DARLINGTON, SC (Pittsburgh Racing Now) – Joe Gibbs Racing’s Erik Jones held off Chip Ganassi Racing’s Kyle Larson to win Sunday’s 70th annual Bojangles Southern 500 at Darlington Raceway.
Jones led the last 40-laps en route to his second-career Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series. The margin of victory was 4.058-seconds. The victory locks Jones into the NASCAR Playoffs with one race left in the regular season. The victory also gets the monkey off Jones’ back as he was the only Gibbs driver not to win this season.
“It was fun,” said Jones. “I felt really calm, honestly, the majority of the race, and especially the last 80 laps. I felt like I was really in control and really knew what I was doing, and there was a couple points down the backstretch it was like, Well, why can’t we win it? There’s no reason we can’t, so just close it out and do it.”
Larson’s second place finish was his fifth Top 10 finish in six races at Darlington. It was also Larson’s 12th Top 10 finish of 2019 and it locked him into the 2019 NASCAR Playoffs.
“Just was really hard to pass,” said Larson. “I think this package has been good for a lot of places, but here being a high-grip track, already narrow, it was just tough to pass.”
Larson did lead twice for 44-laps and was leading when the race restarted with 86-laps to go but Jones got by him.
“Just didn’t have the greatest restart there to allow Erik to get by me,” lamented Larson.
Larson was able to close gap however and followed Jones onto pit road, along with Kyle Busch, for the last green-flag stop of the race. Jones and Busch beat the No. 42 Clover Chevrolet off of pit road.
“That last green-flag stop was not as fast as the 18 (Busch) and the 20 (Jones), so disappointed about that,” said Larson. “We had some good stops and bad ones, but all in all a good day.”
Busch hung on for a third-place finish after smacking the wall coming out of turn four in the waning laps, which allowed Larson to get by him.
Three other drivers joined Larson by clinching their spots in the playoffs via points: Team Penske’s Ryan Blaney, Hendrick Motorsports William Byron and Stewart Haas Racing’s Aric Almirola.
The final two NASCAR Playoff spots are between four drivers heading into the regular-season finale at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Stewart Haas Racing’s Clint Bowyer currently sits in 15th place, 8-points ahead of his teammate Daniel Suarez and Roush Fenway Racing’s Ryan Newman, who are tied for the 16th and final spot. Seven-time Champion Jimmie Johnson is on the outside looking in, 18-points behind Newman and Suarez.
A.J. Allmendinger wins on ‘The Roval’….again!
CONCORD, NC (Pittsburgh Racing Now) – A.J. Allmendinger’s run towards a NASCAR Xfinity Series Championship is continuing into the Round of 8 after his third-straight win on ‘The Roval’ at Charlotte Motor Speedway.
“It’s special to win this race three years in-a-row,” said Allmendinger. “Do we go for the win during the race’s second stage by pitting early? We decided to do that. Once we got in the lead the Hyperice Chevy was so fast.”
Team Penske’s Austin Cindric finished second after starting from the pole position and having an eventful day. Cindric led the first seven laps of the race before missing the backstretch chicane. Cindric and his team went off strategy and by the end of the recovered and was in second place on the final re-start.
“I spun my tires like crazy on that last restart,” said Cindric, who already clinched a spot in the Round of 8. “I was worried about that, but I didn’t think it was going to be that bad. I feel like I could have tried a second gear restart. I think that would have helped me out at least maintaining some track position, but it was just not meant to be today.”
Daniel Hemric finished third followed by Justin Haley and Brandon Jones. All three also advanced into the Round of 8.
The other drivers advancing to the Round of 8 included Noah Gragson (sixth Saturday), Justin Allgaier (ninth) and Harrison Burton (15th).
The race featured six lead changes among five drivers, with Allmendinger leading the final 21 circuits. There were seven cautions for 13 laps.
The fourth caution also caused a brief stoppage when the brakes failed on the No. 07 Chevrolet of Josh Bilicki, with the car plowing through the backstretch chicane and dislodging pieces of curbing in its path. Track workers had to remove the exposed bolts that had held the curbing in place before the race could continue.
Brandon Brown gets Xfinity Series win at Talladega
TALLADEGA, AL (Pittsburgh Racing Now) – Brandon Brown picked up his first Xfinity Series victory winning Saturday’s Xfinity Series race at Talladega Superspeedway.
Brown was racing three-wide for the lead with Justin Allgaier and Brandon Jones when the No. 20 of Harrison Burton broke loose in turn four triggering a multi-vehicle accident on lap 102 of the 113-lap event.
NASCAR officials reverted back to the last completed scoring loop to determine Brown was slightly ahead when the caution came out.
“Everything I’ve ever wanted to do is take the trophy home to Mom and Dad,” said Brown, who drives for his family owned team. “Oh my god, it’s a dream come true. A Talladega winner. Oh my god, Dad, we did it!”
Jones was credited with a second place finish and Allgaier came home in third position. Daniel Hemric finished fourth followed by Jordan Anderson in fifth.
Defending Xfinity Series Champion Austin Cindric remains atop the drivers standing following his 8th place finish. Allgaier is in second place followed by Hemric in third.
A.J. Allmendinger took a hit in the points after being involved in an accident and fell to fourth, 44-points out of the lead and 25-points above the 8th place cutoff to advance to the next round of the playoffs.
Burton fell to eight in the points after his accident and sits only 8-points ahed of Jeb Burton for the final playoff transfer spot.
Kyle Larson wins at Bristol after Harvick & Elliott incident
BRISTOL, TN (Pittsburgh Racing Now) – Kyle Larson passed Kevin Harvick with three-laps-to-go and went on to win Saturday night’s NASCAR Cup Series Bass Pro Shops Night Race at Bristol Motor Speedway.
“Have always wanted to win here, so cool to finally do it,” said Larson. “We were able to stay close enough to Kevin. Chase was obviously upset with the contact, was just making things kind of tough on him. It kept me in the game.”
Elliott certainly made it tougher on Harvick after contact between the two, as they were fighting for the lead, sent the No. 9 Hooters Chevy to pit road with a flat left front tire. Elliott returned to the track a couple of laps down but on the same part of the track as the leaders and the defending Cup Series Champion ran the No. 4 up against the wall in frustration.
Elliott eventually passed Harvick but did not pull away with the fresher tires, instead Elliott took the racing line away from Harvick as Larson continued to close in. Larson caught and passed Harvick, who blamed Elliott.
“I just told him it was kind of a chicken-shit move he did there at the end,” fumed Harvick. “I was just trying to get the lead and race him hard. Then he pulls up in front of me and sits there till I lose the whole lead.”
“Well, it’s something he does all the time,” said Elliott of the contact from the No. 4. “He runs into your left side constantly at other tracks. Did it to me in Darlington a few weeks ago because he was tired of racing me. Whether he did it on purpose doesn’t matter. At some point you have to draw a line.”
The line to the next round of the NASCAR Playoffs was drawn after Bristol with four drivers falling out the playoffs.
Chip Ganassi’s hopes of winning that elusive NASCAR Championship ended Saturday night when Kurt Busch was one of those four drivers eliminated. Busch finished 19th at Bristol.
Aric Almirola, Michael McDowell and Tyler Reddick were also eliminated.