Kevin Harvick wins NASCAR Xfinity Series’ Drive4Clots.com 300 at Auto Club Speedway

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Same story. Different series.

Just as in the Sprint Cup Series last week, Kevin Harvick became the first repeat winner in the Xfinity Series this season with his win in the Drive4Clots.com 300 at Auto Club Speedway.

Harvick’s No. 88 JR Motorsports Chevrolet finished 3.317 seconds ahead of Brendan Gaughan’s No. 62 Chevy, easily pulling away after the last restart on lap 122 of 150.

“I’m just a lucky guy to be piloting really fast cars,” Harvick told Fox Sports in victory lane. “Everything is clicking right now. You just have to keep riding the wave.”

That wave includes victories in the last two Sprint Cup events. Saturday’s win was the first in Xfinity at Auto Club Speedway for Harvick, who has 46 career victories in the series.

Harvick led four times for 100 laps, including the final 64 laps.

“Making laps around this place, knowing what seam does what, which patch does what and when to go low and when to go high, I feel like the more laps I can make, the better off I’m going to be for tomorrow,” said Harvick, who will start second in the Auto Club 400.

Harvick also won the Xfinity race last month at Atlanta Motor Speedway.

“I had a lot of fun today, I couldn’t sit down for the Atlanta race,” said Dave Elenz, Harvick’s crew chief. “This one was fun for me.”

Gaughan’s runner-up finish for Richard Childress Racing was his best since winning at Kentucky Speedway last September.

“Anytime you’re in the top five in this series, you’re doing something right,” Gaughan said told Fox Sports. “I love the fact that I’m pissed off about being second. I love my restarts. Our restarts got us there. I don’t care if I finished fifth, I just wanted a shot at it. Because I know I’m pretty darn good on restarts.”

Gaughan has three top-10 finishes through the first five races of 2015 and is sixth in the points standings. Ty Dillon, who finished 14th, leads the points. Chris Buescher, who was fifth Saturday, trails by five points.

Rookie Erik Jones was third in his No. 20 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota after starting from his first career pole.

Denny Hamlin led 33 of the first 37 laps in his No. 54 Toyota but fell a lap down after being penalized for speeding in the pits late in the race.

“We were kind of racing for nothing at that point,” Hamlin said. “I thought we were blowing up because the car was smoking so bad. I assumed we were blowing up, so I didn’t care about speeding. I sped on pit road and turns out that we got the grill cleaned off, and the car came back.”

The Xfinity Series will return April 10 for the O’Reilly Auto Parts 300 at Texas Motor Speedway.

1. Kevin Harvick (100 laps led)
2. Brendan Gaughan
3. Erik Jones (4 laps led)
4. Chase Elliott
5. Chris Buescher
6. Brian Scott
7. Kyle Larson
8. Brad Keselowski (1 lap led)
9. Regan Smith (4 laps led)
10. Elliott Sadler
11. Ryan Reed
12. Darrell Wallace Jr. (3 laps led)
13. Daniel Suarez
14. Ty Dillon
15. David Starr (2 laps led)
16. Cale Conley
17. Ross Chastain
18. Denny Hamlin (33 laps led)
19. Blake Koch
20. Ryan Sieg
21.  Landon Cassill
22. JJ Yeley
23. John Wes Townley
24. Jeremy Clements
25. Harrison Rhodes
26. Mike Bliss
27. Mario Gosselin
28. Jeffrey Earnhardt (3 laps led)
29. Peyton Sellers
30. Joey Gase
31. Derrike Cope
32. Stanton Barrett
33. Derek White
34. Eric McClure
35. Mike Harmon
36. Dakoda Armstrong
37. Sam Hornish Jr.
38. Austin Dillon
39. Carl Long
40. Jeff Green

 

Average speed: 147.723 MPH
Time of race: 2 Hrs., 1 min. and 51 seconds
Cautions: 3 for 12
Margin of victory: 3.317 seconds
Lead changes: 13 among 8 drivers

Xfinity playoff grid after Indianapolis

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Chase Briscoe‘s continued dominance of the Xfinity Series over the weekend on the Indianapolis road course ensured no additional drivers locked themselves into the 12-driver playoff field.

Through 13 races, Briscoe and four other drivers have qualified for the playoffs via race wins. Briscoe, who has five race wins, leads the field with 28 playoff points.

The last two drivers currently in the top 12 are Riley Herbst (+19 points above cutline) and Brandon Brown (+6 points).

The first four drivers outside the top 12 are Myatt Snider (-6), Alex Labbe (-32), Jeremy Clements (-49) and Josh Williams (-57).

Cup Series playoff grid after Brickyard 400

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With Kevin Harvick‘s victory Sunday in the Brickyard 400, no additional drivers locked themselves into the Cup Series playoff field.

But there was some movement at the bottom of the playoff grid as drivers jockey to make the 16-car field.

After he missed the race due to his COVID-19 diagnosis, Jimmie Johnson fell from 12th to 15th on the grid. He’s now 36 points above the cutline.

Matt DiBenedetto earned stage points in each stage before finishing 19th. He moved from 14th to 12th in the standings.

After earning stage points in both stages Sunday, Austin Dillon has cracked the top 16, moving up one spot. He has a six-point advantage over Erik Jones, who crashed out of Sunday’s race and had a 14-point advantage over Dillon entering the weekend.

With his ninth-place finish Sunday, Bubba Wallace is now within reach of the top 16. He sits at 19th, 42 points back from 16th.

Here’s the full playoff grid.

Oval or road course? Cup drivers address future of Brickyard 400

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For 27 years, the Cup Series has competed at Indianapolis Motor Speedway with its annual Brickyard 400. All 27 of those races have been run exclusively on the track’s traditional 2.5-mile oval.

But following Saturday’s Xfinity Series race on the track’s 2.4-mile, 14-turn road course, an obvious question has been raised:

Should the Brickyard 400 remain on the oval, where passing is made difficult due to a combination of the rules package and the design of the track, or should moving it to the road course be considered?

“I would never vote for that,” Kevin Harvick declared last week before he won his third Brickyard 400 on Sunday. “I love everything about the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. For me it is all about the oval … racing on the traditional track because for me I am kind of old school and I think that the Cup cars belong and really started the Brickyard 400.

“That was kind of what it was always meant to be, that iconic one-off, just the Cup cars event. I think with the Xfinity cars and the trucks and (ARCA Menards) cars and all the things that used to race at IRP (Indianapolis Raceway Park), it was a great event. Hopefully the road course can kind of take that role that IRP used to have and be able to bring the Indy cars and NASCAR together to add to that event at the Speedway. For me personally, I would never vote for the Cup cars to not run on the oval.”

Harvick is joined in that camp by his Stewart-Haas Racing teammate, Aric Almirola, who finished third in Sunday’s race for his first top five and top-10 finish at Indy.

“I hope that we never stop running the oval,” Almirola said. “I just think it’s one of these places that regardless if it puts on the greatest race or not, it’s historic. It’s just a special place. It’s hard to explain when you don’t grow up a racer and you don’t aspire to come to race at Indy.

“But for me, I grew up watching stock car racing and dirt sprint car racing. I grew up watching Thursday Night Thunder, seeing so many guys go from USAC racing and sprint car racing to racing at Indy. It’s something I’ve always kept up with, always dreamed about getting the opportunity to race here. I get that opportunity now.”

Matt Kenseth, who finished second Sunday in his 20th Brickyard 400, said the Cup Series “should be” on the oval. But the Chip Ganassi Racing driver is open to the idea of Cup using the road course in some manner.

 “I think it’s one of those racetracks that we need to race at as long as we can,” Kenseth said of the oval. “It’s arguably the most famous speedway in the world, or one of them.

“To be able to race on the ovals with the Cup cars, which is the highest form of stock car racing here, we should be on the big track as well. I don’t think it would be bad to maybe test the road course and look into it, maybe do a second race on a road course, kind of like the IndyCars did this week.

“I really do think the Brickyard 400 has a lot of prestige. It’s not a southern race, but similar to the Southern 500, races like that. I think there’s a few of those races you sure would hate to see disappear.”

Crew chief describes ‘frightening’ scene on pit road at Indy

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Crew chief Todd Gordon said it was “frightening” to see rear tire changer Zach Price hit on pit road and then try to scoot away from cars during Sunday’s Cup race at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

Price, who changes tires for Ryan Blaney’s team, was injured when he was struck by Brennan Poole’s car during a melee near the entrance of pit road early in the race.

Gordon, speaking Monday on “The Morning Drive” on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio, said indications are that Price’s injury was a “fracture someplace in the knee area.”

Price was treated and released from an Indianapolis hospital on Sunday night and traveled home with the team. Gordon said on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio that Price was scheduled to see a doctor Monday.

“Just hope to get him back and get him back going again and healthy,” Gordon said.

Gordon described what he saw as cars made contact.

“A really frightening moment for me,” he said on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio. “I was really terrorized when I saw (Price) drag himself back across the pit box arms only for a while there. As the situation kind of progressed and the medical staff was working with him, I could see in his face he was better off than I thought he was to start with.

“Fortunate that the guys got up and got at least in the air. The jackman (Graham Stoddard) got on top of the car. Just one of those terrible situations. I felt like those accidents happened mid-pit road. That’s why I picked way back there to be behind it.”

Said Justin Allgaier, who was involved in the accident on pit road that led to six cars eventually being eliminated:  “The No. 15 (Poole) actually got in the back of me. I didn’t know if I got the gentleman on (Blaney’s pit crew) or not. Once the wreck started happening in front of us and we all got bottled-up there, one car after another were getting run into.”

Indianapolis’ pit road is the most narrow of all the tracks the Cup Series races. The two travel lanes are 24 feet wide. The pit stall for each team is 15 feet wide.