Christopher Bell Grabs First NXS Victory At Kansas

Christopher Bell

Saturday’s Kansas Lottery 300 may have been the opening race in the Round of 8 of the NASCAR XFINITY Series Playoff, but the real drama involved two Joe Gibbs Racing teammates outside the championship battle.

On Lap 197 of 200 at Kansas Speedway, Christopher Bell caught and passed Erik Jones for the lead, clearing Jones’ No. 20 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota with a slide job and drifting up to the outside wall right in front of his JGR teammate.

Under a full head of steam, Jones plowed into the back of Bell’s No. 18 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota, wrecking the No. 20 Camry, which slowed markedly and finished 15th, a lap down.

Bell took the checkered flag with polesitter Tyler Reddick and some hard feelings on Jones’ part in his wake.

“It’s not dirt racing,” Jones complained, referencing Bell’s dirt-track background. “He’s not clear. I can’t just stop on the top. I didn’t expect him to drive in on the bottom so hard he wouldn’t be able to hold his lane.

“It’s unfortunate. I thought we were going to race for the win, and unfortunately, it wasn’t much of a race—it was more of a wreck. We’ll just have to move on.”

Jones had led four times for 186 laps before Bell ran him down from more than two seconds back in the closing laps. The series leader in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series, Bell got the victory in his fifth start, becoming the first driver to get his maiden XFINITY win at the 1.5-mile track.

Bell also is the 10th straight different winner in the series.

“I never want to wreck anyone, especially my teammate,” Bell said. “I don’t know. My spotter said ‘Clear.’ I drove it in really deep. I felt like I cleared him – I don’t know.

“It’s my first XFINITY win. I’m sorry that Erik didn’t finish the race, but, man, I’m just stoked. This thing was awesome. To be able to win in the XFINITY Series is something I dreamed of as a kid. We were both on old tires. We were sliding around…

“Bummed for the way it finished, but I’m glad it held on, man. I was getting tire smoke in the car there those last couple of laps, and I was worried we weren’t going to make it.”

Ryan Blaney ran third, followed by playoff drivers and JR Motorsports teammates William Byron and Justin Allgaier, the latter of whom collected 11 stage points and took over the top spot in the standings by two points over Byron, who had to start from the rear of the field because of unapproved pre-race adjustments to his No. 9 JR Motorsports Chevrolet.

Elliott Sadler, another JRM entry, recovered from a spin in Turn 4 on Lap 76 to finish seventh and is third in the Playoff standings, 11 points behind Allgaier.

“A tire came apart—I don’t know whether I ran over something or not,” said Sadler, who turned sideways in the path of oncoming traffic. Eventual sixth-place finisher Austin Dillon did a masterful job of avoiding Sadler’s spinning car.

“I gave ‘em a big target, but nobody hit us,” a relieved Sadler said after the race.

Beyond the top three Playoff positions, little was decided. With two races left in the Round of 8, there’s an eight-point gap between fourth-place Brennan Poole, who ran 12th on Saturday, and eighth-place Cole Custer, who brought his No. 00 Stewart-Haas Racing Ford to pit road with two laps left because of a cut tire and finished 19th, two laps down.

Check out the unofficial results of the Kansas Lottery 300 at Kansas Speedway.


William Byron Prepares For Cup Career In A Simulator

William byron
William Byron is right in the middle of a heated battle for the NASCAR XFINITY Series championship, but that doesn’t mean he’s not preparing for next year’s quantum leap to the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series.

Though Byron has yet to run his first Cup race, he has been spending time driving a simulator for Hendrick Motorsports to help Hendrick’s current Cup competitors prepare for their events. Alex Bowman, who will take over the No. 88 Chevrolet from Dale Earnhardt Jr. next year, shoulders most of the simulator duty, but Byron also takes advantage of the opportunity.

“I go in there and help them with Cup Series stuff most of the time,” said Byron, who is the top seed in the XFINITY standings. “Sometimes they give us stuff from XFINITY, but most of the time it’s Cup stuff and seeing what they’re going to do for the weekend.

“It’s a very helpful tool, and I’m very thankful for Chevy’s support to have that there for us. A critical part of the sport right now is doing those things. We’re trying to keep developing in it, and I think it’s going really well. I just enjoy being in there and being able to use it.”


William Byron Leads The NXS Into The Round Of Eight

William Byron

Last season, William Byron led the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series the majority of the season, racking up a rookie-record seven wins. When the Playoffs came around, his engine blew with a late lead in the penultimate race of the year, eliminating him from championship contention.

Byron has carried his success into the NASCAR XFINITY Series this season. He enters the Round of 8 opener – Saturday’s Kansas Lottery 300 at Kansas Speedway – first on the Playoff Grid. He sits 19 points above Cole Custer on the cutoff line as a result of his three victories, three stage wins and third-place regular season points finish.

The 19-year-old Charlotte native has never made an XFINITY Series start at Kansas, but won the Camping World Truck Series race there last season.

“Kansas Speedway is a fun race track to go to. The last time I was there, I was fortunate enough to win my first NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race and I can’t wait to get back and have a good run in the XFINITY Series,” Byron said. “It is an important race to start out this round of the playoffs, so we plan on having a strong day and executing well.”


Kaz Grala Is Looking For Another Plate Victory

In the February NASCAR Camping World Truck Series season opener at Daytona International Speedway, Kaz Grala – then 18 years, one month and 26 days old – etched his name into the record books as the youngest driver to ever win at Daytona.

Now, the Gallagher Motorsports Racing driver will try to advance to the Round of 6 in the series Playoffs with another superspeedway win in Saturday’s fred’s 250 at Talladega Superspeedway.

Grala currently sits seventh on the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series standings, eight points behind Austin Cindric on the cutoff line. He heads into the contest riding a four-race top five streak, including a fifth-place showing in the last event at Las Vegas. Saturday’s race marks his first career start at Talladega.

“Obviously it’s cool knowing that the last superspeedway race we were able to get the pole and the win, but anything can happen in these types of races,” Grala said. “You can have the fastest truck or be the best plate racer, but we’ve seen it time and time again in every series, that doesn’t guarantee you any sort of favorable finishing position. We’re looking at this race as a wild card, just like everyone else is.”


Alex Bowman Shows Why He Will Be In The HMS No. 88 Next Year

Alex Bowman
Behind the wheel of a car on something other than a virtual race track for the first time in nearly a year, Alex Bowman warmed up for the No. 88 Hendrick Motorsports ride he’ll inherit next season with a stunning victory in Saturday night’s rain-delayed Drive for the Cure 300 at Charlotte Motor  Speedway

Behind Bowman, who won for the first time in the NASCAR XFINITY Series, Ryan Reed soldiered home in 12th place, one position behind Brendan Gaughan. But Reed moved on to the XFINITY Playoff’s Round of 8 by one point over Gaughan, who was eliminated along with Jeremy Clements (20th on Saturday), Blake Koch (25th) and Michael Annett (27th).

Reed joins Justin Allgaier, Elliott Sadler, Brennan Poole, Cole Custer, Daniel Hemric, William Byron and Matt Tifft in the Round of 8, with the series set to resume competition Oct. 21 at Kansas Speedway.

“Bowman The Showman”, who hadn’t raced since his Monster Energy NASCAR Cup / XFINITY Series doubleheader last November at Homestead-Miami Speedway, finished 1.390 seconds ahead of part-timer Sam Hornish Jr., who passed Team Penske teammate Ryan Blaney in the closing laps for the second position. The start was Hornish’s fifth of the season.

The car Bowman drove to victory in a race that started five hours late because of persistent rain was the No. 42 Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet, under an agreement with Hendrick Motorsports. Since his last races at Homestead, Bowman has spent the bulk of his time driving simulators for HMS.

“I can’t thank Mr. (Rick) Hendrick and Chip Ganassi enough for letting me drive this car,” said Bowman, who will succeed Dale Earnhardt Jr. in the No. 88 Chevy in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series next year. “To get my first win here at my second home in Charlotte means so such.

“Thank you so much to all the fans for sticking out this rain delay. It’s been a long time since I’ve raced. My pit stops were terrible. I didn’t do a good job on pit road, but I felt like my restarts were really good. It feels amazing to finally get us one.”

With Bowman pulling out to a sizable lead after the final restart on Lap 167, the real suspense involved Gaughan and Reed, who were locked in an intense battle for the final playoff position. Gaughan passed Reed for 12th on Lap 181 of 200, but needed one more position to stay alive in the Playoff.

Gaughan passed Byron for 11th, but Reed followed. As Gaughan chased Sadler for 10th, Reed had to ward off a challenge from Brandon Jones, Gaughan’s teammate at Richard Childress Racing. Gaughan ran out of time in his pursuit of Sadler, who was on older tires, and the last playoff spot belonged to Reed.

“We were getting the 1 (Sadler), but we need Brandon to get in front of (Reed), but a good run,” Gaughan said. “We had a decent season, but I wouldn’t say great. We’re going to go on and try to see if we can win a couple of races…

“Nothing ever comes easy around me and (crew chief) Shane Wilson, but we wouldn’t want it any other way.”

Though he qualified for the Round of 8, Tifft had his share of nervous moments. On Lap 99, he came to pit road complaining of a vibration, incurred a penalty for a runaway tire and lost a lap. But Tifft regained the lead circuit under caution for Erik Jones’ spin on Lap 121 and salvaged a ninth-place result.

“We’ve been fighting back from a lot of difficult situations,” Tifft said. “We were able to put our MotoRad Camry back in the top 10 today, and we had so much stuff going on today.

“Really excited about our chances in the second round, and we’re riding the right wave right now, and I feel like we’re getting things clicking between the team and I right now. So it’s a good time for us right now, and it was a good fight today for sure.”

Note: Justin Allgaier, who entered the race as the series leader, hit a battery that fell from Angela Ruch’s car when Ruch spun in Turn 2 for the second time. Allgaier’s engine overheated and finally expired, relegating the JR Motorsports driver to a 33rd-place finish.

Check out the unofficial results of the Driver For The Cure 300 at Charlotte.


Ryan Reed Is Clinging On To The Final Transfer Spot

Ryan Reed
At the moment, Ryan Reed is clinging onto the final transfer spot to the NASCAR XFINITY Series Playoffs Round of 8.

The 24-year-old Californian sits two points above ninth-place Brendan Guaghan for advancement heading into Saturday’s Drive for the Cure 300 Presented by Blue Cross and Blues Shield of North Carolina cutoff race at Charlotte Motor Speedway.

Reed finished 10th in the XFINITY Playoffs opener at Kentucky and 16th last week at Dover. In eight career starts at Charlotte, he owns a high finish of 11th and an average showing of 13.9.

Reed advanced to the Round of 8 last season, placing sixth in the final championship standings.

“Charlotte is obviously a huge race for us,” Reed said. “Being a cutoff race and currently only being two points (ahead), it is super important to be fast and not make any mistakes. Charlotte is a good track for us and another 1.5-mile track, and our 1.5-mile program is where we are the strongest.”


Ryan Blaney Dominated The Last 2/3 Of The NXS Race At Dover

Ryan Blaney
Once Ryan Blaney got the lead in Saturday’s Use Your Melon. Drive Sober 200 at Dover International Speedway, it was “game over” in the second NASCAR XFINITY Series Playoff race of the season.

After Playoff driver William Byron led every lap of the 60-circuit first stage and banked a playoff point, Blaney took the lead off pit road under caution on Lap 64. Blaney kept his No. 22 Team Penske Ford out front the rest of the way, except for one lap led by Daniel Suarez on pit road under caution after the conclusion of Stage 2.

Playoff driver Justin Allgaier charged from fourth to second on the Lap 128 restart that began the final stage, which ran under a green flag to the finish. Though Allgaier was able to hold off Byron, his JR Motorsports teammate, and hold the series lead, he had nothing for Blaney, who finished 4.852 seconds ahead of Allgaier’s No. 7 Chevrolet.

“It’s really hard to get a car like that, and, to be honest, we didn’t have it in the first run,” said Blaney, who will try to advance to the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Round of 12 in Sunday’s Apache Warrior 400. “We were a little bit off on the first run. We made some great changes after the first stage to get it better to where it needs to be.

“We actually got it better for the last run… As a driver, that’s all you can ask for, great changes throughout. It’s awesome to get to Victory Lane with (sponsor) Fitzgerald. This is really cool. We were close the first race this year and just didn’t quite get it. Definitely learned a lot for tomorrow.”

The victory was Blaney’s sixth in the series, his second this season and his first at the Monster Mile.

Though he couldn’t catch Blaney over the final run, Allgaier also had reason to celebrate as the highest finishing series regular. Heading to Charlotte 54 points above the current cut line for the second round of the XFINITY Playoff, Allgaier is a virtual lock to advance.

So is Byron, who chased Allgaier for the final 73 green-flag laps but couldn’t find a way past his teammate. Byron is 51 points above the cutoff with the Playoff field scheduled to be pared from 12 to eight drivers next Saturday at Charlotte.

“I was trying to put it in Victory Lane,” Allgaier said. “We just needed a little more. I ran high some, low some. There at the end we made a great adjustment, and I was able to run the bottom, where I wanted to run all day.

“It paid off. Obviously, second place is not quite Victory Lane, but in the points battle we’re playing, it’s pretty darn close.”

In the battle to survive the Playoff cutoff, Brendan Gaughan gained ground with a 10th-place finish. Facing the elimination race at Charlotte, Gaughan is ninth in points, two behind eighth-place Ryan Reed, who finished a lap down in 16th-place at Dover.

Playoff drivers Daniel Hemric, Brennan Poole and Matt Tifft came home fourth, fifth and sixth, respectively, to improve their chances to make the Round of 8. Daniel Suarez ran seventh, joining Blaney as the only non-XFINITY regulars to finish in the top 12.

Rookie Cole Custer and regular-season champion Elliott Sadler, both well above the current cut line, ran eighth and ninth respectively.


Byron Is Hoping To Produce Another Strong Finish At Dover

William Byron
William Byron entered the NASCAR XFINITY Series Playoffs leading in points after finishing second in the regular season standings and accumulating 17 playoff points via his series-best three victories and two stage wins.

He left the Playoff opener at Kentucky fifth on the Playoff Grid following an 18th-place showing. Still, Byron sits 25 points ahead of Brendan Gaughan for the final advancement spot to the Round of 8.

Byron will attempt to pad his points total in Saturday’s Use Your Melon. Drive Sober 200 at Dover International Speedway where he was the highest-finishing XFINITY regular (sixth) in its June race.

“I am ready to get to Dover,” Byron said. “We got the Dash 4 Cash win there last time and I can’t wait to see what we can do this time around. I know our team is ready to rebound from last week and have a solid weekend for the second playoff race.”


Tyler Reddick Grabs First NXS Victory At Kentucky!

Tyler Reddick

Running a partial NASCAR XFINITY Series schedule this season, Tyler Reddick spoiled the party for the opening round of the Playoffs by earning his first career win in Saturday night’s 300 at Kentucky Speedway.

The Chip Ganassi Racing driver took control of the lead 74 laps from the finish and never looked back. His 14.540-second margin of victory over teammate Brennan Poole was the largest in the series’ history at the 1.5-mile speedway in 16 years of competition.

“I don’t know if it was necessarily me making a statement, it was just Chip Ganassi Racing making a statement,” said Reddick, who earned the triumph in his 15th XFINITY Series start. “Me and Brennan (Poole) were really fast all night.

“We had a really fast car last weekend, our mile-and-a-half program has been unreal. Mike Shiplett (crew chief) brought me from ground zero all the way to here. All the guys at Ganassi have gone above and beyond in helping me become a better driver.”

Reddick who hadn’t led a lap in his previous 14 races this season, but led a race-high 66 laps Saturday night added, “To be here today is surreal. We had such a really fast car the last time we were here, to be able to bring it to Victory Lane, I knew the car was capable.”

Poole earned a career-best finish behind Reddick, giving Chip Ganassi Racing its first 1-2 finish in XFINITY Series competition.

Poole was also the highest-finishing playoff XFINITY Series Playoffs driver in the Round of 12.

“I just think it was a strong statement tonight,” said Poole, who earned his second top-five of 2017. “I’m proud of our Ganassi team coming up one-two. This is really a track that we have struggled at in the past. To come out and be strong in the first race of the playoffs is pretty awesome.

“I want to thank everyone who has put effort into this thing. It’s really showed off the past couple of months. We’ve been really consistent and been right there. A win’s coming for us.”

Playoff driver Justin Allgaier rebounded from a flat tire inside the event’s opening 25 laps and utilized a gutsy wave around call and the beneficiary of a Lap 75 free pass to bolt from a race-low 36th to finish third, his eighth top-five of 2017.

“My team at JR Motorsports obviously does a great job,” said Allgaier who is tied for the XFINITY Series points lead with Cole Custer. “We talked about not beating ourselves in the first Playoff race. It was unfortunate there getting a flat tire. It wasn’t in our control. We did what we had to do and persevered through it and we did a great job on pit calls and pit stops.

“I thought we had a car that maybe could win the race. After the race, I told my team we might not have won the playoffs tonight but we definitely salvaged what we needed to tonight to move ourselves forward.”

NASCAR Next alumnus Kyle Benjamin in his fifth start of the season led the field to green after earning his second-career pole, until Stewart-Haas Racing’s Custer muscled his way to the lead on Lap 42 and clinched his first career stage win.

With a two-tire strategy, Benjamin returned to the point to start Stage 2, but Custer soared back to the lead by the exit of Turn 2 on Lap 52 and dominated the stage to earn another 10 crucial stage points toward his playoff total.

Defending race winner Elliott Sadler elected to stay out at the end of Stage 2 and led the field back to green for the start of Stage 3 until Iowa XFINITY winner Ryan Preece on a similar strategy throttled to the lead on Lap 105 passing Sadler off Turn 2.

Reddick, with fresher tires, reeled in Preece for control of the race and made the pass on Lap 126. He checked out from the field until he pitted with 49 laps to go for his final pit stop of the night.

Reddick cycled back into the lead 10 laps later, pulling away from the competition and ultimately setting the tone for the finish.

Notes: Following the opening round at Kentucky, playoff drivers Jeremy Clements, Michael Annett, Blake Koch and Brennan Gaughan find themselves below the cutoff line for the Round of 8. William Byron suffered a loose wheel late in the race, leaving little time to recover, finishing 18th. Still, he remains fifth in the playoffs standings with benefit from the stage points he acquired during the 2017 season.

Check out the unofficial results of the 300.


Sadler Wants To Start Off The Playoffs With A Win

Elliott Sadler
Elliott Sadler won the NASCAR XFINITY Series regular season championship, but only has one goal on his mind now – capturing the overall series crown.

He starts his quest in Saturday’s 300 at Kentucky Speedway where he won the Playoff opener last year.

“Our OneMain Financial team has been gearing up for the playoffs ever since Daytona in February,” Sadler said. “Our strong regular season and Kentucky win last year helps our confidence heading into this weekend.”

In 12 career starts at Kentucky, Sadler claims one win, five top fives, eight top 10s and a 7.8 average finish.

Although Sadler earned the regular season championship, he starts the Playoffs third in the standings. He sits five points behind leader William Byron and trails second-place Justin Allgaier by three points.

Byron and Allgaier are ahead of Sadler because they accumulated more playoff points during the regular season. Byron won three races and two stages to earn 17 playoff points in addition to his eight for finishing third in the standings. Allgaier recorded two victories and three stage wins for 13 playoff points to supplement his 10 for placing second in the standings. Sadler earned 15 playoff points for his regular season championship and logged five for his five stage wins.

“We’re still a long way from Homestead and that’s where we ultimately want to be – racing in the final four for the championship. Kevin (Meendering, crew chief), myself, and the guys are going to take it one race at a time, starting with this weekend’s race. We’re confident in our strategy and we’re ready.”