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NASCAR National Series News & Notes -- Pocono and Texas

Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series
Next Race: AXALTA presents the Pocono 400
The Place: Pocono Raceway
The Date: Sunday, June 11
The Time: 3 p.m. ET
TV: FS1, 1:30 p.m. ET
Radio: MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio
Distance: 400 miles (160 laps); Stage 1 (Ends on lap 50), Stage 2 (Ends on lap 100), Final Stage (Ends on lap 160)

NASCAR XFINITY Series
Next Race: Pocono Green 250
The Place: Pocono Raceway
The Date: Saturday, June 10
The Time: 1 p.m. ET
TV: FS1, 12:30 p.m. ET
Radio: MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio
Distance: 250 miles (100 laps); Stage 1 (Ends on lap 25),
Stage 2 (Ends on lap 50), Final Stage (Ends on lap 100)

NASCAR Camping World Truck Series
Next Race: winstaronlinegaming.com 400
The Place: Texas Motor Speedway
The Date: Friday, June 9
The Time: 8 p.m. ET
TV: FS1, 7:30 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

Johnson Continues To Etch Name In History
Jimmie Johnson notched his 83rd career Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series win Sunday at Dover International Speedway, tying him with NASCAR Hall of Famer Cale Yarborough for sixth on the all-time win list. The victory was also the 11th for Johnson at Dover, making him the third driver - along with NASCAR Hall of Famers Richard Petty and Darrell Waltrip - to amass 11 or more victories at a single track.

The No. 48 Chevrolet driver will attempt to move up to fifth on the all-time wins list in Sunday’s AXALTA presents the Pocono 400 at Pocono Raceway (3 p.m. ET on FS1, MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio). In 30 starts at the “Tricky Triangle,” Johnson owns three wins, 11 top fives, 19 top 10s (active leader) and an average finish of 10.6.

Johnson leads the Monster Energy Series with three wins this season.

Another Race, Another Top Finish For Truex
Martin Truex Jr. placed third in Sunday’s AAA 400 Drive for Autism at Dover International Speedway for his third consecutive top-three finish.

During the three-race stretch, Truex has led more laps than any other driver and has won three stages.
The No. 78 Furniture Row Racing driver leads NASCAR in a myriad of categories through the first 13 races of the season: points (9 ahead of second-place Kyle Larson), stage wins (8), playoff points (18), average running position (7.1), driver rating (114.3), fastest laps run (455, 12.5%), laps led (871, 20.2%) and top 10s (9, tied with Brad Keselowski).

Truex makes his next start at Pocono Raceway, where he won in 2015.

Larson Logs Fifth Runner-Up Of 2017
Kyle Larson is enjoying a breakout season, but his fourth full-time Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series campaign has been filled with near misses.

After leading a race-high 241 laps in the AAA 400 Drive for Autism at Dover International Speedway, Larson was beat by Jimmie Johnson on the restart and couldn’t recover when the race ended under caution due to a late wreck. The result was Larson’s fifth runner-up showing of the year.

The 24-year-old Chevrolet driver will attempt to turn his luck around in Sunday’s AXALTA presents the Pocono 400 at Pocono Raceway. In six Pocono starts, Larson owns one top five and three top 10s. He has an average finish of 8.8 and has never finished lower than 12th.

On the season, Larson claims one win, six top fives and eight top 10s in 13 starts. He leads the series with an 8.5 average finish and ranks second in the points standings (nine points behind Martin Truex Jr.).

Dale Earnhardt Jr. Attempts To Pick Up The Pace At Pocono
Following a disappointing start to his final full-time Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series season, Dale Earnhardt Jr. has strung together a 10th (Charlotte) and an 11th-place (Dover) finish in his last two races.

He’ll try to up his performance even more in Sunday’s AXALTA presents the Pocono 400 at Pocono Raceway - a track where he’s done very well the last six seasons. In his past 11 starts at the “Tricky Triangle,” Earnhardt has logged nine top-10 finishes, including two wins (season sweep in 2014) and a runner-up last June.

Kurt Busch Tries To Tame Tricky Triangle For Second Straight Season
Last year’s June Pocono winner Kurt Busch will attempt to defend his victory at the track where he’s won three times, logged 13 top fives (active leader) and recorded 18 top 10s in 31 career starts.

Busch has struggled this season after winning the Daytona 500. The win in The Great American Race is his only top-five showing and he’s led a mere six laps.

If Busch produces a top-10 performance on Sunday, he’ll become the 25th driver in Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series history to amass 250 or more top-10 finishes.

Kyle Busch Goes For First Pocono Win
There are only two active tracks where Kyle Busch has never won a Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series points race - Charlotte and Pocono, the site of Sunday’s AXALTA presents the Pocono 400.

Busch came close to notching a Pocono win in August of 2015, but ran out of gas while leading on the last lap. He almost finally won at Charlotte two weeks ago, but could not catch up to Austin Dillon in the waning laps and placed runner-up.

In 24 Pocono starts, Busch has four top fives, nine top 10s and an 18.5 average finish.

Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series, Etc.
Free Can Friday At Pocono: All fans who bring an empty Monster Energy can, any size, to be recycled, will be granted free admission to Pocono Raceway on Friday. Fans can bring their Monster Energy can to be recycled at the redemption center located outside of Fan Fair behind the grandstands.

Leavine Family Racing To Honor FDNY Foundation At Pocono: Leavine Family Racing and Michael McDowell will honor the New York City Fire Department (FDNY) by sporting a FDNY Foundation paint scheme at Pocono Raceway. The FDNY Foundation is the FDNY’s non-profit partner that raises funds to support fire and life safety education and the professional development and training of members of the FDNY. Funding goes toward programs that look to advance the FDNY’s goals of maintaining operational excellence, community outreach and increasing diversity.

NASCAR XFINITY Series

NASCAR Ladder System Once Again Proves To Be Fruitful
With the recent announcement that Darrell Wallace Jr. will be moving from the NASCAR XFINITY Series up to the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series to replace an injured Aric Almirola in the iconic No. 43 Richard Petty Motorsports Ford, he now joins a long list of drivers that have climbed the NASCAR ladder to success.

Over the last few seasons, the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series has had a migration-sized influx of NASCAR XFINITY Series drivers getting an opportunity to compete at NASCAR’s highest level; including Chase Elliott, Chris Buescher, Daniel Suárez, Ty Dillon, Erik Jones, Ryan Blaney, Corey LaJoie, Ross Chastain, Ryan Sieg and now the most recent, Darrell Wallace Jr.

The NASCAR XFINITY Series is a proving ground for many in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series today. 11 former NASCAR XFINITY Series champions are now competing in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series full-time - Dale Earnhardt Jr., Kevin Harvick, Martin Truex Jr., Clint Bowyer, Kyle Busch, Brad Keselowski, Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Austin Dillon, Chase Elliott, Chris Buescher and Daniel Suárez.

Three of the 11 XFINITY champions have gone on to win a title in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series - Brad Keselowski (2012), Kevin Harvick (2014) and Kyle Busch (2015).

Darrell Wallace Jr. will run the No. 6 Roush Fenway Racing one more time in the NASCAR XFINITY Series this weekend at Pocono. Last season in the NASCAR XFINITY Series event at Pocono, Wallace started last (40th) and drove to a 16th-place finish.

Four Sunoco Rookies In The Top 10 Through 11 Races
The next wave of young drivers is already showing their merit this season as four Sunoco Rookie of the Year contenders are ranked inside the top 10 of the NASCAR XFINITY Series driver standings and are currently playoff-bound.

JR Motorsport’s William Byron is presently sitting third in the standings, 57 markers behind points leader and teammate Elliott Sadler. In 11 starts this season, the Charlotte, North Carolina, native Byron has posted two top fives, six top 10s and an average finish of 13.1. This weekend will be Byron’s series track debut at Pocono Raceway. Byron won from the pole in his NASCAR Camping World Truck Series debut at Pocono last season, leading 44 laps.

Richard Childress Racing’s Daniel Hemric is currently fifth in the standings, 92 points behind the standings lead. In 11 starts this season, the Kannapolis, North Carolina, native has posted two top fives, four top 10s and an average finish of 15.9. Hemric will be making his series track debut at Pocono this weekend. Over the last two seasons he has made two NCWTS starts at Pocono, posting a best finish of ninth in 2015.

Joe Gibbs Racing’s Matt Tifft is up to eighth in the standings heading into Pocono this weekend. In 11 races this season, the Hinckley, Ohio, native has posted one top five, nine top 10s and one pole. His average finish this season is 15.3.

Stewart-Haas Racing’s Cole Custer (10th in points) rounds out the Sunoco rookies in the top 10 in the driver standings through 11 races. This season, the Ladera Ranch, California, native has posted two top fives, four top 10s and an average finish of 18.3. This weekend will be Custer’s series track debut at Pocono. Custer made one start at Pocono in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series last season, posting a fifth-place finish.

Chip Ganassi Racing Hopes To Keep Pocono Wins To Themselves
Last season was the first time the NASCAR XFINITY Series has competed at Pocono Raceway, and Chip Ganassi Racing’s Kyle Larson took the victory. This season, Larson is back to make sure Chip Ganassi Racing defends their crown.

Coming off a victory at Dover last weekend, Kyle Larson is having an impressive part-time schedule in the NASCAR XFINITY Series. In just six starts, he has posted three wins (Auto Club Speedway, Richmond International Raceway and Dover International Speedway), five top fives, six top 10s and average finish of 2.5.

The Elk Grove, California, native will be back in the No. 42 Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet this weekend at Pocono with crew chief Mike Shiplett, trying to make it back-to-back victories. But Larson won’t be the only Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series driver trying his hand at the win this weekend in the series - Paul Menard, Ty Dillon, Daniel Suárez and Brad Keselowski will also be in the field.

Outside Looking In: Sieg, Gaughan, Jones Face Uphill Climb To The Playoffs This Season
The 2017 post-season was the first time the NASCAR XFINITY Series had incorporated an elimination-style playoff in the format to crown the season’s champion. Twelve drivers make the playoffs at the start of the post-season and through four rounds of elimination, a champion emerges. Ryan Sieg, Brendan Gaughan and Brandon Jones all participated in last season’s playoffs, but this season the threesome faces not making the post season, as they are outside the top 12 in points and are without a win in 2017.
RSS Racing’s Ryan Sieg finished the 2016 season ninth in the final playoff standings - a career-best for Sieg and the organization. This season, Sieg is currently 14th in the driver standings, 33-points back from 12th-place Dakoda Armstrong in the last playoff position. In 11 starts this season, Sieg has posted four top-20 finishes and an average finish of 21.5. Last season at Pocono, Sieg started 15th and finished 29th in the rain-shortened event.

Richard Childress Racing’s veteran Brendan Gaughan finished 12th in last season’s final playoff standings. This season, he sits 15th in points, 43 markers back from the playoff cutoff line after posting one top five and two 10s. His average finish in 2017 is a 23.7, down more than 10 spots compared to last season (12.2). Gaughan’s current situation is in large part due to his three DNFs this season. Gaughan finished 14th at Pocono in last season’s event.

A younger Richard Childress Racing driver, Brandon Jones, is trying to avoid the ‘sophomore slump’ in his second season in the series. In 2016, Jones finished 10th in the final playoff standings in his rookie campaign, but currently sits 16th in points with the threat of not making it back into the playoffs this season. In 11 starts in 2017, Jones has posted an average finish of 23.2. In last season’s Pocono race, he started 14th and finished eighth.

NASCAR XFINITY Series, Etc.
Benjamin Is Back: Joe Gibbs Racing has tapped rising star Kyle Benjamin to drive the No. 20 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota with crew chief Chris Gabehart this weekend at Pocono. Benjamin made his series debut at Richmond earlier this season, starting second and running upfront most of the event until a late incident relegated him to a 32nd-place finish.
Mears In For Almirola: With Aric Almirola sidelined due to a back injury, car owner Fred Biagi has slotted veteran driver Casey Mears into the No. 98 Biagi-DenBeste Racing Ford this weekend at Pocono. Mears has made four starts in the NASCAR XFINITY Series this season, posting one top 10 and an average finish of 20.5.

NASCAR Camping World Truck Series

Sauter Conquers Miles The Monster
NASCAR Camping World Truck Series veteran and defending series champion Johnny Sauter captured his first career win at Dover International Speedway after fuel strategy helped him hold off Sunoco Rookie of the Year contender and teammate Kaz Grala.

Sauter was thrilled to get his first win at Dover and of this season.

“I can’t say enough about the way this season has started and the work that Joe, the 21 team and everyone at GMS have put in. The last four races I’ve sat here and talked about how good things have been and how I felt a win was coming, but when it actually happens there is a bit of weight taken off our shoulders. I’m happy to finally get a win here, I’ve done pretty good here over the years, but this is definitely a track I’ve always wanted to win at. It’s not an easy place to do that so it feels like a big accomplishment.”

The win was also Sauter’s fifth consecutive top-three finish.

Sauter is having another championship-worthy season as he currently leads the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series points standings by 52 points over Christopher Bell. He has the most stage wins this season (three) and NASCAR Camping World Truck Series playoff points (eight) of any driver so far this season.

Sauter has yet to finish outside the top 15 this season and has led 169 laps. He owns an average finish of 4.2 this year.

As the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series heads to Texas Motor Speedway this weekend for the the winstaronlinegaming.com 400 on Friday, June 9 (8 p.m. ET. on FS1, MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio), Sauter has the most wins at Texas among active drivers with three.
GMS Racing Continues Hot Start To 2017
With Johnny Sauter winning at Dover, it marks the third NASCAR Camping World Truck Series win for GMS Racing this season.

1. Kaz Grala (Daytona)
2. Chase Elliott (Atlanta)
3. Johnny Sauter (Dover)

Since 2015, GMS Racing has 10 wins in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series and the future looks bright for the emerging team.

Sunoco Rookie of the Year candidates Kaz Grala and Justin Haley have had strong starts to their NASCAR Camping World Truck Series careers.

Grala won the NextEra Energy Resources 250 at Daytona International Speedway earlier this season and has three top 10s and five top 15s in six races this season. With his win, he has already qualified for the 2017 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Playoffs. Grala regained the Sunoco Rookie of the Year points lead with his second-place finish at Dover.

Haley has driven well as of late - netting two top 10s in his last three races. He scored his best finish of the season at Dover when he placed eighth after starting the race 21st.

Crafton, Truex Claim First Stage Wins Of 2017
Two-time NASCAR Camping World Truck Series champion Matt Crafton and 2017 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series playoff hopeful Ryan Truex both won their first stages this season at Dover International Speedway.

Truex won Stage 1 in the Bar Harbor 200 - leading every lap in the stage after starting second. He ultimately finished 10th in the race. His performance at Dover helped him surge three spots in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series standings from ninth to sixth.

Crafton won Stage 2 at Dover and finished 11th in the race. Crafton has been steady in third in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series points standings and has yet to finish outside the top-16 this season through six races.

Cindric Scores Best Career Finish At Dover
2017 Sunoco Rookie of the Year contender Austin Cindric landed his best career NASCAR Camping World Truck Series finish in the Bar Harbor 200 at Dover International Speedway - finishing fifth.

Cindric has had a very strong Sunoco Rookie season as he has yet to finish outside the top-21 in his last five races and has two top 10s in his last three races (Dover - fifth and Kansas - 10th).

The Brad Keselowski Racing driver currently sits third (-11) in the Sunoco Rookie of the Year points behind Kaz Grala (leader) and Grant Enfinger (-5).

Texas Motor Speedway Quick Facts
As the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series heads to Texas Motor Speedway for the first of two trips there this season, below are some series quick facts:

Races: 38
Pole Winners: 24
Youngest Pole Winner: Tyler Reddick (10/31/2014 - 18 years, 9 months, 20 days)
Oldest Pole Winner: Mike Skinner (11/02/2007 - 50 years, 4 months, 5 days)
Race Winners: 21
Youngest Winner: William Byron (06/10/2016 - 18 years, 6 months, 12 days)
Oldest Winner: Ron Hornaday Jr. (06/10/2011 - 52 years, 11 months, 21 days)
Races Won From Pole (or First Starting Position): 5
Last Race Won from Pole (or First Starting Position): Todd Bodine (06/08/2007)
Race Record: Erik Jones 158.002 mph (11/06/2015)
Qualifying Record: Clint Bowyer 184.464 mph (11/03/2006)

Dallas Mavericks: Five Straight Different Race Winners At Texas
Dating back to the 2014 season, there have been five straight different NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race winners at Texas Motor Speedway.

Starting with the most recent, these are the last five NASCAR Camping World Truck Series winners at Texas Motor Speedway:

Johnny Sauter (fall, 2016)
William Byron (summer, 2016)
Erik Jones (fall, 2015)
Matt Crafton (summer, 2015)
Kyle Busch (fall, 2014)

Toyota drivers have won four of those five races, and have won seven of the last 10 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series races at Texas Motor Speedway.

First Timers at Texas
There are eight Sunoco Rookie of the Year contenders making their track debut at Texas Motor Speedway in Friday’s NASCAR Camping World Truck Series winstaronlinegaming 400. They include: Chase Briscoe, Wendell Chavous, Austin Cindric, Grant Enfinger, Stewart Friesen, Noah Gragson, Justin Haley and Kaz Grala.

Additionally, Myatt Snider will be making his Texas Motor Speedway track debut this week in the No. 51 Kyle Busch Motorsports Toyota.

NASCAR Camping World Truck Series, Etc.
Rhodes Ascending In NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Standings: ThorSport Racing driver Ben Rhodes scored his second top five of the 2017 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series season after he finished fourth at Dover International Speedway. The finish bumped Rhodes from fifth in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series standings to fourth, and thismarks the third race this season where Rhodes has led at least 20 laps or more.

Todd Gilliland’s NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Debut Ends Early: NASCAR Next driver Todd Gilliland made his NASCAR Camping World Truck Series career debut at Dover International Speedway, but a loose wheel and the resulting damage on lap 116 took his No. 46 Kyle Busch Motorsports Toyota out of the race, relegating him to a 20th place finish.

Harrison Burton Scores Another Top 15: NASCAR Next driver Harrison Burton netted his second top-15 finish in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series this season when he placed 13th at Dover International Speedway in the No. 51 Kyle Busch Motorsports Toyota. Burton also finished 13th earlier this season at Martinsville Speedway.

Driver Standings Update: The top three drivers in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series driver standings remain the same with Johnny Sauter leading the points, Christopher Bell following up in second and Matt Crafton in third. Ben Rhodes moved up into fourth place, Chase Briscoe moved back into fifth place and Ryan Truex saw this week’s biggest jump from ninth to sixth. Grant Enfinger is seventh, while Sunoco Rookie Kaz Grala rounds out the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series top eight drivers.

Owner Standings Update: GMS Racing’s No. 21 Chevrolet took a sizeable lead in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series owner standings with a win this past weekend and now leads Kyle Busch Motorsports’ No. 4 Toyota by 52 points and the No. 51 Toyota by 56 points. ThorSport’s No. 88 and No. 27 are fourth and fifth in the owner standings respectively.
Manufacturer Standings Update: Chevrolet and Toyota continue to trade paint this season in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Manufacturer Standings. Both have three wins, but Chevrolet leads Toyota by one point in the Manufacturer Standings, 224-223. Ford is in third place with 175 points and has yet to win in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series this season.

-- NASCAR --