DARLINGTON, SC (Pittsburgh Racing Now) – NASCAR rolls into the oldest and toughest race track, Darlington Raceway, for their annual “throwback” weekend.
Teams, drivers and sponsors embrace the weekend and roll out cars with special paint schemes that pay tribute to NASCAR’s past and heritage.
The fight for the NASCAR playoffs is down to two races. Four drivers are fighting for the final two playoff positions.
Stewart Haas Racing’s (SHR) Daniel Suarez sits in the 16th and final playoff position after an 8th place finish in the series last race at Bristol Motor Speedway.
Suarez’ SHR teammate Clint Bowyer is in 17th position, two points behind Suarez. Bowyer has only one top-10 finish in 13-starts at the track. He finished 36th last year and 40th the year before.
“We know how important these next two races are,” said Bowyer. “Everyone in the sport knows and everyone will be watching. We know if we run like we are capable of running we will be fine. Now we just have to go out and do it this weekend at Darlington and next weekend at Indianapolis.”
Seven-time Champion Jimmie Johnson, of Hendrick Motorsports, sits 26-points behind Suarez. Johnson has 3-wins at the track “Too Tough To Tame”, sweeping both races in 2004 and picking up another win 2011.
Roush Fenway Racing’s Ryan Newman currently sits 15th in the playoff standings, only 14-points ahead of 17th place Bowyer. Newman has not won at Darlington but has 13 top-10 finishes and seven top-5 finishes in 20-starts.
Joe Gibbs Racing teammates Kyle Busch, Denny Hamlin and Martin Truex Jr lead the championship field with four wins each.
Hamlin comes into the race with momentum after winning at Bristol. The driver of the No. 11 FedEx Toyota has 2-victories, 11 top-10 finishes in 13-starts at the track. Hamlin’s average finish of 6.154 is best among active drivers.
“This FedEx team is on such a roll right now,” said Hamlin. “We show up fast to the race track each and every weekend and I’m proud of what our entire team has been able to accomplish these past few weeks.”
Busch sits atop the series championship standings with a 39-point lead over 2nd place Joey Logano of Team Penske. Busch has some momentum too, five top-10’s in his last 6-races. Busch also has a series-best 20 top-10’s. Busch has one victory at Darlington (2011) and has finished 11th or better in the last 9-races at Darlington.
The Bojangles Southern 500 takes place Sunday, September 1st at 6 p.m. ET. Television coverage starts at 5:30 p.m. ET on the NBC Sports Network (NBCSN) and can be heard on Motor Racing Network (MRN) affiliates and on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio.
Kevin Harvick wins NASCAR Cup Series race at Michigan
BROOKLYN, MI (Pittsburgh Racing Now) – Kevin Harvick’s two-year winless streak is over after ‘The Closer’ won Sunday’s NASCAR Cup Series Firekeepers Casino 400 at Michigan International Speedway.
Harvick beat 23XI Racing’s Bubba Wallace by 2.9-seconds to become playoff eligible and said the key was getting out front on the final restart.
“The last restart I had the 5 (Kyle Larson) behind me, and I knew I didn’t need to let the 23 (Wallace) up,” explained Harvick. “I knew I needed to drive it in the corner far enough, but the 5 had given me such a good push. I had a car length, and I think Bubba got about up to my door. I knew that if we could just get off of turn 2, we would have a chance.”
As the pair raced off turn 2 Harvick started to get ahead and carried that momentum as Wallace and Kyle Larson battled for position.
“That’s what you want, right?” asked Harvick rhetorically. “To try to get away so they don’t have a draft and can make up that time quicker. 5 launched good. 5 gave us a good push, and the key was just clearing the 23 off of two and being able to go down the back straight-away by myself and not door to door and in a firestorm.”
Wallace was disappointed to not get into victory lane with one of the fastest cars on track all weekend.
“I failed everybody,” said Wallace. “Took the top there on the restart. Thought I could hang with the 4, and just got to racing the 5 and the 22. Hate it for our team. It sucks.”
Wallace’s team owner Denny Hamlin raced home to third with Team Penske teammates Joey Logano and Ryan Blaney rounding out the top 5.
Chase Elliott continues to sit atop the point standing and playoff standings. Martin Truex sits on the outside of the 16-car playoff eligibility by 19-points. Blaney sits in the final playoff spot.
Racing Notebook: Pocono NASCAR Weekend approaching; INDYCAR in Toronto; PVGP hits the track and more
PITTSBURGH, PA (Pittsburgh Racing Now) – The Pittsburgh Racing Now Racing Notebook is jam-packed with NASCAR, INDYCAR, and Vintage racing news:
Limited Tickets Remain for Pocono NASCAR Weekend:
- Pocono Raceway’s NASCAR weekend is a little over a week away and if you want to go, get your tickets now! Pocono announced on Thursday that a limited number of grandstand seats are the only options remaining for the marquee M&M’S® Fan Appreciation 400 NASCAR Cup Series race next Sunday, July 24. The remaining grandstand seats for the Cup Series race are at three price points ($45, $80 and $95) and scattered throughout the various sections of the main grandstand. The only RV camping option currently available is general admission for $250, which includes two guest passes and free admission for up to 4 children 12 and under. To purchase tickets or learn more, please visit poconoraceway.com or call 800-722-3929.
INDYCAR Returns To Toronto:
- The NTT INDYCAR SERIES returns to the Streets of Toronto for this weekend’s Honda Indy Toronto. All eyes will be on Defending Series Champion Alex Palou, driver of the No. 10 NTT DATA Chip Ganassi Racing Honda. CGR announced on Tuesday afternoon they were exercising their option on Palou for 2023, only to have Palou announce on Social Media later that evening that he was not returning. Moments after Palou’s announcement, McLaren Racing announced they signed Palou for 2023. CGR has won seven times at Toronto, the most recent being Scott Dixon in 2018. Andretti Autosports Alexander Rossi was fastest in the first practice on Friday. A second practice session takes place Saturday morning with three rounds of knockout-style qualifying taking place Saturday afternoon. The race is Sunday at 3 p.m.
Pittsburgh Vintage Grand Prix at Pitt Race:
- The Pittsburgh Vintage Grand Prix hits the Pittsburgh International Race Complex in Wampum this weekend in a tune-up for next weekend’s race on the streets of Schenley Park. Since 2004, racers from all over the country have come to the 2.8-mile purpose-built track 40 miles northwest of Pittsburgh for fierce competition. The ‘Black Tie and Tailpipes Gala’ took place last night at The Grand Concourse at Station Square. For more information visit pvgp.org.
Chase Elliott wins at Atlanta
HAMPTON, GA (Pittsburgh Racing Now) – Chase Elliott held off a hard-charging Corey LaJoie to win Sunday’s NASCAR CUP SERIES Quaker State 400 at Atlanta Motor Speedway.
Elliott was leading taking the white flag when LaJoie got a run heading into Turn 1 forcing Elliott to move to the high side of the track and block LaJoie, who ended up hitting the wall and brining out the final caution flag, securing the win for Elliott.
“When you’re a kid and you’re racing on the quarter mile over there you look at this big track and it’s just out of reach, like not even real, just that your heroes are out there competing once or twice a year on this big track, and that’s just not real,” said Elliott of winning at his home track. “To be here and to have a day like we had is really incredible, and certainly one I’m going to embrace and enjoy a lot.”
LaJoie, who had a strong car all day said he took his shot at the win.
“I made my move and it didn’t work out, and the siren is ringing in Dawsonville unfortunately,’’ said LaJoie, referencing the Dawsonville Pool Room where a siren blares after any Elliott win.
Elliott won the races first two stages along with his third victory of the season, joining his Hall of Fame father Bill as the only Cup Drivers to win at the Atlanta oval.
“To see that many people up there and cheering and wearing the 9 hats and seeing the NAPA gear, you want to make those people proud,” said Elliott. “For me, I’m just grateful that the fans of this state have included me in part of the family of Georgia sports and kind of accepted our team as that, and I’m proud of that and glad we could do them good today.”
Ross Chastain finished second followed by Team Penske’s Austin Cindric in third, Petty GMS Racing’s Erik Jones in fourth and Penske’s Ryan Blaney in fifth.
The NASCAR Cup Series next race is at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Loudon, NH.