Trevor Bayne pulls into tie with Regan Smith for Nationwide Series points lead

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While Kyle Larson won the race and accolades in Saturday’s 300, the already tight Nationwide Series standings grew even tighter.

By finishing ninth in the season’s fifth race, Trevor Bayne moved up from second and into a tie for the series points lead with Regan Smith, who finished right behind Bayne in Saturday’s race in 10th place.

Bayne came into the race just one point behind Smith. He continues his outstanding start of top-10 finishes in each of the first five races: third at Daytona, seventh at Phoenix, eighth at both Las Vegas and Bristol and now ninth at Fontana.

Smith, meanwhile, earned his third consecutive 10th-place finish, having also done so in the previous two races at Bristol and Las Vegas. He started the season with a win at Daytona and was eighth at Phoenix.

Ty Dillon (8th Saturday) remains in third place in the NNS standings, six points behind the two co-leaders.

Chase Elliott (6th) remained in fourth, eight points back, while Elliott Sadler (5th) remained in fifth place in the standings, 11 points back.

Brian Scott (12th) moved up one place into a tie with Brendan Gaughan (15th) for sixth in the standings, each 25 points back.

Dylan Kwasniewski (11th) moved up from ninth to eighth, essentially switching places in the standings with James Buescher (16th), who dropped from eighth to ninth.

Kwasniewski is now 36 points behind Smith and Bayne, while Buescher is 40 points back.

Rounding out the top 10 in the NNS season standings is Mike Bliss, who finished 18th Saturday and is now 60 points behind Smith and Bayne.

Smith holds the tiebreak over Bayne based upon his win at Daytona.

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UNOFFICIAL Provided by NASCAR Statistics- Saturday, 3/22/2014 @ 8:16 PM Eastern UNOFFICIAL
Points Report
Auto Club Speedway
16th Annual 300

Position Driver Points Back
1 Regan Smith 185 —
2 Trevor Bayne 185 —
3 Ty Dillon 179 -6
4 Chase Elliott 177 -8
5 Elliott Sadler 174 -11
6 Brendan Gaughan 160 -25
7 Brian Scott 160 -25
8 Dylan Kwasniewski 149 -36
9 James Buescher 145 -40
10 Mike Bliss 125 -60
11 Chris Buescher 122 -63
12 Ryan Reed 117 -68
13 Mike Wallace 115 -70
14 Landon Cassill 114 -71
15 Dakoda Armstrong 112 -73
16 Jeremy Clements 84 -101
17 Eric McClure 83 -102
18 Jamie Dick 76 -109
19 Jeffrey Earnhardt 75 -110
20 Joey Gase 73 -112
21 Blake Koch 60 -125
22 Derrike Cope 58 -127
23 Tanner Berryhill 56 -129
24 David Starr 39 -146
25 Daryl Harr 39 -146
26 Kevin Lepage 34 -151
27 Will Kimmel III 33 -152
28 Ruben Garcia 30 -155
29 Carlos Contreras 30 -155
30 JJ Yeley 25 -160
31 Jason White 25 -160
32 Matt Dibenedetto 24 -161
33 Mike Harmon 23 -162
34 Ryan Sieg 22 -163
35 Chad Boat 20 -165
36 Robert Richardson 19 -166
37 Scott Lagasse Jr. 18 -167
38 Ryan Ellis 16 -169
39 Martin Roy 14 -171
40 Tommy Joe Martins 14 -171
41 Carl Long 13 -172
42 Bobby Gerhart 11 -174
43 Kelly Admiraal 9 -176
44 Jeff Green 8 -177
45 Harrison Rhodes 5 -180

F1 Preview: 2018 Australian Grand Prix

Photo: Getty Images
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Save for two occasions, in 2006, and 2010, the Australian Grand Prix has served as the season-opening event for the FIA Formula 1 World Championship since 1996, and this weekend’s event will be the 21st time that the city of Melbourne has kicked off the Formula 1 campaign.

The 2018 season is the fifth one of the current hybrid power unit era, the second season of the current aero regulations, and the second under Liberty Media’s guidance.

Last year saw titans Mercedes AMG Petronas and Scuderia Ferrari duel for supremacy for most of the season before Mercedes distanced Ferrari late in the season to take the constructor’s title and the driver’s title, with Lewis Hamilton, who is now tied with Sebastian Vettel on four world championships apiece.

Four drivers on the grid have Formula 1 world championships to their name: Hamilton, Vettel, Kimi Raikkonen, and Fernando Alonso. Scuderia Toro Rosso’s Brendon Hartley also has a world championship to his name as a two-time titlist in the FIA World Endurance Championship.

So, what can viewers expect from the 2018 curtain-raiser in Australia? A handful of things to watch are below?

2018 Australian Grand Prix – Talking Points

Does Anyone Have Anything for Mercedes?

Only on one day during pre-season testing did a Mercedes driver lead the way – Lewis Hamilton was fastest on the final day of Week 1 at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya.

However, all indications were that was by design, with the team focusing the majority of the second week, if not the entire second week, on long runs with their W09 EQ Power+ chassis.

Such a decision is an ominous one, in that it indicates the team is very comfortable with the amount of speed in the car and did not see a need, or desire, to show their hand during testing.

With that in mind, the Mercedes duo of Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas may yet again have the best and fastest cars, and the team looks poised to potentially make it five constructor’s and driver’s championships in a row.

Ferrari and Red Bull Look to End Mercedes Reign

The biggest threats to Mercedes are undoubtedly Ferrari and Red Bull, the only other teams to win in 2017.

And both teams displayed a lot of pace during testing, particularly in the “one-lap speed” category. Ricciardo set a lap record around the Catalunya circuit during the second week, only for Vettel to supplant that mark later in the week. Teammate Kimi Raikkonen led the way during the final day of testing.

It is unknown how that pace will translate over the course of a race distance. Mercedes appeared to have an edge on both Ferrari and Red Bull over long runs and race simulations, but there is also a theory that neither Ferrari nor Red Bull had their true long-run form on display.

Still, if a team is going to knock off Mercedes, it will likely be either Ferrari or Red Bull.

McLaren on the Rebound?

Put simply, the previous three seasons for McLaren F1 Team were a bit of a disaster. Their partnership with Honda yielded point totals of 27 (2015), 76 (2016), and 30 (2017) in a three-year venture that was defined by poor reliability and underwhelming power.

The relationship hit a boiling point last year and both entities parted ways ahead of the 2018 season, with McLaren signing a new power unit deal with Renault.

Testing went better than in previous years, though the team continued to battle reliability problems. However, all issues appeared to be minor, needling issues rather than more significant, foundational problems, as the other Renault teams (Red Bull and Renault Sport F1 Team) had solid runs with few reliability issues.

The car does appear to have speed in it, so if the reliability problems are behind them, McLaren could be in for a rebound season.

Stuck in the Midfield Again

Formula 1’s battle amongst the midfield is set to be as fierce as ever as a host of a several teams have a chance at being “best of the rest.”

Sahara Force India has been the frontrunner from the the midfield teams each of the last two years, finishing fourth in the constructor’s title in both 2016 and 2017, though if the steady conflict between drivers Esteban Ocon and Sergio Perez continues through 2018, it could hamper their efforts significantly.

Renault Sport F1 Team and Haas F1 Team look to improve on their 2017 form, while Toro Rosso is in a new partnership with Honda power units…and has experienced a surprisingly smooth pre-season as Honda’s 2018 platform looks significantly better, with the team enjoying a solid run of testing with few, if any, reliability problems.

Williams Martini Racing and Alfa Romeo Sauber appear to be at the back of the pack entering the season, but both could battle for points finishes if those ahead of them falter.