Martin Truex Jr. completes Richmond sweep with playoff win

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Martin Truex Jr. rebounded from a spin with 85 laps to go to win Saturday’s Cup Series playoff race at Richmond Raceway, completing a sweep of the season’s two races on the short track and giving him wins in the first two playoff races.

Truex, who spun from contact with Ricky Stenhouse Jr. while leading and restarted third, passed teammate Kyle Busch with 26 laps to go and went unchallenged to the checkered flag.

Truex now has six wins this year and 22 in the last four seasons.

“I feel like Danny Sullivan or something right now,” Truex told NBCSN, referencing to the driver who spun and then won the 1985 Indianapolis 500. “I’m speechless. Unbelievable job, all my guys. … Had a heck of a race with Kyle and Denny (Hamlin) all night long, really. We just kept plugging away at it, plugging away at it. That’s what we always do, just keep digging and we never quit.

“Next thing you know I’m catching (Busch) for the lead. I’m like, ‘Cool, here we go.'”

Truex led a Joe Gibbs Racing sweep of the top three spots, with Truex leading Busch and Denny Hamlin. Erik Jones originally finished fourth, but his No. 20 Toyota failed post-race inspection and his finish was disqualified, giving him a last-place finish. Jones’ car failed in the rear toe section in the optical scanning station.

Earlier in the day, Gibbs’ grandson Ty, won his first career NASCAR K&N Pro Series East race at New Hampshire Motor Speedway.

Pole-sitter Brad Keselowski is now credited with fourth place and Ryan Newman completed the top five.

The top 10 was rounded out by Kyle Larson, Kevin Harvick, Clint Bowyer, Daniel Suarez and Jimmie Johnson.

Busch and Harvick both clinched spots in the second round on points. Busch’s winless streak is now at 14 races.

STAGE 1 WINNER: Martin Truex Jr.

STAGE 2 WINNER: Kyle Busch

More: Race results and points

WHO HAD A GOOD RACE: Ryan Newman earned his second top five of the year, his third straight top 10 … Denny Hamlin has finished in the top three in six of the last nine races … Bubba Wallace finished 12th for his third top-15 finish in the last five races … Jimmie Johnson earned his first top 10 with crew chief Cliff Daniels.

WHO HAD A BAD RACE: Reed Sorenson finished 37th after he got in the wall on Lap 243 and brought out the caution … Kurt Busch and Aric Almirola each received speeding penalties during the race and finished 18th and 16th … Chris Buescher‘s streak of top-18 finishes ended at 16 races after he placed 31st, seven laps down … Alex Bowman and William Byron placed four laps down in 23rd and 24th.

NOTABLE: This was the eighth time in their careers that Truex and Kyle Busch have finished 1-2 (or Busch was 1-2 with Truex) and the third time this year. … Truex is the fourth driver to win the first two playoff races, following Matt Kenseth (2013), Tony Stewart (2011) and Greg Biffle (2008).

WHAT’S NEXT: Bank of America Roval 400 at Charlotte Motor Speedway at 2:30 p.m. ET Sept. 29 on NBC

Clint Bowyer fastest in first of two Cup practices today at Las Vegas

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Clint Bowyer isn’t wasting any time making his presence known in the NASCAR Cup playoffs.

The driver of the No. 14 Stewart-Haas Racing Ford Mustang was fastest in the first of two Cup practices Friday afternoon at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

Bowyer ran 21 laps around the 1.5-mile track, with the final lap being the fastest of the 39-car field at 178.059 mph.

Click here for the first practice session results.

William Byron was second-fastest (177.223 mph), followed by three non-playoff entrants: Jimmie Johnson (177.148 mph), Ricky Stenhouse Jr. (176.748 mph) and Austin Dillon (176.684).

Sixth through 10th fastest were Brad Keselowski (176.678 mph), Denny Hamlin (176.471), Ty Dillon (176.396), Daniel Suarez (176.327) and Chase Elliott (176.246).

The three slowest of the 16 playoff contenders were Ryan Newman (21st fastest, 174.950 mph), and Chip Ganassi Racing teammates Kyle Larson (22nd, 174.836 mph) and Kurt Busch (23rd, 174.588).

There will be one more practice session this afternoon from 7:30 – 8:20 p.m. ET.

Follow @JerryBonkowski

Long: Indy success provides emotional lift for Bubba Wallace, Jeb Burton

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INDIANAPOLIS — Amid the weekend’s celebrations at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, the most emotional moments came not in Victory Lane but on pit road.

One driver cried. Another beamed.

Jeb Burton and Bubba Wallace have faced various challenges in their careers. The 27-year-old Burton, son of 2002 Daytona 500 winner Ward Burton, has fought to remain relevant in NASCAR. The 25-year-old Wallace, whose dynamic personality is engaging, has been open about his struggles on the track and off.

In a sport where the focus often shifts to the next young driver, it’s easy to forget how much racing Burton and Wallace both could have left and the impact they could make.

Of course, racing, as in life, isn’t always fair. Short tracks across the country feature drivers who had the talent to race in NASCAR’s premier series but never got the chance whether because they didn’t have the proper funding, right look or were too old when discovered.

So in that sense, Burton and Wallace can be considered among the fortunate to have climbed NASCAR’s ladder. That isn’t satisfying for either, though. They want more.

Burton has not had a full-time ride in any of NASCAR’s top three national series since a 2015 Cup effort with BK Racing, a team that no longer exists after going through bankruptcy court a year ago. Burton has pieced together rides with whatever sponsorship he can find. He’s run three Cup, 14 Xfinity and four Truck races since 2017.

He will drive two more Xfinity races this season (Texas and Miami) for JR Motorsports, giving him seven starts in the team’s No. 8 car this season.

Burton finished fourth in Saturday’s Xfinity race at Indianapolis, tying his career-best result. He could not contain the tears after exiting his car.

Asked where the emotion was coming from, Burton said in a quivering voice: “Two years ago I didn’t know if I was going to drive again. That’s where it comes from.”

Burton later said: “Every time I get into a race car I feel like I’ve got something to prove. You don’t know, this could be the last time out there. You don’t know. I cried like a baby in my TV interview because it means so much. You don’t know when this could be your last day. You’ve just got to cherish every moment.”

That’s not been easy for Wallace at times this season. He tweeted in early May that he had not “been (in) a good place for some time now.” A few days later at Kansas Speedway, Wallace said how “you try to be the best you can and sometimes it ain’t good enough.”

The session with reporters ended with Wallace later burying his head in his hands.

He won a segment in the Monster Energy Open in May, received a heartfelt embrace from Ryan Blaney and was emotional in his interview with FS1, saying “Damn, I’ve been feeling like a failure for a really long time.”

His struggles on the track haven’t helped. Richard Petty Motorsports struggled to find proper funding for nearly the first six months of the year. The results showed.

Until Sunday’s Brickyard 400, Wallace had not finished better than 14th this season and had only four top-20 results.

After he finished third Sunday, Wallace screamed on his radio: “Yeah! That ain’t supposed to happen! That is not supposed to happen! We did it! Nice job!”

Wallace could not stop smiling after climbing from his car. Richard Petty hugged him.

“We needed this,” Wallace said. “We needed this weekend. We unloaded with speed and I was bragging to everybody.”

Wallace called Sunday “an unforgettable day at Indy.”

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There are many places one can find points gained or lost over a 26-race regular season that can determine who makes the playoffs. Such is the case for Daniel Suarez, who finished four points behind Ryan Newman for the final playoff spot Sunday.

Here are a couple of key moments this season that had they gone differently could have given Suarez the chance to race for a championship instead of Newman:

# Suarez won the pole at Kentucky in July but did not score any stage points.

Suarez led the opening 49 laps at Kentucky but when a caution came out, the team decided to change four tires. Two cars took no tires and 10 cars took two tires during that caution. Suarez restarted 13th, the first car on four tires. He finished the opening stage in 14th and scored no stage points.

In the second stage, Suarez had a flat tire and had to pit under green and then was called for speeding. He fell three laps down at one point and never had a chance to score any stage points.

That was one of three times this season that the driver who started on the pole failed to score any stage points. Austin Dillon did not tally any stage points after starting on the pole at Auto Club Speedway in March, and Denny Hamlin failed to do so after starting on the pole at Bristol in August.

Drivers who started on the pole scored an average of 10.2 stage points per race in the regular season this year. Suarez could have used those 10 points Sunday.

# Newman’s extra pit stop at Michigan in August.

Twenty-seven cars, including Newman, pitted for fuel on Lap 150 at Michigan, putting them all on the edge of making it the rest of the race on fuel. Newman and teammate Ricky Stenhouse Jr. came back to pit road the next lap to top off on fuel.

With no caution the rest of the way, fuel mileage was critical. Newman went from 18th to 12th in the final three laps as cars ahead of him had to pit for fuel or ran out on the track.

Newman ran out of fuel on Turn 4 of the last lap but easily made it across the finish line. Had he not stopped on Lap 151 to top off, he wouldn’t have made it to the end and would have lost several positions.

Instead, those six points gained by others running out fuel helped Newman secure the last playoff spot.

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Ryan Newman helped snap the playoff drought for Roush Fenway Racing’s No. 6 car.

The car once piloted by Hall of Famer Mark Martin last made the playoffs in 2006 — the year Jimmie Johnson won the first of his record-tying seven Cup titles.

Newman’s team has gone through key changes since last season’s finale in Miami. Scott Graves became the team’s crew chief for this season. The team also has a different engineer and car chief from last year’s Miami race.

“Our team is so new,” Newman said. “It is newer than I have ever experienced. That is huge. With all the changes we had in our sport in the offseason, I think it was underestimated by me and a huge change to tackle.

“I feel like we have done a good job but to answer your question, we just need to continue to progress to make our cars go faster. I think we have had some good strategy and pit stops and good moves on the race track. All those types of things. Good things need to turn into great things and keep progressing as a team.”

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Leaders crashing late in a race can can create ill will and lead to spicy exchange between competitors. Not for Tyler Reddick and Christopher Bell in Saturday’s Xfinity Series race at Indianapolis.

Instead, fans saw sportsmanship after the two drivers wrecked with seven laps left.

Reddick approached Bell on the track and gave him a tap on the back.

Reddick told NBCSN after leaving the infield care center: “No one in this garage or in NASCAR racing in general should ever question Christopher’s driving ability. That wasn’t the issue there.

“His car just simply got loose, and we just got together and we didn’t really have a lot of race track. It’s (the) end of the race, we’re going for it type deal. Nothing against Christopher. He did nothing wrong. His car just got loose. Just part of racing at the end at this place.”

Refreshing to see how this situation was handled.

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Shortly after celebrating Kevin Harvick‘s victory at Indianapolis, crew chief Rodney Childers was focused on the challenge of the playoffs, which begin Sunday (7 p.m. ET on NBCSN) at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

“I think this season is just tough,”  he said. “I think it’s going to be tougher the next 10 races than it’s ever been. You’ve got 550 (horsepower) races that you have to be good at. You’ve got 750 races you’ve got to be good at. You’ve got road course cars you’ve got to be good at. You’ve got to have a good Martinsville car. There’s so many different things in the playoffs this year that it’s going to be so important to have great race cars every week.”

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The quote of the weekend belonged to Kevin Harvick’s son Keelan.

Asked what it was like to kiss the bricks after his father’s win, Keelan said: “They don’t taste great, but it was fun kissing the bricks.”

See how Kyle Larson won Indy midget race

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Three cars raced for the lead. Final lap. One flipped. Then a second. And the third spun.

Kyle Larson was in the USAC National Midget car that spun and continued to win the Stoops Pursuit race at The Dirt Track at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

Michael Pickens finished second. Justin Grant was third.

It was enough that when it was over the announcer said “What did we just see?!”

This is what they saw …

“This track is so racy that sliders are easy to throw, and Mike (Pickens) was throwing everything he had at me,” Larson said after the race. “We made contact there on the backstretch. He was trying to park it on the bottom. That was wild. I didn’t know it was going to be that crazy of a race. I hope you guys enjoyed it.”

The elimination race featured 24 cars in a 25-lap event that was broken into five five-lap segments. After each segment, a caution was thrown and cars that were passed, along with the car running last at the end of the segment, left the track. The field included Christopher Bell and Ricky Stenhouse Jr. For the final five-lap segment, only three cars remained.

“That’s probably one of the most fun times I’ve ever had in a race car,” said Larson, who earned $2,100 for the victory

The event was a prelude to tonight’s 39-lap A-main in the Driven2SaveLives BC39 that honors Bryan Clauson.

Ninety drivers entered for BC39 midget race at Indianapolis

Photo: Dustin Long
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Kyle Larson, Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Christopher Bell and Chase Briscoe are among the 90 entries for the second annual Driven2SaveLives BC 39 on Wednesday and Thursday at The Dirt Track at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

This is the third largest field for a USAC NOS Energy Drink Midget National Championship event in the past three decades. Twenty-six drivers will advance to the feature on the quarter-mile track located in Turn 3 of IMS’ infield. The winner of Thursday’s A-Main will collect $15,000.

Also entered are NASCAR driver J.J. Yeley, IndyCar driver Conor Daly, NASCAR on NBC reporter Dillon Welch and Karsyn Elledge, granddaughter of Dale Earnhardt.

Brady Bacon led the final nine laps to win last year’s event, which pays tribute to the late Bryan Clauson.

 

BC39 ENTRY LIST (90 Drivers)

00 LUKE HOWARD/Overland Park, KS (Jay Mounce)

08 CANNON McINTOSH/Bixby, OK (Dave Mac Motorsports)

1 KARSYN ELLEDGE/Mooresville, NC (Tucker/Boat Motorsports)

1BR CHASE JONES/Greenwood, IN (SFH Racing Development)

1K BRAYTON LYNCH/Springfield, IL (Rusty Kunz Racing)

1NZ MICHAEL PICKENS/Auckland, NZ (RMS LLC)

1ST ALEX BRIGHT/Collegeville, PA (Daryl Saucier)

2 RYAN HALL/Midlothian, TX (Mark Bush)

2J J.J. YELEY/Phoenix, AZ (Jeff Taylor)

2x MATT LINDER/Hoschton, GA (Mark Bush)

3 RICH DRANGMEISTER/Hobart, IN (Rich Drangmeister)

3N JAKE NEUMAN/New Berlin, IL (Jim Neuman)

4A JUSTIN GRANT/Ione, CA (RAMS Racing)

4D ROBERT DALBY/Anaheim, CA (Ken Dalby)

5 KEVIN THOMAS JR./Cullman, AL (Petry Motorsports)

5B CHASE BRISCOE/Mitchell, IN (Chase Briscoe Racing)

5D ZACH DAUM/Pocahontas, IL (Daum Motorsports)

7 CRITTER MALONE/Pittsboro, IN (Seven LLC)

7BC TYLER COURTNEY/Indianapolis, IN (Clauson/Marshall Racing)

7s JON STEED/Rushville, IN (Steed Motorsports)

7u KYLE JONES/Kennedale, TX (Trifecta Motorsports)

7x THOMAS MESERAULL/San Jose, CA (RMS LLC)

8 RANDI PANKRATZ/Atascadero, CA (Wally Pankratz)

9 CHRIS BAUE/Indianapolis, IN (Chris Baue)

9B CLINTON BOYLES/Greenwood, MO (Jay Mounce)

9H EMILIO HOOVER/Broken Arrow, OK (James Hoover)

10 LANCE BENNETT/Aurora, CO (Olivia Bennett)

10A MICHAEL KLEIN/Elsmere, KY (Mike Wallace)

11L AARON LEFFEL/Springfield, OH (Chuck Taylor)

11m KENDALL RUBLE/Vincennes, IN (Martin Motorsports)

11T TOMMY KOUNS/Lebanon, IN (Chuck Taylor)

12 BILLY WEASE/Noblesville, IN (Amanda Wease)

15 DAVE DARLAND/Lincoln, IN (Petry Motorsports)

15DJ DAVID PRICKETT/Fresno, CA (Neverlift Motorsports)

15J JEFF WIMMENAUER/Indianapolis, IN (Jeff Wimmenauer)

15s SHANNON McQUEEN/Bakersfield, CA (Broc Garrett)

15x CARSON GARRETT/Littleton, CO (Broc Garrett)

17 RICKY STENHOUSE JR./Olive Branch, MS (Clauson/Marshall Racing)

17BC CHRIS WINDOM/Canton, IL (Clauson/Marshall Racing)

19 SPENCER BAYSTON/Lebanon, IN (Brodie Hayward)

19m ETHAN MITCHELL/Mooresville, NC (Bundy Built Motorsports)

20 CODY WEISENSEL/Sun Prairie, WI (Kevin Weisensel)

21 CHRISTOPHER BELL/Norman, OK (Keith Kunz Motorsports/Curb-Agajanian)

21D JUSTIN DICKERSON/Pittsboro, IN (Mike Dickerson)

21F JONATHAN BEASON/Broken Arrow, OK (Team Ripper)

21KS C.J. LEARY/Greenfield, IN (Team Ripper)

21m MARIA COFER/Macdoel, CA (Team Ripper)

22 JOHN HEYDENREICH/Bloomsburg, PA (John Givens)

23m DAVID BUDRES/Beloit, WI (Manic Racing)

25 JERRY COONS JR./Tucson, AZ (Petry Motorsports)

25B STEVE BUCKWALTER/Royersford, PA (Steve Buckwalter)

27 TUCKER KLAASMEYER/Paola, KS (Keith Kunz Motorsports/Curb-Agajanian)

28 ACE McCARTHY/Tahlequah, OK (Jim Neuman)

31 TRAVIS BERRYHILL/American Canyon, CA (Manic Racing)

32J CHRIS JAGGER JR./Warsaw, IN (Chris Jagger Jr.)

35 CONOR DALY/Noblesville, IN (Petry Motorsports)

39BC ZEB WISE/Angola, IN (Clauson/Marshall Racing)

41 OLIVER AKARD/Ft. Myers, FL (Dan Akard)

43 BRENT BEAUCHAMP/Avon, IN (Kevin Arnold)

46 RUSS GAMESTER/Peru, IN (Gamester Racing)

47BC ANDREW LAYSER/Collegeville, PA (Clauson/Marshall Racing)

50 TONY DiMATTIA/Malvern, PA (Tony DiMattia Motorsports)

54 MATT WESTFALL/Pleasant Hill, OH (Steve Bordner)

54m RAY SEACH/Beloit, WI (Manic Racing)

55 NICK DRAKE/Mooresville, NC (Troy Cline)

56AP COLTEN COTTLE/Kansas, IL (Travis Young)

56x MARK CHISHOLM/Cheyenne, WY (Mark Chisholm)

57D DANIEL ROBINSON/Ewing, IL (McCreery Motorsports)

57K KEVIN STUDLEY/Plainfield, IN (Kevin Studley)

61 TREY OSBORNE/Columbus, OH (Mel Kenyon)

67 Logan Seavey/Sutter, CA (Keith Kunz Motorsports/Curb-Agajanian)

67F KYLE O’GARA/Beech Grove, IN (SFH Racing Development)

67K HOLLEY HOLLAN/Broken Arrow, OK (Keith Kunz Motorsports/Curb-Agajanian)

71 JESSE COLWELL/Red Bluff, CA (Keith Kunz Motorsports/Curb-Agajanian)

71B ROBERT BELL/Colfax, IA (Robert Bell)

71K TANNER CARRICK/Lincoln, CA (Keith Kunz Motorsports/Curb-Agajanian)

71s CODY SWANSON/Norco, CA (Marcie Campbell)

72 SAM JOHNSON/St. Peters, MO (Joe Johnson)

76 KEN DRANGMEISTER/Hobart, IN (Ken Drangmeister)

76E BRADY BACON/Broken Arrow, OK (FMR Racing)

76m JASON McDOUGAL/Broken Arrow, OK (FMR Racing)

77B BLAZE BENNETT/Parker, CO (Olivia Bennett)

81 DILLON WELCH/Carmel, IN (Tucker/Boat Motorsports)

84 CHAD BOAT/Phoenix, AZ (Tucker/Boat Motorsports)

85 GIO SCELZI/Fresno, CA (Tucker/Boat Motorsports)

88 TYLER NELSON/Olathe, KS (Tyler Nelson)

91T TYLER THOMAS/Collinsville, OK (Brian Thomas)

97 KYLE LARSON/Elk Grove, CA (Keith Kunz Motorsports/Curb-Agajanian)

97A AUSTIN O’DELL/Rochester, IL (Patrick O’Dell)

TBA Tanner Thorson/Minden, NV (TBA)