Friday 5: Five laps that impacted NASCAR Cup season

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In a season that ran 9,483 laps across 36 races in 20 states, some laps have more meaning than others. Here’s a look at five such laps in Cup this year.

1. Lap 250 at Bristol Dirt in April

Kyle Busch won after Chase Briscoe hit Tyler Reddick, spinning both Briscoe and Reddick on the last lap of the race at Bristol Motor Speedway.

Busch, running a distant third, drove by. It was the only lap he led that race. 

The win would be Busch’s only victory in his final season with Joe Gibbs Racing. At the time, no one could have known what would happen to Busch.

Had Reddick won this race, those five playoff points would have been enough for him to move into the second round of the playoffs. Without the Bristol win, he fell two points shy of advancing. That’s significant because Reddick won at Texas, the opening race of the second round. That would have put him into third round.

Also, had Reddick won — or even if Briscoe pulled off the maneuver — then Busch would not have made the playoffs.

The season would get worse for Busch. A sponsor pulled out to take over the No. 18 car with Mars, Inc. leaving after the season. Joe Gibbs Racing and Busch were unable to come to an agreement to keep the two-time Cup champion with the team. Busch’s 15-year run with JGR would come to an end.

His playoff run didn’t last long after two blown engines in the first round made the two-time Cup champion one of the first four eliminated from title contention. 

When the 2023 season begins, Busch will be in the No. 8 car at Richard Childress Racing, taking over for Reddick, who moves on to 23XI Racing. 

2. Lap 124 at Dover in May

Denny Hamlin led 67 of the first 123 laps and felt that he had the best car that day and would have won the race.  

He didn’t because his race began to unravel after winning the first stage. 

Hamlin entered pit road in the lead and was the first off pit road, but his left front wheel came off — a four-week suspension for his crew chief and two pit crew members.

He had to return to the pits to get a new tire, putting him 29th. It took him about 100 laps to get back into the top five. 

Then trouble struck again. Running fourth on Lap 242, Hamlin couldn’t avoid Cody Ware’s spinning car. 

Hamlin was penalized for speeding on pit road on Lap 326. Instead of having a chance to win, he finished 21st.

While one can talk about the five playoff points Hamlin lost for his disqualification at Pocono, it is the five playoff points he could have scored at Dover that could have given him a seven-point cushion on Ross Chastain going into the final lap at Martinsville in the playoffs. Hamlin would have advanced to the championship race with those five playoff points from Dover.

3. Lap 293 at Nashville in June

Chase Elliott led when the caution came out eight laps from the end of the race for Josh Bilicki’s blown engine.

When pit road was opened, Elliott stayed out for track position. Kyle Busch, who was second, pitted. Denny Hamlin, who was third, pitted. Martin Truex Jr., who was fourth, pitted. 

Mistakes led to Hamlin and Truex pitting.

Hamlin’s crew chief, Chris Gabehart, was serving the last race in his four-race suspension for the wheel coming off the No. 11 car at Dover and wasn’t at Nashville. Engineer Sam McAuley was serving as crew chief. 

Gabehart and two pit crew members were originally suspended four races, which would have included the non-points All-Star Race. He would have returned at Nashville, but Joe Gibbs Racing appealed the penalty. The appeals panel amended the penalty, making the suspension four points races. That meant that Gabehart had to miss Nashville. 

The plan for Hamlin was to stay out if he could get a spot on the front row to restart. But before Hamlin approached pit road, McAuley mistakingly said to stay out only if he could get the lead. With Elliott staying out, that was not possible, so Hamlin pitted.

Crew chief James Small told Truex to stay out if he could get a spot on the front row to restart. With Busch and Hamlin pitting, that would have put Truex on the front row with Elliott. But Truex pitted.

All Truex could do was apologize. 

Busch was the first car off pit road, changing only two tires. He restarted 12th.

“It’s going to be bad,” Busch said on his radio.

Hamlin and Truex each took four tires and started further back. Hamlin finished sixth, while Busch was 21st and Truex was 22nd. 

Truex, who could have started on the front row for the final restart, never got the win he needed to make the playoffs. 

4. Lap 138 at Daytona in August 

Austin Dillon, needing to win to make the playoffs, was 16th when the field approached Turn 1 on Lap 138 at Daytona under threatening skies. 

Suddenly, cars started sliding and crashing, losing traction on the wet track. 

Dillon, running on the bottom lane, slowed and followed Bubba Wallace on to the apron. In front of Wallace, Harrison Burton and Ty Dillon were crashing. 

The cars of Ty Dillon and Burton moved up off the apron, while Wallace slid on to the grass. That provided a lane for Austin Dillon to slip through and take the lead (as seen in the video clip from his car). 

Martin Truex Jr., trying to make the playoffs, was collected and had damage to his car.

After a rain delay of 3 hours, 19 minutes and 57 seconds, the race resumed. The green waved with 16 laps left and Austin Cindric took the lead. He held it until three laps to go when Austin Dillon ran into the back of his car in Turn 1 and took the lead.

Dillon’s teammate, Tyler Reddick moved to second. Austin Dillon went unchallenged to win and put both Richard Childress Racing cars in the playoffs. His victory prevented Truex from making the playoffs.

One of the biggest impacts from this was that NASCAR officials were quicker to call a caution for even light rain. It happened the following week in the playoff opener at Darlington and in the second round race at Texas.

5. Lap 500 at Martinsville in October

What is there to say about the craziest lap run this season in NASCAR?

Needing to pass two cars on the final lap to advance to the championship race, Ross Chastain put his car into fifth gear on the backstretch, planted his Chevrolet against the wall, took his hands off the wheel and let the wall guide his vehicle around the final quarter mile while he floored the throttle.

And it worked.

He passed five cars to make the championship race.

But this lap’s biggest impact was on social media. The video of Chastain’s move had more than 11 million views on the NASCAR on NBC Twitter account. The video of it on the NASCAR on NBC TikTok account had more than 12 million views. Excluding the Olympics, the only other video that has had more views on the NBC Sports TikTok account this year was Rich Strike’s historic Kentucky Derby win. 

Even an hour after his remarkable move, Chastain was still trying to comprehend what he had done.

It’s sinking in the we did something that no one else has ever done,” Chastain said.

While NASCAR has not created a rule to prevent such a move, it is something that series officials are expected to examine before next season.

Silly Season scorecard: New faces, new places

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Joey Logano soon will officially be crowned NASCAR’s 2022 Cup Series champion in Nashville, but time waits for no driver. Already fans are eyeing the start of the next season on the short track at Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum and the high banks of Daytona International Speedway.

The schedule will be somewhat different – there’s that big, unprecedented turn in the summer as Cup cars race for the first time on the streets of Chicago, for example — and there will be old names in new places (Jimmie Johnson, for one).

Here’s a look at the NASCAR Silly Season scorecard, at least as it currently stands. As with all things Silly, don’t be surprised if things change before 2023 arrives.

Cup Series

No. 1: Ross Chastain, the surprise driver of 2022, returns to keep the fire burning — and the watermelons smashing — at Trackhouse Racing.

No. 2: Austin Cindric, Daytona 500 winner and rookie of the year, returns to Team Penske.

No. 3: Austin Dillon returns in Richard Childress Racing’s flagship number.

MORE: Can Petty GMS make a big move forward in 2023?

No. 4: Kevin Harvick will seek a return to playoff power.

No. 5: Signed by Hendrick Motorsports through 2026, Kyle Larson drives toward a second championship.

No. 6: Now firmly established as the boss at Roush Fenway Keselowski Racing, Brad Keselowski will look to boost RFK’s profile in his second season there.

No. 7: Corey LaJoie returns, and why not put his face on his car hood for Daytona again?

No. 8: After a long and successful run at Joe Gibbs Racing, Kyle Busch joins Richard Childress Racing. What will happen? Just watch.

No. 9: Chase Elliott might be in this car for the rest of his career. He’s signed through 2027.

No. 10: Aric Almirola announced his retirement but made an abrupt U-turn and will return to this car for Stewart-Haas Racing. Bring the bacon.

MORE: NASCAR Power Rankings: The Champ is No. 1

No. 11: Denny Hamlin tries again to nab that first championship.

No. 12: Ryan Blaney, Mr. Almost But No Point Wins in 2022, is back with Team Penske.

No. 14: A return to Stewart-Haas Racing for one of the surprise drivers — Chase Briscoe — of 2022.

No. 16: AJ Allmendinger jumps back into Cup full-time for Kaulig Racing.

No. 17: Chris Buescher scored RFK Racing’s first win this season.

No. 18: No announcement about Kyle Busch’s replacement, but odds favor Ty Gibbs.

No. 19: Martin Truex Jr. considered retirement for a while but will be back with JGR for at least another year.

No. 20: Christopher Bell was Mr. Magic in the 2022 playoffs. He’s back for another shot.

No. 21: Harrison Burton returns for another season in the iconic Wood Brothers car.

No. 22: The champ, Joey Logano, won’t be leaving the Penske ride.

No. 23: Bubba Wallace is back.

No. 24: William Byron remains at Hendrick Motorsports.

No. 31: Justin Haley makes another run for Kaulig Racing.

No. 34: Michael McDowell a likely returnee to Front Row Motorsports.

No. 38: Todd Gilliland expected back for another run with FRM.

MORE: Dr. Diandra takes a look at 2022’s numbers

No. 41: Ryan Preece takes over this ride from Cole Custer in 2023.

No. 42: Noah Gragson, fresh from a sensational season in Xfinity, moves up to Cup with the new and improved Petty GMS team, now co-owned by Jimmie Johnson. Johnson plans to run a part-time Cup schedule with the team — car number not yet known.

No. 43: The King’s car will carry Erik Jones again.

No. 45: Tyler Reddick drives from Richard Childress Racing to 23XI in one of Silly Season’s biggest moves.

No. 47: Ricky Stenhouse returns.

No. 48: Alex Bowman expected back full-time after missing several races late in 2022 with concussion-like symptoms.

No. 54: Ty Gibbs will drive this car, while Joe Gibbs Racing parks the No. 18 for the 2023 season.

No. 77: Ty Dillon moves from Petty GMS to race for Spire.

No. 99: Daniel Suarez, now a Cup winner, is back for Trackhouse.

Xfinity Series

No. 1: Sam Mayer returns to JR Motorsports for a second season.

No. 2: Sheldon Creed returns to Richard Childress Racing.

No. 4: Bayley Currey is back at JD Motorsports.

No. 7: Justin Allgaier returns to JR Motorsports for another shot at an elusive title.

No. 8: Josh Berry looks to reach the playoffs again for JR Motorsports.

No. 9: Brandon Jones departed Joe Gibbs Racing to drive for JR Motorsports.

No. 10: Landon Cassill is back with Kaulig Racing.

No. 11: Daniel Hemric returns with Kauling Racing.

MORE: Start times revealed for 2023 season

No. 16: Chandler Smith moves into the Kaulig Racing vacancy left by AJ Allmendinger.

No. 21: Austin Hill returns to Richard Childress Racing and also will run six Cup races for Beard Motorsports.

No. 39: Ryan Sieg back for another season.

No. 45: Ryan Ellis returns.

No. 48: Parker Kligerman will run Xfinity full time for the first time since 2013.

No. 51: Jeremy Clements back with his family team.

No. 78: Garrett Smithley will race full time for BJ McLeod Motorsports.

No. 98: Riley Herbst returns to this ride and will have Cole Custer as a teammate at Stewart-Haas Racing in the Xfinity Series.

 

 

Joey Logano wins pole for NASCAR Cup Series finale at Phoenix

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Championship contender Joey Logano won the pole Saturday for Sunday’s NASCAR Cup Series finale at Phoenix Raceway.

Logano, who ran a lap at 134.389 mph, will start first in pursuit of his second Cup championship. Other championship contenders: Chase Elliott fifth, Christopher Bell 17th, Ross Chastain 25th.

The Cup championship will go to the highest finisher of the four contenders.

MORE: Phoenix Cup starting lineup

Ty Gibbs, Kevin Harvick, Harrison Burton, Ryan Blaney and Elliott advanced to the final round of time trials from Group A. Advancing from Group B were Chase Briscoe, Cole Custer, William Byron, Kyle Larson and Logano. Elliott and Logano were the only two championship contenders to advance to the final round of qualifying.

Following Logano in the top five in the final round were Blaney, Briscoe, Larson and Elliott.

Kyle Larson wins NASCAR Cup Series pole at Martinsville

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Kyle Larson won the pole Saturday for Sunday’s NASCAR Cup Series playoff race at Martinsville Speedway.

Larson had the day’s fastest speed — 96.078 miles per hour.

Saturday’s qualifying set the field for Sunday’s 500-lap race, which will determine the rest of the four-driver field for next weekend’s championship race at Phoenix Raceway. Joey Logano reached the Phoenix final four by winning at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

MORE: Bubba Wallace says he’s learned his lesson

Larson’s time of 19.709 seconds put the Hendrick Motorsports No. 5 in the first starting position alongside second-fastest Chase Elliott, his Hendrick teammate.

Elliott was the fastest qualifier among the playoff group. Other playoff drivers: Chase Briscoe, third; Ryan Blaney, fourth; and Ross Chastain, ninth.

Chastain (plus-19), Elliott (plus-11) and William Byron (plus-5) are above the cutline entering Sunday’s race. Below the cutline are Denny Hamlin (minus-5), Blaney (minus-18), Christopher Bell (minus-33) and Briscoe (minus-44).

The pole is the 14th of Larson’s career and his fourth this season.

MORE: Martinsville Cup qualifying results

MORE: Martinsville Cup starting lineup

Larson, Elliott, Daniel Suarez, Brad Keselowski and Ryan Blaney made the final round of qualifying from Group A. In Group B, Cole Custer, Harrison Burton, Briscoe, Kevin Harvick and Chastain reached the final round.

Following Larson and Elliott in the top 10 were Briscoe, Blaney, Cole Custer, Brad Keselowski, Daniel Suarez, Kevin Harvick, Chastain and Harrison Burton.

Hamlin led practice with a speed of 95.079 miles per hour but failed to make the final round of qualifying.

 

Roval Cup cutoff race results, driver points

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Roval points, results: Christopher Bell catapulted into the next round of the NASCAR Cup Series playoffs by taking the checkered flag Sunday at Charlotte Motor Speedway, where Chase Briscoe captured the last of eight championship-eligible spots in the next three races.

Defending series champion Kyle Larson was eliminated from the playoffs after finishing five laps down in 35th because of a late mechanical problem from wall contact.

Bell led the final two laps to win on the 17-turn, 2.32-mile road course for his third victory in NASCAR’s premier series. Kevin Harvick finished second, followed by Kyle Busch, AJ Allmendinger and Justin Haley.

Chris Buescher, Bubba Wallace, Tyler Reddick, Chase Briscoe and Austin Dillon rounded out the top 10. Briscoe rebounded from the brink of elimination after falling to 25th on Lap 107 of 112 after being spun on a restart.

RESULTS: Click here for where everyone finished l Click here for the race report

It’s the second victory of the season for Bell, who also on at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in July.

The Joe Gibbs Racing driver was in a must-win situation entering the Roval after disappointing finishes outside the top 15 at Texas Motor Speedway and Talladega Superspeedway.

It’s the sixth time a driver advanced by winning a cutoff race in the NASCAR elimination playoffs, which started in 2014.

Nearly 90 minutes after the race, NASCAR announced a review of the data, video and radio transmissions from the No. 41 Ford of Cole Custer, who finished 24th after slowing dramatically on the final lap near Stewart-Haas Racing teammate Briscoe. The Round of 8 would be unaffected by any potential penalties for the team.


POINTS

Kyle Larson, Daniel Suarez and Austin Cindric were eliminated from the playoffs after the second round as the field was narrowed from 12 to eight drivers.

Regular season champion Chase Elliott will enter the third round opener at Las Vegas Motor Speedway with the points lead in the reseeded standings, ahead of Joey Logano, Ross Chastain, Christopher Bell, William Byron, Ryan Blaney, Denny Hamlin and Chase Briscoe.

RESEEDED POINTS FOR ROUND 3: Click here for reseeded driver points l Click here for reseeded team owner points

ROUND 2 POINTS: Click here for driver points l Click here for team owner points