Chase Elliott wins in wild finish at Dover

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DOVER, Del. – Chase Elliott fended off Denny Hamlin on a restart in overtime, winning the Round of 12 opener Sunday at Dover International Speedway.

Joey Logano finished third, followed by Erik Jones and Kurt Busch.

Elliott took the lead by staying out of the pits during a late yellow and hung on for his second career victory through two late restarts on the 1-mile oval.

It was a redemptive win for the Hendrick Motorsports driver, who lost the lead to Kyle Busch with a lap remaining a year earlier at Dover.

“Definitely makes it sweeter for sure,” said Elliott, who also rebounded Sunday from an uncontrolled tire penalty on his No. 9 Chevrolet.

MORE: Race results

MORE: Points standings

A mostly tame race turned wild with three cautions in the final 60 laps as seemingly surefire bids for wins by Stewart-Haas Racing drivers faded, first for Kevin Harvick and then Aric Almirola.

Almirola’s lead evaporated with less than 10 laps remaining when teammate Clint Bowyer slammed the SAFER barrier after suffering a mechanical failure.

The resulting yellow jumbled the field as Elliott, Brad Keselowski and Martin Truex Jr. stayed out to take the top three spots, followed by Denny Hamlin and Alex Bowman on two tires.

Almirola was the first driver out of the pits on four tires in sixth. His No. 10 Ford slipped up off the second turn after the green, causing him to tap Keselowski into a multicar crash that also collected Truex and Bowman.

“We’ve had so many opportunities and been so close and had the car to win and been in position and I don’t know, it just seems to not come through,” said Almirola, who was a half-lap from winning the Daytona 500 and also nearly triumphed at Chicagoland and New Hampshire. “I don’t know. I’m frustrated and mad and angry.”

Seven of the 12 playoff drivers finished outside the top 10: Ryan Blaney (11th), Kyle Larson (12th), Almirola (13th), Keselowski (14th), Truex (15th), Bowman (28th) and Bowyer (35th).

Bowyer had been running in the top five for much of the race, including a stretch when all four Stewart-Haas cars occupied the top four spots.

“I guess we had another loose wheel, this sucks,” Bowyer said. “I’m so sick for Aric, that was his race to win.”

Seeking a clean sweep of 2018 at Dover (where he also won both stages and won in May), Harvick led a race-high 286 laps and was in control until a pit stop under green with 80 laps remaining. A valve stem on a left-side tire was knocked off, necessitating another pit stop under green to fix a flat.

Harvick returned to the track a lap down in 13th but caught a break when the first non-stage caution flag flew 20 laps later and put him back on the lead lap. He rebounded for sixth after narrowly missing the last pileup.

“We were just lucky there and wound up dodging and weaving and being in the right place,” Harvick told NBCSN’s Kelli Stavast. “I guess that makes up for the bad luck of losing the race with an absolute dominant car.”

The error by Harvick’s team came during a race in which all of the Big Three championship contenders made late mistakes. Kyle Busch and Truex also were hit with speeding penalties in the pits during the final 100 laps. Busch rallied for eighth.

Harvick’s dominance was evident early as only 14 cars remained on the lead lap after the first stage.

After falling out of the playoffs a week earlier because of a spin while gunning for a last-lap win at Charlotte Motor Speedway, Jimmie Johnson failed to take the green flag at the track where has a record number of victories.

The 11-time winner at Dover suffered a ball joint failure on the right front of his No. 48 Chevrolet on the pace laps and went to the garage for repairs. He returned on Lap 11 and finished 36th.

STAGE 1 WINNER: Harvick

STAGE 2 WINNER: Harvick

NOTABLE: The last two winners of the Round of 12 opener went on to capture the championship. Jimmie Johnson (2016) and Martin Truex Jr. (last year) each won at Charlotte Motor Speedway, which moved into the cutoff race of the Round of 16 this season.

QUOTE OF THE RACE: “After last fall, I was really making sure I didn’t make any contact, to be honest with you.” — Denny Hamlin on being outside of Chase Elliott for the final restart. Hamlin crashed Elliott while racing for the lead at Martinsville Speedway on an overtime restart in October 2017.

WHAT’S NEXT: 1000Bulbs.com 500 at Talladega Superspeedway, 2 p.m., Oct. 14 on NBC.

NBC Sports Power Rankings: Kyle Busch back to No. 1, Kurt Busch to No. 3

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When it comes to this week’s NBC Sports NASCAR Power Rankings, all we can say is, “Oh brother” … as in siblings Kyle and Kurt Busch.

Younger brother Kyle once again regained the top spot in this week’s rankings, knocking Joey Logano from the No. 1 perch after Logano held it the last two weeks.

And after not being ranked in the top 10 last week, older bro Kurt rockets up the rankings to No. 3 by virtue of his come-from-behind win last Saturday at Kentucky Speedway.

Also making a big move is Erik Jones, who goes from unranked last week to No. 4 this week. By contrast, six drivers from last week’s rankings dropped out of this week’s tabulations.

Here’s how this week’s rankings shape up:

1. Kyle Busch (39 points): Tenacious performance at Kentucky puts him back atop the rankings. Last week: 2nd.

2. Joey Logano (36 points): Car wasn’t wide enough to block all those behind him on the final restart. In his last three races on a 1.5-mile speedway, he’s finished seventh (Kentucky), third (Chicagoland) and second (Charlotte). Last week: 1st.

3. Kurt Busch (32 points): What a difference a win makes. But Busch’s ranking isn’t a total surprise. He’s been knocking at the door all season. Had he not pitted at Daytona two weeks ago, he may be riding a two-race win streak now. Last week: Unranked.

4. Erik Jones (23 points): Returns to playoff territory and seems to have momentum for a finishing kick. Third-place finish was his fourth top 10 in the last five races on a 1.5-mile speedway. That includes a third at Kansas and Kentucky and a fourth at Texas. Last week: Unranked.

5. Denny Hamlin (22 points): His pit crew has been called for an uncontrolled tire violation five times this year, tying the series high. That’s unacceptable. Despite the penalty at Kentucky, Hamlin finished fifth. Last week: 7th.

6. Kyle Larson (20 points): Top 10s in three of last four races – including a second (Chicagoland) and fourth (Kentucky) – have solidified his standing for the playoffs. Last week: Unranked.

7. Ryan Newman (16 points): Is in full grind-it-out mode for solid finishes exactly when he needs them. Finished ninth at Kentucky after starting at the rear because his car failed inspection. While he fell out of a playoff spot, he’s only two points away after scoring his fourth top-10 finish in the last five races. Last week: 8th.

8. Cole Custer (9 points): Kentucky victory in the Xfinity Series was his series-high fifth win of the year. Last week: Unranked.

9. Clint Bowyer (7 points): Ends four-race tailspin but still needs to work on amassing stage points. Last week: Unranked.

10. Chris Buescher (5 points): If all the tracks on the circuit were 1.5-milers, he’d likely be ranked higher. All four of his top 10s this year have come at 1.5-mile tracks. He’s been sixth at Charlotte, ninth  at Atlanta and 10th at Kansas and Kentucky. Last week: Unranked.

Others receiving votes: Christopher Bell (4 points), Martin Truex Jr. (4 points), Tyler Ankrum (3 points).

Clint Bowyer looking for some of his old magic at the ‘Magic Mile’

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While the next race on the NASCAR Cup schedule is Sunday at New Hampshire Motor Speedway, Clint Bowyer is already thinking four months and 17 races ahead to mid-November’s season-ending race at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

Winning a championship is the reason we are in this sport,” the Stewart-Haas Racing driver said in his weekly media release. “It’s why everyone puts in these long hours during a long season.

Winning a championship is what we dreamed about ever since we started racing. It was a great feeling to win the Xfinity title in 2008, and I can’t imagine the feeling of satisfaction you would get by winning a Cup title.”

But Bowyer also knows all too well that to make it to the four-driver, winner-take-all championship-deciding race in South Florida, he has a bit of work to firm up his position just to make the playoffs, which begin Sept. 15 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

Clint Bowyer hopes to be smiling and partying after winning what would be his third career triumph this Sunday at New Hampshire Motor Speedway. Photo: Stewart-Haas Racing.

Heading to New England, Bowyer is tied for 14th place with seven-time Cup champion Jimmie Johnson. They’re eight points ahead of 16th-ranked Erik Jones, who holds the final playoff spot. Ryan Newman, the first driver outside a playoff spot, is 10 points behind Bowyer and Johnson. Daniel Suarez is 12 points behind the duo.

A win would lock Bowyer into the playoffs. That’s why Sunday’s Foxwoods Resort Casino 301 (3 p.m. ET on NBCSN) is so important to the Kansas native.

Of Bowyer’s 10 career Cup wins, two have been at New Hampshire’s “Magic Mile.” He won there in 2007 and 2010. He also has four top fives and nine top 10s in 25 career starts at that track.

I love New Hampshire,” Bowyer said. “That place just fits my driving style.

We don’t get up to that part of the country a lot, so it’s good to see the race fans there. They have so many tracks and they love their racing, from Modified to Late Models to our stuff. The support races they put on at New Hampshire are some of the best of the year. Man, do they like to party there.”

Bowyer will be partying himself if he can win Sunday’s race. Still, it’s not been a bad season for Bowyer to date, either. He has five top fives and four other top-10 finishes.

Bowyer is coming off a sixth-place finish at Kentucky last Saturday, a marked improvement from what he suffered through in three of the four previous races with finishes of 35th (Michigan), 37th (Chicagoland) and 34th (Daytona).

We dug ourselves a hole in June and we are trying to climb out of it,” Bowyer said. “We aren’t a 16th-place team. I know we are better than that.”

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NASCAR America: Dale Jarrett on Dale Jr. Download, 5 p.m. ET on NBCSN

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They have the same first name, they have famous racing fathers and they’re both on today’s edition of the Dale Jr. Download on NASCAR America at 5 p.m. ET on NBCSN.

Dale Earnhardt Jr. welcomes NASCAR Hall of Famer Dale Jarrett to this week’s show.

The pair kick back and have swap stories. One of the most notable tales: Jarrett talked about his father Ned’s friendship with Dale Jr.’s grandfather, Ralph Earnhardt.

Jarrett related how the relationship between his father and Ralph hit a rough patch after they had a dust-up in a Sportsman race. The normally mild-mannered Ned was so angry at Ralph that he refused to attend his wife’s baby shower for Dale Sr. because Ralph would also be in attendance.

Ned Jarrett dutifully drove his wife to the shower, but stayed in his car the entire time.

Catch the outcome of that story, as well as many others on today’s edition of NASCAR America.

If you can’t catch today show on TV, watch online at http:/nascarstream.nbcsports.com. If you plan to stream the show on your laptop or portable device, be sure to have your username and password from your cable/satellite/telco provider handy so your subscription can be verified.

Once you enter that information, you’ll have access to the stream.

Click here at 5 p.m. ET to watch live via the stream.

 

Danielle Trotta new host of NBCSN’s Victory Lap post-race show

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Danielle Trotta will join NBC Sports’ NASCAR coverage as host of the “Victory Lap” post-race show for select Cup Series races this year.

Trotta made the announcement Tuesday on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio’s “On Track,” the show she began co-hosting this year with Larry McReynolds.

Trotta has also been with NBC Sports Boston since 2018.

As part of “Victory Lap,” which begins Sunday at 7 p.m. on NBCSN after the Cup race at New Hampshire Motor Speedway, fans will be able to call in with questions about the race. Trotta will be joined by AJ Allmendinger and Parker Kligerman this weekend.

“It’ll be fun to continue the conversation,” Trotta said after making the announcement on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio. “I think after the race ends and you hear the driver’s post-race comments and we see the highlights, as a race fan on so many Sundays, I would sit on my couch and want more. I would want more coverage, more conversation, more conjecture and I think that’s exactly what NASCAR “Victory Lap” has always been and will continue to be, and then we take the next step of really wanting the conversation to be interactive and having people call live into the show.”

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