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NASCAR viewer’s guide: Road America

Nate Ryan, Steve Letarte, and Jeff Burton highlight the keys to Chase Elliott's NASCAR Cup Series win at Nashville for Hendrick Motorsports and attempt to understand the struggles of Joe Gibbs Racing.

The NASCAR Cup and Xfinity Series cars are back on the road this weekend -- at Road America in Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin.

The 67-year-old track will host Cup and Xfinity competition. The Xfinity race is scheduled for Saturday (2:30 p.m. ET, USA Network), and Cup drivers will race Sunday (3 p.m. ET, USA Network).

The Cup Series returned to Road America last year. Chase Elliott won the race despite starting 34th, the worst starting position by a road course winner in Cup history.

Hendrick, anyone?

Few things are certain, of course, but picking a winner in a Cup Series road course generally means leaning toward the Hendrick Motorsports camp.

Hendrick cars have won nine of the past 13 road course events. Over that stretch, Trackhouse Racing has won two and Joe Gibbs Racing and Kaulig Racing one each.

Scoring for Hendrick on the road during that 13-race run have been Chase Elliott (six wins) and Kyle Larson (three wins).

Elliott leads the list of active drivers with road wins at seven, and he’s only two wins away from tying Jeff Gordon for the all-time “road” lead at nine. Tony Stewart, the only other driver in front of Elliott, has eight.

The Hendrick team is the runaway leader in road-course wins all-time with 25. Joe Gibbs Racing is a distant second at 13.

Harvick moves up

A 10th-place finish Sunday at Nashville Superspeedway boosted Kevin Harvick into the 16th (and final) playoff position.

Harvick replaced Stewart-Haas Racing teammate Aric Almirola just above the cutoff line. Almirola enters this week’s race in 17th, nine points behind Harvick and one spot out of the playoffs.

Harvick, mired in a 60-race winless streak, is among several key drivers who haven’t reached victory lane this year. Also on that list are Ryan Blaney, Martin Truex Jr., Christopher Bell, Bubba Wallace and Brad Keselowski.

At Nashville, Harvick benefitted from recent crew changes. Four of his seven fastest pit stops of the season were recorded Sunday.

Twelve drivers have qualified for the playoffs with victories. They are Chase Elliott, Ross Chastain, William Byron, Joey Logano, Denny Hamlin, Kyle Larson, Kurt Busch, Daniel Suarez, Kyle Busch, Alex Bowman, Austin Cindric and Chase Briscoe.

Larson lagging on the road

Kyle Larson typically is a driver to watch on road courses, but his record turning left and right this year is not excellent.

Larson scored three road wins last year but hasn’t cracked the top 10 on road courses this season.

At Circuit of the Americas, Larson spun on a restart early in the race and staggered home to a 29th-place finish.

At Sonoma, he finished 15th after losing a wheel after a pit stop.

Larson finished 16th at Road America last year. He spun out on lap 57 while running in fourth place after he was hit by teammate Alex Bowman.

Entry lists

Thirty-seven cars are entered in Sunday’s Cup race. Joining series regulars are Joey Hand in a Rick Ware Racing Ford, AJ Allmendinger in a Kaulig Racing Chevrolet and Loris Hezemans in a Team Hezeberg Ford.

Road America Cup entry list

With Cup teams joining the grid at Road America, the Xfinity entry list contains 41 cars, meaning three will fail to qualify.

Entered among series regulars are Kyle Larson in a Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet, Saga Karam in an Alpha Prime Racing Chevrolet and Sammy Smith in a Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota.

Road America Xfinity entry list

This weekend’s schedule and forecast

(All times Eastern)

Friday, July 1

Forecast: Cloudy. High of 81 degrees.

  • 5:30 - 6 p.m. -- Xfinity practice (USA Network)
  • 6 - 7 p.m. -- Xfinity qualifying (USA Network)

Saturday, July 2

Forecast: Mostly sunny. High of 80 degrees.

  • 11:30 a.m. - 12:20 p.m. -- Cup practice (NBC Sports App, USA Network coverage begins at 12 p.m. ET)
  • 12:20 - 1:30 p.m. -- Cup qualifying (USA Network, Motor Racing Network, SiriusXM radio)
  • 2:30 p.m. -- Xfinity race (75 laps, 182 miles; USA Network, Motor Racing Network, SiriusXM radio)

Sunday, July 3

Forecast: Partly cloudy. High of 81 degrees.

  • 3 p.m. -- Cup race (107 laps, 250 miles; USA Network, Motor Racing Network, SiriusXM radio)