Ross Chastain

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 Las Vegas

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Photo by: Chris Graythen  

The first race of the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs was a wild and exciting start to the post-season. Several playoff contenders were taken out during the South Point 400, ranging from be a victim of someone else’s misfortune to blown tires.

Four of the five drivers in this week’s Top 5 earned best finishes, including Saturday’s Xfinity Series winner in the DC Solar 300.

No. 1 Regan Smith – Regan Smith finished in the 12th position on Sunday in just his second race of the season, subbing for the sidelined Kasey Kahne.

Smith led 10 laps during the South Point 400. The 34-year-old has at least three more races in the No. 95 for Leavine Family Racing, including the Charlotte Motor Speedway Roval.

It’ll be interesting to see what Smith does with his time in the car from here. His best finish was 17th at Dover in 2012.

No. 2 Daniel Suarez – Daniel Suarez earned his seventh top-10 finish of the season, finishing eighth.

Suarez failed to earn stage points on Sunday, but ran as high as fourth. He gained 18 positions from his finish at the 1.5-mile track earlier this year.

The finish is the Joe Gibbs Racing driver’s best since finishing fourth at Watkins Glen in one month ago.

No. 3 Ross Chastain – Ross Chastain may not want to leave Vegas after a thrilling weekend in Sin City.

Chastain freshly came off his first career win in Saturday’s Xfinity event to race on Sunday, where he finished 20th.

Chastain ran as high as 13th on Sunday throughout 400 miles. The finish is his best since finishing 18th at Texas in April.

No. 4 Corey LaJoie– Corey LaJoie’s 16th place finish is the driver’s second-best finish of his career, and best since finishing 11th at Daytona last summer.

LaJoie held a 29th place average position throughout the race, but ran as high as fifth on Sunday.

How will LaJoie fair at Richmond and will the momentum carry over into Richmond?

No. 5 Trevor Bayne – Trevor Bayne earned a top-15 finish at Las Vegas on Sunday, finishing in the 13th position.

Bayne has finished in the top 15 two weeks in a row, and ran as high as third on Sunday.

Can Bayne earn his first top-10 finish of the season next weekend at Richmond?

Notable: Brad Keselowski’s win on Sunday in Las Vegas was the driver’s third consecutive win of the season. It also marked the 500th victory for team owner Roger Penske.