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Race Weekend Review: September 13-14-15, 2019

Race Weekend Review: September 13-14-15, 2019

Monster Energy Cup South Point 400 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway
• Truex, the closer, wins while Logano falters

Las Vegas, NV, Sept 15/19 (GRW): Martin Truex only led for 32 of the race’s 267 laps but he led the final 20 laps to take the win here. This was his fifth win of the 2019 season, more than any other Cup driver so far this year. This win promotes him on to the next three-race playoff round - but his points total was so high there never was any question of his moving forward in this playoff process. Kevin Harvick had led 47 laps in the race and he finished in second place.

PHOTO LVMS MENCS TruexJr Pearn 091519Martin Truex Jr., driver of the #19 Bass Pro Shops Toyota, and crew chief Cole Pearn celebrates in victory lane after winning South Point 400 (Chris Graythen/Getty Images

“We took a gamble, qualified 24th,’’ said Truex. “For a while, it wasn’t looking too smart with the 4 (Harvick) out front. Got the right adjustments in the end. Had a great car all day long. Hell of a way to make a championship run. Get some good bonus points, move on to the next round, see what we can do there.’’

For much of the race, Joey Logano had looked like he was on his way to a dominant win. He started 22nd but he soon shot right up to the front under green-flag conditions, taking the race lead on lap 34. He went on to win Stage 1. He continued to lead through the second Stage – but Truex pipped him, taking the lead with two laps remaining in the Stage. Now Logano was left taking the restart from the second row and things did not go so well after that.

The third caution fell just a few laps after the start of the final Stage and Logano came out of the pits in 12th place, back in the field. Soon after the restart, Kurt Busch had a flat tire and went into the wall and almost simultaneously Suarez tangled with Logano and Logano’s car suffered quite a bit of damage. His crew worked on the car during this yellow but it was never the same as it had been earlier in the race. The best he could do after that a ninth place finish.

Logano’s teammate, Brad Keselowski, fared better as it turned out. Early in the race, he was running well back in the field in about 20th place and in danger of going a lap down. This went on for more than half of the race until his crew decided to make drastic adjustments to the car. The hood went up and crew members dove in to work on the front suspension. After this work, Keselowski’s car responded better and, while Logano was falling back, he was moving forward. At the end of the race he was in third place.

Chase Elliott finished in fourth place and Ryan Blaney was fifth.

Kyle Busch’s day got off to a bad start when he qualified only 20th quickest. After a few laps into the race, he slid up into the outside wall and after that he continued to fight for control. He did manage to get the car up as high as seventh later in the race but things continued to go bad for him and he ended up in 19th place. He did make the cut into the next round of the playoffs but he will have to scramble now to avoid being eliminated in that second round.

This race was the third race in the first playoff round. After this race, four drivers – Ryan Newman, Kurt Busch, Clint Bowyer and Erik Jones were eliminated from the playoffs. The drivers going forward to the next three-race elimination round are: Truex, Harvick, Logano, Kyle Busch, Keselowski, Elliott, Denny Hamlin, Kyle Larson, William Byron, Alex Bowman and Aric Almirola.

Click HERE for the results of the MENCS race from Las Vegas.

The next race is the fourth playoff race. It will be run next Saturday night, September 21, at Richmond.

PHOTO NXS LVMS NXS Reddick 091419Tyler Reddick, driver of the #2 TAME the BEAST Chevrolet, races during the Rhino Pro Trucks Outfitters 300 (Chris Graythen/Getty Images)

NASCAR Xfinity Series Rhino Pro Truck Outfitters 300 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway
• Fuel strategy gives Reddick the win over a dominant Bell

Las Vegas, NV, Sept 13/19 (GRW): This Xfinity race at Vegas was Bell’s to lose – but lose it he did. After qualifying alongside polesitter Cole Custer, Bell took the lead on the first lap and gave a demonstration of dominance, leading 154 of the race’s 200 laps and winning the first two Stages on the way.

But after that something went wrong on the way to the checkered flag. There were a pair of yellows in close succession. When the first of these fell on lap 113, all the front-runners pitted and Bell came back out of the pits in the lead. Justin Allgaier restarted alongside Bell and he got the better of him for a few laps before Bell regained the lead.

But then, another yellow flew on lap 129. With 70 laps left to run, everyone was going to have to pit one more time for fuel. The conventional wisdom was to wait a while and pit later to be able to make the most of the one set of tires remaining in the pits. Randall Burnett, Reddick’s crew chief knew that, if he followed Bell’s lead, he had no chance of beating him. He gambled and brought Reddick in for fuel and tires – it would be his last pit stop.

This meant that Reddick took this restart – which was to prove to be the final one – well back and it too him nearly 20 laps before he showed up in the top ten in the running order. Meanwhile Bell was seemingly running away with the race with a four-second lead over Chase Briscoe. But eventually he, and the other front-runners, were going to have to pit for fuel and tires.

When this final cycle of green-flag pit stops began, Bell pitted on lap 170, letting Reddick take over the lead by a 12-second margin. Now Bell got down to work and started seriously chopping away at this gap from Reddick. For a while, it looked like Bell might do it, but Reddick had enough fuel and speed in reserve to hold him off. In the end, he crossed the line just seven-tenths of a second ahead of Bell but it was good enough for the win.

“Christopher Bell had a really fast race car today, but we were just able to come in and get fuel and tires and run really fast laps to keep us in front of him,’’ said Reddick. “Hats off to (crew chief) Randall (Burnett) and all the guys. We’ve had a really fast car in the past, unfortunately today we didn’t have it but we got them with strategy.’’

Brandon Jones was third, while Cole Custer was fourth and Allgaier was fifth.

This was the final race in the Xfinity ‘regular season’ and Reddick clinched the ‘regular season’ championship. The 12 drivers who have qualified for the first three-race round of the end-of-season playoffs are: Bell, Custer, Reddick, Austin Cindric, Briscoe, Allgaier, Michael Annett, Noah Gragson, Jones, Justin Haley, Ryan Sieg and John Hunter Nemechek.

Click HERE for the results of the NXS race at Las Vegas.

The next Xfinity race will be the first race of the seven-race playoffs and it will be run at Richmond on Friday, September 20.

 PHOTO NGOTS LVMS Hill Pack 091319Austin Hill, driver of the #16 Gunma Toyopet Toyota, leads during the World of Westgate Las Vegas 200 (Matt Sullivan/Getty Images)

NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series World of Westgate 200 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway
• Hill’s late charge gives him the win; advances to second playoff round

Las Vegas, NV, Sept 13/19 (GRW): After Austin Hill took over the No. 16 Hattori Racing entry this year, bumping last year’s champion Brett Moffitt from the ride, no one expected him to be a real contender for the 2019 title in this truck. When he won the first race of the season at Daytona, expectations rose. Then, when he won at Michigan in August, he was starting to look like a title contender.

Here at Las Vegas, in the third race in the first round of the playoffs, he was fifth in the post-season points standings and hoping to finish well enough to advance on to the second three-race elimination round. He qualified seventh and he did take the lead for a few laps one time earlier in the race – but, in the final Stage, Ross Chastain, who had qualified on the front row alongside Christian Eckes, emerged as the front runner. It looked like he was going to cruise home the winner.

Chastain took the lead on the final restart on lap 87 of the 134-lap race and he built a one-second lead over Hill. But Hill closed the gap and, on lap 123, he dove past Chastain to take the lead, a lead he was to hold the rest of the way to the checker. At the finish he had a two-second lead over Chastain.

“This means the world to me,’’ said Hill. “When I saw the 45 (Chastain) in my sights, we were running close lap times. I changed my line a little bit. And that was a big statement win.’’

If Hill Were able to go on and win the 2019 truck series title, it would make it two championships in a row for that underfunded one-truck team – and that would be an amazing accomplishment.

Eckes finished third with Sheldon Creed fourth and Todd Gilliland fifth.

There are four more NGOTS races left in the playoff season. The bottom two playoff drivers – Johnny Sauter and Grant Enfinger were dropped off after Las Vegas, leaving Moffitt, Chastain, Hill, Stewart Friesen, Matt Crafton and Tyler Ankrum left standing to contest the next three-race playoff round.

Enfinger was knocked out of the race with an engine problem on lap six. Given that everyone runs the same Ilmor spec motor, there were worries that Enfinger’s problem might spread to other trucks in the race. This worry seemed well-founded when two more trucks – Sauter and Crafton – erupted in a blaze of flames simultaneously and retired. Note that Crafton, despite dropping out of the race after completing only 39 laps, still qualified for the next round of playoff races.

Stewart Friesen qualified back in 19th place and mid-race his truck had engine problems. This was diagnosed as a loose spark plug wire on his Ilmor V-8 but by then he had lost a lap or two. After that he got back up to speed but the best he could manage was a 19th-place finish, one lap down. Not to worry, he still qualified to continue on to the second round of playoff races. Ankrum was the surprise. He had qualified for the playoffs by virtue of an unexpected win at Kentucky mid-summer. Here at Vegas, he finished 11th, but given the troubles of Sauter and Enfinger, it was good enough to carry him on to the next playoff round.

Click HERE for the results of the Las Vegas NGOTS race,

The next NGOTS race, the first race in the second three-race playoff series will be run at Talladega on Saturday, October 12.

PHOTO IMSA WT 6Dane Cameron and Juan Pablo Montoya with the No. 6 Acura (Jake Galstad/LAT)

IMSA WeatherTech Monterey Grand Prix at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca
• Team Penske Acuras score a dominant one-two finish

Monterey, CA, Sept 15/19 (GRW): The Team Penske Acuras took a solid one-two win here at Laguna Seca. By their count, it was Team Penske’s 200th sports car race and the team’s 90th win in those 200 races. Juan Pablo Montoya qualified the No. 6 Acura on the pole and he drove the first stint. Dane Cameron drove the rest of the distance in the 160 minute race – for about two hours to the finish.

The No. 7 Team Penske Acura, driven by Ricky Taylor and Helio Castro Neves started alongside in second place. Helio Castroneves took the lead from the start and he led the first stint. Castroneves did have an off on cold tires when he was squeezed on his out lap after the first pit stop but he was able to recover and maintain the pace at the front of the field – albeit running second to the No. 6 car after that. They finished in second place, some ten seconds behind the sister car.

The No. 31 Whelen Engineering Cadillac of Nasr/Derani finished third while the No. 10 Konica-Minolta Cadillac of van der Zande/Jordan Taylor was fourth.

In the GTLM class the No. 66 Ford GT driven by Joey Hand/Dirk Mueller was the class winner, finishing 12th overall. The GTD class winner was the No. 48 Lamborghini Huracan driven by Sellers/Lewis.

Click HERE for the results of the IMSA WeatherTech race from Laguna Seca.

The next race will be the season finale, the ten-hour Petit Le Mans enduro at Road Atlanta on October 12.

PHOTO IMSA MPC 33#33 Winward Racing / HTP Motorsport Mercedes-AMG, GS: Russell Ward, Dominik Baumann (Jake Galstad/LAT)

IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge Laguna Seca 120 at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca
• Winward Racing Mercedes takes the win in the closing laps

Monterey, CA, Sept 14/19 (GRW): The No. 33 Winward Racing Mercedes-AMG of Russell Ward/Dominik Baumann led the final six laps to take the GS and overall win here at Laguna Seca. Before that they had only led for two laps mid-race. In the closing stages of the race the No. 35 Mercedes of Jim Cox/Dylan Murray gave up the lead to the No. 7 Alan Brynjolfsson/Trent Hindman Porsche Cayman when they pitted. But then, as the laps counted down, the No. 33 Mercedes passed the No. 7 Porsche to take over the lead and take the checker at the end of the two-hour race.

The No. 39 Audi R8 of Tyler McQuarrie/Jeff Westphal started from the pole and led the first 26 laps of the two-hour race which ran for 71 laps. After the first cycle of pit stops they regained the lead for another 16 laps. In the closing minutes after the final pit stops, they were able to close up on the race leader and finish in second place 2.8 seconds behind the No. 33 Mercedes. The No. 7 Porsche finished in third place while the No. 18 Audi R8 of Rob Ferriol/Spencer Pumpelly was fourth and the No. 35 Mercedes ended up in fifth place.

In the TCR class, the No. 61 Audi RS3 of Gavin Ernstone/Jon Morley won the class with a 16th place overall finish – finishing on the same lap as the GS class winners. The No. 98 Hyundai Veloster driven by Mark Wilkins/Michael Lewis finished in second place, 0.3 seconds behind the class winner.

Click HERE for the results of the IMSA Michelin Pilot race at Laguna Seca.

The next race will be the season finale at Road Atlanta on Friday, October 11.

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