All three of NASCAR’s national series are in action this weekend with the Camping World Truck Series at Gateway Motorsports Park Speedway and the XFINITY Series and Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series at Michigan International Speedway. Storylines for this weekend follow…

The Race: FireKeepers Casino 400
The Place: Michigan International Speedway
The Date: Sunday, June 18
The Time: 3 p.m. ET
TV: FS1, 2 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)

Blaney Captures First Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Win At Pocono

Wood Brothers Racing’s Ryan Blaney passed Kyle Busch with 10 laps to go in Sunday’s Axalta presents the Pocono 400 at Pocono Raceway and held Kevin Harvick off the rest of the way to earn his first career victory.

At 23 years, 5 months, 11 days, Blaney is the youngest first-time winner since Trevor Bayne (20 years, 1 day) won the 2011 Daytona 500. Bayne’s victory in The Great American Race was also the last triumph for Wood Brothers Racing, which boasts 99 overall wins.

With the win, the No. 21 Ford driver virtually guarantees himself a spot in the playoffs. On the season, he has three top fives and five top 10s. He owns eight playoff points via his victory and three stage wins.

Blaney joins Kyle Larson as the second alumnus of the NASCAR Next initiative to win a Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series race. Overall, 13 former NASCAR Next drivers have made an appearance in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series.

Blaney will go for his second straight win in Sunday’s FireKeepers Casino 400 at Michigan International Speedway (3 p.m. ET on FS1, MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio). He made his first career Monster Energy Series start at the two-mile oval in 2015 and recorded his track career-best fourth-place finish there last August.

The Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series has had three first-time winners in five races – Ricky Stenhouse Jr. (Talladega), Austin Dillon (Charlotte) and Blaney (Pocono) – for the first time since 2007: Casey Mears (Charlotte), Martin Truex Jr. (Dover) and Juan Pablo Montoya (Sonoma).

Erik Jones Comes Home After Logging Career-Best Finish

Erik Jones sped to a career-best third-place showing on Sunday at Pocono – his first career top-five showing in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series. He also led a personal-high 20 laps.

The Byron, Michigan, native, who trails Daniel Suarez for first in the Sunoco Rookie of the Year standings by eight points, will attempt to close the gap when he returns to his home state for Sunday’s FireKeepers Casino 400.

Jones has made one start in Michigan in both the NASCAR XFINITY and Camping World Truck Series. He finished third in the 2015 Truck race and fourth in last year’s XFINITY contest.

Brad Keselowski Still Searching For First Michigan Win

Brad Keselowski would like nothing more than to win in his home state in Sunday’s Fire Keepers Casino 400 at Michigan International Speedway – a track where he’s never visited Victory Lane.

A win would make Keselowski the ninth active driver to win in his home state: Kyle Larson (California), Kevin Harvick (California), Kyle Busch (Nevada), Jimmie Johnson (California), Denny Hamlin (Virginia), Ryan Newman (Indianapolis), Austin Dillon (North Carolina) and Aric Almirola (Florida).

“I would say it’s a weekend that is circled every year on our calendar and one where we’ve had a lot of success but haven’t been able to break through for that first win,” Keselowski said. “So I feel like with the season we’re having this year, we have a great opportunity of checking that box off.”

In 15 starts at Michigan, Keselowski claims five top fives, 10 top 10s and a 12.3 average finish. He holds a streak of six straight top-10 finishes at his home track.

Currently, Keselowski sits fifth in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series points standings (130 markers below leader Martin Truex Jr.). He ranks third in the series with 12 playoff points from his two victories and two stage wins.

Logano Speedy In Wolverine State

Last season, Joey Logano was the only driver to win a Coors Light Pole Award with a lap of more than 200 MPH (201.698). He achieved the feat at Michigan International Speedway – a track where he’s been successful throughout his career.

In 16 starts at Michigan, Logano has logged two wins, four top fives, 11 top 10s and a 12.6 average finish. He has produced a top-10 showing in his last eight races at the two-mile track and is the defending winner of the FireKeepers Casino 400.

Kyle Larson Returns To Site Of First Win

Kyle Larson kicked NASCAR’s youth movement into full gear last August when he led 41 laps and held off fellow young gun Chase Elliott to win the Pure Michigan 400 at Michigan International Speedway for his first career Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series victory.

Larson will go for his second consecutive triumph at the two-mile track in Sunday’s FireKeepers Casino 400 at Michigan International Speedway. In last year’s June Michigan race, he placed third.

The No. 42 Chevrolet driver will also attempt to regain the points lead from Martin Truex Jr., who he trails by just one marker. On the season, Larson has one win, five top fives, nine top 10s and an 8.4 average finish. He also has three stage wins and eight playoff points.

Many Monster Energy Stars Still Searching For First Wins

Ten drivers have already won Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series races this season. This could be the year a driver must win to make the playoffs.

Many of NASCAR’s established stars are still searching for wins, including: Kyle Busch, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Kevin Harvick, Denny Hamlin, Matt Kenseth, Kasey Kahne and Jamie McMurray. Even winless young stars like Chase Elliott, Erik Jones and Daniel Suarez are threats to visit Victory Lane each week.

The winless 2017 drivers who have triumphed at Michigan are Kenseth (three times), Earnhardt (two), Hamlin (2), Kyle Busch (1) and Kahne (1).

Suarez Looks To Extend Sunoco Rookie Of The Year Lead At Location Of First National Series Win

Keep an eye on Daniel Suarez this weekend. Suarez shot past 2015 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series champion (and teammate) Kyle Busch with two laps left in last year’s NASCAR XFINITY Series race at Michigan to become the first Mexican-born driver to win a national series race.

Right now he leads the Sunoco Rookie of the Year standings by eight points over Erik Jones. Suarez boasts a 9.8 average finish over his last four starts and produced a career-best sixth-place showing at Dover two weeks ago.

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The Race: Irish Hills 250
The Place: Michigan International Speedway
The Date: Saturday, June 17
The Time: 1:30 p.m. ET
TV: FS1, 1 p.m. ET
Radio: MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio
Distance: 250 miles (125 laps); Stage 1 (Ends on lap 30), Stage 2 (Ends on lap 60), Final Stage (Ends on lap 125)

JR Motorsports Teammates Separated By One Point In Championship Standings

After leading 13 laps, capitalizing on stage points and bringing home a runner-up finish this past weekend at Pocono Raceway, Justin Allgaier has finally supplanted his JR Motorsports teammate Elliot Sadler from the NASCAR XFINITY Series standings lead.

Sadler had held the top spot for 10 consecutive races dating back to Atlanta in the beginning of March. With a one point advantage, Allgaier, crew chief Jason Burdett and the No. 7 JR Motorsports Chevrolet team head to Michigan International Speedway looking to build on their lead.

If recent history is any indicator, increasing the No. 7 team’s points lead at Michigan is doable. Over the past three seasons, the series leader has increased his lead on average by 9 points in the Michigan race – in 2016, standings leader Daniel Suárez increased his lead by seven points; in 2015, points leader Chris Buescher increased his lead by 10-points after MIS and in 2014, then points leader Regan Smith increased his lead by 10 points as well after MIS.

Though history might be on Allgaier’s side, don’t expect Sadler to go down without a fight. The veteran from Virginia has built his title run this season on consistency. In 12 starts this season, he has five top fives and 10 top 10s. Michigan is a track he can rebound at, he has made 12 starts at Michigan posting two top fives, seven top 10s and an average finish of 12.6

Allgaier looks poised to sets his sights on a title this season, though. In six starts at Michigan, he has posted one top five, three top 10s and an average finish of 9.7.

Kyle Busch Returns To Make It Three-In-A-Row At Michigan For Joe Gibbs Racing

The winningest driver in series history (87 wins), Kyle Busch has returned this weekend to compete in the Michigan 250 on Saturday, June 17 (1:30 p.m. on FS1, MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio) to give Joe Gibbs Racing their third NASCAR XFINITY Series Michigan International Speedway win in as many seasons.

Busch took the checkered flag at MIS in 2015, then last season’s series champion, Daniel Suárez, backed it up and gave JGR the win in 2016. The victory was Suarez’s first in the series. Now Busch is back to make it three-in-a-row.

Joe Gibbs Racing currently has four NASCAR XFINITY Series wins at Michigan International Speedway, second only to Roush Fenway Racing’s five. Gibbs is looking to tie Roush this weekend for the series lead in wins at MIS.

Busch hasn’t competed in the NASCAR XFINITY Series since Auto Club Speedway back in March earlier this season. But don’t expect Busch to be rusty. He has made nine starts at Michigan, posting one pole (2014), two wins (2004, 2015), eight top fives and an impressive average finish of 3.9.

Gibbs will also have Sunoco Rookie of the Year candidate Matt Tifft in the No. 19 Toyota this weekend. Tifft is eighth in points following Pocono, 125 points back from the series standings lead. This will be Tifft’s series track debut this weekend at Michigan.

Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series regular Denny Hamlin will also be in the No. 20 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota on Saturday, contributing to the JGR effort. This will be Hamlin’s third start of the season. Hamlin has made five previous series starts at Michigan, posting one win (2007), four top 10s and an average finish of 11.4.

Going, Going, But Not Gaughan

Richard Childress Racing’s Brendan Gaughan, who at one point this season had dropped to 17th in points, appears to have righted the ship, and is making moves to get in contention to make the NASCAR XFINITY Series playoffs.

Gaughan is coming off his third top 10 of the season, after he finished sixth this past weekend at Pocono Raceway. The strong finish has moved him into 13th in the driver standings, 28-points behind the final playoff transfer position – 12th-place Dakoda Armstrong.

At this time of the year last season, Gaughan began to hit his stride. Heading into Michigan, with 14 races until the 2016 playoffs, Gaughan rallied off seven top 10s and made the cut for the post season.

Gaughan has made five series starts at Michigan posting an average finish of 22.6. He finished 18th in this event last season. Gaughan will have his work cut for him to catch Dakoda Armstrong at Michigan, as he has an average finish of 19.6 in three starts at MIS.

Will We See An Eighth Different Series Winner At Michigan This Weekend?

Over the last seven races at Michigan, we have had seven different winners dating back to the 2010 event. Which begs the questions, will we see number eight?

The past seven winners are: Daniel Suárez (2016), Kyle Busch (2015), Paul Menard (2014), Regan Smith (2013), Joey Logano (2012), Carl Edwards (2011) and Brad Keselowski (2010).

Kyle Busch (two wins), Brad Keselowski (two wins), Daniel Suárez (one win), Paul Menard (one win) and Denny Hamlin (one win) are the former winners entered this weekend.

Only two drivers in series history have recorded their first career series win at Michigan – Daniel Suárez (2016) and Ryan Newman (2000).

Crew Chiefs Burdett, Meendering Setting Themselves Apart

JR Motorsport’s crew chiefs Jason Burdett and Kevin Meendering are arguably a couple of the best in the NASCAR XFINITY Series garage this season. Both crew chiefs have their respective teams within one point of each other atop the series driver standings after 12 starts this season.  Their next nearest competitor in the standings is 62 points back. Now heading to Michigan this weekend, can Burdett and Meendering keep their teams pulling away from the field?

Burdett began serving as crew chief for JR Motorsports full-time in 2015. He has worked with Regan Smith and Justin Allgaier over the past three seasons. Burdett led driver Justin Allgaier and the No. 7 Chevrolet team to the standings lead on the strength of four top fives and six top 10s this season. With a one-point advantage over their teammates, finishing well at Michigan will be important.  In their first appearance together at Michigan last season, Burdett and Allgaier finished eighth.

Kevin Meendering joined JR Motorsports and the No. 1 Chevrolet team with driver Elliott Sadler last season, leading the team to three wins and a runner-up finish in the final series standings. This season, the duo of Meendering and Sadler are at it again. Until this past weekend at Pocono, the No. 1 JRM team had held the driver standings lead for 10 consecutive races dating back to Atlanta, the second race of the season. Expect Meendering and Sadler to give Burdett and Allgaier a run for their money this weekend, as last season the pair finished fifth in their MIchigan debut together.

NASCAR XFINITY Series Etc.

NASCAR In Michigan: The series has hosted 25 races at Michigan International Speedway – the only track the series has competed on in the state of Michigan. There have been 22 different NASCAR XFINITY Series Coors Light pole winners at Michigan, led by Austin Dillon with two poles – the remaining 21 pole winners each have one. The 25 series races at MIS have produced 18 different race winners; led by a seven-way tie between Carl Edwards, Todd Bodine, Kyle Busch, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Ryan Newman, Brad Keselowski and Mark Martin all with two wins each.

Monster Names to Watch For: A total of five Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series drivers will attempt to compete this weekend in the NASCAR XFINITY Series race – Paul Menard, Ty Dillon, Kyle Busch, Denny Hamlin and Brad Keselowski.

Milestones: Joe Gibbs Racing (four wins) can tie Roush Fenway Racing (five wins) for the series lead in wins by car owners at Michigan this weekend. … Kyle Busch can break the seven-driver tie (two wins each) for the series lead in wins at Michigan with a victory this weekend, becoming the sole leader in wins at MIS.

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The Race: Drivin’ For Linemen 200
The Place: Gateway Motorsports Park
The Date: Saturday, June 17
The Time: 8:30 p.m. ET
TV: FS1, 8 p.m. ET
Radio: MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio
Distance: 200 miles (160 laps); Stage 1 (Ends on lap 35), Stage 2 (Ends on lap 70), Final Stage (Ends on lap 160)

Christopher Rings Victory Bell At Texas

Kyle Busch Motorsports driver Christopher Bell edged Sunoco Rookie of the Year contender Chase Briscoe by inches to win the winstaronlinegaming.com 400 at Texas Motor Speedway Friday night.

Bell, a native of Norman, Oklahoma, considers Texas Motor Speedway his home track and this was his first career NASCAR Camping World Truck Series win at the 1.5 mile track.

With the win, Bell becomes the first multi-win NASCAR Camping World Truck Series driver this season. He has two wins, five top fives, six top 10s and 332 laps led through seven races this season. Bell is second in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series points standings behind leader and defending series champion Johnny Sauter.

As the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series heads to Gateway Motorsports Park for the Drivin’ For Linemen 200 Saturday, June 17 (8:30 p.m. ET on FS1, MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio), Bell is looking to repeat. He won last season’s NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race there for his lone victory of 2016.

Briscoe Scores Career-Best Finish

Brad Keselowski Racing driver and Sunoco Rookie of the Year contender Chase Briscoe continued his outstanding start to the 2017 season by scoring a runner-up finish at Texas Motor Speedway.

Briscoe lost a close battle to eventual race winner Christopher Bell on Lap 166, but scored his second top-three of 2017. He has yet to finish outside the top-25 this season.

Team owner Brad Keselowski had nothing but positive things to say about Briscoe and his future racing career in NASCAR;

“He’s one of those guys, where I look at and say wow. I wish I was as talented and composed as he is at this age. Chase to me is one of those guys who has loads of natural talent but has the intangibles to take to that next level. I think he is a future Cup (Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series) driver.”

Briscoe (-81) is currently fourth in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series points standings and second (-4) in the Sunoco Rookie of the Year points standings.

NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Sunoco Rookie Battle Heating Up

Following his top-three finish at Texas Motor Speedway, ThorSport Racing driver Grant Enfinger took the lead in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Sunoco Rookie of the Year points standings for the first time this season.

Enfinger jumped GMS Racing Sunoco Rookie Kaz Grala for the top spot and looks to extend his lead this week at Gateway Motorsports Park. He has had a strong Sunoco Rookie season so far – netting two top-three finishes and four top 10s in seven races.

Following Enfinger in the Sunoco Rookie of the Year standings: Chase Briscoe (-4), Grala (-5), Noah Gragson (-16) and Austin Cindric (-37).

Haley Hails Career-Best Finish At Texas

GMS Racing driver and Sunoco Rookie of the Year contender Justin Haley scored a career-best NASCAR Camping World Truck Series finish at Texas Motor Speedway when he finished sixth in the winstaronlinegaming.com 400.

Haley’s previous career-best finish was seventh in the Lucas Oil 150 at Phoenix Raceway in 2015.

Haley has turned on the gas as of late, as he has back-to-back top 10s, and has three top 10s in his last four races.

He has one career NASCAR Camping World Truck Series start at Gateway Motorsports Park and finished 21st there last season.

The Rhode To Victory At Gateway?

In his second full-time season in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series, ThorSport Racing driver Ben Rhodes is off to a hot start. Rhodes already has more top-five finishes this season than each of the last two seasons in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series, and we’re only seven races into the year.

The one thing Rhodes has yet to do in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series? Get his first win. He came awfully close earlier this season at Kansas Speedway, but a piece of debris cutting through his engine ended his night while he was leading Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series driver Kyle Busch late in the race.

Rhodes is looking for his first NASCAR Camping World Truck Series win at Gateway Motorsports Park – a place where he has had previous success at.

In one career NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race at Gateway last season, Rhodes won the 21 Means 21 Pole and finished second.

In seven races this season, Rhodes has three top fives, four top 10s and has yet to finish outside the top-23.

Nemechek Looking To Kick It Into High Gear At Gateway

After an up-and-down start to the 2017 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series season, John Hunter Nemechek is looking to make big gains at Gateway.

Nemechek is currently 11th in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series points standings and has two top-five finishes so far this season.

In three career NASCAR Camping World Truck Series starts at Gateway, Nemechek has two top-six finishes and has never finished outside the top-15. He’s led 53 laps there and owns an average finish of 8.3.

Nemechek will need more consistency to get himself into the top eight in points to make the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series playoffs this season.

First Timers At Gateway

There are nine Sunoco Rookie of the Year contenders making their track debut at Gateway Motorsports Park in Saturday’s NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Drivin’ For Linemen 200. They include: Chase Briscoe, Wendell Chavous, Austin Cindric, Cody Coughlin, Grant Enfinger, Stewart Friesen, Noah Gragson, Kaz Grala and Justin Haley.

Ross Chastain, Kevin Donahue, Kyle Donahue, Austin Hill, Bryce Napier, and Todd Peck are also making their track debut at Gateway Motorsports Park in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series.

NASCAR Next driver Todd Gilliland will make his second career NASCAR Camping World Truck Series start this weekend, running for Kyle Busch Motorsports at Gateway. He finished 20th in his series debut at Dover International Speedway earlier this season.

The Gateway Difference

In the last three NASCAR Camping World Truck Series races at Gateway Motorsports Park, there have been three different victors:

2016: Christopher Bell

2015: Cole Custer

2014: Darrell Wallace Jr.

Bell will be making his return to Gateway this season in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series, while Cole Custer will be running in the NASCAR XFINITY Series at Michigan and Darrell Wallace Jr. will be competing in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series at Michigan.

NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Etc.

Driver Standings Update: GMS Racing’s Johnny Sauter remains in the top spot of the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series, while Christopher Bell and Matt Crafton round out the top three. Holding down spots 4-8 are Chase Briscoe, Ben Rhodes, Ryan Truex, Grant Enfinger and Kaz Grala. There are three Sunoco Rookie of the Year contenders in the top eight.

Owner Standings Update: GMS Racing’s No. 21 Chevrolet Silverado leads Kyle Busch Motorsports’ No. 4 Toyota Tundra by 40 points and ThorSport’s No. 88 Toyota Tundra by 70 points. Brad Keselowski Racing’s No. 29 Ford and Kyle Busch Motorsports’ No. 51 Toyota take up spots 4-5.

Manufacturer Standings Update: Toyota (four wins) leads Chevrolet (three wins) and Ford (zero wins) in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series manufacturer standings through seven races this season.


 

source – NASCAR communications