Cup Series playoff field is set. Now it’s time to race for a title.

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Sixteen drivers. Ten races. One champion.

It’s time for the Cup playoffs. The 16-driver field was set after Sunday’s race at Indianapolis Motor Speedway with Clint Bowyer and Ryan Newman securing the final two spots.

The focus turns to Las Vegas Motor Speedway for next Sunday’s playoff opener in what is expected to be 100-degree temperature.

Here is a look at the playoff field (in order of seeding):

Kyle Busch (2045 points) — Regular-season champion enters postseason with 45 playoff points. …  This is his seventh consecutive year in the playoffs. … Has four wins this year. … Winless in his last 12 races, his longest winless streak since 2017. … Has reached the championship race each of the past four years, winning the 2015 title. … Won at Richmond and Phoenix in last year’s playoffs.

Denny Hamlin (2030) — Seeks first series title. … Sixth consecutive playoffs. … Enters playoffs with four wins this season and 35 in his career. … He’s won the Daytona 500 this year, along with races at Texas, Pocono and Bristol.

Martin Truex Jr. (2029) — Runner-up to the championship last year and 2017 series champ. … Has four wins this season (Richmond, Dover, Coca-Cola 600 and Sonoma). .. Has not finished better than 13th in the last three races.

Kevin Harvick (2028) — Making 10th consecutive playoff appearance. … Has won three of the last seven races after going winless the season’s first 19 races. … Scored victories at New Hampshire, Michigan and Indianapolis. … Won the 2014 title, the first year when the championship was determined by the playoff format that ended with the title race in Miami.

Joey Logano (2028) — Reigning series champion won earlier this season at Las Vegas, site of the opening playoff race this coming weekend. His two victories this season were at Las Vegas and Michigan. … Finished second to Kevin Harvick at Indianapolis.

Brad Keselowski (2024) — Making sixth consecutive playoff appearance. … Has three wins this season but last victory was at Kansas in May. … Has gone 14 races without a win. … Last made the championship race in 2017, finishing fourth. … Finished second to Team Penske teammate Joey Logano at Las Veags, site of this week’s playoff opener.

Chase Elliott (2018) — Making fourth consecutive playoff appearance. … Won at Watkins Glen for the second year in a row. … Enters playoffs with four top-10 finishes in the last five races.

Kurt Busch (2011) — Making sixth consecutive playoff appearance. … Earned spot with win at Kentucky. … Finished fifth at Las Vegas earlier this season.

Alex Bowman (2005) — Making second playoff appearance. … Earned spot with win at Chicagoland Speedway. … Has not finished better than 10th in the last nine races.

Erik Jones (2005) — Making second playoff appearance. … Won Southern 500 at Darlington Raceway. … Joe Gibbs Racing announced this week it has signed Jones to a one-year contract extension to remain in the No. 20 car through next season. … Finished 15th in the points last year, eliminated in the first round.

Kyle Larson (2005) — Making fourth consecutive playoff appearance. … Saw his streak of five consecutive top-10 finishes end with a wreck while running toward the front Sunday at Indianapolis. … Best finish in the playoffs is eighth in 2017.

Ryan Blaney (2004) — Won the inaugural Charlotte Roval race in last year’s playoffs. … Making third consecutive playoff appearance. … Has led 365 laps this season, most by a driver without a win this year.

William Byron (2001) — Making his first playoff appearance. Still seeks his first career Cup win. … Best career finish is second at Daytona in July.

Aric Almirola (2001) — Making second consecutive playoff appearance. … Finished a career-best fifth in last year’s playoffs.

Clint Bowyer (2000) — Making second consecutive playoff appearance. … Finished 12th in last year’s playoffs for his best finish in the points since he was seventh in 2013 for Michael Waltrip Racing. … Finished the regular season by placing seventh of better in each of the last three races.

Ryan Newman (2000) — Making second playoff appearance in the past four years. … Secured the final playoff spot with eighth-place finish Sunday at Indianapolis. … Finished career-best second in points in 2014 in the first year of the playoff format.

Goodyear tire info for Richmond race weekend

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If Goodyear tires at Richmond Raceway look familiar this weekend, there’s a good reason.

Teams competing in Friday’s Xfinity and Saturday’s Cup races will have the same Goodyear tire compounds as they raced upon in the spring at the 3/4-mile bullring in April.

Richmond is simply one of the more high-wear tracks on the NASCAR circuit,” Greg Stucker, Goodyear’s director of racing, said in a media release. “What we’ve seen this year with this higher downforce package, with the cars more ‘in the track’ and with less lateral slip, wear is down a bit compared to 2018.

Saying that, tires are still very important at Richmond. The tread compounds we bring do a good job rubbering in the track, creating multiple racing grooves throughout the race.”

As a result, tire management is a significant element for this weekend’s races, “meaning a good amount of passing throughout the field as a run progresses,” according to the Goodyear media release. “Richmond has traditionally lined up with a couple other tracks of similar length – New Hampshire and Phoenix – but its ‘racy’ configuration requires more stagger (difference in height between the shorter left-side tire and the taller right-side tire) be built into the tire set-up.”

NOTES: This is the only track at which Cup or Xfinity teams will run either of these two Goodyear tire codes. … As on most NASCAR ovals one mile or less in length, teams will not run liners in their tires at Richmond.

Here is the information for this weekend’s tires at Richmond:

Tire: Goodyear Eagle Intermediate Radials

Set limits: Cup: Three sets for practice, one set for qualifying and 10 sets for the race (nine race sets plus one set transferred from qualifying or practice); Xfinity: Six sets for the event

Tire Codes: Left-side — D-4874; Right-side — D-4876

Tire Circumference: Left-side — 2,214 mm (87.17 in.); Right-side — 2,244 mm (88.35 in.)

Minimum Recommended Inflation: Left Front — 12 psi; Left Rear – 12 psi; Right Front — 30 psi; Right Rear — 27 psi

Daniel Hemric not returning to Richard Childress Racing’s No. 8 car next year

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Daniel Hemric will not return to drive Richard Childress Racing’s No. 8 Chevrolet in 2020, the team announced Tuesday. The team said in a statement it had exercised its option and would release Hemric following this season.

Hemric is in his rookie Cup season and has been with RCR for three years. He competed for the team in the Xfinity Series from 2017-18 before moving to Cup. Hemric has competed in five full-time seasons across Cup, Xfinity and the Truck Series and has yet to visit victory lane.

More: NASCAR schedule, video and more

Through 27 races this year, Hemric has two top-10 finishes – a fifth at Talladega and a seventh at Pocono in July – and an average finish of 22.7.

The move by RCR to release Hemric creates a potential open seat for RCR’s Xfinity series driver Tyler Reddick, who is the defending Xfinity champion. Owner Richard Childress said in July the only way he could keep Reddick was if he moved Reddick up to Cup.

Reddick has five wins this season, including last Saturday at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. Reddick enters the postseason as the regular-season champion. The postseason begins Friday at Richmond Raceway (7:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN).

Statements from RCR and Hemric are below.

Joey Gase joins Garrett Smithley to defend self from Kyle Busch criticism

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Joey Gase on Tuesday joined Garrett Smithley to basically tell Kyle Busch to double-check his facts before pointing fingers.

Busch criticized Smithley and Gase for their driving – having made contact with Smithley and was impeded by Gase – late in Sunday’s Cup playoff opener at Las Vegas, leaving Busch with an eventual 19th-place finish.

Busch said in an interview on NBCSN: “We’re the top echelon of motorsports, and we’ve got guys that 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?”

Gase stood up for himself in an extended tweet Tuesday.

Here’s a transcript of that post:

Well someone implied (Sunday) night that I have never won a late model race before. As you can see in the pics below I have won a few in my day and just wanted to share my story a little bit and thank the people who have helped me get to where I am today.

My dad raced before I did at the local short track level and that’s how I fell in love with racing. When I was 4 years old my dad got me my first yard kart and would turn hundreds of laps on the driveway everyday. When I turned 14 my dad retired from racing and I started to race his old open wheel modified and won that year up in Oktoberfest in Lacrosse, WI which anyone in the Midwest knows how big of a weekend that is.

When I was 16 I was the youngest ever to win the track championship in the Late Model division at Hawkeye Downs Speedway racing against some of the best in the Midwest like Johnny Spaw, Tim Plummer, Griffen McGrath, Doughly Fleck, Brad Osborn and the list goes on and this is when my career took off.

This was only made possible because a family friend believed in me and bought my first two late models and the motors to go with it. Our crew consisted of my dad, my uncle, grandpa, and I. My parents were not rich, my dad worked in a coal power plant for 20 plus years and my mom was a hair stylist. It took the effort of my whole family and a lot of people who believed in me to get to where I am today and I can’t thank them enough.

We have accomplished a lot of cool things over the years, my top memories being winning my first race back after my mom’s passing, finishing fifth with Jimmy Means Racing at Talladega after almost missing the race and making my first start in the Daytona 500 and being the highest finishing rookie (23rd).

I have to give HUGE thanks to Jimmy Means for giving me a big chance and making it possible for myself to get established in NASCAR with nearly no funding when we first started and Carl Long for picking me back up after my big sponsor from last year did not stand by their commitments and letting me know in the middle of December.

We have to work for every sponsor we get and I am proud to say I have 30 different sponsors this year and would not be here without them. Also have to thank all of my fans for always standing by me.”

Gase’s tweet follows Smithley’s rebuke of Busch late Monday afternoon, giving his side of the contact with the former Cup champ.

On Monday’s NASCAR America, analysts Steve Letarte, Kyle Petty and Nate Ryan discussed if Busch was wrong in his criticism.

Follow @JerryBonkowski

Preliminary entry lists for Richmond Raceway

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The NASCAR playoffs continue this weekend at Richmond Raceway for two of the national series.

The Cup Series holds the second race of its opening round while the Xfinity Series kicks off its postseason.

Here are the preliminary entry lists for each race.

Cup – Federated Auto Parts 400 (7:30 p.m. ET Saturday on NBCSN)

There are 38 entries for the race.

Quin Houff is entered in Premium Motorsports’ No. 27 Chevrolet.

Austin Theriault is entered in Rick Ware Racing’s No. 51 Chevrolet.

Garrett Smithley is entered in RWR’s No. 52 Ford and Spencer Boyd is in the team’s No. 53 Chevrolet.

Martin Truex Jr. won the spring race at Richmond over Joey Logano and Clint Bowyer. Kyle Busch won this race last year over Kevin Harvick and Truex.

Click here for the entry list.

Xfinity – Go Bowing 250 (7:30 p.m. ET Friday on NBCSN)

There are 38 entries for the race.

Harrison Burton is entered in Joe Gibbs Racing’s No. 18 Toyota for the fourth time this season.

Zane Smith is entered in JR Motorsports’ No. 8 Chevrolet.

Hermie Sadler is entered in Ryan Sieg Racing’s No. 38 Chevrolet. It will be his first Xfinity start since this race in 2016.

Joe Graf Jr. is entered in Richard Childress Racing’s No. 21 Chevrolet.

There is no driver attached to Rick Ware Racing’s No. 17 Chevrolet.

Cole Custer won at Richmond in the spring over Austin Cindric and Justin Allgaier. Christopher Bell won this race last year over Ross Chastain and Daniel Hemric.

Click here for the entry list.

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