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Ray Evernham hopes for Hall of Fame: ‘Your place in history is determined by other people’

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In the Hendrick Motorsports shop where he won three NASCAR titles with Jeff Gordon, Ray Evernham hung a famous sign on the wall with a list of six boxes.

Nobody. Upstart. Contender. Winner. Champion. Dynasty.

Only the first five descriptors were checked – though you could make a case the sixth is why Evernham is on the ballot for the second consecutive year in Wednesday’s NASCAR Hall of Fame voting.

But the former crew chief and team owner said whether he built a dynasty worthy of stock-car immorality is for 57 voters (including an online fan poll) to decide.

“Your place in history really is determined by other people,” Evernham, also an NBCSN analyst, said in a Tuesday phone interview. “We’d get asked all the time about our checklist, ‘When are you going to put that dynasty checkmark up?’ That’s not really one for us to put up. That’s for the sportswriters and fans to decide. I don’t know that’s not our checkmark to make.

“I think the Hall of Fame is really like that. Are you Hall of Fame material? Everyone is going to say, ‘Hell yeah, I am.’  But you really don’t know until the other people vote for you.”

The results for Evernham and 19 other candidates won’t be known until 5 p.m. when the five inductees of the Class of 2017 will be revealed as joining the previous 35 members of the Hall of Fame.

After attending the announcement in Uptown Charlotte last year, Evernham will be monitoring the results from Indiana (he and his family will be attending the 100th running of the Indianapolis 500).

Though the wait isn’t agonizing, the potential honor will be on his mind.

“Some guys will tell you they don’t think about it, and it happens when it happens,” he said. “But you still think about it. I do think about it. You’re being considered for what I consider the highest honor you can be given in a sport. So it’s extremely important. If you’re fortunate to get elected to the Hall of Fame, it puts a period on a career. It’s the highlight of a career.

“So for me, three championships and a couple of Daytona 500 wins and three (Brickyard 400s wins) is great, but to be elected to the Hall of Fame would be the crowning jewel of that career.”

Of the 35 previous inductees, there have been only four full-time mechanics, which might lessen the odds for Evernham (who did receive a vote last year from this voter).

Voted the best crew chief of all time in a 2006 media poll, the New Jersey native watched last year as Jerry Cook, Bobby Isaac, Terry Labtone, O. Bruton Smith and Curtis Turner were voted into the stock-car shrine.

Evernham said it was with the mixed emotions of being honored to make the ballot (which was reduced from 25 to 20 nominees three years ago) but also the competitive disappointment of failing to achieve enshrinement.

“Certainly, I agreed with all the picks that went in there, but you can’t say oh my God, you’re so happy for everybody else that you’re not let down,” he said. “It’s as simple as that. And you should be. Who wouldn’t be?

“You’re amazed when you do get in, and I hope that as people are voting they consider the things I’ve done in the sport, and hopefully it’s worthy enough to get in this year, and if not, I’ll keep waiting and hopefully someday, I get a turn.”

The top three vote-getters who didn’t make the Hall of Fame last year were inaugural NASCAR champion Red Byron, 1973 champion and broadcaster Benny Parsons and Rick Hendrick, the owner whose teams have won a record 11 Cup championships – three with Evernham.

“I’m hoping and pretty confident that he gets in this year,” Evernham said of Hendrick. “I think a lot of people pass him up because he’s still active. But when you look at the numbers of what he’s done in the sport, how can he be denied? He’s made such a huge impact in NASCAR since the mid-80s.”

Evernham has been close to other recent inductees, too, such as Cook, a former Modified champion, and 2015 inductee Bill Elliott, who drove for Evernham from 2001-03.

“I know how much it meant to Jerry; this was the crown jewel for him,” Evernham said. “Bill Elliott is a pretty quiet guy who doesn’t say much, but I can tell you spending time with Bill, getting into that Hall of Fame was really important.

“When Bill and I won the (2002) Brickyard together, I could tell that was important to him because that was one of the things that he didn’t have that he really wanted. When he got elected to the Hall of Fame, it was like a giant sigh of relief or almost peace. The people who do get in, you’ve got a great feeling that your body of work has been recognized and appreciated. In the end, that’s all you get. When you do a lot of things in life, to be appreciated by the sport or the people involved in the sport that you’ve committed your life to, the greatest thing that can happen is that in the end they say that you did a good job. When you get elected to the Hall of Fame, that’s pretty much what they’re saying.”

Evernham, who helped groom a crew chief “tree” that includes Chad Knaus, Steve Letarte, Rodney Childers and Tony Gibson, said he has wondered if he will earn that career-defining validation since he stopped being able to enjoy it on a weekly basis.

“While you’re (racing), you have a measurement all the time in the sport,” he said. “You’re winning, you’re losing, you’re getting better, you’re doing things. But when you’re out of it a while, you’re wondering, ‘Did I make a difference? Was I any good? Where do I stack up in the competition?’ When you’re racing it’s easy to find that out every week. Where your place is in history comes a little bit later.

“I know what I’d like it to feel like, but until it happens, I think only those who have been inducted can tell you. To me it seems more like a quiet sigh of relief that, ‘Yes, I made a difference. Yes, I mattered.’ ”

Three Joe Gibbs Racing cars going to rear for inspection violations

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The cars of Denny Hamlin, Kyle Busch and Erik Jones will start at the rear after each car failed inspection twice before Saturday’s race at Bristol Motor Speedway.

Busch enters the race 18 points above the cutline to transfer to the second round of the Cup playoffs. Saturday’s race (7:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN). Busch was to have started ninth.

This is the second playoff race in a row that Busch’s team has failed inspection twice before the race and had to start at the rear. Busch started at the rear last weekend at Richmond. He finished sixth.

Hamlin has already advanced to the second round via points. He was to have started seventh.

“We’ve got 500 laps,” he said. “If we’re good enough, we’ll get to the front. Not really too worried about it in that sense.”

Jones is not in the playoffs. He would have started 20th.

NASCAR also announced that the cars of Corey LaJoie and Bubba Wallace will start at the rear for unapproved adjustments. JJ Yeley will go to the rear for a driver change since he was not listed on the preliminary entry list for the No. 15 car.

Wallace was to have started 27th. LaJoie was to have started 30th. The No. 15 was to have started 32nd with Brennan Poole as the driver.

 

Saturday Cup race at Bristol: Start time, TV channel

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Four drivers will be eliminated from the Cup playoffs after Saturday night’s race at Bristol Motor Speedway.

This marks the first time the track has been in the playoffs. The Saturday Cup race at Bristol will end the first round. The 16-driver field will be cut to 12.

William Byron (3 points behind the cutline), Cole Custer (-8), Matt DiBenedetto (-25) and Ryan Blaney (-27) are the four drivers out of a playoff spot. Clint Bowyer holds the final transfer spot.

Here is all the info for the Saturday Cup race at Bristol:

(All times are Eastern)

START: The command to start engines is at 7:38 p.m. The green flag waves at 7:45 p.m.

PRERACE: Cup haulers enter the garage (screening and equipment unload) at 10:30 a.m. Garage access health screening begins at 12:30 p.m. Garage opens at 12:30 p.m. Drivers report to their cars at 7:10 p.m. Driver introductions will be at 7:15 p.m. The invocation is at 7:30 p.m. The national anthem will be performed by Joe Nichols, three-time Grammy nominee, at 7:31 p.m.

DISTANCE: The race is 500 laps (266.5 miles) around the .533-mile track.

STAGES: Stage 1 ends on Lap 125. Stage 2 ends on Lap 250

TV/RADIO: NBCSN will televise the race. Coverage begins at 6:30 p.m with NASCAR America, followed by Countdown to Green at 7 p.m. Race coverage begins at 7:30 p.m. Performance Racing Network’s radio coverage will begin at 6:30 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

FORECAST: The wunderground.com forecast calls for partly cloudy skies with a high of 62 degrees and a 3% chance of rain at the start of the race.

LAST RACE: Brad Keselowski won at Richmond. Martin Truex Jr. finished second. Joey Logano placed third for the second race in a row.

LAST POINTS RACE AT BRISTOL: Brad Keselowski won in May after Denny Hamlin lost the lead when he hit the wall. Chase Elliott ran into Joey Logano as they battled for the lead late in the event.

TO THE REAR: Denny Hamlin (two inspection failures), Kyle Busch (two inspection failures), Erik Jones (two inspection failures), Corey LaJoie (unapproved adjustments), Bubba Wallace (unapproved adjustments), JJ Yeley (driver change).

STARTING LINEUP: Click here for Cup starting lineup

CATCH UP ON NBC SPORTS’ COVERAGE:

Three Joe Gibbs Racing cars going to the rear for inspection violations

Bubble drivers brace for Bristol battle

Pit crew change for teams of Alex Bowman and Jimmie Johnson

Friday 5: The thin line between aggressive and dirty driving

Matt DiBenedetto, Ryan Blaney seek NASCAR history to advance

What upcoming Cup playoff races NASCAR fans can attend

Trevor Bayne says the fire remains to run more 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.