The green flag waved at Las Vegas Motor Speedway to kick off the Xfinity Series playoffs. The 12 playoff drivers got their first chance to show what they’ve got in this first round. Some rolled the dice and came out lucky, while others rolled snake eyes and lost out on valuable points. The driver who got to cash in the most money in Sin City was Indiana’s Chase Briscoe.
Just like back in February at the same speedway, the rest of the field posed no threat to him, and he sailed away to the win. His No. 98 Stewart-Haas Racing Ford Mustang ledthe field for an astonishing 164 laps out of the 200 that were run Saturday night. He won both stages and held off hopeful hometown driver Noah Gragson by 1.3 seconds to win the Alsco 300.
Saturday’s triumph was his eighth win of the season and his 10th career win overall. It also makes it back-to-back checkered flags for Briscoe after claiming one last weekend at Bristol Motor Speedway. He is now safely secured into the Round of 8 in the Xfinity Series playoffs.
Gragson, Daniel Hemric, Justin Allgaier and Ryan Sieg rounded out the top five.
Earlier this season, Briscoe said that reaching eight wins would be a noble goal to achieve. Well, guess what? That’s exactly what he did. He extends his win total in front of fellow Ford driver, Austin Cindric, who finished sixth. He’ll now get to face these next two races with a little less weight on his shoulders. Of course, this doesn’t mean Briscoe will lay over and take these next two races easy. Maybe getting to 10 wins can be a good thing for the driver to get after. Can’t hurt to try, right?
One driver who found good luck in the timing of a caution was Michael Annett. While the rest of the leaders pitted, he stayed out hoping for a caution. Thanks to Joe Graf Jr.’s stray tire, Annett got the yellow he was hoping for. He was able to keep his No. 1 Chevrolet Camaro in the top five for the final 40 laps before slipping back to seventh at the checkered flag. It was a good call by Annett’s team at JR Motorsports to steal a positive finish away from what could’ve been a sub-par night.
With fellow hometown driver Gragson getting a runner-up finish, one driver who did not have a favorable hometown race was Riley Herbst. 12th doesn’t seem like a bad result on paper, but in Herbst’s situation – being 11th in the playoff standings and trailing teammate Harrison Burton by 14 points – it can be a little troublesome. Considering that Herbst has poor results in two of the road courses that were run this season, his only shot at advancing to the next round may have to come at Talladega. Not the type of night Herbst would’ve liked to have on home soil.
Although there were no major incidents that occurred during Saturday’s race, one situation that could’ve turned out much worse involved Ross Chastain. Cindric tapped the driver going through turn 4 on the final restart, very nearly losing control before gathering it back together. An impressive save, but it came at a cost for Chastain, who finished as the final car on the lead lap in 16th. Fortunately, he has performed well at superspeedway tracks and will look to have a good result at Talladega. He sure doesn’t want to end up in too deep of a hole when the series goes to the Charlotte Motor Speedway ROVAL two rounds from now.
Sieg entered Las Vegas Motor Speedway underneath the playoff bubble. We’ve seen Sieg and his team capitalize under pressure in the past. He finished third at the same speedway in February. And on Saturday, he was able to do it again. Sieg had a competitive day, keeping his family-owned No. 39 Chevrolet Camaro in the top 10 all race long. He finished in the top five in both stages, valuably collecting 15 additional stage points in the process. At the end of the night, Sieg ended up fifth. For a team like RSS Racing, this top-five result is just the kind of medicine they needed. A little good can go a long way, and if Sieg makes it to the Round of 8, he will look back on Saturday night’s event as the race that got him there.
“We’ve had a lot of wins this year, but this was by far our most dominant car. I’m glad I can sleep a little bit easier this week going into Talladega and the ROVAL and just enjoy it.” – Chase Briscoe
“I felt like we were really good, the best I’ve ever been here. Just didn’t have enough for the 98. Lots of race cars out here and one space shuttle.” – Noah Gragson
Fortunately for most teams, Saturday’s race at LVMS was rather quiet, calm and inexpensive, with only two cautions for spinouts. They’ll get to go back home with cars in one piece. But that means one thing: The Big One looms ahead at Talladega Superspeedway. Every driver except Briscoe will be going to the 2.66-mile track with a little more fear. But in contrast to that fear lies opportunity. Drivers like Sieg, Annett and Brandon Brown can view next weekend’s race as an opportunity to work the draft and get a win to lock themselves into the next round. Same thing goes for longshot drivers like Jeremy Clements, Alex Labbe or Josh Williams, who just want to win, period. Next Saturday afternoon, we shall see who the beast will be tamed by, and who will get chewed up and spit back out by it.
The Xfinity Series will head to Talladega Superspeedway in Alabama for the second time this season. Justin Haley will look to defend his race win that he scored in June. The Ag-Pro 300 is scheduled to run on Saturday, Oct. 3 at 4:30 p.m. ET. NBC Sports Network will handle television duties for the event, and MRN will host the race on radio.