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Today’s Cup race at Phoenix: Start time, lineup and more

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This is it: it’s all on the line for six of the eight remaining drivers in the NASCAR Cup playoffs.

Once the checkered flag falls on today’s Bluegreen Vacations 500, two of those six drivers will join Kevin Harvick and Martin Truex Jr. (both already locked in via their respective wins at Texas and Martinsville) as the four finalists who will compete for the 2019 NASCAR Cup championship next Sunday in Miami.

The other four drivers who come up short of finishing above the playoff cutline will see their championship hopes come to an end.

The six drivers still in contention are: Kyle Busch (22 points above the cutline), Joey Logano (+20), Denny Hamlin (-20 points below the cutline), Ryan Blaney (-23), Kyle Larson (-23) and Chase Elliott (-78).

Because he cannot point his way in, Elliott is the only driver in a must-win situation if he hopes to advance to Miami. Logano, meanwhile, is hoping to hold off the four drivers below him coming into today’s race so he can have a chance at earning a second consecutive Cup championship next Sunday.

Here is the information for today’s race:

(All times are Eastern)

START: The command to start engines will be given at 2:32 p.m. The green flag is scheduled to wave at 2:40 p.m.

PRERACE: The Cup garage opens at 10:30 a.m. The driver/crew chief meeting will be at 12:30 p.m. Driver introductions are at 1:50 p.m. The invocation will be given at 2:23 p.m. by Captai Adam Roe, Chaplain, Luke Air Force Base. The National Anthem will be performed at 2:26 p.m. by SSgt Brittany Timpson, Luke Air Force Base.

DISTANCE: The race is 312 laps (312 miles/500 kilometers) around the 1-mile oval.

STAGES: Stage 1 will end on Lap 75. Stage 2 will end on Lap 150.

TV/RADIO: NBC will televise the race. Coverage will begin with NASCAR America at 1:30 p.m. on NBC. Countdown to Green follows at 2 p.m. on NBC, leading into race coverage. The postrace show will be on NBCSN, followed by Victory Lap at 6:30 p.m. Motor Racing Network’s radio broadcast will begin at 1:30 p.m. and also can be heard on mrn.com. SiriusXM NASCAR Radio will carry MRN’s broadcast.

STREAMING ONLINE: Click here for NBC’s live stream of the race.

FORECAST: The wunderground.com forecast for Sunday’s Cup race calls for a temperature of 80 degrees and a 0% chance of rain when the green flag drops.

LAST TIME: Kyle Busch led 117 laps en route to the win in last fall’s playoff race. Busch came back to dominate this year’s spring race, leading 177 laps.

STARTING LINEUP: Click here

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Justin Allgaier wins, advances to Xfinity championship race

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All season long, Justin Allgaier wanted a win, needed a win – and finally he got the win he coveted in Saturday’s NASCAR Xfinity Series playoff race at ISM Raceway.

One season after winning a career-best five races, Allgaier and his No. 7 JR Motorsports team notched their first checkered flag of 2019 and it was huge, moving him into next week’s championship race at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

Allgaier led 85 laps and joins Christopher Bell, Cole Custer and Tyler Reddick in the title race.

“It’s just incredible, man,” Allgaier told NBC Sports. “To do what we’ve done all year, to have the speed that we’ve had but not been able to pull it off has been disappointing, but these guys have rallied behind it. We said when we came here that we needed a win to get to Homestead and we got it.

“Not only is it a chance for the championship but to get the momentum from a win. That’s special. The weight on your shoulder, you can’t even begin to describe it.”

Added Reddick, defending Xfinity Series champion: “When I heard we were one lap to the good (on fuel), we figured where we’re at, might as well just be smart. We could win a race or we could run out of gas and not go to Homestead. We didn’t lose sight of what’s important.”

Chase Briscoe, Michael Annett, Austin Cindric and Noah Gragson were eliminated from the playoffs.

“I don’t want this one race or whole round to define who we are,” Briscoe told NBC. “We proved especially the last half of the season we’re capable to being that fourth guy, just didn’t get it done.”

The top 10 finishers in Saturday’s win were Allgaier, Custer, Reddick, John Hunter Nemechek, Zane Smith, Cindric, Justin Haley, Briscoe, Annett and Gragson.

Click here for race results.

Click here for updated/reseeded standings.

Bell looked like he would seal a perfect weekend with a win. He was fastest in both of Friday’s practices and started Saturday’s race from the pole. He dominated the first two stages of Saturday’s race, leading all but one of the first 90 laps.

But Bell, who won this race last fall, was caught speeding on pit road at the end of Stage 2 and was sent to the back. While he started making progress, he spun after a tire went down on Lap 117 of the 200-lap race and finished 16th.

“I don’t think we could have beat the 20 today, but when he made that mistake, we capitalized on it and that’s what it’s all about,” Allgaier said of Bell.

Stage 1 winner: Christopher Bell (21st stage win of season)

Stage 2 winner: Christopher Bell (22nd stage win of season)

Who else had a good race: Give credit to John Hunter Nemechek and Zane Smith for their fourth- and fifth-place runs, respectively.

Who had a bad race: It’s a rarity that Bell has a bad run, but finishing 16th was definitely not the finish he wanted. But two things that were self-inflicted (speeding on pit road and a spin) sealed his bid to cap off what had been up to the end of Stage 2, a perfect weekend.

Notable: At 33, Allgaier has age and experience going for him heading to Miami. His other three rivals are all under 25: Bell is 24, Reddick 23 and Custer 21.

What’s next: The season-ending Xfinity Series championship race takes place next Saturday at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

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