MARTINSVILLE, VA (Pittsburgh Racing Now) – Chase Elliott and the No. 9 Hendrick Motorsports team will be racing for a Championship next weekend after winning the NASCAR Cup Series Xfinity 500 Sunday at Martinsville Speedway.
Elliott needed to win the race to be eligible in next weekend’s Cup Series finale at Phoenix. The No. 9 NAPA Camaro was 25-points below the cut-line entering the event, making it virtually impossible for the team to get in on points.
“I think it’s huge,” said Elliott of the victory. “I think it’s huge for me personally. I think it’s huge for our team as a whole, each and every person that puts in time and effort to try to make our program work. I think when you’re able to be in a position that we were in, like we were tonight, have to go to perform, go and do that, I think everybody gains a lot of confidence from it.”
Elliott had the dominant car on the day at the paper-clip shaped half-mile track, leading 5-times for 236-laps and pulling away to a 6.577-second win, the 10th of his career.
Ryan Blaney finished second followed by his Team Penske teammates Joey Logano and Brad Keselowski.
“Proud of this 12 group,” said Blaney. “Main goal when we got knocked out was to run as well as we can, try to win races, get ready for next year. The past 10 full weeks we’ve been strong. Had a chance to win a couple races. Just need to put it all together.”
The victories by Elliott and Logano automatically locked them into the Championship 4 leaving two spots to be filled by points.
Keselowski’s fourth place finished locked the No. 2 team into the race for the title.
“Making the Championship 4 is a big deal,” said Keselowski. “Credit to Team Penske for that, for having two cars in it, Joey and myself. I thought we were one of the best cars at the end of the race, if not the best car.”
Denny Hamlin also qualified for the Championship finale by points. Hamlin had a very good car early winning the races first stage and finishing third in the races second stage. Hamlin’s car faded late and he wound up finishing the race in 11th place.
Kevin Harvick was the odd man out despite winning a series-best nine races this season. Harvick just didn’t have the dominant car in the final playoff round of three races.
“These Championships aren’t like when Petty and Earnhardt were winning them,” said Harvick on pit road following a 17th place finish, where he rallied back from 2-laps down after cutting a tire. “You have to put them together three weeks at a time and it comes down to one race and it came down to one race for us and we came up short.”
The Championship takes place November 8, 2020 at Phoenix Raceway.
Kyle Busch sweeps NASCAR weekend at Kansas Speedway
KANSAS CITY, KS (Pittsburgh Racing Now) – Kyle Busch seized the lead on a restart with two-laps-to-go and kept the rest of the NASCAR Cup Series field at bay to win Sunday’s race at Kansas Speedway.
The victory was the first in 2021 for Busch, 58th of his career and 2nd of the weekend after taking the Camping World Truck Series win on Saturday.
“Great to be able to get everyone back in Victory Lane again this early in the season and get those points going our way,” said Busch. “It’s pretty awesome to win the Buschy McBusch Race with Kyle Busch, and I’ve always told Kevin Harvick he’s one of the biggest Kyle Busch fans because he wears my name on him every single week. So it was nice to beat him today.”
Kevin Harvick and Brad Keselowski finished second and third followed by Matt DiBenedetto and reigning series Champion Chase Elliott.
“I think we’ve done a good job with everything that we have except for a couple weeks where we had some bad luck with flat tires, but some years start out good and you go like gangbusters and some years they don’t start out good and you have to figure it out,” said Harvick. “So that’s just part of the game.”
“We weren’t quite as fast as we wanted to be,” said Keselowski. “The Gibbs cars were really fast and Kyle Larson was screaming fast, so a very similar race for us to Vegas, kind of right there on that edge of the top five. We just need a little bit more, but we almost stole one there with pitting and the yellow came out there with 10 to go and it was just kind of the restart chaos.”
Kyle Larson led a race-high 132-of-167 laps but settled for a 19th place finish following that late race restart where he got shuffled back to third, made contact with Ryan Blaney, and slid up into the wall.
“Lining up behind Blaney, and my plan was just to push him as hard as I could and try and be with him on the backstretch to shove him and hopefully get them guys racing in front of me or potentially get inside or outside for the lead somehow,” explained Larson. “I had just planned on pushing him really hard, and obviously I did that and got him sideways and ended up getting us both in the wall.”
Martin Truex Jr was sixth, followed by Tyler Reddick, Chris Buescher, William Byron and Austin Dillon.
The NASCAR Cup Series next race is the Goodyear 400 at the track ‘Too Tough To Tame’, Darlington Raceway on Sunday May 9th.
Brad Keselowski Wins NASCAR Cup Race at Talladega
PITTSBURGH, PA (Pittsburgh Racing Now) – Team Penske’s Brad Keselowski took the lead on the final lap to win Sunday’s NASCAR Cup Series race at Talladega Superspeedway.
Wood Brothers Racing’s Matt DiBenedetto took the white flag as the leader in the No. 21 Ford with Keselowski behind him. The pair stayed nose-to-tail down the backstretch but as the outside line started to get a run through turn 3, DiBenedetto went to the high side and opening the low line up for Keselowski, who took full advantage with help from behind to grab the lead all the way to the checkered flag.
“What an awesome day today to bring the MoneyLion Ford Mustang into victory lane,” said Keselowski. “The whole race I had a couple opportunities to take the lead, but I just kept thinking, ‘Man, keep your car in one piece’.”
The victory marked the first of the 2021 season for Keselowski and his sixth triumph at the 2.66-mile Alabama superspeedway.
“We’ve been so close here and it just didn’t seem to want to come together here the last few years and I’ve been on kind of a four-year drought here, but it’s nice to get number six,” said Keselowski.
Keselowski tied both Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Jeff Gordon for the most wins at the track with his 35th career Cup Series victory.
“I would have never dreamed I’d tie Jeff Gordon and Dale Earnhardt Jr. here. That’s something,” remarked Keselowski, who has now won at least one NASCAR Cup Series race in each of the past 10-seasons. “Those guys are really legends. I’m just really proud of my team.”
Keselowski’s margin of victory was 0.102-seconds in a race that featured 35-lead changes among 17-drivers.
Hendrick Motorsports William Byron came across the stripe in second place, extending his streak of top-10 finishes to eight races.
“Rudy and I’s communication is the kryptonite in the whole thing,” said Byron about Crew Chief Rudy Fugle. “I feel like we’re able to work really well together. That shows with how consistently we run every week, just ability to improve the car over the race. We did have some handling issues at the beginning of the race. Quickly fixed those, resolved that, had a race car to drive towards the front with.”
Daytona 500 winner Michael McDowell was third, followed by Stewart Haas Racing’s Kevin Harvick and DiBenedetto.
“Our day will come,” lamented DiBenedetto about the missed opportunity at a victory. “We’ll get there, it’s just so circumstantial—our day will come.”
A couple of drivers had a miserable day in Alabama including Hendrick’s Kyle Larson, who had an engine issue after completing only three laps. Larson finished last (40th).
Keselowski’s teammate Joey Logano finished 39th after flipping over when he got together with Denny Hamlin and Ricky Stenhouse in turn 3.
“I am appreciative of driving a car that is this safe and what Team Penske has done for the safety of these cars so that I can live to talk about it and go again,” said Logano. “I got lucky that I didn’t get hit while I was in the air. It is unfortunate for our Autotrader Mustang but we will go on but it won’t be a good starting spot next week.”
Last week’s winner Alex Bowman finished 38th after getting caught up in an accident. Bowman’s team was unable to complete repairs in six minutes and was forced to retire the car under NASCAR’s Damaged Vehicle Policy.
The next NASCAR Cup Series race is May 2, 2021 at Kansas Speedway.
Martin Truex Jr Victorious At Martinsville Speedway
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).
“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.