Crew chief Greg Ives explains pit call shortly before Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s incident

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INDIANAPOLIS — With the luck Dale Earnhardt Jr. and his team had Sunday at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, maybe nothing would have worked.

Earnhardt finished 36th after his car was damaged on a restart when he ran into the back of Trevor Bayne’s car. Earnhardt said cars ahead slowed and it caused a chain-reaction incident.

But Earnhardt could have been higher in the field had crew chief Greg Ives not decided to pit.

Earnhardt pitted on Lap 59 and was going to be one lap short of making it to the end of Stage 2 at Lap 100. The team decided to come back to top off for fuel. They wanted to make sure they didn’t run out of fuel before the stage, knowing that pit road is closed with two laps left in a stage.

Earnhardt restarted 24th.

The caution came out on Lap 72 for JJ Yeley. Earnhardt was 21st.

Ives elected to have Earnhardt pit even though Earnhardt was good on fuel for the end of the stage.

Eight cars did not pit. Had Earnhardt stayed out, he would have restarted fifth with Ryan Newman, Denny Hamlin, Austin Dillon and Landon Cassill behind him.

That wasn’t good enough for Ives. He explained his decision to pit.

“We would have restarted about fifth or sixth and we would have two not very good cars behind us and we would have just got ate up with 12 laps on our tires,’’ Ives told NBC Sports. “We saw earlier in the race with laps on our tires it wasn’t going to be a good scenario.

“The thing that we needed to happen right there was about 15 (cars) to stay out and (we) had tires and be able to work through them. If I could have been on the front row (without new tires), it would have been different.’’

Ives had to look at different strategies after Earnhardt lost 10 spots on a Lap 52 pit stop. The second lug nut on the right rear bounced away and hit the air gun, clipping a switch, making the air gun tighten the next couple of lug nuts instead of taking them off. That slowed the stop.

“Nothing that the changer can do differently,’’ Ives said. “Nothing that the gun can do differently when you hit your second lug nut and it flies off the wheel and it switches your button on three and four. What kind of luck is that?

“It’s frustrating because any type of scenario we’re trying to put ourselves in to be opposite the leaders, to be different. Yeah, I probably could have done opposite the leader there (on the Lap 72 cation pit stop), wound up fifth or sixth, but it wouldn’t have helped us at all.

“I was trying to at least to continue to maintain and continue to get lap times. The way I looked at it, those were (eight cars) that I could have got by the time the break came. Tires are pretty important. They’re so important that you don’t want to be the last guy without them.’’

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Points leader Elliott Sadler clinches Xfinity playoff spot after finishing third at Bristol

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Even though he hasn’t won this year, Elliott Sadler earned himself a spot in the Xfinity Series playoffs Friday night at Bristol Motor Speedway.

Sadler is the fourth driver to qualify for the playoffs. He joins Ryan Reed, William Byron and Justin Allgaier, who clinched spots through race wins.

The JR Motorsports driver and the series points leader finished third in the Food City 300 for his ninth top five of the year.

“Man, we had a great car,” Sadler told NBCSN. “I hit the wall with like 50 to go. Then I threw my water bottle out and it got in the jack man’s way, messed us up. We’re peaking at the right time.”

Sadler has led the Xfinity Series point standings for the last 10 races and following 20 of the 22 races this year.

Following Sadler in the top five is William Byron (-110), Allgaier (-136), Brennan Poole (-186) and Daniel Hemric (-206).

Brendan Gaughan is on the playoff bubble. He is 43 points above the cutoff line. Ross Chastain is 13th on the playoff grid.

Click here for the point standings.

Results, stats for the Xfinity Series race at Bristol

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Kyle Busch won the Food City 300 at Bristol Motor Speedway for his fifth Xfinity Series win of the year.

He led 186 laps and swept all three stages.

Completing the top five were Daniel Suarez, Elliott Sadler, Ty Dillon and Justin Allgaier.

Click here for full results.

Kyle Busch wins Food City 300 at Bristol Motor Speedway

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Kyle Busch once again dominated a NASCAR race at Bristol Motor Speedway, winning Friday night’s Food City 300.

Busch led 186 laps on the way to the win, his fifth Xfinity Series victory of the season.

The Joe Gibbs Racing driver fended off the field in a nine-lap shootout following a late caution.

The top five was completed by Daniel Suarez, Elliott Sadler, Ty Dillon and Justin Allgaier.

Busch moved one step closer to a sweep of the race week. He won Wednesday’s Camping World Truck Series race. If he wins Saturday’s Cup race, it will be the second time he’s swept all three Bristol races after doing it in 2010.

Just like Wednesday, Busch fought through the field after a mid-race speeding penalty to earn the win.

“At least I didn’t have to come through (the field) in the last stage because everybody was pretty fast there tonight in the last stage,” Busch said. “I don’t know if I would have been able to make it all the way back up through there. Suárez gave us a heck of a run there. I was trying to push hard and he was closing in on us a little bit there before that last caution came out. Once that caution came out everything cooled down and my car wasn’t even close to what it was before, so I don’t know how I held on to it. The car was just so sideways.”

The win is Busch’s 91st in the Xfinity Series.

STAGE 1 WINNER: Kyle Busch

STAGE 2 WINNER: Kyle Busch

MORE: Race Results

MORE: Points standings

WHO HAD A GOOD NIGHT: Allgaier led twice for 75 laps and earned his sixth top five of the season … Sadler led once for 15 laps and clinched a spot in the playoffs … Ty Dillon earned his second top five of the season and beset finish in 19 starts … Joey Logano bounced back from a flat tire and going to two laps down to finish ninth.

WHO HAD A BAD NIGHT: Ryan Reed and Aric Almirola wrecked on Lap 25 after they pinched Spencer Gallagher on the backstretch. Almirola finished 38th. … Reed caused the following caution after damage from the previous wreck cut a tire, sending him into the wall. Reed finished 37th … Brendan Gaughan had one unscheduled pit stop for a tire rub. He was then involved in a crash with 15 to go after being tagged by Jeb Burton, who had lost a tire. He finished 30th … William Byron lost a tire with less than 10 to go and had to pit. He finished 22nd.

NOTABLE: With his win, Busch is nine wins away from reaching 100 Xfinity wins. Busch has said he’ll retire from Xfinity competition once he reaches 100 … Dale Earnhardt Jr. finished 13th in his first Xfinity start of the year.

QUOTE OF THE NIGHT: “Two weeks in a row. I know he doesn’t have a lot of race and I like him a lot normally, but right now I’m going to knock the hell out of him. The first time he gave me a flat and the second time he says he blew a tire. If you know you’ve got a tire going then don’t drive underneath somebody. The last couple of weeks I’ve been driven with no respect. We put ourselves back in a decent spot and we’re going to go to Road America and win that sucker.” – Brendan Gaughan after his late wreck with Jeb Burton.

NEXT: Johnsonville 180 at Road America at 3 p.m. ET on Aug. 27 on NBC.

Starting lineup for Cup night race at Bristol

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Erik Jones and Kyle Larson will start on the front row of the Bass Pro Shops NRA Night Race at Bristol Motor Speedway (coverage begins at 7:30 p.m. ET Saturday on NBC).

Jones starts from his first Cup pole.

Completing the top five are Kasey Kahne, Chase Elliott and Matt Kenseth.

Click here for the starting lineup.