In The Fast Lane: Most Improved after Watkins Glen

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Photo by: Sean Gardner

The Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series visited a road course for the second time this season on Sunday at Watkins Glen International in Watkins Glen, New York.

There are five different organizations featured in this week’s Top 5, with two drivers being former series champions.

No. 1 Matt DiBenedetto – Matt DiBenedetto earned his fourth top-10 finish of the season at Watkins Glen.

The Leavine Family Racing driver finished sixth. He held a 12th place average throughout 220.5 miles, running as high as sixth.

DiBenedetto is 23rd in the point standings, 471 points behind leader Kyle Busch and 86 points behind Ricky Stenhouse Jr, who is 20th.

No. 2 Denny Hamlin – Denny Hamlin earned 11th top five on Sunday, finishing in the third position.

Hamlin earned stage points in Stage 1 (second) and Stage 2 (fifth). He ran as high as second with an average position of fifth.

The Joe Gibbs Racing driver is fourth in the point standings, 80 points behind teammate Busch.

No. 3 Jimmie Johnson – Jimmie Johnson finished 19th on Sunday, but gained 11 positions from his finish at the 2.45-mile road course one year ago.

The Hendrick Motorsports driver earned stage points in Stage 1 (sixth) and Stage 2 (10th).

Johnson is tied with Ryan Newman for 16th in the point standings, 307 behind Busch and 12 points from 15th.

No. 4 Aric Almirola – Aric Almirola finished 12th on Sunday, gaining 10 positions from one year ago when he finished 22nd.

The Stewart-Haas Racing driver earned stage points in Stage 1 (10th).

Almirola is ninth in the point standings, 211 points behind Busch and 113 points behind Martin Truex Jr. in fifth.

No. 5 Brad Keselowski – Brad Keselowski earned his 12th top-10 finish of the year on Sunday, finishing in the ninth position.

Keselowski failed to earn stage points during Stage 1 of the Go Bowling at the Glen, but earned them in Stage 2 with sixth.

The Team Penske driver is sixth in the standings, 123 points behind Busch and 25 points behind Truex.

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In The Fast Lane: Most Improved after Pocono

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Photo by: Sean Gardner

No. 1 Kyle Larson – Kyle Larson earned his fourth top-five finish of the season during the Gander RV 400, finishing fifth.

Larson earned stage points during Stage 1 (sixth) and Stage 2 (10th). He ran as high as second and held an average position of ninth.

Larson is 14th in the point standings, 267 points behind Logano and 42 points behind 10th place, which is held by Ryan Blaney.

No. 2 Martin Truex Jr. – Martin Truex Jr. earned his eighth top five of the season on Sunday, finishing in the third position.

Truex earned stage points in Stage 1 (fifth) and Stage 2 (fourth). He was running down the leaders in the final laps to contend for the win before a caution sent the race into overtime.

Truex is fifth in the point standings, 123 points behind leader Joey Logano.

No. 3 Brad Keselowski – Brad Keselowski earned his 11th top-10 finish of 2019, finishing eighth.

Keselowski failed to earn stage points during Stage 1, but earned them in Stage 2 with eighth.

Keselowski is sixth in the point standings, 129 points behind teammate Logano and six points behind Truex in fifth.

No. 4 Chris Buescher – Chris Buescher claimed 16th on Sunday, gaining 21 positions from one year ago, when he finished 37th.

Buescher failed to earn stage points, but ran as high as 12th.

He is 21st in the point standings, 385 points behind Logano and five points from Ricky Stenhouse Jr. in 20th.

No. 5 Aric Almirola – Aric Almirola finished outside of the top 10 on Sunday, but gained 13 positions from his finish one year ago.

Almirola claimed 12th place on Sunday. He ran as high as third and earned Stage 1-playoff points after crossing the line in the eighth position.

The Stewart-Haas Racing driver is ninth in the point standings, 210 points behind Logano and 87 behind Truex.

In The Fast Lane: Most Improved after Kentucky

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Photo by: Matt Sullivan

The Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series visited Kentucky Speedway under the lights for the Quaker State 400.

Four different organizations are featured in this week’s Top 5, with one driver earning his first win with a new team.

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

It is the Chip Ganassi Racing driver’s second top-five finish in three races.

Larson failed to earn stage points in Stage 1, but earned them in Stage 2 with a sixth place finish.

He is 13th in the standings, 235 points behind leader Logano and 31 points away from Almirola in 10th.

No. 2 Kurt Busch – Kurt Busch earned his 31st career MENCS victory, leading 41 laps at the 1.5-mile track.

Busch won Stage 1 and finished seventh in Stage 2.

The victory is the veteran’s first of the season and first with Chip Ganassi Racing.

Busch is tied with former champion Martin Truex Jr. for sixth in the standings, 128 points behind Logano.

No. 3 Denny Hamlin – Denny Hamlin earned his eighth top five of 2019, finishing fifth.

Hamlin led five laps on Saturday in addition to finishing fourth in Stage 1.

He is fifth in the standings, 119 points behind Logano.

No. 4 Ricky Stenhouse Jr. – Ricky Stenhouse Jr. finished 12th at Kentucky, after leading 21 laps.

Stenhouse earned stage points in Stage 1 with seventh and held an average position of 12th throughout the event.

Stenhouse is 19th in the standings, 319 points behind Logano and 46 points away from the last cutoff position held by Erik Jones, in 16th.

No. 5 Chris Buescher – Chris Buescher earned his fourth top-10 finish of the season on Saturday, scoring 10th.

Buescher failed to earn stage points, but ran as high as third. Buescher also tied his 2017 season with most top-10s in a season.

He is 21st in the standings, 350 points behind Logano and 23 points behind Paul Menard in 20th.

In The Fast Lane: Most Improved after Daytona

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Photo by: Sean Gardner

The Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series was hit with continuous rain at Daytona International Speedway for the Coke Zero Sugar 400 on Saturday, June 6th and postponed until Sunday.

The rain didn’t completely hold off on Sunday and the race was called official after 127 laps.

No. 1 William Byron – William Byron earned his first top-five finish of the season with his second place finish at Daytona.

Byron overcame starting from the back after contact with Brad Keselowski in practice forced him to a back-up car.

The Hendrick Motorsports driver failed to earn stage points during Stage 1, but earned them in Stage 2 with a third place finish.

Byron is 12th in the standings, 202 points away from leader Joey Logano and 14 points away from 10th, which is held by Aric Almirola.

No. 2 Corey LaJoie – Corey LaJoie earned his first career top 10 at Daytona, finishing in the sixth position.

LaJoie, who started 30th, avoided the “Big One” on Lap 119 and was running sixth when NASCAR was forced to red flag the event because of lightning in the area.

It started to rain during the holding pattern and the MENCS race was unable to continue.

No. 3 Jimmie Johnson – Jimmie Johnson earned his third top-five finish of the season, finishing in third place.

Johnson failed to earn stage points during Stage 1, but earned them in Stage 2 with seventh place.

Johnson is 13th in the standings, 226 points away from Logano and 38 away Almirola.

No. 4 Matt DiBenedetto – Matt DiBenedetto earned his second top-10 finish of the season, finishing eighth.

DiBenedetto was involved in the “Big One” on Lap 119, but was able to continue with minimal damage to his No. 95 Toyota.

DiBenedetto is 25th in the standings, 114 points away from Paul Menard in 20th.

No. 5 Matt Tifft – Matt Tifft earned his first career top-10 finish with ninth.

Tifft failed to earn stage points, but ran as high as seventh on Sunday.

Tifft is 31st in the standings, 519 points away from Logano and 27 points away from David Ragan, who is 30th.

Notable: Justin Haley earned his first career MENCS victory at Daytona with Spire Motorsports.

Haley was scored the leader when lightning in the area forced a red flag. The drivers were called to their cars after a 30-minute holding pattern, but lightning struck again and the rain returned before the event resumed.

Haley became the second youngest MENCS winner at 20 years, 2 months, and 9 days. He won his first series victory in his third Cup start.

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.

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.