KYLE BUSCH WINS AT RICHMOND TO EARN AUTOMATIC BERTH INTO SECOND ROUND OF PLAYOFFS
Here’s a weekly glance at the four-round, elimination-style Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs that make 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: Kyle Busch held off a charging Harvick to win Saturday night’s Federated Auto Parts 400 at Richmond International Raceway.
Busch, who led 92 laps, took the lead when he finally overtook Keselowski on Lap 364 of 400 on the .75-mile oval, but then had to contest with Harvick late in the race. He was able to fend off Harvick by .777 of a second for a season sweep at Richmond. More importantly, Busch automatically advances to the second round of the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs.
“Yeah, that was a little too close for my comfort,” said Busch, who was forced to start from the rear of the field as a result of damage he sustained from brushing the wall during qualifying. “I thought we were a little bit better than that on the long runs, (but) I know Harvick… that’s kind of his specialty. We had a really, really good race car tonight.”
Busch led the “Big Three” to a sweep of the top three positions as defending series champion Truex Jr. finished third. Truex Jr., who had to overcome a penalty for an uncontrolled tire, won the first and second stages and led a race-high 163 laps.
Playoff drivers swept the top-12 finishing positions with Elliott (4th) and Almirola (5th) earning top-five efforts.
Click https://goo.gl/TtTVbs for the race recap at NASCAR.com.
How They Stand: Busch joins Keselowski in the second round of the playoffs as a result of their victories at Richmond and Las Vegas, respectively. Truex Jr. also has clinched one of the 12 berths in the next round by virtue of his championship points standing. Blaney currently sits in the 12th and final transfer spot into the next round. In need of a strong performance or win in Sunday’s first-round, cut-off race at Charlotte to advance are Bowyer (13th, -4 behind Blaney), Johnson (14th, -6), Jones (15th, -21) and Hamlin (16th, -29). A victory in the remaining Round of 16 race by a championship-contending driver advances him 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 elimination race that will reduce the championship field from 16 to 12 drivers is Sunday’s Bank of America ROVAL 400 at Charlotte Motor Speedway (1 p.m. CT, TV: NBC, Radio: PRN, SiriusXM). The Round of 12 follows in the four-round format, beginning with Dover International Raceway (Sunday, Oct. 7, NBC Sports Network).
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: Christopher Bell went wire to wire in winning Friday night’s Go Bowling 250 at Richmond International Raceway, the playoff opener for the NASCAR Xfinity Series. Bell passed Matt Tifft after a restart on Lap 237 of 250 and then held off Ross Chastain by .566 of a second for his fifth win of the season. He led five times for 67 laps. Also finishing among the top five were Daniel Hemric (4th) and Tifft (5th) as 11 of the 12 playoff drivers finished among the top 15. Regular-season champion Justin Allgaier was the one who did not, finishing 32nd after getting caught up in an accident with 34 laps remaining. Despite the finish, he is third in the playoff standings due to the bonus points he accumulated coming into the postseason. The Xfinity Series NASCAR Playoffs head next to Charlotte Motor Speedway for Saturday’s Drive for the Cure 200 presented by Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Carolina (2 p.m., TV: NBC Sports Network, Radio: PRN, SiriusXM). 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: 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. Justin Haley and Grant Enfinger have secured berths in the next round by virtue of their wins at Canadian Tire Motorsports Park and Las Vegas Motor Speedway, respectively. 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.