Jeremy Clements

Friday 5: Thin line between aggressive and dirty driving

Leave a comment

Ryan Blaney’s message to competitors in Saturday night’s Cup playoff race is simple.

I caution those in front of me that I am not going to be behind them for very long if we are faster than them,” he said.

Ditto for Matt DiBenedetto.

“You’re not going to do anything stupid,” he said, “but you can’t sit and wait behind them.”

Those two drivers face the biggest challenges to advance to the second round of the playoffs. DiBenedetto is 25 points behind Clint Bowyer, who holds the final transfer position entering Saturday’s race at Bristol (7:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN). Blaney trails Bowyer by 27 points.

No driver so far back entering an elimination race has made it to the next round since the playoff format debuted in 2014.

“I would love to say it is another race weekend, but it is our season, pretty much,” Blaney said Saturday’s race.

It will take a mix of aggression and patience during the 500-lap playoff race by Blaney and DiBenedetto to advance.

The line between aggressive and dirty driving can be blurry. Not every driver will see it the same way. With the need to move through the field and score as many points as possible — or win stages and the race — Blaney and DiBenedetto will have less patience, but where is the line?

DiBenedetto goes back to the All-Star Open in July. He restarted deep in the field after pitting in the first stage when not all the cars did. He worked his way through the field to win the final stage to advance to the All-Star Race.

“Some of the moves that I made in the Open race were aggressive to get through the field,” DiBenedetto said. “Everything’s on the line and you’re trying to make the All-Star Race and it’s a very short race. 

“Some of the moves that I made in the Open race, if it were a regular points race and we’re at the beginning of the race or something, some of those moves probably at that time were just considered aggressive because everyone knows what we’re doing and what’s at stake. In other situations, they could have been dirty because I moved some people out of the way. That’s a little bit of a moving target, so it’s hard to answer that question. 

“I would say for this weekend that everyone usually knows what’s on the line for different people.”

2. Out of sight but not out of mind

Crew chief Johnny Klausmeier knew that he faced a one-race suspension late in the Southern 500 when it was evident that Clint Bowyer’s car had two lug nuts not tight.

From my vantage point on the pit box, I kind of watched the tire changers, and I saw that it didn’t look like he was hitting all the lug nuts,” Klausmeier said. “He was swinging for them, but not making contact and then the car left. I kind of knew that we would have some kind of issue there, so we kind of went back and looked at the video and made sure that it wasn’t going to be a safety thing.”

Johnny Klausmeier and driver Clint Bowyer enter Bristol holding the last transfer spot to the second round. (Photo by Drew Hallowell/NASCAR via Getty Images)

The team didn’t see a safety issue so Bowyer stayed on track, finishing 10th. Had Klausmeier called his driver back to pit road to secure the lug nuts, Bowyer likely would have lost at least 10 points. Instead of holding on to the final transfer spot entering Saturday night’s race at Bristol Motor Speedway, Bowyer would have been outside the cutline.

Saving those points, though, meant that Klausmeier would miss last weekend’s race at Richmond because of the suspension.

What was it like not to be at the track and still call the race?

“I didn’t feel like it was more efficient than actually being there,” Klausmeier said. “There is a delay in the audio. There is a delay in the broadcast. There is a delay in the information transfer.

“Then just being there and when the tires come off the race car on a pit stop, being able to walk down behind the pit box and visually look at the tires and see what the wear looks like. (Also) coming up and calculating changes and things that you’re going to do based on what you see and feel looking at the racetrack and getting that information real time. 

“I do not think the role of a crew chief can be done virtually. I think you have to be there. You have to be immersed in it. You can’t just go down and get the pit crew guys rallied up. You can’t see what’s going on with the car, so you miss out on those things and there is a little bit of a delay in the communications, so it’s not ideal but we managed to do it.”

3. Pit road speeding

Pit road speeding penalties could play a key role in Saturday’s Cup race.

Twenty-one speeding penalties were called in the May Cup race there. Each of the last three Cup races at Bristol has had at least 11 speeding penalties.

Brad Keselowski overcame a pit road speeding penalty to win the May race — but he was helped by leader Denny Hamlin hitting the wall and then Chase Elliott and Joey Logano later making contact racing for the lead in the final laps.

Matt DiBenedetto was caught speeding on pit road after Stage 1. He finished the stage seventh and restarted 28th because of the penalty. DiBenedetto was 22nd when he was collected in a nine-car crash, ruining his race. He finished more than 40 laps behind the leaders.

Joey Logano and Kyle Busch also were penalized for speeding on pit road in the May race. Austin Dillon was penalized twice in May. Both times came after he was involved in a crash on Lap 330.

4. Almost there

Brandon Brown is set to clinch the final spot in the Xfinity Series playoffs Friday night at Bristol. He enters with a 49-point lead on Jeremy Clements for the final transfer spot. Brown will clinch a playoff spot provided there is not a new winner outside the top 12 in points.

Brandon Brown is in position to make the Xfinity Series playoffs on Friday night for the first time. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

Brown’s family-run team has eight employees. He spends part of his time at the shop helping with the vehicles. Brown also is focused on trying to find sponsorship for this season and next year.

He has been to a simulator only once this season, going before the Daytona road course race. When he wants to get some sim time, he starts his iRacing rig. And his physical training? It’s limited to running. The gym he uses in his apartment complex is closed because of COVID-19.

So with all that around him, he’s about to clinch a playoff spot.

Brown also knows some view him as being aggressive on the track. He doesn’t hide from such viewpoints.

Getting down to the playoffs and having an opportunity like this, it’s not something that comes around for everyone,” Brown said. “So for me, it pushes me that much harder to want to make that happen.

“It’s hard to back yourself down to ‘I need to run smarter to make sure we’re bringing the car home all four corners on it.’ At the same time, I want to get everything out I can out of the car and push to get the best result possible because this is our run, our chance at the playoffs.

“Taking a little bit extra risk, to me, it’s worth it, to really put my name out and to really make something happen this year. The risk is worth the reward to me, but I’m sure that others would view it differently.”

5. Odds and ends

# Matt DiBenedetto said his contract with the Wood Brothers is through this year with options for 2021, ’22 and ’23. He said the deadline for the team to pick up the option for next season is the end of this month.

I guess I should know pretty soon,” he said. “I wish I knew now because I don’t want to go anywhere and it would put me in a pretty bad situation if something were to change, but I don’t expect any changes.”

# The Joey Logano Foundation will donate $22,000 each week of the playoffs to organizations that support children and young adults in crisis. The organizations selected help those that are homeless, within the foster care system or aging out of the foster care system.

Those organizations include Children’s Hope Alliance, The Relatives, Youth Villages, Least of These and Crossnore School & Children’s Home.

# Martin Truex Jr. has won four of the last seven races at short tracks.

# Kyle Busch has one victory in his last 50 Cup races.

# Kevin Harvick has scored 46% of his Cup wins after turning age 40.

 and on Facebook

Friday Bristol Xfinity race: Start time, TV channel

Leave a comment

The Xfinity Series wraps up its regular season Friday night with a race at Bristol Motor Speedway.

Only one spot in the 12-driver playoff field remains to be set. Brandon Brown holds the spot with a 49-point advantage over Jeremy Clements.

Justin Allgaier, who swept the doubleheader at Richmond, will start from the pole.

Here is all the info for the Friday Bristol Xfinity race:

(All times are Eastern)

START: The command to start engines will be given at 6:53 p.m. The green flag is scheduled to wave at 7 p.m.

PRERACE: Garage access health screening begins at 12:30 p.m. Drivers report to their cars at 6:25 p.m. The invocation will be given at 6:45 p.m. by Mike Rife of Vansant Church of Christ. The national anthem will be performed at 6:46 p.m.

DISTANCE: The race is 300 laps (159.9 miles) around the .533-mile track.

STAGES: Stage 1 ends on Lap 85. Stage 2 ends on Lap 170.

COMPETITION CAUTION: Lap 40

TO THE REAR: Bayley Currey (unapproved adjustments)

TV/RADIO: Coverage begins on NBCSN with Countdown to Green at 6:30 p.m. Race broadcast begins at 7 p.m. Performance Racing Network’s radio coverage will begin at 6:30 p.m.. and also can be heard at goprn.com. SiriusXM NASCAR Radio will carry the broadcast.

STREAMING: Watch the race on the NBC Sports App. Click here for the link.

FORECAST: The wunderground.com forecast calls for cloudy skies with a high of 64 degrees and a 4% chance of rain at the start of the race.

LAST RACE: Justin Allgaier beat Jeb Burton and Ross Chastain at Richmond

LAST RACE AT BRISTOL: Noah Gragson won over Chase Briscoe and Brandon Jones in June.

STARTING LINEUP: Click here for lineup

Xfinity standings after Richmond

Leave a comment

One more race, one more playoff spot.

The Xfinity Series will hold its regular-season finale Friday at Bristol Motor Speedway (7:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN) and solidify its 12 driver playoff field.

More: Cup standings after Richmond

Following the doubleheader at Richmond Raceway, Brandon Brown holds the final playoff spot. After finishing 18th and 11th in Richmond, Brown has a 49-point advantage over Jeremy Clements.

Here is a look at the Xfinity standings after Richmond. Drivers shaded in green are locked in the playoffs. Drivers shaded in yellow are in a playoff spot based on their point total. Those shaded in red are outside a playoff spot.

Xfinity standings after Richmond

NASCAR entry lists for Bristol weekend

Leave a comment

NASCAR teams head to Bristol Motor Speedway this weekend. The Truck, Xfinity and Cup series each race at night, beginning with Thursday’s event for the Truck Series. The Xfinity Series races Friday night. The Cup Series races Saturday night.

Here are the preliminary entry lists for Bristol:

Cup – Bass Pro Shops NRA Night Race (7:30 p.m. ET Saturday on NBCSN)

Forty cars are entered for the cutoff race in the opening round of the Cup playoffs. Clint Bowyer holds the final transfer spot by three points on William Byron. Brad Keselowski won at Bristol earlier this year.

Click here for Cup entry list

 

Xfinity – Food City 300 (7 p.m. ET Friday on NBCSN)

Thirty-six cars are entered for the regular-season finale. Eleven of the 12 playoff spots have been clinched. Brandon Brown holds the final playoff spot. He has a 49-point advantage on Jeremy Clements. Noah Gragson won at Bristol earlier this season.

Click here for Xfinity entry list

 

Trucks – UNOH 200 presented by Ohio Logistics (7:30 p.m. ET Thursday on FS1)

Thirty-eight trucks are entered for the opening playoff race for the series. Austin Hill won the regular season championship.

Click here for Truck entry list

Results, point standings after Saturday Xfinity race

Leave a comment

Justin Allgaier beat teammate Jeb Burton to win Saturday’s Xfinity Series race at Richmond.

It is Allgaier’s third win of the season and it completed Allgaier’s sweep of the doubleheader weekend.

The top five was completed by Ross Chastain, Harrison Burton and Noah Gragson.

Point standings

Ryan Sieg and Riley Herbst clinched playoff spots Saturday, leaving just one spot left to fill in the 12-driver field.

Brandon Brown hold the final spot. He has a 49-point advantage over Jeremy Clements heading into the regular season-finale at Bristol.

Click here for the point standings.