Jimmie Johnson buoyed by Darlington rebound

Leave a comment

Wednesday’s eighth-place finish at Darlington Raceway helped ease some of Jimmie Johnson’s lingering pain from last Sunday’s race.

Johnson crashed after just 89 laps in last Sunday’s race at Darlington – while leading, no less.

But Wednesday night’s top-10 finish – his third in the first six races of the season – put Johnson back on track heading into Sunday’s Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway and the followup race three days later, also at Charlotte.

“It was a solid night for the No. 48 Ally Chevrolet,” Johnson said of Wednesday’s finish at Darlington. “We had to start in the back because of the crash (Sunday).”

But starting one row (37th position) from the rear of Wednesday’s 39-car field didn’t hamper the seven-time Cup champion.

“Things were looking pretty good early, we were able to march up through there,” Johnson said

But Johnson’s timing was thrown off a few times by cautions that forced him to regroup and earn back ground he had already gained.

“The competition caution, and just so many cautions honestly, affected our strategy and affected us being able to take advantage of our strong racecar and move forward,” Johnson said. “Finally, in the middle of the race, we got some longer runs in and were able to move forward.”

Until bad timing from a caution reared its head once more, forcing Johnson to again regain real estate that the caution caused him to give up.

“We were in a nice position and then we were caught a lap down when the caution came out when (Matt Kenseth) car spun (lap 179) from his flat tire,” Johnson said. “So, we had to start all over again.”

Johnson was able to do just that.

“On that last restart, I think I was 14th,” he said. “Fortunately, I was in the outside line, which was the place to be, and we worked our way up to eighth before the caution happened and the rain came.”

The rain forced the race to be called 20 laps from its scheduled end, the win going to Denny Hamlin. While Johnson potentially could have finished in the top five if the race had gone its fully scheduled length, he’ll take where he wound up.

“It was a good rebound from a few days before; I wish I could have that weekend back,” Johnson said. “I really felt like we had things going our way there and could have capitalized. But it’s nice to be back. Good finish in the top-10.”

Next up is Sunday’s Coca-Cola 600, the longest and most grueling race of the season, followed by another Cup race at Charlotte on Wednesday.

Charlotte is the third-most successful track for Johnson in his Cup career: In 35 Cup starts, he has eight wins, 16 top-five and 22 top-10 finishes.

It would be a great place for Johnson to finally snap the 101-race winless streak he’s mired in, not having won since June 2017 at Dover.

Being able to stay home and do well at his adopted home track could go a long way toward helping Johnson return to victory lane.

“(I’m) looking forward to going to Charlotte,” he said.

Follow @JerryBonkowski

Results, point standings after Truck race at Las Vegas

race results
Getty Images
Leave a comment

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
Getty Images
Leave a comment

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
Getty Images
1 Comment

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

Leave a comment

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)