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Race Weekend Review – November 2-3-4, 2018

Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series AAA Texas 500 at Texas Motor Speedway
Harvick punches his ticket for the championship finale at Homestead

Fort Worth, TX, Nov 4/18 (GRW): Going into the Texas race, the Las Vegas odds-makers had Kevin Harvick as the favourite based on his performance up to then this year. Here in Texas, he put an asterisk on that by winning the race with an impressive show of dominance – especially in the closing laps. Ryan Blaney, who had won the pole in his Penske Ford, beat Harvick on the second-last restart which came on lap 311 of the (scheduled) 334-lap race. It did not take Harvick long to regain the lead and it looked like he was on his way to the win.

But another yellow flew when just they should have been showing the white flag – sending the race into overtime. This time Harvick had the lane choice and he picked the high line which Blaney had used for the previous restart. When the green flag flew, Blaney managed to nose ahead of Harvick briefly but then Harvick shot past and pulled away – and he led easily the rest of the way to the checker, winning the race – and earning a guaranteed spot in the final four playoffs in the Homestead finale in two weeks time. While it might have been nice for Blaney to have won the race, his win would have been somewhat academic given that he has already been eliminated from the shrinking list of playoff-eligible drivers. The overtime-lengthened race ran 337 laps, an extra three laps beyond the advertised race distance.

PHOTO MENCS HARVICK TMSKevin Harvick celebrates with a burnout after winning the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series AAA Texas 500.(Matt Sullivan/Getty Images)

“That last restart I knew I needed to pick the top,” said Harvick. “I wanted to be on the bottom to be safe but the top got such a good side draft getting into one and the outside groove (had gotten) rubbered up. I thought if I could keep him from finishing the corner I could drive back by him. It all worked out.”

Blaney said, “ I thought we were a second place car all night really. I thought the 4 was head and shoulders above everyone else but I thought we were second best for sure.”

Harvick had started the race in the second row behind a pair of Penske drivers who were no longer eligible for a shot at the championship – Blaney and Brad Keselowski. Blaney led the first 32 laps until Harvick took the lead during the first round of pits tops under a competition caution. He was to lead 177 of the race’s 337 laps, convincing everyone there that his was the dominant car there.

Joey Logano who started eighth - and who is already locked into the playoff finale at Homestead by virtue of his win at Martinsville last week, led for 54 laps. He finished third. His teammate Brad Keselowski led for 50 laps but he finished back in 12th place, not that this matters much given that he too had been eliminated previously from the end-of-season championship playoffs. Erik Jones was fourth while Kyle Larson was fifth.

This was the second race in the three-race Round of 8. Both Logano and Harvick are now assured of starting in the Homestead championship shootout by virtue of their wins so far in this elimination round. The other two drivers above the cut line after Texas are Kyle Busch and Martin Truex. The remaining four drivers – who are on the bubble facing elimination after next week’s race – are Kurt Busch, Chase Elliott, Aric Almirola, and Clint Bowyer.

Next week’s MENCS race will be at Phoenix, next Sunday November 11.

Click HERE for the full results of today’s MENCS race from Texas Motor Speedway.


PHOTO NXS TMSChristopher Bell leads the field at the start of the NASCAR Xfinity Series O'Reilly Auto Parts 300 (Robert Laberge/Getty Images)

XFINITY Series Race O'Reilly Auto Parts Challenge at Texas Motor Speedway
Custer outruns Reddick on the final lap for the win; Bell crashes out

Fort Worth, TX, Nov 3/18 (GRW): Cole Custer had led the race a couple of times but, coming off the final caution with two laps to go, it looked like it was Tyler Reddick’s race to lose. And lose it he did as Custer initially fell back and then, on the final lap he found a new burst of speed and closed up on the leader. Coming into the final pair of turns, he pulled up alongside. Reddick tried to hold him off and the two bumped side-to-side but Custer had the advantage and he pulled ahead to take the checker two-tenths of a second ahead of Reddick. This win assures Custer of a spot among the four playoff contenders in the Homestead finale in two weeks time.

“I drove it in deeper than I have all weekend (on the final lap) trying to get on (Reddick’s) bumper, and it worked out”, said Custer. “We are going to Homestead and I think we have a great shot of winning.”

Austin Cindric was third, John Hunter Nemechek was fourth and Justin Allgaier fifth.

This race started out looking good for Christopher Bell who had come into the playoff series as the favourite with six wins previously this season – but after Texas his hopes of even making it into the finale looked grim. It all started well with Bell on the pole but – in a repeat of Allgaier’s faux pas in the previous race at Kansas two weeks earlier – Bell spun on the very first lap and fell to 19th coming off this yellow. Given that Bell had been taken out of the Kansas race by Allgaier’s accident, he could ill-afford another poor result.

After this setback, Bell carved his way back up through the field and, when the first Stage ended on lap 45 of the 200-lap race, he was in fourth place. By pitting before the end of the second Stage, he was able to take the lead on the restart and he led for the next 35 laps. Things were looking up – and then disaster struck. He had fallen back into the field coming off the eighth yellow and soon after the restart, he and Austin Cindric touched. This caused Bell’s car to spin 180 degrees and the left front corner of his car hit the outside wall hard. He limped back around to the pits but his front suspension was too damaged for him to continue so the car was retired on lap 133, leaving him with a 32nd place finishing position – and leaving his hopes of even making it to the Homestead finale in tatters.
If someone like Custer, who has struggled to earn mediocre finishes much of the season, were to win the championship while Bell, who has been the dominant player all year, is frozen out of a chance at the title, it is indeed a strange kind of championship formula NASCAR has devised.

This race was the second race in the Round of 8, with one more race to run before the four playoff contenders for the Homestead finale are determined. The eight playoff contenders still in the running (in order) are Cole Custer (race win), Reddick, Elliott Sadler, and Daniel Hemric – with Allgaier, Matt Tifft, Bell and Cindric on the bubble. Bell is 34 points from making the cut and his only hope to make the finale now seems to be if he can manage a win at Phoenix – and, given his track record from earlier in the season, that may just be possible.

“I’m going to go out there and try to win races,” said Bell. “I’ve never been a points racer, and my results show for that. I’m either up front or crashing. I’m going to go out and try to win two more races.”

The next Xfinity race will be at Phoenix next Saturday, November 10.

Click HERE for the full results of this week’s Xfinity race at Texas Motor Speedway


 PHOTO NCWTS TMSJustin Haley celebrates in Victory Lane after winning the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series JAG Metals 350 (Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)

NASCAR Camping World Truck Series JAG Metals 350 at Texas Motor Speedway
Haley inherits the win when Gilliland runs out of gas on the final lap

Fort Worth, TX, Nov 2/18 (GRW): After Todd Gilliland took the lead over Justin Haley in the run after the final round of green-flag pit stops, it looked like his race to lose – but lose it he did. Initially, he had a five-second lead over Haley with 23 laps to go in the 1476-lap race. Haley was closing the gap but not fast enough and going into the final lap, Gilliland still had a two-second margin. Then his truck slowed – his fuel was running out – letting Haley cruise on to the win by an eight-second margin over Ben Rhodes. Title contender Brett Moffitt was third while Gilliland coasted around to finish fourth.

“That was amazing,” said Haley. “I thought we had it lost there. I didn’t quite maximize my pit road (on the final green-flag stop)… This is a once-in-a lifetime opportunity. To get two Chevrolets—me and Johnny—back to back to Miami, that’s what we want.” Johnny Sauter’s win the previous week at Martinsville gave him a guaranteed spot on the Homestead finale as had Haley’s win this week.

“I didn’t know we were close on fuel at all,” said Gilliland. “It’s horrible. I’m incredibly disappointed. I still feel like we could have been faster if I hadn’t wrecked during qualifying.”

Sauter had started from the pole with title contender Noah Gragson alongside but he only led the very first lap of the race and he finished 11th, the last truck on the lead lap. Sauter had a flat tire coming off the first caution on lap 6 and he had to pit under green, falling a lap down. After that he was never in the top ten again – not that this mattered much given that he was already assured of a place in the final four playoffs at Homestead.

A big crash on lap 41 saw both Sauter and Gragson suffering damage. Gragson had to pit for repairs under the resulting yellow. After this, the best Gragson could manage was a tenth-place finish.

Austin Hill finished fifth, Harrison Burton (Jeff Burton’s son) sixth and Jesse Little (Chad Little’s son) seventh. Canadian driver Stewart Friesen finished eight after starting on the second row and leading the race for 12 laps.

This race was the second race of the Round of 6. As of this race the six playoff contenders are ranked as Sauter (race win), Haley (race win), Brett Moffitt and Gragson as the top four with Grant Enfinger and Matt Crafton the two on the bubble.

The next race for the trucks will be at Phoenix on Friday, November 9.

Click HERE for the full results of this week’s NCWTS race at Texas Motor Speedway.


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