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NASCAR Cup Series

NASCAR Cup Series News Wire
  • Chinese Grand Prix to be canceled again due to COVID-19
    By Field Level Media / Tuesday, November 22, 2022

    The Chinese Grand Prix is set to be dropped from the Formula 1 calendar for the fourth consecutive year due to COVID-19 policies.

    • The race in Shanghai was canceled in 2020 and 2021 due to the global pandemic. It was slated to return this year, but China continued to struggle with virus transmissions and the race was replaced by the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix at Imola in Italy.

      F1 included a mid-April date for Shanghai when the 2023 schedule was released in September, but China is again coping with a surge in COVID cases. BBC reported on Tuesday that F1 decided the race cannot go forward due to the country's "zero-COVID" policy.

      The primary sticking point is that F1 staff would not be provided exemptions from quarantine requirements. That means anyone who tested positive would be subject to being detained in the country for several days.

      China's current policy requires anyone who tests positive for COVID-19 to spend five days at an isolation center followed by three days of isolation at home.

      F1 will not look to replace the event this time, reducing the 2023 schedule to 23 events, according to the report. That would still represent a new high-water mark for races in a calendar year, although it will leave a four-week break between the Australian Grand Prix on April 2 and the Azerbaijan Grand Prix on April 30.

      F1 chief executive officer Stefano Domenicali told the BBC that talks with authorities to move the Azerbaijan event forward a week have met resistance. He also said F1 is in talks to extend the contract of the race, held in Baku, which currently runs through next year.

      --Field Level Media

  • Logan Sargeant secures F1 superlicense, Williams seat
    By Field Level Media / Monday, November 21, 2022

    Williams Racing confirmed Monday that American Logan Sargeant will drive for the Formula One team in 2023.

    • Sargeant, 21, successfully secured his F1 superlicense on Sunday and will become the first U.S. driver in the elite open-wheel circuit since 2015.

      "It's a huge honor and a dream come true to be given this opportunity," Sargeant said. "... I'm ready and excited to be a part of this journey as the team looks to progress up the grid."

      He completed the process to obtain his superlicense at Sunday's season-ending Formula Two race in Abu Dhabi.

      "He's had a strong rookie season in Formula Two and we are excited to watch him make the step up," Williams racing boss Jost Capito said. "We are here to support that journey with him.

      Sargeant replaces the outgoing Nicholas Latifi. Alexander Albon is Williams' other F1 driver.

      Alexander Rossi was the most recent American driver to compete in F1, racing from 2014-15.

      --Field Level Media

  • Red Bull boss: Daniel Ricciardo returning as third driver
    By Field Level Media / Friday, November 18, 2022

    Daniel Ricciardo will return to Red Bull Racing as the Formula One team's reserve driver in 2023.

    • "Ricciardo will be our third driver," RBR chief Helmut Marko confirmed to Sky Germany on Friday.

      Ricciardo will be the backup if drivers Max Verstappen or Sergio Perez are unable to compete.

      The 33-year-old Australian's role also includes commercial obligations and demonstration runs.

      "We have so many sponsors, we have to do show runs and the like, so of course he's one of the most high-profile and best-suited," Marko said.

      ESPN reported the deal will be confirmed Sunday for Ricciardo, who previously competed with Red Bull from 2014-18.

      Ricciardo raced for McLaren for the past two years but was left without a seat for 2023 when the final year of his contract was terminated by mutual agreement in August.

      Ricciardo made his F1 debut and has eight career Grand Prix victories, most recently at the Italian Grand Prix on Sept. 12, 2021.

      --Field Level Media

  • Haas confirms Nico Hulkenberg to replace Mick Schumacher in '23
    By Field Level Media / Thursday, November 17, 2022

    Haas confirmed that Nico Hulkenberg will replace Mick Schumacher in next year's driver lineup.

    • Hulkenberg, 35, will return to Formula 1 full-time for the first time since being dropped by Renault in 2019. He will team with Kevin Magnussen to give Haas the veteran lineup it had long been rumored to be aiming for.

      Schumacher, 23, joined Haas in 2021 and has scored points in two races this season for the back-of-the-field team. However, his time with the team has been marked by several costly accidents.

      "As I always said it was not an easy decision what is best to do for the team," Haas team principal Guenther Steiner said in a statement. "In the summer when we didn't have a decision there was no decision. The contract was only signed yesterday, for example. We wanted to see what to do best and give Mick as much time as possible that we can make the best decision possible."

      Hulkenberg has competed in four F1 races as a substitute driver the past two years. After making his F1 debut with Williams in 2010, he has also raced for Force India, Sauber, Racing Point and Aston Martin.

      Steiner said the change was made in an effort to "go forward again" as Haas seeks to become an "upper midfield" team in the next two years.

      "(We want) to fight in the midfield properly, because this year we were fighting, we were out, we were fighting again - it's been a little bit up and down and a rollercoaster this year," Steiner told reporters Thursday.

      "We need a bit of stability next year. We made a big step this year from where we were the last two years, but we want to continue to get better and better.

      "That is the aim, because the other teams obviously want to do the same."

      Schumacher joined Haas in 2021 as part of an all-rookie team along with Russian Nikita Mazepin, who was dropped earlier this following his country's invasion of Ukraine. Mazepin was replaced by previous Haas driver Magnussen, who claimed the team's first F1 pole at last week's Brazilian Grand Prix and has scored 25 points this year.

      Meanwhile, the future remains uncertain for Schumacher, the son of seven-time world champion legend Michael Schumacher.

      All 20 seats on the F1 grid for 2023 are accounted for. Mick Schumacher has been part of Ferrari's academy since 2019 but its not expected to remain with the Italian outfit beyond this year.

      "I don't want to hide the fact I am very disappointed about the decision not to renew our contract, he wrote in an Instagram post. "Nevertheless I would like to thank Haas and Ferrari for giving me this opportunity.

      "Those years together have helped me to mature both technically and personally. And especially when things got difficult, I realized how much I love this sport. It was at times bumpy but I steadily improved, learned a lot and now know for sure that I deserve a place in Formula 1. The subject is anything but closed for me. Setbacks only make you stronger.

      "My fire burns for Formula 1 and I will fight hard to return to the starting grid."

      One option for Schumacher could be joining a different team as a reserve, with Mercedes rumoured to be a potential landing spot for the former F2 champion.

      --Field Level Media

  • Coy Gibbs, Joe Gibbs Racing executive, dies at 49
    By Field Level Media / Sunday, November 6, 2022

    Coy Gibbs, son of Pro Football Hall of Fame coach Joe Gibbs and an executive for Joe Gibbs Racing, has died at the age of 49.

    • Joe Gibbs Racing confirmed the death Sunday. The cause was not announced.

      "It is with great sorrow that Joe Gibbs Racing confirms that Coy Gibbs (co-owner) went to be with the Lord in his sleep last night," the organization said in a statement. "The family appreciates all the thoughts and prayers and asks for privacy at this time."

      Gibbs' death came on the weekend when his son, Ty, gained the Xfinity Series title.

      "We are heartbroken by the tragic loss of Coy Gibbs," NASCAR chairman and CEO Jim France said in a statement. "On behalf of the France Family and all of NASCAR, I extend my deepest condolences to Joe, Pat, Heather, the Gibbs family and everyone at Joe Gibbs Racing on the loss of Coy, a true friend and racer."

      Joe Gibbs, who won three Super Bowl titles with Washington and went 154-94 in 16 seasons with the team before leading a top NASCAR organization with the help of his two sons, has lost both of them. J.D. Gibbs died three years ago after fighting a neurological disease. He also was 49 years old.

      Coy Gibbs, vice chairman and CEO of Joe Gibbs Racing, was in the Phoenix area Saturday night to watch Ty Gibbs win the Xfinity championship at Phoenix Raceway.

      "It was fun to watch," Coy said then of seeing Ty earn the victory, according to The Washington Post.

      Ty Gibbs was scheduled to drive in the NASCAR Cup Series finale Sunday at Phoenix Raceway but withdrew in the wake of his father's death. NASCAR held a moment of silence before the race.

      --Field Level Media

  • NASCAR notebook: Ross Chastain the runner-up in first Champ 4 appearance
    By Field Level Media / Sunday, November 6, 2022

    AVONDALE, Ariz. -- After a season of career-firsts -- a maiden victory and a dramatic lap to qualify for the NASCAR Cup Series Championship Race -- Ross Chastain insisted he felt more hopeful than disappointed after coming up short of hoisting his first major racing trophy on Sunday.

    • Chastain's No. 1 Trackhouse Racing Chevrolet finished third in the Phoenix Raceway season finale -- 1.2-seconds behind the winner, and newly-crowed 2022 series champion Joey Logano. After moving forward from a 25th-place starting spot on the grid and competing inside the top five for most of the final laps, Chastain felt confident that he and the two-year-old Trackhouse Racing team had done all it could. And, if nothing else, set the stage for future championship runs.

      "The emotions are surprisingly good," said Chastain, who earned his first two NASCAR Cup Series wins this season (at the Circuit of The Americas road course and at Talladega (Ala.) Superspeedway.

      "I'm not sad, I'm not upset. ... I actually can't believe how good I feel. I'm so proud and so happy to get this first shot in the championship," he added.

      The other two championship-eligible drivers, Joe Gibbs Racing's Christopher Bell and Hendrick Motorsports' Chase Elliott finished 10th and 28th, respectively -- both having to overcome different challenges on Sunday

      Bell and the entire Joe Gibbs Racing organization received heart-breaking news in the hours immediately before the race that Coy Gibbs -- the team's Vice Chairman and Chief Operating Officer -- and son of team founder Joe Gibbs -- had passed away the night before at the age of 49.

      Bell said the team met and decided it should still race on Sunday. And he ran among the top-10 for much of the day, despite the tough circumstances.

      "That was an experience unlike I've ever gone through in my entire life," Bell said. 'In that moment, you don't know what's right and what's wrong. If you should get in the race car and race or you shouldn't race. Myself, Denny (Hamlin) and the other JGR drivers were all in the same boat, we didn't know what to do.

      "(JGR President) Dave Alpern actually came back to the race track right before driver intros and told us, 'you need to go out there and race' and that's what we did.

      "Definitely just an incredible twist of emotion and a perspective change for sure. You think that this is the big picture then you get news like this and realize it's the small picture in the grand scheme of things."

      Elliott, who won the Regular Season Championship, also spent time at the front of the field, but contact between his and Chastain's Chevrolets on a re-start with a little more than 100 laps remaining sent his Chevrolet spinning into the wall. The team worked on the car, but Elliot ultimately finished the race two laps down.

      "I'm not sure, I'm not sure," Elliott repeatedly answered when asked about the incident with him and Chastain. "Looking forward to the offseason and really proud of our team for the fight we put in today. Like we just kind of peaked right before we crashed, got our car driving pretty good, just had our best pit stop of the day so that was all solid, and we were right there next to the 22 (Logano).

      "Thought we had a shot at it all the way up until we didn't."

      For both Chastain and Bell, 2022 marked the best NASCAR Cup Series season of their careers statistically. It was the first Championship 4 appearance for both, as well.

      Chastain, 29, of Alva, Florida, spent 19 weeks ranked among the top three in the championship standings, earned his first two NASCAR Cup Series wins and more than doubled his previous single season marks for top-five (15) and top-10 (21) finishes.

      Bell, 27, of Norman, Oklahoma, scored three wins and career highs in top-five (12) and top-10 (20) finishes.

      Elliott, 26, of Dawsonville, Ga., tied his career best mark in wins (five) and earned 12 top-five and 20 top-10 finishes. His three pole positions were most in his seven fulltime seasons.

      Thoughts and prayers with JGR following Coy Gibbs passing

      Joe Gibbs Racing's Vice Chairman and Chief Operating Officer Coy Gibbs -- son of NASCAR Hall of Fame team owner Joe Gibbs -- passed away Saturday night at his hotel in Phoenix.

      "It is with great sorrow that Joe Gibbs Racing confirms that Coy Gibbs (co-owner) went to be with the Lord in his sleep last night. The family appreciates all the thoughts and prayers and asks for privacy at this time." -- the team said in a statement released in the moments before Sunday's green flag.

      Word of the loss spread quickly throughout the Phoenix facility and a moment of silence was held in Gibbs honor just prior to the green flag. Gibbs was only 49 years old, the same age his older brother JD Gibbs was when he passed away in 2019.

      "We are heartbroken by the tragic loss of Coy Gibbs. On behalf of the France Family and all of NASCAR, I extend my deepest condolences to Joe, Pat, Heather, The Gibbs family and everyone at Joe Gibbs Racing on the loss of Coy, a true friend and racer," NASCAR Chairman Jim France said.

      Kyle Busch, who drove 15 years for the Joe Gibbs Racing organization was visibly upset on the grid just before the race start.

      "Words can't describe this day. Today was already going to be tough enough but it's even more gut wrenching now. Heartbroken." He posted on Twitter just before the race.

      Coy Gibbs is the father of four and had just watched his oldest child, 20-year-old Ty Gibbs win the NASCAR Xfinity Series championship on Saturday night.

      "I'm definitely proud of him," Coy Gibbs said of Ty, "I've always got his back as his father."

      "Watching it today, just to see his determination," Coy continued. "I think he's got skills and he's determined. It definitely made me proud. I think for my wife, we were both proud, just because he hammered down and did his job."

      Austin Cindric takes home Sunoco Rookie of the Year honors

      Team Penske's Austin Cindric started the 2022 year with a victory in the season-opening Daytona 500 and he took the season's final checkered flag on Sunday having earned the Sunoco Rookie of the Year.

      Cindric, 24, has the Daytona 500 victory, earned five top-five and 10 top-10 finishes this season and advanced to the second round of the Playoffs.

      He said securing that all-important early season victory allowed him to essentially learn the ropes of NASCAR's major league as a rookie with the security of knowing he'd already earned a Playoff position.

      "It does change the regular season in the fact I'm able to go through the regular season without the pressure of having to win a race as well as figure everything out," Cindric said. "And that was probably more of an advantage than I gave it credit for, not having to put pressure on yourself, your team or have to be desperate.

      "From that standpoint I think it was something made me be able to be patient or aggressive in areas I needed to be."

      Following Cindric in the rookie standings are fellow Ford drivers -- Wood Brothers' Harrison Burton and Front Row Motorsports' Todd Gilliland. Burton's best finish was a third place at the Indianapolis road course this summer. Gilliland's top effort was a fourth place at the Indy road course.

      End of an era for Kyle Busch

      Kyle Busch's seventh-place finish in Sunday's championship finale marked his final race at Joe Gibbs Racing after a celebrated 15-year tenure that included two championships (2015 and 2019) and 56 of his career total 60 victories and finished in the top-10 in the championship 11 of his 15 seasons with the team.

      He finished seventh in his final outing with JGR on Sunday -- driving a No. 18 Toyota whose paint job included images of his time celebrating all the success he shared with the team over the course of his tenure.

      Busch has signed to drive the No. 8 Chevrolet for Richard Childress Racing beginning in 2023.

      "It's been a long road and I owe a lot of my success to Toyota Racing. I wouldn't be where I am today without your support through the years. You guys will always be family to me, but I look forward to seeing you in my rearview come Daytona next year."

      --By Holly Cain, NASCAR Wire Service. Special to Field Level Media.

  • Jimmie Johnson returning to NASCAR as driver, owner
    By Field Level Media / Friday, November 4, 2022

    Seven-time Cup Series champion Jimmie Johnson is returning to NASCAR in 2023, ending a two-year retirement.

    • The 47-year-old driver announced Friday he has entered an ownership agreement with Petty GMS and will race a limited schedule, starting with the Daytona 500.

      "I'm incredibly excited to be returning to my NASCAR family and look forward to building upon the combined legacy of our team," Johnson posted on Twitter.

      Petty GMS owner Maury Gallagher and chairman Richard Petty confirmed the partnership Friday. Petty, Johnson and the late Dale Earnhardt share the record with seven Cup Series championships.

      "What an exciting time for Petty GMS," Petty said. "This year we've accomplished so much together with Maury and now adding Jimmie will only continue to help us grow. To have Jimmie -- another seven-time champion -- as a part of the team, and his abilities both on track and off will be special for Petty GMS. I'm looking forward to having him as a part of our team and seeing what we can build together."

      Johnson retired from NASCAR after the 2020 season and moved to open-wheel racing in 2021.

      In September, he announced that he was retiring from full-time racing on the IndyCar circuit.

      Johnson won 83 races over 20 years in the Cup Series, with the last one coming at Dover in 2017.

      --Field Level Media

  • NASCAR notebook: Ross Chastain still can't believe decisive move
    By Field Level Media / Thursday, November 3, 2022

    PHOENIX -- Ross Chastain has spent much of his young career overcoming obstacles and exceeding expectations.

    • However, the 29-year-old Floridian's singular clutch move to qualify for Sunday's NASCAR Cup Series Championship Race (3 p.m. ET on NBC, MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio) at Phoenix Raceway wasn't even an expectation, it was a once-an-era moment that will undoubtedly go down in NASCAR lore.

      And Chastain himself still can't help but smile when he talks about it.

      His last lap, last-ditch effort to make his first title field is one of the most talked-about, tweeted-about, replayed moves in recent history.

      With less than one lap to go at the half-mile Martinsville (Va.) Speedway last Sunday, he purposely slammed his No. 1 Trackhouse Racing Chevrolet hard into the outside wall, floored the gas and "walled" his way from the 10th position to finish fifth place -- enough to secure the final playoff transfer into Sunday's Championship Race.

      This week Chastain said he's heard from people he hasn't talked to in years, or ever before. His phone is full of voicemails, and he counted a thousand text messages. Team co-owner, Grammy Award-winning superstar Pitbull, called, too.

      "He checks in, more than just for the wins and good races," Chastain said of Pitbull. "He loves it that we're up against some real giants in the sports and we keep fighting and we keep winning. Not that we won the race in Martinsville, but we won the moment to transfer, and he was really excited."

      Chastain said he has looked back at the video and still cannot explain the physics of his move, "what happened, why that car did not slow down, why it kept air in the tires," -- how he made it to the finish line and actually set a track record.

      "Why it worked, I don't know, but I have no ideas, no plans to ever do that again because it was not pleasant," he said.

      "I'm proud of it, I'm proud we've moved the needle for fans and casual people that were not fans and now they want to experience NASCAR and come to track and feel that roar that thunder when we go by," Chastain said, noting how members from other teams came out to congratulate him and give him back slaps when came down pit road after the race.

      Chastain is optimistic about his title hopes this weekend. His best finish in eight starts is a runner-up showing this spring. He is having a breakout year with the second-year Trackhouse organization scoring his first two career NASCAR Cup Series wins (at Circuit of The Americas and Talladega-1). He has a career high 20 top-10 finishes and led a career high 692 laps.

      Chase Elliott brings high expectations to Phoenix

      Chase Elliott refused to select a favorite from among his Championship 4 colleagues during Thursday's NASCAR Media Day press conference, insisting that after a 35-race season to date if you qualified for this weekend's Championship Race, you could be the champion.

      Elliott's No. 9 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet will compete against Chastain, Joe Gibbs Racing's Christopher Bell and Team Penske's Joey Logano for the season trophy on Sunday. Both Elliott and Logano are racing for their second championship. Both Chastain and Bell are making their Championship 4 debut this weekend.

      Elliott has a strong record at Phoenix -- winning the 2020 title race from pole position to claim his first title. He has scored eight top-10s in 13 starts and led 546 laps at the one-mile track. He comes into the championship finale with only a pair of top-10 finishes in the nine playoff races -- a win at Talladega, Ala., and a runner-up at Bristol, Tenn.

      "Personally, being a part of it the last couple years and as this format has kind of progressed and changed, I think if you make it to that last race, I think you have a shot," Elliott said. "If you're in the Final Four, I think you have a chance.

      "We've seen this, you don't have to dominate all day to win (the title). ... What Jimmie (Johnson) did in 2016 is a great example of not necessarily being the best car all day but when it came time to execute at the end of the day, put together some good restarts, some good pit stops and make it happen, they did.

      "Our playoffs hasn't been great, but with this format, it really doesn't matter now. If you're part of the show, you're part of the show. And if you have a shot this weekend, you have a shot to change the narrative and write the end of the story however you want."

      Both Logano (Las Vegas) and Bell (Martinsville, Va.) won races in the Playoffs' Round of 8 to earn their title opportunity. Elliott and Chastain "pointed" their way into championship contention.

      In a rather unusual twist, the Hendrick Motorsports team could capture both the driver and team championship but with different drivers. Elliott is racing for the driver's title and Kyle Larson qualified the team's No. 5 Chevrolet for the team owner's championship.

      "The best thing that could happen is one of us wins the race and the other runs second and you can check both boxes and we all go home happy," Elliott said. "That would be choice number one for me, and I think that's feasible."

      For Joey Logano, nothing short of a championship will do

      To say Joey Logano is optimistic about the way circumstances have played out over the past three weeks would be a massive understatement.

      First of all, Logano won the first race in the NASCAR Cup Series playoffs' Round of 8 on Oct. 16 at Las Vegas. The certainty of advancement to the Championship 4 has given his No. 22 Team Penske team the luxury of extra time to prepare for Sunday's title race at Phoenix.

      At 32, Logano is the oldest of the four Championship 4 drivers. With 14 full seasons in the Cup Series and 506 races under his belt, he is by far the most experienced.

      For Logano, it's an opportunity not to waste.

      "I feel like we're in a great spot right now," Logano said on Thursday during Championship 4 Media Day interviews at the Phoenix Convention Center. "I feel like our team is in a great spot for a lot of reasons. For one, we're not happy to be here. We're not just happy to be in the Championship 4. This isn't enough for us.

      "I feel like that's the number one driver for the 22 team to win this thing. I think with that mentality and the three weeks that we've had since Vegas to really focus in here, it's going to give us a huge advantage to not only have a good practice plan and set our car up, but also execute this race correctly, on top of the experience we've got.

      "I've never felt more solid in this position than I do right now. With that said, I'm ready to go racing and get out there, because we feel prepared. We're ready to go to battle."

      Christopher Bell is OK with relative obscurity

      Given the dramatic way Christopher Bell advanced to the Championship 4, it might seem strange that the driver of the No. 20 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota thinks of himself as completely under the radar.

      In a win-or-bust situation at the Charlotte ROVAL on Oct. 9, Bell took advantage of a late caution, won the race and catapulted into the Round of 8.

      After sustaining two flat tires a week later at Texas and finishing 11th a week later at Homestead-Miami, Bell once again needed a victory to keep his championship hopes alive. He took control of the Round of 8 elimination race shortly after the halfway point and triumphed once again.

      Bell comes to Phoenix with crew chief Adam Stevens on his pit box. Stevens is the only active crew chief in the Cup garage with more than one championship, having won titles with Kyle Busch in 2015 and 2019.

      But Bell thinks Stevens may be overlooked this season -- because of his driver.

      "I think that maybe has a lot to do with my role," Bell said. "Nobody really realizes I drive race cars for a living, for the most part. I embrace that role. I guess I don't do anything else to advocate myself or anything like that.

      "Any time it seems like people are teamed up with me, they're off the radar."

      Bell says he doesn't mind the perceived anonymity.

      "It's just kind of the way it's unfolded over my ... I don't really know how long," he said. "That's fine by me. Maybe I'll be the least famous Cup champion one day."

      --By Holly Cain and Reid Spencer, NASCAR Wire Service. Special to Field Level Media.

  • Ty Gibbs wrecks teammate Brandon Jones for Xfinity win at Martinsville
    By Field Level Media / Saturday, October 29, 2022

    MARTINSVILLE, Va. -- Ty Gibbs took no prisoners Saturday with a race-winning move that dramatically altered the composition of the NASCAR Xfinity Series Championship 4 field.

    • On the final lap of the third attempt at overtime, Gibbs rammed soon-to-be-ex-teammate Brandon Jones so hard the contact buckled the hood of Gibbs' No. 54 Toyota.

      The contact sent Jones, who had taken the lead on the previous lap, into the outside wall in Turns 1 and 2, and Gibbs had the lead in the Dead On Tools 250 when NASCAR called the 14th caution of the race because of wreck.

      By then Gibbs already had clinched one of the two remaining spots in the Championship 4 Round, but the bulldozing move deprived Jones of an opportunity to race for the series title next Saturday at Phoenix Raceway.

      As a chorus of boos rained down from the grandstand, Gibbs was unapologetic for that tactic that made him a race winner for the sixth time this season, for the first time at Martinsville and for the 10th time in 50 Xfinity Series starts.

      "It was definitely not a clean move, for sure," Gibbs said. "I definitely didn't want to wreck him, but I definitely wanted to move him out of the groove so I could go win. I felt like we lost the spring race getting moved by him.

      "He's my teammate, but definitely want to get the win here. It's important to get the win. And now we're going to the championships. It's cool. Hopefully, I don't get hit by any cans or anything right here.

      "We got moved out of the way earlier this year so, it's part of it."

      Jones won the pole and led 98 laps to Gibbs 102, but finished 23rd, the last driver on the lead lap.

      "I know Ty enough to where I know he doesn't care about what he did," said Jones, who will move to JR Motorsports next season. "He's pretty much, well -- he wasn't 'pretty much' -- he was locked into the next round. So really, what did that do?

      "I don't really understand the move. I understand trying to get aggressive -- you want to win the race. But to just destroy the race car, I don't see it. I don't get any satisfaction from it. Maybe he does. Maybe he likes to win that way? But I never have and never felt strong about racing that way. So, we'll just take it and go for it."

      Jones' misfortune elevated veteran Justin Allgaier, his soon-to-be-teammate at JR Motorsports into the final Championship 4 berth. Jones needed a victory to claim the spot, but Allgaier was in a position to advance on points, which he did by 12 points over Regular Season Champion AJ Allmendinger.

      Allgaier finished fifth and Allmendinger 16th after contact between their cars cut Allmendinger's left rear tire as the drivers played bumper tag and swapped positions during the closing stages of the race. Allgaier was happy to advance but less than thrilled with the way it happened.

      "I can't even describe it," Allgaier said. "It's disappointing that it's gotten to the point where it's -- unfortunately easier to drive through somebody than it is to pass them. Really proud of our team. We never gave up until the checkered flag fell. Had a ton of damage right there (from a collision on Lap 262 in the second overtime) but made it to the final round."

      After the race, Allmendinger sought Allgaier out on pit road and congratulated him.

      "You get down to the end, (Allmendinger) was pushing pretty hard," Allgaier said. "He chose to run into us enough times that you get to the point where you have to go for it. He knew when he turned back left that we were going to hit.

      "I hate it for those guys. I don't know if we could have run 25 laps battling as hard as we did there at the end. They've had a great season. We've had a great season. It's just so hard when it comes to the last race, especially at a place like Martinsville."

      Gibbs and Allgaier will race for the series championship at Phoenix against Josh Berry and Noah Gragson, who earned their spots in the Championship 4 with respective victories at Las Vegas and Homestead-Miami in the Round of 8.

      Non-Playoff drivers Sheldon Creed and Riley Herbst finished second and third after the late-race melee, followed by the JR Motorsports trio of Gragson, Allgaier and Sam Mayer. Nick Sanchez, Daniel Hemric, Austin Hill and Blaine Perkins completed the top 10.

      Along with Allmendinger and Jones, Hill and Mayer were eliminated from the Playoffs.

      NASCAR Xfinity Series Race -- 3rd Annual Dead On Tools 250

      Martinsville Speedway

      Martinsville, Virginia

      Saturday, October 29, 2022

      1. (4) Ty Gibbs (P), Toyota, 269.

      2. (2) Sheldon Creed #, Chevrolet, 269.

      3. (8) Riley Herbst, Ford, 269.

      4. (5) Noah Gragson (P), Chevrolet, 269.

      5. (6) Justin Allgaier (P), Chevrolet, 269.

      6. (22) Sam Mayer (P), Chevrolet, 269.

      7. (24) Nicholas Sanchez, Chevrolet, 269.

      8. (37) Daniel Hemric, Chevrolet, 269.

      9. (36) Austin Hill # (P), Chevrolet, 269.

      10. (23) Blaine Perkins(i), Chevrolet, 269.

      11. (11) Jeb Burton, Chevrolet, 269.

      12. (18) Rajah Caruth(i), Chevrolet, 269.

      13. (21) Alex Labbe, Chevrolet, 269.

      14. (14) Myatt Snider, Chevrolet, 269.

      15. (15) Derek Griffith, Toyota, 269.

      16. (9) AJ Allmendinger (P), Chevrolet, 269.

      17. (10) Jeremy Clements, Chevrolet, 269.

      18. (3) Sammy Smith (P), Toyota, 269.

      19. (27) Brandon Brown, Ford, 269.

      20. (13) Josh Berry (P), Chevrolet, 269.

      21. (7) Anthony Alfredo, Chevrolet, 269.

      22. (33) Josh Williams, Chevrolet, 269.

      23. (1) Brandon Jones (P), Toyota, 269.

      24. (34) CJ McLaughlin, Ford, 268.

      25. (32) Mason Massey, Chevrolet, 265.

      26. (31) Kris Wright(i), Chevrolet, 261.

      27. (12) Joe Graf Jr, Ford, 260.

      28. (19) Howie Disavino III, Chevrolet, 259.

      29. (29) Ryan Vargas, Chevrolet, 248.

      30. (38) Kyle Weatherman, Chevrolet, Accident, 242.

      31. (25) Stefan Parsons(i), Chevrolet, Accident, 219.

      32. (30) Patrick Emerling, Chevrolet, Accident, 215.

      33. (17) Ryan Sieg, Ford, Accident, 206.

      34. (28) JJ Yeley, Toyota, Brakes, 176.

      35. (26) Matt Mills(i), Chevrolet, Engine, 145.

      36. (35) Chad Finchum, Toyota, Brakes, 137.

      37. (16) Landon Cassill, Chevrolet, Accident, 108.

      38. (20) Bayley Currey, Chevrolet, Accident, 55.

      Average Speed of Race Winner: 60.41 mph.

      Time of Race: 2 Hrs, 20 Mins, 32 Secs. Margin of Victory: Caution Seconds.

      Caution Flags: 14 for 91 laps.

      Lead Changes: 18 among 6 drivers.

      Lap Leaders: B. Jones (P) 1-66;N. Gragson (P) 67-87;T. Gibbs (P) 88-107;B. Jones (P) 108;T. Gibbs (P) 109-111;J. Allgaier (P) 112-116;T. Gibbs (P) 117-124;J. Berry (P) 125-164;B. Jones (P) 165-177;T. Gibbs (P) 178-217;N. Gragson (P) 218;T. Gibbs (P) 219-242;B. Jones (P) 243-248;S. Smith (P) 249;B. Jones (P) 250-260;T. Gibbs (P) 261-266;N. Gragson (P) 267;B. Jones (P) 268;T. Gibbs (P) 269.

      Leaders Summary (Driver, Times Lead, Laps Led): Ty Gibbs (P) 7 times for 102 laps; Brandon Jones (P) 6 times for 98 laps; Josh Berry (P) 1 time for 40 laps; Noah Gragson (P) 3 times for 23 laps; Justin Allgaier (P) 1 time for 5 laps; Sammy Smith (P) 1 time for 1 lap.

      Stage #1 Top Ten: 19,54,7,8,18,98,2,16,1,21

      Stage #2 Top Ten: 54,7,16,9,48,8,21,27,39,23

      --By Reid Spencer, NASCAR Wire Service. Special to Field Level Media.

  • Alex Bowman (concussion) set to return to track next weekend
    By Field Level Media / Friday, October 28, 2022

    Alex Bowman has been cleared to return to the No. 48 Chevrolet next weekend at Phoenix Raceway, Hendrick Motorsports announced on Friday.

    • Bowman, 29, sustained a concussion in a crash on Sept. 25 at Texas Motor Speedway. He has missed the past four races and will sit out a fifth on Sunday at Martinsville Speedway in Virginia.

      The Tucson-born Bowman was evaluated Thursday by Dr. Micky Collins, clinical director of the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center Sports Medicine Concussion Program. Collins cleared Bowman to return to racing.

      "We're thrilled Alex is 100 percent and will have the opportunity to race at his home track," Jeff Andrews, president and general manager of Hendrick Motorsports, said in a statement. "Throughout this process, he's been incredibly diligent about following the advice of his doctors and prioritizing his health. All of us look forward to welcoming Alex back and seeing him finish 2022 with his No. 48 teammates."

      Bowman, who was knocked out of playoff consideration by the crash, is eager to get back on the track.

      "It's been a long road and a lot of work but excited to be back to 100 percent and be able to get back in a racecar," Bowman said in a video posted to Twitter.

      Bowman is a seven-time NASCAR Cup Series winner. His most recent victory came in March at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

      Noah Gragson will drive in the No. 48 car on Sunday for the fifth straight race.

      --Field Level Media

  • Red Bull fined $7M; Max Verstappen to keep 2021 title
    By Field Level Media / Friday, October 28, 2022

    Red Bull Racing will face discipline for exceeding Formula One budget cap rules during the 2021 season, although Max Verstappen will retain his world title.

    • FIA, the F1 governing body, fined Red Bull Racing $7 million after it had determined the team was $2.2 million over budget in 2021. The transgression was deemed minor since the team spent less than five percent over the budget cap.

      The team also will have a 10 percent penalty on its car development time.

      FIA said that all 10 F1 teams submitted financial documentation in the first ever review by the Cost Cap Administration under the new FIA Formula One World Championship Financial Regulations.

      Red Bull was said to be cooperative through the review process, providing additional documentation, when requested, in a timely manner.

      The FIA ultimately discovered that if Red Bull had applied an allowed tax credit correctly, the team would have only been $500,000 over budget.

      "There is no accusation or evidence that RBR has sought at any time to act in bad faith, dishonestly or in fraudulent manner, nor has it wilfully concealed any information from the Cost Cap Administration," the FIA said in a statement.

      Red Bull Racing, which last season won its first team championship since 2013, accepted its $7 million fine, according to the FIA. Verstappen also won the 2022 title.

      --Field Level Media

  • Lewis Hamilton plans to stay with Mercedes ‘quite a while longer’
    By Field Level Media / Thursday, October 27, 2022

    Seven-time Formula One champion Lewis Hamilton said he will be negotiating a new contract with Mercedes in the near future and he plans to remain with the manufacturer that has stuck with him since his start in the sport.

    • Hamilton's current deal expires at the end of 2023. The soon-to-be 38-year-old is thinking multiple years ahead.

      "Do I imagine myself being here beyond 40? Maybe," Hamilton told The Race in an interview published Thursday. "But we are going to do another deal. We're going to sit down and we're going to discuss it in these next couple of months, I would say."

      The Brit won four straight championships from 2017-20 to tie Michael Schumacher's record of seven. But he has failed to win a race thus far in 2022 as Max Verstappen has run away with the drivers' title.

      That drought aside, Hamilton assured F1 fans -- and his critics -- that "you are stuck with me for quite a while longer."

      Hamilton's comments came on the heels of Mercedes boss Toto Wolff telling reporters earlier this month that Hamilton has five more years in him and he was "absolutely certain that Lewis can win the eighth world title with us."

      --Field Level Media

  • American Logan Sargeant joining F1 grid in 2023
    By Field Level Media / Saturday, October 22, 2022

    Logan Sargeant is set to race for Williams next season, becoming the first American driver on the Formula One grid since 2015.

    • The move was confirmed Saturday by team boss Jost Capito.

      It's not a done deal, however, as Sargeant currently has 28 points and needs to reach 40 on his FIA super license to qualify for the move.

      He sits third in the Formula 2 Championship standings and would have to finish sixth or higher to collect the remaining points he needs, per ESPN.

      Sargeant, 21, would replace the outgoing Nicholas Latifi. Alexander Albon is Williams' other F1 driver.

      Alexander Rossi was the last American driver to compete in F1 from 2014-15.

      --Field Level Media

  • F1 extends ESPN broadcast deal through 2025
    By Field Level Media / Saturday, October 22, 2022

    Formula One extended its broadcasting contract with ESPN through the end of 2025.

    • Financial terms of the agreement were not disclosed.

      In an effort to continue the growth of F1's popularity in the United States, ESPN and ABC will air at least 16 races each season -- more than in any previous year since F1 returned to the ESPN networks in 2018.

      "F1 has seen incredible growth in the United States with sold out events and record television audiences," F1 CEO Stefano Domenicali said in a news release. "And the addition of Las Vegas to the calendar next season, alongside Austin and Miami, will see us host three spectacular races there.

      "The ESPN networks have played a huge part in that growth with their dedicated quality coverage. We are excited to expand our relationship and continue to bring the passion and excitement of Formula 1 to our viewers in the U.S. together."

      Broadcasts will include live coverage of practice sessions and qualifying as well as pre- and post-race coverage.

      "Formula One and ESPN have been a strong and successful team, and we're delighted to extend our relationship," said Burke Magnus, ESPN president of programming and original content.

      "We look forward to serving fans in some new and innovative ways in the next three years as we continue to bring the reach and relevance of the Walt Disney Company networks and platforms to Formula One."

      --Field Level Media

  • Bubba Wallace suspended 1 race for Vegas incident
    By Field Level Media / Tuesday, October 18, 2022

    NASCAR suspended driver Bubba Wallace on Tuesday for the upcoming race at Homestead for intentionally wrecking Kyle Larson last Sunday at Las Vegas.

    • It's a one-race suspension, with no fine or loss of points.

      Wallace is the first NASCAR Cup Series driver to be suspended for an on-track incident since Matt Kenseth in 2015.

      "It's been very rare, if ever, that we suspend drivers," NASCAR chief operating officer Steve O'Donnell said on SiriusXM Radio. "We don't take that action lightly."

      He added the suspension was for the wreck, given the rate of speed in play, not for shoving Larson in the infield.

      The incident began with Larson sliding up the track, forcing Wallace into the wall at Las Vegas Motor Speedway on Lap 94. Wallace then followed Larson back down the track, ramming into his right rear quarter panel and spinning him out.

      The scrum also collected Christopher Bell, who is competing to make the final four of the Cup Series playoffs.

      All three drivers were unable to continue.

      Wallace then got out of his car to confront Larson, shoving him.

      "I want to apologize for my actions on Sunday following the on-track incident with Kyle Larson and the No. 5 car," Wallace posted to his social media accounts Monday. "My behavior does not align with the core values that are shared by 23XI Racing and our partners, who have played a crucial role in my incredible journey to the top of this great sport."

      --Field Level Media

  • Daniel Ricciardo: 'Full intention' is to be on F1 grid in '24
    By Field Level Media / Tuesday, October 18, 2022

    Daniel Ricciardo said he intends to return to the Formula One grid in 2024 after "hitting pause" for 2023.

    • The 33-year-old Australian driver, an eight-time race winner, came to a mutual agreement with McLaren in August to leave the team at the end of the 2022 campaign.

      Ricciardo confirmed that although he couldn't secure a seat for next season, his career in F1 is not over.

      "Certainly the plan is still to be involved in F1," he told the Mirror. "It's kind of like just hitting pause for a little bit, as I see it -- and let's say as far as my F1 career goes the full intention is (to be driving) for '24."

      Ricciardo enters this Sunday's United States Grand Prix in Austin, Texas, in 12th place in the driver standings.

      His most recent win came at the Italian Grand Prix in September 2021.

      --Field Level Media

  • Ty Dillon joining Corey LaJoie at Spire Motorsports
    By Field Level Media / Tuesday, October 18, 2022

    Ty Dillon is joining Corey LaJoie as full-time drivers for Spire Motorsports in the NASCAR Cup Series in 2023.

    • The team announced its driver lineup on Tuesday.

      Dillon will pilot the No. 77 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 and LaJoie will remain behind the wheel of the No. 7 car.

      Dillon, 30, is driving the No. 42 Chevy for Petty GMS Motorsports this season. He has seven career top-10 finishes in 184 Cup Series starts.

      LaJoie, 31, joined the Spire stable in 2021 and has five career top-10 finishes in 191 Cup Series races.

      --Field Level Media

  • Kurt Busch (concussion) won't race full-time in 2023
    By Field Level Media / Saturday, October 15, 2022

    Driver Kurt Busch announced Saturday that he will miss the rest of this season with a concussion and will not race full-time in the NASCAR Cup Series in 2023.

    • "I know I'm not 100 percent in my ability to go out and race at the top level in the NASCAR Cup Series," Busch wrote on Twitter. "These are the best of the best drivers, and lately, I haven't felt my best."

      Busch, 44, has missed the last 13 races since sustaining his injury at New Hampshire on July 17.

      "The doctors have come to the conclusion that it is best for me to 'shut it down' for this season," Busch wrote. "Even though I have made solid gains since I have been working with top specialists ... I'm still not 100 percent and I'm still not cleared to compete.

      "As I continue to focus on my health and work towards being cleared, I will be stepping away from full-time NASCAR Cup Series competition in 2023.

      "My long-term health is priority number one, and I don't feel committing at this point to compete for a championship next year is in my best interest or the best interest of the team."

      Busch was the Cup Series champion in 2004 and has won 34 times at NASCAR's highest level, including the 2017 Daytona 500. He also has five wins in the Xfinity Series and four in the Camping World Truck Series.

      Tyler Reddick will replace Busch in the No. 45 Toyota for 23X1 Racing next season, but Busch said he still hopes to race again.

      "Next year my contributions to racing may look a little different, but I will continue to give my best to this sport," Busch wrote. "And, if I'm cleared, maybe you'll see me at select races."

      Busch competed in 776 Cup Series races from 2000-22. His most recent win came at Kansas on May 15.

      The Las Vegas native is the older brother of two-time Cup Series champion Kyle Busch.

      --Field Level Media

  • Blake Harris named Alex Bowman's crew chief for 2023
    By Field Level Media / Friday, October 14, 2022

    Blake Harris will be the crew chief for Alex Bowman and the No. 48 Ally Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 team in 2023.

    • Hendrick Motorsports made the announcement Friday.

      Harris, 35, will replace Greg Ives, who announced in August that he was stepping down from the position at the end of the season.

      Harris has spent the 2022 NASCAR Cup Series season as the crew chief for Michael McDowell, who set a career high with 12 top-10 finishes through 32 starts.

      "Blake brings a tremendous amount of talent to our organization," said Jeff Andrews, president and general manager of Hendrick Motorsports. "In our conversations, it quickly became clear that he's an excellent culture fit and believes in the way we approach competing and winning.

      "He and Alex have already developed a relationship, so we're excited to see how they grow together. Greg has assembled a winning team, and we believe Blake is the perfect person to continue that work."

      Harris, who will join Hendrick Motorsports in mid-November, previously worked as the car chief for drivers Kurt Busch (2013) and Martin Truex Jr. (2014-18).

      --Field Level Media

  • JR Motorsports re-sign Justin Allgaier for 2023
    By Field Level Media / Thursday, October 13, 2022

    JR Motorsports announced Thursday that driver Justin Allgaier will return for the 2023 NASCAR Xfinity Series season.

    • Allgaier, 36, has recorded 16 of his 19 career Xfinity wins since joining the Dale Earnhardt Jr.-owned team in 2016.

      He has three wins this season and ranks fourth among the eight title-eligible drivers remaining in the Xfinity Series Playoffs.

      "I'm honored to have the opportunity to continue to drive this No. 7 Chevrolet ... and compete for race wins and championships year after year," Allgaier said. "The goals have remained the same for us, and we feel confident that they will come to fruition."

      JRM also announced that BRANDT Professional Agriculture will return as a primary sponsor for 20 races in 2023.

      --Field Level Media

  • Daniel Ricciardo will focus on 2024 for full-time ride
    By Field Level Media / Saturday, October 8, 2022

    Australia's Daniel Ricciardo said Saturday that he will not have a full-time seat for the 2023 Formula One season and will focus his efforts on landing a ride for 2024.

    • Ricciardo, who made his F1 debut in 2011 and has eight Grand Prix victories, was signed to a two-year deal with McLaren that ran through 2023, before the final year of his contract was terminated in August by what was labeled as a "mutual agreement."

      Ricciardo, 33, came to terms with his fate for 2023 after vacant seats started to fill. Pierre Gasly moved from AlphaTauri to Alpine, with Nyck De Vries filling Gasly's vacant seat. Just two vacant seats remain for 2023 with Ricciardo not rumored to be in line for either one.

      "To be honest, the Gasly news I was aware of, I knew they were talking for a while and I knew though they were very interested in Pierre," Ricciardo said, according to The Telegraph. "Let's say I was prepared for that and no surprise, so we were trying to, let's say, navigate our way around that and figure out what was next."

      Ricciardo could end up in the United States on the IndyCar circuit, or he could end up with Mercedes as an F1 reserve driver.

      "Certainly the plan is still to be involved in F1," Ricciardo said. "It's kind of like just hitting pause for a little bit as I see it. And let's say, as far as my F1 career goes, the full intention is (to be driving) for '24."

      --Field Level Media

  • Report: Pierre Gasly joining Alpine's F1 team
    By Field Level Media / Friday, October 7, 2022

    French driver Pierre Gasly reportedly is set to join the BWT Alpine F1 team for next season.

    • Gasly, 26, currently competes for AlphaTauri and has one career Formula 1 win at the 2020 Italian Grand Prix.

      Italian journalist Fabrizio Romano tweeted Friday that an official announcement is imminent.

      Gasly would replace two-time world champion Fernando Alonso, who is moving to Aston Martin in 2023.

      Oscar Piastri had been in line to take Alonso's seat before opting to sign with McLaren.

      --Field Level Media

  • AJ Allmendinger returning to full-time Cup Series duty in '23
    By Field Level Media / Wednesday, October 5, 2022

    AJ Allmendinger will return to the NASCAR Cup Series on a full-time basis in 2023, Kaulig Racing announced Wednesday.

    • Allmendinger, 40, initially retired from full-time NASCAR Cup Series competition in 2018 before returning to the NASCAR Xfinity Series for five races the following year. He will team alongside Justin Haley in the two-car Cup Series effort and drive the No. 16 Chevrolet.

      "When I first went to Kaulig Racing to compete part-time in 2019 and 2020, I remember how I felt on the weekends that I wasn't racing and how much I missed it," Allmendinger said. "Competing full-time is a mentally tough battle at times. No matter how much work you put in as a driver, there's a chance you will not achieve success. For a while, I think I lost that competitive drive to be the best. Kaulig Racing helped me find that again. I now feel more competitive than ever and believe there is more success to be earned as a team."

      Allmendinger won the Xfinity Series' Sparks 300 at Talladega Superspeedway on Saturday.

      He has recorded one runner-up finish and five top-10 finishes in 13 starts in the 2022 NASCAR Cup Series.

      He is slated to compete Sunday at the Charlotte ROVAL for his final NASCAR Cup Series race of the 2022 season.

      "I first called AJ in 2019 to ask if he would run a couple Xfinity Series races for us," said Chris Rice, president of Kaulig Racing. "He agreed to do five, and he was disqualified in the first two races. Although it was two, tough results, AJ saw what we were trying to build here at Kaulig Racing, and better yet, he believed in what we were building. After the success we've had together since then, we think the next step is for him to help us do the same with our young, Cup Series team."

      --Field Level Media

  • Mercedes boss: Lewis Hamilton has five more years in F1
    By Field Level Media / Tuesday, October 4, 2022

    Lewis Hamilton will race five more years and chase an eighth Formula One world championship, according to Mercedes boss Toto Wolff.

    • Hamilton, 37, signed a two-year extension at the start of the 2022 season.

      The British driver has a record 103 career wins but none since December 2021 in Saudi Arabia. His seven F1 titles are tied for the most all time with Michael Schumacher.

      "I am absolutely certain that Lewis can win the eighth world title with us," Wolff told reporters Tuesday.

      "He is not going to go elsewhere, and if we can provide a car that is competitive and he can fight for wins, he is going to win more titles. For him, retirement is still far away. But he asks himself, ‘Am I still happy with my performances?' And once he comes to the conclusion that he is not, he will be the first one to say that is it."

      Wolff said he has "no doubt" about extending Hamilton's contract past 2023.

      "Just last week we sat down and (Hamilton) says, ‘Look, I have another five years in me, how do you see that?'" Wolff said.

      Hamilton ranks sixth in the current F1 standings with 170 points. Red Bull Racing's Max Verstappen leads the pack with 341 points.

      --Field Level Media

  • Notebook: Christopher Bell squeezes by Kyle Larson for the pole at Talladega
    By Field Level Media / Saturday, October 1, 2022

    TALLADEGA, Ala. -- Christopher Bell won the Busch Light Pole for Sunday's YellaWood 500 at Talladega (Ala.) Superspeedway (2 p.m. ET, NBC, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio) with a lap of 180.591 mph around the 2.66-mile oval on Saturday -- a mere .075-mph faster than Chevrolet's Kyle Larson -- putting the NASCAR Cup Series championship contenders out front in the fifth Playoff race, second of this round.

    • It's the series-best fourth pole of the season for Bell, 27, driver of the No. 20 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota -- and his second at Talladega -- matching his Spring pole position. The New Hampshire race winner has scored top five finishes in three of the four Playoff races, suffering a 34th-place finish last week at Texas.

      At this stage in the Playoffs and sitting 11th in points (the Top-8 advance to the next round) Bell said earning the pole position is mostly a help in gaining invaluable stage points.

      "You can go to the back to the front and the front to the back a handful of times before they pay points at lap 60," Bell said. "I think winning the pole is a great testament to the team but really will have no effect on winning the race tomorrow."

      Bell's JGR teammate and fellow championship contender Denny Hamlin will start third, alongside Stewart-Haas Racing's Aric Almirola, the 2018 winner of this race. Almirola's teammate Chase Briscoe and Trackhouse Racing's Ross Chastain -- both Playoff drivers -- make up the third row. Chastain won at Talladega in April.

      NASCAR Xfinity Series championship leader Noah Gragson, who is filling in for driver Alex Bowman in the No. 48 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet, qualified an impressive seventh. Bowman is sitting out this event after suffering concussion-like symptoms last Sunday in the Texas race. William Byron, will start ninth, the last Playoff contender among the Top-10 on the starting grid.

      Defending race winner Bubba Wallace will start his No. 23 23XI Racing Toyota 27th on the 37-car grid.

      BOWMAN SIDELINED THIS WEEK

      Hendrick Motorsports driver Alex Bowman announced on Thursday he will not be competing this weekend after experiencing concussion-like symptoms during the week. He crashed his No. 48 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet during last week's Playoff race at Texas Motor Speedway but repairs were made and he returned to competition ultimately finishing 29th.

      Although Bowman's absence this week removes him from NASCAR Cup Series Playoff contention in terms of the driver championship, his car will continue on toward the owner's championship. NASCAR Xfinity Series championship leader Noah Gragson will drive the No. 48 this week at Talladega. Bowman's crew chief Greg Ives said he expected that Bowman would be back in the car in the near future.

      Ives, a long-time Hendrick Motorsports crew chief, mentioned a couple of areas that immediately occurred to him in terms of safety improvements -- from work on the rear of the cars to modifying the drivers compartment to lessen the head movement.

      "We can't just knee-jerk react to it, but we have to react, and try to implement something as calculated as much as you can," Ives said. "There are small things we can do (soon). I think you just have to put focus and emphasis on one thing (at a time) and try to get that right."

      On Wednesday of next week, NASCAR is holding a crash test at a facility in Ohio to further develop the car.

      A NASCAR spokesman said Saturday that the sanctioning body has been hard at work on evolving the rear clip and bumper structure since early season. And if the test this week goes as expected, there will be modifications made to the car for the 2023 season.

      Stewart-Haas Racing driver Chase Briscoe acknowledged the safety issues are always on the minds of drivers -- that it is the nature of the sport. But he was confident in NASCAR's efforts.

      "Having more people work on this, the better it is," Briscoe said.

      THE BYRON-HAMLIN FALLOUT

      Byron, who will start the No. 24 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet ninth on Sunday, spoke about the penalty he and his team have been issued following an incident in the Texas race last week.

      Byron and his team were issued a 25-point penalty for what NASCAR deemed aggressive driving during a caution period at Texas, however the team is appealing the penalty. The incident involved contact between Byron's Chevy and Hamlin's No. 11 Toyota, which resulted in Hamlin spinning out during the race. He returned to finish 10th and Byron finished seventh.

      They were both running top 3 at the time of the run-in, however, and were racing each other hard for position. Byron took exception to Hamlin running him wide -- resulting in Byron's car brushing the wall. Byron retaliated by bumping the back of Hamlin's car during a yellow flag (thrown for an unrelated incident). The bump -- which Byron insists was not meant to actually spin out Hamlin -- effectively ended Hamlin's shot at the Texas trophy, according to Hamlin.

      "I guess it was a little bit different than what I expected," Byron said of the penalty. "I will let the appeal process take care of that. We accept it for this weekend and move on and look at it like any other weekend."

      Byron said the team compiled a "list of evidence" -- with video angles and information, he hopes will at the very least lessen the penalty. And he noted, there was no penalty issued to Joey Logano, who ran Byron high (and into the wall) while racing for the victory during the final laps of the Spring Darlington race this year.

      "My intent was never to spin him under caution," Byron said. "I meant to go up there and bump him like I've seen numerous people do, even during that race. There's a difference in intent there for sure."

      Byron called it "a little bit weird" that NASCAR issued the penalty post-race, but insisted, "We just take what we're given. We're glad to be on this stage, glad to be in the Playoffs still have an opportunity to win the next two weeks and we're not really that far out. But with the severity of the penalty, that's what we were opposed to. That's what the appeal's about, the severity of the penalty."

      For his part, Hamlin agreed the penalty was too late -- for different reasons.

      "It didn't help my finish," Hamlin said. "It didn't change the fact I could have won the race and instead finished 10th so you have to account for those points too."

      INSPECTION WOES

      On Tuesday, Byron received that 25-point driver and 25-point team penalty for aggressive driving during a caution period in last Sunday's race at Texas Motor Speedway. And Friday at Talladega, Byron's No. 24 Hendrick Motorsports team failed pre-race inspection twice -- resulting in the ejection of car chief Tyler Jones and the loss of pit stall selection for Sunday's race.

      Both Kaulig Racing team cars -- the No. 16 driven by Daniel Hemric and the No. 31 driven by Justin Haley -- also failed pre-race inspection losing their respective car chiefs and the choice of a pit stall.

      --By Holly Cain, NASCAR Wire Service. Special to Field Level Media.