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.
Chase Briscoe Wins NASCAR Xfinity Series Alsco 300 at Las Vegas
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.
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.
Austin Hill Wins NASCAR Gander RV & Outdoors Truck Series Westgate 200
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.”
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.
Ross Chastain To Drive Chip Ganassi’s #42 Camaro In 2021
CONCORD, NC (Pittsburgh Racing Now) – Chip Ganassi is getting ready for the 2021 NASCAR Cup Series (NCS) by hiring Ross Chastain to drive the No. 42 Credit One Bank/McDonald’s Chevrolet Camaro.
Chastain replaces Matt Kenseth, who was hired in May to replace Kyle Larson, who was fired for using a racial slur during an iRacing event this Spring.
Chastain, a CGR development driver since 2018, is currently competing full-time in the NASCAR Xfinity Series (NXS), where he qualified for the playoffs for a second time following a runner-up finish at Bristol Motor Speedway over the weekend.
Chastain first competed for CGR in 2018, behind the wheel of the No. 42 Chevrolet in the NXS. In the three races Chastain ran for the team that year, he earned a pole at Darlington, a win at Las Vegas, and a runner-up finish at Richmond, which helped him earn a spot in the NXS playoffs.
“Ross has been a part of this organization for a few years now, and I am happy to announce him as our driver for the No. 42 team,” said Ganassi. “In three races with our organization in 2018 and watching ever since, he showed me and everyone else that he is a tenacious driver who wants to win. We believe that Ross will give our team the opportunity to be competitive each week and our sponsors someone to build a program around. Additionally, his racing background has him well-suited to make the move to the Cup Series.”
Chastain, a native of Alva Florida, began his racing career at the age of 12 at Punta Gorda Speedway in his home state, racing in both late model stock cars and Fastruck Series events. During his short-track racing career he scored over 50 feature wins, including the 2011 World Series of Asphalt at New Smyrna Speedway, winning three of eight events in the series.
Chastain made his first NASCAR Gander RV & Outdoors Truck Series (NGROTS) in 2011 and raced in that series for three seasons. Chastain began racing in the NXS in 2014 while continuing to make starts in the Truck Series. Chastain made his first start in the NCS in 2017 and ran nearly a full season in both 2018 and 2019 while also competing in the NXS. He also raced full-time in the NGROTS in 2019, where he won three races and finished second in the points standings. In total, Chastain has 352 starts in NASCAR’s three top series, with three wins in the NGROTS and two wins in the NXS. Since 2017, he has continued to make starts in all three national series.
“I can’t thank Chip enough for this opportunity,” said Chastain. “The faith he and the organization showed me back in 2018 was a real turning point in my career, and I am extremely happy for the chance to join the team again especially with all the great guys they have on the 42 and to be able to team with a champion like Kurt Busch. Racing in the Cup Series with a serious contender has always been my goal, and I’m looking forward to joining what is a very strong team. I know I have my work cut out for me, but I’m ready to get to work and help bring more success to the organization.”
Chastain earned the nickname ‘Melon Man’ because for eight generations his family has been involved in watermelon farming. Chastain continues to work on the family’s land when his schedule allows. Chastain’s signature move after a race win is to spike a watermelon at the finish line.
Chastain’s CGR teammate Kurt Busch is excited to have the ‘Melon Man’ as part of the CGR lineup in 2021.
.@RossChastain is a great addition to @CGRTeams. I’ve watched his relentless pursuit to make it to the top level of @NASCAR, and I know he will continue to give everything he has to win! Chip likes winners! https://t.co/BlAzGOljCE
— Kurt Busch (@KurtBusch) September 21, 2020