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.
Martin Truex Jr Victorious At Martinsville Speedway
MARTINSVILLE, PA (Pittsburgh Racing Now) – Martin Truex Jr passed teammate Denny Hamlin on lap 485 and went on the win the rain-delayed NASCAR Cup Series Blue-Emu Maximum Pain Relief 500 at Martinsville Speedway. The victory was Truex’s second of 2021 and 29th of his Cup Series Career.
“He (Hamlin) started getting tight, our car was getting better and better,” said Truex of the late race pass. “We were able to take advantage of it. Really happy. For whatever reason our car really turned on when the lights went down. Always good when a plan comes together and it works out the way you hoped it would.”
Hendrick Motorsports Chase Elliott finished second, his seventh top-10 finish in 13-races at Martinsville and fourth top-10 of 2021.
“Really, really hard-fought second actually for us,” said Elliott. “We were not great, but had some, I guess our strong suit was kind of early on in the run, then really faded hard, too hard there in the latter part of a run. But we never got one of those super long runs, which is probably a good thing for us because we were struggling on that end. But, yeah, proud we could fight back.”
Hamlin settled for third after leading the most laps in the race (267).
“Had a really good car on the short run all day,” said Hamlin. “Got great restarts. Was fast for 25, 30 laps. Then it seemed like guys would start catching us. Unfortunately it was just too many laps there at the end that we couldn’t hold those guys off.”
Hendrick Motorsports teammates William Byron and Kyle Larson finished fourth and fifth respectively, giving HMS three cars in the top 5.
The race featured 18-lead changes among 7-drivers and was slowed by 15-caution flags for 105-laps.
The next NASCAR Cup Series race is April 18, 2020 at Richmond Raceway.
Josh Berry Gets First Career Xfinity Series Win At Martinsville Speedway
MARTINSVILLE, VA (Pittsburgh Racing Now) – Josh Berry passed Ty Gibbs for the lead on lap 223 and stayed out front for the final 27-laps to get his first career NASCAR Xfinity Series win in the rain-delayed Cook Out 250 at Martinsville Speedway. The victory was the first career victory for Berry in 13 Xfinity Series starts.
“Man, I wanted to win so bad for these guys,” said Berry referring to his No. 8 JR Motorsports team. “They’re such a great group. I knew this would be a good opportunity to win. (Crew chief) Taylor (Moyer) called a perfect race. The car was good, and we just kept tweaking on it. The tires were pretty worn out there at the end. I was struggling a little bit with wheel-hop. This is just unbelievable.”
Berry’s JR Motorsports teammate Noah Gragson finished second and picked up a $100,000 Dash 4 Cash bonus, which eased the pain of being the runner-up.
“One hundred thousand dollars richer,” said Gragson. “Great 1-2 finish for our team at JR Motorsports. I really wanted to win there, but I was having to protect the bottom to keep the guys behind me from moving me out of the way. I couldn’t open up my arc the way I needed to and make speed.”
Daniel Hemric finished in third position followed by Gibbs, who faded to a fourth place finish. Gibbs’ teammate Brandon Jones finished fifth. Jones was the leader Friday night when storms red-flagged the event after completing 91-laps.
The race featured 13-lead changes among 9-drivers. The race was slowed by 12-caution flags for 75-laps.
The next race for the NASCAR Xfinity Series is April 24, 2021 at Talladega Superspeedway.
Mother Nature Wins At Martinsville Speedway
MARTINSVILLE, VA (Pittsburgh Racing Now) – Mother Nature is throwing a wrench into this weekend’s NASCAR Cup Series and Xfinity Series Schedules at Martinsville Virginia.
Friday’s Xfinity race is under a red flag following 92-laps of the scheduled 250-lap event after rain showers put an end to NASCAR’s attempt to get the event finished. Joe Gibbs Racing’s Brandon Jones is scored as the leader of the race.
NASCAR has rescheduled the remainder of the event for Sunday at Noon ET.
The Cup Series race was red flagged on lap 43 because of showers. JGR’s Denny Hamlin is scored as the leader. Hamlin has led 38-laps. Team Penske’s Joey Logano started on the pole position and led the other laps.
NASCAR will restart the event on Sunday at 4 p.m. ET.
Per NASCAR rules, an event is considered official after half of the scheduled distance has been completed.
Both races will be broadcast live on FS1, the Motor Racing Network (MRN) and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio.