AVONDALE, AZ (Pittsburgh Racing Now) – ISM Raceway outside Phoenix is Kyle Larson’s last chance to qualify for the NASCAR Championship 4.
Larson enters the race in seventh place in the points standings, 23-points out of the fourth and final playoff spot, tied with Team Penske’s Ryan Blaney.
The easiest way for Larson to qualify for the Championship 4 is to go out and win the race. Race winners automatically advance.
Joe Gibbs Racing’s Martin Truex Jr. won two weeks ago at Martinsville and Stewart Haas Racing’s Kevin Harvick won last week at Texas locking both of those drivers into the Championship 4, which takes place Sunday November 17th at Homestead-Miami Speedway.
Should a non-playoff driver win on Sunday then both the third and fourth place positions in the points standings would earn a position in the Championship 4.
Six drivers: Larson, Gibbs’ Kyle Busch and Denny Hamlin along with Penske’s Joey Logano and Blaney as well as Hendrick Motorsports Chase Elliott, will be fighting for the remaining two Championship spots on Sunday.
Busch and Logano enter the race currently above the points cutoff line, +22 and +20 respectively. Hamlin sits 20-points behind the cutoff and Elliott sits 78-points below following mechanical issues at Martinsville and an accident at Texas.
“We all know one guy is going to move through on points and we have to do whatever we have to do in order to be that guy,” said Busch. “We’re two points up on the 22 (Logano), so it’s going to be a race between the 18 and 22, imagine that. We’ll look forward to the challenge and hope we have a strong run in order to make it through to Homestead.”
“It’s going to be a good battle for sure,” said Logano. “Obviously, the No. 18 team is good and Kyle (Busch) is a good driver, but I think we are a great team and they are beatable just like everybody else. We are racing for that last spot just in case someone behind us out the of the Top-4 wins.”
Larson hopes to be that driver. Larson’s best playoff showing is third place in 2016 and 2018. Larson’s best finish at ISM Raceway is a runner-up finish in the Spring race of 2017. He also finished in third place in the 2016 and 2018 playoff races. In 11-starts at Phoenix, Larson has three top-five and five top-10 finishes, with an average finish of 13.5. Larson has an average finish of 16.0 in the last five playoff events at the track.
Practice for the Bluegreen Vacations 500 starts Friday at 4:05 p.m. ET with the Final Practice scheduled for 7:00 p.m. ET. Qualifying is scheduled to take place on Saturday at 2:00 p.m. ET with the race Sunday at 2:30 p.m. ET.
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.