Sun. Nov 27th, 2022

William Byron moved into a transfer spot to the Cup championship race after placing 12th this past weekend at Homestead-Miami Speedway.
Byron entered the race six points behind Denny Hamlin for the final transfer spot in the Cup playoff standings. Byron is five points ahead of Hamlin heading into Sunday’s Round of 8 finale at Martinsville Speedway (2 p.m. ET on NBC).
Only Joey Logano has secured a spot in the Nov. 6 championship race at Phoenix Raceway. The final three spots will be set at Martinsville. Ross Chastain, Chase Elliott and Byron hold those spots entering this weekend. Hamlin, Ryan Blaney (-18 points), Christopher Bell (-33) and Chase Briscoe (-44) are all outside a transfer spot.

Noah Gragson secured a place in the Nov. 5 Xfinity championship race at Phoenix by winning this past weekend at Homestead-Miami Speedway. It is Gragson’s eighth victory of the season.
AJ Allmendinger moved into the final transfer spot by placing third at Homestead. Justin Allgaier had held that spot but dropped out of a transfer spot by placing 10th. Allmendinger leads Allgaier by five points for that final spot. Austin Hill trails Allmendinger by seven spots.
The final two drivers for the championship race will be determined in Saturday’s Round of 8 finale at Martinsville (3 p.m. ET on NBC and Peacock).

The championship field is set. Racing for the series title Nov. 4 at Phoenix will be Ty Majeski, Zane Smith, Chandler Smith and reigning series champion Ben Rhodes.

The top spot in the NBC Sports NASCAR Power Rankings has become like the ugliest horse on the merry-go-round. No one wants to climb on board.
Joey Logano is the latest to depart. He was No. 1 last week but had a less-than-spectacular day at Homestead-Miami Speedway on Sunday, finishing 18th. He’s already locked into the championship round at Phoenix, of course, so he didn’t leave Homestead thoroughly miserable, but he does fall from the lead in the NBC Power Rankings.
Rising to No. 1 is Denny Hamlin, who was seventh Sunday and has had seven top-10 runs in the past eight races. He’s five points below the playoff cutline entering Martinsville this weekend.
1. Denny Hamlin (No. 2 last week) — Despite whacking the wall twice, Hamlin came home seventh at Homestead. He’s dancing along the cutline heading with Martinsville Speedway, where he has won five times, next on the list.
2. Ross Chastain (No. 4 last week) — Chastain has the lead among the seven playoff drivers still looking to make the final four at Phoenix (Joey Logano nailed down a spot with his win at Las Vegas). Chastain has finished second two weeks in a row and is plus-19 to the cutline.
3. Joey Logano (No. 1 last week) — Logano can be forgiven for maybe resting a bit on his laurels at Homestead. But he failed to lead a lap and finished 18th. These are numbers that don’t impress the Power Rankings.
4. Chase Elliott (No. 3 last week) — The former Power Rankings leader had another mediocre race at Homestead, finishing 14th and failing to lead a lap. He’s plus-11 to the cutline.
5. Kyle Larson (No. 8 last week) — Larson jumps three spots to fifth after a splendid run at Homestead, where he led 199 laps and won relatively easily. He’s no longer in the playoffs, but he remains a force.
6. Christopher Bell (No. 7 last week) — Bell, still trying to recover from a tough day at Las Vegas two weeks ago, ran up front at Homestead and finished 11th. He faces a climb to make the Phoenix four.
7. Ryan Blaney (No. 6 last week)Blaney keeps hanging on despite various troubles. He has three consecutive finishes of 17th or worse but retains a shot at the final four.
8. Chase Briscoe (No. 5 last week) — A meeting with the wall ended Briscoe’s race early Sunday. That last-place run puts him in trouble rolling into Martinsville this weekend.
9. William Byron (No. 9 last week) — Byron won the pole at Homestead and led 32 laps but couldn’t muster a top-10 finish (he was 12th).
10. Martin Truex Jr. (unranked last week) — Truex returns to the rankings with a sixth-place run at Homestead. He led 28 laps and had a shot at his first seasonal win.
Dropped out: Tyler Reddick (No. 10 last week).
Crew chief Luke Lambert, Noah Gragson‘s team leader at JR Motorsports, will join Gragson next season as the driver moves to the NASCAR Cup Series at Petty GMS.
Gragson, racing for the Xfinity Series championship with JRM, will move to the Cup Series full time next season with the Petty team.
Under Lambert’s guidance, Gragson has won eight Xfinity races this season. That run has included a stretch of four consecutive wins.
Gragson won last week at Homestead-Miami Speedway and will race for the Xfinity championship Nov. 5 at Phoenix Raceway
“Hiring Luke was the right choice for us when it came to finding a crew chief for Noah,” said Petty GMS director of competition and engineering in a statement released by the team. “The chemistry and success they have had this year in the Xfinity Series is one that can’t be replicated, and we know with the right resources and tools that success can carry over to the Cup Series next year.”
Lambert, a graduate of North Carolina State University, began his racing career at Richard Childress Racing. He worked in the Cup Series at RCR and Roush Fenway Keselowski Racing for 11 years before moving to JRM this season.
“I look forward to continuing this journey with Noah,” Lambert said in a team release. “This year has been fun and rewarding, and I’ve enjoyed every minute of it. When I joined JRM, it was because I believed in the organization and knew I’d have the opportunity to compete for race wins and a chance at the championship, and that’s exactly where we are right now. I see the same opportunity with Petty GMS.”
It is for this type of weekend coming up at Martinsville Speedway that William Byron ran several Late Model races this year. 
While there’s plenty of chances to run laps on a simulator or on iRacing, there’s a value in running actual laps in a race car, even if it is different than the Next Gen car. With limited practice in Cup, the more laps the better, especially for the 24-year-old Byron who didn’t begin competing until a decade ago — years after many of his competitors first started. 
Byron heads into this weekend on the verge of making the Cup championship race for the first time. He leads Denny Hamlin by five points for the last transfer spot. 
Byron’s experience running Late Model races this season gave him extra chances to work on his race craft, whether it was more time on restarts, managing tires or something else. His success this year — which included winning the Slinger Nationals in Wisconsin in July — also provided extra confidence. 
“Super proud of him for stepping out of his comfort zone and pushing his limits,” crew chief Rudy Fugle said in July on MotorMouths on Peacock. “That’s what is huge. 
“A lot of guys do that in different ways, but they don’t always do it in front of a crowd. You don’t do it in front of everybody who, if you go up there and miss the show … most people that don’t know how hard it is are going to laugh at you. You have to get past that. He’s done that and it has paid off. He’s a way more complete driver this year and is just going to keep growing.”
Byron heads to Martinsville having won the spring race (and the Camping World Truck Series race that weekend), but he faces a tough competitor in Hamlin, who has five Martinsville victories and 16 top-five finishes in 33 starts there. Byron will be making his 10th Cup start at the historic half-mile track. Hamlin has run nearly 16,000 laps in those Martinsville races compared to Byron, who has run just over 4,200 laps there. 
Byron’s spring win at Martinsville was his second of the season, but he hasn’t won in NASCAR since. He has won three Late Model races since. He won in May at Fairgrounds Speedway in Nashville, in June at Berlin Raceway in Michigan and in July’s Slinger Nationals.
“I think it’s learning how to be versatile,” Byron said this summer of the value of racing Late Models. “Winning in different cars is a big boost because you’re not one dimensional. 
“Like before this year, I would have probably gone back and ran Late Models earlier if I felt like it was going to go pretty well. But I didn’t think I would be able to take what I do now and move around. Going and doing it this year has definitely bred some confidence to know that I can get in a car and learn.
“I think that’s what it takes on Sunday … that adaptability and being able to have different techniques and make it work.”
Two weeks ago, Kyle Larson saw his chances of winning the driver’s title end when he was eliminated after the Round of 12 at the Charlotte Roval. 
But the No. 5 team was still high enough in the owner standings to have a chance at the owner’s title. It’s a credit to how crew chief Cliff Daniels kept the team focused on that goal after the disappointment at the Roval.
“Cliff did a great job with his team and getting them refocused on that,” said Jeff Andrews, president and general manager of Hendrick Motorsports.
With Homestead in the Round of 8, it presented the No. 5 team for Hendrick Motorsports a great chance to secure a spot in the owner’s championship race at Phoenix. 
When Homestead hosted the Cup title race, the belief of series observers was that if Larson could make it that far, he would be the heavy favorite to win. With the Next Gen car featuring a composite body that can take more contact with the wall, it provided another advantage for Larson, who often runs along the wall there.
“I think (Sunday) honestly it paid off because I finally have a car strong enough for me,” Larson said, alluding to the composite body. “I can get in the wall and it’s not going to flatten your tire or mess up your aerodynamics
“I got in the wall probably three or four times (Sunday) a decent amount to where it would have been, with the old car, probably a pit stop, and I would have killed my race.
“Thankfully this car, I think, played into my favor a lot because I do push the limits more than others. You can see it in the right side of my car. That’s pretty obvious.”
Larson showed his strength, leading 199 of 267 laps and sweeping both stages.
“My car was amazing up against the wall,” he said. “It also has to handle how you want it to.
“It did everything I wanted it to against the wall. The ride quality was great into (Turn) 3. It turned where I needed it to turn on entry so I could carry speed. It turned on exit so I could just stay committed to the throttle. It wasn’t too loose on exit or too tight where I had to bail out of the throttle at all.”
Martin Truex Jr.’s tough luck continued Sunday. 
He seemed in position to score his first victory of the season but was spun on pit road and saw his chances of winning end.
Truex was coming down pit road as the leader on Lap 246 of the 267-lap race. With the sun in his eyes, he abruptly slowed as he neared his pit stall and was hit from behind by Kyle Larson. The contact spun Truex into his stall backward. His pit stop lasted more than a minute and cost him any chance of winning.
“It was really hard to see through these windshields right now with the sun like that and all the stuff covering it,” Truex said. “I did see my box late for sure. So I slowed down before I turned down out of the way of (Larson) there. Partially on me.”
Truex finished sixth and added to the times he could have won but didn’t.
At Texas in September, Truex led when he had a tire go down on Lap 268 of the 334 lap race and crashed. He finished 31st.
At Darlington in September, Truex led with less than 35 laps left when he lost power steering and his engine began overheating. He finished 31st.
At New Hampshire in July, Truex led 172 of the first 206 laps. When the caution came out at Lap 206, Truex pitted. He was the first on pit road and first off it after taking two tires. Three cars stayed out. On the restart, Truex was trapped and got shuffled back. He eventually fell back to 11th before coming back to finish fourth in a race he had won both stages and been dominant.
At Nashville in June, Truex was in position to line up next to Chase Elliott on the front row for the final restart when he mistakingly followed his teammates down pit road. 
Elliott led when the caution came out with eight laps to go for Josh Bilicki’s blown engine. Elliott stayed on track, but Kyle Busch, who was second, and Denny Hamlin, who was third, both pitted.
Truex, who was fourth, was told to stay out if he could restart on the front row. With both Busch and Hamlin coming down pit road, that would have given Truex a spot on the front row for the restart, but he also went down pit road. Truex restarted 14th and finished 22nd.
A look at the winners and losers from Sunday’s NASCAR Cup Series playoff race at Homestead-Miami Speedway:

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Kyle LarsonMartin Truex Jr., strong late in the race, almost robbed Larson of victory Sunday, but Larson led the final 22 laps for a Sunday total of 199 led. No other driver led more than 32.
Ross Chastain — He was second for a second straight week and is in good shape entering the Round of 8 finale at Martinsville Speedway, plus-19 to the cutline.
Brad Keselowski — The co-owner of Roush Fenway Keselowski Racing finished a season-best fifth .
AJ Allmendinger — Cup Series regulars might have more than a little concern about the Dinger returning to full-time Cup racing next season. He has finished in the top 10 in his last six Cup starts.
Team Penske playoff driversRyan Blaney finished 17th and led no laps. Joey Logano finished 18th and led no laps. Logano already qualified for the Championship Four, but Blaney is below the cutline entering Martinsville. He had a goofy Sunday, including a spinout on the pit access road.
Chase Elliott — For the second straight race, Elliott was less than impressive, finishing 14th and failing to lead a lap despite racing around the top 10 much of the day.
Chase Briscoe — He whacked the wall midway through the race and finished last. He’s eighth of eight drivers on the playoff list and probably will need a win at Martinsville to advance.


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