Thursday, Jun 08
Jason Guth

Jason Guth

My name is Jason, and I am from Binghamton, N.Y. I am currently pursuing a journalism degree from Buffalo State College, and it is my goal to work in the NASCAR media world. Sports are my passion, and watching/attending sporting events is what I do most in my free time.

Taking advantage of an Overtime restart on the 12-turn Portland International Raceway, Cole Custer capitalized on a mistake ahead of him and held off a hard-charging Justin Allgaier over the final two laps to claim his first Xfinity Series victory since returning to the series full-time in 2023.

A debris caution on Lap 73 of a scheduled 75 necessitated the Overtime finish, and Parker Kligerman was able to get a good jump and made it three-wide by diving to the inside of race-leader Allgaier in Turn 1 to try to gain the lead.

Kligerman was unable to make the corner, which pushed he, Allgaier and John Hunter Nemecheck wide of the first turn, forcing them to serve a de facto time penalty as instructed by NASCAR – maneuvering around pieces of signage before blending back in with the field.

That allowed Custer – who started the race from the rear despite qualifying second – to take over the lead, and though Allgaier, who led 23 laps, closed to his back bumper in Turn 11 coming to the checkered flag in a heart-thumping finish, Custer was able to hold on for the 11th victory of his career by .142 seconds.

“I mean, just try not to make mistakes. I did the same exact thing – I saw him drive in so deep. I did the same thing like two restarts ago,” Custer said of Kligerman’s misstep.

“Man, I’m just so happy. I’ve never won a road course race before. I’ve been so close so many times.

“It’s just awesome to win this.”

The win was the first by a full-time Ford driver in the series since Austin Cindric won on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Road Course in 2021 driving for Team Penske.

Pole sitter Sheldon Creed had the fastest car early, winning the first stage and leading 47 of the race’s first 49 laps. On Lap 50, the final lap of Stage 2, Nemechek turned Creed from the lead in Turn 11 and dropped Creed to sixth in the running order. The move was all for naught as Custer edged Nemechek by a nose to claim the stage.

Creed got his payback later, spinning Nemechek from second in Turn 12, dropping Nemechek well down the leaderboard. Nemechek also had a run-in with Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Sammy Smith in the closing laps as Smith spun Nemechek around in Turn 1. Nemechek recovered to finish 10th while Smith ran 30th.

“He (Nemechek) spun me coming to the stage end there,” Creed, the seventh-place finisher, said. “Obviously going for a stage win, aggressive. He came up and apologized and I got even on the racetrack, so that was fine.”

Allgaier’s JR Motorsports teammates Sam Mayer and Josh Berry came home behind him in third and fourth, followed by Richard Childress Racing’s Austin Hill in fifth.

Myatt Snider was sixth, Connor Mosack eighth and Chandler Smith ninth. It was the first top-10 of Mosack’s career.

Even with his chaotic afternoon in the Pacific Northwest, Nemechek retains the points lead by 14 over Hill.

The NASCAR Xfinity Series will make more right- and left-handed turns next Saturday at Sonoma Raceway for the first time in series history. Coverage of the DoorDash 250 is on FS1 beginning at 8 p.m. ET.

DARLINGTON, S.C. – A year after being booted in Turn 3 by Joey Logano coming to the white flag, William Byron earned a redemptive victory at The Track Too Tough to Tame on Sunday in the Goodyear 400 at Darlington Raceway on Mother’s Day.

“Yeah, it's pretty amazing. My granddad passed away on Thursday, and just man, I wish my family could be here,” Byron said. “Things have a way of working out, honestly. It just worked out that way today. We didn't have the best third stage. We just kept battling, and things just kind of come back around.

“Want to wish Happy Mother's Day to my mom. My sister just graduated school, so big day. Definitely didn't expect this. But just thankful for a great team, and yeah, just things have a way of working out, and come back here to Darlington and have it go exactly the other way.”

With the win, Byron becomes the first three-time winner this season after going back to back at Las Vegas and Phoenix in March. The win is also Hendrick Motorsports’ first at Darlington since Jimmie Johnson won the Southern 500 in May 2012, and is the 100th win for the No. 24 car – Hall of Famer Jeff Gordon had 93, and Byron now has seven.

After starting fourth, Byron had a solid top-10 run going for most of the day but was never really a threat to win – that was until a flurry of cautions broke out over the last 17 laps of regulation.

The first was a Ryan Newman spin on Lap 277 in Turn 4. Newman was making his first Cup Series start since the 2021 season finale in Phoenix, driving the No. 51 for Rick Ware Racing.

Kyle Larson, Byron’s Hendrick teammate, looked to have the race won after assuming the lead with 31 laps remaining following a green-flag pit cycle before the spin.

On the ensuing restart, Martin Truex Jr. – the Stage 1 winner who led a race-best 145 laps – made contact with Logano and got turned right into the fence to trigger an eight-car melee in Turn 2. Truex finished 31st and Logano 18th.

Tyler Reddick, Kevin Harvick, Chase Elliott, Brad Keselowski, Aric Almirola and Ryan Blaney were the others involved.

Ross Chastain, the Stage 2 winner who led 93 laps on the day, took the inside for the restart with six laps left and ran Larson high into the fence in Turn 1. Larson held his ground and Chastain spun across his nose to force Overtime. Larson wound up 20th, Chastain 29th.

With the door opened for Byron, he chose the outside lane for the Overtime restart and Kevin Harvick took the inside. Byron was able to clear Harvick off Turn 2 and set sail to victory lane over the final two laps.

Elliott rebounded to finish third in a car reminiscent of his father Bill’s from the early 2000s on Throwback Weekend. Keselowski was fourth and Bubba Wallace was fifth.

Wallace led the opening lap of the race after starting second, but Truex took the lead for the next 89 laps en route to a dominant Stage 1 victory. Truex held first place until making his first green-flag stop of the day on Lap 139.
Truex regained the lead by Lap 143 but was run down by Chastain on Lap 151 as the Trackhouse Racing driver led the final 35 laps of the second stage.

The stage end wasn’t without drama either, as Truex got to Chastain’s inside in Turn 3 on the stage’s final lap. Chastain hit the outside wall, bounced into Truex and sent him spinning as Chastain claimed the stage.

Second-year driver Harrison Burton earned his first top-10 of the year with a sixth-place showing. Kyle Busch was seventh, Justin Haley eighth, Blaney ninth and Chris Buescher 10th.

Despite plentiful drama, Chastain retains the points lead by 27 over Christopher Bell. Bell, too, looked to have a chance at the win as he came off pit road in second place with less than 15 laps to go. He was forced to come back to the pits almost immediately to put four new tires on as he reported a loose wheel after the initial stop. Bell ended up 14th.

The Cup Series makes its eagerly awaited return to North Wilkesboro for the first time since 1996 next Sunday for All-Star weekend. Coverage of the All-Star Open begins at 5:30 p.m. ET on FS1, followed by the All-Star Race at 8.

On the second Overtime attempt in Friday night’s Craftsman Truck Series race at Darlington, Christian Eckes crossed the start/finish line underneath the white flag just before the yellow flag waved for a Grant Enfinger spin in Turn 3, giving Eckes his second victory of the season.

Eckes led a race-high 82 of 158 laps – including the final 27 – to claim his first win at The Lady in Black and the third of his career.

“I can’t say enough about this truck. I’m not that excited because it was such a damn good truck it drove itself,” Eckes said. “So proud of everyone on our team. It’s been a really, really rough couple of weeks.”

The rough stretch for Eckes included five consecutive finishes outside the top-10 after his win in Atlanta on March 18.

“To come back and win shows the resilience of this team, and how we had to win shows the fight in this team.”

William Byron, the fourth-place finisher driving the No. 51 for Kyle Busch Motorsports, hounded Eckes for several laps and closed within three-tenths of a second before Timmy Hill spun in Turns 3 and 4 with two laps left to force Overtime.

On the initial Overtime try, Jake Garcia made contact with the outside wall coming off of Turn 2 and spun off the nose of Taylor Gray on Lap 152 to force the second attempt.

Eckes and Stewart Friesen – who took home the second position – were gearing up for a thrilling final lap before Enfinger’s spin ended the race.

Tanner Gray came home third while Carson Hocevar recovered to finish fifth after Rajah Caruth – finishing one spot behind him – spun Hocevar on Lap 115.

Cup-regular Bubba Wallace, who made his first Truck Series start in over two years Friday, finished seventh in the No. 1 TRICON Garage Toyota.

Corey Heim started on pole, led 66 laps and finished eighth. Dean Thompson earned the first top-10 of his career in his 33rd race in ninth and Kaden Honeycutt finished 10th for his third career top-10.

Heim had the dominant truck early, leading the first 26 laps before Eckes’ truck came to life and was able to get around him to win the 45-lap opening stage. Heim regained the lead on the Stage 2 restart and led until three to go in the stage. That’s when Byron carried momentum from the high lane in Turns 3 and 4, pulled even on the frontstretch and made the pass in Turns 1 and 2 to claim the second stage.

Zane Smith had a night to forget as he was caught up in a wreck early in the final stage and finished 22nd. Fortunately for Smith he retains the points lead by nine over Ty Majeski who had a similarly disappointing night, finishing 31st after experiencing power steering issues throughout the race.

The Craftsman Truck Series is back in action next Saturday, May 20 as NASCAR makes its highly anticipated return to North Wilkesboro. The Tyson 250 will get underway at 1:30 p.m. ET on Fox.

AJ Allmendinger started the day in first, and that’s also where he ended it for the second straight year on the 20-turn Circuit of The Americas.

Allmendinger, who led a race-high 28 of 46 laps, retook the lead on Lap 33 and didn’t relinquish it again even as fellow Cup regular William Byron gave chase over the last several laps and finished .853 seconds behind the winner.

“Well, William Byron might be one of the best ones in the sport right now. We’ve seen all the Cup races he’s winning,” Allmendinger said. “I knew it was gonna be tough just trying to fight to get back up to the front there.”

The “fight” Allmendinger referred to was the result of pitting after cruising to a Stage 1 victory. Allmendinger elected to pit on Lap 15 after winning the opening stage – the stage ended under green instead of yellow, a new road course rule – while the majority of the field pitted prior. That left Allmendinger mired deep in the field for much of Stage 2.

After ninth-place Brett Moffit’s car stopped in Turn 1 and brought out the caution on Lap 28, most everyone pitted for four tires, including Allmendinger. On the ensuing restart, Sheldon Creed was able to pass Ryan Sieg for the lead and won the second stage after the caution flag flew for Cole Custer, who was stuck in the Turn 4 sand trap after contact from Josh Berry.

On the Lap 33 restart to begin the final stage, Allmendinger got up to second place and later spun Creed in Turn 19 to regain the lead for the first time since Lap 15.

“Hate we had contact with Sheldon (Creed),” Allmendinger said. “I got under him, I was there I felt like, and he turned. I was trying to stay off him, so I hate that happened, but so proud of everybody at Kaulig Racing.”

Hendrick Motorsports’ Byron said of his second-place showing: “I just messed the esses up. I was getting one final run at him. Obviously they were really good all day. AJ’s great at these road courses and I still have just a little bit to gain and minimize some mistakes.”

Another Cup regular – Ty Gibbs – finished third, almost 13 seconds behind Allmendinger. Fellow Joe Gibbs Racing driver Sammy Smith was fourth and veteran Justin Allgaier was fifth.

Daniel Hemric made up the middle of a JRM sandwich in sixth as Sam Mayer and Berry were seventh and eighth. Creed was able to preserve a top-10 finish in ninth, while Riley Herbst came home 10th.

In all, there were five cautions for seven laps. Austin Hill, who had engine troubles and finished 37th, retains the lead in the point standings by 15 over Herbst. John Hunter Nemechek, who was spun by Hemric in the closing laps, finished 27th and sits 29 points behind Hill in third.

The Xfinity Series heads to Richmond Raceway for the first short track race of the season next Saturday, April 1, for the ToyotaCare 250. Coverage begins at 1 p.m. ET on FS1.

Driving the fastest car of the weekend in Atlanta, Joey Logano led 140 of 260 laps and ended the race right where he started it – in first place.

After cruising through Stage 1, leading every single lap of the 60-lap opening stage, the field was put on notice that Logano’s Ford was indeed the car to beat on Sunday afternoon.

“This thing was an animal,” Logano said of his Autotrader Mustang. “It was very very fast and (I) was able to lead a ton of laps … huge victory. Nice to get one early in the season – it always feels better – but what a great day for us.”

Making matters more impressive for Logano, he wasn’t the leader coming to the white flag – that distinction went to his old Penske pal Brad Keselowski who wound up crossing the finish line in second place after leading 47 laps of his own.

Logano utilized a big run through Turn 1 on the final lap, got to the outside of Keselowski’s car, and set his sights on Victory Lane after a big push down the backstretch from Christopher Bell helped him clear Keselowski.

“Yeah, the bottom came with a huge run – I don’t know how,” Keselowski said. “I thought I had it blocked and Joey just kept shaking and his car didn’t stall out.

“I couldn’t get the push down the back. I thought, ‘Oh, I’ll just get a push down the back,’ and the 20 car just hauled down there.”

Bell came home third, while Corey LaJoie earned his first top-five of the season and second of his career in fourth place. LaJoie was followed by 23XI Racing’s Tyler Reddick in fifth.

While the action was reasonably tame for much of the day, that narrative changed when Kevin Harvick was spun from the lead by Ross Chastain on Lap 190 – although little if any contact was actually made. As Harvick noted, the air behind his car caused the spin that involved 12 cars.

“I don’t know that he actually hit me, I think he was just so close to me that it just kind of took the back tires.

“He just caught me right in the middle of the corner there, and then the way that he got to me right there, I think he was just barely on me. The way he came from the right to the left just took the back of the car and spun it around. Just a weird deal.”

Chastain came away unscathed and finished 13th. Denny Hamlin was sixth after leading 14 laps early in the final stage, while Ryan Blaney rebounded to take seventh after a pit road speeding penalty. Erik Jones was eighth, Ty Gibbs ninth – his first top-10 of the season and second of his young career – and the man he replaced, Kyle Busch, was 10th.

Logano’s Penske teammate Austin Cindric won the second stage of the race and ended the day 11th. Logano now leads the standings by a single point over Bell, and Chastain is five points behind Logano in third.

The Cup Series heads to Austin, Texas, for its first road-course venture of the season next Sunday at the Circuit of The Americas. Race coverage begins at 3:30 p.m. ET on Fox.

The third time was the charm for Front Row Motorsports’ Zane Smith on Friday night in the Arizona desert.

After consecutive runner-up finishes in the final series standings the last two years, Smith was finally able to summit the mountain and claim the Truck Series championship.

“Oh my God. Third time’s the charm,” Smith said. “I want this sh-t more than anyone in the world. I don’t care what anyone says. … I was crying that whole (last) lap.”

Though he dominated the first two stages after winning the pole for the race, leading 77 laps, it wasn’t all easy for Smith. The caution flag flew on Lap 134 of 150 when Hailie Deegan made hard contact with the frontstretch wall, setting up the final “money stop” for the Championship 4 contenders.

Championship contender Ben Rhodes, who had been running the worst of the four for most of the night, played the strategy game by taking only two tires on the stop. Several non-Playoff drivers also took just two, leaving Rhodes a buffer to fellow championship hopefuls Chandler Smith, Ty Majeski and Zane Smith, who all re-started in the back-half of the top 10 with four fresh tires.

Zane Smith had the worst stop of the four, but was able to drive up to the second position with less than five laps remaining behind Rhodes. It was on Lap 147, though, that Majeski made a bold attempt to pass Zane Smith coming off of Turn 2, spinning himself out and bringing out the yellow flag once again. The move ruined any chance for Majeski to win the title in his first full-time Truck season.

Up to that point, Rhodes’ two tires had held serve, leaving last year’s champion disappointed to see the caution flag displayed.

“Two tires versus four, that was the name of the game,” Rhodes said. “We didn’t have the pace all night that we needed to be up there and compete, so it was a great heads-up call by my crew chief (Rich Lushes).

“Ultimately, we just didn’t need that last caution. I think we could’ve held them off for the final few laps.”

Zane Smith, who re-started on the inside of the second row in Overtime, was able to get to Rhodes’ inside almost immediately while Chandler Smith ran the high lane through Turns 1 and 2.

Zane Smith completed the pass on both of his fellow championship contenders, and was able to fend them off for the final lap-and-a-half en route to his fourth win of the season, and first since Kansas in May.

“I wasn’t gonna let it go down like that. I was either wrecked or I was winning this thing – there was no other option,” he said.

Rhodes crossed the stripe in second after getting to Zane Smith’s rear bumper in the final corner. Last year’s Phoenix winner Chandler Smith – who will move to Kaulig Racing’s Xfinity program next season –  was just behind Rhodes in third, while John Hunter Nemechek came home fourth, followed by 2019 Phoenix winner Stewart Friesen.

Grant Enfinger, Corey Heim, Tanner Gray, Kayden Honeycutt and Carson Hocevar completed the top 10. Majeski came home a disappointing 20th.

The race also marked the end of the current iteration of Kyle Busch Motorsports, as the team will switch from Toyota to Chevrolet next season with Busch’s move to Richard Childress Racing.

The newly-minted Craftsman Truck Series is off until February, where it will return to action in Daytona for the NextEra Energy 250 on Friday, Feb. 17.

“We’re racing for a championship! Let’s go!” exclaimed Joey Logano after climbing from his Mustang on the frontstretch in Las Vegas following a lengthy celebratory burnout.

“All you want to do is get to the Championship Four when the season starts and race for a championship,” Logano said, “and we’ve got the team to do it.”

Logano’s crew chief Paul Wolfe made the decision to bring Logano down pit road for four fresh tires with 25 laps remaining after a Daniel Suárez spin, which proved to be the winning move of the race.

“I don’t see why we can’t win (the championship) at this point,” Logano said.

“Just a lot of adversity we fought through the last 50 laps or so. I thought we were going to win, and then we kind of fell out, (but) had the tires. Racing Ross (Chastain) was fun – he was doing a good job air-blocking me and I was just trying to be patient.

“Eventually, I was just like, ‘I gotta go here.’”

Logano pulled even with Chastain in Turn 4 with four laps to go after Chastain blocked his run on the frontstretch earlier in the lap.

Logano was able to drive deeper into Turn 1 with three to go, and slid up in front of Chastain, setting sail to a .817-second victory.

The win locks Logano into the race for the championship at Phoenix in three weeks, a track he has won at twice previously.

Sunday’s race saw plenty of leaders – 11 – and perhaps the most dominant car on the day was Chastain who led 68 laps.

“There was a clear difference in tires there,” Chastain said, alluding to Logano’s fresher set. “We fully believed that we could hold them off and win the race on the tires we had.

“Joey (Logano) did a good job getting through the field. I hope I’m racing that guy for a really long time.”

The biggest moment of drama, though, happened much earlier in the race.

23XI Racing’s Bubba Wallace and Hendrick Motorsports’ Kyle Larson – eliminated from Playoff contention a week ago – tangled during Stage 2.

Larson took the low line inside of Kevin Harvick into Turn 3 while Wallace was driving in the top lane, making it three-wide on Lap 95. Larson was able to clear Harvick, but his car got tight and pushed up the track, forcing Wallace into the outside wall.

Wallace – the Stage 1 winner – was unhappy and retaliated by hooking Larson in the right-rear, sending both drivers careening hard into the wall and ending both of their days.

A furious Wallace approached Larson on the frontstretch and pushed him several times with no response from Larson. Both drivers were treated and released from the care center.

Their interviews can be seen here.

Christopher Bell, last week’s winner, was an innocent bystander and saw his day end as he was caught up in the wreck. He now sits 23 points behind Denny Hamlin, the current occupant of the final spot in the championship race.

Fellow championship hopeful Ryan Blaney also found trouble on Lap 228 after running up front for much of the day, including leading 39 laps at one point.

While running second, he had a tire go down in Turn 2 and he got into both the outside and inside walls, relegating him to a 28th-place finish, seven laps down. Blaney, the Stage 2 winner, is now 11 points out of fourth.

Kyle Busch, Chase Briscoe and Hamlin rounded out the top-five. Tyler Reddick, Martin Truex Jr., Erik Jones, AJ Allmendinger and Austin Dillon completed the top-10.

Chastain sits 18 points above the cutline – William Byron – while Byron’s teammate Chase Elliott is in third, 17 points to the good. Briscoe is nine points behind Hamlin who holds a six-point advantage over Byron.

The second race in the Round of 8 emanates from Homestead-Miami Speedway next Sunday with the Dixie Vodka 400 at 2:30 p.m. ET on NBC.

Rain, rain, go away may have been on the minds of every driver on Saturday afternoon in Kansas except for one: Noah Gragson.

Gragson was able to take advantage of two re-starts before the end of Stage 2 – and the skies opening up – to make the race official and earn the 10th checkered flag of his Xfinity Series career, and fifth of the season.

While Ty Gibbs dominated the early going of the race – winning Stage 1 and leading 66 laps – it was Gragson who was able to take advantage of the Lap 76 re-start after Jeremy Clements spun a few laps earlier.

With Austin Hill, Brett Moffitt and Ryan Sieg staying out under yellow in anticipation of the rain to come, Gragson started on the inside of the second row next to Gibbs.

Gibbs, though, took several laps to overtake Hill, while Gragson quickly spurted out to more than a one-second lead following the re-start.

Then on Lap 82, NASCAR displayed the caution flag for rain, running a few caution laps before determining it would allow the drivers to race to the end of Stage 2 on Lap 90.

Gragson was able to keep ahead during the two-lap shootout to win Stage 2, and the rain started pouring soon after, ensuring Gragson a second consecutive victory as NASCAR called the race official as the second stage was completed.

“It was tough. I don’t know if we had the fastest car there at the beginning in the first stage,” Gragson said of the rain-shortened afternoon.

“The (No.) 7 (of Justin Allgaier) was fast, the (No.) 54 (of Gibbs) was obviously the fastest car all day, but extremely grateful.”

Gragson later added: “I felt like if it would’ve went green, we could’ve kept working on it; we had a pretty fast car there. I’ll take (the wins) any way we can get them.”

Allgaier nosed Gibbs for second as the two made contact coming to the line to finish Stage 2. Pole-sitter Brandon Jones came home fourth, while Cup-regular Ross Chastain drove the No. 48 Chevrolet for Big Machine Racing to a fifth-place finish.

Points leader AJ Allmendinger finished sixth, followed by Josh Berry, Sammy Smith, Sam Mayer and Moffitt.

Allmendinger leads the regular-season standings by 38 points over Gibbs with one race remaining before the Xfinity Series Playoffs, with Allgaier 55 points out of first place.

The Xfinity Series’ regular-season finale takes place Friday night at Bristol Motor Speedway with the running of the Food City 300. Coverage begins at 7:30 p.m. ET on USA.

Imagine being Ryan Blaney for a moment.

You’ve been top-five in points since the sixth race of the season, yet somehow, some way, you have to sweat it out all the way until the waning laps of the regular season finale at Daytona – Race 26.

Welcome to NASCAR in 2022.

Blaney – like everyone else – had to wait out a 3-plus hour rain delay last Sunday while relying on his crew to keep his car in raceable condition after an early wreck.

For much of the day, the ever-consistent Blaney found himself behind fellow winless driver Martin Truex Jr. in points as a result of his wreck, and making matters worse, Austin Dillon passed a train of cars to take the lead after a big wreck in a rain-soaked Turn 1 before NASCAR could display the yellow flag.

Not only did that give Dillon the 15th spot on the Playoff grid temporarily as he came into the race needing a win – it meant that Blaney was out of the Playoffs.

Talk about a precarious and unenviable position to be in with just 21 laps to go.

Fortunately for Blaney, NASCAR made the obvious decision to wait out the rain and restart the race when the skies cleared.

Because of the aforementioned wreck that propelled Dillon to the lead, several of the cars involved were unable to continue, allowing Blaney to pass enough of them when the race resumed that he wound up three points ahead of Truex when Dillon crossed under the checkered flag.

(By the way, Dillon made the race-winning move with three laps remaining, otherwise Austin Cindric may have won his second race of the season and Truex and Blaney both would’ve made the Playoffs anyway. Not much is simple about NASCAR anymore, folks.)

So, when the day was over in Daytona, Blaney left the track knowing the goal was accomplished, albeit with even more nervousness than he and his team had planned for.

While Blaney may have been the last car to earn a postseason berth, any objective fan would acknowledge that he shouldn’t have even been in that position to begin with. (I know, I know, “But he couldn’t even win one race. He deserved to miss the Playoffs!” or something like that.)


Blaney has been a model of consistency this season, and there’s still something to be said for that attribute.

Blaney was 212 points above Erik Jones – the proverbial cutline – heading into Daytona. 212!

But because of the new winner, Dillon, who himself had 275 fewer points than Blaney coming into Daytona, Blaney almost missed the Playoffs.

Regardless of how asinine I may think that is, the point is that Blaney clearly deserved to be in the Playoffs, and it isn’t crazy to view him as one of the favorites.

Which is why he is my pick to win the championship in November.

Let’s take a look at some numbers, shall we?

While he doesn’t (yet) have a win – unless of course you count the All-Star Race – Blaney finished third in the regular-season standings; earned five stage wins; 3 poles; eight top-fives; and 12 top-10s.

He has the fourth best average finish in the garage, and the second best average running position. Blaney has also been outside the top-10 in points on just one occasion the entire season – way back after Race 3.

Blaney has led 417 laps this season to boot, but perhaps the most important factor working in his favor? Second through 16th on the Playoff grid are separated by only 20 points (Blaney is tied for sixth with 2013 points).

Traditionally we have seen two or three drivers with a hoard of Playoff points, followed by two or three with slightly fewer, and then the bottom 10 or so have practically none in comparison.

That simply isn’t the case with the advent of the Next Gen car and parity in the sport. This to me means that consistency is precisely what is needed to separate oneself from the pack in these Playoffs.

Enter Blaney.

In the opening round of the Playoffs, it wouldn’t surprise anyone to see him win at Bristol, a track he’s led 484 laps in 12 career races.

In the Playoffs’ second-round tracks, Blaney has an All-Star victory at Texas, two career wins at Talladega, and a win in the inaugural edition of the Charlotte ROVAL race in 2018.

The third round of the Playoffs sees two of Blaney’s best tracks: Las Vegas (eight career top-10s) and the season’s penultimate race at Martinsville (six top-fives and 377 laps led in 13 races).

For the forgetful, the championship race is once again at Phoenix Raceway. What are Blaney’s stats there, you ask?

In the last seven races in the desert, Blaney has four top-fives and 306 laps led. Just this season, he started on pole, won a stage and led 143 laps. While he hasn’t yet claimed victory there, Blaney and crew have a tremendous notebook from which to build come November.

What a storybook ending it would be for Blaney – who assuredly had thoughts of what-if-I-miss-the-Playoffs just a week ago – to ride his consistency through the Playoffs to his first Cup championship.

I for one expect it to happen, and believe Blaney will propel himself to “Elite” level in NASCAR’s top series once and for all.

On a dominant day that almost wasn’t, Tyler Reddick earned his second career Cup victory, winning in the Cup Series’ return to road racing after his triumph at Road America on Fourth of July weekend.

Despite leading a race-high 38 laps, Reddick almost lost hold of his victory on the final restart.

Trackhouse Racing’s Ross Chastain missed Turn One, deciding to charge ahead and use the access lane instead. By making the move, he was able to nose ahead of Reddick into Turn Three, though Reddick was able to pass him back in a frantic dash with two laps remaining.

“Just trying not to be in the carnage there in Turn One – I thought we were four-wide,” Chastain said of the evasive maneuver. “(I) couldn’t go any farther right and just decided to take the NASCAR access lane.”

Chastain was ultimately issued a penalty by NASCAR, relegating him to a 27th place finish.

With his second victory, Reddick now sits firmly in the Playoffs with four races remaining in the regular-season.

“I was like ‘uh-oh,’ but that was a scenario that had been talked about,” Reddick said of losing the lead briefly to Chastain via the access road. “I couldn’t believe he got ahead of me, I was kind of waiting to see if he was going to have a penalty …

“Just really glad to be able to do it here in Indianapolis. This is one really special place to race, (and) really excited to be able to kiss the bricks.”

As a result of Chastain’s penalty, Daytona 500 Champion and Cup rookie Austin Cindric came home in the second position, his second top-five result in the last four races.

Fellow rookies Harrison Burton and Todd Gilliland were also able to survive the carnage of the day, finishing third and fourth, respectively; it was each driver’s best career finish.

Bubba Wallace turned in his third top-five finish of the season in fifth place, followed by Joey Logano, AJ Allmendinger (Saturday’s Xfinity winner), Michael McDowell, Cole Custer and Chris Buescher – whose car caught fire earlier in the race.

Championship-leader Chase Elliott was running second to Reddick on the second-to-last restart, but was spun and finished 16th.

Looking to the Playoff picture, Ryan Blaney and Martin Truex Jr. were able to expand their leads over Stewart-Haas Racing’s Kevin Harvick, who had multiple run-ins with Hendrick Motorsports’ Alex Bowman during the race, causing Harvick to finish 33rd.

Blaney – who was also spun while contending late – has a 121-point cushion over Harvick, while Truex has a similarly comfortable 96-point advantage.

In the hardest crash of the race – and one of the hardest in recent memory – Kyle Larson had an undisclosed failure with his car, causing him to destroy the right-side of Ty Dillon’s Chevy Camaro while making the right-hander into Turn One; both drivers were OK after the incident.

Stage One was won by Indiana-native Chase Briscoe while Stage Two was won by Christopher Bell. Bell led 17 laps but had trouble on a restart late and finished 12th.

Elliott retains his lead in the standings by 125 points over Blaney.

The NASCAR Cup Series returns to action next Sunday with the FireKeepers Casino 400 at Michigan International Speedway. Coverage begins at 3 p.m. ET on USA.

Page 1 of 3

No right click

Please link the article.