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Brett Moffitt wins at Bristol as tempers flare in action-filled race

BRISTOL, Tenn. – Top-seeded Brett Moffitt held off determined 17-year-old Chandler Smith after a restart with three laps left and took home the trophy in Thursday night’s UNOH 200 at Bristol Motor Speedway.

With the victory in the first event of the NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series Playoffs, Moffitt, the defending series champion, gained an automatic berth in the Round of 6, as other Playoff contenders either overcame adversity or succumbed to it.

“It was tough,” Moffitt said in Victory Lane. “Our (No. 24) Silverado was strong on long runs, but it was hard to get fired off. So it was really tough just getting the first couple of laps under our belt after a restart.

“There’s no more important win than right now for the season, getting into the Round of 6, so we’ll take this and move on with it. We’re playing with house money now. We still want to go get points and ultimately win races and get Playoff points to set ourselves up with a little safety net for the next round. But now we’ll just go and race to win, and the pressure’s off.”

In his third start in the Truck Series, Smith held his own to the inside of Moffitt for one lap after the final restart, but Moffitt cleared Smith’s No. 51 Toyota on lap 199 and pulled away to win by .743 seconds. Playoff driver Ross Chastain overcame a violation for an uncontrolled tire to run third, muscling his way through the field and drawing ire from competitors along the way.

Stewart Friesen recovered from a spin off the nose of Matt Crafton’s Toyota, as the two Playoff drivers raced in close quarters around the truck of Tyler Dippel. Regular-season champion Grant Enfinger, the only driver other than Moffitt and Chastain to lead laps, ran fifth.

Sheldon Creed, Crafton, Ben Rhodes, Todd Gilliland and Playoff driver Austin Hill completed the top 10, though the latter two lost considerable ground to the Playoff leaders.

After an action-filled race that produced 12 cautions for 73 laps, Chastain was unapologetic for the aggressive style that carried him to a third-place finish.

“We put ourselves in a hole there with that one pit stop,” Chastain said. “Yeah, I hate that, but the fastest truck didn’t win tonight. Congrats to Brett… But it’s one lane—it’s the old Bristol. They took the top (of the concrete track) and ground it without telling us, or they didn’t tell me.

“So it was one lane around the bottom. That’s what built this place. You come through this tunnel, and there’s talk about rattling cages, there’s helmets thrown. If we’re going to fill these places up, the CarShield Chevy’s going to be the one that adds to the excitement.”

After the race, several crew chiefs approached Chastain to express their displeasure.

“I think the crew chiefs come down here and puff their chests out—they’re old washed-up race car drivers,” Chastain said. “I love Marcus (Richmond) and Rudy (Fugle), but, my goodness, let your drivers come handle it. And one at a time, line ‘em up, and let’s race. And let’s handle it after, outside the race car.

“Obviously, I’m no stranger to this.”

Bad luck continued to follow Playoff driver Johnny Sauter who suffered hard contact from John Hunter Nemechek’s truck on Lap 75—after Sauter turned Nemechek. After a litany of subsequent incidents, Sauter drove his battered No. 13 Ford to an 11th-place finish and is clinging to the sixth spot in the standings by three points over Hill.

Sunoco Rookie of the Year contender Tyler Ankrum fared worst of all. His No. 17 Toyota developed electric problems, relegating the 18-year-old to a 20th-place result, six laps down. Ankrum heads to the Aug. 25 race at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park last in the Playoff standings and 13 points behind Sauter.

If the race had plenty of contact in the heat of battle, it also had a moment of comic relief. After a wreck on Lap 182 caused the 11th caution, a wrecker attempting to push Natalie Decker’s No. 54 Toyota spun the truck instead. Decker retired from the race in 25th place.

But Moffitt finished where he started—from the pole and in the Playoff lead. He now holds a 16-point lead over Chastain in second and a free pass to the next round of the Playoff

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Sam Mayer Wins Second In A Row At Bristol In Comeback Effort

BRISTOL, Tenn. — The end result was the same, but the race itself couldn’t have been more different.

Sam Mayer wound up in Victory Lane in Thursday’s Bush’s Beans 150 at Bristol Motor Speedway, sweeping the season at “The World’s Fastest Half-Mile” and earning his third win of his career.

The race began with a bang, as Mayer made contact after starting on the outside of polesitter Chase Cabre in Turn 3 on the opening lap, sending Cabre into the wall.

NASCAR sent Mayer to the rear of the field following the incident, and he quickly made his way back through the field. By the Lap 50 scheduled break, he was already back inside the top five.

For the next 80-plus laps, Mayer followed Spencer Davis and company around Thunder Valley, waiting to pounce when the time was right.

With 13 laps to go, Mayer used the bump-and-run on Davis, who led the most laps for Rette Jones Racing, and didn’t look back, cruising to the victory by almost two seconds.

“There’s always that little bit in your mind that has doubt, but I felt pretty confident in the race car,” Mayer said of coming from the rear. “(Crew chief) Mardy (Lindley) put together a really good one, everyone at GMS […] with the aero and and all that, I couldn’t get by the No. 30 (Spencer Davis) to save my life until he made a mistake. It did pay off that we were there to get an opportunity to pass him. There was a little doubt in my mind, but I was pretty confident as well that we’d get it done.”

Ty Gibbs came home second for the fourth time this season, leading the DGR-Crosley brigade, with Ruben Garcia Jr. third, Mason Diaz fourth and Davis fifth.

Max McLaughlin, Cabre, Hailie Deegan and Joe Graf Jr. rounded out the top 10.

Following the Lap 1 accident, Cabre began experiencing lower back pain. He was assisted climbing out of his car post-race and has been transferred to a local hospital for further evaluation.

When asked about the Lap 1 contact, Mayer said Cabre “kind of deserves it” due to the way he’d been racing Cabre all season long.

“I did flat out dump him,” he said. “I didn’t mean it at all, but I did get in there way too hard and get into him.”

With the win, Mayer extends his championship points lead over Cabre to 22, the biggest margin of the season. McLaughlin and Gray now sit third and fourth with Derek Kraus’ absence at Bristol.

The Bush’s Beans 150 is scheduled to be broadcast on NBCSN on Wednesday, August 21 at 7 p.m.

The next K&N Pro Series East event will take place next weekend at Worldwide Technology Raceway at Gateway, the second of two combination events with the K&N Pro Series West.

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Doug Coby Uses Timely Move To Break Justin Bonsignore’s Streak at Thompson

THOMPSON, Conn. — One of the most historic streaks in NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour history was broken by one of the drivers who will go down as one of the best ever.

Doug Coby earned his fourth victory of the season in the Bud ‘King of Beers’ 150 at Thompson Speedway Motorsports Park, breaking Justin Bonsignore’s streak of six consecutive wins at the Connecticut oval.

It was Coby’s 28th career Whelen Modified Tour victory, his sixth career at Thompson — and it increased the points lead with just five races remaining in the championship points schedule.

“We just go race to race,” Coby said. “We ran three different cars at New Hampshire, Stafford and Thompson, and I’m really proud of that for my team. He (Justin) would probably have anyone but me snap that streak. It’s really impressive what his team did. They had a great run.”

Coby dominated the early laps after earning his seventh Mayhew Tools Dominator Pole Award of the season in qualifying. When the caution flag flew on lap 84, Coby was leading the charge over Bonsignore, and both of them led the field down pit road. Coby elected to take his fresh tires on the pit stop, and exited the pits second, behind Bonsignore.

Coby restarted third, after Jon McKennedy used some strategy to earn the lead. He wouldn’t get back to the top spot until the final laps. After former series champion Bobby Santos III took the lead on lap 129, a caution with just 11 laps to go left Santos, Craig Lutz, Bonsignore and Coby at the front. All four of them had led laps, but only three of them would finish.

At the green, Santos stumbled with a transmission issue, Lutz spun his tires, and Coby hung a hard left to clear all of them, into the lead. He never looked back.

“When someone messes up in front of you, you hope you have enough room, you crank it to the left, and hope no one is going to spin you,” Coby said of the restart dash.

Bonsignore would come up one spot short of his seventh straight Thompson win, while Lutz settled for third. McKennedy and Timmy Solomito completed the top five.

“The restart got a little bit wild, and Doug was just in a better spot,” Bonsignore said. “You’re not going to win every game (race). We were prepared for this to happen. We lost to the best car this year.”

Jimmy Blewett was sixth, followed by Andrew Krause, Patrick Emerling, Matt Swanson and Woody Pitkat.

Coby leads by 47 in the point standings over Bonsignore and Silk, who are tied for second. The three former series champions have won all but one race this season.

The 30th annual Bud ‘King of Beers’ 150 will air on NBCSN on Wednesday, August 21, at 6 p.m.

The NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour returns to the track on Saturday, August 31, at Oswego Speedway in New York, as part of the track’s 63rd annual Classic Weekend.

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Ford Performance Unveils All-New NASCAR Xfinity Series Mustang

DEARBORN, Mich., August 15, 2019 – Ford today revealed the all-new 2020 NASCAR Xfinity Series Mustang racecar, rounding out its presence as Ford’s global flagship in race series around the world, from hot rods to stock cars to endurance racers.

 

The NASCAR Xfinity Series Mustang marks the fifth all-new motorsports Mustang unveiled in the past year. It joins the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series, National Hot Rod Association Funny Car division, Virgin Australia Supercars Championship, and grassroots Cobra Jet, which have all found their way to the winner’s circle in their respective forms of racing.

 

The new racing Mustangs all were projects that included members of Ford’s engineering and aerodynamics teams based out of the Ford Performance Technical Center in Concord, NC. The facility has evolved from a racing-only facility to a test-bed of development for production vehicles as well as motorsports including the all-new 2020 Mustang Shelby GT500.

 

“We’ve always talked about Mustang being a car that was born to race, and it’s been gratifying to see it performing so well in multiple series around the world,” said Mark Rushbrook, global director, Ford Performance Motorsports.  “It’s a credit to all of our engineers and teams that have worked so hard to make Mustang a championship contender right out of the box.”

 

This has been particularly evident in the Virgin Australia Supercars Championship, where the new Mustang has won 17 of the first 20 races of the season and has now clinched the Supercars Manufacturer’s Championship just halfway through the season. DJR Team Penske has won 16 of the events, including defending champion Scott McLaughlin’s 14 victories.

 

In addition to the new motorsports Mustangs, Ford also competes with the Mustang GT4 in the IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge Series in North America, and the FIA British GT4 Championship in Europe.

 

In 2019, Team Penske captured five of the first 15 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series events with drivers Brad Keselowski and Joey Logano. Stewart-Haas Racing’s Kevin Harvick has also won two Cup events, including this past weekend at Michigan International Speedway.

 

“Ford and NASCAR have enjoyed a long and storied partnership, and the iconic Mustang has solidified its place within that legacy with an impressive performance in the NASCAR Xfinity Series,” said Ben Kennedy, NASCAR managing director of racing operations and international development. “We’re looking forward to seeing what the newest generation of the Mustang will do on the track.”

 

In NHRA Funny Car drag racing competition, Bob Tasca III recently won back-to-back events in Bristol, Tenn., and Norwalk, Ohio.

 

Before revealing today’s all-new Xfinity Series Mustang, the previous Xfinity Mustang started racing full-time in 2011, winning the driver’s championship three times and the owner’s title on six occasions. 

 

Ricky Stenhouse Jr. won back-to-back driver’s championships in 2011 and 2012, with car owner Jack Roush taking the manufacturer’s crown in 2011.  Chris Buescher followed with the driver’s title in 2015 while fellow Ford owner Roger Penske capped off a run that saw him win three straight owner’s championships.  Penske added a fourth owner’s title in 2017 before Tony Stewart and Gene Haas won their first with driver Cole Custer last season.

 

The new NASCAR Xfinity Series Mustang will debut at Daytona International Speedway on Feb. 15.

 

# # #

 

About Ford Performance
Ford’s racing program is part of the Ford Performance organization based in Dearborn, Mich. It is responsible for major racing operations globally, including NASCAR (Monster Energy Cup Series, Xfinity Series, Gander Outdoors Truck Series), IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship, FIA World Endurance Championship, FIA World Rally Championship, Virgin Australia Supercars, Formula Drift, and NHRA Funny Car and sportsman drag racing. In addition, the organization also oversees the development of Ford’s racing engines, as well as the outreach programs with all Ford Clubs and Ford enthusiasts. For more information regarding Ford racing’s activities, please visit www.fordperformance.comwww.facebook/FordPerformance, Ford Performance on Instagram and @FordPerformance on Twitter.   

 

About Ford Motor Company

Ford Motor Company is a global company based in Dearborn, Michigan. The company designs, manufactures, markets and services a full line of Ford cars, trucks, SUVs, electrified vehicles and Lincoln luxury vehicles, provides financial services through Ford Motor Credit Company and is pursuing leadership positions in electrification, autonomous vehicles and mobility solutions. Ford employs approximately 202,000 people worldwide. For more information regarding Ford, its products and Ford Motor Credit Company, please visit www.corporate.ford.com.

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Kevin Harvick closes out Michigan weekend with a win

Recovering from a punctured right front tire that cost him track position early in the race, Kevin Harvick passed Joey Logano on Lap 183 of 200 and cruised to a 1.595-second victory in Sunday’s Consumers Energy 400 at Michigan International Speedway.

During a closing 48-lap green-flag run that began with a restart on Lap 153, Harvick charged from seventh to first, recording his second Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series victory of the season, his third at the 2.0-mile track and the 47th of his career.

“It was a day of a little bit of adversity that we were able to overcome,” Harvick said. “We had a really fast car all weekend. Our car handled really well today, and with the multiple lanes (thanks in part to the application of traction compound in the high grooves), we were able to run all three lanes pretty well and make our way through traffic.

“They (the team) put a really fast race car on the track, and we were able to capitalize on it, so that’s always fun.”

When Harvick crossed the finish line, leading his 22nd lap of the afternoon, Denny Hamlin was running second after Logano pitted for a splash of fuel on Lap 197. Kyle Larson ran third, followed by Martin Truex Jr. and Daniel Suarez, who re-entered the Playoff picture when two drivers on the bubble ahead of him — Jimmie Johnson and Clint Bowyer — had disastrous days in the Irish Hills.

Thirty-one laps into the race, Harvick steered his No. 4 Stewart-Haas Racing Ford onto pit road with a flat right-front tire. But with the first 60-lap stage running green from start to finish, Harvick was able to drive up to sixth by the end of the stage.

Martin Truex Jr. won Stage 1 after starting from the rear because of two pre-race inspection failures, but his No. 19 Toyota wasn’t as strong in traffic late in the race than it had been early on. Kyle Busch won Stage 2, but his car, like Truex’s, wasn’t as effective in traffic after pit stops at the end of the stage scrambled the running order.

Likewise, Hamlin’s car was best in the heat of the day on a hot, slick track, but the speed in Harvick’s car prevailed as the asphalt cooled down.

“Well, it seemed like we generally had the best-handling car when it was really hot and slick, but as the day went on and the track cooled off, the guys that had built more speed into their car, it kind of handicapped it for them. So, we were able to hang on to those Fords there at the end, and then just got — the 4 (Harvick) was trying to save fuel I’m guessing there, the 2 (pole winner Brad Keselowski) and the 22 (Logano) peeled off.

“Nothing I could really do just didn’t have enough speed. The 4 was about a half-second faster than us in qualifying, and when we were holding it wide open there at the end, just couldn’t overcome it.”

Kyle Busch ran sixth, and Ryan Preece came home seventh, posting his first career top 10 in his 28th series start. The Hendrick Motorsports trio of William Byron, Chase Elliott and Alex Bowman completed the top 10.

Hendrick teammate Jimmie Johnson wasn’t as fortunate. On Lap 15, his No. 48 Chevrolet slapped the outside wall, severely damaging the right side of the car. Johnson finished 34th, eight laps down.

Bowyer’s misfortune came on Lap 137, after contact with the No. 21 Wood Brothers Racing Ford of Paul Menard. Bowyer’s car slammed into the Turn 3 wall, and efforts to repair the car proved futile. Bowyer retired from the race in 37th place.

Johnson dropped two places to 18th in the series standings, 12 points behind Bowyer and 12th-place finisher Ryan Newman, tied for the last Playoff-eligible position. Suarez moved past Johnson to 17th in the standings and trails Newman and Bowyer by four points with three races left before the cutoff at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

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LP Dumoulin Claims Emotional GP3R Victory

Trois-Rivières, Que – There’s no telling when the party will end in Trois Rivieres tonight.

In the 50th running of the Grand Prix de Trois-Rivières, and the 50th year of Dumoulin family racing, hometown hero LP Dumoulin grabbed perhaps the biggest win of his career.  To make it even sweeter, he was surrounded by his family from start to finish.

Prior to the race, family patriarch Richard Dumoulin paced the field in the car he raced during the first GP3R. JF Dumoulin finished third, joining LP on the podium for the first time in their NASCAR Pinty’s Series career.

“There’s no way to describe the feeling,” LP Dumoulin said. “I’m on the podium with my brother JF in front of all our family and friends.”

Dumoulin’s No.47 Weathertech Canada/Bellemare Dodge was locked in a fierce late race battle with Alex Tagliani with the laps winding down. The two-time champion needed help, and it came when T.J. Rinomato spun with five laps to go, causing Tagliani to run wide and allowing Dumoulin to steal the lead.

“It’s perfect. My team has worked so hard to give me a great car all season long and we proved once again that we are capable of winning on both ovals and road courses,” LP Dumoulin said. “In the end, we caught a little bit of traffic and that helped me pass Tagliani, we set some quick laps and we won.”

It was the second win for Dumoulin at his home track, and ninth of his career.

Tagliani who was in prime position to score his third straight at GP3R win, finished second. The Lachanaie, Quebec driver took the lead on Lap 20 after Andrew Ranger came down to pit. Tagliani would go on to lead 25 laps en-route to his second podium of the season.

“It was a great finish for our sponsors,” Tagliani said. “Unfortunately, we were just in the wrong place at the wrong time. There was a spin and we took evasive action through the marbles and second place was able to take advantage of it.”

The elder Dumoulin, JF, mounted a hard charge late in the race to catch the leaders. JF’s No.04 Spectra Premium Dodge, shifted to a part-time schedule in 2019, but had this race circled on his calendar. In the end, the Trois-Rivères, Quebec driver would ultimately tie his best career finish in third and scoring his third career podium in the process.

“It’s awesome. It’s our first podium at Trois-Rivières in the Pinty’s Series,” he said. “I’ve been fourth a lot of times, so I’m really excited to be up on the podium with my brother. It’s a great day for us and our sponsors.”

Kevin Lacroix came into Les 50 Tours Hotel Le Concorde trailing Ranger by 18 points. Lacroix started from the outside of the front row and would lead the first 15 laps, before being hit with a penalty after taking his fuel can out of the pit box. Lacroix’s N0. 74 would eventually fight his way all the way up to fourth. D.J. Kennington completed the top five finishers.

Jason Hathaway and Raphael Lessard were sixth and seventh respectively.

After leading four laps, Ranger would end up finishing eighth. Ranger will now carry a 14-point lead over Lacroix heading into Riverside next week.

Simon Dion-Viens and Donald Theetge rounded out the rest of the top-10 finishers.

The NASCAR Pinty’s Series will now continue on their run of three races in three weeks this August. The Series will be back in action next Saturday, August 17 for the Bumper to Bumper 300 at Riverside Speedway before finishing the month off at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park.

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Austin Cindric collects his second consecutive Xfinity career win at Mid-Ohio

LEXINGTON, Ohio: Austin Cindric claimed his second NASCAR Xfinity Series victory in as many weeks – earning an impressive 3.78-second win over Christopher Bell and former Monster Energy NASCAR Cup driver A.J. Allmendinger Saturday afternoon at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course in Lexington, Ohio.

The 20-year-old Cindric had just celebrated his career first win last week at the iconic Watkins Glen International road course and with a huge smile, effusively wondered what may be next for his No. 22 Team Penske Ford as the series heads to the half-mile Bristol Motor Speedway next week. Should he win at Bristol he would become the first driver in NASCAR Xfinity Series history to earn his first three wins in consecutive races.

“It feels so good,” a smiling Cindric said after climbing out of his Ford Mustang. “These guys are the best and thanks for bringing me a great car again this year. And hell of a job by Christopher Bell keeping me honest all day.

“It feels good, two in row and going for three at Bristol. I’ll probably go crazy if I win there. Should be a lot of fun. This is great momentum for our group.”

Cindric is the seventh different winner in seven Xfinity Series races at the 2.258-mile, 13 Turn Mid-Ohio course and his day included impressive feats of both maintaining the lead and high pursuit to reclaim it between pit strategies. He won the pole position by a full three-tenths of a second and held “favorite” status before the green flag even dropped

Much of the race was spent negotiating re-starts and high speed turns with Bell on his bumper or at his door – as well as fending off another road racing star Jack Hawksworth, who actually won in class in an International Motor Sports Association (IMSA) race at Mid-Ohio already this year and made his series debut in the Joe Gibbs Racing No. 18 Toyota.

Hawksworth started from the outside pole and challenged the frontrunners for much of the race, eventually finishing 15th and leading five laps. He actually won the second stage, which finished under caution – one of six yellow flags for 17 laps on the afternoon.

”I enjoyed it, it was a lot of fun,” Hawksworth said after the race. “I was having a lot of fun out there. I had a great time and would like to come back.”

Cindric led 46 of the 75 laps and Bell, the driver of the No. 20 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota, was the only other driver in double digits out front. Bell is second in the championship standings to Tyler Reddick, who finished fourth Saturday. And after the race, the short track superstar conceded he is getting better on the road courses. Bell was second last week to Cindric as well.

“I don’t know about that, but I do know we’re going to Bristol next week and I can’t wait,” he said smiling about the road course prowess he’s shown with the back-to-back runner-up finishes.

“The last two weeks have been really great for us points-wise and road racing isn’t my strong suit.”

Reddick, Bell and Cole Custer – who finished eighth Saturday after an eventful day on track – combined to win 13 of the first 18 Xfinity Series races of the season. With Bell’s second straight runner-up showing and Reddick’s fourth place finish, the defending series champion Reddick maintains a 24-point championship lead on Bell heading to Bristol next week. Cindric joins this threesome as the only Xfinity drivers with multiple wins in 2019.

Chase Briscoe, defending race winner Justin Allgaier and rookie Noah Gragson persevered for a good day as well. Briscoe won Stage 1 and finished seventh. Allgaier, the defending race winner, rallied to a sixth-place finish after a couple of off-track excursions. And the rookie Gragson, impressed with a fifth-place finish after also being involved in some tight, full contact racing as well.

The series races next Friday night at Bristol Motor Speedway in the Food City 300. Chip Ganassi Racing’s Monster Energy NASCAR Cup star Kyle Larson won the Xfinity race last year.

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Austin Hill’s win at Michigan helps Matt Crafton clinch Playoff spot

BROOKLYN, Mich. – Austin Hill’s victory in Saturday’s Corrigan Oil 200 at Michigan International Speedway provided sweet relief for two-time NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series champion Matt Crafton.

With Hill’s second victory of the season, Crafton has a chance to run for a third title, having cliched the final spot in the series Playoffs on points.

The outcome—and Crafton’s fate—weren’t decided until the final moments of a race that went five laps beyond its scheduled distance of 100 laps. For two nail-biting laps of overtime, Sheldon Creed chased Hill, edging ever closer over the last two miles.

But Hill had the advantage off the final corner and beat Creed to the finish line by .125 seconds, denying Creed the Playoff spot that went to Crafton. A victory by Creed would have knocked the two-time champion out of the postseason.

“It’s huge,” said Hill, who rebounded from a last-place finish in the previous race at Eldora Speedway. “We’ve had a struggle these last four of five races. We just keep having issues and just can’t finish these races.”

Hill’s winning No. 16 Toyota was brand new, unveiled for this race—appropriately since Hill was racing at Michigan for the first time in the series.

“When we unloaded, we had to work out some bugs in it, but we got it driving really good,” said Hill, who also won the season opener at Daytona. “I was really happy with the speed of it. Man, this race was crazy.”

A nine-car wreck moments after a restart with four laps left in regulation set up the overtime. Tyler Ankrum, the leader at the time, spun his tires, and a well-intentioned push Crafton turned him around and started the melee. The wreck collected Playoff hopeful Todd Gilliland, who had driven up to eighth after pitting for tires on Lap 88.

Needing a victory to qualify for the postseason, Gilliland had led 14 laps to that point, but the wreck ended his hopes.

Similarly, Ben Rhodes saw his Playoff chances fall apart when he had to pit under green with a cut tire with 21 laps left. Rhodes had led 15 laps before his ill fortune. He and Gilliland finished 23rd and 24th respectively.

Crafton had some nervous moments before he clinched his Playoff berth. After a restart on Lap 70, three-drivers on win-or-bust missions—Gilliland, Rhodes and Harrison Burton—were running first through third.

“When all three, the 18 (Burton), the 4 (Gilliland) and the 99 (Rhodes)… when all those guys are 1-2-3 at one point, I’m like, ‘I better get up on the saddle and dig,’” Crafton said. “I was definitely doing everything I could to shuffle them out.”

Tyler Dippel finished a career-best third, followed by Brett Moffit and Austin Wayne Self. Bayley Currey, Grant Enfinger, Stewart Friesen, Ray Ciccarelli and Crafton completed the top 10.

Enfinger clinched a spot in the Playoffs when he took the green flag. By the end of the first stage, he had locked up the regular-season title—and accompanying 15 Playoff points—with a sixth-place finish.

Crafton, the only driver with a remote chance to catch Enfinger for the regular-season championship, had to start from the rear of the field because of an engine change. The driver of the No. 88 ThorSport Racing Ford climbed to 10th by the end of the first stage, but by then, his chances of unseating his teammate were gone.

Polesitter Ross Chastain won Stage 1 wire-to-wire, but a three-truck accident on pit road cost him dearly. While exiting his stall under caution on Lap 23, Johnny Sauter collided with the No. 9 Chevrolet of Codie Rohrbaugh, knocking Rohrbaugh into the right side of Chastain’s Chevrolet.

Chastain, Sauter and Rohrbaugh all spent extra time on pit road dealing with the damage, but Chastain was the primary victim, his race over.

“It was gut-wrenching, for sure,” Chastain said after leaving the infield care center. “It was a shame, but that’s part of racing. They can’t all be great days… It’s tough to lose a race with a truck like we had today.”

Eight drivers—Chastain, Hill, Ankrum, Sauter, Enfinger, Moffitt, Friesen and Crafton—will start their potential title runs on Thursday night at Bristol Motor Speedway.

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Late qualifier Brad Keselowski storms to Michigan pole

BROOKLYN, Mich. – The last qualifier in Friday’s Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series time trials at Michigan International Speedway will be first to the green flag on Sunday afternoon.

The final driver to make an attempt, after shadows started to shroud the track, Brad Keselowski covered the 2.0-mile distance in his No. 2 Team Penske Ford in 37.801 seconds (190.471 mph) to knock Kevin Harvick off the provisional pole for Sunday’s Consumers Energy 400 (3 p.m. ET on NBCSN, MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio).

Harvick had turned a lap in 37.877 seconds (190.089 mph) before Keselowski made it an all-Ford front row with his blistering circuit. The Busch Pole Award is Keselowski’s second of the season, his second at Michigan and the 16th of his career.

Keselowski grew up in Rochester Hills, Mich., and the pole is the first step toward winning for the first time at his home track.

“The Discount Tire Ford Mustang has been incredible since we unloaded,” Keselowski said. “We were really fast in practice, and then everybody started picking up a bunch toward the end of qualifying, and I got a little nervous.

“But (crew chief) Paul Wolfe and the team did a great job. We picked up just enough to get our second pole here. Hopefully, we can convert it into a win.”

To do so, Keselowski will have to be fast in race trim as well. With Michigan being the last non-impound event for the higher-downforce, lower-horsepower competition package introduced this season, crew chiefs have considerably more latitude in preparing the cars specifically for qualifying and then making wholesale changes for the race.

“There’s a lot you can do to optimize the car for today (in qualifying) that maybe won’t carry over to Sunday,” Keselowski said. “But still, it’s good to be starting first, and I think we’ve got a lot of knobs to get her tuned in for the race.”

Hendrick Motorsports teammates William Byron (189.703 mph) and Alex Bowman (189.509 mph) claimed the third and fourth starting spots, respectively. Clint Bowyer and Chase Elliott, last Sunday’s winner at Watkins Glen, will occupy the fifth and sixth positions on the grid.

Ryan Blaney, Joey Logano, Paul Menard and Jimmie Johnson completed the top 10 in time trials. Denny Hamlin was 14th in the fastest Toyota with a lap at 188.093 mph.

Harvick was pleased with his second-place qualifying effort.

“It was a good day for our Mobil 1 Ford Mustang,” he said. “Track position is really important everywhere we go. Coming to Michigan, it is of the utmost importance, so this is a really good start to the weekend for us.”

Bowyer is 15th in the standings, 12 points ahead of Johnson and Ryan Newman, who are currently tied for the last available spot in the Cup Series Playoffs. Newman qualified 20th, 10 positions behind Johnson.

Richard Childress Racing teammates Austin Dillon and Daniel Hemric posted the seventh and 11th fastest laps in qualifying, but their times were disallowed post-inspection because the cars were not running fully functioning alternators, as prescribed by NASCAR rules.

Dillon and Hemric will start from the rear of the field on provisionals.

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Chase Elliott goes back-to-back at Watkins Glen

WATKINS GLEN, N.Y. – It was a striking case of déjà vu.

In a replay of last year’s GoBowling at the Glen, Martin Truex Jr. chased pole winner Chase Elliott lap after lap around the 2.45-mile road course, using everything in his arsenal to try to deprive Elliott of his second straight victory at the track.

Nothing worked for Truex, who crossed the finish line in the wake of the winning No. 9 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet, .454 seconds in arrears.

Elliott logged his second victory of the season, his second at The Glen and the fifth of his career, becoming the first Chevrolet driver to win multiple races this season.

“This is wild,” exulted Elliott, who outran Truex last year at WGI to pick up his first Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series victory. “Thank you, guys, that was pretty awesome. I’ve never been so far from home and thought I was at my house. Thank you. What a day!

“We had such a bad fast Camaro, and we stayed mistake-free. Martin was a little quicker those last two runs, but track position was king, and I didn’t mess up in (Turn) 1 this time, so that was good.”

In fact, nothing went wrong for Elliott until he ran out of fuel after his celebratory post-race burnout—same as last year.

“Sorry I ran out of gas again,” Elliott said.

Elliott swept the first and second stages and led 81 of the 90 laps, surrendering the top spot only during pit stop cycles. Truex, who led one lap by pitting one circuit later than Elliott on Lap 60, got tantalizingly close to Elliott’s rear bumper at several points during the final 25-lap green-flag run, but the 2017 series champion couldn’t mount a serious threat to overtake the winner.

“I tried to do all I could,” Truex said. “Chase did an excellent job, just not making mistakes, and really all I could do was get to two car lengths—one-and-a-half at the closest in braking—and just try to force a mistake. But he hit his marks. His car was really fast in the key areas that you need to be, leaving a few of the key corners.

“I just couldn’t get a run on him, and we just were kind of stuck there. Unfortunate, but our Bass Pro Camry was really, really fast today. We passed quite a few cars there that were fast and finished up front, just couldn’t pass that last one.”

Denny Hamlin ran a consistent-if-distant third, 11.229 seconds behind Elliott at the finish. Erik Jones started 14th and came home fourth, posting his fourth straight top-five result and solidifying his position in the standings with four races left before the cutoff for the Playoffs. Jones is 13th, 54 points to the good.

Ryan Blaney ran fifth on Sunday, followed by Matt DiBenedetto, Kevin Harvick, Kyle Larson, Brad Keselowski and Kurt Busch. Kyle Busch finished 11th, recovering from a pit road speeding penalty and on-track dust-ups with front-row starter William Byron (21st on Sunday) and Bubba Wallace (28th).

Scoring points in both the first and second stages, Jimmie Johnson finished 19th in the debut of new crew chief Cliff Daniels and made up 12 points on Ryan Newman, who ran 25th after a flat tire forced an unscheduled pit stop, and a subsequent loose wheel compounded the problem. Newman and Johnson head for next Sunday’s race at Michigan tied for 16th, the last Playoff-eligible position.