Denny Hamlin rallies to Talladega playoff victory

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Despite being forced to the apron on the last corner of the last lap, Denny Hamlin went from fifth to first to win Sunday’s Cup playoff race at Talladega Superspeedway.

Hamlin was forced down the track as Erik Jones and Chris Buescher moved down a lane. Hamlin darted to the left, sparks flying as he went off the banking, and passed Matt DiBenedetto and William Byron to win.

“They were crashing in front of us,” Hamlin said. “Obviously, I got forced down there just like the 21 (DiBenedetto) and others did. There were a bunch of us that all crashed down there.”

MORE: Race results 

It was Hamlin’s 44th career win, tying him with Bill Elliott for 18th on the all-time wins list. Hamlin spent most of the day at the back. He avoided the record 13 cautions in a race extended nearly 32 miles by multiple overtime attempts.

DiBenedetto crossed the finish line second, but NASCAR penalized DiBenedetto for forcing Byron below the yellow line in Turn 4. DiBenedetto was scored 21st. Erik Jones was moved to second.

“It was pretty clear‑cut,” said Scott Miller, NASCAR senior vice president of competition on the penalty to DiBenedetto. “(DiBenedetto) hung a left, drove those guys down below the line. We called that twice on (Joey Logano) during the race, so nothing different there.”

Ty Dillon finished a career-best third. He was followed by Byron and Chase Elliott. NASCAR originally penalized Chase Elliott for going below the yellow line to improve his position. NASCAR penalized Buescher for forcing Elliott below the yellow line and relegated Buescher to 22nd.

The race went to a final overtime restart when Ryan Preece made contact with Bubba Wallace and sent Wallace into the wall. DiBenedetto did not stop for fuel during that caution. Elliott, who was second, and John Hunter Nemechek, who was third when the caution came out on Lap 194, had to pit for fuel under caution. DiBenedetto, who was nearly out of fuel, led on the restart but couldn’t stay ahead of Hamlin.

The race was extended when a multi-car crash happened before the field took the white flag to begin what was to have been the scheduled final lap. Playoff contenders Kyle Busch, Kevin Harvick, Martin Truex Jr. and Joey Logano were among those involved. The incident ended a miserable day for Kyle Busch, who was involved in three separate incidents and had a left front tire be cut by a tire rub from damage in an accident.

The race proved challenging for many playoff drivers. Aric Almirola, Clint Bowyer and Kurt Busch were eliminated in crashes in the first 125 laps. Kurt Busch’s car went airborne in a 13-car crash but landed on its wheels. That incident brought out the red flag on Lap 110.

“I was just doing my job as a Chevy helper, running top five and the next thing you know I’m going for one of the wildest rides I’ve ever been in,” Kurt Busch told NBC Sports.

STAGE 1 WINNER: Chris Buescher

STAGE 2 WINNER: Martin Truex Jr.

WHO HAD A GOOD RACE: Ty Dillon finished a career-high third. … John Hunter Nemechek tied his career-best finish by placing eighth. … Brennan Poole finished a career-high ninth.

WHO HAD A BAD RACE: Aric Almirola was eliminated in a crash just before the end of Stage 1. He was leading with three laps to go in the stage when contact from behind by Alex Bowman turned Almirola into the wall on the backstretch. Almirola finished 36th … Clint Bowyer placed 32nd after he was a part of a crash before the end of stage 2. … Kurt Busch finished 31st after his car went airborne in the 13-car crash that brought out the red flag on Lap 110. … Kyle Busch’s car also was damaged in that incident that ended Aric Almirola’s race. Busch had a tire rub that cut the left front tire and damaged his car shortly after the restart. Busch was later damaged in two other accidents.

NOTABLE: Bubba Wallace led 10 laps, the most laps he’s lead in his Cup career.

NEXT: The series races at the Charlotte Motor Speedway Roval at 2:30 p.m., Oct. 11 on NBC. The race is an elimination race.

AJ Allmendinger to return to NASCAR Cup Series in 2023

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AJ Allmendinger is getting another shot at success in the NASCAR Cup Series.

Kaulig Racing announced Wednesday that Allmendinger, currently chasing the Xfinity Series championship, will drive full-time in Kaulig entries in the Cup Series next season.

Allmendinger raced in Cup from 2007 to 2018 but won only one time — at Watkins Glen International — across those years. He moved to the Xfinity Series part-time with Kaulig in 2019, winning on the Charlotte Motor Speedway Roval. He won twice in 2020 and five times in 2021 and is a favorite to win the Xfinity championship this year. He has won four Xfinity races this season, including last Sunday at Talladega.

MORE: Hailie Deegan to make Xfinity debut at Las Vegas

Allmendinger, 40, will drive Kaulig’s No. 16 car in Cup next year. Justin Haley will drive the team’s No. 31.

Chandler Smith will replace Allmendinger in the Xfinity Series next year.

“It’s crazy how the last five years of my life have gone,” Allmendinger said. “More than anything, I love this organization. I know the fans get tired of me talking about all the men and women of Kaulig Racing. This is not a race team. This is a huge family.

“There will be tough times and growing pains, for sure. But I love what they’re about, and they believe in me. I’ll be OK whether it’s good or bad.”

MORE: Chase Elliott atop NASCAR Power Rankings

Team owner Matt Kaulig said Allmendinger is “one of the best in the world at every type of track. He’s done so much for Kaulig Racing and our program. He’s a gigantic part of what we’re building.”

Team officials said Allmendinger has a multi-year contract.

 

 

 

 

 

NASCAR viewer’s guide for Charlotte Roval

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Sunday provides a final chance for drivers to advance to the Round of 8 and keep their Cup championship hopes alive.

Talladega winner Chase Elliott is the only driver who has advanced to the next round. That leaves seven spots available going into Sunday’s race at the Charlotte Roval (2 p.m. ET on NBC).

Chase Briscoe holds the final transfer spot by a tiebreaker over Austin Cindric. At least for now.

William Byron is 11 points behind both drivers, but Hendrick Motorsports will appeal Byron’s 25-point penalty from Texas on Thursday. Should Hendrick win and Byron get those points back, he would move into a transfer spot.

There’s just part of what to watch for in Sunday’s race.

Favorites to be No. 20

This season remains tied for the most different winners in series history at 19, but there are a few candidates who could become the 20th different winner this year on Sunday.

Among the favorites to do so:

Ryan Blaney, who came close to winning last week at Talladega, won the inaugural Cup race at the Roval in 2018.

Martin Truex Jr., who has four career Cup wins on road courses, still seeks his first victory of the season.

Michael McDowell, who is coming off a third-place finish at Talladega, has had a career-high 12 top-10 finishes this season, including top 10s in each of the last four road course events this year.

Will history repeat?

Last year, the four drivers eliminated after the Roval were Kevin Harvick, Alex Bowman, Christopher Bell and William Byron.

Harvick was eliminated in the first round this year, but Byron (-11 to the cutline) and Bell (-33) are in jeopardy of being eliminated in this round again. Bowman stated Tuesday that he will miss his second consecutive race because of continued concussion symptoms. He will be among the four eliminated from title contention.

Bowman missed last weekend’s race because of concussion-like symptoms suffered at Texas. A decision on if he’ll be able to race at the Roval will come later this week.

Will chaos continue?

Consider what some of the former Roval winners have endured on their way to the checkered flag:

In 2019, Chase Elliott drove into the Turn 1 wall on a restart while the leader. He recovered to win.

In 2020, Elliott overcame a loose wheel to win for the second year in a row.

In 2021, Kyle Larson won after his team changed batteries and put the alternator belt back on.

Could a similar fate be in store for this year’s winner? Or will they have a cleaner day?

Entry lists

Thirty-nine drivers are entered including IndyCar driver Conor Daly, former Formula 1 driver Daniil Kvyat, former 24 Hours of Le Mans winner Mike Rockenfeller and former 24 Hours of Daytona winner Joey Hand. JJ Yeley will drive the No. 51 for Cody Ware, who stated that he would skip this event because of his ankle injury at Texas the footwork needed on a road course.

Charlotte Roval Cup entry list

The Xfinity entry list includes 41 drivers for 38 spots. Among those joining the series regulars are IndyCar driver Marco Andretti and former F1 driver Daniil Kvyat.

Charlotte Roval Xfinity entry list

This week’s schedule and forecast

(All times Eastern)

Saturday, Oct. 8

Forecast: Partly cloudy with a high of 66 degrees. No chance of rain during the Xfinity race.

  • 10 – 10:30 a.m. — Xfinity practice (NBC Sports App)
  • 10:30 – 11:30 a.m. — Xfinity qualifying (NBC Sports App)
  • 12 – 1 p.m. — Cup practice (NBC Sports App, USA Network coverage begins at 12:30 p.m.)
  • 1 – 2 p.m. — Cup qualifying (USA Network, NBC Sports App)
  • 3 p.m. — Xfinity race (67 laps, 155.44 miles; NBC, Peacock, Performance Racing Network, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio)

Sunday, Oct. 9

Forecast: Sunny with a high of 64 degrees. No chance of rain during the race.

  • 2 p.m. — Cup race (109 laps, 252.88 miles; NBC, Performance Racing Network, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio)

 

Hailie Deegan to make Xfinity debut at Las Vegas

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Hailie Deegan announced Tuesday that she will make her Xfinity Series debut Oct. 15 Las Vegas Motor Speedway on NBC and Peacock.

The 21-year-old Deegan is in her second full-time season in the Camping World Truck Series. She finished a career-high sixth in that series last weekend at Talladega Superspeedway.

She will drive the No. 07 car for SS Green Light Racing with Jeff Lefcourt.

 

 

Alex Bowman to miss Charlotte Roval race

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Alex Bowman announced Tuesday night on social media that he will sit out this weekend’s Cup playoff race at the Charlotte Roval.

Bowman said on social media: “I am continuing to make strides in my recovery to make sure I can return to competition at 100%.”

This will be the second consecutive race he will have missed because of concussion-like symptoms after his crash at Texas Motor Speedway.

Noah Gragson will drive the No. 48 car this weekend for Bowman.

“Alex’s health is our first priority,” said Jeff Andrews, president and general manager of Hendrick Motorsports, in a statement. “We’re focused on supporting his recovery and seeing him back in his race car when the time is right. Alex has a long career ahead of him, so we will invest the necessary time and take our guidance from medical experts. We’re putting no pressure on him to return before he’s 100% ready.”

Bowman will be one of the four drivers eliminated from title contention Sunday.

Also Tuesday, Cody Ware announced that he will sit out this weekend’s Cup race at the Charlotte Roval, as he continues to recover from the ankle injury he suffered at Texas.