Coca-Cola 600 Takeaways: Pressure builds on those outside playoff spot

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CONCORD, N.C. — With more points available in the Coca-Cola 600 than any other race this season, Sunday’s event was a chance for those outside a playoff spot to close the gap to the cutoff line.

Most failed.

Now, drivers outside a playoff spot either need to win or hope those holding a playoff position via points falter in the coming weeks.

There have been 11 winners this season, leaving five potential playoff spots based on points. Among those who have yet to win are points leader Denny Hamlin and Kevin Harvick, who is ninth in the season standings. Add those to the list of playoff drivers and that would leave three spots available. Eleven races remain in the regular season.

The Coca-Cola 600 awarded the most points of any race because it has an additional stage. That didn’t help most of the drivers outside a playoff spot.

Here’s a look at how the standings looked before and after the Coca-Cola 600 among those outside the top 16 to earn a playoff spot (points out of the final playoff spot is in parenthesis):

 

The most points a driver can score in any of the remaining races is 60, so all but Matt DiBenedetto are at least one full race behind Chris Buescher, who holds the final playoff spot, heading to this weekend’s race at Sonoma Raceway (4 p.m. ET on FS1).

This is how Sunday’s race went bad for many of those outside a playoff spot:

A pit call and a caution-free first stage hurt DiBenedetto, who lost 17 points to the cutoff Sunday with his 18th-place finish.

DiBenedetto was the next-to-last driver to pit during the green-flag pit cycle in the opening stage. He pitted 10 laps after eventual winner Kyle Larson. New tires were faster. DiBenedetto lost time as he stayed out on older tires in hopes of a caution that never came. When he returned from pit road, he was a lap down. DiBenedetto didn’t get back on the lead lap until a caution at Lap 174, using the wave-around. He eventually fell back a lap and missed a top-15 finish.

“Our Menards/Masterforce Tools Mustang was lacking speed and handling,” DiBenedetto said. “It was very edgy to drive. … We were just struggling all night.”

Chip Ganassi Racing teammates Kurt Busch and Ross Chastain each suffered mechanical issues that led to Busch finishing last in the 38-car field and Chastain placing 37th. Both earned one point in a race that had a season-high 70 points available with the extra stage. It was the worst time to have the worst finish of the season for both.

Ricky Stenhouse Jr. finished 12th but still lost seven points to the playoff cutoff spot. He fell from the No. 2 starting spot to finish the first stage ninth and scored two stage points. He was 14th at the end of the third stage and gained two positions in the final stage to score 27 points. It was the second-most points he’s scored in a race this year, yet he still lost ground to the cutoff line.

“We got trapped by a lap car at the end when I think we were definitely catching cars for position at the end,” Stenhouse said, “but 12th is still really strong for us and a step back in the right direction after a few rough weeks.”

Ryan Newman cut a tire shortly before the end of stage 3 and hit the wall. He was running 12th before the incident and finished 27th. Newman scored 10 points, marking the third race in a row he’s scored less than 15 points.

“Unfortunately, you can’t control when a tire will go down and ours put us behind the 8-ball,” Newman said, “and we just didn’t have enough laps to recover.”

MOVING UP

Tyler Reddick’s ninth-place finish marked his seventh top-10 result in the last nine races and third overall.

Just as important is he scored points in all three stages Sunday, collecting 14 additional points. Only Kyle Larson (30 stage points), Chase Elliott (25), William Byron (25) and Kyle Busch (20) scored more stage points than the Richard Childress Racing driver Sunday night.

Reddick has scored points in nine of the last 11 stages. He  scored points in only two of the first 21 stages this season.

“We had a really good points night and earned valuable stage points in every stage (Sunday), which will be a huge help to keeping us moving up in the standings,” Reddick said.

Reddick passed Chris Buescher for 15th on the playoff grid. Reddick leads Buescher by six points. It’s a big turnaround in the last few weeks. Buescher led Reddick by 26 points after the May 2 Kansas race.

Where are they now? Buddy Parrott enjoying down time

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Buddy Parrott played outsized roles in two of the most dramatic races in NASCAR history.

Now 83 years old and retired from the sport since 2001, Parrott looks back on those two days as highlights of a career that began in the early 1970s.

In the 1990 Daytona 500, champion driver Dale Earnhardt seemed on course to end his frustration in NASCAR’s biggest event. He held the lead roaring down the backstretch on the last lap. Suddenly, Earnhardt slowed with a blown tire.

The lead was inherited by Derrike Cope, who charged to the checkered flag to score one of racing’s biggest upsets.

Parrott was Cope’s crew chief.

MORE: NASCAR Power Rankings: Memorable quotes through the years

In 1984, Richard Petty edged Cale Yarborough to win the summer race at Daytona International Speedway. It was Petty’s 200th – and final – win.

Parrott was Petty’s crew chief.

Those victories were high marks in a long pit-road career that saw Parrott’s drivers win dozens of races. He worked with, among others, Darrell Waltrip, Rusty Wallace, Jeff Burton and Petty and for team owners Jack Roush and Roger Penske.

Parrott remains active at 83, although he admits to having moved to a slower gear.

“I haven’t been living on the edge,” Parrott told NBC Sports. “I’ve been taking it really easy. I told my sons when you get to be 80 you can do anything you want because basically you’ve already done it.”

MORE: NASCAR, ARCA 2023 schedules

His strongest current connection to NASCAR is as a voter in the annual Hall of Fame balloting.

After more than 20 years roaming pit roads as a crew chief, Parrott moved into a general manager role at Roush Racing in 1997. He retired four years later and didn’t look back.

“I finally told Jack one day, ‘I don’t have time to ride my motorcycle,’ ” Parrott said. “He looked at me and said, ‘What do you want to do about it?’ I said, ‘I’m ready to retire.’ He told me I could work whatever schedule I wanted, but I decided that was it. I didn’t have a going-away thing or whatever.”

Parrott spent much of the next 15 years traveling with his wife, Judy, who died in 2016, and playing with his grandchildren.

“I had a great time in retirement because Judy was ready and I was ready,” he said. “We had a lot of fun. We’d go to Florida for two and three months at a time. I’m so happy that I didn’t hang on and go to the shop every day and try to find something to do. I spent that time with Judy, and we had 16 years of good retirement.”

Parrott, a native of Gastonia, N.C., lives in Statesville, N.C. His sons, Todd and Brad, also were NASCAR crew chiefs.

MORE: Jody Ridley’s Dover win an upset for the ages

Parrott is perhaps best remembered as crew chief for Rusty Wallace, Team Penske and the No. 2 black cars sponsored by Miller Lite. From 1992-94, they won 19 races and were consistently competitive at the front.

“I still get a lot of cards sent to me to sign from those years,” Parrott said. “I can say that was some of the happiest times I had. Those years with Rusty – and then with Jack Roush – really stand out. And who in the hell could not have fun having a beer sponsor?”

 

 

NASCAR Awards to air at 8 p.m. ET Saturday on Peacock

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NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Joey Logano didn’t need much time to answer the question.

Who would the two-time Cup champion want to introduce him at the NASCAR Awards?

Racing icon Mario Andretti, Logano immediately said. 

And there was Andretti on the stage at the Music City Center introducing Logano, the 2022 Cup champion. Watch that and the rest of the night’s festivities at 8 p.m. ET Saturday on Peacock. You can order Peacock here.

MORE: See the red carpet scene

MORE: Sport shows support for Gibbs family at NASCAR Awards

NBC Sports’ Marty Snider and Kim Coon co-hosted the show along with Fox Sports’ Kaitlyn Vincie. The Cup, Xfinity and Truck champions were honored. Xfinity champion Ty Gibbs, whose father died hours after Gibbs won the Xfinity title last month, received a standing ovation and thanked the industry for its support.

The highlight of the night for Logano was having Andretti on stage to introduce him.

“He’s just been a great role model for me, not only as a racer, but as a person for so long,” Logano said afterward. “I had his picture on my wall. I looked at Mario Andretti before I went to sleep every night as a kid. I thought it was the coolest thing that he signed it to me.”

NASCAR Awards and Champion Celebration
Cup champion Joey Logano on stage with racing icon Mario Andretti during the NASCAR Awards in Nashville, Tennessee. (Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images)

Logano and Andretti have gotten to know each other through the years. Logano ran a throwback car that honored Andretti at Darlington Raceway in 2015 and 2021.

But none of that compared to being on stage with Andretti.

“That’s still like a pinch-me moment,” Logano said. “It’s Mario Andretti. He’s the man. The fact that he knows my name I think is really, really cool.”

Catch the NASCAR Awards at 8 p.m. ET Saturday on Peacock

Sport shows support for Gibbs family at NASCAR Awards

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NASHVILLE, Tenn. — The NASCAR community showed its support Thursday at the NASCAR Awards for the Gibbs family, grieving the death of Coy Gibbs on Nov. 6. 

During his interview on stage, car owner Joe Gibbs thanked the NASCAR industry for its support. (The NASCAR Awards show airs at 8 p.m. ET Saturday on Peacock).

Coy Gibbs, son of Joe Gibbs and father of Xfinity champion Ty Gibbs, died hours after seeing Ty Gibbs win the series title last month at Phoenix Raceway. Coy Gibbs, 49, was the vice chairman and chief operating officer at Joe Gibbs Racing.

Steve O’Donnell, NASCAR chief operating officer, introduced Ty Gibbs at the NASCAR Awards and noted that “everyone gathered tonight is all a part of the NASCAR family, and I know I speak for everyone that the entire NASCAR family is 100% percent behind this young man.”

Ty Gibbs received a standing ovation.

“Thank you,” he told the crowd, “that means a lot.”

Ty Gibbs spoke for less than a minute, thanking his team, sponsors, fans and the NASCAR community.

He closed his speech by saying “And thanks to my family. I love you. I hope everybody has a great offseason. Enjoy it. Thank you for all the support. Thank you for all the claps. I really appreciate it.”

Ty Gibbs spoke to the media earlier Thursday. Asked how he was doing, he said: “I’ve been doing good. Thank you for asking and definitely appreciate you guys. We’ve been doing good, doing a lot of stuff this week. … It’s been fun to experience this stuff.”

Asked about Joe Gibbs addressing the organization after Coy’s death, Ty Gibbs politely said: “For right now, I’m not going to touch on any of that subject at all. I’m just going to stick with all the racing questions and go from there.”

Cup champion Joey Logano said he spent time with 20-year-old Ty Gibbs on Wednesday at the champion’s dinner.

Logano said he told Ty Gibbs that “we’re here for you. You need something reach out.”

Brennan Poole joins Bayley Currey at JD Motorsports for 2023

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Brennan Poole will join Bayley Currey at JD Motorsports for the 2023 NASCAR Xfinity season, the team announced Friday.

Poole will drive the No. 6 car for the full season. Currey returns to the team’s No. 4 car for the season. Currey scored five top-15 finishes last season for the organization.

JD Motorsports is planning to run the No. 0 car next season. No driver or sponsor has been announced for that ride.

“We’re full throttle here and getting ready to go,” Davis said in a statement from the team. “Bayley and Brennan are signed on and looking forward to chasing races and points next year. We’re actively moving along looking for sponsor commitments and for drivers and sponsors for the No. 0 car.”

“We’ve always taken the approach here that we want to go after the series with multiple cars, and that’s how we’re looking toward 2023. The new schedule is very interesting and provides new challenges to our drivers and team members.”

The 2023 Xfinity season begins Feb. 18 at Daytona International Speedway.