Sonoma was matter of points for some teams


Sunday’s race showed the different strategies teams are employing in a season that could see possibly half the 16-team playoff field qualify on points instead of a victory.

Martin Truex Jr.’s triumph at Sonoma Raceway kept the winner’s list at six this season. That’s the fewest number of winners this late in a season since 1978.

With 10 races left in the regular season, 10 playoff spots remain. Since the playoff format debuted in 2014, no more than five drivers qualified for the postseason by points. 

For a few drivers toward the bottom of the playoff standings, Sunday’s race was a chance to grab stage points.

Jimmie Johnson entered Sonoma 13th in the playoff standings and Hendrick Motorsports teammate Chase Elliott was 14th.

They are both in a tenuous position should there be a couple more new winners this season.

Hendrick’s struggles have been well chronicled this season and those issues have left those teams with a dearth of stage points. Johnson had 52 stage points entering Sonoma and Elliott had 46.

Johnson and Elliott both stayed on track Sunday while others pitted just before the end of the first and second stage. The result was a bounty of stage points for both.

Johnson finished third in both stages and scored 16 points. He made his biggest gain in the second stage. He was ninth with four laps left in the second stage and stayed out as five cars in front of him pitted. He gained an extra spot with a pass.

The 16 stage points are the most Johnson has scored in a race since last year’s Coca-Cola 600, a span of 40 races.

Johnson finished 11th at Sonoma and scored 42 points — more than every driver but one.

The only other driver to score more points than Johnson was Elliott. He scored 49 points, buoyed by the 16 stage points he collected.

Elliott earned those points by finishing fourth in the opening stage and runner-up in the second stage.

“We elected to get some stage points and that set us back a little for that last stage, but I don’t think we had the pace that the leaders had,” Elliott said after finishing fourth at Sonoma, his best finish there. “So, it was a good finish for me, and we’re looking forward to the next road race.”

Elliott’s biggest gain was in the second stage. He was seventh with four laps to go and by not pitting finished second to Denny Hamlin in that stage.

The 16 stage points scored by Elliott were the most he’s scored in a race since last fall’s Charlotte race, a span of 22 events.

Johnson and Elliott remain 13th and 14th in the playoff standings but they pulled further ahead of those behind them. Erik Jones remains 15th in the playoff standings. He scored no stage points and finished seventh but earned only 30 points and fell further behind Johnson and Elliott in the standings.

But it wasn’t just Johnson and Elliott who took advantage of the stage points.

Brad Keselowski did not pit before the end of the first two stages and collected 16 stage points.

Keselowski’s chase for stage points is important in the race for playoff points at the end of the regular season. The regular-season champion gets 15 playoff points, second gets 10 playoff points, third gets eight playoff points on down to one playoff point for the driver who finishes 10th in the standings at the end of the regular season (Indianapolis on Sept. 9).

Keselowski is fourth in the points after Sonoma. He has an eight-point lead on Martin Truex Jr., a 10-point lead on Clint Bowyer and a 30-point lead on Kurt Busch.

Keselowski is ahead of each of them because he has more stage points (176). Truex has 113 stage points, Bowyer and Busch have 121 stage points each.

While that might not seem like a big deal, Keselowski is in position to gain seven playoff points if he finished fourth in the standings. Busch, who is seventh, would have four playoff points if the season ended today. One never knows how a single point could play a role in who advances or not in a round.

 and on Facebook


Portland Xfinity race results, driver points

Portland Xfinity results
Photo by James Gilbert/Getty Images

Cole Custer went from fourth to first on the overtime restart when the top three cars made contact and went on to win Saturday’s Xfinity Series race at Portland International Raceway. Custer is the 10th different winner in 13 races this season.

MORE: Portland Xfinity race results

MORE: Driver points after Portland Xfinity race

JR Motorsports took the next three spots: Justin Allgaier placed second, Sam Mayer was third and Josh Berry was fourth. Austin Hill completed the top five.

John Hunter Nemechek remains the points leader after 13 races. He has a 14-point lead on Hill. Nemechek leads Allgaier by 44 points.

Cole Custer wins Xfinity race at Portland in overtime


Cole Custer held off Justin Allgaier at the finish to win Saturday’s Xfinity Series race in overtime at Portland International Raceway. It is Custer’s first victory of the season.

JR Motorsports placed second, third and fourth with Allgaier, Sam Mayer and Josh Berry. Austin Hill finished fifth.

MORE: Race results, driver points

Custer went from fourth to first on the overtime restart when Parker Kligerman, who restarted third, attempted to pass Allgaier, who was leading. Sheldon Creed was on the outside of Allgaier. All three cars made contact entering Turn 1, allowing Custer to slip by. Creed finished seventh. Kligerman placed 14th.

Custer won the second stage when John Hunter Nemechek made contact with Creed’s car while racing for the lead on the final lap of the stage. The contact spun Creed and Custer inched by Nemechek at the line.

Early in the final stage, Creed gained revenge with contact that spun Nemechek, who went on to finish 10th. A few laps later, Nemechek and Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Sammy Smith had issues. Smith spun Nemechek. After getting back around, Nemechek quickly caught Smith and turned into Smith’s car, damaging it.

STAGE 1 WINNER: Sheldon Creed

STAGE 2 WINNER: Cole Custer

WHO HAD A GOOD RACE: Despite the contact on the overtime restart, runner-up Justin Allgaier managed to score his fourth consecutive top-three finish. … Sam Mayer’s third-place finish is his best on a road course. … Austin Hill’s fifth-place finish gives him four consecutive top-five results.

WHO HAD A BAD RACE: Daniel Hemric finished 33rd after a fire in his car. … Riley Herbst placed 32nd after an engine issue. After opening the season with six top 10s in a row, Herbst has gone seven races in a row without a top 10.

NEXT: The series competes June 10 at Sonoma Raceway (8 p.m. ET on FS1).

Truck race results at WWT Raceway: Grant Enfinger wins


Grant Enfinger took the lead when the leaders wrecked in the final laps and held off the field in overtime to win Saturday’s Craftsman Truck Series race at World Wide Technology Raceway.

It is Enfinger’s second win in the last five races. He also collected a $50,000 bonus for winning the Triple Truck Challenge.

MORE: Truck race results

MORE: Driver points after WWT Raceway

Christian Eckes finished second and was followed by Stewart Friesen, Carson Hocevar and Chase Purdy.

Ty Majeski and Zane Smith wrecked while racing for the lead with six laps to go. Majeski, running on the inside of Smith, slid up the track and clipped Smith’s truck. Both hit the wall. That put Enfinger in the lead.

Smith finished 20th. Majeski placed 30th.

STAGE 1 WINNER: Grant Enfinger

STAGE 2 WINNER: Stewart Friesen

WHO HAD A GOOD RACE: Grant Enfinger’s victory is his fourth top 10 in the last five races. … Carson Hocevar’s fourth-place finish is his fourth consecutive top-five result. … Stewart Friesen’s third-place finish moved him into a playoff spot with four races left in the regular season. … Matt DiBenedetto‘s sixth-place finish is his third consecutive top 10. … Jesse Love finished ninth in his series debut.

WHO HAD A BAD RACE: Ty Majeski had a chance to take the points lead with series leader Corey Heim out because of illness, but Majeski’s 30th-place finish after running at the front most of the day, leaves him behind Heim. … Hailie Deegan finished 32nd after contact sent her truck into the wall hard. … After finishing a career-high third last week at Charlotte, Dean Thompson placed 34th Saturday due to an engine issue.

NEXT: The series races June 23 at Nashville Superspeedway (8 p.m. ET on FS1)

Xfinity starting lineup at Portland: Sheldon Creed wins pole


Sheldon Creed scored his first career Xfinity Series pole by taking the top spot for Saturday’s race at Portland International Raceway.

Creed, making his 50th career series start, earned the pole with a lap of 95.694 mph on the 1.97-mile road course.

MORE: Portland Xfinity starting lineup

Cole Custer will start second with a lap of 95.398 mph. He is followed by Josh Berry (94.242 mph), John Hunter Nemechek (95.127) and Charlotte winner Justin Allgaier (94.897). Road racing specialist Jordan Taylor, driving for Kaulig Racing, qualified sixth at 94.772 mph.

The green flag is scheduled to wave 4:46 p.m. ET Saturday on FS1.