Saturday's auto racing roundup: Tension rising as playoffs approach – Press Herald


BROOKLYN, Mich. — NASCAR Cup Series drivers are pushing limits on the track and pointing fingers off it as tensions rise with just four races left before the playoffs.

Kyle Busch, William Byron and Bubba Wallace were summoned to the NASCAR hauler at Michigan International Speedway to talk with officials after they sparred last weekend at Watkins Glen.

Scott Miller, NASCAR’s senior vice president of competition, said he had conversations with Jimmie Johnson and Ryan Blaney about their on- and off-the-track feud that has lasted nearly a week. Miller said he didn’t attempt to bring Johnson and Blaney together to hash out their differences.

“I think they’re man enough to sort that one out between themselves,” Miller said in an interview with The Associated Press on Saturday. “The other stuff with the other drivers kind of escalated a little bit to more retaliation.”

It doesn’t appear that any of the recent spats will lead to harsh penalties unless they escalate out of control.

Johnson wants Blaney to apologize for making contact from behind going into a turn, leading to him spin out. Blaney insisted he’s not going to say sorry and NASCAR officials seem to be on his side.

“That one, to us, was completely a racing incident,” Miller told the AP. “I think they both think something different about that.”

Brad Keselowski won the pole and will start Sunday in front of Kevin Harvick, Byron, Alex Bowman, Clint Bowyer and Chase Elliott in the Consumers Energy 400.

Busch, the points leader, will begin 24th in the 38-car field.

Johnson qualified 12th and is desperately hoping to be in the 16-driver playoffs. The seven-time champion is tied with Ryan Newman for the 16th and final spot in the playoffs. Since the series created the postseason format 15 years ago, Johnson has earned a spot each time.

XFINITY: Austin Cindric raced to his second straight victory, holding off Christopher Bell at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course in Lexington, Ohio.

Cindric, 20, won last week on the road course at Watkins Glen.

Driving the Team Penske No. 22 Ford, Cindric finished 3.780 seconds ahead of Bell’s Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota. A.J. Allmendinger, driving a Chevy for the northeast-Ohio based Kaulig Racing, was 10.290 seconds behind in third.

Points leader Tyler Reddick of Richard Childress Racing was fourth. His lead is 28 points over Bell.

Cindric, the pole-sitter for a second straight year, took the lead from Chase Briscoe on Lap 63 in the second turn, or keyhole, with an outside move. Cindric led 47 of the 75 laps on the 13-turn, 2.258-mile course.

TRUCKS: Austin Hill won for the second time this year, holding off Sheldon Creed at Michigan International Speedway.

The playoffs begin Thursday at Bristol Motor Speedway, with Brett Moffitt, Grant Enfinger, Stewart Friesen, Ross Chastain, Hill, Johnny Sauter, Tyler Ankrum and Matt Crafton.

Creed needed a win to qualify for the playoffs, but he finished .125 seconds behind Hill. That allowed Crafton, a two-time series champion, to take the eighth and final playoff spot based on points.

Enfinger sealed the regular-season championship with a seventh-place finish.


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