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Upon Further Review: Bristol

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BRISTOL, Tenn. — Car owner Joe Gibbs professes that when he makes driver/crew chief changes, he’s not quite sure how the pairing will work.

While not every move leads to instant success, Gibbs has become proficient in this area. Carl Edwards is the latest example.

Edwards’ victory Sunday at Bristol Motor Speedway continued his best start to a Sprint Cup season since 2008. He’s doing it in his first year with crew chief Dave Rogers.

“I truly have never worked with someone that I think is more like me and communicates the same way as I do,’’ Edwards said. “If we don’t win the championship, it will not be because of any problem between Dave and I.

“I’m not just saying this because he won this race, but he’s already like a brother. We don’t get along with everybody, but we get along with each other really well, so it’s great.’’

In the season’s first eight races, Edwards has one win, two poles, four top-five finishes and seven top-10 finishes. He also has an average finish of 6.4 and led 475 laps. The last time he had more than one victory eight races into a season was 2008. He had three wins at that point on the way to winning a career-high nine races and finishing second in the points.

While fast cars help — Joe Gibbs Racing has won the past three Cup races and four of eight this season — Rogers said the time spent with Edwards in the offseason created the comfort level each has with the other.

“I just feel really comfortable being me calling the races,’’ Rogers said. “I call them the way I want them. I don’t have to take on an adaptive personality of any sort, and it works for Carl, and likewise, I hope he feels very comfortable being Carl and communicating the way he wants to, and that’s a big deal. That’s a real big deal.’’

So is how Gibbs has altered his driver/crew chief pairings. Consider:

  • Denny Hamlin won the Daytona 500 this year in his first race with Mike Wheeler as crew chief and has three top-three finishes in eight races.
  • Kyle Busch won four of his first nine races with crew chief Adam Stevens after returning from injury last season on the way to claiming his first Sprint Cup championship.
  • Matt Kenseth won two of his first eight races with Jason Ratcliff as crew chief in 2013 on the way to winning a career-high seven events and placing second in the points.

Edwards never had worked with Rogers, and Kenseth had never worked with Ratcliff before their pairing. Stevens and Busch had success in the Xfinity Series, and Wheeler was a longtime engineer for Hamlin.

Even past history is no guarantee how a pairing will work under the pressure in the Cup series.

“It’s one of the hardest things in sports to get a great chemistry between two guys, particularly at what they do,’’ Gibbs said.

Maybe so, but he’s found the right combination often.

— Kyle Busch and Kyle Larson put on one of the most thrilling duels this season in Saturday’s Xfinity Series race at Bristol Motor Speedway, leading some to wonder if shorter races would create more of that type of racing.

The 200-lap race was preceded by two 50-lap heat races. Both heat races saw winners (Erik Jones and Austin Dillon) lead every lap. The 200-lap main event was 100 laps shorter than last year’s race (the difference with the addition of the two heat races).

Larson, who fell from first to third on the final restart, was bummed about the finish but not the racing.

“I think every race should be shorter in NASCAR,’’ he said. “Shorter races just make for more intense racing. You look at the Truck Series, every race is pretty intense when Kyle Busch isn’t in it. Every race should be shorter.’’

Larson noted the intensity of the Xfinity race also was related to the fact that Busch, who was second, had a quicker car. That kept them close as they weaved through traffic. The ending added to excitement with Jones scoring the win.

That race is not reason enough to shorten races. Just because a race is shorter does not mean similar type of action will take place.

— Only two drivers have finished in the top 10 in both short-track races this season. Carl Edwards was sixth at Martinsville and won Bristol. Ryan Newman was 10th at Martinsville and ninth at Bristol. They’ll try to keep their streak going this weekend at Richmond International Raceway.

Matt DiBenedetto finished a career-high sixth at Bristol. … Clint Bowyer finished a season-high eighth at Bristol. … Trevor Bayne’s fifth-place finish was his best Cup result since winning the 2011 Daytona 500.

— Goodyear said it would take tires that failed from the cars of Denny Hamlin, Kyle Busch and Matt Kenseth to its Akron, Ohio, facility to analyze why those Joe Gibbs Racing teams had issues and the rest of the field did not.

— If you missed it, you can check out what songs drivers selected to be played when they were introduced before Sunday’s race. Artists ranged from Miley Cyrus to Eric Church to the Beastie Boys.


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

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.