Brandon Jones

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.”

Ryan Blaney goes 2-for-2 as fastest in Xfinity practices at Dover

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Just like he was in the morning, Ryan Blaney once again was fastest in the final of two NASCAR Xfinity Series practice sessions Friday at Dover International Speedway.

Blaney covered the one-mile, high-banked all-concrete oval at 152.672 mph, just a tick above William Byron (152.665) and Brandon Jones (162.620).

Erik Jones, who was second in the morning practice, was fourth in the afternoon session (152.523), followed by Brennan Poole (also 152.523), Ty Dillon (152.278), Daniel Suarez (152.233), Justin Allgaier (152.078), Tyler Reddick (152.066) and Ross Chastain (151.912).

Click here for the full practice session speed grid.

Ryan Preece is fastest in final Xfinity practice Friday at Kentucky

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Ryan Preece soared to the top of the speed chart in the final Xfinity practice Friday night at Kentucky Speedway.

Preece covered the 1.5-mile oval with a top speed of 181.629 mph. He hit that speed on his first of 38 laps run during the session.

Justin Allgaier was second (180.777 mph), followed by Spencer Gallagher Jr. (180.114), Tyler Reddick (179.832) and Daniel Hemric (179.712).

Sixth through 10th: Matt Tifft (179.665), who was fastest in the first practice session earlier in the afternoon, William Byron (179.605), Brennan Poole (179.581), Sam Hornish Jr. (179.521) and Brandon Jones (179.521).

Five of the 12 Xfinity playoff contenders ended up in the top 10: Allgaier, Hemric, Tifft, Byron and Poole.

Others playoff contenders on the speed chart were Elliott Sadler (12th, 179.194), Ryan Reed (16th, 178.944), Cole Custer (17th, 178.838), Brendan Gaughan (19th, 178.453), Blake Koch (20th, 178.159), Michael Annett (21st, 178.124) and Jeremy Clements (25th, 176. 286).

Qualifying for Saturday night’s VisitMyrtleBeach.com 300 takes place at 5:30 p.m. ET, with the race set to take the green flag at 8 p.m. ET.

Click here for the full speed chart from the final Xfinity practice.

Matt Tifft fastest in first of 2 Xfinity practices at Kentucky Speedway

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Matt Tifft ran 25 laps during Friday afternoon’s first of two NASCAR Xfinity Series practice sessions at Kentucky Speedway.

But it was just one lap that mattered the most, as Tifft (180.427 mph) emerged from the 55-minute practice as the fastest in the 36 cars that took to the track.

Brian Scott was second (179.253 mph), followed by Ryan Preece (178.465), Brandon Jones (178.288), Justin Allgaier (178.271), Ben Kennedy (178.136), Elliott Sadler (177.573), Tyler Reddick (177.544), Spencer Gallagher Jr. (177.503) and Brennan Poole (177.381).

Interestingly enough, only four of the top-10 were playoff contenders. The seven-race Xfinity playoffs begin with Saturday night’s VisitMyrtleBeach.com 300.

There will be one more practice session today from 6:30-7:25 p.m. ET.

Qualifying and the race are Saturday.

Click here for the full practice speed grid.

Brandon Jones fastest in first Xfinity practice in Chicago

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Richard Childress Racing’s Brandon Jones was fastest in the first Xfinity Series practice session at Chicagoland Speedway.

Jones and his No. 33 Chevrolet posted a top speed of 174.413 mph around the 1.5-mile track.

Following him in the top five were Erik Jones (173.639), Matt Tifft (173.477), Ryan Blaney (173.383) and Brendan Gaughan (172.734).

Darrell Wallace Jr., making his first Xfinity start since June, was 20th in the No. 98 Ford at 169.609 mph.

Tifft recorded the most laps in the session with 30.

Five drivers made runs 10 laps or longer. Jones had the best 10-lap average at 169.276 mph. Gaughan followed him at 168.564 mph.

Click here for the practice report.