Chase Elliott rallies from crash to win Playoff race

CHARLOTTE, NORTH CAROLINA - SEPTEMBER 29: Chase Elliott, driver of the #9 NAPA Auto Parts Chevrolet, celebrates winning the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Bank of America ROVAL 400 at Charlotte Motor Speedway on September 29, 2019 in Charlotte, North Carolina. (Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)

Reid Spencer – NASCAR Wire Service


CHARLOTTE, NORTH CAROLINA – SEPTEMBER 29: Chase Elliott, driver of the #9 NAPA Auto Parts Chevrolet, during the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Bank of America ROVAL 400 at Charlotte Motor Speedway on September 29, 2019 in Charlotte, North Carolina. (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)

CONCORD, N.C. – Moments after taking the checkered flag in Sunday’s Bank of America ROVAL 400 at the Charlotte Motor Speedway Road Course, race winner Chase Elliott revisited the site of his biggest mistake.

Elliott drove his No. 9 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 up to the tire barrier in Turn 1 of the 2.32-mile, 17-turn course and began a burnout that bordered on the sarcastic.

Early in the final stage of the 109-lap event, after a restart on Lap 65, Elliott locked up his brakes, plowed straight into the tire barrier, taking out the “Tums” logo in the corner known as Heartburn Turn. After pitting to address the damage, Elliott fell to 37th in the running and spent the rest of the race working his way forward.

After a spate of opportune cautions, Elliott took the lead for good on Lap 104, passing Martin Truex Jr. for second and Kevin Harvick for the top spot after the final restart.

Five laps later, he crossed the finish line 3.016 seconds ahead of teammate Alex Bowman, who made a heroic run from the rear of the field to finish second and wrestle the final berth in the Round of 12 in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs from Aric Almirola and Ryan Newman.

“Oh, my gosh, what a mistake, holy moly,” said Elliott, who picked up his third victory of the season, his first at the Charlotte Motor Speedway Road Course and the sixth of his career. “You talk about messing something up, right here—don’t do that.

“What a day. Such a fast NAPA Camaro ZL1, and honestly that was the only reason we were able to get back in it. I pretty well blew it and got the cautions at the right time and brought it home… But I don’t think that I could have done anything more stupid, leading that race.”

Bowman and Newman were locked in a tight battle for the final spot in the Round of 12 before Newman blew the backstretch chicane with three laps left and dropped to 32nd at the finish. That left Newman 14th in the standings and 15 points behind Bowman at the finish.

Almirola finished 14th in Sunday’s race and left Charlotte five points behind Bowman, the first driver outside the top 12. Kurt Busch (20th Sunday) and Erik Jones (40th after a Lap 23 crash knocked a hole in the radiator of his No. 20 Toyota) also were eliminated from the Playoffs, which resume next Sunday at Dover International Speedway.

Bowman overcame a litany of mistakes and ill fortune to grab the final berth in the Round of 12. With 25 seconds left in Saturday’s final Cup practice, he crashed in Turns 3 and 4 and was forced to go to a backup car. That meant starting from the rear Sunday, and halfway through the first lap, Bowman spun in the backstretch chicane.

He was turned sideways in the six-car Lap 23 wreck that started when Kurt Busch slammed into the rear of Chris Buescher’s Chevrolet as the cars slowed entering the corner. And on Lap 42, Bowman turned Bubba Wallace at the exit of the backstretch chicane after a heated exchange that feature uncomplimentary hand gestures from Wallace.

At the end of the race, Wallace was still seething. As Bowman sat exhausted with his back against the driver’s side of his No. 88 Chevrolet, Wallace threw a cup of water into Bowman’s face and walked away.

Bowman could take solace, however, in the knowledge that his championship hopes are still alive. After the race, Bowman visited the infield care center suffering from dehydration, according to team owner Rick Hendrick.

Truex, Harvick and Kyle Busch already had clinched Round of 12 spots entering the Charlotte race. Elliott, Brad Keselowski, Joey Logano, Denny Hamlin, Kyle Larson, Clint Bowyer, pole winner William Byron, Ryan Blaney and Bowman clinched on Sunday.

Harvick finished third in the Roval 400, followed by Bowyer, Keselowski, Truex and Blaney, who gritted out his eighth-place finish after damaging the rear suspension after hitting the wall.

Twelve drivers set to take on second round of Playoffs

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – In the minutes and hours following the checkered flag in Sunday’s first Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Playoff elimination race of 2019, drivers were simultaneously celebratory, stunned or simply relieved – depending on their fate – in an action-packed Bank of America ROVAL 400 at the Charlotte Motor Speedway road course.

Chase Elliott earned his third victory of the year in an amazing comeback story – motoring to the trophy even after barreling into the Turn 1 wall mid-race while leading the field on a restart. His Hendrick Motorsports teammate Alex Bowman finished second – a substantial 3.024-seconds behind, but good enough to earn the 12th and final Playoff transfer position.

As Elliott celebrated with confetti and champagne in victory circle, Bowman slumped by the side of his No. 88 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet, dehydrated and exhausted – physically and mentally – after an unusually hot and stressful day in the car. The Hendrick Motorsports teammates left the track – Bowman after a trip to the infield care center – representing both ends of the day’s upside.

Bowman started from the rear of the field after having to switch to a back-up No. 88 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet and had trials throughout an afternoon that concluded with an inspired run right up the field – overtaking Sunday frontrunners from Kevin Harvick to Clint Bowyer and William Byron all in the final few laps.

“Glad we were able to rebound and the guys obviously gave me a really strong car to come back through the field,’’ Bowman said after his trip to the care center.

“There at the end, just cautions were rough. Under green, it kind of is what it is; you’re doing your job. But under caution when you actually have time to think about how you feel, it’s not much fun.’’

The result – his first trip to the second round of the Playoffs – will undoubtedly assuage the tough day.

Farther down pit road from Bowman, Ryan Newman crouched by his No. 6 Roush-Fenway Ford, his young daughter caringly offering cold water for him to drink. His head bowed by a combination of the heat and emotion as he came so close to advancing in the Playoffs. He was initially shown to be an excruciating single point behind Bowman in the standings upon finishing the race. But he was penalized 30 seconds post-race for failing to serve a penalty for missing a chicane while racing feverishly on the next-to-last lap, and it dropped him to 14th place in the standings – 16 points outside the cutoff.

“I felt like I made a lot mistakes trying too hard,’’ said Newman, driver of the No. 6 Roush Fenway Racing Ford.

“We did not have the race car and that’s what I had to do. I felt like we were in position at one point and then just kept trying too hard trying to keep the 10-car (Almirola) behind us and missed the curbs.

“We came in at a big deficiency, finished one point out or whatever it was, but no matter what, we’re still gonna fight for fifth [in the championship standings]. I’m proud of everybody at Roush Fenway for the fight and the opportunity that they’ve given me. We’re not done, we’re just out at this point.’’

In the end, it was Newman, Stewart-Haas Racing’s Aric Almirola, Chip Ganassi Racing’s Kurt Busch and Joe Gibbs Racing’s Erik Jones who were eliminated from Playoff competition. Almirola and Newman were above the cutline entering the race, but exchanged places with SHR’s Clint Bowyer and Bowman, who on Sunday raced to positions inside the Playoff top 12.

“We can’t let this define us,’’ said Almirola, who finished five points shy of advancing to the Round of 12. “Last year, it seemed like everything kind of came relatively easy for a new race team and me being new to the organization to go on the run that we had last year and finish fifth in the points.

“We’ll continue to build and sometimes you go through adversity and it makes you better and stronger.’’

Bowman’s stressful entry into second round of the Playoffs may be abated by the positive vibes these three venues offer him. He was runner-up in consecutive races at all three of the upcoming Playoff tracks in Dover International Speedway, Talladega Superspeedway and Kansas Speedway earlier this season – a career-best string of finishes for him at the time.

Earlier this season, those races at the next Playoff venues were all won by current Playoff drivers. Elliott won at Talladega at the end of April, leading his teammate Bowman across the line. Martin Truex Jr. edged Bowman at Dover the next weekend to kick off May. And Team Penske driver Brad Keselowski won at Kansas the following week, edging Bowman, Erik Jones, Elliott and Bowyer.

And Elliott won two of these races in last year’s Playoff round, visiting Victory Lane at Dover and Kansas.

The points reset heading to Dover for the Drydene 400 (Sunday, Oct. 6 at 2:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio) has regular season champion Kyle Busch – who had a frustrating 37th-place finish at the ROVAL – bounce back to the top of the standings by only a five-point edge over his Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Truex.

In the tightest grouping to start this Playoff round, Busch and Truex’s JGR teammate Denny Hamlin is third, 16 points behind Busch. Reigning Monster Energy Series champion Joey Logano is fourth, 17 points back, and Harvick is 18 points back.

Larson, who was 13th Sunday at the ROVAL is now ranked eighth in the championship. And Bowman – who barely made the Playoff group – jumps from the brink of elimination to being ranked ninth. Ryan Blaney, William Byron and Bowyer, who also raced his way into contention, round out the top 12.

The last four Dover race winners were all won by current Playoff drivers – Kyle Busch (Fall, 2017), Harvick (Spring, 2018), Elliott (Fall, 2018) and Truex earlier this year.

Holly Cain – NASCAR Wire Service

AJ Allmendinger wins wild NASCAR Xfinity race at Charlotte Roval

CHARLOTTE, NORTH CAROLINA – SEPTEMBER 28: A J Allmendinger, driver of the #10 Digital Ally Chevrolet, poses with the trophy in Victory Lane after winning the NASCAR Xfinity Series Drive for the Cure 250 presented by Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Carolina at Charlotte Motor Speedway on September 28, 2019 in Charlotte, North Carolina. (Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)

CONCORD, N.C. – AJ Allmendinger stole the thunder from a series of intense battles among NASCAR Xfinity Series Playoff drivers to win Saturday’s Drive for the Cure 250 at the Charlotte Motor Speedway Road Course.

Allmendinger muscled his way past series leader Christopher Bell as the cars climbed from the infield section onto the banking on Lap 48 of 67 and held the top spot through three subsequent restarts in the action-filled second race of the Xfinity Round of 12.

The road course ace scored his third victory in 16 starts in his series, finishing 2.386 seconds ahead of Richard Childress Racing’s Tyler Reddick during a three-lap run to the finish.

“Whooo! Damn, I’m tired—thank you everybody!” Allmendinger said during a postrace interview beneath the flag stand. “I can’t thank (owner) Matt Kaulig enough, first of all. He put his belief in me, wanting me to come here and help build this team.

“I have to thank Tyler Reddick– he’s phenomenal. He told me when I got here I needed to get better on the road courses, because he out-qualified me in every race lately and even beat me in a couple.

CHARLOTTE, NORTH CAROLINA – SEPTEMBER 28: A J Allmendinger, driver of the #10 Digital Ally Chevrolet, wins the NASCAR Xfinity Series Drive for the Cure 250 presented by Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Carolina at Charlotte Motor Speedway on September 28, 2019 in Charlotte, North Carolina. (Photo by Brian Lawdermilk/Getty Images)

“I knew with him behind me (for the last two restarts), I could be defensive on the right side and give myself an angle, and Tyler wouldn’t shove down in there. I appreciate that. I tried to change the restarts up enough each time, but you can only do so much. I knew once we got into clear air, this thing was good. In traffic, it was a struggle.”

For the final two restarts, Allmendinger lined up next to Playoff driver Austin Cindric, who broke a rear shock and lost the runner-up position to Reddick on the penultimate lap. Cindric held third over Justin Allgaier, with Noah Gragson securing the fifth position after starting from the rear of the field in a backup car.

“I wish I had a chance to fight the 10 (Allmendinger) there at the end, but under caution I felt a shock mount break,” Cindric said. “The right-rear shock was clean off the race car before I even restarted the race, so I’m glad I didn’t wreck, and I’m glad I finished third.

“I guess all of that is positive, but at the same time, I felt like we had a good shot, especially if the thing would have gone green, to try to pressure him into a mistake or getting a good lunge, but, all in all, a great points day, a great day for the MoneyLion Ford Mustang. We’ve got to keep it going this way.”

While Allmendinger was enjoying the clean air at the front of the field, the top drivers in the Xfinity Playoffs were busy salvaging respectable finishes from a litany of troubles.

After giving up the lead to Allmendinger, Bell drew a penalty for blowing the final chicane while racing side-by-side with Chase Briscoe, but not before contact between their two cars sent Briscoe spinning between Turns 2 and 3 on Lap 58.

Already qualified for the next round of the Playoffs after last week’s victory at Richmond, Bell recovered from a rear-of-the-field penalty to finish 12th and maintained a 10-point advantage Cole Custer, who came home eighth after spinning in Turn 1 during a multicar mashup on Lap 44. Despite the wild day, Custer was able clinch a spot in the Round of 8 on points.

After his spin on Lap 58, Briscoe charged through traffic to finish ninth and heads for next week’s elimination race at Dover sixth in the standings—46 points behind Bell but 35 ahead of ninth place John Hunter Nemechek, who ran seventh on Saturday. The Playoff field will be cut from 12 drivers to eight at Dover.

Nemechek is 11 points behind Michael Annett in eighth place, tied with Brandon Jones (16th Saturday). Ryan Sieg finished 30th after suffering fuel pressure issues and enters the Dover race 37 points below the cut line. Justin Haley, Allmendinger’s Kaulig Racing teammate broke a track bar mount early in the race and finished 31st, six laps down and 39 points behind Annett.