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Jun 27, 2024 12:35 pm

Weekend Preview: Nashville Superspeedway

nashville chastain nascar

As the NASCAR Cup Series moves to the Nashville Superspeedway for Sunday’s Ally 400 (3:30 p.m. ET on NBC, PRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio), the competitive vibe in the garage feels distinctively different with only eight more races to decide the 16-driver 2024 Playoff field.

One of those circling the Music City visit on the calendar is defending race winner Ross Chastain, who is still looking for his first win of the season to lock himself into a Playoff position — and do it in front of the team’s hometown crowd.

Chastain won the race on the 1.33-mile Nashville track last year from the pole position — the first pole of his career in the No. 1 Trackhouse Racing Chevrolet. Currently, Chastain is ranked ninth in the regular season points and 12th in the Playoff picture.

“Last year at Nashville was a career highlight for me for sure,” said Chastain, who led a race-best 99 of the 300 laps. “It was one of those weekends that you dream about. We went out and performed really well. … I’m really proud of that and I’ve been trying to put something together like that in a lot of weeks since.”

Chevrolet has won all three of the Nashville Cup Series races — including Hendrick Motorsports drivers Kyle Larson and Chase Elliott in 2021 and 2022, respectively.

Team Penske’s Joey Logano and Joe Gibbs Racing’s Martin Truex Jr. would certainly love to break that Chevrolet monopoly. Logano, driver of the No. 22 Ford, is holding on to that final Playoff points position entering the Nashville race. Both his Penske teammates have already clinched their Playoff berths with wins this season. Two-time series champion Logano has only one top-10 finish — ninth place in 2022 — in three Nashville races.

Logano holds only a slim 13-point advantage over 23XI Racing’s Bubba Wallace for that 16th and final Playoff position. Stewart-Haas Racing’s Chase Briscoe — who on Tuesday formally announced his move to Joe Gibbs Racing next season — is 25 points behind Logano.

Truex, the 2017 NASCAR Cup Series champion, revealed two weeks ago that he would be retiring from fulltime competition at the end of the season. The driver of the No. 19 JGR Toyota is still intent to cap his fulltime career, however, with a win and a championship shot. He finished 22nd at Nashville in 2021 and 2023 and was runner-up to Elliott in 2022.

Larson and Elliott are involved in their own tight competition — tied atop the series championship standings. Joe Gibbs Racing’s Denny Hamlin is third, 40 points back and Truex is fourth, 48 points behind the Hendrick duo.

Ten drivers have already secured Playoff bids with race victories. Larson, Elliott, Hamlin, last week’s New Hampshire winner Christopher Bell and William Byron all have three wins. Elliott, Tyler Reddick, reigning series champion Ryan Blaney, Brad Keselowski, Daniel Suarez and Austin Cindric all have earned a trophy, too.

Practice for the Ally 400 begins at 2 p.m. ET Saturday, followed by Busch Light Pole Qualifying. All the track action will be on USA Network, PRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio.

–Nashville offers great opportunity for Xfinity drivers looking for a Playoff spot

The NASCAR Xfinity Series moves to Nashville Speedway for Saturday’s Tennessee Lottery 250 (5 p.m. ET, USA Network, NBC Sports App, PRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio), another crucial stop with 10 races remaining to the set the 2024 Playoff field.

Justin Allgaier and defending race winner A.J. Allmendinger are the only drivers in Saturday’s field with a previous win at Nashville. While Allgaier has already secured his position in the 2024 Playoffs with a victory at Darlington (S.C.) Raceway this spring, Allmendinger is ranked 10th in points and still racing for his first trophy of the year. The popular veteran would love to reignite that Nashville magic he has shown before. The Kaulig Racing driver has two top-five finishes in three starts and the win last year.

Six drivers have won races and already secured 2024 Playoff positions — Chandler Smith, Austin Hill, Sam Mayer, Shane van Gisbergen, Allgaier and Jesse Love — leaving six spots to be decided. The regular season championship is also still up for grabs.

Stewart-Haas Racing’s Cole Custer continues to hold that championship points lead — 15 points ahead of Joe Gibbs Racing’s Chandler Smith — but the reigning series champ Custer is still racing for his first win of the season and that automatic Playoff bid. He led 32 laps and finished ninth last year in the Music City.

Smith’s Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Sheldon Creed earned his 10th runner-up effort last week at New Hampshire — his third of the season — tying a series record for most career runner-up finishes before a victory. The 26-year-old Californian is racing for his first top-10 in two series starts at Nashville and is currently ranked eighth in the Playoff standings.

“I’m really proud that we’ve been close these past few weeks,” said Creed, driver of the No. 18 JGR Toyota. “It says a lot about the progress we have made this season and the speed we are capable of. I would say from that standpoint, I feel more optimistic every week and I’m excited to get to the track more and more as we continue to click off these strong runs.

“I’ve developed a funny relationship with second place lately. Obviously, anytime you can leave the track with a runner-up it’s a good day, but it does get a little old to get so close to winning one and still come up short. Right now, all these second places mean consistency and I’ll take that above all else going forward.”

23XI Racing’s Tyler Reddick — a two-time Xfinity Series season champion — will drive the No. 26 Sam Hunt Racing Toyota in Saturday’s race. He joins an impressive list of NASCAR Cup Series regulars doing double duty this week, including Chastain and Stewart-Haas Racing’s Noah Gragson.

Practice is scheduled for 12:05 p.m. ET on Saturday with qualifying at 12:45 p.m. ET televised on USA Network and streaming on the NBC Sports App.

–Craftsman Truck Series returns after three-week break

The NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series returns to action Friday night with the Rackley Roofing 200 at Nashville Superspeedway (8 p.m. ET on FS2, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio) — the first race for the series since June 1 when TRICON Garage driver Corey Heim claimed his season-leading fourth win of the year.

That victory moved him to within 31 points of championship leader McAnally-Hilgemann Racing’s Christian Eckes and places him 22 points ahead of third place Rev Racing’s Nick Sanchez with only four regular season races remaining to set the 10-driver Playoff field.

Eckes, Heim, Sanchez and Rajah Caruth are the only championship-eligible drivers with wins and automatic Playoff bids to date.

None of the series championship contenders have ever won a truck series race on the 1.33-mile Nashville oval. NASCAR Cup Series rookies Carson Hocevar and Zane Smith finished 1-2 last year with Sanchez in third place after winning pole position and leading 37 of the 150 laps. Heim was fourth.

Eckes, with wins at Bristol, Tenn., and Martinsville, Va., this season, didn’t lead a lap at Nashville last year and finished 23rd after being involved in two accidents in the closing laps of the race. The 23-year-old New York native does bring an impressive statistic to Nashville, however.

At tracks measuring between 1.25-1.5-miles — like the 1.33-mile Nashville oval — Eckes is a perfect 6-for-6 in top-10 finishes; four of those have been top-five efforts. He was runner-up to Heim at the 1.25-mile World Wide Technology Raceway.

Friday marks the conclusion of the exciting Triple Truck Challenge with $50,000 to a new race winner or $150,000 paid to either Nick Sanchez (Charlotte) or Cory Heim (WWTR) — winners of the first two races in the incentive program.

Of note, popular FOX Sports NASCAR broadcaster Clint Bowyer will make his first race start since retiring from fulltime NASCAR competition in 2020. A race winner in all three of NASCAR’s national series, Bowyer will steer the No. 7 Spire Motorsports Chevrolet in Friday night’s Rackley Roofing 200.

Popular Hollywood actor-turned stock car driver Frankie Muniz is hoping to make his Truck Series debut this weekend in the No. 22 Reaume Brothers Racing Ford. Former Motocross star, Japanese racer Akinori Ogata, 50, is also hoping to make the field driving the No. 20 Young Motorsports Chevrolet.

There have been 13 different winners in the 16 Truck Series races at Nashville. Seven times the pole-winner has hoisted the trophy.

Practice is Friday at 4:30 p.m. ET and televised on FS2 with Cometic Gasket Pole Qualifying following at 5 p.m. ET.

–By Holly Cain, NASCAR Wire Service. Special to Field Level Media

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