AVONDALE, AZ (Pittsburgh Racing Now) – Joe Gibbs Racing’s Kyle Busch is on the pole position for today’s Bluegreen Vacations 500 at ISM Raceway outside Phoenix.
Busch’s fast lap of 25.693-seconds (140.116 mph) in the No. 18 M&M’s Toyota Camry was .067-seconds faster than Team Penske’s Joey Logano (25.760-seconds, 139.752 mph), who will start second in the No. 22 Pennzoil Ford Mustang.
“Obviously a really good starting spot for us,” said Busch. “Track position is a really big deal here and obviously No. 1 pit selection too. Lots of things that can certainly help us fire off here to start the race.”
Busch’s teammates Denny Hamlin and Martin Truex Jr will line up side-by-side in row two after fast laps of 25.825 (139.394) and 25.839 (139.324) respectively.
Chip Ganassi Racing’s Kyle Larson will start fifth in the No. 42 Clover Chevrolet after a fast lap of 25.855 (139.238). Starting alongside Larson in the sixth position is Hendrick Motorsports Chase Elliott in the No. 9 NAPA Camaro (25.866, 139.179).
Truex is the only driver starting in the top 6 who is locked into NASCAR’s Championship 4 next weekend at Homestead-Miami Speedway by virtue of his win at Martinsville two weeks ago.
Busch, Logano, Hamlin, Larson and Elliott along with Team Penske’s Ryan Blaney are racing Sunday for the final two spots in the title fight.
The easiest way to make it into the Championship 4 is for one of the six remaining eligible drivers is to win like Truex did a few week ago and like Kevin Harvick did last week at Texas. In this scenario, one driver will make it in via points.
If a non-playoff eligible driver wins at Phoenix then two drivers will make it into the Championship 4.
Busch and Logano enter the race currently above the points cutoff line, +22 and +20 respectively. Hamlin sits 20-points behind the cutoff. Larson and Blaney sit 23-points behind the cutoff and Elliott sits 78-points below following mechanical issues at Martinsville and an accident at Texas.
Elliott is in a must-win situation. Larson, Blaney and Hamlin could make it in on points but would need to score maximum points in the races stages and have the drivers ahead of them finish outside the points paying positions or have issues.
“Those guys behind us, we know they are going to awfully hungry,” said Busch.
The green flag for the race is at 2:30 p.m. ET and the race will be televised by NBC and can be heard on Motor Racing Network (MRN) affiliates and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio.
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.