Las Vegas winners and losers

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A look at the winners and losers following Sunday’s NASCAR Cup Series race at Las Vegas Motor Speedway…

WINNERS

Alex BowmanBowman and his No. 48 team found a way to turn a top-10 car into the winning car Sunday, collecting his fifth victory in the past 31 races. The fifth-year Hendrick driver needed a good result after finishes of 24th (Daytona) and 25th (Auto Club) to start 2022. He launches himself into the playoffs — and won’t have to fear the wrath of Hendrick Motorsports boss Rick Hendrick since he raced teammate Kyle Larson cleanly for the win.

Ross ChastainChastain had an exceptional car through the middle of Sunday’s contest and used it to his advantage, wheeling it to the lead for a race-high 83 laps. At the site of his first Xfinity Series win, Chastain — at times — looked poised to score his first Cup victory in Las Vegas. That wasn’t meant to be, but fierce battles with Kyle Busch and Martin Truex Jr. en route to a third-place finish show encouraging signs that the No. 1 Chevrolet may contend again soon enough.

Kyle Busch: Busch is likely fuming he finished fourth rather than first, leading with two laps to go before Erik Jones and Bubba Wallace crashed on the front straightaway to bring out the 12th and final caution. However, a miserable weekend featuring a wrecked primary car, a bare-bones backup, early spin and shifter issues turned into Busch’s first top five of the season and third top 15. All things considered, this was a good race for Busch.

William ByronThe No. 24 Chevrolet was running when the checkered flag waved Sunday, and that alone was a win for Byron and his team. After two straight DNFs to start the year, Byron not only wasn’t wrecked; he was in contention for the win. He wasn’t able to capitalize on the two-tire pit call the same way teammates Bowman and Larson were, but a fifth-place finish is a great way to rebound after two miserable weeks.

Aric AlmirolaAlmirola might want to reconsider this whole retirement thing. He wheeled the No. 10 Ford to a sixth-place finish and remains the only driver to score top 10s in each of the year’s first three races. In fact, Almirola now has five straight top-10 finishes dating back to 2021. He remains sixth in points, the highest of all Stewart-Haas Racing cars.

Christopher Bell: Like Byron, Bell just wanted to finish a race for once. He did so with a 10th-place finish, rebounding from a spin at Lap 142 at the exit of Turn 2 that had him bouncing back to pit road on flat tires. Bell had the fastest car on Saturday, putting his No. 20 Toyota on the pole for the first time in his career. Leaving with 32 laps led and a top 10? All good things for Bell.

Corey LaJoieSomeone else who flew under the radar Sunday was Corey LaJoie, who scored his second top-15 finish of the season with a 15th-place effort in Las Vegas. LaJoie was never a factor for the win, netting a 22nd-place average running position according to NASCAR’s loop data statistics. But he still maximized his efforts after an overtime restart and escaped seven places higher than that average. Solid day for the Spire Motorsports entry.

LOSERS

Daniel SuarezWhat a difference a week makes. After coming oh-so-close last week at Auto Club, Suarez was running just outside the top 10 when Chase Briscoe got loose trying to avoid Michael McDowell. Briscoe couldn’t save it before clipping Suarez’s right-rear quarter panel, sending Suarez head-on into the outside wall. Suarez finished 37th — last — for his first finish outside the top 20 this year.

Ryan BlaneyBlaney didn’t fare much better than Suarez, finishing 36th after Brad Keselowski‘s spin landed the No. 6 Ford right into the nose of Blaney’s car. The No. 12 Ford was fast all day and was regularly fighting inside the top five. That was all for naught after heavy front-end damage ended his day early.

Denny HamlinA decent day went upside down in a hurry for Hamlin. While rejoining the racetrack after a green-flag pit stop at Lap 218, Hamlin spun at the exit of Turn 2. He destroyed his gears on pit road and eventually broke his transaxle and was forced to retire from the race. Hamlin was credited with a 32nd-place finish, his second finish outside the top 30 in three races.

Erik Jones: Like Suarez, Jones’ good day at Auto Club meant nothing at Las Vegas. With two laps to go and at the tail-end of the top 10, Jones snapped loose and overcorrected into the outside wall exiting Turn 4, destroying the right-front wheel and suspension before later spinning back in front of traffic. Bubba Wallace barely avoided him before spinning into a tire barrier, but Jones left Las Vegas 31st and out of luck.

Ricky Stenhouse Jr.Stenhouse was the leader when Hamlin spun in the midst of green-flag stops, leaving the No. 47 Chevrolet as one of only eight cars on the lead lap. Multiple cars got their laps back but Stenhouse was in contention for a top-10 finish heading into the final round of stops in overtime. Instead, a speeding penalty sent him to the rear of the field, relegating Stenhouse to a 21st-place finish.

Chase Briscoe: Briscoe appeared to have one of the fastest Fords of the weekend. But two on-track incidents — first with Suarez and later spinning by himself at Lap 134, caused enough damage to force him out of the race. The sophomore SHR driver has shown speed in all three events this season. But aside from finishing third in the Daytona 500, Briscoe doesn’t have the results to show for it.

Brad Keselowski: Another race resulted in another on-track incident for Keselowski in his new venture as co-owner of RFK Racing. His Lap 102 spin collected former teammate Blaney and damaged the driver-side door of Keselowski. The 2012 Cup champion was able to continue but was mired in the back of the field for most of the day. He finished 24th, one lap down.

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)

 

 

 

 

NASCAR fines Ty Gibbs $75,000 for pit road incident at Texas

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NASCAR fined Ty Gibbs $75,000 and docked him 25 points for door-slamming Ty Dillon on pit road during last weekend’s Cup race at Texas Motor Speedway.

Crew members from other teams were nearby when Gibbs hit Dillon’s car, causing it to swerve. No crew members or officials were hit.

NASCAR has made it a priority that drivers are not to cause contact that could injured crew members or officials on pit road. NASCAR also penalized Gibbs 25 Cup driver points and docked 23XI Racing 25 car owner points for the No. 23 Cup car that Gibbs drives.

NASCAR penalizes William Byron for spinning Denny Hamlin

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NASCAR has docked William Byron 25 points and fined him $50,000 for spinning Denny Hamlin under caution in last weekend’s Cup race at Texas Motor Speedway.

Byron drops from third in the playoff standings to below the cutline heading into Sunday’s Cup race at Talladega Superspeedway (2 p.m. ET on NBC).

Chase Briscoe moves up to hold the final transfer spot with 3,041 points. Austin Cindric is the first driver outside a transfer spot with 3,034 points. Byron is next at 3,033 points.

Hendrick Motorsports was docked 25 owner points as well.

Hendrick Motorsports stated it would appeal the penalty.

The caution waved at Lap 269 for Martin Truex Jr.’s crash. As Hamlin slowed, Byron closed and hit him in the rear. 

Byron admitted after the race the contact was intentional, although he didn’t mean to wreck Hamlin. Byron was upset with how Hamlin raced him on Lap 262. Byron felt Hamlin forced him into the wall as they exited Turn 2 side-by-side. Byron expressed his displeasure during the caution.

“I felt like he ran me out of race track off of (Turn) 2 and had really hard contact with the wall,” Byron said. “Felt like the toe link was definitely bent, luckily not fully broken. We were able to continue.

“A lot of times that kind of damage is going to ruin your race, especially that hard. I totally understand running somebody close and making a little bit of contact, but that was pretty massive.”

On the retaliatory hit, Byron said: “I didn’t mean to spin him out. That definitely wasn’t what I intended to do. I meant to bump him a little bit and show my displeasure and unfortunately, it happened the way it did. Obviously, when he was spinning out, I was like ‘I didn’t mean to do this,’ but I was definitely frustrated.”

Hamlin and crew chief Chris Gabehart argued and questioned NASCAR for not putting Hamlin back in second place — where he was before Byron hit him — and also questioned Byron not being penalized.

“I guess we can just wreck each other under caution,” Hamlin said after the race.

Scott Miller, NASCAR senior vice president of competition, told reporters after the race that series officials did not penalize Byron because they did not see the incident. 

“When we were in the tower, we were paying more attention to the actual cause of the caution up there and dispatching our equipment,” Miller said. “The William Byron-Denny Hamlin thing, we had no eyes on. We saw Denny go through the grass.

“By the time we got a replay that showed the incident well enough to do anything to it, we had gone back to green.”