Kevin Harvick says Saturday night races should move to Sundays, Iowa Speedway should get Cup date

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Reigning champion Kevin Harvick called the NASCAR Sprint Cup schedule a “weak link’’ and suggested it is time for changes, noting “you can beat a dead horse as much as you want, it doesn’t come back to life.’’

Harvick said that Saturday night races need to be moved to Sunday afternoons, the Sprint Cup series should race at Iowa Speedway and at least another road course should be added to the schedule.

Harvick made the comments Friday at Talladega Superspeedway. This is not the first time Harvick has been critical of NASCAR’s schedule. He said in March that 90 percent of tracks should have only one Cup race per season, noting improved attendance at Auto Club Speedway after its second race was moved to another track.

Here’s what Harvick said Friday:

On growing the sport:

“If you want to talk about growing the sport, I believe that some venues need one race. I believe the schedule needs to be mixed up. People like things that change, they don’t like stagnant things. In my opinion, the most stagnant thing in our sport is our schedule and our venues that we go to. So you can beat a dead horse as much as you want, it doesn’t come back to life. Sometimes you just have to change things back up to keep the excitement and enthusiasm in the sport. I think our schedule is definitely the weak link along with some of the venues we go to. That’s my opinion.

On what’s important with race schedules:

“The most important thing to the sponsors are those TV numbers and social media outreach. The fans are important to the event in the grandstands but in the end, the Joyce Julius numbers and the sponsor numbers are the most important things. I know that we talk about Saturday night races a lot and a lot of people like Saturday night races, but more people watch Sunday at 1 (p.m.). That, to me, is when we need to be on when the most people watch. The fans in the grandstands seeing those products are important, but the TV numbers are the most important thing we have.’’

On where the Cup series should race:

“I know the first place I would go is Iowa. I think everybody wants to see more short tracks and more venues. Road racing, we have a couple of road races on the schedules, most every team has two road race cars and spends a lot of money on their road race program. Adding a road race here or there would definitely be something that I would vote for just for the fact that internationally road racing is very recognizable to race fans. There’s not many ovals. You can take your pick on road courses. Montreal does a great job. You could go to Laguna Seca. There’s a lot of good venues. I’ve always been a fan of let’s go to the (Sprint Cup Awards) banquet and roll the pills around of race tracks across the country and have a wildcard race every year. Go to the Milwaukee Mile. You could go to test these venues and see how the markets react. Even if you only have 30,000 or 40,000 people in the grandstands, if you put on a good event for TV and do the things that it takes to have a unique event that’s really what people want. They want unique things.’’

On why he doesn’t feel enough changes have been made to the schedule: 

“Two publicly traded companies (International Speedway Corp. and Speedway Motorsports Inc., which own most of the tracks the Cup series races). I think when you look at what NASCAR has done, when you look at what the manufacturers have done, when you look at the teams and the sacrifices and the changes all three of those groups have gone through, they’ve gone through major, major changes. You look at the body style changes and the effort that the manufacturers put into this, rule changes for these particular superspeedway races and the safety effort that NASCAR has put in, it’s not that the tracks aren’t putting in an effort, but there needs to be a different type of effort. This is just my opinion. We’re just talking today.’’

NASCAR owns Iowa Speedway. NASCAR Chairman Brian France discussed the chances of Iowa Speedway getting a Cup date during a press conference in July 2014, saying:

“We don’t have plans for a Cup date there. We’re working with the state representatives and others to help us build racing in Iowa to the highest level that we can, and they’re doing a great job with us, and we couldn’t be more pleased with the entire effort that the communities have made in and around Iowa. But they’ve got a nice full schedule with IndyCar and Nationwide, and I think that’s where that remains.’’

As for Saturday night races, some are held for various reasons. Next weekend’s race at Kansas Speedway will be Saturday night to avoid running on Mother’s Day that Sunday. The Texas race last month was run on Saturday night to avoid going head-to-head against the final day of the Masters golf tournament, which typically dominates that day’s TV viewing. The July Daytona race moved to Sunday night to accommodate NBC, which is returning to broadcast Sprint Cup races.

 

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
Photo by Michael Allio/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images
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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.