Blake Koch

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Points penalty won’t affect Matt Tifft’s position in playoffs

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NASCAR penalized an Xfinity Series playoff team Wednesday, but it won’t affect its points position entering the Round of 8 that begins next week at Kansas Speedway.

Matt Tifft’s No. 19 Toyota was docked 10 drivers and owners points for being found too low after finishing ninth Saturday at Charlotte Motor Speedway. The deduction is applied after the Round of 12 cutoff race and before the points were reset for the next round. Tifft still advances because he was 16 points ahead of the cutoff line, though the Joe Gibbs Racing driver will be without crew chief Matt Beckman, who was suspended from the next race.

Tifft will begin the next round in eighth place with 3,004 points, 22 behind leader William Byron.

The No. 11 Chevrolet of Blake Koch also was found to be too low, earning a 10-point deduction and one-race suspension for crew chief Chris Rice. Koch already was eliminated from the playoffs after the three-race Round of 12.

Rice and Beckman also were fined $10,000 apiece.

In the Monster Energy Cup Series, NASCAR issued a $10,000 fine to Scott Graves, crew chief for Daniel Suarez, for an unsecure lug nut after Sunday’s race at Charlotte Motor Speedway.

NASCAR also announced the indefinite suspension of Dennis O’Connor for violating the substance abuse policy. Crew member Reid T. Ferguson was reinstated from indefinite suspension after completing the Road to Recovery program.

 

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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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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Xfinity Playoff Grid: Justin Allgaier leads three JR Motorsports drivers in top five

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Earlier this year, Justin Allgaier said there was a good chance all four cars for JR Motorsports could make it all the way to the Xfinity Series championship race.

“I felt like, as an organization, we could get four cars in the playoffs at Homestead when the season was over,” Allgaier told NBC Sports last week. “A lot of people laughed at me, I won’t lie to you. There were a lot of people that felt like that was a very bold statement.

“But when you look at the way that we’ve run and the performance of all four of our cars, I just feel really good about our organization, our people, and I feel like this race team has the opportunity to go into these playoffs and be as successful as anyone.”

After one race in the playoffs, that prediction is going to need some help over the next two weeks to stay a live.

Allgaier, who is tied for the top spot on the 12-driver grid with Cole Custer, leads three JRM drivers in the top five. Elliott Sadler is third (-2) and rookie William Byron is fifth (-6).

Meanwhile, Michael Annett is 11th, 12 points back from the cut line after finishing 16th at Chicagoland.

The four drivers outside the top 12 are Brendan Gaughan (-8), Blake Koch (-9), Annett and Jeremy Clements (-14).

The second race of the opening round takes the series to Dover International Speedway.

Allgaier’s average finish at the 1-mile track is 13.5 in 13 Xfinity starts, Sadler’s is 11.9 in 19 starts, Byron finished sixth there in June and Annett has an average finish of 13.5 in 11 starts

Here is the Xfinity playoff grid after one race.