Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Food City 500
Bristol Motor Speedway Distance: 266.5 miles (500 laps)
Sunday, April 15 2 p.m. ET TV: FOX, 1:30 p.m. ET Radio: PRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio
Stage 1 (Ends on Lap 125), Stage 2 (Ends on Lap 250), Final Stage (Ends on Lap 500)
NASCAR Xfinity Series Fitzgerald Glider Kits 300
Bristol Motor Speedway Distance: 159.9 miles (300 laps)
Saturday, April 14 1 p.m. ET TV: FS1, 12:30 p.m. ET Radio: PRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio
Stage 1 (Ends on Lap 85), Stage 2 (Ends on Lap 170), Final Stage (Ends on Lap 300)
NASCAR Camping World Truck Series JEGS 200
Dover International Speedway Distance: 200 miles (200 laps)
Friday, May 4 5 p.m. ET TV: FS1, 4:30 p.m. ET Radio: MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio
Stage 1 (Ends on Lap 45), Stage 2 (Ends on Lap 90), Final Stage (Ends on Lap 200)
Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series
Gaunt Brothers RacingLike Page Previewing Bristol Motor Speedway
DJ Kennington will return to the seat of the No. 96 Gaunt Brothers Racing Toyota Camry this weekend at Bristol Motor Speedway, making his first career Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series start on the half-mile track. Kennington has three prior starts at Bristol in the NASCAR Xfinity Series with a best finish of 29th in 2008.
GBR and Kennington will honor the 16 players, coaches and team personnel from Saskatchewan’s Humboldt Broncos Jr ‘A’ Hockey Club killed in an auto accident last weekend. A decal featuring the team’s logo will adorn the hood of their Toyota Camry. Kennington participated in junior hockey in his native Ontario.
Who’s in First?
Last week’s winner Kyle Busch and the season’s three-time winner Kevin Harvick have shared a lot of time at the top of the leaderboard this year – and their overall combination of first/second places in a race is nearing modern day record marks.
This past weekend, Busch beat Harvick to the line. Two other times this season (at Las Vegas and Phoenix), Harvick finished first and Busch was second.
In fact, the two former Monster Energy NASCAR Cup champions have combined for eight one-two finishes in their careers, one less than Busch and Brad Keselowski. Interestingly, this week’s Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series venue, Bristol Motor Speedway, is a place that Busch and Harvick have NEVER finished first and second together in a race.
Among active drivers, Harvick and Jimmie Johnson have an all-time high of 13 races where they finished a combination of first and second.
The Monster Energy Series all-time record belongs to Richard Petty and David Pearson, who finished a variation of one-two in 58 races.
Johnson leads all active drivers with 78 finishes of first or second-place over the last 10 seasons. Busch is right behind with 75, followed by Harvick (68), Keselowski (46) and Denny Hamlin (45).
All They Do Is Win, Win, Win
There is great history of Bristol win streaks topped all-time by NASCAR Hall of Famer Darrell Waltrip’s seven-race victory streak from 1981-84. Waltrip’s historical run was halted in the August, 1984, race by another NASCAR Hall of Famer, Terry Labonte, who went on to win his first Cup title that year.
Modern day drivers have also shown a propensity for consecutive wins at Bristol. Kurt Busch leads all present-day Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series competitors, winning three in a row – a 2003 season sweep plus the spring race in 2004. And he nearly won five straight, as he won the spring 2002 trophy, but Jeff Gordon won the fall race.
His younger brother and the current Monster Energy Series points leader Kyle Busch also nearly won five straight – he swept the 2009 Bristol races, Jimmie Johnson won the spring race in 2010, and then Kyle won the next two — the fall of 2010 and the spring of 2011.
Brad Keselowski is the latest to hoist back-to-back Bristol trophies, doing so in the fall of 2011 and spring of 2012, his Monster Energy Series championship year.
Short Track Prowess
With Martinsville Speedway in the rearview mirror, the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series completes its early spring short track trio of races at Bristol this week, then Richmond Raceway next week. A look at the best drivers at these tracks in the past five years during the spring span shows Carl Edwards as the winningest driver with three victories. Jimmie Johnson, Joey Logano, and Kurt Busch all have two apiece.
However, Kyle Busch boasts the most top-two finishes with five. Clint Bowyer and Johnson have four each. Logano has the most top fives (eight), followed by Kyle Busch (seven). Brad Keselowski, Johnson and Harvick all have six each.
On The Verge
Second-year Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series driver Erik Jones picked up his best finish of the 2018 season at Texas – a fourth-place effort after starting 21st. He’s quietly been reeling off impressive showings this season, collecting five top-11s in the opening seven races.
And the half-mile Bristol bullring is a place Jones must be looking forward to. In the series’ last race there – the August night race – he earned his first Monster Energy Series Busch pole position and led a race-high 260 laps before finishing second to his current Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Kyle Busch.
Granted, he has only two Monster Energy Series starts at Bristol, but statistically Jones, 22, leads his competitors in average finish (9.5), average running position (5.135) and running the most laps (913) in the top-15. His 116.3 driver rating is tops as well, even though he hasn’t won a Cup race there. Yet.
In the NASCAR Xfinity Series, Jones was equally as hot. He won both the 2016 and 2017 Bristol spring races and in 2016, he won from the pole. He started on pole in the 2015 spring race as well.
“I feel like we’re settling into our groove a little bit,’’ Jones said at Texas. “This is a good two-week stretch. Coming in, I was pretty excited going to Texas number one, then off to Bristol next week. Fun weeks for me, two of my favorite tracks. We just need to keep it going.”
Top of the Standings
Kyle Busch extended his lead atop the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series standings with his win at Texas, but Team Penske teammates Joey Logano (-38) and Ryan Blaney (-51) remain on his heels.
Logano has two wins and seven top-10 finishes in 18 starts at the half-miler while Blaney is still looking for his first top five. Six drivers among the top 10 in the standings have wins at Bristol – and with the exception of Denny Hamlin’s lone win in 2012 – the other five (Kyle Busch, Logano, Kevin Harvick, Brad Keselowski and Kurt Busch) have multiple wins.
Rookies Racing Well
Last weekend’s race in Texas marks the first time in the 2018 season both Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series rookies posted top-10 finishes in the same event. Darrell “Bubba” Wallace Jr. finished
eighth in the Richard Petty Motorsports No. 43 Chevrolet and William Byron finished a career-best 10th (and led a lap) in the Hendrick Motorsports No. 24 Chevrolet. Byron moves to 18th in the season championship rankings and Wallace is 19th, nine points behind.
Neither driver has scored a NASCAR national series victory at the traditionally tough Bristol half-miler, however. Both of their best finishes at this weekend’s venue came while competing in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series. Wallace was runner-up in a 2014 race and Byron’s career-best run there was a fourth place in the 2016 truck race.
It was the “best of days” and “worst of days” for Chip Ganassi Racing drivers Sunday at Texas Motor Speedway. Jamie McMurray’s third-place finish was his first top-five finish of the season.
Conversely, his teammate, Kyle Larson suffered his first DNF – a 36th-place finish.
The tough Bristol bullring where they race this weekend, however, may give the team some optimism.
Larson started his No. 42 Chevrolet on the Busch Pole for this spring race last year and led a race-best 202 laps – consecutively from the drop of the green flag – before finishing sixth. He led 70 laps in the fall race, leading three different times. And Bristol marks the venue he scored his very first Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series top 10 – a 10th-place finish in the spring of his 2014
Although the veteran McMurray hasn’t won at Bristol, he does have a strong resume at the track, particularly in recent years. He has seven top-10 finishes there in the last 16 races – leading 148 laps and finishing eighth in 2014. He finished third in the 2010 spring race.
Kasy Kahne – who celebrated a birthday Tuesday – returns to Bristol, Tennessee, with reason to feel good about his chances to post a season-best mark.
Since moving from Hendrick Motorsports to the No. 95 Leavine Family Racing Chevrolet this season, Kahne’s best showing was last Sunday at Texas Motor Speedway, a 17th-place finish.
And he arrives in Bristol with an enviable history. In 2013, he won the spring race and finished second in the fall race.
And his name is also among those power players with a lot of first- or second-place career finishes on the schedule. He had five runner-up efforts in his 2004 rookie year. He is seventh on the list of drivers with the most first- or second-place finishes in the last 10 years, with 25.
NASCAR Xfinity Series
Xfinity Dash 4 Cash: Bell, Hemric, Custer And Preece To Vie For The $100,000 Bonus In Thunder Valley
The NASCAR Xfinity Series Dash 4 Cash program hits full stride this weekend at Bristol Motor Speedway in the Fitzgerald Glider Kits 300 (1 p.m. ET on FS1, PRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio) as Richard Childress Racing’s Daniel Hemric, Stewart-Haas Racing’s Cole Custer and Joe Gibbs Racing’s Christopher Bell and Ryan Preece will compete to take home the giant check.
The highest finisher between Bell, Hemric, Custer and Preece will win the $100,000 prize, and that winner and the three highest finishing full-time NASCAR Xfinity Series drivers, for a total of four contenders, will qualify for the next week’s event.
In addition to the $100,000 awarded to each Dash 4 Cash winner, Comcast will also donate a total of $40,000 to local organizations within race markets on behalf of the Internet Essentials program.
Comcast’s Internet Essentials is the nation’s largest program for getting low-income households online, having connected 4 million low-income Americans since 2011.
The Dash 4 Cash races are being held at Bristol Motor Speedway (April 14), Richmond Raceway (April 21), Talladega Superspeedway (April 28) and Dover International Speedway (May 5). This is the first year Talladega has participated in the Dash 4 Cash program.
Of the four drivers qualified for the Bristol Dash 4 Cash bonus, Hemric is the only one who is a previous Dash 4 Cash winner, taking home the big check from Bristol last season with a fifth-place finish. He also has the best average finish amongst the four drivers at Bristol with a 6.0; followed by Brandon Jones’ 14.6 and Ryan Preece’s 17.0. Bell has yet to compete at Bristol in the NASCAR
Xfinity Series and will be making his series track debut this weekend.
The Unstoppable Team Penske No. 22 Looks For Record Fourth Straight Win
Team Penske’s No. 22 Ford Mustang team led by crew chief Brian Wilson has been unstoppable over the last three races, bringing home victories from ISM Raceway in Phoenix, California’s Auto Club Speedway and Texas Motor Speedway. Now the No. 22 team has the opportunity to tie the series record for most consecutive wins by a single team in the NASCAR Xfinity Series with a win this weekend at Bristol Motor Speedway.
The record for most consecutive series wins by a single car/team is four and it has happened twice – Sam Ard Racing’s No. 0 Oldsmobile team was the first to accomplish the feat with driver Sam Ard winning four straight in 1983 at South Boston (9/17), Martinsville (9/24), Rougemont (10/1) and Charlotte (10/8). The second team to accomplish the record was Joe Gibbs Racing’s No. 20 Toyota team in 2008, when Kyle Busch won at Mexico City (4/20), Tony Stewart won at Talladega (4/26), Denny Hamlin won at Richmond (5/2) and then Stewart again at Darlington (5/9).
This season, Team Penske’s No. 22 team has won the three straight races with three different drivers – Brad Keselowski (Phoenix), Joey Logano (California) and Ryan Blaney (Texas). Austin Cindric has been tapped this weekend to pilot the No. 22 Ford Mustang at Bristol, and if he wins the No. 22 team will become the first to accomplish feat with four different drivers.
Cindric will be making his Xfinity Series track debut this weekend at Bristol. Though he has made two NASCAR Camping World Truck Series starts at Bristol posting a best finish of ninth last season.
Different Winners Each Week So Far This Season
Through the first six races of the 2018 NASCAR Xfinity Series season there have been six different winners, which has everyone wondering if Bristol Motor Speedway can keep the streak alive and give the series its seventh different winner in as many races.
Since the series inception in 1982, the NASCAR Xfinity Series has had six different winners in the first six races 12-times; including 2018.
This season’s winners include Tyler Reddick (Daytona), Kevin Harvick (Atlanta), Kyle Larson (Las Vegas), Brad Keselowski (Phoenix), Joey Logano (California) and Ryan Blaney (Texas). Reddick is the only driver with a win this season entered this weekend at Bristol.
The record for the highest number of different winners to start a NASCAR Xfinity Series season is 13 different winners back in 1988; followed by 1987 with 10 different winners, 1998 and 2006 with eight, and then 1989 and 2004 with seven.
The 1988 and 2017 NASCAR Xfinity Series seasons are tied for the series-most different winners for the entire season with 18 each.
Mr. Consistency: Elliott Sadler Continues Steady March To The Postseason
No other driver has been more consistent in 2018 than the NASCAR Xfinity Series standings leader Elliott Sadler, who posted his series-best sixth top-10 finish last weekend at Texas Motor Speedway. Obviously, the series standings leader has been consistent, but how consistent?
Ponder this: Elliott Sadler leads the series in championship points (228), top fives (four), top 10s (six) and average finish (5.3) through six races. But his consistency near the top of the leaderboard doesn’t end there, he also leads the series in season-to-date average running position (8.6) and percentage of laps run on the lead lap (95.4%).
He is also ranked second in season-to-date Driver Rating (102.3) and percentage of laps completed in the top 15 (88.9%).
Heading to Bristol this weekend with an 11-point lead over his JR Motorsports teammate Tyler Reddick in second, Sadler looks to continue his early season success. The Emporia, Virginia, native has made 22 series starts at Bristol, posting two wins (1998, 2012), eight top fives, 11 top 10s and an average finish of 14.8. He hasn’t finished worse than fourth in his last three starts at Thunder
Lately, Bristol Motor Speedway Is Joe Gibbs Racing’s House
Joe Gibbs Racing has dominated Bristol Motor Speedway in the NASCAR Xfinity Series over the last eight years, winning five of the last eight series races at the world’s fastest half-mile – that’s a winning percentage of 62.5%.
Last season Joe Gibbs Racing swept both Xfinity Series Bristol races with Erik Jones taking the checkered in the spring and Kyle Busch hoisting the trophy in the fall.
This weekend, Joe Gibbs Racing brings three rising stars looking for their first wins of the season – Ryan Preece in the No. 18, Brandon Jones in the No. 19 and Sunoco Rookie of the Year contender Christopher Bell in the No. 20.
Preece has been taking advantage of his part-time schedule this season, posting one top five and two top 10s in two starts. Preece will have some extra motivation this weekend as he is one of the four drivers to qualify for the Dash 4 Cash at Bristol, a track he has made two starts at, posting an average finish of 17.0.
Preece’s teammate Christopher Bell is also a Dash 4 Cash qualifier at Bristol, following a runner-up finish at Texas last weekend. Bell moved into third in the championship standings after posting four top fives and an average finish of 11.8 in the first six races of the season. This weekend, Bell will be making his NASCAR Xfinity Series debut at Bristol Motor Speedway, but he is no stranger to Thunder Valley. He made two NASCAR Camping World Truck Series starts there, finishing seventh in both (2016, 2017).
Last, but not least, in the JGR stable is Brandon Jones, who posted his first DNF of the season last weekend at Texas, and now the youngster is looking to rebound at Bristol, the first short-track of the season. Jones is currently 10th in the championship standings after posting two top 10s this season. He has made five series starts at Bristol posting an average finish of 14.6.
No Sophomore Slump For GMS Racing’s Spencer Gallagher
GMS Racing’s Spencer Gallagher has vastly improved this season over his rookie campaign last year.
If you look back to the first six races of 2017, Gallagher was 17th in the championship points after posting an average finish of 23.0; including a best finish of 14th at Texas.
This season through six races, the Las Vegas native is eighth points (nine positions better than last year) having posted three top 10s and an average finish of 10.8 (almost 13-positions better than last season).
Gallagher made his series debut at Bristol last season, posting an average finish of 20.5, but this season is a different story. The 28-year old is now paired with crew chief Chad Norris, who led Brennan Poole to a pair of top 10s at Bristol last season.
Ryan Truex Has Kaulig Racing In The Playoff Hunt Early
When Kaulig Racing added Ryan Truex to the team during the offseason, hopes were high that success would come quickly, and it has.
Through the first six races of the season, Truex has not only gelled with his new crew chief Chris Rice, but the twosome has rallied off two top 10s and an average finish of 11.8. Now the No. 11
Kaulig Racing Chevrolet Camaro team is ranked seventh in the driver championship standings and is in the hunt to make the Playoffs; a mere 49 points back from the standings lead.
Truex rolls into Bristol this weekend looking forward to making his first start at the world’s fastest half mile since 2012, when he posted his best finish (10th) of his two-previous series starts at BMS.
New Faces In The Garage: Lee, Mrakovich Making Series Debuts At Bristol
It’s always great to see fresh talent making their way up the ranks, and two new faces in the garage worth noting this weekend are Shane Lee and Tony Mrakovich.
Newton, North Carolina, native Shane Lee, will be making his NASAR Xfinity Series debut driving for Richard Childress Racing this weekend at Bristol Motor Speedway. The 24-year-old driver completed in his first season of full-time competition in the ARCA Racing Series in 2017 and placed third in the driver championship point standings. He also has three NASCAR Camping World Truck Series
(NCWTS) starts under his belt. Lee will be piloting the No. 3 RCR Chevrolet Camaro this weekend at Bristol with crew chief Nick Harrison.
Elizabethtown, Pennsylvania, native Tony Mrakovich, will also be making his NASCAR Xfinity Series debut this weekend at Bristol Motor Speedway. The 19-year-old Mrakovich has made four ARCA Racing Series starts driving for Ken Schrader and Andy Hillenburg, all while finishing his senior year at both Lancaster Catholic High and Lancaster County Technical Institute.
Mrakovich logged two top-10 finishes in his first three starts and was one untimely caution away from going three-for-three. Mrakovich will be making his Xfinity debut with JGL Racing in the No. 28 Ford Mustang with crew chief Steve Lane.
A total of 41 drivers have made their NASCAR Xfinity Series debut at Bristol Motor Speedway since 1982. No driver making their series debut at Bristol Motor Speedway has won, but the highest finishing driver making his series debut at BMS was David Pearson in 1982; he started on the pole and finished runner-up.
NASCAR Camping World Truck Series
Crew Chief Profile: Ryan “Rudy” Fugle
In his fourth straight (fifth overall) full-time season atop the pit box for Kyle Busch Motorsports, Ryan “Rudy” Fugle has collected an owner’s championship in each year in addition to a pair of driver’s championships…all while captaining the ship for a different driver in each season since 2015.
Fugle’s first driver after taking over the gig full-time in 2015 was Erik Jones, who captured that year’s Sunoco Rookie of the Year title and the series crown. Fugle then won the owner’s championship with William Byron behind the wheel in 2016 and topped that off by sweeping the owner’s and driver’s titles with Christopher Bell last year.
All told, Fugle has tallied 21 wins as crew chief in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series, 15 of them in the past three seasons between Jones, Byron and Bell. In 2013, through 21 races, he won five races with team owner Kyle Busch driving and a sixth with Bell piloting the truck.
In 103 total races as crew chief in the truck series, Fugle’s drivers have recorded 49 top fives, 75 top 10s and 14 pole awards.
At Dover, coming up after the break in action for the series, Fugle has tallied a win (Busch, 2013), a pole (Byron, 2016) and a pair of top-five and top-10 finishes.
This year, Fugle guides Noah Gragson in the No. 18 KBM Toyota. Together, the pair have posted a pair of top-five and top-10 finishes in the opening four races of 2018. But Gragson is hoping that Fugle’s success at Dover leads him to Victory Lane as he searches for his second career win behind the wheel of a truck.
Taking a Break
The NASCAR Camping World Truck Series is in the second week of a four-week hiatus while the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series and NASCAR Xfinity Series go to Texas, Bristol, Richmond and Talladega.
The trucks will return to the track at Dover International Speedway for the JEGS 200 on Friday, May 4 (5 p.m. ET on FS1, MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio).
Looking back on the last 10 seasons and the first race back after the early month-long hiatus in April/May, 2011 was the lone year in that time frame in which the trucks returned from break at Dover. Kyle Busch was the race winner that year.
Graphics & Photos Courtesy of NASCAR