Erik Jones fastest in final Coke 600 practice

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Erik Jones topped the final one-hour practice session for Sunday’s Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway.

The Joe Gibbs Racing driver posted a top speed of 187.045 mph.

Jones was followed by Kyle Larson (186.664 mph), Ryan Blaney (186.104), Joey Logano (186.047) and Denny Hamlin (185.938).

Logano recorded the most laps in the session with 55.

Jones had the best 10-lap average at 184.579 mph.

The final practice session came after rain forced the cancellation of a morning session.

Click here for the practice report.

Texas Cup results: Tyler Reddick wins

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Tyler Reddick won Sunday’s 500-mile NASCAR Cup Series playoff race at Texas Motor Speedway.

Several playoff drivers, including point leader Chase Elliott, ran into trouble during the race as numerous teams experienced tire problems.

MORE: Texas Cup results

MORE: Texas Cup driver points

The race was pockmarked by cautions and extended by a red flag for rain.

Following Reddick, who won for the third time this season, were Joey Logano, Justin Haley, Ryan Blaney and Chase Briscoe.

Kevin Harvick and Martin Truex Jr. both led the race in the late going but were victims of blown tires.

Tyler Reddick wins Cup Series race at Texas Motor Speedway

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There was fire. There was rain. There was pain. There was lightning. And heat. There were tires that didn’t want to stay together. And, by the way, there was a race.

A very long race.

At its end, more than five hours after it started, Tyler Reddick was the king of the road, winning Sunday’s 500-mile NASCAR Cup Series playoff chase around Texas Motor Speedway. Following in the top five were Joey Logano, Justin Haley, Ryan Blaney and Chase Briscoe.

The win was Reddick’s third of the year but his first on an oval track. He did not qualify for the second round of the playoffs.

The race, the first in the second round of the playoffs, could most easily be described in one word: chaos.

The tire issue was confusing. After it became evident that more than a few tires — particularly right rears — were collapsing before the end of a typical tire run, crew chiefs faced decisions about how long to keep their drivers on track in uncertain conditions.

MORE: Texas Cup results

MORE: Texas Cup driver points

Several of the playoff drivers who began the day with hopes of a smooth start to the Round of 12 watched the race finish from outside their cars. Christopher Bell, Chase Elliott and Alex Bowman failed to finish, Bell having hit the wall twice on his way to a 34th-place finish.

Every few minutes, it seemed, cars were slamming into the wall and-or each other, causing a record wave of cautions and jumbling the playoff grid. Drivers were dancing along the ragged edge between stability and sliding, making passing difficult.

MORE: RFK Racing on the rise

The race length was extended by a rain shower and a 55-minute red flag in the final stage, although forecasters had predicted only a 15% chance of rain for the day.

Logano finished second and jumped to the playoff point lead. Ross Chastain is second. Below the cutline after one race in the round are Chase Briscoe, Austin Cindric, Christopher Bell and Alex Bowman.

Chase Elliott, who held the point lead entering the race, hit the Turn 4 wall hard on lap 187, and the resulting damage caused a fire in the right front of the car. Elliott guided the car onto the apron grass and climbed out as the fire grew larger. Elliott said his right rear tire either blew apart or lost air, causing the crash.

Playoff drivers Denny Hamlin and William Byron were involved in some close encounters with each other in the second half of the race. They eventually bumped while running under caution.

One of the season’s hardest crashes occurred in the second half of the race when Cody Ware lost control of his car, slammed into the Turn 4 wall and then shot onto pit road, where crew members scattered as his car hit the pit wall. Ware was helped from the car and struggled as he crossed pit wall.

The front end of Ware’s car was demolished. He was checked and released from the infield medical center. A team official said Ware had some ankle discomfort and would be checked by medical personnel upon returning home.

Former champion Kevin Harvick, a frequent critic concerning safety issues this season, lost a tire while leading the race with 81 laps to go and slid into the wall.

A few laps later, Martin Truex Jr., who inherited the lead after Harvick’s tire issue, experienced the same problem, losing a right rear tire and hitting the wall. Harvick stayed in the race; Truex parked.

Harrison Burton, one of the race leaders, had a fire incident on pit road as his team changed tires. Burton moved out of his pit so safety workers could extinguish the fire, which started under the rear end of his Ford. Burton recovered to race in the top five.

Kyle Busch‘s troubles continued into another week as his car slipped in track resin and into the wall in Turn 4. He parked for the day.

Stage 1 winner: Kyle Larson

Stage 2 winner: Ryan Blaney

Who had a good race: Winner Tyler Reddick continues to shine despite racing under difficult circumstances. He led 70 laps in his third win of the season. … Justin Haley had one of his best runs of the year, finishing third. … Erik Jones was a strong sixth. … William Byron and Denny Hamlin finished in the top 10 despite tussling with each other on track.

Who had a bad race: Almost too many to name. Point leader Chase Elliott left the race in a blaze as his car erupted in flames after hitting the Turn 4 wall. … It was a dark day for playoff hopeful Christopher Bell. He hit the wall – twice – and eventually parked before the halfway point. … Kyle Busch slipped in resin that had been placed on the track and whacked the wall, ending his day. … A hard crash in the fourth turn took playoff driver Alex Bowman out of the race. … Rookie Harrison Burton led the race briefly but dropped back after a fire on pit road.

Next: The Round of 12 continues at Talladega Superspeedway Oct. 2 (2 p.m. ET, NBC).

Tire issues end race for Chase Elliott, Christopher Bell

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FORT WORTH, Texas — Chase Elliott, who entered Sunday’s second-round playoff race at Texas Motor Speedway leading the points, crashed and finished 32nd.

A right rear tire issue caused Elliott to lose control while leading on Lap 184 of the 334-lap race. 

He was the second playoff driver to be eliminated after tire issues. Christopher Bell finished 34th after having two right rear tires go down. After his second tire went down, Bell hit the wall. Cole Custer and Alex Bowman also had incidents after tire issues. 

“I’m not sure that Goodyear is at fault. Goodyear always takes the black eye, but they’re put in a really tough position by NASCAR to build a tire that can survive these types of racetracks with this car,” Elliott said. “I wouldn’t blame Goodyear.”

Elliott did not score stage points in the first stage and was eliminated before the end of the second stage, leaving him with no stage points.

“It’s not a great position to be in for sure, but it is what it is now,” Elliott said. “I hate it for our No. 9 NAPA Auto Parts Chevrolet team. We were actually decent here for once, so that was nice while it lasted. We’ll go to Talladega (Superspeedway) try to get a win and go on down the road.”

Bell also scored no stage points. Bell entered the race in a three-way tie for the final three transfer spots to the next round. 

“To have two right rears go in the first half of the race is very strange,” Bell said. “I don’t know. It’s a very disappointing day. We are probably going to be in a deep hole now.”

The second round continues next Sunday at Talladega and concludes Oct. 9 at the Charlotte Roval.

 

RFK Racing reaps benefits of hard work with Bristol win, Texas pole

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When Brad Keselowski arrived at RFK Racing after last season, among the early changes he made included repainting the walls and restructuring the team’s shop.

They were meant to infuse an organization that hadn’t won a Cup points race since 2017 with a new look and feel. And help create a new mindset for the 165 employees.

“The first thing (Keselowski) started changing was colors,” Justin Edgell, tire carrier on Chris Buescher’s team, told NBC Sports. “Everything is satin black. My man is a satin black-type guy. I’m talking about trash cars. I’m talking about equipment. I like it. You know, look good, play good.”

RFK Racing has looked great the last week. Buescher gave the organization its first points win of the season, taking the checkered flag in the Bristol night race. Keselowski followed by winning the pole for today’s second-round playoff race at Texas Motor Speedway (3:30 p.m. ET on USA Network). Buescher starts today’s race 13th. 

MORE: Details for today’s Cup race at Texas 

It has taken much for the organization to experience a week like this. The season didn’t start well. Both Keselowski and Buescher failed to make the feature in the Clash at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum in early February. 

Less than two weeks later, they each won their qualifying race at Daytona. 

RFK Racing wouldn’t be back to Victory Lane until Bristol. In between were disappointments, close calls and plenty of work.

“We’re in a spot where with our company, we’ve made a lot of changes over the last six to 12 months,” Keselowski told NBC Sports after the team’s celebration on Monday. “And there’s a maturation cycle to those. 

“Nobody likes that maturation cycle. There’s still things that we’ve invested that haven’t matured. So there’s a lot of reasons for optimism, but we have a long ways to go.”

Having patience in such a fast-moving sport isn’t easy but it is needed.

“I wish we would have matured earlier,” Keselowski said,” but I ain’t going to look at gift horse in the mouth and scream at him. I will take it and we’re going to build off it. Right now we have two teams that are like 10th-place teams. Our last few weeks have shown that’s where we’re at in speed, that’s where we’re at in finishes. If we ran a whole season like that … we’d be a playoff team.”

When Keselowski spoke to the employees at Monday’s celebration, he told them to enjoy the moment. He also had another message for them.

“Winning at this level is really hard and it’s supposed to be hard,” he said. “We’ve had a lot of fight to get there this year. Certainly some good moments and some really tough moments. I’m really proud of all of us and the work that went in.”

Another key to the organization’s success finding common ground between those who had been at Roush before Keselowski’s arrival and the new hires and their ideas.

After working through those issues, which included how the cars were prepared, Graves saw progress.

“You step back and embrace it and look at it and it’s like, ‘OK, this makes sense,’” Graves said. “You can start to develop and build on some ideas that make progress.”

The results started to show. Buescher finished second at Sonoma in June. He was sixth at Road America in July. He placed third at Richmond ninth at Watkins Glen in back-to-back weekends in August. 

“It’s been really nice to go to these race tracks and be in the hunt, be up there at the front,” Buescher told the employees at Monday’s celebration. “We’re learning every week. We’ve made huge progress really through the whole year.”

Buescher and Keselowski combined to lead 278 of the 500 laps at Bristol. Buescher found himself toward the front late in the race. Graves made a two-tire call on the last stop. Buescher went from entering the pits fourth to exiting first when no one else made such a move. Buescher led the final 61 laps to win. 

Then he got to do something he hadn’t in years. 

A burnout.

“I’ve only been able to do like three in my career,” he told NBC Sports, noting he didn’t do burnouts in ARCA because he often needed those tires for another event. “Xfinity wins, we were able do do some burnouts. 

“After the Pocono Cup win, it was rained out so we just had to push it to victory way, so it’s been a really long time since I’ve done any legal burnouts in a race car. So that part was nice. 

“It was nice to actually be able celebrate on the frontstretch with the team the real way, in the moment, not hanging around for that that rainout. That’s what made it that much better in my eyes.”

Keselowski looks to join Buescher in winning a points race this year. In a season with 19 different winners, Keselowski admits it’s challenging to be among those who have yet to win.

“Now we are in a spot where we are ready to play some offense,” he said. “It is a good feeling. It comes with a pragmatic view and a lot of humility of being able to walk away from some races where you were legitimately 20th or 25th and go to work the next morning and say, ‘Alright, we aren’t going to burn the house down. We are going to repaint the living room and then we are going to go to the next room and work on it piece by piece.’

“The easy thing to do is to lose control over yourself. That is the easy thing to do. The hard thing to do is to work through it and be methodical in that approach.”

It’s an approach that has led RFK Racing back to Victory Lane.