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Cup Series Win List Grows to 11

With Kevin Harvick’s win Sunday in Sonoma, California, the list of Monster Energy Series winners this season now stands at eleven.  But remember … Joey Logano’s victory at Richmond International Raceway does not qualify him for the playoffs due to post-event penalties.  If there are seven new names in Victory Lane over the final ten regular-season races (or six if Logano wins again with no penalties), then there’ll be one driver with a victory to his credit that will not get a spot in the 2017 playoffs – which will include only the top sixteen eligible drivers based primarily on race wins.  The list of notable drivers still looking for their first Cup Series win of 2017 includes Kyle Busch, Dale Earnhardt Junior, Denny Hamlin, Chase Elliott and Matt Kenseth.  Of those five drivers, all are former winners at Daytona International Speedway – site of Saturday night’s Coke Zero 400 Powered by Coca-Cola – except Elliott, who’s won two Cup Series poles at “The World Center of Racing” but is still looking for his first race win there.  He was victorious in the X-finity Series in 2016 … If the NASCAR playoffs began today, Logano would qualify based on points despite his problems at Richmond.  He’s tenth in the regular-season standings, seven points ahead of Clint Bowyer – who leads Kenseth by just four points in the fight for what would be the final playoff spot.

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Recap of Last Year’s Bristol Race

Team Penske’s Joey Logano kept a hard-charging Kevin Harvick in his rear-view mirror throughout the closing laps, winning under the lights in “Thunder Valley” for the second year in a row. Logano kept the Number-22 Ford in front over the final sixty-three trips around the Tennessee half-mile in posting his third win of the season and the eleventh of his career. The margin of victory was twenty-two one-hundredths of a second over Harvick with pole sitter Denny Hamlin, Jimmie Johnson and Clint Bowyer completing the top five … Kyle Busch led a race-high 192 laps and finished eighth in his bid for a weekend sweep after winning the X-FINITY Series race the night before.

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Martin Truex Jr Wins the Coca Cola 600

Martin Truex Junior started from the pole and led all but eight of the four hundred laps run Sunday at Charlotte Motor Speedway, rolling to one of the most lopsided Cup Series wins in NASCAR’s sixty-eight-year history. He darted away from the field at the drop of the green flag and kept the Number-78 Furniture Row Racing Toyota in front throughout the night – beating runner-up Kevin Harvick to the checkered flag by two-and-a-half seconds. At one point with just under a hundred laps remaining, Jimmie Johnson had whittled Truex’s lead down to three-quarters of a second. But Truex quickly reasserted his dominance coming out of a restart less than a hundred miles from the finish, easily motoring on to his fourth career victory and first this season. Johnson finished third with Denny Hamlin and Brad Keselowski completing the top five … Defending race winner Carl Edwards placed eighteenth in his bid for back-to-back “Six Hundred” victories, slowed by a speeding penalty on pit road … Joey Logano, winner of last weekend’s Sprint All-Star Race, was seeking to become just the eighth driver to win both the All-Star Race and Coca-Cola 600 in the same season. But he was penalized when his Team Penske pit crew went over the wall too soon on a stop during the second half of the race, though Logano did rally from that adversity to finish ninth … Truex becomes just the second driver in eighteen years to win NASCAR’s longest race from the pole position. The other is Johnson, who did it twice: in 2004 and 2014 … There were just nine lead changes Sunday, thirteen fewer than last year’s race, among four drivers: Truex, Johnson, Logano and Paul Menard.

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Joey Logano Wins All Star Race

Joey Logano chased race leader Kyle Larson down in the late stages of the final segment Saturday at Charlotte Motor Speedway, grabbing his final lead of the night just two laps from the finish and keeping the Number-22 Ford in front the rest of the way to notch his first victory in the annual non-points special event. Brad Keselowski finished second, giving Team Penske a one-two sweep in the race – which featured a new format that included mandatory pit stops within a prescribed period of time that left many competitors confused and uncertain of what was unfolding. In a random draw before the night’s final thirteen-lap segment, it was revealed that the top eleven drivers would have to pit for four tires while the remainder of the field would remain on the track on old rubber. Kyle Busch and Jimmie Johnson restarted on the front row for the final segment but on worn tires, they were no match for competitors who clearly benefitted from the four-tire pit stop. Larson quickly moved into the lead and held the top spot until Logano’s late charge to victory. Larson brushed the outside wall while racing hard with Logano and slipped to sixteenth place at the finish … Larson and Carl Edwards each won one of the two fifty-lap segments that preceded the final dash to the checkered flag, which netted Logano a one million-dollar payday. Keselowski led a race-high thirty-nine laps en route to his runner-up finish. Dale Earnhardt Junior placed third with Edwards and Kurt Busch completing the top five.

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Busch Has 6 Cup Wins So Far This Year

With Kyle Busch’s victory last weekend at Kansas Speedway, the list of Sprint Cup Series winners this season is holding steady at six. If there are eleven new names in Victory Lane over the final fifteen regular-season races, then there’ll be one driver with a race win to his credit that will not get a spot on the 2016 Chase Grid – which will include only the sixteen top eligible drivers based primarily on race wins. The list of drivers who won last season but are still without a victory in 2016 includes Kurt Busch, Dale Earnhardt Junior, Matt Kenseth, Joey Logano and Martin Truex Junior … Of those five drivers, Logano is the only one who’s not yet tasted victory in a Cup Series race at “The Monster Mile,” though he’s won four X-FINITY Series races there.

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At Last Year’s NASCAR Kansas Race…

Jimmie Johnson’s mastery of mile-and-a-half ovals in 2015 continued on a damp Saturday night … and early Sunday morning … at Kansas Speedway. After opting to remain on the track while others pitted during the race’s final caution, Johnson turned track position into a trip to Gatorade Victory Lane. The race was interrupted by a rain delay of more than two hours, with the six-time champion finally taking the checkered flag just past midnight, local time. The race was the fourth of the season to be contested on intermediate-sized ovals and Johnson won three of them in the early months of the campaign: in Atlanta, Texas and then Kansas City. He led just once all night, but it came when it counted most – over the final ten laps. His margin of victory over runner-up Kevin Harvick was a half-second. Dale Earnhardt Junior and Jeff Gordon also chose to remain on the track during that final caution and it paid off with finishes of third and fourth, respectively. Pole sitter Joey Logano completed the top five … Martin Truex Junior started fourth, led a race-high ninety-five laps and seemed poised to end a sixty-six-race winless streak. However, he needed to pit for fuel during the final caution and wound up with a ninth-place finish.

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Recap of Last Year’s Geico 500

Dale Earnhardt Junior got some timely blocks from teammate Jimmie Johnson in the closing laps and drove on to his first victory of the season. Johnson – who finished second – first turned back a late charge from Kevin Harvick and Denny Hamlin, and then kept Paul Menard in his rear-view mirror as Hendrick Motorsports teammate Earnhardt took the checkered flag. It was “Junior’s” sixth win at Talladega but first since 2004. He finished fifteen one-hundredths of a second in front of Johnson with Menard, Ryan Blaney and Martin Truex Junior completing the top five. Earnhardt led six times for a race-high sixty-seven laps including the final twenty-seven trips around the mammoth Alabama oval. Pole sitter Jeff Gordon led forty-seven laps, but a pit-road speeding penalty during the second half of the race forced him off the pace and he finished thirty-first … Trevor Bayne’s spin on Lap-47 triggered Talladega’s “big one,” a fifteen-car wreck along the backstretch. Kyle Larson, David Ragan, Joey Logano and Kevin Harvick were among the drivers who got swept up in the accident. The red flag was displayed for more than eleven minutes while the safety crew cleaned up the track. When the race resumed, Harvick rallied to finish eighth.

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NASCAR Heads to Talladega

Next stop for NASCAR is Talladega for Sunday’s GEICO 500, tenth race of the 2016 Sprint Cup Series. The last two races have been run on short tracks in Bristol, Tennessee, and Richmond, Virginia – with Carl Edwards winning both to climb to the top of the regular-season point standings. The last driver to win three straight Sprint Cup races was Joey Logano, who swept the Contender Round of last year’s post-season Chase with victories at Kansas Speedway, Charlotte and Talladega … Edwards finished fifth and thirty-second in last year’s two trips to the Alabama oval … Joe Gibbs Racing has four wins at Talladega, most recently in 2014 with Denny Hamlin.

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Recap of Last Year’s Xfinity Richmond Race

Sprint Cup drivers continued to dominate the 2015 NASCAR X-FINITY Series – with Denny Hamlin the latest to pound the competition into submission at Richmond International Raceway. Cup drivers won six of the first eight races run last season. Hamlin led all but two of the 250 laps at R-I-R and coupled with Joey Logano’s victory the weekend before in Bristol, Cup Series regulars led 548 of the 550 laps run over the two races. Logano finished second to Hamlin in Richmond, three-point-seven seconds behind the Number-20 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota as the checkered flag flew. Regan Smith took third as the highest-finishing X-FINITY Series regular. Erik Jones and Chase Elliott completed the top five. Ty Dillon finished ninth, which was good enough for him to take over sole possession of the points lead … Kyle Busch owns the track qualifying record at Richmond, winning the pole in 2004 with a lap of 129.348 miles per hour while driving a Rick Hendrick-owned Chevrolet … The track record for race speed belongs to Hamlin, who had a winning pace of 108.415 miles per hour in April 2011 … He also won last year’s ToyotaCare 250 but is not entered this time around. Joe Gibbs Racing rookie Erik Jones will wheel the Number-20 Camry … Kevin Harvick leads all drivers with seven X-FINITY Series wins in Richmond including a stretch of three straight in 2005 and 2006 …

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Carl Edwards Joins the Sprint Unlimited Field

Carl Edwards has joined Joey Logano, Austin Dillon, Kyle and Kurt Busch, and rookie Chase Elliott on the list of drivers newly eligible for next year’s Sprint Unlimited non-points special event as a result of their qualifying efforts in 2016. The non-points special event features pole winners from the previous season and traditionally kicks off Speedweeks at Daytona International Speedway. Edwards claimed the Number-1 starting spot for this past weekend’s Duck Commander 500 with a speed of 194.609 miles per hour. He finished seventh in the race, one of just fifteen drivers running on the lead lap with winner Kyle Busch at the checkered flag … Kurt Busch is the only one of those six drivers with multiple poles thus far. He led qualifying February 26th in Atlanta and followed one week later with a track record at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

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