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NASCAR National Series News & Notes – Kansas Speedway

NASCAR Cup Series
Next Race: Buschy McBusch Race 400
The Place: Kansas Speedway
The Date: Sunday, May 2
The Time: 3 p.m. ET
TV: FS1, 1:30 p.m. ET
Radio: MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio
Distance: 400.5 miles (267 laps); Stage 1 (Ends on Lap 80), Stage 2 (Ends on Lap 160), Final Stage (Ends on Lap 267)

NASCAR Xfinity Series
Next Race: Steakhouse Elite 200
The Place: Darlington Raceway
The Date: Saturday, May 8
The Time: 1 p.m. ET
TV: FS1, 12:30 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 Camping World Truck Series
Next Race: WISE Power 200
The Place: Kansas Speedway
The Date: Saturday, May 1
The Time: 7:30 p.m. ET
TV: FS1, 7 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

Kansas Speedway is up next for the NASCAR Cup Series

After a wild race at the behemoth that is Talladega Superspeedway last weekend, the NASCAR Cup Series prepares for this Sunday’s Buschy McBusch Race 400 (3 p.m. ET on FS1, MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio) at Kansas Speedway, its fourth event of the 2021 season on a 1.5-mile track.

Groundbreaking for Kansas Speedway was held on May 25, 1999. The official opening of Kansas Speedway was in 2001, with the first NASCAR Cup Series race being held on Sept. 30, 2001. The event was won by Hendrick Motorsport’s driver and NASCAR Hall of Famer Jeff Gordon (Chevrolet). Gordon would actually win the first two NASCAR Cup Series races held at Kansas (2001, 2002).

During the 2012 season, between the April and October events, the 1.5-mile Kansas Speedway track underwent a repave, adding variable banking in the corners bringing them to 17-20 degrees.

In total, there have been 30 NASCAR Cup Series races at Kansas Speedway, one event from 2001 – 2010 and two races per year since 2011. The 30 Cup events have produced 16 different pole winners and 15 different race winners.

Stewart-Haas Racing’s Kevin Harvick leads the series in poles at Kansas Speedway with five (fall 2013, 2014 sweep, spring 2018, spring 2019).

Jeff Gordon (2001, 2002, 2014), Jimmie Johnson (2008, 2011, 2015), Kevin Harvick (2013, 2016, 2018), Joey Logano (2014, 2015, 2020) and Denny Hamlin (2012, 2019, 2020) lead the NASCAR Cup Series in wins at Kansas Speedway with three victories each. This weekend, eight of the 15 NASCAR Cup Series Kansas winners are active.

Race Winners (8) Wins Seasons
Denny Hamlin 3 2020, 2019, 2012
Joey Logano 3 2020, 2015, 2014
Kevin Harvick 3 2018, 2016, 2013
Brad Keselowski 2 2019, 2011
Martin Truex Jr 2 2017 sweep
Chase Elliott 1 2018
Kyle Busch 1 2016
Ryan Newman 1 2003

This weekend’s Buschy McBusch Race 400 at Kansas Speedway is scheduled for 267 laps (400 miles) and will be broken up into three stages. The first two stages are 80 laps each and the final stage will be 107 laps.

This weekend’s starting lineup for the Buschy McBusch Race 400 was determined by Metric Qualifying and as a result last weekend’s winner and Team Penske driver Brad Keselowski will start from the pole and Hendrick Motorsport’s William Byron will join Keselowski on the front row.

Winners aplenty this season

The 2021 NASCAR Cup Series season has become the fourth different year in the Modern Era (1972-Present) with nine or more different winners in the first 10 races; joining 2003 (9 winners), 2000 (10 winners) and 1991 (9 winners). Which bodes the question, Will we see a 10th different winner this weekend at Kansas?

There are eight former NASCAR Cup Series winners entered this weekend at Kansas and five them have yet to win this season – Denny Hamlin (three Kansas wins), Kevin Harvick (three Kansas wins), Chase Elliott, Kyle Busch and Ryan Newman (each with one Kansas win).

Joe Gibbs Racing’s Kyle Busch is the only active driver to win in all three NASCAR national series at Kansas Speedway – NCS (2014), NXS (2007, 2014, 2015, 2016) and NCWTS (2014, 2017). He finished 11th in the first Kansas race last season.

Four drivers entered this weekend have won at Kansas in both the NASCAR Cup Series and the NASCAR Xfinity Series – Denny Hamlin (NCS, three wins; NXS, one win), Joey Logano (NCS, three wins; NXS, two wins), Kevin Harvick (NCS, three wins; NXS one win) and Brad Keselowski (NCS, two wins; NXS one win).

Five other drivers entered this weekend in the NASCAR Cup Series race have won at Kansas Speedway either in the NASCAR Xfinity Series – Chase Briscoe (2020), Christopher Bell (2017) and Ricky Stenhouse Jr. (2012) or the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series – Ross Chastain (2019) and William Byron (2016). Three of the five are looking for their first win of the season – Briscoe, Chastain and Stenhouse.

Interestingly, the 30 NASCAR Cup Series races held at Kansas Speedway have never been won by a first-time Cup Series winner.  NASCAR Hall of Famer Jeff Gordon is the only driver in series history to win in his first appearance at Kansas Speedway.

Standings leader Denny Hamlin is the best among the winless 

Joe Gibbs Racing’s Denny Hamlin continues to hold the top spot in the NASCAR Cup Series driver standings this season, but is still looking for his first victory of the year 10 races in. As the defending winner of the first Kansas race last season and one of only four drivers to post consecutive wins (2019, 2020) at the 1.5-mile facility – Jeff Gordon (2001, 2002), Matt Kenseth (2012, 2013), Martin Truex Jr. (2017 sweep) – Hamlin is looking to end his winless drought that has reached 15 races dating back to Talladega Superspeedway last season (Oct. 4, 2020).

With a stout 87-point lead on his Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Martin Truex Jr. in second in the series driver standings, Hamlin has a firm grasp on the points lead heading into this weekend at Kansas Speedway.

This season, Hamlin has chalked up eight top-five finishes in the first 10 races. Even without a win his consistency to finish upfront has him leading the series in several key season-to-date Loop Data metrics – Average Running Position (6.736), Driver Rating (117.0), Laps In The Top 15 (2,279 laps; 90%), Laps Led (736 laps; 29.1%) and Percentage of Laps Run on the Lead Lap (96.15%).

Now the Chesterfield, Virginia native turns his attention to Kansas Speedway, a track he has three victories at (2012, 2019, 2020) and is tied for the lead in the series in wins with Jeff Gordon (2001, 2002, 2014), Jimmie Johnson (2008, 2011, 2015), Kevin Harvick (2013, 2016, 2018) and Joey Logano (2014, 2015, 2020). In total, Hamlin has made 25 series starts at Kansas posting three wins, eight top fives and nine top 10s. His average finish at Kansas is 14.5 (sixth-best among active drivers). Hamlin finished 15th in last season’s Kansas Playoff race.

Kansas could be the place Kevin Harvick rights the ship

Stewart-Haas Racing’s Kevin Harvick since running full-time in the NASCAR Cup Series in 2001 has won in the first 10 races of a season in 12 of his 21 seasons (57.1%). Last season through the first 10 races he had already won twice (Darlington, Atlanta) and in 2018 through the first 10 races he had won three times (Atlanta, Las Vegas, and Phoenix). But this season, Harvick finds himself winless riding a drought that stretches back to Bristol Motor Speedway last season (Sept. 9, 2020) 17 races ago. The Bakersfield, California native, Harvick, heads to Kansas Speedway, statistically one his best tracks, to end the winless drought.

Harvick has made 30 series starts at Kansas posting five poles (series-most), three wins (tied for series-most), 10 top fives (series-most among active drivers) and 17 top 10s (series-most among active drivers).

Harvick also leads every key pre-race Loop Data category heading into this weekend at Kansas Speedway – Average Finish of 8.154, series-best, Average Running Position of 8.691, series-best, Driver Rating of 109.7, series-best, 640 Fastest Laps Run, series-best, 5,613 Laps in the Top 15 (81.3%), series-most and 997 Quality Passes, series-most.

Brad Keselowski’s Talladega win makes all three Team Penske drivers in the Playoffs & All-Star Race

Calling Team Penske the hottest organization in the NASCAR Cup Series this season wouldn’t be an understatement, especially after Brad Keselowski collected his first win of the season at Talladega Superspeedway last weekend giving all three Penske drivers a victory this year locking them into the Playoffs and the NASCAR All-Star Race at Texas Motor Speedway (June 13).

Team Penske driver Ryan Blaney kicked the trips to Victory Lane off this season at Atlanta Motor Speedway (3/21/21) then Joey Logano followed it the very next weekend in the inaugural race on the Bristol Dirt (3/29/21) and Keselowski rounded out the trifecta of winners last weekend at Talladega.

Looking to Kansas Speedway this weekend, don’t be surprised if Team Penske’s success continues. Joey Logano (2014, 2015, 2020) is tied with Jeff Gordon (2001, 2002, 2014), Jimmie Johnson (2008, 2011, 2015), Kevin Harvick (2013, 2016, 2018) and Denny Hamlin (2012, 2019, 2020) for the series-most wins at Kansas with three each. Brad Keselowski (2011, 2019) also has multiple victories at the 1.5-mile track. Though Blaney has yet to win at Kansas, he has made 12 series starts at the track posting six top-10 finishes; including a best-finish of third in 2017. He finished seventh in the first Kansas race last season.

Keselowski will be looking to keep the recent momentum flowing this weekend at Kansas. Keselowski has made 22 series starts at Kansas posting one pole, two wins, six top fives and 12 top 10s. He finished runner-up to Denny Hamlin in this race last season.

Playoff Bubble: Stenhouse, Buescher and DiBenedetto straddle cutoff line

Just 12 points separate three drivers – Ricky Stenhouse Jr. (+12), Chris Buescher (+12) and Matt DiBenedetto (-12) along the Playoff cutline through 10 races of NASCAR Cup Series competition in 2021. Each week the Playoff bubble bounces shaking up the standings near the cutoff for this season’s Playoffs.

Nine drivers have secured their spot in the NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs on wins this season – Martin Truex Jr. (two wins), Joey Logano, William Byron, Ryan Blaney, Brad Keselowski, Kyle Larson, Christopher Bell, Alex Bowman and Michael McDowell (each have one win) – leaving just seven spots still up for grabs with 16 races left in the regular season.

Rank Driver Points Wins Stages Playoff Pts Pts From Cutoff
10 Denny Hamlin 446 0 5 5 229
11 Kevin Harvick 308 0 0 0 91
12 Chase Elliott 306 0 1 1 89
13 Kyle Busch 271 0 0 0 54
14 Austin Dillon 268 0 0 0 51
15 Ricky Stenhouse Jr. 229 0 0 0 12
16 Chris Buescher 229 0 1 1 12
17 Matt DiBenedetto 217 0 1 1 -12
18 Kurt Busch 216 0 0 0 -13
19 Ryan Newman 198 0 0 0 -31
20 Bubba Wallace 196 0 1 1 -33
21 * Ryan Preece 192 0 0 0 -37
22 Tyler Reddick 191 0 0 0 -38
23 Cole Custer 178 0 0 0 -51
24 Daniel Suarez 174 0 0 0 -55
25 Ross Chastain 173 0 0 0 -56
26 Aric Almirola 159 0 0 0 -70
27 Erik Jones 157 0 0 0 -72
28 Chase Briscoe # 155 0 0 0 -74
29 Anthony Alfredo # 100 0 0 0 -129
30 Corey LaJoie 91 0 0 0 -138

Of the four drivers within 15 points (+/-) of the cutline, Kurt Busch (-13 points from cutline) has the best average finish at Kansas Speedway with a 15.9; followed by Ricky Stenhouse Jr. (19.1), Chris Buescher (19.6) and Matt DiBenedetto (25.5)

NASCAR Cup Series, Etc.

Richard Petty Motorsports and The Lonely Entrepreneur partner to bring awareness to the Black Entrepreneur Initiative – Richard Petty Motorsports (RPM) announced this week a multi-year partnership with The Lonely Entrepreneur (TLE), a New York-based non-profit organization that provides individuals with entrepreneurial skills and support through the TLE Learning Community, an extensive online learning and community platform. TLE and the Black Entrepreneur Initiative (501c3) (BEI) will be the primary partner of the No. 43 Chevrolet, piloted by Erik Jones, for three events, and will also be an associate partner throughout the 2021 NASCAR Cup Series season.

The goal of the BEI is to empower 100,000 Black entrepreneurs by providing entrepreneurial skills and support with free access to the Learning Community. Richard Petty Motorsports has partnered with TLE to amplify this initiative and empower a number of current and aspiring Black entrepreneurs. The team has set the goal of providing 4,300 Black entrepreneurs access to the Learning Community nationwide by the end of 2022.

“We cannot change social and economic justice overnight, but we can empower Black men and women to be entrepreneurs today,” Michael Dermer, chief executive officer and founder of TLE, said. “Richard Petty has broken ground in racing and beyond for years. Richard Petty Motorsports will do so again with this groundbreaking partnership to help Black men and women to start and grow businesses.”

As part of the agreement, the No. 43 Chevrolet will carry TLE and the Black Entrepreneur Initiative as the primary partner in the NASCAR Cup Series at the Kansas Speedway on May 2, Circuit of The Americas (Austin, Texas) on May 23, and Nashville (Tenn.) Superspeedway on June 20.

“Richard Petty Motorsports is committed to using our voice and our platform to continue to champion our commitment to diversity, equality and inclusion everywhere,” Brian Moffitt, chief executive officer for Richard Petty Motorsports, said. “As a team, we continue to carry our message of compassion, love and understanding.”

Black entrepreneurs can register at https://lonelyentrepreneur.com/bei-rpm/ .

Better Half Dash Returns as iRacing Event This June on FS1 – Motor Racing Outreach announced this week the return of its Better Half Dash, this year as a virtual event in collaboration with iRacing. The Better Half iRacing Dash features the women of NASCAR, highlighting their contributions to the sport and allowing them to raise money for charity.  Participants will compete in a virtual Legends Car race at the virtual Texas Motor Speedway on the iRacing platform. FOX Sports provides exclusive coverage of The Better Half iRacing Dash, which will air during a special edition of NASCAR Race Hub Thursday, June 10 at 6 p.m. ET on FS1.

Confirmed Better Half iRacing Dash drivers include:

Kelley Earnhardt Miller, Co-Owner and Vice President of JR Motorsports, wife of LW Miller III

Kristin Labonte, President of Breaking Limits and wife of 2020 NASCAR Hall of Fame inductee and FOX NASCAR analyst Bobby Labonte

Morgan Bell, wife of Christopher Bell

Marissa Briscoe, wife of Chase Briscoe

Megan Smith, wife of FOX NASCAR reporter Regan Smith

Jenna Petty, girlfriend of Harrison Burton

Tammy Rice, wife of Kaulig Racing President Chris Rice

Julia Piquet, girlfriend of Daniel Suarez

Jennifer Self, wife of Austin Wayne Self, winner of 2017 Better Half Dash

Karissa Flores, wife of Ryan Flores, front tire changer of the No. 2 for Team Penske

Alexa De Leon, girlfriend of Tyler Reddick

Jennifer Self is the reigning Better Half Dash champion, winning the last event held in the series on October 6, 2017 at Charlotte Motor Speedway. Tammy Rice also participated in the 2017 Better Half Dash, finishing second. Bios of each driver, as well as links to donate and support the charities each are racing for are available at https://www.go2mro.com/

Each driver will get an assist from their significant other, who will serve as crew chief for their respective “better half.” Participants are racing to raise money for Motor Racing Outreach as well the non-profit organization of their choice. Drivers will raise money for their charities through donations across social media leading up to the race.

The two drivers who raise the most money for their charity in advance of the race will receive an advantage in qualifying. The driver who finds Victory Lane at the Better Half iRacing Dash will capture the winner-take-all $10,000 purse for their charity.

“We’re grateful to partner with iRacing, NASCAR, US Legend Cars and FOX Sports to revive the Better Half Dash,” said Billy Mauldin, president and senior chaplain, Motor Racing Outreach. “This is a fantastic opportunity to showcase the amazing women in our sport while raising money for many worthy non-profit organizations.”

Motor Racing Outreach hosted the Better Half Dash, a bandolero race featuring the women at NASCAR at Charlotte Motor Speedway from 2011-2017. Since its inception, the Better Half Dash has raised over $350,000 benefiting Motor Racing Outreach and more than 50 additional non-profits.

Matt Mills to make NASCAR Cup Series debut at Kansas – BJ McLeod Motorsports (BJMM) announces today that driver Matt Mills will make his NASCAR Cup Series career debut at Kansas Speedway this weekend driving the No. 55 Siebert Electric Ford Mustang. In the Buschy McBusch Race 400 this Sunday at 3 p.m. ET on FS1, MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio.

“There aren’t words to explain what Sunday will mean to my family and I,” said Mills. “There was a time not that long ago that we struggled to get to our local short track. Racing in the NASCAR Cup Series has been a lifelong dream thanks to BJ, Jessica (McLeod), and J.F. Electric for all they have done for me and continue to do for me, as well as Thompson Electric. With the addition of Siebert Electric & Little Joe’s Auto, I’m achieving that dream. My goal for Sunday is to be smart, learn, earn respect, and complete the entire race. I can’t wait to get to the track!”

Mills has made three NASCAR Xfinity Series starts at Kansas Speedway, posting a best finish of 20th in 2019.

Naming the Cup race at Kansas – Back in February of 2021, Busch Beer opened a fan contest to name the NASCAR Cup Series’ spring race at Kansas Speedway in May, allowing fans to submit their ideas in exchange for a $1 donation to Farm Rescue, a non-profit supporting family farmers across the United States. After the field was narrowed down to four finalists – The Busch Latte 400, Nectar Of The Cobs 400, For The Farmers 400 and Buschy McBusch Race 400 – a fan vote resulted in the race being named the Buschy McBusch Race 400. The event is schedule for this Sunday, May 2 at 3 p.m. ET on FS1, MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio.

Ironman Ryan Newman to make 700th NASCAR Cup Series career start at Kansas – This weekend at Kansas Speedway, Roush Fenway Racing’s Ryan Newman will make his 700th NASCAR Cup Series start. Newman will join Kevin Harvick (728) and Kurt Busch (730) as the third active driver with 700 or more starts in the series.

“Seven-hundred starts means I’m old and that’s okay, but it’s a milestone no doubt,” Newman said. “It just shows that I’m experienced, lost more than I’ve won just like everybody else in this sport, and it’s pretty cool to still be doing something this long that I’m so passionate about.”

Newman’s previous 699 NASCAR Cup Series starts have produced 18 wins, 116 top fives, 265 top 10s and 51 poles (most among active drivers).

NASCAR Xfinity Series

Another First: Jeb Burton wins first career Xfinity Series race at Talladega

Time was of the essence on Saturday as a thunderstorm was barreling toward Talladega Superspeedway in the middle of the NASCAR Xfinity Series race. The competition was fierce but as the skies opened up, it was Kaulig Racing’s Jeb Burton that was able to hold onto the lead just before the final caution came out before the race was red-flagged and ultimately called because of weather securing his first career NASCAR Xfinity Series win.

Burton’s win marked the third straight win at Talladega Superspeedway for Kaulig Racing as Justin Haley swept both races at the Alabama track last season.

The first two stages had no incidents. Haley won the first stage and JR Motorsport’s driver Noah Gragson won the second stage.

Series standings leader and Team Penske driver Austin Cindric finished second at Talladega followed by AJ Allmendinger, Riley Herbst and Ryan Sieg rounding out the top five.

Not only did Gragson grab a stage win at Talladega, but he also pocketed another $100,000 Xfinity Dash 4 Cash bonus as the highest finisher among the four eligible drivers. He won the money at the previous Dash 4 Cash event at Martinsville Speedway as well bringing his 2021 Dash 4 Cash bonus total to $200,000.

Jeb Burton, Austin Cindric, AJ Allmendinger and Noah Gragson have all qualified for the next round of the Dash 4 Cash that will take place at Darlington Raceway on May 8 at 1 p.m. ET on FS1, MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio.

Doubled Up: Gragson wins back-to-back Dash 4 Cash checks, Darlington is next
The NASCAR Xfinity Series Dash 4 Cash program was designed to add elements of unpredictability and drama leading up to and during four designated races, increase on-track competition, engage fans and reward and recognize NASCAR Xfinity Series regular competitors.

The NASCAR Xfinity Series Dash 4 Cash will take place at four tracks in 2021 – Martinsville Speedway (April 9), Talladega Superspeedway (April 24), Darlington Raceway (May 8) and Dover International Speedway (May 15).

JR Motorsports’ Noah Gragson took home both Dash 4 Cash prizes so far this season at Martinsville and Talladega bringing his Dash 4 Cash bonus total to $200,000 this season.

Gragson and the next three highest finishing full-time NASCAR Xfinity Series drivers (Allmendinger, J. Burton, and Cindric) have qualified for the next round of the Dash 4 Cash program at Darlington Raceway (May 8).

The format will then continue to Dover International Speedway, with the Dash 4 Cash winner and the highest three finishing NASCAR Xfinity Series drivers at Darlington qualifying for the final round.

Dash 4 Cash Qualifiers at ‘Darlington:

Noah Gragson will make his fourth start at Darlington on May 8. He has finished in the top-10 in all three of his previous starts at the track and has a best finish of fifth in this race last season. He started on the pole, too. Gragson has led 46 laps at the track and has an average start of 7.7 and an average finish of 6.7.

Jeb Burton and AJ Allmendinger will make their Xfinity Series debuts at Darlington on May 8.

Austin Cindric will be making his fifth start at Darlington this season. He has one top five and two top 10s in those four previous starts at the track. He also, has an average start of 7.8 and an average finish of 16.5.

New sponsor, paint scheme for Brandon Jones

Yee Yee, a brand that was created by country music artist Granger Smith, will be the primary sponsor for Joe Gibbs Racing’s Brandon Jones and the No. 19 Toyota for two NASCAR Xfinity Series events in 2021.

Yee Yee is based in Georgetown, Texas which is right outside of Austin, Texas where the highly-anticipated, first-ever NASCAR Xfinity Series race at Circuit of the Americas will take place. The debut of the Yee Yee Toyota will be at their home track on May 22. They will also be on board the No. 19 again at the Xfinity Series Playoff cutoff night race at Bristol Motor Speedway in September.

Brett Moffitt declares for Xfinity Series points
Last week, Brett Moffitt announced that he changed his series declaration for points, going from NASCAR Camping World Truck Series points at Niece Motorsports to his No. 02 Our Motorsports Chevrolet in the Xfinity Series.

The news broke prior to last weekend’s race at Talladega Superspeedway, meaning that Moffitt started acquiring points at the track. Because Moffitt has competed in all of the Xfinity Series events this season, he’s eligible for the Playoffs.

In his six NASCAR Camping World Truck Series starts this season, Moffitt was in 15th in the points standings, 39 points below the cutline prior to switching series points.

At Our Motorsports, they’re ranked 14th in the owner standings and Moffitt has a best finish of second from the season opener at Daytona and three top-10 finishes.

Moffitt finished 18th at Talladega last weekend.

Joey Gase declares Xfinity Series points for 2021

Prior to last week’s event at Talladega Superspeedway, Joey Gase announced that he was pulling double duty in both the NASCAR Cup Series and NASCAR Xfinity Series. Since Gase wanted to run both events and the Xfinity event was a Dash 4 Cash event with only Xfinity drivers eligible to compete, he had to switch to declaring for Xfinity points.

In three starts in the Cup Series this year, Gase has a best finish of 20th at Daytona. He will still run a partial Cup Series schedule for the remainder of the season, too.

Gase finished 26th in the Xfinity Series race at Talladega.

Xfinity Sunoco Rookie Update

The NASCAR Xfinity Series Sunoco rookie standings tightened up after Talladega Superspeedway.

Sunoco Rookie of the Year
Rookies Points Awards
Ty Gibbs 128 2
Josh Berry 126 2
Ryan Vargas 68 4
Jordan Anderson 0 0
Sam Mayer 0 0

Joe Gibbs Racing’s Ty Gibbs still leads the way in the NASCAR Xfinity Series Sunoco Rookie of the Year standings after only starting three of the eight races this season. He has 128 points and has scored two Sunoco Rookie of the Race awards in his three starts. He has also collected a win in his debut at the Daytona RC and hasn’t finished outside of the top-five in all three starts.

JR Motorsport’s Josh Berry is two points behind Gibbs in second in the rookie standings. Berry scored his first career Xfinity Series win at Martinsville Speedway a few weeks ago. Berry is also running a part-time schedule, having made seven starts this season posting a win and three top 10s.

JD Motorsport’s Ryan Vargas is still sitting in third in the rookie standings with 68 points. In eight starts so far this season for JD Motorsports, Vargas has a best finish of 18th from the season-opener at Daytona.

Jordan Anderson and Sam Mayer have still not made any starts this season, so they are fourth and fifth respectively with no points or awards, yet.

NASCAR Xfinity Series, Etc.

Jeffrey Earnhardt running Dale Earnhardt scheme: JD Motorsports with Gary Keller announced that Jeffrey Earnhardt will run the legendary Olympics paint scheme at Darlington. The original car run by Dale Earnhardt at the 1996 NASCAR All-Star Race at Charlotte Motor Speedway was a one-off with the Hall of Famer. Jeffrey will run his Forever Lawn Throwback Chevrolet at Darlington and the patriotic color scheme will be recognized by diehard Dale Sr. fans.

Vargas to honor Mark Martin at Darlington: JD Motorsports with Gary Keller also announced that Ryan Vargas and Monarch Roofing will begin their new partnership starting at Darlington for Throwback Weekends. The No. 6 team will honor NASCAR Hall of Famer Mark Martin by running a paint scheme from 1994. He finished second in the championship standings that year. The iconic paint scheme is known as one of the most dominant cars in history and fans will remember it right away when it hits the track.

Justin Haley honoring LeafFilter at Darlington: Justin Haley will pilot the No. 11 LeafFilter Gutter Protection Chevrolet honoring the award-winning company started by team owner Matt Kaulig and their first NASCAR Cup Series race in 2014. The race was run for Go Fas Racing in 2014 at Charlotte Motor Speedway.

Jeb Burton honoring father, Ward, for Throwback Weekend: Jeb Burton and the No. 10 Kaulig Racing Chevrolet team will honor Jeb’s father, Ward, and his first-ever NASCAR Cup Series win. Ward earned his first win at Rockingham Speedway in 1995 for the AC Delco 400. “Dad and my uncle (Jeff Burton) have had a lot of success at Darlington, so it’s a special track for our family. I’ve only raced there once in the Cup Series about six years ago, so I am excited to get back there. It’s a great looking car, and I appreciate Nutrient Ag Solutions for allowing it to happen. Hopefully, it will be a good weekend for our team,” Jeb said in a press release.

Michael Annett recognizing Gatorade at Darlington: Michael Annett, who has primary sponsor Pilot Flying J onboard his No. 1 JR Motorsports Chevrolet, will run a 1979 Gatorade paint scheme in honor of Darrell Waltrip. In 1979, Waltrip won seven races and finished second in the championship standings to Richard Petty. So far this season, Annett has three top 10s and is 14th in the points standings. He will make his 10th start at Darlington on May 8 and has two top 10s to his name at the track.

Jeremy Clements honoring Dale Jarrett for Throwback Weekend: Jeremy Clements Racing and All South Electrical announced that they will be honoring NASCAR Hall of Famer Dale Jarrett and his 1999 NASCAR Cup Series Championship for Throwback Weekend at Darlington. The No. 51 will also have sponsorship from various other companies such as Fox Sports Spartanburg 1400, RE Goodson, Whitetail Smokeless, etc.

NASCAR Camping World Truck Series

Following the yellow brick road

After the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series took last weekend off, the series jumps back into action this week at Kansas Speedway for the Wise Power 200 (Saturday, May 1, at 7:30 p.m. ET on FS1, MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio).

Kansas has hosted 22 Camping World Truck Series races with the first in 2001 – one per year until last year. In 2020, the series ran three races as part of the schedule re-shuffling that was a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The series ran a pair of races there in July, with Austin Hill and Matt Crafton winning. The trucks then returned in October for the Playoffs, with Brett Moffitt taking the checkered flag.

In total, 19 different drivers have posted a win at the 1.5-mile track with Crafton leading all with three victories. Kyle Busch is the only other driver with multiple wins at the track with two.

Amongst the remaining series regulars, only Johnny Sauter joins Crafton, Hill and Moffitt as an active winner at the track. Cup Series regular Ross Chastain has also recorded a victory at the track.

Three times in series history at Kansas the race winner gone on to win the Camping World Truck Series title that season:

2002 – Mike Bliss

2012 – James Buescher

2013 – Matt Crafton

Toyota tops in trucks thus far this season

While much of the focus in Victory Lane in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series this season has been on Kyle Busch Motorsports with their four consecutive wins in the most recent four races, what may be overlooked is that Toyota has actually started the season with six straight wins.

ThorSport Racing’s Ben Rhodes opened the season by sweeping the races on the two Daytona configurations. KBM then started their streak, with John Hunter Nemechek winning at Las Vegas, team owner Kyle Busch taking the checkered at Atlanta, Martin Truex Jr. on the dirt at Bristol, and Nemechek once again last weekend at Richmond.

This marks only the fourth time in series history that a manufacturer has started out the season with six or more wins in as many races and is the second time Toyota has done it. Toyota actually owns the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series record for the most consecutive wins to start a season with 10 in 2014.

Dodge and Chevrolet have each had seasons with eight wins to start out – Chevrolet in 1995 and Dodge in 2001.

The record-setting Toyota run in 2014 has one thing in common with the current streak – Kyle Busch. Busch won five of those 10 opening wins in that season.

Season Manufacturer Race Winners Track
2014 Toyota Kyle Busch Daytona
2014 Toyota Matt Crafton Martinsville
2014 Toyota Kyle Busch Kansas
2014 Toyota Kyle Busch Charlotte
2014 Toyota Kyle Busch Dover
2014 Toyota Matt Crafton Texas
2014 Toyota Bubba Wallace Gateway
2014 Toyota Kyle Busch Kentucky
2014 Toyota Erik Jones Iowa
2014 Toyota Bubba Wallace Eldora

Looking at the driver standings in the Camping World Truck Series, Toyota drivers hold six of the top seven slots and seven of the top 10 positions. Nemechek and Rhodes are sitting one-two in the standings, while Austin Hill and Matt Crafton are fourth and fifth.

How they’ll line up

Unsurprisingly, based on their performance this season, Toyotas will occupy the top five starting positions for this Saturday’s Wise Power 200 (7:30 p.m. ET on FS1, MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio).

The most recent race winner, Kyle Busch Motorsports driver John Hunter Nemechek, will start on the pole with team owner Kyle Busch alongside him on the front row. ThorSport Racing will take up the second row with Ben Rhodes in third and Johnny Sauter starting fourth. Another KBM driver, Chandler Smith, will start fifth.

Todd Gilliland breaks up the Toyota pack by starting sixth in a Front Row Motorsports Ford, followed by Hattori Racing’s Austin Hill in seventh in another Toyota.

The Chevrolets of GMS Racing drivers Sheldon Creed and Zane Smith will start eight and ninth, respectively. And the Halmar Friesen Racing Toyota of Stewart Friesen wraps up the top 10.

Saturday’s front row has seen success on the 1.5-mile track. Nemechek has three starts in the series at Kansas, posting a pair of top-five results. Busch has five series starts there with a pair of wins and three top fives.

Crew chief spotlight: Eric Phillips

When John Hunter Nemechek announced his intent to return to the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series to compete for Kyle Busch Motorsports for the 2021 season, the team paired him up with veteran crew chief Eric Phillips.

This season marks a return to KBM for Phillips, who was originally with the organization from 2010 to 2014. He was a vital part in Toyota’s record-setting 10 consecutive wins to open the season, serving as crew chief for six of those victories – the five with Kyle Busch and then with Erik Jones at Iowa.

And he has another connection to Nemechek as Phillips’ first job as a NASCAR crew chief was in the Xfinity Series with NEMCO Motorsports – owned by John Hunter’s father, Joe. He sat atop the pit box for one race in 2003, guiding Joe to victory at Texas.

Phillips has 39 wins under his belt in the series, including two this year with Nemechek. That 39 is the most in the series for any crew chief, with 29 of them coming with KBM trucks.

Nemechek entered this season with six wins to his credit in the Camping World Truck Series, and it appears that matching him up with Phillips has been the perfect formula for KBM as the duo has already recorded two wins together.

NASCAR Camping World Truck Series, Etc.

Hocevar maintains lead in Sunoco Rookie standings – In the most recent race at Richmond Raceway, Carson Hocevar’s 12th-place finish was enough to allow him to maintain a 10-point lead over Chandler Smith. Smith finished fourth in the race and earned the rookie of the race award. Hailie Deegan and Chase Purdy traded places in the standings.

Sunoco Rookie of the Year
Rookies Points Awards
Carson Hocevar 139 2
Chandler Smith 129 3
Hailie Deegan 89 0
Chase Purdy 80 1
Kris Wright 39 0
Tim Viens 0 0

Corey Heim to make national series debut at Darlington – Corey Heim, who has been a superspeedway ace this season in the ARCA Menards Series, will make his NASCAR national series debut next weekend at Darlington Raceway. The 18-year-old leads the series points after winning the season-opening event at Daytona and following that up with a victory at Talladega last week in the ARCA Menards Series. (He also wrapped up the 2020 season by winning the ARCA finale at Kansas.) Heim is scheduled to run two races for Kyle Busch Motorsports this season – first in the No. 51 JBL Toyota at Darlington and then in October at Martinsville Speedway.

— NASCAR —