NASCAR National Series News & Notes – Indianapolis Motor Speedway

Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series

Next Race: Big Machine Vodka 400 at the Brickyard powered by Florida Georgia Line
The Place: Indianapolis Motor Speedway
The Date: Sunday, September 8
The Time: 2 p.m. ET
TV: NBC, 1:30 p.m. ET
Radio: IMS Radio, 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: Brad Keselowski

NASCAR Xfinity Series

Next Race: Indiana 250
The Place: Indianapolis Motor Speedway
The Date: Saturday, September 7
The Time: 3 p.m. ET
TV: NBCSN, 2:30 p.m. ET
Radio: IMS Radio, 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: Justin Allgaier

NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series 

Next Race: World of Westgate 200
The Place: Las Vegas Motor Speedway
The Date: Friday, September 13
The Time: 9 p.m. ET
TV: FS1, 8:30 p.m. ET
Radio: MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio
Distance: 201 miles (134 Laps); Stage 1 (Ends on Lap 30), Stage 2 (Ends on Lap 60), Final Stage (Ends on Lap 134)
2018 Winner: Grant Enfinger

Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series

Last race to make the Playoffs

There have been 25 race trophies awarded this season – 25 opportunities to lock in a Playoff berth – but for the four drivers on the bubble, the last two Playoff positions will depend on their outing in Sunday’s Big Machine Vodka 400 at the Brickyard powered by Florida Georgia Line at Indianapolis Motor Speedway (Sunday at 2 p.m. ET on NBC, IMS and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio).

Veteran Clint Bowyer in 15th holds an eight-point edge on Stewart-Haas Racing teammate Daniel Suarez and Roush Fenway Racing driver Ryan Newman, who are tied in points. Suarez, however, holds the tiebreaker and is currently slotted into the 16th and final Playoff position entering the race while Newman is on the outside in 17th.

Seven-time Cup champion Jimmie Johnson is ranked 18th – 18 points behind Suarez and Newman and 26 points behind Bowyer.

But there is also the possibility that a driver ranked below this foursome could earn one of those Playoff spots with a victory Sunday – which would leave room for only one of them to advance to the postseason on points.

Of the four still eligible to point their way in – Johnson holds a clear statistical advantage. Only NASCAR Hall of Famer and former Hendrick Motorsports teammate Jeff Gordon has won more Indianapolis races (five) than Johnson’s four. And Newman is the only other driver among this Playoff-hopeful quartet with a victory at Indianapolis – winning the 2013 race from the pole position.

In order of their current ranking, Bowyer has three top-five and four top-10 finishes in 13 Indianapolis starts, including a fifth place last year when he tied Denny Hamlin with a race-best 37 laps led.

Suarez has finishes of seventh and 18th in two starts at Indianapolis but has never led a lap.

Newman has had three top-five and five top-10 finishes in 18 career starts, including a third place in 2017. He’s finished in the top 10 in his last two Indianapolis starts, adding in a 10th-place result last year.

With his four Brickyard trophies, Johnson is not only best among those still vying for a Playoff positions but also best in Sunday’s field. He has six top-five and seven top-10 finishes in 17 starts. He won there four times in a seven-year span between 2006-2012, was runner-up in 2013 and then third in 2016. He was 16th last year.

Last week Bowyer bested the four drivers with a sixth-place finish at Darlington – good enough to move him up from 17th in the standings to a Playoff-eligible 15th. His SHR teammate Suarez was 11th at Darlington, securing him that 16th-place designation while Newman was 23rd Saturday night, putting him 17th in the Playoff standings – one spot out of the postseason.

Johnson finished 16th but earned some important stage points. He was running fourth when he was collected in a multi-car accident on Lap 276 of the 367-lap race.

Of note – Johnson has never missed the Playoffs in the 15 years the postseason has been in place for the Monster Energy Series.

And a historical note that Newman and Johnson will try to overcome…in the most recent two seasons, no driver raced into the Playoffs by virtue of his finish in the regular season finale.

Keselowski looking to go back-to-back at Indianapolis

The defending winner of the Big Machine Vodka 400 at the Brickyard powered by Florida Georgia Line at Indianapolis Motor Speedway (Sunday at 2 p.m. ET on NBC, IMS, and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio) comes from a team whose owner knows how to find Victory Lane at the historic 2.5-mile track.

Brad Keselowski’s Team Penske owner Roger Penske is the winningest team owner in Indianapolis 500 history (18 victories, including this year). And Keselowski’s victory at the historic track last year made Penske a proud winner of NASCAR’s race at the venue, as well.

Keselowski is living up to the Penske tradition at Indianapolis. He won the race last year, finished runner-up in 2017 and has five top-10 finishes in nine starts. Also very telling, Keselowski has led laps in seven of the nine races he’s run – 108 laps total.

Only two drivers – Jimmie Johnson (2008-2009) and Kyle Busch (2015-16) – have won back-to-back Indianapolis races, but Keselowski has to be a favorite to become the third.

This season he has three victories in the No. 2 Team Penske Ford – at Atlanta, Martinsville, Va., and Kansas. Keselowski has nine top-five and 14 top-10 finishes through the opening 25 races – including top-10 results in five of the last six. He’s coming off top-five showings at Bristol, Tenn. (third place) and last weekend at Darlington, S.C. (fifth).

He sits sixth in the points standings and his 966 laps led with 11 races remaining is more than he totaled in each of the three previous complete seasons.

Keselowski in locked into the Monster Energy Series Playoffs and is chasing his second title after winning the championship trophy for Team Penske in 2012 with a five-win season.

Kyle Busch locks up regular season championship

Kyle Busch wrapped up his second straight regular season championship last week at Darlington Raceway with a third-place finish and another stage win. He had been battling Team Penske driver Joey Logano for that top position all season, finally taking it back for good four races ago after the Watkins Glen, N.Y. road course race.

Busch has led the standings for 14 of the 25 weeks – most among drivers this season – and was never ranked lower than fourth, where he spent one week after the race in his native Las Vegas. He has a series-best 10 stage victories.

The title gives the four-time winner an extra 15 Playoff points for the postseason, which begins next week in Vegas.

“Obviously we set out to do that here a few weeks back,’’ Busch said of his regular season championship. “We knew when he [Logano] passed us and got the lead from us that it was going to be hard to get it back. But fortunately, we went back into stage racing a little bit more and tried to get some of the stage points and that helped us.’’

The bad news for Busch’s competition is that this week’s regular season finale at Indianapolis Motor Speedway has been an especially successful venue for the 2015 Monster Energy Series champion of late. He has won the last three pole positions and two of the last four Brickyard 400s. In fact, Busch (2015-16) and Jimmie Johnson (2008-09) are the only drivers in history to win back-to-back races at the historic 2.5-mile facility.

Busch has an impressive 11 top-10 finishes in 14 Indianapolis races, second only to Kevin Harvick’s 12, including seven straight from 2010-2016. He led a record 149 of 170 laps – from pole position – en route to his dominating 2016 win, one of only five times in the race’s 25-year history a driver has led at least 100 laps.

With the regular season title in hand, a series-best 1,166 laps led and seven top-10 finishes in the last 10 races, Busch is in good form as the Playoffs approach. But his last victory was 11 races ago during the first visit to Pocono, and he’s hungry for another win.

Hamlin riding a hot streak into the Playoffs

Despite a rough outing at Darlington (S.C.) Raceway over the weekend, Joe Gibbs Racing driver Denny Hamlin is easily one of the hottest drivers headed into NASCAR’s postseason. He, along with several other race front-runners, was involved in a late-race, multi-car accident – not of his doing – the 29th-place finish that resulted snapped an impressive streak of six consecutive top-five finishes for the four-time race winner.

Hamlin has led 373 laps in the No. 11 JGR Toyota with wins in the Daytona 500 and at Texas, Pocono-2 and then two weeks ago at Bristol from the pole position. The combined work of his 13 top-five finishes this year and the four victories has him ranked third in the Monster Energy Series points standings as the series holds its last regular season race this week at the historic Indianapolis Motor Speedway, a venue where the championship challenger has never won.

Hamlin has come close, however.

He has five top-five and seven top-10 finishes in 13 starts at Indianapolis with a best showing of third place – in 2014 and last year. He’s finished among the top-five in four of the last five races at Indianapolis and his 37 laps led last year is the most time he’s had out front at the track.

A good showing at Indy would certainly boost his momentum heading into the 10-race championship Playoff that begins next week in Las Vegas. Among the other four-race winners – JGR teammates Kyle Busch and Martin Truex Jr. – Hamlin has had the most recent success.

It’s been 10 races since Truex claimed his fourth trophy at the Sonoma, Calif. road course and it’s been 12 races since Busch last won – at the first Pocono, Pa. race of the summer.

After slow start (by his standards), Harvick is on a roll

As many predicted, getting that first victory of 2019 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway six weeks ago may have been the boost Kevin Harvick needed to make a true Playoff run. He has 16 top-10s through the opening 25 races, but since that first win, he has five top-10 finishes (and another win at Michigan) in the last six races. The only sore spot on this run was a 39th place at Bristol two weeks ago after his No. 4 Stewart-Haas Racing Ford suffered a clutch problem.

Harvick answered that tough day with a fourth-place result at Darlington on Sunday night and is also in fourth place in the points as the regular season closes this weekend at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, where Harvick is always a favorite.

He has an impressive 12 top-10 finishes, best in the field, in 16 starts at Indianapolis and won from the pole in 2003. Harvick has finished eighth or better in the last five races there, including finishing fourth last year. He’s led laps in three of the last five races.

Indianapolis Motor Speedway has always been a special venue for Harvick, who grew up in Bakersfield, Calif. – also home to four-time Indy 500 winner Rick Mears. To win at the same track as his lifelong racing hero has a sentimental value unlike any other place the series races.

“For me, I grew up in Bakersfield, California, as a Rick Means fan,’’ Harvick said. “Indianapolis Motor Speedway, as a child, that was your racing dream. That was where you wanted to race. I’ve been fortunate to have won the Brickyard 400 and kind of live out that childhood dream.

“There is a mystique and history, and everything you can think about in racing that has happened for over 100 years has happened at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. … I always feel like it is one of the most special places that you can race because that is all I wanted to do as a kid.’’

Teams sweeping their way into the Playoffs

With one race left to formally set the 2019 16-driver Playoff field, there are three teams that have “swept” their way into the championship battle – and two others whose could match that mark after this week’s Brickyard 400 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

One that’s certain – Joe Gibbs Racing has earned a Playoff opportunity for all four of its drivers – four-time winner and regular season champion Kyle Busch, four-race winners Martin Truex Jr. and Denny Hamlin and the newest winner this season, last weekend’s Darlington victor, Erik Jones.

Team Penske will field all three of their cars in the Playoffs. Defending Monster Energy Series champion Joey Logano challenged Busch for the regular season title all year and has a pair of wins heading to Indy. His teammate – the defending Brickyard 400 winner – Brad Keselowski has three wins in 2019 and the third driver, Ryan Blaney, is ranked 10th in the standings now and has locked himself in the Playoffs on points.

Chip Ganassi Racing is the other team with both of its drivers already eligible for the championship run. First-year CGR driver Kurt Busch won at Kentucky Speedway this summer. And Kyle Larson is ranked ninth in the standings, still looking for his win.

Stewart-Haas Racing is looking to get all four of its cars into the Playoffs for the second time. Two-race winner Kevin Harvick is locked in on wins, while teammate Aric Almirola secured a spot on points. Clint Bowyer (15th) and Daniel Suarez (16th) are looking to complete the SHR sweep heading into the regular season finale.

And Hendrick Motorsports currently has three of their four drivers in – Chase Elliott and Alex Bowman locked themselves in with wins, while William Byron is in on points. The fourth, and most veteran, member of the team – Jimmie Johnson – currently sits in 18th, just outside the Playoff cutoff.

Only eight points separate Bowyer (15th) from Suarez (16th) and Newman (17th). And 26 points separate Bowyer from 18th-place Jimmie Johnson. Of those four drivers, Johnson is a four-time Indianapolis winner and Newman won the 2013 race from the pole position.

Leading the way at Indianapolis

Only five times in 25 races has a driver led at least 100 laps in the 170-lap Brickyard 400 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Kyle Busch holds the record for laps led en route to a win – leading for 149 of 170 laps in his 2016 victory from pole.

NASCAR Hall of Famer Dale Jarrett was the first to lead 100 laps and win the race – famously kissing the bricks after a dominating 1999 victory when he led 117 laps and beat Bobby Labonte to the checkered.

Labonte answered that however, with a unique honor the very next year. He led 21 laps in earning the 2000 Brickyard 400 title over second-place Rusty Wallace, who led 110 laps on the day. It marked the first time a driver led 100 laps and did not win the race. The other time was 2009 when Juan Pablo Montoya – a two-time Indy 500 winner – led 116 laps but finished 11th.

Jeff Gordon led 124 laps to take the 2004 Brickyard victory – the most dominating win of his record five Indy triumphs.

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

Six drivers from the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series – Hendrick Motorsports’ William Byron and Chase Elliott; Chip Ganassi Racing’s Kyle Larson; Joe Gibbs Racing’s Erik Jones; Roush Fenway Racing’s Ricky Stenhouse Jr.; and Wood Brothers Racing’s Paul Menard will be participating in this week’s media rotations at Indianapolis Motor Speedway in advance of Sunday’s Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series’ Big Machine Vodka 400 (2 p.m. ET on NBC, IMS and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio).

William Byron, 21, of Charlotte, N.C. is looking to head into his first Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Playoff with some of the momentum he showed midseason. He earned his career-best finish of runner-up at the summer Daytona race, has won four pole positions and tallied a career high eight top-10s and two-top-fives with a third of the season still remaining. Byron’s 180 laps led in 2019 is also a career best for the second-year Cup driver, but he hasn’t led a lap since Chicago two months ago. He won the pole position last week at Darlington, S.C. in the No. 24 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet but finished 21st. He has only one previous Cup start on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway starting 22nd and finishing 19th last year. However, Byron won his Xfinity Series debut at Indianapolis in 2017. He’s ranked 13th in the championship standings.

Chase Elliott, 23, of Dawsonville, Ga., is enjoying another career year with victories at Talladega, Ala. and Watkins Glen, N.Y. already highlighting an impressive season total of 10 top-10s and eight top-fives. He had a streak of three consecutive top-10 finishes snapped at Darlington Sunday night with a 19th place run. He’s led laps in three of the last four races and is ranked eighth in the championship. Indianapolis has been a challenging venue for the driver of the No. 9 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet. He has yet to lead a lap or score a top-10 in four previous starts at the big track. His best showing is 15th – his finish last year and also in 2016.

Kyle Larson, 27, of Elk Grove, Calif., finished runner-up to Erik Jones Saturday night at Darlington, S.C.- his second runner-up finish this season and fifth consecutive top-10 this summer. He’s finished in the top-10 six of the last seven races and has 12 top-10s on the season along with six top-five efforts. Larson’s ninth place ranking in the Cup standings is his highest since being eighth after the third race (Fontana) of the season. The driver of the No.42 Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet has plenty of reason to be optimistic about this weekend’s Indianapolis stop. He has three top-10s – including a career best fifth in 2016 – in five starts. He was 14th last year.

Erik Jones, 23, of Byron, Mich., earned his first victory of 2019 last weekend at Darlington, S.C. leading a season high 79 laps and becoming the fourth driver on his Joe Gibbs Racing team to celebrate in Victory Lane this year. Jones has had a remarkable year in the No. 19 JGR Toyota with 13 top-10 and nine top-five efforts. His victory helped him jump three positions in the Cup standings and he’s now 11th – his best position since March. Best of all for Jones, he takes his trophy to Indianapolis this week where he was runner-up to Brad Keselowski last summer in only his second start at the track. He led 10 laps in 2017 his maiden race at Indianapolis but was in a crash and finished 31st.

Ricky Stenhouse Jr., 31, of Olive Branch, Miss., is hoping to capitalize on his one last Playoff opportunity this week. It’s been a trying season with only two top-10 and a single top-five effort. His best work was a fifth place at Charlotte in May. He has two top-20s in the last eight races and was 33rd at both of the series’ last races in Bristol, Tenn. and Darlington, S.C. The driver of the No. 17 Roush-Fenway Racing Ford is looking for his first top-10 finish at Indianapolis. His best showing in six previous races is 12th in 2016. He was 34th at Indianapolis last year.

Paul Menard, 39, of Eau Claire, Wisc., earned his only career Cup victory at Indianapolis Motor Speedway in 2011 and had a top 10 (ninth) last year. A good showing this weekend – a win is his only opportunity at a Playoff berth – would be important for the driver of the famed No. 21 Wood Brothers Ford entry. He has three top-10s on the season including a best of sixth place at Bristol, Tenn. in the Spring. He was ninth last week at Darlington and has seven top-20 showings in the last eight races.

NASCAR Xfinity Series

Back to the iconic Indianapolis Motor Speedway

Indianapolis Motor Speedway is considered one of the most prestigious and historic tracks in American racing history, and this weekend the NASCAR Xfinity Series returns to the Brickyard for the Indiana 250 on Saturday, September 7, at 3 p.m. ET on NBCSN, IMS and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio.

The almost rectangular-shaped, four-corner track is 2.5-miles in length, located in Indianapolis, Indiana, with nine degrees of banking in the four turns. This season’s 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, engendering three different pole winners and five different race winners. Joe Gibbs Racing’s Kyle Busch leads the series in poles (four) and wins (three) at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

JR Motorsport’s Justin Allgaier won the 2018 NASCAR Xfinity Series race at Indianapolis; he is still looking for his first victory of the 2019 season this weekend.

Regular season championship on the line

With the regular season coming to a close, Richard Childress Racing’s Tyler Reddick has the opportunity to clinch the NASCAR Xfinity Series regular season championship this weekend at Indianapolis Motor Speedway in the Indiana 250 on Saturday, September 7 at 3 p.m. ET on NBCSN, IMS and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio.

Reddick can clinch the regular season title at Indianapolis if he leaves the race with a 61-point lead on second in the NASCAR Xfinity Series driver standings. He currently holds a 51-point lead on second-place Christopher Bell.

Reddick has made two series starts at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, posting a best finish of runner-up last season.

Playoff Crunch: To clinch or not to clinch

Just two races remain in the NASCAR Xfinity Series regular season for drivers to lock themselves into the Playoffs with a win or by points. Noah Gragson clinched a spot in the postseason on points last weekend at Darlington Raceway, joining Tyler Reddick (four wins, standings leader), Christopher Bell (six wins), Cole Custer (six wins), Austin Cindric (two wins), Chase Briscoe (one win), Michael Annett (one win) and Justin Allgaier (one win) as the eight drivers who have now clinched. Four spots remain.

Here are the NASCAR Xfinity Series Playoff clinch scenarios for Indianapolis Motor Speedway:

The magic number is 56:

    • If there is a new winner, a clinching driver needs to be 56 points ahead of the fifth-highest winless driver.
    • If there is a repeat winner (or wins by Allgaier, Gragson, Haley, Nemechek, Jones) (possible: Haley, Nemechek, Jones), a clinching driver needs to be 56 points ahead of the sixth-highest winless driver.

Justin Haley – Would clinch with a win or would clinch on points with 45 points and a new winner.  If there is a repeat winner (or a win by Justin Allgaier, Noah Gragson, John Hunter Nemechek or Brandon Jones), he would clinch on points with 23 points.

Haley will be making his series track debut this weekend at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

John Hunter Nemechek – Would clinch with a win or could clinch on points with help.

Nemechek made his series track debut at Indianapolis last season. He started sixth and led two laps, but was caught in an incident that relegated him to a 25th-place finish.

Brandon Jones – Would clinch with a win or could clinch on points with a repeat winner (or a win by Justin Allgaier, Noah Gragson, Justin Haley or John Hunter Nemechek) and help.

Jones has made three series starts at Indianapolis, posting three top 10s and an average finish of 9.7.

All other drivers can only clinch with a win.

Xfinity’s Big 3 continue to win

The 2019 season has been dominated by three talented drivers – Richard Childress Racing’s Tyler Reddick, Joe Gibbs Racing’s Christopher Bell and Stewart-Haas Racing’s Cole Custer – and their winning ways don’t seem to be slowing. In total they have claimed 18 of the first 24 races of the season – a 75% winning percentage – and this weekend they turn their attention to Indianapolis Motor Speedway for the Indiana 250 on Saturday at 3 p.m. ET on NBCSN, IMS and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio.

Cole Custer is the most recent of the “Big 3” to win, clutching his sixth victory this past weekend after Denny Hamlin was disqualified for failing post-race inspection. Custer is now looking for win No. 7 this weekend at Indianapolis, a track where he has made two starts, finishing fifth in 2017 and then 29th last season due to an incident.

Christopher Bell is also looking for his seventh win of the season and his first at Indianapolis Motor Speedway this weekend. The JGR standout made his series track debut at Indianapolis last season, starting seventh and finishing seventh.

Xfinity points leader Tyler Reddick has four wins on the season but would gladly add a fifth this weekend at Indianapolis. Reddick has made two series starts at Indianapolis Motor Speedway posting a best finish of runner-up last season.

Kyle Busch and Austin Dillon to pull double duty in Indianapolis

Two big names in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series – Kyle Busch and Austin Dillon – are pulling double duty this weekend and will compete in the NASCAR Xfinity Series race the Indiana 250 on Saturday, September 7 at 3 p.m. ET on NBCSN, IMS and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio.

Kyle Busch will drive the No. 18 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota with crew chief Ben Beshore. Busch will be quite the contender to challenge this weekend at Indianapolis as the Las Vegas native leads the series in poles (four) and wins (three) at the 2.5-mile track. Plus, in 2016, he became the first driver to win both the NASCAR Xfinity and Monster Energy Series races at Indianapolis from the pole.

Austin Dillon will be piloting the No. 10 Kaulig Racing’s Chevrolet with crew chief Lennie Chandler. Dillon has made three Xfinity Series starts at Indianapolis, posting one top five and two top 10s.

Parade Laps: Insights into the drivers participating the media breakouts

This weekend’s NASCAR Xfinity Series media breakouts will be Saturday, Sept. 7 at 10-10:15 a.m. in the Indianapolis Motor Speedway media center deadline room and will include the following drivers – Kaulig Racing’s Justin Haley, Stewart-Haas Racing with Fred Biagi’s Chase Briscoe, JR Motorsport’s Justin Allgaier and Stewart-Haas Racing’s Cole Custer.

Justin Haley (No. 11 Kaulig Racing Chevrolet Camaro)

Birthdate: April 28, 1999

Driver’s Age: 20

Hometown: Winamac, Indiana

Hobbies: Muscle car restoration, sports car racing, surfing, fishing and hunting, triathlons,

mountain biking, fitness, graphics & design, anything competitive

Team: Kaulig Racing

Crew Chief: Alex Yontz

Xfinity Career Highlights:

  • Signed with Kaulig Racing in the off-season to run his first full season in the NASCAR Xfinity Series in 2019 – a Sunoco Rookie of the Year contender.
  • Posted series career-best finish of runner-up – this season at Daytona in July.
  • Made NASCAR Xfinity Series career debut last season – making three starts for GMS Racing posting a best finish of 12th at Iowa Speedway.

2019 Season Highlights:

  • Currently ninth in the NASCAR Xfinity driver championship standings, 327 points back from the series standings leader Tyler Reddick, and 207 points ahead of the Playoff cutoff.
  • In 24 starts this season he has posted two top fives, 16 top 10s and an average finish of 10.7.
  • Currently third in Sunoco Rookie of the Year standings, 66 points back from Chase Briscoe in the rookie standings lead.

Indianapolis Motor Speedway Performance:

  • This weekend he will be making his series track debut at Indianapolis.

Chase Briscoe (No. 98 Stewart-Haas Racing with Fred Biagi Ford Mustang)

Birthdate: December 15, 1994

Driver’s Age: 24

Hometown: Mitchell, Indiana

Hobbies: Spending time with family, online racing, watching sports

Team: Stewart-Haas Racing with Fred Biagi

Crew Chief: Richard Boswell II

Xfinity Career Highlights:

  • Made NASCAR Xfinity Series debut in 2018 at Atlanta.
  • Ran 17 Xfinity races last season for Roush Fenway Racing (12) and Stewart-Haas Racing with Fred Biagi (five) and won the inaugural race at the Charlotte ROVAL.

2019 Season Highlights:

  • Currently sixth in the NASCAR Xfinity Series driver standings, 233 points back from the series standings lead.
  • In 24 starts this season he has posted one win (Iowa-2), nine top fives, 19 top 10s and an average finish of 8.2.

Indianapolis Motor Speedway Performance:

  • Made his series track debut at Indianapolis last season; he started 22nd and finished ninth.

Justin Allgaier (No. 7 JR Motorsports Chevrolet Camaro)

Birthdate: June 6, 1986

Driver’s Age: 33

Hometown: Riverton, Illinois

Hobbies: R/C cars, wakeboarding, graphic design, dirt racing

Team: JR Motorsports

Crew Chief: Jason Burdett

Xfinity Career Highlights:

  • In 2018, he won the NASCAR Xfinity Series regular season championship and made the Playoffs for the third consecutive season after posting a career-high five wins on the season.
  • In 2016 and 2017, made the Championship 4 in the NASCAR Xfinity Series Playoffs.
  • In 2011, 2016 and 2017, scored career-best third-place finish in NASCAR Xfinity Series standings.
  • Won first career NASCAR Xfinity Series race in 2010, at Bristol in March. Currently has 10 career Xfinity wins.
  • Won 2009 NASCAR Xfinity Series Sunoco Rookie of the Year honors.

2019 Season Highlights:

  • Currently fourth in the NASCAR Xfinity driver points standings (highest ranked driver without a win), 172 points back from the series standings leader Tyler Reddick. He has already clinched a Playoff spot on points.
  • In 24 starts this season he has posted nine top fives, 16 top 10s and an average finish of 10.6.

Indianapolis Motor Speedway Performance:

  • Has made five series starts at Indianapolis posting one win (2018) and two top fives.

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 eight career NASCAR Xfinity Series wins (Homestead-Miami, Texas, Auto Club Speedway, Richmond, Pocono, Chicago, Kentucky and Darlington); 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, 136 points back from the series standings leader Tyler Reddick. Has already clinched a Playoff spot on wins.
  • In 24 starts this season he has posted five poles (Bristol, Dover, Pocono, Iowa, New Hampshire), six wins (California, Richmond, Pocono, Chicago, Kentucky and Darlington), 12 top fives and 16 top 10s.
  • Has won six stages and accumulated 36 Playoff points.

Indianapolis Motor Speedway Performance:

  • Has made two series starts at Indianapolis posting one top-five finish.

NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series

Breaking down the 1.5-mile tracks for the Playoff contenders

Following one more weekend off, the opening round of the NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series Playoffs will conclude with the 1.5-mile Las Vegas Motor Speedway on Friday, September 13 at 9 p.m. ET on FS1, MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio.

And the field will face one more track of this length in the Playoffs – the championship-deciding venue of Homestead-Miami Speedway.

Here’s a look at the performances of the eight Playoff contenders at 1.5-mile tracks – organized by points standings:

Brett Moffitt – Moffitt has already won his way into the second round after winning the opening two races of the Playoffs at Bristol and Canadian Tire Motorsports Park. And if his history at 1.5-mile tracks counts for anything, he has a solid shot of the sweep of the Round of 8 races. Moffitt has four wins on intermediate tracks, all within the past two seasons. His first came at Atlanta in 2018. Overall in 23 races at venues of this length, he has nine top-five and 12 top-10 finishes.

Ross Chastain – On the surface, it doesn’t look like Chastain’s 1.5-mile statistics are that impressive. He has one win, two top fives and 13 top 10s in 34 races at venues of that size. But it’s when those stats occurred in his career that matter now. His one win came earlier this year at Kansas, before he had declared for points in the Gander Trucks. Both of his top fives were this year (Kansas and Kentucky) and eight of the top 10s have been in 2019. (Also, of note for Chastain, 15 of his 30 total career top-10 finishes have happened during the opening 18 races of this season. He has 77 total series starts.)

Stewart Friesen – Friesen is looking for his first win on a 1.5-mile track (his lone series win came earlier this season at Eldora). In 28 starts at this distance he has 10 top-five and 14 top-10 results. Five of those top fives and top 10s have come this season. Of those, he has a pair of runner-up results (Texas-1 and Kentucky) and two third-place finishes (Charlotte and Chicago) at this distance.

Matt Crafton – Once the king of the 1.5-mile tracks in the Gander Trucks, Crafton has faded as of late. In 162 starts on those tracks (53 more than the next closest in the Playoff field – Johnny Sauter), Crafton has nine wins (second to Sauter’s 10), 54 top fives, and 103 top 10s. All impressive numbers. But he hasn’t won at a 1.5-mile circuit since Charlotte in May of 2016…and in fact, hasn’t won a race since Eldora in July of 2017. His performance has been steady and solid this year – both at this distance and overall, just lacking a Victory Lane visit. He hasn’t had a finish worse than 14th (Atlanta in the second race of the year) and crossed the line second at Texas in June. His average finish at 1.5-mile tracks this season is 7.0.

Austin Hill – Hill is another driver whose numbers at 1.5-mile venues may not be impressive on the surface, but if you look at his recent performances, you’ll be more impressed. Overall in 28 starts at that distance, he has three top fives and nine top 10s. Two of those top fives (Kansas, Chicago) came this year, as did five of the top 10s. He also started on the pole at Chicago this season – his first time leading the field to green in the Gander Trucks.

Grant Enfinger – Enfinger has one win in 33 starts at 1.5-mile circuits – but it’s particularly relevant because that victory came at Las Vegas last fall. It’s one of two series wins that he has (Talladega, 2016). Overall he has 10 top-five and 23 top-10 finishes at this distance in the series. He has three top fives this season, including at both Texas races and at Atlanta. His best finish at a 1.5-miler this year was third at Atlanta.

Tyler Ankrum – Ankrum’s experience is limited at 1.5-mile tracks because he just turned 18 in March, so he hasn’t even had a chance to race on the upcoming Las Vegas Motor Speedway track. But he’s made his mark at that distance. In six starts this season on 1.5-mile circuits he has one win (Kentucky), two top fives (also finished third at Texas in June) and three top 10s.

Johnny Sauter – Sauter is in a tough spot in the Playoff standings, as he sits in eighth out of eight drivers with only six moving on to the next round after Las Vegas. In 109 starts at 1.5-mile tracks, Sauter has 10 wins (one more than fellow Playoff contender Crafton), 41 top fives and 66 top 10s. Only two of those top fives have come this season – in the second race in Atlanta and then in the fifth race of the year at Texas. In regards to recent history, five of his wins at this distance have come since the introduction of the elimination-style Playoff format in 2016, with the most recent being at the June Texas race last year.

Brett Moffitt looking to sweep opening round of Playoffs

Since the introduction of the elimination Playoff format in the NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series in 2016, no driver has swept a round’s worth of races.

Prior to this season, twice has one driver won two races in a round – Johnny Sauter in the Round of 6 in 2016 (Martinsville Speedway, Texas Motor Speedway) and 2017 (Texas, ISM Raceway).

Brett Moffitt is now hoping to achieve that feat after winning the opening two races of the 2019 Gander Trucks Playoffs at Bristol Motor Speedway and Canadian Tire Motorsport Park.

The Gander Trucks have two weeks off before returning to the track at Las Vegas Motor Speedway on September 13 for the final race in the opening round of the Playoffs. And Moffitt’s track record in the Nevada sun shows that he may be the truck to bet on for the hat trick.

Moffitt has a trio of starts at the 1.5-mile track, including a runner-up finish to Kyle Busch this spring. He was third in his first start at the beginning of 2018 and then was 11th last fall.

And the driver of the No. 24 GMS Racing Chevrolet Silverado would just be building on what is quickly becoming his second straight career season. In 2018, Moffitt tallied six wins, 13 top fives and 13 top 10s en route to the Gander Trucks title.

So far, through 18 races in 2019, Moffitt has four wins, 11 top fives and 13 top 10s. And he’s bettered his 2018 season in another statistical column – he has three pole awards this year compared to none last year.

What a difference a year makes

One year ago, heading into the cutoff race for the first round of the Playoffs, Johnny Sauter held the lead in the NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series points standings and had no doubt he would be advancing the Round of 6.

But this year, Sauter is in danger of “going home” following the upcoming Round of 8 cutoff race at Las Vegas Motor Speedway (Friday, September 13 at 9 p.m. ET on FS1, MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio). Currently, Sauter sits in seventh on the Playoff grid – two points and one spot behind his ThorSport Racing teammate Grant Enfinger, who currently holds the final position that would transfer to the Round of 6.

Sauter has never been eliminated from Gander Trucks title contention before the final race of the season during the era of the elimination Playoffs format (since 2016).

He doesn’t find himself on the outside looking in because of a particularly bad performance in either of the opening races of the Playoffs – he was 11th at Bristol and sixth at Canadian Tire. Instead, all of the 2019 Gander Trucks postseason contenders are proving they belong in the title talk and are also posting strong finishes – which gives Sauter little to no room to rise up in the standings.

Here is where each of the eight Playoff drivers finished in the first two races:

Drivers                        Bristol             Canadian Tire            Avg. Finish

Brett Moffitt                 1                      1                                  1

Ross Chastain            3                      8                                  5.5

Stewart Friesen           4                      7                                  5.5

Grant Enfinger            5                      13                                9

Matt Crafton                7                      11                                9

Austin Hill                    10                    5                                  7.5

Johnny Sauter             11                    6                                  8.5

Tyler Ankrum              20                    9                                  14.5

Sauter hasn’t won a race since Dover at the beginning of May – a streak of 12 races without visiting Victory Lane. That’s a bit of an unusual drought for the driver of the No. 13 ThorSport Racing Chevrolet – but it might not be a bad sign for his Playoff hopes. This season, in a way, looks a bit similar to his 2016 campaign – a campaign that ended with the championship trophy hoisted above his head in Miami.

In 2016, he started off the season with a win at the opener in Daytona. He then went winless for 18 races – but excelled when it counted by winning at Martinsville and Texas in the second round of Playoffs. Those were his only three wins that season.

Sauter will need to turn it up at Las Vegas, a track he has one win at – in his first race there in 2009, in order to have a shot at repeating the magic of 2016. He’s recorded six top fives and nine top 10s in 12 starts at the track. And of those, four are runner-up finishes, including both races in 2018.

Playoff contenders’ history at Vegas

Only two of the eight NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series Playoff drivers have made their way to Victory Lane at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

Johnny Sauter took the win in his first trip to the track in 2009. Second place in that race? His current ThorSport Racing teammate and Playoffs competitor Matt Crafton.

And Grant Enfinger comes to Las Vegas without a win this season, despite taking the regular season championship trophy home. However, he is the defending winner of this fall race at Las Vegas. Second place in that race? Sauter.

Current Playoff drivers finished first (Enfinger), second (Sauter), fifth (Crafton), seventh (Chastain), 11th (Brett Moffitt), 17th (Stewart Friesen) and 23rd (Austin Hill) in last year’s fall race.

The upcoming race will mark Tyler Ankrum’s first race at the 1.5-mile oval – he just turned 18-years old on March 6 – a week after the first trip to the desert this spring.

Overall, Sauter has a win, six top fives and nine top 10s in 12 starts at Las Vegas. His ThorSport teammates Crafton (eight top fives, 12 top 10s in 20 starts) and Enfinger (one win, two top fives and four top 10s in six starts) have also been consistently near the top of the finishing order.

Friesen has the next most starts in the Playoff grid, posting a pair of top-five and top-10 finishes in five starts. Chastain has two top 10s in four starts, while Moffitt as a pair of top-five and top-10 results in three appearances.