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XFINITY

XFINITY Series: Five on Five

The Five on Five feature will break down some of the key points in each of the previous five races for the NASCAR XFINITY Series. Here is a peek at Road America through Kentucky.

First Time Winners

With a road course, three intermediates and a short track over the past five races, along with desperation to impress before the year is over, a couple of drivers broke through for their first career wins.

Jeremy Clements started off the stretch, picking up his first career series victory at Road America in his seventh season of competition. Then, Denny Hamlin scored his second victory of the year for Joe Gibbs Racing at Darlington Raceway. Notably, the finish was encumbered after he failed post-race technical inspection.

Team Penske returned to victory lane at Richmond International Speedway with Brad Keselowski behind the wheel, with JRM Motorsports’ Justin Allgaier scored his second win of the year at Chicagoland Speedway.

And finally, Tyler Reddick picked up his first career win driving for Chip Ganassi Racing at Kentucky Speedway.

Peaking at the Right Time

Throughout the summer, the discussion focused on JR Motorsports’ rookie William Byron and his impressive resume. However, there’s another driver in their camp peaking at the right time.

After winning the last race of the regular season at Chicagoland, Allgaier backed it up with a third to start the playoffs at Kentucky. Now entering Saturday’s race at Dover International Speedway, he has scored four consecutive top-eight finishes.

The success is not a surprise, though, as Allgaier was one of the Championship 4 last year at Homestead-Miami Speedway. The driver of the No. 7 Chevrolet was impressive last year, scoring just one finish outside of the top-10 en route to putting himself in title contention.

While he came up short last year with a sixth, 2017 could produce different results if he makes it to the finale based on his team’s strength.

Time To Panic

Although some drivers have momentum in the playoffs, there are others who could use a big turnaround.

Following the first event of the Round of 12, Michael Annett and Clements are sitting at the bottom of the bracket, more than 30 points each out of the top-eight.

While his JR Motorsports teammates have been scoring top-10’s, Annett has been stuck in the teens all year as noted by the past four races. Any improvement doesn’t look to be on the horizon, either, as he was 21st in final practice for Saturday’s Use Your Melon. Drive Sober 200 at Dover. 

Clements, meanwhile, made the playoffs with a surprise victory at Road America. However, since then, he has only scored one top-20 finish. 

The next two weeks at Dover and Charlotte Motor Speedway will see lots of points up for grabs to give an opportunity to both to make-up ground. But without significant improvement by their teams, it won’t matter at the end of the day.

No Trophy Engraving, Yet.

With top-five finishes each week and sweeping the top-three spots in the regular season, everybody was ready to hand JR Motorsports the series championship trophy. Not so fast, though. The cream is starting to rise to the crop in the early stages of the playoffs, and a couple of drivers are ready to lay a challenge to the top seeds.

Cole Custer kicked off the playoffs with a fifth-place finish at Kentucky Speedway, allowing him to move up to second in the standings, with a sizable gap of 23 points back to eighth-ranked Ryan Reed. The rookie has been solid all year and enters Dover on the heels of back-to-back top-10’s. 

Daniel Hemric has been quietly hanging right there with the JR Motorsports drivers, consistently locking down top-10’s with 13 in 27 events.  He also started off the playoffs well, scoring a seventh-place finish at Kentucky. He now enters this weekend at Dover with three straight top-seven finishes.  

Glimpse of Hope

If Ryan Reed could forget the past 10 races, he probably would as they haven’t gone as anticipated with three straight crashes, and just a pair of top-10’s. Thankfully, the second of those came to start the playoffs, as he placed 10th at Kentucky. The finish was enough for Reed to enter the next two races of the Round of 12 sitting in the last spot to move on – eighth. 

With two more races remaining, Roush Fenway Racing knows they have to step it up if they want to keep their single shot at the XFINITY Championship in the running. For Reed, if the slump carries forward at all, he will be in danger as the gap between him and Brendan Gaughan is only eight points.

So far, things are going decently at Dover as he was 13th quickest in final practice.  

EMAIL ASHLEY AT ashley.mccubbin@popularspeed.com

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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

CLEMENTS: “It’s a Miracle” to Win

Jeremy Clements has been one of the most persistent racers in the NASCAR XFINITY Series through 256 career starts.

Driving for a small, family-owned operation provides its challenges as keeping up with the top performers in the series on a consistent basis is no easy task.

Despite the adversity, the No. 51 team continues to race each weekend, knowing their chance to succeed is unlikely.

It can happen, though, and did in Sunday’s Johnsonville 180 at Road America as Clements earned his first career victory.

Realistically, there are six races a season that provide smaller teams with an improved chance to excel as restrictor plate and road course events often even the playing field.

While Daytona, Talladega, and Watkins Glen provide that opportunity, the increased presence of Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series drivers further limits the potential for surprise contenders.

Standalone events at Mid-Ohio and Road America are different because the focus is on the series regulars. 

“These road courses are wild races,” Clements said. “This one and Mid-Ohio are the ones in my mind that I come and can do really good at. Top-five, top-10. Maybe even win like we did today. You don’t have Cup guys here. You got just the regular teams, and that just gives you a shot. The road courses are wild. A lot of stuff happens.”

It’s less about the quality of the equipment and more about the ability of the driver and strategy that the team uses during road course events.

Clements entered the race knowing it could be one of his best performances of the year but having no idea that he would end the day in Victory Lane.

“Obviously I drive for a small family team and to get a win in any of these starts is amazing,” Clements said. “It’s a miracle. Feels like a dream come true.”

The feat is even more impressive considering the teams that he beat.

JR Motorsports occupies the top three positions in the points standings and will have some of the strongest Playoff contenders but came closest with Michael Annett in second-place.

Joe Gibbs Racing led a combined 17 circuits but Clements chased down Matt Tifft in the closing laps, and Tifft ended up third.

Richard Childress Racing won three consecutive races at Road America leading into Sunday but was unable to showcase the strength expected of the organization.

For the No. 51 team to prevail, it attests to their hard work and determination, given the weekly challenges they face.

“It’s very hard,” Clements said. “We’ve got to make a lot of sacrifices. We run old stuff every week. This car was literally built in 2008.”

This victory will go down as one of the biggest upsets in XFINITY Series history. While rare, these moments define racing and highlight why all 40 teams compete every week.

Now the outlook on Clements’ season and career have changed. He will take part in the Playoffs this fall, something his team didn’t even think about before Sunday.

“I wasn’t even looking at the Chase because we were so far back and we didn’t really have a shot honestly unless we won,” Clements said.

Winning one race is a meaningful accomplishment, but now his career will be driven by the motivation to return to Victory Lane and taste the champagne for the second time. 

Will it happen? It’s anyone’s guess. But Sunday proved that it is possible.

FOLLOW ON TWITTER: @HeyJasonSchultz

EMAIL JASON AT jason.schultz@popularspeed.com

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

Congrats Roll In for Jeremy Clements After Stunning Upset Win

There’s nothing like a first-time winner in NASCAR, and Sunday at Road America, Jeremy Clements scored a stunning victory in the Johnsonville 180 NASCAR XFINITY Series race at Road America.

Clements, a native of Spartanburg, S.C., survived a late-race spin as he tried to pass leader Matt Tifft and went on to win his first race in 256 career XFINITY starts.

 “I don’t even know what to say,” said Clements. “I’m just shocked. I built that car in 2008.”

But others in the racing community had plenty to say, as a first-time winner energizes everyone.

Here’s what folks had to say on social media.

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News

Jeremy Clements Earns Upset Victory at Road America

ELKHART LAKE, Wis. – Journeyman Jeremy Clements and his small team topped big-name race organizations to clinch a first-ever victory in 256 NASCAR XFINITY Series starts.

On the second-to-last lap of the Johnsonville 180 Sunday at Road America, Clements attempted to pass Matt Tifft for the lead. He wheeled his Chevrolet to the inside of Tifft’s Toyota Camry sending both of them spinning. Clements fired his car back up faster than Tifft and seized the lead headed into the final go-around. From there, the 32-year-old XFINITY Series veteran cruised to Victory Lane, finishing 5.802 seconds ahead of runner-up Michael Annett.

Clements, whose family owns Clements Racing out of Spartanburg, South Carolina, with his father Tony Clements, was running in a Chevrolet that was built in 2008. With the victory, he earned a berth in the NASCAR XFINITY Series playoffs.

“I’m extremely pleased right now, and it feels like a dream,” said Clements, who started 24th in the 40-car field.

Tifft finished third. The 21-year-old Joe Gibbs Racing driver said he was battling a loose car in the braking zones and realized that Clements would pose a tough challenge, since he had fresher tires.

Tifft led six laps toward the end of the race before the incident with Clements, who made his final pit stop on Lap 29.

“I wish we could have raced for the white flag and been able to battle it out a little bit more,” said Tifft, who made his final pit stop on Lap 21 in the No. 19 Toyota.

“It’s funny how things work. How at Mid-Ohio you can be thrilled with a third-place finish and you’re upset about it here. All you can do is keep on trying to have great runs and one day it works out for you.”

The task was not a simple one for Clements, who held the race lead for a handful of laps when the leaders pitted early in the third stage and he was out in front for the one that mattered most in the 45-lap event.

“I was licking my chops,” Clements said. “I was just so excited, I couldn’t believe that the (win) was right there for me to get.

“I was really beating a lot of guys out of those last two corners. Especially the last corner; I could get in really deep. That’s where I thought I could pass (Tifft) at. I should have maybe been a little more patient. But it was coming on the last lap. He’s probably mad though, and I’m sorry to him.”

Sports car standout James Davison was in the wrong place at the wrong time on the final lap of the second stage. Davison led the first 11 laps of the race but tagged the retaining wall in turn 6 on Lap 19 and sustained severe damage on the No. 20 Toyota that forced the Australian to the garage. Davison, driving for Joe Gibbs Racing in his third XFINITY Series start, won Stage 1 and led a race-high 11 laps.

Justin Marks overcame damage to his car sustained at the end of Stage 2 in a collision with Ross Chastain to finish fourth. Brendan Gaughan came in fifth. William Byron, Blake Koch, Cole Custer, Casey Mears and Parker Kligerman rounded out the top 10.

Daniel Hemric won the second stage, led 10 laps and finished 11th overall.

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XFINITY

Clements Leaves Bristol with Black Eye

A rain delay during a NASCAR event typically breeds boredom. But the turn of events after the Lap 162 red flag, wasn’t very typical. 

During a portion of the Fitzgerald Glider Kits 300 for the NASCAR XFINITY Series that lead to the red flag, drivers Ross Chastain and Jeremy Clements made contact. After the drivers had exited their respective cars, Clements approached Chastain to discuss the incident and subsequently put his hand on his shoulder. Chastain wasn’t in the mood to chat and proceeded to turn and punch Clements, who stated an altercation was not his intention.

“Somebody grabbed me and turned me around, and I saw red eyes and a face that wasn’t going to talk,” Chastain said. “It was a reaction on my part. I’ve never punched anybody in my life. I don’t know what I’d do if I could do it all over again. I can’t let people come up and grab me. It’s happened before in NASCAR and out of NASCAR. I felt like I had to stand my ground.’’

Clements made a brief trip to the care center to be treated and released for a swollen left eye. 

“I’ve talked to him before, and it doesn’t get us anywhere,’’ Clements said. “I don’t know what to do. I try to race him clean all the time. He cuts you no slack, and sometimes we’re running for 22nd and 23rd and (he) just door slams you. It’s uncalled for.’’

The pair met with NASCAR after the event, and left shaking hands.

“I feel bad,’’ Chastain said. “We run against each other. We work together. We buy motors from them. They build our motors, so it’s not good for me to do that. We’re good and on to Richmond.’’

Clements and Chastain finished the race 17th and 31st respectively.

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

Clements Set to Return to XFINITY Series

One of NASCAR’s successful underdog drivers will return to NASCAR XFINITY Series competition this season as Jeremy Clements Racing announced on Friday that Jeremy Clements will run the full 2017 XFINITY Series schedule and compete for the championship.

JCR, a family-operated single car team, will be competing in their seventh full-time season in NASCAR’s second-tier series.

Clements is coming off his career-best season statistically in 2016 by compiling one top-five and three top-10 finishes. He scored his career-best finish at Talladega Superspeedway last April, finishing fourth. Clements finished 15th in the final championship standings.

RepairableVehicles.com will return once again as a season-long partner for Clements and the No. 51 Chevrolet. Repairable Vehicles will be the primary sponsor for both races at Daytona and for May’s race at Talladega.

Clements said, “It’s awesome to have Brad Meyer and Repairable Vehicles back again this year. They have really stepped up our speedway program with a new car and new look.” JCR is also, pleased to announce the return of long time partners All South Electrical out of Cartersville, GA, BRT Extrusions out of Niles, OH and Harrison’s Workwear out of Mauldin, SC as associate sponsors for Daytona. All South Electrical will also be a primary sponsor for four races in 2017 beginning in Atlanta. BRT and Harrison’s will also return during the season as associate sponsors in up-coming races.

When asked about 2017 Clements said “It’s great to have ASE, BRT and Harrison’s back for this season too. I’m just ready to get back on track. The competition definitely has gotten deeper but the new point’s format will be fun and give us better opportunities to secure a playoff berth.”

 EMAIL JUSTIN at tuckerjustin65@yahoo.com

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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

“They Said What?” Memorable Quotes – XFINITY Series

Sometimes when you stick a microphone in front of a driver’s face – especially when they’re mad, you have no clue what they may say and a couple of times you’ll hear something that surprises you or gives you a bit of a perspective.

Throughout the NASCAR XFINITY Series season, I had the opportunity to speak to a bunch of different competitors, whether for features or following events. During those interviews, there were some quotes that stood out. So it seems only fitting we take a glance back through the year at what was said.

 

“I think it’s a rule change that somebody felt needed to be done – fans, media, whoever doesn’t like that Kyle Busch wins so much. So they’ve made a rule to protect against Kyle Busch. I don’t think we have a Cup driver problem. I think we have a problem with one driver and people don’t like it. I want to race against him each week so I don’t care. I want to race against him and try to beat him every week, so I can get better. So for me, it’s a rule they’ve made, it’s in place and it’s done. We’ll fight through it; we’ll keep racing, and hopefully it results in some more wins for us. But in the end, I still wish they were racing against us.”

Brendan Gaughan‘s opinion on the new “Competition Guidelines” for Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series regulars in the XFINITY & Camping World Truck Series.

 

“Matt (Kaulig) is such a loyal guy, and has stuck with me since the first time he sponsored me three seasons ago. It’s tough to succeed in this sport as it takes time, but that’s what it takes. You just need to find someone who will stick with you through the good and bad, and have your back. Matt has my back and believes in me, as well as everybody at Leaf Filter Gutter Protection, and my team at Kaulig Racing. Chris Rice and I have a good relationship, and that’s what it takes – good relationships to make it.”

Blake Koch on his relationship, partnership with Kaulig Racing owner Matt Kaulig

 

“It’s not the ideal situation, but it’s what we’re dealt with because we don’t have a $1 million plus to drive for them, so we have to do it ourselves. I’m still fortunate to be able to it, though. It’s just tough. We don’t have the money, engineering, all the people that they have. It can be hard and impossible to outrun them in certain places, so it’s frustrating, but at the end of the day, it’s still gratifying when you can get close to them and on some days, run right there with them and sometimes beat some of them. That keeps you going for sure.”

Jeremy Clements on driving for a small team against some of the big teams in the series, like Joe Gibbs Racing and JR Motorsports.

 

“It’s tough. We don’t have as much funding as the other teams but are hopeful that will change. We have maybe five guys at the shop, and those guys need to be at the track, so it’s hard to maintain the cars. We may be running the same car week after week, where other guys have new cars as they have them ready.”

Joey Gase on driving for a small team against some of the big teams in the series.

 

“I’d really like to. I’m not hiding the fact that I’m good on road courses in the car, but I could be good on an oval. I believe that I like the feel of the car and I think it suits my driving style.”

Alex Tagliani on wanting to eventually run an oval event in one of NASCAR’s top-three divisions. 

 

“I’m driving racecars for a living and it’s pretty amazing to get to do what I love to do. I’m fortunate to be surrounded by a great race team and great partners like Lilly Diabetes and American Diabetes Association. I’m just trying to enjoy myself and enjoy the work process and trying to get better each week and spend time at the shop with the guys, and just try to have a lot of fun. Like I said, appreciate the whole process a little more rather than focusing just on the end goal.”

Ryan Reed 

 

“I have to say that it’s a dream come true. I’ve worked really hard to get to where I am and to accomplish the goals that I have accomplished. It’s great to have the opportunity to move up the ladder and give myself a shot to run in the XFINITY Series.”

Ryan Preece on his opportunity last year to drive for JD Motorsports full-time.

 

“I always set my expectations a little higher for myself than others would. I sometimes leave the track disappointed more than others, but in a good way because I’m trying to push myself harder. The main thing right now is completing all the laps and not getting caught up in any wrecks so we can complete all the laps.”

Brandon Gdovic on his goals and expectations for the season. 

 

“It’s kind of been the rebuilding year. Everybody is starting to realize that Corey LaJoie can drive again.”

Corey LaJoie’s thoughts after pulling together a string of solid finishes this year, compared to the lack of success in a previous XFINITY attempt with Richard Petty Motorsports.

 

“Our car chief (Brent Wentz) this week said it the best – the races and championships aren’t won at the track, they’re won during the week with the preparation that we do in the shop. I definitely believe in that as that’s the approach that we had on the 2 car, so that takes a lot of pressure off on the weekend if you’ve done your work during the week and feel good with where you’re at the shop.”

Brian Wilson on whether there’s pressure on him to win as the crew chief for the Team Penske’s No. 22 entry. 

 

EMAIL ASHLEY AT ashley.mccubbin@popularspeed.com

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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

Koch, Sieg Leave Richmond With Chase Advantage

Following the Virginia 529 College Savings 250 at Richmond, the race to the XFINITY Series Chase is another step towards the conclusion, and the field is almost set. Entering the finale, two drivers sit on a nice points cushion, while others have some work to do heading into Chicagoland.

Coming into Friday Night, Blake Koch and Ryan Sieg sat in 11th and 12th respectively holding at least a 15 point advantage of 13th. Both managed to exit Friday with a slightly bigger advantage.

Koch, who entered the night 22 points ahead of 13th, battled just outside the top-10 for the majority of the race before coming home in 15th. With the finish, the 31-year-old extended his lead over 13th by one point and now has a solid 23 point gap heading into the cutoff race.

Sieg also had a solid night, which ended with a 14th place finish. Like Koch, he added more cushion to his gap over 13th as he now sits 20 points ahead.

While those two sit with an edge, Dakoda Armstrong and Jeremey Clements now leave Richmond with some ground to make up as both drivers nights didn’t go as well as hoped.

Armstrong, who ran inside the top-10 for at the beginning of the event, battled a loose car late and settled for a 16th and now a 20 point deficit. Like Armstrong, Clements also struggled with his car throughout the night and finished 17th. The driver/car owner now sits 29 points behind.

While not impossible, Armstrong and Clements will need to have great days in Chicagoland to overcome the obstacles in front of them to make the Chase. Well on the flip side, Koch and Sieg will enter next weekend needing mistake free-days, knowing one could cost them an opportunity at a possible championship.

Mitchell Breuer is a POPULAR SPEED Development Journalist

EMAIL MITCHELL AT mitchell.breuer@popularspeed.com

TWITTER: @MitchellB66

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Feature XFINITY

Chase Hopes Alive for Clements after Darlington Finish


DARLINGTON, S.C. – What a homecoming for Jeremy Clements.

The No. 51 RepairableVehicles.com Chevrolet captured an eighth-place finish at Darlington Raceway, his third top 10 of the 2016 XFINITY Series season. After taking the green flag in 19th, crew chief Tony Clements’ adjustments helped Jeremy climb through the field at The Track Too Tough to Tame.

Clements, who grew up Spartanburg, knew that pit strategy also played a huge role in their result.

“We kept making our car better, and we didn’t pit during that long green-flag run,” Clements told POPULAR SPEED. “I got tires under caution like everybody else and was able to stay there. Track position was huge, and that’s what we got. I just want to thank the RepairableVehicles.com people, Brad Meyer and those guys.”

Rebounding off a 25-place finish at Road America, Clements feels the Darlington result shows his team’s speed, and although eighth-place is refreshing, he and his team refuse to accept anything less than the end goal – a chance at the championship.

“We’ve run up and down, but the past few races, we’ve been pretty fast,” Clements said. “That’s what keeps you going. We’re not giving up; our goal is to make this Chase, and we’re going to keep digging.”

The goal is certainly doable; the No. 51 sits 26 points behind Ryan Sieg, who holds the twelfth and final slot in the XFINITY Series Chase. Two races remain until the field is locked in, but recent speed proves there is still a chance for Jeremy Clements Racing.

A strong finish in his home state of South Carolina carries a lot of weight. Although he grew up 150 miles away from the historic track, it played a huge part in his childhood as he attended races growing up. In the grand scheme of things, the fact he gets to race at “The Lady in Black” makes his finish even more surreal.

“This is big. I love Darlington,” he said. “I remember coming here as a kid to watch the race and just dreaming of racing here. What an amazing accomplishment it is to even be here and race.”

EMAIL KRISTEN AT kristen.schneider@popularspeed.com

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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.