Austin Dillon caps off perfect Xfinity weekend with Las Vegas win, Erik Jones hits wall head-on (video)

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Although he dominated, leading 183 of 200 laps, Austin Dillon had to hold off a strong late-race challenge by Ryan Blaney to win Saturday’s Boyd Gaming 300 NASCAR Xfinity race at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

Dillon’s win capped a perfect two days for the driver of the No. 33 Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet. He was fastest in both practices Friday, won the pole earlier Saturday and took the checkered flag.

“It feels great, this is a big confidence booster for me,” Dillon told Performance Racing Network in Victory Lane. “Our guys worked hard on this car all weekend and it was superfast, and you just don’t want to give anything like that away.

“Ryan Blaney made me earn it. He was catching me at three-tenths a lap, and I started wondering what I did wrong. It’s fun, but I’m glad he pushed me like that at the end.”

It was Dillon’s third career win in the Xfinity Series, and his first since the 2012 season, one year before he won the series’ championship.

Dillon also has a prior win in the Camping World Truck Series at Las Vegas.

Blaney cut Dillon’s 1.5-second lead to less than a one-car margin before getting into the Turn 4 wall on the last lap, ending his hope of catching Dillon.

“We had a shot at it in the last lap, slipped a bit, wasn’t able to get to his side and unfortunately hit the fence on Turn 4 coming to the checkered (flag),” Blaney, who finished second, told PRN.

Regan Smith finished third, followed by Denny Hamlin, Chase Elliott, Brendan Gaughan, Darrell Wallace Jr., Ty Dillon, Brennan Poole and Daniel Suarez.

“We had a good car all day, we just got jammed up at the start of the race and had a bad pit stop right after that that put us back to 15th,” Smith told PRN. “We were able to chip away with it and get the runs we needed. We’ll take it.

“Mile-and-a-halvess have been a problem for me the last couple years, so I’m really pleased to come out of here with a top 5, go to Phoenix and get some momentum for the other mile-and-a-halfs this year.”

Also:

* Erik Jones had a strong run through much of the race, consistently in the top five, until 27 laps were left when he and Ryan Blaney tangled, with Jones getting the worst of it in the crash. While Blaney was able to continue on, Jones’ day came to an early end.

Jones was uninjured in the wreck.

“The 22 (Ryan Blaney) just lost it and we were there to catch him and save his day, but it doesn’t take away from how great our day was,” Jones said in a Toyota media release. “I thought (we) had a shot to win the race. It’s really a shame. … Just one of those days where it seemed like everything was clicking right, but just wasn’t meant to be”

* Brian Scott, who started on the front row next to polesitter and Richard Childress Racing teammate Austin Dillon, suffered engine failure as soon as the green flag fell.

The field got stacked up but a major wreck was avoided. Scott took his car to the garage and his day was ultimately over before it barely started.

“Second engine problem of the weekend,” Scott told PRN. “I don’t know what happened. We have to figure out why two engines blew this week and why we had an engine issue last week at Atlanta.”

Unofficial results of the Boyd Gaming 300 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway

1. Austin Dillon (183 laps led) … 200 laps
2. Ryan Blaney (2 laps led) … 200 laps
3. Regan Smith … 200 laps
4. Denny Hamlin (1 lap led) … 200 laps
5. Chase Elliott (1 lap Led) … 200 laps
6. Brendan Gaughan (3 laps led) … 200 laps
7. Darrell Wallace Jr. … 200 laps
8. Ty Dillon … 200 laps
9. Brennan Poole … 200 laps
10. Daniel Suarez (3 laps led) … 200 laps
11. Aric Almirola … 200 laps
12. Dale Earnhardt Jr. … 199 laps
13. Elliott Sadler … 199 laps
14. Chris Buescher … 199 laps
15. Ryan Reed … 199 laps
16. JJ Yeley … 199 laps
17. David Starr … 198 laps
18. Ross Chastain … 198 laps
19. John Wes Townley … 198 laps
20. Landon Cassill … 198 laps
21. Ryan Sieg … 197 laps
22. Jeremy Clements … 197 laps
23. Erik McClure … 196 laps
24. Jamie Dick … 195 laps
25. Cale Conley … 195 laps
26. Harrison Rhodes … 193 laps
27. Joey Gase … 192 laps
28. Derek White … 175 laps
29. Erik Jones (7 laps led) … 172 laps
30. Dakoda Armstrong … 164 laps
31. Mike Harmon … 164 laps
32. Mario Gosselin … 154 laps
33. Derrike Cope … 113 laps
34. Cody Ware … 80 laps
35. Blake Koch … 52 laps
36. Carl Long … 34 laps
37. Morgan Shepherd … 15 laps
38. Brian Scott … 14 laps
39. Mike Bliss … 12 laps
40. Jeff Green … 3 laps

Average Speed: 126.021 mph
Lead Changes: 13 among 7 drivers
Time of Race: 02 Hrs, 22 Mins, 50 Secs
Cautions: 6 for 34 laps

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Power Rankings: Kevin Harvick, Brad Keselowski remain 1-2

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Brad Keselowski is getting closer to reaching the top of the NBC Sports NASCAR Power Rankings, but he remains behind Kevin Harvick, who holds the top spot for a fifth consecutive week.

Keselowski is coming off a victory last weekend at New Hampshire Motor Speedway and a contract extension, which was announced the day after the race.

Since the season resumed in May, Harvick and Keselowski have had similar stats. Harvick has four wins since May; Keselowski has three. Harvick has six finishes of third or better; Keselowski has five such finishes. Harvick has 13 top 10s in 16 races; Keselowski has the same total.

Cup heads to Michigan International Speedway this weekend for a doubleheader. Saturday’s race is at 4 p.m. ET. Sunday’s race is at 4:30 p.m. ET. Both races will be on NBCSN.

Here is this week’s power rankings:

  1. Kevin Harvick (Last week: No. 1): Has seven consecutive top-five finishes and might have challenged for his fifth win of the season had a pit call not taken him out of sequence and forced him to pit under green. Good chance his streak continues this weekend at Michigan. Since the track was repaved in 2012, Harvick has 10 top-five finishes in 16 starts.
  2. Brad Keselowski (Last week: No. 2): Scores at least three wins for the fifth consecutive year. The Michigan driver has never won a Cup race at Michigan. He has three top 10s there in his last four starts. 
  3. Denny Hamlin ( Last week: No. 3): Was in contention for his sixth win of the season before losing a duel with Brad Keselowski at New Hampshire. Thirteen of the 22 lead changes were between Hamlin and Keselowski. They combined to lead 186 of the last 198 laps. He has four wins, seven finishes of third or better and 10 top 10s since the season resumed in May.
  4. Aric Almirola (Last week: No. 4): Has a career-high nine consecutive top-10 finishes. Can he make it a perfect 10 Saturday at Michigan? He has only one top 10 at the track in his last five starts. 
  5. Martin Truex Jr. (Last week: No. 7): Has three finishes of third or better in the last four races. Scored third at New Hampshire despite penalty for an uncontrolled tire. His eight top-five finishes at Michigan are second only to the nine he has had at Kansas for most among active tracks.
  6. Cole Custer (Last week: No. 5): Has four top 10s in the last five races, including his Kentucky win. 
  7. Tyler Reddick (Last week: No. 9): Has four top 10s in the last five races. He won the Michigan Xfinity race in June 2019.
  8. Joey Logano (Last week: Unranked): Has two top-five finishes in the last three races. He won at Michigan in June 2019.
  9. Chase Elliott (Last week: Unranked): Has four finishes between ninth and 12th in the last five races. 
  10. Matt DiBenedetto (Last week: Unranked): Has two finishes of sixth of better in the the last four races. 

Fell out of rankings: Kyle Busch (No. 5 last week), Austin Cindric (No. 7) and Austin Hill (No. 10)

NASCAR penalizes Xfinity owner, driver for testing violation; team will appeal

NASCAR penalizes
Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Image
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NASCAR fined Xfinity car owner Mario Gosselin $50,000 and docked him 75 points for violating the private test policy last weekend at Daytona International Speedway with driver Alex Labbe.

NASCAR docked Labbe 75 points for the L2 violation. Labbe was 73 points out of the 12th and final playoff spot before the penalty.

DGM Racing stated that it will appeal the penalties. The team stated: “DGM Racing is aware of the allegations against us. We feel we followed all the proper protocol and will be appealing the penalty. We are unable to comment further. Thank you for the support we have received so far.”

The issue stems from an SCCA event last weekend on the Daytona road course that Labbe participated.

NASCAR Cup, Xfinity and Truck teams will race for the first time on the Daytona road course this month. There will be no practice before each race. Drivers are not permitted to compete in more than one series event as a way to get extra track time.

Labbe was listed in Regional Race Group 7 in a 2019 Chevrolet Camaro. The 2019 Chevrolet Camaro is the approved model for Chevy teams in the Xfinity Series.

NASCAR viewed that as an illegal test because of the car used. Section 5.1.a of the Xfinity rule book states: “Private vehicle testing by any race team, employee,  contractor, affiliate, associate, subsidiary, or surrogate is strictly prohibited.”

Section 5.1.d of the Xfinity rule book states: NASCAR, in its sole discretion, will determine in advance what constitutes an authorized test. In general, only tests conducted under the NASCAR National Series Unified Testing policy are considered to be authorized tests.”

NASCAR also stated penalties that stem from last weekend’s Cup race at New Hampshire Motor Speedway and had already been announced.

Those penalties included suspensions for the New Hampshire race for crew chiefs Jerry Baxter and Ryan Sparks after ballast was found to be improperly mounted before the race. The teams also were docked 10 points and drivers Bubba Wallace and Corey LaJoie each were penalized 10 points.

NASCAR also stated that Clint Bowyer‘s crew chief, Johnny Klausmeier, will be suspended for Saturday’s Cup race at Michigan International Speedway (4 p.m. ET on NBCSN) after two lug nuts were found to be not safe and secure after the race. Stewart-Haas Racing has stated that Greg Zipadelli, the team’s director of competition, will fill in for Klausmeier for Saturday’s race.

NASCAR fined crew chiefs Jeremy Bullins, James Small and Randall Burnett $10,000 each for having a lug nut not safe and secure on their car after the race.

 

‘Snowball effect’ led Bob Leavine to sell Cup team

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Seeing the “snowball effect” of a lack of sponsorship, cost for additional cars next year and the COVID-19 pandemic’s impact on the economy, car owner Bob Leavine said Tuesday that it was clear that he needed to sell Leavine Family Racing.

The team announced Tuesday that it has been sold. The buyer has not been revealed.

Leavine said Tuesday that the team had 11 races available for sponsorship on rookie Christopher Bell‘s car before the coronavirus pandemic suspended the sport in March for 10 weeks. The team’s biggest sponsor, Leavine noted, was his construction company, which also has been impacted by the economic downturn brought on by the virus.

“We haven’t really sold anything and probably won’t sell anything going forward this year,” Leavine said Tuesday of sponsorship.

Leavine also cited a business model that he has been critical of, including the charter system.

Leavine Family Racing was not granted a charter but merged with Circle Sport Racing, which had a charter, for the 2016 season. The partnership ended after that season. Leavine Family Racing bought Tommy Baldwin Racing’s charter in Nov. 2016.

We definitely did not get out of our charter what we put into our charter,” said Leavine, who has not publicly revealed what was paid for the charter. “So, from our standpoint, it is very difficult to say that it was a great investment. It just allowed us to run full time for the five years after we bought it. That’s the best thing I can say for the charter system.”

Leavine Family Racing made its NASCAR debut in 2011. Christopher Bell joined the team prior to this season. (Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)

Another challenge was NASCAR’s move to push back the debut of the Next Gen car from 2021 to 2022. Leavine Family Racing has an affiliation with Joe Gibbs Racing this season for chassis and support but Leavine said the plan was not to continue that next year.

“We had a whole lot of things banking on the Next Gen coming in,” Leavine said. “Our deal with JGR, our affiliation required us to do certain things. We were looking forward to being a standalone team with one or two cars. So, the pandemic, and sponsorship and how it affected (his construction business), our major sponsor, and then having to come back and buy all the cars again for next year, because we had planned on not needing cars next year.

“It was a snowball effect on multiple things. We saw no way out. We could not afford the affiliation, and what we did this year, next year. That’s what we banked on. Okay, we will do this one year, run good, get our charter value up, and we had a plan. That plan came tumbling down with the pandemic. Then you take a bad business model; it doesn’t work for us.”

Leavine said he lobbied NASCAR and owners in the spring for particular changes, which he did not reveal. When those ideas were rejected, Leavine said he was “very disappointed in what came out of that meeting. I knew that was probably going to be the straw that broke our back. I had to start looking for how best do we protect our team. How best do we keep people employed. A lot of things went into that decision.”

Leavine Family Racing has competed in NASCAR since 2011, making its debut with David Starr at Texas Motor Speedway on April 9. The organization didn’t run a full schedule until 2016 with Michael McDowell and Ty Dillon splitting the ride. Others who have driven for the team include Kasey Kahne, Regan SmithMatt DiBenedetto and Bell.

I really gave it all I had for the 10 years and the last five primarily when we went full-time, and I committed, and I thought we could make a difference and be a good team,” Leavine said. “A responsible and respected team in NASCAR. To walk away and not have completed that, I’ve never had to do that before and give up on anything. But I could not let it destroy our business – a 41-year old business – in Texas during these times, so you have to protect something and that’s a profitable organization.”

NASCAR entry lists for Michigan, Road America

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The NASCAR entry lists are out for this weekend’s racing at Michigan International Speedway and Road America.

Cup and Truck teams will compete this weekend at Michigan. Cup teams will race Saturday and Sunday.

Xfinity teams will race Saturday at Road America.

Here are the preliminary NASCAR entry lists 

Cup – Firekeepers Casino 400 (4 p.m. ET Saturday on NBCSN)

Thirty-nine cars are entered.

Joey Gase will be in the No. 7 for Tommy Baldwin Racing.

JJ Yeley will drive the No. 27 for Rick Ware Racing.

James Davison will be in the No. 51 for Petty Ware Racing.

Click here for Saturday Cup race entry list

 

Cup – Consumers  Energy 400 (4:30 p.m. ET Sunday on NBCSN)

Thirty-nine cars are entered.

Josh Bilicki will be in the No. 7 for Tommy Baldwin Racing. That is the only change from the Saturday entry list.

Click here for Sunday Cup entry list

 

Xfinity – Henry 180 (Noon ET Saturday on NBCSN)

Thirty-seven cars are entered.

Among the drivers entered:

Mike Wallace, who made his first series start since 2015 last month in the road course race at Indianapolis, is back in the No. 0 car for JD Motorsports this weekend.

Andy Lally, a road racing expert and the 2011 Cup rookie of the year, will be in the No. 02 Our Motorsports car.

RC Enerson will make his NASCAR debut in the No. 07 SS Green Light Racing ride.

Jesse Iwuji will make his series debut in the No. 13 Motorsports Business Management car.

AJ Allmendinger will be in the No. 16 for Kaulig Racing.

Click here for Xfinity entry list

 

Truck – Gander RV & Outdoors Truck Series 200 (6 p.m. ET Friday on FS1)

Forty trucks are entered.

Cup rookie John Hunter Nemechek is entered in the No. 8 truck for NEMCO Motorsports.

David Gravel, the 2019 Knoxville Nationals winner, makes his Truck Series debut in the No. 24 ride for GMS Racing.

Brennan Poole is entered in the No. 30 On Point Motorsports truck.

Jeb Burton is entered in the No. 44 Niece Motorsports ride.

Parker Kligerman is entered in the No. 75 Henderson Motorsports truck.