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 TreatMyClot.com 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 TreatMyClot.com 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

Coyne transitioning from underdog to Indy 500 threat

Photo: IndyCar
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For most of the team’s existence, Dale Coyne Racing has been the Chicago Cubs of American Open Wheel Racing – a team whose history was more defined by failures, at times comically so, than success.

The last decade, however, has seen the tide completely change. In 2007, they scored three podium finishes with Bruno Junqueira. In 2009, they won at Watkins Glen with the late Justin Wilson.

The combination won again at Texas Motor Speedway in 2012, and finished sixth in the 2013 Verizon IndyCar Series championship. That same year, Mike Conway took a shock win for them in Race 1 at the Chevrolet Dual in Detroit.

Carlos Huertas scored an upset win for them in Race 1 at the Houston double-header in 2014, and while 2015 and 2016 yielded no wins, Tristan Vautier and Conor Daly gave them several strong runs – Vautier’s best finish was fourth in Race 2 at Detroit, while Daly finished second in Race 1 at Detroit, finished fourth at Watkins Glen, and scored a trio of sixth-place finishes at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Road Course, Race 2 at Detroit, and the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course.

And 2017 was set to possibly be the best year the team has ever had. Sebastien Bourdais gave the team a popular win in the season-opening Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg, and then rookie Ed Jones scored back-to-back top tens – 10th and sixth – at St. Pete and the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach to start his career.

But, things started unraveling at the Indianapolis 500. Bourdais appeared set to be in the Fast Nine Pole Shootout during his first qualifying run – both of his first two laps were above 231 mph –  before his horrifying crash in Turn 2.

While Jones qualified an impressive 11th and finished an even more impressive third, results for the rest of the season became hard to come by – Jones only scored two more Top 10s, with a best result of seventh at Road America.

But, retooled for 2018, the Coyne team is a legitimate threat at the 102nd Running of the Indianapolis 500.

Bourdais, whose No. 18 Honda features new sponsorship from SealMaster and now ownership partners in Jimmy Vasser and James “Sulli” Sullivan, has a win already, again at St. Pete, and sits third in the championship.

And Bourdais may also be Honda’s best hope, given that he was the fastest Honda in qualifying – he’ll start fifth behind Ed Carpenter, Simon Pagenaud, Will Power, and Josef Newgarden.

“I think it speaks volumes about their work, their passion and their dedication to this program, Dale (Coyne), Jimmy (Vasser) and Sulli (James Sullivan) and everybody from top to bottom. I can’t thank them enough for the opportunity, for the support,” Bourdais said of the team’s effort.

Rookie Zachary Claman De Melo has been progressing nicely, and his Month of May has been very solid – he finished 12th at the INDYCAR Grand Prix on the IMS Road Course and qualified a strong 13th for the “500.”

“It’s been surreal to be here as rookie. I’m a bit at a loss for words,” Claman De Melo revealed after qualifying. “The fans, driving around this place, being with the team, everything is amazing. I have a great engineer, a great group of experienced mechanics at Dale Coyne Racing.”

While Conor Daly and Pippa Mann struggled in one-off entries, with Mann getting bumped out of the field in Saturday qualifying, Daly’s entry essentially puts three Coyne cars in the race – Daly’s No. 17 United States Air Force Honda is a Dale Coyne car that has been leased to Thom Burns Racing.

Rest assured, the days of Coyne being an “also ran” are long gone, and a Coyne car ending up in Victory Lane at the biggest race of the year would complete the Chicago Cubs analogy – the Cubs won a World Series title in 2016, and an Indy 500 triumph would be the crowning achievement in Coyne’s career.

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