The 2020 NASCAR Cup Series regular season comes to a close Saturday night with the Coke Zero Sugar 400 (7:30 p.m. ET on NBC/NBC Sports App, MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio) at Daytona International Speedway.
Thirteen playoff spots have officially been locked up, and Clint Bowyer needs three points (in the event of a new winner) to lock himself into the field. Matt DiBenedetto, William Byron and Jimmie Johnson are separated by nine points with two of the three likely to make the postseason if a previous 2020 winner makes his way to Victory Lane at the 2.5-mile superspeedway. Past Daytona winners, such as Erik Jones, Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Ryan Newman and Matt Kenseth, are in win-or-go-home mode.
Anything can happen at “The World Center of Racing,” and with the back of the playoff picture far from settled, NASCAR.com’s Chase Wilhelm and RJ Kraft look at which driver outside the bubble is most likely to race his way into the playoffs when the checkered flag is waved at the high banks of Daytona.
Wilhelm: For Erik Jones, a win at Daytona on Saturday night would mean worlds more than just a postseason slot.
Jones will be a free agent at season’s end after it was announced Aug. 6 he would not return to Joe Gibbs Racing in 2021. The 24-year-old’s will to prove something under the lights at the 2.5-mile superspeedway is two-fold. One, he wants to show potential car owners he has what it takes to win and make the NASCAR Playoffs under a high-pressure situation. Two, it could serve as a little self-gratification to show Toyota and JGR what they’re going to miss out on now.
Aside from his drive to make something happen in his final 11 races in the No. 20 car, Jones’ first career NASCAR Cup Series victory also came in the second race at Daytona back in July 2018. Along with that success, Jones also nabbed the checkered flag in the Busch Clash at Daytona to begin the 2020 season, while also finishing fifth at Talladega Superspeedway in June.
If you’re looking for a driver outside the bubble to sneak up on everyone and win, Jones is your guy.
Kraft: Jones certainly has done it here before — both at Daytona and grabbing a win late in the regular season (at Darlington last year). Ricky Stenhouse Jr. feels like the obvious choice given his 2017 win in the summer here (“America, 1776, we are the champs“), but his propensity to be all or nothing at this track has me looking elsewhere.
I’m taking Chris Buescher. Why Buescher, you ask? The driver of the No. 17 Roush Fenway Racing Ford — Stenhouse’s former car — finished third in the 2020 Daytona 500 and is one of four drivers — Ryan Blaney, Denny Hamlin and Kevin Harvick are the others — to finish in the top 10 in both superspeedway races so far in 2020. His 4.5 average finish at superspeedways this year is third-best among full-time drivers. Daytona has seen some strong runs out of him in recent years with three top fives and four top 10s in his last six starts. To dive into the loop data, he had the sixth-best average running position at Daytona in February.
Taking Buescher also aligns me with the Fords who have mastered the strength in numbers approach needed to succeed in this type of racing. The Roush Fenway superspeedway program showed its strength with Stenhouse in 2017 and recent superspeedway runs by Buescher and Newman — who was running top three in the closing laps of the 2020 Daytona 500 before a last-lap wreck have continued that solid performance.
The Dolphins will practice on Saturday at Hard Rock Stadium without their presumptive starting quarterback. Via multiple reporters in attendance at the session, Ryan Fitzpatrick left the practice field before the session began. Here’s how Armando Salguero of the Miami Herald described it: « Before dolphins practice begins, Coach Brian Flores just walked QB Ryan Fitzpatrick [more]
The Three Lions boss believes he would have made the same call as the young shot-stopper and returned to Old Trafford for the new campaign
Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer were on a collision course with Novak Djokovic on Saturday, calling for « unity, not separation » after their long-time rival superstar spearheaded a breakaway union of professional tennis players.
Pat Beverley continually interrupted NBPA head Michele Roberts Wednesday night as she explained the financial repercussions of leaving the NBA bubble.
Jon Rahm would have had the low round of the week at the BMW Championship if he had remembered to reach into his pocket on the fifth green.
A measure of Tiger Woods’s frustration at the state of his game came after the third round of the BMW Championship in Illinois on Saturday. Very rarely does the 15-time major winner decline to talk the media following a round, but at Olympia Fields he has done it two days running. In fairness, Woods – who, in contrast to certain peers, has made a habit of fulfilling his press responsibilities regardless of his score – probably does not know what to say. At 10 over in the penultimate FedEx Play-off event, the 44-year-old realises there is no chance of him qualifying for next week’s Tour Championship and that he will have to go into the US Open in three weeks’ time in awful form. This 72 was a slight improvement, but his seven on the 17th summed up his mood. Woods sliced his drive into the water and then hit a wild hook with his next shot. It was something of a relief when he tapped in for a four on the 18th, but standing outside the top 50, Sunday could also be a long day. On the European Tour, Martin Kaymer has his chance to win his first title since the 2014 US Open. The 35-year-old German is in second, only two back of South Africa’s Justin Walters, at the ISPS Handa UK Championship at the Belfry after a brilliant 66. It would be an emotional comeback victory for the former world No 1, particularly after his calamitous second round 82 at the recent USPGA Championship, where he went from one off the first-round pace to missing the cut. Misery has become an all-too regular occurrence in his career of late and the player now ranked 142nd explained why he feels more at ease on his home circuit. “This is where I feel comfortable, where I don’t need to adjust at all,” he said. “You see all the players and caddies that you have hung out with for the last 15 years. I don’t want to say family but it’s very close, having as much comfort as possible.”
Many Steelers fans blamed the team for Le’Veon Bell to leave but they got it right.
The 31-year-old confirmed on Saturday, after the third round of the BMW Championship at Olympia Fields, that his wife Erica was expected to give birth any day. « My mind has been wandering the last few weeks, » McIlroy told reporters after he shot a three-over par 73 to slip into a tie for sixth on two-over 212 and three shots behind co-leaders Hideki Matsuyama and Dustin Johnson. McIlroy added that he had been waiting for the phone call telling him that it was time to head home for more than a week and he would have no hesitation in walking off, even if during the final Tour Championship in Atlanta.
The Miami Dolphins, eager to give roles to two linebackers signed during the offseason, on Saturday traded Raekwon McMillan, according to a source, sending away the player who was Miami’s best defender last season, according to metrics site Pro Football Focus.
Red Sox outfielder apologizes for poor choices of words after Red Sox decided to walkout on Thursday.
Kyle Busch was eliminated in a crash with eight laps to go in Saturday’s Cup regular-season finale at Daytona International Speedway.
Read what Cup drivers had to say after a tense regular-season finale at Daytona International Speedway.
After spending the last few years on the cusp of stepping up to the UFC but not making the move, bantamweight Adrian Yanez was finally able to do just that with a win over Brady Huang at Contender Series 2020 on Aug. 11, earning a UFC contract.By finishing Haung in just 39 seconds, Yanez had exactly the kind of performance he was hoping for entering into the fight.“It felt like it went phenomenal,” Yanez told MMAWeekly.com. “I was in the zone. I went out there and implemented every drill that I had did over this camp.“I didn’t want to throw any single pot shots, (like I) sometimes get caught up doing. I wanted to throw full combinations. I wanted to do everything I worked on this training camp. I went out and put a stop to a tough opponent. It went really well for me. I’m still on cloud nine. It’s been an awesome week.”Though the fight itself went smoothly, Yanez admits that fighting without a crowd during the age of coronavirus was an adjustment.“It was very weird fighting with no crowd or anything like that, but also I felt pretty comfortable,” said Yanez. “We had to take more precautions due to Covid-19 and everything, but we were super safe, everything was right, every precaution was the right precaution.“But as far of the weirdness of it, it was pretty weird, because I’m used to seeing everybody and seeing a lot of people, and to see it slimmed down to almost none was a little weird. It worked out well in my favor.”Earning a UFC contract after years of being so close to getting one but not doing so was a very cathartic moment for Yanez followed by a bit of disbelief, then the realization that things only get harder from here.“Immediately after the fight, it wasn’t shown on ESPN, I immediately collapsed on my back,” Yanez said. “I was on cloud nine. I reached my goal that I’d been reaching for, for a very long time.“Going back to the press conference, looking at the microphone it had the UFC logo on it, and I was just so taken away. But at the same time there’s a whole other mountain I need to climb. I feel like it’s settled in, and I’m kicking into a different gear now because I’m ready to go and ready to get back in there and prove myself.”Having come out of his bout relatively unscathed, Yanez is more than willing to step back into the Octagon sooner than later if need be and close out his 2020 on a hot streak.“We’re trying to line something up right now,” said Yanez. “There might be something soon. But at the same time I’m staying ready in case somebody drops out.“If I can take a full camp and fight eight weeks from now, that’s fine too. But I’m ready 100 percent to go. I took no injuries in that fight. I’m ready to get back in there. Two weeks from now or eight weeks from now I’m ready to go in there and showcase my skills again.”* * *TRENDING > Dana White’s RNC speech: ‘We need President Trump’s leadership now more than ever’* * * Dana White names Contender Series week two UFC contract winners(Video courtesy of UFC)
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