Nashville Superspeedway, Lebanon, TN — June 20, 2021
The NASCAR Cup Series makes its first visit to Nashville Superspeedway for the Ally 400. The 1 1/3-mile concrete D-shaped oval has hosted the NASCAR Xfinity Series and NASCAR Camping World Truck races in the past, but this is the first time the premier cars and drivers in the sport have made an appearance.
A total of 300 laps make up the distance to be run (399 miles) with Stages set for 90/95/115 laps. The fuel range is 65-70 laps. The superspeedway is the longest all-concrete track on the circuit. Cup drivers have posted wins at the track in the other two national series.
- Kyle Busch (NXS one win: 2009; NCWTS two wins: 2010, 2011)
- Kevin Harvick (NXS two wins: 2006, 2010)
- Brad Keselowski (NXS two wins: 2008, 2010)
- Austin Dillon (NCWTS one win: 2011)
- Joey Logano (NXS one win: 2009)
Additionally, eight drivers are entered this weekend with previous NASCAR national series starts at Nashville, but without a win. They are Aric Almirola, Matt DiBenedetto, Denny Hamlin, 2021 Daytona 500 winner Michael McDowell, David Starr, Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Martin Truex Jr., and JJ Yeley.
Kyle Larson is Red Hot
Hendrick Motorsport’s driver Kyle Larson has been performing lights out lately winning the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway three weeks ago, then conquering the hilly road course of Sonoma Raceway two weeks ago, and finally capturing his second career NASCAR All-Star Race win at Texas Motor Speedway last weekend.
The 28-year-old is looking to get his third straight points-paying race win this weekend at Nashville Superspeedway to become just the fifth different active driver to accomplish the feat; joining Kyle Busch, Kevin Harvick, Brad Keselowski, and Joey Logano.
With only 10 races left in the regular season, time is running short for the drivers not already locked into the NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs. Roush Fenway Racing’s Chris Buescher, in the 16th and final transfer position to the postseason, has opened up a sizeable points cushion (+60 points) over Wood Brothers Racing’s Matt DiBenedetto in 17th.
With such a large points deficit between drivers in the top 16 and those not, a win might be the only way a driver on the outside looking in can make the Playoffs with so few races left in the regular season.
Of the drivers outside the current top 16 driver Playoff outlook, six are former NASCAR Cup Series race winners – Kurt Busch (18th in points), Ricky Stenhouse Jr. (19th), Ryan Newman (23rd), Erik Jones (25th), Cole Custer (27th) and Aric Almirola (28th). Can one of these drivers lock themselves in with a victory in today’s event?
William Byron(24), Erik Jones(43), and Quin Houff(00) start from the rear of the field after making unapproved adjustments. With practice and qualifying this weekend, Almirola sits on the pole and Kyle Busch(18) starts next to him.
Houff lost control heading into the 1st turn and hit the wall, the right front tire came off the race car and the yellow flag displayed before a lap could be completed. Kyle Busch was out front when the caution happened, he and Almirola will swap positions as they lead the field back to green.
On the restart, Kyle Larson(5) drove between the front two cars making it three-wide for the lead. The winner of the last two Cup Series points races immediately began building an interval on the remainder of the 39 starters.
NASCAR applied a rosin compound to the track in the corners to improve handling. However, the opening laps were highlighted by loose conditions and several drivers flirting with the outside wall.
Green flag pit stops began early, on lap 40, as most teams opted to split the first Stage in half to make adjustments and check tire wear. Both Kyle Busch and Larson pitted on Lap 45, while they were in for service Tyler Reddick(8) spun exiting the pits and the yellow came out again. Busch beat Larson off pit road, but the field was scrambled as the pit cycle had not been completed.
A number of drivers that pitted early were caught a lap down, most took the wave around to get back on the lead lap instead of making another stop. When the race resumed Kyle Busch was back out front, Larson, Joey Logano(22), Chase Elliott(22), and Kurt Busch(1) were the Top 5. A lap later Larson made the pass for the lead.
Ryan Blaney(12) lost the brakes on his car and drove hard into the Turn 1 wall. The impact destroyed the right front of the Team Penske Ford Mustang. Fortunately, Blaney climbed out of the machine under his own power.
Larson maintained his lead when the race restarted with 29 laps to go in Stage 1. Kyle Busch began losing positions as his car developed a handling problem after going back to green flag racing.
Justin Haley(77) had a rotor come apart on Lap 77, as cars continue to experience brake issues. Chris Buescher(17) ran over a part of the debris from Haley’s car and cut down the right front tire. Both cars impacted the Turn 2 wall with heavy damage. The incident will be especially costly for Buescher who entered the race on the playoff bubble and will lose valuable points as a result of the crash.
Some of the leaders choose to pit, with just a few laps left in the stage others stayed on the track to gain positions. Elliott, Kurt Busch, Erik Jones(43), Daniel Suarez(99), and Brad Keselowski(2) led the field back to green with 5 laps to go in the Stage.
Larson stopped for fresh tires and restarted in 8th. Elliott won the Stage and Kurt Busch held onto the 2nd spot on old tires. Larson worked his way up to 3rd and drivers with new Goodyears quickly filled spots in the top 10.
Stage 1 Results
|7||47||Ricky Stenhouse Jr.||4|
*Ford Mustang Drivers
Larson and Kyle Busch were back out front after the rest of the field, that did not stop on the late caution, pitted at the end of the Stage. Again, Larson began to pull away from the pack as Kyle Busch was losing positions.
As green-flag pit stops were approaching near the halfway point of Stage 2, Bubba Wallace(23) ran over some brake debris on the track and flattened a left rear tire causing him to spin. The caution provided an opportunity for everyone to pit for service under the yellow flag. 5-11-18-47-22
Larson led the race off pit road followed by Denny Hamlin(11), Kyle Busch, Stenhouse, and Logano. Kevin Harvick, sporting one of the great paint jobs of the weekend ran 6th in his Grave Digger sponsored Ford Mustang.
No one appears to have anything that will run with Larson as he builds his interval, lap after lap, during green flag runs. During media interviews on Saturday, Ryan Blaney was asked how you beat Larson or any of Rick Hendrick’s drivers. His response, “Wreck ‘em, I guess!” Blaney won’t be able to do that as he retired early after a wreck of his own. If there is a late-race caution, that may be the only way someone is able to get close enough to the #5 car.
Another late Stage caution occurred when debris on the track caused Cole Custer(41) to cut down a tire. All the leaders choose to pit for fresh tires this time, than the similar situation in Stage 1.
Chase Briscoe(14) and Reddick only took 2 tires on their stops and led coming to the restart with 5 laps to go. Larson, Hamlin, and Elliott followed. Larson immediately drove to the front for the win in Stage 2 as the Hendrick Motorsports domination continues.
Stage 2 Results
|8||47||Ricky Stenhouse Jr.||3|
*Ford Mustang Drivers
The Final Stage
Same story. Larson to the front with a half-second lead over his teammate William Byron(24) just 3 laps into the Final Stage.
One way to defeat Larson might be in a fuel mileage race. Several cautions at the beginning of the Stage gave drivers the chance to refuel. With 42 laps to go, Larson’s crew was telling him he is two laps short on fuel. Another caution might make allow him to finish without another stop.
The leader is the first to encounter things on the track. Larson picked up some paper or plastic debris on the grille of his car and there was a concern that the engine could overheat. The lapped car of JJ Yeley(51) provided enough disturbed air to clear Larson’s grille as he closed up behind Yeley putting the #51 another lap down.
With 6 straight Top 2 finishes, and now 3 consecutive points race wins, and a victory in the All-Star Race, Larson currently seems unbeatable. After leading 264 laps today, this is his most dominating race yet.
Chase Elliott was disqualified for having five loose lug nuts in the post-race inspection at Nashville Superspeedway. Elliott had driven his car to a 13th-place finish in the Ally 400. As a result of the penalty, Elliott’s car was scored in last place. Elliott also lost the Stage 1 win, which went to Kurt Busch instead.
|1||Kyle Larson||675||In Win(4)|
|2||Martin Truex Jr.||541||In Win(3)|
|3||Alex Bowman||469||In Win(2)|
|4||Chase Elliott||629||In Win|
|5||William Byron||605||In Win|
|6||Joey Logano*||577||In Win|
|7||Kyle Busch||558||In Win|
|8||Ryan Blaney*||510||In Win|
|9||Brad Keselowski*||489||In Win|
|10||Christopher Bell||392||In Win|
|11||Michael McDowell*||375||In Win|
|NASCAR Playoffs Cut Line|
|18||Ricky Stenhouse Jr.||347||-45|
*Ford Mustang Drivers
Results of the Ally 400 from Nashville Superspeedway
|6||47||Ricky Stenhouse Jr.||10.416||300|
|23||19||Martin Truex Jr.||-1||299|