Matt DiBenedetto

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 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 Daytona

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Photo by: Sarah Crabill

The third superspeedway event on the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series schedule was a wild one in Daytona, Florida – where a young star earned his first series victory in overtime.

This week’s Top 5 features some fresh faces that we don’t normally see, some for the first time this season.

Several drivers scored their best finishes of the year, one earning the first top-10 finish of his career.

No. 1 Erik Jones – Erik Jones earned his first career Cup win on Saturday night after passing the defending series champion on the last lap in overtime.

Jones went a lap down after being involved in a multicar wreck on Lap 65. The Joe Gibbs Racing driver failed to earn stage points, but secured his place into the 2018 playoffs with his victory.

Jones sits in the 13th position in the points standings, 301 points behind teammate Kyle Busch and 55 points from Aric Almirola, who is in 10th place.

No. 2 Kasey Kahne – Kasey Kahne earned his first top-5 finish of the year and with new team Leavine Family Racing, finishing fourth.

Kahne led 17 laps and earned stage points in Stage 2 (fourth). He was 1 of 26 cars involved in a crash on Lap 54 when Brad Keselowski was turned after bumper contact with Ricky Stenhouse Jr.

Kahne’s finish is his first top 5 since winning last year’s Brickyard 400 in July. He sits 26th in the points standings, 480 points behind the leader and 138 points from Stenhouse in the 16th place cutoff.

No. 3 Matt DiBenedetto – Matt DiBenedetto earned his first top 10 of the 2018 season on Saturday, finishing seventh.

DiBenedetto failed to earn stage points, but ran as high as third throughout 400 miles.

The Go Fas Racing driver is 30th in the points standings, 535 points behind Busch and 104 points from 20th place.

No. 4 Austin Dillon – Austin Dillon followed his Daytona 500 win up with a ninth-place finish in the Coke Zero Sugar 400.

Dillon earned stage points in Stage 1 (ninth) and Stage 2 (eighth). He ran as high as second and held a 12th place average.

Dillon is 18th in the points standings, 402 points behind Busch and 60 away from 16th place.

No. 5 Ty Dillon – Ty Dillon’s top-10 finish at Daytona wasn’t just the first of the year for the Germain Racing driver, it was the first of his MENCS career.

Dillon finished sixth on Saturday, earning him his first top-10 in a career that spans five years, three of which are full-time.

Dillon failed to earn stage points in Stage 1, but led three laps and finished fifth in Stage 2.

Dillon is 29th in the points standings, 505 points behind the leader.