Champion or not, Chase Briscoe won’t let Xfinity title define season

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Like the 11 drivers he’ll compete against in the Xfinity Series playoffs, a championship is the endgame for Chase Briscoe.

However, with the Stewart-Haas Racing driver one win from matching his preseason goal of at least eight victories, Briscoe wouldn’t be too disappointed if he failed to claim the title at the end of the seven-race playoff.

“I feel like to this point if we don’t get to eight (wins) … I feel like I accomplished or proved what I was trying to say at the beginning of the year,” Briscoe told NBC Sports on Tuesday. “There’s still no reason why we can’t get to 10 wins. I feel 100% confident in my team that we’re going to have the cars capable of doing it, I just need to do my job. If we do that, hopefully we can get to Phoenix and then (whoever’s) the best team once we get there wins.”

As he prepares to open the playoffs Saturday at Las Vegas Motor Speedway (7:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN), Briscoe is wary of not letting “the championship define you and define your season. … Winning races is a big deal. That’s what you get paid to do is go win races and obviously win championships as well, but today’s format anything can happen in that final race.”

Briscoe can attest to importance of winning races. He enters the playoff with a series-leading seven wins, which has helped him start the postseason with 2,050 points and ties him with Austin Cindric.

Briscoe’s impressive numbers come a year after he had just one win in a season where Tyler Reddick, Christopher Bell and Cole Custer combined to win 21 of 33 races.

Briscoe believes the perception of his abilities as a driver are “way different” from last year as he struggled to chase those three drivers now competing in Cup.

“Personally, I felt like I could win races, and I think a lot of it was learning,” Briscoe said. “Last year, there were still a lot of tracks I had never been to before and didn’t even have 100 pavement starts in my entire career, and now I have that experience. I have the confidence to go with it and all of those things are totally different, and when I said what I said at the beginning of the year (about winning eight races) I felt like I was capable of doing that.

“If I could back it up, it would look even better. … I think I’ve proven my worth in this sport. I feel like if I do get the opportunity to move up, I feel like I’m ready, but I also feel like I could get a lot of benefit out of coming back to the Xfinity Series and running again.”

Briscoe, a Ford development driver, says he still doesn’t know what’s in store for him in 2021.

He said the uncertainty of his future is a “little bit easier” to handle compared to last year because of the wins he’s racked up.

Regardless of not knowing his NASCAR fate, if Briscoe can “somehow get to 10 wins this year and win the championship, then that would just make it, I feel like, a lot easier for the decision-makers.”

Kevin Harvick will start from the Cup pole position at Las Vegas

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For the second time after a victory in the NASCAR Cup Series playoffs, Kevin Harvick will start first Sunday in the starting lineup for the Round of 12 opener at Last Vegas Motor Speedway.

Kyle Busch, who finished second to Harvick last Saturday at Bristol Motor Speedway, will start second in pursuit of his first victory this season. Chase Elliott and Aric Almirola will form the second row.

Here are the starting positions for the rest of the 12 playoff drivers (in order): Joey Logano (fifth), Clint Bowyer (sixth), Austin Dillon (seventh), Alex Bowman (eighth), Kurt Busch (ninth), Denny Hamlin (10th), Martin Truex Jr. (11th) and Brad Keselowski (12th).

STARTING LINEUP: Where everyone will start in the South Point 400

Harvick, who will be starting first in a Cup race for the fifth time this season, was awarded the Busch Pole Award using a formula based on four statistical categories: owner points position, the driver’s finish, team owner’s finish and fastest lap from the most recently completed race.

Harvick also started first at Richmond (and finished seventh) after winning the playoff opener at Darlington Raceway. This will be the second Cup race that Harvick has started on the pole at Las Vegas, where he has two victories.

Since the end of the regular season, playoff cars now fill the top starting positions, according to how many remain eligible for the championship. In the Round of 12, the top 12 starting positions will be playoff cars; in the Round of 8, the top eight starting positions will be playoff cars, etc..

NASCAR previously had used a random draw to set most of its lineups since returning in May during the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, which has eliminated practice and qualifying on nearly all race weekends.

Click here for the Las Vegas Cup starting lineup for Sunday.

NASCAR Cup Series at Las Vegas 

Race time: 7 p.m. ET, Sunday

Track: Las Vegas Motor Speedway; Las Vegas, Nevada (1.5-mile speedway)

Length: 267 laps (400.5 miles)

Stages: Stage 1 ends Lap 80. Stage 2 ends Lap 160.

TV coverage: NBCSN

Radio: Performance Racing Network (also SiriusXM NASCAR Radio)

Streaming: NBC Sports app (subscription required); goprn.com and SiriusXM for audio (subscription required)

Next Truck race: Friday at Las Vegas (134 laps, 201 miles), 9 p.m. ET on FS1

Next Xfinity race: Saturday at Las Vegas (200 laps, 300 miles), 7:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN

Silly Season: Ross Chastain to drive No. 42 Ganassi Cup car in 2021

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Another puzzle of Silly Season has been set with Ross Chastain headed to Chip Ganassi Racing to drive the No. 42 Cup car for next season.

Chastain has been a development driver for the team since 2018. He drove three Xfinity races for Ganassi in 2018, winning once. Chastain was to drive a full Xfinity season in 2019 for the team until D.C. Solar’s sponsorship ended after its offices were raided by the FBI. The company later declared bankruptcy.

Chastain is competing for the Xfinity championship this season for Kaulig Racing. He is winless this season but has five runner-up finishes, including this past weekend at Bristol.

ANNOUNCED CUP RIDES FOR 2021

No. 00: Quin Houff enters the second year of his two-year deal with StarCom Racing.

No. 1: Kurt Busch enters the second year of a multi-year contract that Chip Ganassi Racing announced last season.

No. 2: Brad Keselowski and Team Penske announced a contract extension Aug. 3.

No. 4: Kevin Harvick signed a contract extension in February that will keep him at Stewart-Haas Racing through the 2023 season.

No. 8: Tyler Reddick said Aug. 7 that he will be back with Richard Childress Racing next season.

No. 9: Chase Elliott is under contract with Hendrick Motorsports through the 2022 season.

No. 10: Aric Almirola extends deal with Stewart-Haas Racing for 2021 season.

No. 11: Denny Hamlin is signed with Joe Gibbs Racing through at least next year.

No. 12: Ryan Blaney and Team Penske announced a multi-year extension earlier this season.

No. 18: Kyle Busch is signed with Joe Gibbs Racing through at least next year.

No. 19: Martin Truex Jr. is signed with Joe Gibbs Racing through at least next year.

No. 20: Christopher Bell moves from Leavine Family Racing to take over this ride in 2021.

No. 22: Joey Logano is tied to Team Penske “through the 2022 season and beyond.”

No. 24: William Byron is under contact with Hendrick Motorsports through 2022.

No. 42: Ross Chastain takes over Chip Ganassi Racing’s No. 42 ride for the 2021 season.

No. 47: Ricky Stenhouse Jr. enters the second year of a multi-year deal with JTG Daugherty Racing.

No. 88: Alex Bowman will race for Hendrick Motorsports under a one-year contract extension announced earlier this year.

 

Available/possibly available rides

No. 13: Ty Dillon is in a contract year at Germain Racing. The team is considering putting itself up for sell.

No. 14: Clint Bowyer is in a contract year to drive for Stewart-Haas Racing.

No. 21: Matt DiBenedetto said Sept. 17 that the team has an option to pick up his contract for next year and the deadline is the end of September.

No. 32: Ride is open with Corey LaJoie announcing he will not return to Go Fas Racing in 2021.

No. 43: Bubba Wallace will not return to Richard Petty Motorsports in 2021, the team confirmed on Sept. 10.

No. 48: With Jimmie Johnson retiring from full-time competition, Hendrick Motorsports has this seat to fill.

No. 95: Spire Motorsports purchased the charter and assets of Leavine Family Racing and will be a two-car operation in 2021.

No. 96: Daniel Suarez and Gaunt Brothers Racing announced Sept. 15 that they would part ways after this season.

 

William Byron’s title hopes end in Bristol incident

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William Byron‘s playoffs ended when he ran into the back of a car shortly before halfway in Saturday night’s Cup playoff race at Bristol Motor Speedway.

He finished 38th.

Byron was running 10th and in position to advance to the second round after Saturday’s elimination race before the incident.

Byron told NBCSN’s Marty Snider that Joey Gase‘s car slowed on a straightaway and Byron ran into the back of Christopher Bell‘s car.

“I literally had nowhere to go,” Byron said. “Just ridiculous that’s what takes us out.”

Byron said he was running behind Bell, who was behind Gase, on the high side. Byron said he had Aric Almirola on his inside and could not move down there.

Byron entered the race the first driver outside the final transfer spot to the second round. He entered the race trailing Clint Bowyer by three points.

 

 

 

Brad Keselowski will start from the Cup pole position at Bristol

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Team Penske drivers will control the front row of the starting lineup at Bristol Motor Speedway for Saturday night’s first-round finale in the NASCAR Cup playoffs.

Richmond Raceway winner Brad Keselowski will lead the field to the green flag, and teammate Joey Logano, who has notched back to back third-place finishes to open the playoffs, will start second. Martin Truex Jr. and Kevin Harvick will form the second row.

Here are the starting positions for the rest of the 16 playoff drivers (in order): Austin Dillon (fifth), Chase Elliott (sixth), Denny Hamlin (seventh), Alex Bowman (eighth), Kyle Busch (ninth), Aric Almirola (10th), Clint Bowyer (11th), Cole Custer (12th), Kurt Busch (13th), Ryan Blaney (14th), William Byron (15th) and Matt DiBenedetto (16th).

STARTING LINEUP: Where everyone will start in the Bass Pro Shops Night Race

BY ROWClick here BY CAR NUMBERClick here

Based on the points and first-round victories, the top 12 drivers will advance to the second round after Saturday. Clint Bowyer currently occupies 12th in the standings with William Byron (trailing Bowyer by three points), Custer (-8), DiBenedetto (-25) and Blaney (-27) in danger of being eliminated.

Keselowski won the May 31 race at Bristol Motor Speedway after starting first at the 0.533-mile oval where he has three career Cup victories.

The No. 2 Ford driver, who will be starting first in a Cup race for the third time this season, was awarded the Busch Pole Award using a formula based on four statistical categories: owner points position, the driver’s finish, team owner’s finish and fastest lap from the most recently completed race.

Since the end of the regular season, playoff cars now fill the top starting positions, according to how many remain eligible for the championship. In the Round of 16, the top 16 starting positions will be playoff cars; in the Round of 12, the top 12 starting positions will be playoff cars, etc..

NASCAR previously had used a random draw to set most of its lineups since returning in May during the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, which has eliminated practice and qualifying on nearly all race weekends.

Click here for the Bristol Cup starting lineup for Saturday.

NASCAR Cup Series at Bristol 

Race time: 7:30 p.m. ET, Saturday

Track: Bristol Motor Speedway; Bristol, Tennessee (0.533-mile speedway)

Length: 500 laps (266.5 miles)

Stages: Stage 1 ends Lap 125. Stage 2 ends Lap 250.

TV coverage: NBCSN

Radio: Performance Racing Network (also SiriusXM NASCAR Radio)

Streaming: NBC Sports app (subscription required); goprn.com and SiriusXM for audio (subscription required)

Next Truck race: Thursday at Bristol (200 laps, 106.6 miles), 7:30 p.m. ET on FS1

Next Xfinity race: Friday at Bristol (300 laps, 159.9 miles), 7 p.m. ET on NBCSN