Joe Gibbs Racing puts three drivers in Championship 4

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Joe Gibbs Racing entered this weekend’s playoff elimination with only one driver set for the championship round in Miami.

After 312 laps around ISMS Raceway and a 1-2 finish from Denny Hamlin and Kyle Busch, JGR will make up 75% of the championship eligible drivers next Sunday (3 p.m. ET on NBC).

This is the first time in the six years of the elimination playoff format a team has had more than two entries in the Championship 4.

The victory is also JGR’s 18th on the season, which ties Hendrick Motorsports for the most in a season in the modern era.

Hamlin will battle for the title against Busch, Martin Truex Jr. and Stewart-Haas Racing’s Kevin Harvick. Hamlin is the only one of the four without a championship.

Hamlin’s Phoenix win came after he entered the race 20 points below the cutoff. Had he finished in any position other than first he would have been left seeing defending champion Joey Logano take his spot in the final round.

“There’s still work to be done,” Hamlin said. “Doesn’t guarantee a championship. Gives us a chance. Live to fight another day. That’s all you can ask for.”

Busch enters next weekend’s race looking to claim his second career title while also trying to end a 21-race winless steak.

Sunday’s runner-up finish was Busch’s eighth top five since he last won at Pocono in June.

Truex, in his first year with JGR, will go for a second title after he claimed it in 2017 with Furniture Row Racing. He has seven wins through 35 races, one shy of his personal best in 2017.

Neither Busch nor Truex anticipate major changes to how their teams work together in the week leading up to Miami.

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“I wouldn’t think so,” Truex said. “I feel like we’re all here because we work together. Our teams work together really well. We’ve got a great group at Joe Gibbs Racing. I would assume all the way till Sunday morning we’ll probably all work together. That’s just what I think. We’ll see what everybody else wants to do.”

Busch pointed to the the 2016 season when he and then-teammate Carl Edwards were both in the championship round.

“I wouldn’t imagine it would be any different now,’ Busch said. “It’s just a matter of all of us doing what we do throughout the week for preparation and everything, getting down there.

“Last year Martin and myself were in. I guess he wasn’t really a teammate, but in reality they kind of still were.”

Truex and Furniture Row Racing were part of a technical alliance with JGR last season before the team closed and he and crew chief Cole Pearn moved to JGR.

“We worked together all the way to Sunday,” Busch continued. “They were really, really fast and better than us. Same with Carl. He was fast that year. Then in ’17, right, when (Truex) won, we were really fast, just didn’t have track position.

“I think Denny said it best in the piece that we did for FOX, which was once you start to kind of hold back anything, then that just can kind of snowball and be bad for everybody.”

Joe Gibbs, who could claim his fifth Cup title as an owner, made clear his teams would stick together over the next week, but that there would be “some separation.”

“I think it will be an all‑out effort (at the track),” Gibbs said. “You have Harvick in the middle of it. I think it will be a great weekend.

“I do love that aspect of our sport, which is totally different. When I was in football, it’s one team; you’re trying to win with one team. This is four teams. Then when you get to the racetrack, it’s four teams competing against each other. I love that aspect of it. I’m thrilled to be a part of it.

Gibbs later added: “It’s a thrill for us to be a part of this. This is going to be kind of a wild week.”

Christopher Bell wins Cup Series pole at Talladega Superspeedway

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Playoff driver Christopher Bell won the pole position Saturday for Sunday’s 500-mile NASCAR Cup Series race at Talladega Superspeedway in Alabama.

Bell, 11th in the playoff standings and below the cutline entering Sunday’s race, ran 180.591 mph to edge second-place Kyle Larson at 180.516.

Playoff drivers took six of the top-10 starting spots.

MORE: Talladega Cup qualifying results

The race is the second in the second round of the playoffs. Any playoff driver who wins the race will automatically advance to the next round.

Joey Logano leads the playoff standings.

Noah Gragson, replacing Alex Bowman, who is sitting out the race with concussion-like symptoms, qualified seventh.

The race (2 p.m., ET) will be broadcast by NBC.

 

 

Sunday Talladega Cup race: Start time, TV info, weather

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Sunday will mark a difficult crossroads for NASCAR. As several of its top drivers express serious concerns about safety, the Cup Series is at Talladega Superspeedway, the circuit’s biggest track and site of many massive wrecks over its 53 years of existence.

Adding to the tension is the fact that Sunday’s 188-lap, 500-mile race is the middle event in the second round of the playoffs. With a win automatically advancing any of the 12 playoff drivers to the next round, the final laps are likely to be frantic.

Sunday’s race (2 p.m. ET, NBC) will begin with Joey Logano atop the playoff point standings. Following him in the top eight are Ross Chastain, Kyle Larson, Ryan Blaney, Denny Hamlin, Daniel Suarez, Chase Elliott and Chase Briscoe.

Below the cutline are Austin Cindric, William Byron, Christopher Bell and Alex Bowman. Byron fell below the line this week when NASCAR penalized him for bumping Hamlin under caution during last Sunday’s race at Texas Motor Speedway. Hendrick Motorsports has appealed the penalty.

Bowman will miss Sunday’s race because of concussion-like symptoms he has experienced after a crash at Texas. Noah Gragson will replace him.

Bell won the pole Saturday with a speed of 180.591 mph.

Details for Sunday’s race:

START: The command to start engines will be given by Jimmy Rane, president of Great Southern Wood Preserving, at 1:52 p.m. (ET). … Green flag is scheduled to wave at 2:04 p.m.

PRERACE: Cup garage opens at 11 a.m. … Driver introductions are at 1:15 p.m. … The invocation will be given by Barbara Embry, chaplin of Citizens Baptist Medical Center, at 1:43 p.m. … The national anthem will be performed by the 313th U.S. Army Band at 1:45 p.m.

DISTANCE: The race is 188 laps (500 miles) on the 2.66-mile speedway.

STAGES: Stage 1 ends at Lap 60. Stage 2 ends at Lap 120.

STARTING LINEUP: Talladega Cup starting lineup

TV/RADIO: NBC will broadcast the race at 2 p.m. Countdown to Green begins at 1 p.m. … Motor Racing Network coverage begins at 1 p.m. … SiriusXM NASCAR Radio will carry the MRN broadcast.

STREAMING: NBCsports.com

FORECAST: Weather Underground — Mainly sunny. High of 78. 5% chance of rain.

LAST TIME: Bubba Wallace won last October’s race, which was shortened to 117 laps by rain. Brad Keselowski was second.

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Saturday NASCAR schedule at Talladega Superspeedway

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Both the Xfinity Series and Camping World Truck Series will race Saturday at Talladega Superspeedway.

Cup cars will start the day’s action by qualifying for Sunday’s playoff race, followed by the Truck playoff race and then the Xfinity playoff race.

Talladega Superspeedway (Cup, Xfinity and Truck)

Weekend weather

Saturday: Sunny. High of 78.

Saturday, Oct. 1

(All times Eastern)

Garage open

  • 8:30 a.m. – 12:30 p.m. — Cup Series
  • 9:30 a.m. — Truck Series
  • 1 p.m. — Xfinity Series

Track activity

  • 10:30 a.m. – Noon — Cup Series qualifying (NBC Sports app, Motor Racing Network, Sirius XM NASCAR Radio)
  • 12:30 p.m. — Truck Series race (94 laps, 250 miles; FS1, Motor Racing Network, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio)
  • 4 p.m. — Xfinity Series race (113 laps, 300 miles; USA Network, Motor Racing Network, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio)

Talladega Xfinity starting lineup: Austin Hill wins pole

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TALLADEGA, Ala. — Austin Hill will lead the field to the green flag Saturday at Talladega Superspeedway after scoring his first career Xfinity Series pole.

Hill won the pole Friday with a lap of 182.036 mph. He will be joined on the front row by fellow playoff contender Ty Gibbs (181.981 mph).

MORE: Talladega Xfinity starting lineup

Playoff drivers will start in seven of the top eight spots. The exception is Sheldon Creed, who will start third after a lap of 181.870 mph. Hill and Creed give Richard Childress Racing the first and third starting spots.

Justin Allgaier (181.529) qualified fourth and Brandon Jones (181.305) completed the top five. Noah Gragson, who has won four races in a row, starts sixth after a lap of 181.134 mph and is followed by playoff drivers Josh Berry (181.052) and AJ Allmendinger (180.932).

The Xfinity Series race is scheduled for 4 p.m. ET Saturday on USA Network.