In The Fast Lane: Most Improved after Pocono

Photo by: Chris Trotman

The Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series visited Pocono Raceway for the Pocono 400, where 2015 Champion Kyle Busch earned his 55th series victory.

All five drivers in this week’s Top 5 earned either a top-five finish or top 10, including two of Busch’s teammates.

No. 1 Denny Hamlin – Denny Hamlin earned his ninth top-10 finish of the season on Sunday, June 2nd at Pocono Raceway, finishing sixth.

Hamlin failed to earn stage points, but ran as high as first with an average position of eighth.

The Joe Gibbs Racing driver gained 29 positions from one year ago, when he finished 35th.

Hamlin is sixth in the standings, 103 points behind his teammate Kyle Busch and 35 points behind fifth place, Kevin Harvick.

No. 2 Brad Keselowski – Brad Keselowski earned his sixth top-five finish of 2019, finishing in the runner-up position.

Keselowski earned stage points in Stage 1 (third) and Stage 2 (fourth), in addition to leading four laps of the Pocono 400.

The Team Penske driver is fourth in the standings, 59 points behind leader Busch and two points behind Chase Elliott in third.

No. 3 Daniel Suarez – Daniel Suarez earned his fifth top 10 of the season, finishing in the eighth position.

Suarez led nine laps on Sunday. He earned stage points in Stage 1 (seventh) and Stage 2 (10th).

Suarez is 13th in the standings, an even 200 points behind Busch and 34 behind 10th, which is held by teammate Clint Bowyer.

No. 4 Erik Jones – Erik Jones earned his fourth top five of 2019, finishing in the third position.

Jones failed to earn stage points on Sunday, but held an average position of eighth throughout 400 miles at the 2.5-mile track.

The Joe Gibbs Racing driver is 15th in the standings, 225 points behind Busch and 59 points behind Bowyer.

No. 5 William Byron – William Byron earned his fourth top 10 on Sunday, finishing ninth.

Byron earned stage points in Stage 1 (second) and Stage 2 (third). He led twice for a total of 25 laps.

Byron sits 14th in the standings, 207 points behind Busch and 41 points away from Bowyer.

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In The Fast Lane: Most Improved after Kansas

Photo by: Sean Gardner

The Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series visited Kansas Speedway on Saturday, May 11th ahead of Mother’s Day.

Five different organizations are featured in this week’s Top 5, including a rookie and a former MENCS champion.

No. 1 Tyler Reddick – Tyler Reddick earned the first top 10 of his Cup career on Saturday, finishing in the ninth position.

Reddick, who is the defending Xfinity Series champion, failed to earn stage points on Saturday, but ran as high as third and held an average position of 16th.

No. 2 Ricky Stenhouse Jr. – Ricky Stenhouse Jr. barely missed scoring a top-10 finish during the Digital Ally 400, finishing 11th.

The Roush Fenway driver earned stage points during Stage 1 (third) and Stage 2 (fifth).

Stenhouse is tied with Paul Menard for 20th in the standings, 211 points behind leader Joey Logano and 37 points away from 15th.

No. 3 Jimmie Johnson – Jimmie Johnson earned his fifth top-10 finish of the season at Kansas, finishing sixth.

The Hendrick Motorsports driver failed to earn stage points, but ran as high as fourth throughout 400.5 miles.

Johnson sits 16th in the standings, 186 points behind Logano and 48 points behind 10th place, held by Ryan Blaney.

No. 4 Chris Buescher – Chris Buescher earned his second top-10 finish of 2019 on Saturday, finishing 10th.

Buescher earned stage points in Stage 1 and Stage 2 with sixth place finishes, respectively.

Buescher is 23rd in the standings, 253 points behind Logano and 42 away from 20th.

No. 5 Daniel Suarez – Daniel Suarez finished 14th on Saturday, gaining 14 positions from his finish one year ago.

Suarez failed to earn stage points at the 1.5-mile track, but ran as high as second and was seventh by the middle of the race.

The Stewart-Haas Racing driver is 13th in the standings, 163 points behind Logano and 25 points behind Blaney.

In The Fast Lane: Most Improved after Dover

Photo by: Chris Trotman

The Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series visited Dover International Speedway for the Gander RV 400, which was held on Monday, May 6th due to a washout on Sunday.

No. 1 Kyle Larson – Kyle Larson earned his first top-five finish of the season on Monday, finishing third.

Larson, who’s last top 10 came at Phoenix in March, has finished 18th or worse in five of the last six races.

Larson earned stage points in Stage 1 (fourth) and Stage 2 (sixth), and held an average position of fifth throughout 400 miles.

The Chip Ganassi Racing driver is 15th in the standings, 193 points behind leader Kyle Busch and 52 points behind Clint Bowyer, who is 10th.

No. 2 Alex Bowman – Alex Bowman finished second on Monday after leading 16 laps.

Bowman earned stage points in Stage 1 (seventh) and Stage 2 (second).

The Hendrick Motorsports driver has finished in the runner-up position two weeks in a row.

Bowman is 13th in the standings, 173 points behind Busch.

Can Bowman earn his first MENCS victory at Kansas? He has two top-10 finishes in the last three races, finishing 7th in 2016 and 9th in October 2018.

No. 3 Erik Jones – Erik Jones earned his fourth top-10 finish of the season at Dover, finishing sixth.

Jones earned stage points in Stage 1 (ninth) and Stage 2 (10th). The Joe Gibbs Racing driver gained 12 positions from his finish one year ago, when he finished 18th.

Jones is 16th in the standings, 196 points behind Busch.

No. 4 Kyle Busch – Kyle Busch finished 10th at the Monster Mile on Monday, earning him his 11th top-10 finish of the season.

Busch failed to earn stage points during the first stage of the race, but earned them in Stage 2 with an eighth place finish.

Busch is the points leader heading into Kansas, five points over Joey Logano and 63 ahead of Kevin Harvick.

No. 5 William Byron – William Byron earned his second top 10 of the season, finishing eighth at the one-mile track.

Byron earned stage points in Stage 1 with sixth. He led five laps and held a 12th place average throughout 400 miles.

Byron is 19th in the standings, 200 points behind Busch and seven points from Larson in 15th.

Notables: Denny Hamlin finished 21st after spinning on Lap 269 of 400. Hamlin was tended to on pit road for carbon monoxide poisoning after damaging the right rear crush panel of his No.11 FedEx Toyota.

In The Fast Lane: Most Improved after Richmond

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Photo by: Sean Gardner

The Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series visited Richmond Raceway for their first night race of the season, where a former champion earned his first victory with a new team.

No. 1 Martin Truex Jr. – Martin Truex Jr. earned his first short track victory of his career on Saturday, April 13th.

The Joe Gibbs Racing driver led 186 of 400 laps. He earned stage points in Stage 1 (third) and Stage 2 (second).

Truex held off Team Penske’s Joey Logano by .178 seconds.

Will this victory give Truex the momentum going into Talladega? He has an average finish of 21.3 at the super speedway, holding two top-five finishes and eight top 10s.

No. 2 Paul Menard – Paul Menard earned his second top-10 finish of the season on Saturday, finishing in the 10th position.

The Wood Brothers Racing driver earned stage points in Stage 1 (ninth) and Stage 2 (10th). He ran as high as fourth with an average position of ninth.

Menard is 16th in the point standings, 187 points behind leader Kyle Busch and 54 points behind Chase Elliott, who is in the 10th position.

No. 3 Brad Keselowski – Brad Keselowski earned his fifth top-10 finish of 2019, finishing seventh.

Keselowski led twice for 31 laps. The Team Penske driver earned stage points in Stage 1 (sixth) and Stage 2 (fourth).

Keselowski sits fifth in the points standings, 87 points behind Busch and 36 points behind fourth place.

No. 4 Ryan Newman – Ryan Newman earned his second top 10 of 2019, finishing in the ninth position.

Newman’s finish gives the Roush Fenway driver back-to-back top-10 finishes.

He failed to earn stage points, but ran as high as sixth.

Newman is tied with Austin Dillon for 14th in the point standings. He sits 184 points behind the leader and 51 behind Elliott.

No. 5 Chris Buescher – Chris Buescher finished outside the top 20 on Saturday night, but that does not take away from another impressive performance by the JTG-Daugherty Racing driver.

Buescher ran as high as fourth with a 13th place average position throughout 300 miles.

Buescher earned stage points in Stage 1 (eighth) and Stage 2 (ninth), before fading in the second half of the race to finish 22nd.

Notables: Kyle Larson has failed to earn a top-10 finish in the last fives races, with finishes of 12th, 18th, 39th, 19th, and 37th.

Can Larson and the No. 42 team avoid the “Big One” at Talladega and earn their first victory since the fall race at Richmond in 2017?

In The Fast Lane: Most Improved after the Daytona 500

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Photo by: Sean Gardner 

The Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series kicked off their season on Sunday, February 17th at Daytona International Speedway.

A veteran became a 2-time champion of the Great American Race, while a team who switched manufacturers led the most laps.

No. 1 Matt DiBenedetto – Matt DiBenedetto may have finished outside the top 10 at the end of the Daytona 500, but that doesn’t take away from the performance he gave during it.

DiBenedetto earned stage points during Stage 2 with a sixth place finish.

He led twice for a total of 49 laps, the most laps by a driver throughout the event. The No. 95 team switched from Chevrolet to Toyota for the 2019 season and have a technical alliance with Joe Gibbs Racing.

Can DiBenedetto continue the success at Atlanta? His best finish at the 1.5-mile track is 28th.

No. 2 Ryan Preece – Ryan Preece earned his first top-10 finish in just his sixth MENCS start on Sunday, finishing in the eighth position.

Preece failed to earn stage points, but ran as high as third on Sunday.

Preece holds on start at Atlanta. He earned a 22nd place finish in the Xfinity Series four years ago.

No. 3 Ross Chastain – Ross Chastain’s incredible Daytona Speedweeks came to an end on Sunday, where he earned a 10th place finish.
Chastain failed to earn stage points throughout 500 miles, but ran as high as ninth on Sunday.

Chastain gave his team, Premium Motorsports, their second top-10 in 231 starts.

Chastain will drive the No. 4 Chevrolet next Saturday in the Xfinity Series, before returning to the No. 15 on Sunday at Atlanta.

No. 4 Kyle Larson – Kyle Larson’s day at Daytona might have the most eventful of the 40-car field. The Chip Ganassi Racing driver was involved in three accidents, all in the final stage at the 2.5-mile track.

Larson spun on Lap 181 in Turn 3 and miraculously avoided making contact with other drivers. Larson was involved in a multi-car pileup ten laps later.

On Lap 195 Larson was involved in a seven-car accident with Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Chase Elliott, Alex Bowman, Kevin Harvick, Ty Dillon, and Brad Keselowski.

Larson battled back to finish seventh.

No. 5 Erik Jones – Erik Jones earned his first top-five finish of the 2019 season on Sunday, finishing third.

Jones earned finished 10th at the end of Stage 1, but failed to earn stage points during Stage 2.

Jones was a victim of the “Big One” on Lap 192, but overcame his struggles to give JGR a 1-2-3 finish – the first since Hendrick Motorsports in 1997.

Notables: Michael McDowell earned his second straight top-10 finish in the Daytona 500, finishing in the fifth position on Sunday.

McDowell has three top 10s in the last four starts at Daytona, he finished fourth during the summer race in 2017

Denny Hamlin won his second Daytona 500 in four years, making him the 12th driver in history to have multiple wins in the prestigious event.

The victory was the JGR driver’s 32nd of his Cup career, tying him with Hall of Famer Dale Jarrett on the all-time most wins list.

In The Fast Lane: Most Improved after Homestead

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Photo by: Sean Gardner

The Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series crowned a champion on Sunday at Homestead-Miami Speedway for the season finale.

The Big 3 were the favorites heading into the championship weekend, but it was Team Penske’s Joey Logano that earned his first career series title.

Three former champions and two young guns are featured in this week’s Top 5.

No. 1 Ricky Stenhouse Jr. – Ricky Stenhouse Jr. has not earned a top-10 finish since earning third at Talladega, but that does not mean that the Roush Fenway Racing driver hasn’t been making gains.

Stenhouse finished in the 16th position on Sunday at Homestead-Miami Speedway, his second-best finish in the last five races.

Stenhouse failed to earn stage points, but ran as high as eighth at the 1.5-mile track and held a 14th place average throughout 400.5 miles.

Stenhouse finished 18th in the point standings.

No. 2 Matt Kenseth – Matt Kenseth earned his second top 10 of the 2018 season at Homestead-Miami during the Ford EcoBoost 400, finishing in the sixth position.

Kenseth failed to earn stage points, but ran as high as second on Sunday.

Kenseth finished 32nd in the point standings. The veteran driver ran a partial schedule for Roush Fenway Racing after five seasons racing for Joe Gibbs Racing.

Kenseth currently has no plans for Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series racing in 2019.

No. 3 Kurt Busch – Kurt Busch earned his 22nd top-10 finish of the season on Sunday, finishing 10th.

Busch gained stage points in Stage 1 (10th) and Stage 2 (seventh). He ran as high as fourth and held a ninth-place finishing average.

The Stewart-Haas Racing driver’s finish is his first top-10 at Homestead since 2015.

No. 4 Jimmie Johnson – Jimmie Johnson’s last race with longtime partner Lowe’s was a throwback to the seven-time champion’s rookie season.

Johnson finished in the 14th position on Sunday.

The Hendrick Motorsports driver failed to earn stage points in Stage 1, but finished ninth at the end of Stage 2.

Johnson finished 14th in the point standings, the lowest he has ever finished under the new playoff format.

No. 5 Ryan Blaney – Ryan Blaney matched his best finish at Homestead on Sunday, finishing in the 17th position.

Blaney failed to earn stage points on Sunday, but gained 12 positions from his finish at the track one year ago.

The 24-year old’s first season with Team Penske earned him one win, eight top-five finishes, and 16 top 10s.

Blaney finished 10th in the point standings.

In The Fast Lane: Most Improved after ISM Raceway

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Photo by: Sean Gardner

The Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs continued during the Can-Am 500 at ISM Raceway for the last race before a champion is crowned for the 2018 season.

2015 champion Kyle Busch earned his ticket into the Championship 4 next weekend at Homestead with his victory on Sunday. The Joe Gibbs Racing driver led 117 of 312 laps before earning his eighth victory of the season.

While the battle for the championship brought several heated battles for the final chance to advance, several drivers outside of the playoffs earned their best finishes.

Three veteran drivers are featured in this week’s Top 5, including a former champion who returned to competition on a part-time basis this season.

No. 1 Bubba Wallace – Bubba Wallace earned his third top-10 finish of the season at ISM Raceway, finishing 10th.

The finish is Wallace’s first top 10 since finishing eighth at Texas Motor Speedway in the spring.

The Richard Petty Motorsports driver ran as high as ninth throughout 312 miles on the one-mile track.

Wallace sits 28th in the point standings.

Can Wallace close out his rookie campaign with another strong finish? The 25-year old has two Xfinity and two Camping World Truck Series starts at Homestead-Miami Speedway, winning at the track in the CWTS in 2014.

No. 2 Matt Kenseth – Matt Kenseth earned his first top 10 of the year on Sunday since joining Roush Fenway Racing and splitting the famed No. 6 with Trevor Bayne for the season.

Kenseth failed to earn stage points, but ran as high as fourth. The veteran driver’s previous best finish of the season was 12th at Indianapolis.

He sits 32nd in the point standings.

How will Kenseth fair at Homestead in what may potentially be his last Cup start? In 18 starts at the 1.5-mile track, Kenseth has one win, four top-five finishes, and 10 top-10 finishes.

No. 3 Kyle Larson – Kyle Larson earned his 12th top five of the year at ISM Raceway, finishing in the third position.

Larson earned stage points in Stage 1 (sixth) and Stage 2 (fifth). The Chip-Ganassi Racing driver ran as high as second.

Larson is 10th in the standings, 22 points behind Ryan Blaney.

No. 4 Brad Keselowski – Brad Keselowski earned his 11th top-five finish on Sunday, finishing in the runner-up position to race winner Kyle Busch.

Keselowski earned stage points in Stage 1 (fifth) and Stage 2 (second). The Team Penske driver led twice for a total of 32 laps.

Keselowski is eighth in the point standings, 11 points behind Chase Elliott, who is fifth.

No. 5 AJ Allmendinger – AJ Allmendinger earned his best finish since Talladega on Sunday, finishing in the 12th position.

Allmendinger failed to earn stage points, but ran as high as fifth while averaging an 18th place position on Sunday.

Allmendinger will be making his final start for JTG-Daugherty Racing next weekend at Homestead. In nine starts at the track, Allmendinger has one top five and three top-10 finishes.

Notables: William Byron clinched the Rookie of the Year Award after finishing ninth at ISM Raceway. It is Byron’s fourth straight win of the award, previously winning it in the K&N Pro Series East Series in 2015, Camping World Truck Series in 2016, and the Xfinity Series one year ago in which he won the series title.

Kevin Harvick, Martin Truex Jr., and Joey Logano will join Busch next Sunday, November 18th to battle for the MENCS title. Logano is looking to earn his first series championship.