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Daniel Suarez gets new crew chief for final six races of season

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Crew chief Scott Graves is leaving Joe Gibbs Racing and will be replaced immediately by Dave Rogers, the team announced Tuesday.

Rogers has served as technical director for JGR’s Xfinity operation. He will be the crew chief for Daniel Suarez the rest of the season.

Rogers and Suarez worked together for five races in 2017, Suarez’s rookie year, before Rogers took a personal leave of absence. Graves had been Suarez’s crew chief since then.

Rogers has 18 career Cup wins while working with Kyle Busch, Denny Hamlin and Carl Edwards at JGR.

Suarez was the only Joe Gibbs Racing driver not to make the Cup playoffs this season. He enters this weekend’s race at Talladega Superspeedway 18th in points.

Bump & Run: Debating best racing movies, memorable Talladega moments

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Whenever NASCAR returns to Talladega, the movie “Talladega Nights” is often brought up. What is your favorite racing movie and why?

Nate Ryan: In the documentary category, it’s “Senna.” The chronicle of one of Formula One’s most extraordinary talents and personalities is so emotionally gripping, you can be captivated without knowing anything about racing. In feature films, it’s “Le Mans” (because Steve McQueen) and “Winning” (because Paul Newman).

Dustin Long: “Winning.” The 1969 movie, which starred Paul Newman,  Robert Wagner and Joanne Woodward, is a classic. A close second for me is “Senna,” the powerful 2010 documentary of Ayrton Senna.

Daniel McFadin: The cinematic masterpiece that is “Days of Thunder.” OK, “masterpiece” may be a strong word, but it’s the best depiction you could ask for of NASCAR in cinema, and I try to watch it every year before the Daytona 500. It’s not too far over the top and the on-screen racing is gripping and fun. Even though it wasn’t a breakout hit at the box office, “Days of Thunder” undoubtedly played a factor in the rise of NASCAR’s popularity heading into the 1990s. The sport could use another film like it right now and not a farce like “Talladega Nights.”

Dan Beaver: “Greased Lightning.” It was not only a good racing movie but an exceptional biopic of Wendell Scott and an inspirational underdog story.

What is your most memorable Talladega moment?

Nate Ryan: There are too many surreal episodes to choose just one … but five stand out from those covered in person:

The April 6, 2003 race in which Dale Earnhardt Jr. rebounded with a damaged car on a controversial pass for the lead below the yellow line.

Everyone thinks of multicar crashes at Talladega, but Elliott Sadler’s never-ending tumble down the backstretch in the Sept. 28, 2003 race still registers.

Jeff Gordon’s winning celebration on April 25, 2004, being met by a few thousand beer cans hurled by angry masses showing their displeasure with a yellow flag that ended Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s bid at a win (and virtually created the overtime rules).

The wicked airborne crash of Carl Edwards into the frontstretch catchfence during the final lap on April 26, 2009, injuring several fans as Brad Keselowski scored his first Cup victory with the underdog James Finch team.

—The massive cloud of dirt and dust that erupted in Turn 4 on Oct. 7, 2012 when a block by Tony Stewart in the last turn helped trigger a 25-car pileup and left Earnhardt with a concussion that sidelined him for two races.

Dustin Long: So many. Here are a few I’ve covered in person:

— Dale Earnhardt’s final Cup win in October 2000. He went from 18th to first in the final five laps to win in one of the most riveting charges to the checkered flag that I’ve witnessed.

— The April 2004 race when fans littered the track after Jeff Gordon won. Gordon and Dale Earnhardt Jr. were side by side when the final caution came out. Gordon was declared the leader and won when the race when it could not be resumed before the checkered.

— The October 2006 race. Dale Earnhardt Jr. led the last lap with Jimmie Johnson and Brian Vickers trailing. Johnson made a move to get under Earnhardt and Vickers followed. Vickers hooked Johnson, turning Johnson’s car into Earnhardt’s car, wrecking both. Vickers scored his first career Cup win.

— The October 2008 race where Regan Smith took the checkered flag first but Tony Stewart was given the win by NASCAR because it stated that Smith illegally passed Stewart by going below the yellow line coming to the finish.

— The April 2009 finish where Carl Edwards’ car flew into the fence in his last-lap duel with Brad Keselowski, who scored his first Cup win and did it for car owner James Finch.

Daniel McFadin: It may not be my most memorable moment, but it’s what popped in my head: A year before his dramatic final Cup win, Dale Earnhardt showed off his magic in the 1999 IROC race at Talladega. Coming to the checkered flag in second place, Earnhardt shot to the outside of Rusty Wallace in the tri-oval. He went as far wide as you possibly could and beat Wallace to the line without any help. Fun fact – all three of his 1999 IROC wins came on a last-lap pass.

Dan Beaver: Bobby Allison’s watershed 1987 accident that forever changed racing on the superspeedways.

Who wins a race first: Kyle Larson, Jimmie Johnson, Denny Hamlin or Aric Almirola?

Nate Ryan: Even after his weak showing at Dover International Speedway, Kyle Larson remains too talented to stay winless, and his up-and-down season could foreshadow a surprise win at Talladega or a redemptive victory at Kansas Speedway.

Dustin Long: Denny Hamlin at Martinsville.

Daniel McFadin: Aric Almirola. He’s fed up with coming up short this year and barring being involved in a wreck I expect to see him flex his restrictor-plate muscles this weekend.

Dan Beaver: Kyle Larson wins at Kansas in two weeks. But if he can’t pull it off, then Denny Hamlin grabs the checkers at Martinsville.

Christopher Bell wins at Dover; Ross Chastain eliminated from playoffs

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DOVER, Del. – Christopher Bell won the Bar Harbor 200 at Dover International Speedway, where the Xfinity Series playoff field was sliced from 12 to eight drivers Saturday.

The Joe Gibbs Racing driver, who also won the first-round opener at Richmond Raceway, set a series rookie record with his sixth victory, breaking a mark he previously shared with Kyle Busch, Carl Edwards and Greg Biffle.

“It’s been a career year for me,” Bell told NBCSN. “All credit to Joe Gibbs Racing. We have really fast race cars every time I go to the racetrack.”

Ross Chastain just missed advancing by three points, falling out of contention as Matt Tifft gained four points over the final 25 laps after the last restart. The final caution flew after Chastain bumped Tifft into Chase Briscoe, who skidded up the track and into the SAFER barrier. Tifft rallied when the race returned to green, making enough passes to advance.

Along with Chastain, Ryan Truex, Ryan Reed and Brandon Jones were eliminated from the playoffs.

Chastain had entered the playoffs as a major underdog despite scoring his first career win at Las Vegas Motor Speedway with Chip Ganassi Racing. He returned to his underfunded JD Motorsports ride the past two races but still was in the hunt to advance through the checkered flag at Dover.

“Too many mistakes on my part,” said Chastain, who was penalized for speeding on his final stop. “But I’m not sorry at all. This is awesome. I don’t apologize for what I do on the racetrack. I bring my friends with me. We’ve got a lot to be proud about.”

Tifft hit Chastain’s car on the cooldown lap but claimed afterward that it was by accident.

“He was doing what he had to do,” Tifft said. “I just ended up on the receiving end of it on that time. I had to force my way through a couple cars toward the end to make sure we advanced.

“Of course, I’m upset because I’m on the receiving side. This is why we have the playoffs because it creates that excitement and intensity. It’s going to happen to one of us.”

Tifft advanced to the next round with Bell, Cole Custer, who finished second, Justin Allgaier (third), Tyler Reddick, Elliott Sadler, Austin Cindric and Daniel Hemric, the pole-sitter.

Hemric led the 20 laps, won the second stage and was in the running for his first career win before a speeding penalty during the caution after Stage 2 dropped him to 19th with 104 laps to go. The Richard Childress Racing driver finished seventh.

“That’s unacceptable,” Hemric, who also was penalized for speeding last week at Charlotte Motor Speedway, told NBCSN. “I’ve got a lot of things to clean up on my end.”

Stage 1 winner: Christopher Bell

Stage 2 winner: Daniel Hemric

What’s next: Kansas Lottery 300 at Kansas Speedway, 3 p.m., Oct. 20 on NBC

Carl Edwards to be inducted into Texas Motorsports Hall of Fame

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Carl Edwards has been selected as the newest inductee into Texas Motor Speedway’s Texas Motorsports Hall of Fame.

Edwards won at TMS six times in his NASCAR career including four times in the Cup Series. He will be the 20th inductee into the Hall of Fame.

Edwards, who retired from NASCAR competition ahead of the 2017 season, earned the last of his 28 Cup wins in the fall 2016 race at Texas.

Edwards was the first driver to sweep Texas’ two race dates in 2008.

Edwards will be inducted in a special ceremony during the November race weekend at the track. It will be held Nov. 3 in The Grand Ballroom of the track’s Speedway Club, beginning at Noon ET.

The Texas Motorsports Hall of Fame ceremony serves as a major fundraiser for the Speedway Children’s Charities-Texas Chapter. Tickets are priced at $75 and includes a gourmet Texas barbecue.

Clint Bowyer races from bottom four to next playoff round

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“God almighty.”

Whether a praise to the heavens or a statement of shock – or a combination of both – that’s how Clint Bowyer began his press conference after finishing third in the inaugural Bank of America Roval 400.

Somehow, someway, Bowyer survived the 109-lap race to earn his best result since placing third at Sonoma in June. He also raced his way into the second round of the playoffs.

That was after he entered the elimination race as one of four drivers on the outside looking into the top 12 who would advance. Bowyer began the day 14th on the starting lineup and four points out of the cutoff spot.

Unlike Denny Hamlin, Jimmie Johnson and Erik Jones, Bowyer’s chances at a title are still alive.

Since the introduction of the elimination format in 2014, Bowyer’s achievement is the 12th time a driver entered a cutoff race in the bottom four and drove their way into the next round.

It’s the fifth time a driver has advanced to Round 2 after entering the elimination race below the cutoff.

“Our day in particular, we knew we needed an opportunity,” Bowyer said. “You knew some people were going to have trouble. You try to make sure that you’re not one of those people.”

Beginning at 5 a.m. Sunday when his son Cash woke up, Bowyer had plenty of time to think about where there would be opportunities on Charlotte Motor Speedway’s 17-turn, 2.28 mile course.

“It wasn’t much sleep the last couple nights,” Bowyer said. “Once you’re up, you start thinking about this gremlin that’s ahead of you today, there wasn’t any more sleeping. I stood there and watched the sun come up thinking about the chicane on the back straightaway, thought about the chicane on the front straightaway, thought about Turn 8, how I was going to get off that. I hit the wall in Turn 8 (oval Turn 1). Just thought about restarts and things like that.”

Bowyer managed to finish third in Stage 1 for eight points and fifth in Stage 2 for six points.

Bowyer then kept his No. 14 Ford from being one of 15 cars that got a piece of the wreck in Turn 1 with six laps to go.

On the final restart, he was sixth.

“It was a lot of fun to be able to compete,” Bowyer said. “Nerve‑racking as hell on our part, but nonetheless, it was a lot of fun, challenge. … But heartburn, that was a heartburn, ended up being a heartburn on a lot of people’s parts.”

But Bowyer’s heartburn was worthwhile as he joins all three of his Stewart-Haas Racing teammates in Round 2.

Bowyer’s advancement in the playoffs comes a year after Kyle Busch was the only driver to enter an elimination race below the cutoff line and advance. He did so to advance to the third round.

In 2016, Austin Dillon did it in Round 1 and was followed by Hamlin in Round 2 and then Carl Edwards advanced from Round 3 to the championship race.

In 2015, Kyle Busch did it twice, advancing into Round 2 and 3 from the below the cutoff on his way to winning the title. Kevin Harvick also did it to advance into Round 2.

2014 saw Hamlin race his way into Round 2 and eventually make the championship race. Matt Kenseth and Brad Keselowski followed the next round and Harvick finished second in the final cutoff race at Phoenix to advance to the championship race, where he claimed his first Cup title.