Ryan: Martin Truex Jr. turns in the drive of the night at Kentucky — with little reward


SPARTA, Ky. – It was the most inspired drive of the Sprint Cup season, a furious charge on fresh asphalt and a rock-hard tire that made passing virtually impossible at Kentucky Speedway.

Not for Martin Truex Jr.

After a penalty for passing Kevin Harvick for the lead in the pits dropped his No. 78 Toyota to 22nd on a restart with 67 laps remaining, the Furniture Row Racing driver seemed buried.

Truex was just getting started. He sliced through traffic and gained an astonishing 19 positions over the next 57 laps.

“It was all you can do when things like that happen is keep your head down and dig,” he said. “We dug all the way to third place from the back so that was cool.

Until it wasn’t. That would have been 10 laps remaining when Truex was forced to pit for fuel.

Congrats, Martin Truex. Here’s your 10th-place finish.

No winner’s jukebox to play his favorite comeback anthem in victory lane. No exultation with his single-car team to celebrate overcoming long odds yet again.

The guy going slowest (Brad Keselowski on a brilliant fuel mileage gambit) in the closing laps at Kentucky Speedway got the victory.

The guy going fastest for most of 400 miles wasn’t even gifted with a lousy “I survived the Kentucky repave!” T-shirt after a treacherous Saturday night filled with crashes.

“We came out (of the pits) with the lead (over Harvick), and they took it away from us,” Truex said. “That’s just the way it goes.”

Entering the pits in second, Truex reached the first timing line and slammed the accelerator to speed into his stall to the left of Harvick’s No. 4 Chevrolet. Because NASCAR measures pit speed by using time over distance, Truex theoretically couldn’t be busted for speeding because his section would factor in a 6-second stop.

“Everybody does it,” Truex said of the practice. “I’ve had people pass me the same way at Bristol and Martinsville. They get to a timing line, and they drive right by you to their pit. So I don’t know why all of a sudden they made an example out of me. You see it every week.”

Crew chief Cole Pearn made the argument to NASCAR officials, but vice president of competition Scott Miller said the rule was simple.

“You can’t pass on pit road,” Miller said. “If you do pass on pit road, it specifically says it has to be to the right when somebody is peeling off into their box.”

Perhaps the only solace for Truex?

On the 1.5-mile tracks that will play the biggest role in deciding the championship, his car unquestionably is the fastest.

“Texas, Kansas, Charlotte, here,” said Truex, who scored one of the most dominating victories in NASCAR history with the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway. “It’s awesome to run good. It’s frustrating we don’t win.”

Truex also led the most laps at Kansas Speedway and Texas Motor Speedway but was burned by pit strategy and a freak lug nut problem.

“I feel like I’ve had a lot of them not go the right way last couple of years especially,” he said. “It is what it is. We’ll move on. The guys are building fast race cars, can’t deny them that. We’re working well together. So we just keep digging.”

Kentucky marks the last 1.5-mile track until the Chase for the Sprint Cup begins at Chicagoland Speedway in more than two months. There will be five 1.5-mile ovals in the 10-race playoff that determine the title, and Truex will be a bona fide contender based on his performance on those tracks this season.

Just ask the winner Saturday night.

“I look at (Truex), and he drove through the field rapidly toward the end of the race, and I thought that was pretty incredible,” Keselowski said. “Truex’s car and driving style were exceptional tonight.”

But as consolation prizes go, that still wasn’t much.

“It’s frustrating,” Truex said. “We had the car to beat.”

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.