Winless wonders: Ryan Newman, Matt Kenseth break into Eliminator Round

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Winning gives you the biggest payoff in the Chase for the Sprint Cup. But consistency still grants a tidy sum.

Ryan Newman and Matt Kenseth are proof of the latter. Despite them not being able to capture a checkered flag, they’re among the last eight drivers standing in the Eliminator Round.

However, they both came very close to a victory this afternoon in the Contender Round finale at Talladega Superspeedway.

On the second green-white-checkered attempt, Newman rode a big run on the outside line to pull up alongside Keselowski for much of the final lap. But help from behind on the inside enabled Keselowski and Kenseth to seize control in the end.

Kenseth wound up second at the finish, while Newman held on for a Top-5 result in fifth. But while a win eluded their grasp, they easily made the Eliminator cut.

Newman advances with the biggest points cushion among Chasers without a win, a gap of 27 points over the cutoff. Two spots down the Chase Grid in sixth was Kenseth, who ended the Contender Round nine points to the good.

“It was a great result in the end, I guess, to make it to the next [round],” Newman told ESPN. “I think to me, the next three races are the most important to win. We’ve been knocking on the door in the last three, so we’ll just keep digging.

“I don’t know how to answer any questions about that last restart. I don’t know if I could’ve done anything better. Obviously, I could’ve done things worse. But it was just the way things line up. Happy to stay in the Top-5 in the last couple of laps.”

As he touched on, Newman’s fifth-place result capped a solid Contender Round for him that also had results of sixth at Kansas and seventh at Charlotte one week ago.

Meanwhile, Kenseth once again came through in an elimination race this post-season. In the Challenger Round finale at Dover, he finished eighth to ensure his advance to the Chase’s second round.

Finishes of 13th at Kansas and 19th at Charlotte put him one point behind the cutoff going into today. But the runner-up result at ‘Dega allowed him to pick up a total 10 points in the positive direction.

Kenseth, like Keselowski, also had to start from the back in today’s race, too; in his case, it was due to an engine change.

“We kind of just hung back there waiting around for the big wreck – there was a bunch of small ones, never a big one,” Kenseth said about his afternoon. “One time in the middle of the race, I tried to get up front. I didn’t feel like I had enough strength to hang in the top five or six, which was safe.

“Once we got shuffled back far enough, we tried to be as close to the pack as we could for that last pit stop. I knew [crew chief] Jason [Ratcliffe] and The Home Depot guys would have a good strategy, great stop. Weren’t there very long. Gained a chunk of the track position back and then the caution fell when we were leaving pit road.

“That put us up in 12th or something. Had a couple good restarts, kind of in the right place at the right time, got a good finish.”

Kenseth will have some backup for the Eliminator Round as Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Denny Hamlin also made the cut with a 10-point cushion, good for fifth on the Chase Grid. Hamlin finished 18th in today’s race.

“Hate lagging in the back, but couldn’t afford to have what happened to the 18 [Kyle Busch] happen to us and take our chances out,” Hamlin said. “Still proud of our effort and happy that we made it.”

Roush Fenway Racing also had its sole remaining Chase contender, Carl Edwards, move on as well with a 21st-place finish.

“We knew we couldn’t wreck and it ended up playing out exactly like we planned,” Edwards said. “We stayed out of the wrecks and made it in, but that was nerve-wracking.”

30 Seconds to Know: How does the Chase Eliminator round work?

Travis Pastrana leads flag-to-flag in Nitro Rallycross as the series returns to America

Pastrana Nitro Rallycross
Barry Chin / Getty Images
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Travis Pastrana waited until the final trip around ERX Motor Park to take his Joker Lap – a longer way around the course that all drivers must do at least once in a race – and came out cleanly to win his first Nitro Rallycross race of 2022. With this win, Pastrana is the third driver to visit Victory Lane in the first three rounds of the 2022-23 season.

“This is the closest to a motocross track,” Pastrana told Katie Osborne on Peacock. “Thank you so much for a beautiful facility. It’s been a rough start to the season and I’m so thankful to be back out here. We had a good run in the side-by-side and now for this. This is much needed.”

Another thing needed was the sense of improvement. And Pastrana earned that affirmation each time he completed a lap around the course.

“I get my lap times read out and they said ‘fastest time of the week,’ ‘fastest time of the week’ (each time around) ” Pastrana said. “This is really special. We’re a long way behind in the championship, but welcome to America.”

In a pre-race press conference, Pastrana said that as Nitro Rallycross heads back to America, it was time for an American to win and he made good on his promise. Pastrana took the early lead over Robin Larsson and let the back of his Subaru hang out, taking risks he might not otherwise take if not for his need to win.

How to Watch Nitro Rallycross

Larsson’s second-place finish completed a perfect sweep of the podium in three rounds. In fact, he has not yet finished worse than second after winning the opening round at Lydden Hill in the United Kingdom and finishing second at Strangnas in Sweeden.

Fraser McConnel rounded out the podium for his best result of the season. He finished fourth in each of the first two rounds.

Last year, Pastrana finished second in this race to Scott Speed before narrowly edging his teammate for the championship.

Andreas Bakkerud crashed in prelims, but rebounded to finish just off the block in fourth. Bakkerud won the second round ahead of his teammate Larsson.

Oliver Bennett completed the top five.

Minneapolis is the first of three rounds scheduled in the United States. Next on the schedule is Glen Helen, Calif. on Octo 30 and then Phoenix at Wild Horse Pass on November 12th. Nitro Rallycross will then head to Saudi Arabia in December to continue their 2022-23 season.