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NASCAR National Series News & Notes – Phoenix Raceway

NASCAR Cup Series
Next Race: Instacart 500
The Place: Phoenix Raceway
The Date: Sunday, March 14
The Time: 3:30 p.m. ET
TV: FOX, 3 p.m. ET
Radio: MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio
Distance: 312 miles (312 laps); Stage 1 (Ends on Lap 75),Stage 2 (Ends on Lap 190), Final Stage (Ends on Lap 312)

NASCAR Xfinity Series
Next Race: Call 811 Before You Dig 200 presented by Arizona 811
The Place: Phoenix Raceway
The Date: Saturday, March 13
The Time: 5:30 p.m. ET
TV: FS1, 5 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)

NASCAR Camping World Truck Series
Next Race: Fr8Auctions 200
The Place: Atlanta Motor Speedway
The Date: Saturday, March 20
The Time: 2:30 p.m. ET
TV: FS1, 1:30 p.m. ET
Radio: MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio
Distance: 200.02 miles (130 Laps); Stage 1 (Ends on Lap 30),Stage 2 (Ends on Lap 60), Final Stage (Ends on Lap 130)

ARCA Menards Series
Next Race: General Tire 150
The Place: Phoenix Raceway
The Date: Friday, March 12
The Time: 7:30 p.m. ET
TV: MAVTV
Radio: MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio
Distance: 150 miles (150 laps)

Special Spotlight: Betty Jane France Humanitarian Award Nominations Are Open

Nominations opened last week for The NASCAR Foundation’s 11th annual Betty Jane France Humanitarian Award, a recognition that honors the philanthropic ideals and vision of Betty Jane France, The NASCAR Foundation’s late founder and chairperson.

The NASCAR Foundation’s Betty Jane France Humanitarian Award is presented annually to a NASCAR fan who is a dedicated volunteer working on behalf of children’s causes. Since its inception, the award has given $1.8 million in donations to charities representing 40 finalists, impacting the lives of 354,647 children in need.

The nomination process includes an independent selection committee of NASCAR industry leaders who help identify the nominees to be voted on by The NASCAR Foundation’s Board of Directors. The four finalists are ultimately selected by the Board and set forth to an online fan vote in the fall. Each finalist will be guaranteed a $25,000 donation to the children’s charity they represent, with the overall winner receiving a $100,000 donation.

Nominations will close on Friday, March 19, at midnight. The nomination form and award rules can be accessed online at NASCARfoundation.org/Award. Completed forms can be submitted via email to bjfaward@nascarfoundation.org or via mail.

NASCAR Cup Series

Phoenix Raceway to host 50th NASCAR Cup Series race (1988-2021)

Under the warm, dry desert sun and amidst the cacti in the Estrella Mountains sits a gem of a facility known as Phoenix Raceway, and this weekend it sets the stage for the NASCAR Cup Series competitors to do battle on its 1-mile track for the 50th-time in series history.

Phoenix Raceway held its first NASCAR Cup Series race, the Checker 500, on November 6, 1988. The event was a memorable 312 laps that produced 15 lead changes among six leaders. Geoff Bodine started on the pole, Ricky Rudd dominated the race leading 183 laps but finished 26th due to an engine failure and NASCAR Hall of Famer Alan Kulwicki out of Greenfield, Wisconsin, won his first career NASCAR Cup Series race. During his celebration after the race, Kulwicki debuted his ‘Polish Victory Lap’ where he would drive in the opposite direction on the track (clockwise) and salute the crowd on his way to Victory Lane.

Since debuting back in 1988, Phoenix Raceway has hosted 49 NASCAR Cup Series races producing 25 different pole winners and 25 different race winners. Joe Gibbs Racing’s Kyle Busch and Roush Fenway Racing’s Ryan Newman lead the series in poles at Phoenix with four each. Stewart-Haas Racing’s Kevin Harvick leads the series in wins at Phoenix with nine victories.

Phoenix Raceway is no stranger to big NASCAR Cup Series events, since the inception of the series’ Playoffs Phoenix has participated in the postseason (2004-2021) and even served as the penultimate race from 2005-2019 and was named the Championship race in 2020. Last season, Team Penske’s Joey Logano won the spring race at Phoenix, and then Hendrick Motorsport’s Chase Elliott won the season finale and the 2020 series title.

This weekend’s race the Instacart 500 (March 14 at 3:30 p.m. ET on FOX, MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio) will be 312 laps and broken up into three stages. The first stage is 75 laps, the second stage is 115 laps and ends on Lap 190 and the final stage is 122 laps. The starting lineup for this weekend’s race was determined by Metric Qualifying and Team Penske’s Brad Keselowski will start from the pole and last week’s winner and Hendrick Motorsports driver Kyle Larson will join him on the front row.

Streaks Alive: Could we see a fifth different winner to start the season?

With four different winners to start the 2021 NASCAR Cup Series season, the question begs, ‘Will we see a fifth?’.

It has happened before. In the Modern Era (1972-2021) five different winners to start the season has happened 14 times (2017, 2014, 2013, 2011, 2005, 2003, 2001, 2000, 1998, 1993, 1991, 1986, 1984, 1979).

The Modern Era record of different winners to start a NASCAR Cup Series season is 10 set back in 2000. Dale Earnhardt Jr. snapped the streak winning his second race of the 2000 season at Richmond (Race No. 11).

Season Race No. Winners Track Date
2000 1 Dale Jarrett Daytona Sunday, February 20, 2000
2000 2 Bobby Labonte Rockingham Sunday, February 27, 2000
2000 3 Jeff Burton Las Vegas Sunday, March 5, 2000
2000 4 Dale Earnhardt Atlanta Sunday, March 12, 2000
2000 5 Ward Burton Darlington Sunday, March 19, 2000
2000 6 Rusty Wallace Bristol Sunday, March 26, 2000
2000 7 Dale Earnhardt Jr Texas Sunday, April 2, 2000
2000 8 Mark Martin Martinsville Sunday, April 9, 2000
2000 9 Jeff Gordon Talladega Sunday, April 16, 2000
2000 10 Jeremy Mayfield Auto Club Sunday, April 30, 2000

In the Modern Era (1972-2021), the record for the most different NASCAR Cup Series winners in a single season in its entirety is 19 set back in 2001. The series has also seen a total of 18 different winners (second-most) in a single season twice – in 2002 and 2011.

There are seven former NASCAR Cup Series Phoenix winners entered this weekend looking for their first win of the 2021 season: Kevin Harvick (nine wins), Kyle Busch (three), Denny Hamlin (two), Joey Logano (two), Ryan Newman (two), Chase Elliott (one) and Kurt Busch (one).

Winless Denny Hamlin continues to hold the Cup driver standings lead

Joe Gibbs Racing driver Denny Hamlin has been off to a fast start finishing inside the top-five in three of first four races of the season, but current NASCAR Cup Series driver point standings leader is still looking for his first win of the season and hopes to rectify that this weekend in Phoenix.

Hamlin is a stout 38 points ahead of Team Penske’s Brad Keselowski in second in the NASCAR Cup Series driver standings following Las Vegas. Now the Chesterfield, Virginia native is looking to lock himself into the Playoffs with a win and this weekend’s venue, Phoenix Raceway, is a place he is quite familiar with. In 31 series starts at Phoenix, Hamlin has posted two poles, two wins (2012, 2019), 14 top fives and 18 top 10s. Plus his average finish at the 1-mile track is 11.032, third-best among active drivers.

Hamlin’s confidence this weekend should be high, the NASCAR pre-race Loop Data has him ranked in the top five of several key categories heading into Phoenix: Average Running Position of 11.220, fifth-best, Driver Rating of 98.4, fourth-best, 492 Fastest Laps Run, third-best and 7,071 Laps in the Top 15 (73.1%), fourth-most.

Last season, Hamlin finished 20th in the spring race and fourth in the season finale at Phoenix.

Arizona’s McDowell and Bowman are hyped to race at home

It will be an extra special welcoming home this time around for Arizona native and Front Row Motorsports driver Michael McDowell, who kicked off the 2021 season with a big win in the Daytona 500 – his first series career victory. McDowell, from Glendale, will be joined this weekend at Phoenix Raceway by fellow Arizonan and Hendrick Motorsports driver Alex Bowman from Tucson as both drivers look forward to competing in front of their home town fans.

McDowell is having a career season, not only did he win the biggest race in NASCAR, the Daytona 500, but he also locked himself into the Playoffs for the first time in his career. What is even more impressive, is he hasn’t been a ‘flash in the pan’ either, in four starts this season he has consistently put up three top-10 finishes and his only finish outside the top-10 this season was last weekend’s 17th at Las Vegas. McDowell is ranked ninth in series driver standings and put up an average finish of 8.0 this season.

While McDowell has been riding a career-high of success, Alex Bowman has been on a roller coaster of up-and-downs through these first four races. The Tucson native started 2021 looking really fast, winning the pole for the Daytona 500, but not long after the chaos. Bowman would finish 35th in the season-opener due to a multi-car incident. Bowman and the No. 48 Hendrick Motorsports team bounced back the next two weekends finishing 10th at the Daytona Road Course and ninth at Homestead-Miami. But the resurgence slowed last weekend at Las Vegas when he finished 27th. His average finish this season is 20.2. Bowman now finds himself 18th in the NASCAR Cup Series driver standings, four points behind Chris Buescher in the 16th and final Playoff transfer spot.

Now both McDowell and Bowman are looking to perform this weekend at Phoenix. McDowell has made 20 series starts at Phoenix posting a best finish of 16th in this event last season. Bowman has made 11 series starts at the 1-mile track in the Valley of the Sun collecting one pole and one top-10 finish (sixth, 2016).

Larson added his name to the Playoff list in short order

Well, it didn’t take long. Actually, he was the quickest to do it in Hendrick Motorsport’s history – win that is.

Kyle Larson in just his fourth start with Hendrick Motorsports drove his No. 5 Chevrolet to Victory Lane at Las Vegas Motor Speedway and in short order locked himself into the NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs joining Michael McDowell, Christopher Bell and his Hendrick Motorsports teammate William Byron. Plus, all four winners this season have qualified for the NASCAR Cup Series All-Star Race at Texas Motor Speedway and compete for $1 Million on June 13.

Larson’s win catapulted him up the standings to third just 40 points back from Denny Hamlin in the series standings lead. In four starts this season, Larson has put up a win, two top fives and three top 10s.

Expect Larson’s ascension not to slow this weekend at Phoenix, in 13 series starts at the 1-mile track he has posted five top fives and seven top 10s; including a runner-up finish in 2017.

Spinning The Tires: Former series champions off to a slow start

Four races into the 2021 season and none of the former active NASCAR Cup Series champions have celebrated in Victory Lane yet. It’s the first time since 2008, that a former series champion hasn’t won in the first four races of a season. Fortunately for these champs, Phoenix Raceway is up next, and most have run well in the desert.

The 2020 season champ, Chase Elliott, scored his first victory at Phoenix Raceway last November and with it the spoils of the championship. Now the 25-year-old is looking to become the seventh driver in series history to win consecutive races at Phoenix; joining Davey Allison (1991, 1992), Jeff Burton (2000, 2001), Dale Earnhardt Jr. (2003, 2004), Kevin Harvick (2006 sweep, 2013-2015), Jimmie Johnson (2007, 2008 sweep) and Kyle Busch (2018, 2019). Elliott has made 10 series starts posting a win, three top fives and six top 10s.

The only active multiple Cup champion (2015, 2019) is Kyle Busch, and four races into the 2021 season he is 14th in points with two top 10s. A win this weekend would be the perfect jump-start to his 2021 campaign. Among active drivers Busch has the second-most wins at Phoenix with three victories. In 31 starts at the 1-mile track he has also put up 12 top fives and 22 top 10s.

The 2018 series champion, Joey Logano, is the defending winner of this race last season leading 60 laps en route to the victory. Phoenix has been good to Logano. In 24 series starts he has amassed two wins, six top fives and 13 top 10s. Expect Logano to challenge for the win this weekend, he won the spring race last season and finished third in the season finale.

The 2017 series champion, Martin Truex Jr. spun the tires in Daytona finishing 25th and ever since has been trying to rebound. Through four races this season, the former champion has one top five and two top 10s. A win is exactly what Truex needs, the New Jersey native is currently on a 29-race winless drought – the largest among the active former champions – dating back to Martinsville (6/10/2020) last season. Truex has made 30 series starts at Phoenix – most among active drivers without a win at the track – posting four top fives and 12 top 10s.

The 2014 series champion, Kevin Harvick, is and will continue to be the favorite whenever the series heads to Phoenix Raceway – a distinction he has earned. Harvick leads the series in wins at Phoenix with nine victories. This weekend, Harvick has the opportunity to become just the sixth driver to win 10 or more races at a single track; joining Richard Petty, Darrell Waltrip, Dale Earnhardt, David Pearson and Jimmie Johnson.

Drivers with 10 or More NASCAR Cup Series Wins at a Single Track

Race Winners No. of Tracks Tracks With 10 or More Wins
Richard Petty 5 Martinsville (15), North Wilkesboro (15), Richmond (13), Rockingham (11) Daytona (10)
Darrell Waltrip 3 Bristol (12), Martinsville (11), North Wilkesboro (10)
Jimmie Johnson 1 Dover (11)
David Pearson 1 Darlington (10)
Dale Earnhardt 1 Talladega (10)

In total, Harvick has made 36 series starts at Phoenix posting two poles, nine wins, 18 top fives and 25 top 10s. He leads the series in average finish with an 8.917. He also leads the series in several key NASCAR pre-race Loop Data categories: Average Running Position of 8.310, series-best, Driver Rating of 110.6, series-best, 940 Fastest Laps Run, series-best and 8,408 Laps in the Top 15 (84.2%), series-most.

The 2012 series champion, Brad Keselowski, hasn’t won yet this season, but he has been close. To start the season, Keselowski was making a pass for the lead on the final lap of the Daytona 500 before being caught in a multi-car incident that relegated him to a 13th-place finish. He then rallied back from a wild Daytona Road Course race to finish fifth, brought home a 16th from Homestead-Miami and then almost closed the deal last weekend at Las Vegas finishing runner-up to Kyle Larson. Keselowski now finds himself second in NASCAR Cup Series driver standings, 38 points behind Denny Hamlin in the standings lead. Phoenix is one of the eight tracks on the schedule Keselowski has yet to win at, but he has run well. In 23 series starts he has posted seven top fives and 11 top 10s.

The 2004 series champion, Kurt Busch is currently riding a streak of seven consecutive seasons with a victory and he definitely wants to add 2021 to the list. Busch’s results so far this season have been a mixed bag posting one top five and two top 10s. At Phoenix the las Vegas native has made 36 starts posting a win (2005), seven top fives and 20 top 10s. He finished sixth in this race last season.

NASCAR Cup Series, Etc.

Jason Biggs will serve as the Grand Marshal in Phoenix – FOX’s Cherries Wild host Jason Biggs will serve as the Grand Marshal for Sunday’s Instacart 500 at Phoenix Raceway (3:30 p.m. ET on FOX, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio).

Biggs’ previous roles include the Netflix series “Orange is the New Black,” movie “American Pie” and most recently in the FOX comedy “Outmatched.”

Cherries Wild is a fast-paced, half-hour trivia game show by creator and executive producer Wes Kauble. The show features two rounds of pop culture trivia gameplay, during which a team of two contestants will try and “Solve the Slots” in hopes of getting one step closer to winning the life-changing $250,000 jackpot. At the end of each episode, when they spin the reels on the enormous, three-story slot machine, contestants will attempt to capture all five Wild Cherries to win the ultimate cash prize. You can watch Cherries Wild on FOX following Sunday’s NASCAR Cup Series race at 7 p.m. ET.

Limited Tickets In Atlanta Going Fast – Grandstand seats for the March 21 Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway are sold out.

The Speedway sold the last of its available grandstand tickets for the NASCAR Cup Series event today, reaching the capacity currently permitted by Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp’s executive order. While the grandstands have reached their approved capacity for the Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500, fan experiences like infield camping, trackside camping, climate-controlled fan suites, and Club One access for Sunday, March 21, are still available for purchase.

“We couldn’t be more excited to welcome race fans back to the track later this month, especially considering it’s been two years since we’ve had our grandstands open for a NASCAR race,” said AMS Executive Vice President and General Manager Brandon Hutchison. “We’re thankful for our local and state leadership, colleagues at NASCAR, and of course all the fans that are joining us for making this event possible.”

AMS estimates 20,000 fans will be in attendance in its socially-distanced grandstands and suites for the Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500.

KING’S HAWAIIAN® to Brand Dining Areas at Daytona, Kansas, Phoenix and Richmond –NASCAR and King’s Hawaiian announced this week a multiyear track official partnership that secures the family-owned bakery naming rights to dining areas at four NASCAR-owned facilities – Daytona International Speedway, Kansas Speedway, Richmond Raceway and Phoenix Raceway.

King’s Hawaiian will work with NASCAR’s hospitality partner Levy to offer branded and regionally themed menu items at each venue. King’s Hawaiian celebrates the start of its NASCAR partnership March 12-14 during the fifth race weekend of the season at Phoenix Raceway where it will debut both the “King’s Hawaiian Grill at Phoenix Raceway” and the “King’s Hawaiian Food Court at Phoenix Raceway.”

“As King’s Hawaiian makes its first foray into motorsports, we welcome them to the NASCAR family,” said Frank Kelleher, senior vice president and chief sales officer, NASCAR. “Just like our sport, King’s Hawaiian brings people together, and we look forward to collaborating to enhance the fan dining experience at our racetracks.”

NASCAR Xfinity Series

AJ Allmendinger hits jackpot at Las Vegas

AJ Allmendinger took the lead on the final restart of Saturday’s race in Sin City with 12 laps remaining and earned his fourth Xfinity Series win in the last 16 races. This was his first race at the track in three years and the No. 16 Kaulig Chevrolet was able to hold off a hard-charging Daniel Hemric, who led 74 of the 200 laps.

Allmendinger was very emotional post-race as this is his first full-time season in NASCAR since 2018 when he was competing in the NASCAR Cup Series.

“It’s emotional because you don’t know when you’re going to do this again. You never know. This could be the last one (win), you never know, I hope it’s not. I think we can do a lot more,” he said during his interview at the start/finish line.

For Hemric, it was a tough outcome once again. He has 11 NASCAR national series career runner-up showings and led eight different times and won Stage 2. In the first four races so far this season, Hemric has finished third twice and runner-up once. He has not finished outside of the top-10 in any race. Saturday marked his eighth runner-up finish in the Xfinity Series. Dale Jarrett holds the record for the most runner-up finishes in the Xfinity Series before his first victory with 10 second-place results.

Brandon Jones finished third and Austin Cindric finished fourth after winning Stage 1 and leading 43 laps. Noah Gragson finished fifth followed by Michael Annett, Josh Berry, Justin Haley, Harrison Burton, and Jeb Burton rounding out the top 10.

The Xfinity Series will be back out west this weekend, this time at Phoenix Raceway for the Call 811 Before You Dig 200 presented by Arizona 811 on Saturday, March 13 at 5:30 p.m. ET on FS1, MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio.

The race will be 200 miles and 200 laps with Stage 1 ending on Lap 45 and Stage 2 ending on Lap 90.

Hemric will start from the pole position with his JGR teammate Brandon Jones joining him on the front row.

Cindric will start third with Allmendinger fourth and Haley will round out the top five.

Valley of the Sun Fast Facts

There have been 38 NASCAR Xfinity Series races at Phoenix Raceway. The inaugural race was on November 6, 1999 and won by NASCAR Hall of Famer Jeff Gordon from the third starting position.

The 38 Xfinity races at Phoenix have produced 19 different pole winners and 20 different race winners. William Byron holds the record for the youngest race winner in 2017 at 19 years, 19 months, 13 days. Greg Biffle holds the record for the oldest winner in 2009 at 39 years, 2 months, and 25 days.

Ten races have been won from the first starting position and the last race won from the pole was by Kyle Busch in 2016. Elliott Sadler holds the race record at Phoenix at 116.317 mph in 2012 and Kyle Busch holds the qualifying record at 138.504 mph in 2015.

Kyle Busch holds so many of the Xfinity Series records at Phoenix Raceway. He has the most starts of any active driver (24) and has the most poles (10). He has the most wins (11), is tied for the most top fives with Kevin Harvick (17) and has the most top 10s (20). He has the most lead lap finishes (23), the most laps completed (4,702) and the most laps led (2,234).

Last season’s spring race Phoenix was won by Brandon Jones. Harrison Burton finished second and Kyle Busch finished third. Brad Keselowski finished fourth and Justin Haley finished fifth.

Jonesin’ for another one

Joe Gibbs Racing’s Brandon Jones took home the victory last season at Phoenix Raceway in the spring, the last race that felt normal before the COVID-19 pandemic caused a break in racing.

Jones started eighth and led 24 laps en route to his second career victory in the Xfinity Series.

Jones, who drives the No. 19 Toyota for Joe Gibbs Racing, has had a strong start to the 2021 season. In the season-opener at Daytona International Speedway, he finished 38th after being involved in a crash. But that’s the only race in all four starts that he didn’t finish in the top five. At the Daytona Road Course, he finished fourth, at Homestead-Miami Speedway he finished runner-up and last weekend at Las Vegas, he finished third.

“This has been honestly the best start to any year that I’ve had in a long time,” Jones told the media. “We’ve put ourselves in a position to be really consistent here even on our little bit of an off day, we’re still in the top-five, which I think is something to say for our team and the stuff that we’re bringing to the track. That’s been a very good momentum pusher, momentum builder for myself in each one of these weekends, and I think that if you keep putting yourself in these top-five positions, it keeps setting you up for the next week. We’re going to have another phenomenal starting spot coming up at Phoenix because of our finishing position last week at Las Vegas. All of that stuff is going to lead to more victories, more success in the series.”

Loris Hezemans to make debut; MBM Motorsports, Reaume Brothers Racing team up

Loris Hezemans, the 2019 NASCAR Whelen Euro Series champion will pilot the No. 13 Reaume Brothers Racing Chevrolet with sponsorship from Hezeberg Systems in two NASCAR Xfinity Series races this season. The first race will be this weekend at Phoenix Raceway for the Call 811 Before You Dig 200 presented by Arizona 811 (5:30 p.m. ET on FS1, MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio).

This weekend will mark Hezemans’ oval track debut. Hezemans, who is a six-time NASCAR Whelen Euro Series winner, finished 22nd at Road America in his debut in 2019.

Due to a change in situations, Reaume Brothers Racing needed to partner with MBM Motorsports to field their Xfinity Series entry and gain a starting spot. David Starr was originally piloting the No. 13 but will move to the No. 61 for Phoenix.

Reaume Brothers Racing prepared the cars for the various events but MBM has taken over the cars to help them field the entry and give them the starting spot.

Because the No. 61 is a partnership with Hattori Racing Enterprises but run by MBM Motorsports, it must be a Toyota. Hezemans will be piloting a Chevrolet.

Timmy Hill will remain in the No. 66 for MBM Motorsports.

Our Motorsports running No. 23 for rest of season

Our Motorsports announced that they will field the No. 23 for the rest of the 2021 NASCAR Xfinity Series season. The No. 23 will run along with the full-time No. 02 Chevrolet driven by Brett Moffitt.

The No. 23 is replacing the No. 03 which was originally expected to run full-time in 2021 but the team didn’t have the proper amount of owner’s points to field the entry on a full-time basis.

Our Motorsports acquired the No. 23 from RSS Racing, who ran the first two races with Jason White and Natalie Decker behind the wheel in partnership with Reaume Brothers Racing.

However, the No. 23 is now being fully run and operated by Our Motorsports.

Tyler Reddick ran the No. 23 last weekend at Las Vegas Motor Speedway and finished 12th after starting in 40th. Moffitt has run in all four races this season in the No. 02. He finished runner-up in the season-opener at Daytona and went on to start first at the Daytona Road Course and finished 11th. He finished seventh at Homestead and last weekend at Las Vegas, he finished 34th.

Blaine Perkins will pilot the No. 23 this weekend at Phoenix Raceway, making his Xfinity Series debut. Perkins, 20, ran in the ARCA Menards Series West in 2020 and in his 11 season starts, he had three wins, eight top-five finishes and finished second in the series points standings.

The NASCAR Xfinity Series 2021 season has started out with four different winners and two of them were first-timers and maybe a little bit unexpected to kick off the season. Austin Cindric continued his winning ways as the reigning NASCAR Xfinity Series champion, winning the season-opener at Daytona International Speedway and securing his spot in the Playoffs.

Ty Gibbs went on to win at the Daytona Road Course in his first ever Xfinity Series start, adding his name to the history books. Gibbs’ win doesn’t guarantee his spot in the postseason however due to him only running a partial schedule this year.

Next, Myatt Snider won at Homestead-Miami Speedway, securing his spot in the Playoffs, and grabbing his first career win. Most recently, AJ Allmendinger won in his first full-time season since 2018 with Kaulig Racing and stamped his ticket to the Playoffs, too.

With the start of the season bringing new winners, the Playoff outlook has shuffled the driver standings. Although it’s only three races in, there are already a couple new faces in the top 12.

Daniel Hemric is still the highest ranked driver without a win followed by his Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Brandon Jones in fifth. Kaulig Racing teammates Jeb Burton and Justin Haley are taking the sixth and seventh spot in the standings. All three Kaulig Chevrolets are currently in the top 10 in points standings.

Jeremy Clements and Brandon Brown, two drivers on small, family-owned teams, are in ninth and 10th.

JR Motorsports’ Noah Gragson has finally made his way back into the top 12 in points standings. Gragson’s season started off tough and last weekend at Las Vegas he got his best finish of the season so far in fifth. He’s currently occupying the final Playoff spot.

NASCAR Xfinity Series Driver Playoff Outlook Following Las Vegas

Rank Driver Points Wins Stage Wins Playoff Pts Pts From Cutoff
1 Austin Cindric 191 1 3 8 In On Wins
2 AJ Allmendinger 126 1 1 6
3 Myatt Snider 123 1 0 5
4 Daniel Hemric 170 0 1 1 96
5 Brandon Jones 140 0 1 1 66
6 Jeb Burton 133 0 0 0 59
7 Justin Haley 128 0 0 0 54
8 Harrison Burton 120 0 0 0 46
9 Jeremy Clements 107 0 0 0 33
10 Brandon Brown 103 0 1 1 29
11 Michael Annett 90 0 0 0 16
12 Noah Gragson 74 0 0 0 0

Team to Watch: Kaulig Racing

The 2021 Xfinity Series season has started off extremely strong for the Kaulig Racing camp and even more so after AJ Allmendinger’s win on Saturday at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

Right now, all three Kaulig Racing Chevrolet’s are sitting in the top 10 in the points standings. Allmendinger is already in the Playoffs with his win and Jeb Burton and Justin Haley’s efforts at Las Vegas put all three cars in the top-10 finishing positions.

Burton has finished in the top 10 in all four of his starts and finished in the top five in three of those. Haley finished in the top 10 in three of those four starts and Allmendinger finished in the top-10 twice and top-five twice.

Looking ahead to this weekend at Phoenix, Kaulig Racing as a team has 12 starts at the track with one top five and seven top 10s. Last season, Haley finished fifth and eighth in both races at the Arizona track and Ross Chastain finished ninth and seventh for the organization.

Burton has only one Xfinity Series start at the track and that was in 2016 for Richard Petty Motorsports when he started 15th and finished 17th.

Haley will be making his fifth start at Phoenix on Saturday. He has one top five and three top 10s at the track.

Allmendinger has two starts at Phoenix from 2007 and 2008 when he finished 13th and 12th. He will be making his first start at the track since then on Saturday.

Haley (91.2), Burton (75.2) and Allmendinger (73.8) all have an average driver rating in the top 15.

NASCAR Xfinity Series, Etc.

Harvick heading back to Xfinity, Trucks – Kevin Harvick will compete in three Xfinity Series races in 2021 in support of his role as a brand ambassador for Xfinity and to gain more road course experience. He will kick off his three races in the NXS race at COTA and then will hit the track again in the NXS race at Road America. His final NXS race will be at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Road Course in August. Harvick is a two-time Xfinity Series champion (2001 and 2006) and has 47 wins. He’ll pilot a Ford Mustang for Stewart-Haas Racing in all three events. Before he heads back to the Xfinity Series, he’ll already join the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series for the Bristol Dirt race on March 27. This will be his 124th start in the Truck Series. He will pilot the No. 17 for David Gilliland Racing.

Sunoco Rookie Update – Josh Berry is now in the lead for Sunoco Rookie of the Year honors with 71 points. Ty Gibbs is in second with 50 points and Ryan Vargas is in third with 47. Jordan Anderson and Sam Mayer are fourth and fifth because both drivers haven’t made a start in the series so far this season

Manufacturer Update – With AJ Allmendinger’s win at Las Vegas, Chevrolet broke the three-way tie and is now leading the manufacturer’s championship with two wins and 147 points. Toyota is in second with one win and 144 points and Ford is in third with one win and 140 points.

Tire Pros partners with JRM – JR Motorsports announced that they have entered a partnership with Tire Pros, the nation’s largest franchise network of independent tire dealers, for 2021.

NASCAR Camping World Truck Series

John Hunter Nemechek’s gamble on himself pays off in Vegas

In the off-season, John Hunter Nemechek surprised many in NASCAR when he announced he was returning to the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series following his first full-time year of NASCAR Cup Series competition. His reason for pairing up with Kyle Busch Motorsports for the 2021 season was clear – he wanted to win.

Mission accomplished.

Nemechek led his truck owner across the line to win his first of the season, and his seventh overall in the series. It was his first Camping World Truck Series victory since the spring Martinsville race in 2018.

The win also marked the first for Nemechek for a team other than NEMCO Motorsports – owned by his dad, Joe. But the Vegas celebration still had a strong family connection as the Nemecheks became the first father-son pairing to win at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. (Joe won the Xfinity Series race in 2003.)

With the series heading to Atlanta Motor Speedway on Saturday, March 20, for the Fr8Auctions 200 (2:30 p.m. ET on FS1, MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio), Nemechek has to feel confident that he can continue winning. His first two career wins came on 1.5-mile tracks – including a 2016 victory at Atlanta in the second race of the season.

The win at Vegas brought an additional early-season accolade to Nemechek – he took over the series points lead from Ben Rhodes and now holds a 14-point advantage over the driver who won the first two races of the season.

Toyota is tops at Vegas

Toyota Tundra trucks took the top five positions in last weekend’s NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race as Las Vegas Motor Speedway, and they did it with four different teams.

Kyle Busch Motorsports took the top two positions with John Hunter Nemechek winning while team namesake Kyle Busch finished second. Austin Hill was third in the Hattori Racing Enterprises entry, Stewart Friesen finished fourth in a Halmar Friesen Racing truck, and Matt Crafton’s ThorSport Racing No. 88 finished fifth.

Toyota book-ended the top 10 with Christian Eckes in ninth and Ben Rhodes in 10th – both being ThorSport drivers.

The balance of the top 10 was filled by Chevrolets. Zane Smith and GMS Racing were sixth, Grant Enfinger’s spot start for CR7 Motorsports netted a seventh-place finish, and Parker Kligerman’s first start of the season landed him in eighth with a Henderson Motorsports truck.

Smith, Hocevar continue to lead Sunoco Rookie of the Year standings

Not much changed atop the Sunoco Rookie of the Year standings following the third race of the year at Las Vegas Motor Speedway last weekend. Chandler Smith continues to lead Carson Hocevar by a significant points total after the trio of opening races in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series season.

Smith was the highest-finishing Sunoco Rookie contender for the second week in a row after finishing 19th in Vegas. Hocevar was 24th in the race.

However, a slight shake-up occurred further down in the standings, as Chase Purdy and Kris Wright moved up past Hailie Deegan into third and fourth, respectively. This comes on the heels of a 23rd-place finish by Purdy, while Wright crossed the line 25th. Deegan recorded a 28th-place result.

The standings might not stay that way long, however, as the three drivers all sit within four points of each in the standings.

Sunoco Rookie of the Year
Rookies Points Awards
Chandler Smith 90 2
Carson Hocevar 68 1
Chase Purdy 39 0
Kris Wright 37 0
Halie Deegan 35 0
Tim Viens 0 0

— NASCAR —