NASCAR Cup Series News

NASCAR Cup Series News (17900)

Race Winner:      Denny Hamlin of Joe Gibbs Racing (Toyota)

Stage 1 Winner:  Denny Hamlin of Joe Gibbs Racing (Toyota)

Stage 2 Winner:  Joey Logano of Team Penske (Ford)


Stage 1 Recap (Laps 1-75):

● Daniel Suárez started 15th and finished 23rd.

● The Ford driver remained in the top-20 and was 14th when he pitted during the first caution on lap 68.

● Suárez received a penalty for speeding on pit road after receiving four tires, fuel and adjustments to loosen the car.

● The Haas Automation driver restarted at the rear of the field and finished Stage 1 in 23rd.

● Suárez did not pit during the Stage break.


Stage 2 Recap (Laps 76-150):

● Suárez started 23rd and ended up 16th.

● The 27-year-old worked his way forward after battling an ill-handling Mustang to open the stage.

● On lap 127, the Haas Automation Mustang team confimed debris on the grille as Suárez ran 17th.

● As the long run continued, Suárez worked his way to the 16th position, where he completed the stage.

● During the Stage 2 break he pitted for fuel, four tires and adjustments to help his Mustang.


Final Stage Recap (Laps 151-312):

● Suárez started 14th and finished 15th.

● The caution was displayed on lap 165, but Suárez did not visit pit road and restarted 13th.

● On lap 191 he was in the 16th spot.

● The Haas Automation driver made a scheduled green-flag pit stop on lap 245 from the top-15 for fuel, four tires and adjustments.

● After pit stops cycled through, Suárez was in the 11th position on lap 262.

● With nine laps to go the final caution came out, and Suárez stayed out to take the wave-around and restart 11th.

● In the sprint to the finish he made contact with competitors and was relegated to a 15th-place finish.



● Suárez earned his 19th top-15 of the season and his third top-15 in six career Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series starts at Phoenix.

● Denny Hamlin won the Bluegreen Vacations 500k to score his 37th career Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series victory, his sixth of the season and his third at Phoenix. His margin of victory over second-place Kyle Busch was .377 of a second.

● There were five caution periods for a total of 32 laps.

● Only 15 of the 39 drivers in the Bluegreen Vacations 500k finished on the lead lap.

● Ford took five of the top-10 finishing positions in the Bluegreen Vacations 500k.


Daniel Suárez, Driver of the No. 41 Haas Automation Ford Mustang for Stewart-Haas Racing:

“We had good speed in the car on the long run, but we were lacking a little bit on the short run. I got a pit road speeding penalty early on, but we were fortunate enough to recover from that. At the end of the race we were 11th, and then the last caution came out. We all restarted with a few laps to go, and everyone had their own agendas. We lost a few spots and had some damage to the car, which is disappointing.”


Next Up:

The next event on the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series schedule is the season-ending Ford EcoBoost 400 on Sunday, Nov. 17 at Homestead-Miami Speedway. The final race of the 10-race playoffs starts at 3 p.m. EST with live coverage provided by NBC and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio.


In the space of one pit stop, Joey Logano’s car went from a frontrunner to a backmarker, with no reasonable explanation.

The abrupt deterioration of the handling of the No. 22 Team Penske Ford hastened the defending Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series champion’s exit from the lead lap in Sunday’s Bluegreen Vacations 500 at ISM Raceway and ultimately from this year’s title picture.

Logano won the second stage of Sunday’s Round of 8 elimination race, but after a pit stop during the stage break, the No. 22 Mustang tightened up to the extreme. After race winner Denny Hamlin passed him for the lead on Lap 177, Logano faded to 11th and fell a lap down to Hamlin on Lap 238 of 312.

Logano finished ninth, seven points behind runner-up Kyle Busch and seven points out of the Championship 4, thanks to Hamlin’s clutch victory.

“I went from a car that could lead and win a stage and run really well, and from what they told me, it was an air pressure adjustment made it go from a winning car to can't stay on the lead lap, and one of the tightest things I've ever driven,” Logano said ruefully after the race. “I don't really understand it. It doesn't make any sense.

“You change tires and change a half pound of air, that sounds ridiculous. It is what it is. Just wasn't our year to make it, I guess. But we'll fight for fifth, I guess, in points for this year, and we'll move on. It stinks. It hurts a little bit, but we'll live.

“Everything is going to be OK. Life is a lot worse in other ways for some. We're still fortunate to be here and get to do what we love. It's a bummer, for sure. It doesn't take anything away from that, but it's just part of the game sometimes.”



Chase Elliott had to win Sunday’s Bluegreen Vacations 500 at ISM Raceway to advance to the Nov. 17 Championship 4 race at Homestead-Miami Speedway, and for the first two stages of the event, it appeared Elliott might have the car to get the job done.

After moving into second place during a restart on Lap 73, Elliott battled eventual race winner Hamlin during a protracted stretch of the race’s second stage. But seven laps after the restart for the final segment of the race, Elliott blew a left-rear tire and rocketed into the Turn 1 wall, destroying the rear of his No. 9 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet.

Elliott finished 39th and will have to wait until 2020 to try for the championship again.

“Yeah, it's just a continuation of our first two weeks, unfortunately,” said Elliott, who finished 36th at Martinsville and 32nd at Texas in the previous two Round of 8 races. “I hate it for our NAPA group. We had a decent NAPA Chevy today. It was really tough in traffic to catch guys and then pass and what not.

“But I feel like we were in a good position to run solid. I'm not sure why we had a tire go down. I think that's what happened, at least; it seemed like it. It's unfortunate. Like I said, these last three weeks have been pretty rough. So hopefully Homestead goes better, and we can get prepared good for next season and get a good notebook for next year.”



Needing to make up a 23-point deficit to qualify for the Championship 4, Ryan Blaney started 10th in Sunday’s Bluegreen Vacations 500, last among Playoff contenders.

Blaney’s car improved throughout the race, and he finished third behind Denny Hamlin and Kyle Busch, but with Hamlin winning the race and Busch also advancing to the final race, Blaney was knocked out of contention.

Blaney had a chance to win when the race went to a restart with three laps to go, but Blaney started second on the inside, with Hamlin taking the top lane.

“I felt like I got an OK start,” Blaney said. “It's really hard for the guy on the bottom on the front row to accelerate and turn down the hill. It's the way (the track) is shaped. It's kind of tough, especially in Turn 2. But I don't know, you can always get a better start, right?

“I thought I got an OK start, but the 18 (Busch) got a better one and got inside of me, and, honestly, the top is so dominant, especially if you're on two, you're kind of just sliding up from the bottom, and he (Hamlin) was obviously the best car all day. Just needed the lead and I might have been able to pinch him through 1 and 2, and you never know. But it's not enough.”

Race Winner:  Denny Hamlin of Joe Gibbs Racing (Toyota)

Stage 1 Winner:  Denny Hamlin of Joe Gibbs Racing (Toyota)

Stage 2 Winner:  Joey Logano of Team Penske (Ford)


Stage 1 Recap (Laps 1-75):

Aric Almirola started 11th and finished 12th.

● Running in 12th after 20 laps, Almirola described his No. 10 Eckrich Ford Mustang as having no rear grip.

● Fell to 14th by lap 52. Almirola keyed his mic to say, “Zero roll speed. Just driving through front tires on throttle.”

● Pitted for four tires and fuel with a right-rear wedge adjustment while under caution on lap 69.

● Was 14th for lap-72 restart and picked up two positions to finish the stage in 12th.

● Stayed out at the conclusion of the stage to maintain track position.


Stage 2 Recap (Laps 76-150):

Almirola started ninth and finished 14th.

● Settled into 11th by lap 90 and radioed on lap 106 that he was loose under braking into turn three, but was tight everywhere else.

● “The harder I try, the worse it gets,” said a 12th-place Almirola on lap 126 about the handling of his Eckrich Ford Mustang. 

● On lap 136, Almirola added: “Chattering the tires. It gets really bad late in a run.” Dropped to 14th.

● Pitted for four tires and fuel at the end of the stage, and also inserted a spring rubber into the right-rear to aid in the car’s handling.


Final Stage Recap (Laps 151-312):

Almirola started 20th and finished 22nd.

● Despite having pitted before the stage, Almirola still experienced a tight racecar that was chattering its tires.

● Took advantage of caution period and pitted on lap 168 for four tires, fuel and a track bar adjustment.

● Remained 20th for lap-173 restart.

● Climbed to 18th by lap 196, but Almirola reported that his Eckrich Ford Mustang was back to being too tight and not turning.

● Even with a racecar that was too tight, Almirola found ways to gain positions. He was 16th with 100 laps to go.

● Lost a lap to leader Denny Hamlin on lap 225 while running 17th.

● Made scheduled, green flag pit stop on lap 236 for four tires and fuel.

● As pit stops cycled through, Almirola rose to 11th by lap 256 and was in position to score a top-10.

● But on lap 286, Almirola keyed his mic and yelled, “Flat tire!” He had a flat right front and was forced to pit under green for four tires and fuel.

● The unscheduled, green flat pit stop dropped Almirola to 22nd and put him two laps down, and with less than 25 laps remaining, it was a position from which he could not recover.



● Denny Hamlin won the Bluegreen Vacations 500k to score his 37th career Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series victory, his sixth of the season and his third at Phoenix. His margin of victory over second-place Kyle Busch was .377 of a second.

● There were five caution periods for a total of 32 laps.

● Only 15 of the 39 drivers in the Bluegreen Vacations 500k finished on the lead lap.

● Ford took five of the top-10 finishing positions in the Bluegreen Vacations 500k.


Aric Almirola, Driver of the No. 10 Eckrich Ford Mustang:

“We fought hard all day, and even though we weren’t where we needed to be from a handling standpoint, we managed to get up to 11th to where a top-10 was possible. But then we got a flat tire and that was it.”


Next Up:

The next event on the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series schedule is the season-ending Ford EcoBoost 400 on Sunday, Nov. 17 at Homestead-Miami Speedway. The final race of the 10-race playoffs starts at 3 p.m. EST with live coverage provided by NBC and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio.


Camry drivers continue a record season for Toyota, leading the manufacturer to its third Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series (MENCS) manufacturer’s championship at Arizona’s ISM Raceway on Sunday, one event ahead of the season finale. Joe Gibbs Racing drivers set a single-season wins record for Toyota, visiting victory lane 18 times to propel Toyota to its third manufacturer’s title in four years.

“This title would not be possible without the talented drivers, dedicated race teams and support of our team members at Toyota and Toyota Racing Development (TRD, U.S.A),” said Vinay Shahani, vice president of Integrated Marketing Operations for Toyota Motor North America (TMNA). “Eighteen victories is an incredible feat to accomplish in one of the most competitive motorsports series in America. The manufacturer’s championship is something incredibly meaningful to everyone at Toyota and TRD, we’re certainly honored to capture our third in the series.”

Camry drivers combined to win 18 races and led 3,974 laps in the MENCS in 2019. With one race remaining, three Toyota drivers, Martin Truex Jr., Denny Hamlin and Kyle Busch, will head to the season finale as part of the Championship 4.

Toyota’s milestone season was led by a series-leading seven victories by Truex. Hamlin collected Toyota’s second Daytona 500 title in February en route to his six wins this year while Busch (four victories) and Erik Jones (one) also took home the checkered flag in 2019.

Since joining MENCS competition in 2007, Toyota has won 142 races and captured 124 poles in 467 races. Toyota also claimed the MENCS manufacturer championships in 2016 (16 wins) and 2017 (16 wins).


NBC Sports presented the semifinal race of the 2019 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs on Sunday afternoon on NBC, as Denny Hamlin won his sixth race of the 2019 season at ISM Raceway to join Martin Truex Jr., Kevin Harvick and Kyle Busch, who qualified on points, as the Championship Four drivers that will compete for the title next Sunday at Homestead-Miami Speedway on Sunday on NBC.

NBC Sports’ Rick Allen called the action alongside Daytona 500-winning crew chief Steve Letarte. 21-time Cup Series race winner Jeff Burton and racing legend and two-time Daytona 500-winner Dale Earnhardt Jr. provided commentary from a second booth. Marty Snider, Kelli Stavast, Dave Burns, Parker Kligerman and Rutledge Wood reported from pit road and the grandstands.

Coverage on NBC began at 1:30 p.m. ET with NASCAR America and Countdown to Green, hosted by Krista Voda from NBC Sports’ “Peacock Pit Box” near pit road at the “Monster Mile,” alongside analysts Kyle Petty and Dale Jarrett. Pre-race coverage on NBC included:

Position Driver Car#
1 Denny Hamlin 11
2 Kyle Busch 18
3 Ryan Blaney 12
4 Kyle Larson 42
5 Kevin Harvick 4

The following are highlights from this afternoon’s Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series race coverage on NBC:


Hamlin to Wood during the burnout interview: “I’ve been through so many Playoffs and so many things that could go wrong – this year I’m always waiting on the next right thing to happen.”

Letarte on Hamlin’s win: “What a car. What a call. I thought four tires were needed and they proved me wrong. The restart was unreal.”

Petty: “There are performances that we as fans are able to watch and stick with you forever…this is one of those days. Remember when Denny Hamlin went into Phoenix 20 points out and had to make something happen.”

Earnhardt Jr. on the No. 11 team: “The turnaround on this team from last year to this year is just amazing. The change in crew chief – the drivers have a lot of talent, but you’ve got to have that guy on the box that can pull all the people around you.”

Letarte: “Denny Hamlin proved to everyone else that he could do it on the biggest stage…clearly the biggest win of his career.”

Earnhardt Jr. on Hamlin’s win: “It was like a walk-off grand slam to end the game…I would say that celebration was akin to a team winning a division title…it tells you how important it is to all of these guys.”

Burton on impact of Hamlin’s win heading into Homestead-Miami: “When you have to go somewhere and you have to win and you haven’t really done that, going against three guys who have, now you feel like you can do it. The way he won is a down payment on a championship in the future.”


Allen: “Denny Hamlin has done it! He’s won his way into the Championship Four!”

Burton on Hamlin’s restart with four laps to go: “How about Denny Hamlin? Needed that great restart and got it under pressure.”

Burns on Joey Logano’s struggles as he pits with 65 laps to go: “Team Penske is trying to fix a 3,000-pound rolling science project that has gone bad.”

Burton on Hamlin’s dominant performance with 70 laps to go: “He is half a lap ahead of teammate Kyle Busch who is in second place. Think about that. It’s amazing how fast this car is.”

Snider on Hamlin: “On the subject of the 2010 season for Denny Hamlin, I asked crew chief Chris Gabehart about that and he said, ‘I think this moment, this weekend would be too big for the 2010 Denny Hamlin. The 2019 Denny Hamlin is up for it.’”

Burton on Hamlin with 112 laps to go: “This year is his best chance to make that happen. He made a mistake last week. He can recover, come back from that and he can make this year a career-defining year for himself by overcoming adversity. Denny Hamlin has shown that he’s ready for that and he’s in position.”

Earnhardt Jr. on Logano early in Stage 3: “Joey’s car doesn’t look like it’s getting any better as the race goes on. If anything, it looks like they aren’t able to keep up with the race track…the No. 22 is fighting to keep position.”

Burton on Chase Elliott’s wreck on lap 166 to end his Championships hopes: “Just a horrible Round of 8 for this team. The mechanical failure at Martinsville, the wreck at Texas, and now the incident here.”

Letarte on Elliott: “The Round of 8 has been anything but kind to the No. 9 car.”

Allen on Hamlin winning Stage 1: “He knew it could be a career-changing day…what does he do? He goes out and he wins Stage 1.”

Earnhardt Jr. on Roger Penske’s acquisition of INDYCAR and Indianapolis Motor Speedway: “I went to the Indy 500 for the first time in my life this year, and the one word I took away from that was ‘tradition.’ Knowing that Roger’s in charge of that, it’s going to stay in good hands.”

NBC Sports PR

Denny Hamlin won Sunday’s NASCAR Monster Energy Cup Series final playoff elimination race at ISM Raceway, clinching a spot in the championship race next Sunday in Miami.

“I can’t believe it,” Denny Hamlin told NBC post-race. “This race team worked so hard this whole year. They deserve it. I put them in a bad hole last week. I told them today I’m going to give them everything I’ve got to make up for the mistake I made last week. That’s all I got.”

Hamlin started the Sunday’s playoff elimination race as the first driver outside the top 4 advancing into Homestead by 20 points. Driver No. 11 led 143 of 312 laps in route to sixth win of the 2019 season.

“One of the best cars of my career, I can tell you that,” Denny Hamlin told NBC posy-race. “I pushed for all I had. I mean that’s all I got. Once we got the big lead there a little over 10 seconds, I just kind of sat there. I got to thinking about if the caution does come out I want to lap as many as I can.”

Joining Denny Hamlin in the championship race next Sunday in Miami will be Kyle Busch, Kevin Harvick and Martin Truex Jr.

Joey Logano, Kyle Larson, Ryan Blaney and Chase Elliott were eliminated from the playoffs following Sunday’s cutoff race.

“I went from a car that could lead and win a stage and run really well and from what they told me, it was an air pressure adjustment made it go from a winning car to can’t stay on the lead lap,” Joey Logano told NBC post-race. “One of the tightest things I’ve ever driven. I don’t really understand it. It doesn’t make any sense.

Rounding out the top five were Kyle Busch in second, Ryan Blaney in third, Kyle Larson in fourth and Kevin Harvick in fifth.

The NASCAR Monster Energy Cup Series will head to Homestead-Miami Speedway in the championship deciding race. Coverage begins at 3:00 p.m. Eastern Nov. 17 on NBC.


Stage 1 Winner: Denny Hamlin

Stage 2 Winner: Joey Logano

Race Winner: Denny Hamlin

When cancer struck Edward Schrank for the fifth time, the 15-year U.S. Marine Corps veteran was told he would lose his jaw, his voice and, in all probability, his life.

Schrank sought a second opinion from another hospital and got a different prognosis and outcome. And on Saturday at ISM Raceway, he sang the National Anthem before the Desert Diamond Casino West Valley 200, the race that would determine the Championship 4 drivers in the NASCAR Xfinity Series.

“I think cancer ... there’s a lot of ways you can be brought close to death,” Schrank told the NASCAR Wire Service before pre-race ceremonies. “Cancer is one of those. And when you spend a lot of time being close to dying—which I spent a few years, being told that I was not going to live—and then you emerge from that, you want to have a big life.

“You want to live a lot. So I filled that gap with wanting to do something with my voice, since part of that was losing my voice forever.”

Schrank had already lost his left eye and part of his skull to the first occurrence of head-and-neck cancer, the result of exposure to JP5/8 jet fuel while he was serving in the Marines. Even though he had no background in singing, he saw the preservation of his voice as a gift that should be used.

“I like to say I’ve never sung a note in my life, but as I say that, my mom reminds me that she loved listening to me sing as an altar boy,” Schrank said. “But either way, I think you could round it down to zero, until I was told during my fifth occurrence of cancer that I was going to lose my voice, that they were going to remove my jaw, and I would never speak again.

“When I found a new hospital that was able to save my life and my voice, I thought, ‘Well, I should learn how to sing.’”

But why the National Anthem, generally recognized as one of the most difficult songs to sing?

“My background in the Marine Corps made me feel like ... I love the National Anthem,” Schrank said. “And I also read repeatedly online that the stupidest thing to learn how to sing was the National Anthem.

“And I thought, ‘Well, I’m going to do that.’ Usually when people describe something as stupid, what they mean is people try it, and it’s too difficult, and they quit. And that’s usually something that I get attracted to.”

Now a healthcare entrepreneur who has formed the Military Cancer Initiative, Schrank also served as special assistant to the mayor of Chicago. When he decided to pursue singing “The Star-Spangled Banner,” he enlisted the help of perhaps the best-known National Anthem singer in the world—Jim Cornelison, who provides a booming rendition of the anthem before every Chicago Blackhawks home game.

“He is solely responsible for my ability,” Schrank said. “I met with him, I begged him, I bothered him, I nagged him, and he helped me. I don’t think I showed any reason why he should take me on initially. I think he just wanted—he gave me a chance.

“And I took that chance, and I put in all the hard work from one meeting to give him the reason to take on more opportunities, and that turned into meetings most Fridays at his house for two or three hours of hard work.”

On Sunday, on the eve of Veterans Day, Schrank’s hard work, courage, determination was to be on display again for the singing of “God Bless America” before the Bluegreen Vacations 500 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series race.

Paul Menard and the No. 21 Menards/Maytag Ford Mustang are set to start 19th in Sunday’s Bluegreen Vacations 500 at ISM Raceway near Phoenix.

 Menard said his qualifying speed of 137.515 miles per hour was a sign of progress over the weekend.

  “It was a pick up,” he said. “It didn’t drive great, but when we did our mock run yesterday it was a little bit hotter out and the track had a little bit more grip.  

 “We made some adjustments in the right direction. I wish it drove a little bit better, but we’ll see how it holds on.”

 In Friday’s practice sessions, Menard was 10th in the opening round with a best lap at 135.333 mph.

 Sunday’s Bluegreen Vacations 500-kilometer race is set to start just after 12:30 p.m. (2:30 p.m. Eastern) with TV coverage on NBC.


Twenty points down heading into the Round of 8 elimination race at ISM Raceway, Denny Hamlin’s knows that failure is a real possibility.

One of the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Playoff favorites entering last Sunday’s race at Texas Motor Speedway, Hamlin lost control of his car on Lap 80 while running in the top 10, slid through the infield grass, damaged the splitter on the No. 11 Toyota and ultimately finished 28th.

Hamlin comes to Phoenix facing an uphill battle more challenging than a hike up Rattlesnake Hill, which overlooks the one-mile track in the Sonoran Desert.

Hamlin has known failure at Phoenix before. In 2010, under a different non-elimination scoring system, Hamlin held a 33-point lead over Jimmie Johnson but lost 18 points of his advantage at Phoenix on an errant pit call.

A week later, his best chance for a series championship today evaporated early in the season finale at Homestead, after Hamlin qualified 37th, wrecked early, finished 14th and handed Johnson his fifth straight title.

In Sunday’s Bluegreen Vacations 500 (2:30 p.m. ET on NBC, MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio), Hamlin, who qualified third on Saturday, must make up 22 points on pole winner Kyle Busch or 20 points on Joey Logano, the two drivers immediately ahead of him in the Playoff standings. A race win also would earn a spot in the Championship 4.

Even if he doesn’t advance, however, Hamlin will still consider this season a success.

“No matter what, I will not consider this year any sort of a failure,” Hamlin said. “We, as Mark Martin would say, we just didn’t score enough points. We had a great year, we won races, we led more laps than we have in a long time and more top fives than anybody in the series.

“It’s been a really good year and I’m just not going to let the outcome of this weekend, or last weekend, decide whether it’s a good season or not. I think you have to adjust that. One race, winner take all, or a three-race round – anything can happen, and it did for us.”



Deciding whether a competitor has spun deliberately to cause a caution is one of the most difficult judgment calls NASCAR has to make.

Of course, if you admit it to a national reporter, NASCAR’s job is a lot easier.

That was the case with Bubba Wallace, who acknowledged to Dustin Long of on Friday that he had spun on purpose last Sunday at Texas to try to make the best of a flat tire.

NASCAR reacted quickly, fining Wallace $50,000 and docking him 50 driver points on Saturday.

“The reaction today was after a complete admission of guilt,” said NASCAR senior vice president of competition Scott Miller. “That’s really what led to the penalty happening today.

“All we can do is wait and watch and see how we need to react next. Hopefully, we don’t. Hopefully, it cleans itself up.”

In Miller’s view, NASCVAR had no choice after the confession.

“Here’s the deal: it’s not very straightforward to determine whether that is done on purpose. We’ve all watched the cars drive down the straightaway with a flat tire, weaving all over the place. For us to make a definitive call that a guy spun out on purpose when he can barely keep his car straight is a big call—and it’s a judgment call, and it’s a call we would like to not have to be able to make.

“Hopefully, they can know that the possibility of this happening is out there if it’s very blatant and don’t do it.”

Richard Petty Motorsports, which fields Wallace’s cars, declined to appeal the penalties.



Six first-time nominees join 14 others who have appeared on previous ballots in making up the 20 nominees for the 2020 class of the West Coast Stock Car Hall of Fame, announced on Saturday at ISM Raceway.

Included in the list is veteran crew chief Ernie Cope, currently serving as competition director for JTG Daugherty racing in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series.

New to the list are Ken Boyd, Tony Hunt, Craig Keough, Jerry Pitts, Nick Rescino and Linda Vaughan. Previous nominees include NASCAR veteran Mike Bliss, Dave Byrd, Cope, Mike David, Dave Fuge, Tom Gloy, Lance Hooper, Tommy Kendall, Rick Mears, Danny Ongais, Jim Pettit II, Greg Pickett, Tom Sneva and George Snider.

The Hall will induct five new members during Sonoma race week in June of next year. 

In a Saturday qualifying session that provided validation that the cream rises to the top, Kyle Busch earned his first pole position of the season, as seven Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Playoff drivers claimed the top seven positions on the grid.

Navigating one-mile ISM Raceway in a blistering 25.693 seconds 140.116 mph, Busch edged Joey Logano (139.752 mph) by .067 seconds for Sunday’s Bluegreen Vacations 500 (2:30 p.m. ET on NBC, MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio), the race that will determine which four drivers will race for the series championship on Nov. 17 at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

Busch is currently third in the Playoff standings, two points ahead of defending series champion Logano in fourth and 22 points better than Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Denny Hamlin in fifth, the first driver below the cut line for the Championship 4.

Hamlin qualified third on Saturday at 139.394 mph, one spot ahead of teammate Martin Truex Jr., who already is locked into the Championship 4 by virtue of his victory in the opening race of the Round of 8 at Martinsville.

“I think this is actually the first race all year we made a mock (qualifying) run in practice,” said Busch, who won his first Busch Pole Award of the season, his fourth at ISM Raceway and the 32nd of his career. “Maybe there’s something to that. The guys did a great job. We fight hard every week trying to figure out what we need to do to continue to improve and get better, and a lot of others guys have certainly done that over the year.”

Track position is of paramount importance at Phoenix, as is the No. 1 pit stall, which Busch earned with his qualifying run.

“Hopefully today bodes well for tomorrow,” he said. “I really don’t know. The schedule is all different with all practice all in one day and then just qualifying today. Overall, proud to start out front in this very important race and very important with track position and such.”

Kyle Larson, tied for sixth in the standings with Ryan Blaney, qualified fifth, one position ahead of Chase Elliott, who is eighth among the Playoff contenders and must win on Sunday to advance to the Championship 4.

Kevin Harvick, locked into the final race with last Sunday’s win at Texas, will start seventh on Sunday. Blaney qualified 10th, as all Playoff drivers will start within the top five rows on Sunday. 

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