NASCAR Race Weekend Central

XFINITY Series Chase Sees Strong Shakeup Amid Attrition-Filled Duel

You know that nice, new NASCAR XFINITY Series Chase grid you made before Saturday’s playoff opener at Kentucky Speedway?

 

It’s probably already wrong, though the field has two weeks to fix it.

Championship favorite Erik Jones and Richard Childress Racing teammates Ty Dillon and Brandon Jones are among the drivers that find themselves on the outside looking in after suffering crashes in the Chase-opening VisitMyrtleBeach.com 300 at Kentucky.

Entering the Chase with a season-high four victories, Erik Jones appeared to have the dominant car for much of the weekend, pacing Friday practices before taking the 21 Means 21 Pole award on Saturday afternoon.

The strong runs continued for the Joe Gibbs Racing rookie when the green flag flew for 300 miles of racing, too. While strategies changed throughout the night, Jones’ strong car allowed him to maneuver his way back to the front with ease, and he proved to be the only one capable of consistently pulling away once he took over the race lead.

However, Jones’ strong night took a change for the worse on lap 187. Running inside of Dillon for third on one of the race’s many cautions, Jones was sailing off into turn 3 when he lost control of his No. 20 Toyota, sliding up the track and into Dillon. The resulting contact sent Dillon spinning around and pinning Jones into the outside wall, ultimately ending both driver’s nights.

“I just got sucked around,” Jones said. “I tried, I slammed on the brakes trying to slow down, but Ty (Dillon) had been holding me really tight there on the restart slamming doors in (turn) one and two. He was on me pretty tight down there. It was my fault, but it’s tough when you’re in that situation.”

Dillon ultimately finished 27th, with Jones following in 28th.

As a result of their crash, the two Chase hopefuls find themselves mired in the back half of the Chase grid. While Jones sits only three points behind eighth-place Blake Koch courtesy of the 12 bonus points from his four regular season victories, the winless Dillon now finds himself in a deep 15-point hole with only two races left to climb out of it.

Sadly for Richard Childress Racing, Dillon isn’t the only driver for the organization to find himself in that whole, either.

Brandon Jones was running inside of the top 15 on lap 94 when he found himself at the wrong place at the wrong time, getting the worst of a crash with the spinning Justin Marks. Jones quickly brought his No. 33 to the garage area for repairs, but the lengthy repair and subsequent lack of speed with his would-be modified by that point relegated the rookie to a 26th-place finish.

Now RCR teammates Dillon and Jones find themselves in an unenviable position, tied for last in the Chase and likely in need of a victory at either Dover International Speedway or Charlotte Motor Speedway to keep their playoff hopes alive.

Joining the three drivers listed above is Ryan Sieg. Driving for his own family team, Sieg made the best of a poor night that saw a flat tire and a spin to salvage a 16th-place result. However, much like on Chris Buescher’s underdog tale on the Sprint Cup Series side of the Chase story, Sieg likely needed a strong run and even more help from crashed competitors to have a realistic chance of moving on. Sieg’s underdog tale continues, but he now finds himself five points behind Koch for the current cutoff position.

On the other side of the grid, strong showings from Roush Fenway Racing teammates Ryan Reed and Darrell Wallace, Jr., now see Ford’s lone Chase participants tied for fourth in the championship table, seven points ahead of the cutoff. While the team admits they’re still lacking speed, Saturday’s run puts them in a good position to continue on in the playoffs as they attempt to improve.

There are still two races remaining in the opening round of the XFINITY Series Chase, and with them are likely to come a slew of plot twist and championship swings. However, for the time being, a few of the series’ best are left searching for answers as they try to salvage what could become a lost season.

Chase Standings, via NASCAR

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kb

Did I see Danielle Suarez check Sam Hornish Jr? Not once but twice rapidly? Sam then spun out and all silent at the Kentucky Speedway…quickly diminishing Sam’s slam! The usual verbiage is “they both were going for the same real estate”. I saw several replays and I saw a jerky wheel move twice. But it is a Toyota after all, it is their time of year to start picking off competitors, with an “opppssss”. And not a word said about it after or immediately after.

And hey how about that guy over 41 years of age winning today. So much for a “feeder series” for young and up and coming talent…LOL

Ken

I’ll take Sadler winning over a Gibbs driver any day. That Jones kid reminds me too much of another Gibbs driver who thinks he’s the god of NASCAR! And truth be known, I was cheering for the two Roush drivers, Darrell Wallace and Ryan Reed. Wallace is definitely the better of the two, and hopefully, he can follow in the footsteps of his teammate from last year (Chris Buescher), and finish ahead of the Gibbs drivers

As for your comment about this supposedly being a feeder series, that ship sailed long ago, since NASCAR has turned a blind eye to the Cup drivers dominating the show to inflate their egos. It’s like the truck series is supposed to be a feeder series, but, a few years ago, while there were a lot of up-and-coming young drivers in the series, it was also becoming a sort of senior’s circuit. Guys like Ted Musgrave, Johnny Benson, and Ron Hornaday were the dominant drivers as they were winding their careers down. I was hoping Mark Martin would have run a season or two after he finally called it quits in the cup series. He might have finally won a championship!

kb

No argument on your post, I agree…I am merely parroting the retoric of it “being the feeder series for young drivers”. That hasn’t worked out in some time. Yes the Cuppers play a part, but I always laugh at the again retoric of the Cup guys stealing this and that…they do…however so does the 41 year old Elliot Sadler and the other long time old timers that make a very comfortable living. Justin Alllgier comes to mind, what value he brings is lost on me, but he is another one (for starters) that could slide into oblivion and his “contributions” will not be missed. There are several that the level and truck series too. IMO.

kb

And yes Ken, I dislike “that Jones kid” too. He has an entitlement that is hard to overcome in the liking department. He is taking after the Queens and is doing a good job of absorbing their entitled, whiny, temper tantrums. Frankly that “Jones Kid”‘ is a spoiled P.I.A! Nothing liikable. IMO

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