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NASCAR National Series News & Notes – Dover International Speedway

Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series

Next Race: Drydene 400
The Place: Dover International Speedway
The Date: Sunday, October 6
The Time: 2:30 p.m. ET
TV: NBCSN, 2 p.m. ET
Radio: MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio
Distance: 400 miles (400 laps); Stage 1 (Ends on Lap 120), Stage 2 (Ends on Lap 240), Final Stage (Ends on Lap 400)
2018 Race Winner: Chase Elliott

NASCAR Xfinity Series

Next Race: Use Your Melon Drive Sober 200
The Place: Dover International Speedway
The Date: Saturday, October 5
The Time: 3 p.m. ET
TV: NBCSN, 2:30 p.m. ET
Radio: MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio
Distance: 200 miles (200 Laps); Stage 1 (Ends on Lap 45), Stage 2 (Ends on Lap 90), Final Stage (Ends on Lap 200)
2018 Race Winner: Christopher Bell

NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series 

Next Race: Sugarlands Shine 250
The Place: Talladega Superspeedway
The Date: Saturday, October 12
The Time: 1:30 p.m. ET
TV: FS1, 1 p.m. ET
Radio: MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio
Distance: 250.04 miles (94 Laps); Stage 1 (Ends on Lap 20), Stage 2 (Ends on Lap 40), Final Stage (Ends on Lap 94)
2018 Winner: Timothy Peters

Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series

Busch leads Playoff contenders into the Round of 12

The NASCAR Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series regular season champion Kyle Busch is especially eager to start the second round of the 2019 Playoffs after a rough opening round with a pair of uncharacteristic outcomes – at Las Vegas (19th) and at the Charlotte ROVAL (37th). A runner-up at Richmond in between those races, however, plus some hard-earned Playoff points collected through the regular season have kept him atop the newly-reset standings as the sport heads to Dover International Speedway for Sunday’s Drydene 400 (2:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN, MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio).

Busch leads his Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Martin Truex Jr. – a two-time winner in the opening three races of the Playoffs – by five points heading to Dover. Their JGR teammate Denny Hamlin – like Busch, a four-time winner this season – is third in the points reset and trails Busch by 16. Twelve drivers remain eligible to contend for the championship with races at Dover International Speedway, Talladega Superspeedway and Kansas Speedway to decided which eight advance to the next round.

The 15-point regular season championship bonus Busch earned has certainly come in useful. Before adding regular season bonus points that he diligently collected, Busch was technically seventh in points earned in the three Playoff races. However, he reassumes the lead thanks to the series-best 46 Playoff points that count toward each Playoff round.

After dominating the early season – tying a NASCAR record with 11 top-10 finishes in the opening 11 races and accumulating four victories by early June, Busch’s pace has slowed somewhat. The driver of the No. 18 JGR Toyota led a race best 202 laps and finished second to Truex in the Richmond Playoff race, but it’s his only top-10 finish in the last four races.

Dover’s “Monster Mile” however, has been a positive venue for Busch. He finished 10th there in May and has three career wins – in 2008, 2012 and 2017. The 2015 series champion finished in the top-10 in three of the last four Dover races. In total, he has 12 top fives and 18 top 10s in 29 starts.

Busch has led laps in five of the last six Dover races. And his record in the fall at the track is notably better than the spring version. Busch has a pair of runner-up finishes (in 2015-16), a victory (2017) and an eighth place in the last four October races.

As if often the case with the versatile Busch, he has celebrated plenty in Dover’s Victory Lane thanks to success in NASCAR’s other two national series, as well. He has five NASCAR Xfinity Series and four NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series wins at Dover.

“You strive to go out there and win every single time you’re on the racetrack, but if you put yourself in a bad spot or try or push too hard and get yourself out of whack and crashed or something like that, obviously that’s going to be way worse for yourself,’’ Busch said. “You have to be mindful of those situations and you have to pick and choose your battles.’’

Giving Chase to the defending Dover winner

Hendrick Motorsport’s star Chase Elliott shows up in Delaware in a perfect mindset to defend his victory from last year’s Dover Playoff race. He hoisted a trophy last Sunday after winning at the Charlotte Motor Speedway ROVAL – the final race of the Playoff’s opening round.

The driver of the No. 9 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 opens the Round of 12 on a positive note at one of his best tracks, statistically speaking. In seven Dover starts, Elliott has one win and six top fives. His “worst” showing at the track is 12th. He won this October Playoff race last year and in May, won the pole position, led the most laps (145) and finished fifth.

His average finish at the “Monster Mile” is 4.4. Only 11-time Dover winner Jimmie Johnson (113.3) has a better Driver Rating than Elliott’s (108.3). In addition to his win last year, Elliott was runner-up in 2017’s Playoff race and finished third in his first two races at the track in the 2016 season.

Some drivers believe in momentum, whether or not Elliott does, the 23-year old has plenty of it. His victory at Charlotte last Sunday was his third on the year. Interestingly, 10 of his 13 top-10 finishes are actually top-5 finishes. He’s finished in the top-10 in six of the last eight races, including a win from pole position at Watkins Glen.

The good vibes aren’t limited to Delaware either. Elliott has won at both the other tracks in this round of the Playoffs. He won at next week’s Talladega Superspeedway earlier this season and is the defending Playoff race winner at Kansas Speedway, where the series races Oct. 20 and four more drivers will be eliminated from postseason contention.

Dover’s home track hero Martin Truex Jr. the favorite?

With a series best six victories, Martin Truex Jr. is the winningest driver in the Monster Energy Series right now, but with the slate of tracks on deck in the Playoffs, he may also be the most confident.

Truex won the opening two Playoff races – at Las Vegas and Richmond – to bring his season’s victory tally to six. And while that pace right out of the gates was a huge message to the competition, he will start the second round of the Playoffs this weekend ranked second to regular season champion and Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Kyle Busch – by a mere five points.

Confidence will not be a problem for the 39-year old New Jersey native this weekend at Dover, International Speedway where he has three wins – including the first series victory of his career back in 2007. A decade later he was hoisting the series championship trophy.

This season Truex has made a compelling case to be considered the title favorite. He has 12 top-five and 18 top-10 finishes through the opening 29 races. He has seven more races to try to equal his career best mark of eight season wins – a mark set in his 2017 title run.

Truex was a perfect three-for-three in top-10 finishes in the opening Playoff round – his 3.0 average finish is best in show. Kevin Harvick and Brad Keselowski are next – having averaged a 4.0 finish in the opening three Playoff races.

With a victory in the series’ first visit to Dover in May, Truex is the most recent winner at the track. He has six top-five and 15 top-10 finishes and three wins in 27 Dover starts. Truex has finished ninth or better in seven of the last nine races. He’s been top five in five of the last six, including two wins in that time.

His victory in May was a strong signal to the field. He won the race by more than nine seconds – easily the largest Margin of Victory this season.

Harvick is closing in

At the very least, Kevin Harvick is keeping the competition honest. The driver of the No. 4 Stewart-Haas Racing Ford has answered his dominating win-from-pole in the Indianapolis regular season finale with three top 10s in the opening round of the Playoffs.

Harvick was runner-up to Truex at the Las Vegas opener, seventh at Richmond and a third at the Charlotte ROVAL during the weekend. His 4.0 average finish exceeded only by Martin Truex Jr., who won the first two Playoff races and has a 3.0 average finish.

Since his first win this season at New Hampshire, Harvick has nine top-10 finishes in 10 races. He won at New Hampshire, Michigan-2 and Indianapolis and finished runner-up at the Vegas Playoff opener. The only finish worse than seventh in that time is a season-worst 39th at Bristol Motor Speedway when his car suffered an early race mechanical issue.

His work at the ROVAL last weekend was Harvick’s 20th top 10 of the season and marks the seventh consecutive season he has earned at least 20 top-10 finishes on the 36-race schedule.

The “Monster Mile” has been a strong mark on Harvick’s resume, particular since he switched to his current Stewart-Haas Racing team in 2014. He earned his first Monster Energy Series win there in Oct. 2015 leading a dominating 355 of the 400 laps. He won again in May 2018, leading 201 laps and taking a class-of-the-field 7.450-second win over SHR teammate Clint Bowyer.

Harvick has seven top five and 18 top 10 finishes at Dover, with two victories and a pole position. He’s led 1,443 laps – one of only three drivers to top 1,000-laps led at the track. Jimmie Johnson’s 3,109 laps is most. Kyle Busch (1,210) is the only other active driver to top the 1,000-laps led mark.

Monster Energy Series Playoff contender stats at Dover

Below is a statistical look at the 12 remaining Playoff-eligible drivers at Dover International Speedway. The drivers are listed in the current seeding:

Kyle Busch, No. 18 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota  – The 2015 series champion has three wins in 29 races, with 18 top-10 finishes, seven DNFs and is averaging a 14.6 finish.

Martin Truex Jr., No. 19 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota – The 2017 series champion has three wins in 27 starts, with 15 top-10 finishes, two DNFs and is averaging a 12.6 finish.

Denny Hamlin, No. 11 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota – Has yet to win at Dover but has 11 top-10 finishes in 27 races with four DNFs. His average finish is 17.5.

Joey Logano, No. 22 Team Penske Ford – The reigning Cup champion has not won at Dover previously, but he has put up four top fives and 12 top 10s in 21 starts with one DNF and an average finish of 13.2.

Kevin Harvick, No. 4 Stewart-Haas Racing Ford – The 2014 series champion has two wins in 37 race starts at Dover, including 18 top-10 finishes and only one DNF. His average finish is 13.97.

Chase Elliott, No. 9 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet – The defending Playoff race winner has six top-10 finishes in seven races and is averaging a Playoff field-best of 4.4 at Dover.

Brad Keselowski, No. 2 Team Penske Ford – The 2012 series champion has one win in 19 starts at Dover. He has eight top-10 finishes and one DNF. His average finish is 13.2.

Kyle Larson, No. 42 Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet – Larson has posted five top-five and eight top-10 finishes in 11 starts. His average finish is 8.0.

Alex Bowman, No. 88 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet – Has one top 10 and two DNFs in seven starts at Dover. His average finish is 25.6 – lowest among the Playoff drivers.

Ryan Blaney, No. 12 Team Penske Ford – Has two top-10 finishes in seven starts and never suffered a DNF. His average finish is 19.3.

William Byron, No. 24 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet – Has one top-10 finish in three starts at Dover. He has no DNFs and his average finish is 13.7.

Clint Bowyer, No. 14 Stewart-Haas Racing Ford – Has 15 top-10 finishes and one DNF in 27 races but has never won a Cup race at Dover. His average finish is 13.2.

Johnson’s Dover domination

With two top-10 showings in the first three Playoff races so far, Jimmie Johnson is proving to himself, to his team, to his fans and to his competitors that even though he didn’t qualify for the Playoffs for the first time in his seven-championship career, he is every bit as determined to finish strong. And win.

Johnson returns to the site of his last victory this week. On June 4, 2017, Johnson celebrated his 83rd career win in Dover’s Victory Lane, having no idea that he would sustain a winless streak ever since.

Dover may be the answer, however. Johnson’s 11 victories on the concrete mile is most all-time. NASCAR Hall of Famers Richard Petty and Bobby Allison are next with seven wins. In addition to his 11 wins, he has 17 top fives and 24 top 10s in 35 starts – best in the field. He boasts the top Driving Rating (113.3) and has easily led the most laps (3,109).

During an eight-race stretch from 2009-2012, Johnson earned four wins, a runner-up finish and three pole positions in his famous No. 48 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet. In just those eight races, he led 1,681 laps or 54 percent of total. Five times during that time period, he led at least 200 laps in a race.

He answered that mastery with three victories in five races from 2013-15.

Johnson was 36th in this race last year, but 14th this May. He has finishes of 11th (Las Vegas), 10th (Richmond) and ninth (Charlotte) in the three Playoff races this season. Only five of the current 12 Playoff drivers have a better average finish through the opening three races than Johnson (10.0).

He now trails 17th-place Daniel Suarez by only six points in his quest to be best among non-Playoff drivers – the pair have separated themselves from the rest of the field. Paul Menard is 19th, 70 points behind Johnson.

Celebrating 100 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Races

This week’s Drydene 400 at Dover International Speedway marks the 100th Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series race at the one-mile concrete track.

Current driver and seven-time champion Jimmie Johnson leads all drivers with 11 victories. NASCAR Hall of Famers Bobby Allison and Richard Petty are next on the list with seven wins. Another NASCAR Hall of Famer, David Pearson, holds the top-mark for pole positions with six. Ryan Newman’s four pole position is most among current drivers.

Petty won the first Cup race at the historic track on July 6, 1960, the Mason Dixon 300. His No. 43 Petty Enterprises 1969 Ford led 150 of the 300 laps and beat runner-up Sunny Hutchins in a 1967 Ford by six laps.

Three times in the 100-race history, a driver has managed to win three consecutive races – all of them NASCAR Hall of Famers: Pearson (1972-73), Rusty Wallace (1993-94) and Jeff Gordon (1995-95). Interestingly, the last time a driver won back-to-back races was 2013-14 (Jimmie Johnson).

Mark Martin, a four-time race winner, holds the record for most runner-up finishes (eight) all-time; Ricky Rudd holds the mark for most starts at the track with 56.

Hendrick Motorsports holds the record for most wins (20) for an organization.

Chevrolet leads all manufacturers with 40 wins in the first 99 races.

Only two drivers have earned their first career Cup victories at Dover – Jody Ridley in May, 1981, and Martin Truex Jr. in 2007.

Cup Competition Highlights

In earning the pole position at the Charlotte ROVAL last week, 21-year old Hendrick Motorsports driver William Byron now has five pole positions on the season and ties Stewart-Haas Racing veteran Kevin Harvick for most on the season. Interestingly, Joe Gibbs Racing has the most wins (15) in the field, but only Denny Hamlin has scored a single pole position start (Bristol-2).

There have been 11 winners representing six teams. JGR has 15 wins among its four drivers – more than double the total of any other team. Martin Truex Jr., who won the opening two races of the Playoff’s first round leads all drivers with six wins. His teammates Kyle Busch and Denny Hamlin have four each and Erik Jones has one. The other drivers with multiple wins include Brad Keselowski, Kevin Harvick and Chase Elliott with three victories each and Joey Logano has two trophies.

Loop data reveals that the average Margin of Victory through the season’s opening 29 races has been 1.700-seconds. Fifteen of the races have been decided by a margin of victory of less than a second – 51.7 percent. The average number of lead changes per race is 17.28, which is the most through 29 races since 2015 (17.66).

Green Flag Passes for the Lead are up 38.3 percent over last season and the statistic is higher in 19 of the 29 races to date, including two of the three Playoff races (at Las Vegas and the Charlotte ROVAL).

Green Flag Passes in general are up 24.5 percent from than last year and that includes six of the last seven races.

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

Six drivers from the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series – Team Penske’s Ryan Blaney, Richard Childress Racing’s Austin Dillon, Hendrick Motorsport’s William Byron, GO FAS Racing’s Corey LaJoie, Stewart-Haas Racing’s Daniel Suarez and Hendrick Motorsport’s Alex Bowman will be participating in this week’s media rotations at Dover International Speedway in advance of Sunday’s Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series’ Drydene 400 (2:30 p.m., ET on NBCSN, MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio).

Ryan Blaney, 25, of High Point, N.C., rallied to an eighth-place finish last Sunday at the Charlotte ROVAL. It was his second top-10 finish in three Playoff races and was good enough to advance him to the second round of the Monster Energy Series postseason. Blaney has four top-10s in the last six races in the No. 12 Team Penske Ford and is now ranked 10th in the Playoff field with the Top 8 of the remaining 12 title eligible drivers advancing after the Oct. 20 Playoff race at Kansas. Blaney has a pair of top 10s in seven starts at this week’s Monster Mile. He was 15th in the series’ first season stop at the track in May. His best showing is eighth – in the 2016 and 2018 spring races. As far as this round of the Playoffs, his best venue historically speaking is Kansas where’s he’s had five top-10 finishes in nine starts – including three in the last five races there.

Austin Dillon, 29, of Lewisville, N.C., is coming off a 23rd-place finish at the Charlotte ROVAL. He has only one top-10 finish in the last 12 races – a 10th place at Darlington, S.C. last month. He’s ranked 22nd in the championship and while he has earned three pole positions (at Chicago, Talladega-1 and California), he is still looking for his first race victory of 2019. His best finish on the year was sixth at Richmond in May. The driver of the No. 3 Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet was 19th at this week’s Dover venue at the season’s first stop there in May. He has a pair of top-10 finishes in 12 Dover starts and has never led a lap there. His last top 10, however, was a seventh-place showing in this Playoff race last year.

William Byron, 21, of Charlotte, N.C. has spent a lot of time this season running up front. The second-year Cup driver won his fifth pole position at the Charlotte ROVAL last week and is now tied with veteran Kevin Harvick for most poles on the season. Byron led 23 laps in the No. 24 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet and finished sixth at the ROVAL to earn a position in the second round of his Playoff debut. He is ranked 11th as the standings are reset for the Round of 12 this week – five points behind Kyle Larson in eighth place – the final transfer position to the Round of 8. The top eight drivers will advance following races at Dover, Del., Talladega, Ala. and Kansas. Byron has reason to feel optimistic this weekend. He started on the outside pole at Dover in May and finished eighth, leading five laps. It was the first top 10 of three starts at the Monster Mile. It’s his only previous top 10 at the three Playoff tracks this round.

Corey LaJoie, 28, of Concord, N.C., is coming off a 27th-place run at the Charlotte ROVAL. His best showing in the No. 32 GO FAS Racing Ford was a sixth-place run at Daytona International Speedway in July. He has earned a career-high mark of five top-20 finishes this season – the last a 19th at Indianapolis. He had two top-20 runs in a four-race span midseason including an 11th place at Talladega Superspeedway where the series races next week. His 29th-place showing at Sunday’s Dover venue earlier this season was his best career work in four starts there.

Daniel Suarez, 27, of Monterrey, Mexico, just missed making his first ever Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs and remains ranked 17th – one position out of the Playoff 16 mix. He finished 34th at Charlotte on Sunday but has finished 11th or better in five of the last seven races. He led 29 laps at the Las Vegas Playoff opener three weeks ago and has led double-digit laps four times on the season – a career-high mark. His 52 laps out front at Kentucky – where he also won the pole position – is a career-best mark for laps led. Dover has been an especially good track for the driver of the No. 41 Stewart-Haas Racing Ford. He has four top-10 finishes in five starts at the famous Monster Mile and finished 11th there in May, leading 21 laps. His best ever showing is third place (2018-1) and he was 10th in this Fall Playoff race last year.

Alex Bowman, 26, of Tucson, Ariz. turned in a performance for the ages last week at the Charlotte Motor Speedway Road Course, rallying to a runner-up finish in the closing laps – passing the day’s frontrunners and fellow Playoff contenders Kevin Harvick, William Byron and Clint Bowyer along the way. It was good enough to earn a spot in the Round of 12 in the Playoffs – the farthest the driver of the No. 88 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet has been in the championship hunt. Sunday’s work was his fourth runner-up finish of the year and interesting, the other three came at the next three tracks the series visits in Dover, Talladega and Kansas. Bowman hasn’t led a lap since his career first win at Chicago nine races ago and his second place at Charlotte on Sunday was his first top-10 finish since that victory. He crashed in last year’s Dover Playoff race, finishing 28th.

NASCAR Xfinity Series

The Monster Mile will decide who moves on to Round of 8

The NASCAR Xfinity Series Playoff’s first round will come to a close this weekend at Dover International Speedway in the Use Your Melon Drive Sober 200 (3 p.m. ET on NBCSN, MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio). Four of the 12 Playoff drivers will be eliminated and eight will move on to the next round.

Two drivers have already clinched their spots in the NASCAR Xfinity Series Playoff Round of 8 – Joe Gibbs Racing’s Christopher Bell by winning the Richmond Playoff opener and Stewart-Haas Racing’s Cole Custer who clinched his position on points last weekend at Charlotte.

NASCAR Xfinity Series Playoff standings following Charlotte:

The remaining six positions in the NASCAR Xfinity Series Playoffs will be decided this Saturday. All 10 drivers vying for those remaining six spots can win their way into the next round this weekend. Below are the Round of 8 clinch scenarios for this weekend at Dover:

Richard Childress Racing’s Tyler Reddick can clinch on points with 15 points and a new winner this weekend. If there is a repeat winner (or a win by Cole Custer, Austin Cindric, Justin Allgaier, Chase Briscoe, Noah Gragson or Michael Annett), then he could clinch on points with four points.  Reddick has made four starts at Dover, putting up two top-five finishes; including a third-place result earlier this season.

Team Penske’s Austin Cindric can clinch on points with 16 points and a new winner this Saturday. If there is a repeat winner (or a win by Cole Custer, Tyler Reddick, Justin Allgaier, Chase Briscoe, Noah Gragson or Michael Annett), then he could clinch on points with five points. Cindric has made three series starts at Dover grabbing three top 10s; including his best finish at the track (sixth) earlier this year.

JR Motorsport’s Justin Allgaier can clinch on points with 27 points and a new winner this weekend. If there is a repeat winner (or a win by Cole Custer, Tyler Reddick, Austin Cindric, Chase Briscoe, Noah Gragson or Michael Annett), then he could clinch on points with 16 points.  Of the Playoff drivers, Allgaier has the most experience at Dover having made 17 starts and amassing one win (May 2018), seven top fives and 10 top 10s.

Stewart-Haas Racing with Fred Biagi’s Chase Briscoe can clinch on points with 32 points and a new winner this weekend. If there is a repeat winner (or a win by Cole Custer, Tyler Reddick, Austin Cindric, Justin Allgaier, Noah Gragson or Michael Annett), then he could clinch on points with 21 points. Briscoe has made two series starts at Dover, posting one top five and an average finish of 12.0. He finished fifth at Dover earlier this season.

JR Motorsport’s Noah Gragson can clinch on points with 41 points and a new winner this Saturday. If there is a repeat winner (or a win by Cole Custer, Tyler Reddick, Austin Cindric, Justin Allgaier, Chase Briscoe or Michael Annett), then he could clinch on points with 30 points. Gragson has made two starts at Dover posting one top-10 finish. Earlier this season he started ninth and struggled a bit, finishing 19th.

JR Motorsport’s Michael Annett can clinch on points if there is a repeat winner (or a win by Cole Custer, Tyler Reddick, Austin Cindric, Justin Allgaier, Chase Briscoe or Noah Gragson), with 45 points. Annett could also clinch on points with a new winner and help. Annett has made 15 series starts at Dover, collecting one top five and two top 10s. His average finish at Monster Mile is 13.1. Annett currently sits in the final Playoff transfer position only 11 points ahead of ninth place John Hunter Nemechek.

The remaining four Playoff contenders outside the Xfinity Series postseason cutoff can clinch on points but will need a lot of help. A win is the only sure way they can guarantee their spot in the next round.

GMS Racing’s John H. Nemechek is currently ninth in the NASCR Xfinity Series Playoff standings 11 points back from eighth-place Michael Annett in the final postseason transfer position. Nemechek has made three previous starts at Dover, posting two top 10s; including his best finish at the track (eighth) earlier this season.

Joe Gibbs Racing’s Brandon Jones is 10th in the NASCAR Xfinity Series Playoffs, 11 points back from eighth-place Michael Annett in the final Round of 8 transfer position. Jones has made seven series starts at Dover posting one pole and three top-10 finishes; including his career-best finish at the track (sixth) in this race last season.

RSS Racing’s Ryan Sieg is 11th in the NASCAR Xfinity Series Playoffs, 37 points back from eighth-place Michael Annett in the final Round of 8 transfer position. Sieg has made 11 series starts at Dover putting up an average finish of 15.9. He finished a career-best 11th at Dover earlier this season.

Kaulig Racing’s Justin Haley is 12th in the NASCAR Xfinity Series Playoffs, 39 points back from eighth-place Michael Annett in the final Round of 8 transfer position. Haley made his series track debut at Dover earlier this season; he started 11th and finished 17th.

Xfinity’s next stage: Dover International Speedway

This weekend the NASCAR Xfinity Series rolls into Dover, Delaware, for the third race in the Playoffs with the Use Your Melon Drive Sober 200 (3 p.m. ET on NBCSN, MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio).

Dover International Speedway is one of only seven tracks that are currently on the schedule that have been a part of the series circuit since its inception in 1982.

Dover has hosted 71 NASCAR Xfinity Series races, producing 47 different poles winners and 48 different race winners. Joey Logano and Harry Grant currently hold the series record for poles at Dover with five each. Kyle Busch holds the record for Xfinity Series wins at Dover with five victories.

This season marks the fourth consecutive year Dover International Speedway will host a NASCAR Xfinity Series Playoff race. For the first two years of the Xfinity Playoffs (2016-2017), Dover was the second race in the postseason. Then last year Dover was moved to the third and final race of the Round of 12, the same as it is this season.

Dover has produced three different winners in its three Playoff races – Daniel Suarez won in 2016, Ryan Blaney won in 2017 and Christopher Bell won last season. Blaney is the only one of the three winners that was not a Playoff driver at the time of his victory. Both Suarez and Bell took the Playoff standings lead following their wins at Dover and went on to win the title in their respective seasons.

Last season four drivers were eliminated from the Playoffs following Dover, they were Ross Chastain, Brandon Jones, Ryan Truex and Ryan Reed. Jones is the only one of the four that is currently a Playoff driver this season.

Previous Playoff Round of 12 eliminations

The NASCAR Xfinity Series Playoffs are tough, and this weekend’s event will help to thin the herd of contenders for this season’s title. Each round of the Playoffs eliminates four drivers, below is a look at the past three seasons and the drivers who advanced to the Round of 8 as the drivers listed in red were eliminated:

2016 Playoffs 2017 Playoffs 2018 Playoffs
Round of 8 Round of 8 Round of 8
Kansas, Texas, ISM Raceway Kansas, Texas, ISM Raceway Kansas, Texas, ISM Raceway
Erik Jones William Byron (26) Christopher Bell (44)
Elliott Sadler Justin Allgaier (23) Justin Allgaier (39)
Daniel Suarez Elliott Sadler (20) Daniel Hemric (13)
Bubba Wallace Daniel Hemric (9) Elliott Sadler (11)
Brendan Gaughan Cole Custer (7) Cole Custer (11)
Justin Allgaier Brennan Poole (6) Tyler Reddick (10)
Ryan Reed Ryan Reed (5) Matt Tifft (3)
Blake Koch Matt Tifft (4) Austin Cindric (1)
Ty Dillon Brendan Gaughan Ross Chastain
Brennan Poole Michael Annett Brandon Jones
Ryan Sieg Jeremy Clements Ryan Truex
Brandon Jones Blake Koch Ryan Reed

NASCAR Xfinity Series, Etc.

Burton in JGR’s No. 18 – Harrison Burton will be making his sixth start of the season and third consecutive this weekend at Dover International Speedway in the Joe Gibbs Racing No. 18 Toyota Supra. The No. 18 team is vying for a Playoff spot in the Round of 8 in the NASCAR Xfinity Series owner Playoffs, currently 11th in the standings, 15 points back from the eighth-place JR Motorsport’s No. 1 team driven by Michael Annett. Burton’s Playoff run has seen a sixth-place finish at Richmond and a 13th-place finish last weekend at the Charlotte Road Course. This weekend will be Burton’s series track debut at Dover.

Smith in JRM’s No. 8 – Zane Smith will be back in the JR Motorsport’s No. 8 Chevrolet Camaro this weekend at Dover for his ninth start of the season. Smith’s eight previous starts have produced one top five and five top 10s. Smith has competed in one Playoff race this season already – the Richmond postseason opener starting 15th and finishing eighth. The No. 8 team is currently 10th in the owner Playoff standings 12 points behind the eighth place No. 1 JRM team.

Parade Laps: Insights to the drivers participating in this week’s media breakouts

Four NASCAR Xfinity Series Playoff drivers – Joe Gibbs Racing’s Christopher Bell and Brandon Jones, JR Motorsport’s Michael Annett and GMS Racing’s John Hunter Nemechek – will participate in this week’s media breakout sessions at Dover International Speedway ahead of the Use Your Melon Drive Sober 200 at 3 p.m. ET on NBCSN, MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio. The media session will be this Friday (October 4) from 2 – 2:15 p.m. ET in the Media Center.

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

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.
  • Has recorded 15 career NASCAR Xfinity Series wins in just 69 starts; including seven this season (Atlanta, Bristol, Dover, Iowa, New Hampshire, Road America and Richmond).

2019 Season Highlights:

  • Heads to Dover as the NASCAR Xfinity Playoff standings leader with 2,143 points; 10 points ahead of second-place Cole Custer.
  • With his win at Richmond-2, he has clinched his spot in the Playoff’s Round of 8 on wins.
  • In 28 starts this season, he has posted four poles (ISM Raceway, Texas, Charlotte, Iowa-2), seven wins (Atlanta, Bristol, Dover, Iowa, New Hampshire, Road America and Richmond), 18 top fives, 19 top 10s and an average finish of 8.6.
  • Has won 17 stages and accumulated 62 Playoff points.

Dover International Speedway Performance:

  • Has made three series starts at Dover posting consecutive wins (2018 Playoff race and 2019 spring race) and three top fives. His average finish is 2.0.
  • Has led 154 laps at Dover.

Brandon Jones (No. 19 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota Supra)

Birthdate: February 18, 1997

Driver’s Age: 22

Hometown: Atlanta, Georgia

Hobbies: Woodworking, antique car restoration, metal fabrication, farming

Team: Joe Gibbs Racing

Crew Chief: Jeff Meendering

Xfinity Career Highlights:

  • Has made the NASCAR Xfinity Series Playoffs for the third-time in his career in 2019.
  • In 2018, he tallied a career-best finish of second at Talladega and reached the NASCAR Xfinity Series Playoffs for the second time, finishing a career-best ninth in the standings.
  • In 2017, he captured his first career NASCAR Xfinity Series pole (Daytona-1).
  • In 2016, he made the inaugural NASCAR Xfinity Series Playoffs in his rookie season; ultimately finishing a then career-best 10th in the standings.

2019 Season Highlights:

  • Heads to Dover ranked 10th in the NASCAR Xfinity Playoff standings, just 11 points back from eighth-place Michael Annett in the final Playoff transfer position.
  • In 28 starts this season, he has produced four top fives, 13 top 10s and an average finish of 15.1.
  • Has won three stages and accumulated four Playoff points this season.

Dover International Speedway Performance:

  • Has made seven starts at Dover posting three top 10s. His average finish is 19.0.
  • Has led 37 laps at Dover.

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 eighth in the NASCAR Xfinity Series points standings, 11 points ahead of the Playoff cutoff.
  • 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 28 starts this season, he has posted one pole, one win, five top fives, 16 top 10s and an average finish of 10.4.

Dover International Speedway Performance:

  • Has made 15 series starts at Dover posting one top five and two top 10s.
  • Average start, 22.7 and his average finish, 13.1.

John Hunter Nemechek (No. 23 GMS Racing Chevrolet)

Birthdate: June 11, 1997

Driver’s Age: 24

Hometown: Mooresville, North Carolina

Hobbies: Snowboarding, surfing, mountain biking, cycling

Team: GMS Racing

Crew Chief: Chad Norris

Xfinity Career Highlights:

  • Has made 46 NASCAR Xfinity Series career starts posting one win, 10 top fives, 25 top 10s and a pole.
  • In 2018, he won his first NASCAR Xfinity Series race at Kansas-2 and captured his first pole award at ISM Raceway-2.
  • In 2018 he competed in 18 of 22 NASCAR Xfinity Series races for Chip Ganassi Racing.
  • Made his NASCAR Xfinity Series career debut at Atlanta Motor Speedway for Chip Ganassi Racing; he started third and finished fourth.

2019 Season Highlights:

  • Heads to Dover ranked ninth in the NASCAR Xfinity Series Playoff standings – the first position outside the Round of 12 cutoff. He is currently 11 points back from eighth-place Michael Annett.
  • In 28 starts this season, he has posted four top fives, 14 top 10s and an average finish of 13.6.

Dover International Speedway Performance:

  • Has made three series starts at Dover posting two top-10 finishes.
  • Average start, 21.0 and his average finish, 10.3.

NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series

Gander Trucks are almost back on track

This week marks the third of three consecutive off-weeks for the NASCAR Gander Outdoors Trucks Series before they begin the Round of 6 next weekend at Talladega Superspeedway with the Sugarlands Shine 250 on October 12 (1:30 p.m. ET on FS1, MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio).

Talladega has hosted 13 Gander Trucks races with the first coming in 2006, which was won by Mark Martin in a Ford. That also happened to mark Ford’s only victory at the 2.66-mile behemoth.

The track has seen four multi-race winners, led with three victories by Timothy Peters (2014, 2015, 2018). Todd Bodine (2007, 2008), Kyle Busch (2009, 2010) and Parker Kligerman (2012, 2017) each have two wins. Kligerman is the only multi-race winner to not post consecutive trips to Victory Lane.

With the exception of Peters’ most recent win last season, all of the multi-win drivers notched their victories in a Toyota (including Peters’ first two wins). Overall, Toyota leads the OEM race with nine wins at Talladega while Chevrolet has three wins.

In total, eight different drivers have recorded wins at the Alabama track. Grant Enfinger (2016) and Johnny Sauter (2013) are the only current full-time Gander Trucks drivers who have a previous win there.

The eighth driver not mentioned above? Mike Wallace – who won in 2011.

Breaking down the Playoff contenders at ‘Dega

During the three weeks off between NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series races, we’re breaking down the superspeedway performances for two Playoff contenders each week. The last two weeks we focused on the top four in the seedings going into Talladega. Today we’ll add in the two drivers who start the round outside the Championship 4 cutoff – Matt Crafton and Tyler Ankrum.

Matt Crafton – No. 88 ThorSport Racing Ford: Crafton will have to put the past aside at Talladega to have a shot at using the superspeedway as a springboard into the Championship 4. In 13 appearances at the 2.66-mile circuit, he has a lone top five – a fourth-place finish in 2010. He had only managed four top 10s, and only one in the most recent five races (ninth in 2017). He’s recorded an average finish of 16.8 at ‘Dega and has three DNFs – two within the last three races. His luck hasn’t been much better at Daytona – in 19 starts he has a pair of top-five finishes and eight top 10s. His top fives are spaced nearly a decade apart – in 2010 and 2019 (fifth each time). He has an average finish of 14.4 at the Florida superspeedway and has four DNFs – but none since 2012.

Tyler Ankrum – No. 17 DGR-Crosley Toyota: Superspeedways are the great unknown for the 18-year-old driver who missed the opening three races of the season – including Daytona – due to age restrictions. Next weekend will mark Ankrum’s first visit to one of the massive, high-speed circuits like Daytona or Talladega.

Previous breakdowns:

Brett Moffitt – No. 24 GMS Racing Chevrolet: Superspeedways haven’t been Moffitt’s best friend in his limited appearances at the venues. Moffitt has only made one visit to Talladega – this race last fall. He started eighth and finished 17th there en route to his Gander Trucks title. He has three starts at NASCAR’s other superspeedway – Daytona. His best finish there was 22nd in 2017. Since then he’s had a pair of 26th-place finishes.

Austin Hill – No. 16 Hattori Racing Enterprises Toyota: This fall will mark Hill’s third trip to Talladega Superspeedway, he finished 10th there last fall and was 22nd when he raced in Alabama in 2015. Hill has already tamed Daytona – winning the season opener this year to clinch his Playoff berth early. In his other two races at Daytona, he placed 30th (2015) and 11th (2018).

Ross Chastain – No. 45 Niece Motorsports Chevrolet: Chastain has twice finished third at superspeedways – including in his most recent start at one of those venues at Daytona this February – over a total of eight starts on those tracks. He made three appearances at Talladega Superspeedway – but none since 2016. In his first showing in Alabama in 2012, he was involved in a mid-race crash and finished 34th. The following year he put up his best finish at the track – placing third. Then in 2016 he was 15th. At Daytona, Chastain has made five starts, posting an average finish of 21.0 – with three of his races ending early as a result of crashes. Niece Motorsports is the fifth different team with whom Chastain has raced at a superspeedway – SS Green Light Racing (Talladega and Daytona, 2012), Brad Keselowski Racing (Talladega and Daytona, 2013), Ricky Benton Racing Enterprises (Daytona, 2014), Bolen Motorsports (Talladega, 2016 and Daytona, 2017) and Niece Motorsports (Daytona and Talladega, 2019).

Stewart Friesen – No. 52 Halmar Friesen Chevrolet: Friesen has had a modicum of success at Talladega. He’s made two appearances at the 2.66-mile behemoth – finishing sixth in his most recent visit and putting up a respectable 17th-place result in 2017. His luck hasn’t been as good at Daytona – where he’s crashed out of all three races he’s started there. However, due to the mass amount of attrition at the season-opener in Florida this year, he managed to finish 10th despite crashing late and finishing three laps down.

Track record of champs at Talladega

If you’re a championship contender and don’t have a great weekend at Talladega, don’t fret. Talladega hasn’t been the most welcoming track for title holders in recent years.

Since the NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series began racing at Talladega in 2006, no champion has won at the 2.66-mile Alabama superspeedway during their title season. In fact, only two series champions have visited Talladega’s Victory Lane at some point in their career – 2006 and 2010 champion Todd Bodine won there in 2007 and 2008, 2016 title holder Johnny Sauter won the 2013 race.

Looking at active drivers who hold championships, Sauter leads them all with a win, three top-five and five top-10 finishes in 10 Talladega races. His win came in 2013, but he’s only averaged a finish of 15.8 in the races since. His most recent race in Alabama was cut short by a wreck, relegating him to a 22nd-place finish.

Matt Crafton (2013, 2014 champion) is next with 13 starts at ‘Dega – yielding only one top five (fourth in 2010) and four top 10s. His average finish is 16.8 at the track and he’s had three DNFs. In his most recent trip to Talladega, he placed ninth.

Brett Moffitt (2018 champion) has only made one visit to Talladega – he finished 17th last fall.

Breaking down the Round of 6 tracks

The Gander Trucks have one more weekend off until they take on the most unpredictable track of the Playoffs, Talladega Superspeedway, for the Sugarlands Shine 250 on October 12 (1:30 p.m. ET on FS1, MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio).

Here’s a look at the three tracks that will make up the Round of 6:

Talladega Superspeedway – Saturday, October 12: Talladega is a 2.66-mile, high-banked, high-speed superspeedway. The track features 33 degrees of banking in the corners and 16.5 degrees along the front straight, while the back straight has just two degrees of banking. The front straight is 4,300 feet long and is unique in that the start/finish line is located all the way down near the entrance to Turn 1. The back straight is 4,000 feet long. The race will be 250.4 miles (94 laps) long and was won last year by Timothy Peters – his third win at the track. None of the six remaining Playoff drivers have visited Victory Lane at the track.

Martinsville Speedway – Saturday, October 26: Martinsville, affectionately known as “The Paperclip” due to its shape, is a .52-mile short track. It has 12 degrees of banking in the turns and is perfectly flat in the straights. Each straightaway is 800 feet long. The race will be 105.2 miles (200 laps) long. Johnny Sauter won this race last year while Kyle Busch won the spring race this season. Matt Crafton has two wins at Martinsville (Spring, 2014; Fall, 2015) and is the only remaining Playoff contender with a win at “The Paperclip.”

ISM Raceway – Friday, November 8: ISM Raceway, located near Phoenix, Arizona, is a one-mile track that was recently reconfigured (prior to the 2018 fall race) to move the start/finish line to the former backstretch, just before the dog leg. The banking in Turns 1 and 2 are 11 degrees while it’s nine degrees in Turns 3 and 4. The frontstretch is 1,179 feet long and banked at three degrees and the backstretch is 1,551 feet long and has nine degrees of banking. Brett Moffitt won this race last year. He is the only remaining Playoff contender with a victory at the track.

— NASCAR —