NASCAR National Series News & Notes - New Hampshire
NASCAR SPRINT CUP SERIES
Truex Jr. Wins Chase Opener
Martin Truex Jr. won his third race of the season in last Sunday's Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 400 at Chicagoland Speedway - the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup opener. He now has an automatic berth in the Round of 12, which starts following the upcoming Bad Boy Off Road 300 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway (Sunday at 2 p.m. ET on NBCSN) and Citizen Soldier 400 at Dover International Speedway (Sunday, Oct. 2 at 2 p.m. ET on NBCSN).
"Without a doubt it's the best team I've ever had, it's the best position I've ever been in," Truex said after the race. "I really feel like we have what it takes to win this championship."
Last season, the No. 78 Furniture Row Racing driver made the Championship 4 in the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup, placing fourth in the final standings.
Although Truex cannot earn bonus points for the Round of 12 with wins in the next two races, he can keep some of his fiercest competition from the automatic transfer berths. For example, Kevin Harvick would not advance if the Chase ended today. He's a point behind the cutoff, but if he struggles at New Hampshire, a Dover win by Truex could block the 2014 Sprint Cup champion from moving on.
The winner of the opening Chase race has gone on to win the championship three times: Kurt Busch (2004), Tony Stewart (2011), Brad Keselowski (2012).
Chase For The NASCAR Sprint Cup Update
With the first race of the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup down and nine more to go before a champion is crowned, here's how the Chase Grid currently shakes out: Martin Truex Jr. (advanced to next round with win at Chicagoland), Brad Keselowski (22 points ahead of Austin Dillon on the cutoff line), Kyle Busch (+19), Denny Hamlin (+18), Joey Logano (+16), Chase Elliott (+12), Matt Kenseth (+11), Jimmie Johnson (+10), Carl Edwards (+5), Kurt Busch (+4), Jamie McMurray (+3), Tony Stewart (+1), Austin Dillon (-1), Kevin Harvick (-1), Kyle Larson (-2) and Chris Buescher (-11).
Chase drivers who have previously won at New Hampshire: Kurt Busch (3 wins), Matt Kenseth (3), Jimmie Johnson (3), Tony Stewart (3), Kyle Busch (2), Denny Hamlin (2), Joey Logano (2), Kevin Harvick (1) and Brad Keselowski (1).
Chase drivers who have previously won at Dover: Jimmie Johnson (10), Matt Kenseth (3), Tony Stewart (2), Kyle Busch (2), Kurt Busch (1), Carl Edwards (1), Brad Keselowski (1), Martin Truex Jr. (1).
Kenseth Goes For Third Straight New Hampshire Win
Matt Kenseth has to like his position in the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup. Not only is he seventh on the Chase Grid, 11 points ahead of Austin Dillon on the cutoff line, he's also the two-time defending winner at New Hampshire and the defending victor at Dover.
For his career, Kenseth claims three wins, nine top-five and 18 top-10 finishes in 33 starts at New Hampshire. He's figured out The Magic Mile in his last six starts there, recording finishes of first (2016, summer), first (2015, fall), sixth (2015, summer), 21st (2014, fall), fourth (2014, summer) and first (2013, fall).
Team Penske Opens Chase With Strong Showing
Team Penske jumped out of the gate quickly for the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup. Joey Logano placed second in the playoff opener at Chicagoland Speedway, while Brad Keselowski took home fifth. Non-Chaser Ryan Blaney, of Penske-affiliated Wood Brothers Racing, tied his career-best showing with a fourth-place finish - a result he's produced three times.
Among active drivers at New Hampshire, Keselowski ranks third in average finish (10.7), fourth in average running position (11.3) and fifth in driver rating (99.8). In 14 starts in The Granite State, he's posted one win, five top fives and eight top 10s.
In 16 New Hampshire starts, Logano claims two wins, six top fives and eight top 10s. He has finished no worse than fourth in his past four starts at the one-mile track.
Blaney has made two starts at New Hampshire, finishing 11th (2016, summer) and 23rd (2015, summer).
Over The Rookie Blues? Chase Elliott Takes Third At Chicagoland
Chase Elliott and Chris Buescher became only the second and third Sunoco Rookies to make the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup. The first was Denny Hamlin in 2006.
While Buescher struggled at Chicagoland, producing a 28th-place finish, Elliott showed up strong. The 20-year-old Hendrick Motorsports driver finished third in the Windy City, leading 75 laps and logging a race-high 129.1 driver rating.
Elliott slowed for a while after his hot start to the season. From his runner-up showing at Michigan in June through the season finale at Richmond, he produced only two top-10 finishes.
He might be over his slump now. In his last four starts, Elliott has registered finishes of second (Michigan-2), 10th (Darlington), 19th (Richmond-2) and third (Chicagoland).
Stewart Can Tie New Hampshire Wins Record
Tony Stewart continues his drive for a fourth NASCAR Sprint Cup Series championship in his final season at one of his better tracks - New Hampshire Motor Speedway.
Stewart has three wins at The Magic Mile, tied with Kurt Busch, Jeff Gordon, Jimmie Johnson and Ryan Newman for the series lead among active drivers. A visit to Victory Lane on Sunday would tie him with Jeff Burton for the track record. The No. 14 Chevrolet driver finished runner-up in the July New Hampshire race. He ranks fourth in average finish (11.0) and third in driver rating (103.0) among active competitors at New Hampshire.
Stewart currently holds the final transfer spot to the Chase's Round of 12 following his 16th-place finish at Chicagoland Speedway.
Hamlin A Favorite In The Granite State
Denny Hamlin heads to New Hampshire Motor Speedway riding a career-best streak of nine top-10 finishes. Chances are his run will continue there.
In 21 starts at the one-mile track, Hamlin boasts two wins, eight top fives and 13 top 10s. Among active drivers at New Hampshire, he boasts the series-best average finish (10.2), ranks second in driver rating (103.3) and sits third in average running position (11.1).
NASCAR XFINITY SERIES
Inaugural NASCAR XFINITY Series Chase Commences At Kentucky
Anticipate no more, because the seven-race NASCAR XFINITY Series Chase begins at Kentucky Speedway this weekend (Saturday, Sept. 24, 8 p.m. ET on NBCSN), featuring 12 drivers and two elimination rounds, narrowing down to four drivers competing in the Championship 4 at Homestead-Miami Speedway.
The first round, called the Round of 12, consists of the races at Kentucky, Dover and Charlotte. All drivers will start with their points adjusted to 2,000, with three additional bonus points added to their total for each win in the first 26 races. If a driver wins a race in the Round of 12, the driver automatically advances to the next round. The remaining available positions (1-8) that have not been filled by wins will be filled on points.
Each driver who advances to the Round of 8 (Kansas, Texas, Phoenix) then will have their points reset to 3,000. Drivers who win a race in the Round of 8 automatically advance to the Championship 4. The remaining available positions (1-4) that have not been filled by wins will be filled on points.
The four drivers who advance to the Championship 4 at Homestead will have their points reset to 4,000. The highest finishing Championship 4 driver will be crowned the NASCAR XFINITY Series champion.
NASCAR XFINITY Series Chasers In The Bluegrass State
Twelve NASCAR XFINITY Series Chase drivers will launch the Chase this weekend at Kentucky Speedway in the VisitMyrtleBeach.com 300 (Saturday, Sept. 24, 8 p.m. ET on NBCSN). Below is a look at each of this season's Chase contenders and how they have performed at Kentucky Speedway (ordered by seeding).
- Erik Jones - No. 20 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota Camry - is 20 years old out of Byron, Michigan. In 26 starts this season he has posted seven poles (series record), four wins (most rookie wins since Carl Edwards in 2005), 13 top fives and 16 top 10s. He has made three series starts at Kentucky, posting two top fives and an average finish of 4.7. Jones is one of three Sunoco rookies to make the Chase (Brennan Poole and Brandon Jones).
- Elliott Sadler - No. 1 JR Motorsports Chevrolet Camaro - is 41 years old from Emporia, Virginia. In 26 starts this season he has posted two wins, 10 top fives and 23 top 10s (series most). Sadler has made 10 series starts at Kentucky, posting four top fives, seven top 10s and an average finish of 8.0.
- Daniel Suarez - No. 19 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota Camry - is 24 years old from Monterrey, Mexico. Suarez was the 2015 Sunoco Rookie of the Year and a former graduate of the NASCAR Drive for Diversity and NASCAR Next programs. In 26 starts this season he has posted two poles, one win, 12 top fives and 20 top 10s. Suarez has made three series starts at Kentucky, producing two top fives and an average finish of 10.0.
- Ty Dillon - No. 3 Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet Camaro - is 24 years old from Welcome, North Carolina. In 26 starts this season Dillon has posted one pole, seven top fives and 14 top 10s. Dillon has made five series starts at Kentucky, posting two top fives, four top 10s with an average finish of 6.8.
- Justin Allgaier - No. 7 JR Motorsports Chevrolet Camaro - is 30 years old from Riverton, Illinois. In 26 starts this season Allgaier has posted 11 top fives and 21 top 10s. Allgaier has made eight series starts at Kentucky, posting four top 10s and an average finish of 13.3.
- Darrell Wallace Jr - No. 6 Roush Fenway Racing Ford Mustang - is 22 years old from Mobile, Alabama. Wallace has made 26 starts this season producing three top fives and eight top 10s. Wallace has made three starts at Kentucky, posting one top five, three top 10s and an average finish of 7.0.
- Brendan Gaughan - No. 62 Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet Camaro - is 41 years old from Las Vegas, Nevada. In 26 starts this season he has posted four top fives and 13 top 10s. Kentucky is one of Gaughan best tracks. In eight series starts he has posted one win, four top fives and seven top 10s. His average finish at Kentucky is 5.8.
- Brennan Poole - Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet Camaro - is 25 years old from The Woodlands, Texas. Poole has posted four top fives and 14 top 10s in 26 series starts this season. Poole has made three starts at Kentucky, posting one top 10 and an average finish of 17.7. Poole is one of three Sunoco Rookies to make the Chase (Erik Jones and Brandon Jones).
- Ryan Sieg - No. 39 Ryan Sieg Racing Chevrolet Camaro - is 29 years old from Tucker, Georgia. In 26 starts this season Sieg has posted one top five and two top 10s. Sieg has made five series starts at Kentucky, producing an average finish of 18.6.
- Ryan Reed - No. 16 Roush Fenway Racing Ford Mustang - is 23 years old from Bakersfield, California. Reed has posted one top five and four top 10s in 26 starts this season. Reed has made five starts at Kentucky, posting an average finish of 19.2.
- Brandon Jones - No. 33 Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet Camaro - is 19 years old from Atlanta, Georgia. In 26 starts this season Jones has posted 11 top 10s. Jones has made two starts at Kentucky, posting one top five and average finish of 8.0. Jones is one of three Sunoco rookies to make the Chase (Brennan Poole and Erik Jones).
- Blake Koch - No. 11 Kaulig Racing Chevrolet Camaro - is 31 years old from West Palm Beach, Florida. Koch has made 26 starts this season posting three top 10s. At Kentucky, Koch has made nine starts, posting an average finish of 28.4.
2016 NASCAR XFINITY Series Chase Insights
This season's NASCAR XFINITY Series Chase is stocked full of great talent from the different competitors, teams, manufacturers and tracks that are involved this season. Below are some great insights about this season's playoffs.
12 different drivers are competing in three rounds for the NASCAR XFINITY Series title
The average age of the 2016 NASCAR XFINITY Series Chase contenders is 27
The youngest 2016 Chase contender is Brandon Jones (19 years, 7 months, 6 days on race day Saturday, Sept 24)
The oldest 2016 Chase contender is Elliott Sadler (41 years, 4 months, 25 days on race day Saturday, Sept 24)
Two countries are represented in this season's NASCAR XFINITY Series Chase - Mexico (Daniel Suarez) and the United States (other 11 competitors)
10 different states are represented by the 2016 Chase contenders - Florida, California, Texas, Nevada, Illinois, Alabama, North Carolina, Michigan, Virginia and Georgia (two drivers)
Three Sunoco Rookie of the Year candidates have made the Chase this season - Erik Jones, Brandon Jones and Brennan Poole
Two NASCAR Drive for Diversity program graduates have made the 2016 NASCAR XFINITY Series Chase - Darrell Wallace Jr. and Daniel Suarez
None of the 12 drivers in the 2016 Chase are former NASCAR XFINITY Series champions
Chase Organizations and Manufacturers:
Seven organizations are represented in the 2016 NASCAR XFINITY Series Chase - Richard Childress Racing (three drivers), Joe Gibbs Racing (two drivers), JR Motorsports (two drivers), Roush Fenway Racing (two drivers), Chip Ganassi Racing (one driver), Ryan Sieg Racing (one driver) and Kaulig Racing (one driver)
Three active manufacturers will be represented in this season's Chase - Chevrolet Camaro (eight Chase contenders), Toyota Camry (two Chase contenders) and Ford Mustang (two Chase contenders)
Round of 12
Kentucky Speedway - is located in Sparta, Kentucky and has hosted 20 series races since it joined the schedule in 2001. The track is a 1.5-mile speedway with 14 to 17 degrees of progressive banking in Turns 1 and 2 and 14 degrees of banking in Turns 3 and 4. Only one of the 12 Chase drivers has won at Kentucky - Brendan Gaughan (2014).
Dover International Speedway - is located in Dover, Delaware and has hosted 65 series races since it joined the schedule in 1982. The track is a 1-mile concrete oval with 24 degrees of banking in the turns. Only one of the 12 Chase drivers has won at Dover - Erik Jones (2016).
Charlotte Motor Speedway - is located Concord, North Carolina and has hosted 69 series races since it joined the schedule in 1982. The track is a 1.5-mile asphalt speedway with 24 degrees of banking in the turns. None of the 12 Chase contenders have won at Charlotte. Charlotte will serve as the first cutoff race in the NASCAR XFINITY Series Chase, reducing the Chase field from 12 to eight contenders.
Round of 8
Kansas Speedway - is located in Kansas City, Kansas and has hosted 15 series races since it joined the schedule in 2001. The track is a 1.5-mile asphalt speedway with progressive banking in the turns that varies from 17 to 20 degrees. None of the 12 contenders in the 2016 Chase have won at Kansas.
Texas Motor Speedway - is located in Fort Worth, Texas and has hosted 31 series races since it joined the schedule in 1997. The track is a 1.5-mile asphalt speedway with 24 degrees of banking in the turns. Only one of the 12 Chase contenders has won at Texas - Erik Jones (2015).
Phoenix International Raceway - is located in Avondale, Arizona and has hosted 29 series races since joining the schedule in 1999. The track is a 1-mile asphalt track that has 11 degrees of banking in Turns 1 and 2 and nine degrees of banking in Turns 3 and 4. None of the 12 Chase contenders have won at Phoenix.
Homestead-Miami Speedway - is located in Homestead, Florida and has hosted 21 series races since it joined the schedule in 1995. Homestead-Miami Speedway has been the home to the final race of the season since its first race in 1995. The highest finishing driver at Homestead among the Championship 4 contenders will win the 2016 title. The track is a 1.5-mile asphalt speedway with progressive banking in the turns that varies from 18 to 20 degrees. None of the 12 Chase contenders have won at Homestead.
NASCAR XFINITY Series Etc.:
Ladder System Works: New Talent Will Join the Series Full-time in 2017 - Next season you can count on seeing two new faces walking around the NASCAR XFINITY Series garage. Richard Childress Racing announced this past Saturday that current NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Chase contender Daniel Hemric will be driving full-time for the team in the NASCAR XFINITY Series in 2017. Also, a newly formed NASCAR XFINITY Series team for Stewart-Haas Racing will join the series in 2017 with up-and-coming NASCAR Camping World Truck Series star Cole Custer. Both new drivers plan to compete for the title in 2017. .
NASCAR XFINITY Series Chase Media Day - The 12 Chase drivers hosted media this past Tuesday, Sept. 20 at the NASCAR Hall of Fame to kick off the inaugural NASCAR XFINITY Series Chase. Audio interview assets from the Chase drivers can be found on NASCARMedia.com in the NASCAR XFINITY Series Chase hub. .
Penske Taps Blaney - While most of the attention this weekend will be focused on the 12 Chase drivers and their performances this weekend, one NASCAR Sprint Cup Series driver, Ryan Blaney, will attempt to play the role of spoiler. Blaney is the lone NSCS driver entered in this weekend's NXS Chase race. Blaney will be driving the No. 22 Team Penske Ford Mustang. Blaney has made six starts at Kentucky, posting two wins (including his series first win), three top fives, five top 10s and an average finish of 6.5.
NASCAR CAMPING WORLD TRUCK SERIES
NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Set To Launch Inaugural Chase
The NASCAR Camping World Truck Series kicks off its inaugural Chase with Saturday's UNOH 175 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway (1 p.m. ET on FS1).
The eight-driver field (with their point differential for advancement to the Round of 6) includes: William Byron (+15 points above Daniel Hemric on the cutoff line), Matt Crafton (+6), John Hunter Nemechek (+6), Christopher Bell (+3), Johnny Sauter (+3), Ben Kennedy (+3), Hemric (-3) and Timothy Peters (-3).
Last season, drivers in the current Chase finished second through sixth at New Hampshire: Crafton, Sauter, Peters, Nemechek and Hemric. Byron and Bell did not compete, while Kennedy placed 23rd.
The NASCAR Camping World Truck Series will sum up its Round of 8 with races at Las Vegas and Talladega. At the conclusion of the Talladega contest, two lowest drivers in points who did not win in the Round of 8 will be dropped from the Chase field.
Homecoming For New England Native Grala
Westborough, Massachusetts native Kaz Grala will make his seventh career NASCAR Camping World Truck Series start, and the first on his home track, in Saturday's UNOH 175 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway.
Grala, who finished seventh in the final NASCAR K&N Pro Series East standings the last two seasons, has a career-best NASCAR Camping World Truck Series finish of eighth (Gateway Motorsport Park, 2016).
The 17-year-old began racing at the age of 4, winning two karting championships in the northeast before setting his sights on North Carolina to advance his career. From 2009-12, Grala won championships at Charlotte Motor Speedway in the Summer Shootout Series and the Winter Heat Series.
Grala became the youngest winner in UARA history when he won the Banjo Matthews Memorial 150 at Hickory Motor Speedway. He is also the youngest driver to ever compete in an IMSA race.
Hayley On A Roll
Although he couldn't make the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Chase, even after a valiant effort at Chicagoland Speedway last week, Cameron Hayley has been on quite the run lately. Beginning with his sixth-place showing at Kentucky, the Canadian NASCAR Next alum has six top-10 finishes in his last seven starts, including three top-five showings. On the season, he owns five top fives and nine top 10s in 16 starts.