NASCAR returns in full force this weekend with racing in the Cup, Xfinity and Truck series at Nashville Superspeedway in Lebanon, Tenn.
NBC and the USA Network open coverage of the second half of the season with broadcasts of Saturday’s Xfinity (USA) and Sunday’s Cup (NBC) race. USA also will televise Xfinity and Cup practice Friday and Xfinity and Cup qualifying Saturday.
NASCAR returned to the 1.33-mile Nashville track last season. Kyle Larson won the first Cup race at the track, leading 264 of the 300 laps, including the final 78.
Larson The Favorite?
Kyle Larson figures to carry the favorite’s role into Sunday’s race. In last year’s race, which was run in pounding heat, his Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet smashed the rest of the field as he led 264 laps and won by 4.33 seconds, an eternity in today’s NASCAR. He sped away as the final 68 laps were run under green.
The win was Larson’s fourth of the season. He was second in Stage 1 and first in Stage 2.
He’ll be looking for a rebound of sorts after two straight finishes of 12th or worse.
The weekend landscape will be new for Larson as he teams with Kevin Meendering, the No. 5 team’s interim crew chief. Meendering, a Hendrick veteran, replaces Cliff Daniels, who was suspended for four weeks after Larson’s car lost a wheel in the last race at Sonoma Raceway.
Wheels Up — And Off
Kyle Larson’s team is the latest to be penalized for wheels that wander off race cars.
Other drivers who have been nailed this year: Justin Haley (Daytona), Kaz Grala (Daytona), Todd Gilliland (Auto Club), Corey LaJoie (Phoenix), Bubba Wallace (COTA), BJ McLeod (Talladega), Denny Hamlin (Dover), AJ Allmendinger (Dover) and Justin Haley (Kansas).
Trent Owens (Haley) is scheduled to return to competition this weekend after serving four-week suspensions for lost wheels. This race is the final one Chris Gabehart (Hamlin) will miss as part of his four-race suspension.
The Nashville Cup race marks the first of 10 consecutive events leading to the end of the regular season.
Over that stretch, the remaining slots in the 16-driver playoff field will be filled. And some significant names are currently on the outside looking in.
Prominent among them is Kevin Harvick, who is one position and seven points below the cutoff line. Following Harvick in the “hopeful” list are Tyler Reddick (42 points out), Austin Dillon (47 points) and Erik Jones (55 points).
Of course, a win solves problems. Twelve drivers are in with wins. Among those still looking for a win are Martin Truex Jr., Ryan Blaney, Brad Keselowski, Bubba Wallace, Christopher Bell and Harvick, who hasn’t won in 59 consecutive races and has led only 13 laps this year.
Allmendinger, the Xfinity Series point leader, has raced seven times in Cup this year with a top finish of 10th at Gateway.
Forty-one drivers are entered for Saturday’s Xfinity race. Among those on the list are Trevor Bayne, Ryan Preece, Jeffrey Earnhardt, Tyler Reddick and Natalie Decker, who is looking for her second start this year. She finished 35th at Martinsville.
Veteran Todd Bodine is among the 41 entries for Friday’s Camping World Truck Series race. The grid will hold 36 trucks.
Corey Heim and Ryan Preece are among other drivers on the entry list.
This weekend’s schedule and forecast
(All times Eastern)
Friday, June 24
Forecast: Mostly sunny. High of 95 degrees
4 – 4:30 p.m. — Truck practice (FS1)
4:30 – 5:30 p.m. — Truck qualifying (FS1)
5:35 – 6:25 p.m. — Xfinity practice (USA)
6:30 – 7:20 p.m. — Cup practice (USA, Motor Racing Network, SiriusXM Radio)
8 p.m. — Truck race (FS1, Motor Racing Network, SiriusXM Radio)
Saturday, June 25
Forecast: Partly cloudy. High of 97 degrees
Noon – 12:50 p.m. — Xfinity qualifying (USA)
1 – 2:20 p.m. — Cup qualifying (USA, Motor Racing Network, SiriusXM Radio)
3:30 p.m. – Xfinity race (188 laps, 250 miles; USA, Motor Racing Network, SiriusXM Radio)
Sunday, June 26
Forecast: Partly cloudy with afternoon showers or thunderstorms. High of 96 degrees. 60 percent chance of rain
5 p.m. — Cup race (300 laps, 399 miles; NBC, Peacock, Motor Racing Network, SiriusXM Radio)
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