Spencer Gallagher experiencing sophomore surge in Xfinity

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In Victory Lane after Saturday’s Xfinity Series race at Talladega Superspeedway, an elated and soaked Spencer Gallagher looked into a TV camera and declared:

“When I get home we’re going to party like it’s 1999!”

In the hours that followed, the beer flowed on Talladega Boulevard. The GMS Racing driver eventually found himself sitting behind a table with a meme-inspired sign that read, “I have the best signature in NASCAR, change my mind.”

Gallagher had grabbed hero cards from every “nook and cranny” he could find “because I knew I was going to need them all.”

He proceeded to sign between 100 and 150 cards for fans.

“Something I’ve always been very proud of is my signature,” Gallagher told NBC Sports. “I like it about me. I love signing for people. I figured that would be a good little piece of signage to bring the fans in and get something in their hands.”

Roughly 11 hours after winning his first career NASCAR race, the 28-year-old driver was the last one standing.

Alone in his RV at 3 a.m., Gallagher did two things before passing out.

He played Super Mario on his Nintendo Switch and scoured the Internet for any video clips he could find of a race and a day he will “treasure for a long time.”

“That was my night,” Gallagher said. “I regret nothing.”


Before sleep claimed him, Gallagher watched the final two laps of the Sparks Energy 300 overtime finish between eight and 10 times.

“It doesn’t get old,” Gallagher said. “Every second of that clip I can remember now what I was thinking in that moment and what I was trying to go. It’s just so great.”

Though it may have felt like it in the general chaos Talladega creates, Gallagher didn’t come out of nowhere to win.

Spencer Gallagher in Victory Lane after his Xfinity win at Talladega. (Getty Images)

Gallagher qualified third earlier in the day, his best qualifying spot of his career. He finished Stage 2 in second behind Elliott Sadler.

His win in the 115-lap race was his fifth top 10 through nine races and his second top five in the last three races. The first came at Bristol, where he finished fifth and qualified for the Dash 4 Cash the following week at Richmond.

It’s an impressive three-week stretch for a team that only claimed one top 10 last year in its first season of Xfinity competition.

Gallagher realized his team was trending upward following a race he considered disappointing.

“Ironically, it actually occurred to me in Phoenix,” Gallagher said of the race where he finished 14th. “I really wasn’t that happy with the car that day. But it had popped in my head that really, I felt that it was really an off day for us. If that can be our off days and we still pull out a top-15 finish, we might be on to something here. That’s the name of this game. You have to be up front and you have to race hard and bring home good results. But there’s an element of consistency to it. If you can have a bad day and still finish around the top 15, top 10, you’re doing something right in this business.”

Another measure for his team’s progress is Sadler, who said after Saturday’s race that Gallagher was one of the most improved drivers from last year.

Through 10 races, Sadler and Gallagher have the best average finishes among full-time drivers. Sadler’s is 4.9 and Gallagher’s 9.8.

“I think a lot of it is experience, getting to work together in our second year as a team,” Gallagher said. “I like to think a lot of it is the lumps we took the first year.”

In his rookie season, the No. 23 team had eight DNFs and finished better than 14th twice.

“We learned the hard way; we didn’t want to have another year like that,” Gallagher said.

The sophomore driver credits crew chief Chad Norris, who joined the team this season after two seasons working with Brennan Poole at Chip Ganassi Racing. He has four wins in 224 Xfinity races since 2005.

“He’s really been a big element in turning this program around and making it into a competitive worthy team in a NASCAR national series,” Gallagher said.


It wasn’t until Sunday, after Gallagher was drug from bed around 11 a.m., that it occurred to him the lap he led to win the race the previous afternoon was his first in 49 Xfinity starts.

“It’s not really something that crosses your mind, you’re just happy you got to lead the right one,” Gallagher said. “Hopefully it’s the first of many more.”

Then, remembering he qualified for the Dash 4 Cash this weekend at Dover, Gallagher had a second thought.

“It’s great there’s a trophy in my motor home right now. How am I going to bring these guys $100,000 at Dover and do it again?” recalled Gallagher.

“It’s true you get that monkey off your back,” Gallagher said. “Nothing will ever feel so good. But what people don’t tell you is that immediately after that comes the hint of, ‘How do we do this again?’ Then the cycles starts all over new.”

UPDATE: On May 2, four days after his Talladega win, NASCAR announced Gallagher had been suspended indefinitely for violating the sanctioning body’s substance abuse policy. The penalty will cost him a spot in the playoffs. Gallagher has agreed to participate in the Road to Recovery program.

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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.

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.