“(Ragan) ended up just parked in front of us,” Stenhouse told NBC. “We felt we had a car that was capable of contending for a win. It’s a bummer we didn’t get the win. … Just wasn’t our day.”
Added Kyle Busch, “Just never saw it coming. Unfortunately, we got caught up in the mess, none of our doing. We’ll just have to go on and go to Kansas.”
Added Truex, “I tried to get in a hole that was closing up at the wrong time. I got into the 38 in the right rear and it all got squirelly. We had nothing to lose today, but at the same time you don’t want to be the person that causes others problems. I’ve never been that guy here before, but today it looks like it was. I just wish I didn’t make that mistake. Bad judgment. I should have been more patient.”
The race was red-flagged for 12 minutes, 30 seconds before resuming under caution.
Jimmie Johnson complained that NASCAR officials gave his team approval to work on the car on pit road, but it was subsequently sent to the garage for doing so (repairs aren’t permitted under the red flag), leaving Johnson to question the call.
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.
“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.”
Several NASCAR drivers and media personalities who are either natives of or live in Las Vegas are getting behind a new effort to raise money to help the victims and families of those killed and injured in last Sunday’s mass shooting.
DriversForVegas.com is partnering with Las Vegas-based Zappos to raise money via a crowdsource effort on Crowdrise.com. As of 1 pm ET on Friday, the effort has raised nearly $200,000 in its first three days.
In addition, Zappos has announced it will match 100 percent of the donations made up to $1 million.
They have also joined together to form DriversForVegas.com, where individuals can buy t-shirts, stickers or simply make a donation (the website is expected to be live early next week).
Here’s what some of those involved are saying:
Spencer Gallagher: “We are asking the NASCAR family to come together and help the great city of Las Vegas by visiting DriversForVegas.com to purchase a shirt or sticker, or simply make a donation. Las Vegas has always been there for and supported us, and this is a great opportunity for us to give back and be there for them.”
Kurt Busch: “It was horrific what happened in our hometown and we all send our thoughts and prayers to everyone affected by the tragedy in Las Vegas. It really hit home to all of us and as Nevada natives, we hope everyone supports our efforts.”
Kyle Busch: “Like most Americans, I was devastated to hear about Sunday’s tragic events in my hometown. As a group of racers from Las Vegas, we wanted to find a way for ourselves, along with our race fans, to help the victims and families of this unthinkable act.”
Brendan Gaughan: “With so many NASCAR drivers from Las Vegas, I feel like it’s the least we can do to ask our racing community to band together in helping those who have bee affected by this tragedy. Thank you to all those who have already helped. I have never been more proud to say that I am #VegasStrong.”
Noah Gragson: “When Spencer (Gallagher) called me with this idea, I was all in to help do anything to try to heal our community.”
Jamie Little: “This is a great initiative that Spencer has started. Our Las Vegas NASCAR contingent is small but we’re mighty. All of us, along with your help, will give to the families and victims involved and help lift some of the burden they have endured.”
On another front, Gaughan will have a special paint scheme (above) honoring the Las Vegas victims in this weekend’s racing action at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.
Gaughan’s No. 62 Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet will carry a hood that will feature “#VegasStrong” on it.
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.
“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, 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.”
“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.”
“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, 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.”
“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.”
“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, 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.”
“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.”