NASCAR Cup Series

NASCAR Cup Series News Wire
  • Reports: Newman to join Roush Fenway Racing
    By Field Level Media / Friday, September 21, 2018

    It didn't take Ryan Newman long to find a new ride.

    • Six days after he announced he would not be returning to the Richard Childress Racing team, multiple reports arose on Friday saying Newman will be joining Roush Fenway Racing. An official announcement is slated for Saturday.

      Newman will reportedly drive the No. 6 car currently shared by Trevor Bayne and Matt Kenseth, according to ESPN.

      An RFR spokesperson declined comment but confirmed there will be a driver announcement on Saturday at Richmond Raceway in Virginia.

      Newman, 40, spent the past five years on the Childress team and said last week he was confident he would be joining a new team for the 2019 season.

      Newman was second behind Kevin Harvick in 2014 in his first season with RCR. He has 18 career victories and earned 51 poles in 17 full-time seasons.

      The No. 6 car for Roush is ranked 25th in the standings this season as Kenseth took over after Bayne struggled.

      --Field Level Media

  • NASCAR notebook: Kyle Busch looks for breakthrough
    By Field Level Media / Friday, September 21, 2018

    RICHMOND, Va. -- You could make a convincing argument that, with the exception of Kentucky Speedway, Richmond Raceway is Kyle Busch's best track.

    • After all, he's the leading winner at the .75-mile venue among active Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series drivers with five victories, and his average finish in 26 starts at the track is 7.2, second only to Kentucky (5.0 average, with a much smaller sample size of eight races).

      There's only one problem. Busch does his best work at Richmond in the spring. All five of his Richmond wins have come close to his May 2 birthday, including a string of four straight spring races from 2009 through 2012 and, most recently, the Apr. 21 event this year.

      Until this season, the fall Richmond race has been the cutoff event for the NASCAR Playoffs. In 2012, Jeff Gordon edged Busch for the final spot in the postseason by finishing second to Busch's 16th in the Federated Auto Parts 400.

      This year, Sunday's race (7:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN, MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio) is perhaps even more important as the second event in Round 1 of the NASCAR Playoffs. Busch is at a loss to explain the discrepancy between his performance in the spring versus the fall.

      "I have no clue," he said on Friday at the new Richmond Raceway media center. "Certainly, the fall time is the more important time to be good here, but we just haven't quite been able to pinpoint that and put our finger on that. Overall, we certainly have had good results here at Richmond. We've been good here in the fall. We've had good runs. We just haven't been able to close the deal.

      "Certainly, I would like to be able to do that here this weekend and not have to worry about next week at all (at the Charlotte road course), but with everything we've had going on so far this year, we've been contenders and we've been strong each and every week through this entire season. So we just need to get our strength back and be ready for every week."

      ISRAELI ALON DAY HOPES TO IMPRESS IN FIRST NASCAR START ON AN OVAL

      Saturday night's Federated Auto Parts 400 brings another first for Israeli driver Alon Day, who already holds the distinction as the first driver from his country to compete in any of NASCAR's top three touring series.

      Day will make his oval-track debut in the second Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Playoff race when he drives the No. 23 BK Racing Toyota at Richmond Raceway (7:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN, MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio).

      A road-course specialist and the reigning NASCAR Whelen Euro Series champion, Day finished 32nd in his only other start in NASCAR's premier series (last year at Sonoma). His objective on Saturday is simply to finish the race.

      "I don't expect for any result -- top 25, top 30 or whatever," Day said. "I'm more trying to focus about surviving the race, finishing the race without making major mistakes, learning as much as possible, being obviously approved for the next tracks. Yeah, I'll do my best."

      Day's career goal is to race full-time in a NASCAR series in the United States, but for now, he has to settle for an occasional race that doesn't conflict with his NWES title defense.

      "First of all, I would love to do the Roval (Charlotte road course) next week," Day said. "That's who I am. I come from road courses. I know I'm good at that. That's the best opportunity for me to show what I'm capable of doing."

      Day also said he's trying to work out opportunities to race at Phoenix and Homestead-Miami Speedway in the final two events on the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series schedule.

      SHORT STROKES

      Trying for his fourth straight Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series victory, Brad Keselowski showed no letup in speed in Friday's practice at Richmond Raceway. The driver of the No. 2 Team Penske Ford was 14th on the speed chart in the opening session and fastest in Happy Hour, turning a lap at 120.224 mph. The last driver to win four straight races at NASCAR's highest level was Jimmie Johnson in 2007, the second of his seven championship seasons ... GoBowling will return as the entitlement sponsor for the NASCAR Xfinity Series Playoff opener next year, Richmond Raceway president Dennis Bickmeier announced. "GoBowling's strong presence in motorsports continues to grow, and Richmond Raceway is a big part of the strategy to share their message," Bickmeier said. The GoBowling.com 250 is scheduled for Sept. 20, 2019.

      --Reid Spencer, NASCAR Wire Service. Special to Field Level Media.

  • Elliott hopes to rebound after Vegas crash
    By Field Level Media / Friday, September 21, 2018

    RICHMOND, Va. -- It's been a mixed bag of emotions for NASCAR Playoff driver Chase Elliott this week. He received fantastic news that one of his major corporate sponsors, Hooters, would be re-upping with his Hendrick Motorsports No. 9 Chevrolet team through 2021.

    • He also arrived at Richmond Raceway on Friday with a more immediate task at hand -- righting his 2018 playoff ship.

      Elliott, 22, who crashed out and finished 36th in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series playoff opener at Las Vegas Motor Speedway last weekend, shows up at Richmond for Saturday night's Federated Auto Parts 400 (7:30 p.m. ET, NBCSN, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio) needing to rally out of a playoff hole.

      He sits nine points behind the cutoff line and ranked 14th with only 12 of the 16 playoff drivers advancing to the next round following next week's inaugural run on Charlotte Motor Speedway's road course.

      "Last week obviously sucked," said Elliott, who confirmed he visited a doctor to have his shoulder checked out and was given the medical all-clear.

      "Just having probably one of the best 1.5-mile cars that we've had all year, we had one of the worst results of the season. So, it's just the way it goes. And with the way the format is now, stuff happens.

      "In that situation, I don't know what you'd do any differently. We had a solid day going. We were playing catch-up a little bit from a couple of mistakes. Ultimately you limit those mistakes and try not to be behind those guys and you go further forward and hope you miss the melee.

      "So, I think it's going to be wild throughout the next couple of weeks. Obviously, everybody talks about how wild next week (at the Charlotte Motor Speedway road course) is going to be, but nobody really knows. It could be the smoothest race ever. Who knows until we get there."

      What Elliott does know -- and so does his competition -- is that he is one of the best on Richmond's three-quarter mile oval. And he couldn't be more motivated to follow up the worst finish of the season last week with a playoff-worthy performance this week.

      Elliott qualified on the outside pole this Spring at Richmond and finished runner-up to Kyle Busch. He has two top-10s in six starts here, has spent 1,000 laps running among the top-10 and boasts the best driver rating (123.1) among his competition -- although the third-year Cup driver is adamant he is not one to buy into the merits of a short resume too much. Elliott needs to run well now.

      Especially encouraging for him -- despite his disappointing finish at Vegas -- was how well his Hendrick Motorsports team ran overall -- the potential and the optimism.

      Even after Elliott (who qualified seventh) was sidelined in Vegas, his playoff-eligible teammates Jimmie Johnson and Alex Bowman ran among the top-10 for most of the rest of the race. Johnson's car sustained some damage with a handful of laps remaining and fell from what looked like a certain top-five finish to 22nd. Bowman also had late race issues, but recovered to finish 19th. The team's other driver, rookie William Byron was in a crash early in the race. The speed was there for all of them, however.

      "I thought last week, as a whole, we were probably about as good as we've been all year, which was encouraging," Elliott said. "That's good. That's only going to help all of us.

      "I know that Vegas and Richmond don't look anything alike, but typically the same guys win every week. Ultimately, they have the fastest cars, or are the best drivers. So, in my mind, I'm thinking I know they're not very similar, but the same people run good everywhere. So, I think if you've made a gain somewhere, it's probably going to show up here, too."

      The timing couldn't be better. Elliott is a perfect three-for-three in making the NASCAR Playoffs -- with a career best fifth place in the final championship ranking just last year. He earned a career first Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series victory at Watkins Glen, N.Y. last month and has been on a positive trajectory even as his championship Hendrick Motorsports team works through an uncharacteristically challenging season.

      The victory last month and the solid performance last week are all good vibes for Elliott, who needs to re-position himself higher in the standings after the Richmond 400-miler.

      "We only have nine races left, which is crazy," Elliott said. "I feel like we just started.

      "But, I'm just ready to go again. I got on the plane to go home on Sunday after the race and the race is still going on and I'm leaving. I'm just like 'man, I wish we were lining up to run Richmond, now.' Like, I don't want to wait a week. I want to go now and try to fix it. Because ultimately that's all you can do is wait for the next race and go again.

      "Ultimately just try to fix the problem tomorrow night and try to get another sticker."

      --By Holly Cain, NASCAR Wire Service. Special to Field Level Media.

  • Chastain making most of Xfinity opportunity
    By Field Level Media / Thursday, September 20, 2018

    DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. -- Ross Chastain tells an honest and surreal story of realizing his first victory in one of NASCAR's major series -- a dominating win in last Saturday's NASCAR Xfinity Series race at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

    • He said he and his friends stayed at the Vegas track as the skies darkened. After all the media obligations and debrief with the Chip Ganassi Racing team he competed for at Las Vegas, Chastain ventured back to Victory Lane to cherish this first. He signed autographs for some of the track crew working into the night to set up for the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series race the next day, then he returned to his hotel and grabbed a quick dinner before bed.

      "I woke up Sunday before my alarm went off and was just kinda waking up when 20 or 30 seconds later I was like, 'Oh my gosh, we won yesterday,' " Chastain recalled. "It hit me. I sat up out of the bed, like 'Holy cow, we did it.' Just waking up knowing that. That was cool."

      Even better, however, is that Chastain gets another great shot at winning in this week's Xfinity Series Playoff opener, Friday's Go Bowling 250 at Richmond Raceway (at 7:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN, MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio). The 25-year old Floridian will make his third and final scheduled start for Chip Ganassi Racing in the No. 42 DC Solar Chevrolet this season, then finish out the Playoffs with his South Carolina-based JD Motorsports in the No. 4 Chevrolet.

      It's the first time Chastain has qualified for the Xfinity Series Playoffs and with his victory last week at Vegas, he starts his championship run ranked sixth -- 29 points behind five-time race winner and regular season champion Justin Allgaier. Before the Vegas race, he was ranked 11th of the 12 drivers. Eight competitors advance to the next round.

      And although Chastain has immediately made good on his first two opportunities with Ganassi -- leading 90 laps at Darlington (S.C.) Raceway before an accident -- he has been adamant in sharing the positivity with his JD Motorsports team. Team owners Johnny Davis and Gary Keller were among the first in Vegas' Victory Lane to congratulate him and enjoy the exclamation mark-type day.

      Chastain's previous career-best outing in the Xfinity Series was a fourth-place at Iowa -- something he did both this Spring and last year driving for JD Motorsports. He has three top-fives in 132 races. His seven top-10s in 2018 is already double the top-10 output in any of his previous three years of full-time series competition.

      And as exciting as the Ganassi opportunity has been for Chastain, he is adamant that his goal is always to win, no matter the car, no matter the expectation.

      "I just want to run and be competitive in every race, whatever that means, get the most out of the car I can," Chastain said. "I still don't feel like I've gotten everything out of the Ganassi car. It's just such a different animal than what I've ever done -- all the limits pushed and what they expect the driver to push; pit road entry and exit, my input on wheels and pedals. It's so aggressive compared to the 4-car."

      In fact, this is the first season Chastain says his smaller-budgeted JD Motorsports team has been able to bring a bonafide backup to the track each week. And he concedes, maybe having to be so careful with equipment both helped and hindered him. Being told to push the limits while in the Ganassi driver's seat was a new experience compared to the more careful manner he has driven his other car -- always negotiating the car's fine line between potential and peril.

      "It's a tough balance because both cars call for different things on track and on pit road," Chastain said. "It's tough to balance for sure."

      But a chance that he is so grateful to have. So grateful, in fact, he isn't drawing a paycheck for his Ganassi work but instead hoping his performance may lead to other opportunities down the road. It's a throwback employment lesson to earlier decades in NASCAR competition and by the look of things, a good bet for Chastain.

      He's certainly been given a unique platform to show his skills from the notoriously tough Darlington circuit, to the Las Vegas 1.5-miler to this week at the 0.75-mile Richmond track where his previous best is 15th back in 2015.

      You can hear the excitement and passion listening to Chastain talk about his positive twist of fate. He remains so loyal to his full-time JD Motorsports team, he wanted a photo of both the Ganassi car and his JDM car together at Vegas.

      "Carpe diem" -- seize the day -- hasn't just been an expression to Chastain, it's how he's lived his life of late.

      "They expect a lot," Chastain said of Chip Ganassi Racing. "They expect to win and to run good in practice and qualifying and I've been the weak link in a lot of ways, but luckily by the time of the race, I've gotten it turned around."

      He paused, "But the races have went well."

      "It's been pretty surreal. It's exciting to think we go to Richmond with another shot to win and that's all I can ask for."

      --Holly Cain, NASCAR Wire Service. Special to Field Level Media.

  • Weekend preview: NASCAR Cup Series hits Richmond
    By Field Level Media / Thursday, September 20, 2018

    DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. -- Martin Truex Jr. took over the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series championship lead Sunday after the Las Vegas Playoff opener -- and holds a slim two-point edge over the regular season champion Kyle Busch entering Saturday night's Federated Auto Parts 400 (at 7:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio) at Richmond (Va.) Raceway.

    • It marks the first time the 0.75-mile Richmond oval has served as a Playoff race -- it has been the regular season finale previously. That may make the characteristic of the race this week different with no more guarding regular season points positions and a Playoff-advancing win on the line.

      No one in the field has been better at Richmond than Kyle Busch, whose five wins place him seventh all-time on the winningest driver list there -- tops among active drivers and second only to a list of six NASCAR Hall of Famers. The key, however, is that all of Busch's victories have come in the Spring Richmond race -- including this May. And a Fall trophy has never been so crucial to his title hopes.

      "I think wins are always important and I think the biggest thing now is that each (Playoff) round kind of has its own wild-card race, if you look at it -- you've got the 'roval' (Charlotte Road Course) in the first round, Talladega in the second round and then Martinsville kind of turned into a crazy race in the third round," explained Busch, who drives the No. 18 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota.

      "It's all just going to be about trying to maintain and have a good day. If you can get top-five finishes, great. That's going to propel us through with the amount of points we have and the point cushion we have, but wins are the ultimate. If you can get those, then you're automatically in and that's what we all strive for."

      Busch, who finished seventh at Las Vegas, recognizes that his fiercest competition this weekend may well come from his own Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Denny Hamlin, a three-time Richmond winner whose 1,659 laps out front is most among anyone in the field this weekend.

      Hamlin had a rough first Playoff outing at Las Vegas (finishing 32nd after an incident) and is ranked 16th -- last -- in the rankings headed to what he considers his hometown track, Richmond Raceway.

      Hamlin is currently 20 points behind 12th-place Alex Bowman with only Saturday night's race and next week's race at Charlotte to determine which 12 drivers advance in the Cup championship chase.

      Hamlin last won this Fall race in 2016. And it's been a varying cast of trophy winners in the last decade at Richmond with last week's Vegas winner Brad Keselowski taking the Fall Richmond win in 2014, Matt Kenseth in 2015, Hamlin in 2016 and Playoff contender Kyle Larson last year.

      In fact, nine of the 16 Playoff drivers have won previously at Richmond, also including Kurt Busch, Jimmie Johnson, Clint Bowyer, Kevin Harvick, Joey Logano, Larson, Keselowski, Kyle Busch and Hamlin. Truex has not won at Richmond previously.

      Every time the series arrives in Richmond, however, Hamlin's name comes up as the driver to beat and with so much on the line this season, it's reasonable to expect big things from him.

      "I think a lot of it comes from Denny (Hamlin), being that it's his home track," Kyle Busch acknowledged. "I've been good there in Hendrick and JGR cars. But Denny and I really feed off each other an awful lot at Richmond. We use each other a ton there, just to be sure we can beat the rest of the competition, of course.

      "We do like similar setups there, unlike some other places we run. Richmond is one of those places where we both know what it takes to get around and we're both similar to one another in that we both run well."

      XFINITY PLAYOFF TIME

      The 12-driver, seven-race NASCAR Xfinity Series Playoffs begin this Friday night in Richmond with the Go Bowling 250 (at 7:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN, MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio). It marks the first time this track has opened the Playoff run.

      Regular season champion Justin Allgaier, a five-time winner in the No. 7 JR Motorsports Chevrolet, holds a seven-point edge on four-time winner, Sunoco rookie Christopher Bell in the Joe Gibbs Racing No. 20 Toyota. The remaining 10 drivers are separated by a mere 11 points.

      Bell won his first Xfinity race of the year at Richmond this spring with a close 0.423-second advantage over NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Playoff contender Noah Gragson. Elliott Sadler, who is third in the championship rankings, finished third in that race.

      Tyler Reddick won the 2017 Playoff opener at Kentucky last year. Three Playoff race winners are in the championship field this year -- Reddick (who won at Kentucky last season), Bell (won at Kansas) and Cole Custer, who won the season finale at Homestead-Miami. Now a Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series rookie, William Byron won the 2017 NASCAR Xfinity Series championship.

      MONSTER ENERGY NASCAR CUP SERIES

      Next Race: Federated Auto Parts 400

      The Place: Richmond Raceway

      The Date: Saturday, Sept. 22

      The Time: 7:30 p.m. ET

      TV: NBCSN

      Radio: MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio

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

      Stage 2 (Ends on lap 200), and Final Stage (Ends on lap 400)

      What to Watch For: This is the second race in the series' 10-race Playoff to decide the championship. Keselowski won the Playoff opener at Las Vegas last week. ... The last eight Richmond races have produced eight different winners. ... Larson is the defending Richmond race winner, earning the regular season finale win as the race was placed in the 2017 schedule. ... Kyle Busch won at Richmond this spring. All five of his wins at the track have come in the spring. ... Larson boasts the best average starting position (8.4) among those competing this week. ... Kyle Busch has been so good at this track, he has finished all but one lap in 10,429 laps of competition (26 races). ... Johnson (2007 sweep), Logano (2014 and 2017) and Carl Edwards (2013 and 2016) are the only repeat winners at Richmond in the last 12 years. Johnson is the last driver to sweep a season at the track since Rusty Wallace did so in 1989. ... Keselowski's win at Las Vegas last weekend gave him three straight victories. He joins fellow Ford driver Kevin Harvick who won three straight earlier this season. It's the first time Ford has ever had two drivers win three consecutive races in a season. ... The last Ford driver to win four straight was Mark Martin in 1993 (at Watkins Glen, N.Y., Michigan, Bristol, Tenn., and Darlington, S.C.). Ford last won four straight as a company with different drivers in 2014. ... Kyle Busch (at New Hampshire) and Harvick (at New Hampshire) have won the last two seasons' second Playoff race. ... Pole position is the winningest starting spot in the field historically, producing 24 winners. ... The farthest back on the grid a winner has started is 31st. Bowyer did that in Spring, 2008. ... Hamlin's 1,659 laps led (17.3 percent) in his career at Richmond is sixth-best all-time and tops among active drivers.

      NASCAR XFINITY SERIES

      Next Race: Go Bowling 250

      The Place: Richmond Raceway

      The Date: Friday, Sept. 21

      The Time: 7:30 p.m. ET

      TV: NBCSN

      Radio: MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio

      Distance: 187.5 miles (250 laps); Stage 1 (Ends on lap 75),

      Stage 2 (Ends on lap 150), and Final Stage (Ends on lap 250)

      What to Watch For: This is the Playoff opening race for the series and first time the Playoffs have begun at Richmond Raceway. ... Five-race winner Allgaier leads the Playoff drivers as the points are reset, followed by four-time winner rookie Bell. ... The next 10 drivers in the 12-driver Playoff field are separated by only 11 points. ... There have been seven different winners in the last seven Xfinity races at Richmond. Bell won here in the Spring. Cup driver Keselowski is the defending winner of this Fall race. ... Sadler won the Playoff opener in 2016 when it was at Kentucky Speedway. That is his last victory in the series although he advanced to the Championship 4 the last two years. Elliott, who announced he will retire from full-time competition following the season, is currently ranked third in the Playoff points. ... Ross Chastain earned his first ever series victory last week at Las Vegas and it boosted his Playoff ranking to sixth place. He makes his last start in the No. 42 Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet this week. He drove the car to a win at Vegas and led 90 laps in it at Darlington before he was involved in an accident. ... Dale Earnhardt Jr. will make his only NASCAR start of the season in this race, driving the No. 88 Chevrolet for his JR Motorsports team. He will also provide live in-race analysis for NBCSN, where he normally calls NASCAR races from the booth and will work there for the Cup race on Sunday. ... Earnhardt has proven to be especially good at Richmond. He has four Xfinity wins at the track, including his last victory in the series in 2016. He also has three Cup victories at the venue. ... Kyle Busch earned his first ever Xfinity Series victory here (from the pole position) in 2004. He has since won 91 more Xfinity races and is the all-time winningest driver in series history. ... Harvick is the all-time winningest in Xfinity Series races at Richmond with seven victories. Kyle Busch has won the most poles (six) ever. ... IMSA standout Katherine Legge will make her NASCAR oval debut driving the No. 15 JD Motorsports Chevrolet. She has two previous series starts at Mid-Ohio (30th place) and Road America (14th). ... This race has been won from the pole position 14 times. Hamlin was the last to do so in 2015.

      --Holly Cain, NASCAR Wire Service. Special to Field Level Media.

  • Longtime exec Phelps named NASCAR president
    By Field Level Media / Thursday, September 20, 2018

    NASCAR has named Steve Phelps as its president, effective Oct. 1.

    • He will replace Brent Dewar, who will assume an advisory role, NASCAR advanced.

      A NASCAR executive since 2005, Phelps currently is the chief operating officer. He will oversee all competition and business operations as president and will report to Jim France, NASCAR's acting chairman and CEO.

      "We couldn't be more thrilled to have Steve Phelps as our leader," France said in a news release. "His passion for NASCAR and proven ability to work with our partners has been unparalleled over the years. We thank Brent for his service and leadership to our sport. His energy and vision have been of tremendous benefit to our employees and our industry."

      Phelps takes the helm during a rough patch for NASCAR. Television viewership and attendance at races have dropped, and sponsors have become harder to find. Additionally, Brian France was replaced as chairman and CEO by his uncle following charges of driving under the influence.

      "As a lifelong fan of NASCAR, the opportunity to provide league-wide leadership is something I am looking forward to," Phelps said in the release. "I am confident that the strong team of leaders here at NASCAR and across the industry will accelerate the necessary changes to grow the sport and engage our passionate fans."

      --Field Level Media

  • Auto Racing Glance
    By Field Level Media / Thursday, September 20, 2018

    MONSTER ENERGY NASCAR CUP SERIES: FEDERATED AUTO PARTS 400 (400 laps, 300 miles around a .75-mile D-shaped oval), Richmond Raceway; Richmond, Va.

    • TV: Saturday, 7:30 p.m. ET (Green flag approx. 7:43 p.m. ET) - NBCSN (Radio: Motor Racing Network, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio Channel 90).

      THIS WEEK: Brad Keselowski knows he's safely in the Round of 12 with his win last week at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, but it's the 15 other playoff drivers who take center stage the next two weeks, starting Saturday night at Richmond. ... But don't count out Keselowski, either, as he is on an epic roll, having won three races in a row, his only three wins this season. ... This is the 28th race of 36 on the season and the second of the three-race Round of 16, where the bottom four drivers in the standings after the race at Charlotte Motor Speedway's road-course on Sept. 30 will be eliminated from contention. A win automatically propels the victor into the next round of the playoffs. ... This will be the 124th race at Richmond, a track first opened in 1948 and run on under NASCAR sanction since 1953. ... Kyle Busch earned one of his six victories so far this season at Richmond in April, and Keselowski won the Fall race in 2014. No driver may need the win more than Denny Hamlin, mired in 16th place, but he's a three-time winner at his home track. ...Martin Truex Jr. leads the points standings (2087), followed by Busch (2,085), *Keselowski (2,069), Kevin Harvick (2,060), Joey Logano (2,056), Kurt Busch (2,046), Ryan Blaney (2,042), Kyle Larson (2,041), Aric Almirola (2,034), Austin Dillon (2,031), Clint Bowyer (2,029), Alex Bowman (2,028), Jimmie Johnson (2,022), Chase Elliott (2,019), Erik Jones (2,009) and Hamlin (2,008).

      (All stats and standings per NASCAR.com)

      *Victory and advancement to the next round.

      NASCAR XFINITY SERIES: GO BOWLING 250 (250 laps, 187.5 miles around a .75-mile D-shaped oval), Richmond Raceway; Richmond, Va.

      TV: Friday, 7:30 p.m. ET (Green flag approx. 7:43 p.m. ET) - NBCSN (Radio: Motor Racing Network, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio Channel 90).

      THIS WEEK: With the playoff field being set after Las Vegas, the series embarks on its postseason with 12 drivers eligible to claim the title. ... Ross Chastain got his first win Saturday night at Vegas. ... This is the 27th of 33 races on the season, and the 70th all-time at Richmond, a tricky track that lends itself to good racing in the series. ... Cup regular Brad Keselowski won this race last season, but Xfinity driver Christopher Bell came away the winner in April. Justin Allgaier is the regular-season champion and leads the points (2,039), followed by Bell (2,032), Elliott Sadler (2,011), Cole Custer (2,011), Tyler Reddick (2,010), Chastain (2,010), Daniel Hemric (2,010), Brandon Jones (2,006), Matt Tifft (2,003), Ryan Truex (2,003), Austin Cindric (2,001) and Ryan Reed (2,000).

      (All stats and standings per NASCAR.com)

      *Victory and advancement to the next round.

      NASCAR CAMPING WORLD TRUCK SERIES

      THIS WEEK: It's on to three weeks off for the Trucks after 18 of 23 races, with Grant Enfinger winning Friday at Las Vegas. He joins Justin Haley, a winner last month in Canada, with a guaranteed spot in the Round of 6 at Martinsville on Oct. 27. ... Next up for the six drivers sweating it out is Talladega Superspeedway on Oct. 13. ... Johnny Sauter leads the Trucks standings (2,124 points), followed by Noah Gragson (2,107), Brett Moffitt (2,102), *Haley (2,101), Matt Crafton (2,091), *Enfinger (2,089), Ben Rhodes (2,084) and Stewart Friesen (2,081).

      *Victory and advancement to the next round.

      (All stats and standings per NASCAR.com)

      VERIZON INDYCAR SERIES

      THIS WEEK: The season concluded Sunday at Sonoma Raceway, and Scott Dixon held on to win his fifth championship with a second-place run. ... Ryan Hunter-Reay won the final race of the season and finished fourth in the final standings. ... The championship podium was New Zealand's Dixon (678 points), Alexander Rossi (621) and Australian Will Power (582). ... The 2019 season starts March 10 in St. Petersburg, Fla.

      FORMULA ONE

      THIS WEEK: The series takes a week off before heading to Sochi, Russia, on Sept. 30. Coming off of Singapore, the series is staying in Asia (barely) and this is the last race convenient to European fans. ... Lewis Hamilton won at Singapore as title rival Sebastian Vettel finished third, and a championship for Hamilton is looking more secure. ... Both four-time champions, Hamilton and his Mercedes team are looking good, winning seven of 15 races with just six to go. He has only three finishes outside the top three so far in 2018. ... For his part, Vettel and his Ferrari team have won five races, but he's finished off the podium six times. ... Great Britain's Hamilton leads the standings in his Mercedes (281 points), followed by Vettel, Ferrari (241), Finland's Kimi Raikkonen, Ferrari (174), Finland's Valterri Bottas, Mercedes (171) and Belgium's Max Verstappen, Red Bull (148).

      NATIONAL HOT ROD ASSOCIATION: AAA INSURANCE NHRA MIDWEST NATIONALS, Thursday-Sunday, at Gateway Motorsports Park; Madison, Ill.

      TV: Eliminations, Sunday, 2-3 p.m. ET (live) FS1; 7:30-10:30 p.m. ET (Delayed) FS1

      THIS WEEK: The Countdown to the Championship started at Maple Grove Raceway in Mohnton, Pa., last week, but there's no time to rest, as the hot-rod set rolls into the outskirts of St. Louis this weekend for the AAA Insurance NHRA Midwest Nationals. ... Winners at Maple Grove were Steve Torrence in Top Fuel, J.R. Todd in Funny Car, Vincent Nobile in Pro Stock and Hector Arana Jr. in Pro Stock Motorcycle. All four classes will race at Gateway. ... Torrence leads the Top Fuel standings (2,219 points), followed by Tony Schumacher (2,169), Clay Millican (2,169), Leah Pritchett (2,118), Antron Brown (2,116), Doug Kalitta (2,103), Mike Salinas (2,067), Terry McMillen (2,062), Scott Palmer (2,053) and Brittany Force (2,052). ... Todd leads Funny Car (2,166), followed by Robert Hight (2,143), Courtney Force (2,141), Ron Capps (2,137), Matt Hagan (2,112), Tim Wilkerson (2,101), Tommy Johnson Jr. (2,090), Jack Beckman (2,080), John Force (2,064) and Shawn Langdon (2,054). ... Tanner Gray leads Pro Stock (2,183) followed by Nobile (2,165), Greg Anderson (2,153), Erica Enders (2,131), Drew Skillman (2,128), Jeg Coughlin Jr. (2,127), Jason Line (2,073), Deric Kramer (2,072), Bo Butner (2,064) and Chris McGaha (2,032). ... Eddie Krawiec leads Pro Stock Motorcycle (2,184), followed by Arana (2,181), Matt Smith (2,147), LE Tonglet (2,144), Andrew Hines (2,137), Jerry Savoie (2,082), Steve Johnson (2,073), Scotty Pollacheck (2,062), Angie Smith (2,062) and Angelle Sampey (2,033).

      --Field Level Media

  • NASCAR playoffs intensify after wild opener at Las Vegas
    By Field Level Media / Monday, September 17, 2018

    LAS VEGAS, Nev. -- All but a couple of the 16 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Playoff contenders had to rally from "issues" in Sunday's playoff opener. There were spins, flat tires, pit road penalties, collisions and wall contact.

    • It was Las Vegas Motor Speedway after all -- a 1.5-mile track to start the championship run in a city home to high-stakes and plenty of action. Sometimes more action than the NASCAR's best even anticipated.

      Yet Kyle Busch -- who spun through the infield grass late in the race -- still managed to rally to a top-10 finish (seventh) and stay two points off the championship pace set by Martin Truex Jr. who finished third on Sunday. They were a couple of the fortunate ones.

      "There was a lot of racing going on there at the end and the restarts were very, very hectic with three-wide and everything kind of happening off of Turn 2 and guys banging into one another," Busch said, shaking his head.

      "If you would have taken the finish from 20 (laps) to go, it would have been a heck of a lot different finish than it is now -- there was a lot of racing and a lot of chaos happening the last few restarts. Good for us, a couple of those cars having trouble and getting pushed to the back and things happening the way they were obviously helped us and got us farther up front. If it wasn't for those, we probably would have been 16th or so.

      "We'll take what we can get and hope for better days ahead."

      That seemed to be a common theme.

      Brad Keselowski won his third-straight Monster Energy Series race, earning Team Penske it's 500th overall victory. His was one of the relatively smooth outings and it helped move him into third place in the playoff standings.

      Kevin Harvick, a seven-race winner this season heading into Las Vegas, had a tire problem and ended up in the wall. Unable to avoid Harvick, who crashed between Turns 1 and 2, Sunday's polesitter and fellow Playoff driver Erik Jones ran into Harvick's car. The drivers finishing 39th (Harvick) and 40th (Jones) in the 40-car field.

      Throughout the race, one after another of the series' championship eligible drivers had a rough day on pit road. Austin Dillon started the race from the back for an unapproved adjustment. Alex Bowman who ran among the top-three early was dinged for a pit road violation near the race midpoint and then was caught up in a collision in the race's waning laps.

      Playoff driver Chase Elliott was an innocent victim caught up in Jamie McMurray's accident on Lap 234 of the 272-lap race. Denny Hamlin crashed out with about 20 laps remaining.

      "We'll try to rebound next week," Elliott said. "I had a really good car today and just barely, just barely clipped him. So many cars fell out, I feel like half the top-16 fell out. Just gotta finish I guess."

      And Jimmie Johnson, who had run among the top-five for much of the afternoon, had his car make contact with fellow contender Kurt Busch on a late restart, sending Johnson's No. 48 Chevrolet into the wall. They both finished the race despite multiple trips to pit road -- but were scored 21st and 22nd, respectively.

      Kyle Larson finished runner-up to Keselowski but had to overcome a flat tire early in the race that put him down a lap. Ryan Blaney hit the wall in tight racing with fellow playoff driver Aric Almirola, although they rallied to finish fifth and sixth.

      "Yeah, a lot of people had trouble," said Blaney. "We had our own troubles and luckily our damage didn't affect us to the point of taking us out of contention. We fought for 400 miles and it was a good job by the No. 12 group today."

      And the hot temperatures -- in the high 90s at the drop of the green flag -- created a tougher-then-typical race physically as well.

      Nine playoff drivers qualified among the top-10 and all 16 were among the top-18 on the grid. But the unpredictable and action-packed race, left seven in the top-10 by the checkered flag. Eight playoff drivers finished 19th or worse.

      "I felt like our Ford was pretty good today," Almirola said. "We got behind on qualifying, and that kind of set the tone. That was my fault. I was trying to get too much.

      "I got in the fence and made another mistake today. We were able to come down on pit road and get all the damage fixed, and the car was back to being good again.

      "I am proud of that effort. That was a really hard-fought sixth-place finish. Man, one of these races we will have it go smooth and we will be a contender."

      And that is a sentiment shared by most of the championship drivers.

      --By Holly Cain, NASCAR Wire Service. Special to Field Level Media.

  • Tough-luck Truex laments Las Vegas loss
    By Field Level Media / Sunday, September 16, 2018

    Martin Truex Jr. took the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series championship lead Sunday afternoon with a third-place finish in the playoff-opening South Point 400 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

    • The driver of the No. 78 Furniture Row Racing Toyota led the most laps (96) and out-pointed the two other most dominant regular season drivers -- Kyle Busch and Kevin Harvick -- to hold a two-point advantage on the 16-driver Cup playoff field as it heads to Richmond (Va.) Raceway next weekend.

      Penske Racing's Brad Keselowski won his third consecutive Cup race and the legendary team's 500th overall auto racing trophy, but Truex reminded everyone afterward that it was also Keselowski's third consecutive victory without leading the most laps in a race.

      So Truex -- a four-time winner this season -- acknowledged feeling confident and optimistic even in his podium showing Sunday.

      "Brad clearly found a horseshoe," Truex said, allowing a slight smile. "Three races in a row he's won and he has not had the best car. ...

      "Obviously he hasn't led the most laps in any of those races, and he showed up at the end with good pit stops and good short-run speed. I think clearly it's pretty obvious how it worked out. He's hot right now. He's on a streak. That's the way it goes.

      "We finished third with the best car. The last three weeks we had a top-three car and we finished 14th or worse in every one of them; know what I'm saying? So it's a tough sport. A lot of things can happen, and momentum and luck being on your side, there's a lot to say for it. Obviously they're executing, they're doing all the little things right, and that's what it takes to win these things."

      Three weeks ago, Keselowski started the streak with a win at Darlington, leading 24 laps compared to Kyle Larson's 284 out front. He won again at Indianapolis last week leading nine laps total, compared to 37 laps out front for both Denny Hamlin and Clint Bowyer.

      Keselowski owns the third three-race winning streak on the year. Seven-time 2018 winner Harvick won three straight early in the schedule, including the regular-season race at Las Vegas in March. Kyle Busch, a six-time race winner in 2018, won three straight in April at Texas, Bristol, Tenn.; and Richmond, Va.

      But both Harvick and Busch -- who were tied atop the standings entering the Las Vegas playoff opener -- either crashed out (Harvick) or had to rally from a mishap (Busch) on Sunday.

      Truex's strong effort resulted in his place atop the championship -- by two points over Busch and 18 over Keselowski. And the 2017 series champ was especially impressed by his team's hard work -- heartily disproving naysayers who have questioned whether the crew would still be as devoted or motivated after news that the team would cease operations after the season.

      "Too many cautions at the end, and it really, really took away our chances at winning," Truex said. "It was obviously clear that after 15 or 20 laps we were the class of the field.

      "(The finish) was a little disappointing, but at the same time, to answer the call of all the critics and all the people who asked, 'Could we rise up back to where we were last year with all the distractions of the team shutting down at the end of the year?' I'm really happy about that and really proud of the speed we brought today.

      "The guys are doing a fantastic job, and hopefully this is a sign of things to come the next nine weeks."

      --By Holly Cain, NASCAR Wire Service. Special to Field Level Media.

  • Late cautions foil Larson's Vegas chances
    By Field Level Media / Sunday, September 16, 2018

    LAS VEGAS -- The late caution flags Sunday in the South Point 400 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway were just what Brad Keselowski needed.

    • However, they were inimical to the winning chances of Kyle Larson, who couldn't match Keselowski's short-run speed.

      Larson had just passed Keselowski for the top spot on Lap 245 of 272, but two laps later, Denny Hamlin spun off Turn 4 to bring out the ninth yellow flag of the afternoon. Three more cautions followed in short order, and Larson never had a chance to use his long-run advantage.

      Instead, Larson finished second in a two-lap overtime dash, 1.276 seconds behind Keselowski. The runner-up finish was Larson's sixth of the season without a victory.

      "I needed it to stay green there (after the pass of Keselowski)," Larson said. "I felt like I could have won the race right there because he was really good on the short run and I was terrible on short runs today, but once I could get the top (lane) going, I was really good.

      "Right when I moved up top in (Turns) 3 and 4 and pulled away, the caution came out. I felt like I was going to be able to stretch it. I felt like the 78 (Martin Truex Jr.) would probably get by (Keselowski) at some point and then maybe chase me down.

      "I knew if I could hold Brad off for a little bit, I would have a good shot, but it didn't work out. And then we had a ton of restarts there. A couple of them worked out for me, a couple of them didn't, and, thankfully, the last one worked out and we were able to get to second."

      JOHNSON FINDS SPEED BUT CAN'T SHAKE BAD LUCK

      Fans at Las Vegas Motor Speedway might have had to do a double take.

      After starting 17th and falling back early, Jimmie Johnson charged into the top five, a position he hasn't occupied for much of the 2018 season.

      Johnson was running seventh for a restart on lap 257, but on that circuit he was part of a four-car tangle with playoff contenders Alex Bowman, Clint Bowyer and Kurt Busch. Johnson's No. 48 Chevrolet was heavily damaged, and after repairs, he finished 22nd, two laps down.

      The seven-time Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series champion leaves Las Vegas 13th in the standings, six points behind Bowman, his Hendrick Motorsports teammate.

      "We could have closed with a top-five finish that would have really helped and given us a cushion," Johnson said. "Today was really a good day for the Lowe's team. We had good speed in the car, good pit stops... everything was going well, and, unfortunately, (we) cut a right front tire when we touched the No. 41 (Busch) off of Turn 2.

      "I don't know how next week is going to go (at Richmond), I really don't, and I sure as hell don't know how the (Charlotte) Roval is going to go (Sept. 30). So, sure, we finished higher than some guys, but any cushion we could have gotten today would have been nice."

      DILLON A SURVIVOR IN A WAR OF ATTRITION

      Austin Dillon got his wish -- the South Point 400 didn't finish the way it started for the No. 3 Richard Childress Racing team.

      The reigning Daytona 500 winner was relegated to the rear of the field for the opening green flag because of unapproved adjustments to the body of the Chevrolet. But Dillon persevered, and when attrition took care of more than half the playoff contenders, he rolled home with an 11th-place finish that left him 10th in the standings heading to Richmond for the second race in the first round of the postseason.

      Dillon finished behind teammate Ryan Newman in ninth and former teammate Paul Menard in 10th.

      "Yeah, I'm proud of our guys," Dillon said. "They brought a really fast race car. We gave up a lot of track position throughout the day, not just from starting in the back, but on pit stops we really struggled.

      "But, you know, proud of the effort. I felt like I got out all I could out of it. Bummer at the end. We needed a top 10. Eleventh is good, but racing my teammate to the line there, I thought we would get him, but we didn't."

      Compared with pole winner Erik Jones, though, Dillon's turnaround could be described as spectacular good fortune -- Jones started first and finished last.

      Martin Truex Jr. took the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series championship lead Sunday afternoon with a third place finish in the Playoff opening South Point 400 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

      The driver of the No. 78 Furniture Row Racing Toyota led the most laps (96) and out-pointed the two other most dominant regular season drivers -- Kyle Busch and Kevin Harvick to hold a two-point advantage on the 16-driver Cup Playoff field as it heads to Richmond (Va.) Raceway next weekend.

      Penske Racing's Brad Keselowski won his third consecutive Cup race and the legendary team's 500th overall auto racing trophy, but Truex reminded everyone afterward that it was also Keselowski's third consecutive victory without leading the most laps in a race.

      So Truex -- a four-time winner this season -- acknowledged feeling confident and optimistic even in his podium showing Sunday.

      "Brad clearly found a horseshoe," Truex said, allowing a slight smile. "Three races in a row he's won and he has not had the best car.

      "... Obviously he hasn't led the most laps in any of those races, and he showed up at the end with good pit stops and good short run speed. I think clearly it's pretty obvious how it worked out. He's hot right now. He's on a streak. That's the way it goes.

      "We finished third with the best car. The last three weeks we had a top three car and we finished 14th or worse in every one of them; know what I'm saying? So it's a tough sport. A lot of things can happen, and momentum and luck being on your side, there's a lot to say for it. Obviously they're executing, they're doing all the little things right, and that's what it takes to win these things."

      Three weeks ago Keselowski started the streak with a win at Darlington, leading 24 laps compared to Kyle Larson's 284 out front. He won again at Indianapolis last week leading nine laps total, compared to 37 laps out front for both Denny Hamlin and Clint Bowyer.

      And this is the third three-race winning streak on the year. Seven-time 2018 winner Kevin Harvick won three straight early in the schedule, including the regular season race here at Las Vegas in March. Kyle Busch, a six-time race winner in 2018, won three straight in April at Texas, Bristol, Tenn. and Richmond.

      But both Harvick and Busch -- who were tied atop the standings entering the Las Vegas Playoff opener -- either crashed out (Harvick) or had to rally from a mishap (Busch).

      Truex's strong effort Sunday resulted in his place atop the championship -- by two points over Busch and 18 over Keselowski. And the 2017 series champ was especially impressed by his team's hard work -- heartily disproving naysayers who have questioned whether the crew would still be as devoted or motivated after news that the team would cease operations after the season.

      "Too many cautions at the end and it really, really took away our chances at winning," Truex explained. "It was obviously clear that after 15 or 20 laps we were the class of the field.

      "(The finish) was a little disappointing, but at the same time, to answer the call of all the critics and all the people who asked, 'Could we rise up back to where we were last year with all the distractions of the team shutting down at the end of the year?' I'm really happy about that and really proud of the speed we brought today.

      "The guys are doing a fantastic job and hopefully this is a sign of things to come the next nine weeks."

      --By Reid Spencer, NASCAR Wire Service. Special to Field Level Media.

  • South Point 400 results
    By Field Level Media / Sunday, September 16, 2018

    Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Race -- South Point 400

    • Las Vegas Motor Speedway

      Las Vegas, Nevada

      Sunday, September 16, 2018

      1. (13) Brad Keselowski (P), Ford, 272.

      2. (11) Kyle Larson (P), Chevrolet, 272.

      3. (10) Martin Truex Jr. (P), Toyota, 272.

      4. (2) Joey Logano (P), Ford, 272.

      5. (6) Ryan Blaney (P), Ford, 272.

      6. (16) Aric Almirola (P), Ford, 272.

      7. (4) Kyle Busch (P), Toyota, 272.

      8. (19) Daniel Suarez, Toyota, 272.

      9. (22) Ryan Newman, Chevrolet, 272.

      10. (20) Paul Menard, Ford, 272.

      11. (18) Austin Dillon (P), Chevrolet, 272.

      12. (25) Regan Smith, Chevrolet, 272.

      13. (23) Trevor Bayne, Ford, 272.

      14. (29) AJ Allmendinger, Chevrolet, 272.

      15. (28) Chris Buescher, Chevrolet, 272.

      16. (32) Corey LaJoie, Chevrolet, 272.

      17. (36) JJ Yeley(i), Toyota, 272.

      18. (37) Landon Cassill(i), Chevrolet, 272.

      19. (9) Alex Bowman (P), Chevrolet, 271.

      20. (34) Ross Chastain(i), Chevrolet, 271.

      21. (8) Kurt Busch (P), Ford, 271.

      22. (17) Jimmie Johnson (P), Chevrolet, 270.

      23. (15) Clint Bowyer (P), Ford, 270.

      24. (26) Matt DiBenedetto, Ford, DVP, 269.

      25. (35) * Jeffrey Earnhardt, Toyota, 269.

      26. (33) * Kyle Weatherman, Chevrolet, 269.

      27. (27) David Ragan, Ford, 268.

      28. (38) BJ McLeod(i), Ford, 268.

      29. (24) Michael McDowell, Ford, Accident, 265.

      30. (14) Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Ford, Accident, 251.

      31. (40) * Reed Sorenson, Chevrolet, 246.

      32. (3) Denny Hamlin (P), Toyota, Accident, 245.

      33. (39) * Timmy Hill(i), Toyota, 231.

      34. (30) Ty Dillon, Chevrolet, Accident, 218.

      35. (12) Jamie McMurray, Chevrolet, Accident, 211.

      36. (7) Chase Elliott (P), Chevrolet, Accident, 211.

      37. (21) William Byron #, Chevrolet, Accident, 210.

      38. (31) Bubba Wallace #, Chevrolet, Front Hub, 164.

      39. (5) Kevin Harvick (P), Ford, Accident, 147.

      40. (1) Erik Jones (P), Toyota, Accident, 147.

      Average Speed of Race Winner: 111.849 mph.

      Time of Race: 3 Hrs, 28 Mins, 15 Secs. Margin of Victory: 1.276 Seconds.

      Caution Flags: 12 for 59 laps.

      Lead Changes: 23 among 9 drivers.

      Lap Leaders: 0; J. Logano (P) 1-33; K. Harvick (P) 34-37; Kyle Busch (P) 38; D. Hamlin (P) 39; R. Smith 40-49; K. Harvick (P) 50-59; M. Truex Jr. (P) 60-112; B. Keselowski (P) 113-124; M. Truex Jr. (P) 125-150; B. Keselowski (P) 151-161; J. McMurray 162-166; K. Larson (P) 167-177; B. Keselowski (P) 178-183; K. Larson (P) 184; B. Keselowski (P) 185-201; M. Truex Jr. (P) 202-218; B. Keselowski (P) 219-221; J. Logano (P) 222-234; B. Keselowski (P) 235-237; K. Larson (P) 238-239; B. Keselowski (P) 240; K. Larson (P) 241-250; B. Keselowski (P) 251-272.

      Leaders Summary (Driver, Times Lead, Laps Led): M. Truex Jr. (P) 3 times for 96 laps; B. Keselowski (P) 8 times for 75 laps; J. Logano (P) 2 times for 46 laps; K. Larson (P) 4 times for 24 laps; K. Harvick (P) 2 times for 14 laps; R. Smith 1 time for 10 laps; J. McMurray 1 time for 5 laps; D. Hamlin (P) 1 time for 1 lap; Kyle Busch (P) 1 time for 1 lap.

      Stage #1 Top Ten: 78,4,88,41,9,18,22,20,10,31

      Stage #2 Top Ten: 2,41,78,48,1,22,9,12,88,42

      --By NASCAR Wire Service. Special to Field Level Media.

  • Xfinity Series Playoffs field set after Las Vegas
    By Field Level Media / Saturday, September 15, 2018

    LAS VEGAS -- The NASCAR Xfinity Series regular season finale at Las Vegas Motor Speedway was high action and great drama with a first time winner in Ross Chastain and the 12 championship eligible drivers entering the race maintaining their contention for the opening round of the Playoffs, which begin next week at Richmond, Va.

    • Chastain's Chip Ganassi Racing No. 42 Chevrolet held off five-time season winner Justin Allgaier and fellow Playoff bound driver Cole Custer for his first career victory in 132 NASCAR Xfinity Series starts. Allgaier wrapped up the regular season title following the second stage of Saturday's race and will take a seven-point advantage over Christopher Bell and the rest of the 12-driver field heading into the Playoff opener next week.

      Custer enters the Playoffs ranked third sharing the same points total with veteran Elliott Sadler, who led the championship for 15 weeks and announced earlier this season he would be retiring following the season finale.

      Daniel Hemric, Tyler Reddick and Vegas winner Chastain all move into the Playoffs a point behind Custer and Sadler. Brandon Jones, Ryan Truex, Matt Tifft, Austin Cindric and Ryan Reed round out the 12-driver field vying for the championship.

      "I feel like today was a lot of fun, comers and goers, guys good on the short run, guys good on the long run,'' Allgaier said. "Everybody at one point in the race that we'll be battling [in the Playoffs] had a run or two where they were really, really good.

      "I think that shows the strength of the series. We're going to have to execute and do our job.''

      Allgaier has certainly executed this season -- his win total (five) more than doubles his career win total in nine previous Xfinity seasons. The 32-year old Illinois native's runner-up finish gave him a series best 21 top-10s in 2018. He has five runner-up finishes in addition to his victory total in the JR Motorsports No. 7 Chevrolet.

      Eight of the top 10 finishers Saturday advanced to the Playoffs -- something that bodes well for the competitive nature of the series. The rookie Bell, who finished fourth on Saturday, takes four wins into the Playoffs. Reddick, who won the season-opener at Daytona Beach, and Chastain are the other race winners.

      Although Chastain led 180 of the 200 laps, he was definitely pressured throughout the race. And the pack of cars on his bumper were driven by equally motivated Playoff competitors eager to glean some good mojo for next week's Playoff opener. He, Allgaier and Custer traded the point often and Hemric led as well.

      "Just didn't have everything go our way, but I'm glad we're in it and we're going to be a force to be reckoned with,'' Custer promised on pit road.

      "I feel like we compete for wins each weekend, it's just about having it all fall in place. We have to just keep trying to do what we do."

      For a couple of the Playoff contenders, Saturday afternoon marked a rough end for the regular season. Tifft and Reed were involved in a crash only 63 laps into the race. Reddick and Hemric were collected in an accident with only 12 laps remaining. Both of them had been front-running cars for much of the race.

      "It's better to have this day today rather than in the Playoffs,'' Tifft said, managing a smile. "We had the speed today again, just a freak deal [the accident]. I'm real excited about the Playoffs, a lot of tracks really suit me and our team's strengths. I'm looking forward to get going.''

      "You saw it today, it's going to be a lot of hard, close racing. We saw it all year, we've been putting on some incredible races. Glad to be a part of it and hope to come out on top.''

      --By Holly Cain, NASCAR Wire Service. Special to Field Level Media

  • Newman announces exit from Richard Childress Racing
    By Field Level Media / Saturday, September 15, 2018

    LAS VEGAS -- Ryan Newman announced via his Twitter social media account Saturday afternoon from Las Vegas Motor Speedway that he would not be returning to the Richard Childress Racing team in 2019. He has competed for the organization since 2014.

    • Newman, 40, assured fans he will be competing fulltime in the 2019 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series, but that he was not able to share the details of that new ride yet. He thanked the RCR team for its effort and promised to spend the remainder of the 2018 season contending for a win.

      The four-paragraph statement appeared on Twitter following final practice for Sunday's South Point 400 (3 p.m. ET on NBCSN, PRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio), the first race in the 10-race Monster Energy Series Playoffs. Newman is currently ranked 17th and did not qualify for the playoffs.

      "I want to take a moment to let everybody know that I will not return to Richard Childress Racing in 2019," Newman wrote on his Twitter account. "I have very much enjoyed driving the No. 31 car and want to personally thank Richard Childress and everyone at RCR for the support over the past five seasons.

      "We were able to put competitive race cars on the racetrack, qualify for the Playoffs on multiple occasions and make a strong run at a championship, and I'm very proud of what we were able to accomplish. I have nothing but respect for the organization and everyone involved, and I'm thankful for having had the opportunity to drive at RCR."

      Newman finished a career best runner-up to Kevin Harvick for the 2014 championship in his first year with the RCR Chevrolet team. He won one race for the organization -- at Phoenix last year. He has 18 career wins and 51 career poles in 17 fulltime seasons at the Cup level.

      "I'm not ready to announce my future plans at this time, but it is my full intention to compete in the NASCAR Cup Series full-time in 2019 and beyond," Newman said on Twitter. "We are currently working through the options for next season and hopefully we will be able to announce those plans in the very near future."

      Team owner Richard Childress told NASCAR.com, "We knew we were going to change. It's just when we were going to announce it."

      --By Holly Cain, NASCAR Wire Service. Special to Field Level Media.

  • NASCAR notebook: Allgaier setting sights on championship
    By Field Level Media / Friday, September 14, 2018

    LAS VEGAS -- The Xfinity Series regular season concludes in Saturday night's DC Solar 300 (5 p.m. ET on NBCSN, PRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio) at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, and current points leader Justin Allgaier is not only enjoying a career year but intent to turn it into a championship.

    • The JR Motorsports driver has five wins and leads Cole Custer by a healthy 49 points in the championship standings. The victory total is more than double that of Allgaier's entire previous nine-year career competing in the series.

      "Personally I feel that I'm in the best place I've ever been behind the wheel of a race car," Allgaier said trackside Friday morning. "I'm more confident in what we're doing. The better we run, the more confidence you build, and I think that's been a huge part for me and it's been a lot of fun this year.

      "It took me almost 10 years to win five races, and we've done that already this year. So I'm not going to take it for granted because I know how hard it is to get to victory lane and how lucky we are right now to be in this position. Hopefully we can carry this momentum through the playoffs and see what happens.

      Allgaier, who drives the No. 7 Chevrolet for JRM, has won three of the last five races, including last weekend at Indianapolis. He has a streak of 13 top-10 finishes and has only one finish outside the top five in the last seven races. His best previous championship finish was third in 2016 and 2017.

      A SPECIAL TRIBUTE TO THE VICTIMS OF THE LAS VEGAS CONCERT TRAGEDY

      Kyle Larson's No. 42 DC Solar Chevrolet will carry a special paint scheme honoring the victims of the 2017 Las Vegas concert tragedy.

      Several DC Solar company employees attended the music festival last October and were in the crowd during the shooting. The company has provided donations to the charities that help the victims.

      One of those charities, "58 Strong," will be on the Larson's car this weekend. The organization was established to help support children who lost a parent in the tragedy.

      CINDRIC, TEAM PENSKE GAIN SPONSOR

      Xfinity Series championship hopeful Austin Cindric gained a key sponsorship with MoneyLion signing on to be the primary sponsor of Cindric's No. 22 Penske Racing Ford this week at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, plus another three upcoming races to close out the 2018 season.

      "Team Penske has an incredible record of success on the track, and as one of the most promising drivers in NASCAR, Austin Cindric is a great match for MoneyLion," said the company's CEO Dee Choubey.

      "He and his entire team at Penske inspire fans and illustrate the power of dreaming big to achieve your goals. At MoneyLion, we aim to inspire people to take control of their finances to achieve their dreams, and we're excited to introduce our products to NASCAR fans across the nation."

      Cindric is currently ranked 12th in the Xfinity Series championship standings with the regular-season finale set for Saturday in Las Vegas. He'll close out the season in the No. 22 Team Penske Ford, which leads the owner's championship with six victories and six poles with drivers Brad Keselowski, Joey Logano, Ryan Blaney and Cindric.

      "To be a part of their first foray into NASCAR and bringing a new sponsor into the sport and my age is really tied in with what they are able to do with the services they provide on the app,"' Cindric said. "To have that tie-in with them being a young company and me being a young driver, trying to move up together, I think is an opportunity for a lot bigger things."

      HISTORIC RUN FOR HAILIE DEEGAN

      Hailie Deegan made NASCAR history Thursday night as the first woman to qualify on pole position for a NASCAR K&N West Series race. She finished runner-up to Sheldon Creed in the race at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway Dirt Track. And while the historical moment is promising, the 17-year old Californian said she is encouraged but not satisfied.

      "Coming back in here everyone was like, 'Good job, a top five.' And I'm like, 'Top five, what are you talking about?'" Deegan said Friday at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

      "Everyone is saying, 'You finished second, highest finishing place for a girl.' And I'm like, 'No, I qualified on pole, this is actually back a position.' It's those things. First girl to qualify on pole, but I don't want to be the best girl, I want to be the best driver.

      "That's my mentality."

      The runner-up finish was Deegan's second of the season, equaling her showing at Douglas County Speedway (Ore.) earlier this season. She has four top fives and nine top 10s in 11 races this season.

      --By Holly Cain, NASCAR Wire Service. Special to Field Level Media.

  • Johnson hopes to rally for title despite challenging season
    By Field Level Media / Friday, September 14, 2018

    LAS VEGAS -- Jimmie Johnson made a lot of eye contact with the reporters eager to gauge his Playoff expectations Thursday afternoon at the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs Media Day. The sincerity in his voice and the passion of his words left no doubt. He is as motivated as he has ever been to end a first-of-its-kind, season-long winless streak.

    • A championship run now would certainly change the narrative.

      Johnson and Hendrick Motorsports teammate Alex Bowman have qualified for the 2018 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Playoffs that begin Sunday with the South Point Hotel and Casino 400 (3 p.m. ET on NBCSN, PRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio) taking the final two positions in the 16-driver Playoff grid. Their teammate Chase Elliott is also title eligible, securing his Playoff bid with a career first victory at the Watkins Glen, N.Y., road course in August.

      First-year teammate William Byron didn't qualify for the Playoffs but is the leading contender for Rookie of the Year.

      It's an unusual position for Johnson, a seven-time Cup champion, who typically has already earned a high-profile, high-title seed by the time the Playoffs begin -- with multiple race trophies already in hand.

      "It would be a disappointing year if we didn't win a race,"' acknowledged Johnson, who is on the longest winless streak (49 races) of his certain NASCAR Hall of Fame career. "I've set a high bar to win since my rookie year, so winning a race seems like something we should be able to do. If that doesn't happen, I'd certainly be disappointed.

      "I do know that we have not left anything on the table and poured everything we can into it. Not that it would be satisfying on every level but making sure we acknowledge the effort that went into it and not beat ourselves too hard on it. But I certainly hope that doesn't happen."

      It's been an uncharacteristic season for Johnson in all statistical categories. His two top-five finishes and eight top-10 showings are the lowest totals in his 17-year, full-time Cup career. He's led only 29 laps through the opening 26 races and his average finish is 17.0.

      But Johnson is quick to assure that progress has been made. His No. 48 Chevrolet is a new body style, and to be fair -- Elliott and Austin Dillon are the only Chevy drivers to win this season. Not to mention, Dillon's victory in the season-opening Daytona 500 came on a last-lap pass.

      Johnson prefers to look ahead, not behind. And who could argue with someone who has 83 victories and a historic championship haul that ties him with Richard Petty and the late Dale Earnhardt.

      "I've never been stats-driven," Johnson said. "It's really been about the experience. I love being around people and working with my team. I love driving that race car.

      "So, for me, I had a lot of years when I wasn't very successful in my ascension to my time at Hendrick Motorsports. I fell in love with racing for my own reasons and it wasn't because of trophies or fame or money. It was because of the experience I had driving the car and I'm still very much in that space.

      "I'm not expecting anybody to say, 'Oh, poor Jimmie Johnson.' But I would ask people not to think that I've had enough and am ready to throw in the towel or that I don't care or don't want it. That's just unfair. Anybody who knows me knows that I'm the opposite."

      For his part, Johnson's teammate Elliott remains cautiously optimistic about advancing through the Playoffs. Boosted by his first career Cup victory, the 22-year old sees no reason not to feel good about his Playoff chances, even though he acknowledges the organization has struggled at times this year.

      "It's been an up-and-down year,'" said Elliott, who leads the Hendrick team with eight top-five and 14 top-10 finishes.

      "I feel like we started off kind of slow. But, to get a win and lock-in to the first round of the final 10 is nice, at least and see where it goes.

      "I'm just excited to get this last stretch going. The summer months can be tough. The season is long. I feel like everybody kind of gets a last little bit of fire for these last 10 races and kind of resets. I'm ready to get going."

      Bowman, who drives the No. 88 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet, acknowledges it's a challenging road ahead. However, he has earned some legitimate confidence, putting that car in the Playoffs in his first full season driving it.

      He has a career best nine top-10 finishes and a pair of top-fives and has led 67 laps. Securing the final Playoff bid is an achievement. Advancing out of the first round would be high achievement.

      "I think we have made pretty dramatic improvements from where we started the year," Bowman said. "It's too good of a company to keep down. We have too many good people and great resources. I think we will continue to improve and I think we can start off the Playoffs with some good runs."

      "I think we can do as good of a job as anybody. We obviously have a great team behind us at Hendrick Motorsports, one of the best in the business. We have a lot of people working really hard and our cars have been getting better each and every week. We are just going to continue that and take it from there."

      Johnson, who is the all-time winningest driver (four victories) at this week's Las Vegas Motor Speedway venue, conceded that even a champion like himself can glean inspiration when needed. He's won at least two races every season of his career -- all but one previous season (2011) he's won at least three races.

      He remains optimistic about his Playoff chances and still smiles thinking of his last championship in 2016 when he won the Homestead-Miami, Fla., finale despite having his car taken off the grid minutes before the race for inspection and still working his way back to win the event.

      He knows how to rally.

      Reminded of the valiant way NFL veteran Aaron Rodgers lead his Green Bay Packers to a victory after the quarterback was hurt in the season-opener Sunday night, Johnson smiled and agreed about the powerful intangibles of heart and desire.

      "I watched the game," Johnson said. "It is so inspirational to see that happen, and I've been able to live through and create a few of those moments on my own. It's amazing to experience it and when you reflect back you're like, 'Wow, I really did that.'

      "You want to believe you're capable of it, but until you do it and see it, you just don't know. I know what we're capable of and I know we've done the unthinkable in the past. To win this eighth championship, we're going to have to do something that's never been done before, so I have optimism and belief that we'll have another look at an eighth championship.

      "I don't know if it's this year, next, the year after, but we have everything stacked up around it to make it happen. I don't expect it to come easy; no championship does."

      --By Holly Cain, NASCAR Wire Service. Special to Field Level Media.

  • Enfinger happy to be back on an oval track at Vegas
    By Field Level Media / Friday, September 14, 2018

    LAS VEGAS -- Grant Enfinger found a novel way to knock off some of the rust accumulated since the opening race of the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Playoffs at Canadian Tire Motorsports Park.

    • Enfinger was out in the Mojave Desert, near Nellis Air Force Base and Las Vegas Motor Speedway, kicking up dust and sand in a dune buggy, negotiating the maze of trails that crisscross the barren landscape.

      That was just a diversion, a taste of speed on a Wednesday evening before the serious business of championship competition was set to resume on Friday. And Enfinger was ready for redemption after a 17th-place finish Aug. 26 on the road course in Bowmanville, Ontario, left him last among the eight drivers eligible for the series title.

      Chafing to get back into the seat of his No. 98 ThorSport Racing Ford, Enfinger was looking forward with relish to Friday's World of Westgate 200 (9 p.m. ET on FS1, MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio).

      "I'm definitely happy to get back on an oval," Enfinger said. "I was actually happy with our performance and the speed we had in Canada. The race just didn't play out the way we needed it to. We had some mistakes on our side and then got caught up in that big mess at the end (an accident with five laps left).

      "Overall, I was happy with the effort everyone put in, but for our standards, it wasn't a clean race. So I'm happy to get to Vegas. We had a strong run here earlier this year. We finished fourth. I've always liked this place when we've come here. We're bringing our favorite mile-and-a-half truck. So I feel we'll be in shape to get a checkered flag on Friday night. I think we're overdue at this point."

      A victory, of course would give Enfinger a ticket into the second round of the Playoffs. After Friday's race at Vegas and the Oct. 13 event at Talladega Superspeedway, the NCWTS Playoff field will be cut to from eight to six drivers. Enfinger is eighth in the standings, 11 behind Ben Rhodes in seventh but only 12 behind teammate Matt Crafton and Stewart Friesen, who are tied for fifth.

      Consequently, the next two races could produce a major shuffle. Though he's an Alabama native, Enfinger doesn't want his fortunes to ride on the outcome at his home track at Talladega.

      "Me and Talladega have a rocky relationship, but we've had some good times there, too," Enfinger said. "Really, the only way to secure ourselves before we get to Talladega is to win (at Las Vegas). That would alleviate a lot of stress if we can go ahead and take care of that on Friday night and just have fun at Talladega.

      "If that doesn't happen, we'll just race like heck and let the chips fall where they will. We're going all out -- all out every time we're on the race track. We can't afford to be conservative with anything."

      The NCWTS Playoffs are punctuated with breaks in the schedule during the first round. Though the drivers might get antsy during the time off, it gives the teams time to adjust and prepare their trucks for upcoming races. That has been particularly useful for ThorSport, which switched manufacturers from Toyota to Ford this season.

      "The time off has helped us, but it's a testament to the guys downstairs at ThorSport that do the heavy fab and all of the body stuff. They've worked a ton -- night and day, seven days a week the first few months of the year to get us ahead where we could start fluffin' and buffin' on our trucks, which is what we need to do to go out and contend for wins.

      "They really did a good job at the beginning of the year, even though we got a late start, to get us in a good position now. It's definitely worked in our favor to have some of these breaks along the way to have everybody caught up and for a few of those guys to get a little bit of sleep."

      --By Reid Spencer, NASCAR Wire Service. Special to Field Level Media.

  • Defending champ Truex focuses on playoffs, not 2019
    By Field Level Media / Thursday, September 13, 2018

    LAS VEGAS -- Martin Truex Jr. managed a big smile in anticipation.

    • The reigning Monster Energy NASCAR Cup champion fully knew his plans for next season would be as important a topic to reporters as his present run for a second consecutive season title.

      Two weeks ago, his Furniture Row Racing team announced it would cease operations at the conclusion of the season -- leaving Truex's team with an uncertain 2019, although rumors are rampant that that he and most of the team will land in a good place.

      Truex addressed the situation immediately as reporters began gathering around him at Las Vegas' South Point Casino during a Media Day opportunity with the 16 drivers who qualified for NASCAR's postseason.

      The 10-race pursuit of the 2018 championship begins with Sunday's South Point 400 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway (3 p.m. ET on NBCSN, PRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio).

      But first, Truex left no doubt about his commitment to the FRR team and their focus on claiming a second consecutive Cup championship. He seemed confident in staying the course and said his team's attention was on 2018 -- on becoming the first driver to win consecutive titles since Jimmie Johnson reeled off five straight from 2006-10.

      "I feel like we're in a great place," Truex said of his title hopes. "We definitely want to repeat, no question about it. I think you could take all this (team news) in one of two ways. You could hang your head down and say, 'This sucks, why are we in this position' and be mad at the world.

      "Or you can look at each other and say, 'Let's go do this.' And I feel like that's where we're at. ... Look at the names on our team, their names were made at Furniture Row and (team owner) Barney (Visser) giving us the opportunity to work at a great place and giving us all the tools we needed to go out and win a championship. So I think all of us, we look at that and say, 'Hell yes. Let's go do this. Let's send Barney out on top, give him the best going-away gift we ever could.'

      "I truly, honestly feel like that's our mindset, that's our focus and I have no questions about where our team is and how they'll approach the playoffs."

      Truex has good reason for the hopeful attitude. A member of the season's "Big 3" -- a group that includes regular-season champion and six-race winner Kyle Busch, seven-time race winner Kevin Harvick and himself, a four-time winner -- it's been a successful answer to his 2017 trophy hoist.

      Truex has scored 15 top-five finishes through the opening 26 races in the No. 78 Furniture Row Racing Toyota, putting him on good pace to top his career-best season mark of 19 (2017) with 10 races still remaining.

      He has won races at Fontana, Calif.; Pocono, Pa.; the Sonoma, Calif., road course and the Kentucky 1.5-miler this year. And, he has finished second four other times -- including back-to-back at Kansas Speedway in Kansas City, Kan., and at Charlotte Motor Speedway in Charlotte, N.C., to start the summer.

      Truex hopes the team rediscovers the good vibes this weekend after just enduring a rough three-race span. In the previous three weeks, he's had two DNFs, resulting in a 30th-place finish at Bristol, Tenn., and a 40th-place finish at Indy on Monday -- his worst outcome of the year.

      Yet even with five DNFs on the season, Truex's average finish is 11.3 -- second only to his title-winning mark of 9.4 last year.

      "I look at our potential and I know what we can do," Truex said. "These last three weeks are a perfect example. We get crashed at Bristol, were running second at Darlington. ... then last week we ran 40 laps and broke the brake rotor. But we've had speed and I key on speed.

      "We're fast. I know we can win races, and if we do things right, we'll be in position. Can we capitalize? That's the question. That's the hardest thing to do in racing. Can you take advantage of all the opportunities? When the race is on the line, can you have that pit stop that keeps you in position?

      "It's the little things like that make the difference, and we were able to be perfect on them last year. Our average finish was stupid, like 2.5 in the playoffs, and that's what it takes. I know we can do it, it's just a matter of going out there and getting it done."

      Amid distractions, Truex has proven to be a master of focus. He has faced challenges in his career and in his private life -- his longtime girlfriend, Sherry Pollex, is battling ovarian cancer. And right now, it's really all good -- he's the defending Cup Series champion, armed with four wins and a highly motivated single-car team intent to earn a second straight title for a beloved retiring owner.

      "I've been tested and gone through adversity quite a bit," Truex said. "But that's life. That's just part of it. How you get through those things is how you show what you're made of.

      "Anyone can win. Anyone can have great days and have things go all their way. That's easy. Anybody can do that. When you show your true colors (is) when you're put in tough situations. I've got a great team behind me, and we know what it takes and we're going to put it all together and see what happens."

      --By Holly Cain, NASCAR Wire Service. Special to Field Level Media.

  • NASCAR notebook: Newfound speed has Larson optimistic for Playoffs
    By Field Level Media / Thursday, September 13, 2018

    LAS VEGAS -- The speed Kyle Larson found at Darlington Raceway, where he led 284 of 367 laps before finishing third, gave the driver of the No. 42 Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet a boost of confidence heading into the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs.

    • But what was the source of the newfound speed? Larson said something clicked during an Aug. 27-28 test at Richmond Raceway.

      "I felt like we had been ... I wouldn't say struggling, but we weren't running where I wanted to run or the team wanted to run," Larson said on Thursday at Playoffs media day at South Point Hotel, Casino and Spa. "We were still getting top 10s and stuff, but I didn't see us being fast enough to contend for a championship.

      "We had a really good test at Richmond. Normally when you go to a test, it feels like a waste of two days. But there, I felt like we learned three or four good things, and we implemented it into our Darlington car and dominated the race. We didn't get the win, but we dominated."

      Richmond is a .75-mile short track and Darlington a 1.366-mile intermediate speedway, but Larson trusted crew chief Chad Johnston to incorporate what he found at Richmond into the car that was being readied to run at Darlington.

      "I trust Chad," Larson said. "And I remember that, right after we made the run where he made a change, he was immediately calling our car chief at the shop to get it put on the Darlington car.

      "He and the engineers have the brains, and, anyway, we're turning left ..."

      DILLON TRIES TO BUILD SINISTER ALLIANCE AMONG YOUNG GUNS

      At a fan event during media day at South Point, Daytona 500 champion Austin Dillon took the stage with five other young Playoff drivers -- Larson, Alex Bowman, Chase Elliott, Ryan Blaney and Erik Jones.

      Those drivers enter the Playoffs at a considerable disadvantage to the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series' so-called "Big Three" -- Kevin Harvick, Kyle Busch and Martin Truex Jr. -- who collectively have won 17 of the 26 regular-season races and have racked up the three highest totals of Playoff points.

      Dillon offered a practical, edgy and ostensibly facetious solution to the Big Three problem.

      "These drivers up here, we should just make a deal," Dillon said. "If we just wreck the Big Three the next couple of weeks, we'll have a lot better shot of getting to Homestead."

      After the laughter and the applause from the audience died down, Bowman chimed in.

      "I'm not scared," he said.

      "If we split the profits from the championship, it would go a long way," Dillon responded. "Our odds in Vegas would go way up if they're not in it at Homestead."

      Bowman, however, was the only taker.

      "Everybody else is scared," Bowman said.

      KURT BUSCH'S CONTRACT STATUS FOR 2019 STILL IN LIMBO

      Despite rumors that he is headed to Chip Gannasi racing next year -- and though team owner Chip Ganassi has confirmed that Jamie McMurray won't return to the No. 1 Chevrolet in 2019 -- Kurt Busch says he remains unsigned beyond this season.

      Busch is driving the No. 41 Ford as one of four Stewart-Haas Racing entries in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs, which start with Sunday's South Point 400 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway (3 p.m. ET on NBCSN, PRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio).

      The contract limbo has become familiar territory for Busch in recent years. Last season, Stewart-Haas declined to pick up Busch's option before re-signing him later to a one-year deal. This season, Busch has acknowledged fielding offers from more than one team but has yet to announce his plans for next year.

      "It's all the same stuff that I've been through before, and I don't look at it like a (distraction)," Busch said. "The contracts that I signed when I was a rookie or a younger guy, they were five-year deals. And now, as of late, I haven't signed anything that was more than two years."

      Busch, however, doesn't think the uncertainty of his future will affect his prospects for a second Cup title.

      "It doesn't matter in this day and age what's going on behind the scenes," he said. "It's just a matter of executing when you're at [the] track, and there are so many things that are out of your control in a race on the track that it doesn't matter what's going on outside the car.

      "So each week, when I fire up the car for the first Friday practice session, that's the best feeling, 'cause I know that I'm going into a zone that I can control the most, and that keeps me away from having to thing about other stuff during the week."

      --By Reid Spencer, NASCAR Wire Service. Special to Field Level Media.

  • Weekend preview: Showtime for Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs
    By Field Level Media / Thursday, September 13, 2018

    LAS VEGAS -- The Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series begins its 10-race Playoff run with this Sunday's South Point Hotel and Casino 400 (3 p.m. ET on NBCSN, PRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio) -- the first time the 1.5-mile oval has hosted the Playoff opener.

    • All members of the Cup Series' "Big 3" have strong resumes at the track. Kevin Harvick won here in March -- part of a three-race winning streak. Martin Truex Jr. won here in 2017, the same year he also claimed the 2017 Playoff opener (then at Chicago). And Kyle Busch, who has led the standings for the last 21 weeks, won at his hometown track in 2009.

      The threesome come to the first round -- which also includes races at the 3/4-mile Richmond, Va., oval and the debut of the Charlotte Motor Speedway infield road course -- ranked first through third in the standings, Busch and Harvick tied for first, with Truex third.

      Busch, who has six wins and 21 top-10 finishes through the season's first 36 races, won the regular season trophy on Monday following the rain-delayed race at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

      Harvick, who has a series best seven wins this season, is tied in points with Busch heading into Vegas. And Truex, who crashed out at Indy, is third in the standings with four wins. It's been a season-long three-race "winning drought" for those three drivers with Kurt Busch (Bristol, Tenn.) and Penske Racing's Brad Keselowski (at Darlington, S.C. and Indy) claiming the wins on the eve of the Playoffs.

      The final four members of the 16 drivers to advance to the playoffs include Denny Hamlin, Aric Almirola, seven-time Cup champion -- and four-time Las Vegas winner -- Jimmie Johnson and his Hendrick Motorsports teammate Alex Bowman. All of them are looking for their first victory of the season. The bottom four drivers in the rankings following the Charlotte race will be eliminated from the playoffs.

      PLAYOFF TIME APPROACHES FOR XFINITY

      The DC Solar 300 on Saturday (5 p.m. ET on NBCSN, PRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio) marks the final regular season race for the Xfinity Series with three Playoff positions still to be firmed up, technically. Five-race winner Justin Allgaier leads the points by 49 over Cole Custer, who has 20 top-10 finishes but is still looking for his first 2018 victory.

      Rookie Christopher Bell, 23, has four race wins and is third in the standings, trailing Allgaier by 52 points. After leading the standings for four weeks this summer, the Joe Gibbs Racing driver has finishes of 23rd or worse in two of the last three races. He won the pole position, however, and finished runner-up to Kyle Larson in the Vegas race in March.

      Others to have already clinched a postseason berth include Daniel Hemric, Elliott Sadler, Tyler Reddick, Brandon Jones, Matt Tifft and Ryan Truex. Saturday's race will formalize the final three spots in the Playoff rankings, which are currently filled by Ryan Reed, Ross Chastain and Austin Cindric. A win by a championship-eligible driver outside of the 12 listed above would push one of those three out of contention.

      ROUND TWO FOR TRUCKS

      The Camping World Truck Series returns to Playoff competition Friday night in the World of Westgate 200 (9 p.m. ET on FS1, MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio). Justin Haley, 19, won the Playoff opener on the Canadian Tire Motorsports Park road course two weeks ago and has assured himself a position in the Round of 6.

      Defending series champion Johnny Sauter (2009) and Ben Rhodes (2017) are the only two Playoff drivers with previous victories at the Vegas 1.5-miler. Sauter has seven top-10 finishes in 10 starts here.

      Cup championship co-leader Kyle Busch won here in March but is not entered this weekend. Four drivers among the top five in that race are current Playoff drivers -- runner-up Sauter, Brett Moffitt, Grant Enfinger and Stewart Friesen.

      MONSTER ENERGY NASCAR CUP SERIES

      Next Race: South Point Hotel and Casino 400

      The Place: Las Vegas Motor Speedway (Las Vegas, Nev.)

      The Date: Sunday, Sept. 16

      The Time: 3 p.m. ET

      TV: NBCSN

      Radio: PRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio

      Distance: 400 miles (267 Laps); Stage 1 (Ends on Lap 80),

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

      What to Watch For: Last year's Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Martin Truex Jr. started his title run with a win in the opening Playoff race -- then at Chicagoland. ... Regular season champion Kyle Busch and seven-time race winner Harvick enter this 10-race Playoff run tied atop the points standings -- with a 15-point lead over third place Truex. ... Johnson is the winningest driver in Sunday's field with four victories at Vegas. Matt Kenseth has three and Playoff drivers Kyle Busch and Keselowski each have two wins here. They are the only four drivers with multiple wins at the track. ... Las Vegas native Kyle Busch is both the youngest ever pole winner at the track (22 years old, 2008) and youngest race winner (23 years old, 2009). ... Kyle Busch is also the only driver to win consecutive pole positions (2008-09) and the only driver to win a race from the pole position (2009). ... Kasey Kahne, who is not racing this weekend for medical reasons, holds the track record for most pole positions (3). He is the only driver to win his first pole at the track. ... Five of the 21 Cup races at Vegas have been won from the front row. Kenseth's win in 2004 from the 25th starting position is the farthest back a winner has started. ... Roush-Fenway Racing leads all organizations with seven Vegas wins. Hendrick Motorsports is next with five. ... Ford leads manufacturers in wins here (10), Chevrolet is second with seven. ... Ryan Newman has the most starts (17) without a victory at Vegas. ... Dale Earnhardt Jr. has the most runner-up finishes (three). Kyle Busch is next with two. ... Kenseth's 10 top-10 finishes are most among active drivers at the track. ... The closest margin of victory is .045-seconds -- when Johnson beat Kenseth in 2006.

      XFINITY SERIES

      Next Race: DC Solar 300

      The Place: Las Vegas Motor Speedway (Las Vegas, Nev.)

      The Date: Saturday, Sept. 15

      The Time: 5 p.m. ET

      TV: NBCSN

      Radio: PRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio

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

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

      What to Watch For: This week marks the first time the Xfinity Series has raced twice at Vegas in one season. ... This is the final regular season race. Five-time winner Allgaier leads the standings by 49 points over Custer. The regular season champion will receive a 15-point bonus. ... Allgaier's five wins double his career win total. Last year he won twice and that was a single season best for him. ... Allgaier has not won at Las Vegas but has seven top-10 finishes in eight starts, a runner-up in 2011 and a third place earlier this season are his best marks. ... Custer has a career best 10 top-five and 20 top-20 finishes but is still looking for a victory in 2018. His only win in the series came at the Homestead-Miami Speedway season finale last year. ... Rookie Bell has four wins but is ranked third in the standings with a recent spate of tough luck. He has two finishes of 23rd or worse in the last three races. He was runner-up in his only Xfinity Series start here, finishing second to Larson in March. ... Reed, Chastain and Cindric are looking to lock in their position in the Playoffs. A new winner this week would eliminate one of those drivers. ... The last five race winners at Vegas include Cup stars Keselowski, Austin Dillon, Kyle Busch, Joey Logano and Larson. ... There are no previous race winners in the field this weekend. ... Mark Martin holds the record for most series wins at the track (four).

      CAMPING WORLD TRUCK SERIES

      Next Race: World of Westgate 200

      The Place: Las Vegas Motor Speedway (Las Vegas, Nev.)

      The Date: Friday, Sept. 14

      The Time: 9 p.m. ET

      TV: FS1

      Radio: MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio

      Distance: 200 miles (134 Laps); Stage 1 (Ends on Lap 40),

      Stage 2 (Ends on Lap 80), and Final Stage (Ends on Lap 134)

      What to Watch For: Cup driver Kyle Busch won the race here in March but is not entered in this week's Playoff round. ... Rhodes, who is among the Playoff contingent, won in 2017 and defending series champion Sauter won in 2009. They are the only two members of the eight-driver Playoff field to hoist a trophy in Vegas. ... Toyota has won the last five manufacturer's championships. Should they win in 2018 it would be a record for most consecutive wins. ... Chevrolet has won the most races (9) at Las Vegas. ... Haley, 19, is the youngest member of the Playoff field and the only one to have already secured his entry into the next round thanks to a win in the Playoff opener at Canadian Tire Motorsports Park two weeks ago. ... Eight times the pole-winner has gone on to win the race -- the most prolific starting position. ... Erik Jones is the youngest championship driver in series history, winning the big trophy in 2015 at the age of 19. ... Playoff contender and two-time former series champ Matt Crafton has won at every 1.5-mile track the series visits except for Las Vegas and Chicagoland. ... Noah Gragson, a Las Vegas native, has finishes of 13th (2017) and 12th (2018) at his home track. ... At 42, Crafton is the oldest driver among the playoff eight. Of note, Ted Musgrave won the 2005 title when he was 50.

      --Holly Cain, NASCAR Wire Service. Special to Field Level Media.

  • Bowyer not settling as Playoffs near
    By Field Level Media / Thursday, September 13, 2018

    With the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs set to begin Sunday at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, Clint Bowyer will be the first to tell you he's not satisfied with "best-of-the-rest" status.

    • True enough, NASCAR's so-called Big Three -- Kevin Harvick, Kyle Busch and reigning series champion Martin Truex Jr. -- have dominated the action during much of the 26-race regular season, winning seven, six and four races, respectively.

      Bowyer and Brad Keselowski, who triumphed in back-to-back crown jewel events at Darlington and Indianapolis, are the only other multiple winners on the circuit so far this season. To Bowyer, the difference between his effort in the No. 14 Stewart-Haas racing Ford and that of Harvick, his teammate, comes down to consistent performance, not lack of speed.

      "Our speed is there, our capabilities are there, but we're struggling to put races together," Bowyer said last Friday after a Mobil 1 appearance at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Museum. "We've got to get that nipped in the bud.

      "I've been at the shop this week and been in a lot of conversations with (crew chief) Mike (Bugarewicz) and the guys, just trying to build that confidence and that self-esteem, that communication, open that line back up, make sure that there's no rough edges as far as that goes ... try to get everything smoothed up before we get into the Playoffs."

      Sunday's Big Machine Vodka 400 at the Brickyard was a good start. Bowyer won the first stage and finished fifth, showing excellent speed and gathering momentum for the Playoffs.

      Ask any of his teammates: Bowyer has little patience for team meetings, and he's usually the first to leave. But if he has a point to make, he's quick to get it across, and he expects the same from those who support his efforts.

      "I'm a no-BS guy," Bowyer said as he prepares for Sunday's Playoff opener -- the South Point 400 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway (3 p.m. ET on NBCSN). "I hate meetings, but I do use 'em. If I'm going to a meeting, I'm going to speak my mind, and I want people to speak theirs and get to the bottom of it. I don't want to be there for three hours and get to the bottom of it."

      Bowyer believes his team is capable of contending for the championship, but he concedes that the elimination system at work in the Playoffs also may open up opportunities to drivers who haven't been at their best during the regular season.

      "Our race team is one of the best I've ever had," he said. "This is one of the best opportunities I've ever had to win a championship. We're definitely capable of winning a championship and competing at that level. All you've got to do is put together 10 races, and, really, within that, you've got to focus on three at a time.

      "That changes the game big-time. That opens up the door for a lot of different people. A guy like Jimmie Johnson ... that opens the door right back up for a seven-time champion -- wake up a sleeping giant."

      Bowyer is well-known for keeping things loose within the organization. His quick wit is irrepressible, and his penchant for a party well-known. That comes in handy when he has to keep Bugarewicz off the ledge.

      "I've got a young crew chief," Bowyer said. "He's as intense as anybody I've ever been around in my life. I've been doing this for 15 years, and I've never encountered a crew chief that's as intense as he is. He expects results. He works his ass off, and he expects big things.

      "It's hard to answer that every single time. But the thing I've always been able to do is keep the pressure off a guy like that and not let the heat get to him and enable him to make the right decisions on strategy and things like that without feeling pressure."

      With two victories in hand, Bowyer and "Buga" have enjoyed a relatively stress-free summer. What remains to be seen is how they'll perform when the pressure ramps up on Sunday.

      --By Reid Spencer, NASCAR Wire Service. Special to Field Level Media.

  • Kahne to skip next 3 NASCAR races
    By Field Level Media / Wednesday, September 12, 2018

    Kasey Kahne will skip the next three NASCAR races, with Regan Smith driving in his place.

    • Leavine Family Racing announced Tuesday night that Smith will drive the No. 95 car Sunday at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, on Sept. 22 at Richmond Raceway and on Sept. 30 at the Charlotte Motor Speedway Road Course.

      Smith finished 20th in Monday's race at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

      Kahne is taking the time off for health reasons. He had dehydration issues during the Southern 500 on Sept. 2, an affliction he has battled for more than a year.

      "I just can't control the temperature in my body and my heart rate," Kahne said last week in advance of the race in Indianapolis. "Once it gets to that point, there's nothing I can do until I get out of the car. We're still trying to figure that out."

      Temperatures could reach 100 degrees this weekend in Las Vegas.

      Last month, Kahne, 38, said this would be his last season racing on a full-time basis. He said health issues contributed to that decision.

      Kahne currently is in 28th place in the NASCAR Cup standings.

      Kahne addressed his situation Wednesday on Twitter. In part, he said, "People want to know why I just don't retire and sit out the rest of the season...the answer is simple. I love racing."

      --Field Level Media

  • Auto Racing Glance
    By Field Level Media / Tuesday, September 11, 2018

    MONSTER ENERGY NASCAR CUP SERIES

    • MONSTER ENERGY NASCAR CUP SERIES: SOUTH POINT 400 (267 laps, 400.5 miles around a 1.5-mile D-shaped oval), Las Vegas Motor Speedway; Las Vegas.

      TV: Sunday, 3 p.m. ET (Green flag approx. 3:16 p.m. ET) -- NBCSN (Radio: Performance Racing Network, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio Channel 90).

      THIS WEEK: The playoff-field of 16 is set after Brad Keselowski won his second straight race Sunday at Indy coming on the heels of the Labor Day weekend win at Darlington. ... Not a lot of drama as to who made the playoffs as there were only two spots up for grabs and seven-time champion Jimmie Johnson and teammate Alex Bowman -- both winless this season -- advanced on points. ... The playoffs start at Las Vegas, the first time the speedway has had two races in a season, and this will be the 22nd race there -- the first coming in 1998. ... The 1.5-mile D-shaped oval is often branded as a "cookie-cutter" track, following the formula of so many of the newer tracks in NASCAR, so drivers with success this season on similar tracks should be expected to fare well here. That includes winners Kevin Harvick, Kyle Busch and Martin Truex Jr. ... Truex's team announced it is shutting down at the end of the season, so it will be interesting to see how the defending series champion fares down the stretch. ... Harvick won the race at Las Vegas in March. ... This is the 27th race of 36 on the season and the first of the three-race Round of 16, where the bottom four drivers in the standings after the race at Charlotte Motor Speedway's road course on Sept. 30 will be eliminated from contention. A win automatically propels the victor into the next round of the playoffs. ... Kyle Busch won the regular-season title and leads the reset point standings with 2,050, followed by Harvick (2,050), Truex (2,035), Keselowski (2,019), Clint Bowyer (2,015), Joey Logano (2,014), Kurt Busch (2,014), Chase Elliott (2,008), Ryan Blaney (2,007), Erik Jones (2,005), Austin Dillon (2,005), Kyle Larson (2,005), Denny Hamlin (2,003), Aric Almirola (2,001), Johnson (2,000) and Bowman (2,000).

      (All stats and standings per NASCAR.com)

      NASCAR XFINITY SERIES: DC SOLAR 300 (200 laps, 300 miles around a 1.5-mile D-shaped oval), Las Vegas Motor Speedway; Las Vegas.

      TV: Saturday, 5 p.m. ET (Green flag approx. 5:18 p.m. ET) -- NBCSN (Radio: Performance Racing Network, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio Channel 90).

      THIS WEEK: The 26th of 33 races on the season, the series is ready to settle its playoff picture before the Round of 12 begins next Friday at Richmond, the question being can a surprise first-time winner vault into the playoffs? ... This will be the 23rd series race at the track, but the first time a race has been held at Vegas for the second time in a season. ... Logano won this race last season and fellow full-time Cup regular Larson won in March. ... Justin Allgaier won at Indy, his fifth victory of the season. ... Christopher Bell is the only Xfinity regular to win on a 1.5-mile track such as Las Vegas this season, taking the trophy at Kentucky in July. ... *Allgaier leads the points with 943, followed by Cole Custer (894), *Bell (891), Daniel Hemric (888), Elliott Sadler (874), *Tyler Reddick (731), Brandon Jones (713), Matt Tifft (700), Ryan Truex (679), and Ryan Reed (585) rounding out the top 10. The playoffs will start with 12 drivers, with Ross Chastain (570) and Austin Cindric (552) holding spots 11 and 12, respectively. Michael Annett (495) is currently the first driver out and will need to win to get in.

      (All stats and standings per NASCAR.com)

      *Denotes race winner and playoff berth

      NASCAR CAMPING WORLD TRUCK SERIES: LAS VEGAS 350 (134 laps, 201 miles around a 1.5-mile D-shaped oval), Las Vegas Motor Speedway; Las Vegas.

      TV: Friday, 9 p.m. ET (Green flag approx. 9:18 p.m. ET) -- FS1 (Radio: Motor Racing Network, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio Channel 90).

      THIS WEEK: The Trucks are back for race 18 of 23 races on the season with two races to go in the Round of 8, kicking off a NASCAR tripleheader weekend in Las Vegas. ... Seven drivers are left vying for five spots in the Round of 6 as Justin Haley already punched his ticket with a win in Canada three weeks ago, with the next race at Talladega looming as the cutoff on Oct. 13. ... Kyle Busch won the race in Vegas in March, but Truck regulars Brett Moffitt, Noah Gragson, Johnny Sauter and Ben Rhodes all have wins this season on 1.5-mile D-shaped ovals similar to this one. ... Sauter leads the Truck standings (2,081 points), followed by Moffitt (2,075), Gragson (2,070), *Haley (2,065), Matt Crafton (2,047), Stewart Friesen (2,047), Rhodes (2,046) and Grant Enfinger (2,035).

      *Victory and advancement to the next round.

      (All stats and standings per NASCAR.com)

      VERIZON INDYCAR SERIES: INDYCAR GRAND PRIX OF SONOMA (85 laps, 202.725 miles around a 2.385-mile 12-turn permanent road course), Sonoma Raceway; Sonoma, Calif.

      TV: Sunday, 6:30 p.m. ET (approx. green flag 6:35 p.m. ET) -- NBCSN (Radio: Advance Auto Parts INDYCAR Radio Network, Sirius 214, XM 209, IndyCar.com, indycarradio.com and on the INDYCAR Mobile app).

      THIS WEEK: The championship again comes down to the final race of the season and double points are on the line. ... This will be the 14th series race at Sonoma and championship frontrunner Scott Dixon has won three times, including back-to-back in 2014-15. ... Dixon's nearest pursuer, Alexander Rossi, finished fifth in 2016 and 21st last season in his only two trips to the track. ... Simon Pagenaud, out of contention for the title, has won the past two races at Sonoma. ... The undulating course has an elevation change of 160 feet and it is a fast track with precision required, particularly in the Turn 11 hairpin. ... Dixon's championship lead is at 29 points (598) as the New Zealander hopes to fend off Rossi (569), Australia's Will Power (511) and Josef Newgarden (511). ... Last place will pay a minimum of 12 points. A win could mean as many as 105 points based on bonuses, but a minimum of 101.

      FORMULA ONE: SINGAPORE GRAND PRIX (61 laps, 191.967 miles around a 3.147-mile 23-turn temporary street course), Marina Bay Street Circuit; Singapore, Singapore.

      TV: Sunday, 8 a.m. ET (Green flag approx. 8:10 a.m. ET) -- ESPN2 (Radio: SiriusXM Radio Channel 132).

      THIS WEEK: It's off to Singapore and Asia for a Hermann Tilke-designed street circuit that is technical and challenging, the Marina Bay Street Circuit. ... This will be the 15th of 21 races this season. ... This will be the 11th Singapore Grand Prix, the first being held in 2008 and then every year since. With no real elevation changes, the difficulty lies in negotiating the 23 turns, Particularly Turn 10, named "The Singapore Sling," a flowing left-hander that leads to a right-hand kink at Turn 11. ... Lewis Hamilton won this race last season. ... Hamilton won the previous race at Monza, extending his lead over chief rival Sebastian Vettel. .'. Great Britain's Hamilton leads the standings in his Mercedes with 256 points, followed by Vettel, Ferrari (226), Finland's Kimi Raikkonen, Ferrari (164), Finland's Valtteri Bottas, Mercedes (159) and Belgium's Max Verstappen, Red Bull (130).

      NATIONAL HOT ROD ASSOCIATION: DODGE NHRA NATIONALS, Thursday-Sunday, at Maple Grove Raceway; Mohnton, Pa.

      TV: Eliminations, Sunday, 1-2 p.m. ET (live) FS1; 7:30-10:30 p.m. ET (Delayed) FS1

      THIS WEEK: It's time for the playoffs -- Countdown to the Championship in the NHRA -- to begin, and that means Maple Grove Raceway in Mohnton, Pa. ... All 10 drivers who qualified for the playoffs in each class will vie for the championship, with none eliminated along the way, so it's a six-event sprint to the title now that the points have reset. ... This is the 19th of 24 events on the season. ... Winners at the U.S. Nationals over Labor Day weekend were Terry McMillen in Top Fuel, J.R. Todd in Funny Car, Tanner Gray in Pro Stock and LE Tonglet in Pro Stock Motorcycle. All four classes will race at Maple Grove. ... Steve Torrence leads the Top Fuel standings (2,100 points), followed by Clay Millican (2,080), Tony Schumacher (2,070), Leah Pritchett (2,060), Doug Kalitta (2,050), Antron Brown (2,040), McMillen (2,040), Brittany Force (2,020), Mike Salinas (2,010), and Scott Palmer (2,000) to start the 10-driver playoffs. ... Courtney Force leads Funny Car (2,100), followed by Matt Hagan (2,080), Robert Hight (2,070), Ron Capps (2,060), Todd (2,050), Jack Beckman (2,040), Tommy Johnson Jr. (2,030), Shawn Langdon (2,020), John Force (2,010) and Tim Wilkerson (2,000). ... Gray leads Pro Stock (2,100) followed by Greg Anderson (2,080), Erica Enders (2,070), Jeg Coughlin Jr. (2,060), Vincent Nobile (2,050), Deric Kramer (2,040), Drew Skillman (2,030), Jason Line (2,020), Bo Butner (2,010), Chris McGaha (2,000). ... Eddie Krawiec leads Pro Stock Motorcycle (2,100), followed by Andrew Hines (2,080), Tonglet (2,070), Hector Arana Jr. (2,060), Jerry Savoie (2,050), Matt Smith (2,040), Scotty Pollacheck (2,030), Steve Johnson (2,020), Angie Smith (2,010) and Angelle Sampey (2,000).

      --Field Level Media

  • Big Machine Vodka 400 at the Brickyard results
    By Field Level Media / Monday, September 10, 2018

    Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Race -- Big Machine Vodka 400 at the Brickyard

    • Indianapolis Motor Speedway

      Speedway, Indiana

      Monday, September 10, 2018

      1. (6) Brad Keselowski, Ford, 160.

      2. (13) Erik Jones, Toyota, 160.

      3. (10) Denny Hamlin, Toyota, 160.

      4. (2) Kevin Harvick, Ford, 160.

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

      6. (4) Kurt Busch, Ford, 160.

      7. (21) Jamie McMurray, Chevrolet, 160.

      8. (1) Kyle Busch, Toyota, 160.

      9. (19) Paul Menard, Ford, 160.

      10. (17) Ryan Newman, Chevrolet, 160.

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

      12. (29) Matt Kenseth, Ford, 160.

      13. (5) Joey Logano, Ford, 160.

      14. (7) Kyle Larson, Chevrolet, 160.

      15. (11) Chase Elliott, Chevrolet, 160.

      16. (14) Jimmie Johnson, Chevrolet, 160.

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

      18. (20) Daniel Suarez, Toyota, 160.

      19. (22) William Byron #, Chevrolet, 160.

      20. (27) Regan Smith, Chevrolet, 160.

      21. (30) Ty Dillon, Chevrolet, 160.

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

      23. (12) Aric Almirola, Ford, 159.

      24. (25) David Ragan, Ford, 159.

      25. (23) Chris Buescher, Chevrolet, 158.

      26. (32) Ross Chastain(i), Chevrolet, 158.

      27. (33) Corey LaJoie, Chevrolet, 158.

      28. (38) * Reed Sorenson, Chevrolet, 158.

      29. (35) JJ Yeley(i), Toyota, 157.

      30. (40) * BJ McLeod(i), Ford, 157.

      31. (34) Landon Cassill(i), Chevrolet, Accident, 150.

      32. (37) * Jeffrey Earnhardt, Toyota, Accident, 150.

      33. (15) Alex Bowman, Chevrolet, 142.

      34. (16) Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Ford, Engine, 136.

      35. (39) * Timmy Hill(i), Toyota, Fuel Pump, 124.

      36. (31) Matt DiBenedetto, Ford, Rear End, 89.

      37. (24) AJ Allmendinger, Chevrolet, Accident, 66.

      38. (28) Bubba Wallace #, Chevrolet, Accident, 57.

      39. (36) David Starr(i), Chevrolet, Accident, 57.

      40. (3) Martin Truex Jr., Toyota, Brakes, 41.

      Average Speed of Race Winner: 128.629 mph.

      Time of Race: 03 Hrs, 06 Mins, 35 Secs. Margin of Victory: 0.904 Seconds.

      Caution Flags: 10 for 39 laps.

      Lead Changes: 14 among 9 drivers.

      Lap Leaders: Kyle Busch 1-11; D. Hamlin 12-32; Kurt Busch 33-44; C. Bowyer 45-51; Kyle Busch 52-67; K. Harvick 68-89; C. Bowyer 90-96; M. Kenseth 97-101; W. Byron # 102-104; C. Bowyer 105-127; R. Blaney 128; Kurt Busch 129-135; B. Keselowski 136-142; D. Hamlin 143-158; B. Keselowski 159-160.

      Leaders Summary (Driver, Times Lead, Laps Led): C. Bowyer 3 times for 37 laps; D. Hamlin 2 times for 37 laps; Kyle Busch 2 times for 27 laps; K. Harvick 1 time for 22 laps; Kurt Busch 2 times for 19 laps; B. Keselowski 2 times for 9 laps; M. Kenseth 1 time for 5 laps; W. Byron # 1 time for 3 laps; R. Blaney 1 time for 1 lap.

      Stage #1 Top Ten: 14,41,11,42,18,2,10,21,9,20

      Stage #2 Top Ten: 6,9,20,22,41,19,2,24,31,48

      --By NASCAR Wire Service. Special to Field Level Media.

  • Keselowski bumps Hamlin to win in Indy
    By Field Level Media / Monday, September 10, 2018

    Brad Keselowski bumped his way past Denny Hamlin with two laps to go on Monday and went on to win the rain-postponed Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series' Big Machine Vodka 400 at the Brickyard on Monday afternoon.

    • The victory, which gave team owner Roger Penske his first in a stock car race victory at Indianapolis Motor Speedway after winning 17 times there in Indy cars, was the second of the year for Keselowski. He also won last week at the Southern 500 at Darlington Raceway.

      The key to the victory was a decision by Keselowski's crew chief -- Paul Wolfe -- to pit later than other teams on the final green-flag stops. That gave him the better rubber on the final laps.

      "He made a heck of a call to pit late in that run," Keselowski, who led just nine laps, said. "We came out eighth and he gave me the ball, you know? He gave me the ball and I had to make a play. We weren't a dominant car by any means, but Paul executed an incredible race and I just had to do my job. Here we are in Victory Lane at the Brickyard."

      Wolfe said of the win, "It's something that hasn't been done at (Team) Penske. Roger has had a lot of success here, done a lot of things. Obviously this one's for him."

      Hamlin appeared to have command of the race over the final laps, but a series of wrecks closed up the field and forced a couple of late race restarts. Asked what he needed to hold off Keselowski and get his first win of the year, Hamlin said, "Not have meaningless guys in the back wreck. I don't know what they're doing crashing with a couple laps to go while multiple laps down. Meaningless."

      Erik Jones of Joe Gibbs Racing finished second, while Hamlin slipped to third in the No. 11 Gibbs Toyota.

      The race cemented the field for the upcoming Cup Series playoffs, which start next weekend at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

      Unless a driver were to win his first race of the season Monday -- none did -- only two berths remained available for the playoff when the race started. Those two berths went to Hendrick Motorsports teammates Jimmie Johnson -- who will chase his series-record eight championship -- and Alex Bowman.

      Bowman needed the winner's help as he was involved in a wreck on Lap 67 and fell multiple laps off the pace. Had Hamlin held on to win, Bowman would have been out.

      The 16 drivers who will compete in the playoffs are Kyle Busch, Kevin Harvick, Martin Truex Jr., Kurt Busch, Joey Logano, Clint Bowyer, Chase Elliott, Austin Dillon, Keselowski, Jones, Kyle Larson, Ryan Blaney, Hamlin, Aric Almirola, Johnson and Bowman.

      The green flag dropped a couple of minutes after 2 p.m. with Kyle Busch on the pole and Harvick of Stewart-Haas Racing lining up next to him.

      Bowyer of Stewart-Haas Racing won the first stage -- his first of the season -- while part-time Roush Fenway Racing driver and former Cup champ Matt Kenseth won the second of the three stages.

      Martin Truex Jr., the 2017 Cup champion who has won four races this season, will start the playoffs sans momentum. Early in the race, he suffered a race-ending incident.

      "Left-front brake rotor exploded and went through the hood," the Furniture Row Racing driver said.

      --Field Level Media

  • Brickyard race postponed (rain) until Monday
    By Field Level Media / Sunday, September 9, 2018

    Sunday's Big Machine Vodka 400, the Brickyard Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series race at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, has been postponed until Monday afternoon because of persistent rain on Sunday.

    • Wet weather has plagued IMS all weekend, cancelling practices and qualifying sessions for both the Cup and Xfinity series on Friday and Saturday.

      Race time has been set for 2 p.m. ET for the Cup race. That event will be preceded by the postponed Xfinity race, which is scheduled to begin at 10 a.m.

      Kyle Busch in the No. 18 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota will start Monday's Brickyard race from the pole based on point standings. Kevin Harvick in the No. 4 Stewart-Haas Racing Ford will start from the other side of the front row.

      "It's really good for us to be able to start on the pole," Busch said during a press conference on Sunday. "We qualified on the pole here last year I believe it was, so being able to get out front and get out in that clean air, obviously it helps you, helps your day. When you're out there though, you're kind of in clean air. You're racing yourself essentially and time, but also when you get back in traffic later on in the event, you still have to have a good handling race car.

      "Without having any practice and without having any opportunity to get out there behind people or around people, it's going to be a big difference throughout the day."

      The Indy race marks the end of the regular season in Cup competition. The 10-race playoffs begin next weekend at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series race at Indianapolis Motor Speedway has been postponed until Monday afternoon because of persistent rain.

      --Field Level Media