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XFINITY

OBSERVATIONS: Kansas Lottery 300 at Kansas Speedway

Although a first career triumph for Brandon Jones and the fight between championship contenders Tyler Reddick and Cole Custer will top the headlines leaving Kansas Speedway, several other things happened during the Kansas Lottery 300 on Saturday.

Lap Traffic Problems

As the laps began to wound down, it appeared as though the battle for the win would be between Chase Briscoe and Christopher Bell. However, those hopes were dashed with 15 laps to go when they were caught up in a wreck with a lap car.

Garrett Smithley told NASCAR on NBC that he wasn’t made aware that the leaders were coming up on him, and he was just riding around on 70-lap tires at that point.

The frustration radiated from Briscoe who was quick to ask on his radio, “What was he doing? Where was he going?” It was a reasonable question considering Smithley was already five laps down at this point in the event. 

At the beginning of a driver’s racing career at the short track level, lap cars are taught to remain on the bottom, allowing the leaders to battle as they should have the right to. Knowing that he was already multiple laps down and off the pace, why did he not remain on the bottom of the track?

Secondly, it is a little disheartening to see Smithley throw total blame on his spotter for the incident. He is the one handling the controls of the racecar, and should be aware of the situation around him. 

This is not Smithley’s first incident as a lapped car this season, either, as he crossed paths with Kyle Busch at Las Vegas Motor Speedway in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series. Hopefully he learned something this time around as it is one of the most frustrating things in racing to see a battle for the win ruined this way.

Briscoe was able to rebound, getting a new rear bumper car installed to drive back up to finish third. Bell finished 12th, but thankfully has a comfortable advantage over the cut-off line in the playoffs thanks to a solid regular season campaign.

Overaggressive Driving

Knowing a spot in the Championship 4 is on the line, it was safe to say that several drivers were being overly aggressive on Saturday – namely Austin Cindric and Noah Gragson.

Cindric has been solid thus far through the playoffs to be considered a legitimate threat by some, as noted by POPULAR SPEED’s Mitchell Breuer entering the weekend. However, he wound up finishing 25th on Saturday after having to make a couple unscheduled trips down pit road with flat tires.

The contact was all self-inflicted, too. He grew frustrated battling Harrison Burton for position, saying that “he was driving all over the track,” that he drove in the back of the No. 18, sending Burton up into the wall and ending his day. The contact resulted in nose damage to Cindric’s Ford that was made worse when he made contact with John Hunter Nemechek on the restart.

Considering the issues experienced by fellow championship contenders and the speed Cindric has shown this year – finishing no worse than third in any playoff event entering this weekend, this could have been his opportunity to capitalize.

Although his title chances are not totally eliminated, he will essentially need to win one of the next two events to be part of the championship conversation. If he continues to let the little battles frustrate him, that certainly won’t happen.

Gragson, meanwhile, stated before the event that he was going to push harder than he has before, wanting to be aggressive and take advantage of the opportunity laid before him. It back fired, as he got into the wall on two separate occasions, ultimately finishing 13th with a car that should have placed in the top-10, possibly top-five.

Through Gragson’s truck series seasons with Kyle Busch Motorsports, he was fast on a weekly basis – but mistakes and being overaggressive certainly took away some chances at winning. It seems that cycle is still repeated. If he had not found the contact resulting in the flat left rear in the final laps, he could have been celebrating in victory lane. 

There is something to be said for a driver who wants to push as hard as they can to succeed, but a line needs to be drawn in the sand. That is something the rookie needs to find if he wants to be able to score his first career series victory. 

Great Strategy!

Through his career, Michael Annett has been seen as an average driver – able to find solid consistency, but not become a serious contender for a championship. 

His crew chief Travis Mack deserves all the credit for leaving his driver out there on old tires, while the rest of the leaders pitted. That allowed Annett to take four fresh tires on a later caution, setting him up for a strong charge to the front.

The call was almost a success, as Annett drove his way from outside the top-10 to third before another caution came out. If the additional yellow flag had not waved, he had enough momentum to power past the top-two and snag the victory. However, the additional heat cycle on the tires took any chance that he had away, resulting in a fourth-place finish.

For anybody looking for an underdog for the championship, Annett and more so crew chief Travis Mack made a case for the No. 1 team. If there is a race that comes down to a strategy call, it may just work in their favor next time.

EMAIL ASHLEY AT ashley.mccubbin@popularspeed.com

FOLLOW ON TWITTER:@ladybug388

The thoughts and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of PopularSpeed.com, its owners, management or other contributors. Any links contained in this article should not be considered an endorsement.

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XFINITY

Title Favorites Custer and Reddick Clash at Kansas

Contact on a late-race restart, combined with the pressure to lock themselves into the Championship 4, caused two of the top three competitors in the NASCAR Xfinity Series to clash at Kansas Speedway on Saturday.

Battling for the lead on a restart with less than 10 laps to go, Tyler Reddick slid up the track while four-wide with Noah Gragson and Brandon Jones, making slight contact with Cole Custer, causing Custer to bounce off the outside wall. Custer would fall back in the running order as a result, finishing 11th, while Reddick lost out in the battle for the win, placing second to Jones.

Following the completion of the Kansas Lottery 300, Custer approached Reddick to discuss the contact, where crew members from both teams got involved to result in a fight in the middle of pit road.

Custer stated that he approached his fellow title rival due to being frustrated with the contact. 

“I just wasn’t very happy with it and was just going to tell him that and he went berserk on me,” he said. “I guess that is part of it. I just wasn’t very happy with it. He just said, ‘Don’t touch me,’ then he started grabbing on me.”

While understanding his rival’s situation, Reddick felt confident in how he handled the situation. 

“As soon as he put a hand on me, I put a hand on him back; that’s just how it’s going to be if we’re going to have a conversation that way,” he told NASCAR on NBC. “I’m out of breath, had a little fight there with people, but it was kinda fun.”

The drivers have not had any issues with each other in the past, with the confrontation simply chalked up to being due to “heat of the moment.”

“We’re pissed off,” he added. “I’m sure we’ll talk about it here soon, maybe today, tomorrow, who knows maybe have a beer over it. Obviously didn’t want to get into his quarter panel, but if I lift, I get passed and I hate that it happened to him. We’ll try and move forward, obviously.”

Currently, both drivers are in a comfortable position to transfer to the next round, the Championship 4, in the Xfinity Series playoffs. Although Christopher Bell leads both Custer and Reddick, they both still sit 38 and 37 points above the cut line. To put that into perspective, you earn 10 points for winning a stage and 40 points for a race victory; it would take serious issues both either to have someone knock them out.

Through the Xfinity Series season, these three drivers have been the class of the field and easily were predicted to be part of the Championship 4. Based on the current standings, they would have to see two of the other eight playoff drivers win the next two events to eliminate all three.

It is possible, but highly unlikely given the dominance by The Big Three.  However, if they continue to clash with each other, it may result in an upset.

“A couple of us have a lot to lose in this deal and if we take each other out, neither one of us gets to Homestead and I feel we both deserve to be there,” Reddick said. 

EMAIL ASHLEY AT ashley.mccubbin@popularspeed.com

FOLLOW ON TWITTER:@ladybug388

The thoughts and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of PopularSpeed.com, its owners, management or other contributors. Any links contained in this article should not be considered an endorsement.

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XFINITY

Can Austin Cindric Solidify Himself?

The 2019 NASCAR Xfinity Series season has been dominated by three drivers – Christopher Bell, Tyler Reddick, and Cole Custer.

While it is not confirmed these three will be racing for the championship at Homestead-Miami Speedway, it is likely.

However, there are still five other drivers in the playoffs, and at least one of them will also have a chance at the title. The lone question is who?

Now, while it’s been all about the “Big 3,” there has been one driver who has done well about proving himself this season. He is the only other competitor running for points that has more than one win.

This driver is Austin Cindric.

While he may not have the most impressive stats in the season, Cindric has been very consistent, and has even gotten better throughout the year. He started off with 13 top-10’s in the first 16 races, had a bit of a low point between Kentucky, New Hampshire, and Iowa II, before winning back-to-back road course events.

He hasn’t cooled off in the playoffs either; in the Round of 12, he never started or finished below third. If he repeats that in the Round of 8, he will be more than likely going on the Championship 4.

Again though  the question is can he? The momentum is there for Cindric; he just needs to capitalize

This is the opportunity to cement himself as a true contender, something that Reddick, who had a worse season up to this point, did last year. The next three races could prove monumental for Cindric, and could honestly set the tone for his NASCAR career going forward.

If Cindric continues to show his skill set, he not only proves that he should be taken seriously this year but next year as well.

After all, there’s a chance that Bell, Reddick, and Custer are all gone from the series next season, which would arguably make Cindric the best in the series. Now if he made the Championship 4 and maybe even won the championship this year, the momentum skyrockets for the No. 22 team, which again, would be huge for Cindric.

After all, 2020 is setting up for a prove yourself for Cindric, who has been tied with possible opportunities in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series in the years that would follow.

What a bigger of a statement can be made than heading into next season, than a championship appearance this season. The opportunity to set all of this up starts this weekend at Kansas. It is make or break time.

EMAIL MITCHELL AT mitchell.breuer@popularspeed.com

TWITTER: @MitchellB66

The thoughts and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of PopularSpeed.com, its owners, management or other contributors. Any links contained in this article should not be considered an endorsement.

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XFINITY

Cindric Confident Leaving Vegas

LAS VEGAS — Austin Cindric may have missed the top-10 on Saturday night, but showed speed across what was a chaotic night at Las Vega Motor Speedway.

Most of his time was spent moving his way through the field, as he had to fight back from two pit-road penalties, and an unscheduled stop.

“Yeah, we just need to minimize mistakes, I think as far as the playoffs go, I think we got them all out of the way tonight,” Cindric told POPULAR SPEED. “But my guys dug me out of a lot of holes this year and last, so I got plenty of patience for my crew behind me. Really proud of the speed we have in my Money Lion Ford Mustang. Hoping to keep bringing it on later in the playoffs.”

To his credit though, Cindric was able to make the best of the day, capturing points in Stage 1 and 2 with a fourth and seventh-place finish. However, the unscheduled pit stop that came in the final leg of the race proved too much ato rebound from, and the driver of the No. 22 would have to settle for 12th place finish.

Now, you would expect more disappointment out of a driver who had a day like his, but that was not the case.
Instead, Cindric took a more positive route, noting how his ability to drive through the field showed that he and his team have the strength, and they could contend with the top teams in the series.

But, most importantly, that they are much more than just a team that is good a road courses.

“I think it makes a statement. I think it makes the right statement, shows that we’re here to play,” Cindric said. “Not to sound cocky but that’s some of the best speed we’ve shown all year on these types of tracks, and a track that’s very, very track position-dependent.”

The confidence shown post-race could prove to be a very powerful tool for him heading into the playoffs.

Something else that will very much aid Cindric is his seeding, as he will start the playoffs as the fourth seed and have 17 playoff points, five more than Chase Briscoe in fifth, and give him a big 13-point advantage of ninth.

With the improvement shown throughout the season, it will certainly be interesting to see if Cindiric can capitalize and fully cemented himself as an even bigger threat to win the championship.

EMAIL MITCHELL AT mitchell.breuer@popularspeed.com

TWITTER: @MitchellB66

The thoughts and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of PopularSpeed.com, its owners, management or other contributors. Any links contained in this article should not be considered an endorsement.

 

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XFINITY

Justin Allgaier Enters Playoffs with Momentum

LAS VEGAS — Justin Allgaier continues to make a statement heading into the playoffs, with a fifth-place finish in the NASCAR Xfinity Series regular-season finale on came to a close with Saturday night at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

However, that’s not quite indicative of how strong his car was throughout the day. While the Rhino Pro Truck Outfitters 300 was mostly dominated by Christopher Bell, one of the few drivers that proved able to battle with him was Allgaier.

“Going into the playoffs, you want momentum on your side and you want to good on the mile and a half tracks because the season is definitely weighted towards the mile and a half side,” Allgaier told POPULAR SPEED. “So, I feel good tonight about the fact that you know, we had speed early on, especially when the sun was out. You know, I felt like we were able to kind of keep Christopher honest early on. But I think also too, it’s going to be interesting to see…

The (No.) 2 (of Tyler Reddick) knew that they needed to make a bold move to win the regular-season championship. They went out and they did it, and obviously it worked for them. So, I think we get to hit the reset button. We got to go next week to Richmond, and go try to do our best job, and hope that, I hope that it puts us in your position. I feel good about it.”

The strong day at Vegas followed probably Allgaier’s best race of the season last week at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, where again toe-to-toe with a dominant Joe Gibbs Racing car in Kyle Busch and came home second.

For a driver that has had zero wins this season, he has certainly proven to be a contender.

“I feel like the last month and a half we’ve had way better speed, we’ve done a better job, we’ve moved ourselves in the right direction, we just haven’t had the luck to go along with it,” Allgaier said. “So we need the luck to kind of have, you know, the old saying is, I’d rather be lucky than good any day. We need that to happen. But on the flip side of it, you know, these last few races have been really good and I’m disappointed with tonight and there’s been a lot of part of the season where I’d have just, I’d have loved to have been 10th, let alone 5th. So you know, we definitely need to keep working on it.”

The 33-year-old will enter the playoffs as the sixth seed with 12 playoff points at his disposal.

EMAIL MITCHELL AT mitchell.breuer@popularspeed.com

TWITTER: @MitchellB66

The thoughts and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of PopularSpeed.com, its owners, management or other contributors. Any links contained in this article should not be considered an endorsement.

 

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XFINITY

Gray Gaulding Comes Up Short in Las Vegas Gamble

LAS VEGAS — Entering Saturday’s NASCAR Xfinity Series Rhino Pro Truck Outfitters 300 race at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, Gray Gaulding was in a must-win scenario to make the playoffs.

Many people did not expect him to get close to accomplishing that goal, but he proved them wrong.

After finishing 17th and 18th in the first two stages, a caution would allow Gaulding the opportunity to pit off sequence; however, the gamble was fuel, and it seemed unlikely that he would be able to make it to the end of the race.

During the following green-flag stretch that would lead to the finish, the driver of the No. 08 would run as high as second in the closing laps before eventually being passed by drivers who had pitted during the run. However, Gaulding would make still make it to the checkered flag finish on fuel and capture his fourth top-10 of the season with a seventh.

“It was a great night. I mean this is probably my best car I’ve had in the mile and a half all year,” Gaulding told POPULAR SPEED. “You know, we’ve, we’ve had a really successful season, you know, we rolled the dice, you know, we’re here in Vegas, we did everything we could to win. We tried to stretch it on fuel, I actually ran out, coming to the checkered. So it’s really good to, have speed but also finish top-10 and, we’re going to celebrate this one cause it’s so hard to finish top-10 as a small race team, and to be able to do that and accomplish that, I’m just really thankful, and I’m super happy right now.”

Though he will end the regular season as the first car out of the playoff, the 21-year-old is still very excited for the rest of the season. Gaulding fully believes that he can build off the energy surrounding his night in Vegas.

“You know, we, we got a lot of momentum on our side right now,” Gaulding said. “Coming off of finishing second earlier in the year, sixth at the Bristol, and now seventh here in, inside the top 15 pretty much week in and week out. I’m driving my heart out. I’m thankful to be here.”

After a career of bouncing around from ride to ride, the 2019 season has really shown what the young driver is made of with him making the most of this full-time ride.

“Bobby Dotter and SS-Green Light Racing have given me a huge opportunity because I didn’t know where my career was going,” Gaulding said. “A year and a half ago, and I just stuck with it and got in the right place at the right people, and here I am today. So yeah, we didn’t make it, but I’ll tell you what, it wasn’t easy. And we, we fought all year long and don’t, we just came up short, so we can’t, there’s nothing to be upset about. It’s part of it.”

EMAIL MITCHELL AT mitchell.breuer@popularspeed.com

TWITTER: @MitchellB66

The thoughts and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of PopularSpeed.com, its owners, management or other contributors. Any links contained in this article should not be considered an endorsement.

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XFINITY

Tyler Reddick gambles on fuel to win at Las Vegas Motor Speedway

LAS VEGAS – Tyler Reddick and his Richard Childress Racing Team gambled and hit the jackpot at Las Vegas Motor Speedway Saturday evening – taking a chance on fuel mileage; racing just hard enough and simultaneously saving just enough fuel to hold off Christopher Bell by .738-seconds in the NASCAR Xfinity Series Rhino Pro Truck Outfitters 300.

Reddick, who hoisted his fifth trophy, also officially earned the regular season championship based on points, on lap 71 of the 200-lap race. He was running fifth place at the time.

“Christopher Bell had a really fast race car today, but we were just able to come in and get fuel and tires and run really fast laps to keep us in front of him,’’ said Reddick, whose 30 laps led to close out the win were the sum of his laps out front.

“Hat’s off to [crew chief] Randall [Burnett] and all the guys, we’ve had a really fast car in the past, unfortunately today we didn’t have it but we got them with strategy.’’

Brandon Jones was third, polesitter Cole Custer was fourth and Justin Allgaier rounded out the top five. Veteran Elliott Sadler, 44, a four-time Xfinity Series championship runner-up and 13-race winner, finished 10th in his last NASCAR national series race.

It was a strong statement for Reddick, 23, who earned his fifth victory to close out the regular season and now begins the Playoff run on a high note – the regular season champion and the most recent winner heading into the title run. The Californian has a series-best 20 top-five and 22 top-10 finishes in 26 races and is the defending Xfinity Series champion.

A six-race winner this season, Bell led a race-high 154 laps on the night and was understandably disappointed in the outcome after an especially strong showing Saturday. He pit for tires and fuel with 30 laps remaining and returned to the track to try to make up Reddick’s nearly 20-second advantage at the time. He slowly gained but ultimately came up short.

Although Bell’s impressive effort on the night didn’t earn him the race trophy, he does go into the Playoffs with the points lead. He is the top-ranked driver with 2,055 points as they are reset. Custer and Reddick are tied for second as the points re-set, 11 points behind Bell.

The rest of the Xfinity Series Playoff qualifiers in their re-seeded order include Austin Cindric, rookie Chase Briscoe, veterans Justin Allgaier and Michael Annett, rookie Noah Gragson, Brandon Jones, Justin Haley, Ryan Sieg and rookie John Hunter Nemechek. The seven-race Championship Playoffs begin next week at Richmond Raceway.

Sieg failed post-race technical inspection, but fortunately for him, it didn’t cost him a Playoff berth.

Custer, who bested Bell for the pole position Saturday afternoon, earned his fourth consecutive top-10 at the track and although disappointed not to win, seemed optimistic about his Playoff potential.

“We were just tight,’’ Custer said of his No. 00 Stewart-Haas Racing Ford. “We tried to make adjustments to fix it. Just a tough weekend. ‘’

But, he added. “We had a great regular season and looking forward to the Playoffs. I’m pumped for it. I think all the tracks in the playoffs we’ll be strong and everybody should look out for us.’’

Reddick’s crew chief Randall Burnett conceded it was a risky move to get the victory, but said he was feeling the Vegas vibe and that a strategic gamble was their only hope in besting the faster Bell.

“We felt like we weren’t going to be able to get up there and compete with the 20 (Bell) he was the class of the field all day,’’ Burnett said. “We saw an opportunity there. We knew we would be really close. None of the other guys came down (pit road). We really didn’t have anything to lose at this point.

“We got back out there, he [Reddick] did a great job managing and holding pace. We just managed our pace based on how fast the 20 was catching us. We had to pick it back up at the end.

“It just worked out. “The 

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XFINITY

Ryan Sieg Hopeful of Locking Up Playoff Berth in Las Vegas

LAS VEGAS, Nev — Barring any unexpected winners, Ryan Sieg and his family-owned team will be back in the NASCAR Xfinity Series playoffs.

“It’s huge for our team and our sponsors, and we’re looking to try to make it to the next round, at least get a win somewhere,” Sieg told POPULAR SPEED. “Maybe the next two weeks or something. We’re pretty decent at Richmond and at the ROVAL, you know. Shane, the crew chief, is pretty up to speed on the road course stuff and he ran good there last year, so he’s, he’s pretty excited, puts a lot into the road course.

“So hopefully we’ll get the win before the season’s end.”

The last time the team made the 12-driver cutoff was in 2016 and, it was considered an upset. However, that is not the case this year.

Sieg has proven to be impressive throughout the year, scoring two top-five’s and nine top-10’s, in addition to only having four finishes of 20th or worse.

“A couple of years ago it was all new to us, and our stuff wasn’t as good,” Sieg said. “It was decent, but we had a couple of mishaps in that first round and really, we probably should’ve went almost to the next round on points, but just a few mishaps by myself. I think we sped on pit road, we should have finished like sixth of the Dover and we ended up 19th. This year everybody’s more experienced, to Shane (Wilson, crew chief) and myself, so I think we got a better shot to try to make it to the next round this year.”

Looking ahead to the potential opportunity in front of him, the driver of the No. 39 is confident in his team’s ability.

That being said, Sieg knows that he will need to bring his best in order to compete against the likes of Joe Gibbs Racing, Team Penske, and JR Motorsports.

“You just have to execute everything, and hopefully they have a bad day, you know, not wishing anything on anyone, but you know what I mean?” Sieg said. “It’s going to be fun to see where we stack up this weekend and next, but next weekend, we should have been top-three at Richmond the first time around. Just pit crew lows really. We lost like 30 spots total during that race, should’ve been better than we were, but that is what it is. You know what I mean?

“Even this first race here, earlier in the year, we had pit crew struggles, and we corrected that situation and got a different pit crew. It’s definitely going to be better this time around.”

This Saturday’s race at Las Vegas Motor Speedway will determine if Sieg will be a part of the playoffs or not. If everything holds steady, he would enter the final seven races with one playoff point as of right now.

EMAIL MITCHELL AT mitchell.breuer@popularspeed.com

TWITTER: @MitchellB66

The thoughts and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of PopularSpeed.com, its owners, management or other contributors. Any links contained in this article should not be considered an endorsement.

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XFINITY

NASCAR Xfinity Series Regular Season Comes to Close in Las Vegas

It’s Vegas, baby! And what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas … unless it’s the last NASCAR Xfinity Series race of the regular season. Then, everyone will know exactly what happened.

We find ourselves at the culmination of the Xfinity Series’ regular season. So far, we haven’t seen any betting odds at sportsbooks online, but we have had a look at the entry list and we know a thing or two about this track. So, let’s take a gander.

NASCAR Xfinity Top-Five

Tyler Reddick leads the pack of Xfinity drivers with 1078 points. Christopher Bell is riding the second-place slot 2i5h 1028 points and in a couple of ways is having a better season than Reddick, given he has two more wins than the No. 1 driver. Cole Custer sits in third and he has a chance to finish the season with an even higher seed if he keeps his momentum through this weekend. Cole finished seventh in Indianapolis, adding another 39 points to his tally.

Justin Allgaier hasn’t taken a checkered flag yet this season, but he has a whole handful of top finishes. His second-place finish at the Lilly Diabetes 250 attests to that. His 10 top-fives are good enough for 4th place. Rounding out the top-five, Austin Cindric has 877 points but had a bit of trouble over at the Brickyard with a DNF.

Can No.7 Keep Momentum?

Justin Allgaier should be on our list of top fantasy drivers for the final race of the regular season. His consistency for finishing in the top 10 has been astounding. Last weekend, he qualified at No. 8, which made nine straight top-ten starts. Look for him to qualify well in Las Vegas as well and bring that number to 10 consecutive top-tens.

The No. 7 car immediately started moving up the board after the start. Allgaier gained a couple of positions and finished sixth during the first stage and even took the second-stage win and another playoff point by holding off Kyle Busch. That said, he couldn’t hold the Buschwacker off forever. Kyle Busch was gifted the lead after a crash with just eight laps to go. He also got a push from Allgaier’s teammate. So, the win ‘wasn’t in the cards’ for Justin Allgaier. He was hoping to get back to back wins at the Brickyard but instead had to settle for his fourth second-place finish this season.

Kyle Busch admitted that he got a lot of help from the drivers behind him and that if the race would have gone on for just two more laps, the No. 7 car would have caught him. Instead, he took his 96th victory lap in the Xfinity Series.

Back to the Las Vegas Motor Speedway, Kyle Busch won here back in March, but he’s not on the entry list for Joe Gibbs Racing this Saturday, So, will Justin Allgaier finally get a win on the 14th? If he finishes strong, he could collect a full 8 playoff points – getting by Cole Custer– and make a strong run at Homestead and possibly even the Championship.

Points leader, Tyler Reddick should be considered as well as the Indiana race-leader Christopher Bell. Both of these drivers took hard collisions at the end of the race in Indiana and will be looking for some redemption in Las Vegas.

The thoughts and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of PopularSpeed.com, its owners, management or other contributors. Any links contained in this article should not be considered an endorsement.

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XFINITY

Kyle Busch holds off Justin Allgaier to notch fourth Brickyard win

SPEEDWAY, Ind. – It was more of the same for Kyle Busch in Saturday’s Indiana 250 NASCAR Xfinity Series race at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, but “more of the same” was anything but easy.

Busch held off Justin Allgaier by .132 seconds during a five-lap run to the finish at the 2.5-mile track, but only after a hard crash that took out frontrunners Christopher Bell and Tyler Reddick with seven laps left.

With a strong short-run car, combined with his unquestioned prowess on restarts, Busch took control after the final restart to win for the fourth time at the Brickyard, the fourth time in seven starts this season and the 96th time in his career, extending his series record.

In more ways than one, Busch benefited from the wreck that took out Bell and Reddick as they were battling for the lead. For one thing, it eliminated two of the strongest cars in the race. For another, it put Busch out front in clean air, greatly improving the handling of the No. 18 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota Supra.

“It was really tough to pass, even when you had a run on a guy,” Busch said in Victory Lane. “You could pass the guys who were set up for long-runs on the straightaways but some of those other guys, like (Bell, Brandon Jones) and the JGR guys, they were stupid fast.

“We got back in traffic and just really fought the handling of this thing and got stuck around fourth place. I’m real proud of this team. This Toyota Supra was awesome today, and glad we got to take it to Victory Lane.”

Allgaier, the defending race winner, led a trio of JR Motorsports cars to top-five finishes, with Noah Gragson charging to third in the closing laps and Jeb Burton matching his career-best finish in his fifth start of the season. Justin Haley ran fifth and scored 35 points, enough to become the ninth driver to clinch a spot in the Xfinity Series Playoffs.

Three cautions in the final 14 laps doomed the chances of Allgaier, whose No. 7 Chevrolet was set up for long green-flag runs.

“Kyle’s great, especially on restarts,” said Allgaier, who led three times for 24 laps, half the total recorded by the race winner. “That’s what sets him apart in the Cup Series and here in the Xfinity Series. Our Suave Men Camaro was on rails, especially on the long runs…

“You don’t realize what it means to you until you come that close to tasting those bricks again. We’ll go to Vegas (for the regular-season finale) next week, finish out the regular season strong and take this momentum into the Playoffs.”

Bell and Reddick were running up front after a restart on Lap 93 of 100, but Bell’s Toyota broke loose under Reddick’s Chevrolet in Turn 2, sending both cars hard into the outside wall and eliminating them from the race.

Bell finished 29th, one spot ahead of Reddick.

“Of all my NASCAR crashes, this one takes the cake,” Bell said after visiting the infield care center. The wreck deprived him of a chance to win for the seventh time this season.

Brandon Jones recovered from a spin after contact with Austin Cindric’s Ford on Lap 87 to finish sixth, one position ahead of six-time winner Cole Custer. Chase Briscoe, Austin Hill and Ryan Sieg completed the top 10.

Reddick retained the series lead by 50 points over Bell and can clinch the regular-season title next Saturday by scoring 11 points.