Long: It was an ‘over the moon’ weekend for Alex Bowman, Martin Truex Jr.

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CONCORD, North Carolina — Alex Bowman’s grandmother Loretta is fond of saying “over the moon” for significant events.

Her grandson gave her reason to cheer by winning Saturday night’s NASCAR Xfinity race at Charlotte Motor Speedway, but it’s a phrase that also could be used for Martin Truex Jr., winner of Sunday’s Cup race there.

Truex’s victory moved him into the third round, putting him one step from the championship race next month at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

Also significant is that Truex scored five more playoff points, giving him 64 playoff points. Only two drivers are within 40 playoff points of Truex: Kyle Busch has 41 playoff points and Kyle Larson has 34.

That’s key because in the next round, the remaining eight title contenders will have their points reset to 4,000 and then have their playoff points added. At this point, Truex will begin the next round with 4,064 points and would have a 25-point lead on Busch, who would be the closest driver.

With two more races in this round, there are 14 playoff points available (five points for a win in each of the two races and one point for each of the four total stages).

At least one driver will advance from the third round to the championship race via points. In two of the previous three years, three drivers advanced via points because those no longer eligible for the title won races and took away those automatic spots in the championship finale. Last year, only one driver made it on points as title contenders won each of the three races in the third round.

Despite the advantage in points, Truex isn’t about to assume he can coast into the championship race if he doesn’t win in the next round.

“If three guys win that are behind us in points and somebody like Kyle Busch doesn’t have a win but has a decent consistent run and we have two or three bad races, we could be out just like that,’’ Truex told NBC Sports.

Crew chief Cole Pearn told NBC Sports: “You can never have enough protection. That last round has a history coming down to points.’’

FAMILIAR POSITION

Chase Elliott’s second-place finish Sunday marked the sixth time in his Cup career (71 races) he’s finished second. It ranks second (naturally) all-time among drivers without a Cup victory. G.C. Spencer was a runner-up seven times without scoring a win.

Elliott, though, has a way to go to match James Hylton’s record of 12 runner-ups before scoring his first career Cup victory.

Elliott is closing on his father’s mark. Bill Elliott was a runner-up eight times before he won his first Cup race.

SPECIAL MOMENT

Sean Bowman admits he nearly broke down emotionally in victory lane after his son, Alex, won Saturday night’s rain-delayed Xfinity race.

It has been quite a journey for father and son, starting with the father, who was a race fan and saw his son’s fascination with cars. It led to Alex driving quarter midgets, then to midgets before moving to stock cars with the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East (he was rookie of the year), ARCA and then NASCAR.

“We bonded so much over racing, traveling the country together,’’ Alex Bowman told Nate Ryan in the NASCAR on NBC podcast.

So to be there when Alex won was a special moment for Sean.

“It was pretty emotional,’’ Sean Bowman told NBC Sports. “It means a lot for him to come out and run against the caliber of competition he did.’’

Other family members were at the race, including Bowman’s grandmother. She was in the stands and didn’t make it down to victory lane, but they talked shortly after his win on the phone.

Sunday was his grandmother’s birthday, so Bowman said he wished her happy birthday while standing in victory lane. No doubt, she was “over the moon’’ with that.

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NASCAR: Will Jimmie Johnson, Kyle Busch advance in playoffs?

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The last two drivers to win NASCAR Cup titles are in precarious positions ahead of the Round of 12 elimination race at Kansas Speedway.

Kyle Busch, the 2015 champion, is outside the top eight in ninth. He sits seven points behind defending champion Jimmie Johnson.

NASCAR America analysts Kyle Petty and Parker Kligerman debated who they think had the best chance to advance to the Third round after Sunday.

Petty put his money behind Busch, who has finished in the top five in each of his last five starts at the 1.5-mile track.

“He’s one of the big three: Truex, Kyle Busch and Kyle Larson,” Petty said. “I don’t see where these (last) two races (Charlotte, Talladega) have changed anything. The one thing Kyle Busch brings into Kansas City … he brings speed. These guys have had speed all year-long.”

Johnson on the other hand has produced only four top fives all season and just one since he won at Dover in June.

But Kligerman explained why he thinks the seven-time champion will prevail on Sunday.

“Jimmie Johnson knows how to pass and that is what has become evident throughout this season,” Kligerman said. “No, they have not had the fastest cars at Hendrick Motorsports. No, they have not qualified well. They’ve actually been sort of abysmal at qualifying of late.

“… He has three wins this year. Two of those he started at the back.”

Watch the video for more.

NASCAR America at 5 p.m. ET on NBCSN: Daniel Hemric, Daniel Suarez’ racing roots

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Today’s episode of NASCAR America begins at 5 p.m. ET on NBCSN and continues to preview the Round of 12 elimination race at Kansas Speedway.

Carolyn Manno hosts with Kyle Petty and Parker Kligerman from Stamford, Connecticut.

On the show:

  • We’ll debate which past Cup Series champion will advance to the Round of 8. Defending champion Jimmie Johnson currently leads 2015 champ Kyle Busch by only seven points for the final transfer spot. Who has the edge going into Kansas this Sunday? This elimination race will be a heated competition just to finish above the cut line. Log on to NBCSports.com/NASCARVote and weigh in!
  • Xfinity Series playoff driver Daniel Hemric calls into the show to talk about his chances of advancing to the championship four in Miami. He’ll also describe his experience being one of the four drivers to participate in the recent tire test at the Charlotte Motor Speedway “Roval.”
  • We take a look at the Daniel Suarez’s Racing Roots and discuss his transition from Xfinity Series champion to Monster Energy Cup Series rookie.
  • Parker Kligerman hops into the iRacing simulator to preview Sunday’s elimination race at Kansas, as well as the Formula 1 race in Austin, Texas.

If you can’t catch today’s show on TV, you can also watch it via the online stream at http:/nascarstream.nbcsports.com. If you plan to stream the show on your laptop or portable device, be sure to have your username and password from your cable/satellite/telco provider handy so your subscription can be verified.

Once you enter that information, you’ll have access to the stream.

Click here at 5 p.m. ET to watch live via the stream.

Daniel Hemric gets unexpected introduction to Cup car at Charlotte road course test (video)

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Being a native of Kannapolis, North Carolina, a lot of Daniel Hemric‘s racing firsts are connected to Charlotte Motor Speedway.

The 26-year-old Xfinity Series driver got another one this week when an unexpected call shortened a vacation to Mexico and put him in a Cup car for the first time.

Hemric, who drives Richard Childress Racing’s No. 21 Chevrolet in his rookie season, was visiting the country as part of a birthday vacation for his wife, Kenzie.

“As soon as the wheels touched down I got a call from some guys a RCR asking ‘Hey, would you mind driving a Cup car Tuesday at a test?'” Hemric said Wednesday.

“Do I need to fly home right now or what?” Hemric responded.

Come Tuesday morning, Hemric was sitting in the cockpit of Ryan Newman‘s No. 31 Chevrolet as one of four drivers taking part in the first Goodyear tire test on the Charlotte Motor Speedway road course, a 2.42-mile, 18-turn circuit made up of most of the original 1.5-mile track and the infield road course.

MORE: Cup drivers share thoughts on Charlotte road course

The two-day test could give Hemric a step up on his Xfinity competition as the series also will run on the road course next year.

“The first two or three runs was about getting me acclimated (to the car) but since then I think we’ve done a good job of communicating with Goodyear and trying to figure what we need to be able to make sure fans will be able to see racing and side-by-side racing and a lot of action, which I think you’re going to see.”

Added Hemric: “These Cup cars get up to speed so quick compared to the Xfinity car, with such low downforce and high horsepower. It’s been fun to figure out how to get that laid down here around the roval.”

Luckily, Kurt Busch, Martin Truex Jr. and Jamie McMurray were all experiencing the road course for the first time.

“Obviously, being my first time in (a Cup car), you’re trying to be aware of what you’re doing yourself,” Hemric said. “But to be able to lean on those guys, have the same thoughts as them, really collaborate with NASCAR and the race track to figure out where we should place those chicanes and all that stuff. I feel like we’ve made a lot of progress working as a group.”

MORE: Daniel Hemric returning to RCR in 2018

 

Spencer Boyd will compete in Xfinity full-time in 2018 for SS Green Light Racing

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SS Green Light Racing announced Thursday Spencer Boyd will compete full-time for it next season in the Xfinity Series.

Boyd will drive the No. 76 Chevrolet sponsored by Grunt Style, a veteran-owned lifestyle brand.

Boyd, 22, has made four starts for the team this year in the No. 07 Chevrolet, which has primarily been driven by Ray Black Jr.

“This is the day I’ve been waiting for my whole life,” Boyd said in a press release.  “I’ve been racing something since I was 5 years old with the dream of making racing my career. Grunt Style has made my dreams come true.”

A native of St. Louis, Missouri, Boyd has 12 starts between the Camping World Truck Series and Xfinity Series. In six Xfinity starts, including the four this year, his best result is 27th at New Hampshire.

Jason Miller will serve as the crew chief on the car that is owned by Bobby Dotter. Dotter has fielded cars in 116 races in the Xfinity Series since 1995 and 305 Truck Series entries since 2004.

“(Spencer) is one of the hardest working drivers I’ve seen,” Dotter said in the press release. “He is at the shop everyday helping with the cars and making the guys laugh.  Our organization is better because the team believes it when he says this is a team sport.  We are looking forward to a great 2018 season.”