NASCAR Cup Series Round of 12 Begins in Sin City; Xfinity Series Runs First Playoff Race

  • Kevin Harvick enters the second round of the Cup Playoff as the heavy title favorite.
  • Justin Allgaier brings late-season momentum to Xfinity Playoff in quest of elusive title.
  • Truck Series Playoff remains tight after interloper Sam Mayer wins the Bristol opener.

Now there are 12. Last Saturday’s NASCAR Cup Series race at Bristol Motor Speedway eliminated four drivers from the postseason as the Round of 16 concluded its three-race run. Gone from the Playoff are Chevrolet driver William Byron and Ford drivers Cole Custer, Ryan Blaney, and Matt DiBenedetto.

Kevin Harvick won for the second time in the Round of 16 to establish himself as the favorite to win the Cup title, a feat he hasn’t accomplished since his championship run in 2014.

Friday’s NASCAR Xfinity Series race at Bristol set the field for the Playoff in that division, and the NASCAR Gander RV & Outdoors opened its seven-event Playoff with part-time driver Sam Mayer winning for the first time in one of NASCAR’s top three national series.

All three series are running Playoff races at Las Vegas the weekend, starting with Friday’s Truck Series event at the 1.5-mile intermediate speedway.

Kevin Harvick Heads to Las Vegas as Odds-On Championship Favorite

For much of the NASCAR Cup Series season—particularly in the immediate aftermath of a 10-week hiatus caused by the coronavirus pandemic—Kevin Harvick and Denny Hamlin battled for supremacy. When the Playoff began, however, Harvick asserted his superiority in emphatic fashion.

The driver of the No. 4 Stewart-Haas Racing Ford won two of the three races in the Round of 16 (Darlington and Bristol), increasing his Playoff point total 67, enough to tide him over through a disastrous race in the Round of 12 or Round of 8, should that occur. Hamlin, in contrast, has 48 Playoff points to take into the Round of 12.

Harvick is enjoying a banner year. He has won nine of the 29 races thus far to bring his career total to 58, second only to Jimmie Johnson’s 83 among active drivers. There’s no reason to believe Harvick won’t continue his run in the Playoff, and it’s almost inconceivable that he’ll fail to qualify for the Championship 4 season finale at Phoenix.

How to Watch South Point 400

South Point 400 Information
What South Point 400 NASCAR Cup Series race
Where Las Vegas Motor Speedway
When Sunday, Sept. 27, 7 p.m. EST
How to Watch NBCSN

 

NASCAR Xfinity Series Playoff Drivers Are Ready to Roll the Dice in Sin City

The NASCAR Xfinity Series Playoff opens on Saturday with the Alsco 300 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, the third different track to host the Xfinity postseason opener (joining Kentucky Speedway and Richmond Raceway). To say the least, the Xfinity Playoff provides a stark contrast between the “haves” and “have-nots.”

Ford drivers Chase Briscoe and Austin Cindric enter the postseason tied at the top of the standings with 50 Playoff points each, with Briscoe earning the top seed based on the number of victories (Briscoe has seven to Cindric’s five). At the other end of the spectrum, the bottom four drivers in the 12-man field all have two or fewer Playoff points and will be hard-pressed to survive the opening round of the seven-event postseason.

Between the top and the bottom, there’s one driver who deserves a long look. Overcoming ill-fortune that plagued him throughout much of the season, Justin Allgaier has won three of the last seven races, including a weekend sweep at Richmond, and enters the postseason with 33 Playoff points. If anyone is to challenge to Ford drivers, Allgaier is the best bet.

How to Watch Alsco 300

Alsco 300 Information
What Alsco 300 NASCAR Xfinity Series race
Where Las Vegas Motor Speedway
When Saturday, Sept. 26, 7:30 p.m. EST
How to Watch NBCSN

 

Tightly Bunched Truck Playoff Field Means a Scramble to Avoid Elimination

Last Thursday’s NASCAR Gander RV & Outdoors Truck Series race at Bristol didn’t provide any guaranteed tickets to the Round of 8 in the Playoff. Why? Because part-time driver Sam Mayer took the checkered flag, taking a victory away from Playoff leader and GMS Racing teammate Brett Moffitt.

That left all 10 Playoff drivers scrambling for the eight spots in the second round. Between Moffitt and 10th-place Todd Gilliland, there’s a 42-point spread entering Friday night’s World of Westgate 200. With two races left in the Round of 10, the Playoff is wide open, and which two drivers will be eliminated remains an open question.

Four former Las Vegas Truck Series winners are entered in Friday’s event: Johnny Sauter, Ben Rhodes, Grant Enfinger and Austin Hill. Of those four, only Sauter is a non-Playoff driver. X-Games gold medalist Travis Pastrana is making his second Truck Series start of the season at Las Vegas, but don’t expect the BMX star to contend for the win in a full-bodied vehicle.

How to Watch World of Westgate 200

World of Westgate 200 Information
What World of Westgate 200 NASCAR Gander RV & Outdoors Truck Series race
Where Las Vegas Motor Speedway
When Friday, Sept. 25, 7 p.m. EST
How to Watch FS1

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Reid Spencer

Expert on NASCAR

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]