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NASCAR National Series News & Notes – New Hampshire Motor Speedway

Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series
Next Race: Foxwoods Resort Casino 301
The Place: New Hampshire Motor Speedway
The Date: Sunday, July 21
The Time: 3 p.m. ET
TV: NBCSN, 2:30 p.m. ET
Radio: PRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio
Distance: 318.46 miles (301 laps); Stage 1 (Ends on Lap 75), Stage 2 (Ends on Lap 150), Final Stage (Ends on Lap 301)
2018 Race Winner: Kevin Harvick

NASCAR Xfinity Series
Next Race: ROXOR 200
The Place: New Hampshire Motor Speedway
The Date: Saturday, July 20
The Time: 4 p.m. ET
TV: NBCSN, 3:30 p.m. ET
Radio: PRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio
Distance: 211.6 miles (200 Laps); Stage 1 (Ends on Lap 45), Stage 2 (Ends on Lap 90), Final Stage (Ends on Lap 200)
2018 Race Winner: Christopher Bell

NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series
Next Race: Gander RV 150
The Place: Pocono Raceway
The Date: Saturday, July 27
The Time: 1 p.m. ET
TV: FOX, 12:30 p.m. ET
Radio: MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio
Distance: 150 miles (60 Laps); Stage 1 (Ends on Lap 15), Stage 2 (Ends on Lap 30), Final Stage (Ends on Lap 60)
2018 Race Winner: Kyle Busch

Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series

Harvick looking to crack into win column by defending lobster

Kevin Harvick arrives at New Hampshire Motor Speedway for Sunday’s Foxwoods Resort Casino 301 (3 p.m. ET on NBCSN, PRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio) certainly feeling optimistic about his chances of – at last – scoring that first victory of 2019.

An eight-race winner in 2018 and sure-bet championship challenger this season, Harvick has done everything but celebrate in Victory Lane. And New Hampshire’s version – giant lobster and all – is one he is familiar with. A three-time winner himself – including two of the last four races – his crew chief Rodney Childers scored his first victory as crew chief at the Loudon mile, as well (2013 with driver Brian Vickers).

His 11 top-five finishes at New Hampshire ties him with Kurt Busch for most among active drivers. He has 19 top 10s in 35 starts – tying him with Ryan Newman for second-most in Sunday’s field. (Jimmie Johnson leads with 22 top 10s.) Harvick’s finished in the top-five in four of the last five races.

Rekindling that success this week would be well-timed for Harvick’s upcoming Playoff launch. He’s ranked third in the points standings – the only driver ranked among the top nine without a race victory this season. That he’s retained that mark in the standings without the benefit of a win only shows how strong his No. 4 Stewart-Haas Racing Ford team has been.

Last year’s dramatic victory over Kyle Busch was Harvick’s then-series-best sixth of the year. He would win two more races and finish third in the championship. Only twice before has Harvick gone this long into an eventual winning season without a victory. In 2003, his only win came at Indianapolis in August. And in 2012, when his only win came in November at Phoenix.

Over the course of his 19-year Cup career, Harvick has had only three winless seasons – 2004, 2008 and 2009. In each of those years, however, he still won a race in one of NASCAR’s other two top series – Xfinity or Gander Outdoors Truck Series.

A First For Truex

Martin Truex Jr. has four victories this year – his first season driving the No. 19 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota – and shows up at New Hampshire Motor Speedway this week likely wondering what it’s going to take to score his first win at the track.

He’s led at least 100 laps in four of the last five races on the Loudon one-miler. Of his 744 career laps led at the facility, he’s led 596 laps in that five-race span. He finished top-10 in five of the last six races and has 11 top-10 showings in 25 total starts. Yet third place (in 2007 and 2017) marks his highest finish.

However, the 2017 Monster Energy Series champ’s 11.0 average starting position and 12.6 average finishing position at New Hampshire are tops among tracks where he has yet to win a Cup race.

The Loudon mile has actually been a very positive part of Truex’s personal racing history. He earned his first ever NASCAR K&N Pro Series East win there from the pole position in 2000 – leading all 101 laps of the race – and won again from pole in 2003. He answered with a victory in the 2005 NASCAR Xfinity Series race.

And there’s plenty of reason to believe this may be the year Truex earns a Cup trophy. He has certainly delivered on great expectations in 2019. After winning his first race this year – at Richmond in mid-April – Truex was winning about every other week. It’s been nearly a month, however, since his last visit to Victory Lane – at Sonoma, Calif. He finished ninth at Chicagoland, 22nd at Daytona, and 19th at Kentucky last weekend.

“New Hampshire has been one of our better tracks the past few years,’’ Truex said. “It’s kind of like Richmond in that we have run up front and led a lot of laps, just haven’t closed the deal to get to victory lane. Obviously we were able to finally win at Richmond this year, so hopefully we can do the same this week.’’

Kyle Busch in championship form

Kyle Busch came a literal split-second away from earning a season-best fifth win last weekend at Kentucky Speedway, instead finishing runner-up to his older brother Kurt in one of the most exciting final-lap duels of the 2019 season.

He shows up at this week’s New Hampshire venue only 11 points behind Monster Energy NASCAR Cup points leader Joey Logano and full of hard-earned confidence on the traditionally tough Loudon mile.

Busch’s three wins (2006, 2015, 2017) here ties him with five other drivers for most victories among the current field. He is one of only five drivers to win at New Hampshire from the pole (2017). (It’s been done six times, as Newman accomplished the feat twice – 2002, 2011.)

In addition to his impressive Victory Lane total, Busch has four runner-up finishes including three-straight from 2013-14. And the driver of the No. 18 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota was runner-up to Kevin Harvick in this race last year. His 11 top-five finishes ties him with Harvick for most among the field and his 15 top-10 finishes trails only Jimmie Johnson (22), Harvick (19) and Ryan Newman (19). Busch, however, has only 27 career starts compared to 33 for Harvick and Johnson, and 35 for Newman. And Busch’s 1,010 laps led is most in the field.

The 2015 Monster Energy Series champ is the only driver on the grid with New Hampshire victories in all three of NASCAR’s premier series. In addition to his three Cup wins, he has a historic six in the NASCAR Xfinity Series and three in the NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series. He won both the Xfinity and truck races for three consecutive seasons (2009-11).

“Loudon is a Martinsville-like short track,’’ Busch said. “It’s a little more spread out, but there’s some rooting and gouging going on because it’s a one-lane track and everybody fights for that particular groove.

Trio to watch this weekend

Three of the historically best drivers at this weekend’s New Hampshire venue arrive in New England equally, if diversely, motivated to visit Victory Lane.

Veteran Denny Hamlin boasts the best average finish (10.2) and top driver rating (102.7) and his statistical work at the Loudon mile is impressive on any count. The driver of the No. 11 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota has three wins, nine top-fives and 14 top-10s in 25 starts and is ranked top-five in all past performance statistical categories. This year’s Daytona 500 winner has two victories on the season, but not since Texas in April. He has wins at New Hampshire in 2007, 2012 and 2017. He’s currently ranked sixth in the championship and coming off a fifth-place finish at Kentucky on Saturday.

A seven-time Monster Energy Series champion and three-time New Hampshire winner, Jimmie Johnson hasn’t visited Victory Lane since Dover, Del. in 2017. He has finished in the top 10 in four of the last six visits to Loudon and won the pole position for the 2016 summer race. He finished 10th here last year and with only seven races remaining to set the 16-driver Playoff field, Johnson is ranked 15th in the points, needing a good boost to keep his title hopes viable. He’s coming off a tough-to-swallow 30th-place finish at Kentucky last week after back-to-back top-five showings prior to that.

Kyle Larson, the popular driver of the Chip Ganassi Racing No. 42 Chevrolet, boasts the third-best average finish (10.7) at New Hampshire. He has four top-five and five top-10 finishes in nine starts at the oval. Among those results are three runner-up finishes – including both 2017 races.  He was 12th last year and is highly motivated to hoist a trophy this weekend – his first of the year – after watching his Ganassi teammate Kurt Busch win at Kentucky last Saturday.

Kurt Busch brings the No. 1 back to Victory Lane

Prior to this past Saturday night in Kentucky, the last time the No. 1 car visited a Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Victory Lane was October 10, 2013 when Jamie McMurray piloted it to the win at Talladega Superspeedway.

Fast forward though 202 winless races (184 with McMurray, 18 with Kurt Busch) and the Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet was covered in confetti once again.

The win came in Busch’s 19th race with his new team and was also the first victory for crew chief Matt McCall after 163 races atop a pit box (144 with McMurray from 2015-2018, one with Jeff Burton in 2013 and the 18 with Busch earlier this season).

Over 20 seasons, Busch has tallied 31 Monster Energy Series wins through 667 starts.

To break it down –  he has visited Victory Lane in three different makes (Ford, Dodge and Chevrolet), for four different teams (Roush Fenway Racing, Team Penske, Stewart-Haas Racing and Chip Ganassi Racing), in five different car numbers (Nos. 97, 2, 22, 41, 1), and with nine different crew chiefs (Jimmy Fennig – 14 wins, Pat Tryson – 5, Steve Addington – 4, Tony Gibson – 3, Billy Scott – 1, Daniel Knost – 1, John Klausmeier – 1, Roy McCauley – 1, Matt McCall – 1).

To compare to a few of his contemporaries, here are the same stats for a few active drivers who are closest to Busch in win total or starts:

Brad Keselowski: 30 wins in 360 starts over 12 seasons with three makes (Chevrolet, Dodge, Ford) for two teams (Phoenix Racing, Team Penske), in two car numbers (No. 09, 2), and with two different crew chiefs (Paul Wolfe – 29 wins, Marc Reno – 1)

Denny Hamlin: 33 wins in 489 starts over 15 seasons with two makes (Chevrolet, Toyota), for one team (Joe Gibbs Racing), in one car number (No. 11), and with five different crew chiefs (Mike Ford – 17 wins, Darian Grubb – 7, Mike Wheeler – 5, Dave Rogers – 2, Chris Gabehart – 2)

Kevin Harvick: 45 wins in 665 starts over 19 seasons with two makes (Chevrolet, Ford), for two teams (Richard Childress Racing, Stewart-Haas Racing), in two car numbers (No. 29, 4), and with four different crew chiefs (Rodney Childers – 22 wins, Gil Martin – 13, Todd Berrier – 8, Kevin Hamlin – 2)

Kyle Busch: 55 wins in 517 starts over 17 seasons with two makes (Chevrolet, Toyota), for two teams (Hendrick Motorsports, Joe Gibbs Racing), in two car numbers (No. 5, 18), and with four different crew chiefs (Adam Stevens – 26, Dave Rogers – 13, Steve Addington – 12, Alan Gustafson – 4)

New Man Newman

Roush-Fenway Racing driver Ryan Newman sits only a mere two points out of being championship eligible for the first time since 2017. And he has opportunity to improve his chances at one of his historically best tracks – New Hampshire Motor Speedway.

His three wins ties him for most among active drivers (also Jimmie Johnson, Kevin Harvick, Kyle Busch, Kurt Busch and Denny Hamlin). His seven Busch Pole positions are most in series history at the track. Twice he won a race from the pole (2002 and 2011) – the only driver ever to do so multiple times.

Newman has seven top-fives and his 19 top-10 finishes in 33 starts is second-best in the field – tying him with Kevin Harvick and trailing only Jimmie Johnson’s 22 top 10s. Only fellow three-time New Hampshire champion Kyle Busch (1,010 laps) and New Jersey native Martin Truex Jr. (744 laps) have led more laps than Newman (722) among active drivers.

He comes to Loudon only two points behind Erik Jones, who holds the 16th and final Playoff qualifying position with seven races remaining in the regular season.

Newman’s best championship showing came in 2014 when he was runner-up to Harvick.

“We want to be in the Playoffs and have a shot at the championship,’’ Newman said last week at Kentucky. “There are two ways of doing that. We want to lock ourselves in with a win, but we haven’t had the performance this year to be in the top-five consistently in order to do that.

“I feel like we have made progress and I look forward to getting back to these race tracks a second time and show the experience we have gained as a rookie team. It has been a new experience and we have hopefully shown some progress when we get to these places. The goal is always to win, but if you can’t win or don’t think you can win, you hopefully get yourself pointed in and show enough progression to win in the Playoffs and keep moving up.’’

By the numbers

Nine different drivers representing five organizations have hoisted trophies in 2019. Joe Gibbs Racing still boasts the most wins (10) thanks to the efforts of Kyle Busch (four), Martin Truex Jr. (four) and Denny Hamlin (two).

Ten different drivers have won Busch Pole Awards. Hendrick Motorsports tops the series in this category with William Byron (three), Chase Elliott (two) and Jimmie Johnson (one), giving the team six poles.

Statistically, this season has proven to be one of the most competitive in recent years. Through the season’s opening 19 races, there have been an average of 19.0 lead changes a race – the most since 2014 (24.1) during that same time frame. The number of leaders per race (9.58) is also at the highest mark since 2014 (11.05).

Overall, green flag passes for the lead are up 46.6 percent compared to last year. There were 33 lead changes at Kentucky – easily eclipsing the previous best mark of the last five years – 22 lead changes in 2015.

The average Margin of Victory this season is 1.372-seconds and in 11 of the 19 races, the MOV has been less than one second, including Kurt Busch’s overtime win at Kentucky (.076-second) on Saturday night.

A look at what’s coming up

Seven unique venues make up the final races of the regular season – providing opportunities for a wide variety of drivers to win their way into the Playoffs. Below is a look at the seven remaining tracks in the regular season:

New Hampshire Motor Speedway – Measuring at slightly longer than a mile, New Hampshire is a shorter, flat track with variable banking at two and seven degrees in the corners and one degree on the straights. Former Loudon winners who have yet to visit Victory Lane this season are aplenty and have combined for 11 wins there – Jimmie Johnson (three wins), Kevin Harvick (three), Ryan Newman (three) and Clint Bowyer (two).

Pocono Raceway – The 2.5-mile “Tricky Triangle” has three unique turns (Turn 1 – 14 degrees of banking, Turn 2 – eight degrees, Turn 3 – six degrees) and long straights (frontstretch – 3,740 feet, backstretch – 3,055 feet, shortstretch – 1,780 feet). Last week, Pocono announced that they would add the PJ1 traction compound in all three of its turns, helping add another lane option for passing opportunities. Jimmie Johnson (three wins), Ryan Newman (one), Chris Buescher (one) and Ryan Blaney (one) have all won at Pocono but not, yet, anywhere this year.

Watkins Glen International – The Finger Lakes Region of upstate New York hosts this historic 2.45-mile, seven-turn road course. Of note – all of the active previous winners at The Glen have found Victory Lane in 2019 except for Kevin Harvick (2006 winner).

Michigan International Speedway – The Irish Hills provide the backdrop for this spacious, smooth and speedy two-miler that features 18 degrees of banking in the corners. Kyle Larson’s three wins each at Michigan is the most among active winners who haven’t won in 2019. Kevin Harvick and Ryan Newman have a pair of wins each there, while Jimmie Johnson and Clint Bowyer have one apiece.

Bristol Motor Speedway – Thunder Valley sets the scene for the half-mile, high-banked short track featuring variable banking (from 24 to 28 degrees) in the turns. Kevin Harvick, with two previous wins at the track, is the only other active former winner who has yet to be victorious in 2019.

Darlington Raceway – “The Track Too Tough To Tame” is an egg-shaped 1.366-mile track with 25 degrees of banking in Turns 1 and 2, and 23 degrees of banking in 3 and 4. Jimmie Johnson’s three wins top the list of drivers who have bested the challenge of the unique configuration. Kevin Harvick (one win) is the only other active former winner at Darlington who has not won this season.

Indianapolis Motor Speedway – While Pocono is a triangle that modeled Turn 2 after Indianapolis, the “Brickyard” is basically a 2.5-mile flat rectangle, featuring short straights between the turns, which are all banked at nine degrees. Jimmie Johnson’s four wins at the famed track are most among active drivers and are second-most all-time (to Jeff Gordon’s five). Joining him on the list of active Brickyard winners who are searching for their first win this season are Kevin Harvick, Paul Menard and Ryan Newman (one win each).

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

Six drivers from the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series – Hendrick Motorsports’ Chase Elliott, Chip Ganassi Racing’s Kyle Larson, Roush-Fenway Racing’s Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Team Penske’s Ryan Blaney, JTG Daugherty Racing’s Ryan Preece and Richard Childress Racing’s Austin Dillon will be participating in this week’s media rotations at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in advance of Sunday’s Monster Energy NASCAR Foxwoods Resort Casino 301 (3 p.m. ET on NBCSN, PRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio).

Chase Elliott, 23, of Dawsonville, Ga., has already secured his position in the 2019 series Playoffs with a win at Talladega (Ala.) Superspeedway in April. He arrives in Loudon, N.H. after a 15th place showing in Kentucky. His last top-10 finish was six races ago – a fourth place at Pocono, Pa. He’s suffered two of his three DNFs on the season in the last four races – an engine problem on the Sonoma, Calif. road course (37th) and a crash at Daytona (35th) two weeks ago. He’s ranked eighth in the points and has already led 409 laps through the opening 19 races – putting him on pace to eclipse his previous season best effort of 560 laps led in 2017. Elliott’s fifth-place finish last year at New Hampshire is his best career showing there and only top 10. He led 23 of his 24 career laps led at the track last summer.

Kyle Larson, 26, of Elk Grove, Calif., earned his third top five of the season – a fourth place run – at Kentucky on Saturday night. The Chip Ganassi Racing driver has seven top 10s and is ranked 13th in the Cup points standings. He’s still looking for his first victory of the season and has three top 10s in the last four races, including a season best runner-up finish at Chicago three races ago. New Hampshire Motor Speedway has always been a strong venue for the Californian. He has four top-five and five top-10 finishes in nine starts. He’s finished runner-up three times (2014 – second race, 2017 both races). Larson was 12th in last year’s race.

Ricky Stenhouse Jr., 31, of Olive Branch, Miss., put together a 12th-place finish at Kentucky on Saturday, his second such finish in the past three races (also Chicagoland), his best showings since a fifth place – his only top-five – at Charlotte in May. He’s ranked 19th in the points standings – 46 points out of the Playoff-eligible 16th place position – entering Sunday’s race at New Hampshire. He led the first laps of his career at the Loudon mile last year, but finished 30th. The Roush Fenway Racing driver has five top-20 showings in the last seven New Hampshire races.

Ryan Blaney, 25, of High Point, N.C., is having a stellar season in the No. 12 Team Penske Ford, but is still looking for that first victory of 2019. He has five top-five and seven top-10 finishes, including a best of third place twice – at Phoenix and Sonoma, Calif. He’s finished top-10 in three of the last five races and is ranked 11th in the points standings. Blaney is coming off his best career showing at New Hampshire – a seventh place run last year. His only top 10s in six starts at the track have come in the last two races (also ninth in 2018).

Ryan Preece, 28, of Berlin, Conn., considers this week’s New Hampshire stop a “home race.” He’s logged plenty of miles at the venue, working his way up the stock car ranks with a runner-up finish in the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour and in the NASCAR Xfinity Series at the Loudon track – both in 2017. He has one Cup start there – a 32nd-place finish in an abbreviated schedule in the No. 98 Chevrolet last year. The JTG Daugherty driver is looking for his first top-20 since a career-best third place showing at Talladega, Ala. in late April. He was 21st at Kentucky Speedway last week. He is currently second to Daniel Hemric in the Sunoco Rookie of the Year contest and ranked 26th in the points.

Austin Dillon, 29, of Lewisville, N.C., must be encouraged because he’s leading laps of late – including a season-best 46 laps at Daytona two weeks ago. And he has won three Busch Pole positions (California, Talladega, Ala. and Chicago). The frustration for the 2018 Daytona 500 winner is in the finish. Despite his laps led at Daytona, for example, he finished 33rd after being involved in a late-race accident. The driver of the No. 3 Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet was 35th at Kentucky Speedway last week and is ranked 22nd in the points heading to New Hampshire, where he has one top-10 finish (eighth in 2015). Last year he finished 21st.

NASCAR Xfinity Series

New Hampshire is Joe Gibbs Racing country

The fact is no other organization has dominated New Hampshire Motor Speedway in both the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series and the NASCAR Xfinity Series like Joe Gibbs Racing has. Rolling into this weekend at the famed 1.058-mile track, the JGR camp leads both series in wins; combining for 19 total victories (11 in Monster Energy Series and 8 in Xfinity).

Last season, Christopher Bell brought Joe Gibbs Racing their fourth consecutive and eighth total NASCAR Xfinity Series victory at New Hampshire – Tony Stewart (2008), Kyle Busch (2009, 2010, 2011, 2016, 2017), Denny Hamlin (2015) and Christopher Bell (2018).

Bell will be leading the JGR brigade this weekend too, as the 24-year-old will be joined by teammates Brandon Jones and Harrison Burton in the ROXOR 200 on Saturday, July 20, at 4 p.m. ET on NBCSN, PRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio. Bell made his series track debut last season at New Hampshire, starting second and winning the event. Bell’s teammate, Jones, has made three starts at New Hampshire, posting a best finish of sixth last season.

Back in the No. 18 Toyota for the third time this season, Harrison Burton will be making his series track debut at New Hampshire this Saturday. Though it will be his first start at the track, he will have some extra special experience in his corner, Burton’s father is former Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series driver Jeff Burton…who just so happens to lead the Monster Energy Series in wins at the track with four victories.

Stewart-Haas Racing’s Cole Custer leads the Big 3 to New Hampshire

It’s officially a breakout season for Stewart-Haas Racing’s Cole Custer, who just grabbed his fifth NASCAR Xfinity Series victory of the season last weekend at Kentucky Speedway. Now the California native turns his attention to New Hampshire Motor Speedway as he leads the Xfinity Series’ Big 3 into this weekend’s ROXOR 200 on Saturday, July 20 at 4 p.m. ET on NBCSN, PRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio.

With nine races to go in the regular season, Custer is third in the NASCAR Xfinity Series driver standings with four poles (series-most), five wins (series-most), six stage wins, 10 top fives, 11 top 10s and has collected 31 Playoff points (series-most).

But Custer is not the only one, Joe Gibbs Racing’s Christopher Bell and Richard Childress Racing’s Tyler Reddick have also been outstanding this season. Bell is second in the series driver standings having posted three poles, four wins, 10 stage wins (series-most), 10 top fives, 11 top 10s and has accumulated 30 Playoff points. And not to be outdone is the series standings leader, Tyler Reddick, who has put up three poles, three wins, three stage wins, 12 top fives (series-most), 14 top 10s (series-most) and has gathered 18 Playoff points.

Expect the momentum to continue for the Big 3 in New Hampshire. Custer has made two series start at the New England short track posting an average finish of 9.0. Both Bell and Reddick made their series track debuts last season at New Hampshire with very different outcomes. Bell started second and won, while Reddick started ninth and finished 25th two laps down after a pit road penalty earlier in the race.

Also of note – Custer got his first career NASCAR national series win at New Hampshire when he won in the NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series in 2014 at just 16-years old.

Regular Season Wrap: Nine to go at nine completely different tracks

The diversity of the next nine tracks on the schedule to round out the regular season is astounding and the ability of the NASCAR Xfinity Series competitors to navigate these different facilities at such a high level is quite impressive.

New Hampshire Motor Speedway – is the next track on the Xfinity Series schedule and this weekend’s facility is a 1.058-mile short track with variable banking from 2-7 degrees in the turns located in Loudon, New Hampshire. This weekend’s race will be the ROXOR 200 on Saturday, July 20 at 4 p.m. ET on NBCSN, PRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio. The event is scheduled for 200 laps (211.6 miles) with the first stage ending on Lap 45, the second stage on Lap 90. New Hampshire has hosted 32 NASCAR Xfinity Series races producing 18 different pole winners and 26 different race winners. Joe Gibbs Racing’s Christopher Bell is the defending winner of last season’s Xfinity Series race at New Hampshire.

Iowa Speedway – follows New Hampshire on the Xfinity Series schedule and it will be the second time this season the series has competed on the 0.875-mile track with progressive banking from 12-14 degrees in the turns located in Newton, Iowa. This time around it will be the  U.S. Cellular 250 on Saturday, July 27 at 5 p.m. ET on NBCSN, MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio. The event is scheduled for 250 laps (218.75 miles) with the first stage ending on Lap 60 and the second stage ending on Lap 120. Iowa Speedway has hosted 19 NASCAR Xfinity Series race producing 12 different pole winners and 13 different race winners. Joe Gibbs Racing’s Christopher Bell has won the last two consecutive events at Iowa (July 2018 and June 2019).

Watkins Glen International – marks the first of four road courses the NASCAR Xfinity Series will compete on this season. Watkins Glen is a 2.45-mile multi-elevational course with seven turns located in Watkins Glen, New York. This year’s Zippo 200 at Glen is scheduled for Saturday, August 3 at 3 p.m. ET on NBC, MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio. This season’s event is scheduled for 82 laps (200.9 miles) with the first stage ending on Lap 20 and the second stage ending on Lap 40. Watkins Glen has hosted 25 NASCAR Xfinity Series races producing 15 different pole winners and 14 different race winners. Team Penske’s Joey Logano won last season’s Xfinity Series race at Watkins Glen International.

Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course – follows The Glen as the second of four road courses on the schedule this season. Though labeled as multi-elevational road courses that’s where the similarities of Mid-Ohio and The Glen end. Mid-Ohio is a 2.258-mile course with 13 different turns located in Lexington, Ohio. This year’s B&L Transport 170 at Mid-Ohio is scheduled for Saturday, August 10 at 3 p.m. ET on NBCSN, MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio. Drivers will compete for 75 laps (169.35 miles) in the event with the first stage ending on Lap 20 and the second stage ending on Lap 40. Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course has hosted six NASCAR Xfinity Series races producing four different pole winners and six different race winners. JR Motorsport’s Justin Allgaier won the Xfinity Series Mid-Ohio race last season.

Bristol Motor Speedway – will be the last short track the NASCAR Xfinity Series competes on in the regular season and the second time the series has visited the track this year. Nestled in Thunder Valley, Bristol Motor Speedway is a short track that is 0.533-mile in length with variable banking of 24 to 28 degrees in the turns. This season’s Food City 300 is scheduled for Friday night, August 16 at 7:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN, PRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio and will run 300 laps (159.9 miles). The first stage will end on Lap 85 and the second stage will end on Lap 170. Bristol has hosted 74 NASCAR Xfinity Series races producing 48 different pole winners and 47 different race winners. Chip Ganassi Racing’s Kyle Larson won last season’s Xfinity Series Bristol August race and Joe Gibbs Racing’s Christopher Bell won at the half-mile track earlier this season.

Road America – is the last road course the NASCAR Xfinity Series will compete on in the NASCAR Xfinity Series regular season and the third of four scheduled on the year. Known as one of the drivers’ favorite courses to race on Road America is a multi-elevation 4-mile road course with 14 different turns located in Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin. This season’s CTECH Manufacturing 180 is schedule for Saturday, August 24 at 3 p.m. ET on NBCSN, MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio. This year’s event will be 45 laps (180 miles) with the first stage ending on Lap 10 and the second stage ending on Lap 20. Road America has hosted nine NASCAR Xfinity Series races producing six different pole winners and nine different race winners. JR Motorsport’s Justin Allgaier won this event at Road America in 2018.

Darlington Raceway – is one of the most historic and admired tracks in NASCAR history; largely due to the unique 1.366-mile egg-shaped layout. Located in Darlington, South Carolina with 25 degrees of banking in Turns 1-2 and 23 degrees of banking in Turns 3-4, the distinctive shaped facility offers a one-of-a-kind challenge to the competitors. This season’s Sport Clips Haircuts VFW 200 is schedule for Saturday, August 31 at 4 p.m. ET on NBC, MRN, and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio. The event will be 147 laps (200.8 miles) with the first stage ending on Lap 45 and the second stage ending on Lap 90. Darlington has hosted 58 NASCAR Xfinity Series races yielding 28 different poles winners and 30 different race winners. Team Penske’s Brad Keselowski won the 2018 Xfinity Series race at Darlington.

Indianapolis Motor Speedway – is considered one of the most prestigious and historic tracks in American racing history. The almost rectangular-shaped four corner track is 2.5-miles in length with nine degrees of banking in the turns and located in Indianapolis, Indiana. This season’s Indiana 250 is scheduled for Saturday, September 7 at 4 p.m. ET on NBCSN, IMS and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio. The Indiana 250 will be 100 laps (250 miles) with the first stage ending on Lap 30 and the second stage ending on Lap 60. Indianapolis Motor Speedway has hosted seven NASCAR Xfinity Series races yielding three different pole winners and five different race winners. JR Motorsport’s Justin Allgaier won the 2018 NASCAR Xfinity Series race at Indianapolis.

Las Vegas Motor Speedway – will close out the 2019 NASCAR Xfinity Series regular season, not only deciding who makes Playoffs but also who is this year’s regular season champion. Las Vegas Motor Speedway is a 1.5-mile track with 20 degrees of banking in the turns located just north of Las Vegas, Nevada. This season’s DC Solar 300 is scheduled for Saturday, September 14 at 7:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN, PRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio. The event will be 200 laps (300 miles) with the first stage ending on Lap 45 and the second stage ending on Lap 90. Las Vegas Motor Speedway has hosted 24 NASCAR Xfinity Series races creating 17 different pole winners and 17 different race winners. Ross Chastain won last season’s regular season finale while racing for Chip Ganassi Racing and Joe Gibbs Racing’s Kyle Busch won the Xfinity Series race at Las Vegas earlier this season.

NASCAR Xfinity Series, Etc.

Kaz Grala tapped by RCR – Boston, Mass. native Kaz Grala will be back in the No. 21 Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet this weekend at New Hampshire Motor Speedway with crew chief Justin Alexander calling shots from the pit box. Grala has made three series start for RCR this season posting an average finish of 15.3. Grala made his series track debut at New Hampshire last season; he started 16th and finished 14th.

Team Penske & Paul Menard – Paul Menard returns to the No. 12 Team Penske Ford this weekend at New Hampshire for his second Xfinity Series start of 2019. Menard made his series season debut a few weeks back at Michigan where he won the pole and finished fourth. Menard has made seven series starts at New Hampshire posting one top five and three top 10s. His last Xfinity start at New Hampshire was back in 2014.

Burton is back with JGR – NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series contender Harrison Burton will be back in the No. 18 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota this weekend. Burton has already made two series starts this season for JGR putting up one top five and two top 10s. This weekend he will be making his NASCAR national series track debut at NHMS.

Truex making most of JRM opportunity – New Jersey native Ryan Truex, brother to Monster Energy Series champion Martin Truex Jr., has been tapped by JR Motorsports to strap into the No. 8 JRM Chevrolet this weekend at New Hampshire Motor Speedway. Truex has already made two starts for the team, grabbing one top five (runner-up at ISM Raceway), two top 10s and an average finish of 5.0. Truex has made two career series starts at New Hampshire, posting one top 10.

Parade Laps: Insights to the drivers participating in the media breakouts

Four drivers from the NASCAR Xfinity Series – Joe Gibbs Racing’s Christopher Bell, Stewart-Haas Racing’s Cole Custer and Richard Childress Racing’s Tyler Reddick and Kaz Grala – will be participating in this week’s media rotations at New Hampshire Motor Speedway leading into the ROXOR 200 on Saturday, July 20 at 4 p.m. ET on NBCSN, PRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio. Rotations are scheduled for 12:30 p.m. ET on Friday, July 19.

Christopher Bell (No. 20 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota Camry)

Birthdate: December 16, 1994

Driver’s Age: 24

Hometown: Norman, Oklahoma

Hobbies: Dirt track racing, iRacing, golf

Team: Joe Gibbs Racing

Crew Chief: Jason Ratcliff

Xfinity Career Highlights:

  • In 2018, he set the rookie single season Xfinity Series wins record with seven victories; the previous record of five wins was held by three drivers – Greg Biffle (2001), Kyle Busch (2004) and Carl Edwards (2005).
  • Made the NASCAR Xfinity Series Playoffs in rookie season (2018), and advanced to the Championship 4; ultimately finishing fourth in the championship standings.
  • Recorded 12 career NASCAR Xfinity Series wins in just 54 starts; including four this season (Atlanta, Bristol, Dover and Iowa).
  • He is tied with NASCAR Hall of Famer Dale Earnhardt for the second-most wins in a driver’s first 54 NASCAR Xfinity Series starts with 12 each; second only to NASCAR Hall of Famer Darrell Waltrip’s 13 wins in that same time frame.

2019 Season Highlights:

  • Currently second in the NASCAR Xfinity driver points standings, 67 points back from series standings leader Tyler Reddick.
  • In 17 starts this season, he has posted three poles (ISM Raceway, Texas, Charlotte), four wins (Atlanta, Bristol, Dover and Iowa), 10 top fives, 11 top 10s and an average finish of 10.0.
  • Has won 10 stages and accumulated 30 Playoff points.

New Hampshire Motor Speedway Performance:

  • Made his series track debut at New Hampshire last season; he started second and won the race.

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 seven career NASCAR Xfinity Series wins (Homestead-Miami, Texas, Auto Club Speedway, Richmond, Pocono, Chicago and Kentucky); including last season’s Playoff race at Texas Motor Speedway to win his way into the Championship 4 finale.

2019 Season Highlights:

  • Currently third in the NASCAR Xfinity driver points standings, 75 points back from the series standings leader Tyler Reddick and eight points back from second place Christopher Bell.
  • In 17 starts this season he has posted four poles (Bristol, Dover, Pocono and Iowa), five wins (California, Richmond, Pocono, Chicago and Kentucky), 10 top fives, 11 top 10s and an average finish of 10.1.
  • Has won six stages and accumulated 31 Playoff points.

New Hampshire Motor Speedway Performance:

  • Has made two series starts at New Hampshire, finishing ninth both times.

Tyler Reddick (No. 2 Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet Camaro)

Birthdate: January 11, 1996

Driver’s Age: 23

Hometown: Corning, California

Hobbies: Riding ATVs, gaming, working on cars

Team: Richard Childress Racing

Crew Chief: Randall Burnett

Xfinity Career Highlights:

  • Won the 2018 NASCAR Xfinity Series championship
  • Also won the 2018 NASCAR Xfinity Series Sunoco Rookie of the Year honors; just third driver in series history to win the title in his rookie season joining Chase Elliott (2014) and William Byron (2017).
  • In 2017, he captured his first NASCAR Xfinity Series victory at Kentucky, while running a partial schedule. Currently has six series career wins.

2019 Season Highlights:

  • Current NASCAR Xfinity Series driver championship standings leader, 67 points ahead of second place Christopher Bell.
  • In 17 starts this season, he has posted three poles (Daytona, California and Daytona-2), three wins (Talladega, Charlotte and Michigan), 12 top fives and 14 top 10s – leads the series in both top fives and top 10s this season.
  • Has won three stages and accumulated 18 Playoff points.

New Hampshire Motor Speedway Performance:

  • Made his series track debut last season at New Hampshire; he started ninth but finished 25th two laps down after a pit road penalty early in the race.

Kaz Grala (No. 21 Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet Camaro)

Birthdate: December 29, 1998

Driver’s Age: 20

Hometown: Boston, Mass.

Hobbies: Road Course/Endurance Racing, Wake Surfing, STEM, Coding, Working Out

Team: Richard Childress Racing

Crew Chief: Justin Alexander

Xfinity Career Highlights:

  • In 2018, ran 22 of 33 NASCAR Xfinity Series races and finished with two top fives and five top 10s.
  • In 2018, Grala made his NASCAR Xfinity Series debut, finishing 22nd in points on a part-time schedule.

2019 Season Highlights:

  • Current 38th in the NASCAR Xfinity driver championship standings.
  • In three starts this season, he has posted an average finish of 15.3.

New Hampshire Motor Speedway Performance:

  • Made his series track debut at New Hampshire last season; he started 16th and finished 14th.

NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series

Tyler Ankrum earns Playoff berth with first career Gander Trucks win

Although he wound up leading a race-high 40 laps en route to his first NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series victory, it looked like Tyler Ankrum was going to have to settle for second place until race leader Brett Moffitt ran out of gas on the next-to-last lap.

Moffitt’s miscalculation was to Ankrum’s benefit as he was able to charge on to a big win to lock himself into the postseason. The win was also the first NASCAR national series victory for his team, DGR-Crosley.

Ankrum certainly got to the Playoffs the hard way. He missed the opening three races of the season because he was too young to race at the tracks (Daytona, Atlanta and Las Vegas – per NASCAR rules, drivers must be 18 to compete at those venues and Ankrum’s 18th birthday wasn’t until March 6), he was announced as a full-time driver for DGR-Crosley.

After struggling through some sponsorship issues that took him out of the No. 17 Toyota for a pair of races, Ankrum was able to remain Playoff-eligible by jumping in the No. 87 Chevrolet for NEMCO Motorsports at Iowa and Gateway.

Since returning to DGR-Crosley, he’s posted a 13th-place finish at Chicagoland and then the win at Kentucky.

On the year, Ankrum has a pair of top fives and four top 10s.

Ankrum’s team is led by crew chief Kevin Manion, who is in his fourth year in the Gander Trucks after a long career in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series and the NASCAR Xfinity Series. He joined DGR-Crosley in 2018 after spending 2016 and 2017 with Kyle Busch Motorsports.

Manion has been atop the pit box for 20 different drivers in the Gander Trucks between 2016 and 2019. He spent the most time with Daniel Suarez in 2016, working with him for 13 races, highlighted by a win at ISM Raceway.

Overall, he has four wins as a crew chief in the series (including a pair of victories with Kyle Busch in 2017 – Kansas and Charlotte), 15 top-five and 24 top-10 finishes.

Ross Chastain breaks into top 20 – and now, officially, the Playoff grid

After declaring for NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series points leading into the June Texas race, Ross Chastain had to hit two marks – winning a race and breaking into the top 20 in points – to earn a spot in the Playoffs.

He won at Gateway. And then after last weekend’s fourth-place finish at Kentucky Speedway he moved into the top 20 in points for the first time.

Chastain now sits 18th in the driver standings, 23 points ahead of the 21st-place driver (Jennifer Jo Cobb).

With three races remaining in the regular season, Chastain needs to maintain the consistency he has shown all year to stay in the top 20 in points. He has just one finish outside the top 10 – his 32nd-place finish at Iowa after his truck failed post-race inspection and he was disqualified – and has five top-five finishes.

He has only two prior starts at the next venue on the schedule – Pocono Raceway on Saturday, July 27– but they were strong finishes. In 2012 he finished 10th and in 2013 he crossed the line fifth. Eldora will be a new track for him, as he has yet to make a start on the half-mile dirt track. And his experience at Michigan, the final track of the regular season, is limited to a start in 2012 that resulted in an 18th-place finish.

Playoff picture update

By virtue of rising into the top 20 in points, Ross Chastain has earned his way onto the Playoff grid as the NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series approaches the three-to-go mark in the regular season.

Currently five drivers have earned their way in on wins – Brett Moffit (Iowa, Chicagoland), Johnny Sauter (Dover), Austin Hill (Daytona), Ross Chastain (World Wide Technology Raceway at Gateway) and the most recent winner, Tyler Ankrum (Kentucky).

Points leader Grant Enfinger has a 34-point point advantage over Stewart Friesen and would earn a spot regardless of wins if he stays atop the board.

And as the points stand, the remaining two slots in the Playoffs would go to Friesen and Matt Crafton.

That puts Harrison Burton (ninth on the Playoff outlook, 44 points behind Crafton in the last slot that qualifies for the postseason on points), Ben Rhodes (10th on the Playoff outlook, 48 points behind the cutoff) and Todd Gilliland (11th on the Playoff outlook, 100 points out of the postseason) on the outside looking in.

Each member of the trio probably needs a win to get a shot at the championship, but only Rhodes has a career Gander Trucks victory under his belt – both at 1.5-mile tracks (Las Vegas in 2017, Kentucky in 2018).

Up next

The NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series has three very different tracks coming up to close out the regular season. Here’s a look at the tracks and some of the best performances at each by drivers not currently locked into the Playoffs with a win.

Pocono Raceway (Saturday, July 27, 1 p.m. ET on FOX, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio) – The 2.5-mile “Tricky Triangle” has three unique turns (Turn 1 – 14 degrees of banking, Turn 2 – eight degrees, Turn 3 – six degrees) and long straights (frontstretch – 3,740 feet, backstretch – 3,055 feet, shortstretch – 1,780 feet). Last week, Pocono announced that they would add the PJ1 traction compound in all three of its turns, helping add another lane option for passing opportunities.

There aren’t any championship-eligible Gander Trucks drivers with a previous series win at Pocono. However, Grant Enfinger (June, 2016) and Harrison Burton (June, 2018) have recorded wins in the ARCA Menards Series at the track.

Matt Crafton has a pair of top fives at the track in the Gander Trucks, while Stewart Friesen and Ben Rhodes each have one top-five finish there.

Eldora Speedway (Thursday, August 1, 9 p.m. ET on FS1, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio) – The half-mile dirt track is the only non-paved venue that the NASCAR national series visit, and it always provides thrilling action. The trip to the track in rural Ohio also provides drivers and fans with a unique qualifying experience, as the field is set by a series of five qualifying races and a last chance qualifying race. This summer marks the seventh race at the track for the series.

Matt Crafton is the only championship-eligible driver with a win at the track. In fact, his victory in 2017 was the last time the two-time series title winner visited Victory Lane – and he would love to secure a Playoff berth by becoming the first two-time Eldora winner.

Crafton, Enfinger and Friesen all have two top fives apiece at Eldora. They are the only Gander Trucks championship-eligible drivers with top fives at the dirt track.

(Of note, last year’s winner Chase Briscoe is scheduled to return to defend, but he’s not eligible for Gander Trucks points.)

Michigan International Speedway (Saturday, August 10, 1 p.m. ET on FS1, MRN, Sirius XM NASCAR Radio –  The Irish Hills provide the backdrop for this spacious, smooth and speedy two-miler that features 18 degrees of banking in the corners. The Gander Trucks have raced 19 times at Michigan.

The only championship-eligible Gander Trucks drivers who have won at Michigan have already visited Victory Lane in 2019 (Brett Moffitt won in 2016 and 2018 at Michigan, while Johnny Sauter won in 2014).

Crafton has a trio of top-five finishes in 17 starts at the track. Todd Gilliland finished fifth in his first visit to the track last year. They are the only two drivers with top fives who are still trying to lock themselves into the Playoffs.

— NASCAR —