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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

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NASCAR

Chase Elliott Wins NASCAR Cup Series Championship

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AVONDALE, ARIZONA - NOVEMBER 08: Chase Elliott, driver of the #9 NAPA Auto Parts Chevrolet, celebrates with his parents Cindy Elliott and NASCAR Hall of Famer Bill Elliott in victory lane after winning the NASCAR Cup Series Season Finale 500 and the 2020 NASCAR Cup Series Championship at Phoenix Raceway on November 08, 2020 in Avondale, Arizona. (Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)

AVONDALE, AZ (Pittsburgh Racing Now) – Chase Elliott knew he wanted to be a race car driver when he was growing up and on Sunday he followed in his Hall of Fame father Bill’s footsteps by winning the 2020 NASCAR Cup Series Championship.

Elliott passed Joey Logano for the lead on lap 270 and powered to victory in the season finale at Phoenix Raceway to fulfill a lifelong dream.

“I’m not sure I could have sat down and drawn it up any better, you know?,” said Elliott. “So for me, it’s unbelievable. It’s something that I’m not sure — well, I know I haven’t let it sink in yet.”

Elliott, 24, started racing go-karts as a kid and slowly moved up the short track ranks when NASCAR team owner Rick Hendrick signed him to a driver development deal at the age of 14.

Three Rivers Karting

“Just so grateful for the opportunities and the things I’ve had over the years, great people,” said Elliott. “My mom (Cindy) and dad (Bill) and their support obviously has been from the beginning. Mr. Hendrick came in and really changed my life when he wanted to help. Not to sound like a NASCAR driver, but NAPA Auto Parts, too, coming in when they did. 2014 wouldn’t have happened without them and the championship that came that season. And man, they’ve been a champion partner for years. Now they have a championship to go with it.”

Elliott and his father Bill are just the third father-son duo to win NASCAR Championships, joining Lee and Richard Petty and Ned and Dale Jarrett.

“You know, heck, this is as big as it gets,” said Elliott. “I mean, my goodness. I mean, a champion in the Cup Series? Are you kidding me? It’s nuts. It’s absolutely nuts.”

Elliott’s championship came on the same day that 7-time NASCAR Cup Series champion Jimmie Johnson ran his last race, signaling a changing of the guard at Hendrick Motorsports.

“Certainly appreciate his support,” said Elliott. “He’s been a great support system this week. I’ve talked to him multiple times. He’s reached out on a couple occasions, which is very cool. Very thankful.  He’s a hero of mine. I think he’ll go down as the greatest to ever do this.”

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NASCAR

Austin Cindric Wins Race And NASCAR Xfinity Series Championship

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Photo by Brian Lawdermilk/Getty Images

AVONDALE, AZ (Pittsburgh Racing Now) – Austin Cindric passed Justin Allgaier on the final lap of NASCAR overtime to win the NASCAR Xfinity Series Desert Dimond Casino West Valley 200 at Phoenix Raceway and capture the 2020 NASCAR Xfinity Series championship.

The victory was Cindric’s sixth of the season and his first in six starts at the one-mile Arizona speedway and his 100th NASCAR Xfinity Series start.

“This was an amazing effort by Brian Wilson and everybody back at the shop,” said Cindric. “There was a lot of work put into this Ford Mustang. I’ve got to thank Roger Penske and everyone from Team Penske plus the Menards family who put so much support into racing itself. It’s awesome to get them a championship in NASCAR, to be a champion in NASCAR, and do it in front of all these great people cheering us on at championship weekend. Thanks to Ford Performance, Doug Yates, and everybody at Roush Yates Engines. I’m speechless. I’m pretty humbled by the effort for sure.”

Three Rivers Karting

Allgaier took the final green flag from the outside of the front row with Cindric behind him and Ross Chastain on the inside.  Allgaier’s teammate Noah Gragson was inside of Cindric.  Allgaier cleared Chastain with Cindric in tow coming off turn four.  Gragson was on the inside of Cindric and could have helped his teammate but elected to dive low heading into turn one.  That gave Cindric room to get around Allgaier, who was helpless to hold him off.

“I’m disappointed; this racetrack for me lost a lot when we put PJ1 down, and I felt like if we had been able to run the bottom like normal and not run stuck in that high groove, I felt like we definitely would have had the best car,” said Allgaier.  “So I’m disappointed in that, but at the end of the race today we were on old tires. I knew it was going to be sketchy at best. To be honest with you, to finish the race, it actually really surprises me that we were that close. Austin got that pass and ran through the middle of 3 and 4, and my teammate did a great job of trying to pull up and obviously race for the win. That’s what he needed to do. He needed to end the season strong. But I thought if he could have just got up a little bit in front of the 22 and been able to block that run, we may have had a little bit more of a shot, but it just wasn’t meant to be.”

Gragson finished second followed by Brandon Jones.  Michael Annett finished fourth followed by Allgaier.

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NASCAR

NASCAR Gander RV & Outdoors Truck Series Championship Preview

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Photo by Brian Lawdermilk/Getty Images

AVONDALE, AZ (Pittsburgh Racing Now) – NASCAR’s Championship 4 Weekend gets started Friday night with the NASCAR Gander RV & Outdoors Truck Series title fight.

Four drivers (Sheldon Creed, Grant Enfinger, Brett Moffitt and Zane Smith) are eligible for the Championship in the Lucas Oil 150 at Phoenix Raceway.

Sheldon Creed (No. 2 GMS Racing Chevrolet):

  • Creed is tied for the series lead with 4-wins this season. Creed also has 8 top-five and 12 top-ten finishes.  Creed also has a series-high 11 stage wins. Creed locked himself into the Championship 4 with a victory at Texas Motor Speedway two weekends ago.  Creed has two NGOTS starts at Phoenix with a tenth place finish in 2018 and a 12th place finish in 2019 where he led 16-laps.
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Grant Enfinger (No. 98 ThorSport Racing Ford):

  • Enfinger is tied with Creed for the series lead with 4-wins in 2020.  Enfinger also posted 8 top-five and 13 top-ten finishes this season to go along with a stage win. Enfinger locked himself into the Championship 4 with a win last week at Martinsville Speedway.  In three NGOTS starts at Phoenix Raceway, Enfinger has two top-five finishes (4th 2018; 5th 2019) and has led 10-laps (2018).

Brett Moffitt (No. 23 GMS Racing Chevrolet):

  • Moffitt has one win in 2020 (Kansas Speedway).  Moffitt has also posted 10 top-fives, and 15 top-tens, 2nd best in each category for the series.  Moffitt is looking to become just the fifth driver in series history to win multiple NGOTS championships, joining NASCAR Hall of Famer Ron Hornaday Jr. (1996, 1998, 2007, 2009), Matt Crafton (2013, 2014, 2019), Jack Sprague (1997, 1999, 2001) and Todd Bodine (2006, 2010).  Moffitt has two series starts at Phoenix posting a win in 2018 en route to his championship and a 10th place finish in 2019.

Zane Smith (No. 21 GMS Racing Chevrolet):

  • Smith is looking to become just the second rookie to win the championship joining Erik Jones, who accomplished that feat in 2015.  Smith captured two wins, 6 top-fives and 12 top-tens in 2020.  Smith will be making his NGOTS debut this weekend at Phoenix.

The race starts at 8 p.m. ET on Friday.  Television coverage begins at 7 p.m. ET on FS1.  The race can be heard on Motor Racing Network affiliates and on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio.

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