Brett Moffitt: Truck Series return at Charlotte ‘will be wild’

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The Gander RV & Outdoors Truck Series finally returns tonight at Charlotte Motor Speedway and Brett Moffitt is “nervous” about it.

Moffitt, who fractured both his legs in March and recovered in time to make his NASCAR return in last week’s Xfinity race at Darlington, is concerned about some of drivers who will start in his vicinity.

MORE: A viewer’s guide to Tuesday night’s Truck race

In the series’ first race since Feb. 21, a random draw to sort the starting lineup placed the 2018 champion 22nd in a 40-truck field.

“I am nervous because I felt like going into the Xfinity race after watching two Cup races (at Darlington), I feel like everyone gets excited and gets built up and maybe sometimes the drivers don’t think about, okay, well, that’s a different car and a different package,” Moffitt said Sunday. “So it makes me a little nervous to fire off side-by-side with them. And if you look at the starting grid, obviously, with the random draw, it’s a very mixed up grid compared to what we’re used to. …

“So obviously, I’m excited to go racing, but it is a little nerve-racking kind of looking at the grid and looking at where we’re at. And some of the people in front of us, I don’t have all the faith in the world with so it’ll be interesting. It’ll make for great entertainment, I’m sure, but it’ll be wild.”

No matter what happens, it’ll likely be hard for the events of the 134-lap race to match what Moffitt went through last Thursday at Darlington.

In the Xfinity Series’ first race back since NASCAR’s COVID-19 shutdown, Moffitt returned to the cockpit of the Our Motorsports’ No. 02 car.

Due to the pandemic, Moffitt didn’t miss any Xfinity or Truck Series starts while he recovered from his leg injuries. However, it was Moffitt’s first start at Darlington since the 2015 Cup race there.

All those ingredients contributed to it being one of the “top five emotional” races of Moffitt’s career.

“Most people wouldn’t look at it on paper and think that, but there’s very few races in my life where I actually get that excited and that emotional,” Moffitt said. “I would classify it up there with finishing eighth at Atlanta in the Cup race (2015) and classify it with winning a championship. It doesn’t trump that by any means, the championship is still better, but to get back to the track after everything I’ve been through in the last 10 weeks, and to have a really good day. I kind of surprised myself, and I was just proud of everything that everyone at Our Motorsports did to bring me a fast car.”

Moffitt started 22nd and went on to place 11th, which was Our Motorsports’ best finish before Moffitt placed sixth Monday night at Charlotte.

“I would call it a big win personally for me after everything I went through. Obviously, it’s a weird time, right?” Moffitt said. “I’m just really excited to get back to, I guess, our normal and continue on.”

That return to normal continues tonight with the Truck Series race (8 p.m. ET on FS1) as Moffitt is back behind the wheel of GMS Racing’s No. 23 Chevrolet. In all three of Moffitt’s races since last week, Moffitt has secured the 22nd-place starting spot via a random draw.

“I’m beginning to think it’s not very random,” Moffitt joked.

The field of 40 trucks – 47 entered –  is a number the series hasn’t seen in years, with the maximum field typically set at 32 trucks. It’s a result of a decision by NASCAR to ensure the “long-term health” of the Xfinity and Truck Series amid the COVID-19 pandemic while the sport doesn’t hold qualifying to determine staring lineups.

“We didn’t have that many (entries) in Daytona,” Moffitt observed. “So I think that kind of speaks for the longevity of the series, being that there are 47 trucks out there … So that was really cool and good for the series. But at the same time, there were a lot of good trucks that got sent home and there’s a lot of quality race trucks in the field. So it’s gonna be kind of different relative to our normal in the Truck series, having that many trucks out there and having quality equipment all the way through the field really.

“So I think it’s going to make a better race and with the random draw obviously, we saw at Darlington that’s very exciting. So having good trucks starting all the way through the field will just be a great product of racing.”

 

Kurt Busch seeks first Las Vegas win, but without hometown fans

Kurt Busch
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A win by Kurt Busch in tonight’s Cup race at Las Vegas Motor Speedway (7 p.m. ET on NBCSN) couldn’t come under more bittersweet circumstances for the Chip Ganassi Racing driver.

Should Busch claim the victory on the 1.5-mile track, he’d go from being the last driver on the playoff grid (3,001 points entering the race) to the first driver to advance to the Round of 8.

While it would be his first victory of the year, it would also be his first NASCAR win at his home track in 23 starts across the Cup and Xfinity Series.

More: Stage points critical at Vegas

“The Vegas track has definitely been one of the tough ones for me over the years with results and finishes not where I would have expected them to be,” Busch said this week. “And the teams that I’ve raced for just have never quite found that right magic set-up or combination. And then for me, it’s a track that I just have that trouble with.

“There are a few tracks like Indianapolis and Martinsville; those are a few places where I struggle. And so with Vegas, I always put that little extra hometown pressure on myself and I would love to win there.”

The 42-year-old Las Vegas-native rolls off ninth on the 1.5-mile track. It’s his fourth while driving for Ganassi.

In his 21 Cup starts in Las Vegas, Busch’s best result is third in 2005 when he competed for Roush Fenway Racing. He has just one other top five. That came in last year’s spring race when he drove a throwback paint scheme to his 1999 NASCAR Southwest Series championship.

That day he led 23 laps. It was only the seventh time he’d led laps there and just the third time he’d totaled more than six laps led.

In February, Busch finished 25th.

If Busch were to finally make it to Vegas’ Victory Lane, the celebration would be somewhat muted.

It was announced last weekend that fans would not be allowed to attend the races at Las Vegas due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I would love to win through the spirit of the camera and everything on NBC Sports; and I know the fans there, local, will be watching and cheering on the Busch brothers,” Busch said. “So, that’s where I would connect. And hopefully do it through the TV side of it. We’ll get fans back one day and we’ll come back and race.”

Busch enters the Round of 12 having earned just one top 10 in the first round, an eighth-place finish at Darlington. He finished 13th at Richmond and 15th at Bristol.

“What I like is we have had better lap times at all three races so far compared to maybe the five or six races leading into the playoffs,” Busch said. “We know that our cushion is gone. We ended Bristol with 33 points to the good. And now we start Vegas minus four (points behind Austin Dillon in the cutoff spot). So that’s just part of the system and now we have to be perfect. We have to get every point possible that we’re able to get on our own at Vegas, Talladega, and the Roval. And, that should help us advance.”

Carolina Blue: Brad Daugherty and Michael Jordan bonded by NASCAR

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Brad Daugherty and Michael Jordan were teammates from 1982-84 at the University of North Carolina and Eastern Conference rivals throughout the 1980s and ’90s in the NBA.

But their friendship was about more than just hoops. While growing up on opposite ends of the Tar Heel State, Daugherty and Jordan both developed a passion for following NASCAR.

Tobacco Road meant fast cars and hard-driving heroes for these two North Carolina natives.

LIFELONG FAN: Michael Jordan explains why he’s partnering with Denny Hamlin

In a NASCAR on NBC feature, Daugherty recalls how NASCAR impacted his life and Jordan’s and led both into team ownership. Michael Jordan and Denny Hamlin announced they will form a team to field cars for Bubba Wallace next season.

Daughterty notes in the feature that Wallace “has led a dynamic transformation as NASCAR banned Confederate flags and recommitted to inclusion amidst times of great unrest. This is a huge moment for NASCAR, a cultural momentum shift. This is people of all colors coming together to create an all-American race team already with championship lineage.

“With proper funding, equipment and crewmembers, this will be the best chance ever for a Black driver to win – and while driving for a Black owner. An opportunity to shock the world like Muhammad Ali once did.”

Watch the feature above on Brad Daugherty and Michael Jordan or by clicking this link.

Las Vegas Xfinity results, driver points

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Chase Briscoe‘s victory Saturday night at Las Vegas Motor Speedway sends him into the next round of the Xfinity playoffs.

Noah Gragson led a 2-3-4 finish for JR Motorsports. Gragson was second and followed by Daniel Hemric and Justin Allgaier. Ryan Sieg finished fifth.

Briscoe dominated the race, leading 164 of the 200 laps.

Click here for Xfinity race results

POINTS

Ross Chastain finished 16th, last among the playoff drivers, and fell out of a transfer spot to the second round. He’s two points behind Harrison Burton for the final transfer spot. Michael Annett is 10 points behind Burton. Riley Herbst is 14 points behind Burton. Brandon Brown is 20 points behind Burton.

Click here for driver points report

Chase Briscoe scores 8th Xfinity win of year with Las Vegas triumph

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Chase Briscoe met a preseason goal of winning eight races with his victory in Saturday night’s Xfinity playoff opener at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

Briscoe, who also won at Las Vegas in February, advances to the second round.

Briscoe dominated, winning both stages on the way to his second consecutive victory and eighth of the year. He led 164 of 200 laps.

“Awesome car,” Briscoe said on the radio of the car that also won at this 1.5-mile speedway earlier this year. “Can’t say enough, awesome car.”

Gragson said of Briscoe’s car on NBCSN: “Lot of race cars out here and one space shuttle.”

Las Vegas native Noah Gragson finished second and was followed by JR Motorsports teammates Daniel Hemric and Justin Allgaier. Ryan Sieg placed fifth.

Austin Cindric placed sixth and was followed by Michael Annett, Anthony Alfredo, Harrison Burton and Justin Haley.

Briscoe’s eight wins through 27 races ties him with Jack Ingram and Sam Ard for the most wins by non-Cup drivers through 27 races in a season. Ard and Ingram both did it in 1984. Briscoe’s eight wins ties him with Carl Edwards for most wins by a Ford driver in a season in the Xfinity Series. Edwards accomplished the feat in 2011.

“I knew this team was fully capable of achieving that and even more,” Briscoe told NBCSN of winning eight races this year. “I just can’t say thank you enough to Gene Haas and Tony Stewart and everyone that lets me drive these race cars. It has been an unbelievable season and we still have a lot, six more wins that we can try to get and a championship. That is what we are going to try to do. I am so happy to start the playoffs like this. After the last couple weeks we had, to go to Bristol and win and now here is a pretty good way to start our playoffs.”

The 25-year-old Briscoe does not know where he’ll run next season. He has a year left on his contract with Ford.

STAGE 1 WINNER: Chase Briscoe

STAGE 2 WINNER: Chase Briscoe

WHO HAD A GOOD RACE: Ryan Sieg’s fifth-place finish is his fifth top five of the season, the most he’s had in a season. … Runner-up Noah Gragson has finished in the top six in all four of his Xfinity Las Vegas starts. He did it by overcoming a bloody nose during the race. At one point, he put roll bar padding up his nose to clog it. … Daniel Hemric had finished 24th or worse in four of his last five starts before Saturday’s race. He finished third at Las Vegas.

WHO HAD A BAD RACE: Ross Chastain finished 16th, last among the playoff drivers. It’s his first finish outside the top 10 at a 1.5-mile speedway this season.

NEXT: The series races Oct. 3 at Talladega Superspeedway (4:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN) in the middle race of the opening round of the playoffs.