Sprint Cup

NASCAR Sprint Cup News Wire
  • Busch looks to join elite company at perhaps NASCAR's most unpredictable track
    By Field Level Media / Monday, April 23, 2018

    DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. -- It's a big deal and rare achievement when any driver reels off three consecutive wins in the premier Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series. And only nine races into the 2018 season -- that's happened twice already.

    • Kyle Busch's impressive showing at Richmond Raceway on Saturday night earned the 32-year-old his third straight Monster Energy Series win (also at Texas and Bristol). Kevin Harvick accomplished the feat in late February and early March, winning three consecutive races at Atlanta, Las Vegas and Phoenix. Going for four in a row, he finished a disappointing 35th in California.

      Busch and Harvick account for six wins in nine races in 2018, along with four runner-up finishes (Busch has three, Harvick has one). The pair of Monster Energy Series champions (Harvick in 2014, Busch in 2015) appear to be out to add a second title to their resumes.

      Since 1998, only one driver -- seven-time Monster Energy Series champion Jimmie Johnson -- has won four consecutive races. Johnson closed out his 10-win, title-hoisting 2007 season with victories at tracks familiar with this 2018 storyline: Martinsville, Atlanta, Texas and Phoenix.

      Busch has the opportunity to equal that mark in Sunday's GEICO 500 at the 2.66-mile high-banked Talladega Superspeedway (2 p.m. ET on FOX, MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio) -- one of the most unpredictable venues on the schedule.

      But Busch's Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Denny Hamlin, who finished third Saturday night at Richmond, gives Busch's No. 18 Toyota team full-on credit for getting results no matter what the situation dictates, from the Texas 1.5-miler to the tight Bristol bullring.

      And like so many, he sounded optimistic that his teammate absolutely be considered a favorite again this week.

      "They're winning them in dominating fashion, and they're winning them by being up front and putting themselves in position," Hamlin said Saturday. "Tonight they probably won on pit road. It's several different ways."

      As with Johnson, the only active driver to ever win four straight and one of only eight to do it in the Modern Era (since 1972), Busch has a history of getting on a roll. Johnson and Busch are the only two drivers entered Sunday to have won three consecutive races more than once.

      Busch won three straight in 2015, amazingly winning on the Sonoma road course only five weeks after returning to competition from a severe leg injury. A 17th-place finish at the next race in Daytona was the only hiccup in a five-race stretch that saw him hoist four trophies en route to his first Monster Energy Series championship.

      Throughout his career, Busch has built upon success. He has won back-to-back Cup races five different times, starting with Daytona and Chicago in the summer of 2008. His others took place in the past four seasons, starting with his three-peat in 2015 and sequential trophies in '16 at Martinsville and Texas. Last year he won at New Hampshire and Dover during the Chase in consecutive weeks.

      When it comes to four straight wins, that list of eight drivers is impressive: Cale Yarborough (1976), Darrell Waltrip (1981), Dale Earnhardt (1987), Harry Gant (1991), Bill Elliott (1992), Mark Martin (1993), Jeff Gordon (1998) and Johnson (2007).

      None of their winning streaks, however, included Talladega.

      Busch has reason to at least be hopeful, though.

      He has won at Talladega -- in fact, he won this very spring race in 2008. Since then he has nearly as many top 10s (six) as he does finishes of 20th or worse (eight) at the track. He was runner-up in this spring race two years ago and third last year.

      "Pretty cool to win three in a row," Busch allowed Saturday night in Richmond. "That's really special. Certainly we did that in '15. Almost won four in a row. We ran out of gas, half a lap to go.

      "Next week we go to Talladega. I think it's easier to win the Power Ball than win at Talladega. We'll give it a go anyway, see what we get."

      And, he acknowledged of Talladega with a grin, "That one's never really always in the driver's hands. It's kind of always in fate's hands. We'll just take what we can get."

      --By Holly Cain, NASCAR Wire Service. Special to Field Level Media

  • NASCAR notebook: Elliott tries for two milestones at Richmond
    By Field Level Media / Saturday, April 21, 2018

    RICHMOND, Va. -- With a season-best qualifying effort on Friday at Richmond Raceway, Chase Elliott is in ideal position to make personal history -- not to mention achieving a major milestone for the Hendrick Motorsports organization that fields his No. 9 Chevrolets.

    • Elliott put his car on the outside of the front row for Saturday night's Toyota Owners 400 (6:30 p.m. ET on FOX, MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio) at the .75-mile short track, a race that will mark Elliott's 86th start in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series. Seven of those starts have ended in runner-up finishes, but Elliott is still searching for his first victory at NASCAR's top level.

      Also at stake is a 250th victory for Hendrick Motorsports, which has been to Victory Lane in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series 249 times with 16 different drivers. Elliott would like nothing better than to contribute to that total.

      "Yeah, it's incredible," Elliott said of Hendrick's long run of success. "That's a huge achievement. I can't say I've helped them a whole lot to get there, but it's been awesome to be a part of that company and to have watched it over the years; and to have watched them from the couch (winning) races.

      "I would love to get No. 1 for me, obviously, but the score of 250 will be pretty spectacular. For them to have 249 wins, if you could ever just get one to be amongst the people who have won there, I think would be pretty cool in itself.

      "We have to just keep trucking forward like we have been. We've been struggling at some of these places and just trying to scratch and go on and get what we can and get back to the ways that I think that our teams deserves to be in."

      CINDRIC ENJOYS CAREER-BEST XFINITY SERIES FINISH

      All but lost in the late-race battle between race winner Christopher Bell and runner-up Noah Gragson was a career-best, fifth-place finish by Austin Cindric in his first competition at Richmond Raceway.

      It was also an eye opener for the driver of the No. 22 Team Penske Ford, who started from the rear because of an unapproved pre-race adjustment to the car and drove through the field to fifth.

      "That was more work than I thought I was going to have to do (Friday night)," Cindric said after the ToyotaCare 250 NASCAR Xfinity Series event. "We were definitely a top-three car. We just needed a Cup race worth of distance to get there. Track position was pretty important. We had a great long-run car all night and definitely a car that was able to contend for the win.

      "I'm really, really happy with the guys. They've been patient with me, and coming to this track, never having seen it before, I'm happy with the run. This is my best finish so far in the Xfinity Series and we'll just keep going."

      The final 100 laps were something of struggle for the 19-year-old driver, after two 75-lap stages were already in the books.

      "My right ankle is sore just from cramping it up so hard trying not to burn it off those last 90 laps because, for me, I didn't know what I was in for," Cindric said. "I had those other 75-lap runs to base off of, but you add another 25 on that and it's a chore.

      "I'm pretty happy with how it ended. Obviously, we wish we could have gotten a top-four or top-three there, but we'll keep going."

      HEMRIC READY FOR GIANT STEP IN CAREER

      Richard Childress Racing driver Daniel Hemric has 49 starts in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series and 41 in the NASCAR Xfinity Series -- all without a victory.

      But that hasn't stopped the 27-year-old from Kannapolis, N.C., from approaching his Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series debut with confidence.

      "I think I'm as ready as I'm going to get," said Hemric, who drove his No. 8 Chevrolet to a respectable 22nd starting position. "Twenty-two years in the making to get to this point. It's cool to know that not only did I get to qualify for my Cup debut, but I get to go race (on Saturday).

      "I'm pumped to know that I get to be here and do this. We've got a great group of guys. It's tough when you pull a group that do not go to the race track every week and put them together and say 'Hey, go race against these guys.' Because these (Cup drivers) are the best in the world to do this.

      "Fortunate and blessed to be here, and I look forward to what lies ahead -- but just trying to enjoy it."

      --By Reid Spencer, NASCAR Wire Service. Special to Field Level Media

  • NASCAR notebook: Busch turns to Harvick in search for recapturing Richmond magic
    By Field Level Media / Friday, April 20, 2018

    RICHMOND, Va. -- For a driver with a two-race winning streak, Kyle Busch wasn't exuding confidence when he took questions from reporters Friday afternoon at Richmond Raceway.

    • Busch used to own the spring race at Richmond. He won it four straight years from 2009-12. In each of those years, the race fell on or near his May 2 birthday, and Busch was unabashed about gifting himself with the Richmond trophy.

      But times have changed, and so have NASCAR rules. In recent years, Busch hasn't been able to find the edge he enjoyed during his heyday at the .75-mile short track. And with six dry years in the interim, Busch can hardly remember what it feels like to celebrate in Richmond's Victory Lane.

      "The success is almost forgotten it's been so long ago," he said. "So we certainly want to get back to our winning ways and doing a better job of being up front and winning here at Richmond. We're just kind of missing a little bit.

      "There were some rule changes years ago that had some things kind of taken away from our camp and things that we were doing that made us a little bit better than our competition."

      Not surprisingly, Busch eyes Kevin Harvick, a three-time Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series winner this season, as his foremost competition so far this season. In Friday's opening practice for the Toyota Owners 400 on Saturday (coverage begins at 6 p.m. ET on FOX, MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio), Harvick posted the best consecutive 10-lap average speed. Busch was fourth.

      "Man, I think we're pretty equal, honestly," Busch said of comparisons between his No. 18 Toyota and Harvick's No. 4 Ford. "I think I've got to give them the notch a little bit. I think they're a little bit better than we are. I think [Kyle] Larson's right there as well, too."

      Point taken. Harvick is a three-time winner at Richmond, but he hasn't been first to the checkered flag since 2013. Larson, on the other hand, won last year's fall race at Richmond and posted the fastest lap in Friday's final practice.

      RICHMOND RACEWAY GROWING INCREASINGLY UNPREDICTABLE

      Chalk it up to aging pavement, which delights most race car drivers.

      The asphalt surface at Richmond Raceway has become more volatile and unpredictable as the pavement degrades.

      "It's way different," said NASCAR Xfinity Series leader Elliott Sadler, one of four drivers competing for the Dash 4 Cash bonus in Friday night's ToyotaCare 250. "The tires are different that Goodyear brings. The asphalt is really worn out here, and the car changes a lot during a long run here.

      "The track has really widened out a lot in the last couple years. It used to be everybody [ran] the bottom. Now you see guys making time through the middle and right up against the wall, especially in [Turns] 3 and 4. So the groove has really changed."

      Sadler got a second opinion from JR Motorsports teammate Justin Allgaier, who, along with Daniel Hemric and Spencer Gallagher, also earned eligibility for the $100,000 Dash 4 Cash bonus at Richmond.

      "Today I saw Noah Gragson running the middle, and there were quite a few other cars that were running the middle," Allgaier said. "I would say about five years ago, no one would have even thought about venturing up past maybe a lane and a half off the bottom, and he was out there actually making laps.

      "That's exciting from a driver's standpoint. When you can see somebody already getting up there, and you're an hour into practice, that's pretty cool."

      Interestingly, Gragson found significant speed in the middle lane. He posted the third-fastest lap overall and fastest consecutive 10-lap average in final practice for the NASCAR Xfinity Series drivers.

      NOTABLE QUOTES

      Kyle Larson

      Larson had just lost a heartbreaker to Busch last Monday at Bristol Motor Speedway. Busch got to the bumper of Larson's No. 42 Chevrolet on Lap 495 of 500, pushed Larson up the track and made the winning pass.

      Larson, who led a race-high 200 laps, returned to his motor home, prepared to put the close loss behind him. No such luck. His son Owen made sure of that.

      "The last thing I wanted to hear but the first thing I heard when I walked in the bus was Owen [saying] 'Did you get me some Skittles?' So, I couldn't help but laugh at that, so that wasn't what I wanted to hear but it kind of lightened the mood, so it helps to get over it a little bit."

      Busch's winning Toyota was sponsored by Skittles.

      Kyle Busch

      After the race, Larson sent Busch a text, congratulating him on the victory and relating Owen's request for Skittles.

      "It's cool that many of these drivers' kids like the candy man," said Busch, whose cars sport paint schemes that feature a variety of products from candy maker Mars, Inc. "So they certainly know what's up, and whether it's the paint scheme or it's the personality -- I'm not sure which -- but certainly Cash [Clint Bowyer's son] is one of those guys, and Owen is one of those guys, so pretty neat that that those guys were wondering where the Skittles were.

      "I was wondering where the McDonalds [Larson's sponsor] was there during the rain delay [at Bristol], to be honest with you, so we can certainly work out together on that front and maybe work some B-to-B deals, but it's cool that these kids are interested in the candy aspect, so they know where to come."

      Ricky Stenhouse Jr.

      In the last six years, Ricky Stenhouse Jr. has seen three veteran teammates -- Matt Kenseth, Carl Edwards and Greg Biffle -- leave the Roush Fenway Racing organization. Edwards subsequently stepped away from NASCAR racing in 2016, after two seasons with Joe Gibbs Racing.

      Stenhouse says he stays in touch with Edwards, who has taken up farming in his native Missouri.

      "Carl, I guess he just wanted to go sit on a tractor and hang out, which I don't blame him," Stenhouse said. "I like sitting on my tractor and being on my John Deere throughout the week and hanging out and enjoying that. I talk to Carl every now and then, and he's definitely enjoying that."

      It's doubtful, however, that either driver could get much of an adrenaline rush from a tractor race.

      --By Reid Spencer, NASCAR Wire Service. Special to Field Level Media

  • Coming off perhaps toughest loss of career, how does Larson respond?
    By Field Level Media / Friday, April 20, 2018

    DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. -- Kyle Larson is one of the most even-keeled, happy-go-lucky drivers in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series -- typically smiling, always willing to sign autographs and even popular with his competitors.

    • But Larson's runner-up showing to Kyle Busch on Monday in the rain-delayed finish at Bristol (Tenn.) Motor Speedway stoked some real competitive frustration in the fifth-year Cup driver. And even four days later, speaking with the media in advance of Saturday night's Toyota Owners 400 at Richmond (Va.) Raceway (6 p.m. ET on FOX, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio), it was apparent Larson still felt the sting of that near miss.

      "Yeah, I was mad," Larson said. "That's as close as I've come to winning a Cup race at Bristol. I don't want to compare Bristol to any other races because that seems to get me in trouble when I compare races to races. But, I want to win extremely bad at Bristol. So, yeah, that one stung probably more than any Cup win I can kind of think of at this point.

      "Every single time I race at Bristol, I go head-to-head with Kyle [Busch]. Even though I might not win and run second to him every time or whatever, but throughout the majority of a race it's always him and I nose to tail in lapped traffic, which is a lot of fun, but he seems to come out on the better end of it with wins and all that stuff. So yeah, it sucked."

      Larson led a race-high 200 laps at Bristol -- nearly twice as many as Busch (117) and the two exchanged the lead four times in the final 119 laps before Busch took the point for good with six laps remaining.

      Larson has never won at the famed short track -- a place he had prioritized and circled on the Cup schedule and put in such a top-shelf effort. As much of a nice guy as Larson may be, he is still a fierce competitor and that one hurt. Deeply.

      "I'd moved on shortly after because I was really mad when I got back to the bus and I texted Kyle about this, but the last thing I wanted to hear but the first thing I heard when I walked in the bus was, 'Oh, did you get me some Skittles?' said Larson, smiling at the request his 3-year-old son Owen had so innocently asked about. Skittles sponsored Busch's winning car.

      "So, I couldn't help but laugh at that, so that wasn't what I wanted to hear but it kind of lightened the mood, so it helps to get over it a little bit."

      Arriving at the three-quarter mile Richmond Raceway this week may help the process of getting over it. Larson won the Cup Series' last race here in September. He started from the pole position (2014) in his first Cup start here and was runner-up in the 2016 race. His recent history in Richmond has certainly produced a lot of positive vibes.

      "Typically this hasn't been a good race track for me, but for whatever reason, the last time we were here we were about a top-3 car all race long," Larson said. "[Martin] Truex was really fast. But, I was a little bit lucky there at the end with a caution to beat him off pit road and get the win.

      "I think that adds a little bit of confidence coming back here; but at the same time, I've struggled here in the past. I don't know if I'll be as good as I was last time, but I hope so. Even though I've struggled in the past I enjoy this track because it is different than what we typically go to."

      Eight races into the 2018 season, Larson has a pair of runner-up finishes (at Fontana, Calif. and Bristol) and a third-place at Las Vegas. He crashed out at Texas Motor Speedway but is still ranked ninth in the Monster Energy Series points standings.

      It's proven to be a tough year for any driver not named Kevin Harvick or Kyle Busch. Those two veterans have won five of the opening eight races and have a combined four runner-up showings.

      Larson acknowledged the dominance of those two teams, Harvick driving a Ford and Busch a Toyota. But Larson also said he felt like his No. 42 Credit One Bank Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 and the other Chevrolets are getting their feet under them. Austin Dillon's last-lap victory in the season-opening Daytona 500 is the only race a Chevrolet has won so far.

      "I still think Harvick is really fast," Larson said sizing up his fellow front-runners. "I think Kyle [Busch] is really good at executing, which has helped him win the last couple of races and really run in the top 3 for as long as he has now. But yeah, as far as pure speed I think the No. 4 [Harvick] has everybody covered."

      That's not to say Larson doesn't consider himself an absolute favorite at Richmond this week. He's done everything but win this season and that first 2018 trophy feels inevitable. And perhaps a lesson learned at Bristol will make Larson's next victory all the sweeter.

      "I feel like speed-wise, we're close to where we were at this point last year," Larson said. "But I feel like other teams are better than where they were at this point last year. So maybe that's why we're back a couple of positions in the running order throughout the race.

      "So yeah, I feel like we've gotten off to a really good start with the new body and all that. It's early in the year and we're going to continue to get better and better every week. We've continued to bring better race cars to the race track every week, so that's good. So we've just got to keep working hard and I think we can get to the point of being the fastest car on the race track every weekend.

      "I think we've proved last week that we were the fastest car. We didn't get the win so we have to keep working on that and move it to other race tracks so we can be really fast."

      --By Holly Cain, NASCAR Wire Service. Special to Field Level Media

  • Auto racing glance
    By Field Level Media / Wednesday, April 18, 2018

    MONSTER ENERGY NASCAR CUP SERIES: TOYOTA OWNERS 400 (400 laps, 300 miles around a .75-mile D-shaped oval), Richmond Raceway; Richmond, Va.

    • TV: Saturday, 6:30 p.m. ET (Green flag approx. 6:43 p.m. ET) - Fox (Radio: Performance Racing Network, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio Channel 90).

      THIS WEEK: The ninth of 36 races on the season, the Cup series is at one of its most storied tracks. Richmond Raceway, technically a short track, is flat and wide enough for high speeds and plenty of passing based on skill more than courage. ... Kyle Busch won his second race in a row last week at Bristol, holding off last fall's winner at this track, Kyle Larson. ... Joey Logano won this race last year ... Chevrolet still hasn't won a race since the season-opening Daytona 500. ... Busch got his first win of the season at Texas and is leading the standings in his Toyota Camry, and his results over the last six races are eye-popping, finishing second, second, third, second, first and first. ... Four races this season have been won by a Ford Fusion, three by Toyota and one by a Chevrolet Camaro SS. ... This will be the 124th race at Richmond, a track first opened in 1948 and run on under NASCAR sanction since 1953. ... *Busch leads the Cup standings with 365 points, followed by Logano (306), *Kevin Harvick (290), *Clint Bowyer (286), Brad Keselowski (271), Ryan Blaney (267), *Martin Truex Jr. (257), Denny Hamlin (252) Larson (249) and Kurt Busch (241). ... Daytona 500 winner *Austin Dillon is in 14th (183) and well under the playoff cutoff.

      (All stats and standings per NASCAR.com)

      *Denotes race winner and playoff berth

      NASCAR XFINITY SERIES: TOYOTACARE 250 (250 laps, 187.5 miles around a .75-D-shaped mile oval), Richmond Raceway; Richmond, Va.

      TV: Friday, 7 p.m. ET (Green flag approx. 7:16 p.m. ET) - FS1 (Radio: Performance Racing Network, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio Channel 90).

      THIS WEEK: The eighth of 33 races on the season, the cars get a little more room than they had last week at half-mile Bristol, but the racing is tight and the bumping is frequent. ... Part-time driver Ryan Preece won a thriller at Bristol - and an extra $100,000 in the Xfinity Dash for Cash contest - but can't qualify for the playoffs because he hasn't entered every race. ...This will be the 69th series race at Richmond. ... Kyle Larson won this race last year, with Brad Keselowski winning in the fall. An Xfinity Series regular - with the exception of Chase Elliott in 2015, now in the Cup Series - has not won here since Johnny Sauter in 2003. ... Elliott Sadler leads the Xfinity standings with 261 points, followed by Daniel Hemric (255), *Tyler Reddick (247), Justin Allgaier (240), Christopher Bell (226), Cole Custer (218), Ryan Truex (211), Spencer Gallagher (208), Brandon Jones (193) and Ryan Reed (183).

      (All stats and standings per NASCAR.com)

      *Denotes race winner and playoff berth

      NASCAR CAMPING WORLD TRUCK SERIES

      THIS WEEK: The Trucks are in the fourth week of a five-week hiatus, returning May 4 at Dover International Speedway in Dover, Del. ... *Johnny Sauter leads the Truck standings (181 points), followed by Grant Enfinger (152), *Brett Moffitt (150), Ben Rhodes (148), Noah Gragson (146), Stewart Friesen (122), Matt Crafton (122), Matt Snider (118), Dalton Sargeant (118) and Austin Hill (100).

      (All stats and standings per NASCAR.com)

      *Denotes race winner and playoff berth

      VERIZON INDYCAR SERIES: HONDA INDY GRAND PRIX OF ALABAMA (90 laps, 214.2 miles around a 16-turn 2.3-mile permanent road circuit), Barber Motorsports Park, Birmingham, Ala.

      TV: Sunday, 3 p.m. ET (Green flag approx. 3:10 p.m. ET) - NBCSN (Radio: Advance Auto Parts INDYCAR Radio Network, Sirius 214, XM 209, IndyCar.com, indycarradio.com and on the INDYCAR Mobile app).

      THIS WEEK: This is the fourth of 17 races this season. ... American Alexander Rossi won last week at Long Beach and countryman Josef Newgarden the week before that in Phoenix, but Barber Motorsports Park is a tight and technical course which favors the pole-sitter and the leader because there are so few passing zones. ... Newgarden won this race last year on his way to the series title. ... This will be the ninth race under IndyCar sanction at Barber, first opened in 2003 as a motorcycle race venue and also home of the American Porsche Driving School and the Barber Vintage Motorsport Museum, which houses one of the largest collections of motorcycles in the world. ... Rossi leads the standings with 126 points, followed by Newgarden (104), American Graham Rahal (93), France's Sebastien Bourdais (88), with Canada's James Hinchcliffe (83) rounding out the top five.

      FORMULA ONE

      THIS WEEK: F1 takes a breather after running consecutive weekends. Next up is the Azerbaijan Grand Prix in Baku, Azerbaijan, next week. ... Germany's Sebastian Vettel leads the standings in his Ferrari with 54 points after three events. Defending series champion Lewis Hamilton of Great Britain is second in his Mercedes with 45 points, followed by Finland's Valtteri Botas, Mercedes (40), Australian Daniel Ricciardo, Red Bull (37) and Finland's Kimi Raikkonen, Ferrari (30).

      NATIONAL HOT ROD ASSOCIATION: NHRA SPRING NATIONALS, Friday-Sunday, at Royal Purple Raceway, Baytown, Texas.

      TV: Eliminations, Sunday, 2-5 p.m. ET (Live) FS1

      THIS WEEK: The NHRA gears up for the NHRA Spring Nationals near Houston, won last year by Leah Pritchett in Top Fuel, Ron Capps in Funny Car and Bo Butner in Pro Stock. Pro Stock Motorcycle is taking another week off, but will come back next week at zMax Dragway in Concord, N.C. ... Steve Torrence leads the Top Fuel standings (333 points), followed by Tony Schumacher (300), Antron Brown (290), Clay Millican (255) and Doug Kalitta (248) rounding out the top five. ... Jack Beckman leads Funny Car (338), followed by Courtney Force (302), Matt Hagan (301), Tommy Johnson Jr. (265) and Capps (258). ... Butner is on top in Pro Stock (322), followed by Chris McGaha (293), Deric Kramer (289), Vincent Nobile (283) and Jason Line (268). ... Eddie Krawiec leads Pro Stock Motorcycle (123), followed by Andrew Hines (107), Scotty Pollacheck (76), Hector Arana Sr. (71) and Steve Johnson 53.

      --Field Level Media

      --K. Lee Davis

  • NASCAR notebook: Day remains red-hot in Euro Series
    By Field Level Media / Tuesday, April 17, 2018

    A familiar name to many American NASCAR fans, Alon Day, picked up his 11th and 12th career victories in the NASCAR Whelen Euro Series season-opening races in Valencia, Spain over the weekend. Meanwhile, an American newcomer to the series, former NASCAR Xfinity and Monster Energy Cup champion Bobby Labonte, picked up a top-10 (eighth place) in the weekend's second race.

    • Day, the first Israeli to compete in a major NASCAR touring series, is a member of the 2016 NASCAR Next program and competes stateside in the national series whenever given the opportunity.

      He is absolutely a star across the pond. The 26-year old defending NASCAR Whelen Euro Series champ is already off to a strong start in 2018, sweeping the Spanish race weekend to give him a series-best 12 career victories. Including the playoffs, he's won five of the last six races dating back to the 2017 season.

      AMERICAN ON THE GRID

      Labonte, of Corpus Christi, Texas, is making his inaugural full season NASCAR Whelen Euro Series run. He started 14th on Sunday and finished eighth in the No. 18 Yacco Toyota Camry -- a promising improvement from the season-opener Saturday when he started 20th and finished 14th. The effort is especially impressive considering that other than Britain's Brands Hatch road course, all of the NASCAR Whelen Euro Series venues will be brand new to the American NASCAR champion.

      "Happy that we continue to improve and looking forward to the next race in Italy. For now, time to pack up and head home. Thanks to @CircuitValencia and Valencia, Spain, it's been great." Labonte said Sunday on Twitter.

      DOOR TO DOOR

      Two-time NASCAR Whelen Euro Series champion Anthony Kumpen, 39, of Belgium, continued to provide thrilling competition for Day in the season-opening races in Spain. Kumpen finished third and runner-up in the Valencia races.

      Kumpen, the uncle of Formula One star Max Verstappen, is another driver who has competed in NASCAR Xfinity Series over the past few years. His record in the Euro Series includes two championships (2014 and 2016) and a championship runner-up to Day in 2017.

      UP NEXT

      The NASCAR Whelen Euro Series will get back to action May 18-20 in Brescia, Franciacorta, Italy, on the Autodromo di Franciacorta.

      --By Holly Cain, NASCAR Wire Service. Special to Field Level Media.

  • Ford to bring Mustang to 2019 NASCAR Cup Series
    By Field Level Media / Tuesday, April 17, 2018

    Ford announced Tuesday that it plans to switch body styles from the Fusion to the Mustang for the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series in 2019.

    • The Mustang will be Ford's fourth different Cup Series model since 1972, following the Thunderbird, Taurus and Fusion. Ford has used the Mustang in the NASCAR Xfinity Series since 2011.

      The switch comes following similar decisions by Toyota and Chevrolet in recent years. Chevrolet began using the Camaro ZL1 model in the Cup Series this year.

      Ford officials say the Mustang is still going through testing and designs will be formally submitted to NASCAR for approval this summer.

      "This announcement makes me very happy," said Ford board member Edsel B. Ford II in a press release. "Mustang is a car that is woven into the fabric of our country, and it's only right that we put it on the track in NASCAR's most visible series. I can't wait."

      Ford supports six organizations and has 13 teams in its NASCAR lineup, including Wood Brothers Racing, Roush Fenway Racing, Team Penske, Stewart-Haas Racing, Front Row Motorsports and Go Fas Racing. Five of the top six drivers in this year's Cup Series standings -- Joey Logano (2nd), Kevin Harvick (3rd), Clint Bowyer (4th), Brad Keselowski (5th) and Ryan Blaney (6th) -- drive Fords.

      --Field Level Media

  • NASCAR notebook: Wallace disappointed despite strong run at Bristol
    By Field Level Media / Monday, April 16, 2018

    BRISTOL, Tenn. -- There was a throwback moment in Monday's weather-delayed Food City 500 at Bristol Motor Speedway that caught everyone's eye.

    • On Lap 375 of 500, Daytona 500 runner-up Darrell "Bubba" Wallace Jr. muscled past Brad Keselowski's Ford to take the race lead. There, up front at Bristol, was the No. 43 Richard Petty Motorsports Chevrolet, sporting the traditional Petty blue and red colors, reminiscent of an era when team owner Richard Petty was the King of stock car racing.

      Wallace led six laps before eventual race winner Kyle Busch overtook him, but those were the first six laps Wallace has led in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series. Though Wallace ran in the top 10 for much of the rest of the race, he faded to 16th at the finish after the handling of his Chevy deteriorated.

      Afterwards, Wallace expressed a jumble of mixed emotions.

      "Yeah, hell of a day," Wallace said after the race. "Didn't know what to expect firing off, and we fired off like a freaking [expletive] and got our way up to 10th in that second stage there. That was good, get some stage points and got up to the lead. I was as surprised as anybody.

      "Going through the emotions, we were really good and that last caution came out, and we were struggling with left-front (tire) problems there late in runs, locking up easily, but still was able to make decent ground. Then, all of a sudden it went away there, and, man, just blindsided there by that.

      "I'm just dejected because I'm scratching my head on where in the hell we went wrong or what we did wrong. I don't think we did anything wrong. I guess that is big-time auto racing, but it was a good day."

      ARIC ALMIROLA TURNS IN SOLID SIXTH-PLACE RUN -- THAT COULD HAVE BEEN BETTER

      Aric Almirola was like a stealth missile in Monday's Food City 500. He wasn't fighting for the lead at the front of the field, but his car got progressively better as the race unfolded, and the top lane finally started paying dividends.

      Almirola rolled home in sixth place, posting his best finish of the season, his third top-10 in eight races and his seventh result in the top 15. That consistency has the driver of the No. 10 Stewart-Haas Racing Ford 11th in the series standings.

      But Almirola felt he could have gotten more, had circumstances been slightly different.

      "We worked on (the car) all day," Almirola said. "We weren't very good (Sunday) at all. Finally, when the track moved to the top, our car got a lot better, so we kind of were prepared for that, and our car was kind of set up to run the top, and I was just miserable trying to run the bottom.

      "My car was really, really bad on the bottom, and we finally got it to where it was going pretty good up top and the caution would come out. I feel like if the race would have been a normal race, and we would have run a lot of green flag up top, we would have been pretty good. It's a good day.

      "I'm a little disappointed with sixth, but, at the same time, I'm happy and pleased that we rebounded after a bad day in Texas. To come out of here with a sixth is a great day and I feel like we could have got more if it would have stayed green. I wish we would have run like 300 more laps."

      ALEX BOWMAN CHARGES TO CAREER-BEST FIFTH-PLACE FINISH

      Alex Bowman was a terror on restarts.

      From the first laps of the Food City 500, he served notice he was going to make the most of a fast No. 88 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet, passing cars around the top of the track.

      Bowman started eighth and finished fifth, the best result of his Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series career.

      "It's been a lot of fun finally getting some good runs going our way," Bowman said. "It's been cool. To run fifth, it's not a great day, but it's better than what we started the year doing. We're making progress, making steps in the right direction and just got to keep doing that.

      "I think by our self we had maybe even a faster race car than that. I just couldn't be consistent with it. We were really loose in (into the corners) and my car was really sensitive to traffic. If anybody got within a half a car length of me, it just turned sideways getting in the corner every time.

      "If I could break that gap and get away from them I would drive away, but with them right there I couldn't do anything. It was interesting trying to fight through that, but glad we finished top five."

      --By Reid Spencer, NASCAR Wire Service. Special to Field Level Media.

  • Bristol Bump lifts Busch past Larson late for second straight win
    By Field Level Media / Monday, April 16, 2018

    Kyle Busch won the Food City 500 at Bristol Motor Speedway in Tennessee on Monday -- a day after he began the race on the pole -- but he had to work hard to get his second win in a row.

    • First, like all the other drivers, he had to run 204 laps Sunday before the remainder of the race was postponed by rain until Monday at 1 p.m. ET with NASCAR hoping it could get in all 500 scheduled laps.

      But the big work came with six laps to go Monday, when he gave leader Kyle Larson a Bristol Bump, knocked him loose, and rolled past the 42 into the lead -- and ultimately onto Victory Lane.

      "Checkers, yeah," he shouted into his radio as he crossed the finish line at Bristol first only eight days after he'd done the same at Texas Motor Speedway.

      Larson, Jimmie Johnson, Ricky Stenhouse Jr. and Alex Bowman rounded out the top five.

      Busch started on the pole Sunday and jumped out to a six car-length lead on the first lap, but there was a long way to go and multiple rain delays to deal with.

      While Busch stayed among the leaders both days, he wasn't always in the most dominant car. Ryan Blaney was that driver for most of the first stage.

      Blaney took the lead from Busch on Lap 16 and stayed out front for more than 100 laps until he got caught up in a wreck in front of him on Lap 119.

      That opened the door for Brad Keselowski to win Stage 1 at Lap 125, and then after the race resumed Monday with 46 laps remaining in Stage 2, Keselowski was again the driver across the line first when he used the bump and run on Larson late and held on to win the stage.

      Larson's tires were older than most drivers immediately behind him, and in the last 10 laps of the stage, his car just appeared to not have enough grip left.

      But Keselowski wouldn't be around at the finish after a breaking a suspension piece and causing the final caution of the day with 32 laps to go. He ultimately finished 23rd.

      Denny Hamlin took the lead on Lap 262 but fell out on Lap 264 with a loose wheel. He fell two laps back and never got back into contention. Johnson took the lead until getting passed by Keselowski on Lap 266.

      The Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series is back in action Saturday night at 6:30 p.m. ET at Richmond Raceway.

      --K. Lee Davis, Field Level Media

  • NASCAR moves up start of Bristol race amid looming storms
    By Field Level Media / Sunday, April 15, 2018

    NASCAR is moving up the start time for Sunday's Food City 500 as storms threaten to derail the race altogether.

    • The race, originally slated to start at 2 p.m. ET, will start at 1 p.m. instead as officials try to get the race in before a threatened thunderstorm hits the Bristol, Tenn. track.

      Weather services predict close to 100 percent chance of thunderstorms Sunday afternoon, with a 60 percent chance in the evening. The race would be rescheduled for Monday if it is postponed.

      Monday has a 40 percent chance of showers until 2 p.m., according to the National Weather Service.

      NASCAR can rule a race complete as long as 50 percent of the laps have been run.

      Kyle Busch starts from the pole for Sunday's race, should it be run. His brother, Kurt, had won the second starting spot but a crash in practice will send him to the back of the field.

      --Field Level Media

  • NASCAR notebook: Kyle Busch coming to grips with Bristol change
    By Field Level Media / Friday, April 13, 2018

    BRISTOL, Tenn. - In Friday's opening Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series practice at Bristol Motor Speedway, Kyle Busch couldn't find a familiar feel.

    • "Here today, for some reason, the traction compound (applied in the lower lane) doesn't feel anything like I remember it from last fall," said Busch, whose victory last August made him a six-time winner at the track.

      "It's just not quite as grippy as I remember it being. For some reason, it's just really easy to slip out of it with the back or the front and it's really slick up off the corner."

      Busch felt the new right-side tire supplied by Goodyear might have a lot to do with the unfamiliar feel. The tread compound is the same, but the construction differs from that of last year's tire.

      "Definitely there's a difference with the new right-side tire," Busch said. "That might be the feeling that I'm feeling today that's just different. Like I mentioned earlier, that it could be the substance (traction compound) that feels different, but it might be the right-side tire that's different.

      "There's something that's just not a familiar feeling. The tire could be some of that."

      Erik Jones, Busch's teammate at Joe Gibbs Racing, is happy with the new tire - and should be. He tested for Goodyear at Bristol in September.

      "Fortunately, they picked one of the tires we tested," Jones said. "So I was able to kind of get a leg up on some of the other guys here and know what that tire was going to feel like and have a pretty good idea of what it's going to do in the long run.

      "I think we made a 50- or 60-lap run on it, so I have a pretty good idea."

      NEW RULES PREEMPT RICKY STENHOUSE JR.'S AERO IDEAS

      At a team meeting at Roush Fenway Racing, Ricky Stenhouse Jr. was all set to make suggestions designed to improve the performance of his No. 17 Ford for the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series All-Star Race in May and on intermediate speedways in general.

      At the time, Stenhouse was unaware of significant changes coming to the All-Star Race cars, which will feature a major reduction in horsepower through the use of restrictor plates and a larger spoiler designed to add downforce.

      "The aero package, I found out I think a day before it went out (in an announcement), for the All-Star Race," Stenhouse said. "We were actually talking in meetings at the shop, and I was talking about things I wanted to try to get our mile-and-a-half program better, things I wanted to build into the car for Charlotte for the All-Star Race.

      "And they were like, ‘We think it's going to be a little bit different than what you think,' so I was like, ‘Thanks.'"

      The aero package to be used at Charlotte was tested in last year's NASCAR Xfinity Series race at Indianapolis. That race produced a record 16 lead changes.

      FOR RYAN PREECE, SATURDAY'S XFINITY RACE IS A STEP UP IN CASH

      For a driver running a limited NASCAR Xfinity Series schedule, the opportunity to run for $100,000 is an opportunity that can't be overstated.

      That's certainly the case for Joe Gibbs Racing driver Ryan Preece, who has already made the most of the two races he has run in the series this year. The modified ace finished fifth last Saturday at Texas Motor to earn eligibility for the $100,000 Dash 4 Cash bonus at stake in Saturday's Fitzgerald Glider Kits 300 at Bristol Motor Speedway.

      Preece will vie with three other eligible drivers - Christopher Bell, Cole Custer and Daniel Hemric - for the cash prize, which will go to the highest finisher among the four.

      "To be honest with you, I'm used to running from anywhere to $2,000 races to $10,000 races, so to come here and to have a chance to win $100,000 is a big deal to me," Preece said. "All of us do say it doesn't matter if it's at a go-kart track for a piece of plastic or for $100,000, we're going to race each other hard - pretty hard.

      "I would say that's true, but at the same time, $100,000 - I know what it'd do for me, and I'm going to race very hard to get that. ... Like I said last week, it would help me build more race cars, so that's a big deal."

      It's also a big deal for charity. Through its Internet Essentials program, Comcast will donate an additional $10,000 in conjunction with each of the four Dash 4 Cash races. The designated local charity for the Bristol race is the Quest Foundation for Washington County Schools.

      Preece was third on the speed chart during opening NASCAR Xfinity Series practice - and fastest of the four Dash 4 Cash drivers.

      KEVIN HARVICK TO BACKUP CAR AFTER HARD CRASH IN PRACTICE

      Kevin Harvick, a three-time winner in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series this year, will stake the rest of the Food City 500 field to a handicap on Sunday - but not by choice.

      Roughly 45 minutes into opening practice at Bristol Motor Speedway, Harvick's No. 4 Stewart-Haas Racing Ford veered to the right in Turn 3 and shot into the outside wall.

      "Something obviously either came off or broke in the front suspension," Harvick said after the crash. "It looks more like the right-front, to tell you the truth.

      "It definitely wasn't a tire failure or anything like that, but just going in the corner, as soon as I let off the gas it just hung a right, so it's unfortunate for our Busch Beer/Jimmy John's Ford, but we'll get another one out and do it again."

      Under NASCAR rules, Harvick will start Sunday's race from the rear of the field in his backup car.

      AJ Allmendinger also spun in opening practice and tagged the wall with the right rear of his No. 47 JTG-Daugherty Racing Chevrolet, but the team opted to forego a backup car in favor of repairing the primary.

      --By Reid Spencer, NASCAR Wire Service. Special to Field Level Media.

  • Larson upbeat, primed for breakthrough at Bristol
    By Field Level Media / Friday, April 13, 2018

    BRISTOL, Tenn. -- If enthusiasm is indeed as contagious as the saying goes, Kyle Larson could pretty easily infect the entire Monster Energy NASCAR Cup garage at Bristol Motor Speedway this weekend.

    • The 25-year old Californian smiled widely Friday morning, just anticipating the Food City 500 on Sunday (2 p.m. ET, FOX, PRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio).

      "Bristol is my favorite track and I always get excited to come here, so really looking forward to the weekend," said Larson, who drives Chip Ganassi Racing's No. 42 McDonald's Camaro ZL1.

      And that's saying something. Especially considering Larson has never won at Bristol.

      Now, Larson is very -- very -- good at the high-banked half-miler. Last year he started both races on the front row -- winning the pole in the spring and leading the first 202 laps. He started on the outside pole in the fall night race. He finished sixth and ninth, respectively -- his best full season Bristol effort.

      "I think we, or I, have to get better when the track kind of changes from the first half of the race into the second half," Larson analyzed. "It seems like every time I've been here, whether it's Xfinity (Series) or Cup, I can pretty much dominate the first half and then I guess, I come back to everybody else.

      "And it seems like I always make mistakes on pit road and stuff like that. Just got to clean it all up and that will give me a better shot at getting a win here. And then you've got to get somewhat lucky being on the outside lane to restart."

      Attitude truly is important -- developing an appreciation for all track types, be it short tracks, superspeedways or road courses that punctuate a schedule more heavily dominated by 1.5-mile speedways. And attitude has never been a problem for Larson, one of the most well-liked Cup drivers both on the track and off.

      Some drivers fret over the aggressive, bunch-racing high skill set that short tracks typically provide. Larson loves it.

      "That makes it fun," he said. "You don't really have any time to relax. Lap traffic, it's so much fun here and you catch in 15 laps or whatever. Then you are just carving through it. You just catch a guy and you go to wherever they are not. It's fun to have options like that.

      "I guess I've been saying it a lot, but I just get really excited about this place because it kind of races like a dirt track and it's a lot of fun."

      That may be exactly what Larson could use, too. Seven races into the season, he has a pair of top-threes (third at Las Vegas and runner-up at California's Auto Club Speedway). A ninth-place finish at Atlanta is his only other top 10. His 54 laps led at Phoenix (where he finished 18th) are his only laps out front so far this year.

      A disappointing 36th place-finish after a crash at Texas Motor Speedway last weekend dropped him to 10th in the standings, but he remains very much a playoff favorite.

      Larson and his fellow Chevrolet drivers are hoping to get the "bowtie" back in victory lane -- for only the second time this year following Austin Dillon's last-lap pass for a season-opening Daytona 500 victory.

      "I feel like we have pretty good speed in our cars," Larson said. "We haven't had a lot of luck to go with it, but I feel like our average running position has been OK at the tracks we are typically good at. ....

      "I feel like we are close. We still have a way to go to compete with the No. 4 [three-time 2018 winner Kevin Harvick]. I think he is in his own league right now and then the No. 18 [last week's winner, Kyle Busch], their team is good and Kyle is just really, really good.

      "So, I feel like we are fourth [or] fifth best-ish' ... I don't know, it's hard to say, but we've got to get finishing a little bit better and click off a win and then I think we can consider ourselves a favorite again."

      --By Holly Cain, NASCAR Wire Service. Special to Field Level Media

  • Elliott crew chief Gustafson suspended for Texas infraction
    By Field Level Media / Wednesday, April 11, 2018

    Crew chief Alan Gustafson was suspended for two races by NASCAR after Hendrick Motorsports driver Chase Elliott's rear window was found to be not up to standards at Texas on Sunday.

    • Gustafson was also fined $50,000 for the infraction, which is due to the window not being kept rigid in all directions.

      Elliott was docked 20 drivers points and Hendrick 20 owners points as well.

      Kenny Francis will fill in for Gustafson during his suspension, which the team has already said it will not appeal.

      Elliott drove his No. 9 Chevrolet to an 11th-place finish in Texas. He currently sits 18th (15th before the penalty) in the points standings after seven races.

      Elliott was also docked 25 points for a rear-suspension issue at Phoenix in March and car chief Josh Kirk was suspended two races for that infraction.

      --Field Level Media

  • Auto racing glance
    By Field Level Media / Wednesday, April 11, 2018

    MONSTER ENERGY NASCAR CUP SERIES: FOOD CITY 500 (500 laps, 266.5 miles around a .533-mile oval), Bristol Motor Speedway; Bristol, Tenn.

    • TV: Sunday, 2 p.m. ET (Green flag approx. 2:16 p.m. ET) - FS1 (Radio: Performance Racing Network, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio Channel 90).

      THIS WEEK: The eighth of 36 races on the season, the Cup series heads to Bristol Motor Speedway, the half-mile bullring legendary for rough racing and hurt feelings. ... Chevrolet still hasn't won a race since the season-opening Daytona 500 as its teams adjust to the Camaro SS body style they're using for the first time this season. ... Kyle Busch got his first win of the season at Texas and is leading the standings in his Toyota Camry. ... Four of the last six races have been won by a Ford Fusion (three by Kevin Harvick), with Austin Dillon taking the season opener at Daytona in his Chevrolet Camaro. ... This will be the 115th race at Bristol, with Jimmie Johnson winning this race last spring and Busch last fall. Seven-time champion Johnson had another lost weekend at Texas, finishing 35th after a crash. ... Johnson is 21st in the standings with a lone top-10 finish so far this season. ... *Busch leads the Cup standings with 316 points, followed by Joey Logano (278), Ryan Blaney (265), *Harvick (257), *Martin Truex Jr. (250), *Clint Bowyer (249), Brad Keselowski (237), Kurt Busch (224), Denny Hamlin (222) and Kyle Larson (202). ... Daytona 500 winner *Dillon is in 13th (159) and well under the playoff cutoff.

      (All stats and standings per NASCAR.com)

      *Denotes race winner and playoff berth

      NASCAR XFINITY SERIES: FITZGERALD GLIDER KITS 300 (300 laps, 159.9 miles around a .533-mile oval), Bristol Motor Speedway; Bristol, Tenn.

      TV: Saturday, 1 p.m. ET (Green flag approx. 1:16 p.m. ET) - FS1 (Radio: Performance Racing Network, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio Channel 90).

      THIS WEEK: The seventh of 33 races on the season, tight and short Bristol will be a major contrast from last week at the 1.5-mile Texas Motor Speedway. ...This will be the 72nd series race at Bristol. ... Erik Jones won this race last year, with Kyle Busch winning in the fall, but Elliott Sadler and Justin Allgaier are the only full-time Xfinity drivers with a win in the series at the track. ... Sadler leads the Xfinity standings with 228 points, followed by *Tyler Reddick (217), Christopher Bell (208), Daniel Hemric (203), Justin Allgaier (196), Cole Custer (181), Ryan Truex (179), Spencer Gallagher (174), Matt Tifft (165) and Brandon Jones (162).

      (All stats and standings per NASCAR.com)

      *Denotes race winner and playoff berth

      NASCAR CAMPING WORLD TRUCK SERIES

      THIS WEEK: The Trucks are in the third week of a five-week hiatus, returning May 4 at Dover International Speedway in Dover, Del. ... *Johnny Sauter leads the Truck standings (181 points), followed by Grant Enfinger (152), *Brett Moffitt (150), Ben Rhodes (148), Noah Gragson (146), Stewart Friesen (122), Matt Crafton (122), Matt Snider (118), Dalton Sargeant (118) and Austin Hill (100).

      (All stats and standings per NASCAR.com)

      *Denotes race winner and playoff berth

      VERIZON INDYCAR SERIES: TOYOTA GRAND PRIX OF LONG BEACH (85 laps, 167.28 miles around an 11-turn 1.968-mile temporary street circuit), Long Beach, Calif.

      TV: Sunday, 4 p.m. ET (Green flag approx. 4:10 p.m. ET) - NBCSN (Radio: Advance Auto Parts INDYCAR Radio Network, Sirius 214, XM 209, IndyCar.com, indycarradio.com and on the INDYCAR Mobile app).

      THIS WEEK: Josef Newgarden hopes to build on the momentum of his thrilling victory last week at Phoenix, but Long Beach favors the road racers in the series. ... This is the third of 17 races this season. ... James Hinchcliffe won this race last year. ... This will be the 11th race under IndyCar sanction at Long Beach, but American open-wheel cars have raced there since 1984 and Formula One from 1976-1983. ... Newgarden leads the standings with 77 points. Alexander Rossi (72), Sebastien Bourdais (70), Graham Rahal (63) and Ryan Hunter-Reay (62) round out the top five.

      FORMULA ONE: CHINESE GRAND PRIX (56 laps, 189.728 miles around a 16-turn 3.388-mile permanent road circuit, or two hours, whichever comes first), Shanghai International Circuit, Shanghai, China.

      TV: Sunday, 11 a.m. ET (Green flag approx. 11:10 a.m. ET) - ESPN2 (Radio: SiriusXM Radio Channel 132).

      THIS WEEK: This is the third of 21 races for the season. ... Great Britain's Lewis Hamilton won the race last year in a Mercedes, but he has yet to win this year, finishing second in Australia and third in Bahrain. ... Germany's Sebastian Vettel has won the first two races, getting a leg up on a fifth world title, which Hamilton is also in contention for. ... The Shanghai International Circuit is another by ubiquitous German designer Hermann Tilke and opened in 2004, and at the time was the most expensive F1 circuit ever built at $450 million. ... This will be the 15th race at the Shanghai track, which is shaped like the Chinese character Shang, which means high or above. ... Vettel leads the standings with 50 points, with Hamilton (33 points), Valtteri Bottas (22), Fernando Alonso (16) and Kimi Raikonnen (15) rounding out the top five. ... Only Bottas is not a former world champion.

      NATIONAL HOT ROD ASSOCIATION

      THIS WEEK: The NHRA is taking a week off after last week's Denso Spark Plugs NHRA Four-Wide Nationals, won by Steve Torrence in Top Fuel, J.R. Todd in Funny Car and Vincent Nobile in Pro Stock. ... Next up is the NHRA SpringNationals at Royal Purple Raceway in Baytown, Texas from April 20-22. ... Torrence leads the Top Fuel standings (333 points), followed by Tony Schumacher (300), Antron Brown (290), Clay Millican (255) and Doug Kalitta (248) rounding out the top five. ... Jack Beckman leads Funny Car (338), followed by Courtney Force (302), Matt Hagan (301), Tommy Johnson Jr. (265) and Ron Capps (258). ... Bo Butner is on top in Pro Stock (322), followed by Chris McGaha (293), Deric Kramer (289), Nobile (283) and Jason Line (268). ... Eddie Krawiec leads Pro Stock Motorcycle (123), followed by Andrew Hines (107), Scotty Pollacheck (76), Hector Arana Sr. (71) and Steve Johnson 53.

      --Field Level Media

      --K. Lee Davis

  • Monster Energy back with NASCAR in 2019
    By Field Level Media / Tuesday, April 10, 2018

    Monster Energy and NASCAR will stay together in 2019 after the two sides agreed Tuesday to extend the original deal they signed heading into the 2017 season.

    • It most likely won't go beyond that, making 2019 the end of the road for NASCAR series sponsorship as we know it at the top Cup level.

      For years, since Winston cigarettes came on board in 1971, NASCAR has sold sponsorships to the naming rights of the top series, Cup, and its other two national touring series, to individual companies for up to tens of millions of dollars a year. Xfinity holds rights to the second-tier series and Camping World to the third-tier Truck series.

      There have been only three title sponsors in Cup history: Winston, from 1971-2003; Nextel/Sprint, from 2004-2016; and Monster Energy, 2017-present.

      Now the focus will be on making deals that include the tracks and TV networks as well, NASCAR's chief operating officer, Steve Phelps, told reporters Tuesday.

      "I wouldn't suggest that the entitlement is not working, but we want to make sure our sport is as easy or easier to do business with," Phelps said. "Our competitive advantage is that our fans understand the importance of sponsorship and they go out and support our sponsors. ... We just think this is a better model to be able to make sure that sponsors want to stay involved more broadly.

      "We feel there is an opportunity to feel more invested in the sport -- and I'm not just talking financially and what they're paying different entities, but more invested in the sport so they will then turn around and do more activation and feel like this position is an ownership position that they have."

      Monster officials did intimate they would like to stay in the sport -- they are deeply imbedded across motorsports - and will wait to see what the new sponsorship landscape looks like. One of the constant hurdles in sponsorship is tracks and teams with their own deals, often from competing companies.

      "I'm very interested in seeing the new model," Monster Energy vice president of sports marketing Mitch Covington told ESPN. "We're just deep in supporting the sport. We definitely want a front-row seat to see the new model.

      Covington said he wouldn't use the word "difficult" to describe the deal in its current form, but called it "complex in the fact there are so many entities to deal with. ... We've been in it long enough, we feel like we're [navigating the sport] well," he said.

      Terms of the 2019 deal were not disclosed, but estimates of the existing agreement put it at $20 million a year, down from as much as $75 million under Nextel/Sprint. NASCAR is privately held, making sponsorship dollars hard to gauge.

      --Field Level Media

  • Busch-Harvick (and Truex?) shaping up for heckuva championship fight
    By Field Level Media / Monday, April 9, 2018

    DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. -- Kyle Busch's victory over Kevin Harvick on Sunday at Texas Motor Speedway marked the third time in the season's opening seven races that these two championship drivers took the top two spots in a Monster Energy NASCAR Cup race.

    • Busch, the 2015 Cup champion, is riding an amazing streak of five consecutive top-3 finishes. In addition to Sunday's victory, he was second to Harvick at Las Vegas and Phoenix and to Clint Bowyer at Martinsville. And he was third at Fontana, Calif.

      Harvick has five top-five finishes -- three wins (Atlanta, Las Vegas and Phoenix), a fifth-place at Martinsville and the runner-up Sunday in Fort Worth.

      The two have led a dominating 879 laps of competition between them (Harvick 520, Busch 349).

      And yet for Busch, especially with all his near-misses, the victory Sunday brought as much relief as it did celebration. All the good runs were just that -- good -- but trophy in hand is the golden ticket to the 2018 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs, where Busch has been a perennial contender.

      In fact, Busch's recent streak of second-place finishes began where it all ended last year -- at the championship finale in Homestead-Miami. So counting that runner-up finish to Martin Truex Jr., Busch has four second-place efforts in the last eight races.

      "Certainly being that close, it gets a little old a little faster, you know," Busch said. "... But if you're finishing fifth or 10th, whatever, you're just not capable of winning, it certainly will draw out longer, as well, too. But you know you weren't there yet. Your stuff's not there yet, or you're just not getting the job done yet.

      "But being as close as you are, that kind of hurts a little bit more, especially that final one, that one that matters, that Homestead one. That's probably the one that stings the most. We just got to make sure that we can do the right things that that don't happen again this year."

      Regardless, Busch certainly appreciated the impact of the win, even if that first trophy took a little longer than he expected.

      The mile-and-a-half Texas Motor Speedway isn't necessarily his best venue -- though his three wins there make him one of only three drivers with multiple Texas wins (Jimmie Johnson has seven, Denny Hamlin has two).

      "Especially here at Texas, this is probably not one of my best racetracks," said Busch, whose work Sunday tied him with NASCAR Hall of Fame driver Bill Elliott with 44 career Cup wins. "We've definitely run well here or run better here the last few years. But, you know, you tend to struggle sometimes at some places, and this one is kind of one of those, especially with a repave. For me, they're just not my favorites.

      "To be out front and to have the track position when we did, how we did, was really great for us. My guys did an amazing job on pit road all day. We had that close call there with that one restart in [Turns] 1 and 2 with Chase [Elliott] on our outside. From there we were kind of able to work our way back up through traffic, you know, kind of jump a couple guys under the pit stops there.

      "Overall I felt like our car was either first or second all day long."

      And that has been the case the entire season, truly. It has produced exciting finishes and established an early-season duel between himself and Harvick, who is also off to a fast start. And the reigning champ? Truex won at Auto Club Speedway (California) in March.

      One of the bigger questions about the strong start to the season was whether these two could sustain the effort on the 1.5-milers that the reigning champ Truex so dominated last year.

      "I think as you look at the 1.5-mile program in general it has been really good for us," Harvick said Friday before the Texas race. "I think the thing you guys forget up until last year is that we had dominated the 1.5-mile race tracks and have continued to do that at the end of last year and the first part of this year.

      "We did switch manufacturers [Chevrolet to Ford] last year and it took some time to get everything situated and where it needed to be. I think once the playoffs started last year you really saw where the cars were and the increase in performance, especially on the 1.5-mile racetracks. It just took us some time."

      And the results are very apparent. The success of Harvick, Busch and Truex has created a high-performance championship fight. A fifth of the way into the 2018 season and these three continue to establish themselves as the drivers to beat.

      Now comes the always-trying Bristol (Tenn.) Motor Speedway -- another interesting test for the three. Busch has six wins there, including last summer. However, he had three consecutive DNFs before that. Harvick has a pair of wins in 34 starts, including fall 2016. But Truex is winless at the track, with only one top 10 in his last 11 races there.

      "Bristol is going to be fun," Harvick said. "There is still nothing quite like Bristol, and I am looking forward to it."

      --By Holly Cain, NASCAR Wire Service. Special to Field Level Media.

  • NASCAR notebook: Harvick enters cell phone-free zone at Masters
    By Field Level Media / Saturday, April 7, 2018

    FORT WORTH, Texas - With the current emphasis on staying connected through social media, it's hard to find a cell phone-free zone, but that's what Kevin Harvick encountered during a Thursday visit to the Masters at Augusta National Golf Club.

    • Cell phones aren't allowed on the course during tournament rounds.

      "We were talking about the trip this morning," Harvick told the NASCAR Wire Service after qualifying second for Sunday's O'Reilly Auto Parts 500 at Texas Motor Speedway (2 p.m. ET, FS1, PRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio). "Everything around here is about trying to figure out who's better on social media and connect on social media. And (there) they take your phone away.

      "You can't get on the property with your phone, and nobody's worried about taking pictures. Everybody is engaged in the event and it's sold out every day. That's intriguing, just because of the fact of how everybody else is thinking in every other sport. It's one of those niche situations. It's outside of reality. It's refreshing. You don't even think about it because you don't have it - that being your phone."

      With three professional golfers under his management umbrella -- Jason Gore, James Hahn and Chesson Hadley -- Harvick has a vested interest in the sport. In a global sense, he believes Chase Elliott could impact NASCAR racing the way Tiger Woods moves the needle in golf - provided Elliott can string together some victories.

      "The guy that has the most potential is Chase Elliott with the traditional NASCAR fans," Harvick said. "It's just like when (we) talk; you have to win. There's a difference between a superstar and a megastar. In the past, a superstar wasn't a megastar because of the fact that he didn't win enough. Chase Elliott is the next guy that can be a megastar -- but you have to win."

      HOPING TO BREAK DROUGHT, JIMMIE JOHNSON FINDS SPEED AT TEXAS

      If ever there were a track where Jimmie Johnson could be expected to break out of his current funk, Texas Motor Speedway would certainly be a likely candidate.

      After all, the seven-time champion is a record seven-time winner at the 1.5-mile speedway. And even though Friday's qualifying session was halted by the threat of lightning and limited to one round, Johnson was encouraged that he had found speed in his car.

      That wasn't the case when the team unloaded the No. 48 Chevrolet.

      "We started off and struggled pretty bad," Johnson said. "I think the track was just really far off from what we anticipated. At the very end of (opening) practice, things started going much better for us and popped off a decent lap there (in the first round of qualifying) and making good gains."

      Those gains were apparent in Saturday's first practice, too. In cold conditions after a drastic overnight drop in temperature, Johnson was fourth-fastest in the session at 198.639 mph.

      In final practice, Johnson ran just three laps, but his third one was the fastest of the session at 198.143 mph.

      That's a welcome omen, given that Johnson hasn't led a lap yet this year. In fact, the seven-time champ has led laps in only two of the last 25 races (five at Dover and 24 at Martinsville last year).

      RICKY STENHOUSE JR. IN BACKUP CAR AFTER CRASH IN PRACTICE

      For the third time this season and the second event in a row, Ricky Stenhouse Jr. will start from the rear of the field in a Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series race after crashing in practice and going to a backup car.

      Early in Saturday's first practice session, after running his fastest lap of the day, Stenhouse veered into the outside wall, damaging his No. 17 Roush Fenway Racing Ford beyond repair. The accident mirrored incidents at ISM Raceway in Phoenix and two weeks ago at Martinsville.

      Stenhouse said his spotter saw sparks from underneath the car before it shot into the wall at Texas.

      He'll be joined at the rear of the field by Hendrick Motorsports driver William Byron, whose No. 24 Chevrolet needed an engine change after losing oil pressure during Friday's opening practice.

      --By Reid Spencer, NASCAR Wire Service. Special to Field Level Media.

  • NASCAR notebook: 'New Kids on the Track' looking to dethrone old guard
    By Field Level Media / Friday, April 6, 2018

    FORT WORTH, Texas -- A large banner on the broadcast center at Texas Motor Speedway loudly touts the "New Kids on the Track," an homage to the 20-somethings who will propel the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series into the future.

    • Pictured on the banner are likenesses of Daniel Suarez, Bubba Wallace, Ryan Blaney, Chase Elliott, Erik Jones, William Byron and Alex Bowman, who collectively make up more than 15 percent of a typical Cup series starting field.

      Clearly, the slogan derives from the Boston-based boy band New Kids on the Block, whose first incarnation was active during the 1980s and 1990s. That being the case, most of the "New Kids on the Track" weren't around during the band's heyday.

      "We were actually just talking about it in the hauler, and I don't know the New Kids on the Block," Jones said after Friday's opening practice for Sunday's O'Reilly Auto Parts 500 at the 1.5-mile track (2 p.m. ET, FOX, PRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio). "I was born in 1996, and the last year they were a group was 1995.

      "They asked me what New Kids on the Block was, and I was like 'Man, I've got to be honest with you, I have no idea.'"

      Jones said he liked the banner, but not as much as the small one hung on the railing beside it, citing three-time winner Kevin Harvick's pointing out that the average age of Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series winners this season is 38.5, with the hashtag "old guys rule."

      "I liked the sign they put next to it better," Jones said. "At first I thought Harvick actually put it there. I was like "That's pretty funny," but then I realized the track did it."

      And for the record, the New Kids on the Block has reunited and toured periodically since 2013. Donnie Wahlberg, perhaps the best-known member of the group, is now 48 years old.

      DANCIN' CHRIS BUESCHER CELEBRATES EVENTFUL OFF WEEK

      Native Texan Chris Buescher may not be able to dance the Texas Two Step, but he took one very important step in his life during the Easter break in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series schedule.

      Buescher got married to longtime girlfriend Emma Helton.

      "We went and got married over Easter weekend, so that was really good," Buescher said. "Emma and I started planning last year before there was a schedule out for this season, and that made it very difficult because she didn't want a winter wedding, and we didn't know our off-weekends yet.

      "We knew we wouldn't be racing on Easter. And then it threatened to rain out Atlanta and threatened to snow out Martinsville. It seemed like Easter weekend was always the fill-in date. So it definitely had us nervous through all of that."

      But a wedding meant a wedding dance, and that's what really had Buescher nervous.

      "We took dance lessons," Buescher said. "We did two lessons. The woman that did it did a fantastic job. We met up with her in uptown Charlotte, and she asked what we wanted to know and first off, what you already know.

      "I don't know anything. I can't sway. I can't even do that. I can't sit here and act like I know what I'm doing. And she's like okay, what do you want to learn? I said, ‘The Dirty Dancing lift at the end.' And she said ‘All right, we're going to back that down a bit.' We compromised, and it actually came out really good. We were able to at least look like we had some clue of what we were doing out there."

      DANIEL SUAREZ RELISHES RACING FOR KIDS IN FRONT OF A 'HOME' CROWD

      Texas Motor Speedway isn't Daniel Suarez' home track, but it's close enough that friends and fans from his native Monterrey, Mexico, can road trip to watch him race.

      "Texas is the only race track that I can have family, friends and all kinds of people from my hometown driving to this place," Suarez said. "So this is a special place for that as well, because it's not my home track, but it's very close, so I can call this one of my home tracks."

      If a throng of supporters weren't enough to motivate Suarez to earn his first Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series victory, the driver of the No. 19 Joe Gibbs racing Toyota has additional incentives. He's racing in support of sponsor Stanley Tools' "Racing for a Miracle" program, which supports the Children's Miracle Network Hospitals.

      Stanley has pledged $100,000 to the hospitals. Should Suarez win the O'Reilly Auto Parts 500 on Sunday, the $100,000 becomes $1 million.

      "I really hope that we do a very good race for these kids," said Suarez, who visited the Cook Children's Medical Center in Fort Worth on Thursday and met the four children who designed his car's paint scheme for this weekend. "It would be a dream come true for me to bring these kids with me to Victory Lane.

      "That would be something amazing, just like winning a championship, because when you get the opportunity to meet these kids, it brings a big smile to your face, and you can see that excitement that they bring to the car, to the race track and hopefully to Victory Lane."

      --By Reid Spencer, NASCAR Wire Service. Special to Field Level Media.

  • NASCAR releases 2019 Monster Energy Cup Series schedule, and it looks awfully familiar
    By Field Level Media / Friday, April 6, 2018

    NASCAR has apparently found the schedule it likes.

    • A year after a schedule reboot which saw, among other things, a second race added to Vegas, track changes for two Chase races and the switch to the Charlotte road course for the Chase, the 2019 schedule release this week had a lot less drama.

      In fact, the 2019 schedule is the exact same as the 2018 schedule in terms of order of races and track locations.

      The season will again start off two weeks after the Super Bowl, with the Daytona 500 running on Feb. 17. With Easter falling three weeks later on the calendar in 2019 that it did in 2018, the season's first bye week will be April 21, after Race 9 at Richmond.

      Despite some speculation that the All-Star Race could be moved from its traditional Charlotte location, NASCAR confirmed in a news release Tuesday that Charlotte will again host back-to-back weekends of racing. The All-Star Race will be May 18 with the Coca-Cola 600 happening May 26.

      Once again, the Chase will begin in Las Vegas (Sept. 15) and conclude with the season finale in Homestead, Fla., on Nov. 17.

      Here is the full schedule, including Speedweeks competitions in Daytona:

      DATE -- RACE

      Sun., Feb. 10 -- Daytona 500 (Qualifying)

      Sun., Feb. 10 -- The Clash

      Thurs., Feb. 14 -- Daytona 500 (Duels)

      Sun., Feb. 17 -- Daytona 500

      Sun., Feb. 24 -- Atlanta

      Sun., March 3 -- Las Vegas

      Sun., March 10 -- ISM Raceway

      Sun., March 17 -- Auto Club

      Sun., March 24 -- Martinsville

      Sun., March 31 -- Texas

      Sun., April 7 -- Bristol

      Sat., April 13 -- Richmond

      Sun., April 28 -- Talladega

      Sun., May 5 -- Dover

      Sat., May 11 -- Kansas

      Sat., May 18 -- All-Star Open (Charlotte)

      Sat., May 18 -- All-Star Race (Charlotte)

      Sun., May 26 -- Charlotte

      Sun., June 2 -- Pocono

      Sun., June 9 -- Michigan

      Sun., June 23 -- Sonoma

      Sun., June 30 -- Chicago

      Sat., July 6 -- Daytona

      Sat., July 13 -- Kentucky

      Sun., July 21 -- New Hampshire

      Sun., July 28 -- Pocono

      Sun., Aug. 4 -- Watkins Glen

      Sun., Aug. 11 -- Michigan

      Sat., Aug. 17 -- Bristol

      Sun., Sept. 1 -- Darlington

      Sun., Sept. 8 -- Indianapolis

      Sun., Sept. 15 -- Las Vegas

      Sat., Sept. 21 -- Richmond

      Sun., Sept. 29 -- Charlotte

      Sun., Oct. 6 -- Dover

      Sun., Oct. 13 -- Talladega

      Sun., Oct. 20 -- Kansas

      Sun., Oct. 27 -- Martinsville

      Sun., Nov. 3 -- Texas

      Sun., Nov. 10 -- ISM Raceway

      Sun., Nov. 17 -- Miami

      --Field Level Media

  • Auto racing glance
    By Field Level Media / Wednesday, April 4, 2018

    MONSTER ENERGY NASCAR CUP SERIES: O'REILLY AUTO PARTS 500 (334 laps, 501 miles around a 1.5-mile D-shaped oval), Texas Motor Speedway; Fort Worth, Texas

    • TV: Sunday, 2 p.m. ET (Green flag approx. 2:16 p.m. ET) - FS1 (Radio: Performance Racing Network, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio Channel 90).

      THIS WEEK: The seventh of 36 races on the season, the Cup series is back in action after a week off with winless Kyle Busch leading the standings in his Toyota Camry with one-time winner Martin Truex Jr. close behind in his Toyota. But it's the strength of the Ford Mustangs that has the garage abuzz. ... Four of the last five races have been won by a Ford, with Austin Dillon taking the season opener at Daytona in his Chevrolet Camaro. ... This will be the 35th race at Texas, with Kevin Harvick - a three-time winner this season - winning last fall's race. ... Jimmie Johnson won this race last spring and he would like to find that magic again as he's off to a bad start by his standards. The seven-time champion is 17th in the standings with a lone top-10 finish so far this season. ... Johnson isn't the only driver struggling at Hendrick Motorsports, one of NASCAR's superteams. Alex Bowman is tops among them in 14th with the No. 88 Chevy, with Chase Elliott 18th in the No. 9 and rookie William Byron 20th in the No. 24. ... Ford-based Team Penske sits 3, 4, 5 through six races, with Ryan Blaney, Joey Logano and Brad Keselowski respectively. ... Ford-based Stewart-Haas Racing has won four times, with Harvick taking three and Clint Bowyer winning two weeks ago at Martinsville. SHR's lowest ranked driver, Aric Almirola, is 11th. ... Busch leads the Cup standings with 257 points, followed by *Truex (249), Blaney (233), Logano (232), Keselowski (226), Denny Hamlin (217), *Harvick (212), *Bowyer (210), Kyle Larson (195) and Kurt Busch (177). ... Daytona 500 winner *Dillon is in 13th (148).

      (All stats and standings per NASCAR.com)

      *Denotes race winner and playoff berth

      NASCAR XFINITY SERIES: MY BARIATRIC SOLUTIONS 300 (200 laps, 300 miles around a 1.5-mile D-shaped oval), Texas Motor Speedway; Fort Worth, Texas

      TV: Saturday, 3 p.m. ET (Green flag approx. 3:16 p.m. ET) - Fox (Radio: Performance Racing Network, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio Channel 90).

      THIS WEEK: The sixth of 33 races on the season, the series is back in action after a two-week layoff. ...This will be the 35th series race at Texas. ... Erik Jones swept last year's races at TMS, but there are no full-time Xfinity drivers with a win in the series at the track. ... Elliott Sadler leads the Xfinity standings with 199 points, followed by *Tyler Reddick (195), Justin Allgaier (194), Christopher Bell (172), Daniel Hemric (169), Cole Custer (144), Spencer Gallagher (143), Ryan Truex (140), Brandon Jones (139) and Matt Tifft (132).

      *Denotes race winner and playoff berth

      NASCAR CAMPING WORLD TRUCK SERIES

      THIS WEEK: The Trucks are in the second week of a five-week hiatus, returning May 4 at Dover International Speedway in Dover, Del. ... John Hunter Nemechek won the race two weeks ago at Martinsville, but he is not a full-time Truck series driver and is ineligible for the playoffs. ... *Johnny Sauter leads the Truck standings (181 points), followed by Grant Enfinger (152), *Brett Moffitt (150), Ben Rhodes (148), Noah Gragson (146), Stewart Friesen (122) , Matt Crafton (122), Myatt Snider (118), Dalton Sargeant (118) and Austin Hill (100).

      *Denotes race winner and playoff berth

      VERIZON INDYCAR SERIES: DESERT DIAMOND WEST VALLEY CASINO PHOENIX GRAND PRIX (250 laps, 255.5 miles around a 1.022-mile dogleg-oval), ISM Raceway, Avondale, Ariz.

      TV: Saturday, 9 p.m. ET (Green flag approx. 9:10 p.m. ET) - NBCSN (Radio: Advance Auto Parts INDYCAR Radio Network, Sirius 214, XM 209, IndyCar.com, indycarradio.com and on the INDYCAR Mobile app).

      THIS WEEK: The American open-wheel series is back in action for the first time since the season-opener at St. Petersburg, Fla., on March 11. ... This is the second of 17 races on the season. ... Simon Pagenaud won this race last year. This will be the 13th race under IndyCar sanction at ISM, but American open-wheel cars have raced there since 1964, the year the track opened ... Sebastien Bourdais leads the standings (51 points), followed by Graham Rahal (40), Alexander Rossi (36), James Hinchcliffe (32), Ryan Hunter-Reay (31), Scott Dixon (28), Josef Newgarden (26), Ed Jones (24), Marco Andretti (22) and Will Power (20).

      FORMULA ONE: GULF AIR BAHRAIN GRAND PRIX (57 laps, 191.53 miles around a 3.36-mile permanent road circuit, or two hours, whichever comes first), Bahrain International Circuit, Sakhir, Bahrain.

      TV: Sunday, 11 a.m. ET (Green flag approx. 11:10 a.m. ET) - ESPN2 (Radio: SiriusXM Radio Channel 132).

      THIS WEEK: This is the second of 21 races for the season. ... Germany's Sebastian Vettel won the race last year in a Ferrari. ... Vettel won the season-opener in Australia two weeks ago, holding off chief rival and defending series champion Lewis Hamilton and his Mercedes. ... Both Vettel and Hamilton are four-time world champions. ... The Bahrain International Circuit was designed by Germany's Hermann Tilke and opened in 2004. ... Tilke led radical redesigns of four classic F1 tracks and has designed 10 from the ground up used by F1, including Circuit of the Americas in Austin, Texas. ... Tilke's designs have been sometimes criticized for not promoting enough passing, but have also been praised for their safety features. His designs have been dubbed "Tilkedromes."... This will be the 14th race at the Bahrain track, with the 2011 race being canceled due to unrest in Bahrain.

      NATIONAL HOT ROD ASSOCIATION: DENSO SPARK PLUGS NHRA FOUR-WIDE NATIONALS, Thursday-Sunday, at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, Las Vegas.

      TV: Eliminations, Sunday, 6-9 p.m. ET (Delayed) FS1

      THIS WEEK: After a two-week break, the NHRA is back at it with three of the four nitro classes in action at the strip built in 1971. Pro Stock Motorcycle is taking the week off. ... This is the fourth of 24 races this season. ... Winners of the previous event in Gainesville, Fla., were Richie Crampton in Top Fuel, Jack Beckman in Funny Car, Tanner Gray in Pro Stock and Eddie Krawiec in the season debut of Pro Stock Motorcycle. ... Las Vegas is one of two events this season, indeed two in April, featuring the cars running four abreast down to the finish line 1,000 feet away instead of the traditional two cars. The NHRA will do it again at the end of April in Concord, N.C. ... Steve Torrence leads the Top Fuel standings (217 points), followed by Antron Brown (210), Clay Millican (204), Tony Schumacher (198) and Doug Kalitta (182) rounding out the top five. ... Matt Hagan leads Funny Car (268), followed by Beckman (247), Courtney Force (219), Ron Capps (218) and Robert Hight (185). ... Bo Butner is on top in Pro Stock (245), followed by Jason Line (232), Chris McGaha (213), Deric Kramer (190) and Drew Skillman (190). ... Krawiec leads Pro Stock Motorcycle (123), followed by Andrew Hines (107), Scotty Pollacheck (76), Hector Arana Sr. (71) and Steve Johnson 53.

      --Field Level Media

  • Dash 4 Cash returns to the Xfinity Series
    By Field Level Media / Tuesday, April 3, 2018

    DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. -- The popular Dash 4 Cash returns to the NASCAR Xfinity Series in 2018 with full-time series drivers competing for a $100,000 top prize at each of the program's four events.

    • In addition to the Bristol Motor Speedway, Richmond Raceway and Dover International Speedway races, Dash 4 Cash will also be available and in play for the first time at the always exciting Talladega Superspeedway.

      The top four finishing full-time drivers in this Saturday's "My Bariatrics Solutions 300" (Saturday, 3 p.m. ET on FOX, PRN and SiriusXM) at Texas Motor Speedway will qualify for the first round of the Dash 4 Cash at Bristol next week. The highest finisher of the four at "The Last Great Colosseum" will earn the big $100,000 check.

      The Dash 4 Cash winner and the top three full-time NASCAR Xfinity Series drivers at the end of the race at Bristol, for a total of four contenders, will go on to race for the money at Richmond Raceway the following week and so forth, for the duration of the four-race program.

      Last year, Justin Allgaier won two of the $100,000 bonuses while Daniel Hemric and William Byron each collected a $100,000 check in the incentive program.

      And for the first time, Comcast will donate bonus money in honor of each Dash 4 Cash weekly winner to support the local community at the four race venues participating in the program.

      In addition to the $100,000 prize money for the Dash 4 Cash winner, Comcast will donate a total of $40,000 to local organizations on behalf of the company's Internet Essentials program.

      The program is the largest in the United States in connecting low-income households online -- more than 4 million households have benefitted since 2011.

      --By Holly Cain, NASCAR Wire Service. Special to Field Level Media.

  • Looking to break career-worst slump, Johnson arrives in Texas just in time
    By Field Level Media / Monday, April 2, 2018

    DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. -- When you're a seven-time Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series champion, an 83-race winner and perpetually on the verge of hoisting that unprecedented eighth championship trophy, people are watching -- dissecting and diagnosing your every move.

    • Jimmie Johnson is certainly experiencing that right now thanks to a 29-race winless streak. A mark that wouldn't at all be an issue for the vast majority of his competition, it's the longest of his first-ballot NASCAR Hall of Fame career. And Johnson couldn't be more ready to talk about something else.

      Like another win at Texas Motor Speedway in the O'Reilly Auto Parts 500 (Sunday, 2 p.m. ET on FS1, PRN and SiriusXM), or maybe a victory the following week at Bristol Motor Speedway. That would do it.

      He is the defending winner of both races -- giving his No. 48 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet team some optimism about hitching horsepower to opportunity at these tracks.

      Johnson isn't just good at Texas. He's the best.

      With a record seven wins to go with 15 top-five and 21 top-10 finishes in 29 starts on the mile-and-a-half Fort Worth high banks, Johnson has reason to change the conversation. He's the all-time leader in laps led (1,041) there and has a rare top-10 career average in both finish (8.8) and starting position (9.4).

      In recognition of Johnson's outstanding resume at the track and the fact he is the defending winner, Texas Motor Speedway is giving away Jimmie Johnson bobblehead dolls to 30,000 among the anticipated sold-out crowd. That's an additional 30,000 "nods" of support for a driver and team trying to work their way out of a rut.

      And should it take another week for Johnson's team to rally, Bristol certainly proved to be a motivating cause in 2017. For exactly the opposite reasons.

      While many would expect Johnson to win in Texas, Bristol is one of the rare venues that Johnson has not dominated. In fact, his win in the spring race last year was only his second at the famous half-mile bullring -- and first since the spring 2010, the year Johnson won an unprecedented fifth consecutive Cup title.

      But he's finished 11th or better in six of the last seven Bristol races and has a pair of runner-up finishes there, most recently in 2015.

      Either venue -- Texas or Bristol -- certainly has the potential of redirecting Johnson's 2018 course. And he's counting on it.

      Johnson is ranked 17th in the standings -- a steady upward climb since a wreck early in the Daytona 500 put him in a points deficit to start the season. Although he has uncharacteristically not led a lap this season -- yet -- he has four straight top-15 finishes and a season-best of ninth place at California's Auto Club Speedway two races ago.

      His absence from Victory Lane is certainly not lost on Johnson, who has celebrated there more than any other driver he's competing against this season. And there's a reason he and his team know how to win. Perseverance has always been a part of his mindset -- from his earliest days trying to make a name for himself on NASCAR's biggest stage.

      Last week, he offered up a quote from Babe Ruth and shared it on social media and to remind his supporters -- and any doubters -- of his mindset.

      "It's hard to beat a person who never gives up," Johnson wrote, crediting the baseball great.

      And, Johnson added, "I couldn't agree more and can't wait to get back to the track."

      --By Holly Cain, NASCAR Wire Service. Special to Field Level Media.

  • NASCAR notebook: Harvick denies brake-checking Hamlin
    By Field Level Media / Monday, March 26, 2018

    MARTINSVILLE, Va. -- Brake check? What brake check?

    • After Monday's snow-delayed STP 500 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series race at Martinsville Speedway, fifth-place finisher Kevin Harvick pleaded innocent to an intentional brake check of fellow veteran Denny Hamlin late in the event won by Clint Bowyer.

      "No, he hit me a couple times and I was just trying to make sure I had my car under control," said Harvick, who slowed in front of Hamlin enough to damage the nose of Hamlin's No. 11 Toyota when the trailing driver couldn't stop quickly enough.

      When Hamlin bumped the No. 4 Ford, it was payback for similar treatment from Harvick, who was unabashed in his explanation of the initial contact with Hamlin's car.

      "He was on the bottom, and I knocked him out of the way," Harvick said.

      When Hamlin returned the favor and bumped Harvick, he got more than he bargained for.

      "He just got to me and, I think, bumped me three or four times," Hamlin said. "And then I was just bumping him back and he brake-checked me. I probably should have brake-checked him in the first place.

      "They were just some light bumps here, and then slammed on the brakes. So classy."

      The damage to Hamlin's car ruined a promising start at one of the driver's best tracks. Hamlin made an extra pit stop to check for possible overheating of his car and dropped to 15th for a restart on Lap 392.

      After leading 111 laps and winning the first stage of the race, Hamlin finished 12th.

      ALEX BOWMAN LEADS CHEVY BRIGADE WITH SEVENTH-PLACE RUN

      It was a solid, gratifying day for Alex Bowman, who took over the No. 88 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet from retired Dale Earnhardt Jr. this season.

      No, Bowman wasn't a contender for the victory in Monday's STP 500 at Martinsville Speedway. Clint Bowyer and Kyle Busch settled that issue, with Bowyer coming out on top.

      But Bowman improved from a 16th-place starting position to seventh at the finish in a car that improved steadily throughout the day. His car was the highest-finishing Chevrolet in the race.

      "I felt like I had some good observations after second practice (on Saturday) on some things I wanted to change, and they seemed to pay off big during the race," Bowman said. "Or at least be the right direction during the race.

      "(Crew chief) Greg (Ives) just made really good adjustments. Every stop we got better. We had solid pit stops all day, the pit crew worked really hard -- just good decisions on top of the box and a good race car."

      If Bowman had picked a track to produce his first top 10 of the season, Martinsville would have been an unlikely candidate.

      "I mean Daytona, and then, if not Daytona, then Atlanta, and then if not Atlanta, Phoenix," Bowman said. "I mean we're here to win races every week. To take this long to get a top 10, it's not what we wanted at all, but glad we are going the right way."

      ALLMENDINGER GETS SEASON-BEST FINISH AT ONE OF HIS BEST TRACKS

      AJ Allmendinger couldn't run with the contenders in Monday's STP 500, but at least he could see them through his windshield.

      Allmendinger hadn't sniffed a top 10 since running 10th in the Daytona 500, but in the snow-delayed race, he had a strong enough No. 37 JTG Daugherty Chevrolet to fight his way toward the front, even after losing spots to comparable cars on pit road.

      Allmendinger, who has two runner-up finishes at the .526-mile short track, once again demonstrated he has a knack for the tricky paper-clip-shaped circuit. He finished eighth, second-best among Chevrolet drivers.

      On the final green-flag run, Allmendinger complained that his car was bouncing, but he persevered.

      "We still got a top 10 out it, ran in the top 10 all day and were able to start 25th and pass a lot of cars," Allmendinger. "Solid day, what we needed at one of our better racetracks.

      "These are the places we know that we have a better chance at, and we have to take advantage of it. So I would say I'm OK with eighth. I wish we could have got a little bit more at the end of the race there, but a solid day all around."

      --By Reid Spencer, NASCAR Wire Service. Special to Field Level Media.

  • Snow forces NASCAR to move Cup, Trucks races to Monday
    By Field Level Media / Sunday, March 25, 2018

    MARTINSVILLE, Va. -- Faced with heavier than expected snowfall on Saturday night and early Sunday morning, NASCAR officials have postponed Sunday's scheduled STP 500 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series race and the resumption of the Alpha Energy Solutions 250 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race until Monday.

    • The STP 500 has been rescheduled for 2 p.m. on Monday, following the completion of the Truck Series event, which was halted on Saturday after 23 laps by rain that later turned to snow as a storm moved into southern Virginia. The Alpha Energy Solutions 250 will restart at 11 a.m. with pole winner Ben Rhodes as the leader.

      Both races will be broadcast on FS1, MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio.

      NASCAR Executive Vice President and Chief Racing Development Officer Steve O'Donnell discussed the decision in a Twitter post on Sunday morning.

      "Way more snow than anticipated last night-Met with track/local authorities this morning-resources need to be dedicated to local community-roads-trees down, etc." O'Donnell tweeted. "We'll put on a great day of @NASCAR Monday.#doubleheaderAlways a tough call but the right one in this case."

      Saturday's scheduled qualifying session for the STP 500 was canceled because of rain, putting Monster Energy Cup Series leader and defending champion Martin Truex Jr. on the pole, with the field ordered according to owner points.

      --Reid Spencer, NASCAR Wire Service. Special to Field Level Media

  • NASCAR notebook: Johnson 'not losing sleep' over winless streak
    By Field Level Media / Saturday, March 24, 2018

    MARTINSVILLE, Va. -- Jimmie Johnson hasn't won a Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series race since he triumphed at Dover on June 4 of last year.

    • That constitutes a winless streak of 28 races, the longest drought of Johnson's career.

      But the seven-time series champion scoffed at the notion that his prolonged absence from Victory Lane represents a decline in his prowess on the track.

      "I don't think that way," said the driver of the No. 48 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet in advance of Sunday's STP 500 at Martinsville Speedway (2 p.m. ET on FS1). "At the end of last year, there were layers of high frustration and some embarrassment that we just couldn't get things going in the right direction. This year, we've improved every week and have seen great strides. So I'm very optimistic that success is out there in front of us and around the corner.

      "But, through it all, I live in the moment and understand where I am and where our team is and what we're doing as a company. I know the journey that we're on. I know what's happening internally to build a better product and to better use our resources to build a better think tank, if you will, and how all the crew chiefs work together. So there's a journey of growth going on right now at the company."

      Johnson has 83 victories at NASCAR's highest level, tied for sixth on the all-time list with Cale Yarborough and 40 ahead of Kyle Busch, who is second among active drivers. Accordingly, a 28-race winless streak doesn't have Johnson pulling out his hair.

      "I'm reminded every week of a streak that's not one that you want to be reminded of -- but I'm not losing sleep over it," Johnson said. "I know I'm going to win races. I know this team is going to win races. I know we're going to compete for championships. It's just getting all of our stuff right.

      "I think people often take for granted how competitive pro sports are and how competitive this garage area is. And although we've been able to do some pretty amazing things that have never been done before, I think it's unfair to believe that it can last forever."

      Chase Elliott, Johnson's teammate at Hendrick Motorsports, hasn't seen a decline in skill in the 42-year-old driver.

      "I would like to have his slump," Elliott quipped. "I don't know about everybody else. Look, everybody tries to ride on the age thing that is just so not true. You don't forget how to drive. You don't change your driving habits.

      "You don't just do all that in the course of a couple of years, and the guy is still one of, if not the greatest driver ever to ever come through NASCAR. I would probably say the best ever without question."

      Told of Elliott's assertion, Johnson said simply, "I'll take it."

      DENNY HAMLIN LOOKS TO MOVE FORWARD FROM CHASE ELLIOTT INCIDENT

      Even if you don't remember that Kyle Busch won last October's Playoff race at Martinsville Speedway, you probably recall that Denny Hamlin forcibly evicted Chase Elliott from the lead when Elliott was poised to claim his first Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series victory and advance to the championship race at Homestead.

      With Elliott the most likely candidate to take over Most Popular Driver honors from retired Dale Earnhardt Jr., the reaction of fans to Hamlin's bump was swift and merciless. And two weeks later at ISM Raceway in Phoenix, Elliott returned the favor by roughing up Hamlin and ruining his chances to make the final race with a chance at the title.

      "Those type of incidents have happened for a long time in the course of NASCAR history by a lot of different people, and I think it really had a lot to do with the people in play," Hamlin said on Saturday at Martinsville. "Maybe if the shoe was on the other foot, there would have been cheers.

      "It's part of short-track racing, and it obviously gets used a lot for promos. Thank goodness this isn't Texas Motor Speedway, or we'd have a boxing ring or something sitting outside. It's part of short-track racing and it has been for many, many years. It was just bad to be a part of it on that particular night."

      But Hamlin acknowledges it's pointless to dwell on something that happened nearly five months ago.

      "It was a mistake on my part, and I moved on from it -- we both have," Hamlin said. "We've raced each other quite a bit during the course of this year and been fine.

      "The only bad memories are, really, it just kind of unraveled our chance to make the final four, to be honest with you. That part of it is frustrating, but it was so long ago that my focus had already shifted to this season, and I can't go back, so I've got to go forward now."

      SHORT STROKES

      On his 24th lap of final practice, Ricky Stenhouse Jr. wheel-hopped into Turn 3 and slammed his No. 17 Roush Fenway Racing Ford into the outside wall. The extensive damage that resulted required a backup car, and Stenhouse will start from the rear in Sunday's STP 500 at the .526-mile short track. "We had planned on doing like 40 laps and a long run and then come in, making a change and doing another one, but going in Turn 3, I got on the brakes and got wheel-hop, which we haven't had in two or three races here. When I first started coming to Martinsville in my career, I had a lot of wheel-hop and I actually did that a lot here, so it kind of caught me off-guard that we had it."

      Martin Truex Jr., last Sunday's winner at Auto Club Speedway, paced both Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series practices on Saturday, running 95.752 mph in the morning session and 95.415 mph in Happy Hour. The defending series champion also had won consecutive pole positions at Phoenix and Auto Club. Truex also had the best consecutive 10-lap average speed in the first session and was third in that category behind Brad Keselowski and Kyle Busch in final practice.

      --By Reid Spencer, NASCAR Wire Service. Special to Field Level Media.