Major battle for playoffs

It is almost Championship weekend for all of NASCAR! There was an event that took place after the race in Texas that definitely added drama to the countdown toward the Playoffs.

After the deadline for publishing my column it was announced that Kevin Harvick would have his guaranteed starting spot taken away, plus the loss of his crew chief and was docked 40 championship points for both owner and driver and fined $70,000! This was due to the team using an in- house built spoiler on the rear of his Freaky Fast Jimmy Johns Ford instead of the approved standard NASCAR manufactured part.

The part was designed to move it .200 of an inch off center, which would aid the downforce of the part. We are talking roughly the width of a typical old yellow lead pencil or slightly less than a quarter of an inch. The team admitted the infraction and went to Phoenix to race for the Playoffs. There will be more on the ‘Drama in the Desert’ in a moment.

First I want to remind everyone of the 2018 Elkins Raceway Awards Ceremony coming up Dec. 8 at the Beverly Fire Hall in Beverly.

Doors will open at 5:30 p.m. for social hour until 6:45 p.m. with the awards to be given out following. Please contact Jim or Connie Skidmore at 304-636-8661 or Jeff Skidmore 304-636-4534 to reserve your tickets and seating at this wonderful event. Tickets are $25 and must be purchased in advance. There will be no tickets sold at the door.

There is always a wonderful meal served and it’s a great time to be able to meet and talk to your favorite drivers and teams without the pressures of competition at the track. Due to pre-event planning for the meal and seating charts the deadline to purchase tickets is Nov 30. Hope to see you there, it is always a very special evening!

Now let’s talk about Phoenix and the Final Four Playoff fields in each division. The Camping World Truck series was up first last Friday evening.

Brett Moffitt took the first stage win with rookie Harrison Burton son of Cup star Jeff Burton taking the second valuable stage win. The race wound down and it was Brett Moffitt taking the race win and a lock into the Playoffs next weekend at the Homestead Miami Speedway in Florida.

Noah Gragson finished second and will race for the Championship also. Harrison Burton did a great job finishing third. Grant Enfinger’s fourth place finish was not quite enough to get him into the Playoffs but this driver and team can be proud of their efforts. Stewart Friesen finished fifth.

Those racing for the Championship in Florida will be Brett Moffitt, Noah Gragson, Johnny Sauter, and Justin Hayley. Enfinger and veteran Matt Crafton were eliminated in Phoenix. They will take the green tied for first place.

On Saturday evening the Xfinity drivers took to the tricky track at Phoenix. Justin Allgaier needed to win the race to transfer to the Playoffs and started off strong, sweeping both stages. In the final run though his championship hope slipped away as problems arose for him. A blown right front tire took him into the outside wall and out of contention.

The race finished up with Christopher Bell taking the victory and a Playoff berth. Daniel Hemric raced his way to second place and also a chance to battle it out for the title. Matt Tifft finished third and just missed a shot at the title next week. Austin Cindric also needed a great run to transfer but came up short finishing fourth. Ryan Preece rounded out the top five.

Next Saturday at Homestead Cole Custer, Christopher Bell, Tyler Reddick and Daniel Hemric will race for the Championship. Four drivers saw their championship hopes end at Phoenix. Allgaier, Tifft, Cindric, along with retiring veteran Elliott Sadler, missed the final cut. It should be an exciting race for the Championship with no real clear cut favorite.

The Monster Energy NASCAR Cup series had three playoff openings at stake and with the Harvick penalty everything was really anybody’s chance to shine. Harvick was the pole sitter and set out to prove he was going to a threat to win the race. He pulled away from the field and appeared to be headed to the first stage win easily.

A blown right front tire with a few laps remaining in the stage derailed a great run and put him two laps down. Chase Elliott grabbed that first stage win. Kyle Busch moved to the front and took stage two.

The field was tightened by a couple of late race spins and cautions and a brief red flag when Alex Bowman’s car erupted in flames after developing an oil leak ending his day. He was unhurt.

Kurt Busch was crashed from the lead and a shot at the Playoffs by a bonsai move by Denny Hamlin. Kurt was very professional in his interview but had to be fuming on the inside with that turn of events.

Kyle Busch took the late lead and if Aric Almirola could have won the race he would have bumped his teammate Harvick from the Playoffs. Aric raced as high as second in the closing laps but slipped back at the finish.

Kyle Busch went on to grab the race win and a shot at the Playoffs. Brad Keselowski was closing fast but came up a few laps short finishing second. Kyle Larson had a strong run and finished third. Almirola finished fourth in the former Danica Patrick SHR Ford and had a true shot at a Playoff berth. This was a great job for this team!

Kevin Harvick battled back and finished on the lead lap in fifth and due to other people’s misfortune will race for the Championship in Florida.

The MENCs final four will be Joey Logano, Kyle Busch, Martin Truex Jr, and Kevin Harvick. Those eliminated at Phoenix were Kurt Busch, Aric Almirola, Chase Elliott, and Clint Bowyer.

This final Playoff championship race should be a battle right down to the wire and remember, at the end of the straightaway there’s another left turn! I’ll have all the details next week right here.

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