Crew chief Greg Ives explains pit call shortly before Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s incident

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INDIANAPOLIS — With the luck Dale Earnhardt Jr. and his team had Sunday at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, maybe nothing would have worked.

Earnhardt finished 36th after his car was damaged on a restart when he ran into the back of Trevor Bayne’s car. Earnhardt said cars ahead slowed and it caused a chain-reaction incident.

But Earnhardt could have been higher in the field had crew chief Greg Ives not decided to pit.

Earnhardt pitted on Lap 59 and was going to be one lap short of making it to the end of Stage 2 at Lap 100. The team decided to come back to top off for fuel. They wanted to make sure they didn’t run out of fuel before the stage, knowing that pit road is closed with two laps left in a stage.

Earnhardt restarted 24th.

The caution came out on Lap 72 for JJ Yeley. Earnhardt was 21st.

Ives elected to have Earnhardt pit even though Earnhardt was good on fuel for the end of the stage.

Eight cars did not pit. Had Earnhardt stayed out, he would have restarted fifth with Ryan Newman, Denny Hamlin, Austin Dillon and Landon Cassill behind him.

That wasn’t good enough for Ives. He explained his decision to pit.

“We would have restarted about fifth or sixth and we would have two not very good cars behind us and we would have just got ate up with 12 laps on our tires,’’ Ives told NBC Sports. “We saw earlier in the race with laps on our tires it wasn’t going to be a good scenario.

“The thing that we needed to happen right there was about 15 (cars) to stay out and (we) had tires and be able to work through them. If I could have been on the front row (without new tires), it would have been different.’’

Ives had to look at different strategies after Earnhardt lost 10 spots on a Lap 52 pit stop. The second lug nut on the right rear bounced away and hit the air gun, clipping a switch, making the air gun tighten the next couple of lug nuts instead of taking them off. That slowed the stop.

“Nothing that the changer can do differently,’’ Ives said. “Nothing that the gun can do differently when you hit your second lug nut and it flies off the wheel and it switches your button on three and four. What kind of luck is that?

“It’s frustrating because any type of scenario we’re trying to put ourselves in to be opposite the leaders, to be different. Yeah, I probably could have done opposite the leader there (on the Lap 72 cation pit stop), wound up fifth or sixth, but it wouldn’t have helped us at all.

“I was trying to at least to continue to maintain and continue to get lap times. The way I looked at it, those were (eight cars) that I could have got by the time the break came. Tires are pretty important. They’re so important that you don’t want to be the last guy without them.’’

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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
Photo by Michael Allio/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images
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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.