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.
Suarez captures first NASCAR Cup Series win at Sonoma
SONOMA, CA — Daniel Suarez is a NASCAR Cup Series winner after capturing the Toyota Save Mart 350 at Sonoma Raceway on Sunday by beating Chris Buescher by 3.849-seconds.
Suarez, the 2016 NASCAR Xfinity series championship, has been on four different Cup teams since winning that title six years ago and started 195 Cup Series races but since joining Trackhouse Racing in 2021 things started turning around the Mexican, who has been significantly more competitive than he’d been in his four previous seasons.
Suarez celebrated his victory by emphatically punching through a taco-shaped piñata — perhaps signifying a new celebration to rival his watermelon-smashing teammate Ross Chastain.
“I have so many thoughts in my head right now,” Suarez said. “It’s been a rough journey in the Cup Series, these guys believed in me, Trackhouse Racing, Justin Marks, Ty Norris. Everyone that helped me get to this point, a lot of people in Mexico… My family you know, they never gave up on me. A lot of people did but they didn’t. Very happy that we were able to make it work.”
Suarez got off to a hot start, making his way up to fifth by the second lap of the race. Still, his climb to the lead was slow, hindered by quick Hendrick drivers Kyle Larson and Chase Elliott. As the race wore on, both frontrunners experienced problems, with Larson losing a wheel on the track and Elliott being punished with a crucial penalty on pit road.
In the closing stages of the race, Suarez and Buescher had proven themselves to be clear frontrunners, and were few seconds clear of the pack with less than 30 laps to go. Buescher would get close to Suarez multiple times, but was unable to ever make a move in the final hairpin corner. Eventually, Suarez’s long run speed prevailed, allowing him to lead 47 of 110 laps and win by almost four seconds.
Despite losing out to Suarez, Buescher’s second place finish was an impressive one — considering it was his first race since flipping at Charlotte then missing Gateway due to Covid-19. Michael McDowell put together one of his strongest starts of the year, finishing in third. Kevin Harvick and Austin Cindric rounded out the top five.
Fords and Chevy’s dominated the road course Sunday, with Kurt Busch being the highest finishing Toyota in eighteenth. The NASCAR Cup Series won’t race next week, and will resume racing at Nashville Superspeedway on Sunday, June 26 at 5 p.m. eastern. NBC will take over coverage for that race and the rest of the season.
Racing Notebook: Rossi on INDYCAR pole; Larson on Cup pole; Busch wins Truck Race
Sunday’s Racing Notebook has details on the starting lineups for the NTT INDYCAR SERIES race at Road America and the NASCAR Cup Series race at Sonoma as well as Kyle Busch winning another truck series race>
Rossi on INDYCAR Series Pole:
- Andretti Autosports Alexander Rossi earned his first NTT INDYCAR SERIES pole position in three years by beating Team Penske’s Josef Newgarden in knockout-style qualifying for Sunday’s race at Road America. Rossi’s fast lap of 1 minute, 44.8656 seconds edged Newgarden’s 1:44.9371 in the No. 2 PPG Chevrolet. Defending series champion Alex Palou, who led the final warmup session on Saturday afternoon, qualified third at 1:45.3822 in the No. 10 American Legion Chip Ganassi Racing Honda. Teammate and 2022 Indianapolis 500 winner Marcus Ericsson joins Palou in the second row after his best lap of 1:45.4240 in the No. 8 Huski Chocolate Chip Ganassi Racing Honda. Road America INDYCAR Lineup
Larson Leads Hendrick Cup Series Front Row:
- Hendrick Motorsports Kyle Larson is on the pole position for Sunday’s NASCAR Cup Series race at Sonoma. Larson’s fast lap of 92.111 mph (1m70.776s) edged teammate Chase Elliott’s 92.083 mph in the No. 9 NAPA Chevrolet. Roush Fenway Keselowski Racing’s Chris Buescher qualified third at 91.919 mph after missing last week’s race due to Covid-19. Michael McDowell starts fourth after posting a fast lap of 91.916. Sonoma Cup Lineup
Kyle Busch Wins Truck Series Race:
- Kyle Busch held off Zane Smith to earn his first NASCAR Camping World Truck Series victory of the year Saturday at Sonoma. The win extended his record career total to 62 series victories and a streak of 10 consecutive years with at least one series win. Busch led 45 of the 75 laps in the victory. Wexford’s Kris Wright finished 26th in the No. 44 FNB Chevrolet after starting 30th in his first race at Sonoma. Sonoma Truck Results
NASCAR Saturday Roundup – Briscoe scores Cup Series pole; Allmendinger wins Xfinity race; Heim wins Truck Series race
Briscoe scores first NASCAR Cup Series pole at Gateway
Chase Briscoe’s impressive sophomore season in the NASCAR Cup Series only got better Saturday evening, as he put his No. 14 Stewart-Haas Racing Ford on pole for Sunday’s Enjoy Illinois 300 at Gateway. Following qualifying, Briscoe was focused, choosing not to dwell on his achievement and directing his focus towards Sunday’s race.
“I think it’ll hit me a lot more tomorrow when we roll off and there’s not a single seat available,” Briscoe said. “It doesn’t really matter if you don’t run good on Sunday, that’s what pays the points, that’s what you came her to do… We have a good car that’s capable of trying to win tomorrow we just got to put it all together and try to minimize our mistakes.”
Fords look to be the strongest manufacturer heading into Sunday’s race, with six of them taking up the first ten spots in qualifying. All three Penske drivers will start in the top-ten, with Austin Cindric starting second, Ryan Blaney Starting Fifth, and Joey Logano starting seventh. Christopher Bell and Tyler Reddick will round out the top-five.
Sunday’s Cup Series race will start on 3:30 p.m. eastern and will air on FS1.
Allmendinger survives the wet, wins wild Xfinity race in Portland
A.J. Allmendinger wasn’t subtle looking back on his own performance following his Saturday afternoon win in Portland.
“I was awful… I crashed before we went green, I was off the racetrack I think four times, made all kinds of mistakes, was all over the place,” Allmendinger recalled, visibly relieved yet flustered.
Prior to taking the green flag, Allmendinger was forced to start at the back due to a number of pre-race changes made to his No. 16 Kaulig Racing Chevrolet. According to Allmendinger, the team changed “everything but the motor”.
The race itself featured incident after incident, all the drivers struggling to find traction on the rain-soaked surface in Portland. Of all the accidents, possibly the most bizarre took place under caution when Jesse Iwuji, then three laps down, ran straight into the back of leader T.Y. Gibbs seemingly out of nowhere. Iwuji was given a two-lap penalty for the incident.
After all the chaos, which also included Sheldon Creed giving fellow driver Jade Buford the middle finger following a massive pileup, the end of the race was surprisingly straightforward, with Allmendinger coasting to a two second victory over Myatt Snyder. Austin Hill rounded out the top three.
The Xfinity series will take a three week break following Saturday’s race and will race again on June 25 at Nashville Superspeedway.
Corey Heim holds off teammate, wins from pole in Truck Series race at Gateway
Cory Heim’s No. 51 Kyle Busch Motorsports Toyota was fast Saturday afternoon at Gateway, as he held off his teammate Chandler Smith in NASCAR Overtime to capture his second win of the season. Heim, whose mom is a Western PA native and went to Pitt, started from pole and stayed near the front for the entire race before eventually capturing the checkered flag.
ThorSport driver Christian Eckes was just three laps away from winning and over a second ahead of Derek Kraus when Tanner Gray put his truck into the wall, forcing a green-white-checker restart — the last thing Eckes wanted to see.
After pitting, Heim started on the inside of the front row with Eckes on his outside. Smith gave Heim a huge push once the green flag dropped and attempted to pass him on the inside going into turn one. Heim threw a block all the way down to the pit lane wall, stifling Eckes chance at the lead. Heim pulled out to a substantial lead before a huge crash involving Carson Hocevar brought out the caution with one lap to go, meaning Heim would be the race winner. Hocevar appeared to be injured following the massive hit but gave the crowd a thumbs up while being wheeled off on a stretcher.
Wexford native Kris Wright had some tough luck at Gateway, destroying the back end of his No. 44 truck at lap 92, ending his race. The Truck Series will make its way out west to race at Sonoma next Saturday at 7:30 p.m. eastern. The race will be aired on FS1.