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MONSTER ENERGY CUP SERIES


 
Kevin Harvick dominates Indianapolis as Jimmie Johnson misses Playoffs

Matt Sullivan/Getty Images

 



By Reid Spencer NASCAR Wire Service

SPEEDWAY, Ind. - It was a dominating victory for Kevin Harvick and a statement of superiority for his No. 4 Stewart-Haas Racing Ford team as the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series heads toward its 10-race Playoff.

It was an ignominious end to Jimmie Johnson’s unique and unprecedented streak of qualifying for every Cup Series postseason.

And it was heartbreak for Daniel Suarez, as he chased Ryan Newman over the final nine laps of the Big Machine Vodka 400 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway with the final Playoff berth in the balance.

Newman came home eighth, as he and fifth-place finisher Clint Bowyer locked up the final two Playoff spots. Suarez ran 11th after getting trapped in traffic on the final restart on Lap 152 of 160 and finished four points behind Newman in the final regular-season standings.

But the story of the race was Harvick, who was in a class by himself. The 2014 series champion won the second stage and during the final nine laps of the race sped to a 6.118-second advantage over runner-up Joey Logano.

Harvick started from the pole, led five times for 119 laps and controlled the event, except for one 19-lap stretch when eventual seventh-place finisher Ryan Blaney grabbed the top spot after a restart on Lap 112.

"I can't tell you how much coming to Indianapolis means to me," Harvick said. "As a kid, I watched Rick Mears win the Indy 500 and got to be around him as a kid. He was my hero.

"My team built a great race car. I can't say enough about everyone on (this team). They built a heck of a race car. It's the same stuff that we took to Michigan and had a real good weekend there, obviously, and went to Victory Lane.

"I know how much this means to (crew chief) Rodney (Childers) and all the guys who work on this car. We've been so close at winning here before."

True, this was Harvick’s first Brickyard victory with his current SHR contingent, but it was his second overall, the first coming with Richard Childress Racing 16 years ago. Harvick won for the third time this season and the 48th time in his career, tying Herb Thomas for 15th on the all-time list and moving to one win behind his car owner, Tony Stewart.

"I don't know if we had the best car, but we had the fastest car," Harvick said. "We gave up the lead there (to Blaney) on one of those restarts, and then we came and pitted, and the caution came out (for Kyle Larson’s crash on Lap 129), and it worked our way.

"We've given so many away just because of circumstances here, and the way that the caution flag fell today actually worked in our favor. It gave us control of the race, and we were able to keep control of the race and not make any mistakes, and here we are in Victory Lane at one of the greatest places on earth to race."

A four-time winner at the Brickyard, Johnson hoped to find magic at the 2.5-mile track. Instead, he found misery. Moments after a restart on Lap 105, his No. 48 Chevrolet broke loose underneath the Camaro of Hendrick Motorsports teammate William Byron, slid sideways and collided with the No. 1 Chevrolet of Kurt Busch.

An eight-car wreck ensued, and Johnson’s car was too heavily damaged to continue. The seven-time champion finished 35th his streak of 15 straight NASCAR postseasons came to an end.

"Yeah, it’s really disappointing," Johnson said. "Unfortunately, we had a bad 25 races that led to the position we’re in here today (18 points out of the Playoffs) and we needed a stellar day. I think we were having a strong day. I’m really proud of my team with what’s been going on.

"The No. 1 car (Kurt Busch) had a little trouble on the restart. I’m on the inside going into the corner and it was just super tight. It’s unfortunate that happened. Certainly, it’s not what we needed on that restart. I couldn’t go below the white line and kind of got snipped there and turned around—and around and round we go."

Similarly, bad luck caught up with Suarez, who pitted because of a vibration on Lap 126 and got caught a lap down when Larson’s wreck caused the seventh caution three circuits later. Suarez got the lap back under the yellow, but he had to restart from the rear and never recovered.

Bubba Wallace ran third in the No. 43 Richard Petty Motorsports Chevrolet, posting the second top-three result of his career, the first having come in a runner-up run in the 2018 Daytona 500. Byron was fourth, followed by Bowyer, Denny Hamlin, Blaney, Newman, Chase Elliott and Paul Menard.

Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Race - 26th Annual Big Machine Vodka 400 at the Brickyard presented by Florida Georgia Line

Indianapolis Motor Speedway

Speedway, Indiana

Sunday, September 8, 2019

1. (1) Kevin Harvick, Ford, 160.

2. (4) Joey Logano, Ford, 160.

3. (15) Bubba Wallace, Chevrolet, 160.

4. (29) William Byron, Chevrolet, 160.

5. (3) Clint Bowyer, Ford, 160.

6. (33) Denny Hamlin, Toyota, 160.

7. (9) Ryan Blaney, Ford, 160.

8. (22) Ryan Newman, Ford, 160.

9. (24) Chase Elliott, Chevrolet, 160.

10. (2) Paul Menard, Ford, 160.

11. (20) Daniel Suarez, Ford, 160.

12. (18) Austin Dillon, Chevrolet, 160.

13. (25) Ty Dillon, Chevrolet, 160.

14. (10) Aric Almirola, Ford, 160.

15. (16) Chris Buescher, Chevrolet, 160.

16. (23) Ryan Preece #, Chevrolet, 160.

17. (21) Michael McDowell, Ford, 160.

18. (26) Matt DiBenedetto, Toyota, 160.

19. (30) Corey LaJoie, Ford, 160.

20. (17) David Ragan, Ford, 160.

21. (13) Alex Bowman, Chevrolet, 160.

22. (34) Ross Chastain(i), Chevrolet, 160.

23. (37) Reed Sorenson, Chevrolet, 160.

24. (36) Ryan Sieg(i), Chevrolet, 157.

25. (35) BJ McLeod(i), Ford, 157.

26. (40) JJ Yeley(i), Chevrolet, 157.

27. (27) Martin Truex Jr, Toyota, 156.

28. (38) Garrett Smithley(i), Ford, 156.

29. (39) Josh Bilicki(i), Ford, 155.

30. (8) Kurt Busch, Chevrolet, 155.

31. (12) Ricky Stenhouse Jr, Ford, 153.

32. (28) Matt Tifft #, Ford, Accident, 147.

33. (19) Kyle Larson, Chevrolet, Accident, 129.

34. (11) Daniel Hemric #, Chevrolet, Accident, 109.

35. (5) Jimmie Johnson, Chevrolet, Accident, 105.

36. (32) Parker Kligerman(i), Toyota, Accident, 104.

37. (7) Kyle Busch, Toyota, Engine, 87.

38. (6) Brad Keselowski, Ford, Accident, 48.

39. (14) Erik Jones, Toyota, Accident, 48.

40. (31) Landon Cassill(i), Chevrolet, Accident, 40.

Average Speed of Race Winner: 119.443 mph.

Time of Race: 3 Hrs, 20 Mins, 6 Secs. Margin of Victory: 6.118 Seconds.

Caution Flags: 9 for 48 laps.

Lead Changes: 13 among 8 drivers.

Lap Leaders: K. Harvick 0;K. Harvick 1-12;R. Chastain(i) 13;K. Harvick 14-42;J. Logano 43-52;K. Larson 53-56;K. Harvick 57-84;K. Larson 85;W. Byron 86;J. Logano 87;J. Johnson 88-91;P. Menard 92;K. Harvick 93-111;R. Blaney 112-130;K. Harvick 131-160.

Leaders Summary (Driver, Times Lead, Laps Led): Kevin Harvick 5 times for 118 laps; Ryan Blaney 1 time for 19 laps; Joey Logano 2 times for 11 laps; Kyle Larson 2 times for 5 laps; Jimmie Johnson 1 time for 4 laps; William Byron 1 time for 1 lap; Ross Chastain(i) 1 time for 1 lap; Paul Menard 1 time for 1 lap.

Stage #1 Top Ten: 22,42,4,12,6,48,18,11,88,37

Stage #2 Top Ten: 4,42,12,22,14,41,1,48,24,10
 

 

RACING RESULTS   RACING RESULTSRACING RESULTS   RACING RESULTS

XFINITY SERIES

Tyler Reddick Gambles on Fuel to Win at Las Vegas

By Holly Cain, NASCAR Wire Service

LAS VEGAS – Tyler Reddick and his Richard Childress Racing Team gambled and hit the jackpot at Las Vegas Motor Speedway Saturday evening – taking a chance on fuel mileage; racing just hard enough and simultaneously saving just enough fuel to hold off Christopher Bell by .738-seconds in the NASCAR Xfinity Series Rhino Pro Truck Outfitters 300.

Reddick, who hoisted his fifth trophy, also officially earned the regular season championship based on points, on lap 71 of the 200-lap race. He was running fifth place at the time.

“Christopher Bell had a really fast race car today, but we were just able to come in and get fuel and tires and run really fast laps to keep us in front of him,’’ said Reddick, whose 30 laps led to close out the win were the sum of his laps out front.

“Hat’s off to [crew chief] Randall [Burnett] and all the guys, we’ve had a really fast car in the past, unfortunately today we didn’t have it but we got them with strategy.’’

Brandon Jones was third, polesitter Cole Custer was fourth and Justin Allgaier rounded out the top five. Veteran Elliott Sadler, 44,  a four-time Xfinity Series championship runner-up and 13-race winner, finished 10th in his last NASCAR national series race.

It was a strong statement for Reddick, 23, who earned his fifth victory to close out the regular season and now begins the Playoff run on a high note – the regular season champion and the most recent winner heading into the title run. The Californian has a series-best 20 top-five and 22 top-10 finishes in 26 races and is the defending Xfinity Series champion.

A six-race winner this season, Bell led a race-high 154 laps on the night and was understandably disappointed in the outcome after an especially strong showing Saturday. He pit for tires and fuel with 30 laps remaining and returned to the track to try to make up Reddick’s nearly 20-second advantage at the time. He slowly gained but ultimately came up short.

Although Bell’s impressive effort on the night didn’t earn him the race trophy, he does go into the Playoffs with the points lead. He is the top-ranked driver with 2,055 points as they are reset. Custer and Reddick are tied for second as the points re-set, 11 points behind Bell.

The rest of the Xfinity Series Playoff qualifiers in their re-seeded order include Austin Cindric, rookie Chase Briscoe, veterans Justin Allgaier and Michael Annett, rookie Noah Gragson, Brandon Jones, Justin Haley, Ryan Sieg and rookie John Hunter Nemechek. The seven-race Championship Playoffs begin next week at Richmond Raceway.

Sieg failed post-race technical inspection, but fortunately for him, it didn’t cost him a Playoff berth.

Custer, who bested Bell for the pole position Saturday afternoon, earned his fourth consecutive top-10 at the track and although disappointed not to win, seemed optimistic about his Playoff potential.

“We were just tight,’’ Custer said of his No. 00 Stewart-Haas Racing Ford. “We tried to make adjustments to fix it. Just a tough weekend. ‘’

But, he added. “We had a great regular season and looking forward to the Playoffs. I’m pumped for it. I think all the tracks in the playoffs we’ll be strong and everybody should look out for us.’’

Reddick’s crew chief Randall Burnett conceded it was a risky move to get the victory, but said he was feeling the Vegas vibe and that a strategic gamble was their only hope in besting the faster Bell.

“We felt like we weren’t going to be able to get up there and compete with the 20 (Bell) he was the class of the field all day,’’ Burnett said. “We saw an opportunity there. We knew we would be really close. None of the other guys came down (pit road). We really didn’t have anything to lose at this point.

“We got back out there, he [Reddick] did a great job managing and holding pace. We just managed our pace based on how fast the 20 was catching us. We had to pick it back up at the end.

“It just worked out. “

NASCAR Xfinity Series Race – 2nd Annual Rhino Pro Truck Outfitters 300

Las Vegas Motor Speedway

Las Vegas, Nevada

Saturday, September 14, 2019

  1. (4)  Tyler Reddick, Chevrolet, 200.
  2. (2)  Christopher Bell, Toyota, 200.
  3. (6)  Brandon Jones, Toyota, 200.
  4. (1)  Cole Custer, Ford, 200.
  5. (3)  Justin Allgaier, Chevrolet, 200.
  6. (36)  Noah Gragson #, Chevrolet, 200.
  7. (16)  Gray Gaulding, Chevrolet, 199.
  8. (13)  John Hunter Nemechek #, Chevrolet, 199.
  9. (15)  Riley Herbst(i), Toyota, 199.
  10. (8)  Elliott Sadler, Chevrolet, 199.
  11. (7)  Chase Briscoe #, Ford, 199.
  12. (5)  Austin Cindric, Ford, 199.
  13. (11)  Michael Annett, Chevrolet, 199.
  14. (22)  Ryan Truex, Chevrolet, 199.
  15. (10)  Justin Haley #, Chevrolet, 199.
  16. (17)  Brandon Brown #, Chevrolet, 198.
  17. (37)  Alex Labbe, Chevrolet, 198.
  18. (29)  Josh Williams, Chevrolet, 198.
  19. (20)  Ray Black II, Chevrolet, 197.
  20. (12)  Jeremy Clements, Chevrolet, 197.
  21. (23)  Stephen Leicht, Chevrolet, 197.
  22. (21)  BJ McLeod, Chevrolet, 196.
  23. (26)  Garrett Smithley, Chevrolet, 196.
  24. (24)  Matt Mills, Chevrolet, 195.
  25. (18)  Tommy Joe Martins, Toyota, 194.
  26. (30)  David Starr, Chevrolet, 194.
  27. (38)  Ja Junior Avila, Toyota, 193.
  28. (28)  Tyler Matthews, Chevrolet, 191.
  29. (32)  Joey Gase, Toyota, Vibration, 187.
  30. (34)  Vinnie Miller, Chevrolet, 186.
  31. (31)  CJ McLaughlin, Chevrolet, Accident, 121.
  32. (25)  Kyle Weatherman, Chevrolet, Suspension, 66.
  33. (27)  Joe Nemechek(i), Chevrolet, Steering, 56.
  34. (33)  Chad Finchum, Toyota, Suspension, 52.
  35. (35)  Stan Mullis, Toyota, Carburetor, 22.
  36. (9)  Landon Cassill, Chevrolet, Overheating, 20.
  37. (14)  JJ Yeley, Chevrolet, Fuel Pump, 2.
  38. (19)  Ryan Sieg, Chevrolet, 199.

Average Speed of Race Winner:  138.284 mph.

Time of Race:  2 Hrs, 10 Mins, 10 Secs. Margin of Victory:  0.738 Seconds.

Caution Flags:  4 for 20 laps.

Lead Changes:  13 among 4 drivers.

Lap Leaders:   C. Custer 0;C. Bell 1-47;J. Allgaier 48;C. Bell 49-51;J. Allgaier 52;C. Bell 53-92;J. Allgaier 93;C. Bell 94-112;J. Allgaier 113;C. Bell 114-115;J. Allgaier 116-126;C. Bell 127-169;C. Briscoe # 170;T. Reddick 171-200.

Leaders Summary (Driver, Times Lead, Laps Led):  Christopher Bell 6 times for 154 laps; Tyler Reddick 1 time for 30 laps; Justin Allgaier 5 times for 15 laps; Chase Briscoe # 1 time for 1 lap.

Stage #1 Top Ten: 20,7,2,22,00,19,23,98,1,11

Stage #2 Top Ten: 20,7,00,98,2,19,22,8,23,1

 

 

Kyle Busch scores fourth Brickyard win

Brian Lawdermilk/Getty Images

 

 

It was more of the same for Kyle Busch in Saturday’s Indiana 250 NASCAR Xfinity Series race at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, but “more of the same” was anything but easy.

Busch held off Justin Allgaier by .132 seconds during a five-lap run to the finish at the 2.5-mile track, but only after a hard crash that took out frontrunners Christopher Bell and Tyler Reddick with seven laps left.

With a strong short-run car, combined with his unquestioned prowess on restarts, Busch took control after the final restart to win for the fourth time at the Brickyard, the fourth time in seven starts this season and the 96th time in his career, extending his series record.

In more ways than one, Busch benefited from the wreck that took out Bell and Reddick as they were battling for the lead. For one thing, it eliminated two of the strongest cars in the race. For another, it put Busch out front in clean air, greatly improving the handling of the No. 18 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota Supra.

“It was really tough to pass, even when you had a run on a guy,” Busch said in victory lane. “You could pass the guys who were set up for long-runs on the straightaways but some of those other guys, like (Bell, Brandon Jones) and the JGR guys, they were stupid fast.

\

“We got back in traffic and just really fought the handling of this thing and got stuck around fourth place. I’m real proud of this team. This Toyota Supra was awesome today, and glad we got to take it to Victory Lane.”

Allgaier, the defending race winner, led a trio of JR Motorsports cars to top-five finishes, with Noah Gragson charging to third in the closing laps and Jeb Burton matching his career-best finish in his fifth start of the season. Justin Haley ran fifth and scored 35 points, enough to become the ninth driver to clinch a spot in the Xfinity Series Playoffs.

 

Three cautions in the final 14 laps doomed the chances of Allgaier, whose No. 7 Chevrolet was set up for long green-flag runs.

“Kyle’s great, especially on restarts,” said Allgaier, who led three times for 24 laps, half the total recorded by the race winner. “That’s what sets him apart in the Cup Series and here in the Xfinity Series. Our Suave Men Camaro was on rails, especially on the long runs…

“You don’t realize what it means to you until you come that close to tasting those bricks again. We’ll go to Vegas (for the regular-season finale) next week, finish out the regular season strong and take this momentum into the Playoffs.”

Bell and Reddick were running up front after a restart on Lap 93 of 100, but Bell’s Toyota broke loose under Reddick’s Chevrolet in Turn 2, sending both cars hard into the outside wall and eliminating them from the race.

Bell finished 29th, one spot ahead of Reddick.

“Of all my NASCAR crashes, this one takes the cake,” Bell said after visiting the infield care center. The wreck deprived him of a chance to win for the seventh time this season.

Brandon Jones recovered from a spin after contact with Austin Cindric’s Ford on Lap 87 to finish sixth, one position ahead of six-time winner Cole Custer. Chase Briscoe, Austin Hill and Ryan Sieg completed the top 10.

Reddick retained the series lead by 50 points over Bell and can clinch the regular-season title next Saturday by scoring 11 points.

 
NASCAR Xfinity Series Race Results Indiana 250

Indianapolis Motor Speedway

Speedway, Indiana

Saturday, September 7, 2019

                1. (1)  Kyle Busch(i), Toyota, 100.

                2. (8)  Justin Allgaier, Chevrolet, 100.

                3. (13)  Noah Gragson #, Chevrolet, 100.

                4. (12)  Jeb Burton, Chevrolet, 100.

                5. (7)  Justin Haley #, Chevrolet, 100.

                6. (2)  Brandon Jones, Toyota, 100.

                7. (11)  Cole Custer, Ford, 100.

                8. (9)  Chase Briscoe #, Ford, 100.

                9. (17)  Austin Hill(i), Toyota, 100.

                10. (10)  Ryan Sieg, Chevrolet, 100.

                11. (18)  Jeremy Clements, Chevrolet, 100.

                12. (15)  Michael Annett, Chevrolet, 100.

                13. (16)  Gray Gaulding, Chevrolet, 100.

                14. (32)  Garrett Smithley, Chevrolet, 100.

                15. (20)  Ronnie Bassett Jr, Chevrolet, 100.

                16. (34)  Landon Cassill, Chevrolet, 100.

                17. (19)  Josh Williams, Chevrolet, 100.

                18. (29)  Joey Gase, Toyota, 100.

                19. (22)  Stefan Parsons, Toyota, 100.

                20. (26)  Ray Black II, Chevrolet, 100.

                21. (23)  Josh Bilicki, Chevrolet, 100.

                22. (21)  BJ McLeod, Chevrolet, 100.

                23. (30)  Stephen Leicht, Chevrolet, 100.

                24. (28)  Tommy Joe Martins, Toyota, 100.

                25. (27)  Matt Mills, Chevrolet, 100.

                26. (35)  Vinnie Miller, Chevrolet, 99.

                27. (6)  Austin Cindric, Ford, Engine, 98.

                28. (31)  Brandon Brown #, Chevrolet, 97.

                29. (3)  Christopher Bell, Toyota, Accident, 92.

                30. (4)  Tyler Reddick, Chevrolet, Accident, 92.

                31. (5)  John Hunter Nemechek #, Chevrolet, Accident, 79.

                32. (37)  Mike Harmon, Chevrolet, Electrical, 42.

                33. (36)  Chad Finchum, Toyota, Transmission, 41.

                34. (14)  Austin Dillon(i), Chevrolet, Fuel Pump, 37.

                35. (38)  Kyle Weatherman, Chevrolet, Overheating, 35.

                36. (33)  Morgan Shepherd, Chevrolet, Handling, 34.

                37. (25)  David Starr, Chevrolet, Engine, 23.

                38. (24)  JJ Yeley, Chevrolet, Suspension, 7.

Average Speed of Race Winner:  114.199 mph.

Time of Race:  2 Hrs, 11 Mins, 21 Secs. Margin of Victory:  0.132 Seconds.

Caution Flags:  8 for 31 laps.

Lead Changes:  14 among 7 drivers.

Lap Leaders:   K. Busch(i) 1-15;C. Bell 16-23;B. Jones 24-31;K. Busch(i) 32-34;N. Gragson # 35;K. Busch(i) 36-52;J. Allgaier 53-61;T. Reddick 62;J. Allgaier 63-65;K. Busch(i) 66-68;J. Allgaier 69-80;J. Williams 81-84;T. Reddick 85;C. Bell 86-92;K. Busch(i) 93-100.

Leaders Summary (Driver, Times Lead, Laps Led):  Kyle Busch(i) 5 times for 46 laps; Justin Allgaier 3 times for 24 laps; Christopher Bell 2 times for 15 laps; Brandon Jones 1 time for 8 laps; Josh Williams 1 time for 4 laps; Tyler Reddick 2 times for 2 laps; Noah Gragson # 1 time for 1 lap.

Stage #1 Top Ten: 19,22,18,9,00,7,20,11,98,2

Stage #2 Top Ten: 7,18,2,8,19,20,98,00,39,9

 

RACING RESULTS   RACING RESULTS RACING RESULTS   RACING RESULTS

gander outdoors TRUCK SERIES

Hill Passes Chastain Late to Win at Las Vegas, Advance in Playoffs

Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images

 

By Holly Cain, NASCAR Wire Service

LAS VEGAS – Austin Hill earned his third NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series win of the 2019 season Friday night at Las Vegas Motor Speedway – perhaps his most important victory as it advances him to the second round of the Playoffs with big momentum and raised expectations.

Hill’s No. 16 Hattori Racing Enterprises Toyota finished an impressive 2.116 seconds ahead of fellow Playoff competitor Ross Chastain, whose No. 45 Chevrolet led a race-best 88-of-134 laps. Polesitter Christian Eckes finished third in the Kyle Bush Motorsports Toyota.

“This means the world to me,’’ said Hill, 25, who passed Chastain for the lead with 11 laps remaining and pulled away to the substantial victory margin.

“When I saw the 45 (Chastain) in my sights, we were running close lap times. I changed my line a little bit. And that was a big statement win.’’

Much of the drama and heartbreak in the race happened to the drivers vying for the six positions that advanced to the next round of the Playoffs. Joining Hill in the Round of 6 are Chastain, defending series champion Brett Moffitt, Stewart Friesen, Tyler Ankrum and Matt Crafton.

Moffit faced the least pressure all day because he already transferred to the Round of 6 by winning the Playoffs opener at Bristol.

Chastain wrapped up his transfer spot via points after winning Stage 2.

Friesen carefully nursed his No. 52 Chevrolet to the race finish, posting a 19th-place showing after driving a truck that was down a cylinder and spending substantial stretches of the race on pit road.

Ankrum, an 18-year-old who wasn’t old enough by NASCAR rules to compete in the March Las Vegas race, held on to finish 11th and earn the final Playoff position – by a mere two-point margin over two-time series champion Johnny Sauter.

Sauter’s teammate Matt Crafton suffered a 30th-place finish, but he had enough of a points cushion coming to Las Vegas that he will advance in the Playoffs as well.

Heading into the Round of 8 finale, Sauter, Crafton and their ThorSport Racing teammate Grant Enfinger were seemingly  “sure-bets” to advance in the Playoffs. But before the halfway point of the race, they had their fates decided in unfortunate and unpredictable manners.

It was an especially gut-wrenching early end to Enfinger’s championship hopes. Crowned the series’ regular season champion three races ago, the past Las Vegas winner retired after only seven laps when his No. 98 Ford suffered an engine failure. He took the green flag with two points to the good on making the Round of 6 and only minutes later had his championship hopes deflated with the turn of events.

“It’s just frustrating,’’ Enfinger said. “These guys work their tails off all year. We had a good truck, just wasn’t meant to be.”

Only 33 laps later, Sauter and Crafton suffered their simultaneous race-ending problems. Crafton’s No. 88 Ford had to pull off track and he climbed out as the safety crew arrived.

Sauter was able to drive his truck back to pit road where crew members had to extinguish flames under the hood. The team took it to the garage and although he tried to return to the race for the final stage, his truck’s engine gave out on the first lap of the restart.

Crafton, meanwhile, had to pull his No. 88 ThorSport truck off the track immediately for the safety crew to work on.

“The 13 (Sauter), I saw him hit something and whatever it was it hit our truck too,’’ Crafton said. “I said the 13’s on fire and they told me I was on fire.’’

“I really thought we had something tonight, but we’ll rebound.’’

The next race is set for Oct. 12 at Talladega (Ala.) Superspeedway.

NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series Race – 23rd Annual World of Westgate 200

Las Vegas Motor Speedway

Las Vegas, Nevada

Friday, September 13, 2019

  1. (7)  Austin Hill (P), Toyota, 134.
  2. (2)  Ross Chastain (P), Chevrolet, 134.
  3. (1)  Christian Eckes, Toyota, 134.
  4. (6)  Sheldon Creed #, Chevrolet, 134.
  5. (3)  Todd Gilliland, Toyota, 134.
  6. (18)  Brennan Poole, Toyota, 134.
  7. (4)  Brett Moffitt (P), Chevrolet, 134.
  8. (13)  Ben Rhodes, Ford, 134.
  9. (9)  Harrison Burton #, Toyota, 134.
  10. (17)  Dylan Lupton, Toyota, 134.
  11. (16)  Tyler Ankrum # (P), Toyota, 134.
  12. (15)  Anthony Alfredo #, Toyota, 134.
  13. (12)  Anthony Mrakovich, Chevrolet, 134.
  14. (14)  Jordan Anderson, Chevrolet, 134.
  15. (23)  Gus Dean #, Chevrolet, 133.
  16. (27)  Codie Rohrbaugh, Chevrolet, 133.
  17. (26)  Austin Wayne Self, Chevrolet, 133.
  18. (20)  Spencer Davis, Toyota, 133.
  19. (19)  Stewart Friesen (P), Chevrolet, 132.
  20. (29)  Spencer Boyd, Chevrolet, 132.
  21. (25)  Colin Garrett(i), Chevrolet, 131.
  22. (30)  Angela Ruch, Chevrolet, 131.
  23. (32)  Justin Johnson, Toyota, 127.
  24. (31)  Jennifer Jo Cobb, Chevrolet, 90.
  25. (21)  Natalie Decker #, Toyota, Electrical, 87.
  26. (22)  Tyler Dippel, Chevrolet, Engine, 80.
  27. (24)  Derek Kraus, Toyota, Transmission, 77.
  28. (28)  Mason Massey IV, Chevrolet, Engine, 63.
  29. (10)  Johnny Sauter (P), Ford, Engine, 45.
  30. (5)  Matt Crafton (P), Ford, Engine, 39.
  31. (8)  Grant Enfinger (P), Ford, Engine, 6.
  32. (11)  John Hunter Nemechek(i), Chevrolet, Fuel Pressure, 0.

Average Speed of Race Winner:  112.71 mph.

Time of Race:  1 Hrs, 47 Mins, 0 Secs. Margin of Victory:  2.116 Seconds.

Caution Flags:  6 for 32 laps.

Lead Changes:  21 among 5 drivers.

Lap Leaders:   C. Eckes 1-3;R. Chastain (P) 4-12;C. Eckes 13;R. Chastain (P) 14-16;A. Hill (P) 17-18;R. Chastain (P) 19-33;A. Hill (P) 34-45;R. Chastain (P) 46-48;A. Hill (P) 49;R. Chastain (P) 50;A. Hill (P) 51;R. Chastain (P) 52-63;B. Moffitt (P) 64-72;R. Chastain (P) 73;B. Moffitt (P) 74-75;R. Chastain (P) 76-82;A. Hill (P) 83;S. Boyd 84;R. Chastain (P) 85-86;B. Moffitt (P) 87;R. Chastain (P) 88-122;A. Hill (P) 123-134.

Leaders Summary (Driver, Times Lead, Laps Led):  Ross Chastain (P) 10 times for 88 laps; Austin Hill (P) 6 times for 29 laps; Brett Moffitt (P) 3 times for 12 laps; Christian Eckes 2 times for 4 laps; Spencer Boyd 1 time for 1 lap.

Stage #1 Top Ten: 45,88,16,13,4,2,30,18,24,17

Stage #2 Top Ten: 45,16,24,99,30,51,2,4,17,12

 

NEWS AND NOTES   NEWS AND NOTESNEWS AND NOTES   NEWS AND NOTES

MONSTER ENERGY CUP SERIES

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

 

 

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”

 

 

Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series

Next Race: Big Machine Vodka 400 at the Brickyard powered by Florida Georgia Line

The Place: Indianapolis Motor Speedway

The Date: Sunday, September 8

The Time: 2 p.m. ET

TV: NBC, 1:30 p.m. ET

Radio: IMS Radio, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio

Distance: 400 miles (160 laps); Stage 1 (Ends on Lap 50),

Stage 2 (Ends on Lap 100), Final Stage (Ends on Lap 160)

2018 Race Winner: Brad Keselowski

 

Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series

 

Last race to make the Playoffs

There have been 25 race trophies awarded this season – 25 opportunities to lock in a Playoff berth – but for the four drivers on the bubble, the last two Playoff positions will depend on their outing in Sunday’s Big Machine Vodka 400 at the Brickyard powered by Florida Georgia Line at Indianapolis Motor Speedway (Sunday at 2 p.m. ET on NBC, IMS and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio).

 

Veteran Clint Bowyer in 15th holds an eight-point edge on Stewart-Haas Racing teammate Daniel Suarez and Roush Fenway Racing driver Ryan Newman, who are tied in points. Suarez, however, holds the tiebreaker and is currently slotted into the 16th and final Playoff position entering the race while Newman is on the outside in 17th.

 

Seven-time Cup champion Jimmie Johnson is ranked 18th – 18 points behind Suarez and Newman and 26 points behind Bowyer.

 

But there is also the possibility that a driver ranked below this foursome could earn one of those Playoff spots with a victory Sunday – which would leave room for only one of them to advance to the postseason on points.

 

Of the four still eligible to point their way in – Johnson holds a clear statistical advantage. Only NASCAR Hall of Famer and former Hendrick Motorsports teammate Jeff Gordon has won more Indianapolis races (five) than Johnson’s four. And Newman is the only other driver among this Playoff-hopeful quartet with a victory at Indianapolis – winning the 2013 race from the pole position.

 

In order of their current ranking, Bowyer has three top-five and four top-10 finishes in 13 Indianapolis starts, including a fifth place last year when he tied Denny Hamlin with a race-best 37 laps led.

 

Suarez has finishes of seventh and 18th in two starts at Indianapolis but has never led a lap. 

 

Newman has had three top-five and five top-10 finishes in 18 career starts, including a third place in 2017. He’s finished in the top 10 in his last two Indianapolis starts, adding in a 10th-place result last year.

 

With his four Brickyard trophies, Johnson is not only best among those still vying for a Playoff positions but also best in Sunday’s field. He has six top-five and seven top-10 finishes in 17 starts. He won there four times in a seven-year span between 2006-2012, was runner-up in 2013 and then third in 2016. He was 16th last year.

 

Last week Bowyer bested the four drivers with a sixth-place finish at Darlington – good enough to move him up from 17th in the standings to a Playoff-eligible 15th. His SHR teammate Suarez was 11th at Darlington, securing him that 16th-place designation while Newman was 23rd Saturday night, putting him 17th in the Playoff standings – one spot out of the postseason.

 

Johnson finished 16th but earned some important stage points. He was running fourth when he was collected in a multi-car accident on Lap 276 of the 367-lap race.

 

Of note - Johnson has never missed the Playoffs in the 15 years the postseason has been in place for the Monster Energy Series.

 

And a historical note that Newman and Johnson will try to overcome…in the most recent two seasons, no driver raced into the Playoffs by virtue of his finish in the regular season finale.

 

Keselowski looking to go back-to-back at Indianapolis

The defending winner of the Big Machine Vodka 400 at the Brickyard powered by Florida Georgia Line at Indianapolis Motor Speedway (Sunday at 2 p.m. ET on NBC, IMS, and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio) comes from a team whose owner knows how to find Victory Lane at the historic 2.5-mile track.

 

Brad Keselowski’s Team Penske owner Roger Penske is the winningest team owner in Indianapolis 500 history (18 victories, including this year). And Keselowski’s victory at the historic track last year made Penske a proud winner of NASCAR’s race at the venue, as well.

 

Keselowski is living up to the Penske tradition at Indianapolis. He won the race last year, finished runner-up in 2017 and has five top-10 finishes in nine starts. Also very telling, Keselowski has led laps in seven of the nine races he’s run – 108 laps total.

 

Only two drivers – Jimmie Johnson (2008-2009) and Kyle Busch (2015-16) – have won back-to-back Indianapolis races, but Keselowski has to be a favorite to become the third.

 

This season he has three victories in the No. 2 Team Penske Ford – at Atlanta, Martinsville, Va., and Kansas. Keselowski has nine top-five and 14 top-10 finishes through the opening 25 races – including top-10 results in five of the last six. He’s coming off top-five showings at Bristol, Tenn. (third place) and last weekend at Darlington, S.C. (fifth).

 

He sits sixth in the points standings and his 966 laps led with 11 races remaining is more than he totaled in each of the three previous complete seasons.

 

Keselowski in locked into the Monster Energy Series Playoffs and is chasing his second title after winning the championship trophy for Team Penske in 2012 with a five-win season.

 

Kyle Busch locks up regular season championship

Kyle Busch wrapped up his second straight regular season championship last week at Darlington Raceway with a third-place finish and another stage win. He had been battling Team Penske driver Joey Logano for that top position all season, finally taking it back for good four races ago after the Watkins Glen, N.Y. road course race.

 

Busch has led the standings for 14 of the 25 weeks – most among drivers this season – and was never ranked lower than fourth, where he spent one week after the race in his native Las Vegas. He has a series-best 10 stage victories.

 

The title gives the four-time winner an extra 15 Playoff points for the postseason, which begins next week in Vegas.

 

“Obviously we set out to do that here a few weeks back,’’ Busch said of his regular season championship. “We knew when he [Logano] passed us and got the lead from us that it was going to be hard to get it back. But fortunately, we went back into stage racing a little bit more and tried to get some of the stage points and that helped us.’’

 

The bad news for Busch’s competition is that this week’s regular season finale at Indianapolis Motor Speedway has been an especially successful venue for the 2015 Monster Energy Series champion of late. He has won the last three pole positions and two of the last four Brickyard 400s. In fact, Busch (2015-16) and Jimmie Johnson (2008-09) are the only drivers in history to win back-to-back races at the historic 2.5-mile facility.

 

Busch has an impressive 11 top-10 finishes in 14 Indianapolis races, second only to Kevin Harvick’s 12, including seven straight from 2010-2016. He led a record 149 of 170 laps – from pole position - en route to his dominating 2016 win, one of only five times in the race’s 25-year history a driver has led at least 100 laps.

 

With the regular season title in hand, a series-best 1,166 laps led and seven top-10 finishes in the last 10 races, Busch is in good form as the Playoffs approach. But his last victory was 11 races ago during the first visit to Pocono, and he’s hungry for another win.

 

Hamlin riding a hot streak into the Playoffs

Despite a rough outing at Darlington (S.C.) Raceway over the weekend, Joe Gibbs Racing driver Denny Hamlin is easily one of the hottest drivers headed into NASCAR’s postseason. He, along with several other race front-runners, was involved in a late-race, multi-car accident – not of his doing – the 29th-place finish that resulted snapped an impressive streak of six consecutive top-five finishes for the four-time race winner.

 

Hamlin has led 373 laps in the No. 11 JGR Toyota with wins in the Daytona 500 and at Texas, Pocono-2 and then two weeks ago at Bristol from the pole position. The combined work of his 13 top-five finishes this year and the four victories has him ranked third in the Monster Energy Series points standings as the series holds its last regular season race this week at the historic Indianapolis Motor Speedway, a venue where the championship challenger has never won.

 

Hamlin has come close, however.

 

He has five top-five and seven top-10 finishes in 13 starts at Indianapolis with a best showing of third place – in 2014 and last year. He’s finished among the top-five in four of the last five races at Indianapolis and his 37 laps led last year is the most time he’s had out front at the track.

 

A good showing at Indy would certainly boost his momentum heading into the 10-race championship Playoff that begins next week in Las Vegas. Among the other four-race winners – JGR teammates Kyle Busch and Martin Truex Jr. – Hamlin has had the most recent success.

 

It’s been 10 races since Truex claimed his fourth trophy at the Sonoma, Calif. road course and it’s been 12 races since Busch last won – at the first Pocono, Pa. race of the summer. 

 

After slow start (by his standards), Harvick is on a roll

As many predicted, getting that first victory of 2019 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway six weeks ago may have been the boost Kevin Harvick needed to make a true Playoff run. He has 16 top-10s through the opening 25 races, but since that first win, he has five top-10 finishes (and another win at Michigan) in the last six races. The only sore spot on this run was a 39th place at Bristol two weeks ago after his No. 4 Stewart-Haas Racing Ford suffered a clutch problem.

 

Harvick answered that tough day with a fourth-place result at Darlington on Sunday night and is also in fourth place in the points as the regular season closes this weekend at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, where Harvick is always a favorite.

 

He has an impressive 12 top-10 finishes, best in the field, in 16 starts at Indianapolis and won from the pole in 2003. Harvick has finished eighth or better in the last five races there, including finishing fourth last year. He’s led laps in three of the last five races.

 

Indianapolis Motor Speedway has always been a special venue for Harvick, who grew up in Bakersfield, Calif. – also home to four-time Indy 500 winner Rick Mears. To win at the same track as his lifelong racing hero has a sentimental value unlike any other place the series races.

 

“For me, I grew up in Bakersfield, California, as a Rick Means fan,’’ Harvick said. “Indianapolis Motor Speedway, as a child, that was your racing dream. That was where you wanted to race. I’ve been fortunate to have won the Brickyard 400 and kind of live out that childhood dream.

 

“There is a mystique and history, and everything you can think about in racing that has happened for over 100 years has happened at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. … I always feel like it is one of the most special places that you can race because that is all I wanted to do as a kid.’’

 

Teams sweeping their way into the Playoffs

With one race left to formally set the 2019 16-driver Playoff field, there are three teams that have “swept” their way into the championship battle – and two others whose could match that mark after this week’s Brickyard 400 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

 

One that’s certain – Joe Gibbs Racing has earned a Playoff opportunity for all four of its drivers – four-time winner and regular season champion Kyle Busch, four-race winners Martin Truex Jr. and Denny Hamlin and the newest winner this season, last weekend’s Darlington victor, Erik Jones.

 

Team Penske will field all three of their cars in the Playoffs. Defending Monster Energy Series champion Joey Logano challenged Busch for the regular season title all year and has a pair of wins heading to Indy. His teammate – the defending Brickyard 400 winner - Brad Keselowski has three wins in 2019 and the third driver, Ryan Blaney, is ranked 10th in the standings now and has locked himself in the Playoffs on points.

 

Chip Ganassi Racing is the other team with both of its drivers already eligible for the championship run. First-year CGR driver Kurt Busch won at Kentucky Speedway this summer. And Kyle Larson is ranked ninth in the standings, still looking for his win.

 

Stewart-Haas Racing is looking to get all four of its cars into the Playoffs for the second time. Two-race winner Kevin Harvick is locked in on wins, while teammate Aric Almirola secured a spot on points. Clint Bowyer (15th) and Daniel Suarez (16th) are looking to complete the SHR sweep heading into the regular season finale.

 

And Hendrick Motorsports currently has three of their four drivers in – Chase Elliott and Alex Bowman locked themselves in with wins, while William Byron is in on points. The fourth, and most veteran, member of the team – Jimmie Johnson – currently sits in 18th, just outside the Playoff cutoff.

 

Only eight points separate Bowyer (15th) from Suarez (16th) and Newman (17th). And 26 points separate Bowyer from 18th-place Jimmie Johnson. Of those four drivers, Johnson is a four-time Indianapolis winner and Newman won the 2013 race from the pole position.

 

Leading the way at Indianapolis

Only five times in 25 races has a driver led at least 100 laps in the 170-lap Brickyard 400 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Kyle Busch holds the record for laps led en route to a win – leading for 149 of 170 laps in his 2016 victory from pole.

 

NASCAR Hall of Famer Dale Jarrett was the first to lead 100 laps and win the race – famously kissing the bricks after a dominating 1999 victory when he led 117 laps and beat Bobby Labonte to the checkered.

 

Labonte answered that however, with a unique honor the very next year. He led 21 laps in earning the 2000 Brickyard 400 title over second-place Rusty Wallace, who led 110 laps on the day. It marked the first time a driver led 100 laps and did not win the race. The other time was 2009 when Juan Pablo Montoya – a two-time Indy 500 winner – led 116 laps but finished 11th.

 

Jeff Gordon led 124 laps to take the 2004 Brickyard victory – the most dominating win of his record five Indy triumphs.

 

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

Six drivers from the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series – Hendrick Motorsports’ William Byron and Chase Elliott; Chip Ganassi Racing’s Kyle Larson; Joe Gibbs Racing’s Erik Jones; Roush Fenway Racing’s Ricky Stenhouse Jr.; and Wood Brothers Racing’s Paul Menard will be participating in this week’s media rotations at Indianapolis Motor Speedway in advance of Sunday’s Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series’ Big Machine Vodka 400 (2 p.m. ET on NBC, IMS and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio).

 

William Byron, 21, of Charlotte, N.C. is looking to head into his first Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Playoff with some of the momentum he showed midseason. He earned his career-best finish of runner-up at the summer Daytona race, has won four pole positions and tallied a career high eight top-10s and two-top-fives with a third of the season still remaining. Byron’s 180 laps led in 2019 is also a career best for the second-year Cup driver, but he hasn’t led a lap since Chicago two months ago. He won the pole position last week at Darlington, S.C. in the No. 24 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet but finished 21st. He has only one previous Cup start on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway starting 22nd and finishing 19th last year. However, Byron won his Xfinity Series debut at Indianapolis in 2017. He’s ranked 13th in the championship standings.

 

Chase Elliott, 23, of Dawsonville, Ga., is enjoying another career year with victories at Talladega, Ala. and Watkins Glen, N.Y. already highlighting an impressive season total of 10 top-10s and eight top-fives. He had a streak of three consecutive top-10 finishes snapped at Darlington Sunday night with a 19th place run. He’s led laps in three of the last four races and is ranked eighth in the championship. Indianapolis has been a challenging venue for the driver of the No. 9 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet. He has yet to lead a lap or score a top-10 in four previous starts at the big track. His best showing is 15th – his finish last year and also in 2016.

 

Kyle Larson, 27, of Elk Grove, Calif., finished runner-up to Erik Jones Saturday night at Darlington, S.C.- his second runner-up finish this season and fifth consecutive top-10 this summer. He’s finished in the top-10 six of the last seven races and has 12 top-10s on the season along with six top-five efforts. Larson’s ninth place ranking in the Cup standings is his highest since being eighth after the third race (Fontana) of the season. The driver of the No.42 Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet has plenty of reason to be optimistic about this weekend’s Indianapolis stop. He has three top-10s – including a career best fifth in 2016 – in five starts. He was 14th last year.

 

Erik Jones, 23, of Byron, Mich., earned his first victory of 2019 last weekend at Darlington, S.C. leading a season high 79 laps and becoming the fourth driver on his Joe Gibbs Racing team to celebrate in Victory Lane this year. Jones has had a remarkable year in the No. 19 JGR Toyota with 13 top-10 and nine top-five efforts. His victory helped him jump three positions in the Cup standings and he’s now 11th – his best position since March. Best of all for Jones, he takes his trophy to Indianapolis this week where he was runner-up to Brad Keselowski last summer in only his second start at the track. He led 10 laps in 2017 his maiden race at Indianapolis but was in a crash and finished 31st.

 

Ricky Stenhouse Jr., 31, of Olive Branch, Miss., is hoping to capitalize on his one last Playoff opportunity this week. It’s been a trying season with only two top-10 and a single top-five effort. His best work was a fifth place at Charlotte in May. He has two top-20s in the last eight races and was 33rd at both of the series’ last races in Bristol, Tenn. and Darlington, S.C. The driver of the No. 17 Roush-Fenway Racing Ford is looking for his first top-10 finish at Indianapolis. His best showing in six previous races is 12th in 2016. He was 34th at Indianapolis last year.

 

Paul Menard, 39, of Eau Claire, Wisc., earned his only career Cup victory at Indianapolis Motor Speedway in 2011 and had a top 10 (ninth) last year. A good showing this weekend – a win is his only opportunity at a Playoff berth – would be important for the driver of the famed No. 21 Wood Brothers Ford entry. He has three top-10s on the season including a best of sixth place at Bristol, Tenn. in the Spring. He was ninth last week at Darlington and has seven top-20 showings in the last eight races.

 

NEWS AND NOTES   NEWS AND NOTESNEWS AND NOTES   NEWS AND NOTES

XFINITY SERIES

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 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 Xfinity Series

Next Race: Indiana 250

The Place: Indianapolis Motor Speedway

The Date: Saturday, September 7

The Time: 3 p.m. ET

TV: NBCSN, 2:30 p.m. ET

Radio: IMS Radio, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio

Distance: 250 miles (100 Laps); Stage 1 (Ends on Lap 30),

Stage 2 (Ends on Lap 60), Final Stage (Ends on Lap 100)

2018 Race Winner: Justin Allgaier

NASCAR Xfinity Series

 

Back to the iconic Indianapolis Motor Speedway

Indianapolis Motor Speedway is considered one of the most prestigious and historic tracks in American racing history, and this weekend the NASCAR Xfinity Series returns to the Brickyard for the Indiana 250 on Saturday, September 7, at 3 p.m. ET on NBCSN, IMS and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio.

 

The almost rectangular-shaped, four-corner track is 2.5-miles in length, located in Indianapolis, Indiana, with nine degrees of banking in the four turns. This season’s Indiana 250 will be 100 laps (250 miles) with the first stage ending on Lap 30 and the second stage ending on Lap 60.

 

Indianapolis Motor Speedway has hosted seven NASCAR Xfinity Series races, engendering three different pole winners and five different race winners. Joe Gibbs Racing’s Kyle Busch leads the series in poles (four) and wins (three) at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. 

 

JR Motorsport’s Justin Allgaier won the 2018 NASCAR Xfinity Series race at Indianapolis; he is still looking for his first victory of the 2019 season this weekend.  

 

Regular season championship on the line

With the regular season coming to a close, Richard Childress Racing’s Tyler Reddick has the opportunity to clinch the NASCAR Xfinity Series regular season championship this weekend at Indianapolis Motor Speedway in the Indiana 250 on Saturday, September 7 at 3 p.m. ET on NBCSN, IMS and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio.

 

Reddick can clinch the regular season title at Indianapolis if he leaves the race with a 61-point lead on second in the NASCAR Xfinity Series driver standings. He currently holds a 51-point lead on second-place Christopher Bell.

 

Reddick has made two series starts at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, posting a best finish of runner-up last season.

 

Playoff Crunch: To clinch or not to clinch

Just two races remain in the NASCAR Xfinity Series regular season for drivers to lock themselves into the Playoffs with a win or by points. Noah Gragson clinched a spot in the postseason on points last weekend at Darlington Raceway, joining Tyler Reddick (four wins, standings leader), Christopher Bell (six wins), Cole Custer (six wins), Austin Cindric (two wins), Chase Briscoe (one win), Michael Annett (one win) and Justin Allgaier (one win) as the eight drivers who have now clinched. Four spots remain.

 

Here are the NASCAR Xfinity Series Playoff clinch scenarios for Indianapolis Motor Speedway:

 

The magic number is 56:

    • If there is a new winner, a clinching driver needs to be 56 points ahead of the fifth-highest winless driver.
    • If there is a repeat winner (or wins by Allgaier, Gragson, Haley, Nemechek, Jones) (possible: Haley, Nemechek, Jones), a clinching driver needs to be 56 points ahead of the sixth-highest winless driver.

 

Justin Haley – Would clinch with a win or would clinch on points with 45 points and a new winner.  If there is a repeat winner (or a win by Justin Allgaier, Noah Gragson, John Hunter Nemechek or Brandon Jones), he would clinch on points with 23 points. 

 

Haley will be making his series track debut this weekend at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

 

John Hunter Nemechek – Would clinch with a win or could clinch on points with help.

 

Nemechek made his series track debut at Indianapolis last season. He started sixth and led two laps, but was caught in an incident that relegated him to a 25th-place finish.

 

Brandon Jones – Would clinch with a win or could clinch on points with a repeat winner (or a win by Justin Allgaier, Noah Gragson, Justin Haley or John Hunter Nemechek) and help.

 

Jones has made three series starts at Indianapolis, posting three top 10s and an average finish of 9.7.

 

All other drivers can only clinch with a win.

 

Xfinity’s Big 3 continue to win

The 2019 season has been dominated by three talented drivers – Richard Childress Racing’s Tyler Reddick, Joe Gibbs Racing’s Christopher Bell and Stewart-Haas Racing’s Cole Custer – and their winning ways don’t seem to be slowing. In total they have claimed 18 of the first 24 races of the season – a 75% winning percentage – and this weekend they turn their attention to Indianapolis Motor Speedway for the Indiana 250 on Saturday at 3 p.m. ET on NBCSN, IMS and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio.

 

Cole Custer is the most recent of the “Big 3” to win, clutching his sixth victory this past weekend after Denny Hamlin was disqualified for failing post-race inspection. Custer is now looking for win No. 7 this weekend at Indianapolis, a track where he has made two starts, finishing fifth in 2017 and then 29th last season due to an incident.

 

Christopher Bell is also looking for his seventh win of the season and his first at Indianapolis Motor Speedway this weekend. The JGR standout made his series track debut at Indianapolis last season, starting seventh and finishing seventh.

 

Xfinity points leader Tyler Reddick has four wins on the season but would gladly add a fifth this weekend at Indianapolis. Reddick has made two series starts at Indianapolis Motor Speedway posting a best finish of runner-up last season.

 

Kyle Busch and Austin Dillon to pull double duty in Indianapolis

Two big names in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series – Kyle Busch and Austin Dillon - are pulling double duty this weekend and will compete in the NASCAR Xfinity Series race the Indiana 250 on Saturday, September 7 at 3 p.m. ET on NBCSN, IMS and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio.

 

Kyle Busch will drive the No. 18 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota with crew chief Ben Beshore. Busch will be quite the contender to challenge this weekend at Indianapolis as the Las Vegas native leads the series in poles (four) and wins (three) at the 2.5-mile track. Plus, in 2016, he became the first driver to win both the NASCAR Xfinity and Monster Energy Series races at Indianapolis from the pole.

 

Austin Dillon will be piloting the No. 10 Kaulig Racing’s Chevrolet with crew chief Lennie Chandler. Dillon has made three Xfinity Series starts at Indianapolis, posting one top five and two top 10s.

 

Parade Laps: Insights into the drivers participating the media breakouts

This weekend’s NASCAR Xfinity Series media breakouts will be Saturday, Sept. 7 at 10-10:15 a.m. in the Indianapolis Motor Speedway media center deadline room and will include the following drivers – Kaulig Racing’s Justin Haley, Stewart-Haas Racing with Fred Biagi’s Chase Briscoe, JR Motorsport’s Justin Allgaier and Stewart-Haas Racing’s Cole Custer.

 

Justin Haley (No. 11 Kaulig Racing Chevrolet Camaro)

Birthdate: April 28, 1999

Driver’s Age: 20

Hometown: Winamac, Indiana

Hobbies: Muscle car restoration, sports car racing, surfing, fishing and hunting, triathlons,

mountain biking, fitness, graphics & design, anything competitive

Team: Kaulig Racing

Crew Chief: Alex Yontz

Xfinity Career Highlights:

  • Signed with Kaulig Racing in the off-season to run his first full season in the NASCAR Xfinity Series in 2019 – a Sunoco Rookie of the Year contender.
  • Posted series career-best finish of runner-up – this season at Daytona in July.
  • Made NASCAR Xfinity Series career debut last season - making three starts for GMS Racing posting a best finish of 12th at Iowa Speedway.

2019 Season Highlights:

  • Currently ninth in the NASCAR Xfinity driver championship standings, 327 points back from the series standings leader Tyler Reddick, and 207 points ahead of the Playoff cutoff.
  • In 24 starts this season he has posted two top fives, 16 top 10s and an average finish of 10.7.
  • Currently third in Sunoco Rookie of the Year standings, 66 points back from Chase Briscoe in the rookie standings lead.

Indianapolis Motor Speedway Performance:

  • This weekend he will be making his series track debut at Indianapolis.

 

Chase Briscoe (No. 98 Stewart-Haas Racing with Fred Biagi Ford Mustang)

Birthdate: December 15, 1994

Driver’s Age: 24

Hometown: Mitchell, Indiana

Hobbies: Spending time with family, online racing, watching sports

Team: Stewart-Haas Racing with Fred Biagi

Crew Chief: Richard Boswell II

Xfinity Career Highlights:

  • Made NASCAR Xfinity Series debut in 2018 at Atlanta.
  • Ran 17 Xfinity races last season for Roush Fenway Racing (12) and Stewart-Haas Racing with Fred Biagi (five) and won the inaugural race at the Charlotte ROVAL.

2019 Season Highlights:

  • Currently sixth in the NASCAR Xfinity Series driver standings, 233 points back from the series standings lead.
  • In 24 starts this season he has posted one win (Iowa-2), nine top fives, 19 top 10s and an average finish of 8.2.

Indianapolis Motor Speedway Performance:

  • Made his series track debut at Indianapolis last season; he started 22nd and finished ninth.

 

Justin Allgaier (No. 7 JR Motorsports Chevrolet Camaro)

Birthdate: June 6, 1986

Driver’s Age: 33

Hometown: Riverton, Illinois

Hobbies: R/C cars, wakeboarding, graphic design, dirt racing

Team: JR Motorsports

Crew Chief: Jason Burdett

Xfinity Career Highlights:

  • In 2018, he won the NASCAR Xfinity Series regular season championship and made the Playoffs for the third consecutive season after posting a career-high five wins on the season.
  • In 2016 and 2017, made the Championship 4 in the NASCAR Xfinity Series Playoffs.
  • In 2011, 2016 and 2017, scored career-best third-place finish in NASCAR Xfinity Series standings.
  • Won first career NASCAR Xfinity Series race in 2010, at Bristol in March. Currently has 10 career Xfinity wins.
  • Won 2009 NASCAR Xfinity Series Sunoco Rookie of the Year honors.

2019 Season Highlights:

  • Currently fourth in the NASCAR Xfinity driver points standings (highest ranked driver without a win), 172 points back from the series standings leader Tyler Reddick. He has already clinched a Playoff spot on points.
  • In 24 starts this season he has posted nine top fives, 16 top 10s and an average finish of 10.6.

Indianapolis Motor Speedway Performance:

  • Has made five series starts at Indianapolis posting one win (2018) and two top fives.

 

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 third in the NASCAR Xfinity driver points standings, 136 points back from the series standings leader Tyler Reddick. Has already clinched a Playoff spot on wins.
  • In 24 starts this season he has posted five poles (Bristol, Dover, Pocono, Iowa, New Hampshire), six wins (California, Richmond, Pocono, Chicago, Kentucky and Darlington), 12 top fives and 16 top 10s.
  • Has won six stages and accumulated 36 Playoff points. 

Indianapolis Motor Speedway Performance:

  • Has made two series starts at Indianapolis posting one top-five finish.  

 

NEWS AND NOTES   NEWS AND NOTESNEWS AND NOTES   NEWS AND NOTES

gander outdoors TRUCK SERIES

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

NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series

 

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

Breaking down the 1.5-mile tracks for the Playoff contenders

Following one more weekend 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, September 13 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.

 

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.

 

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.

 

NEWS AND NOTES   NEWS AND NOTESNEWS AND NOTES   NEWS AND NOTES

NASCAR

 

DATERACELOCATION
Feb. 10Advance Auto Parts ClashDaytona International Speedway
Feb. 14Can-Am DuelDaytona International Speedway
Feb. 17Daytona 500Daytona International Speedway
Feb. 24Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500Atlanta Motor Speedway
Mar. 3Penzoil 400Las Vegas Motor Speedway
Mar. 10TicketGuardian 500 ISM Raceway
Mar. 17Auto Club 400Auto Club Speedway
Mar. 24STP 500Martinsville Speedway
Mar. 31O'Reilly Auto Parts 500Texas Motor Speedway
Apr. 7Food City 500Bristol Motor Speedway
Apr. 13Toyota Owners 400Richmond International Raceway
Apr. 28GEICO 500Talladega Superspeedway
May 5Monster Energy at DoverDover International Speedway
May 11Monster Energy at Kansas Kansas Speedway
May 18Monster Energy Open/All StarCharlotte Motor Speedway
May 26Coca-Cola 600Charlotte Motor Speedway
June 2Pocono 400Pocono Raceway
June 9FireKeepers Casino 400Michigan International Speedway
June 23Toyota/Save Mart 350Sonoma Raceway
June 30Overton’s 400Chicagoland Speedway
July 6Coke Zero 400Daytona International Speedway
July 13Quaker State 400Kentucky Speedway
July 21New Hampshire 301New Hampshire Motor Speedway
July 28Gander Outdoors 400Pocono Raceway
Aug. 4GoBowling at the GlenWatkins Glen International
Aug. 11Consumers Energy 400Michigan International Speedway
Aug. 17Bass Pro Shops NRABristol Motor Speedway
Sep. 1Bojangles' Southern 500Darlington Raceway
Sep. 8Big Machine Brickyard 400Indianapolis Motor Speedway
Sep. 15South Point 400 – Round of 16 Las Vegas Motor Speedway
Sep. 21Federal Auto Parts 400 - Round of 16 Richmond Raceway
Sep. 29Bank of America 500 - Round of 16 Charlotte Motor Speedway
Oct. 6Dover 400 - Round of 12 Dover International Speedway
Oct. 13Alabama 500 - Round of 16 Talladega Superspeedway
Oct. 20Hollywood Casino 400 - Round of 16 Kansas Superspeedway
Oct. 27First Data 400 - Round of 8 Martinsville Speedway
Nov. 3AAA Texas 500 - Round of 8 Texas Motor Speedway
Nov. 10Can-Am 500 - Round of 8 Phoenix International Raceway
Nov. 17Ford EcoBoost 400 - Championship Homestead-Miami Speedway
 

 

Sat, 2/16Daytona 300Daytona, FL
Sat, 2/23Rinnai 250Hampton, GA
Sat, 3/2Boyd Gaming 300Las Vegas, NV
Sat, 3/9DC Solar 200Avondale, AZ
Sat, 3/16Roseanne 300Fontana, CA
Sat, 3/30My Bariatric Solutions 300Fort Worth, TX
Sat., 4/6Fitzgerald Glider Kits 300Bristol, TN
Fri. 4/12ToyotaCare 250Richmond, VA
Sat, 4/27Sparks Energy 300Lincoln, AL
Sat, 5/4OneMain Financial 200Dover, DE
Sat, 5/25Alsco 300Concord, NC
Sat, 6/1Pocono Green 250Long Pond, PA
Sat, 6/8LTi Printing 250Brooklyn, MI
Sun, 6/16Iowa 250Newton, IA
Sat, 6/29Overton’s 300Joliet, IL
Fri, 7/5Coca-Cola Firecracker 250Daytona , FL
Fri, 7/12Alsco 300Sparta, KY
Sat, 7/20Lakes Region 200Loudon, NH
Sat, 7/27U.S. Cellular 250Newton, IA
Sat, 8/3Zippo 200 at The GlenWatkins Glen, NY
Sat, 8/10Mid-Ohio ChallengeLexington, OH
Fri, 8/16Food City 300Bristol, TN
Sat, 8/24Johnsonville 180Elkhart Lake, WI
Sat, 8/31VFW Sport Clips Help a Hero 200Darlington, SC
Sat, 9/7Lilly Diabetes 250Indianapolis, IN
Sat, 9/14DC Solar 300Las Vegas, NV
Fri, 9/20Go Bowling 250Richmond, VA
Sat, 9/28Drive for the Cure 300Concord, NC
Sat, 10/5Dover 200Dover, DE
Sat, 10/19Kansas Lottery 300Kansas City, KS
Sat, 11/2O'Reilly Auto Parts 300Fort Worth, TX
Sat, 11/9ISM 200Avondale, AZ
Sat, 11/16Ford EcoBoost 300Homestead, FL

 

Date Race Track
2/15 NextEra Energy 250 Daytona International Speedway
2/23 Atlanta 200 Atlanta Motor Speedway
3/1 Stratoshere 200 Las Vegas Motor Speedway
3/23 Martinsville 250 Martinsville Speedway
3/29 Vankor 350 Texas Motor Speedway
5/3 JEGS 200 Dover International Speedway
5/10 Kansas 250 Kansas Speedway
5/17 N.C. Education Lottery 200 Charlotte Motor Speedway
6/7 Rattlesnake 400 Texas Motor Speedway
6/15 Iowa 200 Iowa Speedway
6/22 Gateway 200 Gateway Motorsports Park
6/28 Overton’s 225 Chicagoland Speedway
7/11 Kentucky 225 Kentucky Speedway
7/27 Pocono 150 Pocono Raceway
8/1 Eldora Dirt Derby Eldora Speedway
8/10 Corrigan Oil 200 Michigan International Speedway
8/15 UNOH 200 Bristol Motor Speedway
8/25 Chevrolet Silverado 25 Canadian Tire Motorsport Park
9/13 World of Westgate 200 Las Vegas Motor Speedway
10/12 Sugarlands Shine 250 Talladega Superspeedway
10/26 Martinsville 200 Martinsville Speedway
11/8 Lucas Oil 150 ISM Raceway
11/15 Ford EcoBoost 200 Homestead-Miami Speedway

 

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