Alex Bowman leads Hendrick with second consecutive runner-up finish

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While Martin Truex Jr. got the accolades and the trophy after he started from the rear and won Monday’s Cup race at Dover, Alex Bowman wasn’t any slouch.

Like Truex, Bowman started the 400-lap race from the rear due to inspection violations. But he quickly established his No. 88 Chevrolet had competitive speed and drove to his second consecutive runner-up finish.

“It would be better if we had a trophy, right?” Bowman told Fox Sports 1. “We needed this, for sure. Talladega is a speedway, it’s a lot of luck involved. To come here to, in my opinion, the hardest racetrack we go to, run like that from the back of all things, was pretty special.”

Bowman, who finished second to Chase Elliott at Talladega, put on arguably the most impressive performance of his Cup career, which reached start No. 127 Monday.

By Lap 20 Bowman was in the top 20. With 30 laps left in the first stage he was in 10th. He cracked the top five with six laps left in the stage before finishing seventh in a one-lap shootout.

He entered the top three on Lap 176 and after a series of green flag pit stops passed Elliott for the lead on Lap 224.

Bowman would spend the next 16 laps trying to fend off Elliott, then Kevin Harvick and finally Truex.

On the last lap of the second stage, Bowman washed up the track in Turn 2 allowing Truex to assume the lead.

Bowman never led again.

“We were in Martin’s way,” Bowman told Fox Sports 1 after the race. “I wish I was in his way at the end of the race. We at least had a shot at it. That’s really all you can ask for.”

Before last weekend’s Talladega race, Bowman had never finished better than third in his Cup career. Now he has two runner-up finishes after not having any top 10s through the first nine races of the season.

“So proud of (crew chief) Greg Ives, everybody on this 88 team,” Bowman said.  “We had a miserable start to the season.  We did a really good job resetting over the off week.  We’ve come out strong since then.

“Just proud of everybody at Hendrick Motorsports for all the improvement we’ve made over the last year or so. We’re going to keep it going.”

Bowman led a solid day for Hendrick Motorsports which saw its fortunes start to turn around with Elliott’s win at Talladega.

Elliott started from the pole and led a career-high 145 laps, but the majority of that came in the first two stages. His fifth-place finish is his sixth top five at Dover in seven starts.

“We just fell off there at the end of that second stage,” Elliott said.  “That was the time of the race that we needed to be controlling it and not falling back. Just a bad time to have a bad half of a run and that is kind of what happened. So, we were fast, just not fast enough when it really mattered.”

William Byron logged his best finish at Dover, bringing his No. 24 Chevrolet home in eighth after he started on the front row with Elliott. He has two top 10s this season.

“We had the strategy deal where we took two tires and got some stage points,” Byron said. “Then we had to start at the back, and ultimately we were clawing our way back the whole race. We finished behind (Joey Logano), and we both started in the back, which was unfortunate. The guys brought a really fast car that was a lot of fun.”

The race marks the first time three Hendrick cars have finished in the top 10 since the Charlotte Roval last year (18 races).

Results, point standings after Truck race at Las Vegas

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Austin Hill won Friday night’s Truck Series race at Las Vegas Motor Speedway for his second win of 2020.

He beat Sheldon Creed for the victory.

The top five was completed by Tanner Gray, Stewart Friesen and Chandler Smith.

IndyCar driver Conor Daly finished 18th and Travis Pastrana was 21st.

Click here for the race results.

Point Standings

With his win, Austin Hill is the first driver to advance to the second round of the playoffs.

Todd Gilliland is last in the playoff standings with 2,050 points. He is 13 points behind Ben Rhodes.

Click here for the standings.

Austin Hill wins Las Vegas Truck race

Austin Hill
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Austin Hill won Friday night’s Truck Series playoff race at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, leading the final 39 laps to score the victory.

Hill took the lead on a restart and held off charges from Sheldon Creed over the final 20 laps.

Creed’s progress was slowed with 11 laps to go when he got loose and scraped the wall in Turn 1. He was never able to get close enough to Hill to make a challenge.

Creed dominated the early portion of the race, leading 89 laps before he struggled to get going on the final restart and briefly fell to seventh.

The win is the second of the year for Hill. He’s the first playoff driver to win in the postseason and it come after he finished 25th at Bristol.

“We didn’t have the best truck tonight by no means,” Hill told FS1. “Pit crew did a hell of job on that last pit stop getting me into the position I needed to. I just had to go out there and get it. … Sheldon was definitely way faster than me. … I was probably looking in my mirror more than I was our front. I knew he was better than we were.”

The top five was completed by Tanner Gray, Stewart Friesen and Chandler Smith.

More: Race results and point standings

STAGE 1 WINNER: Sheldon Creed

STAGE 2 WINNER: Sheldon Creed

WHO HAD A GOOD RACE: Tanner Gray, Stewart Friesen and Chandler Smith all matched their best results of the season … While he was the first driver to finish one lap down, IndyCar driver Conor Daly placed 18th in his first career Truck Series start … Travis Pastrana placed 21st in his second start of the season.

WHO HAD A BAD RACE: Rachael Lessard finished 20th after he had to pit early in the race following contact with the wall … Ben Rhodes finished 23rd after he spun from contact with Stewart Friesen and hit the inside wall on Lap 84 … Jordan Anderson’s engine expired on the ensuing restart. He finished 32nd.

NOTABLE: Natalie Decker, who was not medically cleared to compete Friday night, was treated and released from the infield care center.

WHAT’S NEXT: Race at Talladega Superspeedway, 1 p.m. ET Oct. 3 on FS1

 

Natalie Decker not medically cleared for Las Vegas Truck race

Natalie Decker
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NASCAR announced right before Friday night’s Truck Series race that Natalie Decker hadn’t been medically cleared to compete.

No details were provided about the issue that prevented Decker from being cleared. During the final stage of the race, NASCAR announced she had been treated and released from the infield medical center.

The Niece Motorsports driver would have started 23rd. Due to her No. 44 truck having cleared inspection and having been placed on the starting grid she was credited with a last-place finish.

Decker has made 11 starts this year. She missed the June 28 race at Pocono after she was hospitalized due to bile duct complications related to her gallbladder removal in December.

Brandon Brown hopes to shed underdog role in Xfinity playoffs

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Brandon Brown knows the odds are against him advancing beyond the first round of the Xfinity playoffs.

“If I went out and we did a survey and we asked 1,000 NASCAR fans to create a playoff bracket, I guarantee that 90 to 99 percent of them have me getting eliminated in the first round,” he told NBC Sports.

But that’s not stopping him.

Brown is in the Xfinity playoffs for the first time, earning the final spot last weekend with his family-run team. He enters Saturday’s race at Las Vegas Motor Speedway (7:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN) last in the 12-driver field. Brown has 2,000 points and is 10 points behind Ross Chastain, who holds the final transfer spot, entering the first round.

MORE: Saturday’s Xfinity race start time, lineup, forecast

Regardless where he is in the standings, Brown still met the team’s preseason goal of making the playoffs.

“It’s hard to put it into words,” the 27-year-old said of making the playoffs. “It’s so exciting and so thrilling. We’re just happy. Life is good. We’re seeing the fruits of our labor.”

Much of the Xfinity playoff focus will be on Chase Briscoe, who enters with a series-high seven wins. Or Austin Cindric, who won the regular-season title. Or Justin Allgaier, who has won three of the last seven races and could be the favorite if he makes it to the championship race at Phoenix Raceway.

Brown, who is in his second full season in the series, has four consecutive top-20 finishes going into this weekend. He knows the challenge he faces.

He said a key for this weekend is to have no mistakes, be running at the end and try to take advantage of any mistakes other playoff drivers have.

Then, he’ll look to Talladega. He’ll have an upgraded Earnhardt Childress Racing engine for that race, the team spending the extra money for the engine upgrade.

“I go into that track with confidence,” he said. “I need to go out there and make it happen, go win and make an name and go ahead and punch my ticket.”

While Brown knows most look at him as the underdog of these playoffs, he hopes to drop that title someday.

“The goal will be to get rid of that underdog title and to build that program that is going to be looked on as a powerhouse of the NASCAR Xfinity Series,” he said. “I enjoy the ride (as underdog), but now I’m ready to advance past it.”

Points entering Xfinity playoffs 

2,050 – Chase Briscoe

2,050 – Austin Cindric

2,033 – Justin Allgaier

2,025 – Noah Gragson

2,020 – Brandon Jones

2,018 – Justin Haley

2,014 – Harrison Burton

2,010 – Ross Chastain

2,002 – Ryan Sieg

2,002 – Michael Annett

2,001 – Riley Herbst

2,000 – Brandon Brown

First Round races

Sept. 26 – Las Vegas Motor Speedway (7:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN)

Oct. 3 – Talladega Superspeedway (4:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN)

Oct. 10 – Charlotte Motor Speedway Roval (3:30 p.m. ET on NBC)