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Race Weekend Review: August 15-16-17-18, 2019

Race Weekend Review: August 15-16-17-18, 2019

NASCAR Monster Energy Cup Series Bass Pro Shops Night Race at Bristol Motor Speedway
• Hamlin spoils DiBenedetto’s run to redemption

Bristol, TN, Aug 17/19 (GRW): The week after he got the news that he would be out of a ride with the Leavine Family Racing team (a satellite team affiliated with the Joe Gibbs team) Matt DiBenedetto almost won the Bristol race. He passed Erik Jones, who had gone up into the wall, to take the lead on lap 396 of the 500-lap race and he led for the next 93 laps. But Denny Hamlin was on a mission and he kept getting closer and closer as the laps counted down under green.

With 50 laps to go, Hamlin got past Chase Elliot and he was now 1.5 seconds behind the race leader. DiBenedetto was held up by an uncooperative Ryan Newman, who was a lap down, and this let Hamlin get even closer. Now, in the final laps, Hamlin was stalking DiBenedetto, getting closer and closer. Then, with 11 laps remaining, he dove low on the track and scrambled past into the lead. DiBenedetto had nothing left – but the third-place car of Brad Keselowski was five seconds back and no threat. Hamlin cruised home the final few laps beating DiBenedetto by a half-second margin.

PHOTO MENCS BMS2 Hamlin DiBenedetto 081719Denny Hamlin speaks with Matt DiBenedetto in Victory Lane after winning the Bass Pro Shops Night Race (Brian Lawdermilk/Getty Images)

“I just want to say sorry to Matt DiBenedetto and (his crew chief) Mike Wheeler,” said Hamlin. “I hate it. I know a win would mean a lot to that team, but I’ve got to give 110% to my whole team. Just, sorry.”

Keselowski finished third ahead of Kyle Busch and Elliott.

Winning here would have been a moral victory of DiBenedetto who had been told that he would not be returning to the No. 95 car next year. Toyota has a problem with too many up-and-coming drivers and they needed a place for both Erik Jones and Christopher Bell. Jones says that he is confident that he will return to the No. 20 Gibbs car next year so, presumably, Bell is slated to replace DiBenedetto in the No. 95 Leavine Toyota next year - making their alliance with the Gibbs team even stronger. Don’t shed too many tears for DiBenedetto; it seems certain that he will find a good ride here next year, displacing another driver.

Things were looking good for Hamlin after he win the pole in qualifying. He led the first 11 laps until Kyle Larson dove under him to take the lead. On lap 79, Hamlin was caught up in a crash involving Austin Dillon and Jimmie Johnson – and he lost positions when he had a long pit stop to attend to the damage his car had sustained, falling well back. When racing resumed, Busch, who had qualified in 31st place, was still a long ways back – in 24th and Johnson was in 29th place.

Larson won the first Stage which ended on lap 125 – ahead of Elliott and Martin Truex. Elliott and Kevin Harvick beat Larson out of the pits while Hamlin now was back up to 11th place. Unfortunately for him, he soon had to stop under green for a loose wheel and he dropped a lap down – just before Aric Almirola hit the wall bringing out the third yellow. A second incident for Almirola produced another yellow in quick succession and during this caution Kyle Busch was able to get back on the lead lap with hopes of getting closer to the front of the field.

The fifth caution came on lap 244, just before the end of the second Stage when Clint Bowyer spun. Kurt Busch won the race out of the pits this time and he led the next nine laps. During this yellow Harvick pulled off the track and went to the garage with a broken gearbox, his day was done. A quick green for a couple of laps and then the second Stage was flagged to completion. Many drivers did not pit this time, leaving those who did – led by KuBu – taking the restart back in 15th place while KyBu inherited the lead. On the restart Keselowski got past Busch and they traded the lead for the next 118 laps which ran caution-free.

Busch had gained this front position by pitting out of sequence so he was soon going to run out of fuel – but he was saved when Alex Bowman had a flat tire and collected Joey Logano bringing out the seventh caution on lap 364. Busch was able to pit for fuel under this caution and get back on sequence with the others – now everyone could run the remaining 130 laps without another stop for fuel.

Busch took the restart in the lead over Jones but Jones was soon past him. The eighth and final caution came on lap 374 when Ryan Blaney made contact with another car and punctured a tire which sent him careening into the outside wall. Hamlin had another suspected loose wheel but he was able to make his stop during this caution and then he took the green in ninth place.

On the final restart Jones was leading over DiBenedetto but he went up into the wall and had to go to the pits – allowing Dibenedetto to take over the lead and set up the late-race battle with Keselowski and Hamlin which ended with Hamlin taking the checker ahead of DiBenedetto.

In the ‘glory days’ of a few years ago when this place was always a sellout, they built up the grandstands to a capacity of 160,000 seats. Now, with reduced crowds, the ‘coliseum” arrangement makes it near impossible to remove any of the seats without obvious gaps – so when the crowd only about 60 or 70% of the seats, it may look a bit sparse, but this is still a big crowd for any sports event and it has to be one of the biggest in the whole NASCAR season.

Click HERE for the results of the Bristol MENCS race

The next MENCS race will be run at Darlington in two weeks time, Sunday, September 1. There are just two more races left in the regular season – Darlington and then Indianapolis a week later. The first race of the playoffs will take place at Las Vegas on September 15.

PHOTO NXS BMS2 Burnout Reddick 081619Tyler Reddick celebrates with a burnout after winning the Food City 300 (Sean Gardner/Getty Images)

NASCAR Xfinity Series Food City 300 at Bristol Motor Speedway
• Reddick comes from last to first twice to win at Bristol

Bristol. TN, Aug 16/19 (GRW): Tyler Reddick had to come from the back of the field twice on his way to winning the Xfinity race here on Friday evening. He had been sent to the rear of the field for the start plus being set a lap down after failing pre-race inspection and then on lap 92 of the 300-lap race he was sent to the rear again for a pit-lane infraction. But, after that, he made steady progress forward, taking the lead for the first time on lap 172 at the end of Stage 2. Justin Allgaier won this restart and he led the next 109 laps – looking like he had this race under control.

Then with 11 laps to go, Allgaier slowed with a tire problem and he hit the wall dropping him out of the lead and back to seventh place, out of contention just like that. Reddick had been in second place since lap 250 and he took over the lead for the final 11 laps, leading Chase Briscoe home by a margin of 0.655 seconds.

Reddick said afterwards, “I thought we made the wrong adjustment on the last (pit) stop, but we had a really fast Chevrolet. We had fresher tires than Justin Allgaier there. We came down pit road and we were just too tight and I thought we were done for. I don’t know what happened. Everything just happened at the right spot. I fell back to fourth, and (Brandon) Jones hit the fence and then (Allgaier) had some sort of issue. As you can see, I’m speechless. I couldn’t believe what was happening.”

John Hunter Nemechek was third, Jeremy Clements fourth and Austin Cindric – who had started from the pole but who had led only one lap (during the Stage 2 turnaround yellow-flag laps) – was fifth.

Championship contenders Christopher Bell and Cole Custer and Cup Series regulars Erik Jones and Joey Logano all sustained serious damage to their cars in a multi-car pileup on Lap 37. Custer went three-wide on the top to pass the lapped car of Matt Mills, who moved up the track, pinching Custer’s No. 00 Ford into the outside wall. Custer’s car bounced off the wall and slammed into Bell’s Toyota, sending both cars sliding sideways. With no clear lane, Jones plowed into Custer’s car, and Logano’s Ford slid into Jones’ Toyota. Both Logano and Jones retired from the race. Bell and Custer lost three laps and four laps, respectively, while their teams hustled to repair their cars.

Kyle Busch had qualified on the front row alongside Cindric and he led 137 laps in the race. Indeed he looked to be solidly in command until just past mid-distance when his car started putting out a bit of smoke which quickly turned into a lot of smoke He was able to complete Stage 2 in seventh place as he slowed but then he turned into the garage – out of the race with engine failure. With Busch’s retirement, it meant that the threat posed by the three Cup carpetbaggers in this race – Logano, Jones and KyBu – were eliminated by mid-race.

Click HERE for the results of the Xfinity race at Bristol.

The next NXS race will be held next Saturday, August 24, at Road America. There are four more ‘regular season’ races to be run before the playoffs begin at Richmond on September 20.

PHOTO NGOTS BMS2 Moffitt OnTrack 081519Brett Moffitt winner of the UNOH 200 (Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)

NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series UNOH 200 at Bristol Motor Speedway
• Moffitt holds off Chandler Smith for the win

Bristol, TN, Aug 15/19 (GRW): Brett Moffitt had taken the lead off the tenth caution and he held that lead through another yellow/red flag but the 17-year-old Chandler Smith was right behind him. Moffitt hung onto the lead through the final two cautions with Smith never giving up. He crossed the line to take the checker a mere seven-tenths of a second ahead of Smith.

Given that this race was the first race in the first round of the truck series playoffs, Moffitt is now guaranteed to be one of the contenders moving forward to the second round of the playoffs after two more races.

“It was tough,” Moffitt said.. “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.”

Ross Chastain, who is one of the favourites to win this championship playoffs, had a rough night of it. He started from the front row alongside Moffitt and he took the lead and led for 56 laps through the end of Stage 1. He continued to fight with Moffitt for the lead through to lap 116 of the 200-lap race – the end of Stage 2. A mixed strategy on pit stops during this Stage-end yellow saw Moffitt and Chastain drop back to fifth and sixth place behind those who did not pit at this time.

But Chastain was penalized and sent to the back of the field for a pit-stop violation (uncontrolled tire) during this Stage-end turnaround. Now he would have to fight way past everyone in the whole field to get back to the front again. He made good progress – by the end of the seventh yellow on lap 143 he was up to 12th place. Another ten laps and another yellow saw him in seventh place. He kept this up and, by the finish he was in third place. Unfortunately, his forward progress had come at the detriment of a number of other drivers who were roughed up as he moved past. After the race was over and he got out of his truck, he discovered that at least two of those drivers’ crew chiefs were coming down pit lane to give him a piece of their mind.

Chastain was unrepentant. “I think the crew chiefs come down here and puff their chests out—they’re old washed-up race car drivers. 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.”

You have to wonder whether Chastain, having called his competitors names and disparaging them, will now find himself without friends on the race track for the remaining races as he tries to go forward to win the truck series championship. It may a tough final few races for the watermelon man.

Stewart Friesen finished in fourth place while Grant Enfinger was fifth and Sheldon Creed was sixth. Enfinger and Creed were running in first and second for a while after the start of Stage 3 – but this was an illusion given that they had gained this position by skipping the previous pit stop – and Creed soon fell back. Enfinger hung on in the lead until the ninth caution on lap 168 – but then he fell back behind the leaders, finishing in fourth.

Tyler Ankrum, who sneaked into the playoff eight with his win earlier at the Kentucky Speedway, finished in 20th place

Click HERE for the results of the truck race at Bristol.

Bristol was the first race of three in the post-season playoffs Round of Eight. The next race will be run next Sunday, August 25, at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park, a road course. Only six of these first-round drivers will advance to the three-race Round of Six and then the top four will move on to the final Round, a single race at Homestead – with the winner of that one race being declared the 2019 champion.

PHOTO indycar pocono winnersScott Dixon, Will Power (race winner) and Simon Pagenaud speak with the media following the ABC Supply 500 (Photo:Chris Owens)

NTT INDYCAR Series ABC Supply 500 at Pocono Raceway
• Power wins rain-shortened race

Long Pond, PA, Aug 18/19 (INDYCAR): Team Penske driver Will Power earned his first NTT IndyCar Series victory of the season, extending his streak of consecutive seasons with at least one victory to 13.

This victory came in Sunday's ABC Supply 500 at Pocono Raceway, the 2.5-mile track where he won for the third time in four years. Power's streak is second only to Chip Ganassi Racing's Scott Dixon, who has won NTT IndyCar Series races in 15 consecutive seasons.

Driving the No. 12 Verizon Chevrolet, Power was leading this race at Lap 128 (of 200) when the inclement weather arrived. Power had taken the lead from Dixon on Lap 115 and pushed the advantage to 6.1 seconds before the caution waved for lightning in the area.

The victory gave Power sole possession of seventh place in career victories with 36, breaking a tie with the legendary Bobby Unser. The Australian said this win came amid "the toughest season of my career."

"Absolutely over the moon to finally win a race this season," he said. "The guys working on the car, they've worked their (tails) off this year - just had bad runs. Yeah, (it's) awesome, awesome - great feeling."

Dixon finished second in the No. 9 PNC Bank Honda, giving him finishes of second, second, first and second over the past month. The strong run, coupled with the fifth-place finish of Team Penske's Josef Newgarden, tightened the championship chase, which has four drivers within 52 points heading to the final three races.

Newgarden started the race from the pole in the No. 2 Hitachi Chevrolet after Saturday's qualifying session was rained out. He expanded his series lead to 35 points as his closest challenger, Andretti Autosport's Alexander Rossi, was collected in a first-lap, multi-car accident in Turn 2.

The cars of Rossi, Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing's Takuma Sato and Andretti Autosport's Ryan Hunter-Reay came together approaching the corner, and their contact collected James Hinchcliffe of Arrow Schmidt Peterson Motorsports and series rookie Felix Rosenqvist of Chip Ganassi Racing. There was a 45-minute red flag for cleanup, and all drivers were cleared of injuries. Of the group, only Rosenqvist was transported via ground to a local hospital for further evaluation. All tests were negative and he was released late Sunday afternoon.

Rossi's crew repaired the No. 27 MilitaryToMotorsports.com Honda, but he was unable to gain any positions. He finished 18th, losing 19 points to Newgarden.

"Unfortunately, the weather came and the race was called one lap before we could gain another spot," Rossi said. "We have a couple days to rebound and go for race wins now - that's all that matters."

Indianapolis 500 winner Simon Pagenaud of Team Penske jumped from third to first on the opening lap and led a race-high 64 laps, but he settled for a third-place finish in the No. 22 Penske Truck Rental Chevrolet. Pagenaud is 40 points out of the series lead, Dixon is 52.

"It's good to be in it," said Pagenaud, who like Dixon (five times) and Newgarden is a former NTT IndyCar Series champion. "There's three races to go, all the chances in the world for our team. We're going to keep pushing; that's what we've been doing. Just keep pushing, doing what we do, try to win races. That's going to be the name of the game until the end. I love it."

Series rookie Santino Ferrucci tied his career-best with a fourth-place finish in the No. 19 Cly-Del Manufacturing Honda.

Newgarden extended his championship points lead over Alexander Rossi (No.28 MilitaryToMotorsports.com Honda), who finished 18th after getting caught up in an opening-lap multi-car incident, to 35 points, 535-500. Pagenaud is third with 495 points (-40) and Dixon fourth at 483 (-52).

Click HERE for the results of the Pocono IndyCar race.

The next IndyCar race will be held at the World Wide Technology Raceway at Gateway near St. Louis, MO, next Saturday evening, August 24.

PHOTO PINTYS NSJason Hathaway leads D.J Kennington in the Bumper to Bumper 300 at Riverside Speedway (Matthew Manor/NASCAR)

NASCAR Pinty's Series at Riverside International Speedway
• Jason Hathaway Survives Chaotic Overtime Finish for Riverside Win

Antigonish, NS, Aug 17/19 (NASCAR.com) When Jason Hathaway returned to the NASCAR Pinty’s Series full-time, he had one goal in mind – win. Hathaway accomplished his goal in dramatic fashion, winning the Bumper to Bumper 300 at Riverside International Speedway in a thrilling overtime finish.

For the third year in a row, Kevin Lacroix had the car to beat. He dominated the race, leading 195 laps and appearing all but untouchable. Despite the sizeable lead, Hathaway and D.J. Kennington closed in lap after lap. A pair of late race cautions set up a thrilling pair of restarts. Hathaway’s No.3 Kubota Canada/Choko Chevrolet was given the ‘chrome horn’ by Lacroix once the green flag dropped for the two-lap overtime shootout. Hathaway repaid the favour in the exact same corner, this time on the white flag lap. The contact sent Lacroix up the track and into the side of Andrew Ranger. Hathaway held on for his 10th career win and first since the 2016 season finale at Kawartha Speedway.

“That was really crazy. I wasn’t even sure we were going to get the lead, Kevin was really good,” said Hathaway. “It was a battle, Lacroix got into the back of me in turn three and four and I paid him back in one and two. I was expecting it and I’m sure he was expecting it too. It’s a good way to get a win; Ed Hakonson’s 70th birthday; car owner and father-in-law, so I gotta keep him happy.”

D.J. Kennington led 20 laps and managed to sneak through the last lap wreck for a runner-up finish. The two-time champion had two prior wins at Riverside and was in position for a third until losing the lead Hathaway on Lap 289. The No.17 Castrol Edge team would celebrate their second podium in five races.

“The restarts were really crazy. One way to sum it up, it sucks if you were on the outside, you just couldn’t get a run,” said Kennington. “We’re looking better every week, we’re knocking on the door and we’ll get back to Victory Lane by the end of this season, I’m sure.”

The last lap fracas enabled Alex Tagliani to score a surprise podium finish, in third. The Rona/EpiPen team found themselves stuck in the pack during the final restart. The contact between Lacroix and Hathaway enabled Tagliani to sneak through and bring his relatively clean No.18 home for his third podium of the season.

LP Dumoulin’s race was eventful to say the least. After suffering a mechanical problem just before the halftime break, Dumoulin fought back for a fourth-place finish. Alex Labbe, who also suffered mechanical issues, rounded out the top five. Championship contenders Lacroix and Ranger were sixth and seventh, respectively. Ranger’s points lead drops to 11 points heading into next week’s race. Mark Dilley, pole sitter Donald Chisholm and Marc-Antoine Camirand rounded out the top ten.

Click HERE for the results of the Riverside Pinty's race.

The NASCAR Pinty’s Series will be back Sunday, August 25, at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park.

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