Ryan: Don’t know Christopher Bell and Bobby Pierce yet? You will

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ROSSBURG, Ohio – Just a couple of kids playing in the dirt.

That was the simplest way to describe the spectacle that unfolded in the third annual Mud Summer Classic at Eldora Speedway, where Christopher Bell, 20, won by outdueling Bobby Pierce, 18.

It hardly would do justice to what the top two finishers in Tony Stewart’s rapidly emerging dirt-track classic accomplished Wednesday night – and the unbelievable ways in which they did it.

This was a spectacular coming-out party for two stellar prospects who might have been well-known to dirt-track fans but virtually unknown in NASCAR circles.

They now are on everybody’s radar after delivering a scintillating show on the half-mile oval that is known for producing what Stewart calls “defining moments.”

Those seemed innumerable Wednesday night.

Pierce, who hadn’t raced a NASCAR truck before qualifying on the pole position Wednesday, slammed into the concrete so many times, the rear end of his No. 63 Chevrolet was being held together by pins and tethers – just as he’d expected it would be after taking his cue from watching Kyle Larson nearly win last year with a style just as brutish.

“It was awesome,” said Pierce, a dirt Late Model ace from tiny Oakwood, Ill. “I know a lot of people were telling me before the race, I was going to be the Kyle Larson. Beating down the wall is something I’m pretty good at. I didn’t want to be the guy in second, but Bell did a great job of doing everything right to win the race.”

Bell, a USAC open-wheel prodigy who scored his first Camping World Truck Series victory in only his third career start, drove his No. 54 Toyota into the wall about a half-dozen times in wrestling leading the final eight laps.

“This is just unbelievable,” Bell said. “It’s pretty cool that a couple of dirt guys can run 1-2.”

It’s pretty unbelievable, actually.

In a field filled with the likes of NASCAR veterans such as Ken Schrader, Austin Dillon, Ty Dillon, Matt Crafton and Brad Keselowski, Bell and Pierce combined to lead 145 of 154 laps.

How unexpected was Bell’s win? The Norman, Okla., native didn’t know he would be racing until a week earlier – and he doesn’t have another truck event scheduled this year.

“Whatever opportunities come my way, I’d be thrilled to take advantage of them,” said Bell, who raced for Kyle Busch Motorsports with sponsorship from Toyota (whose motorsports executives have been staunch supporters). “I never would have thought I’d get the opportunity to do it.”

The NASCAR future is just as uncertain for Pierce, who just recently began running on asphalt in the hopes of jump-starting a stock-car career.

He already seems on the right track considering he posted a career-best finish for team owner Mike Mittler, who had only one top 10 in 212 previous starts of fielding trucks for a roster that includes Carl Edwards, Brad Keselowski and Jamie McMurray before they became Sprint Cup winners.

“Almost any racer who gets this far always has (NASCAR) in the back of their mind,” Pierce said. “Racing dirt late models has been my life, but if it comes to it, NASCAR is definitely something that I’d look to go forward to.”

“You’re perfectly fine to stay here,” Eldora general manager Roger Slack playfully interrupted.

Too late.

A cursory check of social media showed that some major players in the NASCAR world already were taking notice.

They might have been playing in the dirt Wednesday.

But when it comes to playing in racing’s big leagues, Bell and Pierce are just getting started.

 

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

Check back for the full point standings

Chase Briscoe wins Xfinity race at Bristol Motor Speedway

Chase Briscoe Bristol
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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.