• 52°

Cup chase more about a win than points now; Burton wins Xfinity race

By Stephen Hawkins

AP Sports Writer

FORT WORTH, Texas — Chase Elliott insists he has worried less about the points situation during this NASCAR season than ever before, and that might just be the right approach for those Cup drivers still with championship hopes.

Elliott will start today at Texas just below the cutoff line for the top four that will race for the title next month, even though he currently has the fourth-most points.

“It’s not that I don’t care,” Elliott said. “It does matter, but I just think the more that you understand that winning is paramount and that’s the only guarantee that moves you on.”

Like Joey Logano did last weekend at Kansas to start the final three-race playoff round, holding off Kevin Harvick for the final 40-plus laps to get a victory that took him from outside the top four to knowing he will get to race for the title Nov. 8 at Phoenix.

Of the remaining seven playoff contenders, nine-time 2020 winner Harvick is in the best spot, leading by 21 points over Denny Hamlin, 33 over Brad Keselowski and 41 over Elliott. Alex Bowman, Martin Truex Jr. and Kurt Busch, the rest of the top eight, likely have to win at Texas or Martinsville for a championship shot.

“You count points as a second move, as your backup plan, just because of the fact the thing that you can control the most of moving forward is to win the race,” Harvick said. “I think our team believes in that, and I think you have to race to win and then see where it all falls in the end. That’s what we do on a week-to-week basis and I think that mindset has really just not changed the way we that we talk about things.”

Harvick has won the last three fall races at Texas, which like Kansas is a 1 1/2-mile track but has a much different configuration, and starts on the pole today. Logano is also on the front row, ahead of Keselowski and Elliott.

It’s the 36th start at Texas for Harvick and Kurt Busch, the most at the track that is hosting its 40th Cup race since 1997.

Burton wins, keeps Gragson out of Xfinity title round

FORT WORTH, Texas (AP) — Harrison Burton stormed past Noah Gragson in the final turn Saturday at Texas Motor Speedway to win the Xfinity Series race and deny Gragson a spot in the championship round.

Gragson was one turn away from earning an automatic berth into the title-deciding finale but instead had to settle for a second-place finish. Gragson entered the race last in the playoff rankings, 33 points below the cutline and needing a victory to advance.

Burton won for the third time this season in a Toyota for Joe Gibbs Racing but was eliminated from title contention in the first round.

“That’s what we came to do, to be fast and to do what we did on that last lap was incredible,” Burton said.

It was another chapter between a pair of drivers who have had conflict this season, including a scuffle post-race at Kentucky in July in which punches were thrown.

Chase Briscoe is the only driver locked into the finale at Phoenix next month. The remaining slots will be decided in next week’s elimination race at Martinsville Speedway in Virginia.

“I felt like we had a fast car there and just frustrated at myself,” Gragson said. “Make or break your season right there, and just gave it away.”

Gragson remains 24 points below the cutline and his frustration was evident when he used profanity in a live NBC Sports Network interview.

Austin Cindric, a five-race winner this season, is second in the standings and followed by Justin Allgaier and Justin Haley.

Brandon Jones, Ross Chastain, Gragson and Ryan Sieg are all in danger of elimination at Martinsville.

Jones and Allgaier crashed out of the race in a late incident with Chastain, and Allgaier took aim at Chastain’s driving after.

“He just decides to hang a left because he’s aggravated and he wrecks the whole field,” Allgaier said. “Ross is pretty two-faced and says a lot of things outside the race car and then drives like this on the race track sometimes and it’s pretty disappointing.”

Chastain, who is being promoted to Cup next season with Chip Ganassi Racing, took full responsibility for the crash.

“It’s my fault,” he said. “I don’t deserve what I have in front of me. I don’t deserve to drive this racecar. To make those mistakes — absolutely unacceptable.”

Comments

Local

Rowan’s Sen. Ford ‘honored’ to be chosen as joint caucus leader

Local

City council approves six road repaving projects, encourages input on development priorities

Business

State names Rowan among most economically distressed counties

High School

High school volleyball: South Rowan wins another CCC match

Education

Catawba College’s Service of Lessons and Carols moves virtual

Local

Spencer’s Park Plaza financing gets OK from state’s Local Government Commission

Education

Kannapolis City Schools to hold public hearing on construction equity policy

Local

Drivers identified in I-85 double vehicle crash, fire

Local

Driver cited in two-vehicle Mooresville Road collision

Crime

Tractor stolen from Ritchie Road

Coronavirus

North Carolina Rep. Ted Budd tests positive for COVID-19

Crime

Blotter: Vehicles broken into overnight at Marriott, Comfort Suites hotels

Coronavirus

County reports two new COVID-19 deaths, two weeks of 50-case daily increases

Local

Red wolves have been busy growing up at Dan Nicholas Park

Local

Salisbury City Council to consider contract for street paving

Education

Catawba College honors employees for length of service

High School

High school football: Clay hopes for big senior season

Local

Helen, Ralph Brown contribute to Christmas Happiness to help people in need

Cleveland

Cleveland Police charge woman with attempted murder after Sunday night shooting

Coronavirus

COVID-19 cases in Rowan continue to surge after 50 new cases added; 19% of total cases active

Local

Salisbury Police investigating accidental shooting at apartment building

Crime

Blotter: Salisbury man arrested on felony counts of trafficking

Local

Motorcyclist airlifted following wreck on Jake Alexander Boulevard Sunday

Elections

Political Notebook: Senate Republicans disagree with Cooper administration halting CARES Act spending