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NASCAR Winter Notebook

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DAYTONA BEACH, FL (Pittsburgh Racing Now) – The 2020 NASCAR Season gets underway in a little over a month with the season-opening Busch Clash and Daytona 500.  The short off-season was not short on news however.  Here’s some of the biggest headlines to get you up to speed.

  • NASCAR is tweaking the short track package for the 2020 Season following a whopping six lead changes at both races at Martinsville Speedway.  The new package is a reduced downforce package that will also be in effect on road courses and includes these changes:
    • Spoiler size reduced to 2.75-inches from 8-inches.
    • Splitter overhang reduced to 0.25-inches from 2-inches.
    • Radiator pan vertical fencing to be removed.
  • Team Penske is swapping crew chiefs on all three Cup Series entries.  Jeremy Bullins moves to the No. 2 Ford Mustang of Brad Keselowski.  Todd Gordon moves to the No. 12 Ford Mustang of Ryan Blaney and Paul Wolfe moves to the No. 22 Ford Mustang of Joey Logano.  Not only are the crew chiefs moving but the road and pit crews for each team will follow their crew chiefs.
  • Joe Gibbs Racing is promoting James Small to crew chief for Martin Truex and the No. 19 Toyota.  Small replaces Cole Pearn, who announced in December that he was leaving racing to spend more time with his family.
  • Joey Gase will compete full-time in the Cup Series with Rick Ware Racing.
  • Jerry Baxter is joining Richard Petty Motorsports as the crew chief for the No. 43 Chevrolet of Bubba Wallace.  Baxter and Wallace worked together in the Truck Series in 2013-14, winning five races and finishing third in the championship.
  • Ryan Sparks will be the crew chief for the No. 32 Go FasRacing Ford Mustang driven by Corey LaJoie.  Sparks spent 13-years with Richard Childress Racing as race engineer, most recently for Austin Dillon.
  • World of Outlaws racer David Gravel, who won the Don Martin Memorial Silver Cup this past July at Lernerville Speedway, will try his hand at NASCAR by running a couple of Gander RV & Outdoors Truck Series races for GMS Racing.
  • NASCAR is experimenting with new pit stop procedures at select standalone Xfinity and Truck Series events.  This graphic explains the new rules:
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Speedweeks gets underway beginning Friday, February 7th when the ARCA Menards Series practice followed on Saturday with Busch Clash Practice for Cup Series followed by ARCA qualifying.  Two Daytona 500 practice sessions for the Cup Series take place in the afternoon with the Lucas Oil 200 for the ACRA Series at 4:45 p.m. ET.

NASCAR

Hometown Boy Kurt Busch Wins In Las Vegas

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Chris Graythen/Getty Images

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.

“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.”

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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.

Las Vegas Cup Results

NASCAR Cup Series Points

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NASCAR

Chase Briscoe Wins NASCAR Xfinity Series Alsco 300 at Las Vegas

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Chris Graythen/Getty Images

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.

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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.

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Austin Hill Wins NASCAR Gander RV & Outdoors Truck Series Westgate 200

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Brian Lawdermilk/Getty Images

LAS VEGAS, NV (Pittsburgh Racing Now) – Austin Hill grabbed the lead on a restart with 39-laps remaining and powered to the victory in the NASCAR Gander RV & Outdoors Truck Series Westgate 200 Friday night at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

Hill’s Weins Canada Toyota crossed the finish line 0.546-seconds ahead of Sheldon Creed, punching Hill’s ticket to the next round of the NASCAR Playoffs.

“We didn’t start the race where we wanted to after having a bad race at Bristol,” said Hill.  “Track position was huge today.  Seemed like back in the pack it was pretty hard to pass.  I knew when we were restarting up front there we had to get aggressive, and that’s what I did.”

Creed led a race-high 89 of the 134 laps but had to settle for second place after winning both the first and second stage of the race.

“Frustrating honestly,” Creed said of the runner-up finish.  “Way faster truck than him (Hill).  I feel like the pace picked up there at the end running the top.  He’d run half a truck off the wall and I’d run against the wall.  He’d slide up and I would get really tight or really loose behind him.  Just couldn’t do anything.”

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Creed did earn a race-high 55-points as well as 2-playoff points to help in the Championship fight.

Tanner Gray finished third followed by Stewart Friesen in fourth and Chandler Smith rounded out the Top 5.

The race featured four lead changes among four drivers.  Five caution flags for 25-laps slowed the average speed of the race to 119.861-seconds.

The next race for the Truck Series is October 3, 2020 at Talladega Superspeedway.

Las Vegas Truck Results

Truck Series Standings

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