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.
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.