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‘Motor Sports’ Articles

NASCAR Playoffs visits Richmond Raceway this Weekend

Richmond Raceway at night 2018 photo By Dough4872 - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https commons.wikimedia.org

Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series

Next Race: Federated Auto Parts 400

The Place: Richmond Raceway

The Date: Saturday, September 21

The Time: 7:30 p.m. ET

TV: NBCSN, 7 p.m. ET

Radio: MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio

Distance: 300 miles (400 laps); Stage 1 (Ends on Lap 100),

Stage 2 (Ends on Lap 200), Final Stage (Ends on Lap 400)

2018 Race Winner: Kyle Busch

NASCAR Xfinity Series

Next Race: Go Bowling 250

The Place: Richmond Raceway

The Date: Friday, September 20

The Time: 7:30 p.m. ET

TV: NBCSN, 7 p.m. ET

Radio: MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio

Distance: 187.5 miles (250 Laps); Stage 1 (Ends on Lap 75),

Stage 2 (Ends on Lap 150), Final Stage (Ends on Lap 250)

2018 Race Winner: Christopher Bell

NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series

Next Race: Sugarlands Shine 250

The Place: Talladega Superspeedway

The Date: Saturday, October 12

The Time: 1:30 p.m. ET

TV: FS1, 1 p.m. ET

Radio: MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio

Distance: 250.04 miles (94 Laps); Stage 1 (Ends on Lap 20),

Stage 2 (Ends on Lap 40), Final Stage (Ends on Lap 94)

2018 Winner: Timothy Peters

 

Mike Stefanik decal to honor late legendary champion

This weekend, the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series and NASCAR Xfinity Series will honor NASCAR Hall of Fame nominee Mike Stefanik, who died in a plane crash last Saturday. A decal commemorating his life will be placed on the A-Pillar on each car. The decal will reflect the red of his most recent paint schemes, as well as his stylized name from his car. Additionally, the years of his nine NASCAR championships (seven in the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour and two in the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East) are listed on the decal (1997 and 1998 are repeated for his championships in both series in the same year).

 

The decal will also run on the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour, NASCAR Pinty’s Series and NASCAR K&N Pro Series East cars competing at New Hampshire Motor Speedway this weekend. The Modifieds will then carry the decal for the remainder of the 2019 season.

 

 

Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series

 

Truex locked into second round of Playoffs

For the first time this season, Martin Truex Jr. takes over the top position in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series standings thanks to a hard-fought victory in last week’s Playoff opener at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. And he arrives at Richmond Raceway for Saturday night’s Federated Auto Parts 400 (7:30 p.m. ET, NBCSN, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio) the most recent winner there – earning the win last April.

 

Truex’s five victories in 2019 are most in the series. He and Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Kyle Busch are the only two drivers in the series to win at least four races a season the last four years. They each have won a series high 21 races since 2016. And neither appears to be slowing down.

 

Truex, specifically, boasts some important momentum. He has 11 top-five and 16 top-10 showings through the opening 27 races and holds a three-point edge on second place Kevin Harvick in the Playoff driver standings following Las Vegas. He has five top-six finishes in the last seven races. His previous wins came in April (at Richmond), May (at Charlotte, Dover) and June (Sonoma).

 

Richmond has been a good place for Truex, who was third in this Playoff race last year and has five top-10 runs in the last seven races there. Ironically, his worst finish in that stretch was a 20th in the 2017 regular season finale at Richmond and Truex would go on to win his first Cup title two months later. He won four of the 10 Playoff races that year, including the Homestead-Miami season finale.

 

Kyle Busch looking to bounce back by defending at Richmond

After a couple challenging weeks behind the wheel, Kyle Busch welcomes the opportunity to restore his Playoff course this week at Richmond Raceway, where he is the defending race winner. The Monster Energy Series Regular Season Champion has suffered back-to-back rough outings in his No. 18 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota – a season-worst 37th-place finish at Indianapolis two weeks ago and a 19th place in the Las Vegas Playoff opener last week.

 

Although Busch’s work this season earned him the top ranking to start the Playoffs, the tough luck at his home track of Las Vegas has now dropped him to fourth in the standings – 19 points behind the points leader, his JGR teammate Martin Truex Jr. It’s the lowest Busch has been ranked since the first Las Vegas race of the season, when he was also fourth in the standings. The upside for the 2015 Monster Energy Series champion is that he led the points for 14 weeks. And he leads the Monster Energy Series with six victories at this week’s venue, Richmond Raceway.

 

Busch swept both Richmond races in 2018 and is coming off an eighth-place finish at the track in April. He has top-10 finishes in eight of the last 10 races. And he is one of only four active drivers to win a Richmond race from the pole position (2010). He has the best average finish (7.0) in the field since 2005 and boasts the second-best driving rating – 110.2, compared to Kevin Harvick’s series-best 110.4.

 

Since 2005, Busch has a series best 17 top-five finishes in 28 starts at Richmond – 60 percent of the time he finishes in the top five. His six career wins is twice that of any driver in this week’s field. His victory in May 2018, from the 32nd starting position is the farthest on the grid a race winner has started in the track’s 126-race history.

 

Busch’s four wins this season have come at ISM Raceway, Auto Club Speedway, Bristol-1 and Pocono-1 – however that last win was June 2. He’s been runner-up at Sonoma and Kentucky since then.

 

The good news for Busch is that both his 13 top-five and 21 top-10 efforts are tops in the series. And the 15 bonus points Busch earned for winning the regular season title carry over to the next Playoff round.

 

“It’s kind of an insurance policy,’’ Busch said. “We all pay for insurance to hopefully never have to use it, but it’s there just in case.

 

“For us, we’ve done a great job of being able to build those points up throughout the regular season and it’s nice to be able to have that point structure in place to kind of give you the opportunity to have your early season success help you through the postseason. I think it’s the most-fair structure that we’ve had through the Playoff era.’’

 

Harvick is peaking at the right time

Kevin Harvick conceded two weeks ago that maybe his 2019 Playoff push would benefit from better timing. Last year he had a career-high eight-win season but had won five of those before the midpoint of the regular season. This year, Harvick seems to be peaking just in time for the 10-race Playoff.

 

The driver of the No. 4 Stewart-Haas Racing Ford has won two of the last five races, three of the last eight. He won the Indianapolis regular season finale from the pole position and led a dominating 118 laps. Last week he led 47 laps and finished runner-up to Martin Truex Jr. in the Las Vegas Playoff opener.

 

Harvick shows up at Richmond Raceway ranked second in the points – tying his best points position of the year (he was ranked second for two of the season’s opening three weeks).  And more bad news for competition: Harvick is the highest rated Playoff driver at Richmond.

 

He has three wins – the last in May 2013, won four pole positions, and earned a series best 24 top 10s and 15 top fives in 37 starts. He has finished top 10 in 64.8 percent of his starts. His seven Xfinity Series victories is most all-time, and he tied an amazing statistic – winning three Xfinity races in a row (2005-06) – to equal a mark set by Harry Gant in 1991-92.

 

Harvick is currently on a seven-race streak of top-10 finishes at Richmond and was runner-up to Kyle Busch in this Playoff race last year. He’s led laps in four of the last five Richmond races and twice – in 2006 (272 laps) and 2011 (202 laps) – led more than half the race total laps.

 

“I think the back-up plan is to survive and advance, but we want to win,’’ Harvick said. “We want to be racing for the lead and trying to win stages and be aggressive. I think being aggressive is just going to bite you less than kind of being passive and just trying to mediocre your way into the next round by looking at points.’’

 

Virginia is home for Hamlin

Denny Hamlin has long considered Richmond Raceway his “home” venue. Having grown up in nearby Chesterfield, Va., doing well at Richmond was always a goal. And he’s succeeded.

 

Hamlin has three Monster Energy Series victories and three Xfinity Series wins at the 0.75-mile oval. His 1,659 laps led in Cup there is most in the field. He is one of only four active drivers to win from the pole position (2016).

 

In seven of the last eight Richmond races, Hamlin has finished sixth or better. He was fifth this April. He has 12 top-five and 16 top-10 efforts in 26 starts, including a runner-up finish to Dale Earnhardt Jr. in 2006 – his first ever Monster Energy Series race at his home track. Six times he’s led at least 100 laps, including 381 of 400 laps from the pole position in 2008 – only to finish 24th while Clint Bowyer celebrated in Victory Lane.

 

Hamlin could really use some of his hometown magic. He tumbled from second in the points standings to start the 10-race Playoff push to a season-low seventh place following a 15th-place finish in the Las Vegas Playoff opener last week.

 

Still Hamlin’s season statistics are impressive. He has 13 top-five and 17 top-10 finishes through the opening 26 weeks and is averaging a 9.9 finish. In seven of the last nine races he’s finished sixth or better – and that includes two victories, at Pocono2 and then Bristol-2 from the pole position.

 

Team Penske performing

All three Team Penske drivers – Brad Keselowski (third), Ryan Blaney (fifth) and Joey Logano (ninth) – earned top-10 finishes in the Las Vegas Playoff opener. And Logano’s 105 laps led was most among all competitors.

 

They arrive in Richmond with a lofty record to launch from. Logano is a two-time Richmond Monster Energy Series race winner (in 2014 and 2017). Keselowski won in 2014 and has four Xfinity Series victories at the track.

 

The reigning Cup champion Logano is ranked third in the Playoff standings – only seven points behind leader Martin Truex Jr. Keselowski is fifth, 24 points out. And Blaney is 10th, 43 points behind Truex and 12 points up on 13th place Ryan Newman with two races remaining to settle which 12 drivers move on to the next round of the Playoffs.

 

Richmond has been a stellar overall venue for Team Penske, which swept both race wins in 2014, including one of the most dominant performances in track history from Keselowski who led 383 of the 400 laps to win the fall race.

 

Logano has the second-best average finish (10.2) on the season among the top five in the points. Of those drivers, only regular season champ Kyle Busch (8.6) has a better average finish.

 

On the bubble

Four drivers came out of the Las Vegas Playoff opener ranked below the top-12 cutoff with two races left to try and get inside that group to advance to the Round of 12.

 

Roush Fenway Racing’s Ryan Newman is 13th in the standings – six points behind 12th place Aric Almirola. Chip Ganassi Racing’s Kurt Busch, the 2004 Monster Energy Series champion, is ranked 14th, 14 points behind Almirola.

 

Clint Bowyer, who won the pole position last week at Vegas but finished 25th, is ranked 15th – 21 points behind his Stewart-Haas Racing teammate Almirola. And Erik Jones, who is points leader Martin Truex Jr.’s teammate, is currently 16th in the standings – 26 points behind Almirola. Jones has had horrible luck the last two weeks with a finish of 39th in the Indianapolis regular season finale and then 36th last week at the Vegas opener with his No. 20 Toyota suffering a mechanical problem.

 

Newman, Kurt Busch and Bowyer all have previous victories at Richmond. Both Busch (2005 and 2015) and Bowyer (2008 and 2012) have two wins. Newman won in 2003.

 

Of the four, Newman has the best career average finish (12.5) and top 10 mark (19) in 35 Richmond starts.  Bowyer is averaging a 12.7 finish in 27 starts with 15 top 10s. Busch has a 15.3 average finish in 37 starts. Busch and Newman have the most top-five finishes (seven) among the four drivers.

 

Best of the rest

Seven-time champion Jimmie Johnson made good on his promise to remain highly-competitive in the Playoffs even though for the first time in his 16-year Monster Energy Series career, he is not part of the championship mix.

 

Johnson finished 11th  – best among non-Playoff drivers at Las Vegas. He and Austin Dillon (12th) were the only non-Playoff competitors among the top 15.

 

Daniel Suarez, who is ranked 17th in the points – tops among those drivers that did not qualify for the championship run – started second and led 29 laps but finished 20th. He holds a 35-point edge over Johnson in the standings. Johnson holds a 35-point advantage on Paul Menard.

 

Johnson is easily the most successful at Richmond Raceway among those not to secure Playoff berths. He has three victories at the track – scoring those three wins in a four-race span between 2007-09. He’s finished 12th or better in the last 10 consecutive Richmond races – seven times among the top 10. He is the only driver not competing in the Playoffs with a victory there.

 

Competition highlights

In winning his first pole position in 12 years, Clint Bowyer became the 13th different polesitter this season and completes a four-driver pole sweep for Stewart-Haas Racing. SHR is tied with Hendrick Motorsports with the most pole positions on the season (eight). Kevin Harvick leads all drivers with five. Hendrick Motorsports driver William Byron is next with four.

 

Team Penske is the only team other than Stewart-Haas Racing to have a pole-winning sweep. All three of its drivers – Joey Logano (two), Brad Keselowski (two) and Ryan Blaney (one) have also earned the top qualifying spot.

 

When it comes to race wins, Joe Gibbs Racing continued to set the high mark with Martin Truex Jr.’s win at Las Vegas on Sunday. There have been 11 winners representing six race teams. But JGR has nearly tripled the work of the next best – earning 14 wins. Next closest is Team Penske with five. Truex, alone, has a Cup Series high five victories.

 

The average Margin of Victory through the opening 27 races is 1.610-seconds and there have been 15 races where the Margin of Victory is less than a second.

 

Green flag passes for the lead are up considerably – 41.2 percent – compared to last season. In fact, there has been record green flag passing this season at Las Vegas-1, Bristol-1, Kansas-1, Chicago, Kentucky and Indianapolis.

 

Parade Laps: Insights ahead of this week’s driver media rotations

Six drivers from the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series – Hendrick Motorsports’ Alex Bowman, JTG Daugherty Racing’s Ryan Preece, Stewart-Haas Racing’s Aric Almirola, Chip Ganassi Racing’s Kyle Larson, Stewart-Haas Racing’s Clint Bowyer and Roush Fenway Racing’s Ryan Newman will be participating in this week’s media rotations at Richmond Raceway in advance of Saturday night’s Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series’ Federated Auto Parts 400 (7:30 p.m., ET on NBCSN, MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio).

 

Alex Bowman, 26, of Tucson, Ariz., had a stellar top-10 start to his 2019 Monster Energy Series Playoff run, finishing sixth in the Playoff opener at Las Vegas last week. He’s ranked 11th now in the championship – good enough to keep him inside the 12-driver cutoff for the next Playoff round in two weeks. It is, however, only his second top 10 since notching his first career win at Chicago in June – 11 races ago. Bowman has certainly turned in an improved scoresheet at Richmond since joining Hendrick Motorsports fulltime last year. In the three races he’s competed in for Hendrick at Richmond, he has three top 20s, including a best of 12th in this fall race last year. He was 17th at the track in April. Prior to joining the Hendrick team, Bowman had four finishes of 28th or worse at Richmond. He’s led only one lap in his career at the track – this race, last year.

 

Ryan Preece, 28, of Berlin, Conn., comes to Richmond with an encouraging mark of three top-20 finishes in the last five races. He was seventh at Michigan in August – one of three top 10s he’s earned this season. The driver of the No. 47 JTG Daugherty Racing Chevrolet started 16th and finished 20th in the series’ April stop there. It’s been a challenging venue in Preece’s young career as he is 0-for-3 in top-10 finishes in the Xfinity Series as well. His best showing at the track, an 18th place last fall. Preece does still remain hot on the pace of Sunoco Rookie of the Year points leader Daniel Hemric, who sits 25th in the championship standings with only a 29-point advantage.

 

Aric Almirola, 35, of Tampa, Fla. is making his third consecutive Playoff appearance and started the title run with a 13th-place finish at Las Vegas on Sunday.  He hasn’t scored a top 10 since a seventh at the summer Daytona race. He has 10 top 10s and one top five (ISM Raceway-1) on the season and heads into the second race of the three-race opening Playoff round ranked 12th – with 12 drivers advancing to the next round. Richmond has been a solid venue for Almirola in the No. 10 Stewart-Haas Racing Ford. He was 23rd there in April but was fifth in this race last year and led his first career lap at the 0.75-mile oval. His best showing is fourth in the 2015 fall race. He has a pair of top fives and five top 10s in 15 Richmond starts.

 

Kyle Larson, 27, of Elk Grove, Calif., is coming off a solid eighth-place finish in the Playoff opener at Las Vegas and is ranked eighth in the championship – his highest ranking since the fifth race of the season. The driver of the No. 42 Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet has six top-10 finishes in the last seven races, including a runner-up showing at Darlington, S.C. three races ago. He’s led laps in the last four races – 113 of his 304 laps led on the season. Richmond Raceway has been a strong venue for Larson. He won this fall race in 2017 and finished seventh in the 2018 Playoff race there. But Larson crashed out and finished 37th in April. He has a pair of top-five and four top-10 finishes – three of those top 10s in the last four races.

 

Clint Bowyer, 40, of Emporia, Kans. won his first pole position in 12 seasons at Las Vegas last weekend, but a late race collision dropped him to 25th in the final race standings and he heads to the second race of the Playoffs at Richmond in a precarious 15th-place ranking. Two races remain in this Playoff opening round to decide which 12 drivers will advance to the next round of the Playoffs. The good news for the No. 14 Stewart-Haas Racing team is that Bowyer’s tough luck at Vegas was the first time he’d finished outside the top 10 in the last four races. He is a two-time winner (2008 and 2012) at this week’s Richmond Raceway Playoff venue. He was third at Richmond this April and has three top 10s in the last four races there. Plus, he has 15 top 10s in 27 starts at the track – better than 50 percent.

 

Ryan Newman, 41, of South Bend, Ind. is coming off back-to-back top-10 finishes – including a 10th-place showing in the Las Vegas Playoff-opening race. He has 10 top-10s on the season now and has finished 12th or better in four of the last five races. He is a Richmond Raceway winner (2003) and polesitter (2004) and has 19 top-10 finishes in 35 starts at the track. He was ninth in April in the No. 6 Roush Fenway Racing Ford and has finished top-10 in three of the last five races there – leading 29 laps in that span. He goes to Richmond ranked 13th in the championship, only six points behind 12th place Aric Almirola with two Playoff races remaining to set the 12 drivers who will advance to the second round.

 

 

NASCAR Xfinity Series

Time to kick off the NASCAR Xfinity Series Playoffs

It’s that time of year – Playoffs baby!

 

For the fourth consecutive year (2016-2019) the NASCAR Xfinity Series Playoffs will be the stage for this season’s 12 best drivers to battle it out over the next seven races in an elimination-style format to decide the series champion. The Round of 12 will be contested at Richmond Raceway, the Charlotte Motor Speedway ROVAL and Dover International Speedway – with only eight drivers advancing to the next round.

 

Since the inaugural year of the postseason in 2016, the NASCAR Xfinity Series has seen three different champions hoist the trophy at season’s end – Daniel Suarez (2016), William Byron (2017) and Tyler Reddick (2018). Richard Childress Racing’s Tyler Reddick is the first returning champion to compete in the following season’s Playoffs under this format and could become the first driver to win back-to-back titles in the NASCAR Xfinity Series in Playoff era (2016-2019) and the seventh all-time joining Sam Ard (1983-84), Larry Pearson (1986-87), Randy LaJoie (1996-1997), Dale Earnhardt Jr. (1998-99), Martin Truex Jr. (2004-05) and Ricky Stenhouse Jr. (2011-12).

 

In 2016 and 2017, Kentucky Speedway hosted the first race of the Xfinity Playoffs, but for the second straight year Richmond Raceway will kick off the postseason in this weekend’s Go Bowling 250 on Friday, September 20 (7:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN, MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio).

 

“The Playoffs are finally here, and we can’t wait to turn up the wick and go get them this weekend at Richmond,” said JR Motorsport’s driver Michael Annett.

 

Heading into the first round of the Playoffs, wins are still the No. 1 goal for each driver because victory guarantees the driver’s spot in the next round. Starting the Playoffs off with a win can be quite fortuitous – Elliott Sadler (Kentucky, 2016) and Christopher Bell (Richmond, 2018) – each went on to make the Championship 4 after winning the Playoff opener. Only once in the past three Playoffs has the first race of the postseason been won by a non-championship contender – Tyler Reddick’s win at Kentucky in 2017.

 

This season’s NASCAR Xfinity Series Playoffs are made up of 12 different drivers from eight different organizations. Eight of the 12-driver Playoff field this season are returning Xfinity Playoff contenders, while four drivers – all Sunoco Rookie of the Year contenders – Noah Gragson, Chase Briscoe, Justin Haley and John H. Nemechek are making their first postseason appearances.

 

Three organizations have qualified multiple drivers for the 2019 Playoffs – JR Motorsports, Joe Gibbs Racing and Stewart-Haas Racing. Below is this season’s Playoff field broken down by organization:

 

2019 NASCAR Xfinity Series Driver Playoff Field

JR Motorsports – Justin Allgaier, Michael Annett, Noah Gragson

Joe Gibbs Racing – Christopher Bell, Brandon Jones

Stewart-Haas Racing – Cole Custer, Chase Briscoe

Richard Childress Racing – Tyler Reddick

Team Penske – Austin Cindric

Kaulig Racing – Justin Haley

RSS Racing – Ryan Sieg

GMS Racing – John H. Nemechek

 

Diving into the 12-driver Xfinity Playoff field

The following is a deep dive into the 12 NASCAR Xfinity Series drivers who have qualified for the 2019 Playoffs and their experience at Richmond Raceway ahead of this Friday’s Go Bowling 250 (7:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN, MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio). The 12 drivers are listed below in their current Playoff seeding heading into Richmond:

 

Christopher Bell (No. 20 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota Supra) – Finished the 2019 NASCAR Xfinity Series regular season second in the driver standings after posting six wins, 15 stage wins, 17 top fives, 18 top 10s and four poles. His average starting position this season is 4.1 and his average finishing position is 8.7. Plus, he has gathered 55 Playoff points to take into the postseason. This is Bell’s second career appearance in the Xfinity Series Playoffs; he finished the 2018 season fourth in the final standings.

 

Heading to Richmond this weekend, Bell is the NASCAR Xfinity Series Playoffs No. 1 seed with 2,055 points. Richmond Raceway is one of Bell’s best tracks, in four starts on the 0.75-mile he has put up two wins (2018 sweep), three top 10s and a pole; including winning this race last season.

 

Cole Custer (No. 00 Stewart-Haas Racing Ford Mustang) - Finished the 2019 NASCAR Xfinity Series regular season third in the driver standings after posting six wins, six stage wins, 13 top fives, 18 top 10s and six poles. His average starting position this season is 5.8 and his average finishing position is 10.0. In total he collected 44 Playoff points to take into the postseason. This is Custer’s third consecutive career appearance in the Xfinity Series Playoffs; he finished the 2017 season fifth and the 2018 season runner-up in the final championship standings.

 

Rolling into Richmond this weekend, Custer is ranked second in the NASCAR Xfinity Series Playoffs standings with 2,044 points. Custer has made six series starts at Richmond, posting one win (earlier this season), three top 10s and one pole. He started fourth and finished 15th in the Richmond Playoff race last season.

 

Tyler Reddick (No. 2 Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet Camaro) – Finished the 2019 NASCAR Xfinity Series regular season as the regular season champion after amassing five wins, four stage wins, 20 top fives (series-most), 22 top 10s (series-most) and three poles. His average starting position this season is 6.9 and his average finishing position is 5.7 (also series-best). In total he collected 44 Playoff points to take into the postseason. This is Reddick’s second straight appearance in the Xfinity Series Playoffs. Last season he raced his way into the Championship 4 and then took the checkered flag at Homestead-Miami Speedway in the championship finale to win the series title. Now he is the first returning champion to compete in the following season’s Playoffs and could become the first driver to win back-to-back titles in the NASCAR Xfinity Series in the Playoff era (2016-2019) and the seventh all-time.

 

Reddick heads to Richmond this weekend ranked third in the NASCAR Xfinity Series Playoffs standings with 2,044 points. Reddick has made four series starts at the 0.75-mile track posting one top five and two top 10s. He started 14th and finished seventh in the Richmond Playoff opener last season.

 

Austin Cindric (No. 22 Team Penske Ford Mustang) – Finished the 2019 NASCAR Xfinity Series regular season fifth in the driver standings after posting two wins, one stage win, 10 top fives, 18 top 10s and three poles. His average starting position this season is 6.4 and his average finishing position is 9.4. In total he collected 17 Playoff points to take into the postseason. This is Cindric’s second consecutive career appearance in the Xfinity Series Playoffs; he finished the 2018 season eighth in the final championship standings.

 

Preparing for Richmond this weekend, Cindric is ranked fourth in the NASCAR Xfinity Series Playoffs standings with 2,017 points. Cindric has made three series starts at Richmond posting two top-five finishes; including a runner-up finish earlier this season. He started 11th and finished 13th in this event last season.

 

Chase Briscoe (No. 98 Stewart-Haas Racing with Fred Biagi Ford Mustang) - Finished the 2019 NASCAR Xfinity Series regular season sixth in the driver standings after posting one win, two stage wins, nine top fives and 20 top 10s. His average starting position this season is 9.9 and his average finishing position is 8.3. In total he collected 12 Playoff points to take into the postseason. This is Briscoe’s first career appearance in the Xfinity Series Playoffs; one of four rookies to make the postseason.

 

Currently Briscoe is ranked fifth in the NASCAR Xfinity Series Playoffs standings with 2,012 points. Briscoe has made two series starts at Richmond posting one top 10 – an eighth-place finish earlier this season.

 

Justin Allgaier (No. 7 JR Motorsports Chevrolet Camaro) - Finished the 2019 NASCAR Xfinity Series regular season fourth in the driver standings after posting five stage wins, 11 top fives and 18 top 10s. His average starting position this season is 7.3 and his average finishing position is 10.1. In total he collected 12 Playoff points to take into the postseason. Allgaier is the only Playoff contender to compete in all four seasons of the NASCAR Xfinity Series Playoffs since its inception in 2016. In 2016 and 2017 he made the Championship 4 and ultimately finished third in the final championship standings in both seasons. Last year, he made the Playoffs but was eliminated in the Round of 8 and finished the season seventh in points.

 

Heading to Richmond this weekend, Allgaier is ranked sixth in the NASCAR Xfinity Series Playoffs standings with 2,012 points. Allgaier has the most experience of any of the Playoff contenders at Richmond having made 17 series starts at the track, posting four top fives and seven top 10s; including a third-place finish earlier this season. But keep an eye out for Allgaier this weekend, as he will be looking to rebound from last season’s Playoff opener at Richmond, where he started fifth but finished 32nd due to a late race incident. 

 

Michael Annett (No. 1 JR Motorsports Chevrolet Camaro) - Finished the 2019 NASCAR Xfinity Series regular season eighth in the driver standings after posting one win, one stage win, five top fives, 15 top 10s and a pole. His average starting position this season is 11.1 and his average finishing position is 10.2. In total he collected nine Playoff points to take into the postseason. This is Annett’s second career appearance in the Xfinity Series Playoffs. His first postseason appearance was in 2017 but it was short lived as he was bounced out of the Playoffs following the first round and ultimately finished ninth in the final standings.

 

As Richmond approaches, Annett is ranked seventh in the NASCAR Xfinity Series Playoffs standings with 2,009 points. He has made 14 series starts at Richmond, marshaling one top five and three top 10s. He started 17th and finished 14th in this Playoff race last season.

 

Noah Gragson (No. 9 JR Motorsports Chevrolet Camaro) – Finished the 2019 NASCAR Xfinity Series regular season seventh in the driver standings after collecting one stage win, seven top fives and 17 top 10s. His average starting position this season is 10.7 and his average finishing position is 8.9. In total he collected five Playoff points to take into the postseason. This is Gragson’s first career appearance in the Xfinity Series Playoffs; one of four rookies to make the postseason.

 

Rolling into Richmond this weekend, Gragson is ranked eighth in the NASCAR Xfinity Series Playoffs standings with 2,005 points. Gragson has made two series starts at Richmond posting one top five – a runner-up finish in the Spring 2018 race.

 

“I’m ready to get the Playoffs started this weekend in Richmond,” said Gragson. “I’ve always really enjoyed racing there and we came close to getting the win there last year. We all know what’s on the line now, so we just need to go out and execute and do our jobs.”

 

Brandon Jones (No. 19 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota Supra) – Finished the 2019 NASCAR Xfinity Series regular season 10th in the driver standings after mustering three stage wins, four top fives and 13 top 10s. His average starting position this season is 8.8 and his average finishing position is 15.2. In total he collected four Playoff points to take into the postseason. This is Jones’ third career appearance in the Xfinity Series Playoffs. His first postseason appearance was in 2016, but he was quickly bounced out of the Playoffs following the first round and ultimately finished 10th in the final standings. He missed the postseason in 2017 but raced his way into the 2018 Playoffs and finished a career-best ninth in final championship standings.

 

Currently Jones is ranked ninth in the NASCAR Xfinity Series Playoffs standings with 2,004 points. Jones has made seven series starts at Richmond mobilizing two top 10s; including putting up his career-best finish at Richmond Raceway (eighth-place) in this race last season. 

Justin Haley (No. 11 Kaulig Racing Chevrolet Camaro) - Finished the 2019 NASCAR Xfinity Series regular season ninth in the driver standings after posting one stage win, three top fives and 17 top 10s. His average starting position this season is 11.8 and his average finishing position is 10.6. In total he collected three Playoff points to take into the postseason. This is Haley’s first career appearance in the Xfinity Series Playoffs; one of four rookies to make the postseason.

 

Traveling to Richmond this weekend, Haley is ranked 10th in the NASCAR Xfinity Series Playoffs standings with 2,003 points. Haley made his series track debut at Richmond earlier this season; he started 14th and finished 10th.

 

Ryan Sieg (No. 39 RSS Racing Chevrolet Camaro) – Finished the 2019 NASCAR Xfinity Series regular season 12th in the driver standings after posting one stage win, two top fives and nine top 10s. His average starting position this season is 13.3 and his average finishing position is 14.8. His lone stage win is the only Playoff point he takes into the postseason. This season is Sieg’s second career appearance in the Xfinity Series Playoffs. In 2016, he qualified for the postseason but was bounced out of the Playoffs following the Round of 12 and ultimately finished the season ninth in the final championship standings.

 

Looking to Richmond this weekend, Sieg is ranked 11th in the NASCAR Xfinity Series Playoffs standings with 2,001 points. Sieg has made 11 series starts at Richmond posting his career-best finish at the 0.75-mile facility (fifth) earlier this season.

 

John Hunter Nemechek (No. 23 GMS Racing Chevrolet Camaro) – Finished the 2019 NASCAR Xfinity Series regular season 11th in the driver standings after posting four top fives and 13 top 10s. His average starting position this season is 13.0 and his average finishing position is 13.8. This is Nemechek’s first career appearance in the Xfinity Series Playoffs; one of four rookies to make the postseason.

 

With Richmond ahead this week, Nemechek is ranked 12th in the NASCAR Xfinity Series Playoffs standings with 2,000 points. He has made two series starts at Richmond posting one top 10 and an average finish of 10.0.

 

Playoff Opener: Richmond Raceway’s Go Bowling 250

For the second year in a row Richmond Raceway will host the NASCAR Xfinity Series Playoff opener and this season’s race – the Go Bowling 250 (Friday at 7:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN, MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio) – looks to be better than ever.

 

Richmond Raceway is no stranger to the NASCAR Xfinity Series. Actually the 0.75-mile track in Richmond, Virginia has hosted 71 series races producing 38 different pole winners and 35 different race winners. At Richmond, Kyle Busch leads the series in poles with six and Kevin Harvick leads the series in wins with seven. This weekend just two drivers entered have previously won a pole or a race at Richmond – Christopher Bell has a pole (this race last season) and two wins (swept 2018) and Cole Custer has a pole (Spring 2018) and won the Spring race earlier this season.

 

Owner Playoffs have a few different faces contending behind the wheel

With the NASCAR Xfinity Series owner Playoffs getting started this weekend at Richmond Raceway two organizations that are not in the driver championship – Joe Gibbs Racing’s No. 18 Toyota team and JR Motorsport’s No. 8 Chevrolet team – will be vying just for the series owner title this season.

 

Joe Gibbs Racing’s No. 18 team led by crew chief Ben Beshore is currently in the 11th seed in the NASCAR Xfinity Series owner Playoff standings with 2,001 points. Seven different drivers have piloted the No. 18 this season – Harrison Burton (three starts), Kyle Busch (seven), Matt DiBenedetto (one), Jeffrey Earnhardt (five), Denny Hamlin (one), Jack Hawksworth (one) and Riley Herbst (eight) – producing four wins, seven top fives, 12 top 10s and two poles. This weekend Harrison Burton will be back in the car, making his series track debut at Richmond.

 

JR Motorsport’s No. 8 team led by crew chief Taylor Moyer is currently in the 12th and final NASCAR Xfinity Series owner Playoff spot with 2,001 points. Nine different drivers have strapped into the No. 8 this season – Jeb Burton (five starts), Sheldon Creed (one), Dale Earnhardt Jr. (one), Chase Elliott (one), Brett Moffitt (one), Ryan Preece (four), Regan Smith (two), Ryan Truex (four) and Zane Smith (seven) – posting six top fives and 17 top 10s. Zane Smith will be back in the car this weekend. He made his series track debut at Richmond earlier this season; he started 10th and finished sixth.

 

“I am fired up to get back behind the wheel this week in Richmond,” said Smith “We had a good run here back in the spring and I feel like Taylor (Moyer, crew chief) and I can build off of those notes to have a really solid night on Friday. I can’t wait to get going.”

 

JGR is looking for its sixth NASCAR Xfinity Series owners title; while JRM has won three out of the last driver titles is still looking for its first unified or owner’s championship.

 

Parade Laps: Insights to the drivers in this week’s media breakouts

Three drivers from the NASCAR Xfinity Series Playoffs – Richard Childress Racing’s Tyler Reddick, Stewart-Haas Racing’s Cole Custer and GMS Racing’s John Hunter Nemechek – will be participating in this week’s media rotations at Richmond Raceway leading into the Go Bowling 250 on Friday night at 7:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN, MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio. The media breakout session will be held in the Media Center Deadline Room on Friday, September 20 from 12:30-12:45 p.m. ET.

 

Tyler Reddick (No. 2 Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet Camaro)

Birthdate: January 11, 1996

Driver’s Age: 23

Hometown: Corning, California

Hobbies: Riding ATVs, gaming, working on cars

Team: Richard Childress Racing

Crew Chief: Randall Burnett

Xfinity Career Highlights:

  • Won the 2019 Regular Season championship.
  • Won the 2018 NASCAR Xfinity Series championship.
  • Also won the 2018 NASCAR Xfinity Series Sunoco Rookie of the Year honors; just third driver in series history to win the title in his rookie season joining Chase Elliott (2014) and William Byron (2017).
  • In 2017, he captured his first NASCAR Xfinity Series victory at Kentucky, while running a partial schedule. Currently has six series career wins.

2019 Season Highlights:

  • 2019 NASCAR Xfinity Series Regular Season Champion.
  • Currently ranked third in the NASCAR Xfinity Series Playoff driver standings with 2,044 points.
  • In 26 starts this season, he has posted three poles (Daytona, California and Daytona-2), five wins (Talladega, Charlotte, Michigan, Bristol and Las Vegas), 20 top fives and 22 top 10s – leads the series in both top fives and top 10s this season.
  • Has won four stages and accumulated 44 Playoff points.

Richmond Raceway Performance:

  • Has made four series starts at Richmond collecting one top five (fourth earlier this season), two top 10s and an average finish of 9.75.

 

Cole Custer (No. 00 Stewart-Haas Racing Ford Mustang)

Birthdate: January 23, 1998

Driver’s Age: 21

Hometown: Ladera Ranch, California

Hobbies: Watching sports

Team: Stewart-Haas Racing

Crew Chief: Mike Shiplett

Xfinity Career Highlights:

  • In 2018, he made the Playoff’s Championship 4; ultimately finishing runner-up in the final driver standings while his No. 00 Ford won the owner’s title for Stewart-Haas Racing.
  • Made the Playoffs and finished fifth in the NASCAR Xfinity Series championship standings in his rookie year (2017).
  • Has eight career NASCAR Xfinity Series wins (Homestead-Miami, Texas, Auto Club Speedway, Richmond, Pocono, Chicago, Kentucky and Darlington); including last season’s Playoff race at Texas Motor Speedway to win his way into the Championship 4 finale.

2019 Season Highlights:

  • Currently ranked second in the NASCAR Xfinity Series Playoff driver standings with 2,044 points.
  • In 26 starts this season he has posted six poles (Bristol, Dover, Pocono, Iowa, New Hampshire, Las Vegas), six wins (California, Richmond, Pocono, Chicago, Kentucky and Darlington), 13 top fives and 18 top 10s.
  • Has won six stages and accumulated 44 Playoff points.

Richmond Raceway Performance:

  • Has made six series starts at Richmond posting one pole, one win (April 2019) and three top 10s.

 

John Hunter Nemechek (No. 23 GMS Racing Chevrolet)

Birthdate: June 11, 1997

Driver’s Age: 24

Hometown: Mooresville, North Carolina

Hobbies: Snowboarding, surfing, mountain biking, cycling

Team: GMS Racing

Crew Chief: Chad Norris

Xfinity Career Highlights:

  • Has made 44 NASCAR Xfinity Series career starts posting one win, 10 top fives, 24 top 10s and a pole.
  • In 2018, he won his first NASCAR Xfinity Series race at Kansas-2 and captured his first pole award at ISM Raceway-2.
  • In 2018 he competed in 18 of 22 NASCAR Xfinity Series races for Chip Ganassi Racing.
  • Made his NASCAR Xfinity Series career debut at Atlanta Motor Speedway for Chip Ganassi Racing; he started third and finished fourth.

2019 Season Highlights:

  • Currently ranked 12th in the NASCAR Xfinity Series Playoff driver standings with 2,000 points.
  • In 26 starts this season, he has posted four top fives, 13 top 10s and an average finish of 13.8.

Richmond Raceway Performance:

  • Has made two series starts at Richmond posting one top-10 finish.

 

 

NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series

 

Moving on

As the NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series starts a three-week break before beginning the second round of the Playoffs, six drivers will enjoy the downtime knowing their postseason dreams are still alive.

 

Brett Moffitt came out of Las Vegas as the top seed moving into the next round and has 3,034 points with the reset. Austin Hill, the winner from Las Vegas, trails him by 17 points at 3,017 points, while Ross Chastain is just one more point back with 3,016 points. Stewart Friesen is fourth with 3,014 points.

 

Matt Crafton (3,011 points) and Tyler Ankrum (3,005 points) round out the group of six drivers who will battle over the next three races for the shot at the title in Miami.

 

Johnny Sauter and Grant Enfinger were eliminated from the postseason after engine issues at Las Vegas took them out of contention early in the race. This will mark the first time since the elimination-style Playoff format was introduced to the Gander Trucks in 2016 that Sauter will not be part of the Championship 4 at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

 

Breaking down the Round of 6 tracks

The Gander Trucks are off until October 12 when they will take on the most unpredictable track of the Playoffs, Talladega Superspeedway, for the Sugarlands Shine 250 (1:30 p.m. ET on FS1, MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio).

 

Here’s a look at the three tracks that will make up the Round of 6:

 

Talladega Superspeedway – Saturday, October 12: Talladega is a 2.66-mile, high-banked, high-speed superspeedway. The track features 33 degrees of banking in the corners and 16.5 degrees along the front straight, while the back straight has just two degrees of banking. The front straight is 4,300 feet long and is unique in that the start/finish line is located all the way down near the entrance to Turn 1. The back straight is 4,000 feet long. The race will be 250.4 miles (94 laps) long and was won last year by Timothy Peters – his third win at the track. None of the six remaining Playoff drivers have visited Victory Lane at the track.

 

Martinsville Speedway – Saturday, October 26: Martinsville, affectionately known as “The Paperclip” due to its shape, is a .52-mile short track. It has 12 degrees of banking in the turns and is perfectly flat in the straights. Each straightaway is 800 feet long. The race will be 105.2 miles (200 laps) long. Johnny Sauter won this race last year while Kyle Busch won the spring race this season. Matt Crafton has two wins at Martinsville (Spring, 2014; Fall, 2015) and is the only remaining Playoff contender with a win at “The Paperclip.”

 

ISM Raceway – Friday, November 8: ISM Raceway, located near Phoenix, Arizona, is a one-mile track that was recently reconfigured (prior to the 2018 fall race) to move the start/finish line to the former backstretch, just before the dog leg. The banking in Turns 1 and 2 are 11 degrees while it’s nine degrees in Turns 3 and 4. The frontstretch is 1,179 feet long and banked at three degrees and the backstretch is 1,551 feet long and has nine degrees of banking. Brett Moffitt won this race last year. He is the only remaining Playoff contender with a victory at the track.

 

Breaking down the Playoff contenders at ‘Dega

With three weeks off before the next NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series race, we’ll break down the superspeedway performances for two Playoff contenders each week. This week we’ll focus on the top two seeds going into the Round of 6 – Brett Moffitt and Austin Hill.

 

Brett Moffitt – No. 24 GMS Racing Chevrolet: Superspeedways haven’t been Moffitt’s best friend in his limited appearances at the venues. Moffitt has only made one visit to Talladega – this race last fall. He started eighth and finished 17th there en route to his Gander Trucks title. He has three starts at NASCAR’s other superspeedway – Daytona. His best finish there was 22nd in 2017. Since then he’s had a pair of 26th-place finishes.

 

Austin Hill – No. 16 Hattori Racing Enterprises Toyota: This fall will mark Hill’s third trip to Talladega Superspeedway, he finished 10th there last fall and was 22nd when he raced in Alabama in 2015. Hill has already tamed Daytona – winning the season opener this year to clinch his Playoff berth early. In his other two races at Daytona, he placed 30th (2015) and 11th (2018).

 

RACE PREVIEW WRITTEN BY & COURTESY OF NASCAR COMMUNICATIONS

 

Veterans and First Responders in Richmond, Va. area honored by NASCAR driver Brad Keselowski

 

Brad Keselowki (megasportsnews.com photo)

 

September 14, 2019

 

Brad Keselowski, driver of the No. 2 for Team Penske, visited Richmond, Va. on 9/11 to share his gratitude to service members and first responders in the greater Richmond region. As part of his day, he visited the Hunter Holmes McGuire VA Medical Center, hosted a luncheon for veterans and first responders, and toured the Hanover Fire-EMS, Station 10’s 9/11 memorial. Keselowski visited RVA in advance of the NASCAR Playoffs Race Weekend at Richmond Raceway (Richmond) on Sept. 20-21.

“It was a memorable day thanking veterans and first responders across the greater Richmond region in remembrance of 9/11,” said Richmond President Dennis Bickmeier. “We are surrounded by local heroes that sacrifice their bodies and lives on a daily basis to keep us safe. Thanks to Brad Keselowski and Team Penske for joining us to give thanks to those who serve in our community.”

“When you think about the incredible sacrifices that servicemen, servicewomen, and first responders are willing to make for our freedoms, you realize it is what they do that makes it possible for us to run race cars and raise families in a safe community. I am very thankful and grateful for the freedoms they provide,” said Keselowski. “Thanks to Richmond Raceway for the opportunity to visit with veterans and first responders in Richmond. I look forward to coming back to race under the lights in the NASCAR Playoffs on Sept. 21.”

Keselowski’s day began with a visit to the Hunter Holmes McGuire VA Medical Center (VAMC) to visit with veterans who have sacrificed their bodies in service to our country. He, along with Bickmeier, visited with patients in treatment at the Spinal Cord Injury & Disorders Center of Excellence to encourage and brighten their day. Veterans shared how they got their injuries and how watching NASCAR has helped their recovery. The most touching moment of the day came when a veteran shared that Keselowski’s visit was his motivation to get out of bed for the day.

Since 1946, the Richmond VAMC has been improving the health of the men and women who have proudly served our nation. Services are available to more than 200,000 veterans coming from 52 cities and counties covering 22,515 miles of central and southern Virginia and parts of northern North Carolina. To learn more about the VAMC, visit richmond.va.gov.

Following the visit to the VAMC, Keselowski received a tour of the FanGrounds, Richmond’s modernized infield, along with local media. Keselowski took a keen interest in the history of America’s Premier Short Track showcased on the Garage Walk of Honor in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series garages. He also took in the sights of the fan-friendly neighborhoods and Victory Lane in the FanGrounds.

The track, Team Penske, and Keselowski partnered to host a luncheon to show gratitude to service members and first responders in the TORQUE Club at Richmond. Members of Henrico County Firehouse #1, which serves the track, and police and emergency personnel who support Richmond’s race weekends were all in attendance. Local service members and first responders, along with the Richmond Fan Advisory Board and local Keselowski fans also attended the luncheon. Bickmeier and Keselowski shared their gratitude to those in attendance as part of a keynote speech followed by a meet and greet session.

Before leaving America’s Premier Short Track, Keselowski visited the Richmond Ticket Office to encourage the Ticket Sales team as they support fans purchasing tickets for the upcoming NASCAR Playoffs Race Weekend. As Keselowski toured the office, Rob Garella, Ticket Sales Account Executive, completed selling a package. When a sale occurs, the Ticket Sales team traditionally takes a moment to ring a gong to celebrate. Keselowski asked if he could be a part of the experience, so he gave Garella, who’s favorite driver is Keselowski, a moment to remember as they rang the gong.

For the last stop of the day, Keselowski toured the Hanover Fire-EMS, Station 10 in Hanover, Va. The visit with firefighters included time at the 9/11 Memorial Garden, which includes a monument to New York City firefighters and others who died that day. J.T. Williams, Battalion Chief 1, C-Shift, shared the significance of the memorial and presented Keselowski with a helmet shield for the fire station. To learn more about the Chickahominy Volunteer Fire Department, visit cvfd10.org.

Keselowski, the 2012 Monster Energy Series champion, has won five times at Richmond, four in the NASCAR Xfinity Series and once in the Monster Energy Series. He earned the checkered flag in 2014’s Federated Auto Parts 400 race at America’s Premier Short Track. This season he is sixth in points with three victories headed into the NASCAR Playoffs.

Keselowski will return to compete in the NASCAR Playoffs in the Federated Auto Parts 400 Monster Energy Series Playoffs race “under the lights” on Saturday, Sept. 21. For more information on Keselowski, visit bradracing.com. To learn more about Team Penske, visit teampenske.com.

Richmond Raceway 2019 NASCAR Season.

NASCAR returns “under the lights” to Richmond for the NASCAR Playoffs Race Weekend presented by Who’s Your Driver on Sept. 20-21. America’s Premier Short Track will start the NASCAR Xfinity Series Playoffs with the Go Bowling 250 playoff race on Friday, Sept. 20. Richmond will host the second race of the Monster Energy Series Playoffs with the Federated Auto Parts 400 playoff race on Friday, Sept. 21.

Tickets for the NASCAR Playoff Race Weekend are available for purchase in-person at the Richmond Ticket Office, via phone at 866-455-7223, or online at richmondraceway.com.

Stay connected to Richmond Raceway on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat and YouTube, and by downloading the Richmond Raceway mobile app for Apple or Android.

Keselowski’s visit to the greater Richmond region in pictures:

 

About Richmond Raceway

Richmond Raceway is America’s Premier Short Track annually hosting two NASCAR race weekends, featuring the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series and either NASCAR Xfinity Series or NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series, and an NTT IndyCar Series race weekend on a ¾-mile D-shaped oval. Richmond Raceway is a regional leader for events including sports, live music and consumer trade shows. The Richmond Raceway Complex’s 1,100 plus acre multipurpose facility hosts more than 200 live events over 280 event days annually including concerts with top national recording artists at Virginia Credit Union LIVE! To learn more, visit richmondraceway.com, richmondracewaycomplex.com, or vaculive.com.

About Team Penske

Team Penske is one of the most successful teams in the history of professional sports. Cars owned and prepared by Team Penske have produced more than 530 major race wins, over 600 pole positions and 34 Championships across open-wheel, stock car and sports car racing competition. Over the course of its 53-year history, the team has also earned 18 Indianapolis 500 victories, two Daytona 500 Championships, a Formula 1 win and overall victories in the 24 Hours of Daytona and the 12 Hours of Sebring. Team Penske currently competes in the IndyCar Series, the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series, the NASCAR Xfinity Series and the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship. The team also races in the Virgin Australia Supercars Championship, in a partnership with Dick Johnson Racing, as DJR Team Penske. For more information about Team Penske, please visit www.teampenske.com.

PHOTOS BY COURTNEY BROCKWELL

PRESS RELEASE WRITTEN BY & COURTESY OF NASCAR COMMUNICATIONS

 

Joe Gibbs’ grandson Ty, earns clean sweep with dominant victory in ARCA Menards Series Kentuckiana Ford Dealers Fall Classic 200 at Salem Speedway

 

Ty Gibbs, ARCA driver posing at Madison 2019 photo By Royalbroil - Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https commons.wikimedia.org

Ty Gibbs (No. 18 Monster Energy/ORCA Coolers/Terrible Herbst/Advance Auto Parts Toyota) scored a dominant victory in Saturday night’s ARCA Menards Series Kentuckiana Ford Dealers Fall Classic 200 at Salem Speedway. Gibbs thoroughly dominated the entire day as he led the day’s practice session, set the fast time in General Tire Pole Qualifying, and led every green flag lap to score his second career series victory.

“That’s all due to my right foot, the guys who build these great racecars and the man upstairs,” Gibbs said in victory lane. “It’s great to come out here and get our second win of the season. We aren’t racing for the championship so it’s all about wins for us.”

Gibbs finished two seconds ahead of Christian Eckes (No. 15 JBL Audio Toyota), who moved to within five points of championship leader Michael Self (No. 25 Sinclair Lubricants Toyota), who suffered a mechanical problem and finished 14th.
“It’s great to have Salem behind us,” Eckes said. “This isn’t my favorite track and to come out of here with that big of a gain on Michael is huge for us. It sucks we couldn’t get up there and race Ty for the win but we’ll take second and head to Indianapolis and go race for the win there.”
Self was dejected after giving up 65 of his 70-point lead over Eckes.
“We’ve had too many mechanical problems this season,” Self said. “All we want to go is come out here and race for wins. We’re going to put tonight behind us and go to Indy and Kansas to go win some races.”
Corey Heim (No. 22 Speedway Children’s Charities Ford) finished third, Bret Holmes (No. 23 Holmes II Excavation Toyota) was fourth and Sam Mayer (No. 21 Chevy Accessories Chevrolet) finished fifth.
Just as Chandler Smith (No. 20 Craftsman/828 Logistics Toyota) did in a dominant performance to win last fall at Salem, Gibbs led every green flag lap. He led from the initial start through lap 172 when he was beat off pit road by Eckes. Gibbs retook the lead on the restart at lap 176 and we never headed.
The race was slowed five times by cautions. The first, at lap 23, was for debris, while the second, at lap 75, was for Gavin Harlein (No. 55 Autism Awareness #4Presley Toyota), who experienced mechanical issues and stopped at the entrance to pit road. The third caution of the night was for engine issues for Tim Richmond (No. 06 GreatRailing.com Dodge), and Ed Pompa (No. 11 Milwaukee Crusher/Double H Ranch Toyota) – whose Darrell Waltrip-themed throwback scheme earned him the first Jack Harrison Trophy in a fan vote during pre-race festivities – spun on lap 170 to set up the final round of pit stops that allowed Eckes to assume the lead. The fifth and final caution, again for debris, was displayed on lap 186 and set up a nine-lap dash to the checkered for Gibbs.
There were two lead changes among Gibbs and Eckes, and the race was completed in one hour, 26 minutes, and 54 seconds at an average speed of 76.640 miles per hour.
The ARCA Menards Series will take two weekends off before returning to action on Saturday October 5 with the Herr’s Potato Chips 200 at Lucas Oil Raceway. Practice starts the day’s activities at 2 pm ET, with General Tire Pole Qualifying at 5 pm ET. The 200-lap main event, scheduled for live broadcast MAVTV, will go green shortly after 8 pm ET. ARCA for Me members can access live timing & scoring, live chat, and live track updates at ARCARacing.com. New users can register for free with a valid email address at ARCARacing.com/login. Discounted adult general admission tickets are available through October 4 at Indianapolis-area Menards locations for just $20. For more information, please visit TrackEnterprises.com.
RACE RECAP WRITTEN BY & COURTESY OF ARCA MENARDS SERIES AND NASCAR COMMUNICATIONS

NASCAR Playoffs time! All the information fans need to know

 

The 2019 Cup Series playoffs are set. All 10 playoff races are set to be broadcast live on either NBC or NBC Sports Network (NBCSN).

The 2019 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs field was set on Sunday at Indianapolis Motor Speedway in the regular-season finale.

Fourteen of 16 spots had been clinched in advance of the Brickyard 400, meaning two spots were available. Clint Bowyer and Ryan Newman earned them.

Daniel Suarez and Newman entered the day tied for the final position (Suarez held the tiebreaker), with seven-time champion Jimmie Johnson 18 points behind the cutoff line. A late wreck ended Johnson’s 2019 playoff hopes, leaving Bowyer, Newman and Suarez to battle it out.

All 16 playoff drivers are ready to compete in the three-race opening round of the playoffs, the round of 16.

Four of these 16 drivers will be eliminated from championship contention once the round of 16 comes to a close, and the other 12 will advance to the three-race round of 12.

Four of these 12 drivers will be eliminated from championship contention once the round of 12 wraps up, and the other eight will advance to the three-race round of 8.

When the round of 8 concludes, half of the drivers who are still eligible to win the championship will be eliminated while the other half will move on to the one-race Championship 4 at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

In Championship 4, the highest finishing driver of the four drivers who are still eligible to win the championship will be crowned 2019 Cup Series champion.

 

MONSTER ENERGY SERIES PLAYOFFS FIELD

1. Kyle Busch, Joe Gibbs Racing: 2,045 points
2. Denny Hamlin, Joe Gibbs Racing: 2,030 points
3. Martin Truex Jr., Joe Gibbs Racing: 2,029 points
4. Kevin Harvick, Stewart-Haas Racing: 2,028 points
5. Joey Logano
, Team Penske: 2,028 points
6. Brad Keselowski
, Team Penske: 2,024 points
7. Chase Elliott, Hendrick Motorsports: 2,018 points
8. Kurt Busch, Chip Ganassi Racing: 2,011 points
9. Alex Bowman, Hendrick Motorsports: 2,005 points
10. Erik Jones
, Joe Gibbs Racing: 2,005 points
11. Kyle Larson
, Chip Ganassi Racing: 2,005 points
12. Ryan Blaney, Team Penske: 2,004 points
13. William Byron, Hendrick Motorsports: 2,001 points
14. Aric Almirola, Stewart-Haas Racing: 2,001 points
15. Clint Bowyer, Stewart-Haas Racing: 2,000 points
16. Ryan Newman, Roush Fenway Racing: 2,000 points

Round of 16

Race # – Date – Time (ET) – Track – Channel
27 – Sunday, September 15 – 7:00 p.m. – Las Vegas Motor Speedway – NBCSN
28 – Saturday, September 21 – 7:30 p.m. – Richmond Raceway – NBCSN
29 – Sunday, September 29 – 2:30 p.m. – Charlotte Motor Speedway Roval – NBC

Round of 12

Race # – Date – Time (ET) – Track – Channel
30 – Sunday, October 6 – 2:30 p.m. – Dover International Speedway – NBCSN
31 – Sunday, October 13 – 2:00 p.m. – Talladega Superspeedway – NBC
32 – Sunday, October 20 – 2:30 p.m. – Kansas Speedway – NBC

Round of 8

Race # – Date – Time (ET) – Track – Channel
33 – Sunday, October 27 – 3:00 p.m. – Martinsville Speedway – NBCSN
34 – Sunday, November 3 – 3:00 p.m. – Texas Motor Speedway – NBCSN
35 – Sunday, November 10 – 2:30 p.m. – ISM Raceway – NBC

Championship 4

Race # – Date – Time (ET) – Track – Channel
36 – Sunday, November 17 – 3:00 p.m. – Homestead-Miami Speedway – NBC

 

INFORMATION COURTESY OF NASCAR COMMUNICATIONS AND STAFF REPORTS

 

NASCAR visits Las Vegas for start of The Playoffs

Las Vegas Motor Speedway from above 2011 photo By Maverick Helicopters, CC BY-SA 2.0, https commons.wikimedia.org

Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series

Next Race: South Point 400

The Place: Las Vegas Motor Speedway

The Date: Sunday, September 15

The Time: 7 p.m. ET

TV: NBCSN, 7:30 p.m. ET

Radio: PRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio

Distance: 400.5 miles (267 laps); Stage 1 (Ends on Lap 80),

Stage 2 (Ends on Lap 160), Final Stage (Ends on Lap 267)

2018 Race Winner: Brad Keselowski

NASCAR Xfinity Series

Next Race: Rhino Pro Truck Outfitters 300

The Place: Las Vegas Motor Speedway

The Date: Saturday, September 14

The Time: 7:30 p.m. ET

TV: NBCSN, 7 p.m. ET

Radio: PRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio

Distance: 300 miles (200 Laps); Stage 1 (Ends on Lap 45),

Stage 2 (Ends on Lap 90), Final Stage (Ends on Lap 200)

2018 Race Winner: Ross Chastain

NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series

Next Race: World of Westgate 200

The Place: Las Vegas Motor Speedway

The Date: Friday, September 13

The Time: 9 p.m. ET

TV: FS1, 8:30 p.m. ET

Radio: MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio

Distance: 201 miles (134 Laps); Stage 1 (Ends on Lap 30),

Stage 2 (Ends on Lap 60), Final Stage (Ends on Lap 134)

2018 Winner: Grant Enfinger

 

Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series

 

2019 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Playoff Bios

2014-2019 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Playoff Grids

 

Regular season champ kicks off Playoffs at home

Kyle Busch returns to his hometown track to start the 2019 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs fresh off a regular season of high achievement and higher expectation.

 

He holds the No. 1 ranking among drivers as the series begins the 10-race Playoff portion of the schedule in Sunday’s South Point 400 (7 p.m. ET on NBCSN, PRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio).

 

The 2015 Cup champion set the competitive standard for much of the year. He was the first driver to win four races (ISM Raceway, Fontana, Bristol -1 and Pocono-1) and his 1,166 laps out front is most in the field as the 16-driver Playoff field begins the postseason. He also tops the competition in top-10 finishes (21) and he and his Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Denny Hamlin are tied for most top-five finishes (13).

 

Busch couldn’t be more ready for the reset, however. By his high standards, the last month has been substandard. His last victory was all the way back on June 2 at the first Pocono race and he’s coming off his worst finish of the year – 37th – in the regular season finale last week at Indianapolis – his No. 18 JGR Toyota suffering an engine problem for the first time this season.

 

In fact, it was the first time this season that Busch didn’t finish the race. Prior to that, he had only had two races in which he didn’t run the total distance – running 268 of 271 laps at Kansas and 266 of 267 laps at Chicagoland.

 

Las Vegas Motor Speedway has been a solid venue for Busch, who won there in 2009 and has a series best seven top-fives at the track. He was runner-up in 2005 and March, 2018, and has only one finish worse than seventh in the last five races at the track.

 

Earlier this year, he was third behind the Team Penske teammates, winner Joey Logano and second-place Brad Keselowski.

 

And despite the rough outings leading into the Playoffs, Busch said he remains very confident in his team. The 15 Playoff points he received for winning the regular season championship happen to be the number as the difference between Busch and his JGR teammate, Denny Hamlin in second place in the standings. He starts the Playoff run 16 points up on another teammate – Martin Truex Jr. – and all three of the drivers are four-race winners in 2019.

 

“You look at it and we won the title in our first year together,’’ Busch says of his current team members. “We have been able to back it up [with] Playoff positions each year since. Hopefully we can keep that trend going. We have certainly worked hard throughout the regular season to get this Playoff point advantage that we have right now. It would be nice not to have to rely on those points, but to be able to win some races here and close out the season strong and get to Homestead (Fla.) and race for a championship.’’

 

Team Penske back in full force

The three Penske Racing drivers – Joey Logano, Brad Keselowski and Ryan Blaney – all qualified for the Monster Energy Series Playoffs for the second consecutive year. And judging by their Las Vegas resumes, this is exactly the venue to start their championship runs off in a positive way.

 

Defending Monster Energy Series champion Joey Logano boasts the best average finish (8.5) among drivers with at least 10 starts and the second best all-time (to Dale Earnhardt, who averaged 7.7 in three races). The driver of the No. 22 Team Penske Ford has five top-five and eight top-10 finishes in 12 races at the 1.5-mile desert circuit and earned his first Vegas trophy just this March.

 

He put up a valiant fight with Kyle Busch for the regular season championship, but, although he missed out on that, will start the 10-race Playoff push ranked fifth with a pair of wins (at Las Vegas and Michigan-1), 10 top-five and 15 top-10 finishes through the opening 26 races.

 

Keselowski, the 2012 Monster Energy Series champion, is the defending winner of this Las Vegas Playoff opener – last year’s win was the third consecutive on the 2018 season for him. He has three Vegas wins in the last seven years – only four-time Vegas winner Jimmie Johnson has more. In all, he has six top-five and eight top-10s at the track.

 

On the season, the driver of the No. 2 Team Penske Ford has three victories (at Atlanta, Martinsville and Kansas), nine top-five finishes and 14 top-10 finishes and is ranked sixth in the standings entering the Playoff stretch. His 966 laps led is second only to Cup championship leader Kyle Busch (1,166 laps led).

 

The youngest member of the powerful Penske trio, fourth-year Cup driver Ryan Blaney is holding his own statistically, even if he is still vying for his first win of the 2019 season. And Las Vegas has proven to be a good showplace for him. He has a pair of top fives, four top 10s, and won a pole position (March, 2018) in just six previous starts at the track. His average finish of 10.7 is second best in the field only to his teammate Logano’s 8.5 average finish.

 

Blaney has earned seven top-five and 12 top-10 finishes on the season and his 384 laps led is more than nine of the 16 Playoff drivers, including second-seeded Denny Hamlin, who is a four-race winner.

 

Harvick keeps the happy momentum going

If momentum translates to a championship push, then Stewart-Haas Racing driver Kevin Harvick must be feeling plenty of good vibes as he arrives in Las Vegas to begin the 2019 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs.

 

Last weekend he won the Brickyard 400 at Indianapolis from the Busch Pole position, leading a race best 118 of the race’s 160 laps. The driver of the No. 4 Stewart-Haas Racing Ford has earned all three of his victories (at New Hampshire, Michigan-2 and Indy) in the last seven races of the season. He also has nine top-five and 17 top-10 finishes on the year.

 

His five pole positions is most in the series and his 712 laps led on the year is third-best – behind only regular season champion Kyle Busch (1,166 laps led) and fellow three-race winner Brad Keselowski (966 laps led).

 

The first of Harvick’s five pole positions this year came at the first trip to Las Vegas, a track where he has two wins in the last six races. His 540 laps out front at the 1.5-miler is second only to four-time Vegas winner Jimmie Johnson’s 595 laps led. He’s led laps in six of the last seven races there. And in his March, 2018 victory led a dominating 214 of the race’s 267 laps – the most laps ever led at the track in a Cup race.

 

Harvick has qualified for the Championship 4 every year – hoisting the first Cup trophy in the current elimination style of the Playoffs in 2014. Last year that title opportunity came despite a rough Vegas playoff opener, where Harvick was involved in a mid-race crash and finished 39th out of 40 cars.

 

“I think we’ve definitely made some strides in getting where – closer to where we want to be,’’ Harvick said of his recent success on the season. “I think we still have some things that we have to work on at certain styles of race tracks. But this is survive and advance and you don’t necessarily have to have the fastest car.

 

“We had the fastest car (at Indy), maybe not the best handling car, but we survived and really a day like today is a lot like how you’re going to have to approach every race in the playoffs.’’

 

High rollers

As has their regular season champion teammate Kyle Busch – two other Joe Gibbs Racing drivers have celebrated four times each in victory lane this season. And both – Denny Hamlin and Martin Truex Jr. – have stellar resumes at upcoming Playoff tracks.

 

Hamlin, the driver of the No. 11 JGR Toyota, is still looking for his first Monster Energy Series championship despite years of putting together title-worthy efforts. This season may be one of his best. His second Daytona 500 victory set the season off immediately on the right course. He also has won at Texas, Pocono-2 and Bristol-2, as well.

 

He has maintained a strong showing all season long, winning at the beginning and also twice in just the last six races heading into the Playoffs to earn the No. 2 seed.

 

Las Vegas has proven to be a challenge for the 38-year old, however. He’s still looking for his first victory there and has only a pair of top-five finishes in 15 starts. He has seven top-10 showings, however, including a 10th place just this March.

 

Looking ahead must make this team optimistic. Hamlin has earned 16 of his 35 career wins at upcoming Playoff tracks – 45.7 percent of his victory total.

 

Truex, 39, is a former Vegas winner, earning his only trip to Victory Lane there in 2017 on the way to the even bigger Monster Energy Series championship trophy. As with Kyle Busch and Hamlin, he has bested the field with four wins in 2019 – earning them at Richmond, Dover, Charlotte and Sonoma all within an eight-week time frame during May-June.

 

The good news is that two of those are Playoff tracks – Richmond and Dover. He has earned 11 of his 23 career wins at Playoff venues, although all of his Charlotte race wins were on the oval configuration, not the Roval road course used in the Playoffs.

 

Truex could use a little of that magic now. His last top-10 was four races ago – a fourth place at Michigan. Vegas has been good to him with four previous top-five and seven top-10 finishes in 15 starts. He has four top-five finishes – including that win – in the last six races and hasn’t finished worse than 11th in that time frame. He was eighth at Las Vegas in March and finished third in the 2018 Playoff race there.

 

“Generation Next” at Las Vegas

Nearly half of this year’s 16-driver Playoff field – six drivers – is made up of drivers aged 27 or younger. Five of the six – Chase Elliott, 23, Alex Bowman, 26, Erik Jones, 23, Ryan Blaney, 25, and William Byron, 21 – have four years of fulltime Cup experience or less. Kyle Larson, 27, is in his sixth fulltime year in the Monster Energy Series. This is the first Playoff berth for Hendrick Motorsports driver Byron – the youngest competitor on the starting grid.

 

Seventh-ranked Elliott, a two-race winner (at Talladega and Watkins Glen), ninth-ranked Bowman (Chicago) and 10th ranked Jones (Darlington) secured their position with race wins. 11th-ranked Kyle Larson, 12th-ranked Ryan Blaney and 13th-ranked William Byron “pointed” their way in.

 

Among these fast six, 27-year old Kyle Larson and Blaney have already proven themselves at Las Vegas. Larson has three top-five and four top-10 finishes in seven starts at the track, including a pair of runner-up finishes. He finished second in the No. 42 Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet in 2017 and again in last year’s Playoff opener. He’s looking for his first win since the 2017 Playoff opener at Richmond.

 

Blaney has two top-five and four top-10 finishes and won the pole position for the 2018 March Las Vegas race – his first season driving the No. 12 Team Penske Ford.  He was fifth in both 2018 races and finished 22nd in March of this year.

 

Erik Jones, 23, who announced last week that he has secured a one-year contract extension with Joe Gibbs Racing, has one top-10 in four starts at Vegas. He won the pole position for this Playoff opener last year, only to finish 40th – last place – after being a crash midway through the race. He was 13th in March at Vegas.

 

On the other side of the Vegas luck, Elliott has two top-10 finishes and three DNFs in five starts. Neither Bowman nor Byron have earned a top-10 at the track.

 

Crafty vets

Not to be left out on the Playoff hype are a pair of veterans – one a former Monster Energy Series champion, Chip Ganassi Racing’s Kurt Busch, and the other the fifth-place driver in the final 2018 points standings, Stewart-Haas Racing’s Aric Almirola.

 

Las Vegas Motor Speedway hasn’t been a particular star on Busch’s resume despite his fondness for his home track. The 2004 series champion has yet to win at the venue and has only a pair of top-five and five top-10 finishes in 19 starts there. He was 21st in the 2018 Playoff opener but scored one of his best career finishes – fifth place – at the track this March in his Vegas race driving the No. 1 CGR Chevrolet.

 

On the season, Busch has five top-five and 14 top-10 finishes – including three top-10s in the last five races leading into the Playoffs. He punched his Playoff ticket with a victory at Kentucky this summer and also has runner-up finishes at Bristol-1 and Michigan-1.

 

Almirola, 35, of Tampa, Fla., was absolutely one of the brightest stories of last year’s Playoff run and he’d love to duplicate the effort or better yet, one-up it.

 

Las Vegas Motor Speedway has been a challenge for the No. 10 Stewart-Haas Racing Ford driver. He has three top-10 finishes and no top-five results in 12 starts at the track. However, his top-10s have all come in his most recent three races – perhaps not coincidentally coinciding with his move to the Stewart-Haas team last year. He was sixth in the 2018 Playoff race at Vegas and finished seventh this March.

 

A strong showing would be well-timed for Almirola, who started the 2019 season with an impressive opening of races – scoring top-10 finishes in six of the first seven races. However, he hasn’t earned a top-10 since the summer Daytona race (seventh place) in the first week of July.

 

Last year, Almirola certainly rose to the Playoff challenge, scoring top-10 finishes in seven of the 10 races, including his second career Cup victory, coming at Talladega Superspeedway in October and earning a career best fifth place in the final championship points.

 

Moving on

Clint Bowyer and Ryan Newman had to race their way into a 2019 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Playoff berth – with their championship fate ultimately decided with their work in the regular season finale at Indianapolis.

 

Going forward, however, the two veterans have shown some of their best career work at Playoff venues.

 

Bowyer, the driver of the No. 14 Stewart-Haas Racing Ford, goes into the Playoffs ranked 15th. And this week’s Las Vegas 1.5-miler hasn’t been a particular star on his resume with only one top five and four top 10s in 15 career starts at the track. His career best finish was runner-up in 2009, but he’s had only one top-10 (10th in 2017) in the last eight races at the track. He was 23rd in last year’s Playoff opener there and 14th this spring.

 

However, things look good for Bowyer historically-speaking, should he continue to advance in the Playoffs. Five of his 10 career wins have come at Playoff tracks including a pair of wins at Richmond and Martinsville. If you count his Charlotte win on the oval configuration – which is a ROVAL road course style event in the 10-race Playoffs – he has six wins in upcoming locales. He won the 2012 fall race on the traditional 1.5-miler at Charlotte.

 

On the season, Bowyer has six top-five finishes and 12 top-10s, including three straight top-10s in the races leading into the Playoffs. He was fifth at Indy last week and his best work of the season came in a runner-up finish at Texas, which is also a Playoff track

 

Newman, 41, probably feels more confident about his Vegas chances. He has four top-five and nine top-10 finishes in 20 races at the track. He’s started from the front row twice, including the pole position in 2005. His career-best finish is third in 2015. He was ninth in last year’s Playoff opener there and 24th in this March’s visit. He’s led a very respectable 112 laps at the track.

 

As with Bowyer, Newman has turned in a good record at the Playoff lineup of facilities. He has earned wins at nine of the 10 upcoming venues, including Texas (one win), Dover (three wins), Richmond (one win), Kansas (one win), Martinsville (one win) and Phoenix (two wins). That accounts for half of his 18 career wins.

 

As with Bowyer, Newman had to step up his game to earn that final Playoff position. In his first season driving the No. 6 Roush Fenway Racing Ford he has one top-five (fifth at Daytona-2) and nine top-10s including an eighth place at Indianapolis last weekend to secure his championship opportunity. He has finished 12th or better in six of the last nine races.

 

Possible upset special

Jimmie Johnson missed making the Monster Energy Series Playoff field for the first time in his seven-championship, 16-year career after being collected in an accident midway through last week’s regular season finale.

 

However, as Johnson immediately assured his faithful fans, he is far from being out of the trophy mix. He’s won at nine of the upcoming 10 Playoff tracks (although he’s won at the Charlotte oval, he hasn’t won on the Roval road course configuration) and happens to be the all-time winningest driver at Las Vegas with four victories.

 

He won an unprecedented three straight races from 2005-07 and four races in a span of six years from 2005-2010. He was runner-up to Tony Stewart in 2012 and finished third in 2016. His 595 laps led is most among all active drivers.

 

He was 22nd in last year’s Vegas Playoff race and 19th at the track earlier this spring.

 

The NASCAR Hall of Fame-bound driver said after the race, “I’m sleeping easier. I can’t wait to have the results start showing up. Months ago, it was tough because we couldn’t really get anything going our way. Now we have the optimism of strong qualifying sessions, strong race cars and races. We just need to get to the finish line.’’

 

And he proclaimed on social media Monday morning after the Indy disappointment, “Well how about that. … the sun still came up. 10 races to go and we are as determined as ever. #DoItRight”

 

 

NASCAR Xfinity Series

 

Rolling The Dice: Las Vegas is last chance to make the Playoffs

It has all come down to this weekend and when the dust settles at Las Vegas Motor Speedway following the Rhino Pro Truck Outfitters 300 (Saturday, Sept. 14 at 7:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN, PRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio) the 12-driver NASCAR Xfinity Series Playoff field will have been decided.

 

Heading into this weekend, the 12 drivers currently holding postseason spots are clinched on points and can only be knocked out by a driver outside of that group by the “win and you’re in” scenario. And with one race left, the 12th position – the final Playoff transfer position in the NASCAR Xfinity Series driver standings – is currently held by RSS Racing’s Ryan Sieg. If a driver outside the current Playoff 12 points were to win at Las Vegas, Sieg would be replaced with the Las Vegas winner.

 

Drivers currently clinched to make the Playoffs heading into Las Vegas are Richard Childress Racing’s Tyler Reddick, Joe Gibbs Racing’s Christopher Bell, Stewart-Haas Racing’s Cole Custer, Team Penske’s Austin Cindric, Stewart-Haas Racing with Fred Biagi’s Chase Briscoe and JR Motorsports teammates Michael Annett, Justin Allgaier and Noah Gragson.

 

Drivers still looking to lock themselves into the Playoffs and their clinch scenarios based on points (all are currently locked into the top 20 in the standings regardless of finish this weekend):

 

ü  Brandon Jones (0 Wins, 716 Points, +433 Points Ahead of 21st) – Would clinch on points with 16 Points and a new winner.  If there is a repeat winner (or a win by Justin Allgaier, Noah Gragson, Justin Haley, John Hunter Nemechek or Ryan Sieg), they would clinch on points, regardless of finish.

ü  John Hunter Nemechek (0 Wins, 688 Points, +405 Points Ahead of 21st) – Would clinch on points with 43 Points and a new winner.  If there is a repeat winner (or a win by Justin Allgaier, Noah Gragson, Justin Haley, Brandon Jones or Ryan Sieg), they would clinch on points, regardless of finish.

ü  Ryan Sieg (0 Wins, 676 Points, +393 Points Ahead of 21st) – If there is a repeat winner (or a win by Justin Allgaier, Noah Gragson, Justin Haley, Brandon Jones or John Hunter Nemechek), they would clinch on points, regardless of finish. Could clinch on points with a new winner and help.

 

The rest of the drivers listed below Sieg in the NASCAR Xfinity Series Playoff standings would have to win to make the postseason.

 

RCR’s Tyler Reddick looking to capture the regular season championship

Tyler Reddick has recorded four race wins this season, but there’s another major trophy he’s looking to leave Las Vegas with – the regular season championship hardware.

 

The Richard Childress Racing driver needs just 11 points to clinch the regular season championship, which he could conceivably collect by putting together solid performances in the first two stages of the race (a driver can collect a maximum of 10 points per each of the first two stages for a total of 20).

 

If Reddick were to have issues early in the race, Christopher Bell is the only other driver who could catch him. Bell is currently 50 points behind Reddick in the standings. If the two were to tie in points, Bell would hold the tiebreaker in wins (six wins to Reddick’s four).

 

Reddick has made three starts at the 1.5-mile circuit located near Nellis Air Force Base, recording one top 10 (an eighth-place finish in his track debut in the spring of 2018).

 

Stage Is Set: Las Vegas Motor Speedway is the next show

Las Vegas Motor Speedway will close out the 2019 NASCAR Xfinity Series regular season, not only deciding who makes Playoffs but also who wins this year’s Xfinity Series regular season championship.

 

Las Vegas Motor Speedway is a 1.5-mile track with 20 degrees of banking in the turns, located just north of Las Vegas, Nevada. Las Vegas has hosted 24 NASCAR Xfinity Series races, yielding 17 different pole winners and 17 different race winners. Ross Chastain won last season’s regular season finale while racing for Chip Ganassi Racing and Joe Gibbs Racing’s Kyle Busch won the Xfinity Series race at Las Vegas earlier this season.

 

This season’s Rhino Pro Truck Outfitters 300 is scheduled for Saturday, September 14 at 7:30 p.m. ET (NBCSN, PRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio). The event will be 200 laps (300 miles) with the first stage ending on Lap 45 and the second stage ending on Lap 90.

 

Breaking down the outsiders

The beauty of the “win and you’re in” format is that you’re always saying, “There’s a chance!”

 

Drivers such as Gray Gaulding, Jeremy Clements and Brandon Brown who sit outside of the current Playoff 12 know they won’t get a shot at the postseason based on points. But they do know that a win will get them in.

 

Is it a longshot for them? Yes. But it’s still a shot.

 

Here’s a look at those trio of outsiders:

 

Gray Gaulding (No. 08 SS Green Light Racing Chevrolet) is 13th in points. He’s posted one top-five and three top-10 finishes this season. His best result was second at Talladega, but he’s been running better as of late, finishing in the top 15 in six of the last seven races. He finished 12th at Las Vegas earlier this season, his lone start at the track.

 

Jeremy Clements (No. 51 Jeremy Clements Racing Chevrolet) sits 14th in the standings. Clements also has one top five and three top 10s this season, with his best finish of fourth coming at Bristol just four races ago. He has also put together some solid finishes recently, running 12th or better in the last six races, including two of his top-10 results. He has raced at Las Vegas nine times, and his best two finishes were his most recent two races – 13th last fall and 15th this spring.

 

Brandon Brown (No. 86 Brandonbilt Motorsports Chevrolet) is 15th in the points. He has one top 10 this season – a sixth-place result from the July Daytona race. He finished 17th earlier this season at Las Vegas in his only start at the 1.5-mile venue.

 

Truex, Herbst and Sadler aiming to play spoiler

While many of the NASCAR Xfinity Series fulltime championship contenders will be vying for their spot in the Playoffs this Saturday, September 14, in the Rhino Pro Truck Outfitters 300 (7:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN, PRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio), many needing a win to do so, three part-time drivers – Ryan Truex, Elliott Sadler and Riley Herbst – will be looking to play spoiler and steal the win at Las Vegas and possibly someone’s postseason hopes.

 

Truex will be in the No. 8 JR Motorsports Chevrolet this weekend with crew chief Taylor Moyer calling the shots from the pit box. Truex has been solid in his first three starts with the No. 8 JRM team, posting one top five and three top 10s; including a runner-up finish at ISM Raceway. Truex has made three previous Xfinity career starts at Las Vegas, putting up one top-10 finish – an eighth-place result in this race last season while driving for Kaulig Racing.

 

Sadler returns to saddle up in the No. 10 Kaulig Racing Chevrolet this weekend at Las Vegas; his second start of the season for the team. Sadler’s season debut was back at Richmond in April, where he started 27th and raced his way up to a 12th-place finish. Las Vegas is one of Sadler’s better tracks, in his last eight series starts at the 1.5-mile facility he has posted four top fives and six top 10s.

 

Herbst jumps into the No. 18 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota this weekend at Las Vegas with crew chief Ben Beshore on the pit box. Herbst has made seven series starts this season, posting two top 10s. This Saturday will be Herbst’s series track debut at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

 

Bell, Custer could reach double digit wins this season

The NASCAR Xfinity Series has only seen two drivers in its history reach double digit wins in a single season – Sam Ard and Kyle Busch. This season, NASCAR Xfinity Series championship contenders Christopher Bell (six wins) and Cole Custer (six wins) could become next drivers to accomplish the historically difficult feat of winning 10 or more races in a season.

 

Sam Ard was the first to do it back in 1983 when he muscled 10 wins from the competition en route to his first of two NASCAR Xfinity Series titles (1983-1984).

 

While Ard might have been the first, Kyle Busch became the master of double digit win seasons, putting together four such years in his career. The Las Vegas native first produced a 10-win season in 2008, but then backed that up with a NASCAR Xfinity Series record 13 wins for Joe Gibbs Racing in 2010. He has since then posted a 12-win season in 2013 and another 10-win season in 2016.

 

Bell broke the NASCAR Xfinity Series Sunoco Rookie of the Year single season wins record last season when he hoisted seven trophies, surpassing the previous record of five victories held by Greg Biffle, Carl Edwards and Kyle Busch. Now this season the Joe Gibbs Racing driver has already visited Victory Lane six times…and this weekend at Las Vegas could be his seventh.

 

In three starts at Las Vegas, Bell has posted a pole, two top fives and an average finish of 6.3. He finished 13th earlier this season at Vegas after being caught in a multi-car incident late in the race. He finished runner-up in his series debut at the track and three of 14 career Xfinity wins have come on 1.5-mile tracks (Kansas, Kentucky and Atlanta), so don’t be surprised if Bell is in Victory Lane this weekend.

 

Custer is having a career breakout season this year and has every bit of a chance to reach double digit wins by season’s end. The California kid who drives for Stewart-Haas Racing is in his third full-time season in the series and only produced one win in each of his first two years.

 

But this season he has had six Victory Lane celebrations, bringing his Xfinity Series career wins total to eight. Heading to Las Vegas, Custer has made four series starts at the 1.5-mile track, posting two poles, one top five and three top 10s. Plus, four of Custer’s eight Xfinity career wins have come on 1.5-mile tracks.

Parade Laps: Insights to the drivers participating in media breakouts (NEED UPDATED)

Four drivers from the NASCAR Xfinity Series – Joe Gibbs Racing’s Christopher Bell, JR Motorsport’s Noah Gragson, Kaulig Racing’s Elliott Sadler and RSS Racing’s Ryan Sieg – will be participating in this week’s media rotations at Las Vegas Motor Speedway leading into the Rhino Pro Truck Outfitters 300 on Saturday, Sept. 14 at 7:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN, PRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio.

Christopher Bell (No. 20 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota Supra)

Birthdate: December 16, 1994

Driver’s Age: 24

Hometown: Norman, Oklahoma

Hobbies: Dirt track racing, iRacing, golf

Team: Joe Gibbs Racing

Crew Chief: Jason Ratcliff

Xfinity Career Highlights:

  • In 2018, he set the rookie single season Xfinity Series wins record with seven victories; the previous record of five wins was held by three drivers – Greg Biffle (2001), Kyle Busch (2004) and Carl Edwards (2005).
  • Made the NASCAR Xfinity Series Playoffs in rookie season (2018), and advanced to the Championship 4; ultimately finishing fourth in the championship standings.
  • Recorded 14 career NASCAR Xfinity Series wins in just 64 starts tying Sam Ard for the series record of most wins in first 64 starts; including six this season (Atlanta, Bristol, Dover, Iowa, New Hampshire and Road America).

2019 Season Highlights:

  • Currently second in the NASCAR Xfinity driver points standings, 50 points back from series standings leader Tyler Reddick.
  • In 25 starts this season, he has posted four poles (ISM Raceway, Texas, Charlotte, Iowa-2), six wins (Atlanta, Bristol, Dover, Iowa, New Hampshire, Road America), 16 top fives, 17 top 10s and an average finish of 9.0.
  • Has won 13 stages and accumulated 43 Playoff points.

Las Vegas Motor Speedway Performance:

  • Has made three starts at Las Vegas, including two top fives (second place in the spring of 2018, fourth of the fall of 2018). Finished 13th earlier this season.

Noah Gragson (No. 9 JR Motorsports Chevrolet Camaro)

Birthdate: July 15, 1998

Driver’s Age: 21

Hometown: Las Vegas, Nevada

Hobbies: Downhill mountain biking

Team: JR Motorsports

Crew Chief: David Elenz

Xfinity Career Highlights:

  • Made NASCAR Xfinity Series debut with Joe Gibbs Racing in 2018 at Richmond Raceway; starting 11th and finishing runner-up.
  • In total he made three Xfinity Series starts last season posting two top fives and three top 10s; all while competing fulltime in the NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series where he finished runner-up in the championship standings.

2019 Season Highlights:

  • Currently seventh in the NASCAR Xfinity Series driver standings and has clinched a spot in the Playoffs.
  • In 25 starts this season, he has posted seven top fives and 16 top 10s.
  • Currently second in the 2019 NASCAR Xfinity Series Sunoco Rookie of the Year standings, 21 points behind Chase Briscoe.

Las Vegas Motor Speedway Performance:

  • Has one start at Las Vegas, starting fourth and finishing third earlier this year.

 

Elliott Sadler (No. 10 Kaulig Racing Chevrolet)

Birthdate: April 30, 1975

Driver’s Age: 44

Hometown: Emporia, Virginia

Hobbies: Deer hunting, basketball, softball

Team: Kaulig Racing

Crew Chief: Lennie Chandler

Xfinity Career Highlights:

  • In 2016 and 2017, made the Championship 4 in the NASCAR Xfinity Series Playoffs.
  • Finished runner-up in the NASCAR Xfinity Series drivers’ championship four times (2011, ’12, ’16, ’17).
  • Has made 396 starts in the Xfinity Series, recording 13 wins.

2019 Season Highlights:

  • Las Vegas will be Sadler’s second start of the season.
  • Raced at his home track of Richmond Raceway earlier this season, finishing 12th.

Las Vegas Motor Speedway Performance:

  • Sadler has made 13 starts at Las Vegas, posting four top-five and seven top-10 finishes.

 

Ryan Sieg (No. 39 RSS Racing Chevolet)

Birthdate: June 20, 1987

Driver’s Age: 32

Hometown: Tucker, Georgia

Team: RSS Racing

Crew Chief: Shane Wilson

Xfinity Career Highlights:

  • In 2017 Sieg finished 15th in the Xfinity Series standings, and then posted two top 10s and finished 16th in the series championship standings in 2018.
  • In 2016, he finished a career-best ninth in the NASCAR Xfinity Series driver standings and earned a spot in the inaugural NASCAR Xfinity Series Playoffs.
  • Sieg competed in his first full season in the NASCAR Xfinity Series in 2014.

2019 Season Highlights:

  • Sieg has recorded two top-five and nine top-10 finishes this season.
  • His best finish was fourth at the season-opener in Daytona.
  • Sieg is currently in Playoff contention, 124 points ahead of 13th place.

Las Vegas Motor Speedway Performance:

  • Sieg has made eight starts at Las Vegas, posting one top 10, which came earlier this season (sixth place).

 

NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series

 

Where they stand

By the end of the night on Friday, six drivers will continue on in the 2019 NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series Playoffs and two will see their title dreams end.

 

Only Brett Moffitt has locked his way into the next round by virtue of winning the opening two races of the Playoffs at Bristol and Canadian Tire Motorsport Park.

 

It gets very interesting after that.

 

The next closest driver to ensuring his Playoff dreams stay alive is Ross Chastain. He sits in second in the standings and has the largest points cushion of the drivers currently in the top six – but even he isn’t really close to safe. He still needs 27 points to clinch if there is a new winner. If Moffitt, Stewart Friesen, Matt Crafton, Austin Hill or Grant Enfinger win (the other five drivers currently above the cut line), he only needs 24 points.

 

After Chastain, the next closest is Freisen, who needs 49 points if there is a new winner or 47 is one of the above mentioned drivers wins.

 

Johnny Sauter (-2 points from sixth place) and Tyler Ankrum (-14 from sixth place) are the two drivers on the outside looking in.

 

What does this mean?

 

It means there isn’t a way for a driver to clinch a Round of 6 berth by virtue of the points available in the first two stages (maximum available is 10 per stage) alone. We won’t know the additional five drivers moving on until the checkered flag flies.

 

Breaking down the 1.5-mile tracks for the Playoff contenders

Back after two weekends off, the opening round of the NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series Playoffs will conclude with the 1.5-mile Las Vegas Motor Speedway on Friday night at 9 p.m. ET on FS1, MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio.

 

And the field will face one more track of this length in the Playoffs – the championship-deciding venue of Homestead-Miami Speedway.

 

Here’s a look at the performances of the eight Playoff contenders at 1.5-mile tracks – organized by points standings:

 

Brett Moffitt – Moffitt has already won his way into the second round after winning the opening two races of the Playoffs at Bristol and Canadian Tire Motorsports Park. And if his history at 1.5-mile tracks counts for anything, he has a solid shot of the sweep of the Round of 8 races. Moffitt has four wins on intermediate tracks, all within the past two seasons. His first came at Atlanta in 2018. Overall in 23 races at venues of this length, he has nine top-five and 12 top-10 finishes.

 

Ross Chastain – On the surface, it doesn’t look like Chastain’s 1.5-mile statistics are that impressive. He has one win, two top fives and 13 top 10s in 34 races at venues of that size. But it’s when those stats occurred in his career that matter now. His one win came earlier this year at Kansas, before he had declared for points in the Gander Trucks. Both of his top fives were this year (Kansas and Kentucky) and eight of the top 10s have been in 2019. (Also, of note for Chastain, 15 of his 30 total career top-10 finishes have happened during the opening 18 races of this season. He has 77 total series starts.)

 

Stewart Friesen – Friesen is looking for his first win on a 1.5-mile track (his lone series win came earlier this season at Eldora). In 28 starts at this distance he has 10 top-five and 14 top-10 results. Five of those top fives and top 10s have come this season. Of those, he has a pair of runner-up results (Texas-1 and Kentucky) and two third-place finishes (Charlotte and Chicago) at this distance.

 

Matt Crafton – Once the king of the 1.5-mile tracks in the Gander Trucks, Crafton has faded as of late. In 162 starts on those tracks (53 more than the next closest in the Playoff field – Johnny Sauter), Crafton has nine wins (second to Sauter’s 10), 54 top fives, and 103 top 10s. All impressive numbers. But he hasn’t won at a 1.5-mile circuit since Charlotte in May of 2016…and in fact, hasn’t won a race since Eldora in July of 2017. His performance has been steady and solid this year – both at this distance and overall, just lacking a Victory Lane visit. He hasn’t had a finish worse than 14th (Atlanta in the second race of the year) and crossed the line second at Texas in June. His average finish at 1.5-mile tracks this season is 7.0.

 

Austin Hill – Hill is another driver whose numbers at 1.5-mile venues may not be impressive on the surface, but if you look at his recent performances, you’ll be more impressed. Overall in 28 starts at that distance, he has three top fives and nine top 10s. Two of those top fives (Kansas, Chicago) came this year, as did five of the top 10s. He also started on the pole at Chicago this season – his first time leading the field to green in the Gander Trucks.

 

Grant Enfinger – Enfinger has one win in 33 starts at 1.5-mile circuits – but it’s particularly relevant because that victory came at Las Vegas last fall. It’s one of two series wins that he has (Talladega, 2016). Overall he has 10 top-five and 23 top-10 finishes at this distance in the series. He has three top fives this season, including at both Texas races and at Atlanta. His best finish at a 1.5-miler this year was third at Atlanta.

 

Tyler Ankrum – Ankrum’s experience is limited at 1.5-mile tracks because he just turned 18 in March, so he hasn’t even had a chance to race on the upcoming Las Vegas Motor Speedway track. But he’s made his mark at that distance. In six starts this season on 1.5-mile circuits he has one win (Kentucky), two top fives (also finished third at Texas in June) and three top 10s.

 

Johnny Sauter – Sauter is in a tough spot in the Playoff standings, as he sits in eighth out of eight drivers with only six moving on to the next round after Las Vegas. In 109 starts at 1.5-mile tracks, Sauter has 10 wins (one more than fellow Playoff contender Crafton), 41 top fives and 66 top 10s. Only two of those top fives have come this season – in the second race in Atlanta and then in the fifth race of the year at Texas. In regards to recent history, five of his wins at this distance have come since the introduction of the elimination-style Playoff format in 2016, with the most recent being at the June Texas race last year.

 

Brett Moffitt looking to sweep opening round of Playoffs

Since the introduction of the elimination Playoff format in the NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series in 2016, no driver has swept a round’s worth of races.

 

Prior to this season, twice has one driver won two races in a round – Johnny Sauter in the Round of 6 in 2016 (Martinsville Speedway, Texas Motor Speedway) and 2017 (Texas, ISM Raceway).

 

Brett Moffitt is now hoping to achieve that feat after winning the opening two races of the 2019 Gander Trucks Playoffs at Bristol Motor Speedway and Canadian Tire Motorsport Park.

 

The Gander Trucks have two weeks off before returning to the track at Las Vegas Motor Speedway on September 13 for the final race in the opening round of the Playoffs. And Moffitt’s track record in the Nevada sun shows that he may be the truck to bet on for the hat trick.

 

Moffitt has a trio of starts at the 1.5-mile track, including a runner-up finish to Kyle Busch this spring. He was third in his first start at the beginning of 2018 and then was 11th last fall.

 

And the driver of the No. 24 GMS Racing Chevrolet Silverado would just be building on what is quickly becoming his second straight career season. In 2018, Moffitt tallied six wins, 13 top fives and 13 top 10s en route to the Gander Trucks title.

 

So far, through 18 races in 2019, Moffitt has four wins, 11 top fives and 13 top 10s. And he’s bettered his 2018 season in another statistical column – he has three pole awards this year compared to none last year.

The “Melon Man” may be one to bet on at Vegas

Ross Chastain’s NASCAR Gander Outdoors Trucks Series statistics at Las Vegas Motor Speedway may not lead you to think he should be your pick to win this Friday’s World of Westgate 200 (9 p.m. ET on FS1, MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio).

 

He made his first two starts at the track back in 2012 and 2013, finishing 25th and 14th, respectively. In the past 12 months he does have a pair of top-10s, placing seventh last fall and 10th during the first trip to the desert this year.

 

But he has visited Victory Lane at Vegas in the NASCAR Xfinity Series. Chastain outlasted the field through a trip of restarts in the final 20 laps to capture his first NASCAR national series win last fall.

 

And that has to give him confidence as the Gander Trucks enter the final race of the opening round of the Playoffs – from which only six of eight drivers will continue on in the postseason.

Playoff contenders’ history at Vegas

Only two of the eight NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series Playoff drivers have made their way to Victory Lane at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

 

Johnny Sauter took the win in his first trip to the track in 2009. Second place in that race? His current ThorSport Racing teammate and Playoffs competitor Matt Crafton.

 

And Grant Enfinger comes to Las Vegas without a win this season, despite taking the regular season championship trophy home. However, he is the defending winner of this fall race at Las Vegas. Second place in that race? Sauter.

 

Current Playoff drivers finished first (Enfinger), second (Sauter), fifth (Crafton), seventh (Chastain), 11th (Brett Moffitt), 17th (Stewart Friesen) and 23rd (Austin Hill) in last year’s fall race.

 

The upcoming race will mark Tyler Ankrum’s first race at the 1.5-mile oval – he just turned 18-years old on March 6, a week after the first trip to the desert this spring.

 

Overall, Sauter has a win, six top fives and nine top 10s in 12 starts at Las Vegas. His ThorSport teammates Crafton (eight top fives, 12 top 10s in 20 starts) and Enfinger (one win, two top fives and four top 10s in six starts) have also been consistently near the top of the finishing order.

 

Friesen has the next most starts in the Playoff grid, posting a pair of top-five and top-10 finishes in five starts. Chastain has two top 10s in four starts, while Moffitt as a pair of top-five and top-10 results in three appearances.

What a difference a year makes

One year ago, heading into the cutoff race for the first round of the Playoffs, Johnny Sauter held the lead in the NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series points standings and had no doubt he would be advancing the Round of 6.

 

But this year, Sauter is in danger of “going home” following the upcoming Round of 8 cutoff race at Las Vegas Motor Speedway (Friday, September 13 at 9 p.m. ET on FS1, MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio). Currently, Sauter sits in seventh on the Playoff grid – two points and one spot behind his ThorSport Racing teammate Grant Enfinger, who currently holds the final position that would transfer to the Round of 6.

 

Sauter has never been eliminated from Gander Trucks title contention before the final race of the season during the era of the elimination Playoffs format (since 2016).

 

He doesn’t find himself on the outside looking in because of a particularly bad performance in either of the opening races of the Playoffs – he was 11th at Bristol and sixth at Canadian Tire. Instead, all of the 2019 Gander Trucks postseason contenders are proving they belong in the title talk and are also posting strong finishes – which gives Sauter little to no room to rise up in the standings.

 

Here is where each of the eight Playoff drivers finished in the first two races:

 

Drivers Bristol           Canadian Tire            Avg. Finish

Brett Moffitt                 1                      1                                  1

Ross Chastain            3                      8                                  5.5

Stewart Friesen          4                      7                                  5.5

Grant Enfinger            5                      13                                9

Matt Crafton                7                      11                                9

Austin Hill                   10                    5                                  7.5

Johnny Sauter            11                    6                                  8.5

Tyler Ankrum              20                    9                                  14.5

 

Sauter hasn’t won a race since Dover at the beginning of May – a streak of 12 races without visiting Victory Lane. That’s a bit of an unusual drought for the driver of the No. 13 ThorSport Racing Chevrolet – but it might not be a bad sign for his Playoff hopes. This season, in a way, looks a bit similar to his 2016 campaign – a campaign that ended with the championship trophy hoisted above his head in Miami.

 

In 2016, he started off the season with a win at the opener in Daytona. He then went winless for 18 races – but excelled when it counted by winning at Martinsville and Texas in the second round of Playoffs. Those were his only three wins that season.

 

Sauter will need to turn it up at Las Vegas, a track he has one win at – in his first race there in 2009 – in order to have a shot at repeating the magic of 2016. He’s recorded six top fives and nine top 10s in 12 starts at the track. And of those, four are runner-up finishes, including both races in 2018.

 

NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series Etc.

Hometown driver to make LVMS debut: Justin Johnson will probably have a lot of support in the stands on Friday night as he makes his debut at his hometown track of Las Vegas Motor Speedway. And although this is the first time he’s raced on the 1.5-mile circuit, he made a name for himself on the Speedway grounds long ago as he’s a four-time track champion at the Bullring located just across the street from the main grandstands. Johnson has four Gander Trucks starts to his credit, all in 2011, with a best finish of eighth at ISM Raceway.

 

Owner’s title battle: The numbers on the sides of the trucks competing for the driver’s title are nearly identical to those racing for the owner’s championship – just swap out the 88 from ThorSport Racing that Matt Crafton is piloting in the postseason for the 51 from Kyle Busch Motorsports, which has had a bevy of different drivers behind the wheel this season. The 51 currently sits in third place, following the No. 24 – which clinched a Round of 6 spot with two wins and the No. 45 from Niece Motorsports. The No. 13 (ThorSport Racing) and No. 17 (DGR-Crosley) are the two trucks currently on the outside.

 

Parade Laps: Insights into the drivers in this week’s media breakouts

Three drivers from the NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series – Niece Motorsports’ Ross Chastain, ThorSport Racing’s Grant Enfinger, and GMS Racing’s Brett Moffitt – will be participating in this week’s media rotations at Las Vegas Motor Speedway leading into the World of Westgate 200 on Friday night at 9:00 p.m. ET on FS1, MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio. Gander Trucks media rotations are scheduled for Friday, September 13, from 11:15- 11:30 p.m. ET in Media Center Deadline Room.

Ross Chastain (No. 45 Niece Motorsports Chevrolet Silverado)

Birthdate: December 4, 1992

Driver’s Age: 26

Hometown: Alva, Florida

Hobbies: Farming watermelons

Crew Chief: Phil Gould

NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series Career Highlights:

  • Chastain has raced part-time over nine seasons competing in 75 series races, recording three wins (Kansas, Gateway, Pocono – all in 2019), eight top-five and 22 top-10 finishes.
  • In 2012, he ran his only full-time season in the Gander Trucks prior to 2019. He tallied a top five and four top 10s.

2019 Season Highlights:

  • This is Chastain’s first career Gander Trucks Playoff appearance.
  • Through 18 races this season, Chastain has posted three wins (Kansas, Gateway, Pocono), seven top fives, 15 top 10s and a pole (Michigan).
  • Has led 392 of 2,598 laps completed
  • 2019 average starting position, 11.0 and average finishing position, 8.8.

Las Vegas Motor Speedway Performance:

  • Has made four series starts at LVMS, posting two top-10 finishes.
  • Has an average start of 18.5 and average finish of 14.0.

 

Grant Enfinger (No. 98 ThorSport Racing Ford F-150)

Birthdate: January 22, 1985

Driver’s Age: 34

Hometown: Kannapolis, NC

Hobbies: Fishing, Outdoor activities, Working on cars

Crew Chief: Jeff Hensley

NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series Career Highlights:

  • In 2018, he captured his first NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series Playoff berth and finished fifth in the final points standings, the best of his career thus far in the NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series.
  • In 2017, he finished 11th in the final standings in his rookie season in the NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series.
  • In 2016, he claimed his first career NASCAR national series win at Talladega Superspeedway.
  • In 2016, posted his first NASCAR national series career pole for the NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series season opener at Daytona.
  • In 2010, he made his NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series debut at Talladega Superspeedway

2019 Season Highlights:

  • Won the 2019 NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series regular season championship.
  • This is his second career Gander Trucks Playoff appearance.
  • Through 18 races this season, Enfinger has posted eight top fives, 14 top 10s and two poles (Texas, Kentucky).
  • Has led 293 of 2,590 laps completed
  • 2019 average starting position, 7.6 and average finishing position, 7.7.

Las Vegas Motor Speedway Performance:

  • Captured his second career Gander Trucks victory at Las Vegas in 2018
  • He has made six series starts at LVMS posting an average start of 7.7 and average finish of 7.8.

Brett Moffitt (No. 24 GMS Racing Chevrolet Silverado)

Birthdate: August 7, 1992

Driver’s Age: 27

Hometown: Grimes, Iowa

Team: GMS Racing

Crew Chief: Jerry Baxter

NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series Career Highlights:

  • Last season, Moffitt drove Hattori Racing Enterprise’s No. 16 Toyota to six wins, leading the way for the first career NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series championship for both Moffitt and HRE.
  • Won his first NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series race in 2016, taking home the checkers at Michigan for Red Horse Racing.
  • Made the most of his six NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series starts in 2016, with three top-three finishes and four top 10s.
  • In 2013, entered the NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series scene with a pair of starts (Kentucky and Michigan).

2019 Season Highlights:

  • Won the NASCAR Ganders Outdoors Truck Series races at Iowa, Chicagoland, Bristol and CTMP
  • Currently leads the NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series standings over Ross Chastain
  • In 18 starts this season he has posted four victories, 11 top fives and 13 top 10s with an average starting position of 4.1 and finish of 8.2.
  • Has led 350 laps this season.

Las Vegas Motor Speedway Performance:

  • Moffitt has made three previous starts at Las Vegas, posting an average finish of 5.3.
  • Finished second at Las Vegas earlier this season

 

RACE PREVIEWS WRITTEN BY & COURTESY OF NASCAR COMMUNICATIONS

 

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