Martin Truex Jr. became the first driver to win all three stages under NASCAR’s race enhancements when he took the checkered flag in last Sunday’s Kobalt 400 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.
The No. 78 Toyota driver, who won a career-high four races last seasons, led 150 total laps on his way to his first victory of 2017. Through three races, Truex sits fourth in the points standings (five points below leader Brad Keselowski, but leads the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series with seven playoff points.
Truex will attempt to notch another win in Sunday’s Camping World 500 at Phoenix Raceway (3:30 p.m. ET on FOX, MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio) – a track where he’s logged only one top-five finish (fifth in 2009) in 22 starts.
Young & Happy: 4 Drivers In Top 10 Are 26 Or Younger
The kids have showed up early in the 2017 Monster Energy NASAR Cup Series season. Four drivers age 26 and younger rank in the top six of the standings: 2. Kyle Larson (24 years old, one point behind Brad Keselowski for the series lead), 3. Chase Elliott (21, -3), 5. Joey Logano (26, -13) 6. Ryan Blaney (23, -26).
Dating back to Phoenix last fall, Larson has recorded four top-three finishes in his last five races, including two runner-ups.
Elliott claims finishes of 14th (Daytona), fifth (Atlanta) and third (Las Vegas) this year. Dating back to last season, he claims more top-10 showings than any driver on the Hendrick Motorsports roster – a team that includes seven-time Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series champion Jimmie Johnson.
The “elder statesman” of the group, Logano has finished no worse than sixth this season. He is currently on a streak of nine top-10 finishes. He won last year’s fall race at Phoenix to make the Championship 4 round of NASCAR’s playoffs.
Blaney has followed up a promising Sunoco Rookie season with finishes of second (Daytona), 18th (Atlanta) and seventh (Las Vegas) this year.
Heart Of The Phoenix: Harvick Typically Rises To The Occasion At Arizona Track
Everyone in NASCAR circles knows what a trip to Phoenix means… look out for Kevin Harvick.
The Stewart-Haas Racing driver has won six of the last nine races at the one-mile track and boasts a track-record eight victories there. He also claims 13 top-five finishes, 17 top-10 showings, 1,484 laps led and an average finish of 10.0 at Phoenix.
Last fall’s Phoenix race marked the first time in his last seven contests there that he failed to lead a lap. In those earlier six races his lowest laps led mark was 70.
Keselowski Reigns Atop The Points Standings
After finishing a disappointing 27th in the DAYTONA 500, Brad Keselowski has stormed to the top of the standings with a win at Atlanta and a fifth-place finish at Las Vegas. Keselowski looked well on his way to winning his second consecutive race in Sin City last week before a mechanical error ended his bid for victory on the penultimate lap.
Keselowski leads the standings by one point over Kyle Larson. Larson is followed by Chase Elliott (-3), Martin Truex Jr. (-5) and Joey Logano (-13). Ryan Blaney (-26), Kurt Busch (-39), Kevin Harvick (-41), Kasey Kahne (-44) and Jamie McMurray (-46) round out the top 10.
The No. 2 Ford driver has led 112 laps this season.
Remember, the first-place points standings finisher at the end of the regular season gets 15 playoff points.
NASCAR XFINITY Series
NASCAR XFINITY Series’ Dash 4 Cash Program Returns With A New Lineup Of Tracks In 2017
With great anticipation, the NASCAR XFINITY Series welcomes the return of the Dash 4 Cash program in 2017. This time around a few things will be different, a new lineup of tracks will host the program along with a slight format change to align itself with the new enhanced stage racing format.
Phoenix Raceway is the first of four tracks that will host the Dash 4 Cash program in 2017. Bristol Motor Speedway (4/22), Richmond International Raceway (4/29) and Dover International Speedway (6/2) are the remaining venues to include the Dash 4 Cash program in their NASCAR XFINITY Series races.
Below are few quick bullets to get you caught up to speed with the new Dash 4 Cash program format:
Full-time NASCAR XFINITY Series drivers who have declared for points in the series will compete for four positions in Dash 4 Cash events, each awarding the winner $100,000.
The top two eligible drivers in each of the first two stages will qualify for the Dash 4 Cash bonus round in the Final Stage (four total drivers).
The highest finisher among these four drivers wins the $100,000 prize and is one step closer to qualifying for the NASCAR XFINITY Series playoffs.
Two Dash 4 Cash wins equal a race win in terms of eligibility for the playoffs.
This year, should one driver capture all four Dash 4 Cash awards, XFINITY will award the winner with an additional $600,000, bringing the total payout to an even $1 million. In a new twist, drivers no longer need to win the final race outright to capture the bonus.
Sadler Holds The Lead, But Top Three In Points Are Tight
For the second straight week, JR Motorsport’s veteran driver Elliott Sadler controls the NASCAR XFINITY Series championship standings lead as the series heads to Phoenix Raceway for the DC Solar 200 on Saturday, March 18 (4 p.m. ET on FS1, MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio). The top three in points, Elliott Sadler, Ryan Reed (second) and William Byron (third) are separated by just nine points following last weekend’s event at Las Vegas.
Not since 2012 has a NASCAR XFINITY Series championship contender won a race at Phoenix Raceway, but it just so happens the last to accomplish the feat was Elliott Sadler.
Series Leader: Elliott Sadler
Sadler is currently five points ahead of second-place in the series driver standings and hopes to build on that this weekend. In his first three starts of 2017, he has posted one top five, two top 10s and an average finish of 12.3. Plus, he has two playoff points from winning the first two stages in the season-opening race at Daytona.
Come this weekend at Phoenix, Sadler is the only former winner entered to compete. In 16 starts there, he has posted one win (2012), four top fives, eight top 10s and an average finish of 12.1.
Second Place: Ryan Reed
Roush Fenway Racing’s Ryan Reed is the lone series title contender with a win (Daytona) this season. Reed has also posted a top five and two top 10s to accompany his win in the first three starts of 2017. With just five points separating Reed from the standings lead, expect him to do all he can to capitalize on his competition this weekend at Phoenix.
Reed has made seven starts at Phoenix Raceway, posting an average finish of 16.0; including his career-best finish at the track of sixth that he posted last fall.
Third Place: William Byron
Sadler’s JR Motorsports teammate William Byron has also had a great start to his 2017 season, posting two top 10s and an average finish of 10.0. Byron is nine points back from the standings lead as he looks to become the second Sunoco Rookie of the Year contender to win the title, joining Chase Elliott (2014).
It will be interesting to see how Byron does this weekend as his luck has run short at Phoenix in the past. Though this weekend will be his NASCAR XFINITY Series debut at Phoenix, he did run two races in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series on the 1-mile raceway. The first resulted in a DNF after being involved in an accident and the second he won the pole, but blew an engine, costing him his title chances in last season’s NCWTS playoffs.
Next Wave Of Talent: Four Sunoco Rookies Proving They Belong
Four of the 2017 Sunoco Rookie of the Year contenders are currently ranked inside the top 10 in NASCAR XFINITY Series driver points following the third race of the season. JR Motorsport’s driver William Byron is ranked third, Richard Childress Racing’s driver Daniel Hemric is ranked fourth, Joe Gibbs Racing’s driver Matt Tifft is sixth and Stewart-Haas Racing’s driver Cole Custer is 10th. Now the series rolls out to Phoenix Raceway where all four mentioned rookies will be making their NASCAR XFINITY Series track debut.
William Byron – No. 9 JR Motorsports Chevrolet Camaro – Byron has posted two top 10s in the first three races this season. The 19-year old from Charlotte, North Carolina, has an average finish of 10.0 in 2017.
Daniel Hemric – No. 21 Richard Childress Racing Camaro – Hemric has posted one top-10 finish in the first three races of the season. The 26-year old from Kannapolis, North Carolina, has an average finish of 17.7 in 2017.
Matt Tifft – No. 19 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota Camry – Tifft has posted two top-15 finishes in his first three races of the season. The 20-year old from Hinckley, Ohio has an average finish of 19.0 in 2017.
Cole Custer – No. 00 Stewart-Haas Racing Ford Mustang – Custer has posted one top-10 finish in the first three races of the season. The 19-year old from Ladera Ranch, California, has an average finish of 19.3 in 2017.
Joe Gibbs Racing Looking To Make It Four In A Row At Phoenix
Joe Gibbs Racing will attempt to win the organization’s fourth consecutive NASCAR XFINITY Series race at Phoenix Raceway this weekend in the DC Solar 200 on March 18. Gibbs will not only become the first owner with four consecutive wins at Phoenix, but he would also take the series lead in owner wins with nine victories – JGR is currently tied with Roush Fenway Racing for the most wins at Phoenix with eight each.
JGR will have three cars entered this weekend to attempt to accomplish the feat. Last season’s champion, Daniel Suárez, will be piloting the No. 18 Toyota this weekend with crew chief Scott Graves. Sunoco Rookie of the Year candidate Matt Tifft will be in the No. 19 Toyota with crew chief Matt Beckman. And finally, 2015 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series champion Erik Jones will be in the No. 20 Toyota with crew chief Chris Gabehart this weekend.
Tifft will be making his series debut at Phoenix this weekend, but his teammates should be a great resource for him to lean on as they have done well at Phoenix in the past. Suárez, for example, has made four starts at Phoenix posting an average finish of 5.8. Jones has also been impressive at Phoenix, posting three top fives and an average finish of 5.2 in just five starts.
Playoff Picture: Who Would Be Where
Three races in the books, here is what the NASCAR XFINITY Series playoff picture would look like if it started this weekend.(Chart to the left)
Team Penske On Top Of The Owner Standings Early With No. 22 Team
Roger Penske once again has his organization, Team Penske, running on all eight cylinders this season as his No. 22 Ford Mustang team currently holds the NASCAR XFINITY Series owner standings lead.
After the first three races of 2017, the No. 22 team is 23 points ahead of the second-place Chip Ganassi Racing’s No. 42 Chevrolet Camaro team.
Penske has tapped Brad Keselowski to run the No. 22 so far this season. Keselowski has been up to the task, as he has posted an average starting position of 3.6 and an average finishing position of 5.3.
This weekend, Ryan Blaney will be strapped into the No. 22 at Phoenix. Blaney has made one series start at Phoenix posting a 10th-place finish.
NASCAR XFINITY Series Etc.:
Double Duty Drivers – It will be another busy weekend for the following Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series drivers competing in the NASCAR XFINITY Series race this weekend – Austin Dillon, Ty Dillon, Daniel Suarez, Erik Jones and Ryan Blaney. …
Arizona Natives – Long-time veteran and Arizona native, JJ Yeley, will attempt to compete this weekend at Phoenix Raceway. Yeley hails from Phoenix, Arizona. Yeley has made 14 starts at his home track posting an average finish of 19.3.
Ty Majeski to Make NASCAR Debut at Iowa – Roush Fenway Racing developmental driver Ty Majeski will make his NASCAR national series debut in the NASCAR XFINITY Series race on June 24 at Iowa Speedway. Majeski boasts ARCA Midwest Tour Championships in 2014, 2015 and 2016 and was one of 11 drivers named to the NASCAR Next 2016-17 class. …
NASCAR Camping World Truck Series
Kazaam! Grala Looks To Join Elite Company
GMS Racing driver and Sunoco Rookie of the Year contender Kaz Grala has already locked himself into the 2017 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series playoffs thanks to his win in the NextEra Energy Resources 250 at Daytona International Speedway.
Grala joins 2016 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Sunoco Rookies William Byron and Christopher Bell as the only rookies to win and make the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series playoffs since the inception of the playoff system in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series last season.
Grala looks to become the 12th driver to win a race in his rookie season en route to capturing the Sunoco Rookie of the Year Award in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series. He would join these 11 drivers since the series inception in 1996:
Kenny Irwin (1997)
Kurt Busch (2000)
Travis Kvapil (2001)
Brendan Gaughan (2002)
Carl Edwards (2003)
Johnny Sauter (2009)
Austin Dillon (2010)
Ty Dillon (2012)
Ryan Blaney (2013)
Erik Jones (2015)
William Byron (2016)
Veterans Crafton and Sauter Climbing All-Time Wins List
NASCAR Camping World Truck Series veterans Matt Crafton and Johnny Sauter are positioning themselves to climb up the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series all-time wins list.
Crafton is currently tied for 11th in all-time NASCAR Camping World Truck Series wins with 13, while Sauter is 14th on the list with 11.
Sauter captured his first NASCAR Camping World Truck Series championship in 2016 with GMS Racing in his eighth full-time season in the series.
Crafton became the first driver to win back-to-back NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Championships, winning titles in 2013 and 2014 with ThorSport Racing. 2017 marks Crafton’s 17th-consecutive full-time season in the series.
10 Former NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Winners Dashing 4 Cash At Phoenix
In this Saturday’s DC Solar 200 at Phoenix International Raceway (4 p.m. ET on FOX), 10 former NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race winners will be dashing for cash in the Series Where Names Are Made.
The list of former NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race winners includes:
Brendan Gaughan (eight wins)
Austin Dillon (seven wins)
Erik Jones (seven wins)
William Byron (seven wins)
Darrell Wallace Jr. (five wins)
Ryan Blaney (four wins)
Ty Dillon (three wins)
Cole Custer (two wins)
Tyler Reddick (two wins)
Elliott Sadler (one win)
Austin Dillon (2011) and Erik Jones (2015) both won NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Championships, while William Byron broke the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series rookie record for wins (seven) in 2016.