Wednesday October 4th, 2023 8:47AM

NASCAR Cup Playoffs Round of 8 starts in Las Vegas

By Holly Cain-NASCAR Wire Service

Following yet another dramatic round of NASCAR Cup Series Playoff action – including a “walk-off” home run of sorts last Sunday at the Charlotte infield road course by Christopher Bell – the series begins the Round of 8 Playoff races that will ultimately set the Championship 4 round lineup.

There is certainly no shortage of intrigue leading into this week’s event at Las Vegas Motor Speedway – the first race in a competitive round that will feature two 1.5-mile tracks – at Las Vegas and next week at Homestead-Miami – followed by the Martinsville, short track.

Bell, whose only top 10 in the last three races was his Charlotte win, now finds himself deep into the Playoffs after leading only the final two laps on Sunday. He essentially rallied from longshot to title contender after the checkered flag in a race that also stunningly eliminated reigning NASCAR Cup Series champion Kyle Larson from further Playoff competition after his No. 5 Chevrolet endured a late race mechanical issue.

As the standings re-set for this important round, Chase Elliott retains his place atop the leader board. The Dawsonville, Georgia racer is 20 points ahead of Joey Logano heading into Sunday’s race.

Ross Chastain – a two-time winner in 2022 – is next, 25 points back, followed by Bell, who is now 28 points behind Elliott.

Ryan Blaney, who is still looking for his first victory of the season and William Byron are fifth and sixth in the re-set standings, both 31 points behind Elliott.

Denny Hamlin is ranked seventh, 33 points behind Elliott. Chase Briscoe holds the final position, 37 points behind Elliott after posting a dramatic finish of his own at Charlotte to claim that final spot from Larson.

There are seven former Las Vegas winners in Sunday’s field, with Logano and Hamlin being the only current Playoff drivers with a trophy hoist there. Alex Bowman won the most recent Vegas race this spring, but announced this week he will be missing the next three events on the schedule while recovering from concussion-like symptoms.

Four current Playoff drivers were among the top-10 in March’s Next Gen car Vegas debut. Byron led laps and turned in a career best fifth-place finish at the track. Chastain – who scored his career first NASCAR national series win in the Xfinity Series at Vegas in 2018, led the most laps (83) in the Vegas spring Cup race en route to a third-place finish. Elliott finished ninth and Bell, who started from pole position, claimed a 10th-place finish.

Las Vegas is one of Logano’s best tracks statistically – he is a two-time NASCAR Cup Series race winner there and has 11 top-10 finishes in 18 starts. He’s one of three two-time Vegas winners on Sunday’s grid – also including Martin Truex, Jr. and Kevin Harvick. Larson won in the spring of 2021 and has four other runner-up showings.

Brad Keselowski is the winningest active driver at the track with three victories.

Briscoe is the only back-to-back NASCAR Xfinity Series race winner in Vegas history, sweeping the two 2020 races. He’s coming off a clutch showing at Charlotte to transfer into this Playoff round and should be considered a strong contender at Vegas as well.

Bell, who obviously brings a lot of momentum out West, is turning in the best NASCAR Cup Series season of his young career, with 11 top-five finishes, including two victories.

“Vegas is one of my favorite tracks and Joe Gibbs Racing has been strong on the 1.5-mile tracks,” Bell said. “Vegas is one I’ve had circled for a while and one we can contend for a win, or at least escape there with a good amount of points.”

Hamlin is the defending Playoff race winner at Las Vegas, leading 137 of the 267 laps en route to what was his second Playoff win in 2021. Hamlin has top-10 finishes in five of the six Playoff races this season, including back-to-back runner-up showings in the opening two rounds – at Darlington and Kansas. A 32nd-place finish in March snapped a three-race streak of top-five Vegas finishes.

Xfinity Series Playoffs Roll The Dice In Vegas

The NASCAR Xfinity Series also begins the next round of the 2022 Playoffs this week on Saturday at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

Four different drivers have won the last four series races on the 1.5-mile Vegas track. Josh Berry is the defending winner of the fall Playoff race – earning a convincing 4.3-second victory over teammate Justin Allgaier in 2021.

Ty Gibbs won at Las Vegas this March, edging Las Vegas native Noah Gragson. Berry finished fourth and Allgaier was fifth

All these drivers have advanced to the Round of 8 with Gragson atop the standings by 12-points over A.J. Allmendinger. Gibbs is ranked third, 18 points back and Allgaier is fourth, 23 points back.

Berry, Winston, Georgia’s Austin Hill, Atlanta, Georgia’s Brandon Jones and Sam Mayer round out the Playoff Round of 8 competitors.

Although he is still winless in seven races at his home track, Las Vegas native Gragson does have a pair of runner-up finishes and has never finished outside the top-10 in seven starts.

Allmendinger, who won two of the three races in the last round of the Playoffs – back-to-back victories at Talladega and Charlotte – is also a former winner at Las Vegas taking the trophy in spring of 2021. He’s finished top-10 in all three starts as well.

The 40-year-old is currently riding a string of 11 top-10 finishes – eight top-five finishes in the last eight races – with three of his five victories in that span. His 26 top-10 finishes through 29 races this season is best in the series.

Although he celebrated a victory the last time he raced in Vegas, Gibbs would love to have a good showing this weekend to sort of course-correct his championship hopes. He has six top-10 finishes in the seven races coming to Las Vegas – including all three Playoff races – but suffered a disappointing 36th-place finish at Bristol last month.

WDUN will carry live PRN Radio coverage of the NASCAR race weekend at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, beginning with Saturday's NASCAR Xfinity Series Alsco Uniforms 302 beginning at 2:30 on 102.9 FM and streaming live on AccessWDUN.  Coverage continues on Sunday with the NASCAR Cup Series South Point 400 beginning at 1:30 pm on 102.9 FM and streaming live on AccessWDUN.

NASCAR Weekend Preview

NASCAR Cup Series
Next Race: South Point 400
The Place: Las Vegas Motor Speedway – Las Vegas, NV
The Date: Sunday, October 16
The Time: 2:30 p.m. ET
The Purse: $7,352,089
TV: NBC, 2 p.m. ET
Radio: PRN, SiriusXM NASCAR (Channel 90)
Distance: 400.5 miles (267 Laps); Stage 1 (Ends on Lap 80), Stage 2 (Ends on Lap 165), Final Stage (Ends on Lap 267)

NASCAR Xfinity Series
Next Race: Alsco Uniforms 302
The Place: Las Vegas Motor Speedway – Las Vegas, NV
The Date: Saturday, October 15
The Time: 3:30 p.m. ET
The Purse: $1,272,611
TV: NBC, 3 p.m. ET
Radio: PRN, SiriusXM NASCAR (Channel 90)
Distance: 301.5 miles (201 Laps); Stage 1 (Ends on Lap 45), Stage 2 (Ends on Lap 90), Final Stage (Ends on Lap 201)

  • Associated Categories: Sports, NASCAR News, NASCAR Cup
  • Associated Tags: nascar, motorsports, xfinity series, Auto Racing, Stock Car, Asphalt, Motorsports Live On WDUN, NASCAR Cup Series
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