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NASCAR National Series News & Notes - Charlotte

Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series
Next Race: Monster Energy NASCAR All-Star Race
The Place: Charlotte Motor Speedway
The Date: Saturday, May 19
The Time: 6 p.m. ET
TV: FS1, 5 p.m. ET
Radio: MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio
Distance: Open - 3 Stages: 20 Laps / 20 Laps / 10 Laps
All-Star Race - 4 Stages: 30 Laps / 20 Laps / 20 Laps / 10 Laps

NASCAR Xfinity Series
Next Race: Alsco 300
The Place: Charlotte Motor Speedway
The Date: Saturday, May 26
The Time: 1 p.m. ET
TV: FS1, 12:30 p.m. ET
Radio: PRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio
Distance: 300 miles (200 laps); Stage 1 (Ends on Lap 45),
Stage 2 (Ends on Lap 90), Final Stage (Ends on Lap 200)

NASCAR Camping World Truck Series
Next Race: North Carolina Education Lottery 200
The Place: Charlotte Motor Speedway
The Date: Friday, May 18
The Time: 8:30 p.m. ET
TV: FS1, 8 p.m. ET
Radio: MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio
Distance: 201 miles (134 laps); Stage 1 (Ends on Lap 30),
Stage 2 (Ends on Lap 60), Final Stage (Ends on Lap 134)

Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series

Kyle Busch Looking To Repeat
As much as Kyle Busch wins - 187 victories in NASCAR's three national series - he scored his only Monster Energy NASCAR All-Star Race win just last year. The Joe Gibbs Racing driver is already on a hot streak to start the 2018 season, scoring three wins through the first 12 races.

So a victory in Saturday night's version of the All-Star race at Charlotte Motor Speedway (8 p.m. ET on FS1, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio) would be fitting of such a strong season start. Even for a former series champion (2015), being a part of the sport's $1 million-to-win All-Star Race is both honorable and motivating.

"For us, being an all-star and being in the All-Star Race is one of the most fun things we get to do each year,'' Busch said. "I'd say the Clash is another one of those and, with the All-Star Race, they are certainly two fun races where we get a chance to go after just a win and bring home the checkers or end up on the wrecker.

"It's an exciting night and there's a lot of energy there. It gives you the opportunity to run that many qualifying laps in a row. That's all you're doing - you're giving it all you've got every single lap."

History Says Winners Don't Repeat

A look at the Monster Energy NASCAR All-Star Race's past winners list reveals a rare occurrence in the sport. Since 1998 only one driver - Jimmie Johnson - has scored multiple victories in the event. He's the all-time best with four wins and despite a field full of past champions and weekly contenders, this event has hosted a wide range of drivers in its Victory Lane. One time each.

Ryan Newman (2002), Matt Kenseth (2004), Kevin Harvick (2007), Kasey Kahne (2008), Kurt Busch (2010), Jamie McMurray (2014), Denny Hamlin (2015) and Joey Logano (2016) all have an All-Star trophy.

Former series champion Brad Keselowski is 0-for-9 in the race. This year's Martinsville Speedway winner Clint Bowyer is 0-for-8 and reigning series champion Martin Truex Jr. is 0-for-6. Newcomers Chase Elliott and Kyle Larson are both winless in two All-Star Race appearances.

Despite being one of the winningest drivers - and champions - on the circuit, Kyle Busch just picked up his first All-Star trophy last May.

Trying Something New

This year's All-Star race will include a four-stage format (30 laps, 20 laps, 20 laps and 10 laps) and for the first time ever, cars will run a restrictor plate similar to what's long been used on the big speedways in Talladega and Daytona. Cars will also carry a six-inch spoiler on the rear deck, a 2014-style front splitter and aero ducts. The idea is to increase the passing opportunities and there has been success with this idea. The NASCAR Xfinity Series used a similar package on the 2.5-mile Indianapolis Motor Speedway last year, producing a record-setting race in terms of lead changes.

The field will include all 2017 and 2018 race winners, plus former series champions and former All-Star race winners that are still competing full time. The three stage winners from the Open will also transfer to the main event.

No stage will end under yellow flag conditions and only green flag laps count in the fourth and final stage.

The All-Star Of The All-Stars

Not only does Jimmie Johnson boast the biggest championship haul in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series, he is - fittingly -- the all-time winningest All-Star driver with four race trophies (2002, 2006, 2012, 2013). And he is the only one in Saturday's field with more than one victory in the big race.

Charlotte Motor Speedway has been a bastion of good results in the champion's stellar career even beyond the All-Star race. He is an eight-time points-paying race winner at the 1.5-mile speedway, sweeping the 2014 and 2015 season races there and has led almost 2,000 laps (1,930).

In 16 All-Star Race starts, Johnson has four trophies and nine top-five finishes - including a runner-up finish in 2007 and a third-place showing last May in the No. 48 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet. And in a race known for its hard-charging, win-at-all-costs style, Johnson has only one DNF in all those starts.

Tried And True-x
Sunday's Kansas race runner-up Martin Truex Jr. set a mark of domination at this week's venue, Charlotte Motor Speedway two years ago - leading an amazing 392 of 400 laps to win the sport's longest race, the Coca-Cola 600, from the pole position. He is the most recent Charlotte winner, leading 91 laps in last fall's victory during his championship Playoff run. He has five top-five finishes - and two wins - in the last six Charlotte points races.

But. ... Truex is still looking for his first All-Star trophy. He has two wins in the Open (2007 and 2010) but his best finish in the All-Star Race portion is a runner-up in 2010 - his only top-five showing in six starts.

THE OPEN
While obviously the big emphasis Saturday night is on the All-Star race itself, but the qualifying portion of the evening - the Open - will have plenty of intrigue as well. Winners from each of the three stages of the Open race will transfer into the big show.

Three of the four Hendrick Motorsports drivers -- Chase Elliott, Alex Bowman and rookie William Byron - are among the Open field. Stewart-Haas driver Aric Almirola, Joe Gibbs Racing's Daniel Suarez and Erik Jones, along with this year's Daytona 500 runner-up Darrell Wallace JR., will be among the star-filled starting grid for the Monster Energy Open hoping to transfer to the All-Star race later Saturday night.

NASCAR Xfinity Series

Xfinity Playoff Picture Is Coming Into Focus
With 10 NASCAR Xfinity Series races in the books, the Playoff picture is starting to take shape and, as always, there are some surprises and new faces looking to compete for a title in the postseason.

Current standings leader and veteran JR Motorsports driver Elliott Sadler currently holds the No. 1 seed by a slim margin (three Playoff points) over Sunoco Rookie of the Year contenders Christopher Bell and Tyler Reddick in the second and third seeds, respectively. Sadler is granted the No. 1 seed in the chart below with the expectation he holds on to win the NASCAR Xfinity Series regular season championship, something he personally knows can pay off big time in the hunt for a title.

"What we learned last season as being the regular season champions was that it paid a lot of dividends in the Playoffs because you get 15 Playoff points," said Sadler. "So we are ahead in the points now and we know all that will be taken away, but if we can continue to lead the points through the summer months and get some bonus points for being the regular season champion, that's 15 points that's in our piggy bank for the Playoffs, and for us we found out last year that is going to come in handy."

The NASCAR Xfinity Series regular season champion is also guaranteed a spot in the Playoffs no matter the number of different winners. Though, so far this season, just three championship contenders have won races - Tyler Reddick (Daytona), Christopher Bell (Richmond) and Justin Allgaier (Dover). Allgaier and the No. 7 JR Motorsports team received a penalty following the Dover race and therefore the win cannot be used for eligibility into the Playoffs, but as of right now, Allgaier can still make the Playoffs on points.

Of the 12 Playoff qualifiers five of the drivers would be first time competitors in the postseason in the Xfinity Series: Christopher Bell, Tyler Reddick, Ryan Truex, Austin Cindric and Ross Chastain.

Rank Driver Starts Wins Playoff Pts Reg. Season Champ Playoff Pts Playoff Pts Total Points Pts From Cutoff
1 Elliott Sadler 10 0 3 15 18 401 Pts Leader
2 Christopher Bell 10 1 7 8 15 349 In On Wins
3 Tyler Reddick 10 1 5 10 15 363 In On Wins
4 Justin Allgaier 10 1* 1 7 8 343 147
5 Daniel Hemric 10 0 2 6 8 343 147
6 Cole Custer 10 0 0 5 5 323 127
7 Brandon Jones 10 0 1 4 5 304 108
8 Ryan Truex 10 0 0 3 3 285 89
9 Matt Tifft 10 0 0 1 1 270 74
10 Ryan Reed 10 0 0 0 0 252 56
11 Austin Cindric 10 0 0 0 0 219 23
12 Ross Chastain 10 0 0 0 0 208 12
13 Michael Annett 10 0 0 0 0 196 -12
14 Ryan Sieg 10 0 0 0 0 184 -24
15 Alex Labbe 10 0 0 0 0 166 -42
16 Jeremy Clements 10 0 0 0 0 158 -50
17 Kaz Grala 10 0 0 0 0 156 -52
18 Garrett Smithley 10 0 0 0 0 156 -52
19 Joey Gase 10 0 0 0 0 154 -54
20 JJ Yeley 10 0 0 0 0 103 -105
* - Indicates due to penalty the win does not lock the driver into the Playoffs

Playoff Bubble: Chastain & Annett Vying for Final Playoff Spot
Playoffs are always top of mind for the NASCAR Xfinity Series competitors. Just 12 points separates JD Motorsport's Ross Chastain currently in the 12th and final NASCAR Xfinity Series Playoff spot and JR Motorsport's Michael Annett currently in the 13th position in the championship standings, the first spot outside the postseason cutoff. With just 16 races left in the regular season, each points position is crucial in the effort for a title.

Ross Chastain, from Alva, Florida, is having one of the best starts to a season in his NASCAR Xfinity Series career, having posted three top 10s in the first 10 races of the season. His average finish in 2018 is a career-best 17.7. The cushion Chastain is teetering on isn't a big one, he is 11-points behind 11th-place Austin Cindric and just 12-points ahead Annett in 13th. Chastain just missed the Playoffs last season and is looking to redeem himself this season.

Michael Annett hasn't made the same splash in the points his JR Motorsports teammates have (they currently occupy first, second and fourth in the points), but he has been running consistently and accumulating points when he can. Annett made the postseason last year and is looking to do the same in 2018. In 10 starts this season he has finished inside the top-15 four times. His average finish this season is a 16.9, slightly better than Chastain's (17.7).

Expect the battle to continue when the series gets back to action at Charlotte Motor Speedway on May 26 as both Chastain (20.1) and Annett (20.6) have very similar average finishes at the 1.5-mile facility.

Hemric Goes Truckin' This Weekend At Charlotte
One of the hottest rising stars in NASCAR right now is Richard Childress Racing's Daniel Hemric.

The 27-year old from Kannapolis, North Carolina, has been having an action-packed year as he is currently fifth in the NASCAR Xfinity Series championship standings driving the No. 21 Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet. His busy schedule doesn't end there, he also had the opportunity to make his Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series career debut in the No. 8 Chevrolet made famous by Dale Earnhardt Jr. at Richmond a few weeks back, and this weekend he gets to climb into the No. 20 Young's Motorsports Chevrolet and compete in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race, the North Carolina Education Lottery 200 at Charlotte Motor Speedway.

This will be Hemric's first race in the Truck Series since 2016. Hemric has made two career NCWTS starts at Charlotte, posting one top 10 and an average finish of 13.0.

Young's Motorsports began competing in the NCWTS in 2012. Hemric is the seventh different driver to pilot the No. 20 truck this season, joining Austin Dillon, Michel Disdier, Tenner Thorson, Darrell Wallace Jr., Scott Lagasse Jr. and Reid Wilson. Scott Lagasse Jr. posted the organization's best finish in the series to date with a fifth-place finish earlier this season at Daytona International Speedway.

Bell On Pace To Reach Sunoco Rookie Pole Record
Sunoco Rookie of the Year candidate and Joe Gibbs Racing driver Christopher Bell currently has the series-most pole awards through 10 races this season with three (Atlanta, Las Vegas and California), and if he keeps it up, he could be on pace to match his JGR teammate Erik Jones, who holds the NASCAR Xfinity Series Sunoco Rookie record for the most poles in a rookie season with nine - set back in 2016.

Jones' record rookie season started off much like Bell's, with three poles in the first 10 races of the season - Phoenix, Bristol and Richmond. Then Jones rallied off six more poles (Charlotte, Pocono, Iowa, Bristol, Kentucky and Dover) to surpass their other Joe Gibbs Racing teammate, Kyle Busch, who had held the record since 2004 with five poles.

In 10 starts this season Bell has posted not only three poles but also one win (Richmond), six top fives, and an average finish of 11.7.

NASCAR Camping World Truck Series

Noah Gragson Captures Second Career Win At Kansas
Exactly a week after losing his chance to win at Dover International Speedway due to an incident while racing eventual winner Johnny Sauter, Noah Gragson scored his first NASCAR Camping World Truck Series victory of the 2018 season and the second of his young career.

Starting from the pole position for the second week in a row, Gragson led 128 of the 167 laps in the No. 18 Kyle Busch Motorsports Toyota in beating out his truck owner, Kyle Busch, who returned to the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series for the first time in over a month.

Gragson swept past Busch and third-place finisher Stewart Friesen on Lap 157, giving all the thanks to his crew chief Rudy Fugle, who called for four fresh tires during a green-flag pit stop on Lap 134. With five laps left, Myatt Snider ran out of gas, leaving the race lead to Gragson.

This was Gragson's second-time at Kansas Speedway, his first was last year where he started fourth and finished 28th due to a clutch issue.

Gragson sits just 35-points behind Johnny Sauter with 275 points on the leader board and Grant Enfinger is holding onto the third points position with 214. Enfinger is the only driver in the top three without a win yet this season.

Looking ahead to this week's North Carolina Education Lottery 200 on Friday, May 18, at Charlotte Motor Speedway (8:30 p.m. ET on FS1, MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio), Gragson is hoping he can secure the pole for the third week in a row and possibly another victory. He made his series debut at Charlotte last season posting a top-10 finish.

Kyle Busch & Charlotte Motor Speedway: A Nearly Perfect Match
It may not be all the time, but when Kyle Busch is entered into a NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race, he usually becomes hard to beat, especially when it comes to a race at Charlotte Motor Speedway. There have been 15 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series races at Charlotte...and Busch has won seven of them (46.7% winning percentage).

It should be noted that when Busch wins a race at the track, it's usually two in-a-row for him. He won in 2005 and 2006, in 2010 and 2011, in 2013 and 2014 and he won last year in 2017. Does that mean Busch will win again on Friday, May 18, in the North Carolina Lottery 200 (8:30 p.m. ET on FS1)? He has visited the track 11 times, grabbing seven wins, nine top fives, 10 top 10s and three poles. There is no other driver even close to having that many wins at the speedway.

Matt Crafton follows Busch with two wins, six top fives and 12 top 10s. Crafton and Busch are the only two drivers entered in Friday's race who have won at Charlotte in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series.

Busch and Crafton own a lot of records at Charlotte Motor Speedway:

Busch Crafton
Races: 11 15
Wins: 7 2
Top Fives 9 6
Top 10s 10 12
Laps Completed 1,482 2,000
Lead Lap Finishes 11 14

Charlotte Motor Speedway Quick Facts:
With the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series back in action this weekend, below are some series quick facts at Charlotte Motor Speedway:

Track Length: 1.5 miles
Race Length: 201 miles (134 laps)
Degree of Banking in Corners: 24 degrees
Degree of Banking on Straights: 5 degrees
Length of Frontstretch: 1,980 feet
Length of Backstretch: 1,500 feet
Races: 15
Pole Winners: 9
Youngest Pole Winner: Ty Dillon (05/18/2012 - 20 years, 2 months, 21 days)
Oldest Pole Winner: Mike Skinner (05/18/2007 - 49 years, 10 months, 20 days)
Race Winners: 7
Youngest Winner: Kyle Busch (05/20/2005 - 20 years, 0 months, 18 days)
Oldest Winner: Ron Hornaday Jr (05/15/2009 - 50 years, 10 months, 25 days)
Races Won from Pole (or 1st Starting Position): 3
Last Race Won from Pole (or 1st Starting Position): Kasey Kahne (05/15/2015)
Race Record: Matt Crafton 141.855 mph (05/21/2016)
Qualifying Record: Kyle Busch 183.773 mph (05/16/2014)

By The Numbers - Charlotte Motor Speedway

3 - Most poles at the track is tied between Kyle Busch and Mike Skinner

7 - Kyle Busch has seven wins at Charlotte Motor Speedway, the most of any driver

8 - Chevrolet has the most wins of any other manufacturer at Charlotte Motor Speedway

9 - Kyle Busch has nine top-five finishes at Charlotte Motor Speedway, the most of any driver

11 - The most leaders in one race at the track (two times, most recent 5/21/16)

12 - Matt Crafton has the most top-10 finishes

14 - The most lead changes in a single race (5/21/16)

47 - The most caution laps in a single race (two times, most recent 5/16/14)

Home Sweet Home
There are 38 vehicles entered in the North Carolina Education Lottery 200 at Charlotte Motor Speedway on Friday, May 18 (8:30 p.m. ET on FS1, MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio). Of those drivers, seven of them have North Carolina listed as their home state.

Todd Gilliland, the 18-year-old from Sherrills Ford, is currently running for his second year in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series. He has a total of eight races under his belt with two top-fives and 4 top-10s. This weekend marks Gilliland's first venture on a 1.5-mile track as he just celebrated his 18th birthday on Wednesday. Until he reached 18, a rotation of drivers filled in the No. 4 Kyle Busch Motorsports entry earlier this year.

John Hunter Nemechek calls Mooresville his home. With 80 races under his belt, he has six wins, 24 top-fives, 40 top-10s and one pole. In 2018, Nemechek has entered four of the seven races and grabbed his first win of the season at Martinsville. This is only Nemechek's third time hitting the track at Charlotte Motor Speedway. His first time was in 2016, when he finished 21st and his second time was last year when he finished 13th.

Myatt Snider, the rookie from Charlotte, is heading to his home track of Charlotte Motor Speedway for the first time this weekend. Snider has raced 15-times in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series, grabbing one top-five and five top-10s so far in his career. Snider doesn't have a win, yet, but is hoping to change that this weekend.

Justin Fontaine is a rookie in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series from Fletcher, North Carolina. This weekend will be Fontaine's seventh race of the 2018 season and his tenth career race. Like Snider, Fontaine will be racing at Charlotte Motor Speedway for the first time in his career. Since 2016, Fontaine has two top 10s under his belt.

Timothy Peters is very familiar with Charlotte Motor Speedway, as he has hit the track 12 times in his 14-year career in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series. Peters, from Providence, North Carolina has never won a race at Charlotte, but has gathered two top-fives and six top-10s. Last year, Peters started tenth and finished fifth, his best finish at the track since 2014, where he also finished fifth.

Jesse Little, from Sherrills Ford, North Carolina is heading to Charlotte Motor Speedway this weekend for the first time in his career. For the third time this season, Little will drive the No. 97 Ford. Little has 15 races under his belt over four years in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series, he has posted three top-10s in his career.

Daniel Hemric will be taking the wheel this Friday at Charlotte Motor Speedway in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series for the first time since 2016. From Kannapolis, Hemric will drive the No. 20 Chevrolet this. He has visited the speedway two times during his career and hasn't started out of the top-ten. His best finish was in 2016 when he finished ninth. Hemric doesn't have any wins in his Truck Series career, however, he has 15 top fives and 30 top 10s.

Driver Starts Hometown
Timothy Peters 239 Providence, NC
John Hunter Nemechek 80 Mooresville, NC
Daniel Hemric 49 Kannapolis, NC
Jesse Little 15 Sherrills Ford, NC
Myatt Snider 15 Charlotte, NC
Justin Fontaine 9 Fletcher, NC
Todd Gilliland 8 Sherrills Ford, NC

First Timers At Charlotte
There are nine NASCAR Camping World Truck Series drivers making their track debut at Charlotte Motor Speedway in Friday's North Carolina Education Lottery 200.

There are four Sunoco Rookie of the Year contenders: Myatt Snider, Bo Le Mastus, Dalton Sargeant, and Justin Fontaine.

There are five other NASCAR Camping World Truck Series drivers making their track debut this week including Robby Lyons, Josh Reaume, Jamie Mosley, Camden Murphy and Bayley Currey.

Kyle Busch Motorsports owner Kyle Busch (05/20/2005), two-time NASCAR Camping World Truck Series champion Matt Crafton (05/16/2008) and Justin Lofton (05/18/2012) all won their first career NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race at Charlotte Motor Speedway.

NASCAR Camping World Truck Series, Etc.
By The Numbers As Crafton Looks For A Win: Matt Crafton has competed full-time in NASCAR Camping World Truck Series for the past 18 years (since 2001, he did run one race in 2000). He has participated in 413 races and won 14. In 2018, he has not yet clinched a victory but has recorded two top fives and three top 10s. The last time Crafton won a race was in July of last year at Eldora, and he has not gone an entire season without a win since 2012. In 2015, he finished the season with six wins, the most career victories in a season for him. Crafton won in 2008 at Charlotte Motor Speedway for the first win of his career. He also won again at Charlotte in 2016 and is hoping that past success will lead to his first win of 2018 this weekend.

Keep On Truckin': Ford has yet to win a race this season for the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series, leaving them in last place of the three manufacturers. To get back in the running, Ford needs a win to push themselves up. Although they are only behind 27 points from the leader, Chevrolet and are only five points behind second-place Toyota. It is interesting to note that a Ford has never won at Charlotte Motor Speedway in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series in the 15 races the series has contended at the track. If a Ford wins this Friday at the North Carolina Education Lottery 200, it will be a new milestone reached for the OEM. Six Ford trucks are entered to race on Friday.

--- NASCAR ---