Stewart-Haas Racing

In The Fast Lane: Most Improved after Las Vegas

lvms_mencs_harvick_091519
Photo by: Jonathan Ferrey

The Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs kicked off on Sunday, September 15th at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, where one championship contender earned his fifth win of 2019.

Three organizations are featured in this week’s Top 5, with all five drivers being Playoff contenders.

No. 1 Kevin Harvick – Kevin Harvick earned his 10th top-five finish of the season at Las Vegas, finishing second.

Harvick earned stage points in Stage 1 (second) and Stage 2 (fourth). He also led 47 laps on Sunday.

Harvick is second in the points standings, three points behind leader Martin Truex Jr.

No. 2 William Byron – William Byron earned his 10th top 10 on Sunday, finishing in the seventh position.

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

Byron is ninth in the points standings, 42 points behind Truex and 18 points behind Keselowski in fifth.

No. 3 Chase Elliott – Chase Elliott earned his ninth top-five finish of 2019, finishing fourth during the South Point 400.

Elliott failed to earn stage points during Stage 1, but earned them in Stage 2 with a fifth place finish.

Elliott is sixth in the points standings, 25 points behind Truex and one point behind Keselowski.

No. 4 Alex Bowman – Alex Bowman earned his eighth top-10 finish of the season on Sunday, finishing sixth.

Bowman failed to earn stage points during Stage 1, but earned them in Stage 2 with a 10th place finish.

Bowman is 11th in the points standings, 45 points behind Truex and two points behind Ryan Blaney in 10th.

No. 5 Denny Hamlin – Denny Hamlin struggled with the handling of his No. 11 FedEx Toyota Camry on Sunday, resulting in a 15th place finish.

Hamlin earned stage points in Stage 2 (seventh), in addition he gained 17 positions from his finish one year ago at the 1.5-mile track.

Hamlin is seventh in the points standings, 26 points behind Truex and two points away from Keselowski.

Notable: Joey Logano finished ninth at Las Vegas after leading a race-high 105 laps. He is third in the points standings, seven points behind Truex.

In The Fast Lane: Most Improved after Darlington

dar_mencs_burnout_090119
Photo by: Sean Gardner

The Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series returned from their last off weekend of the season to Darlington Raceway, where they were forced to wait out a four hour rain delay for the annual Southern 500.

Three potential championship contenders are featured in this week’s Top 5. Which one will earn their way into the Top 16 to compete in this year’s playoffs?

No. 1 Clint Bowyer – Clint Bowyer earned his 11th top-10 finish of the season at Darlington, finishing sixth.

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

Bowyer is 15th in the point standings, 358 points behind leader Kyle Busch and 85 points away from 10th, which is held by Ryan Blaney.

No. 2 Jimmie Johnson – Jimmie Johnson finished 16th during the Bojangles’ Southern 500, but earned needed stage points ahead of the September 8th regular season finale.

Johnson earned stage points in Stage 1 (second) and Stage 2 (seventh).

Johnson was involved in a multi-car crash on Lap 276. Green flag pit stops came into play later in the event, which resulted in the Hendrick Motorsports finishing in the 16th position.

Johnson is in a near must win situation heading into Sunday’s Brickyard 400, where he holds four wins, six top-five finishes, and seven top 10s.

No. 3 Matt DiBenedetto – Matt DiBenedetto earned his sixth top 10 of 2019, finishing in the eighth position.

DiBenedetto failed to earn stage points on Sunday, but ran as high as second. He also held a 14th place average position.

The Leavine Family Racing driver is 22nd in the point standings, 516 points behind Busch and 64 points away from Chris Buescher, who is 20th.

No. 4 Paul Menard – Paul Menard earned his third top-10 finish of the season on Sunday, finishing ninth.

Menard failed to earn stage points at the 1.366-mile track, but ran as high as eighth.

Menard is 19th in the point standings, 435 points behind Busch and 77 points behind Bowyer in 15th.

No. 5 Daniel Suarez – Daniel Suarez barely missed bringing home another top 10, finishing 11th.

Suarez failed to earn stage points at Darlington, but held a 13th place average position throughout the event.

The Stewart-Haas Racing driver is tied for the last playoff position, in 16th, with Ryan Newman.

In The Fast Lane: Most Improved after Watkins Glen

wgi_mencs_burnout_080419
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.

In The Fast Lane: Most Improved after Pocono

mencs_pr2_hamlin_vl3_072819
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 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 Homestead

358655
Photo by: Sean Gardner

The Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series crowned a champion on Sunday at Homestead-Miami Speedway for the season finale.

The Big 3 were the favorites heading into the championship weekend, but it was Team Penske’s Joey Logano that earned his first career series title.

Three former champions and two young guns are featured in this week’s Top 5.

No. 1 Ricky Stenhouse Jr. – Ricky Stenhouse Jr. has not earned a top-10 finish since earning third at Talladega, but that does not mean that the Roush Fenway Racing driver hasn’t been making gains.

Stenhouse finished in the 16th position on Sunday at Homestead-Miami Speedway, his second-best finish in the last five races.

Stenhouse failed to earn stage points, but ran as high as eighth at the 1.5-mile track and held a 14th place average throughout 400.5 miles.

Stenhouse finished 18th in the point standings.

No. 2 Matt Kenseth – Matt Kenseth earned his second top 10 of the 2018 season at Homestead-Miami during the Ford EcoBoost 400, finishing in the sixth position.

Kenseth failed to earn stage points, but ran as high as second on Sunday.

Kenseth finished 32nd in the point standings. The veteran driver ran a partial schedule for Roush Fenway Racing after five seasons racing for Joe Gibbs Racing.

Kenseth currently has no plans for Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series racing in 2019.

No. 3 Kurt Busch – Kurt Busch earned his 22nd top-10 finish of the season on Sunday, finishing 10th.

Busch gained stage points in Stage 1 (10th) and Stage 2 (seventh). He ran as high as fourth and held a ninth-place finishing average.

The Stewart-Haas Racing driver’s finish is his first top-10 at Homestead since 2015.

No. 4 Jimmie Johnson – Jimmie Johnson’s last race with longtime partner Lowe’s was a throwback to the seven-time champion’s rookie season.

Johnson finished in the 14th position on Sunday.

The Hendrick Motorsports driver failed to earn stage points in Stage 1, but finished ninth at the end of Stage 2.

Johnson finished 14th in the point standings, the lowest he has ever finished under the new playoff format.

No. 5 Ryan Blaney – Ryan Blaney matched his best finish at Homestead on Sunday, finishing in the 17th position.

Blaney failed to earn stage points on Sunday, but gained 12 positions from his finish at the track one year ago.

The 24-year old’s first season with Team Penske earned him one win, eight top-five finishes, and 16 top 10s.

Blaney finished 10th in the point standings.

In The Fast Lane: Most Improved after Texas

358451
Photo by: Matt Sullivan

The Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Playoff event at Texas Motor Speedway held no limits for the No. 4 Mobil 1 Ford of Kevin Harvick.

Harvick swept both stages on Sunday before claiming his eighth victory of 2018 and 45th series win of his career.

Harvick earned his ticket to race for the second title of his career, but one of this week’s Top 5 is on the outside looking in. Plus, which drivers outside the playoffs are still not letting running for a championship get the best of them.

No. 1 Kyle Larson – Kyle Larson earned his 11th top-five finish of the season on Sunday in No Limits Texas, finishing in the fifth position.

Larson failed to earn stage points at the 1.5-mile track, but gained 32 positions from his finish one year ago, when a late crash took him out of contention.

Larson is 12th in the point standings, nine points behind Joe Gibbs Racing driver Denny Hamlin.

No. 2 Aric Almirola – Aric Almirola earned his 15th top-10 finish of 2018 on Sunday during the AAA Texas 500, finishing eighth.

Almirola earned stage points in Stage 1 (10th) and Stage 2 (sixth), despite battling from the back of the field due to an unapproved adjustment.

Almirola is in a must-win situation to advance in the Championship 4 at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

He is seventh in the point standings, 75 points behind leader Kevin Harvick and 51 points from the fourth place cutoff.

No. 3 Paul Menard – Paul Menard has continuously made gains in his first season with the Wood Brothers driving the No. 21 Ford.

Menard gained stage points in Stage 1, finishing eighth, before finishing in the 13th position.

Menard gained 10 positions from his finish one year ago. He sits 19th in the point standings.

No. 4 Brad Keselowski – Brad Keselowski led 50 laps on Sunday before bringing his No. 2 Wurth Ford home in the 12th position.

Keselowski failed to earn stage points during Stage 1, but earned them with a fourth place finish at the end of Stage 2.

Keselowski is 10th in the point standings.

No. 5 Jimmie Johnson – Jimmie Johnson was mistakenly penalized and sent to the rear on Sunday, due to NASCAR saying his No. 48 Low’s Chevrolet failed tech inspection three times, instead of the actual two.

Johnson was involved in a wreck on Lap 97 after making contact with Hendrick Motorsports teammate William Byron.

Johnson led twice for a total of 11 laps before finishing in the 15th position.

He sits 14th in the point standings.

In The Fast Lane: Most Improved after Talladega

monsterenergynascarcupseries1000bulbsy6ni3k2tfptl
Photo by: Chris Graythen

The second round of the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs took place in Talladega, Alabama, where the winner was decided in overtime.

Two teammates are featured in this week’s Top 5, along with three drivers who earned or matched their best finish of the season.

No. 1 Aric Almirola – Aric Almirola finally visited Victory Lane on Sunday, snapping a four year, 149-race winless streak.

Almirola led the final lap in overtime to earn him his second career victory, passing teammate Kurt Busch for the win after his fellow teammate ran out of fuel on the final restart.

Almirola earned stage points in Stage 1 and Stage 2, with a fourth place finish in each segment.

The Stewart-Haas Racing driver earns a place into the next round of the MENCS Playoffs with his victory. He is fifth in the standings, 41 points behind leader Kevin Harvick.

No. 2 Clint Bowyer – Clint Bowyer earned his first top-five in eight races at Talladega Super Speedway, finishing second.

Bowyer ran alongside his teammates in a near perfect strategy that dominated the field throughout 500 miles at the 2.66-mile track.

Bowyer earned stage points with second place finishes in Stage 1 and Stage 2. Bowyer held a fourth place average position on Sunday.

Bowyer is sixth in the standings, 42 points behind Harvick and one point behind Almirola.

No. 3 Regan Smith – Regan Smith earned his first top 10 since earning third at Pocono Raceway in August of 2016.

Smith, who will be finishing the year in the No. 95 for the sidelined Kasey Kahne, ran as high as sixth.

How will Smith perform next week at Kansas? He has one top-10 finish at the 1.5-mile track, a seventh place result in 2012 racing for Furniture Row Racing.

No. 4 Brendan Gaughan – Brendan Gaughan tied his best finish in four starts this season, finishing 12th at Talladega.

Gaughan led one lap on Sunday on Lap 139. His average at the super speedway was 24th.

The finish is Gaughan’s best since earning a top five more than a decade ago.

No. 5 Trevor Bayne – Trevor Bayne earned his fifth top-15 finish of the season on Sunday, finishing the event in 13th place.

Bayne gained 25 positions from his 38th finish at the track in the spring. He ran as high as 10th during the 1000Bulbs.com 500.

Bayne will be back in the No. 6 Ford for his 20th race this season at Kansas Speedway. In seven starts, he has one top 10.

Notable: Ricky Stenhouse Jr. earned his third top-five finish of the year, and first since finishing fifth at Talladega in the spring. He finished third on Sunday. His other top five came at Bristol in the spring.

In The Fast Lane: Most Improved after Dover

monsterenergynascarcupseriesganderoutdoorsguvl3e52_pll
Photo by: Chris Trotman 

The first race in the Round of 12 of the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs went into overtime on Sunday to determine a winner.

Five playoff contenders were involved in a wreck with two laps remaining in the Gander Outdoors 400, one of them made this week’s Top 5.

No. 1 Kyle Busch – Kyle Busch earned his 24th top 10 of the season on Sunday at Dover International Speedway, finishing eighth.

Busch earned stage points in Stage 1 (third) and Stage 2 (seventh). He led three times for a total of 21 laps.

Busch is second in the playoff standings, five points behind leader Kevin Harvick.

No. 2 Kurt Busch – Kurt Busch earned his sixth top-five finish of the season on Sunday, finishing in fifth.

Busch earned stage points in Stage 1 (eighth) and Stage 2 (sixth).

Busch is sixth in the standings, tied with Brad Keselowski, 47 points behind Harvick and two points behind race winner Chase Elliott in fifth.

No. 3 Aric Almirola – Aric Almirola continues to dominate in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series, with misfortunes keeping him from snapping a 149-race winless streak.

Almirola was involved in a five-car crash on Lap 398 of 400, which resulted in the Stewart-Haas Racing driver finishing in 13th place.

Almirola earned stage points in Stage 1 (ninth) and Stage 2 (fifth), with an average position of sixth place.

Almirola is tied for ninth in the standings with teammate Clint Bowyer, 68 points behind Harvick and 10 points from Team Penske’s Ryan Blaney.

No. 4 Erik Jones – Erik Jones earned his seventh top-five finish of the season at the Monster Mile, finishing in the fourth position.

Jones failed to earn stage points, but ran as high as third during the Gander Outdoors 400. He gained 14 positions from five months ago, when he finished 18th.

The Joe Gibbs Racing driver is 16th is the standings, 15 points behind teammate Denny Hamlin.

No. 5 Austin Dillon – Austin Dillon earned his sixth top-10 finish of 2018, finishing in seventh place.

Dillon failed to earn stage points on Sunday, but ran as high as fifth and was 12th mid-way through the event.

Dillon is 13th in the standings, 1,000 points behind Harvick.