Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series
Next Race: Auto Club 400
The Place: Auto Club Speedway
The Date: Sunday, March 26
The Time: 3:30 p.m. ET
TV: FOX, 3:30 p.m. ET
Radio: MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio
Distance: 400 miles (200 laps); Stage 1 (Ends on lap 60),
Stage 2 (Ends on lap 120), Final Stage (Ends on lap 200)
NASCAR XFINITY Series
Next Race: Service King 300
The Place: Auto Club Speedway
The Date: Saturday, March 25
The Time: 4 p.m. ET
TV: FS1, 4 p.m. ET
Radio: MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio
Distance: 300 miles (150 laps); Stage 1 (Ends on lap 35),
Stage 2 (Ends on lap 70), Final Stage (Ends on lap 150)
NASCAR Camping World Truck Series
Next Race: Alpha Energy Solutions 250
The Place: Martinsville Speedway
The Date: Saturday, April 1
The Time: 3 p.m. ET
TV: FOX, 2:30 p.m. ET
Radio: MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio
Distance: 131.5 miles (250 laps); Stage 1 (Ends on lap 70),
Stage 2 (Ends on lap 140), Final Stage (Ends on lap 250)
Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series
Larson Leads Points Standings Following Third Straight Runner-Up Finish
There’s a new sheriff in town as the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series closes out its West Coast swing with Sunday’s Auto Club 400 at Auto Club (Calif.) Speedway (3:30 p.m. ET on FOX).
Kyle Larson has ascended to the top of the points standings following his third consecutive runner-up showing last Sunday at Phoenix. It’s the latest in the season a Chip Ganassi Racing car has led the standings since Sterling Marlin’s Coors Light Silver Bullet led the field in 2002.
Larson is the first NASCAR Drive for Diversity alumnus to lead the points standings.
He is followed in the standings by Brad Keselowski (-6), Chase Elliott (-13), Martin Truex Jr (-31) and Joey Logano (-49). Ryan Blaney (-57), Kevin Harvick (-61), Jamie McMurray (-65), Kurt Busch (-79) and Kasey Kahne (-79) round out the top 10.
The No. 42 Chevrolet driver is the 16th different driver to finish runner-up in three consecutive races. The feat has been achieved 25 times – most recently by Carl Edwards (2011 playoffs). Larson is the first in series history to accomplish the feat in the first four races of a given season.
Four drivers have finished runner-up four consecutive times in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series: Mark Martin (1998), Harry Gant (1985), Darrell Waltrip (1983) and Richard Petty (1964). No driver has finished runner-up in five straight races.
At 24 years and seven months old, Larson is the sixth-youngest points leader in Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series history – 1. Kyle Busch (22 years, 10 months, 2008) 2. Jeff Gordon (23 years, 11 months, 1996), 3t. Jeff Gordon (24 years, four months, 1995) 3t. Joey Logano (24 years, four months, 2014), 5. Kurt Busch (24 years, six months, 2003) 6. Larson
Dale Earnhardt Jr. Set For 600th Start
Dale Earnhardt Jr. will become the 25th driver in Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series history to make 600 or more starts when he hits the track for Sunday’s Auto Club 400.
The 25 drivers with 600 or more starts comprise less than one percent (.009%) of the total number of NASCAR drivers to make at least one start in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series (2,537).
Only one active driver boasts more than 600 starts (Matt Kenseth, 618).
In his 599 previous Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series career starts, Earnhardt has posted 26 wins, including two Daytona 500 victories (2004, 2014), 148 top fives, 252 top 10s and 13 Coors Light poles.
He las led 8,195 laps and has completed 170,689 laps. His career average starting position is 16.0 and his career average finishing position is 15.6.
Winning In The Sun: Newman Breaks 128-Race Winless Drought At Phoenix
Ryan Newman turned in a gutsy performance Sunday when he stayed out on old tires for overtime and pulled away to victory in the two-lap shootout at Phoenix. The checkered flag snapped a 127-race winless streak for Newman who last visited Victory Lane on July 28, 2013 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
Newman’s victory also marked the first for Richard Childress Racing since Kevin Harvick won at Phoenix on Nov. 10, 2013 – 112 races ago.
Newman sits 11th in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series points standings (83 markers below Kyle Larson) and claims five playoff points.
In 552 career starts, Newman owns 18 wins, 106 top fives, 226 top 10s and 51 poles.
Suarez And Jones Post Career-High Finishes
Sunoco Rookie of the Year contenders Daniel Suarez and Erik Jones posted career-best finishes of seventh and eighth, respectively, in Sunday’s Camping World 500 at Phoenix International Raceway.
Suarez leads a tight rookie race by one point over Jones. They are followed by Ty Dillon (seven points behind Suarez), Corey LaJoie (-11) and Gray Gaulding (-21).
Suarez, 25, and Jones, 20, are alumni of the NASCAR Next program. Although Suarez ranks better than Jones in the Rookie of Year race, Jones sits higher in the points standings at 18th (102 points behind Kyle Larson), while Suarez occupies the 21st spot (-112).
Cutting To The Chase: Elliott Continues Strong Start
Although he finished 12th, Chase Elliott continued his strong start to the season by earning his first playoff point via a Stage 2 win on Sunday at Phoenix. On the day, Elliott led four times for 106 laps.
The 21-year-old Hendrick Motorsports driver ranks third in the series standings – 13 points behind leader Kyle Larson. He has high finishes of third (Las Vegas) and fifth (Atlanta) this season.
Keselowski Has Most Stage Points
Brad Keselowski must like NASCAR’s new race enhancements. He leads the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series with 57 points from Stage 1 and Stage 2 – six points more than Kyle Larson in second – even though he trails Larson by six points in the overall points standings. They are followed in stage points by Chase Elliott (-10), Kevin Harvick (-17) and Martin Truex Jr. (-23).
Keselowski and Larson are the only drivers who have earned points in every stage this season.
Celebrities Aplenty For Auto Club Weekend
With Auto Club’s proximity to Los Angeles there’s bound to be celebrities in attendance.
Scott Eastwood, from the upcoming movie “Fate of the Furious” will serve as grand marshal. Kaitlin Olson, of “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia,” is the honorary pace car driver. Acting as honorary starter is singer-songwriter Pepe Aguilar. Teen music sensation Skyler Stecker will sing the national anthem.
NASCAR XFINITY Series
Allgaier, Reed Are The First Two Title Contenders Playoff Bound; Who’s Next?
In the first four races of 2017, the NASCAR XFINITY Series has seen two series championship contenders win races – Roush Fenway Racing’s Ryan Reed at Daytona International Speedway and last weekend’s victor, JR Motorsports’ driver Justin Allgaier at Phoenix Raceway. The two drivers not only have scored playoff points (five each), but also guaranteed themselves a spot in the playoffs provided they attempt to qualify for the remaining regular season races and stay inside the top 30 in points.
This weekend, on the last stop of the #NASCARGoesWest part of the schedule, the NASCAR XFINITY Series will head to Auto Club Speedway for the Service King 300 on Saturday, March 25, at 4 p.m. ET (FS1, MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio).
The only way to a championship is through the playoffs. Both Reed and Allgaier have accumulated five playoff points each with their wins; which can help them advance through the playoffs later this season. Allgaier’s JR Motorsports teammate and current driver standings leader Elliott Sadler is the only other title contender to earn playoff points through the first four races – Sadler won the first two stages of the season-opening race at Daytona to earn two playoff points.
Who will be the next title contender to secure their spot in the playoffs with a win this weekend at Auto Club Speedway?
The last NASCAR XFINITY Series championship contender to win at Auto Club Speedway was in 2010, when Kyle Busch swept both races that season. The past six races have been won by drivers that have elected to compete for a championship in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series. Kyle Busch leads the series in wins at Auto Club Speedway with six victories.
Despite all that, NASCAR’s Loop Data points to Roush Fenway Racing’s Darrell Wallace Jr. as this season’s series title contender with a solid chance to visit Victory Lane this weekend. He has the best Auto Club Speedway pre-race driver rating among series contenders (102.2) and the best average running position (7.2). He also spent 99.3% of his two starts at Auto Club Speedway in the top 15. He finished in the top-five of this event last season.
“We had a solid run last season here in Fontana, finishing third,” said Darrell Wallace Jr. “I’m definitely looking forward to getting back there this weekend and try to follow that up and maybe get a couple spots better. We’ve gotten off to a great start in 2017, and I’m confident we can keep that momentum going on Saturday.”
JR Motorsport’s Fleet A Force To Be Reckoned With In 2017
Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s organization, JR Motorsports, is fielding four full-time cars this season, and through the first four races of 2017, they have been quite good.
How good? Well, JR Motorsports entrants occupy three of the top four spots in the NASCAR XFINITY Series driver standings, and all four of the organization’s full-time championship contending teams are inside the top 10.
Elliott Sadler – No. 1 JR Motorsports Chevrolet Camaro – Sadler is the current NASCAR XFINITY series driver standings leader. The Emporia, Virginia, native continues to impress upon the field his veteran mastery as he has an 11-point lead over second-place William Byron. Sadler and crew chief Kevin Meendering have posted two stage wins and three top 10s in the first four starts of 2017. Sadler has made 12 series starts at Auto Club Speedway, posting one pole, four top fives, eight top 10s and an average finish of 12.5.
William Byron – No. 9 JR Motorsports Chevrolet Camaro – Byron is the 19-year old Sunoco rookie rocket. He is currently second in the NASCAR XFINITY Series driver standings, 11 points behind his teammate Elliott Sadler. The Charlotte, North Carolina, native and crew chief David Elenz have posted one pole and three top 10s in the first four races of the season. Byron is also on top of the Sunoco Rookie of the Year standings. Byron will be making his series track debut this weekend at Auto Club Speedway.
Justin Allgaier – No. 7 JR Motorsports Chevrolet Camaro – Allgaier snapped an 80-race winless streak last weekend at Phoenix Raceway to become the second NASCAR XFINITY Series title contender to win this season. Allgaier and crew chief Jason Burdett are currently fourth in the series standings, 29 points back from teammate Elliott Sadler. This season, the Riverton, Illinois, native has posted one win (Phoenix-1), two top fives and an average finish of 16.2. Expect Allgaier’s recent success to continue this weekend at Auto Club Speedway, a track he has made eight starts posting three top 10s and an average finish of 14.0.
Michael Annett – No. 5 JR Motorsports Chevrolet Camaro – Annett is currently ninth in the NASCAR XFINITY Series driver standings, 55 points back from his teammate Elliott Sadler. Annett and crew chief Jason Stockert have posted one top 10 and an average finish of 14.8 in the four races of 2017.
If all four teams maintain their position in the standings throughout the regular season, then JR Motorsports could possibly become the first organization in series history to field four teams in the NASCAR XFINITY Series playoffs.
Youth Movement Makes Waves In NASCAR XFINITY Series
The youth movement has once again arrived in the NASCAR XFINITY Series. Following the fourth race of the season, the average age of the top 12 in the series driver standings is 26 years old. The average age of the four Sunoco Rookie of the Year contenders, William Byron (19), Daniel Hemric (26), Matt Tifft (20) and Cole Custer (19) is just 21 years old.
Over the last 30 years of competition in the NASCAR XFINITY Series, the drivers ranked in the top 12 of driver standings following the fourth race of the season have, on average, become younger and younger. In 1987, the average age of the drivers ranked in the top 12 in points following the fourth race of the season was 34.6 years old. In 1997, the average age dropped to 32.1 years old, while it was 32.6 years old in 2007. Finally, this season the average age of the drivers ranked in the top 12 in points following the fourth race of the season is 26 years old – eight years younger than the average age of the 1987 drivers.
The youngest XFINITY Series race winner at Auto Club Speedway was Joey Logano in 2009 at 19 years, 4 months and 16 days. If William Byron (19 years 3 months) or Cole Custer (19 years 1 month) were to win this weekend, they would break the track record.
NASCAR XFINITY Series Etc.:
I Wish They All Could Be California.… Drivers: Several native Californians will be returning to their home state this weekend for the Service King 300 at Auto Club Speedway on Saturday, March 25. Ryan Reed (Bakersfield), Cole Custer (Ladera Ranch), Kyle Larson (Elk Grove), and Casey Mears (Bakersfield) are entered to compete this weekend. Here is what some of the drivers are saying about going back to Cali.
Cole Custer – “It means a lot. I’ve never raced there (Auto Club) before, so it will be cool. I’ve had some friends come out for a couple of races on the West Coast swing and we’ll have a lot of family in California, so it will be cool having a lot of support there. I’m really looking forward to seeing what it’s like out at my hometown track.”
Ryan Reed – “It’s always fun to be home and see family and friends and the fact that we get to race here (Auto Club Speedway), too, makes it a great weekend.” …
Casey Mears Returns To The Series For Biagi-DenBeste Racing: Not since 2010 has veteran Casey Mears competed in the NASCAR XFINITY Series, but this weekend at Auto Club Speedway he will return to pilot the Biagi DenBeste Racing No. 98 Ford Mustang. Mears’ NASCAR XFINITY Series career has seen 93 starts, posting one win (2006), 16 top fives, 32 top 10s and four poles. Mears has made five series starts at Auto Club Speedway with two top fives.
Sunoco Rookie Update Following Phoenix: William Byron (JR Motorsports) has opened a 10-point lead in the Sunoco Rookie of the Year standings following Phoenix over second-place Daniel Hemric (Richard Childress Racing). Cole Custer (Stewart-Haas Racing) is 10 points behind second-place Daniel Hemric. Matt Tifft (Joe Gibbs Racing) is one point behind Custer and Spencer Gallagher (GMS Racing) is three points back from Tifft in fourth.
Team Penske Generate Large Lead In Owner Points: Team Penske’s No. 22 team has opened up a 44-point lead over Chip Ganassi Racing’s No. 42 team in the NASCAR XFINITY Series car owner points following the race at Phoenix.
NASCAR Camping World Truck Series
Countdown is On: Martinsville
This weekend’s racing at Auto Club Speedway marks the third-consecutive off-week for the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series.
But there is good news. The NASCAR Camping World Truck Series hits the track next Saturday, April 1, at Martinsville Speedway for the Alpha Energy Solutions 250. The race begins at 3 p.m. ET and broadcasts live on FOX, MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio.
Reigning NASCAR Camping World Truck Series champion Johnny Sauter is the defending race winner at Martinsville and will be looking to capture his first win of 2017, as well as a trip to the 2017 series playoffs.
Martinsville Speedway Rundown
As the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series readies for Martinsville Speedway next weekend, below is a rundown of some NASCAR Camping World Truck Series quick facts at Martinsville.
Pole Winners: 25
Youngest Pole Winner: Cole Custer (10/31/2015 – 17 years, 9 months, 8 days)
Oldest Pole Winner: Joe Ruttman (04/07/2001 – 56 years, 5 months, 10 days)
Race Winners: 25
Youngest Winner: Darrell Wallace Jr (10/26/2013 – 20 years, 0 months, 18 days)
Oldest Winner: Jimmy Hensley (04/17/1999 – 53 years, 6 months, 6 days)
Races Won from Pole (or 1st Starting Position): 8
Last Race Won from Pole (or 1st Starting Position): Joey Logano (03/28/2015)
Race Record: Jimmy Hensley 74.282 mph (04/17/1999)
Qualifying Record: Joey Logano 97.088 mph (03/28/2015)
NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Rookie Report
The NASCAR Camping World Truck Series has eight Sunoco Rookie of the Year contenders in this season’s class. Here is a rundown of how each rookie has done through two races this season:
Kaz Grala: Grala won the NextEra Energy Resources 250 at Daytona International Speedway, becoming the youngest pole winner and race winner in series history at the track at 18 years, 1 month and 26 days. Grala currently sits fourth in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series points standings in his first season with GMS Racing.
Chase Briscoe: Through two races this season, Briscoe has two top-25 finishes, including a third-place finish at Daytona. Briscoe currently sits eighth in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series points standings in his first full-time season with Brad Keselowski Racing.
Grant Enfinger: Enfinger scattered multiple NASCAR Camping World Truck Series races over the years prior to the 2017 season, but is now running full-time with ThorSport Racing for his Sunoco Rookie season. The rook scored a top 10 at Atlanta, finishing eighth. Enfinger is ninth in the series point standings.
Cody Coughlin: Cody Coughlin is entering his first full-time season in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series with ThorSport Racing. He’s scored two top-20 finishes in his first two races this season and is averaging a 13.5 average finish. Coughlin sits 11th in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series point standings.
Wendell Chavous: Chavous is running his Sunoco Rookie season with Premium Motorsports. In two races, he’s been a positive place differential king – averaging a +9.5 place differential. He finished 19th at Daytona and 20th at Atlanta. He is currently 16th in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series standings.
Noah Gragson: Gragson had a rough start to the season, crashing at Daytona and finishing 26th. He bounced back at Atlanta and placed 14th. He sits 17th in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series points standings in his first full-time season with Kyle Busch Motorsports.
Austin Cindric: Cindric enters his Sunoco Rookie season with Brad Keselowski Racing. He finished 27th at Daytona after a crash and placed 21st at Atlanta. Cindric is currently 19th in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series point standings.
Stewart Friesen: Friesen enters his first full-time NASCAR Camping World Truck Series season with Halmar Friesen Racing. He was involved in an accident at Daytona and finished 31st. He scored a top 20 at Atlanta and currently sits 22nd in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series point standings in his Sunoco Rookie season.
NASCAR Camping World Truck Series, Etc.:
Cindric Goes IMSA Racing – Brad Keselowski Racing driver Austin Cindric competed in Saturday’s Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring Fueled by Fresh Florida. Cindric finished 13th in the GTD Class in the No. 15 Lexus RCF GT3. It was his second IMSA start this season, finishing 14th at the Rolex 24 at Daytona.
RACE PREVIEWS WRITTEN BY & COURTESY OF NASCAR COMMUNICATIONS