Jimmie Johnson holds off Harvick, Earnhardt to win for fourth time in last six races at Texas

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Jimmie Johnson won for the fourth time in the last six races at Texas Motor Speedway, dominating en route to victory in Saturday night’s Duck Commander 500.

Johnson led 128 laps, passing both Jamie McMurray and Kevin Harvick on Lap 321 and then held on until he took the checkered flag on Lap 334.

It was Johnson’s second win of the season in the first seven races. His first win of 2015 came in the second race of the year at Atlanta, another 1.5-mile track similar to TMS.

“Just a great, great racecar,” Johnson told Fox Sports. “We kept plugging away at it. I think the off-week was good for us, kind of to sit down, relax, reboot and come back to the track.

“They brought me a fast racecar. It was good all weekend.”

Overall, it was Johnson’s fifth career Sprint Cup triumph at TMS – but first in the spring at that track.

Harvick finished second, followed by Dale Earnhardt Jr., Joey Logano and Brad Keselowski (race results here).

It was the ninth time Johnson and Harvick have finished 1-2 in a race (Harvick has beaten Johnson 1-2 two other times).

Kurt Busch started from the pole, but outside pole sitter Harvick took almost immediate command, leading the next 33 laps.

Busch and Harvick traded the lead twice within four laps before Busch would lead from Laps 38 through 79.

Brad Keselowski took over on Lap 82 and led the next 27 circuits around the 1.5-mile oval before four-time Texas winner Jimmie Johnson went to the front.

Harvick passed Johnson on Lap 125 until Johnson regained the lead on Lap 156. Kasey Kahne led Laps 158-159 during green flag pit stops before Johnson regained the lead on Lap 160.

Joey Logano took the lead from Johnson on Lap 266 and held on until Harvick went back to the point on Lap 285. Harvick then held serve when a caution flag came out on Lap 294 for debris, getting a great jump on Logano on the subsequent restart with 36 laps to go.

Another caution came out on Lap 308 for debris, with Jamie McMurray and Jeff Gordon leading the field at the restart.

How Johnson won: Arguably the move of the race came on Lap 321 when Johnson literally doubled-up, going low to pass both Jamie McMurray and Kevin Harvick. From there, Johnson was untouchable the rest of the way.

 

Who else had a good day: Even though he finished second, Harvick has nothing to be ashamed of. He earned his ninth top-2 finish in his last 10 races, dating back to the last three races of 2014. His only finish outside the top-2 in that streak was eighth two weeks ago at Martinsville. … Harvick might have had one last shot at catching Johnson had it not been for skimming the wall with two laps to go. “We raced as hard as we could,” Harvick said. “It was a lot of fun.” … Jeff Gordon was one of several drivers who took just two tires on the final caution and it helped get him back into the top-10 and ultimately finish with a seventh-place finish.

Who had a bad day: Ryan Blaney thought he had a good car for the race. Well, he did, until Lap 71, when the engine in his Wood Brothers Ford expired. “Obviously, something happened with the engine,” crew chief Jeremy Bullins said. “I’m not sure exactly what because it’s hard to tell what happened first, so we just got to the point where we couldn’t keep going.” … Paul Menard was up to the top five past the midpoint before he had to take his Chevrolet to the garage due to a broken water hose.

Notables: Martin Truex Jr. finished ninth, extending his streak of top-10 finishes in every race thus far this season. … Seven of the top 10 finishers drove Chevrolets. … Team Penske had a solid weekend, with Joey Logano and Brad Keselowski finishing fourth and fifth, respectively. … Tony Stewart continues to struggle. He finished 24th, one spot behind Matt Kenseth and in front of Sam Hornish Jr. … Harvick and Keselowski will now have to wait until the fall Chase for the Sprint Cup race for their next chance to finally win a Cup race at TMS.

Quote of the day: Dale Earnhardt Jr.: “We’ve had that speed all year and it’s good to get a good finish in the bank because these last couple of weeks have been pretty rough. We know what we’re capable. Me and (crew chief Greg Ives) are just getting started here and we’re right there on their heels, man. When we get this thing figured out, (we’re) going to be tough.”

What’s next: The Sprint Cup Series goes back to short track racing next Sunday with the Food City 500 at Bristol Motor Speedway.

Follow @JerryBonkowski

NASCAR entry lists for Las Vegas

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The Round of 12 begins this weekend for the Cup Series and NASCAR’s entry lists for Las Vegas Motor Speedway are out.

All three national series will compete at the 1.5-mile track as the Xfinity Series begins its playoffs and the Truck Series holds its second playoff race.

More: Bristol winners and losers

Here are the preliminary entry lists for Las Vegas:

Cup – South Point 400 (7 p.m. ET Sunday on NBCSN)

Thirty-nine cars are entered for the first race of the Round of 12.

Joey Logano won at Las Vegas in the spring over Matt DiBenedetto and Ricky Stenhouse Jr. This race was won last season by Martin Truex Jr. over Kevin Harvick and Brad Keselowski.

Click here for the Cup entry list.

 

Xfinity – Alsco 300 (7:30 p.m. ET Saturday on NBCSN)

Thirty-four cars are entered in the Xfinity playoff opener.

Daniel Hemric is entered in JR Motorsports’ No. 8 Chevrolet.

Austin Hill is entered in Hattori Racing Enterprises’ No. 61 Toyota.

Chase Briscoe won at Las Vegas in February over Austin Cindric and Ryan Sieg. This race was won last year by Tyler Reddick over Christopher Bell and Brandon Jones.

Click here for the Xfinity entry list.

 

Trucks – World of Westgate 200 (9 p.m. ET Friday on FS1)

Thirty-six trucks are entered.

Ryan Truex is entered in Niece Motorsports’ No. 40 Chevrolet.

IndyCar driver Conor Daly will make his Truck Series debut in Niece Motorsports’ No. 42 Chevrolet.

Travis Pastrana is entered in Niece Motorsports’ No. 45 Chevrolet for his second start of the season.

Kyle Busch won at Las Vegas in February over Johnny Sauter and Austin Hill. Austin Hill won this race last year over Ross Chastain and Christian Eckes.

Click here for the Truck entry list

Silly Season: Ross Chastain to drive No. 42 Ganassi Cup car in 2021

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Another puzzle of Silly Season has been set with Ross Chastain headed to Chip Ganassi Racing to drive the No. 42 Cup car for next season.

Chastain has been a development driver for the team since 2018. He drove three Xfinity races for Ganassi in 2018, winning once. Chastain was to drive a full Xfinity season in 2019 for the team until D.C. Solar’s sponsorship ended after its offices were raided by the FBI. The company later declared bankruptcy.

Chastain is competing for the Xfinity championship this season for Kaulig Racing. He is winless this season but has five runner-up finishes, including this past weekend at Bristol.

ANNOUNCED CUP RIDES FOR 2021

No. 00: Quin Houff enters the second year of his two-year deal with StarCom Racing.

No. 1: Kurt Busch enters the second year of a multi-year contract that Chip Ganassi Racing announced last season.

No. 2: Brad Keselowski and Team Penske announced a contract extension Aug. 3.

No. 4: Kevin Harvick signed a contract extension in February that will keep him at Stewart-Haas Racing through the 2023 season.

No. 8: Tyler Reddick said Aug. 7 that he will be back with Richard Childress Racing next season.

No. 9: Chase Elliott is under contract with Hendrick Motorsports through the 2022 season.

No. 10: Aric Almirola extends deal with Stewart-Haas Racing for 2021 season.

No. 11: Denny Hamlin is signed with Joe Gibbs Racing through at least next year.

No. 12: Ryan Blaney and Team Penske announced a multi-year extension earlier this season.

No. 18: Kyle Busch is signed with Joe Gibbs Racing through at least next year.

No. 19: Martin Truex Jr. is signed with Joe Gibbs Racing through at least next year.

No. 20: Christopher Bell moves from Leavine Family Racing to take over this ride in 2021.

No. 22: Joey Logano is tied to Team Penske “through the 2022 season and beyond.”

No. 24: William Byron is under contact with Hendrick Motorsports through 2022.

No. 42: Ross Chastain takes over Chip Ganassi Racing’s No. 42 ride for the 2021 season.

No. 47: Ricky Stenhouse Jr. enters the second year of a multi-year deal with JTG Daugherty Racing.

No. 88: Alex Bowman will race for Hendrick Motorsports under a one-year contract extension announced earlier this year.

 

Available/possibly available rides

No. 13: Ty Dillon is in a contract year at Germain Racing. The team is considering putting itself up for sell.

No. 14: Clint Bowyer is in a contract year to drive for Stewart-Haas Racing.

No. 21: Matt DiBenedetto said Sept. 17 that the team has an option to pick up his contract for next year and the deadline is the end of September.

No. 32: Ride is open with Corey LaJoie announcing he will not return to Go Fas Racing in 2021.

No. 43: Bubba Wallace will not return to Richard Petty Motorsports in 2021, the team confirmed on Sept. 10.

No. 48: With Jimmie Johnson retiring from full-time competition, Hendrick Motorsports has this seat to fill.

No. 95: Spire Motorsports purchased the charter and assets of Leavine Family Racing and will be a two-car operation in 2021.

No. 96: Daniel Suarez and Gaunt Brothers Racing announced Sept. 15 that they would part ways after this season.

 

Ross Chastain to drive for Chip Ganassi Racing in 2021

Ross Chastain
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Ross Chastain will return to Chip Ganassi Racing next season and drive the No. 42 Cup car, the team announced Monday morning.

The news was first reported by motorsport.com.

Chastain replaces Matt Kenseth, who was hired in April to take over the car after Kyle Larson was fired.

“I can’t thank Chip enough for this opportunity,” Chastain said in a statement from the team.  “The faith he and the organization showed me back in 2018 was a real turning point in my career, and I am extremely happy for the chance to join the team again. Racing in the Cup Series with a serious contender has always been my goal, and I’m looking forward to joining what is a very strong team.

“I know I have my work cut out for me, but I’m ready to get to work and help bring more success to the organization.”

Chastain has been a development driver for the tea since 2018. He drove three Xfinity races for Chip Ganassi Racing’s Xfinity team in 2018, winning at Las Vegas. He was to drive a full Xfinity season for the team in 2019 before sponsorship went away after DC Solar’s offices were raided by the FBI and the company later declared bankruptcy.

“In three races with our organization in 2018 and watching ever since, he showed me and everyone else that he is a tenacious driver who wants to win,” car owner Chip Ganassi said in a statement. “We believe that Ross will give our team the opportunity to be competitive each week and our sponsors someone to build a program around. Additionally, his racing background has him well-suited to make the move to the Cup Series.”

The 27-year-old Chastain has been among the sport’s busiest drivers the past three years in NASCAR.

He drove in 77 of 92 Cup, Xfinity and Truck races last year. He’s competed in 194 of 256 Cup, Xfinity and Truck races (75.8%) run since 2018.

Chastain’s Cup rides primarily have been with underfunded teams. He drove three races this season for Roush Fenway Racing. Chastain filled in for Ryan Newman as Newman recovered from the head injury he suffered in the Daytona 500.

Chastain is competing for the Xfinity championship this season for Kaulig Racing. He is winless this season but has five runner-up finishes, including this past weekend at Bristol.

Clint Bowyer: ‘Getting back to our consistency’ ahead of next round

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After entering Saturday’s Cup race at Bristol in the final transfer spot to the Round of 12, Clint Bowyer can rest easy for now.

Bowyer is one of the 12 drivers left to fight for the Cup title after his sixth-place finish Saturday. He goes into next weekend’s race at Las Vegas 11th in the standings.

Now, Bowyer says it’s time for his No. 14 team to “live up to our capabilities.”

“I just feel comfortable, we’re getting back to our consistency,” Bowyer said Saturday night. “I guess for a long time in my career I was kind of Steady Eddie, and that’s what it takes in these playoffs, to go the rounds, you can’t make mistakes. I said that going into these playoffs. For our team, we’ve got to live up to our capabilities, and if we can do that and race to our capabilities and not make the mistakes we were making through the summer months, we can contend and move forward rounds in this playoff system, and that’s what we’re doing.”

Bowyer, who was the last driver to finish on the lead lap at Bristol, goes to Las Vegas with three consecutive top 10s to start the playoffs.

Before the playoffs opened, he had gone 11 races with just two top 10s.

“Looking forward to getting out to Sin City and having some fun out there,” Bowyer said. “Hopefully we can double down, get some stage points and continue to march forward up through this playoff system and the points. We’re definitely starting behind again, there’s no question about that.”

Bowyer will start the second round with 3,004 points, tied with Kyle Busch. Kurt Busch is 12th with 3,001 points.

MORE: Points entering second round

“We’ve got to get out there and swing for the fence,” Bowyer said. “These are the playoffs; you don’t base hit it. Steady Eddie got us through this round, but from here on you’ve got to get up to the plate and swing for the fence every time, and every decision, and that’s in the car and out of the car, we’ve got to lay it on the line and go for it, and that’s why these playoffs are fun.

Bowyer has just one top-five finish in 17 Las Vegas starts (2009) and the most recent of his four top 10s there came in 2017.

Then comes the “crapshoot” know as Talladega and the “fun” Charlotte Roval.

“I like it. I’m ready,” Bowyer said. “Things can happen. At the end of the day I’ve had a different approach to the whole thing this year. This whole damned year has been chaotic and everything else, and you’ve just got to go out there and do the best you can do and not worry about or panic about anything else. That’s all you can do anyway.”