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Nashville win by Chase Elliott could make impact in playoffs

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LEBANON, Tennessee. “Since there are no clear leaders nine races before the start of the Cup playoffs, every point, every decision and every move can affect the course of the race for the championship.

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The day before last weekend’s Cup race at Nashville Superspeedway, Denny Hamlin noted how dense the competition will be in the playoffs. which Chase Elliott did in Sunday’s race could have repercussions in the fall.

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Elliott’s win gives him 13 playoff points. Ross Chastain as well as William Byron for most this season. Joey Logano and Hamlin each have 12 points in the playoffs. Another seven riders are within at least seven playoff points from Elliott, Chastain and Byron.

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“I think this will without a doubt be the most unpredictable playoff, simply because one bad race for a good team won’t give them playoff points to give them a buffer to advance to the next round,” Hamlin said. “There could be very big teams in this championship or even favorites who will be knocked out in the first and second rounds because they don’t have the big playoff points that our favorites have had in the past.

“I’m one step away from winning first place in the playoffs, which is crazy considering our season, but it shows when we’re ahead, we get things done, and when we’re bad, we’re completely bad. So I think I’m excited to see where this will lead, but I’m also nervous that we’d better come together at every race track here for the next 10 weeks.”

There were several key moments in Sunday’s race that helped Elliott take his second win of the season.

When the race resumed almost halfway through, Elliott again started 15th. He quickly moved up to ninth after the restart and finished fourth on the stage.

“I felt like it was a moment in the race and I thought, ‘OK, we have to win this race,’” said crew chief Alan Gustafson. “In the end, I didn’t feel like we were going to get through (Kyle Bush as well as Martin Truex Jr.) at the time on an equal footing so I wanted to get out of sequence with them there and when I did not as many people came forward as I had hoped so we were a bit further away and it was back to what you’ re-reference , fourth or fifth, in the blink of an eye. I thought it gave us a huge advantage.”

At the restart before the start of the finals, Elliott was second and started on the front row with Busch, who was outside. Elliott quickly took the lead and controlled the race.

“I felt that there was an opportunity to do it if the circumstances were in your favor, and, fortunately, that was the case,” Elliott said. “Once we got ahead, I was just trying to control my gap to him, drive my race, manage my tires as best I could and not lose the lead. Then hope the warning didn’t come out. I hate that it happened, but it happened and luckily it worked for us.”

Elliott held the lead, and when the warning was lifted, he stayed on the sidelines while the cars of Gibbs Bush, Truex and Hamlin pitted. With 10 cars left out, they were trapped behind those cars and their chances of winning were over.

And it was Elliott who scored five points in the playoffs that could make all the difference later in the season.

“Look, you just have to keep bringing strong racing cars to the race track,” he said. “You have to keep putting yourself in a position to win.

“When you are up front and you have a chance to win, the points will take care of themselves. You may find that if you can complete the first part of this you may run into a situation here or there where you have to decide if you want to get stage points or if you want to try and go for winning the race and that’s it – it’s just part of the world we live in now, with stages.”

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Sunday was a step in the right direction for Kevin Harvick and his team even if crew chief Rodney Childers walked out of the garage upset.

Childers was unhappy with his decision to field Harvick in the pit lane ahead of the final restart. Harvick was seventh when the caution was lifted. If he had stayed on the sidelines, he would have been third before the restart. Instead, he restarted 15th after pitting because 10 cars were sidelined. Harvick finished 10th.

Probably should have finished third, but the 4th car MO was always aggressive; on the side of moving forward, not on the side of trying to keep people,” Childers told NBC Sports.

“Honestly, with this car, it’s really difficult. I think I need to adapt better to the new car and understand that we are not going to overtake 10 cars in five laps, as before.

However, Harvick has been in the top 10 in a row. His longest streak this season is three straight top 10 finishes.

“Just having the speed and being able to run around with Gibbs cars all night was a big deal,” Childers said.

Brigade Chief Rodney Childers. (Photo by Jeffrey West/Icon Sportswire via )

Before the weekend, he told NBC Sports that the key goal would be to better qualify and score points in the first stage. Harvick qualified 10th, the first time he had started in the top ten in the last nine races.

Harvick scored points in the first round for the first time in nine races. He also scored points in the second stage. As a result, he returned to the final playoff spot by running into a teammate. Aric Almirola.

Another key point was the pit road. The team changed their front tire changer and jack last week after Harvick was critical of his team’s performance after two of the last three races.

Childers said everything went well at pit road.

“We had the fastest crew on the pit road,” he said.

According to Racing Insights, Harvick’s crew made six of their seven pit stops within 10 seconds. The team’s fastest stop to change four tires was 10.24 seconds at the first stop. The slowest stop was 11.98 seconds. Harvick gained three pit road spots during the caution stoppage after the end of stage two, moving him up to fifth.

“It’s been a really good weekend and we can build on it,” Childers said.

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Ross Chastain went through extra time at the start of the race, tightened up his rear right wheel and returned to fifth place.

Care had to be taken to avoid a four-week suspension for crew chief Chastain and two members of the pit crew if a wheel came off.

Before Chastain returned to the pits on lap 46 of the 300-lap race, there was debate over whether to do so.

“The nut wasn’t quite tight and looked okay,” Chastain said after the race. “Half of our group said to leave me there, and half of our group said, ‘No, let’s take it off and put it back on.’

“I have not seen anything. Part of our coaching staff watched the video and said that we would have left the car on the track.

“Better safe than sorry. It was one of those 50-50 (calls). We don’t want (crew chief) Phil Surgen and our team to disappear (as part of a four-week suspension due to a wheel slip on the track). It’s just such a penalty to lose them if the tire comes off.”

Later in the race Chris BuescherHis wheel came off on the track, and his team faces a fine. This is the 11th time this season that a wheel has come off during a race.

Here are the previous 10 instances where a wheel came off resulting in a four-race suspension for the crew chief and two pit crew members:

  1. Justin Hailey (Daytona 500)
  2. Kaz Grala (Daytona 500)
  3. Todd Gilliland (Autoclub)
  4. Corey Lajoie (Phoenix)
  5. Bubba Wallace (CAT)
  6. BJ McLeod (Talladega)
  7. Danny Hamlin (Dover)
  8. AJ Allmendinger (Dover)
  9. Justin Haley (Kansas)
  10. Kyle Larson (Sonoma)

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Justin Algaier’s win on Saturday was his second Xfinity victory of the season. It notes for the fifth time in six years he has won multiple Xfinity races in a season..

It’s a big turnaround from when he played in the Cup with a small team and struggled in 2014-15. He returned to Xfinity in 2016 and has been with JR Motorsports ever since. Fifteen of his 18 career series victories have come since he returned from the Cup.

“Do I feel like I can still go to the Cup, get in a good car and be competitive? Absolutely,” Allgaier said. “But opportunities are not always the right opportunities. I love this series. I love this racing team that I’m part of.”

Algaier understands the situation he is in and understands how the wrong command can affect a pilot’s career.

“There are some overly talented drivers in the Cup who are just not in the right situation,” Allgaier said. “I’m not saying it’s even a good car. Especially with car (Next Gen) and car parity, it demands every detail. You have a team leader, engineers, mechanics and all these things that just blend together and work. That’s where we are with this racing team.”

This victory is also the sixth of 15 races this year for JR Motorsports. The organization has won five of the last seven races.

Noah Gragson started running with a victory in Talladega. Josh Berry then came the victory at Dover. Allgaier made it three in a row for the organization with his triumph at Darlington. Berry later won against Charlotte. This was followed by Allgaier’s victory in Nashville.


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