefully we’ll be able to get another win to lock ourselves in the Playoffs and have a lot fun at the same time.”

Blaney on the verge of driving into Victory Lane

Team Penske driver Ryan Blaney has watched both his teammates – Joey Logano and Brad Keselowski – celebrate in Victory Lane multiple times this season. But the popular 25-year old driver of the team’s No. 12 Ford should feel plenty optimistic heading into Daytona.

The 2.5-mile track has been a positive entry on the resume of his four-year fulltime career with multiple close-calls in scoring that first win on the iconic track.

He finished runner-up in the 2017 Daytona 500 – by a mere blink-of-the-eye .228-seconds to Kurt Busch. And after winning one of the two Daytona 500 Duel qualifying races, he answered the effort leading a race best 118 laps in 2018 – only to finish seventh after being collected in an accident in the final laps.

This year, he was again involved an accident – only 10 laps from the scheduled checkered flag – and finished 31st. So Blaney arrives at the beach, hoping to extend some of his better luck 2019 showings.

He is on a run of three straight top-10 finishes, including a sixth place at Chicago. He has finished a season-best third, three times including two weeks ago at Sonoma, Calif., and is ranked 10th in the championship standings, only 10 points behind ninth place Alex Bowman, last week’s Chicago winner.

The new technical package – a tapered spacer as opposed to the traditional restrictor plate – will be used for the first time since 1988 at the track. But Blaney, who started seventh and finished 15th at Talladega using the new package earlier this season, seemed optimistic that teams will be in better shape this go-round.

“Obviously, they are different kind of race tracks a little bit in their own ways and I think teams will go to Daytona with a little different mindset of what they had at Talladega,’’ Blaney said. “Just trying to figure it out. I think it will be a good race. I thought Talladega was a pretty good race and I think it will get better as teams start to understand the package.’’

“It’s a race I look forward to every year,’’ Blaney added.

Back On Track

Four-time race winner Kyle Busch has displayed a dominant start to the 2019 season – tying a Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series record with 11 consecutive top-10 finishes to start the year. And he won three races (at Fontana, Calif., Bristol, Tenn. and Pocono, Pa.) in that time.

His top-10 streak ended with a season worst 30th place at Kansas Speedway, however, he has rebounded solidly. Busch has four top-five finishes in the last five races in the No. 18 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota, including a fourth win at Pocono, Pa. and a runner-up at the Sonoma, Calif. road course two weeks ago.

Busch remains ranked second in the Monster Energy Series points standings – trailing leader Joey Logano by 18 points – despite a 22nd place finish at Chicago on Sunday. Looking to Daytona, he has run the most laps in the top 15 (63.8 percent) and made the most Quality Passes (4,093) since 2005. Only his JGR teammate Denny Hamlin has led more laps (437 vs. 420) in that time

He enters the Coke Zero Sugar 400 as one of the top ranked drivers in the event – his only win at the track coming in the summer of 2008. He has nine top-10 finishes – eight of them top-five finishes – in 28 starts at Daytona. He led 37 laps in this year’s Daytona 500 and finished runner-up to Hamlin.

Will Denny double up at Daytona?

Joe Gibbs Racing driver Denny Hamlin returns to Daytona International Speedway as the most recent race winner, having taken the season-opening Daytona 500 victory – his second in the Great American Race.

He has 10 top-10 finishes through the first 17 races in the No. 11 JGR Toyota Camry with wins at Daytona and Texas and average finish of 10.4 on the season. He’s led laps at the five previous races coming to Daytona, a place where he is tops in laps led (437) among the current drivers.

Hamlin has eight top-five and nine top-10 finishes in 27 Daytona starts – famously winning the exhibition Clash race in his very first Cup start at the track.

“We had a great race earlier this year in Daytona, but this weekend will be entirely different,’’ Hamlin said. “Just like all the other teams, we have learned a lot about ourselves in the weeks since the Daytona 500 and we will be fighting for a repeat win, but we are ready and preparing for the challenge that is coming our way.’’

Hendrick Resurgence

Alex Bowman’s maiden Monster Energy Series victory Sunday night in Chicago coupled with the good showings from his three Hendrick Motorsports teammates – Jimmie Johnson, William Byron and Chase Elliott – was certainly an encouraging sign for the championship organization as it heads into Daytona Beach.

The four drivers have combined for 12 top-five finishes and 25 top-10s. Elliott, the driver of the No. 9 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet leads the team with six top-five finishes. Elliott and the seven-time Cup champion Johnson each have seven top 10s while Bowman has tallied six. All by Bowman has won at least one pole position. Bowman (Chicago) and Elliott (Talladega, Ala.) have race wins.

Elliot’s victory at Talladega in May is encouraging for the team, as that marked the first time the series has used a tapered spacer in place of a restrictor plate at one of the two “big tracks.” This week will feature the same tapered spacer at Daytona.

Even though Elliott, Bowman and Byron have won pole positions at Daytona International Speedway, the famed high banks haven’t been the most productive of venues for the three youngest members of the Hendrick team. Bowman is the only member of that trio with a top-10 finish (10th place in this summer race last year) in 16 combined starts among them. The veteran champion Johnson, however, has three victories at Daytona – two Daytona 500 wins (2006 and 2013) and scored a Daytona victory sweep in 2013 while also claiming the 400-mile race win.

He’s crashed out in four of the last six Daytona races, but paced the team this February with a ninth-place finish in the Daytona 500.

By the numbers

Chicagoland Speedway continued an upward trend statistically for the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup season.

The average number of lead changes (18.94) is the most through a season’s opening 17 races since 2017 (19.65). The average number of leaders (9.29) per race is the most since 2014 (11.0) and Alex Bowman’s win at Chicago marked the 10th time in 17 races the Margin of Victory was less than 1-second.

Green flag passing is up this year – 602 green flag passes for the lead is the most since 2015 through the opening 17 races. Twelve of the 17 races have exceeded the five-year average, including all five races at 1.5-mile venues to date. Overall and specifically, this season’s green flag passes for the lead are up 30.9 percent from last year.

Nine drivers from five teams have won pole positions. Hendrick Motorsports has earned the most – William Byron (three), Chase Elliott (two) and Jimmie Johnson (one). And while Joe Gibbs Racing leads the season with the most race wins (10), it has yet to win a pole position.

JGR teammates Kyle Busch and Martin Truex Jr. have the most wins (four) on the year.

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

Seven drivers from the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series – JTG Daugherty Racing’s Ryan Preece, Stewart-Haas Racing’s Daniel Suarez, Hendrick Motorsports’ William Byron and Jimmie Johnson, Front Row Motorsports’ Michael McDowell, Team Penske’s Brad Keselowski and Leavine Family Racing’s Matt DiBenedetto will be participating in this week’s media rotations at Daytona International Speedway in advance of Saturday’s Monster Energy NASCAR Coke Zero Sugar 400 (7:30 p.m. ET on NBC, MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio).

Ryan Preece, 28, of Berlin, Conn., has turned in the best showings of his Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series rookie year at the superspeedways. He was eighth in the season-opening Daytona 500 and answered with a third place at Talladega Superspeedway. The driver of the No. 47 JTG Daugherty Racing Chevrolet is still looking to lead his first laps of the season and is coming off a 28th place finish at Chicago last weekend.

Daniel Suarez, 27, of Monterrey, Mexico, would love to turn around his superspeedway program and he’s in the midst of a high-achieving first season driving the No. 41 Stewart-Haas Racing Ford. He has six top-10 finishes in 2019 – half of his previous best entire season total (12 in 2017). His top-five efforts were at Texas and Michigan. He crashed out of the 2019 Daytona 500 and has failed to finish in four of the previous five Daytona races, but did have a good day at the series’ other superspeedway in Talladega, Ala., finishing 12th this spring.

William Byron, 21, of Charlotte, North Carolina, seems on an inevitable track to his first career Monster Energy NASCAR Cup victory. The former NASCAR Xfinity Series champion has been improving weekly in the Cup side – leading laps in the last seven consecutive races and in 11 of the 17 races to date on the season. He has three top-10 finishes in the last five races in the No. 24 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet and is coming off an eighth place run at Chicago on Sunday night. He won the Busch Pole position when the series last raced at Daytona for the season-opening Daytona 500 and led a season high 44 laps in that race. Unfortunately, he was collected in a crash only two laps before the scheduled checkered flag and finished 21st. And there is good precedent for him there. He won a 2017 Xfinity Series summer race at the big track.

Jimmie Johnson, 43, of El Cajon, Calif., is among the most successful racers at Daytona International Speedway.  The seven-time Cup champion has a pair of Daytona 500 victories (2006 and 2013) and swept the 2013 season races at the track, earning his only summer Daytona win that year. He won the pole position in his very first start at Daytona (2002). Johnson won this year’s Clash season-opening exhibition at the track and answered with a ninth place run in the Daytona 500. The driver of the No. 48 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet is coming off a season-best fourth place finish at Chicagoland Speedway last weekend and led 10 laps. He has three top-10 finishes in the last six races of the season and his top 10 at Chicago moved him from 17th to 14th in the points standings.

Michael McDowell, 34, of Phoenix, Arizona, is enthusiastic about the series return to Daytona International Speedway – site of his best 2019 season result, a fifth-place finish in the Daytona 500. The track has consistently provided highlight reel material for McDowell. He has six top-10 finishes including a career best fourth place in the 2017 summer race. Last year he led 20 laps in the Coke Zero Sugar 400 – the only time he’s led laps in his 16 starts at the track. The driver of the No. 34 Front Row Motorsports Ford finished 20th at Chicago on Sunday night – his fourth top-20 of the season. And his seventh-place start marked the best qualifying effort of 2019.

Brad Keselowski, 35, of Rochester Hills, Mich., continues his steady and consistent work toward a second championship and returns to Daytona International Speedway a former Coke Zero Sugar 400 winner. He won the summer race in 2016 leading a dominating 115 of the 161 laps in his No. 2 Penske Racing Ford. He’s had four DNFs in the five races since but did rally with a 12th-place finish in the Daytona 500 this February. The 2012 Monster Energy Series champion has turned in an impressive three-win season to date (Atlanta, Martinsville, Va. and Kansas) and his fifth-place finish at Chicago on Sunday was his seventh top-five of the season, ninth top-10. He’s led an impressive 775 laps on the year.

Matt DiBenedetto, 27, of Grass Valley, Calif., returns to Daytona International Speedway looking for redemption after an impressive effort at the big track in the Daytona 500 this February. He led a race best 49 laps, but while running at the front of the field was caught up in a crash with 10 laps to go in the scheduled distance and instead finished 28th.  He has two other top-10 runs at the superspeedway – including a career best seventh place in last year’s summer 400-miler. The driver of the No. 95 Leavine Family Racing Toyota recorded a career best fourth place finish at Sonoma, Calif. two weeks ago, has five top-20 finishes on the year and is ranked 25th in the Cup standings.

NASCAR Xfinity Series

Dominant ‘Big 3’ look to continue to hold down the competition

Stewart-Haas Racing’s rising star Cole Custer added another win to the stats column last weekend at Chicagoland Speedway, bringing the NASCAR Xfinity Series Big 3’s  – Custer, Tyler Reddick and Christopher Bell – combined win total to 11 of the first 15 races of the 2019 season, including the last nine consecutive events. Now the three Xfinity championship contenders head to the high banks of Daytona International Speedway for the Circle K Firecracker 250 presented by Coca-Cola on Friday night (7:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN, MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio) to keep the winning streak alive.

Cole Custer and Joe Gibbs Racing’s Christopher Bell are tied for the series most wins this season with four each, but Richard Childress Racing’s Tyler Reddick is right behind them with three victories this season.

Interestingly heading into this weekend, of the three drivers, Reddick is the only one to have won at Daytona before; when he captured the closest win in NASCAR national series history (margin of victory of 0.0004 sec.) over his then-teammate Elliott Sadler in last year’s season-opener. In total Reddick has made five series starts at Daytona, posting one pole, one win (2018), one top five and two top 10s. Bell has made three series starts at Daytona grabbing one top five and two top 10s; his best finish on the 2.5-mile track came in this event last season when he finished third.

Last weekend’s winner Custer, on the other hand, has struggled at Daytona in his career, making five series starts with an average finish of 22.4. He scored his career-best series finish at Daytona earlier this season (14th).

Michael Annett goes for the Xfinity Series’ Daytona single season sweep

The NASCAR Xfinity Series started competing at Daytona International Speedway twice a year in 2002, and since then the only driver who has been able to sweep both series races in a single season is Dale Earnhardt Jr. in 2003. What’s interesting is Earnhardt Jr. is the owner of JR Motorsport, the team Michael Annett races for as he’ll be looking to match his boss’s feat this weekend in the Circle K Firecracker 250 presented by Coca-Cola on Friday night at 7:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN, MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio.

Annett grabbed his first NASCAR Xfinity Series career win in the season-opener at Daytona back in February. Now the Iowa native returns to Daytona looking for the sweep. In total, Annett has made 15 series starts at the 2.5-mile speedway posting one win (2019), two top fives and three top 10s.

Annett should be confident this weekend at Daytona, JR Motorsports has won six of the last 11 Xfinity Series races at Daytona – Annett (Feb. 2019), Tyler Reddick (Feb. 2018), William Byron (July 2017), Chase Elliott (Feb. 2016), Kasey Kahne (July 2014) and Regan Smith (Feb. 2014).

New winner at Daytona could shake up Playoff picture

With the NASCAR Xfinity Series Playoff picture starting to take shape, getting in on points is going to take a lot of work for any of the drivers outside the top 12. RSS Racing’s Ryan Sieg is now 12th in the series driver standings with a 98-point cushion between himself and 13th place Gray Gaulding.  But a win this weekend in the unpredictable Circle K Firecracker 250 presented by Coca-Cola on Friday night (7:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN, MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio) would be the automatic bid to the postseason several drivers are in need of this late into the season.

First-Time Winners Date
Michael Annett 2/16/2019
Ryan Reed 2/21/2015
James Buescher 2/25/2012
Tony Stewart 2/19/2005
Chad Little 2/18/1995
Dale Earnhardt 2/13/1982

Daytona has been the location for six drivers to get their first NASCAR Xfinity Series career win; unfortunately, they were all in the February races. But that shouldn’t discourage this season’s winless drivers this weekend, because several of them posted their best finish of the season at Daytona earlier this year – Justin Allgaier (second), Brandon Jones (third), Ryan Sieg (fourth), Jeff Green (seventh), Joey Gase (16th).

The NASCAR Xfinity Series summer race was added to the schedule in 2002. Since then, 10 of the 17 July Daytona races were the first win of the season for the driver – July 2016 (Aric Almirola), July 2014 (Kasey Kahne), July 2013 (Matt Kenseth), July 2011 (Joey Logano), July 2010 (Dale Earnhardt Jr.), July 2009 (Clint Bowyer), July 2007 (Kyle Busch), July 2006 (Dale Earnhardt Jr.), July 2004 (Mike Wallace) and July 2002 (Joe Nemechek).

There are three former NASCAR Xfinity Series Daytona winners in the field this weekend – Michael Annett (2019), Tyler Reddick (2018) and Joe Nemechek (2002, 1998).

Superspeedway studs

Daytona International Speedway can chew up talent fairly quickly, which makes it that much more impressive to see those that have succeeded at managing the enormous challenges the 2.5-mile speedway demands.

Three former series winners are entered this weekend, Michael Annett (Feb. 2019), Tyler Reddick (Feb. 2018) and Joe Nemechek (July 2002, Feb. 1998). But there are a pair of drivers who haven’t won at Daytona, yet, who are worth noting.

JR Motorsport’s Justin Allgaier has made 17 series starts at Daytona, and in the process has put up the most top fives (four) and top 10s (eight) among all active series drivers at the track. Plus, he finished runner-up at Daytona earlier this season.

RSS Racing’s Ryan Sieg has also seen some success at Daytona International Speedway. He has the next highest top-five finishes among active drivers at Daytona posting three top fives in 11 starts; including a season-best fourth in the 2019 opener.

Close finishes are the norm at Daytona International Speedway

It’s no surprise that close racing and great action are the norm at Daytona International Speedway in the NASCAR Xfinity Series and this weekend should be more of the same. Looking at the Xfinity Series history books, six of the 12 closest margins of victory at Daytona were a result of the July races; including last season’s July race which finished with the series second closest margin of victory at Daytona when Kyle Larson beat Elliott Sadler to the line by 0.005 second.

NASCAR Xfinity Series Top 12 In Margins Of Victory at Daytona
Rank Margin of Victory Race Winners Date
1 0.0004 Tyler Reddick February 17, 2018
2 0.0050 Kyle Larson July 6, 2018
3 0.0070 Tony Stewart February 19, 2011
4 0.0130 Regan Smith February 22, 2014
5 0.0200 Kasey Kahne July 4, 2014
6 0.0400 Joey Logano July 1, 2011
7 0.0430 Chase Elliott February 20, 2016
8 0.0540 Kurt Busch July 6, 2012
9 0.0680 Tony Stewart February 14, 2009
10 0.0890 Ryan Reed February 21, 2015
11 0.0940 Dale Earnhardt Jr July 2, 2010
12 0.1030 Kyle Busch July 7, 2007

Xfinity Series welcomes the return of Hattori Racing Enterprises

Keep an eye out in the NASCAR Xfinity Series garage this weekend for Hattori Racing Enterprises and driver Austin Hill as they will be attempting to make their 2019 season debut at Daytona International Speedway.

Much like their NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series program, Hattori Racing Enterprises will have crew chief Scott Zipadelli calling the shots from the pit box in the Xfinity Series for the team’s No. 61 Toyota Supra.

Hattori Racing Enterprises returns to the series after a four-year hiatus. The organization owned by Shigeaki Hattori has made nine previous Xfinity Series starts (2014-2015) with four different drivers – Alex Bowman, Ross Chastain, Johnny Sauter and Ross Kenseth. Chastain, in 2014, brought the team its best finish of the nine starts with a 10th-place finish at Kentucky Speedway.

This weekend will also mark Austin Hill’s NASCAR Xfinity Series career debut. The full-time NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series driver burst onto the Gander Trucks championship scene this year after winning the season-opener at Daytona.

NASCAR Xfinity Series, Etc.

Kaulig Racing extends the stable – Increasing your numbers can only help with the chances of winning is the mantra Kaulig Racing is taking this weekend at Daytona International Speedway as the NASCAR Xfinity Series team will expand their stable to three cars this weekend. Kaulig Racing’s full-time driver Justin Haley will continue to pilot the team’s flagship No. 11 Chevrolet Camaro and joining him this weekend will be Ross Chastain driving the No. 16 Chevrolet and AJ Allmendinger in the No. 10 Chevrolet. Chastain has made three series starts for Kaulig Racing already this season, posting a 13th at Daytona, a 30th at Talladega and an eighth-place finish at Chicago last weekend. Allmendinger will be making his Xfinity Series season and track debut this weekend.

JRM taps Creed for Daytona – JR Motorsports will have NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series rising talent (and reigning ARCA Menards Series champion) Sheldon Creed in the No. 8 Chevrolet this weekend at Daytona. This will be Creed’s series track debut. The California native made his series debut in 2017 – he made two starts for JD Motorsports posting an average finish 36.0.

Joe Graf Jr. is back with RCR – ARCA Menards Series driver Joe Graf Jr. will be back in the Richard Childress Racing No. 21 Chevrolet this weekend at Daytona. Graf, who made his series debut at Iowa earlier this season, will be making his series track debut at Daytona. Graf does have one ARCA Menard Series start at Daytona where he finished 21st. Richard Childress Racing has the third-most wins by an organization in the Xfinity Series at Daytona with six victories.

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

Four drivers from the NASCAR Xfinity Series – JR Motorsport’s Michael Annett, Stewart-Haas Racing’s Cole Custer, Team Penske’s Austin Cindric and Kaulig Racing’s AJ Allmendinger – will be participating in this week’s media rotations at Daytona International Speedway leading into the Circle K Firecracker 250 presented by Coca-Cola on Friday night at 7:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN, MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio.

Michael Annett (No. 1 JR Motorsports Chevrolet Camaro)

Birthdate: June 23, 1986

Driver’s Age: 32

Hometown: Des Moines, Iowa

Hobbies: Cycling, working out, boating

Team: JR Motorsports

Crew Chief: Travis Mack

Xfinity Career Highlights:

  • Won first career NASCAR Xfinity Series race in the 2019 season-opener at Daytona International Speedway, qualifying him for the Playoffs.
  • In 2017, he made the NASCAR Xfinity Series Playoffs and finished the season ninth in the championship standings.
  • In 2012, finished a career-best fifth in the series championship driver standings.

2019 Season Highlights:

  • Currently ninth in the NASCAR Xfinity Series points standings, 215 points behind series standings leader Tyler Reddick and 11 points back from eighth place John Hunter Nemechek.
  • Posted first career NASCAR Xfinity Series win in the 2019 season-opener at Daytona International Speedway, qualifying him for the Playoffs for first time since 2017.
  • In 15 starts this season, he has posted one pole, one win, four top fives, 11 top 10s and an average finish of 9.1.

Daytona International Speedway Performance:

  • Has made 15 series starts at Daytona posting one win (2019), two top fives and three top 10s.
  • Average start, 14.6 and his average finish, 20.4.

Cole Custer (No. 00 Stewart-Haas Racing Ford Mustang)

Birthdate: January 23, 1998

Driver’s Age: 21

Hometown: Ladera Ranch, California

Hobbies: Watching sports

Team: Stewart-Haas Racing

Crew Chief: Mike Shiplett

Xfinity Career Highlights:

  • In 2018, he made the Playoff’s Championship 4; ultimately finishing runner-up in the final driver standings while his No. 00 Ford won the owner’s title for Stewart-Haas Racing.
  • Made the Playoffs and finished fifth in the NASCAR Xfinity Series championship standings in his rookie year (2017).
  • Has six career NASCAR Xfinity Series wins (Homestead-Miami, Texas, Auto Club Speedway, Richmond, Pocono and Chicago); including last season’s Playoff race at Texas Motor Speedway to win his way into the Championship 4 finale.

2019 Season Highlights:

  • Currently second in the NASCAR Xfinity driver points standings, 71 points back from the series standings leader Tyler Reddick and 23 points ahead of third place Christopher Bell.
  • In 15 starts this season he has posted four poles (Bristol, Dover, Pocono and Iowa), four wins (California, Richmond, Pocono and Chicago), nine top fives, 10 top 10s and an average finish of 9.6.

Daytona International Speedway Performance:

  • Has made five series starts at Daytona posting a best finish of 14th (twice: Feb. 2019 and Feb. 2018)
  • Has an average start of 18.8 and an average finish of 22.4.

Austin Cindric (No. 22 Team Penske Ford Mustang)

Birthdate: September 2, 1998

Driver’s Age: 23

Hometown: Mooresville, North Carolina

Hobbies: Mountain biking, water sports, listening to music

Team: Team Penske

Crew Chief: Brian Wilson

Xfinity Career Highlights:

  • Ran a full Xfinity season in 2018, splitting time with Roush Fenway Racing and Team Penske, making the Playoffs and ultimately finishing eighth in championship standings.
  • In 2017, he made his NASCAR Xfinity Series debut at Road America driving for Team Penske; he started on the pole but finished 16th.

2019 Season Highlights:

  • Currently fourth in the NASCAR Xfinity driver points standings, 129 points back from the series standings lead – the highest ranked driver without a win this season.
  • In 15 starts this season he has posted five top fives, 12 top 10s and an average finish of 8.0.

Daytona International Speedway Performance:

  • Cindric made three series starts at Daytona posting one top five – a fifth-place finish earlier this season.
  • Average start, 15.3 and his average finish, 26.0.

AJ Allmendinger (No. 10 Kaulig Racing Chevrolet Camaro)

Birthdate: December 16, 1981

Driver’s Age: 38

Hometown: San Jose, California

Hobbies: Golfing, karting

Team: Kaulig Racing

Crew Chief: Chad Kendrick

Xfinity Career Highlights:

  • Competed part-time in the NASCAR Xfinity Series from 2007 – 2018, making 11 starts and posting two wins (2013: Road America and Mid-Ohio), three top fives and a pole.
  • Made NASCAR Xfinity Series career debut in 2007 at Auto Club Speedway driving for car owner Chip Ganassi; he started 18th and finished 36th due to an incident.

2019 Season Highlights:

  • Will be making series season debut this weekend at Daytona.

Daytona International Speedway Performance:

  • Will be making his series track debut as well at Daytona this weekend.

NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series

Brett Moffitt continues his campaign to repeat as champ

Last weekend’s win at Chicagoland Speedway was Brett Moffitt’s second on the year but was the only one in which he was the first truck to cross the finish line.

Two weeks prior, at Iowa Speedway, Moffitt crossed the line second, but a post-race inspection failure disqualified Ross Chastain, elevating Moffitt to the top spot.

At the 1.5-mile track just outside of Chicago, Moffitt got to drive his truck into Victory Lane, with all of the traditional pomp and circumstance that accompanies after beating Brandon Jones to the line by nearly four seconds.

After 12 races into the 23-race season, Moffitt has seven top-five and eight top-10 finishes – on track to meet or beat his totals from his NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series championship run in 2018 (13 top fives, 13 top 10s). He’s slightly off pace in wins (two thus far in 2019, six total in 2018), as he had three wins through 11 races last year (Atlanta, Iowa, Chicagoland).

After the Gander Trucks takes this weekend off, they will return to another 1.5-mile track at Kentucky Speedway for the Buckle Up In Your Truck 225 (Thursday, July 11 at 7:30 p.m. ET on FS1, MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio).

Kentucky is the only non-superspeedway track at which Moffitt does not have a top 10, so he’ll be looking to change that history next weekend. (He has three starts apiece as Daytona and Talladega without a top 10.) Overall, four of his nine wins have come at circuits that match Kentucky in length, and he’s also tallied nine top-five and 11 top-10 finishes at 1.5-milers.

The Watermelon Man is making it happen

Following a seventh-place finish at Chicagoland Speedway last weekend, Ross Chastain has closed the gap to the top 20 in the points standings to 10 points.

Heading into the race last Friday, Chastain sat 38 points outside the top 20 – which is the mark he must meet in the standings in order to lock into the Playoffs after his postseason-qualifying win at Gateway two weeks ago.

Chastain has only finished outside the top 10 once this season, following his disqualification at Iowa Speedway. In the seven races this season at 1.5-mile tracks, like the upcoming Kentucky Speedway on July 11, Chastain has posted an average finish of 7.3. And that is highlighted by a win at Kansas Speedway in May – which goes in the record books, but doesn’t count towards the Playoffs because it happened before he declared for Gander Trucks points.

In the four races in which Chastain has collected Gander Trucks points in the standings, he has averaged 30 points per race with a high of 45 in his win at Gateway and a low of five points following the Iowa race.

And with four races remaining in the regular season, Chastain’s chances of jumping into the top 20 looks pretty good.

Kyle Busch Motorsports continues to develop talent

So far in 2019, Kyle Busch Motorsports has rotated seven different drivers behind the wheel of their No. 51 and No. 46 NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series entries.

One of those drivers is team owner Kyle Busch, who won all five of the races he ran. Another is 49-year-old 2000 Gander Trucks champion Greg Biffle, who ended a two-and-a-half year hiatus from the sport with his start, and win, at Texas in June.

But the other five drivers who have jumped into those two KBM trucks have an average age just shy of 19-years old…and have posted an average finish of 10.6 in their 11 combined starts.

Christian Eckes (18-years old), Riley Herbst (20), Brandon Jones (22), Raphael Lessard (17) and Chandler Smith (17) have also put together three top-five and five top-10 finishes between them – as well as a pole to start the season in Daytona by Eckes.

(Of note, Lessard also ran a race for DGR-Crosley at Iowa, finishing ninth.)

The quintet has a best finish of second by Jones this past weekend at Chicagoland. The worst effort by the squad was a 22nd-place effort at Daytona by pole-sitter Eckes, who was caught up in a crash near the mid-point of the race.

With the exception of that race, none of these five drivers has a finish worse than 15th in a KBM truck this season.

And we can’t forget the pair of full-time drivers in KBM equipment – Harrison Burton in the No. 4 Toyota is 18-years old while Todd Gilliland in the No. 4 truck is 19-years old. Burton has five top-five finishes while Gilliland has two this year. Both have tallied seven top 10s.

Crew Chief Spotlight: Jerry Baxter

In 2018, Brett Moffitt raced to the NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series championship with Hattori Racing Enterprises and Scott Zipadelli atop the pit box. And when he switched over to GMS Racing for the 2019 season, he didn’t miss a beat – in large part due to the veteran presence of Jerry Baxter atop his pit box at his new team.

Since 2012, Baxter has coached his Gander Trucks drivers to 13 wins and has worked with some of the sports rising stars.

Baxter started his full-time Gander Trucks crew chiefing years with Eddie Sharp Racing in 2012, guiding Cale Gale to a win in the season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

He then paired together with Bubba Wallace for the 2013 and 2014 seasons at Kyle Busch Motorsports and the duo compiled five wins total – including four in their second season together. Baxter stayed at KBM through the 2016 season and was Christopher Bell’s crew chief for his rookie campaign in 2016.

Baxter then moved on to GMS Racing, and started off strong with the team – capturing the pole and the race win at the season opener in Daytona with Kaz Grala. After working with a trip of different drivers last season (Cody Coughlin, Tyler Dippel and Timothy Peters – getting a win at Talladega with Peters), he was paired up full-time with Moffitt to start the 2019 campaign.

Overall in the Gander Trucks, Baxter has 174 races atop the pit box with 13 wins, 52 top fives and 94 top 10s.

At the next track, Kentucky Speedway, Baxter has three top fives – one each with Wallace, Daniel Suarez and Bell…all at KBM.