Brad Keselowski wins New Hampshire Cup race

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Brad Keselowski won Sunday’s Cup race at New Hampshire Motor Speedway to claim his third victory of the year.

Keselowski triumphed over Denny Hamlin on an afternoon that saw the two drivers combine to lead 276 of 301 laps.

Keselowski led eight times for 184 laps, Hamlin led 10 times 92 laps.

More: Race results, point standings

More: What drivers said after New Hampshire

While Keselowski won by 1.6 seconds, their back-and-forth battle led to Hamlin to say “this is awesome racing” over his team radio with about 70 laps to go.

“We’ve had a lot of great races this year with the 2 car, but we just hadn’t really gone out and kind of dominated a race,” Keselowski told NBCSN as an estimated 12,000 fans yelled from the grandstands. “I was talking to (crew chief) Jeremy Bullins and that’s what we need to get to that next level. We’re right there, we need to go out and just dominate a race and that’s what today was for us. … It’s so great to be racing in front of fans again. It feels like forever, so welcome back, guys.”

It is Keselowski’s second win at track, following his win in 2014. This is Keselowski’s eighth season with at least three wins, including the last five.

For Hamlin, it is his eighth top-two finish through 20 races.

“We just kind of were second there to the 2 (Keselowski),” Hamlin said. “We could really do well on restarts and we were going back-and-forth. Wow, that was some really, really good short track racing there. Hopefully the fans liked what they saw there with me and the 2 for most of the day. Some great side-by-side racing. We treated each other fair and it’s good that we got one-two out of it.”

Keselowski agreed with Hamlin on the quality of racing the “Magic Mile” offered Sunday.

“It was a lot of fun,” Keselowski said. “(Hamlin) was pretty good on the restarts, real short runs. We were really good on the longer runs. The PJ1 kept coming and going. One lap it would be in, not in, the next lap it would be in, then it would wear off the racetrack. The low downforce on the cars was awesome because you could run behind somebody and not just be stupid slow. That was really cool.

“I thought we put on a great race. I was really proud of it. Proud of it for our sport and for our team. Proud for our sport because we got away from rules that didn’t make for good races and we went to rules that I think made for good driver battles. Denny and I had a heck of a driver battle.”

The top five was completed by Martin Truex Jr., Joey Logano and Kevin Harvick.

STAGE 1 WINNER: Denny Hamlin

STAGE 2 WINNER: In a two-lap shootout, Brad Keselowski passed Hamlin on the last lap and narrowly beat him.

WHO HAD A GOOD RACE: Martin Truex Jr. finished in the top five after he had an uncontrolled tire penalty on Lap 97 … Joey Logano has finished in the top five in two of the last three races after having only one in the prior 13 races … Kevin Harvick earned his seventh consecutive top five, which is his second longest streak … Aric Almirola placed seventh for his ninth consecutive top-10 finish, a career-best … Cole Custer placed seventh for his fourth top 10 in the last five races.

WHO HAD A BAD RACE: Kyle Busch’s winless streak continued due to a hard crash into the Turn 3 wall on Lap 16 after his right-front tire went down. It’s his third DNF of the year and his first at New Hampshire in 29 Cup starts … Erik Jones placed 24th after he was assessed a one-lap penalty for pitting outside his box during the caution for Busch’s incident … Christopher Bell finished 28th after he caused two cautions for incidents resulting from cut tires… Matt Kenseth finished 37th after he caused three different cautions, with the last coming out on Lap 204 when he cut a tire and hit the Turn 3 wall … John Hunter Nemechek finished 36th after a hard hit into Turn 3 wall with 88 laps to go.

NOTABLE: Clint Bowyer’s crew chief faces a one-race suspension for there being two unsecured lug nuts on his car in post-race inspection.

WHAT’S NEXT: Cup race at Michigan International Speedway, 4 p.m. ET Saturday, Aug. 8 on NBCSN.

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.