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NASCAR at Bristol: Harvick wins Cup race; Briscoe in Xfinity again; Mayer breaks through in Trucks

NASCAR Cup Series Bass Pro Shops Night Race at Bristol Motor Speedway
• Harvick holds off a rejuvenated Kyle Busch

Bristol, TN, Sept 19 (GRW): Forget all the hype about which mid-rank driver might make it into the next round of the contrived playoffs, this race came down to a battle between Kevin Harvick and Kyle Busch. Busch, who had yet to win a Cup race this season, was back on his old form. Harvick, who had already won eight Cup races so far, was greedily shooting for even more wins.

Busch had suffered a setback here when his car failed inspection and he was sent to the back for the start. But Busch quickly overcame this and he was in second place when the first Stage finished at lap 125 of the 500-lap race. He won the race out of pit road and, when the race resumed, he took charge, leading the next 106 laps and winning the second Stage. There had been a caution soon before the end of this Stage – through which Busch maintained his lead – so most of the cars at the front of the field did not pit. But this time, Harvick was on his tail for the restart and within a few laps he had forced his way past him into the lead on lap 281.

Now it was Harvick’s turn to be in control and he led the next 131 laps until the fifth and final caution flew on lap 407. This came in the middle of a final cycle of pit stops leaving only six cars on the lead lap. Somehow, the No. 10 car of Aric Almirola was scored as the leader for one of the laps under yellow but, when the track went green again, it was Harvick back in the lead with Busch right behind him.

Now Busch was determined to get past back into the lead and Harvick was as determined to stay there – a few car lengths ahead of Busch. The final 75 laps gave us the spectacle of the two talented drivers going at it with determination. What a cliffhanger! Busch was able to close up on Harvick and hope that he could gain an edge when Harvick had to work his way through traffic. It looked like both cars were losing their handling but both drivers kept charging ahead not making any mistakes and pushing hard to gain an advantage.

The No. 95 car of Christopher Bell crashed into the fence and it looked like there would be another caution – but Bell was able to keep going well enough to pull down pit lane and the Harvick-Busch battle continued unabated. With 40 laps remaining, Busch got past and led the next ten laps before Harvick regained the lead when Busch was baulked by a lapped car. By now, Busch was able to close tight up on Harvick’s rear bumper as Harvick’s car seemed to be losing its grip and it was bouncing off the wall as the rear end slid out – surely Busch was going to be able to make a dramatic pass in the final few laps and finally score his first win of the year. But Harvick somehow managed to manoeuver though all the lapped cars and he kept his car pointing forward and holding off Busch’s best efforts until the checker flew. Harvick was the race winner by a margin of 0.310 seconds over Busch.

Busch may have been disappointed by not winning here at Bristol but his performance – starting from the back and dueling it out with the seasons winningest driver – has to make one believe that, in the remaining few playoff races, Busch now has the potential to race with the best of them and that he has a real shot at winning yet another championship – his no-win season so far notwithstanding.

“To beat Kyle Busch at Bristol, I kind of got myself in a little bit of a ringer there,” said Harvick, who already had secured a berth in the Round of 12 with his win at Darlington Raceway in the playoff opener. “I hit a lapped car and got a hole in the right-front nose, but just kept fighting. We don’t have anything else to lose.

“We were here to try to win a race. I know how much (crew chief) Rodney (Childers) really enjoys coming here and, hell, how can you not enjoy coming here with all this enthusiasm? Everybody is tired of being at home.”

Only six cars finished on the lead lap – Harvick, Busch, Erik Jones, Tyler Reddick, Aric almirola, and Clint Boyer.

This race was the third race, the ’elimination race’ in the first round of the ten-race playoff schedule. Four drivers were eliminated after this race – William Byron, Cole Custer, Matt DiBenedetto and Ryan Blaney.
(With notes from NASCAR Wire Service)

• Click HERE for the results of this NASCAR Cup race at Bristol.

• The next NASCAR Cup race – the first race in the ‘Round of 12' – will be run next Sunday, September 27 at Las Vegas.

PHOTO NXS BMS Cindric Briscoe 091820Austin Cindric, driver of the #22 Discount Tire Ford, and Chase Briscoe, driver of the #98 Ford Performance Racing School Ford, race during the Food City 300 (Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images) 

NASCAR Xfinity Series Food City 300 at Bristol Motor Speedway
• Briscoe pips Cindric for the win

Bristol, TN, Sept 18/20 (GRW): The finish of this race was set up after the race’s seventh and final caution on lap 245 of the 300-lap race. On the restart Austin Cindric got ahead of Ross Chastain for the lead – and it looked like he would continue to lead, just ahead of Chastain, to the checker – but it was not to be.

With about 20 laps remaining, Cindric reported that he had lost his power steering and he was struggling. Chase Briscoe, who was in third, closed up on Chastain and passed him with less than ten laps to go – and he went on to pass Cindric for the lead. Next, Chastain passed Cindric, dropping him to third. Chastain continued to press Briscoe, but he was unable to close the deal and he had to settle for second, some seven-tenths of a second behind. Cindric had fallen back two seconds behind the leader but he was able to hang on to finish in third place.

Earlier in the race, Chastain and Justin Allgaier were the main protagonists. Allgaier led for 126 laps, winning both of the first two Stages. Next, Chastain led for 117 laps but once Cindric passed him, the battle resolved down to a fight between Cindric with his power steering problem and Briscoe, who emerged as the race winner, leading the final six laps of the race.

“I was so mad after last week,” said Briscoe, who led 11 laps, including the final six. “I told all the guys there ain’t no way we’re getting beat today. I was so mad after how we ran last week, and I get on the internet all the time and see guys count us out after one bad race. I know what this team is capable of… I finished second here the last two races, and I wanted to win here so bad, and it’s awesome that I can actually celebrate it with all these race fans.”

There was a time when red flags were unheard of in NASCAR races, now they seem to be commonplace. This race saw two red flags in its relatively short 300-lap race distance. It is hard to make an argument against this trend given that it is usually done for safety reasons. For a while there was a trend to using the red to avoid having the race end under yellow but the green-white-checker finish policy has obviated the need for this gimmick.

This was the final race of the regular season; Austin Cindric is the regular season champion. This will be followed by a seven-race playoff series which will begin next week at Las Vegas. The 12 Xfinity drivers who will move forward into the first round of the playoffs are Briscoe, Cindric, Allgaier, Noah Gragson, Brandon Jones, Justin Haley, Harrison Burton, Ross Chastain, Ryan Sieg, Michael Annett, Riley Herbst and Brandon Brown.
(With notes from NASCAR Wire Service)

• Click HERE for the results of this week’s Xfinity race at Bristol.

• The next Xfinity race, the first race in the three-race ‘Round of 12', will take place at Las Vegas next Saturday, September 26.

 PHOTO 2 NGROTS BMS Pack2 091720Brett Moffitt, driver of the #23 GMS Racing Chevrolet, and eventual winner Sam Mayer, driver of the #24 Armour Guard Chevrolet, lead the field during the UNOH 200 (Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)

NASCAR Gander RV & Outdoors Truck UNOH 200 at Bristol Motor Speedway
• Seventeen-year-old Mayer turns heads with his win over the series regulars

Bristol TN, Sept 17/20 (GRW): The 2018 Truck Series champion Brett Moffitt led 117 of the race’s 200 laps but young Sam Mayer, also driving a GMS team entry, passed him with 30 laps remaining and he went on to win the race by a four-second margin over Moffitt. The rookie Tanner Gray finished in third place ahead of part-timer Parker Kligerman and Chandler Smith. Mayer also went on to win the ARCA Menards Series race which was run here immediately following Thursday’s NGROTS race.

Under NASCAR’s pandemic rules, the starting grid is based on a complex calculations, which puts most of its emphasis on the finishing results in previous races this year. Moffitt started on the front row with Grant Enfinger on the pole alongside. He led the first 60 laps, winning the first Stage which ended at lap 55. Given that the trucks could run both of the first two 55-lap Stages on their fuel capacity, Moffitt was the only one of the front-runners to pit during this first Stage pit stop round.

Tyler Ankrum took over the lead and he ran at the front for the next 53 laps, winning the second Stage. He was looking like he had a good chance to win the race when, somehow, he missed turning into pit lane. Given the unusual configuration of the pits and the rules for pitting under yellow and the fact that he had no one in front of him to show the way, this mistake is somewhat understandable. But there is no getting away from the fact that he and his team blew it. He pitted on the next lap but he was now at the back of the lead-lap trucks. After that, in the final Stage, he was only able to make his way back up to a seventh-place finish. We will never know what might have happened had he not blown his pit stop like this.

Ankrum’s boo-boo handed the lead back to Moffitt and he led the next 57 laps until the fifth and final caution which set up a restart with Mayer alongside Moffitt on the front row. Mayer beat out Moffitt on the restart and he went on to lead the remaining laps to the checker.

“Oh, my gosh! Dude, I love this place. This is win No. 3 for me here,” said Mayer, who scored a pair of victories at Bristol in the NASCAR East Series. “Man, I don’t know what to say. I can’t thank all the guys at the shop enough. They worked their tails off. We fired off so good. We only made one track bar adjustment all day. Oh, my God, that feels so good.”

Mayer knew he had a team capable of winning. His only doubt was his own ability to do the job, but Mayer erased that doubt emphatically.

“I just had to come here and perform,” he said. “That last pit stop (after Stage 2) put us in a perfect place, and I was able to drive right by all of them. Man, it’s such a good feeling. We have two more Truck races this year—the momentum is awesome.”

Two days before this race, JR Motorsports had announced that Mayer was set to rejoin their organization next year, running the second half of the Xfinity schedule before moving on the full-time the next year. His double win here must have confirmed to Dale Earnhardt and company that they had made a good decision signing him to their organization.

This race was the first of the three-race ‘Round of 10' which begins the seven-race NGROTS Playoff series.

• Click HERE for the results of the Truck Series race at Bristol.

• The next NGROTS race will be run at Las Vegas next Friday, September 25.

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