Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series
Next Race: Bank of America ROVAL 400
The Place: Charlotte Motor Speedway Road Course
The Date: Sunday, September 30
The Time: 2 p.m. ET
TV: NBC, 1 p.m. ET
Radio: PRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio
Distance: 248.52 miles (109 Laps); Stage 1 (Ends on Lap 25),
Stage 2 (Ends on Lap 50), Final Stage (Ends on Lap 109)
NASCAR Xfinity Series
Next Race: Drive for the Cure 200
The Place: Charlotte Motor Speedway Road Course
The Date: Saturday, September 29
The Time: 3 p.m. ET
TV: NBCSN, 2:30 p.m. ET
Radio: PRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio
Distance: 125.4 miles (55 Laps); Stage 1 (Ends on Lap 15),
Stage 2 (Ends on Lap 30), Final Stage (Ends on Lap 55)
NASCAR Camping World Truck Series
Next Race: Talladega 250
The Place: Talladega Superspeedway
The Date: Saturday, October 13
The Time: 1 p.m. ET
TV: FOX, 12:30 p.m. ET
Radio: MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio
Distance: 250.04 miles (94 Laps); Stage 1 (Ends on Lap 20),
Stage 2 (Ends on Lap 40), Final Stage (Ends on Lap 94)
Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series
Playoff Eliminations On The Line
This is one of most important and consequential weeks on the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series schedule. The sport debuts a brand new track - the Charlotte Motor Speedway Road Course - as it hosts the first elimination race of the championship Playoffs.
Only 12 of the current 16 championship-eligible drivers will advance their Playoff hopes following Sunday's Bank of America ROVAL 400 (at 2 p.m. ET on NBC, PRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio).
The four drivers hoping to leap into contention with good debuts at the new venue are Clint Bowyer, who trails 12th-place Ryan Blaney by four points and seven-time Monster Energy Series champion Jimmie Johnson, who is six points back. Joe Gibbs Racing teammates, Erik Jones and Denny Hamlin are 21 and 29 points behind the cutoff, respectively.
Three of the four have won previously on Cup road courses. Bowyer (2012) and Johnson (2010) have victories at Sonoma. And Hamlin won at Watkins Glen in 2016. This is only Jones' second season of Cup competition, but he scored his best road course outing - a fifth-place at Watkins Glen - just a month ago.
"The ROVAL is kind of an unknown I think for everybody, so it's going to be a new experience and something that we are all going to have to learn as we go this weekend," said Jones, who drives the No. 20 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota.
"I think we're excited as a team to have some laps there and had a pretty decent test when we all got to test there. We'll work hard this weekend. We need to have a solid race and get as many points as we can and try to advance on to the next round. That's our main goal this weekend, so we'll keep ourselves out of trouble and hopefully have a solid race."
Although 12th place Ryan Blaney is technically "safe" inside the 12-driver Playoff cutoff that will be finalized following Sunday's race, he has only a narrow four-point margin on those facing elimination. And Hendrick Motorsports driver Alex Bowman is only one point ahead of Blaney - a slim five points inside the safety net.
Blaney's best road course outing was an eighth-place finish at Watkins Glen in 2017. Bowman's best showing is a seventh at Watkins Glen in 2015 driving for another team. He was ninth at Sonoma this season.
Introducing: Charlotte's Road Course
This week's new track, the Charlotte Motor Speedway Road Course, has been the subject of debate, curiosity and prognostication since Monster Energy Series drivers turned their first test laps on it this summer.
The 17-turn, 2.28-mile course, which incorporates a new infield section and parts of the traditional Charlotte Motor Speedway oval is the first brand-new track ever introduced during NASCAR's Playoffs. And this marks the first time since 1987 (Riverside-twice, Watkins Glen) that the Monster Energy Series has faced three road course races in a season.
Championship hopes are on the line in this first Playoff elimination race to narrow the title hopeful field from 16 drivers to 12.
Many competitors have had opportunity to make test laps at the venue and the reviews have been mixed. But with their title hopes on the line, an "open" attitude may be just the difference in a good outing or not.
"We can't look at Sonoma notes, we can't look at Watkins Glen notes," Wood Brothers driver Paul Menard told NBC Sports after testing at the venue earlier this summer. "We have to create our own, because we're going 170 (mph) through the banking ... We don't see anything like that at Watkins Glen. And certainly not Sonoma.
"Should be a hell of a show," he added.
The race starts on the new infield road course and then uses the oval at its Turn 1 entrance. The cars stay on the speedway portion of the track - navigating a chicane on the backstretch - before diving off into the road course again to complete the lap.
In terms of testing, on the final day of the final summer session, Kyle Busch set the fastest speed, followed by Joey Logano and A.J. Allmendinger.
Monster Road Course Aces
As strong as the 2018 Playoff drivers are, the strength and versatility of that field narrows a bit when it comes to road course racing. Among the current Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series drivers, only three have won at both the series' regular road course stops at Sonoma, Calif. and Watkins Glen, N.Y. And, interestingly enough, those three have led the 2018 championship all season.
The "Big 3" Kyle Busch, Martin Truex Jr. and Kevin Harvick are the only drivers in this weekend's field to have won at both longtime Cup road course tracks. And in Busch's case, he's won twice at each.
Busch won at Sonoma in 2015 and at Watkins Glen in 2013 and earned a rare season sweep of the two road courses in 2008. Truex has a pair of wins at Sonoma (2018 and 2013) and won at The Glen in 2017. Harvick won at Sonoma in 2017 and at The Glen in 2006.
Unstoppable 'Big 3'
The dominating topic for much of this season has been the overwhelming success of three drivers - regular season champion Kyle Busch, Kevin Harvick and reigning Cup champion Martin Truex Jr.
They account for 18 wins through the first 28 races. Busch's win last week at Richmond, Va. gives him seven trophies on the year - a mark tying Harvick. Truex has four victories.
And perhaps most telling of the competitive nature of these drivers - they finished 1-2-3 at Richmond; Busch-Harvick-Truex. It was the first time this year they swept the top-three positions, however, 13-times this season two of the three have finished in the top-three of a race.
Last week at Richmond, the top 12 finishers were all Playoff drivers.
Heading into Sunday's first elimination race, Busch leads the standings ahead of Brad Keselowski - who automatically advances thanks to his win in the Playoff opener at Las Vegas - and Truex, who has advanced with top-three finishes in both Playoff races. Harvick is ranked fourth and only needs to start Sunday's race to officially advance.
A Proud Stewart-Haas Racing
It's already been a historic year for the Stewart-Haas Racing team, for the first time ever it qualified all four of its cars for the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs. And not only did these teams earn Playoff berths, they are all in good position to be among the top 12 drivers who advance to the second round.
Seven-time race winner Harvick leads the team and is ranked fourth in the standings, needing only to start Sunday's race at the CMS Road Course to officially advance. Aric Almirola, in his first year driving the Stewart-Haas Racing No. 10 Ford, is ranked sixth. Kurt Busch, who won at Bristol, Tenn., is ranked eighth. And two-time winner Clint Bowyer, whose had some bad luck early in the Playoffs, is 13th, only four points out of the top-12 heading into Sunday's decisive race.
"That's a great accomplishment for Stewart-Haas Racing and all the guys and girls back at the shop who put the cars together," Harvick said. "I think it really shows the effort and the chemistry of everything that we have going on at the organization, not even two years into a manufacturer change.
"Aric (Almirola) being there for one year and Clint (Bowyer) being there for two years. There are new crew chiefs and a lot of things that have changed, but I think you see the evolution of things getting better and really from an organization standpoint.
"When you start seeing the results of all four cars, that's when you know that the processes and the things that you're doing are working well."
The Charlotte Motor Speedway Road Course may remind many of the configuration for the historic Rolex 24 at Daytona. The legendary IMSA sports car season opener on the famed track uses a 3.56-mile course that incorporates an infield road course with the high banks of Daytona International Speedway and a chicane on the backstretch. The ROVAL has a similar course using both an new infield road course and the Charlotte Motor Speedway banking.
Several drivers in Sunday's Bank of America ROVAL 400 field have won on that Daytona road course. Chip Ganassi Racing drivers Jamie McMurray and Playoff driver Kyle Larson teamed to win the 2015 Rolex 24 overall. A.J. Allmendinger won the Rolex crown in 2012 with Michael Shank Racing.
Jimmie Johnson, another Playoff driver, finished runner-up in the Rolex 24 in both 2005 and 2008. Kurt Busch was third overall in 2008. And Paul Menard has a best finish of 15th in the Rolex in 2010.
Sunoco Rookie Race
As Sunoco celebrates its 15th season as the "Official Fuel of NASCAR," it's a good time to reflect on Sunoco's commitment to recognizing rising talent since they joined the sport in 2004.
It's interesting to note that three of the four most recent winners of the Sunoco Rookie of the Year Award are in the 2018 Monster Energy Series Playoffs - Erik Jones (2017), Chase Elliott (2016) and Kyle Larson (2014). Also of note? The 2015 Sunoco Rookie of the Year, Brett Moffitt, is in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Playoffs.
In taking a look at this year's Sunoco Rookie race, Hendrick Motorsports driver William Byron is ranked 22nd in the overall driver standings and Richard Petty Motorsports driver Bubba Wallace is ranked 27th heading into the race this weekend at Charlotte. And there is now a 114-point gap between them.
Byron, 20, who drives the No. 24 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet, hasn't had a top-10 finish since the Watkins Glen road course (eighth) seven races ago. Since then he's had only one top-20 - a 20th-place finish last Saturday night at Richmond - and had two DNFs.
Wallace, 24, who drives the famed No. 43 Richard Petty Motorsports Chevrolet, hasn't had a top-20 since Daytona (14th) 11 races ago. He's had four DNFs in that time including three in the last five races.
"Hopefully, we can just survive the whole race and see what happens at the end," the Charlotte native Byron said of this weekend's road course challenge.
"The road courses have been solid for us this year - we qualified in the top 10 in both and had some good results - so hopefully we can lean on those notes some. But at the same time, this is going to be a completely different beast."
NASCAR Xfinity Series
Xfinity Playoff Excitement Turns To The Charlotte Motor Speedway Road Course
Its apparent heading into this weekend the drivers will be facing several unknowns at the newly minted Charlotte Motor Speedway Road Course. But that won't slow down the intense action that has been bubbling up in this season's NASCAR Xfinity Series Playoffs as the series readies for the wild card that is the Drive for the Cure 200 presented by Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Carolina, this Saturday, Sept. 29 at 3 p.m. ET on NBCSN, PRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio the second race of the Round of 12 in the 2018 Playoffs.
In stylish fashion last weekend, Christopher Bell nabbed the first win of the Xfinity Playoffs at Richmond Raceway, and in doing so locked himself into the Round of 8, leaving 11 other drivers vying for the remaining seven spots.
This weekend, the 12-driver Playoff field will compete on the Charlotte Motor Speedway Road Course for the first time in series history. The Charlotte Motor Speedway Road Course is a 2.28-mile, multi-elevational track that has 17 turns. This weekend's race will consist of 55 laps for 200 kilometers, or 125.4 miles, and is broken up into three stages. The first two stages will be 15 laps each and the final stage will be 25 laps.
The Charlotte Motor Speedway Road Course will be the fourth different road course the NASCAR Xfinity Series drivers have competed on in 2018; joining Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course, Road America and Watkins Glen International.
The 2018 season is the first time Charlotte has hosted the second race of the Xfinity Series Playoffs. Prior to Charlotte being named the host of race No. 2 in the Playoffs, it was held at Dover International Speedway in 2016 and 2017. NASCAR Xfinity Series Playoff contender Daniel Suarez took home the win of the second race in the 2016 Playoffs at Dover, and later went on to win the title that season. In the 2017 Playoffs, non-Playoff contender Ryan Blaney won the event.
Road courses have been known to provide some great unpredictable action and even first-time winners. Over the last decade road courses have produced nine Xfinity Series first-time winners. This season, Playoff contender Justin Allgaier has dominated the road courses winning two of the previous three (Mid-Ohio and Road America); Joey Logano won the third at Watkins Glen International.
Bell's Playoff Win Locks Him Into Next Round; Puts Him On Rookie Record Pace
With his big NASCAR Xfinity Series Playoff win last weekend at Richmond Raceway, series Playoff standings leader Christopher Bell has not only locked himself in the next round of the Playoffs, but has also brought his rookie season wins total to five victories, tying the series rookie record for the most wins in a single season with Greg Biffle (2001), Kyle Busch (2004) and Carl Edwards (2005). Now the rising star from Oklahoma has the chance to become the first Sunoco rookie in series history to win six or more races this weekend in the Drive for the Cure 200 presented by Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Carolina, this Saturday, Sept. 29 at 3 p.m. ET on NBCSN, PRN and SiriusXM NASCAR.
With his Playoff status secured in this current round, Bell can approach the Charlotte Road Course much differently than his fellow Playoff contenders. Though it will be a new experience for all the title challengers, Bell won't have to worry about making it to the next round; which is good because road courses have not been Bell's strong suit. Earlier this season, Bell finished 23rd at Road America, 11th at Mid-Ohio and ninth at Watkins Glen.
Even though Bell's Playoff fate is secure this weekend at Charlotte, don't expect him to take his foot off the accelerator. The 23-year old has made 27 starts this season, putting up five wins (Richmond-1, Kentucky, New Hampshire, Iowa-1 and Richmond-2), 15 top fives, 17 top 10s and an average finish of 10.3. Plus, he has led 506 laps and completed 91.3% of his laps attempted.
Xfinity Playoff Outlook Heading To Charlotte
The NASCAR Xfinity Series Playoffs have officially begun, and the early standout is Joe Gibbs Racing's Christopher Bell who grabbed the first win of the postseason last weekend at Richmond Raceway. Now, as the series arrives in Charlotte this week, the 11 other Playoff contenders will have to navigate the 17-turn road course at Charlotte Motor Speedway with the upmost precision in order to put themselves into position to move on to the Playoff's Round of 8.
Currently In Position To Move On:
Daniel Hemric (No. 21 Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet) is currently second in the NASCAR Xfinity Series Playoff standings with a comfortable 27-point lead on ninth place Cole Custer - the first position outside the Round of 8 cutoff. Hemric is just 28 points behind series Playoff standings leader Christopher Bell following Richmond, where Hemric finished third. This season Hemric has accumulated 13 top fives and 17 top 10s. His average finish in 27 starts is a 9.7. Hemric has thrived on the three previous road courses on the Xfinity schedule this season, tallying a 16th-place finish at Watkins Glen and then two third-place finishes at Mid-Ohio and Road America. Hemric can clinch a spot in the Round of 8 on points this weekend with some help, and also with a win.
Justin Allgaier (No. 7 JR Motorsports Chevrolet) holds onto third in the NASCAR Xfinity Series Playoff standings with a 21-point cushion between himself and ninth-place Cole Custer - the first position outside the Round of 8 cutoff. Heading into Charlotte this weekend, Allgaier is 34 markers behind series standings leader Christopher Bell following Richmond; where he finished 32nd after being caught in a late race incident. The veteran from Illinois is having a career season thus far with five wins (Dover-1, Iowa-1, Mid-Ohio, Road America and Indianapolis), 15 top fives, 21 top 10s and an average finish of 9.5. He has also led 612 laps and has completed 95% of the scheduled laps. Allgaier will most likely be picked by the NASCAR analysts as the 'favorite' coming into this weekend, as the JR Motorsports veteran has already won at two of the three previous road courses on the 2018 schedule - Mid-Ohio and Road America - and finished third at Watkins Glen. Allgaier can clinch a spot in the Round of 8 on points this weekend with some help, and also with a win.
Ross Chastain (No. 4 JD Motorsports Chevrolet) sits in fourth in the NASCAR Xfinity Series Playoff standings with an 18-point lead over ninth place Cole Custer - the first position outside the Round of 8 cutoff. Chastain made his career Playoff debut last weekend at Richmond, finishing runner-up to Christopher Bell. The solid performance has Chastain 3 -points behind the Playoff standings lead. The former watermelon farmer from Florida has made a name for himself this season in NASCAR after collecting one win (Las Vegas), three top fives, eight top 10s and an average finish of 15.3 driving for JD Motorsports and Chip Ganassi Racing. Plus, he has led a career-most 272 laps and has completed 97.7% of the scheduled laps this season. Heading to the Charlotte Road Course this weekend, Chastain has had mixed results at the three previous road courses the series has on the schedule, finishing 20th at Watkins Glen, 16th and Mid-Ohio and seventh at Road America. Chastain can clinch a spot in the Round of 8 on points this weekend with some help, and also with a win.
Elliott Sadler (No. 1 JR Motorsports Chevrolet) has wrestled his way to fifth in the NASCAR Xfinity Series Playoff standings with a 16-point cushion between himself and ninth place Cole Custer - the first position outside the Round of 8 cutoff. Heading into Charlotte this weekend, Sadler is 39 points behind series standings leader Christopher Bell following Richmond; where he finished sixth. Sadler continues to prove he is one of the best in garage after tallying 13 top fives, 22 top 10s and an average finish of 8.5 this season. Road courses have been one of Sadler's strengths this season, finishing 12th at Watkins Glen, sixth at Mid-Ohio and fifth at Road America. Sadler can clinch a spot in the Round of 8 on points this weekend with some help, and also with a win.
Matt Tifft (No. 2 Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet) is perched in sixth in the NASCAR Xfinity Series Playoff standings with a mere 12-points separating himself from ninth place Cole Custer - the first position outside the Round of 8 cutoff. The Ohio native is also 43 points behind Christopher Bell in the Playoff standings lead following Richmond; where he finished fifth. In 27 starts this season, Tifft has stockpiled five top fives, 14 top 10s and an average finish of 13.7. Some of Tifft's best performances this season have been on the three previous road courses, not counting Watkins Glen where he was caught in an incident and relegated to a 37th-place finish. In his other two road course starts, he finished fourth at Mid-Ohio and won the pole and finished runner-up at Road America. Tifft could clinch a spot in the Round of 8 on points with a new winner and help. He could also clinch a spot with a win.
Tyler Reddick (No. 9 JR Motorsports Chevrolet) is nestled in seventh in the NASCAR Xfinity Series Playoffs with a 11-point lead over ninth place Cole Custer - the first position outside the Round of 8 cutoff. The California native is 44 points behind the series standings lead after putting forth a strong showing in the Playoff opener at Richmond where he finished seventh. During his rookie campaign this season, Reddick has gathered one win (Daytona-1), four top fives, 15 top 10s and an average finish of 14.4. This weekend at the Charlotte Motor Speedway Road Course might be tough for the 22-year old Reddick, who has struggled at times on the road courses, finishing 11th at Watkins Glen, 31st at Mid-Ohio and 34th at Road America. Reddick can clinch a spot in the Round of 8 on points with a repeat winner (or a win by Daniel Hemric, Justin Allgaier, Ross Chastain, Elliott Sadler or Matt Tifft) and help. He could also clinch with a win this weekend at Charlotte.
Brandon Jones (No. 19 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota) stands in the eighth and final NASCAR Xfinity Series Playoff spot tied in points with ninth-place Cole Custer - the first position outside the Round of 8 cutoff, but holds the tiebreaker of best finish in the current round. The Joe Gibbs Racing driver has been running well lately, putting together three consecutive top-10 finishes over the last three weeks, including an eighth-place showing last weekend to start the Playoffs at Richmond. Jones is currently 55 points back from the Playoff standings lead after collecting two top fives, 13 top 10s and an average finish of 13.4. With Jones just inside the cusp of elimination, he most likely welcomes the Charlotte Motor Speedway Road course this weekend as he has done well on road courses this season finishing seventh at Watkins Glen, 23rd at Mid-Ohio and ninth at Road America. Jones can only clinch a spot in the Round of 8 with a win this weekend at Charlotte.
Currently Below The Round of 8 Cutoff:
The following drivers in the NASCAR Xfinity Series Playoff standings can only clinch a spot in the Round of 8 with a win this weekend at the Charlotte Motor Speedway Road Course.
Cole Custer (No. 00 Stewart-Haas Racing Ford) plummeted from the fourth seed heading into Richmond to ninth in the Playoff standings following a 15th-place finish last weekend. Now the California native is tied with eighth-place Brandon Jones in points, but Jones holds the tiebreaker (best finish in the current round) for the final Playoff Round of 8 transfer spot. Looking at the 55-point mountain between himself and Playoff standings leader Christopher Bell, Custer will need a solid run this weekend to get back into contention. The 20-year old's luck could get back on track this weekend at the CMS Road Course. In 27 starts this season, Custer has lumped together 11 top fives, 21 top 10s and an average finish of 9.3; including three top-10 finishes on the three previous road courses the series visited earlier this season.
Ryan Truex (No. 11 Kaulig Racing Chevrolet) remains in 10th in the Playoff standings two points behind eighth-place Brandon Jones following an 11th-place finish in the postseason opener at Richmond last weekend. Truex's first full season with Kaulig Racing has been a success. The New Jersey native has put together one top five, 10 top 10s and an average finish of 11.3. Truex has had mixed results on the road courses this season, he finished 25th at Road America, 18th at Watkins Glen, but then fifth at Mid-Ohio - his best finish on the season.
Austin Cindric (No. 22 Team Penske Ford) currently is ranked 11th in the NASCAR Xfinity Series Playoffs, seven points behind eighth-place Brandon Jones in the final transfer spot for the Round of 8. In 27 starts this season, Cindric has posted three top fives and eight top 10s. He finished 13th in the Playoff opener last weekend at Richmond. In the three previous road course starts this season, Cindric has finished 37th at Road America due to an engine failure, 13th at Watkins Glen and a career-best second at Mid-Ohio.
Ryan Reed (No. 16 Roush Fenway Racing Ford) rests in 12th in the NASCAR Xfinity Series Playoff standings, just eight points behind eighth place Brandon Jones in the final transfer spot for the Round of 8. In 2018, Reed has amassed two top fives, nine top 10s an average finish of 16.3. Heading into this weekend at the CMS Road Course, expect Reed to bounce back into contention as he finished in the top 10 in two of the three road courses (Watkins Glen, Mid-Ohio) earlier this season.
IMSA's Meyer Shank Racing Drivers Jumps Into NASCAR This Weekend
Fans and media alike will have the opportunity to see Meyer Shank Racing's (MSR) current IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship lineup of drivers attempt to take on the highly anticipated Charlotte Motor Speedway Road Course this weekend in the NASCAR Xfinity and Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series races this weekend.
MSR's Lawson Aschenbach, Justin Marks and Katherine Legge will all be attempting to compete this weekend at Charlotte Motor Speedway in the Drive for the Cure 200 presented by Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Carolina on Saturday, September 29 at 3 p.m. ET on NBCSN, PRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio. Aschenbach and Legge will be driving for JD Motorsports and Marks will be with Chip Ganassi Racing this weekend.
All three drivers have competed in NASCAR before, but this is the first time all three will be competing in the same event. Lawson Aschenbach made his series debut back in 2015 at Road America; he started 23rd and finished 18th.
"It's exciting to get back behind the wheel of a stock car," said Aschenbach. "I'm looking forward to close quarter racing and from what I hear, at a tricky 'ROVAL', my street course background may be a benefit due to low grip levels and limited margin for error."
This weekend will be Justin Marks' third start of the season, in his previous two starts he posted a top-10 finish at Road America. Road courses have been Marks specialty, as the California native got his lone series win at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course back in 2016. Marks will also attempt to run in the Monster Energy Series race on Sunday in the No. 15 Premium Motorsports Chevrolet.
Katherine Legge will also be back to take a shot at the CMS Road Course this weekend, her fourth start of the season. The British racer's three previous starts have garnered an average finish of 24.0.
Noah Gragson To Join JR Motorsports in 2019
Earlier this week it was announced that NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Playoff contender Noah Gragson has been tabbed in a multi-year deal that places him behind the wheel of JR Motorsport's No. 1 Chevrolet in full-time pursuit of a NASCAR Xfinity Series championship next season.
Gragson will acquire the reins of the No. 1 from veteran JRM driver Elliott Sadler, who recently announced he'd be stepping away from NASCAR Xfinity Series competition at season's end.
"Noah's proven himself quite a competitor over the last two seasons in the Truck Series," said Kelley Earnhardt Miller, general manager of JR Motorsports. "He's also impressed during a handful of races in the Xfinity Series and a lot of folks have taken notice. He brings the talent, energy and enthusiasm we're looking for, and we're glad to have him on board. With Noah's addition, JRM has struck a healthy balance of youth and experience as we plan for the team's future."
Earlier this year, Gragson added three NXS starts to his racing resume, which netted a runner-up effort at Richmond Raceway in the spring. All told, he amassed two top fives, three top 10s and an average finish of 4.3 in those events.
"Having the opportunity to drive for JRM and the No. 1 team next year is a dream come true," Gragson said. "I'd like to personally thank Dale Jr., Kelley, Chevrolet and everyone at JRM for allowing me to compete for a championship in the NASCAR Xfinity Series. I'd also like to thank my sponsors, my management team and my family, because none of this would be possible if it wasn't for their support along the way."
Gragson joins JRM by way of the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series, where in two seasons he's claimed two wins, 10 top fives and 26 top 10s with eight poles.
NASCAR Xfinity Series, Etc.:
Xfinity Season-to-date loop data standouts: Below are the top five drivers in key season-to-date loop data categories:
• Driver Ratings: 1. Justin Allgaier (109.7), 2. Christopher Bell (106.7), 3. Cole Custer (103.2), 4. Daniel Hemric (102.9), 5. Elliott Sadler (101.5).
• Average Running Position: 1. Daniel Hemric (7.81), 2. Justin Allgaier (7.84), 3. Cole Custer (8.67), 4. Elliott Sadler (9.47), 5. Christopher Bell (9.63).
• Fastest Laps Run: 1. Christopher Bell (461), 2. Cole Custer (255), 3. Justin Allgaier (248), 4. Kyle Larson (239), 5. Kyle Busch (191).
• Laps in the Top 15: 1. Daniel Hemric (4,384), 2. Cole Custer (4,278), 3. Justin Allgaier (4,203), 4. Elliott Sadler (4,079), 5. Christopher Bell (3,992).
• Laps Led: 1. Justin Allgaier (612), 2. Kyle Larson (524), 3. Christopher Bell (506), 4. Kyle Busch (405), 5. Brad Keselowski (276).
• Percentage of Laps Run on Lead Lap: 1. Cole Custer (95.4%), 2. Daniel Hemric (95.3%), 3. Justin Allgaier (92.7%), 4. Elliott Sadler (91.4%), 5. Ryan Truex (91.2%).
Xfinity Drivers In Cup: This weekend two full-time NASCAR Xfinity Series Playoff contenders - Ross Chastain and Daniel Hemric - will be attempting to compete in the Monster Energy Series' Bank of America ROVAL 400 this Sunday.
NASCAR Camping World Truck Series
Enfinger and Haley Locked In
GMS Racing's Justin Haley was the first NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Playoff driver to lock himself into the Round of 6. He won the series Playoff opener at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park.
Then after a two-week break for the drivers, Grant Enfinger won at Las Vegas Motor Speedway making him the second driver to officially secure his spot in the next round.
Only Five Races Remain
There are only five races left in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Playoffs before a champion is crowned at Homestead-Miami Speedway on November 16 and each event will pose its own special challenges for the competitors.
Talladega Superspeedway is the longest oval with a length of 2.66-miles and 33-degrees of banking in corners.
Martinsville Speedway is the shortest track on the circuit. It is a 0.52-mile asphalt/concrete oval with 12-degrees of banking in the corners and an 800-foot frontstretch and backstretch.
Texas Motor Speedway is a 1.5-mile asphalt oval with 20-degrees of banking in Turns 1 and 2, and 24-degrees of banking in Turns 3 and 4.
ISM Raceway, the second-to-last track the Truck Series will visit, is a 1-mile dogleg oval in Avondale, Arizona. ISM also marks the last cutoff race and has been recently renovated with the start-finish line moved in between Turns 1 and 2.
And lastly, Homestead-Miami Speedway is a 2.5-mile, four-turn oval with 18-20-degrees of banking in the corners. The series will hold its season finale at the famous Miami facility with the highest finisher of the Championship Playoff drivers to be named the 2018 champion.
Taking on 'Dega
Up next is Talladega Superspeedway and there are only two drivers in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series that have the ability to become a multi-race winners at the famous behemoth of a track and they are both Playoff drivers.
Grant Enfinger won in 2016 at the superspeedway and Johnny Sauter won in 2013. If one of them wins at Talladega during the third race of the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Playoffs, they would join Kyle Busch, Todd Bodine and Parker Kligerman in the record book for the most wins at Talladega in the series with two each.
If Sauter wins, he will secure his spot in the Round of 6. Enfinger has already secured his.
Playoff Drivers' Performances At 'Dega
Below is a look at the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Playoff drivers as the series readies for its next stop at Talladega Superspeedway.
Justin Haley has visited Talladega once in his career. He started fourth last year and finished 16th.
Grant Enfinger is a strong contender at Talladega. He got his first career win at the track in 2016. Last year, Enfinger started 13th and finished fourth. Luckily, Enfinger will head into Talladega race weekend with some confidence as he just won the second race of his career at Las Vegas.
Johnny Sauter has nine starts with one win, three top fives and five top 10s at Talladega Superspeedway.
Noah Gragson will make only his second career start at Talladega Superspeedway in two weeks. His first start was last season, where he started in the top 10 but finished 14th.
Brett Moffitt will be making his NASCAR Camping World Truck Series track debut at Talladega Superspeedway.
Matt Crafton has 12 starts under his belt at Talladega Superspeedway, the most of any driver, with one top five and four top 10s. As a driver who has a lot of experience at these tracks, he can use that to his advantage.
Ben Rhodes has two starts at Talladega but unfortunately didn't finish either race due to incidents.
Stewart Friesen is another driver that will head to Talladega Superspeedway for only the second time of his career. His first start was last year in third place, but he ended up finishing 17th.
500 Club - David Pepper
Grant Enfinger's spotter and ThorSport Racing's general manager David Pepper celebrated his 500th consecutive career start in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series at Las Vegas, and enjoyed the victory alongside Enfinger to mark the milestone.
Pepper has worked in various professional positions during his time with the sport. His first came working as a show truck driver for Scot Walters and Brewco Racing at Walt Disney World Speedway on January 11, 1998. Other positions include rear tire changer, gas man, jackman, public relations, marketing and business development.
Sheldon Creed Joining GMS for Remainder of Season
There are only two races remaining in the 2018 ARCA Racing Series and 20-year-old Sheldon Creed has the championship at the tips of his fingers. But, he will also climb behind the wheel of the No. 28 Chevrolet Silverado for the last four races of the 2018 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series season with GMS Racing. His first race will be at Martinsville at the end of October.
Creed's racing career includes two championships in Stadium Super Trucks as well as winning a gold medal in the 2015 X-Games in Austin, Texas. Creed went from there to stock car racing and continued to race in the NASCAR K&N Pro Series West and East, ARCA, NASCAR Camping World Truck Series and some TransAm Series races.
Creed has a lot of knowledge on dirt track racing, so it makes sense that his three previous starts in the Truck Series all came at Eldora Speedway.
He has been racing full-time in the ARCA Series, gathering three wins, four poles, 14 top fives and 16 top 10s in 18 races. Creed also raced in the K&N Pro Series West race at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway dirt track where he qualified sixed and ended up winning the race.
NASCAR Camping World Truck Series, Etc.
Stage Winning Gragson: Noah Gragson already has three stage wins in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Playoffs. Those stage wins have saved him from moving down in the Playoff standings after a tough race at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. The opening Playoff race was at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park where Gragson won Stage 1 and Stage 2. Fighting for the win on the last lap, he and teammate Todd Gilliland crashed and took away any chance of a win. In Las Vegas for the second race of the Truck Series Playoffs, Gragson won Stage 1 and then ended up finishing 18th. Other than Gragson, Enfinger is the only other driver to have won a stage in the Playoffs. He won Stage 2 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.
Follow the Leader: There were six different race leaders at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park, the first race of the Truck Series Playoffs. Four of them were Playoff drivers (Noah Gragson, Johnny Sauter, Ben Rhodes, Justin Haley). Later, at Las Vegas Motor Speedway for the second race of the Playoffs, seven of the eight contenders led at least four laps. The only driver that didn't lead a lap was Justin Haley.
NASCAR Camping World Truck Series at Talladega - By the Numbers
1 - Most poles (12 drivers)
2 - Most wins (Todd Bodine, Kyle Busch, Timothy Peters, Parker Kligerman)
4 - Most top fives (Todd Bodine, Timothy Peters)
5 - Most top 10s (Todd Bodine, Kyle Busch, Timothy Peters, Johnny Sauter)
7 - Most cautions (6 times, most recently 10/22/16)
8 - Fewest leaders (3 times, most recently 10/30/10)
9 - Most wins by a manufacturer (Toyota)
12 - Fewest lead changes (2 times, most recently 10/6/17)
13 - Most leaders (2 times, most recently 10/19/13)
15 - Fewest finishers on lead lap (2 times, most recently 10/14/17)
17 - Fewest caution laps (10/4/08)
19 - Fewest running at finish (10/31/09)
25 - Most finishers on lead lap (10/7/06)
26 - Most running at finish (4 times, most recently 10/24/15)
33 - Most caution laps (10/22/16)
54 - Most laps led by a race winner (10/22/11)
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