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NASCAR National Series News & Notes - Michigan and Mid-Ohio

Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series
Next Race: Pure Michigan 400
The Place: Michigan International Speedway
The Date: Sunday, August 13
The Time: 3 p.m. ET
TV: NBCSN, 2:30 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: Mid-Ohio Challenge
The Place: Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course
The Date: Saturday, August 12
The Time: 3:30 p.m. ET
TV: NBCSN, 3 p.m. ET
Radio: MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio
Distance: 169.35 miles (75 laps); Stage 1 (Ends on lap 20),
Stage 2 (Ends on lap 40), Final Stage (Ends on lap 75)

NASCAR Camping World Truck Series
Next Race: LTI Printing 200
The Place: Michigan International Speedway
The Date: Saturday, August 12
The Time: 1 p.m. ET
TV: FS1, 12:30 p.m. ET
Radio: MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio
Distance: 200 miles (100 laps); Stage 1 (Ends on lap 30),
Stage 2 (Ends on lap 60), Final Stage (Ends on lap 100)

Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series

Truex Wins Series-Best Fourth Race
Saving fuel in the closing laps, Martin Truex Jr. passed Brad Keselowski and Ryan Blaney, who had to pit for gas, to win the I LOVE NEW YORK 355 at Watkins Glen International - his Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series-high fourth victory of the season.

Truex leads second-place Kyle Busch by 116 points in the series standings. He boasts a series-high 34 playoff points, 18 more than Jimmie Johnson’s 16. If Truex completes the regular season as points leader, he’ll gain an additional 15 playoff points.

The No. 78 Furniture Row Racing driver’s four wins match his previous career-high total set last season. His nine top fives in 2017 are the most he’s ever accumulated in a single campaign.

Truex also leads the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series in top 10s (15), stage wins (14), average start (7.0), average running position (7.9), driver rating (113.9), fastest laps run (760) and laps led (1,315, 22.2%).

He’ll try to keep his dream season going in Sunday’s Pure Michigan 400 at Michigan International Speedway (3 p.m. ET on NBCSN, MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio). He claims five top fives and eight top 10s in 23 career starts at the two-mile track. He finished sixth in the June race there after leading 62 laps.

Can Michigan Be The Site Of Earnhardt Jr.’s first win?
Dale Earnhardt Jr. is in playoff trouble. He hasn’t finished better than 12th since his sixth-place showing at Sonoma and needs a win to make the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series playoffs.
Michigan might be his best bet of the remaining four tracks (Bristol, Darlington, Richmond) to reach Victory Lane. In 35 career starts at the two-mile track, he has two wins, eight top fives, 15 top 10s and a 15.6 average finish.
Still, if Earnhardt can’t pull off the victory at Michigan, he has recorded a triumph at Bristol and three wins at Richmond in the past.

Larson Goes For Third-Straight Michigan Win
Kyle Larson seems to have Michigan International Speedway figured out. He’s won the last two races and boasts three consecutive top-three showings at the two-mile track.

Larson could use a strong performance in the Pure Michigan 400. He fell to third in the points standings after Watkins Glen and now trails leader Martin Truex Jr. by 122 markers. He hasn’t finished better than 23rd in his last three races, which were preceded by consecutive runner-up showings at Kentucky and New Hampshire.

The No. 42 Chevrolet driver led a race-high 96 laps on his way to the checkered flag at Michigan in June.

Four Races Remain Until Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs
A mere four races remain for winless drivers to capture one of the three remaining playoff berths.

The following drivers would be in the playoffs if the season ended today: Martin Truex Jr. (four wins, 34 playoff points), Jimmie Johnson (three, 16), Kyle Larson (two, 13), Brad Keselowski (two, 13), Ricky Stenhouse Jr. (two, 10), Kyle Busch (one, 14), Kevin Harvick (one, eight), Ryan Blaney (one, eight), Denny Hamlin (one, seven), Ryan Newman (one, five), Kasey Kahne (one, five), Austin Dillon (one, five), Chase Elliott (39 points above Clint Bowyer on the cutoff line, two playoff points), Jamie McMurray (+34, 0), Matt Kenseth (+28, 2).

The driver currently outside the playoffs with the best shot to get in on points is Bowyer (28 points below Kenseth on the cutoff line, one playoff point).

Joey Logano - who’s made the Championship 4 in two of the last three seasons - finds himself 95 points behind Kenseth and virtually needs to win to make the playoffs. He has two victories each at Michigan, Bristol and Richmond. His April win at Richmond did not earn him a playoff berth because it was encumbered for a rear suspension violation.

Michigan: Earnhardt Jr., Kenseth, Logano
Bristol: Kenseth, Earnhardt Jr., Logano
Darlington: Kenseth
Richmond: Bowyer, Earnhardt Jr., Kenseth, Logano

Michigan Men: Keselowski, Jones Return To Wolverine State
If Michigan Football Head Coach Jim Harbaugh were involved in NASCAR, he’d definitely pull some of his wild recruiting tactics on Great Lakes State natives Brad Keselowski and Erik Jones.

Keselowski, the 2012 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series champion from Rochester Hills, has never won at his home track. Jones, a 21-year-old NASCAR Next alum for Byron, will make just his second career start at Michigan.

In 16 starts at his home track, Keselowski claims five top fives, eight top 10s and a 12.6 average finish. Six of his top 10s have come in his last seven Michigan starts.

Jones placed 13th in his lone Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series start at Michigan earlier this season.

Suárez Earns Career-Best Third-Place Finish
Daniel Suárez notched a career-best third-place finish and earned his first stage win at Watkins Glen. The No. 19 Joe Gibbs Racing driver has hit his stride lately with four consecutive top-10 finishes.

Suárez, an alumnus of the NASCAR Next and Drive for Diversity programs, leads second-place Erik Jones in the Sunoco Rookie of the Year standings by 17 points.

The 2016 NASCAR XFINITY Series champion ranks 15th in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series standings on the strength of eight top 10s.

NASCAR Next = NASCAR Now
With the announcement that William Byron will inherit the No. 5 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet next season, that brings the total number of NASCAR Next alumni in 2017 or 2018 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series rides to 10. (Click here for content, including career statistics, around today’s announcement.)

Below is the list of NASCAR Next alumni who have made a start in the series in 2017 or are scheduled to jump in a Monster Energy Series car in 2018 (in alphabetical order):

Ryan Blaney
Alex Bowman
William Byron
Matt DiBenedetto
Chase Elliott
Gray Gaulding
Erik Jones
Corey LaJoie
Kyle Larson
Daniel Suarez

Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Etc.
Michigan Heritage Trophy Goes To Winning Manufacturer: The Michigan Heritage trophy is a recognition and celebration of the automobile and its importance to the race track and manufacturers competing in NASCAR. The trophy is presented to the winning manufacturer in each Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series race at Michigan International Speedway. As part of the presentation, each contending manufacturer, and MIS, committed $10,000 to be given to a youth-focused science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM)-related charity in Michigan.

Final Week Of Kids Drive NASCAR: There’s nothing like the NASCAR experience for kids and families. Kids’ Takeovers will continue at both MIS and Mid-Ohio, with kids taking over positions like flag wavers, pit reporters, prerace VIPs and more. The Kids vs Drivers challenges enter into the final week at Michigan and Mid-Ohio. Parents and kids can upload their challenges on their social media accounts or at AccelerationNation.com/KidsvsDrivers and use #KidsDriveNASCAR and #Promotion.

NASCAR XFINITY Series

Mid-Ohio: The Next Road Racing Test For The XFINITY Competitors
Up next on the schedule is the second of three road courses this season, the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course, for the Mid-Ohio Challenge on Saturday, August 12 at 3:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN, MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio.
In the four NASCAR XFINITY Series races held at Mid-Ohio, the series has seen four different winners - the 2013 winner was Team Penske’s A.J. Allmendinger, 2014 went to Roush Fenway Racing’s Chris Buescher, the 2015 winner was JR Motorsport’s Regan Smith and last season’s victory went to Chip Ganassi Racing’s Justin Marks.
The series has also seen four different pole winners at Mid-Ohio in the four events held on the 2.258-mile course - 2013 Michael McDowell, 2014 Sam Hornish Jr., 2015 Alex Tagliani and 2016 Sam Hornish Jr.
This time around, the NASCAR XFINITY Series will be running the Mid-Ohio Challenge with the new stage racing format. The event will be broken up into three stages - the first two stages are 20 laps each, with the final stage being the last 35 laps of the race.
Former Mid-Ohio race winners Justin Marks, Regan Smith and former pole winner Sam Hornish Jr. are all entered this weekend to take on the 13-turn course. Marks returns to the Chip Ganassi Racing’s No. 42 Chevrolet Camaro with crew chief Mike Shiplett. Last season, the duo set the series track record at Mid-Ohio for winning from the furthest starting position (16th). Smith will be driving the Joe Gibbs Racing No. 20 Toyota Camry with crew chief Eric Phillips, and Sam Hornish Jr. will be strapped into Team Penske’s No. 22 Ford Mustang with crew chief Greg Erwin.

New Winners Are A Norm At Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course

In two of the four NASCAR XFINITY Series races at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course, the victor was a first-time winner in the series; including last season’s winner Justin Marks and the 2014 winner and eventual series champion Chris Buescher.
Road course racing in the NASCAR XFINITY Series is no stranger to first-time winners - 12 different drivers have posted their first series win on a road course; including two last season (McDowell and Marks).
Of the 41 drivers entered this weekend at Mid-Ohio, only 11 have previously won in the NASCAR XFINITY Series; meaning one of 30 drivers (73% of the drivers entered) could be the next first-time winner in the series.

Road Course Ringers In The XFINITY Series
A total of thirty different NASCAR XFINITY Series competitors have won a road course race, led by Marcos Ambrose with five victories (four at Watkins Glen and one at Montreal).
Since the inception of the NASCAR XFINITY Series (1982), only nine drivers have multiple road course wins - Marcos Ambrose (5),
Ron Fellows (4), Terry Labonte (4), Carl Edwards (3), AJ Allmendinger (2), Joey Logano (2), Kevin Harvick (2), Kurt Busch (2) and Kyle Busch (2).
The record for the series most road course wins at a single track is four, held by Marcos Ambrose and Terry Labonte at Watkins Glen International.
The NASCAR XFINITY Series has competed on six different road courses through the years, currently just three are active - Watkins Glen International, Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course and Road America - the three inactives are Circuit Gilles Villeneuve (Montreal, 2007-2012) Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez (Mexico City, 2005-2008) and Road Atlanta (1986-1987).

Playoff Points Will Payoff Come Post-Season Time
With just a handful of races left in the regular season, accumulating playoff points should be top of mind for the NASCAR XFINITY Series competitors, especially those with a win or who are inside the top 12 in the championship driver standings. Once the playoffs start, drivers will be seeded by their playoff points, making stage and race wins that much more significant.
Currently seven drivers have scored playoff points this season, led by William Byron with 17. Byron also has the series-most wins (three), and therefore will be the No. 1 seed in the NASCAR XFINITY Series playoffs when they kick off on Sept. 23 at Kentucky Speedway. Byron’s JRM teammate Justin Allgaier with a win and eight playoff points will be seeded second and Roush Fenway Racing’s Ryan Reed will be seeded third due to his win and five playoff points.
For the drivers without race wins this season, playoff points are even more crucial to their playoff success. Of the nine winless title contenders, only four have playoff points, led by Elliott Sadler with five - all from stage wins - the series-most this season. Sadler’s five playoff points will have him seeded fourth, just behind the drivers with wins. The other three winless drivers with playoff points (Daniel Hemric, Blake Koch and Brendan Gaughan) each have one point and will be seeded ahead of the drivers without playoff points. Theoretically, Koch would jump from 10th in points to the seventh seed (+3 spots), and Gaughan would go from 12th in points to the eighth seed (+4 spots) just because of playoff points. The remaining five drivers will be seeded by their regular season points.
With six races left in the regular season that means 42 playoff points are still on the table - 12 from Stage 1 and 2 wins and a total of 30 playoff points from race wins.

Ryan Sieg Still Has A Shot, But The Playoff Window Is Closing
Only six races are left in the regular season for drivers to secure their spot in the NASCAR XFINITY Series playoffs, and with only three title contenders with wins, nine spots are up for grabs on points. Ryan Sieg is currently 13th in the championship standings, the first spot outside the playoff cutoff, 36 points back from Brendan Gaughan in 12th - the final playoff spot.
RSS Racing’s Ryan Sieg moved up to 13th in points following Watkins Glen last weekend. Sieg has made 20 starts this season, posting one top five and an average finish of 20.2.
Sieg will have his work cut out for him if he wants to pass Gaughan in the standings over the next six races, Gaughan has a better average finish than him at all six tracks.
Sieg has made three starts at Mid-Ohio, posting an average finish of 17.3. His best finish at Mid-Ohio was a 14th in 2015.

NASCAR And Ohio
For the second-time this year, NASCAR will be competing in the state of Ohio. The NASCAR Camping World Truck Series was at Eldora Speedway a few weeks ago, and this weekend the NASCAR XFINITY Series heads to the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course for the Mid-Ohio Challenge on Saturday, August 12 at 3:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN, MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio.
In total, NASCAR has held 28 national series events among nine tracks in the state of Ohio. The very first NASCAR national series race held in the state of Ohio was a Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series event on July 25, 1950 at Dayton Speedway in Dayton, Ohio - the race was won by Cleveland, Ohio’s Jimmy Florian - the only win of his career.

The NASCAR XFINITY Series has competed four times in the state of Ohio; all at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course.
A total of 123 drivers who have made at least one start in a NASCAR national series race have their home state recorded as Ohio. Of the 123 drivers from Ohio, only 19 (15.4%) made at least one start in the NASCAR XFINITY Series, led by Dave Blaney (Hartford) with 121 series starts. Of the 19 NXS competitors from Ohio, only three have wins, led by Sam Hornish Jr from Defiance (four wins), Tim Richmond from Ashland (two wins) and Dave Blaney from Hartford (one win).
Three drivers from Ohio have competed this season - Matt Tifft from Hinckley, Sam Hornish Jr. from Defiance and Matt Mills from New Philadelphia. Hornish and Tifft are entered this weekend.

NASCAR Camping World Truck Series
Trucking Into Michigan
Following a week off, the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series picks back up at Michigan International Speedway for the LTI Printing 200 Saturday, August 12 (1 p.m. ET on FS1, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio).

Brett Moffit is the defending NASCAR Camping World Truck Series winner at Michigan, while Ben Rhodes (sixth), Matt Crafton (seventh), Grant Enfinger (eighth) and Johnny Sauter (ninth) all finished inside the top-10.

Playoff Bubble Drivers At Michigan
With the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series playoff picture above, below is an in-depth look at drivers ranked 7-12 in the current playoff standings.

7. Ben Rhodes: Currently seventh in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series playoffs standings, Ben Rhodes is in need of a win to cement his name in the playoffs. The ThorSport Racing driver has one career NASCAR Camping World Truck Series start at Michigan - he finished sixth there in his track debut last season.

8. Ryan Truex: Coming off a season-best finish at Pocono (third), Ryan Truex will look to improve upon that in his second career NASCAR Camping World Truck Series start at Michigan this week. Truex made his track debut at the two-mile track last season and finished 23rd.

9. Grant Enfinger: Even though he is a Sunoco Rookie of the Year contender, Grant Enfinger does have a NASCAR Camping World Truck Series start at Michigan under his belt. He made his track debut there last season and finished eighth after starting ninth. Enfinger is having a strong Sunoco Rookie season, as he’s battled with Brad Keselowski Racing driver Chase Briscoe all season. Enfinger is currently four points away from a NASCAR Camping World Truck Series playoffs spot.

10. Noah Gragson: Coming off a wreck at Pocono, the 24th-place showing ended Sunoco Rookie Noah Gragson’s seven-race streak of top-10 finishes. Gragson has yet to make a NASCAR Camping World Truck Series start at Michigan International Speedway, but will look to get back on track and score another top finish this season. Gragson has two top fives and eight top 10s in 12 starts this season for Kyle Busch Motorsports.

11. Austin Cindric: Currently 11th in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Playoffs standings, Sunoco Rookie of the Year contender Austin Cindric has been racing well as of late. The Brad Keselowski Racing driver has four-consecutive top-10 finishes and hasn’t finished outside the top-25 since Daytona. Cindric is 62 points away from the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series playoffs cutoff and has not made a start at Michigan International Speedway yet in his career.

12. Justin Haley: Only making 10 starts in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series this season, GMS Racing and Sunoco Rookie driver Justin Haley has made the most of them. Haley has finished top-10 or better in eight of those starts and is currently 12th in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Playoffs standings. He has never made a career start at Michigan, but will need those top-10 finishes to inch closer to the playoff cutoff line. He’s currently 101 points back from eighth place driver Ryan Truex.

Michigan Wolverine: Johnny Sauter Makes Case For Michigan Dominance
2016 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series champion Johnny Sauter is looking for his second win of the season this week at Michigan International Speedway.

Sauter is having another championship-worthy season, as he currently is second in NASCAR Camping World Truck Series driver points - only 18 points back of leader Christopher Bell. The GMS Racing driver is currently third in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series playoff standings - racking up 10 playoff points this season - the third-most among active drivers.

In eight career NASCAR Camping World Truck Series starts at Michigan, Sauter has been a wolverine - scoring one win (2014), two top fives and three top 10s. He’s led 46 career laps at Michigan and has never finished outside the top-20.

He will look to continue that run this weekend.

Michigan International Speedway Quick Facts
As the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series heads to Michigan International Speedway Saturday, August 12 (1 p.m. ET on FS1, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio), below are some series quick facts at the two-mile track:

Races: 17
Pole Winners: 13
Youngest Pole Winner: Austin Dillon (06/12/2010 - 20 years, 1 months, 16 days)
Oldest Pole Winner: Mike Skinner (06/14/2008 - 50 years, 11 months, 17 days)
Race Winners: 15
Youngest Winner: Colin Braun (06/13/2009 - 20 years, 8 months, 22 days)
Oldest Winner: Dennis Setzer (06/18/2005 - 45 years, 3 months, 22 days)
Races Won from Pole (or 1st Starting Position): Travis Kvapil (06/16/2007)
Race Record: Johnny Sauter 161.11 mph (08/16/2014)
Qualifying Record: Jeb Burton 185.759 mph (08/17/2013)

Michigan State Spartans: The 15 Different Race Winners In 17 Races
Since 1999, there has been 17 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series races at Michigan International Speedway.

In that span, there are only two repeat winners; Greg Biffle (1999 and 2000) and Travis Kvapil (2004 and 2007). Biffle remains the only driver to win back-to-back NASCAR Camping World Truck Series races at Michigan.

Below is a list of NASCAR Camping World Truck Series winners at Michigan since 1999:

1999 - Greg Biffle
2000 - Greg Biffle
2002 - Robert Pressley
2003 - Brendan Gaughan
2004 - Travis Kvapil
2005 - Dennis Setzer
2006 - Johnny Benson Jr.
2007 - Travis Kvapil
2008 - Erik Darnell
2009 - Colin Braun
2010 - Aric Almirola
2011 - Kevin Harvick
2012 - Nelson Piquet Jr.
2013 - James Buescher
2014 - Johnny Sauter
2015 - Kyle Busch
2016 - Brett Moffit

Among the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series winners at Michigan are Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series champions Kyle Busch and Kevin Harvick, Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series driver Aric Almirola and 2016 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Champion Johnny Sauter.

First Timers At Michigan
There are six Sunoco Rookie of the Year contenders making their track debut at Michigan International Speedway in Saturday’s LTI Printing 200 (1 p.m. ET on FS1, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio). They include: Chase Briscoe, Austin Cindric, Stewart Friesen, Noah Gragson, Kaz Grala and Justin Haley.

Other NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Sunoco Rookie contenders who have made starts at Michigan International Speedway include Wendell Chavous, Cody Coughlin and Grant Enfinger.

In 17 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series races at Michigan International Speedway, current Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series driver Kyle Busch (06/18/2005), Joey Coulter (08/18/2012) and Brian Ickler (06/13/2009) are the only three drivers to win their first career NASCAR Camping World Truck Series poles at Michigan.

Johnny Benson (06/17/2006), Colin Braun (06/13/2009) and Brett Moffitt (08/27/2016) are the only three drivers to win their first career NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race at Michigan International Speedway.

NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Etc.
Kyle Busch Running In NASCAR Camping World Truck Series At Michigan: Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series driver Kyle Busch will be running in the No. 51 Kyle Busch Motorsports Toyota at Michigan International Speedway. Busch has nine NASCAR Camping World Truck Series starts at Michigan with one win (2015) and seven top fives.

Bubba Wallace Jr. Returns To NASCAR Camping World Truck Series: Darrell Wallace Jr. will be back on track this weekend and return to the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series at Michigan International Speedway. Wallace Jr. will pilot the No. 99 Chevrolet for owner Matthew Miller in the LTI Printing 200. He has five career wins in the Camping World Truck Series, including a four-win campaign in 2014 for Kyle Busch Motorsports.

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