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Hattori Racing to replace Truck champ Brett Moffitt

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NASCAR Truck champion Brett Moffitt told Autoweek that he will not return to Hattori Racing for the 2019 season. Autoweek reported that the team is replacing Moffitt with a driver who will bring funding.

Even with last year’s success – Moffitt won six of 23 races – the team struggled to make it to some races and even considered starting and parking to maintain its playoff eligibility.

“We always wanted to stay together,” Moffitt told Autoweek. “The crew guys and I certainly wanted to stay together. I found out on Monday and I was at the shop on Tuesday to get my stuff. I met with (team owner) Shige (Hattori) and he told me the direction.”

Hattori issued a statement Wednesday that did not address who will drive for his team in 2019:

“We are extremely proud of what we achieved with Brett and winning the championship together. Our organization’s relationship with (Moffitt) dates back to 2012 and we’re thankful for what he has meant to our team and the effort he put forth. This past season was full of adversity and we faced numerous challenges in getting to the racetrack each week. Our entire team is working hard to put the best possible program together for next year and we’re excited to compete in 2019. We’re looking forward to celebrating our championship on Saturday night with Brett at the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series awards banquet and hope our results together benefit all of us in the future.”

Moffitt’s status is not surprising. Even after winning the season finale in Miami to win the championship, Moffitt acknowledged that “I’m still not guaranteed a job next year.”

In an interview with Fox Sports Wednesday, Moffitt explained he was very understanding of the decision by Hattori.

“I get it. It’s a business at the end of the day,” Moffitt said. “If he can take an option where it’s going to help propel his business in the right direction, it’s what you got to do. If sticking with me would have meant a lot of uncertainty I totally get and respect the decision.”

Moffitt’s uncertain future was posed to NASCAR President Steve Phelps two days after Moffitt won the Truck title. Phelps was asked how the sport can make sure successful drivers have their place regardless of how they relate to a company.

“Brett Moffitt is obviously a very talented race car driver who has won more this year obviously than he’s ever won,” Phelps said in Miami the day of the Cup season finale. “He has a bright future. What that future looks like, I don’t know. What I do know is that we work with race teams from a revenue standpoint as much as we can. We also work with drivers to try to bridge driver opportunities.

Are we always successful in getting a driver who wants to be driving in whatever series they want to drive in? No. But there are a lot of historical things that we have done to try to make sure that if a driver is interested in continuing that that driver has that opportunity.”

A little over two weeks after the end of the season, Moffitt is sporting a fresh mustache. Five days after he claimed the title he shaved the one he had during his playoff run.

Moffitt explained bad things started happening to him once he shaved NASCAR’s first championship mustache since 2001.

“Five days after the championship I started playing really bad golf after I shaved it,” Moffitt said. “Then I found out that I will not be returning to HRE. So all these things kind of started happening … Then I started growing it back and I went out and played golf and shot a 78, which is the lowest round I’ve ever shot. I think (the mustache) got powers, man.”

Kyle Busch touts support he’s received for comments at Las Vegas

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RICHMOND, Va. — Kyle Busch says he’s received support from fellow drivers, who told him “what I said is not wrong” about the ability of some competitors.

Busch was upset last weekend after running into the back of Garrett Smithley’s car and being impeded by Joey Gase in the Cup playoff opener at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

After the race, Busch told NBCSN: “We’re at the top echelon of motorsports, and we’ve got guys who have never won Late Model races running on the racetrack. It’s pathetic. They don’t know where to go. What else do you do?”

Smithley responded on social media and Gase later responded on social media.

MORE: Kyle Busch’s comments address murky issue with no solution 

Busch was asked Friday at Richmond Raceway if he watched video of the incident with Smithley since last week and if his opinion changed.

“I did see video of last week,” Busch said. “It doesn’t matter what my opinion is. I get beat up on it anyway.”

Busch was encouraged by support he received.

“I’ve had multiple texts from other people that are race car drivers and non-race car drivers this week that have said what I said is not wrong, but there’s other general masses that say different,” Busch said.

Busch’s race at Las Vegas started poorly when he hit the wall in the opening laps and went down two laps. He explained what happened:

“We started out, we practiced our car and we were pretty decent in practice, but I felt like I was a tick tight, so we made some changes going into the race to free it up,” Busch said. “The first run at Vegas is always looser. And I guess I didn’t mentally prepare myself for that enough, and we were 10 numbers loose, like crashing loose.

“I got myself in trouble. I got myself into the fence. Was able to battle back from all of that throughout everything of the day and put ourselves in position for a solid finish and we just didn’t get it.”

Asked what he could have done differently, Busch said:

“I should have been prepared for it,” he said. “I actually prepared (crew chief Adam Stevens) for it, but I guess didn’t prepare myself for it. I was getting passed, guys were going by me and I was falling backwards and I was like I got to go here, I’ve got to move forward and pushed too hard.”

Busch recovered to get back on the lead lap and was running in the top five when he had the contact with Smithley. Busch finished 19th.

“For as bad as our day started, we were certainly able to make something of it and come back for a top-four run until close to the end,” Busch said when asked if his frustration hurts his performance. “People want to say because of my state of mind that’s the reason I ran into the back of a slow car, that’s funny people know how I think and what I am inside my helmet. I don’t think that had anything to do with it.”

Busch, the regular-season champion, qualified fourth for Saturday night’s Cup race at Richmond Raceway (7:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN).

Results, Xfinity point standings after Richmond playoff race

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Christopher Bell led a career best 238 laps Friday night on his way to winning the Xfinity playoff opener at Richmond Raceway.

It is his seventh win of the year, matching his total from 2018.

The top five was completed by Austin Cindric, Cole Custer, Justin Allgaier and Chase Briscoe.

Click here for the race results.

Playoff standings

Bell secured a spot in the second round of the playoffs with his win.

The four drivers currently below the cutline for advancing to the next round are Brandon Jones (-15 points from cutline), Ryan Sieg (-19), Justin Haley (-20) and John Hunter Nemechek (-21).

Click here for the point standings.

Christopher Bell wins Xfinity playoff opener at Richmond

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Christopher Bell put together a convincing win Friday night at Richmond Raceway to open the Xfinity Series playoffs.

Bell led 238 of 250 laps – a career high – and swept each stage to earn his seventh victory of the year, matching his total from 2018.

The Joe Gibbs Racing driver has now won three of the last four races at Richmond and six of the last 11 short track races.

The top five was made up of pole-sitter Austin Cindric, Cole Custer, Justin Allgaier and Chase Briscoe.

“That one was pretty special,” Bell told NBCSN. “Going 92 laps straight there is really difficult, man. We were sliding all around. I felt like if I could get to traffic I was going to be in good shape. Because my car could really move around good. I could run up, I could run down. (Cole Custer) was keeping pressure on us pretty good, but this Rheem Supra was too good.”

STAGE 1 WINNER: Christopher Bell

STAGE 2 WINNER: Christopher Bell

More: race results, point standings

WHO HAD A GOOD DAY: Harrison Burton was the highest finishing non-playoff driver in sixth … Austin Cindric earned his first top five in the last four races. He finished second in both Richmond races this year … In his 300th career Xfinity start, Justin Allgaier finished fourth after he had to start from the rear for changing a tire … Chase Briscoe earned his first top five in the last five races.

WHO HAD A BAD DAY: Mike Marlar wasn’t able to complete the first lap of his first Xfinity start. He was involved in an incident and finished last … Vinnie Miller had a mechanical failure with 25 laps left in the first stage. He finished 35th … Tyler Matthews finished 33rd after he wrecked in Stage 1 … Playoff driver Justin Haley had a pit road penalty and finished 17th … John Hunter Nemechek finished 15th after he spun while trying to intentionally spin Joe Graf Jr. right before the race’s conclusion. It was retaliation for a bump-and-run by Graf earlier in the lap.

NOTABLE: Christopher Bell has a win percentage of 22%, third all-time in the Xfinity Series.

WHAT’S NEXT: Drive for the Cure 200 on the Charlotte Roval at 3:30 p.m. ET Sept. 28 on NBCSN

 

Provisional starting lineup for Richmond Cup race

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Playoff drivers Brad Keselowski and Kevin Harvick are on the provisional front row for Saturday’s Cup Series playoff race at Richmond Raceway (7:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN).

The top five is completed by playoff drivers Chase Elliott, Kyle Busch and Clint Bowyer.

The highest qualifying non-playoff driver is Jimmie Johnson (10th).

The lowest qualifying playoff driver was Joey Logano (28th).

The starting lineup will be made official after pre-race inspection Saturday. One failure will result in a qualifying time being disallowed.

Click here for the provisional starting lineup.