Jayski.com: NASCAR National Series News & Notes -- Texas

Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series
Next Race: O’Reilly Auto Parts 500
The Place: Texas Motor Speedway
The Date: Sunday, April 9
The Time: 1:30 p.m. ET
TV: FOX, 1:30 p.m. ET
Radio: PRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio
Distance: 501 miles (334 laps); Stage 1 (Ends on lap 85),
Stage 2 (Ends on lap 170), Final Stage (Ends on lap 334)

Next Race: My Bariatric Solutions 300
The Place: Texas Motor Speedway
The Date: Saturday, April 8
The Time: 1:30 p.m. ET
TV: FOX, 1 p.m. ET
Radio: PRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio
Distance: 300 miles (200 laps); Stage 1 (Ends on lap 45),
Stage 2 (Ends on lap 90), Final Stage (Ends on lap 200)

NASCAR Camping World Truck Series
Next Race: Toyota Tundra 250
The Place: Kansas Speedway
The Date: Friday, May 12
The Time: 8 p.m. ET
TV: FS1, 8:30 p.m. ET
Radio: MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio
Distance: 250.5 miles (167 laps); Stage 1 (Ends on lap 40),
Stage 2 (Ends on lap 80), Final Stage (Ends on lap 167)

Clock Stopper: Keselowski First Driver To Multiple Wins

Brad Keselowski became the first driver in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series to win multiple races this season when he passed Kyle Busch with 42 laps remaining and never looked back to visit Victory Lane for his first time at Martinsville Speedway.
Keselowski, who notched the first victory for Ford at Martinsville since Oct. 20, 2002 (Kurt Busch, Roush Fenway Racing, 28 races ago), will go for his second straight victory in Sunday’s O’Reilly Auto Parts 500 at Texas Motor Speedway (1:30 p.m. ET on FOX).
The No. 2 Ford driver leads the series with 10 playoff points and sits fourth in the points standings, 34 markers behind No. 1 ranked Kyle Larson.
In 17 starts at Texas, Keselowski has four top fives, six top 10s and an average finish of 16.2.

Super Soph: Elliott Poised For Win After Strong Start To Second Full-Time Season

Chase Elliott finished third at Martinsville for his third top five of the season. He has an average finish of 7.8, which has propelled him to second in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series standings - four points below Kyle Larson.
Elliott, 21, is competing in his second full-time season after earning a playoff berth in his Sunoco Rookie campaign. He has two playoff points via his two stage wins.
The No. 24 Chevrolet driver performed well at Texas last season with finishes of fifth (spring) and fourth (fall).
His 5.1 average running position this season is the best in the series.

Texas Ranger: Johnson Tries To Continue Lone Star State Dominance

Defending Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series champion Jimmie Johnson has struggled early on his quest for a record eighth title.
He’s logged only one top-10 finish (ninth at Phoenix) and ranks 14th in points - 127 markers behind leader Kyle Larson.
Johnson hopes Sunday’s O’Reilly Auto Parts 500 at Texas Motor Speedway - a track where he’s dominated recently - can be the turning point of his season. The No. 48 Chevrolet driver boasts a track-record six wins, including a streak of three consecutive victories from fall of 2014 to fall of 2015. In addition to his triumphs, Johnson claims 14 top fives, 20 top 10s and an 8.4 average finish in the Lone Star State.

New Surface And Configuration To Debut At Texas

Texas Motor Speedway made some renovations to its track over the offseason. Enhancements it made to ensure the best possible experience for fans included: adding an expansive French drainage system on the frontstretch and backstretch, repaving the entire track including pit lane, and re-profiling Turns 1 and 2 (banking reduced from 24 to 20 degrees, racing surface expanded from 60 to 80 feet wide).
Turns 3 and 4 of the track remain 60 feet wide at 24 degrees of banking.

JTG-Daugherty Racing Produces Strong Showing At Martinsville

Road-course ace AJ Allmendinger is turning into a short-track stud. The No. 47 JTG-Daugherty Racing Chevrolet driver posted a sixth-place showing at Martinsville Sunday for his fourth consecutive top-11 finish at “The Paperclip.”
Allmendinger’s JTG-Daugherty teammate, Chris Buescher, logged a season-best 11th-place showing at Martinsville - his best finish since a fifth-place result at Bristol last fall. Buescher, from Prosper, Texas, gets to race at his home track this weekend in Sunday’s O’Reilly Auto Parts 500 at Texas Motor Speedway.

NASCAR Next Alum Jones Beginning To Find Groove

Erik Jones, 20, a prolific winner at the NASCAR Camping World Truck and XFINITY Series levels, is beginning to find his groove as a Sunoco Rookie of the Year contender in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series.
He hasn’t competed for victories, yet, but the Furniture Row Racing driver has recorded a top-15 finish in every race except Daytona, where he wrecked out at the halfway mark.
The NASCAR Next alum sits 13th in the points standings, tops among series rookies.
Although Jones is the top-ranked rookie in the points standings, Daniel Suarez leads him in the Sunoco Rookie of the Year Race by two points. Ty Dillon sits third (10 points behind Suarez), followed by Corey Lajoie (-16) and Gray Gaulding (-38).

Busch Ready To Rebound From Martinsville Disappointment With Defense Of Texas Victory

Kyle Busch led 274 of 500 laps in last weekend’s STP 500 at Martinsville Speedway, but could not hold off Brad Keselowski at the end and finished second.
The 2015 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series champion will try to rebound in Sunday’s O’Reilly Auto Parts 500 at Texas Motor Speedway - a race he won last year.
In 22 starts at Texas, Busch claims two wins, 11 top fives, 12 top 10s and an average finish of 11.6.
The No. 18 Joe Gibbs Racing driver is sixth in the standings, 80 points behind leader Kyle Larson. He has one playoff point via his stage win at Daytona.
Stenhouse Pulls Off Top-10 Finish at Martinsville
Ricky Stenhouse Jr. used NASCAR’s new race enhancements to add some extra excitement to Sunday’s STP 500 at Martinsville. He bumped race leader Kyle Busch on the final lap and passed him so he could stay on the lead lap to begin the third stage. Stenhouse seized the opportunity to log a 10th-place finish - his second top-10 of the season.
The move not only helped Stenhouse, it took a playoff point away from Busch because it allowed Chase Elliott the opportunity to beat Busch to the stripe.
The Roush Fenway Racing wheelman will attempt to grab another top 10 at Texas, a track where he’s never finished higher than 15th.

Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series, Etc.

Gridiron Gang - NFL Stars To Appear At Texas Motor Speedway: Four NFL players will attend Sunday’s O’Reilly Auto Parts 500 at Texas Motor Speedway. Headlining the group is Dallas Cowboys wide receiver Terrance Williams. He will be joined by his teammates, tight tnd Rico Gathers, a former Baylor basketball star, as well as center Joe Looney. Detroit Lions defensive tackle A’Shawn Robinson - a 2015 consensus All-American and national champion at Alabama - will also take in the race.


Texas Bound: JR Motorsports Holds Top Three Spots In The Standings
For the first time in NASCAR XFINITY Series history, a single organization holds the top three positions in the driver standings - JR Motorsports drivers Elliott Sadler (189 points, standings leader), William Byron (-17, second) and Justin Allgaier (-46, third) accomplished the historic feat following their performances at Auto Club Speedway. This weekend, they will look to hold on to the top three spots as the series returns to action at Texas Motor Speedway for the My Bariatric Solutions 300 on Saturday, April 8 at 1:30 p.m. ET (FOX, PRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio).
Sadler has been outstanding through the first five races of the season, posting two top fives and an average finish of 9.8. He also has two stage wins that have garnered him two playoff points. Sadler heads to Texas looking for his eighth consecutive top-10 finish at the 1.5-mile speedway. He finished fifth in this event last season.
Sunoco rookie sensation William Byron sits a mere 17 points back from his teammate Elliott Sadler through the first five races. Byron’s season has seen two top fives, four top 10s, a pole and an average finish of 7.8. While this will be his series track debut at Texas this weekend, he did make two starts in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series in the Lone Star State in 2016, winning the spring race.
Of the three JRM drivers atop the standings, Allgaier is the only one who has cemented his place in this season’s playoffs after his big win at Phoenix earlier this season. Now just 46 points separate him from the standings lead. Through five races this season, Allgaier has posted one win, two top fives, three top 10s and an average finish of 14.8.
Allgaier has made 13 starts at Texas, posting an average finish of 12.3. Last season at TMS, he finished both races inside the top 10.
Stage Points Can Add Up To More Than You Think
NASCAR’s enhanced racing formats have seen some great on-track action throughout the first five NASCAR XFINITY Series races this season. With the addition of points being awarded for top-10 finishes in the first two stages of a race, taking advantage of the new system is starting to pay dividends for some championship contenders.
A total of 13 different NASCAR XFINITY Series championship contending drivers have earned points by finishing in the top-10 during the first two stages of a race this season.
Of the 13 stage point earners thus far this season, three drivers have earned 20% or more of their points total from stage points. Elliott Sadler leads the series with 53 stage points (28% of his 189 points total) earned through the first five races. Sadler has finished inside the top 10 of every Stage except the two at Las Vegas this season. Justin Allgaier has earned the second most stage points with 28 (20% of his 143 points total) through the first five races of the season. William Byron (26 stage points; 15%), Brennan Poole (17 stage points; 13%) and Daniel Hemric (17 stage points; 13%) round out the top five of stage point earners this season.
Tyler Reddick, on a part-time schedule this season, is the third driver with 20% of his points total earned with stage points (10 of 50 total points). Reddick returns to the No. 42 Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet Camaro this weekend after his teammate Kyle Larson drove it to Victory Lane at Auto Club Speedway a few weeks back. The No. 42 team also won at Texas last fall. This will be Reddick’s series track debut.
Darrell Wallace Jr. Looks To Extend Top 10 Streak This Weekend
In his last four starts, Roush Fenway Racing’s Darrell Wallace Jr. has posted four consecutive sixth-place finishes - the most consecutive top-`10 finishes of his career. If Wallace can finish in the top-10 this weekend he will extend his career record to five consecutive top 10s.
Wallace is currently fifth in the series championship standings with an average finish of 11.4 through the first five races of 2017.
In four career starts at Texas, Wallace has posted one top 10 - the spring race of 2015.
“It’ll be interesting to see how Texas is this weekend with the repave,” said Wallace Jr. “I’m really looking forward to getting there after having a week off. I’m confident that we can unload with the same speed that we’ve had these last few weeks and have another really good run on Saturday with our Roush Fenway Racing Mustang.”
21 Regular Season Races To Go: Playoff Bubble Bouncers A Bouncing
With just 21 races left in the regular season, the standings points bubble around the playoff cutoff line has taken shape. Currently, five drivers sit within 16 points of the cutoff line; including two contenders who made the playoffs last season.
Stewart-Haas Racing’s Sunoco Rookie, Cole Custer, currently holds the 12th and final playoff position with a six-point advantage over 13th-place Brandon Jones, who made the playoffs in his rookie season last year. Close behind Jones is his Richard Childress Racing teammate, and former 2016 playoff contender, Brendan Gaughan, eight points behind 12th-place Custer. Garrett Smithley (-15), Harrison Rhodes (-16) and JJ Yeley (-16) are the remaining three drivers within striking distance of the playoff cutoff line.
Custer will be making his series track debut at Texas this weekend. Here are how the five drivers trying to catch Custer have performed at Texas from best to worst in average finish on the 1.5-mile track: Brandon Jones (14.0), Brendan Gaughan (19.0), Garrett Smithley (24.0), JJ Yeley (28.2) and Harrison Rhodes (30.5).
Five Different Winners Through First Five Races: This season marks the 14th-time in NASCAR XFINITY Series history the first five races of the season have been won by five different drivers. It’s been 11 years (2006) since the last time the series has seen the feat accomplished. Ryan Reed (Daytona), Kyle Busch (Atlanta), Joey Logano (Las Vegas), Justin Allgaier (Phoenix) and Kyle Larson (Auto Club) are this season’s five different winners. The NASCAR XFINITY Series record for most number of different winners in a single season is 18 - set back in 1988. Last season had 14 different winners.
Big Names Entered This Weekend: This weekend at Texas, seven Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series drivers will attempt to compete in the My Bariatric Solutions 300 on Saturday, April 8 at 1:30 p.m. ET (FOX, PRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio): 2013 NXS champ Austin Dillon (No. 2), Ty Dillon (No. 3), Joey Logano (No. 12), 2016 NXS champ Daniel Suarez (No. 18), Erik Jones (No. 20), Ryan Blaney (No. 22) and two-time series champion Kevin Harvick (No. 41).
Sunoco Rookie Standings Update: Following the fifth race of the season, William Byron extended his rookie standings points lead to 17 points over second-place Daniel Hemric. Standings following Auto Club Speedway: William Byron (72), Daniel Hemric (-17), Matt Tifft (-29), Cole Custer (-30) and Spencer Gallagher (-33).
Manufacturer’s Championship Update: Through the first five races of the season, Ford (185 points) holds a one-point lead over second-place Chevrolet (184) in the manufacturer’s standings. Toyota is ranked third in the standings with 163 points followed by Dodge with 14 points. Chevrolet and Ford each have two wins and Toyota has one win this season.
Owner’s Championship Update: Team Penske’s No. 22 Ford Mustang team continues to hold a 33-point lead over second-place Chip Ganassi Racing’s No. 42 Chevrolet Camaro team following the fifth race of the season at Auto Club Speedway. Both teams ran strong at Texas last fall, finishing 1-2 (Kyle Larson, followed by Brad Keselowski) and combining to lead 175 of the 200 laps.
NXS Milestones: This weekend at Texas Motor Speedway, veteran driver Morgan Shepherd will attempt to post the third oldest age of a driver to compete in a NASCAR national series race at the age of 75 years, 5 months and 15 days this Saturday. James Hylton currently holds the two eldest ages to start at NASCAR national series event at 76 years, 11 months and 12 days (NCWTS; Pocono, 2011) and 76 years, 8 months, 10 days (NXS; Darlington, 2011). ... Blake Koch will attempt to make his 75th consecutive NASCAR XFINITY Series start this weekend at Texas. Koch is ninth on the active NXS consecutive starts list. ... Joey Logano (28 wins) will attempt to tie Matt Kenseth (29 wins) for seventh on the NASCAR XFINITY Series all-time wins list this weekend at Texas Motor Speedway.
NASCAR Camping World Truck Series
Chase Elliott Nets GMS Racing Second Victory of 2017 at Martinsville
Chase Elliott delivered GMS Racing its second NASCAR Camping World Truck Series victory in the first three races of the young season when he won from the pole at Martinsville Speedway.
This marks GMS Racing’s ninth NASCAR Camping World Truck Series win since the team began competing in the series in 2013.
It’s the second consecutive season that the team has won at least two races and, with Elliott’s teammate Johnny Sauter finishing second, it’s the 41st top-five for the team since 2013.
Martinsville was Elliott’s second NASCAR Camping World Truck Series win of his career and the first time he’s registered a NASCAR national series victory from the pole. Through two NASCAR Camping World Truck Series races this season (both with GMS Racing), Elliott has two top fives.
With his win from the pole, Elliott became the sixth NASCAR Camping World Truck Series driver to win the race from the pole at Martinsville Speedway since 2010.
He joins the following list of drivers to also accomplish the feat since 2010:
Chase Elliott (2017 - spring)
Joey Logano (2015 - spring)
Darrell Wallace Jr. (2014 - fall)
Kevin Harvick (2012 - spring)
Johnny Sauter (2011 - spring)
Kevin Harvick (2010 - spring)
Bell Blazes to Consecutive Top-Three Finishes
Kyle Busch Motorsports driver Christopher Bell scored his second consecutive top-three finish of the season at Martinsville Speedway after finishing third.
Bell led a race-high 96 laps, including 90 in the final 110-lap stage. Race winner Chase Elliott took the lead from Bell on Lap 234 while he and Sunoco Rookie of the Year Contender Austin Cindric battled for track position.
Bell continues to produce strong results in the stage racing format. He’s won two stages this season (sweeping Stage 1 and Stage 2 at Atlanta) and sits behind only defending NASCAR Camping World Truck Series champion Johnny Sauter (three) in stages won this season.
Following his finish in Martinsville, Bell remarked, “Stage racing is great. It gives us drivers a point to look forward to during the race and reward us during the race. It breaks the races up to make them feel not so long. I love stage racing. I am thankful for NASCAR for making the change and it’s a win-win all the way around.”
Gragson Scores First Top-Five Finish Of Career At Martinsville
Sunoco Rookie of the Year contender Noah Gragson notched his first career NASCAR Camping World Truck Series top five when he finished fourth at Martinsville Speedway.
Gragson was the highest finishing Sunoco Rookie at Martinsville and was candid when assessing his performance in his first season in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series after the race, “Wrecking in the first two races, you will doubt yourself. You’re not sure if you’re put out to race with these guys as a rookie. Thankfully, Martinsville is what I am used to. Kyle Busch, my crew chief Marcus Richmond and Brandon McReynolds, they’ve been helping me build my confidence back up. I am just trying to take my mind off the negatives and focus on what’s coming up and prepare next so I can be ready and better than ever for that.”
The Kyle Busch Motorsports driver moved up six spots in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series standings. He now sits 11th and is behind fellow rookies Kaz Grala (fifth), Chase Briscoe (seventh) and Grant Enfinger (eighth).
Sauter The Stage Master
Reigning NASCAR Camping World Truck Series champion Johnny Sauter hasn’t lost a step since last season.
In three NASCAR Camping World Truck Series races this season, Sauter has amassed more stage wins (three) than any other NASCAR Camping World Truck Series driver. (Christopher Bell is second with two.)
Sauter is currently atop of the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series standings with 140 points, leading Bell (-4), Matt Crafton (-23), Timothy Peters (-30) and Kaz Grala (-37) to round out the top five.
NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Road Ahead
Following the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series’ visit to Martinsville Speedway, the series takes a six-week break and hits the track next at Kansas Speedway for the Toyota Tundra 250 on Friday, May 12 (8:30 p.m. ET on FS1).
William Byron is the defending race winner. Matt Crafton (second), Christopher Bell (fourth), Ryan Truex (sixth) and Timothy Peters (eighth) all scored top-10 finishes at Kansas last season.
NASCAR Camping World Truck Series, Etc.:
Chastain Wheels Gamecocks to Top 10 Finish: Ross Chastain sported some basketball pride on his NASCAR Camping World Truck Series truck at Martinsville Speedway on his way to back-to-back top-10 finishes. He was sponsored by The University of South Carolina Gamecocks. The Gamecocks had both the women’s and men’s basketball programs in the NCAA Final Four this past weekend. The women’s team defeated Mississippi State for the championship and the men’s team fell in the semifinals to Gonzaga.