Winners and losers

Winners and Losers after Bristol Cup race

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WINNERS

Brad KeselowskiWhen a driver is put in the right position, good things can happen. While it looked as if Keselowski would score a top-three finish, he emerged with the lead — and the win — after Chase Elliott and Joey Logano wrecked while racing for he lead in the final laps. Keselowski said: “Early on in the race everybody was hitting each other. It carried in all the way to the end. Some people ran me over. I probably ran some people over. Everybody is mad at everybody going into Atlanta next week.”

Clint BowyerHe scored a much-needed runner-up finish. Bowyer had not finished better than 16th in the four races since the series resumed.

Jimmie JohnsonFinished a season-best third Sunday at Bristol. Said Johnson: “Very strong performance for us. Really proud of the guys keeping our chins up through the last four weeks. We’ve had fast cars, really haven’t had the results to show for it.”

Bubba WallaceHis 10th-place finish was his first top 10 in a Cup race at a track less than 1 mile in length. He did it by overcoming two penalties on pit road for speeding.

LOSERS

Ryan BlaneyHe spun while running second and seemed as if he would emerge unscathed but Ty Dillon couldn’t avoid Blaney’s car and hit it, ending Blaney’s race. He finished last in the 40-car field.

Joey Logano and Chase Elliott — They were battling for the lead in the final laps but Elliott’s car made contact with Logano’s, ending their hopes of victory. Logano finished 21st. Elliott placed 22nd. Logano was upset with Elliott after the race, particularly that Elliott didn’t immediately apologize for the contact.

Alex BowmanWas collected in a multi-car crash that also ended the race for Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Tyler Reddick and Cole Custer. Bowman finished 37th, marking his second consecutive finish outside the top 30.

Winners and losers after Thursday’s Cup race at Charlotte

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WINNERS

Chase ElliottAfter losing the Coca-Cola 600 when he pitted from the lead before the overtime restart, Elliott scored the victory Thursday night at Charlotte. “I think we were hungry and wanted to get back and try again,” Elliott said after his seventh career Cup victory.

Denny Hamlin Crew chief serving the first race of a four-race suspension and Hamlin was starting 29th in a 310-mile race. No problem. He worked his way through the field, helped by his pit crew, and finished second.

Ryan Blaney He left Charlotte with a pair of third-place finishes in the two races. Many would take that.

Ricky Stenhouse Jr. Fourth-place finish is his second top-five result of the season in his first season at JTG Daugherty Racing.

LOSERS

Alex BowmanWon the second stage and had a fast car. Saw his night come undone when he hit the wall while running second. He had to pit for repairs and finished 31st.

Kyle BuschCut tire while racing in traffic sent him to the pits under green and he lost two laps. He never recovered, finishing 29th.

Winners and losers after Coca-Cola 600

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WINNERS

Brad KeselowskiLate caution sent the Coca-Cola 600 into overtime. When Chase Elliott pitted, Brad Keselowski assumed the top spot. Keselowski held off the field to score his first Coca-Cola 600 win. He said he considers five Cup races as crown jewels: Daytona 500, Coca-Cola 600, Southern 500, Brickyard 400 and the Bristol night race. He’s won them all but the Daytona 500.

Ryan Blaney His third-place finish was his best result since placing second in the Daytona 500.

Kyle Busch Overcame a speeding penalty to place fourth. It marked his fourth consecutive top-five finish in the Coca-Cola 600 after having only three such finishes in his first 13 starts in the race.

Kevin HarvickHe finished fifth, extending his streak of consecutive top-10 finishes to 12, dating back to last season.

Christopher Bell He scored his first career Cup top-10 finish, placing ninth.

LOSERS

Denny HamlinFaces the next four races without crew chief Chris Gabehart and potentially other team members as a penalty for ballast falling out of his car before the race. Among those races are Bristol (where he won last year’s night race) and Martinsville (where he was fourth in last year’s playoff race).

Jimmie JohnsonRunner-up finish vanished after NASCAR disqualified his car for failing post-race inspection. By finishing last, he will start Wednesday’s race last at Charlotte. The team decided Monday not to appeal the penalty.

Chase Elliott — What a disheartening week for Elliott. He was wrecked while running second late at Darlington. A few days later, he led with the end of the 600 in sight when teammate William Byron spun to bring out a caution. Elliott then gave up the lead to pit. He couldn’t make it back to the lead with fresh tires  and finished second after Jimmie Johnson’s car was disqualified.

Alex BowmanCar’s handling went away late, ruining a night where he won two stages and led 164 laps. The result was a 19th-place finish. On the good side, it puts him on the front row for Wednesday’s race with the top 20 finishers inverted.

Winners and losers from Wednesday’s Darlington race

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WINNERS

Experience — Kevin Harvick won Sunday’s Cup race at Darlington and Denny Hamlin won Wednesday’s Cup race there. They have combined for 89 career series wins. They also have combined for five Darlington wins with Hamlin now owning three victories.  With no practice and no qualifying before either event, they excelled.  The top four finishers — Hamlin, Kyle Busch, Harvick and Brad Keselowski — are all former champions.

Denny Hamlin’s mask — OK, it did look a bit odd but he said that with wearing a mask “you really don’t get any sense of any emotion.” Everyone did Wednesday night with his smiling mask.

Erik Jones He has never finished worse than eighth in six starts at Darlington. He finished fifth Wednesday.

Christopher BellIt’s been a rough start to the season for the rookie. He finished a season-high 11th on Wednesday. He had not finished better than 21st in the series before Wednesday.

LOSERS

Chase ElliottHis hopes for a Darlington win were dashed late when Kyle Busch turned him. Busch later apologized but also said: “I’ll definitely reach out to him and tell him I’m sorry, tell him I hate that it happened and all I can do but that doesn’t change the outcome of the night.”

Ryan PreeceWith NASCAR inverting the top-20 finishers from Sunday for the starting lineup Wednesday, he started on the pole. He earned that spot by passing Bubba Wallace for 20th place with three laps to go Sunday. It didn’t help him Wednesday. Preece finished last after his engine blew. JTG Daugherty Racing teammate Ricky Stenhouse Jr. finished last on Sunday.

NASCAR officials — The Cup Rule Book clearly states that “at no time should a driver or crew member(s) approach any portion of the racing surface or apron.” That’s exactly what Chase Elliott did after he was wrecked by Kyle Busch on Wednesday night. Elliott walked toward the track to give Busch the middle finger. NASCAR added the rule about drivers not approaching the track in 2014 shortly after Tony Stewart hit and killed a sprint car driver who had exited his car and walked down the track to gesture at Stewart. NASCAR told NBC Sports after the race that it did not plan to penalize Elliott or talk to him about walking toward the track.

Winners and losers from Darlington

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WINNERS

Kevin Harvick While the celebration was muted because of no fans and social distancing guidelines, Harvick scored his first win of the season and 50th of his career on Sunday

Alex BowmanRunner-up finish shows how strong this Hendrick Motorsports team is. After his dominating weekend and win at Auto Club Speedway, he was viewed as among the favorites at Darlington and showed that the break in the season had not slowed his team.

Matt KensethIn his first Cup start since the 2018 season finale, he went out and finished 10th. Also, his trademark dry wit was on display in some of his radio conversations with his team. It’s just like he never left.

Ryan Preece Normally a 20th-place finish doesn’t put you in this category, but it does this time. Preece passed Bubba Wallace for 20th with three laps to go. That’s significant because the top 20 finishers from Sunday’s race will be inverted. So Preece starts on the pole Wednesday night at Darlington. Wallace, who finished 21st, will start 21st on Wednesday.

Tyler Reddick and John Hunter Nemechek Cup rookies are supposed to struggle at Darlington. Even though both had never run a lap at speed in a Cup car at Darlington before Sunday’s green flag, they both finished in the top 10. Reddick placed seventh; Nemechek ninth. Those were season-high finishes for both.

LOSERS

Ricky Stenhouse Jr. Seven drivers had never run a lap at speed in a Cup car at Darlington. Stenhouse was making his eighth career Cup start at the track. He was the one to wreck on the first lap. “Pretty embarrassing for myself,” he said.

Jimmie JohnsonOn the verge of his first stage win of the season, he made contact with Chris Buescher’s car and wrecked. “What I would do to get that corner back to do it over again,” he said. Johnson is now winless in his last 100 Cup starts. Crew chief Cliff Daniels immediately reminded the team not to get down after the incident. We’ve got a great race car,” Daniels said on the radio to his team. “So don’t you get down. We’ll be back in 2 days.”