Wild Brickyard 400 helped underdogs shine

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Sunday’s Brickyard 400 wasn’t just a win for Kasey Kahne, it was also a win of sorts for several other drivers who enjoyed some of the best finishes of their season or careers.

With so many big names sidelined by mechanical failure or crashes, the 400 was a day for underdogs to shine.

Among the top underdog finishes:

* Matt DiBenedetto finished eighth, his best showing of the season (previous best was ninth in the Daytona 500). It was also his best non-restrictor plate finish since 19th at Bristol, and just two spots shy of his career-best showing of sixth at Bristol in April 2016.

“It’s pretty unreal what we’ve been able to accomplish this year,” said DiBenedetto, driver of the No. 32 Go Fas Racing Ford Fusion. “I’ve worked so dang hard the old-school way to get here, countless late nights for these guys working, many sleepless nights in my career thinking it was over about 30 to 40 times and that’s not even an exaggeration, and to have these kind of races this year is just unbelievable.”

Go Fas Racing is one of the smallest teams in the NASCAR Cup series. But DiBenedetto and his team get a lot of pleasure by doing more with less.

“Obviously, being a smaller team we just try and get a good handle on our cars,” DiBenedetto. “We come here and dial in our car the old-school way, through communication.

“We have no simulation or nothing. We just have 15 guys and we work our tails off. … Because we had a good handling car, we were able to take advantage of everybody else’s mistakes by being competitive and being in front of a lot the guys that were racing, and being in the right place at the right time there a lot of times at the end.  Don’t get me wrong, though, we had our share of close calls.”

But the key was avoiding all those close calls that helped DiBenedetto get such a good finish.

“Over-aggression is an understatement,” DiBenedetto said. “ I don’t know if it just got dark and nobody could see out their windshields or what, but the thing is restarts are so important.

“That’s where you make up all your spots, and once it gets single filed out, it’s really hard to pass. So unfortunately you’ve got to really go on the restarts, which makes it fun and makes it exciting for the fans, but you’re also just hanging on for dear life and hoping you’re in the right place at the right time.”

* JTG Daugherty’s two drivers, Chris Buescher (ninth) and AJ Allmendinger (10th), finished next to each other. It was the second time in the last four races and this season overall that both cars ended with top-10 finishes in the same race (Coke Zero 400 at Daytona, Allmendinger was eighth, Buescher was 10th).

Buescher earned his best finish of the season in the Brickyard 400. But it wasn’t easy: his car looked more like it had just finished a beating and banging fest at Martinsville.

“It felt like a battle more than a race today,” Buescher said. “Just an excellent job by our team to stick with it today. We had damage throughout a lot of this race and this Clorox team, they worked really hard to make sure we got it back to where it needed to be to be able to get some drivability out of it.

“We were able to miss some of that craziness there at the end and got ourselves a good finish out of it.”

For Allmendinger, it was his second-best finish of the season after his third-place finish in the Daytona 500.

“(It was) just one of those days you’ve just got to keep fighting and get a little lucky, fortunately missing all the wrecks,” Allmendinger said. “We’ve got to keep working on trying to get better and trying new things for sure.”

The recent performance lifts Allmendinger’s confidence of making the playoffs, with his best chance next month at Watkins Glen. It was there in 2014 that Allmendinger won and qualified for the playoffs.

* Cole Whitt finished 12th, one spot shy of tying his career-best outing in July 2016 at Daytona. Coming into Sunday’s race, Whitt’s best finish was 16th at Talladega this spring and his best non-plate finish was 20th earlier this year at Atlanta.

* Rounding out the top underdog finishes was Timmy Hill, who earned a career-best finish of 14th. Hill’s previous career-best showing was 22nd at Kansas in October 2012. His best finish this season before the Brickyard was 28th.

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Results, statistics from Ford EcoBoost 200 Truck season finale

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Chase Briscoe earned his first Camping World Truck Series victory in Friday’s season-ending Ford EcoBoost 200 at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

And while finishing second is supposed to be the first loser, it wasn’t for Christopher Bell, whose runner-up showing clinched the 2017 Truck Series championship for him.

Click here for the full results from Friday’s race.

MORE: Christopher Bell wins Truck Series championship, Chase Briscoe earns first career Truck win

MORE: Here’s the final 2017 Camping World Truck Series driver standings

 

Here’s the final 2017 Camping World Truck Series driver standings

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Christopher Bell won the 2017 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series championship in Friday’s Ford EcoBoost 200, with all four Championship 4 drivers finishing within four points of each other.

Bell finished with 4,035 points, 2016 Truck champ Johnny Sauter finished second in the standings with 4,034 points, rookie Austin Cindric finished third (4,032) and two-time series champ Matt Crafton finished fourth (4,031).

Click here for the final 2017 season driver standings.

MORE: Christopher Bell wins Truck Series championship, Chase Briscoe earns first career Truck win

MORE: Results, statistics from Ford EcoBoost 200 Truck season finale

Christopher Bell wins Truck title, Chase Briscoe earns first career series win

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The first champion of the NASCAR Championship Weekend was crowned Friday night as Christopher Bell earned his first Camping World Truck Series title.

Chase Briscoe won the race, the Ford EcoBoost 200, leading a race-high 77 laps in the 134-lap event, while Bell captured the championship by finishing second.

“It’s a dream come true,” Bell told FS1. “These trucks are so good and they pay so much attention to all the detail that goes into these things, and that’s what makes these Tundras so fast. I’m just speechless.”

MORE: Results, statistics from Ford EcoBoost 200 Truck season finale

MORE: Here’s the final 2017 Camping World Truck Series driver standings

Bell, an Oklahoma native who turns 23 on Dec. 16, has already been announced to drive next season in the Xfinity Series for Joe Gibbs Racing. He ends the 2017 Truck campaign with five wins and 21 top-10s in 23 Truck races.

“To be see Christopher be able to mature and grow … it just goes to show these guys develop and we do a good job of developing these guys,” team owner Kyle Busch told FS1. “Erik Jones won our first driver’s championship and now with Christopher Bell bringing home our second, it just continues to solidify our legacy.”

Briscoe, who also turns 23 one day before his good friend Bell, helped send Brad Keselowski Racing out on a high note. BKR is closing after this season.

“This is a long time coming,” Briscoe told FS1. “I’m so proud of these guys to know they’re not going to have job next year, yet they continue to bring real good trucks even though we were outside of the playoffs. … For those guys to continue to believe in me, I’m so blessed and thankful.”

Briscoe was also named Truck Series Rookie of the Year.

Team owner Brad Keselowski, who will be vying for the NASCAR Cup championship on Sunday, told FS1 about Briscoe: “He has a big, bright future ahead of him and along with (BKR teammate) Austin Cindric and I’m just happy to play a role and help him out.”

The other Championship 4 contestants that came up short were 2016 Truck champ Johnny Sauter (finished third), Austin Cindric (fifth) and Matt Crafton (sixth).

STAGE WINNERS: Stage 1 (Christopher Bell), Stage 2 (Ben Rhodes)

WHO ELSE HAD A GOOD RACE: Cindric showed a lot of mettle while running near the front much of the race. Not bad for a 19-year-old rookie. … Bell did exactly what he needed to do to win the title: finish ahead of his other three challengers.

WHO HAD A BAD RACE: Noah Gragson had a rough night, finishing 18th, three laps behind the leaders.

NOTABLE: Toyota earned its fifth consecutive Truck Manufacturers Championship, and 10th overall in the last 14 seasons. … With the exception of the two cautions between stages, there were no other cautions caused from on-track action.

QUOTE OF THE DAY: “This whole organization, this whole team has been so good for so many years, you just don’t want to be that guy to let them down – and I’m really glad I didn’t let them down tonight.” – 2017 Truck Series champ Christopher Bell (via FS1).

WHAT’S NEXT: The 2017 season has concluded. The next race is the 2018 NextEra Energy Resources 250, Friday February 16, Daytona International Speedway.

Starting lineup for Ford EcoBoost 400 NASCAR Cup title race

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After making contact with both the outside wall and Chase Elliott last Sunday at Phoenix, Denny Hamlin failed to advance to Sunday’s Ford EcoBoost 400 Championship 4 race at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

But that didn’t stop Hamlin — who has two career wins at the South Florida 1.5-mile track — from earning his second career pole for Sunday’s race.

Martin Truex Jr. — who has six wins on 1.5-mile tracks in his seven overall victories this season — was the highest qualifying Championship 4, starting on the front row alongside Hamlin.

The other Championship 4 drivers qualified third (Kyle Busch), fifth (Brad Keselowski) and ninth (Kevin Harvick).

Click here for the starting lineup for Sunday’s race.