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Kevin Harvick Opens NASCAR Playoffs With A Win As Truex Wrecks Elliott

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Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images

DARLINGTON, SC (Pittsburgh Racing Now) – Stewart Haas Racing’s Kevin Harvick is off to a good start in the NASCAR Playoffs after winning Sunday’s Southern 500 at Darlington Raceway.

Harvick was in third place during the final laps of the race behind leader Chase Elliott and second-place Martin Truex Jr.  Truex got a run on Elliott through turns 3 and 4 and was alongside as they passed the flagstand with 15-laps to go.  Entering turn 1 Truex though he was clear of the No. 9 NAPA Chevrolet but he wasn’t and the No. 19 Toyota crashed into the No. 9 and both ended hitting the outside wall.

The pair attempted to continue but Truex had to pit due to a flat tire.  Elliott soldiered on but Harvick quickly passed the damaged machine and survived a late charge by Austin Dillon to win and automatically advance to the next round of the playoffs.

“I didn’t see anything,” said Harvick. “Timmy (Fedewa, Harvick’s spotter) came on the radio and told me that the leaders had just wrecked. At that point it was managing what I had behind me and trying to make sure that I didn’t make any big mistakes to give up big chunks of time. As we went through the next couple laps, obviously I could see the 9 and 19 getting progressively closer to me as we were making laps, and the 19 pitted there, and when I passed the 9, I saw that he was all tore up. So it was definitely a strange cycle of laps there over those four or five laps.”

Dillon came home second followed by Team Penske’s Joey Logano in third, Joe Gibbs Racing’s Erik Jones in fourth and Hendrick Motorsports William Byron rounded out the Top 5.

Three Rivers Karting

The contact between Elliott and Harvick was all anybody wanted to talk about immediately after the race.  Elliott and Truex had differing views of what happened.

“He (Martin Truex Jr.) had a run on me there off of four and he just kind of cleared himself into one,” said Elliott. “He was close, but he wasn’t all the way clear, obviously. I hate it, obviously we had a fast NAPA Camaro – fast enough to contend. We needed a little pace there to extend our lead instead of playing defense, but regardless I thought we were in a good spot.”

“It’s Darlington and typically you don’t want to go in side-by-side,” said Truex. “I felt like I had enough of a run and enough space there that the last foot or so he (Chase Elliott) was going to understand that if I was committed, we both weren’t going to make it. Typically, here that’s kind of how you race. If a guy gets a run on you and he’s just about got you cleared, you have to give that last little bit. Now obviously, the end of the race, probably the pass for the win, he wanted to drive it on in there and I was committed to being clear and there was no way we were both going to make the corners. Basically, when I made up my mind and I was driving it in there and then he drove in on my right-rear quarter, there was no possible way that we both weren’t crashing. That’s what happened.”

The were 18-lead changes among 6-drivers and the race was slowed by 7-caution flags for 34-laps.

Race 2 of the first round of the NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs is September 12 at Richmond Raceway.

Darlington Cup Results

NASCAR Cup Series Drivers Points

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NASCAR

Martin Truex Jr Victorious At Martinsville Speedway

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James Gilbert/Getty Images

MARTINSVILLE, PA (Pittsburgh Racing Now) – Martin Truex Jr passed teammate Denny Hamlin on lap 485 and went on the win the rain-delayed NASCAR Cup Series Blue-Emu Maximum Pain Relief 500 at Martinsville Speedway.  The victory was Truex’s second of 2021 and 29th of his Cup Series Career.

“He (Hamlin) started getting tight, our car was getting better and better,” said Truex of the late race pass. “We were able to take advantage of it. Really happy. For whatever reason our car really turned on when the lights went down. Always good when a plan comes together and it works out the way you hoped it would.”

Hendrick Motorsports Chase Elliott finished second, his seventh top-10 finish in 13-races at Martinsville and fourth top-10 of 2021.

“Really, really hard-fought second actually for us,” said Elliott. “We were not great, but had some, I guess our strong suit was kind of early on in the run, then really faded hard, too hard there in the latter part of a run. But we never got one of those super long runs, which is probably a good thing for us because we were struggling on that end. But, yeah, proud we could fight back.”

Hamlin settled for third after leading the most laps in the race (267).

Three Rivers Karting

“Had a really good car on the short run all day,” said Hamlin. “Got great restarts. Was fast for 25, 30 laps. Then it seemed like guys would start catching us. Unfortunately it was just too many laps there at the end that we couldn’t hold those guys off.”

Hendrick Motorsports teammates William Byron and Kyle Larson finished fourth and fifth respectively, giving HMS three cars in the top 5.

The race featured 18-lead changes among 7-drivers and was slowed by 15-caution flags for 105-laps.

The next NASCAR Cup Series race is April 18, 2020 at Richmond Raceway.

Martinsville Cup Results

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NASCAR

Josh Berry Gets First Career Xfinity Series Win At Martinsville Speedway

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James Gilbert/Getty Images

MARTINSVILLE, VA (Pittsburgh Racing Now) – Josh Berry passed Ty Gibbs for the lead on lap 223 and stayed out front for the final 27-laps to get his first career NASCAR Xfinity Series win in the rain-delayed Cook Out 250 at Martinsville Speedway.  The victory was the first career victory for Berry in 13 Xfinity Series starts.

“Man, I wanted to win so bad for these guys,” said Berry referring to his No. 8 JR Motorsports team. “They’re such a great group. I knew this would be a good opportunity to win. (Crew chief) Taylor (Moyer) called a perfect race. The car was good, and we just kept tweaking on it. The tires were pretty worn out there at the end. I was struggling a little bit with wheel-hop. This is just unbelievable.”

Berry’s JR Motorsports teammate Noah Gragson finished second and picked up a $100,000 Dash 4 Cash bonus, which eased the pain of being the runner-up.

“One hundred thousand dollars richer,” said Gragson. “Great 1-2 finish for our team at JR Motorsports. I really wanted to win there, but I was having to protect the bottom to keep the guys behind me from moving me out of the way. I couldn’t open up my arc the way I needed to and make speed.”

Three Rivers Karting

Daniel Hemric finished in third position followed by Gibbs, who faded to a fourth place finish.  Gibbs’ teammate Brandon Jones finished fifth. Jones was the leader Friday night when storms red-flagged the event after completing 91-laps.

The race featured 13-lead changes among 9-drivers.  The race was slowed by 12-caution flags for 75-laps.

The next race for the NASCAR Xfinity Series is April 24, 2021 at Talladega Superspeedway.

Martinsville Xfinity Results

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NASCAR

Mother Nature Wins At Martinsville Speedway

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Photo: James Gilbert/Getty Images

MARTINSVILLE, VA (Pittsburgh Racing Now) – Mother Nature is throwing a wrench into this weekend’s NASCAR Cup Series and Xfinity Series Schedules at Martinsville Virginia.

Friday’s Xfinity race is under a red flag following 92-laps of the scheduled 250-lap event after rain showers put an end to NASCAR’s attempt to get the event finished.  Joe Gibbs Racing’s Brandon Jones is scored as the leader of the race.

NASCAR has rescheduled the remainder of the event for Sunday at Noon ET.

Three Rivers Karting

The Cup Series race was red flagged on lap 43 because of showers.  JGR’s Denny Hamlin is scored as the leader.  Hamlin has led 38-laps.  Team Penske’s Joey Logano started on the pole position and led the other laps.

NASCAR will restart the event on Sunday at 4 p.m. ET.

Per NASCAR rules, an event is considered official after half of the scheduled distance has been completed.

Both races will be broadcast live on FS1, the Motor Racing Network (MRN) and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio.

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