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Chase Elliott in ‘tight spot’ with three races left before playoffs

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Chase Elliott doesn’t know his exact spot or the exact number, but he knows his No. 24 team is “certainly in a tight spot” on the Cup Series playoff grid with three races left before the playoffs.

“You are never comfortable,” Elliott said Friday at Bristol Motor Speedway. “We are there towards the back. I don’t exactly know 100 percent where we are, but I know we are one of the last few spots of non-winners that are still in.”

The spot Elliott finds himself in ahead of tonight’s Bristol night race on NBC is 14th on the playoff grid. He’s 68 points above the cutoff spot for the 16-driver field that will make the playoffs.

Elliott sits above Jamie McMurray (+52) and Matt Kenseth (+31) as the only three winless drivers in the top 16.

“That is not a comfortable position to be in because there is always an opportunity for a guy on the outside to win a race and bump you back another position,” Elliott said. “It’s tight for sure where we are at. We feel like we need a victory to feel good about it. I mean, heck, we are not many from having a full playoff list of winners. So, yeah, no, we aren’t real comfortable with it just because in that position you are not really guaranteed anything.”

If Elliott wins tonight, in two weeks at Darlington or Sept. 9 at Richmond, it would be the first Cup win for the son of NASCAR Hall of Famer Bill Elliott. The driver of the No. 24 Chevrolet is 64 races into his Cup career and has only visited victory lane in a Daytona 500 qualifying race earlier this year.

In the last two seasons, Kyle Larson, Chris Buescher, Austin Dillon, Ricky Stenhouse Jr. and Ryan Blaney have won their first Cup races.

This year, Elliott has six top fives through 23 races but none in the last six races.

“I don’t think it’s eating at us per se,” Elliott said. “I feel like we’re all in a good place mentally. I am. I think (crew chief) Alan (Gustafson) is. I think if we can get things rolling a little better and find some pace and find some consistency in running well each week, I think it’s easy to have everybody hyped-up and attitudes would be great when you’re running good. It’s the years and the weekends that you’re struggling to keep everybody’s morale high. I think Alan does a really good job of that.”

When it comes to gambling his way to a win or a good finish to solidify his points standing, Elliott says “a gamble is not so much a gamble anymore” when everyone is doing it.

“Now we see that every single weekend,” Elliott said. “Everybody knows all the tricks to track position and the pit strategy to move forward in a race or take a chance. Really the only time we see somebody have something weird work out for them is when a caution falls at the right time for them and none of us really know when that’s going to happen. So, I think we’re all gambling per se. We’re all just kind of doing it together instead of one person being on their own island.”

Right now, Elliott is one of three people on the island called “the bubble.”

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Kasey Kahne starting from rear at Bristol after tire change

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BRISTOL, Tennessee – Kasey Kahne will start from the rear of tonight’s Bass Pro Shops NRA Night Race at Bristol after changing a flat right-rear tire.

NASCAR requires teams to start a race on the tires they qualified on. Only the flat tire was changed.

The tire change negates Kahne qualifying third for tonight’s race at Bristol Motor Speedway (7:30 p.m. ET on NBC). It was his best qualifying effort of the season.

Kahne’s previous best qualifying spot was fourth for the Coke Zero 400 at Daytona.

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Hendrick Motorsports announces promotions of eight senior team officials

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Hendrick Motorsports on Tuesday announced eight promotions of senior personnel within the organization.

The eight individuals have more than 150 combined years of service to the company. They will assume their new roles immediately.

“These people have grown in our culture and are trusted throughout our company,” team owner Rick Hendrick said in a press release. “I’m proud to see them expand their responsibilities as we look toward the future together.”

The officials that were promoted and their former and new titles are:

* Vice president/chief financial officer Scott Lampe has been promoted to executive vice president (and will retain CFO duties), making him the third-ranking officer after Hendrick and team president Marshall Carlson.

* Vice president of competition Ken Howes has been named vice president and chief of staff. The South Africa native has worked in NASCAR, Formula 1 and IMSA.

* Director of engine operations Jeff Andrews has been named vice president of competition. He will be the organization’s representative on the NASCAR competition committee and serve as co-chair representing Chevrolet teams.

* Manager of the No. 5 and No. 24 NASCAR Cup teams, Brian Whitesell, has been named to a new position of vice president of operations.

* Director of engine engineering Jim Wall has been elevated to director of powertrain and will continue managing engine development.

* Vehicle production director and former crew chief Darian Grubb has been promoted to director of competition systems.

* Aerodynamics manager Diane Holl has been promoted to director of vehicle engineering.

* Manager of the No. 48 and 88 teams, Michael Landis, will become director of operational support.

“Without question, our greatest strength is the more than 600 people working at every level inside Hendrick Motorsports,” Carlson said in a press release. “The first priority is our people, and the best way we can serve them is to continue winning races and competing for championships for many years to come.

“We believe these decisions will help to ensure we meet that goal.”

The promotions come after the departure of former HMS GM Doug Duchardt, who left the team at the end of June. His position will not be replaced, the team said previously.

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Jimmie Johnson’s Southern 500 paint scheme inspired by old Lowe’s truck

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Jimmie Johnson became the last Hendrick Motorsports driver to have their Southern 500 paint scheme unveiled.

With the 1985-89 theme of the Throwback Weekend at Darlington Raceway, Johnson’s paint scheme is at home in 1986.

The paint scheme for the No. 48 Lowe’s Chevrolet is inspired by the trucks Lowe’s used in 1986.

MORE: Southern 500 throwback paint schemes

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Cup teams testing Tuesday, Wednesday at Chicagoland Speedway

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Ten Cup teams are scheduled to take part in an organizational test today and Wednesday at Chicagoland Speedway. The track hosts the opening race in the playoffs Sept. 17.

Each Cup organization is allowed to have one team at the test.

Those scheduled to test, according to NASCAR, are:

Austin Dillon (Richard Childress Racing)

Jamie McMurray (Chip Ganassi Racing)

Ty Dillon (Germain Racing)

Matt Kenseth (Joe Gibbs Racing)

Jimmie Johnson (Hendrick Motorsports)

Brad Keselowski (Team Penske)

Ricky Stenhouse Jr. (Roush Fenway Racing)

Aric Almirola (Richard Petty Motorsports)

Kurt Busch (Stewart-Haas Racing)

Ryan Blaney (Wood Brothers Racing)

Also, each manufacturer will have a car testing. Alex Bowman will drive the Chevrolet car. David Ragan will be in the Ford car. Drew Herring will drive the Toyota car.

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