Danica Patrick on her wild ride into the Daytona 500 field: ‘It felt dire’

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DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – Whether watching a familiar car creep closer in her mirror or a starting spot in the Daytona 500 flash before her eyes, Danica Patrick didn’t like the view Thursday.

“Holy crap, it felt dire,” she said. “This whole scenario is crazy that the series has put us in.  Actually, I said yesterday it’s horrible that it’s left up to other people and what they can do to you to whether or not you get in the race.

“I was like, I just need to not get caught up in anything or have something like yesterday happen.  And the exact same thing as yesterday happened.”

For the second consecutive day, Patrick’s No. 10 Chevrolet crashed at Daytona International Speedway with Denny Hamlin’s No. 11 Toyota in the vicinity. After a Wednesday afternoon wreck, Patrick started in a backup car at the rear of Thursday night’s second Budweiser Duel qualifying race.

She will start 20th in another backup car for Sunday’s Daytona 500 after crashing on Lap 57 of a scheduled 60. With Patrick almost certainly needing to finish in the top 16 to make the Great American Race, she restarted in 18th (after multiple stops for repairs) for a green-white-checkered finish and rallied for a 10th that ended a nerve-wracking 32 hours.

“There was a million scenarios of like who does what in any race, who uses a provisional and who doesn’t,” she said. “You can just drive yourself crazy thinking about all of them.

“ Instead of thinking about all of the stuff I need to do to just make the race, I really just wanted to focus on having a good race. In the race, I made a few moves here and there to make progress. Everything was going fine till the end.  I felt good about it.”

After the crash, Patrick felt sick to her stomach, but a push from Stewart-Haas Racing teammate Kurt Busch propelled her to the top 10.

“When they told me I need to pass these two cars,  you’re 18th right now, I was like, ‘OK, do I have to be desperate basically? Do I have to pass these cars?’ Nobody answered me. I just said, ‘Screw it, I’m going to be desperate,’ ” she said. “Luckily, Kurt was there for me. Without Kurt, I wouldn’t have finished where I did. So a big humongous thank you to Kurt for getting behind me and pushing me to the front.”

Patrick, who became the first woman to lead the Indianapolis 500 a decade ago, is accustomed to the scrutiny of the spotlight, but she admitted to feeling more pressure Thursday than ever.

“That’s probably safe to say,” she said. “I’ve by all means been nervous at times.  Probably two years ago starting on the pole, I always get more nervous the further up I start.

“But this is a whole different nervous.  A lot of it has to do with the fact there’s so much out of our hands as drivers.  That’s my frustration.  It’s one thing if it’s qualifying and then you go race at a traditional track where you pass.  But this is just big pack racing where you just hope you don’t get into a wreck or somebody doesn’t get into you. So there’s a lot of stressing out.  But there’s not much you can do about it.  You just have to hope and pray for the best, be as smart as you can.”

Hamlin and Patrick engaged in a heated conversation in the pits afterward. Though Hamlin said he didn’t hit her, he later took the blame for the incident on Twitter and implied Patrick might have been right he was too close to her car.

“We’re going to have to figure it out because  this isn’t going to end well,” she said. “Twice definitely makes it twice as bad or maybe even more. But after the accident the other day I texted him and said “What happened?” He said, ‘I guess I went to the inside and I guess you came down a little and we hit.’ And I said, “I was driving straight down the straightaway and I just felt the back end come around. And he said, ‘I guess when I cut across your bumper I was so close it pulled it around.’

“So …. I’m not sure what he thinks needs to be different to make it better. I know what needs to be better. He needs to not be quite that close.”

 

Xfinity race results, point standings after Bristol

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Chase Briscoe led the final six laps and won Friday night’s Xfinity Series race at Bristol for his seventh win of the season.

Briscoe beat Ross Chastain for the win. The top five was completed by Austin Cindric, Harrison Burton and Justin Allgaier.

Click here for the race results.

Playoff standings

The 12-driver field for the playoffs has been set with Briscoe’s win in the regular-season finale.

Brandon Brown placed 12th and clinched the 12th and final spot.

Here are the re-seeded point standings entering the playoffs.

Chase Briscoe – 2,050 points

Austin Cindric – 2,050

Justin Allgaier – 2,033

Noah Gragson – 2,025

Brandon Jones – 2,020

Justin Haley – 2,018

Harrison Burton – 2,014

Ross Chastain – 2,010

Ryan Sieg – 2,002

Michael Annett – 2,002

Riley Herbst – 2,001

Brandon Brown – 2,000

Click here for the re-seeded standings.

Click here for the normal point standings.

Chase Briscoe wins Xfinity race at Bristol Motor Speedway

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Chase Briscoe took the lead with six laps to go and won Friday night’s Xfinity Series race at Bristol Motor Speedway, which marked the end of the regular season.

Briscoe passed Austin Cindric to assume the lead and went unchallenged to the checkered flag. The victory is his series-leading seventh of the season.

“I was so mad after last week (at Richmond),” Briscoe told NBCSN. “I told all the guys there ain’t no way we’re getting beat today. I was so mad after how we ran last week and I get on the internet all the time and see guys count us out after one bad race and I know what this team is capable. … I finished second here the last two races and I wanted to win here so bad and it’s awesome that I can actually celebrate it with all these race fans.”

The top five was completed by Ross Chastain, Cindric, Harrison Burton and Justin Allgaier.

More: Race results, playoff standings

Allgaier dominated the early portion of the race, leading 126 laps and winning the first two stages. But he lost the lead for good in the pits during the Stage 2 break.

Brandon Brown finished 12th and clinched the 12th and final playoff spot.

STAGE 1 WINNER: Justin Allgaier

STAGE 2 WINNER: Justin Allgaier

WHO HAD A GOOD RACE: Ross Chastain led three times for 117 laps, but had to settle for his fifth runner-up finish of the season without a win … Austin Cindric earned his 13th top-10 finish in the last 14 races … Harrison Burton earned his 13th top five of the season.

WHO HAD A BAD RACE: Brett Moffitt finished 27th after he had to pit three times in the opening laps and was penalized for taking fuel before the competition caution … BJ McLeod finished 34th after he was eliminated in a multi-car wreck that began when he made contact with teammate Jeffrey EarnhardtMichael Annett finished 31st and Joe Graf Jr. placed 27th after they were involved in an incident on Lap 120.

QUOTE OF THE RACE: “I hit pit road and I wanted to cry.” – Ross Chastain after he finished second for the fifth time this year. He is winless entering the playoffs.

WHAT’S NEXT: The Xfinity playoffs open at Las Vegas Motor Speedway at 7:30 p.m. ET on Sept. 26 on NBCSN.

 

Fans not allowed at Las Vegas races

Fans not allowed
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Spectators will be not be allowed for any of the NASCAR playoff races next weekend at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, the track announced Friday night.

A press release said only essential personnel will be allowed to attend the Cup, Xfinity and Truck playoff races there.

“To say we’re disappointed that we will conduct the South Point 400 playoff weekend without fans would be a gross understatement,” said Las Vegas Motor Speedway President Chris Powell. “Our staff has been working – many of them remotely – since the February Pennzoil 400 to prepare the speedway for our playoff tripleheader.

“But we must adhere to Nevada Gov. Steve Sisolak’s directive that limits gatherings due to COVID-19.  While we disagree with this policy, we have no choice but to oblige.  We certainly regret this situation for the thousands of race fans who won’t be able to attend our NASCAR-weekend events.”

Nevada’s re-opening plan does not permit fans at sporting events, concerts. Groups are limited to 50 or fewer people.

The Las Vegas Raiders announced last month that they would not have fans at any of the team’s home games in its inaugural season there.

The Truck playoff race will be at 9 p.m. ET Sept. 25 on FS1. The Xfinity playoff opener will be at  7:30 p.m. ET Sept. 26 on NBCSN. The Cup playoff race will be 7 p.m. ET Sept. 27 on NBCSN.

Fans holding tickets for those events will be contacted by the speedway ticket services department to discuss credits for future races or refunds.

Pit crew change for Alex Bowman, Jimmie Johnson teams

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Hendrick Motorsports teammates Alex Bowman and Jimmie Johnson each will have a pit crew change for Saturday night’s playoff race at Bristol.

The change is the result of an injury to one pit crew member.

Dustin Lineback, jackman for Bowman’s team is out with an injury, the team stated. Kyle Tudor, who has been Johnson’s jackman, moves over to that role for Bowman’s team. Eric Ludwig, a backup for Hendrick Motorsports, moves up to be the jackman for Johnson.

MORE: Saturday Cup race at Bristol: Start time, forecast, lineup

Bowman enters the elimination race 27 points ahead of teammate William Byron, the first driver outside a transfer spot to the second round. Bowman opened the playoffs by finishing sixth in the Southern 500 at Darlington Raceway. He followed that by placing ninth at Richmond. Bowman was collected in a crash and finished 37th in the May Bristol race.

Johnson, who is in his final full-time Cup season, seeks his first victory of the season. He finished third at Bristol in May.