Thanks to the addition of unprecedented same-series doubleheaders, NASCAR achieved its objective of running 26 regular-season races in its premier division, the NASCAR Cup Series, despite losing 10 weeks during a pause necessitated by the coronavirus pandemic.
The Cup Series Playoff began last Sunday with Kevin Harvick winning at Darlington. The NASCAR Gander RV & Outdoors Truck Series will run its final regular-season event on Thursday night at Richmond, with the Truck Playoff set to begin Sept. 17 at Bristol Motor Speedway.
The NASCAR Xfinity Series, on the other hand, has three races left in the regular season, with two of them to be run Sept. 11-12 at Richmond Raceway. The Xfinity cutoff race for the Playoff is scheduled for Sept. 18 at Bristol, with the Playoff to open Sept. 26 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.
Playoff or no Playoff, it was more of the same for Kevin Harvick at Darlington, where the driver of the No. 4 Stewart-Haas Racing Ford took the checkered flag in last Sunday’s NASCAR Cup Series Playoff opener.
Harvick accomplished several milestones with the win at the Lady in Black. He earned automatic advancement into the Round of 12 with the victory, as well as collecting five more Playoff points. Harvick also broke a tie with reigning Cup champion Kyle Busch for ninth on the all-time victory list in NASCAR’s premier series. With his eighth win of the season, Harvick now has 57 in his career.
One word of caution for those who think Harvick is the obvious choice for the Cup championship: the driver known as “The Closer” didn’t have the fastest car at Darlington. Harvick was running third late in the race when Martin Truex Jr. and Chase Elliott crashed while battling for the lead.
The Cup Series Playoff resumes on Saturday night at Richmond Raceway.
|Federated Auto Parts 400 Information|
|What||Federated Auto Parts 400 NASCAR Cup Series race|
|When||Saturday, Sept. 12, 7:30 p.m. EST|
|How to Watch||NBCSN|
In the era of the elimination formats for all three of its top touring series, NASCAR staggers the cutoff races and Playoff openers, with the Xfinity Series being the last to determine its Playoff field and begin the postseason. After two races at Richmond this weekend, the Xfinity Series heads to its cutoff race Sept. 16 Bristol, with the seven-race Playoff scheduled to start Sept. 26 at Las Vegas.
Last Saturday at Darlington, the battle between Brandon Brown and Jeremy Clements for the final Xfinity Playoff berth took two unexpected turns. Brown was involved in an early accident, resulting in a 17th-place finish. But a mechanical issue deprived Clements of the opportunity to gain ground. Clements came home 32nd, 18 laps down, and dropped 45 points behind Brown in the race for the 12th spot in the postseason.
The trouble for those two drivers also brought Myatt Snider into the conversation. Snider finished 10th at Darlington and is 51 points behind Brown. If Brown has strong finishes in both Richmond races this weekend, he could effectively lock up a Playoff berth—barring an unlikely victory by a driver below him in the standings.
|Go Bowling 250 Information|
|What||Go Bowling 250 NASCAR Xfinity Series race|
|When||Friday, Sept. 11, 7 p.m. EST|
|How to Watch||NBCSN|
|Virginia Is For Racing Lovers 250 Information|
|What||Virginia Is For Racing Lovers 250 NASCAR Xfinity Series race|
|When||Saturday, Sept. 12, 2 p.m. EST|
|How to Watch||NBCSN|
Last Friday’s NASCAR Gander RV & Outdoors Truck Series race at Darlington could have gone a long way toward determining the final two spots in the Playoff. Instead, it settled nothing, as the three drivers fighting for the final berth left the Track Too Tough to Tame with their relative positions virtually unchanged.
Thursday’s ToyotaCare 250 at Richmond Raceway will be definitive as the last regular-season event on the Truck Series schedule. Tyler Ankrum enters the race ninth in the standings, four points ahead of Todd Gilliland in 10th. Ten drivers will qualify for the Playoff, and should Ankrum or Gilliland falter, rookie Derek Kraus is well within striking distance in 11th place, 10 points behind Gilliland
Thursday’s race also will be the last chance for drivers who have no avenue into the Playoff other than by winning the race. That group includes rookies Raphael Lessard and Tanner Gray, 2019 Playoff qualifier Stewart Friesen and 2016 series champion Johnny Sauter. Based on performance this season, however, a “Hail Mary” from any of those four drivers is extremely unlikely.
|ToyotaCare 250 Information|
|What||ToyotaCare 250 NASCAR Gander RV & Outdoors Truck Series race|
|When||Thursday, Sept. 10, 8 p.m. EST|
|How to Watch||FS1|
Award-winning motorsports writer Reid Spencer has served as lead writer for the NASCAR Wire Service for 16 years, having also spent a four-year stint as NASCAR columnist and beat writer for Sporting News. He is currently serving as president of the National Motorsports Press Association. Email: [email protected]More info on Reid Spencer
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