LAS VEGAS, NV (Pittsburgh Racing Now) – The NASCAR Playoffs get underway this weekend with the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series South Point 400 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.
Joe Gibbs Racing’s Kyle Busch, Denny Hamlin and Martin Truex Jr. enter the playoffs 1, 2, 3 in the standings.
Las Vegas is the home race for Busch, who has led the most laps this season (1,166), has the most Top 10’s (21) and is tied with Hamlin for the most top-five finishes (13).
Las Vegas Motor Speedway has been a solid venue for Busch, who won there in 2009 and has a series best seven top-fives at the track. He was runner-up in 2005 and March 2018 and has only one finish worse than seventh in the last five races at the track.
“We certainly worked hard throughout the regular season to get this Playoff advantage that we have right now,” said Busch, who has 15-playoff points for winning the regular season championship. “It would be nice not to have to rely on those points, but to be able to win some races here and close out the season strong and get to Homestead (FL) and race for the championship.”
Hamlin sits in second place, 16-points ahead of Truex Jr. All three drivers have won four races this year.
Stewart-Haas Racing’s Kevin Harvick sits in fourth spot. Harvick enters the Playoffs hot off the heels of his win at the Brickyard 400 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Harvick won the pole at Las Vegas earlier in the year and has won two of the last six races.
“I think we’ve definitely made some strides in getting where – closer to where we want to be,” said Harvick. “I think we still have some things that we have to work on at certain styles of races tracks. But this is survive and advance and you don’t necessarily have to have the fastest car.”
Team Penske Teammates Joey Logano and Brad Keselowski enter the Playoffs fifth and sixth respectively. Logano boasts the best average finish (8.5) among drivers with at least 10-starts. Keselowski is the defending winner of the Las Vegas Playoff opener.
Hendrick Motorsports Chase Elliott sits in seventh place of the playoff standings. Elliott has two top-10 finishes and three DNF’s in five starts at the track. Finished fifth in the 2017 Playoffs, Sixth in the 2018 Playoffs and 10th in the 2016 Playoffs.
Chip Ganassi Racing’s Kurt Busch enters the playoffs in eighth place. The 2004 Series champion has yet to win at his hometown track and has five top-10 finishes in 19-starts at the track.
Elliott’s teammate Alex Bowman is ninth on the playoff grid. Bowman finished a career-best 16th in the playoffs in 2018.
JGR’s Eric Jones is tenth on the grid. Jones finished a career-best 15th in the 2018 NASCAR Playoffs after being eliminated in the Round of 16.
Chip Ganassi Racing’s Kyle Larson is returning to the playoffs for the fourth time in his career. Larson finished a career-best eighth in 2017 and ninth in 2016 and 2018.
Rounding out the field of 16 are Team Penske’s Ryan Blaney, Hendrick Motorsports William Byron, Stewart-Haas Racing’s Aric Almirola and Clint Bowyer and Roush Fenway Racing’s Ryan Newman.
Allgaier untouchable, conquers heat for Xfinity Series victory at Nashville
LEBANON, TN (Pittsburgh Racing Now) — JR Motorsports driver Justin Allgaier captured his second win of the 2022 season under the sweltering western Tennessee sun Saturday afternoon. He led 134 of 188 laps in a dominating performance, beating Trevor Bayne to the line by 4.5 seconds.
AJ Allmendinger was Allgaier’s only real threat at any point of the race, starting on the front row and leading 48 laps spread over stage one and stage three. The race winner battled Ty Gibbs following a restart in the final stage, but Allgaier’s long run speed was too much for the JGR driver to overcome.
Following the race, Allgaier said that he didn’t think he’d ever driven a faster race car and was thrilled to finally take home the famous Nashville guitar trophy.
“This guitar has been on my bucket list for a long, long time,” Allgaier said. “Today was for the dirt racers though. It was slick, it was hot, we were sliding around… That’s the best car I’ve ever had.”
Saturdays’ Xfinity race was a clean one, absent of any notable incidents. Gibbs and Sam Mayer got tangled up while near the front, but Gibbs saved his spinning Toyota, recovering and finishing fourth. Riley Herbst had on of his strongest performances of the year, finishing third. Mayer rounded out the top five in fifth.
The Xfinity series will make their way to Road America next Saturday, starting at 2:30 p.m. It will air on USA network, continuing NBC’s coverage for the rest of the season.
Preece holds off competition, wins second straight at Nashville
LEBANON, TN (Pittsburgh Racing Now) — Ryan Preece was dominant Friday evening at Nashville Superspeedway, leading nearly half of the 150-lap race to capture his second consecutive Rackley Roofing 200. Preece, who drives part-time in the truck series, gave David Gilliland Racing their second consecutive win in the No. 17 Ford, while also notching his second career Truck Series victory in just eight starts.
Preece was forced to manage his tires fending off heavy pressure from points leader Zane Smith and the upstart Carson Hocevar. Smith looked to be dominant driving into turns one and two but would loose momentum exiting the second turn. Eventually he would battle Hocevar for second on the final lap, but the two chasers ran out of time. Preece bested the two young drivers by several car lengths.
Tensions rose with 25 laps-to-go between some of the veteran drivers and veteran drivers. Former NASCAR Cup Series driver Matt DiBenedetto’s Chevrolet on the inside of Grant Enfinger and Cory Heim on the backstretch when Ty Majeski suddenly dove to the inside, forcing the trucks four-wide heading into Turn 3. Inevitably the drivers ran out of room, sending Enfinger, Heim and DiBenedetto violently into the outside wall, ruining their top-ten bids.
The usually happy-go-lucky DiBenedetto was furious following the race, indicating his patience for the younger drivers in the Truck Series had run out.
“[It’s] stupidity,” DiBenedetto said describing Majeski’s dive to the inside. “I have no idea what some of the guys are thinking, to be honest, I don’t even have an answer. Some of these guys race with such disrespect… It’s more than conversation — one, it’s threaten them, two, just start crashing, just wreck them.”
“It was the end of the race and everybody went crazy, just like always in these truck races,” Enfinger said.
Majeski ended up finishing the race in fourth with Stewart Friesen rounding out the top five.
Wexford, PA native Kris Wright put together one of his strongest results of the season, finishing 17th in the No. 44 Chevrolet
The Truck Series takes a one week break before racing at Mid-Ohio on July 9th. Tickets are available at www.midohio.com. The race starts at 1:30 p.m. and can been seen on FS1 and heard on Motor Racing Network affiliates and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio (Ch. 90).
Suarez captures first NASCAR Cup Series win at Sonoma
SONOMA, CA — Daniel Suarez is a NASCAR Cup Series winner after capturing the Toyota Save Mart 350 at Sonoma Raceway on Sunday by beating Chris Buescher by 3.849-seconds.
Suarez, the 2016 NASCAR Xfinity series championship, has been on four different Cup teams since winning that title six years ago and started 195 Cup Series races but since joining Trackhouse Racing in 2021 things started turning around the Mexican, who has been significantly more competitive than he’d been in his four previous seasons.
Suarez celebrated his victory by emphatically punching through a taco-shaped piñata — perhaps signifying a new celebration to rival his watermelon-smashing teammate Ross Chastain.
“I have so many thoughts in my head right now,” Suarez said. “It’s been a rough journey in the Cup Series, these guys believed in me, Trackhouse Racing, Justin Marks, Ty Norris. Everyone that helped me get to this point, a lot of people in Mexico… My family you know, they never gave up on me. A lot of people did but they didn’t. Very happy that we were able to make it work.”
Suarez got off to a hot start, making his way up to fifth by the second lap of the race. Still, his climb to the lead was slow, hindered by quick Hendrick drivers Kyle Larson and Chase Elliott. As the race wore on, both frontrunners experienced problems, with Larson losing a wheel on the track and Elliott being punished with a crucial penalty on pit road.
In the closing stages of the race, Suarez and Buescher had proven themselves to be clear frontrunners, and were few seconds clear of the pack with less than 30 laps to go. Buescher would get close to Suarez multiple times, but was unable to ever make a move in the final hairpin corner. Eventually, Suarez’s long run speed prevailed, allowing him to lead 47 of 110 laps and win by almost four seconds.
Despite losing out to Suarez, Buescher’s second place finish was an impressive one — considering it was his first race since flipping at Charlotte then missing Gateway due to Covid-19. Michael McDowell put together one of his strongest starts of the year, finishing in third. Kevin Harvick and Austin Cindric rounded out the top five.
Fords and Chevy’s dominated the road course Sunday, with Kurt Busch being the highest finishing Toyota in eighteenth. The NASCAR Cup Series won’t race next week, and will resume racing at Nashville Superspeedway on Sunday, June 26 at 5 p.m. eastern. NBC will take over coverage for that race and the rest of the season.