What, Why and Where to Watch Racing on TV for Sept. 18-20

One of motor racing’s Triple Crown events, the 88th 24 Hours of Le Mans, is this weekend, and the world will be watching from a safe distance.

The race schedule is a bit abbreviated this weekend—there’s no IndyCar, IMSA or Formula 1—but that doesn’t mean there won’t be some significant headlines coming out of France and Bristol, Tennessee.

The NASCAR Cup Series wraps up its Round of 16 portion of its playoff season on Saturday night and sends four drivers packing (OK, they don’t really go packing, but they’ll be eliminated from championship contention for 2020).

The NASCAR Gander RV & Outdoors Truck Series begins its playoff run on Thursday night, and the NASCAR Xfinity Series wraps up its regular season on Friday night and will cut its own playoff field to 12.

Here’s the meat and potatoes on the menu this week:

WEC 24 HOURS OF LE MANS

What: 88th 24 Hours of Le Mans (Sat., Sun.)

Where: Circuit de la Sarthe, Le Mans, France

Why it is a Must-See: Well, you can’t see it in person. This World Endurance Championship race is the world’s most important, most famous, most-just-about-everything endurance race on the planet, and it will be held this year with no fans in the grandstands due to the coronavirus pandemic. The course is 8.5 miles long and runs past homes, restaurants and a few neighborhoods. There’s also a wooded area. Best of luck to the gendarmerie trying to keep the folks outside of the fence this weekend.

What to Watch:

• Toyota, a two-time defending overall winner of the race, should become just the 10th manufacturer to win the event for the the third time, joining Porsche, Audi, Ferrari, Jaguar, Bentley, Alfa Romeo, Ford, Matra-Simca and Peugeot. Toyota is the only factory effort in the LMP1 field and is fielding two of the five cars in the classification. Place your bets on either the No. 7 Toyota Gazoo Racing (Mike Conway, Kamui Kobayashi, Jose Maria Lopez) or the No. 8 Toyota Gazoo Racing (Sebastien Buemi, Kazuki Nakajima and Brendon Hartley) machine.

• Even the GTE Pro classification is a bit down this year. No Ford or Chevrolet Corvette Racing presence. Defending champion AF Corse in the Ferrari 488 GTE EVO is back with a two-car entry and will compete in a field with two other Ferraris, two Porsche 911s and a pair of Aston Martin Vantage AMR machines.

• The wildest classifications that will have the most fun, but not nearly the glory, will be the 24-car LMP2 class and the 22-car GTE Am class. Like the GTE Pro class, the Am class consists of Porsche, Ferrari and Aston Martin.

• If you want to wave the American flag during the race, keep your eyes on the two USA entries in the GTE Pro class. There’s WeatherTech Racing’s Ferrari 488 GTE EVO (Cooper MacNeil, Toni Vilander and Jeff Segal) and the Risi Competizone’s Ferrari 488 GTE EVO American-listed entry with three French drivers (Olivier Pla, Sebastien Bourdais and Jules Gounon).

• Need Juan more reason to watch? Juan Pablo Montoya, a two-time Indy 500 winner and stalwart on the Acura Team Penkse entry in the IMSA WeatherTech Sports Car Championship, is driving for Dragonspeed USA in the LMP2 class.

Where to Find the Action:

SATURDAY, SEPT. 19

WEC 24 Hours of Le Mans, Le Mans, France, 7:30 a.m., MotorTrend TV (L)

Note: Extended content, including in-car dashboard cameras from six cars, Thursday and Friday qualifying and practice sessions, as well as continuous 24-hour coverage of the race is available by subscription on the MotorTrend App. It will cost you $23.99, but that will get you a full year of MotorTrend content. And if next year’s Le Mans is back for it’s traditional June date in 2021, you’re good for that, too.

NASCAR

What: NASCAR Cup Series (Sat.), NASCAR Xfinity Series (Fri.), NASCAR Gander RV and Outdoors Truck Series (Thurs.)

Where: Bristol Motor Speedway, Bristol, Tenn.

Why it is a Must-See: We’re talking playoffs! The Bristol Night Race, even with limited attendance, will be a fun backdrop to the final race in the Round of 16. Night races for the Truck Series and Xfinity Series on Thursday and Friday night will set the table nicely for Saturday’s main event.

What to Watch:

• On the Cup side, William Byron, Cole Custer, Matt DiBenedetto and Ryan Blaney are on the wrong side of the cut line going into Saturday’s race. The math works a lot easier for Byron and Custer than it does for DiBenedetto and Blaney. The latter two might just have to win to move on.

• Two drivers have already earned their free passes into the Round of 12, as Kevin Harvick and Brad Keselowski won playoff races at Darlington and Richmond.

• Don’t expect a ton of playoff drama from the Xfinity Series race. Brandon Brown has a healthy 49-point lead over Jeremy Clements for the final playoff spots. Clements, of course, could get into the playoffs with a win. Clements has one win in 357 Xfinity Series starts, so we’ll call that a tall order. If any drivers outside that top 12 happen to win, they’re in and Brown is the one in trouble.

Where to Find the Action:

THURSDAY, SEPT. 17

NASCAR Gander RV & Outdoors Truck Series UNOH 200, Bristol, Tenn.; 7:30 p.m., FS1 (L)

ARCA Menards Series Bush’s Beans 200, Bristol, Tenn.; 9:30 p.m., FS1 (L)

FRIDAY, SEPT. 18

NASCAR Xfinity Series Food City 300, Bristol, Tenn.; 7 p.m., NBCSN (L)

SATURDAY, SEPT. 19

NASCAR Cup Series Bass Pro Shop Night Race, Bristol, Tenn.; 7:30 p.m., NBCSN (L)

(L) – Live; (T) – Taped; (S) – Tape delayed

All times ET

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