FORT WORTH, TX (Pittsburgh Racing Now) – Stewart Haas Racing’s Kevin Harvick is locked into the NASCAR Championship finale after winning Sunday’s AAA Texas 500 at Texas Motor Speedway.
“A lot of work put into the race,” said Harvick. “We knew this was a good race track for us. We felt like it fit our style of cars and man did it.”
Harvick started on the pole position and led 119-laps but had to overcome a pit road violation to pick up his third victory at Texas, 4th victory of 2019 and 49th career victory.
“We go put in the back there for the pit road violation and I didn’t really know what was going to happen,” said Harvick. “We had a bad restart after that and then all of a sudden we got on a different set of tires, on a different cycle, and we made our way back to the front so it was a fast car.”
Harvick’s SHR teammates Aric Almirola and Daniel Suarez finished second and third to give team owner Tony Stewart a podium sweep and one car with a shot at a Championship in the season finale at Homestead Miami Speedway.
“You know, this is one of those tracks, and Phoenix next week is one that — they’re kind of Kevin and Rodney’s (Childers, Harvick’s Crew Chief) playgrounds, so to speak, or have been historically” said Stewart. “You hate to have to rely on Phoenix to get you in that position, but to be able to knock it out like they did today and do it in such a dominant fashion, that’s the kind of day that sets a statement to the competition that we feel like our team is peaking at the right time and getting ready for the end of the year.”
Team Penske’s Joey Logano finished fourth and Hendrick Motorsports Alex Bowman rounded out the Top 5.
Joe Gibbs Racing teammates Martin Truex Jr and Kyle Busch finished sixth and seventh respectively, followed by Penske’s Ryan Blaney.
Chip Ganassi Racing’s Kurt Busch finished ninth in the No. 1 Monster Energy Camaro. Busch’s CGR teammate, Kyle Larson, brought the No. 42 McDonalds Chevrolet home in 12th place. Larson’s 12th place finish left him in seventh place in the playoff standings, 23-points behind Logano for the fourth and final Championship spot.
Two playoff drivers suffered poor finishes at Texas. JRG’s Denny Hamlin finished 28th and Hendrick Motorsports Chase Elliott finished 32nd. Hamlin and Elliott both made contact with the wall but were able to continue. Hamlin fell out of the top 4 in the points standings as a result and Elliott heads into Phoenix in a must-win situation.
The final race of NASCAR’s Round of Eight Playoffs is next week at ISM Raceway outside Phoenix.
Big Changes In The 2021 NASCAR Cup Series Schedule
DAYTONA, FL (Pittsburgh Racing Now) – The 2021 NASCAR Cup Series schedule is a drastic change from years past. The changes are many and include 3-new tracks, a few tracks have left the schedule and a dirt race is coming to a track already on the schedule.
Permanent road courses at Circuit of the Americas (May 23), Road America (July 4) and the Indianapolis Motor Speedway (August 15) are the three new tracks. 2021 marks the first time since 1994 that the Cup Series will not run on the IMS oval.
NASCAR will open the season, as it traditionally does, at Daytona International Speedway (February 14) with the Daytona 500 followed by Homestead-Miami Speedway (February 21).
The ‘West Coast Swing’ begins at Auto Club Speedway (February 28) followed by Las Vegas (March 7) and Phoenix (March 14).
The Series returns East for the first of two dates at Atlanta Motor Speedway (March 21). The Atlanta race is followed by the Cup Series first race on dirt in 50-years at Bristol Motor Speedway (March 28).
Two races in Virginia open the month of April, Martinsville (April 10) and Richmond (April 18). The Series two smallest tracks are a prelude to a run on the largest track, Talladega Superspeedway (April 25).
The first of two races at Kansas (May 2) opens the month of May followed by the track ‘Too Tough To Tame’, Darlington (May 9), Dover (May 16) before the inaugural visit to Circuit of the Americas (May 23) and a return to most teams home track Charlotte (May 30).
June opens with a road course race in California at Sonoma (June 6) before the All-Star Race, which moves to Texas Motor Speedway (June 13).
A return to Nashville Superspeedway (June 20) takes place before the series visits the Keystone State for a doubleheader at Pocono Raceway (June 26-27).
Celebrating our nation’s birthday highlight’s the series first visit to Road America (July 4) before a return to Atlanta (July 11) and a trip to New Hampshire (July 18).
Two road courses and two ovals make up the month of August beginning with Watkins Glen (August 8) and followed by Indy (August 15), which will continue as a doubleheader with the NTT INDYCAR SERIES.
Michigan International Speedway loses it’s June date so the only race in the ‘Irish Hills’ takes place August 22 followed by the regular-season ending visit back to Daytona (August 28).
The NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs begin at Darlington (September 5) followed by Richmond (September 11) and the Round of 16 elimination race at Bristol (September 18).
The Round of 12 begins at Las Vegas Motor Speedway (September 26) followed by Talladega Superspeedway (October 3) and the elimination race at the Charlotte ‘Roval’ (October 10).
The Round of 8 consists of a return to Texas Motor Speedway (October 17), a return to Kansas (October 24) and the elimination race at Martinsville (October 31).
The NASCAR Cup Series Championship takes place Sunday, November 7 at Phoenix.
Hometown Boy Kurt Busch Wins In Las Vegas
LAS VEGAS, NV (Pittsburgh Racing Now) – Chip Ganassi Racing’s Kurt Busch beat Matt DiBenedetto and Denny Hamlin in overtime to win Sunday’s NASCAR Cup Series South Point 400 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. The victory was Busch’s first at his hometown track in 23-starts and his first victory in 2020.
“This is what kids dream of when they go racing,” said Busch, who grew up racing on the ‘Bullring’ with his Dad and younger brother Kyle. “You dream of winning at your hometown track and for two decades it’s kicked my butt and tonight with this Monster Energy Chevy, I’m in awe.”
Busch had to survive two late-race restarts to get the victory. Busch got a fantastic restart with 12-laps to go and had a multi-car length lead when Christopher Bell cut a tire and slowed on the front stretch where Hendrick Motorsports William Byron crashed into Bell to bring out the caution with 7-laps to go, sending the race into overtime.
The last restart saw Busch get another great jump out front as DiBenedetto and Hamlin were battling for second place as the No. 1 Monster Energy Camaro raced to the checkered flag.
In case anyone wants to see this greatness one more time, or a thousand more pic.twitter.com/ZCNZppJrWW
— Chip Ganassi Racing (@CGRTeams) September 28, 2020
“I pulled out some drag racing skills on the restarts,” said Busch. “I knew that was our strong suit. I knew that was Ford’s weak suit. We just put ourselves in position and we held them off. Chip Ganassi was up in the suites somewhere and I could feel him breathing down my neck ‘I want to win’ and we did it.”
The win also automatically advances Busch to the Round of 8 in the NASCAR Playoffs giving him and the No. 1 Monster Energy/GEARWRENCH team a little bit of a buffer before the Playoff field is narrowed down to the Round of 4 after races at Talladega Superspeedway and ‘The Roval’ at Charlotte Motor Speedway.
“It’s an incredible feeling,” said Busch. “It’s sinking in, no Talladega worries, no Roval worries but we’re still going there to get points. We’re still going there to add up what we need to do to win this Championship.”
DiBenedetto held on for second place followed by Hamlin, Martin Truex Jr. and Alex Bowman.
The NASCAR Cup Series playoffs move onto Talladega Superspeedway October 4, 2020.
Chase Briscoe Wins NASCAR Xfinity Series Alsco 300 at Las Vegas
LAS VEGAS, NV (Pittsburgh Racing Now) – Chase Briscoe dominated the NASCAR Xfinity Series Playoff opener Saturday night at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, punching his ticket to the second round.
Briscoe won all three stages and beat Noah Gragson on a late restart to win the Alsco 300. The victory was Briscoe’s eighth of the season and 10th career win in 78 Xfinity Series starts.
“An unbelievable car,” said Briscoe, who led a race-high 164-laps. “That thing was on rails. It was so easy to drive. By far the best race car I’ve ever had.”
The victory gives Briscoe a 17-point lead over Austin Cindric in the Championship fight. Cindric finished sixth.
Gragson, a Las Vegas native, wanted to park his JR Motorsports Chevrolet in victory lane in front of the hometown crowd.
“It’s good to get points but it’s kind of frustrating,” said Gragson. “We were all doing everything we could. I was kind of the best of the rest. The 98 (Briscoe) was so fast.”
The second place finish moved Gragson up a spot in the Championship standings, 34-points behind Briscoe and 17-points behind Cindric.
Daniel Hemric finished third followed by Justin Allgaier in fourth. Ryan Sieg rounded out the Top 5.
The Xfinity Series title fight moves to Talladega Superspeedway on October 3, 2020.