Friday, October 15, 2021

Texas NASCAR Betting Preview: 2021 Autotrader EchoPark Automotive 500


Oct. 17, 2021


You can never satisfy me, NASCAR. I’m going to complain about the smallest things that grind my gears in the sport and sometimes I’ll even flip flop on a topic. It’s a love-hate-love relationship, the same way I might criticize my brothers.

This brings us to Sunday’s Autotrader EchoPark Automotive 500 at Texas Motor Speedway’s high-banked 1.5-mile layout. Long race title sponsorship is a tolerable nuisance, but how about this week’s race is only the second race on a 1.5-mile track after July 11. I’ve complained regularly about all the cookie cutters since 2000, but now I miss them in this new era of the road course.

Sunday’s race will be only the eighth race on a 1.5-mile track and next week’s race at Kansas will be the ninth and last of the season. Las Vegas started the Round of 12 and Texas will start the Round of 8 and Kansas next week will make it only three races on 1.5-mile tracks, the same as last season, but a reduction on the season from 11 races on 1.5s to only nine.

It feels like it’s been a while since watching Denny Hamlin win his first career race at Las Vegas last month. And it’s been ages since Kurt Busch dominated at Atlanta on July 11. Since Atlanta, three road courses, and just two 1.5-mile tracks.

It used to be that organizations focused on mastering the 1.5-mile tracks because that was the Gateway to a championship with the title race at Homestead-Miami Speedway’s 1.5-mile paperclip. Now the title race is at Phoenix Raceway using the low downforce package with engines producing 750 horsepower that has already raced 18 times this season. That is the new gateway.

The 1.5-mile track isn’t going away even though Texas lost a points-paying spring race and instead was given the non-points All-Star Race. This is the 41st Cup race at Texas and the first year since 2004 that Texas hasn’t had two points-paying races on the schedule.

But I can’t help to remember NASCAR at its pinnacle of popularity in the mid-1990s with the young California kid Jeff Gordon and the wiley veteran Dale Earnhardt clashing and then cashing together all the way to the bank with merchandise sales. The new cookie-cutter tracks had massive seating which made the old standards like Rockingham and North Wilkesboro Speedway expendable. The new tracks also took away a Darlington date and caused the stoppage of the Southern 500 on Labor Day.

NASCAR is trying to rebrand itself again with all the road courses (favors Chase Elliott), so I’m flipping on my stance on the cookie cutters after experiencing a full season of road racing so I am back now missing the 1.5s. I may again feel different in two decades.

I hope that all made some kind of sense as I went full circle.


Now let’s make some money. The winner of the race gets a free pass into the Championship 4 race at Phoenix in four weeks. Only a handful of drivers have a chance to win this week with the high downforce race package with engines producing 550 horsepower.

Caesars sportsbooks list season point-leader, Kyle Larson, as the +275 favorite and he’s certainly deserving of being such a short favorite. But more on Larson in a bit. Let’s talk about Kyle Busch who Caesars has posted at 7-to-1 odds to win at Texas.

His only two wins of the season came using this week’s race package at Kansas and the second Pocono race. He also won this race last season. I’ll bet he wants to start off the Round of 8 with a win to ease the pressure the next two weeks.

“For sure,” Busch said. “Both the first two tracks to start the Round of 8 are places we’ve won at within the last calendar year, so I look forward to getting to Texas and starting the next round. All the tracks are good places for us, so hoping we can get some solid finishes and maybe even a win, hopefully the sooner the better, and can get us to the Championship 4 at Phoenix with a win.”

Busch is a two-time Cup Champion and is a nice look to win the Championship which Circa Sports is offering at 6-to-1 odds to win it. The only negative is Phoenix using the 750 HP which hasn’t been far from his best package this season. But let’s stick with Texas here where Busch has been dominant in all three NASCAR national series. Why is he so good there?

“It’s always been a really good place for me, whether that was before the repave or after the repave,” Busch said.” A lot of credit goes to Joe Gibbs Racing and the cars they bring there for me. We’ve had a lot of success at Texas over the years, whether that is in the Xfinity Series, winning five in a row as we did there, winning in the Trucks, and now we have four Cup wins there, too, after the win last fall. It’s just been a really good place for me, and our team has been better with the 550 (horsepower) package this year, and hoping we can get into victory lane there this weekend with our Interstate Batteries Camry and punch our ticket to Phoenix early.”

Kyle Larson was able to extend his lead in the Championship Series with a win in Charlotte last week. (AP)

Interstate Batteries is a Texas-based company that is celebrating a 30-year relationship with Joe Gibbs Racing who won the 1993 Daytona 500 with Dale Jarrett at the start of their second season.

Kyle Busch has four Cup wins at Texas, as well as 10 Xfinity wins, and five Truck Series wins. In only 30 Cup starts there, Busch has 14 top-fives and led 1,049 laps which are both the most among active drivers, as are his four wins.

In his last three races using this week’s race package, he was runner-up to his brother Kurt at Atlanta leading 91 laps. Next, he was at Michigan with a seventh-place and leading 13 laps, and then it was a home race at Las Vegas where he finished third.

I’ve got five car numbers swirling around in my head and Busch’s No. 18 keeps coming up aces for me even though Kyle Larson is a beast and will be again Sunday.


  • Date: Sunday, October 17, 2021
  • TV-Time: NBC, 2:00 p.m. ET
  • Venue: Texas Motor Speedway
  • Location: Fort Worth, Texas
  • Distance: 501 miles, 334 laps
  • Defending Champion: Kyle Busch

The Texas layout was modeled after SMI sister tracks at Charlotte and Atlanta. All three have their own wrinkles that make them unique to themselves but looking at all three side-by-side they look like twins or triplets. Larson was the best collectively between the three races and also won the All-Star Race at Texas.

In March, Larson led a race-high 259 laps at Atlanta but couldn’t close out the win and finished second. Ryan Blaney scooped the win like he has done late in all three of his wins. This happened two weeks after Larson won his first Las Vegas race and led a race-high 103 laps.

In May, Larson led a race-high 327 of 400 laps in the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte. Chase Elliott was second, and Kyle Busch was third. But Larson hasn’t won a race with this week’s package since the Texas All-Star Race on June 13. It’s in this small gap of semi-failure for the great Larson that I see a window of hope and opportunity for Busch winning.


Tuesday, October 12, 2021

Kyle Busch is 7/1 to win at Texas



Capping Off a 30th Anniversary Celebration


HUNTERSVILLE, North Carolina (Oct. 12, 2021) – Interstate Batteries – the founding sponsor of Joe Gibbs Racing (JGR) – has been in a celebratory mood all season during the company’s impressive 30-year partnership with JGR. And nothing would be more perfect for the Dallas-based company than to cap off the 30-year celebration in victory lane after Sunday’s NASCAR Cup Series Autotrader EchoPark Automotive 500, just up the road from the company’s headquarters, at Texas Motor Speedway in Fort Worth.


Likewise, it’s no surprise that Kyle Busch, driver of the No. 18 Interstate Batteries Toyota for JGR, would like nothing more than to bring home his fifth Texas Cup Series win this weekend, not only for another chance to celebrate with his longtime partner, but to automatically lock himself into the Championship 4 Nov. 7 at Phoenix Raceway. Needless to say, there’s a lot on the line as Busch and his fellow Cup Series competitors head to the 1.5-mile Texas oval.


Sunday’s race at Texas serves as the first race of the Round of 8 of this year’s Cup Series playoffs. Busch advanced with his fourth-place run in the Round of 12 finale last Sunday on the Charlotte (N.C.) Motor Speedway Roval. The two-time Cup Series champion is the defending Texas race winner.


Busch brings plenty of optimism, along with 23 important playoff points, to the Round of 8. With the unknowns of Talladega (Ala.) Superspeedway and the Charlotte Roval now in the rearview mirror, Busch can focus on the next three tracks ahead of him in the Round of 8 – Texas, Kansas Speedway in Kansas City, and Martinsville (Va.) Speedway. Busch has a combined eight wins at those three tracks, including victories at both Texas and Kansas within the last calendar year.


With Interstate Batteries finishing off its six primary sponsorships of Busch’s No. 18 Toyota in 2021, JGR’s founding partner hopes to put an exclamation mark on an important milestone as the team celebrates its 30th anniversary of Interstate Batteries being along for the ride every step of the way. Busch has brought home nine victories sporting the colors of Interstate Batteries. Add Bobby Labonte’s 21 wins and Dale Jarrett’s two, and Interstate has made a combined 32 visits to victory lane in the Cup Series over the years. Labonte scored his last win for Interstate Batteries at the 2003 season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway, and five years later it was Busch who brought Interstate back to victory lane during his first season at JGR, when he bested Carl Edwards to win the July 2008 race at Daytona (Fla.) International Speedway.


As fall is in full swing and winter is quickly approaching, Busch is encouraging race fans to stop by a local Interstate dealer to get their vehicle batteries checked, as cold weather of winter can adversely affect a car’s battery.


So as NASCAR’s top series heads to Texas for the start of the Round of 8 on Sunday, Busch and the Interstate Batteries team are charging toward back-to-back fall wins in the Lone Star State. As Busch sports the colors of the official battery and founding sponsor of JGR for the final time this season, he hopes there’s one more celebration for its 30th anniversary season, back in a familiar spot – Texas victory lane.

KYLE BUSCH, Driver of the No. 18 Interstate Batteries Toyota Camry for Joe Gibbs Racing: 


Given your success at Texas, including being the defending fall winner, is this an ideal track for you to get off to a good start and gain momentum in the round?


“For sure. Both the first two tracks to start the Round of 8 are places we’ve won at within the last calendar year, so I look forward to getting to Texas and starting the next round. All the tracks are good places for us, so hoping we can get some solid finishes and maybe even a win, hopefully the sooner the better, and can get us to the Championship 4 at Phoenix with a win in our Interstate Batteries Camry.”


You are the defending fall race winner at Texas. Does that mean something as you head there this weekend?


“Yes and no. You look at last year, we did what we needed to do to save fuel and win the race, so not sure it really translates from that one race. But, we’ve won at Texas four times and feel like it’s a really good place for us. The biggest part of a lot of Texas races is having Interstate Batteries on board for a least one race a year there, and we’ve gotten them a few wins at their home track over the years. Would be a really big deal to get them a win as we celebrate 30 years with them and JGR, and then also advance us to Phoenix, as well.”


Is there anything about Texas that particularly suits your style (or JGR), outside of being a 1.5-mile layout given your dominance there in all three NASCAR national series divisions? 


“It’s always been a really good place for me, whether that was before the repave or after the repave. A lot of credit goes to Joe Gibbs Racing and the cars they bring there for me. We’ve had a lot of success at Texas over the years, whether that is in the Xfinity Series, winning five in a row as we did there, winning in the Trucks, and now we have four Cup wins there, too, after the win last fall. It’s just been a really good place for me, and our team has been better with the 550 (horsepower) package this year, and hoping we can get into victory lane there this weekend with our Interstate Batteries Camry and punch our ticket to Phoenix early.”


How do you think the round lays out for you, given your success at all three tracks – four wins at Texas and two each at Kansas and Martinsville, along with a lot of top-five efforts?

“This round lays out very well for us. We have three tracks where we have had a lot of success over the years. Like I said earlier, we won at both Texas and Kansas within the last year, so I feel like that’s a good omen for us. The mile-and-a-half program has been really strong for us. We did not run so well at Texas in the All-Star Race, but that was different, just everything with the package tweaks they had for that race. We should have a pretty good starting spot for us and we need to stay up front and hopefully keep our track position. Looking forward to this weekend.”


Event Overview:

● Event: Autotrader EchoPark Automotive 500

● Time/Date: 2 p.m. EDT on Sunday, Oct. 17

● Location: Texas Motor Speedway in Fort Worth

● Layout: 1.5-mile oval

● Laps/Miles: 334 laps, 501 miles

● Format: Stage 1: 105 laps / Stage 2: 105 laps / Final Stage: 124 laps

● TV/Radio: NBC/ PRN/ SiriusXM NASCAR Radio



Wednesday, September 29, 2021

Kevin Harvick is nice look at 16/1 to win at Talladega



Talladega Advance

No. 4 Busch Light #Hunt4Busch Ford Mustang for Stewart-Haas Racing



Event Overview


● Event:  YellaWood 500 (Round 31 of 36)

● Time/Date:  2 p.m. EDT on Sunday, Oct. 3

● Location:  Talladega (Ala.) Superspeedway

● Layout:  2.66-mile oval

● Laps/Miles:  188 laps/500 miles

● Stage Lengths:  Stage 1: 60 laps / Stage 2: 60 laps / Final Stage: 68 laps

● TV/Radio:  NBC / MRN / SiriusXM NASCAR Radio


Notes of Interest


●  With summer in the rearview mirror and fall now upon us, hunting season has commenced. Busch Light has geared up accordingly to create a hunt of its own this Sunday during the YellaWood 500 at Talladega (Ala.) Superspeedway with Kevin Harvick leading the way. The 2014 NASCAR Cup Series champion and winner of 58 Cup Series races is, of course, dressed appropriately. Harvick’s No. 4 Busch Light Ford Mustang rolls into Talladega carrying a sportsman theme, with blaze orange signifying Busch Light’s #Hunt4Busch challenge. Fans can win up to $1,000 in beer money in each stage of the race by logging onto their Twitter feed, following @BuschBeer, and turning on their notifications. At the beginning of each stage, Busch Light will provide different targets for fans to hunt while watching the race live on NBC, and all fans have to do is tweet #Hunt4Busch and #Sweepstakes when they spot one of the targets. It’s the only way to bag some bucks from the comfort of your couch.


●  Harvick comes into Talladega on a four-race top-10 streak, a run punctuated by a strong second-place drive Sept. 18 at Bristol (Tenn.) Motor Speedway where he led three times for 71 laps. Before finishing second at Bristol, Harvick finished eighth Sept. 11 at Richmond (Va.) Raceway and fifth Sept. 4 at Darlington (S.C.) Raceway. In his most recent outing last Sunday at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, Harvick came home ninth. He has finished among the top-15 in the last 10 races, a streak that began July 11 with an 11th-place result at Atlanta Motor Speedway.


●  Harvick has scored 20 top-10s in the 30 races run this season, third-most among NASCAR Cup Series drivers. Only Kyle Larson (22 top-10s) and Denny Hamlin (21 top-10s) are ahead of Harvick in this category.


●  Harvick is currently 10th in the NASCAR Playoff standings, seven points below the cutline with only two races remaining before the current 12-driver playoff field is whittled down to eight. Harvick is in the midst of his 12th consecutive playoff appearance and his 15th overall. He has advanced into the Round of 12 in all eight editions of the current playoff format. Coming into this season, he had advanced all the way to the Round of 8 since 2014, and five times he’s competed in the Championship 4, winning the title in 2014.


●  The driver of the No. 4 Busch Light #Hunt4Busch Ford Mustang finished fourth in his last outing at Talladega in April. Harvick led three times for 12 laps to increase his laps-led total at the 2.66-mile oval to 276. It was his eighth top-five and 17th top-10 in 41 career NASCAR Cup Series starts at Talladega.


●  Harvick’s eight top-fives at Talladega tie him with Kurt Busch, Brad Keselowski and Joey Logano for the second-most among active NASCAR Cup Series drivers. Hamlin stands at the top of this category with nine top-fives at Talladega.


●  Harvick’s 17 top-10s at Talladega are the second-most among active NASCAR Cup Series drivers. Only Busch has more (21 top-10s).


●  Among those stats is a lone win at Talladega. Harvick came out the victor in a dogfight of a NASCAR Cup Series race at Talladega on April 25, 2010. There were an incredible 88 lead changes in the 200-lap race around the 2.66-mile oval and three massive accidents that collected a total of 24 cars. Harvick kept his car intact throughout each bout of calamity and despite leading only two laps, the second lap led was the one that counted most. Harvick got underneath race-leader Jamie McMurray in the track’s tri-oval to sweep past McMurray and take the win by just .011 of a second. It was just the 12th of Harvick’s 58 career Cup Series wins.


●  In addition to his 41 NASCAR Cup Series starts at Talladega, Harvick has eight NASCAR Xfinity Series starts, with a best result of second in April 2006.


●  At Talladega in October 2008, Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR) enjoyed one of its most dominant days ever. The team qualified 1-2-3-4 for the first time in its history. SHR drivers then led 155 of the race’s 193 laps (80.3 percent), including the last lap by Aric Almirola, who delivered SHR’s milestone 50th points-paying NASCAR Cup Series victory and the organization’s 11th win of 2018.


Kevin Harvick, Driver of the No. 4 Busch Light #Hunt4Busch Ford Mustang for Stewart-Haas Racing


Describe the intensity of racing at Talladega.

“You have to be aggressive just for the fact that if you’re not aggressive, it always seems like you’re not going to be where you need to be. Nine times out of 10, the aggressor is going to be the guy who comes out on the good side of things just for the fact that you’re making things happen and you’re not waiting for something else to happen. When you wait for something else to happen, that’s usually when you get in trouble because it’s usually someone else’s mess. You can still get in trouble if you’re aggressive, but with this rules package and the way things are, it’s best to stay aggressive and try to stay up front.”


Blocking seems to be a necessary evil at Talladega. What’s your take?

“I don’t like blocking, but it’s a necessity. Blocking is something that has evolved over the years as people have figured out trying to time the runs, and people have figured out when you can block and when you can’t. It’s just a matter of putting yourself in a position where you think you’re making the right move, and sometimes you make the wrong move. It’s just a game of inches. It just really is a high-speed chess match that you have at 200 mph – and this week will be absolutely no different. There will be a big crash. There will be mistakes made. There will be pit errors made. There will be strategy played. But I can promise you we’re all going to race in a pack – and that’s the way Talladega should be.”


What are your expectations for Talladega?

“For me, it’s been a destruction derby over the last couple of years. We’ve run really well at Talladega, but that’s just kind of the phases you go through when you go to Talladega. I’m doing worse than 50-50 on whether you crash or finish the last few years, but it’s one of those places where you want to race up front and race hard all day because you have to try to win stages. I believe you have better odds at the front of the pack when it comes to staying out of a wreck if you can keep that track position all day. You’re going to race in a pack – three-wide at times – and you’re going to get pushed and have to push at times. You just never know what’s going to happen because Talladega is its own animal. It’s hard to finish a race there. As we’ve seen over the past however many years, you try to put yourself in the right position and hope you have a little bit of luck on your side that particular day. I know our Busch Light Ford Mustang will be fast enough to contend for the win, but you just have to get to the finish.”


Talladega and its sister track, Daytona (Fla.) International Speedway, are often mentioned in the same breath, but there are differences between the two venues. What are they?

“Talladega is a lot bigger. It’s a lot wider. The track itself is bigger. The shape of Talladega is different than Daytona because of the track being wider and the way the tri-oval is shaped. The start-finish line is almost all the way down into turn one, which seems to change some of the outcomes of the finishes because you have to go all the way down the front straightaway before you get to the finish line. Talladega’s tri-oval is a little bit different than Daytona’s. That bottom groove has a little less banking than the rest of the racetrack, so it’s almost like you’re dipping down into a hole. Sometimes you see guys get loose down into the tri-oval and spin out, so it ends up being where some of the wrecks are caused. It’s really hard to push through that tri-oval, especially as you’re heading down into that bottom lane. It’s tough to know exactly where you need to be at the end of the race. I’ve only won one of them there. In that particular race, we were tandem racing and I was second coming into the tri-oval and was able to get past Jamie McMurray. But I would still rather be leading and in control. It’s a chess match all day. You have to have a little bit of luck on your side, but you can also put yourself in a good position by making the right moves, having a good day on pit road, and not making any mistakes.”

Denny Hamlin is 11/1 to win YellaWood 500 at Talladega

Denny Hamlin

11 FedEx Express Toyota
Joe Gibbs Racing

Sunday Race Info:

Race: YellaWood 500
Date/Time: Sunday, Oct. 3/2:00 p.m. ET
Distance: 188 laps/500.08 miles
Track Shape: Tri-Oval
Track Length: 2.66 Miles
Banking: 33 degrees

Express Notes:

Press Kit: Download the 2021 FedEx Racing press materials at, including bios for Denny Hamlin, Chris Gabehart and Joe Gibbs Racing leadership, program highlights and statistics.

Las Vegas Recap: Denny Hamlin and the FedEx Racing team scored their second win of the Playoffs and claimed their spot in the Round of 8 with a dominant win Sunday night at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. Hamlin led more than half of the race and claimed the Stage 2 win before pulling away in Stage 3 to lead the race’s final 39 laps. Crew chief Chris Gabehart and the #11 team got the FedEx Office Toyota handling better and better as the race wore on, and the pit crew gained Hamlin positions on pit road with fast stops as well. The win is Hamlin’s first at the 1.5-mile Nevada oval and his second of the 2021 season.

Talladega Preview: Denny Hamlin and the FedEx Racing team now head into the more precarious Round of 12 races at Talladega Superspeedway and the Charlotte Motor Speedway Roval knowing they’ve already advanced to the next round. First up is the 2.66-mile superspeedway at Talladega on Sunday. In 31 career starts at the tri-oval track, Hamlin has recorded two wins and nine top-5 finishes, including a win at the fall race one year ago.

Hamlin Statistics:

Track: Talladega Superspeedway

Races: 31
Wins: 2
Poles: 0
Top-5: 9
Top-10: 13
Laps Led: 389
Avg. Start: 16.4
Avg. Finish: 17.2

Hamlin Conversation – Talladega:

Do you feel a sense of relief to know you’re already moving into the Round of 8?

“Definitely. Especially with the rest of this crazy round coming up. Talladega and the Roval are places where you don’t always have control over your own result, so it’s good to know we don’t have to worry about what might happen these next two weeks.”

Do you consider Kyle Larson your biggest competition in winning a title?

“We are our own competition. As long as we don’t make mistakes, we’re going to be OK. When we have clean races and don’t make any mistakes, we’re contending for race wins. We can’t really focus on one guy. I have to focus on the process that gives me a chance to race for a win. I just want an opportunity to go to Phoenix and have a chance.”

FedEx Express Along for the Ride at Talladega: Two Category 4 hurricanes just five weeks apart in September/October 2020 decimated Lake Charles, La., including the LCHA station. Despite catastrophic losses, station employees rallied as a team to provide humanitarian relief to the community while operating out of a makeshift trailer with limited connectivity. Fast forward to 2021, Lake Charles and surrounding communities once again were hit with two hurricanes just weeks apart, including another Category 4. Once again, the LCHA team responded by providing support and relief to the communities of Lafayette and Baton Rouge. Supporting the communities where they live and work epitomizes the FedEx culture value of CARING and is why FedEx Express is proud to honor its Lake Charles employees by featuring the letters LCHA on the B-post of the FedEx #11 at Talladega Superspeedway’s YellaWood 500.

Wednesday, September 22, 2021

Kevin Harvick is 10/1 to win 2021 South Point 400



Las Vegas Advance

No. 4 Subway Delivery Ford Mustang for Stewart-Haas Racing



Event Overview


● Event:  South Point 400 (Round 30 of 36)

● Time/Date:  7 p.m. EDT on Sunday, Sept. 26

● Location:  Las Vegas Motor Speedway

● Layout:  1.5-mile oval

● Laps/Miles:  267 laps/400.5 miles

● Stage Lengths:  Stage 1: 80 laps / Stage 2: 80 laps / Final Stage: 107 laps

● TV/Radio:  NBCSN / PRN / SiriusXM NASCAR Radio


Notes of Interest


●  Subway® restaurants has joined with Kevin Harvick and the No. 4 team of Stewart-Haas Racing (SHR) to put its Eat Fresh Refresh™ on the fast track by becoming a primary sponsor of the championship-winning NASCAR Cup Series team. The world’s largest quick-service restaurant brand is leveraging the partnership to highlight Subway Delivery powered by DoorDash, which allows guests to order their Subway favorites via the Subway app or on Guests can earn and redeem Subway MyWay® Rewards points on Subway delivery orders as well. In conjunction with Harvick being in the NASCAR Playoffs, Subway ha a $0 Delivery fee on all Subway Delivery orders plus a 15 percent discount on a footlong for a limited time when using promo code KEVIN15. Subway will return as the primary sponsor of the No. 4 Ford Mustang for the Oct. 24 race at Kansas Speedway in Kansas City. Subway will also serve as a major associate sponsor of the No. 4 car Oct. 10 at the Charlotte (N.C.) Motor Speedway Roval, Oct. 17 at Texas Motor Speedway in Fort Worth and Oct. 31 at Martinsville (Va.) Speedway.


●  While the NASCAR Playoffs have been in existence since 2004, it wasn’t until 2014 that rounds were added, with three separate cuts whittling down the 16-driver field during the 10-race playoffs. After the first three playoff races, the four lowest drivers in points get eliminated. Then, after the next three races, only the top-eight drivers move on. Three more races follow, with only the top-four drivers advancing to the Championship 4 where they compete in a winner-take-all title match in the season finale. Harvick is in the midst of his 12th consecutive playoff appearance and his 15th overall. He has now advanced out of the Round of 16 in all eight editions of the current playoff format. Coming into this season, he had advanced all the way to the Round of 8 since 2014, and five times he’s competed in the Championship 4, winning the NASCAR Cup Series title in 2014.


●  Harvick comes into Las Vegas on a three-race top-10 streak, a run punctuated by a strong second-place drive last Saturday night at Bristol (Tenn.) Motor Speedway where he led three times for 71 laps. Before finishing second at Bristol, Harvick finished eighth Sept. 11 at Richmond (Va.) Raceway and fifth Sept. 4 at Darlington (S.C.) Raceway. Harvick has finished among the top-15 in the last nine races, a streak that began July 11 with an 11th-place result at Atlanta Motor Speedway.


●  Since joining SHR in 2014, Harvick has finished among the top-10 in seven of the 11 NASCAR Cup Series races contested at Las Vegas. In that span, Harvick has led 621 laps and won twice – March 2015 and March 2018


●  Harvick’s win at Las Vegas in March 2018 was his 100th career victory across NASCAR’s top-three national touring series – Cup, Xfinity and Camping World Truck. He has since scored 19 more Cup wins to bring his tally to 119 total victories – 58 in Cup, 47 in Xfinity and 14 in Truck. Only three other drivers in NASCAR history have surpassed 100 wins across NASCAR’s top-three series: Kyle Busch (222 wins), Richard Petty (200 wins) and David Pearson (106 wins).


●  Harvick has a total of 12 top-10s at Las Vegas, the most of any active NASCAR Cup Series driver. Kyle Busch, Brad Keselowski and Joey Logano are next best with 11 top-10s apiece.


●  Harvick has made 11 starts in the Xfinity Series at Las Vegas. He has two wins, six top-fives and seven top-10s. His first Xfinity Series win came in 2004 when he started 11th and led 14 laps. His second triumph came in 2010 when he started second and led 82 laps.


●  Harvick has made three Truck Series starts at Las Vegas, earning two top-10s with a best finish of eighth in 1997.


Kevin Harvick, Driver of the No. 4 Subway Delivery Ford Mustang for Stewart-Haas Racing


You’ve won at Las Vegas twice and have finished among the top-10 there seven times since joining SHR in 2014. What do you need to be quick at Las Vegas?

“Las Vegas has a lot of tire fall off, so it’ll be important to have a good-handling Subway Delivery Ford Mustang. It’s also a track where you’re constantly moving around trying to find the right grip.”


You advanced to the Round of 12 for the eighth straight time. What do you need to do in theses next three races to advance to the Round of 8?

“Right now, we’re just taking it one week at a time. That’s really the best way to go about it, and see where it all falls in the end.”


Does the intensity of the racing increase after each playoff round?

“For us, there’s no intensity dialed up. It’s exactly the same as it would be for the first race of the season, the second race, the third race. We try to approach things the same way, whether we’re running well or running badly, and whether or not it’s a cutoff race. You try to dot all the I’s and cross all the T’s and control all the things that you can control, perform at a high level and do the things that you know how to do, whether it’s me in the car or Rodney (Childers, crew chief) on the pit box or everybody around us, it just takes the execution of a complete race. Our team has done a great job of that all year. Obviously, our cars have not performed to the level that we’d have liked them to perform, but we’ve been getting the finishes that we have and keeping ourselves around. We just keep plugging away and keep trying to reach out and do what we can by getting good finishes and not making any mistakes. That’s really what it boils down to this time of year. It doesn’t matter how you get there, it just matters if you advance or you don’t advance, and a lot of times it comes by controlling the things that you can control.”


You were very consistent throughout the regular season and that has continued into the playoffs. How important is it to maintain that consistency?

“We’ve gone about this a number of different ways throughout the years. We’ve pointed our way through and we’ve won our way through when our backs were against the wall. You’ve got to take what each race will give you, and there’s no way you can force things. That’s where a lot of people get themselves in trouble – when they start trying to do things outside their comfort zone of where their car is that particular day. Some days you have what you have and you need to get that finish with your car, and if you do that, usually you finish better than probably you would have otherwise. Las Vegas is no different. We’ll just have to go out there and grind away and see where we end up.”


Kyle Busch is +650 to win 2021 South Point 400



Home is Where the Trophy Is


HUNTERSVILLE, North Carolina (Sept. 21, 2021) – Kyle Busch’s return to his hometown Las Vegas Motor Speedway this weekend could go a long way in determining his NASCAR Cup Series playoff chances when the Round of 12 kicks off Sunday.


The driver of the No. 18 M&M’S Toyota for Joe Gibbs Racing (JGR) heads to the 1.5-mile desert oval fifth in the playoff standings, and with the unpredictable Talladega (Ala.) Superspeedway and the Charlotte (N.C.) Motor Speedway Roval set to close out the Round of 12, the Las Vegas native wants to get off to a strong start to the round with a solid finish Sunday.


Aside from NASCAR’s biggest events like the Daytona 500 at Daytona (Fla.) International Speedway and the Brickyard 400 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, a win at the hometown racetrack is always high on the priority list for most NASCAR Cup Series drivers. Busch crossed that all-important hometown win off his list when he won in just his fifth Las Vegas Cup Series start in 2009.


The 2002 honors graduate of Durango High School in Las Vegas qualified on the pole that weekend but was forced to start at the rear of the field because his team needed to change engines during Friday practice. Unfazed, Busch remained patient on race day as he and the M&M’S team worked their way to the front of the field by the 54th lap. He went on to lead three times for 51 laps en route to claiming what he called at the time the biggest win of his young career.


This weekend, he would like nothing more than to double his number of Cup Series wins at Las Vegas to go with that emotional first hometown win.


While Busch added 2016 and 2019 NASCAR Xfinity Series wins at Las Vegas to go with three NASCAR Camping World Truck Series wins in a row there from 2018 to 2020, he already was no stranger to winning on Las Vegas Motor Speedway property. From 1999 to 2001, he earned more than 65 wins in Legends cars while racking up two track championships at the facility’s “Bullring,” which existed for several years before the NASCAR oval was built. When .Busch moved up to Late Model stock cars, his winning ways continued with 10 victories at the Bullring in 2001.


Along with the familiar primary colors of M&M’S, the Henderson, Nevada-based Ethel M Chocolates brand will have its logo on the No. 18 Toyota’s decklid and front quarterpanels this weekend. The brand was primary sponsor of a car for the first time ever during the March Las Vegas race. Ethel M Chocolates is a marquis offering, manufactured by Mars Wrigley North America and dedicated to creating premium chocolates with fresh ingredients and no artificial preservatives. This year marks the 40th Anniversary of Ethel M Chocolates, a momentous milestone for the brand.


So as Busch returns to Las Vegas this weekend, he hopes the he can turn a trip back home into a trip back to a victory lane. As the saying goes, “home is where the heart is.” And for Busch, home is where the trophy is, along with an automatic ticket into the Round of 8 of this year’s Cup Series playoffs.


KYLE BUSCH, Driver of the No. 18 M&M'S Toyota Camry for Joe Gibbs Racing: 

Is there more pressure to go out there and win at your hometown track than anywhere else?


“I used to put more stress on myself to win there, no doubt. I never knew if winning there would happen for me and it’s neat I’ve been able to win in all three series at Vegas. There is stress going into those events. For myself, I was able to get that done in 2009 there at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway, to get into victory lane. That felt good. To be able to go back there years after and go out there and race, and not have to worry about the stress of winning that race, you still want to win. We want to win every single one of them. That’s a fact. Overall, when you come into your hometown, and we watched this place get built from nothing, it means that extra more to you and it would be great if we could get back to victory lane this weekend with our M&M’S Camry.”


What was it like to bring home a Cup Series win in your hometown in 2009?


“It was cool. To go out there and to run a smooth race and to have a shot at winning at the end of the race, that’s what it’s all about. I watched Vegas being built from the ground up, and I remember when it wasn’t anything but a gleam in the eye of Richie Clyne (founder of Las Vegas Motor Speedway) – all those guys who made that place happen.”


What’s changed to make Las Vegas grow into a real sports town?


“I think it’s definitely grown into that more and more over the years. When I was a kid there, I always kind of wondered why we didn’t have a professional team of any kind. You know, whether it would be hockey or basketball or baseball or football, but it’s becoming a sports town more and more, which is good. There are a lot of stars in all kinds of sports who come from our town with (Bryce) Harper, myself and Kurt (Busch), some other, younger, up-and-coming drivers, as well, like Noah (Gragson), and such. It’s nice to have an opportunity to have that place to be able to go play if you can make it to the hometown team and be a star in that series, that league. The Golden Knights are really big in town, now, and I’m sure there’s a lot of buzz having the NFL there, now, with the Raiders, as well.”


With the Round of 12 having two wild-card races at Talladega and the Charlotte Roval, how important is it to get off to a good start in Las Vegas this weekend?


“I think everyone heads to Las Vegas putting a lot of pressure on themselves to make sure they run well in that event because they know what the next two race have in store for them. If you asked any crew chief what race are they are most focused on in that round, they would all tell you Vegas to try and have a good race. With having that much focus on that race, it’s going to make that one tough, as well. You just go out there and do the best you can do. We ended up throwing a bit of a Hail Mary at the Roval and it ended up costing us a bit, so that’s just the unfortunate nature of those two races being in the round together, and we certainly want to get off to a strong start at Vegas with our M&M’S Camry. We’ll have our friends at Ethel M with their logos on our car, as well. They are located right there in Henderson and we are hoping to give them a great run.”


What is your fondest racing memory of growing up in Las Vegas?


“My fondest racing memory is probably my first Late Model race. I started about eighth or 10th and ended up winning it. My first-ever start, I won. So that is definitely a great memory to have.”



Event Overview:

● Event: South Point 400

● Time/Date: 7 p.m. EDT on Sunday, Sept. 26

● Location: Las Vegas Motor Speedway

● Layout: 1.5-mile oval

● Laps/Miles: 267 laps, 400.5 miles

● Format: Stage 1: 80 laps / Stage 2: 80 laps / Final Stage: 107 laps

● TV/Radio: NBCSN/ MRN/ SiriusXM NASCAR Radio


Hendrick Motorsports driver quotes for Las Vegas

Kyle Larson, driver of the No. 5 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 1LE, on returning to Las Vegas: “It’s nice going back to a track we’ve won at before. We were really good at Vegas earlier this year, so definitely excited to go back and hoping we have similar speed. The temperature will be much warmer this weekend, so that changes things but our team has been really good at adapting to every situation this year. Hopefully, we can prepare well and have another good car and battle for the win.”

Cliff Daniels, crew chief of the No. 5 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 1LE, on hotter temperatures compared to March: “It definitely presents a lot of challenges – from the ambient air temperature to the track temperature, and the pace is going to be slower and (tire) fall off is going to be higher. We’re taking all that into consideration and hope we make the right decisions to have a good car – not only for speed but longer into a run when grip is lacking.”

Chase Elliott, driver of the No. 9 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 1LE, on returning to Las Vegas: “We haven’t had the best results at Las Vegas. The good thing is I feel like we have been fast out there at times. That’s the frustrating thing. Terrible results. I feel like every time I leave out there I’m mad and ready to go home, but I’m looking forward to this trip. Vegas is a place that I don’t have any ill will toward and again, I feel like we have had pace there. We have just really struggled to get the results. Hopefully, this time is a little different. It would be nice to get a win out there. That would be even better.”

Elliott on not looking ahead to next race or round in playoffs: “Ideally, you don’t want to be in a situation where you have to win that last race. You’d love to win the first one of every round. Maybe the first one and the last one of that round. I think the big thing is not getting ahead of yourself. The way this format is it’s really easy to look ahead a round or set your sights down the road and I think that’s the worst thing you can do. This stuff is taken for granted, in my opinion. You could have two bad races and then the next thing you know you have to win that final race in the round. That’s just the way this format is, and I think we recognize that and we don’t want to get ahead of ourselves. For us, we take it a week at a time and enjoy those tough spots when they come.”

Alan Gustafson, crew chief of the No. 9 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 1LE, on all four teammates advancing to the Round of 12: “I think everyone is super focused on running as best as we can and winning and transferring. What the No. 24 and No. 48 teams did was great, so to have more Hendrick Chevys in there and more opportunities to advance cars is what we’re going for, so it’s good.”

Gustafson on how the team is preparing for the different style tracks in the second round: “It’s a really tough round. We just have to perform every week. Every track is very different, so we have to be good across all three of those disciplines, which are quite a bit different. It’s rare to have a really good intermediate program and superspeedway program and a good road course program. I feel like we have that – we just have to bring the best cars possible and execute at the track. Stage points will be important. Certainly, everybody knows the volatility of Talladega, so you just want to make sure you get as much as you can in Vegas and as much as you can at the ROVAL. I think we can have success at Talladega but there’s just a lot of circumstances that can get us in trouble.”

William Byron, driver of the No. 24 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 1LE, on how crucial Las Vegas is for the next round of the playoffs: "It’s a great feeling knowing that we had the performance we did in Bristol and were able to advance on. I knew this team was capable of it but to be able to execute it in a Game 7-style situation is even more impressive. Now we’re moving on and turning or focus to the next round. These upcoming tracks are ones that have always been good for us but they also can be wildcards in their own respective, especially Talladega (Superspeedway) and the Charlotte ROVAL. That’s why it’s even more important for us to go to Vegas, execute everything and maximize points. We don’t want to start this round off in a hole like we did the first round. Myself and Rudy (Fugle) would rather play offense through these next three races than have to worry on defending points. Vegas is crucial, in my mind, to determine how you play the rest of the round. Hopefully, we come out with a win and the only points that matter for the next two races are playoff points.”

Rudy Fugle, crew chief of the No. 24 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 1LE, on the momentum heading to Las Vegas: “We’re super excited to hit the reset button at this stage. Darlington put us behind and we didn’t have a good run at Richmond. It made Bristol way too stressful. I feel like Vegas is really good for us, and this whole round has tracks where we are fast and perform well. I’m really excited about getting a reset, getting a good start at Vegas, competing for a win and maybe not having to worry about the next two (races), so that would be great.”

Alex Bowman, driver of the No. 48 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 1LE, on moving on to the Round of 12: “Advancing to the Round of 12 was exactly what we needed to do going into the Bristol race. It is obvious we struggled in the first two races in the playoffs, but we went into Bristol with a strategy and Greg (Ives) and the team did a great job with adjustments throughout the race. We fought hard and coming out with a fifth-place finish was big for this Ally team. We want to take Ally as far as we can in these playoffs and putting races together like last weekend will do just that for us.”

Bowman on returning to Las Vegas for a playoff race: “Going to Vegas this weekend, it is a good track for the 48 team. We have seen success there in the past, and earlier this season we had a top-10, if not a top-five run going before we had a tire go down. Our mile-and-a-half program is strong and this Ally team has been working hard on our Chevrolets. This round of the playoffs has a lot of good tracks for us, so we are looking to have strong runs in the next three weeks.”

Greg Ives, crew chief of the No. 48 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 1LE, on moving on to Las Vegas with momentum: “Whether it’s a great week or a bad week, you try to look at each week as a new start and have realistic goals in mind. A realistic goal for us at Las Vegas is a win. There are some places you go and try to get top five in stages and then come out with a good finish. With Vegas, I feel like we got great race cars capable of going out there and scoring a lot of stage points and getting the win. Fortunately, or unfortunately, we have teammates who have the same thing. We just got to go out there and execute to the best of our abilities and take advantage when we can. Whether it’s a restart or on pit road or short runs or long runs. We just got to stay focused on that. I feel like we’re capable of winning at any racetrack, but there’s a lot of confidence going back to Vegas.”

Wednesday, September 8, 2021

Denny Hamlin is 4/1 to win 2021 Federated Auto Parts 400 at Richmond

Denny Hamlin

11 FedEx Ground Toyota
Joe Gibbs Racing

Saturday Race Info:

Race: Federated Auto Parts 400 Salute to First Responders
Date/Time: Saturday, Sept. 11/7:30 p.m. ET
Distance: 400 laps/300 miles
Track Length: .75 mile
Track Shape: Oval

Express Notes:

Darlington Recap:
Denny Hamlin kicked off the 2021 NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs with a win Sunday night at Darlington Raceway – his first of the season. Hamlin battled Kyle Larson for much of the event on the historic oval, but the driver of the #11 held off a late-charging Larson on the final lap of the race to bring home his third Southern 500 trophy. The win punched Hamlin’s ticket to the Round of 12 of the Playoffs, with two more races remaining in the opening Round of 16.

Richmond Preview: Race #2 of the Round of 16 takes Hamlin to his hometown track of Richmond Raceway, a three-quarter-mile oval where the Chesterfield, Va., native owns three wins in 29 Cup starts. The FedEx Ground Toyota team performed well at the track in April, starting and finishing the race in second. Saturday night’s race falls on a somber anniversary – the 20-year mark since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. In commemoration, the 300-mile race has been specially named the Federated Auto Parts 400 Salute to First Responders.

Hamlin Statistics:
Track: Richmond Raceway
Races: 29
Wins: 3
Poles: 3
Top-5: 14
Top-10: 18
Laps Led: 1,911
Avg. Start: 9.7
Avg. Finish: 9.0

Hamlin Conversation – Richmond:

Does having one win already in the Round of 16 change the way you approach the rest of the round?

“We want to win these next two races, too. We’re not going to take these next two weeks off. We want to keep this momentum going. That way, when we get to the treacherous second round, we’re ready and we’re in Playoff form.”

Do you remember where you were on the day of the 9/11 attacks?

“I was putting the exhaust on my new late-model car that my parents spent every dollar they had on, and tragedy struck, and we all were glued to the TV for the next eight hours. It was certainly a defining moment in our country. We don’t take lightly everything that happened, and we have such an appreciation for all the first responders who went to the scene and especially for those who never went home again.”

FedEx Ground Along For The Ride: The SCAL district’s focus on “Safety Above All” lands them a placement on the B-post of the No. 11 FedEx Ground Toyota race car during the Sept. 11 Richmond Raceway race.

FedEx Office – Closest to Richmond Raceway: 1111 E Main St, Richmond, VA (804) 783-9880

Hendrick Motorsports driver quotes for Richmond

Kyle Larson, driver of the No. 5 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 1LE, on the spring Richmond race: “Richmond was really the only bad race from start-to-finish we’ve had this year. I know we’ll be better this time around because we learned a lot. Alex (Bowman) won there and we have their notes, but we learned a lot even from how we ran in the spring.”

Cliff Daniels, crew chief of the No. 5 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 1LE, on confidence level heading into Richmond following the race earlier this season: “We were absolutely terrible in the spring. Once we were able to compare notes (with other Hendrick Motorsports teams) it made sense – we know where we were weak and need to get better. We’re very fortunate to have the success of the 48 (team) and their baseline.”

Chase Elliott, driver of the No. 9 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 1LE, on 9/11: “Sept. 11 is always a day that I think sticks out to any American. I don’t think you could ever just ignore that or act like it’s just any other day. That’s a major tragic event in our history and one that we’re all going to live with for the rest of our time. Our sport is patriotic, but just being an American, you could never forget about that.”

Elliott on the challenges of the playoff format: “It’s a cutthroat 10 weeks. Unfortunately, the more the rounds go on you just can’t have poor races. A lot of times having a poor race doesn’t mean you did a bad job or you weren’t fast, it just means something didn’t go your way. Unfortunately, that could be the end of your season. Do I necessarily agree with that all the time? No, but at the same time we had 26 weeks to win races and to accumulate playoff points. The more of those you accumulate, you’re hedging your bet to make it further in the round. That’s the best thing you can do, try and build that buffer and get those points and get yourself in a better position to where if you do have a bad day you can still recover.”

Alan Gustafson, crew chief for the No. 9 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 1LE, on if a specific playoff round matches up best for the No. 9 team: “There’s not one round that stands out to me. You could go to any of the races and have a problem or issue and have a terrible points day and then start significantly worse than you expected for the next race, like Darlington for us. All of those things can happen at any point in time, so you are always apprehensive and a bit nervous. But, at the same time, I have a lot of confidence in what we can do. We should be on the attack mode not conserve mode. I feel good about it, but I certainly respect all of the tracks and all the potential hurdles that they all have. I think we can compete well at any one of them and win at any one of them and that’s what we are going to try to do. At the same time, we certainly understand that you’ve got to be at your best form and really super prepared because at a moment's notice anything can happen that puts you in a bad spot.”

William Byron, driver of the No. 24 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 1LE, on racing at Richmond: “Richmond has always been a challenging track for me. The track already has very low grip and making sure the tires last during a long run is key. The surface resembles Atlanta (Motor Speedway) but has characteristics of Phoenix (Raceway). I feel like every time I’ve run there that I’ve learned a bit more and improved each time. With Darlington not going the way we hoped, we will need to really execute this weekend and maximize whatever situation we are in to set us up for Bristol and advancing on through the playoffs.”

Rudy Fugle, crew chief of the No. 24 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 1LE, on rebounding for race two of the Round of 16:
“Obviously, this isn’t the position we want to be in this weekend on the outside looking in, but we’re also are by no means out of the hunt, either. The No. 24 team has the speed capable of winning and I think we’ve done a good job of showing that, especially lately. Unfortunately, we’ve just been wrong place wrong time the last couple weeks. We’ve already put that behind us, though, and moved on to the next task at hand – Richmond. We had a top-10 car there earlier this season and the guys are putting in extra hours this week to make sure we bring a rocket to the track for Saturday night. This isn’t a must-win situation, but we’re going to execute what we need to maximize on our results.”

Alex Bowman, driver of the No. 48 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 1LE, on returning to Richmond after winning there in April: “Going back to Richmond is something to look forward to this week. Richmond is a track where our No. 48 team feels really strong at, and we are bringing the same car from earlier this year when we ended up in victory lane. After last week, we need to rebound and capitalize on a good night on Saturday. There’s not a lot of comfort going forward the next two weeks, but we are going to two places we know we can be strong at and have good runs.”

Greg Ives, crew chief of the No. 48 team, on chassis for Richmond: “It is going to be the same car and same chassis but obviously different things that you’re able to do, either to make it better or in NASCAR’s world, you’re able to regulate or put a little more sight and difficulties on you. Whatever that scenario is, whether it’s true or false or to allow other guys to get their cars get better, you have to keep up with it. That’s ultimately the goal – to bring a better race car and try not to reinvent the wheel. For the most part, the general setup is going to be very close. Just trying to fine tune and then make things a little bit better.”

Ives on how quickly the playoff rankings can change: “You got to look at history, right? The biggest factor I see (are) the unknowns. Putting yourself in a bad situation and then hurting yourself. You kind of look at the history of last year’s playoffs and we scored the second-most points in the playoffs. We didn’t go to the final four but, in the end, it calls for a really good run and the 4 team there with Kevin Harvick, they had how many wins last year? Eight wins and a lot of points and they got themselves in a bad spot and wasn’t able to transfer to the final four. It definitely is a tough grind and tough season, but then you add on the quickness of a reset and going to probably one of the toughest racetracks (Darlington) to either get the handling right (or) the toughness on the teams from a pit standpoint (or) the ease of getting damage to the car and putting yourself in a bad situation with the wreck. It’s a tough place to start out, for sure, and you have to be pretty flawless. If not, you got to learn how to overcome dramatically. Unfortunately, that’s what we have to do – overcome a really bad situation.”