Bump & Run: Who is in trouble in Cup playoffs?

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After Las Vegas, which driver(s) do you consider in trouble of not making the cut to the second round?

Nate Ryan: Anyone outside the grid now, so Chase Elliott, Jimmie Johnson, Denny Hamlin and Erik Jones will have to fight their way through the next two races. 

Dustin Long: Austin Dillon is 10th in the standings but his lead over some of the drivers outside a cutoff spot is slim and he’s not finished better than 13th on a short track this season heading into Richmond. There’s some work to do.  

Daniel McFadin: Despite benefitting from the bad luck of many playoff drivers Sunday and finishing 11th, I still think Austin Dillon is the most in danger of missing out. He’s never finished better than 13th at Richmond and he’s never finished in the top 10 on a road course in Cup.

Dan Beaver: Denny Hamlin took the biggest hit last week, dropping 20 points behind the cutoff line. The inconsistent finishes with the No. 11 team throughout 2018 puts him in a precarious position.

Have you bought in on Brad Keselowski joining the Big 3?

Nate Ryan: No, because as he readily admits, the speed still isn’t there. The execution has been flawless for three weeks, but that is unsustainable over the next the nine races. His No. 2 Ford will need to be a weekly top-five car by the Round of 8 to have a title shot. 

Dustin Long: No. The Big 3 was not created over three races but a much longer stretch. Keselowski’s run the last three weeks has been monumental but until he finds the speed to match the Big 3, he’s not there yet.

Daniel McFadin: Absolutely. With his win he joins Kyle Busch and Kevin Harvick as the first trio of drivers to win three consecutive races in a season in NASCAR’s modern history. When you do that, you’re definitely the latest member of the “Big 4.”

Dan Beaver: Almost. Another top-five finish this week will push me over the edge, but it’s still hard to say that this is not just an incredibly successful wave of momentum. He hasn’t been particularly strong on short tracks this year with no top fives in four starts, so Richmond will be a big test.

The average number of cautions in the last five Richmond Cup races is 9.2. Are you taking the over or under on the number of cautions in Saturday night’s Cup race?

Nate Ryan: Under. I think the night races tend to be tamer at Richmond because the track has more grip. 

Dustin Long: Under. After the chaos of Las Vegas, things will calm down even with the Roval on the horizon.

Daniel McFadin: I’ll take the over. Why? Because drivers will be desperate to be anywhere near the front with the Roval on the horizon next weekend. Desperation will lead to chaos.

Dan Beaver: Seven of the 16 playoff contenders finished outside the top 20 last week and they are going to have a little extra desperation at Richmond. On a short track, that is a recipe for disaster. I’m taking the over.

What chances do you give Ross Chastain of winning two Xfinity races in a row in the No. 42 car Friday night at Richmond?

Nate Ryan: The competition will be virtually the same as at Las Vegas, so 50-50 seems about right. 

Dustin Long: Kyle Larson won the latest Xfinity short-track race in the No. 42 car at Bristol but the Joe Gibbs Racing cars have often been the class of the field at such tracks this season. Would give the JGR cars a little better chance than the No. 42 car this weekend.

Daniel McFadin: After his eye-opening performance in his first two starts at two different tracks, I’d say there’s a 85 percent chance he schools everyone like the four-year veteran he is.

Dan Beaver: Back-to-back wins are always tricky, but Chastain showed enough strength at Darlington and Las Vegas to make me believe he can win again.

Points after the Cup race at Las Vegas

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Brad Keselowski kept the momentum alive that he generated with wins at Darlington and Indy by winning the South Point 400 at Las Vegas. The win locks Keselowski into Round 2 of the playoffs. It also gives Roger Penske his 500th win for the organization.

Martin Truex Jr. made a statement about how this team will not give up by winning Stage 1. He finished third.

Kyle Busch spun by himself on Lap 232 and drove into the infield grass. He stayed on the lead lap and finished seventh.

Kevin Harvick  cut a tire near the end of Stage 2 and made heavy contact with the wall. He finished 39th.

Joey Logano spun his tires on two late race restarts. He fell two spots at the end and finished fourth.

Kurt Busch sustained damage when Alex Bowman hit him on a late-race pit stop. Back in traffic, he crashed with two laps remaining in regulation. Busch finished 21st.

Ryan Blaney got pinched into the wall during Stage 1 but did minimal damage before finishing fifth.

Kyle Larson had a flat near the end of Stage 1 and had to take a wave around at the beginning of Stage 2 to remain in contention. He finished second.

Other than slight contact with Blaney early in the race, Aric Almirola kept his nose clean and finished sixth.

Austin Dillon had to drop the back of the pack to start the race after making unapproved adjustments. He rebounded to finish 11th.

Clint Bowyer slapped the wall with 10 to go. He got caught in an accident with two laps remaining in regulation after David Ragan and Michael McDowell crashed. Bowyer finished 23rd.

Alex Bowman cut a left front with 10 to go after getting into the side of Kurt Busch. He finished 19th.

Bottom Four

Jimmie Johnson was running in the top 10 until he hit the wall hard with 10 to go and was forced to pit. Johnson finished 22nd.

Chase Elliott had nowhere to go when Jamie McMurray cut a tire and hit the wall. He crashed and failed to finish, credited with 36th.

Erik Jones won the pole and was running among the top 10 when he was collected in Harvick’s accident near the end of Stage 2. Jones finished last (40th).

Denny Hamlin spun into the infield on Lap 245 and ripped the front splitter off. He finished 32nd, “trying to get more than the car is capable of,” Hamlin told NBCSN.

Click here for complete results

Brad Keselowski wins in overtime in Las Vegas

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Brad Keselowski won Sunday’s Cup race at Las Vegas Motor Speedway in overtime, outrunning Kyle Larson and Martin Truex Jr. to earn his third victory in a row.

The top five was completed by Joey Logano and Ryan Blaney.

The win in the Cup playoff opener is Team Penske’s 500th in motorsports. With Logano and Blaney, it is the first time Penske has had three cars finish in the top five in Cup.

“500 wins today, huge day for the Captain (Roger Penske),” Keselowski told NBCSN. “I did it, boss! To start off the playoffs with a win, that’s really strong. … It’s really a testament to this team here. They’ve been so strong on pit road and I couldn’t have done it without them. We weren’t as fast as the 78 car (Truex), but we nailed the pit stops and restarts when it counted.”

Keselowski had never won three consecutive races before Sunday.

The overtime finish was set up by a wreck involving Kurt Busch, Michael McDowell and David Ragan coming to two laps to go in the scheduled distance. The incident resulted in a red flag before the race resumed.

That wreck caused the 12th and final caution of the race. More than half of the 16-driver playoff field ran into problems throughout the race.

Keselowski led 75 of 272 laps on his way to the win, which is the 27th of his career. The victory follows wins in the Southern 500 and Brickyard 400.

Keselowski also snaps a 13-race win streak by the “Big 3” of Truex, Kyle Busch and Kevin Harvick on 1.5-mile tracks.

STAGE 1 WINNER: Martin Truex Jr.

STAGE 2 WINNER: Brad Keselowski

MORE: race results

MORE: Point standings

WHO HAD A GOOD RACE: No. 1 seed Kyle Busch managed to finish seventh after he spun with 35 laps to go and slid through the front stretch grass … Kyle Larson bounced back from a flat tire in the first stage to earn his sixth runner-up finish of the year … Ryan Blaney earned his first top five in four races … Regan Smith led 10 laps (his most in a season since 2011) and finished 12th, giving Leavine Family Racing its best finish since Kasey Kahne placed fourth in the July Daytona race.

WHO HAD A BAD RACE: Kevin Harvick and Erik Jones wrecked out on Lap 148 after Harvick lost his right-front tire and hit the wall. Harvick placed 39th and Jones finished last … Jamie McMurray wrecked with 55 laps to go and collected Chase Elliott. McMurray finished 35th and Elliott placed 36th.  … Denny Hamlin wrecked out of Turn 4 with 21 laps to go. He placed 32nd.

NOTABLE: Brad Keselowski is the third driver to earn three consecutive wins this season (Kevin Harvick, Kyle Busch). First time in NASCAR’s modern era that three drivers have achieved that feat in a season … Every driver who finished fifth through 18th finished better than their average running position.

QUOTE OF THE DAY: “Brad clearly found a horseshoe. Three races in a row he’s won and he has not had the best car..” – Martin Truex Jr.

WHAT’S NEXT: Federated Auto Parts 400 at Richmond Raceway at 7:30 p.m. ET on Sept. 22 on NBCSN.

Check back for more.

Las Vegas leaves many title contenders in major trouble

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LAS VEGAS — The debut of Las Vegas Motor Speedway as the Cup Series playoff opener came up snake eyes for several championship hopefuls Sunday.

More than half of the 16-driver playoff field were involved in incidents Sunday during the South Point 400 with Kevin Harvick (39th), Erik Jones (40th), Chase Elliott (36th) and Denny Hamlin (32nd) all finishing outside the top 30.

Finishing outside the top 20 were: Kurt Busch (21st), Jimmie Johnson (22nd) and Clint Bowyer (23rd), all of whom slapped the wall in the final 20 laps.

Kyle Busch (seventh) and Alex Bowman (19th) also hit the wall during the closing laps of the race, which was extended five laps beyond its scheduled 267-lap distance into overtime because of several late cautions.

Kyle Larson (second) also rebounded from an early tire problem that left him a lap down early in the race.

There are two races remaining — Richmond and the Charlotte Motor Speedway road course — before the first round ends, and the bottom four contenders are eliminated.

Those slots are occupied now by Johnson, Elliott, Jones and Hamlin, who brought out the caution when he spun off Turn 4 and through the grass on Lap 247.

“Trying to get more than the car was capable of,” said Hamlin, who is ranked last in the standings and 20 points behind Alex Bowman in the 12th-place transfer spot. “We should have just finished 15th or 10th or wherever we were at the time, but trying to get more and the car won’t handle it. No grip and just a bad day overall.”

Harvick and Jones were involved in the first major incident on Lap 148. Harvick’s No. 4 Ford suffered a right-front tire problem and slammed into the outside SAFER barrier, collecting Jones’ No. 20 Toyota.

“Well, there was something wrong from the time we put the tires on,” said Harvick, who fell to fourth in the points standings but still is 38 points above the cutoff with two races remaining in the first round. “It was like Russian roulette every time you put these piece of crap tires on and try to drive around the racetrack.”

Jones fell to 15th in the points standings and 21 points behind the current transfer spot entering Saturday’s race at Richmond Raceway.

“Not the situation we needed to be in,” he said. “We didn’t have any bonus points, and we’ve got some work to do now. I don’t think we have to win, but we definitely need to run really well here at Richmond and the Roval (regular-season finale), so we’ll keep at it, but it’s just unfortunate that had to happen.”

Elliott was caught in a crash with just more than 50 laps to go when Jamie McMurray had a tire go flat and slammed the outside barrier with his No. 1 Chevrolet.

Elliott’s No. 9 Chevy nearly missed the crash but had significant contact with the left side of McMurray’s car. Though he complained of shoulder pain immediately after the wreck, Elliott later told NBCSN’s Marty Snider that he was fine.

“I guess it just got caught in the wheel,” said the Hendrick Motorsports driver who fell to 14th in the standings, nine points behind teammate Bowman. “But it popped really big, and then I kind of got stopped and got to messing with it, and it popped really big again. So, all good now and we’ll try to rebound next week.

“We had a really good car today and yeah, almost, just barely clipped (McMurray).  I just hate it. So many guys fell out today. I feel like half the top 16 has crashed.”

For the playoff drivers who swept the top seven spots, it was a little dizzying to keep track of the dizzying turns of events from inside the cockpit.

“You see the big screen (in the field),” third-place finisher Martin Truex Jr. said. “You see (Harvick) parked on the backstretch. I saw (Jones) in that wreck with him. They told me (Hamlin) spun. I saw (Elliott) against the wall, parked. It was like, ‘Man that’s not a good way to start.’

“We were happy to be up front in a somewhat safe spot all day.”

Jamie McMurray, Chase Elliott crash out of Las Vegas

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After making contact with the wall, Jamie McMurray lost a right rear tire on Lap 213 of the South Point 400 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway and hit the wall.

Chase Elliott was committed to the high line and piled into the back of McMurray’s car – in much the same fashion as the Kevin Harvick / Erik Jones accident. Both cars sustained enough damage to keep them from finishing the race.

McMurray made contact with the wall while battling for fifth-place with Ryan Blaney.

“There was no smoke inside the car and the spotter said that he couldn’t see any smoke,” McMurray said after the incident on NBCSN. “Typically it will run a while, but I’m assuming the right rear tire must have rubbed a hole in it.”

Elliott will be the third playoff contender to fall out of the first playoff race. He entered the seeded eighth among the 16 playoff drivers.

Elliott complained of pain in his left shoulder as he exited the car.

“I guess it just go caught in the wheel,” Elliott said. “It popped really big and then I got stopped and got messing with it and it popped really big again. All good now and we’ll try to rebound next week.”