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Bump & Run: Is Kyle Larson’s Southern 500 run a sign of progress?

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What do you make of Kyle Larson not winning the Southern 500 after dominating the race? A sign of progress based on the speed the car had or a sign that the team can’t find a way to win in a season where Larson no wins, five runner-up finishes and two third-place results?
Nate Ryan: It was more indicative of the importance of lane choice on restarts at Darlington Raceway than anything else. If the pit crew is able to dispatch the No. 42 Chevrolet about a tenth of a second earlier, Larson restarts on the inside and likely wins the Southern 500. It still was a highly encouraging week for Larson, whose team regained the speed that had been missing the past two months by installing some last-minute components on the car from a test at Richmond Raceway
Dustin Long: I look at how encouraged Kyle Larson was moments after climbing from his car after the race. Instead of being dejected with a win going away, he talked on pit road about how that car was the best he’s had in more than a year.
Daniel McFadin: It showed that no matter how good a car Larson has, if you take away the high lane from him at a track like Darlington he becomes mortal. That was a result of a marginally slower pit stop than Brad Keselowski‘s team. The No. 42 team has lacked the killer instinct it had in closing out races last year.
Dan Beaver: Finishing second or third has to be getting a little tiresome overall, but this week might be a different. Larson has finished in the top three seven times in 2018, but this is the first time he has backed up one top five with another so he should be encouraged.
What did Ross Chastain’s performance this past weekend driving for Chip Ganassi Racing in the Xfinity event at Darlington show you?
Nate Ryan: He is worthy of consideration for a top-tier Xfinity Series ride.
Dustin Long: It showed he belongs in the conversation for some open rides in the series this season.
Daniel McFadin: It solidified Chastain as a wheelman, something he’s shown in over-performing with JD Motorsports. But it also exemplified the stark difference in equipment between the frontrunners in Xfinity and the teams running just outside the top 12. It’s night and day.
Dan Beaver: The equation of car versus driver skews slightly toward car. Before Chastain, everyone who has driven the No. 42 this year has scored at least a top 10. All but Justin Marks has a top five.
The only way the 16-driver Cup playoff lineup changes this weekend at Indianapolis is if a driver outside that group wins. Of those needing to win to make the playoffs, who would you give the best chance of doing so?
Nate Ryan: Ryan Newman. The Indiana native is a past winner of the Brickyard, and Richard Childress Racing seems to have its Chevrolets trending in the right direction. How delightfully apropos would it be if Newman, who finished runner-up in the 2014 playoffs despite going winless, were to upset the most points-dependent playoff grid in history?
Dustin Long: Ryan Newman has had better performances lately and crew chief Luke Lambert is good at strategy. That’s the type of combination it will take for such a win this weekend.
Daniel McFadin: Daniel Suarez if he can use what he learned at Pocono in a near-winning performance. But the No. 19 team does not have momentum entering Indy. They’ve placed 11th or worse in the last three races.
Dan Beaver: Quite frankly, it’s impossible to predict. Anyone currently outside playoff contention who can win will do so with race strategy. If it comes down to a driver who suddenly finds a burst of speed, Daniel Suarez or William Byron are most likely because of the strength of their organizations at Indy.

NASCAR America Scan All: ‘It’s fixing to get wild’

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The Johnsonville 180 at Road America got off to a bumpy start with Justin Marks wondering early in the race if the No. 11 of Ryan Truex had a spotter after contact from Truex’s car sent him spinning.

He did, and later in the race, his spotter would provide some important information to his driver when Truex got turned by Brandon Jones.

“That was the 19 when you get to him,” Truex’s spotter said.

“You be ready if anything goes down,” Jones said to his spotter.

“Copy that. We got your back, brother,” Jones’ spotter replied.

Here are some other highlights”

  • “Don’t let them drive it in on you,” Chase Elliott, spotting for Bill Elliott
  • “You need to get in here,” Bill Elliott replied
  • “Can’t hardly see; you’ll have to help me get to pit road. Everything seems to be ok – all the stuff in here – just got the hood bowed up on it.” Bill Elliott
  • “Just wanted to get some dirt racing in,” Christopher Bell, after an off-track excursion
  • “Your gonna have a little shootout; it’s fixing to get wild,” Daniel Hemric’s spotter.
  • “You have no idea how much of an honor it is to drive this stuff, so thank you for that,” Justin Allgaier

For more, watch the video above.

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Justin Allgaier wins Xfinity race at Road America; Bill Elliott places 20th

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Justin Allgaier won the Johnsonville 180 at Road America, continuing a career year with his fourth victory.

Allgaier led 14 laps and the final seven under green after passing James Davison on a restart in Turn 8.

The top five was completed by Matt Tifft, Daniel Hemric, Cole Custer and Elliott Sadler.

James Davison and Justin Marks were competing for second with three laps to go when they made contact and spun in Turn 8.

“The restart there, he kind of left before I did and the 2 (Matt Tifft) gave me a shot … he thought (Davison) was going. I spun the tires really bad after I got hit. I thought I gave it away and when he made the mistake down in (Turn) 8 I just knew I had to be smooth and fast.”

Allgaier has won two of the season’s first three road course races after winning at Mid-Ohio. He placed third at Watkins Glen.

Allgaier came back to win after he and Christopher Bell knocked each other off track on Lap 27.

The race also featured Hall of Famer Bill Elliott, who finished 20th despite being involved in two incidents.

“I feel like I hit everything but the lottery,” Elliott told NBCSN. “It was a great day. … It was a heck of a lot of fun. I just felt like I needed more through (Turns) 9 and 10, the carousel, to carry any speed through there. I feel like I just gave up too much in like (Turn) 3. I was not too bad in (Turns) 5, 6, 7, 8. But it seemed like the carousel, I got a little bit free down into (Turn) 11. But all in all I enjoyed it, I had a good time.”

Elliott said “I doubt it” when asked if he’d race again.

“This was a lot of fun, a good time,” Elliott said. “I felt like I held my own pretty good for where I’m at in my career and what I was trying to do.”

STAGE 1 WINNER: Matt Tifft

STAGE 2 WINNER: Daniel Hemric

MORE: Race results, point standings

WHO HAD A GOOD RACE: Matt Tifft earned his career-best finish in his 67th start … Ross Chastain finished seventh for his second-best result of the season. He earned his sixth top-10 finish of 2018, his most ever in a single season. … Elliott Sadler earned his first top five since the July race at Daytona … Katherine Legge placed 14th in her second NASCAR start, bouncing back from a spin on Lap 24.

WHO HAD A BAD RACE: Ryan Reed was eliminated after he wrecked on a Lap 7 restart in Turn 2 … Austin Cindric was eliminated when his engine expired on Lap 15, right as Daniel Hemric passed him for the lead … Tyler Reddick finished 34th after a fluid leak forced him to retire … Josh Bilicki wrecked out with eight laps to go, plowing into a tire barrier in the Canada Corner.

NOTABLE: Cole Custer, Elliott Sadler and Daniel Hemric locked themselves into the playoffs on points … Conor Daly finished 31st in his series debut due to mechanical issues.

POST-RACE INSPECTION: Cole Custer had one unsecured lug nut.

WHAT’S NEXT: VFW Sport Clips Help A Hero 200 at Darlington Raceway at 3:30 p.m. ET on Sept. 1 on NBC

 

Matt Tifft wins Xfinity pole at Road America; Bill Elliott qualifies 23rd

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Matt Tifft will start first in today’s Xfinity Series race at Road America (3 p.m. ET on NBCSN) after winning his second career pole.

Tifft earned the pole with a speed of 109.307 mph around the road course. His previous pole was in 2016 at Talladega.

“It felt really good,” Tifft told NBCSN. “This is kind of cool, back-to-back poles, got it in the Trans-Am race and got this. Just a great job all weekend so far … Had a really good run here last year in both the Xfinity and ARCA races. We’ve been close here so many times and this piece has just been great all weekend.”

Cole Custer will start second (109.294 mph).

The top five is completed by Joe Gibbs Racing’s James Davison, Chip Ganassi Racing’s Justin Marks and Christopher Bell.

Justin Allgaier will start 11th after he went off track during his run in the final round. His No. 7 Chevrolet was undamaged.

Daniel Hemric did not make a lap in the final round and will start 12th.

Hall of Famer Bill Elliott will start 23rd in GMS Racing’s No. 23 Chevrolet.

Conor Daly will start 15th in his NASCAR debut.

Click here for the results.

Xfinity practice report at Road America

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FINAL PRACTICE

Justin Marks posted the fastest lap in final practice for the Johnsonville 180 at Road America with a speed of 109.603 mph.

He beat James Davison (109.179 mph) by more than half a second (.517).

Austin Cindric (109.147), Justin Allgaier (109.070) and Matt Tifft (108.884) rounded out the top five.

Making his return to NASCAR, Hall of Famer Bill Elliott (105.791) posted the 26th fastest time.

Last year’s winner, Jeremy Clements had a left front tire go flat in turn five 20 minutes into final practice and brought out a red flag.

Kaz Grala and Brian Henderson had off-course excursions in Canada Corner.

After driving off course in the rain in practice one, Tyler Reddick spun with Katherine Legge in Turn 5 with 50 minutes remaining in the session. Both drivers returned to the pits under their own power. Reddick had damage on the right front; Legge had damage on the left rear.

Legge (106.524) ended the session 23rd on the chart.

Click here for complete results

FIRST PRACTICE

Wet conditions kept most of the competitors off track in the first practice session.

Rookies Reddick and Conor Daly were the only two drivers to take to the track.

Reddick made several laps practicing his entry onto pit road. Only one circuit was completed at speed (152.280).

Midway through the session, Reddick had an off-course excursion.

“Got a little wheel hop in the brakes and as soon as I tried to go down into the next gear, it went into neutral and didn’t catch third,” Reddick said on the NBCSN Sports App. “At that point, just hoping that when I hit the sand pit it wouldn’t do too bad a damage, but unfortunately it tore the splitter up pretty bad. “