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

Kurt Busch seeks first Las Vegas win, but without hometown fans

Kurt Busch
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A win by Kurt Busch in tonight’s Cup race at Las Vegas Motor Speedway (7 p.m. ET on NBCSN) couldn’t come under more bittersweet circumstances for the Chip Ganassi Racing driver.

Should Busch claim the victory on the 1.5-mile track, he’d go from being the last driver on the playoff grid (3,001 points entering the race) to the first driver to advance to the Round of 8.

While it would be his first victory of the year, it would also be his first NASCAR win at his home track in 23 starts across the Cup and Xfinity Series.

More: Stage points critical at Vegas

“The Vegas track has definitely been one of the tough ones for me over the years with results and finishes not where I would have expected them to be,” Busch said this week. “And the teams that I’ve raced for just have never quite found that right magic set-up or combination. And then for me, it’s a track that I just have that trouble with.

“There are a few tracks like Indianapolis and Martinsville; those are a few places where I struggle. And so with Vegas, I always put that little extra hometown pressure on myself and I would love to win there.”

The 42-year-old Las Vegas-native rolls off ninth on the 1.5-mile track. It’s his fourth while driving for Ganassi.

In his 21 Cup starts in Las Vegas, Busch’s best result is third in 2005 when he competed for Roush Fenway Racing. He has just one other top five. That came in last year’s spring race when he drove a throwback paint scheme to his 1999 NASCAR Southwest Series championship.

That day he led 23 laps. It was only the seventh time he’d led laps there and just the third time he’d totaled more than six laps led.

In February, Busch finished 25th.

If Busch were to finally make it to Vegas’ Victory Lane, the celebration would be somewhat muted.

It was announced last weekend that fans would not be allowed to attend the races at Las Vegas due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I would love to win through the spirit of the camera and everything on NBC Sports; and I know the fans there, local, will be watching and cheering on the Busch brothers,” Busch said. “So, that’s where I would connect. And hopefully do it through the TV side of it. We’ll get fans back one day and we’ll come back and race.”

Busch enters the Round of 12 having earned just one top 10 in the first round, an eighth-place finish at Darlington. He finished 13th at Richmond and 15th at Bristol.

“What I like is we have had better lap times at all three races so far compared to maybe the five or six races leading into the playoffs,” Busch said. “We know that our cushion is gone. We ended Bristol with 33 points to the good. And now we start Vegas minus four (points behind Austin Dillon in the cutoff spot). So that’s just part of the system and now we have to be perfect. We have to get every point possible that we’re able to get on our own at Vegas, Talladega, and the Roval. And, that should help us advance.”

Carolina Blue: Brad Daugherty and Michael Jordan bonded by NASCAR

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Brad Daugherty and Michael Jordan were teammates from 1982-84 at the University of North Carolina and Eastern Conference rivals throughout the 1980s and ’90s in the NBA.

But their friendship was about more than just hoops. While growing up on opposite ends of the Tar Heel State, Daugherty and Jordan both developed a passion for following NASCAR.

Tobacco Road meant fast cars and hard-driving heroes for these two North Carolina natives.

LIFELONG FAN: Michael Jordan explains why he’s partnering with Denny Hamlin

In a NASCAR on NBC feature, Daugherty recalls how NASCAR impacted his life and Jordan’s and led both into team ownership. Michael Jordan and Denny Hamlin announced they will form a team to field cars for Bubba Wallace next season.

Daughterty notes in the feature that Wallace “has led a dynamic transformation as NASCAR banned Confederate flags and recommitted to inclusion amidst times of great unrest. This is a huge moment for NASCAR, a cultural momentum shift. This is people of all colors coming together to create an all-American race team already with championship lineage.

“With proper funding, equipment and crewmembers, this will be the best chance ever for a Black driver to win – and while driving for a Black owner. An opportunity to shock the world like Muhammad Ali once did.”

Watch the feature above on Brad Daugherty and Michael Jordan or by clicking this link.

Las Vegas Xfinity results, driver points

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Chase Briscoe‘s victory Saturday night at Las Vegas Motor Speedway sends him into the next round of the Xfinity playoffs.

Noah Gragson led a 2-3-4 finish for JR Motorsports. Gragson was second and followed by Daniel Hemric and Justin Allgaier. Ryan Sieg finished fifth.

Briscoe dominated the race, leading 164 of the 200 laps.

Click here for Xfinity race results

POINTS

Ross Chastain finished 16th, last among the playoff drivers, and fell out of a transfer spot to the second round. He’s two points behind Harrison Burton for the final transfer spot. Michael Annett is 10 points behind Burton. Riley Herbst is 14 points behind Burton. Brandon Brown is 20 points behind Burton.

Click here for driver points report

Chase Briscoe scores 8th Xfinity win of year with Las Vegas triumph

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Chase Briscoe met a preseason goal of winning eight races with his victory in Saturday night’s Xfinity playoff opener at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

Briscoe, who also won at Las Vegas in February, advances to the second round.

Briscoe dominated, winning both stages on the way to his second consecutive victory and eighth of the year. He led 164 of 200 laps.

“Awesome car,” Briscoe said on the radio of the car that also won at this 1.5-mile speedway earlier this year. “Can’t say enough, awesome car.”

Gragson said of Briscoe’s car on NBCSN: “Lot of race cars out here and one space shuttle.”

Las Vegas native Noah Gragson finished second and was followed by JR Motorsports teammates Daniel Hemric and Justin Allgaier. Ryan Sieg placed fifth.

Austin Cindric placed sixth and was followed by Michael Annett, Anthony Alfredo, Harrison Burton and Justin Haley.

Briscoe’s eight wins through 27 races ties him with Jack Ingram and Sam Ard for the most wins by non-Cup drivers through 27 races in a season. Ard and Ingram both did it in 1984. Briscoe’s eight wins ties him with Carl Edwards for most wins by a Ford driver in a season in the Xfinity Series. Edwards accomplished the feat in 2011.

“I knew this team was fully capable of achieving that and even more,” Briscoe told NBCSN of winning eight races this year. “I just can’t say thank you enough to Gene Haas and Tony Stewart and everyone that lets me drive these race cars. It has been an unbelievable season and we still have a lot, six more wins that we can try to get and a championship. That is what we are going to try to do. I am so happy to start the playoffs like this. After the last couple weeks we had, to go to Bristol and win and now here is a pretty good way to start our playoffs.”

The 25-year-old Briscoe does not know where he’ll run next season. He has a year left on his contract with Ford.

STAGE 1 WINNER: Chase Briscoe

STAGE 2 WINNER: Chase Briscoe

WHO HAD A GOOD RACE: Ryan Sieg’s fifth-place finish is his fifth top five of the season, the most he’s had in a season. … Runner-up Noah Gragson has finished in the top six in all four of his Xfinity Las Vegas starts. He did it by overcoming a bloody nose during the race. At one point, he put roll bar padding up his nose to clog it. … Daniel Hemric had finished 24th or worse in four of his last five starts before Saturday’s race. He finished third at Las Vegas.

WHO HAD A BAD RACE: Ross Chastain finished 16th, last among the playoff drivers. It’s his first finish outside the top 10 at a 1.5-mile speedway this season.

NEXT: The series races Oct. 3 at Talladega Superspeedway (4:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN) in the middle race of the opening round of the playoffs.