NASCAR MENCS Playoffs Round 1 Finale

The Round 1 Finale of the 2019 MENCS Playoffs didn’t lack any drama or excitement. The bottom 4 drivers who entered this race on the outside looking in on the cutoff for round 12 were Alex Bowman, Clint Bowyer, Kurt Busch, and Erik Jones. Erik Jones finished 4th in the race last weekend at Richmond, but an inspection failure led to Jones’ car being disqualified, erasing the 40+ points he earned, putting him in a must-win situation at the Roval to advance. Martin Truex Jr. had already clinched for the Round of 12 after winning the previous 2 races in the Round of 16 (Las Vegas and Richmond). Kevin Harvick and Kyle Busch entered this race already clinched on points for the Round of 12. It was an all Hendrick Motorsports front row with William Byron on the pole and Jimmie Johnson 2nd.

Stage 1

William Byron jumped ahead of the field early, gaining a 5+ second lead on teammate Jimmie Johnson by lap 15. A caution came out early in Lap 20 after a Ryan Preece spin. Leader William Byron elects not to pit and had to battle the 42 of Kyle Larson on the restart. Larson eventually wins this battle and it’s the first lead change of the day. A domino effect wreck in turn one happened after Kurt Busch got into the rear of Chris Buescher’s car, collecting multiple cars. Stage One finishes under caution because of this wreck and Kyle Larson earns the stage win.

Stage 1 Results: 

  1. Kyle Larson (P)
  2. William Byron (P)
  3. Clint Bowyer (P)
  4. Joey Logano (P)
  5. Ryan Blaney (P)
  6. Brad Keselowski (P)
  7. Aric Almirola (P)
  8. Kevin Harvick (P)
  9. Chase Elliott (P)
  10. Daniel Suarez

Stage 2

Most of the field heads down pit road during the stage break with Byron winning the race off. The 22 of Joey Logano and the 2 of Brad Keselowski elected to stay out and took over the 1-2 positions on the restart. Logano clears Keselowski with ease and jumps in front to a healthy lead. All the while, the 9 car of Chase Elliott was carving through the top 10 and the 4 car of Kevin Harvick had caught up with leader Joey Logano. Elliott closes in on Harvick and is able to pass him for 2nd as he sets his sight on the leader. Elliott’s speed and 4 fresh tires were too much for Logano, and Elliott makes the pass for the lead on the inside of Logano. The 2 and the 22 cars pitted under green, the 2 went in for new tires after locking up his current set and Logano went in for a planned stop. Logano hits the tire barrier as he’s leaving pit road and had to go back down for repairs. The 43 of Bubba Wallace and the 88 of Alex Bowman were battling all over the track. Bowman reported that the driver of the 43 repeatedly stuck his middle finger out the window. Bowman came over the radio and said, “If he doesn’t put that finger away, he’s going to get one.” A few laps later, Bowman had enough and he got into the back of the 43 car and turned him, leading to the 43 hitting the wall. This brings out a caution and the leading cars head to pit road, with leader Chase Elliott exiting pit road first, cycling him back to restart 8th behind the cars that stayed out. Elliott’s fresh tires helped him cut through the field, entering the top 4 with 5 to go in the stage. Elliott made it to 2nd with 4 to go and was hanging all over the bumper of leader Brad Keselowski before eventually passing him for the lead with 2 to go, helping Elliott earn the Stage 2 win.

Stage 2 Results

  1. Chase Elliott (P)
  2. Brad Keselowski (P)
  3. Clint Bowyer (P)
  4. Jimmie Johnson
  5. Kevin Harvick (P)
  6. Michael McDowell
  7. Martin Truex Jr. (P)
  8. Daniel Suarez
  9. Paul Menard
  10. William Byron (P)

Stage 3

With his stage win, Elliott had clinched a spot in the Round of 12 on points. Most of the field including leader Chase Elliott stayed out in the stage break while few cars head down pit road. Elliott easily jumps in front of the field on the restart, but a spin by the 8 car of Daniel Hemric a few laps later brings out the caution again. The only taker for pit road was the 12 car of Ryan Blaney who had an issue. The field takes the green and leader Chase Elliott slams down on the brakes and locks up his tires as he drives headfirst into the tire barriers. The caution comes out and Elliott heads to pit road for repairs, saying “I can’t believe I did that” over the radio to Crew Chief Alan Gustafson. The green comes out, with Kevin Harvick leading the field on the restart. Harvick gets a nice jump and is able to clear Keselowski who then falls back to third after getting passed by the 19 car of Martin Truex Jr. Kyle Busch cuts a left front tire, leading to contact with Kyle Larson after he took Busch on a three-wide with Ryan Newman. After getting repairs, the 9 car was back to cutting through the field, passing 20+ positions in just a few laps. Green flag stops began with 36 laps to go, started by Logano and Bowman. After the leaders pit, the 9 car comes down to pit road with 29 laps to go, cycling Kevin Harvick back to the race lead. With 25 laps to go, Elliott has re-entered the top 10, cutting through the field with the same ease prior to his wreck. With almost 20 to go, Harvick has a healthy 8 second lead over Truex Jr., and Elliott has entered the top 5. A spin by the 17 car of Ricky Stenhouse Jr. brings out a caution with 21 to go. The leaders elected to stay out, and 4 laps later the field was back to green with Harvick and Truex Jr. battling for the lead. The 14 car of Clint Bowyer, desperate to advance to the next round forces a 3 way and pushes himself to 3rd place. The 11 car of Denny Hamlin looked to pass the 3 car of Austin Dillon, leading to Hamlin getting sideways, collecting the 6 car of Ryan Newman as the field gets blocked in traffic. Another quick caution led to another quick restart of Harvick and Truex Jr. battling for the lead, with Harvick taking the advantage. Suarez brings out the caution with 14 laps to go after spinning into the infield. The field goes back to green, with (no surprise) Harvick and Truex Jr. battling for the lead, with Harvick being able to take it as Elliott has moved all the way up to 3rd. The 37 of Chris Buescher spins and collects Kurt Busch with 11 to go, bringing out another late caution. The field was prepared to go to green but the red flag was dropped after the 52 car of Garrett Smithley leaked fluid onto the track. Already advancing to the next round and deep in the field, the driver of the 18 car Kyle Busch decided he had enough and drove the car to the garage, ending his race early voluntarily. NASCAR quickly dries the track with speedy dry, but the threat of rain looms in the distance. The green finally drops after an 8-minute delay. Harvick and Truex Jr. continue their battle on the restart, with the two cars going side by side into turn one. Harvick is eventually able to edge Truex Jr. for the lead, and Elliott passes him for 2nd. Elliott gets up to the bumper of Harvick and is able to drive around him for the lead. The 88 car of Alex Bowman hangs onto 2nd place, 1 point below the cutoff line. Almirola and Newman are bumping and banging all over the track with Newman hanging onto the last playoff spot. Newman misses the chicane with 3 to go and does not serve his penalty, forcing him to serve a pass-through penalty. This bumps Bowman up into the last transfer spot, eliminating Newman. Elliott takes the white flag as Daniel Suarez gets caught into the grass but is able to drive back onto the track, avoiding a caution. The 9 car cruises to a comeback victory for his 3rd win of the season and 6th win of his career (half of his career wins have come on road courses). The 10 car of Aric Almirola, the 1 car of Kurt Busch, the 6 car of Ryan Newman and the 20 car of Erik Jones have been eliminated and will not advance to the Round of 12.

Final Results

  1. Chase Elliott (P)
  2. Alex Bowman (P)
  3. Kevin Harvick (P)
  4. Clint Bowyer (P)
  5. Brad Keselowski (P)
  6. William Byron (P)
  7. Martin Truex Jr. (P)
  8. Ryan Blaney (P)
  9. Jimmie Johnson
  10. Joey Logano (P)
  11. Matt DiBenedetto
  12. Michael McDowell
  13. Kyle Larson (P)
  14. Aric Almirola (Eliminated)
  15. Ty Dillon
  16. Paul Menard
  17. Ricky Stenhouse Jr.
  18. Chris Buescher
  19. Denny Hamlin (P)
  20. Kurt Busch (Eliminated)
  21. Ryan Preece
  22. Ross Chastain
  23. Austin Dillon
  24. Bubba Wallace
  25. Matt Tift
  26. Parker Kligerman
  27. Corey LaJoie
  28. Landon Cassill
  29. JJ Yeley
  30. Timmy Hill
  31. Joe Nemechek
  32. Ryan Newman (Eliminated)
  33. Daniel Hemric
  34. Daniel Suarez
  35. David Ragan
  36. Garrett Smithley
  37. Kyle Busch (P)
  38. Josh Bilicki
  39. Reed Sorenson
  40. Erik Jones (Eliminated)
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