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NASCAR National Series News & Notes – Texas Motor Speedway


NASCAR Cup Series
Next Race: O’Reilly Auto Parts 500
The Place: Texas Motor Speedway
The Date: Sunday, July 19
The Time: 3 p.m. ET
TV: NBCSN, 2:30 p.m. ET
Radio: PRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio
Distance: 500.5 miles (334 laps); Stage 1 (Ends on Lap 85), Stage 2 (Ends on Lap 170), Final Stage (Ends on Lap 334)
2019 Race Winner: Denny Hamlin

NASCAR Xfinity Series
Next Race: My Bariatric Solutions 300
The Place: Texas Motor Speedway
The Date: Saturday, July 18
The Time: 3 p.m. ET
TV: NBCSN, 2:30 p.m. ET
Radio: PRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio
Distance: 300 miles (200 Laps); Stage 1 (Ends on Lap 45), Stage 2 (Ends on Lap 90), Final Stage (Ends on Lap 200)
2019 Race Winner: Kyle Busch

NASCAR Gander RV & Outdoors Truck Series
Next Race: Vankor 350
The Place: Texas Motor Speedway
The Date: Saturday, July 18
The Time: 8 p.m. ET
TV: FS1, 7:30 p.m. ET
Radio: MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio
Distance: 250.5 miles (167 Laps); Stage 1 (Ends on Lap 40), Stage 2 (Ends on Lap 80), Final Stage (Ends on Lap 167)
2019 Race Winner: Kyle Busch

NASCAR Cup Series

On Deck: Texas Motor Speedway

After a thrilling Wednesday night of All-Star racing at Bristol Motor Speedway, the NASCAR Cup Series turns their attention to Texas Motor Speedway for Sunday’s O’Reilly Auto Parts 500 at 3 p.m. ET on NBCSN, PRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio. This weekend’s race at Texas will mark the halfway point of a 2020 season that has already produced nine different winners including Sunoco Rookie of the Year contender Cole Custer’s thrilling victory at Kentucky last weekend – the first time a rookie has won since Chris Buescher did it at Pocono in 2016.

Texas Motor Speedway has hosted 38 NASCAR Cup Series races dating back to the inaugural event on April 6, 1997 – the event was won by former driver turned NBCSN sports analyst Jeff Burton by more than 4-seconds over NASCAR Hall of Famer Dale Jarrett in second. The 38 series races at Texas Motor Speedway have garnered 25 different pole winners and 19 different race winners. Two of the 19 different Texas winners got their first series career win at Texas Motor Speedway – Jeff Burton (1997) and NASCAR Hall of Famer Dale Earnhardt Jr. (2000). Chip Ganassi Racing’s Kurt Busch leads the series in poles at Texas with three (2015, 2017, 2018), and seven-time NASCAR Cup Series champion Jimmie Johnson leads the series in Texas victories with seven wins (2007, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015 sweep and 2017).

Last season’s March Texas race was won by Joe Gibbs Racing’s Denny Hamlin; it was the team’s eighth victory at Texas (third-most). In total nine different organizations have won at Texas Motor Speedway in the NASCAR Cup Series, led by Hendrick Motorsports and Roush Fenway Racing with nine wins each.

Another thing worth noting is this weekend at Texas will be the seventh time this season the series has competed on a 1.5-mile track. The six previous 1.5-mile tracks this year have put up six different winners: Joey Logano (Las Vegas), Brad Keselowski (Charlotte-1), Chase Elliott (Charlotte-2), Kevin Harvick (Atlanta), Denny Hamlin (Homestead-Miami) and Cole Custer (Kentucky).

Harvick looks to make it back-to-back at Texas

Following Kentucky, Stewart-Haas Racing’s Kevin Harvick has a firm grasp on the NASCAR Cup Series driver standings lead, up 88 points on second place Brad Keselowski. Now the California native looks to Texas Motor Speedway this weekend to not only get his fifth win of the season but make it two in a row in the Lone Star state; as he won from the pole in last season’s Playoff race.

Only three NASCAR Cup Series drivers have posted consecutive wins at Texas Motor Speedway – Jimmie Johnson (2014 Playoff race and 2015 sweep), Carl Edwards (2008 sweep) and Denny Hamlin (2010 sweep). This weekend Harvick has the opportunity to become the fourth. In 34 series starts (series-most) at Texas he has posted two poles, three wins, 11 top fives and 22 top 10s (tied with Jimmie Johnson for series-most). Despite all the success, Harvick will have his work cut for him on Sunday, as all three of his previous victories have come in the Playoff races at Texas (2017, 2018, 2019). He finished eighth in the March Texas race last season.

Harvick’s consistent success is what has set him apart from the competition this season. In 17 starts this year, he has collected four wins (a winning percentage of 23.5%), 10 top fives (series-most) and 14 top 10s (series-most).

This weekend’s race will also mark Kevin Harvick’s 700th career start in the NASCAR Cup Series. He is also closing in on a career laps led milestone (14,685) as well; he needs just 315 more laps led to eclipse 15,000 laps led in the NASCAR Cup Series.

Sunoco Rookie Spotlight: All the Cole Custer you can muster

Stewart-Haas Racing’s Sunoco Rookie of the Year candidate Cole Custer made a stellar four-wide pass for the lead at Kentucky Speedway on the final lap to take his first career NASCAR Cup Series checkered flag. It was the first time a rookie has won in the NASCAR Cup Series since Chris Buescher accomplished the feat at Pocono in 2016. Not only did he win his way into the All-Star Race on Wednesday night, he has now guaranteed his spot in Playoffs and chance at a run for the title.

Currently 20th in points, Custer’s win lifted a lot of the regular season pressure off of his team to make the postseason. Now the 22-year old from Ladera Ranch, California can focus on honing his skills, padding his points standings position, and collecting Playoff points with less consequence. In 17 starts this season, he has posted one win, two top fives and three top 10s. His average finish is 19.5.

This weekend will be Custer’s series track debut at Texas Motor Speedway, but he is no stranger to the 1.5-mile track. He has made six NASCAR Xfinity Series starts at Texas, posting one win (2018), four top fives and five top 10s.

Elliott catches wave of momentum with All-Star win

Hendrick Motorsport’s driver Chase Elliott led 60 of the 140 laps en route to the $1.1 million dollar paycheck Wednesday night at Bristol Motor Speedway in the NASCAR All-Star Race. Not only did the special All-Star win fatten Elliott’s wallet, it also righted the No. 9 team’s line of sight on the championship.

"There’s nothing like Bristol. There is nothing like the lights here. There is nothing like racing here. I’ve never won here – what a race to do it," a smiling Elliott said after climbing of his Chevrolet. "Just really proud of our team tonight and rebounding. We have had a really tough couple of weeks and just felt like we had kind of gotten off base and I felt like I was struggling.

"Just tried to hit the reset button this week and came out and put on a great performance – great car. Just can’t thank all our partners enough, everybody that makes this happen. All those No. 9 hats and t-shirts up in the stands – love to see it."

He and his father Bill Elliott join the father/son combination of Dale Earnhardt and Dale Earnhardt Jr. to have won the sport’s midseason All-Star exhibition. Interestingly, Bill Elliott won the race when it was held in Atlanta and Chase’s victory at the half-mile Bristol, Tenn. short track are the only two times the event was held at a track other than Charlotte Motor Speedway.

Heading to Texas this weekend Elliott and the No. 9 team will look to keep the success flowing. In eight starts at Texas Motor Speedway, Elliott has posted two top fives and five top 10s.

Playoff Bubble: Seven-time champ Jimmie Johnson sits in the last Playoff transfer spot

After not making the Playoffs last season for the first time in his career, Hendrick Motorsport’s Jimmie Johnson finds himself teetering on the Playoff bubble again, just 24 points up on 17th-place Austin Dillon, 17 races into the 2020 season.

This year Johnson and crew chief Cliff Daniels are starting to click and find some success. The pair have amassed two top fives and six top 10s in 17 starts. But the biggest dark cloud looming over Johnson’s head is the current winless streak he cannot seem to shake. The driver of the No. 48 has 83 victories to his name but has not been able to get back to Victory Lane in 112 races (111 attempts – was sidelined for one race due to COVID-19).

But if there was track that Jimmie Johnson could turn it around, not named Dover, it would be Texas Motor Speedway. Johnson leads the series in wins at Texas with seven victories (2007, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015 sweep and 2017). In total he has made 33 starts at the 1.5-mile facility putting up two poles, seven wins, 16 top fives (series-most) and 22 top 10s (tied with Kevin Harvick for series-most). He finished fifth in the March Texas race last season.

Former Texas winners looking for a win in 2020

In this weekend’s NASCAR Cup Series action at Texas Motor Speedway, eight former series winners at the 1.5-mile track are entered for Sunday’s O’Reilly Auto Parts 500 and half of them are looking for their first win of the 2020 season.

Kyle Busch

Defending series champ and Joe Gibbs Racing driver, Kyle Busch, has three NASCAR Cup Series Texas Motor Speedway wins under his belt but heads into this weekend looking for his first victory of 2020. The 35-year old Las Vegas native is currently 11th in the series driver standings, 198 points back from Kevin Harvick in the standings lead. In 17 starts this season, he has gathered seven top fives and nine top 10s; including three runner-up finishes. Busch’s resume at Texas has been solid posting one pole, three wins (2013, 2016, 2018 all spring races), 12 top fives and 15 top 10s in 28 starts.

Matt Kenseth

Chip Ganassi Racing’s Matt Kenseth is also looking for his first win of 2020 and heads into this weekend at Texas Motor Speedway ready to get his third career victory at the 1.5-mile facility. Kenseth received the Playoff waiver after replacing Kyle Larson in the No. 42 Chevrolet this season, but will most likely need to win to get into the postseason as he is currently 28th in the driver standings, 178 points back from Jimmie Johnson in the 16th and final Playoff transfer spot. In 13 starts this year Kenseth has put up one top five and two top 10s. The veteran from Cambridge, Wisconsin has made 30 series starts at Texas posting one pole, two wins (2002, 2011), 14 top fives and 19 top 10s. He also leads the series in key pre-race loop data stats at Texas – driver rating (103.8) and average running position (9.351).

Ryan Newman

For Ryan Newman, the 2020 NASCAR Cup Series season has been a whirlwind to say the least. The Indiana native kicked the season off with a dramatic last-lap crash in the Daytona 500 that sidelined him for three races but has since returned to competition and is looking for his first win of 2020. Newman’s last series win came 121 races ago at Phoenix in 2017.

Currently the Roush Fenway Racing veteran is 26th in series driver standings with a Playoff waiver in hand looking for his first win of 2020 to click his ticket to the postseason. In 14 starts this year, Newman has accumulated one top 10 and an average finish of 18.6. With 136 points between Newman and 16th place Jimmie Johnson – in the final postseason transfer spot – it will most likely take a win for Newman to make the Playoffs and Texas is place he has been able to do just that. In 33 starts at the 1.5-mile track, he has put up two poles, one win (2003), three top fives and six top 10s. He finished 11th in the March Texas race last season.

Kurt Busch

Rounding out the four previous Texas winners looking for their first victory in 2020 is Chip Ganassi Racing’s Kurt Busch, who currently is wrestling a 34-race winless streak that dates back to the race at Kentucky last season. Heading into this weekend at Texas, Busch is ranked 10th in driver standings 183 points back from Kevin Harvick in the series standings lead. In 17 starts this year, he has amassed a pole, four top fives and 10 top 10s. Looking ahead to Sunday, Texas could be the place he gets back to his winning ways. The 41-year old Las Vegas native has made 34 series starts at Texas posting a series leading three poles, one win (2009), three top fives and 21 top 10s. He finished ninth in the March Texas race last year.

Denny Hamlin is here to defend last season’s Texas win

The only driver that has been able to go win-for-win with NASCAR Cup Series driver standings leader Kevin Harvick this season is Joe Gibbs Racing’s Denny Hamlin. Both Hamlin and Harvick lead the series in wins in 2020 with four each, but Hamlin is focused on snapping that tie this weekend at Texas Motor Speedway; not only getting his fifth win of 2020 but also defending his victory in this event last season.

The Virginian is currently sixth in driver standings 122 markers behind Kevin Harvick in the standings lead but has the series-most Playoff points (23) at this point in the season. In 17 starts this year, he has stockpiled four wins (Daytona 500, Darlington, Homestead, Pocono), nine top fives and 10 top 10s.

Digging into the numbers, Texas Motor Speedway has been a feast-or-famine type track for Denny Hamlin, who in 28 starts has three wins (2010 sweep, 2019), seven top fives and 13 top 10s. What is deceiving by those stats is he only has one DNF at Texas in his career but in his last six starts he has a win, a third-place finish and four finishes outside the top-25. It either goes really well for Hamlin in Texas or really poorly.

Wood Brother’s Matt DiBenedetto off to a strong start

Another driver off to a strong start this season is Wood Brothers Racing’s Matt DiBenedetto. The 28-year old from Grass Valley, California, is making the most of 2020 – winning the NASCAR All-Star Open and earning a spot in the All-Star Race for the first time in his career and on top of that he is currently 12th in the standings – in Playoff contention – just 17 races into his first season driving the famous No. 21 Wood Brothers Racing Ford.

DiBenedetto has been prime form this season posting two top fives and five top 10s; including a runner-up finish at Las Vegas and third-place finish last weekend at Kentucky. His average finish this year is a career-best 14.8.

Heading into this weekend at Texas Motor Speedway, DiBenedetto has a 68-point cushion on the postseason cutline. He has made nine series starts at the 1.5-mile track posting an average finish of 28.1. His career-best finish at Texas is 14th in last year’s Playoff race.

NASCAR Xfinity Series

Cindric becomes first to win back-to-back in one series at same track in same weekend

Team Penske’s Austin Cindric not only broke through and got his first and second win of 2020, guaranteeing his spot in the Playoffs, but he also etched his names in the record books becoming the first driver in NASCAR national series history to win in consecutive days at the same track in the same series.

With two wins the 21-year old Cindric is now third in the NASCAR Xfinity Series driver standings, just 33 points back from Chase Briscoe in the series standings lead. Cindric’s victories also boosted his Playoff point total to 15 – third-most in the series. In 15 starts this season, the Mooresville, North Carolina native has racked up two wins (Kentucky sweep), nine top fives (tied with Briscoe for series-most), and 11 top 10s.

Expect Cindric to keep the pressure on his competitors this weekend as Texas Motor Speedway has been one of his better tracks. In four starts he has posted two top fives and three top 10s. Plus, he leads all drivers entered this weekend in average finish at Texas with a 6.5.

Six Pack: Five different winners in last five races

This weekend will be the 39th running of a NASCAR Xfinity Series race at Texas Motor Speedway. Interestingly, the last five series races at the track have had five different winners – Erik Jones (2017), Ryan Blaney (2018), Cole Custer (2018), Kyle Busch (2019) and Christopher Bell (2019). This weekend Kyle Busch is the only previous Texas winner entered in Saturday’s My Bariatric Solutions 300 (at 3 p.m. ET on NBCSN, PRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio) putting the odds in the favor of the streak continuing.

The 38 previous NASCAR Xfinity Series race at Texas have produced 24 different poles winners and 19 different race winners. Not surprisingly the one who could end the different winners streak, the Joe Gibbs Racing superstar, Kyle Busch, leads the series in just about every significant stat at Texas – poles (four), wins (nine), top fives (16), top 10s (17 – tied with Kevin Harvick and Matt Kenseth) and laps led (1,686).

This weekend’s race will be 200 laps (300 miles) and will be broken up into three stages. The first two stage will be 45 laps each and the final stage is 110 laps.

One driver to watch to keep the Xfinity different winners streak alive at Texas is Kaulig Racing’s Ross Chastain. The eighth generation watermelon famer turned NASCAR driver finished second in the NASCAR Xfinity Series Playoff race at Texas Motor Speedway last season leading 29 laps in the race. Chastain is already having a strong start to his 2020 season; he is currently ranked fourth in the series driver standings – the highest ranked driver without a win. In 15 starts this season he has collected six top fives and 13 top 10s – both career-bests – including two runner-up finishes (Talladega, Pocono).

Sunoco Rookie Spotlight: JGR’s Riley Herbst grabs a gear

Sunoco Rookie of the Year
Rookies Points
Harrison Burton 492
Riley Herbst 376
Jesse Little 274
Joe Graf Jr. 202
Myatt Snider 155
Kody Vanderwal 90

Kentucky Speedway was good to Joe Gibbs Racing’s Riley Herbst who won back-to-back Sunoco Rookie of the Race awards for finishing runner-up Thursday night (a career-best finish) and then 10th on Friday night. As a result, Herbst leap-frogged Ryan Sieg in the standings and is now in 10th, 69 points up on fellow Sunoco rookie Myatt Snider in 13th the first spot outside the Playoff cutoff.

The 21-year old is second in the NASCAR Xfinity Series Sunoco Rookie of the Year standings, 116 points back from Harrison Burton, who is currently in the rookie standings lead. In 15 starts this season, Herbst has put up two top fives and eight top 10s.

This will be Herbst’s series track debut at Texas Motor Speedway this weekend. Of the six rookies this season, Herbst’s Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Harrison Burton is the only one with previous Xfinity Series experience at the 1.5-mile track – he made his series track debut last November he started second and finished seventh.

NASCAR Gander RV & Outdoors Truck Series

Gander Trucks & Texas Motor Speedway

The NASCAR Gander RV & Outdoors Truck Series heads to the Lone Star state for Saturday night’s Vankor 250 (8 p.m. ET on FS1, MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio) at Texas Motor Speedway marking the eighth race of the 2020 season.

Texas Motor Speedway has hosted the Gander Trucks 44 times, dating back to the inaugural event on June 6, 1997 – the event was won by Kenny Irwin Jr. driving Ford for owner Jim Herrick. The 44 series races at Texas have produced 29 different pole winners and 23 different race winners. Mike Skinner leads the series in poles (five), and Todd Bodine leads the series wins at Texas.

Last season this race at Texas was won by Kyle Busch Motorsport’s Kyle Busch. He started fourth and led a dominating 97 of 147 laps and won. It was his fourth Gander Trucks career victory at the track (2009, 2010, 2014, 2019). His KBM teammate, Greg Biffle, then won the June race at Texas, sweeping the series’ events at the 1.5-mile facility last season for the team.

Four former Gander Trucks Texas winners are entered in the Vankor 250 this weekend – Johnny Sauter (five wins), Kyle Busch (four wins), Matt Crafton (two wins) and Justin Haley (one win).

This weekend’s race will be 167 laps (250.5 miles) and it will be broken up into three stages. The first two stages will be 40 laps each and final stage will be 87 laps.

Creed becomes 17th different first-time winner in Gander Trucks over last five seasons

In a rain shortened NASCAR Gander RV & Outdoors Truck Series event at Kentucky Speedway, GMS Racing’s Sheldon Creed grabbed his first checkered flag of his career becoming the 17th different driver in the last five seasons to get their first career win in the Gander Trucks.

First-Time Winners Track Date
1 Sheldon Creed Kentucky Saturday, July 11, 2020
2 Todd Gilliland Martinsville Saturday, October 26, 2019
3 Spencer Boyd Talladega Saturday, October 12, 2019
4 Stewart Friesen Eldora Thursday, August 1, 2019
5 Tyler Ankrum Kentucky Thursday, July 11, 2019
6 Austin Hill Daytona Friday, February 15, 2019
7 Justin Haley Gateway Saturday, June 23, 2018
8 Chase Briscoe Homestead Friday, November 17, 2017
9 Noah Gragson Martinsville Saturday, October 28, 2017
10 Ben Rhodes Las Vegas Saturday, September 30, 2017
11 Austin Cindric CTMP Sunday, September 3, 2017
12 Kaz Grala Daytona Friday, February 24, 2017
13 Daniel Suarez Phoenix Friday, November 11, 2016
14 Grant Enfinger Talladega Saturday, October 22, 2016
15 Brett Moffitt Michigan Saturday, August 27, 2016
16 Ben Kennedy Bristol Wednesday, August 17, 2016
17 William Byron Kansas Friday, May 6, 2016

The big victory propelled Creed two spots in the driver standings to second just 46 points behind Austin Hill in the standings lead. The win not only guarantees Creed’s spot in the Playoffs is also padded his Playoff points total (eight – second most behind Grant Enfinger). In seven starts this season, the Alpine, California star has put up one win (Kentucky), three top fives, five top 10s and a career-best average finish of 8.9.

Looking ahead to Texas this weekend, expect Creed to run upfront. He has made three series starts at the 1.5-mile facility posting a career-best finish of sixth last season. But also keep a look out for another driver adding their name to the first-time winners list as Texas Motor Speedway has been the home to five first-time Gander Truck winners all-time.

First-Time Winners Track Date
1 Jeb Burton Texas Friday, June 7, 2013
2 Clint Bowyer Texas Friday, November 3, 2006
3 Brendan Gaughan Texas Friday, June 7, 2002
4 Travis Kvapil Texas Friday, October 5, 2001
5 Bryan Reffner Texas Friday, October 13, 2000

Playoff picture still hazy with so many races left

The only two drivers currently locked in the NASCAR Gander RV & Outdoors Truck Series Playoffs heading into Saturday night’s Vankor 250 are ThorSport Racing’s Grant Enfinger and GMS Racing’s Sheldon Creed. That means there are still eight postseason spots still up for grabs.

Rank Driver Points Race Wins Playoff Pts Pts from Cutoff
1 Grant Enfinger 221 2 11 In On Wins
2 Sheldon Creed 247 1 8
3 Austin Hill 293 0 0 109
4 Ben Rhodes 236 0 0 52
5 Christian Eckes # 222 0 0 38
6 Zane Smith # 221 0 1 37
7 Todd Gilliland 220 0 0 36
8 Brett Moffitt 205 0 0 21
9 Tyler Ankrum 201 0 0 17
10 Johnny Sauter 198 0 0 14
11 Derek Kraus # 184 0 0 -14
12 Matt Crafton 179 0 0 -19
13 Tanner Gray # 172 0 0 -26
14 Stewart Friesen 170 0 0 -28
15 Raphael Lessard # 143 0 0 -55

With 15 races in the books, former series champion Johnny Sauter is in the Playoff hot seat currently 10th in series driver standings just 14 points ahead of Sunoco rookie Derek Kraus in 11th – the first spot outside the Playoff cutoff. What might be even more surprising is Sauter’s ThorSport Racing teammate and three-time series champion Matt Crafton is outside the postseason cutline currently 12th in the standings 19 points behind Sauter.

Looking to Texas, the ThorSport Racing teammates of Sauter and Crafton are the only NASCAR Gander RV & Outdoors Truck Series championship contenders entered this weekend with previous wins at the 1.5-mile track.

Johnny Sauter has made 23 series starts at Texas posting four poles and five wins (2012 sweep, 2016, 2017, 2018) – both most among active drivers. He has also amassed 11 top fives and 17 top 10s. He finished third in the March Gander Trucks race last season.

Crafton has made series-most 38 starts at Texas posting three poles, two wins (2014, 2015) and a series leading 16 top fives and 27 top 10s. He finished fifth in this event last season.

Sunoco Rookie candidate and McAnally-Hilgermann Racing’s Derek Kraus is sitting in 11th the first spot outside the Playoffs, 14 points back from Johnny Sauter in 10th and five up on Crafton on 12th. Kraus is having a strong start to his rookie campaign; in seven races he has gathered one top five and four top 10s. This weekend will mark his series track debut at Texas Motor Speedway.

— NASCAR —