Kyle Busch wins it all: 2015 Sprint Cup championship, Homestead race

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Capping an incredible comeback after missing the first 11 races of the season due to devastating injuries (broken right leg, fractured left foot) in a February wreck at Daytona, Kyle Busch is the 2015 Sprint Cup champion.

“It’s pretty unbelievable,” an obviously emotional Busch said in Victory Lane. “It’s a dream of a lifetime, a dream come true, it’s something that happens only every so often. I just can’t believe it with everything that happened this year, all the turmoil that I went through, my wife went through, my family went through and people around me went through. This championship is for these guys, my wife, my family and everyone who sacrificed to get me here.”

In earning his first Sprint Cup crown, Busch also won Sunday’s Ford EcoBoost 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway in dominating fashion, taking the checkered flag holding off runner-up Kevin Harvick by roughly a 20-car margin.

The 30-year old Busch will officially accept his championship trophy and check at the Sprint Cup Awards Banquet in less than two weeks in his hometown of Las Vegas, Nevada.

It was the fourth Sprint Cup championship for Joe Gibbs Racing and the first for Toyota. It was also the first championship — in his first season as a Sprint Cup crew chief — for Adam Stevens.

Harvick finished with his 13th runner-up finish of the season, most since NASCAR Hall of Famer Bobby Allison recorded 15 in 1970.

“We were just struggling all night, to be honest with you,” Harvick said. “You always want to win, but I’ve learned not to get greedy. After last year, I felt like we had everything go our way and tonight it didn’t go our way. Congratulations to the 18 team and everything they did.”

As for the other two Championship 4 finalists, Jeff Gordon, in the final race of his 23-year Sprint Cup career, finished sixth — while Martin Truex Jr. finished 12th.

“It’s been a most amazing experience,” Gordon said. “Gosh, I’m a little bit disappointed. I thought going into the race we had something for ’em, but when the sun went down, we’re missing a little something and just didn’t quite have it when the track cooled down. … It’s a happy, happy good day. I wanted that win, but we’re still going to celebrate.”

Penske Racing teammates Brad Keselowski and Joey Logano finished third and fourth, respectively, while Kyle Larson finished fifth.

Sixth through 10th were Gordon, Matt Kenseth, Kurt Busch, Jimmie Johnson and Denny Hamlin.

HOW BUSCH WON: Busch blew past Brad Keselowski on the final restart on Lap 261 and sailed away. Kevin Harvick tried to make a race of it, but Busch had a car that was untouchable, finishing by a roughly 20-car lead. An interesting stat: Sunday’s win was Busch’s first-ever race victory in the 12-year history of the Chase.

WHO ELSE HAD A GOOD RACE: Teammates Joey Logano and Brad Keselowski had strong runs to finish third and fourth for race and team sponsor Ford. … Kyle Larson was in contention for the win until the last few laps, but still finished a very strong fifth. … Matt Kenseth, in his first race back after serving a two-race suspension, rallied to finish seventh.

WHO HAD A BAD RACE: There was a big multi-car wreck on Lap 46 that involved several cars including Dale Earnhardt Jr., Aric Almirola, Ty Dillon, David Ragan, Casey Mears and Clint Bowyer. All cars suffered heavy damage. It appeared Bowyer clipped the rear of Dillon’s car and then abruptly turned right into Earnhardt’s car. “I don’t know what the hell happened,” said Bowyer, who finished 43rd. “My car got loose and I just couldn’t catch it. Unfortunately, you hate to end it this way. I wanted to end on a strong note for everyone at MWR (this was the final race for Michael Waltrip Racing, which will cease operations in the off-season).” … Kasey Kahne lost a right side tire and hit the wall on Lap 39, putting him one lap down, but was able to rally back to finish 19th. … Sunday was the last race for Sam Hornish Jr. in the No. 9 Ford for Richard Petty Motorsports. Hornish, who spent just one season with RPM, will not return to the team in 2016. No replacement has been named yet. Hornish had early problems when he got caught up in some of the oil that spilled from Denny Logano’s car, sending Hornish into the wall. Hornish finished 25th.

NOTABLE: Pole-sitter Denny Hamlin suffered a gear oil issue early in the race and took his Toyota to the garage for repairs. His team had his car back on-track in three laps, and he was eventually able to get back on the lead lap and ultimately finished 10th. … The start of the race was delayed by nearly an hour and a half due to heavy pre-race rains, but weather was not an issue once the green flag dropped. … There were 18 lead changes among eight drivers. Also, there were seven cautions for 30 laps. … Brett Moffitt was named Sprint Cup Rookie of the Year after the race. … Here’s an irony: Michael Waltrip Racing became the first Toyota team in 2007. In the final race of MWR’s existence, Toyota wound up winning its first Cup championship. … This is the first time since 2004 (Kurt Busch, Sprint Cup; Martin Truex Jr., Xfinity; Bobby Hamilton, Trucks) that NASCAR has had first-time champions in their respective racing classes in the same season: Kyle Busch (Sprint Cup), Chris Buescher (Xfinity) and Erik Jones (Trucks). Granted, the younger Busch brother won the 2009 Xfinity championship, but this is his first Sprint Cup championship.

QUOTE OF THE DAY, No. 1: “I hear you, man. This is so cool. Whoo!” – Kyle Busch after being congratulated upon his win on NBCSN.

QUOTE OF THE DAY, No. 2: “I don’t know if you could have ever scripted it any better. … To have a shot with these four final drivers – Martin Truex, one of the best at Homestead; Kevin Harvick, one of the best these last two years; and Jeff Gordon, one of the best of all-time — to go up against those guys here tonight and score the victory in this 18 Toyota Camry, was phenomenal.” – Kyle Busch in Victory Lane.

QUOTE OF THE DAY, No. 3: “I want this day to go on forever. … It is absolutely incredible to be in my shoes right now.” – Jeff Gordon prior to Sunday’s race.

WHAT’S NEXT: The 2016 season-opening Daytona 500 on Feb. 21 at Daytona International Speedway.

Follow @JerryBonkowski

Brandon Brown hopes to shed underdog role in Xfinity playoffs

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Brandon Brown knows the odds are against him advancing beyond the first round of the Xfinity playoffs.

“If I went out and we did a survey and we asked 1,000 NASCAR fans to create a playoff bracket, I guarantee that 90 to 99 percent of them have me getting eliminated in the first round,” he told NBC Sports.

But that’s not stopping him.

Brown is in the Xfinity playoffs for the first time, earning the final spot last weekend with his family-run team. He enters Saturday’s race at Las Vegas Motor Speedway (7:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN) last in the 12-driver field. Brown has 2,000 points and is 10 points behind Ross Chastain, who holds the final transfer spot, entering the first round.

MORE: Saturday’s Xfinity race start time, lineup, forecast

Regardless where he is in the standings, Brown still met the team’s preseason goal of making the playoffs.

“It’s hard to put it into words,” the 27-year-old said of making the playoffs. “It’s so exciting and so thrilling. We’re just happy. Life is good. We’re seeing the fruits of our labor.”

Much of the Xfinity playoff focus will be on Chase Briscoe, who enters with a series-high seven wins. Or Austin Cindric, who won the regular-season title. Or Justin Allgaier, who has won three of the last seven races and could be the favorite if he makes it to the championship race at Phoenix Raceway.

Brown, who is in his second full season in the series, has four consecutive top-20 finishes going into this weekend. He knows the challenge he faces.

He said a key for this weekend is to have no mistakes, be running at the end and try to take advantage of any mistakes other playoff drivers have.

Then, he’ll look to Talladega. He’ll have an upgraded Earnhardt Childress Racing engine for that race, the team spending the extra money for the engine upgrade.

“I go into that track with confidence,” he said. “I need to go out there and make it happen, go win and make an name and go ahead and punch my ticket.”

While Brown knows most look at him as the underdog of these playoffs, he hopes to drop that title someday.

“The goal will be to get rid of that underdog title and to build that program that is going to be looked on as a powerhouse of the NASCAR Xfinity Series,” he said. “I enjoy the ride (as underdog), but now I’m ready to advance past it.”

Points entering Xfinity playoffs 

2,050 – Chase Briscoe

2,050 – Austin Cindric

2,033 – Justin Allgaier

2,025 – Noah Gragson

2,020 – Brandon Jones

2,018 – Justin Haley

2,014 – Harrison Burton

2,010 – Ross Chastain

2,002 – Ryan Sieg

2,002 – Michael Annett

2,001 – Riley Herbst

2,000 – Brandon Brown

First Round races

Sept. 26 – Las Vegas Motor Speedway (7:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN)

Oct. 3 – Talladega Superspeedway (4:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN)

Oct. 10 – Charlotte Motor Speedway Roval (3:30 p.m. ET on NBC)

Saturday Las Vegas Xfinity race: Start time, TV channel

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The NASCAR Xfinity Series playoffs get underway with the Saturday Xfinity race at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

The race is the first of seven to determine the champion.

Chase Briscoe is on the pole after his win last weekend at Bristol

Here is all the info for the Saturday Las Vegas Xfinity race:

(All times are Eastern)

START: The command to start engines will be given at 7:38 p.m by Cup driver Bubba Wallace. The green flag is scheduled to wave at 7:47 p.m.

PRERACE: Garage access health screening begins at 1 p.m. Drivers report to their cars at 7:20 p.m. The invocation will be given at 7:30 p.m. by Motor Racing Outreach Chaplain, Billy Mauldin. The national anthem will be performed by Mackenzie Mackey at 7:31 p.m.

DISTANCE: The race is 200 laps (300 miles) around the 1.5-mile track.

STAGES: Stage 1 ends on Lap 45. Stage 2 ends on Lap 90.

TV/RADIO: Coverage begins on NBCSN with Countdown to Green at 7 p.m. Race broadcast begins at 7:30 p.m. Performance Racing Network’s radio coverage will begin at 7 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. Click here for the link.

FORECAST: The wunderground.com forecast calls for clear skies with a high of 95 degrees and no chance of rain at the start of the race.

LAST RACE: Chase Briscoe beat Ross Chastain and Austin Cindric at Bristol.

LAST RACE AT LAS VEGAS: Chase Briscoe beat Austin Cindric and Ryan Sieg for the win.

STARTING LINEUP: Click here for Xfinity starting lineup

General Motors announces leadership for technical center

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General Motors has announced the leadership for its new performance and racing technical center in Concord, North Carolina.

GM has tapped Dr. Eric Warren of Richard Childress Racing to be the director of NASCAR operations at the facility, which was unveiled in January.

Warren will be responsible for competition duties for NASCAR programs, “as well as expanding the involvement of GM’s product development resources in the technical strategy for the Chevrolet race teams,” GM said in a statement.

GM’s 75,000-square-foot facility will feature Driver-in-the-Loop simulators, vehicle simulation, aero development and other practices designed to advance racing and production capabilities.

Warren had been RCR’s Chief Technology Officer since 2017 and part of the team since 2012.

GM also named Mark Stielow to its new Director of Motorsports Competition Engineering position. Stielow will be responsible for overall engineering and technical direction for the NHRA, IndyCar, IMSA and Motorsports Operations. He will have a direct link to GM’s vehicle integration organization.

Charlotte Roval to host limited number of fans

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Charlotte Motor Speedway will host fans for its NASCAR Xfinity and Cup races and its IMSA race on the Roval Oct. 10-11, the track announced Friday.

The announcement comes after North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper stated this week that outdoor sports venues with a capacity in excess of 10,000 could have up to 7% capacity.

The track stated that because of the limited capacity allowed, no additional tickets will be sold for the Oct. 11 Cup playoff race. Remaining ticket holders will have the option to receive a 120% credit toward a 2021 event or a refund for the full purchase amount.

Tickets remain for the Oct. 10 Xfinity playoff race and the IMSA WeatherTech  SportsCar GT Championship Series event. Adult tickets are $50. Tickets are available by calling 800-455-FANS (3267) or online at www.charlottemotorspeedway.com. Kids 13 and under get in free.

“Throughout the summer, we’ve been working with local and state officials to bring fans to the Bank of America Roval 400 weekend for what promises to be one of the season’s most anticipated events,” said Charlotte Motor Speedway Executive Vice President and General Manager Greg Walter in a statement. “While we regret that we cannot accommodate every fan who would like to be part of this spectacular race weekend, we are committed to providing the best and safest experience possible for those who are able to attend.”

Among the safety protocols for the events:

  • Mandatory temperature checks at entry gates
  • Contactless ticketing
  • Socially distanced grandstand seating
  • Cashless souvenir and concession purchases.
  • Fans and staff must wear approved face coverings at all times, except while eating and drinking.
  • Limited grandstand seating will be in groups of up to six people properly socially distant from any other group.

Fans can bring food and unopened beverages in a soft-sided clear bag no larger than 14 inches on its longest side. To limit contact, cash will not be accepted.