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.
Kevin Harvick wins NASCAR Cup Series race at Michigan
BROOKLYN, MI (Pittsburgh Racing Now) – Kevin Harvick’s two-year winless streak is over after ‘The Closer’ won Sunday’s NASCAR Cup Series Firekeepers Casino 400 at Michigan International Speedway.
Harvick beat 23XI Racing’s Bubba Wallace by 2.9-seconds to become playoff eligible and said the key was getting out front on the final restart.
“The last restart I had the 5 (Kyle Larson) behind me, and I knew I didn’t need to let the 23 (Wallace) up,” explained Harvick. “I knew I needed to drive it in the corner far enough, but the 5 had given me such a good push. I had a car length, and I think Bubba got about up to my door. I knew that if we could just get off of turn 2, we would have a chance.”
As the pair raced off turn 2 Harvick started to get ahead and carried that momentum as Wallace and Kyle Larson battled for position.
“That’s what you want, right?” asked Harvick rhetorically. “To try to get away so they don’t have a draft and can make up that time quicker. 5 launched good. 5 gave us a good push, and the key was just clearing the 23 off of two and being able to go down the back straight-away by myself and not door to door and in a firestorm.”
Wallace was disappointed to not get into victory lane with one of the fastest cars on track all weekend.
“I failed everybody,” said Wallace. “Took the top there on the restart. Thought I could hang with the 4, and just got to racing the 5 and the 22. Hate it for our team. It sucks.”
Wallace’s team owner Denny Hamlin raced home to third with Team Penske teammates Joey Logano and Ryan Blaney rounding out the top 5.
Chase Elliott continues to sit atop the point standing and playoff standings. Martin Truex sits on the outside of the 16-car playoff eligibility by 19-points. Blaney sits in the final playoff spot.
Racing Notebook: Pocono NASCAR Weekend approaching; INDYCAR in Toronto; PVGP hits the track and more
PITTSBURGH, PA (Pittsburgh Racing Now) – The Pittsburgh Racing Now Racing Notebook is jam-packed with NASCAR, INDYCAR, and Vintage racing news:
Limited Tickets Remain for Pocono NASCAR Weekend:
- Pocono Raceway’s NASCAR weekend is a little over a week away and if you want to go, get your tickets now! Pocono announced on Thursday that a limited number of grandstand seats are the only options remaining for the marquee M&M’S® Fan Appreciation 400 NASCAR Cup Series race next Sunday, July 24. The remaining grandstand seats for the Cup Series race are at three price points ($45, $80 and $95) and scattered throughout the various sections of the main grandstand. The only RV camping option currently available is general admission for $250, which includes two guest passes and free admission for up to 4 children 12 and under. To purchase tickets or learn more, please visit poconoraceway.com or call 800-722-3929.
INDYCAR Returns To Toronto:
- The NTT INDYCAR SERIES returns to the Streets of Toronto for this weekend’s Honda Indy Toronto. All eyes will be on Defending Series Champion Alex Palou, driver of the No. 10 NTT DATA Chip Ganassi Racing Honda. CGR announced on Tuesday afternoon they were exercising their option on Palou for 2023, only to have Palou announce on Social Media later that evening that he was not returning. Moments after Palou’s announcement, McLaren Racing announced they signed Palou for 2023. CGR has won seven times at Toronto, the most recent being Scott Dixon in 2018. Andretti Autosports Alexander Rossi was fastest in the first practice on Friday. A second practice session takes place Saturday morning with three rounds of knockout-style qualifying taking place Saturday afternoon. The race is Sunday at 3 p.m.
Pittsburgh Vintage Grand Prix at Pitt Race:
- The Pittsburgh Vintage Grand Prix hits the Pittsburgh International Race Complex in Wampum this weekend in a tune-up for next weekend’s race on the streets of Schenley Park. Since 2004, racers from all over the country have come to the 2.8-mile purpose-built track 40 miles northwest of Pittsburgh for fierce competition. The ‘Black Tie and Tailpipes Gala’ took place last night at The Grand Concourse at Station Square. For more information visit pvgp.org.
Chase Elliott wins at Atlanta
HAMPTON, GA (Pittsburgh Racing Now) – Chase Elliott held off a hard-charging Corey LaJoie to win Sunday’s NASCAR CUP SERIES Quaker State 400 at Atlanta Motor Speedway.
Elliott was leading taking the white flag when LaJoie got a run heading into Turn 1 forcing Elliott to move to the high side of the track and block LaJoie, who ended up hitting the wall and brining out the final caution flag, securing the win for Elliott.
“When you’re a kid and you’re racing on the quarter mile over there you look at this big track and it’s just out of reach, like not even real, just that your heroes are out there competing once or twice a year on this big track, and that’s just not real,” said Elliott of winning at his home track. “To be here and to have a day like we had is really incredible, and certainly one I’m going to embrace and enjoy a lot.”
LaJoie, who had a strong car all day said he took his shot at the win.
“I made my move and it didn’t work out, and the siren is ringing in Dawsonville unfortunately,’’ said LaJoie, referencing the Dawsonville Pool Room where a siren blares after any Elliott win.
Elliott won the races first two stages along with his third victory of the season, joining his Hall of Fame father Bill as the only Cup Drivers to win at the Atlanta oval.
“To see that many people up there and cheering and wearing the 9 hats and seeing the NAPA gear, you want to make those people proud,” said Elliott. “For me, I’m just grateful that the fans of this state have included me in part of the family of Georgia sports and kind of accepted our team as that, and I’m proud of that and glad we could do them good today.”
Ross Chastain finished second followed by Team Penske’s Austin Cindric in third, Petty GMS Racing’s Erik Jones in fourth and Penske’s Ryan Blaney in fifth.
The NASCAR Cup Series next race is at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Loudon, NH.