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NASCAR Cup Series

Kyle Larson Recovers For Top-10 At Vegas

LAS VEGAS — Entering Sunday’s Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series South Point 400 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, Kyle Larson had only finished worse than eighth twice in the last ten races and had hoped to keep that rolling. He was able to do that, despite some adversity. 

He started the race gaining points with ninth-place finish in Stage 1 and showed improvement with a third in the second. Appearing as a possible as a contender for the win, Larson’s hopes would be quickly be diminished after a pit road penalty for a safety violation, and then getting damage during one of the late restarts.

However, the California-native would still manage a solid rebound, finishing the South Point 400 in the eighth position.

“Our car was better than what I had thought it was going to be and felt like we probably had a car that could potentially win,” Larson told POPULAR SPEED. “But we got a pit road penalty there and then the restarts were pretty wild and I was just trying to be safe and probably cost us a little bit, but still, to be able to avoid some trouble and get a top 10, not bad.”

For him, a driver that has not scored any points-paying wins, being able to be out front has been quite the confidence builder.

The driver is entering the playoffs in the right state of mind, believing he can go and win races during the season’s most critical point. A trip to victory lane is expected, not just hoped for in the coming weeks.

“Our cars are definitely been good enough to win,” Larson said. “We just got to put the whole races together at this point, on my end, on pit road, and practices, if we want to win. I will keep working at it and hopefully, we can knock one out before the season’s over.”

Following the 400-mile race, Larson sits eighth in the standings, with a 17-point cushion over the cutoff.

Next weekend, the No. 42 team, along with the rest of the series will tackle Richmond Raceway. Larson will hope for a better result than his visit their earlier in the season, where he crashed early and finished last.

EMAIL MITCHELL AT mitchell.breuer@popularspeed.com

TWITTER: @MitchellB66

The thoughts and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of PopularSpeed.com, its owners, management or other contributors. Any links contained in this article should not be considered an endorsement.

Categories
XFINITY

Cindric Confident Leaving Vegas

LAS VEGAS — Austin Cindric may have missed the top-10 on Saturday night, but showed speed across what was a chaotic night at Las Vega Motor Speedway.

Most of his time was spent moving his way through the field, as he had to fight back from two pit-road penalties, and an unscheduled stop.

“Yeah, we just need to minimize mistakes, I think as far as the playoffs go, I think we got them all out of the way tonight,” Cindric told POPULAR SPEED. “But my guys dug me out of a lot of holes this year and last, so I got plenty of patience for my crew behind me. Really proud of the speed we have in my Money Lion Ford Mustang. Hoping to keep bringing it on later in the playoffs.”

To his credit though, Cindric was able to make the best of the day, capturing points in Stage 1 and 2 with a fourth and seventh-place finish. However, the unscheduled pit stop that came in the final leg of the race proved too much ato rebound from, and the driver of the No. 22 would have to settle for 12th place finish.

Now, you would expect more disappointment out of a driver who had a day like his, but that was not the case.
Instead, Cindric took a more positive route, noting how his ability to drive through the field showed that he and his team have the strength, and they could contend with the top teams in the series.

But, most importantly, that they are much more than just a team that is good a road courses.

“I think it makes a statement. I think it makes the right statement, shows that we’re here to play,” Cindric said. “Not to sound cocky but that’s some of the best speed we’ve shown all year on these types of tracks, and a track that’s very, very track position-dependent.”

The confidence shown post-race could prove to be a very powerful tool for him heading into the playoffs.

Something else that will very much aid Cindric is his seeding, as he will start the playoffs as the fourth seed and have 17 playoff points, five more than Chase Briscoe in fifth, and give him a big 13-point advantage of ninth.

With the improvement shown throughout the season, it will certainly be interesting to see if Cindiric can capitalize and fully cemented himself as an even bigger threat to win the championship.

EMAIL MITCHELL AT mitchell.breuer@popularspeed.com

TWITTER: @MitchellB66

The thoughts and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of PopularSpeed.com, its owners, management or other contributors. Any links contained in this article should not be considered an endorsement.

 

Categories
XFINITY

Justin Allgaier Enters Playoffs with Momentum

LAS VEGAS — Justin Allgaier continues to make a statement heading into the playoffs, with a fifth-place finish in the NASCAR Xfinity Series regular-season finale on came to a close with Saturday night at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

However, that’s not quite indicative of how strong his car was throughout the day. While the Rhino Pro Truck Outfitters 300 was mostly dominated by Christopher Bell, one of the few drivers that proved able to battle with him was Allgaier.

“Going into the playoffs, you want momentum on your side and you want to good on the mile and a half tracks because the season is definitely weighted towards the mile and a half side,” Allgaier told POPULAR SPEED. “So, I feel good tonight about the fact that you know, we had speed early on, especially when the sun was out. You know, I felt like we were able to kind of keep Christopher honest early on. But I think also too, it’s going to be interesting to see…

The (No.) 2 (of Tyler Reddick) knew that they needed to make a bold move to win the regular-season championship. They went out and they did it, and obviously it worked for them. So, I think we get to hit the reset button. We got to go next week to Richmond, and go try to do our best job, and hope that, I hope that it puts us in your position. I feel good about it.”

The strong day at Vegas followed probably Allgaier’s best race of the season last week at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, where again toe-to-toe with a dominant Joe Gibbs Racing car in Kyle Busch and came home second.

For a driver that has had zero wins this season, he has certainly proven to be a contender.

“I feel like the last month and a half we’ve had way better speed, we’ve done a better job, we’ve moved ourselves in the right direction, we just haven’t had the luck to go along with it,” Allgaier said. “So we need the luck to kind of have, you know, the old saying is, I’d rather be lucky than good any day. We need that to happen. But on the flip side of it, you know, these last few races have been really good and I’m disappointed with tonight and there’s been a lot of part of the season where I’d have just, I’d have loved to have been 10th, let alone 5th. So you know, we definitely need to keep working on it.”

The 33-year-old will enter the playoffs as the sixth seed with 12 playoff points at his disposal.

EMAIL MITCHELL AT mitchell.breuer@popularspeed.com

TWITTER: @MitchellB66

The thoughts and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of PopularSpeed.com, its owners, management or other contributors. Any links contained in this article should not be considered an endorsement.

 

Categories
XFINITY

Ryan Sieg Hopeful of Locking Up Playoff Berth in Las Vegas

LAS VEGAS, Nev — Barring any unexpected winners, Ryan Sieg and his family-owned team will be back in the NASCAR Xfinity Series playoffs.

“It’s huge for our team and our sponsors, and we’re looking to try to make it to the next round, at least get a win somewhere,” Sieg told POPULAR SPEED. “Maybe the next two weeks or something. We’re pretty decent at Richmond and at the ROVAL, you know. Shane, the crew chief, is pretty up to speed on the road course stuff and he ran good there last year, so he’s, he’s pretty excited, puts a lot into the road course.

“So hopefully we’ll get the win before the season’s end.”

The last time the team made the 12-driver cutoff was in 2016 and, it was considered an upset. However, that is not the case this year.

Sieg has proven to be impressive throughout the year, scoring two top-five’s and nine top-10’s, in addition to only having four finishes of 20th or worse.

“A couple of years ago it was all new to us, and our stuff wasn’t as good,” Sieg said. “It was decent, but we had a couple of mishaps in that first round and really, we probably should’ve went almost to the next round on points, but just a few mishaps by myself. I think we sped on pit road, we should have finished like sixth of the Dover and we ended up 19th. This year everybody’s more experienced, to Shane (Wilson, crew chief) and myself, so I think we got a better shot to try to make it to the next round this year.”

Looking ahead to the potential opportunity in front of him, the driver of the No. 39 is confident in his team’s ability.

That being said, Sieg knows that he will need to bring his best in order to compete against the likes of Joe Gibbs Racing, Team Penske, and JR Motorsports.

“You just have to execute everything, and hopefully they have a bad day, you know, not wishing anything on anyone, but you know what I mean?” Sieg said. “It’s going to be fun to see where we stack up this weekend and next, but next weekend, we should have been top-three at Richmond the first time around. Just pit crew lows really. We lost like 30 spots total during that race, should’ve been better than we were, but that is what it is. You know what I mean?

“Even this first race here, earlier in the year, we had pit crew struggles, and we corrected that situation and got a different pit crew. It’s definitely going to be better this time around.”

This Saturday’s race at Las Vegas Motor Speedway will determine if Sieg will be a part of the playoffs or not. If everything holds steady, he would enter the final seven races with one playoff point as of right now.

EMAIL MITCHELL AT mitchell.breuer@popularspeed.com

TWITTER: @MitchellB66

The thoughts and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of PopularSpeed.com, its owners, management or other contributors. Any links contained in this article should not be considered an endorsement.

Categories
NASCAR Cup Series

Jones Looks To Capitalize In Playoffs

LAS VEGAS — There are not many drivers who can say they have as much momentum heading into the playoffs as Erik Jones does.

He and the No. 20 team have really come alive in the summer months, proving to be a constant threat inside the top-five, and showing that he can finish the job as he did at Darlington Raceway earlier this month, where he won the Southern 500.

While the big talk of the season has been his Joe Gibbs Racing teammates and their four wins, it may be a disservice to not include Jones in the conversation of their dominance.

“We don’t have as many wins as those guys, but we’ve been in contention to win a few more. We just haven’t capitalized on it,” Jones told POPULAR SPEED. “So, we definitely need to win some races here in the playoffs to really be a contender. For us, I mean, my goal at least, and I think Chris is on the same page, is just to get to that round of eight.

If we can make it through this round and the round of 12, you got an opportunity to go to Homestead. In that round, Texas and Phoenix are two great tracks for me. Martinsville’s a little bit of a struggle sometimes, but Texas and Phoenix are two places I feel like we can go and win a race at those places.”

Now, despite the solid runs, Jones knows he cannot think too far ahead, especially after last season.

In a similar position, the Michigan-native entered the final ten races on a sour note, wrecking and finishing last in the playoff opener at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. The end result essentially killed his championship hopes from the get-go, as he was forced into a must-win situation and quickly eliminated.

Heading to Sunday’s South Point 400, Jones now knows how important a solid day in the South Point 400 will be to keep himself alive.

“Yeah, I mean definitely there’s a big emphasis on just having a solid weekend, right? You want to qualify well and race well and if we can come out of here with, I mean obviously the wins the goal,” he said. “But if we can come out with the top five and a good deal of stage points and pick up a couple of spots in the standings and just close that gap to the lead, that’s a solid day.”

While it may be the first race of the playoffs, he also noted how he will be keeping a close eye on the 12th place cutoff.

“We’re fighting for 12th. That’s what we’re looking at here. You’re fighting for that 12th place in points and hopefully getting some playoff points moving forward and just closing that gap up,” Jones said. “You just want to tighten that gap up to lead. Right now we’ve got 40 points to the lead and we need to get that smaller. That’s too much to be in contention to get all the way to homesteads.”

The No. 20 team will enter Sunday as the tenth seed, with additional five playoff points as his disposal.

EMAIL MITCHELL AT mitchell.breuer@popularspeed.com

TWITTER: @MitchellB66

The thoughts and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of PopularSpeed.com, its owners, management or other contributors. Any links contained in this article should not be considered an endorsement.

Categories
NASCAR Cup Series

Blaney Looking To Maximize Potential

LAS VEGAS — Entering the playoffs, Ryan Blaney is hopeful that the last ten races go better than the first 26.

The regular season proved to be tough for the driver of the No. 12, who score zero wins and will only have four playoff points to start with.

“Yeah, I mean I obviously like to have had a better year,” Blaney told POPULAR SPEED. “So far, you can always ask for better and do better and there’s some races I wish we would’ve had back, but at the end of the day, you know, it’s nice to be a part of the playoffs. And I think our team is plenty capable. I think we got a shot at making a good run and just can’t have any mistakes, things like that. I think we got the team to do it. Just a matter of kind of maximizing your full potential and see what happens.”

It is not all negatives for the 12 team though.

As Blaney said, the team has shown to be capable, scoring seven top-five’s and 12 top-10’s. He has also led laps, 384 to be exact, which is actually more than championship favorite, Denny Hamlin, who has only been out front for 373.

The 25-year-old will also enter the final 10 races with experience, as he has made the playoffs two of his three years of competition in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series.

“Experience never hurt, that’s for sure,” Blaney said. “I look at kind of the end of our playoffs last year and God, we had a terrible second round, just from run out of gas, getting wrecks and just barely missed it. And then we had a really great final three races, I wish we could have back. But at the end of the day, you just take all the experience you have and things are always changing, scenarios change. You’re rarely ever going to find yourself in the same scenario as before. Just the product of what we do. But yeah, you try to take that experience and apply it, utilize it well.”

Blaney will look to start his playoff strong at Las Vegas Speedway, where he has four top-ten’s in six starts.

EMAIL MITCHELL AT mitchell.breuer@popularspeed.com

TWITTER: @MitchellB66

The thoughts and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of PopularSpeed.com, its owners, management or other contributors. Any links contained in this article should not be considered an endorsement.

Categories
NASCAR Cup Series

Bowman Confident Heading Into Vegas

LAS VEGAS — For the second straight year, Alex Bowman is a NASCAR playoff driver. Though not everything is the same,  as Bowman enters the final 10-race stretch with something he did not have a season ago.

A race win.

That, along with four top-five’s and seven top-10’s during the regular season have the driver of the No. 88 is feeling good heading into the playoffs.

“I think I definitely feel more confident,” Bowman told POPULAR SPEED. “I think a lot of it just comes from the speed that we’ve shown throughout the year and even lately we’ve had great speed, we just haven’t really had much to show for it. So, I think we have as good of a shot at anybody or as anybody going and winning a couple of races here and making a big statement in the playoffs.”

He will look to improve upon his first playoff appearance, where he was eliminated in the Round of 12, and a 29th at Homestead-Miami Speedway resulted in him finishing 16th in the final standings.

In order to improve, Bowman will need to find his early-season momentum back, as since the Arizona-native’s win at Chicagoland Speedway, he has only had one top-10 in the nine races that have followed.

However, this weekend may provide a good chance for a breakthrough, as the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series will compete at Las Vegas Motor Speedway in a race that is expected to transition from day to night.

These are the types of races that Bowman has excelled at, with a second-place finish at Kansas Speedway, seventh at the Coca-Cola 600, and his previously mentioned win at Chicagoland.

With his recent history, it’s more than understandable why he is excited about this weekend’s race.

“This is a race we’ve had circled regardless of the playoff situation and I think we can be really strong,” Bowman said. “We were strong here in the spring and knocked the right rear off of it, kind of had to fight back from that. So, I think our mile and a half program’s really good and that same car we were in Chicago with. I’m really confident.”

A strong finish this weekend for the 88 team would be huge, as he only starts the playoffs as the ninth seed with only a four-point cushion over 13th.

With all the being said, it will be interesting to see if Bowman can take a season that has already been his best, and make it even better.

EMAIL MITCHELL AT mitchell.breuer@popularspeed.com

TWITTER: @MitchellB66

The thoughts and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of PopularSpeed.com, its owners, management or other contributors. Any links contained in this article should not be considered an endorsement.

Categories
NASCAR Cup Series

Newman Looks To Continue Overcoming Odds in Championship Quest

LAS VEGAS — A driver that missed the playoffs and would lose his ride, and land with a team that even with two drivers, finished 29th in the owner standings a year ago, is back in the playoffs in 2019.

This is the story of Ryan Newman and the No. 6 Roush Fenway Racing team.

A collective unit that many may have counted out before the season have proven themselves as legit contenders after they outraced Stewart-Haas’ Daniel Suarez and seven-time Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Champion Jimmie Johnson to make the 16-car playoff field.

So, what does this all mean to the “Rocket Man”?

“Well, the ultimate goal for this year, no matter what anybody else thought was just to win a championship. So this is a big step for us to have an opportunity and to get back, for me personally, into the playoffs,” Newman told POPULAR SPEED. “To have that opportunity, because my ultimate, personal goal is to be a champion. You know, I feel satisfied because of that, but I don’t feel overwhelmingly satisfied because we haven’t won, we haven’t proved to be a dominant car, and we haven’t led a bunch of laps, so we have to do a better job and I accept that task and look forward to it.”

While it is a huge opportunity ahead of him and his team, Newman said it himself that he needs to better, knowing very well that a stat line of one top-five and nine top-10’s will likely not be enough for a championship.

So, that being said, what will Newman need to do in order to become more of a contender?

“Just be the best person that I can be on and off the racetrack. I mean, that’s all I can do,” Newman said. “It’s just a matter of our team, our organization, everybody doing as much as they can to help. And you know, that’s what we’ve been doing, but we’ve got to do a better job and we can just collectively work together better. All of us at Roush Fenway.”

Newman has proven to excel at the underdog role though, just look at 2014. 

There were five drivers with four or more wins, and only two of them made the Championship 4. Newman, who had no wins, was able to sneak his way in and nearly came away with one of the biggest surprises in NASCAR’s history, coming up just one spot short of the title.

In fact, at 41 years of age and having driven 18 full seasons, it is no secret that Newman is one of the most seasoned drivers in the playoff field but is this an advantage?

“No, because Jimmie Johnson was before the last race, and he’s no longer here,” Newman said. “So, I don’t think that experience necessarily parlays into becoming a champion. It should help, but it proved to not.”

Newman will start the playoffs in the 16th with no playoff points at his disposal.

EMAIL MITCHELL AT mitchell.breuer@popularspeed.com

TWITTER: @MitchellB66

The thoughts and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of PopularSpeed.com, its owners, management or other contributors. Any links contained in this article should not be considered an endorsement.