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Chase Elliott ‘100 percent’ believes Hendrick car capable of making Chase finale

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Chase Elliott “100 percent” thinks he or teammate Jimmie Johnson is capable of making the championship round of the Chase for the Sprint Cup.

Those are confident words for Elliott, a Cup rookie without a win who is driving for Hendrick Motorsports, a team in the middle of its longest winless streak (23 races) in more than 20 years.

But Elliott, ninth on the Chase grid and 16 points above the cutoff in 12th, feels good given the team’s display of speed in the first two Chase races at Chicagoland and New Hampshire.

“I definitely feel like we have an opportunity to get there for sure,” Elliott said Friday at Dover International Speedway. “I think we’ve been fast enough these first two weeks to get there … (But) just being fast doesn’t guarantee you to make it to this next round.”

Johnson, a six-time champion and 10-time winner at Dover, agrees with his teammate.

“I feel right now in my heart that we can be one of the final four,” Johnson said earlier this week. “But we still need some more work to go to (the season finale) and dominate the race and win as we think we’ll need to be the champion.”

Elliott says the recent on-track power has come from “improvements across the board” in the Hendrick engine department, which also makes engines for Chip Ganassi Racing and Stewart-Haas Racing.

“I think when you see an improvement in the engine shop you are going to see that across the board, and I think we’ve seen that the past couple of weeks,” Elliott said. “I think there is definitely something there. I know from the chassis side and some of the things we’ve had going on there, the body side, I know (crew chief) Alan (Gustafson) and our group has been pushing really hard on that front trying to improve, trying to get the best stuff we can get pumped out of the shop and to the racetrack.

Johnson and Elliott combined to lead 193 of 270 laps at Chicagoland before a speeding penalty and a late caution took away their chances to win. At New Hampshire, a track he considers “terrible” for himself, Elliott started 10th and had an average running spot of 5.35 before finishing 13th. Johnson averaged a 6.35 running spot and finished eighth.

Now the Chase returns to Dover, a track Elliott showed speed at in May as he battled Kyle Larson and Matt Kenseth in the closing laps before finishing third.

Elliott knows he could be in a worse position at Dover than he is, three spots above the bubble.

“I know we didn’t get the finish we were hoping for, but at the same time you’ve got to kind of look at the other outcome, you could have been wrecked and sitting in the garage there at the end,” said Elliott, who along with Chris Buescher are the first rookies to make the Chase since Denny Hamlin in 2006. “You kind of have to look at that both ways and when you are playing defense it is easy to be sitting in the garage pretty quickly. I 100 percent think our group or Jimmie’s group could make it. I feel confident in that. I think we’ve been fast enough these first two weeks to do it, but obviously you have to have some things go your way throughout this deal and you’ve got to execute your races and try to stay mistake-free.”

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.