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Dale Earnhardt Jr. has mixed feelings about Pocono runner-up finish

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Dale Earnhardt Jr. left Pocono Raceway on Monday with a love-hate finish.

Earnhardt hated to finish second to race winner Kurt Busch in Monday’s race, not to mention also losing what may have been the best chance he had to reach victory lane this season.

“I could have been a little more aggressively doing some things differently,” Earnhardt said. “But we ended up getting tight and not really having anything anyways right at the end of the race, and (Busch) saved enough (fuel).”

But at the same time,Earnhardt loved his second-place finish – his best finish since placing second six races ago at Bristol.

Since that Bristol race, he’s struggled with five consecutive finishes outside of the top 10: 13th (Richmond), 40th (Talladega), 15th (Kansas), 32nd (Dover) and 14th (Charlotte).

Yeah, (finishing second) certainly feels better than finishing 15th,” Earnhardt said. “When you get just a little bit behind in this series, holy moly, it takes so much work to just regain what you lost, not really even to have an advantage, just to get back to where you were. A tenth out on that racetrack is impossible to find.

“It’s a good step in the right direction. I felt like we could come in here and run good, and I think we learned a lot that we can understand how to get better for the next race here. I’m looking forward to Michigan, and obviously it’s going to be a different package, but I think we’ll run good on that track, too, and anticipate having a good run at Kentucky.”

Earnhardt is relieved that his slump could be over. He also has high hopes he can capture that elusive first win of the season, which would all but guarantee him a spot in the Chase for the Sprint Cup.

“We certainly finished better than we should have,” Earnhardt said. “Our car wasn’t quite a second-place car. We started off really tight and really slow, probably about a 15th-place car. Greg (Ives, crew chief) and the guys made a lot of changes and made the car better.”

Earnhardt criticized NASCAR for the minimal amount of practice at Pocono this weekend. While much of the reason was weather-related – including the postponement of Sunday’s race to Monday – Earnhardt suggested NASCAR should reevaluate its practice policies for Sprint Cup teams.

“We just didn’t get any practice,” he said. “The drivers have been asking NASCAR to take away the morning practice and add a little bit to the second one to make that Saturday practice an hour and a half, and we didn’t — it was just an hour.

“It takes you a minute to run around this track. You can’t get but 13 damned laps in practice. I don’t know how you’re supposed to figure out what your cars are doing. So we came into this race with no idea.

“We made a lot of changes last night. We basically put in an old setup that worked in the past, and it started off missing the mark pretty bad, but we worked on it and got it better, and we’ll take the points. We’ve had a rough month, so this is a decent finish for us.”

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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.