NASCAR Cup Series
Next Race: The Real Heroes Project 400
The Place: Darlington Raceway
The Date: Sunday, May 17
The Time: 3:30 p.m. ET
TV: FOX, 2:30 p.m. ET
Radio: MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio
Distance: 400.2 (293 laps); Stage 1 (Ends on Lap 90),
Stage 2 (Ends on Lap 185), Final Stage (Ends on Lap 293)
NASCAR Cup Series
The Place: Darlington Raceway
The Date: Wednesday, May 20
The Time: 7:30 p.m. ET
TV: FS1, 6:30 p.m. ET
Radio: MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio
Distance: 311.4 miles or 500k (228 laps); Stage 1 (Ends on Lap 60),
Stage 2 (Ends on Lap 125), Final Stage (Ends on Lap 228)
NASCAR Xfinity Series
The Place: Darlington Raceway
The Date: Tuesday, May 19
The Time: 8 p.m. ET
TV: FS1, 7:30 p.m. ET
Radio: MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio
Distance: 200.1 miles (147 Laps); Stage 1 (Ends on Lap 45),
Stage 2 (Ends on Lap 90), Final Stage (Ends on Lap 147)
NASCAR Gander RV & Outdoors Truck Series
The Place: Charlotte Motor Speedway
The Date: Tuesday, May 26
The Time: 8 p.m. ET
TV: FS1, 7:30 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)
NASCAR Cup Series
NASCAR is back!
After a two-month stoppage in action due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the NASCAR Cup Series is back and ready to take on Darlington Raceway on Sunday, May 17 (3:30 p.m. ET on FOX, MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio) in The Real Heroes 400.
During the season’s down time, many Cup drivers and honorary invitees took part in the eNASCAR iRacing Pro Invitational Series. The series was put together in order to give drivers and fans a sense of normalcy and to keep racing competition in the front of their minds.
From various winners to exciting entry lists, the debut of a new virtual but historic real track and broadcasts from the FOX Sports group, the Pro Invitational Series took the racing world by storm.
Denny Hamlin took home the victory in the opening event at virtual Homestead-Miami Speedway and ended up winning the final race of the series last weekend at virtual North Wilkesboro Speedway.
Underdog Cup Series driver Timmy Hill won the race at virtual Texas Motor Speedway and iRacing veteran William Byron dominated the series with wins at virtual Bristol Motor Speedway, virtual Richmond Raceway and virtual Dover International Speedway. Alex Bowman took home the victory at virtual Talladega Superspeedway.
In the midst of a global crisis, NASCAR and its teams came together to provide something fun to the industry and its fans.
But, now it’s time to go back to real-time racing and the drivers are more than ready and excited to be back.
"I think the mindset for Turn 1 at the start of Darlington, and really all the races where we haven’t been on track yet, would be to take it easy. It’s a 400-mile race on Sunday and there will be plenty of time. Plus, my understanding is there will be a caution early for everyone to look over their tires and their car. We’ll certainly take it easy until then because that will give us time to feel out how the car is handling and more confidence in how to drive again and get the right feel back under you again. It won’t take too long to get acclimated again," said Kyle Busch, driver of the No. 18 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota.
Competition updates for NASCAR Cup Series
NASCAR officials released new procedures for the starting lineups and pit selections as well as a modified competition caution process to allow for more adjustments during the upcoming races without practice or qualifying.
For this weekend’s event on May 17 at Darlington Raceway, the lineup was determined by a random draw:
- Positions 1-12 will be determined by a random draw from charter teams in those positions in team owner points
- Positions 13-24: Random draw among charter teams in those positions in owner points
- Positions 25-36: Random draw among charter teams in those positions in owner points
- Positions 37-40 will be filled out by open, non-chartered teams in order of owner points
The starting lineup for the following event on May 20 at Darlington will use the finishing order from the May 17 race:
- Starting positions 1-20: The top 20 finishers from the May 17 event will be inverted for the start of the May 20 race
- Starting positions 21-40: The bottom 20 finishers from the May 17 event will be inverted for the start of the May 20 race; any new entries will be placed at the tail of the field
Pit-stall selection order for the May 17 event was based on charter team owner points followed by open team owner points. Pit selection for the May 20 event will be determined by the May 17 event finishing order.
Harvick leads the way
No one’s been more consistent than Stewart-Haas Racing’s Kevin Harvick this season. His series-best four top-10 finishes in four races backs that up. And thanks to a season-best runner-up finish at Phoenix Raceway, the last race before the pause in live sports due to the COVID-10 pandemic, Harvick has earned the NASCAR Cup Series points lead – by a single point over two-race winner Joey Logano heading into this weekend’s race at Darlington.
But as great as the perch atop the standings may be, the driver of the No. 4 Stewart-Haas Racing Ford would like to firmly secure that championship opportunity with a victory. And soon.
Harvick is pretty strong at Darlington Raceway with one win coming in 2014 after starting from the pole. He has also finished inside the top-10 in eight of the last 10 races at the track.
In 23 career starts at the egg-shaped track, Harvick has also accumulated eight top fives, 12 top 10s and has an average start of 14.4 and an average finish of 14.3. He’s also completed 96.1 percent of laps attempted and led 581 laps.
He has a driver rating of 100.7, the fourth-best and has run 4,334 laps in the top 15, which is the third-most.
The numbers would say that his chances are good at Darlington to keep the streak going.
At Darlington Raceway, Harvick is in the top-five Loop Data leaders for driver rating, fastest laps run, laps led, quality passes and laps in the top 15. And, last season, Harvick finished fourth.
Rocket Man is back in the No. 6
This weekend’s race at Darlington Raceway not only marks the beginning of racing again, but it also marks the first time Ryan Newman, driver of the No.6 Roush Fenway Racing Ford, will be back behind the wheel after being sidelined due to a last-lap crash in the season-opening Daytona 500.
Newman announced during the COVID-19 pandemic break that he has been cleared again to race.
This Sunday’s NASCAR Cup Series race will be the first time he has competed since Daytona. But you can expect Newman to get right back up to speed. The veteran has made 21 series starts at Darlington Raceway posting seven top fives and 12 top 10s. His average finish at the famed track is 12.6.
Hendrick Motorsports off to a strong start
Chase Elliott’s early season success is just one of the bright spots for the Hendrick Motorsports organization in 2020. Three of its drivers are ranked among the top 10 in the standings – Elliott is third, 20 points behind leader Kevin Harvick. Alex Bowman – the Auto Club Speedway winner – is fourth, 26 points out. Jimmie Johnson is fifth, 33 points back and after a hard-knocks start to the season William Byron has broken into the top-20 and is part of a two-way tie with Bubba Wallace at 18th in the standings
It’s the first time the team has had three drivers ranked in the top 10 after four races since 2015 (Kasey Kahne, fourth, Dale Earnhardt Jr., sixth and Johnson, seventh).
Bowman has the early season victory and the one top five in four races. Elliott and Johnson each have a pair of top 10s and one top five. And Elliott leads the whole series in stage wins (three) and laps led (186). Bowman also has topped the 100-lap mark in laps led with 113.
And the best news for the organization is the success has been spread out. Elliott’s 17th-place finish in the season-opening Daytona 500 was the best for the team. Johnson’s fifth place at Las Vegas was tops. Bowman won at California. And Elliott (seventh) and Byron (10th) both had top-10 runs at Phoenix – the first top-10 finish of the year for Byron.
Heading to Darlington Raceway, the Hendrick Motorsports drivers are all looking to keep the 2020 momentum going this weekend. Byron was the 2019 Darlington pole winner and leads all active drivers in average starting position. Jimmie Johnson leads all active drivers in wins (three) and top fives (nine) at the South Carolina track. And Chase Elliott has posted one top five and two top 10s in five Cup Series starts at Darlington. Plus, he has a victory in the NASCAR Xfinity Series at the track.
Joe Gibbs Racing looking for strong restart to the season
After a historic 19-win NASCAR Cup Series season in 2019 – including Kyle Busch’s second series championship – the Joe Gibbs Racing organization is still largely fine-tuning its winning form this year.
Denny Hamlin, driver of the No. 11 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota, won his second consecutive Daytona 500 to open the season in the same triumphant way JGR closed out the 2019 season. But since that race, JGR has found itself in a bit of catch-up mode – not always of its own doing.
Three JGR drivers – Busch, Hamlin and Martin Truex Jr. – qualified for the Championship 4 season finale last year. But after four races this season, not a single JGR driver is ranked among the top 10 in the NASCAR Cup Series standings.
Hamlin is 11th, 53 points off the leader Kevin Harvick, who was the fourth member of the Championship 4 last year. Reigning series champ Busch is ranked 12th, also 53 points back. Truex is ranked 15th, 68 points off Harvick and Jones is 21st, 87 points off the title pace.
Only Hamlin has won a stage this year (one). His 79 laps out front – all in his Daytona win – are the most for any Gibbs driver. Truex has led only 15 laps, Busch has led only 14 laps and Jones has not been out front yet.
This is his first season for Truex without longtime crew chief Cole Pearn, so there is a natural learning curve for the No. 19 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota. He has yet to earn a top 10 and has two DNFs in four races.
But, the good news is that JGR is very strong at Darlington Raceway. Jones has the highest driver rating at Darlington (110.8) and the best average running position at 7.550. Busch leads the fastest laps run category with 311, laps led with 716, quality passes with 561 and laps in the top 15 at 4,862, which is 88.1 percent.
Truex has one win, two top fives and six top 10s at Darlington with an average finish of 11.6, the sixth-best. He also has the sixth-best driver rating at the track at 99.3.
Hamlin is very good at Darlington as well with two wins, seven top fives, 11 top 10s and one pole. He has an average finish of 7.8, the second-best and a driver rating of 106.3, also the second-best.
A hot streak for the four JGR guys could be on its way.
Taking a glance at the Sunoco Rookies
The NASCAR Cup Series most recent race at Phoenix Raceway was a significant outing for several members of the NASCAR Cup Series’ talented Sunoco Rookie class.
Stewart-Haas Racing’s Cole Custer earned his first NASCAR Cup Series top 10 with a ninth-place finish on Sunday. The effort moved him to 22nd in the standings – best among rookies.
Richard Childress Racing’s Tyler Reddick earned points in the first two stages and ran among the top five for a portion of the race before a late accident cost him a fitting finish. The two-time and defending NASCAR Xfinity Series champion was ultimately 33rd in the finishing order and dropped him to 25th in the standings heading into this weekend at Darlington.
Christopher Bell had his best outing of the four-race season, finishing 24th in the No. 95 Leavine Family Racing Toyota, one position ahead of Front Row Motorsports’ driver John Hunter Nemechek.
Custer is tops among the rookies in the standings, followed by Reddick and Nemechek, who sit in 25th and 26th position, respectively.
Bell is currently 32nd in the NASCAR Cup Series standings. Bell has two starts at Darlington in the Xfinity Series posting one top five. He started on the front row (second) in both of those starts.
Custer has three starts at the track in the Xfinity Series and won in his most recent start in 2019 from the third position. In 2018, he finished runner-up and in his debut in 2017 he finished ninth. He never started outside of the top six in all three starts.
Reddick also has three starts in the Xfinity Series at Darlington and finished runner-up in 2019 and third in 2018.
Nemechek will head to Darlington for only the second-time of his career. His first start was last season in the Xfinity Series, and he finished 21st.
Only four races into the 2020 season and three NASCAR Cup Series teams have celebrated pole positions – JTG Daugherty in Daytona (driver Ricky Stenhouse Jr.), Stewart-Haas Racing in Fontana (Clint Bowyer) and Hendrick Motorsports in Phoenix (Chase Elliott).
Three drivers from three teams have hoisted trophies in the opening four races. Joe Gibbs Racing’s Denny Hamlin won the season-opening Daytona 500, becoming only the third driver in history to earn back-to-back titles in the legendary race. Hendrick Motorsports’ Alex Bowman earned his second career win at California’s Auto Club Speedway and Team Penske’s Joey Logano was the year’s first multi-time winner – taking the trophy at both Las Vegas and Phoenix.
The average Margin of Victory through the first four races is 4.590-seconds (twice the race has ended under caution). The average number of leaders per race is 8.75 – up from 8.25 in 2019. The average number of lead changes per race is 21.25 – the most since 2014 (24.25).
The season’s 148 Green Flag Passes for the Lead are the fifth most in the last 10 seasons. The highest total in the last decade after four races is 255 – a mark set in 2014. The total number of Green Flag Passes (2,241) at Phoenix was the highest total in the last decade and up 66 percent from a year ago.
The Phoenix race had 19 Green Flag Passes for the Lead – an increase of 46 percent from last year’s Spring race (13 Green Flag Passes for the Lead) and an increase of 90 percent from the 2019 Playoff race (10 Green Flag Passes for the Lead).
NASCAR Xfinity Series
Back to racing at Darlington Raceway!
NASCAR is back and so that means that the NASCAR Xfinity Series is back in action with a 200-mile race at the historic Darlington Raceway on Tuesday, May 19 (8 p.m. ET on FS1, MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio).
Darlington Raceway is one of the most admired tracks by competitors in NASCAR history; largely due to its unique 1.366-mile egg-shaped layout. The famed facility is located in Darlington, South Carolina, and with 25 degrees of banking in Turns 1-2 and 23 degrees of banking in Turns 3-4, the distinctive track offers a one-of-a-kind challenge to the competitors.
Darlington Raceway has hosted 59 NASCAR Xfinity Series races dating back to the inaugural event in 1982 (won by Geoff Bodine). The 59 races have produced 31 different race winners and 29 different pole winners. Mark Martin leads the Xfinity Series in poles (8) and wins (8) at Darlington Raceway. He also leads the series in top fives (14) and top 10s (18). Team Penske’s Ryan Blaney won the pole for the 2019 NASCAR Xfinity Series race at Darlington Raceway and Stewart-Haas Racing’s Cole Custer won the race.
Denny Hamlin owns the Xfinity Series Darlington race record at 141.355 mph on September 5, 2015 and Carl Edwards holds the series qualifying track record at 176.994 mph on May 9, 2008.
Competition update for Xfinity Series
NASCAR officials announced that the field size for the Xfinity Series will be temporarily expanded to a maximum of 40 vehicles. This change is in effect for events scheduled without qualifying.
As far as the points structure, the change will not alter the standings much at all. In the Xfinity Series, officials will continue to award a baseline of 40 championship points for first place and one point for 36th (which was formerly the last place) place. As a result, teams finishing 37th through 40th will also receive one point.
Standings leader Harrison Burton strives to hold record rookie streak
Joe Gibbs Racing’s Sunoco Rookie of the Year candidate Harrison Burton continued to make history during the last on-track event at Phoenix Raceway, notching his fourth consecutive top-five finish to start the season in as many races.
This is the seventh time in series history a driver has started the season with four top fives and Burton is the first and only rookie in the NASCAR Xfinity Series to accomplish the feat, and the sixth driver all-time; joining Sam Ard (1984), Kevin Harvick (2005), Carl Edwards (2009, 2010), Elliott Sadler (2012) and Kyle Busch (2014). The series record for the most consecutive top-five finishes to start a season is eight, by Kyle Busch in 2014. In fact, Busch is the only driver to make it to five straight top fives to start a season.
With a win (California) and four top fives to start 2020, Burton has a grasp on the series standings lead by three points over second-place Chase Briscoe.
When the Xfinity Series hits the track on Tuesday, May 19 (8 p.m. ET on FS1, MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio) for the series’ first race back since the COVID-19 pandemic, Burton will be making his track debut. He will also have to do it without any practice or qualifying, making for a very exciting show.
4 For 4: Xfinity winners aplenty
Since going to the ‘select a series’ format in NASCAR in 2011, this season is the first to see four different NASCAR Xfinity Series championship contenders visit Victory Lane in as many series races to start the year.
At the last Xfinity Series race at Phoenix Raceway, Joe Gibbs Racing’s Brandon Jones added his name to the 2020 wins list, joining his JGR teammate Harrison Burton (California), Stewart-Haas Racing’s Chase Briscoe (Las Vegas) and JR Motorsports’ Noah Gragson (Daytona). All four Xfinity drivers have now virtually locked themselves into the NASCAR Xfinity Series Playoffs by virtue of their victories.
As teams prepare for their first on-track event in two months, padding their points and adding more wins to the boxscore should be their goal going forward.
Harrison Burton will be making his series track debut this weekend attempting to defend both his driver standings lead and his rookie standings lead. Gragson has one start to his name at Darlington and it came last season. He started eighth and finished eighth. Briscoe also made his series track debut at Darlington last season and started fifth and finished sixth. Jones has made four starts at Darlington Raceway in his Xfinity career, with two top-10 finishes including last season’s race at the track.
Here is a look at the Xfinity Series points standings currently:
Who keeps the Xfinity Series’ different winner streak rolling?
The two names jumping to the top of most lists when asked, ‘Who is closest to a win this season?’ are JR Motorsports’ Justin Allgaier and Team Penske’s Austin Cindric. Both put up wins last season and made it deep into the Playoffs, and now both are back this season running strong.
The high-level skills of veteran Justin Allgaier are a consistent theme in his performances on track, and this season has been no different. The 33-year-old from Riverton, Illinois, has run up front leading the most laps (140) and winning the most stages (three) of any Xfinity driver this season. In fact, he has led laps in every race this year, but only has one top-10 finish in four starts to show for the effort. Now, Allgaier is ninth in the series driver standings, 38 points behind the standings lead, but Darlington Raceway could be the track where he finds Victory Lane. In nine starts at the 1.366-mile raceway he has posted two top fives, six top 10s and an average finish of 9.3. In his last three starts at the track, he has not finished outside the top-10.
Austin Cindric’s breakout season last year was just a precursor to what he hopes this season can be. The 21-year-old from Mooresville, North Carolina, has already been impressive this year collecting two top fives and three top 10s in his first four starts. He’s third in the standings, the highest ranked driver without a win yet this season, just 21 points back from Harrison Burton in the standings lead. This Tuesday, May 19 at Darlington Raceway should be a continuation of his early success this season. He finished a career-best 10th at the track in last season’s race.
Both drivers have a chance to keep the NASCAR Xfinity Series different winners to start the season streak alive. The record for the highest number of different winners to start a NASCAR Xfinity Series season is 13 back in 1988; followed by 1987 with 10 different winners, then 2018 with nine and 1998, 2006 with eight.
The 1988 and 2017 NASCAR Xfinity Series seasons are tied for the series-most different winners for the entire season with 18 each.
NASCAR Xfinity Series, Etc.
Interesting Darlington numbers –
- There were 24 leads changes in the Xfinity Series race in 1984, the most to date
- In 2002, there were no lead changes throughout the entire race
- The most leaders at the track was nine, most recently in 2005
- The most cautions in a race at the track was 10, three times, most recently in 2009
- The fewest cautions in a race at the track was two, seven times, most recently in 2015
- Ford has the most wins by a manufacturer at the track with 18
- 15 of the 59 races at Darlington have been won from the pole
Goodyear Fast Facts – For the Xfinity Series fifth race of the season at Darlington Raceway, the series will utilize Goodyear Eagles Speedway Radials. The series will get six sets for the race with approximately 24.5 laps per set. The tire allotment was originally built for the race weekend at Homestead-Miami Speedway but because teams use the same combination of left and right-side tires, they have been reallocated for the first three races back. Like all NASCAR ovals greater than one-mile in length, each team is required to run inner liners in all four positions.
Approaching Milestones - Mike Harmon Racing’s Joe Nemechek is just two starts away from becoming just the sixth different driver to make 450 or more NASCAR Xfinity Series starts. He currently has 448 Xfinity Series starts dating back to 1989. … Motorsports Business Management’s driver Chad Finchum is expected to attempt to make his 75th NASCAR Xfinity Series start this Tuesday at Darlington Raceway.
Playoff Bubble update - Brandonbilt Motorsport’s driver Brandon Brown jumped from 13th to 12th in the Xfinity driver standings, the final Playoff transfer spot, leap frogging DGM Racing’s Alex Labbe. Brown sits four points ahead of Labbe heading to Darlington; followed by Josh Williams (-8) in 14th and Myatt Snider (-12) in 15th.
NASCAR Gander RV & Outdoors Trucks Series
Charlotte awaits the Gander Trucks
After a hiatus due to the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as a two-week break in the schedule prior to the pause in sports, the NASCAR Gander RV & Outdoors Truck Series will be back in action on Tuesday, May 26 at Charlotte Motor Speedway (8 p.m. ET on FS1, MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio).
The event will be the third of the 2020 season for the Gander Trucks and the 18th for the series Charlotte Motor Speedway, located in Concord, North Carolina. The 17 previous series races at the 1.5-mile speedway have produced 10 different poles winners, led by Kyle Busch and Mike Skinner with three each. And eight different winners, led by Kyle Busch with eight victories.
To kick off the year, Grant Enfinger secured the season-opening win at Daytona International Speedway and Kyle Busch returned to the series at Las Vegas Motor Speedway and took home the checkered flag.
Last season, Kyle Busch dominated the NASCAR Gander RV & Outdoors Truck Series race at Charlotte Motor Speedway leading 102 of the scheduled 134 laps (76%) and winning his eighth series career race at the track.
Points on points on points
Although the series is only two races into the season for the NASCAR Gander RV & Outdoors Trucks, taking a look at the driver point standings shows us who has been on top of their game since the start of the season.
Hattori Racing Enterprises driver Austin Hill leads the driver standings with 82 points, nine markers up on second-place Johnny Sauter. Hill has one top five and two top 10s in the first two races of the season and has led 11 laps.
Veteran ThorSport Racing driver Sauter is right in Hill’s rearview mirror in second in the Gander Trucks driver standings with 73 points. He also has one top five and two top 10s on the year.
Ben Rhodes sits in third in the series driver standings, 22 points back from driver standings lead, with one top-five finish this season. Rhodes gained a massive 16 spots in the standings after Vegas, and is now just 13 points behind second-place Sauter.
GMS Racing’s Brett Moffitt, the 2018 series champion, is in fourth in the Gander Trucks driver standings following Las Vegas with 59 points, 23 back from Austin Hill in the standings lead.
Moffitt’s GMS Racing teammate Sheldon Creed rounds out the top five in the standings with two top-10 performances in as many races. He has accumulated 58 points this season, 24 back from Hill and just one back from Moffitt.
Looking ahead to the first race back at Charlotte Motor Speedway, Hill will have his work cut out for him to hold on to the standings lead as of the top five in points, Rhodes has the best average finish on the 1.54-mile track with a 4.8; followed by Moffitt (5.3), Creed (12.0), Sauter (12.1) and Hill (13.8).
Rookie Battle update: Zane Smith out front early
We’re only two races into the NASCAR Gander RV & Outdoors Truck Series 2020 season, but here’s how the top three drivers in the Sunoco Rookie of the Year standings are faring thus far.
|NGROTS Sunoco Rookie of the Year Standings|
GMS Racing’s Zane Smith stands atop the Sunoco Rookie of the Year standings with 58 points; sixth in the Gander Trucks driver points after one top-10 finish in two starts this season.
Two points behind Smith is Kyle Busch Motorsports’ Christian Eckes in second in the rookie points and eighth in the Gander Truck driver standings. And seven points back from Eckes is McAnally Hilgemann Racing’s Derek Kraus in third in the rookie standings and 15th in the series driver standings.
Smith and Kraus are the first two drivers to win the Sunoco Rookie of the Race awards in 2020.
Smith opened the season strong with an 11th-place finish at Daytona and a sixth-place finish at Las Vegas. He has completed 100% of laps attempted and has earned an average finish of 8.5.
Eckes has had a slow start to the season, finishing 22nd at Daytona and 23rd at Las Vegas. The driver of the No. 18 Toyota was competing hard with his owner (and teammate) during the race at Las Vegas but ended up suffering from penalties and being involved in an incident late in the race.
Kraus has had mixed results too in 2020, finishing fourth at Daytona and 22nd at Las Vegas due to an incident on the third lap of the race and was unable to work his way back to the front of the field.
— NASCAR —