Denny Hamlin wins final playoff elimination race, clinches spot in title round

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Denny Hamlin won Sunday’s final Cup Series playoff elimination race at ISM Raceway in a three-lap shootout, fending off teammate Kyle Busch and Ryan Blaney and clinching a spot in the championship round in Miami (3 p.m. ET Nov. 17 on NBC).

Hamlin entered the final playoff elimination race as the first driver outside the final four by 20 points. He led 143 of 312 laps and torched the field over the final stage, lapping up to seventh place at one point.

“I can’t believe it,” Hamlin told NBC at the start-finish line. “This race team worked so hard this whole year. They deserve it. I put them in a bad hole last week (when he wrecked at Texas). I told them today … I’m going to give them everything I’ve got to make up for the mistake I made last week. That’s all I got.”

The final sprint to the finish was set up by a caution for John Hunter Nemechek with nine laps to go. Hamlin had an eight-second lead on Busch at the time. When the leaders pit, Hamlin’s team elected to take two tires along with Ryan Blaney, while Busch and the rest of the leaders took four tires.

“One of the best cars of my career, I can tell you that,” Hamlin said in victory lane. “I pushed for all I had. I mean, that’s all I got. Once we got the big lead there, a little over 10 seconds, I just kind of sat there. I got to thinking about if the caution does come out, I want to lap as many as I can.”

The top five was completed by Kyle Larson and Kevin Harvick.

Hamlin will join Busch, Harvick and Martin Truex Jr. in the championship round, pitting three Joe Gibbs Racing drivers against Stewart-Haas Racing’s Harvick. Of the four, Hamlin is the only driver without a Cup title.

Defending champion Joey Logano, Kyle Larson, Blaney and Chase Elliott were eliminated from contention.

With the win, Hamlin joins Harvick as the second driver to win at Phoenix in order to advance to the title round (2014). Harvick went on win in Miami to claim the title.

STAGE 1 WINNER: Denny Hamlin won the stage in a three-lap shootout after restarting fourth following pit stops.

STAGE 2 WINNER: Joey Logano led every green flag lap in the stage to win it over Hamlin and Chase Elliott

More: Race results, points

WHO HAD A GOOD RACE: Ryan Blaney finished third for the second straight race at ISM Raceway. He ended the Round of 8 with two top fives and an eight-place finish … Kyle Larson has finished sixth or better in his last three starts at ISM Raceway … Martin Truex Jr. (sixth) earned his eighth top-10 finish in the nine playoff races so far.

WHO HAD A BAD RACE: After running in the top five most of the day, Chase Elliott lost a tire and backed into the Turn 2 wall on Lap 166, ending his day with a last-place finish in 39th. He finished 32nd or worst in all three Round of 8 races … After Joey Logano won Stage 2, he quickly dropped through the field and was lapped by Denny Hamlin with 75 laps to go. He finished ninth.

“I went from a car that could lead and win a stage and run really well, and from what they told me, it was an air pressure adjustment made it go from a winning car to can’t stay on the lead lap,” Logano told NBC. “One of the tightest things I’ve ever driven.  I don’t really understand it.  It doesn’t make any sense.”

NOTABLE: Hamlin delivered Joe Gibbs Racing its 18th Cup win of the year. That is tied with Hendrick Motorsports for the most in a single season in the modern era. Toyota claimed its third manufacturer’s title in four years with the win … This the third straight season a Chevrolet driver has failed to make the championship round.

QUOTE OF THE RACE: “I was definitely not wanting to see that last caution. I would have been great with a nice, boring walk-off home run. But it did not turn out that way and forced to make a really tough decision.” — Denny Hamlin’s crew chief, Chris Gabehart, on the late-race caution the resulted in the No. 11 team taking two tires instead of four.

WHAT’S NEXT: Ford EcoBoost 400 championship race at Homestead-Miami Speedway at 3 p.m. ET Nov. 17  on NBC.

 

Clash at the Coliseum NASCAR Cup Series race results

NASCAR Clash Coliseum results
Chris Graythen/Getty Images
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Martin Truex Jr. led the final 25 laps to win The Busch Light Clash at the Coliseum exhibition race in the results from the first event of the NASCAR Cup Series season.

The Joe Gibbs Racing team celebrated as the 2017 Cup champion quickly rebounded from a winless 2022 in his No. 19 Toyota by winning the NASCAR exhibition season opener for the first time.

Truex became the 25th driver to win the race. It’s JGR’s series-leading 11th Clash victory.

Austin Dillon finished second, followed by teammate Kyle Busch in his debut with the Richard Childress Racing No. 8 Chevrolet. Alex Bowman finished fourth, and Kyle Laron was fifth.

Tyler Reddick took sixth. Ryan Preece led a race-high 43 laps in his No. 41 Ford debut for Stewart-Haas Racing but faded to seventh because of an apparent electrical problem. The rest of the top 10: Ross Chastain, Denny Hamlin (who also led 26 laps in the No. 11 Toyota), and William Byron.

BOX SCORE: Click here for full results from the Clash at the Coliseum

PENALTY REPORT: Click here for infractions during the race

This is the seventh time Toyota has won the Busch Light Clash.
Austin Dillon has finished runner-up in the Busch Light Clash at the Coliseum and will recieve the silver
medal.
Kyle Busch has finished third in the Busch Light Clash at the Coliseum and will recieve the bronze
medal.

Aric Almirola started on the pole position and led the first 16 of 150 laps in the race, which featured no pit stops and was split into 75-lap halves.

The race was slowed by 16 caution flags (up from five last year), including 12 in the final 75 laps. Laps under yellow weren’t counted in the official distance.

Bubba Wallace led 40 laps but finished 22nd after being rooted by Dillon into a late spin.

During a series of heat and qualifying races, the field was whittled to 27 cars for the Clash at the Coliseum main event. Roush Fenway Keselowski Racing drivers Brad Keselowski and Chris Buescher both failed to advance for the second consecutive year, and Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Corey LaJoie and Harrison Burton were among others who were eliminated.

Click here for the results from the preliminary events in the NASCAR Clash at the Coliseum.

Results: 1. Martin Truex Jr.; 2. Austin Dillon; 3. Kyle Busch; 4. Alex Bowman; 5. Kyle Larson; 6. Tyler Reddick; 7. Ryan Preece; 8. Ross Chastain; 9. Denny Hamlin; 10. William Byron; 11. Justin Haley; 12. Kevin Harvick; 13. Christopher Bell; 14. Noah Gragson; 15. Chase Briscoe; 16. Joey Logano; 17. Ryan Blaney; 18. Aric Almirola; 19. Daniel Suarez; 20. AJ Allmendinger; 21. Chase Elliott; 22. Bubba Wallace; 23. Todd Gilliland; 24. Michael McDowell; 25. Austin Cindric; 26. Ty Gibbs; 27. Erik Jones

Martin Truex Jr. charges late to win Clash at the Coliseum

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Martin Truex Jr., who struggled through a winless season last year, opened 2023 in style Sunday night, winning the Clash at the Coliseum with a late-race charge.

Truex bumped by Ryan Preece to take the lead with 24 laps to go and led the rest of the way.

Truex, Alex Bowman and Preece appeared to have the strongest cars over the race’s closing segment. Austin Dillon and Kyle Busch joined the struggle at the front in the final 10 laps

With seven laps to go, Dillon shoved Bubba Wallace into the wall as they raced for second place.

Dillon, Busch, Bowman and Kyle Larson followed Truex to the finish. The victory was the first by the 42-year-old Truex in the Clash in 12 tries.

The race was the second Clash at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum.

“It was just a really good race car,” Truex told Fox Sports. “Last year was a pretty rough season for us with no wins. To kick it off this way was great for these guys. We found ourselves in the right spot at the end.”

As the first three finishers, Truex (gold), Dillon (silver) and Busch (bronze) were presented medals in a podium celebration, an oddity for NASCAR but a nod to the coliseum’s Olympic history.

Dillon and Busch, new teammates at Richard Childress Racing, were battling for second in the final laps before Busch allowed Dillon to push forward in pursuit of Truex. “Overall, it was good to get back up to third, could have gone second, but I let Austin go,” Busch said. “He was better than us in practice. I thought he could have a shot at trying to get close, and I”ll push him through to get a 1-2, but never made it there.”

The second half of the race was pockmarked by contact and subsequent spins as the field was slowed time after time for cautions. The yellow flag flew 16 times across the race’s 150 laps (12 times in the second half), and only five of the 27 starters were not involved in accidents.

Wallace, who wrestled the lead from Denny Hamlin on the first lap of a restart, was in first place at the race’s halfway point as the field parked for service.

Following Wallace at the break were Truex Jr., Dillon, William Byron and Tyler Reddick. In the second five were Preece, Busch, Bowman, Joey Logano (last year’s winner) and Larson.

The race’s first caution flew after 17 laps as Erik Jones spun out after contact from Michael McDowell. Jones parked for the night.

Seven laps later, 11th-place Ryan Blaney spun out in heavy traffic to prompt the second caution.

Among drivers who failed to qualify for the 150-lap feature were RFK Racing entries Brad Keselowski and Chris Buescher. Both also missed the race last year.

Who had a good race: Martin Truex Jr. came close to writing an end to his Cup career last season but decided to sign on for another year with Joe Gibbs Racing. On Sunday night, that decision looked fine, indeed. … Ryan Preece sparkled in his first race with Stewart-Haas, leading in the second half before dropping to seventh. … Austin Dillon and Kyle Busch made Richard Childress Racing look good with second- and third-place finishes.

Who had a bad race: Former series champion Chase Elliott struggled most of the weekend and limped home 21st Sunday. … Michael McDowell was involved in several accidents and finished 24th. … An accident bumped Erik Jones from the race in the early going. He finished last.

Jimmie Johnson to run Chicago Street Course Cup race

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LOS ANGELES – Jimmie Johnson says that one of his Cup races this season with Legacy Motor Club will be the July 2 Chicago Street Course race, which will air on NBC.

The seven-time champion will run select Cup races this season after spending the past two seasons in the IndyCar Series. Johnson, who left NASCAR in 2020, will return in two weeks at Daytona International Speedway as a driver and part owner of Legacy MC. His No. 84 car does not have a charter and he’ll have to secure one of the four spots for non-chartered cars.

Johnson said on Fox before Sunday’s Clash at the Coliseum that he looked to do more Cup races beyond Daytona and Chicago but did not announce any others. He will drive the NASCAR Garage 56 entry in June in the 24 Hours of Le Mans.

 

Kevin Harvick to join Fox booth in 2024

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LOS ANGELES – Kevin Harvick will move from the car to the TV booth next year when he joins Fox Sports.

Harvick, who is in his final season driving in Cup, will join Mike Joy and Clint Bowyer in the booth for the NASCAR races on Fox in 2024.

“I’m looking forward to that,” Harvick said on Fox on Sunday. “We’re coming right to the booth. I couldn’t be happier. For me, the timing in life has just been absolutely perfect with everything on the driving side and now to have this opportunity to tell people about racing, there’s not anything I love more and I can’t wait.”

The announcement was made before Sunday night’s Busch Light Clash at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. Harvick advanced to the Clash through his heat race.