KESELOWSKI WINS OPENER AT LAS VEGAS FOR THIRD CONSECUTIVE VICTORY
Here’s a weekly glance at the four-round, elimination-style Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs that makes a stop at Texas Motor Speedway on Sunday, Nov. 4, for the AAA Texas 500, the middle race of the Round of 8. Brief recaps of the Xfinity and Camping World Truck Series Playoffs also are included as both series will compete at Texas Motor Speedway as part of a NASCAR Playoff tripleheader weekend set for Nov. 1-4.
Playoff Field: The 16-driver field competing in the opening three-race Round of 16 consists of defending series champion Martin Truex Jr. of Furniture Row Racing; seven-time series champ Jimmie Johnson, Chase Elliott and Alex Bowman of Hendrick Motorsports; 2012 series champion Brad Keselowski, Joey Logano and Ryan Blaney of Team Penske; 2014 champ Kevin Harvick, 2004 champ Kurt Busch, Clint Bowyer and Aric Almirola of Stewart-Haas Racing; 2015 series champ Kyle Busch, Denny Hamlin and Erik Jones of Joe Gibbs Racing; Kyle Larson of Chip Ganassi Racing; and Austin Dillon of Richard Childress Racing.
Race Recap: Keselowski continued his sizzling run into the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs opener, capturing Sunday’s South Point 400 at Las Vegas Speedway in overtime for his third consecutive win on the season.
Keselowski, who won the previous weeks at Darlington and Indianapolis, held on at Vegas as the race went five laps of overtime and three restarts before the Team Penske driver secured the win by 1.276 seconds over Larson in the final two-lap shootout.
The other Playoff drivers that earned top-10 finishes in addition to Keselowski, Larson and Truex Jr. were Logano (4th), Blaney (5th), Almirola (6th) and Kyle Busch (7th).
“To start off the Playoffs with a win is really strong. I know it’s three in a row and all that great stuff, but it’s really a testament to this team. … We weren’t as fast as the 78 car (third-place finisher Truex Jr.), but we nailed the pit stops and the restarts.” – Keselowski after following up regular-season wins at Darlington and Indianapolis with Sunday’s Playoff win at Las Vegas
“Brad clearly found a horseshoe. Three races in a row he’s won, and he has not had the best car.” – Truex Jr., who led a race-high 96 laps in Sunday’s South Point 400
While Keselowski, Larson and Truex Jr. were among the Playoff drivers that swept the top seven finishing positions, a large portion of the contenders were not as fortunate in a race that had 12 cautions for 59 laps.
Eight of the Playoff drivers finished 19th or worse, including four that were 32nd or worse due to accidents. Hamlin was 32nd, Elliott 36th, Harvick 39th and Jones 40th.
Click here for the race recap in 135 seconds at NASCAR.com.
How They Stand: Keselowski advances to the Round of 12 with Sunday’s win regardless of how he fares in the next two Round of 16 races.
Truex Jr. took over the top spot from regular-season champion Kyle Busch by two points. Bowman, who finished 19th at Las Vegas, currently occupies the 12th and final transfer spot to advance with two races remaining in the opening round.
The drivers currently at risk of advancing are Johnson (-6 behind Bowman), Elliott (-9), Jones (-19) and Hamlin (-20).
A victory in either of the two remaining Round of 16 races by a championship-contending driver advances them to the next round and the remaining positions to advance are based off points earned in those three races.
Four drivers will be eliminated from championship contention following the Round of 16.
Next Up: The Round of 16 heads to Richmond International Raceway on Saturday night for the Federated Auto Parts 400 (6:30 p.m. CT, TV: NBC Sports Network, Radio: MRN, SiriusXM). The Round of 16 culminates at Charlotte Motor Speedway (Sunday, Sept. 30, NBC). The Round of 12 follows in the four-round format.
Coming Soon: The AAA Texas 500 at Texas Motor Speedway is the middle event of the three-race segment in the Round of 8, where eight drivers will remain in contention for the Cup championship. The Round of 8 consists of Martinsville (Va.) Speedway (Sunday, Oct. 28, NBCSN), the AAA Texas 500 (Sunday, Nov. 4, NBCSN) and Phoenix International Raceway (Sunday, Nov. 11, NBC). These three races will determine which four drivers will head to the season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway (Sunday, Nov. 19, NBC) to vie for the series championship.
Xfinity Series Playoff Update: Chip Ganassi Racing’s Ross Chastain captured his first career Xfinity Series win in Saturday’s DC Solar 300 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, which was the regular-season finale and determined the 12-driver Playoff field.
The win secured Chastain one of those berths and he is joined in the playoff field by regular-season champion Justin Allgaier, Christopher Bell, Elliott Sadler, Cole Custer, Tyler Reddick, Daniel Hemric, Brandon Jones, Matt Tift, Ryan Truex, Austin Cindric and Ryan Reed.
The Xfinity Series NASCAR Playoffs open Friday night at Richmond International Raceway (6:30 p.m. CT, TV: NBC Sports Network, Radio: MRN/SiriusXM Radio). Texas Motor Speedway will play host to a Round of 8 race Saturday, Nov. 3, with the O’Reilly Auto Parts 300.
Camping World Truck Series Playoff Update: In the second race of the opening round of the NCWTS Playoffs, Grant Enfinger survived three overtimes to win Friday night’s World of Westgate 200 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway by .142 of a second over fellow playoff contender Johnny Sauter.
Enfinger went from last in the eight-driver playoff field to a guaranteed berth in the second round. He joins Justin Haley, who won the opener at Canadian Tire Motorsports Park.
In addition to Enfinger, Sauter and Haley, the drivers that qualified for the Playoffs are Noah Gragson, Brett Moffitt, Matt Crafton, Ben Rhodes and Stewart Friesen.
The series is idle until Oct. 13 at Talladega, which is the Round 1 elimination race that will trim the playoff field from eight to six. Texas Motor Speedway will play host to a Round of 6 race Friday, Nov. 2, with the JAG Metals 350.
Note-While the championship fields are reduced by virtue of elimination in each of the rounds, each race continues to have a full field competing.