Las Vegas Xfinity race: Ty Gibbs steals win in final laps

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Ty Gibbs didn’t have the dominant car in Saturday’s NASCAR Xfinity Series race at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. But he dominated when it mattered most.

On the race’s final restart with six laps to go, Gibbs took advantage of a push from Justin Allgaier to clear Noah Gragson for the lead.

Gibbs went on to lead the final six laps – the only laps he led all day – and score his first win of the season over Gragson under caution.

MORE: Las Vegas Xfinity race results, driver points

The day ended well for Gibbs after he had to start from the rear for unapproved adjustments and was involved in two early dust-ups with Ryan Sieg in the race.

On Lap 3, Gibbs’ car made slight contact with Sieg’s, which was promptly sent into the Turn 4 wall. After the race was red-flagged for weather at Lap 19, Sieg and Gibbs had a conversation on pit road over the incident.

When they were through talking, Sieg was asked by Fox Sports if everything had been settled between them for the day. Sieg replied: “I don’t think so. We’ll find out.”

Indeed, shortly after the race resumed, Sieg attempted to run Gibbs into the Turn 4 wall on Lap 30.

But Sieg instead spun himself out and collected Sheldon Creed and Brett Moffitt in the process. That proved to be the end of Sieg’s afternoon.

In post-race comments to Fox Sports, Gibbs was remorseful for the early contact he made with Sieg.

“It wasn’t my best decision and I’m sorry to their whole group,” said Gibbs. “Ryan’s family, they worked so hard, so I want to apologize to them.”

In regards to the final restart, Gibbs thanked Allgaier for pushing him into the lead.

“That helped me out a lot,” said Gibbs. “I had a fun time racing with the JR (Motorsports) cars.

“Hopefully, we can keep it going and go out and win some more races.”

Gragson won both stages and led 52 laps Saturday in route to his third top-three finish to open the season.

But after he was beaten for the race win on the final restart, he expressed some reservations about it.

“I just kind of got beaten at our own game there,” he told Fox Sports. “Restarts just, you know, came up short. It felt like he was rolling, but I guess that’s the box that we’re in.

“… We got warned earlier in the race for kind of doing something similar to that, but I don’t know. We just need to be better. Congrats to them. We’ll keep working hard. … We’ll come back stronger next weekend.”

Series champion Daniel Hemric finished third. Josh Berry finished fourth. Allgaier completed the top five finishers.

STAGE 1 WINNER: Noah Gragson

STAGE 2 WINNER: Noah Gragson

DISQUALIFIED: Joe Graf Jr.‘s No. 07 SS Green Light Racing Ford – which was driven to victory last week at Auto Club Speedway by Cup Series regular Cole Custer – was disqualified for having three lug nuts loose and not secure in post-race inspection (Rule 10.5.2.5.d – Xfinity Series rulebook). Graf finished 29th in the race, but after the DQ, he was credited with last place – 38th. There were no other issues from post-race inspection.

WHO HAD A GOOD RACE: Gragson lost out on a win at his home track, but between him, Berry and Allgaier, JR Motorsports still put three drivers in the top five. … Creed and Moffitt overcame their scrapes with the wayward Sieg to finish seventh and eighth, respectively. Creed also rallied from a pit road speeding penalty during the final stage.

WHO HAD A BAD RACE: Matt Mills suffered a heavy wreck at Lap 84. Contact from another competitor sent Mills hard into the inside backstretch wall. He climbed out of the car and walked away; he was later checked and released from the infield care center.

NOTABLE: During a debris caution at Lap 16, rain drops began to fall at the track. Soon after, the rain turned into snow flurries, which led to a red flag stopping the race at Lap 19. The red stayed out for nearly 42 minutes before the race resumed under caution. The race went green again at Lap 23.

NEXT: Phoenix Raceway – Saturday, March 12, 4:30 p.m. ET, FS1

NASCAR Clash heat race lineups

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LOS ANGELES — Justin Haley, Kyle Busch, Christopher Bell and William Byron will start on the pole for their heat races Sunday at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. 

There will be nine cars in each of the four heat races. Here’s a look at each of the those heat races.

Clash heat race starting lineups

Heat 1

This heat has four drivers who did not make last year’s Clash: Alex Bowman, Aric Almirola, Chris Buescher and Ty Dillon. Almirola starts second, Bowman third, Buescher eighth and Dillon ninth. This heat also has defending Clash winner and reigning Cup champion Joey Logano, who starts fifth.

Heat 2

Richard Childress Racing teammates Busch and Austin Dillon start 1-2. This race has five former champions: Busch, Kyle Larson (starting third), Kevin Harvick (fourth), Martin Truex Jr. (fifth) and Chase Elliott (eighth).

Heat 3

Toyota drivers will start first (Bell), second (Denny Hamlin) and fifth (Tyler Reddick). Ryan Blaney starts last in this heat after his fastest qualifying lap was disallowed Saturday.

Heat 4 

Byron will be joined on the front row by AJ Allmendinger in this heat. The second row will have Ross Chastain and Bubba Wallace.

The top five in each heat advances to Sunday night’s Clash. Those not advancing go to one of two last chance qualifying races. The top three in each of those races advances to the Clash. The 27 and final spot in the Clash is reserved for the driver highest in points who has yet to make the field.

Justin Haley tops field in Clash qualifying

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LOS ANGELES — Justin Haley posted the fastest lap in Saturday’s qualifying for the Busch Light Clash at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum.

Haley will start the first of four heats on the pole after a lap of 67.099 mph (13.413 seconds). The four heat races will be held Sunday afternoon, followed by two last chance qualifying races and then the Busch Clash on Sunday night.

Clash qualifying results

“I feel pretty confident about where we are,” Haley said. “I’m not sure why we’re so good here.”

The top four qualifiers will start on the pole for their heat race.

Kyle Busch, who was second on the speed chart with a lap of 66.406 mph, will start on the pole for the second heat. That comes in his first race with Richard Childress Racing after having spent the past 15 seasons at Joe Gibbs Racing.

Christopher Bell, third on the speed chart with a lap of 66.328 mph, will start on the pole for the third heat. William Byron, fourth in qualifying with a lap of 66.196 mph, will start on the pole in the fourth heat race.

The pole-sitters for each of the four heat races last year all won their heat. That included Haley, who was third fastest in qualifying last year and won the third heat from the pole.

Ty Gibbs was not allowed to qualify because of unapproved adjustments his team made while making repairs to his car after the door foam caught fire during practice. NASCAR deemed that the Joe Gibbs Racing team made adjustments to the car not directly related to the damage.

Ryan Blaney‘s fastest qualifying lap was disallowed after he stopped the car in Turn 4 and turned it around and to go back to the backstretch and build speed for his final lap. NASCAR disallowed the time from that final lap for the maneuver.

Section 7.8.F of the Cup Rule Book states: “Unless otherwise determined by the Series Managing Director, drivers who encounter a problem during Qualifying will not be permitted to travel counter Race direction.”

The top five finishers in each of the four 25-lap heat races advance to the Clash. The top three in the two 50-lap last chance races move on to the Clash. The final spot in the 27-car field is reserved for the driver highest in points not yet in the field.

Chase Briscoe, AJ Allmendinger in first on-track conflict of the season.

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LOS ANGELES — The first on-track conflict of the 2023 NASCAR Cup season?

Did you have Chase Briscoe and AJ Allmendinger?

They made contact during Saturday night’s practice session at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum for the Busch Light Clash.

Busch Clash practice results

Briscoe explained what happened from his point of view.

“(Allmendinger) was slowing down so much on the straightaway to get a gap (away from other cars),” Briscoe told Motor Racing Network. “I felt like I was beside him pretty far down the straightaway. I got in there a little hot for sure, but, honestly, I thought he was going to give it to me since we were in practice. Went into (Turn) 3 and he just drove me straight into the fence. Definitely frustrating. … Just unfortunate. We don’t have a single back-up car out there between the four of us at SHR. 

“Definitely will set us behind quite a bit. Just chalk it up in the memory blank.”

Asked what happened with Briscoe, Allmendinger told MRN: “He ran inside of me, so I made sure I paid him back and sent him into the fence.

“It’s practice. I get it, I’m struggling and in the way, but come barreling in there. I just showed my displeasure for it. That’s not the issue. We’re just not very good right now.”

Earlier in practice, Ty Gibbs had to climb out of his car after it caught on fire. Gibbs exiting the car safely. The Joe Gibbs Racing team worked on making repairs to his No. 54 car. NASCAR stated that the car would not be allowed to qualify because of unapproved adjustments, modifications not directly related to the damage.

NASCAR will not race at Auto Club Speedway in 2024

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LOS ANGELES — Auto Club Speedway will not host a NASCAR race next year because of plans to convert the 2-mile speedway into a short track.

It will mark only the second time the Cup Series has not raced at the Southern California track since first competing there in 1997. Cup did not race at the track in 2021 because of the pandemic.

Dave Allen, Auto Club Speedway president, also said Saturday that “it’s possible” that the track might not host a NASCAR race in 2025 because of how long it could take to make the conversion. 

MORE: Details for Sunday’s Clash at the Coliseum 

NASCAR came to the Fontana, California, track during the sport’s expansion in the late 1990s that also saw Cup debut at Texas (1997), Las Vegas (1998) and Homestead (1999).

Auto Club Speedway begins the West Coast swing this season, hosting the Cup Series on Feb. 26, a week after the Daytona 500. The series then goes to Las Vegas and Phoenix the following two weeks.

Auto Club Speedway has been among a favorite of drivers because of its aging pavement that put more of the car’s control in the hands of competitors. 

Allen said that officials continue to work on the track’s design. It is expected to be a half-mile track. With NASCAR already having a half-mile high-banked track (Bristol) and half-mile low-banked track (Martinsville), Allen said that a goal is to make Auto Club Speedway stand out.

“It has to make a statement, and making sure that we have a racetrack that is unique to itself here and different than any of the tracks they go to is very important,” Allen said. “Having said that, it’s equally important … to make sure that the fan experience part is unique.”

Kyle Larson, who won last year’s Cup race at Auto Club Speedway, said that he talked to Allen on Saturday was told the track project likely will take about 18 months. 

“I don’t know exactly the extent of what they’re doing with the track, how big it’s going to be, the shape or banking and all that, and I love the 2-mile track, but I think the more short tracks we can have, the better off our sport is going to be,” Larson said.

With Auto Club Speedway off the schedule in 2024, it would mean the only time Cup raced in the Los Angeles area would be at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. NASCAR has a three-year contract with the Coliseum to race there and holds the option to return.

Sunday’s Busch Light Clash at the Coliseum marks the second year of that agreement. Last year’s inaugural event at the Coliseum drew about 50,000 fans. NASCAR has not publicly stated if it will return to the Coliseum next year.