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.
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.