AJ Allmendinger

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.

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In The Fast Lane: Most Improved after Charlotte Roval

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Photo by: Jared C. Tilton

The inaugural Bank of America Roval 400 at Charlotte Motor Speedway did not disappoint on Sunday, providing excitement and drama down to the final lap during the first elimination race of the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs.

The remaining positions to the Round of 12 were constantly changing and came down to a last lap move for the win that took out the top contenders.

Five different organizations are featured in this week’s Top 5, including two drivers are in the search of a new ride in 2019.

No. 1 Alex Bowman – Alex Bowman earned his third top-five finish during the Bank of America Roval 400, finishing in the fourth position.

Bowman earned stage points in Stage 1 (ninth) and Stage 2 (eighth).

Bowman advances to the Round of 12 in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs. He is 12th in the points, 55 points behind leader Kyle Busch.

No. 2 AJ Allmendinger – AJ Allmendinger earned his fourth top 10 of the season, finishing seventh.

Allmendinger earned stage points in Stage 1 (eighth). He held a 15th place average throughout the event.

How will he do at Dover? He holds three top-five finishes in 21 starts.

No. 3 Ryan Blaney – Ryan Blaney earned his first win of 2018 on Sunday, leading 16 laps toward the victory.

Blaney was running third when Jimmie Johnson spun at the frontstretch chicane, collecting the No. 78 of Martin Truex Jr. in the process.

That put the win right in the hands of Blaney, who didn’t make a mistake and joined Team Penske teammates Brad Keselowski and Joey Logano as winners of the season.

With his second career victory, Blaney advances to the Round of 12 in the MENCS Playoffs. He is eighth in the points, 42 points behind Busch and one point behind Logano and Kurt Busch, who are tied for seventh.

No. 4 Jamie McMurray – Jamie McMurray earned his second top-five finish of the 2018 season, finishing in the runner-up position to winner Ryan Blaney.

McMurray failed to earn stage points on Sunday, but was fifth midway through the event and held a 10th place average through 109 laps.

McMurray currently does not have a ride for next year. Will he be able to improve his results to land him a ride?

No. 5 Regan Smith – Regan Smith earned his second top-15 in just four starts with Leavine Family Racing, finishing 15th.

Smith failed to earn stage points, but ran as high as 15th on Sunday.

Notable: Jimmie Johnson failed to advance into the Round of 12 because of his last lap spin. The Hendrick Motorsports driver finished in the eighth position, while Truex finished 14th.