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NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs Start This Weekend At Las Vegas

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Brian Lawdermilk/Getty Images

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.

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“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.

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IndyCar

Racing Notebook: Power Wins Grand Prix Of St. Pete Pole; Burton Wins At Texas; Robb Wins Indy Pro 2000

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Joe Skibinski

ST. PETERSBURG, FL (Pittsburgh Racing Now) – Team Penske’s Will Power wins the pole position for the INDYCAR race at St. Petersburg plus Harrison Burton wins the NASCAR Xfinity Series Race at Texas Motor Speedway; Road To Indy Winners and Carvana partners with Jimmie Johnson and Chip Ganassi Racing for their 2021 INDYCAR effort.

Will Power Wins INDYCAR Pole At St. Pete:

  • Team Penske’s Will Power is on the pole position for Sunday’s NTT INDYCAR SERIES Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg.  Power’s fast lap of 1-minute, 1.0369-seconds (106.165 mph) was 0.14-seconds faster than Andretti Autosports Alexander Rossi (01:01:1730/105.929 mph) in the third and final round of knockout-style qualifying.  Championship contenders Josef Newgarden will start eighth and Scott Dixon will start eleventh after failing to advance past the second round.  The green flag drops at 2:30 p.m. on NBC. St. Pete Starting Lineup

Harrison Burton Wins NASCAR Xfinity Series Race At Texas:

  • Joe Gibbs Racing’s Harrison Burton took home the victory in the NASCAR Xfinity Series O’Reilly Auto Parts 300 at Texas Motor Speedway on Saturday.  The victory was Burton’s third this season.  JR Motorsports Noah Gragson finished second followed by Richard Childress Racing’s Anthony Alfredo.  Team Penske’s Austin Cindric finished fourth.  Points leader Chase Briscoe finished 24th. Xfinity Texas Results  Xfinity Drivers Points
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Sting Ray Robb Wins At St. Pete:

  • Juncos Racing’s Sting Ray Robb wired the field in Saturday’s Indy Pro 2000 Grand Prix of St. Petersburg presented by Cooper Tires.  Robb, who started on the pole position, quickly pulled out to a 1.2-second lead and never looked back. “That was a hard race, even though I was leading the whole way. The team set a goal for me to hold a certain lap time and I did, until I saw Danial starting to catch me. I started pushing harder and set the quick race lap time, bettering my own race record from last year. Two lap records in one day here, that’s pretty special!”  Danial Frost finished second followed by Robb’s teammate Artem Petrov.  Robb will also start on the pole in Sunday’s season finale.  Colin Kaminsky, the goalie for the University of Pittsburgh hockey team, finished ninth.  indypro2000-race-results-r1

Porto Grabs USF 2000 Victory At St. Pete:

  • Kiko Porto claimed a well-deserved maiden Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship victory Saturday afternoon in the USF2000 Grand Prix of St. Petersburg Presented by Andersen RacePark. Eduardo Barrichello finished in second place for Pabst Racing with Reece Gold taking third for Cape Motorsports.

Carvana Partners With Jimmie Johnson & Chip Ganassi Racing:

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NASCAR

NASCAR Reinstates Kyle Larson

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DAYTONA BEACH, FL (Pittsburgh Racing Now) – NASCAR is reinstating driver Kyle Larson after suspending him for violating rules this past spring.  He will be eligible to compete in NASCAR sanctioned events beginning January 1, 2021.

Larson was suspended indefinitely on April 13 for violating Sections 12.1 (General Procedures) and 12.8 (NASCAR Member Conduct Guidelines) of the NASCAR Rule Book.

During an online iRacing event on April 12, Larson used a racial slur while attempting to take with his spotter on a private channel.  It turned out that Larson was speaking on a public channel and everyone heard him, including the online audience.

Chip Ganassi Racing fired Larson on April 14 from his duties as driver of the No. 42 Credit One Bank/McDonald’s Chevrolet.  Matt Kenseth was hired to complete the 2020 season.  Ross Chastain will drive the car in 2021.

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NASCAR ordered Larson to attend sensitivity training as a condition of reinstatement and is going to require him to fulfill additional requirements in order to keep his NASCAR membership current.

“NASCAR continues to prioritize diversity and inclusion across our sport,” NASCAR said in a statement. “Kyle Larson has fulfilled the requirements set by NASCAR, and has taken several voluntary measures, to better educate himself so that he can use his platform to help bridge the divide in our country. Larson’s indefinite suspension has been lifted. Under the terms of his reinstatement, he will be cleared to return to all NASCAR racing activities effective January 1, 2021.”

Last week Larson sat down with CBS Sports James Brown for his first televised interview and detailed some of the work he has been doing behind the scenes to educate himself following his remarks this spring.

Larson has six victories in 223 NASCAR Cup Series starts. He joined the circuit full-time in 2014 with Ganassi’s operation.

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NASCAR

Joey Logano Earns Berth In NASCAR Championship With Win At Kansas

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Chris Graythen/Getty Images

KANSAS CITY, KS (Pittsburgh Racing Now) – Team Penske’s Joey Logano held off Stewart Haas Racing’s Kevin Harvick to win Sunday’s Hollywood Casino 400 at Kansas Speedway.

The victory guarantees Logano a spot in the NASCAR Cup Series Championship November 8, 2020 at Phoenix Raceway in Avondale, Arizona.

“So proud of this Shell-Pennzoil team,” said Logano. “They never quit today. It was a tough one to start. We kind of fell back I think a couple stage points the first stage, then no stage points the second. Paul had some strategy. Two tires. Hung in there, kept our track position. Crazy good pit stops kept us in position.”

Logano did the rest, getting to the lead and then blocking several attempts by Harvick to get the lead of the race away from the No. 22 Ford.

“A couple decent restarts got us to the lead,” said Logano. “From there it’s just driving out of that mirror almost the whole time there the last 40 laps. It was a long 40 laps, however long that run was.”

Harvick didn’t think Logano had a better car, just better track position when it mattered most.

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“Joey did just a good job of putting his car right in front of ours,” said Harvick. “With this package, every time you put your car in front of the car behind you, it takes the nose away. We just had a little bit of trouble trying to get the nose to turn when he would take our lane. Our car was plenty fast to win the race today and just came up one short.”

Alex Bowman finished third in the No. 88 Chevrolet followed by Logano’s teammate Brad Keselowski in fourth and Kyle Busch rounded out the top 5.

Two playoff drivers had issues in Kansas.  Joe Gibbs Racing’s Denny Hamlin hit the wall on lap 180.  Hamlin was forced to pit road due to the damage.  Hamlin however rallied for a fifteenth place finish.

Chip Ganassi Racing’s Kurt Busch was not as fortunate.  Busch’s motor blew up on lap 197 ending the No. 1 Monster Energy Chevrolet’s day.  Busch is now in a must-win situation in the next two events (Texas and Martinsville) if he hopes to compete for his second Cup Series Championship.

Logano’s win means there are only 3-spots remaining in the Championship finale at Phoenix. Currently that leaves Keselowski and Hendrick Motorsports Chase Elliott fighting it out for the final spot.  Keselowski sits in third place, eight points ahead of Elliott for the current points cut-off.

Kansas Final Results

Drivers Points After Kansas

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