Dakoda Armstrong

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Xfinity Spotlight: How far will playoff drivers go to advance?

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No mother or grandmother is safe.

That’s the impression left by more than one of the 12 NASCAR Xfinity Series playoff drivers when asked a simple question.

What are you willing to do to advance to the Round of 8?

Thanks to wins by non-playoff divers Tyler Reddick and Ryan Blaney, none of the 12 drivers have officially advanced to next round.

Here’s what each driver had to say before the start of the playoffs.

Justin Allgaier, JR Motorsports’ No. 7 Chevrolet (+54 points above first driver outside transfer spot)

“You know having teammates involved in this, you know you look at where you stand. I mean I have a lot of respect for my teammates, and you know that makes it very challenging when you get down to that final spot. If you’re battling it out with a teammate, what’s the limit? How far do you go? And I think that’s the area of concern for everybody. You know, none of us want to be the villain in this. None of us want to be the guy that goes out and crashes everybody to try and make it. I know that we all get along. That’s the one thing that’s pretty cool. Everybody in the top 12 gets along really well at this point. We’d love to keep it that way when this playoffs is over.

William Byron, JR Motorsports No. 9 Chevrolet (+51)

“I think whatever you feel like is the right thing to do. We are going to do whatever it takes as far as our performance, as far as what we can do in our control and then when it comes to racing around guys I feel like we are doing our job if we are ahead of those guys already. So, if we are not, then there is something we are not doing that isn’t going right. So, we are going to approach it the same way we have and compete at a really high level and give 110 percent and if that means that we need to win we are going to go out there and win.”

Elliott Sadler (Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images)

Elliott Sadler, JR Motorsports’ No. 1 Chevrolet (+41)

“You’ve got to be aggressive, you’ve got to try and get all the points that you can. Now with the stage racing, (that) gives you two more opportunities per race to get more points under your belt than maybe you really could in years past. So there’s things you’ve got to pay attention to, there’s a lot of things going on these days during these races that if you don’t understand what you’re doing, don’t ( look) ahead, some other teams could take advantage of them. I think that is what our team has done the best this year is getting those stage points. So that’s something that’ll be a main focus of ours as we try to head through these playoffs.

Cole Custer, Stewart Haas Racing’s No. 00 Chevrolet (+40)

“You don’t know until you are in that situation because every situation is different, but you definitely got to be pretty aggressive when it comes down to it. If you are going to have to advance to another round, there is not much that I don’t think a lot of us wouldn’t do.”

Daniel Hemric, Richard Childress Racing’s No. 21 Chevrolet (+37)

“How about whatever it takes. The whole season is on the line. These guys bust their tails for it day in and day out at the shop. My entire career has been built for that moment so we find ourselves on the cut line I will do whatever it takes to prevail not only for me but for success of myself moving forward, for my career, for my team.”

Brennan Poole, Chip Ganassi Racing’s No. 48 Chevrolet (+29)

“I just kinda hang it out there, you know. Anytime I’m in a position to be able to get the lead or win a race you know you just put everything on the line, doesn’t really matter, you just do what it takes to get it done regardless, worry about it later.”

Matt Tifft (Photo by Sarah Crabill/Getty Images) 

Matt Tifft, Joe Gibbs Racing’s No. 19 Toyota (+14)

“I am willing to wreck my grandma in a (cutoff) race. I mean you got to do what you got to do. But at the same time obviously, (the) second round cut race is going to be maybe a bigger move than a first round cut race would be. … But if it’s something where you’re kind of close, you don’t want to go and make somebody mad that’s going to come back to haunt you (in the second round), but you know, you got to, sometimes you got to take a chance, if that’s what we have to do we’ll do it.”

Ryan Reed, Roush Fenway Racing’s No. 16 Ford (+2)

“Really anything, you know if it’s two (laps) to go and the guy in front of you is the difference between advancing and not advancing, you’ll move him, you’ll wreck him. I think you saw Ryan Newman move Kyle Larson (Phoenix, 2014), that was a really good example of … Ryan Newman doesn’t do that, he doesn’t make that pass, he doesn’t do that move if it wasn’t for the playoffs and for that situation and that holds truth. I think almost every single driver, they will do whatever it takes to get to the next round.

Brendan Gaughan, Richard Childress Racing’s No. 62 Chevrolet (-2 from final transfer spot)

“Everyone … wants to hear us say we would wreck our mother for a win and a guy goes out and wrecks his mother for a win and people turn on him. Who was it in the (Camping World Truck Series) race? Austin Cindric did that. Everyone loves us to say those words and that when we do they are like, ‘oh that is a bad guy.’ Here’s deal, I will race you hard. If it means I have to win to get in and I can get to your rear bumper, I am not going to wreck you but I am definitely going to take a shot at you to move you. That is just what you have to do. If you are in that position and it is a must-win, you will do what you need to do to get that must-win.”

Michael Annett, JR Motorsports’ No. 5 Chevrolet (-7)

“You don’t want to wreck a teammate but if you’ve got to move them, I think any one of them would sit here and say the same thing; they’re going to do it because you’ve got to drive that car down pit road and meet your guys and if they think you left anything out there, then I don’t think I’ll be able to look them in the eye. So that’s the mentality you know that I don’t think you’ll see necessarily come out, you know unless you’re racing for a win throughout the year. But when you get to the playoffs if it means moving on to the next round or not, you know that one spot, it’s going to feel like a win at least that day.”

Blake Koch. (Photo by Sarah Crabill/Getty Images)

Blake Koch, Kaulig Racing’s No. 11 Chevrolet (-12)

“It is a tough question to really have a solid answer for, but I’m going to do everything that I possibly can to pass the guy in front of me, and whether that’s a cutoff spot or not, I feel like every point matters so much in the playoffs. It doesn’t matter who it is, whether they have a red spoiler (for playoff drivers) or not, you need to get around that car because that one point could be the point that gets you to the next round of the playoffs.”

Jeremy Clements, Jeremy Clements Racing’s No. 51 Chevrolet (-20)

“I’m willin’ to do anything it takes. If we gotta move a guy to get that spot and they say we need that extra spot, that extra point, I’m gonna have to do it. I mean this is – we don’t know how many times we’ll get this opportunity (to be in the playoffs). So we’re gonna do all it takes to make it to the next round and … and if I gotta move my Mom outta the way I’ll do it.”

Previous Spotlights

Justin Allgaier

Darrell Wallace Jr.

Michael Annett

Ryan Reed

Brandon Jones

Daniel Hemric

William Byron

Spencer Gallagher

Cole Custer

Ross Chastain

Elliott Sadler

Ben Kennedy

Blake Koch

Brennan Poole

Matt Tifft

Tyler Reddick

Kyle Benjamin

Ty Majeski

Ryan Sieg

Dakoda Armstrong

Brendan Gaughan

Garrett Smithley

J.J. Yeley

Harrison Rhodes

James Davison

Jeremy Clements

David Starr

Austin Cindric

Christopher Bell

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Xfinity Series Spotlight: Q&A with Christopher Bell

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In Norman, Oklahoma, the Sooners are king.

Growing up in the city 30 minutes south of Oklahoma City, the Sooners were a regular part of Christopher Bell‘s life, especially since his father, David, was a high school basketball coach when he was a little.

“As a kid I guess that’s what I dreamed of doing, was playing football and basketball,” Christopher Bell told NBC Sports. “Obviously that got derailed at a very young age once I got introduced to racing.”

Bell was 4 or 5 years old when he was invited by the family of one of his father’s players to watch him compete in a micro-sprint car race.

Christopher Bell drives his No. 4 Toyota at Michigan International Speedway in August. (Photo by Brian Lawdermilk/Getty Images)

“I was hooked ever since,” Bell said. “From then on, I started racing when I was 6. Haven’t missed a weekend since.”

The most recent race weekend saw Bell, 22, win his seventh Camping World Truck Series race and his fifth of the year. The Kyle Busch Motorsports driver leads the playoff standings after one race. It’s been almost a year since he made it to the championship race, the only driver out of four born after 1980.

This year has seen Bell get his feet wet in the Xfinity Series, making four starts for Joe Gibbs Racing. He’ll also compete in the final four races of the year.

The following Q&A has been edited and condensed.

NBC Sports: Do you have a favorite basketball team?

Bell: I used to love the Hornets. Whenever the Hornets, they were in New Orleans and then I think Hurricane Katrina got them. Then they moved to Oklahoma City (temporarily). So whenever the Hornets were in Oklahoma City (in 2005-06), I don’t think I ever missed a game. I loved the Hornets, so that was really cool. I have a lot of memories of going to Hornets games with my father as a kid.

NBC Sports: What’s the most fun race you’ve ever been part of?

Bell: Homestead last year was a ton of fun. I don’t know if that’s the most fun I’ve ever had. But the last 20 laps of the truck race at Homestead last year was really, really intense. Homestead races really well. There’s a bunch of different grooves there. Me, Matt Crafton and Timothy Peters were all racing for second place in the championship and it was a heck of a race and that was a ton of fun.

NBC Sports: If you were competing in the Cup Bristol night race, what would you choose as your intro song?

Bell: “Hall of Fame” by The Script. … As a race car driver, your dream is to be the greatest. … I want to be in the Hall of Fame one day.

NBC Sports: Which phone app do you use the most that’s not social media related?

Bell: I don’t ever really use my phone that much. I use “Sleep Man” a lot, which is a fan that I can use in hotels because I sleep with a fan on. That would be my No. 1. … Basically it just makes noise like a fan would. Because I always sleep with fans, but in hotels you don’t have a fan.

NBC Sports: In your career, what’s the best advice or criticism you’ve received?
Bell: Recently, it would have to be from Kyle Busch. Kyle Busch’s best piece of advice he gave me was ‘to let it happen.’ If it’s going to happen. It’s going to happen. Don’t try and force it. So that sank in really hard because Kyle Busch has won so many races and he said ‘if you try too hard, it’s not going to happen. You can’t force it to happen. If it’s meant to be, it’s meant to be.’ That’s really sunk in.

NBC Sports: How did you meet Kyle Busch?

Bell: We were actually going to a Snowball Derby test (in 2014) and he went with us.

Christopher Bell talks with Kyle Busch at Martinsville Speedway in 2016. (Photo by Jerry Markland/Getty Images)

NBC Sports: What were your initial impression of him?

Bell: I was shocked how he was just another, I don’t know. We flew on a plane from Concord, (North Carolina), to Pensacola, (Florida). I didn’t even know he was on the plane with us`and then all of a sudden we get off the plane and I end up riding in the car with him. We get to the race track and he was just in a T-shirt laying on the ground, working on his late model harder than any of his employees. It was cool to see how involved he was and how he was working on the car. He was on the radio asking what the car needed, then he was the one making changes to the car. I was blown away by how hands-on he was about the whole thing.

NBC Sports: You’ve got four more Xfinity races at the end of the year. If you could pick a track to race in Xfinity at, what would it be?

Bell: Bristol. Bristol is badass. The way the banking is, the short track. It’s a short track that races with speed like a mile-and-a-half. To me that’s just a recipe for awesomeness, man. It’s just one of the coolest races ever, because of all the stands wrapped around the race track. You’re basically racing in a coliseum. It’s one of my favorite tracks we go to.

NBC Sports: What’s been your highest high and the lowest low of our career?

Bell: The highest high was definitely winning the Chili Bowl. That was my dream race … that’s kind of what racing means to me is the Chili Bowl. So to win it was something that was incredible. My lowest low was probably wrecking last year at (Canadian Tire Motorsports Park) while qualifying. I wrecked a lot of trucks last year and then I went to Canada. Me and my crew chief (Jerry Baxter) sat down and we realized we can’t wreck. We had a big conversation about not wrecking and then I went out and wrecked in qualifying. So that hurt really bad. That stung.

Previous Spotlights

Justin Allgaier

Darrell Wallace Jr.

Michael Annett

Ryan Reed

Brandon Jones

Daniel Hemric

William Byron

Spencer Gallagher

Cole Custer

Ross Chastain

Elliott Sadler

Ben Kennedy

Blake Koch

Brennan Poole

Matt Tifft

Tyler Reddick

Kyle Benjamin

Ty Majeski

Ryan Sieg

Dakoda Armstrong

Brendan Gaughan

Garrett Smithley

J.J. Yeley

Harrison Rhodes

James Davison

Jeremy Clements

David Starr

Austin Cindric

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JGL Racing parts ways with Dakoda Armstrong amid sponsor issues

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JGL Racing announced Monday it has parted ways with Dakoda Armstrong, who battled for a playoff spot through the Xfinity regular-season finale, because of lack of sponsorship payments.

“We really hate that it has come to this,” said James Whitener, owner of JGL Racing, in a statement.  “However, this business is driven by sponsorship and when payments aren’t made then we cannot continue to race out off our own pocket. I hate this for our race team as well as Dakoda. We all appreciate the effort he has put into the growth of JGL Racing and wish him nothing but the best of success moving forward.”

JGL Racing announced that the No. 28 entry that Armstrong had driven will not race this weekend at Dover. The team plans to re-focus on the remaining races for that car. The No. 24 team will continue for the remainder of the season with Corey LaJoie and Dylan Lupton sharing the seat.

“We will focus on finishing out the season with our programs on our No. 24 Toyota,” said Whitener.   “We will explore future options for the No. 28 entry as well as focusing on finalizing programs for both cars for the 2018 season.”

WinField was Armstrong’s sponsor in 20 of 27 Xfinity races this season. There was no primary sponsor listed on Armstrong’s car the other seven races.

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Points reset: William Byron is No. 1 seed heading into Xfinity playoffs

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Following Saturday’s TheHouse.com 300, William Byron is the No. 1 seed heading into the start of the seven-race NASCAR Xfinity Series playoffs.

The playoffs begin next Saturday at Kentucky Speedway, and Byron comes in with the narrowest of leads. He has a two-point edge over Saturday’s race winner, Justin Allgaier, and a five-point edge over Allgaier’s JR Motorsports teammate, Elliott Sadler.

MORE: Great late-race restart propels Justin Allgaier to Xfinity win at Chicagoland

MORE: Results of Saturday’s TheHouse.com 300 Xfinity race at Chicagoland

Coming into the race, 13 drivers were in contention for the 12 playoff spots. After the checkered flag, Dakoda Armstrong was the one who fell short of making the playoffs.

Click here for the reset Xfinity points following Saturday’s race.

Great late-race restart propels Justin Allgaier to Xfinity win at Chicagoland

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JOLIET, Illinois – Justin Allgaier had a great restart with eight laps to go to hold off Kyle Larson and JR Motorsports teammate Elliott Sadler to capture Saturday’s TheHouse.com 300 NASCAR Xfinity race at Chicagoland Speedway.

While Erik Jones made a surge to catch Allgaier on the restart, Jones was penalized for changing lanes prior to reaching the start-finish line.

Allgaier earned the second Xfinity career win at Chicagoland Speedway (other was in 2011) in his home state (he was born in Riverton, Ill., about 2 1/2 hours from Joliet), his second of the season and fifth of his career.

Allgaier was consistently in the top-five for much of the race but did not take the lead until Lap 185, passing low and then held on for the remaining 15 laps of the 200-lap event, including the last restart.

“How cool is that? This is awesome,” Allgaier said over his team radio shortly after taking the checkered flag.

MORE: Results of Saturday’s TheHouse.com 300 Xfinity race at Chicagoland

MORE: Points reset: William Byron is No. 1 seed heading into Xfinity Series playoffs

Sadler earns the first Xfinity regular season championship and both drivers will carry the momentum into next weekend’s start of the Xfinity playoffs at Kentucky Speedway.

“It means a lot to me and my family,” Sadler said. “We were able to win the first Xfinity playoff race last season and now this. There’s a lot of firsts in my career, which means a lot to a small-town boy from Virginia.

“This just gives us some incentive to try and get both trophies at Homestead.” 

Larson finished second after a last lap surge past Sadler.

“I had a shot to win it, sped on pit road and had to restart at the back,” Larson said. “I definitely didn’t anticipate coming back and finishing second.”

Daniel Hemric finished fourth and Austin Dillon rounded out the top-five.

Sixth through 10th were Matt Tifft, Cole Custer, Ty Dillon, Blake Koch and Darrell “Bubba” Wallace Jr.

Due to the restart zone penalty, Jones saw a great day go for naught. Jones dominated the race, leading 94 of the event’s 200 laps, but the miscue cost him deeply, finishing a disappointing 18th place.

“I was surprised for sure,”Jones said. “It was close, yeah, for sure, but NASCAR said they’re not in the business of really making calls, but I’d say that was a race-affecting call.

“It is what it is. We were either going to see a really good finish between me and the 7 (Allgaier) or him run away. It’s unfortunate. It was close. I was surprised to see the call.’’

The race determined the 12 drivers that will advance to the seven-race Xfinity playoffs: William Byron will start as the points leader (2,025), followed by Allgiaer (2,023), Sadler (2,020), Daniel Hemric (2,009), Brennan Poole (2,006), Ryan Reed (2,005), Jeremy Clements (2,005), Cole Custer (2,005), Blake Koch (2,005), Matt Tifft (2,004), Brendan Gaughan (2,003) and Michael Annett (2,001).

Dakoda Armstrong fell short of making the playoffs.

STAGE WINNERS: Erik Jones (Stage 1, Laps 1-45), Erik Jones (Stage 2, Laps 46-90)

WHO ELSE HAD A GOOD RACE: Cole Custer led 41 laps and looked like he may have a chance to win, but tailed off near the end. Still, he finished seventh.

WHO HAD A BAD RACE: William Byron pitted on Lap 28 and took his car to the garage with reported transmission problems. While he returned to the race, he finished 33rd, 34 laps behind the leaders.

NOTABLE: Allgaier becomes the first Xfinity Series regular to win on a 1.5-mile track this season.

QUOTE OF THE RACE: “It’s an honor and humbling to become the first regular season Xfinity Series champion.” – Third-place finisher Elliott Sadler

WHAT’S NEXT: VisitMyrtleBeach.com 300,Saturday, Sept. 23, Kentucky Speedway, 8 p.m. ET (NBCSN).

Contributing: Dustin Long.