Erik Jones, 18, holds off Keselowski and Earnhardt Jr. to earn first career Xfinity Series win

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There must be something about being 18 years old and racing in the spring at Texas Motor Speedway.

Chase Elliott won his first Xfinity Series race at the 1.5-mile track last spring, and Erik Jones did the same thing in Friday’s O’Reilly Auto Parts 300.

Jones started on the pole, led 79 laps in the 200-lap event, and held off Sprint Cup stars Brad Keselowski and Dale Earnhardt Jr.

“It’s really surreal,” Jones said. “This is going to take a while to sink in. This has to be the biggest win of my career. … We’re in victory lane and we’re just going to take it in.”

Keselowski and Earnhardt Jr. both spoke highly of Jones’ win – and how he did it.

“It was up and down, not quite where we wanted to be at the end, we came up one spot short,” Keselowski said. “We ran wide open for the last 2-3 laps, but eventually he just had a little bit more speed.”

Added Earnhardt, “Too loose the whole race really. Mostly, we needed more wedge. Erik and Joe Gibbs did a great job. He’s a great fast kid and is going to do good in this sport. … I knew he was good. Now everybody knows he is.”

Earnhardt later tweeted to Jones, saying, “Hell of a job, dude.”

Regan Smith finished fourth, followed by Austin Dillon, Darrell Wallace Jr., Denny Hamlin, Elliott, Chris Buescher and Brian Scott.

How Jones won: Jones led the final 51 laps, and looked like an experienced veteran every time he was challenged, most notably by Keselowski and Earnhardt. He got a great jump on the final restart on Lap 173 and began to pull away, eventually leading Keselowski by more than two seconds.

Who else had a good day: For series regulars, Regan Smith didn’t lead a lap but still came home with a strong fourth-place finish. He just didn’t seem to have quite as strong a car as teammate Earnhardt, who finished one spot ahead of him. … Also having a strong run was Darrell Wallace Jr., who led three laps and finished sixth.

Who had a bad day: Brendan Gaughan had a good run going until he was caught up in a wreck 33 laps from the end. Instead of a possible top-10 finish, Gaughan wound up with a disappointing 33rd-place finish.

Notables: Brad Keselowski qualified second but was forced to drop to the back of the field for an unapproved fuel pump found during inspection. However, that didn’t seem to hinder Keselowski, who climbed from 40th to 7th in 33 laps and then took the lead for the first time on Lap 47. … Bubba Wallace was the highest-finishing rookie in sixth. “We just missed it by a little bit,” Wallace said. … Brandon Gdovic made his Xfinity debut, finishing 26th.

Quote of the day: “I’ll probably look like a dork, but I’ll find out tonight.” – Erik Jones when asked after the race how he thinks he’ll look when he puts the victory cowboy hat on.

What’s next: The Xfinity Series moves to Bristol Motor Speedway on Saturday, April 18, for the Drive to Stop Diabetes 300.

Unofficial results of O’Reilly Auto Parts 300 Xfinity Series race at Texas Motor Speedway:

1 Erik Jones … 200 laps
2 Brad Keselowski … 200 laps
3 Dale Earnhardt Jr. … 200 laps
4 Regan Smith … 200 laps
5 Austin Dillon … 200 laps
6 Darrell Wallace Jr. … 200 laps
7 Denny Hamlin … 200 laps
8 Chase Elliott … 200 laps
9 Chris Buescher … 200 laps
10 Brian Scott … 200 laps
11 Elliott Sadler … 200 laps
12 Ty Dillon … 200 laps
13 Brennan Poole … 200 laps
14 Sam Hornish Jr. … 200 laps
15 Ryan Reed … 200 laps
16 Dakoda Armstrong … 200 laps
17 John Wes Townley … 200 laps
18 Daniel Suarez … 199 laps
19 JJ Yeley … 199 laps
20 Ryan Sieg … 199 laps
21 Ross Chastain … 199 laps
22 Jeremy Clements … 198 laps
23 David Starr … 198 laps
24 Mike Bliss … 197 laps
25 Landon Cassill … 197 laps
26 Brandon Gdovic … 196 laps
27 Harrison Rhodes … 195 laps
28 Mario Gosselin … 195 laps
29 Eric McClure … 192 laps
30 Peyton Sellers … 190 laps
31 Joey Gase … 186 laps
32 Blake Koch … 182 laps
33 Brendan Gaughan … 167 laps
34 Cale Conley … 165 laps
35 Timmy Hill … 150 laps
36 Derrike Cope … 79 laps
37 Stanton Barrett … 11 laps
38 Jeff Green … 10 laps
39 Derek White … 7 laps
40 Mike Harmon … 2 laps

Average Speed: 132.989 mph
Time of Race: 02 hours, 15 minutes, 21 seconds
Margin of Victory: 1.624 seconds
Lead changes: 15 among 8 drivers

Laps led: Erik Jones (79), Brad Keselowski (56), Brian Scott (26), Dale Earnhardt Jr. (25), Dakoda Armstrong (7), Brendan Gaughan (3), Darrell Wallace Jr. (3), Austin Dillon (1).

Cautions: 6 for 30 laps

 

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Sunday Cup race at Las Vegas: Start time, TV channel

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The second round of the Cup playoffs begins with the Sunday Cup race at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

The 1.5-mile track kicks off the Round of 12. Winning the race and stage points are a premium for playoff drivers before the races at Talladega and the Charlotte Roval.

Kevin Harvick, who won at Bristol, starts from the pole.

Here is all the info for the Sunday Cup race at Las Vegas:

(All times are Eastern)

START: The command to start engines will be given by Las Vegas Raiders owner Mark Davis at 7:07 p.m. The green flag waves at 7:17 p.m.

PRERACE: Cup garage opens at Noon. Drivers report to their cars at 6:50 p.m. The invocation will be given at 7 p.m. by Motor Racing Outreach Chaplain, Billy Mauldin. The national anthem will be performed by Sierra Black at 7:01 p.m.

DISTANCE: The race is 267 laps (400.5 miles) around the 1.5-mile track.

STAGES: Stage 1 ends on Lap 80. Stage 2 ends on Lap 160

TV/RADIO: NBCSN will televise the race. Coverage begins at 6 p.m with NASCAR America, followed by Countdown to Green at 6:30 p.m. Race coverage begins at 7 p.m. Performance Racing Network’s radio coverage will begin at 6 p.m. and also can be heard at goprn.com. SiriusXM NASCAR Radio will carry the broadcast.

STREAMING: Watch the race on the NBC Sports App

FORECAST: The wunderground.com forecast calls for sunny skies with a high of 96 degrees and no chance of rain at the start of the race.

LAST RACE: Kevin Harvick beat Kyle Busch to win at Bristol and claim his ninth win of the season.

LAST POINTS RACE AT LAS VEGAS: Joey Logano beat Matt DiBenedetto and Ricky Stenhouse Jr. in February.

STARTING LINEUP: Click here for the lineup.

CATCH UP ON NBC SPORTS’ COVERAGE:

Kurt Busch seeks first Las Vegas win but without hometown fans

Michael Jordan excited for NASCAR future with Denny Hamlin

Carolina Blue: Brad Daugherty and Michael Jordan bonded by NASCAR

Germain Racing sells charter, will exit sport at end of season

Charlotte Roval to host limited number of fans

Friday 5: Team’s departure adds to ‘extremely stressful’ time

NASCAR fines Hendrick Motorsports $100,000

NTSB releases final report on Dale Jr. plane crash

Bubba Wallace to receive Stan Musial award for extraordinary character

Long: 100 days left in 2020, what else can happen?

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