Next Stop Kansas Speedway as the post-season Chase hits the halfway mark with Sunday’s Hollywood Casino 400. The twelve remaining title contenders are traveling along a path that will ultimately lead to a championship for one with 1,976.58 “Miles-2-Miami” left before Ford Championship Weekend in November. Chase drivers have won the fall race at Kansas Speedway eight straight years. The last non-title contender to win there was Greg Biffle in 2007. Among full-time Sprint Cup Series drivers, Jimmie Johnson – the Number-8 seed who’s coming off a victory last weekend in Charlotte – tops Kansas Speedway’s win list with three victories, most recently in May 2015 … Entering this weekend, fourth-seeded Kevin Harvick finds himself last in post-season points. If he doesn’t win one of the next two races or climb in the standings, Harvick’s title hopes will end in nine days. He’s currently eight points below the eighth-place cutoff … Martin Truex Junior, the Number-6 seed entering the post-season, has won two of the four Chase races run so far and will be making his four hundredth Cup Series start on Sunday.
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The 2016 Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup rolls on from North Carolina to the Midwest for Sunday afternoon’s Hollywood Casino 400 at Kansas Speedway. It’s the second race in the Round of Twelve, which opened this past weekend with Jimmie Johnson’s victory at Charlotte Motor Speedway that guaranteed the Hendrick Motorsports driver a spot in the eight-man semifinal round that opens October 30th at Martinsville Speedway … Chase drivers have won the fall race at Kansas Speedway eight straight years and nine of the twelve years the post-season format has been in place. The three non-title contenders who have won there are Joe Nemechek in 2004, Tony Stewart in 2006 and Greg Biffle in 2007 … Among full-time Sprint Cup Series drivers, Johnson – the Number-8 seed – tops Kansas Speedway’s win list with three victories, most recently in May 2015 … Three different manufacturers have won the last three Cup Series races at Kansas: Toyota (Kyle Busch), Ford (Joey Logano) and Chevrolet (Johnson).
Jimmie Johnson has joined Greg Biffle, Brad Keselowski, Martin Truex Junior, Carl Edwards, Joey Logano, Austin Dillon, Kyle and Kurt Busch, and rookie Chase Elliott on the list of drivers newly eligible for next year’s Sprint Unlimited non-points special event as a result of their qualifying efforts in 2016. The non-points special event features pole winners from the previous season and traditionally kicks off Speedweeks at Daytona International Speedway. Johnson earned the Number-1 starting spot for this past weekend’s race in New Hampshire with a lap of 133.971 miles per hour. He finished twelfth in Sunday’s race … Next stop in the Sprint Cup Series is this coming Sunday’s Crown Royal 400 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
Matt Kenseth saved his best for last Sunday at New Hampshire Motor Speedway, snatching the lead from teammate Denny Hamlin thirty-one laps from the finish and keeping the Number-20 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota in front the rest of the way in posting his second win of the season and the thirty-eighth of his career. The margin of victory was two seconds over runner-up Tony Stewart. Joey Logano came home in third place with Kevin Harvick and Greg Biffle completing the top five. Pole sitter Jimmie Johnson led only the first lap and finished twelfth. Sunday’s race was a day of domination for Toyota. The manufacturer led all but two of the 301 laps contested on the one-mile Loudon oval including a race-high 133 by Kyle Busch on the way to an eighth-place finish. He was seeking a weekend sweep after winning Saturday’s X-FINITY Series race. Busch dominated the early stages Sunday, leading all but fourteen of the first hundred laps. Martin Truex Junior was strong, running out front for 123 laps before a broken shifter and clutch problems forced him off the pace. He came out of New England with a sixteenth-place finish … The only non-Toyota drivers to lead Sunday’s race were Johnson and Brad Keselowski – who each led one lap on the way to finishes of twelfth and fifteenth, respectively … 23-year-old Alex Bowman placed twenty-sixth in the Number-88 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet. He was subbing for Dale Earnhardt Junior, who sat out Sunday’s race with concussion-like symptoms after recent crashes at Michigan and Daytona. Earnhardt’s status for next weekend’s race at Indianapolis is uncertain … Sunday’s race included thirteen lead changes among six drivers.
Chip Ganassi Racing’s Chad Johnston has become the fourth Sprint Cup Series crew chief to be suspended in eight days. During post-race inspection following Kyle Larson’s eleventh-place finish on Monday at Pocono Raceway, it was discovered that all the lug nuts on his Number-42 Chevrolet were not properly tightened.
Johnston received a one-race suspension, was fined twenty thousand dollars and placed on NASCAR probation through December 31 st . On June 1 st, Cup Series crew chiefs Randall Burnett (who works with A-J Allmendinger), Tony Gibson (Kurt Busch) and Brian Pattie (Greg Biffle) were suspended for rule violations at Charlotte.
In addition to Johnston’s suspension, six Cup teams were given written warnings on Wednesday for a variety of inspection violations at Pocono. Drivers whose teams were warned are Aric Almirola, Matt DiBenedetto, Ty Dillon, Jamie McMurray, Danica Patrick and Regan Smith.
The NASCAR X-Finity Series also visits Auto Club Speedway this weekend for Saturday’s Treat My Clot-dot-com 300. Kevin Harvick is the defending winner and returns seeking back-to-back victories driving the Number-88 Junior Motorsports Chevrolet. If successful, he would become just the fourth driver to double up there since Auto Club Speedway first hosted the X-FINITY Series in 1997: joining Matt Kenseth, who went back-to-back in 1999 and 2000.
Greg Biffle, who swept both races in 2004 … and Kyle Busch in 2008 and 2009, and again in 2010 and 2011 … Toyota has won nine of the last eleven X-FINITY Series races contested on the two-mile Southern California oval with six of those wins courtesy of Busch – who also has three poles at A-C-S. Each time he’s started an X-FINITY Series race from the Number-1 spot, that’s also where he’s finished the race.
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