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.
Ben Rhodes takes NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series Win in Charlotte
CONCORD, NC (Pittsburgh Racing Now) – Ben Rhodes picked up the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series victory Friday night at Charlotte Motor Speedway, grabbing the lead on a late restart and beating Corey Heim to the checkered flag by 2.398-seconds.
“I didn’t qualify the best, and here it came to life at night,” said Rhodes. “This is so much fun. Charlotte is a track that we come to—ThorSport Racing, we’re based in Sandusky, Ohio—we come to the North Carolina guys’ house, and we like to win.”
The victory was the first of the year for Rhodes and seventh of his career and first at Charlotte. The victory also locks Rhodes into the Playoffs.
“A championship being locked in, I’ll take that,” said Rhodes. “The last three races have been so unbelievably hard on my team. We’ve been wrecked in the last three and haven’t had very good showings because of it so I’ll take the points—thank you.”
Heim, who won the the race’s first stage, couldn’t get to Rhodes because he was busy battling Carson Hocevar and Dean Thompson.
“Me and the 42 (Hocevar) and the 5 (Thompson) were probably the best trucks,” said Heim, who led a race-high 49 laps. “But the 99 (Rhodes) just came along really strong, and once we got to second on the restart where the 42 got put in the middle there, I really thought we had a shot at it. But it just proves that clean air is king here.”
Thompson finished a career-best third with Hocevar, who won the races second stage, finishing fourth. Grant Enfinger rounded out the Top 5.
Wexford native Kris Wright finished 32nd in the No. 02 FNB Corporation Chevy after suffering contact with Tyler Antrum on the backstretch on lap 105.
Racing Notebook: Rosenqvist earns INDYCAR Pole; Dixon starts 2nd; Hocevar, Smith earn NASCAR victories
FORT WORTH, TX – (Pittsburgh Racing Now) – The NTT INDYCAR SERIES gets back on track Sunday at Texas Motor Speedway with Arrow McLaren and Chip Ganassi Racing leading the field to green. In NASCAR, Carson Hocevar and Chandler Smith each earned victories on Saturday and Alex Bowman will lead the Cup field to green on Sunday.
Felix Rosenqvist wins INDYCAR Texas Pole:
- Arrow McLaren Racing’s Felix Rosenqvist is on the pole position for Sunday’s NTT INDYCAR SERIES PPG 375. Rosenqvist’s 2-lap average of 220.264 mph was slower than the 221.110 mph he posted in 2021. The pole is the second consecutive for Rosenqvist at the 1.5-mile oval. “I think we just built on last year,” said Rosenqvist. “Maybe it was a good thing to start early. The track kind of warmed up. We’ll take it. We’ve always been good here, but this is a whole different confidence level compared to last year. Let’s try to wrap it up tomorrow.” The 250-lap race starts at Noon (ET) Sunday with live coverage on NBC, Peacock and the INDYCAR Radio Network.
Dixon Puts PNC Bank Honda on front row:
- PNC Bank Chip Ganassi Racing’s Scott Dixon will start on the outside of the front row for Sunday’s NTT INDYCAR SERIES PPG 375 at Texas Motor Speedway. Dixon’s 2-lap average around the 1.5-mile oval of 219.972-mph was 0.292-mph behind pole-sitter Felix Rosenqvist. Dixon, a 6-time NTT INDYCAR SERIES Champion has five career victories at Texas, including wins in four of the last nine races. Dixon’s CGR teammates Takuma Sato and Alex Palou will start 6th and 7th respectively. CGR’s Marcus Ericsson will roll off 16th in the No. 8 Huski Chocolate Honda.
Carson Hocevar Wins NASCAR Truck Race at Texas:
- Carson Hocevar avoided a crash on the white flag lap to power to the win in the NASCAR CRAFTSMAN Truck Series race at Texas Motor Speedway. Hocevar made contact with the back of the truck of Nick Sanchez, as Sanchez was recovering from door-to-door contact with Zane Smith. Sanchez spun and collected Smith as Hocevar avoided the mayhem to take the double-overtime victory. The win was Hocevar’s first career win. “I didn’t mean to get into him, I just meant to give him a push and he got sideways the second I hit him, I apologize to them, I’ll take the fall for it.”
Chandler Smith takes NASCAR Xfinity win at Richmond:
- Rookie Chandler Smith earned his first career NASCAR Xfinity Series victory Saturday afternoon at Richmond (Va.) Raceway holding off John Hunter Nemechek on a final race restart to win the ToyotaCare 250. Smith’s margin of victory was .298-seconds. Smith’s No. 16 Kaulig Racing Chevrolet led a race best 83 of the 250 laps.
Alex Bowman on NASCAR Cup Series Pole at Richmond:
- Current NASCAR Cup Series championship leader Alex Bowman will start Sunday’s Toyota Owners 400 (3:30 p.m. ET, FS1, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio) from pole position in the No. 48 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet with Kyle Busch completing the front row in the No. 8 Richard Childress Chevy after NASCAR’s Cup Series practice and qualifying sessions were cancelled Saturday morning at Richmond (Va.) Raceway because of poor weather.
Kyle Busch takes NASCAR Cup Series win in California
FONTANA, CA (Pittsburgh Racing Now) – The pairing of Kyle Busch and Richard Childress Racing is paying dividends as two races into their partnership, they were celebrating victory at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, California. Busch beat Hendrick Motorsports Chase Elliott by ?.?-seconds to pick up his ??-career Cup Series victory and the ?? of his NASCAR career.
“I felt like there was going to be a little bit of a learning experience, a little bit of a growth pattern, but also on the flipside of that, I always just kind of looked back and watched some of their results and success that they had last year with Austin,” explained Busch. “He ran second here last year, and Reddick was super, super fast. They were fast at the Clash before they broke, the 8 car was.”
Busch said the transition to a new team has been good.
“It’s just been really, really cool, and it’s been a great piece of — we’re making history, right, but a great piece of opportunity to go out there and continue to win races at a new team with RCR, so I can’t say enough about Austin giving me a call, first and foremost, but then Richard and Judy giving me this opportunity to go out here and race for wins.”
Elliott was happy for his manufacturer teammate and former Champ and to get a finish after getting crashed out of the Daytona 500.
“Congratulations to Kyle,” said Elliott. “For him to leave and then to go get the job done like that is pretty cool. He’s always been really good to me, so happy for them. Obviously I think we still have some work to do, but it was really nice to just see a lot of that hard work pay off and have the car driving like we were wanting it to do. So that’s always a good thing. Appreciate everybody on our NAPA team, Hendrick Motorsports and Chevrolet for just sticking with it and sticking with each other. Looking forward to getting to Vegas and hopefully competing for some more wins.”
Ross Chastain, who led a race high 92-laps, finished third in the No. 1 Kubota Chevrolet for Trackhouse Racing.
“Our balance was building loose most of the day, so I thought we did everything right,” said Chatain. “We kept up with it. It would just feel pretty loose late in the runs, and at times it was enough, and at times they got way better.”
The NASCAR Cup Series moves on to Las Vegas for the Pennzoil 400 March 5th.