ELLIOTT WINS DOVER IN OVERTIME TO ADVANCE TO NEXT ROUND
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 12-driver field competing in the three-race Round of 12 consists of defending series champion Martin Truex Jr. of Furniture Row Racing; 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 of Joe Gibbs Racing; and Kyle Larson of Chip Ganassi Racing.
Race Recap: Elliott held off Denny Hamlin in overtime to win Sunday’s Gander Outdoors 400 at Dover International Speedway and earn an automatic berth in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs Round of 8. Elliott won by .265 of a second over Hamlin, who was eliminated in the first round of the playoffs, in the first of three races in the Round of 12 that was settled by four laps of overtime.
Following a restart on Lap 397, a caution came out in the closing laps of the 400-lap race due to a multi-car incident that included Playoff drivers Almirola, Keselowski, Bowman, Truex Jr. and Blaney that forced NASCAR to red flag the race and set up the overtime shootout. Elliott surged ahead of Hamlin on the restart and held on as he ultimately led the final 11 laps of the race, which were the only laps he led throughout the day.
The win was pivotal for Elliott, who started the second round of the playoffs ninth in championship points among the 12 drivers. It was his first career Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Playoff win and second victory overall, the other coming earlier this season at Watkins Glen.
“Oh, huge,” said Elliott post-race when asked about the win taking some post-season pressure off him for the time being. “I mean, I think it’s nice to be able to know you’re going to move on, but you can’t get complacent in the fact that you are moving on, and you can’t let those points just sit out there and not try to go get them because those bonus points you get for winning or winning a stage or winning a race or whatever, that’s huge, and you need as many as you can get. One or two points could be the difference in you making the round of four or not. Just knowing that and not being complacent with the win and trying to go get another one or two before it starts I think is important.”
The day appeared to belong to Harvick, who was dominant with 286 laps led and a sweep of the first two stages. However, he was forced to pit under green for a tire issue that made him go a lap down in the final stage. He regained the lap back and fought through the field, but could only muster a sixth-place finish.
Joining Elliott among the top five were Logano (3rd) and Kurt Busch (5th). All but two of the 12 playoff drivers finished among the top 15, with the exceptions being Bowman (28th) and Bowyer (35th) as a result of accidents.
Click https://goo.gl/VZdFy5 for the race recap at NASCAR.com.
How They Stand: Elliott has secured his berth in the Round of 8 with two races remaining in this segment. Excluding Elliott, Harvick is the championship points leader by five over Kyle Busch. They are followed by Truex Jr. (-32 behind Harvick), Logano (-37), Kurt Busch (-47), Keselowski (-47) and Blaney (-58), respectively. Blaney currently sits on the eighth transfer spot, leading Almirola and Bowyer by 10, Larson by 12 and Bowman by 34.
A victory in a Round of 12 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 more drivers will be eliminated from championship contention following the Round of 12.
Next Up: The Round of 12 three-race segment continues with Sunday’s 1000Bulbs.com 500 at Talladega Superspeedway (1 p.m. CT, TV: NBC, Radio: SiriusXM, MRN). The round concludes Sunday, Oct. 21, with the Hollywood Casino 400 at Kansas Speedway (1 p.m. CT, TV: NBC, Radio: SiriusXM, MRN).
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 won Saturday’s Bar Harbor 200 at Dover International Speedway for his second victory in the three races of the opening playoff round. Bell, who also won at Richmond, earned his sixth victory of the season that established a rookie record for the Xfinity Series. Bell led the field to a restart with 17 laps left and pulled away for the victory by .525 of a second over Cole Custer, who also advanced to the next round of the playoffs. Bell and Custer were two of the eight drivers that advanced to the second round as Dover served as the first-round elimination race that trimmed the contender field by four. Regular-season champion Justin Allgaier also advanced to the Round of 8 with Daniel Hemric, Austin Cindric, Elliott Sadler, Tyler Reddick and Matt Tifft. Brandon Jones, Ryan Truex, Ryan Reed and Ross Chastain were eliminated from playoff contention. The series is idle this week and returns to action Saturday, Oct. 20, with the Kansas Lottery 300 at Kansas Speedway (2 p.m. CT, TV: NBC, Radio: SiriusXM, MRN) for the opening of the Round of 8 segment. 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, after nearly a month break, returns to action with Saturday’s Fr8Auctions 250 at Talladega Superspeedway (Noon CT, TV: FOX, Radio: SiriusXM, MRN). The race is a Round 1 elimination event 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.