Jayski.com: NASCAR National Series News & Notes

Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series
Next Race: Food City 500
The Place: Bristol Motor Speedway
The Date: Sunday, April 23
The Time: 2 p.m. ET
TV: FOX, 2 p.m. ET
Radio: PRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio
Distance: 266.5 miles (500 laps); Stage 1 (Ends on lap 125),
Stage 2 (Ends on lap 250), Final Stage (Ends on lap 500)

Next Race: Fitzgerald Glider Kits 300
The Place: Bristol Motor Speedway
The Date: Saturday, April 22
The Time: 1 p.m. ET
TV: FS1, 12 p.m. ET
Radio: PRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio
Distance: 159.9 miles (300 laps); Stage 1 (Ends on lap 85),
Stage 2 (Ends on lap 170), Final Stage (Ends on lap 300)

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)

Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series

Racking Up The Points: Larson Logs Another Runner-Up Finish

Kyle Larson continued his breakout season at Texas with his fourth runner-up showing. The result marked his fifth top-two finish in the last six races.

Only four other drivers have logged as many top-two finishes as Larson's five through the first seven races of a season: Kevin Harvick (6 top fives; 2015), Dale Earnhardt (5; 1987), Bobby Allison (5; 1972, 1979), Cale Yarborough (5, 1974).

The No. 42 Chevrolet driver has the top average finish (5.4) in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series, but more importantly, he leads the points standings by 17 markers over second-place Chase Elliott. Martin Truex Jr. (-40) sits third, followed by Brad Keselowski (-41) and Joey Logano (-72). Ryan Blaney (-91), Kyle Busch (-104), Jamie McMurray (-106), Clint Bowyer (-111) and Kevin Harvick (-117) round out the top 10.

Remember, the regular season points leader earns 15 playoff points.

Superman's Not Dead: Jimmie Johnson Picks Up First Win Of Season At Texas

Jimmie Johnson's performance in the first six races of the season was uncharacteristic of the seven-time Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series champion. He had only one top-10 finish - a ninth-place showing at Phoenix.

Johnson may have turned his season around at Texas where he worked his way up from the rear of the field to win his first race of the season and 81st of his career. The Californian's seven victories at Texas are the most in track history. Six of the wins have come in the last 10 races at the Fort Worth track.

With the victory, Johnson earned five playoff points. He now sits 11th in the points standings, 125 markers below first-place Kyle Larson.

Blaney Puts On Show At Texas

Despite a 12th-place finish, Ryan Blaney dazzled at Texas, winning both stages (to earn two playoff points) and leading a race-high 148 laps.

He stayed out on the track following a caution with seven laps left in Stage 2 - a move that allowed him to win the stage, but took him out of contention to take the checkered flag for the race. Blaney had to pit under the caution that ended the stage due to a tire rub and couldn't work his way back up to the front from the 20th position.

The 23-year-old Wood Brothers Racing driver discussed how important it was to win the stages, saying:

"I think it's really helpful for everybody. Helps you for the playoffs. It helps you throughout the race. You know, that was 20 points we gained right there. It's just really, really helpful for your kind of long-term outlook on things, and to go and hold the 4 (Kevin Harvick) and 78 (Martin Truex Jr.) off and then the 48 (Jimmie Johnson) that last restart before stage 2, that showed how strong our car was. So it definitely means a lot to everybody I feel like, and it's nice to be a part of a couple stage wins with the 21 car. It means a lot."

Dale Earnhardt Jr. Records First Top-10 Showing Of 2017

Dale Earnhardt Jr. headed into Texas with a season best finish of 16th (Las Vegas, Auto Club). The six races to start a season without a top 10 was the longest drought of his career.

He ended that drought Sunday with a fifth-place showing in the O'Reilly Auto Parts 500 at Texas Motor Speedway - the site of his first career win in 2000. The Lone Star State has treated Earnhardt well lately. The No. 88 Hendrick Motorsports driver has posted a top-six finish in his last five starts at Texas.

The top-10 showing was Earnhardt's first since he finished runner-up at Pocono last June.

"I figured we would get one sooner or later, but it's nice," Earnhardt said. "I know our fans are really pulling for us. Could have finished a little better, we will take top five."

Keselowski Off To Strong Start

Brad Keselowski has started the season off strong with six consecutive top-six finishes following his 27th-place showing in the DAYTONA 500.

The No. 2 Ford driver leads the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series with 10 playoff points and is the only multi-race winner.

One of the top drivers in Loop Data so far, Keselowski ranks first in driver rating (113.6) and fastest laps run (250, 13.6%). He is third in average running position (7.2) and fourth in laps led (232).

Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series, Etc.

NASCAR And Charlotte Motor Speedway announce format for 2017 Monster Energy All-Star Race: NASCAR and Charlotte Motor Speedway announced the format for the 2017 Monster Energy All-Star Race on May 20 at CMS. The contest rewards winning and incorporates a fascinating strategy component.

The race format is as follows:

- The race will feature four stages (20 laps / 20 laps / 20 laps / 10 laps), totaling 70 laps

- The goal for all competitors: Earn a spot in the final 10-lap, 10-car stage.

- The winner of each of the first three stages will lock up a spot in the final stage, as long as they remain on the lead lap after the third stage.

- The cars with the best average finish in the first three stages will make up the remaining spots needed to fill the 10-car final stage.

- The remaining 10 cars will be lined up by average finish of the first three stages and given the option to pit. Exit off pit road determines starting order for final stage.

- The winner will be awarded $1,000,000.

The strategy component:

Each team will have one set of these tires available to use at their discretion. A softer tire provides the car with more grip and, thus, speed. But there's a catch: teams that choose to put on their softer tires to start the final stage must start behind those that choose regular tires.


XFINITY Dash 4 Cash: Allgaier Has An Extra Weekend To Think About His Chances At Million Dollars

Next week at Bristol Motor Speedway, the NASCAR XFINITY Series Dash 4 Cash returns for its second installment of the 2017 program in the Fitzgerald Glider Kits 300 (April 22 at 1 p.m. ET on FS1, PRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio). Once again, $100,000 is up for grabs for contending drivers.

Justin Allgaier took home the first Dash 4 Cash win and monster payload ($100K) earlier this season at Phoenix International Raceway. What's even more exciting is if Allgaier can win the NASCAR XFINITY Series Dash 4 Cash at the next three scheduled events (Bristol Motor Speedway, Richmond International Raceway and Dover International Speedway) he will not only bring home a total of $400,000 in winnings, but XFINITY will also tack on an additional $600,000 to make Allgaier's Dash 4 Cash win total a cool million dollars.

But, before Allgaier becomes a millionaire, he will need to win the next Dash 4 Cash at Bristol. Allgaier has made 12 starts at Bristol, posting his first career NASCAR XFINITY Series win (2010), five top fives, seven top 10s an average finish of 12.7. In his last four starts at Bristol he has finished in the top-10; including finishing runner-up last fall.

Quick Reminder of The Dash 4 Cash Race Format
• Coors Light Pole Qualifying will determine the starting positions for the race. 

• The field will then begin the race with Stage 1, followed by Stage 2 and the Final Stage.
• Based on the participation guidelines announced last year, drivers with more than five years of full-time Monster Energy NASCAAR Cup Series experience are restricted from the four races in the Dash 4 Cash program.
Dash 4 Cash Eligibility

• The top two finishing NASCAR XFINITY Series drivers who have declared for series points in each of the two stages will make up the four-driver Dash 4 Cash field for the Final Stage. Once Stage 1 is complete, the two drivers who lock into the main field won't have their position counted against other Dash 4 Cash-eligible drivers following Stage 2 to ensure a four-driver field.
• Bristol Motor Speedway Stages: Stage 1 (Ends on lap 85), Stage 2 (Ends on lap 170), Final Stage (Ends on lap 300)
• The highest finisher in the final stage among the four Dash 4 Cash drivers wins the Dash 4 Cash and a $100,000 prize.
• Plus, don't forget if a driver earns two Dash 4 Cash bonus wins over the four Dash 4 Cash races, that qualifies them for the NASCAR XFINITY Series playoffs.

Sunoco Rookie William Byron Closing On Points Leader Elliott Sadler

JR Motorsports driver and current NASCAR XFINITY Series standings leader Elliott Sadler's points lead took a hit last weekend when his teammate and Sunoco Rookie of the Year candidate William Byron closed the 17-point difference to just six points following Texas.

The 19-year old from Charlotte, North Carolina, is having a 2017 season worth paying attention to. In six starts, Byron has accumulated two top fives, five top 10s and a pole. He also leads the series in average finishing position with a 7.7.

Byron also holds the Sunoco Rookie of the Year standings lead over second-place, Richard Childress Racing's Daniel Hemric (-24).

But that's not all, Byron's rookie season is already drawing comparisons to former NASCAR XFINITY Series champion Chase Elliott's (2014).

Elliott became the first Sunoco Rookie to win the series title. While that is a long way out for Byron, his first six races are comparable to Elliott's - who in his first six races also posted two top fives and five top 10s. Elliott did post a win and Byron is still looking for his first in the series, but even Elliott's average finish (7.5) is close to Byron's (7.7).

This will be Byron's series track debut at Bristol next weekend; though he did make one start at BMS in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series, finishing in the top five.

Roush Fenway Racing's Stable Is Full Of Contenders

Roush Fenway Racing's Ryan Reed (third) and Darrell Wallace Jr. (fourth) both moved up positions in the NASCAR XFINITY Series standings in their efforts to catch standings leader Elliott Sadler this past weekend at Texas. With six races in the books, both Reed and Wallace look poised to go deep in the playoffs for the title this season.

The RFR camp is off to a solid start. Ryan Reed and crew chief Phil Gould are clicking and sitting third in the series driver standings, just 42 points back from the standings lead. Not to mention, they kicked 2017 off with a big win down in sunny Daytona, locking themselves into the playoffs.

Darrell Wallace Jr. and crew chief Seth Barbour are also on a hot streak, finishing sixth in the last five consecutive races. If Wallace finishes sixth next weekend at Bristol, he will tie Jack Ingram for the series record lead in consecutive single finishing positions inside the top-10. Ingram finished second a series record six times in 1983.
On top of all that, Wallace (10.5) and Reed (10.8) have the third and fourth-best average finishing positons through the first six races this season.

Wallace is still looking for his first NASCAR XFINITY Series career win and Bristol could be the place he gets it. Bristol has hosted six NXS first-time winners: Justin Allgaier (2010), Martin Truex Jr. (2004), Jeff Fuller (1996), Bobby Labonte (1991), Rick Wilson (1989) and Phil Parsons (1982). Wallace has made four series starts at BMS posting an average finish of 14.0.

Three Sunoco Rookies Coming Off Season-Best Finishes.

For Sunoco Rookie of the Year candidates Cole Custer (fifth), Matt Tifft (ninth) and Spencer Gallagher (14th), Texas Motor Speedway provided the stage for all three to post season-best finishes.

Stewart-Haas Racing's Cole Custer posted his first top-five finish of the season this past weekend at Texas. Custer and crew chief Jeff Meendering have been working through a slow start to the season, but look to have found their groove. Through six races, the duo has posted two top 10s and an average finish of 19.8. Custer is currently 12th in points, right on the playoff bubble cutoff.

Another rookie coming off his best finish of the season is Joe Gibbs Racing's Matt Tifft, who posted his first top-10 finish of 2017. Despite the slow start, he is ranked sixth in the series driver standings, 86 points back from the standings lead. Through six races, Tifft's average finish is a 15.8.

Last but not least is GMS Racing's Spencer Gallagher, who posted his first top-15 finish this past weekend at Texas. Much like Stewart-Haas Racing, GMS Racing is in its first full-time season in the NASCAR XFINITY Series. Gallagher is currently 17th in the driver standings, 34-points back from Cole Custer (12th) in the final playoff spot. Through the first six races, Gallagher has posted an average finish of 23.0.


Six Different Winners Through First Six Races: For the 11th time in NASCAR XFINITY Series history (since 1982), the first six races of the season has seen six different winners - Ryan Reed (Daytona), Kyle Busch (Atlanta), Joey Logano (Las Vegas), Justin Allgaier (Phoenix), Kyle Larson (Auto Club) and Erik Jones (Texas). The NASCAR XFINITY Series record for largest number of different winners in a single season is 18 - set back in 1988. Last season had 14 different winners.

NASCAR Camping World Truck Series

Bell Digs In The Dirt At Texas

With an off-week for the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series, points leader Christopher Bell participated in the Texas Sprint Car Nationals at Texas Motor Speedway Saturday night.

Bell raced alongside three-time Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series champion and Stewart-Haas Racing owner Tony Stewart in the Tony Stewart Texas Sprint Car Nationals.

Bell finished sixth in the B-Main, while Stewart finished fourth in the A-Main.

When asked about Bell's talent and potential in NASCAR, the three-time champion Stewart did not shy away from praising the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series points leader. "The kid's awesome. He can flat out wheel a race car, that's best part about him. He's also a lot of fun to work with and I like being around him. Even on a night where it doesn't go so well, he's smiling and excited for the opportunity to run for you."

Stewart then expanded on how good Bell is at dirt-track racing, "If you went to Chili Bowl and watched him, you know why he's such a great talent. He's got 300-something people driving around him, including 70 of the best dirt-track racers in the country, and he didn't just barely win, he won it big. And those kinds of wins really define you as a driver."

Bell captured his first career NASCAR Camping World Truck Series victory at the dirt track that Stewart owns and operates, Eldora Speedway, in 2015.

NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Rookie Test At Iowa Speedway Announced

Iowa Speedway announced that it will hold a test for NASCAR Camping World Truck Series rookies next Tuesday, April 18, 2017. The test is in preparation for the Iowa 200 on June 23 (8:30 p.m. ET on FS1).

Among the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series rookies who will participate in the test are:
Austin Cindric (Brad Keselowski Racing)
• Three NASCAR Camping World Truck Series starts in 2017
• Best career NASCAR Camping World Truck Series finish - 14th at Phoenix (fall, 2015)

Chase Briscoe (Brad Keselowski Racing)
• Three NASCAR Camping World Truck Series starts in 2017
• Best career NASCAR Camping World Truck Series finish - third at Daytona (spring, 2017)
• Won the 2016 ARCA Racing Series championship

Justin Haley (GMS Racing)
• One NASCAR Camping World Truck Series start in 2017 (finished 26th at Martinsville)
• 2016 NASCAR K&N Pro Series East champion

Todd Gilliland (Kyle Busch Motorsports)
• NASCAR Next member
• Three NASCAR K&N Pro Series West wins in four races in 2017

Noah Gragson (Kyle Busch Motorsports)
• NASCAR Next member
• Three NASCAR Camping World Truck Series starts in 2017
• Best career NASCAR Camping World Truck Series finish - fourth at Atlanta (spring, 2017)

Harrison Burton (Kyle Busch Motorsports)
• NASCAR Next member
• One NASCAR Camping World Truck Series start in 2017 (finished 13th at Martinsville)

NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Countdown: Five Weeks

The NASCAR Camping World Truck Series is currently on week two of a six-week break. The series 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.