Chase Elliott’s winning woes continue with Martinsville crash

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Amid the cheers and boos at Martinsville Speedway Sunday night, Denny Hamlin offered a slight olive branch to Chase Elliott after his front bumper helped put an end to yet another race-winning bid by Elliott.

“I hate it for his team,” Hamlin said, sounding eerily similar to Elliott after previous failures to win his first Cup race. “I understand they had a win for a long time coming, but this is a ticket to Homestead.”

For the second time in these playoffs, Elliott was within two laps of claiming a win until a Joe Gibbs Racing driver snatched it. Elliott wound up 27th, one lap down after an overtime finish. It was his worst result since finishing 39th at Indianapolis due to a blown engine.

Before Hamlin took Elliott out in Turn 3 Sunday, it was Kyle Busch passing Elliott on the outside at Dover International Speedway coming to the white flag in the third race of the opening round.

Elliot had led the previous 59 laps until lapped traffic slowed him, allowing Busch to take advantage. Elliott has finished in the top five in all four of his Dover starts.

“I gave it away,” Elliott said afterward. “I appreciate my team and their efforts today. The pit stops were great and they kept us in the ballgame. I didn’t.”

Elliott led 138 laps at Dover and 123 at Martinsville, his top totals for the season.

Between those races, the 21-year-old driver finished second at Charlotte, giving him four runner-up finishes for the season. He was only able to lead 12 laps there, 11 of them coming in the first 51 laps.

Three of Elliott’s second-place finishes have occurred in the playoffs, beginning with his encumbered finish in the opener at Chicagoland Speedway. He led 42 laps and won Stage 2 before Martin Truex Jr. dominated the final stage and won.

The record for runner-up finishes in the playoffs is four by Jeff Gordon in 2014 and Jimmie Johnson in 2006.

Since he made his Cup debut in 2015 at Martinsville, Elliott has earned 20 top-five finishes. Six were in second place.

The first two were last season at Michigan International Speedway, when Elliott spun his tires on late restarts, allowing Joey Logano and Kyle Larson to earn wins. Larson’s was his first in Cup.

Elliott was also near his first trip to victory lane last year at Chicagoland. The No. 24 was out front with five laps to go when debris from Michael McDowell brought out the caution.

Truex wound up with the win as Elliott finished third.

Elliott’s third runner-up result came at … Michigan.

In this season’s June race, Elliott once again finished behind Larson after a late restart, but it wasn’t due to a bad restart on Elliott’s part.

Of the eight remaining playoff drivers, he is the only one who has not earned a Cup win. Of the original 16 playoff drivers, he was the only one without a win. Three of them – Ryan Blaney, Austin Dillon and Ricky Stenhouse Jr. – earned their first Cup wins this season.

With his six career runner-up finishes, Elliott sits behind C.J. Spencer (seven) on the all-time list for most without a Cup win. The most runner-up finishes prior to a win in Cup is 12 by James Hylton.

MORE: Kyle Larson understands Chase Elliott’s struggles to win

Stats, results for Cup playoff elimination race at Kansas

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Martin Truex Jr. led 91 laps and bounced back from an early restart violation to win his seventh Cup race of the year in the playoff elimination race at Kansas Speedway.

The win by Truex in the Hollywood Casino 400 is a Cup record sixth win this year on a 1.5-mile track.

Truex was followed by Kurt Busch, Ryan Blaney, Chase Elliott and Denny Hamlin.

Matt Kenseth, Kyle Larson, Jamie McMurray and Ricky Stenhouse Jr. were eliminated from the playoffs.

Click here for the full results.

MORE: Martin Truex Jr. wins at Kansas; Kenseth, Larson, McMurray, Stenhouse Jr. eliminated

MORE: Martin Truex Jr. remains at top of heap as NASCAR Cup playoffs advance to Round of 8

Leavine Family Racing makes crew chief change

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Leavine Family Racing announced Monday that Todd Parrott is no longer crew chief. Jon Leonard will be the interim crew chief for Michael McDowell.

Parrott took on crew chief duties with the team in Oct. 2016.

In its statement, Leavine Family Racing said that Parrott had been “relieved of crew chief duties for the remainder of the 2017 season effective immediately. After careful consideration and numerous discussions regarding the position of crew chief, we have decided to go in a different direction.”

Kasey Kahne will drive for the team next season. No crew chief for Kahne has been named.

What Cup drivers said after Talladega playoff race

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Here’s what the field had to say after the Alabama 500 at Talladega Superspeedway.

Brad Keselowski – Winner: “This is still sinking in. It is a special place to get to race and a special place when you win here. It was really a collaborative effort with the team and getting a real fast car and making the right moves as a driver and a lot of help from up above with staying out of those wrecks. It really takes all three, and we had them all today.”

Ryan Newman – Finished second: “We held them off longer than I expected. I couldn’t tell how much nose damage I had, and I hadn’t led all day, so I didn’t know what to expect. I saw (Brad Keselowski) in the mirror backing up and then he lost his draft and then he backed up again and he caught (Joey Logano). That was all it took for him to get a good run. I would have maybe played it differently and backed it up in hindsight, backed up to them in hindsight, but I don’t think it would have made a difference. They were double-teaming me, and you know it was still a good race to finish second.”

Trevor Bayne – Finished third:  “I was right in the middle of it and, man, I was sliding backwards up the race track thinking, ‘Oh, this is going to hurt.  Somebody is coming through or I’m going to back it in the fence.’  I just kept turning the wheel to the left trying to get the nose to slide around and it did, and I ended up going straight, so that was pretty cool.  My guys did a good job of fixing the damage. We couldn’t have been back out there with speed if they didn’t assess it.  We got a red flag to be able to look at everything, and they did a great job getting the work done, getting it back on track and just thankful we finished one. We just survived better than everybody else. It wasn’t injury-free for sure.”

JOEY LOGANO – Finished fourth: “Brad and I worked well together, and we were able to help him win the race today, which was good.  I wish we could have won the race.  I had a good enough run, but the damage and all – even though the guys did a good job fixing it – you could tell the speed wasn’t there as much at the end, but we were still able to pick up enough to keep some speed in it and get a fourth-place finish.  It’s a good way to recover after a crash to finish fourth.  I guess you should be proud of that, but I’m still mad I didn’t win.”

Aric Almirola – Finished fifth:  “That was exciting.  The whole race was exciting.  Right there at the end I was really committed to making sure that we got a blue oval (Ford) to Victory Lane.  I was kind of watching (Brad Keselowski) and (Joey Logano), and we were all kind of trying to work together, and my car had some damage on it from earlier in the race, and I knew my car wasn’t probably good enough to lead, but if I could have done something right there at the end, we might have been able to pull one off.  But, nonetheless, we were able to get a (Ford) to Victory Lane.  It’s great for everybody at Ford and cool to see Brad win.  He’s obviously been really successful here at Talladega, but I honestly thought for a minute there we might have a shot at it.  Some things just didn’t work out going down the back straightaway.”

Denny Hamlin – Finished sixth: “I maybe should’ve pushed (Ryan Newman) a little bit longer. I tried to pass him in a different spot. Yeah, just a flick shy of clearing him there, and I knew if I could clear him, then the runs were going to be very small because there were very few cars out there. I did what I wanted to do. I pushed him out there to the lead, stayed attached and then made a move, but I just didn’t do a very good job there those last two laps.”

Dale Earnhardt Jr. – Finished seventh: “Yeah, we got lucky. That was just luck being in the right place at the right time and not getting swept up in any of those wrecks. We had one there that knocked the splitter down really bad on the right front, and that is why we couldn’t do anything at the end.  The car was just dragging the ground and wouldn’t go, wouldn’t take off, so it was a little wounded out there at the end.  Still got a decent finish and came out of here in one piece.”

Ty Dillon – Finished 11th: “We were able to avoid a lot of the crashes today at Talladega, and the GEICO Chevrolet was really fast. We suffered a little bit of nose damage early, but it wasn’t anything that affected the car. I thought if we had a chance to work with another Chevrolet we would be able to get to the front, but I couldn’t get any help from behind. We ended up 11th. It was a good day for our team, but I know our car was better than 11th. It’s just tough, and it’s disappointing we couldn’t get any help from behind to make a run at it at the end.”

Kyle Larson – Finished 13th: “I think (Chase Elliott) got into (Daniel Suarez) and got him sideways and in to me. There are a lot of torn up cars, but we still finished 13th and maintained our points on the cutoff there. It would have been a worse day. But it also could have been better … could have won. I was glad we decided to race there in the second half. There was a lot of opportunities to get caught up in crashes. It was just crazy that a lot of the playoff guys, pretty much everybody except Brad (Keselowski) and Denny (Hamlin) got collected in wrecks. Pretty crazy day but a typical Talladega. Just need to go to Kansas and have a solid race. A top-10 run will be all we need to do probably.”

CHASE ELLIOTT – Finished 16th: “I had a really big run, Dale (Earnhardt, Jr.) was giving me a great shove and Daniel (Suarez) had left enough room in the middle and (Kyle) Larson left me enough room from the bottom. There was a hole and I filled it. I don’t guess Daniel (Suarez) either saw me in time or what it was just had a high rate of speed coming and he didn’t know or tried to block it I’m not sure. We will move on.”

Ryan Blaney – Finished 18th: “We were up by the wall, and somebody probably got turned, and I got in it.  I didn’t think there were enough cars to wreck that much anymore, but we happened to find it and a good day kind of down the drain.”

Kevin Harvick – Finished 20th: “I’m fine. The last (wreck) we slowed down, and I got in the back of (Brendan Gaughan). I checked up and then (Ryan Blaney) popped up on the race track, and I couldn’t get slowed down. It was just a bad weekend. The Busch Light Ford wasn’t as good as we needed. We had to start in the back and went to the back a couple other times and just couldn’t make anything happen.  We were on defense the whole time and wound up wrecked twice, so not a good weekend.”

Martin Truex Jr. – Finished 23rd: “I got into the right rear of (David Ragan) a little bit, and he got squirrelly, and then they started wrecking in front of us so I don’t know if I turned him sideways, and he hit somebody on the inside and then hit somebody on the outside in front of me. I’m not sure if that was the cause of the accident or it was just a secondary thing. I hadn’t seen anything up ahead of us. If it was my fault, I hate it for everybody involved. Just Talladega. Just everybody running hard with 18 to go and trying to get in a hole that really wasn’t there yet.”

Jimmie Johnson – Finished 24th: “Really hard to tell what started (the wreck with 16 laps to go). I just saw (David Ragan) turning down across the group and hooked me and sent me up into the wall. What we are trying to get to the bottom of is our spotter was informed to let us start working on the car, and I guess there was some miscommunication there from NASCAR to our spotter, and we may have lost some valuable points on pit road as a result. So, we’ve got to get to the bottom of that and find out what happened there.”

Kurt Busch – Finished 25th: “We got hooked in the right rear, and I was pretty close to the front of the pack. I am just happy everything turned out the way it did to just not get clobbered by all the cars coming by. My guess is the outside lane was all jumbled up getting aggressive and pushing and somebody spun out and clipped us in the right rear. I thought we were looking good. We were coming from behind and the inside lane was open and we were making hay but now here we are coming out of the infield care center. That is just Talladega. That is how it works out. We need to figure out how to make the cars better so everybody can bump draft a little harder.”

Ricky Stenhouse Jr. – Finished 26th: “I really haven’t seen the replay. I was just running up the bottom there and (David Ragan) ended up right in front of us. It was a bummer. We were working on getting our track position back. We felt good in the first run and got hung out there at the end of the second stage and were just working on our track position. I felt like we had a really fast Ford to contend for a win and put on a show for all these fans that came out. Bummer we don’t get to do it but we will go on to Kansas next week and have some fun.”

Kyle Busch – Finished 27th: “I’m fine. I just didn’t know where the heck (Jimmie Johnson) came from with all of the headrests and all of that stuff I never saw him coming. I wish I would’ve obviously, I would’ve tried to dodge left and go to the apron and shoot down there. Looking at it, it looks like I could’ve missed it. Just never seen him coming, so unfortunately we got caught up in that mess. None of our own wrong doing. I thought when I cleared (David Ragan), I was home free of it and then had another one come up from the left side. Just hate it for my guys and everything going on with what our situation was today. We’ll just have to go on and go to Kansas now.”

Landon Cassill – Finished 28th: “Honestly, I just saw David (Ragan) sideways in front of me.  I don’t know what started (the wreck) or if he was the second thing that happened, but somebody hit me from behind or something and sent me into the wall.”

Austin Dillon – Finished 29th: “Just part of this racing. What do you do? You can go and race hard all day. You can ride in the back and try to not to get in one of those big wrecks. I was proud we got some of those stage points. Was trying to push back up there. We were in a pretty good spot. Had a little momentum there. Just got caught in the wreck. There was nowhere to go. You are just holding on after that. It took the car out. (Ryan Newman) got shuffled to the back and (was) just riding there. He does that a lot in these races and it seems to work out. Maybe I need to do that strategy. If your car is not fast enough to lead, you should probably stay in the back.”

Michael McDowell – Finished 30th: “It was just chaos. Just tried to get clear of it. I almost had it cleared and then somebody came down the track and got us. It is part of Talladega racing. You know there is going to be a big one, but you don’t where or when, you just hope you aren’t in it. Just doesn’t seem to matter if you are in the front, or the middle or the back. You just aren’t immune to it.”

Erik Jones – Finished 36th: “It was kind of hard to see from my view. I was behind (Kyle Busch) and he started checking up, he swerved off to the left, and (Jamie McMurray) was sitting there really slow on the race track so I didn’t really have any choice. Unfortunately ran him over and kind of caused a chain reaction from there. It’s a bummer. We didn’t get to race today and I was hoping we’d just get a chance to go up and see what we had. It’s unfortunate, but those kind of things are going to happen here.”

JAMIE McMURRAY – Finished 37th: “We wanted to pit a couple of laps earlier, and you’re somewhat dependent on the spotters to tell you when you’re going to pit. You assume everyone is working as a group. It was my fault. I assumed that they said (Kyle Busch) was going to let me in, so I thought we were all going to pit. I didn’t even know where (Erik Jones) was. When I got on the brakes, I thought we were all coming to pit road as a group. I’ll take the blame for that. I just kind of assumed we were coming to pit road right there. Obviously not everyone was.”

Big wreck brings out red flag late in race at Talladega; 17 cars involved

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With just 16 laps to go, a major wreck prompted NASCAR to throw the red flag for cleanup in the Alabama 500 at Talladega Superspeedway.

The 17-car pileup seemed to begin when David Ragan lost control of his No. 38 Ford, triggering havoc in virtually every direction.

Six playoff-eligible drivers were involved: Jimmie Johnson, Kevin Harvick, Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Martin Truex Jr., Kyle Busch and Matt Kenseth.

“(Ragan) ended up just parked in front of us,” Stenhouse told NBC. “We felt we had a car that was capable of contending for a win. It’s a bummer we didn’t get the win. … Just wasn’t our day.”

Added Kyle Busch, “Just never saw it coming. Unfortunately, we got caught up in the mess, none of our doing. We’ll just have to go on and go to Kansas.”

Added Truex, “I tried to get in a hole that was closing up at the wrong time. I got into the 38 in the right rear and it all got squirelly. We had nothing to lose today, but at the same time you don’t want to be the person that causes others problems. I’ve never been that guy here before, but today it looks like it was. I just wish I didn’t make that mistake. Bad judgment. I should have been more patient.”

Non-playoff drivers involved included pole-sitter Dale Earnhardt Jr. (who only had minor damage and was able to continue on), along with Austin Dillon, Landon Cassill, Michael McDowell, Brendan Gaughan, Matt DiBenedetto, Ragan, Ryan Newman, Paul Menard, Ty Dillon and Danica Patrick.

The race was red-flagged for 12 minutes, 30 seconds before resuming under caution.

Jimmie Johnson complained that NASCAR officials gave his team approval to work on the car on pit road, but it was subsequently sent to the garage for doing so (repairs aren’t permitted under the red flag), leaving Johnson to question the call.