JTG-Daugherty Racing

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.

In the Fast Lane: Most Improved after Daytona

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Photo by: Robert Laberge

The 2018 NASCAR season kicked off to an incredibly start in the 60th running of The Great American Race at Daytona International Speedway.

An iconic number returned to Victory Lane after being pushed by another, while rookies and veterans alike were the victim of the Big One.

This week’s Top 5 most improved drivers earned their place by making impressive moves, improving their positions from a year ago, and leading laps and earning stage points.

No. 1 Darrell “Bubba” Wallace Jr. – The Richard Petty Motorsports driver finished a career high second in his first start in the Daytona 500. Wallace, who started seventh, remained up front throughout the event and became the highest finishing African American in the event. Wendell Scott held the previous record for his 13th place finish in the 1966 Daytona 500.

Wallace pushed Austin Dillon to the win Sunday evening and avoided the Big One, despite contact with Joe Gibbs Racing’s Denny Hamlin in overtime.

The RPM driver can take the momentum and confidence gained and apply it next weekend at Atlanta. Wallace has three Xfinity starts at the 1.5-mile track, his best finish is sixth from one year ago.

No. 2 Austin Dillon – Austin Dillon stated he doesn’t remember much about the 1998 Daytona 500, in which he stood in Victory Lane next to the late Dale Earnhardt.

The 27-year-old will have a reason to remember this year’s event in twenty years.

Dillon restarted fourth in an overtime finish, but gained the lead after making contact with Aric Almirola, which sent the Stewart-Haas Racing driver spinning.

The win is Dillon’s second in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series. Dillon now holds victories in two of the four “Crown Jewel” events. Dillon won the Coca-Cola 600 in 2017.

Dillon has proven to excel under pressure of the famous No. 3 in recent years, earning eight top-5s and 18 top-10 finishes since 2016.

No. 3 Ryan Blaney – Ryan Blaney dominated by leading 118 laps and winning Stage 2. The newest driver of Team Penske came back to earn a seventh place finish despite sustaining damage in two multi-car wrecks.

Blaney heads into Atlanta, where he has an average finish of 21.5, as the points leader. Can he improve his results, and will it be enough to keep the points lead over teammate Joey Logano?

No. 4 Michael McDowell – Michael McDowell found a new home at Front Row Motorsports after losing his ride to Kasey Kahne at Leavine Family Racing, but he picked up right where he left off with another stellar performance at a restrictor plate track.

McDowell finished ninth in his 250th start. It is his second straight top-10 at Daytona and sixth top-10 of his career.

McDowell wasn’t in contention for the win at the end, but remained mid-pack for majority of the race. He was as high as fifth and secured stage points in Stage 1 (sixth) and Stage 2 (fifth).

No. 5 Chris Buescher – Chris Buescher last scored a top-5 in August of 2016, when he finished fifth at Bristol. The JTG-Daugherty Racing driver quietly climbed inside the top-5 Sunday to earn his best finish at the 2.5-mile track.

Buescher scored a top-10 during the 2017 Coca Zero 400. He sits ninth in the points standings, 25 points behind the points leader.

Notables: Justin Marks earned his best career finish at Daytona with 12th place, one lap down from the leaders. Marks has four MENCS starts and led his first lap in the series on Sunday.

William Byron finished 23rd after spinning on Lap 190. Byron was also involved in a 9-car incident on Lap 60 that ended the day for Erik Jones, Ty Dillon, Daniel Suarez, and two-time Daytona 500 winner Jimmie Johnson.

Danica Patrick was the victim of a multi-car wreck on Lap 102 and finished in the 35th position. The race was Patrick’s last NASCAR event. She is scheduled to participate in the Indy 500 to bring her racing career to an end.