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.
A daily email update (Monday through Friday) providing racing news, commentary, features, and information from Frontstretch.com
We hate spam. Your email address will not be sold or shared with anyone else.