This past Saturday, the NASCAR Xfinity Series (NXS) went to the Auto Club Speedway in Sunny Southern California for the final leg of the West Coast Swing. The Swing, which started off two weeks prior at the high banked intermediate track in Las Vegas, ended with a track very similar in shape and size.
Heading into the weekend, Ross Chastain, driver of the No. 4 EZ Angus Ranch/RM Parks Inc. Chevrolet, had his hopes held high knowing that his car would have some good speed after coming home with a great Top 10 run in Las Vegas. He just missed out on making the second round in Qualifying, and ended up starting in the 15th position.
From that point on, his race was plagued with bad luck, starting off with a tire that nearly disintegrated at the end of Stage 1. He would be put two laps down to the leader, and eventually lost another lap under green during Stage 2. Veteran Crew Chief Paul Clapprood made a risky call at the beginning of Stage 3 to stay out for a wave-around, but due to the track’s abrasive nature, Ross was forced to come back down pit road under green for four new Goodyear Eagles.
Chastain ended up rallying back through the field, finishing the day off with a frustrating, yet respectable 18th place finish. He slides back a couple of positions in the points standings to 13th, just eight points below the Playoff cutoff.
Garrett Smithley, driver of the No. 0 Cal Fire Benevolent Foundation Camaro SS, ended up having just the type of day the team needed, running calmly within the Top 20 for the bulk of the afternoon after qualifying in 25th position.
Smithley, who’s father, RK Smithley, piloted the fly over plane for pre-race festivities, quickly made his way up through the field and made it known that he stayed there due to his consistently quick lap times. At the end of the day, Garrett was able to bring his Chevrolet home without a scratch (which in itself is a tough fought accomplishment at California) in the 19th position. He currently sits in 18th position in the standings, 58 points behind the cutoff.
Stephen Leicht, driver of the No. 01 “In Memory of Hippie” Chevrolet, came into the weekend hoping to turn his bad luck and misfortunes around. After having his best run of the season by far last week in Phoenix end up in smoke, the 01 crew came back fighting strong in Fontana.
Despite starting deep in the field in 29th, Stephen was able to scratch and claw his way through the field up to the Top 20 with the help of longtime Spotter Mike Herman and Crew Chief Mark Setzer. Cars with fresher tires were able to get around Leicht late in the running, but he was still able to bring home a respectable 22nd place finish, his best of the year. He jumps up three spots in points to 28th, not far behind the Top 25.
Finally, making his 100th career NXS start this past weekend was Florida native BJ McLeod, who drives the No. 15 Camaro SS. McLeod had a relatively nonchalant type of day, laying low near the 20th-25th positions all race. Like Chastain, BJ also had a tire go down near the end of Stage 1, which forced him to come down the pit road and lose a couple of laps. However, he was able to keep his car clean for the remainder of the race, and came home with a 24thplace finish, making that his fourth Top 25 in a row. He sits in 21st in the season standings.
The NASCAR Xfinity Series has an off week this weekend, but will resume in two weeks’ time at the newly reconfigured Texas Motor Speedway on Saturday, March 30th.
TIL NEXT TIME, I AM STILL WORKING ON MY REDNECK!