Michael Annett

Ryan Reed advances in Xfinity playoffs after intense battle with Brendan Gaughan

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CONCORD, North Carolina — Brendan Gaughan could see his playoff stakes in his rear-view mirror and on the scoring pylon.

“I’m a driver that pays attention to things,” Gaughan said. “It’s not like it’s not sitting there in front of my face.”

Ryan Reed was one spot behind him on the track, but one spot ahead of Gaughan in the playoff standings.

Behind Reed was Brandon Jones, Gaughan’s teammate at Richard Childress Racing and his last, best chance to advance to the second round of the Xfinity playoffs. If Jones passed Reed, Gaughan was in.

Those were the stakes for the last 10 laps of Saturday’s rain-delayed race at Charlotte Motor Speedway.

“I knew (Jones) wanted that spot as bad as I wanted him to not have the spot,” Reed said. “I know him and Brendan are friends. He wanted to give him that gift. But obviously, I raced my guts out. That’s probably the hardest five laps I’ve ever driven in a race car.”

But the gift never arrived.

When the checkered flag fell on the Drive for the Cure 300, Gaughan finished 11th and was eliminated. Reed placed 12th and advanced to the second round for the second time.

Almost 50 laps earlier, Reed thought his night was over.

After a long night of battling Gaughan, Reed’s No. 16 Ford was running 22nd after becoming extremely loose and falling through the field. Gaughan sat 14th.

“Our setup, we would go really free on the long run,” said Reed, who thought he had a top-12 car on short runs. “It’s kind of like a light switch, once we seemed like we got that right rear (tire) at a certain temperature it was just gone.”

Reed was saved by a caution, courtesy of oil left on the track by the No. 52 of Joey Gase with 40 laps to go.

“There’s our gift,” Reed told his team over the radio.

A two-time Daytona winner, the 24-year-old Reed believes playoff races come down to “one or two moments where you’ve got to lay it all out on the line.”

The moment that ensured Reed would advance to the Round of 8 came with 17 to go. Reed was chasing Gaughan in 12th when they both came upon William Byron, who was dropping through the field on older tires after staying out the previous caution.

Exiting Turn 2, Gaughan dove beneath Byron. He left just enough room for Reed to squeeze between them.

“That was my best shot, and I honestly thought I cleared them both,” Reed said. “(Gaughan) did a real gnarly slide job down into (Turn) 3 and he did a heck of a job driving that thing to keep him in front of me.”

But Gaughan couldn’t track down Elliott Sadler for 10th and Jones couldn’t get to Reed.

Gaughan joined Blake Koch, Jeremy Clements and Michael Annett in being eliminated from title contention.

“Would have loved to have a caution,” Gaughan said. “That would have been awesome to have a late-race restart on that one. I’d have paid money for that.”

A “relieved” Reed and the remaining playoff drivers kick off the Round of 8 on Oct. 21 at Kansas Speedway.

“I’m going to enjoy this off week,” Reed said. “It’s kind of rude what they do honestly the way they schedule an off week. Because if you don’t advance, you’ve got a long time to think about it. So I’m glad I can think about going into Kansas and competing for a championship and having fun.”

Alex Bowman triumphs at Charlotte for first career Xfinity victory

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CONCORD, North Carolina — Alex Bowman, making his first Xfintiy Series start of the season, took the lead with 32 laps left and won Saturday night’s rain-delayed race at Charlotte Motor Speedway.

While Bowman, who will take over Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s No. 88 Cup ride next season, celebrated his first career Xfinity win, four the 12 playoff contenders were eliminated from title contention.

Ryan Reed held on for the eighth and final transfer spot to the next round, beating Brendan Gaughan by one point. 

Advancing to the next round of the playoffs are Justin Allgaier, William Byron, Elliott Sadler, Cole Custer, Daniel Hemric, Brennan Poole, Matt Tifft and Reed.

Eliminated from title contention were Brendan Gaughan, Jeremy Clements, Blake Koch and Michael Annett.

MORE: Race results

More: Points report

Sam Hornish Jr. finished second. Ryan Blaney, who won the May race at this track, placed third.

Rain delayed the start of the race more than five hours.

That didn’t matter to Bowman, who scored his first series win in 51 starts.

To get my first win here in my second home at Charlotte means so much,’’ Bowman told NBCSN.

Stage 1 Winner: Erik Jones

Stage 2 Winner: Daniel Suarez

Who else had a good race: Sam Hornish Jr. started 31st in just his fifth start of the season. He was up to second at the beginning of the final stage and ran in the top five most of the rest of the night, finishing second. … Brennan Poole placed fifth, ranking as the highest-finishing playoff driver. It marked his third consecutive top-five finish.

Who had a bad race: Blake Koch battled power steering issues, losing a lap before the opening stage ended. He fell a second lap down and never recovered, finishing 25th.  … Angela Ruch brought out the first two cautions for incidents and finished 36th. … Justin Allgaier hit a battery from Ruch’s car after her crash and that caused cooling issues. His engine later expired and he finished 33rd. … Spencer Gallagher had a tire go down and it caused too much damage to repair. He finished 34th. … A slow pit stop and then a penalty for an uncontrolled tire in the final 40 laps cost Daniel Suarez a chance for the win. He finished eighth.

Notable: The cars of Matt Tifft and Blake Koch failed inspection after the race. Both cars were too low. The infraction is likely an L1 penalty. A similar infraction earlier this year in the series was a 10-point penalty. Tifft advances to the next round by 16 points, so a 10-p0int penalty wouldn’t alter the eight playoff contenders if that’s the penalty. 

Quote of the night: “That’s what you do in playoffs, that’s what the best playoff teams do in any sport no matter who much you’re down, no matter how much you need, you just find a way,’’ Ryan Reed on advancing by one point to the next round of the playoffs.

What’s next: The series is off until Oct. 21 at Kansas Speedway.

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Daniel Suarez, Ryan Blaney on front row of Xfinity race at Charlotte

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After Xfinity qualifying at Charlotte Motor Speedway was rained out, the field for the Drive for the Cure 300 has been set due to owner points. The race is scheduled to start at 3:01 p.m. ET on NBCSN.

Daniel Suarez and Ryan Blaney will start on the front row.

Completing the top five are Erik Jones, Alex Bowman and Justin Allgaier (playoff driver).

Here is where the rest of the 12 playoff drivers will start.

William Byron – sixth

Elliott Sadler – seventh

Daniel Hemric – eighth

Brennan Poole – ninth

Ryan Reed – 11th

Cole Custer – 13th

Matt Tifft – 14th

Blake Koch – 15th

Brendan Gaughan – 16th

Michael Annett – 17th

Jeremy Clements – 23rd

Click here for the starting lineup.

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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JR Motorsports commands top of Xfinity playoff grid with Cole Custer lurking

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Only one race remains in the opening round of the Xfinity Series playoffs and JR Motorsports is in control of the playoff field ahead of Saturday’s race at Charlotte Motor Speedway (3 p.m. ET on NBCSN).

After consecutive top-three finishes, Justin Allgaier leads the standings. He has a three-point lead over teammate William Byron and a 13-point lead over teammate Elliott Sadler.

Cole Custer of Stewart-Haas Racing is the highest non-JRM driver in fourth, 14 points back. The driver of the No. 00 Ford has finishes of fifth (Kentucky) and eighth (Dover) to open the playoffs. In his second series start at Charlotte in May, he placed seventh.

Custer’s Kentucky result came after he won the first two stages at the 1.5-mile track.

Prior to the start of the playoffs, Sadler singled out Custer as a threat for the title in the midst of JRM’s dominance.

“The biggest underdog that I think fans haven’t paid attention to as much as we have is Cole Custer,” Sadler told NBC Sports. “Those guys have done a really good job of creating a lot of speed in the last couple of months. So that to me, Cole Custer is going to surprise a lot of fans in this playoffs.”

After Saturday, four drivers will be eliminated from the playoffs. The four who face that possibility now are Brendan Gaughan, who trails Ryan Reed by two points for the final transfer spot. Michael Annett (-7), Blake Koch (-12) and Jeremy Clements (-20) also are outside a transfer spot.

Here is the full playoff grid ahead of the Drive for the Cure 300.

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