For a driver to have been the first to win four straight Xfinity Series races since Sam Ard did back in 1983, Noah Gragson just wanted to focus on one thing only; a cowboy hat for his Cole Swindell concert he was attending to that night. The 24 year old Las Vegas native can’t party too hard on Saturday evening when rocking out on the big stage, because he will be piloting the No. 16 Chevy Camaro for Kaulig Racing for 500 miles on Sunday at Texas. “I need a cowboy hat,” quoted Gragson in the media center. “I need to dress appropriately for the culture down here. Those last couple of laps, I was thinking, ‘We need to find a strip mall that sells cowboy hats so we can look cool in this concert.’”
The race at Texas Motor Speedway wasn’t one that everyone knew Gragson was going to win, even though he put the Bass Pro Shops Chevy in the lead on three separate occasions for a total of 85 laps led. Early in the race, Truck Series championship contender and last year's winner John Hunter Nemecheck led early and often in the hot sunny track in Texas. He would end up being involved in a crash on lap 116, when a big pile up involving Brandon Jones, Justin Allgaier, and several others took race winning contenders out of the race.
In the 2 hours and 38 minutes it took to complete the 300 mile event, 17 of the 38 drivers entered were wiped out either due to a crash or mechanical problem. If Texas wasn’t in the same round as Talladega and the Charlotte Roval, some would have considered this the wildcard event. With laps winding down, AJ Almendinger, who was also involved in the same pile up as Nemecheck, looked like he was going to have a great shot of winning with the fuel mileage/tire wear kicking into effect. However, with just 17 laps to go in the event, the Dinger had to pit, which left Jeb Burton in the lead until Gragson passed him with new tires.
Saturday evening's win was Gragsons fourth straight since Darlington, seventh overall this year, and 12th overall. However, Dale Earnhardt Jr., who owns JRM, told the media center, “I don’t believe he’s afraid of the spotlight. I think he gets nervous, but he finds ways to calm their nerves down and get focused on winning. He will do great in the Cup, which is something I wouldn't have said until this year since he has matured.” The Xfinity Series will take on the wild and crazy Talladega Superspeedway next Saturday afternoon, for the second race of the Round of 12.
After an upset win as a team owner last week at Bristol with Christopher Buescher, Brad Keselowski in the No. 6 Ford Mustang for RFK Racing won the pole for Sunday's event at Texas Motor Speedway. Keselowski dropped a lap with a time of 28.573 seconds around the mile and a half speedway near Fort Worth, Tex. Keselowski’s last pole came in 2019, a three year drought until this afternoon. Keselowski told the media center, “I think it’s a little unfair that that statistic sticks because we went a whole year without qualifying due to COVID-19. I did really well with the old format of qualifying, but I am just glad the direction RFK Racing is headed in these past couple of weeks. It will be a bright future ahead.”
Brandon Jones, who pilots the No. 19 Toyota Supra for Joe Gibbs Racing will start on the pole for Saturdays running of the Andy’s Frozen Custard 300 at Texas Motor Speedway. Jones was the second to last car to qualify for the 300 mile event at Texas, and would put down a 29.089 second lap, knocking off Daniel Hemric from the pole at the moment. Hemric would eventually land in third place for the race, after the last car to qualify of Noah Gragson would land in second. The 2022 Andy’s Frozen Custard 300 at Texas Motor Speedway will kick off at 3:30 p.m. Eastern on USA, PRN, and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio.
Back in May of this year leaving Kansas Speedway, Bubba Wallace, driver of the No. 23 Toyota Camry for 23XI, watched his teammate Kurt Busch win in the No. 45 after he felt like he could have sealed the deal in the event. Now in September, with Wallace in the No. 45 competing for the owners championship after Kurt is out with concussion-like symptoms, put everything together for a nearly perfect race and won the Hollywood Casino 400 at Kansas.
“Man, just so proud of this team, so proud of the effort that they put in each and every week,” quoted Wallace after the victory talking to NBC Sports after his victory. “Just thankful for the opportunity, right? Took this jump from an idea two years ago from a text from Denny before it all even happened. He was ready to get the deal done. Appreciate him. Appreciate MJ, Curtis, Gene. Everybody on that side of things, everybody at 23XI. Men and women there, they work their tails off.”
Wallace had to battle Toyota teammate and car owner Denny Hamlin in the No. 11 Toyota Camry for Joe Gibbs Racing, and would become victorious over his boss. Hamlin told media members on pit lane and said, “I’m really happy for our 11 Toyota team. They fought hard. They really stepped up that last half. We made the car quite a bit better. Just really happy about the outcome and really happy for that No. 45 team and Bubba Wallace and Bootie. Bubba has just really worked hard on his craft, and we've just given him fast race cars, and now he is showing what he has got.”
The race started off with Tyler Reddick, the driver of the No. 8 Chevy Camaro for Richard Childress Racing, starting on pole for the 400 mile event at Kansas City. Joey Logano, driver of the No. 22 Ford Mustang for Team Penske, took the lead from Reddick on lap one, and would lead until Alex Bowman in the No. 48 Chevy Camaro took lead for the first time on lap three, and wouldn’t give it up until pit stops on the competition caution on lap 25.
Reddick took back the lead after beating everyone on pit road and led the field back to green. On lap 35, playoff driver Kevin Harvick in the No. 4 Ford Mustang for Stewart Haas Racing, smacked the outside wall in turn four and brought out the first natural caution, and would eventually end his day early. Race leader Reddick shockingly ended up wrecking in turn two after a tire issue would plague him early in the race. That issue would send him out of the race, already two favorable playoff divers in trouble heading to Bristol next week.
Another playoff driver in Ryan Blaney, driver of the No. 12 Ford Mustang for Team Penske, would have a loose wheel under caution after a pit stop, and would head to the tail end of the field after fixing it. An 11 lap sprint to the green and white checkered flag would have Christopher Bell in the No. 20 Toyota Camry for JGR would lead the way to the end of stage one, and secure 10 points and one playoff point to help him towards a championship hunt.
Six laps after the restart to begin stage two on lap 85, Wallaces teammate, Ty Gibbs in the No. 23 Toyota Camry, would also be another victim of a tire issue at the Kansas Speedway, and would end up taking him out of the race as well. The race would restart with Martin Truex Jr, driver of the No. 19 Toyota Camry for JGR who missed the playoffs for the first time in 2014, lead the way until lap 111.
That same lap, Ricky Stenhouse Jr, a driver who was having a good run in the No. 47 Chevy Camaro for the small team of JTG Daughtery Racing, would have a tire related issue on the back stretch and would put him several laps down in the 400 mile event. A big multi-car crash containing the driver of the No. 7 of Corey Lajoie, No. 21 Harrison Burton, and the No. 10 of Aric Almirola in turn one, brought out the 7th yellow of the event. When the race went back to green condition, the lead changed to the No. 24 of William Byron, who drives a Chevy Camaro for Hendrick Motorsports, and would lead until lap 120, when his teammate Bowman would take the lead of the field once again.
Bowman would lead once again for a while this time, and even led during the spin Kyle Busch had in the No. 18 Toyota Camry for JGR in turn four. That spin along with several other issues, would keep Busch from running well in the event, eventually finishing in the 26th position two laps down. Bowman would continue to lead to the end of stage two where he won, and would lead all the way up to lap 200.
Wallace led for the first time in a 15 lap span from lap 200-215, until Bowman chased him back down. Wallace would take the lead one final time on lap 225 after green flag pit stops, and he would be able to keep it till the checkered flag. But it wasn’t all sunshine and roses for the No. 45 team. Wallace had to defend off his boss Hamlin and Bell for the final 25 laps of the event. Wallace knew if he made even the slightest mistake, his chance to win would be over. But what comes around goes around, and that was certainly the case for Wallace after a strong performance in May. Bubba Wallace would make history as being the only black multi winner in NASCAR after winning the Hollywood Casino 400.
Wallace, talking to the folks in the media center, wanted to remind them that he hasn’t forgotten about the original driver for the No. 45. First of all for Kurt, I hate the scenario that we're in with him, but he has been nothing but an advocate and a leader in these moments for us. When we get back to our Monday morning meetings, he is there giving insight on how to be better. I appreciate him for that. It's taught me how to be better off the racetrack, let alone on the racetrack. And the conversation I had with him in victory lane was really special. He just talked about believing in self, and he always believed in me, and so I thought that was pretty special.”
Hamlin, in the press conference as the owner of Wallace's race winning ride, describes the way 23XI Racing has a plan for the next five years on being a championship organization. “We've got a lot of great things in the works in a few years. Hopefully you're going to talk about this team winning on a more regular basis, but never in my wildest dreams would I imagine that we would go out there and have three wins already in just a year and three-quarters.”
Hamlin continues on by saying,” We're really trying to instill a really positive one-team mentality. So by doing that and having an eligibility in the owner's championship, we're able to just pick apart and put our best pieces in each section of a race team to go out and compete at our best. Bubba Wallace was an easy choice for us. Especially the results that he has given us over the last two to three months.”
For the first time since the NASCAR playoff/chase era started in 2004, two non playoff drivers have won the first two races of the 10 race championship hunt (Erik Jones last week at Darlington). Hamlin also mentions how he believes a non playoff driver could win at the Phoenix championship race, and stir up the championship drivers. “Just simply because we used to -- when we used to build our own cars and design our own cars, we would just kind of save the best stuff for the end of the season. Everyone would just kind of front-load a lot of their best people, best parts, best bodies, best cars for the playoffs. There's no secret that really the ones that kept advancing, cars just got faster.”
Next week, the final race of the round of 16 will have everyone on their toes if they can stay in the playoffs and win a championship. Busch, No. 3 Austin Dillon, No. 14 Chase Briscoe, and Harvick are the four drivers out of the round of 12 as of now, but since no driver is locked in, anyone could be eliminated. Saturday night is when the NASCAR Cup Series will take on the Bristol Motor Speedway for the Bass Pro Shops Night Race, and it will be one that is a chaotic, awesome, and crazy event. The race will take the green flag at 7:30 p.m. Est Saturday evening in the Smoky Mountains of Tennessee, and will be covered live on USA, PRN, and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio.
Nemecheck clinches Kansas and leads the way in playoffs
Even though the driver of the No. 4 Toyota Tundra for Kyle Busch Motorsports John Hunter Nemecheck started on pole and led the race high of 88 laps out of the 134, it wasn’t a snoozefest race in the Heartland of America. Not only did he officially lock himself into the Round of 8 Truck Series playoffs, he also tied his father, Joe Nemecheck, with two wins at the Kansas Speedway.
“It’s really cool,” Nemecheck told the media center Friday evening. “He has two of these Kansas trophies in his trophy case, but he doesn’t have a Truck Series one, just Xfinity and Cup wins here. I have a Truck and Xfinity trophy, and maybe I can go out and get me a Cup Series one someday.” John Hunter also states his love for this track. “I really love this racetrack. I feel like it really suits my driving style with it being multiple grooves, slick, tire falloff. I love any racetrack you can go to and rip the fence.”
While it was a great night for the main Toyota truck team, it was a bad night for second place finisher Carson Hocevar, who barely missed the playoffs by three points below the cut line. Matt Crafton also missed the playoffs and won’t compete for a fourth title. Hocevar’s No. 42 truck team for Niece Sports decided to pit early, and ride out 70 plus laps to try to win the race on strategy. Unfortunately for him, it didn’t pan out on the final lap. “I didn't even believe in the call myself,” Hocevar told MRN post race.
”I was shaking my head on pit road. Phil Gould (Hocevar’s Crew Chief) deserved to win the race. I don't know what else I can do differently. There's no regret. There's disappointment. It's like being a bridesmaid at my own wedding."Another name in the game that looked like he would be a contender was Ty Majeski driving the No. 66 for ThorSport Racing, started in second and led 14 laps from lap 7 to lap 20. He would end up finishing eighth in the Kansas Lottery 200.
Over all, the top 10 finishers in the 200 mile race at Kansas Speedway would be Nemecheck, Hocevar, No. 17 Ryan Preece, No. 38 Zane Smith (Spring winner at Kansas), No. 23 Grant Enfinger, No. 18 Chandler Smith, No. 51 Corey Heim, Majeski, No. 91 Colby Howard, and No. 98 Christian Eckes.
This upcoming Thursday on September 15th, the tough trucks of NASCAR will take on the famous Bristol Motor Speedway for the UNOH 200 Presented by Ohio Logistics. That race will be 200 laps around the World’s Most Famous Half Mile, and will start at 9 p.m. Eastern on FS1.
Newgarden scores 2022 Bommarito Automotive Group 500 win
Josef Newgarden came into the St Louis race weekend as one of the championship favorites, and left as five time winner in the 2022 NTT IndyCar Series and the man to beat witn two races left at Portland and Laguna Seca. Newgarden, piloting the No. 2 Chevy for Team Penske, also scored his third straight win at World Wide Technology Raceway.
“I was elated that we want back racing after the rain delay,” quoted Newgarden in the media center, talking about the two hour and nine minute rain delay that took place on lap 217. “Racing here at night is so much better. The second line on the track came in and produced great racing, and I am just happy for my team. It’s a big night for us on the PPG Chevy for Team Penske.”
Rookie of the year contender David Malukas drove his No. 18 Honda for Dale Coyne Racing, which is based in Malukas hometown of Chicago, Ill., to his best finish of his career of second place. “To do it here in my home state and with a team from my hometown is awesome. My spotter Poncho was helping me out the whole entire night and helped us get second. I was so happy that we managed to go back to the front, because I knew from practice yesterday, we had a great car.”
The race started an hour earlier than scheduled, with the green flag in the air around 6 p.m. Est due to storms looming in the St Louis area. Will Power in the No. 12 Verizon Team Penske Chevy started on the pole and led a race high of 128 laps of the 260 available. The first caution of the night didn’t come until lap 145, when Jack Harvey in his No. 45 Honda slammed into the outside wall in turn four. Green flag pit stops and strategy was the name of the game throughout the first 200 laps of the event, due to looming weather making its way towards the track. Rain finally hit Gateway on lap 214, and the 500 kilometer race was red flagged on lap 217 at 7:55 p.m. Est for two hours and nine minutes.
The track was finally ready to go around 9:50 p.m., and the engines were restarted around 10 p.m. With 43 laps remaining, time was limited for drivers to make their moves, causing chaos. Newgarden passed his teammate Scott McLaughlin on lap 225, and didn’t let go. But it wasn’t that easy, as McLaughlin and Malukas were catching him with just a few laps remaining. While Malukas did make a daring pass on McLaughlin with two to go on the high side, it wasn’t enough to catch the 2019 IndyCar Champion. Newgarden scored his 25th in the NTT IndyCar Series, tying him with pioneer racer Gordon Johncock. On September 4th, the IndyCar stars will fight it out for the second to last race of the season in Portland, Ore., at Portland International Raceway for the Grand Prix of Portland.
Harvick now two for two with playoffs looming
Just a few weeks ago, Kevin Harvick was considered to be past his prime with the lack of success that Stewart Haas Racing has had. Now he has back to back wins and could be the one holding the championship trophy in Phoenix if momentum sticks with him.
“The cars have been running good week in and week out,” quoted Harvick talking to NBC Sports. “You see that we have a much better understanding of what’s going on with how we adjusted on the car after the first run and were able to get our car handling a lot better.”
Christopher Bell finished second in the event, but could have possibly passed Harvick before the finish if lapped cars and more laps were in his hands. Harvick continued by saying, “I think as it got dark, the racetrack really came to our Mobil 1 Ford Mustang. Just got to thank Mobil, Busch Light, GearWrench, Hunt Brothers, Rheem, Ford, Xfinity, Morton Buildings, E-Z-Go, everybody who helps Stewart Haas on this No. 4 car.”
The 400 laps at Richmond was a strategy fest to begin with, as when to pit was the name of the game. While the racing on the 0.75 mile track in the commonwealth of Virginia wasn’t a crash fest like a Martinsville or Bristol might be, it did bring some sort of entertainment.
Kyle Larson, who was the only Cup Series driver to compete in the Knoxville Nationals the night prior, started his Chevy Camaro on the pole alongside Ross Chastain, who would lead lap one. Four laps later, Tyler Reddick brought out the first caution after a spin in turn four. The race then restarted with Chastain still up front, and he would lead the race under the green flag condition to win stage one on lap 70.
On lap 79 the race restarted and stayed green til the end of stage two on lap 230. Over the course of the 160 green flag laps, several drivers like Joey Logano, Chase Elliott, and Kyle Larson had their fair share of leading the race as pit stops occurred. Logano would end up winning stage two.
After the restart, Kyle Busch went for a spin in turn four with the help of Chastain, later speaking to the media saying, “I just got Chastained.” When the race went green once again, it wasn’t long before Christopher Bell spun at the same spot his teammate did early, this time by himself.
The rest of the 144 laps of the 400 lap event were run under cloudy conditions, which seemed to help Harvick later on in the race. After a few different leaders like Hamlin and Logano took the lead due to pit strategy, Harvick still looked like he had the win in his hands. He did have a chance to lose it though, with Chris Buescher for RFK Racing running in the top five as well as Christopher Bell with a late charge, But ultimately, Harvick would win his second straight race, and his 60th career win overall.
The race would be three hours, three minutes, and 27 seconds long, with an average speed of 98.11 mph. Next week, the stars of the NASCAR Cup Series head to the Finger Lakes region of New York, and will compete at the Watkins Glen International road course in the Go Bowling at the Glen. That race will start at 2 p.m. Eastern on USA, MRN, and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio.
With 14 drivers locked into the 2022 NASCAR playoffs and with only four races left in the regular season, Kevin Harvick had to win to be in contingency to win this year's NASCAR Championship at Phoenix this November. He did exactly that by winning Sunday's Firekeepers Casino 400 at Michigan International Speedway.
Harvick, referring to his 59th Cup Series win, said to the media, “It means a lot. As we went through the first part of the season and really not having everything where we wanted to be and we just really just kept our heads down and just kept communicating and working and working through what we thought our weak points were. So today it just — we didn’t have anything work against us. That’s the biggest thing that happened today. Pocono and Loudon kind of in the same position and just didn’t have the end of it go right, and today it went our way. We were in position to capitalize on it.”
While Harvick was the one who pulled into victory lane in the Irish Hills of Michigan, he was one of many drivers who looked like they were in contention to win the race. Fifteen drivers led at least one lap in the 400 mile event at Michigan International Speedway, and the race had seven cautions causing 36 of the 200 laps to run under the yellow flag condition.
The first caution of the day came out on lap 21 for the competition caution with Wallace leading. Then shortly later on the restart, JJ Yeley caused a pileup on lap 26 that took out big named contenders like Kyle Busch, Austin Cindric, Aric Almirola, Ricky Stenhouse Jr., and many more. The end of stage one was the reason for the third yellow of the day, with Bell being the first person to cross the line. On lap 99, Cole Custer had a fire break out in his racecar that essentially ended his day which was the reason for the fourth yellow.
On lap 110, Noah Gragson who was driving part time for Kaulig Racing, had an accident on the back straightaway that ruined his great run after being in the top 10 for most of the day. Stage two brought out the sixth yellow flag of the day, where Denny Hamlin won 10 points and one playoff point to help him out. Finally, on lap 161, Bell and Ross Chastain brought out the final caution of the day, where Bell made a bad block battling for the lead,and ended up in the garage at the end of the day. By leading the final 38 laps and being in the top 10 all day, Harvick cruised to victory for the first time since his nine win season back in 2020.
Overall, the race took two hours, 54 minutes, and eight seconds to complete, with an hour rain delay before the start of the event. The average speed of the race was 137.825 mph with a 2.903 second margin of victory between Harvick and second place Bubba Wallace. Next week, the NASCAR Cup Series will take on 400 laps and 300 miles at Richmond Raceway in Richmond, Va., for the Federated Auto Parts 400. The race will start at 3 p.m. Eastern and will be on USA, MRN, and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio.
After a day where John Hunter Nemecheck and Ty Majeski led just 146 laps combined at the TSports 200 at Lucas Oil Raceway Park, nobody expected Grant Enfinger to score his first win of the season and book his tickets to the round of 8 in the NASCAR CampingWorld Truck Series playoffs. But that is exactly what happened Friday night.
“We are finally moving forward,” said Enfinger in an interview with Fox Sports after celebrating with his team. “Those were the first laps we led since Atlanta. We have just been off as an organization lately, but can’t say thank you enough for the guys who helped put this together.”
The race itself was a fairly clean one with tons of great racing throughout the night. The Truck Series made its first visit to the track since 2011, on the exact same day 11 years apart. It wasn't until just a few laps remained in the 200 lap event, in which cautions led to more cautions, and controversy struck once again.
Carson Hocevar spun Colby Howard with just eight laps to go in the event, which seemed to be payback after an incident earlier in the day. Howard showed his displeasure on the track when he raised his arms when Hocevar drove by under caution. That wouldn't be the last of the controversy, as on an overtime restart. Nemecheck got into Talyor Gray battling for the win in turn three, and did a dump and run move in turn three. Gray would finish in the 22nd position at the end of the night.
On the final restart, Enfinger took the lead away from Zane Smith, who always finds himself in the top five at the end of races. After a two lap battle, Enfinger stole the win from the other playoff drivers, and secured himself to the round of 8. Three playoff drivers finished outside of the top 10 in the TSport 200, which would be Christian Eckes (finished 16th), Chandler Smith (finished 18th), and Hocevar (finished 21st). Crafton, who complained about an ill handling truck throughout the race, brought it home to a ninth place finish.
Here are the playoff standings after racing at Lucas Oil Raceway Park
- No. 23 Grant Enfinger Advanced
- No. 38 Zane Smith +50
- No. 99 Ben Rhodes +36
- No. 52 Stewart Friesen +28
- No. 4 John Hunter Nemecheck +24
- No. 18 Chandler Smith +24
- No. 66 Ty Majeski +19
- No. 42 Carson Hocevar +7
- No. 88 Matt Crafton -7
- No. 98 Christian Eckes -7
The 207 laps completed Friday night took two hours, five minutes, and 56 seconds to complete with an average speed of 106.586 mph. There were 10 cautions with 78 of the 207 laps being run under the yellow flag. On Saturday, August 13th, the tough trucks of NASCAR will take on the action track of Richmond Raceway for a Saturday night shootout. The Worldwide Express 250 for Carrier Appreciation will begin around 8 p.m. Eastern, and will be carried live on FS1, MRN, and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio.
Chandler Smith secured his playoff spot back at Las Vegas when he won the 20 mile race in early March, but that didn’t stop him from leading 49 of the 60 laps in Saturday’s CRC Brakleen 150 at Pocono Raceway. Smith came to the final regular season race before the playoffs began to show how dominant his No. 18 team will be.
“God is good.” quoted Smith to the media after his win. “It’s God’s timing. We’ve been going through a bit of a struggle here recently, but just when we need to start shining, we start shining. I can’t thank everyone enough. This ChargeMe Toyota was fast today. It was really good. We were a little tight. Had some trouble getting through the gears. Sorry to the 51 (Corey Heim) team, but also thank you to the 51 team. This win is as much mine as it is yours.” Chandler Smith will now head to Lucas Oil Raceway Park second in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series standings, 15 points behind Zane Smith
The one hour, 20 minute, and 39 seconds race proved to be a sprint more than a marathon to the truck stars of NASCAR. With five lead changes throughout the 150 mile event, it showed that they needed to get up front fast to be in contention. The race also had five caution flags that contained 20 of the 60 laps under the yellow condition, causing stage one to only have six of the 15 laps run under the green flag.
Derek Kraus, Tyler Ankrum, and Matt Dibenedetto all were just shy of making the playoffs, by staying in 11th, 12th, and 13th in points respectively. Here are the 10 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series drivers who will battle in the seven race playoffs.
- No. 38 Zane Smith
- No. 18 Chandler Smith
- No. 99 Ben Rhodes
- No. 4 John Hunter Nemecheck
- No. 52 Stewart Friesen
- No. 51 Christian Eckes
- No. 66 Ty Majeski
- No. 42 Carson Hocevar
- No. 23 Grant Enfinger
- No. 88 Matt Crafton
Next week, the super truckers of NASCAR will take on the Lucas Oil Raceway in Indianapolis, Ind., returning to the 0.686 mile track for the first time since 2011. That race will take place at 9 p.m. Eastern on Friday, July 29th. It will be carried live on FS!, MRN, and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio.