NASCAR Cup Series News

NASCAR Cup Series News (17900)

Truth be told, Chase Elliott says he was already over a tough Playoff race at Texas Motor Speedway and looking ahead to this week’s Bluegreen Vacations 500 at Phoenix’s ISM Raceway (2:30 p.m. ET on NBC, MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio) by the time the checkered flag flew on the Texas high banks last Sunday.

A single car accident only nine laps into the race relegated Elliott to a 32nd-place finish. The week before a mechanical issue with his No. 9 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet left him 36th in the final order. And now Elliott enters the final race of this Playoff round 78 points behind fourth place Joey Logano in the championship standings – making Sunday’s race a must-win situation at the Phoenix one-miler for a shot in the Championship 4 next week at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

And as disappointed and frustrated as Elliott may have been last Sunday in Texas, he appeared very much up for the tall task this week, calm and thoughtful while speaking with reporters at ISM Raceway.

“I had 475 miles to think about it last week," Elliott said, shaking his head. “I deserved that really - to ride around 475 miles and think about it. And I’d say by lap 400 I was pretty much over it and thinking about Phoenix. I was cruising around just thinking about what we needed to do to be better (at Phoenix). Obviously we were just in a position we needed to finish. My mindset had moved on.

“At the time, that’s about all I could do. I’m glad I was able to do that. I’m not dwelling on last week. We still have an opportunity ahead right here and right now and we either make the most of it or we don’t.”

Looking ahead to the final regular season race at the historical track in the desert, had to have given Elliott something positive to take his mind off things.

The 23-year old Elliott has an average finish of 11.3 in the three ISM Raceway Playoff races he’s competed in, including a career best showing at the track of runner-up in the 2017 edition. He answered that with a third-place showing in the 2018 Spring race.

In all, Elliott has four top-10 finishes in seven starts. He sat on the outside pole and led a personal best 106 laps in the 2017 Spring race finishing 12th.

Elliott, a three-race winner this year, realizes the odds may be against him. But he has battled through a tough Playoff round already this year – rallying to a runner-up finish at Kansas Speedway in the Round of 12's final race. It was just enough to advance him to the Round of 8 and give him opportunity to try and make his career first Championship 4.

“We were in a tough spot in that second round too, so it’s definitely not where you want to be in any means, but I do think we still have a chance this weekend," Elliott said. “I feel like our team has worked really hard to get us this far. We could have very easily not made it past Kansas and been out then.

“There’s three races in every round for a reason and you just can’t let those first two weeks affect your mindset, your approach, your aggressiveness and your will to want to win in this last opportunity," Elliott continued.

Certainly it’s been a boomerang of a Playoffs for the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series 2018 Most Popular Driver. Through the first eight races, Elliott has four top-10 finishes, highlighted by a win at the Charlotte ROVAL. He also has three finishes of 32nd or worse.

As a whole, he’s turned in a career season. He tied his previous best season's win total (2018: three wins), and has earned four poles this year also a career-best feat.

Elliott’s No. 9 Hendrick Motorsports team has shown the ability to rebound all season. After a 38th-place finish at Pocono Raceway this summer, he won the very next week at Watkins Glen International. Then after a second 38th-place finish – at Dover International Speedway – Elliott won the pole position at Talladega and finished eighth.

Known for being his own worst critic, Elliott instead seemed especially motivated on Friday – ready to turn this season into a championship opportunity.

“We still have an entire race on Sunday," Elliott reiterated. “I think you have to make sure you keep that in mind. It can definitely be challenging to look and say, “I crashed on lap eight last week’ and that’s not good obviously.

“But you just have to approach this week as a new one and know if we win on Sunday, we can race again next week and have a shot at the title.

“It’s just not over until it’s over."

Since the inception of the elimination-style Playoffs in 2014, Kevin Harvick is the only driver to race his way from the eighth position in the standings into the Championship 4 with a win at Phoenix. Harvick went on to win that 2014 championship a week later.

As expected, this week’s championship set-up race, the Bluegreen Vacations 500 (2:30 p.m. ET on NBC, MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio) comes with plenty of storylines and title possibilities still to be decided.

Of the eight remaining Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Playoff competitors, only Martin Truex Jr. and Kevin Harvick have assured themselves a position in the driver foursome that will race for the 2019 series title next week at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

Regular season champion Kyle Busch is third in the standings with only a two-point advantage on fourth place Joey Logano.

Five-race winner Denny Hamlin leads the four-driver charge to displace one or both of those drivers. He trails Logano by 20 points. Ryan Blaney and Kyle Larson are 23 points behind Logano and Chase Elliott is 78 points back – needing nothing short of a victory to advance to his first career NASCAR Championship 4.

That third and fourth position in the standings are so important as points will decide at least one of those spots in the Championship 4 – depending on whether Phoenix crowns a winner from inside the Playoff field or outside of it.

If the standings remain the same following Sunday’s race, with Truex, Harvick, Busch and Logano advancing, it will mark the first time in NASCAR’s Playoff era that the same four drivers made up the Championship 4 in back-to-back seasons. It also ensures the first multi-time champion in the series since Jimmie Johnson earned his record-tying seventh season title in 2016.

Certainly, Busch shows up in the Arizona desert feeling most optimistic. He has won both races since a complete revision to the one-mile ISM Raceway that included – among other things – repositioning the start/finish line to the other side of the race track. Although the driver of the No. 18 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota won the regular season championship and has four race victories in 2019, Busch hasn’t won since June 2 at Pocono Raceway.

Logano, the reigning series champion and driver of the No. 22 Team Penske Ford, has a pair of wins this season and challenged Busch for the regular season title. But he hasn’t won a race since June 9 at Michigan. He has one win at Phoenix – the 2016 Playoff race.

Other than Hamlin, who won in 2012 at Phoenix, none of the other three drivers trying to break into the top four have previously won a Cup race at the track. Blaney’s best work came just this March, however, when the driver of the No. 12 Team Penske Ford started on the pole, led 94 laps and finished third.

Larson, driver of the No. 42 Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet, has five Top-10 finishes in 11 Phoenix starts with a best finish of runner-up in the 2017 March race. He was third in the Playoff race here last year and finished sixth earlier this season.

“Phoenix has been a pretty good place for us," Larson said. “We’ve had some strong runs there and competed for wins, and I think we’ll have another competitive Camaro this weekend.

“Our team has never made it this close to a shot at the Final Four, and even though we’re not in a great place in the points, we’re excited about our chances this weekend. I think our strategy has been good the last two races, we just didn’t have things work out on track in our favor last weekend.

“It sounds like the traction compound will be applied this weekend similar to last weekend and I think that plays into my ability to move around during the race to find speed. So, we’ll head to the track this weekend ready to do what we can to have a good race and hopefully advance."

Elliott, driver of the No. 9 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet, is the acknowledged longshot this weekend. But he is averaging an 11.3 finish in three Playoff races at ISM Raceway. His best finish was a runner-up showing in 2017 – a high profile afternoon because he made contact with Hamlin late in the event. Hamlin had led 193 laps but finished 35th after his No. 11 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota suffered damage after the contact with Elliott – all stemming from an on-track feud between the drivers earlier in the Playoffs.

While Truex, the 2017 series champion, leads the standings heading to Phoenix, he has never won at the track before. His best career finish, however, came in March when his No. 19 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota finished second to teammate Kyle Busch.

Harvick joins Busch as a high-odds favorite this weekend. Although he’s not won at the new-look ISM Raceway, he boasts a record nine wins at the track. His 16 top-five finishes and 1,595 laps led is also most in the field. Last week’s Texas winner has earned 12 straight top-10 finishes at Phoenix winning the last race (March, 2018) on the former version of the track. He was fifth in this race last year in the No. 4 Stewart-Haas Racing Ford and ninth this Spring.

Among current drivers, 2019 Playoff drivers have won every Phoenix race but one (Ryan Newman, 2017) since Fall, 2011.

 

ISM RACWAY TO DECIDE XFINITY'S CHAMP 4

There’s plenty of reason to understand a confident Christopher Bell this weekend at ISM Raceway. He is the defending winner of Saturday’s Desert Diamond Casino West Valley 200 (3:30 p.m. ET on NBC, MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio) and the series’ most recent winner taking the trophy at Texas Motor Speedway last weekend to become the only Playoff driver so far eligible to hoist the big trophy at Homestead-Miami Speedway next week.

The Texas win was Bell’s season-best eighth victory and certainly sends a strong message of contention to his closest competitors. Just below the driver of the No. 20 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota in the standings is seven-race winner Cole Custer, driver of the No. 00 Stewart-Haas Racing Ford who holds a slim 16-point edge on five-race winner Tyler Reddick – the reigning series champion and driver of the No. 2 Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet.

Justin Allgaier – who joins Bell as the only former Phoenix race winners in Saturday’s field – is in fourth place in the standings with an 18-point advantage on fifth place Chase Briscoe for that all-important final championship eligible transfer position.

Veteran Michael Annett, driver of the No. 1 JR Motorsports Chevrolet, is 28 points behind Allgaier. Austin Cindric, driver of the No. 22 Team Penske Ford, is seventh, 31 points back and rookie Noah Gragson, driver of the No. 9 JR Motorsports Chevrolet, is 47 points behind Allgaier.

Among these eight drivers, Reddick boasts the best average finish (8.2) at ISM Raceway with three top-10 finishes in four races. Cindric is averaging 8.3 finish in three starts, including a pair of top five showings.

Allgaier, driver of the No. 7 JR Motorsports Chevrolet, has the next best average finish (9.1) among those Playoff drivers with multiple starts at the Phoenix track. He has that March, 2017 win and six top-five and 11 top-10 finishes – tops among all the championship eligible drivers. He was runner-up to Cup regular Brad Keselowski in last Spring’s Xfinity race.

Both Custer (9.6) and Bell (9.8) are the only other drivers to have an average better than 10th. Annett, whose 14 starts is second only to Allgaier’s 18 races, is averaging a 15.2 finish and has yet to lead a lap at ISM Raceway.

Among the rookies, Briscoe was sixth in his only previous Xfinity Series start at Phoenix earlier this year. Gragson was 11th in his only start.

Allgaier is the only driver to score top-10 finishes in the first two races of this Playoff round – fifth at Kansas and sixth at Texas – and is averaging 5.5. With a Texas win and 12th-place finish at Kansas, Bell is averaging 6.5 this round and Annett is next with a 7.5 average in the two races – fourth at Kansas and 11th at Texas.

The others average finish in this round includes: Custer (9.5), Briscoe (12.5), Cindric (14), Reddick (15.5) and Gragson (21.5).

“I am happy we aren’t on the cut-off line or anything like that," Custer said. “That makes it a lot less stressful. At the same time, we aren’t locked in so we have to make sure we do our jobs and not have any big mistakes.

“I think we can go there and be good, we just have to make it happen."

 

CLOSE BATTLE FOR GANDER TRUCKS AT PHOENIX

The championship set-up for the NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series features the closest points battle among NASCAR's three national series. Only 15 points separate fourth place Hattori Racing Enterprise’s Austin Hill from sixth place Tyler Ankrum with four drivers trying to earn championship eligibility into the Nov. 15 season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

None of the six current Playoff drivers has earned a victory in this round of the Playoff competition. However defending series champion Brett Moffitt, driver of the No. 24 GMS Racing Chevrolet, comes into Friday’s Lucas Oil 150 at Phoenix’s ISM Raceway (8:30 p.m. ET on FS1, MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio) as the defending winner – winning in his first series start at the historic one-mile track last November.

Moffitt holds a 10-point edge on Stewart Friesen, who leads Ross Chastain by 15 points atop the standings. Hill is fourth and this group has accounted for 11 wins in the 21 races to date.

A victory this weekend at ISM Raceway, however, would be game-changing – guaranteeing a position to race for the championship in Miami. Since the Playoff format, no Championship 4 has been entirely set on points, but this season's could possibly be the first and at the very least three drivers will “point” their way into title eligibility.

In addition to Moffitt’s perfect record at Phoenix, both Niece Motorsport’s Ross Chastain (2018) and ThorSport Racing’s Matt Crafton (2014) have runner-up finishes. Friesen’s best ever showing at the track came last year (fifth). Ankrum, who drives the DGR-Crosley Toyota was sixth last year – his second career Gander Trucks start.

Hill has yet to finish at race in two previous ISM Raceway starts – his best result a 23rd last year.

In the two races of this Playoff round, Friesen, the driver of the No. 52 Halmar Friesen Racing Chevrolet, has the best average finish (5.5) with a fifth (at Talladega) and sixth (Martinsville) place efforts.

Chastain has had the next best showing with a runner-up at Martinsville to answer a 22nd-place finish at Talladega. Crafton is averaging 15.5 in this Playoff round, followed by Hill and Ankrum, who have averaged a 16.0 finish. Defending champ Moffitt has a 16.5 average with a fourth place at Talladega and a 29th place at Martinsville – the worst finish in this round by any of the six drivers.

News and Notes
 
Desert Bound – With two races remaining in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series (MENCS) season, Ty Dillon and the GEICO Military team are headed west to the desert to compete at ISM Raceway for the second and final time of 2019. The No. 13 Camaro ZL1, adorned with its customary geckoflage, will take to the Avondale, Ariz. track for two practice sessions on Friday afternoon, before qualifying on Saturday at 2:05 p.m. ET. The green flag will wave for the Bluegreen Vacations 500 at 2:30 p.m. ET on Sunday, November 10.
 
Honor and Remember – Throughout the season when sporting the GEICO Military colors, Germain Racing has honored fallen soldiers on the decklid of the No. 13 Camaro ZL1. This weekend at ISM Raceway, in honor of Veterans Day weekend, the decklid will carry the names of 87 veterans, all of whom are family members of employees at Germain Racing. These brave men and women served the United States of America in official compacity. Included in the 87 names are five current employees: interior specialist Zachary Casada, shop foreman Steve Hayes, fabricator Nick Maniscalco, hauler driver Benjamin Prince and general manager Larry Rogers. The GEICO Military team is honored to recognize and have these names riding with Dillon.
 
Dillon at ISM Raceway – Dillon has made seven career MENCS starts at ISM Raceway, five of which have been behind the wheel of Germain Racing’s No. 13 Chevrolet. The 27-year-old has completed 99.7% of the laps competed overall in the Cup Series and posted five top-20 finishes. Dillon’s best result was an 11th-place effort in the fall of 2017 and earlier this season in the spring event, the young gun recorded a 15th-place finish. Throughout his career, Dillon has participated in nine NASCAR Xfinity Series races (two top-fives and seven top-10s) and two NASCAR Truck Series events (one top-five), as well as two K&N West Pro Series races (two top-fives) at the one-mile, tri-oval track.
 
Did You Know? – Dillon has been running at the finish of the past 43 races, dating back to September 2018. This is the longest current active streak in the Cup Series and includes five superspeedway events.
 
Meet Dillon – Fans have the opportunity to meet Dillon on Saturday, November 9 at 11:15 a.m. local time, as the GEICO Racing driver will visit the Team Chevy Stage in the midway area at ISM Raceway. Stop by to ask Dillon a question during the Question & Answer session!
 
Tickets and Tune In – The Bluegreen Vacations 500 will take place on Sunday, November 10 at 2:30 p.m. ET. The 312-lap event can be watched live on NBC, while the Motor Racing Network and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio will carry the live radio broadcast. Limited tickets remain for the penultimate race of the 2019 season. Purchase your tickets now at NASCAR.com/tickets to experience the thrills of ISM Raceway.
From the Driver’s Seat: Quotes from Ty Dillon
 
How odd is it to you still to see the start-finish line flip-flopped? 
"I'm getting pretty comfortable with it now. I think the first couple times were pretty tricky, but it is truly unique. ISM Raceway is one of my favorite tracks on the circuit and all of the short tracks are places that we star as a team, where we feel we can run well and have a good opportunity for a great finish. I look forward to going to ISM and finishing the year out really strong." 
 
Does the wide-open space you have on the restarts make it even crazier?
"Oh definitely, because we are going to use it. If we have space, we will absolutely use it. Especially with this package that we have run all year. It creates more hectic restarts and if there are holes to fill, we are going to fill them." 

Germain Racing PR

Officials from Rick Ware Racing (RWR) proudly announced today that Phoenix, Ariz.-based Pit Boss Grills, one of the fastest-growing grill brands will partner with the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series (MENCS) team for Sunday’s Bluegreen Vacations 500, the penultimate race of the 2019 season at ISM (Ariz.) Raceway.

Driftwood, Tex. native Bayley Currey will drive the team’s No. 52 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 in the 312-lap race on Sun., Nov. 10.

Pit Boss Grills is a subsidiary of Dansons which was founded in 1999 by Dan Thiessen and his two sons, Jeff and Jordan.

Pit Boss Grills is known for their durability and craftsmanship, as well as for their family style and approach to business.

From portable grills like the Pit Boss Tailgater, to massive grills like the Pit Boss Austin XL – Pit Boss is honored to create whatever the customers (and employees) dream up.

Leading the path of innovation, Pit Boss Grills' products are Bigger. Hotter. and Heavier. than the competitions.

"This is a very unique opportunity to be able to partner with Rick Ware Racing and their young driver Bayley Currey,” said Jeff Theissen, president of Dansons, the parent company of Pit Boss Grills. “We have been very happy with our involvement with NASCAR and our at-track activations, but this allows us the opportunity to partner with an up and coming team, and driver, and grow our brand while they try to grow their team.

“What goes better together than grilling and racing? We are excited to be able to bring family and friends to the track and enjoy being in the garage area with the RWR team."

Rick Ware Racing general manager Bryan Clodfelter says he is proud of the organizations’ ability to continue to showcase new partners at the sports elite level.

“This is really amazing,” offered Clodfelter. “We are very blessed to be able to add a great marketing partner like Pit Boss Grills this late in the season. We take great pride at Rick Ware Racing of being a family-oriented race team.

“We spend the majority of our time working together and spending a great deal of time together. What says that better than grilling and spending quality time together. This is a perfect addition to our growing family of Rick Ware Racing marketing partners.”

Currey, 22, will make his 10th Cup Series start of the year in Phoenix. Earlier this year, he made his Cup Series debut at the 1.0-mile race track earning a respectable 31st place finish for RWR.

“I can't thank Pit Boss Grills enough for coming on board our race car this weekend,” sounded Currey. “I am excited to get back behind the wheel of the No. 52 Pit Boss Grills Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 and try to bring her home with a good finish at ISM Raceway.

“To have the Official Grill of NASCAR on the car is very cool. With the season winding down and having more time to spend with family, it will be nice to be able to do that with a great Pit Boss wood pellet grill!”

The 2019 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series season continues with the Bluegreen Vacations 500 at ISM Raceway on Sun., Nov. 10 at 2:30 p.m. ET on NBC, the Motor Racing Network (MRN) and SiriusXM Satellite Radio NASCAR Channel 90.

For more on Rick Ware Racing, please “like” them on Facebook (Facebook.com/rickwareracing) or visit WareRacing.com.

Rick Ware Racing is on Twitter. Follow them @RickWareRacing.

For additional information on Pit Boss Grills, please visit pitbossgrills.com or follow the brand on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Instagram.

RWR PR

As Paul Menard’s 13-year career as a full-time driver on the Monster Energy Cup Series nears its end, his crew chief Greg Erwin is working to prepare fast cars for his driver’ final runs in the No. 21 Menards/Maytag Ford Mustang.

This weekend’s Bluegreen Vacations 500 at ISM Raceway near Phoenix will be Menard’s next-to-last race as a full-time driver, with his final start coming the following Sunday in the Ford 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway. 
 
“We’re putting a lot of effort into this weekend because we want to run well in Paul’s last trip to ISM,” Erwin said.
 
“Phoenix has been a challenge for us,” Erwin said. “We don’t have much of a notebook to go off of.”
 
Like many a Cup venue, it’s important to get near the front at Phoenix and stay there.

“It’s a very track-position-dependent track,” Erwin said.
 
Another factor that Erwin must take into account is the application of the PJ1 track compound to the racing surface, and he said that could be a good thing.

 “Maybe the PJ1 will open up some racing lanes,” he said. 

 Qualifying for the Bluegrass Vacations 500 is set for Saturday at noon (2 p.m. Eastern Time) and the 500-kilometer (312-mile) race is scheduled to start just after 12:30 p.m. (2:30 Eastern) on Sunday with TV coverage on NBC.
 

WBR PR

Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series

Next Race: Bluegreen Vacations 500

The Place: ISM Raceway

The Date: Sunday, November 10

The Time: 2:30 p.m. ET

TV: NBC, 2 p.m. ET

Radio: MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio

Distance: 312 miles (312 laps); Stage 1 (Ends on Lap 75),

Stage 2 (Ends on Lap 150), Final Stage (Ends on Lap 312)

2018 Race Winner: Kyle Busch

 

NASCAR Xfinity Series

Next Race: Desert Diamond Casino West Valley 200

The Place: ISM Raceway

The Date: Saturday, November 9

The Time: 3:30 p.m. ET

TV: NBC, 3 p.m. ET

Radio: MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio

Distance: 200 miles (200 Laps); Stage 1 (Ends on Lap 45),

Stage 2 (Ends on Lap 90), Final Stage (Ends on Lap 200)

2018 Race Winner: Christopher Bell

 

NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series 

Next Race: Lucas Oil 150

The Place: ISM Raceway

The Date: Friday, November 8

The Time: 8:30 p.m. ET

TV: FS1, 8 p.m. ET

Radio: MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio

Distance: 150 miles (150 Laps); Stage 1 (Ends on Lap 45),

Stage 2 (Ends on Lap 90), Final Stage (Ends on Lap 150)

2018 Winner: Brett Moffitt

 

Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series

 

Valley of the Sun could shine on Kyle Busch’s Playoff hopes

Kyle Busch must feel buoyed by his record at the ISM Raceway in Phoenix, where he is the only driver to win in the two races since the facility completed a major renovation and re-configuration last year.

 

A victory in Sunday’s Bluegreen Vacations 500 (2:30 p.m. ET on NBC, MRN, and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio) would be a huge boost to the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series regular season champion – securing his position in the Championship 4 to compete for a season title and giving him all kinds of momentum to do so.

 

Busch has three career victories at Phoenix and is the only one of the current eight championship-eligible drivers with multiple wins at all three of the tracks – Martinsville, Va., Texas and Phoenix – that comprised this championship set-up Playoff round.

 

Only nine-time Phoenix winner Kevin Harvick has more top-10 finishes (22) at ISM Raceway than Busch (20) among the eight drivers still contending for a championship berth. And with both wins on the new-look facility, there’s plenty of reason for Busch to feel optimistic about his chances Sunday. He has hoisted four trophies this season but doing so Sunday would be the first time since a June 2 victory at Pocono.

 

Martin Truex Jr. and Harvick have secured two of the four positions for next weekend’s title chase. The 2015 series champion Busch is ranked third in the standings with a two-point advantage on defending series champion Joey Logano. He holds a 22-point edge on Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Denny Hamlin in fifth place and a 25-point edge over Ryan Blaney and Kyle Larson. Chase Elliott is 80 points behind Busch and 78 points out of fourth – mathematically, he can only get into the Championship 4 with a win at ISM Raceway.

 

Should a non-Playoff driver win on Sunday then both the third and fourth place positions in the points standings would earn a position in the Championship 4. 

 

“We all know one guy is going to move through on points and we have to do whatever we have to do in order to be that guy,’’ said Busch, who drives the No. 18 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota.

 

“If we can obviously go to Phoenix and have a strong run and be able to go out there and win that will put us through, as well. We’re two points up on the 22 (Logano), so it’s going to be a race between the 18 and 22. Imagine that. We’ll look forward to the challenge and hope we have a strong run in order to make it through to Homestead.’’

 

Go time for Logano

Joey Logano nearly won the regular season championship, racing hard and keeping Kyle Busch honest for the first 26 races of the year. Busch ended up with the regular season title but Logano is still vying to become the first back-to-back champion since Jimmie Johnson won five consecutive Monster Energy Series titles from 2006-2010.

 

Logano is in fourth place in the standings heading to Phoenix’s ISM Raceway – two points behind third-place Busch and with a 20-point edge on fifth-place Denny Hamlin.

 

The driver of the No. 22 Team Penske Ford will need an improved outing this fall at the newly reconfigured Phoenix one-miler. Last year Logano finished 37th at Phoenix – but held a position in the Championship 4 because of a win at Martinsville earlier in the round.

 

Logano bounced back with a 10th-place run at Phoenix this March but it’s his only top 10 in the last five races at the track. His previous top 10 was his only victory there in 2016. Since then he’s had a pair of DNFs. In 21 starts, Logano has four top-five and 10 top-10 finishes at Phoenix.

  

“It’s going to be a good battle for sure,’’ Logano said. “We are racing for that last spot just in case someone behind us outside of the Top-4 wins. It will be a good time.

 

“Obviously, the No. 18 team is good and Kyle (Busch) is a good driver, but I think we are a great team and they are beatable just like everybody else.’’

 

“Happy Harvick” not content

Kevin Harvick secured his position in the Championship 4 for the fifth time in the six-year history of the format with a win at Texas Motor Speedway on Sunday – his third consecutive Playoff victory on the Texas circuit.

 

And with the pressure off to qualify for championship eligibility, Harvick heads to his best track – ISM Raceway in Phoenix. The 2014 Monster Energy Series champ has a series-best nine victories there. His 16 top-five finishes are most all time as are his 1,595 laps led.

 

Between November 2012, and March 2016, Harvick won six races, including a record four consecutively from November 2013-March 2015. He is on a streak of 12 consecutive top-10 finishes – 10 of them top fives. In just six races between 2013-2016 he led 1,064 laps – 66.7 percent of his career total. Three times he’s led more than 200 laps en route to route a victory (2014 sweep, 2015 spring race).

 

A win this weekend at ISM Raceway would be Harvick’s 50th career Monster Energy Series win – breaking a tie he holds with his team owner, three-time Cup champion Tony Stewart, who will be inducted into the NASCAR Hall of Fame in 2020.

 

“I’m surprised [by the Texas win] but I’m not because of the character of the team,’’ Harvick said. “I love the way it’s evolved and the battle we’ve had to get there and really tried to achieve something that wasn’t really achievable when we first started the season this year. We’ve grounded out all year.’’

 

Harvick, who now has four wins this season, acknowledged the gap before his first win of the year, which didn’t come until the 20th race of the season (at New Hampshire). He’s won three more times in the 14 races since. Last year he won three of the first four races and had five wins by the season’s midpoint. This year’s first win took the longest for him since 2012 when he didn’t win until the next to last race of the year – at Phoenix.

 

“It’s been a strange year, and here you are lingering around and end up in Victory Lane with two races to go and now you go race for a championship,’’ Harvick said.

 

Fighting to get in

Denny Hamlin is the only previous Phoenix winner among the four drivers who sit on the outside of the Championship 4 and must and earn a position in the Nov. 17 championship race at Homestead-Miami Speedway. His win came back in the spring of 2012.

 

Ranked fifth heading into Sunday’s race, Hamlin is averaging a 13.6 finish in the five Cup Playoff races at ISM Raceway since 2014. His best fall finish is runner-up in 2012. He led a race-best 193 laps in the 2017 Playoff race only to fall out of the race – while leading - after contact from Chase Elliott.

 

Hamlin’s 678 career laps led at Phoenix is more than the combined career totals of Joey Logano (296), Kyle Larson (69), Ryan Blaney (108) and Elliott (156).

 

Larson’s best Playoff showing is third place in 2016 and 2018. He has an average finish of 16.0 in the last five Playoff events at the track. Ryan Blaney, who is tied with Larson, 23 points behind fourth-place Logano, is averaging a 19.7 finish in the three Playoff races he’s competed in at Phoenix – the lowest average Playoff finish among the four drivers needing to race their way into the Championship 4.

 

Eighth-place driver Elliott, who is 78 points behind fourth-place Logano, has an average finish of 11.3 in the three Playoff races he’s competed in. His best showing in seven career starts at ISM Raceway is runner-up in the 2017 Playoff race.

 

Kevin Harvick is the only driver in the “Playoff era” who went into the ISM Raceway race not already ranked among the top four in the standings and earned a position contending for the championship in the finale. He was ranked eighth going into the Phoenix race in 2014, earning a Championship 4 berth with his win and going on to earn his first Cup championship the following week with a victory at Homestead. 

 

Clinch scenarios

Any of the six drivers would advance with a victory (Truex Jr. and Harvick have already clinched). And the highest standing driver in the points standings earns the fourth and final Playoff position. If a driver other than the eight Championship-eligible wins, then the top two positions in points would advance. Should there be a tie in points, the advantage goes to the driver who scored the highest finish in this three-race round (at Martinsville, Texas and Phoenix).

 

Kyle Busch (4,113 points) – Would clinch with 53 points earned and a new winner. If there is a repeat winner (or a win by Joey Logano) he would clinch a position having earned 34 points.

Joey Logano (4,111 points) – Would clinch with 55 points earned and a new winner. If there is a repeat winner or a Kyle Busch victory, he would need to earn only 36 points.

Denny Hamlin (4,091 points) – Would clinch with a win. Could clinch on points, with help.

Ryan Blaney (4,088 points) – Would clinch with a win. Could clinch on points, with help.

Kyle Larson (4,088 points) – Would clinch with a win. Could clinch on points, with help.

Chase Elliott (4,033 points) – Must win to earn a Championship 4 position.

 

New territory

Four of the eight championship drivers have never won a Monster Energy Series race at Phoenix. And, technically, only Kyle Busch has won on the newly remodeled ISM Raceway – earning trophies in the first two races on the new configuration.

 

Current points leader Martin Truex Jr., Ryan Blaney, Kyle Larson and Chase Elliott are still looking to celebrate in the desert. Among these four, 2017 series champion Truex is the only one who has previously advanced to the Homestead-Miami Speedway championship finale.

 

Truex scored his best-ever Phoenix finish just this March – finishing runner-up to Busch. He has three top-five finishes in the last four races at the one-mile track and was 14th in the 2018 Playoff race there.

 

Blaney won the pole position and finished third this March – just behind Busch and Truex – leading a personal best 94 laps. The driver of the No. 12 Team Penske Ford has two pole positions and three top-10 finishes in seven Phoenix starts. His worst outing (34th) came in last year’s Playoff race.

 

Larson and Elliott have both scored runner-up finishes. Larson finished second in 2017 spring race. He has three top-five and five top-10 finishes in 11 starts in the No. 42 Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet, including third place showings in both the 2016 and 2018 Playoff races at Phoenix.

 

Elliott, who sits eighth – 78 points behind Joey Logano in fourth place – must win at Phoenix to advance to his first career Championship 4. The driver of the No. 9 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet has four top-10 finishes in seven Phoenix starts, earning his runner-up showing in the 2017 Playoff race there. He started on the outside pole this March but finished 14th.

 

Competition highlights

Kevin Harvick’s win from the Busch Pole position last week at Texas Motor Speedway marked several competitive milestones. The pole gave Harvick a series-best six on the year. It was the second time this season (also at Indianapolis) that he’s won from pole. And the driver of the No. 4 Stewart-Haas Racing Ford is the first driver to win the same Playoff race for three consecutive years.

 

Hendrick Motorsports still maintains the overall edge in pole positions on the season with 10 – one more than Stewart-Haas Racing.

 

There have been 13 different race winners with the Joe Gibbs Racing organization owning a series best 17 wins in the opening 34 races. JGR’s Martin Truex Jr. leads all drivers with seven victories, his teammates Denny Hamlin (five) and Kyle Busch (four) are among four drivers with at least four wins. Harvick (four) is the other.

 

The average margin of victory through the opening 34 races this season is 1.549 seconds. In 18 of the 34 races (52.9 percent), the margin of victory was less than one second.

 

The average number of race leaders on the season is 9.18 – the most since 2014 (10.00) and the average number of lead changes (17.79) is the most since 2015 (18.03). 

 

There have been 1,086 green flag passes for the lead – up 51 percent from last season. The number has increased in 23 of the 34 races including at all seven of the 1.5-mile tracks. Last week’s Texas race doubled that statistic from 2018 – with 57 green flag passes for the lead. Green flag passes across the board, are up 28 percent over 2018.

 

The Playoffs have seen a 33.4 percent increase in green flag passing as well.

 

Parade Laps: Insights ahead of this week’s driver media rotations

Six drivers from the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series –Front Row Motorsports’ John Hunter Nemechek, Joe Gibbs Racing’s Kyle Busch, Chip Ganassi Racing’s Kyle Larson, Team Penske’s Ryan Blaney, and Joe Gibbs Racing’s Denny Hamlin and Martin Truex Jr. will be participating in this week’s media rotations at ISM Raceway in advance of Sunday’s Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series’ Bluegreen Vacations 500 (2:30 p.m., ET on NBC, MRN, and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio).

 

John Hunter Nemechek, 22, of Mooresville, N.C., is coming off his first career Monster Energy Series start – finishing 21st after starting 29th at Texas Motor Speedway in the No. 36 Front Row Motorsports Ford – filling in for Matt Tifft who is on medical leave. Nemechek has had good success in Phoenix, earning a pair of runner-up finishes in the NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series in 2015 and 2017 and a pair of ninth place finishes in the Xfinity Series in 2018 and 2019. Nemechek and his father, Cup veteran Joe Nemechek are entered in all three national series races at Phoenix’s ISM Raceway this weekend. Last weekend at Texas, the duo became the first father-son pairing in a Cup race since the late Bobby Hamilton raced his son, Bobby Hamilton Jr., at Atlanta in 2005.

 

Kyle Busch, 34, of Las Vegas, is the defending ISM Raceway Playoff winner and won again there this March. He has three Cup wins all-time at the track and 11 Xfinity Series wins there – an all-time high mark. The driver of the No. 18 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota enters the race ranked third in the points standings – two points up on reigning Monster Energy Series champion Joey Logano. His seventh-place effort at Texas last weekend included 18 laps led. Busch has four wins on the season, but the last came June 2 at Pocono, Pa. This week’s one-miler has been a bright spot on his resume, however, with 20 top-10 finishes in 28 career starts. He’s finished seventh or better in the last eight races – six of those top-five efforts. In the last three races he’s earned a pair of wins and a runner-up finish (Spring, 2018).

 

Kyle Larson, 27, of Elk Grove, Calif., arrives at ISM Raceway still fighting for a Championship 4 berth in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series finale next week. He is ranked seventh – 23 points behind fourth-place Joey Logano. Larson is coming off a 12th-place run at Texas and has four top-10 finishes in the eight Playoff races to date including a victory at Dover last month. The driver of the No. 42 Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet was sixth at Phoenix this March and third in the 2018 Phoenix Playoff race on the facility’s reconfigured track debut. His best finish at the one-mile track is runner-up in the 2017 spring race. He has three top-five and five top-10 finishes in 11 starts there and an average finish of 13.5.

 

Ryan Blaney, 25, of High Point, N.C., finished eighth last weekend in Texas – his third top-10 result in the last four races, including a Playoff victory at Talladega. Blaney has three top-10 finishes in seven ISM Raceway starts and posted his best effort result this March, starting on the pole position, leading 94 laps and finishing third in the No. 12 Team Penske Ford. He suffered his only DNF at the track in the 2018 Playoff race, finishing 34th with a radiator problem. He is sixth in the standings – 23 points behind Joey Logano in the fourth and final Championship transfer position.

 

Denny Hamlin, 38, of Chesterfield, Va., looked like a sure-bet to qualify for the Championship 4 during the opening Playoff races, but a tough-luck 28th-place finish at Texas on Sunday dropped him to fifth place in the standings, 20 points behind Joey Logano. Hamlin had four consecutive top-five finishes before Sunday’s Texas race and has five top-five finishes in six of the eight Playoff races, including a win at Kansas Speedway three weeks ago. The driver of the No. 11 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota was fifth at ISM Raceway in March and 13th in his 2018 Playoff run on the newly-reconfigured track. He scored his only Phoenix win in 2012 but has six top-10 finishes in the last eight races. He’s finished eighth or better in three of the last five Playoff races there.

 

Martin Truex Jr., 39, of Mayetta, N.J., is the year’s winningest driver with seven trophies – including three wins (at Las Vegas, Richmond, and Martinsville) in the first eight Playoff races. He was the first driver to secure a Championship 4 berth with his Martinsville victory two weeks ago. He is still looking for a first career win at ISM Raceway. The driver of the No. 19 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota has three top-five finishes in the last four Phoenix races, including a career best result of runner-up this March. He was 14th in the track’s reconfiguration-debut last November and has four top-five and 10 top-10 finishes in 27 career starts at the track.

 

 

NASCAR Xfinity Series

 

Locked In: Christopher Bell is the first to secure his Championship 4 spot

Joe Gibbs Racing’s Christopher Bell became the first of the eight NASCAR Xfinity Series Playoff drivers to secure his spot in the Championship 4 with his victory at Texas Motor Speedway last weekend. It was his eighth victory on the season and 16th of his Xfinity Series career. This is the second consecutive season Bell has made the Championship 4; he ultimately finished fourth in the final standings last season. 

 

The Playoff standings leader heads to ISM Raceway to pad his stats. The Oklahoma native has made four series starts at the one-mile track posting one pole, one win (Playoff race, 2018), three top fives and an average finish of 9.8. He dominated this race last season, leading 94 of 200 laps and winning his way into the final round at Miami.

 

Cole Custer is looking for his second chance at title

He just barely missed it in his rookie season in 2017, but Stewart-Haas Racing’s Cole Custer made the Championship 4 Round last season by winning at Texas and ultimately finishing runner-up in the final standings. Now the California wheelman heads to ISM Raceway second in the Playoff standings, 52 points up on the cutline and a chance at making the Championship 4 for the second consecutive season.

 

Out in the desert, Custer has made five series starts at ISM Raceway, posting one top five and four top 10s. His average finish is 9.6 and he finished eighth in this race last season.  

 

Defending champion Tyler Reddick is close to an opportunity to repeat

Tyler Reddick became just the third Sunoco rookie in NASCAR Xfinity Series history to win the title last season, joining Chase Elliott (2014) and William Byron (2017). Now the rising star from California is close to the opportunity to become the seventh driver in series history to win back-to-back championships joining Sam Ard (1983-84), Larry Pearson (1986-87), Randy Lajoie (1996-97), Dale Earnhardt Jr. (1998-99), Martin Truex Jr. (2004-05) and Ricky Stenhouse Jr. (2011-12). All he needs to do is secure his spot in the Championship 4 this weekend at ISM Raceway.

 

Currently third in the Playoff standings, Reddick is 36 points ahead of fifth-place Chase Briscoe – in the first spot outside the Championship 4. The RCR driver has made four series starts at Phoenix posting one top five, three top 10s and an average finish of 8.2. 

 

Justin Allgaier looks to make Championship 4 Round for first time since 2017

After the heartbreak Justin Allgaier suffered last season, from winning a career-best five races and taking the regular season championship to ultimately falling short of making the Championship 4 in the Playoffs, the Illinois native and JR Motorsports driver returns to the “Valley of the Sun” for redemption. 

 

Allgaier is currently fourth in the Playoff standings – the final transfer spot to the Championship 4 – 18 points ahead of fifth place Chase Briscoe.

 

“There is a lot on the line this weekend at Phoenix,” said Allgaier. “Right now, we’re in a good position sitting fourth in points, but I know there are a lot of guys behind us that are battling for that same spot. Hopefully at the end of it all, we’ll be one of the four heading to Homestead battling for the championship.”

 

Allgaier has made 18 series starts (most among Playoff drivers) at ISM Raceway, posting one pole, one win (Spring 2017), six top fives, 11 top 10s and an average finish of 9.1. In last season’s Playoff race he led 69 laps and won the first two stages but finished the race 24th one lap down. He finished 14th at ISM Raceway earlier this season. 

 

Briscoe, Gragson on verge of joining elite list of rookies to make the Championship 4

Since the inception of the NASCAR Xfinity Series Playoffs in 2016, just five Sunoco Rookie of the Year contenders have made it to the Championship 4 Round and this weekend at ISM Raceway in Phoenix, Stewart-Haas Racing with Fred Biagi’s Chase Briscoe and JR Motorsport’s Noah Gragson have an opportunity to add their names to the elite list of rookies to accomplish the feat.

 

Sunoco Rookies that made the Championship 4 and their finish in the final standings:

2016 – Erik Jones (fourth)

2017 – William Byron (champion), Daniel Hemric (fourth)

2018 – Tyler Reddick (champion), Christopher Bell (fourth)

 

Briscoe is fifth in the Playoff standings heading to ISM Raceway, 18 points behind Justin Allgaier in the final Championship 4 transfer spot. Briscoe made his series track debut at Phoenix earlier this season; he started 12th and raced his way up to a sixth-place finish.

 

Gragson is currently eighth in the Playoff standings, 47 points back from the Championship 4 cutoff. Much like Briscoe, Gragson made his series track debut at ISM Raceway earlier this season; he started sixth and finished 11th.

 

Veteran Michael Annett rides career-best season to chance at Championship 4

The whole season to this point comes down to this weekend at ISM Raceway and veteran Michael Annett is riding his best season statistically to a chance at the Championship 4. Annett resides in sixth in the NASCAR Xfinity Series Playoffs, 28 points behind his JR Motorsports teammate Justin Allgaier in the final transfer spot.

 

“We know what we have to do to make it to Homestead for the Championship 4,” said Michael Annett. “Travis (Mack, crew chief) has done a fantastic job on strategy to get us to this point, and it is up to us to get to Miami with a chance to race for the championship. We’re going to give it everything we have.”

Annett has made 14 series starts at ISM Raceway posting five top 10s. His average finish is 15.2. He finished 16th in this Playoff race last season and eighth in the spring race earlier this year.

 

Breakout season for Team Penske’s Austin Cindric has him in title hunt

His first full season with Team Penske (after splitting last season’s Playoff campaign between Team Penske and Roush Fenway Racing) has been a breakout one for North Carolina’s Austin Cindric, who is currently seventh in the NASCAR Xfinity Series Playoff standings, 31 points back from the cutoff and still in the hunt for a title.

 

Heading to Phoenix this weekend, Cindric is looking forward to the challenge of making the Championship 4. In three starts on the one-mile track he has put up two top fives and an average finish of 8.3. He finished fourth in this Playoff race last season and fifth in the spring race earlier this year.

 

ISM Raceway: Xfinity’s stage for the penultimate race of 2019

Located just outside Phoenix, Arizona, ISM Raceway is a uniquely-shaped one-mile track that will play host to this weekend’s NASCAR Xfinity Series penultimate Playoff race, the Desert Diamond West Valley Casino 200 (Saturday, Nov. 9, at 3:30 p.m. ET on NBC, MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio).

 

ISM Raceway has been the sixth race in the seven-race NASCAR Xfinity Series Playoff since its inception in 2016. Interestingly, the mile circuit has produced three different winners in the three previous Xfinity Playoff races.

 

In 2016, Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series driver Kyle Busch played spoiler, winning the first Xfinity Playoff race at the facility. He controlled the event from start to finish, leading 190 of the scheduled 200 laps. Five of the eight Playoff drivers finished inside the top-10 that evening – Justin Allgaier (fourth), eventual champion Daniel Suarez (fifth), Ryan Reed (sixth), Blake Koch (eighth), Erik Jones (10th).   

 

In 2017, JR Motorsports rookie William Byron took the lead with just 17 laps to go and grabbed the checkered flag at ISM Raceway to secure his spot in the Championship 4. Byron would go on to win the series title that season. Four Xfinity Playoff drivers finished inside the top-10 – Byron (first), Daniel Hemric (fifth), Cole Custer (seventh) and Justin Allgaier (10th).

 

In 2018, Joe Gibbs Racing’s Christopher Bell won his seventh race of the season at ISM Raceway, securing his spot in Championship 4 as a rookie. He put on an impressive show en route to his victory leading 94 of the scheduled 200 laps. But Bell would go on to finish fourth in the series’ final standings in Miami.

 

Championship 4 clinch scenarios for ISM Raceway at Phoenix

Below are clinch scenarios at ISM Raceway for the NASCAR Xfinity Series Playoff drivers still vying for a spot in the Championship 4 Round in Miami. As is well known, any driver can clinch with a win.

 

Cole Custer can clinch on points with 22 points and a new winner. If there is a repeat winner (or a win by Tyler Reddick or Justin Allgaier), he could clinch on points with four points.

 

Tyler Reddick can clinch on points with 38 points and a new winner. If there is a repeat winner (or a win by Cole Custer or Justin Allgaier), he could clinch on points with 20 points.

 

Justin Allgaier can clinch on points if there is a repeat winner (or a win by Cole Custer or Tyler Reddick) with 38 points. He could also clinch on points with a new winner and help.

 

Chase Briscoe, Michael Annett and Austin Cindric can all clinch a spot in the Championship 4 on points with help.

 

Noah Gragson could also clinch on points with a repeat winner and help.

 

Previous Playoff Round of 8 eliminations

The NASCAR Xfinity Series Playoffs are tough, and this weekend’s event will help to thin the herd of contenders for this season’s title. Each round of the Playoffs eliminates four drivers, below is a look at the past three seasons and the drivers that advanced to the Championship 4 Round in Homestead-Miami and the drivers listed in Red were eliminated: 

 

2016 Championship 4

2017 Championship 4

2018 Championship 4

Homestead-Miami

Homestead-Miami

Homestead-Miami

Erik Jones

William Byron*

Christopher Bell

Elliott Sadler

Justin Allgaier

Tyler Reddick*

Daniel Suarez*

Daniel Hemric

Cole Custer

Justin Allgaier

Elliott Sadler

Daniel Hemric

Ryan Reed

Cole Custer

Elliott Sadler

Blake Koch

Matt Tifft

Matt Tifft

Bubba Wallace

Brennan Poole

Justin Allgaier

Brendan Gaughan

Ryan Reed

Austin Cindric

Note: * - Identifies the eventual champion of that season

 

 

Parade Laps: Insight to the drivers participating in this week’s media breakouts

Six Xfinity drivers – JR Motorsport’s Justin Allgaier and Michael Annett, Joe Gibbs Racing’s Christopher Bell and Riley Herbst and Stewart-Haas Racing with Fred Biagi’s Chase Briscoe - will be participating in this weekend’s media breakout session at ISM Raceway this Friday, Nov. 8 at 11:45 a.m. (local time) in the Driver’s Meeting Room.

 

Justin Allgaier (No. 7 JR Motorsports Chevrolet Camaro)

Birthdate: June 6, 1986

Driver’s Age: 33

Hometown: Riverton, Illinois

Hobbies: R/C cars, wakeboarding, graphic design, dirt racing

Team: JR Motorsports

Crew Chief: Jason Burdett

Xfinity Career Highlights:

  • In 2018, he won the NASCAR Xfinity Series regular season championship and made the Playoffs for the third consecutive season after posting a career-high five wins on the year.
  • In 2016 and 2017, made the Championship 4 in the NASCAR Xfinity Series Playoffs.
  • In 2011, 2016 and 2017, scored career-best third-place finish in NASCAR Xfinity Series standings.
  • Won first career NASCAR Xfinity Series race in 2010, at Bristol in March. Currently has 10 career Xfinity wins.
  • Won 2009 NASCAR Xfinity Series Sunoco Rookie of the Year honors.

2019 Season Highlights:

  • Currently fourth in the NASCAR Xfinity Playoff points standings in the final Championship 4 transfer spot 18 points ahead of fifth place Chase Briscoe.
  • In 31 starts this season he has posted 15 top fives, 23 top 10s and an average finish of 9.1.

ISM Raceway Performance:

  • Has the most experience at ISM Raceway among the Playoff drivers having made 18 series starts collecting one pole, one win (Spring 2017), six top fives and 11 top 10s.
  • His average finish 9.056.

 

Michael Annett (No. 1 JR Motorsports Chevrolet Camaro)

Birthdate: June 23, 1986

Driver’s Age: 32

Hometown: Des Moines, Iowa

Hobbies: Cycling, working out, boating

Team: JR Motorsports

Crew Chief: Travis Mack

Xfinity Career Highlights:

  • Won first career NASCAR Xfinity Series race in the 2019 season-opener at Daytona International Speedway, qualifying him for the Playoffs.
  • In 2017, he made the NASCAR Xfinity Series Playoffs and finished the season ninth in the championship standings.
  • In 2012, finished a career-best fifth in the series championship driver standings. 

2019 Season Highlights:

  • Currently sixth in the NASCAR Xfinity Series Playoff standings, 28 points behind his JR Motorsports teammate Justin Allgaier in the fourth and final transfer spot.
  • Posted first career NASCAR Xfinity Series win in the 2019 season-opener at Daytona.
  • In 31 starts this season he has posted one pole, one win, six top fives, 18 top 10s and an average finish of 10.0.

ISM Raceway Performance:

  • He has made 14 series starts at ISM Raceway posting five top 10s.
  • His average finish is 15.2.

 

Christopher Bell (No. 20 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota Supra)

Birthdate: December 16, 1994

Driver’s Age: 24

Hometown: Norman, Oklahoma

Hobbies: Dirt track racing, iRacing, golf

Team: Joe Gibbs Racing

Crew Chief: Jason Ratcliff

Xfinity Career Highlights:

  • In 2018, he set the rookie single season Xfinity Series wins record with seven victories; the previous record of five wins was held by three drivers – Greg Biffle (2001), Kyle Busch (2004) and Carl Edwards (2005).
  • Made the NASCAR Xfinity Series Playoffs in rookie season (2018), and advanced to the Championship 4; ultimately finishing fourth in the championship standings.
  • Has recorded 16 career NASCAR Xfinity Series wins in just 72 starts; including seven this season (Atlanta, Bristol, Dover, Iowa, New Hampshire, Road America, Richmond and Texas). The 16th win ties him with Jack Ingram and Sam Ard for the most wins by driver in the NXS in their first 72 starts.

2019 Season Highlights:

  • Currently the NASCAR Xfinity Playoff standings leader with a guaranteed spot in the Championship 4 following his victory last weekend at Texas.  
  • In 31 starts this season he has posted five poles (ISM Raceway, Texas, Charlotte, Iowa-2, Kansas), eight wins (Atlanta, Bristol, Dover, Iowa, New Hampshire, Road America,  Richmond and Texas), 19 top fives, 20 top 10s and an average finish of 9.0.

ISM Raceway Performance:

  • Has made four series starts at ISM Raceway posting one win (2018 Playoff race) and three top fives.
  • His average finish is 9.750.

 

Riley Herbst (No. 18 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota Supra)

Birthdate: February 24, 1999

Driver’s Age: 20

Hometown: Las Vegas, Nevada

Team: Joe Gibbs Racing

Crew Chief: Ben Beshore

Xfinity Career Highlights:

  • Has run a part-time NASCAR Xfinity Series schedule the past two seasons (2018-19) making nine total starts for Joe Gibbs Racing posting four top-10 finishes.
  • Made his series debut for Joe Gibbs Racing at Iowa Speedway in 2018; he started ninth and finished sixth – his career-best finish in the Xfinity Series.

2019 Season Highlights:

  • Has made eight series starts this season for Joe Gibbs Racing posting three top 10s.
  • His best finishes this season were ninth (twice) – Richmond-1 and Las Vegas-2.

ISM Raceway Performance:

  • He will be making his series track debut this weekend at ISM Raceway.

 

Chase Briscoe (No. 98 Stewart-Haas Racing with Fred Biagi Ford Mustang)

Birthdate: December 15, 1994

Driver’s Age: 24

Hometown: Mitchell, Indiana

Hobbies: Spending time with family, online racing, watching sports

Team: Stewart-Haas Racing with Fred Biagi

Crew Chief: Richard Boswell II

Xfinity Career Highlights:

  • Made NASCAR Xfinity Series debut in 2018 at Atlanta.
  • Ran 17 Xfinity races last season for Roush Fenway Racing (12) and Stewart-Haas Racing with Fred Biagi (five) and won the inaugural race at the Charlotte ROVAL.
  • Has made the 2019 NASCAR Xfinity Series Playoffs in his rookie season.

2019 Season Highlights:

  • Currently ranked fifth in the NASCAR Xfinity Series Playoff standings, 18 points behind Justin Allgaier in the final Championship 4 transfer position. 
  • In 31 starts this season he has posted two poles (Charlotte ROVAL and Dover-2), one win (Iowa-2), 12 top fives, 22 top 10s and an average finish of 8.4.

ISM Raceway Performance:

  • Made his series track debut at ISM Raceway earlier this season; he started 12th and raced his way up to a sixth-place finish.

 

 

NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series

 

ISM Raceway to set the Championship 4

After opening with the high-speed, high-banked, 2.66-mile Talladega Superspeedway, then taking on much shorter and flatter 0.52-mile Martinsville Speedway last weekend, the NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series wraps up the Round of 6 at ISM Raceway near Phoenix, Arizona, this Friday night.

 

The Lucas Oil 150 (8:30 p.m. ET on FS1, MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio) will take place on the one-mile track that was recently reconfigured (prior to the 2018 fall race) to move the start/finish line to the former backstretch, just before the dog leg.

 

The banking in Turns 1 and 2 is 11 degrees while it’s nine degrees in Turns 3 and 4. The frontstretch is 1,179 feet long and banked at three degrees and the backstretch is 1,551 feet long and has nine degrees of banking.

 

Brett Moffitt won this race last year and is the only remaining Playoff contender with a victory at the track.

 

How they got to this point in the Round of 6…and performance at ISM Raceway

With all four slots in the Miami championship showdown still up for grabs after Playoff outsiders captured the wins at Talladega and Martinsville, the heat will be on at ISM Raceway for the Lucas Oil 150 this Friday night (8:30 p.m. ET on FS1, MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio).

 

Here’s a breakdown of how the six Playoff drivers have fared in this round and the past ISM Raceway performances for each, in order of points standing:

 

Brett Moffitt – No. 24 GMS Racing Chevrolet: The defending series champion started this round off strong, finishing fourth at the always-unpredictable Talladega Superspeedway. But, like a good chunk of the field at Martinsville, was involved in a wreck last weekend and, as a result, was relegated to a 29th-place finish. Fortunately, he has a large stockpile of Playoff points from throughout the year that are letting him keep hold of the top spot in the points – by 10 points over second-place Stewart Friesen and by 45 points over fifth-place Matt Crafton just outside the Championship 4 cutoff.

 

Moffitt enters the penultimate race of the season as the lone Playoff contender who has won at ISM Raceway – and he did so in his only series start to date at the track during which he started fifth. 

 

Stewart Friesen – No. 52 Halmar Friesen Racing Chevrolet: Friesen has been impressive in this round – finishing fifth at Talladega and sixth last week at Martinsville, keeping him in second place in the points standings. He’s only 10 points behind the leader, Moffitt, and holds a 35-point advantage over Crafton in fifth.

 

Friesen has gotten progressively better over each of his three starts at ISM Raceway – finishing 18th in his track debut in 2016, then sixth in 2017 and fifth last year for an average finish of 9.7. His starting position has also improved each time – 20th in 2016, 12th in 2017 and then fourth last fall.

 

Ross Chastain – No. 45 Niece Motorsports Chevrolet: Chastain’s Round of 6 started off rough, as he wrecked from the lead late in the race and wound up with a 22nd-place finish at Talladega. But he nearly flipped that around last weekend in Martinsville, leading 68 laps before finishing second after being edged out by Todd Gilliland following an overtime restart. That Martinsville finish, coupled with a great deal of misfortune by the rest of the Playoff field (after Friesen’s fifth-place finish, the next highest finishing postseason contender was Crafton in 23rd) vaulted Chastain from sixth in the points entering the race to third coming out of it. He’s now 20 points ahead of Crafton in fifth.

 

It’s been six years since Chastain has raced in the Gander Trucks at ISM Raceway. He was 33rd in his track debut in 2012 after mechanical issues eliminated him early in the race. However, he started from the pole and finished second in 2013. 

 

Austin Hill – No. 16 Hattori Racing Enterprises Toyota: Hill has a precarious nine-point advantage over Crafton for the fourth and final Championship 4 slot. He opened the round with a sixth-place finish at Talladega but then was one of the unfortunate drivers caught up in myriad of incidents at Martinsville that ended his day early and he left with a 26th-place result.

 

Hill’s going to have to improve upon his past efforts at ISM Raceway if he’s going to have a shot to contend for the title in Miami. In two starts at the track, he has a best finish of 23rd and an average finish of 26.5.

 

Matt Crafton – No. 88 ThorSport Racing Ford: Crafton’s Round of 6 results closely mirrors those of Moffitt and Hill – a solid eighth-place result at Talladega before finishing several laps down in 23rd at Martinsville. He currently sits in fifth in the standings – one spot outside the Championship 4 – trailing fourth-place Hill by nine points.

 

Crafton has the largest body of work at ISM Raceway of the remaining Playoff drivers. However, in 18 starts at the one-mile circuit, he has yet to win a race – although he was the runner-up in 2014, the year of his second championship. He’s recorded six top-five and 11 top-10 finishes, putting together an average finish of 10.0. However, in the most recent four trips to ISM, he’s tallied two finishes outside the top 20. He was 11th last fall.

 

Tyler Ankrum – No. 17 DGR-Crosley Toyota: Have you heard this before regarding the Round of 6 for this Playoff group? Ankrum had a solid race at Talladega, finishing seventh. But was eliminated from contention at Martinsville by a crash – placing 25th. He now sits sixth, 15 points back from Hill, who holds that fourth and final Championship 4 slot.

 

Ankrum has made one visit to ISM Raceway, placing an impressive sixth in the second of two starts he made last season.

 

ISM Raceway’s history in setting the Championship 4

This season marks the fourth year the NASCAR Gander Outdoors Trucks Series has used the elimination-style postseason format to crown a champion. And in each season, ISM Raceway has served as the penultimate race – setting the Championship 4 field that will race for the title in Miami.

 

Here’s a look at how the Valley of the Sun played a role in the Playoff madness the past three seasons:

 

2016 – Entering the final race in the Round of 6, only Johnny Sauter had clinched a spot in the Championship 4 after winning both Martinsville and Texas to open the round. At the start of the race, William Byron, Christopher Bell and Matt Crafton held the other three Championship 4 slots based on points – and all were separated by only four points. And they held those spots by the narrowest of margins, as Timothy Peters sat just one point behind Crafton in fifth. It proved to be a heartbreaking day for current Monster Energy Series driver Byron – as a late-race engine failure relegated him to a 27th-place result and knocked him out of championship contention. Sauter would go on to win his first series title the following week.

 

2017 – Once again, Johnny Sauter won a pair of races in the Round of 6 to lock himself into the Championship 4 – but this year is was Texas and Phoenix where he prevailed. He was the lone driver locked into the Miami title bout entering the race at ISM Raceway, and Christopher Bell, Matt Crafton and Austin Cindric held the other three spots on points entering the desert showdown. And when the dust settled, Sauter, Bell, Crafton and Cindric were the foursome who moved on to contend for the championship. Bell would come out on top in South Florida a week later.

 

2018 – Last year, the Gander Trucks drove into Phoenix needing to fill two spots in the Championship 4 – as Johnny Sauter had won at Martinsville while Justin Haley was victorious in Texas. Brett Moffitt and Noah Gragson had just under a 20-point hold over fifth place for the other two slots based on points entering Friday night’s race. And at the end of the evening, a win by Moffitt secured his Miami title berth and Gragson held on to fourth in points. Moffitt then went on to win his first championship, racing for Hattori Racing Enterprises at the time (he’s now with GMS Racing).

 

Spoilers prevailing in the Round of 6

Todd Gilliland became the second winner in as many Round of 6 races to capture his first NASCAR national series win and play the spoiler – preventing a Playoff driver from locking themselves into the Championship 4 by visiting Victory Lane.

 

A week earlier, it was Spencer Boyd who upset the field and took the checkered flag at Talladega Superspeedway.

 

Since the elimination-style postseason format was introduced in the Gander Trucks in 2016, there hasn’t been a round of three races completed without at least one Playoff driver earning a win. That would all change if one of the six remaining Playoff contenders doesn’t win at ISM Raceway next weekend.

 

And it’s entirely possible that a spoiler will prevail again in the desert. Brett Moffitt is the lone Playoff contender who has won at the one-mile circuit. And Johnny Sauter is the only other 2019 regular racer who has won there.

 

If a third straight driver captures their first career Gander Trucks win at ISM Raceway, they would be the sixth driver to do so at that track:

 

Mike Skinner – 1995

Jack Sprague – 1996

Kevin Harvick – 2002

Erik Jones – 2013

Daniel Suarez – 2016

 

Champs’ history at ISM Raceway

Last year Brett Moffitt won at ISM Raceway and then went on to win at Homestead-Miami Speedway to capture his first NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series championship.

 

And that marked the first time since Ron Hornaday Jr. won the spring 1998 race, when the Gander Trucks last competed twice per season at the track, that the series champion won at ISM en route to the championship. In fact, it also happened in 1995 (Mike Skinner swept the races) and 1997 (Jack Sprague won the April race).

 

The records show – if you’re good enough to win in Phoenix at some point in your career, then you’re good enough to win the series title. Of the 17 individual drivers who have won a Gander Trucks championship, more than half (nine) have recorded at least one win at ISM Raceway in their career.

 

That includes three of the past four series titleholders – Moffitt (2018), Johnny Sauter (2016 champion) and Erik Jones (2015 champion).

 

Part-timers looking to play spoiler with Toyota teams in Phoenix

Kyle Busch Motorsports and DGR-Crosley will yield six drivers between them who are running the NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series on a part-time basis this season – and the drivers combine for three total previous starts at ISM Raceway. The drivers are listed below in numerical order by truck number.

 

Dylan Lupton – No. 5 DGR-Crosley Toyota: The 25-year-old driver will be making his sixth start of the season – and is scheduled to finish out the season in this truck at Miami, as well. He’s recorded a top five (Kentucky) and three top 10s in his five starts this year. Lupton has one start at ISM Raceway – recording a 19th-place finish in 2016.

 

Tanner Gray – No. 7 DGR-Crosley Toyota: The 2018 NHRA Pro Stock champion made his NASCAR national series debut two races ago at Martinsville – spending a chunk of the race in the top 10 before being collected in a last-lap incident that left him with a 20th-place finish. Of note – the No. 7 will be making its debut on a DGR-Crosley truck as the team fields five entries this weekend. Gray will, however, be working with the same crew chief (Seth Smith) and team he had behind him at Martinsville while driving the No. 15.

 

Anthony Alfredo – No. 15 DGR-Crosley Toyota: Alfredo has made 11 starts this year, posting a pair of top-10 finishes at Charlotte (eighth) and Chicago (ninth). His last race was Talladega, where he finished 15th. The 20-year-old has one NASCAR K&N Pro Series East win to his credit – last year at South Boston. This weekend will be his first trip to ISM Raceway.

 

Chandler Smith – No. 46 Kyle Busch Motorsports Toyota: If you’ve been following the ARCA Menards Series the past two seasons, you know the name Chandler Smith. The 17-year-old has been limited in race opportunities due to age restrictions, but he has been a shining star when he makes it onto the track. In 20 total ARCA starts he has seven wins – including five in 11 starts this season. He also has 14 top fives and 19 top 10s in those 20 appearances. This season he’s made three Gander Trucks starts – finishing eighth (Iowa), fourth (World Wide Technology Raceway) and second (Bristol).

 

Brandon Jones – No. 51 Kyle Busch Motorsports Toyota: Jones, a NASCAR Xfinity Series regular with Joe Gibbs Racing who made the Playoffs this season but was knocked out of the opening round, will be making his fifth Gander Trucks start of the season. In four races this season he has a pair of top fives, including a runner-up at Chicago. He has a pair of previous starts at ISM Raceway, with a best finish of 12th in 2014.

 

Natalie Decker – No. 54 DGR-Crosley Toyota: Decker will be making her track debut at ISM Raceway this Friday. She has the most races under her belt this season of the above group, with 17 starts, but has had a rough go of it – exiting nine races early due to a crash or mechanical issue. In the other eight races, she has an average finish of 17.4 and has a best finish of 13th at Las Vegas in the spring.

 

NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series, Etc.

Ty Majeski to make Gander Trucks debut: NASCAR Next alum Ty Majeski will make his Gander Trucks debut this weekend for Niece Motorsports in the No. 44 Chevrolet. Majeski has 15 NASCAR Xfinity starts to his credit, all with Roush Fenway Racing, posting three top 10s. He also has 15 starts in the ARCA Menards Series across three seasons…and recorded wins in three of six races entered this season (Charlotte, Pocono, Chicago).

 

Jesse Little back in the truck: Jesse Little and JJL Motorsports return to the track for their first start since Bristol in August – and they plan to finish out the season by racing at ISM Raceway and Homestead-Miami Speedway. Little has posted seven top 10s in 30 series starts. This season, he recorded a best finish of 13th at the spring Texas race.

 

Parade Laps: Insights ahead of this week’s driver media breakouts  

Five drivers from the NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series – ThorSport Racing driver Matt Crafton, Hattori Racing Enterprises driver Austin Hill, GMS Racing driver Brett Moffitt, Kyle Busch Motorsports driver Todd Gilliland and DGR-Crosley driver Tyler Ankrum will participate in the media breakouts this weekend at ISM Raceway. These five drivers are preparing for the Lucas Oil 150 this Friday, November 8, at 8:30 p.m. ET on FS1, MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio. 

 

Matt Crafton (No. 88 ThorSport Racing Ford F-150)

Birthdate: July 11, 1976

Driver’s Age: 42

Hometown: Tulare, California

Hobbies: Riding Glamis dunes in sand rails, karting

Crew Chief: Carl Joiner Jr.

NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series Career Highlights:

  • In 2018, he finished sixth in the NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series points standings, his 12th consecutive season inside the top 10 in points. He also clinched his third-straight Playoff berth based on points performance but was eliminated in the Round of 6.
  • In 2017, he finished fourth in the Gander Trucks championship point standings making the Championship 4 for the second straight season.
  • In 2016, he scored a berth in the inaugural NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series Playoffs and made it into the Championship 4 but ultimately finished runner-up in the final standings.
  • In 2015, he led series with career-best six wins, finishing third in the championship point standings.
  • In 2013 and 2014, he became the first driver in NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series history to win back-to-back championships.
  • In 2008, he earned his first career NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series win at Charlotte.

2019 Season Highlights:

  • Currently fifth in Playoff competition, 45 points behind the series standings leader Brett Moffitt and 11 points behind Austin Hill in fourth 
  • This is Crafton’s fourth consecutive career Gander Trucks Playoff appearance. 
  • Through 21 races this season, Crafton has posted six top fives, 16 top 10s and three poles (Kansas, Charlotte, Talladega).
  • Has led 35 of 3,007 laps completed
  • 2019 average starting position, 7.1 and average finishing position, 9.3.

ISM Raceway Performance:

  • Crafton has made 18 series starts at ISM Raceway posting six top-five finishes. 
  • Has led 16 laps at the famed short track
  • Average starting position of 8.1 and average finish of 10.0.

 

Todd Gilliland (No. 4 Kyle Busch Motorsports Toyota Tundra)

Birthdate: May 15, 2000

Driver’s Age: 19

Hometown: Sherrills Ford, NC

Hobbies: Video games, Spending time with family & friends

Team: Kyle Busch Motorsports

Crew Chief: Wes Ward

NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series Career Highlights:

  • Scored first career NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series win in 2019 (Martinsville).
  • In 2018, he competed in 19 races finishing 10th in the championship points after posting four top fives and nine top 10s.
  • In 2017, he made his NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series debut at Dover International Speedway for Kyle Busch Motorsports. In total, made six starts, posting two top fives and three top 10s.

2019 Season Highlights:

  • Currently 11th in NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series driver championship point standings
  • In 21 starts this season he has posted one win (Martinsville), six top fives and 13 top 10s. 
  • 2019 average starting position, 7.9 and average finishing position, 10.6.
  • He has led 71 laps this season.

ISM Raceway Performance:

  • He has two Gander Trucks start at ISM Raceway, he finished seventh in 2017 and 17th in 2018.
  • Won K&N Pro Series West race at ISM Raceway in 2015 

 

Austin Hill (No. 16 Hattori Racing Enterprises Toyota Tundra)

Birthdate: April 21, 1994

Driver’s Age: 25

Hometown: Winston, GA

Hobbies: Hunting, spending time with family and boating

Crew Chief: Scott Zipadelli

NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series Career Highlights:

  • Scored first three career NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series wins in 2019 (Daytona, Michigan, Las Vegas).
  • Finished 11th in 2018 NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series Championship points, his first full season.
  • In 2017, he joined Young’s Motorsports and made 12 starts finishing a then career-best 23rd in the final standings.
  • In 2016, he posted his first top-10 finish in the NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series (Martinsville).
  • In 2014, he made his NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series debut at Martinsville Speedway.

2019 Season Highlights:

  • Heads to ISM Raceway seeded fourth in the Gander Trucks Playoffs standings; nine points ahead of fifth place Matt Crafton.
  • This is his first career Gander Trucks Playoff appearance. 
  • Through 21 races this season, Hill has put up three wins (Daytona, Michigan, Las Vegas), six top fives, 12 top 10s and two poles (Chicago, Pocono).
  • Has led 153 laps.
  • 2019 average starting position, 9.2 and average finishing position, 13.1.

IMS Raceway Performance:

  • Hill has two starts at ISM Raceway – finishing 23rd (2017) and 30th (2018).

 

Tyler Ankrum (No. 17 DGR-Crosley Toyota Tundra)

Birthdate: March 6, 2001

Driver’s Age: 18

Hometown: San Bernardino, California

Crew Chief: Kevin Manion

NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series Career Highlights:

  • Clinched the 2019 NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series Sunoco Rookie of the Year honors by becoming the only rookie to make the Playoffs.
  • Due to age restrictions, Ankrum missed the first three races of the NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series season before turning 18-years old in March.
  • Made Gander Trucks debut on Oct. 27, 2018 at Martinsville Speedway driving for DGR-Crosley; he started 19th and finished 18th.

2019 Season Highlights:

  • Heads to Phoenix as the sixth and final seed in the Gander Trucks Playoff standings, 15 points behind Austin Hill in the fourth and final transfer spot. 
  • Ankrum has clinched the Sunoco Rookie of the Year honors in the series for 2019 because he is the only rookie this season to make the Playoffs.  
  • Through the first 21 races of the season Ankrum has only competed in 18 of the events due to being too young to compete at the beginning of the season.
  • In his 18 starts he has posted one win (Kentucky), three top fives and eight top 10s. 
  • Has led 58 of 2,301 laps completed.
  • 2019 average starting position, 10.9 and average finishing position, 14.3

ISM Raceway Performance:

  • Has one start at ISM Raceway, posting a sixth-place finish in 2018.

 

Brett Moffitt (No. 24 GMS Racing Chevrolet Silverado)

Birthdate: August 7, 1992

Driver’s Age: 27

Hometown: Grimes, Iowa

Team: GMS Racing

Crew Chief: Jerry Baxter

NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series Career Highlights:

  • Last season, Moffitt drove Hattori Racing Enterprise’s No. 16 Toyota to six wins, leading the way for the first career NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series championship for both Moffitt and HRE.
  • Won his first NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series race in 2016, taking home the checkers at Michigan for Red Horse Racing.
  • Made the most of his six NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series starts in 2016, with three top-three finishes and four top 10s.
  • In 2013, entered the NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series scene with a pair of starts (Kentucky and Michigan).

2019 Season Highlights:

  • Won the NASCAR Ganders Outdoors Truck Series races at Iowa, Chicagoland, Bristol, and Canadian Tire.
  • Currently the top seed in the Round of 6 with 3,107 points – 10 points ahead of second-place Stewart Friesen and 45 points ahead of fifth place Matt Crafton.
  • In 21 starts this season he has posted four victories, 12 top fives and 15 top 10s with an average starting position of 4.1 and finish of 9.0.
  • Has led 449 of the 2,960 laps completed this season.

Martinsville Speedway Performance:

  • Moffitt – in his first NGOTS start at the track - won at ISM Raceway last season (2018).

NASCAR PR

Aric Almirola and the No. 10 Smithfield Ford team for Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR) enter the season’s penultimate Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series race fresh off their best performance of the year at Texas Motor Speedway in Fort Worth. 

 

Almirola and the No. 10 Eckrich Ford team led 62 laps Sunday at Texas, made no mistakes and finished second behind teammate Kevin Harvick. It was Almirola’s best finish at Texas and marked his best finish at a 1.5-mile track. At Martinsville (Va.) Speedway the previous weekend, Almirola raced in and around the top-five for the majority of the race, showing the No. 10 team has found speed in the closing races of the 2019 season. But a lap-360 accident ended his day prematurely. 

 

“I want to do that more,” Almirola said after the race at Texas. “It feels so good to cap off the season with great speed. These last few months have been rough for our team. When you win 14 or 15 races as an organization, the expectation is to do that again. When it doesn’t match up, the morale can go down for our guys. Now that we know we’re capable of speed it’s fun to head to Phoenix, where we’ve run well in the past, to compete for a win.” 

 

ISM Raceway near Phoenix is the next stop on the Cup Series tour, and it could be Almirola’s best track for average running position all year. When he last visited the mile oval in March, he led his first laps at the venue, earned nine bonus points and equaled his best career Phoenix finish of fourth first earned in 2018. The 35-year-old hasn’t finished outside the top-seven there since joining SHR in 2018. 

 

Almirola has certainly excelled in his seven NASCAR Xfinity Series starts at Phoenix, having captured the pole in November 2011 to go with 74 laps led and a pair of top-10 finishes. Earlier in his career, Almirola made three starts in the NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series at the “Diamond in the Desert.” Two of those three starts resulted in top-five finishes, and he led 52 laps. 

 

Of Almirola’s 61 top-10s earned in 314 career Cup Series starts, 19 have been at tracks a mile in length or shorter. He has an average finish of 14.8 at Phoenix. In 17 career starts there, Almirola has earned two top-four finishes, four top-10s and has led 26 total laps. 

 

After 34 races this season, Almirola has one pole, three top-five finishes, 12 top-10s and has led 180 laps. That adds to a career total of two wins, two poles, 18 top-five finishes, 61 top-10s and 537 laps led in 314 starts.

 

In addition to the intense racing action on track, Eckrich and ISM Raceway have teamed up to give fans the opportunity to win various prizes in victory lane. Starting Friday, fans can sign up to attempt to throw a football through a tire in the track’s infield to win select prizes. On race day, fans will have the opportunity to throw a football for prizes and donations with pit crew members on the No. 10 Eckrich Ford team, and one lucky fan will get to throw with Aric Almirola. At 9:30 a.m. local time, three fans and three pit crew members will pair up to make three teams. Each respective fan and crew member will attempt to throw a football through a tire and $50 per successful throw will be donated to the Victory Junction organization (https://victoryjunction.org – founded in honor of Adam Petty). The fan who makes the most throws through the tire will get the opportunity to throw with Almirola at 10 a.m. for a chance to earn up to $10,000 in donations to Victory Junction.

 

“I played baseball in high school and I’d say I’ve got a pretty good arm,” Almirola said with a laugh. “Hopefully, I can back it up and earn Victory Junction $10,000 on Sunday.”

 

Founded in 1894, Eckrich, owned by Smithfield Foods, will adorn the No. 10 Ford Mustang this weekend at Phoenix in college football fashion. Eckrich was founded as a local meat market in Fort Wayne, Indiana, by Peter Eckrich, an immigrant from Waldsee, Germany. Eckrich sells high quality smoked sausages, cold cuts, hot dogs, corn dogs, Vienna sausages, breakfast sausages, and bacon. 

 

Fans can get VIP, behind-the-scenes access in following “Aric ‘Beyond the 10’” by subscribing to his YouTube channel. Episodes showcase never-before-seen footage of Almirola at the racetrack, on family trips, and “A Day in the Life” during the week, as well as all that goes into a NASCAR Cup Series driver’s season. Tune in this weekend for full access to Almirola’s playoff media day, NASCAR Burnout Boulevard and the Vegas race weekend. Click here to subscribe on YouTube and watch the latest episode.

 

As the season comes to a close, Almirola sits 13th in the standings with 2,204 points.

 

TSC PR

Michael McDowell on Phoenix
17 Starts
Best Finish: 16th
"You always look forward to your home track race. Back in the spring, it was looking like we were going to have some good speed, but ran into some issues that put us into the wall. We've come a long way since then, and we've learned a lot more about this package. I'm confident that we'll be able to run well this weekend and give our partners at Love's Travel Stops a good finish.”
FRM PR

Daniel Suárez and the No. 41 Haas Automation Mustang team for Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR) journey out to ISM Raceway near Phoenix for Sunday’s penultimate Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series race of the season, the Bluegreen Vacations 500k. The Ford driver will pilot the red-and-black Haas Automation paint scheme for the remaining two races.

Suárez heads into the weekend after earning a third-place finish at Texas Motor Speedway in Fort Worth. The finish tied his best finish of the season achieved earlier this year at the same 1.5-mile oval. The 27-year-old also led 25 laps and earned three bonus points in Sunday’s 334-lap race.


The Mexico native has five Cup Series starts at Phoenix with two top-10 finishes, an average starting position of 21.2 and an average finishing position of 18.4, and he’s completed 1,345 of 1,562 possible laps.


In addition to his Cup Series starts at the mile oval in the Arizona desert, Suárez also has five NASCAR Xfinity Series starts. With the exception of an accident in his 2017 start, Suárez hasn’t finished outside the top-11 there in the series where he was the 2016 champion. Suárez also has two Phoenix starts in the NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series with a win in November 2016 and a fourth-place finish in November 2015.


Before Suárez made his way to the ranks of NASCAR’s premiere series, he entered the sport via NASCAR’s weekly and touring series. While driving in the NASCAR K&N Pro Series West, he made three starts at Phoenix from 2011 to 2012 with best finishes of third in March 2012 and sixth in November 2011.


Haas Automation, founded in 1983 by SHR co-owner Gene Haas, is America’s leading builder of CNC machine tools. The company manufactures a complete line of vertical and horizontal machining centers, turning centers and rotary tables and indexers. All Haas products are constructed in the company’s 1.1-million-square-foot manufacturing facility in Oxnard, California, and distributed through a worldwide network of Haas Factory Outlets.


In Suárez’s last 10 Cup Series starts at tracks a mile or less in length, he has accumulated four top-10 finishes with 22 laps led and average starting and finishing positions of 18.6 and 16.8, respectively.


SHR has six victories along with 20 top-five finishes and 31 top-10s in 66 starts at the Phoenix track. The six victories are the most for SHR at any track.


With two races remaining, Suárez is 17th in the standings with 801 points and has four top-fives and 11 top-10s this season, along with 166 laps led. He has an average start of 14.1 and an average finish of 16.5. He earned his second career Cup Series pole, first with the No. 41 team, in July at Kentucky Speedway in Sparta.

TSC PR

The historical significance of Erik Jones’ next Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series race is certainly not lost on the 23-year-old driver from Michigan.

 

His 110th career Cup Series start behind the wheel of the No. 20 Toyota Camry for Joe Gibbs Racing (JGR) will be his first in which he and his car will feature the iconic, green-and-white colors of longtime JGR sponsor Interstate Batteries in NASCAR’s top series. Thus, it will be a proud moment when he takes to the track for Sunday’s Bluegreen Vacations 500k at ISM Raceway near Phoenix, knowing he will be the latest driver during the long and storied partnership between JGR and Interstate Batteries that began in 1991, a short but powerful driver heritage that features current and future Hall of Famers Dale Jarrett, Bobby Labonte and Kyle Busch.

 

Jarrett scored Interstate Batteries’ first Cup Series win at the 1993 Daytona 500 and added the second at the fall 1994 race at Charlotte (N.C.) Motor Speedway. Labonte was victorious in his Interstate Batteries car 21 times in his storied career, punctuated with the 2000 Cup Series championship. And Busch, one of Jones’ current JGR teammates and 2015 champion, has nine Cup Series wins and counting for Interstate Batteries and has added a pair in NASCAR’s Xfinity Series and one in the Gander Outdoors Truck Series wearing the green and white.

 

As the founding partner and “Official Battery of Joe Gibbs Racing,” Interstate Batteries has been powering the team for more than 25 years. Since 1992, JGR’s first full season in NASCAR, Interstate Batteries has played an integral role in the organization’s development from start-up race team to championship powerhouse.

 

Jones would like nothing better than to make his first Cup Series start for Interstate Batteries end in victory lane Sunday, and his chances of doing so at the mile oval in the Arizona desert are promising, as it’s one of his favorite stops on the Cup Series tour. In six Cup Series starts at Phoenix, he has a best finish of fourth in the 2017 edition of this race and has two other top-10s. In Xfinity Series competition, he’s posted top-10 results in all seven of his career appearances at Phoenix, including five top-fives. And Phoenix happens to be the where he scored his first career NASCAR victory in the fall 2013 Truck Series race, backing it up with another Truck Series win there one year later.

 

While this weekend marks Jones’ first Cup Series start for Interstate Batteries, he has represented the brand in three previous Xfinity Series races, two of them just up the road at Las Vegas Motor Speedway in 2015 and 2016. His best effort wearing the green and white came in the June Xfinity Series race at Iowa Speedway in Newton, where he qualified on the pole and powered his way to a third-place finish. He brought home another third-place finish for Interstate after qualifying second at the 2016 Xfinity Series race at Las Vegas.

 

Growing up in Michigan, Jones learned early in life how hard winters can be on a car battery, and in the time since he’s also learned that drivers don’t necessarily have to live where there are frigid winters to experience battery failures. Thus, he and Interstate Batteries are encouraging consumers to make sure their batteries are up for the cold winter temperatures that have already appeared in many parts of the country. Interstate All Battery Centers® nationwide offer free battery tests, especially before embarking on their holiday road trips.

 

Not surprisingly, the weather in Phoenix this weekend will be anything but frigid with temperatures forecast in the mid- to upper-80s each day. And Jones and his No. 20 Interstate Batteries Toyota Camry team for JGR look to arrive fully charged in their bid to score an important victory in the penultimate race of the season.

TSC PR

For the second time in 2019, David Ragan's No. 38 Ford Mustang will carry the Mannington Commercial colors during the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series race weekend at ISM Raceway.
Mannington Commercial, one of the world's leading manufacturers of fine flooring, offers more than 100 years of expertise in the design, engineering and logistics of flooring. Earlier this year, the manufacturer provided LVT and carpet products for the newly constructed Lakeway Christian Academy in Morristown, Tennessee, built by Front Row Motorsports owner Bob Jenkins. Although it's now one of the world's largest fine flooring manufacturers, Mannington remains dedicated to making floors right here in the USA with a commitment to quality, customer satisfaction and the environment.
 
"I'm really excited to have Mannington Commercial back on board the No. 38," said David Ragan. "They've been instrumental in our team/Bob Jenkins' efforts to give back to the community, and we had a lot of fun with them on the car in Indy. We've had some really great speed as an organization lately, and I'm looking forward to carrying that momentum to Phoenix for another solid run."
 
The No. 38 Mannington Ford Mustang will take to the track at ISM Raceway on Friday, November 8 for practice. The Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series race at ISM Raceway will air Sunday, November 10 at 2:30 p.m. ET on NBC.
 
For more information about Mannington, visit ManningtonCommercial.com and follow them on Facebook at Facebook.com/ManningtonCommercialUSA, Twitter at @ManningtonUSA and Instagram at @mannington.commercial.
FRM PR
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