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.
BOTH OF THEM HIT THE WALL!
— #NASCARPlayoffs on NBC (@NASCARonNBC) September 7, 2020
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.
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.
Allgaier untouchable, conquers heat for Xfinity Series victory at Nashville
LEBANON, TN (Pittsburgh Racing Now) — JR Motorsports driver Justin Allgaier captured his second win of the 2022 season under the sweltering western Tennessee sun Saturday afternoon. He led 134 of 188 laps in a dominating performance, beating Trevor Bayne to the line by 4.5 seconds.
AJ Allmendinger was Allgaier’s only real threat at any point of the race, starting on the front row and leading 48 laps spread over stage one and stage three. The race winner battled Ty Gibbs following a restart in the final stage, but Allgaier’s long run speed was too much for the JGR driver to overcome.
Following the race, Allgaier said that he didn’t think he’d ever driven a faster race car and was thrilled to finally take home the famous Nashville guitar trophy.
“This guitar has been on my bucket list for a long, long time,” Allgaier said. “Today was for the dirt racers though. It was slick, it was hot, we were sliding around… That’s the best car I’ve ever had.”
Saturdays’ Xfinity race was a clean one, absent of any notable incidents. Gibbs and Sam Mayer got tangled up while near the front, but Gibbs saved his spinning Toyota, recovering and finishing fourth. Riley Herbst had on of his strongest performances of the year, finishing third. Mayer rounded out the top five in fifth.
The Xfinity series will make their way to Road America next Saturday, starting at 2:30 p.m. It will air on USA network, continuing NBC’s coverage for the rest of the season.
Preece holds off competition, wins second straight at Nashville
LEBANON, TN (Pittsburgh Racing Now) — Ryan Preece was dominant Friday evening at Nashville Superspeedway, leading nearly half of the 150-lap race to capture his second consecutive Rackley Roofing 200. Preece, who drives part-time in the truck series, gave David Gilliland Racing their second consecutive win in the No. 17 Ford, while also notching his second career Truck Series victory in just eight starts.
Preece was forced to manage his tires fending off heavy pressure from points leader Zane Smith and the upstart Carson Hocevar. Smith looked to be dominant driving into turns one and two but would loose momentum exiting the second turn. Eventually he would battle Hocevar for second on the final lap, but the two chasers ran out of time. Preece bested the two young drivers by several car lengths.
Tensions rose with 25 laps-to-go between some of the veteran drivers and veteran drivers. Former NASCAR Cup Series driver Matt DiBenedetto’s Chevrolet on the inside of Grant Enfinger and Cory Heim on the backstretch when Ty Majeski suddenly dove to the inside, forcing the trucks four-wide heading into Turn 3. Inevitably the drivers ran out of room, sending Enfinger, Heim and DiBenedetto violently into the outside wall, ruining their top-ten bids.
The usually happy-go-lucky DiBenedetto was furious following the race, indicating his patience for the younger drivers in the Truck Series had run out.
“[It’s] stupidity,” DiBenedetto said describing Majeski’s dive to the inside. “I have no idea what some of the guys are thinking, to be honest, I don’t even have an answer. Some of these guys race with such disrespect… It’s more than conversation — one, it’s threaten them, two, just start crashing, just wreck them.”
“It was the end of the race and everybody went crazy, just like always in these truck races,” Enfinger said.
Majeski ended up finishing the race in fourth with Stewart Friesen rounding out the top five.
Wexford, PA native Kris Wright put together one of his strongest results of the season, finishing 17th in the No. 44 Chevrolet
The Truck Series takes a one week break before racing at Mid-Ohio on July 9th. Tickets are available at www.midohio.com. The race starts at 1:30 p.m. and can been seen on FS1 and heard on Motor Racing Network affiliates and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio (Ch. 90).
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.