NASCAR National Series News & Notes – Auto Club Speedway

by Official Release On Wed, Mar. 13, 2019

Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series
Next Race: Auto Club 400
The Place: Auto Club Speedway
The Date: Sunday, March 17
The Time: 3:30 p.m. ET
TV: FOX, 3:30 p.m. ET
Radio: MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio
Distance: 400 miles (200 Laps); Stage 1 (Ends on Lap 60),
Stage 2 (Ends on Lap 120), Final Stage (Ends on Lap 200)
2018 Winner: Martin Truex Jr.

NASCAR Xfinity Series
Next Race: Production Alliance Group 300
The Place: Auto Club Speedway
The Date: Saturday, March 16
The Time: 5 p.m. ET
TV: FS1, 4:30 p.m. ET
Radio: MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio
Distance: 300 miles (150 Laps); Stage 1 (Ends on Lap 35),
Stage 2 (Ends on Lap 70), Final Stage (Ends on Lap 300)
2018 Winner: Joey Logano

NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series
Next Race: NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series 250
The Place: Martinsville Speedway
The Date: Saturday, March 23
The Time: 2 p.m. ET
TV: FOX, 2 p.m. ET
Radio: MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio
Distance: 131.5 miles (250 Laps); Stage 1 (Ends on Lap 70),
Stage 2 (Ends on Lap 140), Final Stage (Ends on Lap 250)
2018 Winner: John Hunter Nemechek

Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series

In A Zone: Kyle Busch looks to scratch another record in the books

Kyle Busch takes a six-point edge over Joey Logano in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series points standings as the series continues its “West Coast Swing.” And this week may be especially significant in the milestone category as Busch faces two chances to claim a historic 200 combined NASCAR national series wins. It could come in Sunday’s Auto Club 400 (3:30 p.m. ET on FOX, MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio) – if he doesn’t earn it in the NASCAR Xfinity Series race on Saturday.

Busch’s historic work at the two-mile California track indicates the driver of the No. 18 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota will again be a factor in deciding the trophy. His three wins are second only to six-time winner Jimmie Johnson and the two drivers are the only competitors in the field with multiple wins at the track.

In fact, Busch and Johnson are the only drivers to score their first career Monster Energy Series victories at Auto Club Speedway – in 2005 and 2002, respectively. And they are the only two drivers to ever win consecutive races at the track – Johnson in 2009-10 and Busch in 2013-14.

In 20 races, Busch has nine top-five finishes and is averaging a 10.4 finish – second only to Johnson among drivers with more than three starts at the track. He has six Xfinity Series wins and is a perfect 2-for-2 in NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series starts there, too.

He comes to California on a roll, sweeping last week’s Xfinity and Cup races at Phoenix’s ISM Raceway, making it easy to understand why he likes his chances in California.

“I’d assess it as pretty good, I guess,’’ Busch said following his 199th NASCAR national series win. “It would certainly be nice to get it (200th win) done on the West Coast swing, but it’s not a necessity. It will happen when it happens, and you can’t push too hard and do stupid things or make mistakes in order to think too much about that number.

“You just have to let the race kind of play out and let it come to you and we’ll see where we are at. Really looking forward to Fontana, it’s been a great place for me over the years and would love to get the Interstate Batteries Toyota back to Victory Lane there again no matter what number win that it ends up being.’’

Back At It: Truex returns to defend Auto Club Speedway victory

Martin Truex Jr. arrives at Auto Club Speedway as the defending race winner and he’ll gladly take the good vibes. Since moving from the Furniture Row Racing team, where he won the 2017 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series championship, to Joe Gibbs Racing this year, Truex is still looking for his first win.

Last season, it came on these Southern California high banks. Truex won the 2018 race from the Busch Pole position, leading 125 laps. He has three top-10 finishes in the last four races at the track and led 224 laps in that timeframe.

Since moving to the Joe Gibbs Racing operation, Truex has come close to winning twice already. He finished runner-up at both the 1.5-mile Atlanta Motor Speedway three weeks ago and last week at Phoenix’s ISM Raceway one-miler. He has three top-10s in four races this season and is ranked fifth in the standings entering the weekend’s race.

Truex ran his first test – a Goodyear tire test – with his new No. 19 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota team at California in January and was encouraged by the time on track.

“Our team is really looking forward to getting to California this week,’’ said Truex. “It’s one of my favorite tracks and I felt good about the test back in January.

“Obviously the weather is going to be different and there will be more than three cars like in the test, but we feel like we’ve learned a lot about the package since then. We need to go in there Friday and unload strong and carry that through the weekend. I’m excited to see if we can go back-to-back there because it’s really turned into one of the most fun tracks on the circuit.’’

If Truex were to win this weekend he would become just the third drivers in series history to win consecutive races at Auto Club Speedway, joining Jimmie Johnson (2009-2010) and Kyle Busch (2013-2014).

The Champ: Auto Club Speedway is mountain still left to summit for Logano

Reigning Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series champion Joey Logano scored his third top-10 finish through the season’s four opening races last week at ISM Raceway in Phoenix, Arizona. He has results of fourth (Daytona 500), first (Las Vegas Motor Speedway) and 10th (ISM Raceway). He had led the points standings up until Kyle Busch’s win at Phoenix last Sunday.

This weekend may prove to be a challenge for the reigning champ. Logano is winless in 12 starts at Auto Club Speedway, but half of those have resulted in top-10 finishes. In four of his last six starts at the 2-mile raceway he has finished inside the top five. His best career showing is third in 2013. His driver rating (87.8) is 10th-best at the track.

Right place, right time for California native Jimmie Johnson

Seven-time Monster Energy Series champion Jimmie Johnson (El Cajon) is hoping a return to his home state of California, along with some positive season momentum and a history of success there, will be the key to snapping an unprecedented 21-month winless streak.

Johnson earned his second top 10 of the season last week at Phoenix (eighth) and turned his first laps (four) in front of the field. He’s ranked 15th in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series driver points standings heading to the two-mile Auto Club Speedway where his six victories (2002, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2016) is most all-time.

In fact during the loop data era (2005-Present), Johnson boasts the top driver rating (115.6), best average finish (7.0), laps in the top 15 (3,988 laps, 88.5%) and most laps led (880 laps) of any active driver at the track. His 13 top-five and 17 top-10 finishes are tops in the field too – as are his five career runner-up finishes.

And two of those are among the closest five finishes in history at Auto Club Speedway. He lost to Kevin Harvick by 0.144-second in 2011 in the closest finish in track history. Greg Biffle edged him by 0.231-seconds in 2005 – for the third-closest margin of victory.

Johnson (2002) and current championship leader Kyle Busch (2005) are the only two active drivers to have scored their first Cup victory at Auto Club Speedway. If Johnson wins this weekend, he will tie NASCAR Hall of Famers Bobby Allison and Darrell Waltrip for fourth on the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series all-time wins list.

Hometown California Heroes: Harvick and Larson

California natives have traditionally fared well at Auto Club Speedway in the Monster Energy Series. Three of the top-10 ranked drivers in pre-race loop data at the track hail from California, including Jimmie Johnson (El Cajon), who boasts the best driver rating (115.6), Bakersfield’s Kevin Harvick (95.5) and Elk Grove native Kyle Larson (91.9).

Harvick won the race in 2011 and has two runner-up finishes in the last four years at Auto Club Speedway. Larson won from the pole position in 2017 and has three top-five finishes in five starts at the track, including a runner-up last year on the heels of his victory.

There are four Californians in the race, also including Matt DiBenedetto, of Grass Valley, who led a race-high 49 laps in the season-opening Daytona 500. His best finish at Auto Club Speedway is 27th in 2016.

Youth Movement

Three of the sport’s popular young drivers arrive at Auto Club Speedway in California this weekend looking for their first top-five finish at the western two-miler – all of them with solid experience at the track, just not a trip to Victory Lane quite yet.

Joe Gibbs Racing driver Erik Jones, 22, has a best showing of seventh place (2018) in two starts at Auto Club Speedway. He has good precedent, however, with two top-five finishes in three Xfinity Series races, including a best of third place in 2015. Jones is currently ranked 14th in the points standings – his first week outside the top-10 following a 29th-place showing in Phoenix last week. He opened the year with a career-best third place in the Daytona 500 – the first of two top 10s so far.

Ryan Blaney, 25, righted his season start last week, earning the Busch Pole position at ISM Raceway, winning the first stage and finishing third – unbelievably, his first top-20 of the season. California has proven to be a positive place for Blaney. The driver of the No. 12 Team Penske Ford Mustang has back-to-back top-10 finishes in his last two starts there.

Chase Elliott, 23, is also still working on his first top-five finish, or possible win, at Auto Club Speedway. The driver of the No. 9 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 has a pair of top-10 finishes in three starts, including a career-best of sixth in his first race there in 2016.

Last year’s three-race winner and Playoff favorite, Elliott, has one top-10 in four starts in 2019

Sunoco Rookie Preview: Auto Club Speedway

Richard Childress Racing driver Daniel Hemric’s 18th-place finish at ISM Raceway, coupled with Ryan Preece’s 34th-place finish, turned over the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series rookie standings lead for the first time this season.

Richard Childress Racing’s Daniel Hemric earned his first top 20 of the season (18th) at Phoenix while Preece was involved in an incident and suffered his second DNF in four races and now trails Hemric by six points heading into Auto Club Speedway this weekend.

Front Row Motorsport’s Matt Tifft remains ranked third among the 2019 rookie class, 23 points behind Hemric. Following Tifft is Rick Ware Racing’s Cody Ware in fourth, 18 points behind Tifft.

All four Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series rookies will be making their series track debut this weekend. Hemric’s career best showing at the track is a fifth-place finish in the NASCAR Xfinity Series race there last year. Tifft was eighth in that Xfinity Series race.

Parade Laps: Insights ahead of this week’s driver media breakouts

Seven drivers from the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series – Hendrick Motorsports’ drivers Jimmie Johnson and Alex Bowman, Stewart-Haas Racing’s Kevin Harvick, JTG Daugherty Racing’s Chris Buescher, Front Row Motorsport’s Matt Tifft, Roush Fenway Racing’s Ricky Stenhouse Jr. and Leavine Family Racing’s Matt DiBenedetto – will be participating in this week’s media rotations at Auto Club Speedway in advance of Sunday’s Auto Club 400 (3:30 p.m. ET on FOX, MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio).

Jimmie Johnson, of El Cajon, Calif., is a seven-time Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series champion, tying him with NASCAR Hall of Fame members Richard Petty and the late Dale Earnhardt for the most season titles in the history of the sport. Johnson, driver of the No. 48 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet Camaro ZL1, leads all drivers with six wins and five runner-up finishes at Auto Club Speedway. His 13 top-five and 17 top-10 finishes are most all-time as well. He arrives for Sunday’s race ranked 15th in the standings with a pair of top-10 finishes (ninth at Daytona and eighth last week in Phoenix) in the season’s opening four races.

Kevin Harvick, of Bakersfield, Calif., is the 2014 Monster Energy Series champion. The driver of the No. 4 Stewart-Haas Racing Ford Mustang earned a career-best eight victories in 2018, finishing third in the championship. He’s finished third or better in the final standings in six of the last seven seasons. Auto Club Speedway is located a little more than two hours from Harvick’s hometown of Bakersfield. He won at the track in 2011 and has finished runner-up in two (2015 and 2016) of the last four races there. He is currently ranked third in the standings with three top-10 finishes in the four races to date, including a ninth place in Phoenix last weekend.

Chris Buescher, of Prosper, Texas, is the 2015 NASCAR Xfinity Series champion. The driver of the JTG Daugherty Racing Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 has one victory in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series, earning it at Pocono, Pa. in his 2016 rookie season. He has one top-10 so far in 2019 – a ninth-place finish at Atlanta three weeks ago. His best showing at Auto Club Speedway is 20th, in his first start there in 2015.

Matt Tifft, of Hinckley, Ohio, has never made a Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series start at Auto Club Speedway. In his four series races this season, the 22-year old rookie turned in his best effort last week finishing 20th at Phoenix in the No. 34 Front Row Motorsports Ford Mustang.

Alex Bowman, of Tucson, Arizona, is in his second year driving the No. 88 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet Camaro ZL1. In three previous starts at Auto Club Speedway, Bowman’s best finish is 13th, last year in his first race at the track with Hendrick Motorsports. He has had a solid start to his 2019 season with a pair of 11th-place finishes in the opening three races (at Daytona and at Las Vegas), and is looking to get back on track after being involved in an accident last week and finishing 35th at his home track, Phoenix.

Ricky Stenhouse Jr., of Olive Branch, Mississippi, comes to Auto Club Speedway ranked 10th in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series driver standings – the third time in his six-year career he’s been ranked 10th after the first four races of the season. He’s had four solid top-18 finishes so far, leading laps in three races and highlighted by a sixth-place finish in Las Vegas two weeks ago. His best finish at Auto Club Speedway is fifth (2016).

Matt DiBenedetto, of Grass Valley, California, is enjoying the best season start to his four-year full-time Monster Energy NASCAR Cup career. He led a race-best 49 laps in the season-opening Daytona 500 only to be collected in a crash with 17 laps remaining in the race. He’s still looking for his first top-20 since moving to the Leavine Family Racing team this season. His best showing is 21st at Las Vegas two weeks ago. His best finish in four Auto Club Speedway starts is 27th with BK Racing back in 2016.

NASCAR Xfinity Series

Saturday is Kyle Busch’s first chance at the 200th NASCAR national series win

Joe Gibbs Racing’s Kyle Busch will have his first crack at winning his 200th NASCAR national series race in this Saturday’s NASCAR Xfinity Series Production Alliance Group 300 at Auto Club Speedway at 5 p.m. ET on FS1, MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio.

Busch currently has 199 NASCAR national series combined wins (52 Monster Energy Series, 94 NASCAR Xfinity Series and 53 NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series).

NASCAR Hall of Famer Richard Petty currently holds the all-time lead in NASCAR national series combined wins with 200 – but, of note, all of his came in the Monster Energy Series.

Busch could actually reach 201 combined NASCAR national series wins if he were to sweep the weekend’s NASCAR Xfinity Series and Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series races – a feat he accomplished back 2013.

Top Five in All-Time Combined NASCAR National Series Wins

Rank

Driver

Total

Monster Energy

Xfinity

Gander Outdoors

1

Richard Petty

200

200

0

0

2

Kyle Busch

199

52

94

53

3

David Pearson

106

105

1

0

Kevin Harvick

106

45

47

14

5

Jeff Gordon

98

93

5

0

The Production Alliance Group 300 at Auto Club Speedway has a pretty good shot at being the event that gets Busch his 200th win. Busch leads the NASCAR Xfinity Series in wins at Auto Club Speedway with six victories and three of them were from the pole. Though he hasn’t visited Victory Lane in his last three series starts at the track, he has led laps and battled for the win, finishing no worse than third during those contests. In total, Busch has 18 series starts at the track, six wins (2008, Spring 2009, 2010 sweep, 2011, 2013), 12 top fives, 15 top 10s and an average finish of 6.1.

The veteran from Las Vegas also leads several of the series’ key pre-race loop data statistical categories at Auto Club Speedway; including driver rating (124.9), fastest laps run (432), quality passes (510), green flag passes (689), laps in the top 15 (2,192 laps; 91.2%) and laps led (800).

California drivers Reddick and Custer are off to hot start in 2019

California is known for producing some of racing’s top talent and this season the NASCAR Xfinity Series has been blessed by several of those West Coasters competing for the driver championship title. Two California natives that stand above the rest this season are Richard Childress Racing’s Tyler Reddick (Corning) and Stewart-Haas Racing’s Cole Custer (Ladera Ranch).

The 2018 NASCAR Xfinity Series champ and current standings leader Reddick is racing at a very high level this season. Reddick didn’t even spin the tires when he launched from JR Motorsports to Richard Childress Racing in the offseason, as it only took him four races this year to retake the top spot in the NASCAR Xfinity Series driver points standings.

Now the 23-year old is heading to his home state this weekend after accumulating two top fives and three top 10s on the year; as well as leading the third-most laps this season (75).

Reddick was born about eight to nine hours north of Auto Club Speedway (Fontana), and the RCR driver has taken to the 2-mile track quite well. In his series track debut last season driving for JR Motorsports, he started 16th and finished inside the top-10 (seventh). Reddick is currently holding the NASCAR Xfinity Series standings lead by a slim four points over Joe Gibbs Racing’s Christopher Bell following the race at Phoenix last weekend.

Hailing from Ladera Ranch, California, is Stewart-Haas Racing’s driver, Cole Custer. The 21-year-old rising star is ranked third in the NASCAR Xfinity Series standings, 11 points behind Tyler Reddick in the standings lead and seven points back from second-place Christopher Bell heading into this weekend at Auto Club Speedway.

Custer has been solid this season, racking up two top fives and three top 10s in the first four starts of the season; including a runner-up finish at Atlanta. He has also banked the second-best average finish this season with a 7.2.

This weekend will be a homecoming party for Custer, as Ladera Ranch is just over an hour drive from Fontana, where Auto Club Speedway is located. Custer has made two starts at the two-mile raceway, posting one top-10 finish (sixth-place, last season).

Custer and Reddick are not the only California natives that have competed in the series this season, Zane Smith (Huntington Beach) and Ja Junior Avila (Los Angeles) have also made starts this season; neither are entered this weekend.

Sunoco Rookie Update: Chase Briscoe finds his footing

YTD Sunoco Rookie of the Year Standings

Rookie

Points

Ldr

Nxt

John H. Nemechek

140

0

0

Noah Gragson

130

-10

-10

Justin Haley

116

-24

-14

Chase Briscoe

112

-28

-4

Brandon Brown

85

-55

-27

After a slow start to the season, Stewart-Haas Racing with Fred Biagi’s rookie driver, Chase Briscoe, grabbed a gear and scored his first Sunoco Rookie of the Race honors at ISM Raceway with a sixth-place finish last weekend.

Piloting the No. 98 Ford Mustang this season, Briscoe is ranked fourth in the Sunoco Rookie of the Year standings but has made strides to cut into John Hunter Nemechek’s points lead and is now only 28 points back following back-to-back top-10 finishes in his last two starts. Plus, he has posted an average finish of 10.2 this season.

Briscoe now sets his eyes on Auto Club Speedway, where he will be making his series track debut this weekend, but he will not be alone. Fellow rookies Noah Gragson, Justin Haley and Brandon Brown will also be making their track debuts. John Hunter Nemechek is the only rookie this season with Xfinity Series experience at Auto Club Speedway – he made his track debut last season, and after qualifying third and running towards the front in Stage 1, he was caught in an incident on Lap 69 that relegated him to a 29th-place finish.

Of note, Chase Briscoe is also ranked 13th in the NASCAR Xfinity Series driver standings, 57 points back from the standings lead.

RSS Racing’s Ryan Sieg is making consistency his calling card

One driver finding consistency to be key to his success this season is RSS Racing’s Ryan Sieg, who is currently having his best NASCAR Xfinity Series career start to a season following his third top-10 finish in the first four races of year.

Ryan Sieg has RSS Racing mixing it up with some of the best in the sport. The 31-yeard old from Tucker, Georgia is ranked 10th in the series driver championship standings just 43-points behind the series standings lead.

Sieg busted out of the 2019 gate with one top five and three tops 10s; that included a fourth-place finish at Daytona, a sixth at Las Vegas and a 10th at ISM Raceway. Sieg has an impressive average finish of 7.8 this season – tied with series standings leader Tyler Reddick for third-best this season behind Michael Annett (6.5) and Cole Custer (7.2).

Sieg has made five series starts at Auto Club Speedway, posting an average finish of 22.4.

Xfinity Team Spotlight: SS Green Light Racing

This week we turn the spotlight on a team out of Mooresville, North Carolina, that is kicking the season off well in the NASCAR Xfinity Series – SS Green Light Racing – with drivers Ray Black Jr. in the No. 07 Chevrolet Camaro and Gray Gaulding in the No. 08 Chevrolet Camaro.

SS Green Light Racing was founded and is operated by Bobby Dotter, a second-generation driver who began his racing career as a teenager in the Chicago area. Dotter and SS Green Light Racing have prided themselves on developing young drivers in the sport. Over the years, several talented drivers have been with Dotter at SS Green Light Racing including, most recently, Ross Chastain, Joey Gase, and Spencer Boyd.

After the first four races of the season, SS Green Light Racing has Gray Gaulding sitting 16th in the NASCAR Xfinity Series standings and his teammate Ray Black Jr. just behind him in 18th.

This season, Gaulding, 21, from Colonial Heights, Virginia, has posted one top-15 and two top-20 finishes; including a career-best finish of 12th at Las Vegas Motor Speedway a few weeks back. Working with crew chief Patrick Donahue, Gaulding has an average finish of 19.5 through four races this season.

Gaulding’s SS Green Light Racing teammate, Ray Black Jr., from Palm Coast, Florida, is having the best start to a season in his Xfinity Series career. The 27-year-old, in four starts this season, has collected one top-15 and two top-20 finishes; including his series career-best finish of 11th at Las Vegas. Black Jr., working with crew chief Jason Miller, has also grabbed an average finish of 20.5 through the first four races of the season.

Heading to California this weekend, Black Jr. has only made two starts (2016-2017) at Auto Club Speedway in the NASCAR Xfinity Series posting a best finish of 27th in 2017. His teammate, Gaulding, will be making his series track debut this weekend on the 2-mile track.

Auto Club Speedway: Quick stats to know

Below is a quick statistical look at the NASCAR Xfinity Series at Auto Club Speedway:

Races/Starts:

Auto Club Speedway has hosted 29 NASCAR Xfinity Series races. The first Xfinity Series race held at Auto Club Speedway was on October 19, 1997 and the event was won by Todd Bodine driving the Scott Welliver-owned Pontiac. In total, 332 different NASCAR Xfinity Series drivers have made starts at Auto Club Speedway, 205 drivers have competed in more than one. Kevin Harvick leads the series in starts at Auto Club Speedway with 20 starts.

Poles:

In total, the NASCAR Xfinity Series has seen 18 different drivers win the pole award at Auto Club Speedway; led by Joey Logano with four poles (2009, 2010, 2012, 2017). Steve Park won the series’ first pole at Auto Club Speedway in 1997 and Christopher Bell won the most recent Xfinity pole at Auto Club Speedway last season. The youngest Xfinity pole winner at Auto Club Speedway is Erik Jones (March 21, 2015, at 18 years, 8 months and 50 days). Dave Blaney is the oldest series pole winner at Auto Club Speedway (Feb. 24, 2007 at 44 years, 4 months, 0 days). Tony Stewart holds the NASCAR Xfinity Series qualifying record at Auto Club Speedway with a speed of 185.941 mph (Feb. 26, 2005).

Wins:

In total the NASCAR Xfinity Series has seen 16 different drivers win the race at Auto Club Speedway; led by Kyle Busch with six victories (2008, 2009, 2010 sweep, 2011, 2013). Todd Bodine won the series’ first race at Auto Club Speedway in 1997 and Joey Logano won the most recent Xfinity race at Auto Club Speedway last season. The youngest Xfinity race winner at Auto Club Speedway is Joey Logano (Oct. 10, 2009 at 19 years, 4 months, 16 days). The oldest series winner at Auto Club Speedway is Mark Martin (Feb. 26, 2005 at 46 years, 1 month, 17 days). Hank Parker Jr. holds the race record in the series at Auto Club Speedway with an average speed of 155.957 mph (April 28, 2001).

Parade Laps: Insights ahead of this week’s driver media breakouts

Three drivers from the NASCAR Xfinity Series – Richard Childress Racing’s Tyler Reddick, Stewart-Haas Racing’s Cole Custer and GMS Racing’s standout rookie John Hunter Nemechek – will be participating in this week’s media rotations at Auto Club Speedway. All three drivers are currently in the top 10 of the NASCAR Xfinity Series driver points standings as they prepare for the Production Alliance Group 300 this Saturday, March 16 at 5 p.m. ET on FS1, MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio.

Tyler Reddick (No. 2 Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet Camaro)

Birthdate: January 11, 1996

Driver’s Age: 23

Hometown: Corning, California

Hobbies: Riding ATVs, gaming, working on cars

Xfinity Career Highlights:

2018 NASCAR Xfinity Series Champion and Sunoco Rookie of the Year
Became just the third driver in series history to win the title in his rookie season, joining Chase Elliott (2014) and William Byron (2017).
Has three career NASCAR Xfinity Series wins; including closest finish in the history of NASCAR last season at Daytona International Speedway with a margin of victory of 0.0004 sec.
2019 Season Highlights:

Currently the driver championship standings leader by four points over second-place Christopher Bell
In four starts this season, has posted two top fives, three top 10s and an average finish of 7.8.
Has led the third-most laps (75) this season behind Kyle Busch (217) and Christopher Bell (214).
Auto Club Speedway Performance:

Made series track debut at Auto Club Speedway last season; he started 16th and raced his way to a seventh-place finish.

Cole Custer (No. 00 Stewart-Haas Racing Ford Mustang)

Birthdate: January 23, 1998

Driver’s Age: 21

Hometown: Ladera Ranch, California

Hobbies: Watching sports

Xfinity Career Highlights:

In 2018, he made the Playoff’s Championship 4; ultimately finishing runner-up in final driver standings while his No. 00 car won the owner’s title
Made the Playoffs and finished fifth in the NASCAR Xfinity Series championship standings in his rookie year (2017).
Has two career NASCAR Xfinity Series wins; including last season’s Playoff race at Texas Motor Speedway to win his way into the Championship 4.
2019 Season Highlights:

Currently third in the driver points standings, 11 points back from the series standings leader Tyler Reddick and just seven points behind second-place Christopher Bell.
In four starts this season, has posted two top fives, three top 10s and an average finish of 7.2.
Has led the fourth-most laps (51) this season.
Auto Club Speedway Performance:

Has made two series starts at Auto Club Speedway, starting fourth in both of his starts. But in his series track debut, he was involved in an incident on Lap 106 and finished 35th, and then last season redeemed himself by finishing inside the top-10 (sixth).

John Hunter Nemechek (No. 23 GMS Racing Chevrolet Camaro)

Birthdate: June 11, 1997

Driver’s Age: 21

Hometown: Mooresville, North Carolina

Hobbies: Snowboarding, surfing, mountain biking and cycling

Xfinity Career Highlights:

Competed part-time in 2018 for Chip Ganassi Racing, posting his first NASCAR Xfinity Series career win (Kansas Speedway) and first pole (ISM Raceway).
2019 Season Highlights:

Currently seventh in the driver points standings, 29 points back from series standings leader Tyler Reddick.
Current Sunoco Rookie of the Year standings leader by 10 points over second-place Noah Gragson following ISM Raceway.
In four starts this season, has posted one top five, three top 10s and an average finish of 9.8.
Auto Club Speedway Performance:

Made series track debut at Auto Club Speedway last season; after qualifying third and running towards the front in Stage 1, he was caught in an incident on Lap 69 that relegated him to a 29th-place finish.

NASCAR Xfinity Series, Etc.:

Truex Making Most Of Part-Time Schedule – Last weekend at ISM Raceway, Ryan Truex finished an impressive runner-up to Kyle Busch while driving the JR Motorsport’s No. 8 Chevrolet Camaro – tying his series career-best finish (second at Dover in 2012). Truex is scheduled to run a part-time schedule with JR Motorsports this season to showcase his talents in the NASCAR Xfinity Series. The 26-year old from Mayetta, New Jersey will be returning to the series in July at Kentucky.

Ryan Preece Returns To Xfinity – JR Motorsports has fielded four different drivers in the first four starts of the season in the No. 8 this season – Chase Elliott (Daytona), Ryan Preece (Atlanta), Zane Smith (Las Vegas) and Ryan Truex (Phoenix). This weekend JR Motorsports will have Ryan Preece back in the No. 8 Chevrolet Camaro; his second series start of 2019. Preece made his season debut at Atlanta a few weeks back, grabbing a seventh-place finish for JRM. This weekend, he returns to compete in the Production Alliance Group 300 at Auto Club Speedway, where he has made two series starts, posting one top-10 finish (ninth-place finish last season). The No. 8 is currently ranked 12th in the owner points standings.

NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series

ThorSport Racing drivers trade in trucks for sports cars this weekend

Although the NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series has the weekend off, that’s not stopping a quartet of ThorSport Racing drivers from taking to the track in sunny Florida.

Two-time Truck Series champion Matt Crafton, current series points leader Grant Enfinger, 2018 Sunoco Rookie of the Year Myatt Snider and 2014 NASCAR K&N Pro Series East champion Ben Rhodes will be joining Ford Performance and Multimatic Motorsports for Friday’s IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge race at Sebring International Raceway.

The extracurricular racing gives the four the opportunity to work on their road course skills such as passing and giving feedback to their crew chiefs and teammates.

It will be the IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge debut for all four drivers. Crafton and Enfinger will be paired up in the No. 22 Multimatic Motorsports Ford Mustang GT4 while Snider and Rhodes will team up in the No. 15 entry for the team.

The two-hour Alan Jay Automotive Network 120 goes green on Friday at noon ET and can be streamed live on IMSA.tv with IMSA Radio commentary.

Sauter striving for five at “The Paperclip”

2016 NASCAR Gander Outdoors Series champion Johnny Sauter certainly knows his way around the half-mile track at Martinsville Speedway. Four of his 23 series victories have come there.

He won the most recent race at the track affectionately known as “The Paperclip,” and three times previous to that (Fall, 2016; Spring, 2013, Spring, 2011).

In 22 starts at Martinsville, Sauter has nine top-five and 12 top-10 finishes, with an average start of 9.1 and an average finish of 12.0. And he has remarkable staying power at the track that lends itself to beating and banging – he only has one DNF to his name.

In fact, he’s completed 97% of the laps run in races he’s entered – and has run the complete distance in all but five starts. (And…in two of those, he was only one lap down at the finish.)

The only track at which Sauter has more wins than Martinsville is Texas – where he has reached Victory Lane five times…including in the spring last year.

Crew Chief Spotlight: Mike Hillman Jr.

Harrison Burton, the driver of the No. 18 Kyle Busch Motorsports Toyota, has impressed early in his Sunoco Rookie campaign as he sits second by just six points in the overall points standings following the opening three races.

And he’s doing it with veteran crew chief Mike Hillman Jr. calling the shots from atop the pit box.

Hillman has tallied 22 wins in 280 races over 13 seasons in the NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series. But remarkably, he’s only been paired full-time with a driver in six of those seasons (Todd Bodine from 2006-2011, winning the series championship together in 2006 and 2010; then with Jeb Burton in 2013).

All but three of his wins came with Todd Bodine. Jeb Burton tallied a victory for him in 2013 and then team owner Kyle Busch won a pair of races with Hillman last year.

Other than a few races with Busch and David Gilliland, in recent seasons, Hillman’s had a rotating cast of rising young stars occupying the seat of his truck for most races. Last year, he worked with eight different drivers – including eight races with Burton. They put together three top fives and six top 10s together and won the pole at Iowa. The duo also paired up in 2017 for a top-five finish at next week’s venue – Martinsville.

Ben Rhodes, Brandon Jones, Chase Briscoe, Riley Herbst, Myatt Snider and Todd Gilliland are among the drivers who found themselves listening to Hillman’s voice in their truck headsets over the past several seasons.

Hillman brings a depth of knowledge to his young drivers. He broke away from the Gander Outdoors Truck Series in 2015 (Brian Scott) and 2016 (Brandon Jones) to serve as a NASCAR Xfinity Series crew chief for Richard Childress Racing. And he’s spent 14 races calling the shots in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series – including most recently for Cody Ware at Daytona this year.

Friesen looking to spring to success at Martinsville

Currently fourth in the NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series, veteran racer Stewart Friesen is hoping his second full-time season (he also ran 19 of 23 races in 2017) is his breakout year.

Friesen is coming off his best finish of the season, a fourth-place effort at Las Vegas. And he’s heading to a track that arguably should be a strength – as Friesen made his name on short tracks…albeit in the dirt.

But Friesen has had mixed results at the half-mile track…and in four starts there, has tended to perform better in the fall race. His spring starts over the past two seasons netted finishes of 25th and 20th, while he’s finished sixth and 11th in the two fall Martinsville races he’s contested.

His lone top-five finish on a short track came last year at Bristol, where he finished second.

** The opinions expressed on this site are not necessarily those of the publisher. All comments other than website related problems need to be directed to the author. (c)SpeedwayMedia.com. **

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