Denny Hamlin holds off Brad Keselowski to win at Martinsville, snaps Toyota 31-race winless streak

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Denny Hamlin held off a last-lap surge, including a bump from behind coming out of the final turn from Brad Keselowski, to win Sunday’s STP 500 at Martinsville Speedway.

It was Hamlin’s fifth career win at the .526-mile southern Virginia bullring, and his first there since 2010. It was also his first win in nearly a year, having last won last May at Talladega.

“We just weren’t going to be denied today,” Hamlin said. “Hat’s off to Brad. He had an option and he took the latter (not to wreck Hamlin). I thank him for that.”

Keselowski plowed into Hamlin’s bumper with a hard lick coming out of Turn 4 on the final lap that caused Hamlin’s car to wiggle, but he managed to hold on for the win.

“We finished on a strong note, just not as quite as strong as we’d have liked to,” Keselowski said. “All in all, a real solid day and a fun day, just one spot short.

“I did everything I could other than wreck him. I hit him pretty good a couple times. He did a good job and chose not to wreck, which I give him credit for. I really don’t know what more I could have done, other than drove through him, but I feel pretty good about what I did do today.”

Keselowski’s Penske Racing teammate Joey Logano finished third, followed by Matt Kenseth and David Ragan.

Logano was hoping to make a weekend sweep of both poles and both wins in Saturday’s Camping World Truck Series race and Sunday’s Sprint Cup race, only to come up short in the latter.

Kevin Harvick’s bid for a ninth consecutive top-2 finish came to an end, finishing eighth. Harvick led the most laps, leading eight times for 154 laps.

How Hamlin won: Hamlin led four times for 91 laps, with the key being taking the lead on Lap 473 and holding off late charges by Keselowski, Logano and Kenseth. He was able to hold on to his race car even after sustaining a hard lick from behind by Brad Keselowski coming out of Turn 4 on the final lap.

Who else had a good day: Brad Keselowski now has his own top-2 streak going, having won last week at Fontana and finishing second Sunday. … Logano rallied back to finish third after a spin pushed him back to 24th position. … David Ragan had his best finish since taking over for the injured Kyle Busch five races ago in the No. 18 Toyota, ending up fifth. Ragan’s best prior finish in place of Busch was a pair of 18th-place showings.

Who had a bad day: Chase Elliott was involved in two wrecks in the first 75 laps and had to return to the garage for lengthy repairs. Making his Sprint Cup debut, Elliott finished 38th, 73 laps off the lead lap. … Dale Earnhardt Jr. fought shifter problems during the first half of the race before being involved in a wreck. He returned to the race following repairs and finished 36th, 47 laps off the lead lap. … Jimmie Johnson failed in his bid to win a ninth race at Martinsville, making early contact that impacted his day, eventually finishing 35th, 32 laps off the lead lap. … Roush Fenway Racing continued to struggle. Ricky Stenhouse Jr. brought out three cautions by himself in the first 220 laps before taking his car to the garage for repairs. Stenhouse finished 40th and completed just 364 of the scheduled 500 laps. Teammate Trevor Bayne spun early in the race and finished 18th, followed in 19th by teammate Greg Biffle. … Kyle Larson was forced to miss the race due to further tests at a Charlotte hospital related to his fainting Saturday morning during a fan autograph session. Regan Smith replaced Larson and finished 16th.

Notables: Hamlin’s win snapped a 31-race winless streak for Toyota. Hamlin’s win equals half of Toyota’s two wins in all of 2014. … Danica Patrick finished seventh, her best finish since a sixth-place showing at Atlanta last September. It was Patrick’s fifth career top-10 finish, tying her with Janet Guthrie for most top-10 finishes by a female in Sprint Cup history. Patrick also made the biggest upward move of any driver in the points, gaining seven spots to jump into 16th place. … After 10 cautions in the first half of the race (250 laps), there were six more in the second half. The track record remains 21 cautions in a race. … Even though he finished 20th, Tony Stewart led eight laps, the first time he’s led a lap this season.

Quote of the day: “The shifter kept breaking. It was vibrating like a tuning fork.” – Dale Earnhardt Jr. on gear shifter problems that required him to pit several times for repairs or shifter replacement.

What’s next: The series takes a break for the Easter holiday next weekend, returning April 11th for a Saturday night race at Texas Motor Speedway.

Follow @JerryBonkowski

Cup playoff clinching scenarios to make Round of 12

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The first elimination race of the Cup playoffs has arrived in the form of Bristol Motor Speedway.

Tonight’s 500-lap race on the short track will determine which drivers make up the Round of 12.

Three drivers have locked themselves into the second round. Kevin Harvick and Brad Keselowski earned their spots via race wins at Darlington and Richmond. Denny Hamlin clinched a spot via points.

More: Brad Keselowski on pole for Bristol

That leaves nine spots for 13 drivers to compete for.

If there is a new winner, the following drivers could clinch by being ahead of the 10th winless driver in the standings.

Joey Logano – would clinch with 7 points: 51 points ahead of the Round of 12 cutoff. Logano has finished third in the last two playoff races (at Darlington and Richmond). Has made 23 starts at Bristol posting one pole, two wins, six top fives and 10 top 10s. Logano’s average finish is 15.3.

Martin Truex Jr. – would clinch with 20 points: 38 points ahead of the Round of 12 cutoff. Earned 22nd-place finish at Darlington and second-place finish at Richmond. Has made 29 series starts at Bristol posting two top fives and three top 10s. His average finish is 20.6.

Austin Dillon – would clinch with 21 points: 36 points ahead of the Round of 12 cutoff. Dillion has a runner-up finish at Darlington and a fourth-place result last weekend at Richmond. Has 13 starts at Bristol posting one top five and three top 10s. His average finish is 17.3.

Chase Elliott – Would clinch with 30 points: 28 points ahead of the Round of 12 cutoff. Elliott finished 20th at Darlington and fifth at Richmond. Has made nine starts at Bristol and has one pole, three top fives and four top 10s. Average finish is 12.6.

Alex Bowman – would clinch with 31 points: 27 points ahead of the Round of 12 cutoff. Bowman placed sixth at Darlington and ninth at Richmond. Has made nine series starts at Bristol with one top five and two top 10s. His average finish is 22.6.

Kyle Busch – would clinch with 40 points: Just 18 points ahead of the Round of 12 cutoff. Has seventh-place finish at Darlington and a sixth-place finish at Richmond. Has made 30 Cup starts at Bristol posting two poles and a series-leading eight wins among active drivers.

Aric Almirola – would clinch with 51 points: Seven points ahead of the Round of 12 cutoff. Finished ninth at Darlington and eighth at Richmond. Has made 22 starts at Bristol with one top five and two top 10s. His average finish is 25.0.

Kurt Busch – would clinch with 51 points: Seven points ahead of the cutoff sport. Almirola holds the tiebreaker of best finish in the current playoff round. Busch has finished eighth at Darlington and 13th at Richmond. Has 39 Cup starts at Bristol with one pole, six wins, 12 top fives and 21 top 10s. Average finish is 14th.

Clint Bowyer – would clinch with 55 points: Three points over cutoff. Finished 10th at Darlington and Richmond. Bowyer has made 29 Cup starts at Bristol with eight top fives and 16 top 10s. Average finish is 13.6.

William Byron (-3 points from cutoff; would need help to clinch): Finished fifth at Darlington and 21st at Richmond. Five Cup starts at Bristol with one top 10. Average finish of 17.2.

Cole Custer (-8 points; would need help to clinch): Finished 12th at Darlington and 14th at Richmond. Finished 25th in lone Bristol Cup start.

Matt DiBenedetto (-25 points; would need help to clinch): Finished 21st at Darlington and 17th at Richmond. Eleven Cup starts at Bristol with one top five and one top 10. Average finish of 19.1.

Ryan Blaney
Ryan Blaney is last on the 16 driver playoff grid heading into Bristol. (Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)

Ryan Blaney (-27 points; would need help to clinch): Finished 24th at Darlington and 19th at Richmond. Ten Cup starts at Bristol with one top five and three other top 10s. Average finish of 20.7.

More: Blaney and DiBenedetto seek history to advance to second round

Should there be a repeat winner Saturday – Harvick or Keselowski – the following drivers would advance to the next round by being ahead of the 11th winless driver in the standings.

Joey Logano: Would clinch with 4 points

Martin Truex Jr.: Would clinch with 17 points

Austin Dillon: Would clinch with 18 points

Chase Elliott: Would clinch with 27 points

Alex Bowman: Would clinch with 28 points

Kyle Busch: Would clinch with 37 points

Aric Almirola: Would clinch with 48 points

Kurt Busch: Would clinch with 48 points

Clint Bowyer: Would clinch with 52 points

William Byron: Would clinch with 55 points

Cole Custer, Matt DiBenedetto and Ryan Blaney: Could only clinch with help

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.