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Brett Moffitt wins pole for Truck Series race at Bristol

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Brett Moffitt will start from the pole in tonight’s Gander Outdoors Truck Series race at Bristol Motor Speedway (8:30 p.m. ET on FS1).

Moffitt claimed the pole with a speed of 127.690 mph. It is his second pole of the year and his career.

Moffitt is joined on the front row by fellow playoff driver Ross Chastain (127.056 mph).

The top five is completed by Stewart Friesen (playoffs), Ben Rhodes and Tyler Ankrum (playoffs).

Where the other playoff drivers will start:

Johnny Sauter (sixth), Austin Hill (eighth), Matt Crafton (11th) and Grant Enfinger (14th).

Click here for the starting lineup.

Truck Series practice report from Bristol Motor Speedway

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BRISTOL, Tenn. – Austin Hill, who won last weekend’s Gander Outdoors Truck Series race at Michigan, posted the fastest lap in Thursday’s final practice session at Bristol Motor Speedway.

Hill led the way with a lap of 126.328 mph. He was followed by Sam Mayer (126.095 mph), reigning series champion  Brett Moffitt (125.789), Stewart Friesen (125.617) and Johnny Sauter (125.469).

Click here for final practice results

Moffitt had the best average over 10 consecutive laps at 122.594 mph. He was followed by Friesen (122.532 mph) and Matt Crafton (122.407).

Harrison Burton ran the most laps in the session at 73. He ranked ninth on the speed chart with a top lap of 125.060 mph.

OPENING PRACTICE

Tyler Ankrum was fastest in the first of two Gander Outdoors Truck Series practice sessions Thursday at Bristol Motor Speedway.

Ankrum, one of the eight Truck Series playoff drivers, posted a top speed of 126.420 mph around the half-mile track.

He was followed by Ross Chastain (125.831 mph), Matt Crafton (125.354), Raphael Lessard (125.036) and Brett Moffitt (124.930).

Sheldon Creed, who was eighth on the speed chart, recorded the most laps with 78. He also had the best 10-lap average at 123.983 mph.

The final Truck practice is scheduled for 11:05 – 11:55 a.m ET.

Click here for the practice report.

Long: Playoff drought could be coming to an end for one team

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BROOKLYN, Mich. — As cars ran out of fuel Sunday at Michigan International Speedway, Ryan Newman gained positions.

Then his engine sputtered, and he ran out of fuel in Turn 4.

On the final lap.

Newman made it to the finish line without losing any spots. He went from 18th to 12th in the last three laps as others coasted or had to pit for fuel.

Those six spots gained — and six points collected — helped stretch Newman’s lead for one of the final Cup playoff spots. He can help end a significant playoff drought. Newman enters Saturday night’s race at Bristol Motor Speedway (7:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN) 15th in the standings. Clint Bowyer, who holds the final playoff spot, is 10 points behind Newman.

MORE: Click here for the point standings.

Not since 2006 has the No. 6 team made the Cup playoffs. That car number was the first number Roush Fenway Racing used when it entered NASCAR’s premier series in 1988 with Mark Martin. And it was Martin in the car when it last made the Cup playoffs. Now it’s Newman’s ride and he is three races away from making the playoffs.

“To get into the (playoffs), race our way in throughout the whole season, it would show a huge step for the program,” said crew chief Scott Graves.

The team struggled last year with Trevor Bayne and Matt Kenseth sharing the ride. Graves, who had been Daniel Suarez’s crew chief for the majority of the past two years at Joe Gibbs Racing, joined Newman with the No. 6 team this year.

Topping off for fuel played a key role in Newman’s finish at Michigan. Twenty-seven cars pitted on Lap 150 under caution but Newman returned to pit road the following lap to top off on fuel. Only Newman and teammate Ricky Stenhouse Jr. came back to pit road to top off for fuel on Lap 151

Without that extra fuel, Newman would have run out sooner and lost positions — and points.

Ryan Newman is in a playoff spot with three races left in the regular season. (Photo by Brian Lawdermilk/Getty Images)

Newman looks to lead the No. 6 back in the playoffs with a grinding style that has not been pretty but has been productive.

The team has struggled to find speed. Newman has not started better than 16th in the last 15 races. It’s a key reason why Newman has scored 19 stage points in that span.

Newman is ahead of Bowyer, Suarez and Jimmie Johnson in the race for the final two playoff spots. Bowyer (54 stage points), Suarez (23) and Johnson (37) each has more stage points than Newman.

With the deficit on stage points, Newman and his team have had to score solid finishes. That made Graves’ decision to top off for fuel on Lap 151 at Michigan critical.

“We know the guys we’re racing against here, they’ve got the potential on any given weekend to go up there and bust off stage points and potentially win,” Graves said. “Obviously we are working really hard. We are grinding it out and getting the finishes we can to stay in this.

“That’s how we have to race right now. We know that to get in and even get anywhere in the (playoffs) if we do get in, we’ve got to really work on speed to get points.”

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Kevin Harvick revealed after his victory Sunday that he’s been racing with a right shoulder injury this summer.

The shoulder, he said, was not injured in an accident on the track. No, he injured the shoulder throwing a Nerf ball to son Keelan.

“It’s cut into my golf game,” Harvick quipped Sunday on NBCSN’s post-race show.

He later added that the shoulder is “probably 80 percent now. I mean, there was a point when I went to Sonoma that I couldn’t even lift it up. It feels better in the race car than it does  — the worst thing I had to do in the race car was shift.

“My main concern was Watkins Glen, but we got through it. It’s getting close to being back where it needs to be. But it was definitely uncomfortable. The load that these cars put on it is right next to the … it’s right in the spot where it’s not feeling well. So all the load from the shoulder is where it’s been injured. … But it’s fine.”

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Jimmie Johnson, Ryan Blaney, Kyle Busch, William Byron and Bubba Wallace were among the drivers who had conflicts after Watkins Glen and had to address it at Michigan.

Johnson and Blaney traded barbs through the media before eventually meeting in Johnson’s motorhome last Friday night. Busch had meetings with Byron and Wallace.

With the rules package intended to keep cars closer together and blocking more prevalent, additional conflicts are likely to occur toward the end of the regular season and into the playoffs. How one handles those situations could play a role in the final weeks of the season.

Such situations can be challenging, says Brad Keselowski, who had feuds with Denny Hamlin and Carl Edwards early in his career. There remains friction with Busch even after Keselowski sought to smooth things between them.

“It wears on you as much as you let it wear on you,” Keselowski said of conflicts with other drivers. “Second, I would say that there are some drivers that handle conflict incredibly well and there are some that don’t. I have never considered myself to be the best at it.

“I will be honest, I do look at videos of guys like Dale Earnhardt. He was in so many situations of conflict and they were easier to deal with in his time and age because of the lack of social media and lack of a 24-hour news cycle and things of that nature. But then on the flip side, he was a master at dealing with it. So I think you look at those guys and you think that probably parlayed into some of the success of his career, so you would be a fool not to study and try to learn from it. In today’s landscape it is harder than ever to handle for sure.”

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Ben Rhodes collected a dubious honor Saturday at Michigan International Speedway.

He ranked fifth in the points — before the standings were reset for the playoff competitors — and failed to make the playoffs. That makes him the driver who has been the highest in points before the standings were reset to miss the postseason in Cup, Xfinity or the Gander Outdoors Truck Series in this current format. 

Rhodes scored more points than playoff drivers Ross Chastain, Austin Hill, Johnny Sauter and Tyler Ankrum. The difference is that in NASCAR’s win-and-you’re-in system, Chastain, Hill, Sauter and Ankrum won this year. Rhodes did not.

Also what makes Rhodes standing unique is that not all the playoff competitors ran all the races or scored points in all the races.

Ankrum was not old enough to compete in the season’s first three races. Sauter was suspended one race when NASCAR penalized him for wrecking Hill at Iowa in June. Chastain started the season running for points in the Xfinity Series and switched to Truck points before the season’s ninth race, which was at Texas in June. That’s why they were behind Rhodes in points.

The Truck playoffs begin Thursday night at Bristol Motor Speedway.

Austin Hill wins Truck Series race at Michigan in overtime

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Austin Hill won Saturday’s Truck Series race at Michigan International Speedway in overtime, fending off Sheldon Creed on the final lap to score the victory in the regular-season finale.

It is Hill’s second win of the season after he won the season-opener at Daytona.

The top five was completed by Tyler Dippel, Austin Wayne Self and Brett Moffitt.

MORE: Click here for race results

MORE: Click here for points report

Hill bounced back from a speeding penalty early in the final stage to lead 26 of 105 laps.

“It’s huge, we’ve had a struggle these last four or five races,” Hill told FS1. “We just keep having issues and can’t finish races. Man, these guys just work their tails off day and night just trying to put these trucks together. This is actually a brand new truck, first time (it saw) the race track was yesterday. When we unloaded we had to workout some bugs on it. We got it driving really good.”

The overtime finish was setup by a large wreck on a restart with four laps to go in the scheduled distance. Tyler Ankrum, who was the leader, received a push from Matt Crafton, which turned his truck into the outside wall and started a chain reaction.

Among those in the wreck were Johnny Sauter, Todd Gilliland, Anthony Alfredo, Natalie Decker and Spencer Boyd.

“I think (Ankrum) just spun his tires, to be honest,” Crafton said after the race. “That’s from what I saw from my seat. I asked a couple of people and they said it looked like he was still spinning the tires when I hit him. Definitely, never going to try wreck somebody. We worked so good together on the restart before that. I shoved him to the lead and it was just wrong timing.”

Pole-sitter Ross Chastain led every lap of Stage 1. But during the ensuing pit stops, Johnny Sauter turned Codie Rohrbaugh into Chastain’s right side as Chastain exited his box. The damage from the collision sent Chastain to the garage and ended his day.

By just starting the race, Grant Enfinger clinched the regular season championship and was awarded 15 playoff points.

With Hill’s win, Crafton clinched the last playoff spot based on points since there wasn’t a new winner.

The eight driver playoff field is Brett Moffitt, Enfinger, Stewart Friesen, Chastain, Hill, Crafton, Sauter and Ankrum.

Not involved in the playoffs is Kyle Busch Motorsports. Both Gilliland and Harrison Burton needed to win Saturday to get into the playoff field. At least one KBM driver has been a member of the championship four the last three years.

STAGE 1 WINNER: Ross Chastain

STAGE 2 WINNER: Brett Moffitt

WHAT’S NEXT: Playoff opener: UNOH 200 at Bristol Motor Speedway at 8:30 p.m. ET Aug. 15 on FS1.

 

Stewart Friesen wins Eldora Dirt Derby for first career Truck victory

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Stewart Friesen won Thursday night’s Eldora Dirt Derby in a two-lap shootout to score his first career Gander Outdoors Truck Series win.

Friesen, 36, claims the win in his 63rd career start and is now locked into the playoffs with one race left in the regular season. Two playoff spots remain up for grabs.

Friesen beat Sheldon Creed, Grant Enfinger, Mike Marlar and Todd Gilliland. Marlar was making his first career NASCAR start.

A native of Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario, Friesen had finished second six times before getting a win.

“Thank you to all the race fans that stuck with us, that pulled for us, everybody that came by the dirt modified hauler and said ‘Man, I thought this was the week,'” Friesen told FS1. “Today, this is the day and today this is the week.”

Friesen made his series debut in the 2016 Eldora race. He started from the pole in the 2017 race and led 93 laps before finishing second. He placed third last season.

“This was meant to be,” Friesen said. “We needed to get it done on the dirt. We missed the last two years. What a special event. … These guys have been down and out, down and out and they keep bustin’ their butts for me and fixing stuff and fixing stuff. Putting in such long hours. I can’t thank everybody enough.”

After starting first due to winning the first qualifying race, defending Eldora winner Chase Briscoe did not give up the lead until he pit during second stage break. He was then involved in two accidents before managing to get back to third in time for a restart with 12 laps to go. He then spun with nine laps to go to help bring out another caution.

Briscoe finished seventh.

Friesen assumed the lead from Briscoe when he and Matt Crafton pit during the stage break. Friesen elected to stay out and for it after his crew chief had told him to pit. Friesen led the final 57 laps.

The race saw a 14-truck crash on Lap 64 in Stage 2 that included Harrison Burton, Christian Eckes, Johnny Sauter, Austin Hill and Austin Wayne Self.

More: Race results, point standings

STAGE 1 WINNER: Chase Briscoe

STAGE 2 WINNER: Chase Briscoe

WHAT’S NEXT: Corrigan Oil 200 at Michigan International Speedway at 1 p.m. ET Aug. 10 on FS1