Stage 1

Kyle Larson wins Stage 1 of Can-Am 500 at Phoenix Raceway

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Kyle Larson led the final eight laps to win Stage 1 of the Cup playoff race at Phoenix Raceway.

Larson took the lead with a pass of playoff driver Denny Hamlin, who led 40 of the stage’s 75 laps. The Can-Am 500 is the final elimination race of the playoffs.

Hamlin is one of five drivers trying to secure the last open spot in next week’s championship race. He entered the race 19 points behind Brad Keselowski, who is fourth in the standings.

Larson led Hamlin, Chase Elliott, Matt Kenseth, Kevin Harvick, Kyle Busch, Erik Jones, Martin Truex Jr., Ryan Newman and Jimmie Johnson.

Pole-sitter and playoff driver Ryan Blaney led the first 10 laps before losing the lead to Elliott. Blaney finished the stage in 13th.

Keselowski was the lowest finishing playoff driver, placing 17th.

There were no cautions in the stage.

Stage 2 will end on Lap 150.

Brad Keselowski wins Stage 1 at Martinsville Speedway

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Brad Keselowski led 47 laps on his way to winning Stage 1 of Sunday’s First Data 500 NASCAR Cup Series playoff race at Martinsville Speedway.

Keselowski, the defending winner at the short track, led Kyle Busch, Joey Logano, Jimmie Johnson, Martin Truex Jr., Chase Elliott, Ryan Blaney, Kasey Kahne, Austin Dillon and Denny Hamlin.

The Team Penske drivers of Keselowski and Joey Logano combined to lead 106 laps in the first 130-lap stage. Logano led 59 laps from the pole.

Johnson, Dillon, and Kahne finished in the top 10 due to pitting out of sequence during one of the stage’s three cautions. Keselowski passed Johnson for the lead on Lap 113. Johnson, who had to start from the rear along with Dillon for unapproved changes, led 24 laps.

It is just the second time Johnson has led since the July race at Daytona. He led five laps at Dover.

The first caution came out on Lap 36 for an accident involving Michael McDowell, Ty Dillon and Ricky Stenhouse Jr as they exited Turn 2. The accident replaced the competition caution that was scheduled for Lap 45.

The second caution came on Lap 62 when David Ragan was spun from contact with McDowell in Turn 4.

The yellow flag waved for the third time on Lap 87 when AJ Allmendinger spun from contact with Danica Patrick in Turn 2. The No. 47 Chevrolet was ruled out of the race for not fixing the car in under five minutes.

Brad Keselowski wins Stage 1 of Alabama 500 at Talladega

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Brad Keselowski won Stage 1 of the Alabama 500 at Talladega Superspeedway in a one-lap sprint following a late caution.

Keselowski edged out his Team Penske teammate Joey Logano to lead his only lap in the stage. The shootout was caused by a caution when Paul Menard hit the wall with five laps left in the stage.

The top 10 through 55 laps is Keselowski, Logano, Ryan Blaney, Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Jimmie Johnson, Clint Bowyer, Michael McDowell, Kurt Busch, Trevor Bayne and Kasey Kahne.

Logano led 37 laps.

There were two cautions for accidents in the stage.

The first caution came out on Lap 26 as a number of Chevrolet cars attempted to pit in a group. Jamie McMurray, a playoff driver, was slowing down to move to the apron when he was hit from behind by Erik Jones. The impact sent McMurray shooting to the outside wall where he collided with Jeffrey Earnhardt.

The impact with Earnhardt caused McMurray’s No. 1 Chevrolet to become briefly airborne. McMurray,  Earnhardt and Jones were eliminated. Kyle Busch was also involved. McMurray will finish in 37th.

“We wanted to pit a couple of laps earlier, and you’re somewhat dependent on the spotters to tell you when you’re going to pit,” McMurray told NBC. “You assume everyone is working as a group. It was my fault. I assumed that they said the 18 was going to let me in, so I thought we were all going to pit. I didn’t even know where the 77 was. When I got on the brakes, I thought we were all coming to pit road as a group. I’ll take the blame for that. I just kind of assumed we were coming to pit road right there. Obviously not everyone was.”

Mark Thompson was also involved and eliminated from the race.

Six drivers, including pole-sitter Dale Earnhardt Jr., Chase Elliott, Kyle Larson, Paul Menard, Austin Dillon and Michael McDowell, were penalized for pitting too early.

Earnhardt, who led seven laps in the stage, was penalized again during the caution for Menard for speeding on pit road. He finished the stage in 27th.

The second incident was Menard hitting the wall with five laps left in the stage.

Stage 2 of the 188-lap race will end on Lap 110.

Kevin Harvick wins Stage 1 of Bank of America 500

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CONCORD, North Carolina — Kevin Harvick won Stage 1 of the Bank of America 500 at Charlotte Motor Speedway for his fourth stage win of the year.

Harvick led the final 39 laps of the stage after taking the lead from Chase Elliott on a restart.

The top 10 through 90 laps is Harvick, Chase Elliott, Jamie McMurray, Kyle Larson, Kyle Busch, pole-sitter Denny Hamlin, Matt Kenseth, Kurt Busch, Daniel Suarez and Jimmie Johnson.

Martin Truex Jr. finished 12th in the stage. It is the first time he has finished outside the top 10 in Stage 1 since the July race at Daytona.

The stage was slowed by two cautions. The first was a competition caution on Lap 35.

Kyle Larson missed his pit stall under caution and had to pit again. He restarted 31st before charging his way to the top five.

The second caution waved on Lap 44 for a crash involving Clint Bowyer and Ryan Newman. The crash was triggered when Bowyer bounced off the wall on the backstretch and into Newman, who was turned into the wall. Newman’s No. 31 Chevrolet briefly erupted in flames, but Newman was able to exit the car quickly unharmed.

“I know I got tight underneath him and washed up and checked up,” Newman told NBC. “I don’t know if he turned me on purpose. He had a right too. It was either my mistake or his mistake. We were both going to same piece of real estate.”

Harvick took the lead on the ensuing Lap 52 restart.

Hamlin led 40 laps and Elliott led 11.

The second stage of the race will end on Lap 180.


Kyle Busch dominates Stage 1 of Cup playoff opener at Chicagoland

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JOLIET, Illinois – Kyle Busch earned the first stage win of the NASCAR Cup playoffs Sunday, leading 78 of the 80 laps in the Tales of the Turtles 400 at Chicagoland Speedway.

It was Busch’s 12th stage win of the season.

Busch, who started from the pole, went for the jugular right from the green flag, jumping out to a 2-plus second lead in the first 15 laps.

As the race began, Brad Keselowski suffered damage to the right side fender skirt, where it was bent outward. He started fifth and fell to seventh and decided along with crew chief Paul Wolfe that he’d stay on-track until the first pit stop, at which time they’d fix the damage.

Ricky Stenhouse Jr. pitted on Lap 29, having suffered right side damage after scraping the wall on Lap 25.

Stenhouse was then assessed a commitment line violation for having two tires outside the edge of the commitment line, which dropped him to 40th (last) position and leaving him two laps behind. By the end of the stage, Stenhouse had climbed back to 30th, still two laps down.

On the first series of pit stops that began after Lap 40, Landon Cassill stayed out to take the lead for two laps before Kyle Busch cycled back through to regain the lead on Lap 47.

Two other drivers were penalized for being too fast on pit road: No. 1 playoff seed Martin Truex Jr. and Austin Dillon.

Busch continued to stretch his lead. By Lap 63, he had lapped 25 of the 40 cars in the field, leaving just 15 cars on the lead lap.

By the time Stage 1 ended, Busch led Kevin Harvick, Chase Elliott, Denny Hamlin, Joey Logano, Keselowski, Matt Kenseth, Kyle Larson, Daniel Suarez and Truex.

Also at the end of the stage, in addition to Busch, there were only 13 drivers on the lead lap.