Race Weekend Review: Sept. 24-25

Written by George Webster on .

NHMS2 NSCS Harvick Checkered 092516

NASCAR Sprint Cup Bad Boy Off Road 300 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway
Harvick’s late-race pass gives him the win over Kenseth

Sept. 25, 2016: For much of the 300-lap race here at the one-mile Loudon, NH, race track it looked like either Martin Truex would be a repeat winner after his win a week ago at Chicagoland or Matt Kenseth would take the checker after he passed and held off Truex. But, when the sixth and final caution ended on lap 294, Harvick was alongside Kenseth on the front row and he soon shot past him into the lead – a lead that Kenseth was unable to challenge over the remaining few laps.

Earlier in the race, Truex had led for 141 laps before he was passed by Kenseth on lap 179. Kenseth went on to lead for 105 laps until he was passed by a charging Harvick with just six laps to go.

“We raced with Matt for so long at the end I burned the tires up. It was unfortunate to have a car that good all day and lead that many laps and come home seventh, but the team gave us a great car,” said Truex.

So Harvick became the winner of the second race in the end-of-season Chase for the championship. This means that both he and Truex – as last week’s winner – will for sure advance to the next round of elimination races after this first round of three races is finished. The other 14 drivers who qualified for the Chase will not be sure if they can avoid elimination next week until they see how that race plays out.

As for this week’s race, Kyle Busch finished third, coming on strong in the closing laps. Brad Keselowski finished fourth after having spent much of the race back in the teens, only becoming a factor in the top ten after the fourth caution which ended on lap 268. He made the best of the final restart to claim his top-five finish. Kurt Busch had also been mired back mid-pack but he, too, came to the fore after that fourth caution and he took the final restart in fifth place and he held onto that spot to the finish.

There are three races in the first elimination round of the Chase. The third of those races will be held on Sunday, Oct. 2 at Dover International Speedway. Once we know the results of that race, the bottom four of the 16 divers who had qualified for the Chase will be eliminated and 12 will go forward to the next three-race elimination round.

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NASCAR Xfinity Series Visitmyrtlebeach.com 300 at Kentucky Speedway
Sadler is the upset winner after favourite Jones crashes out late in the race

Sept. 24, 2016: Although slow pit stops twice robbed Erik Jones of the lead he had so much speed that he was able to make up the deficit both times and he looked to be on his way to regaining the lead with just 11 laps to go when he slipped up and tangled with Ty Dillon. Both contenders crashed and were unable to continue.

This left the front two – Ryan Blaney and Elliott Sadler contesting the lead when the final restart came with four laps to go – and Sadler was able to get past Blaney for the lead and he held on to take the checker by a margin of 0.246 seconds. This win gives Sadler the initial lead in the Xfinity Chase – and, as a two-time winner in the pre-Chase season he has to be considered a favourite to win the championship.

In his explanation after the fact, Jones seemed reluctant to accept the blame for causing the wreck but, in the end, he did. Dillon, who had led for a total of 47 laps before this was more than a little upset with this outcome. He had been running in third place –and it looked like he had a chance to win the race outright before his collision with Jones. After that crash Dillon ended up scored as a 27th-place finisher while Jones was 28th. With two more races remaining in the first elimination round of this series’ Chase both drivers will have to hope for a win or something close to it in those two remaining races if they are to avoid elimination in this first round of the Chase. Despite the odds seeming to be against the Kyle Busch protege after his disastrous finish here in Kentucky, Jones still has to be another favourite to win the championship given his strong performances – including his four wins – in the 26 races that made up the pre-Chase season.

Daniel Suarez, another favourite to win the series title, finished second in his Joe Gibbs Toyota, Ryan Blaney (who, as a full-time Cup driver, is ineligible for the Xfinity championship) was third, Sam Hornish was fourth in a Childress entry. Matt Tifft, who had to sit out a number or races earlier this season after he was diagnosed with a brain tumour – which was successfully removed, finished fifth in his return appearance in this series. Brendan Gaughan, driving another Childress entry, took over the lead mid-race after the ninth caution and he led for 18 laps before Jones – who had been outside the top ten for that restart – worked his way back up to the lead. In the end, Gaughan finished sixth.

The race saw a record 12 cautions, including one red flag (after the Jones-Dillon crash) for a total of 64 of the race’s 200 laps.

The next race in the Xfinity Series will be held on Saturday afternoon (Oct. 1) at Dover International Speedway.

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NASCAR Camping World Truck Series UNOH 175 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway
Byron continues to dominate as he wins the first race in the Truck Series Chase

Sept. 24, 2016: The big idea of NASCAR’s “Chase” concept is to build interest by making the outcome of the end-of-season Chase unpredictable. However, so far, with the first race of the Truck Series Chase having been run at Loudon, the result was no surprise.

William Byron who had already won five times in the 16-race pre-Chase season, dominated the race at New Hampshire starting from the pole and driving his Kyle Busch Motorsports Toyota to the win in front of his teammate Christopher Bell. On the way to the win, he led for 161 of the race’s 175 laps, while Bell led for 11 and their other teammate, Cody Coughlin, led the remaining three laps, making it a KBM sweep.

Matt Crafton, the champion in 2014 and one of the few who look like they might have a chance to beat out Byron for this year’s title, finished third in his ThorSport Chevrolet. Tyler Reddick, the Brad Keselowski driver who had failed to qualify for the Chase, finished fourth, while Timothy Peters was fifth on his Red Horse Toyota.

Reddick’s BKR teammate, who had qualified for the Chase, had bad luck. Early in the race he had a flat rear tire which sent him slamming into the outside wall. By the time he had driven around to his pit stall, the damaged tire had broken the brake line. He went back out after the tire was replaced but the leaking fluid set off a fire under the truck and he had to go to the garage for more extensive repairs. By the time he was able to come back out, he was many laps down and out of contention. He finished in 28th place. It looks like, unless he can win one of the next two races, his hopes of continuing to contend for the championship are gone.

Brett Moffitt, the part-time Red Horse driver who won at Michigan last month, finished in eighth place.

There are two more races in this, the first elimination round of the Truck Chase. After the first three Chase races, two of the current eight championship contenders will be eliminated.

The next race will be held on Saturday night (Oct. 1) at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway.           

Photo credits:

NSCS Harvick No. 4: © 2016 Alan Marler/HHP and General Motors
NSCS finish: Rainier Ehrhardt/NASCAR via Getty Images
NXS: Jonathan Moore/NASCAR via Getty Images
NCWTS: Jeff Zelevansky/©Getty Images/NASCAR

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