Clint Bowyer says crew chief change will help but needs faster cars

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DARLINGTON, S.C. – It will take more than a crew chief change to make Michael Waltrip Racing’s cars faster, but the personnel switch is a step toward that, Clint Bowyer said during a break in testing at Darlington Raceway.

Wednesday marked Bowyer’s second day with crew chief Billy Scott. MWR announced Tuesday it was swapping Scott and Brian Pattie, who had been Bowyer’s crew chief since 2012. Pattie becomes David Ragan’s crew chief on the No. 55 car.

Bowyer enters this weekend’s race at Michigan International Speedway 17th in the points – outside a transfer spot to the Chase for the Sprint Cup. Twelve races remain until the Chase field is set.

Bowyer and MWR’s No. 55 car – which has had four different drivers this season – have struggled for speed much of the year. Bowyer has three top-10 finishes this season with one coming in the Daytona 500 and the the other two on short tracks. He has not finished better than 20th on a track more than 1 mile long (except for the Daytona 500).

“We’ve got to bring better cars to the racetrack,’’ Bowyer said. “That’s what makes the speed. We need quite a bit right now.’’

Bowyer also said that working with a new crew chief could play a key role in creating those better cars with better communication.

“That communication breeds better communication back to the shop to what they need to build and things like that,’’ Bowyer said. “This whole business … it’s a people business. It always has been. When you get a good group of people around you and they’re all hitting on all eight cylinders and they’re all in the right positions, it’s pretty fun to see it work at its best. Certainly, we weren’t getting the results, and I think this is the first of many changes, hopefully.’’

Scott said he’s not worried about the communication with Bowyer.

“We’ve been in meetings together for 3 1/2 years already, and he’s a pretty easy-going guy,’’ Scott said.

The crew chief swap allowed Scott to begin working with Bowyer at this test and this weekend in Michigan before going into the off weekend. Pattie and Ragan will test next week at Richmond International Raceway.

Scott said the tests will “give everybody a chance to work together and the off week will be a good chance to kind of review that and make some tweaks.’’

Bowyer was among four drivers who took part in the Goodyear tire test on Tuesday. He said they mainly did 25-lap runs Tuesday.

“Let me tell you, it’s back to the old Darlington, slipping and sliding around and … starting to manage your tires and things like we used to on the old surface,’’ Bowyer said. “I really like that. It just blows my mind how this place wears out. It’s back to where it needs to be to put on good racing. I think it will be back to what we’re used to seeing with the old Darlington when we come back here.’’

Wednesday was an open test day with 12 Sprint Cup teams at Darlington. Among the drivers testing were Jimmie Johnson, Martin Truex Jr. and Kurt Busch.

The series returns Sept. 6 for the Southern 500 – the first time the race has been run on its traditional Labor Day weekend spot since 2003. NBC will broadcast the race.

Bowyer also confirmed Wednesday that he’s on the drivers council that met with NASCAR officials at Dover. Others on the council are Kevin Harvick, Kyle Larson, Jeff Gordon, Denny Hamlin, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Greg Biffle, Joey Logano, and Tony Stewart.

 

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.

Pit crew change for Alex Bowman, Jimmie Johnson teams

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Hendrick Motorsports teammates Alex Bowman and Jimmie Johnson each will have a pit crew change for Saturday night’s playoff race at Bristol.

The change is the result of an injury to one pit crew member.

Dustin Lineback, jackman for Bowman’s team is out with an injury, the team stated. Kyle Tudor, who has been Johnson’s jackman, moves over to that role for Bowman’s team. Eric Ludwig, a backup for Hendrick Motorsports, moves up to be the jackman for Johnson.

MORE: Saturday Cup race at Bristol: Start time, forecast, lineup

Bowman enters the elimination race 27 points ahead of teammate William Byron, the first driver outside a transfer spot to the second round. Bowman opened the playoffs by finishing sixth in the Southern 500 at Darlington Raceway. He followed that by placing ninth at Richmond. Bowman was collected in a crash and finished 37th in the May Bristol race.

Johnson, who is in his final full-time Cup season, seeks his first victory of the season. He finished third at Bristol in May.