Saturday, Sep 25
Thomas Latzkowski

Thomas Latzkowski

Originally from central New York, I was first introduced to NASCAR through my uncle. I quickly developed an interest in the sport that has only grown over the last 20 years. I have a bachelors degree in agriculture business from SUNY Cobleskill, and currently work as an operations manager in New Jersey. In 2017 I thru-hiked the Appalachian trail, and since have been focused on pursuing my passions in life such as motorsports.

 

The 26-race regular season is over, and the playoffs are set; 16 teams to compete for a championship. Each driver with their own path to the dance floor, some more difficult than others, and for most it took a trip to victory lane to find their way here.

  1. Kyle Larson: 2,052 points, Regular Season Champion, 5 wins, 12 Stages

Hendrick Motorsports’ #5 has been the most dominant team all year and the most deserving of the regular season championship. Larson is the favorite to hoist this year’s trophy in Phoenix.

  1. Ryan Blaney: 2,024 points, Regular season finish 6th, 3 wins, 4 stages

Team Penske’s #12 disappointed the underdogs with a win in the season finale at Daytona as this team rides a wave of momentum with two wins and six top fives in the last nine races.

  1. Martin Truex Jr: 2024 points, Regular season finish 7th, 3 wins, 5 stages

Joe Gibbs Racing’s #19 continues to be a perennial champion favorite despite an up and down season the team looks ready to make a run to the final four.

  1. Kyle Busch: 2,022 points, Regular season finish 4th, 2 wins, 5 stages

Joe Gibbs Racing’s #18 usually leads the win column, but despite only two wins the teams consistency has provided enough points for what should be, another final four appearance.

  1. Chase Elliot: 2,021 points, Regular season finish 3rd, 2 wins, 3 stages

Hendrick Motorsports’ #9 performance has been behind teammate Larson all season, but the most popular driver could easily best the #5, especially at Phoenix, one of Elliot’s best tracks.

  1. Alex Bowman: 2,015 points, Regular season finish 12th, 3 wins, 0 stages

Hendrick Motorsports’ #48 has figured out winning despite inconsistency. They might not have what it takes to win the championship, but the team’s growth is promising.

  1. Denny Hamlin: 2,015 points, Regular season finish 2nd, 0 wins, 5 stages

Joe Gibbs Racing’s #11 almost won the regular season championship, without winning. The team is so good it’s unbelievable they’re winless, it’s likely they will see victory lane soon.

  1. William Byron: 2,014 points, Regular season finish 5th, 1 win, 3 stages

Hendrick Motorsports’ #24 has shared in the organizations great season with competitive showings every week, it will be interesting to see what this young driver can do in the playoffs.

  1. Joey Logano: 2,013 points, Regular season finish 8th, 1 win, 5 stages

Team Penske’s #22 recent struggles are concerning with only one top five in the last ten races. They might still have a chance at a championship, but the team needs to turn it around now.

  1. Brad Keselowski: 2,008 points, Regular season finish 10th, 1 win, 2 stages

Team Penske’s #2 and everyone behind them have failed to garner enough points to make this year’s playoffs easy. Hopefully Brad can make the best of his last ten races with the team.

  1. Kurt Busch: 2,008 points, Regular season finish 14th, 1 win, 3 stages

Chip Ganassi Racing’s #1 has performed well for the team in it’s final year, but it’s unlikely to be enough for a championship, however the veteran Busch has what it takes to make a good run.

  1. Christopher Bell: 2,005 points, Regular season finish 15th, 1 win, 0 stage

Joe Gibbs Racing’s #20 is behind the rest of the organization, but rookie driver Bell has shown potential including a win this year. The team is competitive and could make the round of eight.

  1. Michael McDowell: 2,005 points, Regular season finish 21st, 1 win, 0 stages

Front Row Motorsports’ #34 is this year’s biggest wild card with their Daytona 500 win. If the team makes it past the first round, the roval provides an opportunity, but the odds are very slim.

  1. Aric Almirola: 2,005 points, Regular season finish 23rd, 1 win, 0 stages

Stewart-Haas Racing’s #10 was the worst among an underperforming organization with high expectations. Almirola’s win at New Hampshire will likely remain their seasons highlight.

  1. Tyler Reddick: 2,003 points, Regular season finish 11th, 0 wins, 3 stages

Richard Childress Racing’s #8 has the best young driver in Reddick, but their equipment doesn’t match his talent. The combination was enough to make the playoffs which is promising.

  1. Kevin Harvick: 2,002 points, Regular season finish 9th, 0 wins, 0 stages

Stewart-Hass Racing’s #4 is the only hope for the organizations forgettable season. While it’s a long way to Phoenix it’s only a 20-point deficit from 4th, and we can never count out “the closer”

 

Could of, should of, would of; unfortunately for these drivers they will have to do better next year.

  1. Austin Dillon: Regular season finish 13th
  2. Matt DiBenedetto: Regular season finish 16th
  3. Chris Buescher: Regular season finish 17th
  4. Rickey Stenhouse Jr: Regular Season finish 18th

For the fourth of July, this year the Cup Series returned to Road America for the first time in 65 years. Another part of schedule changes for the “the best season ever” as NASCAR continues to include a wider variety of courses. Road America is a four-mile, 14 turn road course located in Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin; a vibrant racing community that is a staple of not only mid-west, but American racing.

The Jockey Made In America 250 had all the regular favorites such as Chase Elliot, winner of six road course races, but it also included a couple of the Xfinity regulars A.J. Allmendinger and Austin Cindric.

Pole sitter William Byron brought the field to the green flag, as drivers struggled with various problems as well as getting adjusted to the track. As with most road courses teams played strategy as much as possible starting with pit stops on lap 11. Byron would hold on to win the first stage.

Byron lead the field back to green as drivers continued to struggle including series veterans Denny Hamlin and Brad Keselowski. Unfortunately, for Cindric the road course ace lost a gear and exited the race after having ran in the top and leading a few laps. Underdog Matt DiBenedetto found his way to the lead for a few laps in stage two before surrendering to Kyle Busch who short pitted the stage end with a dozen other teams as the road course strategy continued.

Tyler Reddick would stay out for the stage win, the second of his career. After pit stops Busch would lead Elliot, and DiBenedetto to the start of stage three. In just a few laps DiBenedetto put his #21 Wood Brothers Ford in the lead and began to drive away. Unfortunately for the underdog, the odds favorite Elliot would take the lead with 24 laps to go.

A caution with 20 laps to go gave a couple teams the opportunity to play strategy for a win, but it could not beat the speed of the Hendrick Motorsports #9 Chevrolet. Elliot’s teammates ran into some trouble with only a handful of laps remaining as Alex Bowman lost his breaks and collected Kyle Larson.

Fortunately for Elliot the race would stay green and he would hold on to the lead to win his second race of the year and seventh career road course victory, putting him third on the all-time list behind Jeff Gordon and Tony Stewart.

Top Five: Chase Elliot, Christopher Bell, Kyle Busch, Kurt Busch, Denny Hamlin

With only six races left in the regular season the Cup series travels to Atlanta Motor Speedway next week for the Quaker State 400 presented by Walmart on July 11th at 3:30PM ET.

The Nascar Cup Series returned to its most traditioned track this weekend with yet another twist that has helped make this “the best season ever”. What was touted as the first ever night race for the half-mile paperclip became the “24 hours of Martinsville”.

The race was delayed over an hour due to rain, but NASCAR was determined to throw the green flag Saturday night even as rain came down during pre-race ceremonies. Denny Hamlin quickly jumped out to the lead, but the cars only managed 42 laps before the race was postponed to the next day due to weather.

Martinsville roared back to action Sunday afternoon with Hamlin out front where he would be most of the day trading the spot back and forth with Ryan Blaney. The two would combine to lead 433 of the 500 laps.

Blaney bested Hamlin for the stage one victory, but Hamlin would take the lead on the restart although that did not last long. 35 laps into the run Blaney put the #12 Ford back out front where he would run throughout stage two. Hamlin made a run for the stage victory giving Blaney a small bump in turn four and making a run to the inside as the two sprinted down the front stretch, but again it was Blaney getting the best of the Veteran.

Strategy came into play during the final stage as teams were on different pit schedules separating the previously dominant Hamlin and Blaney allowing for some other drivers to get a taste out front. William Byron, Christopher Bell, and Bubba Wallace would all find opportunities to lead the race.

Contact between Kyle Busch and Chris Buescher on lap 386 led to a huge pile up turning the back stretch into a junk yard taking out several championship contenders and sentimental favorites. The race would be red flagged for cleanup, at least track workers didn’t have to sweep any dirt or grass.

The race continued with Hamlin and Blaney battling once again for the lead. After a caution with 50 laps remaining the leaders all pit for service. Unfortunately, Blaney’s car caught an air hose leaving the pit box resulting in a penalty and relegating the #12 Ford to start at the rear of the field. Blaney rally back to finish a disappointing 11th with one of the fastest cars in the field.

Martin Truex Jr. won the race off pit road however Hamlin showed his dominance again on the restart taking the lead. Not to be out done by his teammate Truex made an exceptionally clean pass with 15 laps remaining. He would hold onto the lead to score the Victory.

This was Truex’s third win in his last four races at the track and he is now the first repeat winner for 2021; this is his 29th career win.

Top five: Martin Truex Jr., Chase Elliot, Denny Hamlin, William Byron, Kyle Larson

The Nascar Cup Series returns to the track on Sunday, April 18th at 3:00PM ET for the Toyota Owners 400 at Richmond Raceway.

The NASCAR Cup Series has returned to Bristol Motor Speedway for the most notorious night race in all of stock car racing. Saturday nights race started with Penske teammates on the front row, and Gibbs teammates in the rear after failed pre-race inspections.

Brad Keselowski quickly jumped out to the lead, but only held the top spot until lap 18 when Kevin Harvick took control of the race before Rickey Stenhouse brought out the first caution of the night on lap 29 after contacting Jimmie Johnson. This caution would replace the competition caution originally scheduled for lap 30.

Tyler Reddick and Matt DiBenedetto win the race off pit road with two tires, but Keselowski quickly moved to the lead after the restart. Before the end of the first stage it would be Chase Elliot taking the lead and winning the stage.

Kyle Busch managed to race from the back of the field to second. Unfortunately for DiBenedetto he was unable to maintain a spot in the top ten to capitalize on stage points with his teams’ pit strategy. After the pit stops it was Busch out first and bringing the field to the green flag for the start of stage two.

Dibenedetto took a huge blow to his championship opportunity as he was forced to pit with a loose wheel on lap 185. With 38 laps to go in stage two it was Martin Truex Jr. pitting with a loose wheel. Shortly after leaving pit road Truex slid up the track and got hit hard from behind by teammate Denny Hamlin who received most of the damage from the incident.

It was not long after the incident between the Gibbs teammates that William Byron made hard contact with the #95 car trying to avoid lapped traffic. Byron would bring is car to the garage, ending his race and championship hopes.

Kyle Busch would maintain the lead through the pits and to the end of the stage which came with another caution as Ryan Newman went spinning. In a turn of events it was DiBenedetto earning the free pass. Busch maintained the lead for another 31 laps until Kevin Harvick found his way around the #18.

Problems continued for several playoff contenders as Keselowski loss power steering while Kurt Busch and Alex Bowman were both forced to pit with loose wheels.

Green flags stops started around lap 370, but would be interrupted by a caution on lap 407, leaving only six cars on the lead lap for the final 82 laps.

The final run was an epic battle between two NASCAR legends. Busch only managed to take the lead for a moment, before Harvick surged upfront once more. Busch continued bring pressure but could not get to the Harvick’s bumper before the end of the race.

Kevin Harvick is the sole championship favorite after scoring his 58th career win and a league leading 9th win this season.

Top 5: Kevin Harvick, Kyle Busch, Erik Jones, Tyler Reddick, Aric Almirola

Eliminated: Cole Custer, William Byron, Ryan Blaney, Matt DiBenedetto

The NASCAR Cup Series will be back in action on September, 27th at 7:00PM ET for the South Point 400 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

NASCAR has returned to Kentucky motor speedway this week for an unusual daytime race due to this season jumbled schedule. The cup series last daytime race at the venue was won by Matt Kenseth in 2013. Unfortunately for Kenseth, him and Martin Truex Jr. would start from the rear of the field after failing pre-race inspection.

Kyle Busch was this week’s lucky winner, drawing the pole for the race. Busch would hold on to his lead for a dozen laps before Aric Almirola moved into the lead, hold it through the lap 25 competition caution, and dominate the remaining laps of the initial stage.

Almirola maintained the lead into stage two, with Logano and Matt DiBenedetto keeping pace. Towards the end of the stage it was Blaney working his way through the top five to quickly take the lead from Almirola before green flag pit stops started with ten laps to go.

The stops had almost cycled through, but with seven laps left in the stage Kenseth had a tire go down a spun out, binging out a caution. Brad Keselowski was the last car to pit, and with great luck from the caution was able to maintain the lead. Keselowski hung on to win the stage after a restart with one lap to go where teammate Blaney gave him a drag race to the green and white checkered.

Stage three would start with Blaney in the lead, but soon Truex Jr. would find himself out front. While the track had comers and goers it seemed difficult for drivers to move through the field.

Green flag stops started with less than 60 laps left in the race. With 38 laps to go the yellow flag flew after Brendan Poole had a tire go down. Austin Dillon also spun as he avoided entering the suddenly closed pit road.

On the restart it was Truex Jr. and Blaney dueling out front of a chaotic field of competitors jockeying for position. Jimmie Johnson, who missed last week with Covid19, made it from ninth to third and was chasing down the two leaders before John Hunter Nemecheck slammed the wall bringing out another caution with 23 laps to go.

The field didn’t make it too far after the green flag dropped as Johnson went spinning through the infield off the bumper of Keselowski. In that short run Blaney was able to take the lead and control the next restart, but it was Kevin Harvick with the power move to make it three wide to take the lead.

It was not over there as the caution came out again for Kenseth spinning with seven laps to go. The ensuing restart was one of the most chaotic in NASCAR as they race three wide for the lead over the final several laps. Blaney made a hard charge for the lead before making contact with Harvick and it was Cole Custer on the outside from fourth to first on the last lap to pull off the most unexpected win of the season.

Top five: Cole Custer, Martin Truex Jr., Matt DiBenedetto, Kevin Harvick, Kurt Busch

The cup series will return to action on Wednesday at 7:00 PM for the All-Star race at Bristol.

One more lap, Dover

Friday, Oct 11

Sometimes drivers just need one more lap to change the outcome of a race. The fast speeds of NASCAR don’t always leave us with enough time to express ourselves in the moment. Here is one more lap of thoughts for us to digest after another exciting weekend of racing.

Turn 1: Dover International Speedway hosted its 100th cup race. Now the 10th track to reach this milestone, Dover has been hosting the cup series since 1969. The uniqueness of this track cannot be understated. Looking up as you stand next to the high banked turns you know there can not be another place like this. Holding your breath every time the drivers dive into the turns on the edge, and letting it out when they somehow make it without a wreck, it’s Dover. With a lot of discussion regarding new schedule changes, I don’t think we should take the monster mile for granted.

Turn 2: The Xfinity series has too many back marker teams. Across all series I think the number one issue that hinders NASCAR from attracting new fans is the lack of competition throughout the fields. Nowhere is this worse than in the Xfinity series where only a handful of teams can compete for wins and a title. In the 29 races this year only 14 drivers, out of a 38 car field, have finished on the lead lap more than 50% of the time. Also only six series regulars have won this year, and that’s four drivers excluding road courses (Cindric) and superspeedways (Annett). That’s one win to Chase Briscoe (Iowa) and 19 wins between the big three. Hi NASCAR, you have a competition problem!

Turn 3: These cars can’t pass, and it’s disappointing. Air is such a factor everywhere we go, but to see it at a place like this is frustrating. I still think dover is a great track, but this package does not help it. Even worse is that the only time we see passes for the lead is when the leader can’t pass lapped traffic. It’s entertaining because you get a wad of frustrated drivers fighting for position on track, but is that what we want? I still like to watch the leader try to fend off second place as they navigate the traffic, but I’d rather see a more genuine battle for the win.

Turn 4: Talladega ready to host the last superspeedway race of 2019. Not only do viewers get to enjoy the high speed action of superspeedway racing, but fans at the track get to enjoy the new renovated infield. The tensions will rise as opportunities dwindle and desperate playoff drivers need to win, who is going to take advantage of the opportunity. The MENCS and NGOTS will be on track next weekend, October 12th and 13th.

Denny Hamlin, making his 500th start, qualified on the pole for Sunday’s Drydene 400 at Dover International Speedway after beating out Kyle Larson by three thousands of a second.

Joey Logano had rear end issues before the race started and was in the garage when the green flag flew. Hamlin and Larson pulled away from the lead, but only for a few laps before Chase Elliot also had an issue with his axel.

The two leaders again pulled away from the field as Larson challenged for the lead, before dropping back as the two navigate lapped traffic. As the run went on Larson fell back to fourth before he came to pit road starting the first cycle of green flag stops.

Hamlin maintained the lead after stops and won the first stage. Hamlin continued to maintain the lead through yellow flag stops and on the following restart. Kevin Harvick and Martin Truex Jr. also showed competitive speed through the second stage.

Truex Jr. was the first driver to pit road for green flag stops in stage two. The remaining leaders quickly followed, and while Hamlin maintained his lead, it was Truex Jr. challenging for the lead.

In the closing laps of stage two it was Truex Jr. taking the lead as they fought through a lot of lapped traffic. Larson joined the battle taking the second position as things get dicey between the leaders. Even Harvick found himself battling for third without much success. At the end of stage two it was Truex Jr. with the green and white checkered.

Larson won the race off pit road, and was able to maintain the lead over Hamlin after the restart. Truex Jr. had some misfortune with a slow stop losing five spots on pit road.

After leading 218 laps, but running second Hamlin reported a possible engine failure, but it was Ryan Blaney with brake issues to be the next playoff contender in the garage. Shortly after Truex Jr. passed Hamlin for second, but trailed Larson by over 5.5 seconds.

With 80 laps to go the leaders began another cycle of green flag stops and on the other side of the cycle was Larson extending his lead to over 6.5 seconds.

With forty laps to go Truex Jr. had the gap down to less than two seconds as Larson found it difficult to navigate some of the faster lapped traffic. Larson was quick to extend the lead again as Truex Jr. had to struggle to pass the same cars.

Truex Jr. was unable to get back to Larson before the end of the race and it was Kyle Larson with the win to snap his 75 race winless streak.

Top Five: Kyle Larson, Martin Truex Jr., Alex Bowman, Kevin Harvick, Denny Hamlin

The MENCS will be back on track next week at Talladega Superspeedway for the 1000bulbs 500 on October 13th at 2:00PM ET.

On Sunday afternoon Denny Hamlin will become the seventh active driver to record his 500th Career start, and with a fast car as he earned the pole position for the Drydene 400.

His first start was the 2005 Banquet 400 at Kansas Motor speedway. Mark Martin won that day, while Hamlin brought it home 32nd. In the following 498 starts Hamlin has 35 wins, 156 top fives, and 253 top tens. In his first full season, 2006, the young driver managed multiple victories and a third place points finish. Hamlin has made the playoffs every year in his career with the exception of 2013 where he missed four races due to a back injury.

Of those seven active drivers Hamlin, 38, is the second youngest behind Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Kyle Busch. He is also fourth among active drivers in wins with 35, last year was the first winless season of his career, but four wins in 2019 has helped make up for that.

It’s not quite the 500 starts that is impressive about his career, but the amount of consistent success Hamlin has produced for over a decade against some of the sports most talented drivers of all time. In his tenure Hamlin has been successful enough to driver for the same team with the same sponsor his entire career thus far. Not many drivers can say that, but it’s been an honor to watch the Virginian native wheel the number eleven Fedex car for the last fourteen years.

Hopefully in the coming years Hamlin can deliver that elusive championship he has been so close to many times in his career.

Chase Briscoe qualified on the pole for the NASCAR Xfinity Series Use your melon drive sober 200 at Dover International Speedway, however Briscoe had to go the rear after making changes due to an electrical issues. Playoff contender Michael Annett also had to start at the rear of the field. 

On the first lap Tyler Reddick got loose and made contact with the wall causing cars to check up when the 19 of Brandon Jones crashed into the back of Harrison Burton causing major damage to both Joe Gibbs Racing Toyotas. The biggest damage was Jones’ playoff hopes.

On lap 14 championship favorite Christopher Bell had to bring his car to pit road for service because of low fuel pressure, causing him to quickly go down multiple laps and taking him out of contention for the victory.

Mike Harmon brought out a caution on lap 20 after getting spun off of turn four and making hard contact with the inside wall where his car would come to a stop on the front stretch.

The race would run green to the end of stage one with Justin Allgaier in the lead for his sixth stage win. Annett and Briscoe were able to drive all the way into the top ten.

Allgaier maintained the lead through pit stops and selected the outside lane to bring the field to the green flag for stage two. Allgaier was quick to put his fast Jr. Motorsports Chevrolet out front.

The entirety of stage two went without caution as Allgaier led all 45 laps to beat Austin Cindric by just under a second, with Briscoe behind them in third.

Allgaier was unable to maintain his lead off of pit road. Cindric led the field to the green flag, but it was Briscoe taking the lead and driving away.

With less than 40 laps to go green flag pit stops started as drivers had to navigate one of the hardest pit entries on the circuit. It was Dillon Bassett bringing out the caution before the end of the cycle as he was the one to spin attempting to enter pit road.

Cole Custer who had yet to pit was the biggest benefactor now with the lead and only several cars on the lead lap including Annett, and Justin Haley who needed to win to make the next round of the playoffs. Allgaier got the free pass while Briscoe and Cindric took the wave around.

Custer put his car out front as Allgaier took chase before a caution came out with 13 laps to go as Ray Black Jr. spun and other cars got collected in turn two. Now all of the top competitors thus far in the race were on the lead lap and out front for a final ten lap shootout.

Annett had a tough restart and stacked up part of the field as Custer pulled into the lead again, before pulling away from Allgaier to win his 7th race of the season, and the golden monster trophy.

Top five: Cole Custer, Justin Allgaier, Austin Cindric, Justin Haley, Chase Briscoe

The NASCAR Xfinity Series will be back on track for the second round of the playoffs with the Kansas Lottery 300 at Kansas Speedway on October 19th at 3:00PM ET.

The superstars of the NASCAR Monster Energy Series were on track today qualifying for the Drydene 400 which will be run tomorrow at 2:30PM.

Drivers found themselves on edge throughout the qualifying session attempting to get the most out of each lap. Most drivers commented on the difficulty of this track with the exception of Jimmie Johson whose success at Dover has come naturally. Johnson ended up 11th at the end of qualifying.

Denny Hamlin who will be making his 500th start on Sunday set a fast lap to pace the field early in the session, despite Hamlin admitting his struggles at Dover in contrast to the success he has found at most tracks.

Several drivers came close posting fast laps, including Kyle Larson who was within three thousands of a second, but it was Hamlin on the pole with a new track record, and his second pole award this season.

Top 10: Denny Hamlin, Kyle Larson, Martin Truex Jr., Kevin Harvick, Chase Elliot, William Byron, Aric Almirola, Erik Jones, Kurt Busch, Ryan Blaney.

 

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