What drivers said after Las Vegas

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A look at what drivers said following Sunday night’s NASCAR Cup Series playoff race at Las Vegas Motor Speedway…

Denny Hamlin (playoffs) – WINNER: “It’s another track we can cross off the list. There was a point here where I never thought I would even sniff a victory. We found a setup and – I shouldn’t say ‘we’, I didn’t do anything. The team has found a setup that has worked with my driving style. I know that me and (crew chief) Chris (Gabehart) really work hard on trying to shore up any deficiencies that we have or I have as a driver. I go to work on it, the team goes to work on what they need to give me to go fast. I try to give them the best information that I can. They take that information, they put their brains together and they come up with something that works. Really, the last two years, they’ve really changed the game for me at this racetrack. Again, it means a lot to cross off Las Vegas as a track that we won at now.”

Chase Elliott (playoffs) – Finished 2nd: “…Circumstances kind of went our way (at the end of the race). We were able to get back on the lead lap when that cycle stopped. We were there in the middle with those guys making it on fuel. We were on the fortunate end because we got back on the lead lap, didn’t have to wave or get the Lucky Dog. We just kept tuning on it, felt like we really needed a little track position.”

Kyle Busch (playoffs) – Finished 3rd: “We got all we could. I felt like during the daytime, we were a little bit better than the 11 (Denny Hamlin). We could race with him. I felt like I was looking forward to the lights coming on and us picking up speed and being able to rip the wall a little bit faster. When we got hit into the fence there off of (turn) two the first time, it definitely knocked speed out of our car. We helped it a little bit coming to pit road putting the last set of tires on it and then I got into the fence again trying to get by a lapped car. Not enough room over there, I guess. Overall, great job by Ben (Beshore, crew chief) and my guys on this M&M’s Camry. They gave me a good piece. We moved forward all day long so that was good and just appreciate TRD and Interstate Batteries, Rowdy Energy and Ethel M for being here from Las Vegas and all of those guys were here today. Good showing.”

Martin Truex Jr. (playoffs) – Finished 4th: “We just could never get the balance quite right. We were really struggling off of turn four, no matter what we did. Not sure exactly why. It’s not something that we’ve had here in the past. Definitely something going on there that we couldn’t fix. We tried a lot. We made a lot of adjustments. James (Small, crew chief) and the guys did a really good job executing and we got all we could out of it. The Bass Pro Toyota was a little bit off tonight. I wish we could have been a little bit better, but all-in-all to grind out a fourth with that car is a good effort.”

Ryan Blaney (playoffs) – Finished 5th: “I thought a couple of cars were a little quicker than us. We got behind the eight-ball a little bit there in that second stage having to pit at the end and take the wave around. That hurt us. We had a fast enough Menards Ford Mustang to finish fifth. That is something to be proud of. We will go on to Talladega.”

Tyler Reddick – Finished 6th: “Our Cat Trials 11: Hot Wheels Chevrolet was extremely fast tonight at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. I knew having speed in the car when the sun went down was going to be a key to finishing well. The track definitely tightened up as time went on, and I could feel it in our No. 8 Camaro. My crew chief, Randall Burnett, kept up with the changing track conditions though and we were able to post top-three laps times consistently. I think at worst we were a third-place car, and should have been competing for the win at the end. There weren’t a ton of cautions during the race and unfortunately waiting just a couple of laps from when (Denny Hamlin) pitted from the lead cost us valuable track position. A sixth-place finish is still a great night for our Richard Childress Racing team and we will now turn our focus to Talladega.”

Brad Keselowski (playoffs) – Finished 7th: “It wasn’t a bad night. We executed really, really well and made the most of what we had. That was just all we had. We just kind of rode in 10th to 15th most of the day and at one point we got up to seventh or eighth, but couldn’t really hold it. At the end, we just really executed really well. The pit stops were great. The pit calls were good. No loose wheels or any troubles and we were able to get a solid day out of it to get ourselves a little cushion.”

Kevin Harvick (playoffs) – Finished 9th: “You know, it was about where we finished. That was about what we had tonight. We got the right-front fender nicked up a little bit, but that didn’t really change the car so we lucked out on that. We battle and gained ground on it. That is what we wanted to do, not give it all away today. We were able to gain ground and we will go from there.”

Kyle Larson (playoffs) – Finished 10th: “We stayed out (after Stage 2) and had to do the wave around. I wasn’t on fresh tires and stuck in traffic. Everyone is fighting so hard back there to run their race that I just got kind of stuck. Not beat around, but just stuck and having to race. It’s just hard. We were able to fight back for a top-10 and come away with an OK finish.”

Joey Logano (playoffs) – Finished 11th: “We were better in the daytime for sure. Unfortunately in the daytime, we didn’t capitalize in the first stage with having a loose wheel and starting in the back after that in that stage. We were able to drive back through the field and that was our best run. It seemed like as the track cooled off we lost speed to the field for multiple reasons. That last run we had another issue with the wheel. It was a poorly executed day with a car that probably should have finished fifth in both stages and maybe a top-10 or so at the end. But instead, we are not out. We are six points to the good. We are ahead of where we were when we came in, I just wanted to be more comfortable than that.”

Austin Dillon – Finished 13th: “Good try tonight by everyone on the Richard Childress Racing team at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. The front end of our BetMGM Chevy was never really to my liking tonight. We were bouncing through Turn 2, but Justin Alexander and all of the guys made adjustments throughout the race to improve our handling issues. We just needed a little more a little earlier. In Stage 3, we were running 12th when we made the call to stay out and long pit. It was just a gamble to try and catch a caution and make something happen. We led laps and were in position but didn’t get the caution we needed. It was worth a shot. We ultimately finished 13th. We’re headed to Talladega Superspeedway next week, and we’ll do everything we can to try and snag a win.”

Chase Briscoe – Finished 14th: “I thought our One Cure Ford Mustang was going to be really strong when the sun went down, but we just couldn’t get the handling right. The smallest changes would take it from loose to tight, and it was really tough to get it exactly where we wanted it. Fourteenth is still a huge improvement over what we did earlier this year, and it just shows how much I’ve learned as a driver and how far this team has come.”

William Byron – Finished 18th: “I thought we were really fast. We came from the back to the front, took the lead and then obviously had that caution. I chose the wrong lane there and had to run second there for awhile to Kyle. And then we had the strategy deal with not being able to make it on fuel and had to recover from that. We had to take two tires and that hurt us. We were able to drive all the way back to the front from the back again, so that was twice today. And then we had the flat tire. We had an awesome car. The No. 24 Axalta Chevrolet was amazing. I think it was right there with the No. 11 (Denny Hamlin). We’ll just have to keep bringing that speed.”

Aric Almirola – Finished 19th: “We found really good speed and balance in our Mobil 1 Ford halfway through the race today and were good enough to race inside the top-10. Then we made one small adjustment, and something just flipped a switch and our balance was way off. We’ll move on to Talladega where we’ve had a lot of success. Excited to get there and compete for a win.”

Alex Bowman – Finished 22nd: “We weren’t great. The stage two strategy just didn’t work out for us and it put us in a tough spot there to start stage three. The valve stem got knocked off on a pit stop and the rest is history. Not a good day on any aspects. We had a decent car, we just didn’t have the pit road and strategy we needed.”

Cole Custer – Finished 29th: “Another rough race for our team. We struggled with the balance of our No. 41 Dixie Vodka Greyhound Cocktail Ford Mustang and just couldn’t get it right. We’ll head to Talladega.”

Short-track ace Sam Ard shares Xfinity record with Noah Gragson

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Former two-time Xfinity Series champion Sam Ard’s name returned to the forefront in the past week as Noah Gragson tied Ard’s series record for consecutive victories at four.

Although Ard has been nominated for the NASCAR Hall of Fame, his exploits generally aren’t well-known among many who follow the modern sport of stock car racing. He was on the Hall voting list for the 2023 class but was not elected.

In the 1970s and ’80s, Ard was a short-track master in the vein of stars like Jack Ingram, Harry Gant and Butch Lindley, drivers who could show up at virtually any half-mile track across the country and take home the trophy.

He won the NASCAR Late Model (now the Xfinity Series) championship in 1983 and 1984, scoring 18 wins across those two seasons. He put together four victories in a row late in the 1983 season, winning at South Boston, Virginia; Martinsville, Virginia; Rougemont, North Carolina and Charlotte.

Ard was so dominant in 1984 that he had wrapped up the seasonal championship with two races remaining. In 28 series starts that year, he had 24 top-five finishes and 26 top-10 runs. He won eight times.

In the next-to-last race of the 1984 season, at North Carolina Speedway in Rockingham, Ard suffered critical head injuries when his car slid in fluid from another vehicle and hit the track’s outside wall.

That crash effectively ended Ard’s career and impacted the rest of his life. Ard often talked of learning to walk again as part of his recovery. He said he would use a walker in a pile of sawdust in his backyard so that the landing would be softer when he fell.

Ard eventually was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease. In 2006, responding to Ard’s financial problems, drivers Kyle Busch, Kevin Harvick and Dale Earnhardt Jr., among others, launched a drive to raise funds for his family.

Ard, a native of Scranton, S.C., died in April 2017. He was 78.

 

 

 

 

 

Drivers to watch in Cup Series race at Talladega Superspeedway

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The NASCAR Cup Series playoffs will reach a critical point Sunday in a 500-mile chase at treacherous Talladega Superspeedway.

The overriding factor in any race at Talladega, NASCAR’s biggest track, is the unknown. With cars running so fast and so close together, multi-car accidents are not only possible but expected, and it’s easy to become the innocent victim of someone else’s mistake.

MORE: NASCAR penalizes William Byron for spinning Denny Hamlin

The tension is doubled for the 12 playoff drivers. A bad finish at Talladega could open the door for a probable playoff exit at the end of the round Oct. 9 at the Charlotte Motor Speedway Roval.

The playoffs to date have seen four wins by non-playoff drivers, an unprecedented result. Tyler Reddick was the most recent to join that list with a win last Sunday at Texas Motor Speedway.

A look at drivers to watch at Talladega:

FRONTRUNNERS

Denny Hamlin

  • Points position: 6th
  • Last three races: 10th at Texas, 9th at Bristol, 2nd at Kansas
  • Past at Talladega: 2 career wins

Although he hasn’t won, Hamlin has finished in the top 10 in all four playoff races. In the past six races at Talladega, he has four finishes of seventh or better. Now if he can just keep people from running into him…

William Byron

  • Points position: 3rd
  • Last three races: 7th at Texas, 3rd at Bristol, 6th at Kansas
  • Past at Talladega: Best career finish is a second

Byron stands alone as the only playoff driver who has been able to avoid major crashes and trouble in the pits, and he has finished in the top 10 in all four playoff races. After Tuesday’s penalty for his incident with Denny Hamlin at Texas, he sits below the cutline entering Sunday’s race.

Brad Keselowski

  • Points position: 24th
  • Last three races: 8th at Texas, 13th at Bristol, 25th at Kansas
  • Past at Talladega: 6 wins, the active leader

Even in trying times, Keselowski is a threat at Talladega, where he last won in April 2021 (his last Cup victory). He has led 268 laps there in the past 13 races.

QUESTIONS TO ANSWER

Kyle Busch

  • Points position: 15th
  • Last three races: 36th at Texas, 34th at Bristol, 26th at Kansas
  • Past at Talladega: 1 career win, in 2008

Is Busch going to steadily disappear into the mist as he rides out the final weeks of his final year with Joe Gibbs Racing? His best finish in the past four races is 26th. On the positive side this week, he’s the only driver to finish in the top 10 in this year’s three races at Daytona and Talladega.

Chase Elliott

  • Points position: 8th
  • Last three races: 32nd at Texas, 2nd at Bristol, 11th at Kansas
  • Past at Talladega: 1 career win, in 2019

Can Elliott rebound from a fiery finish and a 32nd-place run at Texas? Playoff points give him some comfort, but a second career win at Talladega would be greatly appreciated in the Hendrick camp.

Martin Truex Jr.

  • Points position: 17th
  • Last three races: 31st at Texas, 36th at Bristol, 5th at Kansas
  • Past at Talladega: Best career finish is 5th

Will one of the sport’s most enduring mysteries continue at Talladega? In 70 career starts at Daytona and Talladega, Truex, a former champion and a smooth driver, has zero wins. At Talladega, he has only three top-five finishes in 35 starts.

 

 

 

NBC will broadcast final six NASCAR Cup Series playoff races

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The final six races in the chase for the NASCAR Cup Series championship will be televised by NBC.

The races remaining on the schedule are at Talladega Superspeedway (Oct. 2), the Charlotte Motor Speedway Roval (Oct. 9), Las Vegas Motor Speedway (Oct. 16), Homestead-Miami Speedway (Oct. 23), Martinsville Speedway (Oct. 30) and Phoenix Raceway (Nov. 6).

NBC’s broadcasting team will be on hand Sunday for what is typically a seasonal highlight — a 500-mile race at Talladega Superspeedway. The next week the playoffs move on to Charlotte for a cutoff race. The lowest four drivers in the playoff point standings will be eliminated from championship competition.

The Round of 8 is scheduled at Las Vegas, Homestead and Martinsville, with the tiny Martinsville track serving as the final cutoff race. The four drivers who advance from Martinsville will race for the title at Phoenix Nov. 6.

The high drama of the Phoenix race, in which the championship will go to the highest finisher of the four competing drivers, will be carried by both NBC and Peacock.

Post-race commentary and analysis for all six remaining Cup races will be carried on Peacock.

Kyle Larson is the series defending champion. Joey Logano carries the point lead into Sunday’s race at Talladega.

NASCAR viewer’s guide for Talladega Superspeedway

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After a messy Sunday at Texas Motor Speedway, the NASCAR Cup Series playoffs move on this weekend to another potentially messy spot — Talladega Superspeedway.

Home to the Big One — an almost certain multi-car crash, Talladega also occasionally produces unexpected winners, including Richard Brickhouse, James Hylton, Lennie Pond, Ron Bouchard and Brad Keselowski.

The mix of tight drafting, the Next Gen car and general playoff tension should make Sunday’s 500-mile run quite the adventure.

On Sunday at Texas, Tyler Reddick became the second driver (after Chase Elliott) to score three wins this season.

Joey Logano enters Talladega with the playoff point lead.

Playoff rookies roll on

The four drivers participating in the Cup playoffs for the first time remain factors approaching the second race in the second round.

Ross Chastain is second in the standings, 18 points above the cutline entering Talladega.

MORE: NBC NASCAR rankings put Denny Hamlin first

Daniel Suarez, Chastain’s Trackhouse Racing teammate, is seventh. He’s four points above the cutline.

Two other playoff rookies — Chase Briscoe and Austin Cindric — will start Talladega below the cutline. Briscoe is four points below the cutline. Cindric is 11 points below the cutline.

Looking for wins

Only six of the remaining 12 playoff drivers have won races at the two remaining tracks in the second round (Talladega and Charlotte Roval).

Among the six, Joey Logano has the best win record at Talladega, having finished first there in 2015, 2016 and 2018.

Other Talladega winners in the group: Ryan Blaney (two), Denny Hamlin (two), Chase Elliott (one), Ross Chastain (one).

The Charlotte Roval is relatively new, of course, but Chase Elliott already owns two wins there. Ryan Blaney and Kyle Larson also have won at the Roval.

An opening for Brad?

Few people who watched it will forget the first Cup Series victory scored by Brad Keselowski.

It occurred at this week’s tour stop — Talladega Superspeedway — in April 2009. Keselowski and Carl Edwards made contact approaching the finish line and notched the win, even as Edwards’ car flew into the frontstretch fence, spraying car parts into the grandstands.

Thirteen years later, Keselowski returns to NASCAR’s biggest track having recorded six Talladega wins. No other active drive has more than three.

Keselowski’s refurbished team — Roush Fenway Keselowski Racing — has new fire with Chris Buescher winning at Bristol and Keselowski winning the pole and finishing eighth at Texas.

RFK Racing has led 309 laps in the past two races, more than the team had led in the prior 105 races combined.

Although he hasn’t won a Cup race since scoring a victory in a Team Penske Ford in April 2021 at Talladega, Keselowski must be considered a threat Sunday.

Entry lists

Thirty-seven drivers, including Xfinity Series star Noah Gragson and reigning Xfinity champion Daniel Hemric, are entered for Sunday’s Cup race.

Talladega Cup entry list

The Xfinity entry list includes 41 drivers for 38 spots. Among those joining the series regulars are Trevor Bayne, Parker Kligerman, Timmy Hill and Jeffrey Earnhardt.

Talladega Xfinity entry list

Forty-one drivers are entered for Saturday’s Camping World Truck Series race. Included are Kaz Grala, Ryan Preece, Natalie Decker, Jennifer Jo Cobb and Parker Kligerman.

Talladega Truck entry list

This week’s schedule and forecast

(All times Eastern)

Friday, Sept. 30

Forecast: Partly cloudy. High of 77. (Weather note: There is the possibility that Hurricane Ian could impact the race weekend, depending on its path).

  • 3:30 – 5 p.m. — Truck Series qualifying
  • 5:30 – 7 p.m. — Xfinity Series qualifying (USA Network)

Saturday, Oct. 1

Forecast: Overcast with showers at times. Potential for heavy rainfall. High of 73. 60% chance of rain.

  • 10:30 a.m. – Noon — Cup Series qualifying (NBC Sports app, Motor Racing Network, Sirius XM NASCAR Radio)
  • 12:30 p.m. — Truck Series race (94 laps, 250 miles; FS1, Motor Racing Network, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio)
  • 4 p.m. — Xfinity Series race (113 laps, 300 miles; USA Network, Motor Racing Network, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio)

Sunday, Oct. 2

Forecast: Sun in the morning, increasing clouds in the afternoon. Slight chance of a shower. High of 74.

  • 2 p.m. — Cup Series race (188 laps, 500 miles; NBC, Motor Racing Network, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio)